Seven “Humbugs” and a “Ho Ho HOLD” on the Snark

I really enjoyed preparing the four posts I submitted to 12Most, such as this one about twelve great vine videos. There was one draft that never came to fruition, though, because every time I started writing it, I began feeling like its negativity would outweigh its informational value and that I may hurt the feelings of people I care about.

Writing about the topic I addressed in that draft on my personal blog seems a little less offensive, though, since I can just say my opinion and not be representing an entire cadre of writers. I am just going to get it out of my system once and move on (with, of course, a segue to a somewhat more positive ending).

The Humbug Part

I believe we have made some life events that are simply that, life events, hyperpublic and over produced. In doing, there is a danger that the personal, unique, cherished nature of these events may be diluted in favor of the public, commonplace, “how-could-I-top-that” qualities. These events include:

Promposals

A promposal is an invitation to the prom that is elaborate enough to be classified as a proposal. There are some examples here. The high school student seen here had her intended date pulled over, had the cop fake an arrest, and waited in the back of the car with a sign that said “prom.”

My humbug about promposals: First of all, what if the intended date says no? Secondly, as much as I love a theme and a fun creative project, I am still just as charmed by a young man who approaches a young woman in person and simply says, “Will you come to prom with me?”

Prom Photo Sessions 

Prom photos have become more and more sophisticated (so click here to see what I mean).

My humbug about elaborate high school dance photo sessions:  If the girl felt beautiful, the guy felt handsome, and the family could afford the dollars, what does it matter? These sessions have an “engagement photo-like” feel that seems out of place for couples who may not be embarking on a long-term romance.

Marriage Proposals 

Maybe it is the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and our ability to create and share video documentation of our lives. Something is happening that has resulted in a proliferation of marriage proposals that goes far beyond one individual getting down on bended knee and asking the other individual to spend a life together.

For example, a sand art proposal whose story can be found here.

marrymekelly

For more “beyond bended knee” proposals, click here.

My humbug: My humbug about this one is a little challenging to define. So many of the ones I have seen are full of love and beautifully done. These people are old enough to be somewhat confident the relationship will “stick,” which differentiates them from the high school students referred to earlier. I think I would distill my opinion down to: make sure you spend as much time clarifying that you feel the same way about money, kids, and sex as you do editing your proposal video.

Pregnancy Announcements 

When I got pregnant in 1995 and 1998, the  news traveled the “old fashioned” way–by word of mouth, phone call, email, and snail mail. This is no longer the case. Pregnancy announcements now fly over cyberspace as quickly as you can press “like” on a Facebook status or retweet someone on Twitter. The graphics behind these shares are pretty darned creative (like these).

My humbug: This is another one where I am blown away by the creativity but simultaneously a little taken aback. Maybe it’s the fact that such rapid shares separate the prospective parent from the recipient of the news. Half the fun of announcing your pregnancy is seeing the expression on the other individual’s face. I’m not sure 50 “likes” can do exactly the same thing.

Gender Reveals 

Putting aside those disciplined people who wait  until their baby is born to find out its gender (I was not one of them), the “gender reveal” process has gotten complicated! Here are three themes on one Pinterest Gender Reveal Board:

Ties or Tutus

Cupcake or Stud Muffin

Boots or Bows

For more including a gender “lottery,” click here.

My humbug: I am pretty sure the first gender reveal party I saw was on television. I can’t remember which celebrity it was, but the event was elaborate. There was a Hollywood party planner, caterer, favors, tents, the entire festivity checklist. Now I see them routinely on social media. Again, nothing is really damaged but having a gender reveal party but it seems easy to lose the exceptionally personal nature of the moment.

Maternity Photo Sessions 

I have seen some gorgeous maternity photos (such as these). What a beautiful way to commemorate that moment in a family’s life.

My humbug: My humbug is with the unduly revealing ones such as these. I am not a prude about the female body, especially the beauty of the pregnant female body but there is something about these photos that makes me feel like an invader (and I know, I can just “not look”).

Using A Baby’s Name Before They’re Born

Perhaps it is because we can now personalize pretty much anything that a baby is often given items with his or her name on them while they are in utero.

