Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering Ordinary Moments (A #Reverb10 Post)

It is no coincidence - none - that I loved this #Reverb10 prompt the first time I read it:

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?
Author:  BrenĂ© Brown

And I don't think it is a coincidence that I saw this sign in the bathroom at SweatTherapy Monday night as I was changing clothes:

And it most certainly can't be a coincidence that when I asked the Random Number Generator to "assign" me one of 27 #Reverb10 prompt options, that I got this prompt! 

I started thinking about "ordinary moments" that have brought me profound joy in 2010, and although I thought the decision would be difficult, the answer came to me quickly, as long as I could indulge in two examples.

Around and Around

I can't possibly count how many times I have run the same 1.7 mile loop of Hawk's Landing Drive in 2010. I can easily sense the stark difference between all of those loops and the four months when I was not running. Because of my crazy schedule, I often run at night.  The sights are a little dull, but the combination of fresh air, solitude, and motion (and the fact that I've pretty much got the neighborhood dogs convinced I am okay) have done more for me than mood elevators that would have cost money and time. Even if I am listening to a podcast, music, or a book, it is the one time that my mind is free to wander. My mind needs that. All of me needs that. The joy of outdoor running in the dark. 

"Dad, I Need a Ride to School"

My son usually takes the bus to school. Occasionally, he will ask Wayne (my husband) to take him to school if he needs to be there early for a meeting or other activity. He is not super-organized enough to ask for the ride early or in advance, though. One night, I was sitting in the computer room, listening to the family talk outside in the living room, when I heard:

Wayne Kevin (son): Dad, you need to take me to school tomorrow.
Wayne (dad): What for?
W.K.: I have a meeting.
Dad: What kind of meeting?
W.K.: SWAT, you know, Students Working Against Tobacco

Important piece of information - Wayne (dad) has been smoking since he was a teenager. He's 52 now. My children have always had a smoker for a parent (just stating facts here, not condoning).

In that moment, I was blown away by the fact that my son, who is as often as not a major goofball, was standing up for something he believes in, knowing how difficult it would be for his dad to swallow. (Truth in advertising: it probably didn't hurt that by joining SWAT, you got to miss a day of school for training but still .....).

The joy of overhearing an ordinary ride request with an extraordinary rationale. 

....sometimes it's more than just enough
When all that you need to love
Is in front of your eyes.
(February Song - Josh Groban)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Capping Off Christmas Edition)

an image that caps off Christmas 2010?

hand knitted hats by my mother-in-law, Barb, in a kaleidoscope of school colors
mittens, too, for some little kids

Mary, Jessica, Olivia, and Jamie Oglesby

Elizabeth Oglesby and Tenley Kiger

Approximately 20 caps and 7 sets of mittens...

Knitted with love ...

did I mention Barb is blind?

she never ceases to amaze me ... at Christmas and throughout the year

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Got Five Minutes for 2010?

This #Reverb10 prompt by Patti Digh and I found each other right when I was starting to think about how I wanted to process this year via my blog. I loved it right away:

 Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

I will admit a few things up front before I set the alarm and do my "five minutes."

1) I read the prompt at least a week ago, so I have had some time to let the ideas germinate in my head.
2) I plan to tinker as little as possible with the product of my five minutes, so don't be surprised if there is (gasp!) unconventional grammar. Spelling mistakes, however, would give me too much cognitive dissonance so I'll have to fix those!
3) I may go back in and add links if I refer to past blog posts or topics.

That being a mom is my most important life’s work. That my daughter takes my breath away when I see the woman in her coming to be. That my son makes me see the world in new ways with each day. That I am glad to have been married 18 years to someone who is faithful to me and vice versa, and that he and I are friends. That through my writing, I was able to deal with old “stuff”. That I was more honest with myself about who I really want to be, and the fact that I am not “there”. That I got closer to the three goals I have written down and carry everywhere with me – going to Guatemala, being “the Big Green Pen,” and being my kids’ main driver.

That it is sad to see my father in law aging in front of my eyes –

That I loved running with my son at Breakfast on the Track and St. George Island. That I loved discovering yoga, swimming, biking and RealRyders.

That I still seek a spiritual guidance and want that for my family.

That the oil spill made me sick – that and racism, prejudice, and hatred.

