December 23, 2011

I’m three weeks late!

     I don’t know how this happened, well of course I know how it happened but you know what I mean.  I am usually very prepared and well aware of the time table.  In the past I’ve always had everything I need to prevent this from happening.  I can’t even blame it on being distracted by the kids as they’re teenagers.  Can I play the stroke card, no probably not. So how in the world did this happen?
     For the last couple of years I have been very diligent about mailing my Christmas cards out the weekend following Thanksgiving.  What did you think I was talking about?  Ok I know sorry set you up on that one a little bit (big smile).
     Seriously though I just don’t know where the time went.  I had all of my cards signed the week before Christmas. I also strive to list every child on the card.  I used to hate it when cards came to the house David, Betty and the girls.  Well writing and the girls takes maybe two seconds less than writing Bren and Sister.  Now this is not to say that I expect or impose that on anyone else it is just one of “my things”.  I can’t say that I’ve never done it in the past when I couldn’t remember a child’s name.  Now thanks to my handy dandy Christmas card excel spread sheet that will never happen again. 
    How did I lose three weeks?  Ugh; frustrating to say the least.  Seeing as how my cards were late I thought I would create a newsletter of sorts, more of a year in review.  Doesn’t sound like a major undertaking does it?  So tell me why I just can’t get it done?  Of course for some reason I cannot understand Microsoft Works has turned my two page document into 32,795 pages.  For some reason not only is MW preventing me from editing it also will not allow me to create a new document either.
                Well after another attempt at fixing my newsletter I have finally given up!  So instead of sharing tidbits from the year I’m enclosing a picture of the kids.  Of course despite the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken this year there isn’t one all three could agree on so I had to make a collage. Oh the things we suffer for our children. 
                Well my cards are probably going to arrive after Christmas but you know what ~ I’m not stressing about it and in itself is a major improvement.
                Merry Christmas


 

December 20, 2011

What's in your wallet?

     I have to admit I love those viking commercials.  However this isn't a blog about credit cards.  Rather those other cards we all carry around, store cards. You know the ones that give you store perks or discounts or help save for your children's college education.  How many of those do you have?
      According to KeyRingThing the average family has 12 loyalty cards on their key ring alone.  Quick FYI: A heavy key chain can damage your ignition switch according The Mustang Source as well as dozens of other resources and yes all those cards do count.  I personally think this number is incredibly low and here's my proof:


What you see above are all of my loyalty cards.  I have a separate wallet just for them and they're alphabetized.  Yes that's a Vera Bradley wallet that Treasure loving chewed the zipper off of ~ thank goodness it was a hand-me-down.  I HATE loyalty cards but there is no way I am going to turn down possible savings in the future now am I or should I?
     According to C.A.S.P.I.A.N. (Consumers Against Supermarket Invasion and Numbering) the discounts do not necessarily outweigh the benefits. Supermarkets that offer discounts to card holders only are raising the prices on goods throughout the store. Most of these loyalty programs cost the stores millions of dollars in annual operating costs, and you know who actually pays they costs don't you. In addition to the extra costs that the consumers bears for these programs there is also the privacy issue.  How many times are you asked at a check out to fill out this form so you can receive a free card?  Have you read all of the terms and conditions~ really have you?  They always want a  snail mail addy as well as an email plus your phone number.  And can we have your b'day info as well so we can send you a special coupon to celebrate?  Even when they promise to not share any of your information outside of their company what does that really mean?  T.J. Maxx's parent company is T.J.X. which also owns as Marshalls, HomeGoods and four other store chains in the US, Canada and Europe.  So is your information being shared globally? 
     Infosec Island, an IT security website, suggests that we regularly go through those cards we've been carrying around. In their article Loyalty Cards vs Privacy Concerns they also encourage destroying not simply throwing away cards you no longer use as well as finding out which have gone mobile.
   
     Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they feel each card is worth.  I have a separate email that I use for "commercial" needs.  On the upside....
     While shopping at Big Lots I handed the cashier my rewards card and was pleased to discover that I had earned enough points and was receiving 20% off my ENTIRE purchase~ woo hoo.  Unlike other stores that require you to register your points or use them by a certain date Big Lots tracks it all and let's you know when you've earned them.  Another favorite rewards card is my Hallmark Gold Member card.  Hallmark is another store that tracks your purchases and every quarter sends you a reward check.  Panera's works like Big Lots and at least once a month I'm earning a drink or bakery item for free.
     So shopping this weekend was actually a pleasure~ I received 20% off at Big Lots, used coupons and reward checks at Hallmark that paid for 2 of our annual Christmas Ornaments and had lunch for free at Panera's.  WOOHOO  loving reward cards this holiday season

