step outside your comfort zone.

Some of you know I serve as a career coach. Just last week I found myself in a Panera Bread working with one of my current students on their resume.
This particular location is extremely thin on power outlets
, so while working on battery power, we pretty much stalked every person at every table near a coveted outlet until finally we scored a “Power Table” with about 17% battery power remaining on my laptop.

A few minutes later, I looked up to see a super tall and impressively muscular guy walking around the restaurant, holding his phone and a power cable, clearly looking for a free outlet. I knew he was out of luck. He went to the cashier to ask where the outlets were and then he knew he was out of luck.

I watched him go back to his seat and join a large group of his friends seated at a span of tables.

I could have dismissed him and gotten back to work. It certainly would have been easy. and safe.

and selfish.

But I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me.

So, as I reached into my purse for my favorite shiny red high speed portable charger, I told my student I would be right back.

The entire restaurant was loud and bustling and nobody was paying any attention to me, so the walk toward him was mindless, fast and easy. But, the moment I stepped up to that particular group of tables, every. single. person. seated there abruptly stopped talking and turned toward the interruption. .

that would be me.

every single face was silently staring. at me.

I admit, I was immediately uncomfortable. When I’d reached for the charger and while I was walking toward the table, I hadn’t considered the possibility that my attempt to help might be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion, but at that moment, from my perspective, 8 people halting their conversation to openly stare at me had “intrusion” written all over it.

and I was suddenly, extremely and self-consciously aware of the fact that I am white.

Did I not mention that every single person staring at me was black?

I held out my phone charger.

“Would you like to borrow this?”

There was a noticeable pause, then a look of disbelief and confusion, followed by a “REALLY?!?!” as his friends looked back and forth from me to him like they were watching a tennis match.

Ball was back in my court.

“Sure.”

I pointed to my table and my student. “I’ll be sitting right over there when you’re done with it.”

I’d like to say that he charged his phone, returned my phone charger and that was that.

In reality, I forgot about him and my charger for about a half hour and when I looked up, he – and all of his friends – were gone.

Me: “Did he leave?”

My student and I scanned the restaurant. He was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly she said, “There he is! Outside.”

We kept working for another 20 minutes or so and then she noticed him get up and walk toward the parking lot, out of our line of sight. I stepped outside and saw him dump his drink cup in a garbage can at the edge of the parking lot, so I said, “Are you leaving?”

He immediately assured me he wasn’t and joined his friends who were now sitting at tables near the garbage can where he dumped his drink cup.

I went back inside, my student and I got engaged in a particularly challenging section of the resume and we both completely forgot about him.

Until he quietly slipped the charger on our the table, thanked me again and left.

Would I have left the building without saying something to me if I were him?
No. It was thoughtless, but not malicious or devious.

Did I think he was trying to steal my $20 rapid phone charger?
No. I thought he forgot it was in his pocket.

Did he think I thought he was trying to steal my phone charger?
I don’t think so. He didn’t seem offended.

Did I regret loaning it to him?
No. I knew when I stepped outside my comfort zone and handed over my phone charger to a complete stranger that it would be easier to keep to myself and let his phone die.

I know that reaching out to help someone is a witness for Christ even when His name isn’t spoken.

I hope and pray that by evidencing “Love God, Love Others” in that simple action, my student watched, processed and was inspired to step out of her own comfort zone and extend a helping hand when it would be easier to be quiet and stay comfortable.

Will I do it again?
Even more so.

But I also think that the next time I go back to that particular Panera, I’ll be bringing a power strip with me to share with my fellow power-needy laptop cohorts.

Lord, please help me to be aware of your presence in every moment of my life and to recognize your promptings. Please bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when you nudge me to do or say something. Don’t let me miss an opportunity to bless and be blessed because I’m held back by fear or because I want to cling to my comfort zone. AMEN.

Bill Nye. Regular Guy.

Confession.

Every time I read or hear something Bill Nye says, I have an instant flashback to this 1990s video of him wearing jogging shorts and a cape, hands on hips, valiantly announcing: “This looks like a job for SPEED WALKER!!!” (You’ll have to click over to youtube to watch. Embedding is disabled.)

And then I find myself thinking of that 80’s Vicks 44 commercial tag line:

“I’m not a real doctor, but I play one on TV”

Bill Nye has a B.S. in mechanical engineering, so when I saw his face onscreen as the virtual tour guide to building a virtual roller coaster at DisneyQuest’s CyberSpace Mountain, I thought, yeah. okay. That makes sense.

