Monday, May 31, 2010



Just a little technicality I have to do to get registered on Technorati.  Over and out!

I Hope I Look Spent

(photo credit: Jackisue/Flickr)

I love 5K races that do not involve waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday.  This Memorial Day weekend, I had the exquisite opportunity to sleep in late yesterday (Saturday) morning.  I also had the exquisite opportunity to have Friday off due to our Executive Director's decision a few months ago to add the Friday prior to Memorial Day as an official office closure day (thanks, Rich!!).  I don't know why he did that, but this is one situation where the "why" is pretty insignificant.

When I planned tonight's blog, I planned to post my review of "You're Not the Boss of Me -- Brat-Proofing Your 4-12 Year Old Child" by Betsy Brown Braun.  Since I am not done with the book, and my review can be posted as late as Tuesday, that idea got jettisoned.  I have a commitment to blog weekly, though, and for me that is every Sunday night. 

When I was listening to a RunRunLive podcast this week, the host (Chris Russell) conducted an interview with Erskien Lenier.  At one point in the interview the two were discussing the condition in which runners cross the finish line.  I think it was Chris who commented about how totally spent the elite runners look when they cross the line.  Spent, as in at the point of collapse.  The point was that these runners leave it all on the course.  And he went on to ask of us listeners:  how much are you holding back when you race?  Are you leaving it all on the course?  Is there something else you can pull out of your arsenal as the race elapses that can help you more effectively reach your goals?

Most of you know that my running-related goal is to run a 5K in less than 30:00.  I started training for this in December 2008 and have felt somewhat "plateaued" over the past month or two.  I have seen enough athletic training (including a zillion hours watching young gymnasts train when my daughter was a gymnast) to believe that an athlete should be exceeding in practice what they want to demonstrate in competition.  So, since I have not broken 30:00 in my usual workout routines, it's not going to happen tomorrow night in Bainbridge.

BUT, what I can do is pledge to myself to leave a little more out there on the roads of Bainbridge.  And I can tell all of you that that's my plan so that you can help hold me accountable! 

I read a great quote that sums up my feelings about tomorrow night's race:

Every person's always a portrait of that person. - Samuel Butler

The work I do tomorrow night in Bainbridge will hopefully convey a portrait of perseverance. 

I'll drop in tomorrow night after the race and provide a follow-up comment.

Then I'll "run" into you all again on Tuesday, for my review of "You're Not the Boss of Me"!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Things that make @biggreenpen dissolve in purple puddles.

You all know I rail against typos and spelling errors, but sometimes it just doesn't matter.  At the Leon County Relay for Life this weekend, the sign below was propped up against the luminaria bags honoring "Little Mamma Harris." 

Angle, Angel, Anelg, Anleg........I could care less. 

(And given the illustration, maybe somehow the illustrators actually meant those geometric things.)

She was loved.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Muddy's Flame, 24 Beads, and Hope

This weekend took off like a bullet train, with an overnight at the Leon County Fairgrounds Friday night for Relay for Life.  The express tour continued through the Red Hills Kids Triathlon and the 4th Annual Holocaust Essay/Art Awards Ceremony.  The train is slowing down and pulling into the station now.  Each of the three "stops" I have mentioned contained at least one blogworthy moment.  Tonight, however, belongs to Relay for Life. 

I have been Relaying for a while now (since 2003).  For the past three years, I have been captain of the Gulf Winds Track Club team.  For this year's Relay, one of the teams (The Tallahassee Chrome Divas) was selling "Relay beads."  I started off with a string and one bead; by the time the Chrome Divas packed up, I was at bead #24:

I liked having the mechanism of the beads to track my progress at Relay.  I also enjoyed interacting with the Chrome Divas each time I passed their campsite and got another bead (after every three purple beads, I got a "chrome" (otherwise known as silver) bead to signify that I had reached about another mile). 

With each of the 24 laps, I tried to focus on thinking of someone specific who is dealing with cancer as a survivor, or someone who has been lost to the disease.  To honor them, and extend the reflective feeling of Relay just a little longer, here they are: 

Letha Rucker - my mom, a breast cancer survivor.
Dianne Dolan - my friend, a breast cancer survivor.
Rose Naff - my former boss and my friend, a cancer survivor who taught me (by letting me watch a radiation treatment) just how dehumanizing it can be to be written on with a sharpie (the tattoo to tell the radiographer where to aim).
Kaitlin Nash - my brother in law and sister in law's friend's child, who lost her fight with cancer just after her 1st birthday.
Chuck Kiger - my brother in law who survived cancer but passed away from other causes shortly after getting a clean bill of health.
Pam Stokes - a coworker and cancer survivor.
Terry Massa, a friend and cancer survivor.
Kenney Shipley, a role model.

