Have You “Bean” To A Museum Lately?

I don’t know why I voluntarily threw myself down this rabbit hole again, but in a moment of weakness I tweeted “I don’t know what to blog about tonight.” (The last time I did that, I ended up blogging about my sock drawer (which, by the way, is still perfectly organized almost five years after that post!)). Faster than you can say “Look, Teddy!” my friend Sean Parker had tweeted “Mr. Bean.” I responded back that literally all I knew about Mr. Bean was that he had just posted this picture of him on Facebook.

mr bean

As to how I ended up blogging about Mr. Bean, let’s just say I’m not one to back down from a challenge!

To be totally honest, I still don’t have a great grip on Mr. Bean. I’ve learned it’s a British television sitcom starring Rowan Atkinson, that the first episode aired June 1, 1989, that he’s “hilarious,” and that the theme song is Ecce homo qui est faba. <== all of these facts gathered via basic searching on the interwebz. I trust you can find out more accurate and minute details at the Mr. Bean Website.  

Okay, time for the tie-in and transition to something I have a clue about! Today is International Museum Day.  Sponsored by the International Council of Museums, this year’s theme is “Museum Collections Make Connections.” Apparently Mr. Bean recently went to a museum, where he may or may not have created a bit of havoc:

The caption was "Mr. Bean can't be trusted in the National Gallery. He rearranges paintings and even tries to take a "selfie" in front of one!

The caption was “Mr. Bean can’t be trusted in the National Gallery. He rearranges paintings and even tries to take a ‘selfie’ in front of one!”

A few of my favorite museums include:

Anything Smithsonian. I enjoyed visiting the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, in March of this year:

Capture

Anything Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I’m especially a fan of The Cloisters.  I love the medieval tapestries, such as The Unicorn in Captivity:

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

The most difficult, yet among the most necessary: the Holocaust Museums in St. Petersburg, FL (the Florida Holocaust Museum) and Washington, DC (the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).

Holocaust Memorial Museum Image 3

And, closer to home (home being Tallahassee), our awesome local museums here, including:

LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts (yes it’s technically a gallery and not a museum but it’s my blog and heck I think Mr. Bean would like it!):

lemoyne

Smokey Hollow (yes, it’s DONE (or maybe I’m the only one who has been driving around wondering when the building will be complete)). The story is here.

smokey hollow

And there are many more options in Tallahassee, in our state, in our nation, in our world. I agree with the International Council of Museums: Collections Make Connections.

(and p.s. all of the exhibits in the museums I’ve mentioned above are legit. Don’t know if I could say the same for anything Mr. Bean had a hand in ……….)

And this? Probably not likely to show up in any museum on this side of the pond:

Mr_Bean_Lisa___by_Wappsuwapp

Credit: Wappsuwapp

The Coincidental Table

Mandarin

“If there’s no coincidence, there won’t be stories*.”
(*If Google Translate is right…..)

I heard the Chinese saying above this afternoon on This American Life. The entire show was about coincidences, and this particular saying (often said in a corny context but not intended that way by me) reflects the fact that a life devoid of funny, uncanny, or otherwise startling coincidences is a life whose stories are muted or nonexistent.

I have been peeling my Camp Gordon Johnston “onion” for several months now. (One of my life goals is to write a book about Camp Gordon Johnston.) After my “30 Days of CGJ” ended, I have kept tweeting daily about Camp Gordon Johnston. I am going through the unit rosters, tweeting the name of one soldier per day and sharing the tweet on Facebook, for example:

AlBassoAt first that felt like a very lazy approach: all I have to do is click on the roster, cut and paste the name, click “tweet” and do a screen capture to have a Facebook post. It’s not the most labor-intensive research that will take place for this book, by a long shot, but the five minutes I spend every morning on Edsel Lucas or Charles J. Smith or Leroy Tedlund (spelled Tidlund some places) bring them alive to me for that moment, and keep the memories of these men who rotated through Camp Gordon Johnston and served in World War II from completely washing out into the Gulf of Mexico.

One day when I added my day’s tweet to my Facebook feed, my friend Lea commented on the post (paraphrasing here): “Did you know our dining room table came from Camp Gordon Johnston?” I asked if there was a story behind it, and she graciously invited me to share lunch on the table and hear the story (side note: this woman makes a mean hummus wrap — she should be a Pinterest poster woman). Was it a coincidence that Lea saw my post and that led to the sharing of a story? Let’s go with “yes”!

