Sunday, January 30, 2011

Transforming Lives, One Car at a Time (Car Care Giveaway!)

Transforming Lives, One Car at a Time

Why would a teen club have their kids out on Magnolia Drive on a weekday hawking car washes during lunch hour? I wondered this every time I drove by the Teen Challenge participants standing on Magnolia Drive waving car wash signs. I am never exactly running early to get back to the office, so I would always wonder what the deal was and drive on.

In December, Tenley and I were shopping at Old Navy at the height of the Christmas rush. Although I didn’t embarrass her at Old Navy at Christmas the way I had on Halloween (you got a 20% discount for screaming your best scream and I pulled out all the stops), I was drawn immediately to the blogworthy appeal of the young men singing carols outside of the store. When we were approaching them, she said something like, “just let me get to the car first if you’re going to take pictures.” Fair enough.

I noticed the similarity between the signs held by the singers and the car washers, and I started googling. I deduced that they were both involved with Tallahassee Teen Challenge. I posted the pictures of the carolers to Facebook, connected with the social media I could find, and inquired through the Teen Challenge website to confirm these guys were their guys (they were!).

Once I started talking to representatives of the organization, I learned this: Tallahassee Teen Challenge is a one-year residential Christian discipleship program targeted to intervene in the process of recovery from drug, alcohol and other life controlling problems. It is affiliated with Teen Challenge International. In Tallahassee, the participants are all men (despite the “teen” name); other towns have units of boys, girls, or women. These men have some seriously intense days. Up at 5 for devotional, classes and a meal, out by 8 a.m. to begin working, back in the evening after working all day, dinner and more classwork. In addition to the car care business, Tallahassee Teen Challenge Men’s Program partners with local business owners with a reliable work force that can meet unskilled labor needs.

Here is one participant's story:

I came to Teen Challenge because of a visit to the dentist.

My name is Nicholas Aylor, most of the people I know call me Nick. After my father died from congestive heart failure when I was nine, I toyed with drugs and alcohol as a way to numb my pain. I had been raised in a good home but I began to rebel and get involved with the wrong crowd. As I got older I got in trouble with the law and decided to try and build my life. I stopped using drugs, started a successful business, got married to my beautiful wife and we had a son together.

Then it happened.

I had to visit the dentist to get my wisdom teeth pulled. After the procedure my dentist prescribed painkillers and it all went downhill from there. I became addicted and when my prescription ran out I began searching for other ways to get more pills. My wife fell with me and we began abusing painkillers together.

Late one night, my wife and I lay on our bed in the dark and cried out in despair. We knew that we had become addicted. We wanted to be rid of the bondage that we had so foolishly allowed ourselves to get trapped in. We couldn’t do it on our own and we desperately prayed that God would help us to get free from our addiction.

God answers prayer in many ways. The very next day my two year old son was found in the street. He had wandered out of the house while my wife and I were in the garage and walked right out into the road. The police were called and they found my wife and I passed out on the floor of the garage. We were arrested and I ended up in prison. I was given the option to come to Tallahassee Teen Challenge and my wife went to the Ft. Myers Woman’s Teen Challenge.

This past Christmas for the first time in a year, I got to see my beautiful wife and son. My in-laws have forgiven me and accepted me back in their family- praise the Lord!

I will graduate from Teen Challenge in March, free from drug addiction! I look forward to what God has for my life.

Tim, Nick, Jonathan, and Shaun came to my office and washed my car for me, under the watchful eye of their supervisor Jonathan. They did a fantastic job and although they thanked me for being a blessing, I really think I was the “blessed” one, not just for the clean car but for having an opportunity to be a tiny part of their journey.

The Tallahassee Teen Challenge program is working hard to publicize its car care services. To help spread the word, they have offered two car wash/vacuum gift certificates ($25 value each) as giveaways on my blog! Just do one thing to enter:

1) Follow Tallahassee Teen Challenge Car Care on Twitter at @ChallngCarCare


2) “Like” Tallahassee Teen Challenge on Facebook at Teen Challenge Tallahassee

Please leave me a comment on my blog when you have done this (or if you already are following/liking). Please include your email address in the format [emailname at provider dot com (or org or whatever!)] 

