Author Krista Tibbs

Archive for the ‘Being Human’ Category

The Flip Side of Stability and the Seasons

In Being Human, Commentary, Original Fiction on February 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

There is a common saying in New England and East Tennessee: If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute. That serves as a good analogy for this week, which started with an old story lying in the graveyard and ended with a new story winning a contest.

Offer anyone in New England or East Tennessee a trip to Hawaii in February, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who turns you down. From what my dad has told me about Hawaii, the weather is in the 70s year round and although it rains a little every day, there is also sunshine every day. It is almost the epitome of stability, or at least equilibrium.

But stability has two sides. In Hawaii, you don’t get the dreary depths of winter but you also don’t get the renewal of spring. So I would like to visit Hawaii, but I’m not sure I’d want to live there.

My everyday life would probably be easier with a little more stability and routine. For example, I wandered around three levels of the parking garage yesterday because I couldn’t remember where I parked my car. I don’t park in the same spot every day at work, mostly because I don’t arrive at the same time every day, mostly because I don’t leave the house at the same time every day, mostly because I don’t do the same things every morning or go to bed at the same time every night. I could go on and on about how haphazard my daily life is.

But, if it were not so, I would not have been able to take half a day on a whim to write a story and enter a contest last Saturday, and I probably would have smiled a little less this week. If I lived in Hawaii, I would not be anticipating a possible snow day in the middle of next week. How many inner children are stirred by those two little words?

In contemplating the difference from Saturday to Friday, Maine to Hawaii, and snow days to spring, there is one conclusion I’ve reached that is true at least for me:
Variability is the root of hope.

The Story Graveyard

In Being Human, Commentary, Original Fiction on January 28, 2012 at 10:00 pm
The crickets were chirping after last week’s post, so I’m sending it to the story graveyard.
This graveyard is not a sad place, though; it’s a release. I have files upon files of unfinished stories — some are just a title and one is 53,000 words — and I feel guilty that I can’t spend time to develop them all.

I suppose they are like relationships. Many just petered out or lost direction. Others I worked on intensely for a while and then had to take a break. There are a few that I’m happy to see again every time, even though we always drift apart. Some I have put away and never gave another thought.

The hardest thing for me is to know when to let go. After I’ve invested so much time and heart trying to cultivate something, it seems a waste to give up on it. And those that are just a title — those that I never got to know, never fought with or tore up or cried over — they still have beautiful potential. I am a sucker for potential.

I spent at least 2,000 hours on my first book. That is the biggest commitment I’ve ever made in my life. But now that I know what it takes, it’s paralyzing to think about doing it again. So I keep hopping from story to story, looking for the one I want more than anything else, that is worth the time and the sacrifice and the commitment. I haven’t yet found the persistent passion that I had for the first book, but then I wonder, is a mature relationship entered with forethought ever as naively all-consuming as a first love?

Meanwhile I find myself going back to that story that has been percolating for years, building on those 53,000 words, just not quite ready to admit that it is The One.

Everyday Utopia

In Being Human, Commentary, Light Menu on March 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm

My 6-year-old niece announced one day, “Whatever is good for Krista is good for everyone.” If only that were true…

   – Everyone would know how to swing dance.

   – We’d only say please and thank you and sorry when we meant it.
   – Each political party would assume the other party is moral, too, and listen from there.   
   – No kid would go to school in fear — of other kids, of teachers, or of learning. 
   – The soft bigotry of low expectations would be eradicated.
   – There’d be no onions in the potato salad.


What would be part of your everyday utopia?

To Potential Employers on Behalf of Part-time Writers

In Being Human, Commentary, Integrity & Freedom, Original Fiction on February 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm

If you’ve ever agonized about telling a significant other those three big little words, then you know what it feels like every time a writer pulls words from her heart and sends them out into the world — deciding whether or not to say it and imagining all possible reactions, the sickening wait while your confession travels on a sound wave, and the obsessive rehashing of the moment in your mind, analyzing the details of the response.  Except for a writer, instead of confessing to one person, publishing an essay or story means forwarding her I Love You e-mail to all of the friends on her contact list, her judgmental Uncle Bob, and a variety of strangers.

