Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Publix - Where Shopping is a Pleasure

as long as you ......

bring your own marshmallow

and do not, under any circumstances, refrigerate your cake cutter with your cake

If you live down here in the Southeast, you probably love Publix as much as I do.  However, these two packages really made me wonder.  Did a customer complain that the fudge grahams did not come with marshmallows as pictured?  Did someone refrigerate their complimentary cake cutter with their cake and ......... have a cold cake cutter?

Happy Wordless Wednesday! 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Where is Emily Post When I Need Her?

This blog is intended to elicit comments and opinion - please chime in!

A few years ago, I ran a one mile race with Wayne Kevin.  I wasn't really training at all at the time, so it was a fairly dismal effort on my part.  Poorly trained or not, some primal brain cells deep in my brain kicked in at the end and I blew past one or two competitors within a few feet of the finish line.  Maybe it was my imagination, but one of the finish line volunteers, who has extensive running experience and my deep respect, seemed disapproving that I would pass the other runner(s) so close to the end.

One year, the Tallahassee Democrat published a picture of Wayne Kevin and his friend, Alex, appearing to be neck-and-neck at the finish of the Red Hills Kids Triathlon.  Wayne had been taking his sweet time on the mile run until Alex started gaining ground on him.  Then it was an all out sprint to the finish; the picture shows each boy struggling with all his might to reach the tape first.  Arms pumping, legs churning, as much machismo as a couple of boys could muster!  Of course, Wayne had started in an earlier wave than Alex, so regardless of all that finish line bravado, Wayne's finish time was still minutes slower than Alex's.  But for that moment when Wayne thought he had a race to win, he mustered up reserves that had been completely dormant until a competitor showed up!  In my mind, that had always been a "too little too late" situation; if Wayne had been running his own race, and focusing his own mind, he would not have wound up in such a nail biter of a finish (but it did make a great newspaper photo!). 

More recently, the topic of finish line etiquette came up in a conversation between a friend and me.  I commented that in a recent race, I had sprinted to the finish with another runner, that I felt justified because we had been competing somewhat evenly throughout the race, but still worried that I had broken some finish line etiquette "rule."  My friend then said, "Well, maybe that explains what another runner said to me today when I passed her right before the finish."  The other runner's expression hadn't exactly been "good job"!

When I got home that day, I sent an email to one of my running guru friends, asking if there is a "finish line etiquette" or some "no pass zone" once you are close to the line.  His response:

It's more a matter of resentment and hurt feelings to be passed near the finish. I see it at every race. Actually there is some strategy involved. You don't want to make your bid too early, if you do, the victim has a chance to recover and perhaps hold you off. That said, it's kind of tacky to roar by within a few feet of the chute.
I thanked the guru, shared the information with my friend, and thought I had put the issue to bed. 

Until (drum roll please), I was the passee at last night's St. George Island Summer Sizzler Race.  Compared to last year, I really felt better about my endurance in this race, and at the splits, I thought I was easily going to come in under 40:00 (and yes, the "big" goal is to come in under 30:00, but the oppressive heat put many of us into survival mode!).  When I was at 39:39 at the 3 mile mark, 40:00 was out of reach (darn it!).  I was trying to put my all into getting across the finish line when footsteps came pounding up behind me and a runner I don't recall seeing all race came sprinting up beside me.  Crap!  By the time I mentally registered that runner's presence, I did not apply enough "oomph" to cross the line first and heard one of the finish line volunteers point out the color of her shirt for the volunteers up the line to know who had come in ahead of who.  The humorous thing was that this runner kept up at full speed through the line, making the strippers' job a challenge.  I was feeling all the things the guru discussed above (resentment, hurt feelings) in conjunction with solidarity with the finish line crew, whose job is fun but not easy. 

This runner deserves the place ahead of me because she fairly and squarely got to the line a nanosecond before me.  And although the results aren't out, we probably finished in exactly the same time.  It still irked me, though, and led to me wanting to explore the "finish line etiquette question" in more depth.  Believe it or not, when you google the question there's not a lot out there. 

The spouse of a twitter friend, who is a runner, had several observations:
1) It depends on the race and your level of competitiveness,
2) apply the golden rule,
3) gauge people you're running near/with to see they'd welcome push for finish, and
4) many races are timed so the finish spot is not important

What do you think?

I'll "run" into you next week readers, but I'm not sure if I'll run "past" you, especially if we're within five feet of the finish line!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

This sign just made me chuckle.
I guess graduates get only one "congratulation."
And I really am curious about the details of getting $15 off the free dinner!

I will admit that one of the reasons we chose this particular Japanese steakhouse (on June 20) was the "Two dine for $29 after 9 p.m." promotion.  When they said they weren't running the promotion due to the holiday, I was the observant diner who asked, "what holiday is this?"

