Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pray, Don't Prey (A #Reverb11 Prompt Response)

The #Reverb11 prompt for May asks: If you participated in Reverb 10 during December of last year, are any of the things you wanted to manifest in 2011 revealing themselves?

When I wrote my #Reverb10 posts, such as "Let Go Already!", they were more reflective - looking backwards instead of ahead. For that reason, I am putting a bit of a different spin on this month's prompt -- how can I look at things differently as 2011 forges ahead in order to manifest the things that sit closest to my heart and spirit?

The phrase that forms the nucleus of this post is "the unscripted question." I took this phrase from a commencement address given by Atul Gawande, author of "The Checklist Manifesto" and "Better." At the end the audio version of Better, the narrator reads the commencement address Dr. Gawande gave at Harvard Medical School, in which he provided graduating physicians five suggestions for being "doctors who continue to matter." The first was, "Ask an unscripted question." For example, if you are a physician meeting a patient for the first time and that patient is complaining of chest pain and fatigue, as a physician you will ask when the pain started, its severity, how debilitating the fatigue is, etc. But as that individual's physician, you should also ask something like, "I see you are wearing a shirt from Ireland - is that a country you have visited?" Point being that by opening up the discussion with the patient to the things that energize them in addition to the things that bring them down, you will get a more comprehensive picture of who that person is and establish a better rapport.

I was also intrigued by my friend Mark Hohmeister's recent column in the Tallahassee Democrat, entitled "Visitors help you view things in a new way." Mark discussed how hosting visitors from another country "is a great way to see new things, or at least see old things in a new way." He talked about a weekend in which he and his Turkish visitor, a journalist named Mehmet, first visited Mark's Presbyterian Church and then visited the Islamic Center of Tallahassee. In Mark's words describing his visit to the Islamic Center, "...the talk was of Mideast politics and of religion. We talked about the Christian Trinity and they laughed at how "Allah akbar" to many Americans is a phrase associated only with terrorists." Mark goes on to write, "But there was no terror here, no fear. I came away refreshed, the same way I feel after short morning or midday services or evensong that we attend occasionally. I'd been yanked out of my rut, and I saw my city, its people, and my god in a new way. That's an hour well spent."

Mark's experience prompted me to spend an hour "well," in a way that is not part of my usual "script." I did a bit of research trying to find something that would be off of my beaten path, lend itself to reflection, and be somewhere on the outer fringes of my comfort zone. I found the perfect place in the Tallahassee Shambhala Meditation Center. While the Center does an orientation the first Wednesday of every month, in which they provide thorough instructions and participants do a "starter" 10 minute meditation session, I jumped in (bare) feet first with a one-hour session in order to meet this blogging deadline. I emailed the leader first to discuss my intentions, and make sure it was "okay." She assured me I would be welcome and off I went.

The group meets for an hour every Tuesday at noon to meditate. When I walked in (admittedly, with some trepidation), the leader was very welcoming. Everyone introduced themselves and, being Tallahassee, I knew one of the participants (this was a good thing for my comfort level). Karen, the leader, explained the basics - we would spend time sitting, with some minimal instruction from her; spend a portion midway through the session engaged in "walking meditation," and finish by more sitting. The "mindfulness meditation" practiced there "is rooted in the simple, but revolutionary premise that every human being has the ability to cultivate the mind's inherent stability, clarity and strength in order to be more awake and compassionate in everyday life."

I didn't know what I sought in the hour, just that I wanted to intentionally give my mind an opportunity to turn things over in a new and different way. 2011 has been characterized, for our family, by my husband's continued job search and the impact of a reduced income, as well as my deeper questions about how to best use my talents professionally and personally.

It all boiled down to this, for starters:

Sometimes you have to stop running away from the unscripted questions begging to be asked in your own life. You may think you are chasing down a definite answer but it's not there. You shouldn't approach it like a predator running down a weaker prey, capturing it, and consuming it. Try stilling yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually -- you may be surprised to find that an insight alights on your shoulder gently, alive to the possibilities that exist for both of you.

