What I’m Reading

For mother-daughter book club, we are reading The River Between Us by Richard Peck. It is the story of the Civil War told from a girl’s point of view. I love the Civil War as a metaphor for families in conflict.

For my friends’ book club, we are reading Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (we had previously read March. Loved it!) For workplace book club, we’re reading What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. All three of these have astute girl narrators, nice!

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I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted. So now I must update. In my workplace book club, we are reading Hanhunt: The 12 Day-Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. And for friends’ group, we are reading The Hunger Games (though I’ve seen the movie!) by Suzanne Collins.

I am not very far in either of these books. But I know that they are quests. I love novels about a hero’s journey, especially when the hero is a spunky heroine!

Workshop on WordPress

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be viewed as an expert. So I have been teaching a lot since January. Teaching is a great way to find out how much you know and how much you still need to learn.

I’ve been teaching middle school kids comedy and creative writing. Beth Buchanan (on the right) and I’ve taught communicators social media skills at the Religion Communicators Council and at the United Methodist Association of Communicators. (I love team teaching — much less stressful than solo teaching.)

Me and Beth Buchanan. She’s my social media guru. Because of Beth, I got on Facebook and it’s been all downhill from there.

My next (solo) teaching gig is at Word Camp at Baruch College in New York City from June 9 to 10. The title of my workshop is “Social Media and Social Movements.”

My session, one of 80, is hands-on — perfect for beginners, non-techie types, and people devoted to a cause. But there are a lot of workshops that are geared to people who love ideas like digital marketing, shared hosting, HTML5, and hyperlocal. (Attend this conference to find out what those terms mean. What’ve you got to lose? It’s $35.)

I love WordPress for being my landing page — a place to post my resolutions and then achieve them. And along the way, help others to become experts too.

Getting Rid of Stress

Stress has visited you like the devil in days of yore. It has caused your heart to race, your hands to dampen, your throat to dry. So let’s beat back stress with these 11 steps.

1. Do a daily act of kindness. You know you can’t think your way into good action, so you must act your way into good thinking. You must do one act of kindness and service daily. Open a door for a stranger. Donate to the subway musician. Anything.

2. Get up early every day and write in your journal. This private brain drain will add years to your life. Studies show people who write about their stressful moments boost their immune systems.

3. View your life as a hero’s journey. You have read about Joan of Arc and Odysseus. Now there is YOU. You are no less remarkable. You have fought your battles — an abusive spouse as fierce as a dragon? Look at your life as a quest. Your purpose is to complete your mission.

4. Find your mission. Mine is to parent three awesome children, to write, to teach and to make the world a kinder, better place than I found it through my words and actions.

5. Work out three or more times a week. Or just move your body more regularly from the sitting position. Yes, our ancestors were hunters but mostly they were gatherers. Get in touch with your inner gatherer. Get in touch with nature.

6. Pamper yourself. Manicure? Haircut? Massage? Once a month — is this too much to ask? Take care of the vessel you were given.

7. Get to bed early. Get a book. Get several. Get horizontal. Pull the covers up. Go to bed by 10 pm every night.

8. Have sex regularly. Sexuality is a gift from God. Why else does it feel so good? Because it is a beautiful part of the human, adult experience. Do it your own way but do it.

9. Listen without talking so much. You have a lot to say, a lot to share. But you will be remembered on this earth, not by how well you have said what you have to say, but by how well you compassionately listened.

10. Eat healthily. Okay, a bacon cheeseburger and a beer is okay once in a while. But do not use unhealthy food as a way to pamper yourself or indulge. Healthy tastes good.

11. Give seven hugs a day.

Thanks to Alicia Pitterson who provided the prompt at yesterday’s Wednesday Writers lunch time series. She asked us to create an agenda for an event called, “Don’t let stress get the best of you.”  

Kinder and Less Rushed

My kids put each other down. My neighbors rush past one another with barely a nod. My colleagues talk to one another without looking up from their computer screens. I, too, am critical, avoid eye contact and value projects more than people.

But wait! What am I doing? What is my purpose?

I believe I was put on this earth to create community, to write, to teach, to parent, and to love well. So, in that case, I might as well slow down and get to it.