That having a love as a teenager who turned out to be gay is the best thing that ever happened to me from the standpoint of being empathetic. That he and I are still friends.

That work is something I have to come to terms with – will I always be doing this or is there something different/more/better that I can do with reverence?
That I love proofreading and so appreciate Rhett, Donna, and Barbara for entrusting their works to me (Senator McKnight as well).

That I don’t like shopping but I love big splashy wedding stuff (still). Why do they always show SuperNanny now instead of “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?” when I need an escape?!

Soapbox Derby with Wayne Kevin, and the Soap Box Derby Family.

Time's up.

I am grateful for Dan Rockwell's reply to me when I commented on his "Spotting Blind Spots" post last week. In his reply, he said: 

"Your transparency both challenges and encourages."

I hope the "five minutes" thing was truly just an exercise - the kaleidoscope of images and memories of 2010 run the gamut from heartbreaking to exhilarating, but in all their intensity I want to keep many of them in my memory bank. 

The #Reverb10 project aspires to reflect on this year and manifest what's next. I encourage you to spend your five minutes, too, to say goodbye to 2010 in words.  What would make your list?

Photo Credit:  Salvatore Vuono

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It Is Almost 2011 - Let Go Already!

Wednesday evenings usually find me polishing up a post to be linked at Mama Kat's on Thursday morning, along with the other bloggers who have chosen to write to one of her five weekly writing prompts. She is taking a well deserved blogging break, so I am picking a #Reverb10 prompt. (Check out the #Reverb10 site - the goal is to reflect on this year & manifest what's next!). I did stay with my tradition of letting a random number generator "assign" me a prompt. The first one I "got" wasn't really "it." The next one worked, however, especially since it echoes one of my favorite quotes ("All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on" by Havelock Ellis):

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?
(Prompt Author: Alice Bradley)

Having parented young children, I have had my share of incidents where I screamed "LET GO NOW!" while 20 greedy fingers held on to some object of mutual desire with ferocious intensity.

The "letting go" I have done in 2010 did not involve THAT kind of yelling and physical tension. It was a quieter letting go, with ramifications beyond who gets to keep the toy.

1) A "Rolling of the Eyes"/ "What Else Did You Expect?" Attitude

Professionally, 2010 marked the second full year of my organization's affiliation with our Third Party Administrator. Having been through the procurement process, the implementation stage, and a challenging transition, my attitude, from the vantage point of having a leadership role in customer service, deteriorated. It wasn't just me; as an organization we developed some beliefs about the vendor that leaned toward the assumption that things would always work out for the worst. As John Miller, creator of the QBQ method of personal accountability, alludes to on his website and in his trainings, asking questions like, "Why did we have to make it work with a bidder who didn't have the highest quality scores?" is "nothing more than victim thinking." Good Riddance, Victim Thinking.

2) Rekindling Friendships via Social Media Works ... Sometimes

I am a ridiculously, relentlessly, never-give-up-on-people kind of friend (I hope). When I first began dabbling in social media, I went on a feeding frenzy of "friending" people. It was great. And it remains great, mostly. I have discovered that with some friendships, the passage of 20 years could have well been 20 minutes. With other friendships, there has been too much change. Sometimes, a few messages, statuses, and Facebook "pokes" won't bridge the gap that has grown over lives that have taken different paths. When I posted a relatively innocuous "like" about an article that attempted to explain in a calm and reasonable way some of the background of current relations in America between Christians and Muslims, one friend who I had reconnected with posted a critical, sarcastic response. I respect that friend's opinion, but somehow it felt weird and off-putting to be having the exchange via computer screens, in front of her hundreds of "friends" and my 1,000+ friends. I would still dearly love a face-to-face chat with her, but it won't be what it was when we were college roommates.  Letting go of assumptions that people will remain the same.

3) Control

I want things to go a certain way. Don't we all? That's not going to happen. As my children grow into who they are going to be as individuals, it is time to trust/hope/pray that 14 years (for my daughter) and 11 years (for my son) of my (and my husband's) parenting has given them some tools to cope with a world that concurrently holds fascinating possibilities I could never have imagined while it presents them with hazards I know were not part of my young adult years. When I walk into church by myself every Sunday morning alone, knowing how fundamental spirituality and worship have always been to my life, I mourn the fact that it isn't going to work to force them to come with me. Hoping that I can "let go" of my vision of them in the pew with me while God works in their hearts.

