Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ten Things I Would Do Instead (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

First of all, thank you, Mama Kat for using my suggestion as one of your prompts this week (number 1 in this list)! I am going to wait to write to that prompt in the future -- it's going to take a little research but I collected some vibrant flower photos on my recent trip to New York City that I hope to work into the post when I write it, such as this:

For tonight, I decided to stick with my tradition and I ended up with number four: ten things you would do if you didn't have to work.

If I didn't have to work, I would have written this blog earlier in the day (1) and I would not be facing a night with approximately 4.5 hours worth of stuff to do and about 2.5 hours to do it in.

If I didn't have to work, I would still work (2) but the terms would be different. I would spend more time on the causes I love, throwing more of my best skills and most passionate energies into them.

If I didn't have to work, there would be more child-centered activity in my life (3). Mother nature has decreed that there will not be any more biological children, and I am not sure if we would adopt. But I could see exchange students, preemies being cuddled at the hospital, adolescents who are adrift being given 2 hours of unconditional adult attention regularly.

If I didn't have to work, my house would be SO MUCH MORE FlyLadied (4) (and yes I know FlyLady is for stay at home's and working moms but for me, it would be so much more manageable with the "not working" plan).

If I didn't have to work, my exercise life would be different (5). I could leave the wet-wipe and dry-shampoo (which really doesn't do much shampooing) morning routines behind. Nothing like going through the entire workday pretty much as sweaty as you were after your workout. I could pick and choose better weather options, incorporate more cross-training, and really embrace that "park at the back of the parking lot and walk to the store in order to fit in more exercise" thing because I wouldn't have to have been somewhere else five minutes ago.

If I didn't have to work, I would go with my natural biorhythms more. That 3:00 10-minute nap (6) wouldn't have to be taken in a parked car or .... I'll spare you the other options .... it could be taken in a more appropriate place.

If I didn't have to work [editor's note - this was more of an issue when the kids were little but it still bothers me] I would never again take out my stress and frustration on my little kid on the way to day care, saying things like, "My boss is going to be so mad if I am late so HURRY UP!". That's not how I want my kids to think the work world works. (7)

If I didn't have to work, I'd take day trips to do extras acting gigs in Orlando, Atlanta, Miami - anywhere! (8)

If I didn't have to work, I would travel more and would most definitely go to Spanish language immersion school (9). [editor's note - the "you don't have to work" fairy has to have supplied income and health insurance for this list to manifest itself!]

If I didn't have to work, I would walk a prayer labyrinth (10) more often, meditating on my gratitude for having a choice.

Source: Bing Images


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Magnolia Bakery Edition)

New York .... it's such a big place ...

Yet it's the small (delicious) moments that can be the sweetest...

The Magnolia Bakery, New York City

Flavors featured here: Red Velvet and Devil's Mocha


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Running on a Small Island for a Big Cause

It is Sunday, and it's time to blog, but I am out of town, in my favorite city of all, New York (and Connecticut). I have pre-written a substantial part of this blog and will add in pictures from the run I am participating in on September 24. That's the plan anyway.


I ran on Roosevelt Island on September 24. I had read another runner's blog about running the perimeter of Roosevelt Island a long time ago and thought, "what a great idea!". So when I began planning this brief visit to the NYC area, I looked for a run and hit the bonanza - a 5K on Roosevelt Island that benefits a great cause -- the women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, since 1998, 5.4 million people have died and Congolese women have lived through rape, torture and dire poverty. Prior to the race, the organizers told us that an average of 48 women per hour are raped in the Congo.

Some pictures:

The education component of the run included this sign promoting the Women for Women International sponsorship program.

This poster describes a 1 mile run done by Congolese women in 2010.

This is the first race I have ever been in that was led by a Segway!!

Photo Credit: Mary Jane Reilly

According to the Women for Women website:

Since its creation, Women for Women International has given hope to more than 299,000 women survivors of war and conflict and helped them move toward economic self-sufficiency with our year-long program of direct aid, rights education, job skills training, and small business development. We have distributed $95 million in direct aid, microcredit loans, and other program services. Since 1993, Women for Women International has mobilized more than 250,000 women and men in 130 countries worldwide to reach out and support women survivors of war – one woman at a time.

