Five Minute Friday: PLACE

Five Minute Friday Place

Five Minute Friday: PLACE

Give the prompt of “place,” and I’m going to write about New York City.

I have always said (and believed) that I could be happy anywhere geographically. I still consider that the truth, but no locality makes my heart sing like NYC does.

I pondered that during my last visit (in January).

I felt an anxiety I haven’t usually felt as the trip approached. What if I had lost my street smarts (such as they are)? What if something basic had changed (like the time the public transit system had switched from tokens to swipe cards and I had to stand there at the machines, like a new arrival in a foreign country, clueless)? What if I got mugged? What if the decent streak that began in 1989 of essentially getting through city life unscathed, both when I lived there through 1992 and during all the visits since, ended?

Once I was settled in my AirBNB, though, being in NYC was like putting on my oldest, softest, most soothing garment.

Five Minute Friday Place

The view from Brooklyn

It’s easy to say when I know I get to come home to the relative ease (and lower expense) of living in Tallahassee, but I love (usually!) having to figure things out. Also, it’s a whole lot easier to navigate mass transit now that we have little tiny navigators in our hands through our smartphones.

The city has gotten less gritty, more gentrified, a new degree of “homogeneous” since 1989.

Still, it offers up new discoveries every time I arrive, as much about who I am as about what it has to offer.

Five Minute Friday Place

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: MORE

Five Minute Friday More

Five Minute Friday: MORE

We had a tiny earthquake here in North Florida Wednesday. If I hadn’t heard about it, I certainly wouldn’t have felt it.

When I went to look into the tiny earthquake a bit more, I found more data than I could ever possibly need to know: its intensity, activity by ZIP code (what’s going to happen when the postal service goes away and we don’t rely on ZIP codes anymore? … separate question I guess!), intensity vs distance, responses vs time and DYFI responses (whatever those are).

There are times I’m not sure whether to be glad our government collects more information than we need or dismayed at the expenditure of resources for data we are likely to never need.

Then again, this story about how scientists made little tiny components of minuscule zebrafish brains fluorescent so they could then figure out if the brains function differently when the zebrafish are asleep instead of awake (and how do you tell that a zebrafish is asleep anyway?) made a ton of sense to me. I was glad somebody tapped on the glass at scientifically regulated intervals to keep zebrafish awake to prove something that we probably all know is true: our bodies need sleep so our DNA can repair itself, which happens more effectively during periods of sleep.

*** end of five minutes ***

I’ve always been curious about how the seemingly inconsequential things in life reach the tipping point that make them the big things. Does a 2.7 earthquake a few hours away from me make any difference to my life? No.

Did that same earthquake set off some really strange chain reaction? A pebble that tumbled into a body of water that created a ripple that somehow grew into a flood?

By the same token, do we say or do things that seem minor to us but either encourage someone in a way we don’t know about OR cause unintended pain?

Maybe, like the zebrafish, I need to sleep on it. Don’t tap on my glass, OK?

Five Minute Friday More

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: SEARCH

Five Minute Friday Search

Five Minute Friday: SEARCH

One of the my first tasks when I began freelancing at SmartBrief involved searching for stories for various topics. Some subjects required more creativity than others to find things that other people would be likely to want to read.

My responsibilities now are different from what they were then, and searching for stories to share isn’t the main thing I do, but …

… it is easier to help other people learn how to search, having done it myself. 

This principle, of course, applies to many things we have to teach others to do in life. To take a small aside, I worked for Healthy Kids for a very long time. At first, the program was only in one county in Florida (Volusia), and our call center was in a different county. Over time, the program became a model for the federally funded State Child Health Insurance Program, and was available to families statewide.

***end of five minutes ***

For a few years, our contact center was in Illinois. Eventually, the contract was changed to stipulate that the contact center had to be in Florida.

Why does that matter to this story?

It matters because I was sitting there in the Florida contact center one day, observing a representative. She was talking to a family and demonstrating exceptional empathy. When she hung up, she said, “my kids were on this program, so I understand exactly what types of questions the callers have.”

