figurative interpretations

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Hey you guys, I know it’s been a while.  I have been… busy.

Okay, I haven’t been that busy.  I’ve really been lazy.

But today, something big is happening in Virginia.  Have you seen it?

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/04/gay-lesbian-marriage-court-virginia/5193233/

Yup, the time has come, Commonwealth of Virginia.  Let’s mark the first steps for equality for all people in our state.  It is that easy, isn’t it?

What do you mean it’s more complicated than that?  Why can’t men love other men, and women love other women?  OH!  Because you claim that marriage is between a man and woman.  Who told you that?

Oh.  The Bible?

Hm…. Okay.  As a God-fearing woman, I believe that we should use the Bible as our life guide, our encourager, our advice-giver…. but as a book of rules in a court of law?  I’m not so sure about that.

Let’s speculate for a moment, shall we?

For sake of accuracy, suppose I’m a wealthy man. I also have a fifteen year old daughter who is very naughty, not very pretty, and just a pain to have around.  I decide the best solution is to sell my daughter as a slave to my friend to whom I owe a favor.  I see nothing wrong with this scenario – I get out of my favor, make a little money, and she’s out of my hair.  I know that her new master won’t kill her, because the Bible forbids it.  I’m not worried about her welfare – I’ve given her to another man who is just as wealthy as I am.  In six years she’ll (likely, I’m not real sure about this) be set free.  By then, she’ll be grown and we’re all winners.

The next day, the FBI shows up at my door and arrests me.  “On what charge?!”  I scream, not really understanding why they are taking me away in cuffs.

“You sold your daughter into slavery and she turned you in!” the officer replies with disgust in his voice.  “Get in the car.”

In court, I somehow talk my lawyer into using the Bible in my defense.  I’ve interpreted the Bible in a way that convinced me that selling my daughter was the right (and legal) thing to do.  He agrees and reads this passage out loud in the court:

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. ” (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT) 

What do you suppose the verdict of the jury is when the trial is over?

Yup.  You guessed it.  Guilty.  The judge throws me into federal prison and I’m a goner.  My daughter is set free and placed into foster care, where she’ll be a Ward of The Court until she’s 18.

Why didn’t my Bible defense hold up in court?  Because I’ve committed a crime – a horrible, senseless crime.  I hurt the welfare of another person.  I’ve infringed on the rights and happiness of my daughter.

Another example:

I am an 18-year-old girl who just graduated high school.  I’ve been begging my parents for a tattoo for a year and they keep telling me when I graduate, I can get one. I’m so totally stoked.

My best friend and I go into a tattoo parlor the weekend after graduation.  In my hand, I’m clutching a picture of an orange kitten with angel wings on it.  Under the kitten reads “RLS” with a little heart under the initials.  They are my grandmother’s initials.  She died a month ago and she loved orange cats.

The tattoo artist finishes my brand new tattoo on my ankle and I’m moved to tears when I see it.  My grandmother will always be a part of me now.  I love it so much.

In church the next morning, I’m so excited to show my Sunday School class my new tattoo.  Our teacher sees it and gets a twisted look on her face.  When I ask her what is wrong, she leans down and gently says to me:

“God says tattoos are a sin.  And now you can never take it off.  You can never repent from that.”

My heart sinks.  I ask her to show me where God says that and she opens her Bible to Leviticus.  Not only does it confirm what she’s said, but it even specifically says I can’t “cut” my body for the dead, not even my own grandmother!  (It also says that men can’t trim their beards, which I find really funny.)

26 Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood. “Do not practice fortune-telling or witchcraft. 27 “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards. 28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.

So why can’t we look at gay marriage the same way?  Why should we take the Bible’s affirmations on gay marriage (which are only indirect) so seriously and not the subject of selling (or owning) slaves, which the Bible says is perfectly acceptable?  Will an excited 18-year-old girl go to hell for getting a memorial tattoo for her grandma on her ankle?

If I sell my daughter, I’m stealing her happiness.  If we say a man can’t marry a man, or a woman can’t marry a woman, we are stealing their happiness.  If we tell people they can’t get tattoos, we are stealing their happiness.  If I sell my daughter, I’m infringing on her freedom to do as she wishes.  If we ban gay marriage, we are infringing on their freedom to do as they wish.   If we ban tattooing, we are stealing away those peoples’ freedom.

I’m failing to see a difference here.

As a dedicated Christian woman, I struggle with taking the Bible literally.  I’m sure most of you do, too, but I’m also sure most of you aren’t willing to go out into the streets screaming your struggles.  I know how God wants me to treat other people.  I know how God wants me to raise my child and be faithful to my husband and love my enemies and do good works.

I don’t know how God wants me to interpret the Book – none of us do.  I’m certain when the book was written, no one imagined technology and society would evolve to the place it is today.  So I’m choosing to be a good, Godly person over taking the words literally.

I support gay marriage.  I have no tangible reason not to.  I love my gay friends (and I have quite a few) enough to stand up and say: “Yes.  I support you.  God commands that we love one another, and this is how I choose to love you.”

I support tattoos.  Although I don’t have any of them, I think they are cool and I know they make people happy who have them.  Rock on, tattooed folks.

I do not support slavery or selling our children.  I have every tangible reason to feel this way – because it’s morally and ethically wrong.  And it makes you a bad person.

Does supporting tattoos make you a bad person?

Nope.

How about trimming your beard?

Nah.

Does supporting gay marriage make you a bad person?

No way.

It’s truly a big a day in Virginia… but I can only hope that someone out there is thinking about it a little differently now.

Unfulfilled

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Unfulfilled

Unreasonable requests, silly wishes and laughable items shamelessly fill my Christmas list this year.  Sorry, Santa.  I don’t mean to make your job so hard. 

It’s time to let the beast out. It’s been too long.  And I’m sorry.  It’s hard to quantify feelings with a limited amount of words.  

It’s the hardest blog I’ve ever written.  By a landslide.  And here we go….

14 days late.

 I swear, if this stupid stick shows a second line, I’m in so much trouble. 

 And there it is. Two lines. 

My husband somehow comprehends the news through my near-hysterical cries as I sit on the floor of the bathroom with the phone in my trembling hand.

 “The…. stick said ….YES…” 

I nearly start heaving as he realizes what is going on.  He isn’t surprised.  In fact, he sounds way calmer than I do.  Being nearly 14 days late, he keenly knows what I just confirmed with my pee.

We aren’t trying.  We are actively preventing, even.  It all seems so fuzzy, like I’m trapped in some kind of dream.  I hang up the phone with my husband and immediately dial the number to my OB/GYN.

“I need an emergency appointment with the doctor, please,”  I calmly say into the phone. 

“Well, the next appointment I have isn’t until next Thursday…” 

“NO.  I need an appointment right now.  I just turned a pregnancy test positive and I have an IUD.”  My voice sounds frantic now and she tells me she’ll call me right back.  

The nurse calls back five minutes later and tells me to come in right then.  So in I go.  I find small amusement with the fear in the nurse’s eyes when I tell her of my fourteen day lateness.  With an IUD.  And a positive pregnancy test.  I feel like a walking horror movie.

“This doesn’t usually happen.  Actually… it never happens,”  she mutters right before she notes my blood pressure is up.  Judging by the way my heart pounds furiously in my chest, I’m not even remotely surprised.   

Ushered into an exam room, I sit in a huge blue chair where a young lady with the same fear in her eyes draws my blood for the HCG test.  She doesn’t speak.  I think she might be afraid of catching my misfit pregnancy.  Either way, I then pee into a cup, again.  Back to the exam room.  Half naked at this point, all I can do is wait.  And pray, although this time, I pray for something I didn’t expect to hear out of my own mouth.

Please don’t let there be anything wrong with the baby.  Lord, wrap your arms around this baby and keep it healthy.  Please.

This moment – sitting here half naked in my OB’s exam room, I am a pleading mother of two.  My children:  a handsome, bouncing, funny, loving three year old and a brand new spark of life, ready to be nurtured and loved. 

To my dismay, the office pee test doesn’t turn positive, but the blood test does.  “Go home and wait a week, then come back and test again,” the doc tells me quietly.  Not quite the answer I expect.  I want to be pregnant – much different than what I wanted an hour ago.

I relive these moments of this day over and over again in my head.  I remember it so vividly, like it literally just happened yesterday.  Everything after that is a bit blurry.

The entire rest of that day, I lived as a mother of two.   I imagined myself with a sweet-smelling newborn strapped to my chest, chasing a preschooler.  I imagined how I would tell my parents.  His parents.  Our friends.  I clearly envisioned our future as a family of four.  And it was real.

I was already so in love with the new baby growing inside me, I convinced myself that everything would be perfect.   

The only word that describes how I felt when I woke up that night is weird. I felt weird.  Almost like I had to pee, almost like I had eaten too much.  Just… weird.  I got out of bed to use the toilet and get a drink, hoping to force the weirdness away.

The gush of blood as I sat on the toilet startled me at first.  The hair on my arm stood up; like the twist in your gut when you hear a sudden very loud noise or realize you’ve accidentally run a red light.  Chills scurried down my spine and straight down my arms and legs.  I shut my eyes tight and pretended I didn’t see it.

First item on the list this Christmas: I want this memory to go away and never come back.  

I knew the pregnancy ended.  A wave of anger came over me when I thought about how this shouldn’t have happened at all and in that moment, I wanted so badly for it to continue.  I couldn’t do anything except go back upstairs and solicit safety and comfort from my husband.

“Everything okay?”

His whisper slapped me in the face, forcing me to acknowledge what I just witnessed in the bathroom moments before.

“I’m bleeding,” I quietly replied.  The lump in my throat festered and my stomach tightened in knots.  We exchanged a few more words, but I don’t remember what we talked about.  We stayed awake for a good majority of the night, talking and crying.  We went downstairs.  I ate a bowl of cereal.  We wondered what next.

The next morning I found myself back in the OB/GYN’s office again, this time under an ultrasound.   My entire body went numb when the doctor told me about the  miscarriage, even though I already knew.

I pulled my car over twice during the four mile drive home to collect my emotions enough to steer my car.

That day, I forced myself to keep busy in the garden, clean the house, wash and fold laundry, knit… anything to keep from being still.  If I stopped, just for a moment, the emotions came barreling back, dismantled my soul, and left me weeping out of nowhere.  My heart truly broke that day.  It’s still broken.

Second item: I want my heart to be unbroken.

As the days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months, I found incredible comfort talking with my husband about how I felt and how he felt.  I solicited his understanding, which he readily gave, and he also used my feelings to judge his own coping.   We didn’t want another baby.  But now… all I want is that baby.  And it haunts me.

Throughout the following weeks and months, I continued to live through the pregnancy and all of the milestones in my head. As my friends became pregnant in the months following, I felt a significant amount guilt when I grinned and said congratulations.  I felt truly happy for them.  And sad for me.  I couldn’t help but think to myself  “This should be me.  This should have been us.”

Was I jealous?  I don’t think so.  I felt incredible, nauseating sadness.  And happiness for my friends who were expecting.  And confusion. And emptiness.  And guilt.  And broken heartedness.  And…. resentment.  Sounds like such a dirty word, doesn’t it?  Mostly…. I felt like I was a bad friend.  All of my negative feelings overcame the positive ones for my expecting friends until I shut down and flat out didn’t even acknowledge their pregnancies.  (Did I mention this was a difficult blog for me to write?  Please don’t take offense if you’re one of my pregnant friends.  I’m just not really sure how to explain all of this properly.   And it’s hard.) 

I felt surrounded – suffocated even – by my friends’ pregnancies, diaper commercials, ads on Facebook that somehow found their ways to my news feed…. Pregnant lady in Target?  I turned and walked the other way.   Another friend had big news to share?  I hid their Facebook sites from my newsfeed.   I even blocked several great parenting sites because they constantly posted articles related to pregnancy.  I didn’t want to look at it.  I couldn’t look at it.  My heart broke again and again and again every time I did.  (Friends who have noticed I’ve backed up and quieted down since you’ve become pregnant this year – I’m so sorry.  I’m not sure how else to apologize except explain all of this to you.  I know this will pass in time.  I just need…. more time.) 

Every time I get a hold of what I think is acceptance, I slide down a bit and think of something that reminds me of that horrible night and I’m a mess again.  I’m constantly under the upper hand.  I’m treading water.  Still. Right now, when thoughts of the pregnancy loss come around, I think about how I would give almost anything to know what God’s plan is.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  I know that, but trusting His plan without knowing it is so hard.  

Third: I want to feel peace over this situation I’ve found myself in.

No resource I’ve looked up regarding this strange reaction has prepared me or comforted me or EVEN ACKNOWLEDGED that this was a normal part of the coping and mourning process.  That is, until I talked to my friend who had “been there, done that.”  

She recalled feeling the exact same way.  She had no advice, except give it time.

This Christmas, I want the strength to give it more time.  I need the strength to give it more time. 

Some things in our lives we don’t talk about and I’m afraid this is one of them.  We’re afraid of what other people will say.  I’m afraid of what other people will say.  I’ve kept this to myself for eight months except for a select few individuals I told when I needed support.   If my girlfriend who had been there hadn’t told me her story, I would have lost out on her support when I went through the same thing.  I’m thankful for her honesty and her support.  So thankful.

I get frustrated with myself, thinking I should be over this by now.  I still dream about it.  I still wonder about it.  Eventually, I did start thinking about it less and less.  Then I went an entire day.  Then an entire week.  And then, somehow as if by magic, the pain started fading.  But the loss?

I’m pretty sure the loss will always be there.  Someone is now missing from my family and I can never get that someone back.  There will always be an empty space in my heart, an empty seat at our table, and a nagging thought about what could have been.

Today.  December 17.  Nine years ago on a very chilly and starry night, Jerry asked me to be his bride.  It was one of the happiest nights of my life.

My second baby’s due date is also today.

Just reading what I wrote in the previous sentence brings stinging tears to my eyes; I’m thinking of all the wonderful things my life is filled with and what horrible things my life has walked through.  What a difficult year it’s been.  I’ve put on so many happy faces.  I’ve given the best impressions.  The truth is, sometimes bad things happen and all we can do is muddle through until we get to a sunny place again.

So what do I really want for Christmas?  I want my baby back.  I want to hold him/her in my arms on Christmas morning while I watch JJ rip open his presents.  I want today to be an epic day on which we bring that tiny human into this crazy, mixed up world.  I want to go back and change time.

Some wishes are destined to go unfulfilled.

I’ll meet my baby one day.  Until then, the only thing I can do is be the mother, wife and woman God has led me to be.  Keep praying.  Love my son with the passion of the stars.  Grow my relationship with my husband intoa phenomenon even we can’t contain.  Be a strong mom, wife, and businesswoman.  

And of course, give it more time.

An Unorthodox Apology

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Every time a mass shooting happens, I think about writing this letter. Today, I have the courage to do it.

Dear Aaron Alexis, Seung-Hui Cho, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Wade Michael Page, James Holmes, Nidal Hasan, Mark Barton, Jiverly Wong, Michael McLendon and hundreds of others that are sadly too numerous to name:

Let me begin by saying how sorry I am that you felt the need to commit such senseless, heinous crimes. I honestly can’t begin to imagine the pain in your heart that led you to believe what you did was in any way acceptable by societal standards. You’ve each broken my heart by what you did and I will never forget how angry I was at you. How much I hated you. How sad I was by all of those innocent lives you snatched away from us.

How much I misunderstood you.

But… I’m also sorry about a lot of things. I’m sorry that bully kept relentlessly picking on you in third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade and through middle school. I’m sorry that you spent recess crying in the bathroom because you couldn’t face him one more time. I’m really sorry that your teacher didn’t do anything to stop it.

I’m sorry that your parents didn’t bring you up with the love and discipline you undoubtedly deserved. I can’t help but wonder if they taught you how to respect others, how to treat others, how to make good decisions, how to behave in public, and how to love yourself… well…. we will never know how that would have turned out.

I’m sorry your parents didn’t listen to you when you were young. I’m sorry that you thought your voice didn’t matter when you were faced with a difficult situation. I’m sorry you thought you were insignificant.

I’m sorry that when you started feeling like there was something wrong with you – when you noticed you weren’t acting or feeling like your friends and peers – that you didn’t have the courage to talk to anyone about it. I’m sorry that you thought you were a freak because you started to hear or see things that weren’t there. I’m sorry you were scared to talk to anyone about feeling depressed. I’m especially sorry that no one believed or respected you if you did seek help.

I’m sorry that your mom was drunk, passed out on the sofa while your step-dad molested you. I’m sorry that when you told a “trusted adult” about it, they didn’t believe you or do anything to help you. I’m really sorry that you thought you weren’t worthy of love, affection, and safety.

I’m sorry that when your dad died in a drive-by shooting, your family brushed it under the rug and didn’t offer you the support you needed. I’m sorry that kids at school teased you about not having a dad and you felt like your voice wasn’t enough to defend yourself. I’m sorry that your teacher didn’t recognize that you needed counseling when she suspended you every other week for fighting.

I’m sorry when your grandma brought you to church that you thought you weren’t worthy enough to be there. I’m sorry that you couldn’t hear God speaking to you because you were so depressed and self-loathing.

I’m sorry about all of the people who didn’t have the courage to tell you “I want to help you,” even when they noticed your warning signs. I’m especially sorry about that one person who said this too late.  I’m also sorry about all of those people who called you crazy.

I’m sorry that when you sought acceptance, you found it with the wrong people. I’m also sorry if you never found it at all.

I’m sorry that our mental health system didn’t recognize what you needed. I’m sorry that Big Pharm tried to medicate you and make you think that all of your problems were fixed, when you really needed intense counseling and support. I’m sorry that your psychiatrist didn’t listen to you when you told him or her the medication wasn’t working. I’m sorry that your doctor made your problem seem insignificant.

I’m sorry you thought you were worthless. I’m sorry that other people made you think that way.

I’m sorry you thought you had nothing to live for.

I’m sorry you thought the only way you would be noticed and respected was to appear on CNN for something so horrible, people couldn’t stop looking at you.

I’m sorry it ended this way. For the families of the victims, for your family… and for you.

I’m sorry this will continue to happen until we blatantly admit that mental illness isn’t taboo, bullying is real, and children deserve respect. I’m sorry that some parents will continue to treat their children poorly and wonder what happened when they turn into criminals or worse. I’m sorry when we ask “Why?” that no one seems to know the answer.

I’m sorry we can’t – or don’t want to – see what WE, as a society, are doing wrong. And I’m especially sorry we can’t see how to fix it.

I’m sorry for the next one. I’m sorry that my heart – all of our hearts – will break again and again over something that probably could have been prevented.

I’m sorry I can’t change the world all by myself. Believe me, if I could… things would be very different.

Sincerely,

A broken-hearted mama, who vows to treat her own child with respect, dignity, and love – because he deserves it

Remembering to Remember

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A Canadian Goose lands on the sidewalk with a thump behind me as I stand on the parade field in front of my office building. That’s how quiet it is on this sunny September morning.

