Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Than Enough (for Jimmy)

___  Check here if you need a partner. 

When I signed up for the "Couples Caper" race in 2003, the registration form described the race as a 4K, with one member of the "couple" running 2K and the other member completing the last 2K of the race.  It also stated that if you did not have a partner, attempts would be made to find you one.  I checked the box, knowing that as partners go, I was not that much of a "catch."  Since the race results were based on the combined time of both partners, whoever got partnered with me would have a whole lot of fast running to do in order to make up for my slowness.

Fred and Margarete Deckert coordinated this race, and must have figured out that I was participating in the Springtime 10K training group and would know Jimmy Kalfas, who was a volunteer helping with the  group.  At some point before the race, I was told, "your partner will probably be Jimmy Kalfas."  The day of the race I learned that was the case.  Lucky me. 

When I started the Springtime 10K training group in January 2003, I had a whole lot of ground to cover (literally and figuratively).  As I coped with the dark and cold nights, more often than not I discovered that I had company in the person of Jimmy Kalfas.  We didn't talk about anything earth shattering.  I mainly recall hearing about his athletic endeavors, his family, and his struggles with injury.  I mainly remember talking about my kids (surprise).  There was one night when I felt disheartened because I had not run at all in the week between training sessions, and we were running four miles that night.  We runners all help each other out during times of motivational drought, but the way Jimmy handled that was perfect.  It was empathetic but there was still a little hint of butt-kick in his response, which essentially was, "you just have to put what you have not done in the past and get back to it." 

Jimmy and I fell out of touch after 2003.  I fell out of running, and I think he pursued some different directions.  I sure was happy to see him pop up on Facebook a few months ago.  We exchanged a few "catching up" messages, and life kept speeding along in that accelerated way it seems to have taken on.

I was shocked to hear of his death last week at the age of 59, when Mike Weyant posted a comment about it on Facebook and the offical confirmation followed in the form of newspaper articles and an obituary.  I can't make sense of his death at such a young age, in such unclear circumstances.  I can only imagine the depths of despair that his companion, Connie, and family members must feel. 

Of all the various lyrics I have stockpiled over the years to speak to various situations, nothing in my arsenal really was fitting for a tribute to Jimmy.  As far as tributes go, I suspect he'd rather have a beautiful, breezy day on the golf course for his pals, or a perfect transition for his triathlete friends, or a personal record run by someone he has supported. 

The closest I have come is a song I heard for the first time last week, "One Life to Love" by 33 Miles. 

Click Here for a Performance of "One Life to Love" by 33 Miles

When I listened to an interview with 33 Miles, the group that performs "One Life to Love," they talked about how they want to convey with this song the urgency in "being intentional with the time we've been given."

The song tells a couple of stories, one about an older man who realizes on his deathbed that he spent too much time at work and not enough time sharing himself with the people in his life.  The other was about a young mother who thought "the sun had set on her big plans to feel young again" and walked away from a set of "little hands that held on tight the day she left." 

When I look back on the part Jimmy played in my life, and what I know about the role he played in others' lives, I am not at all worried about him being unintentional with his life or failing to treat time with the people in his life as something of equivalent importance to material possessions.

The song "One Life to Love" ends with these lyrics:

One day when it's all said and done
I hope you see that it was enough, this
One ride
One try
One life love.

Thank you, Jimmy, for making so much out of your "one life."  In doing so you gave us all an experience that was more than "enough."

Author's Note -- Fred Deckert appropriately reminded me that the run was 4K for each partner.  The results were compiled by the total time and the added-together ages of the two runners.  Thank you Fred for the correction. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Drive Time

I got home very late this evening, from a fun day of being an extra on an FSU film, and considered not posting, but some habits are hard to break.  Hopefully there's still a little coherence left before I truly conk out for the night.