I am sure my husband, the father of my two children, appreciated my cluelessness on Father's Day! 

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Kid Imagination

Perhaps it is folly to try to blog in the midst of a vacation trip, after two mai tais.  But I have a commitment to myself (and you) to write once a week so here goes.  A few observations from an unexpected trip to the "happiest place on earth."

1.  It is an amazing treat to get to spend time with friends from middle school (we are here to visit Wayne's friend, Meleah, who has been his friend since middle school).  And to see her children (her daughter and teammates are down from Michigan for a volleyball tournament) and my children (and niece) make new connections.  At first our girls and the Michigan girls didn't mingle.  Somehow the novelty of hearing Elizabeth's and Tenley's southern accents was the catalyst for interaction and next thing I knew, everyone was in the pool together. 

2.  Although it is a hit and miss experience, it is nice to shake up the fitness routine by figuring out a way to keep it going on the road.  (It is also a huge motivator to know I need to keep reporting in to Daily Mile.)  I had a bland experience at the Wingate Inn "fitness center," a sweaty but great run through the adjoining corporate park, two challenging stationary bike workouts here at the Regal Sun Resort, and a hot, sweaty, but invigorating run along Lake Buena Vista Blvd, including a discovery of a little diversion through an "island walk." 

3.  It is a weird dichotomy to be reading a book called, "You're Not the Boss of Me -- Brat-Proofing your 4-12 year old child" when you are at a place where pretty much every interaction has to do with spending money on something child-centric, making a family decision about where to eat amongst differing desires, or seeing young children in all-out tantrum mode.  Although I often feel that I am behind the eight ball on this, it was rewarding to see Wayne Kevin get to spend a day at EPCOT for "free," having spent a day in January sharing oobleck with the children of the Springfield Housing Project for his Disney Day of service. 

3.  It is mindbending to see your children grow up.  When Wayne Kevin and I were at Ridemakerz, he chose stickers to decorate the car(s) he had just built.  When the stickers didn't look that great on the car, I said, "well, you can use them on your notebooks next year" (he will be entering 6th grade).  He gave me that look - the one I have become accustomed to raising a rising 9th grader.  I said, "Oh, too little kid for you, huh?"  The comment that floored me was this:

But I still have a little kid imagination.

May you always.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

As the parent of a teenager, I have stopped being surprised at irritating text messages from my daughter.  They pretty much mirror the dialogue we share in person, in emails, and during phone calls.

Last Wednesday, Tenley was fulfilling her weekly commitment to help my mother-in-law.  She had been there a little longer than her shift usually lasts, and she was ready to leave (but I was still at work).  The conversation by text consisted of four variations from her of "are you on your way yet?" paired with my "not yet" responses.  When I finally was prepared to leave and texted, "On my way," I almost didn't even check her response when I heard the little chime that indicated an incoming text.  I was just over this conversation, and I fully anticipated exactly this:  FINALLY! or this:  It's about time.

What I got instead was this: 

This exchange occurred on a Wednesday, and it was surprisingly pleasant enough to leave me ...


Monday, June 14, 2010

Five Decades of Lessons

Whenever I read something that has "blogworthy" potential, I file it electronically.  My file is growing.

When I read Thursday's Daily Good, published by Charity Focus, I immediately knew that the post's "Be the Change" directive to "reflect on the greatest lessons from each decade of your life" was going to be my blog topic this week.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Zora Neale Hurston

Decade One (1964-1973)

My family lived in three places within this decade:  Orange Park (because my dad was still stationed in the Navy at NAS Jacksonville; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico (more Navy moving), and back in Orange Park as he completed his Navy obligation onboard the USS America, and retired toward the end of this decade.

The great lesson(s):  It was good for me to live in Puerto Rico.  Although it wasn't an exotic foreign locale, I was introduced to Spanish at a very young age (when it is easier to learn).  We also did not have English television in the daytime, so I had to go out and about.  I also vividly remember the spanking I got when I opened the Barbie I had been given, even though I knew it was a duplicate and I knew my parents planned to return it.  It was one of those seminal moments when I "got" the fact that my parents meant what they said.

Decade Two (1974-1983)

Saturday Night Fever to Big Hair.  Was that only one decade?  I lived two places in this decade:  Orange Park and Lake Butler (my parents' hometown, where we moved in 1979).  I recall how much I learned about music the week I was thrown into band camp along with the advanced flautists.  This phenomenon would happen in the next decade when I was the only non-native Spanish speaker in an advanced class.  It is also the decade when an adult authority figure made unwelcome advances, and I found myself in a car full of people I didn't know that well with a glove compartment full of marijuana, several towns away from my hometown.

