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Friday, April 17, 2015

I Spent Time in Jail and it Gutted Me

Over the course of the past month and a half, I've had the privilege of going on ride-alongs with our local police and fire departments. The opportunity came through my participation in Leadership Plano.

They were also designed to prepare my Leadership Plano class for our April session, focused on public safety in our community.

That session was yesterday.

We spent the morning with our police, fire and emergency services department. They were, as expected, great. I learned a lot about personal property safety (Kelly has a long honey-do list that he's not yet aware of) and had a great lunch with our local firefighters.

Then we went to the county justice facility (read: jail) and the county juvenile detention facility.

That was a different experience altogether. I've never been to jail and am hopeful that I maintain that track record.

I was really impressed with the system of prisoner monitoring in my county - guards are actually in the housing units, actively supervising individuals. This protects prisoners and reduces incidents.

I was also impressed that a jail built 20+ years ago used made an effort to design in daylighting. Fresh daylight permeates all areas of the jail and I think that makes a tremendous difference in feeling.

But. It was still a jail. And there are people there who have made some terrible decisions and, in some cases, simply made some bad mistakes. So many are there as a result of having poor formative experiences that have fundamentally shaped them as adults - not that this is an excuse for terrible decisions and bad mistakes, but it is an influencing factor.

Even more so was the juvenile facility, housing kids from 10-17.

Yes. 10 years old.

10. That's a grade-schooler.

I can't even.

Just typing that makes me cry. Again.

Kids are in the system for a number of reasons - they've been victimized and their actions are a direct result of being abused (and worse: trafficking). They've made bad judgment calls (teenage hormones and all). They're addicted to drugs and alcohol and porn. Yes porn.

And porn, by the way, is a big problem for those 10-year-olds. Watch your cell phones, Watch your laptops. Never let kids be on them alone in their rooms.

I'm not kidding.

I was just overwhelmed by the tragedy of it all. Broken families, broken hearts, broken trust, broken society - it all leads to broken kids.

That broke my heart.

But y'all, the staff of the juvenile facility love kids.


They aren't there to punish them or make them feel like they're bad.

They see their work as providing much-needed discipline and LOVE.

That also broke my heart for other reasons. Like - are we loving on the people that we pay to love on these kids? Are we taking care of them so they stay good and emotionally healthy? Because what they do is a calling. And we need them. And those kids - boy, they really need them.

I spent a lot of time trying not to cry while on our tour. And I failed,

I ate some chocolate. (Just like overcoming the effects of a Dementor, chocolate is pretty good at (temporary) overcoming the effects of heartache.)

But then I went home and told Kelly about the day and cried again.

I feel really challenged by my experience to "love the least of these."

I don't think I'm a person who's called to work in a prison or even do prison ministry, but I do think I need to be more mindful and find the ways that I can see and love on the all-to-often forgotten, marginalized members of our community even if it's just collecting toiletries to donate for those kids whose families won't supply those nicer-than-government-issue supplies.

People and kids in need are out there - in fact, more of them are out there than are in "the system."

It's just a matter of if we choose to see them or not.

The staff told me their job was like catching water one drop at a time in a thimble.
The key was to celebrate every drop you successfully caught.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Other Side of Yelp - Events

I started posting reviews on Yelp in early 2014. Since then, I've steadily contributed more to the community, learned how to distinguish what reviewers I can trust and have started commenting in the Yelp talk threads. I've even been named a Yelp elite for both 2014 and 2015. (For whatever that's worth - I suppose it means you can trust what I have to say.)

Yet at the same time, I wondered who the people were behind the avatars. What were their stories? Why did they contribute to Yelp? Why should I trust them? Were they real?

In the meantime, a real-life friend, K, invited me to a Yelp event. I couldn't go that evening, but it made me think that it was perhaps something I needed to try in the future. Plus, I figured, it might help me better understand the Yelp community.

That's how I found myself at a Yelp event to review a restaurant's soft opening. I had no idea what to expect - neither did Kelly - and was completely caught off guard by the crowd.

Dinner itself was a lot of fun. We watched a pizza master at work.

