Eight Pairs of Shoes (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

As far back as I can remember, my daughter Tenley has loved shoes. She had a little pair of patent red shoes when she was a baby which were THE BOMB shoe-wise. As she grew and was able to choose her own shoes, it became clear that she was a shoe-lover. We jokingly called her Baby Imelda.

Tenley is almost out of her teen years, but I still have a distinct memory of those adorable red shoes. Thinking of them brings back happy memories of her babyhood.

I, on the other hand, can take or leave shoes (although I do appreciate a cool pair of shoes like these on MiamiStyleMom!). In response to Mama Kat’s “list eight things you are thankful for” prompt, I decided to see what I could do in relation to shoes:

(1) My Running Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

My love for my running shoes knows no bounds. Everyone who knows me knows I would rather arrive at a business trip having forgotten my “work” shoes than my running shoes! I am thankful for the miles of therapy they take me on.

(2) My Indoor Cycling Sandals

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to wear them too many times, these indoor cycling sandals by Nashbar with clips are so great! A) no socks needed B) every time I wear them I think about the first time I ever clipped in to anything: at SoulCycle in NYC and C) I am thankful that they make the experience of indoor cycling so much more efficient!

(3) The Tennis Shoes I Wore in El Salvador

Shoes for Cambodian Children

They’re just Payless tennis shoes, and the laces were so incredibly long that people were always commenting, “do you realize your shoes are untied?” BUT they are the shoes I bought to wear when I went to El Salvador as part of the first Unbound Blogging Trip, so they bring back great memories. I am thankful that I walked the ground of El Salvador in these shoes.

(4) My Favorite Black Shiny/Matte Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

This is my most current pair of black dress shoes. I don’t recall exactly when I bought them, but it was either for an important meeting or a film school project. I love the matte/shiny effect. They’re close to being way too worn now but I am thankful that I have enjoyed them so much.

(5) My Brown Boots

Shoes for Cambodian Children

I bought these shoes last year when I was going to be having a high school reunion on a farm. Although I was going to be wearing jeans, I wanted something a little dressier than tennis shoes. These filled the bill, and I am thankful that they give me another option when I need to be a little bit more dressed “up” than “down.”

(6) My Blue Dress Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

I *love* these shoes. I bought them for my friend Mary Jane’s wedding, which was in the spring of 1999. It was down to two pairs of shoes, and these cost a lot (for me), but they have been SO WORTH IT. I almost ruined them this past spring when I went to visit Senator Bill Nelson’s office here in Tallahassee and dealt with a deluge of rain as I was leaving. They *might* have survived. I am thankful that I treated myself to a pair of shoes that I have enjoyed for 16 years.

(7) My Utilitarian Black Boots

Shoes for Cambodian Children

When I went to the Shot at Life summit in DC in March of this year, the weather was horrible. Snow, ice, you name it. My DC friend Christina told me to get boots. I scurried over to Kohl’s and picked these up. They may not make a huge style statement but they probably literally saved me from twisting an ankle or something on sidewalks which were literally sheets of ice. I am thankful for friends who tell it like it is.

(8) The Shoes I Will Never See or Wear

Shoes for Cambodian Children

This pair of shoes is not on me (my feet aren’t that dainty!). I do not own them. I am never going own them. BUT my friend Linda has a goal of putting these shoes on the feet of 600 children in the Kratie province of Cambodia when she goes there on a mission trip next year. Lacking shoes, these children get ill from infections contracted by walking barefoot and they suffer injuries.

I have submitted a #mygivingstory which, if it wins, would result in Linda and her team getting $5,000 toward their goal of putting shoes on these 600 children (the total cost is $9,000). Read more about The Shoe that Grows here, more about Linda and the children here, and most importantly, please go to this link and simply click like. (The semifinalists will be chosen strictly on the basis of the number of likes.) I am thankful for all likes on this #mygivingstory!

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Why do I feel the way I do about these children and these shoes? I have never been able to get the picture out of my mind of a women who met with Tenley’s and my group when we went to Guatemala in 2011. Representing her village among the Unbound visitors was a bit of a privilege for her, and she arrived barefooted. I am sure she didn’t have shoes of her own. She carried herself with such dignity. I am sure she saw this meeting with us as a way to do something that would ultimately help her children.

These shoes for the children in Cambodia are designed to last five years and/or through five sizes. Through her previous work, Linda has already opened a school, provided medical care, and provided hundreds of children with the opportunity to lead much healthier lives.

With a simple click of a like button, we can be a part of the Light of Future too!

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Children Linda has served in Cambodia.

NOTE: If you would like to simply make a donation, click here.

workshop-button-1

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV

Once I became a Power Rocker for Rock My Run, I decided to listen to as many of the Rock My Run mixes as possible. My romp through the mixes landed me at Phenomenal by DJ Rolemodel yesterday.