Letting go of these things will end up being the first step toward "manifesting what's next." 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (tiny tree edition)

small tree ... big memory

In 2006, when Wayne Kevin was in 2nd grade, my job as a classroom holiday party volunteer was to have a "station" where the kids could make something. My "something" was these little trees made out of pipe cleaners, pony beads, and stick-on stars. It is a great memory because the kids loved doing it, and I loved creating the trees with them. I pull mine out every year at Christmas to enjoy in my office. It's more significant to me than a perfectly decorated 8 foot tree would be ...

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jarrod's Lesson: Be Who You Are, Passionately

“And while we’re talking, there’s a scene that involves having eggs cracked over your head while you’re standing in the checkout line. If that’s you, will you be okay with that?”

The above question came from Jim Ed Wills, when he was casting extras for Adam Isaacs’s FSU Film, “Playback Henry.” He used a tone of voice that indicated he thought it was asking a lot to ask a perfectly normal adult to agree to have eggs cracked over their head. The thing is, for those of us in the FSU Film extras/acting community, I’ll bet that, unless it was the individual’s first time being an extra/actor, the answer was not just “sure” but that the person being asked secretly hoped there were some eggs heading the way of their head.

I once heard a student telling an actor, “well, you fit the profile for a film I was casting for, but since you had just done another one, I didn’t want to bother you.” The actor's response was (summarizing here): Bother me please.

My friend Jarrod Heierman, who died suddenly, at the age of 40, in early December  wasn’t in Playback Henry, so he missed the opportunity to be an “egg head” for the day. However, he did many other things in FSU Films; I understand he was in 40 films, and I have only been exposed to a few of them. Most significantly (to me), he was my “husband” in Shane Spiegel’s Water Wings. I had just arrived on set when Jarrod was about to film his scene, but he told me my name would be easy to remember because his mom is named Paula. I heard him joking around with the crew when they asked him to change into a hospital gown about not being ashamed of his “man boobs.”

I encountered him a few weeks later, on Chris Oroza’s SAE. I was a nurse; he was a huge (like 8 feet tall), black, furry, something. The costume can’t have been comfortable; I didn’t hear a peep of complaint.

Me in "Nurse Mode" in SAE with Riley Moran and Virgil Bates III 
Photo Credit: Natalie Warrender Shepherd LaBarr

Jarrod as the Big Black Menacing Something in SAE
Photo Credit: FSU Film

In August 2010, I saw Jarrod perform in a film that involved him doing some crazy dance in a pawn shop, shirtless. It was hysterical.  The last time I saw him, we were playing "college student parents" on the set of Carissa Dorson's film, "Parental Ties." Needing something to say, I mentioned that I had googled him and learned that he had won an oyster eating contest (28 dozen + 8 oysters in eight minutes, to be exact). I am still not sure if he was creeped out by the fact that I had Googled him or flattered that he was "famous" for his speed eating acumen. I'll never know.   

The Oyster Eating Contest
Jarrod is the one, um, focused on the eating!
Photo credit: David Adlerstein

I didn’t know Jarrod well. Like many other people in the FSU Film community, I only saw him on sets. But time on set does not function like “regular” time. If it is your film to produce, it probably feels like time zooms by. For actors/regulars, it is a more insular thing -- for the period of time you are filming, you are family, or shoppers in a store (watch out for the eggs), or partygoers, or bank customers, or medical personnel, or any of a hundred things. It is an experience that you will have had just with those people; even though the final product will be shared with audiences, you will have been part of a team, creating an experience together.

At Jarrod’s memorial service, I heard person after person tell stories about growing up with him, working with him, and playing sports with him. So often the stories came back to what a “team player” he was. The characteristic I pointed out was that Jarrod, among a social-media obsessed world, was not “plugged in.” No Facebook (that I knew of), no tweeting about every thought he had. There’s something to be said for being so secure in yourself that you don’t need to make sure you tag the right people and pile on the “friends.”

