Curiosity, Generosity, A Tear or Two – Achieving Midlife Goals

Here’s something that is hazy in my future plan that needs to be much, much clearer: the status of the book I haven’t written.

Here’s something that was crystal clear when I was talking about that stalled dream when talking with Caytha Jentis and Artist Thornton about disrupting myths about aging (for example: at a certain age you shouldn’t bother trying to write a book): the way they vigorously shook their heads in disagreement that it is too late. (See for yourself at the 0:22 mark in this video.)

Besides the incredible bond the three of us developed over a few emails/Facebook messages/test videos and the actual video here, I gained several takeaways that apply both to my book-writing goal and to this stage of my life in general.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Curiosity

Curiosity is one of the qualities Caytha mentioned during our talk. She’s right. I’m sure that’s one of the factors that led her to produce movies and create The Other F Word (check it out on The Girlfriend!).

One of the mental barriers I have had (ridiculous as it is) to writing this book is this: I envision it as an Unbroken-type book: meticulously researched yet beautifully told. I doubt my research skills (but feel I could take a crack at the beautiful telling part….). My internal dialogue has been for years “but you can’t do it like Laura Hillenbrand.”

A bit of reading led me to find out that (voila!) Laura Hillenbrand has succeeded wildly as a writer by being curious, even though her health limitations made it difficult to do field study of her topics. A Flavorwire article about her approach, How ‘Unbroken’s’ Laura Hillenbrand Writes Her Epic Nonfiction, says this:

What you need is endless curiosity…

Rejection is Inevitable, But How Crazy is it When We Reject Ourselves?

Caytha has experienced her share of rejection in the challenging world of production. Artist is making a go of it in a competitive New York restaurant scene with his place, SpaHa Soul. Neither industry is exactly gentle on dreamers.

“If you don’t try, you already have rejection,” said Caytha (i.e., what do you have to lose from trying?). That led me to say “you’re essentially rejecting yourself.” I’ve done my share of that and I don’t recommend it, people.

Cry, then move on

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was the segment about overcoming obstacles. When I asked Caytha about that, I expected her to say something along the lines of “I overcame them because I’m a badass!” yet her first response was “I cry.”

I can’t say I cry over rejection but I do something equally destructive and insidious: tell myself “of course you didn’t [insert goal here] because clearly the other people who do that are better. Really, why did you even try?”

However, beyond the crying is the boxing match. You heard me right: the boxing match.

via GIPHY

Embrace rejection and look at it as a boxing match, Caytha said: go the full round. Not every idea is to be executed — that’s valid. I had a business plan and had to be crafty and find ways to make things happen. Once I went to midlife bloggers, figured out there was an audience, learned how to engage them and tapped into the power of working together as entrepreneurs, it’s like we become part of a larger thing — squaring not doubling – it’s how we become strong and viable.

Be generous

This is my personal soapbox and I will espouse this viewpoint/approach, always (even though I execute it imperfectly). During our discussion on Facebook live, we talked about how we tend to be more generous by this stage in our lives; we have figured out that is where the true power lies.

I will admit this is a struggle for me, because my competitive nature is always right under the surface, sometimes undetectable, and the insecurities that plague many of us lead me to worry about losing out on many opportunities, employment-wise and life-wise, I know that ultimately lifting others up always lifts us up too.

(The Facebook Live I share above is a perfect example of that. I sought out many other people in the process of looking for someone to participate in a FB live about midlife and busting myths. I specifically wanted to make sure LGBT issues were addressed. While I certainly accept the fact that some people just didn’t get back to me at all — we are all bombarded with “opportunities” and can’t do everything, I am giddy with happiness that Caytha and Artist said yes, even though it was a little crazy figure out how to get three people on a FB live at once (thank you, BeLive.tv, for making it happen). These are the people I was meant to do this with, and their generosity of spirit showed throughout the whole thing.)

Back to Laura Hillenbrand

I’m glad I found the article I referenced above, which links to a longer New York Times Magazine piece. Reading about Laura Hillenbrand helps me realize that there is no “one perfect way” to write a book. When her illness forced her to stay home almost exclusively, she had items brought to her so she could understand them (such as World War II bombing artifacts).

I love the idea in the Flavorwire article that Hillenbrand “excels in a particular sort of intimacy, and that intimacy drags you into the story.” It’s certainly one of the many qualities that led me to love Seabiscuit and (primarily) Unbroken — which tied in my love of the running community and Louis Zamperini’s heroic story as well as the World War II theme.

She wrote her book. Her way. With intensive effort and creative workarounds. Maybe this is possible for me also.

Keep Dreams Alive

Throughout my post and Facebook Live about Disrupting Myths, I’ve used the “keep dreams alive” idea consistently but there’s something about it that never sat perfectly with me. For me, it’s not that the dreams need to be kept alive (because they just won’t die….) but that I need to give my dream (the book) structure and priority.

Although I went to great pains in my last blog post on this topic to convince myself that I don’t have to be Laura Hillenbrand to do this (that, in fact, the more important thing is to be *me* with my passion about Camp Gordon Johnston), I was struck by this comment by Jonathan Karp, who bought the rights to Seabiscuit for $100,000 when he was with Random House (extreme diversion to a barely related side note here — I spent a few years as a freelance proofreader for Ballantine Books, which was the Random House paperback imprint at the time).

Anyway, Karp said this: “I keep waiting for somebody to do what Laura did.”

Although doing “what Laura did” needs to be done with my individual touch, maybe once the haze clears, it’ll be me.

Achieving midlife goals

I linked this post to the Kat Bouska site for the prompt “write a blog post based on the word ‘hazy.'”

Achieving midlife goals

The Facebook Live that led to the video I embedded here was done in conjunction with Women Online and AARP. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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

Keeping Dreams Alive

I only know of one way to physically become younger. Sorry to break it to you all, but it’s pretty complicated, involves significant risk, entails a significant selection process, and only happens to people named Scott Kelly.

