Facebook and Politics: Is There Anything to Like?

Social Media Politics

This week, Kat of Mama’s Losin’ It encouraged us to write to this prompt: 10 things you have learned about politics from Facebook.

ONE: Zero Minds have Ever Been Changed Because of a Facebook Share

Social Media Politics

There have been many opinions and information pieces shared on Facebook which did change my mind or at least inform me. I’ve learned about the intensely stressful emotional, financial, and physical price of invisible illnesses. I’ve learned about laudable causes to support, inspirational athletes to encourage, great recipes. I’ve read nothing that, by itself, reversed how I felt about an issue or candidate (especially a Presidential candidate).

TWO: Private Messaging Has the Potential to Change My Mind And Is Appreciated

Our primary is August 30 (I voted early (hooray!)). A few days ago, a good friend sent me a private message in which she shared her support of a candidate for a local race and why she felt that way. I am sure it was cut and pasted; it wasn’t composed exclusively for me. However, since she took the time to choose me rather than throwing the message out to the universe and hoping it would stick, I did take notice and thank her, sincerely.

THREE: It Matters When Candidates Interact Directly

I know this is a bit of a hypothetical. I don’t expect national or statewide candidates to interact directly. Again, staying with the “wouldn’t it be nice,” when I think about how much I love it when authors interact with me directly via social media, it strikes me how much it would matter if a candidate responded directly to me on social media.

FOUR: You Learn A Lot About Each Other

Have you ever seen a friend post their support for a candidate on social media and been shocked because their post seemed so incongruous with what you know about them? Me too. My choice in that situation is typically to file that piece of knowledge away rather than fire a volley across the tennis court of social media discourse (See Number One).

FIVE: Facebook Live Gives Us Access We Wouldn’t Otherwise Have

I have found it useful that the Tallahassee Democrat has provided access to their candidate forums via Facebook Live. Doing so makes it more possible for potential voters who can’t attend a rally or forum in person to hear where the candidates stand on various issues.

Six: Your “Friend” Count Is Likely to Fluctuate In Correlation to Your Politics

I don’t post much political material on Facebook. The main candidate I post frequently about is someone I can’t even vote for (DeeDee Rasmussen, candidate for School Board District 4). Otherwise, Rule Number 1 frequently compels me not to even waste the keystrokes. This may be keeping my friend count on an even keel, but I know Facebook friendships have been lost and gained this election season.

SEVEN: Every Vote Matters

I suppose this isn’t exactly a lesson learned from Facebook, but it is one that is reinforced. I may disagree with you, I may scroll past your diatribe, I may “like” your post because I agree. I may privately shake my head and wonder how you can believe that individual will make America great again or I may privately rejoice that you, like me, are #WithHer. What I will NOT do is be sad that you plan to vote. It’s so fundamental. In the most divisive of times I will still give you a ride to the poll or do what it takes to get you there. People in some countries have given their lives for the same privilege.

Eight: There ARE Some Trustworthy Experts Out There, And Facebook Gives You Access to Them

Case in point: Steve Schale. Although I usually pick him up on Facebook, you can also find him on Twitter here.

Second example: Nicholas Kristof.  One reader’s sentiment echoed mine: Thank God for your passionate journalism. Sometimes I don’t agree with you but I always respect you. Never stop doing what you do. It SO matters.

If I could think of others, I would share them. But I can’t. That’s how rare it is to find a trustworthy political expert on Facebook.

Nine: Facebook is Woefully Inadequate as a Source of Political Information

Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to be a part of a candidates’ forum at WFSU sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I am happy I got to hear so many candidates, even if they each only had two minutes. I saw such a broad array of this county’s candidates. Even the ones I could not vote for or disagreed with I gained a new respect for. Even if I had watched something like that on Facebook Live, nothing would have equaled the electricity in the room or the very American sensation of knowing that everyone who had qualified to run and accepted the invitation was getting an opportunity to put themselves out there.

Ten: Personal Action on Issues Matters

A few weeks ago, I learned from a Facebook (and real life) friend of a September opportunity that she was not going to be able to pursue, that might interest me. I quickly researched the opportunity, applied, and was accepted to be part of the Moms Rising contingent at We Won’t Wait 2016, a gathering where 1,000 community leaders and organizers from around the country will elevate the voices of women of color and low-income women and call for a comprehensive women’s economic agenda that will advance the lives of working women and families across the country.

I’m so excited to hear these women’s stories and be a part of making our nation better and more equitable for working women and families.

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Given Rule #1 (above), you can bet I’ll be sharing about what I learn other places in addition to Facebook!

How about you? Has your mind ever been changed about something political by a Facebook post?

Social Media Politics

thoughtful-thursdays4

An Overdue Teacher Thank You

If you had the chance to jump on a bandwagon full of people working to mitigate all of the negativity in the world (and especially the news), would you jump on it?

I would.

I did.

I joined UNFUCD UNFUCDand feel better already. Visit our site, take a look around, and sign up if it makes you smile just to think about being part of a group that wants to “raise better people, be better people, and expect more of those around us.”

Assignment Number One: Teacher Appreciation

The first assignment (they’re optional!) is to write a note of thanks to a teacher. We were encouraged to hand-write these. Mine is a bit long, so it is not hand-written, but because I value snail mail so much, I am sending the hard copy to the teacher I’m thanking along with some Big Green Pen swag!