Tried fancy drinks.

Ate way too much food - including pizza...

And eggplant parmigiana...

And chicken parmigiana....

We also heard from the owner, Vito - a true delight.

Plus ate way too many desserts. They were all super yummy.

And those Yelpers? They were loud, but loud because they were chatting. They were fun. They were opinionated - but so am I.

It wasn't exactly the date night that we thought we would experience, but it was just fine. My friend K was right, Yelp can be more than just sharing opinions and being snarky.

Community, it turns out, can be found in the oddest places.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Girl Needs Her Girlfriends

I knew I needed to spend more time with my girlfriends. That's why I made it a 101 list item.

But in truth, no one should have to make a personal goal to spend time with friends. That's ridiculous.

Busyness can easily suck away all that is good and meaningful in life for that which is temporary and never-ending. That's not to say that you shouldn't work hard when it's time to work and work extra when needed, but work (and this and that and then something else) can all too easily become the all of the be-all and end-all of life.

Many months ago I noticed that I wasn't having as much fun as I used to have. I got up, exercised, went to work, came home, spent about two hours with Kelly and the furbabies, then went to bed. The next day, I repeated the cycle.

Do you know what happens when you're trapped in the lather-rinse-repeat of life?

You lose perspective. You don't have interesting things to contribute to conversation. You're out of touch with things outside yourself.

It's not pretty.

So I decided to be intentional about reestablishing something that's always been a big part of my life - spending time with my girlfriends.

I reconstituted my by-invitation career women's lunch. Monthly lunches, discussing work challenges and successes reinvigorated my brain.

I went to lunch with friends from former jobs. Reconnecting, sharing old stories and new made me smile for days on end.

I traveled to spend a few nights with my college (and still) BFF. Everyone should do that - but spend time time with your BFF, not mine. The best friendships are long-time friendships.

Together with my new BFF, we ditched our husbands to spend time together when we got together as couples. Again, highly recommended. Friendships grow when watered.

I ran weekly with girlfriends from running club and over time, we became more than women who ran together. Week-after-week of miles and miles builds camaraderie, trust and authenticity.

I had monthly breakfasts with girlfriends I mentored. I found the time I spent with them to be clarifying for myself as I revisited issues that were new struggles for them and old struggles for me. I was reminded of who I am, based on what I've experienced and how I've grown.

I went to happy hour with girlfriends that I never see otherwise. On every scheduled "we'll just meet for an hour on a Tuesday," I found myself lost in conversation for hours. I do have things to share and conversation can be easy.

I had late dinners and text message exchanges and long phone calls with women who became girlfriends when I wasn't expecting it. Although we all reach an age when we're no longer looking for friends, that's not to say that the perfect friend isn't going to come across your path. Treasure those.

I joined a book club with women from my hometown. We meet monthly to drink wine and discuss books that I likely never would have made time to read otherwise. I grow from their perspective.

All in all, I've been reminded that spending time with other women is critical for my mental health. But I've also learned that I don't like simply spending time with women in general.

The tribe that I've surrounded myself with are smart, funny, clever and complex.

I struggle with the superficial. I grow tired of gossip and catty jealousy. I am sick-to-death of those who brag and pose but never do. I don't have time and patience for immaturity.

It was so freeing to accept that I didn't have to spend time with those types of women, I adjusted my list of phone contacts, cleaned my blog roll, edited my Twitter follows - I gave myself permission to be who I am and to spend time with those that support that and, in their own way, reflect the same characteristics.

That was a lesson I wasn't expecting.  And for that, I'm glad I made put the ridiculous item "Spend more time with my girlfriends" on my 101 list.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mo-Mo Mojito, Please

Kelly loooooooves La Duni's mojitos. Loves them. But they are also very expensive and we hardly eat out as it is.

That's why I was determined to learn how to make them. I finally found their original recipe and step-by-step instructions and promptly practiced at home.

The result? Pure La Duni goodness at Hayley prices.

Here's the step-by-step:

Each mojito requires one lime. Make sure you wash it to remove any waxy residue. Roll the lime on a hard surface, applying a little pressure, to get the juices to release some internally.