The time is 9:03 a.m. – the exact time the second plane hit the World Trade Center 12 years ago. The only reason I know is because I just checked the time, thinking the ceremony was starting a bit late. I am the shortest one of about three hundred people standing on the parade field this morning – as far as I can tell I’m the only one wearing a dress.  Being surrounded by so many tall, uniformed men and women is quite a humbling experience, let me assure you.

The goose waddles away as the speaker finally climbs the steps to the podium.

“……what exactly are we ‘never forgetting?’ The victims? The tragedy? Of course we will never forget those things.  What we DO need to forget, however, is the hate that each of us on this field have in our heart right at this very moment. It was hate that destroyed the towers and the Pentagon and stole away hundreds of innocent lives and if we continue to let that poison our soul, terrorists will continue to win.  In the spirit of national defense, we have to forget that poison….”

Not a single muscle moves on the field. As each soldier, officer, civilian, and contractor absorbs the speaker’s message, two jets fly overhead.  Nice timing, I think to myself as I look around at the Army that surrounds me – the one whose heart of hearts is still hurting – and I truly start to understand the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks.   The speaker’s voice flies over my head and eventually, I don’t hear him at all.

I know. It’s been twelve years. I should “understand” by now. Yes, I know that a lot of innocent men, women, and children died. I know the tragedy was huge.  We all know that. Being surrounded by people whose lives were dramatically changed as a result of that day, however, is really making me think.

As the speaker announces a moment of silence, I wonder how it could possibly get any quieter. That’s when I hear the first sniffle.

Before I know what’s really going on, I start seeing large, burly men dropping to their knees, weeping: heads in hands, bodies shaking with pain and anger still pulsing on from that day.   Soon, only a few of us are left standing and I’m frantically trying to decide what to do.  For sake of not looking weird, I get down on the ground, too, hoping I don’t kneel in goose poop.

I feel pretty insignificant as I think about all of the veterans on the field.  All of them have already agreed and committed to giving their lives for the protection of our country.  They would give up their life to protect my country.  My family.  My husband and son.  My life.

The grass is soft under my bare knees. I look over at a soldier beside me – also on his knees – as a visible tear falls from his face and hits the ground. I can’t imagine what he’s thinking. I don’t want to imagine what he’s thinking.

Some of us think about how 9/11 affected our lives; how one event “changed” us. The truth is once we got over the shock and awe of that day, we picked ourselves up off the floor and carried on. We started to rebuild our confidence in our nation’s defenses. We have moved forward.  Now we have gotten to a point where we think about September 11th once or twice a year.

We don’t realize this healing process is a luxury some can’t afford.

Each soldier that surrounds me on this perfectly manicured parade field still feels responsible for the events of that day, even though most probably won’t admit it. Each soldier feels guilty. Angry.  Resentful.    Their hearts still ache.  When the planes crashed, some of these Iraq War Veterans were just children fresh out of basic training.  As the towers fell, those children grew up fast and went off to war.  They saw things in the war we don’t want to know about.  They watched some of their friends die.  And for some very unlucky few – the war scarred them in a way that will never heal.  The events from September 11, 2001 are still killing them from the inside.

When we think about those who died in the terrorist attacks, we can’t forget the men and women who died in the years following and more importantly, those who are still dying.

This, my fine readers, is the true work of a terrorist. It’s continuing to happen all around us and we don’t even notice. Our own thoughts have been changed about our nation’s security. We have spent billions of dollars reworking our nation’s defenses. Millions of Americans think differently about our county – doubting the very nature of national defense. The children of the victims and soldiers killed still have nightmares.  Terrorism is breaking down our country slowly from the inside because we can’t help it.  We don’t know how.

These soldiers are stronger than I could probably ever be.  Their dedication and love for our country blankets me with humility.  I feel the sting of my own tears surfacing.  On the ground in the middle of all those soldiers, I’ve never felt so vulnerable and so protected at the same time before.  I know their wounds will never heal. Their minds will never wander away from that moment.  While we think about 9/11 once or twice a year, these brave men and women think about it every. single. day.

These are the people we must also remember on 9/11.  While it’s important to honor the dead and their families, we must also honor the living: those who have already sacrificed so much and those who are steadfast in dedication to their country – and those who will willingly die to protect it.

Christmas 2012

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JJ superkid

JJ needed a new cape – he got to open it early!

Back of the cape.  Super J!

Back of the cape. Super J!

 

Will knocked the star off the tree because we were horsing around... :/

Will knocked the star off the tree because we were horsing around… :/

Zoom!!

Zoom!!

Playing before we open presents

Playing before we open presents

Present time!

Present time!

James was excited about this one!

James was excited about this one!

Heather's new shirt.  Cute!

Heather’s new shirt. Cute!

Cowboys blanket that Mom made for Jamar! (with a pillow!)

Cowboys blanket that Mom made for Jamar! (with a pillow!)

Spiderman Helicopter!

Spiderman Helicopter!

 

Chili Cookoff Champ.

Chili Cookoff Champ.

Jerry and Dad got matching hats - Chili Cookoff Champs!

Jerry and Dad got matching hats – Chili Cookoff Champs!

Big box of mystery - he was more excited about the box itself than the mystery inside!

Big box of mystery – he was more excited about the box itself than the mystery inside!

Will is all grown up.  I noticed that he was growing a stache.

Will is all grown up. I noticed that he was growing a stache.

James is trying to catch up to Will.   He's not quite ready for a stache, though.

James is trying to catch up to Will. He’s not quite ready for a stache, though.

After we opened presents, we attended to other business.  The Traditional Shooting of the Weapons.

 

My brother and I bonded... over a pistol.  It was fun.

My brother and I bonded… over a pistol. It was fun.

 

Learning what to do - actually, I think I was telling Jamar that if this gun knocked me down, I would kick his face.  Or something like that.

Learning what to do – actually, I think I was telling Jamar that if this gun knocked me down, I would kick his face. Or something like that.

 

This one nearly did knock me over the first shot - that little thing has a lot of bite.

This one nearly did knock me over on the first shot – that little thing has a lot of bite.

This is a black powder gun.  Dad was lighting the fuse for me.

This is a black powder gun. Dad was lighting the fuse for me.

This is what the black powder gun looks like when it goes off.  This is my youngest nephew holding it.  We then had a short lesson in physics.

This is what the black powder gun looks like when it goes off. This is my youngest nephew holding it. We then had a short lesson in physics.

The boys reloading.  Dad loaded the black powder gun a few times for us.

The boys reloading. Dad loaded the black powder gun a few times for us.

Heather got in on the fun, too!

Heather got in on the fun, too!

 

Family portrait!

Family portrait!

Christmas 2012 ended with Jamar, Jerry, My dad, My mom, and I watching Amish Mafia (seriously, have you guys ever seen this show?  Hilarious!) while the boys played video games.   I’m slightly sad that Christmas only comes once a year, so I think we’re going to have to recreate Christmas again before next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my job.

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As many of you already know, JJ came down with RSV again this past month.  The kid’s had it every single year since he was born, starting at three months old.  He’s developed brochiolitis every year as a result, including this year.   We’re no stranger to Emergency Rooms, nebulizers, and humidifiers.  This time, the virus hit fast and furious, offering JJ a fever of 102 at 8 p.m. and landing at 104.2 by 10 p.m., even after I gave him Motrin.  He had already been on the nebulizer with Albuterol for the entire day prior, so I did not expect him to get worse.

Six hours before our ambulance ride

Six hours before our ambulance ride

I feel nervous thinking about it.  A fever that comes on that fast is never good.  Never.  I picked him up out of bed and he was rather upset, swinging his arms and kicking his feet.  As I brought him into the living room and sat on the sofa, I knew we needed to get to the ER.  His body was on fire.

Jerry was on the phone with the 911 operator as I held JJ, rocking him and telling him that we were going to get some help.  His eyes kept rolling back, probably because he was exhausted from not having slept for two days.  By the time we were getting his shoes on, he had nearly completely stopped responding to our voices and I could feel his body falling limp in my arms.  I could hear the token crackling and wheezing in his chest.  His breaths were short and fast.  I jumped up of the sofa and hurried outside, trying to arouse him awake.  When the cold December air hit his face, he opened his eyes just in time to see the ambulance pull up to the driveway with it’s lights flashing.  It was 10:30 p.m.

The ambulance driver ushered us around to the side of the ambulance, where another paramedic was waiting.  I handed JJ to Jerry, who was behind us, and climbed the stairs.  Jerry handed JJ back to me, who was now completely enthralled in seeing the inside of the ambulance.  It’s so funny how kids perk up at the sight of something interesting, isn’t it? 

I already know what some of you are thinking – this crazy Mama Bear called an ambulance for a fever and lethargy?  Why didn’t she just put the kid in the car and take him herself?

Blame Aunt D.

They can do more for JJ in the back on an ambulance than you can while he’s in the back of your car.”  She once told me.

She’s right.  My best friend, Desirea, made me promise to never drive him to the hospital myself if it was an emergency.  She’s seen way too much of what can happen to kids as a PICU nurse.  I promised her I would never drive him myself it it was an emergency – it’s the only thing I’ve ever really promised to her, so I can’t break it even if I wanted to.

I had no idea how sick JJ really was when Jerry called 911.  I certainly didn’t want him to stop breathing or have a seizure in the back of my car, so off in the ambulance we went.

We sat quietly during the 20 minute ride.  He clung to my arms which were wrapped around his feverish little torso.  I almost felt that my grip around his body alone could  keep him from getting worse on the ride there.  I could tell he was scared by the way his wide eyes looked around without moving his head.  He only spoke when he asked for daddy (who was right behind us in the car) and that we were going “really fast.”  Personally, I couldn’t tell how fast we were going.  It’s hard to tell from the back of an ambulance.

Every time JJ clenched down on my arm with his hands, I would calmly whisper into his ear:  “It’s okay, baby.  We’re getting you help so you can feel better.  Don’t be scared…”  I just kept trying to reassure him over and over.  “I’m not going to leave you, sweetie.  I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you.”

Was I convincing him, or convincing me?

By the time we got to the hospital, he seemed to be feeling better.  His fever was down to 102 and he was screaming (and coughing) to the top of his lungs when the nurse tried to measure his oxygen levels.  All that screaming helped drop his fever even lower, thankfully.  The pediatrician was great and had us out of there in under two hours.  His fever was down to 99, thanks to a dose of Tylenol, when we walked out of the hospital at 1:30 a.m.

I think on the way home I said something like “I’d rather have a hundred ER visits that turn out to be nothing than one that turns out to be serious” to Jerry.  I was so thankful that JJ was feeling a bit better than we would all hopefully get some sleep.

Later when we got home, JJ and I were laying in my bed (no way was I going to let this kid sleep alone in his bed.  No way.)  His cough had started to settle down a bit when I propped him up on a few pillows.  He placed his tiny hands behind his head, letting his elbows sprawl into my sleeping space.  I didn’t mind.  It wasn’t like I was planning on getting a lot of sleep anyway.  We both lay there forever, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the adrenaline to calm and to drift off to sleep.  Jerry opted for the sofa – so at least one parent got some sleep.

“Mama?” he suddenly said into the darkness.

“Yes, baby?”

“Thank you for helping me.”

I.  Thought.  I.  Was.  Going.  To.  Lose.  It.  Fighting back tears, I took a deep breath and looked over at him.

“You’re welcome, honey.  It’s my job.”

Those words are among the sincerest that have ever come out of my mouth.  The sense of protection that a parent feels over a child is almost overwhelming.  Over time, you learn to wipe tears and kiss boo boos without too much anguish, but when something serious  – or perceived serious – comes up, the Mama Bear instinct kicks in and you don’t even know what you’re doing.  The only thing you know is the job that nature intended you to do – protect the child.

In light of this past week’s events, I thought to myself how hard it is to protect my child when I’m away from him.  Or at least, how hard it is to trust others to protect him.  It’s so hard to let go.  Especially as they grow more independent.  So hard.  As JJ grows, I’m growing too.  I’m learning just as much as he is.  He’s learning to be more independent, I’m learning how to hold on tighter.  I’m learning how to show him to be a polite young man, he’s learning how to play superheroes.  Will we ever be on the same page? I’m thinking no.  At least, not for the next few years.

I don’t have guilt sending him back to school this week.  I know that if I disrupt his life – and mine – by having an irrational fear of the unknown, then he will never grow.  Out of a terrible tragedy as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, we all need to figure out how to grow.   We can’t do that if we don’t send the kids to school and go to work.  If we’re holed up in our own homes forever, afraid that something bad will happen…. we are assuring ourselves that it will.  We will miss all of the wonderful things that are out in the world.  We will miss school plays and meet-the-teacher-days.  We will miss our chance to cry at Kindergarten Graduations, chorus performances, or science fairs.

This is what being a parent is all about.  Understanding when to make a hard decision in the best interest of our child, not ourselves.  Understanding when our children are truly in danger and not under our (or their own) fear of the unknown.  It’s about preparing them for emergency situations, teaching them how to react when a crisis comes up, and showing them how to prevent accidents from happening.

It’s the single most difficult thing I have experienced as a parent.  But I must conquer it and raise my child – it’s my job.

a very vain yet sincere open letter to mikasa.

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Dear wonderful people of Mikasa,

My name is Kristen and for the likelihood that you don’t remember me from *gulp* seven years ago, I used to be the Store Manager of the Richmond, Virginia retail store, #216.  Believe me when I say I know Mikasa.

My kitchen is filled to this day with sparkling Mikasa china, crystal, and flatware.  I fell in love with your brand seven years ago from the moment I put my hands on it.  I have Sand Dune flatware which has been long discontinued.  I’m fine with the discontinuation, being from the “inside,” I understand why discontinuations happen.  I’m fine with not being able to get replacement pieces.  I get it.

What I DON’T get is your new flatware.   I need tea spoons, so for sake of having a whole set, I’ve devised that I am going to purchase a new set.  As I was browsing your website, I noticed that you’re stocking 18/0 flatware.   I was shocked.  18/0?  Are you serious?

Do you have any idea what 18/0 flatware will look like in ten years?  Nickel is IMPERATIVE to keeping flatware looking newer and without it, you’re going to run into a HOST of customer service problems.  Rusting, dulling, pitting, discoloring… the possibilities are endless with a sub-par product.  The Mikasa brand has always been one of top quality and fine craftsmanship.  Now, you’ve lowered yourself to Oneida standards.  Even the staple pattern Classico Satin is 18/0!  I don’t know about you guys, but I certainly don’t want to get a tetanus shot every time I accidentally poke myself with a fork.  And I would hate to force someone else to have a tetanus shot after I stab them.

By accident, of course.  Always by accident.

Pretty for a photo shoot. Ugly on your table.

Don’t get me wrong – Oneida and other low-end brands are fine for short term, beat-em-up-and-who-cares-if-you-loose ‘em flatware sets.  It’s just not my style.  Maybe this should be a lesson in lost spoons for me.  Will I go out and buy a cheap set of flatware cause I’ll lose more spoons?  No.  I’ll just order extra spoons with my next set.  Problem solved.

Seven years ago, do you know how many Mikasa flatware patterns were 18/0 quality?  None.  Zero.  Not even the least expensive pattern was less than 18/8.  I had customers come in SPECIFICALLY looking for 18/8 and 18/10 flatware.  Do you know why they wanted top-quality flatware?  So the hostess can fix her hair real quick in the reflection on the back of a spoon before she served her guests.  That won’t happen with 18/0 flatware.  At least, not after the first year or so.

Those coiffing, mostly-vain, and probably spoiled customers trusted that you maintained top quality in your products.  Like those customers, if I spend a decent dollar on flatware, I’m not going to sacrifice the nickel to save ten bucks.  I’m sorry, Mikasa.  My next flatware set will not come from your company. 

I’m incredibly disappointed.  I’m almost afraid to see what your bone ash content or your lead content is now.  Mikasa used to be a brand that I was proud of.  I endorsed your brand.  I was passionate about your brand!  But now… now I’m just some other company’s customer.

I’m going to miss you.  Good luck in the future.

on words.

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I just finished a hearty laugh-a-thon at myself.  Look what I found in the archives of my email:

Words

Pull from the core

Streaming, flowing, pouring, slowing

Until they stop, mid-air

Like the moment when she nearly falls

Before her trapeze partner catches her

And they start flowing again.

Together, effortless

Slowing, starting, ebbing, floating

Winding through the evening air

Opening into the dark-

They are looking around

And stopping

Wordless.

I know this was a submission for a creative writing class I took in college.  I don’t remember the assignment, nor do I remember what grade I received.  I’m rather certain that I passed the course, although you can’t tell from this poem, or I wouldn’t have graduated.   I needed one more liberal arts credit, and the creative writing class was the only course available, so I was stuck with it.

I’ve never been much of a creative writer, vice babbling on some random blog that no one has heard of.  I don’t outline (of course, with the exception of technical documents, but that’s another time) and I don’t plan.  I just sit and type.  I write when I’m bored, sad, frustrated, or otherwise available.  I have no writing pattern nor do I have a writing agenda.

In short, I’m a poor and sloppy writer.

I think in this case, sloppiness is a good thing.  When did writing become a chore?  Most of us think about writing in the same way we think about doing the dishes.  If it needs to be done, we’ll put it off until the fruit flies build condos in the bottom of the sink (not that I’ve ever done this…..)

In school, writing WAS a chore.  For most, writing is difficult and cumbersome, much like painting a mural would be for me.  Writing is an ART, just as much as sculpting, painting, or photography.  It takes natural talent.  It takes love. Not many people understand that.  Does a painter spend days and weeks pre-planning a painting?  Perhaps… but I would like to be the type of painter that just… paints.  Anything at all – just pour it out like vomit.

That’s what all of this is – word vomit.  Regurgitated by a kamikaze writer.

I would suck as an artist, by the way.

But writing?  I could roll with that.  I could write a beautiful novel and sell thousands of copies the first week.  I could make my own ebook (I hear it’s rather easy these days) and grace the screens of a multitude of ereaders across the world.  I could win some sort of prize for my work and hang my accolades on my wall at home.

I could…. but I don’t want to.  Truth is:  I don’t feel like doing all that planning.  The thought makes me tired already.  I may have taken fifteen minutes to complete that poem at the top of this page, and probably on the morning it was due.

The heaving has subsided and I’m going back to doing real things now….

 

everything i need to know, i learned from my kid.

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sniff, sniff.

I smelled poop.  Hmm…. weird.   I mean, who normally smells poop sitting at their desk in the office?  The odor was wafting, so perhaps a wave drifted in from the bathroom, or from someone else’s cubicle, or even outside.  I loved having the window open in my old office.  I miss it.

The day dragged on with whiffs of poop drifting into and out of my cube.  I kept looking under my shoe, out the door, and into the hallway.  I couldn’t find the offender anywhere.   The odor nearly drove me crazy until I pushed up the sleeves of my sweater.

