Why does it matter to say “thank you” in this small way to caregivers?
Caregiving is Expensive
The costs of home, community, and facility care of elder family members has increased over the past year. According to Genworth Financial, the national median daily rate of Adult Day Health Care (providing social and support services in a community-based, protective setting) is $70, a 2.94% change since 2016 and a five-year annual growth rate of $2.79%.
Caregiving is Messy
I have grown to hate (or at least to try to tune out) most advertising around the caregiving options for elderly family members. The sweet grandma reading a story to an attentive grandchild, the sentimental music playing in the background as families gaze lovingly upon one another, the clean, seemingly chaos-free homes.
That wasn’t the case for us, and I doubt many caregiving families could relate to a situation that doesn’t involve bodily fluids, mystery smells, and stains of undetermined origin. This post lists several reasons elderly people lose momentum in the hygiene department, including depression, control (definitely a factor for us), and the fact that their senses have dimmed so much that they may not see or smell their deteriorating physical state.
(That’s why I always include hand sanitizer in the appreciation tokens — we should own stock we went through so much of it.)
Caregiving is Important, Minimally Rewarded Work
According to GoodTherapy.org, “Thirty-five percent of caregivers find it difficult to make time for themselves, while 29% have trouble managing stress, and another 29% report difficulty balancing work and family issues.”
One small token of appreciation can’t reverse the challenges created by caregiving, BUT it can remind the people doing this important work that they are not forgotten, and that their needs are recognized.
And since I like keeping it real, let’s throw in one more toilet reference. When I was looking for a great quote with which to end this post, I found (ta-da!) a rising toilet seat. It is not only elevated (we had that) BUT it has little (okay, maybe not so little — they say they handle up to 450 pounds) “lifters” that help the elderly person get up from the toilet without a human caregiver helping them. It’s one “uplifting” item in their world that quite literally DOES lift them up.
Giving these Thanksgiving tokens is a little bit like that — a small lift that lightens one small fragment of a caregiver’s day.
If You Want to Help
I got a late start this year (and I don’t have caregiving to blame!), so I am still finalizing a few details regarding how many caregivers there will be this year, but I’m working from an assumption of “50” and I’ll come in and update as things get refined.
Here’s what I hope to include:
A Sharpie (the participants at adult day stay mark their belongings with Sharpie).
Hand sanitizer (remember the “messy” paragraph above?)
A candy bar (everyone deserves a treat!)
If you’re local and can help, let me know. If you’re not local, and want to contribute, feel free to send donations via Paypal to opuswsk @ aol.com with the notation “Thanksgiving 2017.”
I invite you to help me be part of the “little cheering section” for a deserving group of caregivers.
Imagine this! Your life fairy godmother just waved her wand and *poof!* you can do whatever the heck you want to do with your time.
What do you choose?
Mama Kat suggested we blog about “10 things you would do if you didn’t have to work.” Before sharing my list, I must add two caveats:
First: I love working. There have certainly been things throughout my career that I did not love and did not do to the fullest of my capabilities, but in general I value being part of a team, contributing to a goal, making a difference. If I won the lottery, I suspect I would keep working in some capacity, but I would take advantage of the windfall to fit in a heck of a lot more of the things I am about to list.
Second: Up until May 2014, when I left Healthy Kids, I had always worked full time (with tiny breaks when I moved back to Tallahassee from NYC and my two maternity leaves). The whole time, I thought “I don’t know how I’m fitting this all in” and almost always felt like I wasn’t giving anything 100% because I was split so many ways.
Having been out of the traditional work force for three years, I can attest that (at least for me) it is true that “people who have the most to do get the most done.” When your day is unstructured, it takes an iron will to whip it into some kind of order. If I did not actually have to work, I absolutely know I would need to have some type of structure (probably in the form of work!) to keep myself together and prevent inertia. (This is why taking on a structured part-time job in January 2017 that, although it is done from home, requires my full attention from 6:45 am to 12:30 pm every day was a game changer.)
Here is my list of 10 (plus two bonuses), in relatively random order (paging Fairy Godmother STAT!):
Travel to Valencia, Spain
I took a Spanish course in college that was far above my fluency level. Ironically, I learned so much from this class — from being forced to keep up with a group composed mostly of native speakers. I am not sure exactly what it was, but something about Valencia piqued my curiosity and ignited a desire that has been in my gut for decades.
Picture me here! That’s what I’m doing. Credit: Flickr user Bruno.
