Treating Each Other Well, Always

Treating Each Other Well, Always

A guest post by my incredible friend, Tara Reynolds, a Stage 3, Her2+ Cancer Fighter. Although it doesn’t overtly say the word “well,” it says volumes about the power of treating each other well, no matter what.

I was waiting for my next cancer scan, sitting in the Head and Neck Cancer waiting room.

Often I find conversations with other cancer patients more fascinating than normal conversations because crazy-deep views and reflections/fascinating stories of life get added in. It adds old-age value to my life.

Like this morning’s appointment when I sat next to an old alligator hunter and learned about Florida living in the mid 1900’s 😂. But sometimes it feels beyond heavy too, and I feel scared and sad, like now.

It’s the ups and downs of this journey. I feel like I’m wearing military gear that comes with ticking bombs and hundreds of pounds of metal shrapnel that weighs way too much for me. But I can see a reflection of myself, and that tells me I’m actually wearing a tank top. Can’t compute that. 😢

I’m surrounded by people who have entire chunks of their faces and neck missing, many have affected voice boxes and can only whisper. Someone’s missing a leg. My heart breaks in pieces for the ways our lives have been altered by this disease.

How I want a cure.

It got so heavy in my thoughts, that I stood up and went to the bathroom as I felt a full cry coming on. The old man coming out of our special cancer patient bathroom could barely move, and was unable to speak … yet he communicated with me. He put a finger up to me (saying “wait a minute”), turned back, shuffled in pain, and put the toilet seat down for me with a wink. In the absolute worst of times, chivalry lives!!!

I read Philippians 2 this morning.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2

I am shocked at how this man just lived out that verse in front of me. He wanted to make my weight today lighter. I flung my wimpy arms around him (in a non weight-bearing way) and gave him a huge hug. I want to absorb his love and strength. Cancer patients are allowed to get emotional with each other. I told him he is living the best life – with kindness. He pointed to me, to his heart, and then to his smile. We shared the fighting-cancer spirit look – strong smiling eyes twinkling with hope.

Always. Keep. Hope. No matter how much you cry.

Ed. Note: I appreciate what Tara shared here. (Non-diplomatic version — I commandeered her Facebook post and said, “I need that for my blog.”) She is working on getting back to swimming, something I have no doubt she will do. These are two resources that have been integral to Tara, and their donation links if you’re looking for a cause to support:

Casting for Recovery Florida Casting for Recovery Florida is a volunteer-run
breast cancer fly-fishing retreat that empowers participants to, as Tara puts it, “get back out there.”
Donation Link.

American Cancer Society Hope Lodge The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge is where Tara stayed during her treatment. Patients and their caregivers are not charged. Donation Link.

Although I have shared donation links here, I think Tara and I both agree. The best thing to give is to treat someone else well. It is as easy as putting the toilet seat down. pk

Treating Each Other Well, Always

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Although I suspended the usual rules today because I felt Tara’s message was so important, it usually works this way: “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.” It’s the creation of Kate Motaung.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “touch.” I took a bit of a liberty, because I became intrigued by Heather Gerwing’s “Share Four Somethings.” I decided to go with her template, and spend five minutes on each of the four “somethings.”

Something Loved

It’s not directly a “touch” thing (but yet it is). I loved getting to spend time with my co-workers at our Washington, D.C., office. I work remotely almost all of the time, so it’s a rare opportunity to work together in person (and socialize).

Related — I’m not sure if this is a 2019 thing, or if I have changed (read: gotten older) or if our world is just different. One funny thing about being with people you’ve come to know relatively well professionally (and, to a degree, personally) has to do with “courteous greeting etiquette.”

During the visit (and a prior visit), I was reminded of how long it took when I moved from North Florida (i.e., Deep South) to New York City and began working at Fordham University. I didn’t have much experience with the Northeastern “air kiss” and I struggled to figure it out (although I was much better at it by the time I moved back to Florida three years later).

I think what has changed for me (and maybe it is because I know many of these people a little better and have spent so much time online with them) is … it’s a little more clear who is a hugger and who isn’t … and because we have established relationships already, it’s easier to integrate differing personal styles without walking on eggshells.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Something Said

Something said to me this month that touched me had to do with the fact that a conversation I had with someone helped them feel supported and heard.

