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Virtual reality. Don’t try this at home kids.

A few weeks back friends were visiting and we all decided to give a virtual reality game a whirl. The game in question takes you to the top of a 100-story building where you walk out on a plank and “jump” to your doom.

The ” ” are the key there—as you’re not really supposed to jump.

Guess someone forgot. The result, sadly, was a set of lovely knee braces (which do not come in your choice of stylish color options).

Such a sporty look!

As I’ve been recuperating from my “exuberance” over the past few weeks, I’ve had time to ponder virtual reality. It is truly amazing to me that even though one part of my brain processed “you are wearing ridiculous goggles and standing on the floor,” another part said “jump at the end of this gangplank.” How did a cheapy VR tool, that wasn’t very realistic, trick my brain like that?

You can find some good insights here which I am considering at my leisure.

Virtual reality has lots of amazing uses—check out this article for an overview of everything from treating anxiety to training doctors–and I appreciate its value as both a tool and a fun way to play a game or experience an alternate reality.

A good friend just sent me a link about how virtual reality might help deal with my pain. There’s a certain irony there but, hey, it might work! Now, where are those goggles?

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Sex trafficking in Madison—a reality we can no longer ignore

Did you know that each and every day more than 200 children, teens, women and men are trafficked right here in the city of Madison?

That’s a number that’s pretty hard to fathom. And one I would have found hard to believe just a few months ago. But that’s before I met Det. Roger Baker of the Madison police department.

Baker is a member of the Dane County Coordinated Community Response Team for Human Trafficking and specializes in cases involving human trafficking and missing exploited children. Det. Baker was a vital resource to me, and a group of women from my church, Our Lady Queen of Peace, when we decided to host an educational event on sex trafficking. Thanks to Det. Baker we were able to connect with exceptional resources including:

  • Tyler Schueffner, coordinator of the Briarpatch Street Outreach Program
  • Tracy Scheffler, the founder of 5-Stones Beaver Dam, a group that helps to educate youth and adults on trafficking. 
  • McKenzie, peer specialist and victim advocate at Project Respect who shared her personal experiences as a trafficking survivor. 

During the event we learned about the underground nature of trafficking today—there isn’t a “red light district” per se because recruiting and sales are occurring online and on social media. We also learned what traffickers look for in their victims. Runaways are particularly vulnerable, but kids hanging out alone at bus stops and malls who seem lonely or angry are also likely targets. And a distressing level of trafficking occurs through peers. Our speakers also shared signs that could indicate someone is being trafficked: for a list, please visit the Polaris website.

I’m heartened by the number of concerned citizens who joined us and the variety of non-profits who were on hand to share information and provide opportunities to volunteer (more on that below). Det. Baker stressed how critical it is to build coalitions: trafficking is a huge problem that no one entity can tackle on its own. 

One person at the event, pointed out something that made us all stop and think:
That for each attendee in that room, there was a person being trafficked that night. Right here in Madison.

This is a reality we all need to be aware of and one that’s not going away without a lot more education and effort. 

 

If you see something, say something.

Call 9-1-1

Or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888

For victim assistance, call Project Respect at 283-6435, ext. 14

A big “thank you” to the speakers and organizations who made our event possible. 

And another big “thank you” to Hannah Anderson for sharing our story on NBC15 (you’ll have to click through–I fear I couldn’t get the video to load). 

 

Don’t miss SlaveFree Madison’s upcoming film series. Complete details on their calendar.  

 

Want to learn more or looking for ways to get involved? These local groups would love to hear from you

Bigbighouse

Briarpatch

Every Daughter

5-Stones

Lutheran Office for Public Policy in WI

Multi-Faith Coalition Against Child Sex

Project Respect

Sinsinawa Dominicans Against Human Trafficking

Slave-Free Madison

Zeteo Community

 

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I won at Christmas Movie Bingo
Friday, November 30, 2018

I won at Christmas Movie Bingo

Ok, I don’t mean to brag, but I recently dusted the competition in a spirited game of Christmas Movie Bingo (more on the rules below—you’re dying to know, right?).

Like apparently millions of other across this great nation (who have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime or the Hallmark Channel), my family and I have embraced the much maligned film genre of Christmas movies. Sure, they’re cheesy. Sure you can figure out the plot in about five seconds. And, sure, it’s 90 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

But Christmas movies are also lots of fun. And, guess what? This year you’ll have more options than ever before if this is the way you like to spend a Friday night.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, The Hallmark Channel knows exactly what we love to click on and is releasing 22 new Christmas Movies on that channel, plus 15 on their Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel this year alone (I don’t get those channels but am hopeful they’ll cross over to my streaming services in the future).

