Friday, May 29, 2009

Funny Baby Pictures: Superheroes Wear Tights

The best superheroes are brave and daring. They're not afraid to go undercover. And they know that the best way to maneuver without detection is to wear candy-colored striped tights to music class.

So, go undercover this weekend and bring a little color back into your life. Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The spirituality of creativity, part 3: Takeaways

Photo by alicepopkorn

Oh good, you came back! Let's wrap up this informal series on the spirituality of creativity (parts one and two here), because I'm sure you have many wonderfully creative endeavors to attend to.

So we've look at the underlying fundamentals of creativity's connection to spirituality. We've explored the four spiritual gifts that derive from following your creative instincts. But now what? Where do we go/create from here? Here are some of my takeaways:

Item #1: No time like the present!

Fr. Ryan geared his talk to the midlife crowd, with constant references to the second half of life, career changes, and the like. I got the sense from the other attendees -- all over 50 -- that they were living with some regret about just discovering their creative sides now.

As the only twenty-something in the room, and one who recently recommitted to her creative destiny, I had to ask: Doesn't this apply to everyone? (Yes.) And if so, why wait? (Don't.)

Creativity will not come to you fully formed. You have to practice it, nurture it, and live with it to really reap the benefits. So, my thinking is, don't delay. Give yourself as much time as possible to relish that process.

Item #2: Define creativity for yourself, as well as its terms of "art."

In this series, I've tended to use arts such as poetry or writing as examples of creative fruit. And that's all they are -- examples -- shared through the lens of my arts-centric experiences.

Because as Fr. Ryan pointed out multiple times in his talk, creativity knows no boundaries of skill sets, job functions, interests, etc. Your creativity could manifest in an improved process, smoother logistics, fruitful garden, or elegant equations, just as it could in a cello composition or photography.

Remember, creativity is the ability to see new possibilities in set ways of doing things. Do you have the vision?

Item #3: Water the spiritual roots of creativity.

This series was about creativity AND spirituality, after all, so let's leave on a prayerful note.

I'm a pretty major hypocrite on this point, because my prayer life isn't where it could be. But I encountered two things -- one idea, one piece -- that might provide a good starting point for reflecting on creation.

Fr. Ryan suggested the first idea when he brought up examens, the Jesuit tradition of daily examinations of consciousness as a way to prayer.

When you're praying about or over your day, ask God, "Where was I surprised today? Where did I see evidence of Your creativity?" This helps to draw the connection between the Creator, the act of creating, and what's created in your own life.

The second prayer supplement is this prayer -- entitled "The Brooding Spirit" -- from Fr. Ed Hays, blogger and poet for the National Catholic Reporter. Fr. Hays has lots of intriguing poems and reflections on his blog, but I was particularly struck by the last stanza of "The Brooding Spirit":
Then, spill forth from the very center of me
God's wildest dreams and fantasies,
heaven's highest hopes for my day and times,
as you again recreate this old, weary world.

There it is -- the link between God's recreation and our imaginations, the input and output, and the infinite cycle of inspired creativity -- captured in no less than a poem. Fitting, don't you think?

So that's all I have to say (right now) about spirituality and creativity. Now I want to hear from you. How do you experience creativity? How do you foster it? What are your beliefs or perceptions about its spiritual origins or links? Please share in the comments -- and thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The spirituality of creativity, part 2: The four spiritual gifts

Image by Eddi 07

Welcome back for part two of this impromptu series on the spirituality of creativity! (See part 1 here.) Today's topic: the four spiritual gifts borne of creativity.

1. Connecting with your Creator.

We've all heard it before -- we are made in the image and likeness of God. So when we refer to God as our Creator, doesn't that mean that creativity extends to us too?

In this way, according to Fr. Ryan, creativity gives us direct recognition and communion with God. Moreover, art is an act of participation in the eternal act of creation.

This direct connection opens up new realms of intimacy with the divine. As Fr. Ryan put it, "the holy will meet us when it chooses" and draw out what is deepest and best in us. So when all is said and done, the urge to be creative -- in whatever capacity fits our gifts -- is really a longing to be in God's presence.

