The Unintended Social Experiment

It’s been a little quiet around here because a LOT has been happening behind the scenes.

First, I had spent the better part of the beginning of this year working on the first round of edits for my upcoming book. Just as soon as I finished those edits, I was recording two leadership training videos. The literal next day after finishing the video edits, I started a brand new job which was opening up a Sprouts Farmers Market in my home city. Opening a store is a adventure and a lot of work. As an operations manager I was able to help 100 people start a new job, with a great company, and it is a joy to see jobs opening in my city. The majority of our residents commute to nearby counties for their work.

As a result, I’ve been working a crazy schedule with varied hours based on what needed to be done that day. I’m super grateful for a husband and kids who picked up the slack like champs. The house didn’t fall into chaos, people got to school on time, and for the most part it’s not been a lack of my presence but just a matter of being extraordinarily tired. Opening a store is a marathon, a lot to do, in a short amount of time, and then once on the other side you can stop and catch your breath and let your body rest. You move into the rhythms of the every day job which is entirely different.

This is not my first store that I’ve opened, but first with Sprouts. I actually LOVE opening a store.

One day, I came home after a long day. I hadn’t even made it through the foyer when my husband said… “I made a mistake.”

My husband had made breakfast and lunch, using two of my cast iron pieces. Which he promptly put into the dishwasher. Now you understand the photo.

He didn’t know. He’s never even cooked with cast iron before. I’m mostly thankful that these were two newer pieces and not my grandmother’s skillet. I didn’t make a big deal about it, explained not to do it again, but that with some elbow grease I’d get them back in order.

We laughed about it. I went to twitter, where my normal posts get around 20 likes, and posted the picture and a simple statement.

After the post, I hopped off the internet to make dinner.

I had no idea what was going to happen next.

My phone was pinging with notifications non stop. Likes. Retweets. Comments.

I couldn’t even keep up with them. I tried.

This went on for days. Then weeks. It’s been a month and not a day goes by that I don’t get a notification.

I believe this is what “going viral” is like, and I am bewildered.

Inadvertently, I stumbled into a social experiment and decide to watch it ride out. I posted very little after that. I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire with new content trying to coerce more attention. I wanted to see the natural flow and progression.

I wouldn’t never have guess that a month would pass and people would still have any interest, let alone still engage with that post.

I used no hashtags to draw people there.

Just a photo and a statement.

In addition to watching the numbers rise, I found myself even more intrigued by the comments. Here is what I learned or observed over the last month…

  1. The internet, especially twitter, has very strong opinions on the keeping and care of cast iron. Some were absolutely astounded that my husband didn’t know better, and others shared that they too had made the same error. There were even a few who lamented over the work it takes to keep cast iron and that’s why they no longer use it.
  2. The majority of the people who commented are hysterical. Some of my favorite comments said things like… “You mean your ex-husband” or questions about whether or not he survived the evening. I had a few people offer to help me hide the body, and even a few marriage proposals that included their credentials in cast iron care.
  3. Despite the fact that I never asked for how to restore my cast iron, I received many step by step how to’s, links to tutorials, and even information on a business where I can send them to and they will restore them for me.
  4. There were of course a fair share of comments along the lines of “so what?” or “it’s not that big a deal”. Clearly reading more into my few words that I intended.
  5. Several people decided to chastise me over my own “care” of cast iron because they felt they must not have been seasoned properly in the first place if one single dishwasher cycle did that much damage. Which resulted in my having to clarify that they were newer pieces.
  6. A very small percentage were absolutely horrified that I would publicly shame my husband on twitter for likes, accused me of being emotionally/mentally abusive to my husband, and one went so far to report me to twitter over it.

I’ll let that last one sink in a bit.

When I told my husband about it, he just laughed.

The ridiculousness of the internet.

He said he couldn’t have cared less that I posted it. He found most of the comments funny. And, in the end was so nonchalant about the entire thing. He said the simple truth. He didn’t know. His mom never taught him that. I had never explained it to him. And, he had never washed them before.

Historically, when I have used my cast iron, as soon as I can, I will clean it out and put it away. It never even makes it near the sink. He’s probably never even witnessed my cleaning it.

This unplanned experiment reveals so much about the way people respond to what happens around them.

My simple sentence was tainted by their own experiences and interpretation. Assumptions were made, accusations too. Conclusions were jumped to, and unsolicited opinions and education were given without reservation.

My next post might be a picture of a flower. I will caption it…

“This is a flower.

That is all.

That is the post.”

And then, I will sit back and see what kind of controversy that stirs up.

