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.)

About #BlameJameis

I have been intrigued for a while with the idea of doing an “Ignite” speech. In an Ignite speech, you are bound to use no more than 20 slides over a 5 minute period, with each lasting 15 seconds. I did my first Ignite attempt at Toastmasters a few weeks ago, and have built on that speech to finalize the video presented here.

I hope you will watch the video. If you are short on time, though, and don’t have five minutes, the point is this: Florida State University, even in the worst of times, has always been about more than one person and certainly about more than one hashtag.

My suggestion for the alternative to #BlameJameis:

Here sons and daughters stand, faithful and true,
Hailing our alma mater, F.S.U.

~ FSU Alma Mater

FSU LOGO

Happy Harvest Giveaway Hop

 photo Happy-Harvest-Giveaway-Hop_zpsb4385e1a.jpg

Welcome to the Happy Harvest Giveaway Hop
hosted by Planet Weidknecht 

From November 1-10, you can visit each one of the participating blogs listed below and enter to win prizes worth at least $25. You could potentially win them all! Good luck!

Here at Perspicacity, I am THRILLED to be giving away a $30 gift certificate to Words To Sweat By (WTSB), which has the CUTEST fitness jewelry as well as humorous fitness apparel. (If you aren’t a runner, maybe the term “who fartleked?” doesn’t make you roar with laughter, but it you ARE a runner, that particular baby/children item will soon be your favorite!) I also appreciate WTSB being a sponsor of my team, KR Endurance. WTSB has a true heart for inspiring people to pursue their fitness goals, and they make quality, attractive products that will stand up to a workout. Here are three of my favorites:
Dana Jewelry
dana two
dana four
To enter to win the gift certificate from Words To Sweat By, please visit their site then leave me a comment telling me your favorite product and why it’s your fave! I will choose the winner randomly from among the comments. 
Visit the other blogs who are participating and you may accumulate quite a “harvest” of holiday goodies!

 


Halloween Memories: A Short Story

Halloween Memories

Note from Paula — when I was going through items written by my mother-in-law, Barb, after her death, this short story recounting her Halloween memories is one of the pieces I found among the records she had kept of pieces she had submitted to various publications. The Polaroid picture above was clipped to the hard copy in her files. It seemed like the perfect Halloween “gift” and as I typed it, I could hear her voice in every word. It was the loveliest kind of Halloween “ghost.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I did …

A Jack O’Lantern Filled With Memories

It’s October again, and the air is filled with autumn’s crisp scent. To me this means it’s time to pull the orange ceramic jack o’lantern from its resting place on the top shelf of the hall closet. The pumpkin has been there for twenty years, never escaping except for this one month of the year when it leaves the dark and becomes the dining room table’s Halloween centerpiece.

Today, watched by its triangle eyes and smiled at by its toothy grin, I set it on a wicker mat in the center of the table. Placing a candle in its hollow center, I carefully struck a match and brought the season’s hallmark to life. Then as the flame’s warmth caressed my hand, I felt a rush of twenty year old memories.

Chuck was there, a white faced ghost draped in a mended sheet. Beside him stood Patrick grinning a six year old’s toothless grin and wearing a ballerina’s pink tights and net tutu. Ann, dressed in a fleecy blanket sleeper, wore bunny ears held straight by wire coat hangers.

Another son came into view. Wayne? Memory flickered like the candle flame, then resumed its steady flow. Yes, it was him. Then I laughed, for his small self had become a balloon-shaped orange-skinned pumpkin and his head a green stem.

The memories, my real-life now grown children, danced around the candle lit pumpkin and shouted, “trick-or-treat.”

“Do you think my costume will win a prize, mama?” The ballerina shouted, pirouetting on feet that stretched the satin slippers to the breaking point.

“No, I’m going to win,” announced another child with Jim’s voice. He was wrapped completely in multiple layers of six inch gauze. Small slits for eyes, nose and mouth permitted the mummy child to see, breathe and eat.