My humbug: I don’t know if this is a southern superstition or what, but I have always been leery of applying a child’s name to a product until they have been born. I am sure my feelings are influenced by having lost two pregnancies and by my mom’s having lost a baby, but loss happens. I just feel like it’s tempting fate.

In many of these cases, maybe my issue is green (and not the fun green of Christmas), but the green of envy. Since I couldn’t afford to throw a gender reveal party, for example, does that feed my humbugosity? If so, I own that but don’t think that’s the root of my opinion.

Switching Gears to the Positive

Since it’s Christmas, let’s address the most ubiquitous over-the-top phenomenon this time of the year, the Elf on the Shelf, who is hovering around many homes this season:

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly thankful that the EotS wasn’t a “thing” when my teenagers were little. If it had worked to modify my kids’ behavior, though, maybe I would have bit.

My world, in-person and on social media, is filled with über creative types. These adults have possibly missed their calling in production design for major motion picture houses. For example, toilet fishing:

tumblr_lw1fazz8h51r755nso1_500

Source: www.diycandy.com

Toilet fishing is almost rudimentary compared to the attention to detail of my friend Diary of a Mom (I mean would you look at those little tiny oxygen tubes coming out of “Hazel’s” nasal passages?).

THEN there are the “alternate” EotS folks, who do tableaus like this (this was one of the tamer ones! Visit the Good Time Elf Facebook Page to see the others.):

for-a-good-time-elf

The voices of the Elf on the Shelf detractors are louder than ever this year (at least it seems that way to me). This article, for example, outlines one parent’s view.

I have had the elf skeptic conversation with friends on Facebook about EotS. We all gleefully pile on (yes, me included), smirking our disdain for the effort, the misguidedness, the adult energy, time and effort required for a “children’s” phenomenon.

Here’s my Ho Ho HOLD the snark point: I am through snarking about EotS.  He isn’t for me, but if he had been a “thing” when my kids were little, I may very well have given in and loved every minute of it.

I have had teachers say EotS is a “friend” in the classroom, someone the kids love and enjoy. I see families I care about and respect enjoying the heck out of creating their EotS scenarios. I see kids who *may* be doubting Santa’s existence still looking forward to their elf’s whereabouts in the morning.

It’s not for me, but there’s enough snark this holiday season (and, let us admit, all year long). If EotS is your thing, enjoy! I’ll even send you a Big Green Pen for your elf’s use if you’re running out of ideas!

snark santa

We Can’t All Be Santa

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

Cropped Santa Mail

I don’t remember exactly what Wayne put on his Santa list in 2005, when he was in first grade. I am sure the general theme was “transportation” as in toy trains, remote-controlled cars, and anything else that had wheels, made noise, or (ideally) moved while making noise. All items on the list were meant to be enjoyed “RIGHT NOW.”

First Graders Aren’t Worried About College

First graders aren’t worried about the distant realities of college tuition, how they will pay for their residence hall when they are 18, or the advantage of “current plan pricing.”

First graders don’t know:

  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $23,700 a year more than those without, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • A recent Georgetown University study estimates that a student with a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.6 million more in their lifetime than a student with only a high school diploma
  • It’s projected by a study from Georgetown University that by 2018, 59 percent of jobs in Florida will require post-secondary education
  • In 2013, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4 percent. For those with only a high school diploma, it was 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

I don’t know Santa’s academic credentials, and good for him that he’s got his gig pretty locked down (and oh the cookie benefits!). But he’s certainly the exception to this general truth:

Graph

The Gift of a College Education

Purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan for your child now is a gift that will long outlast the stuff that kids beg to see from Santa. As I wrote in my last post about Florida Prepaid, my parents bought Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children with lump sum payments of around $7,000 when they were infants. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education for each of them.

I know it’s a hectic time of year for all of us. I know that part of the fun of sharing the holidays with our children is indulging in some of their favorite “gotta have it now” treats. I’ll tell you what ….. there’s a way to secure your children’s educational future and free up some cash for a treat.

Enrollment Fee Waived!

Sign up for your Florida prepaid plan before December 31 and the $50 enrollment fee will be waived*. It’s almost like found money! (Your prepaid payments won’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

education gift

*The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015, but the enrollment fee waiver ends December 31, 2014.

