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At the Club

It can be complicated to be a female and have male friends. I wrote before about being friends with men and that many declare they have a significant other. When I wrote about this, my point was that stating the attachment was supposed to let ME know that they were not available, whether fending off or being pro-active. Sometimes, though, that didn’t stop THEM from trying.

Here’s the flip side – men respecting their significant other by not even considering women for social event invites unless their significant others are present (wives/girlfriends in this case). I understand this. Really. It’s a form of protection and a way to show that you want to do the right thing. If it’s a guys’ night out – that’s cool. Women do their version for girls’ night out. Purely social.

The Connection

Where do you tend to meet people?

There’s proximity, such as neighbors, or other parents at the same school or parents of your kids’ friends.

There’s work – I mean, you probably spend a lot of long hours with these people. When you get along at all, your relationship might move to social outside of work.

Then there are community organizations – they may be a religious community, such as a church. Or they may focus on leadership, a particular cause, or social activities.

What If

Let’s say the organization is in the last category – community – and it is not something your entire family would be a part of, such as a church. This organization is something specifically you have chosen that family members may be a part of occasionally. Let’s also state that the organization tends to appeal more to men, yet all are welcome. You spend a lot of time with people from this organization, and similar to people at work, adding a social element away from the organization with some individuals is a likable idea. You also are a married man who won’t mix socially with women unless your wife is present. Your wife is busy with the kids, not interested (or maybe not invited so she doesn’t know) in going out with anyone from this group, so only the guys are asked. You chit chat, and you also talk about business related to the organization cause it’s on your mind. No harm, right?

The Setback that keeps going and going and going.

I’d like to think that there are people to see socially, and when that rule is involved, either your significant other is invited, or the rule is updated. The need for support and to talk about business is something for more than specific groups (or genders). Yes, not every conversation is for everyone, and a guys only or girls only night out is fine. Yet, how are deals getting made sometimes? Socially – over dinner, drinks, golf, etc. The point is there might be others who would fit the social extension and who would also have something to contribute for “business” discussions and instead get left behind because they don’t fit with whatever the grouping is (“one of the guys,” etc).

I’ve observed similar behavior where it’s not only about who’s being social. Person A and person B have a different relationship now at the organization, and do not believe others need to be involved. Person A and person B dismiss what person C says because the relationship is strictly (maybe even barely) “professional.” In other words, when person C offers information, person A ignores or forgets until it is brought up by person B. When person B offers that same information, it’s golden. It comes across and is received as brand new information, even though person C had previously shared the same information. The point, then, is that the relationships matter, and the relationship may have the chance to exist because of gender. This really isn’t a new idea. It is another way to explain it.

We are all people before adding any other labels.  Shouldn’t that matter more than the labels?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for reading!



Why taking a pause can be important

Have you ever been on the edge of something and could not quite grasp it? Maybe the name of a person when you recognize the face, or a tidbit you heard. It is frustrating, right? What if what you are normally good at, which might be remembering names and not just faces, feels blocked? Communication, instead of flowing freely, is more jagged in the same way glass might crack. In other words, what you are trying to say, if it reaches the intended audience, becomes distorted while traveling. The distortion means that for the communication to redirect, it takes work, and everyone involved must be willing to try. Does this sound like truth or weirdness?

I have noticed this phenomena in my own life and in particular during the last year. Part of noticing at all is through the attempt to increase self-awareness. Being self-aware is an ongoing journey and the more I learn the more I realize there is still a long way to go. What I have noticed is that actions and communications in one environment are sometimes taken differently in another environment. This is not true one hundred percent of the time or with one hundred percent of the people. Sometimes others involved do not try or will crack those jagged lines further and it makes it hard to patch things up.

One of my interests includes learning more about leaders and leadership and how an organization can be effected. Since an organization is made up of people, that means there are emotional effects. Organizations are alive, in a sense. It’s more than the communication or the name at the tip of your tongue. If the person in charge has certain attitudes and emotions, anyone around is likely to “catch” and possibly reflect those same attitudes and emotions. I mean, if the person in charge is doing it, and that person is seen as having a high quality of character  and worthy of the position, then it makes sense some would intentionally mirror that person. The leader in this case is being considered someone worthy to follow, from mannerisms to habits to attitude. We learn by example and many times it may be intentional. Did you ever play house and have a role as a parent and mimic your own parent, for example? It also means there are others who may not realize why a good day has turned sour. It is similar to driving to work and not remembering what route you took. Another version is that you can be aware of that change and pinpoint the source of the reaction, or, while in route, you enjoyed the scenery.