Yesterday, my friend sent me this link: Business Etiquette. It makes good sense, especially:

  • #4 Focus on the Face, Not the Screen
  • #5, Don’t Judge
  • And I’d add #6 Don’t Rush

Sometimes I think my days should have themes. Perhaps —

  • Monday is for in-depth writing.
  • Tuesday is for kindness and courtesy.
  • Wednesday is anti-procrastination day (thanks, Flylady!).
  • Thursday is for teaching, training, networking.
  • Friday is for more writing and creating community.
  • Saturday and Sunday, rinse and repeat (and do the laundry).

I also want to return to living My Rules. I want Good Orderly Direction — GOD!

And just to keep myself accountable, for the next 10 days, I am going to post every day either here or at mbcoudal.com.

Because it’s good to have a plan, even if I don’t stick to it.

And my plan is to be less rushed at work and kinder at home; (yes, kinder at work and less rushed at home).

So, stop and smell the flowers in Riverside Park. That kind of thing.

The School Fundraiser

I was recently at a fundraiser, even though my kids don’t go to that school. I love school auctions. I love the fancy purses, the summer camps, the cabins in the Poconos, the brocade jackets. I can see myself in all of them.

Me and Ang and the centerpiece made of dried fruitUsually, I find myself bidding on the most obscure items. I have bid on the opera lessons for my children – what was I thinking? I paid $100 for something none of my kids wanted.

It is now a running joke. Before I go to the auction, the kids beg, “No opera lessons, please, Mom! Go for the Knicks tickets.” Of course, we never used the opera lessons and I could never bid high enough for the Knicks game. Talk about Lin-sanity!

I root for the underdog, even if my team is in the lead. I feel sorry for the loser. I bet on the longshot. I bid on opera lessons.

I see a trend in fundraising — away from this auction fundraiser and towards a more simple party. We parents are competitive enough already. Why do we have to outbid one another for a psychotherapist’s session or a math tutor? Really?

Couldn’t we all just share a session with the dad who is the shrink or the mom who is the math whiz?

In our present-day culture of Occupy Wall Street and the shift in our workplaces towards more collaborative work styles, there have to be better, friendlier, more cooperatives ways to raise money for our schools.

At my kids’ school now, there is a showcase of the kids’ creative arts. There is no auction. We schmooze and graze, but don’t sit down, like at a wedding. I like that.

These fundraisers are a lot of work and planning. These extravaganzas usually require more delicate and skillful diplomacy than the General Assembly at the United Nations.

So, let’s all thank these hard-working women who make the fundraising benefits happen, (because, yes, the fundraising committee is usually made up of women, except for the bartenders at the fundraisers — they’re usually men.)

While school fundraisers are becoming friendlier, I’m still worried about the the opera lessons? What if no one bids on them?

Where is utopia?

At the Arch Street Friends Meeting House, Dr. Emma Jones Lapsansky-Werner told us how William Penn’s vision of utopia led to the urban design of Philadelphia, city of brotherly, sisterly love. 

When asked where utopia can be found today, Dr. Lapsansky-Werner, a Quaker historian at Haverford College, said, God lives in:

  • public transportation
  • community parks
  • markets where people sell their own stuff
  • schools where parents participate in teaching

I would add:

  • grand old train stations

Unlike airports, which are made of glass, steel, sterility, full of uniformed personnel intent on efficiency and safety, train stations are grand dames, made of marble, wood, vast ceilings, wasted space, meandering Art Deco design, and welcome to all kinds of wandering characters.

My Amtrak train just pulled out of the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, passing Newark Station. We are on route to New York City.

I like that Amtrak conductors are characters. (I’ve written about this on another blog and on seeing nature from the windows, on Looking for Eagles on Amtrak).

In fact, train conductors have shared their cookies and fellow passengers have shared their chocolate cake with me on Amtrak excursions. Nobody really shares at airports or on airplanes.

I find utopia in places where people share. Where do you find utopia?

Dr. Lapsansky-Werner was a featured speaker at the Religion Communicators Council annual meeting.

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Social Media Workshop in Philly

Beth Buchanan and I are taking our social media show on the road.

After our Social Media Mania workshop last fall in Albuquerque at the United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC), we’re excited to be asked to lead the workshop for the annual convention for the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) in Philadelphia from April 12 to 14.

Along with our cool Prezi show and our overview on social media, we’re adding a piece on how social media drives social and global movements.

How does social media influence public opinion? Look at the power of social media in terms of justice for Trayvon Martin, the Arab Spring, the Kony 2012 video, financial support for Susan G. Komen, and even the Occupy Wall Street movement. Weak-tie connections? Hardly. Social media makes an impact.