At the service, Gavin Boone mentioned Jarrod’s role on Matt Sklar’s “Green Christmas,” a film about (among other things) an overzealous environmentalist who loses sight of the spirit of Christmas because he is caught up in his own agenda. Jarrod’s character, a “hire-a-Santa,” tells the down-and-out homeowner “Don’t forget the Spirit. The Spirit of Christmas.” Our family has been in the position of grieving a loved one just weeks before Christmas; I hope in some quiet moment, Jarrod’s family and friends feel his presence with them. Even though the holiday spirit is easily lost in a frenzy of buying, partying, and posturing, its authenticity can be rescued via treasured memories of a guy who just wanted other people to feel happy.

Jarrod on the set of "Green Christmas"
Photo Credit:  Madeline Eberhard 

As I was writing this blog earlier today, this quote flitted across twitter:

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.
They are one. - Leigh Caraccioli

Jarrod, you gave a gift every time you shared yourself with us.  The strong simplicity of your presence, fueled exclusively by a passion for being "who you were" was a present beyond measure. 

Thank you. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fireworks Reflections (A Mama Kat Writers Workshop Prompt)

Maybe it is fitting that the Mama Kat writing prompt I ended up with this week takes me back to a time of shorts, sweat, and fun. As I described to a friend earlier today, we have been in "minimalist Christmas" mode around here, so a memory of a past Independence Day might as well take center stage. 

The prompt is: Let’s rewind to Summer and warm up! Share some favorite photos from a vacation you took. What you're getting, dear readers, is one photo, but it's one that is special to me (and it's the first thing I laid eyes on after choosing this prompt).

The backstory: for a few years, Tenley and I had the good fortune to find ourselves in New York City for the Fourth of July every year.  One year, we did "low key" fireworks in my friend Audrey's Connecticut neighborhood - that was its own kind of special. Another year we got super-smart and paid to sit on Roosevelt Island for the Macy's Fireworks, where we had our own chairs, portolets, and food! One reason I jumped to be at a place with chairs, portolets, and food is that the year prior, we had watched the Macy's Fireworks from the South Street Seaport, where we were sat criss-cross applesauce along with tens of thousands of other sardines people, stood in line with hundreds of other sardines people, and I honestly don't remember what the portolet situation was like but I'm thinking I blocked it out for a reason!

For all of the crowdedness of that South Street Seaport year, it is still a special memory to me. The themed shirts from Old Navy, the fact that I was at a weight I was happy with, enjoying time with my daughter, in the city I am still crazy about, made it an Independence Day I will always treasure.

Now, time to bundle back up and listen closely for the clatter of reindeer hooves....

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Pair of Three Edition)

How about this lovely trio of pictures for a Christmas gift?

Better check the price.....

Pair of 3?

...... more things that make the Big Green Pen see RED!

Picture credits to eagle eye (and math teacher) Susan Nelson!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

1,000 Marbles, A Year Late

There are so many things floating around in my head tonight that I want to write about. Here is the one that has percolated to the top. It is a message I should have shared with seven people a year ago.

In October 2009, a day or two after being given a nice "Boss's Day" card from my staff, I was informed that I was being transferred from my position as Director of Customer Service at Healthy Kids to Director of Health Plan Services and Contract Management. One thing the change meant was leaving behind seven people who had reported to me; in my new position I do not directly supervise anyone. 

I had a "plan" for closure. I wanted to take them all to lunch, give them a little jar of marbles, and give them a copy of A Thousand Marbles, and, in so doing, create a moment of transition, a time in which I could say goodbye and share some time with them as this reporting relationship ended. I never did that. As personal expenses mounted, I couldn't afford to take everyone to lunch (or so I thought). One thing led to another and before I knew it, a full year had passed and I had never formally done anything. It comes up in my mind as I pass them in the hall every day, and when they pass me on their way to talk to their new supervisor. 

I do want to point out that one thing that has struck me the most about this transition is the mixture of complete relief at the freedom that comes from not being responsible for seven other people's professional environment and, conversely, utter loss at the void that comes from not having a leadership role in seven other people's professional journeys. As much as I struggled with the intense demands of coordinating so many moving parts in our organization, I also felt a very deep desire to help these people move toward finding their professional and personal "bliss". 

