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What does “yes” look like?

20 Jun

YES

Inspired by Alice Derry’s “Fooling Around,” and poet & teacher Elizabeth Austen

I’m saying “yes” these days to adventure, eating vegan (B6, mostly) and finding a new level of happiness. “What smoking, drink and the wrong man had done.” That could have been me, but I only had a few months over the course of a few years of damage.

I’m still a bit green in terms of this change, if that makes sense, though in many ways I’ve always said “yes.” The yoga retreat in Kauai was a boost and reading “Wild.”  Starting Bar Method in April kind of kicked off this new perspective, and then ballet lessons. I’m drinking less (mocktails with Lisa B. and Chloe!) and my rewards the other night included an impromptu ballet performance, Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” on the way home on the radio and a gorgeous sunset with radiant and explosive colors of gold, white, pink and blue.

I’m saying “yes” to a quick walk down the street with my camera after spying a pre-rain rainbow in the early evening. It was gone, alas, but I captured some pretty photos of the sky and crew members on the Montlake Cut heading towards Lake Union.

I’m saying “yes” and “no”to invites for meet ups, ensuring that I have a little down time and that I get my workouts in. Cleaning can wait. (ha)

And I’m saying “yes” to attending my high school reunion in August. At first glance of the post on Facebook, I thought “no,” because I was already going home at the beginning of the month. But I haven’t been to the last few reunions. And then FB friends forwarded the invite. Shannon, whose locker was just a few steps away from mine from 7th through 12th grade sent me an email message about the reunion. And the plane ticket wasn’t that expensive. So I’m going to do it. Oops that my parents won’t be home and I’ll need to rent a car and will maybe want to stay near Midway on Sunday night, because my flight is early-ish on Monday.

Julie Robertson, class of ’87 at DePauw University, and a sorority sister we fondly called “Pluck” because of a Woodstock costume she wore during rush, died two days ago from ovarian cancer. May she rest in peace.

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Yoga, Kauai, vegan-ing, bliss, Samadhi

3 Jun

Secret Beach

Books read: 1, Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. This was really the perfect book for me to read, even if it sounded cliche to take on a yoga retreat in Hawaii – Cheryl’s mother died, her marriage fell apart and she went to find herself on the trail. I’m inspired to visit some of the places she described along the trail, inspired to be even more adventurous and take trips in the wild and calm.
Yoga classes: 13 (7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily), courtesy of Samadhi yogis Kathleen (the lovely) and Sheev
Pounds lost: 4
Hikes: 2, including the Na Pali Coast trail (treacherous, sweaty! and got rained on, which felt pretty heavenly. Remnant – a blood blister on my big toe, right foot. Gross, but true.)
My yoga mat was mistaken for: fishing pole container, “a piece of rubber”
Dogs encountered:  5 – including one-eyed Maui, Kona and Pua (flower) at the retreat center
Laps in the pool:  unknown, but swam on two different days. Sun was harsh and left me with a “tramp stamp” sunburn one day (thanks for that description, K)
Rainbows viewed: At least half a dozen, while experiencing yoga on the lanai. Hope that my photos captured it.
Animals heard, day and night: Geckos, cows, chickens, roosters, dogsVegan meals:  7 + – I think I’m a convert. I know, it surprises me, too. I lost weight, feel wonderful, didn’t miss any foods and my skin looks fabulous, too. I may opt initially for Mark Bittman’s Vegan before 6 or VB6 as the cool kids say.

Smoothies: 12, estimate. Pina colada on the final day (virgin, of course).
Recipes to try: Coconut lime banana bread, Okinawa sweet potato curry (if I can find that potato here in Seattle), raw pumpkin pie- some from Jennifer’s 30 Minute Vegan cookbook. Yes, we were blessed to have her as our chef for the week.
Incorporate more in diet: macadamia nuts (though they’re expensive here on the Mainland), sweet potato, avocados, smoothies, vegan foods as declared above
Items purchased: Long-sleeve rash guard, tank top with cut-out back from QuikSilver
Beaches visited: 2 – Secret beach and non-secret
Naked humans observed: 3, at Secret beach. A woman praying to the gods of the ocean, a man rolling on the sand as we left the beach, another man walking in the distance. L walked closer to land so that she could see him. JK.
Dolphins: 60, according to a local surfer who captured some film on his birthday. Hurling themselves on the air … Breaching the surface and having so much fun at Secret beach.
Alcoholic beverages: one-ish, glass of wine with dinner on our final night at Dolphin in Hanelei
Fish tacos: 3
Places to visit next time: Queen’s Bath, Garden Cafe at Common Ground, Tiki Tacos, Secret Beach (again)
Summary statement of the week: good God (R on the final day, struggling with virasana after an arduous hike. I felt the same that day. Thank you for verbalizing.)
Music in my head the entire trip: Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia. And does it not sound like Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” in the beginning? I so need to be a DJ.
Movies to watch: South Pacific, North Shore
Hikes to try: Mt. Rainier, Bagby Hot Springs
Future vacation: Alaska
Items thrown away: Keens, bathing suit bottoms (too big, falling off my bod in the water at the beach and, yes, I had a smaller pair with me)
Items to replace: Keens
Products to try: Lavender and echinacea body lotion (courtesy of L)
Books to purchase or get from the library: 30 Minute Vegan, Bitters by Brad Parsons (recommended by V)

5 things I learned at AHCJ12

23 Apr

Inspired by Bill Heisel, here goes:

1.  Sometimes, you can go home again.  It’s been several years since I attended AHCJ, due to budget cutbacks when I was at the Univ. of Washington.  With my new job at Seattle Children’s, we each have a small budget to travel, “learn and grow.”