A Spanish Immersion Program
Perhaps this should be in the number one slot (but I would be willing to muddle through a trip to Valencia with my less-than-advanced Spanish!). No matter how many courses I take and how much practice I get locally, nothing replaces having to live with a language for its usefulness to language learning.
Arguably, I could do more yoga starting … NOW! The minute I finish this blog post. But my list for today (besides the fact that there may well be a Category 3 Hurricane here within 48 hours) is lengthy. I have been to yoga once in the past six months, and I have missed its benefits … for my body as well as my mind. I’d love to buy an “unlimited” yoga card and use it without my mind reeling from the 1,001 other things I should be doing.
More Aggressively Pursue Options for My Tachycardia
What would I do differently about my medical situation if I didn’t have to work? (Caveat: I’m sort of assuming that along with her dispensation allowing me not work, the Fairy Godmother gives me a bit of a blank check!).
My tachycardia issue has gone far past interfering solely with my running at this point. I need to find a solution.
The nurse practitioner at my appointment yesterday scheduled me for another check in four months and said, “you know, another EP study wouldn’t be the end of the world; the circumstances that prevented an ablation before may have gone away by now.” She’s right, but I hesitate to take the time off from work (the gig economy doesn’t come with medical leave).
But there are some additional avenues I have hesitated to follow. A friend with extensive personal experience has urged me (strongly) to get a second opinion from the Cleveland Clinic. She is right (and to be fair, my electrophysiologist said he would help me pursue a second opinion if it was important to me), but I hesitate, wary of the long list of diagnostics I need to send them and the price tag. Ironically, I would (and have) advocate to any friend to be their own strongest advocate for their health.
The past year of not running has (in some very small ways) revealed some qualities about life I had been missing (hello, Saturday mornings!), but good golly I miss running. I miss exercise endorphins. I miss my running community.
Clean My House
Yes, I have written before (as recently as last week) that I know myself well enough to know I need help to overcome my housecleaning inadequacies. BUT with a little extra time, I think I could master the basics.
Help at a Public School
In my mind’s eye, this means reading with elementary school kids, but I imagine there are some middle schools and high schools that could also use a caring adult to pitch in. There’s so much work to do — teachers are stretched frightfully thin and I would love to help relieve some of the stress.
Be a Hospice and/or Alzheimer’s Association Volunteer
This one is inspired by our recent experience and the ways volunteers made the process of navigating terminal illness with a loved one more bearable. I know in our area, the outlying counties beyond Leon are more stretched for volunteers; I would be willing to drive quite a ways if it would help a family be a hair less stressed.
Go to New York City Much More Frequently
Best case scenario: I have a tiny, but safe, studio in New York that is available to me year-round and I use it. I could go with an annual two-week stay or briefer, quarterly stays. I need NYC far more often than I get it.
Take a Cruise
I’ve never been on a cruise and would love to check this off my list! I’m not too picky about which line (although Disney Cruise Lines would be extra-magical!) or where I go. I just want to be able to chime in to cruise conversations with some experiences of my own.
Spend Time at the Beach
When we went to Daytona Beach earlier this month to help Wayne Kevin with arrangements regarding school, we had dinner at the beach both nights we were there. I only got a quick glance at the sea, a few moments on the sand, but even that little bit of time was restorative.
Write More Letters
It’s no secret that I love snail mail but I send out far fewer letters than I would like. I would especially love to send out “just because” notes.
Travel to Australia
I have relatives in Australia; visiting them (and the country) would be a dream! Not sure what I would do first, or what my priority would be, but three top contenders would be to see the Sydney Opera House, to visit New South Wales (I know this is a broad desire!), and to visit something well off the beaten tourist path (I have plenty of time to come up with a plan on that).
Lacking any blog post ideas this week that really excited me, I searched for prompt ideas.
These 365 creative writing prompts from ThinkWritten came to the rescue. I decided to do number 68: “Random Wikipedia Article: Go to Wikipedia and click on Random Article … write about whatever the page you get,” mashed up with Kat Bouska’s “write a blog post inspired by the word: island.”
My Random Wikipedia Article
I have to wonder how “random” this is. Is it possible Wikipedia has some kind of algorithm? Maybe I should have done my search from an incognito window because the entry I selected for me was a) about public relations (a professional interest of mine) and b) about one of the first black pioneers in advertising (I’ve been writing about race lately here and here.)
But I’ll give Wikipedia the benefit of the doubt, and accept that the entry I received was serendipitous. Meet my subject, Moss H. Kendrix.
Moss H. Kendrix Source: Wikipedia
Who Was Moss H. Kendrix?
