Quiet

I recently purchased Quiet:  The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I know. I know.  You’re thinking “HER??? QUIET???”  And for the most part you would be right.  I wasn’t always as bold and talkative as I am now.  As a child I was, for the most part, shy, quiet, unassuming & perfectly content to be alone reading, drawing or watching tv.  Then, and very much now, I found myself in situations where I was surrounded by people and noise & just wanted so desperately to find a pathway out that no one noticed so that I could be back in my little world of solitude and quiet.

Right now, I’m sitting alone in my home & although I do love the times when I’m surrounded by my family, I am, in this moment, incredibly happy and content.  In the seventies and eighties, when you were asked to do things that made you feel uncomfortable by teachers, parents or even friends, there was much more of a sense that you should do it because it was the appropriate and mannerly thing to do.  I regularly found myself suspending the “introverted Noelle” and trying out for plays, being in school programs where I was required to SING, which mortified (& still mortifies) me & raising my hand in class to participate.  I have vivid memories of being scared that I would be called on.  Anyone but me, anyone!  Outward appearances clearly showed that I wanted to be a part of things.  I went to school dances and danced.  Dancing is as bad as singing for me.  It requires some liquid courage.  Chuck gets frustrated that I let people take advantage of me in my business because often this closet shyness prevents me from standing up for myself.  Self-promotion?  Horrifying to me.  I have always been overly concerned with what people think of me, though as I age that seems to be rapidly dissipating.  If you’ve seen me at Kroger, I’m sure you’re nodding your head.

The challenge I face now is having a child who is even MORE introverted than I ever was.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, yet I don’t want him to miss out on life.  Looking back, I’m glad there was that sense of unintentional pressure to participate.  I have lots of happy and funny memories I wouldn’t otherwise have. I want him to have them too.  He seems to share the mechanism of lifting his introverted ways to do things he REALLY wants to do like pitch a baseball game.  I’ve asked a million times if he’s doing it for him or for us.  He loves the game so he does what it takes.  He is very, very comfortable around his best friend’s family & isn’t at all shy around them.  It’s a comfort zone for him.  A safe place. Kids like that need those.

Today, I’m picking the kids up early for doctor appointments & they’ll miss math.  I e-mailed the teachers and made them aware so that they could be sure & let the boys know what they’re missing.  One teacher responded that she would love for Brooks to come to her room at noon so she can keep him up to speed on the lesson.  Of course, my introvert.  He was mortified.  He said he wasn’t going.  I let it go, mainly because I was not with him when he got the news that she wanted him to come.  His dad was. His dad who isn’t shy, who teaches classes to rooms full of consultants and law students, who speaks publicly OFTEN and manages an entire region of the US for his company.  If his dad is shy, he suspends it ALOT.  He emails the teacher and tells her Brooks might not show.  The teacher asks the assistant principal to page him to her classroom at lunchtime.  He’s going to be appalled.  It’s a small thing, really, but not to him.  Should we be doing things like this more?  I don’t know.  Maybe the book will help.  I’ve always been a parent who just made their kid do what *I* thought he/she should do, with the exception of sports. (In this house, you only play if you want to play. That’s another entry in itself!)  I truly believe that one of the best qualities anyone can have is the ability to be alone & be content. I like to think that right now we are giving him opportunities to do just that, yet encouraging him to branch out in some social arenas so he won’t be branded a loner or rude or anti-social.  None of those accurately describe him.

What do you have to offer?  Do you have an introvert?

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My Heart….

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

I never remember a time in my pre-adult life when I saw myself without children.  I loved playing house.  I loved being nurturing to my baby Mary and my Baby That-A-Way.  I had names for my future offspring.  At various stages in my childhood,  I couldn’t wait to birth Marcia (Brady Bunch, anyone?), Samantha and Tabitha (Bewitched?), Kelly and Sabrina (Hello…..Charlie’s Angels!).  In the latter years of elementary school, my best friend, Lana, and I cut a jillion people out of magazines and pasted them in giant sketchbooks, making our imaginary families.  Then we would include blueprints of their home, which we drew ourselves, often drawing inspiration from blueprint magazines that we would walk four blocks to our local grocer’s and buy, along with Lay’s Chips, Pepsi and Spree.  Those were the days.  Families with characteristics, careers and personality traits we assigned. We even cut out cars and matched them to our families.  Little did we know, at that time, we didn’t know jack about parenting & families.  Boy, have we since learned!  (I didn’t come away from those experiences empty-handed though.  I still don’t like to see a house plan where a hallway ends abruptly with a wall…..)

