Thursday, December 31, 2009

My "Guest Blogger" Post at Tomatoes on the Vine!

I enjoyed being a guest blogger for my friend Velva, on her wonderful "Tomatoes on the Vine" blog.  I think I enjoyed it more than Wayne, who was not fond of the meticulous process of photographically documenting the preparation of his delicious potato dish!  (Hey, at least it kept me and my camera out of the convenience store restroom!)

Here's the link; I encourage you to visit!!

Happy New Year.

http://tomatoesonthevine-velva.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Please Do Not Disturb the Accessories



A couple of weeks ago, I made a Gatorade and hot chocolate run during a break between  Wayne Kevin's flag football games.  Grateful to have a "real" bathroom at my disposal instead of the portolets at the field, I availed myself of the facilities at the Gate Station on Magnolia Drive here in Tallahassee, where I purchased our drinks.

The Magnolia Drive Gate Station is, as convenience stores go, pretty  nice.  Many of the employees have been there for years and go out of their way to be welcoming and friendly.  I can count on the ladies' restroom being clean.  This time, the restroom was beyond clean -- it was decorated!!

I had my camera with me because I had had it at football, and my "hmmm, this has blog potential" sensor went off when my eye was drawn to the two identical signs posted on the wall.  They read:

We strive to keep our Ladies Room Clean & Fully stocked.
Our employees have also added decorative accessories to give our customers a more welcome & pleasant atmosphere.
We would appreciate it if our accessories were not disturbed, or removed from the restroom.
Thank you. 



I counted nine special decorative touches contributed by the Gate employees, including this quasi-nautical/natural arrangement on top of the commode:



I'm no interior decorator (a fact as well known as my compulsive reading), but I couldn't completely grasp the theme.  The blue/aqua family was prominent (we are in Florida after all).  There was also a nod to the Christmas holiday:




Why did I find all of this blog-worthy?  There are a couple of reasons.  First, I detected in the double appearance of the sign a sincere investment on the part of the Gate employees in making my experience at their establishment "more"' than your average convenience store stop.  And a fervent hope on their part that the effort would not be negated by a thoughtless visitor. 

This bathroom decor also elicited many of the same emotions I felt about my kids' efforts when they were little:
  • Gosh, I hope the effort works!
  • Man, I hope no one messes up what they've worked so hard on
  • Gee, I hope they aren't disappointed if something gets "disturbed"
  • Please, Lord, don't let them lose the optimistic view that something they create has the potential to make another person happy
  • Even if they are discouraged, give them the gumption and inner strength to try again
Thank you, Gate employees on Magnolia drive for beautifying an experience that is, to put it mildly, routine.  If your prints go missing:




Don't despair.  Maybe someone's atmosphere elsewhere was so yucky that they couldn't resist appropriating one of your decorative touches.  Maybe a two year old stowed away one of the little balls in the display on your commode (been there, done that). 

Speaking only for myself, I appreciate the effort. 

Nine decorations, two signs, and one grateful customer.

Have you benefited from an extra effort on the part of employees at an establishment you frequent?  If so, comment!

And I'll "run" into you next week. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Tune Know You



"What kind of music do you like?"

I fumbled around for an answer.

I had just arrived on the set of an FSU film production and been introduced to Dalton and Emmy, two of my three "children."  As we were getting to know each other, one of the first questions had to do with music.  Dalton is a Britney Spears fan.  Emmy likes a lot of things, including the song "Fireflies" by Owl City.  I was still drawing a blank.  Even with prompts, like, "Well, do you like Celine Dion?" 




I have gotten out of touch with a lot of things about myself over the past 14 years of having and raising children.  My "deer in the headlights" reaction to such a basic question was, to me, a not-so-gentle nudge in the direction of reacquainting myself with the things that make me happy.  (And to being able to have a basic conversation with a new acquaintance.) 

My first thought was to pick the top ten songs that I love, and categorize them.  It wasn't quite so easy -- it was almost impossible to pare it down to ten (that's why there are 11).  And the categorization was a little messy.  But I am more prepared to answer the question next time I am asked, and I enjoyed the exercise of thinking through my musical tastes. 

There are 7 "contemporary" songs (for lack of a better word), 4 show tunes, and some "footnotes."

The seven "contemporary" songs are:

"The Story" by Brandi Carlisle.  I hear this song at work a lot over AOL radio.  It is a haunting song that compels me to listen, especially the line, "because even when I was flat broke.....you made me feel like a million bucks."  Isn't that something all of us friends try to do for each other?

"God is Not Sleeping" and "Hope in a Hopeless World" by Phil Roy.  I first discovered Phil Roy when listening to XM radio, and I bought the cd containing "God is Not Sleeping" to give to my friend Rose when she was dealing with cancer.  He sings, "In the struggles of my life, he's right there beside me."  "Hope in a Hopeless World" belongs in two categories for me -- the contemporary thing and the "mentions New York City and/or evokes a NYC vibe" category.  This song is more of a call to action, with lines like, "Churches are full, but the prayers are not heard; Saturday's child don't wanna go to Sunday school; Whatever happened to the golden rule; It takes hope in a hopeless world." 

"Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk.  This song is in several movies, including "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."  It is played when the characters are on the East River walkway.  I'll close out this blog with a line from this song. 

"The Things We've Handed Down" by Mark Cohn.  I used an excerpt from this song on Tenley's birth announcement, so it will always be sentimental.  One of the stanzas from this song that I used on her birth announcement was, "Don't know why you chose us; were you watching from above?; Is there someone there that knows us; Said we'd give you all our love."  I'm sure at 13 she often wonders why she chose us too -- at least that's what she says with all those eye rolls right now!

"If You're Not the One" by Daniel Bedingfield.  This song was the soundtrack to my thought process as I came to grips with a relationship road I didn't take.  One of the lines is, "If you are not mine then why does your heart return my call?" 

"The Riddle" by Five for Fighting.  I found this song on my perpetual search for lyrics I can use in things like dance recital programs, etc.  This song is better for a son than a daughter, but I love the story it tells (even with the grammatical issue of "There's a reason for the world; You and I." 

The "show tunes" are:

"Slipping Through My Fingers" from Mamma Mia!, which Tenley and I saw together.  I used an excerpt from this song in the dance program ad for Tenley's recital a couple of years ago.  It captures that feeling that a mother has as her importance in her daughter's life wanes in inverse relationship to the daughter's peers.  "Do I really see what's in her mind?  Each time I think I'm close to knowing; She keeps on growing, slipping through my fingers all the time."

"Long Before I Knew You" from Bells are Ringing, another birth announcement song (for Wayne Kevin).  "Long before I knew you I loved you so."

"You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel.  I heard this song when I was in the 9th grade, during a difficult time in my life.  I have loved it ever since, especially "Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you'll never walk alone."

"For Good" from Wicked.  This song makes me think of how happy I am to have had so many interesting, challenging, and loving friends through the years.  "Whatever way our stories end, I know you have re-written mine by being my friend."

