Grateful Challenge 2016

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive compensation for books you purchase through these links. 

Personal Gratitude

For the fourth consecutive year, Gini Dietrich and Spin Sucks have hosted the Grateful Challenge. While the base model is “try to write down everything you’re grateful for and get to 99 items in ten minutes” (as I did in 2014 and 2015), Gini’s 2016 version deviated a bit from that plan and so will mine (I mean, come ON, has 2016 complied with “predictable” in any way whatsoever?). While it will be utterly impossible for me to top Gini’s #10, gratitude is not a competition and I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on (and share) the places, people, values, and experiences that made the year unique.

Note, the only way this list resembles the “write down as many things as you can in 10 minutes” model in any way is the fact that they are not in any particular order. These are the fifteen items that came to mind, in the order they popped into my head.

My Impromptu Trip to NYC in June

I knew that my friend Mary Jane, with whom I did the 2015 New York City Half Marathon for Team in Training, planned to do the NYC 10K Mini in June 2016, but never planned to join. I had my sights set on doing a Disney race with her in early January 2017.

Less than a week before the 10K Mini, I learned that she would not be doing the Disney race in 2017 because she would be undergoing a stem cell transplant related to her Multiple Myeloma iin Fall 2016. Five days before the 10K race, when we were messaging each other, she said, “come do the 10K. You have a place to stay.” Long story short, I bought a plane ticket, finished up all my work for Weaving Influence, registered for the race,and …….. became an unofficial part of Mary Jane’s team at the New York Mini on June 11.

Any day in NYC is a happy day for me. So grateful that my family made the sacrifice financially for me to fly to NYC on virtually zero notice, that Mary Jane and her family welcomed me with open arms, and that I had an unexpected four days in my happy place. It truly did make me happy. So happy.

Personal Gratitude

Mary Jane, Me, Mary Miner (we all worked together at Fordham University)

Our Michigan Trip in July

My husband, Wayne, had a class reunion in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in July. He and my son drove to Michigan, with stops along the way at places like the Corvette Factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Chicago, and Upstate Michigan. I got my father-in-law settled in respite care at an assisted living facility for eight days and flew up to meet them for part of the trip.

I *love* traveling and enjoyed this opportunity to reconnect with family and friends in Michigan, to be part of the class reunion, to take in a Tigers game, and to visit Greenfield Village in Detroit.

As grateful as I am for the travel, having my father-in-law completely dealt with by someone else for eight days was also BIG. I swear as much as I loved the travel, I loved having 24 hours in the house to myself and being able to get all the carpets cleaned before I picked him up. 

Personal Gratitude

At a Tigers Game on 7/17/16.

Journey to Mars NASA Social

On August 17 and 18, I participated in a NASA Social in New Orleans and Mississippi. The social was all about the Journey to Mars. This was my third NASA Social and my first to take place at a space center besides Kennedy Space Center. I loved learning about a new (to me) space center and who doesn’t love an opportunity to go to New Orleans?

So many things about this trip were highlights. The learning about NASA was excellent (including seeing a test firing of one of the engines that will be part of powering the journey to Mars), the food was fantastic, and the opportunity to reunite with my best friend from childhood was such a treat for my heart!

Personal Gratitude

Soooo grateful to spend time with Paula!

Personal Gratitude

At the Aerojet Rocketdyne Facility with one of the engines to be used to propel the Journey to Mars.

Personal Gratitude

Jonathan had never had beignets before (!) so we had to remedy that.

I’m grateful for New Orleans, a city that has overcome so much, for the friends and food there, and for the fact that NASA and its contractors put really big components together there so I had an opportunity to go!!

Harry Was Wrong

Maybe if I was a guy writing this …. I wouldn’t write this. But I believe Harry was wrong when he told Sally men can’t be friends with women because they only have one thing on their mind. It takes respect and discipline to be friends when life could have taken two people other places, but who better to have as a friend than someone who had chosen to respect your choices and still share generously in the journey of life?

Personal Gratitude

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

I’m grateful for another year of a friendship that proves Harry wrong. 

Family, Together

It seemed like time flew between my niece Jessica’s announcement that she and Eric were engaged and the day we were scurrying around, with two men in the house trying to figure out tuxedo pieces, and Tenley and me doing hair and makeup as we prepared to step into long dresses (while getting my father-in-law into a suit). But November 12, 2016 dawned sunny and perfect, and although I can’t say “perfect” often describes the ins and outs that are part of being a family, for a few moments in that day, we were reminded that more often than not we continue to make an effort to be perfectly united.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for Wayne (husband), Tenley, and Wayne (son) (and Wayne (father-in-law)).

Flexible Work

Because someone has to be home with my father-in-law, I am grateful that I have flexible work which contributes to the family bottom line. It’s not just the fact that it’s flexible work, though, it’s the fact that Weaving Influence has core values (of which flexibility is one) and strives to live those values daily.

Personal Gratitude

With Whitney Heins, Becky Robinson, Jennifer Kahnweiler, Christy Kirk, and Kylah Frazier, Weaving Influence Team Members and Supporter. July 2016

I am grateful to be able to work and provide care for my father-in-law simultaneously.

Girl Scout Cookies, Friendship, and Advocacy (Not in that Order)

I have been involved with Shot at Life since 2013, and in addition to the rewarding work of advocacy on behalf of children around the world who are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, I have made the most wonderful friends.

I also may or may not have been part of a scheme to hide girl scout cookies behind a dumpster at the US Capitol when security would not allow us to bring them in. I won’t say more, but just know there are girl scout cookies being consumed in the picture below and this picture was taken AFTER the Capitol Contraband Cookie Caper.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful to know smart, caring women (and men) who are doing their part to make the world a better place. I am, of course, grateful for Thin Mints but I figure that goes without saying!

Stumbling Blocks on Fitness Road

Wow, was I ever optimistic way back in 2015 when I thought I could keep running, albeit more slowly, as long as I took my beta blockers before I ran. Without looking it up, I can’t tell you what day I stopped running (for now) but having to be taken back to the finish line of a recent 5K by a golf cart instead of my own two feet was a decision point for me.

Personal Gratitude

At the Stop the Violence 5K, BEFORE the race. Turns out Harper (the dog) and I each had our own struggles that day.

Still, I am grateful for the running community, that medical science (hopefully) will continue to find new answers to challenges like mine, and for the young man I run (walk) for, Gareth, who motivates me to keep moving.  