There it was.  Poop.  ON MY ARM.  Dry and smelly from this morning Two rules were immediately born that day:

Rule #1:  Always check yourself for poop or other bodily fluids before leaving the house.

Rule #2:  Always have an escape route, in the form of baby wipes or another personal cleaning method.

At the time, I had Clorox wipes.  They worked.

******************************************************

I wished away my entire pregnancy, I won’t lie.  I was so miserable the entire time, I just wanted to be well again.  During the last 6 weeks, I also went in weekly for a non-stress test because JJ had pretty much stopped moving.   Everything was fine – he was just lazy.  Those visits were IN ADDITION to my weekly doctor’s visits.   I spent so much time wishing away pregnancy that I never stopped to really enjoy it.  When it was over, I felt sad that I hadn’t taken the time to savor the only time God would ever need my assistance in a miracle.  Since then, I know to savor minutes when JJ is sleeping in my arms or talking to me or snuggling.   He’s never in a hurry (and it kills me sometimes!)  But he’s got a point – savor the moment!

Rule #3:  Slow the F- down and let the moment simmer.

******************************************************

Parents today have too much stress.  Think about it – fifty years ago, did your grandmother worry about what her friends thought of her parenting style?  Maybe, but it probably didn’t matter too much to her.  There were no parenting books, Dr. Sears was just a baby, and no one judged for using vaccines, formula, or the newest carseat on the market (in fact, not many car seats were even in existence!)    Today – we worry about everything.  We stress about how much our kid is eating or sleeping, whether they’re potty trained at a certain time, whether they’re watching too much TV, how much they need to be socialized, whether they are getting enough outside time…. but most importantly… what other parents think about our parenting.   Some parents even go as far as to judge other parents to make themselves feel better about what they are doing.  Some genuinely care about safety of others’ children (social workers and Car Seat Safety Techs, for example), but most of them just like to meddle.

I’m guilty of all of this.  Most of us are, at some point or another.   I’m much happier when I just go with it.  It’s always been JJ’s philosophy, too… even before he was born.

Rule #4:  Go with the flow.

******************************************************

We are learning how scary the big world is.  JJ is more independent and wants to run, explore, and play in all of the most inappropriate places (like, a parking lot).  I’ve tried to explain to him why it’s important to stay near me in the store or parking lot.  At first, he understood the parking lot bit, but didn’t understand the store.  There are no cars inside the store, so he can’t possibly be run over in there.  I was slightly frustrated and told him that a monster lives in the store and will snatch him up if he didn’t stay near Momma. I was as serious as a heart attack when I told him, too.

He stays near Momma now, at least for the most part.  Kid knows monsters are no joke.

Rule #5: Monsters are real. Mom is their only nemesis.

******************************************************

At what point did we all lose the urge to break out with “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in public?  When did it become unacceptable to have ice cream for dinner?  Why SHOULDN’T we run around the house naked screaming “I’m Batman!!” or dance until we fall over or play pirate ships in the bathtub?  Why don’t we go bug hunting anymore?

Maybe this is what’s wrong with society today.  We forgot to keep doing the things that make us happy.   We became disciplined and boring.

We’re doing all of these things TONIGHT.  Because it’s too short not to.  And we’re far from boring.

Rule #6:  Live in the moment.

 

There are so many lessons.  I haven’t even begun to tally up all of the ways that being a parent has changed me.  Every day is a new challenge, a new opportunity, and a new hope that my child will teach me something new.  And from what everyone tells me, the journey has only begun.

time ain’t no rolling stone.

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Dear Time Magazine,

I have two words about your latest magazine cover:  BRA – VO.

Ok, so that’s one word.  But, as we both know, nothing is truly what it appears to be, is it?

I have to admit, I can’t help but appoint you a topic in my “almost famous” public rant letters.  What exactly were you trying to point out with your magazine cover, exactly?  Yes, I AM judging you by your cover, and in case you have already forgotten what it was:

All I have to say is…. really?  Did someone in your editorial department become offended about breastfeeding?  Or perhaps attachment parenting?  And why do the great majority of us care?

No no… it can’t be that.  It CAN’T be that you CARE about good or bad parenting… Magazine sales must be down and you need readers!  You need notoriety!  Right? 

I have bad news for you, Time Mag… I think Rolling Stone has you beat.  I’ve seen copies of this magazine cover mounted on walls in various places, including a professor’s office in the Psychology Department at VCU:

You remember these people, don’t you?  It’s John Lennon and Yoko Ono – taken just hours before Lennon’s death in 1981.  I would HIGHLY doubt that your breastfeeding cover will maintain it’s notoriety like this cover has.  I mean, if that’s what you were going for.  Just sayin’.

Or… wait.  Perhaps you were going after some kind of parenthood shock factor, just in time for Mother’s Day?  Maybe something showing the “beauty” of motherhood?  Or something that shows the world that women aren’t afraid to show us that?  Bad news again… Vanity Fair takes the prize:

Are you perhaps trying to sway people’s opinion on a controversial topic?   I think you may have probably scored more readers with this one:

Okay, okay.  I’ll let you figure the rest out.  My issue with your magazine is not what is physically on your cover.  It’s your poor choice of title.  You’re essentially challenging any mother who is not breastfeeding/pro-attachment/tall and beautiful.     As if it’s not already hard enough to be a good parent, you just had to put your iron in the fire.  You just HAD to pick on a good majority of mothers who don’t fit your model’s lifestyle.   Why don’t we celebrate ALL moms, not just the “perfect by Time Magazine’s definition” moms. 

Like this mom…. this REAL mom… who surprised her three children on Mother’s Day.  Let’s celebrate her.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/navy-mom-returns-from-afghanistan-surprises-kids-13580491

How about this REAL mom…. who is facing something that every parent fears and no mother should ever deal with:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2012/05/12/sybrina-fulton-trayvon-8-months-vacation-time-donation_n_1511553.html

I could go on for many hours about moms who really deserve some spotlight.  Lucky for you I won’t, cause I have to go wash the vomit off my carseat straps. 

So, bravo, Time Magazine!  I don’t think I could put my foot in my mouth, kick myself in the rear, and slap around so many mothers quite as eloquently as you have.   And lose at least one reader in the process.

Bravo, indeed.

-Kristen

miss the most.

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“Excuse me, I’m looking for dishes.”

I glared at the red-haired woman, barely five feet tall and wearing a well-loved gray sweatsuit.  Her accent was thick– perhaps English.  I couldn’t really tell.  I’m not good with accents. Her tennis shoes were dirty and one was untied.  They used to be white, now they were covered with a permanent brown tinge and the soles were showing serious wear. 

I can’t say I was dressed much better – my khakis and blue apron were coated with a dark dust mask from having unloaded a shipment a few hours earlier.  My shoes were also dirty, but at least in good working condition.  My ponytail was a bit disheveled from crawling under shelving in the stock room and my knees hurt. 

I was in no mood to deal with a window shopper, either.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place.”  I plastered a smile on my face as I continued my conversation with her.  The day was very sunny and I could tell it was getting warm out.  Springtime in the Fashion Park was always refreshing with hundreds of flowers in bloom and landscapers constantly buzzing around with a wheelbarrow of mulch and watering canisters strapped to their backs.  My storefront shared the same glory as the landscape outside – new product graced the table scapes and bright colors lent a cheer to the normally dark corner in which the store was situated.

She didn’t really know what she wanted, she just knew that her mother was visiting from out of the country and she didn’t have anything nice to serve dinner on.  I showed her every single possibility for what she needed but she couldn’t make up her mind.  After two hours, she politely said she had an appointment and thanked me for my time.  As she left, I felt used and disappointed as I removed the perma-smile and returned to unpacking stock.  My knees still hurt, too.

The next day was my day off.  Around noon, I received a call from one of the shift supervisors at the store.  She was thrilled that she had just sold a thousand dollars worth of dinnerware.  I shared her excitement and congratulated her on the sale.  I knew she worked hard on it.  Before I let her off the phone, I asked a few questions about how everything else was.  As an afterthought, I asked her one more thing: 

“What did that customer look like, if you don’t mind me asking?”

She described the lady with the red hair and accent – the one that had been in the day before.

I let the supervisor take all the credit for the sale and posted the details of the sale on the break room board for all to see.  For the weeks following, she was excited to be at work and committed to working hard.  She had such awesome confidence in herself and I was so.  proud.  of.  her. 

I miss that.

I miss the pride and the excitement.  I miss the “undercover-ness” of it all.  I miss looking at a hard day’s work and knowing that it would pay me back later.  I miss the ladies in the sweatsuits. 

I miss Mikasa.

We were the underdogs – one of the smallest stores in the district and, at 24 years old, I was one of the youngest (and least experienced) store managers in the company.  We were situated on the back side of the mall, away from traffic.  We had old computers, no internet and a tiny stock room.  The trash compactor was frequently broken.  Our store was radically different from all other stores in the entire company (all but one that is).  We had marketing challenges, floor plan dilemmas and display woes.  It was a difficult, tiring job.  I frequently went home exhausted and returned the next equally tired.  Long days often turned into long evenings.  The minutes dragged on, but the years flew by. 

I learned more working with the management of Mikasa than I have ever learned at any job.  People skills, time management skills, organization, structure, sacrifice…. patience… I still use all of it today.  I learned how to LISTEN to people, instead of simply hearing them.  I learned how to put other people’s needs before my own, including that of my staff.  I was fortunate to work with an upper management team who took the time to teach me these things, rather than letting me figure it out on my own. 

I learned how to smash dinnerware so the pieces didn’t fly up and hit me in the eye.  That was fun.

I learned how to toss full boxes of crystal stem ware off 14-foot stock room shelves to awaiting arms below and not break any of them (Rachel, do you remember doing this?!)  I learned how to carry 12 stemmed glasses with one hand.  Lead crystal is surprisingly strong.

I learned how to force an employee out of the business.  I didn’t like it too much, but it’s a skill that I might need later.  Along those lines, I learned how to fire an employee and take a threat gracefully (Shannon – that was your first day!)

Conflict resolution, cooperation, negotiation, flawless execution – all water under the bridge by the time it was over.  Punch lines, like “It is what it is!” and “Throw (someone) under the bus!” are still running jokes today.    

It’s been five years since I locked the door to my store for the last time.  I remember standing outside the window, in the freezing cold, wondering where it had gone.  The store was completely empty and dark.  The incredible three year adventure ended like a tornado ripping apart a picturesque Iowa town.  There one day – gone the next.  My boss told me on closing day: “Of all the stores in my district, I think I’ll miss Richmond the most.”  I told him I’d miss it the most too.  

Five years later, I still do. 

The original blueprint to the store hangs in my house today.  It’s a silent reminder of the place where I started and why I can’t go back.  Mikasa doesn’t exist any more.  No matter where I go in the retail world, it won’t be there.  So I choose to stay away. 

I couldn’t find any pictures of the store online, but I might have some hanging around somewhere.  I’ll look around.  Until then, this is the place that opened up where Mikasa used to be.  I hear they’re awesome.   They should be – they have big shoes to fill. 

 http://www.rvaenvysalon.com/index.php#Home

16 year old me.

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Dear 16-year-old-me,

I want to tell you a few things that I’ve learned about you.  Since I’ve doubled your age, I’ve also doubled my wisdom since I was your age.  There are a few things that I’m still not at peace over, so perhaps you’ll hear this and somehow make different decisions than I did. 

Listen, first and foremost:  the “lovestruck” relationship that you’re starting with that boy who already has a girlfriend, well,  it won’t last.  That weird feeling you get when you’re around him?  Listen to it.  He’s wasting your time. 

Racing said boyfriend ten miles back to your house at 10 p.m. with no headlights on is NOT.  A.  GOOD.  IDEA. 

The next boyfriend will break your heart miserably, but don’t let that stop you from having the relationship.  He’ll teach you a few important lessons you wouldn’t otherwise learn.   When he breaks up with you over the internet, don’t be mad because he’s insensitive.  Be mad because he’s lazy. 

I know that your sister will soon leave you at school at the end of the day.  I know that the bus will have already left and you will have to figure out how to get home.  Props to you for asking a teacher who lives nearby to take you home, but when you get there, don’t lose your temper.  Your sister has a disease that you don’t know about yet and she doesn’t understand what she’s doing to you.  This day is a pivotal point in your relationship with her, and if you lose your temper with her now, she will never be the same again.  Ever.  Don’t be so upset and angry with her over the things she does.  Please, please try to love her now – she’ll be gone in a few short years and you’ll be left heartbroken, wondering what happened.  Just try to take comfort that it won’t be your fault, whether you lost your temper that day or not. 

With that in mind, work on building a better relationship with your little sister.  She’s gonna really need you later.  Don’t treat her like you’ve been treated.

I promise, the Christmas Dance isn’t as serious as you think it is.

All those kids who pick on you?  Most of them will be fat, ugly, or jobless one day.  You won’t be.  Take pride in that. 

Please be careful driving your car.  You’re not invincible. 

Quit stressing over your Geometry grade so much.  You won’t really need most of that information later anyway.  Pay attention in Algebra and Calc, though.

Read.

Your best friends in high school won’t be your best friends in college.

Don’t be so irritated when Mom and Dad make you go to church.  The knowledge, foundation, and friendships you take away from there will be valuable to you one day. 

 Call your grandma.  Often. 

Take more pictures – and keep them – so you have something to put up on a blog about your 16-year-old self one day. 

Stop dying your hair.  You’re just going to ruin it. 

Living on a farm, working at Pizza Hut and driving a clunker won’t be lame when you grow up.  All of this will make you a more responsible person.  In fact, you’ll be glad that you had the farm life experience. 

You WILL have a happily ever after and it WILL happen soon.  Just try to stay out of trouble until then, okay?

You see, 16 year old me, you are loved, fortunate and happy.  When the recession hits and the war starts, you’ll realize how lucky you are.  When family members die, you will love the remaining ones more.  Most importantly, when you marry your prince and have a baby of your own, you’ll understand everything I’ve told you.  Enjoy your youth while you still have it.  Be careful, stay on the right path, and I will see you in fifteen years. 

Love,

Me

organic wine will never be fine.

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Anybody out there allergic to sulfur?

*raisies hand, too*

Makes drinking wine difficult, eh? 

I have learned over the past few years how to choose wines with younger vintages (tend to have lower sulfites) and from different parts of the world (Italy and France tend to use less sulfites) in order to avoid the dreaded mask of heat that sweeps over my face and neck when I drink a glass of wine.  I have also embarrassingly broken out in hives after drinking a single glass of very tasty Merlot.  For the most part, careful wine selection has been helping considerably. 

However, you will never catch me ordering a $32 glass of wine at a restaurant and I assure you – it is not due to the expense.

Sulfur dioxide is a chemical derived naturally from the earth.  It is added to wines and other foods to aid in preservation.  It stalls oxidation that could ruin fine wines, which are intended to age for a long length of time.  Alcohol refines itself in aging wines, producing more oxygen from the reaction.  That oxygen can cause the wine to lose its color, flavor and clarity.  Not good for a top businessman trying to impress a new client with a bottle of 1982 Cabernet, is it? Sulfur dioxide, otherwise known as “sulfite,” prevents the oxidation of the wine, therefore allowing it to age gracefully and develop a refined flavor, aroma, and color.  Sulfites are important to wine production, so all wines will have some, no matter the vintage.   Sulfites also make at least 7% of the population break out in rashes, hives or worse.  My mother, father and I are all among that 7%. 

Wines that were not intended to last forty years (Three Buck Chuck, anyone?) will be the ones that you find at the grocery store for under $5 a bottle.  Guess what they do not have a lot of?  You guessed it – sulfite.  The wine maker does not even worry about adding additional sulfites because he knows the wine will be consumed quickly.  It still has some deal of sulfite included, but not as much as that 1982 bottle. 

Let’s have a little organic talk.  I have been reading many articles about the impact of non-organic grapes.  Vineyards are eco-destroyers, using lots of petroleum and chemicals to control hundreds and hundreds of acres of crop.  Tractors use gasoline and produce emissions, so do harvesters and other equipment.  In addition, think of all of those glass bottles and labels that we just throw away when we’re tipsy…

I never thought about organic wine before a few weeks ago.  The wine industry has really stepped up its game and increased the number of organic wines available to stores nationwide.  Kroger even carries a few.  The only catch?  They have sulfites in them.  Therefore, the USDA does not consider them organic.  The bottles have phrases such as “made with organic grapes” on the label.  Some of them are “a product of sustainable farming” or “made using eco-friendly practices.”  Some of those farmers are using recycled glass for the bottles and (get this) sheep for weed-control.  Some farmers are using natural corks and soy ink for labels.  I think these eco-minded farmers deserve a little more credit than we give them.  They are trying to save our planet – one wine bottle at a time! 

Although wine is nearly impossible to make without sulfites, it is still possible to make the wine without chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful agents.  Sustainable farming is important and vineyards are no exception.  Since true organic wines do not contain added sulfites, they will not last long in a wine cellar.  They will never age or mature, and will never reach their full potential.  So… are they still considered wine?  The matter is still up for debate.   Organic wines are good… but they will never be fine.  Sad, I know. 

At Kroger, you can find:

Lolonis. Featuring an excellent selection of red and white varietals, the California vineyard that uses ladybugs to fight pests is very drinkable and quite popular.

Organic producers Badger Mountain and Our Daily Red both have a reputation for quality and a commitment to the organic movement. 

Whole Foods and Ellwood Thompson both have dedicated organic wine sections for your browsing pleasure.

So, go out and find a bottle of (young vintage) goodness – both inside and out – and enjoy with a cloud of tipsy yet smug righteousness. 

Here is a handy list of other organic wineries to keep an eye out for:

Recommended Organic Wine Producers

Benziger Winery(California)

Grgich Hills (California)

Bonterra Vineyards (California)

Frog’s Leap (California)

Tablas Creek(California)

The Organic Wine Company - Key importer of Organic French Wines

Frey Vineyards(California)

Organic Vintners - Importers of internationally produced Organic Wines

Ceago Vinegarden (California)

Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic (Israel)

Summerhill Pyramid Winery (Canada)

Robinvale Organic Wines (Australia)

Richmond Plains (New Zealand)

Kawarau Estate (New Zealand)

Temple Bruer Winery (Australia)

Nuova Cappelletta (Italy)

Bodega Hermanos Delgado (Spain)

Badger Mountain Vineyard (Washington)

Snoqualmie Wines also has an organic line of remarkable wines

References:

http://www.organicwinejournal.com/index.php/2008/03/what-is-organic-wine/

http://www.organicwinejournal.com/index.php/2008/03/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-sulfites-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

Kindle Freebie Book Review: Bluegrass State of Mind

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I’m rather determined to either A:  Go blind or B:  Wear out my new Kindle.

Perhaps both will happen simultaneously so my eyes won’t miss the Kindle.  Do they make braille books for the Kindle?

Bluegrass State of Mind – Kathleen Brooks.