Scott Kelly is an American astronaut who started his 11-month stint on the International Space Station in 2015 as an individual six minutes younger than his twin brother. He came back six minutes and 13 milliseconds younger because, as Kelly explains, “my telomeres, basically these things at the end of our chromosomes that shorten with stress and age, actually ended up longer than Mark’s.”

Mark and Scott Kelly
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Becoming younger isn’t an option, so am I going to keep feeling young?

Participants in a British study reported a self-perceived age of 56.8 years even though their chronological age was 65.8 years. The same study found that participants who felt between 8 and 13 years older than their chronological ages had an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods.

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to let small ideas erode our sense of wellbeing nudge that perceived age upwards. The thing is, some of these small ideas that grow into large threats are not even true! They are myths, and they deserve to be busted.

Here are a few examples, courtesy of the bloggers participating in the #DisruptAging campaign:

Bren Herrera, reminding us it’s never too late to do what we’re missioned for.

Lisa Leslie-Williams, the Domestic Life Stylist, who shared that your best health doesn’t have to be behind you.

Laura Funk of We Got the Funk and her take down of common misperceptions about early menopause, such as it must mean a woman is aging more rapidly.

What if you have a big (really big!) dream? Is it too late?

Many of you who know me or have read the blog know that I want to write a book about Camp Gordon Johnston. I’ll admit to the voices in my head nibbling away at my confidence about that (they mainly say “you’re no Laura Hillenbrand” (I love her writing and research)) while I know that the world doesn’t need another Laura Hillenbrand. The world (and the legacy of Camp Gordon Johnston) needs me (okay that sounds egotistical — but my point is other people besides Laura Hillenbrand can do this story justice. She should be my model, not my barrier.

Join me for a myth-busting Facebook Live!

Thursday, July 26, at noon ET, I’m going to be chatting with two people who are making their dreams happen. They can encourage all of us. My friend Caytha created the awesome series The Other F Word, which was just picked up by The Gilfriend. And Artist Thornton has opened his own restaurant. In “world’s colliding” moment, here’s a scene from Caytha’s show in which you can meet Artist at his restaurant, SpaHa Soul.

Join us Thursday; we’d love to hear what myths you’re trying to bust and support each other as we knock them down (or get started at least!).

Keeping dreams alive

 

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

6 Business Pointers from Bingo

It’s not always the formal “learning opportunities” that inspire us the most.

I went to an interesting workshop on Thursday: Lead with Influence: Training Our Talent. It was helpful in the way it motivated us to try to figure how how to change behavior by getting to the motivations behind people’s choices.

Ironically, however, a blog outline popped into my head rapidly as I sat through roughly 45 minutes of Bingo when I met Wayne afterwards at Corner Pocket. (Our house was being shown, so we decided to grab a bite to eat there. It was Thursday, therefore it was Bingo night.)

This is what I saw. (And maybe it’s just that I haven’t ever played organized Bingo. Maybe it’s always this compelling. But it made an impression on me.)

The players were prepared

The regulars (and there are numerous regulars) showed up ready to play, with their special Bingo marker pens (pardon me — apparently I mean Bingo Daubers).

We settled for (wait for it) a humble big green pen (I happened to have one (or 10)) on me, but now that I know Bingo Daubers are a thing, I have my eye on green glitter!

Business Pointers from Bingo

Source: Connecticut Bingo Supply Website

And I suppose it would be a pretty pessimistic move to invest in this one (especially given my Optimism Light alternate identity), but it makes me laugh:

Business Pointers from Bingo

Source: Amazon
Made by Powerdot

The players were enthusiastic

These people were happy to be doing what they were doing. Their excitement created its own energy. People chatted at tables between rounds; they celebrated each other’s success. They were collectively in that desirable space of savoring the moment while looking ahead to the future with anticipation.

They balanced individual goal-directedness with concern for team welfare

Some people huddled over their own cards, looking for the “down,” “across,” “X,” or “H” that would pay off for them. My husband and I shared a card. One group pooled their money, played all the cards they bought, and then shared the winnings if there were any. I’m not sure what the math of implementing that last plan yields, but it seems that if everyone stands to benefit from the cards at play, there is redoubled attention to marking the cards correctly.

They had shared rituals

Imagine attending a college football game as an impartial attendee. Not knowing any team’s special traditions (for instance, there was a Florida State player once whose nickname was “Pooh.” Whenever he did something noteworthy, the FSU fans would yell “POOOHHHHHH!” but it sounded like “BOO!!!!!” It would be confusing for the uninitiated.)

This Bingo crowd has its traditions:

For B-11: “B 11, BB 11!” they would chant.

One of the “B” numbers was designated for Bree, one of the callers. There were several “special” traditions. (There’s also a group reaction for “O-69” — I’ll leave that one to your imagination!)

They helped newbies

Wayne asked several questions of the table next to us, populated by a group of regulars. They answered his questions immediately and thoroughly. Not that they wouldn’t anyway, but I believe when you love something, you tend toward generosity in how you help others acclimate.

This applies so much in business, I think. If you truly feel engaged with the mission and  included in the team, there’s no reason to withhold information or encouragement from someone who is your peer, subordinate, or supervisor. Even if you ostensibly may be in a position at some point to be in head-to-head competition with someone for a promotion or other status change, clarify the email, say a word of support, be the first to answer their question.

It speaks to your character and team spirit if you are liberal in your willingness to help so that the organization looks good and clients are delighted. Karma, I hope, takes care of the long term.

(Side note: I love Caitie Whelan’s brief Lightning Notes essay on the value of “Learn it, share it.” She writes, “The business of living is not a solo sport. We rise and fall relative to our ability to walk beside each other. And when we share generously, abundantly of our learnings, experience, imagination, we help smooth the path alongside us.” Lots of truth here, in bingo or in business.)

Their motivation showed

The moment one round ended, the line to buy new bingo cards would materialize around the host table. (I suppose Charles DuHigg, author of The Power of Habit, would contend this is habit rather than motivation. Perhaps it’s both.) No one had to remind them to line up or incentivize them to do so. It mattered to them, therefore they lined up.

