Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Silverado the Survivor (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)


Yes, Kat has been in Greece while we have not, but we have dutifully chosen prompts and written or vlogged. I ditched the first prompt that handed me (Describe a memorable first date) because I covered that territory in this post. I also knew that whatever prompt I chose needed to be one that could cover Silverado (to be introduced momentarily). Good thing one of the prompts is Write about a child you find inspiring. The "child" I have chosen has four legs and a whole lot of "inspiring."

Meet Silverado:

Silverado and her story have kept our office transfixed since the day a couple of weeks ago that my coworker Karen stopped on a busy road to try to keep her from getting run over by rushed morning commuters. Karen takes over from here and tells the rest of the story:

I stopped at the stoplight at Waffle House on the Parkway and a calico kitten dashed out from under the car in front of me and slammed into the curb and crouched down looking terrified. Without thinking, I put my car in park, turned on the four way flashers and got out to try to grab the kitten so when the light changed it wouldn't run back into traffic. Well, the kitten disappeared! I looked down the embankment and under my truck. The girl behind me got out of her car and told me the kitten was by my front tire. So I went to that side and saw kitten. I slowed traffic in the lane next to me. A guy from Advance Discount Auto Parts came out and asked if I was having car trouble. Nope kitten trouble. Well, after searching for a few more minutes, I decided the kitten had either run off or was up in my truck somewhere. I eased the truck forward and not hearing any screaming drove to work and parked. I worked until 12:30, drove to my dentist's office for an hour and 15 minute appointment, drove back to work, worked the rest of the day. That was the day it was 105.

Worked until 5:30, drove home and was sitting at the dinner table when I heard what sounded like a kitten crying. Tom said it was a bird and as soon as we went outside it stopped. So we went back inside and sure enough a few minutes later I heard the kitten crying. Tom and I went out and spent the next 90 minutes searching for the elusive kitten. We finally determined it was somewhere near the back of the truck and thought she was up in the frame work. While both of us were lying on our backs under the truck pondering how much it was going to cost to get this kitten out of our truck, I noticed a space above the gas tank. Tom hoisted himself up by hanging an arm around the driveshaft and sure enough there sat a frightened kitten. When we went to reach for it, it ran down the driveshaft like a tightrope walker and into the spare tire. Needless to say, I couldn't drive the truck to work the next day.

Tom got a trap from a friend and we captured little Silverado, as our healthy 1 pound, six week old baby girl has been named [editor's note - Karen's truck is a Chevy Silverado]. We are now in the process of fostering her to prepare her for adoption.

Silverado's total mileage traveled that day on the gas tank of my truck was almost 40 miles! This kitty is a survivor!

That 105 degree day in Tallahassee was brutal, even for those of us who spent most of the day indoors .... not perched on a gas tank .... not recently separated from our loved ones. I am inspired by Silverado's tenacity and her story.

If you are here in Tallahassee and know someone who might want to adopt her when she is old enough (she has to be two months old or weigh two pounds) let me know (opuswsk {at} aol {dot} com). If you are not a Tallahassee reader, I hope you'll still enjoy and be inspired by Silverado's story. I was.

Here she is in action:

Here are some more pictures of Silverado the Survivor:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Lake (Y)Ella Edition)

Crazy Days of Summer

Tallahassee's Lake Ella is a popular downtown gathering spot.

When I visited Lake Ella to visit my friend Yoche, knowing she would have some photogenic yellow squash that would be perfect for "yellow" week of the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge, I found much more...such as a reminder to slow down and enjoy my walk:

Healthy Organically Grown Veggies from Artzi Vegetables:

Something pretty to wear:

And dessert:

Thank you, Lake (Y)Ella, for a treat of a day!

I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "yellow"!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Letting Myself Off The Hook (A "Let's Reverb" Prompt)

The June 2011  "Let's Reverb" prompt is: What can you let yourself off the hook for? I have responded via a vlog:

Special thanks to Julia Chambers for the use of her crochet images! Find Julia's work at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Abrupt Little LOVE (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)


The Mama Kat prompt that I ended up with this week, thanks to the randomness of is the best kind of writing prompt - one I have no clue how to address! It is number five: What is something you could stand to learn from your significant other?

