Five Minute Friday: WORTH

Welcome to this week’s “Five Minute Friday.” Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” Today’s prompt: WORTH.

Five Minute Friday

Worth is a concept that presents a challenge to me. It’s easier to ascribe worth to someone else than it is to myself.

Especially over the last three years, after I quit my “real” job and began the patchwork of caregiving + part-time work + life, I have increasingly found myself asking “how do they do it?” when I see friends/acquaintances juggling a “9-5,” family, and community obligations.

I have had several conversations recently with friends about what “counts.” I will admit I am a bit driven by external recognition — certificates, being mentioned on social media, winning awards (I used to aspire to be an FSU “Grads Made Good” but that ship has probably already sailed as far as it being a possibility – unless I write an amazing book – you never know!!). But there are smaller, subtler things that have worth too. A couple of times recently, people have made it a point to mention how they used a green pen I gave them and it made them smile. A simple green pen!

But I don’t give green pens to just anyone. Choosing to give one means something worthy, maybe just to that person and me, but there is optimism in the exchange. Maybe I need to remember to give myself that same optimism, every day.

The caregiving life is full of times you wonder if your choices matter, if anyone notices, especially the recipient of the caregiving. [STOP]

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Everything Worthwhile is Bittersweet

I am delighted to welcome my friend Shea Atkin as a guest blogger today. This post started from a simple Facebook exchange about the fact that healing is not linear. I asked her to expand on that idea, and she did so beautifully. Thank you so much, Shea. 

Trauma Touch Therapy

Why is 500 words of my own story so hard to write? I mean, it’s my story, but where do I start? How do you succinctly craft 500 words together to tell the journey of what feels like a million nights? And what is the texture and content of authentic–and how does it and feel and taste inside this body that I’ve been given?

My authentic heart feels free now, but the process has been messy and I can’t count how many times I wanted to just give up and say fuck it. But sometimes I would say it, and keep on walking and not giving up. As a survivor of sexual abuse and a lifetime of alcoholism and addiction, sobriety was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was also the hardest because I had to take personal responsibility for my healing, recovery and actions (past and present). That will introduce you to true humility and freedom–but with no anesthetic. Raw and unfiltered and interwoven with a lot of grace.

I’m a big believer in synchronicity. I stumbled into massage school at 19 because I was already failing out of community college. My mom said that it would be best to get licensed in a trade so I could at least start making money if I couldn’t make it through college. She gifted me a massage for my 18th birthday and I remember thinking how amazing it must be to have a job where you could make people feel that good. It truly felt life changing. So I started massage school.

As I started giving and receiving massages, emotions and flashbacks started to occur. One day the rape (that I blocked out of memory for 7 years) surfaced fully and unapologetically. That was the defining moment that I knew a) that memory was stored in muscle and symptoms present psychosomatically and b) I wanted to dedicate my life to healing others from this as I continued to heal from multiple layers of trauma.

I continued to transition through 7 more years of active addiction until I finally let go and got sober.

The real work of finding my authentic self really started when I put the drugs and alcohol down. Only then was I able to truly process, grieve and accept the things that happened to me and the things I did to others while caught up in active addiction. I’m still amazed that I was of any use at all in those years but that’s the thing about grace and mercy–it’s free and everywhere.

I was used as a vessel of healing despite my weaknesses and struggles–that is truly a humbling reality. It was at the point when I found out about trauma touch therapy that all the pieces started to come together and I felt like I finally had a little direction on what the next part of my journey would be. As I received my own session of trauma touch therapy and practiced on others, more healing continued to happen.

That’s the thing about numbing–we can’t selectively numb. If we push down and suppress the negative, we also cut off the positive. Sadness and joy can (and should) co-exist, because that is the nature of being human.

All in all, it’s been a wonderfully terrible awakening–but everything that is worthwhile is bittersweet. The light cannot exist without the darkness. Both hold equal importance and until we can accept the “Good” and “Bad” aspects that co-exist inside these amazing bodies we’ve been given–we won’t be free.

Trauma Touch Therapy

Shea is a licensed massage and trauma touch therapist at Abundance Wellness Center. She is also working toward certification in craniosacral therapy. Here are her contact details:

Trauma Touch Therapy

Five Minute Friday: EXPECT

This is my first week to join “Five Minute Friday.” This is the deal, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” Today’s prompt: EXPECT.

Five Minute Friday

I read this “expect” prompt last night, and several different thoughts on it ran through my mind as I drifted off to sleep. First and foremost, I think, are my expectations around this close-to-the end phase of caregiving. As yesterday would attest, I can’t expect to string together a full sentence (written or spoken) without being interrupted. My father-in-law, who sleeps for hours-long stretches now as his cancer continues its assault on him, has his most restless times at exactly the moments I need to concentrate. I gave up yesterday and called the home health agency to hire someone to come attend to him after Wayne has to leave for work, so I can finish the part of my day that is deadline-driven. It’s unfair to Dad for me to be frustrated and stressed about dealing with his bathroom needs (which take FOREVER and result in massive cleanups afterwards) as well as his pain management.

Also on the topic of expectations, he is meeting exactly what the book we were given by the hospice workers predicted about this stage: confusion, talking about loved ones who have passed, etc. Yesterday, he asked for my mother in law, who has been dead almost four years. “She’s not here,” I said. “Is she still alive?” he asked. I responded she was not. “We’re dropping like flies,” he said. It was a rare and crystal-clear accurate moment of lucidity from a man who tried to smoke a slim jim the other day, thinking it was a cigar.