Reading

I love reading and have enjoyed some fantastic books this year. It would take an entire blog post to discuss favorites but I’ll chose two. A book I enjoyed on paper was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. I was motivated to pick it up because I was at the Detroit Airport, needed something to read, and had just seen the Wright Brothers home and shop when I had visited Deerfield Village.

On audio, it’s so difficult to choose. I need to give a shout out to Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Of all the books I have read this year, it’s among the top five at motivating and encouraging me.

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for reading, for its power to unlock my imagination and ignite my spirit. 

My Parents

My parents have gotten the short end of the gratitude stick from me many times over the decades, but they have responded with grace and generosity. I am beyond appreciative.

I don’t have a picture of the three of us together from this year to share, but I am grateful.

Blogging

Oh blogging, how has it been seven years already? I pulled up a post from 2009 today and flinched a little bit seeing the long unbroken paragraphs, the image I may have pulled off of Google images (that I replaced!), the lack of a meta description, and other signs that I really didn’t know what I was doing back then (not that I know now!). But blogging has given me such a fertile outlet, has connected me to so many incredible people, and has provided opportunities to earn additional income. Thanks, blogging.

I am grateful for blogging, and especially grateful to everyone who reads my blog, comments on it, and shares.

Toastmasters

It has been a fun year at Toastmasters, and I am happy to have closed it out with an opportunity to compete in the District Evaluation Contest and the District Humorous Speech Contest. Coming in 2nd in the evaluation contest was a welcome surprise. Not placing in the humorous speech contest was a humbling experience that inspired me to keep on trying. Now life needs to hand me something hilarious to discuss! (I should probably be careful what I ask for).

Personal Gratitude

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about speaking, evaluating, and running meetings from Toastmasters.

Eldercare

Eldercare is not easy. I imagine when the perspective is reversed, being the elder isn’t a walk in the park either. I have no rosy “this situation is teaching me lessons I need” kind of takeaway here (although I do believe that is true). But dad is our patriarch on the Kiger side and I am glad to be able to do my part.

I am grateful that despite the many challenges, we have so far figured out a way to care for dad at home and (hopefully) provide him a place where he knows he is cared for.

Interacting With the Most Incredible People

So many people come to mind who are on my “grateful list” for this year. Many of them ended up in my life through blogging, advocacy, or both. I have to conduct phone calls wherever I can since the main tv in our house is usually on VERY LOUD TENNIS, and I will not soon forget sitting on the floor of my bedroom. a couple of sheets of paper in my hand, talking to Mark S. King for our collaboration on a CDC-related blog about encouraging people to get tested for HIV.

It’s too long of a story for this blog, but I believe it is possible that Representative Gwen Graham would go to Costco with me, as we discussed when we met about Shot at Life. I may have been in an office in Washington, D.C., but it felt very much like I was on a front porch in North Florida. She has a gift.

Personal Gratitude

Visiting Rep. Gwen Graham in Washington, DC

Be open to meeting new people and hearing their stories; you will be grateful for what you learn.

Silence

I know ….. silence? I think often of the silent retreat I did in March. It was only six hours but those six hours were probably my longest unplugged period in a while. It was a different experience, one which made me question whether or not I really want to do a multi-day silent retreat somewhere (I do…), but it was a reminder that it’s easy to give in to the world’s distractions and lose touch with the places, people, values, and experiences that really matter.

Personal Gratitude

For the highlights of 2016 I’ve mentioned here, and for the ability to gather more moments in the year to come, I am grateful. 

thoughtful-thursdays4

8 New Words In an Evolving Language

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation.)

I love language. I can’t remember a time when I was not an avid reader, and I’ve always enjoyed wordplay.

I can be a stickler about many things English-language related (hello, beloved Oxford comma), but I recognize that the English language is a living, breathing entity, not a static one. Social media has, to me, put the evolution of English on hyperdrive.

I think of all of the words consigned to word graveyard because a hashtag takes their place. For example, in this tweet…

…an “I” and an “am” and a “so” all remained home in the word farm stable, unused, because a hashtag did all the heavy lifting for a passage which would have otherwise read “After an intense homework session, finally going to bed. I am so tired.” (I do this frequently too, I just couldn’t find an example when writing this post, so thanks @stinger444 for the perfect example.)

New Words in an Evolving Language

The way our language usage has changed due to Twitter and other forms of social media is a topic for a whole post of its own. What I want to talk about today is new words which I have come across in the last year that made me go, “HUH….”

In some cases, they are words that are a bit ingenious in representing a particular concept. In others, they (to me) signal either a new humanitarian sensitivity or, in some cases, a walking on eggshells nod to political correctness.

Prior to writing this post, I looked up “how a word gets into the dictionary” which has a great infographic detailing the routes words take to being “official.” For each word, I’ll let you know if it’s in the dictionary yet and I’ll share a few thoughts on the word. They’re not presented in any particular order. I just added them to a draft post as I ran across them.

Previvor

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I don’t recall where I first read this word, but I think it may have been in reference to Angelina Jolie in an article like this one from the Washington Post.

previvor is the survivor of a predisposition to cancer who has not had the disease, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation or other genes related to Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).

This is one of those words I want to be aware of. If someone uses it in a face-to-face conversation, I will be more prepared to understand the fears/emotions/challenges inherent in the fact that they are a previvor. Likewise, if someone uses it on social media, I won’t have to ask “what’s that?” and can respond in an informed and empathetic way.

If you are a previvor, this site, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), may be of support.

Latinx

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I don’t recall where I first read this word either, but for quite some time I thought it was an unusual typo and I could NOT figure out how to pronounce it. It’s not a typo. (Thanks, Complex, for cluing me in.)

According to Complex (linked above), Latinx is pronounced “La-TEEN-ex” and is a “gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent.” In addition, “used by activists and some academics, the term is gaining traction among the general public, after having been featured in publications such as NPR to Latina.”

(By the way, the author of the Complex piece on Latinx, @yesipadilla, refers to herself as “Xicanx” so I think I see a trend!).

I’m glad I now know that Latinx is not a typo. I know that if someone uses it, they are explaining something important to them about their identity and how they want to be seen in the world. It’s one of those words that reminds us not to make assumptions.