Alice Cooper and Bella, Our Family’s Cats

It is almost time to put up our Christmas tree (no, we aren’t one of those families whose home is transformed into a holiday wonderland before the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed).

You could say our tree-topper is very lifelike:

Bella-Tree

(To see our pre-Bella topper, click here.)

Our daughter Tenley rescued Bella two years ago. I don’t know the specifics of where she was found, but she had been abandoned by her mother and did not face much hope for survival.

It was a little risky to bring Bella into our home, since our other cat, Alice Cooper, had been put up for adoption because she couldn’t tolerate being part of a multi-cat home (her owner had a new significant other, and that arrangement brought new cats into their household).

Tenley and Wayne meet Alice Cooper, 2006.

Tenley and Wayne meet Alice Cooper, 2006.

I wouldn’t trade Alice or Bella for any traditionally acquired pet. Our family, having chosen to adopt, is in the minority, however. Of all the pets in American homes, only 29% were adopted from a shelter or rescue. On this 5th annual Celebrate Shelter Pets Day, I am hoping to see that number rise as rapidly as Bella can scale a Christmas tree (and trust me, that’s FAST!).

Seventeen million people per year acquire pets. Approximately 3-4 million of those pets are adopted, but 2.7 million still lose their lives each year for lack of a home. I don’t want a guy like Kuma to meet that fate:

For more information on rescuing a shelter pet, visit www.theshelterpetproject.org, where you can search for a pet from a local shelter or rescue group, read adoption success stories and learn valuable information about pet adoption.

Shelter Pet

I’m pleased to partner with Element Associates to bring you this information about Shelter Pets Day. In addition to Element Associates, Alice and Bella encourage you to “paw”se what you’re doing and consider a shelter pet!

Dramatically Doubling Dollars on #GivingTuesday

After Thanksgiving, Every Day Is “Special”

My daughter and I went shopping Friday morning (yes, on Black Friday.) We didn’t get up at a ridiculously early hour, but she was in town from college and we were both intrigued by the idea of a deal, so we set off to see what we could find.

Although we did find some bargains, the best takeaway of the day would not fit in a shopping bag. The best takeaway was time with my daughter, lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, and catching up on each other’s lives.

Bonding Over Bento

Bonding Over Bento

With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday behind us, she returned to college, leaving me with a social media stream full of all the “deals” available on Cyber Monday.

It’s the activity in cyber space on #GivingTuesday, though, that comes closest to fulfilling the message of the upcoming holiday season.

Why Is #GivingTuesday Different?

December 2, 2014 is marked #GivingTuesday – a day of giving. This global day inspires personal philanthropy and encourages bigger, better and smarter charitable giving during the holiday season, showing that the world truly gives as good as it gets.

Many causes I love are having campaigns on #GivingTuesday, but I do want to take a moment to highlight Shot at Life, one of the Giving Tuesday 2014 causes nearest and dearest to my heart, and one which has the potential to have an enormous impact thanks to matching donors.

This Giving Tuesday, Shot at Life is focusing on pneumococcal disease, which kills an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five annually.

The only cute pneumonia is a stuffed pneumonia.

The only cute pneumonia is a stuffed pneumonia.

This disease hits hardest in communities weakened by poverty. Malnutrition and undernourishment leave babies without the ability to fight infection. This video, originally created for World Pneumonia Day, really made me think: What if this were my child?

Five Dollars Will Become Ten …

$5 can immunize a child against pneumococcal disease. I am committing to either raise $5 from 5 friends or donate $25 myself because that $25 is going to magically become $50 (yes I wish it always worked that way but this is a very limited time offer for some extremely deserving children in our global family).

giving tuesday graphic

Bill and Melinda Gates believe that vaccines are one of the best investments you can make to improve global health. They are very supportive of Shot@Life advocating and fundraising for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. With replenishment coming in early 2015, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would like to support Shot@Life and Gavi by matching donations on #GivingTuesday (up to $200,000)!

In addition, this #GivingTuesday, MAM (@mambaby) – a global leader in pacifiers, baby bottles and infant oral development products – is supporting Shot@Life. Their generous donation of $25,000 will help provide thousands of pneumonia vaccines to children in need around the world. Donate to Shot@Life and help give children everywhere a shot at a healthy life and join the conversation on Twitter by following @ShotAtLife and #GivingTuesday.