December 10, 2011

85%

     The score of 85 on a test is above average, a good strong B.  Have you thought of that percentage in any other scenario?  Probably not, I certainly haven't.  The most recent headline I could find with 85% in it was from The Montreal Gazette on March 6, 1945, Cologne 85 percent in Ruins.  This weekend I learned that 85% of what we purchase arrives on boats.
     I have to be honest I never thought of that before.  Yes I am well aware how many of the non-food items have that are made in China or Taiwan on them.  But I sincerely have not thought about the transportation process.  Now let's take that thought a step further.  Have you ever given thought to the men who work on these vessels?  Now I know I have never done that....ever!
     Those men, known as Seafarers, are the focus of the International Ministries Center where Emily performed with the University of Mobile Chamber Singers Saturday.  The center is set up to provide these men with basic needs.  While many are in port for just a few hours often they are there for weeks on end awaiting their ship to return home.  The center offers transportation to area malls and sites, meals, toiletries, money services, phones and simply a place to relax.  These men face incredible perils while at sea which I guarantee you haven't thought about while listening to your iPod.  One of the men at the party Saturday said his biggest fear is seeing pirates AGAIN!  The center in Mobile had served seafarers from 149 different countries this year. 
     Shore leave for seafarers is vital.  After spending weeks on ships with co-workers and managers spending time with others is important not only socially but often medically as well.  These ships are not constructed with the comforts of their crews in mind.  Many ships have been compared to being a modern version of slave ships.  Time to get off the ships and reconnect with their families is their main priority.
      Cruise vacations have become more affordable over the years.  We've all seen commercials with the smiling attendants leaving cute towel animals on the bed or showing us into a glamorous dining hall.  What of course we don't see is the 30% of staff not permitted above deck on risk of punishment.  These seafarers are working 10+ hours a day on average.  On one cruise ship there was two showers and one working lavatory for one hundred workers and one mess hall for three hundred according to the Director of the ITF Cruise Ship Campaign, Jim Given.  Older ships had a ratio of 2 passengers to each crew member with newer ships running closer to 3 passengers to each crew member.
     .  While researching this post I was heartbroken when I further read that after suffering incredibly harsh work conditions more often than not seafarers rarely received their full pay.  One organization posted a number of settled lawsuits in the millions awarded to injured and underpaid seafarers
  In ports all around the world organization are stepping in to serve the seafarers.  In the United States the Baptist Association has a Seafarer's Ministry in just about every port.  In Europe there are a number of organizations meeting the needs of arriving seafarers such as ITF and Sailor's Society Chaplains.  SOO..

     This holiday season as we enjoy our share of the 85% of goods having arrived with the help from Seafarers take a moment to think about them.  Should you happen to live near a town that has a port why not find out what organization is serving seafarers and see what you can do to help?  If you don't live near a port town I am sure that most organizations take on-line donations.  Actually here's a great idea~ as you address your Holiday cards send one to an organization that supports seafarers and include an international phone card that you can grab at the gas station! To make things even easier here’s the address of the Center where Emily sang Saturday:
605 Texas Place
Mobile, Al 36603
    

November 29, 2011

I Don't Wan't to Hear IT!!


     Everyone has their pet peeves.  Some make sense only to the holder.  MY pet peeve of course should make sense to all and I don't understand why anyone would disagree.  
     Just to prove to you how much sense my pet peeve makes I present the following facts:
1.     I have a degree in Music Performance
2.    Every year I buy a brand new Christmas CD
3.     I don't believe the season is complete without attending a Christmas Concert
4.     I equally love both secular and religious music
So what is this pet peeve that truly drives me absolutely insane?

PLAYING CHRISTMAS MUSIC THE ENTIRE MONTH OF NOVEMBER!!!!!

     It seems the kids have barely sorted through their bags of Halloween candy that we are not being inundated with various versions of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".   Thank heavens there aren't but a few Thanksgiving songs as they'd get hardly any air time at all.
    I really have to wonder if merchants truly believe that by simply playing Christmas music we are going to start shopping for our holiday gifts more aggressively than we have in the past.  Most people fall into two categories when it comes to holiday shopping.  You either buy along the way or you leave it all to the last minute.  My husband and I are complete opposites on this one.  I start buying for Christmas as soon as I am through with birthdays.  I'll admit it was much much easier when the kids were smaller and their choices were considerably limited.  No, that's not true it was easier because they didn't express opinions and were happy with everything under the colorful paper ~ including the box itself.  But I digress.
     The rule in my royal domain is no Christmas music may be played until December 1st.  I also enjoy Christmas music until New Year's Day, the true end of the holiday season not December 26th.  My husband, once again polar opposite on this point, found a station on November 1st that has played non-stop Christmas music.  He is allowed to play that station in his car and the garage only.  
     Come on let's be real, aren't you getting a bit tired already of hearing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" or "Winter Wonderland"?  Do you really need to hear Alvin and the Chipmunks sing about hula-hoops for 8 straight weeks?  When I discovered that our cable/satellite providers offered a holiday music channel November 1st I blocked it.

Simply put:
·       not in my house
·        not in my car
·        not on my iPod!
until December 1st

   Now you have to agree that MY pet peeve makes total sense and should be embraced by all!

 Here are some of my favorite and possibly unknown versions of Christmas Songs that will be played lovingly and loudly in a few short days.... enjoy

Gonna Eat for Christmas (they did change the words for thanksgiving)
O Holy Night  (from the new Christmas CD I'm buying this year)

November 28, 2011

How far would you go?


  •     We all have our priorities.  We know what we want and what we will do for it.  If our child needs a kidney we're the first to be tested.  As newlyweds scrimping for that first down payment on a starter house may opt for hamburger instead of steak.  Choosing to drive a 10 year old car instead of a new one so our kids can be in private school.  These are priorities and their sacrifices make sense.
    In a different note how many of us camped overnight for concert tickets (before ticket master LOL)?  Took an afternoon nap so we could attend the midnight premiere of a certain movie?  The sacrifices we made for each of those events became part of the memory and probably enhanced it as well.
         We had to drop my laptop off at Best Buy this Monday.  Much to my surprise outside the store there were two tents set up.  I really didn't pay attention and thought maybe they were getting into camping gear ~ oh can I be clueless.  Imagine my surprise when the Store Manager informed us that in fact those tents belonged to people who were camping out for the Black Friday Specials.  They had arrived early Sunday morning and had their tents set up before the store even opened!!
         Now before I entertain you with my glorious banter on the subject I have be honest and come clean on this subject.  Just about two months ago a new Buffalo Wild Wings opened up in town.  We had one for years that we loved, it closed quite unexpectedly so the boys were extremely excited when they learned the franchise was returning.  Then IT was posted.  The first 100 customers would receive free wings for a year!!  The store was opening on a Monday morning and Patrick convinced Michael to take work off so the two of them could sit out the night before.  I have to tell you what an incredible time that night was.  The boys arrived around 6pm and by 8pm the parking lot resembled a tailgating party. There were groups who had tents and were playing games.  The restaurant hosted contests.  They allowed the brave folks who spent the night to hang out on their porch and they even had the TV's turned on; a couple of groups had brought gaming systems and plugged them into the TVs. To be fair to those who were spending the night BWW had a system, with no determined frequency they would walk around and pass out sticker, thus avoiding a mad rush to the door.  You can imagine the disappointment when people were showing up at 7am sitting outside the front door only to discover that they were not going to qualify for the free wings.  At 9:30 they started organizing the 500+ people by the number of stickers they had collected.  There was no "I need a sticker for Tom he's not here right now", you had to be there to get your own sticker every time they were passed out.  When the doors finally opened in order to win the wings you had to have 13 stickers, Buffalo's gave out 125 coupon books. For the next year we have 2 coupon books that entitle us to a total of 12 free wings each and every week.  When the boys present their coupons they make sure the waitress knows they earned those wings!!
         Did Patrick miss a day of school, yes!  Did Michael use a Vacation Day, yes!  If they had to do it again would they~ most definitely.  It turned into a fun family time with Meg and I delivering food and moral support over the 16 hours they were there.  16 hours not 120 hours.
        I understand that Black Friday Deals are pretty great.  But what material object is actually worth 5 days of living in a tent on a sidewalk?  How do you explain to your family why you're not at Thanksgiving Dinner?  "I'm sorry we won't be at dinner this year Granny but we really want to buy our family that flat screen TV. Please save us some stuffing and drop it by Best Buy when you get a chance."  How many people do you foresee climbing out of that tent Friday?

