Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011 (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, I chose to highlight my twelve favorite posts of 2011. Mama Kat's prompt technically instructed us to pick the best post of each month of the year, but mine is a little more haphazard than that - some months were better than others!

The vast majority of my favorite posts were the ones which helped someone else's cause, such as:

Transforming Lives One Car at a Time, a January post which introduced my readers to Tallahassee's Teen Challenge program, which helps men with drug, alcohol and other life controlling problems.

Nothing, a May post about cyber-bullying and how neither bullied children or bullies are "nothing."

My June post entitled Help Lauren Spierer Surface. Lauren is still missing. My heart breaks for her parents with every day that passes with no answers.

My August post Hope for a Family - Carla's Family, which was the main social media vehicle I used to try to secure a sponsor for Carla from Guatemala. She hasn't been sponsored yet but I still have hope!

Be That Adult, a November post I wrote about my experience with unwanted sexual advances by a trusted adult. I was very honored that Stop It Now linked to this post in their commentary about the Penn State - Sandusky Situation.

Lastly, the December guest post by my niece, Kris, about her father's suicide. If Chuck Kiger - One of the 30,000 Per Year helps even one family avoid this type of tragedy, it will be a good thing.

I also thoroughly enjoyed my photography posts, like A-"Maze" ing Corn. I have no illusions of changing the world of art with my point and shoot camera, but it sure is fun. I mean, seriously, flip flops in corn plants?


I usually end up talking about running, yoga, and fitness a few times during the year. I felt strongly about this September post, Do Stretching and Yoga Help Runners? It's a "Stretch" to assume they don't. I believe yoga has completely changed my running (and my life) for the better.


Lastly, my blogging helped me pay tribute and say "good-bye" (for now) to people who have made a difference to me. One example was my December post about the FSU Film BFA Class of 2011, Elephants, Flowers, and the BFA Class of 2011.


And this tribute to my yoga teacher and friend, partially because I had fun writing it and partially because this squirrel picture just makes me laugh every time I look at it.

This year has been sort of like this squirrel - strong, with welcome touches of humor.

Wonder what 2012 will bring.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

May You Be Strong (A Post for Dan Rockwell)

May You Be Strong, Dan
(and How We Can Help)

Dan Rockwell has been writing succinct, powerful, inspiring posts about leadership via his Leadership Freak blog since December 2009. In the first Leadership Freak post, Dan said, with typical candor:

Among others, my battles include, selfishness, the need for the
spot light, and the need to control things.

While I would differ with Dan’s view that he is selfish and greedy for the spotlight, I have read almost every Leadership Freak post and it is clear that one of his battles is the “need to control things.”

That need for control was smashed in an instant in November 2011 when Dan had a serious automobile accident that rendered him flat on his back in a lifeflight helicopter, with a long recovery ahead once he survived the initial near-fatal injuries.

In Pulse magazine, Dr. Bill Ventres wrote about how a case of Guillian-Barre syndrome descended upon him rapidly while he was traveling in Guatemala, transforming him from an average tourist to a bedbound, 99.9% paralyzed patient within six hours. This condition would have been difficult for anyone, but for a physician it was especially grueling. He marvels at the transcendent power of kindness, such as the “nurse who massaged my feet as she trimmed my toenails--a gesture of humble yet profound caring in the face of my devastating loss of control and power.” Dr. Ventres’s nurse reminds me of the medical staff Dan lauded in this post about the healthcare professionals he has encountered since his accident. Despite Dan's difficulties, he saw the potential in every individual who crossed his path.

In his "Hidden Power of Weakness" post, Dan shares the following observation: "Weakness lets you highlight the strength of others." Although I know Dan's spiritual and mental strength remain strong, I also know that the physical challenges caused by the accident are coupled with the financial challenges of mounting medical bills and expenses.

It is time for the strong Leadership Freak community to
unify on Dan's behalf.

I encourage you to join in this effort immediately so we can get closer to the goal of raising $30,000 by December 31, 2011. The link to donate is here. Even if you can’t give money, you can help by sharing this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or by tweeting this:

The @LeadershipFreak community is giving back to Dan Rockwell, who has given us so much. To contribute, go to

In his post about his battle with Guillian-Barre, Dr. Ventres shares the mantra/prayer that he repeated over and over while struggling to breathe: “May I Be Strong.” I would like to borrow and modify that mantra in order to send a wish to Dan.