I realize that’s a little bit of a leap from “it’s easier to teach someone to look for stories about crop insurance because I did it too” to “it’s better for someone at a contact center to have personal experience with the many challenges underinsured parents in Florida have en route to getting their child affordable health care.”

It is, though, a bit similar. If you’ve been there yourself, the search to have it all make sense is a bit less daunting.

Five Minute Friday Just

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: JUST

Five Minute Friday Just

Five Minute Friday: JUST

This is what came to mind when I read today’s prompt: the number of times (I’ve lost count…) that I have heard someone who is praying publicly use “just” frequently throughout their prayer.

That’s probably not what was intended by this prompt (I think it was supposed to be more about justice), but it’s what kept niggling at my brain. Once I became an Episcopalian, after quite a long time of being Southern Baptist, the incidents of “just” pretty much disappeared. I think this had to do with the adherence to a prayer book.

However, I’m an ecumenical enough person that I worship in many different environments, so I am still struck by a “just-filled” prayer occasionally.

Now, the only One a prayer style matters to is God. I shouldn’t care!

It’s more of an observation. It’s an observation made by Robert Sang also, in 5 reasons to eliminate the word “just” from your prayers.

And it’s a big enough thing that, apparently, an app was created to administer an electrical shock every time someone used the word “just” while praying. OUCH! (I can’t find the app in the app store; maybe it just went away. 😉

Whatever the case … I think the reason it even catches my attention at all comes from two reasons.

***end of five minutes***

The first is Toastmasters. The “repetitive ‘just'” habit irritated me before I got involved in Toastmasters, but once you are trained regarding the way filler words detract from your message, and once you are in the position to evaluate others on their speeches (because they want to be evaluated), it’s even more difficult to ignore all the justs!

The second is a bit of a dichotomy. While I know God doesn’t care how we deliver our message … and God knows our every need anyway, I also know God wants us to be direct and confident about asking for guidance and good outcomes for those we love.

As Robert Sang said (referring to a specific scripture passage), Jesus used “just” to mean “in the same way as you are in me and I am in you.” Sang goes on to remind us, “It is not a mitigation.”

I’ve done my share of not being clear about what I want (and need) over my lifetime. Of all places where I should feel free to be specific and mitigation-free, prayer seems to be that place.

Five Minute Friday Just

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: CONFIDENT

Five Minute Friday Confident

Five Minute Friday: CONFIDENT

I laughed when I saw that this week’s word is “confident.”

I’ve written about confidence before.

You know what breeds confidence? Situations where you prove to yourself that you are capable of creating, helping others and producing something that you walk away from with more celebrations than questions.

I had a story last week as editor of the Sigma Xi Science Honorary newsletter that had a line I loved. It was:

“I sort of stood up from my desk and paced the hallways a little bit.”

The scientist had already made one relatively big discovery (of a meteor impact crater far below the ice in Greenland). As he was looking for another, he found one much more quickly than he thought he would.

Commence with the hallway pacing!

Here’s the thing. You don’t get to that moment of being so excited you literally can’t sit still without putting in all the hard work ahead of time (unless you just happen to be randomly, serendipitously blessed).

How many hours had that scientist spent hunched over his desk? Searching for evidence of craters a mile below the ice with no results? How many years before that involved hours of studying, fighting for research dollars, doing all the things academics have to do to get their place at the table?

***end of five minutes***

Sometimes, situations that should breed more confidence in me lead to more worry (how can I replicate that? was it really good enough? was that a fluke?). However, I have had a few instances lately that felt the right kind of good.

Someone I had been working with to help them learn a skill at our workplace “got it.” They were the one who did the hard work, but I chose to try to teach them instead of correcting their work myself repeatedly, something that would have resulted in a decent product but wouldn’t have helped them feel any more confident about their ability to contribute.

Knowing you’ve helped someone else feel better about their work IS something worth hallway pacing! It’s also easier than finding a meteor impact crater a mile below the  Greenland ice. And warmer.

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: BUILD

Five Minute Friday Build

Five Minute Friday: BUILD

I was working with a story today as editor of the Sigma Xi SmartBrief. The story was about a type of yarn that expands and contracts in response to temperature, making it a potential component of temperature-management clothing.