    ***Well due to some clueless error on my part this glorious rant didn't get posted last week as I had planned. So here are some updates on the "success" of Black Friday:
    At Various Wal-marts:
    • 20 people (including children ~ who brings their kids!!!) were pepper sprayed so a woman could gain an advantage getting a discounted X-Box
    • fights broke out leading to arrests over discounted cell phones
    • various locations reported people fighting off would be robbers after making their purchases
    • police had to use a stun gun to break up a fight over video games
    • more proud Wal-mart stories
         While other stores reported similar problems this is the most heartbreaking:
    While shopping at a Target store in West Virginia a 61 year old man collapsed and witnesses report that other shoppers not only ignored the fallen man but stepped over him as well! According the the article posted by Huffington Post there were witnesses who actually said "  While granted there is absolutely no legal obligation that requires you to sacrifice the discounted TV you were hoping to but there certainly is a moral one.  The victim’s wife did report that nurses shopping did come to his husband's aid ~ thank heaven for these dedicated few.  Despite attempts the man later died at the hospital.
        On the flip side the abuse exhausted employees endure is beyond belief.  Is it any wonder an exhausted Target employee lost control of her car crashed into a canal and nearly drowned.

    How far are we willing to go as a nation?

November 20, 2011

Transforming Mourning into Memorializing


     This is hard to admit but for the past 9 years the six weeks from November 18th to December 31st I have lived under a very heavy cloud.  I function well and get through the holidays but it is an incredible battle.  Now let me assure you:  Thanksgiving is always on the table, Christmas cards get sent, the tree is decorated, gifts are wrapped and carols are sung.  There is laughing and smiling along the way but most nights I go to bed heartbroken.

November 16, 2011

What do you keep?

      It is amazing the stuff we all keep don't you think?  Currently we are in the process of emptying our attic so we can lay down a floor.  We have been bringing down boxes that haven't been opened since they were stored up there when we bought the house in 1998.  There is going to be a huge "attic" sale at our house next Saturday.  But it did get me to thinking about what we have kept and why.
     A few years ago there was a series on one of the home improvement channels that tackled people's home that were overfilled with stuff.  I am not talking about hoarder, that's in a category all its own.  The show was called Clean Hose and Neicy Nash was the host.  There are a couple of shows like this at the time but this was my favorite.  The teams would go into the home and empty EVERYTHING out into the yard.  The family then had to divide their belongings into three piles: Keep, Sell, and Trash.  The moaning and groaning that went into that process was what made viewers watch week and after week.  The attachment the owners had to belongings was something to behold.  With the help of decorators/counselors eventually the patients’ guests’ would realize that their happiness wasn't tied to their belongings.  The more heart wrenching moments on the show occurred when the guests had to decide on things that belonged to family members since gone.  How many items did it take for them to hold onto their memories?
    We had to learn this lesson the hard way ourselves.  Back in 2002/2003 both Michael and I lost our Dads within 6 months of each other. We lived in Florida while both of our mothers still lived on Long Island.  As I have mentioned before we are the "black sheep" of the family.  This came into play as we left both funerals with nothing of our fathers to take home with us. I’llk be honest that was really hard to handle for a long time.  My Dad and I had collected Toby Jugs. We were most proud that we had found King Henry VIII and his Queens.  There were jugs from my kids as well.  While I know that these are things he would have wanted me and my family to have it just didn't happen.  (He foolishly died without a will).  Michael's Mom passed away a couple of years later, again no will.  She had lived with his sister for quite a while and it was up to her to decide how the "memories" would be divided.  When a box finally arrived for Michael inside was primarily ALL of the pictures we had ever sent of our kids, costume jewelry pieces (not the nice ones we had bought her over the years), and a few token items.  Like I said we had to learn the hard way that our memories aren't connected to things.  
     As we are emptying the attic we've come to realize that we have pretty much passed this concept onto our kids.  Emily was into American Girl so we have those dolls.  Patrick didn't have much up there; a box of his back braces and one giant floor turtle.  MaryEllen has most of her "keeps" in her closet. We don't have a lot of baby items anymore.  We do have a ton of books and puzzles~ have to keep something for those "someday grandbabies".  But really there isn't very much else that's new from our family up there. 
     So what in heavens was in those boxes we've been toting around?  Items that we thought were so important we had to keep so their memories would remain alive.  We found a box of winery glasses from our honeymoon, a thirty plus piece collection of Precious Moments figurines, as well as our high school long coats (which was a big thing in the 80's). There was a box of stuff from college which contained my wall calendars and school newspapers.  What's funny about that one is the box touched my heart more than its contents as it was addressed by my Dad and seeing his handwriting felt like a hug from the past. 
    Now the one item strictly off limits to this whole conversation is the box that holds my wedding gown.  While I don't believe either of my girls will ever wear it I do have plans for it.  The lace will be used to add layers to each baby's Christening gown.  The fabric will be used to make Bride's Bags.  That box will be moved with me forever. 
     As I look around my house I realize that we don't have many things the kids are going to be fighting over when the time comes to divide up the loot.  What I hope I have done is create memories that are more cherished than a piece of china.  I used to think how nice it would be to have a piece of furniture from generations passed to pass onto my kids.  Now I think that less is more and in the long run less to pass on will mean less hurt feelings and arguments when my estate (HAH) is eventually divided.