Bingo … Business … Life

I thought when I enrolled in the “Lead with Influence” training that I would leave with the material for a blog post. Besides the awesome opportunity to spend time with my friend Colleen, the chance to get some professional development for free (thanks, Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality), and the motivation to leave the house (something I don’t do often enough), I thought “great — this will make for an easy blog post.”

I did enjoy the workshop and was motivated by the reminder that change can indeed become the “path of least resistance” when we thoroughly evaluate the personal, social and structural contributors when trying to solve to problems.

Honestly, though, the most direct line to realizing how outstanding outcomes are the result of behavioral choices and group unison came from a few rounds of Bingo in a bar.

Business Pointers from Bingo

 

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

What Tallahassee Trail?

Our President referred to the “Tallahassee Trail” recently, apparently an erroneous attempt to discuss the Appalachian Trail (at the 0:20 mark in the video below).

My knowledge of hiking the AT is confined to what I have read in AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Life Unbolted, and conversations with my friend Patrick (author of Life Unbolted) and a few other friends and relatives who have spent time on the AT. I have never set foot on the AT.

This, however, is what I recall from what I read (in bold) with the Tallahassee counterpoint below in italics:

The Appalachian Trail was started around 1930, the result of an initiative by regional planner Benton MacKaye that began in 1921 for a “utopian” hiking trail. 

I suppose you could say Tallahassee was begun in its earliest periods (the Native Americans who first lived here, the Spanish people who established missions here in the 1960s) more out of need than of recreation. However, I suspect those settlers had an appreciation for our region’s abundance and natural beauty.

The AT was the first national scenic trail established by law (in 1968, with a largely unpublicized assist apparently from First Lady Ladybird Johnson). 

I’m not sure what we have in Tallahassee that is the equivalent. As far as federal issues that stand out in our history though, is much of the litigation around a little thing called the contested 2000 presidential election. And we know Trump has strong opinions about federal election integrity

The trail is full of beauty.

This is the aspect of the AT I most want to see for myself. The books I’ve read about it paint lovely pictures and it would be incredible to see them in person. Tallahassee, too, is FULL of beauty. We are so fortunate.

The trail is full of difficulty.

Tallahassee has its challenges too (spend time here in August and you’ll see what I mean!). We have our own hurdles to overcome — intrinsic issues with hunger, especially among children; too much crime, urban planning challenges.

People go to the trail for different reasons, but it all boils down to the fact that they are searching for something.

Many people are in Tallahassee for the same reason I am — they came to school and then ended up staying. No matter the reason we arrive here, and no matter how much we love it, all of us are on our own quest to either find ourselves, find bliss, or both.

People on the trail have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

One thing I always thought when reading about hiking the AT is “I’m not sure I’d be able to hitchhike or ask for things.” I suppose I would go hungry many times! We need each other here in Tallahassee, too. Just check out the annual Fill-a-Truck to fill food pantries for the summer, how we all made sure to share power and coffee and generator time after our hurricanes, how we are banding together right now to help our neighbors in Eastpoint affected by a terrible fire.

The trail is ever-changing.

Even if a hiker visits the same exact spot annually on the same day, it will never be the same. Vegetation will change; weather conditions will vary; soil will have eroded. Tallahassee, too, evolves all the time. Businesses come and go; politicians gain (and lose) power. But the heat and the inability of anyone to use a traffic signal will go on forever!

It is an accomplishment to achieve your goals on the AT.

My hat is off to anyone who can hike the entire AT. This is not an easy task at all. My hat is also off to all of the incredible people who make Tallahassee such a great place to live.

In thinking through why the president may have been confused between the Appalachian Trail and the (non-existent) Tallahassee Trail, I tried to draw some conclusions (even though I suspect the reason may have just been ignorance. After thinking through the categories above, it strikes me that he was especially off due to these three factors:

Everyone belongs on the AT

Anyone can walk the AT with the right physical conditioning and willpower. Furthermore, there are NO WALLS intended to keep people out. Everyone is welcome.

Our city paved the way for civil rights for everyone, as commemorated by a trail that is much shorter than the AT (it’s about half a mile) but long on reverence for our history as a community growing together toward improving civil rights for all. It’s the Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk.

Tallahassee Trail

Image credit: Florida State University

Packing

Finally, an image that comes to mind is actually from Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. She walked the Pacific Crest Trail rather than the Appalachian trail, but the image applies.

In her book, Strayed talks about her decision to walk the trail. She lived in the midwest somewhere at the time (I think), and went to her local REI to stock up on everything she would need. She bought all the “right” things — right backpack, the perfect sleeping bag, everything the books said she would need.

Her bag was so heavy she couldn’t even put it on!

Maybe the president was confused because he went into this presidency as unprepared for the realities and responsibilities as Cheryl Strayed struggling under the crushing weight of things people told her she should have but that she didn’t have enough experience to reject.

Running a country sure isn’t a time to be winging it.

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

If I had coffee with Sarah Sanders…

I have not perfectly demonstrated this belief over the years, but it is something I owe my fellow female professionals (and just my fellow women in general):advice for Sarah Sanders

But when it comes to this one woman…

My work schedule right now is front-loaded in the (much) earlier part of the day, so I often find myself able to watch the daily press briefing.

As I watch, I think “I feel so angry at this woman” as I watch Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (SHS).

I can’t figure this out.

Some of my strong emotional reaction I can diagnose …..it boils down to the fact that I don’t believe it is professional to demean the journalism professionals present so openly nor to speak in such a hostile way about people and organizations that disagree with the leaders of the Executive branch.

I start watching/listening to most daily briefings with an attitude of “I probably won’t agree with most of what she says but it is important to not stick my head in the sand.”

I usually make it about 10 minutes before tweeting out my frustration and trying not to hurl shoes at the television.

What I want to tell SHS

I know some sources say she plans to leave the position by the end of the year (although she apparently denies these reports), so perhaps it’s a moot point, but I still have to get this out.