Let's get that last New Year's resolution out of the way:

Number three is "kids' main driver."  Even at the time I wrote that as one of my top three goals, the period of my life when I was paying college students (and whoever I could rustle up with a clean background check, a compatible schedule, and decent rapport with my children) to shuttle them from school to gymnastics, dance, and various other extracurriculars was largely in the past.  Tenley wasn't at the gym three days a week any longer.  Wayne Kevin was between "extracurriculars." 

When thinking about why "kids' main driver" is still in the top three, I get around to the fact that I just want more time with them, period, and frequently the way to get time with them is to be at the wheel of a car taking them somewhere.

I know plenty of working parents disagree with me, but I know that for me, it is not possible to get "quality time" without accruing "quantity time."  Tenley and I drove to Orlando a couple of weekends ago for a shopping trip (her Christmas gift), and after four solid hours in the car to Orlando, lots of driving around Orlando, and four solid hours back, the one substantial conversation we had occurred literally five minutes from home as we were on the exit ramp. 

I will admit that I am downright envious of the moms (and a few dads) I know who can pick their kids up from school (or even meet them getting off the bus) and not leave their children at school until 6 p.m. (a point at which, I promise, everyone is pretty tired).  And although those times that I carved out a way to be the one taking Tenley and Wayne to gymnastics mainly consisted of brother/sister yelling matches with me trying to mediate (while thinking why on earth can't everyone just get along), it still meant something to me that I was with them, that I would be the first to know who had a good day, who had a bummer of a day, and who liked what on the radio. 

We had great drivers, many of whom I have stayed in touch with. 

But they weren't me. 

I am not in a position to drop commitments left and right in order to achieve goal number three right now.  But keeping it on the list reaffirms my desire to be "at the wheel" while my children are the passengers in my parental "vehicle." 

The mom taxi doesn't collect a cash fare, but the good news is the meter will run until all those exit ramps for the important conversations are in the taillights. 

Monday, January 18, 2010


Since I have written about my #1 and #2 2010 goals in the last two weeks, it would be logical to write about goal #3 tonight.  But something else is niggling at me, so goal #3 is going to have to take a back seat for a week.

If I get custody of the remote at our house, it's likely that I'll turn on the Style Network.  I love "Whose Wedding is it Anyway?" and "How Do I Look"?  I'm still disappointed that the pictures Tenley sent in, me in my hot pink crocs in combo with some past-their-prime clothing, didn't make the "What Not to Wear" cut.  I also love "Clean House."  It's just a shame they don't "do" homes outside of the Los Angeles area. 

Style Network has a new show, "What I Hate About Me."  When this show was on in the background recently, I thought it was another take on something like, "What Not to Wear" but then I realized the host was teaching the "subject" (Ambar) how to write thank-you notes.  It turns out that one of the ten things Ambar "hates" about herself is not knowing what to say on thank you notes.

The show's website describes the show in one line:  Real women admit their imperfections—and Style's A-list experts share practical tips for fixing every foible.  After watching that initial show, and most of another one this weekend (there have only been three shows so far), I am struck by the difference between "admitting imperfections" and "whining about imperfections."  I am simultaneously intrigued and repelled.  Here's Ambar "before":

One of the BIG, top-10 moments for Ambar, for instance, was when she disclosed that she has always covered up her arms because they are unsightly -- what she describes as "chicken bump arms" that a dermatologist reassures her can be minimized with treatment.  After using something called a "Clarasonic brush," Ambar gets all weepy and says, "I've never had clear arms before."  I am really happy that this issue was resolved for her, and I totally "get" how something like that can eat at you for years and undermine your confidence quietly and chronically.  (My choice to get orthodontics at the age of 40 probably is in that same category.)  But, having just read several books about soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq, losing appendages, losing all ability to lead the lives they had known previously, and losing forever the carefree approach to life many of them held, I wanted to jump through the screen and yell, "GET A GRIP!!!!"

I guess a show called "What I Love About Me" would draw anemic ratings but it sure would be less irritating.  For a mental exercise, I composed my own list today to see what ten "hated" things I would list if pressed to do so.  So it's self disclosure time!!