Moss H. Kendrix was a creator — of organizations, concepts, observances — to name a few. After reading about his life and legacy, I would add that he created something intangible but revolutionary: entirely new ways for institutions who had decided people should be fit into rigidly defined categories to see beyond walls that had been constructed and assumptions that had been made.
A native of Atlanta, Kendrix studied journalism at Morehouse College, where he co-founded Phi Delta Delta, the first African-American student journalism society, sometime in the late 1930s.
Although he was accepted into law school (it’s unclear from my research how long he attended law school), he was drafted into the Army. Related to his military service, he became public relations director in 1944 for the Republic of Liberia’s centennial celebration. This work hooked him on a career in public relations.
More Things Moss Kendrix Created
After his military service ended, Kendrix created his agency, The Moss Kendrix Organization. I love the organization’s tagline, which was apparently also Kendrix’s personal motto:
What The Public Thinks Counts!
(I can only imagine how Kendrix would handle the way we members of the public share our thoughts via floods of tweets and other social media comments, and how that would be “counted” by him.)
Moss hosted (and created, I think) the Profiles of our Times radio show on WWDC.
Moss helped create the National Association of Market Developers, which became the National Alliance of Market Developers (neither organization seems to be active right now, but they made a difference in their times). Here’s a bit of the organization’s history.
The Father of Black PR
Kendrix made a difference in public relations and became what Global Social Media News called the “Father of Black PR” because he was one of the first public relations professionals to help companies see the value of African-American buying power as well as the potential of the community to provide skilled employees to the labor market. This can’t have been easy in the late 1940s.
Most notably, Kendrix approached Coca-Cola, which was not a popular beverage in the African-American community, and presented a plan to market directly to that demographic, in a customized way. Here’s an example:
You can learn more in this article. Kendrix’s efforts had ripple effects for Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans and other minorities.
In this PRVisionaries profile, there is a fascinating feature about the National Press Club’s meeting with President John F. Kennedy in 1961 when Kennedy invited club members (including Kendrix) to the White House because he was unable to attend their annual awards luncheon. Here’s the paragraph that jumped out at me:
At the Press Institute a panel on the subject “Africa — Challenge to Mass Media,” concluded that the matter of semantics in the communication of concepts is one of the major problems confronting American mass media today.
Early 1960s or 2017: isn’t the matter of semantics in the communication of concepts still a major problem confronting American mass media today? I would argue that the issue of semantics certainly still exists, but optics have taken on an equally challenging role (although I know Kendrix’s story is founded in his relationship with Coca-Cola, I can’t help thinking how he could have been a voice of reason in the conference room where the disastrous Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad was conceived).
Kendrix’s Final Chapter
Kendrix died in December 1989. I wondered as I researched his story if his children have carried on his legacy at all. His oldest son, Moss Kendrix, Jr., retired from the Air Force and shares his thoughts on his father here. I couldn’t locate any information regarding his other son, Alan Kendrix.
There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that his legacy lives on. College students such as Tre Lamar are learning about him and taking those lessons into PR’s future. (Read Lamar’s Odyssey piece, The Moss H. Kendrix story, here.)
Which is the Island and Which is the Mainland?
Obviously, one Wikipedia article and fifteen minutes worth of research can hardly give a comprehensive picture of an individual. Conversely, I learned so much about a PR legend who is new to me.
I imagined, reading his story and learning about his life, how isolated he may have felt as he tried to convey to white advertising executives the idea that black people held potential to help Coca Cola (and other products) gain market share, when desegregation was still being fought for and long before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reinforced their right to vote.
It’s easy to view Kendrix as “the island” and conventional white America as “the mainland.”
But I have to wonder if it was the other way around and “the establishment” was the entity isolated, surrounded by oceans of ignorance and needing to be rescued (although, to be a bit cynical, the industry probably grew more accepting once they realized the financial potential of the additional customers).
I feel like Kendrix was one of the first lifeboats giving these advertisers a chance to escape the island of assumption.
This week, Kat of Mama’s Losin’ It encouraged us to write to this prompt: 10 things you have learned about politics from Facebook.
ONE: Zero Minds have Ever Been Changed Because of a Facebook Share
There have been many opinions and information pieces shared on Facebook which did change my mind or at least inform me. I’ve learned about the intensely stressful emotional, financial, and physical price of invisible illnesses. I’ve learned about laudable causes to support, inspirational athletes to encourage, great recipes. I’ve read nothing that, by itself, reversed how I felt about an issue or candidate (especially a Presidential candidate).