I find it easier to respond to someone else’s challenge or need to vent than I do to put together my own effort to make a point or share a perspective. (That doesn’t stop me from trying, of course! Hence this blog.)

I do feel a slight shift in the way I communicate. Honestly, I type all day and there are times when (despite most people in our world seemingly becoming less inclined to pick up the phone) it’s a relief for someone in my circle to make a phone call. I think this again is popping up mostly in work settings.

Between Slack, email, texting, proprietary systems and the variety of other ways we communicate with each other, the keyboards are busy yet our thoughts are sometimes not well-formed enough to deserve (yet) to be committed to cyberspace.

Something Learned

I apologize that this section is a bit cryptic (not the first time in recent blogging history I’ve been more cryptic than transparent).

The “something learned” is that change is constant. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve faced change, but it is occurring in a context that’s exceptionally important to me, where I only know one way to do things.

Now that a change is being made, it would be easy to panic. What if I can’t handle this change? What if it doesn’t feel the same?

Fortunately, someone involved in informing me of the change has much more history with the situation, and explained all the changes that have come before. That helped me have context. Change has happened before. Change has happened again. Change will happen in the future.

This is a bit of a side note, but Josh Spector has a great closed Facebook group for newsletter creators (if you’re a newsletter creator and interested, here’s the link to ask to be invited). In a recent discussion about low open rates, he said:

Your open rate is not a reflection of the content IN your newsletter. It’s a reflection of the strength of your relationship with your audience.

(He also said “…and your subject line” but the relationship part is what I want to focus on.)

No matter how much we rearrange the flow charts and re-engineer the way things are done, some part of change management always comes down to relationships. They’re what make people open newsletters (at least part of what makes people open newsletters) and they’re also what make people feel they have a unified mission and the gumption to give a new way a try.

Something Read

My “something read” that applies to the word “touch” is “Educated” by Tara Westover. I thought the book was phenomenal. I also thought “wow I need a comedy” when I discovered it was one of a line of books I have read relatively recently (the others being “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra and “Girl Unbroken” by Regina Calcaterra and her sister, Rosie Maloney) that involve serious abuse of a girl by a trusted relative.

In “Educated,” there was an echo of a dynamic found in the other two books (although the circumstances were completely different). Tara repeatedly returned to the situation that had been so physically threatening, even though almost every sign pointed to the outcome (more violence, more injury) being exactly the same as it had before, perhaps even worse. Westover even came close to the prospect of fatality.

Why do people go back? I know there is no easy answer, and I’m glad that, among these three books, many of the people involved found their way out and ended up in safer, more nurturing life situations.

In the case of the Calcaterra and Maloney, the system utterly failed them (as social workers and other helpers failed to see the gravity of the situation and often made it worse).

In the case of Tara Westover’s family, the parents’ choice to isolate a large family so far away from traditional civilization (and education) put these vulnerable children in a bubble from which it was almost impossible to see the non-abusive world a few miles away from them.

To see that touch doesn’t have to hurt.

April 2019 Share Four Somethings

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday (with a twist). 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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: OFFER

Have you ever had one of those weeks (or hours … or days … or months)? This week, I thought I kept all the balls in the air well enough … until it became apparent I had not.

I finished a project I owed someone — earlier than it was due — wrote it off in my head, patted myself on the back and apparently forgot to send it to the individual. THAT led to a round of “who’s on first” type communications and much self-recrimination on my part.

Fortunately, I have a few friends to whom I can privately say, “I feel like I’m losing it” and they know exactly the right words and reactions to offer.

Earlier tonight I read an incredible Twitter thread about a woman who helped a fellow passenger on the subway. The fellow passenger was experiencing seizures, and the author of the tweets said she followed the instructions on the fellow passenger’s instruction card, waiting with her through several subway stops and several more seizures until the woman (a young woman – I think she was 18) was safely home.

The author of the tweets said (paraphrasing), “We live in a society where it’s easy to call 9-1-1 when someone has a situation like this, but in this specific case, that would have led to worse things — more fluorescent lights and noises to trigger more seizures. More expense (I guess…). More invasiveness. Less comfort of being home in her own environment, with her own bed, her cat (if she has a cat but you get the point…), her dignity.

