Calming Down the Swarm

It’s time to stop.

Location-based social media

What am I stopping?

I am (mostly) ending my relationship with Swarm (formerly Foursquare).

I have been checking in on Foursquare for nine years. NINE YEARS. That comes up to:

Location-based social media

My decision to (mostly) quit was pretty anticlimactic. I got a new phone in mid-December, and had to re-enter passwords for all my apps. I was having trouble (probably user error) logging back into Swarm. One thing led to another and a month went by.

Here’s what I love(d) about Swarm:

I made friends. Improbable as it may sound, I connected with people on Swarm and deepened local connections with Tallahasseeans (and others) I see rarely but still am interested in keeping up with.

Being able to support businesses and causes I loved. I have been the person to put several businesses on the Swarm system as they opened. Checking in to favorite businesses made me feel like I was giving them a bit of social media juice.

Being mayor. I know — I know — it’s so silly. But being “mayor” of places is fun – it was really enjoyable back when it resulted in perks at the businesses of which we were mayor.

The Optimism Light. The Optimism Light is a gift I gave myself a few years ago. I love this little creation of mine that adds a tiny bit of positivity to almost every day (since I cross that intersection so frequently (at least I did while I was still working outside the home)). But it’s still there. I may check in from time to time.

Here’s what I love (less) about Swarm in 2017:

Time. It only takes seconds to “check in,” but honestly. every second counts.

Risk. Specific to the Optimism Light, even IF I am at a full stop, I don’t need to be fiddling with my phone. It sets a bad example. Sigh.

Data. I’ve always been a little skittish about the amount of data I’m sharing with …. who? Whoever is at the controls at Swarm. It’s not like my phone and the location tracker can’t tell pretty much anyone who wants to know where I am, but I am growing increasingly leery of telling the world, “HEY! I’m HOME! (or wherever).”

Facebook – Less yet More. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong, but now when I check in on Swarm and share on Facebook, the image on Facebook is generic. That’s no fun. (It’s a map, which I guess is good, but it used to be an image related to the topic.) On the flip side, choosing to be on Swarm less means I’ll be checking in more often on Facebook, and I am not thrilled about becoming more reliant on Facebook. Swarm seemed to be a bit segregated from Facebook (frankly, I kept thinking Swarm would be purchased by Facebook. Almost everything else has been!).

Endings

I guess this all falls in the category of one of those habits where you do it, repeatedly (19,036 times in my case), then stop and think one day and come to the realization that the habit is no longer serving you.

I’m surprised at myself giving it up this easily. Usually I would try to do something strategic like “get to 20,000 check-ins and then dedicate the 20,000th to some significant event (sort of like my 100,000th tweet)”, but it’s just not a big enough deal for me to engineer all that.

Still, I encourage you to embrace its premise:

Location-based social media

(I’m keeping the Optimism Light’s social media accounts open, so please don’t hesitate to visit on Twitter and Facebook.)

Five Minute Friday: SIMPLIFY

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.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: SIMPLIFY

When I was within a few minutes of sitting down to write this post last night, squeezing the writing in before getting to bed early (because I had to be up for work at 5 a.m.), my husband called urgently from the guest bathroom ……… where he had discovered a half in inch of standing water.

So much for the simplicity of simply writing for five minutes.

I gave up on the blog post composition so I could get to bed as soon as we had the immediate problem resolved.

I’m still not, however, feeling the “simplicity” prompt.

I’m feeling ……… weighty ……… physically and emotionally. Maybe emotionally BECAUSE of the “physically” part.

I’ve been through the weight loss/gain cycle before (repeatedly) and find myself wondering how I got here, heavier than I was with either pregnancy and, frankly, avoiding socializing with people.

I know it seems simple to say “move more and eat less.”

When I met with my electrophysiologist Wednesday and explained that I had not had any arrhythmia episodes because I hadn’t exercised, he said “at all?” And I responded, “yes — pretty much.” (To his credit, he had good bedside manner when he said it — it could have been sarcastic but it wasn’t.)

