Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cuppa Jo is MOVING!

The Cuppa Jo will be moving to www.thecuppajo.wordpress.com by January 1.

In fact, I'm there now, but still living in two homes. Any NEW posts will be there. All archived content has been transferred. I've yet to move my domain name. So use the address above for the next 12 days.

And I did it all by myself.


This kind of stuff is challenging for me.

I still have to tweak a few things, so give me some time to play around and redecorate.

Looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about over at Wordpress . . . especially considering that for the past week I've been unable to edit any content here at Blogger, and have thus LOST two posts. I took that as the kick in the pants that I needed to finish a 2011 goal:

Move to Wordpress.


See you there! Come on over. Bring an appetizer!

(So, as of this posting, the editing feature here at Blogger seems to be working again. Sadly, it was too late - after being unable to edit two posts, which then ended up disappearing altogether, I'd had it. Had it, as in, time to teach myself something new today: Wordpress.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Independent Reader: Yes, to Pigeons. No, to Cats. In Hats.

Mo Willems' books are always entertaining.

I first adored them through the sweet voice of my once 5 year old, Harper.

And tonight . . . from Zane.

Only, I wasn't sitting next to him. 

"Mommy! It's my first night!"

"Your first night?"

"Reading in my bed by myself before I go to sleep. It's my FIRST NIGHT!"

Thanks to Miss B, Zane's first-grade teacher, and thanks to having a son who is wired to move and groove when there is a prize at stake - like going out for pizza with the lovely Miss B once he finishes 100 books - Zane has caught the reading bug and is continually trying to challenge himself.

We are finding that Zane likes measured goals. In Cub Scouts he was all over the popcorn sale so he could win a gift card. He wants those darn beads. And belt loops. STAT! You know it. Earned three tonight. (Beads? Belt Loops? What? Yep, those boys are just as decked out as some Mary Kay consultants I recall seeing at conventions. Truth is - I love that kind of stuff, too.)

So, when it comes to reading?

No different.

His book form has a place to check whether he read the book independently, or whether the book was read to him. The last 10 books he has tackled have all been on his own. 

Tonight was evidence.

With his little lantern next to him in bed, George and I heard him reading for an hour after tuck-in.

It was 10:00 before he dozed off.

This morning, he showed me what he accomplished last night. Two Mo Willems' books, and another about an albatross.

As for the "Cat in the Hat Came Back" which was also sitting on his night stand?

"Nah, I didn't finish that one. It was just too long and the Cat was annoying me."

Dude, I feel the same way.

That cat produces anxiety. In children.

And adults.

Confession. I've never liked those books. Who wants to go to bed all stressed-out and high-strung?

I'll stick with my second run-through of Hunger Games . . . ;-) Movie trailer, here.

No tension there, right?

Can't wait to listen in on you tonight, little man!

Salvation Army, A Tiffany Lamp, and My Big Mouth

"It's not a real Tiffany lamp. It's a reproduction."

I'm at Salvation Army. One of my favorite Wednesday haunts due to it being 50% off day.

This week, I wasn't there to linger. I had something specific in mind. A 1940's-style dress and shoes for our church's radio production of "It's a Wonderful Life." I found them. $7.99 total. Score.

See, I really do adore my Sal Val.

Unless, I feel they are trying to pull one of their second-hand wool sweaters over a customer's eyes.

The sales-clerk responds.

"It is so. Says so. On the tag. Tiffany lamp. This is the real deal. I think we should price it at $99.00."

"Yes, it says Tiffany, but I don't think they put tags like that on their pieces." I was really trying to be polite, but clearly, the thing was a knock-off and hardly worth $100. Not to mention the "real deal" would come in at way more than 100 bucks.

"Well, it says it is, so I think we should sell it for $100. It's a brand new one, too."

"Before advertising it as such, I'd do some research on legit-Tiffany lamps. This isn't one."

Basically, I was at the counter hanging with the employees who were trying to decide if the lamp was legit, and if so, how to price it. Now, certainly, any discerning buyer would know that this thing clearly wasn't an original, but the employees wanted to price it high, (just in case), for the non-suspecting crowd.

"Turn in over," I offered.

Made in China.

"Oh. Ok. But we could still put $99 on it. Someone will buy it, thinking it's real."

I took that as my cue to walk away, 'cause now I was just getting angry.

One of the guys who was a part of the discussion walked with me.

"You totally called that."

"Yeah. I can't stand when people get taken. Especially on fake stuff. It's not a real Tiffany. You guys shouldn't try to pass it off as being real."

"Yeah. But we could!" and he laughed.

The whole exchange from the initial discussion at the counter to that moment wasn't heated in any way, but I could tell the woman who really wanted to price it at $100 was not too happy to have my input.

Sometimes I just can't help it.

I just don't want someone to get taken. Or cheated. I can't stand being deceived.

Over lamps. Or anything else.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Brain Book

Let's start with what a BRAIN BOOK is NOT.

It is not a:

~  To-Do List
~  Daily Planner
~  Calendar
~  The same for everyone
~  A rigid system
~  Expensive
~  Something that can be done online or with a smart-phone
~  A place to organize large quantities of paperwork. It's not a long-term filing system. I don't house recipes, bill statements, or my children's pieces of homework or art in this binder.

On Wednesday, as I picked up Zane from school, I noticed the kids filing out holding small items that they had obviously purchased at the Santa's Workshop: a craft store with items ranging from $.25-$5.00. A school sponsored event where kids can do their Christmas shopping for family members.

I remembered the paper coming home about it. Noted the date on my calendar. But could not for the life of me remember an envelope coming home on which Zane could write his shopping list and store his money, (as they've done in the past) and thus, wrongly assumed it would come home on another day with a reminder about the event.

I blew it. The envelope had been attached to that initial handout. I guess.

Zane had tried to remind me the night before that it was happening the next day, but as I didn't have the envelope, I just figured . . . well, I figured wrong. Oddly enough, I didn't even check my calendar, which is very revealing.

Clutter. Papers on my secretary desk in the living room. Papers in my office. Papers in the basket on the dining room buffet.

Too many papers. Too many locations.

I removed some emotional clutter from my life over these past two weeks by choosing to limit myself from getting caught up in Facebook chatter on my personal wall. Instead, I've been focusing on my Fit with Jo page, my Coaches, and my accountability group. I still post my blogs, and the blogs of friends, but I really sensed that part of my clutter, was the presence of too many voices. Too much input. Senseless, mindless, time/energy/spirit-sucking chatter.

Now, it was time to remove the tangible clutter that was clouding my thoughts and wasting my time. The,

"Where is that paper?"
"Where did I put Zane's site words for the week?"
"Where is Harper's basketball schedule?"

We waste so much looking for stuff that should already have a home.

Enter. The BRAIN BOOK.

What it is:

~  A simple 3-ring binder.
~  Pocket dividers with categories written on the tabs.
~  Cheap
~  A place to organize minimal paperwork. Items that need be readily available.
~  Customizable: mine will not look like yours.
~  Mobile. Can be carried from room to room.
~  Ever-changing. Papers are not there to be filed for good. Think short-term filing. Papers go in and go out. Categories can be changed as the seasons of life change.

I made my BRAIN BOOK yesterday morning. One would be tempted to start by writing out categories, but let me encourage you to start by sorting every piece of paper that is stacked up in various locations in your home. Once sorted you will know what categories you need to make. The pieces that do NOT fit a category can go in to long-term filing.  Thus, I have a file cabinet for items I do not need to see everyday, and a BRAIN BOOK, for the items I do.

The kicker?



Enter, the "Daily/Urgent" category pocket.

The other categories? Completely up to you. Mine are Daily/Urgent, Pay, George, Harper, Zane, Purchase, Coupons (which then get moved to my coupon book), Beachbody, Mom to Mom, Write, Contacts, Personal/Keep.

