Thursday, April 28, 2011

From "MomforLife" to "Perspicacity" (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)


I should have known something was up when Kat posted this week's writing prompts a day early. It wasn't just that she wanted us to have 24 more hours to craft witty, informative, emotionally available writing posts. Oh no, I am pretty sure it was because of the "bonus" prompt, the vlog prompt, encouraging us to:
Tell us the story behind the title of your blog. What is it? What inspired it? What other options did you consider? Are you happy with it?
Of course I couldn't resist. There were a few lessons learned along the way.
1) Spring for the webcam.
2) If you have not sprung for the webcam, but opted to rig up a funky cardboard box "tripod" and decide that the lighting would be best with the Florida sun streaming in behind you, don't order the camera battery that actually holds a charge from a mail order place the morning of the day when you will need a camera with a fully charged battery in order to re-do your vlog when you realize that the lighting decision you made was completely wrong and you should have done the opposite. It won't get there in time and the battery will die after your only take, the one with the crappy lighting.
3) See #1.
At any rate, here it is. I'm the one in the shadows whose mouth you can sort of see moving.

What'll you have for us next week, Kat? Something else for me to apply my "acute mental vision and discernment" to? Make it too nutty and you'll earn the nickname, "Kernish Kat"!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Getting to the Pointe Edition)

Tenley got new pointe shoes.

The instructions tell us not to store them in a plastic bag immediately after use.

They'll last "mush" longer that way.

That's a relief.

The "mush" amused me so much I didn't even pick at the oddly placed comma after the "recommend."

It's not like the Big Green Pen always has to prove a "pointe."

Monday, April 25, 2011

BlogWorld Connections

I started this page as a "display area" for the various blogs that I participate in, link up to, and enjoy. I haven't decided how to handle other bloggers' "buttons," but several of them require their buttons to be posted in exchange for a linkup and others are just people I appreciate enough to want to support.

3/5/12: Cookie's Chronicles Best of the Blogosphere Hops. I linked up my favorite post from February 2012.


10/8/11: Share Your Blog Posts Blog Hop - the goal is to share "real" comments with one another!

Blog Post Hop

9/16/11: Hop Along Friday Blog Hop - with the a rockin' cute badge too!

7/9/11: "Social Media Girlfriends" creates pure fun via the weekly Twitter #SlumberParty. They do other stuff too (of course) by slumber party is my fave!

7/2/11: I love "Band Back Together." This blog's mission is to  "provide educational resources as well as a safe, moderated, supportive environment to share stories of survival. Through the power of real stories written by real people, we can work together to destigmatize mental illness, abuse, rape, baby loss and other traumas so that we may learn, grow, and heal."

6/19/11: I am adding Mindie's Party Mindie Style Link Up Button. This woman has a way with a bacon graphic:


5/30/11: I am adding the button for the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge. I am thinking this summer ahead will be more "crazy" than "lazy" but we'll see!

Crazy Days of Summer

5/8/11: I am adding a button for Heartfelt Balance/Handmade Life, a blogger I "met" when I cohosted a blog hop this weekend. Michelle is hosting her own hop and here's her button!

4/25/11: For now, Maria of Tough Cookie Mommy gets the first button "add." I enjoy Maria's Monday Mingles and love the fact that she teaches in the Bronx, a borough where I spent almost three wonderful work years at Fordham University!

4/26/11: It's another addition to my "BlogWorld Connections" page - the awesome Mother's  Day Giveaway 2011 at Five Minutes for Mom! Check it out!


4/26/11: Mommy Only Has Two Hands Hump Day Hop!

Its Hump Day!

4/28/11: My Journey With Candida Week End Blog Hop:


4/30/11: The "Mom Pledge" - because I believe that there is unlimited potential in the "mom blogger" community to learn from each other, even when we are of wildly differing opinions, as long as we do it respectfully.

