A Breath of Fresh Air

20160326_103730.jpgThe city I live in and the general West Michigan area tend to close down in observance of days like Easter. Although the corner store is open, the parking lot is full of cars that belong to people in the church across the street. Any of my coffee shop “work” spots are closed, so when I am writing today I am at home. I made sure to go outside, though. At the moment, it is sunny and the temperature is in the fifties, which hasn’t happened in a couple of weeks. For however long it stays, the breath of fresh air in the sunshine felt nice.

My task is to write about stress and aging based on articles I am reading. Whether or not purposely said, when I had a discussion with the teaching assistant in charge of meeting with the class on our papers, she commented that it was stressful. Yes – stressed about writing – on stress. Basically, the challenge is in getting started. So why am I here? The title also refers to this past week. I feel like there has been a breath of fresh air as joyous as being outside today. The highlight was being invited to an English department dinner, and the conversations that occurred while at dinner. Let’s just say that there were many references to the fourth grade, which was interesting. My recollection of fourth grade was that it was shortly after the original “Star Wars” movie came out, and the choices of art projects by some of my classmates seemed to revolve around that. I remember someone making a Darth Vader puppet. I also remember the teacher, Mrs. Fox, and how we would do different musicals (I believe she played the piano). One of the class productions was definitely “The Monster Mash.”

However you are spending your Sunday, I hope it is a great day. Thanks for reading!

Stacy

The Awesome Magical Moments

It’s hard work to pursue something that you believe in. When I came up with the idea that became Hacker Gals, I felt like I couldn’t NOT do it. The idea was pulling me, and I had to follow along. In doing this for nearly 3 years, I’ve learned a lot – about business, about people, and about myself.

4My favorite part of Hacker Gals was the awesome magical moments. What do I mean by that? My role was always as a facilitator. I would create an event designed to bring a group of people together. The goal was always about empowerment of women, which is vague on it’s own. By bringing people together, the discussions would start with the “getting to know you” questions, and move towards more specifics of what was most important at the moment. The event that was most apparent with this was an open house in July of 2014. The Gals who attended didn’t all arrive at the same time, so there was this constant “and what do you do?” The amazing part was that discovery through the conversations and the connections that someone else had been on the same path and could offer suggestions or cheering. That particular night, I witnessed many magical moments.

Open House Collage.20150629Just a year later, though, in the summer of 2015, I hosted the first ever event about the organization – an official general meeting. The point was to see if Hacker Gals was worth it to them to move forward, and what could be contributed to the effort. I felt that I was maxed out, and without support, there wasn’t a future. From that meeting and a few side discussions, two others agreed to be a part of the development team (they insisted that I was the only one who could be “founder” or I would’ve stated “co-founders). The three of us met once or twice a month for a few months via Google Hangout. We chose Hangout because one Gal was in the Grand Rapids area and the two of us in Kalamazoo were at opposite ends of the city. Although “meetings,” I really looked forward to them because it was a chance to check in and see my friends. We laughed, a lot. It was magical in a different way. We even had a “retreat” which was really more of a “playdate” – mini-golf, lunch, and shopping. Sound like fun? It definitely was!

IMAG1358And then, barely 6 months later, the same question was coming up again. The “magical” moments had disappeared. All of them. Google Hangouts were forgotten or cancelled. The momentum I had felt was gone. The priority of Hacker Gals was still in my heart. My head was saying “let it go.” Before I could make that decision, though, I brought up the topic again, and the results go with what my head says, and therefore, Hacker Gals is being let go.

Another piece of advice I have heard for entrepreneurs over and over again is to celebrate the loss. Overall, it was a gain of experience, of friendships, and of awareness. To me, those are the most magical ideas to note. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

 

The Wind and a Plate

I once had a conversation with a friend about having a “full plate.” Many times people talk about how much they have going on and that there really isn’t room for more. My friend’s advice during that conversation was to “get a bigger plate.” Since the plate is being used as a metaphor, then, theoretically, it sounded like a good idea. A bigger plate to me, though, seems like it would be clumsier and more challenging to balance. I have never been a server where I have had to balance plates on a tray and I cannot make a direct comparison. From observation, what I can say is that servers usually end up with multiple trays and help – from other servers and with a portable stand to set down their trays and serve from there.