I would also love to hear any stories you have about someone who has made a positive life transformation (maybe that’s you!).

The contest will run through midnight Wednesday night (2/2/11). I will randomly pick two winners from the comments. The gift certificates will be accepted at the Teen Challenge permanent location on Tennessee Street, the Magnolia/Park Location, and the Kerry Forest location (Magnolia and Kerry Forest times/dates are publicized via Twitter). Many customers shop the fresh market at Shannon Lakes and Kerry Forest while their cars are washed (multitasking at its best!!). 

The motto of the Tallahassee Teen Challenge Men’s Center is “Where Life Transformation Happens.” Let’s give them a chance to transform their lives as they transform our cars!

For detailed information on the Tallahassee Teen Challenge Men's Center, visit their website.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peeps Going Postal! (A Mama Kat's Writing Workshop Prompt)

It is Wednesday night, which means whipping up a post based on a Mama Kat's writing prompt.This week, the random number generator treated me to this:

Write a love poem to a favorite food.

The chosen food? A no brainer.

The poem? Well ... the idea turned my brain to ...


You beckon me from the seasonal aisle

Pink, lavender, yellow, mint green, baby blue, tangerine

Your tiny eyes ask, "are you gonna eat the top first"?

I make the challenging color decision,

Do a private happy dance if there is a new color

I head to office supplies

I need a padded envelope for you, precious cargo

It costs more to send you than it does to buy you

But you need one more ingredient to taste perfect

The US Postal Service 

You need to get from Florida to Connecticut

Nestled in an envelope

A quickly scrawled note taped to your wrapper

Happy Spring!

Peeping in to say hi!

A new color!

Chocolate covered! Who knew?!

It's a tradition honoring a friendship that started in 1989

A Northern "chick" and a Southern "chick" discovering common ground

through your adorable, sugary tastiness

One friend stayed North, the other went back South

Now you travel 1,207 miles each way

It's not just two friends celebrating anymore

Four children have grown up knowing the handwriting on the envelopes that means

You peeps will taste extra special

Because you've "gone postal" and delivered the sweetness of friendship

Tenley (my daughter), Me, Audrey

The next generation of peep lovers (and maybe mailers!) Kimberly (Audrey's daughter) and Tenley


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Potato Head Edition)

My husband asked me to pick up some yukon gold potatoes at The Fresh Market.

I knew I had crossed some "blogger-head" line when my first reaction to this:

was to whip out my camera and proclaim

"'YES!' a potential Wordless Wednesday post"!

What have you done for the sake of blogging that is out of character for you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trick or Treat! (My NPR Three Minute Fiction Submission - Round Four)

Hello everyone! The good news is I have a great giveaway coming up (car washes/vacuums!). The bad news is there was a small delay in firming up the details so the giveaway will not be this week.

I took an extensive poll of the three people who happened to be on Facebook and responded back in the ten minutes before I wanted to write (!) and they unanimously voted that I should share one of my previous NPR Three Minute Fiction entries. This is fine with me because a) I have been meaning to share these stories via my blog anyway and b) since they are already written, I have a chance of getting to bed a little earlier (yay!!!).

This is the story I entered in Round Four. The story had to be 600 words or less and include these four words: button, fly, plant, trick.

 Trick or Treat

Trick or treat!

This year, our Halloween was occurring in reverse. Six-year-old Layla was isolated in a hospital room in preparation for her bone marrow transplant. Halloween would come to her.

The hubris of previous Halloweens taunted my memory cache. Grimy nights marked by costumes grass-stained from tripping through dark yards, candy that I had to wrest out of little hands to give at least a cursory inspection before it was consumed. The time Layla was a princess and her toddler brother (who couldn’t protest) was a frog.

When I had driven to the hospital this morning, the heat did register in my mind, somewhere between the continuous prayer loop in my mind (please God let the transplant work please God let the transplant work please ……) and the mundane list of “to-do’s” necessary to retain some modicum of order in our everyday life (renewing the overdue automobile association membership would come in handy next time we needed a tow). I was not surprised that I had to crank up the car’s air conditioner at 7 a.m.; October heat is the price we pay for cap sleeves in January.