BWS tips button

Alone, Red, in a Field of Yellow (A #Reverb11 Prompt)

When I first read this month's "Reverb" prompt (at, I knew immediately what I wanted to discuss in my response to "What's Blossoming?" but I struggled most of the month with how to portray my idea. That struggle was born out of the fact that I am not sure that the quality I want to see in my children is blossoming yet. It was turning into more of a "gee, I sure hope this will blossom eventually" blog.

The good thing about Reverb10/Reverb11 prompts is this part of the instructions:

This prompt is yours to use as you like: answer it as-is on your blog, create a vision board, share your response in conversation with a loved one, make a short film. Get creative. Change the prompt as you like. Enjoy.

The "Reverb" community is, as you can see, pretty flexible so I am talking about .....

How children, tulip bulbs, start out completely self-contained. No one can see what they are going to look like, act like, think like, or be before they are exposed to the conditions that will nurture them into growth.

Once they do start coming into their own, they may often find themselves in a field of others just like them:

(Photo Credit: Sara L. Chapman)

Other times, someone who doesn't "match" will appear in their midst:

(Photo Credit: Sara L. Chapman)

When my child finds himself or herself part of a group surrounding someone who does not look the same, will they see first that the newcomer shares almost everything they do - the same parts - even though they are different colors? Will they welcome the newcomer to the field? Will they say to their friends, "give them a chance, they just got here" when human nature takes over and peers imply that because the newcomer looks different they are going to have to pass some test to fit in?

On the other hand, how will my child behave when he or she IS the only person who looks "different" in a sea of some other sameness? Did Wayne and I as parents "tend" them well enough back before they blossomed? As they find their way in the world, will they make the effort to learn the language of places they visit, choose local cuisine over a franchise they could have patronized in the US, open their spirits to the new, the different, the foreign (the scary)?

Merry Brown said:

Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.

As a parent, I pray every single day that my children's world gives them opportunities to appreciate the "red tulips" in their "fields" or to be the "red tulip" in someone else's "field of yellow." And in whichever field they find themselves, that any preconceived notions don't impede them.

Because it is then that wisdom will blossom.

Note: Deep gratitude to Sara Chapman of Love That Image for the use of her photo. (I made a digital modification to her photo for the "all yellow" photo in which I eliminated the red tulips for the purpose of this blog.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hello Jodi! ... and Jeff ... and Jenna ... and Nick ... and Steve (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

In My Car

They have all been in my car with me

(This list includes the most memorable)

Jodi Picoult

Jeff Shaara (he is there now)

Emma Donoghue

Bill Clinton

Jenna Bush

Ken Follett

Jimmy Carter

Steve Martin

Lisa See

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

AJ Jacobs

Laura Hillenbrand

Karl Marlantes

Kathryn Stockett

Elizabeth Edwards

Tim Russert

They come in hard plastic cases with little individual plastic sleeves

They come in flimsy cardboard boxes with innards that open out in the oddest of ways

They come to my iPod and send their signal through a cassette adapter

They entertain me

They inform me

They disturb me

They keep me awake on long drives

They quadruple my reading capacity

They give my mind phrases to savor, like:

Hope, Patrick knew, was the exact measure of distance between himself and the person who’d come for help. (Jodi Picoult in Nineteen Minutes)
Me, alone but in the finest of company, devouring audiobooks as I drive.

(This poem was in response to a Mama Kat prompt: Write a poem about your favorite place to be.)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Big Green Pen Goes Brown Edition)

Putting Together the Big Green Pen Calendar For The Week

(The Big Green Pen is going brown for one day!)

On Thursday, April 21, please join me at LeRoc Cafe Tallahassee for a "TweetUp" to benefit Refuge House, which serves battered women, their children, and sexual assault survivors. Drop by any time between 11:30 and 1:30. The chef is going to create some special chocolate treats for dessert! Please bring a minimum $5 donation, a twin sheet set, towels, and/or pillows for Refuge House. The first 20 people to RSVP and attend will get a chocolate gift to take home!

For more details, and to RSVP, please click here.

After that, it's back to green. April 22 is Earth Day, after all!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's About Your Car ....

