Author Krista Tibbs

Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

In Support of Rare Disease Day

In Announcements, Commentary, Science on February 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm
February 29th is the fifth annual Rare Disease Day around the world. So today I’m passing along answers to frequently asked questions and other things you might not know.

Why is Rare Disease Day So Important?

Why Does Research Take So Long?

What Might Surprise You?
The Effect of the Process
The Power of Patients
Pictures and Stories of Hope and Inspiration

If you’d like to help, just watch something, like something, click a button — just be a voice.


Sad Things I Wish I Never Knew

In Commentary, Health Care, Science on February 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I encountered a concept today that I can’t get out of my mind — children’s hospice. I know that hospice exists; I’ve seen someone go. I know that children get sick; I wrote a book about it. Yet, in my mind, those two saddest thoughts never met until today, when I ran across a website for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

I stared at the name for well over a minute, thinking about a place filled with no hope and the heaviest sorrow a human can know. But then I read some of the stories of people who had gone there. Yes, there was terrible sadness, but there was also a lot of love, and even laughter.

Still, my heart was lighter before I knew.

I know that everyone will die someday; I’ve been to a dozen funerals. But it’s always a shock to learn about yet another disease that has no cure, an illness that healthy living can’t fix, something born in the genes. But I watch the videos to respect the people living through Stargardt disease, Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood, or one of the thousands of other rare diseases affecting millions of people. And when I watch, I learn something about resiliency and hope.

Still, my heart was lighter before I knew.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to think that every moment of every day, families are struggling, loved ones are dying — it’s just too much to feel. But I’m glad I still can feel. I can’t imagine growing up with the Internet, where every day children stumble upon concepts they can never unthink. In one day, a teenager could encounter children’s hospice, the heaviness in this blog post, and a video about Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy that weakens a person’s muscles relentlessly until they die. I’ve encountered such things gradually and so have been able to feel, adapt, and move forward. But how does the mind protect itself from an onslaught without experience to process it? Desensitization, I think. Either you become immune or succumb to a depression too big to see beyond.

I know that as overwhelmed as I feel today, next week will bring perspective. I’ve learned this over time. I’ve also learned that even though part of me wishes I never knew about the sad things in the world, knowing is a part of living. At first you cry, which is okay because you care, but then you get to know the people behind the sadness, and you often learn something amazing — like Duchenne’s doesn’t affect the muscles in a smile.

Men and Women and the Top of the Corporate Ladder

In Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on February 16, 2012 at 4:36 am

I recently read an article about how few women there are in top positions at some grand old companies, and the string of comments below it ranged from conspiracy theories to sentiments like working with women is like getting pecked to death in a henhouse to exaltation like all women are great managers and should rule the world. These opinions were voiced by both men and women, and of course, everyone had a personal example to prove the point. So, as a single, rational, professional female, I got to thinkin’…

Say you drove around a dark corner once and ended up in a ditch. If you turn back the next time you see a potentially dangerous corner, you’re going to think you avoided disaster. So you’ll avoid the next dark corner, and the next, assuming all dark corners end in danger. You will shun dark roads for the rest of your life and cite that first one as proof of your good judgment.

For women, the first dark corner is often a gaggle of other women who brought cattiness and drama to the office and made it harder for all women there to be taken seriously. For men, maybe it was that female colleague who got pregnant and left him in the lurch on a project. These are the ways that women in power end up wary of other women and men in power end up wary of any person of child-bearing potential. They also put a double whammy on a single, career-minded woman, through no fault of her own. These dark corners create higher attrition rates in the very women who are the would-be executives, because they have to work twice as hard to make up for the sins of females past, and not everyone is a glutton for that kind of punishment.

Those would-be female executives will either go to a younger company or choose a different field or just go have a family like everyone expects us to. So in companies that have been around a long time, there are fewer women at the top. It’s not a conspiracy and not even conscious discrimination; it is just a part of human nature that will keep reinforcing itself as long as people are oblivious to their subconscious presumptions. And even if there are companies that have no interest in having women at the top, then why should women want to be at the top at those companies?

My point is that whether you are someone who always prefers to work with men or who is tempted to stand up for the value of all women, it’s time to check your assumptions. (I’m checking mine as well!) There are 150 million women in America and they don’t all match the pattern that past bad, or good, experiences have primed us to seek — no more than the 150 million men are all straight shooters with good business acumen who leave their grudges on the field.

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.

The Beauty of Bridges

In Commentary, Science, Spirit on January 5, 2012 at 3:50 am

I don’t love heights, but I love bridges. To me, the middle of a bridge is the most beautiful spot in the world, literally and figuratively. Because bridges aren’t just for getting from one place to the next; they provide a vantage point to see both where you were and where you are going — if you take the time to pause during the transition.

A lot of the most interesting things in physics and in life happen in transitions. The Great Smoky Mountains are named so due to the ever-present mist, which is water suspended in the transition between a liquid and a gas. Who says physics isn’t beautiful? Anyone who’s felt the moment when a friendship turns into More also knows the beauty of a transition.

There is danger in getting stuck on a bridge, especially when on one side there is relief from what you left behind and on the other side is the hopeful vision of what lies ahead. That point in the middle is pure freedom. Moving forward can be hard, because it means crossing over into reality, which rarely lives up to its possibilities.