Thank you, MAM, for making the first gift of $25,000 toward our $200,000 goal!

Makes my $5 seem pretty do-able, right? How about you? You can easily donate your $5 at this link.

five dollars

 

Turkey Trot Race Report 2014

I love the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I mean, love, bolded, in RED, italicizedunderlined love the Turkey Trot. I love the Turkey Trot so much that when my husband suggested I go to New York for my 50th birthday (which fell the day after the Turkey Trot this year), I refused to even think about it (and trust me, me turning down any hint of going to New York is big!).

"Tuning Up" with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

“Tuning Up” with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

Before talking about Thursday’s 10K race, I have to add a caveat. I wrote this post about finding “ands” instead of “buts” in your running and am the most ardent of believers in the fact that every runner matters, and that the joy of running can be found at the front of the pack, the back of the back, and everywhere in between.

Post-Turkey Trot Questions

But Thursday was a day that shook me up a little bit, and it will most likely be a milestone in my running journey. Around the 5.5 mile mark, and right at the moment a runner came up to me and said, “your pace has been great; I have been trying to catch up to you to tell you that,” my pace immediately became a walk as this happened:

Turkey Trot HR Chart

“This” is my heart rate going a little bit wildly off the charts of what is normal for me. (My normal is 143-186 (with 143 being where I could converse with you while running and 186 being my “sprinting as if my life depended on it” pace). There’s a good basic explanation of heart rate training from Chris Russell of Run Run Live here.

I have been training by heart rate (under a coach’s supervision) since April 2012. As far back as February 2013, when I ran the Flash 12K race, I have had odd HR spikes. I remember the “angel” runner who ran through the finish line with me saying, “we’ll do this together.” The issue started cropping up again this summer, at the Pot Luck Bash and each of the summer trail series runs. I sort of chalked that up to the heat and race adrenaline. I had a racing HR issue during one training run this summer but again … Florida is hot in the summer (mild understatement).

I finally decided to discuss this (and a few other “small” issues) with my primary care physician. He did an in office EKG (fine) but decided to go ahead and refer me to our health plan’s staff cardiologist (props to the health plan for having a staff cardiologist). He had me do a stress test (thanks for the mile, doc!) (fine) and went ahead and had me to a cardiac echocardiogram (fine).

Feeling relieved, I thought “I can put all of this cardiac worry behind me since I checked out okay.”

When My Gut Said “WALK”

I arrived at the Boston Mini Marathon on October 25, my second half-marathon, feeling great. Although it was cold outside, the weather was perfect for running. I felt so good about my weight loss, my improved nutrition, and the cause I was running for (Miles 2 End Prostate Cancer). I felt confident that I would shatter my previous half marathon time and at least finish in less than three hours. I was well on target to do that until around mile 5 when my heart rate started going a little nuts. I kept running, thinking I could run through it. When it refused to settle down, I started walking. I kept moving forward, and turned around at the half way point of the out and back race. I decided to try running again, remembering the cardiologist asking me “does it just feel like your heart is racing or do you feel loss of power, like you’re going to pass out, etc.?” Since it had “just” felt like my heart was racing, I decided to run again. That’s when it felt “not right” (I know, not a medical term but ….). I spent the last six miles of the race run-walking. The good news about the run/walk approach is that my HR stayed down. The bad news it took longer to finish the Boston Mini-Marathon than it had taken to finish the Boston 13.1 in September 2012, when I was definitely in relatively inferior shape.

Between the Boston Mini Marathon and Thursday’s Turkey Trot, my training runs have been solid (no HR issues) and I had one of my best 5K times ever (sub 34:00) at the Vet Fest on November 11.

The Turkey Trot day dawned perfect from a weather perspective. I felt great (again). Well trained, nutrition dialed in, happy to be running the last race of my 40s with 6000+ of my favorite people.

When my HR spiked at around that 5.5 mile mark, I didn’t bargain with myself as long as I had at the Boston Mini. I stopped to walk (very disappointed but knowing intuitively that it was the best decision). Again, this was more than “feeling a racing sensation.” It wasn’t right.