2. Awakening more fully to life.

There is a verse in the Koran that describes God as "closer than our jugular." Such constant nearness, according to Fr. Ryan, manifests itself in the matter of creation -- namely, the world around us and the way we exist within it.

Fr. Ryan then asked us, "Are we aware of the matter of creation?" Do we recognize, as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God?"

Side note: I originally thought Fr. Ryan quoted this as "the world is charged with a granular God." I think I like this better, because it reminds me God is at work in the tiniest elements of our existence.

Nature poets perceive Nature as an expression of revelation. And Celtic spirituality follows two books -- the little book being the Bible, and the big book being God's entire creation. In this vein, when we acknowledge our inherent creativity, we also awaken to and connect with the wider creation around us.

3. Unleashing the power of imagination.

Fr. Ryan kicked this explanation off by saying, "The creative process begins when powerful experiences drive us inward." There, we reflect, question, and strive to comprehend what's going on.

Creativity helps us express that encounter. And in the time between those reflective periods, it keeps the hinges oiled by experiencing other art -- thus feeding your imagination.

Here's another Fr. Ryan quote that struck me: "In art, we are seeing someone else's secrets and exposing our own." To me, this is the equivalent of having your senses laid bare. You are at once vulnerable and fortified, because you're more keenly aware of what's happening in the life around you. The result: fertile ground for imaginative exploration.

4. Enjoying the surprise of grace.

Fr. Ryan opened with this quote: "[Lord,] You do marvelous things with the imperfect instrument that I am." When we realize God is working through us, inspiring us, driving us to these fonts of creativity, that's when we feel grace.

As Fr. Ryan pointed out, even the disciples were surprised -- when the tomb was empty, when they met Jesus on the road after the Resurrection, when he appeared in the upper room. They were as close to him as close can be, and still they were caught off guard by his constant presence.

So it is with us when we're exercising our creativity. I can speak personally to this one; every time I remember or realize or am reminded that I am meant to write, I'm shocked ... as if I haven't told in 8 million different ways in my heart that this is precisely my calling.

So where does this leave us? We'll look at how we can apply this thinking and these gifts in our lives in the next post. In the meantime, feel free to share your reflections or questions in the comments section. Thanks!

(You can check out parts one and three here.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The spirituality of creativity, part 1: Fundamentals

Image by Eddi 07

"Are you feeling a vague discontent with your current circumstances? Do you have a desire to step out of yourself and realize a recurring fantasy?"

So began the session on creativity that was part of my church's series on Holistic Spirituality, presented by Paulist Fr. Tom Ryan. If you answered yes to these questions (as I immediately did when he posed them), then keep reading for a collection of my notes and takeaways on how creativity connects to faith.

NOTE: This session was last month. My notes were scribbled. I'm just re-reading them now. Bear with me as I decipher them and try to find quote attributions.

According to Fr. Ryan, the image we have of ourselves is only a small reflection of our capacity, with rooms within us that haven't even been explored yet. Exploring those rooms is part of individuation, which Carl Jung described as a "process of psychological differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality."

In other words, creativity helps us delve into the instinctive and irrational side of life, and reconcile that with external norms that (might) oppose it. The result: a fruitful tension that leads to psychic energy. And our call as creative people is to live and work with and within that tension.

Fr. Ryan then defined creativity as the ability to see new possibilities in set ways of doing things. It's not a gated square, but a public park where anyone can pass -- not an extra, but a vital necessity.

Here's one Fr. Ryan quote I particularly liked:
We are all born originals. Yet so many of us end up looking like copies because we let others do thinking for us.
In this respect, creativity requires a willingness to abandon our own sense of mastery (real or perceived). We must be willing to experiment and project creativity into realms outside our comfort zones. A big ego risk, to be sure, but one that can set you free.

Ok, are we all feeling like we've got the basics down? Great! Then keep all this in mind until tomorrow when I post the second installment, which will outline the four spiritual gifts that come from connecting with your creativity.