My Note to Carol Kelley

(Note: Carol Kelley was my teacher in eleventh and twelfth grade, for several classes including business, accounting, and (gasp!) shorthand.)

Teacher Appreciation

July 30, 2016

Dear Mrs. Kelley,

I am participating in a project whose goal is creating happiness one day at a time (in order to counteract all the negativity in the world).

Today, I have been given a specific mission by that project: write a note of thanks to a teacher.

You and I had a conversation the weekend of Mary Nell’s funeral when I told you I had something I’ve always wanted to thank you for that had occurred when you taught me.

The particular day I am writing about was only one day among many days that I was your student. This could turn into a long letter if I elaborated on the many ways I learned from you, and why I hold you in such high regard.

But the day I am writing about now was a day which had to be one of the most difficult days we faced together in 1982, my senior year. It was the day we had all learned that our classmate, Debbie Hales, had passed away unexpectedly, and we were all shell-shocked. I can only imagine what it was like for you as a teacher to personally process the loss of a student while trying to provide support to a classroom full of her classmates who were also stunned into disbelief.

As we all sat there in class, obviously unable to focus on the topic (I think it was accounting but don’t recall for sure), you said, “Let’s go to the science fair.” (The science fair was underway that day, and all of the projects were on display.)

Of course we had as little interest in the science fair that day as we did in balance sheets, BUT your choice did several things:

  • It got us moving. No amount of “exercise endorphins” were really going to cut through our shock and grief, but the act of getting our blood and oxygen flowing was better than sitting, mute and powerless to change the tragedy that had just occurred.
  • Besides getting our bodies moving, it got our minds distracted and put us in a new setting, one where we did not have to look at Debbie’s empty desk.
  • It acknowledged that there are times in our lives where we have to trust our instincts in order to lead effectively and make a choice that is guided by no rule book or set of procedures.

We were in the Business/Accounting track because we wanted to have useful skills for eventual employment.

What we got that day was an example of a useful skill for life management and being sensitive to those around us.

More than 30 years later, I still think of that day OFTEN.

The way you handled our classmate’s death certainly did not bring her back or make us feel “better,” but it acknowledged the gravity of the day while exemplifying how to lead in a way that has influenced me at times when I have had to help a child, friend, or co-worker handle tragic news.

School is about so much more than facts in our heads, and I appreciate how you taught us “heart lessons” in addition to the ones directed toward our heads.

Sincerely,

Paula Rucker Kiger

Do YOU Need or Want to Thank a Teacher?

Although I wrote to a “traditional” teacher, one of the things I love about this assignment is how it encourages us to think about people who have been our teachers in other ways, about forms of teaching such as:

  • A mentor at work
  • A family member with life lessons
  • A colleague
  • A peer

If some one has made a difference for you by taking on the role of “teacher,” why not drop them a note?

Teacher Appreciation

Teacher Appreciation

Taking It on the Chin: My Overzealous Waxing Pro and Me

Most of the time, I feel like my spirit is younger than my physical age.

My body, however, insists on exhibiting signs of middle age no matter how youthful I feel at heart.

Fun With Midlife

I have been getting my brows waxed for years; it’s more effective and quicker than tweezing. That didn’t feel like a concession to age, more of a perpetual necessity.

A few years ago, I began having my upper lip waxed. This was not that welcome an addition to my beauty routine, and it never really feels like it works (I watch myself on video, for example, and think how do I get rid of that dark area?!?!).

The clincher in the hair removal trio, though, was the day the technician said, “you’re gonna do your chin too, right?” Apparently I was.

I became accustomed to having three services instead of one, and I usually did a pretty decent job of putting the whole thing in the “it is what it is” category. I tried to do it once a month, but let’s be honest. I work at home, don’t go out all that much, and it’s easy to let the intervals between waxing grow much longer.

Until I am about to participate in an event, see someone I don’t see often, or have some other motivation to take care of it.

The Case of the Overzealous Waxer

That’s what happened recently. It was Friday, and I had plans to go see my good friend play Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. It is absolutely zero exaggeration to say his Edna would put most of us ladies to shame. I couldn’t show up with a hairy chin. Time was running short until I had to leave to drive to the performance (a couple of hours away). I finally finished the day’s work, and had run out of time to go to my usual waxing professional. I only had time to go to the closest salon, which has never been my preference but works in a pinch (they did okay on my shellacs, for example, prior to my trip to DC for the Shot at Life Summit last March).

Cosmetology Fails

I walked in, asked if anyone was available to do some waxing, and was immediately taken back. I was relieved that this was apparently going to be a quick in and out, permitting me to get on my way to Lake City.

The technician waxed my eyebrows. So far so good.

The technician waxed my upper lip. Check check check.

The technician waxed my chin. Easy peasy, right?

Here’s the thing. She kept going. This woman was applying wax and yanking the strips off of areas of my face that had never seen wax (or hair to speak of) before.

My mind was racing. Why is she waxing my cheeks? When will this end? In my head, I kept hearing my mom telling me, when I was a kid and wanted to start shaving my legs, “once you start the hair will grow in darker if you let up.” OMG were my cheeks now going to start sprouting dark hair? What had I done by coming here (and by not stopping this woman when she ventured away from the brow/lip/chin trio)?

