Raindrops on Roses and Music from Elders

Is it possible to discuss “favorite things” without having visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?

It’s a challenge but I’m going to try to branch out from those whiskers on kittens, thanks to a Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: list your five most recent favorite things.

Favorite Things

Here are mine:

Music Therapy

Specifically, the music therapist from Big Bend Hospice who has visited my father-in-law twice. Although I am grateful for the many services provided by Big Bend Hospice, I have jokingly referred to this process as “the revolving door of people who are ‘here to help you,'” inferring that it is an additional chore for me to coordinate them all.

I had put the music therapist pretty far down the “necessary” list, under the nurse (definitely, for health reasons), shower aide (definitely, because Wayne and I can’t do it at this point), social worker ( sanity, please), and incredible volunteer Jim who told him, “yeah, I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) form too,” a perfect response to divert my FIL’s attention from the always-present reminder that this is a very final process.

I had definitely put our music therapist, Marisa (sp?) into the “nice but not necessary” bucket …….. until I heard my FIL, always a man of few words and subdued emotions, SINGING ALONG WITH HER. It really is true about music … it can unlock a person’s heart in a way nothing else can. (Music therapy is especially effective because it doesn’t demand cognitive functioning to succeed. More here via the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.)

Side note: the music therapist uses a little tripod stool like hunters use in the woods (sample here) … and says she can only find ones with camo designs. Anyone know someone who makes little stool covers with music notes (or other non-camo designs)? There has to be a way.

My New Part-Time Job

When I wrote about trying to sharpen my memory recently by using Lumosity, I didn’t know that something else was going to come along that would challenge my brain and shape up my life in other ways.

While I love my contractor work for Weaving Influence, I am also happy to have taken on additional work that adds to our family bottom line, provides needed structure to my days, and challenges me every single time (even though I have had to part ways with my beloved Oxford comma in the process).

In my independent contractor work for a digital B2B company, my duties so far include searching for news items related to certain terms, summarizing news stories into concise (yet informative!) two-sentence summaries, and contributing to the curation of industry-specific newsletters.

Observations along the way:

  • It’s humbling for an editor to be edited
  • Having to be “on duty” at a specific time (7 am) is the best thing in the world to keep me from a slow, easily-distracted slide into the work of the day. Having to report in to someone, and knowing others down the line are waiting on me, is BIG
  • I should have gone to AP Style boot camp at some point in the past; I definitely feel l like I’m doing catch-up on that front
  • It’s humbling to be at square one with a job again. ALL THE QUESTIONS
  • This arrangement was the kick in the butt I needed to file for my LLC
  • It’s so funny to me to be full-circle back at supporting myself by summarizing the news (one of the ways I supported myself during my New York years was by working at a place where we typed summaries of the news FROM VHS TAPES (yes, I’m that old))
  • I’ve been sufficiently a part of the gig economy long enough now that this doesn’t surprise me anymore, but it’s still so interesting to be working for and with people who you aren’t going to run into at the water cooler or trade funny quips with (yet)

All that said, I’m so fortunate to have the challenge of being an independent contractor for Smartbrief. Check out their website and choose a newsletter that fits for you — here has to be something among all the options, ranging from leadership (my fave!) to supply chain. For career opportunities, click here (but leave your oxford comma at the door.)

Writing

Maybe writing isn’t a “thing” like a smartphone, key chain, or cronut, but it’s a perennial favorite with me. Since I’m not running (for now), it has taken on even more of a role as my outlet.

When I write for myself, I process my thoughts. When I write to try to convey a message to others, I am forced to see multiple sides of the issue, and that is not a bad thing.

People Who Give Me Tools to Advocate Effectively

When I wrote my #One20Today-inspired post in advance of Inauguration Day, I committed to various acts of advocacy in the face of an administration headed by someone who did not receive my vote, and whose administration’s choices threaten the rights and peace of mind of many of my fellow Americans (and me).

The challenge is: the craziness, threats, and insults to the integrity of our democracy are coming so fast and furious, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and get paralyzed by indecision (and, frankly, fear of speaking out).

