Who Inspires You to #sharetheSPARK?

“When I was little, I decided I would always do the things that scared me.”

This is what my daughter said to me after describing her recent experience going down the Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, a slide with an almost perpendicular 120-foot slope. Here’s a picture:

Motivational Inspiration

Credit: Digital Disney World

And here’s a YouTube video of someone much braver than me doing the Summit Plummet.

When did she decide she would always do things that scared her? Sometime long before she found herself at the top of the Summit Plummet asking the cast member on duty, “Am I going to die on this thing?”

The conversation made me smile (BROADLY) because I want her to be brave.

I want her to “NEVER GIVE UP” and hear “YOU GOT THIS” in her head, all the time, no matter which challenges she faces.

Thanks to Momentum Jewelry, I have an opportunity to spread some “NEVER GIVE UP” and “YOU GOT THIS” #sharetheSPARK sentiment among the people I admire, those who demonstrate these attributes or the ones who I feel need just a bit of encouragement!

I could easily name 30 people off the top of my head who have a #sharetheSPARK vibe going on. The challenge is I only have two #sharetheSPARK Motivate™ wraps to give away. One of them is going to a woman who is a cancer survivor, who is putting together a Triathlon” that will benefit Moffitt Cancer Center (for details, click here — spaces are still available for the run/row/ride event!). The other one is going to have to find a home over the next few weeks.

Motivational Inspiration

Although I don’t have unlimited wraps to give away, I do have PicMonkey, social media, and the ability to share unlimited encouragement!

Therefore, look for me to be sharing these images and tagging awesome people over the next few weeks!

Motivational InspirationMotivational Inspiration

 

Yes, I smiled when my daughter told me how determined she was to face her fears! I smile when so many people I know, in real life and online:

  • Set (and achieve) ambitious goals
  • Encourage people around them who are discouraged
  • Stand up for what is right, even when it is unpopular to do so
  • Persist in the face of adversity
  • Support others rather than tear down

This list, of course, could go on and on. What would you add? Who has embodied these qualities to you?

Tenley went to the summit, took the plummet, and proved to herself that she is stronger than her fears.

What will you refuse to give up on today? How can you #sharetheSPARK of encouragement?

By the way, Momentum Jewelry makes beautiful athletic and inspired jewelry in addition to the wraps. I love my Foot Notes™ (shoe tags) from Momentum which honor my I Run For relationship with Gareth. View all of their products here. If you find something you want to purchase, use the code FFSpark15 to save 15% off your purchase between now and 5/31/16!

Motivational Inspiration

NOTE: This post is a response to a Mama Kat Writing prompt: Write about something your child said that made you smile.

Motivational Inspiration

Two Minutes on the Table

know why “Table Topics” are called “Table Topics” in Toastmasters. According to the Toastmasters website, these two-minute impromptu speaking exercises, which typically occur at the table (rather than the lectern/podium) “improve confidence and impromptu public speaking skills.”

Impromptu Speaking

When you participate in a Table Topics competition, however, the “table” part goes out the window as you speak on a stage in front of the contest attendees (which can be 10 people in an area contest or hundreds at a division or district contest).

When I participated in the Area 82 and 83 Spring Speech Contest at Unity Eastside Church on March 12, 2016, I had the opportunity to relax after participating in the Area 82 contest and simply enjoy the Area 83 contest. The question was “Identify your greatest fear and how you have overcome it.”

As each of of the five participants approached the stage, I wondered what they would talk about. Spiders? Flying? Falling? Bridges, water, closed spaces, the number 13, clowns, snakes? It turns out the five participants had fears that were less specific but, to me, more profound and eminently relatable:

Public Speaking

While I suppose there are Toastmasters (and non-Toastmasters) out there who truly feel ONLY ENERGIZED by and NEVER TERRIFIED BY public speaking, I am guessing many more of us fall much closer to the “scared of” end of the spectrum. I always say I joined Toastmasters because I don’t want to be “that awful speaker” I have heard way too many times. To the gentleman for whom this is a fear: your two minutes proved you are well on your way of facing that fear head on and overcoming it!

Being Harshly Judged

If it would not have been utterly inappropriate, I would have stood up on my chair the moment this participant announced her biggest fear and pronounced “ME TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” What struck me about this speech was the participant’s explanation of how the fear GREW as she gained life experience, instead of DIMINISHING. For me, I keep reading all these stories of women who, having reached “mid-life,” have gotten to the “I really don’t care what others think” phase, and wanting to know if AAA does a Trip-Tik to that because I seem to have lost my way! I suppose it’s a work in progress, like most things in life. One thing about Toastmasters is we don’t just learn to speak, we learn to evaluate, non-judgmentally and constructively. I think this participant has chosen a great place to keep overcoming that fear.