The great lesson(s): Moving from a big place to a little place requires you to respect the history people share with each other; being the big fish in a small pond does not give you instant credibility, popularity, or status.  Secondly, that my parents believed me when I explained the inappropriate advances, and they took the phone call to come pick me up (no questions asked) when I did not want to partake in the marijuana smoking.  (It didn't help that it was drivers' ed summer and I had just been watching all those horrible, graphic driver education movies.)

Decade Three (1984-1993)

This decade involved being elected to the Homecoming Court at Florida State University, two "Challenge" bicycle/mission trips, the aforementioned challenging Spanish class, graduate school, almost three years in New York City, and getting married.  It ended on the worst of notes, when my sister in law Ann Kiger Paredes died in her sleep at age 30 (of Long QT syndrome, an undiagnosed congenital heart condition).

The great lesson(s):  Although I loved being on the Homecoming Court, I should not have actively campaigned for it.  Living in New York City taught me a whole different view of how  cultural background factors into people's perceptions of who I am (I had never before been asked, "what are you?" as in "are you Greek/Italian/Irish/etc.?").  It also taught me that in a city where people are literally from all around the globe, the basic things that make relationships tick among people are universal.  And .... when you total your car on I-95 and end up facing the oncoming traffic, it's not an especially good idea to open your door INTO the traffic. 

Decade Four (1994-2003)

This entire decade, I have been working at Florida Healthy Kids Corporation.  I also gave birth to Tenley (1996) and Wayne (1999).  When I talked recently to a friend whose daughter has two young kids and doesn't feel that she has time for "extras" because she is so laser focused on those kids, I explain how incredibly intense that period of parenting is, how physically, emotionally, and psychologically your entire self is given to those children. 

The great lesson(s): In the end, it really doesn't matter that your children have the matching designer outfits and the perfect "everything."  If I were raising a little child again, I would focus more on the sheer experience of spending time with him or her than on attempting to perfect the "look."  I would also defer a little bit throwing them into activity after activity, letting their interests unfold in a more natural way. 

Decade Five (2004-present)

It amazes me that I am over halfway through this decade.  When I disclosed to my husband recently the fear (that I consider irrational) that I am going to die before I get to do the things I most want to do (like use my passport), he said "we all feel that way."  By 2013, I will have one child a year away from college and another in high school.  It strikes me that by incorporating the things I love doing (writing, being involved in our local film school, running), I am somehow coming closer to my true self and therefore being more engaged with my family.  This has also been the decade of looking the debt monster in the eye and saying, "yes, we let you grow unchecked for far too long.  It is now time for us to slay you once and for all."

The great lesson(s): This lesson, I suppose, has extended itself over three decades.  When Ann died, I had just the night before chosen not to call her.  We had been buying her old townhome, and Wayne suggested I let her know that it had been painted (one of the financing conditions).  I said, "no, it can wait."  Would it have mattered that she knew the townhome was painted? No.  But it matters, in retrospect, that I didn't talk to her that night.  Sometimes a phone call or conversation about "nothing" is the one that matters most of all.

The Daily Good pieces always start with a quote.  The quote on the day that prompted this blog was also a "keeper":

The years teach much which the days never knew.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is there something that years have taught you that "the days never knew"?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section! 

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

 A Good Day's Work

Practitioners of this ancient art form seek to capture the "chi" (energy) of the subject, relying on the "Four Gentlemen," or strokes. 

In a future blog, I will introduce Ann, display more of her work, and chat with her about her experiences introducing Sumi-e to elementary school students, the elderly, and anyone in between who seeks to discover, as Ann says, "the power a single stroke can have." 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Carrie On Without Us

The morning drop-off process at Roberts Elementary School is conducted with military-drill precision (usually). 

Here's how the procedure is supposed to work:

1) As you approach the drop-off zone, you pull as far forward as possible (there are usually five staff members lined up along the drop off zone). 
2) If you end up stopped at the beginning of the zone, or the middle, and traffic is not moving, your child is supposed to go ahead and exit the car and approach the school.

That was not happening with us. 

I started realizing that Wayne was procrastinating getting out of the car, even though he was ready to go and had everything he needed.  Then one morning when I pulled up, a morning when Tenley was with us, I was greeted with this smile and someone who remembered Tenley's name even though it had been three years since she had been at the school:

Honestly, I think Wayne had been holding out for the waves of positive energy that Carrie Washington emits .... no matter how rushed our morning had been (they all are), how much the kids had been sniping at each other (they almost always are), or how preoccupied I was with the challenges I was already anticipating in the day ahead ...... one thing was for sure ..... for about 30 seconds we would all get a warm greeting and a wish for a happy day.  Even if I am wrong about Wayne's motivation, I started to count on it and hope that the regimented precision of the drop-off process somehow deposited us at Ms. Washington's position.