One incredibly bright and insightful friend I met via Shot at Life has created a periodic (at least weekly, sometimes more) list of 4 action items (something to read, a concept to understand, an action to do, a donation to consider) that can help us break out of the paralysis and do something.

As she said, “We don’t get to reimagine history to make ourselves better. We get to be loud right now or we’re not better.”

Here are four of my favorite examples, taken from the action emails:

Read every executive order President Trump has signed so far

Understand why the United States’ signature on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Refugee Protocol impacted (prior to the stay of the Executive Order) choices by government entities to try to revoke peoples’ ability to board planes and to keep them from setting foot in the US

Do pick something you care deeply about and write a letter to the editor (LTE) of your local newspaper. Here’s a guide and here’s an example. Side note: it’s always a good idea to be aware of your newspaper’s guidelines for an LTE. Increase your chances of getting published by adhering to those rules to the extent possible (i.e., if the limit is 200 words, don’t send 325 and make it harder for them to use your piece). Also, it is a good idea to have civil and friendly relationships with your local journalists. No one likes always being asked for something — it’s totally acceptable to chat with them about the weather or praise their cute puppy pictures if you happen to be involved in their social media streams. AND — not everything you submit will get accepted. Don’t take it personally. (Sometimes if I don’t get something accepted, I run it on my blog. Medium is another choice. Your thoughts/opinions still matter.)

Donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project

If you would like to be on the list, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with my friend!

Naps

When our incredible hospice volunteer, Jim, arrived recently,  I said, “I’ll be working on something in the bedroom.” Do you think every hospice volunteer knows “working on something in the bedroom” means “napping”?

One of the huge benefits of working from home is that it is so much easier to customize my life around my energy needs and fit in a 15-minute power nap around 3 pm. As this article states, power naps are beneficial for alertness and motor learning skills. I am not sure if “and making Paula a lot less irritable” is documented anywhere but I tell you, it’s a thing.

If/when I ever return to the traditional office-based workforce, I can only hope I find someplace with nap pods.Google says “no workplace is complete without a nap pod.” That’s what I’m talking about! Maybe Google will open a Tallahassee branch in the future!

FOR FUN

I asked my Facebook friends what they thought I would say. Although they didn’t hit on the five things I listed above, they were all spot-on (good job, friends!). Here are their answers:

  • Green pens (yes!)
  • Audiobooks (oh yes yes yes)
  • Hidden Figures (yes!)
  • Global vaccinations (for sure)
  • Exchanging pleasant conversation over a good meal (the best thing ever)
  • Disney
  • Wine (for sure)

Good job, friends — you get me, you really get me.

Several people also shared THEIR favorite things, which was fun to see! Also a great segue to the end of this post.

What are your current faves?

Favorite Things

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

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

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

As I compose this post, I am 26 tweets away from my 100,000th tweet.

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

Although Twitter says I have had an account since September 2008, apparently I didn’t tweet until April 2009. And boy howdy was it a profound one. The program “First Tweet” says my first tweet was this:

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

In the six years and eight months since April 2009, I have amassed almost 100,000 more tweets. Hopefully, on balance, some of them were more profound than “going to bed!” (although I am a BIG FAN of sleep, don’t get me wrong).

To do some rough math …

If each of 100,000 tweets were a full 140 characters, that would be 14 MILLION characters (if my words averaged six characters each that would be 2,333,333 words!).

I just timed myself composing a tweet, and it took 27 seconds. For ease of math, let’s say each one takes 25 seconds, that’s 694 HOURS (an average month has 730 hours).

All those characters and seconds add up!

In preparation for hitting 100,000, I am trying to manipulate things so that I can have control over that 100,000th tweet. It isn’t as easy as it sounds! I’ve stopped sharing from Triberr for a few days. I have deactivated my Revive Old Posts plugin. I’ve realized that tweeting has become a reflex for me and for the first time in years have found myself thinking, “do you really want to spend a tweet on that?” (perhaps it is not a bad thing to think before tweeting, honestly……). Keeping this post family friendly, I’ll just say it feels a little bit like foreplay, because I am having a lot of fun but want the big moment to be really special.

