Thoughts from a bus

Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Anne Lamott speak. Which I can now say with authority, you should definitely take advantage of if given the chance. She is occasionally profound, sometimes rambling, frequently witty and always raw and loving.

This was the first stop for her book tour for Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace, a collection of essays. She is the author of any other beloved books I have read and many other that I plan on reading. She was also suffering from a sore throat, which she handled with grace while speaking and reading to a packed crowd.

As for how I ended up there? I must admit this event had several strikes against it.

  • It was on weeknight evening during the months in which I leave work after dark.
  • It was held in capital hill which is not the easiest trek for me.
  • I didn’t have anyone to go with me.

But in spite of those perfectly good reasons to stay inside and read, I am so glad I went.
On the bus ride there I read an email from my uncle which included a long wonderfully rambling update on Grammy. Which included the reminder that next week on the 19th it will be 10 years since Pappy died. I find that idea mesmerizing. I honestly don’t believe time has progressed at that rate. Perhaps it is because my memories of that experience are sharper in that way that dealing with death often does to life? Or maybe it is just that ever expanding sense that life is going by too fast for me to soak it all in?

Either way Anne talked about death and grief and how we are rarely allowed by society to grieve at length. While I miss my grandparents it is not with a sharp ache, but more with a fond tug. But it is good for me to remember them and cry, like I did tonight. Grief doesn’t work on time tables.

Well my bus is almost home, so I will end this by saying read some Anne Lamont, go hear her speak if you can and remember as she said tonight you are loved even when you don’t feel it.

A post written to be skipped

When in doubt I like to go with the bullet-point list:

  • This Friday I will be spending the whole day in a Drupal training day. I always love a chance to pretend that I am true techie.
  • Tomorrow night I will get to see Anne Lamont talk about her new book Small Victories.
  • Today was another beautifully clear autumn day and actually quite brisk by Seattle standards.
  • Which reminds me now that we have had our first frost, I really need to get a scraper for my car.
  • This evening we watched Agents of Shield, which was fun. I watch so very little live TV, that adjusting to the concept of un-pausable commercial-laden programming always takes me a little.
  • Also, if you are looking for delicious popcorn, I recommend adding a few shakes of pre-grated parmesan cheese. It’s the best.

Pomegranate Walnut Chicken

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Ever since I first had this dish at an Iranian restaurant with Tim and Charletta many years ago, I have been obsessed with this chicken stew dish. In fact, part of the fun of having a blog that goes back for over 10 years is that you can find my first reference to this dish back in August 2010. Despite being a little time consuming, this is a dish I have literally made twice on one week (it makes for a great meal for presenting to guests). However, it had been quite some time since, I had made it, so this afternoon I decided to give it another shot.

You can find the recipe here and I will say it is great as is, however because I almost always end up tweaking things as I go, below are a few notes.

  1. The meat in this flexible. I didn’t have enough chicken on hand, so I threw in some pork. I think this would also be fun to turn vegetarian, with perhaps butternut squash, or maybe chickpeas?
  2. The only hard to find ingredient in this is the pomegranate molasses. I found mine at Whole Foods, although your local co-op or natural food store would also probably be good options.
  3. I was also out of chicken broth for this, so I used beef broth instead and it tasted fine.
  4. Another fun addition is to throw in a couple of splashes of pomegranate juice when you add the ground walnuts.
  5. Don’t skip toasting the walnuts, you want the richness of flavor, believe me.
  6. However, feel free to reduce the final 1 hour simmer time. I really only simmered for 15 minutes past the 30 minute meat simmer and it tasted delicious.
  7. Also I think rice is really the way to go with this one in terms of sides. I tried quinoa this time and you really want a more absorbent starch with this meal.

There, now you have all you need to make a sumptuous autumn/winter dish.

Interstellar: Not a review

Other than watching the trailer, I knew very little about this movie going into the theater this afternoon. And I think that is a good way to approach it. All you need to know is that Interstellar is the next big thing (both for box office numbers & awards season) and it involves space and science. While I am still on the fence about whether it is actually a good film or not, it is definitely a good 3 hour theater experience. So I encourage you to go to the theater on this one. It will be worth your money. And when you do, let me know, cause I would love to chat about it.

Who knew listening was so exhausting?

After another enriching/exhausting 9 hour day spent learning about the power of storytelling, my brain is officially shot. So here are a couple of things I found amusing on the internet:

Artist Removes One Letter from Famous Movies and Illustrates the Results – My favorite is of course, #19

Minions, the movie

My Modern Met – One of my new favorite blogs on Tumblr

Giant Men Meet Tiny Kittens

Thoughts from a conference

On this blog, I try to write only the things that I am okay with the world knowing about the real me. I also generally keep my professional online presence separate from my personal blog. That said, I just spent the last 12 hours at work conference, so in terms of daily blogging, that is the only subject matter, other than a random picture of a cat, that will work for blogging today.

Today was all about storytelling, specifically storytelling designed to inspire donors to give money. I have really only been in the nonprofit world for 3 years, 1 of that was serving as a stipend-ed volunteer, and the past two have been in the world of communications & marketing. I also love stories, primarily as a reader, but also now as a writer. Telling good stories, stories that connect, stories that inspire, that is important to me and to my organization. I also believe in my organization, not only do I give it my focus, attention and hard work for 40 hours a week, but I am a donor as well. I truly believe we are doing good work.

That all said, I don’t always connect to the idea of being a fundraiser. I don’t necessarily want to make you cry with one of my stories, I don’t want to only ever tell you about the individual success story of a kid who overcame great diversity. And I don’t want to ONLY focus on the emotional centers of donors.