Feeling Inadequate 

Another one where I could easily see myself being a part of the “me too” chorus! Especially when the speaker talked about his first venture coaching little kids in soccer, I could relate to the fact that very small people can bring out our biggest inadequate feelings. As the speaker pointed out, humility was part of the equation for resolving the fear; once he humbled himself to admit his inadequacies and seek help, everything improved. Humility is, indeed, powerful.

Failing as a Parent

Perhaps there are parents out there brimming with confidence, never questioning themselves, their choices, or the example they have provided for their children. I am not that parent. It is no exaggeration for me to say that being a parent is all I ever wanted to be. I realize that declaration does not embody any work life balance but it’s the simple truth. I gave birth 19 and 16 years ago, respectively, and have subsequently questioned myself the whole time. And I have degrees in child development and counseling. There’s nothing like procreating to eviscerate the academic initials you thought taught you something!

Something Happening to Your Kids

Although this topic is in the same category as the one above, it was a very different speech. I’ve been around the block long enough to have seen many tragedies befall friends, family, acquaintances, and now thanks to social media, a stream of people I will never know but for whom I still feel grief and sadness as they cope with unspeakable outcomes for the people who mean the most to them. This speaker did a great job of distinguishing between our tendencies as parents, especially when our children are young, to turn every cut and scrape into a catastrophe in our minds, and the dangers that really matter. It’s easy to forget to live while trying to mitigate for all the imagined dangers that may befall our children.

In the case of the five participants from Area 83, it turns out their greatest fears are ones that are harder to conquer than a spider and harder to avoid than a clown. They are the kinds of things that keep people up at night and can take a lifetime to learn to manage.

At my home club, Podemos Hablar, which is quite small, I have heard Table Topics speeches about fears and other difficulties in which the participants disclosed profound pieces of their souls. There have been plenty of light and downright amusing Table Topics speeches too, don’t get me wrong, but I am consistently reminded that you can learn a lot about a person and gain a different perspective on life in two minutes through the simple act of listening.

That’s the funny thing. We come here to speak but sometimes we learn the most without saying a word.

Impromptu Speaking

Lastly, I want to share the speech I gave as my entry to the club level International Speech contest at Podemos Hablar. It did not advance to Saturday’s contest, but I am passionate about this topic (not about the pencils themselves, but about education for all children, everywhere). It was inspired by a speech I saw Jackson Kaguri give at the 2015 Social Good Summit. This video was my last practice session the day of the contest. I am seriously considering keeping the speech in the rotation, and continuing to refine it, if for no other reason than it took a long time to figure out how to do what I do at the end with a pencil; there’s a reason Jackson’s father used a machete!

Stopwatch image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

#GlobalGoals: Using What We Have

It’s ridiculous. For our family of five, there are five functional mobile phones in the household (even for the 86 year old with short-term memory issues who has an extremely limited social calendar). In addition to the five functional phones, an inventory of our home would probably unearth another five abandoned phones, set aside in favor of newer technology, more memory, and the ability for Youtube videos of cute kittens to load EVEN FASTER.

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Philippa Kibugu-Decuir of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc. would be happy with one smartphone per village in Rwanda, East Africa, never mind five per household.

That one smartphone per village would make a difference in a place characterized by lack of knowledge and help-seeking behaviors, as well as fear and poverty. These factors result in many African women presenting their breast cancer at late stages when it is difficult or impossible to treat.

With a smartphone and an educational app, trained volunteer ambassadors can spread information about early detection among villagers. This makes it likely that women will catch signs of breast cancer much earlier than had previously been the case.

The app is currently in English, but Kinyarwanda and Swahili versions are being developed.

In the photos below, Valerie, in the village of Gisozi, Gasabo District, Rwanda, receives a smartphone which she will use to educate women.

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Photo Credit: BCIEA

Philippa says:

We believe we can use what we have to get where we want to be.

Our world needs people like Philippa to achieve Goal 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal-3

One of the subgoals is: Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. Philippa is directly impacting this goal, through improving early warning and risk reduction for women in Rwanda as it pertains to breast cancer.

In addition to this goal, the The UN has identified 16 other Sustainable Development Goals which will set the world’s agenda for the next 15 years. The 17 goals will be officially adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, September 25-27 in New York City.

Philippa inspires me to think harder about what I have, to be more creative in how I use it, and to have a more ambitious goal for the change I want to make in the health of the world around me.