It’s not like I have any authority to recommend a great site for the Latinx community, but since my work related to the CDC’s efforts around HIV Awareness is so important to me, I’ll highlight one of the first places I heard about the term Latinx: National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (October 15). If you can recommend a general resource for those who identify as Latinx, I’d love to know about it.

Cisgender

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? YES

The first place I really recall hearing this word frequently was at the We Won’t Wait 2016 conference in September, which had several sessions related to issues facing the transgender and LGBTQIA+ communities. Then I read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, a book which used this term, and decided I really needed to figure out what the reference meant.

According to Merriam-Webster, cisgender means of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth. For examples of how it is used, read the full definition here.

I have to be honest. The word “cisgender” sits funny on my ears. BUT I can see why it is useful, as part of the current dialogue about gender identity. There was a teen highlighted in Beyond Magenta who was a boy transitioning to a girl who went to an all-boys school. It sort of made me wonder about the world I’ve always known, which so tidily segregated boys from girls. Boys’ schools, girls’ schools, boys’ teams, girls’ teams. Things are changing. People who find themselves somewhere in the middle ground between “I 100% identify as male” and “I 100% identify as female” have a language to more accurately reflect the fact that they are on a journey whose terminology does not provide definition at times. Another area where I can converse in a more informed way now that I know.

To learn more about how to have a dialogue about gender identity, this is a helpful resource. It’s directed at teens but if you’re like me, your knowledge about gender issues may NOT correlate with your chronological age. We all need to start somewhere.

Cultural Appropriation

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

The first place I recall hearing this phrase was in a post about a Disney-themed costume. I believe it was an article like this one about a Moana costume. The term “cultural appropriation” has continued to assert itself in the content I read. I don’t recall if the exact term was used, but if not the concept itself was covered in Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.

In About News, Susan Scafidi defines Cultural Appropriation as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

I struggle with this one (but I do, for starters, understand it and believe awareness is key). If you know me at all, you know I am a proud double alum of Florida State University. Since I became a freshman in 1982 through now, I have seen changes: Lady Scalphunters are now Lady Spirithunters, for example. I realize it was disingenuous to parrot back what I was always told: “well the Seminole nation is okay with it.” But rightly or wrongly I still embrace Seminole fan paraphernalia and …… well, it’s a work in progress.

This resource I found about cultural appropriation was the best kind of resource: it involves your mind while engaging you in an activity beyond reading. I present: Cultural Appropriation Bingo from Dr. Sheila Addison.

Phygital

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I learned the term Phygital from a Spin Sucks blog post, Four Phygital Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business, by @openagentoz.

Phygital customer expects a brand to combine the physical and the digital for a best-of-both-worlds experience

Honestly, after Cultural Appropriation, I’m just happy to have a word that isn’t laden with challenge to discuss (but hold on to your physical hats and enjoy this section because Othering is coming up next).

Knowing the word Phygital makes me feel up to date on marketing trends. I personally *love* being a consumer contributor of Social Snaps, such as this Fitbit/Giant Microbes/Shot at Life Instagram post.

Evolving Language

For more about all things “phygital,” transport yourself way back to 2012 and read this.

Othering

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

There are No Others defines Othering as “any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us.” Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.”

This is another term that is new to me. I think it was in Waking Up White (linked above), but I read the audio and can’t easily look it back up. Regardless, I’m hearing it often and my consciousness is raised. This is somewhat tied into the compulsion to “help” that I grew up with. I *think* my support of Unbound is sensitive to “othering” but how many times have I written about “those in poverty” and really done so in a way that respects each individual’s worth?

There are some good resources for learning about “othering” here.

Carefrontation

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I first heard this term used by Dan Negroni, author of Chasing Relevance. Although I can’t find that reference anymore (why on earth didn’t I  hang on to the link then?!, a twitter search turns up lots of instances).

As defined on Oprah.comCarefrontation is “putting our heads together to reach a common goal.” Read the complete post here.

I know I avoid confrontation, and by doing so lose out on opportunities to have peace of mind and to actually get things I want. Maybe there’s something to be said for, as the Oprah.com article recommends, implementing a three-point plan of preparing with care, offering an invitation to talk, and practicing no-blame talking and listening.

Where to find more about Carefrontations? I could link to this but then I would have to add “choice points” to my list and I feel like I’m at capacity right now. 😉 Here’s a post about it from Great Leadership that’s a good read.

Fungineering 

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary? NO

I first heard this term used in this New York Times book review of Why Are Americans So Anxious? related to Zappo’s.

Fungineering at Zappo’s is defined in this article as “a kind of events-planning pep squad.”

I just like “fungineering” because it’s a neat word mashup and portrays some of the out-of-the-box ways organizations can bring humor and joy to the workplace. However, I was alarmed at the reference in the book review to how the author seeks input from Zappo’s happiness evangelist Tony Hsieh: “Whippman has a weird email exchange with Hsieh in which he uses lots of exclamation points and refers to the ‘holacracy’ and ‘brand aura’ (she doesn’t know and neither do I). But he declines to meet with her because he doesn’t prioritize people he feels ‘drained by after I interact with them,’ he writes.”

Where to find more about fungineering? I’m guessing you might not want to contact Tony Hsieh directly but if you’re in College Station, TX, this may be an option to explore.

WHAT NEW WORD WOULD YOU ADD TO THIS LIST? 

Evolving Language

A Series for Women Like Me: The Other F Word

Midlife Women

This post is sponsored by “The Other F Word.” All opinions are my own.

It’s official. I have now watched my first Amazon Streaming series. It’s a running joke among my friends, and documented in my Spin Sucks inquisition, that I am a streaming video late adopter. Very late. But there’s hope, and in this case hope begins with an “F word.”

The Other F Word

I was recently introduced to The Other F Word, a comedic coming-of-age series about four women friends who deal with the highs and lows of mid-life as they reinvent themselves now that their kids are grown. In this case, the other F word(s) are “Forty” and “Fifty.”

Midlife Isn’t What I Thought It Would Be

One sentiment throughout this series is one I keep thinking about as I forge ahead into my 50s: this isn’t exactly what I thought life would be at this point. Not that I’m not grateful, but reality has a way of throwing curveballs at you. The women of The Other F Word get their own curveballs, including:

  • A husband who dies at his wife’s skydiving 50th birthday party
  • A husband who says “you may need to get a REAL job now, and I don’t mean Pampered Chef”
  • A husband who suddenly decides to leave his job (and his country) to do Peace Corps-type work abroad for a year

This Series is Relatable

The entertainment industry’s track record on diversity has not been stellar (click here for an example about lack of diversity in television). Creator Caytha Jentis started down the path to bringing The Other F Word to life when she asked, “why are there no tv shows about us?” She’s right! (Hear more from Caytha in this Writer/Director statement.)

