Monday Morning Commute

Recently I hemmed and hawed about buying a car. Ultimately I decided I'd be less stressed if I went without.  

I was already a fan of pounding the pavement. I like the exercise, but also, when you're not whizzing through downtown, you can see what it's really like. 

This seat is so much preferable to sitting in traffic. 


Don't Fear Twitter! (It's Fun!)

I'm a great fan of Twitter as a communications tool. Even though I've been active on it for a couple of years, I still haven't learned all its fancy uses. Of course the best way to learn is by doing. 

This weekend I did a rare (for me) live tweet, that is, I went to an event (in this case, a book discussion by Meika Loe), and took notes via Twitter. 

The great thing about technology is that one brilliant idea is built upon by another. There's a website called Storify where you can piece your (and other people's) tweets into a story. My Storify-ed version of Meika Loe's lecture is below. Enjoy!


Fragile but Beautiful Life

Not very long ago I broke a decade+ long cycle of chronic depression. 

On my "best" days, my high and low moods changed faster than the front-runner for the 2012 GOP nomination

Most days though, I walked around in a daze wondering what life was for.    

Stuff I like. 

          It took a couple of years of regular therapy before I accepted the fact that my behavior was not normal. As in unhealthy. 

Though life is not easy, there are ways to make it less difficult. 

Fake bike. Real happy. 

Seek them out. Ask for help. 

Mental health can be fragile, and common problems easy to ignore: addiction, PTSD, anxiety and more. The consequences of wasted time and life are far too expensive.

They can't be resolved by the passage of time or a winning football game or more love from Mom. 

Still, they can be healed. 


Life Sans Cocoon

This Sunday at 2 p.m. Inkwood Books is hosting a discussion with Professor Meika Loe, a sociologist and author of the 2011 book Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond.

“If nothing else," Meika said, "these elder stories defy what you expect from the very old.” 

One of the stories is about three widowed friends who live on their own. The ladies check in with each other every morning by phone to make sure all is well. On at least one occasion, one of the three didn't answer her phone. When the others went to see why, they found her on the floor.

We're a society that doesn't "think intergenerationally," Meika told earlier this week over the phone. She's 38 and the mother of a four-year-old, and said she was interested in the topic of aging because she "had great relationships with my grandparents, and have watched them struggle with aging without their spouses."

She says the more we know about these modern elders, who live longer and healthier than previous generations, the more we can prepare and help. And we all have to learn how to do this better because the 85+ set is the fastest growing age group in the U.S.

Not to mention it'll help us help ourselves if we’re fortunate enough to reach that age. Here's a few questions I asked Meika, edited for brevity.

Tampa Do-Gooder: What grade would America receive for our efforts to take care of our elders? 

Meika Loe: That's a tough question. We have Medicare and Medicaid in place to help, but beyond that it’s an informal crew of caregivers. It’s extremely expensive to have in-home care and aging in place. We have a ways to go. 

I’d give between a B-C. In my book, the elders are filling in their own gaps. And so are local nonprofits, county centers, etc. I’d also ask, ‘how are we caring for our communities in general?' This question isn’t always age specific. For example, are there sidewalks for strollers?

TDG: How are elders treated in other countries?

ML: In Brugge, Belgium certain cafés have colored flags specifically for people with dementia, so they don’t have to be watched all the time. It’s a community working together to respond, instead of investing in surveillance devices, they’re enabling the wandering.

We have a very age-segregated society here. Maybe not so much in Florida, but here in New York, it’s pretty rare [to see the frail elderly out at a café].

TDG: What feedback have you gotten from your students? 

ML: They’ve really enjoyed it. I’m teaching a class called “Sociology of the Life Course” and this is the first class to read the book. Part of the assignment is to connect with a local elder and do a life history interview. The students are juniors and seniors. They’re finding similarities in their own lives. Like, “Wow, now I have a sense that football is just one chapter in my life.” Or they’re taking their families for granted less.

There's a great interview with Meika on Access Minnesota, and you can check out her blog here.



10 years ago I was a senior in college, focused on videography and writing. I was thrilled, finally getting to be good at something, and sharing ideas that I thought mattered.

Though I sometimes regret not having gone to school in a bigger city, the smallness of my adopted home in Dover, Delaware allowed for great networking. I joined the Delaware State Writer's Group, which helped me practice my craft and meet other writers. 

One of these writers was Julianna Baggott, a poet, who had just published her first novel. It was, as a beloved Delawarian would later say, “A big f’n deal.”

In need of a subject for my senior thesis, I asked Julianna for a day of her life and she agreed. I followed her and her family for a day or two and produced the 13-minute video A Day in the Life of Julianna Baggott.

Throughout the year she invited me to other events and I helped bring her to my own college for a lecture. Right before her talk, I was informed that since she was my friend, I had to introduce her. It was my first foray into public speaking and I was insanely nervous. (I haven’t shut up in front of large groups since.)

Just before I left school, I was in a park in Dover. Preparing to move away and worried about my future, I watched a father and son play ball and wondered what their lives were like. My own nuclear family had imploded my last couple of years in school, so whenever I saw a seemingly happy family I was envious, mournful. I called Julianna and told her I wanted to write a short story about them. Her advice was not to gloss them over, rather, look for the dirt under their fingernails. I took her advice, and although I never did write that short story, I did end up in journalism for a while. 

Seven or eight years ago we both moved to Florida. Julianna & family moved to Tallahassee, where she is now an associate professor. Today is a big milestone for her, the release of Pure, her post-apocalyptic novel. 

In the decade since I've been stringing together a freelance career, she's been writing away, novels and kids books and young adult fiction. She tries and fails and doesn't give up. I'm proud of her. She's been an excellent role model for this anxious writer.