But outside of that – he’s a regular guy, with the same ability to research and form opinions as anyone and everyone else.

Why would I give his opinion on global warming preference over someone with a Ph.D. in ecology?

or the historical record:

“From 1910 to 1940, there was an increase in global average temperature of 0.5°C over that 30-year period.

Then there was a 30-year “pause” until 1970.

This was followed by an increase of 0.57°C during the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000.

Since then there has been no increase, perhaps a slight decrease, in average global temperature.
This in itself tends to negate the validity of the computer models, as CO2 emissions have continued to accelerate during this time.

The increase in temperature between 1910-1940 was virtually identical to the increase between 1970-2000.

Yet the IPCC does not attribute the increase from 1910-1940 to “human influence.” [Source]

When I see Bill Nye (or read about him) talking about politics or global warming or gender or abortion or cognitive dissonance or other topics completely outside his field, his opinion doesn’t have credibility with me. Not because he’s “just an entertainer” but because he doesn’t have any more specialized knowledge or experience supporting his opinion than the average person who is interested in the same humanitarian issues.

I don’t understand why he gets interviewed and quoted so often about politics and other issues outside his field. Please tell me it’s not because the kids who grew up watching him on TV look to him as a subject matter expert now that they are adults.

He hasn’t established credibility as a subject matter expert in any of these areas.

Three final thoughts:
1. There are many more credible sources.
2. Do your own research – a celebrity’s opinion should never hold greater weight than your own.


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3. I bet Bill Nye could build a cool Rube Goldberg machine.

I suppose this means I’m officially a “recording artist.”

Merry Christmas!

Here’s a link to the Christmas song I just released – available on Amazon and itunes for 99 cents: “Bells of Christmas Medley

Bells of Christmas Medley Cover 300dpi

It’s a medley of: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Ring the Bells and Carol of the Bells and every vocal you hear is mine.

The distributor also posted it on youtube and some streaming sites, but I don’t know where, so if you stumble upon it, please let me know!

Just search for “Julie Stiles Mills” on any of those sites and you should find it – it’s the only song I’ve released.

I’m not in charge of pricing on those sites, but I have made it available for free here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/juliestilesmills

again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

the 1% rule. a minority with too much free time? or representative of the 99%?

Something has bothered me for a while. When someone says that a certain group of people “thinks” this or “says” that, where does the opinion of that group come from?

If it’s true that only 1% of people are “vocal” on the internet, (via posts, tweets, comments or blogs) does that really tell us what the quiet people are thinking? (I’m not claiming to be one of the quiet ones.)

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By Life of RileyOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Even if a person on the internet seems to be in line with my own thoughts on a subject, I rarely agree with the way they’ve stated it much less every nuance of their opinion. Often, there is no nuance, the stand is so extreme it forces polarized positions and the statements are surface level, oversimplified, sarcastic or trite.

The world is bigger than this 1%.

The issues are complex and I have a feeling a good chunk of the other 99% think much deeper than can be expressed in a tweet. So, they don’t tweet, they talk. and listen.

In person.

Where there are no trolls and the only seagulls are at the beach.

I don’t say “the left” does or says this or “the right” does or says that. Reformed, Arminian, Atheist, Evangelicals, straight, LGBT, Clinton/Trump “supporters”….whatever group label you can think of, remember the 1% rule.

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the Internet represents approximately 1% (give or take) of the people actually viewing that content. For example, for every person who posts on a forum, generally about 99 other people are viewing that forum but not posting.” [CLICK HERE to read the full wikimedia content on the 1% rule]

Given our propensity to get our information from the internet, it’s statistically probable that whatever opinion you hold about a certain labeled group and whatever reasoning behind that opinion is based on what 1% of the internet population thinks – and the internet population is only 40% of the world population.

The world is bigger than this 1%. We only think they represent the majority because they are the loudest and most visible.

The quiet people are thinking. And apparently, there’s more of them than we realize. I’m betting one of the reasons they are quiet is that they have no time or patience for the tic-tac-toe futility of the bickering that seems so prevalent on the internet today.

Thank God. Because there’s a LOT of intolerant and judgemental people on the internet who could use a day or two off the grid to regain some perspective.