I know I will probably never actually be invited to have coffee with her. I’ll never face the White House press corps. I’ll never be in the audience at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, knowing my boss and I are surely going to be the butt of jokes.

But if I did have an opportunity to chat, I would tell her no job is worth abandoning your own voice to be the mouthpiece of anger and vitriol. I don’t think that is what the press secretary role is about.

Not the she necessarily sees Melinda Gates as a role model, but I’m with Melinda.advice for Sarah Sanders

I would tell her that I think in time she is going to look back at this period of her life and wish she had taken a different approach.

SHS’s predecessors were different

This topic has been niggling at my brain for months now. Because I don’t have a comprehensive recall of previous press secretaries’ performances, I sought an example from a previous administration. I chose a Republican administration to be fair to SHS and ended up at this Scott McClellan briefing from the George W. Bush administration.

Watching one briefing does not a thorough analysis make, but I was struck by a few things:

  1. McClellan’s calm tone (even when he was refusing to answer questions)
  2. How he emphasized the fact that he valued his relationship with the press corps (yes, he may have been blowing smoke up their butts, but he made the effort)
  3. His tendency to explain rather than attack

BUT SHS has done some things right

SHS has done one thing that did not (in my opinion) occur under Sean Spicer. She has brought a semblance of order to the process. I admire her for that because keeping conversations within the rails has to be hard.

About SHS’ interaction with Larry Karem

Fast forward to the June 14 press briefing. As the national outcry grew over the how the administration was condoning the separation of children from their parents when immigrant families arrived from Mexico illegally, reporters sought answers.

Larry Karem of CNN and Playboy pressed SHS over and over (and over) again, eventually asking … as she began to ignore him and pointedly called on another reporter … “Don’t you have any empathy for what they go through?”

(At the time, all I could think was about my time at Healthy Kids. In my customer service capacity, I talked to countless parents who were upset about their children’s accounts being cancelled for late payment and other reasons. Inevitably, they would say, “do YOU have kids?” One parent said, “I’ve looked you up on Facebook. I know all about your kids.” Nice. It is hard to separate out your compassion and empathy as a parent with the rules you have to enforce as an employee. Therefore, I did feel empathy for SHS as the reporter screamed at her, prefacing his question about empathy with, “You’re a parent. You’re a parent of young children.”)

Ultimately, I side Larry.

If I had coffee with Sarah, I would encourage her to listen to her own voice.

I know a bit about her ideological background, so it’s unlikely that her “own voice” has that much in common with mine.

But if we were going to be in the same tribe together, and she was at all receptive to my attempt to lift her up, my advice would come with an admonition to consider listening to her own voice more closely instead of resorting to hostilely defending someone else’s while denigrating people who are (for the most part) trying to do their jobs.

*Note: One question I have asked myself while thinking through this post is whether I would feel the same if SHS were a man. I’m not sure. I think at the heart of my personal reaction to her approach is the idea that young women considering careers in communications are taking their cues from her, not just about professionalism but about how to mix being a professional with being a parent, and the message she sends should be longer on professionalism and shorter on mean-spiritedness.

*Note 2: If you want to use YOUR voice to advocate on behalf of the immigrant children being separated from their parents, here are five simple, quick actions recommended by Moms Rising.

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

Dispelling 3 Myths About Hospice

My father-in-law had two encounters with cancer over the three years he lived with us. The first was managed by radiation. When the tumor showed up in essentially the same place (his throat) a second time, our family concurred with his physicians that hospice care was the best option, since he was not a candidate for chemotherapy and the tumor could not be eradicated through radiation alone.

I don’t recall precisely the date Dad became an official hospice patient but it was in early 2017. Despite the fact that he was a hospice patient for months, it didn’t seem that people fully understood that he was under hospice care until he moved into the Hospice House June 27.

Because I have observed that there are several misconceptions about hospice, here’s my attempt to bring accuracy to three of them.

1 – Hospice is not always a brick and mortar place

Dad was officially a hospice patient starting sometime in February 2017 (I think). However, he still lived at our house until his move to Hospice House June 27 prior to his death on July 2.

He was not alone in being a hospice patient receiving treatment at home.

Although many of us associate “hospice” with a specific building where the patient spends their last days, the majority of patients receiving hospice care (58.9% according to data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization) do so at their own home, with 31.8% getting care at inpatient facilities and 9.3% rounding out the figure at acute care hospitals.

Hospice myths

Why this matters: It seems that people (and maybe it’s just my perception, but it’s a mistake I made before having a family member on “at home hospice,”) think hospice is primarily an in-patient facility. This leads to not understanding that your friend/acquaintance/co-worker with a relative “on hospice” may be living 24/7 with the stresses and needs of a terminally ill person. Although they receive medical assistance, some help with hygiene needs like bathing, music therapy and other volunteer interaction and provision of some durable medical equipment and medicines, it’s still, to an extent, all on them.

2 – Hospice is a business

This is another one that falls in the “maybe it’s just me” category regarding my understanding of how it all works.

Before having a family member on hospice (and seeing his Medicare bills), I had fallen into some gauzy idea that hospice is “nice” (which it is) and that it is primarily funded by donors (which it is not) and fueled by volunteers (which it is, to an extent – volunteers like Jim are indispensable both to the patient’s care plan and to the caregivers’ sanity).

According to the Kaiser Foundation, about a quarter of traditional Medicare spending (between $23,181 and $43,353 per capita depending on age) for health care goes to beneficiaries ages 65 or older who are in their last year of life. Hospice makes up roughly 10% of Medicare spending.

Debt.org says Medicare spent $13 billion in 2010 on hospice care, averaging $10,700 per patient.  .

Why this matters: This matters for a number of reasons, but here’s an example of why it matters drawn from my experience. Dad qualified due to his hospice status to have someone come and help him bathe several times a week. As his illness progressed, the activity changed from assisting him with getting to the shower and taking the shower, to sponge baths in bed.

One day, the aide did not arrive to help Dad with his shower.