I’m going to have to improve my data-gathering techniques as this book development process continues as my tendency to get caught up in the story leads to me neglecting any precision note-taking:

table notesBut the general point is: Lea’s table originated at Camp Gordon Johnston (the family’s beach house also sits on land that was originally CGJ property). There were four of these tables in all that came into the possession of her grandfather’s building supply business. The particular one that she owns came to her via an aunt, a long stint in storage, a close call with Goodwill as that aunt began paring down her belongings, and a frenzied drive to rescue it from a thrift store ending.

Table Green Pen

The Camp Gordon Johnston museum curator said she can’t find any documentation of this table in her database, but surmised that perhaps it was in a mess hall. With 8 leaves per table, I think her educated guess may be correct.

One thing Lea and I discussed over lunch was the fascination of “furniture with a story” (her NASA desk is a whole blog post unto itself!). I can’t help wondering:

  • Did Edsel Lucas reminisce about his hometown at this table?
  • Did Charles (Charlie? Chuck?) Smith brag about a girl waiting on him back at home at this table?
  • Did Leroy Tedlund fight as gargantuan a battle against his fear of the unknown from his seat at this table (or one like it) as he and his fellow soldiers would fight in the amphibious landings that lay ahead?

The number of Camp Gordon Johnston WWII survivors is dwindling, an obvious consequence of time’s refusal to slow down. I may never know from a first-hand account what was said, eaten, promised, joked about at this table.

I am pretty sure that the men who sat around it would be glad that a vibrant, happy, filled-with-life family uses it daily in 2014. This piece of furniture was clearly built to withstand a lot of wear, and seventy years later it may have a few scratches and nicks but it is as solid as they come.

Kind of like these guys…

1057th Engineer Port Construction and Repair

Credit: State Archives of Florida
Second row: Richard Thomas, Edsel Lucas, Wm. Edwards, Richard Mueller, Leroy Tidlund, Peter Hauser, Harris Boatwright.
Third row: Melvin Blackstone, Ray. Murphy, Chs. J. Smith, Edwin Caplinger, Maurice Franceau, Wm. Evans, Wm. Mikita, Warren Kelly.
Front row: Phil. Pritchett, John Gazdik, Chester Maciejewsli, Leonard Werth, John Nye.
Camp Gordon Johnston originally opened as Camp Carrabelle and was later named to honor Colonel Gordon Johnston in January 1943.
Back row: Geo. M. Esser, Phil. Karsted, Gordon Stark, Roy Briar, William Viglianco?, Merle Averill?, Geo. Kubik.

And that’s no coincidence.

Tutus, BS, and Crisis Management (A Book Review)

monika tutu

Monika Allen (right) and her friend run as superheroes.

My social media stream was flooded Thursday (3/27/14) with the story of how Self Magazine offended a runner (Monika Allen) by putting a picture of her, running in a tutu, in its “BS” section which ridiculed the growing number of tutu wearers in races. Self had secured her permission to use the picture, but had not explained that the picture was being used in a piece that derided her choice. The final straw on the back of this ill-fated situation was the fact that the runner (who creates tutus as her business, Glam Runner) was wearing it as part of a Wonder Woman costume to demonstrate an intent to vanquish her brain cancer.

Having recently reviewed Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation in the Digital Age as a “Spin Sucks Ambassador,” (my review available here) I thought I would see what principles I learned in the book that could have made a difference in this Self Magazine situation.

To skip ahead to the “punch line,” Self wouldn’t be in this position had there not been a lack of understanding of the magazine’s mission among the staff who prepared the “BS” piece or perhaps Self simply didn’t have a clear mission at all. As Gini Dietrich writes when discussing the ways in which communication has changed:

“In the good ol’ days … every person inside your organization was trained to say the exact same thing when talking to anyone about what you do. Your customers believed what you had to say about your product or service because you were the only one telling your story. Now all it takes is for one person to have a bad experience doing business with you, and you’re finished. No amount of PR messaging can counteract that one person’s negative experience.”

It’s good that a staff member contacted Monika for permission to use her picture but what about the internal climate, mission, and vision at Self led anyone to believe that a runner would willingly let her picture be taken to make fun of runners who love running (in tutus, in fishnets, in military fatigues, in whatever the heck they want to run in?).

