Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love is what makes a family

I'm always a bit hesitant to write about hot-button issues, but what the heck. I saw this video today. It's the son of a same-sex couple speaking about his upbringing. He seems well-adjusted to me. Why should anyone outside his family be deciding if what he describes is a proper family?

In my part-time job as a newborn photographer, I'm around new parents all day at work. I've encountered some lesbian couples who were new parents. I'll never forget the first couple that I met. I was getting ready for the photo shoot and the two women were both very involved in taking care of the baby. At first I thought nothing of it. Lots of times, there's a sister, a friend, a mother or an aunt in the room helping mom. As I collected information, I was told there was no father to list on the paperwork and as she went on I finally figured out that there were two mothers. I took some beautiful pictures of the little boy and of the couple with the child. The little boy also had an older sister being raised by the couple. There were two parents who obviously both wanted this baby very much.

The situation was a huge contrast to many of the other parents I'd dealt with. A lot of them were single teenage mothers. Sometimes there was a father in the picture, but it was definitely not an ideal family situation. Here I was in a room with two loving parents that just happened to both be women. I figured this baby had a future that looked much more promising than that of some of the other babies that were conceived the traditional way. This baby was loved and wanted by a family. It might not be everyone's definition of family, but it was a family. At the end of the photo session, they both thanked me for treating them so nicely. They said that some of the hospital staff wasn't so nice and had expressed disapproval at their situation. They even asked if I had a photo studio where they could bring the baby and his big sister to get more photos taken.

I felt privileged to be able to take photos of their family and be part of their first few hours with their new child as I do with every parent I work with. I photograph so many babies that so many just blur together, but this is one I'll remember. I have no doubt that this little boy will grow up being loved as the young man in this video has been.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Steve Jobs Thanksgiving

After everyone was filled up and relaxing, I looked around and realized everyone (who wasn't sleeping) was engaged in some sort of electronic device...mostly Apple products. A few were watching the latest Harry Potter movie on the television. Then there were the young bunch playing Angry Birds on an iPad2.

And after showing photos of her European trip on her laptop, my sister was surfing the net on her iPhone, while my sister and sister-in-law looked at Facebook photos on her phone.

I couldn't get anymore photos to load, but on the other side of the room, was my 12-year-old watching "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" with my husband on the iPad. Happy Thanksgiving...Steve Jobs-style. :)

Life through the lens: Days 83, 84,85, 86, 87, 88, 89 and 90

Well, I fell way behind on my posts. Catching up today with some yummy Thanksgiving photos.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Thanksgiving meal through a child's eyes

Ok, one thing I always keep in mind when dealing with a picky eater is that I was there once, too. I remember really disliking foods that people seemed to want me to eat when I was a young one and I absolutely hated when my foods ran together. I didn't want anything to touch. If beet juice ran into my mashed potatoes, I was in tears. Yeah, I was kind of a nightmare at the dinner table.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today with a huge feast, I will enjoy eating just about everything on the table, with the exception of sweet potatoes, which I've never liked. And cranberry sauce. I've never been fond of it. But...load me up with the turkey and carbs. :) I can't get enough of the egg noodles in gravy that are part of our Thanksgiving meal and I could eat mounds of stuffing. Mom's recipe includes lots of celery, including the leaves, which I love.

But there was a time not long ago, when I didn't see a whole lot of appeal in those traditional dishes. My kids are 17, 12, 10, 8 and 6. And when I was the age of my younger set, I probably would have looked at the food and had the following thoughts (I didn't say it out loud, of course, but I was thinking it):

1) Turkey. Ok I can do that, but only the white meat. Who wants to eat meat off an icky bone?
2) Potatoes. I like those, but only if there's not butter on top. I like them plain.
3) Gray. you know what that looks like?
4) Stuffing. I don't think so. What's that green stuff in there?
5) Hawiian salad. Oh, this looks good. Marshmallows. Oranges. Why did they have to go and ruin it with coconut?
6) Waldorf salad. I like apples. But nuts? Yuk! Who put nuts in there?
7) Sweet potatoes. No, thanks. I'll take the regular ones...and I like them plain.
8) Cranberry sauce. That was in a can? Ick. I don't want that slimy stuff that was in a can.
9) Green bean casserole. Green beans are bad enough. Why would someone make it worse by adding mushrooms and onions. Eating that is torture.
10) Corn. Ok, corn is good. As long as there's no butter or pepper on it. Pepper looks like dirt.
11) Jell-o. You can't go wrong with Jell-o. Wait. What the heck are those chunks in there?
12) Cornbread. Ok, maybe, but why does the corn always get stuck in teeth?
13) Biscuits. Ok, best thing so far.
14) Pumpkin pie. You've got to be kidding me. Pumpkin? Blah!!!

