I Otter Be Working!

I can’t say that staff meetings are the highlight of my week. Since we are virtual teachers, our Thursday morning staff meetings take place online with teachers signing in from their home offices. Last Thursday, while discussing completing and documenting parent contact, semester deadlines, and an upcoming in-service day I noticed a lot of commotion in the water just out past the dock. I continued watching trying to determine what type of critter was responsible.

To my surprise, I saw a dozen otters swimming and playing in the lake. Now I’ve seen otters in the lake before, but never more than three or four at a time. As soon as my meeting ended, I grabbed my phone and headed down to the water. They continued playing only about ten yards off shore for another thirty minutes entertaining me while I settled back into grading student work.

Another reason I love working from home!

Meet as many people as you can!

I confess this is not something I would have thought to share with you. In fact, I’m that person who hates to meet people…not because I don’t like people; I’m just awkward in groups. I also feel uncomfortable trying to make small talk, and I’m terrible at remembering people’s names. I’ve done a better job of moving outside my comfort zone to meet people and talk to “strangers”, but it still make me feel uncomfortable.

So why then am I including this in my weekly memo? It’s because of something I read in the February edition of Inc., one of the magazines from Next Issue. In an interview with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, he states that he thinks people can create their own luck and he suggests you do that by meeting as many people as you can and really getting to know them.

This reminded me of advice I gave you at different times when you were younger. Sarah did not know anyone in any of her classes when she moved to Osceola Middle School in sixth grade so I told her she was to come home each day and tell me the name of one person she met. Then I’d quiz her daily…who did you meet today? Tell me about her. After about five or six days of this, she finally told me about meeting Kemper. The plan worked out pretty well.

I used a similar strategy with Meghan when she went to UCF. Of course, she roomed with Tiffany so she had a friend, but she needed to meet others. Her instructions were a little different. I asked her to talk to three new people every day. I don’t think this resulted in any long-term friends, but she joined an accounting organization, met some students and professionals and became more confident and comfortable with people.

I’ve never really had to encourage Emily to meet people. In fact, she told me she wanted to go to the University of Miami because she wouldn’t know anyone there. She wanted to meet all new people; so I think she’d agree that by joining groups and meeting people she’s created some luck of her own. Whether working with the Baptist Campus Ministries or Delta, Delta, Delta she met many people and got to know them well.

So back to Tony Hsieh.

He says if you’re in an environment where you’re always running into people, the chances of one of those collisions being meaningful is maybe 1 in 1,000. But if you do it 100 times more, your odds go up. His advice: Meet lots of different people without trying to extract value from them. You don’t need to connect the dots right away. But if you think about each person as a new dot on your canvas, over time, you’ll see the full picture.

I think that’s great advice. My Dad may be the best example of getting out there and meeting people. I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger. He makes friends with people he meets at the horse races, garage sales, and at church. He doesn’t think about how someone he meets may help him further his goals. He just enjoys people…all people. Who would have thought he’d rent a motor home from the butcher at the meat market? I don’t think he expected to play golf with professional football players when he became friends with a coworker. And someone he met at the football booster club later gave Jeff his first job. He’s made some of his own good luck by being a people person.

Get out there. Meet a lot of people. Get to know those you work with. Join organizations. Go to the gym. Enjoy those random contacts and cultivate relationships. Work at creating your own good luck.


One for the Book

It looks like Sarah wants to be included in Grandpa’s next book. She and Daniel even woke before sunrise to join John on the Withlacoochee River for a morning of fishing. They met with success early and often catching seven keepers…although they only kept five since that was plenty for their eating pleasure.

It’s a great day fishing when all catch fish. Daniel started things off with a nice bass, but within a couple of hours, all three fishermen landed fish in excess of three pounds…not monsters…but perfect for eating and fun to catch.


They finished the day keeping a stringer of five bass that weighed in at a little more than 18 pounds. After cleaning, Sarah and Daniel have fish for two dinners and John and I will be eating fish later this afternoon. Not a bad day’s work…maybe that should be not a bad day’s fun!

Oh, and what is this Grandpa’s book? A Shutterfly book created to share his and his family and friends’ fish pictures. Can’t get in the book without a fish. Looks like Sarah and Daniel will both be in the next edition. (Make sure you click the link, Grandpa’s book, to see the one published earlier.)