Now for the additional notes and then the close:
1) I have begun to enjoy the singer "Sissel."  I referred to her version of "Going Home" in a previous post.
2) Anything by Yes takes me back to the time when Wayne and I were dating.
3) This is a thread throughout the discussion above, but anything that mentions New York City or takes me back to the time I lived there in '89-'92 gives a song a chance of making it on my list.
4) Things really get eclectic when I start thinking about the types of music I like on my running mixes (such as 3OH!3), and the stuff my kids are listening to that I secretly like (mostly Tenley --Wayne Kevin is a classic rock guy). 

Back to "Feels Like Home."  The day I spent on the set with Dalton, Emmy, and the rest of the cast of Water Wings was different than any other day I have ever had.  I remarked to a friend in a Facebook exchange shortly after that it is truly a mystery how playing someone else can bring you closer to who you really are. 

The song "Feels Like Home" ends with "It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong."  I'm not sure I'm exactly "all the way back where I belong," but I'm closer, and I appreciate Dalton and Emmy reminding me that my playlist and I should get reacquainted with each other.

I'll "run" into you next week! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Going for Picture



"At least I got the role of Teddy."

Last May, Wayne Kevin and I were sitting in the car waiting for the bus, and he was bemoaning some negative development in his nine-year-old life.  He finished the sentence by saying, "at least I got the role of Teddy." 

Although Wayne, Tenley, and I have been involved in the Florida State Film School for several years, we really had no idea what a big deal a student's BFA thesis production is.  For director Ariya Watty to choose Wayne -- a child who I love beyond all measure but frequently prefer not to take to Publix because a simple trip for milk turns into a detailed analysis of every Hot Wheel and the fabrication by him of some money I somehow owe him -- as one of the central characters of her most important production to date was brave!

I won't keep you in suspense -- the film turned out FANTASTIC!! 

That said, here are a few observations:

- As Jennifer, the parent of Elizabeth Scott, who played Wayne's older sister, said, "everyone on a film set is always happy."  Elizabeth has more professional acting experience than Wayne, so her mom has been on more sets.  But I have been on enough sets to agree with her.  There is a central beauty to being with people who are all doing what they love.  These are lessons that could be learned by many of our workplaces. 




- Your children can surprise you.  Wayne has been a fan of controlling situations since he used to keep us all enthralled in the "what shirt will you wear" decisions when he was two and three.  He hasn't earned the name "molasses" for nothing.  Sorry for the TMI, but it was a pivotal moment in the parent/child relationship when I literally had to force him out of his constitutional in a convenience store restroom somewhere in Michigan so we wouldn't miss our flight from Detroit back to Tallahassee.  I was most worried on the last day of filming, because he had gotten wind of a friend's Fun Station birthday party (I had purposely suppressed the information about the party) and was not feeling in a very "thespian" mood.  My husband, Elizabeth's mom, and I were all sitting on the side of the road, sweating and swatting away gnats.  I was wondering if Wayne was causing the whole production to stall due to his motivational issues.  (Production had been stalled enough by a slew of summer thunderstorms.)  Whatever transpired in the car (where most of the filming was taking place), the last thing I heard before that particular session wrapped was laughter --- I guess all my worrying was unfounded.  

- This is not a comparison that most readers under the age of about 30 will understand, probably.  If you remember life before word processors, you will recall that whenever you were preparing to type a table, report, or other document requiring more than words on a page, there was a LOT of preparation beforehand.  You had to predict how long your document would be, what margins to use, what width the columns would be (there was no "auto-adjust" button), and a variety of other components that would make or break the finished product.  I find film sets fascinating for that same reason:  the preparation it takes to create the finished product you envision is laborious.  You also have limited options for "do overs."  You can retake a scene over and over, but if you discover five days later that your subject's hair was parted on the left throughout the film but on the right during her most important monologue, there you go.  Attention to detail is key. 

"Going for picture" means you are through rehearsing and ready to commit the final product to film.  When it comes to a child, there's never a final product.  But in the process of watching Wayne work on Highway, I saw that he is capable of "going for picture" without me holding his hand or speaking on his behalf.  Six months after the filming, when we finally got to see the finished product, it astounded me how much younger his nine-year-old self looked and sounded than the ten year old who (yay!!) I discovered wants to sit through movie credits (I guess it helps if you're looking for your own name). 

Wayne will never take a tv or movie shot of someone inside a car for granted again; he knows that vehicle is stuffed with all kinds of equipment to capture the sound, lighting, and visuals of the shot. 

And just maybe I can take for granted his ability to pull his weight on a film set. 

Congratulations, Wayne Kevin.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Right Behind You



When we celebrated Wayne's 50th birthday last year on November 7, his brother Chuck wrote on the picture mat, "right behind you."  Since Wayne and Chuck were only 13 months apart, December 6, 2009, would be Chuck's turn to celebrate turning 50. 

We won't have one of the Kiger classic birthday shots with the honoree's cheeks puffed out as they blow the candles for Chuck's 50th.  Twelve days after Wayne's party last year, Chuck died. 

In my first draft for tonight's blog, I touched on several "classic Chuck" stories.  Each one could be a blog of its own -- how annoyed I was that he didn't actually get his butt up out of his chair to let me in the first time I visited his and Wayne's home; the time he shot Wayne's stereo out of anger and the guy at the repair shop wrote, "Gun Shot Wound" on the repair order; the time he talked his daughter, Kris, her friend Marlena and me out of going to the Jade Dragon Tattoo and Exotic Body Piercing Studio on Belmont Street in Chicago to hunt for navel jewelry for the girls (even though HE was the one who had someone come to the house for Kris to get her (underaged) belly button pierced). 

In the end, I can paint the picture of who Chuck was, while paying homage to his individuality, by describing his tombstone.  Apparently, when Chuck and his brothers and cousins used to go bowling (back when you actually had to keep score yourself, on PAPER), Chuck would turn the scorecard over and draw images of Snoopy instead of keeping score.  He loved to draw Snoopy.  Even more than he loved to draw Snoopy, he was passionate about all things Beatles, especially John Lennon (as the tattoo of Lennon's image on Chuck's arm attested).  When Tenley and I visited New York in 2005, we went to the Dakota just to take pictures of it to share with  Chuck. 


I am fairly sure Chuck's tombstone is the only one on the face of the planet with an image of Snoopy accompanied by John Lennon's quote, "some may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." 




I wish I could have captured some of the essence of the dreams in Chuck's head when he was doodling away, bringing the Sopwith camel to life in his imagination and on the scorecards.  I wish many people who I care about, who get wrapped up in worrying what others think of them, could have just a fraction of  Chuck's ability to revel in being "yourself." 