It is important to understand one thing about my husband to understand the rest of this post. When I needed a date to the Huey Lewis and the News concert in 1987, after my original date backed out, my friend who offered to set us up warned me, "Wayne is an Abrupt Little Sh*t," and I said, "oh, that's okay, I need someone to go with [translation - I didn't want to get stuck with the cost of the ticket!]."

Things didn't look good when he showed up at my door, beer in hand. There was not going to be any old-fashioned chivalry here. After the concert date, we continued to spend time together. The friendship evolved into romance. Throughout our friendship, through the living together, my subsequent ending of the relationship and moving to New York, and our reunion/marriage, there has always been a huge contrast between Wayne's relative refusal to gladhand just for the sake of gladhanding, and my almost deferential approach to most social interactions. Between his (relative) bravado and my (relative) lack of confidence. Between his assumption that his opinion matters (and is right, of course!) and mine that my opinion may not be that important in the long run and is probably wrong.

What is something I could learn from my spouse? A little more bravado, a little less deference.

Lessons I may learn yet through "The Power of Love."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Wet From Head to Toe Edition)

In the blazing summer heat of Tallahassee and South Georgia, we are dealing with water from head:

to toe:

and everywhere in between!


I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "water"!

Crazy Days of Summer

Monday, June 20, 2011

Help Lauren Spierer Surface

This is a special post, as part of an effort to help find Lauren Spierer. Lauren has been missing since June 3, when she disappeared from Bloomington, Indiana. If you don't have time to read the whole post, here are the crucial points:

If you are on Twitter, follow @NewsOnLaurenS for updates.
If you are on Facebook, post Lauren's Poster on your page.
Donate to help fund the search.

Here's the long version of why this story matters to me, and additional ways you can help.

About 14 years ago, our family had just figured out that my sister-in-law, Ann's, sudden death at the age of 30 had been caused by Long QT Syndrome, a hereditary cardiac arrhythmia. Our family was gathered by the pool and my niece (Ann's daughter), Jordan, who was about seven years old and had just been confirmed to have Long QT, was gleefully swimming from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end, not coming up for air. Her father, new to the experience of having two children with a cardiac issue, and having lost his wife to one, was freaking out, pleading with her to come up for air and not risk the time underwater without oxygen. That moment stands out in my mind as the juxtaposition between letting your child be a child and wanting to protect them from danger.

Lauren Spierer, who is very close in age to my niece Jordan and who also has Long QT Syndrome, is in extreme danger. She was last seen at 4:30 a.m. on June 3, at the corner of 11th Street and College Avenue in Bloomington, Indiana. As of today, she is still missing. For a detailed timeline, read this.

I am joining bloggers from all over the world to ask you to help in the effort to find Lauren. There are ways you can help, even if you are not in the Bloomington area. Here are ten tips defining things you can do from your own space to help. 

Keeping news about the tip line and reward prominent is a great way to contribute. 

If you are closer to Bloomington than I am (I am in Florida) or want to help with the search, here are instructions.

As I mentioned above, if you are on Twitter, follow @NewsOnLaurenS for continuous updates.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba said, "No one will go to the rescue of a drowning man if his cries are feeble." Seventeen days have passed since Lauren went missing. Let's band together to keep the cries for her rescue for becoming feeble.

Let's help Lauren surface.

Lauren Spierer flyer. Please print, post, share on social med... on Twitpic

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Is Not About You

I would be a really inept private detective. In deciding to write the blog post that follows, I may have made a conclusion that is 100% wrong. But the subject weighs heavily on my heart and mind so I am going to write this post, and if the audience I am writing to reads it and scratches their heads, saying, "What on earth did she think we said?" then I'll just hope something about the message still edifies or entertains someone.