I said to him, “I can barely remember the days when it was routine to go out and run ten miles.”

He, of course, reminded me that my medication does work (ahem) and to go at things gradually.

I’ll have to leave this one for this week with the complex issue of returning to simplicity.
Five Minute Friday

 

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

Make Your Child’s Future Dazzling with Florida Prepaid

This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Because our yard is large and has a huge tree-free area, our neighbor uses it every year to stage a pyrotechnics extravaganza (he has a professional license, so it truly is something beyond “sparklers and fireworks picked up at a state border somewhere”).

It takes Bill a long time to set up for the show: getting the license and insurance, spending a day in our yard arranging the various components of the production, etc.

Then, as the new year begins, light, sound and awe fills the air ….. for about 15 minutes.

Another way to spend 15 minutes that involves less explosions and lasts longer is signing your child up for a Florida Prepaid plan. You can even save $25 off the $50 application fee with my special code.

Florida Prepaid Experience

Ignite a Debt-Free Future

Let this sink in for a second: The rate of student loan debt among Americans exceeds $1 trillion. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. According to the Institute for College Access and Success as cited in Forbes, Florida is among the top 10 states for average student loan debt (with an average of $23,379 per student).

I wish I could tell you that my college senior (yay!) and freshman will be graduating debt-free thanks to their Florida Prepaid contracts. I haven’t managed things that well.

However, they will have less debt than they would have if my parents had not purchased prepaid contracts for them when they were newborns. Best of all, you can avoid the same mistakes our family made by securing your child’s debt-free college education before open enrollment closes next month.

Florida Prepaid Options

Every year, the Florida Prepaid program gets more flexible and adds options that suit almost every family. In my last Florida Prepaid post, I focused on the 1-year Florida University plan.

Other options include:

  • 2-Year Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida College Plan
  • 2+2 Florida College Plan
  • 4-Year Florida University Plan

You can read more about each plan here. (There’s also a dormitory plan.)

But The Start of the Year is So Busy

I know it’s a busy time of year. It’s January 7 and our tree is still up. We have pretty much dropped everything to deal with supporting my mom, who has been hospitalized 2.5 hours away since December 11. We are supposed to have had our house ready to put up for sale three weeks ago. And, especially relevant to the audience reading this, I haven’t done my children’s FASFAs yet.

It’s not overwhelming to apply for Florida Prepaid, though — I promise. In the time our neighbor entertained the whole neighborhood with his incredible show, you can diminish the chance your child will leave college in debt. As a parent who has to explain the prospect of ten years’ of student loan payments to my college senior, I assure you that you don’t want to have to do that.

It’s easy to apply. Like I said, about 10-15 minutes between now and February 28. With my code (GREEN1718). you can save 50% off the $50 application fee.

If you invest in your child (or children) by applying for a Florida Prepaid account, you deserve a treat! Take a chance at winning a $10 Starbucks treat just by learning more and spreading the word. Editor’s Note: The giveaway has ended (congrats Michelle!). Thank you to everyone who entered and helped share the Prepaid message. ~ pk 1/12/18

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Apply soon (but definitely by February 28). It’ll be a dazzling start to the habit of investing in your child’s education and success!Florida Prepaid Experience

Five Minute Friday:MOTIVATE

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: MOTIVATE

The first night we had Wayne Kevin home from the hospital, my mom held him, sitting in the recliner, I’m the dark, for hours so I could get a little sleep. I don’t know what she did to keep him calm. He was nursing so all she had was her patience, her love, and her motivation to help me by letting me get some sleep.

Over the past weeks, especially since Christmas Eve when she had a major health crisis and we weren’t sure she would survive, I have thought often of her patience with my son. Was it enough just to sit at her side while she couldn’t talk due to the breathing tube in her throat?

I thought about how many Sunday nights I had failed to call home (Sunday is our usual night) because I was more motivated to get to sleep. I thought about how desperately I want my children to want to call me.

After the crises of the last few weeks, I am motivated to do better.  I almost lost the chance.

