Why in the world do you watch that?

WORLD:

I suppose this isn’t such a “closet secret” now that I am writing about it here (and I’ve written about it elsewhere), but my inexplicable junk TV go-to is “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

I realize most of you who know me will ask, “WHY IN THE WORLD?”

I don’t understand it myself, but here’s my quick explanation (not fact-checked by the way, just plucked out of my head).

I wish I could drop tons of money on a party for the most frivolous of reasons. Have a good hair day? Line up the caterer, STAT.

I wish I had that kind of platform. (And I am not discounting this blog and my social media presence, which I’ve cultivated for a decade now into a bit of a platform.) But a “get people like Alice Marie Johnson out of prison and meet Van Jones and truly give other people in need of #JusticeReform options and hope” kind of platform.

I wish, when someone was asking me a mundane question such as “do you prefer French dressing or thousand island” that I had full wardrobe and makeup for the vignette where I answer.

I wish I didn’t have to worry about money (or choose to) in the way I do.

Although I disagree with most of what they do (how they dress, how they conduct themselves, the excess of it all), there are a few things that show their ultimate humanity.

Their trip to Armenia and efforts to raise genocide awareness come to mind.

Kim’s desire to become an attorney (ridiculed as it is … what if she DOES and she DOES make a difference?)

*** end of five minutes ***

I often think of Kim’s second marriage (I think it lasted 71 days) and the THREE Vera Wang gowns she wore throughout the ceremony and reception. I think of how many people that money could have fed, how much is truly could have done. (My recent week doing the #RationChallenge makes that even more of a prominent question in my head, but it’s her money — I’m as irritated at the snubbed nose at the sanctity of marriage as I am about the money.)

I often think of the rather unsavory road that led to the Kris/Robert marriage in the first place. Who knew that could end up being a launching pad for an “empire”?

I also know I would hate the constant public attention. It drives me a little nuts when they complain about the pressure of the public scrutiny, because without it they would be just another extended family in California. (I do, however, feel for their little kids who have literally never known a life outside the cameras and weren’t given a choice.)

Besides the platform part and its potential to help causes with just the dial of a phone or the swipe of a credit card, I realize I have all I need even if I don’t have all I want.

I probably need to remind myself that platforms don’t have to be Kardashian-level public to be effective. Perhaps it’s not a matter so much of keeping up as it is of keeping on (doing what I’m doing).

Five Minute Friday World
Five Minute Friday Question

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: Question

Five Minute Friday Question

QUESTION:

Let’s talk about the questions we should ask to avoid getting into debt.

Knowing the prompt this week was “question,” I’ve been thinking since Thursday about what I would say.

I don’t want to overshare, and it’s a tad ironic that I am writing this when I am five hours away from ending the Ration Challenge, when I tried to understand what a refugee deals with (while also raising awareness and funds for the work of Church World Service).

But I have learned to write the thing that bubbles up the most, and here it is.

I would not face some of the financial worries I face in midlife if I had asked better questions years ago. (Again, my financial worries are minor relative to the survival challenges many people face, but they are my responsibility and responsibility is my deal.)

I wish I had asked in my early 20s when I took out that first credit card, “Is this necessary? Do you really know how it all compounds and adds up?”

I wish at several points in our dating, marriage, raising a family and midlife, I had asked more pointed questions about our choices. (And I am not laying blame here — we are both responsible, but I can only retroactively change one person’s choices — even if I only do that in my head.)

I wish I had asked more “what if’s.” What if someone gets laid off (which has happened to my husband twice? What is someone gets so sick they need almost constant care (which happened with my father-in-law)? What happens if a major issue arises with the house?

What if you sit at your desk one day and say, “I can’t do this one more day“? (Happened to me. Fortunately my current situation is a 180 degree opposite.)

Had I asked those questions then, it would be so much easier for the current questions to include, “Where will the next vacation be?” or “How much more can I give to a favorite cause?” than “How am I going to get out of this debt?”

Five Minute Friday Name
Five Minute Friday Question

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.) 

Feeding a Goal

Five Minute Friday Goal

GOAL

When I saw “goal” as the prompt for this week, I breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed so easy relative to other Five Minute Friday prompts.

“Seemed” is the operative word here.

I’ll stick to the immediate goal, though. I think I’m going to find it feeds (no pun intended, as you’ll see) into some longer-term goals.

I’m starting the Ration Challenge tomorrow. For seven days, I’ll eat foods that are the equivalent of the rations given to Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I signed up somewhat spontaneously and definitely before I read the “no coffee” part.

I just had to look up how to cook rice (a big part of Ration Challenge week, which makes sense). And I have a home ec degree!

(My home ec degree is a bit of a smokescreen, though. It’s a child development and family relations degree. The college isn’t even called home ec anymore (it’s human sciences now). But still, shouldn’t I know how to make rice?