It also means exposing her soul-bearing thoughts to potential employers and clients in the non-writing world. Because for the vast majority of authors, writing is necessarily just a part-time gig. It’s no wonder so many authors choose to write under a pseudonym. (However, as this article about blogger teachers indicates, anonymous is not synonymous with unidentifiable.)

I made a conscious choice to write this blog under my own name, because I think very hard before I speak, in person and on paper. But I can’t say that I realized all of the ramifications before I began. No matter how carefully you word an essay, if it is worth thinking about, there are going to be people out there with a different opinion — and those people may judge you professionally based on their personal interpretations without ever talking with you. That’s the risk you take when you write.

I never write anything I wouldn’t show to my mother. But while I don’t mind my mother thinking about me in a fictional conversation with my boyfriend, do I necessarily want a recruiter, my boss, or human resources to think about me in that context? No. But that’s the risk you take when you write. 

A web search is a fact of the professional background check these days. So beyond rehashing what was said in an interview, a part-time writer also has to wonder what effect his or her public writing will have on his or her “real-world” career. So below are a few things I’d like to share with the people whose job is to judge my professional (non-writing) capabilities, to keep them from jumping to the wrong conclusions:

  • When I write about the voices in my head, it’s okay; I’m just referring to my characters. I can tell fiction from reality.
  • My cats write my blog sometimes, but don’t worry; they refuse to go to meetings in my place.
  • The characters’ actions in my stories do not necessarily represent what I would do in the same situation. In fact, they are often exactly the opposite; I think of something I would never do or say in real life and let my characters try it and see what happens.
  • Just because my character advocates it, it doesn’t mean I advocate it. I write fiction from inside their heads, not my own. (Refer to first bullet.)
  • My essays are just one perspective at a point in time, a snippet designed to provoke thought and conversation; they are not my entire world view set in stone. 
  • Just because I say it on this blog doesn’t mean I will say it in the boardroom. Politics and religion aren’t appropriate subjects for the dinner table, either.
  • If you disagree with the viewpoints or beliefs in my essays, it doesn’t mean we can’t work together. Likely half of your best teammates share my point of view; they have just never said it out loud in your presence.
  • I write under my real name so that I am accountable to everything I say. So you can rest assured I will also conduct myself with accountability and integrity in your organization or on your project.
  • If you ask me in an interview what is the biggest risk I have taken, I will tell you it is publishing my book and exposing my words to the public. Was it worth it? Yes.

Bad parking is not a crime

In Being Human, Commentary, Light Menu on March 3, 2010 at 1:33 am
The worst part of my commute to work is the parking garage.  I spend a lot of time backing up, straightening around, and getting out just to get back in and try again. I’m generally a benign driver — always use my blinker, don’t cut people off in traffic – but I’ve never been good at parking. So when I’m having a bad day already, like I was this morning, and the only space I can find has an SUV on one side and a concrete pillar on the other, I figure if I end up between the yellow lines and don’t hit anything, it’s close enough.

So imagine my delight when I left work at 6:30 tonight and found a note on my windshield saying that it was, in fact, close enough. To be specific, the cute little square page, written as neatly as you ever wanted to see, actually read: Next time, why don’t you park a little closer to the car next to you!

I realize bad parking is aggravating. But spewing venom on my windshield won’t make the world a better place. Although, to be fair, at least today the person provided some constructive criticism; the last time I found a note, it just said: Nice parking job, a–hole.

I can’t fault people for feeling frustrated; my parking frustrates me, too.  But if you’re going to take the time to send a message to a perfect stranger, wouldn’t you want to make something good come of it? I mean, it would have been so nice if, instead of getting spit on, I found this: You must have had a bad morning and not noticed how close you were parking to my car. I hope your day got better.

Even if you didn’t want to be nice, you could at least be creative:

– Here’s the number for my optometrist; maybe he can help you with your depth perception.

– I found a dollar when I had to climb in through the passenger side. Thanks.