When I saw my friend Gabrielle close to the finish line, she was so encouraging. I don’t know why I felt compelled to explain (except that I am me, and that is what I do), so I told her I was having HR issues. I did run through over the actual finish mat, and since my friend Adrea was finishing the 15K at the same time, had a chance to hug a friend and celebrate a bit.

THEN I texted my coach, and eventually I just called her because I couldn’t drive home to all the people dying to move on to Thanksgiving dinner and explain my complex feelings via text.

It was during that talk that I first floated the “maybe I need to move to a run-walk for the longer distances idea.”

The important point here is that although I have zero, none, nada issues with run walking, I have always said “it is not for me” (which is why my friends who saw me walking at Boston knew there was an issue). I love the feeling of continuous motion; I love the feeling of speed (even though I know I am a slow runner). Once I move to run/walk there’s one more piece of technology getting between me and my mental bliss.

(I am also hesitant to limit myself to running only when I can find others with whom to run. I love running with others but also love running alone; it’s the most peaceful part of my day.)

The morning I ran the Run for Andy Nichols 5K in Blountstown, October 11, I went into my DailyMile and revised my goal of running a sub 30 5K to something less specific:

dailymile

I know the likelihood of meeting the sub 30 goal is unlikely at this point. I also want to preserve my ability to run longer distances. Since these HR issues don’t seem to occur (yet) at the 5K distance, perhaps there is a middle ground for me in racing 5Ks and participating in 10s and halfs by run walking.

I have chidlren to raise and a second half century of life that just started; I don’t want to jeopardize it all just by being stubborn.

The Medical Part

It bears mentioning that I have done this drill before (in 2005). I was not actively running at the time, and after several EKGs and a nuclear stress test, I was told to drink less caffeine and given a clean bill of health. This time, the cardiologist has given me the same mini-cardiac lecture both times I visited him. He describes the heart’s anatomy and the little electrical bundle that coordinates the entire process. Ultimately, after three EKGs and an echocardiogram all were normal, he said I could wear a holter monitor for 24 hours but it’s really hard to wear a holter monitor and run (because the leads would get sweaty and fail to adhere). The other option is implanting a device that can track HR, and that invasiveness seems illogical in my situation. To his credit, he did refrain from suggesting I stop running until the very end of each conversation, and the gist of that part was, “if it only happens when you are running, you need to consider modifying your activity choices.”

I have asked myself if I am fretting for all the wrong reasons. With a congenital heart arrhythmia on Wayne’s side of the family that has led to the death of one member and life-changing modifications for many members, there’s been more than the usual chit chat about heart issues over the years and I always had the “luxury” of worrying about my kids but not myself (since they shared genetics with the affected person and I didn’t). My friend Lisa, one of the best athletes I know, had a massive heart attack while on a run and was saved because an RN was there. Another friend of a friend collapsed and died in the middle of a day on a regular training run.

I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be. I am going to focus on these four things and pray I’ve chosen the right four:

1) Continuing to work with Coach Kristie of KR Endurance to be the best (and healthiest) runner I can be

2) Knowing that each race is “mine” and no one else’s; I have only myself with whom to compete

3) Supporting causes I love through my activity, especially Charity Miles

4) Being grateful for all that running (and, ahem/sigh/okay I will say it) and run-walking has brought to my life and will continue to bring to my life.

Those four things deserve a big thumbs-up, in my opinion!

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

 

Ten Minutes of Thankful (The Grateful Challenge)

I love a social media challenge. I especially love a social media challenge that forces me to focus on the good. That’s why when Gini Dietrich posted The Grateful Challenge on Spin Sucks this morning, I was the first (of quite a few) to say “I’m in.”

The point of The Grateful Challenge is to “list as many things that you love in just 10 minutes, with the hopes that you can get to 99.”

Ever the rule-follower, I am setting my timer for ten minutes and proceeding, with a plan to leave the finished product relatively unedited (although I won’t be able to resist a little bit of cleanup!).