My first thought on the book:  poorly constructed.  Sentence structure, imagery, and character development is mediocre at best.   I lost count of how many portions of the novel included dramatic tense disagreements and I found a few structure problems mixed into the soup.  Even on the Kindle version, I found dozens of typos, which in my opinion, is unacceptable for a published work.

Overall, dialogues and monologues are overused.  I skimmed several sections of monologue and still managed to pick up the story a few pages later.  Sentence structure was robotic and boring, which directly contributed to flat characters and lack of imagery.

McKenna, the main character, seems perfect in every way.  Faced with a very unfortunate situation in New York, she finds a job opportunity in Kentucky where she just happens to know of a very popular and wealthy horse farm owner.  Although many years passed since they last saw each other, he just happens to remember her, just happens to be gorgeous, and just happens to fall instantly in love with her.  This is what is wrong with women today!   Too many books and television shows portray this type of plot and I hate it.  No way could that ever happen in real life without some kind of twist.  I fully expected him to kill her by the end of the book…. or something.  But nope!  He proposed and offered her a brand new house and car after only 19 chapters.  Shiesty.

Even though the author apparently lives in Kentucky, her image of a small southern town is way off.  Having grown up in a small town myself, I can tell you that the book portrays outsiders to be very welcome in small towns.  NOT THE CASE.  Southerners do not take kindly to outsiders, especially to Yankees (I know from experience), and certainly do not take them under their loving wings.  This is exactly what happened in the story.  Everything was perfect from the beginning – the running into the future best friend, the living with the sweet old lady, the circle of gossiping ladies who all INSTANTLY loved the main character… doesn’t happen.  Furthermore, the story portrays southern women to be gossiping hags who meddle in everyone else’s business.  This doesn’t happen either.  Grapevines do exist in the south but they are all fueled by rumor.  The truth ALWAYS prevailed in their grapevine in the book, in every way,  and that rarely happens in real life.  In the south, the story gets skewed and suddenly the deputy sheriff is cheating on his wife with his secretary, when he only sent her flowers when her mom died.  THAT’S HOW IT HAPPENS.

I could go on about the author’s poor research into the workings of a small southern town but I shouldn’t subject my keyboard to such abuse.  This story is too punctually perfect and I resented the main character by the end.  How dare she be so perfect with so little effort?!  Where are all the poor people?  Why doesn’t she have trouble understanding the dialect?  Where are all the drunks at the local bar?  And WHY oh WHY doesn’t ANYONE call her a Yankee behind her back?!

Ugh.  I give this book one star, because this author did somehow manage to get published.  I’m assuming she spelled her own name correctly, too.  No wonder it was a Kindle Freebie.

Next up:  The Marriage Pact, by MJ Pullen.  Also a freebie.

Book Review: Water for Elephants

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Ok, you can stop laughing now.

Really, stop.   I really DID read a book.  I swear it.

The arrival of my new Kindle also dawned a new way of reading for me.  I absolutely LOVE the usability of the Kindle Fire and I swear to each of you – reading is incredible on it. No dog-earing.  No licking fingers.  No paper cuts.  No clunky novels to balance on your chest in bed.  No light needed.  Ahhh…

If the Kindle is a silver platter at a banquet to which I have been invited to eat novels for lunch, I’ll have another serving, please.   And thank you.

I just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen… in two days.  I’ve never been fond of fiction but I have my moments.  Wicked took one of those moments. Water for Elephants takes another.

The main character, Jacob, is endearing and lovable right from the beginning of the book, even though he is a bit brash.  He’s old– 90ish – and is remembering his days as a young man from the confines of a nursing home.  The book begins with a tragedy that almost made me stop reading.  The plot recovers quickly, however, and moves into the main scene within the first two chapters.

Jacob’s relationships are both interesting and fearful.  His feelings toward his boss are so intense, that I began to hate his boss, too.  Feelings toward the circus owner are terrifying.  With the bunkmate – desperate.  With his mistress – passionate.  The book describes in beautiful detail the workings of the human in a not-so-human environment.   Jacob stays true to himself and the memory of his father through the entire story, which made me appreciate him more by the ending.  The boy is not only a character – he has it, too.

During dialogue of the present, I became a little anxious to get back to the past again.  I wouldn’t say the present day story wasn’t interesting, but I read through them faster to get back to the past.  I couldn’t wait to hear about what happened to all the characters by the end, because they all had such colorful lives.

Jacob’s mistress, Marlena, is the picture of beauty and passion.  She is young and married (to Jacob’s boss, no less!)  but the flame between her and Jacob is undeniable.  She is a star circus performer, flashy and nimble.  She is perfection wrapped up in an unreachable, flawless package.  By the end of the book, her character deals with an incredible difficult situation which made me appreciate her even more.  She’s a wonderful personification of grace and love in a very hostile environment, in all directions.  Her one flaw:   she delivers forgiveness more readily than she receives it.

Life on the early circus was hard, dirty, and dangerous.  Mealtime was usually the highlight of the day, and even that was tragically flawed.  Surviving the end of the season was a challenge, and if a member of the crew was hurt or sick, they were thrown from the train to avoid a doctor expense.  During the Depression, circuses began to collapse, and staying with one ensured a place to sleep and a meal to eat – usually.  People joined to get away from homelessness, difficult family situations, and guaranteed employment (if they were freaks.)  Desperation was the theme of the story, but was light enough because I already knew that the main character obviously survives for many years after his circus experience. The final twist was a perfect ending for the main character, and I can easily see a sequel materializing from it.  I wasn’t left hanging, just left for a sense of wonderment of what might happen next.   I’m looking forward to watching the movie soon.

Next on the list:  Bluegrass State of Mind by Kathleen Brooks.  I picked it up because the cover looked cool.

immer älter wächst schnell.

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I have a friend who believes that all babies and toddlers speak German until they are old enough to move their mouths and make English words. I’m assuming that magical age is probably around two and a half or three, but sometimes JJ still lets the inner German out.

Like last night: “Mamaineedasomlalamukanaanacookiepeese?”

All one sentence, all one breath. I laughed out loud. He was asking me for more vanilla soy milk and a cookie, but I couldn’t help it. I asked him to ask again.

“Mamaineedasomlalamukanaanacookiepeese?”

I stood in the kitchen laughing, he stood staring blankly at me. He shoved his cup into my hand, exasperated.

“Mama! Stop!”

He was briefly offended because I was laughing at him. I did stop and apologized while I was pouring the milk. I told him I was laughing because he was so cute and that I understood milk and cookies were serious business to him. He thanked me and bounded away to enjoy his treat. Like many mothers, I stood still for a minute to savor the moment which just passed by. Too many moments slip by us without ever receiving a second thought, disappearing into our memories and eventually forgotten. I’m afraid I’m guilty of letting too many moments slip by.

Yesterday, I cleaned up my email and found all of the updates I sent out while I was pregnant. I wasn’t sad to read them. I wasn’t happy, either. I was… neutral. I don’t remember what it was like to be pregnant. I don’t remember what life was like before JJ. I DO remember what I was wearing the day I told Jerry he was going to be a dad, though. Why do I remember THAT, but can’t remember what it was like to feel JJ moving inside me? I want to remember JJ’s language. His German skills are starting to fade away fast, and I want to remember how cute he was while learning to talk.

The English Language According to JJ

Milk: Muk. (As in: the stuff pigs roll around in.)

Truck: first generation: fuck. Second generation: guck.

Yellow: lello (which is quickly becoming his favorite color)

Sherlock: geegock

Sofa: fofa. (Most commonly used: “I go ni-night fofa?”)

Love you: wuah woo.

Chip: ship

Gabe: babe

Ella: lella (much like yellow)

Ev (Evelyn): eff

Jeff: eff (It was always hard to tell who he was talking about when they both were in the room.)

Clock and sock: ok, you know where this one is headed. Yes, it’s cock.

Pacifier: Pie (Although now Pie has gone to the land of the sleeping pies.)

Shirt: shit (Mama, my shit wet.)

Football: buttball

Teeth: teese. (like strip tease)

Potty: poppy

Old McDonald: ole mah dah doh (McDonald owns a LOT of pigs and one dinosaur)

Work: whuck. (As in “Whuck?! I have to go to whuck again today?!”)

Four: bore. (Yeah, four is kind of boring, isn’t it?)

Water: wahgger.

Most of these words come out more accurately now but he was so cute when he was learning how to say them. Part me cringed when he would pull off his socks and shoes and holler out at the grocery store “Mama! Where my cock?!” but now, it’s pretty funny. And I miss it.

Today, I thought about how big he’s getting while we were going “ni-night fofa” together at 5 a.m. Another thing about having kids that I was NOT warned about: the longing to get just a few minutes back of when he was a baby so I can sniff that new forehead one more time. Then JJ does something that makes me thrilled to have a two-year old. Like when I asked him if he was still my baby, and he lays in his big boy bed and says “Yeah. I still a baby, Mama!” Or when he yells out “I did it!!” when he catches a buttball, and Jerry and I burst into a round of applause. Or when he reads to me on the way to school. Or sings to me. Or tells me nursery rhymes. Or asks me if I know my ABC’s too (one time I told him no, and he proceeded to teach me.) Or when I’m on the sofa with a headache and he brings me Thumbie to cuddle with. Or when I stub my toe and he offers to kiss it.

Which reminds me: I love my newfound kissing super power – it can heal even the most “serious” injuries AND stop tears AND introduce sleepy time AND become a powerful promise that I will come back at the end of the day. I never had that power before JJ got older, and I know the power will fade in a few years. Sigh. Oh, JJ. I can’t stop you from growing so quickly, but I sure do wish you could help me remember all the cute moments while you’re growing. What an amazing time in our lives…. I desperately do not want to let it get away from me.

i’m a pro.

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Woah.  I didn’t expect this. 

Before I begin, I need to say that I’m not entirely happy with HB1 being pushed to 2013 (the Personhood Bill) because guess what will happen in 2013?  We will be exactly in this same place, debating morals and right and wrong and who is a person and women’s reproductive rights and God.  Well… probably  not God… but at the very least, politicians who are trying to play God. 

With that said, over the past few days, I have received at least fifteen emails, text messages, and private messages questioning my view on abortion.  “Are you REALLY pro-choice?”  seems to be the common thread in all of them.  Every message tickled a little voice in the back on my head that whispered “Are you pointing fingers?” Let it be known that I will never push my own beliefs onto someone else for the sake of making myself sound superior.  I worry about the actions and choices I make and how those decisions affect my life, family and friends. 

Of course I’m pro-choice.  I believe that everyone should have the freedom to choose their own lives, fates, and consequences.   No one reading this blog can ever say “I would never have an abortion!” because if you’ve never been there, you don’t know what it’s like.  I think it’s more appropriate to say “I would never have an abortion out of convenience” or “I will never use abortion as repeated birth control.”

I’m also pro-life.  I believe that every baby deserves to be loved and cared for, cherished and adored.  Every single baby deserves to have a safe place to sleep and a full belly.  I believe there are lots of alternatives to abortion, but I cannot and will not push those onto anyone else.  It’s not my (nor the Government’s, for that matter) place to do so.  

I thought about a few more “Pros” that I am, in case you were wondering.

I’m pro-sleep, for sure, which also includes pro-napping and pro-sleeping in.   After this week, I’ll be extra pro-sleeping to catch up. 

Pro-coffee and consequentally, pro-Starbucks. 

Pro-equality.  Dirty politicians, Department of Motor Vehicles employees, and yes… even women who have had an abortion all equally deserve to be respected. 

Pro-sunny days, cause I like to open my windows.

Pro-education.  Not just for school-age children, either.  You’re NEVER too old to be finished learning about something you don’t know. 

Pro-assistance.  If the government needed to increase our taxes to build a new orphanage (and they kept their promise), I’d be in for that.  People deserve to be helped when they are in need, but  few of us seem to remember that

Pro-purple.  I like it.

Pro-bird feeders and pro-watching my kid point and jump up and down when he sees birds eating out of it. 

Pro-technology, because without it, we would all be living in caves with no plumbing, electricity, antibiotics, language skills, hot water, Starbucks, or this blog.

Pro-DIY.  And thankful for the small DIY community that I found a la Pinterest. 

Pro-self satisfaction in a hard day’s work.  Or having reached 5 p.m. without losing every marble.  Either will work.

Pro-diversity.  If everyone in the entire world was alike, we would all die of boredom.  And remember… I’m pro-life.

AND… Pro-equality.  We are all the same color on the inside, unless you’re frozen.  Or an alien.  Or an employee of the DMV (just kidding!).

Pro-dinner out with girlfriends to talk about boys. 

Pro-taking chances.  This is a big one.  If we never took any chances, we wouldn’t grow.  We wouldn’t make new discoveries, learn new things, and make ourselves better.  Some chances I take are blind, but Jerry usually has the sense to tell me.

Pro-fresh babies that aren’t mine.  And Pro-handing them back to their mom when they cry.

Pro-wireless.  Mouse, keyboard, printer, phone… anything.  I hate being tied down. 

Pro-faux hawk, especially now that my kid is sporting one.  Over age 21?  Lose it and go for a grown up haircut. 

Honestly, I could go on and on.  It’s more important to believe in what you believe, have your own morals, and allow others to do the same.  I feel like we’re losing sight of what it means to be good people. 

Are you a pro, too?  What are you most pro at?  I think that just for today, we should spend some time thinking about ourselves – our morals, self-beliefs, and ways to make OURSELVES better people.  Still want to change others?  A bit of news for you to chew on… change always comes from the inside.

vital pain in the….

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Dear New Jersey Department of Vital Records,

While I understand that allowing my Virginia driver’s license to expire just so I could take a new picture probably wasn’t a great idea, I don’t believe that your place in this process is to rub it in my face. And yes, I know that I misplaced my birth certificate… but let’s face it. I can’t be perfect all of the time.

Let’s get a few things straight here: your website cheerfully informed me that I needed to tell you why I needed a new certificate, to which I equally as cheerfully replied “To renew my driver’s license.” I dutifully emailed you a copy of my expired license, to show you I was who I said I was and because you asked me to. When I received the email from you telling me that my license was unacceptable form of identification because it was expired, I nearly showered my computer screen with lukewarm Starbucks – through my nose. What did you just say? Are you blaming ME for this??

I believe that it’s important for you, and DMV, to know that I would never have been issued the license if I wasn’t a citizen of the United States, and furthermore, if I wasn’t born in the State of New Jersey. Yes, I know that the law is the law, but come on. Cut a girl a break. I WAS EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT IN MY DRIVER’S LICENSE PICTURE.

Are you all men? Have you been collaborating with Virginia’s DMV? Do you think this a funny way of keeping me pregnant forever? Do you think my bloated face and half-assed smirk look cute? How about the sweat-soaked hairline in my pic from just having walked from my chair to your counter in your air-conditioned office?

If any of this is true in any way, I regetfully announce that you will not win. I have (oh, yes I do) the additional documents that you request, and I’ll even put a little note on my fax for you to have a nice day because I’m cool like that.

Oh… and one more thing. If I catch you flirting with Virginia’s DMV again… I will cut you. And when I have that certificate in my hand, so help me… you will never hear from me again.

Love,
Born-in-New-Jersey-But-Never-Moving-Back-Even-If-You-Were-The-Last-State-In-The-Union

way too deep and entirely too close.

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This one is going to be hard write, hard to read, and hard to comment on.  It’s ok if you don’t leave a comment because you don’t know what to say.  Please no bashing comments or nasty arguments.  Tasteful opinions welcome.  I’m just laying out what’s on my heart.  No harm, no foul.  Deal?

I read an article about the “Personhood” bill passing legislation today.  I know, I know…. this is the most controversial thing I could POSSIBLY write about and here I am, clicking away, fuming hot.  It doesn’t matter if we are anti-abortion or not, we’re ALL pro-lifers here and this is a debate on ethics.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

Basically, lawmakers have put on their “God Hats” and decided that life officially begins at immediate conception and abortion is murder.  Ok, fine.  This has been a very hot ethical topic since the invention of the abortion.  I don’t know how I feel about this bill.  I want to feel the right thing, but I feel a little of both sides.

I just don’t know.

Here are a few thoughts on the subject:  I know several very deserving parents who were able to conceive a child (or multiple children!) with In-Vitro Fertilization.  Many couples decide to have several eggs harvested and fertilized, just in case the procedure does not work the first time or if they decide to have children later.  The actual egg harvest is quite traumatic and expensive, so it makes sense to harvest as many eggs as possible with one procedure.  In the case that the couple does not use all of the fertilized eggs…. what then?  If this bill becomes a law, those fertilized eggs must be frozen forever or implanted.  They will never be able to be destroyed.  Ever.  Quite the moral dilemma – one so profound that IVF could be outlawed in a few years because a solution to the “extra embryo” problem is impossible.  I’m not okay with that.

I also happen to know several women who have had miscarriages.  This is a terrible and tragic event, no matter the circumstance.  A few of those women were actively taking some kind of contraceptive.  One of the risks of taking a contraceptive and getting pregnant (someone has to be that 1%) is an incredibly high risk of miscarriage.  While the woman did not make a conscious decision to miscarry, the simple fact is if she had not been taking oral or other semi-permanent contraceptive, the miscarriage may not have happened.  The doctor who prescribed or placed the birth control could be charged with wrongful death.  This “Personhood” bill could easily put chemical and physcial contraceptives at risk because it interferes with embryonic development.  I’m not okay with that, either.

And here we go onto the “abortion as a medical necessity.”  Perhaps this could be a more useful area for legislation to spend time on.  If the “Personhood” bill passes, this would force women to carry babies that are severely malformed, product of rape, or potentially fatal to the mother.  Case in point:  a circumstance where the mother’s life is threatened would be an ectopic pregnancy.  YES – a woman’s life IS at risk if the embryo is not aborted.  If this bill passes and becomes law, those women will have to suffer and probably die due to a pregnancy which never would have formed anyway.  I understand that these cases are NOT the majority of abortions; in fact, they are a very small percentage of actual procedures performed.  But what about their right to reproductive healthcare that they need? Surely, they will not be the “exception to the law.”

Let’s talk about all of the other women out there who frequent abortion clinics.  Some are probably very young, some probably very old, some church-goers, some atheists, some crackheads, some straight-edge, some black, some white, some asian, some rich, some poor…. the list goes on.  The only thing these women have in common is they are all in unfourtunate situations.  How did they get there?  That’s the golden question.  If we can SOMEHOW prevent the situation from becoming unfortunate, then I believe this “Personhood”  bill wouldn’t even be necessary.    How about some work toward offering more affordable birth control?  Or, god forbid it, even free birth control?    What if we can offer elective sterilization procedures at no or minimal charge?  How about we lift the legislation on minimum age for elective sterilization?  Oh oh… I have an idea!!  How about we teach our teenagers, both boys and girls, how to use birth control??  I can think of at least a HUNDRED other things that Congress could offer to help these women avoid a situation in which they would need an abortion.  Accidents will still happen, but if we can become less closed-minded and more open to prevention, accidents will be infrequent.  That’s what abortion was intended for in the first place. 

