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!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

How Much Longer Will I Be Blogging About My Children?


Little_green_felt_tip_pens_biggerBy the time I finished composing my comment to Liesl Jurock's Mama's Log this morning, I realized that I had drafted my blog for tonight. Although I had seen the topic of "Have Mom Bloggers Gone Too Far?" a few times this week, I had not really paid attention to the renewed chatter the topic of mommy bloggers had gotten.

The topic crossed my radar screen when Kat blogged about the pros and cons of being a semi-generous sharer regarding how much of her life (and her family's images/identifying information) she shares with her followers.

The topic crosses my mind every time I am on Jess's A Diary of a Mom page and happen across the link to the explanation of her choice to use pseudonyms for her children, in order to give them as much online anonymity as possible.

The topic crosses my mind when I am casually conversing with friends about social media; some don't like putting pictures of their children on their blogs but don't mind putting them on Facebook. Some people bestow pseudonyms on their children in a practice that is apparently more prevalent than I realized. The choices are numerable, and the bloggers I know cover a wide spectrum. 

Liesl's position, which I am hopefully summarizing accurately, is this: She writes. She parents. (She has a supportive spouse and a solid marriage). She infuses her experiences with her son (with his real name) throughout her blog, because to do otherwise would result in a) her losing a vital outlet that helps her figure it all out, and b) those of us who read her work losing a link in the "we're all in this together" (apologies, High School Musical) climate that helps us stay sane.

Here's what I said in response:

Hi Liesl, I am glad you wrote this. I had seen a bit of the "mom blogging controversy" over the last few days. When I read blogs by some moms who have thousands of followers, I do think (occasionally) about the exposure their children are getting, especially in pictures. Maybe someday I'll be blogging for thousands -right now it'd be a banner day to blog for a hundred.

My absolute primary reason to blog is to keep my "writing muscle" fresh, and to leave my children out of THAT equation would be the most unnatural thing in the world. Therefore, when Sunday (my usual blogging day) rolls around and I search my brain for a topic, if one of my children is part of that topic, so be it. I have found that I am less inclined to write about my teenager, not because she is the less interesting of my two children, but because either she's not involved in the "blog worthy" events about which I write or because I just don't glean as much material from her since she's often out of the house or behind earbuds.

My husband doesn't read my blog. I sometimes wish he would because utter strangers know more about me (like why I stood in the middle of a major highway sweeping up glass from an auto accident) than he does, but it also gives me (and those followers) a tiny world in which I am quite independent. I can live with that for now, and it's not like I could force him to read it, AND it's his loss after all.

I often wonder what my children are going to take to the therapist's couch with them as adults - I imagine in overcompensating for the things that sent me there, I am creating a bunch of new issues for them. I suppose with my blog, maybe they'll have written backup instead of relying on their memory banks!

I want to make sure to reiterate that I respect every parent blogger's choice about how they handle their chlid's identity on their blogs. 

I suppose if my kids don't want to be in my blog they can behave like angels 100% of the time, make perfect grades, never get into conflict with their peers, and always make consumer choices that defer to the abject poverty in many parts of the world compared to the relative luxury we have.

Hmmm......sounds like they're going to be here on momforlife for a long, long time!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In The Notebook (A Mama Kat Writers Workshop Prompt)

Mama Kat had several good writing prompts this week. The Random Number Generator handed me #3: Describe a time when you stuck up for a friend.

I recently got back in touch with someone who worked with me at Healthy Kids 15 years ago. We were catching up and reminiscing a bit via email, and she shared this sentiment:

I can imagine HK is very different now. We had such a great time and had such a close staff at the time. Being part of the start of something so positive was wonderful; I'm glad it's still going and that you are a big part of it. I bet your Spanish is superb by now.

I'll have to explain the Spanish reference to you in a different blog, but what my friend's statement captures is what a small, energetic team we were - a team where employee/friend boundaries were quite porous.

Our Executive Director at the time, someone I am still friends with today, has a big personality. One of my biggest fears when I went to work for her, having heard the stories from previous employees of hers (including my husband) was that I would cry at work. ( there a theme here? Read my "broken" post last week?) I don't think I ever cried in front of her, even the time the suggestion box went flying across the room with the statement, "If people had something to say, they would say it to my face" accompanying the flying box. 

I'd better get to the "standing up for someone" story before I lose you.

Back on June 24, 1997, I had a conversation with our ED about some personnel actions. One of them involved giving "Betty," who had been working as a temporary employee (although she had previously worked for us as a salaried employee) a salaried position with a title of "X," a salary of "X" amount, and benefits. I dutifully wrote this all down in my Daytimer. For the record, Betty had been a friend of mine before being hired by us and remained as firmly in the "friend" camp as in the "employee" camp.

When I typed up the letter for our Ed's signature, to convey to "Betty" her new arrangement, the ED said, "I'm not paying her that much." I backpedaled and tried to figure out what to do.

I don't remember how much time elapsed, but eventually I went back to the ED and showed her this (yes, I do still have my notes from June 24, 1997):

I basically said, "my notes say we agreed to this" and she said, "if that's what I said, I will agree to it."

I suppose it was "extra" that Betty was a friend of mine too and I like to think I would have gone to bat for anyone. I'm not sure what I would have done if the ED had said, "I don't care what you wrote down, I have changed the offer." 

I know it felt great reporting back to "Betty" that she was getting the original combination of title, salary, and benefits.

You know, the combination written down in the planner........

Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Breaking the Cycle Edition)

Why on earth is Paula feeding this Lion a
blue cupcake?

November 14, 2010, is World Diabetes Day.

Students, faculty, staff, and parents from Leon High School will be riding RealRyder cycles at Sweat Therapy as Team "Breaking the Cycle of Diabetes" from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on World Diabetes Day to raise funds for children who have the disease.

(The blue cupcakes were donated by The Cake Shop, which is donating proceeds from sales of blue cupcakes to diabetes causes.)

A lion.  A cupcake.  A ferociously sweet way to:

Take Control of Diabetes .... NOW   

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stronger Connected

"Oh my gosh, how can you stand that billboard at Franklin and Tennessee?" asked my coworker, who called me while stopped at the intersection.  She was referring to this:

This is an example of grammar that, while not technically incorrect, is just awkward. According to the Columbia Business Times, "Stronger Connected" is a trademarked slogan developed as part of communications giant CenturyTel's 2009 rebranding to CenturyLink.

The slogan generated 18 responses on the site, many of which questioned whether "Stronger Connected" is grammatically correct. Two of my favorite comments were:

I think they should have chosen a less confusing wording. (from nwrickert)


I agree that more gooder grammar would have certainly been the case here. (from John Gault)

Gooder or not, my mind wants to tinker with this wording. Although it is less concise, I would go with "Be more strongly connected to what you love." The problem with my mind's revision is that it may not be true to CenturyLink's intent, which is (possibly) that I feel that I would be STRONGER (i.e. more fortified) if I could easily and affordably connect to what (or who) I love.

Here in Tallahassee, we have another member of the "Stronger Connected" family, on Capital Circle Northeast:

The "Stronger Connected to What You Love" sign was obscured in September when a Leon High School (across the street) took it over (literally, our Principal was sitting up there on the ledge along with the Athletic Director) as part of the run-up to Leon's Poker Run to fight cancer. My friend Susan, who teaches math at Leon and is a serious language lover to boot, said she was sad to see the "Stronger Connected" billboard reappear - she said it irritates her every time she sees it on her way to work.

Wouldn't you love to have been in on the brainstorming sessions that resulted in the creation of this slogan? If this is what merited the outlay of valuable advertising funds, I wonder what slogans didn't become contenders!

Ken McMahon, Vice President and General Manager, said "The message is that together we're stronger. We believe in connecting people to what matters most, and that is to each other. Our connections are easy, accessible and affordable.”

"Stronger connected" is quirky enough that it has us talking; but not compelling enough to make me feel positive about the brand. In CenturyLink's 2009 Annual Report, page one says "Stronger Connected," page two is headed "Stronger," and page three is headed "Connected." (Pages four through twelve cover all of the other typical "annual report" stuff.)

Something tells me that "Stronger Connected" is one merger CenturyLink could have done without.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Broken (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

When I put the numbers 1 through 5 into the random number generator this week to help me choose a writing prompt for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop, I got 5:  Describe a moment when you saw someone hit their breaking point.

It was me. I saw myself hit my own breaking point.

In 2008, our organization switched Third Party Administrators (TPA). A TPA (in our case) handles the computer system for insurance enrollees, along with eligibility, payment processing, correspondence, customer service (pretty much everything). The contract had gone to the lowest bidder, who also had scored the most poorly on the assessment tools. As a staff member, it was not my place to question why it worked out that way, but to make it work. As the staff member overseeing activities related to customer service, I was centered firmly in the eye of the storm as the transition from the old TPA to the new one unfolded, with problems galore. (All transitions have problems, but these were worse than “average” and I was the one getting much of the feedback from unhappy enrollees and legislative offices).

Several months into the transition, a typical day would find me with 20+ emails open, each one interrupted by the most pressing crisis. My seven staff members were valiantly trying to figure out a convoluted, sporadically performing system, while fending off hostility from our partner agencies who weren’t getting what they wanted (and needed), meaning they too were awash in dissatisfied enrollees and important stakeholders who were complaining that their constituents were complaining.

They day I broke, I had the 20+ emails open; our external consultant (who was there to deal with some of the technical glitches but also to make recommendations related to how our staff should function) was sitting with me discussing a project; my phone was ringing; I am sure I had some child-related (as in my children) issue on my mind. My staff member who asked frequent questions came to the door, asked me something about refunds, a situation that the TPA was supposed to have handled but had not, and I don’t recall what I said (I think it may have been something along the lines of “if they would just do their **?! job), but I know that the next thing I knew I was in tears, the consultant was beating a hasty exit back to her office to give me some space, and I had reached this point:

I realized deep inside that it was never going to be enough to be passionate about the cause of the agency I work for. As much as I love management and leadership theory, I had not managed to bridge the gap between what I knew and how I applied it.

The tears I cried that day were a mixture of frustration, anger, sadness, grieving, resignation, and probably a few other things. As Seth Godin wrote in his post, “Organizing for Joy,” there are companies out there that “give their people the … expectation…that they will create, connect and surprise.” When an organization lowers its expectations, the “chances of amazing,” says Seth Godin, “are really quite low.”

The day I broke was the day I knew we had given up on amazing anyone, especially ourselves.

Mama's Losin' It

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Defying Gravity Edition)

I "Elphaba'd" Myself This Week on Wicked Day (10/30/10)

but Tenley (foreground) really gets the credit for "defying gravity" in her American Academy of Ballet Performance (10/23/10), for which she was awarded a gold medal

(photo credit: Bill Lucas)