Gary’s Speech on Healthcare

I may be illiterate but I surround myself with very, very smart people. Take for example my friend Gary. He’s a magnificent orator and his speech is thoughtful. I wish the debate on healthcare, and every other government interest, could be articulated this well by the media.

For those who don’t know I’ve been in Toastmasters for 2 years and recently I developed a speech that had excellent reviews. As such I gave it as a test speech at a contest and subsequently was invited to another Toastmasters club to give it a 3rd time. They captured it on video. Maybe it’s meaningful to someone out there in the blog-o-sphere.

His blog.

Web 2.0 in a Family Crisis

In the wee hours of Friday morning my cousin was in a car accident 1,000 miles from where I live. By that evening I had an email telling me about it. The next day I talked to family and offered the only thing I could: build a website for family to post updates so that my aunt didn’t have to tell the same story over and over and over.

Saturday night I shopped for domains while chatting with another cousin through FB. That same day a friend posted on my cousin’s FB wall that she had been in an accident.

Sunday we bought a domain and Peter brought up another WordPress instance. I created new email accounts for the editor accounts I needed. I wanted all the email to forward back to me, not my aunt. Some because she didn’t need the additional spam, some because she’s not blog savvy and I knew I was signing up to admin the site and some because I’m trying to protect my cousin’s anonymity to some degree, having generic emails on the site supports that goal.

By Sunday night an aunt was posting.

Monday morning I put a link to the site on Mary’s FB wall.

Monday afternoon another aunt decided a PayPal donate button is needed. All I have to do is go to PayPal’s site plug in some information and all the HTML will be generated for me. I’ll paste that HTML into a widget text box and voila, a donate button linked to an account at a financial institution that I’ve never been to.

Comments have started to come in. The blog has been up for 36 hours and word has spread.

We plan to extend the site to include a google calendar that will track all the people that want to bring food and offer help to the family; that’ll be maintained by a family friend.

My aunts can post updates without my intervention and without having to know how it works. The calendar can change and the site will stay up-to-date. People who want to help, want to do something now, can donate on the site.

No one has to be a web developer (I chose a WP theme that supports widgets). All of this is possible because of the interoperability of the web components. I don’t know how to write a shopping cart, or a calendar control, I don’t even have to know HTML, CSS or PHP. Yet we have a password-protected blog up and running with an easy to remember domain that will be the central point for Mary’s updates. It was mostly free too. We bought a domain and that’s it.

In ye olde days, how long would that have taken? It would have been a major time-consuming, expensive project by knowledgable, web-savvy people.

We would have resorted to a phone tree.

Heaping Spoonful

Once upon a time I went to San Francisco and met a spit-fire of an author. She asked if I would review her book on my site. I maintained my composure and said, “sure – send me a copy.” Right after that I called all my friends everyone in the entire universe my husband and told him how I had just gotten FREE stuff and AN AUTHOR wants me to review her book.

But then I sucked.

I read the amazing, awesome book and I did not tell any of you. See previous paragraph re: suckage.

I think the book deserves better than I can do. I’ll give it the ol’ college try though.

Shauna Glenn’s debut novel Heaping Spoonful is a wonderful, heart-felt read. I couldn’t put it down. I think I missed dinner and the children tucked themselves in. I can’t be sure, I was curled up on the couch reading.

The writing is smooth and easy. Easy like Sunday morning, a friend would say. Claire’s internal dialogue sounds like that of me and my friends:

My mom had been right – I needed to get my shit together – if for no other reason than so my kids wouldn’t grow up to be serial killers.

How many of us have thought something similar?

Protagonist Claire is an every-woman. She’s a single mom (not by choice, her husband died), a boss (owns her own bakery), a sister and a daughter. She’s pulled in every direction imaginable. It’s easy to relate with her. And Shauna makes her so likable. Even when she’s making poor choices, she’s likable. You feel her struggle, that really she’s confused and doing the best she can with the hand she’s been dealt. You can’t begrudge her one bit.