Sigh.  I just don’t know.

I do know that I don’t want this bill to pass through the Senate.  I also know that I want to keep my right to contraception and if we should ever need it, IVF.  I want women who frequently find themselves in an abortion clinic to get the help they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the future, not just be ignored and shunned.  I want lawmakers to care more about women and less about themselves. 

Here’s how you can help.  Write to the Governor, the Virginia Law Makers, and tell them that there is a better way.  Taking a woman’s right to reproductive health is plain out wrong and not the answer to the problem.  Copy this blog and send it to them if you want, I don’t mind one bit.  http://www.governor.virginia.gov/

a different kind of beauty bar.

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I’m pretty horrible about taking pictures of my creations, which is pretty sad considering I bought a great new camera and have barely used it. 

I recently make solid lotion bars, after realizing that a GREAT lotion set I received as a gift made me itchy.  I bought some organic lotion, but then also decided to make the lotion bars in addition.  

I promise you, after these bars, I will NEVER go back to regular lotion again.  Never.  Ever. 

I used this recipe:  http://www.crunchybetty.com/how-to-make-lotion-bars.  At least it has pictures.  Go take a browse and then come back, I’ll wait.

Ok, so now that you  have read the general idea, here is how I changed the recipe to fit my needs:

I molded my melted lotion into an ice cube tray, which worked out great, except the lotion bars are really small.  They are a little hard to hold on to, so next time, I’ll probably do something a little larger.  You can always cut the bars in half, too, so choosing a larger mold won’t be that big a deal. 

The recipe made 8 lotion cubes.  I have one on my desk at work in a little tupperware container:

 

This lotion bar sits on my desk at work.

And this is what he really looks like (I’ve already been using it, so it is a little worn.)

Lotion Bar

 I followed the instructions on Crunchy Betty to the LETTER, until it came to the mixing the essential oils.  I put the lavender oil into the mold first, thinking it would be easier to mix.  Turns out that it was actually harder, so I will mix after I pour next time.  I made SURE to add the shea butter very last, over medium heat, and take it away from the heat IMMEDIATELY when it was all melted.  Shea can be a little finicky, so you have to be careful about heating it.  If you get it too hot, or cook it too long, it will get grainy when it hardens, and that sucks.  The entire mixing/melting/pouring process took maybe fifteen minutes.  In between making dinner and turning on Toy Story for the eleventy-hundredth time this week.

I poured the lotion into the ice cube tray, mixedthe oils, and put it in the fridge.  In an hour (after dinner) I took it out and like magic, I had solid lotion.

It feels weird at first – the beeswax really hangs on, so your hands feel funny in the morning if you put it on before bed.  I got used to it in a hurry when I realized that my nails and cuticles have never looked better.  My feet are pretty happy, too.   I will be making more of this lotion bar when I run out of the ones I have.

For next time, I’ll order my shea from a fairly traded Ghanaian company, as recommended from my cousin.  I had no idea such sources existed, and I’m a huge fan of fair trade.   The shea I used for this project was purchased at Ellwood Thompson, a local market. 

I would always opt for unrefined Shea butter when you're using it in products you make yourself. Refined butter doesn't have the same healing properties.

Here is some info on shea and how it is awesome. 

http://www.alaffia.com/store/pc/Shea-Butter-d25.htm

 A very good website which has many fairly traded products: 

http://www.akomaskincare.co.uk/section.php/105/1/butters

You can also order it on Amazon, but it’s really expensive:

http://www.amazon.com/Ojoba-Collective-Pure-Unrefined-Butter/dp/B0049CJKK6

Enjoy!

homemade, chemical-free soap adventures.

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I jumped into the abyss of the unknown and recently made my own soap bars.  Since I was pretty nervous about handling lye, I invited my friend Sarah over to help me, at the very least… dial 911 if I touched the lye by accident because I was SURE that I would die if it happened.

Spoiler alert:  I didn’t die.  Neither did Sarah.

After doing tons of research (you should research before you jump in – the more you know, the better it’ll turn out), I gathered my ingredients. You’ll need a few tools to get started:  a kitchen scale (more specific, the better), two thermometers that read to at least 180 and at a minimum to 90 degrees, a pot to melt your oils in, a plastic container WITH A LID to mix your lye in, a large bowl to mix the lye with the oils, a hand blender (trust me, you’ll really need this) and a mold of some sort. In the first batch of soap I ever made, I used:

270 grams of Palm Oil (ordered on Amazon)

270 Grams of Coconut Oil (found at Kroger in the natural foods section)

270 grams of Olive Oil (I used organic, but any olive oil will do fine)

90 Grams of Castor Oil (Found at the drug store)

125.041 grams of Lye (100% caustic soda, I ordered it on Amazon)

326.07 grams of Water

Measuring out the oils is an EXACT science - precise measuring will ensure great soap.

I started by measuring the oils in a measuring cup, and putting them to melt on the stove top.  As the oils were melting on low heat, Sarah and I donned our protective gear (aprons and gloves) to mix the lye and water.  We measured everything out first and then mixed it outside where we could get plenty of fresh air.  I thought about pre-dialing 911 just in case, but it turns out we didn’t need to!  We mixed the lye into the water (NEVER the other way around – always add the lye TO the water!) and stirred it.  I put the thermometer into the mixture and screwed the lid on just in case one of the cats decided to try to knock it over.  We were amazed when the temperature of the mixture reached 180 degrees.  The chemical reaction heated up the mixture and we needed to wait until the magic temp of 110 – 120 was reached.  We did a lot of waiting.

Oils waiting to be cooked

Meanwhile, our oils had reached the magic temp of 110 – 120 degrees.  We did more waiting.  We sprayed our silicone molds that I found at the thrift store for a dollar each, and waited some more.

While we’re waiting, let’s talk molds.  You really can use anything for a mold, as long as it’s not aluminum.  The lye hates aluminum and will react to it, therefore ruining your soap.  You can use silicone or stainless steel cupcake tins, loaf pans, or anything small-ish.  I’ve seen videos on You Tube with people using large PVC pipe with fittings on the ends, old milk cartons, boxes, and fabricated soap molds from wood.  Just be sure to either spray your mold with a little cooking oil or line it with parchment paper first so your soap doesn’t stick.  It’s really easy to cut into smaller pieces once it’s out of the mold in the first day or two, so don’t worry about “single serving” pieces.  The links at the bottom of this page can help you figure out what you can use for a mold.  

Ok,  so when our temperatures of the lye AND the oils (oh, I can smell that wonderful coconut oil now…mmmMMmmm) reached 120ish, we poured our oils and the lye into the mixing bowl.  I stirred with the stick hand blender, blending on low in short bursts, for a few minutes until the mixture reached trace.

Trace:  the point during mixing when the “soap” looks a little like pudding, and when you pick up the blender, you can see a slight indentation where the drops of soap fell back into the bowl.

At that point, we added our essential oils (20 drops lavender, 20 drops of sweet orange) and a little color (I used powered cake coloring, it doesn’t have a ton of chemicals in it).  We stirred a little more and poured into our molds.  We hurried along because the soap was getting very thick and was becoming hard to pour.

We got it into the molds and put them on top of the fridge where no kids or kitties could get to them.  We waited some more.  We built terrariums (another post!).  Sarah went home.  I sat on the sofa.

The next night, I took the soap out of the molds.  They smelled so good, I wanted to use them right then!  I was sad that I had to wait 6 weeks-ish to use the soap, to give it time to harden.

Sorry for the poor quality, but this is our soap after I took it out of the mold! We left the heart-shaped ones unscented for the baby.

The good news here is:  this soap is six weeks old this week and I’ve used it for the first time.  HEAVENLY.  If you’ve never used handmade soap before, you’re really missing out.  It wasn’t hard to make at all, just a little time-consuming, and after that, I even made more:  Citrus Sage Soap

Citrus Sage Soap, with sage added for texture!

I didn’t even wear gloves when I made the Citrus Sage soap, and I made it after I put the baby to bed one night.  Just be careful and have some practice, and making soap will be no big deal at all.

My next adventure will be using avocado oil and/or shea butter.  I’ve heard that they both make a very creamy, moisturizing soap. For me, the more moisture, the better!

Try it out for yourself!  I’ve included a few links that I used to educate myself and learn about the process.  Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Recipes, tips,and techniques:  http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/homemade-soap-recipes-basic.html

Supplies, molds, tips, and pretty much anything you need (cheaper than Amazon):  http://www.brambleberry.com/

A few really good recipes:  http://bohemianrevolution.com/homemade-soap-recipes/

My favorite crunchy blog for all of your other crunchy needs and here she talks about the soap you’re using right now:  http://www.crunchybetty.com/time-to-play-whats-in-your-soap

clean clothes and happy fish.

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I started a new blog a few months ago in an effort to put all of my DIY projects there, and all of my personal stuff here.  It’s not working out as planned.  I’m sorry I’ve been holding out on all of you lately, I had a mental complex that kept telling me to put DIYs on another blog.

Mental complex:  screw off.

Recently I have had a few questions about making laundry detergent.  I think that is a good place to start.  I posted a blog about it a little while ago, but I’ll post again with an update and refresher.  I started making laundry detergent a while ago, when I noticed that JJ was having little red bumps on his skin.  They were barely noticeable, but I NOTICED.   I also had read in a few places that laundry detergents have lots of sulfates and surfactants in them, which get washed into the streams and rivers after they reach the water treatment plant.  Even with processing, sulfates and surfactants, and lots of other chemicals, survive and get deposited into our water table.  Sulfates, phosphates and surfactants KILL FISH.  This was serious enough for me, considering that our washer drains down our back yard and eventually directly into the river, to switch to homemade.

I went to the grocery store and bought the following items:

-Borax.  It’s located on the bottom shelf in the laundry aisle.  It’s marked “20 Mule Team”

-Washing Soda.  Also located on the bottom shelf in the laundry aisle, it has an Arm and Hammer logo on it.  It’s a pretty big box.

-Baking soda, partly because I was out anyway.

I already had Kirk’s Castile Soap, so that’s what I used for the soap part.

The I looked up this website:  http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/04/09/making-your-own-laundry-detergent-a-detailed-visual-guide/

In case you don’t have the patience to go to the site (like me) here is the jist of the process:

1 cup washing soda 
1/2 cup borax 
1 bar soap 
Approximately 3 gallons water

You’ll also need a container of some sort to store this in (I use a five gallon bucket with a lid), something to stir it (I use a large wooden spoon), another pot to boil soapy water in, and something to cut up the soap (I use a box grater).

First thing, put about four cups of water into the pan and put it on the stove on high until it’s at boiling, then lower the heat until it’s simmering.

While it’s heating up, take a bar of soap and cut it up into little bits. I found a lot of success using our box grater, which resulted in a ton of little soap curls.

When the water is boiling, start throwing in the soap. I recommend just doing a bit at a time, then stirring it until it’s dissolved. 

Stir the soapy water with a spoon until all of the soap is dissolved. Eventually, the water will take on the color of the soap you added, albeit paler. 

Next, get out your large container and add three gallons of warm tap water to it. 

To this bucket add a cup of the washing soda and the soap solution you made and stir. The borax is optional – some people say that it’s too harsh, but I’ve always found that it did a good job getting clothes clean and fresh smelling, so I recommend adding a half cup of borax to the mix.

After stirring, you’ll have a bucket full of vaguely soapy water.

At this point, let the soap sit for 24 hours, preferably with a lid on it. I just took our bucket to the laundry room.

When you take off the lid, you’ll find any number of things, depending on the type of soap you used and the water you used. It might be firm, like Jello; it might be very watery; it might even be like liquid laundry detergent. Just stir it up a bit and it’s ready to be used.

I really like The Simple Dollar – they have tons of ways to save money (and ideas on what to really spend your money wisely on) and the instructions there are great.  The only thing I changed was instead of the 1/2 cup of Borax, I used 1/4 cup Borax and 1/4 cup of baking soda, because JJ is still a baby with baby skin.  I had quite a few detergent bottles in the laundry room that hadn’t made it upstairs for recycling, so after my soap cooled a bit but while it was still warm, I used a kitchen funnel to pour the soap into the bottles.  Done.  The entire process took an hour at most.  I’m quite happy now since I know that fish aren’t dying by my hand… unless I’m eating them afterward.  Our clothes come out of the dryer smelling clean and looking good, and that’s what matters.  We’re still using softener for now until we run out, then we’re switching to vinegar (just put in your downy ball or wait to the rinse cycle, then add 1/2 cup to the washer.)

The soap will last a good long time, a few months or until you use it all up.  You’ll be happy you made the switch and will forever giggle every time you walk down the laundry aisle, appreciating every dollar and fish you have saved.  Enjoy!

ready for liftoff.

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I see a reflection and I’m not exactly sure what it is.  Is… that my….. twenties??  Wait!!  Where are you going??

Are they gone already?!

*looks a bit closer*

Oh crap.  That was fast.

Survival through my twenties was fairly enjoyable, but as I sit here and type away, I think about many people who are in the middle of their own roaring twenties with no clue what the heck is going on.  This one is for you, folks.  Eat it up, digest it, and take or leave it.  It’s all up to you.

Find.... or create?

The second decade was a launchpad for my life.  I made a life plan the day I turned 20 and I stuck to it the best I could, with minor deviations along the way.  I knew that I wanted to finish college and have a real job by the time I was 24, I knew I wanted to be married by 23 (this one isn’t really fair – I had already met Jerry and sort of knew that I’d be marrying him), and I knew I would be pregnant and have a baby by at least 28.  Somewhere in there, I knew I wanted to buy a home by the time I turned 30. I wanted to be a major player in a company by 27 and I wanted to be an executive by 30.

*Ok, so the executive part didn’t happen, but I’ve extended that to 35.  I think it’s only fair.*

Did you notice a few things that I left out?  I didn’t want a flashy car, or a big expensive house.  I didn’t want to “make a lot of money.”  I didn’t want to be famous or have a maid or any other ridiculous things.  I kept my life plan simple and I knew it was obtainable.

But what about the unexpected parts?  I didn’t expect my mother to get cancer, I didn’t expect to get laid off (twice!), and I didn’t expect the hardship of having a young child and a dream of a successful career.  I remember getting very angry – with what, I don’t know – that my plan was interrupted.  After my mother got through the worst part of cancer treatments, I had to take a semester off to recoup my sanity and rebuild some funds.  I stopped working  to be with her when she was in and out of the hospital, and spent nearly all of my savings on rent and groceries.  This setback didn’t affect too much of my plan, but it was hard getting back in the race.  I forced myself to register for classes that following semester, and it was a hard one to get through.  After that, I was fine.

The lay offs were actually a good thing in the long run, but ultimately ruined my plan to become an executive by 30.  I’m not angry about that anymore, because I know that some things are worth the wait.  I think very important player with the right company is much better than executive with the wrong company.  The lesson was hard to learn, but it eventually did work itself out and I’m glad it did.

Moving for love:  Stupid or romantic?

I never intended to move to Richmond when I was 20.  I originally wanted to move to either Norfolk/Va Beach area or to Roanoke after college, maybe moving farther away as I got older if I hadn’t already met mu husband by then.  When my mother got sick, I had briefly thought about moving closer to home to be there for my family.  I was open to moving… somewhere.

Enter Jerry.  AKA “that dude at the bowling alley who drank all that beer and whose friend slipped an fell on his ass while bowling the first time I really met him.”  Yeah.  That guy.

Isn’t it amazing how one person can change the way you think?  About everything??  He made me change the way I thought about priorities.  He had a full time job with real benefits and the coveted 401K Plan, and convinced me to do the same.  I didn’t think I could work full time and finish school, but I somehow did and he encouraged me to do it.  I started my 401K plan when I was 22 and I know I’ll be glad about that in fifty more years.  He helped me become financially responsible, which is a huge lesson to learn in your twenties.  I got lucky with this one:  if he hadn’t been in my life at that moment, I don’t know how I would have learned to be financially smart.  Figure it out as soon as you can – you’ll be glad you did.

I moved to Richmond permanently because of Jerry.  I didn’t love the city – I loved him.  I fell in love with the city a little later.  If he asked me to move to the moon with him (and my parents were still in good health), I would have done it.  In a minute.  I never considered this a stupid or irrational decision because I knew that he was my future.  Once we were engaged (I was 22), we moved in together and I worked hard at finishing my last semester of school.

Would I have done it if I wasn’t exactly sure that I would marry the guy?  I don’t really know.  I guess it depends on the situation.  If I was finished with school, then probably.  I think this is more common, because women are becoming more and more independent, than it used to be.  If you’re ready to move in with your boyfriend (which is a huge step!), then you could probably handle a move together, depending on how far you go….  Just be sure you’re doing it to make yourself happy, not him. 

Real digs:  when do I need life insurance?  Or health insurance?  Or bills? 

This depends entirely on your life plan.  The answer to all of these questions is as soon as possible.  When you’re in you’re twenties, it’s hard to think about the future without you in it.  What happens to you when your parents drop you off their life insurance policy?  You become that very expensive (we’re talking $30,000) liability for whomever may be responsible for you if you should die, which will probably still be your parents.  Pay it back to them for all the years that they protected you:  get a job with life insurance.  Trust me on this one.

Financial responsibilityis the key when you’re in your 20s, because you’ll need a good credit rating when you buy a house toward 30.  Nothing tarnishes a good credit report faster than unpaid medical bills.  If you fall and break your arm, you could be paying off that $21,000 medical bill for a looooooooooong time, putting another cramp in your financial quest.  If you default?  Bad debt.  And by bad, I mean really REALLY bad.

Debt sucks. Don't get wrapped up in money you don't have.

You can’t afford to be without health insurance in your 20’s, although most go without.  I can remember MANY circumstances for both Jerry and myself that we were very thankful we had insurance.  Get health insurance, even it’s only basic.  Trust me on this one, too.

Get yourself some bills.  Skip the credit cards – I’m talking about a light bill.  And a phone bill.  Here’s the cool thing about bills:  If you pay them on time, every single month, your credit score goes up!!  Yes, it does!  This is what we want!!!  In order to get bills, you gotta have a pad.  Find an apartment (now is a good time to buy a house, though, if you’re willing to take the plunge and have a good job.) and put the bills in your name.  Pay them on time.  No exceptions.  Good deed done.

It’s hard to find yourself when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.  Sometimes I still feel like I could be doing something more and I wonder what things would be like if I went back to school for….. something.  Life isn’t about knowing all the answers now, it’s more about the quest to find something cool.

My ultimate advice for all of you young, brilliant 20-somethings:  Make a plan.  Get on the financial boat.  And have the time of your life.

resolution revolution 2: run giggling through the city streets stark naked.

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Doesn’t everyone want to do this?

No?

Ok, so maybe I won’t personally strip off all my clothes and illegally run through the city streets, but my hair will.