This is all new to us. We don’t know what to expect. It is frightening and there is the sense that we only have this one time to help him navigate his death experience – it isn’t about “not messing it up” but about focusing on it with grace. 

Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

A Late Cleanup

Personal Organization

Three years ago, I came home from my last day of work at Healthy Kids and placed a box of assorted “office stuff” in our dining room (which we don’t use for dining). There it sat. For three yearsEvery time I walked by it, I used a few brain (and heart) cells thinking “I really should deal with that box.”

As this picture shows, the box fell apart. It accumulated items that had never graced my office (like the “triathlon” license plate holder). I don’t know what was keeping me from dealing with it. Maybe some deep-seated processing I still needed to do about leaving Healthy Kids after almost 20 years. Maybe something less complicated, like laziness.

Time for a Small Win

I am currently reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg. This book is full of many incredible takeaways but I’ll save most of those for a different time. For now, I will point out the author’s emphasis on the power of a “small win” to make a “big difference.”

The power of “small wins” lies in the fact that they create momentum for behavioral changes that evolve into bigger wins over time.

Walking past that falling-apart box was a downer every time. A non-productive downer that did nothing to contribute to the fact that I need to physically clean my environment in order to have more emotional breathing space.

Walking past my sock drawer is the opposite feeling from the “old office memorabilia box.” Ever since my friend Fred Davenport challenged me to blog about my sock drawer (really, he did!) and I cleaned it out as a result, it has been pristine. I take care of it because I feel accountable to my friend (not that I expect him to drop by and inspect my sock drawer).

I guess the difference with the “office box” is the fact that now my accountability is just to myself.

What Was Getting In The Way?

The box and its sad neglected state signify at least three things to me.

No Place to Work

I think one factor keeping me from dealing with the “office box” is that I don’t have anywhere to go (as far as a workspace) despite the fact that I am working around 30 hours a week on my two awesome freelance jobs. The family pictures, the treasured glass “bluebird of happiness” Tenley gave me in kindergarten, the crystal clock that had been a wedding gift and became my office time piece — there is no place for them right now.

When I first started working from home while caregiving, I would move my laptop and other work-related materials into Tenley’s room in order to have a facsimile of a “workspace.” Over time, though, it just became easier to work from the dining room table.

I know our virtual world is making it possible to work from almost anywhere, but I miss the structure of sentimental “things” around me. 

Unresolved Relationships

What do unresolved relationships have to do with cleaning out a box? You would think absolutely nothing, but certain items in the “office box” remind me that loops did not get closed. The framed print of our corporate values like “family focus” and “transparency” reminds me that I never got feedback from the people I had supervised once I received a lateral transfer and was no longer their supervisor.

On the flip side, time has done its work in some ways. One bridge I really felt I had burned turned out to be not so much burned as in need of reinforcement.

I am first and foremost a people person and somehow leaving the items in that box undisturbed kept me from having to accept, again, that there are parts of my Healthy Kids experience that simply have to go in the “it is what it is” category. 

Clutter is Overwhelming and Paralyzing

You know, I don’t know the solution to the fact that I allow clutter to accumulate yet would feel so much freer if I would just deal with it. I recently went to a new place for personal services (think: nails, hair, massages – don’t really want to single anyone out). While I wasn’t unhappy with the individual’s work, I was turned off by the general disorganization at their workspace.

My entire house (except for my sock drawer and the space where the office box used to sit) is a generally disorganized workspace. If I don’t like it when I’m a customer, how does the disorder around me impact my spirit and ability to achieve my goals?

Back to Those Small Wins

I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to clean up the “office box.” Okay, I’ll admit I was running low on blog topics and needed something to talk about.

But I thought about how I feel every time I use that utterly orderly sock drawer.

And how outer order will (may?) bring inner calm.

And I found myself one small win.

Three years late, and admittedly small, but still a win.

Personal Organization

Personal Organization

This post was inspired by the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: Write a blog post inspired by the word: late.

Personal Organization

A Photo Finish for a Helicopter Mom

My husband and I have been surprised throughout my son’s school years when pictures of him have shown up in our newspaper, The Tallahassee Democrat.

There was the “Home Alone”-ish shot of him watching his teachers do a presentation designed to get him excited for standardized testing.

Mom Fail

And the shot from Summer Track in 2008, noting his “shirtless and shoeless” status:
Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Phil Sears, Tallahassee Democrat

You Never Know When Your Shoes Will Matter

As high school graduation day approached for Wayne, I shared this phrase with friends in real life, in Facebook groups, and wherever else I could:

“After this one last detail, I am officially retiring my helicopter rotors.”

What was the big graduation-related detail that I just had to have go my way in order to avoid a “mom fail”? I needed him to have nice shoes. At his convocation ten days prior, I was mortified to see the state of his shoes. (My daughter, who graduated three years ago, was very particular about clothing and shoes, so I had not had a reason to helicopter in for anything related to her graduation ceremonies.)

Immediately after convocation, I told him he needed to get better shoes and that I would pay for them. In the ten days between convocation and graduation, he put some shoes in our Amazon cart that I rejected (they were too expensive and I was pretty sure the only thing he would be wearing these shoes for would be graduation and his any funerals in the near future (we have a relative on hospice care)). I was pro-Amazon because I have a gift card balance but didn’t want to use that much of it on shoes that wouldn’t get worn often.