I notified hospice.

The aide (a regular who had been to our house multiple times) called and insisted she had indeed come and he had refused. (Refusing was not uncommon — but the point is she had not come.)

Because I work from home, and my work space at the time was about five feet from Dad’s chair, I knew it was impossible that she had come and been refused. I said, “do you mean to tell me you walked in, tried to get him in the shower, and he refused while I remained oblivious?”.

*****pause*****

Aide: “oh wait I remember — I got sick and couldn’t come.”

Sigh.

I can’t confirm whether she billed hospice for the visit or not, but I also can’t confirm she did not.

It was not an issue of someone doing a nice thing for Dad failing to show up (that I could have forgiven, of course). It was an issue of the fact that it costs Medicare a certain fee for her to come (and she gets paid).

Accountability matters. When it comes down to it, our taxes are on the line here. 

3 – The Medical Care Economy is Complicated

When my mom approached (unbeknownst to us, in a way) the end of her two-month medical crisis in February, she was in ICU. My father was presented with the option of “putting her in hospice.”

I was not present for the discussion (I wish I had been), but I was an advocate for the hospice option. Apparently I believe the myths myself, because I pictured her in a facility similar to Dad’s situation — a lovely place with freedom for the family to spend time 24/7 with the patient and a different philosophy about end of life than a hospital has.

Turns out, she was put “on hospice,” but although that meant a change in her treatment plan, it meant she stayed right there in that ICU bed. Hmmm.

I’m not a medical economist, but I have to admit not being surprised when someone who had worked extensively in hospice and hospitals said, “hospitals don’t want people to die for accreditation reasons.” It would be very complex to unwind this, but it’s tempting as a layperson to say “surely an accreditation agency would understand a patient with a fatal condition dying.”

I do think my mom’s transition to “hospice” was necessary because there were related changes in how she was being treated that resulted in a more dignified end.

But I still have lingering questions about why it mattered (if it did) to the hospital to be able to change the coding sent to Tricare to “hospice” rather than “inpatient ICU.”

Why this matters: As our population ages, the boundary between traditional hospitals and hospice care seems certain to continue blurring. We may not see the financing details, but behind the scenes, they make a difference in how policy plays out and how our loved ones are treated.

To further explore one angle of this issue, the book And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life looks interesting. Here’s an excerpt:

…although most people die in hospitals, hospitals are not structured for the kinds of deaths that people claim to want. For example, Medicare’s reimbursement methods dominate what happens to the majority of hospital patients at the end of life. In its attempt to control spending over the last two decades, Medicare has systematically been eliminating its cost-based payments to hospitals and nursing homes, and hospitals are not explicitly reimbursed for providing palliative care. The institutional response to these cutbacks has been for nursing homes to transfer dying patients to hospitals to avoid the cost of intensive treatments, and for hospitals to discharge patients, once they are labeled “dying,” so as not to incur the cost of palliative care. Simply put, at this point in history, dying people are not wanted in medical institutions, and it shows. ~ Sharon R.  Kaufman

The Philosophy Behind Hospice

In addition to the three myths that I recommend dispelling, the most important thing to understand about hospice is that it is (in addition to not being solely a “place,” being a business and being a complicated part of hospital financing) an entity with a philosophy that gives its patients dignity and a semblance of control over the end-of-life process.

There are several good explanations of the hospice philosophy, but I like the American Cancer Society’s:

The hospice philosophy accepts death as the final stage of life: it affirms life and neither hastens nor postpones death. Hospice care treats the person rather than the disease, working to manage symptoms so that a person’s last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones. Hospice care is also family-centered – it includes the patient and the family in making decisions.

Having a front row seat to a family member’s death experience, and being a part of the hospice process, deepened and revised my understanding of how to define hospice.

So many people say, “they [hospice staff/volunteers] are angels on earth.” I sure as heck don’t disagree (and owe a special enormous shout-out to our social worker, our  nurse, the music therapy students, and our volunteer). They all had a part in helping Dad have as peaceful an end of life as possible and keeping us as a family somewhat sane.

In sharing these observations, my hope is that the general public understands hospice a little better (and can have a more accurate picture of what it is when they are consoling friends/family members who are part of a hospice process).

I also think accountability is critical, and an understanding of the business underpinnings behind it all. Our taxpayer dollars are at stake, and our loved ones are too busy doing the sacred and essential work of dying to be able to intervene.

Hospice myths

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

Deciding How Many Kids to Have

A dear friend posted questions to  Facebook today in a “thinking out loud” way about how to make decisions regarding whether to have another baby.

Before I proceed to break down why I made the childbearing choices I did, I respect every family’s choice. I respect the choice not to have children or to have 18 children (or to have no children). But sharing our stories and rationales is helpful, I think, so here’s mine.

How many kids to have

If you know me, or have read my blog, you know I have two children.

How many kids to have

Family ties.
Credit: Mark Bass Photography

I was an only child (for all intents and purposes*). This was the main driver for feeling strongly about having more than one.

In retrospect, I went overboard in feeling sorry for myself about my only child status. My mom lost a baby at term two years before I was born. Now that I have been through two pregnancy losses (at much earlier stages than she lost my brother), I have a tremendous amount of respect for the courage it takes to keep trying.

I know that my children’s personal histories have many more years in which to grow and develop, but my fantasy was that they would be close to one another. I didn’t observe them to be especially close growing up. Maybe that will change as they grow further into adulthood.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been close to a sibling. But I always wanted to know.

I also feel the weight of having been the only egg in my parents’ basket. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to pray for a child, lose a child, finally have a child, just to have a disrespectful, resentful daughter. (I know most teenagers go through a disrespectful, resentful stage but this still weighs on me, especially now that I have been a parent myself.)

Whether to adopt

In the comments my friend received about her decision, there were the “I loved being pregnant” people and the “pregnancy was the worst thing ever people.” I loved being pregnant. Loved it.

That said, I have seen so many positive adoption (and foster parenting) stories among my friends. I know I would have been sad to have not been able to be pregnant, but I like to think I would have been open to adoption.