TWO: Private Messaging Has the Potential to Change My Mind And Is Appreciated
Our primary is August 30 (I voted early (hooray!)). A few days ago, a good friend sent me a private message in which she shared her support of a candidate for a local race and why she felt that way. I am sure it was cut and pasted; it wasn’t composed exclusively for me. However, since she took the time to choose me rather than throwing the message out to the universe and hoping it would stick, I did take notice and thank her, sincerely.
THREE: It Matters When Candidates Interact Directly
I know this is a bit of a hypothetical. I don’t expect national or statewide candidates to interact directly. Again, staying with the “wouldn’t it be nice,” when I think about how much I love it when authors interact with me directly via social media, it strikes me how much it would matter if a candidate responded directly to me on social media.
FOUR: You Learn A Lot About Each Other
Have you ever seen a friend post their support for a candidate on social media and been shocked because their post seemed so incongruous with what you know about them? Me too. My choice in that situation is typically to file that piece of knowledge away rather than fire a volley across the tennis court of social media discourse (See Number One).
FIVE: Facebook Live Gives Us Access We Wouldn’t Otherwise Have
I have found it useful that the Tallahassee Democrat has provided access to their candidate forums via Facebook Live. Doing so makes it more possible for potential voters who can’t attend a rally or forum in person to hear where the candidates stand on various issues.
Six: Your “Friend” Count Is Likely to Fluctuate In Correlation to Your Politics
I don’t post much political material on Facebook. The main candidate I post frequently about is someone I can’t even vote for (DeeDee Rasmussen, candidate for School Board District 4). Otherwise, Rule Number 1 frequently compels me not to even waste the keystrokes. This may be keeping my friend count on an even keel, but I know Facebook friendships have been lost and gained this election season.
SEVEN: Every Vote Matters
I suppose this isn’t exactly a lesson learned from Facebook, but it is one that is reinforced. I may disagree with you, I may scroll past your diatribe, I may “like” your post because I agree. I may privately shake my head and wonder how you can believe that individual will make America great again or I may privately rejoice that you, like me, are #WithHer. What I will NOT do is be sad that you plan to vote. It’s so fundamental. In the most divisive of times I will still give you a ride to the poll or do what it takes to get you there. People in some countries have given their lives for the same privilege.
Eight: There ARE Some Trustworthy Experts Out There, And Facebook Gives You Access to Them
Case in point: Steve Schale. Although I usually pick him up on Facebook, you can also find him on Twitter here.
Second example: Nicholas Kristof. One reader’s sentiment echoed mine: Thank God for your passionate journalism. Sometimes I don’t agree with you but I always respect you. Never stop doing what you do. It SO matters.
If I could think of others, I would share them. But I can’t. That’s how rare it is to find a trustworthy political expert on Facebook.
Nine: Facebook is Woefully Inadequate as a Source of Political Information
Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to be a part of a candidates’ forum at WFSU sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I am happy I got to hear so many candidates, even if they each only had two minutes. I saw such a broad array of this county’s candidates. Even the ones I could not vote for or disagreed with I gained a new respect for. Even if I had watched something like that on Facebook Live, nothing would have equaled the electricity in the room or the very American sensation of knowing that everyone who had qualified to run and accepted the invitation was getting an opportunity to put themselves out there.
Ten: Personal Action on Issues Matters
A few weeks ago, I learned from a Facebook (and real life) friend of a September opportunity that she was not going to be able to pursue, that might interest me. I quickly researched the opportunity, applied, and was accepted to be part of the Moms Rising contingent at We Won’t Wait 2016, a gathering where 1,000 community leaders and organizers from around the country will elevate the voices of women of color and low-income women and call for a comprehensive women’s economic agenda that will advance the lives of working women and families across the country.
I’m so excited to hear these women’s stories and be a part of making our nation better and more equitable for working women and families.
Given Rule #1 (above), you can bet I’ll be sharing about what I learn other places in addition to Facebook!
How about you? Has your mind ever been changed about something political by a Facebook post?
Finding our way to Mars is going to take an unprecedented amount of resolve. We’ll need the best people, the wisest use of equipment, and the most thought through of plans.
When I participated in the #NASAMarsDay NASA Social August 17 and 18, I got an in-depth look at the people, the equipment, and the plans involved in the journey to Mars. Although I had been a believer already in the idea that we will have humans on Mars in the 2030s, I am a better informed and more inspired believer now.