 – Roses are red, garage lines are yellow, to get in through that door, I’d have to be a svelte fellow. 

But in a pinch, you can never go wrong with simple and classy:

– You parked too close, but I forgive you.

Example of Excellence: Firecrackers Jump Rope

In Being Human, Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on October 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm

A friend of mine forwarded me the video below of a team of 4th-8th graders who do amazing things with jumpropes.  It’s worth watching all the way to the end, evidenced by the increasing amazement on the faces of the audience at the Naval Academy, who are no strangers to precision.  

In order for these 9-13 year-olds to perform their jaw-dropping show, every single one of them has to excel individually while also being a tight-knit team, and they have to put in a lot of work to do it. According to their website,  these Firecrackers from Kings Local School District in Ohio practice 2 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. That’s an inspiring example of commitment, but what’s even better is that their performance is infused with fun and pride, the greatest symptoms of excellence.

Kudos to these kids and to their coach, Lynn Kelley.

We Don’t Always Get What We Deserve

In Being Human, Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on October 2, 2009 at 3:43 am

     This afternoon someone mentioned college acceptance letters, and a shiver ran through me – a good one. I remember the day years ago when I came home from school to find my acceptance letter for MIT. I can still feel the paper shaking in my hands, see the Congratulations swimming on the page, and recall where everyone was positioned in the living room, including my grandfather with his bewildered expression as I screamed unintelligibly, “I got in!” and jumped up and down then ran out of the house to go back to school to tell Mrs. Wilbur, my math teacher.

     It isn’t often that you get to experience 17 years of hard work coming to fruition in a moment. Because there is no guarantee that 17 years of hard work are going to bear fruit at all. People don’t tell you that when you’re a teenager. “Life’s not fair”, sure. “Things will be different in the Real World”, definitely. But never “You could study your butt off and work your fingers to the bone and still end up with a job you hate, or no job at all.“

     Everyone figures it out eventually, of course. When people would ask me where I wanted to go to college, I always said “MIT, but I’m not sure I’ll get in.” Because it wasn’t all up to me. In the Real World, there are plenty of Simon Cowell types who take every opportunity to tell you how hard it will be to succeed. I went to a Writer’s Digest conference a couple of weeks ago and came home with a lot of new ideas, plus the recurring theme that a person could write the greatest American novel of this century, but it doesn’t mean anyone will read it, because there is way more to being published and bought than just content.

     This could be discouraging, and it is on some days. But it’s also good to know, for planning purposes. I’m now figuring out a way to enjoy my day career so I’ll be prepared to spend many more years doing writing and marketing as just a hobby, on my own terms. (If you want to encourage my hobby, join my author page on Facebook! =))

     So, I’m interviewing for a job right now that I really want, that would make use of every varied experience I’ve chosen since that college acceptance. There are many possibilities in the role, and I have many ideas for it, but also butterflies about the obstacles being bigger than I am and crazy thoughts that I might welcome the challenge. In a way, I’m back to being 17 and knowing I’ve done everything in my power to earn what I want but my immediate future is in someone else’s hands. My head knows my value, but my heart is still not sure I’ll get in.

     I do have several contingency plans. That’s one good thing about feeling 17; a lot more options seem open. But being in my 30s, I know something better; that we don’t always get what we deserve — and it’s a mercy sometimes!

Strength in Sadness

In Being Human, Commentary, Spirit on September 2, 2009 at 12:48 am

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past month thinking about the Emily C. Specchio Foundation. Most of the organizations I donate to are born of sadness, but none have touched me in the same way as this one. It seems that Emily Specchio’s life was a seed that her family cultivated in their grief, and I admire them tremendously for it. To me, sadness is the most debilitating of injuries, so to see evidence of strength where I wouldn’t think it could ever live is hope-inspiring.

I’m reminded of a lady I met during my first visit to Westminster Presbyterian in Alexandria, VA. I had been to many kinds of churches before, and I was often left to cry alone in the pew throughout the sermon – or worse, pressured to talk. But this lady sat next to me and just gave me tissues. Then at the end of the service, she said it was wonderful I could experience such emotion.