And Netflix has wisely created a sequel to last year’s runaway hit, A Christmas Prince. (Apparently Netflix tracked viewership and found 53 viewers watched the movie every day for two weeks—who are these people?!?). The cleverly named, A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding comes out today. But I’ve already promised my far-flung children to wait for their holiday arrival to watch it. I promise not to have an unfair advantage for that movie’s bingo game! 

 

What’s the appeal? Christmas movies are basically the comfort food of TV: the whole family can watch them together and you can count on a happy ending (which is, of course, an appealing alternative to the news headlines).

So, go ahead. Put aside the cynicism, pop some corn and gather your loved ones near. 

Rules for Movie Bingo

  1. Select cheesy movie
  2. Watch 10 minutes and pause.
  3. Have each participant choose eight items they believe will happen in the movie and use these to create your bingo card (see sample below)
  4. First person to fill their card wins!

(And only some of the above card got me the win in The Princess Switch so don’t cheat and use my guesses).

 

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What do libraries mean to YOU?
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What do libraries mean to YOU?

I recently started reading Susan Orleans’ latest, The Library Book. Her memories of the power the library had for her as a child—as a place where she first experienced autonomy and could delight in both a free treat and special time with her mother—got me thinking back to my own childhood library experiences.

Like Orleans, I grew up in a house where there wasn’t a lot of money to buy books—the times when we could order something from the Scholastic school book order were thrilling indeed! But my mother always made sure we had books to read and if memory serves she was on a first name basis with all of the children’s librarians.

Orleans was in Madison last week, thanks to the Madison Public Library and an incredibly generous bequest from a local library lover, Helen Matheson Rupp. Her amazing $3.4 million donation to the library made our evening with Orleans possible (including—hooray!—a copy of the book) and recently funded improvements to a local library and a librarian to oversee their teen section.

As expected, Orleans was funny and smart and her book—which chronicles the Los Angeles central library, the destructive fire of 1986 that provides the story’s framework and all things library in general—is quite fascinating.

If you haven’t stopped by a library of late, put it off no longer! The “shh, quiet” atmosphere of my childhood has largely been replaced by a busy feeling of community, but the sense of wide-ranging possibility that only a book can offer remains. Enjoy!

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This week’s sign that all is sort of right in the world

Has it been a scary week in the world of international news—or is the planet still largely spinning on its axis? You might rely on things like NPR, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (or, more globally, the BBC) for your answer. I like to rely on People magazine.

Wait, wait, hear me out (and don’t judge that a subscription is actually delivered to my home each and every Thursday—I’m taking advantage of credit card airline miles and will fully confess that it makes a nice addition to my lunch!).

Because I actually do experience a little moment of “ahhh” when the cover story is the Royal Family. I mean, sure, there were plenty of things that went wrong this week (the impending hurricane, tariff worries, flooding are just a few), but if how Meghan is handling the pressures of royal life makes the cut for “biggish news,” things are sort of alright.

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I want to be Grandma Eileen when I’m 100 (or 101)

One of my daughters just introduced me to Grandma Eileen. 

This lovely, feisty 100 (or I guess she’s 100 by now) year-old woman is just wonderful (as long as you don’t ask her the secret to living to be 100 or 101 years old). I won’t even attempt to tell you about her as she does such a lovely job all by herself.

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The hit remake of a song you didn’t know needed a remake

Where were you in the summer of 1983? I was an about-to-be college senior, enjoying one last  burst of freedom before heading into the stress of finding a job and figuring out what post-college life was all about. And, I just learned, 1983 was also the summer the band Toto had a big hit with the song Africa. I remember it as one of those ear worm songs that everyone knew but didn’t particularly like (though considering that it was a #1 hit for the band, I guess someone did).

I was a bit bemused to open this morning’s paper and see this song is currently enjoying a second life thanks to Weezer, a band that’s typically occupied a fringe position in popular music (and whose song, Feels like Summer, was a favorite around our house last year). But, surprise, surprise, their remake version is now #8 on the “adult Top 40 radio stations with a bigger audience” (which is quite a long and specific way to describe a station). Who knew?

Apparently the boys in Toto are just as bemused as I and confirm the song was  a bit of nonsense whose success took them all off guard. (And for more on Weezer’s embrace of all things Toto and the overall embrace of all things ’80s, check out this delightful article on Esquire).