Fran McLean, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Linda McNeal, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Bill Milford, a friend who I did not know was a survivor until I saw him in his survivor shirt Friday night.
Seab Rucker, my grandfather who died of stomach cancer.
Layla Grace Marsh, a young girl of 3 or 4 who died of cancer.  I only "knew" her through Twitter and the web, but her family's openness made me feel like a member of the family.
Lucy Dinnes, a parishioner with me at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City who passed away from cancer.
Tom Meehan, my coworker's husband who is a cancer survivor.
DeeDee Rasmussen, my friend who is a cancer survivor. 
Robin Dunn Bryant, who I did not know was a cancer survivor until she and her family became contestants on the "We Live Fit" challenge and their lives became "an open book."
Robin Roberts, host of Good Morning America and cancer survivor. 
Lattice Marie Davis, my aunt who died of breast cancer.
Lew Killian, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor.
Don Carraway, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor. 
Janice Zaehring, Wayne's kindergarten teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of his kindergarten year and did radiation treatments at a super early time every morning so she wouldn't have to miss any time with her class.
Jackie Palmieri, my friend and cancer survivor.
Andrea Hartley, who passed away from cancer.  We were only acquaintances, but I was touched (blown away actually) by her fight at such a young age, and by a photo tribute I saw of her and her daughter, Emma, with Jack Johnson's "Upside Down" playing within it. 

That song, Upside Down, has a line in it that states, Please don't go away.

Our team member Fran's dog, Muddy, was always "first in line" to be washed at the annual Gulf Winds Track Club car/dog wash for Relay for Life.  Muddy lost his life to cancer between last year's relay and this year's.  Fran had a luminaria for him (one of the bags filled with sand and a candle, used to light the path during Relay). 

It's funny.  Fran left Relay on Friday night, and said she would be back the next morning.  She asked me if a group goes around and destroys all of the luminaria bags, because she wanted to get Muddy's instead of having it tromped on and thrown away.

When she arrived Saturday morning, all of the luminarias around Muddy's had extinguished themselves, with the exception of Muddy's!

Fran shared with me in an email today what it meant to have that candle still burning.  She stated that perhaps that's why she felt drawn to return to the camp site (at its hottest, dirtiest hour!).

Upside Down includes this line:  I don't want this feeling to go away.

What I don't want to go away, and am freshly reminded to hold tightly to, after a weekend at Relay, is hope:

I will hope to "run" into you next week, readers!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

President Jackson would have been proud, oh so proud, of the fine minds at this major sporting goods retailer, which appears to be an "authority" on the ways to spell the word denoting "big sale."

@biggreenpen?  I saw RED of course!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When the going gets though, the though get going.

Some people sing with the voices of angels.  Some people run long distances quickly.  Some people coach athletic teams to win, season after season.  Me, I see typos.  As several of my previous Wordless Wednesday posts attest, many letters are being written on objects that do not move while perfectly good letter-writing paper goes unused.  Thank goodness Mrs. Bowen, my sixth grade teacher, gave us students the hint that "stationary" has an "a" in its last three letters to remind us of an "anchor," something that remains still.  "Stationery," on the other hand, is used for writing letters. 

My nickname at Healthy Kids has been "The Big Green Pen" for many years now.  Because I use a green felt-tip pen when I edit letters, and because I am, to put it mildly, generous with the green ink, the nickname is permanent and has become my identity on Twitter (@biggreenpen) and among my proofreading/copyediting clients. 

There are a few of us at the office who enjoy language, and appreciate language used with precision and care.  Therefore, when I see something egregious (like the recent "Flordia"), I send out a quick email with a "Big Green Pen Challenge."  When my coworker, Niki Pocock, participated in the most recent "Big Green Pen Challenge," she included in her response a link to a blog by Bob Gabordi, Executive Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, in which  Bob discusses why answering his phone is always an adventure.  As part of his blog, when he refers to a caller who questioned whether the Democrat still utilizes proofreaders, he wrote:

Losing those people huddled in the back proofreading pages was part of the price we paid for technology. These days, newspaper pages go straight from the newsroom’s computers to metal plates that go on the press. Fewer eyes are looking for typos and minor grammar flaws.
Between my initial reading (on Friday) of Bob's blog and logging on to this morning, two typos jumped off the page (first case) and screen (second case).  It was time to e-mail Bob.