Although I have been to two previous NASA Socials (documented here and here), the only attention I had given specific to Mars was taking this picture as an afterthought during one of our tours:
Getting to Mars happens in stages. Currently, primary transportation capabilities have been established via the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the crew transportation vehicle. Low earth orbit missions involving the International Space Station are conducting tests of deep space hardware and operations.
The phase following low earth orbit missions, slated for the 2020s, will be proving ground missions. These initial missions near the moon will demonstrate important space systems as well as early elements of Mars transportation vehicles. Two components needed for Proving Ground missions, the transit habitat and the deep space tug, are in the early development stage.
In the early 2030s, NASA plans missions to the Mars vicinity using the vehicles and systems validated in cislunar space. These missions will prove capabilities for transit to Mars.
Lastly, in the mid to late 2030s, humans will be capable of landing on and ascending from Mars, and of exploring on that planet. Two building blocks of this phase, the Mars Lander/Heat Shield and the Mars Ascent Vehicle, are still in the conceptual phase.
Note: Some of the above information relied heavily on Boeing’s A Path to Mars. Thanks, Boeing! There is lots of indepth information from NASA here as well.
I now can speak a tiny bit more knowledgeably about friction stir welding, a solid-state joining process that produces faster, higher quality welds than traditional fusion welding by using an accurate, repeatable, and environmentally friendly process. (More info here and here.)
Short layperson’s explanation: because friction stir welding doesn’t melt the metal like traditional welding does, it doesn’t compromise it.
Additive manufacturing is essential. Niki Werkheiser said it best in this podcast: “…additive manufacturing is actually the kind of formal term for 3D printing. Traditional manufacturing is subtractive. You have a material and you take away from it. Additive is any process where you actually build the part that you’re trying to create, layer by layer, so it’s additive instead of subtractive.”
Short layperson’s explanation: there’s no Lowe’s or Home Depot on Mars. When you need a part you don’t have, you can’t go down the street to buy it. You have to know how to make it yourself out of components you already have.
Cleanliness matters. When we visited the RS-25 assembly area, we were reminded of the importance of keeping things clean, clean, clean. Even the oil from a quick touch of a finger can compromise the manufacturing process. Everywhere you go, “FOD” reminders are posted.
Note the “FOD Awareness Area” barrier around the service module conical adaptor.
FOD is foreign object debris/foreign object damage and it is apparently the devil’s equivalent in the space construction arena. (And those of you who know me best know that yes, I do have a post floating around in my mind that parallels space FOD with life FOD and how we can let the smallest piece of trash mess up a perfectly good plan … that post will have to wait!) This post is older, but it’s an example of FOD analysis and follow-up planning.
Short layperson’s explanation: when you are in a facility that constructs launch vehicles, engines, crew modules, or any other component of space travel, don’t be careless. Don’t touch anything without permission and for heaven’s sake don’t carelessly drop your gum wrapper or last week’s crumpled up grocery list. Small debris can do huge damage.
It’s Technical, But Without People the Technology Means Nothing
Between the formal presentations and the less formal exhibits, we talked to MANY people. Formal presenters included Todd May, Director of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Astronaut Rick Mastracchio, Bill Hill, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters, Richard Davis, Assistant Director for Science and Exploration, Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters; John Vickers, Principal Technologist for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager; Bobby Watkins, Director of Michoud Assembly Facility; Lara Kearney, Orion Crew and Service Module Manager; and Katie Boggs, Manager for Systems and Technology Demonstration at NASA Headquarters.
Each speaker named above shared a glimpse into their specialty. For example, Bill Hill explained the difficulty of getting through Mars’s atmosphere. Rick Davis elaborated on the need for a semi-permanent base. Katie Boggs, below, explained why we have to become independent of earth in order to be able to exist on Mars.
To watch the hour-long Journey to Mars briefing, click here. For an excellent overview of the process of assembling the SLS at Michoud Assembly Facility, click here.
When we visited the exhibit area, I learned about many additional aspects of the Journey to Mars. The Dream Chaser Cargo System is a commercial reusable spacecraft designed to provide transportation services to low-Earth orbit (LEO) destinations.
I enjoyed the opportunities to, literally, “ask a real rocket scientist” and “ask a real space architect.” I asked; I learned.
One exhibit had to do with one of my favorite NASA projects, one I have had the privilege to hear about at each NASA Social, and one even a generic layperson like me can understand: the VEGGIE project, which is figuring out how to grow food in space!
This is only a FRACTION of the exhibits we saw, the speakers we heard, and the technology to which we had access. As Bill Hill said, “We’re going to need everybody.” What I saw on this day was a great cross-section of “everybody.”
