On the #RedSoxTweetup: A Day for Champions, in Boston, MA

Yesterday, my husband and I braved the cold and damp to take the kids in to Fenway Park, for the very first @RedSox TweetUp. The pre-game event was originally scheduled to take place in the area on the right field Bud Deck. The location was moved to The Bleacher Bar, on Lansdowne Street, because of the rainy forecast. Despite the weather, the event was very well-attended and lots of fun.

 First-Ever Red Sox TweetUp

We were really pleased that both The Bleacher Bar and the Boston Red Sox were so accommodating about kids…The “Bleacher Fries,” topped with salsa, cheese, & jalapenos, were a big hit with the entire family (pun unintended), 🙂 and the service was great.

There was also a guest appearance, by Wally the Green Monster–the official mascot for the Boston Red Sox. Autographed giveaways and ticket upgrades kept things interesting. So, too, did appearances by Red Sox reporter Heidi Watney, from the New England Sports Network (NESN).

Despite the overcast weather, spirits at Fenway Park remained high throughout the match-up, between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Though our TweetUp tickets (for just $30.00 each) were for Standing Room Only, I was happy to discover we had a great view of the game, behind first base, as well as an overhang above us, which protected us from any occasional drizzle.

Former MA Governor Paul Celluci: A Real Champion

For me, probably the most poignant part of the evening came pre-game, when former Governor Paul Cellucci, took to the field to raise money for ALS research. He was accompanied by past political colleagues, as well as UMass neurologist, Dr. Robert H. Brown Jr., and the medical school’s Chancellor, Dr. Michael F. Collins.

Celluci, who has been diagnosed with ALS (often called  Lou Gehrig’s disease), announced the UMass ALS Champion Fund, which aims to raise millions in support of ALS research, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. (For more information, you can also join the fight on Facebook or Twitter.)

Earlier, MA Gov. Deval Patrick had honored Celluci’s initiative, declaring Thursday as “Paul Cellucci/ALS Champion Day” in Massachusetts, while Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had declared the day, as “Champion Day” in Boston.

The Newest Fenway Tweep

At one point before the game, the usher saw us struggling to photograph the entire family. She thoughtfully offered to take the picture. Almost amazingly, the kids all cooperated and no one blinked their eyes—leaving us with a snapshot souvenir of our young family together at Fenway Park—a moment preserved in time, which we’ll always remember.

Another snapshot souvenoir involves my son, who btw, was the life of the post-TweetUp party, among a group of friendly Fenway Tweeps. We’re still grateful to them, for making so much of our chatty little boy, during what for him was a very exciting time.

My son will never forget his first Red Sox game (we don’t count the one from when he was too young to remember). It was a fitting close for him and for us, when the Red Sox walked it off again, in a 4-3 victory.

This post is part of my ongoing Social Media for Good series.

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Trends in Technical Communication: Web Content Accessibility (Part II)

Through the mobile web, overlapping best practices for web content accessibility are about to go prime time. (See Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web: Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices).

To prepare, I’ve been reacquainting myself with my treasured copy of Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works, by Janice (Ginny) Redish. There, you’ll find in my opinion, what’s probably one of, if not the best books available, on writing online.

Tips for Writing Accessible Web Content

Throughout her book, Redish sprinkles generous tips on web content accessibility. Here are just a few:

Let people choose their own text size (p. 148). Provide buttons on the web page to remind site visitors that they can adjust the size.

Make illustrations accessible, with meaningful alt text (p. 305). To develop helpful alt text, Redish suggests following the World Wide Web Consortium’s advice, imagining that you are reading the web page aloud, over the telephone. Ask yourself: “What would you say about the image to make your listener understand it? (From www.w3.org).

Mark headings with the proper HTML tags (p. 237). Those using screen-readers want to scan web pages, just as sighted visitors do, Redish explains. If the headings are properly tagged, your blind web users can “scan with their ears,” (p. 320), by jumping from heading to heading.

Start headings with a key word (p. 247). Those who are listening to screen-readers scan only the first few words, in each heading. Make sure to include your keywords, at the beginning.

Write meaningful links (p. 318.) Click here and More links are useless to web visitors who are listening via screen-readers. Instead, Redish suggests rewriting these links to specify what visitors will get “more” of” and to use more informative words, as the link.