Finally, she applied lotion and cooling solution (which I desperately needed by this point) and with relief I followed her to the front desk to pay.

I do not know what the person at the front desk said (they were not speaking English), but apparently she did not think the technician had done enough (in retrospect this boggles my mind), but through hand gestures and body language, she indicated that I needed to return to the waxing room.

And despite the fact that my face already felt like it had been through the wringer (it had! It would have been more efficient to just drip my whole darn face in a vat of wax), I went back.

When I went back, the technician attacked my chin again (“attack” being a truly representative word). Finally she let me go and I didn’t ask any questions as I hastily escaped out the door.

I went to the play (which was AWESOME), returned home, and went about my weekend. By the following Monday, the effects of the Overzealous Waxer were emerging. My chin looked like I had vigorously rubbed it with sandpaper. It was a mess. (NOTE: I have an aversion to pictures of wounds on social media (which is a challenge because I’m a runner and my fellow runners LOVE to show off their blisters and lost toenails) but if you want to see the results of the Overzealous Waxing, click here.)

As I write this (8 days later), it is ALMOST fully recovered.

As the week went by, I was trying to figure out what to do (short of the obvious decision to remove this salon from my “waxing vendors” list).

Customer Service Resolution Quandaries

I thought about the customer service issue I had had at Publix that same weekend. I had ordered my daughter’s birthday cake several days in advance, and a few hours before it was to be ready, they called to say they didn’t have that design. I exchanged messages with them on Twitter to express my dissatisfaction (tactfully). I went to another Publix to look for it. I went (ultimately) to my Publix and talked with the bakery associate, who wrote the message on a different cake. I worked with Publix to make it mutually right (as much as possible).

I kept telling my husband that I was afraid to talk to the salon. I was afraid the technician would lose her job. He pointed out that I was physically injured but protecting her from losing her job (while putting other customers potentially at risk). HMM. Why did I feel I could dialogue with Publix but not with the salon? Had I made assumptions about the cultural environment at the salon?

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I at least needed to let them know (and save some other customer from rug burn chin). When I went in, I explained that I was not upset (yeah, I know — I was upset and I shouldn’t have started with that line but personal assertiveness reform happens incrementally) but that I wanted to point out the condition of my chin.

They were apologetic, offered to put cooling solution on it (no thanks, a little too late for that!). They said the wax had been too hot (ya think?!).

I don’t know if my decision to talk to the salon will change the outcome for future customers, but in a week when I had just written about the necessity and power of saying what you mean, it felt hypocritical to keep my mouth shut.

Speaking Assertively

I read a post recently that pointed out: “When you speak assertively, you may not always say what people want to hear, but you respect the listener as well as yourself.” There’s so much truth to that.

When I used this situation as the basis for a recent Toastmasters speech, the takeaway was the fact that although “taking it on the chin” is perceived as a negative, in the case of the overzealous waxer, I would have been better off to take it on the chin (instead of the cheeks and other facial real estate)…and then tell her to stop. And certainly not go BACK to the waxing table, like a sheep.

Cosmetology Fails

Have you had a time in your life when you needed to say no but struggled to find a way? I’d love to hear about it!

NOTE: This situation has made me think about how blithely we walk into salons, thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” My fellow Paula (Abdul) probably has a thing or two to say about that (read more here). As it turns out, it’s pretty challenging to find a “guide to competent waxing” resource (future blog post material?), although this post shares some helpful precautions and warnings. In my case, common sense and speaking up would have solved the problem. Those are two things that don’t require a licensing board.

73 Questions

When I looked back through old blog drafts, I remembered my fleeting interest in the 73 Questions feature from Vogue Magazine. I became interested in this format when I read Being Rudri’s version.

Here’s my stab at it!

1. How long have you been in the area? 31 years in Tallahassee (with 3 years in New York dividing two Tallahassee periods)

2. What’s your favorite season in Tallahassee? Spring

3. What’s your favorite activity in Tallahassee? Running

4. Would you ever leave Tallahassee? Yes

5. What are three words to describe living in Tallahassee? Hilly, Southern, Cultural

6. What’s your favorite movie? Philadelphia

7. Favorite movie in past five years? I actually haven’t seen many movies in the past five years, and the ones I have seen were chosen by my son (looking at you, Fast and Furious). But after reading the book, I couldn’t WAIT to see Me Before You and the movie did not disappoint!

8. Favorite Hitchcock film? The Birds

9. Favorite TV show that’s currently on? 23.5º with Sam Champion

10. What’s a book you plan on reading? A Place Like This: A Memoir by Mark S. King

11. A book you read in school that positively shaped you? The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

12. A book you read in school that you never think of? Beowulf (but how are we supposed to answer this question? The mere fact that I *think* of Beowulf sort of disqualifies it!)

13. On a scale of one to ten how excited are you about life right now? 7

14. iPhone or Android? iPhone

15. Twitter or Instagram? Twitter

16. Vine or Snapchat? Snapchat

17. Who should EVERYONE be following right now? The Gates Foundation

18. What’s the coolest thing in your office? I don’t have an office right now but my favorite things were my annual Broadway Playbill posters.

