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Engaging for Mental and Social Health

ConnectingThere are two obvious indicators of the level of stress in my life: how long my beard is and my presence (or lack thereof) on social media. When I’ve got a lot of projects at work, someone in the house is sick, extra family appointments/obligations—or D, all of the above—I can’t seem to make time to trim the beard or bring myself to carve out time for the socials. Those two things, for whatever reason, are the first to go.

It’s a little complicated because part of my job is actually managing our social media accounts. I have a small team now to help with that, so during times I’m overwhelmed, I lean on my fellow team members, just making enough time for quality control, but not much else. And my personal accounts? Forget it. Basically comatose.

Lately though, things seem to be settling down a little—in life-life and work-life—and I trimmed the beard and dug back into the Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts. I’ve made more time for surfacing new content, replying to and retweeting others’ posts, and have generally had my finger on the pulse of things. And it feels good. It feels good to be back to awareness and engagement, with the information flowing around me, but also with the people in my networks.

I’ve found myself wondering if one of the keys to me not feeling so stressed out is taking time for connecting through social media. I know it’s healthy and necessary to take breaks from online life, but I think I need to be aware when I’m not engaging because I’m overwhelmed, and make time to join those online conversations. Like making sure you go outside to get some sun if you feel depressed. And I need to make sure I’m making time for the other things that replenish me…like trimming that beard.

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The video above does a great job explaining Net Neutrality, what’s at risk, and why it’s important to maintain. Of course, several corporations are threatening to further regulate speed, access, and even content based on who can pay the most, acting as gatekeepers to the internet, something that should be open to everyone. Already, the internet isn’t free and open since we have to pay for service and devices to access it—and for many providers, data speeds are regulated based on how much you pay—but soon the FCC will decide if internet service providers can further throttle speeds and content, allowing corporations even more control of an important component of our infrastructure.

It’s sickening how many of the important decisions for our entire society are decided by they wealthy few, and this is just another example of a basic freedom that we need to be aware of and fight for.

Do Something

In these situations, I don’t always know what I can do or if what I do makes any difference. But I think there is value in just being informed and sharing conversations with others, especially people who aren’t as aware or don’t share the same values as you. I think it’s important not to be confrontational, but open, planting seeds where you can.

You can submit a comment to the FCC at FreePress’s site, and the deadline for the first round of comments is tonight, July 15, 2014, at midnight Friday, July 18, 2014 (due to an overload of the commenting system!).

The only way we don’t get completely rolled by these corporations is by raising our voices, so I hope you’ll join me and others in spreading awareness.

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New Summer, New Freedom

Photo by Pedro Szekely

Photo by Pedro Szekely

I miss that “school’s out” feeling. You remember the one. It began to wash over you the morning you awoke on that last day of school and slowly settled in and warmed your whole body as the day progressed. Everyone was abuzz with excitement and relief, even the teachers, and as you walked off campus for the last time that year, there seemed to only be possibilities. Somehow with that final bell you were more free than you had been since you could remember. When that bell rung, time ceased to exist and summer began.

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1,000 Miles

1000milesToday I ran my 1,000th mile. Not “ever,” but since I’ve been tracking my runs using Nike+—first with the shoe insert thingy, then with my iPhone—since early 2011. And although I know plenty of people who probably cover that distance in much less time, I’m pretty proud of this achievement.

I have plenty of excuses not to run. I have three small kids and a crazy-busy job. I live where there are long stretches in the summer with temperatures soaring above 100. In the winter it drops down to the low 40s (which by native-Californian standards is practically freezing). I’ve torn my hamstring and had a knee injury at the end of 2012. But there’s something about running that keeps pulling me back in. It’s partly my competitive nature and partly the freedom of moving. It’s also therapeutic, getting me outside and in motion to clear my head and relieve stress, and has been a great way to take care of myself these last few years.

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To You, Sir, With the Mullet

I see you drive by, at the corner of Palm and Shields, sir
Your blue pickup, lowered, daughter in the front passenger
Trailer of yard tools in tow
And I couldn’t help but notice your unapologetic mullet
It’s clear you two have been together for some time
And I wonder…
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What’s up with that?
Are you an original rocker or is it something new?
Was the sensibility of its design too good to pass up
And keep, for that matter?
When you hear “Business up front, party in the back” how do you feel?