(This post written all thumbs on my iPhone from the ICU.)
Five Minute Friday

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

Goodbye, 2017. You weren’t ALL bad.

Happy New Year’s Eve! It has been an eventful last week of 2017, with my sweet mom being very ill at UF Health with pneumonia, so I’m taking a small shortcut for today’s blog and featuring my Instagram “Best Nine” for 2017.

Working clockwise from the top left corner:

  1. It’s funny that this picture is a “best.” Obviously, it’s no great shakes from a photographic standpoint, but the original, and the delicious garlicky baked shrimp Wayne made, qualified as “bests”!
  2. Wayne Kevin’s graduation from Lincoln High School in May. HOORAY!
  3. Bella, Instagram star.
  4. The day Wayne Kevin won a senior achievement award at Lincoln for his role in designing and making tshirts for fellow students through the digital design program. Proud mom here!
  5. Bonnie (pictured here) has cut my hair since Tenley was an infant (i.e., more than 20 years). She has moved on to bigger, better, and more Nashvegas-y things. I miss her. My hair misses her.
  6. ADPi parents’ weekend (which was more like ‘parents’ two hours’) with Tenley. Langdale Plantation is beautiful!
  7. Celebrating our 25th anniversary at Kool Beanz.
  8. At Olivia’s gorgeous Pebble Hill wedding.
  9. (Center) At the beginning of graduation prep, when I shared Wayne’s invitation and name cards.

And that’s a wrap on 2017! Like many others, I leave this year with a bit of a “don’t let the door hit ya on your way out, 2017” feeling, BUT I don’t tend to look at things in that way in general.

If this particular president hadn’t been elected (sigh), I wouldn’t have discovered how strongly I feel about particular issues, especially equity, and may not have spoken up. If my father-in-law hadn’t lived with us, and I hadn’t had to be a part of his final months with cancer, I wouldn’t have understood that it’s as sacred a responsibility to see someone through their death as it is to bring a human being into the world.

My youngest graduated high school (yay!), I celebrated 25 years of marriage, and I spent enjoyable time with my daughter and saw her mature (and turn 21). My mom survived a terrifying medical episode where an ICU nurse told me “if it were my mom, I would come now” (yes, I went — fortunately the nurse’s prediction was not accurate).

Here’s hoping everyone’s 2018 “Best Nine” is full of love, smiles, happiness, health and peace.

Tracking Holiday Progress

“I want one of those watches.”

This is something my father-in-law, for whom we were caregivers for three years, said repeatedly in the fall of 2015, leading up to Christmas.

He had a tendency to watch two things – tennis or golf – on television constantly and a “fitness tracker” device was advertised often.

I don’t know what it was about that commercial or that product that captured his attention so much. Due to a series of “mini-strokes,” his memory was scrambled. He rarely remembered much of anything of consequence.

But there were the occasional exceptions (like the fitness tracker, or the one pair of pants that didn’t fit right), and when those exceptions occurred, everyone in the house knew his mind was set on the topic.

As Christmas 2015 approached, we thought we had the perfect gift for him: the fitness tracker!

Of course, we weren’t exactly sure what it was he would be tracking. He didn’t exercise. He wasn’t keeping track of how many steps he took every day. He didn’t care about graphing progress toward any goal.

But the fitness tracker would be a gift-giving hit!

Christmas morning dawned and we gathered around to open gifts.

Dad opened the fitness tracker. We expected joy, satisfaction, happiness.

We got ……. a mystified Dad wondering what the tracker was.

We explained it was the tracker he had been talking about wanting (for weeks, probably months!). He had no recollection. He also couldn’t really understand why it didn’t show anything on the display (that was our fault for not programming it/charging it up earlier).

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that he didn’t remember wanting the fitness tracker so badly. The incident mirrored so many other patterns in our life together. His retention was impaired. Although he perseverated on select items or experiences, that perseveration evaporated as rapidly as it entered our world.