Noone had ever looked at my tears that way before. I always considered them to be a character flaw and something I learned to hide everywhere except in church.  So when I found out the lady’s name was Bea Hurt, it made sense. Like she was put on earth to give us permission to feel.

I think about her often, especially when I want to stop caring about people because the sadness or meanness is just too much. She reminds me that the same part inside that allows us to hurt also allows us to hope, if we can look at things a little differently.

Emily Specchio Foundation

In Announcements, Being Human, Spirit on August 3, 2009 at 11:49 am

Today’s post is a special interview about the Emily C. Specchio Foundation , whose mission is to encourage, identify and financially support university undergraduate and graduate students who want to change the world for the better, both nationally and internationally. In her 21 years, Emily Specchio managed to inter-relate the ideas of academic excellence with social responsibility. Emily was part of the Phi Sigma Pi national honor fraternity and embodied the virtues of Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. She participated in fundraising for cancer research, Teach for America, tutoring children, and the Foundation for Peace. Emily was a marketing major and graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech University on May 13th, 2006, but sadly passed away suddenly and unexpectedly two days later of a ruptured cerebral aneurysm  . The foundation celebrates Emily’s life by following her inspirational lead in continuing to support charitable organizations close to her heart.

 
Question for Kate: The foundation website includes a quote from Emily: “Sunsets remind me that there is always beauty in the world, even when you feel like everything is falling apart.” It sounds like Emily had a great outlook and tried to live it every day, which is truly inspirational. Who established the foundation?    

The foundation was established and is completely run by Emily’s immediate and extended family. Emily, my sister, was an extremely vibrant, determined, and giving young person. Growing up she always found ways to give back to her community. This started at a young age with volunteer trips with my mother to help out our county nursing home, and blossomed throughout her teenage years as she participated in four separate humanitarian trips to Appalachia and the Dominican Republic, and frequently mentored young children at the elementary school close to her university, among other activities. She was a lover of life, a “chaser” of sunsets, and truly believed in the power of the individual to make a difference.

Our family was completely shocked by Emily’s sudden passing – it occurred only two days after her graduation from Virginia Tech, and less than a month after my wedding engagement. One headache, one day changed our family forever. Emily had her whole, promising life ahead of her. There were no signs or warnings. However, my family is extremely tight-knit and determined, and while waiting in the hospital on the day of Emily’s passing, plans were being made to accomplish something special in her honor. The initial idea was to form a scholarship in her name at her beloved alma mater, Virginia Tech. We set this up and were quickly astonished by the outpour of support. It became apparent to us that this movement was bigger than we realized and we promptly started a foundation that would allow us to grow and accomplish further initiatives to honor Emily and follow her inspirational lead in giving back to others.

 

So far, the foundation has provided scholarships to 9 young women in marketing studies and has reached full endowment. Do you keep up with the girls who received the scholarships? What kind of work are they pursuing now?

The Emily C. Specchio Memorial scholarship at Virginia Tech has been so successful! Due to the wonderful generosity of the supporters of our foundation, we have raised enough money to fund the full tuition for a study abroad semester for two Virginia Tech students each year. As this scholarship is now fully endowed, it will be given every year in perpetuity.

I do still keep in touch with all of the past recipients of the scholarship. They are wonderful young women who have a commonality in their strong drive to succeed and compassionate interest in the world. Six of the recipients have now graduated from Virginia Tech, and all list their study abroad experience as one of the things that most changed their life. Many of them have caught the “travel bug” and take every opportunity to learn about new cultures and places. This is so enjoyable to see as the study abroad program also affected Emily in the same way. 

 

One of the preferences for the scholarship is that the recipient has or will study abroad in Switzerland. Why?

We tried to model the preferences for the scholarship around Emily’s college life. She was extremely strong academically, graduating magna cum laude in 2006 in Marketing. As mentioned, she also was very active in community service, leading Relay for Life teams, mentoring children, and helping beautify the Virginia Tech campus. But, hands-down her favorite experience in college was her study abroad semester in Lugano, Switzerland, which is run through the Marketing department. This is a very unique study abroad program as it places a high priority on traveling and learning about other cultures for the curriculum. During her spring semester abroad in 2005, Emily traveled extensively throughout Europe and really developed into a strong, independent, and compassionate woman as a result.