November 3, 2011

Superman, Hercules, Dr. King and Patrick?

   When you ask people about heroes you truly get an array of answers.  Many people will respond with those who are personal heroes such as Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King or Helen Keller.  Other answers could tend to be more civic minded such as members of our armed forces, police and fire fighters.  Depending upon what is popular at the box office you many also hear such characters as Superman, Captain American and X-Men.  A final group of answers may include those Greek Heroes we all had to learn about such as Hercules, Achilles and Theseus.  Well my son Patrick recently tried to gain hero status all on his own.
     Now mind you Patrick is almost 18.  This means, for those of you not fortunate enough to have parented a teenage boy that his way is the only true way and basically he believes he’s indestructible.  As I'm writing this I have to tell you that just two nights ago we signed his early enlistment papers into the USMC Reserves. While I am super proud after you finish reading about his "moment of heroic glory" as he calls it you'll understand why my stomach is still a bit tense with his choice. 
     This summer we learned that Patrick does well in a crisis situation.  He was in a car accident with Emily and her best friend.  While the girls were flipping out Patrick took control, called parents and 911, and then tended to the girls.  It wasn't until the adults arrived on the scene did the reality of how close they had come to being seriously injured even hit him.  As a parent it is comforting to know that your child will rise to the occasion. HOWEVER......
     Patrick came bursting (literally bursting) through the door announcing "Wait until you hear what I did at school today you're going to be so proud!”  I'm thinking he scored 100 on a test, was selected for an award, things like that.  This was sooo important he wanted us to sit down at the table so he could share his exciting news.
As told by Patrick:
     Today I was almost a hero.  We were getting ready to start 6th period and all of a sudden I heard someone scream not like you hear on TV but a real I'm getting stabbed scream.  We all ran to the door as the screaming continued.  I saw a couple of teachers run through the hall and the first thing I thought was "there's a shooter I have to take him down".  I went running out of the classroom to find the shooter.  I knew I could take him down if I could find him.  The other classrooms had their doors closed so I kept running.  What actually happened is a girl somehow twisted her knee in such a way the bone broke the skin.  Aren't you proud that I was going to take care of the situation? I was going to be a hero!
     The first words out of his Dad’s mouth were you dumb ass!!! What are you trying to get yourself killed?
My first words were "where was the teacher that let you run out of a classroom?  Followed by are you crazy? You could have been killed!

What followed for the next 30 minutes was one of the most frustratingly entertaining conversations I think I've ever had.  Patrick couldn't understand why our first reaction wasn't that of pride.  We couldn't understand why he thought he could take down someone with a gun.  He went on to explain that he felt he had to step up and take control of the situation.  We explained that's what the other adults~ teachers are there for.  He asked did we want him to be a wuss and not help out.  No, we replied instead of running out to danger you could have made sure your class was following the danger protocol that you have practiced since Columbine and taken the lead that way.  That job was the teacher's he insisted plus they had a sub that was 80 years old and didn't know what to do.  You should be proud of me I could have been a hero.
     This is where the entertainment begins.  Mind you Patrick had spent the rest of the afternoon playing this in his head and had clearly thought the whole thing out.  Did I mention he's almost 18 and therefore pretty egocentric?  He actually went on to share with us how he saw the situation unfolding:
     Once I found the shooter I was going to distract him then tackle him down.  I'd remove his weapon just in case he has someone else working with him I could protect myself and others.  Once this was all done I'd be declared the hero of my high school.  They'd have a parade.  I'd probably receive scholarships and get to meet people like the Governor and maybe the President.  Of course I would be on the news.  They might even have a statue of me outside the school.
     Feeling it my duty to rain on his parade I pointed out that chances are if there was a shooter things would probably end up quite differently than he had imagined.  First off, I asked, what makes you think you are bullet proof? I also wondered what they were learning in NJROTC that made him think he knew how to take a shooter down!  He assured me that he "just knew" he'd be able to get to the guy.  No matter how hard we tried to get him to understand we didn't want him running in front of bullets he couldn't see things that way.  Once he finally conceded that ok maybe just maybe things could turn out bad that would have been ok because he was sacrificing himself for his fellow classmates (yes we lifted our feet b/c you know what was flowing LOL). This possibility brought further realizations of glory.  He now knew not only would all of the above honors happen (outside of meeting people because he might be dead) but even more.  Oh the ego... 
     He wants to be buried in his NJROTC uniform w/a soccer ball.  He told us where he wants the service to be held, though he thinks a mega church or something along those lines would be required.  Should someone consider immortalizing him in song like Michael W Smith did for Cassie Bernall after Colombine he wants his song to be Rap.  He named his Pall Bearers and who he would like to speak at his service.  What amazed me most is how quickly he came up with all of this oh to have the mind of a teenager again. 
    