The office grapevine came back around to me with the message last week that I had hurt people's feelings with my YouTube videos. Specifically, with the impression that I had stated that people I work with are poorly educated. For 24 hours, I scratched my head about this, prayed about it, lost sleep over it, and (the only good thing) used the stress to fuel a great workout. Then it hit me, the acting monologue that I had recorded to be included as part of my "Faster, With More Energy" post in April 2010 talks about call center representatives who, despite being college graduates, "have the vocabularies of fourth graders." Here it is:

If you don't have time to watch and/or don't want to endure a minute and 35 seconds worth of my amateur acting (trust me, I wouldn't blame you!), here's the monologue, word for word:

I talk to the American People on the phone every day as part of my job, and I can tell you -- they're dumb. And petulant. And worse than 5-year olds. Are they dumber than they used to be? Hell, yes! How else do you explain two terms of George Dubya? Worst president, ever! I don't suppose you could say this is the dumbest country on the planet. There are worse, I'm sure. But the other countries have excuses: famine, war, oppression, plague. We did it to ourselves! My co-workers are college graduates. Those under the age of 30 have the vocabularies of 4th graders. If I had a dollar for every "like" "you know" "I mean" and "awesome" that comes out of their mouths, I could vacation in Reykjavik. Or in some other interesting city whose name Americans can't spell and about whose geography and history they haven't a clue. And let's not even discuss their writing skills. It's like dealing with foreigners who have learned individual English words but who can't yet put them together into sentences. What's the point? Everybody's connected to their iPod, surfing porn, getting down, being cool.... Dumb's #1!

This monologue is from Minute Mouth-Offs by G.L. Horton. When I was choosing a monologue, I liked this one because I have been involved in a lot of call centers, so the topic of a call center did not feel foreign to me. And haven't we all been in the position of the consumer contacting a call center who had a less than stellar experience? 

That video is no more directed at anyone in my real life than I am really pregnant in this scene from "An Impossible Marriage" that I did in December 2010:

When I cross the threshold at work every day, my mindset is "This is about us" -- what can we do as a team to help the uninsured children of Florida?

In Lori Deschene's "25 Reasons to Embrace Criticism," she opens with an Aristotle quote: “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  True. 

My favorite reason of her 25 was number 21:

Learning to receive ... criticism ... without losing your confidence is a must if you want to do big things in life. The more attention your work receives, the more criticism you’ll have to field.

I do want to do big things in life. I want my children to grow up to be happy, decent, fair people. I want to slay the debt monster once and for all. I want to write a book that chronicles the blend of courage, patriotism, and humanity that overtook Carrabelle in the early 1940's in the form of Camp Gordon Johnston. I would love to write a blog post or vlog that makes just one person (or 1,000) say "I am going to do something differently today because of what you wrote (or said)."

I do want to do big things.

But I will never, ever do that by intentionally making someone else feel small.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Caught in the Act (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

It is Mama Kat prompt day. Here's my prompt:

If Social Media died tomorrow, describe another hobby you might get into.

If you are reading this, I am guessing you are least mildly pro-social media (or you are a social media hater who is being punished by being required to read blog posts written by people you don't even know). If you're like me, you would feel pretty bereft if social media died tomorrow. How would I fill the time?

The hobby I "might get into" is something I am already "into" but I would probably be able to focus on it a bit more if I weren't blogging, Facebooking, or Tweeting (or DailyMiling or LoseIting or my latest, IDoneThising). I would do more acting classes, volunteer more with the FSU Film School, and dabble more in live theatre.

(One of the things I do as a volunteer is help find locations, such as this "teenage girl bedroom".)

When asked, I usually say that I started hearing the siren call of acting and filmmaking when I got tired of sitting in the waiting area while my kids auditioned for FSU Film projects. I decided "I might as well audition too!". Then my friend Duane reminded me that I had, after all, played Sue Ellen Ewing (from Dallas) in a high school production back in 1982. For some reason it does not surprise me that I have totally blanked that out of my memory bank!

(No more Sue Ellen Ewing for me; I have moved on to a respectable "career" in the faux medical field!)

I have so much to learn about acting and am frequently in the presence of stellar amateur (and some professional) actors whose talents stun me. What I do know is that I learn something about myself each time I audition or am fortunate enough to be an extra or actor in a production. And I walk away, without fail, mystified at the paradox of how pretending to be someone you are not somehow brings you closer to who you really are.


BONUS! I guess it is fortuitous that I wrote a prompt about the "end" of social media the same week the comedy sketch that satirizes Facebook, in which I was an extra, was released on YouTube. Here it is (fyi it contains language that will make some of you want to press play immediately and some of you want to skip it!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (June Refreshment Edition)

 It has been hot here in Tallahassee. Really hot (as in today the high was 102 degrees).