The BRAIN BOOK is something that should be at your fingertips. It is the first point of contact. The "go-to". The "you'll find it in there."

Clutter can by paralyzing.

The BRAIN BOOK gets me moving!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2011 Highlights and 2012 CHANGES!

2011 was sweet.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am not a New Year Resolution maker. Simply sitting down and writing down a list of goals does not a finished goal make. I believe, or rather, have been retrained to understand, that goals must flow from priorities. It's very hard to set goals when you have no idea of your driving purpose.

I've been fortunate to have a number of mentors in my life. Yes, Chalene Johnson is one. But there is also Linda Anderson, creator of Mom to Mom ministries. And the prayer partner I've had since 1992, minus the first 2 years we have lived here in Beaver (we are once again back at it, thankfully). I have "people" and I am continually trying to learn and grow - with them at my side. Going at anything alone is counter-productive. So I choose to be teachable. Not always easy or comfortable. But, hey, I'm in my 40's - I'm really not interested in the shallow.

My latest epiphany happened today. In a quiet house. No music. No TV. No other people present. Just me. And God.

I had a 2x4 moment.

The Beachbody journey that I began in 2010 grew out of a need to be well. I was, for lack of a better word, blah. My husband was struggling with depression. My body was becoming the 40 year old I never wanted to be, my emotions were haywire, and I was a lazy, hazy mess. I chose God and fitness to get me out of my funk.

2011 brought the realization that Beachbody was becoming a true business. There was still so much to learn, and through the process I realized that I hadn't even scratched the surface of what this business could bring me, my family, and my customers.

I decided to sit in on a cyber course Chalene Johnson was teaching. A 30 day course which I thought would be strictly about organization. I was wrong. The course actually taught me that I was approaching my goals a$$ backwards.

I wrote a purpose statement. Clarified my priorities. And only THEN sat down to brain-dump some goals. Out of the list - the following were accomplished:

  • Earn the Beachbody Success Club trip to Atlantis for me and George, so we could celebrate 20 years of marriage on our FIRST trip alone since Harper was born.
  • Earn a specific monthly income with Beachbody.
  • Close another 3-year old home-based business. "If you chase two rabbits, one will escape."
  • Return to theater: Lost in Yonkers and Pump (for which I won Best Actress - which WASN'T on the goal list - a perk).
  • Pay off half our debt. 
  • Complete P90X.
  • Start a devotional blog, Daily Fast Fuel, with other writers.
  • Build a deck in the backyard.
Which brings us to today. Just days away from 2012.

So, what's on the docket?

Well, first of all, I'm dumping one of my blogs. 

Cuppa Fit, will be making its exit.

Why? This year, as I built my Beachbody business, I increased my time on my Fit With Jo Facebook page, Twitter, and You Tube

In that process, good 'ole Cuppa Jo suffered. This blog. And, I miss it. Greatly.

This year also taught me that fitness isn't just about losing weight, inches, getting lean and cut, and being able to do a zillion push-ups in a month. If anything, the work I began in January, taught me that fitness is wholistic. It covers all areas of my life: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Cuppa Jo is truly where I work all that out. It's the coffee shop where I sit with friends, chatting away about everything. It's where I process. Linger. Learn. Grow. I've been a coffeehouse girl since 1992. As I look back on this year, I barely visited my own shop.

If I truly want to encourage YOU to a life of whole fitness, (and I do) then merely having a blog where I talk about my workouts, ain't gonna cut it. 

Simply talking with you on Facebook about exercise and nutrition isn't going to move either of us forward.

It's time to expand the content to include LIFE.

2012's theme is hereby announced!

Total Fitness: It's Not Just Physical

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha, TEARS, Repeat: Manic Christmas

"Is it Saturday?"


"Is there school today?"


"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I'm not getting up!"

"Zane, I thought you loved school!"


Normally, I don't count down the days until Christmas. This year, I can tell you, that as of this posting, there are exactly, 18 looooooooong days until the DAY OF DAYS.

Until that time, we will experience laughter, weeping, deep meaningful questions, gnashing of teeth, cheers, pure grief, good deeds, lots of back-chat, snuggles, and screaming.

I'm certain a door will be slammed.

It started on Sunday - the day we got our tree. The tree was spotted by the children within 2 minutes into our wagon ride around the farm. Once the tree was up, Christmas had officially begun. The tree is our ushering in of the holiday. And, once again, we they picked perfectly.

"It's coming! It's really coming! Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!! I. LOVE. CHRISTMAS!"

This was Zane for the remainder of the day.


As we decorated, the kids marveled at some of the home-made ornaments they had gifted us with over the years. We sang the little Thomas the Train diddy as one of Harper's favorite ornaments from her Thomas stage was removed from the box. We all "ahhh'd" as our Linus ornament, complete with green blanket (a la Zane) was proudly hung by our own Linus.

"I forgot how much fun this is," was Harper's reaction - and she was right.

We finished decorating and celebrated with our family tradition of turning off all the lights in the house, except for the tree, and running outside with no coats to view it from the street.

Every year we seem to get the "best tree yet", and this year is no exception.

The snowman collection is proudly displayed, the tree is lit and standing tall, the advent boxes are filled with treats. We are reading Letters From Father Christmas this year to set the mood.

But emotions are thin. Fragile. The ice is cracking.

Someone, mainly Zane, looks as if he won't make it to Christmas Day. The mere correction of a "b" and a "d" on a homework assignment (those two can be so confusing) turned him into an angry elf. And it was only Monday. A slight hot-chocolate spill, causes his spirit to boil over.

He won't eat. Unless it's from Buddy's diet. The slightest inconvenience ("Where are my shoes!") sends him into a tearful tantrum. The expectation is just too much for him to take. The last two days in a row have had him wailing his trademark "This is the worst ________" statement.

Currently it is, "This is the WORST. CHRISTMAS. EVER!"

Translation: it's the worst because it's not here yet.

And then, last night, curled up in our reading chair, we read 6 Christmas stories together. Wrapped in his blanket (in which I'm glad we can both fit), we read about Santa and Rudolph, when . . .

"Mom, let's read some of the real Christmas stories. The TRUE ones. With Jesus."

Back to DEFCON 5.

If you come to visit, be prepared to do some hill work, for it's up and down in here. Touch and go until the 25th.

But perhaps, you have some Manic Christmas in you as well. If that's the case, you'll fit right in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Nun's Wisdom About Facebook

My apologies for not offering the exact name of the author of this prayer (scroll down to bottom). All I can find is a title: "Seventeenth-Century Nun's Prayer". However, the language sounds a bit too modern to be written by a Nun in the 1600's. I suspect false advertising.

However, Nun or no Nun. It's good stuff. As you are well aware, I've been doing quite a bit of writing on the subject of Facebook. You can read about that here, here, and here. They are lengthy posts.

There is no denying that FB, Twitter, blogging, etc. are now a mainstay in our culture. Communication has not necessarily "come to this", but the "this" has certainly taken up some prime real estate in our interactions with one another.

A friend shared this prayer with me a few days ago, and I thought it was both a fabulous read, and incredibly convicting and helpful as we navigate our daily interactions with one another in person, as well as in cyber-life.

I have come to yet another conclusion about social media: In the written world, there seems to be a lack of grace towards the poster and those that comment on posts. The environment yields itself well to quickly constructed sound-bytes which seem to provoke (encourage?) quick responses (reactions?) in return. However, the grace we may extend to one another in real, physical life, you know, the face to face contact that was so popular years ago, seems to get chucked when we choose to type our thoughts - whether as the original author, or the commentator. People misspeak. We all, at times, speak without thinking. So one could argue that we also mistype - letting our fingers do the talking without first examining what it is we are saying. I know I have. Have you?

Just look at the citation list above.