Photo Credit: Rich Leighton, www.leightonphotography.com
(Thank you, Rich, for allowing me to use this beautiful image.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Meeting Silvia

I had the honor today of guest posting on Live Intentionally, discussing my July "dream trip" of going on a Mission Awareness Trip to Guatemala.

Here is the link:   Meeting Silvia

I will "see" you all on Sunday when I post again.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer Don'ts - Some Funny, Some Not-So-Much (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)


Ahhhh......summer. What not to do in summer, specifically. That's what http://www.random.org/ thinks I should write about, out of the five writing prompts offered by Mama Kat this week. I went through our family's summer-related pictures last night to choose ten summer pictures that would prompt a vault to the top of a summer "don't" list.
1. Don't overfeed the cat or you will end up with a cleanup job on your hands:
 (this is year-round in our house!):

2. Don't be afraid to play in the dirt - it's as okay for grown-up girls to get all dirty and messy as it is for little boys.

3. Don't pass up an opportunity to be a "city girl" (after you clean up from #2!):

New York City August 2007

4. Don't give up on our government's ability (with our help) to get things straight.

Tenley Kiger - Washington, D.C., August 2007

5. While we are on the topic of government, don't miss opportunities to come face to face with history-makers:

Me, Tenley Kiger, Former President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter, Barb Kiger
Plains, GA June 2009

6. And don't forget to take time to relax and dream big:

Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York City

7. Along with the big dreams, don't forget that you never know what may "hatch" when you take the time to imagine what can be:

This nest is being built in my front yard.
The poor mama bird is sick of me invading her space to check everything out!

8. Don't be unkind - via a computer screen or in person:

9. Don't fall asleep in the family hotel room before your little brother:

10. And (almost) lastly, don't ever assume a thin piece of plastic will hold your precious baby when you turn your back:
(Everything turned out okay, thank God.)

11. One more thing, as a side note and my #11 - don't be reticent about asking for help when you need it. This is a vlog about my and my daughter's planned trip to Guatemala this July (the one I wrote about here and and here). With my husband's extended joblessness, our ability to finance the final piece (airfare) is in jeopardy. This is my plea for help (of the moral support and financial kind).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

That Finish Line Look (And a Request for Advice)

I knew this weekend was going to be full. It started Friday night with Relay for Life (I am our team's captain). This is my the luminary in honor of my mom, a cancer survivor:

On the Saturday morning when Relay was still technically underway, I needed to get my son to the Friends of Wakulla Springs 1 Mile Run, which  was a "Grand Prix" run for him. After he spent the night with me on the oh-so-comfortable Leon County Fairgrounds soil, we headed out at 6:30 a.m. for Wakulla. Having figured out that I would be at Wakulla also, I signed up for the 5K. That 5K is what got me thinking about tonight's post ........

Prior to giving in to the siren call of the prospect of running a race I really like for a cause I really care about, I was seriously contemplating not running 5K's at all until I felt like I was closer to my goal of running a 5K in less than thirty minutes. I have been running 12 400's at a local track once a week, and have had a bit of success with getting closer to 30:00 (this week was under 33:00), so I had started thinking that I would work on getting closer to my goal in that controlled environment before doing a race again.

But, as I wrote on my DailyMile post after the race, who was I kidding? I may not be happy with my time but I love races. I love seeing the people who share the joy of running; I love seeing all the different levels of athletes do their best; I love watching race volunteers pitching in; I love helping a good cause.

Fred Deckert, one of our club photographers "extraordinaire," stationed himself at the finish line so he got some real doozies of people's expressions. (When I was at my son's kids' triathlon today, I overheard a parent tell their kid, "don't smile, just breathe and run." Really??) But finish line pictures capture so much (more grimaces than smiles!)