Most of all, I wish that Chuck had been able to meet his new grandson Griffin Charles, make that weird blowing-out-the-candles face, and do whatever it is the men of the family do outside at Mary's house when they are ostensibly grilling meat.  In closing, there's a song that I had considered using when we buried  Chuck's ashes in September, but it didn't make the cut.  I still like this song (by Chantal Kreviazuk), and it expresses some of the sentiments I  have felt over the year:

You are everything you ought to be
So just let your heart reach out to me
I'll be right by your side
Say good night, not goodbye.




pk

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Angel on the Loose

This year, the parishioners at Holy Comforter collaborated on an Advent devotional, with submissions from various parishioners for each day of Advent.  "Angel on the Loose" is my contribution for 2009.



Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
Psalm 149:3

Our annual Christmas Pageant at St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church was not exactly “cutting edge.” Every year was essentially the same lineup, same script, and same songs. I am not complaining about this; the pageant was a beloved tradition.

I was so excited when Tenley was old enough to participate without me as a castmate (the mom of the youngest angel was always designated “Mama Angel,” with the additional task of keeping the shepherds and their sheep from getting all riled up by the baby angels). She was three or four years old.  I think this picture was taken that year: 



The way the pageant was structured, the narrator would read a bit of the Christmas story, and a bit of the tableau would unfold. For instance, “We Three Kings” heralded the entry of the three kings. The angels were the first to station themselves at the stable.

When the first congregational hymn started, Tenley started dancing around to the hymn. I don’t mean kind of unconsciously tapping her little feet. I mean sweeping leaps across the stable, joyful gesturing, and unrestrained smiles. We were rolling with laughter in our seats but trying to look worshipful simultaneously.

I was really unable to do anything to stop her --- and in my heart of hearts I didn’t want to.

I thought that first song was a fluke, but sure enough she “felt the dancing spirit” through every single song the congregation sang that night.

Now Tenley is 13, and there’s not a lot of unrestrained joy that I am privy to right now.

But I’ll never forget the “unscripted” moments of that long-ago Christmas Pageant.


This year, if the excitement of preparing to celebrate bubbles up inside you, consider a few leaps across your living room or exuberant arm waves. Your family may think you’re nuts but God will “get it” and that’s what matters most this season.

-Paula

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going Home



Our family had been collectively dreading November 19 this year.  It would be the one year anniversary of Wayne's brother Chuck's death.  As the day approached, baby Griffin Charles (Chuck's grandson) relieved his mother of her stress over a potential due date of 11/19 by being born four weeks early on 11/16.  Little did we know that we would prefer grappling with the difficult emotions of marking the anniversary of Chuck's death to the burial of Mama Del.

Having grown up here in the South, Mama Del's accent sounded like thousands of other women I have known in my life.  A laid back southern twang was backed by an iron will and a fierce familial loyalty.

I never sat down and had deep one on one talks with Mama Del.  She was usually too busy helping set up or clean up to converse at length.  But she was always there.  It is hard to imagine standing at sister in law Mary's kitchen island this Thanksgiving, without looking up see Del come in via the sunroom door, always carrying something yummy.  (Wayne's favorite was the creamed corn.)

I remember hearing how she had asked of Jessica when she was born a little early and the cartilage of her ears was still growing, "Will her ears keep growing?"  (They did.)  One memory that has always stood out occurred as we were putting together Wayne's sister Ann's funeral after she died suddenly at the age of 30 in 1993.  While I wanted to do one of the readings, Del stated that she would staff the nursery.  There were lots of small children in need of care.  Despite my degree in child development, dealing with 10 children belonging to other people is a task that would make me cringe, and I wanted to be "seen" publicly grieving.  Del took on a critical task, that went largely unseen (and unthanked), and never asked any kind of recognition or reward.

A small funny incident happened when Del joined Wayne's sister Mary and me to pick up Tenley and Elizabeth (Mary's daughter/Del's granddaughter) from gymnastics camp at UGA.  Since Tenley's birthday had occurred while she had been at camp, I had left her a gift card and she had received some extra goodies from the Lady Gym Dogs.  In her persistence to help clean up the room, Del had inadvertently wrapped up the gift card with some trash.  It was saved in the nick of time!

All of this is to laud the fact that this gracious woman was inevitably found serving us or doing something to make us feel happy and loved.  Most of her happiest times occurred when she was reveling in the success and happiness of her grandchildren, such as this snapshot taken when granddaughter Olivia was crowned Homecoming Queen on October 31:



After Del's sudden death, we gathered at Mary's house to celebrate her life, but there was no centralized gathering where speeches were made (although there were plenty of stories shared between those gathered).  At the burial service the following day (November 19), the service was lovely but there were not speeches by attendees about the impact Del had made on their lives.

Even though there were no speeches, Del's legacy was summed up by the spontaneous song shared by grandson George as he threw dirt onto her casket.  All of a sudden we heard, "Going home, going home.  Work all done ......."

Such a true summary of Del's approach.  She was a worker, and as much as we will miss her, she deserves the comfort of "going home."

In researching this song with which I was not familiar, I ran across a blog which included this song in a month's worth of "songs my mother taught me."  I encourage you to read Lydia's blog about this song at:  http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2009/10/songs-my-mother-taught-me-going-home.html, and I thank Lydia for providing her permission.

So, with love and gratitude for years of Mama Del's selfless and gracious presence in our lives, I end with more of "Going Home" (words by William Arms Fisher):

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
It's not far, just close by
Through an open door

With love and gratitude for a lovely woman,

pk









Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Channel at 11:35 p.m.

I often find that a particular decision I need to make percolates so far under the surface of my conscious brain that I am surprised to find the decision made, lodging itself in my consciousness fully formed and with no "mulling over" needed.

That's how my goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes came to me. And that's how I started avoiding CBS at 11:35 on weeknights.

I am almost always still up at 11:35, and over the decades I would usually turn the television to The Late Show with David Letterman. Although I wasn't a rabid fan, I enjoyed the show and would consider myself a "habitual" viewer. I knew what to expect from the show (in general); that I could anticipate a Top 10 list; that something would be said during the monologue that would make me miss New York City; that he had an intern named Stephanie. Over the years I knew a little about his personal life, and in the past few years I knew about the open heart surgery, and especially that Letterman had become a parent. The night he described his child's birth, I sensed the kind of emotions that transcend sarcasm and wealth: the "I never expected to feel this way" awe of a new parent.

When the news broke a few weeks ago that Letterman had had interactions with several staff members that went "beyond typical office behavior," I watched Letterman address his audience in what he considered a "proactive" way. As events unfolded, it became clear that Letterman had engaged in intimate behavior with subordinates.

He's not the first to do so, and not the last.

Many viewers will probably not change their viewing habits and will still get their nightly kick out of the Top 10 lists and the Stupid Pet Tricks. I'm done.

My first experience with an "authority" figure who took advantage of my subordinate status occurred when I was 13. Although he was removed from his volunteer leadership role, I will always wonder how many other young women had had similar encounters. Fast forward five years to college, when a revered professor approached me from behind, groping. I was at so many gatherings attended by that same gentleman over the years. I could never bring myself to applaud when he was showered with this or that accolade.

So, have there been supervisor/subordinate relationships that started at the office (or the volunteer effort) that worked out beautifully for all parties involved? I'm sure there have.