I am grateful to have been a part of "one woman at a time," running for fun and sport in support of women who must run for their lives, literally and figuratively, on a daily basis.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where I'm From (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, "assigned" me Mama Kat prompt number five: Your top ten Fall Fashion Favorites. BUT I am not writing to that prompt. I am out of town for a conference so I needed a prompt that did not involve a lot of pictures (and my clothes situation is so dismal right now that I can barely think of ten things to write about). I was pretty captivated, anyway, by prompt number two, the "Where I'm From" poem. The template for the poem can be found here (or at the bottom of this post)
Where I'm From

I am from other people's words bound between covers, from Advil and vacillating between being incessantly driven and wanting to fall asleep .... RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

I am from caution.

I am from tulips, the crops my grandfather Johnny grew, plowing the land with his mule.

I am from persisting despite poor odds and trying to keep people I love from getting hurt, from Letha and Seabie and some microscopic amount of Native American ancestry.

I am from the faith bound and frugal.

From being too fat and being a school kid younger than everyone else but just as smart or smarter.

I am from being saved, thinking Hell was a definite possibility if I didn't behave well and make pure choices.

I am from a Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, stewed tomatoes over rice and collard greens.

From the hope that led my mother to keep trying to have me after losing a baby at term, the southern women who read the obituaries first, and the parents who wouldn't buy something they did not have the cash for.

I am from people who used to grow the peas in the field, shell them while telling stories on the porch, and eat them together on Sunday afternoons.

I am from people who, if blogs had existed when I was a kid, would not have blogged about our family life.
Maybe my blog is my "porch" - a place where I come to share my stories - and hear yours.
Where are you from?


Here's the template:
The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Goodbye Summer/Adios Verano Edition)

It is time for Wordless Wednesday and Amanda at Parenting by Dummies is partnering with Snapfish to give us one last chance to say goodbye to summer (and win great prizes at the same time!).

I had the opportunity this past July (with the help of countless friends and relatives) to achieve my dream of taking my first international trip, accompanied by my fifteen-year-old daughter. I have used this collage in a previous Wordless Wednesday but I can't pick just one image of our Guatemala trip; each one speaks to me.

Working clockwise from the top left corner:  Lake Atitlan; Tenley meets Estela, the child she is now sponsoring through Hope for a Family; the Mayan Prayer ceremony we participated in; a statue and roses at an orphanage in Guatemala City; I meet Silvia, the child our extended family has sponsored for 9 years; a sign on a Guatemalan family's home welcoming us. In the center, two adorable Guatemalan children who danced for us at the orphanage, and Tutti Frutti the unforgettable clown.

It is not too late to enter! Entries are accepted through September 25. Link up here:

If you enter, please add this legalese:

This photo is being entered in the Goodbye Summer, Hello Snapfish photo contest sponsored by Snapfish at parenting BY dummies. If voted the best summer picture I will win a photo canvas and other prizes from Snapfish & pBd.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gifts from Guatemala

(This is an article I am submitting to our local newspaper in addition to a few other publications, partially to talk more about my and Tenley's July trip to Guatemala, and partially to support my continued outreach to potential sponsors for Carla from Guatemala.)

Gifts from Guatemala 

A blogger friend of mine does a blog exercise every Tuesday called “Ten on Tuesday.” The blogger has to respond to ten questions. One of her questions in a recent Ten on Tuesday post was “Would you rather live without running water or without electricity?” When my daughter and I visited Guatemala in July 2011, we met many families for whom neither running water nor electricity is available.

Our family has sponsored a Guatemalan child, Silvia, since she was seven years old (she is now seventeen). The “main” purpose of the trip was meeting Silvia. It was important to me that my teenager see the “real” Silvia, not just the face we have seen smiling at us from a picture frame on an end table. The meeting with Silvia was everything I hoped it would be and more, not to mention a true workout for my rusty Spanish skills!

In each of the communities we visited, the 39 of us in the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging delegation were greeted like royalty. Flower petals covered the walkway in front of us; at one location confetti rained down while a marching band heralded us. All of this hoopla felt terribly undeserved, but one key lesson of visiting Guatemala in this capacity was that the people wanted to graciously welcome us; they were as energized as we were by the opportunity to be together.

I came away from my first international trip with many “lessons learned,” but the top three are:

Every mother wants the same thing for her child. Our extended family has given money each month to support Silvia for years. On the pamphlets it sounds so cut and dried – education, food, shelter – you know it is helping and that is a good thing. But when Silvia’s mother (and every single mother we encountered) looked into my eyes and thanked me, it was clear that she felt a partnership with us and that she believed our sponsorship of Silvia had helped her provide a safer future, with more options, than she would have been able to provide alone.