     Patrick has retold this story to his sisters and others with his glory, of course, increasing with each recitation.  I laugh harder every time.  He truly believes, despite the derogatory names he’s been called each time, that his champion Miss Jane will stand behind his decision to try to be a hero.
            Sincerely I am incredibly proud of Patrick and how brave he is.  They say people either have a fight or flight response and quite obviously Patrick’s wired with a fight response.  Do I want my son running in front of bullets ~ no of course not.  If I’m truthful I’ve not had the most restful sleep since we signed his enlistment papers.  I am slightly comforted in the fact that he can’t enlist until his braces come off and at last checkhe still had at least another year.  We were told years ago that with his personality Patrick would either wind up leading a gang or as an officer in the military.  So I guess I’m lucky he’s chosen this path.

But why does this song keep playing in my head… Billy don't be a hero

November 1, 2011

Why Blog?

     It seems that everyone and their brother has a blog today. But why?  I know that sounds arrogant as I sit here writing and hoping many are going to read these words.  However I believe it is a valid statement just the same ~ why are people blogging?
     When I started blogging back in February it was a way for my voice to be heard.  Well actually if I'm honest I actually backed  my way into blogging.  I started posting notes on facebook when my voice was failing me.  I was so frustrated with all that was going on around and to me that I needed some sort of release.  At that time my intended audience was friends, close friends.  Even when I moved the notes into this "official" blog format my audience remained friends.  It was at the encouragement of different therapists to make my blog public in the hopes that other stroke victims and their families would find common ground and hopefully comfort in my shared experiences.  Now 8 months later, and after almost a 4 week hiatus, I continue to blog simply and honestly because my stroke recovery is still the elephant in the room.  I need this blog to continue to be my voice through this journey.
   OK that's why I am blogging, but I still wonder why so many have blogs.  Actually that's not my complete question.  Not only do I wonder why so many blog but why do they think their blog is something "strangers" will be drawn to. 
     In some ways I am jealous of this medium and the impact it has for families.  We lived in Virginia when we started having children; all of our extended family lived in New York.  A blog would have been an incredible way for us to update everyone on the daily fun and growth of our children.  What an incredible opportunity that would have been for Pop-Pop et AL who missed those milestones.  With that being said I don't think I would have ever made those pictures public.  Nor would I have thought that strangers would have wanted to subscribe to my daily life of diapers, nursing and general motherhood.
     At the end of 2010, according to Royal Pingdom there were over 152 million blogs on the Internet.  According to Digital Mom Blog this time last year nearly 4 million American Moms had blogs. Interestingly I couldn't find statistics on how many Dads had blogs though I'd like to highly recommend these two blogs: The Real Matt Daddy and Chopper Pappa.  Sometimes an opposite view point is quite interesting and entertaining.
    The next major category of blogs are the coupon/giveaway blogs. Within this category you can find a blog dedicated to your region and the sales offered.  If you're into giveaways then these are you.  Most have twitter accounts attached to their blogs alerting you of the recent prizes available. 
    My favorite group of blogs are those wordsmiths that simply make me smile and laugh out loud.  They are modern day Erma Bombecks or even what I think Phyllis Diller would have done if blogging was around in her day.  Extremely popular is The Bloggess she has a number of blogs she writes.  You need to find her post about Beyonce, no not the singer rather the 5 foot metal chicken she bought who now has its' own facebook page. Warning she is a bit blue and drops Fbombs like my teenage son drops his clothes.  My other current favorite smile maker is Caffeinated OC Mommy.  She has a bit of a lipstick obsession and a great way with stories.
    Not too long ago a my friend Louise at Girl Left Behind wrote a great post about why she blogs and that's what I'd like to leave you with today,
Why I Started Blogging

PS should you visit any of the blogs mentioned today please tell them that I sent you :0)

October 2, 2011

Stroked Interference?

   
It has been two weeks. Well tomorrow will have been two weeks.  Two weeks since I was able to create a post.  I know it doesn't sound like much but it has really been a struggle.  I truly envy those people who can just sit down to their computers and whip out a post. 
    It’s not as if I haven't tried writing.  One night last week I couldn't sleep and had this idea for a post, ok it was a bit of a rant but I do know how much y'all love and are entertained by them.  For two hours I wrote and ranted about abuses and injustices.  It was great.  I headed to bed pleased with what I had written ready to do a final read in the morning then post it.  Thank heavens I have a routine of allowing a post to "stew" before sharing it with you.  My post was horrid.  It didn't read well, felt heavy and simply stank.
     I didn't have writer's block as there are a few topics bouncing around in my mind.  What seems to be the problem is my writing.  Prior to my stroke I avoided writing situations.  I could create a Christmas newsletter but it was real work.  Once it took me six weeks to finish an important letter.  That's how crazy I can get about writing and making sure the words can't be misinterpreted.  But what I'm experiencing now feels different.
     Writing has been a therapy for me since the stroke.  Finding my voice in a new way has been empowering.  Creating this blog and watching it grow and reach people has been a great ride which I don't believe is over in anyway shape or form.  To say it has been frustrating these last two weeks is a bit of an understatement.  This also means that I shared it with Maureen this week at Stress Therapy.  To be honest there are a number of stressful situations occurring at the moment.  Learning how my body handles and processes stress is the point of my working with Maureen.  Stress factors strongly contributed to my stroke in the first place so recognizing and handling new stress factors is very important. 
     What I don't understand is if writing helped me through recovery immediately after my stroke why would it not serve the same purpose now?  Why can't I find the words?  Why does my voice sound so different?  Is this some sort of warning?  Is body currently processing stress in such a way that I can't create?  Am I headed for another stroke?  As crazy as all of these questions sound I've spent a lot of time visiting each of them.  The scariest question is if all the hard word I've done has not helped what is there for me to do?
     So that is what I am bringing to you, my fears.  This blog was started to share my stroke recovery and this is a part of it.  I am terrified of having another stroke.  I know how fortunate I was the first time.  I also know that stress is a part of everyday life.  I have to somehow retrain my body in how it handles stress, and as of yesterday that's some 48 years of retraining.  Children do learn what they live and my childhood lessons regarding stress were to suck it up and just bend with the storm. 
     At Maureen's suggestion I am writing this post to be honest about recovery and how it has its setbacks, struggles and fears.  How recovery can at times be just as frustrating months in as it was in the beginning


    

September 19, 2011

He only had time for the paying fans :0(

     Friday nights for my son, like most seniors equals Football!! Being a part of the school's Film Department that means being there early to set up cameras and such.  So as you can imagine I was a bit surprised when he came in the door at 4:45 saying that he was headed right back out with friends to Academy Sports.  Emmit Smith was at the store signing autographs. 

