Lessons From Behind The Door

My daughter and I set out to replace a doorknob at her new apartment today. It was my first time ever replacing a doorknob (never too late to learn new things, right?) as well as hers.

Over the course of the past week, she had been beginning the process of replacing the doorknob but had some questions. Since I had planned to visit her today and help with some other tasks, we decided to tackle the doorknob as well. I arrived equipped with all sizes of allen wrenches (because we had figured out that one of the hurdles was those little tiny screws holding the cover plate on).

We set about removing the old doorknob. We were being all methodical about it, laying the pieces out in order as they came off (because I figured that might give us some insight into the process when we needed to install the new doorknob).

We were in the process of unscrewing the long screws which hold the whole mechanism together. One of us held the door; the other loosened the screws. Eventually, the door closed against the pressure of the screws being loosened and components started falling off as the screws were loosened. That didn’t seem like a problem.

……….UNTIL WE REALIZED THAT THOSE PIECES WHICH HAD FALLEN OFF WERE THE HANDLES WHICH WOULD TURN THE MECHANISM WHICH WOULD LET US OUT OF HER ROOM. 

Through a combination of funky creative allen wrench manipulation, prayers, screwdriver wedging actions, more prayers, and willing some law of physics into submission, the door finally opened (hallelujah!). It was time to tackle the new doorknob.

As we tried to make sense of the instructions for the new doorknob, we finally took advantage of the fact that it is 2015 and there are people out there like Leah of See Jane Drill who make videos like How to Install a Doorknob.

Thanks to See Jane Drill, the process went pretty smoothly once we took some deep breaths and followed the steps she gave.

The realization of the day which most spoke to me came when we realized we were trapped in her room. Our choices after that unlocked a few takeaways which could apply to life beyond a DIY task:

  • It is oh-so-easy to inadvertently segregate yourself from most of your options
  • Adversity will bring out your ability to manifest effective options you did not think existed
  • Humor brings much more lightness to an adverse situation than anger would

Lessons From Behind The Door

I guess we could have avoided this whole blogworthy experience by hiring a locksmith, but where’s the learning (or fun) in that? She won’t have to wait until she’s 50 to learn how to install a doorknob and I have to admit being a little proud to have figured it out too.

I am feeling courageous enough to tackle some of See Jane Drill’s 161 other videos.

See Jane Drill’s motto (which gives me flashbacks to Bob the Builder) is You Can Do This!

Mostly, I am proud to be parent to a young adult who is willing to learn alongside her mom, one who knows she can DO THIS! 

Florida State University: How We Get Made

I recently discovered (via Laura) the “A Learning A Day” series. The series delivers concise, insight-filled emails which prompt recipients to think about work/life issues from different and deeper angles.

This recent post, for example, looks at our tendency to think “if only conditions had been perfect.” My runner peers and I undoubtedly think this frequently:

If it had been cooler (hello summer running in Florida!)

If the race course had been flatter

If my shoes had been newer

If I had not had that second glass of wine last night

The list goes on and on

The Learning A Day post ends with this observation:

The only trustworthy indicator of our performance level is our performance on a bad day.

So, if you get that opportunity to perform on your best day with perfect conditions, revel in it. It doesn’t happen often. But, when it does, it is magical.

On the other hand, if you feel most things are going wrong as you enter that important presentation [or insert relevant challenge/assignment here], welcome to life. This is how we get made.

Over the past few weeks, as I have joined my fellow Florida State alumni, fans, and supporters in sharing what I love about FSU via the #somuchmorethanfootball hashtag, I have been thinking more than usual about all of the incredible memories I made at FSU, the memories I still make here, and how to reconcile decades of great experiences with the FSU (and Tallahassee) which distills itself into the sneer I hear in the voices of national news anchors and celebrities (at least I feel like I hear it!).

A Personally Fearless Time

Through an unexpected series of Facebook conversations over the past few days, I ended up telling a Facebook friend a story that in retrospect is so embarrassing but lends itself to my point. When I was a senior at FSU, I wanted to be Homecoming Princess. The process was detailed and arduous: there were interviews to be selected as one of ten candidates, and then of course you had to accrue the most votes to be princess or be in the top five to be on the Court. I studied my FSU history so hard to be prepared for the interview. I made it to candidate level, and I did make it on the Court.

Florida State University: How We Get Made

With my parents after the Homecoming Parade.