Once I rejected the Amazon idea, we fell into a pretty typical communication pattern between us. It went something like this, with variations over the ten days:

ME: “You need to get shoes.” Related emotional state: Frustration that it wasn’t getting done, worry about spending more money, annoyance that for the umpteenth time in our parent-child relationship I was carrying the worry-weight of something that didn’t matter to him.

HIM: “Yeah. Okay.” With some variation of “It would be easier on Amazon” or “I’ll get to it” thrown in but no action. His related emotional state: My guess may be wrong, because I’m not him. BUT I’m pretty sure it was heavier on the “will she just stop with the shoes thing?” than on determination to take care of a graduation-related detail and erase one worry off my list.

Graduation Day Dawns

I woke up graduation morning, fretting (still). The shoes had not been bought. He was going to graduate no matter what was on his feet, so as long as the shoes were the “dark” shoes required by the dress code, what did it really matter? Did his ratty shoes really equate to a “mom fail”?

We also had limited time. I needed him home (as he had agreed to be) from noon to 3 because I had plans and we can’t leave my father-in-law alone. After three, it would be almost time to leave for the ceremony. He had a brief period the morning of graduation to do this.

What Happened?

He bought shoes. They are actually shoes he likes, so maybe they will get worn beyond graduation and funerals.

I asked myself multiple times why it really mattered, because out of almost 500 graduates, who would be inspecting his shoes? His diploma would be just as valid no matter what was on his feet.

But, as the Kiger family has learned over the years, you just never know when the local newspaper may take your picture and an entire community (plus all your mom’s friends on Facebook) will see that your shoes did, indeed, look great.

Mom Fail

Photo Credit: Joe Rondone/Tallahassee Democrat

Are the Helicopter Rotors Gone?

Do me a favor and ask me that once his thank you notes are done!

Mom Fail

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat writing prompt, “share a mom fail.”

Mom Fail

Saying Goodbye to Silvia

It is time to say goodbye to Silvia, the first person our family sponsored through Unbound. Although I knew her time in the program would end, it was still a sobering moment when I received the notification, even though her departure is due to her success.

The Farewell Notification

Humanitarian Programs

Unbound sent us a letter notifying us that Silvia had graduated, along with a farewell letter written by Silvia’s cousin (and translated by Unbound), explaining Silvia was unable to write due to her job. Here’s an excerpt:

…Silvia is in good health thanks to God along with her family. We thank you for the support you have given her since it has benefited her with healthcare, education, food supplies, shoes, clothing and much more.

She has gotten other significant benefits such as cinder block, sheets of tin, cookware, bed and others which got better her home. I also tell you that Silvia leaves Unbound program since she graduated from high school and she got the art and sciences diploma, she has gotten a job actually and she works selling clothing, now she is able to support her family.

 

Our History With Silvia and Her Family

I don’t recall the precise date Silvia became a part of our family when my in-laws chose to sponsor her through Unbound (I think it was around 2002); they picked her partially because she was close in age to Tenley and my nieces, thinking shared gender and age would help the connection feel more “real.”

Humanitarian Programs

Over the years, I felt increasingly led to meet Silvia in person. Pictures and letters can only convey so much. I wrote about the goal here and here.

In 2011, th goal became reality! Tenley and I traveled to Guatemala as part of an Unbound Mission Awareness Trip and met Silvia and her mom (also named Silvia). I shared our experiences here and here.

What I Have Learned

Documenting what we have learned over the time we have sponsored Silvia, especially through the trip to meet her in 2011, is a challenging task which largely defies words. A few observations, though.

Sponsorship is not a one-way street. Yes, our monthly contributions provided her and her family with support they would not otherwise have had and enabled her to get an education (not something to be underestimated in Central America) and her family to have better housing. Hopefully the letters and packages (back when we were allowed to send packages) sent by my in-laws and us (technically my in-laws were Silvia’s sponsors) inspired, amused, and affirmed her and her family. But as cliche’ as I know it sounds, we got as much or more out of the experience than they did.

This experience pointed up our sheer humanity and imperfection, which is why God’s grace is so central to our lives. My fellow parishioners at Holy Comforter made a Humanitarian Programsbeautiful quilt for Silvia. Each parishioner crocheted or knitted a square, then they were sewn together and blessed at church before being taken to Silvia. It was truly a lovely gift. I have to say, though, in retrospect, Guatemala is a very hot place. I am sure Silvia and her family treasure the gift but as practical gifts go, I could possibly have made a more useful choice! I also underestimated the fact that she was (at the time of our visit) a typical teenage girl. After meeting her and seeing her sense of style, I thought of other things we could have given her that may have been a bit more to her liking!

Spending time in a developing country is far superior to reading about a developing country. I know we can’t all go to countries about which we are curious due to financial, time, or health constraints, but do it if you can. I will never, ever, ever forget visiting one family’s humble home with a homemade welcome sign on the door. The home was so primitive, and the owner apologized for the home’s small size as I entered. But the Humanitarian Programssentiment on the door and the genuine love shown by the people we visited trumped every standard-of-living consideration. That said, we have it so good here, y’all (speaking to my friends in the US, Canada, and other countries where we have everything we need even if sometimes we perceive we don’t have what we want). We need to let that ease of living fuel our generosity to help others who aren’t so fortunate have the tools they need to support themselves.