If that was the standard, I'd be guilty of all it. Except maybe the vulgarity. Unless you count "A$$" or the cleverly disguised, "@#(^".

Is anyone completely innocent of all charges?

And, just who is writing these "tickets"?

 "The author [of the list in the photo] should just," as my sister put it, "remove him/herself off of the offending social media site and let the rest of us enjoy ourselves."

Yes, rather than keeping a list of wrong-doings.

In that respect, FB and real-life seem eerily similar. Do they not?

So, the prayer. For those of us that post. And for those of us who comment on posts. For me. For you. For the time being, I'm choosing to watch my fingers a bit more closely. Slow to speak. Slow to type.

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody else's affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from endless recital of details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and the love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally - I may have been mistaken.

Keep my reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with. But a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Pittsburgh Mom dot Com 12/06/2011

Any Moms and Dads out there want to give me advice for enduring the climate in the bleachers when seated near a parent who can't hold it together?

Here's my most recent post for Pittsburghmom.com.

There's always a new experience in the world of career parenting.

I'm clueless when it comes to bleacher etiquette.

Emily Post me on the ins and outs of being a proper spectator.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"You're always on your phone."

Has anyone ever said this to you?

I've heard it.

Today, I overheard someone direct that same statement towards someone else.

I chuckled.

The recipient also chuckled as she responded to her accuser. (Which is what I TRY to do when that statement is directed towards me - only, I'm getting tired of hearing it.)

See, only a moment before, we had both been reading the Bible on our phones. Yes. There's an app for that.

I used to carry a really large bag everywhere I went. It contained my planner, address book, and as I try never to go anywhere without a book, a book. Then there was the journal I often carried, and a notepad with a scrawled daily to-do and shopping list.

During college and afterwards, BEFORE cell phones, it was customary to see huge planners: Franklin, DayRunner, DayTimer, FiloFax, sitting out on tables when people were meeting. I worked at a college after I graduated, and when I met with a faculty member, a student, or sat in on a meeting of any kind, out would come the huge planner. See that pic up there?

THAT is now the planner.

My phone has taken the place of my beloved Planner Pad.

My to-do list. My calendar. My husband's calendar. My kid's schedules. Address book, Bible app, fitness/nutrition diary, my online Team Beachbody office, my shopping list, my bank. I keep a list of books I'd like to read. I even read the newspaper. The alarm on my phone reminds me of appointments before they occur. I barely use the actual main feature of the device.

The phone part.

I'm not exactly sure what people are insinuating when they say, "You are always on your phone." Perhaps there is the misunderstanding that the minute one looks down at their phone they are automatically communicating with someone else. I know there is also a lot of talk about "disconnecting" from electronics - taking an electronic-fast of sorts, but as an organized person, and the keeper of our family schedule (I know that sounds like a pat on my own back, but this does happen to be an area in which I've got mad skills. I've kept a planner since my freshman year in college) I'm not sure what would happen if I couldn't check my phone. It's all there. As well as backed-up on my computer.

Trust me. I fought going electronic. And always thought I'd be a paper and pen girl. Forever. I really liked my planner of choice (I've used two different brands) and couldn't imagine ditching the "old-school" way of keeping organized. 2011 marks the first year I've I've gone paperless.

However, I've definitely adapted. It took me all year to do so. Other than taking notes at church or penning my prayers in a bound journal, everything else is organized electronically.

So, if we're talking, and I get an idea for a blog post, or realize I need to pick up an item at the store, or want to jot down a product, movie, book, restaurant, etc. you just happened to mention in our conversation, etc. I will reach for my phone.

No, this doesn't mean I'm checking Facebook or answering a text.

It would be the same as me saying, "Oh! That's cool, I gotta write that down." or "Let me check my calendar."

And, in church, if you see me reach for my phone . . . it's not because I'm planning my week (guess what - I USED to catch myself doing that with a paper calendar . . . haha - so now which one is actually more distracting for me, eh?), but rather, I'm opening my Bible app.

Electronics aren't evil. Yes they can be overused. Of course. But, just like Facebook, let's not jump to a conclusion with one glance.

Where I used to jot things down, I now type them in.

How do you stay organized?

Paper or electronic device?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Facebook Flub: Aw, Snap!

Part three of my continuing personal saga with Facebook involves that little "Recommend" box that one will find on many articles on the internet.

I have literally "put baby in the corner" - and by baby, I am referring to myself, by NOT posting articles on my personal page any longer. As many of my articles have to do with the topic of the obesity rate in the U.S., the rise of child obesity, health & fitness, and blogs/articles about our food supply and choices here in America, I have made a conscious choice to post these articles directly to Fit With Jo.

What's cool is that when I read an article I'd like to share, all I need to do is click the little Facebook link (widget, I think it's called) and then I will be given the CHOICE as to WHERE I would like to post it on FB: my personal wall, Fit With Jo, a private group? 

I get the choice.

I learned yesterday that THIS IS NOT THE CASE with the "Recommend" button.

Yesterday, as I went to recommend an article, I assumed (wrongly) that I would be given the choice as to where the post advertising the link I was recommending would be published. Only I was not given any options other than my personal wall.

Thus, I decided not to continue (and by continue I mean by typing a short note about the piece I was recommending). Instead, I closed the pop-up.

Only, by clicking "recommend", the link had already gone through - whereas normally when you "share" a link, it will not post unless you click "publish". 

Since I have my wall closed to outside posts, my article recommendation did NOT show up on my wall.

BUT IT DID SHOW UP IN EVERYONE ELSE'S NEWSFEED: "Joline Pinto Atkins recommends a LINK."

Please note, if you click "recommend" the link will immediately post on your profile wall. The deed is done. And you will not have a choice to link it to the page of your choice. 

I ultimately chose to remove the link all together because one point in the article obviously frustrated a friend of mine. 

As I've mentioned in two blog posts now, I am not going there - into debate-mode - on FB any longer. I'm just not. I do not want that aggravation. Especially since no actual audible words were being exchanged about the content of the article. We weren't having a conversation about the piece. There was simply a LINK to a piece. I made no commentary when I recommended it. Even so, the response that followed, reminded me once again, what a slippery platform FB is. 

So I deleted the recommendation's existence from the Newsfeed.

Be careful of that pesky "Recommend" button.

Lesson learned.


Basketball Tourney: Through Harper's Eyes

This weekend marked another "first" for Harper. We generally think of "firsts" as those milestones which happen to our babies and toddlers, but trust me. "Firsts" continue.

Even long into adulthood.

But I digress.

So, Harper. Right? We were talking about her.

Harper played in her first basketball tournament this weekend. I thought, rather than share my take on the experience, I would interview her. So, here goes.

Mom: Harper, you played 3 games this weekend. How are you feeling?

Harper: Well, the first game I felt a little nervous.

Mom: That's funny, 'cause during the first game, you were totally trying to pick-off the girls who towered over you. I was like, "Is that my kid going up against the giants?"

Harper: But I got used to it, so that's when I started doing that.

Mom: So, your nerves settled down?

Harper: Yeah, but in the second game, I had to come out because Coach put me on point-guard, and I was so nervous about being point-guard because when we had a scrimmage against West Allegheny, they took the ball from me every time. I was so nervous, I had to ask the ref if I could go out.

Mom: Yeah, we figured that. You were doing great, though. So, what do you like playing better? Point-Guard or Guard?

Harper: I like playing Guard because I'm more used to playing that.

Mom: Did you enjoy the whole "weekend tournament" deal? Being a part of a team and playing together for three games?

Harper: Yeah, I liked the whole weekend tournament thing. I thought it was fun because I'd never done it before. But I was actually a little nervous, too. And I think playing on a team is really fun because I know all the girls from my school. So I know all of them which helps a lot.

Mom: Is basketball a sport you would like to continue, or are you thinking of returning to tennis?

