TEST (FMF31 2019 Day 28)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: TEST

“Don’t fall in love with Plan A.”

This statement was written on a little table card at a state-of-the-art public safety center I visited last Monday. The host had just told us about how the building was designed to foster collaboration. There were small areas with tables scattered all over the center, and there were whiteboards everywhere that could be used as part of discussions.

I assume these people are put to the test when a disaster happens and they must play their role, whether it be communications, dispatcher, IT or any of the many duties that have to be done.

The thing is, you can prepare over and over. You can train and drill, but you can’t always anticipate the change in events that will make your Plan A impossible or at least not preferable.

I felt the same after reading Five Days at Memorial, a book about Hurricane Katrina. The hospital had just done a hurricane drill. What they couldn’t anticipate was a triple threat: a hurricane, flooding and a power outage.

I seriously love procedures and following rules, so this situation would present a challenge to me. I know I’m not the one who would take charge, but I hope I would be the one to ask the questions to help people find a Plan B (if necessary) that increases productivity and potentially saves lives.

It is challenging to break through groupthink. It’s challenging to keep from succumbing to groupthink.

Yet the moments in our lives that matter call for us to do exactly that.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

BETTER (FMF31 2019 Day 27)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: BETTER

The things people will do to look “better” amaze me.

I was just listening to a report on the BBC World Service about Brazilian butt lifts, and how there are 20,000 of them per year in the US. I didn’t hear the beginning of the story, but I did hear the reporter describing how in some cultures the pressure to be curvaceous in that way is intense. I heard them say how dangerous the procedure is.

I can assure you, wanting a bigger or differently shaped derriere has *never* been a desire of mine!

Sometimes when I see famous people (usually women, but sometimes men) who are film stars and it is clear they have had their faces modified, I am aghast. I get the pressure to stay abreast in an industry that so values beauty, but the surgical treatments so often change something about their essence — their ability to be expressive and the intangible “something” that made them so inviting as a personality in the first place.

“Better” is definitely relative. Plastic surgery wouldn’t be thriving as an industry if a certain perspective on “better” hadn’t exploded so much in our world.

But I have to think these people, in many cases, might have lost touch with the best parts of themselves.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

ACCEPT (FMF31 2019 Day 26)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: ACCEPT

I was in Nashville for a conference last Saturday through Wednesday. I love traveling, and I love visiting cities especially.

This trip gave me a small punch in the gut as I processed something I thought I had accepted.

My college boyfriend was from the Nashville area, and I visited numerous times (five? six? I lost count). Such great memories — his welcoming family, visiting the Opryland hotel with its plant-filled atrium, the fall colors.

We broke up after college ended and moved on.

We had a few phone conversations after the breakup, but never saw each other again.

That was in the mid-80s.

I have been to Nashville twice since then. Once was a work trip for a conference, and I was with a colleague.

The second time, I was with my husband for his work trip.

This time, I was mostly solo (although I did have colleagues around for part of the trip).

I got a little bit stuck mentally in the what ifs. Not the what ifs of whether we would have stayed together (I know now that would have been a bad idea; I know he married and has kids and assume he’s happy, which is of course what I want the most).

But we aren’t social media friends (I requested, he didn’t accept and I’ve not checked recently but I think I’m blocked). It’s hard to accept that, because I put so much stock in being friends with everyone.

*** end of five minutes ***

One thing that becomes more apparent the older you get, though, is that it’s futile to force a friendship when for whatever reason it just isn’t in the cards.

I’m grateful for the role that person played in my life, for the fun we had, and for this opportunity to turn the situation over in my head (again). Maybe being there by myself was something I needed to do to say a more clear and compassionate goodbye.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

WAIT (FMF31 2019 Day 25)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WAIT

Today, I had to stuff our two cats into somewhat ill-maintained cages to take them to the vet.

We have been remiss about taking our older cat, Alice Cooper, to the vet. The non-vet stretch started while Wayne was laid off quite a few years ago, and I am ashamed to say it continued for reasons that probably make sense (some financial challenges while my father-in-law lived with us among them).

But there I was today, responsible for getting both cats into cages. (We are boarding them while we are out of town for four days and possibly a few more days so we can hold an open house.)

I am still a little worn out from the process, honestly! The cages don’t stay put together very well. Alice (the docile cat) kept escaping (or trying to) and Bella was just a vicious, hissing ball of black fury.