Silvia (the mom), Tenley, Me, Silvia (our sponsored child)

No dictionary definition of “poverty” really explains the term. Merriam Webster’s “lacking a usual amount of money” may define it in an academic sense, but it can’t capture the flip side – the strong desire on the part of many people living in poverty to do dignified work for a decent wage. The people we met, who were undoubtedly in poverty, had a steely strength of character and determination that no dictionary definition seems to capture.
A lovely Guatemalan woman who welcomed us into her home.

 Getting out of your comfort zone really shouldn’t be optional in life! I literally could not sleep the night before we left for Guatemala. My head was swirling with thoughts of trying to get by with my limited Spanish, how to deal with exchanging money, customs, and the news stories and blogs I had read (good and bad) about personal safety in Guatemala, especially in the city. The lost sleep was well worth it; I am glad I wandered far away from my emotional and physical boundaries.

 Dancing in Guatemala!

My daughter and I also came away from Guatemala with the gift of Estela. Estela is a child who Tenley decided to sponsor after she spent time with the children of Guatemala. Estela is the youngest of ten children, and it will be transformative for her to have access to education, health care, and better nutrition.

Tenley and Estela meet for the first time.

(I have agreed to help other children find sponsors. I am currently helping Carla, a Guatemalan six-year-old. If you are interested in finding out how you can be part of changing a Carla’s (and her family’s) life for just $30 a month, please contact me at (850) 556-3517 or





Thursday, September 15, 2011

How I Created My OWN Crisis During Crisis Counseling Training (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, "assigned" me Mama Kat prompt number three: An inappropriate time to laugh. At least twenty years have elapsed since my "inappropriate laughter" incident happened, but it still makes me laugh even as I worry that I singlehandedly derailed my friend's volunteer telephone counseling career.

I signed up to be a crisis counselor for our local Telephone Counseling and Referral Service around the same time I began my master's program in Counseling and Human Systems. This was back when I thought I just might be able to save the world with my counseling skills. (My aspirations for saving the world are considerably more modest now.....). The training program relied heavily on role plays. One of the trainees would play the caller; one would play the counselor, and the other trainees as well as the trainer would give feedback after the role play concluded.

I had a good bit of chemistry going on with one of my fellow trainees. This chemistry was never destined to lead anywhere except to a bit of fun and a few cardiac pitter pats. But it was there for sure. Mr. Chemistry and I were in the same training group. On one of our training nights, the following role play took place (he and I were both observers; we were not involved in the role play -- if we had been we probably would have actually been concentrating on the "call" and not one another's nonverbals). Another friend, a female trainee named "X" (her name really did start with an X!) was the "counselor."

The assignment to the caller was that they should have a somewhat chronic depression exacerbated by demands placed upon them by difficult personal circumstances. Here's how the "call" went unfolded:

Counselor: Telephone Counseling Services, how may I help you?
Caller: I am just looking for someone to talk to; I am so exhausted and need a break.
Counselor: I am glad you called; sometimes we all just need someone to talk to.
Caller: My husband has been out of work for six months; trying to keep him cheerful is sapping every bit of my energy.
Counselor: That can be difficult - being "cheerful" for two.
Caller: Exactly. And I am afraid my children are feeling the stress too. If he would help out even with housework it would help me not feel so stretched in a hundred different directions.
Counselor: So on top of parenting and helping run the house you feel you have to be the cheerleader for everyone.
Caller: It's a struggle just getting him up in the morning.

[at this point, I lock eyes with Mr. Chemistry and we both hear the unintended double entendre of the "caller's" statement and there is clearly no hope that the inherent amusement we both feel will remain quiet and subdued ... we both lose it and start laughing uncontrollably ... sitting right there in the class]

There was a bit of mass confusion as some people caught on and laughed (NOT our trainer!) and as a group we tried to find our way back to being adults training for the very serious job of being phone counselors.

I remember the trainer leading us in a "processing" of the incident afterwards. I remember feeling very bad for X, who I know was thrown off her rhythm and any shred of concentration.

X and Mr. Chemistry both went on to be counselors at the agency. I was a counselor for quite some time and worked up to being an On Call Supervisor and trainer.

I still see Mr. Chemistry around town; he is married with a child. This town is not so big that we don't travel in a few of the same circles.