The Technology + The People Made For a Successful RS-25 Engine Test-Fire
The grand finale of our day was a test-fire of the RS-25 engine. After being transported to Stennis Space Center, we were given a tour of the Rocketjet Aerodyne Facility (there are no pictures for security reasons). We learned about how heritage Space Shuttle engines are being upgraded in order to power the SLS on its successively more complex missions related to the Mars journey.
Around 5 pm CST, we were in place at the viewing area, earplugs protecting our ears. As the test commenced, we were about 1500 feet from the plume of the test fire.
Google Image Screenshot courtesy of JR Hehnly
Here’s my image of the test fire:
But honestly, some things (such as capturing test fire images) are best left to professionals. Therefore, here is NASA’s recording:
I don’t know if the picture or the video really convey the power and awe, but it was powerful and awesome! At our “goodbye moment” in the parking lot of Michoud Assembly Facility, John Yembrick, NASA Social Media Manager, reminded us “when we go to Mars someday, you will have seen these engines in person. Imagine four of them and two boosters getting us to Mars. You can’t replicate that in pictures or on tv.” (This is a bit of a paraphrase; I don’t remember his exact words but the point was: you’re so lucky to have been here and seen this. I concur!)
I have probably driven past the exits to Stennis Space Center 15-20 times in my lifetime as I went to Baton Rouge and New Orleans on various trips. Never did I realize what a behemoth of a complex existed south of me. As our informative guide Virgil explained, Stennis is a “federal city.” The towns and people that once existed there, which were displaced so that Stennis could be built, deserve our respect and gratitude.
Other sacrifices, big and small, are being made now and have been made over the history of the space program. We all know about the lives that have been lost. Smaller incremental sacrifices occur along the way: years of study, patience with failed experiments, the dogged pursuit of Federal funding (and the constant quest to reduce expenses).
Before I talk about dollars and cents, as a mom of a daughter it is critical to emphasize that one of my huge motivators for being a social media ambassador for NASA is the fact that I want the young girls in my life (and heck, the “older” girls and women who may be considering career changes) to be comfortable with and excited not just by STEM, but by STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The first person I heard talk about STEAM was NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman and I have been intrigued ever since.
Count me in as one citizen who feels confident in NASA’s efforts and I fully support its continued Federal funding. Every dollar spent on NASA adds $10 to our US Economy.
Right before we went to observe the RS-25 test fire, we saw a brief presentation by Howard Conyers, principal investigator or the HiDyRS-X project which is refining a high-speed video camera system to provide high dynamic range capabilities with one camera. When Dr. Conyers presented a recording of a test fire from the naked eye and a test fire from the HiDyRS-X camera, it was stunning to discover how much detail is missed by the naked eye, especially once the images are slowed down in infinitesimally small increments. I recall seeing how there was shimmy in the nozzle once the advanced technology was used.
The presentation of the HiDyRS-X camera was a perfect example of a principle that will get us to Mars: technology + people + tenacity to solve problems and find answers.
Let’s pull this blog back up in 2040 and see how it all went. You know what? Maybe an astronaut on Mars will send me a screenshot of this very blog on their screen and prove that we did indeed make it. Now that’s the kind of 2040 email I would like to find.
This post is inspired by the following Mama’s Losin’ It prompt: Write a post where the first and last sentences contain any form of the word “find.”
Please visit my Facebook album from this NASA Social here (expect some New Orleans food and drink pictures too!).
When she moved from New Jersey to Manhattan to attend drama school, she continued returning home on the weekends to be part of the teen club scene in New Jersey. One weekend, her mother refused to pick her up at the train station, insisting that the only way to have a life in New York City would be … to have a life in New York City.
“But how will I get into clubs?” 17-year-old Michelle wondered.
Before long, a package arrived at her dorm (the Beacon Hotel) which contained a fake ID and a notarized fake birth certificate to back it up. Michelle Shupack had rapidly “aged” a few years and been rechristened a student at the University of Texas. Yeehaw.
Although I would never do the same for my daughter or son, and never would have sought out the same thing for myself, it worked out pretty well for Michelle (who didn’t drink then and doesn’t now). She says that once she got into the NYC clubs, “it was there, in those dark, sweaty, legendary dance halls at The Underground, as well as the Palladium, the Copa, the World, and Tracks, that I started working it every night, and where I made all the connections that would lead me to where I am today.”