Here’s the embarrassing part: I asked people to vote for me. Not just one or two friends. Another candidate and I went to fraternity and sorority houses who did not have candidates and asked them to vote. I did not hesitate to ask complete strangers to vote. In retrospect, of course it was a completely classless thing to do. On the flip side, I treasure the memories of being on the field during homecoming, proud to represent my university. Putting aside the “tactless” part, I remember feeling fearless in my quest. In the times over the ensuing decades when I have failed myself in the area of assertiveness, I remember what it felt like to tell strangers what I wanted, confident that I had a case.

It’s 2015; Time to Make a Different Case

Florida State taught me fearlessness. It also taught me so many things about Strength, Skill, and Character (Vires Artes Mores). It taught me to learn new things, meet new people, pursue new experiences. The background music of my time at Florida State is undeniably punctuated with the FSU Fight Song, The Hymn to the Garnet and the Gold, and the Alma Mater. I have sat through countless football games, long before we were National Champions, in years when the record was most definitely average. Our family has spent more money than the family budget really accommodated to be Seminole Boosters, purchase tickets, and park among the other faithful (although we are not currently Boosters or ticket holders).

For every #somuchmorethanfootball sentiment we share on social media, I do think we are kidding ourselves if we do not think the image of our football team and the actions of a few players disproportionately influence what the rest of the world sees and believes.

We can make every effort to share with the world all of the accolades which lead us to #praisegarnetandgood. But the headlines are not likely to gush about those when they can rant about the bad.

I don’t know the solution. I do know, that just like a family would not turn its back on a child who has gone astray, we owe it to ourselves to own this series of crises and contribute to a solution.

However we choose to react to the current spate of negative publicity, there may be negatives. Loss of revenue, loss of bragging rights, loss of football season habits and rituals built over decades by generations of fans.

This particular time in the public eye is difficult. I choose to think that these imperfect conditions are part of “how we get made,” that with strength, skill, and character, we can return to the “heads held high” we sing about in the Hymn to the Garnet and Gold.

Florida State University: How We Get Made

Where’s the Humor in THAT?

The annual Toastmasters Humorous Speech contest is coming up again. I love competing in these contests; it makes me up my game and try even harder to do my best.

Where's the Humor in THAT?

Since I did not make it past the initial (club) level last year, I am trying to get an earlier start this year, so I can refine my material as well as my delivery.

The problem? I am stuck re: coming up with a topic for my 5-7 minute humorous speech.

Content counts for 55/100 points of the judges’ score. “Content” breaks down to:

Speech Development (Structure, Organization, Support Material) – 15 points

Effectiveness (Achievement of Purpose, Interest, Reception) – 10 points

Speech Value (Ideas, Logic, Original Thought) – 15 points

Audience Response (Attentiveness, Laughter, Interest, Recognition)

What should I talk about in this speech??!!

The winner of our District Humorous Speech contest last year had a great speech that was a play on The Little Blue Pill (it was about a pill that would deal with prolonged sports fixation and it was HILARIOUS).

Having seen one humorous speech contest and watched quite a few winning humorous speeches on YouTube, I know what appeals to me and seems to be part of the winning equation.

Great Content I guess that’s obvious, since it’s leading me to write this post and content counts for more than half of the judging score. Here is a fun speech from “Randy”with relateable content:

A Delivery That Doesn’t Hit You Over The Head Many of the winning humorous speeches I have seen in my relatively brief Toastmasters career have been more subdued than “stand up comic pulling in laugh after laugh” in nature. Rather, they have been well-told stories with a satirical, sardonic, whimsical tone. (Note: this one from Jurgita Pundziute made the cut with me because it’s about a contact center. Those always get me after my years at Healthy Kids.)

On the Other Hand, Humorous Speeches With an Element of Performance Can Rock I started watching this speech from John Zimmer to fit it into the one of the other categories, but decided it deserves its own.

An Element of Surprise Isn’t it nice when you have been listening to a speech, and your mind is just on the verge of wandering (but you have still held on to the main thread) and BAM! the speaker takes your thoughts on a uturn and suddenly you don’t want to be anywhere except IN THAT CAR WITH THAT EXHILARATING SPEAKER?! I didn’t love this speech from Clarence Featherson for the first three minutes but it “got me” by minute 4. Watch it and you’ll see why!

A Confident Presenter One component to all of the effective humorous speeches I have seen is the confidence of the presenter. I think if the speaker’s inner monologue is “oh gosh I hope they get this,” then you’re probably not going to connect with them. Jenny Locklin does a great job of exuding confidence in this speech:

Let’s Talk Topic Ideas

If I am going to draw from speeches I have already given, my favorite is the “Don’t be an Elf on the Shelf Hater” speech which I gave all in “elf persona,” describing why the Elf on the Shelf has been maligned. I had a lot of fun developing and giving that speech.