Harper: I REALLY want to continue basketball because it's such a fun sport. And I don't think tennis is fun anymore, so why would I return to it?

Mom: What would you like to improve in your game?

Harper: What I think I need to improve is learning what to do when the Coach yells plays, because I had no idea what to do the first game. I didn't know where I was, or what I was doing, and I think I just need to learn that better.

Mom: So what you are saying is that you are willing to learn?

Harper: Well, duh.

Mom: It's been a pleasure talking with you today Harper. May I share with you my favorite point of the weekend? Or will that embarrass you?

Harper: No, go ahead.

Mom: Ok, so you were out there guarding on Friday night and you didn't stand still for a moment. You were totally blocking anyone who came your way! And then, out of nowhere, you started to guard this girl who was almost double your size. I was like, "What is she doing" and then, YOU STOPPED HER WITH YOUR BODY! She was certainly shocked, as was I. You played really strong on defense. That was pretty cool for a parent to watch.

Harper: Thank you.

And, this has been . . . Basketball Tourney: Through Harper's Eyes (and, of course, mine as well.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Facebook Relationship Status: Reply Hazy

Thank you friends for the emails and messages regarding the recent post about my change of heart with Facebook. You are sweet to care about us. We are working out our issues. Getting counseling. So far, my separation from FB hasn't led to my wanting to end our relationship completely.

We have to think of the children.

Many of you offered options on how to provide more privacy - and it's not that I was am seeking privacy controls to keep people OFF my page, but rather, I just felt feel like, as in all varieties of friendship, not everything I do and conviction I hold, every article I find interesting, each photo I take, every bite of food I eat, or, yes, each workout I endure, MUST or SHOULD be shared with everyone.

Think about it. Do you share every inch of your life with all the people you know?

In non-FB life, I don't keep a written list of my friends - placing them in different categories (the provision FB has in place to enable us to keep certain groups separate). Something about doing this on FB left leaves me feeling really uncomfortable. And kind of icky.

So, while I DID figure out how to create more privacy through "lists" (and not really, as there's a huge glitch in the only-the-people-on-this-list-can-see-what-I-am-posting-right-now "privacy" system within FB - which doesn't actually create true privacy at all) a better choice was to take a step back from posting so much content.

"But then, why are you still posting blog posts, links to your business wall, and your workouts?"

Part of my beef with the FB platform is the "sound-byte" issue. It goes something like this: Someone reads a quickly, and, at times, poorly composed status update. Then, as a dear friend, and college Professor explains, "Without ANY background, the reader "fills out" that sound-byte, and, most often, does so improperly." As a Christian, if I am sold on the importance and value of reconciliation and restoration, then I better hold human communication to a higher standard than a sound-byte.

FB is sorely lacking as a model for clear interpersonal communication.

Thus, I have chosen to point you to my blog, (where I can better work-out my thoughts), the blog I write with other writers (Daily Fast Fuel and Pittsburgh Mom), and my workouts - which due to Team Beachbody's website does not allow me to choose which FB page on which to post it. But, as a Coach, I must post it. It's kind of, sort of, part of my job. And I like receiving my weekly paycheck. As for my Fit With Jo page, I must continually invite friends to come on over, so I'll add a link on my personal page from time to time.

"But you are still commenting on other people's updates."

Yes, as I mentioned in that first post. I like FB. I'm just in the midst of figuring out how best to use it for me. And for my stress level. I still want to click "like" for a friend who successfully completed NaNoWriMo. And my husband as been training hard for a race, so, naturally, I'm gonna pop in on that conversation as well. This morning my sister posted that she was wearing "Christmas socks". Fearful for her welfare, I felt the urgent need to communicate my honest concern. Where I've backed the truck up, is on my personal wall . . .

"So just write general stuff."

That response is funny. People get ragged on for typing mundane posts like, "I just had lunch. Mmmmm", as well as for updates that can be considered controversial, "Walmart - bad!"

One can't win on FB.

Interestingly enough, I've not missed it. I don't feel "disconnected" from people. The friends who I see, talk with, text, and email daily, are, surprisingly, still in my life . . .

Without an open FB wall.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Little Artist Knows THE Artist

"God is an artist. We are all His art."

Zane, for a 6 (just about 7) year old, you have great wisdom.

Thank you for ministering to your Mommy. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Starbucks: I Guess I Don't Know All the Terms Going In

I love coffee.


You didn't know that, did you?

On Thanksgiving Day, we decided to stop at Starbuck's before heading to the movies. You should know, and probably already do, that I am not a frequent customer of "St. Arbucks" (coined by my friend, Melody). It's not that I don't like Starbuck's. I just prefer the independent guy. And gal.

So we pop in to get a drink.

George asks me to order him an Au Lait.

"Hi. Can I get an Au Lait, please?"

"A what?" is the answer I receive.

"An Au Lait."

"Well?! What do you want in it?"

"I'm sorry. I don't understand. Coffee, steamed milk . . ."

"No, I mean, how many shots?"

"Oh! Sorry. Do you make yours with espresso? Ok. Um, just one."

She leans over to the barista and says, "She says she wants an Au Lait."

Followed by "mumble, mumble", and then, YES, I kid you not: a visible eye roll.

Why? Did I do something wrong?

She turns back to me.

"By the way. What you ordered? It's actually called a Misto."

Hmmm, well, yes, it can be referred to as a Misto, (most notably at Starbuck's), but, actually, it's an Au Lait. Coffee and steamed milk. It was Thanksgiving. I didn't get into terminology with her. She was working on Thanksgiving - and probably not too happy about that. I gave her a pass and chose not to give her my husband's resume . . .

George returned.

"Here's your Misto."

"My what? I wanted an Au Lait."

Are there any other "fancy" newfangled terms I should know about? Either at Starbuck's or other establishments?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Facebook: We're On A Break

If you read my last post, you'll already be aware that I am in a "battening down the hatches" sort of mood. Which, admittedly, is difficult when so much of one's day is spent online.

I began blogging 10 years ago - almost 11 now. When Harper was about 3 months old. My posts at that time were all about being a new mother. Since then, my blog has morphed, and now, I just like to chat away. On a variety of topics.

I miss blogging. Sadly, I realized recently, that many of my thoughts/ideas, which I would have most certainly blogged in the past, have been reduced to "sound-bytes" on Facebook this year. Lazy writer.  And while I am grateful for social media in the respect that it has played an ENORMOUS role in building my Beachbody business, I am also finding myself getting progressively weary of the FB platform - and miss writing on my blog.

I know. Right?

Yes, you are reading Cuppa Jo. Do not adjust your settings. It is indeed Joline writing. And yes, I DID state that I'm not loving Facebook as I once did.

I began making some small changes this year:

  • I removed my personal page from being Public.
  • I have hidden friends who use offensive language, are continually snarky, or just have a negative spirit.
  • No posts, photos, or videos, etc. in which I am tagged can be posted unless I approve them.
  • People can not check me into places, and I don't do so either.
  • I moved the bulk of my business information to my Fit With Jo page, (while still having to post on my personal page from time to time to drive people over there to build the page.)

However, It was a few short weeks ago on the women's retreat to which I referred in Hula Hooping, that first clued me in to the fact that these changes weren't easing my FB tension.

Add to this a recent situation at church that produced a lot of statements and gossip on Facebook that I wish I hadn't seen, and the tension headache grew.

Then there was a nudge from God which taught me that Facebook seems to have become the way that many have chosen to start and maintain "friendships"- getting to know people solely through status updates or by what they post. Enter, migraine.

God has been known to speak to me in the "rule of three". Only this time, I'm not laughing.