Tulips, though, will not be convinced that winter is occurring if the planter blithely plops them in dirt and showers some hope on them. Central Florida tulips must be coaxed. That is why, somewhere between the pleading prayerfulness and the robotic response to the mundane, I stowed my bulbs away in the refrigerator, between the butter and the Neufchâtel cheese that was used on some lovely canapé in an earlier lifetime, back when a “de gustation” menu involved gourmet food instead of ice chips and puree.

Knowing how much Layla loved tulips, Grandma arranged for a fresh shipment of tulip bulbs to be flown from Holland, Michigan, each year in time to be planted behind the butter months before encountering humus.

My friend Ann had also incorporated tulips into the mural that she had painted on the glass separating Layla from the germy world. The mural, painted with the knowledge that many children after Layla would stare at it while ensnared by disease, gave the illusion of being outdoors. Ann and Layla had spent time designing the mural prior to the procedure to decimate Layla’s immune system so that it would not reject the bone marrow transplant. Verdant green stretched as far as the eye could see; vibrant tulips spread through the field, and (since Layla recognized that not only little girls got cancer) an active soccer match was underway, the ball flying through the air and appearing to smash the glass.

I was so dazed with the physical and emotional exhaustion of dealing with Layla’s detested illness that I completely failed to nurture my son, Joey. He had just started kindergarten, and was pouring monumentally energetic efforts into each piece of artwork. He was proud; I was drained.

When I went to the online “caremonitor” site to update Layla’s condition for the inquisitive world (I had learned that individual emails were not time effective), I had a choice of “radio” buttons to indicate my role on the site. I could click the button for “visitor” (nope – not me, not this lifetime) or author (yes, although I would never have willingly written THIS book).

When Layla’s site came up, I was surprised to see that my husband, Doug, had beat me to it. I didn’t even realize he knew our password.

Oh, Joey.

Doug had scanned in Joey’s latest, a five year old masterpiece with four tulips, each with an initial on it: D(ad), M(om), L(ayla), J(oey).


Photo Credit:

NOTE. This story is completely fictional. However, shortly before I wrote it, I had been following the story of Layla Grace Marsh via twitter and other social media sites. Her family's deep love for her, and their candor in sharing her story, made the idea of a child fighting cancer very real to me. To learn more about the work Layla's family is doing in her memory, visit The Layla Grace Foundation. pk

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Uh Oh - Did I Snuff Out My Children's "Beginner Minds"? (A Mama Kat's Writing Workshop Prompt)


There were several great prompts on Mama Kat's this week. The one I got is certainly familiar territory to our family:

It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?

I used to (non humbly) marvel at myself as I laid out my children's things each night for the upcoming day. At our busiest, Tenley would need a gymnastics leo and the rest of her gym stuff and dance paraphernalia (leo, tights, bobby pins, hair nets, ballet shoes, tap shoes, jazz shoes). There was a time when I would drop her off at gym, sit through her workout, pull her out of gym a few minutes early, and she would change leos (this took the talent of an ... acrobat!) in the car between gym and dance. I actually think at one point, I was leaving my son at the gym to do his gymnastics class while I was transporting Tenley to dance.
Food in these situations? In the car if at all. I have many memories of walking my son through his spelling words while sitting in the gym seats or at dance - I bought pre-sharpened pencils so that we would always have them in the glove compartment. If we could have fit a tiny sink and kitchen in there I probably would have tried!

I think the interchange between parents and children in which kids say "moooooom, I'm booored!" is a lose-lose proposition - how many times have you ever heard a kid say, "right, Mom, it didn't occur to me that reading a book or playing a board game or helping you fold clothes or getting a head start on my research paper could dispel my boredom!" Having grown up as an only child, I may see this question from an entirely different perspective - I was telling my son as we were discussing this prompt about all of my imaginary friends I had growing up, and how my parents probably thought I was nuts when they heard all of the one-sided conversations! He said he has had imaginary friends (but he must keep the dialogue in his head).