To those people, here is a taste of what has gone unsaid:

I love this place and this cause. I have loved it since I first got "in the loop" of this concept way back in 1991, before the first child was ever enrolled. I have not been the kind of supervisor I wanted to be - I wanted to be the kind of supervisor I look up to the most - one who understands enough of the details about what we do that they can converse intelligently about it but also one who has the management skills to help people want to be the best they can be and not operate out of a position of fear. I believe in being proactive rather than reactive. I believe that people respond to many different types of incentives, not just financial. I believe that people need to understand how their responsibilities fit in to the big picture. I believe that every employee of Healthy Kids and its contractors does a better job if they have met one of our beneficiaries or have somehow "walked in those shoes."  It made me proud when employees said how much they enjoyed and took pride in working through the challenging process of developing custody procedures. I felt hopeful about the dialogue we were having as I was sharing the results of my 360 evaluation and the feedback you were giving me about how I could be a more effective leader. I loved sharing various pieces of writing and videos I had run across that I thought may help you like what you did better. 

To summarize, I think there were things I did well as a supervisor and things that I did abysmally. I hope you know that I hold a deep respect for each of you as individuals and want the best for you. 

One of my favorite statements about work, by Hugh MacLeod, is contained on a Gaping Void cartoon that I have taped to my door: 

You don’t have to get a job with a famous company or hot-shot industry in order to have a spectacular career. You just have to do what you do with reverence.

I believe that loving what you do enough that you approach it with reverence is half of the equation for a happy life. I wish each of you this happiness and thank you for the privilege of having been your supervisor.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Zipping Along Boldly (A Mama Kat Writers Workshop Prompt)

We participants in Mama's Losin' It had five words to choose from for our writing prompts this week. Just words.  Our choices were: simple, angsty, excruciating, enchanted, and bold.  The Random Number Generator gave me bold.

I didn't immediately know what I was going to say about "bold," but the images that came to mind rather quickly were the ones I see every day on Facebook from North Georgia Canopy Tours.  People zip through gorgeous foliage, having a blast (looks that way from the pictures at least!), and I am sure for a few of these people, they have to tackle some "fear of heights" issues as they embark on their adventures.  I send much gratitude to NGCT for sending me four pictures hand-selected by staff, within about an hour of me asking for something to use in my blog.  Without further ado, images of "the ultimate treetop adventure" combined with a few thoughts from me and friends about boldness.

Boldness Bit #1:  Although the dictionary defines "boldness" as having a "fearless daring spirit," I agree with my friend Jacqui who says boldness is "doing what needs to be done despite of whatever fears or apprehensions are wrapped around a situation. It's about digging deep within oneself and finding courage. So for me, BOLD is about finding and acting with COURAGE in the face of FEAR!!!"  Boldness is not really fearlessness, but coming to terms with the fear.

(Joe from North Georgia Canopy Tours)

Boldness Bit #2:  Sometimes, boldness is about the quieter, stronger choices we make.  When I was with a group of women a few weeks back, talk turned to a woman who wasn't there and some of the interactions she had had with members of our group.  One individual said, "I don't like her, do you?" to a few other group members.  One woman in the group just smiled and said, "I am not going to be involved in talking about her." It wasn't condescending or self-righteous, just gracefully extricating herself out of a negative, demeaning conversation and defending someone who wasn't there to do it herself. Quietly bold.

(Jenna from North Georgia Canopy Tours)

Boldness Bit #3: My friend Dan told me about boldly (or sneakily?) getting into sporting events free since he was 14.  He describes, "great seats, on the field, in the locker rooms (1969 Mets, drinking out of the Stanley Cup with the 1980 Islanders), the 1980 America/ Russsia Hockey game, in the ring with Muhammad Ali with pictures to back it all, interviews with players, right time right place for a specific game with no tickets or press passes and never getting caught. Now those were the days when it could be done. Bold or a sneak take your pick For me both!!!" Boldness that brings you "THISCLOSE" to legends.

(Unidentified ZipLine Adventurer at North Georgia Canopy Tours!)

Boldness Bit #4:  There is a boldness that benefits another human being forever, that the person making the bold choice may never personally benefit from and will probably grieve over for a lifetime.  My goddaughter Riley's biological mother made the bold choice to surrender Riley into a family with unconditional love to spare.  When I see this beautiful picture of all the gorgeous colors, I am grateful for our family's legacy of adopting multiracial children. A kaleidoscope of bold family love.