(You can go on to parts two and three here.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prayer #67: Get a Grip

For anyone who is at the bottom of that pit, I’m telling you that you just have to hang on. You have to have faith. That’s the worst advice ever, because even if you believe it, you don’t really believe it. Faith is slippery. If you have evidence that makes you believe, it’s not faith. It’s only faith when you believe when there is no reason to believe. That’s faith. Oh, and they call that same thing “being an idiot.” It’s a fine line, you see.
-- Johnny B. Truant, The Economy Isn't Happening
Prayer #67: Get a Grip

Life is a slip-n-side, and I can't get a grip.

You who can help put the brakes on -- help me walk the fine line between acting out of trust and acting out of presumption, so that my every choice aligns with Your love.


Friday, May 22, 2009

This I Believe #4: How I Learned to Feel Pretty

Third Fourth installment of my unofficial This I Believe series.

Why did my parents let me go to school that day?

It was the day of the North Wales Elementary Lip Sync contest, and I was ready to compete and represent for the 6th grade. Since I couldn't convince find anyone to perform with me, I had decided to go solo.

My selection: "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story. My costume: a long skirt from the dress-up box, Mom's embroidered blouse, and a fake flower to adorn my wedge cut.

And for some reason, my parents still let me go.

Looking back on it, I wonder why they didn't stop me. Forget anybody even recognizing the song -- the whole decision was ready-made for grade-school mockery (since I was less than pretty at that age). And, I was going up there alone, so if I failed -- a distinct possibility -- I had no buffer. No safety net.

Yet still, they let me go.

I arrived at school, stomach churning. The morning seemed interminable. By showtime, my adrenaline was pumping. Butwhen the music started ... that's when the hours of lyric memorization, dance choreography, and dreams of a standing ovation all came to a head, and I walked out on stage to claim my destiny.

So what might have happened if my parents hadn't let me go? I wouldn't have fulfilled my very real desire to be in the spotlight for three minutes. I wouldn't have proven to myself that I could set a goal and follow through with it.

And I would have learned a misguided lesson -- not to have confidence or be myself or pursue what fit me best. I would have felt ashamed and embarassed about my choices -- not from my peers, but from my home. In trying to prevent the potential cruelty of a harsh world, my parents could have inflicted much worse.

I'm proud to report I won award for best solo act(I was the only solo competitor). No one beat me up on the playground. A couple kids even told me I did a good job. So I came home pleased, relieved, and waving my certificate.

Ah. That's why my parents let me go that day. And every day before it. And every day after it. Because that's their single greatest responsibility as parents -- to leave me free to sing solo and act alone, whatever the outcome.

No wonder I feel pretty, and witty, and bright. I was allowed to become so on my own terms.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tazewell Garden Project, part 2: Growth Spurt

Last night, Jacob said all the plants on the rooftop deck were "like his children." If that's the case, then I'm their delinquent mother, because I'm barely part of their lives, yet still show up occasionally to plead for their affection and attention.

Anyway ... time for part two of the Tazewell Garden Project!

The most recent phase was the big transplant to the wild outdoors, which Jacob recorded for us below. It was about time, too -- the poor little guys were way too tall for the greenhouse, and kept flopping over onto the kitchen table.

Overall, they're doing well in their new home. They had the benefit of eight straight years three weeks of rain after planting, and now can look forward to some warm temps and abundant sun.

The herbs didn't do so well on the back porch, but everything on the rooftop deck has taken (except for the Swiss Chard, which makes sense, because I planted it).

So, enjoy this round of pictures, ignore your grumbling stomach, and remember -- a garden is only as good as the roommate you live with.

Note on slideshow: Click on "full screen" icon in lower right and then "show info" in upper right corner to see the captions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Givology: The study of entrepreneurial do-gooding

Just last week, the 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study revealed that more people are donating online, but in smaller gifts than they used to.

This fact could be viewed a few ways -- the recession is hitting, or microphilanthropy is hitting its stride, or the recession hitting is helping microphilanthropy hit its stride.