Lana was a year older than I was and started her family much earlier than I did.  I remember her saying, when we were forming our imaginary families, that she just didn’t want kids with red hair.  I thought she was crazy for even thinking that might happen.  She was blond and her boyfriend (who later became her husband) had a thick mane of dark brown hair.  Lana had a maternal drive and instinct like no one I knew.  She ached to have kids someday.  And she did.  Two beautiful carrot-top redheads that she loves with all her heart, hair and all.  God does have a sense of humor.  That should have been our first clue that no book, television show or doctor could even come close to telling you what to expect once you’re a parent.

I took a longer route to having kids and Lana was one of the first people I called when we got the unexpected but thrilling news, in autumn of 1994, that we were having a baby.  Chuck, my husband, and I had talked about getting pregnant and figured that it would take a while and we would be announcing our pregnancy in autumn of 1995.  Needless to say, fertility is my strong suit.  I got pregnant immediately and we set about making plans to welcome our first child into our Colorado home, which we purchased in the spring of 1995.  It was a girl, which thrilled me & we named her Ryder.  Wyatt followed four years later in 1999 and Brooks, our third and final, came along in 2001.  Having been around the block now as parents, I still bang my head against the wall wondering WHY no one warns you how hard it is.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference in my ability to handle the difficult times and it certainly would not have deterred me from becoming a parent.  The good outweighs the bad on most days.  A warning would have been nice, simply from the point of knowing that you were not the first parent to find it extremely difficult.  I might have liked to know that going through hell on some days is perfectly and painfully normal.

I had an unusual childhood, especially in the 70′s and 80′s, because I was raised by my dad and that wasn’t nearly as common as it is now.  We were close.  He loved me unconditionally but I think that unconditional love came easy because I never defied him or spoke out in disrespect.  I was shy, not at all rebellious and an only child, which is simply not as difficult as having more than one kid to parent.  You don’t have the competition between children for attention, the multiple activities to cover and in my case, I was just content to be by myself & generally occupied with some book, tv show or art project.  My dad didn’t have to mediate fighting,  dole out multiple allowances, choose which activities to attend, etc.  It was just me & him against the world.  And I had all the respect a child can muster for him.  I still do.  I always thought I’d be a great parent like him and although I go through stages of feeling like a total failure at that, I now realize comparing my parenting to his is not at all fair.  Different situation, different time in history, different personalities in my own children.

I put the quote by Elizabeth Stone at the top of this entry because although I realize what Ms. Stone meant, I think there’s more to our hearts than this quote reveals.  Our children are a part of us, yes.  They have our DNA.  We feel linked to them even when they are across town, or in the case of my oldest, in another state.  But what the quote fails to convey is that our hearts are very much still within our own bodies and subject to intense heartache and pain when our children defy us, disrespect us & lash out. Patience is not one of my strongest personality traits.  My clients say I’m insanely patient when photographing their kids and I honestly don’t know where that comes from except that under those circumstances,  I’m being paid to produce and in many cases I just can’t unless I wait patiently for the children to co-operate.  I wish I had this patience at home and I try so hard but I expect so much from my kids & I react, often negatively, when they fail to produce.

My daughter is sick this week. She lives in Texas so I can’t be there.  One of her traits is to always have an ache or pain so I’ve gotten to the point that quite honestly I tune her out.  I’ve explained to her that it’s kinda like the “boy who cried wolf” parable.  I fear one day it will be something really serious and I’ll blow her off.  Today she texted from the doctor and to spare you the details and respect her privacy, things went downhill fast.  Apparently she has severe bronchitis & I tried very hard to be sympathetic at first.  I do feel bad that she is sick so far from home but there’s honestly little I can do.  I can never do anything right in most cases anyway, so I ended up losing it after she disrespected me by calling me a name.  After dealing with the boys not turning in homework this week and fighting like a couple of wild dogs, I had nothing left in me. Nothing.  I’m spent.  I’m not a perfect parent and I never will be. But lately I’ve gotten tougher.  I’m stronger about imposing sanctions and implementing discipline.   They may hate me now but I have to believe when they’re older they’ll look back and realize we did them a favor.  I love them more than they will understand (until they have their own children) but when I ask them to do something because it’s important to me, I expect that it will happen.  And it will happen with a smile on their faces, even if it’s fake. I certainly do enough for them that they should return that favor.  So, back to that quote.  My heart is still inside me and it’s very vulnerable.  Parenting is not always the bastion of unbridled joy that our culture tends to make it out to be.  It can be ugly, tear-jerking, and brutal at times.  We will survive.  Most parents do.  We’re in this battle together and sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to hear that someone else is deep in the trenches of combat as well.  They will love us & look to us for help and advice someday.  I just hope I’m one of the survivors.