(Autumn Colors at North Georgia Canopy Tours)

Thank you again to North Georgia Canopy Tours for the
great photographs!

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Big Apple Christmas Edition)

Thank you to my friend Duane Archer for sharing these wonderful pictures of Christmas 2010 in New York City.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To Awake Satisfied - An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of my church, Holy Comforter, contribute devotionals for the season of Advent. This is my contribution for 2010. 

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

-Psalm 17:15

December 3, 2010, is the seventeenth anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law, Ann Kiger Paredes. Ann died in her sleep of an undiagnosed genetic cardiac disorder, at the age of 30. She left behind a husband, a six year old son, a three year old daughter, and a six month old baby girl.

Christmas 1993 was not an easy holiday for our family. Ann’s coworker, Faith Bass, captured the feeling in her poem, “Is There Christmas in Heaven?” from which I have provided an excerpt:

Do you exchange gifts,
have parties and such,
or is your only wish to be mortal,
to feel your child’s touch?

Are you watching us from heaven?
Do you feel our grief?
Is living in heaven such a relief?

Ann’s children are young adults now. How I wish she could have been here among us over the past seventeen years, marveling in their growth and, yes, grumbling about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. For some reason, God gave us, her family, that gift. When I “hang out” with that nephew and those nieces whose world was so drastically shaken so long ago, I know Ann is with us when I see Zack’s “AEK” tattoo on his arm, when Logan says something that just has that “Ann” tone to it, and when Jordan still has that exuberant little sparkle in her eye she did as a youngster.

I still do not understand why Ann did not wake up before dawn on December 3, 1993. She awoke to the likeness of God. As you contemplate the gifts of Christmas, may you awaken to a Godly likeness with every moment.

The Kiger Siblings, 1991 (Ann is 2nd from the left)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Friendship was "Mint" To Be (A Mama Kat Writers Workshop Prompt)

Mama's Losin' It

I usually let the random number generator "assign" me one of the five weekly Mama's Losin' It writing prompts. This week, the random number generator picked number 3: CONTROVERSY! Are the new security measures performed by the TSA really that bad? Take a stance! I am not writing to that prompt, partially because I am so hungry to travel almost anywhere that I wouldn't let a full-body scan and a little TSA churlishness get in my way. I chose prompt number 1, proposed by Elizabeth from Mama Sick: Have you ever had a fight with a long time best friend and never made up? Do you think about her from time to time and think about contacting her? What would you say? What if it didn’t work out? What if it did?

Answering prompt number 1 gives me an opportunity to look back on a time when a good friendship was fractured, to ask why the heck that happened, and to enthuse about how much happier we both are now that all of that is behind us (except when it is being resurrected in a blog, I suppose........)

Not everyone "gets" my humor. "J" did, immediately, and served it back to me. We were working on a project together at the State Department of Education. The people were great, the project was worthwhile, and friendship blossomed rapidly. We all worked together to produce a fantastic teleconference (back in the day when you had to have "I-Spy-like" coordinates to tell people how to talk to each other via satellite). The speed with which she and I bonded was second only to the speed with which entire sleeves of Thin Mint cookies seemed to go AWOL when either of us was around.

Then, somewhat abruptly, things got weird. There was a bit of a shift in the org chart, changing our positions slightly. There was a ........

....looking back on it I can't articulate how and why we went from "thick as thieves" to "not speaking." Several months of this went by, months when it was pretty challenging to be in such close physical proximity while our attitudes toward each other were inifinitely distant.

It takes a whole lot of energy, and I don't mean happy, "walking on sunshine" energy. I mean negative, "everyone around me ought to wallow down here in the angry ditch with me" energy to maintain this kind of personal freezeout.

I can still picture in my mind where I was (in my old little green duplex watching Seinfeld) when I called her. We chatted, did a little work on trying to figure out how we had gone from scarfing thin mints together to avoiding eye contact and putting up walls. Things were better for the next few months. Eventually, she moved away from Florida and I moved to a new job.

(fast elapse here of about fifteen years)

Enter Facebook, that intrepid facilitator of reunions.