20160316_170201.jpgThis conversation has specifically been in my mind lately as I think about all of what I do – school, work, Startup Grind, Hacker Gals, and a research project, besides having to make sure I have food to eat, pay bills, and a spot to work on everything, such as writing this post right now. The “plate” is definitely too heavy and clunky, and I have had way too many pizzas to eat lately. Things have to change.

That last thought about things changing was something I connect to Mary Poppins. In the story I remember watching, Mary Poppins flies in (via her umbrella!) to a place where she is needed, and stays until the winds change. It was quite windy the past few days, which had me thinking about this even more. I feel a shift, although just like Mary Poppins, I don’t know where the wind is going to take me. I only know that things are changing. In my case, I believe that the tray needs to be more manageable so there is more of a benefit from each plate.

20160319_161223.jpgAs a part of that, I have been trying to accomplish tasks that will get me to a bigger goal. For example, I’ve wanted to be able to travel internationally for a long time (or even visit Canada again), and I have never had a passport. When I have attempted to save money for the cost, the funds ended up being used for something else. Also, I was officially divorced over 7 years ago and had not legally changed my name back and really wanted a passport in my maiden name. This whole process came up recently because one way to travel internationally is to study abroad, and that is something else I have wanted to do. I had a conversation with someone in that department at school, and she had suggested that I start with the passport, except I knew I had to start with the name change. Seems big, right?

For some reason, I had thought that I couldn’t change back my last name after a year without going through the name change process. I started looking at it again and called to verify where I would go for the name change process. The lady who answered the phone saved me about $300 (the approximate cost of all the steps in the name change process) when she suggested I at least try using my divorce decree at the Social Security Administration office and the Secretary of State. It turned out that the lady had a great suggestion and now I can officially start the checklist for studying abroad. Where will the wind take me and will my plate be too heavy, too light, or just right?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

The Birds are Chirping, The Sun is Shining, and Thunderstorms are Coming

capture_2016-03-15-16-45-45.png.pngOne of the first things noted this morning in my head, and then out loud by my yoga instructor, was that the birds were chirping. Yay! A genuine sign of spring! As I type this, it is warm and sunny outside, very similar to when I was in California a few weeks ago. The difference is that I heard thunderstorms are expected later. Actually, that is typical for a Michigan spring.

Now that the weather description is over, the topic I have been thinking about was the discussion on social relationships during one of today’s classes. Probably the most interesting part is the hierarchy mapping with three concentric circles. In this diagram, you are in the center, your closest family and friends are in the closest circle to you, then friends who are not quite as close, and the outer circle contains people you know and who are usually acquaintances. We did an in class activity to look at a list of who we would put in the different circles,  and where those people might put us, and this was also related to who we tell secrets to, who takes care of us when we are sick, and some other questions Those questions were also flipped around, as far as who we take care of when sick and who tells us secrets. Part of the point was to see what relationships are reciprocal. Someone with a significant other, for example, probably has that person in the inner most circle, and vice versa. Another point about taking care of people had to do with the attitude. In other words, there is a difference between feeling obligated to take care of someone when that person is sick versus wanting to take care of that person. Perception and attitudes are part of what may effect our overall health, too.

20160315_163722.jpgIn my case, I used to have more people, including a spouse, within that first circle. The only reason I wouldn’t put as many friends there now is because our discussions may be deep yet most of the reciprocity is with those who are the closest in physical distance. We split between the two closest circles, if anything. Plus, I tend to take care of myself and use externals – sign up for classes so the instructors knows to look for me, set-up meetings where someone is expecting me, regularly visit the coffee shop for food as much as being in the community, and I make doctor’s appointments so there is a record and a relationship there, too. As much as I am glad to be capable of all of this, there are two reasons why I wish more people were closer friends: 1. It makes me busier and sometimes it makes me more isolated 2. I like the feeling of helping to take care of somebody more when I know they would help me for the same reason – that they care – as opposed to an obligation.