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Although I chose to focus this post on the BCIEA project, I want to give a shout-out to some other organizations and individuals who are “using what they have to get where they want to be”:

  • An organization near and dear to me, Shot at Life, which helps ensure children around the world have access to life-saving immunizations. Learn more by clicking here.
  • The Kupona Foundation, which works closely to provide maternal healthcare, disability services, and sustainable health care in Tanzania. Learn more by clicking here.
  • I am also inspired by Jennifer Kate Lovallo. When her travel plans landed her in Budapest at precisely the same time that Syrian refugees were streaming through on their way to (primarily) Germany, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and disoriented, she arranged an impromptu effort to provide a relief station so the refugees could meet their basic survival needs. That particular situation may be over before the summit even convenes on September 25, but seeing her ability and willingness to initiate such an action on zero notice and to mobilize inspired me. Read more about her efforts here.

globalaction

To become more involved in the Global Goals, here are some resources:

Website:     Global Goals

Facebook:  The Global Goals

Twitter:       @UN and @TheGlobalGoals

Instagram:  The Global Goals

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UPDATE: Brenda of 1010 Park Place shared a great profile of Philippa here in October 2016.

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.

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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

Seven “Humbugs” and a “Ho Ho HOLD” on the Snark

I really enjoyed preparing the four posts I submitted to 12Most, such as this one about twelve great vine videos. There was one draft that never came to fruition, though, because every time I started writing it, I began feeling like its negativity would outweigh its informational value and that I may hurt the feelings of people I care about.

Writing about the topic I addressed in that draft on my personal blog seems a little less offensive, though, since I can just say my opinion and not be representing an entire cadre of writers. I am just going to get it out of my system once and move on (with, of course, a segue to a somewhat more positive ending).

The Humbug Part

I believe we have made some life events that are simply that, life events, hyperpublic and over produced. In doing, there is a danger that the personal, unique, cherished nature of these events may be diluted in favor of the public, commonplace, “how-could-I-top-that” qualities. These events include:

Promposals

A promposal is an invitation to the prom that is elaborate enough to be classified as a proposal. There are some examples here. The high school student seen here had her intended date pulled over, had the cop fake an arrest, and waited in the back of the car with a sign that said “prom.”

My humbug about promposals: First of all, what if the intended date says no? Secondly, as much as I love a theme and a fun creative project, I am still just as charmed by a young man who approaches a young woman in person and simply says, “Will you come to prom with me?”

Prom Photo Sessions 

Prom photos have become more and more sophisticated (so click here to see what I mean).

My humbug about elaborate high school dance photo sessions:  If the girl felt beautiful, the guy felt handsome, and the family could afford the dollars, what does it matter? These sessions have an “engagement photo-like” feel that seems out of place for couples who may not be embarking on a long-term romance.

Marriage Proposals 

Maybe it is the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and our ability to create and share video documentation of our lives. Something is happening that has resulted in a proliferation of marriage proposals that goes far beyond one individual getting down on bended knee and asking the other individual to spend a life together.

For example, a sand art proposal whose story can be found here.

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For more “beyond bended knee” proposals, click here.

My humbug: My humbug about this one is a little challenging to define. So many of the ones I have seen are full of love and beautifully done. These people are old enough to be somewhat confident the relationship will “stick,” which differentiates them from the high school students referred to earlier. I think I would distill my opinion down to: make sure you spend as much time clarifying that you feel the same way about money, kids, and sex as you do editing your proposal video.

Pregnancy Announcements 

When I got pregnant in 1995 and 1998, the  news traveled the “old fashioned” way–by word of mouth, phone call, email, and snail mail. This is no longer the case. Pregnancy announcements now fly over cyberspace as quickly as you can press “like” on a Facebook status or retweet someone on Twitter. The graphics behind these shares are pretty darned creative (like these).

My humbug: This is another one where I am blown away by the creativity but simultaneously a little taken aback. Maybe it’s the fact that such rapid shares separate the prospective parent from the recipient of the news. Half the fun of announcing your pregnancy is seeing the expression on the other individual’s face. I’m not sure 50 “likes” can do exactly the same thing.

Gender Reveals 

Putting aside those disciplined people who wait  until their baby is born to find out its gender (I was not one of them), the “gender reveal” process has gotten complicated! Here are three themes on one Pinterest Gender Reveal Board:

Ties or Tutus

Cupcake or Stud Muffin

Boots or Bows

For more including a gender “lottery,” click here.