The Grateful Challenge

1. My husband. It hasn’t always been easy but 22+ years in, I know I have my best friend on my side.

2. My daughter. I only hope she sees in herself the magic I see in her.

3. My son. He and that “different drummer” keep on marching. For all I know they’ll be the ones to change the world.

4. My crazy cats, Alice Cooper and Bella.

5. A faith that sustains me.

6. Memories of my mother-in-law, Barb, and the echo of her voice in my head every day.

7. My father-in-law, even though he and I argue for a half hour every day about the true meaning of 4:30.

8. A home.

9. This town, which is wonderful, the place where my children were born and raised, but is not New York City.

10. New York City. It will forever and always be where I am most myself.

11. Broadway.

12. A July week this summer that included days in NYC with my daughter.

13. Tenley Albright. Meeting the woman my daughter was named after this July was the culmination of 18 years of hoping on my part. She made it a stellar evening.

14. Estela and Silvia in Guatemala, Stanley in El Salvador – the children we sponsor through Unbound. Meeting each one of them and their families changed me.

15. Toastmasters. I may have to give up on ever having any substantial impact on the world by acting but Toastmasters allows me to perform 5-7 minutes at a time.

16. The ridiculous and overwhelming amount of plenty we have here in the U.S.

17. Related to #16, Publix.

18. All the times a guardian angel has prevented me from having auto accidents.

19. The times I am trusting that same guardian angel will watch my 18 year old driver.

20. Leaning about Camp Gordon Johnston and the men who served there; endlessly fascinating.

21. Books.

22. Specifically, ^^ Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

23. My new part time employment with Weaving Influence. I am still floored every time my boss thanks me for something or asks “how can I serve you?”

24. Blogging.

25. Social media; all the incredible connections I have made that seem a lot more “real” than words and pictures on a screen.

26. That one friend whose phone calls help me stay sane.

27. That one friend who is almost exclusively the reason I am an advocate of gay marriage.

28. Running.

29. Running people.

30. Yoga.

31. Fitness, fitness people, fitness duds.

32. My parents. The ultimate sacrificing people.

33. TURKEYS! RUNNING WITH TURKEYS!

Holy heck, only 33? Well, that’s where my ten minutes went.

ps: running with turkeys is a thing:

Running Turkeys

Gulf Winds Track Club Turkey Trot Tuneup November 23, 2014

 

Missing The Boat

I left my job of almost 20 years on May 2, 2014.

For someone who could dedicate an entire blog post to something trivial like convenience store bathrooms or safety pins, I imagine it has been unusual that I have been silent on this topic for more than half a year.

Although the below account is not “starting at the beginning,” it captures important emotions and touchpoints of the decision, with vivid imagery.

Here’s the backstory: a few years ago, each of our board members received an anonymous letter outlining the author’s grievances. Topics included lack of cost of living increases and perceived favoritism, among other concerns. After that letter was distributed to our board, our Executive Director scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of us to “really hear our concerns.”

He had led the organization for several years by this point, and my initial optimism that had been born partly from a trusted individual saying “Oh I have worked for him; you’ll love him” had deteriorated. I decided in this one on one to be completely trusting and say exactly what I thought, which included some of my thoughts on the issues posed in the letter (which I didn’t write). As the meeting wound down, his statement to me was, “I still think you put your family ahead of your job.” Talk about a disappointing close to what I felt like was a productive meeting.

That evening, I had this dream:

A line of kayaks stretched out as far as my eye could see, buoyantly poised on gentle waves.

I was supposed to be with this group but had not realized I was supposed to be in a kayak – I was still walking.

It was a beautiful, sunny, calm day.

I pleaded with a leader to help me get my own kayak to join the group.

He somewhat reluctantly agreed and got me set up with a kayak and a paddle.

As he and I paddled toward the group, the weather worsened rapidly; there were dark clouds gathering and the wind was whipping up. The waves were intense. It was like white water rafting – the dangerous conditions were just like a book I read where the father who wasn’t especially trusted and had been drinking took the young son out for what was supposed to be an easy trip which turned into a white water disaster. We ducked and dodged huge waves like the kind you see surfers in Hawaii dealing with. We eventually decided we would have to wait it out.

Abruptly, the water receded. My leader and I started off on foot, following the path of everyone who had gone before us.

It was a dirt road made of light clay. There were very clear marks where the others had tried to leave us messages regarding their status.