I love how the character Amy has actual laugh lines on her face. As a fellow midlifer, I see beauty in those laugh lines, not lack of attractiveness. She’s like me: imperfect but trying to figure life out.

I love how the characters’ children act like the college-age children I know. They love sentimental actions (like Amy cooking her special chicken parm for her son and his roommate). They ask for money. They have jobs we don’t understand (social solutionist anyone?). The version of their relationship truth they tell about their love lives is, um, “sanitized” for parental ears.

I’m not sure the college age children would have a clue what goes on with mom (and dad) when the chicken parm congeals and the “bills” to pay the rent that came to fast are spent. Watch Episode 8 where Amy, Orly, Trish, and Diane play “never have I ever” and you’ll see what I mean!

The Other F Word Trailer from The Other F Word on Vimeo.

This series is real …. about the emotions we feel and the consequences we face in our forties and fifties. Marry your college boyfriend and stay home with the kids? Your monogamous faithfulness and dedication may leave you lonely and unprepared for the request “well show me your CV if you need help finding a job.” Choose to get involved with a much-younger man in a relationship “with a shelf life” and you may find yourself without a suitable “plus one” at a theatre industry function. These women laugh, drink, nurture, write, create, earn, cry, take risks, have sex, and through it all manage to face their fears and have fun.

Find The Other F Word For Yourself!

You can watch all eight episodes on Amazon by clicking this link.

Visit the website of The Other F Word by clicking here:

Find The Other F Word on Facebook here.

Tweet With The Other F Word’s team on Twitter here.

What Is YOUR Midlife F Word?

Forties.

Fifties.

Is there an “F” word you would associate with your life currently?

This series combines “fun” and “fear” (as in, overcoming it), “friendship,” and “fur” (there’s a dog, Max …. he’s really cute and plays a pivotal role!).

For me, the “F” word of my fifties may in fact be “fragmented” – as a wife, mom, friend, worker, volunteer, and caregiver for my father in law, it rarely feels like I have it all together. Thanks, The Other F Word, for four new relatable friends!

Midlife Women

Trish is mirroring her daughter’s coursework to “help” her. My kids don’t need to get any ideas from this!

Introducing the Modern Blogging Masterclass With a #Giveaway!

Blogging Education

Do you sometimes feel like this guy when trying to achieve your social media goals? Your vision is obscured and you aren’t even sure where to aim.

I know I do!

I have been blogging since 2009, and still have so much to learn.

It was one thing when it was just me, blogging to flex my writing muscle, but now blogging is one of my major responsibilities at the Lead Change Group (LCG). Other people are depending on me to handle their content.

Weaving Influence, which owns LCG, is counting on me to maximize the ability of each post to reach a broad audience, to achieve SEO goals, and to expand our digital footprint.

More importantly than a large audience is the fact that these posts reach the right audience, people who will remain part of our community for longer than the five minutes they took to peruse one post.

Last year, I participated in a piloted online course that changed the way I approach blogging. The course equipped me to improve the LCG blog from a search perspective, and it’s positioning me to prove the work I’m doing is driving real results.

That course was The Modern Blogging MasterclassI’m excited to be among the first to tell you that it’s now available to the public (but the cart closes on September 15).

I’ll let the experts at Spin Sucks give you all of the information about it, but I can tell you this: You don’t want to miss it. It will give you a huge advantage over your competitors and it will help you plan your entire communications program for 2017.

Click here to check it out…you won’t regret it!

With the Modern Blogging Masterclass, your blindfold will be HISTORY and you will be much more likely to hit your target!

Blogging Education

To encourage people to learn more about the Modern Blogging Masterclass, I gave away an Amazon Giftcard to one of the people who helped me spread the word! Congratulations to that Phase One winner, Jenny S.

TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE LEARNS ABOUT THIS INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY BEFORE IT CLOSES ON SEPTEMBER 15, I HAVE ADDED A PHASE TWO TO THE GIVEAWAY.

To be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card, please visit this link, then leave a comment below telling me something you learned about the Modern Blogging Masterclass.

Please also feel free to tweet by clicking here. Leave the url of your tweet in the comments for an additional entry.

Update: Congrats to Sara L. for winning the gift card!

NOTE: I am a Modern Blogging Masterclass affiliate. Because I am a former student, I have the opportunity to win a prize if you sign up.

Photo Credit for Blindfolded Archer: Sira Anamwong, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit for Dartboard: Pixabay

$100 Netflix Gift Card Giveaway

Netflix Giveaway

It is actually a little ironic that I am part of a Netflix giveaway! Listen to my Spin Sucks Inquisition and you’ll find out precisely how often I watch Netflix (hint: it rhymes with “hero”). I do, however, have an appreciation for Netflix. My 19-year-old daughter loves it, and my 16-year-old son too. I know, also, how much they are influencing the programming world with original productions like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Someday, it will be my time to enjoy binge-watching shows. For now, I still have to pay for my children’s enjoyment of it! That’s why I would love to win a $100 gift card like the one in this giveaway!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $100 Netflix Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck! (Please email Becky at becky@ohmygoshbeck with any questions.)

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 5/13 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Netflix Giveaway

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

It’s year two of my taking the Grateful Challenge! (For last year’s post, click here.) Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for.

