Monday, March 27, 2017

When You Don't Mean that Mean Joke

Do you know Triumph the Insult Comedian Dog?

He makes mean jokes, and he means them.

I have a big problem when someone makes a mean joke, then says "I didn't mean it." Or calls me oversensitive for not seeing the humor in it. Like it's my fault that I didn't get their mean joke. Oh, I got it. You don't need to explain the humor to me. It's just not funny.

This happened to my middle son recently. He was in a class with several other kids and they were all supposed to one thing, and a few of them did the wrong thing. Simple mistake.

(I'd give more detail, but if I do, people I know will know who and what I mean and there may be repercussions. And my son has asked me NOT to do anything about this.)

The instructor made a joke. The instructor went down the line of kids and said pointed at the kids who did the right thing and said  "you're smart, you're smart, you're smart." To the kids who messed up, he said "you're not smart, you're not smart, you're not smart."

To my son's credit, he told me his first thought was, "Um, yes I am smart, I just made a mistake." I'm pretty proud of his reaction. We need to able to admit when we make mistakes and not let them destroy our self-esteem, even when others make jokes at our expense.

I felt this was a pretty stupid act for an instructor of children. Heck, it would be dumb for an instructor of adults. My son told me he knows the teacher was trying to be funny. But it wasn't. It was mean. A less resilient kid could have heard that for the tenth time that day.

Like I said, my son asked me not to say anything to the teacher. I think my son doesn't want to appear oversensitive or like a complainer. I feel bad that he doesn't want to call the teacher out, but this is my son's call here. He's only nine, but my job isn't to fix all of his problems for him. My job is to help him learn how to face problems, and realize some can't be fixed, they can only be handled.

I'm no expert on that by the way, because I have a similar problem. A friend of mine shared a meme on Facebook that was intended to be funny. I know it was meant as a humorous share. But it equates the elaborate and kind of insane dance of a culture with people dancing outside the bathroom when they have to pee.

It's just a joke, right?

I'm not sure it's a good one. It feels mean to me. And I'm involved in learning about ways I've let racist systems and habits continue without calling them out. I discussed this with my husband before bed.

"Should I say anything?" I asked. "If I don't, am I letting racism slide?"
"People don't like being called racists," he said. "She could shut down and not listen."
"What if I emphasized that the joke, the meme was racist, and didn't say SHE was racist?"
"That's a tough nuance," he said. "Would she get it?"

I was nervous to say anything, especially on Facebook, where even really, really, really well-intentioned comments get said (and read) wrong. I wanted to convey that I like funny jokes, but why is it funny to equate this cultural expression with going to the bathroom?

On a run, where I often do my best thinking, I realized I didn't even know what this dance symbolized or meant. What culture was it from? What if was about going to the bathroom? I didn't even know!!!

After my run, I turned to Google and learned the dance is from the Ivory Coast, from the Gouro ethnic group. It's called the Zaouli Mask Dance. One site says it's performed by a man it represents feminine beauty. It started in the 1950s, so it's almost 70 years old. Not ancient, but not new. It's performed to bring about group togetherness and peace. CNN has an article about how the dance is used to connect modern people with traditions in the Ivory Coast. That CNN video shows lots more dances I had never heard of.

I learned so new things watching that video. I learned more about a culture I know little about. I also learned about myself, and what I'm scared to do.

The instructor was just joking. My friend was just joking. Neither my son or I want to say anything.  I'm worried to say the wrong thing, but I'm also worried that saying nothing is the wrong thing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Do You Know These Pittsburgh Places - Answers!

Did you enter your guesses for the Pittsburgh Places? Do you think you guessed them all?

I had a great time on the "Downtown Dragons" tour hosted by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. We visited places I had knew and loved and new places that I now know and love! I snapped six photos of special places and wanted to see if anyone could name them all. I definitely did not know about all of these before this tour.

Before we get to the answers, though, here's something else I didn't know. PHLF offers self-guided tours! Six of them! Each two-page PDF includes a map and background information on the sites. Check out the six self-guided tours of Downtown Pittsburgh here.

And PHLF offers a huge variety of field trips and a classroom artifact kit for any classroom studying Pittsburgh history. It's really an amazing resource for our area and I hope schools use it to teach our students. Since I love learning (especially on vacation) you can bet my kids and I will be tackling one of those self-guided walking tours soon.

Now to the info you've been waiting for - the answers to the Six Pittsburgh Places!

Pittsburgh Place 1
This first Pittsburgh Place is down at Station Square near the entrance to the mall. It's an architectural piece called a chimera. Even though we have been to Station Square plenty of times I never knew this little dragon was there.

Pittsburgh Place 2
Place 2 is a familiar place to us. We love to visit on special brunches and our kids have chosen this place for their birthday meals. It's the ceiling inside the Grand Concourse! We learned that a gummy gunk covered the glass tiles and it was really hard to clean them…until the restoration crew tried Easy-Off!

Pittsburgh Place 3
Place 3 is close to Place 2. Some of you may think I'm cheating. This is a lantern in the dining area of Grand Concourse closest to the train tracks. So, sort of the same as Place 2, but a little different.