I think it's the last point. So who better to capitalize on this trend than microphilanthropic organizations like Givology?

Here's the story. Last September, three UPenn seniors launched Givology with a clear mission: to raise money for scholarships and education projects for needy students in developing countries.

But they wouldn't do it with huge campaigns or fund drives. Rather, they relied on "small-denomination contributions" to match up donors with students and projects around the world.

With donors giving as little as $5 apiece, here's what Givology has achieved so far (according to Philadelphia Inquirer):

* Raised more than $5,000
* Supported 15 organizations in Uganda, China, Kenya, India, and Rwanda
* Funded 35 students and 11 projects

Impressive for a project run by full-time students virtually and globally, with a fundraising ask of only a few dollars. And what does it tell me? That if microphilanthropy is indeed becoming mainstream, then groups like Givology are terrific examples of how to do it right.

Want to become part of the Givology community? Find out how here.

Hat tip to my mom for sending this article along!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Prayer #66: Relate-ivity

Image by SiRGt

Prayer #66: Relate-ivity

I love you, Jesus, but I don't always like you.

The idea of you, yes. What you stood for, yes. But when I think about you as a man, human, person -- a (sorta) regular Joe -- my imagination fails me. And that makes me not like you. Because I'm challenged to understand how you could be in the world but not of it. And I'm annoyed that you managed to do it quite well.

The truth is, acknowledging you as human puts too much pressure on me. Because you somehow escaped the human condition despite being fully human, and I didn't. So why compare? Why try? I'm already in your dust.

I mean, you could have called 12,000 legions of angels to your side -- but you didn't. You could have cowed people as you traveled -- but you didn't. You could have set everything on fire and turned people in pillars of salt left and right -- but you didn't.

Let's be serious: I just don't have that level of self-control. Or compassion. Or humility. End of story.

And you, Jesus, are a goody two-shoes. There. I said it. And fully human goody two-shoes usually end up with wedgies.

But since I can't give you a wedgie, I'm going to be stubborn instead. I'm not going to apologize, I'm not going to listen, and I'm especially not going to ask for your help.

I won't give you that satisfaction. So there. Take THAT.

I think it's a good plan. There's no way it can backfire. Victory is mine, Jesus. Victory is mine.

Amen to that, says I ...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Burning (in hell) question

I put money that I won through gambling with cards last night in today's church envelope. Does this immediately consign me to hell?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To my brother on his graduation

Dear Fran,

So you've arrived at this day -- your college graduation. Congratulations! If you're reading this post, it means you successfully opened my card telling you to read your "real" card here.

Surely, this is a harbinger of future brilliance.

Your reaching this point is significant for several reasons, outlined here in no particular order:
* You survived freshman slide.

* You survived sophomore slide.

* You survived living in North Philly.

* Because of the aforementioned freshman and sophomore slide, you passed on the senior slide and instead worked your tail off, graduating in four years with a strong grade turnaround.

* Mom and Dad didn't kill you. Even better -- they are very, very proud of you and all you've accomplished.

* This means I'm four years out of school. Good god.
But before we send you off in a blaze of moneyholders, awkward snapshots, and tears from Mom, I feel it is my civic -- nay, moral -- duty as your older sister to tell you what's really going to happen now.

FIRST, you are going to feel stressed, anxious, and frightened about the job search. You will wonder if English was the right degree to pursue. Job hunting will exhaust you. Job interviews will terrify you. Job rejections will depress you. Job acceptances will delight you. And through it all, you will still have bills to pay.

SECOND, you will feel like an imposter -- a watered-down version of a "grown-up." When you arrive on interviews, you will feel like you've just come from playing dress-up in Dad's closet. You will pray you don't look at young as you feel (even though you know you do), so you'll then pray you can use enough big words correctly to distract would-be employers. This is the verbal equivalent of throwing sand in someone's eyes and bolting from the room.