I am grateful for a friend who gave me the equivalent tonight — an ear, some reassurance, the chance to vent. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Five Minute Friday OFFER

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: PLACE

Five Minute Friday Place

Five Minute Friday: PLACE

Give the prompt of “place,” and I’m going to write about New York City.

I have always said (and believed) that I could be happy anywhere geographically. I still consider that the truth, but no locality makes my heart sing like NYC does.

I pondered that during my last visit (in January).

I felt an anxiety I haven’t usually felt as the trip approached. What if I had lost my street smarts (such as they are)? What if something basic had changed (like the time the public transit system had switched from tokens to swipe cards and I had to stand there at the machines, like a new arrival in a foreign country, clueless)? What if I got mugged? What if the decent streak that began in 1989 of essentially getting through city life unscathed, both when I lived there through 1992 and during all the visits since, ended?

Once I was settled in my AirBNB, though, being in NYC was like putting on my oldest, softest, most soothing garment.

Five Minute Friday Place

The view from Brooklyn

It’s easy to say when I know I get to come home to the relative ease (and lower expense) of living in Tallahassee, but I love (usually!) having to figure things out. Also, it’s a whole lot easier to navigate mass transit now that we have little tiny navigators in our hands through our smartphones.

The city has gotten less gritty, more gentrified, a new degree of “homogeneous” since 1989.

Still, it offers up new discoveries every time I arrive, as much about who I am as about what it has to offer.

Five Minute Friday Place

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: JUST

Five Minute Friday Just

Five Minute Friday: JUST

This is what came to mind when I read today’s prompt: the number of times (I’ve lost count…) that I have heard someone who is praying publicly use “just” frequently throughout their prayer.

That’s probably not what was intended by this prompt (I think it was supposed to be more about justice), but it’s what kept niggling at my brain. Once I became an Episcopalian, after quite a long time of being Southern Baptist, the incidents of “just” pretty much disappeared. I think this had to do with the adherence to a prayer book.

However, I’m an ecumenical enough person that I worship in many different environments, so I am still struck by a “just-filled” prayer occasionally.

Now, the only One a prayer style matters to is God. I shouldn’t care!

It’s more of an observation. It’s an observation made by Robert Sang also, in 5 reasons to eliminate the word “just” from your prayers.

And it’s a big enough thing that, apparently, an app was created to administer an electrical shock every time someone used the word “just” while praying. OUCH! (I can’t find the app in the app store; maybe it just went away. 😉

Whatever the case … I think the reason it even catches my attention at all comes from two reasons.

***end of five minutes***

The first is Toastmasters. The “repetitive ‘just'” habit irritated me before I got involved in Toastmasters, but once you are trained regarding the way filler words detract from your message, and once you are in the position to evaluate others on their speeches (because they want to be evaluated), it’s even more difficult to ignore all the justs!

The second is a bit of a dichotomy. While I know God doesn’t care how we deliver our message … and God knows our every need anyway, I also know God wants us to be direct and confident about asking for guidance and good outcomes for those we love.

As Robert Sang said (referring to a specific scripture passage), Jesus used “just” to mean “in the same way as you are in me and I am in you.” Sang goes on to remind us, “It is not a mitigation.”

I’ve done my share of not being clear about what I want (and need) over my lifetime. Of all places where I should feel free to be specific and mitigation-free, prayer seems to be that place.

Five Minute Friday Just

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

Five Minute Friday Convenient

Five Minute Friday: CONVENIENT

“It’s not what I asked for.”

How often is that true for all of us? We end up in a situation that we didn’t plan or want. It’s the opposite of what we dreamed of.

This lyric is part of “She Used to Be Mine,” one of the songs in the musical “Waitress.” I saw it last Thursday night, starring Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music. The song starts off relatively calmly and quietly, but by the time it reaches the end, the singer is leaving it all on the stage.

As an audience, we had a moment as Sara reached the end of this song. The events that had occurred and inconvenienced her character were things we all had invested in by that point.

As I was standing outside the theater after the show, at the stage door waiting and hoping to see some of the stars, someone else who had been there said, “this show makes me want to be a better person.”