In the case of the Self/Tutu issue, it wasn’t just one person having a bad experience. It was one person with a legion of fellow runners racing rapidly and vocally to her defense. What could Self do?

In the chapter on Crisis Communications, Spin Sucks details tips for managing a crisis. Gini Dietrich writes, “When the media finds out about your issue and they tell your story, you almost always end up with a crisis.”

Act Swiftly I saw the story early in the morning of March 27. I did see an apology the afternoon of March 27 (maybe six hours later?). Although six hours is better than six days, the preponderance of coverage I was still seeing 24 hours later was the accusation, not the apology.

Address The Problem The first “clarification” I saw regarding the tutu crisis stated, “we didn’t know Monika was doing this for her health” (the original text ridiculed runners who “think tutus will make them run faster”). Ultimately, the editor’s apology was longer, clearer, and announced that Self Magazine was making a donation to Monika’s charity. The editor’s announcement itself was, I thought, well crafted.

Back Down When You’re Wrong Self was wrong with the choice to publish this picture, in this way, in this magazine. They did eventually concur that they were wrong. Time will tell whether or not their readership embraces that.

In Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich writes, “Customers are now in control. They control how they interact with your brand, what they tell their friends and families about your brand, and even how they give you information about their experience with your brand. Sometimes it’s annoying , and other times it’s pretty enlightening.”

In the case of Self, a legion of worked-up runners rose up almost immediately to control the message: Ridicule a runner for her choice of costume, especially when she is doing it in support of the disease she is fighting (and when she is donating her profits to a good cause) and lose subscribers. Were there annoyed Self Magazine staff when the pushback started occurring (and the “tutu” issue was uniformly plastered all over their Facebook page)? Probably. That annoyance was a warning flag. Is Self now enlightened enough to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Time will tell. Self hasn’t cleared all the hurdles in this race yet.

Have you ever been responsible for responding to a communications crisis? What would you have advised the Self management?

4.1.1

Spin Sucks is available at Amazon (via this link) among other book retailers. If you buy the book by April 5, send Gini Dietrich your receipt (gdietrich (at) armentdietrich (dot) com) and you’ll receive free content such as eBooks and webinars)!

There’s also a great giveaway going on until April 5!! Click this link for the opportunity to win fab prizes including a 1 hour consultation with Gini Dietrich, a free webinar, and other Spin Sucks swag!

The proud author with her creation!

The proud author with her creation!

Note: I received advance galleys of this book for review purposes. The opinion here is all my own!

 

Guts, Glitter, and The Birdcage

la cage banner

Over the past three weeks, I have seen Theatre Tallahassee’s production of La Cage aux Folles four times, including opening night and the closing performance. And I am happy to announce that I have finally figured out how to pronounce the title!

That’s enough, right? Goodbye.

…..just kidding….

I don’t know how I missed watching The Birdcage in my lifetime. Because I had not seen the Birdcage, the storyline and music were all pretty much “new” to me. I found myself repeating to people “I didn’t know there was so much life wisdom in La Cage aux Folles/The Birdcage.” It’s really not that complex:

RESPECT (Look Over There)

There is a point where Jean-Michel is explaining to his father the many disappointments of life with Albin as his other parent: the school shirt request that resulted in a blouse, the beatings from those who looked down on his parents’ lifestyle, the “lack of respect.” How many of us can look back at a time in our lives when we felt disrespected by someone who actually had only our best interests at heart?

How often is someone concerned
With the tiniest thread of your life?
Concerned with whatever you feel
And whatever you touch?

GUTS

I (as the Optimism Light) ended up using this lyric as a hashtag in a tweet congratulating Theatre Tallahassee on its sold out final weekend:

GutsGlitterThe only thing I would change is: I saw a lot of guts (not just a little) displayed over the course of this show. Actors who brought everything they had (and more) to the stage. Legions of people behind the scenes who brought the show to life. A storyline that reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for being exactly who each of us is meant to be.

We face life though it’s sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter;
Face life, with a little guts and lots of glitter.

THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW

Admittedly, I have been struggling with embracing that this is “the best of times.” The demands of parenting, caretaking for an elderly relative, finding myself at a professional crossroads, and life in general have threatened to erode my usual optimistic outlook. All I can say is that four 2.5 hour shows gave me a total ten hours of powerful reminder that I am indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to keep forging ahead, and to remember that “now” is not something to take for granted. It is, for all its imperfections, “the best of times.”

Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now.
Now, not some forgotten yesterday.
Now, tomorrow is too far away.
So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now, is now.

I AM WHAT I AM

If there is just one thing I want my children to take away from a lifetime of being raised by me, it is to be happy with who they are, and to respect who everyone else is. These lyrics speak for themselves ….

I am what I am
I am my own special creation.

**

There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit;
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.
Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say,
“Hey world, I am what I am!”

Lyric hopping aside, a few more thoughts:

There may be other “show must go on” moments that I was not privy to, but I give the maddest of props to J. Brown, the actor who took over as Jean-Michel on less than 8 hours notice for the closing weekend. I know that can’t have been easy, but he pulled it off well. And displayed why it always is a good idea to be prepared to learn something on very short notice — you never know when your perfect opportunity may present itself.

Lastly, I am so thrilled that Tenley (my daughter) had the opportunity to work with this phenomenal cast, and the opportunity to hone her acting skills in the company of these people. The minute amount of acting I have done has convinced me that being in the company of others doing what they are passionate about is an energizing and affirming place to be. I have to admit that try as hard as I could to keep my mouth shut when I was seated next to someone I didn’t know, I usually couldn’t resist sharing “that’s my daughter.” Mom’s prerogative, right? Just proud and happy, that is all!

after la cage

Kudos to Director Naomi Rose-Mock, and all the cast and crew for a wonderful run. It may be a while before I can get this earworm out of my head … and that’s just fine with me!

cagelles

The Cagelles
Photo Credit: Caroline Sturtz Photography

For This Customer, A “Sham” Would Be Relevant (A Book Review)


blasingame

Jim Blasingame has news for businesses: it’s a new age in the business world. Control in the marketplace is shifting from the seller to the customer. In “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance,” Blasingame stresses that timing, access, and convenience are prime relevance expectations in the new customer-driven age.

In January, I received an item I had ordered from a retailer. Well, I didn’t receive the item I had ordered. I had ordered a pillow sham and ended up with a throw and socks. The package included this lovely note from the CEO:

steinmart

Although I am grateful for the note, I’d be more grateful to get the right product, and this vendor’s timing, access, and convenience have been lacking.

The Email Exchanges with SteinMart

1/13/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Questions & Comments:  I received an entirely different item than the one I ordered (I ordered a pillow sham and got a throw/socks) :-). I would like to get the item I ordered originally, and can I return the throw to my local Steinmart (b/c I don’t want to spend $7.50 to ship it back to you …..). If you could let me know how to handle, I’d surely appreciate it!! Thanks.

1/14/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent difficulties you have experienced with your order 0004100004687701.  A prepaid return label will be sent to your email address within 48 hours, so the throw may be mailed back at our expense. Please print this label out, and affix it to your package. Items can be returned online for a refund within 60 days from date of purchase. Once received by our warehouse, the credit for the order will be issued back to your PayPal account within 5-10 business days.

In order to receive the Luxury Sham – King, a new order will have to be placed. We will be more than happy to provide free standard ground shipping on the reorder. to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 888-STEINMART (888-783-4662) for assistance with replacing the order. We are available Monday-Saturday 8:30AM-Midnight EST and Sunday 12:00PM–9:00PM EST for your convenience.

Unfortunately, the land based store will not be able to accept the return for the throw due to the item not being on the invoice.

Again we would like to apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced. We greatly value all of our customers and look forward to our next opportunity to serve you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

This is not a pillow sham!

This is not a pillow sham!

1/31/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

I appreciate your help.

However, I am still having difficulty.

I got the prepaid label so I will return the throw for credit — thank you.

However, I can no longer find the sham I originally ordered online.

Can someone check and see if it is still available somewhere?

I know this is kind of a “first world” problem but having a complete set was important to my daughter; it was the main part of her Christmas gift.

Thanks,

Paula Kiger

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Dear Paula,

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize again that you did not receive the sham you ordered from order 0004100004687701. Unfortunately, we are sold out of that sham on our site. We regret that we cannot check store inventory, however you can have a local store check for you. Please click the link below to view our store locator.

http://www.steinmart.com/storefinder

Our retail stores can check the inventory of all Stein Mart stores for the item you are looking for through their merchandise locator. Our retail stores also have the ability to bill and ship most items directly to you.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

2/1/14 Message from Me to Vendor:

Guys, I am sorry to be a smart aleck about this because again, I know it’s a small thing in the scheme of things but of course I know where my local store is (so I don’t need the store locator) – the whole reason I ordered the sham in the first place is because it was not AT my local store — where we went ahead and bought the rest of the set.