THIRD, you will have a crisis of faith. Not necessarily a spiritual one (though that's quite possible if you're a prayin' sorta man). More of a crisis of faith in yourself. The degree will vary, and for your sake I hope it's low. In any event, your confidence in your own abilities will hiccup. You will question what you're worth and if you're deserving (of what, tbd). You'll ponder the vagaries of fate, destiny, and dumb luck. You'll contemplate your purpose, and find you might not have an answer right away.

FOURTH, you will want to move out of our parents' house. Badly. But you won't be able to until you find a job, and even then you might have to stay and save money. So, I suggest cleaning up after yourself, turning off appliances when you're done with them, doing your own laundry, occasionally telling Mom and Dad where you're going, and taking regular showers. It will make your stay much more pleasant for everyone.

FIFTH, prepare yourself for this reality: The answers will not come all at once. Some may never come at all. The world will continue working around you, and you will change within it and in response to it. What you want to do might change. Whom you choose to surround yourself with might change. Your address, bank accounts, wardrobe -- all will eventually change. So the trick is not to see your life as a monolithic cliff to be leapt in a single decision, but rather as a series of stepping stones. Just focus your energy on putting one foot in front of the other, because there are no maps, and damned if you can create one.

I don't say all this to scare you, Fran. Lord knows you've dealt with worse than this blog post. I'm telling you these things to ameliorate the shock that comes with being a "grown-up," in the hopes that you can direct the energy you would have spent wandering around in a daze to actually enjoying your newfound freedoms.

Because there are freedoms, believe it or not. You will earn money. You will pick up new skills. You'll learn more about human nature (yours and others). You'll learn when to speak up, and when to shut up. You can go to bed when you want. You are not beholden to anyone but yourself. With every choice and act, you can work your way toward what you know in your core you are meant to do. And you can revel in the satisfaction of feeling the next stepping stone beneath your foot.

Plus, you can eat cookie dough straight from the bowl. And you can leave extra on the beaters to lick off. This freedom came as a pleasant surprise to me, so I just wanted to give you something else to look forward to.

I think the best part, however, is having the space and time to become your full self. (And I'm not referring to extra girth from the cookie dough.) For example--

* All that writing that pours out of you? Its direct source is your perception, depth, and emotional insights -- qualities most people can only dream of. Use them to your advantage, not just in your writing, but to improve the way you relate to people and events.

* All that kindness, intelligence, wit, and charm we've lauded you for all these years? Nurture them so your heart and mind thrive in tandem.

* All that passion that emerges in your writing, your conversations, and during Eagles games? Tend it as you would an open flame, and use it to power the risks that fulfill your dreams.

Little brother who's bigger than me, I tell you all this because I was once there. Am still there. Will be there for quite some time. I have quivered and quaked, cried and laughed, fallen into the pits of despair and walked on air -- all for want of someone telling me it will be ok.

It will be ok, Fran.

Because here's what they don't tell you: Adulthood isn't about being a "grown-up." It's about becoming YOU. And that's a far more daunting -- and far more exhilarating -- proposition that what we'd expected.

You will make it, Fran my man. You will do better than fine. You will live and you will laugh and you will love and you will write better schlock than this and you will eat cookie dough. Preferably when I'm visiting. Because I will visit you quite a bit. We grown-ups need to stick together.

That's it. I'm done. Get outta here, you crazy kid. Go throw your cap or revise your resume or something. And please ... call every once in a while?

My love always,


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The golden trifecta for any successful campaign

I was sitting in on a Women Who Tech conference webinar yesterday to learn all about social media ROI -- also known as "how to make the shiny object pay." And lo and behold, what does the presenter outline as the most important things to know upfront?

Who are you trying to target?
What are you trying to get them to do?
How do you define success?

What?? Huh? You mean, to know social media ROI, you need to know the EXACT SAME CRITICAL ELEMENTS you should know for ANY communications project or campaign??? Incredible! Shocking! Egads!

Note the sarcasm.

Also note that I am not bashing the presenter. She's exactly right. What floors me is the every comms/content person in the world knows this, and they say it in every presentation, and they repeat it in every meeting, and nobody listens, and this is why (most) projects suck.