So, I likely would have had a sliver or white meat, a scoop of plain potatoes and a biscuit on my plate. I know that's how at least one of my kids' plates will look today. But, I won't bug them to eat the vegetables. Not today. That leaves more for me. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I feel like such a Thanksgiving slacker

I know most of the country is going crazy right now - either out shopping for tomorrow's feast or busy cooking and cleaning and preparing. I feel like such a slacker because I'm off the hook. I'm not hosting Thanksgiving. I'll be heading to my sisters for Thanksgiving dinner and then visiting my sister-in-law for dessert at her place.

Yesterday a friend asked if I was cooking a big dinner. I was almost embarrassed to say "no." Then I admitted that I've never once hosted Thanksgiving for my large family that includes not just my husband and children, but my 5 siblings and their spouses, several nieces and nephews and my parents. Thanksgiving is not my holiday. I've done Christmas. I've done Easter. I do lots of summer barbecues.

It's just that I do not have good mojo with turkeys. I've actually only had one experience with a big full-blown turkey and it was a bad one. I'd just gotten married and had everyone over for Christmas. I luckily had a ham as well because the turkey was a disaster. How was I supposed to know you had to defrost the darn thing for days and remove a bag of gizzards from inside the bird? Ewww! I was a naive newlywed who had always eaten my mother's home cooked turkey for the holiday. I had no clue what I was doing. I've never been brave enough to try again. I've been lucky that it's always been hosted by someone else in my family, usually my sister Pam. On a couple occasions it's been at my brother's. This year my sister, Becky, is having it at her place.

I do, however, usually cook a turkey breast with all the trimmings the weekend after Thanksgiving at home so there are some leftovers to enjoy. So, I'm not a total slacker. I'll just be doing it on a smaller scale a couple days after the fact. And I do contribute to my sister's meal, so she's not doing all the work. Everyone always brings a dish. I'll be bringing at least one and some dessert and some beverages, so I'm pitching in in that respect.

However, I feel like I should be stressing like everyone else who is preparing for tomorrow. I'm not. The kids got home from school early. I've got lots to do, but I have that wave of relief that the work can be put on hold since no one else is working tomorrow and it's not a totally pressing thing. I don't have to worry about homework or packing lunches tomorrow. I don't even have to get up early. The kids are all playing peacefully and it feels like the Thanksgiving holiday should...relaxing with my family and counting all the blessings that are all around me and staring me in the face. Blessings to you all for a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So much to do, so little time

So here I am typing about how little time I have, yet I'm spending time doing this...when I really don't have time to. Sometimes I just have to write it out, though - or type it out - when things start to feel overwhelming. It just seems like everything has fallen behind due to a variety of things. I'm under water desperately trying to catch a breath and I'm not. It's nearing 1 a.m. I know I need to get to sleep. I've been up way too late lately and it does me no good. I try to steal a few extra hours late at night, but I pay for it the next day when I'm dragging until noon and feeling like such a slouch.

I am looking forward to the four days off school when I may get a chance to sleep in a bit on one of those days. But then I won't accomplish as much because the kids will be home all day. There's always a trade off. My e-mails are out of control again. Papers are stacking up. Luckily I have gotten the hang of delegating and the kids are keeping up on dishes and laundry. Today was a pretty good day. I did accomplish most of what I wanted to. If I could keep up that pace, I'd be back on track.

For now, I'm going to let it keep stacking up and enjoy the weekend with my family -- which I'm extremely thankful for. Sometimes when I'm feeling glum over such stupid things, like fretting over a pile of laundry or feeling depressed over the cold and rainy weather, I have to kick myself and make an effort to remember how blessed I am. I may not have all the time I'd like, but I have everything I need. I'm a lucky girl.

