Last Day of May

Dear May 2015:

It’s not really like me to say this, but… I can’t say that I’m sad to see you go. There were highlights during your time here, but overall you were unpredictable, difficult, moody, and kind of a jerk (especially for giving us a high of 57° on your last day). But! I’m an eternal optimist, so I acknowledge that by being all of those things, you did provide a bit of clarity in a backassward way. Thank you for that… I guess?

As previously mentioned: Though you rather sucked, you weren’t entirely lacking in sweetness. Check it out.


Salad mix 1.0.



Strawberry lemonade cupcakes by Hopscotch for a colleague’s retirement bash.


Lone tomato given a good home out front.



Cherry tree on the walk to work.



Cute little mobile food operation in DT Urbana.



The lindens are blooming in C-U.


Nevertheless, I’m pretty pumped for June.


Here’s a micro-LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

Some roadblocks encountered by public media on the way to “digital first”

Provocative headline: “How Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Slow Food Theorists Got It All Wrong” (I have the book referenced in this piece and am STOKED to read it)


So. Nineteen years ago, we moved to Urbana. It was late May, 1996. Jim and Cody and I packed up the U-Haul in the alley of my apartment building near the intersection of Division and Damen in Chicago, and then it was time to… go? I didn’t know. Young adulthood = leaving plenty of apartments and roommates behind, but I had never left behind an empty apartment that would next house strangers, and I had only mostly moved alone in my 20s (except with Cody, who was on his sixth move at age three). I remember finishing the cleaning and loading the last box into the truck and closing it up and thinking, now what? Do we just leave? How do we leave, entirely, a place? A city where so much happened? 

Our close friends Ed and Janna are moving away this weekend, up to northern Illinois, almost exactly nineteen years to the day of our arrival. In 1996, they greeted us with 3 year-old Bronwyn and 3 month-old Tristan. The 7 (and later, 8) of us became thick as thieves pretty quickly – Ed and Jim and Janna all knew each other from school, so for them it was just a matter of getting reacquainted.

God, I could tell tales. So many tales. Here’s one, speaking only for myself: Janna taught me almost everything I know about growing food. There’s so much more – soccer and Halloweens and Harry Potter all-nighters and that thing that happened with those two geese (“Uh, those aren’t t-shirts”) and the hundreds of meals together.


Mustn’t forget the viking helmet!

viking ed

Ed and Janna are grandparents now. Tristan, his partner, and their baby daughter are moving up, too. The house here will be inhabited by Bronwyn while she goes to grad school. Ed will telecommute and they’ll still come to town from time to time, but the reality is, our closest friends here – the family we grew up with – are about to leave Urbana for greener acres and a project house a couple hundred miles away.

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The truck leaves today. They’ll be back and forth for a few weeks, tying up loose ends, but after that, certainly by July, they will have left, entirely, a place. A town where so much happened.

We will still be here, missing them.

It’ll Get Done

Let’s talk about the weather for a sec, like people do.

[Wait, first… a photo of a peony about to bloom. If you follow BYI on Instagram, you might have already seen this:]


OK. I don’t know about the weather where you are, but the weather here in old central IL has been less than helpful in terms of partnering with me personally (because it’s all about me, right??) to get the garden into the ground. By mid-May, warm weather stuff – tomatoes, herbs, peppers – have typically been planted, the worst of the spring weeds vanquished, the flower seeds sown, and the few planters we do have lurking here at 909 have something in them that was actually put there on purpose.

Thanks to rain timed to coincide with the end of the workday and/or weekends, I’m 25% of the way there. OK, 40%. I’m kind of mortified. It really isn’t just the rain – it’s also working off the premises and taking care of other business. Time’s gotten away from me. I do way less for the garden than I used to – when I bought a bunch of vegetable and herb starts at the farmers market this past weekend, Jon from Blue Moon was all, hey, whatever happened with your home seed start production? And I was like, dude, I haven’t had the chance to start seeds in 5 years, so THANK YOU for making these available! – but I got in front of that by planting some food that basically grows itself every year, like asparagus, blackberries, apples, and perennial herbs. Garlic doesn’t grow itself, but I planted it last fall, so that counts. I love food that mostly grows itself. And I love farmers who start seeds and offer those starts at farmers markets.

Anyway. I’ve planted the planters (which helps psychologically because they’re cheerful, full of cheap marigolds and portulaca*) and I’ve bought/dug the starts I want,  and have planted some kale and beets and salad mix. Um, it’s not June yet, so I’m going to just be OK with it.