Sometimes, refreshment can seem oh-so-far away:

But if you "stay cool" and keep your eyes on the prize:

All of that chilly, creamy yumminess will be within reach:

(Or you can just drive to the mall and visit "Refreshing Rachel" at Dairy Queen):

I am linking this Wordless Wednesday post up to the Crazy Days of Summer Photo Challenge sponsored by Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia. This week's theme is "refreshing"!

Crazy Days of Summer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

No More Counting Soap Bubbles - a Tribute to Edwina Stephens

In 2006, the Tallahassee Democrat did a special edition titled "The Ride to Equality," subtitled "Fifty Years After the Tallahassee Bus Boycott." As they developed this publication, the editors sought stories from local students who had encountered people who remembered the boycott. With the assistance of Al Lawson's phenomenal staff, I was referred to Edwina Stephens as the perfect person for my fifth grader to talk to about that time in Tallahassee's history.

This woman, who selflessly gave an hour and a half of her time, in her home, discussing topics that undoubtedly brought up personal pain, surprised me.

For instance, she clearly knew that it is possible to have the "last laugh" when others trivialize you. Check out a piece of her home decor:

Much more importantly, you would never have known she was meeting with a fifth grader whose mother had essentially dictated that the meeting would take place and who was probably a little antsy about being late for gymnastics. She gave Tenley her full attention, describing historic events in a way that no book ever could.

I wish I had the recording of the interview (which ended up deep in some abyss at the Democrat) - the facts and details all run together in my mind. I do recall Ms. Stephens talking about the separate hospitals in Tallahassee - the "white" hospital and the "black" hospital (which existed until 1971); about the courage of local white business people who stood up for their fellow African American Tallahasseeans in the face of peer pressure to do otherwise; about the lack of decent textbooks and school supplies for black children; and about the dehumanizing "tests" given to black people in order to "qualify" them to vote. One example was "count the number of bubbles on this bar of soap" and another was "do this math problem" (the problem being impossibly complex).

Edwina Stephens died last Tuesday, June 8, at the age of 86. I only spent an hour and a half with her, but in that hour and a half she, Tenley, and I were transported back to 1956, when three black women paid ten cents each in bus fare and took seats at the front of the bus. The unfolding of civil rights events after that day would take a lot longer than I have in this blog and a lot more expertise. But Edwina Stephens made it real, without drama or pathos, patiently explaining to a very young woman who had never been in a minority the important lessons learned by an older woman who had led efforts to give black children and adults a chance .... to get an education, to be gainfully employed, to vote, to be.

And for the gift of that hour and a half, I will revere her memory forever.

The best seats on the bus are open and they are hers for the taking.

RIP Edwina Stephens.

Edwina Stephens, Tenley Kiger 2006

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beyond Six Words About NYC (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

In my Mama Kat prompt response last week, I wrote a Six Word Memoir celebrating New York  City. This week, Kat gave us the option to expand on the story behind these Six Word Memoirs. To give you a frame of reference, here's mine:

Why New York? Why does it always beckon? As crazy as I am for the City, I not written much about it. I suppose I could trace back my first "I have to go there" sentiments to the production number in the Miss Union County High Pageant back when I was in 11th grade. We did a dance to "New York, New York" and the combination of the "little town blues" melting away and the idea that "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" planted a seed in my brain that would not go away.

In 1989, I broke up with my boyfriend (who is now my husband), sold my car, and boarded an Amtrak train to New York City. Without a job. Without a place to live. Immediately upon disembarking from the train, a guy took my luggage and cab "fare" and said he would get me to a taxi. I almost lost sight of him (and my luggage) but caught up and was rescued by a legit driver who made him give me my money back and delivered me to my temporary digs, the Allerton Hotel for Women (which at the time was an austere combination of welfare hotel and temporary housing for people like me but is now a luxury building ... go figure).

For this post, I need to stick with the Cliff's Notes version because I am in a time crunch. I got a job (as the Internship Coordinator at Fordham University in the Bronx), ended up living on the Upper East Side, then the Upper West Side, then finally with a relatively "permanent" roommate farther up on the Upper West Side, got another couple of jobs (Manhattan life was expensive), became a Methodist, saw Peter Paul and Mary in concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, learned why margaritas made of limeade, beer, and tequila are a very bad idea no matter what zip code you are in, watched the Macy's parade floats be inflated from my apartment, paid to see a group of actors recreate a Brady Bunch episode (hilarious!), saw more than one individual urinate in public, discovered a "true" Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, did my laundry at 11 p.m. at a combination video store/laundromat, made lifelong friends, and ..... despite all of the frustrations of urban life knew that I was in a place where I belonged...