Having to wait things out is a blessing. Our first 24-48 hours in Guatemala did not go smoothly. It was an adjustment to remember to throw the toilet paper away rather than flush it, to take the Pepto Bismol every four hours to fend off gastrointestinal distress, to remember not to drink the water. I am not exaggerating one bit to say Tenley was miserable and I am pretty sure I recall her emailing her dad (when we had a moment of internet connectivity at Unbound’s center) to tell him she wanted to go home NOW. Thank goodness that wasn’t a possibility, because she had done an emotional 360 by the end of the week. We have all gotten used to instantaneous everything, including rapidly ditching situations that no longer please us. I am so grateful that wasn’t an option for us.

What We Hope For Silvia

One of the biggest challenges of the end of an Unbound sponsorship is the fact that it truly is a final “goodbye.” For a variety of reasons that make perfect sense from a practical and security standpoint, we are not allowed to share addresses or attempt to continue contact.

Tenley said to simply “tell her we love her and to never lose faith in Christ.”

Maybe it’s as basic as that. We want her to always know how loved she was (and is) and to keep up her faith. I would add, though, that as a female in her early 20s in a country like Guatemala, I pray that she use the education she received to control the reins of her life, that she is immune from being controlled by a man who does not want the best for her, from being restricted by a government that does not value her equally with males, that she is as free as possible from self-doubt.

How to Help Other “Silvias”

Unbound gave us the option to roll my father-in-law’s monthly contribution to another sponsored individual, but due to his terminal illness, we declined. (Our family still sponsors Estela in Guatemala and Stanley in El Salvador.)

If you are seeking a way to make a difference for a child, individual with special needs, or aging person, I strongly encourage you to consider sponsoring through Unbound via a $36 per month contribution.

Because it is more difficult for adults to find sponsors, I have chosen to feature Leonel Oscar:

Humanitarian Programs

According to Leonel Oscar’s profile on the Unbound website, he Leonel likes praying for the people in his community, so they can live with a better quality of life. He has a mental disability which makes it difficult for him to pronounce some words. Speech therapy would help him improve his ability to communicate with others. Leonel lives with his sister in a concrete-block dwelling. It’s far from the urban area, so they go by bus to the market. Leonel and his sister grow watercress and herbs to sell there.

Unbound’s site shares information about everyone needing sponsors on their site; you can sort by birthday, first name (I had hoped to find another “Silvia” to share with you!), and other criteria. Click here to start your sponsorship journey. (If you have an interest in Leonel Oscar specifically and can’t find him, I will be happy to try to help you.)
Humanitarian Programs

National 529 Day Scholarship Giveaway!

This post and the scholarship giveaway are sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board. All thoughts are my own.

My children and I were involved as volunteers with the Florida State University Film School for several years. The first time we went to campus to watch one of the films be screened, I headed automatically to the on-campus theater I remembered going to when I was a student at Florida State (1982-86). Nothing was going on at the building I approached; clearly I was at the wrong place.

Scholarship Giveaway

A few frantic phone calls later, I was directed to the beautiful Student Life Cinema, which in its luxury, size and modern design made Moore Auditorium look like the dinosaur it was.

The Cost of Higher Education Changes

Like the move theater facilities at Florida State, many other things can change over a couple of decades. One of those things is the cost of a college education.

As National 529 Day approaches, this is the perfect time to think about opening a 529 plan for a child in your life.

(If you don’t have time to read everything I am about to share, click here to enter a contest to win a $529 scholarship deposited into a Florida 529 Savings Plan account!)

Still with me? Here is more info about 529 plans:

Education savings plans called “529 plans” are named after the IRS code that created them in 1996. They help families save for college costs. If you are wondering how they are different from prepaid tuition plans, here’s a breakdown.

Enter the Scholarship Giveaway!

What’s not to like about a $529 contribution into a 529 Scholarship Plan for a child you love? Ten people will win!

It’s simple to register to enter (you do have to be a Florida resident). After that, you can accumulate additional entries each day by participating in activities on the site, like creating a meme. Here’s one I created of my son and me:

Scholarship Giveaway

(Editor’s Note – 5/17/17 – now that my husband has pointed this out to me, I can’t unsee what he saw so …. just for the record …. my son is not shooting me a bird here — he is holding a medal he had been awarded at school. This is how rumors start, people!)

More details on the contest:

You can enter anytime between May 15 and June 11.

(Editor’s Note – 5/29/17 – The Starbucks giveaway is closed but the scholarship giveaway lasts until June 11 and FL Residents age 18 and over can enter daily!). 

Bonus: I will randomly choose a winner to receive a $10 Starbucks gift card from among everyone who registers for the giveaway and helps promote it between May 16 and May 20 via the Rafflecopter below. You could help a child you love get an education investment jump start AND get fully caffeinated. Yay!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Scholarship Giveaway

Tell Me About Yourself, Mom

In his post, 10 Questions to Ask Your Mom or Grandma on Mother’s Day, Bob Tiede shared ten questions to help us get to know our moms better. I love the questions but feel shy to ask them of my mom, so I decided to answer them from my perspective; maybe my kids will be interested someday.

1. What are your favorite memories of times you spent with your Grandparents?

I don’t think I would have called them my favorite times when I was a kid, but in retrospect, all the times we spent on my Granny and Pa’s porch (my mom’s parents) shelling peas and just “visiting.”

