Five Minute Friday: PRACTICE

Five Minute Friday Practice

PRACTICE

I read two things within the past week that had passages about eerily similar experiences experienced by girl children of color. Here they are:

4-year-old Kelly

From a post written by Kelly Wickham-Hurst as part of the #31DaysIBPOC (Indigenous, Black and People of Color) Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of Indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars.

We walked together the couple of blocks, through the park, and got in line at the ice cream shop. We weren’t there very long when a white woman approached us. A more accurate word would be accosted. She accosted us. The way she walked up to us I assumed daddy knew her. He did not. Almost immediately, she was yelling.

I didn’t grow up in a family of yellers. Naturally, she scared me. I didn’t identify, until years later, that this is what started my panic attacks. Her face was red and she was pointing at him and then at me. Since I was on his shoulders it seemed like her finger was directly in my face.

“Where did you steal that baby from?” she screamed.

3-year-old Anuradha

From Anuradha Bhagwati’s book, “Becoming“:

I was about three when Dad was driving us one day along winding suburban roads. Being economists, Mom and Dad could tell you where everything in the world came from, like cars and refrigerators and crayons. If you were sensible, you drove only Japanese or German cars, because they were better made. This was why we had a Toyota.

I was in the back, strapped behind a seat belt, reading. Mom was in the passenger seat. Dad had stopped driving. Maybe it was a red light. Maybe he was lost. A car sped up from behind us and screeched to a stop alongside us. A man was making big movements with his arms. Dad rolled down his window. The man’s face looked like boiling water. He was yelling at Dad. I didn’t understand what his words meant, but they scared me. I was too young to know much, but I knew that this man felt like he was better than Dad. And this meant we were different.

I looked away from the man’s face, which was red and white at the same time, because he reminded me of monsters in my picture books. Dad didn’t say anything. Something uncomfortable was moving in my belly, like a stomachache when I was sick.

The man suddenly drove away. Dad and Mom were still quiet, then they began whispering in Gujarati. I felt something new rising up inside me. I felt shame. I wanted to be as powerful as the light-skinned monster man, and I did not want to be like Dad.

Humanity in Practice

How does a prompt like “practice” factor into these two little girls’ stories? I would be naive to suggest that these red-faced human beings spewing hatred and ignorance could transform into kind, humane people by taking a class, reading a book, meditating or in some other way trying to better themselves.

I also, in thinking about this prompt and these two people — Kelly who I know through social media and advocacy and Anuradha who I only know through her book — kept going back to what such encounters at such young ages did to and about the actual things they chose to practice.

Did they take up ballet and discover the joy of dance? Or did they instead adapt some deep-down conviction that they were somehow undeserving of the freedom that comes with creativity? Did these types of interactions carve away some essential building block of confidence and change the course of their lives forever?

I also wondered what those of us who have white privilege (and we all do if we are white) can do in 2019 to change things. If you’re reading this, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that you aren’t one of the red-faced people. However, the moments in our lives and the choices with which we are presented every moment give us an opportunity to build up rather than tear down.

***end of five minutes***

I have been grappling for the last few days about personal feedback I received regarding a message I was responsible for approving. After reflecting for several days, I finally (and belatedly) got to the point where I accepted that I had been inaccurate at a minimum and possibly utterly wrong. Here was the inner monologue that took place before I got there:

But I meant well.

But I wrote an entire post on why we should talk about white privilege.

But I don’t use grocery dividers anymore in case it’s perceived as a microaggression.

But I didn’t intend to offend.

But it was just a few words.

But I’m reading “White Fragility” for goodness sakes. I’M TRYING TO GET IT.

Red-faced tirades aren’t the only way damage is done. Quietly abandoning what we know to be true hurts others also.

Five Minute Friday Practice

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.) Also I blew the five-minute limit this week by a bunch. Feel free to go on a red-faced tirade against me about THAT. 🙂

Five Minute Friday: OPPORTUNITY

Five Minute Friday Opportunity

OPPORTUNITY

I did something a bit different for this week’s Five Minute Friday.

I recorded my response, after being inspired by the 4th, 5th and 6th graders competing in the District Tropicana Speaking Contest in Bristol, FL.

Here it is:

See you for this coming Thursday’s installment, when I’ll return to typing things out!

Five Minute Friday OPPORTUNITY

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.)

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “touch.” I took a bit of a liberty, because I became intrigued by Heather Gerwing’s “Share Four Somethings.” I decided to go with her template, and spend five minutes on each of the four “somethings.”

Something Loved

It’s not directly a “touch” thing (but yet it is). I loved getting to spend time with my co-workers at our Washington, D.C., office. I work remotely almost all of the time, so it’s a rare opportunity to work together in person (and socialize).

Related — I’m not sure if this is a 2019 thing, or if I have changed (read: gotten older) or if our world is just different. One funny thing about being with people you’ve come to know relatively well professionally (and, to a degree, personally) has to do with “courteous greeting etiquette.”