Life through the lens: Days 81 & 82

So, on Sunday I had to go take some pictures for an assignment for a newspaper at a church. I got a few shots of my subject in different areas. The last was at the piano. She started playing and it sounded so beautiful, I just kept snapping pictures so I could hear her play longer. I zoomed in on her fingers for a couple shots. Some of my favorite pictures I've taken have been hand shots. In babies and young children, I love to see how smal the hands are in comparison with their parents. In the older individuals, I look at the lines and creases and think about all that those pair of hands have seen over the years.

This is another favorite I took a couple years ago of the pilot on a ride in a C-47 World War II plane. I just love the detail it picked up. What a wealth of experience in that fist.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A little dose of happy for ya

I've been getting daily e-mails from the author of The Happiness Project. Just kinda makes me more concious of what makes me happy...and makes me strive to bring some happy moments into each day and spread that cheer. Sometimes I'll pull up a YouTube video that makes me smile and laugh...and maybe even drop a few happy tears. Here's a away and be happy. :)

Dear sons: Appreciate the arts

Letter #14

Dear sons:

I love music. I love theatre. I love movies. I love to view artwork. I love to read. I love to be entertained.

I love to witness talent. It often brings me to tears...when I watch a school play, when I see someone blossom over the course of the American Idol season, when I read an essay in the newspaper by a local teen.

I realize not everyone shares my interest. Of all of you boys, I know at least one of you would rather eat dirt than go watch a musical with me. Then there's the one of you that I can always count on to attend a show or concert with me.

I had this vision early on of having kids who all played an instrument. So far we've had three attempts at playing instruments, but only one who viewed it as enjoyment rather than misery. Just because music and theatre are my thing, doesn't mean it has to be yours. So, I accepted that and the lessons were halted.

However, I hope that even if you're not as eager as I am to see a ballet or watch Glee, you'll have an appreciation for the arts. And when you give it a chance, you may find it's not as bad or as boring as you think. It allows for such creativity and opportunity for expression. And since I don't have the talent for singing or dancing or drawing or acting, I find it fun to be a bystander and watch the talent of others.

Life through the lens: Day 80

I used to be a little creeped out by cemeteries, now I'm fascinated by them. When we've traveled, we've made stops at old cemeteries and looked at some of the very old headstones. It really makes your mind wander as you look and names and dates and wonder what their lives may have been like and why they died when they did. And some of the stones are so detailed. On a visit to a local cemetery on Veteran's Day, I was drawn to this one that towered over every other one.

To Santa, from Mom

Ok, I am a big-time anti-Christmas cheer until after Thanksgiving kind of person, but since everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon prematurely, I might as well join in. So, sir in the big red suit, here's a little list from me -- a mom --to keep in mind as you're prepping for that Christmas Eve sleigh delivery. It's actually a what-not-to-get-list. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

1) No playdough
2) No slime
3) No moon sand
4) No clay
5) No goo of any kind that will stick to the floors or furniture
6) No paints
7) No markers
8) No glue
9) No glitter or any kind of medium that will stain fingers or fabrics
10) No toys that make noise
11) No toys that have sirens
12) No toys that blink
13) No toys that flash
14) No toys that require batteries that would cause any sights or sounds that would wake me up prematurely on a Saturday morning
15) No Legos
16) No small blocks
17) No Hot Wheels Cars
18) No Army men
19) No board games with small figures or pieces
20) No 1,000 piece puzzles
21) No teeny-tiny pieces of any kind that will cause me intense pain when I step on them in the dark
22) No toys that require a degree in Aeronautics or Physics to assemble
23) No toys that are secured into cardboard boxes so tightly that they require a 104-piece Craftsman tool set to release them.
24) No electronic devices that will convert them to zombies
25) No video games that involve any violence more intense than throwing a mushroom
26) No musical instruments

Ok, so what's left, you're wondering? Yeah, I can't think of anything myself aside from books and cardboard boxes. Oh, well....good luck with that.

Missing the little things

Everyone once in a while this happens. I'm around babies and toddlers again. And I look around at them and they make me smile, but way in the back I feel sad for a moment. Sad that those days are gone...those days of inexperience when we we're muddling our way through together. It's not really that I want to be there again. There are just some things about it that I wish I could recreate where I'm at naptime maybe or the fact that they couldn't reach anything up on the kitchen counters or that they liked to watch tame Disney movies instead of action flicks.