What’s a Mother To Do – Seven Months and Counting

I’m two weeks late with a wedding update, but Emily purchased a house in April requiring us to move wedding planning to the back burner temporarily. We did get a chance to meet with a representative from the venue, and it looks like they’ll be able to schedule the wedding at the desired location. Emily got quotes on transportation, some rentals, and a couple of catering options so things seem to be falling in place.


Purchasing a house got us behind schedule on wedding planning.
Purchasing a house got us behind schedule on wedding planning.

Three of the bridesmaid’s dresses have arrived, and today we’re off to Tampa for a wedding gown consultation. Emails have been exchanged and pictures have been sent so now it’s time to get serious about Emily’s dress.

After our consultation, we’ll be discussing guest lists, save the date cards, and invitations. It will be good to be able to sit down together with our calendars so we can go over details face to face. We’re much more productive in person than over the phone or through email. We’ll update the timeline and schedule tasks to be completed over the summer when I have more time to devote to wedding planning. What an exciting time!

Going Green Step 3: Recycle

recycleRecycling can benefit your community and the environment. By collecting materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash so they can be processed and made into new products you’re taking one more step toward going green. Thankfully, the city of Ocala has finally provided recycling containers for curbside pickup which makes this a much easier process.

Recycle metals: aluminum, steel, including hangers, and aerosol cans, but not spray paint cans. Did you know that recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power the TV for 2 hours?
Recycle paper: newspaper, mail, computer paper, and cardboard
Recycle plastic: plastic bags, plastic bottles, and lots of plastic containers. Check the bottom for the number to determine if it can be recycled.
Recycle glass: blue, brown, green, and clear.
Recycle electronics: cell phones, computers, video games and consoles, MP3 players, ink jet cartridges, and televisions. This is a little more difficult but there are websites that provide information about where these items can be taken.
Recycle hazardous materials:  paint, chemicals, batteries, pesticides, pool chemicals, and CFLs (you know, those crazy looking energy efficient light bulbs).

I know this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what items can be recycled. In fact according to the iRecycle website,their app helps users

find local, convenient recycling opportunities when you are on the go or at home. iRecycle provides access to more than 1,500,000 ways to recycle over 350 materials.


You read that right…1,500,000 ways to recycle 350 items. I’ve downloaded  iRecycle for Apple devices. There’s also an iRecycle

for Android devices.

Going green by reducing, reusing, and recycling is a part of your life already, but go the extra mile. Determine one new thing to do this year. (We’re composting thanks to a garage sale bargain!) Small changes by many can make a big difference!



Going Green Step 2: Reuse

reuseReusing products instead of using disposable ones is a good start, but buying used items instead of purchasing new is a terrific way to become a “reuser”. We’ve never been good at buying used cars, but John doesn’t shy away from used boats. My Dad has helped me realize just how many quality items can purchased used. Furniture, clothing, bicycles, tools, and sporting goods are readily available every week at garage sales. Why buy new when you can get quality used items significantly reduced prices?

Reuse products instead of using disposable products:
Use real dishes instead of paper plates or plastic cups. There is certainly a time and place for disposable products but don’t use them on a daily basis. I have a friend who won’t even use paper napkins or paper towels. I admire her commitment, but I’m not there yet.

25 plastic plates for $5 replace the need for paper plates
25 plastic plates for $5 replace the need for paper plates


Reuse shopping bags:

Bring your own bags to the grocery. This saves trees and reduces the use of plastic. Be the crazy lady (funny how she’s the norm now) John hated to see coming in his checkout line at Publix and whatever you do, don’t follow Uncle Bill’s advice and ask for double bags!
Reuse lunch bags:

Lunch bags or “old school” lunch boxes and water containers should be used instead of paper lunch bags and plastic water bottles. I know I buy bottled water sometimes (not a good use of resources) but I use and refill the same bottle for days and sometimes for weeks – a little better.
Reuse Furniture:

Used furniture can serve the same purpose as new. We’re pretty good at this. Meghan has a bed and patio furniture that belonged to Grandma and Grandpa (things they bought used). Emily has our couch, the brass bed that was purchased in the 1800s by Grandma’s grandmother (not new then), and a bed that was Grandma’s and then Meghan’s; and Sarah’s made good use of several a hand me love seat, dining table and chairs, and a recliner when she moved to Jacksonville. Meghan recently bought a used patio set, and Emily reuses both furniture and signs for events. Consider at least some second hand furniture to furnish your rooms – a way to save money and go green.