     Patrick and his friends were psyched to get a picture with Emmitt and hopefully his signature.  After waiting in line they were told that not only was Emmitt not posing for any pictures but he would only be signing copies of his new book, which they could purchase for $20. 

    Emmitt Smith for those of you who don't know was a UFlorida Gator, Dallas Cowboy, and winner of Dancing with the Stars.  After his football days he became a successful business enterpreneur in Dallas, TX and now he can add author to the list of his accomplishments.  With all of that being said I think it isn't presumptuous of me to say ~ the man is quite rich.

    When did "loving the fans" turn into "if you really love me show me the money"?  I abhore the paparazzi and believe that celebrities, athletes and such are entitled to their privacy.  However when those same people are out in public with the purpose of interacting with their fans how cheesy is it that they'll only smile for money?  The last thing my son and his two friends were intending to do was each spend $20 on Emmitt's new book and I guarantee you they won't be doing so anytime in the near future.

     I sometimes think when celebrities get to a certain point they truly forget where they came from.  Years ago the MLS Spring Training was held here in Florida.  We went down one weekend to see watch them train.  It was just like going to your kids' soccer game.  We set up chairs on the sidelines.  Chased after balls that went awry.  The players gladly posed for pictures whenever asked.  We had so much fun with the guys from L.A.  Galaxy invited our family to come back for another practice.  They even included our kids into their practice as I watched over their cell phones.  Weeks later they sent us a package filled with funs items.  Oh the players on that team wound up going to the world cup~ you might recognize the names Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.  My point is those guys were sincerely happy to interact with their fans. 

     Maybe celebrities like Emmitt Smith simply get to the point where they really don't need anymore fans like my son and his teenage friends when they have enough older fans who have deeper pockets. 

On a side note: not that it made a difference but my son was wearing his NJROTC PT uniform at the time. 

September 16, 2011

10 year plan? I don't know what I am doing tomorrow

   
I have been saying that in 10 years I am moving to England.  Well I guess I have said that once too many times to Maureen, my stress therapist, as she announced this week that it is time to start planning it or I have to stop talking about it ~ well isn't that money well spent!

   Seriously I am not a plan the future type of gal.  Heck the most advance planning I do are meals for two weeks, though I am an early Christmas shopper.  I know some people who plan vacations a year in advance, so not me.  Even when we visited England and France last year I made all the arrangements in the 2 months before we left.  This whole concept of planning what it will take to move to London and what I'll do when I am there NOW just feels as weird as putting on a wet bathing suit~ blech.

     Part of the idea is to start to remove the "fantasy" of what living in England brings with it.  Me, fantasy surely she must be mistaken.  Whatever would lead her to believe that I have any fantasy life at all?  Ok maybe my pronouncing myself royalty was a bit fantastical but can you blame me for that one? I don’t think so.

     So once a month I have to actually make some sort of progress on this plan.  Again am I actually paying for this taskmaster?  Here's where you get to come in ~ you didn't actually think I was going to do this on my own with a glorious group of readers such as yourself at my beck and call  assistance did you?  What's the point of being royalty if I can't pass my drudgeries share my new experiences with you?

Task number one: Where do I actually want to live? 
 Right now I am more into ruling places out rather than pin-pointing the exact whereabouts. Choosing the exact place will happen as the date is more pressing.

I know that I don't want to live:
  • In London~ too expensive
  • In Scotland ~ too North
  • More than 2 hours by train from London
  • somewhere that doesn't have a rail station
  • In an overwhelmingly ex-pat community ~ kind of defeats the purpose a bit
  • In Ireland ~ it’s not England pretty simple
  • In an overwhelmingly Muslim community (see church need below)
Things I am unsure about:
  • Do I want to live by the water
  • If I do live close to water should it be east coast or west coast
  • how small a community I want to live in
  • Wales an option
Things I do know I want:
  • An active Anglican Church in community
  • Community welcoming to Americans
  • Must have good bus/rail access
  • A reasonable cost of living
  • A small rental apt in a home not apartment building

My plan is to find myself a wall map of England and put it up on the back of my bedroom door.  When I discover a place I don't want to live in I'll cross it off on the map so I’ll slowly start narrowing things down.
I think that's enough pre-planning for this week don't you agree? 

So readers of this royal court: Any and all inputs are gloriously welcome.  Ta-ta for now.





September 13, 2011

Finding Beauty in Broken Pieces

I was recently given the opportunity to write my first book review:


     Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective.   A stained glass window is made up of broken pieces of glass.  Each piece needs to be smoothed and cut to fit into the artist’s planned design.  Once complete the finished product is most beautiful when filled with radiant sunshine. 
     Patsy Clairmont uses this imagery along with life experiences to show how each of us have within our hearts a beautiful masterpiece of color and shadow.  Each chapter of her book focuses on a different perspective of a how our hearts were broken in the first place.  Whether your brokenness is  due to personal relationships, tragedies or just the wear and tear of everyday life those pieces of your heart each contribute a beautiful and glorious color to your mosaic. 
Patsy ends each chapter with an Art Gallery.  Here you’ll find recommendations for paintings, museums, music and books to further explore the beauty of the creation of mosaics and how they apply to a stained glass perspective.
                Prior to reading this book I have never actually heard of Patsy Clairmont, which surprised many of my friends.  Patsy is known for her humorous approach to Christian life, this book does not fall into that category.  In the first few chapters you feel as if you are going to be taken on a journey with a dear friend.  Sharing deep emotions and how she’s overcome much of that hurt with her faith you are drawn to walk beside her.  By sharing these stories she enables the reader to find solace in the simple thought you are not alone.  