In doing a little research, Carrie's supervisor said she is not unlike LaVida, who I wrote about in March.  She does her job with an aura of joyfulness that suffuses even mundane interactions.  Her supervisor also said, "She loves working out there in the mornings" and "She will go out of her way to help anyone."  Throughout the school year, she was also responsible for transporting a hearing impaired student from Madison County and working four hours a day in the cafeteria. 

I made my last drop-off ever to Roberts Elementary last Friday morning (Wayne is moving up to 6th grade at Montford Middle School). 

The Kigers won't be there anymore to bask in that morning happiness, but other families will.

"Carrie" on, Carrie!

And we are put on Earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love. --William Blake

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Goodbye, Altoids)

It is time to break a compulsion in order to reach a goal.

While my specific goal is to run faster (as opposed to losing weight), research shows that the less you weigh, the faster you run (duh).

One week in March, I counted how many Altoids I ate (362).

What had started off as a "once in a while" habit for a "pick me up" during meetings has turned into a "can't get through an hour at the desk" or "can't drive ten miles" or "can't sit through a two-hour meeting" without them kind of thing.

1,205 extra calories in a week:

This "pick me up" is "weighing me down."

Time for a new plan. 

Goodbye, Altoids.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You're Not the Boss of Me - A Book Review

When I got the email from Mom Central seeking participants in a blog tour for "You're Not the Boss of Me - Brat-Proofing Your 4- to 12-Year-Old Child" by Betsy Brown Braun, I couldn't enter my sign-up information fast enough. 

Once I started reading the book, I placed little tabbies on pages with ideas I could relate to or that echoed parenting challenges I have had in the course of raising an almost-11 and almost-14 year old.  As you can see, the book resonated with me:

As I was reading the book, I had the distinct feeling that the universe's vibes were aligning to give me some life experiences that would result in me adding more tabs.  Like the phone call I got from Wayne's teacher telling me that he had decided not to turn in his art project, one he had been looking for about three weeks prior and that I had put out of my mind.  Like my 13 year old getting threatened to be "beat up" because she stated something factual (yet incendiary) in a phone conversation.  Like the parent of one of my son's peers who called to say my son had had possession of his kid's "Phiten" necklace four months ago and since it could not be found any longer our family should pony up a replacement.  Yeesh.  How is it that everything I learned obtaining a degree in Child Development and Family Relations, as well as a master's degree in Counseling and Human Systems, goes out the door when I cross my own threshold?

Although I didn't agree with 100% of Betsy Brown Braun's suggestions, the book did help me take a step back from the intense, subjective aspects of parenting and think about some logical, concrete tactics that I can use to parent more effectively and restore the balance of authority in our household.  Ms. Braun reminds us parents that:

"...as you well know, your child is not like a self-basting turkey; he's not going to emerge well-seasoned and having just the right tenderness without effort."
So true. 

Ms. Braun breaks each chapter into an introductory "theory" section that discusses parenting topics such as "Growing an Empathetic Child," "Teaching Responsibility," " Instilling Honesty in Your Child," and "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! - Eliminating Spoilage in Your Child."  These introductory sections are followed by Tips and Scripts that provide concrete methods for applying the theory.  In the chapter on Building Independence, for example, Ms. Braun encourages us to Support your child's interests; they may become his passions.  As a parent who has struggled to "let go" of Tenley's successful and intense gymnastics career, I took to heart Ms. Braun's reminder that, "Your child needs to live his life, not yours."

In the chapter on Instilling Honesty, one of the tips is:  When it's done, let it go.  How often does a particularly memorable incident become part of family lore?  Yes, I have had one of my two children steal something from a store.  Yes, I marched this child back into the store and made the child return the item.  Yes, many years later I still joke around with this child about the incident.  Ms. Braun reminds us parents that, "Your child must not feel defined by her transgressions." 

Again, so true.

One of the appendices of this book is called The Ethical Will of a Grandfather to His Grandson.  Although the book goes into thorough detail and provides specific tips, this appendix almost completes sums up the point in one page.  I particularly liked:
  • When there is a job to do -- do a good job, never a sloppy one.
  • When your time is free, explore the things you think might be interesting.  Follow your curiosities.
  • Think for yourself.  Don't believe what you read or what other people say, unless it seems true to you.
Blue hair?  It happens.

Ups and Downs of Parenting?  Yep, that happens too:

Two children worth taking the time to read a book that will help them be all they are meant to be?  Right here:

Note:  I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of HarperCollins and received a copy of You're Not the Boss of Me to facilitate my review  Mom Central also sent me a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.  pk