There I was, a huge rope in my hand, trying to McGuyver some combination of knots and rope that would keep Bella in the cage. I put a huge case of silverware on top of Alice’s cage so she wouldn’t get away.

I was pretty inept, and was contemplating calling my husband to have him come home and help me (not really an option as he works in town and I work pretty far out at home).

My mind is still spinning a little bit. I hope I didn’t injure fragile Alice, honestly, in the effort to get her to stay (Bella is pretty darn resilient).

I was stressed because the vet had already given us a bit of an extension to get them there (because they need to have vaccinations since it has been so long). I had to finish a work thing that just was going to take as long as it took.

Maybe I should have calmed down and waited before getting the rope and frenetically trying to put the enclosure together.

I must have succeeded, because I got to the vet (did I mention it started raining the minute I needed to take them outside?)

Now it’s them (the cats) waiting on us to get home. We all need the time apart at this point, I think (yet the house seems so eerily quiet …)

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

DIFFERENT (FMF31 2019 Day 24)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: DIFFERENT

I volunteered today to be on a subcommittee at work that deals with diversity and inclusion.

It was my inclination to choose that committee over some other enticing options, because this topic has been on my mind so much.

Yet, I wonder how to approach it.

I was standing at a reception Monday night at a conference in Nashville called “civic pride,” and the goal was for the gathering to be inclusive of LGBTQ people who work in local government.

One assistant town administrator said what a difference it makes that in 2019 there are people who “look like me” in local government. For a moment, I thought most people at the table were going to cry.

Although I don’t work in my organization’s D.C. office (another small hurdle to being the DEI person, I know), I do understand (or try) how alienating it can be to live and work amid assumptions. Assumptions about what “everyone” believes or finds to be the status quo.

I also went to a session about equity at work. I’ll need to track down my notes, but in general the presenters said places that have had diversity and inclusion workshops, etc., don’t always end up being more diverse and inclusive because they have the “I did the workshop” mentality and never learn to integrate the lessons into their lives.

I suppose my initial thought is to (with my co-subcommittee member) present monthly “food for thought” type snippets of information.

You can’t hit people over the head with the obvious rightness and need to accept people who are different. Hopefully you can give them the impetus to figure it out for themselves.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

NEED (FMF31 2019 Day 23)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: NEED

Every community needs a pig.

Not the kind of pig that becomes bacon.

An ice pig.

There are other ways for communities to clean out pipes, but I learned about ice pigs yesterday at the ICMA conference, and the name intrigues me!

Essentially, an ice pig forces ice slurry through a pipe at high force to clean the pipes out. Apparently, early versions of this method caused squealing in the pipes, which is what led to the name.

I learned about ice pigs at a conference session called “Lessons from Flint.” It discussed how the water situation in Flint, Mich., turned into such a disaster and how to prevent the problem in other communities going forward.

A woman who spoke was a true water expert. She knew so much about what works, what doesn’t and what various communities have tried. I’m glad I have a transcript of what she said, because taking notes alone wouldn’t capture everything.

One thing I am freshly aware of at this conference is the dedication of people who mostly go unsung who make our communities safe. Whether it’s the streets, the cyberstructure that makes a town/city run, the education system, fairness for all, the water. Someone has to care. Someone has to dig deep into the research about options for solving problems (or preventing them), make the argument to a city council or other managing body, secure the funding and implement it.

I have only spent two weeks in Central America, so I’m no expert, but it was clear that many people in our world pretty much have to fend for themselves. No one is making sure their water is uncontaminated.

“Ice pigs” may sound silly, but they represent one of many ways we have it good here in the USA.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

SENSE (FMF31 2019 Day 22)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: SENSE

Common sense is in short supply these days.

I’m looking at myself as much as anyone else, to be clear.

When we talked recently, my son listed three problems he was having with his car. Not unexpected, since it’s a slightly older car that we bought used in the first place. Although taking care of the issue is his responsibility (as well as the costs), I still couldn’t help but worry as a mom. He needs his car to get to work and, more important, he just loves his car.

When I texted him the next day to ask the status, he replied that he had fixed one problem (brake lights that wouldn’t go off), taken care of another (a malfunctioning O2 sensor) with a relatively affordable part and refilled the power steering fluid, which had taken care of the power steering issue for now.