I’m grateful that I had the chance to attend, and reminisced with health journalist Joanne Silberner (former health policy correspondent based at NPR’s flagship in DC) about going to the second AHCJ conference ever, also in Atlanta but held on the grounds of the Emory Conference Center Hotel. A man who I randomly met and chatted with on the plane on the way to Atlanta was floored to hear that she was on our plane; I introduced the two of them after we landed. He said that she was missed and that “we” needed her back on the air.

I remember running around the Emory grounds at that meeting with Daniel Yee, former (I think) AP reporter.  That was back when I was a bona fide journalist.  This time around, I’m in public relations.  I’m a flack, as Scott Hensley said at one of the sessions. (He didn’t mean this in a derogatory way.)

The setting this year  was not so woodsy and definitely “city-esque,” with a Hard Rock Cafe right up the street and places blaring loud music.  I know – I’m a former music critic but even I don’t like loud music, especially when it sounds like karaoke.

Some 600 people attended, which may or may not be a record. It was impressive.  I enjoyed meeting new journos, touching base with journalists I’ve only emailed with of late and seeing former D.C. colleagues like Shelly Gehshan (Pew Children’s Dental Campaign), Bill Erwin (Alliance for Health Reform) and Peter Ashkenaz (HHS).  I learned that Peter is no longer with CMS.  Silly me.  We keep in touch via email and Facebook, and mostly talk about music.  I now know that he’s in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the meaning behind the windshield photos he posts on FB.  I know that Dan DeNoon of WebMD fame has a cabin in the mountains, with a family of foxes living underneath said cabin.  Andrew Holtz and his wife are moving to a houseboat – not in Seattle, mind you but in Portland, rather.

2.  Social media should be fun.  I went to two helpful social media sessions.  One from Matt Thompson at NPR, which was kicked off with Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to talk about.”  People are talking, talking about people.  Social media is a conversation.  The new goal is to Master the Conversation.   He’s so convincing, he even got Tom Paulson to drink the kool-aid, so there’s got to be something to what he’s saying.  Matt used Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic as someone who’s mastered the conversation, on race and culture.  He responds to comments on his blog posts, and treats conversations as valuable as his work.

Transform your rolodex into a network, says Thompson. Take the best of it to feed further reporting.  One example – NYT op-ed questioning shaken baby syndrome, doc who reads Commonhealth (site in Massachusetts started by two journalists) says this op-ed is irresponsible, critiques the op-ed.  Story continued on Commonhealth and went back to NYT, made its way into NYT magazine cover story.  Shows the potential benefit.

Re: being fun – this conversation mostly occurred in another social media session with Maryn McKenna, Scott Hensley and Serena Marshall, who said make sure you’re having fun with social media.  If you’re not having fun, take a break and come back to it.  McKenna said it’s okay to be promotional with social media, but if that’s the only thing that you do, people notice really fast and it gets boring. Marshall said for every 5 to 8 professional posts, share something personal.

3. I should take my flipcam with me everywhereMark Johnson, senior lecturer at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the U. of Georgia, led a helpful session on video, the right way.  He looked rather bookish but kicked off the session by encouraging attendees to vote for his brother’s band, who was in a contest in New York (but we couldn’t actually vote because the contest was closed; they sounded somewhat like the Cranberries).  Johnson said that the audience is not yet ready for video.  But we need to be prepared now.  Five years from now, if you don’t have video, you’ll be crushed by the competition.

Think about video as one component, not the entire story.  The click away rate on videos is stunning.  You have six to 10 seconds to hook someone with video.  85% of viewers are gone in 10 seconds if you don’t have the hook.  Page views are a dying metric.  As technology gets more sophisticated, time on the page is more and more valuable.  Johnson said he doesn’t want music in news stories because it influences the story and can be deceptive.

4.  The ways of communicating with journalists has expanded.  I use Profnet and HARO (Help a reporter out) at work, and recently signed back on to Twitter.  When I was at the UW, I launched the Twitter and several Facebook accounts.  I went through withdrawal when I left UW and started my new job and recently found my way back to Twitter, when I started looking for contact info for journalists and found their social media handles. Maryn McKenna said that social media has pretty much replaced Profnet and HARO for her.  PIOs will see my post, she said.

5.  Coincidences happen. (sung to “Accidents will happen,” by Elvis Costello)  I had lunch rather randomly one day in the hotel restaurant.  I say “random” because I can often be indecisive and what I ended up doing that day could have gone either or any way.   Conference burn-out always sets in for me, and I need some alone time.  I almost bought a salad, again, at the deli and took it to my room to eat.  But I decided instead, quite decisively, to sit down in the restaurant and have something hot, maybe even something with fries.  (Color me bold and outrageous.)  I was way over-teched out at the conference, and immediately looked at my phone – Twitter, Facebook, what’s on my email.