I have so many questions, sir

Is it past the point of no return?
Have you endured years of ridicule,
Hardened by vanity or shear defiance,
To the point that,
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There’s just no way you’re cutting that thing now?
Or are you just so secure in your image that
Everyone else can just eat it?

As I sit here and write, it’s clear
I envy you
And maybe even your mullet
Actually
No
But what you and your hair represent is
Well
Kind of beautiful
So to you, sir, I raise a proverbial glass
May you and your short-long live on in glory
In your lowered blue pickup or
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Wherever.

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I’m in Washington DC for a work meeting, and although I was primarily interacting with, learning with, and having fun with teachers from around our national network, I also had some brief jaunts out onto Capitol Hill. This will be repeats for you if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, but here’s a handful of images that caught my fancy…

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Playing at Work in DC

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Coffee With That Sandwich?

coffee_with_that_sandwich

Photo by Marshall Astor

I used to wonder how older dudes could order hot coffee with their turkey sandwich. I suppose it was partly because I didn’t like coffee with my lunch. Coffee with breakfast, sure. And after dinner? Yeah, why not? But hot, black coffee with lunch? That’s kind of hardcore. A nice, cold, smoked turkey sandwich with crisp, slightly wet lettuce, all washed down with hot, bitter poison. Hardcore.

As I look around I have a lot of questions like that. How is it that older people appear to all end up having the same haircut and similar pants and shirts? Sometimes you see the subtle pieces of flare to accent the uniform, but if you’re not paying attention, you might miss their little bit of style creeping in. Surely they didn’t dress like that in their youth or even in their 30s. You see pictures of older people when they’re young and they look so fashionable—retro we might call it now—maybe even like something out of Westside Story or Grease. Then somewhere along the way they slowly morphed through some kind of cookie-cutter mold, all dressed alike, eating meals earlier and earlier, and ordering hot, black coffee with lunch.

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Faster Not Further: Minimalist Running Update

It seems I start every post about running with some idea that I’m “new to” or “continuing towards becoming” a minimalist runner. Today it occurs to me that I’ve been running sans conventional shoes for almost a year now, so I think I can just call myself a minimalist runner. I have arrived. And here’s where I’m at:

I’ve logged 213 mi in my Vibram Spyridon LS [toe] shoes, and I still love them. They’ve held up really well but are getting worn on the inside to the point where I’ve gotten a few hot spots on my last couple runs, but I’m seeing if I can push them further. Since they aren’t conventional shoes, it’s hard to know when to replace them (though this may be an indicator).

I continue to be more inspired by speed, than distance. I’m impressed by my friends that run 100 mi/mo, but I don’t think that’s for me. I like being fast. And in that endeavor, I’m doing pretty good. I’m particularly proud of my run last week: 4 mi, 7’35″/mi:

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Tools I Use to Manage a Lot of Work and a Hectic Life

tools_to_manageFor a long time now I’ve been wanting to document and share the tools I use to help me manage communications work at the National Writing Project, and really, life in general. My motives are two-fold: maybe it will help others and maybe I’ll get some good suggestions by putting this out there.

First, some criteria I’ve established for myself:

  1. Whatever the tool is, it must actually make my work easier or more manageable in some way. Just because something is pretty or nifty is not enough of a reason to use it. That being said, I’m shallow. I like pretty if I can have it.
  2. It must have a desktop/web version and a mobile app.
  3. I’d prefer not to pay for stuff, but I do believe in paying for well-crafted tools/services.
  4. It must have collaborative features so I can share work and processes with others, and to that end, it must be available on PCs as well as Macs, iOS as well as Android.

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Out of Touch With Self

out_of_touch_with_selfI’ve felt like I’ve been spinning lately. My brain is going a thousand miles an hour most of the day and night, and thoughts about work, in particular, are jumping around up there and bouncing up and down on the relentless treadmill. This happens from time to time with me, but it’s usually not this bad. There’s been more going on at work than usual, but there’s something else at play.

I’m not staying in the moment. I’m spending my time thinking about what needs to happen next and worrying about what’s already past. What’s right in front of me slips away and sometimes becomes one more thing that I didn’t get done. When this is happening I also don’t eat regularly, I sleep even less than usual (which is not much), and perhaps most importantly, I’m not having any fun.

So yes, I know what I need to do: stay in the moment, have more fun. But how?

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