Much of the reason he could deal with these automotive issues himself has to do with his course of education after high school. He did a 9-month automotive collision course. During his time in school, he started working for a car dealership, where he still works as an estimator.

As someone with six years’ worth of formal education (a BS and an MS), which cost much more than a nine-month automotive collision course, I am reminded frequently that he made a good choice. It’s a good choice for him and for the future people whose cars he will fix, for his debt load (which is much smaller than it would have been with traditional schooling).

Mostly, I am impressed that his school choice in combination with a healthy dose of common sense are helping him solve his problems in an affordable way!

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

PERSON (FMF31 2019 Day 21)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: PERSON

I was surprised to see one person mentioned during yesterday’s “in memoriam” moment at the conference I’m attending.

This is my first time at this conference, and I just completed a full year editing the newsletter for this group in September, so there are many things I’m still processing about an annual cycle. Being able to attend their conference makes a big difference in putting the pieces together and understanding how the people who (hopefully!) read the newsletter view their work.

Last year, a California city manager went missing. It was quite a mystery. We covered some of the logistics of that city council’s management of his absence — someone had to do his job in the interim. There was an investigation to be conducted and a reward to be offered.

Ultimately, when he was found deceased, I decided not to run that in the newsletter (rightly or wrongly).

Throughout the weeks between his disappearance and the discovery that he had died (he was found in his city vehicle, submerged in a lake), there were quite a few articles and there was a bit of conjecture about why he had disappeared. Was it on purpose? Was it a sudden medical issue?

Being me, I thought about this situation A LOT.

***end of five minutes***

What I didn’t know was that his peers would have an “in memoriam” segment at their conference. That his name would be among those lost this year. No asterisk, no questions. Just respect.

I appreciate being able to spend time with these people who (hopefully) read the newsletter I help produce.

And I appreciate the dignity accorded to John Wooner, former city manager of McFarland, Calif.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

TELL (FMF31 2019 Day 20)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: TELL

Editing and live tweeting are very different things, but they do something for me that I appreciate — they make me pay closer attention to whatever is being written or said.

With live tweeting, it makes me attend more closely to the content a speaker is sharing. Also, as someone who doesn’t get to go to all the conferences I would like (who does, really?), I appreciate when someone else live tweets because it gives me access to something I wouldn’t otherwise hear.

With editing, I have to process what has been written more deeply than if I were just skimming it. Liz Kislik’s blog about how to tell someone something they needed to do differently in their work is a perfect example. Our goal is to provide two-sentence summaries of full-length pieces, something that is more challenging than you might think.

It appeared in Thursday’s SmartBrief on Leadership, which I was editing in my managing editor’s absence. Her point? People can wilt if their feedback is the combo of “you did x well” but “you need to do y differently.” The “but” is a sure way to deflate someone before even getting out the words to explain what needs to be improved upon.

She briefly discussed the “and” option, which I also loved because I believe improv is an important tool for all communicators.

However, she transitioned to suggesting “now” instead of “but.” It makes so much sense when you think about it. Such a more hopeful word that implies forward movement and potential rather than some sort of deficit.

Now, how can you relate differently to someone you need to coach today?

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes

STRONG (FMF31 2019 Day 19)

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2019 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: STRONG

I end up reading about Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation, pretty often. I edit the BoardSource newsletter, which is geared toward nonprofit boards of directors, for SmartBrief, and he’s a pretty big deal in those circles.

Yesterday, I was reading a piece he wrote that discussed a new vision for capitalism in a world where there is so much inequity, financial and otherwise. Walker was talking about a prominent businessman, and the man’s contention that the companies where his organization invests must create long-term value in the world.

Walker wrote, “I hope that BlackRock’s [the business he was referencing] strong words will be met with equally strong action.”

Isn’t that the disconnect we often encounter? We can create a need for strong action by uttering strong words “I am going to do my part to change that situation,” for example. Conversely, we probably undertake strong action sometimes without having thought about our rationale.

But sticking with the fact that our strong words are not always met with strong action, I think that somehow gets at one of society’s challenges today. We can retweet a tweet about a cause in the hopes of raising awareness. And such awareness is good, because it may encourage/inspire someone else.

But it is in taking strong action that I suspect we stand to make a bigger difference.

31 Days of Five-Minute Free Writes