I think Claire speaks to a generation of woman that are trying to do it all. She runs a successful business. She begins dating. She loses her mother a little each day to Alzheimer’s. Her kids are in school. And somehow, in the midst of all this external activity – she’s still mourning her husband. She’s not leading a gilded life. She’s leading an ordinary life, with extraordinary pressures. Just like you and me. Well, except she owns a bakery so she could console herself with an entire chocolate cake pretty easily. That’s a good point that I’ll have to take up with Shauna. Maybe Claire’s on the points?

Claire’s story is about moving forward. She’s not starting fresh, it’s not like she’s hiding the kids in the cupboard while dating. She redefines her relationship with her sister, giving Lucy the space she needs to be Lucy and not mini-Claire. She reconnects with her mother through the Alzheimer’s fog. Claire most definitely pulls her self up by her bootstraps. She struggles. Again. And again. But eventually she finds her rhythm and in that her new life.

There are fantastic reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Except for one where the poster basically called Claire a hussy, disregard that one – I don’t think she read the same book I did.

If you live in the DFW area, I highly recommend going to the launch party for this fantastic debut novel (Shauna will correct me on this matter, this is her third novel – just the first that someone had the good sense to publish, therefore the first that we’re able to read). Meeting Shauna is definitely worth your time. Saturday, Sept 27 at 7pm; 1020 Magnolia in Ft Worth. Send your RSVP here or check Shauna’s site for more information.

Life Changing Events

Some people use their blogs as a space to rant, some to boast about their kids (ahem) and some to just make the world a more sun-shiny place. But then we fall into niches. Our blogs aren’t just for ourselves anymore. We don’t necessarily know who’ll read. And sometimes, we need to vent about someone we know reads us. I’ve offered up my bit o’blogosphere for one such person.
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Thank you to HBM for hosting this event.

Five years ago my daughter then 20 and a junior in college announced she was pregnant. The plan at the time was she and her boyfriend were going to get married after the baby was born. Something I didn’t understand.

She and the boyfriend broke up and got back together several times before they finally called it quits. Before they broke up for the final time they had moved out of my house. The baby stayed with them for one night. Then he was brought back to me because they had a fight and needed to work a few things out. He has been with me ever since.

My daughter has a good job lives in a nice apartment and there is no reason she cannot raise this child herself. She chooses not too. She loves her son but she doesn’t want to give up her lifestyle. She loves to party and spend time with her sorority sisters. She has managed to portray to them that she is a struggling single Mom and I’m just a babysitter.

Five months ago my 22 year old son passed away. He had a degenerative brain disorder and lived longer than we expected but it still has been hard.

Since then I have had a harder time dealing with my daughter. I cannot understand why she does not want to spend time with her son. She kept him last night and called me and told me that his speech is getting worse. He is in speech therapy and everyone else thinks it is getting better. There have been several instances where she has tried to find something wrong with him.

He is very healthy. I cannot understand why you would borrow trouble. She says that she wants him to live with her but makes no effort. Since Jan she has only kept him 26 times overnight. She rarely spends the weekends with him because she has plans with her friends. For instance I asked her to keep him tonight. She said yes but has canceled because her friends want to go out.

I love this boy with all my heart and will be devastated if he ever goes back to her but I know that she is his mother and that may be best for him. He is now 4 and he does fight staying with her which I hate because I want them to have a strong relationship no matter where he lives.

Thank you for listening to me.

Blog Action Day

Every time someone who is not already in my feed reader leaves a comment I have two reactions: first, awesome! and second, yay – more sites to read. Right because I needed that. But you all are givers and I appreciate you for it.

So, when I saw a new commentor I clicked over and was inspired. Jenn is partaking in Blog Action Day. I like blogs. I like action. It’s 2008. What’s this about?

Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

Out of this discussion naturally flow actions, advice, ideas, plans, and empowerment. In 2007 on the theme of the Environment, we saw bloggers running environmental experiments, detailing innovative ideas on creating sustainable practices and focusing audience’s attentions on organizations and companies promoting green agendas. In 2008 we aim to again focus the blogging community’s energies and passions, this time on the mammoth issue of global poverty.

The organizers also ask participants to donate their site’s earnings to charitable giving.

But my site generates zero revenue.

You can help make a difference by participating in the discussion. I’ll donate $1 for every distinct commenter to the poverty post (up to $100) to microfinancier Kiva. I love the microfinancing option. Such a small amount makes a monumental difference. I’ll post in enough time to make the October 15 deadline. I’ll also post the receipt so you all know that I’m not shady.

Help me put my money where my mouth is.

Hat tip: Something to Say: about Life in The Nederlands

A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor

For most of us, our first introduction to a community was either Sesame Street or Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. (Total aside, if your kids are little and like to play on your computer check out the new Sesame Street site. They completely revamped it. It’s all web-appy and not web-sitey. It’s easy to use. And! Not irritating. OH! They’re putting all the music videos on the site. And you can make your own “street” and … well, just go there – it’s well worth it.)

You’ve probably heard, PBS isn’t putting Mr. Rogers in the new lineup. There’s a movement afoot to reverse that decision.

I loved Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. It was a staple in my life. My kids have never seen it. Not for any good reason. I think they watch less television than I did. Or maybe I watched Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street longer and later than they will. Either way, my kids won’t notice. I’m not sure I want Mr. Rogers to stay around, honestly.

Some childhood issues are timeless and Mr. Rogers can always help you through those. I don’t think good ole Fred would have been able to talk about the Internet or having two mommies or sexual predators in the classroom. (I could be wrong, I did no googling to support my blathering on.) Mr. Rogers wouldn’t have street cred with my kids. He’d be right and gentle yet they wouldn’t hear his pearls of wisdom. Even though my kids are luddites, he’s too old-fashioned for their 21st century tastes.

I really did love his show. And I’ve just lost a half hour of my life on youtube watching more. But that’s nostalgia. Let Mr. Rogers rest in peace. And on DVD.

Ooh, the googles did set me a little straight. Fred tried to keep current. But come on, he was an old white guy in a cardigan and Keds. I highly recommend not drinking while watching; I accept no responsibility if you blow coffee out your nose onto your keyboard.

If you need a dose of good Fred Rogers, his goodbye is touching. He said goodbye to us, we should say goodbye to him too. It’s the neighborly thing to do.

What do you think? Do you wish your kids could have their daily dose of the Neighborhood? Or is it time for newer, hipper shows to take its place? Who do you like these days?

PS: We can’t forget Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood – I guess that’s how you know you’re an American Institution, SNL spoofs you.

Community Identity

Driving to work I like to listen to NPR, or Modest Mouse turned up to 11. But usually NPR. It makes me feel s-m-r-t.  Yesterday on Morning Edition Steve Inskeep interviewed their own editorial director of digital media, Dick Meyer about his new book Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium. It was fantastic. I highly recommend everyone go listen to it, I’ll wait. It’s seven minutes 19 seconds that you’ll be happy you gave up.

I’ve pulled out a little of the conversation (this took me about 7 rewinds, so enjoy it)

The cultural revolution of the 1960s and the technological revolution that followed set people adrift; they can’t count on communities … People had a community identity.

I am adrift. I am an only child. Peter is one of two children. His brother and parents live 1000 miles away. We live in a town near the one I spent my “formative” years. There’s been so much growth in this area in the last 20 years that it’s not the same place in which I grew up.

The town I live in does not evoke a community identity. In fact it evokes very little response – it’s a bedroom community, it’s completely non-offensive. My neighborhood doesn’t have a community identity, it’s another beige subdivision. My block does not have a sense of community. We are more fortunate than other blocks, in that we all know each other’s first names, but last names? Forget about it.