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Ten Instagram Feeds That Make Me Happy!

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Are you on Instagram?  It serves as a mini-scrapbook of my life.  And my phone is always with me so it’s easy to capture the little things in life.  The picture above is the first photo I ever took using my Instagram app.  It’s a still life of my dresser at the time.  I love it because it says a lot about me.  My style is revealed in the sunglasses and jewelry box.  It shows that I love the color green and the scent of a good candle.  I also made the framed linen piece in the background to hang my jewelry on, so it reminds me that I am creative when I want to be.  I just love this picture.  You will find an entire community of creative people on Instagram from all parts of the world.  Here are ten of my favorites to follow!

1)  Christie Brinkley (username:  christiebrinkley) - I know. I know.  She’s a former supermodel.  Someone recommended her feed and I was skeptical too.  But she’s a darn good Instagram photographer.  Her shots of NYC are STUNNING.  She travels (most recently to Africa to take up the cause of saving elephants from harm and exploitation) and takes photos that are truly captivating.  She includes her personal life in her feed too.  And she draws some wonderful designs in her morning coffee.   I haven’t regretted following her at all.  She’ll fill your feed with beautiful things.

2)  Aerin Lauder (username: aerin):  If I could vote Aerin most beautiful Instagram feed, I would.  She’s near the top of my list of style icons.  The granddaughter of the late cosmetics tycoon, Esteé Lauder and daughter of Ronald Lauder, Aerin recently launched her own line of cosmetics and furniture & accessories for the home.  She is also the subject of a gorgeous coffee table book that should be arriving on my doorstep any moment!  Her posts tend to be beautiful still life images shot around her home & office.  Always exquisitely styled and timeless.

3)  The Recapturist (username:  recapturist) -  “Photography, preservation and micro-history of vintage America”.  That what his feed consists of.  Gorgeous photos of hotel and restaurant signage from an earlier era.  If you like old stuff, you’ll love this feed.

4)  BeachBungalow8 (username:  beachbungalow8) – She’s a creative girl who loves design, both retro and current.  She blogs at http://www.beachbungalow8.blogspot.com.  I find stuff on here ALL the time that inspires me.  Excellent feed.

5)  Plum Collective (username: plumcollective) –  If you love mid-20th century design, you will love this feed.  All kinds of mid- century furniture, lighting and design on this one.  Check it out.

6)  Kelly GoLightly  (username: kellygolightly) - In her words, it’s a “style guide for the modern-day Audrey Hepburns of the world.”  She’s gorgeous, has great style and reeks of vintage style.  She travels often and posts great pics from places like Palm Springs, Beverly Hills and Marfa, TX.  I swoon over her fashion sense & she knows how to throw a party!

7)  Adored Vintage (username:  adoredvintage)  Like vintage dresses & style?  Look no further.  You must follow Adored Vintage.  Sometimes she posts other things but the focus is vintage dresses.

8)  Liljeberg (username: liljeberg) – A Swedish feed that captivates you with letters and numbers, all photographed beautifully.

9)  Mrs. Lilien (username: mrslilien) –  One of my very favorite feeds!  I could honestly ask myself every day, “What would Mrs. Lilien do?”  I love her.  Her style, her love of old things, her appreciation of a good font; the list goes on.  And on.  She blogs at www.blog.mrslilen.com.

10)  Donald Robertson (username:  donalddrawbertson) –  Doodling, drawing, painting – he does it all.  The creative director for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has one of my favorite Instagram feeds.  I’m wildly inspired by this guy.  He frequently shares photos of his wife, kids and home but most of his posts are his stunning artwork, often done with gaffer tape or just a few strokes of a magic marker.  He’s unbelievable.  Hard for me to go a day without looking at something he posts!

I hope you found at least two or three new people to follow after reading these.  I hope to make this a regular feature on my blog and I hope you’ll keep checking back to find more new good stuff!

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Angels & Witches

photo-20This has been my relief for the past week. A step back into my past that takes me back to a simpler time, both in my life and the world.  I’ll be honest. One reason I’m watching them is that  I screwed up the tv and can only figure out how to use it with a DVD in.  Remember when all we had was a knob and maybe three channels?  For a while where I grew up, your options were 6 (NBC) and 12 (CBS).  If you lived in certain spots in town that “got the signal”, you might have 8 (ABC).  Now very few televisions are operational without at LEAST two remote controls that together have about 100 buttons.  And MODES!  Is it in DVD mode? HDMI mode?  Goodness!  Shout out to my oldest son who bought a VCR and video tape collection at the thrift store and is in heaven with his retro technology.  Love that kid.  I digress.

