Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Dream becomes a Goal becomes Reality

The difference between a dream and a goal is that the goal is written down and shared. I know this doesn't have all the details yet, but here goes:

I want to start and run a creative incubator / startup village / NGO hub. I'm not sure what title/description is best, this concept seems as though it would work for multiple purposes. 

And yes, this is like a mishmash of Breather (private meeting spaces), WeWork / Knotel (open spaces), Convene (private and meeting)

I'm imagining a facility with multiple spaces, and multiple uses in these spaces: 
- 2 (or more) Large Rooms suitable for conferences, meetings, trainings
- Large workshop space with hand and power tools, sinks, studio space, suitable for teaching
- 4-6 Private smaller spaces, can be used for interviews, 1:1 meetings and client consultations, ie, dieticians, acupuncture, massage therapists, phone calls
- Open, combined use space that includes
---- a Cafe with open seating
---- a commercial kitchen offering low price healthy food for day visitors and long term tenants. Shifts in the commercial kitchen would be available to small scale food entrepreneurs for their catering
---- Open hot desk seating
---- Retail space showcasing food products and products of local entrepreneurs
---- art from local artists

And programming - oh my ideas for programming. Workshops and training sessions on a zillion topics.
But that's another post.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

What's it like to be the product, not the customer?

We are the social media platforms' product, not their customers. When these platforms think we're alienating customers (the people that click on stuff and the people that buy ads) it has policies that silence the production of disturbing content.

This is something I've been aware of for a long time. I've seen transgender friends encounter problems with the "Real Name" policy and I've seen friends lose access to the communities they painstakingly built over time because the topics they're dealing with are too hot (or science-y or kinky or political) to touch.

I try to have more than one form of contact for my friends and family, I try to keep backups of the information I find valuable, especially resources I have created myself, like this post. The seed of this post was originally created over on FB, where I found myself locked suddenly locked out.

Why did this happen? Well, in case you only check my updates occasionally, among other things I think the man who lives in the White House is a traitor to the American people. I have no problem telling everyone that I think that AND why I think that (I don't pile links on top of my comments though - google was invented for a reason, I encourage people to check my facts). I've been blocked because of it, I've had people stop talking to me, I kept on doing it.

Today I was once again sharing a few of the many of the reasons why the godless cretin pushed forward by foreign criminals should be held to the same standards we hold all of our elected officials, and I suddenly lost access to my account. Yes, that's right. Somebody's feelings were so hurt that I have an opinion that they managed to get me kicked off a social media platform.

No surprise there. A social media platform can do that. It is a private platform, and I was disturbing its customers. It happens all the time. A lot of the time it happens and users lose their online voice entirely.

Isn't it lucky that I've been down this road before and was able to bounce right back on?

Sadly, not everyone does. Here are some of the things I do, although most of my content is more of the vaccinating-kids soccer mom with no guns in the house variety.

Mostly it comes down to this: Distribute information and access
- Let people know how to find you online and off.
- Let people know where to find your content online and off.
- Share access/permissions. Have more than one owner for groups and pages and sites. Try to have have a trusted silent partner in the group, someone that is less likely to be targeted and shut out but can update if you lose access.

Good luck out there.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Priming the Pump

I'm all written out.

A week ago this time I was pondering the whys and wherefores of my lack of creative output this past year. Then I spent the rest of that week traveling around the country and then this weekend working on a review of policies and writing up our findings.

And today at SUAW! I have nothing to say.

I get it. All my mental writing energy has been used up. And yet, and yet - I still have so more I want to say, I just need the oomph to get it to bubble up again.

If the first step to fixing a problem is identifying it, then I'm on my way to fixing this. I think what I need is some dedicated concentration time. This next week I'm going to try to walk in the mornings and practice yoga, both of which have helped in the past to restart my creative flow.

Any other ideas for how to keep the creative output flowing when more structured work is dominating your life?

SUAW! Writers

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Gift of Health

It's my birthday!

Just kidding (but you take me out to lunch if you really want to)

We've seen way too many people die in the last couple of years. It sucks. It also sucks that the deadly health conditions came as a surprise to their family members.