Because we research every detail of the stories we use in order to identify people correctly and get the other details right, I looked up the name of the professor, YuHuang Wang, who coordinated the study.

I didn’t get a dry academic listing on his university’s website, though, I got his lab’s website. Once I was at his site, my heart expanded instead of contracting. From the moment I got there, it was clear that this man loves his work (if you’ve read my writing much, you know I am drawn to people who love their work (and how they ended up there)).

I had the sense that he is not there just for himself, but to build a place (his lab and its results) that is about more than science.

I hovered on the page of photos for the longest. There were picnics where lab members were barbecuing. There were little children running around. There was … a sense of fun and unity.

These people could create temperature-sensitive yarn without the overarching unity that this professor has clearly worked hard to foster, but how would they feel about it when they got home at night?

My perspective on how work fits with the other parts of my life has shifted a bit as I have gotten older, gained more work experience, and taken the unexpected four-year odyssey through caregiving.

For a long time, I knew I wanted to help people build a feeling about our mutual work that made sense for them (I know some people truly want to just do their thing and forget about it once they’re out the door (or — shout out to my fellow remote workers! — once they close the laptop), but I was not succeeding. I think I had my own internal work that needed to be done.

This is a different time, though. I have a little more mortar to help people put between their bricks. I know, too, why for so many people it matters deeply.

*Note: I had a timer malfunction; this was longer than five minutes!

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: WHERE

Five Minute Friday Where

Five Minute Friday: WHERE

“If explorers only thought about the destination they’re trying to reach, they would never see it. In a cave, short-sighted tunnel vision can be a lifesaver.”

Shannon Gormley wrote the above line as part of Into the Dark, an article about the Thai cave rescue.  I was riveted by this article — I doubt many of us missed the news of the rescue itself last year, but the exhaustive research by the author that shed light on every angle of the rescue made me think at every twist and turn.

Knowing that I would be writing to the prompt “where,” I did set that quote aside. It aligns with so many quotes about life’s journeys, but it held a special poignancy to me as I thought about the efforts to get those boys (and their coach) out of the cave.

I know I am a better foot soldier than I am a general, and this situation was full of “generals” — and people who were accustomed to being in charge. They had to deal with cultural differences, language challenges, a perilous situation and the constant scrutiny of the media.

Even though the article is so thorough, I still walked away wondering exactly how the rescuers finally arrived at a plan and carried it out. Some of the techniques used were terribly unconventional, and showed drastic risks on the part of those who participated.

BUT EVERY ONE OF THE BOYS AND THEIR COACH LIVED!

Those boys and that coach certainly did not plan to end up where they did — deep in a cave with virtually no egress. But another group of people ended up being where they needed to be to contribute to a successful rescue. If my kid had been one of the boys in the cave, I would say grateful prayers forever.

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

Five Minute Friday Convenient

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

“It’s not what I asked for.”

How often is that true for all of us? We end up in a situation that we didn’t plan or want. It’s the opposite of what we dreamed of.

This lyric is part of “She Used to Be Mine,” one of the songs in the musical “Waitress.” I saw it last Thursday night, starring Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music. The song starts off relatively calmly and quietly, but by the time it reaches the end, the singer is leaving it all on the stage.

As an audience, we had a moment as Sara reached the end of this song. The events that had occurred and inconvenienced her character were things we all had invested in by that point.

As I was standing outside the theater after the show, at the stage door waiting and hoping to see some of the stars, someone else who had been there said, “this show makes me want to be a better person.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Theater does that for me, too. This show is “about pie,” but it’s about so much more. It’s about overcoming insecurity, about claiming your body back from someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. It’s about doing what you have to do when you inconveniently end up being responsible for another innocent human being

***end of five minutes***.

Two families that are friends of mine are dealing with very ill babies right now. One baby has gone home, and the other goes home within the next day or two. They have different prognoses, but for now each one is going to require extremely intensive medical care, both from the parents and from medical assistants. In each case, a family and their older child/children have found their lives completely turned inside out — emotionally, financially, logistically.