Self Awareness

19. What’s your favorite downtown restaurant? Bella Bella

20. What’s your favorite food? Penne alla Vodka

21. Least favorite food? Overripe bananas

22. What do you love on your pizza? Vegetables

23. Favorite drink? Spring Water

24. Favorite dessert? Dairy Queen Blizzards

25. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Dark Chocolate

26. Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? An Ant

27. What’s the hardest part about being a mom? Having to let go (fearing for their safety), despite my belief in the power of prayer, and as my friend Lea so eloquently stated, “and the knowledge that somehow there is a God who loves them even more than we do. and He watches over them constantly!!!”

28. What’s your favorite band? The Florida State University Marching Chiefs

29. Favorite solo artist? John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, Idina Menzel

30. Favorite lyrics?

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

(From Carousel’s You’ll Never Walk Alone) Here’s Celtic Woman’s version:

31. If your life were a song, what would the title be? Turn! Turn! Turn!

32. If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be? Josh Groban

33. If you could master one instrument, what would it be? My Voice

34. If you had a tattoo, where would it be? On my inner wrist (a semi-colon)

35. To be or not to be? To be

36. What’s Oprah like in person? I’d love to know!

37. What number of question was this? #37 (I guess this made more sense in a rapid-fire five minute interview)

38. Dogs or cats? Cats

39. Kittens or puppies? Puppies

40. Dolphins or koalas? Dolphins

41. Bird-watching or whale-watching? Whale watching

42. What’s your spirit animal? Sloth

43. Best gift you’ve ever received? My children

44. Last gift you gave a friend? Besides green pens, a Motivate Wrap that said “You Got This”

Self Awareness

45. A person you want to have coffee with? Sam Champion (see answer #9!)

46. A historical figure you’d love to have coffee with? Dorothea Dix

47. How do you like your coffee? With skim milk and stevia

48. Can I play a note on this piano? Doesn’t Apply

49. What’s your favorite curse word? I dislike them all but sadlly, it rhymes with “duck”

50. What’s your favorite board game? Apples to Apples

51. What’s your favorite country to visit? Guatemala

52. What’s the last country you visited? El Salvador

53. What country do you wish to visit? Spain

54. What do you see in this image right here? Doesn’t apply

55. Can you write down your favorite word that starts and ends with the same vowel? abracadabra

56. What’s your favorite color? Red

57. Least favorite color? Beige

58. What color dress did you wear to your prom? lavender

59. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds

60. Cheap shampoo or expensive? Expensive if it works

61. Blow-dry or air-dry? Blow-dry

62. Heels or flats? flats

63. Can you give an impersonation of someone? No

64. Can you do the same impersonation with a British accent? No

65. My friend outside this window would love to ask you a question? Doesn’t Apply

66. [Holding two different colored dresses] Which should I give my girlfriend? Doesn’t Apply

67. Pilates or yoga? Yoga

68. Jogging or swimming? Jogging RUNNING

69. Best way to decompress? Take a walk

70. If you had one superpower, what would it be? Waving a wand and creating peace

71. Can you describe an experience you felt most nervous? Trying out for cheerleading before the senior year of high school

72. What’s the weirdest word in the English language? In a nod to the Idiots Running Club and the word every runner loves to hate: moist

73. Last question: Is this the strangest interview you’ve ever had? Doesn’t Apply

It bugs me that there were six “Doesn’t apply” responses since I stuck strictly to the previous structure, so  I looked up some other “getting to know you” questions and used a random number generator to pick 6.

1. Most important quality in a friend? Trustworthiness

2. When was the last time you got the giggles at an inappropriate time? Oh I don’t know! It hasn’t been recently (or often enough!). It wasn’t the giggles but I was talking with a friend recently about something very serious, and I was trying to make a light and slightly sardonic observation while indicating I cared. The interaction was heavier on the sardonic and lighter on the serious. I sent her a message later that day to clear it up.

3. What is your favorite kind of music? I like all kinds of music, but as almost everyone is surprised to hear, rap is a fave.

4. What is the last book you read? Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

5. What date on your calendar are you looking forward to? June 26, my daughter’s 20th birthday!

6. What makes you laugh out loud. Hmmm…..it takes a lot! I laughed out loud recently at passages from Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes, at Lino Rulli on Facebook Live, and at frolicking puppies.

What are some of your answers to these questions? Fun exercise! I recommend everyone to try it. 

What Matters Most

A month or so ago, another adult and I got in an online argument about Disney character waffle irons.

Yes, we really did.

I am part of an amazing group on Facebook. The group is for parents of participants in the Disney College Program. There are over 1,000 of us.

I had shared the Google Doc Tenley and her roommates had developed to figure out who was bringing what for move-in. It was an attempt to make sure they ended up with the correct distribution of needed items, instead of six toasters and no TV (for example).

Apparently I am not always as hilarious as I think I am, because when I explained that the three waffle irons the girls planned to bring were necessary because (duh!) they were different characters, she responded back with “there is a space issue.” While it is true that space is at a premium, I had been kidding. Jesting. Making a joke, Being sardonic. She went on to DM me, asking me to untag her (because Facebook automatically tags people in responses now). Before I could breathe, I received a second “please untag me” message.

The whole exchange above got my blood pressure high and resulted in about a half hour of wasted negative energy I threw out into the universe that I will never get back.

A Dramatic Reminder

Tonight, though, I had a big, profoundly earth shattering reminder of what matters most (hint: it’s not waffle irons and quibbling over social media practices).