I realize that people do move on, or maybe “out” to the furthest circle. Maybe that is a part of making room in our lives for new and closer friends. According to the discussion, as we grow older, we have more friends who are closer and less friends overall because that is what becomes most important. I can definitely relate to that right now. Seeing a ton of people for my birthday, for example, can be a great thing. Knowing some of those people would want more than the general social relationship that I would also want is priceless. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

More Lessons from Yoga

20160303_082748.jpgOne of the things consistently stated by different yoga instructors is to “let go what doesn’t serve you.” Another way of stating the same idea is to determine if an activity is moving you in the direction you want to go. It does seem that we sometimes take the long road to get to a destination. When that happens, did we really know what our destination was supposed to be?

Personally, for the first idea, I weigh the activity against the goals. Is it helping, even a little bit, or is it a distraction? Sometimes it is tough to tell and sometimes I want to do it anyways, and then usually regret that I did. Once in a while, I even ask others, and proceed based on the answers, and usually have varying results. What people say and what people end up doing, intentionally or not, can be completely different. All I know is that I end up returning to that original question, and this time I may answer it myself. If the Scarecrow is pointing in two directions, that’s not serving me, or anybody, and it is most likely time to click my heels and go home.

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

Walking in the Rain, the Warmth of Yoga, and Lots of Writing

When I end up with a title that seems to have a letter theme, I tend to want to say “This post is brought to you by the letter…” and fill it in. It used to be a thing among the people I knew on Facebook, and maybe even wider than that. As I came up with today’s title, I would definitely state “This post is brought to you by the letter W.” Now, time for the rest of the story…

20160310_072726.jpgI found it really hard to return to Michigan after being in California for a week for many reasons, and especially because it was already spring there. The temperature was in the 60’s and 70’s and it was sunny. Kalamazoo doesn’t have that version of spring. The weather in the last week has been much more like spring, though. All the slush and snow I had to walk through a week ago just to get to the end of the block has been melted and washed away. Temperatures fluctuate on the higher end now, from the mid-thirties to near seventy, and it has been raining instead of snowing, such as today.

Although the start of daylight savings time threw off my choice of yoga classes, I was really glad that I decided to go to the one in the morning that was heated. The clouds with rain hide the sun and bring a chill to the air. To be inside with other people in a room that is like a blanket of warmth just felt really good. Yoga usually helps to keep me awake, too. I have a lot more writing to do outside this post and I’ll accept the chance to gain some energy. I was even happy to walk in the rain to get to the studio, remembering to grab my neighbor’s umbrella that he kindly leaves outside his apartment door.

20160311_112912.jpgDuring the last couple of days, I took breaks to color (with a friend) and to make play-doh. Both of these were breaks I was looking forward to. The first because it is pretty easy to chat while coloring, and the last part of our chat we colored the same page together, deciding on a strategy beforehand to make everything clash. If there had been more time, we might have had a whole story line going. Super fun!

wp-1457893562227.jpgWhen I shared about the coloring, a different friend mentioned her preference of play-doh. I stated that I would do that, too! Although the friend usually buys play-doh, she has made it before, and I decided to try to do that. The only ingredient I was missing was food coloring, so I picked up a Kool-aid packet at the corner store. I also made the play-doh as a reward for getting through a section of my homework. One of my friends asked me if I was going to eat it. I stated I would try it and that I was more interested in playing with play-doh than eating. If you are wondering, it was quite salty. I liked the Kool-aid smell, though.

Today, even though I already have a lot of writing to do, my reward for getting through a section of homework is going to be exploring a book I am borrowing about song writing. It has several exercises in it and divides between the skills of lyrics and music. My “assignment” is to write 4 lines and email the “teacher” this week. Making it a reward will be fun and something to look forward to, especially since the book is being returned in a week.

Thank you to the letter “W” for sponsoring these topics, and thanks to you, the reader, for making it to the end!

Stacy

 

California, Friends, and Spring Break

img_20160305_102533.jpgHello, World. It has been a while since I have written here, although not because I haven’t tried. I am excited to finally write today and catch up! I usually don’t need the break until the end of the semester. It’s Spring break, though, which is helpful for catching up and great timing.