My quest this year:  get Kate Middleton’s hair.  I’d say I’m half way there, given the length and natural waviness of my mane.  I’ve never been able to grow my hair long and have it look great before, so I’ve remained reasonably skeptical until now.

Now I have hope.  So does my naked hair.  That’s right, I said naked hair.  No grime.  No buildup.  No gunk.  No sulfates, no parabens, no alcohol.  Most of all, no surfactants.  No bull.

I have only washed my hair one time since December 27th, roughly two three weeks (it’s taking me a little longer to write this than I thought it would…)  The only reason I washed my hair is because I got some oil in it when I was mixing my face wash and it was yucky.  Very yucky.  I didn’t know what else to do at the time, but I know better now.  My goal is to not wash my hair at all in the next year.

Are you freaking out yet?

No poo.  It’s a genius revolution in the crunchy community that employs baking soda as “shampoo” and vinegar as “conditioner.”  It eliminates shampoo, with harsh cleaners and detergents, which strip all of the oil that your hair needs to be really healthy.  Here are a few resources so I don’t have to explain the entire process.

http://www.naturemoms.com/no-shampoo-alternative.html (I love NatureMoms!)

http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-to-you-too (this one is my favorite.)

Photo courtesy of Brooks Lenhart.

Anyway, here is a pic from my birthday prom showing a good shot of my hair (a week and four days no-poo):

And here is one that kind of shows the back:

Photo courtesy of Brooks Lenhart.

Anyway, my hair feels better now than it ever has, and I’ve gotten some comments that my hair even looks longer.  I know it hasn’t grown that much in three weeks… or has it?

The first few days was hard:  by day two, I was in a constant ponytail because my hair was freaking out.  It was very oily and unruly.  Awful, really.  Thankfully, I had the nerve to stick it out and I’m glad that I did.  It’s so worth it.  I did switch to apple cider vinegar, but I don’t think I like it (it makes me sneeze in the shower) , so I’ll probably switch back to the white vinegar.  No sweat.

What?   Did you just think to yourself that you could never do it?  I assure you – you CAN.  

I was reasonably nervous  terrified when I started the process.  I started it a few days before New Year’s break, so at least I didn’t have to leave the house to go to work in case I looked like a dipped my hair in a vat of lard.  Three days passed, and I was making dinner when I noticed a deliciously clean smell.  I knew it wasn’t the kitchen, so I turned to walk into the living room – and realized that it was my hair!  It smelled SO CLEAN!!

That’s when my hair took a turn for the better.

The next day, I noticed that I could run a comb through it – WET.  No tangles at all.  The next day, I noticed at the end of the day, it still had some body left in it and I could run my fingers through it (believe me, this is a big deal.)  The next:  no frizz.  My hair gets better every day.

The theory is that in the future, one could even go without the baking soda and vinegar and only give the hair a rinse for a washing.  I think I’m going to stick with the baking soda and vinegar for now.

For some people, the adjustment process takes a little longer.  I was only shampooing every other day anyway, so I feel that’s what made the adjustment shorter.

So here we are:  the middle of January.  I’ve been washing my face with oil and honey (alternating:  honey in the morning, oil at night.) and my skin feels great.  NO itchiness, no peeling, and no dryness or excess oil.  Seems pretty balanced to me.

I’ve also replaced my regular soap with castile soap, which is a little drying.  I bought some artisan, handmade soap from the local natural market and that’s been great.  I’ll be making my own soap this weekend, with hopes that its better than the castile soap.   I’ve been washing (well… Jerry has – bath time is Daddy/baby time!) JJ with Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild, and it’s been good so far.  Every now and then I’ll rinse his hair with the baking soda and vinegar to “reboot” and it’s been great.

One day VERY VERY soon, my bathtub will be chemical-free.  My naked hair will then have something to run screaming about.

Our prom photographer: http://lizabrooks.wordpress.com/

resolution revolution 1: end chemical warfare.

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It’s the new year.  The time of year when people always start thinking about weight loss.  It wouldn’t be the new year without someone around you talking about how they are going to lose weight in the new year.  Some even start thinking that a “new beginning” is in store for them because the date changed by one number.   Most resolvers will stick with a promise to themselves until around the 15th, then will drop their new, improved selves to toy with their past life.  The one they just vowed to leave far, far behind in Last Year Land.

Not me.  Not this year.

This year, I am doing something I’ve wanted for a long time.  I’m going to practice living a more natural life.  This life-changing promise will come in different parts, but part 1 starts with ending the chemical warfare going on right now in my home.

I’m talking about cleaning products, even those used in the shower and the laundry room.

I have an idea... how about drain cleaner? They'll never figure it out....

Let’s talk about the laundry room.  How many loads of laundry do you do in a week?  7?  8?  That’s almost a load a day – constantly dumping laundry detergent and fabric softener into the sewer or septic.  Most detergents have phosphates in them, which are pretty harmful to the environment.  “High phosphate levels can kill life in rivers, streams and oceans by causing “algae blooms.” Algae slimes dense enough to suffocate marine life have been swelling around the world, especially in coastal bays.”  http://www.shareguide.com/hazard.html

Anyway, preaching aside, making your own laundry soap is easy and CHEAP.  I’m totally doing it.  I bought the stuff for it today.  Are you ready?  It’ll take 20 minutes, tops.  You can get everything at Kroger.

4 cups boiling water

1 bar of soap (I bought castile soap, but you can use any soap you want)

1 cup washing soda (super cheap – in the laundry section)

1/2 cup (or less for sensitive skin) of Borax (also cheap and also in the laundry section)

3 gallons of water

I'm a little sad I couldn't find a flashback photo of these products. They've been around for a long time!

That’s all you need, less a 5 gallon bucket, a pot, and a cheese grater.   Take the bar soap and grate it into a pot with 4 cups of water.  Boil and stir until dissolved.  Add the washing soda and the borax and the 3 gallons of water to the bucket, then the soap soup.  Cover and let stand overnight.  POOF!  Done!!  You can also only do the dry ingredients for a power detergent, but I’m going to liquid route.  You can add a few drops of any flavor essential oil you want, but it’s not necessary.  Use 1/2 cup of detergent for HE machines, and up to 1 cup for regular machines.

Add a cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle (you can even put it in a Downy Ball!!) for your fabric softener.  If you use a fabric softener in the washer, you don’t need dryer sheets.

Here is a great article on how much money you will save by making your own detergent…

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/04/09/making-your-own-laundry-detergent-a-detailed-visual-guide/

Let’s move to the bathroom, namely your sink.  What do you use to wash your face?  Are you using tons of products (like I was) in the morning because your face is too oily/dry/flaky/tight/weird/patchy?  Fret.  No.  More.  You have to try this, and don’t laugh until you do.

Wash your face with oil.  Yup.  You heard me right.

I started this last night and I promise you, after washing with oil last night and with honey this morning, my skin feels awesome right now – and it’s 4:12 p.m.  No T-zone oil.  No itchiness from being dry.  Nothing.  Go get some education and come right back here.  I’ll wait.

http://www.crunchybetty.com/nitty-gritty-on-the-oil-cleansing-method

Right now, I’m using 1 tsp castor:2 tsp sunflower oil.  It seemed good for the first day, but I’m going to give it some time to see if I need to switch up the mixture.  I also cleansed with honey this morning (http://www.crunchybetty.com/honey-challenge)

*Flash forward!*

So now that a few days have passed since my last words on this entry (sorry, I’ve been busy!), I have been using the oil for a week and two days.  The first few days were weird – I broke out a little bit as my skin adjusted to the new regimen.  Now?  It’s perfect.  ABSOLUTELY F-ING PERFECT.  It’s a little wind burnt from playing outside so much last weekend but other than that?  Awesome.

I also made the laundry detergent.  It is the equivalent to 198 loads, for about $2.15.  I put the detergent into some detergent bottles I hadn’t thrown into the recycling yet, so it works great.  It’s a bit slimy, and thick, but if you just shake up the bottle before you open it, it’s great.  I’ve even used it a few times already.  Works great.

I’ve been slowly replacing kitchen cleaners with natural ones…. Comet is replaced with Baking Soda (and Soft Scrub is no longer needed), surface cleaners are replaced with vinegar and water and a few drops of Lemongrass essential oil (Oh, it smells so good!), and dish detergent will be replaced with Borax and Washing Soda.  I also bought regular detergent for mutli-use that only contains coconut oil and glycerin.  No surfactants.  http://www.shareguide.com/hazard.html

Surfactants make fish sad. And dead.

The thing is, I’m SO TIRED of having problem skin and a chemically kitchen and bathroom.  JJ has breathing problems in the winter and I can’t help but wonder if the cleaners I’m using to wipe down the nursery is contributing to his distress.  Most importantly, our waterways are being terribly polluted by surfactants that are dumped.   I’ve never don- oh wait.  A few weeks ago, I dumped the water I used to mop the floor onto the porch to clean it off.  Oh wait.  I dumped my bucket of water I used to wash the car.  And I also sprayed our patio furniture with cleaner a few weeks ago.  ALL of those chemicals are running off into the James River, directly behind our house.

The only chemical I want in my house by the end of 2012 is bleach – for obvious reasons.  I don’t feel that vinegar can kill bacteria enough, and when I’m working in the kitchen and serving food, I need to KNOW it’s clean.  It will, however, be used sparingly.

I have to say, it’s going well.  The hard part is getting through all of the old chemicals first.  I want to take the plunge, but I can’t waste the chemicals I already have…  Luckily most of it is low anyway.

The war ends here.

christmas sneak peak.

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I have tons more photos…. but here are a few I managed to get out before the new year.  We had a great Christmas and I hope all of you did too… 

Christmas was a blast this year with JJ… he’s just old enough to understand, but not old enough to make it too complicated.  I kind of wish he would stay 2 forever!

He wasn’t too excited about clothes, though…. that’s ok.  At least he loved his train set!

We had some great Christmastime on my parents’ farm.  We shot weapons… saw chickens… you know….. country.  Love it.

And my absolute favorite picture of the season:

I promise, more will follow as soon as I get organized for New Year’s and my  birthday prom!

time for karma catch-up.

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Dear Mr. Former President,

Have you seen the news this morning?  You haven’t?  Well, jump up from your leather lounge on the screened-in deck, put down your french vanilla chai latte and turn on your 70″ flat screen.  See it now? 

Have you thought about the military children much, Mr. Former President?

Your war is over, Mr. Former President.   All of those mommies and daddies, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons are coming back home.  Finally.  I’m just curious…. since you pushed the red button back in 2003,  how many of those heroes have you personally met?  My guess is not many.  How many stories have you heard of little girls standing at the front window every single night, waiting for daddy to come home?  If your daughters joined the Army, would you still have pushed that button?  How many military wives have you offered a shoulder to?  How many suicidal soldiers have you intervened?  Tell me, Mr. Former President, how many prayers have you heard from terrified parents holding onto any hope that their son or daughter would come back home safe and sane?

My guess, again, is not many. 

Now, I’m not saying that you don’t care, I’m just saying that judging by the enormity of your Texas ranch, your lavish lifestyle, and your Secret Servicemen always at your side that maybe you still have your priorities a little out of focus.  Seems to me that maybe you have a few bits of karma to justify and some apologies to sprinkle around, so I’ll just go ahead and make a few friendly suggestions. 

What in Tarnation is this?! Someone already BEAT ME TO THE JOKE. Ugh.

1.  Read a few stories on Sesame Street.  When Laura did it, she was fantastic.  Maybe you could read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or something. 

2. Apologize to the people of Louisiana.  I’m sure they would understand that you delayed aid after Katrina because your head was stuck so far up…. your shirt. 

 3. Take responsibility for that whole Scooter Lewis thing.  You know damn well it wasn’t Dick’s fault.  Although… I guess it’s a good thing that Scooter got out when he did, before Dick invited him to go hunting. 

4. Stop blowing off your AA meetings.  I’m sure they miss you.  (Was that over the line?)

5.  Remember this? “I’ve been to war [sic]. I’ve raised twins. If I had a choice, I’d rather go to war.” — Bush, 2002.  Take it back.  Your daughters are the BEST thing that ever happened to you, and you KNOW VERY WELL you didn’t go to war. 

5(a).  You might want to take this one back, too: “I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower. The TV was obviously on. I used to fly myself and I said, ‘There’s one terrible pilot.'” (Quoted in Elisabeth Bumiller (2001-12-05) “A Nation Challenged: The President” New York Times.)  Um….. sir?  You WERE referring to yourself here as the “pilot,” weren’t you? 

No, no... Mr. Former President... THIS is one terrible pilot.

6. Just so we’re clear, can you define the word “is?”  Oh, and “uranium?” 

7.  Invite Eliza May over for dinner sometime.  You remember her, don’t you?  She was that funeral home investigator you had fired because she was exposing your buddies doing illegal embalming.  I’m sure an apology and maybe some compensation for damages will eventually make it to the table. 

8.  How about some charity work?  That always racks up positive karma points.  Maybe they remember you at the Martin Luther King. Jr. Community Center in Houston where you once served a community service sentence.  It’s ok that you weren’t there willingly the first time…. and I’m sure those charges for cocaine possession have been forgotten by now. 

9.  Go to the airport and shake the hands of all the heroes getting off the planes.  As you shake, look them in the eye and say you’re sorry.  And “Thank You.”  Bring some ice along just in case you get punched in the face (hey, it happens.)  Several hundred troops are landing at Ft. Bragg today – you better jump on your private jet and hurry!

10.  On a more serious note, why don’t you launch a campaign to start a new, incredibly stringent investigation program for any individual who plans to enter any public Government office?  We could legitimately catch most of these terrible things on a detailed background check, preventing a government scandal or worse:  war.  Let’s face it… Mr. Former President… most of this Iraq nonsense might not have happened if you weren’t in the room with the stupid button….

Little known fact: Animal became a very successful speechwriter after drug rehab. Maybe you should have hired him, Mr. Former President...

I think that’s a good start.  It’s not that I don’t like you, Mr. Former President, it’s just that I question your ability to be a clear-thinking human sometimes.  During this time of post-war reflection and impending peace, I think maybe it’s a good time for you to take some grown-up responsibility.  Now that the American people don’t hate you as much as we did before, perhaps you could start writing the sequel to your memoir.  You could call it: “Everything I Left Out”  or “Presidents are People, Too.” 

You’re right, Georgie (May I call you Georgie?  Gosh, I feel like we’re old friends by now!)  We did “misunderestimate” you (Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000).  I only thought you made very poor speech pronunciations and terrible public faux-pas.  I wish I had known all of this ten years ago.  I wish ALL of us had known all of this ten years ago. 

Your war was merely our battle. Sweep it under the rug, Mr. Former President, like you’ve done so many times before.  It’s ok – no one will notice.  We haven’t yet. 

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_W._Bush

http://www.realchange.org/bushjr.htm

http://www.internetweekly.org/cartoons_2004/cartoon_bush_boy_who_cried_wolf.html

http://www.tssphoto.com/index.php?p=822

http://www.tacticalgamer.com/pictures-screenshots/149959-rc-plane-crash-club.html

http://www.disposable-arts.com/showthread.php?1792-10-Cartoon-Characters-Who-Were-Obviously-On-Drugs

a significant crop.

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 I believe it was Ansel Adams that said something to the effect of “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”  I admire Ansel’s work, especially the shots he’s taken in black and white.  Cameras and photographers have traveled a long way since the Ansel Adams times and we’re proud of the technology we’ve instituted into our photographs.  Amazingly, it’s still incredibly difficult to take stunning pictures. 

I might have taken 12 significant pictures this year.  Maybe.  Perhaps I can dig up 12 of my favorite photos of 2011?  Perhaps…..?

Ok, you’ve convinced me.  Here we go.  

The first photo was taken completely by accident.  We were in a butterfly observatory and I didn’t understand why my camera wouldn’t take a sharp enough picture.  It was set on Manual, but the shutter settings were way too slow.  I flipped to Auto in a wild rage and snapped this last-ditched photo before we left.  It came out awesome. 
August 2011, Monarch Butterfly. Danville Science Center. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f/5.8, Exp. 1/80, ISO 400, /flash.
 
What better place to catch some nostalgic photos than the zoo?   I love taking pictures at the zoo, but I expecially love this little guy, because he sat still and let me take as many picures of him as I wanted:

September 2011. Macaw, Richmond Metro Zoo. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f/5.8, exp. 1/200, ISO 400, /flash.

 You remember Project 24?  I think this photo is one of my significant ones from 2011.

May 2011. Yellow crayon and a garden hose. At my house. FujiFilm Finepix Z20fd, f 3.7, Exp. 1/200, ISO 100, /flash.

 How many is that?  THREE?!  Oh, this will be a longer journey than I thought.

Ahh, vacation.  I was in picture taking HEAVEN this year at the beach.  JJ was so cute and photogenic….

Duck, North Carolina. July 2011. FujiFilm Finepix Z20fd, f 4.0, Exp. 1/240, ISO 64, /flash.

I bought a new camera this year, a Canon PowerShot.  It’s the big one.  It has all the bells and whistles of any Canon Point and Shoot, with a SUPER CRAZY long zoom (35x!) with a hot shoe and interchangable lens filter options.  It rocks.  The picture that sold the camera to me was one of the moon.  The photographer had captured the craters on the moon with this camera and I immediately wanted it.  This picture is not zoomed all the way because I don’t have a tripod yet (essential for taking superzoom photos) but I like it anyway.

Pre-eclipse Moon. Chester, Virginia. December 2011. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f/8.0, exp 1/40, ISO 400, /flash.

How about another zoo photograph?  I wonder what this gentle giant is thinking about….

Contemplative giraffe. Richmond Metro Zoo, September 2011. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f/4.5, exp 1/1000, ISO 125, /flash.

Six!  Halfway there!!
 
How about another picture of my kid?  If any of you have small children and have tried to take pictures of them, you know how hard it is.  It’s HARD.  A fast shutter helps.
I know this picture was in April, and I know I used the FujiFilm camera. That’s about all I know.
 
 
I have a tendancy to feel like I’m pretty good at macro photography, most importantly still life.  Here is another one from Project 24:

Readers. May 2011. Fujifilm Finepix Z20fd, f/3.7, exp. 1/58, ISO 400, flash.

Grr… WORDPRESS!!! Stop eating my pictures!!! GGAAHH!!
 
I wanted to fold up this sunset and take it home from the beach with me. 
 

Duck, North Carolina Sunset. July 2011. (unedited) Fujifilm Finepix z20fd, f/4.0, exp. 1/60, ISO 64, /flash.

Ok, here’s the story on the next one.  We usually see a bunch of hornets in the summertime (I think this one is a Bell.)  The dude was hanging out under our spotlight outside one night, munching on bugs.  If you look closely, you can see his front leg putting a bug into his mouth.  Yeah, he was cool. 
Hmm… no caption… What’s with you, WordPress?!
 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, f/5.8, exp. 1/320, ISO 400.
 
ONLY TWO MORE LEFT!! 
 
This kid rocks my socks:
 

November 2011. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. f/4.0, ISO 400, exp. 1/15, flash.