I know racing is just supposed to be "against ourselves" and for me it's a specific time goal but I really do hate to be passed and I use the runners around me to challenge myself to pick up the pace. There were several of us women finishing around the same time, and several of them were friends (or sisters or something). A friend of theirs was coaching them on how to make a better finish and running in with them and I said, "help me finish strong too." This awesome guy didn't say, "you're kidding, right? I want to help my friend finish faster." By his response, he personified the spirit of running - he was supportive and pushed me to sprint to the end.

That's how I "2240" and I ended up neck and neck at the finish.

After last year's St. George Island Sizzler, when my whinefest about how people ought to be polite at the finish line resulted in an almost unanimous chorus of "no, you just have to go for it" sentiments from commenters, I have determined to make the strongest finish I can, whether I am by myself or shoulder-to-shoulder with five other people.

After the finish (we both finished at 41:08), it took me a moment to figure out if I was going to barf or pass out. That "barf of pass out" moment is hard to achieve without the adrenaline of a race. As someone proposed in an article I read recently, "If you're trying to get faster, you need to race."

Racing or not, I still want to break 30:00. That's where the advice part comes in. I know some of the elements are: 1) losing weight so there's less to move around, 2) getting stronger so the body that is there functions more efficiently, and 3) challenging and varied workouts, including intervals. With our household employment situation right now, I can't pay someone for personal training, so if you have advice that has worked for you in getting faster, share away!!

I'll "run" into you next week, readers. I'll be the one with that "outta my way it's a finish line" look!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Bitter Ending (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)


This post will put the nail in the coffin of any hopes I had of being a spokesblogger for the citrus industry.
The Mama Kat prompt that Random.org "gave" me this week was number four, "describe a food you abhor."

Now, I love food, and "abhor" is a strong word even for foods I dislike. But when my daughter determined recently that she was sure she would love grapefruit, and that we should buy a 3 pound bag (instead of just one), I am sure I gave her that "skeptical mom" look she detests so much.
She was drawn in, I think, by some image she had seen in a magazine or on tv of someone delicately slipping their spoon into a half grapefruit, retrieving the sparkly effervescent flesh, and devouring it with a smile, destined for a day of citrus infused health and happiness.
She didn't know that wresting the actual food out of a grapefruit is the equivalent of releasing a car accident victim with the jaws of life!
Being the wonderful (read: pushover) mom that I am, I gave in to the plea and we ended up with a 3 lb bag of grapefruit in our pantry.
Next vision: a half grapefruit in the fridge, looking all shriveled up and distinctly not eaten/enjoyed.
Daughter's response? It was so hard to eat.
For me, the issue is the bitter taste. And after a young adulthood of crazy diets, I have had lots of experience adding things, chemical and natural, to grapefruit to try to make it more palatable. I had the special spoon. Grapefruit (fresh, broiled, squeezed) never grew on me.
Whenever my friends who take medication that is contra-indicated along with grapefruit, like Synthroid (I think) talk about the contra-indication, I think a) why risk it? and b) doesn't the fact that it could kill you tell you something?
As with many other of my daughter's passing food fancies, we ended up with a tally of one half-eaten shriveled grapefruit in the fridge and a bag full of potential science experiments in the pantry.
A bitter ending.
(Photo Credit: www.uglypersonsface.com)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Nothing" (A Blog About Bullying)

I watched it all unfold on Facebook. A comment by a teenager, directed at another teenager, that generated 22 comments and 8 "likes." Once I deduced the target wasn't my child (that's happened before), I realized the target was another child I know. A status of "Delete me off of facebook all you want honey, but try doing that in real life and you'll find out that I'll always keep showing up in your news feed" led to six other teenagers talking around the identity of the target. The comments included:

"she hides in a tree and swings from friend to friend w/no real home to go"

"Shes gay"

"dumb hoeee"

"she can't be gay if she likes bananas"

but the one that grieved me the most was this one:

"her name is [insert name here] absolutely nobody(:" (this comment was "liked" by two people)

This started b/c the target teen put a picture of herself taken with a tree as background as her Facebook profile, and two girls made snide comments about it, leading to the "monkey girl" designation and the theme of this string. The target then deleted the "friends" who had made the comment off of Facebook, leading to the "take me off all you want" status.