I received this book from Book Sneeze in exchange for my opinion.   
     

September 12, 2011

It is 6:45 I am driving what more do you want??

  Science has proven that you are either a night owl or an early bird.  Well I didn't need any documentation from studies in Europe to tell me that.  Plain and simple ~ I am a Night Owl!   I figured this out in college when I had door duty till 2am didn't bother me in the least.  Classes at 8:30AM ~~ those weren't pretty days at all.  8AM Open Vocal Lessons; let's just say the Royal Opera was never going to snatch me up.

     Fast forward 19 years. School mornings in our royal abode were never really the interactivities you often seen on TV.  I made sure all were up dressed, fed and off to the bus and that was about it.  Our mornings weren’t anything special but they worked and then it happened:  Em gets accepted into a Performing Arts high school, not across town but in another county. Translation: I have to get up and drive EVERY BLESSED Morning.  Now thank fully she could catch a bus at the "closest" high-school, a mere 40 minutes away w/morning traffic.  Em is like me in so many ways.... one being she's a night owl also.  We got into a routine down to the minute.  I got up 10 minutes before we leave throw on sweats, put hair in bun, take care of stuff.  We barely grunt to each other out the door. Once in the car the radio is turned to NPR. Em reclines her seat and goes to sleep.  40 minutes later wake her up when we arrive," love you have a great day" and she was off (to sleep on bus for the 35 minute ride to school).  When I got home I made sure other kids were off to school and back to bed I went.  Two years later Patrick also gets accepted to the art school.  First day or so he's chatty then realizes heck I can sleep... so there's 3 of us with this routine.  AKA quiet car mode.
   So if you're counting I followed that routine for the better part of 4 year, until Emily graduated.  At that time Patrick transferred back to his home school so he could participate in ROTC which surprisingly Arts schools don't support.  WOO HOOO my driving days are over, the bus stop is not even a 60 second walk to the corner. I just dodged two more years of driving at 6:45 in the morning!
  THEN not to miss out on the opportunity that her older siblings had Miss Meg decides to not attend her local high school with Patrick.  Oh No she wants to go the High School across the county for their TV Production and Pre-School academies.  So once again I am headed out the door at 6:45.
     Do you ever wonder if sometimes your kids aren't yours?  That they are so opposite that maybe the hospital made a mistake?  There are times I have to admit I look at Meg and say "who are you and where are your parents?"  She's up with the sun and happy in the morning ~EW!!  Ok yes I know she's mine but all I can think is when they delivered her emergency C-Section at 4pounds that all those tests and days in the NICU somehow messed up her internal clock. I know I can't prove it but that's the fact jack.
   The first two days of Meg High School I was in Alabama taking Em back to college so Dad who normally leaves for work @ 5am drives her.  Heck for him it was sleeping in, a treat if you think about it.  Seems they just had a glorious time talking about the day ahead and whatever.  Day three arrives and now Mom drives.  I have my 645 car routine and completely forget she's a newbie.  First thing she does is change the radio to some rock-my-car blow-my-ears-out station.  Then after I turn that off she starts talking.  Not yes, no, or grunt comments but questions that require multiple words to answer.  Does she not recognize who is behind the wheel?  Day four is a repeat and already I'm thinking maybe I should transfer back to her home school as the stress might be too much for her. I know, I know what you're thinking... smart move sane the sanity.   Thank heavens there were only four days that first week.
    Monday rolls around for the start of the new week.  Meg hops in the car puts on the radio and I stop the car; then in the most loving supportive tone that I can muster at 645 I looked at her and said ~ Sweetheart I am so glad you're going to XX High School.  We are going to have time in the car every morning for the next four years.  That time is going to be quiet time.  You can rest back, review notes for the day, heck you can even text your friends.  But what it isn't going to be is Mommy Chat Time.  She looked at me and said ~thank god I didn't want to be rude just sleeping on the way to school and with that she reclined her seat. 
!!! YEAH she is my child after all!      

BTW we have wonderful chats at 2:45 in the afternoon when I pick her up :0)

September 7, 2011

When did I move to Lake Wobegan?


    Garrison Keillor in 1985 created the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.  On his radio program  A Prairie Home Companion he will tell you that in his fictional hometown "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average".  Last time I checked I still lived in Florida.

      There is actually something called the Lake Wobegon effect (nope you can't make these things up) and I believe there are a lot more people struggling with this syndrome that are willing to admit or even aware of it. Doesn't it seem everyone today has kids that are just incredibly outstanding?  They're either skipping grades, the star player on the team, incredibly artistically talented or curing cancer. Or for the younger set they were potty trained at 6 weeks and speaking fluent French at 15 months.   Seriously just listen to a group of women chatting at Starbucks. 

      I have never been a big fan of the Christmas Newsletter.  Let's call it what it really is... "Look at how absolutely incredible our family is; don't you wish you were this good" press release.  Now I am not expecting anyone to announce that Johnny broke the school record for detention or Amber's been kicked out of Church choir for making out with half of the boys.  HOWEVER what happened to reality?    When did being average become so inferior???  “We had a wonderful year as a family” I guess is too boring for newsletters.