I'll type it again anyway:

Who are you trying to target?
What are you trying to get them to do?
How do you define success?

Now, I will acknowledge that figuring out and executing these answers can be tough. It takes research, brand awareness, clear leadership, and a host of other factors to arrive at meaningful conclusions.

Still, it being "hard" is no excuse for not trying. And it's our job as comms and content smarties to beat this drum until it breaks, and then buy another one and beat it again.

Who are you trying to target?
What are you trying to get them to do?
How do you define success?

I can tell you're upset and daunted by this. Fear not. We can do it. Others have. Look, here's a case study from Beth's Blog featuring Scott Henderson of Mediasauce! His company did it. And you can too.

Oh, and one last thought before you go:

Who are you trying to target?
What are you trying to get them to do?
How do you define success?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I plan to go crazy on Wednesday at 4:15 pm

My friends tease me for knowing my calendar 3, 6, even 9 months out. But I refuse to apologize for it, much less change my ways. Why the stubbornness? Because planning my life out more than 5 minutes ahead of time keeps me healthy, wealthy, and wise ...

Or so I thought.

Healthy and wealthy, yes. Consider the following:

* I plan a rough menu for the week so I know what to buy when I go grocery shopping.

* I plan out clothes shopping for when I have coupons or sales so I save money.

* I know my daily itineraries -- and when I'll have late nights or early mornings -- so I can plan when to go to the gym.

* I am able to fit in multiple activities a week -- volunteering, singing lessons, kickball, blogging, editing oddjobs, various trips/events -- so I can lead a holistic, balanced, productive life.

Ah, but "balanced" is the key word here. That's where the wisdom part is often lacking. Because amid all the scheduling and calendar-ing and planning, I usually forget to leave time for the unexpected -- the nights left open to chance.

You'd think that I'd learn my lesson. But no. I plan until the plans take over, and it's not about being present in what you made time for, but more about the act of making the time at all.

And when that happens (at least once a quarter), I question why I do anything, and maybe life would be better if I gave away all my belongings and moved to a deserted tropical island with only a journal and a towel.

I was in this questioning funk over the weekend, and would have stayed that way, if not for the intervention of Sus at Color of Happiness with her post, Throwing Caution to the Wind -- Over-scheduled style. (She has 7 color-coded calendars, so she's worth listening to on this topic.)

The key quote (emphasis is mine):
Recently I asked another friend in semi-seriousness, “How do you know when you are doing too much?” He responded, “When it gets in the way of your life.” The things in the paragraph above are my life, very purposely and passionately so, but I think he meant that it is too much when your activities begin to define you and control you. Therefore, how do I gain that sense of freedom I had yesterday which paralleled the freedom I felt in jumping on a plane to Peru a week after buying a ticket or during my job search (more on this later as to why I was the happiest I have been in a long time while unemployed…)? Do I plan less? Care about fewer people? Leave more open space in my schedule? Draw more boundaries? Or less? Or do I just keep moving forward surrounding myself with people who nudge me when I have become too confined by my schedule to throw it all away for a day and just have an afternoon of spontaneity?

She makes me wonder if the time-saving answer is to care more about the people who help you care less about the appropriate things.

To reorder my sense of obligation, so that I'm nurturing those people and pursuits that feed me -- and cutting back on commitments borne of others' expectations.

To understand/accept I am a compulsive planner, and work around it in the best way I know how -- by leaving time free in my calendar, designated as "for god's sakes Julia, just BE" time.

And if all else fails ... to tell my friends to start shaking me and hold periodic calendar bonfires at undetermined times.

Anybody else reading this and thinking, "Dear lord, this is me?" Anybody thinking, "This will never be me in a million years?" I want to hear from both camps. How do you keep your calendar as a record of your life, and prevent it from becoming your life?

Photo by churl

Monday, May 11, 2009

Prayer #65: Loosen Up

I’m in love with a girl who’s in love with the world
Though I can’t help but follow
Though I know someday she is bound to go away and stay over the rainbow
Got to learn how to let her go
Over the rainbow

But sometimes we forget who we got
Who they are and who they are not

There is so much more in love than black and white
Keep it loose child
You gotta keep tight
Keep it loose child
Keep it tight

-- Amos Lee, Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight

Prayer #65: Loosen Up

Relationships -- be they with You, or with family, or with friends, or with partners -- were never meant to be static.