I knew exactly what she meant. Theater does that for me, too. This show is “about pie,” but it’s about so much more. It’s about overcoming insecurity, about claiming your body back from someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. It’s about doing what you have to do when you inconveniently end up being responsible for another innocent human being

***end of five minutes***.

Two families that are friends of mine are dealing with very ill babies right now. One baby has gone home, and the other goes home within the next day or two. They have different prognoses, but for now each one is going to require extremely intensive medical care, both from the parents and from medical assistants. In each case, a family and their older child/children have found their lives completely turned inside out — emotionally, financially, logistically.

It’s tempting to say, “I couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be what I asked for.” I don’t know these two families intimately, but I know them well enough that I’ve seen how their situations have evolved. Despite all the complications and inconvenience, I have watched two families fall in love with their babies. They want support, and I have watched them learn to ask for what they need. But I have also seen them do what caregivers the world over have done for as long as issues have arisen with loved ones: figure it out. Love. Be Mom. Be Dad.

Convenience can wait.

Note: Here is information about my friends’ babies. Thoughts, prayers if you are the praying type, and support are all appreciated.

Jesse: Facebook page (Pray for Jesse). GoFundMe.

Lydia: Facebook page (Beautiful Warrior). GoFundMe.

And here’s Sara Bareilles singing “She Used to be Mine”:

Five Minute Friday Deep

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: BALANCE

FMF Balance

Five Minute Friday: BALANCE

Balance is misleading. Keeping balance looks like something that takes supreme caution — being exquisitely tuned to each breath, each movement, each thought.

The irony is that balance takes a certain amount of letting go of all those microscopic “what if this doesn’t work?” types of thoughts.

If you have ever paddle boarded, you probably know what I mean. Once you’re on the board, the process of staying on the board and out of the water takes an orchestration of your physical body, your mental senses, and whatever goes on in our inner ears to give us the sense of balance.

I have only been paddle boarding once, sadly, but that one time gave me the sense of what it takes to stay balanced. It isn’t what you would think watching paddle boarders from shore. It takes a wide stance (to give yourself a more solid base). It takes looking ahead and where you’re going rather than down at the water around your feet (yes, the water you could potentially end up in if you lose your balance!).

Most of all, it requires trusting yourself.

Just like in other situations where we must seek balance, if we spend the whole time second-guessing our choices, we are likely to sink emotionally.

Five Minute Friday Deep

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Five Minute Friday: VALUE

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: VALUE

Our values show in what we say and in what we omit saying.

My Thanksgiving with family was wonderful in every way, truly.

In retrospect, however, there was a moment when I froze at a when I could have upheld my personal values better. In addition, I started the problem.

An extended family member now works in an extremely rural area of the South. We were discussing all the things that are NOT in the area (decent restaurants, sufficient shopping, etc.). I asked about schools: “I guess there’s one of each (elementary, middle, high)?”. The other person said that was correct, and that there is also a private school.

I said (with, I acknowledge, a healthy dose of my own snark), “It’s probably a super-Christian Bible academy right?”

The family member said it was an “academy,” but not necessarily a religious one.

They went on to say most of their coworkers send their children to the “academy” because the public schools are “dark.”

I. knew. exactly. what. they. meant. and. said. nothing.

My initial assumption about Christian schools was no more fair than the other person’s insinuation that the reason public schools are less desirable is because they have a higher-than-average minority representation.

***end of five minutes***

Every conversation these days (many of them, anyway) seems destined to divide us rather than bring us together.

I have opinions about ultra-conservative Christian schools that are probably overgeneralizations. Having been active in a pretty conservative Southern religious tradition when I was younger, having knocked on doors when I was 17 trying to “save” people, those opinions are mainly built on the fear that they don’t teach young men and women about the array of options in our world (in a variety of ways — gender, body privacy choices, what to read/think/do), but I can’t say they all are that restrictive.

I do, however, know people in our society are doing stupid, fatal things because of the fear of people who are “dark.”

As my acquaintance Susan Turner wrote in the Holocaust Education Resource Council’s response to the Pittsburgh tragedy, “Character is one’s only possession.”

I don’t know what I could have done instead of staying silent in that interaction (besides not initiating that conversational path in the first place) that wouldn’t have created a rift or moment of tension.