I don't even know if he remembers the incident or the several-week-long period of my life when I was coaxed just a little bit out of my straight-arrow-ness by the lure of an irresistible chemistry.

I know I chuckle inside every time I think of that moment of inappropriate laughter.

And all the "ups" and "downs" that came with it.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Kids, My Explanation(s)

Over the past few years, I have ended up in discussions with parents about their handling of the imagery and analysis of the September 11 tragedy.

One parent told me, at least two years after the attacks, that her child did not know they had happened, that she had felt it important to shield the child from "bad news." Another parent told me how meticulously she portioned out her children's exposure to the news, and that the news of September 11 had been methodically meted out in very small doses.

For us, I suppose our family's approach was the opposite of the two moms I am referring to (and I absolutely respect their choices). I don't remember if we picked our children up early from kindergarten (Tenley) or day care (Wayne Kevin) but I remember sitting at AJ Sports watching the footage of the attack on the towers and their subsequent demise over and over again along with with our 5 year old and 2 year old.

Wayne (husband) and I have always had different philosophies about the imagery our children see. If I had been 100% in charge, they would have been shielded from questionable content in movies and other media a lot more than they have been. But I wasn't 100% in charge and have rarely stepped in to challenge him.

That said, I do knowI have applied some general principles to how I handled my children's access to information (words and pictures):

1.  Different children are capable of comprehending different information at different ages. There are things I felt Tenley was capable of understanding at age 8, for example, than Wayne Kevin was at the same age.

2.  The world has in-your-face imagery that is rude, hyper-provocative, and carries with it double meanings. Sometimes it is our job as parents to give children a bit of the back-story so they understand that. For instance, when the song "Low" was popular, I went through the lyrics with my daughter line by line. My little girl thought a song about "boots with fur" was cute and funny, but I wanted her to know as she got older that belting out "she was worth the money" could imply something that she absolutely didn't want to communicate.

3.  As adults, we can complicate things by reading more into situations than is necessary. I ended up taking Tenley to see Memoirs of a Geisha because I really wanted to see it and I wasn't comfortable leaving her home alone. Shortly after, she decided to dress up as a geisha for Halloween. That led to a conversation where a fellow mom at the bus stop said, "wasn't that a little old for her?" I replied, "she can handle it." Her choice of costume wasn't about female subservience; it was about a cool costume.

Tenley and I visited "Ground Zero" about a year after the attacks. The whole family visited when we were in New York in 2007. I don't know how Tenley and Wayne will choose to parent their children, but I hope they parent with principles of honesty, candor, and respect.

In deep reverence and remembrance ......

Bayonne, New Jersey 9/11 Memorial
Source: Jersey Journal File Photo

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wait! I Might Need That! (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, "assigned" me Mama Kat prompt number two: If you were a hoarder, based on your personality…what would you hoard? (better yet, ask someone who knows you well, what they think you would hoard).

The family was only too willing to oblige. My 12-year-old son was the first to respond, with this answer (cut and pasted verbatim here by me):
Hmmmm this is hard but if you were a hoarder i think you would hoard somthing like books since you like proofing you would have gone over board and just started to buy every book in the world. or of course you could hoard papers but papers are lame to hoard so i say that you should say a item you would hoard would be lots and lots of books.

Cut to later in the day. My husband and my daughter discussed this assignment on the way home from dance. Want to guess their joint answer?

Books and Papers

I suppose in asking my family to say what they thought, I discovered they do indeed "know me well" (or at least they all agree).

What do you think the evidence says?


(As in ... I'd better hang on to this in case I need it in the future.)

And this exercise in family communication is now over ... I have a book or two to read and some paperwork to go through.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (Rebus Puzzle Edition)

Do you know what a rebus puzzle is? According to, rebus puzzles are "essentially little pictures, often made with letters and words, which cryptically represent a word, phrase, or saying."

Here's mine:

Any guesses?

For the answer, click HERE.

(And please, please do it! There's a good reason, I promise!!)

Wordless Wednesday (Pedaling for Parkinson's Edition)

Tonight's post may be my one and only experiment ever with a rebus puzzle. If you are here, you quite possibly linked over from the parent post, in which I presented the following picture puzzle:

Do you think you guessed the meaning?

Drum roll, please! The right answer is:

Pedaling for Parkinson's!!

If you are here in Tallahassee, please consider joining me on Saturday, September 10, at Sweat Therapy Fitness for a 6 hour indoor cycle-a-thon to fundraise, educate, and increase awareness regarding Parkinson's disease.

