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family Kevin love politics savannah

On Mister Rogers

I just finished listening to the last episode of Finding Fred, a wonderful podcast exploring Mr. Rogers’ legacy, and impact, and I thought it was time to finally write out these thoughts that have swirled around in my head about him, about love, kindness, thoughtfulness and community since the election that put Donald Trump in the White House. Don’t worry, that’s the last time I’ll mention Mr. Trump and this post isn’t political – it’s about reacting to pain and finding myself wanting.

After the election, I saw my friends in pain, while I felt little more than disappointment. I didn’t see it coming, but I also kind of thought we deserved it. My friends’ reactions were visceral, full of fear and anguish, and I didn’t get it. Shortly after the Women’s March, I volunteered to live stream an event in Savannah where women who marched told their stories. It was heavy, and heartfelt, and I finally got it.

That night, I decided I needed to work on myself – to make the effort to be more empathetic, thoughtful, cause less harm, and to become more useful in the world to hopefully ease some of the pain, hurt and fear I was seeing.

I got books on meditation, racism, diet and exercise, and… didn’t move very quickly, considering it’s been three years and I’m just now writing this. It took me a very long time to read Understanding and Dismantling Racism, because it was so hard to come to terms with the racism I held in my heart without realizing it. I read books on meditation, but none of it made sense. I just couldn’t grasp the mechanics of it. I’ve always struggled with my weight, so that also made halting progress.

I went to therapy for the first time since I was 5, and started dealing with all the anger I’ve kept around unprocessed, that bubbles up unexpectedly, ruining moods and days.

But, I eventually finished the books, and picked up others. I learned a lot about meditation in therapy, and worked through a lot of my anger. I’ve been trying to be less sarcastic, more thoughtful, and more empathetic – and hopefully cause less pain to others. I’ve been trying to figure out my own emotions, and regulate them so I can better hold the space for other people’s emotions.

And this brings us back to Mr. Rogers. He and I share a birthday, and he’s been a hero of mine since I was a kid, but I could never articulate why. Why would I choose this kind gentle man as a hero?

I think I know now. Mr. Rogers is my hero because he embodied all the things I struggle with. He is patient where I’m impulsive. Kind where my natural reaction is sarcasm. Soft where I can be hard. Understanding where I am frequently clueless.

It was also because Mr. Rogers was the helper he told us all to look for. One of my favorite parts of Finding Fred was the discussion of that famous quote, where Fred told us to look for the helpers. All of us who watched him are now adults. We don’t need to find the helpers – we need to be the helpers and look for opportunities to help, to put into practice the kindness he shared with us, and share it with others.

The other big question from the show was what keeps us from being more like Mr. Rogers?  There were a lot of opinions on the show, but I’ve come up with my own answer: selfishness and thoughtlessness.  And I think that’s why Mr. Rogers is so missed right now.  We’re confronted with selfishness and greed on a mass scale.  We’re literally slapped in the face with it every time we read a news story.  It’s selfishness on a scale that feels like it blots out every other motive and emotion, and feels impossible to solve, since it feels like we’re completely outnumbered.

We are not outnumbered. Like Mr. Rogers, kindness isn’t loud.  It’s not going to grab headlines.  It’s not going to self-promote or rant in all caps on Twitter.  It is small, and quiet, and it means literally everything. 

In this effort to improve myself, I keep coming back to the idea of loving kindness.  It’s a main tenet of Buddhism and mindfulness, and it feels like it encapsulates everything.  It’s the Golden Rule applied to others, and myself.  If I am not kind to myself, I can’t be kind to others.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t see the many opportunities that come up all the time to be kind.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t be in the moment and appreciate it. If I don’t practice loving kindness daily, I won’t be able to apply it when it’s difficult – especially when it’s called for in the face of anger.  It requires vulnerability – which I am not good at. It requires patience, which I don’t have enough of. 