So, in response to God's prodding, I attempted to make adjustments to my Facebook account over Thanksgiving, only to find myself more frustrated. In my desire to create "lists" so that not everyone was forced to see each and every post I write, I ended up dizzy.  I let "this" list see "this post" and "that" group see "that post", but forgot to put "this" person in "this" group, and forgot to remove "this" person" from seeing all "those" posts, and then, I basically gave up. It wasn't worth it. I didn't like the feeling of "categorizing" people, and at some point, someone's feelings were going to get hurt. (And yeah, I care about that kind of thing.) It was like inviting people to several different parties. Ridiculous.

My conclusions.

  • There is absolutely no way to have complete privacy on Facebook. 
  • The likely-hood of misinterpreting someone's written "sound-bytes" on Facebook is high.
  • While it is a great place to share statements, articles, links, and opinions, it is those very posts which drive people crazy and create weirdness. (But, yet, isn't that why we are all there?)

Facebook is a petri-dish which breeds misunderstandings, hurt feelings, assumptions, perceptions, judgments, and lack of discretion. All without actually talking.

And lest you find me sounding full of myself, I am, as they say, preaching to the choir here. Guilty as charged.

As much as I actually enjoy or have enjoyed FB, I just don't want the Tylenol PM headache any longer.

I am not leaving completely. My Fit With Jo page is going great. So supportive. Those of us there have a common purpose and goal. As for my personal page?  I am going to step back for a season - how long, I don't know - until I reconcile some of these feelings I have developed, and realizing that the "custom list" option ain't gonna cut it for me.

What used to be so much fun has just gotten too complicated and confrontational, without proper confrontation. It's become a game. And within any "discussion" where tone, pitch, body language, and facial expressions can not be heard and seen (like in this post) there is the possibility of trouble.

Trouble that no amount of smile faces, LOLs, LMAOs, IMHOs, or HAHAHAs can cure.

I know I'm not the only one out there who has become increasingly frustrated. Perhaps you aren't one of them. If not, that's great. (Give me a call and we can talk about it.) But I have personally witnessed first-hand and heard from others over this past year how the luster seems to be fading on the FB gem.

So, respectfully, I'm bowing out for a bit.

See you on Fit With Jo. Or, email still works. So does the phone.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hula Hooping

Recently, on a women's retreat with my church, I listened to a fantastic teaching on the importance of creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. It was a simple overview, to be sure, as the topic of boundaries actually warrants a week-long conference - but, even so, I found this hour-long entry level talk VERY eye-opening.

As the speaker began, I turned to a dear friend and asked, "Do you have a pen?"

She dug in her purse for one and went to hand it to me.

"No," I said. "I just wanted to make sure YOU had one."

(Don't freak-out over my directness towards her. We often discuss boundaries.)

Only, as the speaker got into the nitty-gritty of it, I realized that it was me, myself, and I who really needed this refresher course. I sat listening, while silently muttering, "Thank you, God" as she spoke life-giving truth into MY life, as well as my girlfriend with the purse full of pens.

As a blogger, internet marketer, and someone who has a presence on social media due to my online business, I. Am. Out. There.

I share opinions. Motivational tips. Bold statements. Links. Tough challenges. Products. Articles that I find informative and worthwhile. Seldom is there "gray matter" in my world. As this same friend of mine once stated, "I'm in my 40's, I have no interest in playing games any longer. You wanna know me? Here's who I am," I too, feel the same. I like what I like. I share what I share. Those who know me - KNOW ME. Those who think they know me - do not.

Here's where "hula hooping" comes into play.

I may have the ability to communicate with an enormous number of people via my blogs, twitter, and facebook, but the masses are not necessarily in my "sphere of influence": the people who love me unconditionally, challenge me, appreciate my honesty (and I theirs), celebrate with me, cry with me, pray with and for me, caution me, speak directly to me, fellowship with me (offline), show interest in my interests (even if they aren't personally interested for themselves), and are "lifers" - quite simply, those who have proven to me that they are trustworthy and know me well enough to have my best interests at heart.

It's a small group.

Until the recent boundaries talk at the retreat, I thought I had that area under control. I realized, however, that the opposite is true. My boundaries were fuzzy. Mainly, because, as my husband puts it, "You have a conscience."

I'm glad I'm more to him than just a pretty face.

Yes, I do have a conscience. I feel this moral imperative to insure that reconciliation be the goal between both God and human, AND human and human (which is VASTLY more difficult, IMHO.) Here's where my hula hoop gets crowded with people who, well, don't belong there.

Often, in my feeble attempt to help people get along, (or reconcile a relationship myself), I drag them into my hula hoop even though they shouldn't actually have access. When that happens, there is absolutely NO ability to move.

It's gotten awfully crowded in there. It gets loud in a crowd, and hot. There are misunderstandings about who said or did what, and assumptions about the meaning of those statements/actions. Nobody can really have a good face to face conversation. It's uncomfortable. Tight. Crowd-control is dangerous. Someone gets hurt. A foot gets stepped on. An elbow in the back. This is not the place to have a deep conversation. Period.

Well, friends, I recently made some very simple changes to protect the integrity of my personal sphere.

It was hard. Seriously difficult. Mainly because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But, after speaking with George and another friend, I finally took some steps that I've always known (deep down) would need to happen.

So I did what I needed to do.

I don't need to share the details here. BUT, I can encourage YOU to take a look around at who you are allowing into the small space of your hula hoop. You can't control others, but you CAN control who has major influence in your life. Do you feel stuck? Can't move? Unable to turn and get some awesome life-momentum going?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hot Metal Thanksgiving

She sat stroking the fur of the stuffed toy. A sea lion. A sea lion wearing a baby-blue dog coat.

"Ouch! He bit me! I can't blame him. Really. He's 4 months old and teething."

And thus began our Thanksgiving as volunteers with the Hot Metal Bridge Church community on the South Side.

I paused. It took me a minute to register what was happening.

"I'm so sorry he bit you. Does it hurt?"

"No. You know how puppies are."

"I do. Well, you are doing a great job snuggling him. I can tell he loves you very much."

As I glanced down at the table where she had placed a few of her personal belongings, having removed them from the basket on her walker, I noticed Barry.

Barry Gibb.

A 5x7 color cut-out of Mr. Gibb, in his signature white, polyester suit, was sitting beside her plate.

I smiled. And got her some pie.

When we first entered Hot Metal Bridge Church earlier today, my ultimate concern was for Harper. She had communicated for days how nervous she was to be with "strangers". Translation: homeless folk. She clung to me, visibly shaken, as if she might cry at any moment, her eyes frozen wide as if she'd just seen a ghost.

To assist her, we had made "welcome cards" over breakfast - each with a handwritten word/scripture reference, as I thought that perhaps having something to offer to our guests would be helpful. While Zane took to our designated role of Welcome Wagon like white on rice, bouncing around to everyone while handing out our cards with with a cheerful "Happy Thanksgiving! This is for you!" - Harper? Not so much.

She needed more of a "chore" role. Something to scoop, or cut, or . . . WHIPPED CREAM!

As a volunteer vacancy opened up at the dessert table, I knew we'd found her place.

Harper LOVES whipped cream. Eating it. Squirting it. Making designs with it.

She quickly took up the uber-important job of offering everyone whipped cream on their dessert. Within minutes, her demeanor had gone from terrified to, "Don't you want whipped cream with that?! Yes?! WOOT!" Suddenly, those "strangers" she was so worried about had names. And needed pie. And whipped cream. She seriously turned her tiny job into a party. Hive-fives. Fist-bumps. Even a squirt directly into one of our guest's hands, to which she responded with, "Ok. That was awesome!"

I stepped away and she took over with another adult volunteer, while Zane continued handing out cards and prepared "to go" desserts in small boxes.

I realized we had truly turned a corner upon hearing her exclaim, "When we come back next year, I'm totally working this table again!"

So, what did I notice from our afternoon?