She and I got reconnected via Facebook, and have had a fabulous time getting reacquainted, sharing thin mint reminiscences, and supporting each other. On days when no one else comments on my blog, I know I can almost always count on her chiming in. That is a priceless act of support.

What is the takeaway from this experience? For me, every single time I hear someone start a conversation that is essentially structured like this: "I haven't spoken to [name] in three weeks, ever since (s)he [list minor infraction/perceived inequity/etc. here]. The ball's in their court. They've gotta go first" I think to myself "you have started yourself on a death spiral - the more you pull your physical and emotional energy inward, the faster you will continue to descend as opposed to ascend." Many of these situations start out so minor, and we deprive ourselves of some very satisfying friendship time (not to mention annoying the people around us who are often caught in the middle) when we lack the courage to go ahead and address things early.

In October, J and I had a chance to meet up when she came to Tallahassee for a football game. We had a great visit over breakfast. The only thing missing was the thin mints.

The picture that J. tagged "me" in on my birthday!

A quarrel between friends, when made up, adds a new
 tie to friendship
. - St. Francis De Sales

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Thanksgiving Morning Edition)

Fall colors aren't usually Tallahassee's strong point.
Thanks, Southwood, for this Thanksgiving morning treat!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Birthday Savasana

I am very new to yoga, which I have been interested in for a while. My curiosity was heightened by a "Speaking of Faith" interview with Seane Korn that I listened to this summer. I was also drawn by programs like ALPHA Running. ALPHA Running's approach is centered on a strategy called "RYT," which stands for "Running," "Yoga," and "Track." 

Now that I am about eight weeks into going to yoga regularly at Journeys in Yoga, I am hooked. I know it will be good for my running, when my injury heals enough for me to run again, but in the here and now, it is good for my mental state.

There is a phase at the end of each yoga session called "Savasana." (Yes, I did have to look this up in order to be able to blog about it - remember, I said I am very new!) In Savasana, you typically take the corpse pose and to quote Amey Matthews: "release holding in the muscles .. let go of thoughts in the mind .. relax the breath .. gradually create a sense of dissipating into the atmosphere around you."

I am very surprised that the teachers at Journeys in Yoga have not had to wake me up to make me leave and make way for the next class while I have been in Savasana.  Amey Matthews writes, "sleepiness can be an unconscious escape into a more familiar state of mind." (And no, this post is not about me and meetings ... it's about yoga, remember?!) 

There have been about three times over the past two months when I am sure my mind was doing some important work during Savasana.  One time involved my husband's previous employer and the letting go of resentment. Another involved something very fundamental about the parent-child relationship, and understanding the intent behind the physical gifts our children give us - how much they want our approval and how much they gain from our pleasure in the items they bestow on us. Today, mindful that I needed to have something to write about tonight, I was trying so hard to consciously hold on to the phrase the teacher said as we began Savasana - something about creating spaces for our minds and our bodies.  But the deeper I allowed my "boundaries to soften and dissolve" (credit Amey Matthews), the more I lost the ability to hold on to that specific phrase. The music playing had to do with magnificence and the ocean. I was gone, and I was not asleep.

On my birthday, I am so grateful for this new influence in my life. I suppose I have my foot injury to thank for sending me on this particular path. I love this simple yet eloquent graphic shared by Ashley of MS Run the US recently, and I view these moments of Savasana as stepping stones between the comfort zone and the magic.   

Speaking of things that I am grateful for, check out this creation of my young friend Leila's. Is this not the best "front of a birthday card envelope" EVER?

I thank Leila for these well-articulated (and flattering!) thoughts. I thank my friends and family for the things they have done, big and small, to make today nice for me. I thank my son for "eliminating" the wasp that was buzzing around the keyboard tonight. I thank the practice of yoga for the moments of Savasana, of providing me opportunities for "time of observation without expectation." (Amey Matthews quote)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Perfect Shoes (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

It is time for another Mama Kat writing prompt and the devious random number generator handed me another poem:  Write a poem about something you are thankful for. On a holiday that revolves around food, I am thankful for a coworker who reminded me to respect food, in deference to those who know "lack of."