My thoughts on holidays as caregivers:

Empathy is the best gift of all

One of my ongoing frustrations with Dad’s situation (not with him personally, but with the changes to his cognitive state as a result of his mini-strokes and (possibly) depression) was his utter lack of empathy. He had never been an overtly emotional or empathic individual anyway, but after his mini-strokes, my mother-in-law’s death, and a bout with head and neck cancer, he was even more depleted of the ability to feel someone else’s pain.

His lack of empathy, though, didn’t change the fact that he needed us to empathize with him. He needed us to understand (as long as it lasted) why a commercial promising fitness and fun, correlated with a cool fitness tracker, excited him. (He also needed us to understand his brain dysfunction enough to know he may not actually remember why the commercial lit a particular motivational fire within him.)

Realistic is best when it comes to holiday expectations

I can’t say we’ve ever been a family that has pulled out all the stops in the department of decorating, lavish gift-giving, or constant holiday socializing. However, when my mother-in-law was alive, we had a meticulously defined (and lovely) Christmas Eve tradition. She spent countless hours putting together stockings for every single family member, selecting just the right gift, and orchestrating a spread centered by the Advent candle and the crystal punch bowl.

During our three years as Dad’s caregivers, Christmas Eves were different. Barb (my mother-in-law) was gone, and Christmas Eve was a bit more fragmented. Our kids were growing older, with my daughter away at college, so gone was the frenzy of Christmas mornings with little kids. Still, our foursome was now a group of five, and Christmas morning took on a different tone.

Dad didn’t need the frenzy of a full house on Christmas Eve (he always faded as the day wore on – by 7 p.m. his pain and resilience were always fading).

Key to surviving the caregiving years, especially during the holidays, was being kind to ourselves regarding what we expected the celebrations to look like. Unpredictability is a hallmark of caregiving, especially when schedules are being interrupted by parties, extra errands, and visitors.

See measurement in different ways

If you have ever had a fitness tracker, you may have become obsessed with charting your progress. Did you take more steps than yesterday? Did you “win” a badge on the online app? Did you take enough steps to equate to climbing a skyscraper?

With caregiving, you have to learn to track progress differently. You may not be able to document steady, incremental progress.

With empathy and realistic expectations, however, you may be able to track the most long-lasting benefit of all: the knowledge that you took steps toward helping your loved one (and yourself) reach the goal of having a positive holiday experience.

Holiday Caregiving

pearlsband / Pixabay

Five Minute Friday: DIFFERENT

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: DIFFERENT

Five Minute Friday

I turned Spotify on to “Acoustic Covers” so that I would have music in the background as I composed this five-minute piece.

Rather than music only, I got voices. This was different than I expected. I suppose it’s acoustic as in “no electronics,” which is different than “no voices.”

“Different than what I expected” seems to be the status quo in my life lately.

(And in the case of the music I’m listening to, I end up at a different place or with a different product than I intended mainly because I didn’t pay attention in the first place.)

I’m not in one of those “ah differences are wonderful and sometimes lead us to something we like even better” moods. Not at all.

As we face the sale (hopefully — please realty gods) of this house, and continue to adjust to the empty nest, I’m struggling to reframe “different” as an “adventure” because right now it feels more like a precipice.

Our whole world seems stuck in the “yuck” of difference. We cling to what we know, feeling safe, rather than exploring (respectfully) what we don’t know (or agree with) because it just feels too scary.

Perhaps if I take a deep breath (and keep writing to sort it all out), the “different” of 2018 will transform into something positive.


Five Minute Friday

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

My Holiday Wish List

Since my writing this month has been decidedly on the dark and introspective side, I’m going to take a break today, based on a prompt by Kat Bouska, and share a December wish list.

If money were no object (sigh….)

I would be out of debt

I realize I made this bed myself, but it’s a bed I would happily burn to the ground in lieu of sleeping on an air mattress full of the light, buoyant air of financial freedom

I would be able to give my family a bigger Christmas, checking more items off their wish lists

Frankly, it has been so long since Wayne and I wished out loud for the “big” things that I don’t know what the biggest item is on his list. (Actually, I do know a trip around the world is on his list.) Guess if this wish comes true, Santa is going to need to throw in a cure to Wayne’s fear of flying.