#seepeople and #edify, because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken

the most divisive word of all: “THEY”

After the events of the last few days, my resilience is worn-down. I can’t read another post or comment by an armchair pundit containing divisive broadcasted attacks against the nameless, faceless “THEY.”

notpersecutedwhencontradictedArrogant sarcastic rants that begin with:
“I love it when…” or
“Don’t you just love it when…” or
“Isn’t it funny, how…”
when no one loves it or thinks it’s funny.

So many one-sided, barricaded opinions using words like “idiots” and “crazy” and the all encompassing and overused label of “hater” to pigeonhole anyone who disagrees with that particular social media blaster on a particular issue.

not to mention the onslaught of profanity-ridden contemptuous ridicule.

and the deliberately cruel comments like the ones below after an alligator attacked a toddler at Walt Disney World within days of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12th:

hatecomment1

The mom in me can’t help but think “What happened in this person’s childhood and life that could result in such a complete lack of compassion and empathy? How did this particular individual’s character deteriorate to this level of having so little respect for others? Why is this person seemingly incapable of extending kindness to people who are different from them or – even worse – to people who are suffering unimaginable pain? Is this person friendly in real life? or at least civil? Would they say these terrible things to the victim’s families face to face? Or are they a consummate fraud and a coward?”

And then there are the reports of commentators “slamming” someone or shutting someone down. Interviewers “grilling” and politicians “firing back.”

This stuff is coming from BOTH sides of the issues.

Neither side holds the high ground.

globalthermonuclearwarNeither side truly wins if bridges aren’t being built and crossed.

Making a stronger point is pointless if the conversations remain stalemate arguments instead of open dialogs revealing common ground and leading to softened hearts, opened minds and expanded thoughts.

When explaining the reasoning behind a particular point of view in our society today, the use of the words “clearly” and “simply” is empirically wrong.

There is NOTHING clear or simple about the complex and turbulent issues we’re engulfed in.

Thankfully, I’ve come to understand that those who have the capacity to reject the labels and the stereotypes and the caricatures and LISTEN more than they talk don’t spend their discretionary time pontificating through their fingertips about the issues that threaten to permanently divide us.

And I totally get it. I’d rather mow my quarter acre, knee high, 3 week neglected, sloped backyard in the noonday heat of a Florida summer than step a foot into the mire of these issues on the internet.

didntreactdoesntmeandidntnoticeSome of my personal facebook friends have unknowingly attacked me individually through a shotgun approach, railing against “idiots” whose opinions they believe are invalidated because those opinions are deemed irrelevant and wrong. I’ll never comment on one of those posts or reply to one of those comments and reveal that I have anything in common with the people my (facebook) friend can’t or doesn’t accept. That would make me and my family vulnerable to continued and/or focused attack. I’m not stupid.
(Contrary to their belief.)

Even so, I roll around the thought of asking a few of these individuals to meet with me and talk. Not to try and change their mind about whatever side of whatever issue they are committed to. I have no hopes or expectations of changing someone’s mind when they are so categorically entrenched in their commitment to a particular belief.

But still. I idealistically imagine that a face-to-face conversation would personalize the target of their attacks. And if so, would the personalizing of their target prompt them to pause before they post the next time? Is it possible that they might intentionally choose non-inflammatory and respectful language? Would they try to see from someone else’s perspective?

And most importantly, would they consider exploring the possibility of collaboration or compromise by patiently and thoroughly examining and stepping through the complex multifaceted issues instead of calling for a tunnel visioned, all encompassing mandate that barrels over anything and everything that might be a speed bump in achieving their goal?

Why do I think that more likely, they would just hide controversial posts from me after our conversation and continue as before, perpetuating the status quo?

My problem with jumping on a bandwagon is that I see so many sides to these issues. I understand that each of us have reasons for what we believe, need and want, and I can’t help but think that hearing those reasons might bridge some distance and be the first step to resolving some of the problems.

We need to consider perspectives other than our own. Because groupthink never serves anyone well.

I find it impossible to dismiss the fears and concerns of someone in order to validate my mindset or to get my way. [click to tweet]

I’ve said this before: Everybody is a #differentkindofbroken I want to #edify and #seepeople as individuals, even when they are different from me.

I’m praying for God to equip me to be not only His hands and feet in order to help in tangible ways, but also His eyes and ears and voice so as to follow His plan for me: to Love God and Love others. Even others who think and believe differently than I do.

ifyoucantbekindbequietI’m praying for people – in real life and on the internet –

to be slow to speak,
slow to anger and
quick to listen.