Here it is Sunday night and I have kept .0000083 of a person hanging - if anyone was waiting for the "big ending" of my "It's about your car" moment in Jacksonville last Saturday.

Tenley and I had gone to Jacksonville to purchase pointe shoes (which we didn't end up purchasing after trying on every pink, satiny, pointy thing there but did end up ordering later in the week .... I digress). Failing on the pointe shoe quest, we headed to the mall (of course!).

It's important to know that I was driving Wayne's Silverado, a truck which is very long, making it (for me) a pain to park. Its length caused an issue the previous weekend when Tenley and I had to escape our Atlanta parking garage from a different exit, since the other exits had closed. Trust me, dodging those big concrete pillars of a parking garage in a Silverado is not my strength area.

Fast forward to last Saturday. We shopped, did "mall stuff," and managed to extricate ourselves from the HUGE Forever 21 where Tenley shopped giddily and I memorized my dialogue for my audition at FSU Film the next day. (I make her so proud when I wander around a store like that, saying things under my breath like, "You reach across the desk, pull him toward you, give him a brief bear hug, pull him into your lap, stroke his forehead and whisper facts in his ear.")

We arrived back at the Silverado, and this post it note was stuck on my driver's side window:

When I had parked, I had done my typically marginal job of parking the truck. I was close to the white line (thisclose) but was inside it. I presumed the note writer wanted to give me a hard time about my parking, like the individual who wrote me a note one time that said, "LEARN TO PARK!" Yes, it's a sore point! I walked around the vehicle to make sure that it hadn't been dented, scratched, or in some other way harmed. Everything looked okay. Tenley, sensing my mounting distress, ripped up the note into tiny pieces (which is why it has that jigsaw puzzle look now that I have rescued it from the detritus of a road trip and reconstructed it).

When I got home that night, I wondered on Facebook why I hadn't kept the note (project recover/reconstruct had not occurred yet) and proceeded to have a very amusing Facebook conversation with several people. Sensing an opportunity to rescue the bloggability of this situation, I caved and sent a text to "Elxer." 

Text of my message: Hi! It's your friend from the Avenues Mall parking lot. Just a wild guess here that you wanted to know where to mail my "expertise in straight parking" certificate (?). Have a great day. Silverado. 

Later that morning, I was standing in the office of Tenley's high school, signing her back in after running an errand with her, when my phone rang. It was him! Here's how the conversation went down:

Elxer: "I was so nice to you and left a note. Why didn't you call me back?"
Me:    "But I sent you a text!" (wondering why I felt the need to defend myself)
Elxer: "You know you had a crack in your windshield."

[editorial note here - Wayne had gotten a small crack in the windshield the previous  Thursday. It had grown a bit but the windshield replacement people couldn't come until Monday and the truck was still safe to drive - it was the choice for the trip since my Honda has a lot more miles on it than the Silverado.]

Me:    "Yes."
Elxer: "I was going to help you fix it."
Me:    "So this wasn't about my parking?"
Elxer: "No! About your windshield."
Me:    "Well, thanks, but I don't live in Jacksonville, my husband is having it taken care of today, and did you know you used the wrong spelling when you said, "Its about your car"? (just kidding about that last spelling thing!)
Elxer:  "Well, make sure they use the right glass, not some after-market crap."
Me:     "Okay, thanks!"

I'm still thinking if Elxer is on the up-and-up he should invest in some business cards, that "after-market crap" may be exactly what he hoped to install on my truck, and that his approach lacks a certain finesse.

But I'm glad he wasn't trying to berate me for my poor parking skills.

Can't wait to discover the next travel story ... maybe I should just go ahead and leave some post it's on my window and solicit thoughts for the blog!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

If Handbags Could Chat (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

The Mama Kat prompt that I ended up with this week (via asks, "What do the contents of your handbag/purse 'say' about you?" Oh boy.