My humbug: I am pretty sure the first gender reveal party I saw was on television. I can’t remember which celebrity it was, but the event was elaborate. There was a Hollywood party planner, caterer, favors, tents, the entire festivity checklist. Now I see them routinely on social media. Again, nothing is really damaged but having a gender reveal party but it seems easy to lose the exceptionally personal nature of the moment.

Maternity Photo Sessions 

I have seen some gorgeous maternity photos (such as these). What a beautiful way to commemorate that moment in a family’s life.

My humbug: My humbug is with the unduly revealing ones such as these. I am not a prude about the female body, especially the beauty of the pregnant female body but there is something about these photos that makes me feel like an invader (and I know, I can just “not look”).

Using A Baby’s Name Before They’re Born

Perhaps it is because we can now personalize pretty much anything that a baby is often given items with his or her name on them while they are in utero.

My humbug: I don’t know if this is a southern superstition or what, but I have always been leery of applying a child’s name to a product until they have been born. I am sure my feelings are influenced by having lost two pregnancies and by my mom’s having lost a baby, but loss happens. I just feel like it’s tempting fate.

In many of these cases, maybe my issue is green (and not the fun green of Christmas), but the green of envy. Since I couldn’t afford to throw a gender reveal party, for example, does that feed my humbugosity? If so, I own that but don’t think that’s the root of my opinion.

Switching Gears to the Positive

Since it’s Christmas, let’s address the most ubiquitous over-the-top phenomenon this time of the year, the Elf on the Shelf, who is hovering around many homes this season:

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly thankful that the EotS wasn’t a “thing” when my teenagers were little. If it had worked to modify my kids’ behavior, though, maybe I would have bit.

My world, in-person and on social media, is filled with über creative types. These adults have possibly missed their calling in production design for major motion picture houses. For example, toilet fishing:

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Source: www.diycandy.com

Toilet fishing is almost rudimentary compared to the attention to detail of my friend Diary of a Mom (I mean would you look at those little tiny oxygen tubes coming out of “Hazel’s” nasal passages?).

THEN there are the “alternate” EotS folks, who do tableaus like this (this was one of the tamer ones! Visit the Good Time Elf Facebook Page to see the others.):

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The voices of the Elf on the Shelf detractors are louder than ever this year (at least it seems that way to me). This article, for example, outlines one parent’s view.

I have had the elf skeptic conversation with friends on Facebook about EotS. We all gleefully pile on (yes, me included), smirking our disdain for the effort, the misguidedness, the adult energy, time and effort required for a “children’s” phenomenon.

Here’s my Ho Ho HOLD the snark point: I am through snarking about EotS.  He isn’t for me, but if he had been a “thing” when my kids were little, I may very well have given in and loved every minute of it.

I have had teachers say EotS is a “friend” in the classroom, someone the kids love and enjoy. I see families I care about and respect enjoying the heck out of creating their EotS scenarios. I see kids who *may* be doubting Santa’s existence still looking forward to their elf’s whereabouts in the morning.

It’s not for me, but there’s enough snark this holiday season (and, let us admit, all year long). If EotS is your thing, enjoy! I’ll even send you a Big Green Pen for your elf’s use if you’re running out of ideas!

snark santa

Fashionista, SpongeBob, or Princess?

What on earth is Paula talking about you may ask!

I am talking about a frivolous “rivalry” for an undeniably serious cause: saving children’s lives all over the world by vaccinating them.

I am happy to be a champion for Shot @ Life, the United Nations Foundation program that educates, connects, and empowers Americans to help protect children in developing countries from vaccine-preventable diseases*.

Around our world, 1 in 5 children do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Shot @ Life is developing and maintaining the momentum to help save a child’s life every 20 seconds.

I am grateful that Walgreens has partnered with Shot @ Life to donate a vaccine to Shot @ Life for every vaccine administered in their stores between now and October 14. The program is called “Get a Shot, Give a ShotTM.” A few features to note:

  • No appointment is necessary (although you can make an appointment here)
  • Most insurance is accepted
  • You receive 500 Balance Rewards points for every immunization

"The Shades"

Now, back to the frivolous part. I am dedicating next Saturday morning to my flu shot and wrapping a lovely Shot @ Life wrapper around the whole thing. I am going to park at Walgreens, get my hour-long scheduled run in (dedicating the miles to Shot @ Life via Charity Miles), slap on my Shot @ Life shades, wipe a little sweat off my brow so I don’t gross out the pharmacy staff, and get my flu shot.