1) My teeth (although that's now been checked off the list)
2) Not saying what I really mean
3) The fact that I am 45 years old and have never used my passport
4) The fact that I don't speak better Spanish
5) My clothes
6) My poor housekeeping habits
7) My neglected yard
8) Not being assertive enough
9) Getting drowsy every time I sit still (especially in meetings)
10) Being addicted to Altoids and Diet Coke

Each of the three "subjects" so far has had some type of physical issue in her top ten.  Ambar had issues with her body (too tall, too slouchy); featured woman #2, Brandi, had issues with her body (too curvy); featured woman #3, Amanda, had issues dressing her athletic body in a feminine way.  I will not complain about my body; it gave me two children so it gets an exemption from any "hate" list.  I'll keep working on it but I refuse to hate it.

I was looking around for some quotes to more adequately address the "get a grip" thing I was feeling when watching chicken bump arms Ambar, something I would say to her if we were having coffee.  I came across a blog for newcomers to meditation.  One of the concepts the blog introduces is the essence of meditation, witnessing, as in "witnessing our thoughts."  In the blog (found at, the author says, "Witnessing is done by the soul.  Right now mind has created a cloud of dust in our inner space and that's why we are not able to experience our inner nature.  But as we become more stable in witnessing then slowly the mind starts settling down and inner sky becomes more clear and we start having glimpses of our real self."

My concern is that spending an hour (and all the days of production time that must have gone into the creation of these episodes) focusing on what these women hate about themselves keeps them (and us) thinking about the hated traits.  The show puts some window dressing on these ten things, brings in experts, and always wraps up with the woman looking made over, more confident, and gushing about the changes she has made.  Here's Ambar's "after": 

My concern is that the cloud of dust may be still whirling around in their inner space.  Calming that cloud takes much more than hate; it takes love. 

So Ambar, Brandi, and Amanda, I hope your sequel, even if it never airs on the Style Network, has a different acronym:  WILAM (What I Love About Me).

I'll "run" into you next week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Big ...... It's Green ......

It's a Pen.......The Big Green Pen.

Last week, I talked about the first of the three primary goals that I have written down on a sheet of paper in my wallet (so I always have them "close"):

Last week, I talked about my desire to go to Guatemala, use my Spanish, and meet our family's sponsored child, Silvia.  I often think that goal #2 (Big Green Pen) will have something to do with getting me there.

Ever since Healthy Kids started, way back in the early 90's, our logo was Kelly Green, and we had green felt tip pens that matched .... they looked good when a signature matched the letterhead.  To this day, you don't have to look far in our office to find a Paper Mate green felt tip pen. 

Several staff have been the dispute coordinators under my supervision, and one of my jobs was proofing/editing their response letters to families who had filed complaints.  Let's just say a lot of green ink flowed ....... and I started having ginormous "souvenir" pens given to me as gifts ..... and learned that my nickname was "The Big Green Pen." 

I was rarely happier professionally than when I was proofreading for Ballantine Books from 1990-92.  I mean, I was getting PAID to read.  Could there be a better fate?  When I look at a piece of text, I "see" the potential "fixes" that can be made in the same way that I imagine someone who can sight read music "gets" what to do.  Mingled with all of that is my writing.  They're all different facets of the same "skill gemstone." 

I have spent fifteen years working with call center stats, have passed major certification tests, and know my way around a basic contact center report.  But in some ways (including the fact that a recent office restructure resulted in me being out of the work force management day-to-day), I know that another fifteen years won't make that analytical, strategic work come any more naturally to me.  Enter the proofing, editing, and writing. 