I have also thought about:

  • ToastMoms: If Abby Lee Miller ran Toastmasters as if it were Dance Moms
  • Keeping Up with the Toastmastians (a takeoff on Keeping Up With the Kardashians)
  • Real Toastmasters of Leon County
  • Match.com and other online relationship services (having helped a friend write his profile recently, I have THOUGHTS on the comic potential of this)
  • Some takeoff on “Mean Tweets” (where celebrities read derogatory sentiments people have tweeted about them – click here to see President Obama’s Mean Tweets Segment)
  • “Ode to Cookie Dough” – about an incident at work where someone was caught scooping dough out of someone else’s container, thinking he was unseen (and the subsequent fallout).
  • There’s probably also plenty of material in fitness and running — I did a speech once about funny running and triathlon signs which was fun to do.
  • There’s probably something about my role as my father-in-law’s caregiver, but I’m not sure I can straddle the humor/stress DMZ line very well right now.
  • The conversation thread that made me laugh the hardest recently was born from my friend Chloe, from Chloe of the Mountain, a labor and delivery nurse, who stated on Facebook: “You are so clever and unique giving your child an unpronounceable, incomprehensible, and unspellable name.” What followed was a hilarious exchange among many women (yes, they were all women, not a guy in the bunch) with naming horror and humor stories.

The challenge with some of these ideas is the general frame of reference of the audience. With the Elf on the Shelf speech, for example, it is possible attendees who don’t have young children or don’t spend time on social media (seeing everyone plot their elf’s “adventures” or snark at how overboard some people go) will need an “elf primer” before getting into the meat of the story. The same goes for something like “ToastMoms” because as much as our family would get pretty much any reference to DanceMoms (like “the pyramid“), there’s a bit of background someone would need to understand it. (In addition, I’m not sure it’s possible to really understand the satirical potential of Dance Moms if you haven’t seen it.)

The challenge with the “baby name” idea is my inability to do it without offending someone — whether it be someone who chose a name some would consider odd but others in their culture would consider precious or whether it be someone who just can’t see the pitfalls of a name choice like La-a (prounounced LaDASHa).

Which leads me back around to:

What should I talk about in this speech??!!

Is there a story I’ve told you, some observation I’ve made, or some experience we’ve shared that could be converted into a winning humorous speech?

Obviously, the lion’s share of the work still remains to be done even after I pick a topic. I have to flesh out the content and figure out the most effective way to present it (and, of course, practice, practice, practice). The other categories of judging are delivery (30%) and language (15% for appropriateness and correctness).

Todd Stocker said, “A speaker should approach his preparation not by what he wants to say, but by what he wants to learn.” I sort of like that twist.

I need to learn how to tickle your funny bone with my words. Want to help?

For reference, this is the speech I competed with last year:

Where's the Humor in THAT?

Going back to the TM Corral and hoping to rustle up some laughs!

Win a $250 Visa Gift Card – (A Baby’s Brilliant Giveaway)

I recently visited a friend’s new two-week old baby. During our conversation, I couldn’t help marveling at the way things have changed for new parents with infants. Need to keep up with their feeding schedule? Just tap “fed” on an app! Want to know when to expect him or her to roll over? Why get up and grab your paper copy of What to Expect When  You’re Expecting when a swipe of the screen will get you there?

Baby’s Brilliant was founded by Ulli Coulter, a busy mother of three, who was finding it more and more difficult to find enriching and educational materials to share with her children. All the existing products had become too complicated, overstimulating them, rather than engaging and educating them. It was time for a fresh new approach, time to go back to the basics, with simpler, more enriching presentations. In addition, she realized that DVDs were awkward to keep up with and maintain, so an app was the way to go!

Baby’s Brilliant has recently made some improvements to the app. As an audiobook reader, I love the fact that English and Spanish audiobooks have been added. It’s never too early to be exposed to fantastic stories!

In addition, Baby’s Brilliant has made the following enhancements:

  • Videos have been redesigned to be more accessible for hearing impaired children
  • Animations are more colorful and appealing to the baby’s eyes
  • There are interactive videos to ask baby to click on animals to listen to their sounds
  • Foreign languages are easier for baby to understand
  • Night lights are better and more soothing for baby

As part of the celebration of the new and improved app, Baby’s Brilliant is giving away two $250 Visa Gift cards! Visit the rafflecopter below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win a $150 Visa Gift Card - (A Baby's Brilliant Giveaway)

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

You should never draw conclusions about a book you have not yet read based on the sound bites from morning infotainment shows. If I had relied on morning show blurbs to summarize Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir, I would have thought it was all about wife bonuses. In actuality, “wife bonuses” are mentioned in one paragraph on one page of a 242-page book (page 161 to be exact). (Sparked by the publicity of the “wife bonus” in the book, here is one woman’s version of how this plays out for her.)

