Goodbye, Mary Nell

Mary Nell's Casket Spray

Mary Nell’s Casket Spray

Today, I attended the funeral of Mary Nell.

One of the many floral arrangements was this one:


When I first saw this arrangement, I was surprised to see seed packets and trowels. They implied there was still work to be done at a time when the focus was on one individual’s perpetual rest.

Upon further reflection, this was the perfect arrangement to marry a celebration of a life beautifully lived and the admonition that those of us who loved her must continue her legacy. One phrase Rev. Peterson used to describe that legacy was “she always remained exactly who she was no matter what was going on around her.”

My memories of being in her home when I was in high school coalesce into a blur of happy/family/poolside/laughter/plentiful food/togetherness all in one. Christmas, as Rev. Art Peterson said today, deserved its own category. There was truly nothing like the ramp up to Christmas at the Archer home, with mountains of wrapping paper, gift boxes galore, and music playing in the background, all tied up in curling ribbon and festivity. I loved being a part of it all. It felt like a second home to me, and being there fed my spirit in a way no other place did.

Now that I am a parent myself, I know the particular sting a parent feels when their child seeks out a “second home” somewhere else despite that parent’s best efforts to express their love. That may be why, despite her overwhelmingly gracious, fun loving, warm, open-armed welcome every single time in my high school years that I showed up, there was also a wisdom behind her eyes that went unspoken.

I don’t know how in all those years I didn’t realize how much she loved butterflies, but now that I do, I imagine her sailing weightlessly on the breeze, showing off her beautiful colors, free of the physical pain that came with the cancer she fought over the last two years and the emotional pain of leaving behind the family she loved so completely.

For her service, I wore this pin given to me by another wonderful woman, my mother-in-law Barb. For several years leading up to her sudden death from anphoto (3) aortic dissection, she gave away her treasures (such as this one). We would find them in our Christmas stockings. A particular piece would be given for a graduation. One by one she was divesting herself of items she loved, on the premise that a) she wanted to choose who some of these items went to and b) it would prevent us from having more work to do after she was gone (in truth, there might have been a hint of her needing to control the process (said lovingly of course!)). I’m honestly not sure if it’s a dragonfly or a butterfly (and I am sure someone will clue me in) but for today we’ll go “butterfly.”

I believe that Mary Nell, too, gave away treasures long before she left the earth. For me it was different than tangible items like this pin. It was the treasure of a home full of laughter, togetherness, generosity, sharing of meals, faith, and a spirit of looking adversity in the eye and saying “I will handle this.” It was a place to savor happiness and work through sadness. She planted seeds of love that took root and flourished far outside the walls of that house.

I am grateful to have been so welcomed in Mary Nell’s home, to have had the love and friendship of her mother-in-law, Lottie Lee, as well as Doyle, Jimmy, Duane, Rhonda, and the extended family. I am a better person, filled with perennial memories, for having been welcomed into this family.

I was telling my coach, Kristie, about Mary Nell last night and I happened to write, “if you see any butterflies they may be Mary Nell’s spirit.” She immediately wrote back: “Funny you should mention. We had a bunch in the front yard today. One landed on Ty’s [her son] nose. Would have given anything for a camera.”

I told Kristie that some moments in our lives (despite the ubiquitousness of cameras, selfies, and our tendency to share) are better spent not fumbling for a camera and being 110% present.

I don’t need pictures to remember the feeling I had being in Mary Nell’s home. I have the memories. Those memories are more than enough.



Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

“Wheel” See About That

Since late May, my father-in-law (FIL) has been living with us (he sustained subdural hematomas and other injuries in a May 2014 fall and it became clear that living alone was no longer an option for him).

He makes frequent visits to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) for diagnostic testing and to the Professional Office Building (POB) attached to TMH for appointments with his neurologist, his balance doctor, and a physical therapist.

When you take a patient to TMH/POB for an appointment, you park in the attached parking garage. The attached parking garage has a fantastic valet service, which only costs $3. The valet service is administered by ABM Healthcare Support Services (ABM for the purpose of this blog). The employees of ABM are unfailingly polite and helpful.