I’m here to report my first batch didn’t burn and didn’t stick to the pan … and takeaway number one out of what will undoubtedly end up being many is that not a single grain escaped. I didn’t carelessly leave any on the counter or let one bounce away. I’m going to need them all.

Although the primary goal is to raise awareness and funds for refugees, I think deep down I have some other goals. I want to break the cycle of eating just to break up the day. I have been needing to deal with my caffeine dependence for a while (I’m not supposed to have any due to health reasons and let’s just say I break that rule day in and day out). It will definitely not kill me to miss wine for a week.

The goal is to help refugees, but I have a hunch it’s myself that I may be helping at least as much.

*Note: If you would like to contribute, please visit this link.

Five Minute Friday Goal
Five Minute Friday Goal

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: NAME

Five Minute Friday Name

NAME

Many of us say while socializing, “I’m bad with names. I may have to ask you next time we see each other.”

That’s certainly the case with me. The truth of the matter, though, is that I tell people I’m bad with names because it’s easier for them to understand that than it is for them to comprehend my difficulty with faces.

And all of that is ironic because people are so important to me. The last thing I want to do is make someone feel they don’t matter or that I didn’t care enough to remember them.

I have been thinking about specific individuals, and what they must be named, lately due to my work. One of the newsletters I edit, UN Wire, covers events in the world that are of interest to people who follow the United Nations Foundation.

Every time I work on that newsletter (three times a week), I struggle to get my head around the sheer volume of people who are dying or suffering in our world.

I did some crude math based on a recent issue. Adding up the deaths, injustices, illnesses and crimes against humanity, I came up with:

13,527,834

Thirteen MILLION, five hundred twenty-seven thousand, eight hundred thirty-four human beings. The types of issues included being displaced, being food insecure, children who had been raped, women who had been raped, victims of Ebola, births among 10-14 year old girls in Guatemala, UN personnel and implementing partners who had submitted abuse allegations, people injured or killed due to cyclones, people held political prisoner, people displaced/killed in Burundi and Syria, education disrupted and more people living as refugees.

***end of five minutes***

I am preparing to participate in the Ration Challenge, during which I will eat the equivalent food as that eaten by a Syrian refugee for a week. I needed to have a name in my head to picture who this is for. It’s so easy to see the mushrooming numbers of people suffering and forget that every single one of those people is someone’s daughter or son.

I very unscientifically googled “name of a refugee in Syria” and came up with Elhem, a 17-year old who became a mother herself after marrying at the age of 13. She married her older cousin after she began living at a refugee camp. She says her marriage was “not a decision borne out of love or romance.”

I’ve joked around about how hard it will be to live without coffee for a week. I’ve send fundraising emails making fun of the fact that I rushed into this challenge without fully comprehending the “no sugar” and “no alcohol” parts.

But life for Elhem is no joke, and her name will motivate me.

*Note: If you would like to contribute, please visit this link.

Five Minute Friday Name

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: CULTURE

Five Minute Friday Culture

CULTURE

I chose an article, In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning, to share in the International City/County Management SmartBrief yesterday that had all the pieces I love in an piece of writing of its nature.

The article talked about how Ellicott City, Md., has had two 1000-year floods since 2016. It went into detail about the flooding in general, about the environmental factors around Ellicott City that have contributed to a topography that makes flash flooding worse. There were facts and figures (explained in a relatively straightforward way).

Juxtaposed against that (and my favorite part) were the stories of the people. The business owners who rebuilt after the 2016 floods, amid lofty hopes that life in their quaint community would return essentially as it had been before. The teenagers who grew up in the area. The visitors who kept Ellicott City financially sound. The fact that the whole reason the city was situated where it is had to do with its proximity to the water (in the 1700s).

Much of the “people” part of the story focused on Eddie Hermond, a veteran and one of those people who draws other people into their circle and connects people who otherwise wouldn’t have grown to know and care about each other.

Eddie died after the 2018 Memorial Day flood, swept away by the floodwaters as he was trying to help a woman (and her cat) escape danger.

***end of five minutes***

For Memorial Day 2019, Eddie’s friends planned together where they spent last Memorial Day — the day they lost him. Here’s what the writer says about chatting with Eddie’s friends:

As we talk, a server pours a shot of Jameson’s whiskey and sets it high up on a shelf behind the counter. Sara tells me that it’s a shot for Eddie—that was his favorite drink. The whiskey will sit up there behind the bar until it evaporates, and then they’ll fill it back up again.  

I can’t get that imagery out of my head — of the shot of whiskey, sitting silently on a shelf, evaporating so gradually you can’t see it go until it’s all gone. The cultures of the places we love the most … and that edify us the most … be they offices, homes, churches or something else … have some type of watchful spirit in the Eddie mold. Still remembered, still a part of the place that transcends the tangible.

Remembering the “Eddie” figures in our collective lives matters. Here’s to you, Eddie.

Five Minute Friday culture

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: 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.)