I have now read all of the other paragraphs on all of the other 242 pages. I read the book because a friend plans to read it and discuss, so I invited myself along for the discussion and rapidly read the book while on vacation.

I found myself skeptical, entertained, and bereft.

Skeptical

The author presents the book as an academically/sociologically based analysis of life among the female spouses of ultra-wealthy Upper East Side Manhattan men who could claim to be part of the “1%.”

I will be the first to say I have never traveled in the circles of that 1%. My handbags usually come from Target, as opposed to Hermès. In my thirty-four months in New York City, I relied on my feet or mass transit to get me from Point A to Point B rather than car services. I do not doubt the degree of excess the author describes in this book, but I doubt that anyone who is part of that world will ever willingly participate in publicizing the specifics.I am skeptical that the particular excesses the author chose to highlight really represent that world accurately.

I also must mention the discussions of exercise classes at Physique 57 and SoulCycle. The author uses these two examples of cultish “subtribes” to demonstrate how the Primates of Park Avenue subject themselves to “grueling group endurance rites” in order to maintain their appearance. Again, I have never been part of that world but have observed the following in Manhattan:

1) When I took step aerobics there in the early 90s, everything about the classes I participated in was tightly structured. When you walked in, you had to sign up for a spot, and if you were “spot 35,” you didn’t want to wander into spot 36’s bubble. But that comes with the territory of how space is regulated in Manhattan; it is always at a premium and you just learn to deal. It wasn’t that business’s way of being elitist.

2) While I have only taken one SoulCycle class ever, it was on the Upper East Side. It was a great experience, but I have a hard time seeing how the environment I experienced there would ever transmute into one where we participants “hooted like subversive rappers and called one another ‘thug’.” (And it must be noted I was wearing tights from Marshall’s that I had bought on clearance …… at a SoulCycle Class …… on the Upper East Side. Just call me blasphemous :-).

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

That time I wore Marshall’s instead of Lulu to SoulCycle!

My skepticism is bolstered by the fact that the publisher appended future editions of the book following The New York Post’s fact checking (which had at least one inaccuracy of its own) to clarify the fact that some of the memoir’s details and chronologies had been changed (read more about the fact checking and subsequent changes here).

Entertained

Once I shifted the book in my head from “non-fiction” to “possibly revised piece of writing based on the author’s interpretation of events,” I was able to just revel in the New York-ness of it all! New York City is my favorite place, my “happy place,” and the almost-three-years I spent there were life changers in every way. Although the New York City the author described apparently took place in expensive luxury abodes protected by building staff from mortals like the rest of us, I managed to see glimpses of it. I saw the nannies pushing babies/children around in their expensive strollers; I saw the opulent furs and jewelry; I saw hints of a lifestyle worlds apart from my own. Ironically, the building where I rented a room (with my own bathroom, which was a BIG DEAL in late 80s New York City), had a manned elevator, with a staff person who operated the elevator to my apartment on the 17th floor. (That worked out great except for the time I arrived home from a trip, suitcase in hand, to learn that the workers were all on strike. That was a long trip up 17 flights of stairs, suitcase in hand!).

Bereft

NOTE: There is a little bit of a spoiler in the next paragraph. Although the book is not a suspense/mystery, I did not anticipate this part at all, having only heard about the “mommy bonus” prior to reading it.

A critical shift in the author’s relationships with her Upper East Side peers occurred when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 43.

At first, she was going to abort the baby, then she decided she wanted to keep the baby. At around six months of gestation, the fetus developed severe issues that resulted in the author having a surgical procedure to remove it (I assume a D&C type of procedure) and proceeding to grieve the loss of her daughter.

In the course of grieving this loss, she discovered that some of the women who had previously been the most cold and haughty turned out to be warm, supportive, and empathic.

This chapter threw me into so many emotions, many not because of the author but because of the topic. My third and fourth pregnancies ended when the embryos failed to develop, resulting in D&C procedures to end the pregnancies. Future efforts to have a third child ended when my body (surprise!) decided to go into menopause at age 43. Therefore, this is a complex topic for me.

While of course I support a woman’s right to choose, I would be lying if I didn’t share that my absolute first thought was, “but she was so LUCKY to get pregnant at 43,” and to be sad that she was going to end it.