Events kick off Friday night (September 9) at AJ Sports with a social on the upper deck from 9-11 p.m. (Details here.)

Then Saturday we will hit the RealRyders at SweatTherapy for a day of fitness and fun while benefitting the cause of Parkinson's Disease. And let me tell you about the drawing prizes!

A 46” 3D LCD TV

A 2 night stay (including breakfast) at Shepard’s on Clearwater Beach

A Jimbo Fisher autographed football

Dinner for 2 at Shula’s 347 Grill

A Gift Certificate to Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille

A dozen cupcakes from Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery

A 30-minute facial from Kanvas Beauty

Haircut and Color from Green Peridot Salon

A Gift Basket from Aveda Institute

3 pieces of jewelry from Naomi Salz

A candle and $10 Gift Certificate to Cole Couture

A Puma gift bag from Capital City Runners

3 $50 Gift Certificates to Sunshine Cycles

A $25 Gift Certificate to Fresh Market

A $20 Gift Certificate to CrepeVine

A Gift Certificate to Food Glorious Food

A $25 Gift Certificate to Luna’s Italian Food

For more information:

Visit the event Facebook Page here or simply email!

(If you want to RealRyde, you will want to connect with a team. If you want to stop by, that's great too! Drawing tickets will be available for all to purchase on the day of the event!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do Stretching and Yoga Help Runners? It's a "Stretch" to Assume They Don't

I enjoy Jeff Galloway's e-newsletters about running. I have a lot of respect for Jeff, and I know that his route to success went through Tallahassee, which leads me to feel a commonality with him.

But I have been unsettled about something Jeff wrote in his April 2011 newsletter. Even though I have not been an Olympic runner (never will be), haven't written a single running book (doubt I ever will), and couldn't run even a half marathon in the time it took him to win a full marathon (2:23:02), here's my non-Olympian, non-published, non-speedy-runner thought.

The passage that I haven't been able to shake mentally was this:

Q&A on Stretching and Cross Training

What stretches should I do?

Surprisingly, I've found that stretching causes many injuries. I don't believe that most runners or walkers benefit from stretching. So I'm going to take away the guilt for not stretching. If you have some stretches that help you and don't produce aches and pains, then do them—but be careful.

What about yoga or pilates?

I hear from many runners every year who are injured in yoga or pilates classes. I don't see any benefit for most runners in these activities. But if you do them (and are not experiencing problems), be careful.

For my response, let me start with yoga. I had never done yoga before I started in the fall of 2010, after a foot injury caused me to take a lengthy break from running (more about my fitness plan during the non-running period here). I bounced around a few types of classes until I determined that core yoga was the best for me at that time. I was doing a lot of reading about how the core drives the rest of the body and creates a strong foundation for the work that the arms and legs have to do. Improving my flexibility, I am convinced, made me less likely to be injured, not more. And one benefit of yoga as it relates to running has nothing to do with physicality and everything to do with focus. My mind can wander (isn't that true for all of us?) and learning to concentrate during a two-minute plank or a one-minute balance pose, keeping my gaze on a specific point, is a discipline that ties into my running when I try to remain on a specific cadence without the benefit of any kind of "beats per minute" audio support in my ear.

As for stretching, there is lots of stretching, it is true, that can be counterproductive (or at least not as helpful to the runner as the runner may hope). Where static stretching can be ineffective, active isolated stretching (AIS) can prevent injury and improve athletic performance when applied correctly. Kim Ortloff explains AIS well on her website here.

To be honest, it isn't Jeff's contention that yoga and stretching don't benefit runners that bothers me. It is the wide reach that he has with beginners and elite alike and my fear that beginners will decide not to learn more about effective stretching or the possibility of incorporating a yoga practice into their fitness plan just because of Jeff's opinion. I know both have been irreplaceable to me in overcoming an injury, being better equipped to fend off injury in the future, and achieving better mental focus.

Poet Antonio Porchia wrote:  "I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received." I doubt Porchia was writing about running, yoga, or stretching, but it's the perfect quote to sum up my post. Jeff knows what he has given us in his writing, and I have no doubt that stance has worked great for him personally and for countless others. But I fear that what many of his readers and students have received is the closing of their minds and hearts to something that can be an important part of their fitness lives, one that prevents injury and opens their minds.

Have stretching and/or yoga been a factor in your running life? Tell me more.......