One of Tenley’s fellow College Program participants passed away today of natural causes. (Secondary issue: one of the buses used by the College Program was run into by an SUV driving the wrong way, causing both vehicles to be on fire and causing multiple injuries (but no fatalities, thank goodness).

I found out about the death right as Wishes began – the grandiosely optimistic, beautiful, heart-warming, and magical fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom, the one I had been determined to see this visit after missing it on previous visits for various reasons.

As I saw all of the participants in the Parents’ Group respond to the verification of the situation, with their sadness, their promises to pray, their shock, and their overwhelming dedication to a community of people who have come to care deeply for one another, I took a quick snap of the fireworks (it was a bad picture but ….) and sent it to Tenley, with “I love you.” I needed her to know, and right-that-very-moment.

Child Loss

Service Celebration (Graduation) Day Spring 2016 Photo Credit: DisneyHousing SnapChat Account

Taking Action

One of the things the parents in the parents’ group do is take pictures of the kids in the program when they are at a Disney Park, and post them for the parents who are far away and can’t easily visit. I will admit I am a failed Mamarazzi. If I am with Tenley, I know she doesn’t want me to make a big deal out of a fellow College Program kid. When I am not with Tenley, I simply struggle with the extroverted energy it requires, and we’ve all learned over the past several months that we can’t just pull a kid out of the work assignment to take their picture — this is their work, not summer camp.

But one parent chimed in who knew I was at Main Street, told me the name of her son and what he looked like, and said she would love a picture.

Knowing one mom and dad out there just got the worst news they will ever get spurred me past the introversion, the inability to read nametags without my glasses on, and all the other objections.

One mom got a picture of her kid.

I don’t know any details about the young man who passed away except for his gender and which complex he lived in.

Update as of 5 pm on 5/15/16: Condolences to the family of William Gracia. There are more people praying for you than you could ever know. For anyone who wants to read more about Will, and how to help (his family has requested prayers and consideration of help with funeral expenses), click here for more information. ~ pk

But a higher power than us knows, and I am sure the family could use your prayers and good intentions as they walk their road of grief.

And the next time I feel inclined to spend some negative energy on something that is inconsequential long-term, I am going to remind myself to focus on what matters most.

Ironically, this incredible, upbeat, profoundly sentimental video was released today (pro-tip: for someone you know, fast forward to 15:07, 46:13, and 1:07:06). Thank you, Sharon Costello, for putting this together. Your love for our children (and us) shines through in every frame.

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God’s Crooked Straight Lines

I have fantasized for quite some time about participating in a silent retreat. My ideal vision involved going to a monastery in north Georgia (or somewhere else far enough away from Tallahassee to feel “gone”) and spending two days or so in contemplative silence.

As it turns out, life is harshly disinclined to release me from my Tallahassee obligations for a full weekend involving travel to and from, and my budget is rather slim for that kind of thing too.

When I participated in a Toastmasters competition at Unity Eastside Church recently, there was a flier for a silent retreat day on our sign-in table. Six hours, twenty dollars, fifteen minutes from home. Not exactly my “ideal,” but an option with much more likelihood of happening. I informed my husband I would be out of pocket on March 26 for six hours, suspended my usual Saturday morning long run plans, and prepared.

I had two main goals: 1) write my friend Kathleen, my one true “snail mail only” friend, who I have owed a letter to for a very long time, then 2) read a book which would frame the rest of the day. I chose Becoming Who You Are by James Martin, SJ.

There was a brief introductory session at the beginning of the day (where we were encouraged to “wander and ponder,”) and a 15-minute closing session at the end, but other than that we were free to do whatever we wanted on the expansive property.

When I signed in, I was given a handout about Noble Silence which directed us to refrain from writing to one another. Hmmm ….. although Kathleen wasn’t a participant in the retreat, my rule-follower brain worried if my personal agenda was a bad fit!

Fortunately, there were no Noble Silence police at this retreat so I forged ahead with my plans. My correspondence with Kathleen edifies me in many ways, so it was a blessing to write her. After I wrote Kathleen, I started the book. As books go, it is brief (97 pages), but I figured it would be a perfect fit for a 6-hour retreat. I’ve experienced a great deal of difficulty attending to books on paper (vs audiobooks) lately, so imagine my surprise when I had finished the book before the retreat was even halfway over!

A Day Well Spent

Before I share takeaways from the book, here’s how I spent the rest of the day:

  • Co-existing with the wildlife (I had camped out in the nursery because the rocking chair was great. So had a green frog.) HMMM.
  • Napping
  • Walking their labyrinth. The fact that it was raining made this one of the most lovely labyrinth walks I have ever taken!

God's Crooked Straight Lines

  • Walking their grounds
  • Praying
  • Eating lunch
  • Writing another letter when I was out of things to read and prayers to say (I also skimmed “Radiation Therapy and You” a publication I had taken solely to have a hard surface to write on. Maybe I do have trouble calming my brain!)
  • Reading and re-reading the lyrics to Where Does the Good Go?, which Shonda Rhimes talked about in Year of Yes and I subsequently can’t. stop. thinking. about. Just can’t!
  • Taking pictures with a disposable camera (because I was afraid if I took my smartphone in “just for the camera” I would not be able to resist checking Email/Instagram/Facebook/Twitter)

Silent Retreat Reading Takeaways

Now for my takeaways from Fr. Martin’s book, which focused on insights about what constitutes the “true self,” drawing heavily on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.

