Monday, October 31, 2011

The 23rd Thing, On the 30th, for the 31st

I have had a topic planned for tonight's post since last Tuesday, when Kat put out her five writing prompts for the week. I liked the "22 Things I Have Done" prompt, which would have been a counterpoint to my 22 Things I Haven't Done post. But as usual I couldn't resist the challenge of writing whatever threw me, which is how I ended up writing about knee-hi hosiery. I had planned to use tonight's space for the "22 Things I Have Done" topic, but at 9 p.m., with three hours of weekend left, I still had a lengthy to-do list which couldn't possibly fit in the three hours allotted.

One of the items on the list was helping my son do the Halloween decorations. Here's where the "on the 30th" part of this post's title comes in. Wayne Kevin has been talking about the Halloween decorations for weeks - it is his favorite part of the holiday. And by 9 p.m. on "Halloween Eve," there wasn't a single bloody limb or spider web to be found adorning our house.

That is why instead of a "22 Things I Have Done" post, I prioritzed a 23rd thing, spending an hour with my son decorating for Halloween. Some photos:

Make no bones about it ... this is important!

Getting a leg up on things.

Halloween Decoration Deluxe Fastener System
(Desperate times call for desperate measures)

"Spider Web"

Hangin' Around Hoping for a Good Time

"Enlighten Me"

The Door Cover

The Real Thing
I wonder if he'll agree to stay put until tomorrow.

It wasn't the super-deluxe production Wayne would like to do. When I asked him what his fantasy Halloween decoration scheme would be, the answer involved "everything," "strobe lights," "fog," and "Zombie Babies" to name a few. It probably involves a much earlier start than October 30.

An essay I had just read was in the front of my mind as we spun out spider web, goaded "skeleton" pieces into the ground, and hung severed "body parts." The essay, entitled "Costume Change," was written by Katrina Kenison and published in the October 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine. In the essay, she talked about her and her younger son's tradition of trying on Halloween masks together every year. In the essay, she reminisces about a recent trip to WalMart with the now-teenager Jack. The trip was ostensibly for dorm supplies, but Katrina and Jack found themselves on the mask aisle, lost for the briefest of moments in the pleasure of revisiting a tradition that felt like coming "home." Katrina said, in the essay, "our detour down the mask aisle brought back lots of good memories for us both. I realize that what I remember most clearly now is not all the actual Halloween nights of his childhood, but rather our annual trips together in search of the perfect mask.......How much fun we had together when I ... slowed down to his pace and took the time to play and ponder."

I can talk to you all about the other 22 things later. They can wait. Tonight I had a 23rd item on the list and I don't want to be haunted by knowing I had left it undone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dots, Stripes, and (Occasionally) Febreze - Welcome to My World (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number two: Write about the last item you looked for. Why did you need it? I am tempted to write about prompt number one, A List of 22 Things You Have Done because it would be an interesting counterpoint to last Sunday's list of 22 Things I Haven't Done. Maybe I'll do that this coming Sunday.

For tonight we have something much more mundane. I suppose it is the ubiquitous "missing sock's" business-dress cousin, the unmatched knee hi.

Take today, for example:

 (I hate the way the stripes don't match each other. A decent day, however since it was not dots and stripes.)

Matching knee-his may not be the last thing I have looked for, but this issue has existed for quite some time now. It got much worse in August 2010, right after high school started for my daughter. My husband was going to be the designated super-early-to-leave the house guy (6:55), leaving me the more leisurely 8:30 departure (which correlated with my son's middle school start time). Well, three days into the school year he lost his job and I become the early-morning girl. This meant a rapid lowering of my standards about wrinkledness of clothes and other criteria for getting out of the house dressed for work.

And, as God is my witness the knee-hi situation is going to do me in! Way back in September, 2009, my friend Fred Davenport dared me to blog about my sock drawer, which has been meticulously well organized ever since (thanks Fred!). Still, almost every morning I look in there hoping to find a matching pair of knee his that have been washed and paired. They're never there, perhaps because of the laundry processing breakdown in the family. (I'll spare you the picture of laundry mountain - it is embarrassing!).