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

This year’s installment:

  1. My parents
  2. A spouse who understands why it is so important to me that my spouse be my friend as well as my lover (Wayne)
  3. My daughter (Tenley)
  4. My son (Wayne Kevin)
  5. Our cat Alice Cooper
  6. Our cat Bella
  7. My father-in-law (also a Wayne!)
  8. The memory of my mother-in-law (Barb)
  9. A roof over my head
  10. A house with a great running route right outside
  11. Running
  12. Running friends
  13. Fitness
  14. My fitness friends
  15. My Fitfluential relationships
  16. Blogging
  17. My #ChevyPlayMiami experience
  18. Having my son with me in Miami Beach while I was doing #ChevyPlayMiami
  19. My NASA Social experience
  20. My Social Good Summit experience
  21. Being a Shot at Life Champion Leader
  22. Toastmasters
  23. That one special friend
  24. Lunch at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with that one special friend while the crowds streamed in to see Pope Francis in Central Park
  25. My friend Mary Jane
  26. My friend Audrey
  27. My friends’ children
  28. Tenley’s oportunity to do the Disney College Program starting in January 2016
  29. Dairy Queen Blizzards
  30. Reading
  31. Audiobooks
  32. The perpetual influence of The Diary a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  33. Tallahassee
  34. New York City memories
  35. New York City memories to be made
  36. The play Wicked
  37. My son’s new (to him) car
  38. My son teaching me how to drive his new car
  39. A bus option in Florida that gets me from point A to point B affordably, with wi fi
  40. The Spin Sucks community
  41. My work with Weaving Influence
  42. The leaders I work with through the Lead Change Group, a division of Weaving Influence
  43. Chocolate
  44. A nice glass of wine at the end of each day
  45. My Coach, Kristie Cranford
  46. My KR Endurance team
  47. The child I run for via I Run for Michael, Gareth, and his family
  48. Friends who help with my father-in-law
  49. My sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law
  50. My nieces and nephews
  51. My goddaughters
  52. Being free to worship how I want to
  53. The Twitter community (except the jerks!)
  54. People who teach me about WordPress and help me climb other technical learning curves
  55. Patient people
  56. Smiles
  57. The beauty all around us
  58. Sunrises & Sunsets
  59. Learning about weather from people who are more than “forecasters”
  60. A great set of crepuscular rays in the sky
  61. My coworkers at Weaving Influence
  62. Being paid to do social media
  63. Scott Ginsberg (The Nametag Guy) who encouraged me to “make a date with the page”
  64. The potential of the Global Goals
  65. My role as a Florida Prepaid Blogger Believer
  66. Every opportunity I have had to get paid for blogging
  67. Other blogging opportunities which I did not get paid for or paid my own way for which which have paid off in other ways, most notably in the incredible people I’ve met
  68. The two people I have mentored in Toastmasters
  69. Being able to practice my Spanish
  70. The drivers/staff in Miami and Orlando who just start speaking Spanish to me and expect me to follow along
  71. My half brothers
  72. The trails in Tallahassee
  73. My electrophysiologist
  74. Being able to run still (so I guess thanks for beta blockers and that “running through mud feeling”!)
  75. That one friend who said “talks with you are my sanity”
  76. A sense of humor
  77. That my FIL’s cancer appears to have been obliterated
  78. Doing the zoo run in Tampa in August with my friend Diane
  79. Margaritas!
  80. The ability to read
  81. The ability to write
  82. The ability to speak
  83. The HAMP program
  84. Tenley’s employer, Chicken Salad Chick of Valdosta
  85. Everyone in Valdosta who has helped Tenley the last 1.5 years
  86. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin a chance
  87. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin more than worksheets
  88. The freedom of speech fo expres myself during the “Curious Incident” kerfuffle
  89. The ability to see Curious Incident on Broadway the month after the kerfuffle (which reinforced the fact that the kerfuffle was worth making a fuss about)
  90. Journalists here in Tally who have intelligent dialogues with readers
  91. TV journalists here in Tally who support me in giving voice to important issues like World Immunization Week
  92. My involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  93. My NYC Half Marathon in March 2015
  94. The Light the Night Walk last month
  95. Silvia, the first child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  96. Estela, the second child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  97. Stanley, the child we sponsor in  El Salvador via Unbound
  98. Coming home tonight to find the bah humbug spouse had put the lights on the Christmas tree
  99. My Faith

Want to Join?

It’s never too late to spend ten minutes focusing on gratitude! Let me know if you do the challenge!

Photo Credit: Gratisography

Eight Minutes of Attentiveness

I was issued a challenge this morning. In this blog post about Sensory Awareness and Storytelling, readers were encouraged to take two minutes every two hours to “stop and become aware of everything around you.” We were encouraged to come back at the end of the day and share our observations.

Why just comment when you can write a blog post?!

10 AM

What I see: The view out my window, past the (many) tabs open on my computer I am not doing anything about during this enforced period of awareness
What I hear: My favorite morning show, AMHQ, in the background; the tinnitus which fairly constantly creates static in my ear, house sounds
What I smell: I’ll spare the general public the details, but my house does not smell like a haven. Yuck
What I taste: The Powerade Zero I drank when I just completed my run
What I touch:: The nubby feel of the towel I am sitting on so the sweat from my run won’t further ruin our dining room chair

 

12 PM

What I see: The sight of myself in the mirror after just getting out of the shower
What I hear: Kellie Bartoli’s voice doing the noon news
What I smell: Nothing stands out
What I taste: The aftertaste of toothpaste
What I touch:: The lingering dampness of the shower, followed by another towel, this one to dry off with

 

2 PM

What I see: Green grass, sunshine, my car
What I hear: Birds, lawnmower sounds
What I smell: Grass, Nature
What I taste: The aftertaste of Diet Coke
What I touch: The warmth of the sunshine touching me

 

4 PM

What I see: My back yard
What I hear: Birds, crickets, bugs, lawn machines
What I smell: Outdoors smells
What I taste: Is “hungry” a taste?!
What I touch: The wind

 

Then Came Toastmasters

I discontinued the plan after the 4:00 break, because I had to be at Toastmasters at 6 and I couldn’t very well tell a whole meeting to put itself on hold for two minutes so I could commune with my senses BUT …
My responsibility at Toastmasters tonight was “word of the day.” It’s a bilingual club so I chose the word “sentido” (senses).
During “Table Topics,” which are two minute impromptu speeches, one of my fellow Toastmasters was given the prompt “talk about Mexico.” As it turns out, the Toastmaster is of Mexican descent and still has strong ties there. He started speaking: about the fact that the smells in Mexico are a bit of a mixed bag, about the sounds and textures, but most of all [insert long pregnant pause here] the pure pleasure of where his emotions go when he thinks about the tastes of Mexico. I think for two minutes all of us, even those of us who had never set foot in Mexico, felt something too.

 

Takeaways

Did this exercise put me in touch with parts of my world I had previously ignored? Kind of!

