Monday, April 29, 2013

Best Post Ever! (aka no post today)

Yeah, no blog post today. I have something in the works for tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

News and posts - Twi-book and Face-er

If you want to keep up to date with the latest news in the empathy world, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

You can see the twitter account here:
You can see the facebook account here:

Although I tell my stories on this blog once a week, the above links will get you access to more news, articles and feel-good photos of empathy happening all over the world. Some of it is even from experts! With training, and everything.

Once I figure out how, a twitter feed should appear in the right sidebar.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Connecting to tragedy - Boston (sad post)

Just like some of you, I listened and watched as the stories in Boston appeared on the news. I saw image after image of injured people and heroics. I heard rampant speculation about who had done it and why would they want to cause this hurt. There were many, many people hurt, and it seemed like there was nothing I could do about it. I felt pretty helpless. I remember that after 9/11 I waited on line for hours to donate blood, just to find out that there was nobody to receive it. That kind of helpless feeling came up, and I wanted to do something.


The next day I was part of a group chat, and we were all listening to a friend who lived in Boston. I realized that there was something I could do, I could be a friend and open myself to her. I asked her if I could make a 'date' to call her later, and hear about what's going on in her town.* I was really kind of scared to do this, as I'm not normally a person who reaches out. Especially when it's a person I don't know all that well, since it feels kind of invasive. I was also concerned about writing about it for this blog, as I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable talking to me in general. I don't want folks to be scared I'll turn every conversation into a blog post.


That night, I listened to her tell me about the impact the explosion was having on her life. We tossed around ideas, and I could hear the pain in her voice. We compared this to the other events that happened in our lives and how old our children would have to be before it would be easy to share these things with them. (Never, I think now. I don't think it ever gets easy.)

I also listened to her talk about how close she was to the event. Her job, her friends, all of them were impacted by this.

When she told me about her town and how strange it was to see and hear the changes, it made me feel like I was right there with her. I could see the sirens and the yellow caution tape in my mind as we spoke. We talked about what did happen, and what could happen to any of us.

I hope that by me reaching out to her, she knew that someone was listening and at the very least bearing witness to what she was going through. I know that for me it made me feel like I was helping, even just a little bit.


This empathy practice has given me the courage to step into other people's lives. I don't know what I would have done if this happened a year ago, but I do know that being there for my friend felt like I was learning about how connecting with people can be good for me as well as for other people. It's hard to start but once you do it's a win-win.

Were you affected by a recent tragedy, either a public one or a private one? Did you find someone to listen to you, if so, did it help?


*Full disclosure; I actually said, 'I'd like to interview you for my blog' which gave me an excuse to call her. I didn't end up doing a formal interview, but I really needed a way to push myself into making the actual phone call. I'm not usually the type to call someone out of the blue.

Monday, April 15, 2013


As some of you know, this weekend we lost our pet chicken, Lucy.

We had just come back from a morning errand and breakfast run, and I walked out to the coop to bring Lucy a treat (some leftover fruit and veggies from our breakfast). Since she wasn't out in her run, I called out to her as I approached the coop, to get her to come outside.

"Brrrrr....chick chick chick chick!" "Brrrr....c'mon girl! C'mon down, Lucy, I've got some nice treats for you!"

She didn't come down, and a quick inspection of the coop revealed that she wasn't there. She was simply gone.

So there I was, just holding this bowl and realizing that she was gone, and likely never coming back. I thought about when the last time was that I saw her, and realized that maybe she had flown away (yeah, I could say 'flown the coop') and was hiding in the bushes somewhere. I looked around a bit more as I walked back to the house.

What would I say to my daughter?

What would I say to everyone? I had no thoughts other than I needed to tell my family. I broke it to them as gently as I could and then tried to push on with my day.

We had made plans the night before to finally go to the store and get Lucy some company. The local Tractor Supply store had just gotten some new chicks, and we were thinking about going the next day to pick up a few babies to raise. Now we had to decide - should we get some chicks now, or wait until we've had a chance to mourn?

After some thought, we decided to go get some chicks the following day. The coop would remain empty for a little while (they would be too small to go outside for a few weeks) and it would help us, and the kids, move past this quickly.

That didn't stop me from feeling pretty sad. She was a joy to have around, and I loved looking into her bright eyes and seeing peace. I will miss Lucy, but now we've got Rosie, Jenna and Sunshine to think about and take care of.


After some searching around the property, we did find a few torn feathers. Based on some books I've read, that usually means an early morning coyote or fox had gotten her, and dragged her away to be eaten. They are most active in the morning. Dogs (like the one that got her sister, Kooky) apparently are more likely to just kill a chicken and leave it; they hunt for sport.


Part of having a pet chicken is the understanding that many, many creatures (including some humans) find chickens to be an easy, tasty meal. I accept this fact and know that although they *could* live as long as 10 years on their own, the fact that she only lived 2 is not so unusual. That doesn't stop me from being pretty broken up about it, and now every time I look at the coop standing their empty I get sad again.