If I had the amount of money I have spent on "last minute" runs into Walgreens, I could probably buy a Kindle. Yes, blogland, I am sheepishly admitting that I have sprayed Febreze onto knee his to try to get through one more day in the work world (sometimes they matched, most times they didn't, but they sure weren't freshly laundered). 

Sunday, when I had the opportunity to do one of my very favorite things on earth, a film shoot with an FSU Film project, I had to take a variety of clothes because the director wasn't sure what he wanted my character wearing. You'd think I would be über-prepared for something that means so much to me. I had taken mostly black/gray (and yes, the knee his matched - I'll avoid the topic of Febreze) clothing. But I took a few things in the brown family, and the only thing I could find hosiery related (despite having purchased quite a few "emergency" pairs at Walgreens over the year) was a pair of cream hose, the plan being that I would cut them off and make them into knee his if I had to. Cut them off? What is going on with me? (We stayed with black.)

(Fortunately the director, Nestor Bustamante, and I were more concerned with figuring out how to write messages in lipstick on glass than with my hosiery!)

 Here's another example: a funky tan/cream pair balled up in a little bag I found in the car:

Where have my standards gone?

I think it's time to admit "defeet."



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Monarchs on Milkweed Edition)

This is Week Three of the Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge. This week's color is orange. 

Thank you, monarch butterflies, for your impeccable timing - I appreciate you passing through Tallahassee just in time for orange week!

There is some really interesting information about the Monarch Butterfly Migration here. (For example, I learned that "not one single butterfly succeeds in a full migration due to their short life span.  It generally takes three or four generations of Monarch butterflies to complete a full migration cycle.")

The Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge is hosted by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, Alicia of Project Alicia, and Rebecca of Bumbles and Light. The challenge welcomes photographers of all skill levels. Next week's theme is red! The linky for red week will be up starting on Friday, October 28.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

22 Things I Haven't Done (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

On Tuesday, when I was preparing to write this week's Mama Kat-inspired post, handed me Mama Kat prompt number one: List 22 things you've never done. I loved this idea, but decided to postpone it until tonight because there is a time-sensitive issue with Carla's search for a sponsor (read why she is my "starfish" here). Carla's information goes back into the "general circulation" at on Wednesday, October 26, so I wanted to get my post about her out.

Without further ado:
I am 46 years old and I've Never:

1. Gotten a response to my letters/emails to Tenley Albright, for whom my daughter is named.

2. Driven a stick shift car successfully.

3. Had a conversation in Spanish where I felt that the language was coming naturally to me.

4. Run a 5K in 29:59 or less.

5. Written my book about Camp Gordon Johnston.

6. Changed a flat tire.

7. Taken my mother-in-law on her fantasy trip to Rome.

8. Been to California.

9. Gotten my website ( up and running, incorporating my blog (help!)

10. Gotten completely out of credit card debt.

11. Been to Staten Island or explored The High Line.

12. Surfed.

13. Kept my floors clean at home (ugh).

14. Figured out Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or Seesmic.

15. Completed my profile on IMDB, where I am listed as a tour group member in Parental Ties.
16. Convinced my son to dress in clothes that match, are unwrinkled, and don't look like he just rolled out of bed in them.

17. Been a Stay at Home Mom. 

18. Sung "Defying Gravity" on stage at Wicked (I know, I know - you have to be able to sing like Idina Menzel and all that but it's a great fantasy!).

19. Ventured beyond my point and shoot camera to digital SLR.

(but I still enjoy point and shoot)

20. Been able to play Blackjack without memorizing a Blackjack 101 strategy first.

21. Figured out how to really explain my faceblindness in a way that people understand why it affects some of the ways I interact, but don't perceive it as an excuse.