Emily loved Lugano so much that she had made plans to return after her graduation to start a masters program in social marketing with an option to enter a Ph.D. program after the 1st year. After seeing Emily fall in love with Europe and her transformation as a result, we decided that we would use the memorial scholarship as an opportunity to expose additional students to other cultures, opening the door for students who may not traditionally be able to afford such a luxury as study abroad. We also rank the scholarship applications by academic excellence and strong history of community service. This scholarship is gaining in popularity every year, with the number of applications tripling since its inception in 2006. From this scholarship, we hope to allow other young men and women to learn about the world and hopefully inspire them to make a difference.

 

I understand that your yearly fundraiser, A Night with an Angel, last year raised upwards of $45,000 and has allowed the foundation to expand into some new initiatives, one of them being the Ambassador program, which will award grants to young people with big ideas for community outreach either domestically or internationally. Can you share with us some of the ideas or your thoughts about the applications you’ve received so far?

I am so happy to report that our annual “A Night with an Angel” benefit has continued to grow each year, even despite the current hard economic times. It is held every May, near the anniversary of Emily’s passing. It helps our family focus on something positive during that time of the year, and has been very healing.

Once we reached the point of a fully endowed scholarship (our initial goal) we recognized the potential of the foundation for accomplishing much more in Emily’s memory. Starting this year we’ve launched several new initiatives supporting and encouraging youth to make a difference both locally and internationally. These new initiatives include the ambassador program, a partnership with the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) to fund students involved in improving inner-city life in Newark via legislature, supporting young women entrepreneurs with Kiva.org, and the start of a mentorship program at Gilbert Linkous elementary school in Blacksburg, VA where Emily often volunteered.

The Ambassador program is one of our larger efforts, and we’ve already received support and interest for the position. Some of the applications thus far include ideas for microlending efforts in Africa, humanitarian efforts to set up medical clinics in the Dominican Republic, and local mentorship programs. We are very excited to see all the applications and encourage anyone with great ideas to apply! 

 

Background: The Ambassador program requires a clear statement of project goals and mission, along with estimated timeline and funds required, and The Foundation provides mentoring to support the ambassador to help set up a blog or website and raise funds for their cause. The ambassador must present their project ideas and progress at a minimum of five venues (schools, organizations, churches, etc.) and The Foundation will provide funding for the project as well as a 2:1 match for money raised by the Ambassador for one year.

It sounds like the Ambassador program is set up not only to assist the young people in their projects, but to provide them with the experiences and responsibility to continue such projects on their own in the future. How did you come up with this idea, and what kind of time, effort and people does it take to keep up this program – and the foundation in general?

The Ambassador program was thought up by a cousin of ours, Marco Ambrosio. Marco graduated college a year after Emily, and was inspired to become a social entrepreneur and writer. He raised his own funds after graduation to complete a global HIV project exploring the disparate realities of living with HIV around the world. He gives frequent talks about his research and is currently writing a book entitled “Hope in Action”. His blog and website are linked through our foundation homepage.

Marco spearheaded the idea of an ambassador program for our foundation. He realized the potential for one individual to make a difference, but also the lack of funding and mentorship available for driven youth. We hope that our ambassador program, which provides funding and mentoring support, will promote youth-driven community service. We are prepared as a foundation to put in as much time and effort as required to fully support and help our ambassador complete his or her goals.

All of the work done for our foundation is completed by family members on a voluntary basis. My parents and extended family help organize our annual fundraiser as well as mailings to our supporters. I have setup and manage our website, twitter, and e-newsletters. Marco has volunteered to act as a mentor for our ambassador(s), and we hope to establish a network of past ambassadors through the years that can provide valuable advice and information. We will also help design a website/blog for our ambassador and help them set up speaking engagements to further their cause and inspire others. Many of my family’s spare hours outside of work are spent on foundation development, but it is very rewarding and enjoyable. We are so excited about this new initiative, and hope to see this program grow with each passing year.