The last point has been challenging. First, not everyone is or tries to be self-aware. I have been working on increasing self-awareness for over ten years. It works if you’re intentional about it. When an area you are not used to being “off” is hit hard, the immediate instinct is to react. Kind of like the “fight or flight or freeze” that we hear about. This is where yoga and the self-awareness journey have helped me – they have taught me to pause, and then react to the situation, not my emotions to the situation. Reacting with that initial instinct usually causes unneeded trouble. If someone told me I had to fight it out on the playground at recess, I wouldn’t be surprised. Other times, it could be junior high and a constant “Mean Girls” (boys, too!) movie on repeat.

The part that really gets me about the communication is that many times I have had the skills or the interest where creativity will flow. In the jagged glass environment, all of those skills and interests are like the name that can’t quite be remembered. Eventually I am reminded and realize that. What it feels like is a wall or some barrier pushing down while the “correct” answer is being coerced (sometimes nicely) to the front. Is this related to controlling by fear and the automatic reactions that have been programmed into our lives?

I bring up this topic to try to figure it out and to return to the topic of community. Funny thing is, others in the same community are immune because they have a different focus. For example, I have observed one person with a project and another person who wanted to learn the same topic ending up in the same room. They verbally agreed to work on the project together towards both of their goals. I have seen this several times. It has to be the correct mix of people, though, and it probably depends on the approach and the project. I have tried the same thing and have received more attitude than support from the idea. I find it all as interesting as it is nauseating. What keeps me hooked is that I have had enough of the times I have enjoyed to keep returning. The question is – which part will last?

Thanks for reading!



The Squeaky Wheels

One of the fun parts about social media is reading the adventures my friends have, especially related to their children. What I find interesting is the similarity in stories as the children hit certain ages or stages in life. For example, one of my friends posts about the challenges of his two-year-old daughter while she is going through potty training.  Slightly behind these posts, one of my other friends has the same topic about twins (boy and girl) and how he has twice the fun, since one twin’s actions follows the other. As far as which one starts the chain, take your pick. It varies.

What I see after following both these friends and others is that the situations are normal and how they are handled is what may set the stage for future behavior. For example, “terrible twos” are known for tantrums. Every time the tantrum works it encourages the chance that a tantrum will happen again. We expect the little kids to have them until they learn that the tantrums will not work. What about when it is adults? I hate it, hate it, hate it when the only way I end up getting attention is because I raise my voice and keep going in the direction towards a tantrum, even if it is not a full fledged one. It works. I know better (and totally HATE that), and end up in that mode sometimes anyways.

I also note when I observe it is happening in a situation I am a part of and I HATE it just as much. If I can do something to stop the full out show, I will. I’m referring to work or organization environments, not the general public. The thing is, just like I don’t get attention sometimes with a normal discussion and feel like I have to escalate the tone, I understand what seems like the need for this behavior.

Is it still considered a tantrum when it is an adult? In a discussion one day, the response from the other person went something like this: “The way the world works is that the squeaky wheel gets the attention.” In a sense, we are all a two-year-old trying to get attention. Considering how often I have an upset stomach as a result, I wish it could be as easy as using wd-40 to make the squeaks stay away when they are not necessary. Maybe the question is “how do we respect and listen to each other?”

What do you think? Do you have a story or suggestion to share?




Ironies, New Friends, and Dancing

img_20160602_142009.jpgI traveled by train to Chicago last weekend with the main purpose of attending a conference in the city. Instead of staying at one of the hotels hosting the conference, I chose to stay in a hostel. Part of the purpose of doing that was to save money since I wasn’t traveling with anyone in particular. Another reason was to meet new people. The cool thing was that it was well worth the choice. One of my roommates, Dylan, and one more person, Darcy, who I met while playing pool in the hostel lounge, were both attending the same conference. I not only made new friends, I had people to talk to sharing the same experiences. We had breakfast together at the hostel and met up at lunch time and the end of the conference sessions each day to at least check-in with each other. Since Dylan stayed longer, we also hung out the day after the conference until I had to leave. It was nice to have company and be able to relate our educational background and jobs, besides general interests.