Thanks for the help; I wish I could say I was very very pleased but I’m honestly not at this point.

But I do appreciate the prompt response.

Paula

2/1/14 Message from Vendor to Me:

Thank you for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

We apologize that we did not have the information you needed regarding the sham. Unfortunately, we are not able to check store inventory, as they use a different ordering system than the online store. If the item is not available at the local store, they can check all of the stores, nationwide, to see if any store has it. They can then place the order for you and have that sham sent directly to you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and thank you again for contacting Customer Service at www.steinmart.com.

Sincerely,

The Customer Service Team

Customer Service at www.steinmart.com

Subsequent Activity Post 2/1/14:

I did call my local store (Tallahassee). They were very helpful and gave me phone numbers of several stores that appeared to have the sham still in stock. I called a store in Jacksonville and the representative asked me several times what color I wanted (I replied that it is only available in one color, and what that color combination is). The representative kept asking about the “Mandala” sham and I kept repeating “Magnolia.” I eventually came to the conclusion that they didn’t have it. Then I tried the Ocala store but it appears to close around 8:30 p.m. so I couldn’t speak to them. Then I gave up, returned again to the state of having no time to resolve this, no access to the solution, and the utter inconvenience of having to make all these calls myself.

Is this a routine customer service gone wrong story, or is it an example of the switch Jim Blasingame describes from the age of the seller to the age of the customer? I still have to believe Steinmart can send an email blast to all their stories to see who has this in stock (technology) and combine that with old fashioned customer service to delight me and maintain a forever customer. That would be a highly relevant solution, if you ask me.

Jim-Blasingame-Headshot-243x300

 

Jim Blasingame is one of the world’s foremost experts on small business and entrepreneurship, and was ranked as the #1 small business expert in the world by Google. President and founder of Small Business Network, Inc., Jim is the creator and award-winning host of The Small Business Advocate® Show, nationally syndicated since 1997. As a high-energy keynote speaker, Jim talks to small business audiences about how to compete in the 21st century global marketplace, and he talks with large companies about how to speak small business as a second language. A syndicated columnist and the author of three books, including Small Business Is Like a Bunch of Bananas and Three Minutes to Success, which have sold almost 100,000 copies combined; his third book, The Age of the CustomerTM, launched on January 27, 2014.

**I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

EPILOGUE:

The sham was delivered to me on March 31! Here’s my Facebook screenshot thanking Steinmart!

sham

30 Days of Camp Gordon Johnston (#30daysofCGJ)

My friend Karen started a monthly group called “Illumination.” The point of the group is to promote inspiration among friends and networking, especially for those of the group who telecommute and do not have the give-and-take that comes with office life.

This month, our focus was “30 days,” as in “you can do anything for 30 days and it can get you close to a goal you have been putting off.”

The speaker we discussed, Matt Cutts, says, ““The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?”

To watch his talk (which is less than 4 minutes long!), follow this link.

For my 30 days, I am choosing to stop procrastinating on taking the first step (baby step as it may be) of the book I eventually intend to write about Camp Gordon Johnston. Except for a couple of visits to the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum, and attending the Camp Gordon Johnston Reunion in 2011, I have not made any forward progress. I picture this book as a Laura Hillenbrand-style Unbroken, but seeing as how I am not Laura Hillenbrand, I have to figure out how to tell this amazing story my own way, and I have a lot of research skills to hone along the way.

What I can do, however, in just moments a day, is tweet. For that reason, I will tweet once a day for 30 days some factoid or other comment relevant to Camp Gordon Johnston using the hashtag #30DaysofCGJ. Maybe if I pull on that thread, it will lead me a bit closer to weaving the fabric that will become my book someday.

If you know of anyone who has a story related to the WWII training days at Camp Gordon Johnston, I would love to get in touch with them. I can be reached at paulakiger (at) gmail (dot) com!

cgj sign

 

Colonel Gordon Johnston Source: Princeton Alumni Weekly

Colonel Gordon Johnston
Source: Princeton Alumni Weekly


 

Fathers, Daughters, and Careers

I suppose this would be the perfect time to write a “year in review” post but, instead, I’m going to elaborate on my thoughts about Kathy Caprino’s post “7 Ways Your Father Affected Your Career.”