Every time the timer rang, at first I resented stopping my train of thought for TWO MINUTES. But the two minute periods did make me pay attention to:

How ingrained my habits have gotten; working at home, I get in a dining table/laptop rut

How desperately I want to get a handle on the general disorder of my home

How refreshing it is to go outside, even for two minutes. By 2 and 4 pm, I was making a beeline for the outdoors the second the timer went off

How accustomed I have gotten to telling my stories in pictures, as in “hey! look at my green grass.” That’s an entirely different thing than paying attention to my green grass and trying to hold its sensations in my mind’s eye

Something as small as thinking about the senses can send a group of eight people on a different two-minute trip: one where a little boy in Mexico eats a taco al pastor surrounded by the people he loves.

For that, I say operation sensory awareness led to an unqualified and utterly unexpected storytelling success!

pablo (20)

A “PTBH” at the Epicentre of a Curious Incident

In last week’s post, I shared my thoughts on the decision made by the principal of my son’s high school to revert the schoolwide summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional.” I disagree with this decision.

As the past week has unfolded, and the ripple effects of the decision have expanded internationally, I have seen many reactions, often from people who will never set foot in Leon County, about what this decision means.

Status of the Decision

The decision to reverse the summer reading assignment from “required” to “optional” is apparently going to stand.

Being a “Person to Be Heard”

When I learned there was a meeting of the Leon County School Board scheduled for August 11, I decided to attend. At first, I thought I would just attend and see if the issue came up. As the date approached (and as the public opinions piled up pro and con), I decided I really had to speak about this, if allowed.

I learned that there are two ways to speak before the board. 1) You can arrive at the meeting site prior to the 6:00 meeting time and fill out a PTBH (Persons to be Heard) card and submit it to a staff member or 2) You can call the school board office in advance and provide your information over the phone. I did not learn about the two options until the Monday before the board meeting (because I did not ask earlier…), so I had to go with option #1.  I was told I would be allowed to speak for 3 minutes about the matter I stated on my PTBH card.

Although this is not word-for-word what I said, this is the best recreation I can do and does follow the outline I used Tuesday night:

As a parent who has had at least one child in this school system since 2001, I am glad I attended a meeting (and sorry this was my first). I came away from the discussion with a more comprehensive view of the issue from their angle. Specifically, it was informative to hear the comparisons between this situation and issues of appropriateness of human sexuality curriculum (i.e., (and I am paraphrasing here) “as a teacher I may think [name of student] will benefit from the human sexuality curriculum, but if their parent requests to opt them out, I have to comply with that request.”).

I am grateful to the school board for giving me an opportunity to speak.

Accuracy

While I understand issues like this take on a life (and definition) all their own once they blow up, it has been important to me that the discussion be as accurate as possible, in order to focus on solutions.

This book has not been banned from our school system.

The parent who is quoted in most of the newspaper articles appears to have requested an alternate assignment (rather than requesting the principal revert the assignment to “optional” for the entire school). 

Although there was back and forth about this assignment’s classification as “instructional materials,” at least one school board member has acknowledged that policy was not followed in response to a parent’s concern about the content of the book.

What Really Matters

First and foremost, what matters to me is: a book with clear literary merit, which ostensibly was chosen by English faculty based on that merit, should not have been the subject of one administrator’s ad-hoc action in the face of the concerns of a vocal minority of approximately 20 parents at a school of around 1800.

Secondly, although I disagree with the choice of the parent who publicly stated:

 “I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong…”

…I fully support her choice to request an alternate assignment. The comments to the articles and blog posts I have read about this incident which attack her personally are the saddest to me. And I know this is how the blog world works. I know I, too, have set myself up for being the subject of personal attacks by being so public about this issue. I know if I choose to walk into the territory of public discourse that I must grow a thick skin and cultivate the good sense not to engage with those who just want to pick a fight for the sake of picking a fight.

As I said when I wrote about Drought Shaming, “distrust among neighbors does not build a caring community.” In this case, I would amend that slightly to “animosity among parents does not nurture a caring school.” For all I know, the very parent in question and I may be responsible for jointly helping our students cope with a tragedy, sell concessions to support a school activity together, or (heh …) reshelve books at the media center together. It does neither of us any good to attack each other and it surely does not present a good role model to our children of civil discourse.

(I am also in full support of the school’s faculty and principal, even though there are times such as this when we will disagree.)

Thirdly, although I feel certain the school district does not propose to “ban” or “remove” this book from our library shelves or digital content, I am uneasy at the whiff of the idea that it could ever happen. I really hope my fellow Leon County parents and literature lovers are with me on this one.

Fourthly, here is why it matters to spend three minutes publicly defending one book. It is important to spend three minutes publicly defending one book because, although I believe what I said above in my third point, the erosion of intellectual freedom does not usually start by a flood, it starts by a trickle.

Erosion can begin by saying “you have to register” if you are Jewish.

Erosion can begin by saying “you have to count the soap bubbles” to vote.

Erosion can begin by saying “because you are a female, you have less right to education than a male does.”

It matters to to put one sandbag in place to make it less likely that freedom to think will wash away.

To Learn More

Links to articles and posts about this issue:

Tallahassee Democrat (8/9/15): Dropped Assignment Raises Questions About Book Banning

Tallahassee Democrat (8/10/15):  Tuesday Feedback

Los Angeles Times (8/11/15): Parents Object, Florida School Drops ‘Curious Incident’ Novel

National Coalition Against Censorship (8/11/15): “Curious” Censorship in Tallahassee High School

Palm Beach Post (8/12/15): Fla. high school ignites controversy over banned summer reading book

The Guardian (8/12/15): Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Pulled from Children’s Reading List

Paste Magazine (8/12/15): Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Banned for “Swearing” at Florida High School

Tallahassee Democrat (8/13/15): After Book Controversy, LCS Reviews Policies

Time Magazine (8/13/15): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Pulled from School Reading List

Raw Story (8/13/15): Florida Principal Tries to Quietly Ban Book to Appease Christians, Sets Off Sh*tstorm Instead

BannedBooksWeek.org (8/13/15): ‘Curious’ Censorship in Tallahassee High School

Tallahassee Democrat Editorial (8/14/15): Our Opinion: Wrong Lesson Learned

National Post (8/14/15): Mark Haddon’s Beloved The Curious Incident Banned from Florida High School 

Tallahassee Democrat “My View” (8/18/15): Book Controversy Brings Opportunity for Learning

Twitter activity sharing a flyer being circulated at Lincoln:

LHS Posting

Galley Cat (8/18/15): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Gets Banned at a Florida High School

Tallahassee Democrat “My View” (8/21/15): Problem Was Original Book Assignment, Not Its Removal

Tallahassee Democrat “My View” (8/24/15): A Curious Incident of Censorship

Readout Video (9/24/15): BBW Virtual Readout: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time 

Spin Sucks Guest Post (9/28/15): A Book Challenge: Why Banned Books Week Matters

My Final Blog Post on This Topic (10/3/15): A Curiously Close Call With Censorship

“My View” which mentions the “Curious” incident (11/7/15): Times Changing, Love of Libraries Remains 

The Author Cafe (11.29.15): What Do You Do When a Book is Banned?