The last night of the conference included a social. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. My roommate went ahead of me because she wanted to go to something else first. I had some work I had to finish, including this post here. It turned out that the social had the usual bar and seating areas, plus a photo booth. It also had DJs playing dance music and a good sized dance floor. By the time I made it to the social, the dance floor was packed. I hadn’t gone dancing like that since attending Michigan Jaycees conventions, although there have been a few good karaoke nights or bands to dance to during the last few years. The atmosphere, though, more resembled my convention experience, and I was ecstatic! The rule I have about dancing is that as long as there are people, I will go out on the floor. People usually let you in their circle if you ask or they see you nearby. I made quite a few new friends doing that, even though I might not see them again for a year. That also matches previous convention experience. The point, though, was that dancing gave me a chance to engage with what was happening right in front of me and I guarantee I was smiling! When the music is good, it is hard for me not to move.

The ironic part of all of this is that I am happy. Why is that so ironic? Cause I am finally, in the last 8 years or so, following what I really want to do. As I have changed my environment, the things I have always liked best – writing, photography, and traveling (at the least) have become main parts of what I do, allowing me to give back to my community through my efforts and and allowing me to feel like I am making a difference in the world. Maybe some would not call that successful or wonder why I am sticking to what is definitely non-traditional. I believe that if you’re not happy, then you are not being fulfilled in life. For some, that is a more traditional route. For me, I am making my path as I go along. It is not always easy. I love it, though, and would not be able to travel or contribute as I have more recently without these choices. What makes you happy?





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!





What does “Community” mean?

I am struck by the repetition of the word “community,” and curious how people define it. The city I live in, Kalamazoo, is stated (by other residents) to have a “sense of community.” I’m not sure if I agree or disagree because I am not sure what people mean when they use the word “community.”

Last night, I watched the documentary “Many Hands,” which was produced in Grand Rapids, not too far from here. One thing that I noticed in the interviews is that the residents of the housing cooperatives went from interacting and lots of energy between the different efforts and residents to barely being able to maintain one house. The residents were there and knew they had “chores,” etc, and that’s as far as it went. The comment was that people had “lost a sense of community.”

Also, for a couple of related examples, I was a part of a student business accelerator, which seems like it would be designed to foster community. Unless there was a specific meeting or event, I usually did not see anyone, even though we had access to the space 24/7.

20130929_145931The reason I was a part of the student business accelerator was for Hacker Gals. The design behind the organization is to have a community of women. While there are women involved, similar to the accelerator, unless there is a particular meeting or event, it is tough to interact and most of the time I don’t hear from more than a few without initiating.

I have been told (and realize) that building a community is not an easy task. From my experience, though, I tend to agree with the comment in the documentary (which was about an Austin, Texas cooperative and not Michigan) that we have “lost” some of it. I don’t believe that it means a community doesn’t exist or isn’t wanted. What I think is that it is something people expect to just be there, and if we are individually not contributing to that effort, then we cannot expect it to just be there. From what I saw in the documentary, there was a lot of excitement and motivation and creativity happening, at least in the beginning. All of that makes me hopeful.

How do you define “community”? Please reply in the comments.


The Disconnected Connection

20150628_182316If you happen to be directly connected to me and are reading this through a Facebook post, what is your normal response? Do you “like” or comment on the post, either on Facebook or WordPress? Since my intention is to engage with people on what I write about, I really want to know. Facebook and the other platforms you might find my posts on ARE social media, which, to me, implies a two-way communication. What I find instead, whether for blogs or general posts (and slightly exaggerated), are the creepers, the stalkers and the wishy-washy.

Creepers, as the name implies, tend not to acknowledge any posts. The only reason I can tell that it happens is because every once in a while there will be a reference to something and it usually has to do with what was posted on Facebook. On top of that, the post would have been the single reason the person would have known. Sometimes, this is ok, especially if it was about an event or what is meant to be public. The other side is that if there are opinions, judgments or thoughts that would normally be a verbal discussion, then at least send a message if you don’t want to show the public you are acknowledging the post. Does this sound reasonable? If not, I am curious to know why. I have seen posts on Facebook and messaged the person to start a conversation on the topic and it has worked well.