How could they be? Free will cuts across our entire lives, especially in the decisions we (might) make and the emotions we (might) act upon when it comes to those we love.

You who defines love, You who are Love -- please help me remember who I have, who they are, and who they are not. Help them remember the same of me.

We are bound to forget. We are bound to hurt. We are bound to misstep and mistake and misspeak. But we are also bound to one another -- bound by Your grace.

Loosen my grip on what I cannot control in others' decisions or responses. Tighten my ability to choose rightly and wisely in my own. May I see my relationships in spectrum. And may I be dazzled by the infinite palette You have given them.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Word on the street: Okalahoma

Scene: Emily is in the kitchen at her friends' home, eating pizza for their daughter Addie's birthday. Addie is turning 3.

Addie: Miss Alemily, I watched a movie about Okalahomaaa.

Emily: Oh really? (turns to mom) Did you guys show them the musical?

Addie's mom: No -- (gets cut off by Addie)

Addie: In Okalahoma, it is spoooooky. And there is a bat cave wif spider webs! And it's spoooooky. And there are bats! It's spooooky. I love you, Miss Alemily.

End scene.

[Ed. note: Apparently, Addie learned about "Okalahoma" from a "Little Einsteins" movie. And to her, Oklahoma is spooky. Unclear whether she was referring to the state or the musical.]

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why mainstream Gen Y isn't buying into the new web (part 2)

Alternate title: The one where Julia further answers her question about why Gen Y seemingly isn't embracing the new web as much as one might think.

Did you watch this video? This is why I don't tweet from my phone. Why I don't use a cell phone camera. Why I try not to blog (heavily) on weekends.

Because I want to LIVE. Not broadcast. But this is getting tougher to do in a time when my generation is accustomed to a culture of availability -- the need to be on all the time.

The Digital Natives blog puts it well when they write (emphasis is mine):
The documentation impulse is our urge to document, via photograph, tweet, etc., the large and small events of our lives. The camera or the cellphone (or cellphone camera) becomes an intrusion into the actual course of events; as Gleeson puts it, it indicates that “Our reality is less interesting than the story I will tell.” The culture of availability reflects our tendency to attend to our buzzing cellphones, even at the expense of our real life conversations. It’s rude, yet , I think many of us are guilty of it. So the culture of availability has a flip side too, and that is the culture of unavailability.

Now, my own experience is hardly a statistical representative of Gen Y's new media behavior. And as Eric J pointed out to me on FriendFeed, Ryan's original article might be based more on growth than membership numbers, thus rendering his whole premise flawed.

But I'm not sure that matters. Because addressing this culture of availability through my own perspective might shed more light on how Gen Y uses technology, not if it's using it.

I choose not to do all the things I listed at the top of this post because I'm going out and actually EXPERIENCING life. This way, I have REAL, TANGIBLE, INTERESTING things, thoughts, opinions, questions to share -- not just my self-selected blogroll or retweets of other folks' ideas.

Sure, I tweet banal things every once in awhile. My posts aren't always thought-provoking. But I don't say amazing things to my friends every second of every day, either, so why put that same pressure on social media? (That's why it's called social media, not "professional formal unattuned-to-human-communications-patterns" media.)

The point is, I really talk to the people in my life. We connect. We commiserate. We laugh. We share. And that creates a meaning far more profound than me sitting at a keyboard dreaming up some strained witticism or hackneyed metaphor that fits in 140 characters or less.

I value relationships -- and the ability to maintain them -- more than the new web. And I think my generation feels the same. Because diving into the latest and greatest tech is not necessarily our goal. Rather, we'll use whatever enables us to live our lives the way we want to, be it hi-tech, low-tech, or no-tech.