PS.

My husband says hi.

Project 642: I have no idea…

The prompt from the book is to write about an object that I purchased but that I can not remember why I bought it in the first place.

I don’t have any such item. However, I do have an item that is sitting in my garage right now and I have no idea why.

When we purchased our new home, I bought a tension shower curtain rod for one of the bathrooms. Unfortunately it’s a corner shower and this particular rod was not going to work. I set it in the garage, since I couldn’t return it (on sale, no returns). A few months later, I went out to the garage to get it, as I had a sudden need for a tension rod. It was gone.

The following week, I went around the side of the house to throw some trash into our outdoor bins when I saw it. There was the tension rod! My husband figured it was time to let it go and had taken it from the garage to our trash cans.

For the life of me, I couldn’t not remember WHY I wanted it. I just knew that I did.

I brought it into the house, hoping my memory would catch up with the find.

Nope.

So, now it’s back in the garage.

#project642 #leadership #christianwomen #writingcommunity #hopewriters

Project 642: A Stapler

My parents were divorced, and when I was younger we had visitation at my fathers once a week. In his spare bedroom, he had a make shift office. Across the counter were assorted office supplies one would keep on their desk. Cup full of pens, stapler, tape dispenser, and a metal partitioned stand for organizing bills and papers.

We were told we were not allowed to touch any of these things.

He would know if we did.

I would sneak in the room when he was outside mowing the lawn or talking to a neighbor.

Popping in quickly, I’d just poke the stapler with my little finger, and run away.

Never picked it up or shifted it.

Just a quick touch.

He never said anything about it. I am confident that I got away with it.

As I got older, the relationship was complicated. Eventually I chose to not spend anymore time with him. I didn’t agree with some life choices he was making. I expected better of him. He let me down. My mom said it was my choice and she would back me.

5 years later, I was ready. We saw each other a handful of times.

Then he moved away.

15 years passed before I saw him one final time.

12 years later he passed away.

His stapler is on my desk.

#project642 #leadership #christianwomen #writingcommunity #hopewriters

Project 642: Untruthful Adults

The first time that I realized that adults were not always truthful was when I was in elementary school. At the time, I didn’t have the capacity to understand the circumstances of my family situation. My parents were divorced, my father wasn’t great about paying his child support, my mom was not making enough to support us on her own, and we lived with my grandmother.

I just knew that my mom would make promises to me about going somewhere or buying something for me “next payday” and it would never happen. I would ask to join a sport or activity and my mom would make up an excuse to why I couldn’t participate. From my micro-perspective, it just seemed like she just didn’t want to & kept putting me off.

One day, my parents were called into the principals office. Both of them. I was in the school’s afternoon program, on a trip to the bathroom, I slipped into a teacher’s classroom and stole candy that I knew she kept in her desk. I have no idea how I got caught, but the school called my parents, and I was in trouble.

When my parents heard what I had done, they acted in shock that I would do such a thing. They both suggested that had I only asked for it they would have gotten some for me. I didn’t need to steal it.

That was a lie.

I knew it.

They knew it.

And I called them out on it.

Not just that, but I unloaded all of my catalog of broken promises.

“No, you wouldn’t. You never do. You say you will, but you don’t.” The gates opened, my feelings were unleashed. I left with my mom. Silence the whole ride home.

My grandmother would sit me down later and explain the reality of things to me. How hard things were for my mom, and how much she tried to protect us from seeing how tight things really were. By no means did I get a pass for stealing, but she felt it was time that I understood why there were so many empty promises and diversions.

My mom wanted to do… but couldn’t. She just didn’t have the funds. She hoped that her answers would pacify requests and I would forget and move on. That was easier than telling me that would couldn’t even afford to buy something as simple as candy let alone bigger ticket items like trips or the newest fashion fad.

I had learned earlier that adults were not always truthful, my mom was being dishonest.

I also learned that the dishonesty of adults is often for complex reasons vs. being intentionally deceitful.

I’m not suggesting that lying is ok or something I would approve of people doing… but rather with age and experience I have begun to understand the nuances around it… and I judge less harshly when someone is being dishonest.

I try to look beyond the lie … and ask why.

#leadwell #project642 #memories #leadership

Project 642: Object Associations

In my bathroom I have a glass jar that has a tapestry lid. I’ve had this jar for about 22 years. Before that, it belonged to my grandmother.

My grandmother was a registered nurse, and in this jar she kept her bobby pins used to attach her nurses cap. When I was a little girl, the hospital she worked in still had the nurses in the white uniform dresses and caps. I can remember her standing in the kitchen polishing up her shoes with the white shoe polish bottle and sponge.