And I’m praying that if people can’t be kind,
that they will at least be quiet.

Ratatouille and Vegit Lasagna

[This post was an experiment. First post using only phone photos and my android WordPress app.]

I made ratatouille for the first time today. Actually, I assembled it. The oven is preheating now. I have yet to see how it turns out or if my family will like it.

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This was not a fast and easy recipe. I can’t decide if I want my kids to love this because I want them to eat more vegetables or hate it so I’ll never have to make it again.

This particular Ratatouille recipe came from HERE. Check out her mouth watering photos of premium veggies. And then there’s my week old Publix veggies because I was going to make this last week and never got around to it…

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And my freakish ability to shoot a sliced vegetable across the counter just by slicing it…

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My canned petite tomato (no salt added) based sauce…

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And my vegetable stacking skills…

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My obvious over estimation of the proper size pan needed.

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I ran out of onions, tomatoes and eggplant so I decided to keep slicing the zucchini and yellow squash and make a pan of a family favorite, Vegit Lasagna.

(Vegit is a spice I found years ago and I order it in bulk from Amazon.)

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

First, spray the pan with Pam to prevent sticking. Then layer sliced zucchini and sprinkle on some Vegit.

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Then some shredded cheese…

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Then a layer of yellow squash sprinkled with Vegit…

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Topped with more shredded cheese…

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Repeat until you run out of veggies or they reach the height of your pan. I usually have a total of 4 layers.

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I found three leftover slices of zucchini. I won’t say how far away.
Bake at 350 for about an hour. The same time and temp recommended to bake the Ratatouille.

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We’ll be vegging out tonight.

“Bells of Christmas” Cover

Bells of Christmas Medley Cover 300dpiWhen I was a young girl, I LOVED Karen Carpenter’s music. LOVED. IT. When I found out she sang her own harmonies and backgrounds, a dream was born.

I wanted to do that.

Fast forward decades. My very first “single” is now available and every vocal harmony and background on it is mine. (Click HERE or click the cover art image to download it or listen to a clip.)

Why did I wait so long to release a recording? One big reason is that I knew how much it would cost and I just couldn’t justify spending the money when I knew I’d never recover the expense:

The studio time was free, but
Leasing the track for recording cost $140.
Mixing/mastering cost $50 (EXTREME discount)
Licensing and royalties were $42.
The distribution service was $15
(to get it on itunes, Google Play, Amazon, streaming services, etc.)

So why now? Why this song? Not because I had an extra $247 to burn, that’s for sure. I’ve been recording covers for nearly 5 years now and this is the first one that wasn’t actually a full out cover of a song by a popular artist. In the back of my mind, my thought has probably always been something like this:

Given a choice between listening to an original artist’s version of a song and my version, why would anyone listen to a copy when they could listen to the “real thing?”

But this song isn’t a copy of an original. It’s a Christmas medley that a music track making company created in 2009. The artist on the demonstration track is an unnamed studio vocalist that nobody will compare me to. It starts out slow and soft with I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, then transitions to Ring the Bells and build to one of my favorites, Carol of the Bells. It’s packed with harmony and overlaps. It was challenging to record, but it was flat out FUN at the same time.

Will I release another single in the future?

Probably at lease one more. A few years ago, I paid the $140 to lease a track for “How He Loves” (also affectionately known in my family as “the sloppy wet kiss” song) but never found someone to mix and master my recording. Having already paid for the track lease, it wouldn’t take too much more money to get it mixed, mastered and distributed.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep recording, singing my own harmonies. Just like Karen Carpenter did.

#GoodNews – the Christian faith isn’t about being “good.”

JSMGospelMeansGoodNewsThe Christian faith isn’t about being “good” and trying not to do anything “wrong.” ‪

#‎Jesus‬ wasn’t just a good man Christians should strive to emulate.

If I believe the eye witnesses, He was God himself, in the flesh. He came to restore my relationship with Him – a relationship severed by my rejection and indifference.

I suffer when I am separated from God. Without Jesus, that separation would be eternal.

Any parent will tell you they wish they could take their child’s place when the child suffers.

If you believe what Jesus said, that’s what God did. ‪#‎ibelieve‬ ‪#‎GospelMeansGoodNews‬

a lesson in humility. and a reminder.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz might call the first part of this post my “backstory.”