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Wayne’s dad has difficulty sustaining his balance when walking any distance at all. For this reason, I take him into TMH/POB in a wheelchair obtained from TMH.

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It is the procurement of a wheelchair to transport the patient from the parking garage into TMH or POB that presents a WHEELY, WHEELY frustrating problem (sorry, couldn’t resist a play on words!).

It is extremely difficult to get a wheelchair to use when transporting a patient from the parking garage to their destination. On my most recent visit, I waited 18 minutes.

wheelchair wait

The 18-minute wait was the longest of the visits (approximately seven visits over three months) I have made this summer, but a lengthy wait is typical. The valet staff (always polite) are apologetic and courteous in the way they say “it may take a while.” They have told me that this wheelchair drought situation is unique to TMH (their organization services the other hospital in town and the wheelchair situation is not this bad according to them). They have essentially told me since the transportation staff at TMH is “a different department” (which is true), there is a basic lack of coordination.

Then there is the companion issue of getting from POB back to the parking deck. You (as the patient’s caretaker) have to have the physician’s office call “transportation” and wait for them to arrive (another situation where I was courteously told by a physician office staffer “that may take a while”). Recently, I asked the staff to call transportation when I knew my FIL would be done at a certain time (he was in a therapy appointment so I knew it had a fixed end time). When transportation arrived, he was not quite done. The transportation representative said “I can’t stay here.” I asked if he could leave the wheelchair (no). He said to have the doctor’s office call when my FIL was out. Once my FIL was out, the new staff person in the office did not know how to call transportation (obviously not transportation’s problem) so I walked down to the information desk myself. Since there was no one there, but there was a wheelchair, I absconded with that wheelchair in a split second, feeling totally renegade.

Most recently, my FIL was in a physical therapy appointment and the office did not have a receptionist. With 15 minutes left before his appointment was scheduled to end, I went down to the information desk to request a wheelchair. The representative said “come get us when you need one.” I replied “that is what I am doing.” This back and forth (“get us when you need it” “that’s what I’m doing”) went on for a while. I asked if I could just take a wheelchair (no). Eventually the information desk individual said he would arrive at the designated spot in 15 minutes (which he did, and for which I am grateful).

If you arrive to the hospital on a day when valet is full, you face a different set of issues: depositing your marginally mobile, short-term memory deprived, impatient elderly person on a bench while you find a parking spot, then return to your patient and try to obtain a wheelchair using the “lift the yellow phone” method (note: there is not a yellow phone within ten feet of this sign that I could find).

wheelchair sign

This situation needs a resolution. While we could theoretically buy a wheelchair (or possibly obtain one through insurance) to have for occasions like this (he doesn’t need a wheelchair for general getting around, just for navigating the hospital or other walking-intensive settings), there have to be other patients out there who don’t have the resources to do so.

On one of my first visits, after a lengthy day at TMH that ended up with an unexpected visit to radiology, a radiology employee escorted my FIL down to the parking garage via wheelchair and remained with him until I was able to get my car and pick him up. I was impressed. As he saw my FIL into my car, he handed me one of those “how am I doing?” cards that provided an email to use for comments. He encouraged me to email his supervisor with feedback. Because it is important to me to recognize great situations as well as complaint situations, I promptly emailed his supervisor to commend him. When his supervisor responded, I asked who at the hospital I could talk to about the rest of the wheelchair situation. She referred me to “Patient Advocacy.”

I emailed the patient advocate, and received a response rather quickly. The representative who called back said she would “look into it” and if she found any useful information would get back to me. That was in June.

Before I move on to my theory regarding how this can be fixed, I want to reassure you that I’ve asked myself the same questions I encourage anyone to ask before they complain on Twitter:

Am I right? I am right in the sense that 18 minutes is too darn long for an elderly, infirm individual to have to wait for safe transport to their appointment.

Did I attempt to handle privately? Yes, via the Patient Advocate.

Was I civil? Always, even though it was tempting not to be.

Can it be fixed? Well, now there’s the 18 minute question! Of course it can; it’s a matter of priorities, values, and communication.