Ten Thoughts As the Big Tweet Approaches

WRITING

Ultimately, Twitter is just another way to write. Hence, as a lover of writing, I love Twitter.

GREAT PEOPLE

I have connected with incredible people on Twitter who I would not have met otherwise. They have entertained me, consoled me, informed me, inspired me. They (especially the running community) have shared my passions and given me a sense of community.

AWFUL PEOPLE

Fortunately, this is a much shorter list than the “Great People” list but there are some bad actors on Twitter. YUCK. Specifically, the guy whose bio says he is in the top 2000 of Twitter accounts. The guy who told me to “EFF OFF YOU C*NT” (this is a sanitized paraphrase). Yes, I do find it humorous, profane guy, that you blocked my main account but haven’t figured out I have a second Twitter account that you have not blocked. All I can say is meanspiritedness is never ever ever in style.

VENTING

There’s no place like Twitter for safely getting something off of your chest. When I say that, I mean things like “holy cow this traffic stinks.” I don’t mean being obnoxious to a business without giving them time to rectify the issue. After all, I wrote this and need to practice what I preach.

THE SWAG!

When you’re a frequent tweeter, you never know what goodies are going to show up on your doorstep. I think my favorite was the fact that I ended up in the Pretzel of the Month club for a year. All of a sudden, a huge variety box of pretzels showed up on my doorstep one day. The same thing happened the next month. And monthly for the following 10 months! Thanks, Snyders!

HELPING CAUSES

I love using social media to promote worthy causes. Twitter has changed the landscape for getting information out, fundraising, and catalyzing action! Favorite causes I have tweeted about include Shot at Life, Unbound, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Linda Freeman’s efforts to help children in Cambodia get The Shoe That Grows, all the Donate a Photo causes, and all the Charity Miles causes.

NO WORRIES ABOUT GETTING NAMES AND FACES WRONG

As a faceblind individual, every in person interaction carries with it the likelihood that I will fail to recognize someone I should recognize or, if I take the risk of using the name I think is correct, of making a social gaffe. Thanks, Twitter, for telling me exactly who I am dealing with and eliminating that whole social awkwardness potential!

TWITTER BRINGS OUT MY EXTROVERT

My extrovert/introvert tendencies are pretty much 50/50 but I know in my heart of hearts I am an introvert. Not on Twitter, though! I love connecting on Twitter. Maybe because I can disengage at any time and go recharge.

TWITTER IS NOT THE BEST FOR FAMILY RELATIONS

I’ve come a long way since social media was younger. Of course my children were younger when I first got involved with social media. Five years ago, I was hurt and floored when my daughter unfriended me on Facebook. Now I am glad we are Facebook friends but that connection doesn’t carry the same emotional weight for me. I sure as heck don’t follow her on Twitter anymore after the one tweet I saw where she was venting about my crappy parenting. (Guess that “it’s good to vent on Twitter” thing goes two ways, no?)

THE BIG GREEN PEN GETS AROUND

Nothing makes me happier than meeting a twitter acquaintance in real life for the first time and having them say, “oh YOU’RE the big green pen!” A handle that was born of my intense and meticulous editing has ended up allowing me to compose some fun life adventures, 140 characters at a time.

Those ten things in mind, I do know that Twitter is just one piece of the human relationship puzzle. Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye, and I do regret time I have lost interacting with my family because I was fixated on a screen, as well as the role my intrigue with social media had in the degree to which I lost interest in my previous job and failed to do the quality work I owed my employer.

In addition, all that tweeting undoubtedly led to the fact that I now get to tweet for a living as part of my responsibilities with Weaving Influence and Lead Change. I still love to tweet, and it is icing on the cake to get compensated for it.

I do have a specific tweet planned for number 100,000, if all my machinations to make it happen work. I will post it here after it tweets!

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

UPDATE: I hit the big 100K mark just after midnight on Christmas Day 2015! With heartfelt gratitude to Lou Kellenberger for permission to use his image, here’s the tweet!