That those who have nothing are so much more gracious and loving than I am. I was hugged. Kissed. And there is no drama-Jo here when I say that EVERY person with whom I personally came in contact, when offered a "to-go" box, first DECLINED, (saying they didn't want to be wasteful) and only after some prodding, answered with, "Ok. I'll take a couple of boxes. I'm going to give them to _______________."

They planned to GIVE THEM AWAY.

You know, this was the FIRST Thanksgiving in YEARS which hasn't found me in a post food-orgy coma. I didn't over-indulge - and no . . . it wasn't a choice because of the whole Beachbody health and fitness thing . . . but because today I learned a lesson about being wasteful.

These folks, some of whom walked in wearing every piece of clothing they had (one gentleman had 6 coats to remove before he could take his seat) DID NOT WASTE A THING. Including food. I had one small plate. Seriously? Did I REALLY need any more than that? No. I didn't. (Most Americans don't . . .)

Will we volunteer again?

In a heartbeat.

Am I rethinking our Thanksgiving tradition from here on out?


After all, I can't wait to see that cute little sea lion/puppy a year from now, as I'm sure it will have grown so much.

Hot Metal Bridge Church. Muppet Movie. After-hours gathering at Cafe Kolache.

A VERY Happy Thanksgiving. Don't you think?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Working From Home: What Does It Look Like?

Before we moved to Pittsburgh, I worked part-time teaching music at a local pre-school and taught classes and private lessons to young acting hopefuls after school and most evenings. I enjoyed both. But times, seasons, interests and locations/states change, and well, I left both behind.

Since moving to Beaver, I have thrown myself into building a home business with Team Beachbody. I've immersed myself in training on how to use social media to build my business - for truly, any independent business owner must embrace the electronic age. I've also actively sought out writing gigs and now write monthly for PittsburghMom.com and the Hero Program. And, after rekindling my love of performing, and hopping back on stage twice this year, I am planning, in 2012, to reactivate the old SAG card, dust off the on-camera acting chops and have at my new city.

I've entertained many questions about my set up, and thought I'd write this post to share some thoughts about working from home.

1. Facebook much?
"You seem to be on FB a lot." I hear this. Often. I immediately cringe and feel this awful need to explain my actions - for the statement feels weighted and dripping with a bit of judgement. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. While I realize I shouldn't have to explain, it's hard not to want to launch into an explanation about the amount of time I spend online. Quite simply: I run an INTERNET business. As in, on the internet.

I hope this doesn't sound like I'm patting myself on the back, but part of my business training this year was time management and goal setting - how to run both a home and a home-business effectively while working towards some personal bench marks I've set for myself.

Facebook, has been the ULTIMATE tool to win new business, connect with new customers immediately, and hold myself accountable for sticking to my goals. For me, Facebook is my cubicle. My office. It is where I connect with total strangers about my business ("ooh, that's scary" - no, it's not, if you ran a shop, you wouldn't know everyone who walks in . . .). It's also where I run private groups (think, traditional conference rooms) with customers, coaches, and my team. It's where I connect with my CEO. Where some drive to the office? I login.

And here's an interesting tid-bit. If you see an owl underneath something I've posted, you can be pretty sure that I am not currently online and that the post you are reading was scheduled a day in advance. Where for many Facebook is a time-waster, for me, it's a money-maker and essential to my business. Time-management. It's beautiful thing.

2. Busy much?
I think this is one of the BIGGEST misunderstandings about those of us who work at home and are unavailable during the day. Why are we? Because WE ARE AT WORK! There is a reason that I make a steady weekly paycheck with Beachbody. Because I "clock in" every day at 9:00 and put in the hours at my JOB. In between phone calls, coach training, social media updates, and even creating video posts to share my enthusiasm for my company, I also exercise, run errands, do laundry, straighten rooms, prep dinner, and attend school functions.  Believe it or not, there is a sense of "rest" in my home. We can not escape the calendar. Our life must take on a schedule in order to avoid chaos. And avoid it we do. George and I are thankful that I can stay home and work ('cause the paycheck doesn't just fall in my lap), while unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry.

Yes, this arrangement is definitely easier to manage than the one experienced by Moms who work outside the home (God bless you) BUT, that doesn't mean I'm out shopping or having lunch with the girls. (Although, I certainly could if I chose to do so.) No, I work. From home. Or from a coffee shop (if I don't need to be on the phone).

I don't like to "be at work" when my kids are home, so I have from 9-3 to accomplish my list for the day. Some may view that as "busy". I view that as focused.

3. Workout much?
No, I don't teach exercise classes. But, yes, I DO get paid to workout. Actually, I DO NOT get paid if I fail to do so. Sure, that may sound silly, but I put that plan in place to insure that I would remain consistent and committed to the personal health and fitness goals I have fought to create as a habit over this past 1.5 years. It worked. I now workout. And get paid to do so.

4. Scheduled much?
Yes, I keep a VERY detailed calendar. Complete with color-coding for each member of the family.  I even plan meals (gasp!). Now, let's not confuse using and sticking to the calendar (and the "to-do" list) as being "rigid". Seeing as I DO work at home, I am completely responsible for my own schedule. No one is giving me orders to telling me what to do. And, actually, that can be dangerous. For without a set schedule, or a manager, I could waste a lot of time. Instead, making the effort to keep "order", actually frees me up to do more! What? Being scheduled actually creates FREEDOM?


2011 has been simply amazing.

I began the year taking a great goal-setting course and learning how to create a Daily To-Do list that would actually help me reach some yearly goals.

Due, in part, to this focus, I was able to:
  • Return to acting and win an award for doing so (a total bucket-list BONUS goal)
  • Earn a trip for George and me through Beachbody (we've not been away ALONE since before Harper was born)
  • Pay off half of our debt (don't knock network marketing - Beachbody has SURPASSED my expectations)
  • Start Daily Fast Fuel with some great writers/friends (want work? CREATE your own!)
These were all items written down in January of 2011. 

Listen, our family life is pretty faced-paced with my gig, my husband's, and the kids. But, it is certainly not chaotic, by any means. But that is something I have FOUGHT to combat. 

I know others who work from home, and their arrangement looks incredibly different than mine. This is MY adopted plan. I'm thankful to have the opportunity to create what my day looks like, and truly, it's taken over a year to figure out HOW to be the most effective I can be for my husband, my children, my friends, and my customers/coaches.

Do you work from home? What does you day look like?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ponies or Unicorns: What's the Difference?

Today at Living Treasures Animal Park.

Me: Look, Zane! Isn't that an adorable pony?

Zane: Wait! Ponies are real????

Me: Um . . . .

Zane: Oh, right. Of course they are. I just got them confused with unicorns.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"I'm Batman!"

I just adore my son.

His latest statement.

Not five minutes ago.

Zane: "Mom, can we watch Batman vs. Dracula? It's ok, 'cause we all know that Dracula isn't even real. And Batman is."

Monday, October 10, 2011

"And the award goes to . . ."

"Caitlyn Allison for Outstanding Supporting Actress!"

"Joline Atkins for Outstanding Lead Actress!"

"Scott Calhoun for Outstanding Director!"

"Pump for Outstanding Production!"

And so concludes my FIRST visit to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, and my SECOND show in the Pittsburgh area.

Yes, I'm flattered.

No, I didn't even know I had been nominated. Nominations were read at the post-Festival Gala just last night.

Yes, I had to make a speech.

No, I wouldn't have won any awards for Outstanding Impromptu Speech based on my words last evening.

I managed to thank those who needed to be thanked: George, Scott (my Director), and Caityln (my fellow partner in pumping crime).

I also managed to thank the Pittsburgh theater community by muttering something like, "Yinz are great n'at." (how embarrassing - but, I did . . .)