I don’t have it all figured out. I still get angry. I’m still sarcastic. I still don’t know what to do about white supremacy, or how to confront people about it. I’m still really uncomfortable with other peoples’ emotions, especially anger. But, I think I’m more useful today than I was yesterday. I think I know a little bit more than I did in January of 2017.

I know that loving kindness is the answer, even if I don’t always get it right. It’s called “practice” for a reason.

I’ll keep working on it.

Categories
non-profits savannah school

Extracurriculars

Last night was the always-fun Creative Coast Holiday Mixer. It’s a great chance to see people I only ever see at that party, catch up, and talk about what everyone is working on. Someone asked me “Is TechSAV your main extracurricular?” That got me thinking about all of my extracurriculars, and whatever the opposite of that is. So, instead of just thinking about it, I figured I would list them here… because multiple people have asked, and I sometimes forget, so I figure it would be good to have them all in one place for reference.

I think this is also a way to show me at “fully committed”. It feels like I’m busy enough that there’s always something that needs doing, but not so busy that I feel like I’m losing my mind or can’t rest.

If you’re not involved in non-profit work, or advisory boards, I highly recommend it! It’s a great way to meet new people, help in a cause you care about, and bank some sweet sweet karma.

The Not Extras

  • Family: May is off at college, and Brian is a sophomore in high school, so my kids don’t require the daily maintenance they used to. Jen is super busy with all of her extracurriculars. I would say family stuff is pretty much under control, it just requires the regular work of maintaining a marriage, and making sure the kids stay on track.
  • Work: Planted is still chugging along, and I’m still the CTO. I’m also the only developer and opsling, so this definitely keeps me jumping. My work days are packed with solving interesting problems with an amazing team.
  • Me: I did alright on the me front this year. I lost a little weight (not as much as I wanted, but losing is better than gaining), started exercising semi-regularly, and have been doing a lot of work on being kinder, more thoughtful, mindful and reducing the amount of anger and stress in my life. I’ve also been working on learning about white supremacy and coming to terms with my own biases, microaggressions and misconceptions. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Understanding and Dismantling Racism. It’s a great intro to racism and how to fight it.

The Extracurriculars

  • TechSAV: We’ve officially been a non-profit for 18 months now! I’m the cofounder and director. TechSAV is trying to build the technology community in Savannah through events, education, outreach and community service. We do things like codebar (see below), monthly lunch-time talks, happy hours, and maintain a 200+ strong Slack group for distributed mentoring, advice, job hunting, etc. It’s a lot of fun working with my co-conspirators and doing guerilla economic development. It doesn’t take a ton of time, but it means being “aggressively accessible” and always being willing to talk to folks, and always looking for ways to do outreach and help the community.
  • Susie King Taylor Community School: I’ve been on the governing board for a while now, and clerk of the Governance Committee for about a year. It takes a lot of time… monthly board and committee meetings, writing and reviewing policies, emails, etc. It’s extremely rewarding, though, to be a part of a school that’s doing innovative work, and the growth over the last couple of years has been amazing. This will get even more involved next year when I start co-clerking the whole board, not just Governance. If you’ve been on other advisory boards or even non-profit governing boards, a charter school is a whole new level of time commitment. Prepare to spend nights and weekends reading up on laws, writing policy, etc. It is the most rewarding board experience I’ve had so far though – being a part of educating kids, and working with committed and passionate educators, board members and parents on behalf of students is literally the best.
  • codebar Savannah: Savannah was the second codebar chapter in the US! We’ve been doing workshops every month since January 2018, and I just scheduled all of the workshops for 2019. It’s a free monthly workshop where students can learn how to code, and coaches get to help the next generation of developers. It’s a ton of fun, and not a huge time commitment apart from one evening a month and some planning / question answering. It’s a lot easier than trying to coordinate quarterly Railsbridge workshops – mostly because it’s not an 8 hour commitment on a Saturday.
  • Various advisory boards: Someone me asked what the difference is between a governing board and an advisory board. The main one is that a governing board is has fiduciary responsibility for the health and maintenance of the entity. It’s a big deal for a non-profit. It’s an even bigger deal for a school. It’s a significant time commitment, and there’s frequently a fundraising requirement. By comparison, advisory boards are awesome. It’s frequently just a way to lend your reputation to a cause you believe in. Sometimes, it’s answering a few questions over email a few times a month. Sometimes there’s an annual meeting. There’s no fiduciary responsibility. There’s no real responsibility at all, except for whatever you agree to advise them on. Here are the advisory boards I’m on right now:
    • iVolunteer International: This one’s recent and I haven’t done much advising yet, but I love the concept and the team is great.
    • Savannah Arts Communication Arts: May went here, and Brian goes here. I’ve spoken to Dr. Cook’s classes the last few years, and it’s great fun. No meetings, and I get to corrupt high school students with my crazy ideas once or twice a year? Yes, please!
    • Savannah State Computer Science IAB: I don’t even know if this is still happening, but as far as I know, I’m still on it?