I was always fascinated by the tapestry on the jar lid, and would be found nosing into it. She would chase me away. For the most part, she was a frugal woman. She took great care in putting back every bobby pin each night. There was no reason to replace them if she kept track of them, right?

(Unlike me, who has probably thrown away more than she’s ever owned.)

When my grandmother passed away, it was the one thing I wanted. A reminder of her.

I keep my bobby pins in it.

#leadwell #project642 #memories #leadership

Project 642: Finding My Voice

I remember the time I first heard my on voice.

Not a fan.

I can’t really pinpoint what it was that I didn’t like, I just didn’t. The book prompt asked whether or not I thought my voice suited me, would I change it if I could, and if it had changed over the years. I do believe that at some point my youth I thought that girls would go through some sort of vocal puberty like guys and perhaps my voice would change significantly.

I was let down. I simply had a more mature version on my childhood voice. I could still hear that familiar tone.

When I was in college, my first degree was in theatre. I had been participating in theatre since middle school. I started picking up little tricks on how to change my voice a bit. It was all temporary, no real lasting fixes. Although I suppose if I was immersed in another country long enough I could sustain their accents. But not vocal sound, that I was going to be stuck with.

Of all of the voices I ever heard Robin Williams do, when I think of him speaking I hear his normal speaking voice. I have tricks up my sleeve, but my voice… is my voice.

I was in my early 30’s when I heard someone compliment my voice for the first time. This was a business connection that I had been communicating with exclusively through emails and our company’s message board. When she heard me speak, she said she was taken back a bit. She said it didn’t match my photo and chuckled a bit as she said it sounded sexy.

Trust me that was not ever on my radar about how I would describe my voice. Nor has anyone ever since. But, I will say that I did take that as a compliment. (No, it wasn’t a pick up line either).

It did affirm, to me, that my voice and my look just didn’t mesh.

I always wondered if that is why I struggled to get acting jobs… and later if that was why I wasn’t invited to speak at certain things. I recall once hearing a friend comment about not wanting to attend a national women’s conference because she simply “couldn’t stand the sound of that woman’s voice”. Whether or not she was a qualified teacher was irrelevant. Not even that long ago I heard a Pastor comment about an amazing ministry educator. He said she was really good at what she did, but he just couldn’t handle listening to her. He’d much rather read her material.

So, there is some validity in my concerns. Could the actual tonal quality of my voice hold me back from the things I feel called to?

It was the latter part of that question that helped me to find and feel secure in my voice.

1st, if God is calling me to it… no man… or my own voice.. can keep me from it.

2nd, not everyone will like me, my voice, my look, or my teachings. I wasn’t called to teach/lead everyone. I’m the right person for the right people.

3rd, this is how I was made. Knit this way, by the one who considered every detail of my being.

I can be glad in that.

#project642 #leadership #leadwell #wmwithpurpose #stillhere #ministryleader #ministry #leadership

Project 642: Lessons & Insight

I was given the following prompt as a jumping off point:

“Using the following template, write about a lesson you learned or an insight you gained. At the time, I felt/thought/acted __________. Now, I see/understand/admit that __________

At the time, I felt like this was a team of people who I could trust completely and ultimately felt betrayed by them. Now, I see that they were too afraid to speak up because they felt the cost to defend my reputation was too great.

I’m reflecting back to a situation where I felt set up to be the scapegoat for others who had just as much concerns with the way leadership was handling a situation as I did. I was the willing mouthpiece. In the moment, it was a terribly painful thing to experience.

In the years since, I’ve learned more about what it is like to be a woman in leadership within the church. My experiences outside of the church were so different, and my expectation was that in the church because we are a “family” it would be better. Yet, I found so much more dysfunction. Ultimately, my expectations were too high and in the years since I have learned that when it comes to leadership relationships and communication between leaders (and leaders with members) we could do a LOT better of a job.

I’ve also learned that because of some latent attitudes towards women in church leadership, as well as previous experiences in how women have been treated in leadership roles… that we’ve all become a little gun shy. We know that our future leadership roles and success all lay on a fragile foundation. When push comes to shove few are going to be willing to risk their own neck when they know everything is on the line.

It took me some time to come to terms with that. To understand it. To even forgive.

It also took time for us to come together again and hash through those moments. For me to learn of what was done, the way things were handled, the miscommunication and misinformation, and so many other layers pulled back.