May You Be Strong.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (New Hampshire Sunrises Edition)

My friend Jacqui shares her images of New Hampshire sunrises with me almost
every morning. They never fail to make me smile:

I like the ones that capture the water in motion:

Photo Credit: Jacqui Graham

and the ones that are so vivid I can't help but be in awe of nature:

Photo Credit: Jacqui Graham

Thank you, Jacqui, for these daily reminders of nature's gifts to us.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Beyond Red and Green (An Advent Devotional)

I wrote this devotional as my contribution to the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church "Advent Reflections 2011." It was written for December 16 (Advent 3). The verses for that day included:

Let all the ends of the earth revere him. Psalm 67:7

…my house shall be called a house of prayer. Isaiah 56:7

…you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. John 5:35

When Tenley and I visited Guatemala in July 2011 as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip, we had a booklet that outlined “the plan” for each day. For example, we knew that on Monday we would start the day with a reflection, spend the majority of the day visiting with our “sponsored friends” (the children that we had been supporting through financial contributions, correspondence, and small gifts), and end the day with dinner and a video presentation.

The “plan” for Wednesday stated that we would start the day at 7:00 a.m. with the “Mayan Prayer” led by the project team. I had no idea what to expect, except that some of our fellow travelers seemed very excited about the Mayan Prayer.

When Tenley and I arrived downstairs on Wednesday morning, we could see what all the excitement had been about. I don’t know what time the team had woken up to prepare the elaborate presentation, but it was beautiful. A carpet of pine needles surrounded beautiful floral presentations – a floral rosary – the CFCA logo in flowers – representations of earth’s gifts such as corn, wheat, fruit, and beans – and in the very center, a cross of five colors.

In the cross, small green candles represented the center of the earth; red candles represented the east; black candles represented the west; white candles represented the north; yellow candles represented the south.

Many of the team members had dressed in their indigenous clothing; beautifully woven textiles that told stories in themselves. The history of the textiles goes back thousands of years, grounded in a land whose volcanoes and mountains have sustained generations of people who have a deep reverence for the earth and its products.

Each of us was instructed to choose a candle to light. For example, the people who had chosen green approached the center together to light their candles. These candles represented the “green fields, where the beatitudes become a total reality when we are conscious of our daily deeds.” The number of people wanting red (east) was pretty high, so I held back and lit a black candle. Black represented the west, “symbols of our death, the end of our earthly life, but the beginning of a new era.”

The Mayan people may have never worshipped in ornate cathedrals; they may have never had hymnals inscribed, “In Honor of So-and-So.” They may not have had many material worship trappings that most of us have become accustomed to.

But there, in the shadow of Lake Atitlan, the sky was as beautiful a ceiling as the most complicated fresco. My new friends, both the Americans with whom we were traveling and the Guatemalans who embraced us as their Christian “familia,” helped us extend our spiritual reach a bit farther, to more distant “ends of the earth.”

And it was in His light that we all rejoiced.

As you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, consider opening your heart to another part of God’s creation that you have not experienced. You may find that reaching farther out brings you closer to the center, where everything is illumined by “the light of mutual love.”


Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip Booklet
Mayan Prayer, Internet

Friday, December 23, 2011

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to .......Hey Anyone Want to Go Out? (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number five: Put together a holiday outfit you’d love to wear at a holiday party should a holiday party ever be on your list of things to do.

.......long extended pause here while I pick myself up off the floor from laughing ... luxe holiday party? Me? In what lifetime? ........

But a woman can dream, so here goes.

The easiest way to write this post would be to say the following: If I am having a good hair day (which usually means that it has been styled by Bonnie at Polished Effects), I could be wearing a croaker sack and feel great. But unfortunately Bonnie does not live at my house and croaker sacks are so 1930's.

The fun people at Zappo's, especially the twitter service team from @zappos_service, have been so great to me, even though I am not a big ticket customer, that I thought I would peruse their selection of dressy wear to put together my fantasy outfit.