Curious Incident identified as one of the ten most challenged books of 2015: Top ten frequently challenged books lists of the 21st century.

The Curious Incident featured on Page 44 of “Pieces of Us,” the 2015-16 Lincoln High School yearbook.

FullSizeRender (9)

FullSizeRender (10)

The Summer Reading assignments for the 2016-17 school year can be found here.

In Closing

A few months ago, I had to do a Toastmasters project called “Speaking Under Fire.” The objective of the speech was “dispel hostility and convince them that your side has some merit.” Our instructions included, “Select a generally unpopular point of view – perhaps one that you also oppose – in order to assure opposition.” The title of my speech was “My Unvaccinated Child is Just Fine Thank You.” Since I am a Shot at Life champion, this choice was definitely a stark contrast to my true beliefs. I pretended I was a pregnant anti-vaxxer speaking to a room full of pediatricians. It was difficult but the process of being in that woman’s shoes informed my approach. It didn’t change my beliefs, but it forced me to try to understand, on a very personal level, what her fears were and how they influenced her beliefs. The most eye-opening component was the understanding that this woman felt the way she did (and bought into misinformation the way she did) out of love for her child. We all want the best for our children.

Honestly, if I tried to do the same with this incident, I would struggle. I do feel strongly that decision which was made was the wrong one, that this book has particular literary value, and that proper procedures should have been followed at the school level.

Were my three PTBH minutes enough to make a difference? I do not immediately know, but my stubborn ounces begged to be heard …

(To One Who Doubts the Worth of
Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)

You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.

I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.

– bonaro w. overstreet

(But Wait, You Explained “PTBH” But What is the Reference to the Epicentre?)

For all my frustration at people who don’t live here, who have commented on this issue publicly, lumping all Tallahasseeans together, even the one who lumped us all in as “Silly Americans,” I appreciate author Mark Haddon’s tweet (he did the same for another local parent’s blog).

High School Books

Hundreds of commenters in an international audience have opinions. All I know from my little spot at the epicentre is precisely where my “stubborn ounces” are going to go: toward making sure the one student I have responsibility for has unfettered access to books which matter.

UPDATE:

I observed this in the recent school newsletter (January 2016):

LINCOLN READING edited

Because the resolution of the picture is slightly poor, here’s the text: “At our recent School Advisory Council Meeting, the committee proposed and approved new school procedures for major readings and attached assignments, with an emphasis on summer reading. These procedures outline the responsibility of the faculty to submit potential texts, accompanying assignments, and an alternative assignment to a Reading Committee. The committee will include a group of stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, parents, and students.The committee’s final recommendation will be submitted to the principal for review each year.It is our goal that these new procedures will honor the intent of reading assignments by our faculty while meeting the expectations of all stakeholders.

High School Books

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

I have always been word-crazy, and I have never hesitated to try my hand at a word game.

In Ruzzle, I found myself up against a formidable wall and HEY! I’ve found a blog post topic too.

My Ruzzle career started with this blog post about strategy games. When I commented that I would never start Words With Friends because I would never get anything done, I was invited to play Ruzzle and told, “It only takes two minutes a turn.”

While it is true that a Ruzzle game only takes two minutes, this has turned out to be the Lay’s Potato Chip “you can’t eat just one” equivalent of my online life. Also, I hate losing!

By way of introduction, Ruzzle calls itself “the world’s fastest word game.” The premise is simple: players swipe through the 16 letters on the board, trying to accumulate as many words as possible. Each match is a series of three two-minute games.

That said, here are my takeaways from Ruzzle:

I Am Incapable Of Doing the Minimum Once I Like Something

Two minutes? I really have to regulate myself. I only allow myself to play one game a day per person (I usually have two or three opponents going simultaneously). And because I like it, I want to get better, so I dig around to learn more. Via the digging, I found the Ruzzle community …

There Are Communities and Tutorials Out there for EVERYTHING

Want tips on how to improve? There’s a strategy guide for that. Desire to “get good at Ruzzle”? Visit this blog. Need tips and tricks? Visit this site. And, apparently avoid the “dreaded rainbow circle clan” of Ruzzle pirates (?).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Armed with tips and community, I kept on practicing…

Practice Pays Off

My Ruzzle life will never get to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours bar, but I have gotten better since I started playing in December 2014. Sometimes when I find something by thinking backwards, laterally, or diagonally, I feel like Michael Pollan when he “saw” the truffles he had been overlooking despite them being right under his nose in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of thinking backwards, laterally, and diagonally …

Thinking Backwards, Laterally, and Diagonally Pays Off

This is where the parallel to real life and much of the feedback I have always been given really hits home. When I look at the “possible words” vs the “found words” after a game, I see so many missed opportunities, mostly the ones that involved following a line of letters through a relatively byzantine path.

It reminds me of professional situations where I literally was going down a string of 200 emails, one by one, and not categorizing or prioritizing. It happened recently when a coworker had moved something I needed to do under my page on Basecamp, and I asked about it publicly in our staff FB page, before realizing it was there, if I had searched differently.

Strategy: it pays off. Eventually. Let’s hope.

In the meantime, I have also learned …

Accuracy is Overrated

When I first started playing Ruzzle, I would be mortified at a low accuracy percentage. I have learned that in Ruzzle (but not life in general!), there are more important qualities than accuracy, such as furiously (and intelligently) swiping at combinations you *think* may be words, and latching on to a multi-purpose endings such as “ing” and trying every combo out there, even the ones that aren’t really words. As someone who proofreads on the side, this de-emphasis on accuracy is a lesson wrapped within a challenge.