I'm in no way saying that I'm longing for another one. We're completely done. Maybe one day I'll share the story about how done we are and how we thought we were done once before. I can't imagine starting again at my age. I can't believe my parents had twins at my age -- babies #5 and 6. Seeing them raising us in their 50's made me want to be a young parent and have my kids in my 20's. We tired them out too easily.

I try hard to enjoy the moment and the stage my kids are in. Each age and stage comes with its own rewards. But once in a while those little things about being little get me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life through the lens - days 77, 78, 79

So, here are three days worth of photos (I'm working ahead by a day.) It's been much easier to post them in groups rather than every day. Another food shot and a couple more flower ones. :) I don't like that the weather is getting icky and cold and I don't want to go anywhere. Soon enough there will be flakes falling and the beauty of the snow to snap and post, but I know it will be short-lived. The snow quickly turns to dirty mush. I just have to remind myself that these next few months of misery are what will make spring beautiful once again. Either that or I need to relocate to somewhere more tropical. :)

Dear sons: Find your passion and follow it

Letter #13

Dear sons:

Everybody has a talent. A gift. Something that they can do well. One thing I try to do as a mother is pay attention to what those things are for each of you because I know you're all different. One of you likes music and theatre, another likes to draw, another is fascinated with science.

I have always tried to expose you to a variety of experiences so you can get a taste of different things and find something you really enjoy - something that you're passionate about. Sometimes it means you have to drudge through a lot of things you may not enjoy to find what you do.

I've urged you to try new things and have gone through numerous extracurriculars in the classes, music classes, karate, basketball, baseball, soccer, bowling, choir, band, etc. Not everything is for everyone.

When I find something you're good at, I encourage you to do it. Sometimes I don't push as hard as maybe I should. Like when one of you (you know who you are) got all excited about being in the school talent show. You practiced singing your song along with dance moves. Then when we went to rehearsals, you froze. You weren't comfortable doing it in front of lots of other kids and you quit. I regret not pushing you a little more. I know you would have enjoyed it and I know you would have felt a tremendous accomplishment in overcoming that fear.

Everyone enjoys different things. I want you to all find something you're passionate about and work hard at it. Many times when you find something enjoyable, it doesn't even feel like work.

Some kids know from a young age what they want to do. I knew I wanted to be a writer as soon as I could write. But there were other things I thought I'd enjoy -- and they weren't the typical ones that would net you a successful career and big paycheck, like a lawyer or a doctor. I liked people. For a long time I wanted to be a cashier or waitress or a secretary. It seemed fun to me. Not very lofty goals, I suppose. I did spend over a dozen years as a secretary. I wasn't earning a lot of money, but I made a decent salary and had good benefits and it was a job I really liked. I worked with people and worked on the computer and enjoyed what I did. Some days it felt like work and others it didn't.

I want you to reach for the stars - to believe anything is possible and that you can be want you want to be, but I want you to know I also want you to follow your passion and you won't let me down if you do. I won't be disappointed if you want to be an auto mechanic instead of an architect or a chef rather than a cardiologist. When you grow up, you'll have to work in some capacity. If it's doing something you don't want to do, it can envelop you in unhappiness. Find what you love to do. Find your passion. Follow it. That's what will make me proud.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life through the lens: days 74, 75, 76

I love taking photos of food. A lot of them get posted on the food blog I do with my sister, Chicago Foodie Sisters ( Food is so colorful. I guess I'm hungry this morning because I picked out these three as soon as I saw them. (Yes, I got behind again and am playing catch-up with three pictures posted today.

This is Nancy's Pizza. I don't like pepperoni, actually, but it makes a pretty picture.

 Garrett's sinful! Oh, I want some right now!!!

Stuffed peppers that I'd made using the last of the peppers from my father-in-law's garden.

The boyness is really wearing on me

I love boys. I do. They are fun. They're lovable. They're boisterous, which can get on my nerves at times...but hey, I'm a girl. I grew up with a different kind of uncontrolled giggling and jaunting through the shopping mall. Boisterous boyness is wrestling and crashing.