I have a friend who is an advocate for foster parenting, and I admit I feel a little pull every time she posts about how great the need is for foster parents. I feel guilty for saying this, but we’re not there (ready) as a family/couple right now.

Remaining childless

My friend already has one child, so remaining childless isn’t part of her decision tree. But I feel compelled to address this. I’m not sure why society is so judgmental about people who decide to have children or not. Having a child(ren) is the absolute last thing you should do solely to satisfy a societal expectation.

For me, having kids is all I ever wanted. I have never regretted it. But it’s not for everyone at all.

On the flip side, the current spate of articles about how unbearable other people’s children are makes me wonder how we have abandoned tolerance and patience for the fact that children in public ……. are childish sometimes.

Summary: What I would tell my friend

My decision (regarding having a third) was made for me. I lost two pregnancies at early stages, then as I was trying again, I learned I was in early menopause. Boom! Decision made.

Society puts pressure on you to have a certain kind of family, with a certain number of children, a certain number of years apart. Try to shut off all that noise, confer with your spouse, and make the decision that is right for you.

Even though my children don’t (yet) have the bond I hoped they would have, I am thankful they each have a sibling. Right this very moment I am not overwhelmingly grateful that I am paying for two kids in college simultaneously (they are three years apart), but that’s one small period of time in the scheme of things that add up to a lifetime.

As I got older, after losing the two pregnancies (I was in my last half of my 30s by then), I thought often of all the things that could go wrong with my “old eggs.” My son was being tested for a developmental disorder at the time, so I was acutely aware of the increased chance of something going wrong. It turns out he was fine, by the way.

I kept asking myself, however, the opposing question. What if everything goes right?

I have a hard time in life in general not locking in on all the “what if’s.”

Even as an upper middle class American, I haven’t been able to give my children all things many of their friends had or all the things they wanted. But I did give them all the things they needed. Most importantly, I gave them unconditional love 24/7.

I ask myself every day if I have parented well. Whatever the answer to that is, I know I have parented with love. I am a person of faith, so I tend to believe I got, from a parenting perspective, what I was supposed to have.

Lucky me.

This post was written in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Write a blog post inspired by the word: break.”

*I have two half brothers. We did not grow up together, but I love them.

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

When You Want to Escape Problems

At its chrysalis stage, a future butterfly can’t go very far. It remains stationary as the butterfly inside matures.

Once the butterfly gains its wings, though, it has options, as long as it has a food source, favorable winds and protection from predators.

Eventually, the cycle starts all over as a butterfly deposits eggs to reproduce. A new caterpillar evolves into a chrysalis that affixes to a new branch or leaf. A transformed creature breaks free and follows nature’s beckoning.

Butterflies hold much significance for many people I know. My friend Mary Nell loved them. They hold significance for many Holocaust survivors.

When We Want to Fly Away From Problems

I heard Jennifer Granholm interview Maria Shriver in a Commonwealth Club of California broadcast recently. It was a broad interview covering territory that included her childhood, her family, her political aspirations (virtually zero), and her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s (among other things).

I was multitasking as I had the interview on, so I missed some of the fine detail, but I did catch and immediately jot down this sentiment:

When you run away from something, the  universe just puts it right back in your lap.

The context of her comment was how she wanted to get away ….. from an aggressive life of politics, Democrats, and the public eye.

Then she moved across the country to California, eventually married Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican politician, and remained very much in the public eye.

We are Emotionally Healthier When We Consider Alternatives to Running Away

Maria Shriver was absolutely right. We can replace things about our environment — where we live, what we do, who we hang around with — but making a lasting change and connecting with inner serenity is immune to most of those attempts (in the long run).

I do think a change can be good sometimes, but to augment an effort to deal with something rather than eliminate whatever it is that needs to be dealt with.

Heidi Priebe wrote about trying to get rid of issues by change alone, “You’re trying to grab at something new with full hands and yet you cannot figure out why you keep dropping it” and “the further you run from your problems, the further you run from yourself.” Her entire piece, Here Is What Happens When You Run Away From All Of Your Problems, is thought-provoking.

Taking Time to Think Things Through

Have you ever been to a butterfly garden? I have been to the one at Callaway Gardens and, more recently, the Butterfly Rainforest at the University of Florida.

Before entering a butterfly garden, there’s a procedure where you have to go to an intermediary room that is protected from the outside (and the inside) so none of the butterflies escape. You have to repeat the same procedure when exiting.

Steps of exiting:

Enter “protective intermediary room.”

Stop and wait, to make sure you aren’t taking a butterfly with you accidentally.

THEN LEAVE.

What if life worked that way? If we had to stop and take a minute (or, for the big decisions, a day/week/month) whenever we wanted to escape our environment to think it over and make sure our hands were no longer full of the problems we had gathered along the way?

problems

Photo by Chris Keats on Unsplash

Note: This post is in response to a prompt from The Sway, “Write a post inspired by this word: butterfly.” Coincidentally (or not), a butterfly is one of the images in the coloring book for Alzheimer’s patients and their families created by Maria Shriver.

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

7 Personal Finance Lessons from Unexpected Sources

Taxes.

That’s what is happening after this post is done (or at least enough of the process to file an extension).

Therefore, this may be my longest post ever (just kidding).

One of Kat Bouska’s prompts this week is “List 7 things you would recommend to a friend this month.” Because finances and taxes are so heavy on my mind, here are seven interesting things I’ve read, seen or discussed recently ….. and a personal finance tie-in for each.

Goats Stranded on a Bridge

Two goats in Pennsylvania wandered out onto a bridge overpass and got stuck. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation came to their rescue, using a snooper crane to position an employee so he could grab one goat, then coax the other one to safety by tapping (it probably wasn’t exactly a “tap” I guess) on the rim of the overpass.

Photo credit: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Facebook Page

Tie-in

“They deftly walked along the beam with their very small feet,” the article says. Once they were out there, though, they encountered an obstacle and couldn’t complete the crossing. Sometimes we get ourselves into financial positions that we did not anticipate at first. 