.....a place where, almost three years later, I ended up marrying Wayne at the Brooklyn Promenade before moving back to Florida. 

I go back to New York every chance I get. I don't have to be doing anything fancy or official. Sit me down on a park bench for half a day or let me wander the streets, soaking up the city-ness of it all and I am good. My daughter Tenley (now 14) has been visiting New York City with me since she was 20 months old, and I have seen things through her eyes that I never scratched the surface of when it was just me: Harlem, Chinatown, the view from the Toys R Us Ferris Wheel, July 4 fireworks over Roosevelt Island, the Hello Kitty superstore, the Central Park carnival, those god-awful street purse vendors that she loves and I ..... don't.

With all of its cacophony and frenzy, New York holds an appeal for me unlike any other place. Big Apple, save another bite for me!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Time is Valuable - Why Should I Volunteer?

This is an article I wrote for the monthly newsletter of the North Florida Chapter of the Society of Certified Public Managers. Although I volunteer regularly, and used my experiences volunteering with NFCPM (and other places) to inform this article, today brought it all home to me in a real way. Sabrina Hartley, our president, and I packed books into boxes for Operation Paperback. With every choice of book I made that will end up in the hands of a military serviceperson and/or a dependent, I was reminded of a) how simple it is to do something that will be meaningful to a serviceperson, like donate a book, b) that behind the simplicity of donating a book is an entire process --sort the books, store the books, pack the books, fill out the paperwork for the books, label the books, etc., and c) that, as I said in the article, there are things we learn about each other when we do something "out of our usual zone" that we would not have otherwise learned. I'll keep signing up!

My Time is Valuable – Why Should It Go To Community Service?

Helping others, together, makes us a better “managers’ organization.”

When you hear the name “Certified Public Managers,” what images come to mind? Management theory? Programs such as those we’ve had recently on Conflict Management, Performance Measurement, and Procurement Processes?

One other thing should be part of the mix: an image of service.

CPM Members Kim VelDink and Sherry Valdes Serve Florida History Fair Attendees 

That is why I feel so strongly about making sure our chapter members have opportunities to serve the community once a month. There is something that members of an organization gain through serving a cause outside of their own, something that can’t be measured on a flow chart, ishikawa diagram, or scattergram: the benefits of striving to go beyond ourselves.

It is the things you find out about one another huddled around a bank of phones at 6 a.m. to take calls from donors – what radio programs people like, how they are the neighbor of the guest host, that they like their coffee black, that they look like a different person in glasses because they don’t put their contacts in that early in the morning.

Pass the coffee - CPM Members Paula Kiger, Anna Bethea, Sherry Valdes Volunteer at WFSU-FM

It is the things you find out at a run, helping hand out water to people struggling through a tough competition – how it takes teamwork to rapidly dispense a hundred cups of water in a span of five minutes, to clean up the aftermath, and to laugh at each other when you think the lid on the big water container is a screw-on and it ends up being a “pop off.” When you see people who you normally only encounter in business attire or a uniform, in sweats or shorts and a t-shirt instead, some of the differences that may be transmitted by our business attire evaporate.

It is finding out that even as adults with years of work (and management) experience behind us, there are still “teachable moments” in situations where we are with people who are younger, older, smarter, less educated, of a different race, and a whole host of other differences. We should get out of our comfort zones and plop down in the middle of some other group’s universe once in a while. Marvel at young people smart enough and motivated enough to concoct a history fair project and put it up for the scrutiny of a panel of adult judges (for example).

We learn that it may take a bit of time out of our schedules to volunteer for a few hours of community service, but, in doing so, we are adding to the collective heart of our group and bringing new insights, knowledge, and experiences to our traditional monthly meetings.

We are putting more “public” into our Public Manager credentials.

A few more images from Sabrina's and my day at Operation Paperback:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Six Little Words Remembering One Big City (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

The Mama Kat writing prompt that handed me this week is number one: Six Word Memoir: Write about a significant time in your life in just six words. This memoir looks back, but has its eyes on the future too.