That's not cool. 

I don't know when I started doing this, but for as far back as I can remember I've been giving myself the gift of health.

I wish this meant that I was not obese and that I exercised 3x/week and ate my daily fruits and veggies and didn't get quite so many units of alcohol. Nope, not so much.

The birthday present I give myself each year is a medical checkup.

There's a lot going on in my daily life and remembering to schedule and getting organized enough to actually GO to that annual checkup can be a challenge. The way I've managed to make this happen year after year is that I schedule everything before my birthday.

Here's my thought process: Birthday coming up, hooray! Ooooh, I better get that dental appointment and pap smear and GP visit on the calendar.

Each little bit of anticipation for my birthday also helps remind me to get in to the lab for the pre-physical bloodwork and to take care of those niggly details.

And presto! Each year for my birthday I have info about my health so I can jump into the next year of life.

All jokes aside, please get in to a doc and check your own risk factors for non-communicable diseases like
Heart Disease
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic Lung Disease

I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

SUAW!? What on earth is that?

So what is "Shut Up and Write!" I hear you ask.

As a writer/artist/creator, it's pretty straightforward. You show up, we chat for a bit then follow up with an hour of solid writing/drawing/creating. We don't critique each other's work or even really discuss it. It's more of a chance to be social while we're (usually antisocially) creative. I also find that the mental preparation to come to SUAW! and the intention to have a specific output at the end of the session doesn't give writer's block space to take up residence.

SUAW! is totally not a review or critique group. We socialize for a bit and then we


(or design or make movies or draw or in some way create) The only structure you'll get is your own goal to knock out 500 words or two pages or a blog post or whatever benchmark you've set for yourself while you're here.

It's a little more involved if you decide you want to keep the SUAW! fires going as an event organizer. Over the last three years I've learned that the group needs more than just a date on the calendar, it needs an anchor at the meeting.

Here's what I use for the times that I organize / anchor / host / moderate / timekeep (pick your verb of choice) the group:
  • I schedule an event on FB a few days before. Funnily enough, there have been a few times that I've scheduled a day-of event and had a good turnout. But in general, it helps my personal writing process to have this a few days out on the calendar. 
  • I try to keep all discussion and commentary on the SUAW! group page. SUAW! is bigger than me, it's powerful to know that we're all experiencing the same kinds of things. Keeping the discussions on the group page also helps because I don't check FB often, if everything is on the group page the chances are higher that someone other than myself can respond to an inquiry.  
  • The day of the event I check the RSVPs on the FB event to have an idea of how many people are coming. 
  • I try to arrive at the location 5-10 minutes early and stake out a good spot for the group for the initial discussion. After the discussion everyone tends to move around to the position/space that feels best for them. 
  • When the discussion begins, I try to welcome everyone by name. I depend on the group attendees to help me with my writing, it may be the first time we've met, but even before they've arrived they have already helped me get to a better position to meet my writing goal. 
  • Set intention for the session, beginning with my own. <----Other than the actual SUAW! this is the most powerful part of the entire activity. Dreams turn into action when said out loud in front of other people. 
  • Chat for a little while, try to get everyone to share something. I try not to press too much if someone doesn't want to talk; one of the things that makes this group so powerful is that introverts can be social without having to open up a lot or say much. 
  • I remind everyone that we're here to focus, I ask for limited phone calls, alarms, etc, beginning with turning my own ringer off. 
  • Find the anchor/moderator/timekeeper for the next session (maybe you?)
  • Start at the agreed on time. I set my phone timer so that I don't get carried away with the conversation. This may be earlier if a small group, later if a larger group or if everything is running late. 
Here's our SUAW! group. I hope you can join us sometime, and I really hope you can host a group sometime. You're helping me write :)


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shut Up and Write! Suva

 2014 29 posts
 2015 43 posts
 2016 21 posts
 2017 8 posts
 2018 4 posts

Before we moved to Fiji I would see my neighbor-to-be Mary's posts about Shut Up and Write! Suva and I couldn't wait to move to Fiji and join the writing group.

In 2014 I moved. I started going to SUAW!