Speaking of “catching up,” I had a chance to celebrate a birthday with a friend the other night that was also a farewell party. My friend is not moving too far, yet that distance across the state can seem long. The overlap of friends who gathered was quite fun and one mutual friend noted that “nights like these are good for the soul.” I totally agree! Even though I don’t hang out much at bars anymore, I stayed with the group until closing because besides spending time with the friend leaving, I made new friends and the conversations were fantastic! The comment of “good for the soul” is an understatement and I hope that there will be more conversations and that some of the people who I previously knew and hadn’t seen recently will show up more often.

The social support of friends really do help our personal world go around. The night of the birthday party was also Art Hop. I started at the yoga studio because there was a celebration for the 6am challengers, besides that it was an Art Hop stop. A group of friends, including one who later went to the birthday party, stopped through on their route, plus I saw a few friends at the studio, including my landlord and his girlfriend. I also had a chance to chat with several people involved in the yoga challenge – one of the instructors, the studio’s owner (and husband), and others who were in the classes with me. Names were drawn for prizes and I’m really excited to have won a month of unlimited yoga. Yay!

img_20160305_104856.jpgAs I wrote about in the previous post, “French Toast, Flying, and Karaoke,” I was recently in California for Startup Grind. I feel lucky to not only have made new friends, but also to have been able to visit with others in the area or see people who I already knew before I was there. The experience was in several parts, though, and I have tried to put it together that way, as far as pictures AND how I have been thinking about it. I will probably also watch more or watch again many of the conference videos, and may make some of that another post. As far as friends who I already knew, though, first there was the Kalamazoo connection. I am the only one who is still in Kalamazoo while the other two have ties only, and we all were at Startup Grind for the conference. Two of us were also a part of the directors’ retreat. Next year, it might even be all three of us who are there for everything, which would be an awesome thing since we wouldn’t be so divided in activities. Any time I had a chance to chat was special and (throughout the conference) also seemed to be too short. I wanted more.

wp-1457234336341.jpgMuch of the retreat was about getting to know each other better. I am definitely excited that I have made new friends (NOT just contacts) all around the country and the world. I have been wanting to travel and plan on getting  a passport (my first ever) this year and starting to do what I have wanted to do most of my life. I already have been visiting with friends when I travel in the country, and that includes California. This particular trip only covered the San Francisco area, and was my second time visiting in a year. I had a chance to spend time with one of my friends and explore Berkeley, including the campus. Even though she had grown up in the San Francisco area, she had never really had a reason to go there, which made it new for both of us. It was fun to chat and walk around in the spring weather and sunshine! The students on the campus were definitely taking advantage of the temperature and I wanted to stay and do the same! After walking around a little bit, we enjoyed having lunch in the city before returning back to our “home” areas.

img_20160305_110128.jpgMy last day in California was spent with the same friend who I was with at the beginning of the trip. One of my favorite parts was going to the grocery store and putting together a meal. With some coaching, I helped cook it, too, and might even be able to repeat part of it on my own. He made it fun and I was learning  and contributing as we went.

The final full day we were out for all of it, with the highlights being Pier 39, Alcatraz, and China Town. On Pier 39, note the seals hanging out, and the Magic shop. I posted the picture of the shop to a friend’s Facebook timeline because he IS a magician. He said he was first inspired because of a place in San Francisco on Pier 39. Could it be the same place? It might be! I was definitely in the same area.

img_20160305_105659.jpgPeople kept telling me how much I would LOVE Alcatraz. It was definitely as fun as it was a bit spooky. We were walking the same areas as inmates and guards and even had demonstrations of how the cell doors worked. Seeing the cells and hearing the stories gave me some chills, especially the desperation that motivated the men to create an escape plan. Wow, was that elaborate! Plus, there were other buildings for guards with or without families, creating a small community where it was a bad sign if you felt you had to lock your door at night. I agree, though, that it was worth at least going once. Some, such as my friend, were “repeat offenders” and had been on the tour at least once before.