It would include this burgundy dress:

(Caveat: being a "fantasy" post, I picked something that would fit my "fantasy figure" - remember this is a fun daydream!)

which happen to have the coolest soles:

This clutch:

These earrings:

This bracelet:

And, although it is in the black family instead of the brown family, since it is newer than my current coat which is navy blue and over 20 years old, this coat (with the faux fur removed):

Throw in a manicure so my nails are just right, and I'd be ready to indulge in some holiday festiveness.

Who's ready for a girls' night out?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Yoga, Squirrels, and The Eye of the Tiger

The first yoga class I ever attended was a core yoga class at Journeys in Yoga. As is typical for my fitness situation, I chose something that fit my schedule, not thinking too hard about what I was getting into. (That explains why I ate a half a bag of mellocremes two hours before the class ... yuck.) The class I wandered into was a Core Yoga class. Over the 14 months since that first class, it became a necessity, right there behind breathing, eating, and the other "have-to's" of life.

Now our teacher John is moving on to a long term work opportunity outside of Tallahassee. By way of a farewell, a list:

 "You Know You're a Regular at John's Core Yoga When"

It doesn't surprise you that "The Only Exception" is followed by "Kung Fu Fighting."

The acronyms RSHB and LSHB mean something to you.

The song "Eye of the Tiger" is more of an "elbow walkup thing" than a "Rocky" thing in your head.

You can't listen to Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" without dropping into a forward fold.

You know to ask "is that all planks or just elbow planks?" when told, "that's it for planks."

Counts and time spans are a bit "estimate-y" (but isn't that 121st squat good for us after all?).

The phrase "that's my dog" may mean your yoga position or this song (or both).

You know to find your stretch (which is probably a lot easier than finding your neighbor's).

It doesn't faze you, during hydrants, to hear one option for the diameter of your knee circles described as "the circumference of a squirrel's head" ..... or when your teacher, having pondered a moment, says, "well the squirrel's still alive."

You know you can "fall out when you need to," but you really, really, really don't want to because you feel so supported and motivated.

You know you're a regular in John's core yoga class when, in the midst of trying to say goodbye (for now) with humor and a bit of satire, you have to stop long enough to say the most sincerely felt of "thank you's" .... for helping us find more physical strength than we thought possible, along with a healthy dose of inner strength too.

Nothing squirrel-y about that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Holiday Wonder Edition)

I am still a Wordless Wednesday-er adrift after weeks of the structure of the Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge. Therefore, tonight you get three totally opposite things that I wonder about:

I wonder at the fact that the January 2012 Redbook Magazine I picked up today had an ad for "Kim-Pletely in Love" (Kim Kardashian's wedding color) nail polish by Nicole by Opi......51 days after the marriage was pronounced over.

"Kim-pletely in Love"

[note - potty humor warning here .... unless you live with a boy under the age of 14 this next image may offend you - that's why it's just a link]

I wonder why Santa's Gotta Go makes me laugh every time I see it*!

Lastly, I wonder at the dedication, beauty, and grace that led to my lovely Chrystalline Queen thrilling us all at the Christmas in Narnia ballet Saturday night:

Tenley Kiger as the Chrystalline Queen
Photo Credit: Abby Kinch

Now that's something to be "Kim-pletely" in love with!!

*Santa's Gotta Go image from

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five Things

A recent Mama Kat writing prompt asked four sets of "name five things about you" questions. I was captivated by this prompt, which turned out to be a heck of a lot more difficult than I anticipated. So many bloggers hit the ball out of the park with it (and so many of the "things you believe" answers can become deeply personal so quickly) that it is a little daunting to try.

For example, who can top the very first thing Teacher Girl listed among "things we don't know about you"?:

I was once attacked by a rooster while on vacation in Nicaragua with my grandmother when I was three. My great-grandmother killed said rooster, and we ate him in a soup for dinner. (Read Teacher Girl's entire "five things" post here.)

Photo Credit: Paytai

Five Things We Don't Know About You

I am faceblind (meaning my ability to recognize faces is impaired). The official term for it is prosopagnosia and I am going to write about it someday beyond this post. For now, don't be offended if we have talked a thousand times and I still give you a blank look. It's not that you aren't important. Not at all.