As one of our speakers said today, currently nonprofits compete primarily in terms of sales & marketing. The nonprofits who tells their story better, has the best website and gives you a great donor experience is the one who wins the donors. And yes, nonprofits should work hard at all of those things. However, shouldn’t we instead be competing in terms of impact? Shouldn’t it be that the nonprofits who really make the world a better place are the ones who win donors? Not just the ones who can pull at your heartstrings the most?

Another speaker earlier in the day talked about how (and he was coming primarily from the world of direct mail) sad photos move people to donate more than happy photos. He scoffed at the idea that poverty porn should be avoided and said in essence what matters is telling the stories that will generate the biggest checks, not necessarily the stories that are the average outcome from your organization.

That really bugged me. Perhaps it is my millennial generation showing, but my only interest in the world of marketing is the chance to do at organization which is making the world a better place. Life as a salesperson, advertising executive, or marketing guru sounds abhorrent to me. What I want is authentic transparency in the organizations I give to and I work for. I never want to rely on sad black and white photos of kids with empty bowls to inspire donors. I want to show them stories that help them understand how they play an important role in truly solving hunger. I want to write stories that don’t just tell the formulaic (no matter how tested) stories of individual people whose lives were changed, but I want to tell the story of how my organization is connecting the dots between where food is wasted and where it is needed.

One of the big adages of fundraising is that people give from a place of emotion. Supposedly no one gives when they are presented with stats or rational explanations. I can understand that, giving is an amazing act of humanity and it makes sense that it would be more right brain than left. However I don’t think that means we leave the left brain out of it. If the nonprofit sector truly wants to change the world (which is the claim we make in front of our donors every time we ask them for money) than we need to start finding ways to connect rationally as well as emotionally. This world has a lot of problems and it shouldn’t just be the program staff that are using the left sides of their brain to solve them. I like to tell stories and I like excel spreadsheets. I love a good novel and I love to read articles about psychology. I want to tell stories that connect emotionally, but also carry a strong rational core that help our work be understood on a broader level. In other words, I want my stories, but I want my stats too.

topic to be determined

Three posts seems to be as long as it takes for me to start questioning this whole blogging every day thing. While there is no shortage of interesting topics to write about, so many of them are ones that I put in the “do these right” box. This is also the box for drafts that “need more polish”, “should be revised first” and “probably can’t be written in the 20-30 minutes you usually give yourself for these things”.

So instead I started browsing my flickr account looking for photos that would spark and idea for a post that wouldn’t take forever to write and would *bonus* include a photo.

But instead of a story, I was just struck by how good my life is. All too often it is easy for me to get caught up in the frustrations of the moment, the discomforts of not knowing the future, the irritations of a 9 to 5 job, the sadness of being far away from many of the people I love. Yet, when I take a second to look, it is clear that I am so incredibly blessed.

From living in a place on this earth that lets me see sunsets like this,

to lovely ladies like this, who I am lucky to call my friends.

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From hilarious small humans like this, who I get to occasionally babysit,
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to siblings both old and new who make my life approximately 147% better.
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From my chance to go through life with this gentleman,
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to the chance to live in a city that gives me nerdy opportunities like going to cons.

That is not even scratching the surface of all the many ways that I am getting to live a life full of riches completely incomprehensible to 99.9% of people who have ever lived on earth. For that I am truly grateful.

Remembering an infectious laugh

Yesterday, I spent my short commute home from work listening to remembrances of Tom Magliozzi, one half of the beloved Car Talk radio show. As many children of the 90s with public radio obsessed parents, that familiar banjo theme song and cackling laugh instantly transport me back to Saturday mornings spent doing chores around the house with the radio turned on loudly in the kitchen.

Despite a complete indifference to cars, other than the ability to own one that functions, listening to Car Talk shaped me in several ways:

  1. Banter-based sibling relationships: While my brothers and I are not as hilarious as Tom and Ray, we do base much of our relationship on a similar cocktail of insulting banter, self-depreciation humor and straight up affection. Nothing says “I love you” quite as well as some well-executed repartee.
  2. ‘Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?’: Tom frequently directed this advice at husbands hoping to appease their wives, so not something I identify. However its core message of life being about so much more than “being right” rings true for me. In my first few months of a marriage I hope will be measured in decades, it is good to remember that keeping score plays no role in a healthy relationship.
  3. Hugh Louis Dewey of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe: Car Talk always had the best staff credits. In fact you can read their full list here.

I should confess that I didn’t realize until recently that Tom &  Ray were not actually named the Tappett brothers. While Click & Clack were obvious pseudonyms, Tappett brothers seemed perfectly acceptable to childhood me.That said, Tom Magliozzi, while I didn’t know your last name, your voice and laugh will always return me to the Saturdays of my childhood. For that I am grateful.

NaBloPoMo 2014: Off to disappointing start

For the first time since 2009, I won’t be successfully completing National Blog Posting Month. I wish I had a better excuse then just shear forgetfulness, but alas that is not so. However as the first rule of blogging dictates, writing about how/why you haven’t posted recently is about as interesting as posting photos of your lunch.

So instead let’s chat about some of what I am hoping to post for all the remaining 28 days of NaBloPoMo.

2014 was a pretty important year for me. Since I last posted here in Dec 2013, I got engaged, moved apartments, got married, traveled to Hawaii, went through an incredibly stressful few months of work, got my canning on again, turned 31, and generally had a really full year.

I figure those events alone, should be plenty of fodder for 28 blog posts. But let’s throw in a few posts about new music I started listening to this year, maybe a book review or two, some photos, links to interesting things on the internet and the usual randomness. In fact, let’s aim to keep this daily thing going through December 2nd, to make up for my slacker weekend.

Now that I have blown the dust off of this thing, let’s see how this rolls. As always your comments make my so very happy.