I am dabbling in many proofing/editing/writing things right now.  This blog is working the writing muscle.  I am about to edit a local author's second book, and various projects keep popping up that all test my writing mettle 500 words at a time.  I want to give these projects a home, and I want to tell people who are interested in reading my work or actually compensating me to proof/edit/write someplace to get a feel for who I am and what I can do.  I have been fortunate to strike up a barter arrangement with Noel Wiggins, a professional graphic designer.  I fix his writing, and he is helping me design a "home" for the Big Green Pen.  Here's prototype number 1:

One thing that has been helpful about working with Noel (besides the fun I have editing his press stuff) is the kinds of questions he has asked, questions that are helping me figure out what I want "The Big Green Pen" to do.  In his most recent email, he asked, "what call to action do you want?"  And I have spent the days since I received that email searching for an answer.  Do I want people to ask for estimates?  Do I want them to have more awareness of what I do so they can share information about me with potential customers?  The truth is I don't know, beyond the fact that my work needs a home, and I need to share it. 

The truth is that proofing, editing, and writing make me happy.  And I am increasingly finding that doing what makes me happy, even if I have to forego some sleep or compress my other commitments into even tighter compartments, creates a kind of cool energy that staves off exhaustion.

The Big Green Pen.  I'll use it to write a better 2010.

I'll "run" into you next week!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's Guatemala Night

All week long, I envisioned this week's post being about the "2009 Resolutions" that have been in my wallet most of the year.  Scott Ginsberg, of (check him out!) recommended, in our conversation this summer, that I write my primary goals down and put them in my  purse so "they're always really close, in a physical way, so when you are, for instance, talking with someone at a party, you know your goals are right there within reach."  Here they are, complete with the crease from being in my wallet for months:

If I tried to discuss these three goals (plus the two I did not write down) in one post, it would be a lengthy post, even if I kept it to an explanation of what each goal is.  I have decided to break it up and dedicate a post to each one, so eventually I'll write about the other two.  Tonight is Silvia's night (which means it's "Guatemala night").

I have been learning Spanish since our family was stationed at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, when I started elementary school.  If you lived in Puerto Rico, Spanish was automatically part of your curriculum.  Although we moved back to Florida in the middle of my second grade year, I continued to be interested in Spanish, took Spanish in high school, and minored in it in college.  Back when our bench was not quite so deep at Healthy Kids, I somehow stumbled through explaining our program to Spanish speaking callers in a pinch.  It's a good thing someone caught me when I was trying to publicly explain the program once in Dade County (it was just Dade County then and not Miami-Dade), and said the program cost $500 dollars instead of $15 a month! 

I have always wanted to do a Spanish immersion program or find some way to interact enough in the language that I become more adept at communicating in the language.  But wanting is not doing, I'm 45 years old, and it's time to "do."

The "doing" of this goal has morphed a little bit. 

Our extended family has been sponsoring Silvia for about eight years now.  My in-laws send money each month to the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, and this money serves to help Silvia and her family with food, clothing, and education costs.  We receive at least one picture a year, and several letters.  Eight years ago, Silvia was a little girl, 1100 miles away but so relatively close (developmentally) to my daughter:

A few years ago, I learned that it is possible to visit Guatemala and CFCA's operations there, with a strong possibility of meeting Silvia.  I fantasized about meeting her, and about my children getting to see Silvia in her environment.  As the crush of teenage peer pressure and "gotta have its" has been bearing down on our family and specifically on my daily interactions with my children, I have desperately wanted Tenley and Wayne to see life in a developing country.   Will they "get" the fact that it's not a crisis to be without a touch screen interface when some children are longing just to touch the pages of a book of their own?  I don't know, but I feel compelled to try. 

So, it didn't happen in 2009 but I am going to push harder to get myself (and maybe Tenley) to Guatemala in 2010.  When I picked up the pictures of Silvia from my in laws tonight, my father in law stated his opinion that going to see her "costs too much," at $450 per person for the lodging, etc., and the cost of flying to Guatemala.  

I saw a quote yesterday for a sports equipment company that said, "We believe the size of the mountain is measured in heart not feet."  Getting to Guatemala, improving my Spanish, and giving my kids a broader perspective of the importance (or lack thereof) of material goods is my mountain right now, and it seems mighty tall. 

I am planning to apply enough heart that it will no longer be on my list in 2011.    See you this year, Silvia!  (Here's a recent picture of 15-year old Silvia.)

I'll "run" into you next week!