During the visit (and a prior visit), I was reminded of how long it took when I moved from North Florida (i.e., Deep South) to New York City and began working at Fordham University. I didn’t have much experience with the Northeastern “air kiss” and I struggled to figure it out (although I was much better at it by the time I moved back to Florida three years later).

I think what has changed for me (and maybe it is because I know many of these people a little better and have spent so much time online with them) is … it’s a little more clear who is a hugger and who isn’t … and because we have established relationships already, it’s easier to integrate differing personal styles without walking on eggshells.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Something Said

Something said to me this month that touched me had to do with the fact that a conversation I had with someone helped them feel supported and heard.

I find it easier to respond to someone else’s challenge or need to vent than I do to put together my own effort to make a point or share a perspective. (That doesn’t stop me from trying, of course! Hence this blog.)

I do feel a slight shift in the way I communicate. Honestly, I type all day and there are times when (despite most people in our world seemingly becoming less inclined to pick up the phone) it’s a relief for someone in my circle to make a phone call. I think this again is popping up mostly in work settings.

Between Slack, email, texting, proprietary systems and the variety of other ways we communicate with each other, the keyboards are busy yet our thoughts are sometimes not well-formed enough to deserve (yet) to be committed to cyberspace.

Something Learned

I apologize that this section is a bit cryptic (not the first time in recent blogging history I’ve been more cryptic than transparent).

The “something learned” is that change is constant. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve faced change, but it is occurring in a context that’s exceptionally important to me, where I only know one way to do things.

Now that a change is being made, it would be easy to panic. What if I can’t handle this change? What if it doesn’t feel the same?

Fortunately, someone involved in informing me of the change has much more history with the situation, and explained all the changes that have come before. That helped me have context. Change has happened before. Change has happened again. Change will happen in the future.

This is a bit of a side note, but Josh Spector has a great closed Facebook group for newsletter creators (if you’re a newsletter creator and interested, here’s the link to ask to be invited). In a recent discussion about low open rates, he said:

Your open rate is not a reflection of the content IN your newsletter. It’s a reflection of the strength of your relationship with your audience.

(He also said “…and your subject line” but the relationship part is what I want to focus on.)

No matter how much we rearrange the flow charts and re-engineer the way things are done, some part of change management always comes down to relationships. They’re what make people open newsletters (at least part of what makes people open newsletters) and they’re also what make people feel they have a unified mission and the gumption to give a new way a try.

Something Read

My “something read” that applies to the word “touch” is “Educated” by Tara Westover. I thought the book was phenomenal. I also thought “wow I need a comedy” when I discovered it was one of a line of books I have read relatively recently (the others being “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra and “Girl Unbroken” by Regina Calcaterra and her sister, Rosie Maloney) that involve serious abuse of a girl by a trusted relative.

In “Educated,” there was an echo of a dynamic found in the other two books (although the circumstances were completely different). Tara repeatedly returned to the situation that had been so physically threatening, even though almost every sign pointed to the outcome (more violence, more injury) being exactly the same as it had before, perhaps even worse. Westover even came close to the prospect of fatality.

Why do people go back? I know there is no easy answer, and I’m glad that, among these three books, many of the people involved found their way out and ended up in safer, more nurturing life situations.

In the case of the Calcaterra and Maloney, the system utterly failed them (as social workers and other helpers failed to see the gravity of the situation and often made it worse).

In the case of Tara Westover’s family, the parents’ choice to isolate a large family so far away from traditional civilization (and education) put these vulnerable children in a bubble from which it was almost impossible to see the non-abusive world a few miles away from them.

To see that touch doesn’t have to hurt.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday (with a twist). 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.)

Five Minute Friday: NEXT

NEXT

With apologies that this post is a bit cryptic, the topic won’t stay subdued, so here goes.

As I shared on social media earlier this week, my colleague and friend, Katie, shares a daily kindness text. One of the kindness texts this week resonated with me in a way that was deeper than the others (which were also great).

I turned it into a graphic. Many people said they loved it. One brave person said she isn’t sure it’s always possible. I struggled mentally with who my “someone” would be.

I also struggled with what comes next after the forgiving.

In my situation, the scenario isn’t one where the other individual violated me in any way – it wasn’t a robbery or some other thing that would make people say, “Now THAT was a crime!”

It was — to try to put words around it — a result of timing. We didn’t know each other well enough to have established trust, and I had a lot riding on our interactions. My sense of where I fit in was affected by our interactions, and my sense of competence (it always comes down to that for me).

Because those were the two things affected, I realized every time I turned this situation over in my mind that it wasn’t so much that the individual needed to be forgiven. I needed to figure out how to forgive myself (for feeling unsure in general, and for a few attempts to right the ship that came across (perhaps) as too aggressive, not assertive enough or in some other way out of place)).

*** end of five minutes ***

It’s one thing to forgive someone involved in a situation that led to ill will. It’s a more difficult process to set a scene for what comes next that edifies everyone involved.