  Did I mention that I really like the zoo?

September 2011. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. f/5.0, exp 1/160, ISO 200, flash.

 Now, as far as “significant” is concerned, these pictures may not exactly be significant in the photography world, but they are pretty important to me.  I have others that are also pretty cool that just didn’t make the cut.  In the coming year, I am looking forward to more black-and-white photography, as well as more macro and close-ups.   I’m eager to look back at this blog one year from now and be amazed at how much my photography and perception skills have dramatically improved. 

On that note, I’m putting out there that I do edit photos.  YES I KNOW.  But see here:  editing your photos is NOT cheating.  I have taken beautiful photos without edits, but I end up with AMAZING photos after editing.  I use picnik.com, it’s free and you don’t have to download anything.  It works great.  My new Canon has a bunch of built in features, like color swap, color filters, and fish eye, so I don’t have to edit quite so much to get cool effects. 

I’ve also recently joined digitalphotographyschool.com.  It’s also free, and they offer weekly “assignments” (this week is Beetles songs – take a photo and give it a Beetles song title caption!) and lots of tips and tutorials.  I highly recommend at least taking a look there and reading through some of their articles.  It’s incredibly informative!

Thanks for looking, and of course, thanks for all of your photography encouragement throughout the year!  Happy Snapping! 

here’s the skinny.

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Something has been on my mind for the past two days and I’m sorry, but I’m bringing it up.  Actually, I’m not sorry that I’m bringing it up, because it has been a nuisance for a long time and I’m tired of it.

A few days ago in a crowded setting, a person that I don’t really know very well came up to me and said something to the effect of “How do you have a baby?!  I can’t believe how skinny you are!!”

I was immediately taken aback and highly offended.  As I said, this person doesn’t know me very well and we rarely see each other.  I never know what to say back to someone who makes a similar comment to me, which happens often.  Comments of this nature create a very awkward situation and I immediately start thinking of ways to get away.  While I’m sure these people mean well, they are all failing miserably.

A comment on body size is never a compliment.  How does this person know whether I have a serious medical condition that caused me to become underweight?  What if someone very close to me had just died and my only way to cope with the loss was to stop eating, which was causing my hair to fall out and forcing me to see a nutritionist three times a week?  Thankfully, neither of those things are my situation, but you never know with someone who you do not know very well.  Telling someone that you cannot believe or “hate” how skinny they are or simply “you are SO thin” seems to have been mistaken as a compliment somewhere along the way.  The unsuspecting recipient of this type of comment could easily be highly offended, yet are usually polite because some people fail to realize when they are out of line.  I guarantee that no one would ever walk up to a full-figured woman and say: “Wow! I can’t believe how fat you are!”  Am I right?? Someone please tell me: why do some people feel these things are appropriate to say?

The worst of these times was when I was pregnant.  I gained a healthy amount of weight during my pregnancy, yet people still commented on how I wasn’t eating enough because I was “too skinny to be pregnant.”  I hated every single comment.  (The only exception was “You look like an olive on a toothpick!” which was followed with a very nice compliment on how beautiful I was.  I was nice because I felt beautiful and I daydreamed about drinking martinis for the rest of the night. )

Now that I’m a little calmer about the subject, let’s all try to learn something here.  When making a compliment, let’s include three major points which must all be used together:

-Never use action verbs to deliver compliments.  Action words are:  look, appear, smell, walk, jump, play, sing… you get the point.  Always use being words to deliver compliments.  Being words are:  is, are, be, being, was, were, have, has, had, do, does, did.

-Never use tangible adjectives.  Fat, skinny, tan, tall, short, brown, blonde… anything that you can perceive with any of the five senses.  Instead, use intangible words:  beautiful, magical, fantastic, fabulous, cute, pretty, awesome….

-Never, ever, ever deliver a compliment that someone can’t simply say “thank you” to.  For example:  “I SO would love to have that bag!”  Instead say “Your bag is so beautiful!”  then LEAVE IT ALONE.

Let’s practice, shall we?

Instead of saying; “Oh my gosh!  You look (action verb) so skinny (tangible adj.) to have a two month old baby!” say “Wow, you are (being verb) so beautiful (intangible adj.) and your new baby is (being verb) totally adorable (intangible adj.)!”

Instead of saying “You look (action verb) so tan (tangible adj.)!  Have you been at the beach?”  say “You are (being verb) glowing (intangible adj.)!  How is your summer going so far?”

This month, we’re all looking forward to Thanksgiving and remembering all the things we are thankful for.  How about we tell others what THEY can be thankful for, whether it be a nice bag or pretty hair.  Go forth and deliver effective compliments this month and feel good knowing that you might make someone’s day!    And for the love of Maude, please stop commenting on how “skinny” someone is!

For some more good reading, check out this article I just came across on The Stir:  http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/111815/the_art_of_giving_good

this year, i have a plan.

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2000. I started noticing something strange about my mood during my first year of college.  I didn’t think much of it, though.  I was adjusting to college life, I was terribly sick and in the hospital with pneumonia that year, and I missed my family.  I mean really, who ISN’T stressed and irritable during their freshman year? I thought I was fine, all things considered.  The altitude was too much for me in Bluefield, so I transferred to VCU my second year.

2001. Richmond was awesome.  I immediately fell in love with the city, but something still wasn’t right.  Around Halloween, I started to feel irritable, stressed, and rather blah.  I wasn’t interested in hanging out with my new friends, except for one (Hi, honey!).  I had also recently broken my foot, and I attributed my mood to the difficulty in getting around and intensity of schoolwork.  I didn’t think anything more of it.  By early Spring, my foot had healed and I felt much better.

2002. The following year, when I lived in an apartment, was the turning point for my mood.  The same thing happened again – Halloween rolled around and I started feeling edgy, irritable, and very blah.  I covered up my troubles pretty well, but I knew something weird was going on.  I started doing some research and came across some information in my abnormal psychology book.  The symptoms I was experiencing, although mild, fit into the criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Although I knew I fit into the model for the disorder, I pretended (mostly to myself) that I just had “Med Student Syndrome” and blamed my suspicion on my studies.

Med Student Syndrome is a very common and very real state of mind where, when studying the human body and mind, the student thinks he or she has every single disease they are studying.  For example, if a student has a cough, and is currently studying the stages of lung cancer, the student suddenly becomes convinced that he or she has lung cancer.  Same with the Social Sciences, especially with psychology. 

I managed to slide through another school year and when Spring arrived, I was great again.  Right as rain.  Complete denial that I might have a problem.  Summer was awesome that year and I was so ready to start my senior year at VCU.  SO READY.

2003.  I feel 2003 was the worst year during my college years.  I was a retail slave in addition to a full time student and quite often couldn’t make rent.  I was a starving student and I hated it.  I couldn’t concentrate in school, so I went to the student health center to find out what the heck was wrong with me.  The doc told me that I was a stressed out, and that it’s pretty common for college students to have a “rut” that they need some help getting through.  She put me on Xanax, which I only took infrequently.   I withdrew from VCU my first semester because I needed to catch up on my finances and get my life together.  It was a stupid thing to do, but I had to make things work.  I worked hard and saved enough money to return to VCU the following semester, but my life had practically spiraled out of control.  I had made a few “friends” who were toxic to my life, I broke up with Jerry thinking that I needed some time alone to get myself together, and I was working ridiculous hours at a crappy retail job.  I started smoking.  My life sucked.  It was late November and I couldn’t get enough sleep.  I called into work often to stay at home and sleep.  Sometimes I would sleep until 1 p.m., only to crash back out at 10 that night, and do the same thing the next day.  At that point, I knew I had a problem, but I was too embarrassed and stupid to ask for help.  I had a feeling that I would feel better in the spring anyway, so I drudged on through until then. During 2003, my sister also started her custody fight with my parents over my nephew.  I knew that my folks had a lot on their plate with my sister and didn’t need my problems on top of that.  I did what was best for everyone except me:  I kept quiet.  When I compare other years to 2003, it seems to me that stress makes the SAD much worse.  See 2009. 

2004.  Jerry and I got back together in early March and were engaged by December.  I stopped smoking.  I was back in school full time by then.  He is still seriously one of the best things that ever happened to me.  He is my motivation to get myself moving.   I sometimes think that Jerry saved me from the depression cycle I was stuck in.  I didn’t realize how lucky I was that he was in my life until he wasn’t.  And how lucky I was that he helped me love myself more.  That year, I talked to my doctor about what was going on.  She was the first (and only) doctor that confirmed my suspicion:  I probably had Seasonal Affective Disorder.  She explained to me that it’s very common and manageable and she put me on another medication which seemed to help, but I stopped taking it in the Spring.  I was fine.  I didn’t need medication.  I was getting married!  I was happy!  I needed to get through graduation, and the wedding, and working full time….. I was fine.

2005.  My final senior year.  We married in September that year and I was much better than previous years.  I had Jerry to help me out with finances (although I was working full time, so it wasn’t that hard.)  We celebrated all of our firsts that season – and I seriously couldn’t be happier.  I felt only slightly blah and irritable, but it wasn’t nearly as serious as it had been in previous years.  Perhaps the cycle was over?  As the school year drew to a close, I was a store manager and a college graduate.  Two big, stressful items had been crossed off my list and smooth sailing was expected.

2006.  I revealed to Jerry that year that I didn’t like Christmas all that much.  I mean, sure, Christmas Day is fun and full of food…. but the season wasn’t my favorite time of year.  With my sister out of the family at that point, it just didn’t feel the same.  Every passing Christmas just reminded me of how she wasn’t there.  Jerry was understanding and assured me that it would change for me one day.  When winter rolled around, I kept busy with Christmas shopping and working.  A lot.  I slid through another year somehow. 2006 was pretty uneventful and manageable.

2007 and 2008.  We moved into our new house in 2007 and it was very exciting.  I don’t remember much about those winters, probably because my symptoms had eased to the point of actually imitating normal.  My marriage was so good that it trumped (most of the time) any kind of boo-hoos that tried to knock on my door.  I had my moments, but altogether, I felt good.

2009.  JJ arrived in September.  The rest is history.  That fall and winter, emotionally, were the most draining and depressing of the past six.  I have written many blogs on my encounter with Postpartum Depression, so I’m not going into detail too much.   Perhaps the Seasonal Affective Disorder also triggered the Postpartum?  I have no idea. You already know how I felt.  Moving on.

2010.  The best year yet.  JJ turned one and we had a GREAT holiday season.  I remembered that my symptoms had tried to make a return, but I continually reminded myself of the past year and I started counting my stars.  I had a lot of them.  I always felt better when I thought about how bad the previous year was and how much better I was this year.  Together, Jerry and JJ offered the support, without even knowing it, for me to keep motivated and sane.  We decorated for Christmas early, where in the past years, I didn’t even want to put the tree up until Christmas Eve.  (When I lived in my apartment, I made no effort to put one up at all.)  It sure was the best one yet.

2011.  We’re nearing on Halloween.  And this year, I have a plan.

1.  Decorating early seemed to help, so that’s what I’m going to do this year.  I don’t think we’ll have any Halloween decorations going up this year, but that’s ok.  I intend to have a Christmas wonderland in my house this year!  This Christmas will be our biggest one yet!

2. Love.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  This is what seemed to get me through the previous few years, so I’m going to love extra hard on everyone that I can.  They say the more love you pour out, the more comes back to you.  I believe that’s true.  And great.  Perhaps this year, I won’t limit myself to only the winter season….

3. Drink less coffee, more water, and a glass of red wine at least every other night.  More massages, more baking, and more bubble baths.  More crafting, writing, and smiling.  More fun.

4.  Open a window on a warm day.  Always keep the blinds and curtains open during the day.  The more sunshine and fresh air, the better.  I also hear that watching summertime movies helps too.  I’m also planning on adding more lighting to our living rooms, both upstairs and down.  It can’t hurt, right?

5.  Do at least one really fun thing outside of the house every weekend.  The sunshine does wonders in the wintertime, and I need to soak up as much sun as I can.  I’m also encouraged that our new office has daylight bulbs in all of the fixtures, so I have a feeling this will help too.

6.  I really need more physical activity in my life.  In the wintertime, it’s really hard to get more active when you work full time, but I’m going to figure this one out.  Maybe the Wii Fit and I will become friends again once my upstairs is finished…

That’s my plan.  I’m going to battle and I’m going to win.  I don’t ever stop thinking about how things used to be or how things could turn out this year.  I denied it for many years.  When I finally started accepting what was going on, I could help make it better for myself.   I learned recently that 20% of all women age 18 – 30 have one or more symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, no matter what geographical location or history of depression.  Many of these women brush it off, deny, and and hide their situation from the world.  I also learned that the symptoms decrease as one ages – perhaps as the physical need for melatonin, a chemical that your brain uses to regulate emotions, is decreased as we age.  We remember from Biology class that sunlight helps your body produce melatonin. Everyone nod….

That’s about it.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks.  Reading other people’s life stories aren’t fun, but maybe someone out there that “hates” wintertime can relate.  I’m looking forward to a great season with lots of snow and and snuggles.  I hope all of you are, too.

where i like to visit

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So there I was, drudging through my work day and I stumbled across this article:

http://www.wtvr.com/health/la-na-women-life-expectancy-20110803,0,1846568.story?page=1

Emporia, Virginia is about 30 miles east of the county I grew up in.  Jerry and I once got lost there.  I drank in every word of this article and lived through it, just for a minute, like it was my own hometown.  In many ways, it is.

Living in rural America is hard.  Part of the reason why  I decided to leave (and why I’ve tried to convince my folks to do the same) is simply that there isn’t enough.  There aren’t enough elementary schools or modernized hospitals.  There aren’t enough gas stations or grocery stores or car repair shops or pizza parlors or toy stores or consignment shops or movie theaters.  There are no Targets or office supply stores or Planned Parenthoods or nice restaurants.  Hell, there aren’t even enough fire trucks and ambulances to cover the entire town.  Most of all – there aren’t enough good paying jobs.  Most roads don’t have streetlights and even more don’t have lines painted on them.  The people of small towns, like Emporia and Chase City, just simply “make do” with what they have available to them.   Sometimes, it’s really really hard, but for some reason – people seem happy with the arrangement.

It’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t think I would want to live there.  Like Hawaii.  Or Las Vegas.   

Here’s an example:  In Chase City, two “convenience” restaurants exist (for the sake of getting away from the term “fast food.”): Hardee’s and Tastee Freeze (built: 1985).  In fact, the last time we visited, I tried to feed JJ chicken nuggets from Tastee Freeze and he wouldn’t eat them.  I don’t blame him either.  A Subway was built a few years back, but personally, if I can’t go through the drive thru, it’s not convenient enough for me.  I believe that Chase City would be a much healthier place if those two convenience places were Panera Bread and Tropical Smoothie.   Healthy, fast options simply aren’t options at all, and this makes me kind of sad.

Chase City Main Street

With that said, here is another example:  my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2001.  She saw her family practitioner and was immediately referred to an oncologist. In RICHMOND.  90 miles away. Very incredibly luckily, my parents were flexible enough to make the trips back and forth to Richmond for the following three years for my mother’s life-saving surgeries.  Even luckier, she didn’t need ongoing chemical or radical therapy.   Think about the people who can’t afford to drive back and forth to Richmond three times a week for consultations and pre-op and surgeries.  Most can’t.  Most don’t.  And many die a treatable and preventable death.  This also makes me kind of sad.

My mother has been in remission for 8 years.  Did I mention how lucky she was?

A few years back (it’s been more than a few, sadly), I visited my mom and took her to get a haircut.  We both ended up getting a haircut together at Glamor Salon, which has been in Chase City for more than forty years.  I remember Miss Gordon cutting my hair while smoking a cigarette, talking about the big city with me.  She talked about how she and her daughter loved making the once-a-year trip to go to Cloverleaf Mall to shop for school.  She was sad that it had closed that year.  I tried to explain that other malls existed, but she just shook her head, puffed away, and continued cutting my hair.  The salon was in the “warehouse district” of the town, digested by many massive gray buildings full of curing tobacco.  It smells sweet and earthy in the fall from the porch of the salon.   I couldn’t find a picture of it online, but maybe I’ll just go take one myself one day.

I don’t miss my small hometown.  Ok, maybe I miss it a little bit.  Now, it’s just become a nice place to visit.  The city sucked me in with all of it’s opportunities and hospitals and day cares and jobs…. I can’t bring myself to go back.  Sometimes, I even wish I could bring a bit of the city down to them.

Richmond Main Street

Until then, I’ll just keep on visiting.

Who were you?

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I woke this morning to the tune of “Mama!  I wake!!” 6:30 on a Sunday morning is always too early, no matter what.  I turned off the baby monitor and rolled out of bed to the sun peeking just over the horizon.  By the time I made my way downstairs, the youngun had started chanting “Mama!  Dada!  Mama!  Dada!”  I peered into his doorway and he looked at me with crystal blue eyes and smiled.

“Oh, hi Mama!”  He’s always happy to see me in the morning.  Well, almost always.

A quick diaper change and we were out of bed. He bounded into the living room with the energy of a thousand lab puppies, I made coffee, I gave him some milk, he climbed onto the sofa and happily watched Calliou.  I washed some dishes and put cream and sugar in my cup.   I joined him on the sofa and we watched the show to the end.  I got up and let the cat outside and refilled my cup.  As I returned to the living room, I noticed the date in the corner of the television as Sprout was introducing the next show.  I stared for a long time.

9/11/2011.

My God.  I had completely forgotten that today was September 11.  I felt so ashamed of myself.  (I once let Easter Sunday slip by, too…. Oy.)

I stared at the television for a minute and thought about all of the “Where were you that day?” banter going around on Facebook, Twitter, and basically every office, school, and street corner.  I believe that most people truly remember that very day, but what about the days after?  Nothing?  Me neither.  The only thing I vividly remember is how I felt.

Here it is, social media.

My roommate and I had a fight the night before, although I don’t remember what it was about.  I think she intentionally locked me out or something.  She was a bit crazy like that.  I had slept on the sofa because I didn’t want to be in the same room with her.  We shared a VCU-sponsored apartment in the Northside which was falling apart and eventually caught on fire.

I was 19 and two weeks from meeting my future husband and three weeks into my first semester at VCU.  It seems like centuries ago.  I drove a rusty old clunker of a car that broke down on Interstate 95 a few months later and left me stranded before a big test.  Stupid car.

She woke before I did and brought me the blanket off my bed.  She told me she was sorry and didn’t want to start the semester off on a bad foot.  I accepted her apology and she stepped into the kitchen to make coffee.  It was Dunkin Donuts coffee.  Mmm.

It was about 8:45 a.m.

She clicked on the radio and we both froze when we heard the frantic voice on the other end.  At first we didn’t know what was going on, but we knew some kind of accident had happened.  A bad one.  Neither of us had class until late morning, so we listened to the radio and drank our coffee.  As I was getting up to get a shower, we heard another frantic voice.  I bet most of you heard it too.  Another plane.  The other building.  Terrorist.  We are under attack.  I don’t remember everything that I heard on the radio that morning, but I knew it was very bad.