After a few minutes, a man at the next table said, “Mary Guiden.”  It was Harry Joiner, a friend and former grad school buddy that I hadn’t seen in 15 years or so. Un-f-ing real, omfgg type of surprise.  Seriously.  One is a million is how he described it later.  He was meeting with a client who just happened to be at the same hotel, at a different conference.  He saw my name tag, but I’m pretty sure if a few more minutes went by, I would have recognized his voice because it is so distinct.  Harry and I were pretty close in grad school at the Univ. of S. Carolina, even though I was only there for a little bit more than a semester.  He was coming off a punk rock band phase, and he was from Georgia.  He was humorous, sarcastic, goofy, fun and kind.  We were in different language tracks (me – French, Harry – Portuguese), but still bonded.  In one class, I remember Harry sitting behind me and every morning, he’d take a sip of his coffee.  “Aaaah,” he would say after swallowing that sip, and it always made me smile.  It’s reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode, too.

Anywho – it amazes me that I had this million to one meet-up in Atlanta.  I think the Universe, or God, or whoever you believe in was perhaps keeping an eye out for me.  My boyfriend broke up with me shortly before that conference and ever since then, little signs of positivity have been coming my way to remind me that I’m on the right track, that life is good, that it can in an instant bring a surprise like Harry Joiner right to me, to make me smile, to remind me that I’m pretty great, too.  (Thanks for that, Harry).  As he put it:  You look awesome; he (ex-boyfriend) does not sound awesome.  End of story.

I know, he’s got cancer … and I used to be a fan

11 Oct

“Christopher is on ‘Meet the Press,'” was a phrase I traded back and forth excitedly with my friend, Karen, when we lived in Washington, D.C.  Christopher, as in Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens

by Christian Oth

We were both huge fans. He was a columnist for The Nation, and was frequently on the Sunday morning political news shows. I thought he was the smartest. political. writer. ever. He was not only insightful but he also had great little quips and slightly mean descriptions of famous politicians and the generally famous. See … the mean girl in me was emerging even then.

Christopher was once on a panel at one of the smaller Smithsonian buildings off the mall. He was talking about the Queen/ monarchy in the U.K., and he’s British. He was not a fan of the monarchy. Karen and I bought tickets and I was shocked to see a relatively small crowd.  We were both enthralled and introduced ourselves to C.H. after the talk. We approached him, said hello and probably started fawning over his work. He asked us to come outside with him, since he wanted to have a smoke.

After we parted ways, I began kicking myself … why hadn’t I told him that I was a writer, and asked him for some advice?  Gosh, darn it.

Thinking like a reporter, I thought I would try to track him down. I knew he lived in the Kalorama neighborhood, near the Hinckley Hilton and back in the day when we actually used to use phone books, he was listed. Success!  I crafted my message, called and left something along these lines on his answering machine (again, back in the day):  Hi, my name is Mary Guiden. I hope this isn’t too random or strange, but I met you after your talk the other night at the Smithsonian and I forgot to share that I am also a writer. I wanted to see if you might be available to meet and talk about my writing, and perhaps give me some advice.

He called back within a day or two, and actually apologized for any delay in returning my call.  Seriously?  🙂  He said he wasn’t sure when I called, and he chuckled after saying that I should be quite assured that my call wasn’t too random. He meeting up the next day, or quite soon, because of his schedule and upcoming travel. I still have the cassette/recording of that message because it amused me and also amazed me. A voicemail message from my then-idol, seriously?

I met him the next day after work. We’d planned to meet at a local pub he frequented on Connecticut Ave., but then ended up meeting at his condo. (I know, it sounds potentially creepy, but it was totally innocent.)  I brought a gift, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, since I had read somewhere about his drink of choice. I brought a few articles I’d written (incl. one that ran in The Nation) and he read them. His place was somewhat stark, with loads of books all over the place.

When I shared a story about the fact that I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, he chuckled that my mom had suggested I not share that information with my grandmother (a staunch Catholic woman who late in life went to church twice a day). I remember he called her “my gran.”

C.H. offered to put me in touch w/ some writer pals at publications like the Washington Monthly. The advice he offered about my writing, quite honestly, underscored that I was doing all of the right things. But it felt incredibly nice to get that validation from him and to meet a writing idol.  That doesn’t always happen in life. C.H. never did follow up with me about the writer friends, but that’s OK.  Meeting him was more important than additional introductions in the D.C. literary world.

During the Clinton White House years, Hitch went from a liberal contrarian to a raving GOP backer. I was quite sad. There may be some hidden back story that is eventually shared. I was shocked when he testified before Congress about the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal and seemingly turned on his former friend, Sidney Blumenthal.

We all change our views and opinions as we get older but the Hitch switch never did make any sense to me at all.  It was more than a flip-flop and after recently seeing the movie Ghost Writer, it makes me wonder what really happened in D.C. during the Clinton years.  I do love a good conspiracy theory, after all.