22. Been unfaithful to my spouse.

What are your 22?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Carla is My Starfish (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

Photo Credit:  Federico Stevanin

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number one: List 22 things you've never done. I love this idea, but I am saving this prompt for an upcoming blog and going with number four: Share the story behind your current Facebook and/or Twitter profile photo.

Here is my current Facebook Profile:

And this is my Twitter Profile/Avatar:

Why is there a six-year-old named Carla on my Facebook Banner and serving as my Twitter avatar? Carla is there because she is my "starfish."

(If you are not familiar with the "Starfish Story," it is a story about how just one person can make a difference. A little girl is walking down the beach which is littered with hundreds of starfish who have been stranded at low tide. She picks up starfish after starfish and throws each one back into the sea, into safety. An adult walks by and scoffs at her actions, asking why her efforts matter, seeing as how there are far more starfish than she can personally help. Having just thrown a starfish back into the watery horizon, she turns to the man and says, "I made a difference to that one." Having had his perspective changed, he chooses a starfish of his own to serve. There is a very nice version of the story here if you would like a version to share.)

Carla turned six on August 13. She lives in Guatemala with her father, who grinds wheat when he can find work, her mother, and two sisters. Her family home has a dirt floor, board walls, a tin sheet for a roof, a rug over bricks for a bed, and firewood for cooking.  I have volunteered to tell Carla's story in hopes of connecting her with someone who will become her "sponsor" through, also known as the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). Sponsorship costs $30 a month. Sponsors also exchange letters and photos with their sponsored children (CFCA serves aging people as well.)

My primary blog describing more about Carla's family and how sponsorship can literally change their lives is here.

My vlog in which I do magical things with some old grape soda and cooking oil in hopes of convincing someone to sponsor Carla is here:

My daughter Tenley and I met Silvia, a child we have sponsored since she was seven (she is now seventeen), in July. The difference between looking at a two-dimensional picture of Silvia on my mother-in-law's end table for years and the three-dimensional experience of hugging her, talking to her, and meeting her mother, is something I can hardly quantify. As with every experience I had in Guatemala, it was looking in the eyes of parents (especially moms) and seeing that we all want pretty much the same thing for our children: safety, happiness, and a life that has options, that galvanized my determination to continue helping.

Silvia (the Mom), Tenley, Paula, Silvia (the Daughter/Our Sponsored Child)

Then, during the week of our visit to Guatemala, we learned that if we chose to sponsor another child, we would get to meet him or her that week. Rapidly I went from saying, "yeah, we'll sponsor a child of our own (Silvia is technically my in-laws' sponsored child) once my husband gets a job" to my daughter's emails to my husband (since he had to be part of the decision) stating in no uncertain terms how we couldn't wait to sponsor a child. She was ready to give up a significant portion of her allowance monthly; the children (and their families' needs) were so compelling. I think I will always wonder what happened to Wendy, whose folder we left on the table with the others, in favor of Estela. The decision point? Which one, based on the biographical information available, did we think needed sponsorship the most? Since Estela is the youngest of ten children, in a family that survives on the equivalent of $50 a month, she became Tenley's sponsored child. Just like with Silvia's mom, when I looked in Estela's parents' eyes, I knew we were "in this together." Their gratitude was unequivocal - Estela now has a chance to go to school, to have improved nutrition and health care, and to exchange letters with Tenley (which will give her additional language training as she gets older).

Estela's parents look on as she meets Tenley.

I hope Wendy became someone else's starfish.

As we prepared to leave Guatemala, the CFCA staff talked with the 39 of us who had participated in the trip, about how we could make a difference and keep spreading the word once we returned to the states. At some point I asked for "just one" folder to start with, thinking "well I should ask for several but let's see how one goes."