I read Kathy’s post back on December 23, when it was published by Forbes, Inc. I made a hasty comment at the time but knew I wanted to come back to it. The post had seven points. I’ve included each one here (in bold) along with a concise paraphrase (unbolded) and my thoughts (in italics).

1. Who You Associate With ( “girls with uninvolved dads tend to go through puberty at least five months earlier than other girls“) For my experience, this doesn’t correlate. My dad was overseas a good bit due to being in the Navy, but he wasn’t uninvolved. The fact that I went through puberty very early probably is purely biological. The people I associated with could hardly be deemed “rebellious, acting older than they were” or anything else destructive. This one didn’t seem to mirror my experience.

2. Speaking Your Opinion (“when a father encouraged his daughter to express her opinions growing up, she would generally become more confident at expressing her opinions in school and throughout her life”) I wouldn’t necessarily attribute issues I have as an adult expressing my opinion solely to my father. At 49, it doesn’t really matter (ultimately) why I have had challenges with this and hopefully a round of therapy in my early 20s helped me make peace with my childhood influences. On the other hand, I have been compulsively telling people that my “Word of the Year” for 2014 is “freedom” as in “freedom from being so #*$&#)*@# deferential to everyone.” It’s easier for me to write my opinion than to say it. I can’t blame my dad for that. I can work on improving.

3. The Career You Choose My dad was in the Navy; my mom was a housewife who spoke nostalgically of her working days. I don’t think my dad’s choices directly influenced mine. I sure did want to be Mary Tyler Moore tossing that hat in the intersection, though. When I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom. I think I am destined to discover that career choices can change and evolve even as you approach 50.

4. Your Ambition and Competitiveness (“are fathers at least partially responsible as key influencers re: women’s ambition and competitiveness”?) Hmmmm……I think about this a lot and have never given voice to it in my blog (or, really, much of anywhere!). I am ambitious and competitive BUT my concern is that as an only child who got a LOT of praise for pretty much anything, I have an overinflated sense of my “specialness.” I’m not saying this to be amusing …. I like nothing more than a good competition and earning rewards fair and square. Having entered kindergarten at 4 and always been told “aw so smart for so young” it became easy to crave being the exception rather than the “hard worker.”

5. How You Interact With Men (“Without an involved father, the challenge of interacting with men, particularly in the workplace, can be challenging at best (and debilitating at worst) for some women.”) Cue ominous portentious music here. This doesn’t have to do so much with my father’s involvement or lack thereof. Maybe more of the only child thing or maybe just because I am wired the way I am. I’ll never be “one of the boys” but that’s exactly what I craved sometimes (when I didn’t want to be the treasured princess (hey no one said this had to make sense!). I do love love love having men for friends. But that’s different than being able to shoot the sh*t around the water cooler (thereby gaining an “in” into office hierarchies). On the other hand, for the past 19 years I’ve worked in an office that is about 90% female so maybe I am in an unusual environment to start with.

6. How You Are Mentored By Men (nurturing by a dad of a daughter (vs a son) is much easier because of the lack of testosterone) This one I struggle with — but to be fair I have struggled with very authoritative women too. I also can’t name many true mentors, especially male mentors, in my professional history. Maybe this is a gap I need to fill.

7. Your Leadership Style (“How your father interacted, particularly with you, and also with your mother and other authority figures in your family life set an example for how leadership works or doesn’t.”) This one is a tougher nut to crack. Did my parents influence my leadership style? Was I always meant to be the way I am regardless? If anything, a southern childhood of “be polite” messages probably didn’t help in any way but again I am captain of my own destiny, right?

Having worked through all of the questions, in a way I think my original response to Kathy, hastily tapped out, still encapsulates the core of my response:

It is thought provoking; I don’t think I am going to be able to dash a quick comment off in the comment box on your blog! You can never change the pros and cons of your parents’ styles (in this case, father …) as I’m sure my own children will prove on their own therapists’ couches someday. If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing retrospectively, though, I think I would wish for a bit more messaging along the lines of “sometimes you have to push back, often you can do that diplomatically but there are some times that won’t be possible. Have courage in those times and don’t back down.”

"Dad"

“Dad”

What are your thoughts on the topic? Share them here or directly on Kathy’s blog.