Nugget McFluffyhead

Nugget the lamb is one of three lambs born to a Maine lamb. Nugget’s mom, however, rejected Nugget, whose two siblings were more aggressive and monopolized her two teats. That’s what led Greg Purinton-Brown and his wife Heide to decide to hand raise Nugget.

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Toddy Pond Farm Instagram

Tie-in

“A ewe only has two teats, and the other triplets were getting there first,” the article says. As much as we would it to be the case, there’s never enough money or time to do it all; failing to speak up or assert yourself for your share may threaten your survival.

The Penzeys American Heart and Soul Box

Penzey’s Spices is giving away their eight-blend American Heart and Soul Box (a $34.95 value) for free. All customers have to do is pay shipping ($7.95)!

Personal Finance Lessons

Photo Credit: Penzeys.com

Tie-in

Penzey’s put together this box to highlight the soul that cooks of all different origins bring to our nation, calling some of the blends, “testaments to the ever-renewing role immigration continues to play in seasoning the American spirit.” Penzey’s also says one way we can help our nation be more unified is to cook. That’s it, to cook. It turns out cooking at home is good for the budget too. Save money by cooking at home.

Cosmo Loves Thumper

My friend and coach, Kristie, welcomed Thumper the bunny into her home. Cosmo the golden retriever turned out to be the most protective, loving, nurturing BunnyDad (BunnyBrother?) ever.

Personal Finance Lessons

Tie-in

Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance to love someone new, two-legged or four. In personal finance, too, there are times that make taking a chance worthwhile. Volunteering can turn into compensated work. Making the effort to share your work can get your name and brand more recognition. You might also help someone, which feels good in itself. 

Bless the Seeds Before They’re in the Ground

The La Semilla Food Center celebrated its 5-year-anniversary with a seed blessing. The non-profit says on its website that it is “dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas.”

They also have a cool/humorous sign:

Personal Finance Lessons

Source: La Semilla Instagram

Tie-in

I am taken with the idea of infusing the seeds at the earliest stage possible, before they have turned into a full-grown plant or yielded any fruit. I know this may sound like an exaggeration, but when I do social media for clients, I do see every tweet or other piece of social media posted as a sort of ministry (and I don’t mean that in a necessarily spiritual way). I can’t say this has panned out for me (yet), but be intentional and passionate about every stage of your work and it is more likely to pay off than if it is viewed as “just another job to do.”

Write Down Your Goals

I was the lone voice in the wilderness in support of this statement (on Facebook) this past week among people I value and respect deeply.

Personal Finance Lessons

NOTE: I added the “unknown” (because I don’t know who said it) and “unwanted” (because no one in the thread wanted this quote).

Here’s the thing — and maybe I made a HUGE assumption that because I have clung to the sentiment behind a quote like this (Brian Tracy’s “3% of people have written goals and the other 97% work for them) as one of my main life mantras for so long, then they should (or would) feel as attached as I do. AU CONTRAIRE.

To be clear, my love of the Tracy quote isn’t about wanting to be in charge of legions of people (my time doing that at Healthy Kids left me with lessons learned that will make me a different supervisor in the future). It’s purely about the fact that written goals are more likely to be attained than unwritten ones. Period.

Tie-in

When it comes to your finances, write down your goals. They’re more likely to be achieved that way. 

Get Naked

Oh wait ……… not THAT kind of naked. Naked with your partner about money.

As my husband and I try to resolve some issues we created for ourselves (that were somewhat exacerbated by my working part-time while my father-in-law was with us for three years), I think often of how the path that got us here hinges on our failure to have some basic discussions about finances and values early on.

Why Couples Need to Get Financially Naked recommends these types of questions early in a relationship:

  • What are the three most important money lessons you learned growing up?
  • What are your three biggest money worries?
  • What are your three biggest goals?
  • What are the three most important ways you want to use money to leave a legacy?

Tie-in

Being on the same page as a couple helps alleviate stress (because financial conflict will always be a part of any relationship).

Personal Finance Lessons

Personal Finance Lessons

 

 

 

 

 

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

How Golf and Associated Press Style Compare

Even if I had the time, resources and desire to dedicate myself to the game wholeheartedly starting tomorrow, I could never become competent at golf between now and the day I die.

I do, however, have a fighting chance of mastering Associated Press Style, the writing standards created and maintained by the Associated Press. This is a good thing, because correct usage of AP Style is a requirement at my freelance position. There’s a much higher chance of me remembering to hyphenate the word sell-off than there is of me letting my left shoulder turn under my chin while keeping my left arm straight and my hands passive until my club reaches hip height, just the first stage of an effective takeaway in golf.

Why Try To Compare Golf and #APStyle?

I finally decided to pay attention to Quora after approximately two years of getting emails saying “[name of someone] is following you on Quora!” The site has come up several times on Spin Sucks, a blog I read faithfully (and contribute to occasionally).

I kept hesitating to engage on Quora. I have so many social media balls up in the air as it is. Eventually, I decided I either needed to figure out what it was all about or somehow stop the daily emails about being followed there.

If you know me, you can imagine what happened next.

I’m in!

In response to the recent question “What do you love when you read a personal blog?,” I said it’s important to have a personal connection to the topics you blog about and an enthusiasm for them. I said, ” I could write (maybe competently) about golf, for example (with some research) but it’s not a passion of mine so it would just be facts.” (Read the whole answer here.)

In the Spin Sucks Slack group (it’s awesome and free – check it out!), Mike Connell, who had picked up on the Quora thread, said something like “coming up soon, Paula’s blog post about golf.” I am not sure how that ended up merging with my desire to blog about #APStyle, but I rarely shy away from a blogging challenge, so here we are.

Comparing Golf with #APStyle

You may think golf and #APStyle have nothing in common, but I don’t think that’s true.