Knowing what I know now, just as a woman in ministry… I don’t begrudge the choices they made at the time. I did learn from it, and I will not repeat that scenario again.

I’m wiser for it.

As a leader.

As a member.

As a woman.

#project642 #leadership #leadwell #womeninministry #womensministry #wmwithpurpose #ministryleaders

Project 642: Positions of Power

Today’s prompt asked what was the highest position of power I ever held, and how might it have changed me.

Let’s jump right into my own philosophy of leadership. I have been a “leader”, a “director”, and a “manager” before. While these are all leadership positions, up the chain of hierarchy, and would be classified as authoritative positions… I really cringe at the notion they are position of “power” even if others would say that is exactly what they are.

Why do I cringe?

Because I personally don’t believe in a leadership philosophy of wielding power of another. If you have ever worked with me on a project, in a ministry, or under my direct leadership then you would know that I am firmly planted in the idea that a good leader is someone who is leading others well. I enjoy giving others the reign. I like to open my platform. I have hosted events where I have trusted other speakers vs. keeping the audience for myself. I like to develop those who are part of my team to become better leaders.

Note that I said “part of my team” and not “under me”.

We lead together. We do the work together.

I will never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.

I have unclogged toilets and I have cleaned up things that shall not be described here. I have worked the worst shift or stepped back to do the supportive work so that others can shine.

I am always looking for and developing the person who I see will become my replacement. I’m not afraid if they learn it faster than I, or do it better. I’m not fearful that the student will surpass the master, instead I celebrate it. It means that I did my job well.

So, while I may have held positions of authority … they didn’t change me. In fact, witnessing how others have been changed by it cause me to double down to my philosophy.

Lead with me, not by me.

#project642 #leadwell #leadership #authority #management #director #womeninleadership #womeninministry

642 Things to Write About Me…

I purchased this book last year, on a whim. We were out of town and killing some time, so we popped into a local book store and I stumbled upon this gem.

I knew that in 2022 I really needed to get back to writing here on the blog. I also knew that I was going to spend a lot of time in edits this year working on my book Still Here which is due in 2023.

My thought process was that I could use some of the prompts from the book to guide my blog posts during the times I am busy in editing and need to keep my mind focused on that work versus trying to develop content. Trust me plenty of that is coming too!

I won’t write through all 642 prompts, and those I do won’t be too in depth. However, I thought this could be a fun exercise for me & a chance for my readers to get to know me better.

The first few prompts, however, are basically a trip down memory lane. I’m struggling to even come up with an answer for them. The truth is that I don’t really have a lot of memories from my childhood. I don’t know if this is a personality trait type of thing, or something else. Almost like I’ve just disassociated myself with that time in my life. Is this because of my age? As I get older will the memories of my youth continue to be so distanced from my mind, and unable to be recalled as easily?

The 3rd prompt, “Picture a photo from your childhood, one you know well. Narrate the scene around the taking of that photo, to the best of your memory.”

The only photos that come to mind are ones from when I was very young, on Christmas Day. The Narration going something along the lines of “It was Christmas. We were opening gifts at my grandmother’s house.”

That’s it.

There is no story to tell. Nothing that starts off… “Remember that one time we….” or “Oh! That was the year I got ….”.

I hear people talk about these types of memories, I just don’t have them for myself and I don’t understand why. It also has me in a bit of retrospection because I wonder if my kids would answer the same? Were holidays not memorable for them either?

About 14 years ago, my siblings and I took a trip to see our father. He had Parkinsons Disease, his wife suggested that if we wanted to see him while he would still recognize us it would need to be sooner than later. It’s important to understand that it had been 15 or 16 years since I had seen my father face to face already. We agreed to come visit. It was really less for him and more about closure for us, to be honest.

I could see the signs of the Parkinsons. Trembling hands. Stumbling over words. Repeating stories. Forgetting details. He would also have bouts of clarity.

One evening we were sitting around dinner, and my father and siblings were reminiscing over some family memories. Things that happened before the divorce. I was two when that happened, so most of these memories were before I was born. I sat in silence as they shared this tender moment with one another.

I realized in this moment, that while being a “divorced family” was so normal for me (I really didn’t know anything other than that family dynamic), I hadn’t escaped the divorce unscathed. It had in fact stolen something from me.

Memories.

I wonder, now, if that is not the reason I have little memory of my childhood. My mom was sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet. We couldn’t afford family vacations anymore. So many Christmas gifts were things I needed disguised as gifts. A two for one. The tree wasn’t bare, but the items wrapped below it were every day necessities more so than that big gift that I circled in the ToysRUs or Sears Catalog.