If the arriving individual is not a patient of TMH (but rather of one of the doctors in the adjoining POB), they aren’t really a “customer” of TMH. They aren’t going to end up being on any follow-up quality questionnaires. They have nothing to do with TMH’s bottom line. They’re just there, needing to be dealt with. I believe that moves them down to the bottom of the priority list.

For values, I re-visited Dan Rockwell/Leadership Freak’s blog about 5 Structures That Shaped Zappos Culture. As part of this post, he defined 5 behavioral expressions of culture:

1) habits

2) routines

3) shared language

4) common beliefs

5) mutual decisions

In the case of my wheelchair quandary, the various entities involved (valet, transportation, TMH staff) don’t have issues (as it relates to this question) with habits, routines, shared language, or common beliefs (I imagine they all at some level want satisfied patients) but there are no mutual decisions (therefore this is poor communication) because they are (as stated so eloquently by one of my valet friends) “different departments.”

It also seems to me, knowing how risk averse health care institutions are, that it is as much a liability to have a marginally mobile, short-term memory deprived, elderly person sitting alone on an outdoor bench in 95 degree weather as it would be to have hospital wheelchairs either more plentifully available in general or at least available to responsible caretaker family members.

This post has been composing itself in my head for a few months now. I have asked myself multiple times if I am just seeing this all through the filter of the frustrations I feel about caretaking. If that’s the case, then feel free to label me high maintenace.

Ultimately, whether it’s my relative or someone I’ll never meet, I just think these patients deserve better.

I “WHEELY” do…..

Awkwardly angled parking garage selfie (WITH WHEELCHAIR HOORAY!)

Awkwardly angled parking garage selfie (WITH WHEELCHAIR HOORAY!)


Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Always Ripe (A #MandelaDay Post)


On Friday, July 18, people around the world shared their favorite Nelson Mandela quotes on the occasion of the sixth “Mandela Day” and the first since his death in December 2013. For more information about Mandela Day, please visit this link.

To see my quote, view the following brief video:

According to the Mandela Day website, Nelson Mandela followed three rules throughout his life:

  1. Free yourself.
  2. Free others.
  3. Serve every day.

July 18 is the “official” day. That leaves 364 others in which we can each “serve every day.” Is there a cause calling your name? Tapping at your conscience? Enticing you to contribute your energy?

The time is ripe to do right.  

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Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Yabbly Great Decisions (An Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!)


I like to think I am a “thoughtful” person, and if you are anything like me you can AGONIZE over the decision process for just about any purchase. Turns out I hang on to things for a long time! Making my “tens” list (of things I can’t live without) on Yabbly demonstrates that when I become loyal to something I stay that way! All of the items on my list would be things I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone else.

Yabbly is an online community of thoughtful people who help each other make great purchasing decisions everyday. They were finalists in SxSW 2013 in the social category and are a top 3 search result in “product reviews” on the iPhone app store. Now we all know how hard it is to get to the top 10 in the eyes of Apple. So that is pretty big news. Get the Yabbly App today. It’s free! The Yabbly philosophy is that the best purchasing decisions are made through dialogue with actual people who have made similar decisions recently. They believe that one of the main frustrations about online shopping today is that averaging a bunch of reviews just doesn’t cut it, and you’re left buying a product and simply hoping for the best. (This video tells you more!)

About Yabbly, Inc.

Yabbly is a shopping Q&A community where members provide vital, real-time reviews on choosing products that best fit their needs. Yabbly motivates people to help each other pick the best product for them with its 1:1 karma system and is revolutionizing how we connect through shared product experiences. For more information, please visit

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Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

What Rhymes With Big Green Pen?

There’s only one thing that I am more reluctant to share on YouTube than my running form, and that is my “singing.” But a challenge was issued so I am attempting to rise to it.

It started back when I read and commented on this post by Gini Dietrich about her Follow Friday philosophy. (Follow Friday or #FF is a Twitter tradition that indicates the person you #FF is worth following. Surely created by someone who loves alliteration.)