This prompt, rephrased, asks "are we keeping our kids so darned busy that their brains have no down time, no imperative to 'dig deep' into the crevices -- into the spaces where dreams and whimsies germinate, and where our unconscious selves deal with the 'bad things' in our lives?"

In his blog "Where Do Ideas Come From?" Seth Godin lists several points that apply to overscheduled kids and burnt out executives alike, such as:

Ideas don't come from watching television
Ideas come from nature
Ideas come ... when we're not trying
Ideas fear experts, but adore beginner's mind (how often do we as parents rush to "fill in the blanks" for our children, negating the power of "beginner's mind"?)

and one of my favorites:

Ideas often come from reading a book (yeah!!)

For the full text of Seth Godin's "ideas" blog, click here.

When I look back on those hectic years of activity on top of activity, I think the thing I would be more sensitive to (in retrospect) is gauging the children's motivation to be involved in the activity. I tend to want to be busy (duh) but each child is different. Some of them thrive on having several balls up in the air while others only feel pressure. As the children have gotten older, I have seen Tenley "self select" the ways in which her focus honed in on what she most wanted to do (dance). With Wayne, my son, I quietly backed off from registering him for stuff that he had casually mentioned, and learned to wait until he had initiated the idea repeatedly (i.e., Pop Warner Football).

Was there, mixed in with all that, enough room for their "beginner minds" to flourish? These two are rarely found with a nose in a book (much to my chagrin), but I hope that family Sundays spent with cousins by the pool, weekends at gym and dance meets where there is plenty of "messing around time" between the "official" activities, and my conviction that they'll still turn out to be pretty cool adults even if their "childhood" resumes weren't packed with non stop activity, will result in two minds that are fertile ground for playful ideas.

Photo Credit: Filomena Scalise

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Friends Through Dance Edition)

Each friendship has the potential to turn the plain...

into the extraordinary...

...especially if the transformation is choreographed through dance.

If you live here in the North Florida/South Georgia region, please consider attending this first ever six-studio dance showcase which takes place on Sunday, January 23, at 5:30 p.m. at Chiles High School. Tickets are only $10 each. Proceeds benefit the FSU School of Dance Scholarship Fund.

(If you don't live here, I hope you still enjoy the pictures!).

For details, visit this Facebook Site or contact any of the participating studios:

While I dance, I cannot judge,

I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life.

I can only be joyful and whole.

That is why I dance.

~ Hans Bos

(PACT Dancers Photo Credit: Bill Lucas)

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Being a Supervisor Made Me a Different Subordinate

When I sent Dan Rockwell an email yesterday to elaborate on a question I had raised at the Leadership Freak Coffee Shop, I said "I have been meaning to write a blog post about how my experience supervising employees changed the way I behave as a subordinate." Although this weekend and the first weeks of 2011 have handed me plenty of other "seeds" from which blog posts could grow, this one is begging to be written.

Photo Credit: anankkml

From the time I started at Healthy Kids in August 1994 until November 2009, I was supervising employees. The number varied, and sometimes there was a supervisor between me and the more junior employees, but I always supervised. Before that, I supervised telephone counselors when I was with the Telephone Counseling and Referral Service (TCRS) (now Big Bend 211). Prior to TCRS, I was a resident assistant/head resident at college starting the summer after my freshman year of college. This period that started November 2009 is the first time I have not been supervising anyone since I started at Healthy Kids, and concurrent with that move I got a new supervisor. 

One of Greg Smith's specialties is "employee retention," and I recall reading in his Navigator Newsletter a few years ago his "Top Ten Reasons Employees Quit," in which he discusses the results of a retention survey he conducted. Thirty-five percent of respondents answered "yes" to the question "Was the attitude of your direct supervisor/manager the primary factor in your quitting a previous job?" I suppose my opportunity to retain staff through my attitude has come and gone for now (read my attempt to reconcile that here). Now I find myself on the other side, as a subordinate, and I see things through a different filter.