~ I’m a firstborn and an ISTP (67%) / ISTJ (33%) who’s worked with IT personnel (mostly guys) for decades. My instinctive approach is always content over context. Logic over feelings. I’d say that about 90% of the time, I have a male gender communication style; Report talk over rapport talk. I read instruction books and follow procedures – unless of course, the reasoning behind the procedures isn’t logical, which stems from my content over context approach.

~ Pragmatic is my favorite word. The definition that most resonates with me is:

“focused on needs and results, rather than with ideas or theories”

~ I’m a trainer. I’m always learning and I sincerely believe I can learn from everyone, whether I benchmark successes or analyze failures – including my own. As an educator, I have the opportunity and responsibility to share what I’ve learned. Theoretically, the people with whom I share will make more informed decisions, increase efficiency and generally be better as a result of the knowing.

~ As a consultant, I’ve become accustomed to collaborative work groups made up of people who are task oriented and focused on problem solving.

~ Since 1994, I’ve trained and consulted for and with clients ranging from corporation presidents to managing partners to firm administrators to executive support staff to entry level support staff to volunteers. I interact with all of my clients showing the same level of respect, regardless of the formal or informal hierarchical structure of an organization.

That’s my backstory in a nutshell.

So, given all that is me, I found myself in unfamiliar territory when someone recently told me that I had overstepped a boundary.

A little over a year ago, I was working an event and just before the program officially began, this particular person gave some opening instructions. A particular part of the instructions was incorrect.

My thought process was:
1. 300+ people were just given incorrect instructions about the event.
2. The event hasn’t started yet.

So, the firstborn, ISTP/J, problem-solving educator in me gave this person the correct information.
The instructions were restated accurately.
The program began.

But I had overstepped a boundary. And for over a year, I had no idea.

Now that this had been shared with me, I could have gotten swept up into a circular debate about whether the 300+ people needed or deserved to know the correct information before the event began. But I firmly believe the Holy Spirit stopped me from that pointless and selfish attempt to be “right” and redirected my attention to the more important issue, past the factual actions which took place and instead to the person who identified a boundary where I did not.

If God was telling me that the boundary had nothing to do with the accuracy or inaccuracy of information shared, what was the implication of my crossing it?

This person felt disrespected by me. It’s possible I embarrassed them.

It was a humble reminder that my education and experience don’t automatically translate to success in my personal interactions. I’ve got a degree in Organizational Communication. I’ve taught and coached communication theory and its application for decades. I had been involved with this organization for over a decade. I was experienced and familiar with its culture and hierarchy of authority. Yet it didn’t even occur to me that correcting this person might be at odds with the norm. Looking back now, through their perspective, within the context of the organizational culture, I can see it clearly.

hindsight.

Pride and HumilityI’ve been in identical and similar events, in other venues, with different groups of people – in different cultural contexts – and the kind of interaction I’ve described has never been a big deal, even in cases when the person corrected has been upper level management or an owner of a company. In my own personal experience, the person corrected – myself included – has casually tossed back a kind of “thanks for having my back” response and has continued without skipping a beat.

“In my own personal experience…”

That’s what makes communication so difficult. It’s not one-size-fits all.

Although I was familiar with both the culture of this particular organization and the expectation of this particular individual, I drifted into my communication comfort zone. I assumed the situation was similar to the others in which I navigate.

From that assumption, came the perceived disrespect.

And the humbling reminder to actually USE my communication skills.

UPDATE: Someone asked in a comment what I SHOULD have done instead. Here’s my answer:

The person who told me I had crossed a boundary actually specifically stated what they would have preferred:
(1) to be told the correct information after the event,
(2) in private,
(3) and to be told by the person who organized the event (not me) so that,
(4) in future events, they would relay the information to the attendees correctly.

I acted instinctively, not intentionally. Although it goes against all that is pragmatic in me, I could have – should have – allowed the incorrect information to go uncorrected. It would have resulted in decreased participation in the event, which would have disappointed a number of people who had expected to be able to participate and it would have made the event less memorable. Not a tragedy, just not an optimal experience for those of the 300+ who were able to actively engaged because they had been given accurate instructions.

All that said, in full disclosure, just one month after this conversation, my husband and I attended a large meeting at another venue and while the organization’s founder and president was addressing the audience, he misstated some information. Immediately, he was interrupted from the back of the room and corrected. His response was “Thank you for that correction.” And I leaned over to FirstHusband and whispered, “And THAT’S how it’s done.”