My roommate and I carpooled to school that morning, although I had planned to take the bus back after my first class.  I don’t remember why.  I didn’t know the towers had fallen until I got to the lecture hall and several of the students were absent.  The professor had the classroom television turned to CNN.  I stood and watched.  I couldn’t move or think.  I certainly couldn’t pray, which is what I should have been doing.   Finally, the professor told us few brave students that she was sure the university was cancelling classes and to go home to our families.

Only….  I didn’t have any family nearby.  Or friends.  I didn’t have anyone except for a crazy roommate.  I was alone – quite literally – and unfamiliar with the city surrounding me.  But I wasn’t afraid.  Thinking back,  I should have been.

I wandered around campus for a while- I don’t remember how long.  I avoided any television or radio with the news.  The campus was nearly deserted, but I took the opportunity to explore the campus and see a few things.  As lunchtime rolled around, I noticed quite a few students gathering in the student commons theater, so I meandered in, too.  There were hundreds of students in the theater kneeling, praying, and crying.  I sat in the last seat in the last row.  I was still as a stone as I watched the students talk among themselves about what had happened and how they were feeling.  I listened to students frantically worry about not knowing if their mom/dad/sister/cousin/best friend from high school was in New York that day.  Some were nauseated with the thought of the tragedy that unfolded just a few hours before – the tragedy that I was avoiding.

After a few minutes of sitting there, sinking down into my seat lower and lower, my cell phone rang.  Loudly.  EVERY student looked at me with a glaze of surprise and rushed to their own phones in a flash, as if all of them had also received a call at that exact moment.  I hadn’t even realized that many cell carriers were having outages due to all of the usage.  I answered.  It was my mom.

I have no memory after I answered the phone.  I do know I was quite numb from the information overload.  The next few days were very surreal as I finally began to realize that our country was in real danger.  I suddenly didn’t love the city as much as I had the week before.  Luckily, I moved into on-campus housing, leaving the crazy roommate behind.

I don’t have a great 9-11 story.  In fact, I don’t have a story at all.  I spent many hours praying for families and rescue workers in the days that followed, but otherwise, I had no involvement.   To this very hour, I can’t turn the channel that has 9-11 coverage on, because I may be reduced to a blubbering puddle on the floor.   I especially can’t hear about stories about the daycare that was in the Trade Center.  I somehow pray anyway.

I think the real question here is not “Where were you…?” but rather… “Who were you when the towers fell?”

I was just a kid with nothing to lose, hearing hundreds of stories about people who lost everything.   My life was forever humbled afterwards along with, I’m sure, many of you.

So, I ask:  don’t think about where you used to be physically standing.  Think about how you have changed since our nation has come under attack.  Who were you?

in other words.

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Please ignore this blog if you don’t have at least one of the following:

1. an open mind

2. common sense about public opinion

Really, leave now if you’re not a sensible opinion reader, because I promise you, I will delete and block every attacking comment left on this blog.  Take that, negativity.

This is not a Casey Anthony defense.  It’s just my opinion about her life and what might have happened in it.

If you’re after a storyline, here is one that really needs more news coverage and some tough social media:  http://www.wtvr.com/wtvr-gloucester-couple-in-court-20110504,0,4103519.story

And now, if you’re still here, I have to tell you something.

I know someone who is JUST.  LIKE.  CASEY.  ANTHONY.  And this is what I think about it.

What happened to Casey?

As I watched the murder case against Casey Anthony unfold over the past few weeks, I became less and less convinced that any evidence puts Casey at the exact scene of the crime, with an exact motive, and with a specific murder weapon.  There is no true cause of death for three year old Caylee Anthony and no timeline leading up to her death.  Anyone who survived Civics in middle school knows that you have to have these things in a case to make an argument.  Sure, lots of questions exist about what happened to Caylee, and one day they will be answered.  But have any of us thought about what happened to Casey, and why she is the way she is?

Something very terrible and horrifying happened to Casey and her family, and is still happening to this very day.  The Anthony family is incredibly dysfunctional, including one separation of the parents, screaming and bickering, disrespect, lying, cheating, stealing and very little boundary.  Casey got pregnant at age 20 – barely an adult, not even old enough to drink or rent a car – while still living with her parents.  Very few people know who the baby’s father was and the family hid the pregnancy until the baby was born, even from Casey’s brother. Casey’s mom belittled her and her father, made fun of her brother, and constantly fought with Casey.  Both parents are overly dramatic, selfish, and non-supportive.  All of their private business is out in the open now, and all of their skeletons are out.  The family is in hiding and under protective services because of protesters in their community.  They are scared and worried for their safety – not to mention that they have been reminded over and over again for the past four months of their granddaughter’s death.  They’ve been placed under the microscope and they don’t look good.   No one can look good in that circumstance.  They are mourning all over again – but this time, it’s not just their dead granddaughter.

After all of this, is it any surprise that Casey is a deeply disturbed individual?

Profile of a Liar

A pathological liar has a real disability,  just as real as deafness or blindness.  In many cases, pathological lying is a symptom of other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  Pathological lying is also a common symptom in many personality disorders, most notably antisocial personality disorder, which is most famous for self-victimizing and extreme disregard for other people.  Lack of emotion, love, and sympathy for others are telltale signs of the disorder.   Disregard for safety of other people, consequences of actions, and impact of bad decisions.  All of these things rolled together, with a nice juicy cherry on top, is the recipe for a sociopath.  Meet Casey Anthony.  And my own sister.  And about 35,000 other Americans just like them.

Why does a blind man trip over the curb?  Because he can’t see the sidewalk.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel the need to lie about everything, even when there is no need.  Why didn’t she tell police?  Because she physically couldn’t.  She didn’t know how.  So she did what she knew – she lied about it.   Did Casey kill Caylee?  No one except Casey knows. Personally, I think something horrible happened to Caylee and Casey tried to cover it up to glorify herself.  She did a shitty job, too.  Perhaps Casey and Caylee were going for a swim that day.  Did Casey run inside to answer the phone while Caylee was outside at the pool?  Did she take just a little more than a second, while Caylee climbed the ladder and fell in?  Did something even worse happen?  It’s all possible.   She partied and got a tattoo because she BADLY wanted for everyone to think that nothing was wrong.  She overcompensated in convincing everyone that everything was okay.   The story in her head played out like a movie:  Caylee was “missing” and she needed a story.  She made it look like the “nanny” killed her, leaving Casey the victim.  The funny thing about lies, though, is they are hard to sustain. So she made up more and more to keep sustaining her story, which fell apart like a stricken pinata.  I believe that there may be some element of truth to the accidental drowning, and Casey covered it up so much that her parents got involved and made Casey look more and more guilty of something unimaginable to all of us.  At that point, Casey had been so deep into her story that she didn’t know how to get out. And she got scared.

As a sentient society, we can’t wrap our brains around how someone can make all of this up.  Or why.  And that fact that a beautiful little girl is dead and SOMEONE has to be held responsible.    We can’t understand because we don’t want to.  It’s incomprehensible that someone can lie so much and be so deceitful and selfish.  We can’t put ourselves in her shoes because we don’t want to.  We don’t have the mental capacity to imagine what it must be like to be Casey, just like we can’t imagine what it is like to be deaf or blind when we aren’t.

Twins and Siblings

I remember what my sister’s face looked like in court when we were fighting for custody of her son.  Casey had that same look.   The pursed lips.  The stone-cold face.  The head shaking and the mumbling.  The note passing to the attorneys.  The women are like twins.  Perhaps my personal experience kept me glued to CNN to watch the Anthony trial, but I saw so much of my sister in Casey’s eyes.  I was shocked and relieved:  someone else out there saw in Casey what I saw in my sister many years ago.  I am not the only one.  Finally, I’m not the only one.

The thing here is:  I can’t imagine what is like to be Casey, but I can imagine what it must be like for her family.  It goes without saying that my family is not like Casey’s – I would like to think that my family is decently “normal,” with the exception of the sociopath sibling thing.

My heart goes out to Lee, her brother, who seems to be the only one in this case with any common sense.   He must be thinking that the world is so unfair sometimes.  He must be feeling pretty horrible because there is nothing he can do to help his family.  He’s alone.  And probably sad.  And angry.  And many other things that I remember feeling many years ago.

I feel for you, Lee, I really do.  As a survivor of a family war (nothing compared to yours) and a sibling of a bi-polar/anti-social individual, I can honestly say that I understand. 

But here is some good news, Lee:

One day, when Casey disappears into the night (and she probably will soon) and marries some schmuck and has another baby that she doesn’t have any business having, you will somehow find it in your heart to forgive her.  Many days and nights will go by without you speaking to one another and your heart will continue to break little by little each time.  You will feel a deep sadness for your niece and the life she could have had and the childhood you remember with Casey.  You will  call her.  She won’t answer.  You will cry.  She won’t.  You will hurt, scream, wonder, and be alone.  She won’t feel anything.  You’ll think there is something wrong with you, but I promise – it’s all her.

Then one day, you’ll wake up next to your beautiful wife and hear your wonderful child singing through the monitor to let you know it’s morning time, and you’ll wonder how your life got to be so good after something so terrible.  In the midst of all the wonderfulness that will encompass your life, you will find it somewhere deep in your heart (look in the place where you store your favorite childhood memory of Casey) and you will forgive her for what she did to your family.  I know that sounds ridiculous right now, but I promise – it will happen to you just like it happened to me.

The Other Side

Social media is a beautiful thing – it can create a public opinion in a matter of seconds.  Not only public opinion, but also public panic.  For example:  if someone in a large crowd starts screaming and running, looking behind them… eventually someone will start running too.  Then three people.  Then fifteen.  Then fifty.  You get the picture.  Social media works the same way without the screaming lunatic.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and even news sites (Nancy Grace, for example) all feed public opinion the fattiest, most unhealthy scraps that they can dig up.  Once someone gets hyped about the story, they BlowItUp.  Then we all get interested.  Then we all start believing each other.  It’s amazing how fast a verdict was reached in this case before the girl ever had her day in court.  She was guilty from the minute they found Caylee.  Way to uphold the Constitution, folks.  You’re ALL stand up citizens.

We know SQUAT about this case, we haven’t seen all the evidence, and we don’t know the truth. 

This girl and her family have been torn apart by the media and all we can do is sit around on Facebook and call her  murderous, idiotic, insane, and disgusting.  If you don’t have Casey’s fingerprints on a murder weapon directly linked to Caylee with a motive and a timeline, well, you have squat.  You have nothing except your opinion, which you are entitled to.  You are not entitled to attack the Anthony family with your stabs in the press and gunshots to social media using that opinion.

Casey was once a child.  She was grown in her mother’s womb and she is her mother and father’s baby.  I’m sure her mother and father did not intend for this to happen to their child, and certainly not their grandchild.  Casey is loved by many people who are hurting.  They are heartbroken more than we can ever know, over the death of a baby and the social suicide of another.  Her family will never be the same – just like mine is not the same – and all we can do is sit around and criticize them.  Casey needs some serious, hardcore therapy and lifelong counseling .  I can only pray that she, and the rest of her family, will receive it.

How would you feel if your child turned out to be like Casey?  What would you do?  I hope I never have to answer that question.

I implore each of you who read these words:  leave this family to heal.  Justice is not ours to serve.  So why are we still cooking it?

funny sh*t people say to me. and what i say back.

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Series.  Because people will never stop being funny. Email me your funnies, and I’ll publish them too.

7.27.2011.

I love traffic.  This morning, I loved it even more when we came to a screeching halt on the Downtown Expressway.  JJ and I were singing when the car next to us started beeping.  Weird, I thought, because the traffic is obviously moving faster because you are honking.  I got to laughing when JJ started singing BEEP BEEP in time with the honker, until I looked over and realized that he was honking at ME.

I rolled down the window and entertained the passenger, since it seemed that he desperately wanted to talk to me.

“What going on up her (here)??”  The passenger seemed in a hurry.  I honestly thought it was construction that played a role in the traffic jam, but played dumb anyway.

“What do you mean?” I shouted back.

“Up her (here)!  Why traffic stoppin up her (here)??”  The guy, who obviously had seen his share of redneck bonfires and trailer parks, pointed frantically at his windshield.    I didn’t see any traffic on his windshield, and obviously didn’t know why traffic was stopping on the road.  The following ridiculous dialogue ensued:

Me: “I dunno.  I’m not a psychic.”

Redneck:  “A what?”

Me:  “A psychic.  I’m not a psychic.”

Redneck:  “I ain’t ask if you was.” He was very confused at this point, like I had just thrown the Pythagorean Theorem at him to ponder while we sat in traffic, which was now moving a little.  A few minutes passed while we still had the windows down and we crept along.  His car caught back up with me and he shouted out the window again, just for good measure.

Redneck:  “You sure you ain’t psycho?”

I rolled up my window.

6.6.2011.  In the grocery store on Saturday, JJ was exceptionally restless.  He was riding in the racecar buggy (greatest invention ever) and went from fine to bored in .000000001 seconds.  I realized that I had a couple of stacking cups stashed in my purse, gave them to him, and he happily clapped them together for the entire shopping trip (read: forever.) He was quiet (verbally) and I was happy in my  brain.  Life at the grocery store was good.

Until checkout.  UGH.  He was still clapping the cups when a really annoyed lady behind me cleared her throat.  Like a Tyrannosaurus.  After I ignored her the first time, she did it again and I turned around to be sure I wasn’t about to be eaten, leaving my clapping child alone in the store.  She promptly rolled her eyes, put her hand on her hip, and said HAD THE BALLS TO SAY:

“You know, that’s really annoying.”

Is it?  Really?  Thank you, for your insightful comment that I don’t care about.

I’m not sure if my brain short-circuited or what, but I immediately smiled and said back to her:

“It’s ok.  He eats a lot of vegetables.”

She’s probably still wondering whether I’m crazy or just plain weird.  Either one she decides, she’s probably right.

in the face of mom rules.

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Rules of Parenting?!  You’re kidding me, right? I laugh at them.  I can’t help it.

Apparently, the 2+ million publications that have been successfully written and followed to the very dotted letters say “No.  We would never ‘kid’ you. In fact, we have a parenting rule about ‘kidding’ people and the effect it will one day have on your child’s SAT scores.”

I’ve confessed more than once that I have not cracked a parenting book.  Ever.  I did use “What to Expect The First Year” to kill a bug once.  And I did receive a subscription to “Parenting” magazine, but found the parenting help and “How To Teach Your Kid to ______ in Three Days!” unhelpful and uninteresting.  The articles about cool new baby gadgets and “How To Rig Your Bathroom Door so No Child Can Open It and Interrupt Your ‘Private’ Time” were awesome and sometimes life changing.

Back to laughing at mom rules -

As long as my kid is a happy, healthy, productive  member of his age group, I’m happy with that.  And as long as our sanity is in one relatively recognizable piece while ensuring that health and happiness are happening, I’m happy with that too.  By happy, I don’t mean smiling all the time or never throwing a temper tantrum.  I mean playing, learning, and active.  Occasional (sometimes loud and induced by excessive tickling) laughter is good too.  By healthy, I mean well fed, well rested, clean face and/or hands, and dry butt.

Getting to these states of unbridled happiness and healthiness and productivity is a different story.  If my pediatrician doesn’t know the answers to my questions, and neither of my moms can help, I turn to my girls.  The ones with kids and who have been-there-done-that-while-being-peed-in-the-eye.  Surely, with all of these people thinking critically about my problem, someone must be able to offer some inclining of a solution.

They probably fight like robots and monsters, too.

Because, let’s face it, do Dr. Sears and Dr. Weisblum and Dr. Spock really have small children running around their ankles?  The answer to this is no, because if they did, they WOULDN’T HAVE TIME TO WRITE AN F-ING BOOK. For that matter, we have no idea if these guys are even people at all – they could be monsters or robots or worse – unmarried men, which wouldn’t surprise me one stinking bit.  I’m damn sure they aren’t sleep deprived, don’t have poop on their shirt cuff, and for CERTAIN don’t have pacifiers fall out of their briefcases during a really important executive meeting.  Take that, docs.

OH man- my ADHD just led me directly to this blog and now I’m in love.

http://www.motherhooduncensored.net/motherhood_uncensored/2011/05/survivor-mom.html

Anyway, in the face of all things parenting, I have no problem letting my child sleep in his car seat for another ten minutes outside of preschool because he woke us up freakishly early.  Just like I did this morning. 

At least his face was clean.

He didn’t come home this clean.

However, when we did come home, I was busy on a conference call when I wrestled him out of the car seat and toted him into the house like a sack of potatoes.  He was upset because I wouldn’t let him turn around and stand in the carseat to look out the front window.  I was on a conference call!  And as I walked in the door, I had to scramble to get the phone, which was muted on speaker, out of my pocket because someone asked me a question.  Nice. I summoned the husband to assume the supervisory role while I remained on the call and started frantically fixing dinner, which JJ promptly threw on the floor as soon as I handed it to him.  I hung up the phone, made JJ some mac and cheese, and he vacuumed it.  So much for a balanced dinner.  At least he had veggies for lunch.

This, my friends, is called Survival Parenting.  I had no idea of this concept until today, when I luckily breezed through the above referenced blog.  This is me.  If I remain conscious and semi-productive for the entire day and, like I said earlier, if my child is happy, healthy, and productive… my job here is complete.  The times that I sit on the sofa after a busy day and listen to JJ snore into the monitor is the confirmation siren letting me know “mission accomplished…. until tomorrow.”

william turns 13

I wasn’t fast enough to get pictures of the cake, but I was fast enough to eat it.  That’s all the really matters anyway.

It’s official.  My baby nephew is a teenager.  Wow.  We had a great day of rough and tumble play, building the wine shed, and building the Lego DeathStar.  Or whatever it’s called.

First, the boys played a full on game of Tackle Football.  It was hilarious, plus they had an extra challenge of dodging me as I  took pictures.

jjball

jjball2

jjbw2

jjhappy

jjrun

jjwill

jjwill2

jjwillbw

quincy

ride

run

will

While the game unfolded, Jerry helped Dad work on the new wine shed Dad is building.  It’s a bit bigger than I thought it would be!

dad

jerry

shed

workin

After we were all too tired to play any more, Will showed off his new Lego Death Star.

angry dude

darth and dude

darth

deathstar

flier

other dude

r2

jersey shore is healing.

our visit to New Jersey this year was three weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit.  The boardwalk was completely washed away and the dunes were more than seven feet high.  The pile of wood below is the remains of the boardwalk.  The waves this day were at least six feet high, maybe higher.  Even after the shore was ravaged by the storm, this part of the beach was still very beautiful.

beach

bluesky

byebye

crash

fence

firetruck

floodwall

jjbech

jjbw

rocks2

rockybeach

rubble

sand

seagull

shell

spray

stop

thumbie

wave rock

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