It’s tempting to say, “I couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be what I asked for.” I don’t know these two families intimately, but I know them well enough that I’ve seen how their situations have evolved. Despite all the complications and inconvenience, I have watched two families fall in love with their babies. They want support, and I have watched them learn to ask for what they need. But I have also seen them do what caregivers the world over have done for as long as issues have arisen with loved ones: figure it out. Love. Be Mom. Be Dad.

Convenience can wait.

Note: Here is information about my friends’ babies. Thoughts, prayers if you are the praying type, and support are all appreciated.

Jesse: Facebook page (Pray for Jesse). GoFundMe.

Lydia: Facebook page (Beautiful Warrior). GoFundMe.

And here’s Sara Bareilles singing “She Used to be Mine”:

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: INFLUENCE

Five Minute Friday Influence

Five Minute Friday: INFLUENCE

When I rented a car yesterday, I accepted the keys and paperwork from the representative, then went directly to the spot he had indicated: E2.

When I was handed the fob for a keyless entry car, I thought “I can do this.” Even though my CRV is a 2005 and anything but keyless, Tenley has a keyless car. Other people in 2019 have keyless cars. I COULD DO THIS.

I was a bit surprised that it was a Cadillac, but figured he gave me what he had on the lot, even though it was an upgrade beyond what I ordered.

I pressed the button to start the ignition.

Nothing.

Nada.

A weird note on the screen, “place keyless device in pocket.”

WHAT POCKET?!

There I sat, for about 10 minutes, watching YouTube videos of how to start a keyless entry Cadillac. I found the glove compartment and the old-timey paper manual and looked up how to start the thing. No luck.

I finally gave up and decided I needed to walk back into the airport, where the rental car counter was, and ask. I wasn’t happy about this development, but I needed to get going.

Then the voice in my head suggested something:

“Why don’t you look at the little tag on the key and make sure you went to the right car?”

Hmmm.

[Picture me here looking at the little tag.]

[Picture the little tag saying “Acadia,” which is NOT a Cadillac.]

[Picture me walking to spot E1, pressing the “start” button on the Acadia, and the Acadia starting right up.]

The rep didn’t intentionally send me to the wrong spot, but his confidence influenced me to go there.

It took 10 minutes for me to stop being frustrated, stop searching for a way to start a car I didn’t have a key to, and to explore the evidence right in my hands that I should think differently.

What do you need to re-think today that might shed light on a message someone told you, confidently, that wasn’t factually correct and resulted in you not getting anywhere?

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: BETTER

 

Five Minute Friday Better

Five Minute Friday: BETTER

I had a conversation on Twitter a few days ago that has given me an earworm of “Rainbow Connection,” the Muppet song. (The person tweeting said they had failed their child because their kid had not heard the song.)

The conversation got pretty amusing (to me at least), because it sent me down memory lane. “Rainbow Connection” was the song we walked to as contestants in the Miss Union County High pageant in 1981. Is there a less pageant-y song anywhere? It was cute in context, though. The whole theme was essentially rainbows and happiness.

I am not pageant material. However, participating in Miss U-Co-High and a pageant I did in college are things I think about frequently. It’s not that those times in my life were better times (not at all), but that being in those contests helped me be a better person. They also give me a better understanding of pageant culture and a certain angle on what pageants have become in our society.

I remember clearly my talent at Miss U-Co-High (I played “The Entertainer” on my flute and created a “jazz” kind of feel — I had on a vest-type thing and brought out an old gas lantern I had borrowed from my aunt.) I also remember Mary Annette Shadd’s talent (she won! congrats!) — she sang “The Rose” and clinched the deal by accompanying herself on the piano, something she ended up deciding to do somewhat spontaneously. I’ve always felt that addition of accompanying herself gave her an edge (can you tell I was first runner up?!).

For the other pageant I did, it was one of the scads of for-profit pageants that are around, the kinds featured in reality shows. I had no clue what I was doing. I got a dress with a hoop skirt (in a situation where most women aim, to an extent, to demonstrate that they are in good physical shape — I obscured all that). What I remember most clearly is how hard it is to smile CONSTANTLY. My lips were quivering. My knees were knocking. It was nerve wracking.

Despite the nerves, I am still glad I took a stab at sharing my better self with the world. It taught me a few lessons that stay with me decades later.

Five Minute Friday Deep

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.