“I like rap and hip-hop” is one of those things that always ends up on those “things people would be surprised to know about me” lists. Not the misogynistic or profane which, admittedly, rules out many selections. But the beat, the musicality, the dynamic of the music. This was a great mix which left me with a serious earworm of Choices by E-40.

Choices contains plenty of misogyny and profanity but even so – it is catchy and immediately captured my imagination and made that few minutes of my run go by fast. The song goes back and forth between “nopes” and “yups” such as:

You still sell dope? (nope)
Now you cleaner than a bar of Dove soap? (yup)

Anyway, that’s the one relatively clean example I could give on my family-friendly blog! Watch the video if you want to get the full effect.

NOW … what I really want to talk about in this post is Tuesday, which is A Day With HIV. I had an opportunity to do some social media shares via a blogger campaign, but this cause is so personally important to me that I want to use my blog space to highlight the day beyond what the campaign required.

A Day With HIV is an anti-stigma photo campaign from Positively Aware. This year’s event will be on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. Here’s what Positively Aware says:

On 9/22/2015 people across the world, whether HIV-positive or negative, will visually capture and share a moment of their day – A Day with HIV – to focus attention on what it means to live in a world with HIV.

 

My involvement with this issue started back in the late 80s, when I was a counselor/supervisor on the first Florida AIDS Hotline. At the time, I answered the hotline and supervised the counselors because it was my job. Now, almost three decades of life experience later, my allegiance with this cause is a part of who I am, not just something I do (or did …) as a job.

In order to participate in Mama Kat’s writing prompt linkup this week, I decided to try to do a few E-40 style lines related to Tuesday’s Day With HIV. (One of the prompts is “write a blog post in exactly eight lines“.)

Don’t worry — I am not going to try to sing my eight lines!!. They may make you scratch your head, they may make you laugh … I don’t know. My goal is, though, that you’ll say “yup” to posting a selfie on Tuesday!

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV

For More Information:

Visit this website: www.adaywithhiv.com

Visit the Facebook Page here.

Visit the Twitter Page here.

Visit the Instagram Page here.

Note the project hashtags: #ADayWithHIV and #StopHIVTogether

Everyone Can Take Action #ADayWithHIV

 

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

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

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

I found myself skeptical, entertained, and bereft.

Skeptical

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

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

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

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

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

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

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

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

Entertained

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

Bereft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

An image from my March 2015 visit to NYC.

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

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

Primates of Park Avenue: A Review

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

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

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

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

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

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

That said, here are my takeaways from Ruzzle:

I Am Incapable Of Doing the Minimum Once I Like Something

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

There Are Communities and Tutorials Out there for EVERYTHING

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

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Armed with tips and community, I kept on practicing…

Practice Pays Off

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

Thinking Backwards, Laterally, and Diagonally Pays Off

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

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

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

In the meantime, I have also learned …

Accuracy is Overrated

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

Paying Extra for Premium Can Be Worth It

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

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Statistics

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

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

Determination Alone Does Not Help You Achieve Some of Your Goals

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

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

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

The elusive bookworm badge. Sigh.

Sounds

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

Languages

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

Tap Dance

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

Tick Tock My Two Minutes Are Almost Up

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

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

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

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

Riveting RUZZLE Realities

Where’s My Hat?

For the first time since I started doing Mama Kat writing prompts, I blew off the random number generator’s suggestion of #2:  The biggest Halloween trick or prank you ever pulled.  My holiday prank history involves only one thing (I was a very good girl as a teenager!): a late night relocation of the nativity scene from the First Baptist Church of Lake Butler’s lawn to the youth director’s front yard.  He was not amused (but I think baby Jesus appreciated the change of scenery).  More importantly, #4 (Share a photo that represents how you see yourself) gives me the chance to share via my blog a fundamental clash I have in my head.  Between this:
Life Goals                                                              and this: 

Life Goals

I couldn’t find the perfect picture to demonstrate the un-Mary Richards-like aspects of my life.  This one is the best I can do – yes I was camping, but the crocs, the unironed “whatever was available to throw on that also fit” ensemble, the “it’ll do” hair (under a hat), and the lack of makeup are far too often the “me” I present to the world these days.   

Having Mary Richards as my professional role model during those formative years of ages 6-13, I concocted a “future me” vision complete with a great wardrobe, a spacious (and always clean) apartment, vivacious friends, and an upwardly mobile job. 

Wardrobe-wise, my clothes are as often held together by safety pins as not; my house is in CHAOS, my friends are vivacious (1 out of 4 is a start!), and I perch precariously on that teeter totter called family-life balance daily.

Being a mom is what has been the most important thing to me as an adult.  But when I go back to New York City, and walk the bustling streets among the career women who look so purposeful and directed, even though for all I know they are going home to empty, tiny, lonely apartments and downing pints of Ben and Jerry’s, I still crave some “hat in the air moments” just for me.

What kind of “hat in the air” moment are you still looking for?

Life goals