Pittsburgh Place 4
This incredible piece of art that is Place 4 is inside the City County Building. These are elevator doors!

Pittsburgh Place 5
Place 5 is another ceiling. It's inside the newly renovated Koppers Building. Now, the renovation of the lobby is crazy, lots of purple and pink that was very eye-catching. But this ceiling was too lovely to resist.

Pittsburgh Place 6
We visited lots of other lovely places, but you really should go on the tour yourself and see them. So now we're at the end of our guessing game at Place 6. If you look closely you can see the reflection of my and my sixth grader and one of his teachers in the glass. The colorful wall is found underground at the Wood St. T Station.

So how did you do? Did you guess all six?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Binge Watching for Social Justice

I've been binge-watching some historical fiction lately, but I'm doing it for a good cause.

I recently did a book review of Wired for Story, a book that examines how our brains are made to devour stories and how stories have been a major factor in helping us (humans) evolve. Stories have taught us how to handle conflict, threats, and dangers without having to actually participate in the conflict, threats and dangers. Stories are safe ways to explore scary situations and work through how we might handle them. Stories prepare us for what we might face in the world and help us navigate.

Stories used to be mostly oral, before there was widespread literacy. As more and more people learned to read, the rise of the novel showed just how much we loved good fictional stories. And now, in the modern world, we have Netflix and PBS on the iPad.

Yes, I've been indulging in some binge-watching as I go through my day. I watch while I fold laundry, while I run on the treadmill, sometimes when I batch cook our CSA. I love these shows because I'm basically familiar with the topics and time periods. Like any good story, they've combined the familiar with the new.

The Crown 

I've watched the first season of The Crown, a show that covers the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England. This is a Netflix series. It's set in the early 1950s and there's a lot of change happening. Though she's the queen, Elizabeth is still not what I would call a modern woman. She's smart and capable, but her relationship to her husband is still one of those frustrating ones where he gets to fool around and she has to look the other way, but God forbid she need to handle work tasks when he doesn't want her to. Despite the frustration and unfairness, or maybe because of it, I've still really enjoyed learning about the issues Britain faced at this time period. Also, John Lithgow as Churchill is crazy.

Call the Midwife

From PBS and set about the same time but in a completely different part of London, Call the Midwife is a series about midwives working for the National Health in a poor region of east London called Poplar. It's based on a book by a real midwife, but the later seasons continue past where the book stops. My favorite character, frankly, is the rich aristocrat Chummy who joins the crew of nurses, but she's not really in the last two seasons. I miss her. This show dips into lots of different social issues in various episodes.


Also on PBS is the new series Victoria. This show takes us back to England of the 1830s. While it doesn't tackle social issues very much in the first few episodes that I've seen, there's an episode that subtly contrast's Prince Albert's desire for financial freedom from his wife with a young working English girl (Nancy) who knows if she gets married she'll sacrifice her financial freedom, too. Of course those two characters weren't really going to meet up and commiserate in real life, so the problem just continued.

The Real World

Yes, binge-watching these series is an escape from dealing with the big issues of our time. And yes I'm totally privileged to be able to watch them during the day while I do minor chores. But there are connections in these shows to what I'm concerned about today. Access to healthcare. Religious freedom. Women's equality. Racism. Homophobia. War. Poverty. Freedom of the press.And I see how characters deal with the issues, how they choose to act. I watch the portrayals of the "good guys" and the "bad guys." And I try to learn.

While I have loved the familiarity and safety of these shows, I also realize I need to branch out and explore shows that include more people who don't look like me, don't talk like me, and don't think like me.

What series do you find challenge your world views and get you thinking?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Do you Do with To Do?

What do you put on your to-do lists?

For awhile I was putting everything on my to-do lists.

  • Kids appointments
  • Allergist
  • Blog 1 reminder
  • Blog 2 reminder
  • Email Newsletter reminder
  • Pitching to magazines
  • Pitching to work for hire clients
  • Read a chapter
  • Workout
  • Volunteer work for Moms Demand Action
  • Writing a chapter
  • Assignments from editors
  • Reconciling my account
  • Meditate
  • Stretch
  • Use eye drops
  • Take fish oil
  • Drive kid to soccer
  • Drive kid to TKD

Then I had more long term ideas on my to do list:

  • Write that Rumpelstilskin story
  • Plan a diversity event for the family
  • Watch "Father Ted"
  • Visit that waterfall in Apollo
  • Try rock climbing
  • Visit Bayernhof Museum
  • Write that story about renting a kid
  • Do a craft with kids

But on many days, I'd add some things into my day, that weren't on my to do list. They were important, but when I got them done, I didn't have anything to check on my list. It sometimes felt bad, sometimes I didn't care.

  • Laundry
  • Dishes
  • Cleaning up my office
  • Helping kids with homework
  • Return library books
  • Grocery shopping
  • Buy birthday gift
  • Return stuff to Target 
  • Cook meals
  • Drink enough water 

Some days I can't seem to find a balance. I'm all or nothing. Some days I want to write everything done and check it all off, somedays I want to delete it all and just do what I want to do that day. 