And then there's the bathroom humor. I'd be lying if I said I was completely offended. In junior high, I laughed along with all the boys. I had an older brother with a crazy sense of humor. I can enjoy a crude joke with the best of them. But some days, it's just a major overdose and I literally just want to cry and go sit in a pink padded room and give myself a pedicure. Yesterday was a good example.

"Quit throwing balls in the house."
"Ha. Ha. Ha. You said "balls."

The bathroom door cracks open. "Hey guys, my poop smells like popcorn."

"I know you got your homework done, but your brother didn't"
"Ha. Ha. Ha. You said butt."

Empty can of honey roasted peanuts on the counter. "Who finished the peanuts?"
"Ha. Ha. Ha. You said nuts."

"Hey, pull my finger."

"Please pass the (BUURRRRPP) potatoes."
"What do you say?"

"Excuse (BUURRRPPP) me."

"Chicken butt."

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I sat at the dining room table and put my hands in my face and declared that I would no longer eat at the dinner table with such savages. They all laughed. "Us? Savages? I just farted." I give up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Life through the lens: days 72 and 73

Well, here's my photo entry for today and one for tomorrow, since I don't expect to be on the computer at all.

Today is 11/11/11, also Veterans Day. I wrote a column on Memorial Day about a local cemetery that we stopped at that had several aging graves that were covered in grass and dirt and very hard to read. Someone from the cemetery committee read the column and scheduled a clean-up day, which made me happy. I stopped there again today with my oldest son. We walked around and saw the results of the clean-up. We also had a flag and sought out a Veteran's grave that didn't have a flag to leave it at. This was the first one we saw, a World War I veteran who died over 50 years ago.

We also made a stop at the Martini tree. I'm a member of the Lansing Junior Woman's Club and our group planted this tree in 2007 in honor of LCPL Philip Martini, a U.S. Marine from Lansing who lost his life while serving in Iraq. All year long, and especially at Memorial Day and Veterans Day, flags are left by the tree and the memorial marker. My son left one more today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dear sons: Be confident, but not cocky

Letter #12

Dear sons:

I grew up hearing lots of praise from my parents. My father was constantly telling me not just that I was smart, but that I was the smartest one in the class. Not just that I was pretty, but that I was the prettiest girl in the world. I welcomed the attention and the compliments. I have to admit that as a youngster, I kinda had a big head. I thought I was the best. That's what I was told. Then as I got into school and learned that it wasn't really true -- there were others who were smarter and prettier, my self-confidence sank. As much as my parents tried to build it up, I was a little crushed to learn it wasn't true. It kinda backfired and I then focused on all the people that were better at me at so many things.

Like my parents, I praise you often. I tell you you're smart. I gloat over good grades. I tell you you're handsome. I tell you that you've done a good job when you successfully complete something. I avoid telling you that you're the best in the world. It's not that I don't have confidence in you. I just don't want to instill false confidence in you or put the idea in your head that you are better than everyone else. Do I want you to always do your best? Absolutely! Do I want you to think you're the absolute best and look down on others who might not be as good? Absolutely not!

I always want to high-five you for a job well done. I want you to strive to be the best. But I never want you to acquire the attitude that you're so good that you don't have to try or that someone else is less than you because they are not as good at something. I want you to be confident. I don't want you to be cocky. It's a fine line. I want you to have the attitude that you can do anything, but in competition with yourself more than with others. I know all of you are intelligent, caring individuals who can do whatever you dream to achieve if you're willing to put in the work. I want you to have the confidence to try new things and to push through and succeed at what you're most passionate about. Please don't ever feel you have to put others down in the process. Let your confidence be contagious and encourage others.

In the movie (and book) The Help, there's a line that a maid repeats to a little girl on a regular basis to instill confidence in her - "You're smart. You're kind. You're important." I hope I do enough to convey those thoughts to you. I want you to hear such thoughts often. I want you to have confidence in yourselves and believe in yourselves. Just don't ever take anyone else down in the process. Have the character of someone who is truly smart and kind. Ah, character....another lesson for another day. :)

I'm feeling a bit Bah Humbug-ish

I love Christmas. I really do. I love the decorations. The spirit of giving. The tree. The music. The stockings. The tradition. The family time. The food. What's not to love?