But I do not believe that's usually the case. By its nature, there is a power imbalance between a supervisor and a subordinate.

Like Anne Bradstreet said,

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than to polish.

In solidarity with some young women who I imagine came away "bruised," I'll be tuning in to a different channel from now on.

I'll "run" into you next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

AOC

I don't know what "AOC" stands for. When I googled the term, I came up with 90 possibilities. For today's blog, I can safely rule out "Australian Olympic Committee," "Age of Conan," and "Air Operator Certificate" to name a few. I am referring to this:

This is a marking that has been on the road about a quarter mile from my home for a month. I assume it means something like "Area of Collision." On October 9, a 77 year old woman named Elois Cooper and a preteen boy (her grandson, I think) were killed at this spot. Their car was rear-ended as they were waiting on Highway 90 to turn left into Soul's Port, their church. Because our neighborhood is so close to Soul's Port, and Highway 90 is the only way into or out of Hawk's Landing, Wayne and I both had to take circuitous routes home that evening, so that we could be approaching Hawk's Landing from the east instead of the west (the highway was closed down for several hours while the accident scene was handled). As a result, we talked a lot about what must have happened to close down the road, and very early on we understood there had been at least one fatality.

The "was handled" part of that above paragraph has been niggling at me for the past month. The day after the accident, as I drove past the scene with my children, we discussed the need to say prayers for the woman's family, and how sad the situation was. It was not the "AOC" that stood out, it was the pile of glass that had materialized on the side of the road:




Not only had it materialized ....... after three and a half weeks it appeared destined to stay. I don't know who I thought was going to come clean it up. It just seemed like something that would be in the standard post-accident protocol. When I mentioned the remaining pile of glass to Wayne, he said, "well it is safety glass." I guess his point was that is was not causing any danger to motorists. My reaction to this glass was not about the logistics or the potential danger: it was about the windshield this lady saw her last starlit night through as she prepared to worship. Up until about five days ago, this blog was going to be a rant about why no one cleaned up the glass.

Slowly it dawned on me that if it was bugging me so much, there was someone to clean it up.

So, yesterday as I left for the Cops for Kids 5K, there was a broom, a dustpan, and a plastic bag in the car next to the G2 and running shoes.

The glass is gone.


The song "Shattered Glass" asks:

Are you havin' trouble focusing throughout the day?

Do you find yourself still callin' my name?

Cause all we had .... is broken like shattered glass.

Getting rid of the glass won't take away the pain of this lady's loved ones and fellow worshippers when they pass the accident scene. It's just that, if you're on your way to a place called "Soul's Port," and your soul ends up approaching its final port (or "homegoing" as someone said online in response to Mrs. Cooper's obituary), that final road shouldn't be paved with shattered glass.

Praying for peace to the family of Mrs. Cooper and the young man.

Lyrics to Shattered Glass by: Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly, and Benjamin Levin. (Full Disclosure: Britney Spears sings the song -- not usually my choice but I needed the good lyrics.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Been There, Done That

On Saturday, Tenley and three friends did a car wash to raise money for the Raa Middle School trip to Washington, DC, in May 2010.

The car wash was held at Paradise Bar & Grill, which is located at one of Tallahassee's truly odd intersections. People who wanted to have their car washed, after being enticed by the four adorable, enthusiastic young women standing at the intersection, had to figure out that the girls were at Paradise (and not the Shell station across the street) and quickly navigate into the right-hand-most lane, and come get their car squeaky clean. It wasn't easy.

Around 12:30 (after a 9 a.m. start), the girls all headed off to Whataburger for a meal. We had no promotional activity going on at the intersection, and the moms (and one industrious little sister) were all standing around talking when a car drove up to be washed. The driver of the car asked me what the "cause" was and I explained the girls (who were two blocks up the road stuffing their faces) were raising money for their May 2010 trip to Washington, D.C. The driver said something to the effect of, "I can't tell you how many times I have been in your position," and he talked about the years of fundraising car washes for his cheerleader daughter.

I have been ridiculously lucky in many ways as my children have grown up. When Tenley was in gymnastics, the cost of a "city gym" (Trousdell Gymnastics Center) was nominal compared to a private gym. Several local businesses have contributed sponsorship money to Tenley as a gymnast and to Wayne as a soap box derby driver. My parents, in-laws, and co-workers have bought more than their share of overpriced candy and wrapping paper. But the costs still add up; the trips get longer and more expensive as the children get older, and at a certain point "fundraising fatigue" is bound to set in.

That is why, when this couple drove up simply because they saw some people with buckets and a hose, with the intention of returning all the good will their child received over the years (and hopefully a clean car at the same time), this gentleman shot up my "will you make my blog?" list with a bullet.

Having "been there and done that," he will make it possible for Tenley and her friends to say about their Washington DC trip:

"Been there, done that."

I'll "run" into everyone next week!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Staying "On Topic"

When I sit down on Sunday evenings to blog, I shuffle through the memorable events and images of the week. This week's image first came to my awareness on Wednesday of this week. Our family had closely been following a situation at my son's elementary school, because the incident occurred at his grade level. When my husband called to tell me the story had appeared on tallahassee.com, I logged on to read it. While the article filled in some questions I had had about the incident (and raised others), what immediately struck me was the "contextual linking provided by Topix." Here is what the contextual linking led to:

Holy Comforter Episcopal School hosts festival.

Topix bills itself (at its website topix.com) as, "turning passive news into active dialogue by giving people an easy-to-use publishing system with a built-in audience." Linking a story about a private school's festival with a public school's alarmingly serious and decidedly non-festive story regarding a student's possession of a firearm on campus can't be what the folks at the Democrat envisioned when choosing to use this particularly contextual linking program. I kept thinking someone would catch the misguided pairing and remove it, but as of Friday the two stories were still "contextually linked." When I checked tonight, the Holy Comforter story was gone in favor of a continuation of the Roberts story.

I was still struggling to tie all this together when Tenley came in to ask me to sync something on itunes (which involves the computer I am at to write my blog). After a nasty parenting moment when I grumbled about having to lose focus on my blog to help her, a cool turnaround happened when she asked me what I was blogging about and I discovered through our conversation the gist of why this pairing of "topics" bugged me so much:

The logic of the best algorithm in the world risks failure without someONE inspecting content.

Here is how she and I ended the conversation:

Does knowing that a student was expelled at Roberts for bringing a gun to school make you want to go to a festival at Holy Comforter? Will kids who attend the Holy Comforter festival now consider arming themselves?

Have you seen similar pairings of content that could have been saved by scrutiny by someONE? If so, please share them in the comments section!






Sunday, October 18, 2009

Keeping the "Fun" in "Fun Runs"


In September 2003, I ran an 8K race in Jacksonville. My parents drove Tenley (then 7 years old) over to participate in the one mile “fun run” which was scheduled to occur an hour after the 8K start. As I was finishing my race, I noticed Tenley standing far away from the other kids, who were clustered together, looking ready to start the mile race. I was screaming at her something to the effect of, “Why aren’t you with those other kids?” My parents, who had selflessly woken her up early, fed her, dressed her, and driven an hour to get her there, were looking perplexed at why I was yelling at her and looking so disgruntled with them when they had stationed her precisely where the race organizers told her the 1 mile would start.