“Maybe you’ll both win,” I heard myself say, wanting to keep peace between the ballerina and the mummy.

Then as suddenly as they had come they were gone leaving me staring into the pumpkin’s grinning face.

“Do you remember?” I asked, but before the jack o’lantern could answer, my children were back.

“I won the prize, mama,” two voices chorused.

“I didn’t,” other voices chimed.

I looked into the earnest faces and tried to guess the winners, but their smiles hid the secret.

“I won for being the prettiest.” The ballerina bowed low before me.

“I won for being the scariest.” The mummy stood at stiff attention.

“And what about you?” I looked from the pumpkin, to the ghost and the bunny rabbit.

“I bobbed for apples and got one,” said the ghost holding up a piece of half eaten fruit.

“I got the biggest sack of candy,” the pumpkin shoved a crayon decorated grocery bag under my nose.

“And I was so tired, daddy had to carry me home,” sighed the little bunny.

The ceramic jack o’lantern’s light sputtered. Again my memories faded from view. Leaning closer, I passed my hand over the grinning face to check the light. When these scenes were first played, I could both see and hear. Today though, I can only hear their voices, as I am blind. Yet for me nothing has been lost, for God has secreted their happy faces inside my heart, and inside a jack o’lantern filled with memories.

Author: Barb Kiger

The Gift of Security

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

prepaid college

Photo Credit: Sarah Stephens Photography

At 18 months, my daughter Tenley had the security of a favorite stuffed animal. At 17 years, she was poised to enroll as a freshman at Valdosta State University, with her tuition already taken care of through the Florida Prepaid College Plan.

My parents bought the Florida Prepaid College Plan for Tenley with a lump sum payment of around $7,000 when she was an infant. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education. The ultimate security.  

A Grandparent’s Gift

When I asked him about his choice to purchase Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children when they were infants, my dad said, “I am not a financial genius; however, I was fortunate enough to have the money to invest in our grandchildren’s future.”

Maybe it isn’t genius level to make such a stellar and long-lasting investment, but it is certainly smart if you ask me!

More About Florida Prepaid

The Florida Prepaid College Plan kicked off Open Enrollment on October 15. The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015. There are two incredible new changes this year:

  • Prices are at their lowest point since 2007 (as much as 50% lower)!
  • There is a NEW 1-Year Florida University Plan with a monthly payment of $43.30 for newborns.

In addition, the $50 application fee for newly opened plans will be waived through December 31, 2014!

Although my parents chose the lump sum option and started when Tenley and Wayne were infants, there are a variety of payment plans for children of all ages. (And payments don’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).

I am a Blogger Believer because a Florida Prepaid College Plan has been one of the primary factors in securing my children’s future.

What are your dreams for your child’s future?

prepaid college

 

An iPhone6 Giveaway From Baby’s Brilliant

Before we talk about the iPhone6 giveaway, I have a few words about Baby’s Brilliant.

When I participated in a Twitter party recently, I jokingly tweeted this:

delta labs tweet

After my babies were born, we lived in a (wait for it…..) world without apps! To find out what developmental stage was coming up, I would pull out my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. To educate or entertain a baby, I would dangle a stuffed animal in front of their face or pop in a Spanish kids’ songs tape and sing at the top of my lungs (they may still hate me for that!). There were no apps in 1996 and 1999 when my kids were little. How things have changed!

Now there’s Baby’s Brilliant, which offers a variety of short videos, music, languages, and night lights via its app which is available on iPhones and iPads. (The iTunes link is here.)

iPhone6 giveaway

The Baby’s Brilliant app looks promising, and its creators are committed to worthy causes (for instance, they recently donated iPads to a Los Angeles Children’s Hospital). Both of those are good …

What’s also good is the fact that Baby’s Brilliant is currently conducting an iPhone6 giveaway! The Rafflecopter is below, and the giveaway ends November 4.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wishing you the best with the giveaway!

iPhone6 giveaway