Tips for Formatting Accessible Web Content

Meanwhile, the January issue of Intercom–the Magazine of the Society for Technical Communication–provides detailed tips on making your web content’s formatting more accessible.

Properly tagging web content helps blind visitors using screen-readers and other forms of assistive technology to skim your site. It also helps make your document more accessible because anyone who cannot read your document can reformat it, by importing a new template, or editing the styles in your document, until each has a format they find readable (pp. 13-14).

According to STC’s Cliff Tyllick (@clifftyll) on Twitter, here are ways to take control of your text:

  • Use heading styles.
  • Use styles—or at least automated formats—to create lists.
  • Use styles to control paragraph formatting.
  • Use styles to control special character formatting.
  • Insert tables—do not draw them.
  • Use tables to display data, never simply to position content.
  • When you use informative illustrations, position them in line with text.
  • Associate alternative text with each informative illustration.

Additional Resources

For more information on writing for the web, check out Ginny Redish’s excellent slide presentation (PDF link follows): Letting Go of the Words- Content as Conversation.

For a clearinghouse of information on web content accessibility, I also highly recommend STC’s AccessAbility SIG (@stcaccess on Twitter), by STC SIG manager Karen Mardahl (@kmdk on Twitter). In Jan.’s Intercom issue about accessibility, Karen wrote a great article on “Captioning Videos on YouTube.”

If you know of other resources, please feel free to add them to the growing list of Web Content Accessibility resources, which appeared in my last post. Thanks to folks for suggestions so far, including these resources: WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind, WebAxe: Podcast and Blog on Practical Web Design Accessibility Tips, and the IBM Developer Accessibility Guidelines.

I’ll make sure to add these and any other suggested resources to the final list.

Please also feel free to add your best accessibility tips, in the comments. I’m still very much learning and am grateful for your help and recommendations.

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Trends in Technical Communication: Web Content Accessibility (Part I)

In January, Intercom–the magazine for the Society for Technical Communication—provided an excellent issue on all things web content accessibility, including articles on “Accessibility 101 for Technical Writers,” “Captioning Videos on YouTube,”and an “Alternative to Universal Design in Mainstream Video Games.”

Minor Accommodations, Major Impact

The article made me recall a few contracts back, when I was working as a technical writer, in a government setting. For the first time in my fifteen-year career, due to government mandates, an accessibility check was a required part of the documentation’s production process.

At the time, I remember being surprised at how relatively painless most of the accessibility guidelines were to implement—simple changes at the markup level, including alt tags, page titles, headings, and lists, which were only time-consuming if they had to be revised globally, as opposed to correctly implementing them the first time.

For print documents, I implemented these additional accessibility guidelines: providing alt text for embedded images, making sure to include an alternative format (.txt, .doc, or .xsl) for PDFs, keeping file sizes down to less than 5 megabytes, and adding electronic titles to Microsoft Office documents.

Whether for print or online documentation, I learned the cardinal rule of accessibility: Content needs structure.

Optimizing our Process

Some of the accessibility principles were not so straightforward, especially structuring content. However, information design is part of many technical writers’ standard practice. Others were not difficult to incorporate into my writing routine, once they had been pointed out to me.

Given how much of an impact these relatively minor accommodations can make for a more accessible Web–and how a simple style sheet could remind writers to more seamlessly incorporate many accessibility best practices across their content–it seems almost impossible to me, that this government contract was one of the few times I have formally encountered best practices for web content accessibility.

Convergence: Web Content Accessibility and the Mobile Web

With the rise of the mobile web, we may finally see more mainstream settings start addressing accessibility. As it turns out, what’s good for designing for people with disabilities is also good for designing mobile content. (For more on these best practices and for resources on web content accessibility, stay on the lookout next week, for Part II of this post.)

Questions and a Call to Action

In the meantime, for technical writers especially, how much has web content accessibility been a part of your job? How does accessibility apply to user assistance and structured authoring?

And I’d like to conclude here, with a call to action mainly to myself, to do a better job incorporating alt tags for the images, in my blog posts, especially the retroactive ones, where I wasn’t following the practice. In the end, accessibility is about taking the time to do the little things–many times also the right things (both for our disabled users, and in the case of mobile content, our bottom lines)–consistently.

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Polar Plunge 2011: Bold in the Cold

This post is part of my ongoing Live with Abundance: Social Media for Good series.