I found her post interesting because my approach is pretty different — I have a list of roughly 50 people who I #FF on Fridays. They are a combination of individuals, products, and causes I care about. I still do my 50, but Gini’s post did make me think about the ones I tweet out there without context. I have redoubled my efforts to explain why they get an #FF from me.

When Gini was away from her blog for a few weeks, she had fill-ins for various editions of her regular blogs.

Fill-ins such as Chuck Kent of Creative on Call, who created this little masterpiece:

And I complimented Chuck on this masterpiece (which I really do think rocks!) although I couldn’t help pointing out that it would have been sheer perfection had it included a certain writing instrument with which I share my twitter handle. He responded back that it was a challenge to find something that rhymes with Big Green Pen. No fear, Chuck, I’ve got you covered. It was easier to send Gini the bribe I sent her than to come up with 47 seconds of Twinkle Twinkle “What Rhymes With Pen.” Honestly……

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

#RunChat Blogger Awards (And A Giveaway!)

I don’t know about you, but I could spend hours upon hours reading blogs about running. I think it’s great that #RunChat is inviting us to share our favorite running bloggers. AND the nominators are entered for an opportunity to win an entry into the 2013 or 2014 Key West Half Marathon. Just for saying who we like to read!!

There are five categories, and here are my nominations:

Best Overall Running Blog:  Ann’s Running Commentary

Best New (2012) Running Blog:  GingerMantra (It’s not JUST about running but Tammy’s evolution as a runner is knocking my socks off and you can see it through her blog).

Funniest Running Blog:  Run Luau Run (Caveat: Run Luau Run isn’t always funny. It’s motivational sometimes, thought-provoking sometimes, and has more references to blue hair and Katy Perry than you might expect but ….. the funny moments always make me smile.)

Most Inspirational Running Blog:  Shut Up And Run

Best Participant in #RunChat:  Alex Bridgeforth – it seems like he’s ALWAYS there!

Nominations will be accepted through 12/14/12, and voting will follow on or before December 21.

Ready to nominate your faves? Here’s the link!


Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

When Work Feels Like Middle School All Over Again

Looking back on my last few months’ worth of posts, I realize there has been very little of “what I think” writing and a lot of “for a cause” writing. You know I am a fan of “for a cause” writing but I did start blogging three years ago to exercise the writing muscle. And just as with regular exercise, if you don’t vary the muscles you exercise you end up unbalanced.

Fortunately, my bloggy friend Maria from Tough Cookie Mommy asked a question on Facebook this week, and my honest response falls squarely into the category of “what I think.”

Her question was:

“Why is it that every workplace has issues with gossiping and negative competition?”

When I first saw Maria’s question, I had limited time to answer, but I knew that I could quickly find something relevant at the blog of the leader who I respect so much: Dan Rockwell. Therefore, as a placeholder, I posted a link to his post, Dealing With Tattlers, Liars, and Backstabbers, as a comment, along with a promise to come back later and expound.

Later that evening, I poured a glass of wine and wrote:

I think most workplaces have issues with gossiping and backstabbing because, whether they make widgets or teach kids (that one’s for you! [Maria is a teacher]), write code or save lives, ultimately all organizations are composed of human beings. To take a little of a tangent, I think we are all responsible for the attitude we bring in to the workplace. To some degree, we have some choice over whether the environment makes us miserable or overjoyed. To take another tangent, my measure of how difficult the workplace is, is always the military. I may be irritated because a coworker sent me a snotty email or threw me under the bus or wasn’t helpful or dumped something on me, but all in all I am physically safe, able to pursue my goals relatively unimpeded, and can go home to a safe and loving place at night. I am not getting shot at or living in danger 24/7, possibly ALSO in a place where there is whining, backstabbing, and gossip. Back to the original point — I think all places have it [gossiping/negative competition] (most anyway) but the solution to minimizing it lies in a) the tone the leader sets – the leader has far more power than they sometimes realize in crafting an environment of collegiality (in fact it’s a lot like parenting but I digress b) hiring the right people and making the difficult decision to remove the extremely unproductive and/or extremely disruptive from the environment and c) making measurements of how people perform as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely as possible (SMART). When it is clear what you have to do to succeed, and how you can help others on the team, there is less room for sniping about who did what, who got what advantage, and everything that leads to resentment and feelings of inequity. I realize this is in some way a pie in the sky ideal. But I am almost 50 years old and still believe that it is out there somewhere — a team that puts its mission first and is willing to bolster each other in order to do it rather than tripping each other up. The end. I may have just written a blog post of my own. 🙂