Reuse Clothing, Bikes, Tools, and Other Items:

Donate clothing and other items to charities or sell them at a garage sale so someone else can reuse things you no longer need or want. There are numerous organizations that would love to have the things you no longer want or need. And if you’re patient, you can find items you want being discarded by others

Be a “Reuser”

Check out 50 Ways to Reuse Everything


Weigh In Wednesday: Week 17

Finally, back on track. Not only did I lose the pound I gained last week, but I lost another 1/2 pound as well. Getting back to walking while working makes a big difference. It’s good to be home where I can use my treadmill desk on a daily basis…too bad I can’t take it with me when I work away from home.

You're reading it correctly...almost 4 miles of walking while working yesterday!
You’re reading it correctly…almost 4 miles of walking while working yesterday!

Reduce has been important word in my recent Go Green posts, but it’s also been an important in getting back on track with losing weight: reduce stress, reduce soda, reduce sweets, and reduce the number of trips to McDonald’s equals a reduction in the number of pounds registered on the scale when I weigh in.

I’m anxiously awaiting my next Lose It Badge: Goal Achieved; just over a pound away!

Go Green Step 1: Reduce


Yesterday I encouraged you to “Go Green” by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Today, I’d like help you make it happen.

First reduce water consumption:
Turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Take shorter showers.  Wash only full loads of laundry or dishes. Wash your car so that the extra water runs in to the grass instead of paved surfaces. Follow guidelines for watering your lawn. It doesn’t take a lot of water to keep your grass and plants healthy. If you get really serious there are numerous ways to reuse water from baths and showers or by installing environmentally friendly plumbing fixtures.

Next, reduce electric usage:
Turn off lights, TVs, and other items not in use. Unplug chargers, toasters, and anything else that isn’t essential.  (I saw a woman swear she was saving over $50 each month just by unplugging electronics when not in use…sounds like an exaggeration, but saving money would be a good extra benefit.) Adjust the temperature on your water heater or better yet put it on a timer so you’re not heating water that you don’t need.

Don't forget to adjust your thermostat...maybe even invest in a programmable one.
Don’t forget to adjust your thermostat…maybe even invest in a programmable one.

Reduce fuel  consumption:
Plan your trips more efficiently. While buying a car with better gas mileage is a worthy goal, it doesn’t make sense to buy a new car just for the mileage – especially if you don’t need a new vehicle. I’m no poster child for gas saving vehicles. A Suburban can hardly be used as a good example of energy efficiency, but you have take into consideration your needs. If you need to pull a trailer, or carry more than two passengers, or transport items, or travel, you may need to make some mileage concessions to meet other needs. Carpool. Maybe you want to use a bike for some of your transportation. John and I rode bikes to work every day during the gas shortage in the summer of 1979. Of course it helped that we were working at a camp so dress clothes were not required. I also rode a bike to South Ocala to teach summer school one year. It really does feel great if you can do this, but if not, you may able to ride to the store or to a local restaurant or friend’s house. An interesting statistic: for every 10 miles you bike instead of driving, you reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds. Just think how much I’ve saved by working from home!

Reduce use of paper, plastic, and packaging:                                                                                                                      Eliminating paper plates and other disposable eating utensils may not be practical everyday, but make an effort to use these products rarely instead of daily. Use fewer paper napkins and paper towels. You might even consider using cloth napkins. (You know you can use them more than once.) Fewer paper cups, plastic bottles, and no Styrofoam are goals to set. These are easy ways to make small changes in your habits.

The single best change I’ve made in recent years: reading digital content. We no longer need to recycle the two newspapers that were delivered daily and haven’t sacrificed access anything since we can access the information on the computer, iPad, even the phone if you can tolerate reading on such a small screen. Next Issue eliminates stacks of magazines with expanded digital content, and since receiving a Kindle for Christmas four years ago, I rarely purchase a book in the traditional format. If it’s not available digitally, then it’s time to make a trip to the library.