We’re also going to strategize on specific ways to make your own personal goals on social media happen.

Join our workshop on Thursday, April 12 at 3:45 pm, or Saturday, April 14 at 2 pm, or stop by the convention any time.

While the three-day event is offered by the Religion Communicators Council, non-profit communicators, social media junkies, connectors, and wannabes are all welcome!

Lots of cool people to network with! So, work that net!

It’s fun to meet IRL (in real life)! So join us!

BTW, Beth and I are still discussing whether our Twitter hashtag should be #rcc2012 or #rcc12 But we’ll probably go with the shortest hashtag because that’s what @bjbuc recommends.

Learn more about the RCC and register at the Workshops for Communicators.

Emotional Intelligence

Last night I saw the Diane Keaton movie, Darling Companion, which will open April 20th.  

It’s a dog lover’s movie. And that’s not me. The movie is also a valentine to the older, sensitive male, played by Richard Jenkins.

Kevin Kline plays a know-it-all doctor who lacks the Jenkins character’s smooth ease with people. (Jenkins is, also, according to Dianne Wiest’s character, a “generous lover.” I love Wiest’s and Jenkins’ sexy-ness!)

At one point, Kline is chastised for his lack of emotional intelligence. And I think emotional intelligence is underrated.

My daughters and I are still reaping the rewards of a girl empowerment weekend, where we were able to talk freely about our feelings. We learned how to navigate conflict — an awesome learning experience through the Girls Leadership Institute.

A February opinion piece in the New York Times, Building Self-Control, the American Way by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, offered this: “programs to enhance social and emotional development accelerate school achievement.”

So emotional intelligence helps with school intelligence. I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of helping our kids handle their emotions — it’s just smart to be aware of and articulate our feelings well.

In the Times article, the authors prescribe imaginative play, aerobic exercise, and studying language as tools to help children succeed emotionally and intellectually.

As for ageing adults, like Kevin Kline’s character, how do they (we) become more emotionally intelligent? In Darling Companion, the advice was to:

  • value our pets more than our cell phones;
  • define ourselves in ways beyond our work;
  • get lost in nature;
  • and be open to prophetic wisdom from people we consider marginal or flaky.

Powering Down

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I can’t get my kids to unhook both of their ear buds. When I come home from work and they’re lounging on the couch, I ask them about their day and they unhook one bud. They’re, literally, half listening and half answering.

If I reach over and pull out the other ear bud, they scream, “You’re abusing me. I’m calling Child Services.” (They love to joke like that.)

I feel like putting in my own ear buds. In my ear, I will arrange for a preteen to whisper, “You’re such a good mother. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for working every day. Thank you for your kindnesses and humor. Now, mother, I will go make dinner for the family. And I will set the table.” Sure, it sounds robotic and saccharine. So? What’s wrong with that?

I like having and giving my full attention. I like giving and receiving household help.

I ask for help getting dinner. No one answers. They are bopping their heads to invisible music or smiling as they look at the small screen in their hands.

At least, when family dinner is on the table and we are seated together about to say grace, they are fully present. No, wait, why is my son smiling at his lap and why is his lap buzzing and glowing? That little brat! Give me that! (I take his iPhone.)

I am writing this on our vacay on the West Coast of Florida by the pool. At this moment, I don’t really care that no one listens to me. I’m not listening either. I hear only the gentle splashing sound of the fake waterfall by secluded swimming pool. Life is good. Tune out. Power down.

This Month’s Book Club Picks

For book club we are reading Diane Keaton’s Then Again.

I can’t find the passage but at one point she says we mustn’t blame mothers for all of our adult unhappiness. Mothers do their best. I agree. The book is a collage of memories, a collage like the kind Diane’s mother created –  scrapbooks and journals.

I am having trouble staying focused on my reading. Fortunately, occasionally, the choices from my work book club and my other book club coincide, like when we read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in both.

At my work book club, we are reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Catch-22 and for Mother-Daughter Book Club, we are reading the Robin Benway’s The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June. The girls and I recommended that book; we’ve already read it. Very funny. (But if you don’t like it, don’t blame me, a mother.) Phew. I have one less book to read.

I’d like to blog more on this topic, but yes, you guessed it, I have to get back to the Diane Keaton memoir. Book club is Tuesday night and I have hundreds of pages to go. I might just skip ahead to the Warren Beatty part.

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