As the leader and I walked on, the marks faded and grew more difficult to interpret. Blood stains began to appear among the marks. The stains were pinkish brown – they weren’t red and fresh but it was clear there had been a struggle.

We never found our group.

I had missed the boat.

The next day, I went to work.

The next day, I pulled into my parking lot at work and saw my Executive Director’s car, loaded up with a kayak.*

Cropped_Kayak

This dream happened in 2012; I didn’t leave the organization until mid-2014 (after that Executive Director had moved on). Although it took me a long time to decide about leaving work, and the navigational maps for the next steps still feel a little fuzzy, the dream precisely represented where my spirit was at that time.

When I sat at my desk in early April 2014, having cleaned out all of my email streams, professional and personal, and feeling “I don’t have anything to do,” I called my husband and said “I have to go.”

And go, I did.

*Looking at it now, several years later, I realize maybe the “kayak” was actually a small boat (is that a motor I see?). But all I saw when I pulled up that day was “kayak kayak kayak.”

 

Is It 4:30? A Caretaking Dilemma

clock

really hope I had pressed the “mute” button like I thought I had.

If not, my new boss and coworker heard a side of me that does not make me proud.

You see, I had scheduled a conference call at 3:30 p.m. last week, knowing that I needed to be completely wrapped up by 4:30 because I leave the house every day like clockwork to take my 85-year-old father-in-law to the bar.

I am happy to take him to the bar at 4:30 every day, knowing how much he values time spent with his buddies.

What I am not happy about is the fact that “his” 4:30 is wildly more erratic than mine due at least in part to the cognitive changes related to his strokes and other medical issues. This is my caretaking dilemma.

Back to the conference call day: Even though we had discussed the “4:30 plan” (as we do every day) before I went into my home office and closed the door to take the call, there he was at 4:00 pushing on the door (against which I had placed a heavy object to keep the cats out). I excused myself from my coworkers, (hopefully!) pressed the mute button, and asked what he needed.

HIM: “Are you ready to go to the bar?”

ME: “No, it’s not 4:30.”

HIM: “You said 4:00.”

ME: “No, I didn’t. I said 4:30.” (not uttered in my most patient tone of voice)

HIM: [insert angry harrumphing]

ME: [insert slamming of door]

I am not proud that I was so abrupt in how I said “I said 4:30.” I am not proud of slamming the door. I am not happy that my train of thought was disrupted from the conversation I was holding with my co-workers and as a new employee, I am a bit worried about what they think.

The “4:30 skirmish” plays out almost daily.

I know compared to many caretakers with whom I am acquainted, this is a small battle compared to many all-out wars they face. We don’t have to cover the mirrors yet so he isn’t alarmed by “that man in the mirror.” He can still take care of his basic self-care needs independently.

But I suspect the “4:30 skirmish” is a prelude to more daunting hurdles.

Our family is among 42 million Americans for whom the roles have changed. Children are parenting parents and bewilderment abounds. Like this family, convincing a depressed 85-year old to eat presents as big a challenge as does a finicky five-year-old:

During National Family Caregivers Month, I have hope because I have discovered resources for education and support at this site from AARP.

I wish I had read Prepare to Care (a Caregiving Planning Guide for Families) before we became primary caretakers five months ago:

Fortunately, I know there are many other helpful resources at the site, and I am going to be digging in.

But not at 4:30. I have a commitment ….

“I’m pleased to partner with Midlife Boulevard to bring you this important public service information about National Family Caregivers Month.”

 

Unbound And A Touch of Perspective

Last week. It had BIG highs, such as having my first Fitfluential Guest Post published and being featured by Spin Sucks in Friday’s Inquisition Seat.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the local Church Women United group about Unbound on their World Missions Day. Even though I feel that it was me benefiting from the morning rather than them benefiting from my presentation, I hope they were moved by the glimpse into Unbound’s work I gave them.

The purpose of the remainder of my post is two-fold.

Unbound Children Need Sponsors

I messed up. I requested information from Unbound to share with the Church Women United group, including folders of children needing sponsors. Because I requested it too late, I did not receive it until Friday afternoon (after my presentation, sighhhhh). Because I have these five folders, I feel led to share them in my blog. Please pray for these children seeking the support of Unbound, which I can attest will change their lives. If you know of a local Tallahassee (or regional/driving distance) alternative Christmas fair where I could possibly share these stories and how sponsorship ($30 a month) could help them, I’d love to know!