Of course, not all transitions are great or interesting or even wanted. But that’s when a bridge is also a friend. It’s going to take you from what you lost to whatever comes next, but it will also provide a safe place to rest in between.

Click below to see pictures of breathtaking bridges across the world:
http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/03/the-worlds-most-beautiful-bridges/

Update 28 Jan 2012:
Call me oblivious, but it didn’t occur to me while I was writing this post that the banner on my blog contains a bridge, as does the cover of my book. I am also partial to the semi-colon and have been since high school, much to one teacher’s chagrin. I bring it up, because today I heard a semi-colon described as a bridge between two thoughts. So I guess it’s true; I really do love bridges!
 

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.

Spreading the Wealth

In Commentary, Integrity & Freedom on August 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm
A man is standing on his rotting porch looking across the street to his neighbor’s immaculate three-story home with the security system. The man’s car has almost 200,000 miles on it; his neighbor has a new SUV. The man has a wife and four kids but no health insurance. His neighbor is unmarried and has a pure Alaskan Husky that she pays someone to groom. The man’s job is hourly, and he’s constantly worried that he will lose it. They’ve never been on a family vacation. His neighbor works from home or from the motor home that she frequently takes out for a week at a time. The man knows she has at least $250,000 in her safe.

He envies her. He thinks it isn’t fair that she has so much and he has so little. He thinks she shouldn’t be sitting on so much money when he can’t scrounge together enough to pay his mortgage. He considers his options:

– It is against the law to go to his neighbor’s house and take money from her safe.
– It is against the law to hold a gun to his neighbor’s head while she takes money from her safe and gives it to him.
– It is against the law to threaten to embarrass her with some real or made-up secret if she doesn’t give him money.
– It is against the law to hire someone or a group of people to do any of the above for him.
– It is against the law to accept money that has been obtained by doing any of the above.

Unless the extorted money is laundered through the IRS.

Because it is legal for a group of people to decide that this man’s neighbor has more than enough money and to threaten her with jail time if she doesn’t give over a certain percentage so that it can be used to help her neighbor refinance his mortgage or trade in his clunker car. This group is called Congress. Policies designed to distribute the wealth are instituted under the auspices of the Constitution and “the common good”. It’s unfortunate if your life is uncommon.

It doesn’t matter to this woman’s neighbor that her dog groomer will lose his job because it is a luxury that she will forgo after higher taxes. It doesn’t matter that the top two stories of her house have to be secured and immaculate because they are used as storage space for the art she buys and sells. It doesn’t matter that she needs the SUV to transport the art, or that she spent twice as much for a hybrid because she cares about the environment, or that she drives her motor home to art shows so that she can save money on hotel costs. It doesn’t matter that although she could make $10,000 on a single sale, she can also go for months with no sales at all, but because she is self-employed, she pays twice as much in social security taxes and isn’t eligible for unemployment benefits. Her neighbor doesn’t care that the $250,000 in her safe is a nest egg she has been building for years toward the dream of hiring two assistants with health benefits to run the business, focusing only on helping new artists achieve their dreams, while she sculpts full time to achieve her own.

So when the wealth gets redistributed through the government, her neighbor sees rich people just getting fewer luxuries like expensive art. She sees dreams withering on the vine.

Easter Admission

In Commentary, Spirit on April 4, 2010 at 4:31 am
We all hope that when we’re faced with a moment of truth, we’ll stand up for what’s right and for the people we love. I want to believe I’d run back into a burning building for my niece. So to know the moment is coming and to lack the strength to live up to it…it just makes me sad to consider the possibility. So whenever I think of Easter, I think first of the story of Peter, which I think is the saddest story in the Bible.

If you haven’t read the New Testament or have forgotten the story: Peter was Jesus’ best friend, and as Jesus was taken off to be crucified, he said Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter was sure he would never do such a thing, but each time someone pointed out that he was an associate of Jesus, he said it wasn’t true. When the rooster crowed the next morning and Peter realized what he had done, he cried.

If he had admitted to being Jesus’ friend, Peter also would have been brutally crucified. In this day and age, the crucifixion is a little more subtle; it works on your character by negative connotation. I think it’s the reason the percent of Americans identifying themselves as Christians dropped from 86% in 1991 to 76% in 2001.

Those 10% are part of a larger group who have converted to the category of “no religion”. I think many have the same core beliefs they always did, but they don’t want to associate themselves with those who give organized religion a bad name; either the radicals who perform bad acts, or those who make an example of the bad acts to disparage the religion.

And I understand. When I started the notes that turned into this blog, I wrote down what I believe, and then wrote 16 pages explaining why I have considered atheism and agnosticism and why it makes sense to choose to believe in God, and what I think about who Jesus was, and all the ways that I’m not a “radical Bible-thumping wingnut”, to quote a famous judgmentalist. Usually in person, I shortcut to the point that I believe in reincarnation, which is a great way to water down perceptions, and is my own personal brand of denial.

It’s a good thing Easter comes every year, because it reminds me that I don’t want someone else’s actions or perceptions or judgments to define my belief system. I’m not in a burning building, and I’m not facing an angry mob about to murder my best friend, but for what it’s worth:

I choose to believe in God. I believe the Ten Commandments are written on the heart of every person, and it’s called our conscience. I believe in free will, and because of that, I am thankful for Forgiveness. There is a verse in a frame on my living room wall because it speaks to me: “Live by the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.” It happens to be from the New Testament.

Amen.

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