Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our First Wedding Anniversary!

One year ago today, Bob and I married and my spinsterhood ended. One year down, 49 to go. Good thing we're just in our 40's...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The "R" Word

The Special Olympics has declared March 31st a "national day of awareness." They are out to get rid of the "R-word" and so am I. Why do people think this word is okay? I know people who say things like "It was retarded" when they mean to express distaste or disgust. I've asked people to please stop using this word because it bothers me, but apparently people who use the R-word really have it entrenched in their vocabularies.

The campaign by the Special Olympics is called "Spread the Word to End the Word" and in a statement about it, it says "Most people don't think of this word as hate speech, but that's exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends..This word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur."

They're targeting people ages 18 to 30 with their ad campaign and are asking people to vow not to use the word at Across the country 300 schools have committed to hosting rallies on March 31st.

I'm grateful that CNN ran this story on their website and that I saw it. I've emailed it to those friends who I've asked to stop using this word. I'm very glad to have some backup on this one because I've felt very alone in my preference that people not talk this way. I really hope the Special Olympics makes some headway on getting it through people's heads that this language is not acceptable.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Building Community

At the beginning of the year, I became convinced that a new year's resolution support group was just the thing I needed to help me with some health and relationship goals. I sent an email to all my women friends and asked who wanted to meet. Only a few replied and even fewer showed up to brunch at a local restaurant on January 10, 2009. I figured I'd work with whoever was willing.

To my surprise, this group has now met three times and each time at least one more person joins us. We call it "the '09 group" and we are committed to supporting each others' goals for 2009 (I tried to call it the "Less Whine in '09 Group" but it was just too hokey). I just wanted some support on my goals, but to my delight people are really into this. We started with five women; now there are nine. We've moved from restaurants to meeting at someone's home for a potluck brunch one Saturday a month. This is what we do.

After we've gotten our food and chatted and settled in, we go around the circle and each person has the floor for about 15 minutes. She just checks in with where she is on the goal(s) she has chosen to focus on. Some of us have just one goal we want to work on with the group. Some have many. My goals are to stop consuming corn syrup, reduce all sugar consumption and to reach a feeling of peace regarding my relationships with my parents. I have made surprising progress on these goals and it's just March.

The main challenge of the '09 group is having enough time. Sometimes the person checking in just needs us to listen, sometimes she wants perspective and opinion and sometimes she's stuck on a problem and needs real advice. With nine participants, our last meeting lasted over three hours. But I've checked with everyone and nobody minds the time commitment. It seems that in these times, we need all the help we can get. The best survivors know how to use resources, including support from others. With layoffs and job searches and stress levels increasing, I think everyone is drawing on their survival skills these days. The '09 group women are getting an extra way to practice some of those skills.

We didn't all know each other at the start. I founded the group by calling on my friends, but some of them have invited others that I didn't know. Some people are only familiar with one other person in the group. I love this dynamic because it means we also get to practice friendship. That's an excellent goal for 2009: learning how to be friends with other women. As I said in a recent post, being able to make and stay friends with women is a lifelong challenge for some of us and many women have feelings of loneliness and failure when it comes to women friendship.

So I offer this as a nice, focused, low-pressure way to build community, more important than ever in this economy. It also offers an invaluable chance to practice being a facilitator/hostess. You carefully keep things moving, conscious of the time, keeping people focused, but also doing your best to make sure everyone is getting what she needs. Afterwards people thank me, but I feel grateful to them because of what they're doing for each other. I couldn't possibly know what to say about every person's life challenges, but as a group, we have more wisdom than any of us would have alone. And it works.

Use the upcoming spring as your theme. Invite your friends to turn over a new leaf and set new goals for themselves. Tell them how much greater their chances of success are if they have the support of others. Soon they'll be helping each other with problems they had previously felt overwhelmed by. Everyone can use a support group like that.