This weekend, my kids and I participated in the fifth annual Polar Plunge. Originally scheduled for Super Bowl Sunday, the event was rescheduled this year, due to icy waters and limited parking, caused by the severe weather conditions this winter.

According to event organizers, the ocean today was only a couple degrees warmer than it would have been in January. Still, I think we all lucked out *a lot*, considering the beautiful, sunny day had a Winter is done, Spring is finally here feeling. You know the kind of day, especially if you live in New England. That first early Spring day, when you feel all the promise of the best six months of the year in front of you, and when winter just falls off of your spirit, as easily as you slip out of that bulky nuisance of a coat.

Well, it wasn’t *that* warm actually–my legs turned red–like I’d been scalded–when I emerged from the frigid water. And my little boy–a bit shocked from his dunk–looks at me now, with a slightly betrayed look in his eyes…but still! 🙂 the kids and I all had a blast.

My little boy will feel more cause for celebrating, when at assembly tomorrow, he sees the event trophy his school won for the second year in a row, raising money for the North Shore Community Development Coalition.

I really feel very proud, to be part of the closeness of the Salem and Beverly communities, where so many turn out each year to plunge in such cold conditions, to support affordable housing and a local homeless shelter.

To make a donation

Donations can be made at www.polarplunge.dojiggy.com.

For more information

Contact the North Shore Community Development Coalition at 978-825-4016 or polarplunge@northshorecdc.org.

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Social Media: 18th Century & Today (Recap of Friends of Minuteman National Historical Park Talk, Winter Series)

This post is part of my ongoing Live with Abundance: Social Media for Good series

Over the weekend, I spoke on  “Social Media: 18th Century & Today,” as part of the Winter Lecture series, sponsored by the Friends of Minuteman National Historical Park, in Lexington MA. My topic was on how similar the 18th century New England tavern was to the role social media plays today, as a communications tool.

The New England Tavern as Liquid Network

In the presentation slides below, I describe the New England tavern as a liquid network, similar in purpose to the London coffeehouse, which in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson credits as responsible for the dynamic environment and public exchange, which brought on the 17th century Enlightenment.

In the case of the 18th century New England tavern,  I describe how a very similar, liquid network fostered the ultimate American innovation–the birth of a new nation.

The New England Tavern, Storytelling, and the Public Sphere

I go on to discuss how the New England tavern strengthened what in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Clay Shirky calls  “the public sphere,” and was in this sense, similar in purpose to social media today.

I tie in how important the art of storytelling–known as conversation– has always been to engagement in the public sphere.

The Other Side of Social Media

I include examples of how social media fueled the recent Egyptian Revolution. I reflect on how the same tools that can be used for the common good, can just as effectively be used to oppress, mislead, and spy (see Alexander Howard’s Are the Internet and Social Media ‘Tools of Freedom’ or ‘Tools of Oppression?’ ).

I provide links from this blog, on how to stay safe online.

The Political Power of Social Media

Based on the role the New England tavern served in U.S. revolutionary times, I agree with Clay Shirky’s recent analysis,  “The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change.”

There, Shirky asserts that when it comes to political change, access to conversation is more important than access to information, and that the best way to advance democratic ideals is to long-term “secure the freedom of personal and social communication, closely followed by securing individual citizens’ ability to speak in public.”

Thanks to the Friends of Minuteman

Many thanks to the Friends of Minuteman for sponsoring the talk. The opportunity helped crystallize my thoughts on social media and reinforce for me, the many ways that social media is so much bigger than our individual interests.

Your Turn?

Importantly, the talk raises for me, more questions than answers–questions that ultimately we must continue to solve together, in the public sphere.

In the comments, I’d be very interested in your thoughts. What do you think about Alex Howard’s question, “Are the Internet and Social Media ‘Tools of Freedom’ or ‘Tools of Oppression?'” or Clay Shirky’s assertion that for political change, access to conversation is more important than access to information?

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Please Support St. Jude’s Thanks and Giving Campaign…

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and St. Jude’s annual Thanks and Giving Campaign is the cause closest to my heart.

Give thanks for the healthy kids in your life, and if you can, please give to those who are not.

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Celebrating the Freedom to Connect

I’ve heard a lot about the social media revolution, this last year since I’ve been engaging in the blogosphere, and on Twitter. As the daughter of an American Revolutionary War historian—and living not far from Lexington and Concord, Ma—I have more of an appreciation and familiarity with revolutionary themes than most.