Then I cheered her on as she decided to keep the baby, who she was going to name Daphne, and I grieved with her as she went through the agonizing medical procedures related to the way the pregnancy ended, and the even deeper agony of dealing with her emotions. Having post-pregnancy hormones without the compensating joy of a newborn is like being on an emotional tightwire, for sure. I don’t envy any woman who has to do that.

As she noted, when something like this happens to you, people come out of the woodwork who previously had appeared to have perfect lives. You find allies you would not have anticipated, and you learn to cut others a break. That part of the book I loved.

Final Thoughts

I have such a mixture of emotions/thoughts about this book; some of them don’t fit into the Entertained/Skeptical/Bereft trio:

Here’s the thing: I struggled with the whole premise. The author and her husband wanted to move to the Upper East Side from the Village because they felt so committed to public schooling for their child, who was still an infant, that they “wanted to be in the best school district.” Given that the next chapter was dedicated to her total panic that he wasn’t registered for a prestigious preschool yet, and the reference to the fact that these preschools were critical to getting into the right private schools, I felt disconnect about that from the get-go.

First of all, as a public school product, married to another public school product, who successfully raised one public school graduate who is navigating college successfully and who is quasi-successfully raising a public school eleventh-grader (fingers crossed on that one), there are many more decent public schools in this country than the one in the 10021 zip code. MANY. Then she ends the book by saying (and I am paraphrasing) “well, the boys ended up getting accepted to schools on the Upper West Side so we moved there” which left me wondering “then why the heck did you go through all those contortions (not to mention the outlay of so many millions of dollars and all the emotional trauma of getting “charged” (see page 80) by these ‘primates’)”?

The author writes, “If childhood is unusual here, motherhood is beyond bizarre. I learned firsthand about the “gets” that define life for the privileged and perfect women with children I lived among.”

Although I may crave the occasional splurge and have never had exactly what I dreamed about in the way of wardrobe or ability to travel, I know the “gets” I received from almost three years in NYC had everything to do with what I saw and learned mixing with all kinds of people, in all kinds of places … these “gets” cost no more than the willingness to walk city block after city block or buy a bus or subway token. Something tells me those were the best “gets” of all.

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

An image from my March 2015 visit to NYC.

Writing a book review was one of the prompt options for this week’s linkup at Mama’s Losin’ It. I’ll be linking up … would you like to join? Here are the other prompts, and the linky will be up early on Thursday, July 9!

1. List 7 things you’d rather be doing this summer.
2. Write a blog post inspired by the word: challenge.
3. Book review!
4. How is Summer Vacation different for your kids than it was for you growing up?
5. Take us somewhere local spot in your city and show us what we’re missing…you’ll be saving us thousands of dollars now that we won’t need to take that trip!

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

Not About Me

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Friday, many of my Facebook friends turned their Facebook profiles “rainbow” in celebration and solidarity. I did not immediately change my profile picture, because it was my daughter’s 19th birthday and I had posted a picture of the two of us that I intended to leave up for all of June 26.

Early Saturday morning, I “rainbow’d” myself. Shortly afterwards, I posted a status that wished Tallahassee runners good luck in a 5K being held that day and commented that I was glad the race supported high school cross country, which was a great cause. It was my first “post-rainbow” post. An acquaintance immediately commented, “Oh great so YOU’RE on that bandwagon now too. Weren’t enough people already?” I responded “I am proudly and unapologetically ‘on that bandwagon’.” Then another acquaintance chimed in with a commentary about the confederate flag. The two of them exchanged barbs that had nothing to do with running. After once asking that the thread be kept to support of runners, I decided to take back my own Facebook page. I deleted the entire comment thread and stated that I was rebooting the thread to “support 101″ so that the focus could be kept on running. The phrase “on the bandwagon,” though, had gotten me thinking …

About the road to “that bandwagon”:

When I was in high school, I loved someone. This relationship was one of the first intense loves of my life. I seeded the short-term, unseasoned reality of this teenage relationship with unrealistic hopes and expectations that it would last a long time; this relationship was central to who I thought I was.

When he told me, somewhere in our first couple of years of college, that he was gay, I was crushed and disbelieving. A close adult friend consoled me by sympathetically saying “you’re not strong enough for that” (as if a “stronger” person could overcome this particular reason for a relationship ending). More than one person empathized, “you don’t even get to use femininity to overcome this.”

In an attempt to gain some semblance of hope for the future, I went to a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting here in Tallahassee. This was before “B, “Q,” and “T” (for bisexual, queer, and transgender), among other letters, were part of acronyms for groups like this. What the facilitator said was not what I wanted to hear:

“THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU”

One of the facilitator’s central points was “he has his own work to do, figuring out this part of his identity, and he could use your support as opposed to your misguided anger.” Although it took me decades of life experience after being told “this is not about you” to fully comprehend what that meant, I got there.

