Categories
Life People

February

When I close my eyes and think of the word February, I see the word love. I see the colors of warmth and affection, red and pink.

Unfortunately, when I think specifically of February 2021, I also see grey.

First came Covid-19 symptoms, which led to a positive Covid-19 test, which then led to several weeks of quarantining and restless discomfort. My husband and sons didn’t get sick, however, and I’ve recovered. We are lucky, and I am grateful.

Next came snow and ice and electricity failures. Days and nights of freezing temperatures with no power, no heat. We fared better than most, and again, I’m grateful. For some, the situation was extremely bad. For some, far too many, the situation was deadly.

Then, without electricity and heat, the water stopped flowing. Later, in the thaw, the water raced through once-frozen pipes, finding the weak spots, punching holes in the metal. It poured into homes and buildings, through ceilings, out of walls, up through floors, finding all possible exits and creating new ones where none existed.

Again, my family and I escaped the worst – not all of it, but our experience was mild in comparison with the experiences of many others. We were fortunate. But lots of other people weren’t.

Still, in the midst of the frozen heartbreak, there were moments of warmth. Neighbors looked after each other. Emergency personnel never stopped providing care and protection. Employees at grocery stores and restaurants did what they could to get food and supplies to the those who needed them. People stepped up to get it done – “it” being whatever was most needed in the moment, even if that was simply a few sticks of firewood or a bottle of water.

Now that the snow has melted, that empathy, resilience, and compassion hasn’t ended. Instead, it’s bloomed. Lots of organizations are marshaling their people and resources to support those who’ve lost so much, those who must recover and rebuild. If you’re in a position to assist, your help is greatly appreciated. I’ve listed a few of them below, and a quick internet search will find additional options that would welcome whatever you can give.

Yes, when I close my eyes and think of February 2021, I see grey. But, I also see yellow and orange, the colors of hope and generosity, courage and kindness. And the red and the pink are also there, front and center.

February is still the month of love.

North Texas Food Bank – https://ntfb.org

Tarrant Area Food Bank – https://tafb.org

Central Texas Food Bank – https://www.centraltexasfoodbank.org

American Red Cross – https://www.redcross.org

Meals on Wheels – https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org

Categories
Good Life People

Teachers

Every year on this date, I think about teachers.

There are countless examples of jobs that provide value to society – doctors and designers, lawyers and librarians, bakers and builders – just to name a few. Some are well-known and well-paid. Others, not so much. All contribute in some way to the intricate, delicately-balanced web that holds us all together in this world.

The foundational profession, however, is teaching.

The people who teach are the ones who help us do more than we did before. They help us be more than we used to be and build more than exists now. They help us imagine and evaluate and understand and create so that then everything else is possible.

So, here’s to the teachers. Thank you for seeing our potential, believing in us, and guiding us forward on the journey to tomorrow.

“I touch the future. I teach.” – Christa McAuliffe

Categories
Fun People

Sing

Of all the things that technology makes possible, one of my favorites is that people who are miles apart – sometimes, even countries apart – are still able to sing together.

There are lots of virtual choirs out there delivering professionally-produced performances, everything from show tunes to traditional hymns. Nothing can truly replace a live choir experience, but the virtual versions are a good substitute.

A fun new trend, an informal approach to this remote communal singing action, involves sea shanties. Not long ago, a person in Scotland, Nathan Evans, posted his a capella version of The Wellerman on TikTok. Soon after, people all over the world were adding their voices, creating several variations on the first version. Since then, Mr. Evans has added more shanties, and more variations have been created, and now there’s a whole new awareness of and appreciation for the music.

I, too, want to sing and dance when I hear these shanties; they’re a good way to get the day started. Part of the fun is knowing that, somewhere out there, other people are also humming along and living the experience. I’ll never meet them, but we are each part of a larger virtual community.

Here’s to technology and the gift of being able to sing together, regardless of the distance between us.


Categories
Good People

Dolly 2.0

There’s a lot happening these days, deep, heavy, serious things, some good, some not. Things that are worthy of attention and consideration; things that carry long-term implications and demand careful focus.

In the midst of it all, today is Dolly Parton’s birthday.

I’ve written of my admiration of her before. Since then, I’ve learned that she’s done even more Good, even more Wow, by donating one million dollars to the research that ultimately led to the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.

She did it on purpose, but she didn’t do it to get noticed or to be in charge. As she put it, “I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world.”

So, here’s to Dolly Parton. Happy Birthday to a real Wonder Woman.

“Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” – Dolly Parton

Categories
Life People

Switch

Yesterday, I read a story about an experiment with an evening online kindergarten class at a New Jersey elementary school.