   I continue to make the same mistake: I run into a Mom I haven't seen in a while and ask how little so and so doing.  Last time we saw Timmy he in 4th grade, a bit of a handful not really a sports phenomenon.  Well NOW after 4 years and $1,000's spent on personal trainers he is going to be the next Pele!!!  Or little Irene who couldn't carry a tune if you put it in a bag, now studies privately with Ms. Star and is going to be the next Jackie Evancho, she's just a couple of years behind.  (Reality note: my daughter's on an Opera Scholarship and she wishes she was Jackie Evancho)  Here's the thing: If I only heard this once I might be impressed but when comments like this become the norm you just have to wonder.  And also why is it these parents rarely ask after my kids!
        Years ago our elementary school actually had to cancel award ceremonies.  You see the parents had turned it into a competition.  NO kidding.  In third grade Em had received the Most Improved award one quarter; I'll admit I was surprised as she was an A/B student.  The looks of pity that I received from several Moms; the "Oh we're so glad she's doing better" look.  When I asked the teacher how she earned the award she replied that Em had worked so hard on her handwriting she wanted to acknowledge it.  Hang on it gets better...
    Around Em's 5th grade it became "the thing" to present your child with a gift as they proceeded across the stage accepting their award.  Moms and Dads were flocking to the stage with balloons and flowers as they child received their A Honor Roll award.  This then became a competition amongst the parent.  By the end of the year the students were receiving stuffies,  huge bouquets and other non-sense.  Never mind that this cut into the time of the child who was walking behind them. More than once I couldn't get Em's picture b/c Danielle's Mom was giving her daughter a carnival sized bear.  That was the last year of award ceremonies.

     Another aspect of the Lake Wobegon syndrome is the "my child didn't do anything wrong" world view. Have you ever called a mom to discuss bad behavior only to have the conversation turn into how un-above average your child is?  One day Meg comes home in tears from her best friend's house down the street.  Elizabeth, who was much bigger than Meg, wouldn't let her use the bathroom and proceeded to keep her locked in the bedroom until the inevitable happened.  Of course I knew Elizabeth's Mom would not want her acting that way so I call.  Instead of "I'm sorry I'll talk to her, I'll have her apologize" Elizabeth's Mom went on to express her sympathy for Meg.  "Elizabeth you see knows how to wait and hold it as long as necessary.  When we go on road trips and she announces her restroom need we tell her when the next scheduled stop is and she's just fine."  She's so sorry Meg doesn't have that ability (Lake Wobegon effect)
     When did being average become so inferior? ??  Guess what the only way someone can truly be above average is to actually have a group that is average and with rare exception that’s where most of us fall.  I am here to tell you my kids rock.  They each have a gift unique onto to their own.  Am I proud of them... you betcha.  When you ask how they're doing you get it straight.  Why elaborate their achievement~ doesn’t that downplay what they've actually achieved.  By the way when my kids cure cancer you'll know it.
    

September 6, 2011

Are you not aware you are in public?

  I don't understand people's behavior at times.  Do they think that they are walking around in a special bubble and others can't see or hear them?  Last I checked the "Cone of Silence" from Get Smart has not been proven to work or is it being marketed.

     Sunday we spent the day at the Zoo.  First off convincing two teenagers, 17 and 14, that they want to get up early and spend the day at the Zoo with their parents deserves a moment of respect~~thank you.  OK, moving right along.  Our day was great with some fun moments and planking opportunities.  Zoos are of course great attractions for families with young children.  We absolutely loved tagging behind the little girl who was excited when she kept seeing pictures of an elephant; wish we were near when she actually saw the three at our zoo.  Then there was the first grader who was acting like a tour guide.  You also have to love how children can meet and in an instant devise a game that has the bird behind bars chasing them.  AND THEN.....
     Oh the things we overheard.
1.      I carried you for 9 months then another 18 because you were a late walker if you think I'm carrying you around this zoo you're crazy  ~Mom to a preschooler
2.      Put the cup up so the bird can eat stop being a baby ~ Dad to a preschooler inside the bird aviary
3.      If that snake bites you come and tell us cause it’s poisonous ~Mom educating child on North Eastern Diamond Rattlesnake
4.      If you fall in I am not coming after you ~Mom to child hanging over edge of the moat wall surrounding the Lemur habitat
5.      Why can’t you smile for the picture ~ Mom pleading to uncooperative child holding up line at photo op in front of Merry-Go-Round
Here is what I really really really wanted to say
1.      Bet you wish you had spent the $5 on the stroller rental now huh
2.      Sir actually he is still a baby and some fears are fine---as I head out of there cause those birds freak me out
3.      So if a non-poisonous snake bites him you don't care?
4.      Maybe if you taught your child NOT to lean on the edge you wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.  Never mind showing the love!!
5.      Mam you’ve just spent 5 minutes yelling at your kid to smile do you really think pleading with him is going to make it happen?  Get over the picture already!! BTW she did get him to smile (tiny giggle) then he closed his eyes real tight.
Those were some of the non-cone of silence highlights.  Parents whenever you take your young children anywhere do not have grand expectations of seeing the whole park.  Remember this is Florida and it is so warm after 12noon that even most of the animals are napping!! I do think it is outrageous what it costs to visit the Zoo.  As a family of 4 our tickets including the Sting Ray Bay were $56 and that doesn’t include paying to feed the Giraffes or the Lorikeets.  I understand wanting to get the most out of your day… just remember they’re kids.  Oh and that other people can hear you.


Finally two words about Zoo Rules….. FOLLOW THEM!!

Zoo rules... No Animals allowed.  Pretty simple, let's face it there's enough animals inside the zoo already they don't want or need yours adding to the mix.  This poor puppy isn't even in a dog carrier, it just looks so uncomfortable  :0(   You have to wonder what it was thinking.....Oh to live in cages like that!!  Better yet what do you think the other animals were thinking when they saw him..... Where's the rest of him or I thought living in this fake habitat was bad!!    By the way when we saw these people it was close to 2pm and easily close to 95 degrees.


So to end on an up beat... as that is what we should start the week on....some fun pictures from yesterday


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