Doesn't it all boil down to this in the workplace? I know I am sending a whole lot of communication up. I understand, more than I did before, that it is my responsibility to rescue the things that get stuck in the flood of information with which my supervisor has to contend. We have all seen (or heard), "well, I don't know, the revisions have to be approved by a supervisor - I sent them last week/month/year and haven't heard back." Even ultra-organized supervisors can lose track of a project task in the midst of competing priorities and urgent issues. Help them out - remind them tactfully and do not use them as an excuse for a stalled task.


One of the very first things a new enrollee in Florida's Certified Public Manager program does is an exercise in "motivators." You list the top five things that motivate you in the workplace. The class combines all of the motivators, and the instructor presents the results. Whereas the common thought is that "money" would always be number one, that is not consistently the case. Other things like "encouragement," "flexible time," and "opportunities to learn" are equal to or more important than money. When I supervised, there were some things I would not have been able to give even if I had been convinced they were a particular employee's biggest motivator (for example, I did not have the authority to allow anyone to telecommute), but I tried to be in tune with people's motivators. This is an area where I see even more clearly from my not-a-supervisor role how disappointing it is when my values don't seem to be taken into consideration. It reminds me of a time a decades ago when I was a kid -- I was with my mom at my grandparents' house (where we spent many weekends) and my mom had decided not to take me to youth group at church - I think a grandparent was ill or in some way more needy than usual. I said to my mom, hoping to be supportive, "I love you," and she immediately said back, "I can't take you to youth group, that's it." I guess she thought I was trying to suck up and earn the youth group trip; my motives were completely misunderstood. Workplaces that really try to understand what makes their employees "tick" and support that will get heaps of productivity out of those grateful employees.

Shared Vision

I suppose, in the past years, I was pretty oblivious to the fact that fellow staff and the people who reported to me did not necessarily feel "signed on" to the mission statement that I had helped write before many of them were affiliated with our organization. More recently, we had a consultant come in and work with management (director level up) on mission, vision, and values as part of a strategic planning process. Being part of that process meant a lot to me; now I sense a bit more acutely what the people who were not invited into the process must feel. While it may not be logistically possible or practical to gather every single employee around the table, it's important that development of (and implementation of) organizational mission be "real" to everyone who works for the organization, whether they stamp the envelopes or sign the paychecks.


One of the biggest ways in which my view has been refined is the fact that when you are between more senior management and less senior staff, you are constantly having to customize the message given to the junior people to leave out content that is not pertinent to them and/or will create unnecessary concerns or distractions. Now that I am only on one side of that equation (the "less authority" side), I seesaw between understanding that my supervisor has pressures that influence the tasks I am given and result in things that are in actuality relatively low priority being given a high priority "label," and having an almost compulsive need/desire to know what's behind the messages I am given.  Employees like to understand the "why" behind their assignments. Except in the case of some very delicate information, employees can be trusted. If your employee is that untrustworthy, perhaps there are other issues that should be explored. 

Am I a better subordinate for having also been a supervisor? I would say the jury is out. While the jury deliberates, I will take some guidance from Tenzin Palmo, who wrote this in Neighbors Are Our Practice:

"Everybody encounters in their life people who seem to be born only to have the function of pushing all our buttons, who seem motivated to be difficult and to cause us problems. Instead of making us angry or wanting to retaliate, these people are actually our greatest spiritual friends. Because while it's very pleasant when everyone is being nice to us and all the situations in our life are running smoothly, we don't learn anything."

Do you have any insight to share with me from a similar time in your life? Any experiences discovering that someone who "pushed all your buttons" turned out to be your "greatest spiritual friend"? Tell me about it in the comments!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hemmed In (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

For my Mama Kat writing prompt today, the random number generator handed me number five:

I told you so! Write about a time you felt validated.

Since I want to believe that I will feel validated about this (someday), I am going to write about a time when I will feel validated. It ain't happenin' yet.