In my e-mail, I expressed my hope that there can be some happy medium between those non-existent "back of the room" proofreaders and "a journalistic organization resigning itself to an attitude of "we'll catch what we can, but errors happen." 

I pointed out the on-line lead for the well-done "print exclusive" article about the fiscal difficulties faced by the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts.  The text stated:

The recession has been particularly though on the
LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts, a Tallahassee
nonprofit that's been around for 47 years.
I also pointed out that the header to a very informative article in yesterday's Democrat, which described how to prepare for the sport of triathlon, was titled this way:

Break in new gear as part of pre-race preperation. 

Arguably, neither of these errors did any damage.  The recession is still hitting Lemoyne; athletes still need to break in their gear to get ready for triathlons. 

I once proofread a friend's resume.  I'm pretty sure the friend's career might have gone a whole different direction if the friend's original representation of her "Master's in Public Administration" had not had its "L" in "Public" replaced before distribution. 

For examples of typos that have done more than annoy, visit Eye for Ink's Typo of the Month page.  You can even subscribe to receive a new "particularly embarrassing or expensive" typo every month (if you can stand it!). 

When my new smartphone started anticipating my words for me, so that, for example, I could start typing "let's get lu...." and the phone would pop up with the options of "lunch" or "lucky," I started tuning in to the types of technology that have become an expectation of my 10- and 13- year old children.  There is very little thinking involved; your message can be composed and sent in a flash. 

But getting "lunch" and getting "lucky" are different.  I imagine there are many people out there I might want to have lunch with, but only one I plan to get lucky with!

In the final paragraph of my email to Bob, I said, "However, if we parents do manage to get our kids to read the newspaper (one can always hope) or if a teacher requires students to read an article in the newspaper for a class-related assignment, I think it is important that the writers/publishers have made every effort to show that they care about the "small considerations" of spelling and grammar in addition to the "big considerations" of what they have to say."

Bob responded within two hours of my original e-mail.  His response e-mail, in which he assured me that typos "drive me utterly insane" (yay! a kindred spirit), he also pointed out that the "online editing process is different ... than the print process."  He discussed the "nature of writing and editing so quickly for the 24-7 news cycle" and commented that, "such errors have always been a problem for newspapers."  Bob said that, "Newspapers have long been called the first draft of history ....... Now, with the Web, perhaps print is the second draft.  But in either case, we have never faced more intense deadline pressure than now and I would not be surprised if our typo-error rate is not higher than in previous generations." 

In closing, Bob wrote, "there is anything but a casual attitude or reaction to such errors in our newsroom.  If I gave that impression, it is a false one." 

I really appreciate the e-mail exchange I shared with Bob, and the articulate, explanatory nature of his response.

Writing, proofreading, and editing have always been a big part of my life.  Sometimes it has been professionally compensated; other times it has been on behalf of a cause that I love.  When I left the Holy Comforter book club tonight, thinking about next month's book, Half the Sky, it occurred to me that quibbling over "it's/its, heel/heal, peek/peak, and other grammatical no-no's," while important to preserving the integrity of the written word, is a true luxury compared to the life and death struggles the women featured in the book face from the moment they are born. 

To tell the story of the women featured in "Half the Sky," though, and other stories meant to inform, convince, and reassure, requires attention to language and detail.  It is that attention to detail and drive to be accurate that I seek to keep alive by protecting the way in which language is used. 

Maybe I'll "get lucky" and this blog won't have any errors.  Anyone want to "get lunch" and calmly discuss?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wakulla Springs, Florida

Photo Credit:  Sue Damon

A month or two ago, Sue Damon and I started exchanging emails about using one of her beautiful photographs as part of a Wordless Wednesday.  Eventually, we agreed that the Wednesday prior to the 5K Run for the Friends (of Wakulla Springs) would be the best time.

Back then, it just seemed like a logical idea, to support a place that is near and dear to so many of us in this area.  Everything changed on April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill occurred.

Now, more than ever, Wakulla Springs needs friends.