Paying Extra for Premium Can Be Worth It

There are many apps for which I don’t find it worth paying the buck or two extra for the premium version. I’ll look at the five-second ads, deal with a few limitations. But the perks for Premium Ruzzle are pretty cool, especially if you are obsessed with improving. With Ruzzle, paying the $2.99 for premium gets you unlimited ongoing games, statistics, and the possibility to see all words on the board after a finished round (that’s my favorite part!).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Statistics

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Yes, I am embarrassed that I am a North Florida born and bred woman and missed “cooter” (the turtle …everyone else needs to think clean).

Determination Alone Does Not Help You Achieve Some of Your Goals

Ruzzle has “achievements” you can unlock. Well, being the goal-driven person I am (see topic #1 about the two-minute issue), I want to Achieve ALL the Achievements!!!!!!!!

The thing is, you can say to yourself “I am going to achieve the ‘Speedster’ badge this game” but you can’t make yourself find 30 words in 30 seconds or (the one I really want) “find a word of at least 10 letters” (the Bookworm badge). At least I am 100% on “Challenge your Twitter followers”!

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

The elusive bookworm badge. Sigh.

Sounds

One of the tutorials recommended “always keep the sound on” because it helps you know when you’re close to the end of the game (among other reasons). I found I play better with the sound off. (It’s also easier to furtively play Ruzzle, for example, next to a sleeping spouse or in an airport.)

Languages

I have played Ruzzle in Spanish a few times. I can see why this might be helpful to my Spanish learning efforts. Unfortunately, I left the setting on “Spanish” when I started to play a tournament once and that resulted, understandingly, in a major Ruzzle fail!

Tap Dance

Every time I sit there staring at the Ruzzle screen, realizing it expects me to “tap” for the next step (even though it does not TELL me to “tap” for the next step), I am reminded that the app / digital world expects me to know what to do. Maybe my children have some intuitive “tap to make the next thing on the screen happen” reflex, but I still expect directions. That’s probably not going to happen, is it?

Tick Tock My Two Minutes Are Almost Up

Why am I attached to Ruzzle? I would say 1) words! 2) connecting with people, especially the first friend who asked, and 3) the thrill of competition.

And seeing as how despite the thrill of competition, I am have lost 62% more games than I have won, I will be playing …

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

This post about “riveting Ruzzle realities” was a response to the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: “Write a blog post that ends with the word: again.”

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Is It Crazy To Think An Online Community Can Succeed?

One of my tasks with Weaving Influence is helping to manage the Lead Change Group community. This is a fairly new role for me, and taking it on has me thinking almost constantly about what makes an online community work.

Although in my opinion the success of an online community boils down to a handful of characteristics that sound very simple, there is something intangible that has to take place between assembling the right “ingredients,” following a trustworthy “recipe,” and “cooking” everything to result in a tasty product. These include:

A Cyber Welcome Mat

Although I believe it is important that there be a cadre of “regulars” who contribute to the community, there should be plenty of acceptance and respect to make someone who is visiting for the first time feel welcome. (Many people probably read your posts frequently before venturing to comment.) I have been active in one of my favorite online communities (more on that later) long enough to know many of the “inside jokes” that would mystify a newcomer. The inside jokes are part of what makes the community fun, but there’s a fine line between inside jokes that make you want to keep coming back in order to “get them” and inside jokes that are so plentiful, pointed, or cryptic that a newbie can feel excluded.

People Keep Showing Up

This is the next part after the welcome mat. People like what they read, how they are treated, and how they feel after interacting with your community. You know you can count on seeing some of the same people week after week, and connections grow deeper roots that way.

Good Writing

This language freak has long ago given up on grammatical perfection in the online world, so I am not referring to a draconian management of spelling and grammar (although consistently sloppy use of language is a turn-off). I am referring to good writing. The kind that makes you laugh at your desk, that makes you stop mid-post and tweet the author saying “I haven’t even gotten through this post but thank you,” the kind of words that stay with you long after you click off of the post. Writing like this Spin Sucks guest post from Cindy King.

Connecting Across Other Channels

As a blogger, I will tell you I will love you forever if you will share my post via your other social media channels (unless you’re a creeper in which case of course I won’t love you forever). There are times when I read a  Spin Sucks post that is quite technical (such as this one) and I have nothing useful to contribute but I know I can trust the content enough to share it via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and/or Linkedin. If I am going to keep the cooking analogy going, we’ll call the “connecting across other channels” the equivalent of allowing our product’s fragrance to waft into adjoining rooms and make everyone salivate over what we’ve made!

Knowing Your Place

It would be easy as a Spin Sucks Crazy to think that the blog is all that happens at Arment Dietrich. I say that because the activity stream is constant. That’s not because the blog is all they do, though; it’s because they make sure to delegate responsibility for reining in interacting with the community throughout the day to someone on staff. I have to remind myself that the blog is only a part of what they do and respect that, although they would point out that the blog is the entryway for many business leads (80% of new revenue, to be precise — details about that in this post).

Telling Me Specifically How To Get Involved

Tonight’s post is an example of what I mean. Back when Spin Sucks posted this, I said the following:

spin sucks post

(The pigeon is a story for a different post!)

This is not the first time I have commented about doing something, and been encouraged to follow through. The very first time was when Spin Sucks rescued me from weekly habit of #FollowFridaying a long list of people by publishing this post which in addition to convincing me to rethink how I was using Follow Friday, instilled in me a secret little goal to get featured (which I did, here).

Moderating Closely

It is no small task to moderate the comments section of a blog. There is no faster way to lose me as an online community member than to make me wade through a stream of trolls, spam, and other trash. An unadulterated comments section does not happen by accident; it takes work. And I appreciate that.

green pen two cropped

As a new community manager, I can tell you that I am hungry for the people in my community to blend their unique ingredients more thoroughly. There’s so much great content; staring at a comments section with a line of “0’s” on my dashboard makes me sad. There are many times during a week when I utter a little prayer that the Lead Change Group community will acquire some of the attributes that make Spin Sucks great: dynamic people, talking to one another, evolving into something more than a set of comments on a blog.

Want to help me out with whipping up something delectable at the Lead Change Group? Here’s a recent post that provided useful tips for helping people work to their fullest potential. Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a last “thank you” to Spin Sucks for being such a tremendous example of an online community that works. I would also be remiss if I didn’t try to earn some brownie points (because I love brownie points!) by asking you to tweet the following:

tweet

(Click here to tweet!)

101_3367

Yummm…….brownies!