I got there when my volunteer responsibilities (and subsequent paid on call supervisor responsibilities) made me one of the first counselors on the Florida AIDS Hotline (since our crisis counseling service held the contract for the AIDS Hotline).

I got there when I became more involved in the FSU Film School community and was witness over and over to acceptance among people representing ALL the letters of the alphabet: L, G, B, Q, T, S – whatever.

I got there when I had the opportunity to be involved in making this:

I got there when time moved on and I realized the person who I thought had broken my heart in the early 80s had actually been fate’s way of squeezing a wedge in a closed door of my heart and beliefs. This wedge let the light in and created a spectrum of color where previously only black and white had existed.

Not About Me

 

 

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

I am running into a definite “deja vu” moment right now!

I decided to blog about the Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt …

Which led me to decide on a title about the fact that the only thing I haven’t found is a garden gnome…

Which sent me back to last year’s Summer #RunChatHunt post …

In which I bemoaned the lack of a gnome.

HMMMmmmm…….

For this year, we were challenged to find the following items while running and tweet pictures of each one with the hashtag #RunChatHunt:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

And here is my gnomeless list of “finds” so far:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Body of Water: Wakulla Springs

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Statue: Unconquered!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Sunrise!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Something unique to your city: Our FSU Sod Cemetery! (Go ‘Noles!)

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Race sticker(s) on vehicle!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

American Flag!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Selfie with another runner: my awesome friend Lysa!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

Empty beer/soda can!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

House Under Construction!

And last but gnot least:

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

If you haven’t joined in the #RunChatHunt fun, there’s still time! It lasts through June 30!

Each time you tweet one of the scavenger hunt items with the hashtag #runchathunt, you are eligible for awesome prizes! You get a bonus entry for doing a blog post!

Here is the prize info:

For the “fine print,” rules, and all that fun stuff, visit the original post here.

Join me in the #RunChatHunt fun! I GNOW you can do it!

Gneeding a Gnome: Summer 2015 #RunChatHunt

 

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

When I choose to support a cause, I try to understand it as much as possible. That is why, when I read about the Summer Food Challenge which benefits America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend on Facebook, I immediately knew I had to do the “go without food for an entire day” option in addition to the “donate” option.

With a target date of June 18, I thought through which day would be best for my day without food. My thoughts included “make it a day when your workout schedule is light,” “make it a day when you can stay calm and limit your activity,” “make it a beneficial One Day Water Fast day,” and “make it a day free of food temptations.”

But …

Who am I kidding? My life doesn’t work that way!

I was kidding myself to think I could find a low-key, “calm” day! In addition, my day without food was time-limited. I knew I could pick right back up on my nutrition the next day (or, technically, at midnight). It was a novelty. For one out of every five Leon County residents (56,000 of our neighbors, 11,000 of whom are children), who are food insecure, hunger is no novelty. Nor is an abstract term like “food insecure” while accurate, a novelty. It is an imperfect term describing what they really are: hungry. Summer months are especially difficult, since children do not have access to breakfast or lunch programs at school.

I experienced a tiny fraction of how these people must feel:

When I ran four miles with nothing to eat before and no plan to have anything to eat afterwards.

Imagine you are a kid, showing up for school, and it’s time for p.e. or free play. 

Imagine not having the energy to run, climb, be active.

When I took my son through a drive through and smelled the tantalizing aromas of his food, knowing I could not partake.

Imagine you are a kid, seeing your peers filling their tummies, sometimes with “treats” like fries but other times with fresh produce, protein-filled foods, and plenty of hydration.

When I had to deal with the (usually) minor stresses of getting my elderly father-in-law up, fed, dressed, and driven to his physician’s office for an appointment, communicating clearly and calmly while complying with other people’s deadlines.

Imagine you are a kid, navigating through a society with all kinds of people, some nice, some mean, some who want something from you, some who want to be left alone.

Imagine needing a clear head to read cues and a stable blood sugar level to cope with the world around you.

Speaking of needing a “clear head,” when I decided to prepare and deliver a Toastmasters speech on the topic of the Summer Food Challenge that night … when I had to compose and deliver a ten-minute speech to a table full of people munching on chips, salsa, and Mexican food, convincing them to spend money (or time) on food for others instead of tacos for themselves.

Imagine you are a kid, expected to organize yourself and your schoolwork, to submit projects on time, to participate in class energetically, to stave off distraction in order to concentrate on your education.