Rest in peace Lucy.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Connecting in casual settings

Every day I'm trying a little harder to connect with people.

Sometimes I visit a local diner to pick up breakfast on my way to work.

The two people I meet most frequently there are the owner/manager, and one of the wait staff. Every time I go it's the same thing. I start with a friendly smile and a simple 'hi, how are you today'. Their response is pretty much the same every time - they cut me off and say, 'yes, what can I get for you' (although it comes out more like 'yeah whad-can-I-get-fur-ya', we are in New Jersey, after all)

So today I tried a different tactic. After I told him what I wanted, I waited a few moments for him to finish his tasks. Then I asked him how he was doing. He said, "Great, how about you" which was the best response I've gotten in three weeks!

I said, "hmm, good, I'm just looking forward to Spring'. His reply? 'It's already here'. I said, "Yes, and I'm waiting for the weather to warm up' and he replied, 'This is the weather we get, not worth complaining about'.

I thought that I should change topics, so I said, "Well this morning I'm just hoping that my car will start when I go outside." I'm thinking about that I'm trying to connect by sharing something personal about myself.

He replied with a solution to my problem. "Car won't start? Dead battery, replace the battery." I said, "Actually I think the battery is fine, it's the connection" and he replied, "Bad connection? Clean it. Baking soda and a toothbrush. Scrub scrub scrub."

I paid my check and left, thinking about the exchange.

It occurrs to me that there are some people who like to complain. They enjoy it, and find such banter light and easy to fall into. It makes them comfortable, and I've had some success with breaking into random conversations with this sort of opener. However, in this case he seemed to resent my (what I thought of as) harmless complaints. We seemed to be almost battling it out with each other - I said "A", he snapped back with "no, B". 

Later, reflecting some more on the conversation I thought about how negative my approach to the conversation was. Every one of my comments was a negative. I was just hitting him, as it were, with bad thoughts and feelings. I realized that I wasn't really feeling so good that morning, it was cold and I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before. What I had done but laid my bad thoughts all on this poor man who was just trying to earn a living and have a nice day. He didn't want me to ruin his nice morning; and what right did I have to do that? None, I think.

He obviously was comfortable engaging, he had lots of things to say about my 'issues'. The problem seemed to be a combination of my bad comments and his reaction to those comments.


I want to find ways to connect with people, as many people as I can. Even though the 'casual complaint' does seem to work with some I can't assume it will work with everyone. I think it's more important for me to be open to the tone and emotion that a new person is bringing to the table before I choose an approach. I don't need to be positive all the time, just mindful.

Peace y'all


Monday, April 1, 2013

A Streetcar Named Desire - Movie Review

As some of you know, I'm a big fan of the movies - classic and current. Some other posts I've done on movies:


In college, I took several classes in film and television. These were some of the most fun classes I took; because every week we got to have a 'lab' where we saw a movie or a sequence of television shows. Everything from Murphy Brown to Busby Berkeley to Cyd Charisse. It was completely awesome!

Subscribing to Netflix means that I can spend my brief free time blocks watching movies. I don't get out to the theaters much anymore, so this is the only way I can watch movies.

Last night was one of those rare occasions where the husband was out, the kids were in bed, and I had the TV all to myself. Movie night!

A Streetcar Named Desire

Before watching

What I know about this movie comes only from pop culture references, things like "Stella!" being shouted by a man at a window and the famous last line, "I've always depended upon the kindness of strangers." I know that it starred Marlon Brando, and that it was based on a play by Tennessee Williams. I had read The Glass Menagerie in high school, but not either Streetcar or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (his other famous plays). So I knew I was in for some crafted lines and dramatic, painful characters.

During the film

Okay so for those of us born after 1970; who knew that Marlon Brando was hot! I mean it's a bit surprising to hear the famous voice from The Godfather or Superman's Dad, coming out of someone who would make any teenager of any generation swoon. I have always thought of him as an actor with presence but this movie seals the deal. He's a fantastic actor, worthy of all the praise he's received.

Vivien Leigh is incredible. No wonder she took home the Best Actress Oscar for this movie. At first I was all like, wow, okay, so she's playing this southern belle character and I feel like it's so one-dimensional and false. But as the movie goes on I'm realizing that she's really got layers on layers, and the reason she came off as one-dimensional is because she's an actress portraying a person who is putting up a false image of themselves. Very meta and very, very well done. Having not read the play ( I won't spoil it for you if you haven't) I was completely taken in and carried along by the story she was telling.

After the film

The story was compelling. The acting was terrific, violent and strong. I would rate this among the best stories I've seen in a long time.  I think with the dark subject matter the audio was done really well (adding to the tension at all the right spots and not getting in the way of the story). However, the film style was a little less than I was hoping for. I wonder if chairoscuro would have changed the feel of the film? It just seemed like the dirtiness of New Orleans was not dirty enough, and the mood was almost 'too light' at times to match the story.

Okay so four and a half out of five stars for me. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes drama and classic movies.

Anyone have a favorite movie they want to recommend? Add it to the comments!