Educators noticed a high number of absences in the daytime online classroom. They surmised that the challenges faced by working parents, coping with job and other changes brought about by the pandemic, made it difficult for some children to attend online learning during the day. When they did attend, they were frequently distracted.

So, the educators offered an option: a 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. class. Eleven students signed up.

The results have been excellent, according to the educators and the parents. Attendance improved, as did student engagement in the lessons. In some cases, the parents have been able to shadow their children, supporting them during the lessons and reinforcing the information. That would not have been possible in a daytime class.

This switch to nighttime education is not a solution that will work for everybody. But it has been successful in this case. Perhaps it could be a positive option elsewhere.

There will come a day when the pandemic won’t be a part of our lives anymore. We’ll go back to living without having to take the extra steps that keep us safe right now. When that day comes, it will be worth celebrating – a return to “normal.”

At the same time, it’s unlikely that we’ll think of things in exactly the same way as we did before. There will have been a shift in how we perceive the world around us, our options and expectations. A shift in how we define “normal.”

It will be interesting to see which of the experiments, which of the ideas and innovations created during these challenging days, will leave a lasting influence.

Categories
People

MoW

There have been a few silver linings in this year of ugh.

For example, without a daily work commute, I have some free time during the day. I’ve used some of this free time to deliver meals to senior citizens through Meals on Wheels.

I’ll admit that I was initially nervous about volunteering right now, but the people with the MoW organization work hard to ensure that volunteers are well-prepared to safely complete delivery routes. They understand how important it is to protect their elderly clients and the volunteers in this pandemic environment.

They also know that, without these deliveries, their clients might not have the nutritious food they need. Many clients live alone or with another elderly family member. Some are physically unable to prepare their own food; others don’t have access to transportation or financial resources. The pandemic has exacerbated these difficult circumstances. Volunteer delivery drivers are always appreciated, but especially now more than ever.

Delivering a MoW route only takes a few hours. Volunteers can assist with as few – or as many – routes as they want. Training is done virtually, and there’s a neat little app that keeps track of route info. The first route can be a bit of an adventure, getting used to the process and following the driving directions, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things.

MoW can always use more volunteers. If delivering meals isn’t your thing, there are other ways to contribute, such as their pet care program and various holiday programs throughout the year. Financial support is always welcome, as well.

If you’re interested in learning more, please visit their website:

https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org

Here’s to the Meals on Wheels organization and to their meaningful mission of service.

Categories
Life People

Brand

I’ve never bought anything from Zappos.

I don’t do a lot of online shopping, so that’s not a statement about my feelings about the company. On the contrary, I’m a Zappos admirer. If I wanted to purchase shoes or clothing online, Zappos would be one of the first options I’d consider. I’d even recommend – in fact, have recommended – Zappos to other people.

Why am I a Zappos fan, despite not being an actual customer (so far)? I’m inspired by the Zappos story, the journey from a little online shoe company to an e-commerce powerhouse.

The business results – financial returns, company growth, all of the other traditional “business” measurements – are impressive, of course. What I find particularly appealing, however, is what drives those results: the Zappos culture.

Until recently, the person leading the culture charge was Tony Hsieh. His perspective was (is) seen by some as radical, extreme, unsustainable. Encourage your employees to spend as much time as necessary to help a customer? Recommend a competitor if you aren’t able to meet a customer’s needs? Spell out company values and then prioritize those values over technical skills when hiring new employees? Crazy stuff, some might say.

But if you zero in on what’s really going on, what’s happening to build and sustain and expand the Zappos brand, the beloved Zappos experience, it’s not extreme at all. It’s very simple.

It’s people.

Zappos sells shoes and clothing online. That’s where the money comes from, and yes, the money is vital. A business can’t operate without it.

But – the reason Zappos exists is to serve people, both outside (customers) and inside (employees) the company.

Zappos puts people at the center of their business, treats them with care and respect and appreciation, trusts them to make good decisions, and listens to and learns from them. Customers and employees respond in kind.

This approach doesn’t guarantee that every day is full of unicorns and lollipops. Sometimes, mistakes get made, bad things happen, plans fail. Nobody’s perfect. That’s reality.

It’s hard to argue with success, however. The results are there; they tell a story that can’t be ignored.


Today’s cuppa honors Tony Hsieh, who passed away on November 27. Here’s to his brand of putting people first. I hope that his message continues to influence the world of business for generations to come.