That one is Carla. I got her folder (which contains pictures, biographical information, and sponsorship information), in mid-August and proceeded to blog, FB status, Tweet (in two languages), YouTube, and follow any trail that may lead to someone who could spread the word too. CFCA was gracious enough to put my post and Carla's picture on their main Facebook page. Many people have been awesome and helped by sharing the links. My friend Robin is donating her teaching time this Saturday (and YogaQuest is donating studio time) for a "donation" yoga where the pay is not a monetary contribution but an agreement to help get the word out via social media (or the old fashioned way -- remember that? -- where you actually talk to someone face to face!). Usually we have the folders for sixty days, but CFCA agreed to let me hang on to Carla's information for another week and a half.

I know I have written a pretty long blog tonight. I was so happy when I saw that Karma, in the form of Kat, gave me an opening in the prompt, "explain who is on your Facebook or Twitter profile."

If you'll bear with me just a bit more, I have a few requests.

First, if you would be willing to share Carla's story, it is as simple as tweeting this:

I am helping @biggreenpen with a CarlaNeedsaSponsor tweet! The blog and the vlog $30/mo #CFCA

And/or sharing the "Hope for Carla's Family" link on Facebook or in your blogs: 

Lastly, many of you in the MamaKat community have shared comments and the like with me over the past year. I feel like I know many of you and you have a sense of what I am about. I could use some honest feedback about what strategies I might use for a campaign like this. Over the past sixty days I have become convinced that there has to be some extension beyond links, tweets, and other social media efforts (like speaking to small groups, etc.). But what do you need to hear in a request like this to feel compelled to share it forward, pursue it yourself, or want to become personally involved? How do you go from "Hm, that's interesting," to "Is that my starfish?" This is my first time doing this outreach for CFCA, and I could use some of your great intellect and common sense. Thanks in advance!!

I am going to randomly select two of the commenters to receive a $5 Starbucks gift card* as a way of saying "thanks." I will select the recipients on Wednesday, October 26.

In closing, I ask you who will be your starfish? And if you are a parent, how are you teaching your children that each starfish matters?

Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you. Andre Gide


*Note: These are gift cards I was given by Tekara Organizational Effectiveness, Inc. as a "thank you" for some comments I had shared on one of their blogs. They are aware I am sharing these gift cards with you, and I thank Tyrell Mara and Tekara for their permission!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (A"Maze"Ing Corn Edition)

This is Week Two of the Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge. For Week One (green), I blogged about a "hot orchard visit." When it came time to take pictures for Week Two, I had to figure out how to craft a "yellow" blog out of the local corn maze (which I had originally planned to use for green week before I got tempted by an apple (hey! I wasn't the first....)).

Nothing in North Florida can compete with traditional autumn colors. But we will persist, Florida style.

We will not throw in the towel:

This search for autumnal yellow will not be a flop:

Only in Florida:

Fall needs a little bit of help down here (thanks, Michaels):

Some of the most vivid yellow was in the beauty of imperfection:

Am I seeing things or is there something spooky in this one?


At the very end of the maze, I found a nice touch of yellow:

It may not have been fall, temperature wise or color-wise, but we still enjoyed polishing off a romp through the corn maze.

Some more images - not all yellow but we are talking corn field after all and I enjoyed the fresh air and the images of nature!

These pictures were taken at the Corn Maze at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. Proceeds from admission fees benefit the Kidz First Fund (which helps children with Fanconi Anemia), the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, and the Foundation for Leon County Schools.

The Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge is hosted by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, Alicia of Project Alicia, and Rebecca of Bumbles & Light. The challenge welcomes photographers of all skill levels. Next week's theme is orange! The linky for orange week will be up starting on Friday, October 21.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The A-U-A Tattoo

Three rare things happened to me this weekend:
1) I left a workshop with an easy-to-recall, useful takeaway concept.
2) The words "get a tattoo" were uttered at my mother-in-law's Catholic church.
3) Number One and Number Two are related.

My mother-in-law, Barb, who is very active in her church, had invited my sister-in-law, my niece, and me to participate in the "Discernment of Spirits" women's retreat being held at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. I have been in the family for a long time, so I have participated in my share of activities at Blessed Sacrament (I am not Roman Catholic). Never have I heard "get a tattoo" before (although I have had some useful "takeaway concepts.")