I still view Minuteman National Historical Park in Concord, MA, with the fondness of a childhood playground, as we often visited my Park Ranger father there, at work.

I remember especially well my parents waking up my brother and myself, in the middle of the night, on the eve of the American Bicentennial…I remember the crowds, the uniforms, the parades…I remember being dressed up as a young colonial, and the many snapshots of me that were taken that day—snapshots of “little Betsy Ross,” as one woman, visiting from France, happened to call me, in her lovely accented voice. Those snapshots are now possibly tucked away in dusty photo albums across the world—a time capsule of a shared American experience that still resonates for me, and for so many others in New England and beyond, when we come together each April to recall “the shot heard round the world.” Most of all, though I was only a child, I still remember the electric connection that I felt with everyone else that day who shared in our national celebration.

Minuteman Statue, April 19, 2010

This year, as we have on a few previous years, I wanted to share with my own kids the ideals, events, and sacrifice that we remember each year, on April 19th. We woke up about 4:00 a.m., and somehow found our way to what seemed like the only available parking spot in Lexington, MA. We watched the sunrise reenactment on Lexington Green, took a tour of Buckman Tavern, enjoyed a hearty pancake breakfast (sponsored by the Boy Scouts at the Church of St. Brigid’s), and attended a memorial service, at the grave of an unknown British soldier.

Then, we headed on over to down-town Concord, successfully navigating the many blocked roads, and again luckily finding parking. The highlight of the day, especially for my five-year-old son, was catching the stirring parade, full of Minutemen militia, British Redcoats, and all manner of honorable characters, who were returning from the Old North Bridge. We rounded out our day, with a visit to the Minuteman Statue, with my kids proudly being photographed there (as their childhood Mom had before them), only too happy to show off their recently acquired tricornered hats.

Welcome to the Social Media Revolution

So, what does this post have to do with social media? Why, everything, I think.

In the forward to Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah’s Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs, David Meerman Scott, bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, describes the nature of the social media revolution:

We’re living a revolution in the way people communicate. How did a relatively unknown, young, single-term senator with funny ears and a funnier name get elected President of the United States? Simple: He and his team understood the revolution and harnessed the power of the Web to communicate effectively with the masses… We’re living in a revolution in the way people find products and choose companies to do business with…We’re living a revolution where the companies that attract our attention are not the ones with big budgets and glitzy TV ads. Now we pay attention to the ones with great Web content…Inbound marketing is at the forefront of the revolution
(p. x111).

Radical or Revolutionary?

Minutemen Militia, Concord, MA

In the spirit of April 19th, here are thoughts on social media and democracy. Radical or revolutionary? You decide:

  • “When we change the way we communicate, we change society. Clay Shirky
  • “Social media is the democratization of information and the equalization of influence. Monologue gave way to dialogue and we the people ensured that our voices were not only heard, but felt.” Brian Solis
  • Groundswell: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li
  • “Companies are in the midst of a social revolution–specifically, one being led by their customers and employees. The question becomes how do companies deal with it, but more importantly, how do they tap into the energy of potentially disruptive radicals and channel them into being revolutionaries who can lead positive, lasting change?” Charlene Li
  • “By requiring very little from each individual, the Web has made itself one of the most democratic tools for activism in history. Because we have access to so much right in front of us, we can help spread a message to thousands of people at once with only a click. We can donate a small amount of time or money and, with the help of a few thousand other people, dramatically impact politics or entertainment. We can make our views known more quickly, and with less effort, than ever before.” Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
  • “The freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly in cyber space.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

This post is part of my ongoing Live with Abundance: Social Media for Good series.

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Data Privacy Day: 4 Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

This Social Media for Social Good post is just a bit belated for Feb. and is in honor of Data Privacy Day, which was on January 28th. (I just started a full-time contract that I’m really excited about, as it brings together many of my interests, but the routine is still a bit off, so forgive my tardiness, here…) Anyway, in honor of my ongoing Live with Abundance series, Data Privacy Day is meant “to raise awareness of how personal information is treated online.”

I learned about Data Privacy Day, when I was researching Internet safety last month, soon after my school-age daughters’ launched their first blog posts on private sites of their own, during February break. (I’ve never seen either one of my daughters so eager to write, or to involve me in what they’re writing and learning, but that will be a different post some time.) Thus, as a parent, I joined the many other parents who must now as a family consider how to approach social sites and applications (see Social Networks and Kids: How Young is Too Young?).