Official Tweet 100K

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

Notes from a NASA Social Newbie

Prior to December 2, I had visited the Kennedy Space Center precisely one time, when I took Tenley and Wayne years ago (I think they were around 10 and 7, so that’s almost 10 years ago!). My involvement as a NASA Social participant December 2 and 3 catapulted me into a whole new level of interest, and I am so excited to share the my observations with you!

Although the NASA Social experience for the Orbital ATK OA-4 Mission spanned December 1-3, I joined on December 2. (December 1 was an optional day and after my impromptu trip to Orlando 11/29-11/30, I needed to get caught up on work and pitch in to the caregiving effort for Dad so I deferred, but here’s the view of the Boeing Defense Starliner the group had on 12/1!).

Once I arrived, submitted my two forms of ID (I had been so worried I would forget my passport), and had my belongings as well as our bus pass muster via the bomb sniffing dog, we were on our way to stop number 1, the press center where we did preliminary icebreakers and then participated in a live briefing on NASA TV (view a recording of the briefing here!).

NASA Social

Now for the takeaways, so many takeaways!

Enhancing STEM by Emphasizing STEAM

We didn’t know the awesomeness ahead for us when we were directed into the KSC Training Auditorium on Thursday. Once we sat down, we were told that Dava Newman, Deputy Administrator for NASA, would be speaking with us. I really enjoyed her talk and learned from it. The statement that most stood out to me was her idea that STEM should be broadened to include Art, to become STEAM. That’s the missing link I have been struggling with mentally about STEM: people engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math need the thread of art woven through. Thinking creatively directly impacts thinking analytically, in my opinion, and school systems need to think twice about cutting arts funding in favor of STEM funding. View Dava’s entire talk here (credit to Backyard Astronomy Guy) and follow her on Twitter at @davaexplorer (she’s new to Twitter so if you are on Twitter, please give her a nice welcome!).

NASA Social

Ownership and Engagement

In my capacity as Community Manager for the Lead Change Group and Social Media Specialist for Weaving Influence, I encounter content about employee engagement daily. This is fine with me because it’s a topic I adore. In my last few years at Healthy Kids, I struggled with my own disengagement. Prior to that, as a supervisor, I strove (often unsuccessfully) to foster a sense of engagement. When I had responsibilities as the liaison between Healthy Kids and our Third Party Administrators, I really felt challenged to help weave a thread among people who were not always engaged with their employer and therefore were highly unlikely to go a layer beyond and engage with us as the contractor.

During my time at NASA, I was struck repeatedly as we passed banners which had been signed by team members of various projects. I know signing a banner doesn’t create lasting engagement, but it was a tangible sign of intent, and it resonated with me.

NASA Social

At the Space Station Processing Facility

NASA Social

At the Vehicle Assembly Building; Space Shuttle Teams throughout the history of the program.

Procedures Matter

I suppose it’s obvious to say “NASA is big on procedure.” Spending two days touring various components of NASA, though, gave me deeper insights into why the organization is so procedure-heavy and why it matters. The scale of investment that has been made in the research being done at the International Space Station is expansive (and expensive!). The governments and private entities which have invested in research do so trusting that care will be taken to get their experiments from inception to completion safely, with the relevant data intact.

I learned that anyone in Mission Control for the Atlas Rocket via United Launch Associates can stop a launch in its tracks, but they have to do it a certain way. You don’t want someone stopping such a huge process precipitously by saying to a neighbor “hold on, I need to check a figure.” They specifically have to say “HOLD. HOLD. HOLD,” which everyone understands to be the signal to stop the launch sequence in order to assess what is wrong.

Procedures Matter Part Two

Back when I announced on Facebook that I would be going to the  NASA Social event, someone said, “oh it’s a cargo launch; they don’t scrub those that often.” WELL, I am not sure how often they scrub them but I can attest that if the weather factors which impact launch success are not favorable, and/or if the five launch attempts in a 30 minute window have been spent, the craft will not launch. As we sat in the bus on Thursday night, in the rain, watching attempts 1, 2, 3, 4 and finally 5 come and go, we had a prime example of the fact that no one can control the weather but everyone can control the sentimental goal of getting a rocket up in the air and stop as procedures dictate.