I don't love, however, that Christmas merchandise was out before the Halloween stuff was off the shelves in some stores. It's stifling. It's too early to be bombarded and I don't like it. Give us a breather! What's wrong with waiting until Thanksgiving to kick it in full-force? I much prefer that approach. Although I love the holiday, it's just got me feeling a bit Bah Humbug-ish. And that's not my style. At. All.

I also can understand more this year how people get depressed around the holidays. I, luckily, have a big family that I'll be able to spend the holiday with and that's one of the the things I most look forward to -- the big celebration at my sister's house with as many of my siblings and neices and nephews as can be there. For someone who doesn't have family to celebrate with , it can just compound the lonliness. For someone who has lost a loved one since last Christmas, it can be unbearable.

Also, for those who can't afford the luxuries of the holidays, it can be a big downer. It feels wonderful to give, but when you financially aren't able to give gifts to those who are important to you, it can crush your holiday spirit. This will be the tightest holiday for us in a long time as my husband has had a pay freeze at his job for quite some time with no raise in sight as insurance costs have increased, esentially lowering his take home pay...along with gas and grocery prices shooting through the roof. My writing jobs have been dwindling as some of the publications I write for cease to exist or cut their budgets or their print space. It's going to be a thin holiday this year, whether I like it or not. But, we do have a steady stream of income, which I have to be grateful for -- even when it doesn't leave room for any extras. We have the basics, eachother and our health, which is more imporant than materials items that you unwrap. Doesn't quite translate the same to a child, though, who doesn't see much under the tree.

I"m trying to focus on my blessings, but can't help but feel a little blue about it right now. In a few weeks, when it's the appropriate time to start decking the halls and putting up the mistletoe, I'm sure you won't be able to stop me from carolling. Just give me a little time to enjoy the turkey and stuffing first.

A walk without music isn't the same

Wow. What a difference from yesterday to today. I dropped the kids off for school yesterday with a warm breeze in the air. The thermostat in my car read 60 degrees at 8:45 a.m. Lovely fall leaves were whirling in the air. I got home and couldn't help myself. I had to put on my walking shoes and get outside. Every warm day we've had the past few weeks makes me more appreciative because I know one of them will be the last one until next year.

I pulled out my iPod for the walk. Dead battery. Pulled out a little MP3 that I handed down to the boys when I got the iPod. Dead battery. I honestly didn't want to walk without the music. The strides seem to be sweeter and more invigorating to the sound of Jason Mraz, Train or Darren Criss. So, I plugged in the iPod as I pulled out the shoes, threw in a load of laundry and did a couple quick things around the house. I hoped it was enough to sustain the battery for my morning walk. No such luck. One round of "Hey, Soul Sister" and then a few lines into "Teenage Dream" and it went dead. As nice as the warm temperature  was, I headed for home. The world is not the same without music.

By the time I got back, the MP3 had a charge in it. I plugged it in and headed out to the garage to get some items that were stored upstairs, but when I walked out, the sun felt so warm on my face. I couldn't bear to go into the cold, dark garage. I pulled up a lawn chair, propped my feet up on the table, closed my eyes and faced the sun while the music played. About five songs in, the wind picked up, the sun hid behind the clouds and it was over. But before I retreated inside, I grabbed the camera. The fast-moving clouds against the bright blue sky looked incredible.

Today was much chillier. It was in the 30s and we even saw snow flurries for a few minutes, but it was enough to excite the kids. Sounds like we have another warm up in store this weekend, though. I'll take it.

Life through the lens - day 71

Ok, this pic officially gets me caught up. I love clouds! Don't you?

Life through the lens - days 66, 67,68, 69, 70

So, I'm behind again on my picture posts. So, here's for the past five days. I can't help posting the pretty flower pictures. Again, all from my neighbor's yard. :)

And since we're nearing Veteran's Day...isn't this couple adorable? They are both World War II vets who met while serving overseas. Met them at the Veteran's Appreciation Dinner that I organize with my fellow members of the Lansing Junior Woman's Club each spring. Thanks to all our veterans!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm behind on everything in life right now

Blah! I'm behind on work. I'm behind on housework. I'm behind on laundry. I have two kids staying home from school today so I can get them caught up on doctor and dentist visits. I'm not one to usually have them skip school for check-ups, but the late afternoon evening appointments are at premium and I didn't plan ahead...for a 6:30 p.m. dentist appt. I'd be waiting another month or more. And one is already 3 months behind on the doctor and the other is 3 months behind on the dentist. And our doctor and dentist are both a half-hour away. I just feel incredibly overwhelmed as every time I seem to be getting caught up, something throws me further behind.