After Alcatraz, we decided to visit China Town for a chance to eat and chill while absorbing the culture of the area. We passed a Zoltar (remember the movie “Big”?) when we were walking, and I wished I had asked to stop. I even had a dollar in my pocket and could have tried it, although I don’t know what my wish would have been. By the time we were walking back to the car, the machine had probably been wheeled in for the night. At the very least, we didn’t see it.

img_20160306_201921.jpgBesides eating at one of the restaurants, the condition of going to China Town was to get a Mai Tai, just as a chef or food critic would when visiting the area. It was also the chance to sit and people watch. Even though I didn’t get a picture of both, the “Lucky Buddha” could have rivaled “Mrs. Butterworth” (Mrs. B) in the pose and judgment look. We were sitting at the bar near the door and could see people in and out. We even had a conversation with the bouncer about Flint (MI) and water after he looked at my I.D.

The most interesting view was just before we left when we were still in the parking garage. We had walked to the side that faced four corners. It was amazing, as my friend pointed out, how much activity there was, between the late night coffee shop, the people walking, the bus going by, and  the buildings that we could see all lit up. I was glad to leave and also sad to leave. The list for next time has already started.

I could write so much more, since this doesn’t even really touch on the conference or retreat, other than the Kalamazoo connection. Stay tuned! and thanks for reading!

Stacy

 

French Toast, Flying, and Karaoke

img_20160221_005546.jpgWhen I was first in Kalamazoo as a freshman at Western Michigan University, I didn’t have a car, so unless I found a ride, the only way to visit home and see my family near Detroit was to take the train. Although I was on a train while thinking about this, I wasn’t going to Detroit and the trip ended in San Francicso, yet I still felt like I was going home.

Josh was the official welcome to San Francisco and was waiting for me inside the airport. I’m not sure how long we actually stayed up, since I had lost track of the day and even the time was off with the zone difference. For whatever reason, we were both up early enough to go shopping for breakfast items and Josh made French toast with cinnamon and nutmeg. Yummy!

img_20160221_005840.jpgThe main purpose of coming to San Francisco was for the Startup Grind Global Conference and Director’s Retreat. As a part of that, we were going to pickup my hotel roommate, Michele. Before that, though, we went flying! Josh always talks about it and he has sent me video, but I wasn’t clear on how it worked. The flying part was with drones. The cool part was that there was a camera on the drone, and if you wear goggles, you can see what the drone sees. For most of the flying time, I was wearing a second pair of goggles and could see the same thing that Josh was seeing. Watching through the goggles was a lot more dizzying than just watching a video! All the flying in the park tends to capture attention of others who are there, and it is a regular gathering place for people with many types and sizes of drone planes. When I mentioned air shows as something to do, it turned out that they already do them and they can be random suggestions or organized.

img_20160221_010129.jpgFinally, it was time for the next adventure, this time with Michele and for the first Startup Grind get-together for the directors. The meet and greet included food and lots of chatting. Since this was my first time to the global conference, I had not met many people in person before, and had only chatted with a few beyond who I did know. Following the meet and greet, we went to karaoke. I, of course, loved the idea since that is still one of my favorite things that now I only do every once in a while. We had the chance to go into private rooms, which were ok. I was happier being in the main area where there was a karaoke host. People were mixed about the idea, which always makes an interesting conversation. I did get one turn out front and it was lots of fun! Want to know the song? Then please “raise your glass…for me.”
What the whole experience came down to, from the moment I landed, was that it has felt really comfortable. It was comfortable in the sense that I felt at home, with all of it and all of the people, and I am looking forward to the rest of the week and spending time with this community and family. Good night!

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

 

 

 

Perspectives, Mood, and Social Connections

capture_2016-02-14-13-38-02.png.pngAlthough I like the fact that there are four seasons to experience in Michigan, sometimes I wish the temperature could even out a little bit more. My main thought about the outside temperature the last couple of days is how COLD it is. In fact, when I was choosing my last makeup class for the 6am yoga challenge (I am missing the last week), one of the instructors I could choose from was subbing for the Sunday Heated Detox class. I verified if subbing made it an eligible class, and was so glad when the answer was YES! I checked the weather before I left for my walk. The temperature was a sunny 13 degrees. Thirteen! At least it was sunny, right?