Here’s where you come in. What type of Band-Aid should I use? We have:Fashionista (Cynthia Rowley to be precise):

fashionista bandaids

Princesses:

Princesses ALL CAPTIONED

And SpongeBob (Glow in the Dark!):

SB ALL CAPTIONED

Over the week I’ll be vetting the choices on social media. In a somewhat unscientific procedure, I’ll figure out which one is most popular and will happily use it post flu-shot and undoubtedly make some pharmacist wonder how all those years of pharmacy school led to having a picture taken with an almost-50-year old in green sunglasses wielding a glow in the dark (or Rapunzel …. or Cynthia Rowley) BandAid.

I’ll be interested in your thoughts about the BandAid choice but most importantly I would LOVE your participation — either through getting your flu shot at Walgreens (and by doing so getting a child vaccinated through Shot @ Life) — or by simply sharing the important message of Shot @ Life: that $20 (what some of us spend per week in coffee) can immunize a child against pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio!

**EPILOGUE**

Fashionista (sequins) won the contest! Here is the “evidence”!

Post Flu Shot post flu shot two

For more information:

Shot @ Life website: www.shotatlife.org

Shot @ Life Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shotatlifecampaign

Shot @ Life Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShotAtLife

Shot @ Life YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/shotatlifecampaign

Shot @ Life Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shotatlife

Walgreens-Joins-ShotAtLife-e1378630405410

*Some verbiage taken from Shot @ Life materials.

This Is Not About You

I would be a really inept private detective. In deciding to write the blog post that follows, I may have made a conclusion that is 100% wrong. But the subject weighs heavily on my heart and mind so I am going to write this post, and if the audience I am writing to reads it and scratches their heads, saying, “What on earth did she think we said?” then I’ll just hope something about the message still edifies or entertains someone.

This Is Not About You

The office grapevine came back around to me with the message last week that I had hurt people’s feelings with my YouTube videos. Specifically, with the impression that I had stated that people I work with are poorly educated. For 24 hours, I scratched my head about this, prayed about it, lost sleep over it, and (the only good thing) used the stress to fuel a great workout. Then it hit me, the acting monologue that I had recorded to be included as part of my “Faster, With More Energy” post in April 2010 talks about call center representatives who, despite being college graduates, “have the vocabularies of fourth graders.” Here it is:

If you don’t have time to watch and/or don’t want to endure a minute and 35 seconds worth of my amateur acting (trust me, I wouldn’t blame you!), here’s the monologue, word for word:

I talk to the American People on the phone every day as part of my job, and I can tell you — they’re dumb. And petulant. And worse than 5-year olds. Are they dumber than they used to be? Hell, yes! How else do you explain two terms of George Dubya? Worst president, ever! I don’t suppose you could say this is the dumbest country on the planet. There are worse, I’m sure. But the other countries have excuses: famine, war, oppression, plague. We did it to ourselves! My co-workers are college graduates. Those under the age of 30 have the vocabularies of 4th graders. If I had a dollar for every “like” “you know” “I mean” and “awesome” that comes out of their mouths, I could vacation in Reykjavik. Or in some other interesting city whose name Americans can’t spell and about whose geography and history they haven’t a clue. And let’s not even discuss their writing skills. It’s like dealing with foreigners who have learned individual English words but who can’t yet put them together into sentences. What’s the point? Everybody’s connected to their iPod, surfing porn, getting down, being cool…. Dumb’s #1!

This monologue is from Minute Mouth-Offs by G.L. Horton. When I was choosing a monologue, I liked this one because I have been involved in a lot of call centers, so the topic of a call center did not feel foreign to me. And haven’t we all been in the position of the consumer contacting a call center who had a less than stellar experience? 

That video is no more directed at anyone in my real life than I am really pregnant in this scene from “An Impossible Marriage” that I did in December 2010:

This Is Not About You

When I cross the threshold at work every day, my mindset is “This is about us” — what can we do as a team to help the uninsured children of Florida?

In Lori Deschene’s “25 Reasons to Embrace Criticism,” she opens with an Aristotle quote: “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  True. 

My favorite reason of her 25 was number 21:

Learning to receive … criticism … without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life. The more attention your work receives, the more criticism you’ll have to field.

I do want to do big things in life. I want my children to grow up to be happy, decent, fair people. I want to slay the debt monster once and for all. I want to write a book that chronicles the blend of courage, patriotism, and humanity that overtook Carrabelle in the early 1940’s in the form of Camp Gordon Johnston. I would love to write a blog post or vlog that makes just one person (or 1,000) say “I am going to do something differently today because of what you wrote (or said).”

I do want to do big things.

But I will never, ever do that by intentionally making someone else feel small.