My kids go to the same daycare as one of the neighbor families. It’s brought our two families closer together; we’ve had dinner at each other’s homes. When she suggested that we put each other on the emergency contact form at school I was dumbfounded. Why, of course we should do that. It makes total sense. But it didn’t occur to me. I was embarrassed by that. I’m the emergency contact for some friends, for kids whose schools I don’t know the location. To rely on your neighbor is such a profound act. The reliance builds community.

I believe it takes a village to raise a child. Every time my children get love, guidance and reprimanded by our friends I’m happy to see my village at work. I have a community. I am part of a community. I cannot simply fall off this planet without someone noticing. And for that, I am grateful. But I do not have a community identity. Or maybe I do and I cannot articulate it? Totally possible.

What was the technological breaking point for a community? Was it the telephone? Now you could maintain relationships with people from your geographic past, you didn’t have to befriend your neighbor because you were still friends with your old neighbor. Was it the television? No need to go outside and visit with your neighbors, you could watch your stories and feed some of the socialization feelings there. Was it the computer? The Internet? Video games? The never being able to be incommuncado?

Where did our communities break? How do we rebuild them?

And yes, y’all are my online community. But I’m not sensing that I can call you to bail my ass out of jail. You know, since you’re allowed one phone call – not one email or tweet. Not that I twitter, but if I did, that would totally be something worth tweeting about.

As a total aside, I did learn from looking at NPR’s webiste that when I have my professional anchor picture taken I should sit with my right side facing the camera and look straight at the camera. Or at least that’s how Mr Inskeep and Meyer do it. Regardless, they’re no Anderson Cooper. I was once in the CNN Center and for a brief moment considered making out with his larger than life size portrait on the wall. I remembered that I wasn’t a 12 year old girl alone in her bedroom with her Corey Feldman poster. So I just pet it a little as we walked by.

Craigslist to the Rescue

I hate throwing away anything that might have value to someone else. Take for example the tricycle I plucked out of a neighbor’s trash (in her defense she was hoping someone would) and gave to another friend to rehab and use for their son. Maybe the husband got carried away?

Nah.

But more than throwing away things that still have life in them, I abhor paying other people to throw things away for me. We had a deck on the back of our house.

It was a fine deck, served its purpose but not terribly well suited for a family with small children. Our neighbor said it’s a redwood deck. We believed him since he helped build it. It was also over-engineered. Screws (not nails) – 2 per joist per board, joists every 16 inches – it’s like they were building a house foundation.

We wanted a concrete patio and got a few bids. All the bids included demo and removal of the deck. But if it’s redwood, surely it had some value, right? Not to the concrete guys. So I placed an ad on our local Craigslist listing the redwood for free if you dismantled and hauled it away. Nearly immediately I had a furniture maker call me. He came over the following Saturday and removed all the decking. He also said it was really good redwood and will make lovely outdoor benches and tables.

He left behind the pressure treated lumber.

Another post on Craigslist. Another taker. In the end our deck was dismantled and hauled away by people other than us and for free!

We kept the materials out of the landfill and lowered the cost of our patio since they didn’t have to do any demolition. It was a total win.

The next time you have things that still have life in them just not room in your life, check out Craigslist. You may not make a penny, but you’ll keep stuff from the landfill. Remember, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. And it makes for good community.

Do you have any good Craigslist stories? That antique dresser that you finally found? The dining table you’re going to rehab? Share!

If I Tweet and No One Follows Me, Am I a Twit?

I don’t know what Twitter is.

There, I said it.

I mean, I’ve heard of it. And I could maybe BS my way through a conversation about it. Assuming I was talking to the Amish.

I don’t know what Twitter is used for. Would I use my phone for it? Do standard messaging fees apply? What would I say? Who would listen?

KellyGo thinks I should Tweet. She leads a cool kid life and I would like to do that too. But the noise. Oye the noise. Not the noise of my phone (at this point I’m assuming that’s the Twitter device) but the noise in my life.

Would Tweeting bring us closer together or just put more minutia between us? If I Tweet all the interesting bits of my day, what would we talk about over drinks?