Kind of a bummer way to start out this writing project.

I hope this gets better.

#project642 #divorce #family #memories

The Parable of the Black Eye

I am currently in the process of healing from a pretty substantial black eye. I remember telling my best friend that I knew the Lord would give me an illustration from it to share. And, here we are.

I remember as a child hearing my grandmother speak some version of a phrase that essentially meant that sometimes the Good Lord has to knock you upside your head to get your attention. At the exact moment prior to my accident, I was writing out a letter. I believe I was around four pages into it. It was essentially a documented confrontation, with a substantial amount of context before getting to the crux of it. I was unleashing my inner turmoil on the page, when my husband asked if I could help him take down some of our outdoor Christmas decor.

I didn’t really want to be interrupted. Again. This was not the first or second time over a period of 24 hours that I had been interrupted while writing this verbal deluge. So, I begrudgingly headed out the front door to quickly do whatever it was he needed from me. My mind was on this typed out onslaught of information, what I was going to write next, what have I forgotten to include, etc. I was not thinking clearly and focused on the task at hand when my husband handed me the drill.

The task was simple enough. He was going to hold the weight of this particular decorative piece, and I just had to undo the bolts so it could be taken apart and stowed away. Probably no more than 4 minutes of my time. My head was not there. So, when he handed me the drill, I went right for it. I’m still not exactly sure how it happened entirely, it was such a quick moment.

What I do know is that the drill spun out of my hand, clocking me in the face, knocking my glasses off and into the yard, and I spun on my heels and headed for the garage. My husband trailed behind me to make sure that I was ok, while trying to understand for himself exactly what had just happened to me.

In short order, my face began to swell and turn shades of blue and purple. By morning streaks of red. For several days it remained swollen. The colors began to shift into greens and yellows. It’s been 11 days, as of this writing, and my face is still tender. I can cover the discoloration in make up, but not without experiencing pain while doing so. I long for the evening I am going to finally be able to really clean my face well.

One little incident… but so many lessons. What was the point of this happening? What lesson could the Lord be trying to teach me through this?

First, I thought that perhaps this was an issue around the letter itself. The continuous interruptions meant that the Lord was trying to stop me from writing the letter. Nodding to my grandmother’s phrase, it literally took getting knocked upside the head to get me to stop. Post injury, it was several days before I even gave that letter a second thought.

Then, I considered that perhaps the lesson was about the condition of my heart. My husband had a simple request, the letter could have waited, there was no reason for me to have such an attitude about helping him out for a mere few minutes. Maybe the knock in the head was to help me get my heart back in order.

The third thought that crossed my mind, dug a bit deeper. Something to the effect of just as my make up can cover the visible signs of my wounding, deep wounds still hurt and require time to heal. We can put on a mask as we suffer through, or as we heal.

Then my mind wandered to an ever deeper thought. I know power tools, I have used them for many years. I took shop in both middle and high school. In high school and college, I was involved in building theatrical sets for our productions. Which means I know to respect the power and danger in using tools, as well as having been taught proper safety precautions when using them. In this incident, I was in such a hurry to get it done, I minimized the job and did not follow the protocols that I normally would.

I assumed that my husband handed me the drill set and ready to use. I didn’t check it first. Then when using it, I made a few other wrong choices that put me in too close proximity to the tool and unprotected. While I still can not exactly pin point what went wrong in the exact moment, I do know that had I made better decisions leading up to that moment … the drill would have never touched my face.

I likened this moment to the Lord’s gifting to us of wisdom and direction in the Scriptures, lessons that are for our good and keep us safe. We are taught them, reminded of them, and know them well and yet at times choose to ignore them. Maybe because we are in a hurry, or our hearts are not right, we might be distracted, or making assumptions, etc. None the less, when we disregard them it will result in our experiencing pain or difficulty.

I know that immediately after it happened, while my face was pounding, and tears pouring down my face (which is an indicator of how much pain I was in, as I have a high pain tolerance)…. I was praising God because I knew it could have been much worse.

What if I had taken my glasses off, and lacked that extra layer of protection that covered my eyes? What if the drill had made contact directly with my temple? What if I had been even closer?

I was attempting to read deeply into what happened for some sort of spiritual lesson. Today it dawned on me that sometimes the lesson is the consequence.

Sometimes, it is as simple as “Gena, if you don’t follow the proper procedures, you are going to get injured. “

No deep meaning. Just a tangible lesson in following shop safety procedures, so that you don’t get hit in the face with a drill.