 

Helping Those in Poverty Blossom, An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 18, 2013.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72: 12-14)

Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen

On October 8 of this year, Bob Hentzen passed away from natural causes. I had the blessing of spending a week with Bob when Tenley and I went to Guatemala as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip in July 2011.

As I read the psalm for today’s reading, I couldn’t help reflecting on Bob’s approach to helping people who live in poverty.

Before our trip to Guatemala, I had possessed a vague idea of the ways in which CFCA helped the “lives of the needy.” Our extended family had given $30 a month for years to help our sponsored child, Silvia, and her family have access to education, food, health care, and shelter.

Although the trip involved the incredible highlight of meeting Silvia, it involved so much more. The most eye-opening parts were when we were able to visit the homes of families being helped by CFCA. I had never seen residences that appeared so vulnerable to weather, so rudimentary from the standpoint of plumbing and waste management, so different from our orderly neighborhoods here in the U.S.

“Electricity” meant one light bulb hanging from a cord. When a homeowner was asked why she did not have the light on, she explained “it’s too hot.” I don’t know if the real issue was that she was ultra conservative about the use of power, or if she truly felt it was “too hot.” No use of resources happened without deliberation.

In addition to the tours of homes, we watched presentations about various ways in which people were given help in learning to make a living. We met women who had learned a skill, gone on to use that skill to support their families, and completed the circle by teaching other women to do the same thing. To see a woman empowered with the ability to rely on herself in order to feed and educate her children was to see a “dawn” of a new and improved life for that woman.

Carolyn Zimmerman, of Topeka, Kansas, said this about Bob after his death: “His steps and his life took him throughout the world, where he connected families across the divides of distance, privilege and poverty.”

The people I met in Guatemala were often people who had “no helper” and needed support to cross the divides that Carolyn wrote of. They were people who had been affected by violence and oppression. Perhaps not personally, but culturally. Although Bob did not treat them with the “pity” mentioned in this psalm, he saw the precious potential in each one. And through him, God helped them blossom.

As you reflect, how can you help someone in poverty blossom?

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project


Photo credits: Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (www.hopeforafamily.org)

 

What I Would Say to Sam Champion

I was surprised last Monday when Sam Champion announced he was leaving Good Morning America to be the managing editor and host of his own show at The Weather Channel. There are very few people in the public eye for whom I am a “fangirl,” and Sam is one of the few. A blog post is the only thing I can think to give to someone who probably has pretty much everything he needs; a goodbye post was the only thing I could think to give my friend (and Sam’s fellow weather person) Sean Parker when he left little ol’ Tallahassee to move on to the bigger market of Memphis. Now it’s Sam’s turn.

One of my recurring “dream moments” has not to do with being in a throng of people in Times Square and getting a zillionth of a second with Sam; I would love to walk a mile with Sam and his husband, Rubem, with each of us dedicating our mile to a Charity Miles cause (just putting that out there, universe, okay?!). Not a big publicity thing, but a chance to get to know two people who are passionate about what they do and passionate about one another. If I got that fifteen minutes, here is what I would say by way of “goodbye to your GMA presence.”

You have been a “weather person” in my life for longer than your time at GMA. When I lived in New York City from 1989-1992, you were on WABC and I had a second job typing transcripts of tv news, so I saw a lot of you then. I also think it’s cool that your career trajectory took you through my hometown of Jacksonville, FL; my parents were so proud to announce that you had moved on to New York City. I have been a GMA viewer for as long as I can remember. Watching GMA is as much a habit for me as making the coffee and brushing my teeth in the mornings (and yes, I recognize this presents a conflict once you’re at The Weather Channel … I’ll figure something out!). Over the last few years, you have made every morning just a little bit better, between providing weather information (for obvious reasons I loved any time you mentioned Tallahassee!), feeding off the audience’s energy and making everyone feel welcome, and letting us into your non-weather-related life a little bit at a time.