After My Day Without Food:

I came away from my day without food empathizing more fully with the children (and adults) in our community who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. I came away from my day without food imagining a community where children can play, learn, and live free of food insecurity, free of HUNGER.

Here’s How You Can Help:

If you are on Facebook, go to this link and click “going.”

If you want to feel what the food insecure members of our community experience, join me, Tallahassee Democrat Publisher Skip Foster, Tallahassee Police Department Chief Michael DeLeo, and State Representative Alan Williams in accepting the challenge of going a day without food (without endangering your own health, of course).  Pop in on the Summer Food Challenge Facebook page and let us know how it went.

Download a flier and post it at your work, church, or civic organization.

CONTRIBUTE FOOD OR FUNDS! This choice would have the most impact! Details:

  • Drop off food, cash, or checks made out to ASHBB (note “Fill a Truck”) to the Tallahassee Democrat at 277 N Magnolia Dr between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday – Thursday of this week (6/15/15-6/18/15).
  • Donate online via this link.
  • Drop food off to Target Copy at 635 W. Tennessee Street, and they will match your donation!
  • Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015If you drop off to the Democrat on Thursday, 6/18, between noon and 7 p.m., you can participate in the community weigh-in at the on-site scale. (Let’s hope to exceed last year’s three ton mark!).
  • These are the most useful items: peanut butter, jelly, canned beans, canned tuna/chicken, rice, canned vegetables, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, soups, fruit juice, cookies, crackers, baby food/formula, condiments, and salad dressing.

One action you can take that helps people with food insecurity year-round is to run, walk, or cycle using the Charity Miles app and select Feeding America as your designated charity. For every mile you run or walk, Charity Miles will “sponsor” you, meaning they will donate a quarter for every mile run or walked, and a dime for every mile cycled. It’s that easy! For my four miles on Monday, I earned $1 for Feeding America, for something I would have been doing anyway (and, yeah, I posed after my run with a can of tuna on my head for added effect!).

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

Please thank AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage and the other sponsors who are working together to make a difference:

Tallahassee Police Department

Tallahassee Democrat

WTXL Channel 27

The POD Advertising

Red Hills Broadcasting

Lamar Advertising Company

Target Copy Tallahassee

America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend

Impact Visual Media

Gandy Printers

FINALLY ……LET’S FILL THAT TRUCK!!!!

Tallahassee Summer Food Challenge 2015

#Tally4AAC

#Tally4AAC

In 1999, none of us would have understood a conversation that included:

“HASHTAG Tally 4 AAC”

Now, in 2015, this hashtag has been the hallmark of our summer, as Tallahassee has competed to be named an All-America City again (like we were in 1999) by the National Civic League.

The annual award recognizes exemplary grassroots and problem-solving efforts of communities that cooperatively tackle challenges and achieve measurable results.

In its application, Tallahassee highlighted three programs:

  • Cascades Park (more info here)
  • Distinguished Young Gentlemen (more info here)
  • Neighborhood REACH (more info here)

The City of Tallahassee will live stream our community’s All-America City presentation and the awards ceremony on WCOT, the City’s government access channel (Comcast and CenturyLink Channel 13), and online at Talgov.com/AAC. The presentation will air on Saturday, June 13, from 3:30 to 3:50 p.m., and the awards ceremony will air on Sunday, June 14, from 9 to 10:30 p.m.

I don’t have personal experience with Distinguished Young Gentlemen or Neighborhood REACH, but I have heard enough about them to believe they help qualify us as an All-American City. Cascades Park, on the other hand, is a verdant example of restoration, history, and mutual commitment to foster community togetherness. I have already had several great runs there, and am thrilled that it is part of our community.

This picture is from my first Cascades Park outing:

#Tally4AAC

Good luck, Tallahassee, you’ll always be my All-America City, and I hope the National Civic League agrees!!

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

I have always been word-crazy, and I have never hesitated to try my hand at a word game.

In Ruzzle, I found myself up against a formidable wall and HEY! I’ve found a blog post topic too.

My Ruzzle career started with this blog post about strategy games. When I commented that I would never start Words With Friends because I would never get anything done, I was invited to play Ruzzle and told, “It only takes two minutes a turn.”

While it is true that a Ruzzle game only takes two minutes, this has turned out to be the Lay’s Potato Chip “you can’t eat just one” equivalent of my online life. Also, I hate losing!

By way of introduction, Ruzzle calls itself “the world’s fastest word game.” The premise is simple: players swipe through the 16 letters on the board, trying to accumulate as many words as possible. Each match is a series of three two-minute games.