2. What was your grade school like?  What do you remember about your favorite teacher?

I went to two. Roosevelt Roads Elementary (we were stationed in Puerto Rico in the Navy) for kindergarten through part of second grade, then W.E. Cherry Elementary School once we moved back to Orange Park.

Interviewing Mothers

Thank you to pinner Maria Norman for this picture.

I don’t remember disliking any teachers in elementary school. She wasn’t a teacher but (surprise!) I really loved the library, Mrs. Derbonne.

Interviewing Mothers

My friend and I shared a day visiting my childhood home and elementary school in January.

3. Who was your best friend? And what did the two of you like to do?

Easy peasy. Paula Young (now Jordan). We became friends because we both have the same first name. We ended up in different places for high school, but every visit we pick up precisely where we left off before.

What did we like to do? We were in band, we both enjoyed academics. Otherwise I would say “hanging out.”

She is deeply loyal, terrifically bright, and determined to serve her family and her business well (she does!). I love her.

Interviewing Mothers

Paula and me in August 2016 in New Orleans

4. What kind of things did you do as a kid that got you into trouble at home or school?

For the most part, I was ridiculously compliant. RIDICULOUSLY. My most memorable transgressions:

  1. I didn’t clean my room enough (some things never change)
  2. I got pulled out of English class in the 10th grade and scolded for being too chatty with my cousin, Deneen. I was mortified; she was amused that I was mortified.
  3. There was the time I stole baby Jesus, though.

5. Growing up what did you want to be?

I think my rotation was similar to lots of kids (waitress, teacher, that type of thing). I was on a “missionary” kick for a while (and spent the summer after high school knocking on doors all over St. Lucie County hoping to save souls). But the one that comes closest to being a “regret” is not pursuing something medical.

6. Outside of the family, what was the very first job you had that you got paid for?

Babysitting was first, but the first one that made a huge impression, the one I still think about every day, was being a cashier at Spires IGA.

7. How did you meet Dad? How did he ask you to marry him?

Blind date! We went to the Huey Lewis and the News Concert, a setup arranged by our mutual friend Cherie who has declared herself out of the matchmaker business now that she had one success.

I broke up with him in 1989 and moved to NYC to “take my bite out of the big apple.” Over the almost-three years I was there, we progressively took the steps that led to us deciding to get married. I kept telling him I wasn’t ready. One time, when I had just gotten back to New York, I called him and said yes. He officially gave me my ring on the pier at Lake Butler.

8. What is the hardest thing that you ever had to do in your life?

Along with Dad and Aunt Mary, tell Grandma and Grandpa that Uncle Chuck had committed suicide.

9. What is the greatest compliment that you have ever received?

Someone who had been a little kid when I was a teenager working with the children’s choir at First Baptist friended me on Facebook YEARS LATER. It took me a bit to remember her (new last name, no longer four years old) but once my brain was engaged, she said “you made a difference.” I never knew.

10. What is one thing you still want to do that you have never done?  (What is still on your “Bucket List?”)

I still want to be fluent in Spanish. I am so disappointed in myself that I haven’t made more progress toward that. I want to get out of debt. Go to Europe.

Bonus Question:  If your Mom (Grandma) is a Follower of Jesus, ask:  Is there a story you can share about how you came to be a Follower of Jesus?

For me, my spiritual life has been an evolution from doing what I thought I should do spiritually, to doing what most brings me in Communion with the holy trinity. I am *thrilled* Tenley has a church relationship she loves and have enjoyed going to church with Wayne Kevin. No matter what denominations they choose, first and foremost I hope they make time every week to turn to something bigger about themselves.

Meet the Candidates for #TLHTwitterMayor

What does being a mayor mean? It depends on who you ask and what type of mayorship you’re referring to. For example, my 2016 Swarm review revealed that I accumulated 91 mayorships!

Twitter Mayor

And except to my ego, these mayorships mean absolutely nothing. Other United States mayorships, of real places, having responsibility for real issues, are different. Whether mayor-council, commission, or council-manager, US mayors have responsibilities impacting law enforcement, housing, and a variety of other municipal issues relating to quality of life for a community.

What Does It Mean to be the #TLHTwitterMayor?

There’s a new mayorship in town here in Tallahassee. It’s *possible* it is more closely related in significance to my 91 Swarm memberships than to any of the mayors of our 19,429 municipalities, but you would never know that from the passion, drive, intensity (and trash talking) of the race’s four candidates.

I’m not exactly sure how the #TLHTwitterMayor race was born, but earlier this week, one tweet led to another and a campaign was born, leading to this story in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Now, I love Twitter (maybe my 100,000+ tweets back that  up), and really wanted to be one of the four candidates was immediately enthusiastic about supporting my four fellow Tallahassee Twitter friends, so I offered to give them each an opportunity to promote their platforms on my blog.

This is what each candidate was asked:

What is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community?

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place?

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet?

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to?

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why?

Here is what they said in response. The two who responded are  presented in the order in which I received their answers. The other two are getting special Big Green Pen treatment!

@WakullaWriter (Rachel Sutz Pienta)

Twitter Mayor

What is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?  My Big Bend, North Florida sensibility coupled with my willingness to subvert dominant paradigms and blur traditional lines of separation is my biggest strength of a candidate. I moved here 22 years ago from an area known as a larger metro suburban and rural region that converged on an urban center – similar to what Tallahassee is for the Big Bend area and Eastern Panhandle.