Stalkers are the opposite of creepers. Stalkers tend to “like” (most) everything they see, whether or not they comment. The part that I find irritating is that someone will take the time to “stalk” my profile in order to keep up with what is in my life, and, again, will NOT take the time to comment or to message me directly and engage. The people I mean in this example are the friends who live nearby or are part of a closer circle of friends. Facebook might have a virtual “wall.” It is still a wall that can be a barrier. My solution in this case is to post less. The major events (personal or part of community activities) will still be out there because that is a way to promote them. For more personal happenings and thoughts, you’ll have to ask me in a direct communication. The other part to that is don’t expect me to give you information when you’re not sharing back. If we aren’t close friends, then anything I contribute as you scroll through your news feeds is probably fine with this solution.

20150628_195718Wishy-washy is the third group, and the most apparent. For the last two years I have hosted a variety of events between a few different organizations. When the event is created or linked on Facebook, many of the responses are “maybe.” Truly, there probably are a variety of reasons that the “maybe” choice is used. I have done it myself to have a reminder. When it comes down to a bottom line, though, using “maybe” is mostly a polite way of saying “no.” If you believe that something better is going to come along or you can go “if…,” then the priority on the event with “maybe” is pretty low. I’d rather have the honest response. Wouldn’t you want honesty, too?

I not only have a consistent amount of the same “maybe” responders on events, most of the people have never shown up, ever. I have even messaged and asked them what would change the answer to “yes.” Trying to accommodate, if possible, hasn’t worked, either. A couple of times recently I created events around a particular person. The first event the person at the last minute “had to work.” I’d believe that 100% except that this person has also been one of the regulars with a “maybe” response.

The second example was an event that had to be coordinated with more people. Still, I set it up based on the requester’s availability. This person ended up scheduling other events that overlapped, did show up late, and then was sorry to have been late cause it was fun.  The promise was to be there the entire time for the next “yes.” I’m going to believe that, while I also wonder how many others create these conflicts.

20150628_154628What is the most ironic is that even “yes” doesn’t always mean much. A person responded recently with “yes” to an event and then shortly after invited me to an event that is the same date and time. What is the deal with that? At the moment, I do not have a solution to this group. More, I have a question for everyone, especially now that you have made it to the bottom (yay!) of this post: “Why is it hard to engage with friends and community events?”

By the way, if you communicate well and don’t fit any of this, thank you!

Thanks for reading!




The Price of Being Social

wpid-20150816_175745.jpgIf you knew you could live a longer and happier life just because of a social network, would you make the extra effort? It has been shown scientifically that having social contacts means someone who is ill is more likely to survive than someone who does not have any social contacts. With that type of evidence, doesn’t it make sense to make that effort?

Unfortunately, we tend to get wrapped up with work or family or being by ourselves and we stick to that. They are good starts and definitely important and not the complete answer.

wpid-20150818_174910.jpgI first noticed this need being expressed when going through a divorce. In my case, I was lucky enough to have double options, since I had already been a part of the Kalamazoo Jaycees for a year. The Jaycees were my outlet for connections to some event or project or just a communication nearly everyday.

The thing about going through divorce (and maybe even being ill), is that there is a feeling of being a burden to those
who are not experiencing or have not gone through the same thing. The second option in my case was going through a seminar about coping with divorce that was run by the Full Circle Community. The people involved in the community were familiar with loss of a long term relationship and the resulting feelings and events, such as grief, guilt and court. The burden could be shared because nothing was unique to any of us (no matter what people thought).

wpid-20150823_210132.jpgThe reason I mention divorce, besides that it is a personal example, is because that loss divides friends. Or you realize the size of your circle of friends. Many of the people I met had friends based on the spouse’s circle (such as work friends), or based on the fact of being a couple. In other words, if you are not a part of a pair or are not connected to a particular person, then you don’t fit into that circle of friends.

Some couples do not spend time with anyone else, which is even a faster change. All of a sudden, you may or do not have anyone, and that can be lonely. The loneliness also means a higher risk of depression and other psychological disorders, which can lead to many other issues that are far greater than the original loss from the relationship. The price of being social is so small, in comparison.

wpid-20150818_202657.jpgWhile it is great that there are communities revolving around divorce and other challenges of life (Alcoholics Anonymous is a great social example), I find that interacting with friends daily, even just a little bit, is uplifting. Social media and texting can be helpful when there are no other choices. Face to face, though, seems to be the best. Face to face is the chance to fully engage with who is in front of you, not which alert is coming through the phone or computer. Face to face seems to show a greater level of support and caring. Caring about the people in your circle may even lead to (gulp!) caring about the  community-at-large.