Categories
People

Origin

Yesterday, I read an article in Time.com about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s favorite collars. It reminded me of how much I enjoy origin stories, the ones that trace back to the start of something and explain how the puzzle pieces fit together to create a picture.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about origin stories is that they very often start with a small action, a seemingly unremarkable, ordinary moment. In hindsight, the moment becomes important because of additional facts and context or because it was the first of many other such moments. Initially, however, that one little something that occurred at that point in time – that decision, or reaction, or word choice – floated in a pool of other somethings until it became Something More.

In the case of Justice Ginsburg, her iconic collars started with a quiet desire to feminize the robes worn by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. The robes were designed for men; she and Sandra Day O’Connor were the first women to ever wear them.

In the space normally occupied by a man’s collar and tie, Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor first added lace. Over time, Justice Ginsburg expanded her judicial wardrobe with a wide variety of collars. Some had beads, some had beautiful colors. Some were gifts specially designed in her honor. Each one held meaning for her; each one reflected a message or a memory, an unspoken display of her opinion and perspective.

What started as a simple choice evolved into an iconic signature. A small thing, perhaps – it certainly doesn’t have the significance of a military battle or a coronation. That fashion choice, however, now stands as a symbol of influence and impact, of possibilities and potential.

Who knows how many people will be inspired by one of those collars and the story behind it? And then, once inspired, what might they achieve?

How many origin stories are happening out there, right at this moment?

https://time.com/5914834/ruth-bader-ginsburg-collars/

Categories
People

Nancy

This year celebrates 90 years of Nancy Drew mysteries.

I, like many others, grew up on Nancy Drew. I read each book more than once and couldn’t wait for the next new one.

Through Nancy’s adventures, I learned the meaning of the words “sleuth” and “titian,” gained an appreciation for small details, and took my first steps toward a lifelong interest in understanding human behavior. Her curiosity, creativity, and confidence were inspirational.

I also admired Nancy because she wasn’t superhuman. She solved every mystery, but she made mistakes and sometimes found herself in some troubling circumstances. Still, she never failed to keep going, to do her best to achieve a positive outcome.

Nancy was polite and helpful, humble and kind. She waited her turn, gave credit to others, and generously shared with others. She was respectful when stating her opinion, used facts to make her case, and enjoyed learning new things. She was a good and loyal friend. Of course, solving mysteries meant that she had to take some risks, but they were carefully calculated. Responsibility was her hallmark.

Nancy was a stellar role model. I wanted to be just like Nancy.

Recently, I learned that when the first books were published, some book stores and libraries refused to carry them. The reason? Nancy didn’t behave the way a young woman of that age was supposed to behave. Her unconventional actions and independent nature simply weren’t acceptable.

I’ve always thought of myself as being influenced by a Good Girl. Who knew that Nancy was actually a Rebel all along?

“The young sleuth smiled. Although she was glad it was all over, she could not help but look forward to another mystery to solve.” – Carolyn Keene, The Hidden Staircase

Categories
People

Friendly

The other day, I was thinking about the long-term implications of mask-wearing and social cues.

I will clarify that I am 100% pro-mask as a means of minimizing the spread of disease, of keeping myself and others as safe as possible in the midst of the current pandemic. My musings aren’t related to an anti-mask perspective. Masks = good.

I also know, however, that facial expressions play a key role in communication. We smile, we frown, we show surprise and anger, fear and joy, all the feelings with our faces. These actions emphasize and reinforce our words, voice tone, and body language.

As babies and young children, we learn how to interpret and use these expressions by watching and mimicking other people. As adults, we depend on these learned cues to evaluate and choose our actions when interacting with others.

Sometimes, we make a conscious decision about what we see; for example, we walk into a room of smiling people and conclude that we’re in friendly territory. Sometimes, our interpretation is more of a gut-level reaction; for example, a tight-lipped expression with the words, “I’m fine” warns us that things are not, in fact, fine.

So, if the lower half of the faces of great numbers of people aren’t visible for significant portions of time, what’s the eventual outcome?

It will be interesting to revisit this question after we have a vaccine, after masks have been unnecessary for a while. In the meantime, our challenge is to work around the situation, to come up with creative options to cope with any communication gaps.

I learned about one such option yesterday. FriendlyFaces.com is a website offering personalized masks for purchase. You take a selfie, upload it to the website, and then select the size and other details of your mask. When your mask arrives, you have a means of safely presenting your face, with your chosen expression, to the world.

There’s no requirement that the expression be a happy one, of course. “Resting bitch face” is certainly an option. I suspect, however, that most people who order a mask end up choosing a smiling selfie. Humans are social creatures, after all. It’s hard to resist a friendly face.