Slice the lime into 6-8 pieces. Remove the white center pith - it will make your drink bitter. Place all of the pieces in a tall glass. (I'm making two drinks, so you can see I've already done all of the steps for one of the glasses).

Place 6-8 leaves of fresh mint on top of the limes. We really like mint, so I used 10 leaves.

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Take a muddler - or if you're like me and don't own one, use a wooden spoon - and muddle the ingredients. What is muddling? Simply push down firmly and twist the muddler/spoon. Do this until the limes start to release their juices. You only want the mint leaves to be bruised, not torn.

Fill the glass with plenty of ice.

Add 2 tablespoons of rum. (If you don't drink alcohol, skip this step.)

Add 1 tablespoon of sparkling water. (If you omitted alcohol, use 3 tablespoons of sparkling water.)

Stir with a long handled spoon until the sugar is dissolved, "pumping" up and down to make sure everything is mixed together.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Exploring the Burbs: Lone Star Taps and Caps

I've discovered the best place - the BEST place - to get growlers filled.

What makes it the best?

  • It's 15 minutes from our house.
  • They focus on local beers.
  • They have a ton of beers on tap.

Here's how Lone Star Taps and Caps works.

After entering, you're slightly overwhelmed by massive digital screens displaying everything currently on tap. The screens give the name of the beer, the brewery, flavor profile and a neat graphic showing how much remains in the keg.

Underneath the screens is a cup of write on-wipe off markers and laminated order forms. There's also an ample supply of growlers (32 oz and 64 oz) and crowlers (32 oz) if you didn't bring your own.

Mark what you want on the form, along with your name.

Then hand it over at the counter. Pay or open a tab.

Why open a tab? You can order a pint to enjoy or a beer flight to sample what's available. There was a large crowd doing both the afternoon I stopped in.

The line was out the door, too, which shows how popular Lone Star is. I'm not surprised - it's our new favorite stop if we want to pick up a fill for the weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Acupressure Massage: The Therapist Goes to War

The husband loves me - he sent me off on a Sunday afternoon to get a foot massage (ahhh...Top Feet!) and an acupressure massage.

I'd never had an acupressure massage before. By the way, it's the same thing as shiatsu massage, which you may have heard of.

(I had heard of shiatsu, but I'd never had that either.)

Anyway, it was the best and worst hour of my life.

In acupressure/shiatsu, the therapist uses his fingers, thumbs and palms to apply pressure to release muscle knots. It also includes assisted stretching and joint movement.

For a runner who hasn't done yoga in a while (bad me) or rolled in a while (really bad me) and just ran 9-miles for the first time in a while the day before (that's me), there were some serious knots, tight muscles and tight muscle fascia.

For my therapist, serious knots and tight muscles/muscle fascia was merely an afternoon challenge, a personal battle of sorts. Therapist vs the body. And, as the movie Highlander says, "There can be only one."

He won.

Ho-ly-cow, he won.

I can't wait to go back.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Recipe: Spinach Turkey Stuffed Potatoes

Maybe not a quick meal, but it goes together quickly if you bake the potatoes over the weekend or cook them the day of using the crockpot.

By the way, did you know that baked potatoes will keep nicely in the refrigerator for up to a week? Simply wrap the cooked potatoes in foil and they're good to go!

Spinach and Smoked Turkey Stuffed Potatoes

  • 2 baked potatoes
  • 5 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained(if using fresh, steam before using)
  • 1 T. Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 2 oz shredded smoked turkey (we're working through Greenburg turkey, which I've been storing in portion-sized packs in the freezer since Christmas)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, to taste

Cut 1/3 off each potato lengthwise. Remove pulp from potato, leaving about an 1/8" thick shell. Stir potato pulp, yogurt, salt, pepper, ham, and spinach together in a large bowl. Evenly fill potato shells with mixture. Bake at 350F for 15 min, topping lightly with cheese and baking for 5 more min.

Note: The flavor can be a little bland, so you might want to add in a little more salt and pepper, or use Chipotle Tabasco sauce like we did. Delicious!!