Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vote now! FUND$TER in the Global Startup Battle

I need your help.

Our start up FUND$TER from Santa Barbara Startup Weekend is competing in the Global Startup Battle. 

Would you vote for me?

Reasons to vote:
1. You gave birth to me or we're in some way related. 

2. We went to school together, we've worked together or we've dated(!) and if i win you can have bragging rights that you know me.

3. You still owe money on your student loans.

4. You have no idea how you're going to afford your kids' college.

5. I voted for something for you or your kids at some point.

6. You have ever had a conversation about the lack of women tech entrepreneurs.

7. You drink Coke. (They are sponsoring the competition.)

8. You think there should be an option for funding college besides student loans and your parents.

9. You need a distraction from your family over Thanksgiving and you can use this as an excuse.

You can vote every 24 hours until December 6th! Please help us make it to the finals!

And please share...thank you :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our village

This past weekend, I had one of those not-so-proud parenting days. Sunday, we were helping support a luncheon at church, and shortly before it started, we realized that we had not planned for what to do with our kiddos. It wasn't a catastrophe, but it is unusual that we don't have everything planned out...with 6 kids, you really need to have a knack for logistics. John and I had a moment where we looked at each other Sunday morning and thought, "oh crap." A few moments later, we mentioned our oversight to one of our friends, who volunteered to add our kids to the "daddy day care" that had been planned while we were hosting the luncheon. We had 4/6 of our kids, and after a brief call to confirm, we walked them over to spend the next few hours with two amazingly accommodating friends. As we walked back to the event, we felt terrible...we had basically just invited our kids over to our friend's house and dropped them off on a moment's notice.

During the luncheon, we were prompted to share with the others at our tables something that we are grateful for. When I thought about it, in that moment, I realized that I haven't really had a support network quite like this before, friends who are not just my friends, but who have our back, friends who would welcome our crew into their fold without question - even better, with a smile. And so, that evening, when our teenager's ride from youth group to a birthday party fell through, these same friends took her home to wait for us to shuttle her between social engagements, and sent her off to us with dinner to go.

This is new, this feeling of community. Here we are, on the west coast with no extended family to lean
Not bad for a village ;)
on, with a big herd of kids and both of us working full time. We are busy, BUSY, but we do well with figuring out schedules and making sure that everyone can make it to writing club and soccer and play practice and we can still eat dinner together as a family every night. There have been more than a few days that I wonder how we do it, but in general, we work together as a team and get stuff done. Yes, it sometimes takes weeks to get to a minor home improvement, and no, our house is not spotless. But everyone is clean, fed and happy, and we have, by and large, done it on our own.

This weekend showed me that we don't have to do it on our own, that it's not a failure to lean on our friends, just as we have always welcomed others leaning on us. In fact, it's great to have our kids know that there is a network of loving adults who all think they are awesome and on whom our kids can depend if needed. It is amazing to see how, in just over a year, we have started to create a new village, an extended family of choice, that we can turn to on our not-so-proud parenting days and who can depend on us right back.

We have a west coast village now, with elders and parents and kiddos and it is wonderful. In November, this month of gratitude, I am so grateful for our village and for this feeling of knowing we are not alone. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Immersed in fear: a study in design

This weekend, I took John on an early birthday date to Knott's Scary Farm. If you haven't been, imagine an entire amusement park transformed into a macabre scare fest, where you can't even walk from one destination to the next without something jumping out at you. All in all, we went through 11 haunted houses/mazes, saw a couple creepy shows, and even snuck in a roller coaster ride. We literally spent 6 hours surrounded by fog and freaks, screaming and laughing the whole time.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect before we went, but coming out of the experience, I couldn't help but apply my designer lens on what it was like to be scared for hours on end, and how it changed my behavior and thinking.

From the moment that you passed the ticketing gate, the experience began. Frightening characters accosted you as you tried to orient yourself, snapping some sort of clicking contraption so close to your face it was a wonder they never actually touched you. It was dark, the fog machines were in high gear, but you could still see the creepy people intermingled with the crowd, and just as you thought you had safely passed them, they would jump out at you or target you for spooking. If you showed weakness, screaming or otherwise obviously reacting, they would continue coming after you, and often others would join them. There was more than one occasion when we'd see a patron cornered, cowering, surrounded by spooks. It was unnerving, yet exhilarating, trying to face your own startle reflex and forgotten nightmares.

The haunted houses and mazes were worse, of course. Not just because of the closed in walls with creepers hiding behind curtains and in corners, and not only because the clicking in your face and the jumping out was was worse because you knew they were there, you knew what was going to happen, and it STILL made you scream.

And not just scream, but laugh...laugh because while you were scared to death, it was mixed with the
Photo credit:
relief of knowing that even as that killer clown was LITERALLY breathing down your neck as he followed you from room to room, you were safe knowing they couldn't actually touch you. We went through haunted maze after haunted ride after haunted house because we wanted to be scared but we knew there was no real danger, and that gave us the freedom to feel the fear and work through it.  We could laugh at the folly of our screams and yelps, knowing it wasn't really a vampires' lair or a BBQ joint where the sandwiches were made out can probably guess.

Even as we walked through paths between attractions, our radars were on high alert. We learned that certain scenarios increased your likelihood for an "attack"...particularly if you looked directly at them. Or if you were completely engrossed in something, like looking at a map (thanks, corpse bride, for smacking that out of my hands...good one. I was just trying to find the next maze...). Three hours in, we had seen enough other people attract the unwanted attention of the creepies and made enough of our own errors that we finally were able to make through a path (mostly) without being attacked, only to turn a corner to walk down a completely fog-filled path, where you could barely see the person in front of you, and no more. Surrounded by mist, we were vulnerable again, waiting for something bad to happen...but it didn't. It didn't even matter; after hours of raw fear, just walking through fog was terrorizing.

I relied on John to help buffer my fear, to assure me that if I was going down, it wouldn't be alone. While strangers would give you up or run away when the ghouls attacked, couples and friends physically clung to each other for support, screaming and laughing together.

This is what immersive design should do...elicit the emotions of a real event and challenge you to react and adapt appropriately, but give you the freedom to experiment and practice and fail and succeed and see what happens in all of those situations. Yes, we all would hope that we wouldn't be trapped in a post-apocalyptic gaming arena a la Mad Max's Thunderdome...but if we found ourselves there, there's a certain simulated arena in Knott's Scary Farm where we could practice.

I've never been scared for six hours straight. And I can't remember having so much fun.