And, as the award was given to me by a professor at Point Park who happened to have a small role in "Inspector Gadget" filmed here in Pittsburgh back in 1999, I actually hummed the Inspector Gadget theme while heading for the mike. (Yes, go ahead, hang your head, and shake it in shame for me.)

Oh yes, and there was also that little statement about being a Pastor's wife from Beaver in a play centered around boobs. (Nursing boobs - put your eyes back in your sockets.)

What do you expect?????


Post-show thoughts:

  • I'm digging my return to acting in this decade of life.
  • I'm not running out to audition for every show that comes my way like I did in my 20's and 30's. I have a family.  A fulfilling life. I simply want to do good work. Pump was good work.
  • I love performing. My desire for it is back after Yonkers and Pump. I'm content with being selective.
  • Time to investigate agents so that I can continue to dip my toe into the performing pool, AND get paid for something I LOVE to do.
  • I am auditioning for something tomorrow, but unlike in my 20's and 30's, I won't be devastated if I don't get it. Having played Bella and now this, I have a confirmation that age as brought a whole new maturity to what I can bring to the stage. I'll be disappointed if not cast, yes, but since performing doesn't run my life, I'll be cool. I am happy with the work I am doing, and will patiently wait for the next gig.
  • Life is back to normal around here. I'm a mommy with a sick kid at home, and another who is stuck at home because his sister is sick. And when I showed them the award, their response was, "Oh. Is it made out of glass? Can we have some toast?" I'm Mom.
I truly felt like a fish out of water after accepting the award last night, and only knew 3 other people in the room - so there was this odd sense of "what just happened?" running through my head.

George, on the other hand, beamed. Came home, dusted off a shelf, and promptly displayed my award.

Back to being Mommy now. Off to the pediatric office. Dear God, I certainly hope it's not Strep.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Zaneism: 9-11 Thoughts

My son learned about 9-11 in school on Friday.

Admittedly, part of me was sad. First, because by learning of the tragedy he would now lose some of his wide-eyed innocence about the world. Secondly, because I wanted to be the one to share the event with him.

Only, I dig his teacher - and from what he shared with me - she did a great job explaining what happened on that beautiful morning back in 2001.

This isn't a reflective post. I wrote one back then and a few years later when I shared with Harper what had happened that day after reading a book about New York which included a picture of the Twin Towers.

"Oh! I want to go there!" my little gal exclaimed.

I called George upstairs, and we all talked about it together. She was 4.

Anyway, none of those blog posts are on-line any longer due to several blog redesigns in which I failed to transfer the posts. I have them stored away. Just not here.

So, I won't be reflecting again.

But I did want to share a recent Zaneism which seems to be fitting for a day like today. And, well, every day - if you think about it. In uttered these words completely out of the blue a few weeks ago,

"I think there is an invisible thread that you can't see that connects every person in the world. Because of that, we are all family."

Well said, son.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Repost from Pittsburgh Mom: Job Opening for a New Tooth Fairy

During a trip to the dentist last week, Zane was ecstatic to learn that he had a loose tooth.
Harper didn't lose a tooth until First Grade, and I suspected that Zane would follow suit. Sure enough, on schedule, after only a week into First Grade, it was time time to check-off his next milestone.
Following that exciting trip to the dentist chair, Zane spent the entire week wiggling the darn tooth - and even entertained the idea of tying one end of a string to his tooth, the other the door handle, and slamming the door.
(No. Of course we didn't.)
As we patiently waited for the gem to fall, Zane discussed an important matter with me. 
"You know, " (wink, wink) "there is such thing as a Tooth Fairy . . . MOM."
"Zane, I am well aware of the Tooth Fairy."
"I wonder," (wink, wink) "what she will leave under my pillow . . . MOM. $20.00?"
"Nope. Think again."
The day came. Zane woke on Tuesday morning, and out came the tooth. No blood. No drama. Just - out it came, into his palm.
We placed it in a little plastic treasure chest, and he set it on his night-stand in preparation for the over-night festivities.
"Have a great day . . . MOM . . . I bet you'll be busy doing . . . um, stuff . . . MOM!"
I don't know what's worse: surprising the kid who believes the Tooth Fairy is real, and thus dreams of discovering an enormous booty fit for a pirate under his pillow, in place of the tooth, or the kid who DOESN'T believe the Tooth Fairy is real, and is just waiting for his parents to come through in a big way. We'd never discussed it, but it was clear that my kid was waiting to see how I'd perform.
Pressure. It had been so long since Harper lost a tooth that I found myself fumbling. It was midnight when I actually remembered . . . and so, admittedly, I borrowed, stole 4 quarters from our Christmas Jar, and as duty calls, placed them under Zane's pillow.
The next morning, he wasted no time throwing his pillow off his bed. Thankfully, he let out an enthusiastic, "Woo hoo!!!!!!!! MONEY!"
I was relieved. And even a little proud. I did good. I rocked the Tooth Fairy gig, (even though I had to resort to petty theft.)  I kept it simple. No gimmicks. Classic.
I eagerly waited to receive the props I deserved from my beaming son.
"MOM! Nice try, but you forgot about the tooth! LEAVE the MONEY. TAKE the TOOTH."
Doh. I knew that . . .
I've never liked fairies.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

SCENE: Summer Makes Its Exit at Lakehouse Lodge

This is where we officially ended our summer.

Remember that list I made back in May?

Well, I'm happy to say that we checked off everything on that list, except for the laser tag, New York City, and seeing "The Wizard of Oz" on the big screen.

No worries. Laser Tag will be saved  for a cold, rainy day, New York is still there having been spared by Irene, and we can watch "The Wizard of Oz" anytime.

The summer was, in a word, exhausting.

I mean, look at that list. We were constantly on the go. The kids really enjoyed themselves, but it wasn't relaxing. At all. Fulfilling? Yes. Tiring? Completely.

This weekend, however, we breathed.

Enter Michelle and Jason's wedding.

Who would have thought that being a bridesmaid in a wedding would be a vacation?

Michelle and Jason know how to show their guests a great time. The Lighthouse Lodge in Monticello, Indiana was BEAUTIFUL. The cottage where we stayed along with two friends from our Chicago days, perfect. The breakfasts were delicious. The ability to just HANG OUT AND TALK with forever friends was such a gift. We enjoyed time with old friends. We went "American picking". We got to know Tommy and Nic. I worked out on the the lawn in front of the lake. Bonfire. Boat ride. Cornfields. Lots of cornfields. Falling asleep with my book on my head because I just couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to read. Having my son blow me a kiss while I stood up in the wedding of one of my closest friends. And I mean close. We've really been through A LOT - no surface crap here.

Such fun. The highlight of my summer.

Fall came overnight. While we sweltered in 98 degree heat during the ceremony, the next morning had us in the 70's and today, the 60's. I am now heading into the final three weeks of rehearsal for my next gig, and then . . . would you believe nothing is planned?

Farewell summer. You were busy. You were hot. I got a deck out of your season, but now the temps are colder, and I'll need a fire pit in order to hang with you in the evenings. Next year, I hope to meet you earlier in the season - perhaps with a week at a calm lake somewhere with the family - and maybe another reunion of friends, taking walks, exploring, and not having to be anywhere specific.

My kids - they have some great memories from our adventures. And so do I.

But, after all the traveling, and the kids being here, or being there, I needed a long nap.

This weekend seemed to help much of the fatigue.

Perfect exit.

Congratulations Michelle and Jason. Thank you for gifting US with the best weekend of the summer!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Delta Downer

It began with an email at 5:00 AM.

"Your 9:45 AM Delta flight has been cancelled."

Ok, I thought, not a big deal - I'm confirmed for the later one. And for the connecting one after that. All's good.

I was lying to myself.

For deep down, I had concerns about Delta. But booked through them anyway.