Perfect Shoes

I need a place to sit my coffee down in a crowded staff meeting
I start to place it on the floor under my seat
Alex scrambles to take it from my hands

I have learned not to say “oh, that’s okay, I’ll take care of it myself”
to Alex
It’s more than courtesy; it’s culture

In his culture, putting food on the floor is a sign of disrespect
of a dearth of appreciation
of taking for granted something that not everyone gets.

He says it’s a Latin American thing
I try to learn more
He tells me stories – of knowing what it’s like to have nothing

He tells me that in Colombia it would be rude to ask for more food
When there are still remnants on the plate
He doesn’t understand throwing food away

The stories go beyond food
He tells of walking four hours to school barefoot
So his shoes would be perfect for school
To demonstrate respect for the teacher

(Villa de Levya Colombia Image Credit: Andres Bermudez Lievano)

“Pumpkin Chuckin’” on the Science Channel is not for him
Playing with food? Makes no sense
Arriving at the restaurant in sloppy sweats – why?

Old people, he says, appreciate their food
Young Americans Supersize
They talk with their mouths full; food is an afterthought

We discuss restaurant behavior
Paying attention to the small graces of mealtime
Truly being with the people at the table
Bound by affection and reverence for one another

On Thanksgiving
I walk five kilometers with 5,000 people “to make room for all the food”
I dine, guided by the ethos of a boy who kept his shoes shined

And his food off the floor.

Mama's Losin' It

Monday, November 22, 2010

Failed to Authenticate

Do any of you remember the Healthy Kids copier that starred in one of my "Wordless Wednesday" posts? In a Facebook comment, my friend Laura called the copier "zen."

That was in July. We now have a new copier at work. Sounds pretty innocuous, right? To make a copy (or to fax, scan, or print), the user has insert their index finger into the "biometric identifier" that has supposedly been trained to recognize us, and retrieve the copy (in the case of copying/printing) that will then be released.  I understand this new system was necessitated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITEC) Act in order to add additional protections of PHI (Protected Health Information).  All I know is that it ticks me off and makes me lose valuable time, standing at the machine, begging it to recognize my fingerprint when I repeatedly get this message:  Failed to Authenticate.

I stood at our new copier recently, finger in the biometric identification device, following the graphic rules demonstrating how to appropriately insert the identifying finger into the biometric device, and waited four minutes and thirty seconds for the machine to decide I was me.

The Hopeful Start:

What I frequently still see four to seven minutes later:

I make it a point to commend at least as often as I complain in my life and in my blog.

Put this post firmly in the "complaint" category.  (Are you out there, KonicaMinolta?)

While it's my index finger the machine is looking for to "authenticate me," it is a different finger that I usually want to give it!

Have you been driven to distraction (or to taking awkward one-handed photos because your right finger is being held hostage) by a piece of office machinery before? If so, share with me!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Shine (A Mama Kat Writers Workshop Prompt)

When the Mama Kat writing prompts for this week came out, I blithely ran a "random number generator" for one through five and came up with number two. The relatively easy part: write about a time someone made you smile. The not-so-easy part: write in poem format.

And that's how I ended up writing Just Shine:

Just Shine

I wear a white robe - my "acolyte uniform"
          I pass the priest the wafers, the wine, the water; I wash his hands
Each communicant kneels at the rail
          Dressed “to the nines,” in sweats or jeans – and everything in between
She is all in something from “Justice for Girls”
          A shirt that has a pink bunny on it, with a pink rhinestone collar and glitter
Her shirt says “just shine”
          She is still a child – the balance has not at all tipped toward womanhood yet
The pink leggings match – the headband – the shoes with hearts on them
          It all coordinates – there is also an “Almost Too Cool” set with a baby blue puppy
I remember shopping with Tenley at Justice
          Charmed by the innocence of each image
Stressed by the cost, by her enthusiastic pleas not to wait until things got to the sale rack
          Now the images, prices, and sounds bombard me at Hollister and Abercrombie
 I smile and reminisce
          Wishing this child and her mom an extended stay in the time of “just shine”

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Whoa! Edition)

A Yiddish proverb says: 

"The wagon rests in winter, the sleigh in summer,
the horse never."

I suppose that proverbial horse never encountered this sign on Tallahassee's Miccosukee Greenway:

It cracks me up every time I see it!