Before I babble on and on about the role of alterations as the catalyst for a nasty mother/daughter fight, I want to say that it feels ridiculously self indulgent to blog about raised hemlines and taken-in seams. Another mom lost her young daughter (who was possibly starting to say, like my youngest child, "you know, I am a preteen already, mom) in the death of Christina Taylor Green. Locally, the communities of Tallahassee and Orange Park (my hometown) lost Ashley Cowie, a 21-year-old woman who was accidentally shot. We can't all be together for a moment of silence, but take a moment to say a prayer in celebration of their time here on earth and in empathy for their families and friends.

Now, about the hemming. Hopefully after I get this issue out of my system, I'll remember to return to the original point: validation.

Maybe my comfort level with the alterations process (hemming, taking in of seams, replacement of zippers, etc.) exists because I grew up with a mom who sewed. I didn't appreciate it at the time, especially when the "cool kids" were wearing Calvin Klein jeans and I was wearing homemade pants with fabric bought from TG and Y. Years later, when I was at an alterations shop having some alterations made to a dress that my mom had originally made, the woman who owned the shop said, "wow, I would hire your mom - she is so careful with her stitching." I never adequately expressed my appreciation to my mom for all that sewing, and for the extra love that was stitched in along with the thread. Here are a couple of examples of her work:

Fast forward to now, when I am the mom and have a daughter to clothe. When Tenley got her allotment from the gene pool, she got some great things (flexibility, tenacity, cute freckles) but she did not get long legs. This is a problem because practically every piece of clothing sold in a typical "juniors" store fits her in the waist and hips but has inches of fabric to spare at the hemline. Over the years, I had almost learned to stop saying, "we could get it hemmed" because I would inevitably hit a brick wall. Hemming would purportedly "mess up the flare" (possibly true), make it "look funny," or in some other way completely negate the coolness of the piece of clothing. Somehow we have made it through 14 years and had (I thought) reached some type of detente when a new issue arose:  "the dress." 

Tenley's dance teacher recommended a specific dress from Delia's as her costume for her upcoming dance solo. The first time I tried to order it in an extra small, I hit a timeout or some other technical obstacle so decided to try later. By the time I tried later, a medium was the smallest size left. I wrote Delia's to ask if there was any chance of an extra small reappearing (no, it was a clearance item); I scoured internet consignment shops; I looked everywhere. I finally wrote the dance teacher and asked about getting the medium and having the sides taken in, the shoulder straps shortened, and the hem taken up. She thought that would work!

When I picked my daughter up that day to take her to dance, I told an outright lie and said the medium/alterations plan had been the teacher's idea (I figured it would have more clout coming from her). The immediate response? Something along the lines of, "you know I don't like alterations." ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. The conversation deteriorated from there, way past alterations to me losing it over the light that would not turn green, a different debate over a small detail of the dance life .... I am surprised we didn't go down a "tomato tomahto" route.

I tried to explain (calmly) that I feel hurt when she does not believe me when I am telling her something that is based on fact and life experience. I dropped her off at dance, still feeling unsettled.

A few hours later I finished listening to Mitch Albom's For One More Day.

There is a line fairly early on in the book that lays out the premise for the chapters that follow:

" can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back."

After the audiobook ended, I immediately sent my daughter a text message trying to find some calmer ground. Doing that made me feel better at least.

My daughter's and my differences over the basic efficacy of alterations still ticks me off. I suspect it always will. Just maybe, though, one day - ten years from now - twenty - twenty-five, she and I will get together for lunch. I will have rolled up my pants because I didn't make it to the alterations lady yet. She will be raving about the way the hem of her new pants breaks perfectly over the top of her foot since she got them altered by Sew Now Alterations.

                    And I will feel validated ....


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Parking Privileges Edition)

Photo credit: Robin Elyse Hill

Are you supposed to lock your valuables inside
your sick child while you shop?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sprinting Toward a Bold 2011

It is odd. The word "bold" keeps insisting upon keeping its grip on me.

I wrote this post about being bold in December 2010. One of my favorite bloggers, Kristi from Live and Love Out Loud wrote her own great post about boldness. I flirted with (and decided to have an ongoing relationship with) this quote, that I read on "Daily Good":

Leap, and the net will appear (attributed to Julie Cameron). 