Do you keep a to do list? 
What do you to with to do lists?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Writing Update

My bio says  I'm a "writing mom on the run." While I talk about my running a lot on this blog, I often skip talking about writing here. I put my writing updates on my professional site. But I've had some pretty wonderful writing moments in the past few months and I wanted to share them with friends, so here you go.

First Piece in Highlights for Children

Take a look in the Crafts section of Highlights for Children, January 2017, and you'll find a fun, high-flying activity with my name! These super spinners are a fun and easy activity for all skill levels, incorporate a little bit of science, and can be used in lots of different games. Also, since they are made of paper they are perfect for indoor winter games. If you and your little scientist make one, send me a photo and I'll share it on my blog.

Pen Parentis Fellow Submission published on Brain, Child

This story, "Cernunnos and Me", was the submission that won the heart of the Pen Parentis judges. It still feels a bit surreal. The story is short, but I've gotten some really wonderful feedback on it. Feel free to read it yourself and let me know what you think. Don't worry, I'm a professional. I can handle critique.

Second Piece in Highlights for Children 

The March 2017 issue of Highlights for Children also includes a small piece of mine on the inside cover. It's all about getting to know new cultures in fun ways. I can't think of a better way to help kids realize the world we live in and love is full of interesting people that deserve respect. If you decide to try any of these tips, let me know what you do and how it goes and I'll share it on my blog.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cold Temps, Warm Hearts

Winter hasn't been too bad, but wow was it cold when I ran the North Park 10K, part of the Allegheny 9. When I woke up (way too early thanks to kids) on Saturday morning, it was 14 degrees.

I did not want to get up and run. But friends had donated to my fundraising page for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, so I knew I had to. I got up, got dressed and went out and gave it my all.

The left part of my face froze for part of the race. Then it thawed in the sunshine we were lucky to have. There were only a little over 100 people there so I had to keep my eye on people in front of me and work on catching them one at a time.

I caught the guy in the yellow jacket, then the two ladies in black.

At mile 3  I passed the lady in the pink vest and then the guy in the bright blue EQT jacket.

It got rough when the lady in pink passed me back at mile 5. But I didn't let her go. I stayed right behind her and when my Garmin clicked over that I had passed mile 6 I turned on my kick and passed her a few steps from the finish line. It felt good!!!

Lots of friends kept me honest that day and donated to support my run in the cold. I'm so grateful to them. Not only did I finish first in my age group, I reached the first benchmark in fundraising.

I'm $43 away from the next benchmark and I know there's someone out there who will help me reach the next stage.

It could be you.

The Impact of a Dollar at Your Local CMN Hospital

Wondering what your donation might support? It adds up and it matters.

$10,000 - Critical Care Crib

$8,500 - Two Ventilators

$5,000 - Three Pediatric Wheelchairs

$3,500 - Five Nerve Stimulators

$1,000 - One Pulse Oximeter

$500 - One Fetal Heart Monitor

$100 - One Guitar or Keyboard

Just in case...

Want another reason to support kids getting care from Children's Miracle Network Hospitals? Read about the sparkly Michael Jackson glove.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

First Triathlon of 2017

I'm so excited because I've completed my first triathlon on 2017 and earned the right to proudly display my magnet on my van!

On January 29, my husband and I completed the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh Indoor Triathlon. You read that right, my husband did it, too, even though he doesn't swim. Talk about brave.

I'd definitely do this race again and recommend it for beginners who want to get a sense of triathlons but aren't ready to commit to a full outdoor experience.

It feels a little selfish to write about this when there are so many difficult things happening in our country, but self care is important. In order to work for social justice and defend what's right, I need to (and want to) have a strong mind and a strong body. Working out, staying healthy, and eating right helps me do my best. It gives me the foundation I need to work hard and I felt great after this event. Ready to take on anything.

Also, I had two excellent coaches.

I love this indoor triathlon because only the events are timed and you can do them in any order.  My husband did the run, then bike, then the swim.

I started with the pool and wowee was it chilly!

The swim portion was 10 laps or 500 yards.  Here's a video (with commentary) of me swimming. 

Next, I went to the bike and ended up biking next to my husband. The bike portion is on stationary bikes and we had to cover 4 miles as fast as we could. The key is get the resistance as high as you could manage. No photos or videos of me biking, sorry. Just imagine me, on a bike, sweaty.

Finally, I did the run. Two miles on an indoor track or 30 laps. Yep, 30. It was simultaneously quick and endless. Turn after turn after turn. Lap after lap. Luckily my coaches were nearby helping me count and cheering me on and taking a few photos and (unflattering) slow motion videos that I will not be sharing.

I did this race in 2014 and finished first in my age group. I was a little worried that I hadn't been biking or swimming enough to come anywhere close to my previous times, but I was pleasantly surprised!

2017 (Second in age group!)
500 yd swim - 10:38
4 mile bike - 14:29
2 mile run - 16:33

2014 (First in age group)
500 yd swim - 10:36
4 mile bike - 17:54
2 mile run 16:56

My times were comparable and I always love coming home with an age group medal. (Yes, there were only two people in my age group but still I showed up!!!) It was great having my family there, both competing and cheering. Now on to the next challenge.