While the purpose of these tips is to conserve resources, they also result in saving money. Just last week I got our lowest utility bill in the 25+ years we’ve lived in this house. With five people and a pool, we’ve had utility bills as high as $600. Last week, for the first time, I received a bill of less than $200. In fact, only $167, of which $41 are for services and fees-not related to water or electric use. Of course, we’re down to two people and the pool is gone, but it sure feels good to save money, water, and electricity. Going green saves green too.


Go Green

When I was in sixth grade in 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day.  I remember numerous news stories on TV and in the newspapers about pollution problems in the Jacksonville area. There were pictures of who knows what being discharged from factories in to the St. John’s River. Of course, the paper factories were a major industry in Jacksonville and the odor emanating from them was a constant reminder of the air pollution problem in the city.  At that time plans were being formulated to protect the bald eagle since there was a real danger that our national symbol could become extinct. Looking back, it’s pretty amazing that so much focus was placed on the environment by the government and the media. What a successful campaign!

Jacksonville, FL 1960s
Jacksonville, FL 1960s

Schools were encouraged to spend time studying the issue of protecting the environment. That’s why I remember the news reports. We were to watch the news and cut out articles from the newspaper to share. My teacher, Mrs. Boyle, assigned research papers (an excellent way to get 12 year olds interested in the environment) and my project was on water pollution. But the important thing about that first Earth Day is that it started a conversation about the very real problems people were causing and how we might make changes to reverse the damage.

Many improvements have been made as a result of our nation’s focus on environmental protection. You no longer see the haze surrounding large cities. In the 1960s and 70s smog and other air pollution caused a visible haze especially noticeable when approaching a city. The air no longer has an odor associated with pollution except of course when fires are burning due to drought (or when you’re in Palatka where you can still smell the paper mills). Many rivers and lakes in the U.S. are in much better condition than 40 years ago, but I fear that some of that progress may be lost due to relaxing of some of the protections enacted during the past three or four decades. That’s why it’s more important than ever that each of us do our part to make a difference.

St. John's River algae blooms replace chemical spills in the 1960s and 70s.
St. John’s River algae blooms replace chemical spills of the 1960s and 70s.

I remember your Dad complaining about the crazy woman who would bring all of her mesh bags to Publix because she objected to cutting down trees to make paper bags. And at the same time my Uncle Bill was encouraging everyone he knew to ask the bag boys to double bag their groceries to help the paper industry. We weren’t very environmentally friendly.



While our nation is backsliding on environmental issues, more citizens are taking an active role in the protection of resources and the environment. So 43 years after the first Earth Day I want to remind you to make every day Earth Day and do your part. The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle slogan of Earth Day campaigns is the best way to issue these reminders. Do your part: reduce consumption, reuse resources, and then recycle. You can make a difference.




Resuscitating Silver Springs


I’m looking forward to the new state park at Silver Springs. As a child, my family visited Silver Springs on a family vacation to the Sunshine State. In fact, I still have the photo we purchased of my family on the Jungle Cruise (funny how I remembered it as the Glass Bottom Boat). Parents, brother, sister, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins all visiting the park together. I also found a picture of John’s family taken on the Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs. Both pictures were taken in the 1960s at a time when the park was famous not only for its crystal clear water and glass bottom boats, but for the television shows and movies filmed on the river.

Over the years we’ve visited and taken our children to the park and even swam in the springs one summer in the 1990s. Yearly passes provided fun days on the river, strolling through the park, and eating ice cream while sitting in rocking chairs overlooking the water, but recent years haven’t been good to the park. Overpriced admission. Short hours. Unpredictable schedule. The result…too few visitors to enable the management company to properly maintain the facility.

Joining the Florida State Park system provides an opportunity to bring back the park as an attraction noted for its natural beauty. Concentrating on hiking and bicycling trails, canoeing and kayaking, and restoring the park as an environmentally friendly facility is something to celebrate. Let’s hope that next year at this time, as we celebrate Earth Day 2014, the state park at Silver Springs is on the way to recovery as a place focused on the real Florida.