That said, here are my takeaways from Ruzzle:

I Am Incapable Of Doing the Minimum Once I Like Something

Two minutes? I really have to regulate myself. I only allow myself to play one game a day per person (I usually have two or three opponents going simultaneously). And because I like it, I want to get better, so I dig around to learn more. Via the digging, I found the Ruzzle community …

There Are Communities and Tutorials Out there for EVERYTHING

Want tips on how to improve? There’s a strategy guide for that. Desire to “get good at Ruzzle”? Visit this blog. Need tips and tricks? Visit this site. And, apparently avoid the “dreaded rainbow circle clan” of Ruzzle pirates (?).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Armed with tips and community, I kept on practicing…

Practice Pays Off

My Ruzzle life will never get to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours bar, but I have gotten better since I started playing in December 2014. Sometimes when I find something by thinking backwards, laterally, or diagonally, I feel like Michael Pollan when he “saw” the truffles he had been overlooking despite them being right under his nose in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of thinking backwards, laterally, and diagonally …

Thinking Backwards, Laterally, and Diagonally Pays Off

This is where the parallel to real life and much of the feedback I have always been given really hits home. When I look at the “possible words” vs the “found words” after a game, I see so many missed opportunities, mostly the ones that involved following a line of letters through a relatively byzantine path.

It reminds me of professional situations where I literally was going down a string of 200 emails, one by one, and not categorizing or prioritizing. It happened recently when a coworker had moved something I needed to do under my page on Basecamp, and I asked about it publicly in our staff FB page, before realizing it was there, if I had searched differently.

Strategy: it pays off. Eventually. Let’s hope.

In the meantime, I have also learned …

Accuracy is Overrated

When I first started playing Ruzzle, I would be mortified at a low accuracy percentage. I have learned that in Ruzzle (but not life in general!), there are more important qualities than accuracy, such as furiously (and intelligently) swiping at combinations you *think* may be words, and latching on to a multi-purpose endings such as “ing” and trying every combo out there, even the ones that aren’t really words. As someone who proofreads on the side, this de-emphasis on accuracy is a lesson wrapped within a challenge.

Paying Extra for Premium Can Be Worth It

There are many apps for which I don’t find it worth paying the buck or two extra for the premium version. I’ll look at the five-second ads, deal with a few limitations. But the perks for Premium Ruzzle are pretty cool, especially if you are obsessed with improving. With Ruzzle, paying the $2.99 for premium gets you unlimited ongoing games, statistics, and the possibility to see all words on the board after a finished round (that’s my favorite part!).

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Statistics

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Yes, I am embarrassed that I am a North Florida born and bred woman and missed “cooter” (the turtle …everyone else needs to think clean).

Determination Alone Does Not Help You Achieve Some of Your Goals

Ruzzle has “achievements” you can unlock. Well, being the goal-driven person I am (see topic #1 about the two-minute issue), I want to Achieve ALL the Achievements!!!!!!!!

The thing is, you can say to yourself “I am going to achieve the ‘Speedster’ badge this game” but you can’t make yourself find 30 words in 30 seconds or (the one I really want) “find a word of at least 10 letters” (the Bookworm badge). At least I am 100% on “Challenge your Twitter followers”!

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

The elusive bookworm badge. Sigh.

Sounds

One of the tutorials recommended “always keep the sound on” because it helps you know when you’re close to the end of the game (among other reasons). I found I play better with the sound off. (It’s also easier to furtively play Ruzzle, for example, next to a sleeping spouse or in an airport.)

Languages

I have played Ruzzle in Spanish a few times. I can see why this might be helpful to my Spanish learning efforts. Unfortunately, I left the setting on “Spanish” when I started to play a tournament once and that resulted, understandingly, in a major Ruzzle fail!

Tap Dance

Every time I sit there staring at the Ruzzle screen, realizing it expects me to “tap” for the next step (even though it does not TELL me to “tap” for the next step), I am reminded that the app / digital world expects me to know what to do. Maybe my children have some intuitive “tap to make the next thing on the screen happen” reflex, but I still expect directions. That’s probably not going to happen, is it?

Tick Tock My Two Minutes Are Almost Up

Why am I attached to Ruzzle? I would say 1) words! 2) connecting with people, especially the first friend who asked, and 3) the thrill of competition.

And seeing as how despite the thrill of competition, I am have lost 62% more games than I have won, I will be playing …

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

This post about “riveting Ruzzle realities” was a response to the Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompt: “Write a blog post that ends with the word: again.”

Riveting RUZZLE Realities