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.)

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.)

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.)