It should not have surprised me, then, that when my friend Patrick Detscher and I started corresponding about his recent opportunity to run a 200 meter race at the 168th Street Armory in New York City, a venue on which he had previously run 30 years ago.

Without further ado, and with gratitude to Patrick for a great New Year's story ...
A New Year is upon us,

The train ride from Westport, Connecticut to Grand Central is less than an hour; the epic blizzard had reduced rail service to a weekend schedule. Renee was seated comfortably next to me for this short and compelling train ride. As young adults, we had made several ventures into this region when we knew one another 35 years ago. For some reason, this trip was different. As you know; just as a person can’t just “show up” for the Gary Droze FSU Interval Sessions, held every Tuesday at 6:30 pm, nether can they just stroll into the 168th Street Armory in New York City and run.

The new track at the Armory amazes me, as does the vintage wooden track which lies just beneath it.

I can’t claim any of the spike marks on the wood floor picture above are from my shoes when I ran on it three decades ago, however, I can tell you that the facility is called Jungle Land for many good reasons.

The track is very fast in that centrifugal force applies here. If you run fast enough, the high banks can be your friend, run slow and the track draws you toward the center, just like one of those yellow funnel devices which steal quarters as the coin spins gracefully toward the center opening. It's New York City and the same kids, who once upon a time, did everything they could to elbow, trip, shove and spike other runners are now middle aged dudes.

While running the 200 meter race, I received a warm welcome as I rounded the final turn in lane one; an elbow to the ribs was all it took to send me reeling into the inner area of the track. With God’s help, I was able to step over several sets of sprint blocks and cross back over the rim which runs around the center of the track, while still running full tilt for a second place finish.

Sprinting in the urban areas of New York, which my High School Coach Bill Mongovan exposed me to, will always be a unique and physical type of race. Even though I wasn’t disqualified for leaving the track, the dude who threw the elbow is no better for it. You see, even in Jungle Land, mindful competition is achieved without elbows; by making yourself better and running both harder and faster.

This New Year belongs to the BOLD.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A "Hard" Book For Me Please (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

First of all, a hearty "welcome back" to Kat, who has been on a well-deserved blog break. During her break, I used prompts from the #Reverb10 project to do a bit of processing about the year 2010 and set the stage for 2011.  When Kat's prompts arrived in my in-box yesterday, I did my usual routine - use's random number generator to "assign" myself one of the five prompts. Then, after seeing the first prompt I was assigned:

What happened in 2010 that you’d rather not repeat?

I thought, "I've already done enough of that through #Reverb10," and tried to manipulate a little order into the randomness by running the random number generator again. I ended up with:

Read and Respond: “If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.” ~J.M. Power

For a while, I thought I would go with the "dreams come true" quote (it's a pretty cool and true quote, don't you think?), but I kept thinking "surely there is something about 2010 that I don't want to repeat).  Quite a few things come to mind:
  • My mother-in-law's breast cancer diagnosis
  • My husband's job loss
  • Sitting in a judge's chamber as a defendant
  • A protracted "cyber bullying" situation that my daughter was embroiled in
  • My 11 year old's apparent aversion to sleeping in his own bed .... still
  • The deaths of people my age, especially Jarrod Heierman and Missy Reeves

To reflect on a less dramatic moment, but one that spoke volumes about the choices I make every moment, I turn to a comment my daughter made early in the school year. Apparently now it is a "bonus" to actually get a textbook that is made out of paper (as opposed to a cd or an online version); in Tenley's math class, students have to request a "paper" book in order to receive one from the limited supply. She said, "Yeah, I told my teacher that you do a lot of freelance work on the computer which is why I couldn't get on to access my textbook. I didn't want to say, 'My mom's on Facebook all the time."


Dan Perez touches on some of the same feelings I have about the intersection of family commitment (the kind where you actually touch each other and look each other in the eyes) and social media in his blog The Klout Myth and Living Above the Influence. He talks about how his wife and daughter each suggested that one of his three New Year's Resolutions be "stop spending so much time on the computer," which he translated to "start spending more time with us."