I LOVED it! I met so many new and fascinating people through the group. I was writing for Island Life magazine as well as posting on my blog almost weekly. Things were jumping!

And then life happened. One day I will write about those days, but today is not that day. 

And then I stopped hosting SUAW!

And then I stopped going to SUAW!

And the stats show what didn't happen.

Recently a new arrival asked about activities in Suva and I realized that the writing group might be a good match. I scheduled a date in our SUAW! FB group and not only did people show up, they mentioned how much they had missed it. Offline I had people tell me about the difference it had made in family members' lives. Even before I got to SUAW this week it already felt so awesome to have it on the calendar! I'm really happy Shut up and Write! has restarted and I'm looking forward to getting more thoughts off my chest and out into the world.

Here's our group. I hope you can join us sometime, and I really hope you can host a group sometime. You're helping me write :)


Monday, November 26, 2018

Camp Rules

And then one day the boy grew up and went away to study and his mom and dad missed him very much. 

When our son was younger we had "Camp Rules" for when he was away from us. They went something like this:
- Call us when you get there.
- Only one call once a week except in case of emergency. This might be skipped entirely based on the length of the camp or where the camp was held.
- If there are problems, tell someone there before you tell us at home. This doesn't apply to emergencies. 
- Call us when you leave and let us know when to expect you home. Again, this was sometime skipped based on the length of the camp or where the camp was held or if there was an alternate contact for this info.  

When he went off to study we collectively agreed that Camp rules applied. Now we have a weekly video call that generally lasts about an hour. We have a few text messages that go back and forth during the week, but except for serious issues we don't expect him to check in with us (although we love it when he does!) and we try not take his attention away from his studies.

In some ways parenting at younger ages was easier. I worked with university students and could see the manifestations of different behaviors in young-adults. At home we could then support the behaviors we wanted and deliberately discourage the ones we definitely did not to see in the adult version of our kid. I could turn to the literature for specific hands on tips for what to do and how to do it and when to do it.

I know the job of parenting is to work yourself out of a job, but it's so strange to be in the actual process of separating. When he was little I bought a tiny iron skillet for his breakfasts. As he got older and his appetite got bigger I used larger and larger skillets. Now I find myself looking at the little one-egg skillet and missing him like crazy and wondering what he cooks his breakfast in these days.

Now? Well, although we say we're using camp rules we're actually in new territory. Now we're making it up as we go along.

And I guess to a certain extent, no matter what stage of life we're in, that's what everyone is doing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Damn Mosquitoes

"If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito." 
Attributed to lots of people including the Dalai Lama, Anita Roddick, Julie Foudy, Betty Reese, African Proverb, Anonymous

I don't know who said it, but mosquitoes will bug the ever loving shit out of you. They're also one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet. The diseases they can carry kill more than a million people each year and infect more than a billion. 

There's a ton of tips out there about how to avoid mosquitoes, and while many of them are excellent, they don't all work for me. I'm not a massive fan of air conditioning, and realistically I can't be inside 24/7. I also don't enjoy putting repellent directly on my skin every single day. I would prefer not to go around covered from my eyeballs to my toes. I've gotten rid of standing water on our property, have lemongrass growing all over and have mosquito netting on all our windows and on our covered porch. Over the years the weather has broken down some of the netting and a couple of skeeters always manage to make their way on to the porch, which is actually my favorite place to fire up my computer.

So what's this sweet blooded blogger to do?

First thing I always do is turn on my fan. The American Mosquito Control Association says that a large fan is effective because mosquitoes are weak flyers. And fans are an energy efficient way of cooling down, way better than an AC. They're also way quieter.

Next thing I do is light up some mosquito coils. I choose coils because they are cheap, don't need electricity, and are easy to transport. A box costs me about FJD $1.50 and will last me a week of working outside. Mosquitoes hate smoke, and there are some compounds they hate more than others. The coil makers have concentrated all of this into slow burning incense and I light one up each morning when I set up on the porch.

After two years of evaluation, here's my short list of options that I can find in Fiji and why I choose them.