Humanity is, in itself, holy. Holiness is not limited to the officially beatified or incessantly selfless.

Time is a gift. In a passage discussing how each moment is a sacrament (a parent preparing a child’s lunch, etc.), I was reminded anew that my tasks of caregiving are sacramental (even though that is not how they feel). Yes, I have grumbled audibly when closing our back French door which my FIL frequently inadvertently leaves open, uttered my share of sarcastic comebacks, and prayed for him to sleep in just a little longer in the mornings so I can have my house (and train of thought) to myself. Although I know I need to cut myself a break as a caregiver, I also owe these responsibilities the perspective they are due.

The idea (generated by Nouwen) that “the term burnout was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death.” Having said, as I left my job in May 2014, that my soul was being sucked out of me, I could relate to this passage!

As a follow up to the burnout idea, I was intrigued by the idea that “ordinary people,” who are leading “ordinary” non ministerial lives, are still serving God.

Merton calls these men and women “hidden contemplatives” who enjoy a kind of “masked contemplation.” Their ability to do so hinges on their willingness to find God not by trying to be cloistered monks, but by discovering the divine spark in their own busy lives.

Repeatedly throughout the book, Fr. Martin repeated his point that “being holy means being your true self.”

As I walked the labyrinth, I reflected on a proverb Fr. Martin had shared: “God writes straight, with crooked lines.” You can see the center of the labyrinth from the entrance, but you can’t get there without following, obediently, a circuitous path. As the path unfolded before me, I tried not to look at my watch, to let time elapse naturally. I saw a beautiful red cardinal, the raindrops on the trees, and a broken tree, its fresh splinters reflecting how jagged you become when you are broken. All of them encouraged my mind to relax and expand, to focus on enjoying the journey knowing that the center would appear eventually.

In a day of quiet, one idea persisted in asserting itself, wordlessly but forcefully:

The divine spark. It is worth seeking, protecting, sustaining.

(For more pictures from the day, click here.)

Creative K Kids

Two Minutes on the Table

know why “Table Topics” are called “Table Topics” in Toastmasters. According to the Toastmasters website, these two-minute impromptu speaking exercises, which typically occur at the table (rather than the lectern/podium) “improve confidence and impromptu public speaking skills.”

Impromptu Speaking

When you participate in a Table Topics competition, however, the “table” part goes out the window as you speak on a stage in front of the contest attendees (which can be 10 people in an area contest or hundreds at a division or district contest).

When I participated in the Area 82 and 83 Spring Speech Contest at Unity Eastside Church on March 12, 2016, I had the opportunity to relax after participating in the Area 82 contest and simply enjoy the Area 83 contest. The question was “Identify your greatest fear and how you have overcome it.”

As each of of the five participants approached the stage, I wondered what they would talk about. Spiders? Flying? Falling? Bridges, water, closed spaces, the number 13, clowns, snakes? It turns out the five participants had fears that were less specific but, to me, more profound and eminently relatable:

Public Speaking

While I suppose there are Toastmasters (and non-Toastmasters) out there who truly feel ONLY ENERGIZED by and NEVER TERRIFIED BY public speaking, I am guessing many more of us fall much closer to the “scared of” end of the spectrum. I always say I joined Toastmasters because I don’t want to be “that awful speaker” I have heard way too many times. To the gentleman for whom this is a fear: your two minutes proved you are well on your way of facing that fear head on and overcoming it!

Being Harshly Judged

If it would not have been utterly inappropriate, I would have stood up on my chair the moment this participant announced her biggest fear and pronounced “ME TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” What struck me about this speech was the participant’s explanation of how the fear GREW as she gained life experience, instead of DIMINISHING. For me, I keep reading all these stories of women who, having reached “mid-life,” have gotten to the “I really don’t care what others think” phase, and wanting to know if AAA does a Trip-Tik to that because I seem to have lost my way! I suppose it’s a work in progress, like most things in life. One thing about Toastmasters is we don’t just learn to speak, we learn to evaluate, non-judgmentally and constructively. I think this participant has chosen a great place to keep overcoming that fear.

Feeling Inadequate 

Another one where I could easily see myself being a part of the “me too” chorus! Especially when the speaker talked about his first venture coaching little kids in soccer, I could relate to the fact that very small people can bring out our biggest inadequate feelings. As the speaker pointed out, humility was part of the equation for resolving the fear; once he humbled himself to admit his inadequacies and seek help, everything improved. Humility is, indeed, powerful.

Failing as a Parent

Perhaps there are parents out there brimming with confidence, never questioning themselves, their choices, or the example they have provided for their children. I am not that parent. It is no exaggeration for me to say that being a parent is all I ever wanted to be. I realize that declaration does not embody any work life balance but it’s the simple truth. I gave birth 19 and 16 years ago, respectively, and have subsequently questioned myself the whole time. And I have degrees in child development and counseling. There’s nothing like procreating to eviscerate the academic initials you thought taught you something!