When I bought The Diva Rules, I will admit it was because the audiobook was on sale on Audible and I was out of credits. It didn’t take me long to be glad I ended up listening to the book (which I’ve listened to twice — a rarity for me), and I now own the hard copy.
I loved many things about this book. Here are the main takeaways, one thing I disagreed with, and a piece of advice:
The NYC Pier/Club/Vogueing Scene
If you’ve known me for more than thirty minutes, it’s likely you know how much I deeply love New York City. That’s probably one of the reasons I was in intense like with this book within a few pages. The New York City Michelle experienced is one I never did, but I loved learning about the sense of community she felt in the clubs, how she was part of the vogueing trend, and the pier queen scene. What she described about the community and family structure helped me understand why so many patrons considered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando as more than a club; it was a safe place. It was family.
Presence Trumps Perfection
This was one of my favorite lines from the book. It addresses one of my constant struggles, the struggle to not let myself get paralyzed when things aren’t perfect enough. It addresses the fact that pretty much every supervisor I have had has, in one form or another, said “you need to have more confidence in your decisions.”
In the “Presence Trumps Perfection” “T (Truth),” Michelle writes what she would tell her 19-year-old self (“stop being so hard on yourself”) and shares one of her favorite RuPaul quotes, “What other people think of you is none of your damn business.”
Exposure Won’t Put Food on Your Table
If you’re at all involved in blogging circles, you’ve probably been a part of the recent discussions of why working for “exposure” (something some brands offer instead of cold hard cash) doesn’t put food on the table. Well, here’s Michelle echoing that, word for word (see page 99). “…when it comes down to it, exposure won’t put food on your table.”
I have been part of several multi-thread discussion recently among bloggers about the fact that a brand that offers you “exposure” rather than monetary compensation is not recognizing your worth as a blogger. That said, there are times when exposure is helpful. I am new enough to blogger land, especially sponsored blogging, that I have chosen to do some projects for “exposure” or in exchange for product only in the hopes that it will help me be more prominent as a blogger and prove myself.
What I still have to force myself to shut up and not say is, when I have done a cause-related project for which I was compensated, saying to the brand/cause, “I would have done it for free.” Because if I choose to write for a cause it is probably technically true that I would have done it for free — I don’t accept assignments that I don’t believe in. But even causes/non-profits have budgets for communication and what favor am I doing myself if I hint at the fact that they really didn’t need to pay me in the first place?
But About Those Dockers
When I decided to listen to the book a second time so I could narrow down which takeaways I wanted to focus on, I kept remembering “but there was one thing I disagree with.” I didn’t recall what it was … until I got to Diva Rule #18: Never trust a man in Dockers. After reading WHY she doesn’t ever trust men in Dockers, I have to say the one bad apple clad in khaki really did give her a compelling reason to distrust guys in pleated tan Levis.
Given this small glimpse into my husband’s closet (believe me, the rest looks pretty much like this), I can attest at least one Dockers-clad guy out there isn’t all bad!
Doing Things Differently Brings Joy
Here’s something that gave this book a spark of joy I have rarely felt from books recently. It’s DIFFERENT! It’s UNIQUE! It makes me think in terms of glitter and hot pink zebra print!
The sparkly glitter starts on the cover!
What you see the minute you open the book!
Even the Table of Contents is different – color blocks instead of lines of text!
One recommendation I have if you decide to read The Diva Rules is to get the audiobook version. It’s just different hearing Michelle Visage herself narrate her life story. I mean the Pier Queenese lesson on pages 62-63 is SO much more entertaining when you’re listening to Michelle give it verbally rather than just reading the words. (But as you can see from the images I’ve shared from the hard copy of the book, it also has its fun points too (glitter, zebra, etc.!).
Other books I recommend on audio because authors narrate them include:
This post was inspired by a Mama’s Losin’ It prompt: Talk about something you were allowed to do as a child that you will not allow your child to do. I wrote about how Michelle’s mom had gotten her a fake ID and accompanying fake birth certificate.
Inspired by Michelle’s unique style, here’s a little green zebra treatment of that question! What’s your sparkly answer?
Quick! When you think “perfect place to work,” what workplace characteristics come to mind? Lucrative compensation? A great product? How the idea of saying “I work for [insert name of organization here] makes your soul leap?
It took me a long time to read this book, so the processing of its tidbits happened in small “a-has” rather than instantaneous epiphanies. This pacing was well-timed given my two-year odyssey of trying to process my choice to leave my full-time job and evaluate my next steps.