 

The foundation also has a team through Kiva , and with only $400 has provided 8 microloans to women entrepreneurs in their 20’s living in developing countries. Each of those loans has already been paid back 30% or more, freeing up that money to be used elsewhere. It seems like even individuals can get involved at this level; can anyone participate in microlending through Kiva and support Emily’s vision? 

Microlending is truly a way for any individual to make a difference – it is no surprise that this idea recently gained recognition by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Kiva.org is the first person-to-person microlending site that connects microlenders to entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken countries. Our interest free loans have been to women involved in many different career fields from storeowners to farmers, and live everywhere from South America to Asia. Kiva has an extremely high rate of repaid loans, which allows us to continue to fund additional entrepreneurs. You can actually see the money loaned taking action in an individual’s life, which is so rewarding. We have established a foundation team page on Kiva (http://www.kiva.org/community/viewTeamLoans/?team_id=5173) where supporters can view our loans, and even join the team and select their own entrepreneurs to support!

 

Is there anything else that you would like people to know about Emily or the Foundation?

First, I would like to extend a thank you to Krista for choosing our foundation to showcase for the month of August – we deeply appreciate her support. Second, I would like to stress that we are still a young foundation and would love to hear any comments/feedback/suggestions that any of you may have! Please do not hesitate to contact me at kate @ emilycspecchiofoundation.org. This foundation serves as an extension of Emily’s life. Although she may no longer be with us in mind and body, we truly feel that her spirit lives on through all the people that our foundation helps. Thanks to all for reading!

 

For the month of August, $2 from every copy of The Neurology of Angels sold through the book website will be donated to the Emily C. Specchio Foundation.

Shades of Twilight

In Being Human, Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on July 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm

On Twitter the other day someone said to me that drugs are dangerous and asked why I choose to work in the pharmaceutical industry rather than an industry that works to heal. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, wondering what it’s like to live in a world where there is only night and day: All companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry are greedy and evil and dangerous, therefore all people who work within those companies are misguided. Any academic research or alternative medicine is pure and safe and good and selfless. If only all science, religion, and politics were so clearly delineated.

 

I live in a world where there are shades of twilight. I know what my Twitter follower said isn’t true of me or my company. I know that we have developed treatments for people who would have died and now live. But I also know that not all companies in the industry have that same mission and that good nutrition and exercise can take the place of drugs in many cases. It’s the same way I know that all politicians aren’t self-serving — but some are.

 

I think the source of a lot of the tension and frustration in the world is not good vs. evil, but just twilight people and night/day people trying to have a conversation. In general, night/day people hear either agreement or criticism and react accordingly; either you support them or are intentionally trying to impede their good intentions. Twilight people get their hackles up when their comments get categorized this way or they feel pressured to make all-encompassing statements in order to defend their position, which is frustrating because they know most statements are only true some of the time. Many people can switch types, depending on the issue. For example, I’m usually twilight, but when it comes to planning, it’s all night and day: more planning is always better. =)

 

I think there is necessity for both in the world.  Twilight people can take longer to move forward, because they see the merits of many sides of an issue and need to resolve them, which causes progress can zigzag. Night/day people forge straight ahead because they’re so very sure of their position. What is critical is that we acknowledge these two types of people exist, try to see the good place they’re coming from, and recognize when a situation calls for one approach or the other – meaning to acquiesce when necessary. I think our current president is a night/day person, and so far, I’m not convinced that he sees the merits of twilight, which makes it hard for me to accept his forging forward. But he’s learning as he goes, so I’ll keep watching.

 

As for my Twitter follower, I’m still perplexed at her one-sided perspective on drugs. She had cancer, got chemotherapy, and lived to tell the tale. She would rather have had adult stem cell therapy that used her own cells to heal herself, which I can understand, of course. But until adult stem cells are proven effective that way, isn’t chemo a twilight between life and death?

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