When it was time for the 1 mile race to start, what do you know? All the kids were herded over to the spot where Tenley was standing – she and my parents were right, I was wrong.

Races are held at all kinds of venues – fields, tracks, parking lots, streets. You name the venue – with the addition of some chalk and a clock, you can have a race. It is the myriad of things between that first chalk mark at “start,” and the finish line clock that make a race a “good race.” These include: course markings, volunteers throughout the course to provide additional guidance, water (for longer races), finish line staff to “strip” numbers and “string them,” and someone willing to compile all of the results after the race.

When Wayne ran the Roberts Fox Trot 1 mile “fun run” yesterday, I knew something was amiss when kids started “finishing” at the 3:30 mark. Kids are fast these days but not that fast!! It turns out that about seven kids had become misrouted and showed up at the finish line prematurely. The race directors gathered the kids and sent them back out to re-run the course, and noted when the children returned to the finish line. As a result of this mix-up, there was a related confusion in scoring at awards time. The times of the “mix-up seven” were not clear and therefore those kids did not get recognized.

I watched parents of these children talk with the race directors, and was brought immediately back to the first expletive I uttered publicly when Tenley stopped short of the vault in gymnastics (not that I have ever hurtled myself toward a stationary object and thrown myself into the air over the object). My reaction was all about me and not at all about her.

Yesterday, the parents who spoke with the race directors handled the conversations about the “mix up seven” radically differently, and in at least one interaction, the word “fun” was long gone from the “run” part.

In any athletic competition, whether between adults or children, things go wrong. As adults we (hopefully) learn to shake the minor ones off and put the major ones in perspective. There is an added dimension, however, if you feel your child has gotten shortchanged, and if you have the challenge of dealing with their disappointment as well as your own.

As a “gym mom,” I wanted badly for my child to succeed, to be appropriately (and equitably) rewarded, and to be free of any complications that might spoil her motivation to stick with the sport. With the benefit of a several years behind me, what I know for sure is that kids who truly are internally motivated to participate in a sport will weather the storms of complications, judging subjectivity and other external forces -- all they want is to be doing what they do. The trophies, medals, goody bags, etc., are nice but that's not why they're out there.

As I close out this weekend, I fervently hope that we as parents do everything we can to keep the “fun” in our child’s next “fun run.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Writing School - The Revision


Last week, I shared the essay I had written in response to www.literarymama.com's (LM) writing prompt. LM's editor had provided some feedback about my piece, which I also shared with you in last week's post. So, this week, here's the revised piece, hopefully incorporating LM's very constructive feedback.

Circular Thinking

I am running around in circles (ovals, technically) to rekindle my passion for running. I have company.

Every Tuesday night, I join approximately 20 runners at the Florida State University track for “supervised” interval workouts. Intervals are multiples of short distance runs, accumulating to three miles, with rest periods between each run segment. Interval workouts help improve oxygen delivery to your muscles, and by doing so help athletes improve endurance and speed.

At the same time this weekly gathering is getting oxygen to my muscles faster, it is accelerating the delivery of confidence to my psyche. Although I run solo round and round my neighborhood several times a week, running in the intervals group round and round Mike Long Track at FSU has become a core part of my workout plan, mentally and physically.

At this workout, runners are always divided into three strata: blazing fast, pretty fast, and slower-than-the-first-two-groups-but-still-fast. I am the unofficial fourth group: not fast.

My abiding memory from my first brief stint at intervals, in 1995, was when Gary, the coach, said, “I just don’t know what to do with you.”

In the years between 1995 and now, my children became involved in the local running scene. I frequently found myself standing around on the sidelines, envying the athletes who were due a generous dose of endorphins.

I began rekindling friendships with the running community.

I clicked “yes” to the “I Am Runner” application on Facebook.

That “I Am Runner” thing started to bother me. You can be a runner at heart, or a past runner, or a wannabe runner, or parent of a runner, but that isn’t always enough.

In December 2008, I decided to live up to that “I Am Runner” declaration, with a goal of running a five kilometer race in less than 30 minutes. At the first race I ran after deciding on that goal (in January 2009), my time was 43:30. On July 5, my race time was 42:48. I still had not broken 40 minutes, much less 30. I had plateaued It was time to return to intervals.

I was not feeling brave about the prospect of setting foot on the track again. Coach Gary is still in charge, and the “I don’t know what to do with you,” had morphed in my head into “I don’t know what to do with myself.” When I saw Gary at the July race, I broached the subject of my returning to intervals, and he said, “come on back.”

I have been back at intervals now for eight weeks. This group has rekindled my passion by its sheer acceptance. Although I probably provide a little comic relief with my less-than-elegant stride, there is not one iota of ridicule.

Some groups build their members up through verbal exchange. Although we chat at intervals, it is not the talking that fortifies us. It is the silent fact that every quarter mile, as I pass the clock, I can say:

I am runner.

***

I will "run" into you next week!






Sunday, October 4, 2009

Writing School



Hello everyone from Chesire, CT. Tenley and I have been in NJ/NY/CT since last Wednesday in order to attend our dear friend Kimmi's bat mitzvah. Since I am in the process of packing to leave, here's what I am doing for this week's blog. I mentioned in a previous blog that I, unlike my children, enjoy having "writing prompts" to challenge me. (They have to do writing prompts here in Florida for "Writes Upon Request.")

A site I love, literarymama.com, has monthly writing prompts that writers can respond to, and the editors choose their favorites for publication in that month's blog. Even better, every respondent gets personalized feedback! The bad news this month is that I did not get selected for publication. The good news is that I really enjoyed crafting a response to the prompt, and LM's editor gave me some very constructive feedback. Here's where the "writing school" thing comes in. I am going to tell you the prompt and provide my initial response. I will also tell you literarymama's feedback. Then next Sunday night, after I have gotten back home and spent some time with the piece, I'll revise it according to the feedback. You can be the judge of how I did!

The prompt was: Have you been a member of a group that helped you connect with your true passion? How did this group sharpen your focus? At times, did you resent their guidance? What insights to your talents did the group offer?