(One of the challenges of cyberbullying is that even if a teen "blocks" another teen or removes them as a friend, so many mutual acquaintances will be aware of what was said about them that it will be almost impossible for them to escape the knowledge that a negative message is being spread about them.)

My daughter had been one of a close foursome in eigth grade (she's in ninth now). She was the first one to leave the group, weary of being pressured to leave other people out. As such, she experienced similar treatment firsthand. When a second member of the foursome "left," and started experiencing the nastiness, that young woman said she understood now how horrific it feels to be the target (compared to the "power" of being a perpetrator). That leaves two of the original foursome and some upperclassmen siblings/friends who are functioning, to some degree, as the equivalent of puppeteers.

When the parent of the "target" child asked me to be involved, I agreed. We met with an MSW whose agency does some work with the school. We met with the principal, the school resource officer, and another staff member. The other staff member said, "Well, we don't let the kids use Facebook at school." I pointed out that with smartphones they do. In the bathrooms, wherever they can grab a moment. And that's not the point. 

It was important to me to impress upon the school administration that this isn't just about a couple of students getting their feelings hurt. (Everyone knows that the freshman year of high school is not a cakewalk; I don't expect it to be.) It is about a threat to school climate; it is about students who are engaging in behavior that goes beyond "name calling." It is name calling on hyperspeed - the "cyber" part of it is anonymous, spreads exponentially, and costs the perpetrator nothing while the target often descends an emotional and psychological downward spiral until they can develop the strength to "not let it matter."

(Although this blog focuses on cyberbullying, in my experience the ugliness isn't limited to social media; there is frequently in-person aggressive behavior as well.)

My MSW contact said her research unearthed a lot of ways to help the victim, but not so much on working with the perpetrator.

Here's what I would do. Tell the perpetrator that there is an exercise today about leadership, that as someone with a lot of social "pull" at the school they are needed to help make the school better. Hand them the transcript of one of these ugly threads (it's not hard to find one). Have the perpetrator role play the role of the kid saying the nasty comments TO ANOTHER KIDS' FACE. Reverse the roles and have the perpetrator be the "target" of THEIR OWN COMMENTS. I'd bet it feels a lot different in person than via keyboard.

I recently watched a Karmatube video about a man who took over a decrepit, forgotten, trash-filled wedge of Manhattan waterfront and made it a sanctuary for birds. He said, "people stopped dumping garbage here when they saw people had started to care."

Whatever emotional "garbage" leads teens to bully, I want them know people care. As a parent, I want these students who are engaging in such destructive behavior to have something positive happen in their lives to fill up whatever void causes them to perpetuate cruelty and meanness. I know them; they are attractive, talented, potential-filled young women (90% of relational aggression issues occur in females) who have so much to give.

The target kids are all special to me, likewise the bullies are, to me, anything but "nothing."

But the "monkeying around" has to stop.
Bullying Resources:

Cruel's Not Cool

Jodee Blanco (Jodee is a bullying survivor and author of "Please Stop Laughing at Me")

Article: How to Help a Bully: Recommendations for Counseling the Proactive Aggressor

ArticleWorking With Young People Who Bully Others

Resource: Facebook's New Bullying Report Rool (note: this is very new to me; I don't know anyone who has used it yet)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Spring Chickens Edition)

Smarties Candy is looking for pictures to be uploaded to their Facebook page of Smarties used in "spring-y" ways.

That is how I found myself attempting "food art" for the second Wednesday in a row.

It'll be back to words for me next week (or at least, no more food art). I think we'll all be glad!

Happy  Wordless Wednesday!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Red or White?

I had not planned to write a Mother's Day post. But when I called to order a corsage for my mom to wear to church on Mother's Day, the simple significance of Barbara Carter's question sealed the deal.

The question: Red or White?

I realized when I was commenting on Julianna Baggott's "Happy Birthday" blog post to her mother, that this seed of a post had to sprout.