I played the piccolo in the marching band in high school. That worked out great until half of the piccolo (which was owned by the school) went missing ... just vanished. Odd.

My fingers are double jointed.

I used to work for a company in New York that monitored the television news (and talk shows). I got paid to type what Howard Stern said.

I am registered with the National Marrow Donor Program.
Photo Credit: Arztsamui
Five Things You're Knowledgeable About

I am knowledgeable about grammar. One of my favorite punctuation marks is the semi-colon; it is important that the words before it and the words after it could each compose their own standalone sentences.

Although I haven't volunteered at Telephone Counseling and Referral Services in a long time, it would be a breeze to get back on a telephone and talk to someone in crisis. I understand short-term counseling; am a proficient reflective listener, and I think that agency (and others like it) serve a critical need.

I am pretty knowledgeable about cooking (not the "let's throw some stuff together and see what we get" kind of cooking but the "measure exactly one cup of flour and level it off" kind of precise cooking).

I know a lot about contact center metrics. Occupancy,  Average Handle Time, Adherence, Erlang C. But I don't work in a contact center content currently.

Having been privy to the infancy of Florida's State Child Health Insurance program, I know a lot about the pieces and parts of a non profit program, and the transition to being a federally funded entity.

Photo Credit: Chaiwat

Five Things You Know Nothing About

Basketball offense formations. I can't "see" a particular offense in action. I played basketball as a senior in high school. This should tell you all you need to know about the Union County High School Girls basketball team in 1981-1982.

Sports handicapping. Over under? The line? The spread? Winning straight up? I don't get it. My spouse makes up in knowledge what I lack in ignorance.

Cleaning House. You can tell by looking at my house.

Running Pace. I can't tell "my" paces apart, except that they're all slow. So when people start talking about an "easy" nine minute pace compared to their 7:30 pace, I just don't follow.

Constructing a web site. Redirecting my blog to my domain name. I will learn though.  

Photo Credit: Arvind Balaraman

Five Things You Believe

I believe that worshipping regularly is important because it may be the one time of the week when you really step outside of yourself (in the presence of others) and try to connect with something higher.

I believe in the several years I have been volunteering/acting with the FSU Film School and watching a lot of their projects, I have seen glimpses of genius, and that I will see some of these names on the big screen in decades to come.

I believe that when I as a parent choose to help my child out, that instead of griping about it (going back home for the forgotten book, etc.) if I have chosen to do what is asked, I should do it with love. I don't always succeed at this goal.

I believe that many naysayers about yoga either had a first experience that wasn't a good fit or haven't tried it at all. I hope they'll give it a chance.

I believe that it does not matter who you have chosen to love (gender/race/whatever) but that being physically intimate with someone isn't that intimate if it's just for fun and doesn't engage your heart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Nativity (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number three: Your nativity scene.

Our nativity scene came from SERRV, a fair trade network connecting thousands of artisans in developing countries with customers and volunteers across the United States. It was a gift from my in-laws.

I am glad it is a product made by someone who can improve their life by having a craft. I have to admit the set looked a lot bigger in the catalog than it does in real life (yes, the catalog probably had measurements but I didn't pay attention).

It is humble, crafted out of wood, and all of the pieces fit into the manger for storage year after year.

Although it is small and plain, there are things about our nativity set that parallel our family's faith journey.

It has an honored place at the entrance to our home.

Its small physical size is utterly contradicted by its huge symbolic importance.

In some ways it looks "unfinished."  The characters could be sanded more, painted, detailed.

Like each one of us in this family, each piece of our nativity set has rough edges but a unique and treasured place in the world.

Thank God.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Secret Santa Edition)

I am excited to share a little holiday joy with a fellow member of Daily Mile!

My recipient is getting:

A light for their bike (or themselves)!

Some snacks to stay fortified!

Some protection for their skin while ultra running!

It's so much fun sharing the joy of fitness and the fun of the holidays!

Happy Holidays, Secret Daily Mile Friend - your goodies are on their way!

PS - I love being a member of DailyMile - it is a fabulous support for my fitness activities and I have met some super-cool people along the way! Find out more at!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Elephants, Flowers, and the BFA Class of 2011

I have been involved with the Florida State University Film School for about five years. Prior to November 2008, I had been an extra several times, and my son had been in a BFA thesis film, but I had not been in a non-extra role. When Leelund Kim contacted me in November 2009 to perform a speaking role in Shane Spiegel's, Water Wings, I had my first experience of being in someone's "F1," which is a student's first film.