Photo Credit: Sue Damon

If you live here in North Florida, consider coming out and running or volunteering this Saturday, May 15, at 8:00 a.m. (the races begin with the 1 mile fun run). 

If you live elsewhere, visit this Facebook Page for information.

Stadiums are for spectators. We runners have nature and that is much better.
Juha Väätäinen, Finland

Wakulla Springs Boats at Sunset
Photo Credit:  Sue Damon

Monday, May 10, 2010

As the World Turns (Out the Lights)

This is not my mom.  This is Helen Wagner, who played matriarch Nancy Hughes on As the World Turns for 54 years.  When I saw that Helen Wagner had died, I immediately thought of my mom's devotion to the show, and how one of the many sacrifices she made on my behalf was picking me up from school, chauffering me to activities, and enduring interruptions by me that interfered with "her show."  (This was before VCR's and tivo!)

I have read a lot of "thanks, Mom" accolades, posts, and comments today, from the deep (Jess's Diary of a Mom) to the slightly schmaltzy (Wayne Kevin and me in the Waffle House Mother's Day 2010 Video).  In honor of the day, and my mom,  here are a few more thoughts.
Days were endless; years flew by.

The above is a "Six Word Momoir" by an author identified on The Smith Magazine Six Word Memoirs Site as "middleage."  I have thought often over the years about a story I saw on 20/20 or one of those types of shows years ago.  The story featured a mom whose daughter was around six or seven.  The mom knew without a doubt that she was going to die from cancer, probably within six months.  The mom took videos of herself for her daughter, wrote letters to be opened at various milestone points throughout her life, and had "a plan" for making sure her daughter's journey into young womanhood and beyond was as smooth as possible under the circumstances.  What I did not get was this:  every night the mom refused to put her daughter to bed (read stories, tuck in, participate in the bedtime routine) because the daughter "needed to get used to getting to bed without her."  Me?  I would be greedy, for myself that I wanted that precious time with my daughter that I would not be able to have indefinitely, and for her that she have all of the "mom time memories" that could be made.  It's not like she wasn't going to have a drastic adjustment after the mom's death no matter what. 

My mom has poured all of herself into the "endless days" as the years flew by; I appreciate that.

easy to give roots; harder, wings.......

Another "Six Word Momoir" (by "kathi_wright").  When I was in high school training to run on the cross country team, I experienced some odd abdominal cramping.  Because of this, my mother followed me, at a slow crawl, in the car, to make sure I was okay.  Although I appreciate her concern (and now that I am a parent, I can almost understand her determination to make sure I was okay), this drove me crazy.  After all, part of running is the feeling of release and freedom.  Something about your mom following behind in the family car detracts from that release/freedom duo.  My mom succeeded in the "roots" department -- Southern roots, spiritual roots, ethical roots.  I think she struggled with the "wings" part.  After all, as an only child I constituted all of the eggs in the basket.  Somehow, though, her stories about striking out (down the proverbial dirt road) to kindergarten at four; moving to the (relative) metropolis of Lake City after high school to live with other young women in an apartment and partake in square dancing and other fun activities on Friday nights must have stuck.  She probably had to bite her tongue (hard) when I announced that I was selling my car and moving to New York City without a job or a place to live. 

Wings, the hardest gift to give but you'll see your kid soar.

The Pink Bird of Hope

Gosh I am glad I went with a bird-related thought above because it gave me a segue!  My mom is always difficult to buy gifts for.  She demurs on making specific requests, and frequently has been satisfied with a donation in her name to the Florida Baptist Children's Homes.  This year, though, a year in which she celebrated her 80th birthday, called for a momento.  Enter the "Pink Bird of Hope" by Terra Studios.  I discovered the pink bird back when I was writing my Molten Mom Moments post.  I was researching the origins of my glass bluebird and discovered that there is a pink one, and part of the proceeds go to preventing breast cancer.

That is how this pink bird flew into my mom's home to say "Happy Mother's Day."  She is a breast cancer survivor (among the many adversities she has survived in 80 years). 

As the World Turns is going off the air in September 2010.  I wonder what my mom will do with that new hour in each weekday.  I hope in those hours she is able to find something she enjoys as much as she has savored "her show" all these years.  In the words of  Six Word Momoirist "bjp":  Always giving to others. Remember YOU.

I'll "run" into you next week, readers.  (Look for my Wordless Wednesday on 5/12!)