Knockout Jumbo Mosquito Coil
This is the cheapest option I can find, but I haven't purchased them lately. The coils are not clearly shaped, so I always end up breaking the coils into little pieces and they put off a lot of stinky smoke. If I had a party and had to protect a large area I might buy these, but in general I don't touch the orange box.

Good Knight Jumbo Coil
Red is my favorite color and I've bought these a number of times, but they have a really strong smell. They are super easy to separate, so if the price is competitive I'll pick these up.
Mortein Mosquito Coil
This name is synonymous with pest control here in Fiji and these coils are everywhere. They come in two sizes, so it's not super fair to compare this size with the other boxes, but they're the ones I had on hand, so they're in the photo.

< Drumroll please >
Blacktop Mosquito Coil
I'd pick this brand anyway just because I can separate the coils and the smoke doesn't run me off, but the stands! They say bribes work, just ask politicians and little kids. Well, the little metal stands might be this manufacturer's way of bribing me. These little metal stands seem to always disappear! I also have larger mosquito coil holders with built in ash collection, but the humidity here just kills them; they rust out in what feels like days.

So there you have it. This is how I stay mosquito free out on the porch.

Now, which coil holder shall I wish I could find here in Fiji?

Pretty, but with my luck I'd end up dropping it or kicking it

PRETTY! And those look like kiln cones as a base. Now who do I know with a pottery kiln?

Love the minimalism, but this would probably rust out in a heartbeat here

I ADORE this one and have sent it to my favorite glass artist three times now. One day I will have this and then I'll be terrified of breaking it, so until then I'll admire it online.

There will be coil holders like this at my house one day soon. I just need to find some bamboo.

Here's the thing - I've never been in position where I had wire hangers and pliers but no stands. I either had my full household or I had nothing. There was no in between. But posting this here because it's an idea that might work for someone, just not me.
There are also oils and pads that can be released through electric heaters, but I don't have power out on the porch, so I don't use those.

Final thought: Mosquitoes are reputed to like drinkers, but at the end of a long day, a boozy beverage is one of the perks of being out on the porch! Bonus - empty beer bottles make great mosquito coil holders, just don't kick them (go ahead, ask me how I know)  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Our family's cyclone prep list

Cyclone Season in Fiji runs from 1 November to 30 April. That said, we had a tropical depression rain down on us this week and got me thinking about getting our supplies in order.

Every family is different, but this the list we've been using for the last few years here in Fiji.

o Bottled water – 4 litres per person per day (a person should normally drink 2 litres of water per day, the additional 2 litres will be for household use - sanitation, food preparation etc) Keep in mind that security and housekeeping staff may not be able to get home. To make the math easier I just plan on one Aquasafe 15 liter bottle for the family each day
o Water purification tablets or filters or water dispensers
o Fill up bathtubs, jerry cans, buckets and other available items with tap water for use of bathrooms and showers (even if you have a pool. Pools get nasty really fast if the pumps aren't going)

o A 5 day supply of non-perishable food items
o Foods should be those that do not require refrigeration
NB. As water may be limited, choose foods that require little water to prepare
o Suggested foods:
- Canned meats, soups, fruits and vegetables
- Dry goods (noodles, cereals etc)
- Canned juices
- Staples (flour, salt, sugar etc)
- High energy foods (e.g., protein bars)

Non-Food Items
o Stock of gas canisters for gas stoves, etc.
o Cooking utensils
o Stovetop teakettle, coffee maker Boy do I miss my electric kettle when the power goes out!
o Paper napkins and disposable utensils can really help conserve your water if things get tight 
o Matches or lighters
o Candles, torch and spare batteries. Electricity charged torches should be fully charged
o Soap
o Garbage bags and cleaning supplies (including bleach)
o Radio (preferably wind up)
o Can opener
o Personal hygiene supplies (toilet paper, sanitary products, tissues etc)
o First aid kit
o Buckets
o Blankets or sleeping bags
o Medications and copies of medication prescriptions
o Card games, board games, and other activities Get in the habit of playing these before the storm. It's no fun to be trying to figure out the rules in the dark when your nerves are on edge. 