When my sister-in-law Ann got her RN degree in May 1993, she had worked so hard. She had two young children and was very pregnant with a third. She chose to spend the graduation gift money she had received on a Dooney & Bourke handbag. Ann, my mother-in-law, some other female relatives and I were standing at Dillards looking at the options when she pointed out the one she liked the most. I said, "That doesn't look like a "mom of three" purse." Meaning it didn't look that practical - no little pockets on the outside to hold stuff, and kind of sleek and trendy looking. She said, in a tone that was a unique combination of flippant and reflective, "Thanks a lot," as in "thanks for reminding me that I am giving my body, brain, and heart to three little beings on top of being a wife, earning an RN degree, and all of that."

She got the purse. She loved the purse. When she passed away in her sleep six months later, one of the first things my mother-in-law said was, "I am so glad she went ahead and got that purse that she wanted and she enjoyed it." I was too.

When Kat asked what my purse says about me, I wondered how I could respond without repeating my sock drawer blog. I decided that I would turn the topic around just a bit to "If my purse were threatened with replacement by a high-end handbag, how would it respond?" Let's call my purse, for short, B.U.P. for Black/Brown Utilitarian Purse. Let's say that some handbag fairy has decided to bestow upon me a $400 "high end" purse carrying a girl's name (you know, a "Kristen" or a "Natalie.")

The B.U.P.:

B.U.P. to "Natalie":

Natalie, here are the reasons why it's just impossible for Paula to be "into" you:

A) She just doesn't care that much. When her purse was stolen out of her car, she was unable to tell the police anything except, "It was a black thing that I got from Target."
B) If you don't have a carrying handle, a shoulder strap (for times when she needs to carry you "city style" to avoid getting mugged), and an outside pocket for her cell phone and Blackberry, no amount of exotic leather trim will make her love you.
C) She will not change purses to match her outfits. So you're going to be at a party, with all of your brass/walnut brownness going on, and she will be wearing black pants, a silver shirt, silver accessories, and black shoes. Your other high-end named handbag cousins, on the arms of their perfectly coordinated owners, will smirk at you from beneath their clasp closures.
D) She actually knows you and your type pretty well. When it is her job to mystery shop at the store where you are sold, it is a true acting exercise for her to pretend she cares about studded leather trims or chain-link hardware.
E) Between you and me, I don't mind getting insulted by all the times she throws in the wadded up gum and other questionable substances that come with being the mother of a boy. You, though -- you know that would gross you out.

F) If given the option of spending $30 on someone like me or $400 on someone like you, she would, even if she had the money, take the purse for $30 and apply $370 to the trip she has planned to Guatemala to visit the child her family sponsors.
Natalie, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll find myself languishing here on the dresser watching the cat fantasize about the great big world out there while you and Paula go to work and play. Maybe you'll grow on her and she'll be more susceptible to the smell of "luxurious leather" than I would have predicted. If so, I guess I should let you in on the fact that you'll be listening to a lot of audiobooks as you drive around town.

Books like this:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (The Morning Meal Edition)

Last week, the Elks Lodge advertised their Sunday morning meal special:

This week, the sign had been changed:

Coincidence that the Big Green Penmobile (which is blue, actually) was seen snapping photographs of the misspelled sign in their parking lot last week?

I think not.

Pass the scrambled eggs. FAST. Or is that FEST?

Monday, April 11, 2011

When a Taco is Better Than a Burrito but Worse than a Tortilla

The last weekend in March, Wayne Kevin and I had an opportunity to go zip lining for the first time.

We had a great experience at North Georgia Canopy Tours, and I am so glad we had a chance to experience this adventure on a piece of land that used to be a poultry farm.

Before zipping, you have to take "ground school" in order to learn several safety components of the zip lining experience, like braking and how to "self-rescue" if you brake too soon (the brake is your hand) and end up short of your destination. These lessons take place on a mini zip line that is not very high off the ground.

At NGCT, the guides teach riders to brake using "Mexican Food" terms. Three weeks later, I still chuckle at how the braking methods parallel the ways in which we all tend to make our life choices.