Even later (thanks Maria for getting me on a roll……), I added this comment:

I think part of it goes to tiptoeing around difficult situations, and as this article says “That silence breeds gossip, obsessive thoughts, and generally disgruntled workers.” and a link to the post from which I took the quote, “How To Foster a Feedback-Friendly Company.”

And that, dear readers, is what I think about that. Most of us have to work for a living. Some of us are fortunate not to have to work for a paycheck but still give our time, energy, and souls to volunteer causes we love. The best organizations I have seen are the ones that embrace their mission from the top down andhave strong leaders who know (and demonstrate) that organizations thrive when people operate from a position that is the opposite of fear: call it confidence, call it focus on mission, call it “engaged.” The ones where everyone realizes that gossip and backstabbing are just wastes of time that interfere with progress toward getting the job done and going home happy at night.

Have you worked or volunteered someplace that was relatively free of gossip and negative competition? If so, what do you think made the organization that way?


Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Wordless Wednesday (Grateful to Greensboro Edition)

For 30 years, the small town of Greensboro, Florida, has hosted a 5K race the morning of every 4th of July. I have enjoyed several of these races. The small town “Americana” feel, the ride in a school bus out to the starting line in the middle of a cow pasture, the post-race breakfast, the children wearing themselves out at a bounce house are just some of the images that flash through my mind as I reminisce.

Tomorrow is the last time that the Greensboro race will be run; apparently the organizers have decided that it is time for this tradition to end.

I won’t be at tomorrow’s race, but I am certainly sad to see it go. It holds a special place in my running memories.

I can only find one picture from Greensboro. This picture reflects the respect and reverence with which all things American and all service people are treated in Greensboro, on July 4 especially.

Thank you, Greensboro, for the spectacularly Southern memories. 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Hey Paula (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

Ever since I decided to do Mama Kat prompt Number 5: List the songs that tell your life story (so far), a prompt inspired by Moments That Define Life, I have been so tempted to pop on over to MTDL to figure out how the heck she did this prompt. But I will not allow myself to do so until after I press “publish.”  I’m All By Myself, not relying on any crutches.

[Note – all text in bold is a song lyric.]

When I was born, clearly before the days when ultrasound revealed a baby’s gender, I am sure my parents were thrilled to learn….. It’s a girl…..
I was a reader and a words-lover through and through. It was crushing to not even make the school spelling bee because I misspelled “judgement” (I didn’t use the preferred spelling “judgment”) one year; had to miss the school bee the year I had chicken pox, and lost in the finals of the county bee by misspelling “yacht” (I spelled it “yaght”). It’s true:
… the words in the dictionary
Are the friends that I’ll have forever

Fast forward to high school, cheerleading, marching band:
On you tigers, on you tigers, roll right down that line…….
We had a cheer dance to “Lady (You Bring Me Up) by the Commodores. I will never forget Debbie Myers being the only one who remembered the choreography after cheer camp and how she taught it to us. She was the epitome of focused.
You bring me up when I’m down…..