Subsequently, the Friday night launch window closed after each of the 5 attempt options came and went as did the Saturday night launch window. While I was glad I had not rolled the family logistical scheduling dice and decided to hang around for Friday (or Saturday), I was disappointed for all the people I met who are invested in a safe and successful launch. AND I was thrilled to see a successful launch at 4:44 pm today (Sunday, 12/6/15)!

NASA Social

From Astronaut Scott Kelly’s Facebook Page

Privatization

I have developed a personal skepticism about privatization over the years. Although Healthy Kids was technically privatization of the provision of health insurance for children, we were quasi-governmental in many ways. It was when we contracted with Third Party Administrators to do our enrollment, billing, member services, and other duties that I grew disillusioned. Although there were some exceptions, and throughout the years there were always fantastic individual people in the mix, in general it often seemed to come down to a lack of embracing our mission, vision, and values as well as a focus on profit over quality.

This trip to NASA demonstrated ways in which privatization can work, via organizations which are fully aligned with the contracting entity’s goals and personnel who are dedicated to quality. Notably, two of the private organizations involved in this mission were Orbital ATK and the United Launch Alliance. Each of these organizations has a corporate pedigree encompassing big names (Honeywell and Thiokol for Orbital ATK, Lockheed and Boeing for ULA — NOT a comprehensive list). Compared to my personal experiences related to privatization, I saw unity, esprit de corps, and commitment to mission among the people I met at NASA. It was reassuring.

Fresh Fruit

When one of the experts was speaking about the payload being delivered to the International Space Station by the Cygnus, someone asked what the astronauts were most looking forward to. One of the answers? Fresh fruit. Apparently the payload contains fresh fruit. After seeing the launch delayed from Thursday to today Sunday, and the laborious process undertaken to prepare and load something as part of the cargo, I’m hoping it isn’t bananas because this takes a while. I want these men to have their fruit and to enjoy it for heaven’s sake!

Delayed Gratification is a Thing, Especially if There are Veggies (and Zinnias) Involved!

I gathered that one key quality to have as a NASA employee (or employee of an organization like Orbital ATK, ULA, SpaceX, etc.) is patience. We learned about the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) experiment underway. The first crop was red lettuce; they are now growing zinnias.  But when you are on the Space Station and grow your first red lettuce, you don’t just start chowing down. You have to send your crop back to earth so it can be deemed safe. You have to give up a portion of your crop for research. Everything gets measured, studied, and analyzed before (sometimes instead of) being eaten!

NASA Social

Gioia Massa explains the VEGGIE Project!

Reverence Matters

When we visited the Vehicle Assembly Building, there was so much to see it was hard to focus and take in one component at a time. We were told, when we went to the 16th floor to look at the building from a different perspective, to under no circumstances take pictures of the crawler. It had been dismantled in order to be overhauled, exposing sensitive components and clues about processes which were not to be disseminated via social media (there’s an acronym for the regulations governing this (there’s an acronym for everything by the way) but I don’t recall it). Those who disobeyed this rule would be sent back to the bus to wait out the rest of the visit. I had not doubt they were serious!

When we went to the 16th floor, our escort caught me by surprise when he asked, “do you all want to see where the existing pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia are kept?” We were allowed to go, two at a time, as long as we did not cross a specific line. I was told that access to go INTO the room is limited to once a year, for the families only (and a very few other exceptions). I recalled the day this disaster happened, how we had just gotten home from Tenley’s soccer game, how cold it was in Florida, and how surreal it seemed that there had been another Space Shuttle disaster. I was moved by the reverence shown for this piece of NASA’s past, by the memories evoked in this run of the mill civilian all these years later, and by the trust placed in me to pay my respects.

NASA Social

People + Technology + Passion

For us adults, finding wonder in our world can be elusive. It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day, in the pessimism of a world more divided than unified, in being resigned to things as they are rather than what they could be.

NASA Social

Thank you, NASA, NASA Social, and everyone in the NASA Orbital ATK OA-4 Social group for giving me a stellar view of the reality of tomorrow!

NASA Social

Photo Credit: NASA GSDO

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!