Now, there's a goal I will always be available for.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why mainstream Gen Y isn't buying into the new web (part 1)

Look at Twitter, LinkedIn, even Facebook, and something might seem a little off. Like something's missing. Like someone should be there, but isn't ...

Oh right. Gen Y isn't there. And this from Gen Y leader and Brazen Careerist co-founder Ryan Healy.

My jaw dropped when I read this article, but I'm not sure whether it was from incredulity or vindication. You see, I have always considered myself a late adopter, if an adopter at all. I DON't text except in dire circumstances, still don't own an iPod, don't use all the latest and greatest twitter tools (yes, I rely mainly on my browser), signed onto facebook only a year ago, missed Friendster entirely, use my Hotmail account over my Gmail account ... the list goes on.

Yet if I go by this article, I'm outpacing my peers. Because I DO maintain a blog, work in social media for major organizations, tweet my head off, use Facebook at all, find LinkedIn super-helpful, maintain Bloglines and read blogs regularly ... the list goes on.

So what gives? Who am I? Where am I? Am I a late early adopter? An early late adopter? An unwitting cool kid? A Boomer in Gen Y clothing? Behind the curve? In front of the curve? Off the curve?

I can't tell. Because in my mind, I'm not hyper-networked. I live with technology, not for technology. I take concerted breaks away from the computer. Limiting texting and NOT buying a fancier phone is a conscious decision so I can control my connectivity and reachability, and just do better at living in the moment. It's a culture of availability I'm not willing to buy into 100% ...

Oh wait. Culture of availability, you say? Why, I just might have more to say on this in my next post. And it just might help answer why Gen Y is seemingly nowhere to be found.

Cartoon by bootload

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How to find your way (and the bathroom) at a new job

So, remember that time I got connected virtually to this cool gal while networking, and we talked on the phone and read each other's blogs and started Tweeting back and forth like mad and became friends, but have yet to meet in person even though we both live in DC and work in the nonprofit world and yes I realize this is sad but deal because it's the social media way and I'm down with it?

That gal is Elisa Mortiz, a dear digital comrade and the blogger behind Onward and Upward. And in Elisa's infinite kindness, she invited me to guest-post on her blog.

The topic: adjusting to a new job. My expertise: currently adjusting to a new job. Brilliant!

So, please carry yourself over to Onward and Upward and read my post, How to find your way (and the bathroom) at a new job. High points include me discussing how I don't want to pee my pants at my desk. And some stuff about evaluating the position, reflecting on the transition, giving it time, etc.

But mostly the pants-wetting part.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Prayer #64: God Dropped By

God Makes Surprise Visit to Local Church [The Onion]

Prayer #64: God Dropped By

God dropped by. He said "Call your mother." And "don't hate on the neighbors." And "curb the cussing." And "thou shalt have no other gods besides me." And some other stuff.

I forget a lot of it. It's late. I'm tired.

But the important thing is, God dropped by. And even though I didn't have a lunch meat tray or coffee cake ready for entertaining, He still stuck around to chat. I appreciate that.

Drop by any time, God. You're always welcome. Even on cleaning day.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Zombie response plans are essential (and 6 other snapshots of a wonderful life)

And yes, cappuccino still tastes better on barstools.

* You address an envelope to one of your oldest friends -- but you use her newly minted married name and address. Passage of time and advancing age duly noted.

* Kentucky Derby parties need Derby pie, mint juleps, and a betting crowd for optimal success. Thank you to Pioneer of the Nile for netting this blog author a whole $6.

* If you're short on horses, hold a Worm Race. Thank you to Pioneer of the Pile for a strong second-place finish out on the patio despite the offending drizzle.

* Live jazz and weird paintings and silly jokes late into the night remind you you're 25, not 45. No wonder, then, you don't feel tired when you giggle your way in the door at 3 a.m.

* Forget swine flu: Our government needs a zombie response plan. Are the borders secure?

* When irate, speak with a gypsy accent. It doesn't guarantee silver will cross your palm, but it does make you feel like you've cast an effective curse.

* Brownies are an excellent appetizer. Before breakfast.