Communications Equipment

o Mobile telephone
o Spare batteries for all communications equipment, fully charged at all times (wherever possible)

A few more notes - unless you want to throw out all the food at the start of every cyclone season (I don't, but I know people who do) it helps to make the non perishable meals a part of your weekly routine during cyclone season.

For example - one day of low water/no power meals might look like this:

yogurt (made from an overnight mix like Hansells)
topped with granola cereal

3 bean salad
tuna wraps

Black bean chili with cornbread (bake additional items for the next day while the oven is on)

I'll include at least one of these meals in our weekly meal plan and just top up the ingredients on an ongoing basis. The groceries stay fresh, we stay stocked, and life goes on as usual with just a few modifications.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Raising a Reader

A heartbeat ago, at least, that’s what it feels like, a little boy was born to two parents who loved him very much.

This boy had a mom who loved to read, and she wanted to raise a reader.

When he was born, his grandparents gave him copies of the books his mom had loved and read as a child. Mom was worried the books would get beat up, so she bought him board book versions of the titles she loved the most because she wanted him to love the books as much as she did.

He started with cloth books and board books, and she listened to the advice of the experts to read for as long as the child would listen.

Every Saturday morning they would go to the library together. Mom would let him check out any book he wanted, and each night they would read at least three books, but sometimes as many as ten. Ok, maybe sometimes even more. Mom loved books as much as he did, and she loved being able to snuggle up close and spend this time with him. 

As he got older, he would spend more and more time on his own in the library on Saturday mornings and mom would have more time to read the bulletin boards and the brochures that were at the checkout counter. Sometimes mom would come back to the library during the week for community meetings that were held in the library. (This is where she first learned to write grants.)

The advice mom got was to read for as long as the child would listen. As he got older, mom realized she simply couldn't read as much as he wanted to listen. She started checking out more and more books on tape and books on CDs each week, and one day the librarian told her about the online audiobooks.

Online audiobooks were a gamechanger. Instead of the library limit of three CD titles per checkout, they could listen to a different book every day. Overnight the little boy's vocabulary exploded. When his mom was growing up she had plenty of awkward moments when she used a word out loud that she had only ever seen written. Since the boy had heard the words in context, he not only knew what the word was, he knew how to say it. This magic thing called autocorrect could figure out what he was trying to say and spelled it correctly in his typed assignments.

Another thing that was awesome about audiobooks was that he could do other things while he was listening to a book. While mom was folding laundry or cooking he would sit quietly in the kitchen and play with blocks while listening to a story. They had lots to talk about, and sometimes mom would stop a story and tell a story of her own that the audiobook had reminded her about, or add something to the story that they were listening to. One day they even skipped school and went to meet the author of one of the stories. That was so cool because the author told the boy about how when she was in elementary she used to put her head down and hide a book under her table and read during class and sometimes got into trouble too.

By this time the little boy was in elementary school. He would read books that were “too old for him” all the time. He would tell the grownups that he knew the story inside and he would just read the parts in the book he already knew and talked them into letting him check the books out. The audiobooks had shown him the magic inside the covers, and since he couldn’t listen to books at school he always had a book in hand even if he wasn’t in a reading class. At the beginning of second grade his teacher announced that she was retiring at the end of the year. She had a poster with high scores of readers from different years, and he set the goal to be the most read student of any student she had ever had. After all, she was retiring, so if he read more than her top scoring student no one would ever beat his score. He had the highest score on her board before the end of second grade.

The little boy kept reading and growing up. Just before he graduated from high school a really bad storm damaged a lot of libraries around him. He and his friends gathered a lot of books that they and their younger siblings read and liked. They ended up collecting boxes and boxes of books and they gave the books to a library that didn’t have any books after the storm.

One of the things his mom loved about the audiobooks was that they helped build her son’s attention span. He would listen to a story for hours and he would follow complex plots and storylines. She saw these skills put to work as he did the research for his senior project and interviewed primary sources. Mom watched as characters in stories moved him to tears sometimes, she saw that caring for fictional characters become empathy for the people in his life.

And one night his mother and father sat in the audience and held hands as they heard their son’s name read out as the Dux of his school.

They had raised a reader.