But I know it is a manifestation of our privilege that children throughout our nation (and right here in Tallahassee) are still getting worse educations because of their skin color and socioeconomic status — and we haven’t found a way to insist strongly enough that this be changed.

If the idea that “every child matters” is part of our value systems, we won’t make any progress if we stay silent in those one-on-one moments.

Five Minute Friday

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.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

FMF31 2018 Day 19: WHO

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHO

Today’s prompt is one I am taking literally.

One interpretation of “WHO” is the acronym for the World Health Organization.

I end up writing and editing content about that “WHO” three days a week, because I edit the UN Wire SmartBrief.

The fact that I get to edit the UN Wire SmartBrief is such a serendipitous thing for me that I am still, more than a month into it, a bit incredulous at how things end up working out the way they were meant to.

I was slightly involved with this newsletter when I was a freelancer, searching for and writing some of the summaries for it, then my duties took me to other topics.

Once I began applying for full-time positions, two of the ones I applied for ended up being filled by other applicants (who are fantastic, by the way). When I applied for the position I ended up in, I wasn’t aware it involved editing UN Wire.

UN Wire is such a personally satisyfing piece of my job because I have been involved in Shot at Life, a United Nations Foundation grassroots effort related to helping children have access to immunizations, for years. Before that, I was involved in the UNHCR Blue Key project for refugees.

I am reminded each time I edit this newsletter about the enormity of the world’s problems, juxtaposed against the miraculous fact that people keep trying to resolve them.

***end of five minutes***

I’ve tried (and not entirely succeeded in the way I wanted to) to explain in writing how it is worth doing the tiny things (tweeting a legislator, calling a legislator’s office, sending a constituent email) to achieve monumental accomplishments.

For example, I was recently involved in a RESULTS effort to get the United States to send a representative to the first-ever “high level meeting” at the United Nations about tuberculosis. Set aside the fact that there shouldn’t even have been a question about our nation sending someone, the process to try to get it to happen involved lots of small efforts aimed at creating the critical mass of public input that would sway those in the position to decide. We appealed to our representatives and senators to sign a letter that encouraged the administration to send someone.

—to send someone to a meeting…

—that would ostensibly set in motion efforts around the world to detect, treat and prevent TB.

Source: WHO

It would be easy to give up on thinking that the five-minute (at the most) act of sending an email could make a difference, but it does.

The US did end up sending someone to that meeting.

Somewhere out there in the world, a simple email may make a difference to someone who needs the opportunity to live.

Photo credit: RESULTS

Five Minute Friday Comfort

FMF31 2018 DAY 15: WHEN

I am participating in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes 2018 (all of my submissions can be found here).

Today’s prompt is: WHEN

I am astounded at the selflessness of the people who have descended on Tallahassee and the hard-struck areas west of us (especially Marianna, Blountstown, Bay County and Mexico Beach) to lend a hand following Hurricane Michael.

In addition to the people from out of town, there are in-town people who have gone without sleep, food, showers and time with their families to start to get things back to normal (or some semblance of normal).

Living here, you always know that hurricane damage is a matter of “when” and not “if.” However, you never feel totally prepared (we didn’t anyway).

I was reading an article that gave some background on why Hurricane Michael grew so rapidly (compared to other storms). The article talked about Hurricane Kate (1985), which I was also here for.

So much has changed since then (yet so much has remained the same). Because of social media, we are better able to prepare (theoretically — once Michael had passed, much of our Verizon services (and that of other carriers) was out). Because of lessons learned from Katrina and other disasters, emergency management is handled differently and lessons are applied.

Even with all the progress, at the core of hurricane responsiveness is human beings willing to get out of bed, to risk their personal safety, to take charge of well-meaning but possibly misdirected volunteers.

My friend Ben posted this about Blountstown, a wonderful small North Florida town that was extensively damaged:

Our town has been knocked down, but we will rise as a stronger town.


Blountstown, FL

Ben is right. I am in awe right now of how many people have risen to the challenge after disaster struck.

Ed. Note: Prayers (of course) and good wishes are appreciated for all of these affected areas. If you want to make a donation, two good charities are Episcopal Relief and Development and Florida Urgent Rescue (FUR), which has been helping dogs from rural areas affected by Michael. Other options are listed here.

Five Minute Friday Comfort