My comment was this:

Very eloquent and simultaneously comical post. When the florist asked me yesterday (about my mother's Mother's Day corsage) "red or white?" I thought, what a perfect blog post title (southern tradition dictates you wear a white flower if your mother is deceased and red if she is still alive). I am glad I would still be eligible for red.

In her homage to her mother, Julianna writes that her mother gave her the greatest gift a mother can give a writer daughter, permission to write about her. I don't know if my mom has given me that gift. I suppose this post is more of a way of wresting the act of writing about her directly out of her hands whether she is ready to give it or not. I do know I hurt her to the core with the scathing analysis of our family that I wrote in my college family relations course and left out in a public area after letting a friend read it. I really thought I knew a lot about how our family had been shaped back then. Now that I am raising my own family, I think I just need to steer my kids away from family relations courses requiring papers that rely on self-disclosure. Engineering would be safer and more lucrative anyway.

For my mom, I had to order a white orchid. Vila, her mother and my grandmother, passed away years ago. When I think about my mother's stories of insisting she follow her older sister to kindergarten, even though she was only four (rules were much more relaxed back then), of how she loved her "with the girls" lifestyle in Lake City before she married my dad, I think I can detect the independent streak that I inherited. It may have driven Grandma Vila a little nuts.

Me? If I were wearing a Mother's Day corsage, it would be red, since my mom is still living. One of the things that troublesome paper touched upon had to do with me being an only child. When I find myself too wrapped up in one of my children's projects, friendships, or hobbies, I often wonder what it was like for my mom to have all of the offspring "eggs in one basket" (my father has two sons from a previous marriage). I remember her following behind me when I was running around the neighborhood as a high school runner, worried about some cramping I had been having. It drove me nuts. Running was then and still is about freedom, not being weighed down by a tan Chrysler station wagon 10 yards behind me going 3 miles per hour. She, on the other hand, didn't want me to end up face down on the pavement or the shoulder of the road, overtaken by some horrible runner's malady.

Although she hasn't given me permission to write about her, and I rarely do, today is the day to be thankful that I still qualify for "red." My friend Audrey used to send her mom Evie flowers on her (Audrey's) birthday, on the premise that Evie deserved to celebrate the accomplishment of giving birth (and raising a child) as much as Audrey deserved to have her milestone commemorated. I think Audrey had it right.

In conclusion,  here's to a mom who has me seeing "red" on Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Weekend Blog Hop!!

This weekend, I am co-hosting a blog hop! See details below:


Rules are easy, there are only 2!

1. Follow HOST blog and CO-HOSTS through GFC
We are the top 3 links of the hop!

2nd Co-host CHANGES weekly so be sure to follow new co-host if you link up weekly!

Mirror, Mirror, on the .... Blog? (A Mama Kat Vlog Prompt)


Last week, when Kat added a "bonus" vlog prompt to her traditional list of five writing prompts, I bit. This week, the "bonus" was there again! I haven't figured out, if we keep getting these "bonuses," how I am going to balance vlogging with writing, but for this week at least, I wanted to make some technical improvements to last week's vlog (like fixing the lighting so my face showed up -- you know -- the basics!).
My 11 year old showed up as I was editing and showed me how to make the pictures go by faster, but after my tutorial, I forgot to do that and published .... so this week you can see my face but still have to sit through 7-second-long pictures (more time to read the witty captions, right?).
Without further ado ........ my answer to this week's vlog prompt ......... show us where the magic happens! Tell us about your blogging process!

The End!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Ride4Relief Edition)

Chad Robin has to get from his family's home in Louisiana to his internship in Oklahoma.

Some people would drive. Some people would fly. Chad is going to bike, along with his friend Russ.

He has turned the trip into the Ride 4 Relief, raising funds for the American Red Cross's efforts in Japan's earthquake/tsunami ridden areas.

Here in Tallahassee, an event is being held on Thursday, May 5, to "jump start" the fundraising efforts. On that day, the Bruegger's Bagels at Carriage Gate will donate 15% of the proceeds of sales from 7 a.m. - noon! (Bruegger's requires that you present this flier.) In addition, you can buy a $5 raffle ticket for a bottomless cup of coffee (meaning unlimited coffee/tea/soft drinks for a year!).