Both require precision

Golf holes have been 4.25 inches in diameter since 1891. Just ask the professional golfer whose putt lands a millimeter away from the hole and loses a lucrative payout if precision is important.

Similarly, precision matters for a writer or editor adhering to AP Style. I suppose things are a little different these days because pieces that have been published digitally can be revised real-time, as opposed to publishing on paper only, which immortalizes errors forever. But sticking with AP Style keeps publications consistent and hopefully makes it easier for readers to read. Assuming the publication using AP Style wants to generate revenue from paid subscriptions or advertising, it is important that readers make it a habit to come back, as The Lenfest Institute discovered in its analysis of The Seattle Times’ newsletter. Consistency hopefully helps reinforce the habit.

Despite the precision, both have arbitrary aspects

I know golf has a rulebook (for the purposes of this blog, we’ll go with USGA rules). Even as a golf bystander who has never played a single hole and attended only one major tour event, I know (because my husband is a golfer) that even the most black and white rules can be subject to interpretation. Graeme McDowell, for example, won less money in a 2012 championship when he voluntarily took a two-stroke penalty and ended up finishing in 3rd place rather than 2nd because he “didn’t give the branch enough respect” while addressing his ball in a bunker.

Associated Press Style

At the TPC Players Championship at Sawgrass – May 2017

With AP Style, even though there is an official style book (online and hard copy), some decisions are flexible. Individual publications may decide to stray a bit. For abbreviations and acronyms, as an example, the AP Stylebook encourages “avoiding ‘alphabet soup'” and thinking about the context before deciding to use an abbreviation or acronym.

You can’t learn golf in a pinch

As I said at the beginning of this piece, even if I dropped all my other obligations and took golf lessons frequently, had an open-ended membership to a golf club, was gifted with the best equipment, and cared enough to try, I couldn’t become an excellent golfer with the time that’s left in my life (hopefully we’re talking decades here). Golf involves mechanics, muscle memory, discipline, an understanding of the game, endurance, and the ability to strategize. Some of those things (especially muscle memory and good fundamental mechanics) are much easier to develop for a young person.

AP Style, on the other hand, is something even a woman over 50 can grasp. It would certainly have been easier for me to apply AP Style to my current gig if I had accumulated experience using it as a journalist, but it’s not impossible. (The AP Style quizzes are helpful; they are quick to complete and help you become aware of your deficits (and strengths!).

The scenery is different

I have to hand it to golf on the scenery. The gorgeous courses, the ability to commune with nature, the fresh air.

Following AP Style, on the other hand, is somewhat limited to me at my desk typing away. I suppose I don’t run the risk of getting hit in the head with a golf ball or having to fish a ball out of the water, so there’s that!

Visiting the #APStyle Golf Course

I have been thinking a lot about golf hole names since learning that Sergio Garcia named his daughter (Azalea) after a hole at the Augusta National course.

In that spirit, here is a “course” I designed based on the things I’ve learned about AP Style since starting to use it in January 2017, some big and some little. (I do think, though, that an AP Style course would be more along the lines of miniature golf than regular golf — AP Style writers are always trying for a hole in one — we don’t have the luxury of taking several strokes to get to the destination.) I made it a nine-hole. Feel free to create your own nine to fill out 18.

One: Fla. First (State Abbreviations)

AP Style dictates abbreviations for states. Florida, for example, is Fla. In addition, 30 cities can be identified independently, without identifying their state alongside. Writing Explained says, “The norms that influenced the selection [of the 30 cities] were the population of the city, the population of its metropolitan region, the frequency of the city’s appearance in the news, the uniqueness of its name, and experience that has shown the name to be almost synonymous with the state of nation where it is located.” I still don’t get why Milwaukee is there but Orlando isn’t (nothing against Milwaukee), but no one asked me.

Two: Numerically Speaking

With AP Style, the numbers smaller than 10 are spelled out, unless they are ages or percentages.

Three: Article-free Islamic State

This may seem like a weird one to focus on after big things like states and numbers, but I got it wrong recently and am still annoyed with myself. The Islamic militant organization is “Islamic State” rather than “the Islamic State” and it is abbreviated “IS.”

Four: The Walmart Wonder

This is a fairly recent change. For AP Style purposes, the brand ditched its hyphen and changed to “Walmart” this year.

Five: fall for autumn

Seasons are lowercase unless the name of the season is part of a formal event (Summer Olympics, for example).

Six: Dazzling gold rush

I don’t foresee needing this term, but for what it’s worth, “gold rush” is lower case. I suppose a golfer who wins a tournament may encounter his or her own gold rush, right?

Seven: Fly High, Frequent Flyer

Someone who flies often is a frequent flyer, not a frequent flier. AP says “flyer” also applies to handbills distributed to advertise an event, but I have read other opinions on this.

Eight: An Apostrophe’s Place

The AP Stylebook dedicates almost two pages to apostrophes, so I can’t summarize those two pages easily. One important point: It would be easy to trip up on the rule that possessives of proper names ending in S get only an apostrophe (Dickens’ books, for example).

Nine: The Oxford Comma Memorial

This has been the hardest habit for me to break. I was an Oxford Comma fan. My rationale was “I love punctuation, so more is better.” I have to admit, though, that having eliminated the Oxford Comma as required by AP  Style, I am getting used to the cleaner look of an Oxford Comma-free sentence. This is probably how all slippery slopes begin….

The Nineteenth Hole

Many golf courses have a Nineteenth Hole facility, a place where golfers can relax after a tough day on the links.

I’m not sure what the equivalent of the Nineteenth Hole is for someone required to use AP Style. Rebelling by spelling out Mississippi? Throwing in a serial comma? Typing “walkin” closet instead of “walk-in”? For me it means keeping the informal to places like Facebook comments and Twitter.

Ultimately, I remind myself that I am using words professionally (and therefore required to use AP Style if that is the requirement of the employer) to accomplish what words do best: build a bridge between people through information and building community.

Creating links, if you will.

 

**NOTE: If you are an AP Style pro and I got something wrong, please let me know. I’m still learning.

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