Unbound Edited Avo

Unbound Edited ValerieUnbound Edited OmarUnbound Wesley EditedUnbound Edited SugelyFor information on providing Unbound sponsorship for these children, please contact me at paulakiger (at) gmail (dot) com. For other children, youth, and aging seeking sponsors, please visit this link.

Now that I have shared these five children’s images and stories with you, I have a little more to say.

About Perspective, Helping Others, and Yoga

I started off this post noting three wonderful things that happened to me last week. Friday evening, I had one minor (in the big scheme of things) bit of news that brought with it major disappointment, far out of proportion to the importance of the news. For the rest of Friday evening, much of yesterday, and even part of today I have been really struggling to figure out how my usual recipe of 1) help someone else and 2) do yoga was going to help me through this emotional bump.

As Saturday dawned, I ran my second annual virtual 5K for PFC Matthew J England. He was killed in combat in Iraq in June 2008. Here is his Killed In Action Commemorative Flag, displayed on the route of the Missouri 5K yesterday. Thinking of Matthew’s sacrifice and his mother’s determination to honor his memory gives me perspective:

10712987_10152888292279381_6338545368034511170_n

Also what a great example of having a thick skin and a sense of humor is Ginger Zee? I don’t watch Good Morning America any longer but I still think she rocks. My thin skin and I can take some pointers from her perspective:

Ginger Zee

 (Side note: not every tv weather person is a meteorologist; there’s an academic and credentialing difference. Props to Ginger for everything in this screen shot (okay, maybe not the typo but we’ll blame autocorrect for that!)).

I also found this post helpful, especially the admonition “Be [Darn] Open to the Good” (admonition edited slightly for my audience but click through and read Reason Number 5 for the full effect!).

Right after I had finished the first draft of this post, a friend messaged me on Facebook. It turns out she and I were each feeling a little emotionally tender. When my phone rang, it was her and we had an opportunity to catch up. We did some processing of her issue and then we talked through mine. I cried the tears that needed to be shed, the ones from the deepest part of me that simply wants to belong and was feeling quite the opposite, the part of me that sometimes feels the “insecure” of 15 when I’d rather be embracing the hard-won confidence of almost-50.

As I head out to outdoors night yoga, I am grateful for the restorative power of helping others, for the fact that my emotions may very well become unbound while in bound angle pose, and for the grace of friendship that calms the disquieted heart.

edited sunrise

 

Toastmasters: An Open House Invitation

toastmasters

Frequently, when I mention my involvement in Toastmasters, people express an interest in participating themselves.

This week, there’s a perfect opportunity to find out what it’s all about — our club (Podemos Hablar) is holding an open house!

Here are the details:

Date: Monday, November 10, 2014

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Note: one reason I was attracted to this particular club is that it is a Bilingual Toastmasters Club (Spanish/English). It is especially helpful for people trying to improve their Spanish (or for Spanish speakers trying to improve their English). But don’t let that stop you from joining our open house — there are speakers of all levels.)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

toastmasters banner

En Español*:

Frecuentemente, cuando hablo de mi participación en Toastmasters, todos expresan su interés en participar ellos tambien.

Esta semana, hay una oportunidad perfecta para descubrir de qué se trata – de nuestro club (Podemos Hablar) está ofreciendo exhibición publica!

Aquí están los detalles:

Fecha: Lunes, 10 de noviembre 2014

Hora: 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)

Dónde: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Nota:.. Una de las razones que me atraido a este club en particular es que este club es bilingüe (Español / Inglés). Es especialmente útil para las personas que tratan de mejorar su español (o para los hispanohablantes que tratan de mejorar su Inglés. Pero no dejes que eso te detenga de asistir la exhibición publica – hay hablantes de todos los niveles).

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, haz favor de comunicármelo.

toastmasters juan

Juan, Past President.

 

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club Vice President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

(Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mundo.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Thank you to our club past president Juan for helping me with the translation. I take full responsibility for any errors that remain. // Gracias a nuestro presidente pasado del club Juan por ayudarme con la traducción. Yo soy responsable de los errores que quedan.)