I was glad for the class today for another reason, too. Just being able to have somewhere to go and, in this case, people to interact with, was really helpful. Not too long ago, I had many more people to hang out with and who were always inviting me somewhere. In fact, sometimes I had the problem of deciding. It was usually a holiday or something odd when I didn’t hear from anybody. Having those social connections were important because they reminded me of how I was contributing and interacting with the world. I was important, just like everyone else with me. What I did mattered, and being with others validated that, and I validated others in return.

I still know all of those people and have met new ones since. As people shifted and faded back, I thought more of the new friends would help continue the trend. Sometimes there were obstacles, such as distance or the day of the week, especially since I haven’t had a car for almost two years. Sometimes it has been a matter of priority, such as family or work. Or maybe it has just been that the opportunities have not been interesting enough. The social connections I had before were much more casual in that we would play games or go dancing or hang out for karaoke. My social connections now are usually based around events I am facilitating, and at school with my classmates. There’s a lot of work involved in the first part, and there is a particular time frame for the second. So, what happens? I start to wonder if I still matter and if what I am contributing to my part of the world means anything. I don’t particularly like that train of thoughts and know when they start that I need a new perspective, somehow. I need to acknowledge what I feel and also get out of that by finding interactions. Facebook chats used to be a great thing, and sometimes still are. Texting can help, if the person at the other end is available. Both have become more like email where you answer when you have a chance. The sender might need urgency. The receiver decides by lifestyle or glancing through if the urgency is accepted or not. Therefore, I find face to face the best. I do have to say, though, that a couple of times this week I was the one messaged first from people I haven’t been able to talk to much lately. They were awesome check-ins.

Yoga, then, gave me exactly what I wanted – warmth, interactions, and time to be able to shift perspectives. I like to believe that I am a happy person and that I will find the right level again. Sometimes when I try to connect with people who have faded back (or even out), it is a definite backwards step, and the goal is to move forward. I never feel good after those connections. I know I’ll be interacting with a ton of new people in about a week, which will be super and maybe even inspiring. This isn’t just something I want, either. It has been shown that those who have social connections tend to get through life healthier, and they are able to battle the tougher issues more, all because of that support. Hopefully, some of the support I am missing is at least going to others, maybe even because they need it more. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

Taking a Break and the Gold Hat

20160210_161634.jpgI have probably had something I have wanted to write about everyday during the last week. It’s been so crazy that by the time I might have been able to write a post, something else had to be done first, or I fell asleep. Right in the middle of everything, though, I took a scheduled break that finished with getting my hair cut and revived. The break was a couple of hours longer than the appointment, thanks to Zipcar. I used to take a bus and then walk what was not an easy path without a sidewalk to get to my stylist. Since Zipcar has been available, I decided that the more challenging places to get to I would use the option to drive and then run other errands, too. Thanks to a couple of guys working in the building near the car, I was able to borrow a snow brush and cleared off about four inches of snow. The snow machine has been on a roll here lately.

wp-1455336160913.jpgPrior to driving, I had an appointment on campus, and then I walked shortly after to get to the Zipcar. It was a longer than usual walk which I wish I had measured. Plus, the temperature had dropped and with all the walking I had extra layers with a mish mash of colors, including a blue cowl, my pink hat, and the hood of my purple jacket. Between the layers, trying on hats, and the wind, my hair was a mess when I finally made it to my stylist. She just laughed as she brushed my hair and, of course, made it look 100x better. Don’t you ever feel like you have to make a good impression, though, kind of like brushing your teeth right before you go to the dentist, and also right before your teeth will get cleaned there?

In between the appointments, I ran a couple of errands. One of the errands was to see if there were still any winter hats left to add to my collection. I had a chance to check a couple of stores, and the choices were pretty limited. I bought a gold colored hat at the second store that I like ok. It’ll be nice to have a second choice and I hope to find more. Meanwhile, I had a short break and it was probably good that my time was limited cause I might have spent way too much money. I like productive days that have fun in them, too. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Stacy

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