My weed patch and brush pile, though – let me show them to you. I call this photo “Still Life with Old Holiday Wreath and Creeping Charlie, Mint, and Aging Wheelbarrow”.

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The coolest part of working in the yard when I could over this past (sunny) weekend was seeing/hearing my neighbors do likewise. It’s been so damn rainy and I hadn’t seen anyone for weeks. Chris and Melony next door did some hard time in their yard. Virginia, an elder woman who lives behind us, was working on her lovely yard with a friend. I went a few houses down to my new neighbor (and old friend) Bruce’s house to ID some plants for him. And I saw Lara, a block over, being a TGB**. I’m not sure she left her yard the entire day. As a result of the damned hard work she and Phil have put in since they bought the place a few years ago, their yard/garden/chicken coop are among the most incredible-looking in Urbana. You can see what everything looked like last year in “Henthusiasm“, starting at 4:21. Seriously, if garden coaching were a thing (and maybe it should be) Lara would KILL IT. She has an artist’s eye for color and placement, much enthusiasm and fire, is fearless about trying things, does not believe one should have to spend a lot of money to have an awesome garden, and does not ever tire, apparently.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

Tim (the other half of BYI Video) and I are experimenting with Slack as a collab tool

I’m interested in the concept of a mastermind group for some motivation

Ira Glass (This American Life) ruffled some public media feathers recently and came back with this explanation

Be kind

The challenges of editing while female

Crafting a pitch email (needed this a few days ago)

Widespread automation and resource depletion are my big worries – and both are happening faster than anyone truly realizes

Shit People Say to Women Directors is a most amazing/infuriating blog


*I am not a fashion planter gardener. I’m a “find whatever you can on sale and then stick it into whatever vessel you find in the garage” planter gardener.

**Total Garden Badass

Same Difference

This is a photo of a photo that was taken by Cody’s father, Dan, in summer of 1991.

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That young woman in that photo – that’s me. I was probably weeks away from moving to Chicago from Minneapolis. It was probably hot. I was probably tired from being out too late the night before, or maybe I’d just gotten in from a night out. I had probably been mad at Dan for hurting my feelings, and I had probably forgiven him. It was a cycle that was to play out many times over the next 18 months in two cities.

Cody – not yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point – would be born just over a year later. [As it happens, Cody’s the one who found this at his Dan’s the other day and sent it along – he’d never seen it before.]

What strikes me most about this photo, besides seeing my a bit of my daughter in my sleepface and the Star Wars pillowcase, is the dress. I remember the dress very well. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I currently own another dress quite like it and wore it just the other day; despite the passage of 24 years, my clothing preferences really haven’t changed. Why is that? Is there something about some of the music and clothes and habits and other personal touchstones from one’s early 20s that stay lodged pretty firmly in a person’s consciousness? Hmmm. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

These scientists died studying thin ice

Very nice music mixes by my friend du Nord

17 year-olds can vote in primaries and caucuses in half of the US!

IFTT recipes

These biscuits are the business

I might try this pancit recipe

Carrot Quinn is hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Mediashift splits from PBS

Sometimes it works to ignore your advisors

Social Needia

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I don’t know what to do about the internet.

Part of my day job is to maintain my organization‘s social media, and I reckon I’m pretty good at it. I also use it to find inspiration for video and podcasting topics and ideas for pitch meetings in the WILL newsroom. I’m nosy, so checking the analytics for the station’s website and social media is fun for me. [Analytics are a busybody’s wet dream. They’re interesting and insightful and far more powerful now than they were ten years ago, are getting more powerful every day, which is terrifying, etc etc etc.]

Backyard Industry relies on social media, primarily to notify people about blog entries or new videos, but sometimes to share things I find germane to the BYI conversation. But beyond that, it gets tricky. Like “everyone else”, I keep personal accounts on various platforms, and I feel like I live in those spaces, and lately (lately?) it’s become a problem.

I spend an inordinate amount of time on Reddit, for example. REDDIT IS THE BEST/WORST PLACE ON THE INTERNET, but I love it. I’ve learned a lot about salad-in-a-jar and free fonts and improperly attributed quotes from Pinterest. I’ve read about the myriad trials/tribulations/tiny victories/political opinions of friends of friends on Facebook. Gaining this knowledge has often come at the expense of creating my own work or vacuuming or napping or cooking or planting or just sitting with myself. When was the last time you just sat with yourself for an hour? May I ask how you did it?

So I had to ask myself: Is personal social media worth it for me?