Being part of that F1, which I wrote about in Disheveled, gave me an opportunity to meet the five-student crew at the very start of their Film School journey. Between Fall 2009 and this summer, I worked with them and almost all of their classmates as an extra or volunteer many times. These students graduate next Saturday, and their thesis films will be screened. I won't be able to be at their screenings because Tenley is dancing in "Christmas in Narnia" with her ballet company.

Since I won't be able to say "goodbye" in person, here are some parting thoughts.

For Shane Spiegel, who wrote and directed Water Wings, I still shake my head at my good fortune to be involved in that production, but whatever stars aligned to put me on that set on a November Sunday afternoon, I am glad.

For Leelund Kim, who produced Water Wings, I have never admitted reading this in your Facebook notes because it felt a little stalker-ish, but I agree that "extras need to be directed." Having "extra'd" a lot now, I have come to appreciate a director who takes the time to help us understand where we fit in and how we can help the production be the best it can be.

For Briana Frapart, thank you for your positivity, for your many kindnesses, and for, um, the challenge (which we met of course!!!) of finding light-up Christmas deer at a time of year that was more "Fourth of July" than "25th of December."

For Carissa Dorson, thank you for explaining the term "Director of Photography" to me (yep, I did have to ask). Thank you too for allowing me to extra on Parental Ties, which was the last time I worked with Jarrod Heierman, and for being behind the camera that first time I gave a monologue.

For Justin Reager, you're the only college student with whom I have ever waxed rhapsodic about Lunchables. You really helped me relax that day and made me laugh.

The rest of this post is more general, for all of you in the BFA Class of 2011. In the text that Hugh McLeod uses to explain this drawing, which is part of his Flowers vs. Elephants post:

Image Credit: Hugh McLeod, Gaping Void

He ends with this statement: 

.....success is a very delicate flower. It doesn't take a very heavy elephant in order to trample it to the ground.

So one has to work twice as hard, keeping those pesky elephants out of the yard.

The trouble arises when you get SO BUSY battling the elephants, you forget all about the flower. We've seen it happen, many times before.

During the time that you have been refining your craft, I have been battling with a lot of things that come along with being closer to 50 than 25. There are some paths in life that are now closed to me, and I have to make peace with that. There are (hopefully) many new adventures awaiting. Sometimes it was hard to look forward to the adventures because of the resignation that comes along with letting go of what won't be. 

Each of you, in one way or another, helped me stop battling the elephants long enough to remember the flowers.

Thank you all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Smiling Runner (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number one: Have you decorated your Christmas tree? Share a favorite Christmas ornament.

Have I decorated my Christmas tree? That would involve having laundry mountain cleared from the Christmas tree's spot, and having the tree down from the attic. Not yet. I wish.

Share a favorite Christmas ornament. Did I mention that the box of ornaments is in the attic along with the tree?

I do have a new candidate that will factor among my favorites, however. It just arrived in the mail from my friend Audrey.

As luck would have it, Audrey and I were on Facebook simultaneously about a week ago when she messaged me and asked if I had received my birthday present. I said no, because no packages had been in the mail that my son had retrieved on his way in from school. It then occurred to me that a larger (than the mailbox) package would have been left at the front door. I checked the front door, discovered a package there (!) and Audrey and I had a mini virtual gift opening right there on Facebook. Not the same as being together physically, but still fun in a 21st century kind of way.

Here's the ornament that she had made for me:

The ornament is even personalized:

And ask me how much I love that happy look on the face! A friend recently mentioned how common it is to see runners' faces all scrunched up and tense looking, portraying a tension that transmits itself through their entire bodies. I thought about the ornament and my friend's comment all last night at Interval Training, which of all the running events in a typical week  makes me want to grimace the most.

Audrey told me that she chose this gift for me to represent my commitment to running and making it a priority in my life, helping her feel more inclined to commit herself to exercising more.

Even without an ornament, Audrey's comments would have been gift enough.

They (and the ornament) really put a smile on my face!