When I read something like this, I’m resolved: oh dear NO, I cannot invite that stress into my life. The commitment! Do you see I just signed Elliot up for Karate? How can I fit that AND Twitter into my life?

I know it’s leave-no-man-behind, but you all are going to have to forge ahead on this technology without me. Just don’t roll your eyes when I ask you to tell me about your day even though you already Tweeted about it.

And really, do you do this on your phone?

Also, my resolve is pretty weak – so don’t make too much fun of me when I ask to follow you on Twitter next week.

Losing Touch

Being able to lose touch is, when you think about it, a pretty valuable luxury.

Ms Reichelt is correct. Consider the ubiquitous cell phone. I’ve had the same phone number for eight years now. That would be 2 apartments, 2 houses, 5 jobs and 2 kids ago. But, if you knew my phone number in 2000, you still know my phone number. I cannot hide from you. Same goes for my email. I have a few addresses, some of them dating back to last century. And they all forward. I cannot lose you.

I’m on a few social networking sites. I have this funky blog. I don’t cross link them (we can probe my crazy later). I have multiple IM accounts that I access simultaneously blending multiple aspects of my current and past lives. Because of technology, folks that I was once hung with, at least online, are still able to contact me. And vice versa.

From Ms Reichelt’s post:

Q: “How many contacts could you accumulate over the course of a lifetime if you start really young?”

A: Personally, I’m going to keep my kids locked under the stairs so they won’t have to face this challenge. And friends lead to team sports. It’s a vicious cycle, and the ending is always me driving carpool.

Q:”If we get stressed about our moms friending us on FaceBook now, what do our kids have coming?”

A: Kelly O thinks our kids will lead less compartmentalized lives than we do now. So, admitting that “yeah, that my mom” might not be as socially devastating as it was for our generation. Also? My kids think I’m cool. So, of course they’d want to friend me. I’d just have to be on FaceBook first.

Q: “We think Twitter gets distracting now – how will we manage all the noise that such a huge number of contacts will generate? Or will we all just shut up? (I doubt it).”

A: I don’t Twitter. Or tweet. The world can go on without my pearls of wisdom. But this does tie back to the ubiquitious cell phone. Now when people phone one another they expect instant gratification. It seems that people are expected to answer their cell ALL THE TIME. That’s very different than land lines (for people that still have them). Remember when sometimes you’d let it go to the answering machine because you were busy doing something else? Or you just didn’t want to talk? Now, if you let your cell go to VM the caller will invariably ask “where are you? why aren’t you answering your phone?” It’s as if the ownership of a cell phone is the tacit acceptance of noise in your life. You have to declare you’ll be incommunicado if you wish to pick and choose when you’ll answer. Or, be like me and set the answering expectations low.

Q: “How will we manage our identity online as our identity changes? Will this pressure that seems to be about to have an integrated online persona (work, social, family, all in together) continue? If not, how will different personas evolve and how will the be related? Will we be able to re-invent ourselves?”

A: How do you know who you are at 12? 15? 20? 30? Do you get to safely experiment with your identity without having to hear about it for all of eternity when you invariably take a wrong turn? Will my kids have to have a variety of anonymous lives before they’re willing to take one public? What if they do want to change who they are? Can they ever honestly say that yes, they’re a vegetarian if someone else can find a ten year old post about how much they love dead slab o’cow on their plate? Or, will their generation be more tolerant? More tolerant of trying before buying. Of being willing to say this is who I am today – I make no guarentees that I’ll be this person tomorrow?

It’s novel for us now to have real-world friends we first met online. Or to refer to people we’ve never met face-to-face as friends. That won’t be the case for our kids. Friendship won’t be defined by matching Friendship bracelets. They’ll have friends all over the world that they’ll never see in person. Finding a date online won’t be the stuff of television commercials, it’ll be as common as fast food restaurants. It’s a brave new world out there, I hope we don’t give ourselves information overload trying to get there.

Thanks for the link Anne.