No and yes. I hate that I look for “likes” and “retweets” and “repins” and “reblogs” – the list of ways I can actually account for my online existence seems endless. Analytics are no longer page hits. They now tell me so much more about who’s paying attention to me and from where and for how long and which pages and which social tools or search terms they used to find me and if they clicked on any of my links… and from this I can surmise whether I’m a big deal on the internet. Or if I’m not. It’s up to me to decide whether or not I care. I find myself caring. I find myself hitting “refresh”. I’m always “just checking”, especially on my phone. I’ve become social media’s tool, and as an oversharer and voracious consumer of information, stopping myself entirely from using it would be difficult at best.

But I also adore what social media can do. I love that my father, who doesn’t get out much, can play Words With Friends with people all over the world and reconnect with old friends from college, some of whom come to visit him where he lives. I love that people use Twitter to gather in protest, to educate, and to share in real time – especially during protests or other breaking news where what people share on social is an absolutely necessary companion to the narrative being created by the media. I have a Pinterest board that is a powerful antidote to Mondays. And how else would I see James’ gorgeous goals for Real Madrid without social media? Or watch Union Carbide Productions videos?

This is not middle-aged grousing about something I don’t understand or participate in – on the contrary. If there’s one thing I deeply get, it’s two-way communication – the desire to hear and be heard, to tell and be told – on all the platforms. Old ones, too, like print media and radio and stuff. I’m very curious about why people use what they use. It’s part of my job to figure that out. But, man – social. There’s literally no end to the ways social media can be used to push or digest information; new ways are being hacked all the time. Now that all of it is optimized for mobile, social media is always with those of us who opt in. So are our friends. And their friends. Maybe some enemies. The organizations and businesses and causes we follow are in our pockets – and so are many that we don’t – and we’re always with them. There’s never any down time unless we opt out.

It feels weird. For me personally, social media is no longer paradise, but I’m not sure what I’d do without it. I get something out of it, for sure, but I can’t gaze out over it at the end of the day and be like, yeah. I made something. Or, hey, look at those freaking beets, just growing away out there! I’m not sure it’s a paradise for organizations, either. We spend a lot of time being yanked around by changes in algorithm, experimenting with new tools, competing with other organizations to capture figurative eyeballs, and sussing out how to be everywhere at all times, ready to engage.

I’m not wringing my hands over the state of the world. This technology is awesome. Great things happen EVERY DAY because of social media, and it’s incredibly useful (and fun – I love livetweeting my daughter’s soccer games using the hashtag #UniHighSoccer, so the team can read the tweets later and their parents and friends and fans can follow along). But in the past week, I suddenly understood that I spend too much time being used by social media and that I don’t feel good about it and that it’s not really sustainable. I’ve reached personal peak social. I probably reached it a year ago. I’m embarrassed it took me so long to make such an obvious observation about myself. I’m not sure what the trigger was – probably the desperate eye I gave my 2′ pile of unread books and magazines a few days ago. Or it was noticing the unfinished projects I don’t have energy to work on after a day of reading what hundreds of other people think. Actually, it was likely the mortifying number of times that day I caught myself thinking in terms of my activities’ tweetability and held myself back from posting anything anywhere, just as an experiment. (True story. And I was quite agitated.)

I know I’m hardly the only person coming to this conclusion.* I also know I’m hardly the only person who’s not sure what to do about it. Device discipline is hard, especially when your personal and professional life is built around two-way communication. So I’m guessing that, like most people do once they understand the concept of peak resources, I’ll keep using social media, but feel kind of weird about it.

PS: I was getting ready to post this when this week’s horoscope from Free Will Astrology came through:

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): According to the three science fiction films
collectively known as *The Matrix,* we humans suffer from a fundamental
delusion. What we think is real life is actually a sophisticated computer
simulation. Intelligent machines have created this dream world to keep us
in suspended animation while they harvest our energy to fuel their
civilization. Now as far as I can tell, this scenario isn’t literally true. But it
is an apt metaphor for how many of us seem to be half-asleep or under a
spell, lost in our addiction to the simulated world created by technology. I
bring this to your attention, Libra, because now is a favorable time to
diminish the hold that the metaphorical Matrix has on you. What can you
do to at least partially escape your bondage? (Hint: A little more contact
with nature could do the trick.)

*Cody did a social media break for a week recently, and then the guys at the Invisible Office Hours podcast, which I was catching up on over the weekend, took turns late last year doing social media breaks. Hearing about their experiences confirmed my suspicions and made me try sitting in the coffee drive-thru lane with my phone in my bag. It was difficult.