The theme for this retreat was "discernment of spirits." Based largely on the work of Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V., our leader, Fr. Tim Holeda, took us on a zero-to-sixty study of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. I believe there were about six hours worth of teachings crammed into one. What stood out, though, were the three guiding principles Fr. Holeda gave before pressing the learning accelerator. He advised us that if we did nothing else, each of us should do these three things when considering "different movements which are caused in the soul, the good, to receive them, and the bad to reject them.

1) Be Aware
2) Understand
3) Take Action

Those three actions are what he told us to "tattoo" on ourselves. Although he repeatedly joked that he didn't literally mean for us to get tattoos, every time the word "tattoo" came up, the three-part approach was reinforced in my mind.

And, honestly, when I really thought about the process of getting a tattoo (not that I know from personal experience), it made perfect sense to me to use "tattoos" as a metaphor.

For one thing, most people I know who have gotten tattoos have thought long and hard about what image they want representing them. Especially if they are only going to get one tattoo ever, it's a big decision. It requires awareness of who the person is at the moment, and some awareness of what the individual foresees in their future. Getting a tattoo also requires an understanding of what the image will convey to those who see it, and the physical effects on the recipient. Lastly, taking action is probably, for the person receiving the tattoo, a mixture of anxiety at taking the risk and enduring the pain, and satisfaction at seeing a decision-making process come to closure.

I couldn't get this image out of my mind, so I did a little poking around.  It turns out that Christian tattoos are not all that rare.  Having done a little research, I found sites like This site, in addition to containing a gallery of religious tattoos, also explores the relationship between tattoos and theology. I started playing around with a "Holy Spirit Tattoo."  Here is the original:

And with a little bit of editing magic, I came up with the tattoo we might have ended up with yesterday had we all really gone that route:

I deleted the Bible verse from the original and added a simple "a-u-a." The first "a" for awareness, the "u" for understanding, and the second "a" for action.

I don't think any of our local tattoo parlors are going to be flooded with the good ladies of Blessed Sacrament and other local Catholic churches, seeking "a-u-a" tattoos. But the longer I look at it, the more I think, "that actually could make a nice suncatcher"! 

The blessing of the workshop is that it's easy to remember "a-u-a" even if I don't have a physical reminder.

(Thank you to Father Tim and the Blessed Sacrament Women's Guild who produced this retreat.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"ithurts" (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, handed me Mama Kat prompt number four: What was the last thing your child cried about? Write a blog post about the problem in the voice of your child.


One, two, three…Jeté!



I just landed wrong and ithurts…ithurts…ithurts

Tears are coming down my face (but I hardly ever cry in front of everyone anymore) …this is bad


How am I going to keep dancing?

Mom will say what she always says – "Ice it! Did you take Motrin? If you love dance enough you’ll deal with the pain. No one said it was going to be easy."

My feet already hurt all over from the pressure of dancing en pointe, from the bunion, from being on them all the time.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

I wish I could take a break. Maybe I’ll have to take a break. Why did I ever kinda wish for a “minor injury” that would get me a break? But performance awards are in 14 days and the huge show is in 10 weeks and people are paying money to see the show and I want to get a gold medal at performance awards and …

I wish I could take a break. Maybe I’ll have to.

Maybe I can’t.

It hurts.

Author's note: I would like to thank my daughter Tenley for the conversation that led to this post. In addition, I would like to thank her for reading over what I wrote and allowing me to share it with you. Her main addition was that she would have added a "why won't my mom make a doctor's appointment immediately?" kind of line in there somewhere. Also, the phrase that she said didn't ring true as something she would envision me saying was "if you love dance enough you'll deal with the pain."

I would also like to thank Mary McManus, poet, author, and friend for gently yet firmly convincing me that I should share this poem with Tenley in advance of pressing "publish." That was a very good call. Thank you, Mary.