Something Happening to Your Kids

Although this topic is in the same category as the one above, it was a very different speech. I’ve been around the block long enough to have seen many tragedies befall friends, family, acquaintances, and now thanks to social media, a stream of people I will never know but for whom I still feel grief and sadness as they cope with unspeakable outcomes for the people who mean the most to them. This speaker did a great job of distinguishing between our tendencies as parents, especially when our children are young, to turn every cut and scrape into a catastrophe in our minds, and the dangers that really matter. It’s easy to forget to live while trying to mitigate for all the imagined dangers that may befall our children.

In the case of the five participants from Area 83, it turns out their greatest fears are ones that are harder to conquer than a spider and harder to avoid than a clown. They are the kinds of things that keep people up at night and can take a lifetime to learn to manage.

At my home club, Podemos Hablar, which is quite small, I have heard Table Topics speeches about fears and other difficulties in which the participants disclosed profound pieces of their souls. There have been plenty of light and downright amusing Table Topics speeches too, don’t get me wrong, but I am consistently reminded that you can learn a lot about a person and gain a different perspective on life in two minutes through the simple act of listening.

That’s the funny thing. We come here to speak but sometimes we learn the most without saying a word.

Impromptu Speaking

Lastly, I want to share the speech I gave as my entry to the club level International Speech contest at Podemos Hablar. It did not advance to Saturday’s contest, but I am passionate about this topic (not about the pencils themselves, but about education for all children, everywhere). It was inspired by a speech I saw Jackson Kaguri give at the 2015 Social Good Summit. This video was my last practice session the day of the contest. I am seriously considering keeping the speech in the rotation, and continuing to refine it, if for no other reason than it took a long time to figure out how to do what I do at the end with a pencil; there’s a reason Jackson’s father used a machete!

Stopwatch image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How The “OUR” of NASA is Changing

“The state of our NASA is strong.”

This is the refrain NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. repeated 12 times in 22 minutes during Tuesday’s State of NASA address, delivered at NASA’s Langley Research Center, simulcast to 9 other major NASA centers, and broadcast by NASA TV.

I was one of the fortunate social media enthusiasts invited to be at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to watch the simulcast and to tour key components of the center as part of the day leading up to (and following) the address, an event identified all over social media as #StateofNASA.

When I talk about NASA on social media, it is always interesting how people chime in with their memories. My friend Deb shared this letter that her father, a NASA engineer, received in recognition of his work in 1965 on the Apollo program:

Space Exploration

Photo courtesy of Deborah Huwaldt-Dunatov.

Deb shared:

My dad worked on the computer systems of the Apollo, the one that went to the moon. People worked long days about 12 hours day at the test site in Hancock County, MS-right by New Orleans. They then shipped the Apollo to Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Van Braun, Rocket Scientist would stop by the engineers desks. My dad said he stopped by my dad’s desk and talked with him.

The people of Deb’s father’s 1965 NASA would probably be astounded at 2016 NASA, at:

Technology That Helps Diagnose Breast Cancer

Technological advances which originated at NASA, like Charge-Coupled Devices, which were initially created to help the Hubble Space Telescope produce more detailed images. This technology is now used to make the diagnostic process less invasive and more effective for women being examined for breast cancer.

Fitting Lots of Oxygen Into Compact Spaces

On my December visit and the #StateofNASA visit, I had an opportunity to hear from the Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) developers. (NORS is mentioned and described briefly here.) NORS enables NASA to deliver compressed oxygen to the International Space Station via a compact, lightweight container. This is a critical component for long-term survival needs of inhabitants of space.

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One of the NORS Tanks, December 2015.

The Cooperative, International, Public-Private Nature of Today’s Space Industry

In my two visits to Kennedy Space Center, as well as a visit by the head of Kennedy’s Tech Transfer office, Mike Lester, to Tallahassee’s DOMI Station, I have seen professionals of both genders, people of every ethnicity, those who have been NASA employees for decades, and been a guest of facilities who are most decidedly “private” and “corporate” in nature but “public” and “mission-driven” in purpose.

Would any of the men who signed Deb’s father’s letter have expected the upcoming roster of astronauts to be 50% female? Would those men have envisioned an American astronaut and a Russian astronaut living together on the International Space Station for a year? Would they have seen as “desirable” a mutually supportive relationship between Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital, and multiple other commercial partners?

When Administrator Bolden referred to OUR NASA, he meant a NASA which would probably surprise the men of 1965 in its composition, its achievements (and yes, its failures), and in its resilience. Bolden reflected, “growing up in the segregated south, I never dreamed my own journey would take me to space. I certainly never thought it would take me to the administration of the first black president, or to be Administrator of NASA at a time when our people are preparing to return human space launches to American soil and laying the foundation for a journey to Mars.”

Two Additional Notes

The Astronaut Class of 2013

I have noticed this story several times, both on Twitter and during my visit to NASA: Would You Go to Mars? Meet the Four Women Astronauts Who Can’t Wait to Get There. The article in Glamour highlights the four women who compose 50% of the astronaut class of 2013. I so admire them, and loved hearing about their backgrounds, such as Army veteran Anne McClain, who said “…I have no doubt NASA will find solutions. Walking out to the launch pad, would there be … fear? Absolutely. But if you don’t face your fears, the only thing you’ll ever see is what’s in your comfort zone.”

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NASA Astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann, Anne McClain, Jessica Meir, and Christina Hammock Koch, as published in Glamour Magazine

I also loved the fact that the article quoted NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, Ph.D., who made a huge impression on me when she spoke to our group during the December NASA Social. In this article, she stated, “This [MARS Mission] will be the longest, farthest, and most ambitious space-­exploration mission in history.”