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community?  One thing each Tallahasseean could to improve our community is to choose one organization to give their time to for 5 hours a month for one year. Imagine what such an investment of time and talent could do for our community if every resident chose some way to give back like this!

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place? My favorite Tallahassee memory took place at the American Legion Hall at Lake Ella.  My husband and I held our wedding reception for over 200 family and friends there.

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet?   #Tallahassee – come to learn, fall in love, stay for a lifetime!

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to?  I would like people to learn more about the United Way and support it more fully. There is no organization that helps so many people across so many different sectors across the Big Bend area as the United Way does.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why?  Canned pumpkin. Like canned pumpkin, I can be savory or sweet.  Pumpkin can be made into soup, sauce, pies, cakes, bread, and so much more – how is that for versatility?

Connect with Rachel on Twitter at @wakullawriter.

@DannyAller (Danny Aller)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength you bring as a candidate?  I once ate 50 wings from the old Buffalo Wings & Rings spot on East Tennessee Street — and then went out and played three sets of tennis (without throwing up). I’m also an excellent tennis player.

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? I don’t agree with the line of thinking that we “Have To Make [Someplace] Great Again.” Tallahassee is already great.

Where did your favorite Tallahassee memory take place? I caught a 22-pound, state record large mouth bass at a private Tallahassee lake owned by a wealthy retired professional sports star. I also may not have had permission to be fishing there — but ongoing litigation prevents me from saying anything more.

How would you describe Tallahassee in a tweet? #Tallahassee is a place I always took for granted & didn’t truly understand how great it was — until I left. But Tallahassee is home.

What local charity do you want people to know more about and/or donate to? I’m not a very charitable person in general. I mostly like to take … wait, don’t print that.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents you and why? First, to even participate in this forum, I shall require four things — per my standard celebrity rider: A bowl of peanut M&Ms — with ALL the orange and blue ones removed!; FIJI Water, chilled to 37 degrees; warm towels; and a gold scepter.

Also, America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend is a great charity to support — they’ve received many a cans of mushroom stems from our family over the years — but, you know, there are so many charities in the world that are worthy and have so much to offer and are so wonderful … for instance, I even started my own charity called “The Human Fund” and we work tirelessly behind the scenes and do a lot of gre–

Wait, what was the question again?

Connect with Danny on Twitter at @dannyaller.

Editor’s Note: I did not receive responses from candidates Greg Tish and Jay Revell. Because I am sort of a stickler for closing loops, the best thing I can think to do is to match tweets I have seen from them with the questions. REPEAT: This is me, guessing. Take it for what it is. 

@Greg_Tish (Greg Tish)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength Greg brings as a candidate?  Having his priorities straight, as in this recent tweet: “Thank goodness for seat warmers .”

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? Get out of his way, apparently. Greg has a tough commute, judging by this recent tweet. “Some days I just hate my three minute commute home. Traffic can be so awful.”

Where did Greg’s favorite Tallahassee memory take place? See? This is where I am such an inferior chooser of responses than Greg himself would be. But, because I have to soldier on, and because this tweet includes 50% of the #TLHTwitterMayor field, it’s the winner: “Boys night! .”

Twitter Mayor

How would Greg describe Tallahassee in a tweet? Again, the challenge with leaving it to me is that things can get taken out of context. Here’s my choice: “She has ash trays and a rear facing seat.” (And click here to see the tweet so you understand the context.)

What local charity does Greg want people to know more about and/or donate to? From May 1: “It’s ! Help us spread the word about the fight vs Fanconi anemia. Share w/ “Why to learn more.” I agree – Kidz1stFund is a great choice. Click here for the tweet.

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents Greg and why? Okay, this is a stretch because it wasn’t a Greg Tish tweet (although it mentioned Greg Tish) and it isn’t about a canned good (although it has the word can in it), but I am a HUGE fan of The Red Shed (who sent the tweet), so it’s in! “[I] know a great spot where yall can have an actual event.”

Connect with Greg on Twitter at @greg_tish.

***Editor’s Note*** I am not sure he complied with the 50 pages of codification dictating how one withdraws from the #TLHTwitterMayor race, but I believe this tweet means Jay has taken himself out of contention. I hope there’s a support group for this kind of occurrence; I am not sure I can process it alone. I am leaving Jay’s profile in because a) I think he’s a pretty cool guy and b) I want Making Light Productions to still be mentioned. I love editorial discretion!

@JayRevell (Jay Revell)

Twitter MayorWhat is the biggest strength Jay brings as a candidate?  This was a tough one where Jay is concerned, because he tweets about so many great things but apparently was not considering the fact that I would have to figure out a potential answer to this question when he did not respond. Going out on a limb here and choosing “faith” as in this retweet he did of Dean Inserra: “If your politics and faith collide, go with your faith.”

What is one thing each Tallahasseean could do to improve our community? Vote for him, apparently, as per this tweet: “Join the Revellution…”

Where did Jay’s favorite Tallahassee memory take place? Another tough one (work with me here, Jay!). But he looks like he had a blast at the Florida Sunshine Ball, as evidenced by: “Great times tonight at the Florida Sunshine Ball! Thanks for having us.”

Twitter Mayor

How would Jay describe Tallahassee in a tweet? Full disclosure: this one is taken totally out of context but hey, I’m flying blind here: “Welcome to the future…” (but here’s the tweet if you want to understand).