As Chad and I talked about how a Wordless Wednesday could promote the Bruegger's event, I shared this image:

(Credit: Leah Zeldes http://www.diningchicago.com/)

But I couldn't resist the opportunity to play with some food. BagelBike using all materials from Bruegger's by yours truly:

(I know, I know - "don't quit your day job"!) But it was actually fun (and hopefully hubs won't notice the crumbs in the keyboard - shhhhhhhhh.)

If you're here in Tallahassee, start off your cinco de mayo with some yummy bagels and coffee. You'll be helping a good cause!

Coffee (and bagels) for a cause ....... Ride4Relief!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Will He or Won't He?

My son's class has a field trip coming up on May 10. The sixth graders at his school are going to Silver Springs. The trip has been paid for. Since the beginning of the year, when we parents received information about the year's field trips, Wayne Kevin (and I) have known that there are specific conditions the students must meet to qualify for the trip. These include "no more than one "2" in citizenship on the report card the previous nine weeks. (The behavior scale goes from a "worst" of 1 to a "best" of 4.) There are other conditions, such as no "F's" on the previous report card and no overdue library books.

One night recently, after Wayne Kevin had gone to sleep, I found a folded up sheet of paper lying near his backpack. The paper documented the fact that he had not met at least one of the conditions for the trip (the one related to citizenship). That mystified me because, although he did have one "2" last nine weeks, he had not had two "2's." I left the house the next morning before Wayne was up and couldn't speak to him. I emailed the teacher to ask what was going on. It turns out the sixth grade teachers had decided that some children were "crossing lines" during the fourth nine weeks and even if they had met the qualifications on the original guidelines that were distributed, they were in "warning status." She went on to say that she had met with Wayne the day before and explained everything at length. Interestingly enough, Wayne had not brought the subject up to either his dad or me ... and we were together in a car for a total of about 40 minutes the previous evening as I took him to and from gymnastics.

I seem to be hurtling toward a point I should have arrived at already --- the acknowledgement that I can't solve these problems for him. I kept thinking, "what if I had taken him to school the morning of the field trip and been turned away?" It was tempting to be annoyed with the teachers for revising the "guidelines" with no notice, but at 11 (almost 12), it is reasonable to expect that a child who is told "you may not be going" will take responsibility for telling his parents.

I look back on Wayne's school years so far and see a pattern of this:

- In kindergarten, when he had obtained a spot on the school's "Morning Show" for having good citizenship (believe me that was an accomplishment!) but then losing the spot the day before it occurred for being involved in a food fight in the cafeteria. (I walked him in to school that day and talked to the teacher who had reported the food fight - after a discussion I asked if the fact that Wayne had apologized, etc., was enough to reinstate the appearance on the morning show - which it "was" or else the teacher just didn't want to get in the way of my helicopter rotor blades).

In first grade, Wayne did an optional science project. I involved what would influence boat speed. He constructed his own boat to use in addition to some other boats. He got a green ribbon (translation - "participant") and the comment on his sheet that the "hypothesis was not sufficiently research-based"). Granted, his project abutted one by a fellow first grader who must be exponentially advanced for her age - it was a psychological research project with controls, multisyllabic explanations, a "research based hypothesis," and very detailed detail. That probably didn't help. I emailed his teacher, who emailed the science fair supervisor teacher, who reviewed the situation and bumped his ribbon "up" on the color scale. But still - although he was upset about it, in all honesty my feathers were more ruffled.

There have been numerous similar instances throughout the years.

I suppose it ticks me off that the money our family spent on this Silver Springs trip, at a time when every cent counts, may get wasted (there's a "no refund" policy). It makes me sad that Wayne may miss out on a fun trip. It makes me embarrassed that he has had "disciplinary difficulties." But for once, I am "standing down." If he does not earn the trip with good behavior, there will be no appeals from me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have been asked to help search for a library book............