In my online travels, I found especially helpful the list of resources from Data Privacy Day, 2010, including Online Resources for Parents, Educators, and Kids. I was also glad to find Google’s Tips for Online Family Safety, with guidelines from Annie Zehren, President of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents and teachers manage in a media-saturated world.

Here are some of the common sense tips Zehren shared:

  • Common Sense Tip #1: Kids need rules. Set rules in the household, or at school. Keep computers in a central place. Follow the American Pediatrics Association’s guidelines on no more than one to two hours of total screen time, a day. Check your browser’s history. Educate yourself about enabling strict filtering and blocking options, like Google’s Safe Search, available from the preferences on the Google home page.
  • Common Sense Tip #2: Educate your kids and yourself about Internet safety and responsibility. Learn about privacy and sharing controls, on social networking sites. Educate kids never to share online their names, addresses, phone numbers, or school names. Teach your kids not to tag pictures of other kids’ with their names, on sites like Facebook. (Don’t tag kids’ pictures yourself, with their names.) Encourage kids to share what they post online with you. Don’t give out passwords, or use Remember Me settings, on public computers. Talk about stranger danger, and the possible danger of meeting an online stranger in person.
  • Common Sense Tip #3: Teach kids to communicate responsibly. Educate kids on cyberbullying, and how screen names makes it easy for bullies to remain anonymous. Teach kids to show you the harassing text or e-mail and help them to understand their options, such as blocking the offender, making a report to the school or Internet Service provider, and flagging inappropriate content. Teach kids to be accountable for their own behavior, both online and offline.
  • Common Sense Tip #4: Develop media literacy skills. Teach kids not to trust or believe everything they read online. Teach kids how to distinguish reliable sources, how to verify information online, and how to view all content critically. Talk to kids about avoiding plagiarism of online sites.

I’ve compiled lots of additional links below to help parents and teachers keep kids safe online.

Related Links

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Thoughts on Plymouth, Squanto, and Thanksgiving

Overview: Neddal Ayad is a writer and photographer, based in Newfoundland, Canada. My family and I enjoyed meeting Neddal over Columbus Day weekend, in Plymouth, MA, where he was researching Squanto, as part of the Cupids 400 project. Neddal’s mother, Margaret Ayad of Baccalieu Consulting, is a friend of mine from Twitter. She coordinated my family’s meeting with her son, after I expressed a common appreciation for history and education, which she brings together so wonderfully in her online resource, Squantum.  

Peg’s Note: The following guest post, by Neddal Ayad, is part of an ongoing series here, which celebrates stories of those who live with abundance. The connection of Squanto, the Pilgrims, and the first Thanksgiving to this “Live with Abundance” series, may at first seem not so direct, as the connection to previous guest posts in this series.

The more I reflect, though, the more I realize there is no better metaphor for living abundantly, than the hospitality the Native Americans showed toward the Pilgrims, the gratitude the Pilgrims expressed for their blessings, and the resilience of both Native Americans and Pilgrims alike, given what the author below aptly notes, as their respective isolation and dislocation.

In the post below, Ayad portrays Squanto, who reportedly taught the Pilgrims how to fish in the New World, as a moving and fascinating protagonist, who even today, captures the essence of endurance, and helps us move across cultures.

Here are Neddal’s thoughts and pictures on Plymouth, Squanto, and Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Holiday

Most people in English-speaking parts of North America have at least a passing familiarity with the story of the First American Thanksgiving.  Growing up in Newfoundland off the east coast of Canada, I picked up the story in bits and pieces from school, from movies and television, from trips to the US. In fact, I think we may have covered American Thanksgiving in more detail, than the Canadian version.

And by detail, I mean that growing up, I knew that Thanksgiving (American style) involved parades, football, and turkey.  Oh yeah, and there was something about Pilgrims and a friendly Indian named Squanto, and corn, and turkey……. and that to Americans, it was a really big deal.

Canadian Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seemed like a non-event.  There was turkey and a day off from school, but it seemed very much like a random holiday.  I hate to admit it, but I still don’t know the provenance of the Canadian holiday.  Ask me about Guy Fawkes’ Day (November  5th), and I can lay out an essay. Ask me why Thanksgiving in Canada is the 2nd Monday in October, and you’ll get a blank look and an apology.