I want to get my daughter this bag without batting an eyelash. Note depending on exactly *who* is reading this — if you’re Santa’s “elf,” I know this is not the right print. Don’t panic. 😉

Holiday Wish ListI don’t know the “big” items on my son’s wish list, but I imagine they are car-related. We’ll just go with a substantial gift card to the Infiniti Online Store. I’m pretty sure that would work!

Clothes!

Because I work from home, and virtually nothing I do right now is client-facing, my wardrobe is pretty depleted. I’ve also thrown out many items that I have given up on losing enough weight to fit back into.

I’ve always been pretty practical about clothes, but I love excellent quality and precise tailoring. This outfit is cute (but with flat or low-heeled shoes for me). With two conferences coming up in 2018 and who-knows-what professionally, I need Santa to help me up my wardrobe game.

Holiday Wish List

Generosity

I truly wish I could give so much more (time and money) to the causes I love. More help to the children our family loves in Central America and sponsors through Unbound, such as Stanley (here’s his most recent picture (he’s in the Santa hat!):Holiday Wish List

Better Spanish

I have totally bailed on my Spanish study after promising in this post that I would do better (I did enroll in the online Berlitz course, but have not been consistent at all). Dear Santa, send me to Antigua (Guatemala) or (better yet), Valencia (Spain) for a couple of weeks to improve my Spanish!

Broadway! NYC! Theatre!

Seventy-five percent of our family wants desperately to see something on Broadway.

I want to see Hamilton (duh) but I am going to be in Chicago in September so am hoping to see it there even though I would love to see it in NYC (I would also love to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform in it in Puerto Rico in 2019).

Tenley wants to see Sarah Bareilles and Jason Mraz in Waitress (so do I but I was fortunate to see Waitress last December so at least that itch got scratched a bit) and  Anastasia.

Wayne (husband) wants to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.

BUT

You didn’t think I could *just* do a wish list without a message about what really matters, did you? Admittedly, I want every single thing I listed above, but echoing in my head as I write this is a passage from Well: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa that details a young boy’s battle with a bone infection that almost led him to have to have his leg amputated. Apparently people in Togo are at risk of these infections because they don’t have toothbrushes, so they can’t brush their teeth, so they get life- and limb-threatening infections.

Perspective in the form of a $1.00 (or less) oral hygiene implement.

Holiday Wish List

Five Minute Friday: ONLY

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: ONLY

Five Minute Friday

I have been feeling many “if only’s” lately.

(Caveat: I know this is raw writing but that’s the way I roll.)

If only I had done something more lucrative right out of school and built a bigger financial base (even if I didn’t love it).

If only I had made different choices about spending, debt, finances.

If only we hadn’t committed to such a huge  house that we now have to sell, as I sweat out being able to give my kids and family a modicum of a holiday.

**

I have been listening to “Well” — a book by Sarah Thebarge — about her several-month stint doing volunteer work as a physician’s assistant in Togo.

One day, after two of her patients had died of conditions that would most likely  not have been fatal in the US, she found herself at the end ….. she wrote:

“I was out of determination, out of energy, out of motivation … out of hope.” (Note of irony: she was volunteering at a place called the “Hospital of Hope.”

She went on to say:

“I was completely depleted, completely out of reasons to keep going.”

Although I know objectively HOW MUCH I have, I also know I face the consequences of the choices I made over the last decades.

They keep me from traveling as much as I would like to, from giving generously to the causes I love (one of the reasons I try to make up for it in time and energy), from giving the people I love the things I want to give them.

I have composed letters in my head to my kids “don’t let the lack of ‘stuff’ this year make you think you aren’t loved.” I probably won’t send them.

I only wish I could make peace with the choices I made years ago for which I am paying now.

Additional Note: Sarah is now providing medical training in Sudan. Please read more about her work here, pray for her, and consider donating to the cause.

 


Five Minute Friday

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