I've gotten even more behind after the weekend. I worked at the hospital Saturday (one of only four days I work this month) and when I stopped in the cafeteria for lunch, I noticed they had beef barley soup. I thought dad would like that so I got some to drop off for him. On the way home, I stopped and went to the side door like I normally do. No one answered. I used my key to get in and saw no one, but the bedroom door was closed. I figured they were both napping. I put the soup in the fridge then went to leave. I turned back and decided I'd leave a note that the soup was in the fridge. I went over to my mom's chair by the front window. As I reached for some paper, I heard a thud outside the window. I figured it was a squirrel knocking something down. Then I saw my dad fall. I ran outside and helped him up. He was disoriented, but talking - insisting he was ok.  Then his eyes rolled back a little, but he was talking the whole time.

A couple minutes later his eyes started rolling back again and he wasn't answering me. I reached for the door so I could grab the phone to call 9-1-1, but as I moved he slumped over. I grabbed him and held him up so he wouldn't fall again and as I was on the phone with a dispatcher, he came to - again insisting he was fine and not to have the ambulance come. A police car immediately pulled up and as we were explaining to the officer what had happened, his eyes rolled back again, he wasn't answering me and his arm went up in the air and started twitching. It didn't last long and the officer then explained that he'd just had a small seizure and needed to go the hospital. The ambulance showed up. He signed a refusal and they left. *Sigh* He kept putting his head down and closing his eyes and told me he just wanted to go lay down and rest.

I called my husband, a paramedic, told him what happened and he said what I knew he'd say - Dad needed to go to the hospital. He came over to the house, explained things to Dad a little more bluntly and it did the trick. He said "Ok" and was still walking a little unsteady and kind of crooked, saying he landed on his back and his back was stiff. My husband got him to the car. I took him to the ER. Seven hours later I was finally heading home and dad was in a hospital room, annoyed he was being admitted, although just for a short time. He's been incredibly cheery and friendly with everyone at the hospital.

A cat scan was clear of any brain injury, but his sugar was high and he was diagnosed as diabetic. The next day an xray confirmed that he'd cracked some ribs. He kept insisting he didn't have back pain, just stiffness and "just when I move" he said. I urged him to take some pain medication because he looked very uncomfortable. He finally conceded and then said he felt much better. He's the classic stubborn male with the old-school attitude that you don't go to the doctor unless something is wrong. Well, for most of his life nothing has been wrong -- that he knew of, so he stayed away. Aside from a skin cancer operation 26 years ago, he's always been healthy -- not even a cold, which he's always prided himself on -- and I don't ever remember him going to the doctor. Well, scratch that -- he did fall in January and fractured his ankle.

Anyway, Dad's still in the hospital to return home tomorrow it sounds. Thankfully I showed up at just the right moment or who knows how long he'd been laying there before someone found him, especially since the sun was starting to go down and the spot he fell in was behind a brick barrier outside the front of the house. So glad it wasn't worse than it was, but I don't think he has any idea that recovering from cracked ribs and adjusting to a diabetic lifestyle is going to be quite a challenge.

So, I better to back to catching up in the pockets of time that I can.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Easing into the 40's

I was born in 1972. That means that next year I will turn the big 4-0. Sometimes I'm bothered by it, sometimes it doesn't mean a thing. I was one of the younger ones in my class, having an August birthday with the age cut-off being 5 years old by September 1 to start kindergarten. So, many of my classmates have already hit the milestone and many more will be there shortly before me. Every few days, I log on to Facebook to see yet another friend turning 40. In many cases, forty is met with much celebration and I see posted pictures of creatively decorated lawns and interesting attire or headgear for the birthday recipient.