The best brake is the "tortilla." In the "tortilla brake," the rider watches for the guide, who is standing at the "arrival" platform. When the guide begins making braking motions, the rider is supposed to take their gloved hand, keep it completely flat, and apply it to the steel cable to slow down the rider.

Parallel:  It is important to pay attention to the signs ahead of us and not react too soon or too late. In addition, utilizing a slow, steady, methodical approach to an upcoming change can make things easier on everyone.

Riders are advised to avoid a "taco brake." In a "taco brake," the hand is no longer flat on the cable, but rather folded over the cable like a taco shell. This is bad because it may make you stop too fast and may make you more susceptible to injury.

Parallel:  When your destination is closing in on you, it is sometimes hard to trust the lessons that others who have been down the same road tried to teach you. Until you have personally lived the experience, sometimes the "voice of experience" just isn't quite enough.

Lastly for the Mexican smorgasbord, riders are to not burrito brake. A "burrito brake" is where you grab onto the cable and surround it with your hand, like a burrito. Why is this bad? One reason is that you could pull your shoulder out of joint. A zip line rider reaches rapid speeds, and you don't want your hand to be affixed to the steel cable while your body tries to continue on its trajectory.

Parallel:  Practice is a good thing. When you watch people zip line but you haven't experienced it yourself, it's easy to say, "Oh, I'd never do a burrito brake." Reflexes (and a shot of adrenaline) can do funny things to your judgement. Businesses have Continuity and Contingency Plans (BCCP's) in case disaster strikes, and they are supposed to test their systems periodically. We would be wise to do the same as individuals.

If all the Mexican-food themed strategies in the world fail and you find yourself short of the platform, you get to "self-rescue." Another technique practiced at ground school, you turn so that your head is facing the platform (and your feet are facing the origination point) and pull yourself back up the cable, arm over arm.

Parallel:  You may find that you end up looking back where you started, having to work a lot harder than you anticipated to get to your destination. And you're going to need help in the form of a teammate to finish.

Have you ever had a "burrito brake" moment in your work or personal life? If so, what did you learn from the experience? 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cemetery Renegade (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

Here's the thing about me. I am a rule-follower. As I shared with you in this post, my life is pretty devoid of "troublemaker" stories. Therefore, when served up Mama Kat prompt number two, "a rule I broke," I actually had recalculate a second option in case I couldn't think of anything.

But there is that one time at Arlington Cemetery ..... the one where I ticked off the Capitol Police (or whatever entity is in charge of security there) and possibly disrespected the memory of a revered former president.

I was visiting a friend in Washington, D.C. I happened to have a pretty sizable crush on this friend (the feeling wasn't mutual but I had not accepted that yet). The friend and I had worked together on a political campaign for a North Florida candidate (translation: we watched a lot of clogging and ate a lot of chicken pilau). The candidate won; my friend went to work for him in D.C. I did not get a position with the candidate's office and remained in Tallahassee.

When the friend and I visited Arlington National Cemetery, we were on a trajectory toward John F. Kennedy's gravesite. The problem is that my friend took a shortcut. Even though if I had decided independently, I would have taken the sidewalk, I deferred to my friend and followed him up the perfectly manicured grassy slope toward the site. The Capitol Police were. not. impressed. A whistle shrilled. Like a deer in headlights, I just kept going - there was no way to divert to the "official" path by now and plus I was following Mr. Crush.

And that's where the story ends. I don't think the Capitol Police even said anything to me - if I recall correctly they were at the bottom of the hill so I suppose they gave up once they saw I was not going to defile the site or anything.

But the incident has always bothered me. Had it happened in the Post 9/11 era, I would probably have been thrown in the slammer or forced to a TSA-style full body scan or something. Horrors.

I lost touch with the crush. The candidate changed parties (there was a lot of that going on among North Florida politicians in the late 80's). I still run into him once in a while since he lives in my town. I always chuckle inside because seeing him rekindles that little "rule breaking" flame of memory in my brain.