Here’s a little something to kick your day off, whether it also creates a trip down memory lane or not. Enjoy.

 

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Movin’ Shoes does it again
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Movin’ Shoes does it again

 

Back in 2017, I wrote a post about how much I hate to shop and my reluctant trip to Movin’ Shoes after failed attempts to buy shoes online.

I still hate to actually go into a store—though recently had the ah-ha moment that I could get an item the very same day if I did! (Amazon would be so pleased to know the impact they’ve had on my buying choices—though, I guess they already do). But after last year’s positive experience decided that I must return to a physical shoe store. 

Just here to say that the team at Movin’ Shoes continues to be amazing. I have especially enjoyed working with Tim–who even remembered me after more than a year. We’ll chalk that up to his amazing memory and customer-first focus, instead of the fact that it took a lot of time and energy to find a pair of shoes that worked for me (I fear my picture might be on a wall somewhere, sort of like the “don’t take checks from this person” warnings of pre-Internet). 

Hope to enjoy my new shoes later today and thanks for the great service and products!

 

 

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Musings on a hot summer day
Friday, July 13, 2018

Musings on a hot summer day

I’m not going to complain about the sultry weather as I have a strict “I can only complain about one season” policy (and, in case you’re not sure, it’s WINTER), but I will say that I finally relented (for today) and turned on my air. It hasn’t quite hit my second-floor office yet, but hope springs eternal.

Here, in no particular order, are a few things I’ve been thinking about this week.

The rescue of the Thai soccer team. I’m thrilled all the boys and their coach were rescued safely, but’s let not forget the sacrifice of the one man who didn’t make it home: Saman Kunan. I can’t find an image that isn’t subject to copyright, but here’s a tribute posted by his wife that’s heartbreakingly poignant. 

The end of the middle child. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the reality that if most families are having two (or fewer) children, that means there will soon be no more middles. Sure, they’ve been the eternal punching bag (ala Jan Brady), but did you know, for instance, that there have actually been more U.S. presidents who were middles, than oldests (the common stereotype which was likely perpetuated because—another fun fact–many of these were originally counted as “oldest” because they were second to a sister, who, of course!, didn’t count). I’m an oldest myself, but have a lovely middle child and am married to another lovely middle so I’d hate to see middles go the way of the passenger pigeon. Check out the story here. 

Middle school literature. Have you ever noticed that there are quite a few delightful books aimed at the age 12-ish crowd? (And I am not talking about you The Hunger Games, though I admit to having read the entire series).

My most recent middle school read: She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. It’s about a Beatles-obsessed girl struggling to find her way in the wake of a best friend’s discovery of the cool kids and I thought it was just delightful. Of course, it might be because I’m not a middle school girl and no longer share an address with any (i.e., not watching that kind of angst close up undoubtedly made it easier to read about), but check it out and see for yourself.

The reality that big ugly tennis shoes are apparently in. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that big ugly tennis shoes are only in if you’re 20 and look like Karlie Kloss, but maybe I need to dig out the lovely orthopedic shoes from a few years back (it was following a foot injury, not a fashion statement) and see what happens. 

Some how I don’t think these are going to net me a lot of compliments.

The beauty of cold treats. This requires no explanation, but let me put in a plug for these delicious things: 

 

Keep cool and have a great weekend!

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Building a table with Ryan Gosling
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Building a table with Ryan Gosling

Ok, I’m just kidding (and apologies if you were all excited about the possibility that RG and I had bonded over the wood glue). But the guy who recently sold me the wood to build a table did have a certain Gosling nonchalance so he’s become “Ryan” in my mind (actual name: Marty).

Marty was one of the very nice employees of Heritage Timber who kindly moved approximately three tons of lumber (and I’m not kidding) to help my husband and me find the perfect boards to build our daughter a table. I would have expected Marty and his co-worker Thomas to be put out by having to move wobbly towers of old barn remnants via forklift, but they were both friendly and cheerful and assured us this was just another day at the lumber yard for them. 


One of the many towering stacks that Marty kindly moved.

Thomas and Marty hard at work. 

A perfect day to polyurethane…again and again and again.

Ta-da!

I felt a bit like Chip and Joanna Gaines as we repurposed old barns and embraced the chance to build something with our own two hands (though I must confess that “my own two hands” only wielded the debit card to buy the wood and the brush to apply the polyurethane).  Certainly beats an Ikea table and comes with a full set of memories to boot!

 

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Knowledge junkie. Raconteur.

Vicky Franchino

I love to learn about new things. And I love to tell a good story. Let’s get together and tell yours!

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