Between the time I drafted this blog Wednesday morning and now, when I am completing it, I read Alexandra Samuels's Harvard Business Review Blog article Social Media in 2011: Six Choices You Need to Make. It was the perfect article to read on a day when I was contemplating the content for this blog. Should I completely ditch social media to make amends with my child who is usually behind something herself: her bedroom door, her earbuds, her teenaged independence? In the section of her article headed "Who Am I Choosing to be Online?" Samuels says this:

"since the persona you create for yourself online inevitably bleeds over to your life offline, creating the best version of yourself online will invariably help you become the person you want to be, online and off"

I like social media for many reasons, including the fact that I like to write and heck, put together all the statuses, comments and tweets I have pecked out through 2010 and there would probably be enough for a small book (not a good book but a book-sized book!).

I don't know exactly what I would change about the mix of family time and social media in 2011. Maybe Tenley's comment was a lot more fleeting than I interpreted it to be. But it has stayed with me since she first said it in August. I suppose what I hope for 2011 is that she won't be compelled to say I get on Facebook too much, even if she is saying it in jest. I hope this:

Mama's Losin' It

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Earth Fare - Keeping That Food Close to the Ground

My husband has been meeting my father-in-law at the Corner Pocket (my father-in-law's daily routine) frequently. I started noticing, when I would drop by, that the old Circuit City was being transformed into an Earth Fare Supermarket. I have always been a bigger fan of food than electronics, so this development worked for me! I began tweeting them pictures of their evolving store to @earthfareTAL. By photographic standards, these first pictures were pretty primitive, but lo and behold someone was at Earthfare's Twitter handle and they started talking back to me!

Over the past couple of years, I have read some books and seen some documentaries that have impacted the way I think about food. When Tenley and I watched Super Size Me together, I was forced to be more aware of the business practices in the fast food industry, practices that jeopardize my and my children's health for the sake of profit. Ever since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, no McDonald's chicken nugget has crossed these lips, and the inverse relationships between businesses' hunger for profit and concern for my and my family's well-being has become even more obvious. When Barbara Kingsolver resolved to forgo bananas for a year, as discussed in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle because she and her family had resolved to "deliberately eat food produced in the place where they lived" and bananas could  not be produced in their region, I wondered even more about how my food choices impacted the world around me, not to mention the concepts my children were absorbing about how food should fit into our lives.

I have never been quite as bad as the character in Sophia Kinsella's "Undomestic Goddess" who truly does not realize that strawberries originate somewhere other than the little uniform tubs at the grocery store. I did have the good fortune to have a grandparent who still farmed when I was a little girl, so I saw a bit of that life and I shelled a few hundred buckets of peas during my childhood (felt like hundreds, anyway!).  Where does Earthfare come in, you are probably asking.

They come into the mix because they sell foods that are:

"as close to the ground as it gets"

And because one of the eight components of their food philosophy is:

"NO inhumane treatment of the animals providing us with dairy, meat and eggs"
(I feel especially strongly about this one after Pollan book opened my eyes
to the food industry's treatment of cattle.)

And because I feel good about supporting a new entrant into Tallahassee's food scene whose mission is:

"To feed and inspire the healthy person inside us all." 

And because Earth Fare Tallahassee has demonstrated, including giving me my first sip of kombucha, that they are earnest to engage with our community. 

Earth Fare Tallahassee has provided me a $50 gift card to share with one of my readers! To enter for the giveaway, please do at least one of these:

1) Tell me in the comments something that has changed the way you look at food
2) Which of the eight components of EF's food philosophy is the most important to you as a    consumer? Tell me in the comments.
3) Comment on this: If you were participating in an Earth Fare "pantry makeover," which of these items are currently in your pantry that you would take to Earth Fare for a healthier replacement:
  • peanut butter with hydrogenated oil
  • soda with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • cereal with HFCS
  • salad dressing with HFCS or partially hydrogenated oils
  • jelly with HFCS
Please leave your email address in the comment as well (use this format to avoid spammers: email at emailprovider dot com). I will use to choose the winner.

The giveaway will end at midnight on Wednesday, January 5. I will contact the winner by email; if the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will choose another.

So come on, let's talk healthy eating and see how we "FARE"!