(Please don't tell the TSA about this incident .... they may flag my file as a potential renegade. That could have grave consequences for future travel plans.)


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Stating the Obvious Edition)

At my workplace, we may not have every step of every process
documented in a procedure manual ...

But at least in our mail room we have "addressed" the most basic of issues:

(It works so much better that way.)

Have you seen any great examples of "stating the obvious" lately?

Monday, April 4, 2011

This Week We're Gonna Party Like It's .......

......NO, not like it's 1999.

Like it's Ultimate Blog Party 2011!

I have been sitting here working on a project all night. Whenever I took breaks I noticed all the dynamic people tweeting with the #UPB11 hashtag. I had linked up my basic profile for the Ultimate Blog Party 2011, a creation of 5 Minutes for Mom, earlier. As I watched the Twitter party tonight, I saw several people that I wanted to connect to and, let's admit it, I want to be eligible for the great prizes that #UBP11 is giving away!

If you're visiting from #UBP11, welcome to my blog. I hope you'll peruse my posts. They're a bit of everything, but they mostly boil down to customer service, parenting, running, and convenience store bathrooms.

My twitter profile really says all you need to know:

Wife of one.
Mom of two.
Friend of Many.

I hope to add you to the "many"!

Thanks for stopping by.  Now let's get a little bit bloggy!

Brian Tracy, Yoda, and 3%

Here it is April 3 and I haven't blogged about my 2011 goals yet.

When I learned today that Brian Tracy is following me on Twitter, that was the added little push I need to go ahead and get the "goals for the year" post out of the way. Why, you ask? Because I have a Brian Tracy quote on my bulletin board where I can see it every day. I am paraphrasing here, but basically the quote states: 3% of people have written goals; the other 97% work for them.

It's not that I want to supervise legions of people. My career path of late has removed me from supervising rather than placing more people under my leadership. BUT I do want to achieve my goals, and if writing them down makes it more likely that I'll meet them then write, I will.

As I sit here at the Georgia World Congress Center waiting for Tenley's dance competition to end, all that is between me and the story below me is a piece of glass:

Why haven't I moved to a more secure seat? A) It seems like the farther away I am from Tenley's dressing room, the more likely it is she needs something only I can provide, and B) it provides the perfect illustration for my life right now - things don't always feel very secure.

In deference to 2011 and with a plan to get it all done, here are the 2011 goals (drum roll please):

The goal to run a 5K in 30:00 or less has actually been around since late 2009. This is the first year it's on the list, though. "Write about Camp Gordon Johnston" has been floating around my brain for a while. I started the process by participating in their annual reunion in March and writing this post, which was actually more about Vietnam than World War II but was a start. The last, increasing my "Big Green Pen" presence while preserving enough sleep time to maintain my health, is a tougher nut to crack. But having it written down (and carrying the slip of paper in my wallet) keeps it present with me constantly.

2010's goals are still with me, though:

Guatemala was originally scheduled for December 2010, but when I sent in my deposit for Tenley and me, there was only one space available. We are scheduled to go July 16-23 of this year. Although I had secured a peer-to-peer loan to cover the expenses of the trip, Wayne's job loss in August 2010 resulted in me holding on to those funds for more immediate needs. I would appreciate some prayers and good karma out there that this part of the Guatemala equation gets resolved. As for "Big Green Pen," you'll see it's still on the 2011 list, but I have made substantial progress via editing clients queued up through the end of June and the success of my two "When Spell Check Won't Cut It" workshops. And as for the "kids' main driver" thing, " I suppose fate did hand me that with Wayne's job loss. I became Tenley's main driver, needing to have her at high school at 7:20 every morning, a task that Wayne had done for the first two days of school before our lives changed. Ah, thanks fate!

Why do I share this with you readers? Partially because I am asking you to help me hold myself accountable. And partially because, as a therapist reminded me when she called me on my tendency to say "I will try......." it is as that great philosopher Yoda said:

Do or do not ... there is no try.