My response:

Circular Thinking

I am running around in circles to rekindle my passion. I have company.
Our track club’s weekly interval workouts are defined as “planned, supervised workouts for serious runners intent on improving in distance races.” Intervals are multiples of short distance runs, accumulating to three miles, with rest periods between each short run. For example, the group may three one-mile=2 0races. This is supposed to improve endurance and speed. It works.
Fourteen years ago, I participated in intervals at the same track, under the same “supervision.” I was a slow but dedicated runner then (just as now). We were treated to occasional glimpses of Olympians training three lanes away. My abiding memory from that stint was when the leader said, “I just don’t know what to do with you.”
As my children became involved in the local running scene, I frequently found myself trotting along beside my daughter or son, or standing around on the sidelines envying the adults who were in for a generous dose of endorphins after they ran.
I began rekindling friendships with the running community.
I became captain of the track club’s Relay for Life team.
I clicked “yes” to the “I Am Runner” application on Facebook.
That “I Am Runner” thing started to bother me. You can be a runner at heart, or a past runner, or a wannabe runner, or parent of a runner, but that isn’t always enough.
In December 2008, I decided to live up to that “I Am Runner” affiliation, with a goal of running a five kilometer race in less than 30 minutes. This goal ambushed me from someplace deep in my psyche; I surprised myself by lacing up my shoes and printing out a 5K training plan
At the first race I ran after deciding on that goal (in early January 2009), my time was 43:30. On July 5, my race time was 42:48. I still had not broken 40 minutes, much less 30. It was time to return to intervals.
I was not feeling brave about the prospect of setting foot on the track again. The same coach, Gary, is still in charge, and the “I don’t know what to do with you,” had morphed in my head into “I don’t know what to do with myself.” When I saw I saw Gary at the July race, I broached the subject of my return with him. He was very receptive.
I have been back at intervals now for eight weeks. Compared to the seriously amazing athletes in the group, I am undeniably the outlier.
This group has rekindled my passion by its sheer acceptance. Although I probably provide a little comic relief with my less-than-elegant stride, there is not one iota of ridicule. Olympians are still only a few lanes away. What better inspiration?
By design, this group is light on feedback and heavy on encouragement by commiseration (the bonds of sweat?).
There is nothing to resent and much to inspire.

Lastly, the suggestions:

Now, about this submission, Circular Thinking. You have a few different themes running tandem -- the running group, your unwavering urge to run, and the "circle" metaphor. It's not entirely clear to me how the "circular" metaphor is meant to bind your ideas together, other than in the initial statement "I am running in circles."
Also, you touch on the running group, but as a reader, I'm left wondering. Who is in the group? What is the profile of the average member? Returnees to the sport? Newbies? Young runners? Middle-aged runners? At this point, I think the notion of your runners group lacks depth and I, as a reader, want you to show me more about the group. Don't tell me that you're in a group.You do better when it comes to your passion of returning to running. Your use of "intervals" is interesting and descriptive. But I think if you were able to attach it to something universal, it would make your use of "intervals" compelling.I know. I know. It's a tall order for an 500-words or less essay submission. For that reason, I think you have to tighten the piece, make the transitions smoother. And decide on the one metaphor that really weaves through the entire piece and binds it tightly.

I know this blog ended up "running" long, but thanks for reading all the way down and I look forward to serving up a "tighter" piece next week!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aging Out

In my work at Healthy Kids, we frequently use the term "age out" to describe the situation where a child has become too old for the program he or she has been in. For example, child who turns 5 has "aged out" and must move from MediKids to Healthy Kids. A child who turns 19 has "aged out" from the Healthy Kids program and has to find other options for insurance.

When I woke up this morning, I first opened the newspaper to the obituaries section (a morbid lifelong habit of mine). I was stunned to see the obituary of Jack Finlay.



Jack and I had been extras together in the FSU Film "Tosca." We were a couple attending a swanky party prior to an opera. We criss crossed the room a whole bunch of times, making silly small talk each time. In between takes, I learned that he had gone to school at Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Puerto Rico, as I had (different years); that he had been in a "real" film with Corey Feldman who was very down to earth; and that he had great suggestions for pursuing extras work. I had recently "friended" him on Facebook, and was looking forward to picking up where we had left off in the foyer of Bradfordville First Baptist Church (where Tosca was filmed).

Jack, 50 years old, died unexpectedly of a cardiac-related issue while auditioning for a part at the film school on September 20. One of his friends shared the last email Jack had sent the friend on Jack's Facebook page. It was full of support and positivity, including this line (written from 50 year old Jack to the 27 year old recipient): "What's weird is that I'm not really sure what 50's supposed to be, so you have become a great peer for me, not a 27 year old kid."

From a life perspective, Jack "timed out" before he could "age out." From the small amount of time I spent with him, I am pretty sure he didn't feel like "you are supposed to feel when you are 50" -- he felt alive and engaged.

When I think about another person who is older than me but lives her life in a way devoid of "supposed to's," I think of Margarete Deckert. Margarete is almost twice my age (76 to my 44). She and I are frequently in the same general vicinity of each other at races, and my family loves to remind me that I am getting "beat" by a 76 year old. Here's the thing -- the race times don't lie -- I have never crossed the finish line ahead of Margarete. But she did something for me in January 2009 following the Billy Bowlegs 5K that motivates me every single day: she handed me her "age group" award as she passed me in the parking lot. Here it is:



I hung Margarete's award up where it is one of the first things I see when I wake up every morning. Every time I look at it I feel that I have something to live up to; Margarete didn't pass along that award just to decorate my bedroom; the goal was to decorate my "drive" to improve my running times.

She's not aging out or timing out; she's on the "ultra" plan.

Several friends who are older than me frequently say something along the lines of "I don't feel [insert age number here]." I usually feel like saying, "well I feel ten years older than I am." And that usually leads me into the "supposed to's."

At every race, Margarete helps shoo those "supposed to's" off the course.

And for me personally, she and Jack appear to have been reading from the same script -- even if you are chronologically older, when you treat younger people as peers, no one "ages out."

Rest in peace, Jack.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Going the Distance

Yesterday, Wayne Kevin and I ran the Women's Distance Festival race in Indianhead Acres. I was really happy to run my second sub-39:00 race in twelve days, and Wayne had a good mile run as well.

My original draft for this blog talked about one of the main topics of curiosity on Wayne's part when he started running the 1 mile in this race in 2006 -- why are the street names so funny? (We always park on Kolopakin Nene, which apparently is an authentically Seminole way of saying "Seventh Trail."). I learned that the original developers wanted to name Jim Lee Trail "Humpin Nene"! Some ideas are better left not implemented.

Back to original programming ......
After the 5K, I helped set out the prizes for the one mile run - TOYS!!! After the kids finish their run, they are called up in the order of their finish to choose a toy as their reward. Here was the loot freshly arrayed:


And here was the loot surrounded by the excited kids as they awaited the 1 mile awards:



Between taking picture #1 and picture #2, I watched all the kids finish the race. The most dramatic moment of the entire day was this neck-and-neck finish between Lilly and Austin, who finished within .29 seconds of each other:


I don't know the full backstory of why these two 7 year olds were so bound and determined to prevail over each other. The finish was right up there with one of Michael Phelps's oh-so-close finishes in the Beijing Olympics.

What I do know is that no toy in the world will bring out the tenacity I saw in these two young people yesterday. It comes from somewhere else deeper in the soul.

Each child got a goodie bag yesterday in addition to their toy of choice. (They could also choose a trophy instead of a toy). These rewards for getting up early, running a mile, and pitting yourself against your goal of choice: beating your most recent "best" time, beating a worthy competitor, earning "grand prix" points, or just finishing the race, are important incentives to get kids out to our races and integrated into the world of running.