Five Minute Friday NEXT

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.)

Five Minute Friday: LACK


L. wants to time travel.

She talked about it in her speech at the Wakulla County Tropicana Speaking Contest I judged recently.

She lacked comfort with speaking (don’t we all?). She lacked comfort in a noticeable way. Her body language spoke of her unease. Her well-crafted words got a bit lost in the trepidation of it all … the nerves. The judges (sorry…). The audience. The other contestants.

I loved her NASA shirt (of course I did).

I loved her courage, her gumption to get herself to the contest, stand up behind the podium, speak into the microphone about her desire to time travel and meet the scientists she admires so much.

L. got honorable mention out of four contestants, with the others scoring higher and getting 3rd place, 2nd place, 1st place.

I watched her after the contest, as the contestants were assembled for post-contest pictures.

She tried to shrink into the background. She looked so uncomfortable and miserable.

But she stayed.

She stayed … and this happened (please take the time to read this brief Twitter thread from my friend Rachel, who directed the contest).

She also stayed in my head.

***end of five minutes***

As the Twitter thread attests, L. is a beautiful young woman, in the way many sixth-grade girls are. She had no way of seeing that in herself, but she was gorgeous in a way that was all promise and no awkwardness. Beautiful face, pretty hair, total lack of awareness of how pretty she is.

Even though that point is important, the part that struck me was how her demeanor changed when she wasn’t *giving a speech*.

After the speeches, the emcee would chat with each contestant as the judges tallied our scores.

L. lit up, talking about her favorite scientist in a relaxed, articulate, engaging way. She lacked nothing. Whatever the opposite of lack … is what she demonstrated. ABUNDANCE … of intellect. Of promise. Of worth.

That’s why her comment after being told by two adult women that she is pretty and very smart: “People usually tell me I’m trash” is so devastating.

I have a daughter. I’ve been a daughter. I’ve tried to instill confidence in my own daughter and I’ve fought my own battles with trusting my intellect and knowing what I have to contribute to the world is enough.

I believe Rachel when she says, “I’m going to follow up & figure her story out & see if I can help nurture her love of all things science,” because a) I know Rachel has never said “I’m going to follow up” and failed to do so and b) she won’t lack for help.

I’ll be first in line.

*NOTE: L. obviously has a full name and it was a public contest, but it doesn’t seem fair to her to use it. Let her represent a legion of bright sixth-grade girls just like her.

Five Minute Friday OFFER

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.)

Five Minute Friday: MEASURE

Five Minute Friday Measure

Five Minute Friday: MEASURE

Two friends have lost their infants this week. One of them is Jesse, who I wrote about in this post.

I didn’t know Jesse’s family before he was born. I learned about him when the family started a Facebook page and community to pray for him after he was born. A friend of mine is a friend of Jesse’s family.

I don’t recall the specifics of his birth injury in great detail, but he was deprived of oxygen during labor, and his prognosis was uncertain from the moment he was born.

There were many questions over the three months and two days he was here on Earth. His brain growth (among other things) was measured carefully to see if there was any change, which would potentially indicate other possibilities for his development.

His family was so gracious in the way they shared their experience, especially since many of us were strangers they didn’t know.

The family took family pictures, in the outfit they intended to dress Jesse in for family pictures all along (to my recollection).

They all went to a Florida State baseball game (there are two other young siblings in the mix).

Jesse’s dad sat and watched all the Marvel movies he could fit in with Jesse a few days before he passed away.

*** end of five minutes ***

The song “Seasons of Love” in “Rent” asks:

How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

That song refers to the period of a year.

Jesse with us less than a year. In the time he was here, though, many people grew to love him and his family. He generated good will at a time in our world where it seems the news grows more negative day by day.

For three months and two days, we were reminded that the capacity to care is measured by something less finite than blocks on a calendar.

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.)

Five Minute Friday: REWARD

Five Minute Friday Reward

Five Minute Friday: REWARD

I am really motivated by incentive programs. If the “accelerated reader” program had existed back when I was a kid, I’m sure I would have had ALL the points.

As I’ve gotten older, though, it’s the rewards that can’t be quantified that matter more.

I won’t share verbatim, out of respect to the person who said it, but someone told me recently that the way I handled our work-related relationship made them feel like it was more meaningful than just doing a job.

I used to bring little videos or share items to my staff meetings at Healthy Kids, hoping to give the people in my unit something more than the list of what needed to be done or task-related directives (whether they be compliments or more constructive comments).

When I look back on that time, perhaps those additions to the way I managed did supplement the experience, but there were some pieces of the management situation that were more basic that I wasn’t handling, so I think the “feel-good” stuff may have seemed like just that much sweet frosting on a cake that turned out to be made only of air.

Maybe that all happened for a reason (something I’ve said repeatedly over the last year or so). Whatever the case, being told that something I said or the way I handled a work relationship made a difference is a much better reward than any sticker, tchotchke or intangible token could ever be.

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)