(Mom, Tenley, and Wayne (and the pink bird of hope!))
Mother's Day 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

@biggreenpen is seeing RED again:

True, it's "citizen journalism," but it's still important to know your correspondence materials apart from your objects that stay in one place!

And, since it's more important to respect the lives lost during the Nashville flooding than it is to quibble about spelling, I won't make you all guess about what the error is (like I usually do).  Here's a picture of the shop referenced in the article, as the flood waters encroach:

Here are a couple of ways to help Nashvillians cope with this disaster:
Text REDCROSS to "90999" to give $10
Visit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to donate or get information

You can remain stationary on your couch and drop friends a note on stationery letting them know you helped!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Miss Piggy Hammers it Home

In early November 2009, my mother in law forwarded me an email.  I think this email originated from Lighthouse of the Big Bend, but I don't completely recall.  The email contained information about a new program, Give a Day, Get a Disney Day (GADGADD), that was looking for volunteer coordinators.  The program would provide a free day at a Disney park in exchange for a day of service at an approved organization.  In roughly the time it takes to sing M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E, I was on board!  I could spend an entire blog dissecting the reasons why I would pile another commitment onto my already full plate.  Suffice it to say, I love volunteering and seeing people "connect dots" with each other within our community.  I also believe, after working with volunteers for a few decades, that it is as important (perhaps more important) to apply good "people management" skills when working with volunteers as it is when working with paid employees.  This program gave me a chance to put that belief to the test (and more).

When I look back on the period from mid-November 2009, through the notification we received in March 2010 that the program had reached its "million volunteer mark" and would no longer be accepting new volunteers, three observations come to mind:

Is it right to volunteer in exchange for "compensation" instead of the simple "joy of volunteering"?

Disney targeted this program very heavily toward families.  As project specialists, we were encouraged to recruit volunteer opportunities where children ages six and up could participate.  I spoke to many families who said, "we don't believe you ought to get anything in exchange for volunteering."  As a parent, I agree with them that it is critical that our children see us, their parents, giving back in the community with no expectation of anything in return.  In the case of the GADGADD program, however, I felt that the Disney ticket was a) a well-deserved reward for volunteers who often go unrecognized while giving selflessly of their time and energy, and b) an incentive to people who had not volunteered previously to give volunteering a shot (in the hopes they would keep volunteering after the Disney Day.) 

Speaking of those families......

As a parent who has always tried to demonstrate "volunteerism in action" to my children, I know it is not always easy to find an opportunity where kids are welcomed and given something age-appropriate and useful to do.  It was a stretch with GADGADD, too, but the agencies I worked with rose to the challenge.  At the Special Olympics 5K in January 2010, kids made signs encouraging the runners, ran alongside the Special Olympics athletes in the 1K event, and provided directional assistance to runners.  

Other family-friendly projects included rolling plasticware at the homeless shelter (another project coordinator's cause), state park cleanups, collecting food from mailboxes during a drive for the homeless, serving as recreational assistants at a HUGE Martin Luther King Day community celebration, and helping foster animals get adopted. 

Big databases can make the simplest of concepts kind of "Goofy"

The volunteer opportunity postings as well as the volunteer signups for GADGADD were all done through the Hands on Network Volunteer Opportunity Portal (VOP).  There were times when the "portal" felt like more of a roadblock than a passageway.  As I wrote in my guest post on Lauren Novo's blog, my "day job" experiences dealing with Healthy Kids' transition to a new Third Party Administration vendor made the VOP a "walk in the park," but it still presented challenges that many volunteers and agencies found discouraging.  Bill Hogg, who calls himself the "Amazing Service Guy," wrote about his family's experience, stating "the website did not function properly making it difficult to access volunteer opportunities." 

Through this program, with its ups and downs, I met the kindest people.  (Except for this guy, who was unhappy that a project he wanted to do was full: 

"sure i understand you hooked up your friends first, you all getting together and
taking a bus down too?"

Maybe Kermit could hop on over and talk this guy down!

I could go on and on about this program, but hopefully hitting on these three main points gave you readers a little insight into the experience. 

Ultimately, I agree with the words of this Irish Proverb:

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. 

The GADGADD program helped build many literal shelters through construction projects, but I like to think it built many figurative shelters, too, in the bonds that were strengthened among families and communities, both in the projects that were undertaken and in the memories families will make when they visit a Disney Park.*

I'll "run" into you next week, readers!

*Volunteers were given the option to donate their tickets to charity.