Lilly's and Austin's toys, along with all of the other ones earned yesterday, won't last forever. But that building block of "I can do this" is no child's play ---- it will "go the distance" of a lifetime.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sock It To Me

There have not been any big developments in my running life since I posted on Monday. So, on a whim I posted to my Facebook status the fact that I was taking suggestions for what to blog about tonight. My choices were (in this order): 1) my sock drawer (thanks, Fred D.) 2) the Leon County Middle School football jamboree yesterday (go Rams!!), and 3) the glaring public failure of several sports and political leaders to display civility this week.

I love a writing challenge. Whereas my kids probably don't find the periodic "Writes Upon Request" exercise in school "fun," to me having the opportunity to prove I can find an angle on just about anything is truly an opportunity I welcome.

If I was going to do the sock drawer option, I had to do inventory of the "before" state:


The situation was dire. There is clearly a reason why every time I go into my sock drawer, I futilely paw through all these orphans and castoff items from the last four years of my life, thinking somehow the occupants of sockland would have found compatible mates and conspired to make my mornings easier by being prepared to complete my outfits.

I commenced to make some sense out of this mess. Out of nine pairs of socks, five stayed, one went back to their rightful owner (my husband) and three are outta here. The seventeen orphans, many of which belonged to one of my children, are also gone. The rest of the inventory included hosiery and kneehis (now organized); two jewelry box/pouches; two girls' gold cross necklaces; a blue fanny pack; a hot pink visor (now retired); a blackberry belt clip; a motorola charger for a phone from about five years ago; a set of ipod earphones; three funky blue plastic things that must have corresponded to something sometime; a bandaid; two reflectors from running; a drawer sachet knitted by my mother in law; a red stocking cap; a pair of blue biking shorts circa 1987; a picture of Wayne Kevin at 18 months (keeping!); three crayons, a non functional ink pen, 3 shoestrings, a toothbrush and toothpaste in a ziploc bag, a cheap poncho, a blank check, 4 pieces of genuine trash, a Land's End invoice from March 2005 for a pair of pants that went to Goodwill long ago, and one penny.

My family was mystified by the sight of me on the floor of the bedroom, typing in the sock drawer inventory into the laptop. The nice side benefit is that since my daughter was watching the Video Music Awards, I got to share a little of that with her (and knew when to send my 10 year old out of the room). Here's the end result:


This little exercise reminded me of several scenarios set forth in the book I am reading, Freakonomics. The author does a thought-provoking job of explaining why sometimes events that we think are directly correlated are, upon further exploration, not as straightforward as they seem. I am a little upset that reading to your children isn't necessarily correlated with success in school, but I would still argue it is time well spent. Anyway, is having a clean sock drawer going to correlate with cleaning out some mental baggage and simplifying my life as I would like?
Right now, I would say the "before" picture is truer to my current reality than the "after." Hopefully, making this one small inroad into taking inventory, discarding the unwanted and unneeded "stuff" from my life and spending time on organization will make a small deposit into my satisfaction "bank."
If not, I'm still richer by one cent.










Monday, September 7, 2009

Today I Scanned My Coffee Cup

First, before I explain the coffee-cup theme, I need to clarify something about my blog. As my friend Velva aptly pointed out, this blog is about a lot more than running. Even when the week's post is anchored by a running event, somehow it always meanders off into parenting, finding your dreams, or other topics.

I will definitely keep everyone apprized of my progress as I claw my way out of the "Last Banana Club." Today I checked off one milestone on my slow-as-paint-drying progress toward running a 5K in less than 30 minutes. I ran one in less than 40 minutes!! The Red Cross Hurricane Run 5K at Southwood held the magic for me; the cool weather and my need to run after three days of no exercise didn't hurt.

There were several potential topics to choose from this week: the many things I learned at the QATC (Quality Assurance Training Connection) conference in Nashville last week; Stacy Mitchhart, who played guitar with his tongue at BB King's (also in Nashville); and the range of emotions our family experienced as we came together to bury Wayne's brother Chuck's ashes in Riverview to name a few.

I guess some concepts take time to bubble up in your brain. When I bought coffee at Starbucks this morning, and the cup said, "We don't just want to make your drink. We want to make your day," my burning takeaway question from the QATC congress crystallized. Being that I am responsible for the Customer Service function for Florida KidCare enrollees and applicants (at least a large portion of them), but the people providing most of the customer service are with a contracted entity, what can I as one person do to shape the experience of our callers (and emailers and webchatters and letter writers)?

I recently read a quote about how rapidly our minds and spirits can become uncentered; a transition that occurs before we are conscious of it. I have been in this job for 15 years, and it has become way too easy to say how the individuals who speak to our enrollees day in and day out "should" do it while I veered close to "settling" for getting the job done, not "Getting the job done!"

There were SO many ideas at my conference last week. It was really invigorating to participate in the session with the trainer from Coca Cola, who loves her product -- I think all of her reps do too. As I am writing this, the old Coke ad campaign, "Coke is It!" comes to mind.

Helping applicants and enrollees wade through the intricate web of their children's health coverage options and the attendant administrative details isn't as exciting as encouraging people to consume a soda they probably already love.

How, how, how do I make any positive change in a group of approximately 60 employees who have many different imperatives? Pressure to handle calls quickly, various levels of supervisory input (if the training people and the quality people tell me two different things, who do I listen to, and why is this mom on the phone crying?)

Clearly the change begins with me. Am I just "making your drink"? Am I even doing that? How do I (with my immediate staff and a whole group of people in a subcontractual relationship) get from "making your drink" to "making your day"?

It might be about as challenging as playing the guitar with my tongue.

Hopefully once I am there, though, people's experiences will be the equivalent of the rest of the text on this cup. Where Starbucks says, "It's not just coffee. It's STARBUCKS," hopefully our callers will say, "It's not just health care. It's KIDCARE."

I'll "run" into everyone next week!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today is Not That Day


Yesterday, I participated in the 5K portion of "Miller's Landing Madness," an annual Gulf Winds cross-country race characterized by trails in lieu of pavement and middle school/high school runners all "shiny new" with ambition for the new season. Wayne Kevin participated in the 3K. It was a beautiful morning for running (something no one could say on the original date of last year's race, when Tropical Storm Fay forced the organizers to cancel, a true rarity in the Gulf Winds world). In case anyone is keeping track, I didn't break 40, but ran 41:16, not bad for a trail run.

The tshirts this year for Miller's Landing Madness had a statement in Latin on them. Tom Perkins explained the saying right before the start of the race:

Someday I may not be able to do this ........ today is not that day.


I love that saying, and I loved sharing a running morning with my son.

The beginning of this week looks to have me tethered to the treadmill at the Opryland Courtyard Marriott. (I am in Nashville for a conference.) This area doesn't look that suitable for running around the outside vicinity.