Thanks to: friends from the Chili Peppers, friends in Hackergals, a former (now retired) professor, and a friend met through her sibling for being a part of the photos.

What are your thoughts?



Off-Roading and Other Adventures

Holiday Parade 2013

The Kalamazoo Holiday Parade was today. More often than not, I stay away from parades, unless there is a motivation, such as knowing someone in it. This one wasn’t going to be any different. As the date got closer, and also knowing that one of my friends was attending, I decided to go. Then I was invited to be IN the parade. This is also something I usually shy away from. However, I knew I’d be there, so, why not? It would help out my friend and his organization, and I couldn’t remember the  last time I was in one. If life is meant to be full of adventures, then this would be worth it, to me.


Our group, Focus: Kalamazoo, was in charge of the Bugs Bunny float. You may have noticed in the first picture how tall he really was in comparison to us. The challenge for the group, which was even greater on a windy day, was making sure Bugs didn’t get decapitated by any of the wires or traffic lights. To do this, one volunteer was in charge of pulling the generator’s plug, causing the balloon to deflate. It was like Bugs was doing the limbo each time. There were also ropes to hold on to for steering. It was a fun experience. The three of us in back would catch the beat of the marching band walking in front of us, and use that to wave to the crowd in unison, or even break into a dance.


Probably my favorite part of all, though, was the person who came up to me, asked if I was “Stacy,” and introduced herself. Through her mom, I knew she was in Kalamazoo. The fact that we both ended up volunteering at the parade for floats that happened to be next to each other in the parking lot and her mom saw my post just before her text…priceless! (Hers was Strawberry Shortcake). I literally grew up with her mom, since we lived a few houses apart and started school together.


Everyday, really, holds some type of adventure. This particular one was not planned, exactly. What I mean by that is we reunited on the same bus which was taking us to campus. I hadn’t seen them since the summer, and we were used to weekly and sometimes daily, interactions. To make it even more fun, we happened to end up on the same bus heading off campus, too. The best bus rides, yet!

Pitch Zoo

Earlier in the week, I had the chance to pitch again at Pitch Zoo. Members of the Starting Gate cohort had the first opportunity to practice their pitch because we are getting close to Demo Day. The idea was that those listening would be interested enough to find out more and attend demo day.

Pitch Zoo

I had learned a lot since the first time I “pitched,” as told in It’s Not Softball. In fact, I felt like I had a better handle on what to say, and my energy was high when talking to my prof about it before class that day. All of that, and the fact that I knew everyone in the audience, did not stop me from being nervous. Somewhere between the end of class and the ride home, it appeared, full force, and I could not shake it. It didn’t stop me, and I am grateful for the support and feedback, and ideas to check out.


The suggestions I receive sometimes send me on a peculiar path. Many ideas have related to the structure of the organization, such as a building of resources with a staff, a version of a sorority, a gym, a community center, or a co-op working space. Everything but the co-op space I could completely discount, almost right away. I decided to look into the co-op structure further. It’s similar, in that the environment fosters collaboration of skills and knowledge. Trying to put it completely in that form did not fit, and I had to back off a little bit to figure that out. What I did conclude from all of these suggestions and the research was that my idea had always included a space, so this time, in the pitch, I made sure to have that part in there. One gold nugget sifted from the sand and caught a week ago.

Garbage can

Throughout this week, including my official “pitch,” I’ve been questioned on all sorts of points, including the space. So, more research, which also included, “why me?”


At first, I thought the answer to “Why me?” was my background of creating events, and my education. One friend I met with this week mentioned that I have a passion to know people and a genuine openness about myself. As part of what I naturally like to do, I connect people I meet, a facilitation, when I see a good reason. This translates to something I’d be good at doing as part of running this business. I may have figured out another answer, too, and I will know more  in the next few days if I am off-roading again, or actually on a more solid path this time. Will you be back to read more? Please like (or comment), if so.

Thanks for reading!!!!