Tie Between Plymouth and Cupers Cove (Cupids)

Where is all this going?  This year, around Canadian Thanksgiving, I was in Plymouth, Massachusetts researching Squanto (aka Squantum, Tisquantum, Tasquantum) – a major player in Thanksgiving, US edition.  I was there because prior to his encounter with the Pilgrims, Squanto spent time in the English colony of Cupids (Cupers Cove), located in the south-eastern portion of Newfoundland.  During 1617 -1618 when he lived in Cupids, by some accounts, he learned how to use fish as fertilizer, something he would go on to teach the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

How he came to be in Cupids is long and involved and is covered in detail here: Squantum.  Little is known about what Squanto did in Cupids or even why he was sent there in the first place.  There is some speculation that John Slaney, a merchant with whom he lived in London, may have sent him to the colony as a go-between to help establish trade between the colonists and the Beothuk, who inhabited nearby Trinity Bay.  Regardless, Squanto wanted to return to his own home and his own people.  In 1618, the adventurer Thomas Dermer agreed to take him back to the eastern seaboard of the United States.  (See Squantum.)

Squanto: a Warrior Shaman?

I should mention that much has been made of Squanto’s resilience – he survived slavery, he adapted to living in Spain, England, and Cupers Cove, and eventually to living as a kind of exile amongst the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation.  One theory for his endurance is that he may have been a pneise, a warrior shaman who in Massachuset society advised and protected the sachem or chief – something akin to the secret service but with more intense training (see Charles Mann’s 1492 – Amazon Books ).  In fact, the name “Squanto” has religious overtones in Massachuset society; it translates to something close to “the wrath of God.”

All this must have served him well when he first returned to Southern Massachusetts.  In the five or so years from the time he was captured by Thomas Hunt in 1614 and his return with Thomas Dermer in 1619, close to 90% of the natives in the region had died due to an outbreak of what experts believe was viral hepatitis.  Squanto’s entire village was decimated, along with most of the Massachuset Confederation.  Dermer’s account of the voyage sounds like a trip through a nightmare.  They found village after village abandoned, or worse, filled with corpses.  Eventually, they encountered a handful of survivors who brought them Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoag Massachuset, which sets the stage for Squanto’s meeting with the Pilgrims.

Isolation and Dislocation

The town of Cupids is about 15 minutes from where I live in Newfoundland.  The plantation site has been excavated extensively by Bill Gilbert, who is chief archaeologist with the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. ( See Baccalieu Digs Website.) I visited the dig site shortly before travelling to Plymouth, and shortly after returning.  One thought that struck me was that in comparison to Plymouth, Cupids must have seemed quite bleak.  Newfoundland landscape is known for its break starkness, very rocky, mainly coniferous trees, cliffs, and rough seas.  There is a beauty in the starkness that is almost impossible to describe, but to Squanto who grew up with his family and his people in the area which is now Plymouth, with its lush deciduous forests and low coves and beaches, living in Cupids must have been miserable.

While I was in Plymouth, I could not shake a feeling of heaviness; sadness is perhaps a better word.  Plymouth itself is a pretty town, and the area around it is beautiful.  But it was difficult to lose Thomas Dermer’s description of all the abandoned and decimated villages. Plymouth was once Patuxet, which was Squanto’s birthplace and one of the native villages obliterated by disease.  And in travelling around the town, I was thinking about exile and how Squanto may have shared the Pilgrims’ sense of isolation and dislocation in the New World, since they, like him, had left everything they knew behind.  Heavy, as I said.

The photos were taken at the Wampanoag Homesite on the Plymouth Plantation.  The clothing and activities would be similar to those that Squanto knew, growing up in his village of Patuxet.

Related Links

Baccalieu Digs A Website of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation

Cupids 400  Official Website for the Celebration of Canada’s First English Colony

Indian New England 1524-1674: A Compendium of Eyewitness Accounts of Native American Life (Heritage of New England Series)  Ronald D. Carr, ed. (Description on Amazon)

SquantumA Baccalieu Consulting Website

Thomas C. Mann, 1492.  (Description on Amazon)

William Bradford and Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation.  Version from  Google Books.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Please contact the author Neddal Ayad directly, at for any rights to republishing this post. Peg Mulligan’s blog is protected by its own copyright, but I give any appropriate rights back to guest bloggers, for posts they may have authored, but which were hosted at this blog.