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President Obama, Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, KSC Director Bob Cabana

Here’s the thing for me: I am thrilled that these women received this coverage, I am thrilled that they will potentially be among the first Americans on Mars, but when will the day come that “our” NASA will be so thoroughly integrated that it won’t be an outlier or cause for unusual celebration that four women are part of an astronaut class? It seems to me that’s still a work in progress.

Sagan’s Quest

One of my fellow #StateofNASA attendees was Jillian Gloria, with the Earthrise Space Foundation, Inc. Jillian and her team have produced a book called Sagan’s Quest. The book, targeted to children, promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and is inspired by her company’s real endeavor to the Moon. Sagan is a robot (named after the infamous astronomer Carl Sagan) who is led by his friend, Carla, through spaceflight history and his journey to the lunar surface. You can read a virtual copy for free, or order a physical copy, at www.earthrise-space.org/sagansquest. I was enchanted by Carla, a girl “with a dream”:

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A page from Sagan’s Quest courtesy of the Earthrise Space Foundation.

From Mr. Huwaldt who was part of making space exploration a reality in 1965, to Administrator Bolden who 50 years later is leading a legitimate effort to go to Mars in the 2030s, accounting for every man and woman in between, the “OUR” of NASA has evolved and will continue to do so.

I can’t wait to see where “our” NASA goes!

Space Exploration

 

Finding My Word of the Year at Wendy’s

I had not planned on doing a word of the year for 2016, but at a Wendy’s restaurant on Friday, I found my theme.

I went through the drive-through of a Wendy’s which I frequent often, and ordered a full spicy chicken caesar salad. I order a full spicy chicken caesar salad at Wendy’s (and at THIS Wendy’s) often, and I always take care to articulate the “full” part (because it’s very disappointing to arrive home with a half instead of a full!).

When the service person handed me my order, the bag felt a little light but I was aware of cars behind me so I pulled forward a bit. Upon checking the order, I realized I had been given a half salad.

The parking lot is configured in such a way that I couldn’t easily get back in the drive-through line to rectify the problem. I didn’t really want to go in, because a) I was in my workout clothes and b) I was already worried about the length of time I had left my father-in-law alone. It was pretty much my only option, though, so in I went.

The staff person from the drive-through came out to the restaurant dining area to meet me, which felt like a good sign. I said, I received a half salad instead of a full and [this part is important] “I probably didn’t speak clearly enough.” She said she would fix it. I asked how much more it would cost, she told me $2.15, and I handed her the money.

When she went to the back to change out the salad, she said to her co-worker, “she needs a whole salad, It was her fault.”

WELL, folks, welcome to the birth of the theme of 2016 because at that moment, it took every ounce of discretion and discipline I had not to stalk back there, grab that woman (who is a staff person I deal with frequently, has always been professional, and honestly I’ve almost tweeted her praise before), and confront her because it actually was not my fault.

The problem is, by being deferential, trying to ease the conflict of the situation, and please everyone, I had accepted blame for a situation in which I was completely and utterly blameless.

I think the woman was (in some reverse co-worker support way) trying to support her co-worker as in “you didn’t do anything wrong. Mistakes happen.” But why on earth would you say within earshot of a compliant, diplomatic, patient customer “it was her fault?”

This tendency of mine does me no favors, in everyday life with strangers, doing business, as I interact with coworkers, as I parent, and in my marriage and it’s time for it to stop.

As I was driving today, I narrowed it down to two candidates.

SILENT (Because in situations where I am tempted to “fix” things by interjecting an unnecessary apology, silence is power.)

CONFIDENCE (Because it is my lack of confidence in these situations that leads me to break the silence.)

Maybe the thing is “silent” and “confidence” by themselves are each only half of an incomplete whole:

SILENT CONFIDENCE

Finding My Word of the Year at Wendy's

In an interesting counterpoint to that day, my son and I ate at Mr. Roboto Tokyo Grill that evening. Quite a few minutes elapsed after my dinner was delivered to our table. We saw what we thought was my son’s food in the hands of a server, but the server didn’t come to our table so we assumed it was not his. I finally went up to the cashier to inquire. The staff said “oh, you didn’t have a number on your table so we couldn’t figure out where to deliver his food (they had taken the number when they delivered my food). We reassured them it was fine and they delivered his food. Several minutes later, the manager approached me, asked my name, and assured me that our next meal would be free, and he apologized for the problem. What a lovely counterpoint to the lunchtime “faulting.” Thanks, Mr. Roboto Tokyo Grill!

Creative K Kids

Here’s To New Dreams!

I’m keeping it brief tonight.

Tenley starts the Disney College Program tomorrow.

Disney College Program

Disney College Program

And me? I’m desperately trying to get the attention of an Instagram account for GRASS.

Disney College Program

To be fair, however, it’s not just ANY grass. It’s HubGrass (the very same grass Tenley is sitting on in the top picture). You can check in to The Hub on FourSquare, follow it on Twitter at @therealhubgrass, or like it on Instagram at @hubgrass.

Can you remember the excitement of a new beginning like Tenley’s? (If not, have you ever messaged vegetation via Instagram?) I’d love to hear about either one!