At the end of the week, the family will convene in Riverview (south of Tampa) to bury Chuck's ashes. My mind has been occupied a good part of the week with working with Kris to pick the elements of the memorial service. As I said to her, some of the choices I have considered, that are popular right now at memorial services just are not Chuck. My friend Katherine suggested the song "Walk on the Moon" by John Stewart. This song includes the following stanza:

Friends, who were here, now are gone.
Oh, why does it happen so soon.
And, as they were closing their eyes,
Did they dream they would walk on the moon?
So the past week has been filled with thoughts of the music to play and the passages to recite to celebrate a life and to encourage those of us at the memorial to be more mindful of each other's dreams. I'll never be sure I understood Chuck's dreams, because I never asked. I wish I had.
Getting back to Tom's Miller Landing motto, I hope that each and every one of us touched by Chuck's life is able to say, when making the plan to pursue his or her dream:
Someday I may not be able to [name dream here] ...... today is not that day.
I'll "run" into you next week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dolphin, Untagged

I have known what this week's blog post would be for almost exactly a week now, since shortly after posting last week's entry.

For last week's blog, I had used pictures that my friends Jeff and Ann took of Wayne participating in the Central Florida TriKidz triathlon. I was writing my blog as Jeff was putting the pictures on Facebook, which worked out perfectly for me, since I needed the pictures for my blog.

While I was perusing Jeff's Facebook album, I "tagged" Wayne (my son) whenever I saw him. When I saw the following picture of Wayne and his friend Alex tuckered out from swimming, biking, running, and theme parking, I tagged not only Wayne but "Dolphin" (he's the gray blue-eyed guy in the bottom right corner):


I thought tagging Dolphin was "cute." He is the latest in a succession of gray fuzzy security objects who have grown up with Wayne. At first there was an elephant (he "retired" in Marco Island prematurely); there was an earlier dolphin (who miraculously survived a year stranded in a Leon County Civic Center box only to be found by us a year after he was left); there were several Spikes (Spike is the beanie baby rhinoceros and I loved Spike because he was so easily replaceable -- replaceability is good in your child's security objects); and this Dolphin, who has been with us for quite a while now.

There is an inverse relationship between Wayne's chronological age (increasing) and the public appearances that these gray fuzzy animals make (decreasing). They have pretty much been relegated to lives inside cars while Wayne is out living his life or hastily stuffed under couch pillows when guy friends come to the house.

If I had been paying attention to the reclusive tendencies Dolphin has had recently, I probably could have predicted Wayne's reaction to the "tagging incident" more accurately. I just happened to mention, "Hey, Mr. Jeff posted the pictures from the triathlon and I tagged Dolphin" and instead of, "gee Mom that's hysterical," I was met with immediate tears. Turns out Wayne was a lot less interested in sharing Dolphin with my 572 Facebook friends than I was.

So I scrambled -- since I was not the original owner of the picture, what was done was done -- I could not "untag" Dolphin. I sent Jeff a message describing the damage my overzealous tagging had done and he (blessedly) untagged "D" first thing the next morning, no questions asked.

All week I have had this picture in my head of Dolphin with one of those fuzzy things over his face like they have on those cop shows when they are protecting the identities of the innocent. Something like this:

In the long run (pun intended), I decided there is only one fair way to deal with the issue of "D". Before I unveil the final edited picture, though, here's the takeaway:

If I had not offhandedly mentioned to Wayne the "tagging," he never would have known. However, it was something I did for me and not at all for him. I learned a lesson that a certain set of parents of 8 children is completely missing right now (in my opinion): our children have to be able to trust that we as parents will think before taking liberties with their images, identities, and hearts. I may have 572 friends on Facebook who would get a chuckle out of something like this, but I only have two children counting on me to give them an emotional safe haven.

So there's one mammal who you won't be "running" into on Facebook again .....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Travails of a Two-Armed Part-Time Job Applicant

This week's blog is only peripherally about running. To write about running this week would in some ways be a repeat of last week. Wayne Kevin did a Kids Triathlon without me present (again). I did a running event Saturday morning (again). There were no bananas at my event (the annual Breakfast on the Track Mile); however there was watermelon and there were pancakes. The only last banana-ish moment was when I (as one of the last runners to finish) had to eke out some syrup from the nearly empty syrup bottles. Aunt Jemima was pretty depleted by then.


Running has been a key resource in coping with the challenge of finding additional part-time work to perform in our family effort to slay the debt monster. We have read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and I have decided to muster up the energy and willingness to do without some mom/kid time (at least short term) to earn extra income to take baby step #1 (building a modest emergency fund). Sounds easy, right?


I have learned that one of the main things you do when searching for things you can do from home is to download odd little pieces of software. I now have an "ExpressScribe" icon on one computer and Skype on another. The ExpressScribe was for home transcription of focus group sessions; Skype was to talk with people learning to speak English (imagine the potential for fun conversations there!). It was enough of a blow to my self-esteem for the transcription people to decline my application (saying it wasn't "verbatim enough"); but when my application to be an online phone generic phone rep was declined, I wondered just how much more they needed than someone certified by the Call Center Industry Accreditation Council as a Call Center Strategic Leader. (The people who required me to have a Skype id in order to apply replied with a cryptic, "We will get back to you if we see a fit for your background.")


My favorite telecommuting job ad of the week stated that applicants must be able to:
· Demonstrate an aptitude for interpersonal communication
· Possess a basic knowledge of operating a personal computer
· Speak and think clearly, normal hearing is required
· Be self-motivated
· Have the use of at least one arm and hand
· Read at sixth grade comprehension level or higher
· Have a professional, pleasant phone presence
· Maintain a calm, courteous demeanor
· Have a high school diploma or GED

If these folks turn me down it may take a very long, relaxing run to shake off the rejection blues.


What are the takeaways of the week of rejections? It is possible that all applicants are getting turned down because the organizations no longer need candidates. It is possible that I am perceived as overqualified. It is possible that the organizations are testing applicants to see who wants the position enough to respond back with why they deserve a second look. It is possible that I need to do something local at a brick and mortar place. (It's disconcerting working for (or applying to) people who you wouldn't know if they were standing a foot away. It's a part of our new world, but it's still foreign to be unable to look your supervisor (or potential supervisor) in the eye and have their nonverbals to go by in figuring out where you stand with them.)


I read something recently that said your running will speed up if you "increase the number of steps you take." It suggested that within a ten second period you count how many times your right foot hits the ground -- that if your foot hits more frequently in that period of time you'll increase your speed. I tried that on the track and it did seem to prove true.


With the hunt for sources of additional income, maybe it's not about how many times your feet hit the ground, or how many correct keystrokes per minute your (two) arms can achieve. I get the feeling this particular finish line isn't about speed but technique.


I left this week feeling like this picture of Wayne after his kids tri:

In the coming week, it's time to regroup, lace up, make sure both arms are still with me, and forge ahead!

So, readers, if you know of anyone who needs a dependable two-armed part-timer with good hearing and a high school diploma, let me know!!

Otherwise I'll "run" into you soon!