Holding Us Together: Stories and Compassion

Note From Peg:
The following guest post, by Marie Ennis O’Connor, breast cancer survivor, and author of the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer blog, is part of an ongoing series here, which focuses on using social media for good.

Last spring, I first met Marie online through a comment she left on my Mother’s Day weekend post, Links for Social Good, May 2009: Breast Cancer Awareness. I wrote the post as a tribute to my own mother, whom I lost to breast cancer, some twenty-five years ago, this winter.

Marie’s example is both humbling and inspirational, and I’m very honored that she agreed to guest blog, in honor of Oct., National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I especially appreciate Marie’s thoughts on the power of story-telling and compassion, in building and cementing our online communities.

In her own words, Marie Ennis O’Connor offers support for all those who have survived breast cancer, and who are integrating this transformative experience, with the rest of their lives…

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, I relied on my circle of friends and family for emotional support. However, I often felt like I didn’t want to worry them with my fears and concerns, so the reality was, I kept most of it to myself. I found it easier to unburden myself at the cancer support center which I attended, but I still felt lonely and isolated at times, particularly as a younger woman with breast cancer in a predominately older environment.

Now, with the rise of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and online discussion groups, the support landscape has changed greatly since I was diagnosed. Women with breast cancer have access to much wider networks to find support and get answers to their questions. We can now share our experiences online with others who understand and can support us – not just in our own localities, but in different states and even countries across the world.

Having successfully completed my treatment for breast cancer and returned to my “real life,” I was not prepared for the tsunami of emotions that hit me at times. I was filled alternately with relief and elation at being given a second chance and with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty in the months and years, after treatment ended. Finishing treatment can be a very unsettling time. You can feel cut adrift and alone – once the hectic round of hospital visits, treatment and check ups are over, what then? Often this is when the real psychological and emotional work starts.

I started a blog, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, about my personal journey to make sense of my cancer experience. I also wanted to connect with others struggling with the same questions and concerns as I had in this post treatment stage. Also, I hoped that in telling my story, others on the same path would find some resonance and the knowledge that they are not alone. I found that while there are many blogs, chat forums, and websites available for those newly diagnosed, or going through treatment, there is much less available on what it is like to have gone through the experience and how you integrate it with the rest of your life.

I have been surprised and delighted at how well the blog has been received and how many wonderful women I have connected with through writing it. I find a great sense of community and connectedness through the blog, so much so that I have recently expanded it into an online support community on Facebook.

It is comforting to know that there are others out there who truly understand what we are going through.  While family and friends can provide sympathy, it is really only those who are going through the same experience themselves who can truly understand us.  Then, there is the empathy and support we give each other – when I am feeling down, others lift me up.  And when those others are down, I am there to do the same for them.

One of my favorite quotes, which I have taken as a mission statement for our  community, is from writer, Barry Lopez:

Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.

Cancer strikes a severe blow at our sense of self and our sense of past, present and future. The apparent randomness of a cancer diagnosis shakes our sense of identity to its very core and nothing will ever feel certain again. I believe that as we tell our stories to each other, we rebuild our wounded selves, learning to integrate our past, present and futures selves. We tell our stories in order to heal; in listening to the stories of how others have walked their path, our own journey of discovery and healing is enriched.

I invite your readers to share their stories and thoughts at the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer Blog and our group page on Facebook.  You don’t have to have experienced cancer to have something to contribute. While cancer was my personal catalyst for change, it can be any one of a myriad of life experiences, which may be your call to transformation. I write about universal themes of change and transformation and living an authentic life. We all have experienced pain, loss, joys and blessings in our lives in many different forms, and we can use those experiences to help others on their paths of recovery.

I leave you with one final quote from Nobel Prize Winner, Dr Albert Schweitzer, ( I have paraphrased it slightly by using the female pronoun) which beautifully sums up the philosophy behind my social networking:

Whoever among us has learned through personal experience what pain and anxiety really are must help to ensure that those out there who are in … need obtain the same help that once came to her.  She no longer belongs to herself alone; she has become the sister of all who suffer.

Welcome to the sisterhood!

(copyright Marie Ennis O’Connor)


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Please contact the author Marie Ennis O’Connor directly, for any rights to republishing this post. Peg Mulligan’s blog is protected by its own copyright, but Marie Ennis O’Connor owns full  rights to this post, authored by her, and currently hosted by Peg Mulligan at this blog.