What local charity does Jay want people to know more about and/or donate to? Okay, I’m taking a total point of personal privilege here and linking to a local non-profit I adore, that he linked to in a retweet. Here’s to you, Making Light Productions. (And here’s the tweet.)

As part of the candidate forum, we will be collecting canned goods for America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend.  What canned good best represents Jay and why? Honestly, I’ve got nothin’ at this point and can’t find anything on Jay’s Twitter timeline to help me out. So I’ll tell you that if you bring 5 canned goods to the May 7 mayoral forum (details here), the clients of America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend will benefit and you’ll get a pint of beer.

Twitter Mayor

Connect with Jay on Twitter at @jayrevell.

“But I Want to Hear From the Candidates Directly — How Do I Do That?”

All four candidates reportedly plan to attend the Tallahassee Twitter Mayoral Town Hall Debate May 7 at 2 p.m. Click here for details. Remember, bring 5 items to donate to America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend and get a pint of beer from Deep Brewing Company!

How and Why is Prince Murat Involved?

I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Let me know when you do.

What About Voting?

You vote on Twitter of course! Here’s a link to the poll. I haven’t exactly figured out Twitter’s calendar magic for calculating when voting will end. I *think* the poll shuts off late in the evening of May 7. If you vote as soon as you hear the candidates at the town hall, you should be fine!

Update: The Town Hall Happened!

The Town Hall happened (thank you, Deep Brewing Co.) and I was asked to be the moderator. Here we are, in our town hall glory.

Twitter Mayor

Greg Tish, Me, Rachel Sutz Pienta, Danny Aller

Update Two: The Votes Are In!

Following an hours-long filibuster in which the options were discussed a sip of a Deep Brewing BA Octopie and one person’s suggestion, a term limit of 140 days was agreed upon.

Congratulations, Danny Aller, on your election! Start kissing those babies and cutting those twibbons.

Twitter Mayor

Twitter Mayor

We Have to Talk About White Privilege

If you have ever driven along an Interstate, searching for the hotel where you have reservations, seeing it seemingly VERY CLOSE but realizing you have to figure out how to get off the interstate, get onto a service road, and find the entrance to your hotel, you know that things are not at all as easy as they first appear. White privilege is like a service road.

I have been wanting to write about intersectionality (and, related, white privilege) ever since I heard the word (yes, it’s been less than a year), but I have hesitated for a variety of reasons. The first reasons that come to mind are:

  1. I don’t understand the topics well enough
  2. I am afraid I will lose friends
  3. I alone can change no minds
  4. I am, as all of us are, so imperfect in my attempts to live life fairly

But those barriers are just going to have to co-exist with my attempt to say my piece on this. In my own home, in conversations with my closest family members, in multiple other environments, it’s time to talk about white privilege even if the attempt is grossly imperfect, if relationships unravel, if no minds are changed.

Because, whether it is a problem for us personally or not, our inability or unwillingness to put our privilege in context and figure out how to be in community with all our fellow people hurts us all in the long run.

White Privilege

One Book That Changed My Understanding About White Privilege

I wrote earlier that it has been within the last twelve months that I have heard the term “intersectionality.” I heard it at the We Won’t Wait 2016 gathering, as presenters explained the inequities faced by women of color. When I got home, I told my husband, “I felt guilty about being white.”

Sitting around feeling guilty about something I clearly can’t change about myself is not exactly constructive, so I set about trying to figure out what those speakers meant and what I could do.

I participated in an online book club about the book Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. Although I never ended up being able to join the group via Facebook live, the experience got me to read the book, and the comments in the Facebook group itself enlightened me.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. The distribution of VA benefits after World War II, for example, led to inequities for African American returning soldiers. Many African American soldiers did not get access to the same educational or housing benefits that white soldiers received. (More here and here.)
  2. “Hide and seek” has a different meaning for inner city black kids than suburban white kids. Okay, this one could be vulnerable to being a HUGE generalization. But I believe Debby Irving when she says that many black kids are taught not to play hide-and-go-seek because they don’t want to associate being hidden with “fun” — because of the ramifications down the road for their interactions with law enforcement officers.
  3. “Helping” …….. isn’t always. Debby Irving talks a lot about how we as middle- and upper-class white people are brought up to help, to be optimistic (believe me, since me alter ego is the Optimism Light this one got my full attention). I get the irony of the fact that I am raising the issue, lover of causes that I am. But I have to look at myself in the mirror and ask about the lens through which I see my helping choices. Am I being a “white savior” or a “fellow human sharing my resources”? Author Nate Regier, Ph.D., writes, “Non-consensual helping is a personal violation.” Hmmm.
  4. Taking kids out of their environments to expose them to culture doesn’t always have the downstream effects we imagine it will have. One of Debby Irving’s first jobs was being the coordinator for an arts program in Boston. The program would bus children in from disadvantaged areas of the city in order to help them “get culture.” Irving writes convincingly of why that plan did not have the effects organizers hoped — these children didn’t necessarily understand the environment — the imposing buildings, the etiquette expected of them as arts consumers, the very “foreign-ness” of it all.

As a White Person, I Take Ease of Access Totally For Granted

Typically, we would think of interstate highways as helpful to reaching our destination faster. Limited exits so that no one slows down, the ability to drive at relatively higher rates of speed, uniform signage and format. The problem is, if the gas, food, shelter or other services we need are off of a service road, we have to get off.