Later in our senior year, I competed in the Miss Union County High pageant. Our production number was to “New York, New York.” Although I am pretty sure I had wanted to go to NYC since infancy, I was determined to

wake up, in that city that doesn’t sleep…
and see
my little town blues …. melting away
Throughout my childhood, teenagerhood, and early adulthood, there was a thread of spiritual music woven through just about everything, including:
Just as I am 
I did go to New York. I did take that bite out of the Big Apple. 
Although Wayne and I did not have a particular song at our New York City wedding, I have always fantasized about having my wedding song be “In My Life”:
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
I loved picking out song lyrics for the birth announcements of Tenley and Wayne. And I had lyrics picked out for the third too. Oh well. Tenley’s was from Marc Cohn’s “The Things We’ve Handed Down”:
Don’t know why you chose us
Were you watching from above?
Is there someone there that knows us,
Said we’d give you all our love 
And Wayne Kevin’s was adapted from an old Broadway musical (The Bells Are Ringing):
Everything we feel for you 
started many years ago
Long before we knew you  
Long before we met you
We were sure we’d find you 
someday, somehow    
I was really fortunate last year to add some real live world music to my listening experience, when I visited Guatemala. I can’t remember lyrics so much as I remember the sounds of marimbas, but I do recall a lyric that Bob Hentzen, Founder of CFCA, told us about hearing a Guatemalan child sing:
I sing to drown out the sounds of guns
I suppose I have come to “now” and it is so tempting to use a lyric from Natasha Bedingfield’s song:
The rest is still unwritten
But I don’t really feel that way. Although I feel that there is a lot of “unknown” ahead and a lot of the path my and my family’s future can take is indeed “unwritten,” I really hope that 
His eye is on the sparrow 
and I continue to have, despite the ups and downs of the last year and a half,
and that as much as I like my “alone time,” I ultimately …
Don’t Wanna Be All By Myself
Here are the songs:
Union County High Fight Song (derived from On Wisconsin)
Source of the “sound of guns” lyric – unknown

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Teenager Hakini

I just learned this week of “Teen Week” from Medicinal Marzipan. Having just gone down introspection road with my post “Seven Sentences to 25 Year Old Me from 47 Year Old Me,” I decided to keep on going with what I call “retro wisdom.” According to its founder, teen week: Words That Heal “is an annual blog series that occurs the last week of March, where bloggers use their sites speak out about their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.”

Every yoga class I have ever attended has ended with us sitting, with our hands in “prayer position.” Until tonight. When Stacey demonstrated the “hakini mudra,” she explained that this position is the “yang” to the “yin” of hand positions. In yin, we are passively poised to receive; yang represents an energized balance we apply to our actions, like (and she really said this) “changing the world.”

I was a teenager who followed pretty much every rule there was to the best of my ability. Teenager, break the rules once in a while. I don’t mean to harm people or destroy property. I mean jaywalk, don’t brush the entire time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” keep the book a day past the due date because you love it that much.

If your family isn’t perfect (none of them are), try like hell to protect yourself from getting sucked into a fatal spiral of thinking you have to fix everyone. Find a healthy outlet (sports, clubs, music, volunteering.) If you gravitate toward some other family that makes you feel accepted and like you are “one of them,” enjoy their company but don’t rub it in your parents’ faces.

For a lot of you, your image of your body may be completely different than reality. Love it. Even though the magazine pictures, movies, and music videos imply something different, a healthy body is gorgeous and will thank you decades down the road for treating it right, now.

Don’t burn bridges. One of my saddest memories is of being critical (somewhat unintentionally, but critical for sure) of the person who had welcomed me the most when I moved to a small town. (I wrote about this __________.) I never fully repaired the relationship after that.

Go somewhere new. Down the street, across the country, or across the ocean. Don’t go to McDonalds in Paris; get some real french bread and cheese then find some quaint French town where you can meet real French people. We live in a great country but we get tunnel vision; see things from a different perspective.

Give back. You will probably have a lot of ups and downs in your life. Trust me, your parents want you to only have ups, but life doesn’t work that way. If you have spare time, spare energy, spare “stuff,” share it. The good you do will come back to you.

And as for what you do for a living, I think this says it all:

Source: Gaping Void/Hugh McLeod
When it comes to sex, you will get lots of advice. I got mine from a lot of people who had pretty fundamentalist-leaning beliefs. In the long run, that worked out pretty well for me. Along the way, there was the camp counselor who handled questions about masturbation well but gave me a magazine article to read that said something to the effect of, “you wouldn’t give someone a gift with fingerprints all over it; you don’t want your future husband to get a compromised gift either.” Fingerprints aren’t all bad.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.