I honestly, don't feel my age very often. The other day I sat in front of my computer after having just read another chapter in Twilight, listening to Taylor Swift and eating candy corns when most people were eating breakfast. What nearly 40-year-old does that? Sometimes I feel like I'm still a teen with the same insecurities and the same naive view of the world...if only I were in the same body. :)

However, I do feel myself slowing down, not as active in playing with my kids as I used to, bothered by having to climb the long flights of stairs with a basket full of 22 pounds of folded laundry. I don't feel it in one way and do feel it in others. It's just a number, right? So, why do I seem to be dreading it so much? I guess it's just another reminder of how you can't turn things back and how time marches on. A slap in the face that my children aren't going to be climbing back into my lap or learning to walk or read again. Those days are gone, but also more good ones are ahead. Life is good, even in the big 4-0 is on the horizon.

Dear sons: Be accepting

Letter #11

Dear sons:

As you go along in life, you'll encounter a lot of people who are different from you - those who are a different race, different sex, different cultural background, different educational background. There will just be a lot of people who are different from you. That's a good thing. That's what makes this country - and this world so great. I hope you'll remember to always appreciate those differences in others.

I don't like the term "tolerance." To be tolerant of another or of a group of people simply means you put up with them. I don't want you to put up with others. I want you to accept them for who they are, just as I want others to accept you for who you are.

I encounter people who aren't particularly accepting and aren't tolerant, often those of older generations who are set in their ways and not so willing to change their way of thinking. I also have to remind myself that it doesn't make them bad people. It means that they repeated what they were taught or they've reacted a certain way based on their life experiences. Nearly everyone has redeeming qualities. Sometimes you have to ignore them, sometimes you even have to accept them and take it as an example that you don't want to repeat.

I hope that you'll not just tolerate, but accept and embrace those who others don't. Isn't that how you would want to be treated?

Life through the lens: Day 66

The Midwest Fall has definitely hit, althought we've had some pleasantly warm days. Today I think it is supposed to hit 60. And I don't think we've even had our first frost yet, so the worst is yet to come. I'm not liking it. I'm so missing the days of summer, especially late summer when the garden was bursting and the farmstands were full of glorious varieties of colorful vegetables. Guess it's time to embrace autumn and then dare I say - winter. Brrrr!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life through the lens: Days 63, 64 and 65

I somehow got behind by a day again. So here's another three-peat - one for yesterday, one for today and to get ahead, one for tomorrow. Going with the flower theme again here. These were all in the yard of my amazing neighbor, Miss Lucille. :)

Dear sons: It's never hopeless

Letter #10

Dear sons:

I've been so troubled the last couple days by something that happened just a few blocks from here. Two nights ago, a 16-year-old committed suicide, jumping in front of a moving train. It saddens me in so many ways. This was a young man - a high school junior - with his whole life ahead of him. It's so hard to imagine what might have been going through his head to cause him to end his life this way.

My heart breaks for his parents, siblings and the rest of his family members, his neighbors, his classmates at the local high school. I know there are a lot of people who knew him feeling pangs of guilt and wondering if they could have done something to change the tragic outcome. He must have felt completely desperate and hopeless to think that his life was no longer worth living. I don't want any of you to ever feel that way. I want you to know how much you're loved, how many people care about you, how heartbroken we'd be if you ever left us. I want you to feel like you can come to me or any of the adults in our family with your troubles, concerns, worries. I know high school can be a scary time. I was there once. Every teen has feelings of uncertainty and of not fitting in at some point. Everyone has to learn to deal with them. Those who don't often end up in tragic situations such as this one.

I also feel for all those who were there after the fact - the police officers and firefighters who responded to the call (your father was one of them) as well as the train engineer whose life will never be the same after seeing a person in front of a train he could not stop. The images of this tragedy will stick with them and that saddens me as well.

Again, I just want to let you know that there's never anything in life that is hopeless. You just need to find someone that can help. Sometimes that means you need to reach out. Don't ever feel like you're life isn't worth living because it very much is, especially to me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Life through the lens - days 60, 61 and 62

Ok, I got a tad behind again, so here's three to catch up. :)

Here's one from one of our sunny days in late summer.

We  had a ton of spiders building webs all over our yard. This one was in the garden between the sunflowers.

This one is from our summer trip to Kentucky. This was in the cave at Cub Run. Little trickles of water falling down into this little pool kept a constant stream of ripples. Beautiful!!!!