White privilege is akin to being on the service road, doing whatever we need to do, easily. For people who do not have white privilege, they are speeding along, on a road defined for them by someone who presumed what they wanted, with limited ability to get the basics and extras they need and want in order to live a life equitable to ours because someone blocked the exits.

Things I Still Haven’t Made Peace With

  1. Reparations. Slavery was wrong. What’s a stronger word for wrong? Let’s go with reprehensible. Slavery created the foundation of the inequities toward black people that still ripple through our society today, in ways big and small. My challenge with reparations is two-fold: I don’t understand how they would work and I am not sure what positive difference they would make. The United Nations thinks they are a good idea, though, so that carries some substantial weight with me. (More about the recommendation from the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in this Washington Post article.)
  2. Decisions Like the One Bill Proctor Made. Bill Proctor is an African-American county commissioner here in Leon County. He boycotted a commission retreat last December because slaves had been used on the property in the 1800s. While I am sensitive to the issues slavery poses to him, I guess this is one of those things that, taken to an extreme, could mean none of us could meet (or live) anywhere. Taking the example further, I should surrender the deed to my house and the property I live on to the Native Americans. It never really was mine to begin with and it probably was not handed over by them willingly or without sacrifice on the part of an entire people.
  3. Statues/Historical Monuments. It is a good thing that we are all so much more sensitive to the impact of monuments glorifying people who perpetuated racism. I struggle with the fact that removing the tangible evidence that these people were once celebrated doesn’t remove the fact that these people were once celebrated or the lessons we should learn from that. One article with more on the topic here.
  4. Language Hypersensitivity. Have you looked at any house plans lately? Notice anything different? Some designers are re-naming the master bedroom the “owner’s suite” or “mastre bedroom,” believing the term “master bedroom” carries too many negative connotations from a historical and gender perspective. Words evolve. Did you know the word “bully” started out with a positive connotation, meaning “sweetheart”? The word “sarcasm” has as one of its root meanings “stripping off of flesh” (ouch …. sarcasm can feel that way sometimes). Language hypersensitivity could render us all mute.

What Can One Person Do?

I ask that question multiple times every day. I think Farther Tim Holeda’s Awareness-Understanding-Action model may be a good guide.

To increase your awareness, start with an open mind then read things and talk to people who will help you expand your perspective. Here are some recommendations.

Book: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

Site: Being Black at School (personal note: this site and its mission are the brainchild of my friend Kelly. Feel free to fast forward past the other 1700 words in this post and donate to BBAS. It’s that relevant and necessary.)

Site: I’m Not the Nanny (especially the Multicultural Resources page)

Site: Black Girl in Maine and Blog Post: ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ IS MORE THAN A MERE SLOGAN

Article: Black Americans are Killed at 12 Times the Rate of People in Other Developed Countries

Article: What White Children Need to Know About Race

Article: White kids are bullying minority students using Trump’s words

Article: Why “All Lives Matter” is Such a Perilous Phrase

Article: Why Is It So Difficult for White People to Let Serena Williams Be Great?

Blog Post: 5 Truths About White Privilege for White People

Blog Post: 10 Ways to Practice Institutional Racism at Your Non-Profit Organization

Blog Post: All right, “color-blind” colleagues, we need to have a talk

Blog Post: Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Tale of A Progressive Professor Who Forgot To Hide Her Racism And Got Her Ass Fired

Blog Post: I Don’t Discuss Racism With White People

Blog Post: Nebraska high school A.D. writes column about the racism his students face

Blog Post: Please stop requiring anti-racism and diversity trainings for POC in the workplace

Blog Post: Police officer’s daughter asked to remove ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag

Blog Post: Taboo Sex, Racism, and Gay Men: A Chat in Black and White

Blog Post: This is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter

Blog Post: Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed

Blog Post: Why I’m Absolutely an Angry Black Woman

Book Review: A Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America

Reality: Really watch what is going on in your family, your office, your community, our nation. Sometime there is book, blog post, or article more informative than real life

To increase your understanding, all I can say is that understanding often follows from awareness. Try step one, and I’m pretty sure you’ll make progress.

Regarding action, most of the links under “awareness” also have suggested actions. For me, much of the past year has been about opening my mouth when it would be easier to be silent. I was being shuttled from home to Enterprise Rental Car a few months ago by a driver who decided to pontificate on “Muslims lying in roads” and why white people will never get along with “them” (black people). I think his words to me, I suppose born out of the fact that I was younger than him, were “just wait and see.” UMMMMM. Short of jumping out of the moving car, I wasn’t sure what to say to indicate that absolutely nothing he was saying was appropriate, EVER. I managed something like “everyone has the right to express their opinion” (about the Muslims) and “that hasn’t been my experience” (about black/white relations). I am sure I didn’t change his mind, but I had to speak up.(I also shared the conversation’s content in my feedback email to Enterprise. I never received a response.)

I love a line in Korbett Mosesly’s piece (linked to above).

I realize that institutional racism may not be your goal or intention. You may not even be aware of the complexities of racism at your organization. I hope this post moves you from unintentional racism to intentional allyship.

 

I, for one, intend not to intentionally block any more of the “interstate exits” and do my part to help everyone have access to the things they need, especially, and the things they want, as an intentional ally.

White Privilege

(This post is a response to two Mama’s Losin It Prompts: “book review” and “share a quote you love.”)