Once you established a Twitter presence, though, things really got fun! As a viewer, I appreciate how much you interacted with us (and specifically with me!). A retweet from you was always a day maker, especially when you retweeted something that referred to a favorite cause (like you did with the picture I shared on Autism Awareness Day). I watched an interview (I think on the Queen Latifah show (?)) in which you said your “real” career dream was to be an international correspondent, that weather wasn’t necessarily your first choice or dream. Given that you felt that way, I’d say you’ve done pretty well with something that wasn’t Plan A — it’s nice to know that someone who seems so confident, polished, and accomplished struggles with the same questions as all of us. Speaking of questions, I saved a screen print of a tweet that I thought summed up a lot of what you have meant to us viewers. I think the original tweeter had asked why it mattered that Jason Collins made a public announcement about being gay. You could have ignored, evaded, or in some other way taken it personally. But your answer, “you just get to live without questions,” was explanatory, self-disclosing, and compassionate to the original asker: Sam Without Questions Tweet By the time I got through all of this, I am sure our fifteen minutes would be up. I just hope you know you mattered, to me and undoubtedly to many millions of viewers who needed a friendly face, an idea of which way the winds would be blowing, and a hearty unique laugh with which to start the day.

Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.” You won’t be on GMA anymore, but this viewer will be looking for your sunshine on The Weather Channel. You’ve spent years proving that the sunshine will always be there and that #itsamazingoutthere.

edited sams sunrise

#itsamazingoutthere

 

In Praise of Snail Mail

Carolyn Gaines passed away last week. Carolyn was a fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church. I believe we may have met in person once, but our connection was established when we began exchanging “snail mail.” For her birthday (I think it was her 85th), we were all encouraged to send her cards, since she valued snail mail so much. I sent a card and got back a lovely reply. Over the years, every response of mine was returned with a lovely note from Carolyn.

A 2010 Letter From Carolyn

A 2010 Letter From Carolyn

Carolyn’s passing got me thinking of snail mail and the ways in which email just isn’t the same.

Snail Mail Makes Us Think and Process Differently

For me, writing a traditional letter forces me to retrieve a different set of writing tools, especially if I am writing by hand but even if I am typing a letter that will be printed and mailed. I discovered this most recently when I participated in the “Snail Mail My Email” project.  SMME is “a worldwide collaborative art project where volunteers handwrite strangers’ emails and send physical letters to the intended recipients, free of charge.” Admittedly, when I volunteered I focused on the “handwrite” component instead of the “art” part. I hope the recipient who requested a “gray striped cat, turnips, and a gingko leaf” appreciated my efforts which were pretty amateurish!

One of my SMME projects, featuring the turnips and the "gingko leaf."

One of my SMME projects, featuring the turnips and the “gingko leaf.”

Snail Mail Feels Like A Gift

It is tangible. You can hold it in your hand. I still love the thrill of paper in my hands. My friend Kathleen is a true “snail mail only” person. My family knows that if the mail contains a letter from Kathleen, all activity will come to a standstill until I devour it. I am pretty sure Kathleen is this generation’s Erma Bombeck. I hope all her great material gets compiled into a book someday and makes her a million bucks. We’ll be able to say we knew her when (and heck we may be able to sell her old letters on eBay (just kidding….)).

Letters from Kathleen are always a treat!

Letters from Kathleen are always a treat!

Snail Mail Makes Us Wait

Who among us hasn’t tapped out a lengthy email missive to a friend, analyzing the day’s events with its frustrations and high points? Or a lengthy email missive to a friend, written with no filter in a moment of anger or frustration, that went beyond a “venting” session and verged on hurtful and spiteful? When I sit down (finally … it always takes a while) to respond to Kathleen, I am forced to think about what really mattered about the intervening weeks. I think she gets a clearer view of my life for hearing about the things that mattered enough to commit to paper. And the little things that didn’t deserve to have more energy spent on them remain unwritten.

Snail Mail Gives Us Memories

Sure, we could print out the important emails in our lives and put them on a bulletin board. It’s just not the same. Fifteen days after my mother in law’s death, and about six weeks after receiving her postcard from her “bucket list” trip to Rome, I am so happy to have this little memento. She and I sat at her computer prior to her trip and went through her address labels so she could have them with her in Rome. I know she and my sister in law Mary went to special efforts during their trip to apply the labels, write a note, and get the special Vatican stamps. It is so much more meaningful than any email they would have been able to dash off.

Postcard from Raphael's Tomb

Postcard from Raphael’s Tomb

The postcard Barb sent included the poem “The Key to Paradise” by Mother Teresa on the back. One of its lines is “Find the time to be a friend.”

Thank you, snail mail, for being a way for us to carve out time for our friends.

Is there someone you could delight with a piece of snail mail? Why not drop them a line?