I've disliked Delta for years. Ever since they made me rush down to Leo Burnett to record a callback for a voice-over commercial with only two hours notice. Then, after 30 minutes in the booth, they had the audacity to file for Chapter 11, thus scrapping the entire project.

Perhaps a completely selfish reason for disliking a company, but I had to scramble for a sitter, prepare for an audition, AND find parking in the Chicago Loop. Two hours notice was crazy ridiculous.

Plus, there are the stories related to actual frustrating travel experiences with Delta. I've heard a few. (Arguably, these reasons are far more sound for not digging an airline :-P.)

On Thursday, I developed my own story.

Harper and I arrived at the airport, flew through security and relaxed at the gate.

Until they moved the gate. We changed locations.

The delayed flight took off without a hitch. It was packed. For now, all of us bumped from the earlier flight were joining the later one.  This meant Harper and I were no longer sitting together. Thankfully, we did find a nice gentleman who was gracious enough to move so that we could at least be across the aisle from one another. Due to the flight being packed, I went ahead and checked my luggage at the gate to be helpful, whereas normally, I'd just carry it on. (A decision I'd later regret.)

We arrived in Atlanta with 30 minutes to spare. Not a huge deal, only it was Atlanta, so we had to boogie and change terminals. We made it to the gate just as boarding was about to begin. I grabbed a salad and sat down to shovel it down. Then comes the announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, your flight is delayed due to a mechanical malfunction."

I chewed more slowly.

"Ladies and gentlemen, your flight has been cancelled."

Thus began the stampede of frustrated passengers to the Delta ticketing area to secure seats on one of the other 4 flights to Jackson that day.

I managed to get on stand-by for every flight: 4:30, 5:57, 7:50, 11:something, and 8:00 AM.

4:30 flight. Oversold by 8 and me 11th on the Stand-By list. Didn't happen.

Next flight, 5:57. Oversold by 4 and me being 8th on the Stand-By list.

I scramble and secure a 7:30 flight to Meridian as a precaution. Even though it's almost 2 hours away from Jackson, our friends are more than willing to come get us. It's better than nothing, for the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in a hotel over-night, should I not get on any of the remaining flights that evening.

At 5:30 we hear, "Ladies and gentlemen, the 5:57 flight has been cancelled," and then something to the effect of, "I'm sorry. We have no idea where your flight crew is at the moment. We have no information to give  you. This flight has been cancelled."

Knowing that I'm confirmed on a 7:30 flight to Meridian, I don't panic. Until I realize that I have no idea where my luggage is.

I call Delta. Note: It's 5:45.

"Hey, I was originally booked on flight ABCD which was cancelled and am now confirmed on flight ABCD to Meridian. It doesn't take off until 7:30. Can you move my luggage to that flight?"

"Absolutely. Hold on. (pause) Mrs. Atkins, we have your luggage and have moved it to Gate C52 for the Meridian flight."

"Thank you."

We get our vouchers for food, and blow it all on trail mix, bananas, grapes, and bottled water. (Nope - NO FAST FOOD.) And wait to board our flight to Meridian.

We land in Meridian.

We step off the plane and into the thickest jungle heat I've ever experienced. At 8:00 PM. 

Our luggage does NOT arrive with us.

Direct quote from Delta rep in Meridian.

"Mrs. Atkins, they flat out lied to you. Your luggage left Atlanta on the 4:30 flight today. It's in Jackson."

I can do math. My luggage had already arrived in Jackson when I was told it was being moved to my gate for the Meridian departure.

I give her my address in Jackson so they can drop it off.

We get to Jackson around 10. No luggage.

The next morning. No luggage.

I attempt to call Delta, but the wait time to speak to someone in luggage is over an hour.

I call the airport. They tell me to get in touch with Delta.

I call Delta customer service and ask for help. I ask to speak with someone who can tell me when I should expect my luggage.  I, admittedly, GO OFF ON HER, and ask to speak to a PERSON, and NOT to be put on hold. She gives me a non-1-800 number to call to speak with someone directly.

I call it. The woman listens and then transfers me to the BAGGAGE DEPARTMENT WHERE THE HOLD TIME IS MORE THAN AN HOUR TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE.

It's 10:00 AM. Over 12 hours since my flight and since my luggage flew to Jackson without me. I've had no phone call. No email. No communication from Delta as to when I will be getting my luggage, so . . .

We drive to the airport.

My luggage isn't there.

"It went out for delivery at 8:00 AM."

COULD SOMEONE HAVE CALLED ME?????? Why give a number if it isn't going to be used????

We fly back out tomorrow. I am NOT checking my luggage.

Hopefully, my story ends here and I will not have to write "Delta Downer: The Sequel"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You Can Pick Your Friends . . .

(Oh, Zane, forgive me when you are older. Son, I HAD to record this story.)

Zane has a new habit. 

THAT habit.

Yep, digging around in the recesses of his nostrils for treasure.

I catch him every time. 

I've used every command I can think of to encourage threaten him to stop.

I've been gentle.

I've been downright nasty. 

What is so darn interesting up there?

Recently, I caught him in the act and told him to stop. Again.

He burst into tears.

I hadn't yelled this time. I hadn't told  him that he'd be labeled a nose-picker if the kids in school catch him. I didn't go into a tirade about it being disgusting.

I just told him to stop.

Why the tears?

"Zane, I don't want to hurt your feelings. But, really, you have to quit it."

"Mom!!!!!!!!!  I'm so confused."

Serious flow of tears.  

"Zane, what is there to be confused about???"

"I'm just doing what Daddy told me to do! I'm trying to do the right thing!"

What the-?

"Daddy told me I can pick my friends, and I CAN pick my nose, but that I can't pick my FRIEND's nose! See, I'm doing what he said!"

No punchline.

I'm speechless.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Philosophy?

Be patient.

This is going to take some time for me to work through in writing.

Lately, on two separate occasions, after communicating that I did NOT want to do something that I have committed to doing, I have been met with the statement, "Then don't do it. Don't do anything you don't want to do."

Are you still with me?

Both times, upon hearing this statement, I have responded with something to the effect of, "Well, simply not doing what I don't want to do is not always wise."

Do I WANT to clean the house, when I could be out with friends?
Do I WANT to sit with the kids while they do their homework, when I could be reading a book?
Do I WANT to help a friend, when it infringes on my schedule?
Do I WANT to answer the children, when I crave quiet?
Do I WANT to exercise, when it's easier to just blow it off?

No. No, no, no. And, no.

I am quite intrigued by the philosophy of only doing what one wants to do - as if that is the litmus test by which one should make a decision. In the most recent exchange, I was sharing about not wanting to do something that a friend has asked me to do for her. Will I do it? Absolutely.


Because my relationship with this friend far outweighs the inconvenience of the task. (My husband calls this 4AM friendship.)

Another word for this would be: sacrifice.

I love my friend. I do NOT love the request. But, I will place the love I have for my friend before my own needs, for I value her more than my brief discomfort. Quite frankly, she would be hurt if I didn't come through. I know her that well. So, while I don't necessarily WANT to do what she has asked, I will get it done for her.

The relationship is more important.

Does that make sense?

The "only do what you want" philosophy is baffling to me.

If' I lived that philosophy I would weigh 20-30 pounds heavier than I currently do. I would choose convenience over hard work. I would eat out and stuff my face with buffalo wings as often as I could stomach them. Instead, I choose the struggle of working out several times a week in order that I stay healthy and fit, and am meticulous with what food I bring into the house and feed my body. I don't always WANT to do these things.

Only, my body, and my emotional/mental state, tell me I must.

No, nobody HAS to do anything . . . only there is a huge difference between what I may WANT and what I CHOOSE.

And sometimes I must CHOOSE to do what I don't WANT to do.

Thoroughly confused yet?

I'll let you discuss now.

Any thoughts here? Scripture? Life experiences? Let 'er rip.