There are other short-term or one-off things that come up every year, like cooking for an event, or school things.

There you go, my not-extra curriculars and extracurriculars in one blog post. Hope it was helpful and/or interesting.

Categories
love savannah

My Friend Carl

This month, I lost a friend. Carl V. Lewis was the founder of OpenSavannah, and a friend. He died, and we don’t know how or why. All I know is that he’s gone, and I’m going to miss him.

I found out very close to the one year anniversary of losing Cindy.

Carl meant a lot to the Savannah community. He was a catalyst – impatient, insistent, impulsive. To offset all of those things, he was thoughtful, brilliant and kind in a way that frequently surprised me. He knew suffering and seemed to be on a quest to alleviate others’ suffering by working on the systems that had the greatest potential to help them: local government.

Now that he’s gone, Savannah has to piece OpenSavannah back together, figure out all the clues Carl left us, and keep moving forward. I’m not sure how we do it, but it’s consuming my thoughts right now.

I don’t really know what else to say, other than we’ll miss him, and we’ll find a way to keep going.

Carl kicking off Open Savannah in 2017

All of the not-knowing about Carl’s passing has made me think a lot about the support systems we have in place for the people we care about. A lot of people have asked me what I know, what happened, and then lament that they personally didn’t do more.

I don’t know what his friends could have done, because I don’t know what happened.

But, in been thinking about what we owe the people in our lives, here’s what I think right this minute:

  • I want everyone I meet to feel nothing but loving kindness from me.
  • I want everyone I meet to feel safe and comfortable around me.

In a religious context, that’s just the Golden Rule. But, it means working on my emotional regulation. If my friends and family don’t know what to expect when they tell me things, then they’re not going to feel safe. If I’m having a bad day, and take it out on other people, they’re not going to feel loving kindness. Even if I’m having a disagreement or other conflict with someone, I still want them to feel that same loving kindness. I think the end goal is that I don’t want to add to someone else’s suffering. There’s more than enough to go around.

I am so very much not there yet, but that’s what I aspire to. I owe it to Carl, Cindy, and the people still here to work on it, because we don’t know how many days we or they have left. I’d rather fill the time left with kindness.

Categories
development non-profits ruby on rails savannah

I’m on Team #OfficeHours

Inspired by Matt’s tweet, I’m trying out offering office hours on Fridays. You grab half an hour of my time on a Friday afternoon and we can chat about whatever you think I can help you with.

If you’re in Savannah, I also like to do coffee meetings weekdays between 8-9, but you should email me about those.

Some rules, because it wouldn’t be official without some:

  • Please don’t try to sell me anything. If you want to get feedback on your pitch, great, but I just… I don’t want to.
  • You set the agenda. Some things you might ask me about:
    • Savannah’s tech scene and TechSAV.
    • Savannah restaurants
    • Baking bread
    • Technical leadership
    • Ruby on Rails or CSS (or databases or javascript or whatever)
    • How to create a guerilla organization that actually gets things done.
    • How to write a resume that a robot can read
    • Being on a board
  • I guess “no sales pitches” is really the only rule.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you set up your own #OfficeHours and share what you know! It’s ridiculously easy to set up either Calendly or a Public Calendar on Google so people can talk to you.