The Power of Everybody
Because it took me so long to read this book, I had the opportunity to type the title repetitively as I logged my “Friday Reads” on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. Almost every time, I could remember the “Everybody Matters” part but I am sure I mangled the rest (which is technically “The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family”), never remembering if it was “extraordinary,” “incredible,” or some other superlative! As the book states early on, though, even if I couldn’t remember that level of specificity, “everybody” really does mean “everybody,” and “not just the fortunate few or the exceptionally talented.”
The Power of Clear Communication
There is a lot of writing out there about clear expectations and how if you don’t have a goal, you probably won’t get there. I love how this book took that concept one step further — how clear expectations are the catalyst that can help people motivate themselves.
“When people know their goal, they are inspired to express their gifts, and they discover capabilities they didn’t even know they had.”
I also appreciate the organization’s utilization of the power of storytelling, self-awareness, and vulnerability: “We believe that real people telling real stories creates real learning.” I concur!
The Power of an Abundance Mindset
Many of the businesses Barry-Wehmiller acquired had been run into the ground, organizationally, financially, and morale-wise before the acquisition. One of the most challenging hurdles Barry-Wehmiller faced was helping staff in the newly-acquired organizations believe that business could be about more than budget reductions and process modifications designed to cut corners.
We don’t have to win every project. We need to enter into responsible relationships with responsible people who value what we bring to the table.
The Power of Honoring Life Outside of the Workplace
This topic is huge to me. As a worker who has recently transitioned from a “traditional” workplace to a virtual one, I have been thinking even more than previously about the configurations of the work parts of our lives and the non-work parts of our lives. The way we divvy up our energy is simply not black and white.
The authors write, “We don’t draw a line between behaviors within the workplace and how people can apply them at home. What surprises participants is that we encourage telling stories about our home lives as much as we talk about the things we do in our leadership roles at work.”
The passage below is not so much about time and energy as it is about the actual essence of the self. I love it:
An important take-away for participants learning our approach to leadership is that they can be — indeed, must be — the same person at work that they are at home. They don’t need to wear a mask to work. The Leadership Checklist is not just for the eight or ten hours people spend in the office or in the factory. It’s for all twenty-four hours and every aspect of their life.
The Power of Reciprocal Commitment
The book interweaves a theme throughout about how co-workers should regard one another and their roles. In their Leadership Fundamentals classes, “We ask participants to set their organizational identity aside for the duration of the course; they don’t know if the person next to them is a CFO or a plant leader…..We specifically say, ‘Please do not talk about your title or the actual day-to-day work that you do. We want to know who you are as a person.”
Along with that effort to peel away “title” identities for the purpose of learning and growing, the authors remind leaders, “if you think you are too busy to give time and energy to your people, then they’re too busy to give time and energy to you. It is a balanced equation.”
The Power of … Well, POWER
As I mentioned above, when an organization is in the business of acquisitions, there is a constant “newness” for the personnel at the acquired organization. Reading these sentiments made me think of a time in my previous organization. I had a new supervisor, who reported to the Executive Director. We had been discussing some decision that had to be made, but apparently my co-workers and I were consistently expressing a tone of “but what if the Executive Director doesn’t want it that way?” You could have heard a pin drop in the room after he asked:
Why is everyone so afraid?
I can only imagine the fear at an organization that has experienced adversity after adversity, broken promise after broken promise. Therefore, I appreciated this sentence: “The cycle of caring begins with you,” as well as “since when do you need a memo from corporate that tells you that it is acceptable to be good stewards of the lives in your care?”
It is hard to build trust again after it has been broken repeatedly. That’s why it was so heartwarming to read one person’s opinion on page 229: They’ve done everything they said they were going to do.
Finally, something I think about often as I watch my 16- and 19- year olds grow up is personal accountability. I see them and their peers simultaneously sharing minute and intimate details of their lives with an extremely broad array of people via social media, but also being disconnected from looking people in the eyes, having to research facts without Google, and not necessarily having defined long-term goals (not that you have to have that when you’re a teen, it just seems different than the outlook I had at their ages). I hope they grow to understand this:
I am the message.
These four words, to me, show recognition that you may be “fed” information, given instructions, old where to go and what to do. But ultimately what the world sees is the message through you. You are the message, in everything you say and do.
And when it comes to messages, everybody’s extraordinary message does indeed matter.
All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Our Community LISTENS, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing powerful Communication Skills Training to communities throughout the United States.
This post is a response to Kat Bouska’s writing prompt: BOOK REVIEW!
NOTE: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. These effusively positive opinions are all mine.