Categories
education savannah school

Susie King Taylor Community School

I’m on the governing board of Susie King Taylor Community School, and it’s been amazing to watch the progress the school’s made even since I joined in December. It’s a different model for Savannah, and one that I hope works well enough that it pulls the rest of the school system forward.

If you’re a business in Savannah and want to get involved with the school, teachers are always looking for people to come speak to their class, get involved with a lesson, or let a gaggle of young learners come check out businesses and see how things work. If you’ve got money to spare, we gladly accept donations. If you want to help, but don’t know how, you can reach out and get involved.

Categories
current events non-profits politics savannah

Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.

Categories
CSS development savannah

For Further Learning… Web Development Style

I sent this list out to yesterday’s RailsBridge students as next steps if the introductory class lit a fire and they want to learn more. And then I realized it’s a pretty good list, so I’ll share it here too!

Local Savannah Things

For Further Learning

Yesterday’s class was great. Lots of teachers in the room and lots of people who had no idea that web development was accessible to “normal” people. It was tons of fun and a great way to shake off a pretty terrible week.

Categories
ruby on rails savannah

Two Things

Real quick, before my brain falls out of my head.

  • I launched this. It’s still very new and so very not finished, but you can start to get an idea of what it will turn into and how awesome it will be. We’ve got 10x the number of songs that Pandora does, super awesome technology and we’re just getting started. It’s radio, but awesome!
  • I wrote this. It’s about how those of us already living in the future can help those stuck in the present (or in some cases the past). I’m still looking for the right way to say it all, and am looking for help. So, read it and let me know what you think.

There you go. Two things. Enjoy!

Categories
savannah

What I Did This Weekend: Bugs and Dolphins

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

My co-worker Mireia has been in Savannah working with us for almost three months. She goes home back to Barcelona in a couple weeks, so we decided it was about time to start cramming in touristy stuff! This weekend, I dragged her all over the low country looking for alligators and dolphins. We were half successful…

On Saturday, we went to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge looking for alligators. Unfortunately, because they’re doing construction, you can’t drive through the refuge like you used to be able to, so we went on a two mile hike through a small part of it. We didn’t see any alligators, but we saw a lot of birds, got bitten by a thousand little bugs and I got a sunburn. Then we went to Johnny Harris for lunch. It’s Savannah’s oldest restaurant, and has been open every day since 1937. Here are the rest of my pictures from Saturday.

[hang2column element=”div” width=”500″]two dolphins, fins peeking out of the water[/hang2column]

On Sunday, Juliet, Mireia and I went on Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tour. It was great! We saw a bunch of dolphins, got some great pictures and had a lot of fun, even though the boat was full of Girl Scouts (they were really well-behaved and not as bad as I thought they’d be). I took 347 pictures – mostly because dolphins are really hard to photograph. So, I put it in sport mode, centered the focus area and took tons of shots. My 18 favorite are also up up on Flickr

After the tour, we went to Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp on Tybee. It’s a food truck with a nice patio, and some of the best BBQ in town. If you’re going to the beach, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s way better than most of the other restaurants on Tybee, the prices are super reasonable and Gerald is a lot of fun to talk to. Plus, their limeade is heavenly.

After all of that, I did laundry and went to bed early. Being a tourist is hard work…

Categories
CSS ruby on rails savannah uplaya

Come Work With ME!

We’re hiring! We’ve got a ton of work to do on an awesome new product and I need help!

What am I looking for? Someone who “gets” working in a startup. You’ve got to understand the pressure involved and time required to launch something and the crazy stupid optimism to believe it will succeed (even if it doesn’t). You’ll be smart, creative and willing to do the right thing even if it seems a little daft at the time.

So, here’s what we’re looking for:

And the best part? We’re right in downtown Savannah above Leopold’s Ice Cream and close to everything happening around the heart of Savannah. We’re fun to work with and are working with some amazing technology. If you’re interested, check out the postings and apply (please)!