This week has been one of continuing back pain, oral surgery for my daughter who was home from TCU on fall break, issues with turning homework in, gripey carpool teachers, gripey neighbors, gripey Facebook friends, a traveling husband and my favorite baseball team is stinkin’ it up somewhat in the World Series. I definitely needed a little escape and since a trip is out of the question at the moment, I just settled for a trip back to my childhood when watching Bewitched with my best friend or watching Charlie’s Angels snuggled up on my dad’s lap was my idea of heaven.  It’s been fun.  I love the retro fashion in both shows.  Most of it would be back in style right now and I find myself swooning over dresses and furniture and homes in these shows.  I still have a part of me that longs to twitch my nose and get things to work out for me.  So far, it’s not working.

I try hard, when things are bugging me, to focus on the positive, so I have been.  I’ve worked with great clients this week, had a healthy family (other than the back issues), done my best to help a friend out from afar, helped a neighbor, had a kid ace a Spanish test and essay, done some Christmas shopping, cheered for the Cardinals with Chuck and almost finished the huge stitching project I’ve been working on. And the Christmas cards I ordered earlier than ever arrived and I love them!  There’s always something to be thankful for!  Hope things are going well with all of you.

As long as we’re on the subject, what shows take you back to your childhood?

10 Things To Do In Ft. Worth, Texas

My daughter is now a college freshman at TCU in Ft. Worth, TX so I have found myself in this city quite a bit lately.  It’s coming full circle for me since my parents lived there when my mother was pregnant.  Until we went to check out TCU this past February, I had not been back.  I’ve now been 6 times in as many months and I love it more each time I go.  I’ve always been a lover of and frequent traveler to Dallas but I encourage you, if you find yourself in the DFW Metroplex, to give Ft. Worth a try as well.  You’ll be glad you did.

1)  I could do an entire list on Ft. Worth’s art scene alone.  Museums and galleries abound in “Cowtown”!  Exceptional ones.  World-class stuff, people.  But for this list I’m going to tell you to go to the Museum of Modern Art.  It’s an absolutely incredible place. Museum of Modern Art - Ft. WorthThe museum is surrounded by a crystal-clear reflecting pool that is stunning.  Peaceful.  Gorgeous, really.  And to reach it, you really need to pass through the museum restaurant, The Modern Grill.  The mid-century architecture makes me feel like I’ve stepped back in time.  I’ve heard the food is great but haven’t had a chance to sample it myself.  You should plan your visit to coincide with lunch.

The Modern GrillThis is one of my favorite installations at the museum & your children will be fascinated at every turn. These bands of letters move constantly and as you can see, the installation looks out on the reflecting pool.

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You can actually plan a day of museum hopping without ever leaving a three-block area.  Right next to the Museum of Modern Art is The Kimbell Museum & the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

2)  Eat lunch or dinner at Joe T Garcia’s !  It’s a fabulous restaurant near the Stockyards.   Legend has it that it’s the oldest Mexican restaurant in the Lone Star State.  Our daughter took us there recently on Family Weekend and we were impressed.  There are three choices on the menu:  Beef Fajitas, Chicken Fajitas and the “Family Dinner”.  Trust me, you don’t need anything else.  The chips and salsa are excellent and we had a pitcher of strawberry margaritas that disappeared almost as soon as our adorable, attentive waitress delivered it to our table.  Aside from the food, the outdoor seating area is HUGE and it’s like eating in a botanical garden!  Lush foliage, fountains and water features abound.  And we were even serenaded at our table.

Joe T Garcias

3)  The Coyote Drive-In.    Their slogan is “Fort Worth is bringing back the drive-in!”  That’s because people in Ft. Worth seem to have a wonderful pulse on what’s cool and seem well-versed on how to get things done.  One trip downtown will leave you with this incredible sense that you are in a progressive place that is at once aware of what it takes to move ahead and conscious of not letting go of the past.  You will find the Coyote Drive-In on the banks of the Trinity River on the edge of downtown.  There are 5 screens, a beer garden and I recently read that Ft. Worth’s first outdoor ice rink will be added.  Reviews are good.  They show kid’s movies too and what kid doesn’t need to experience a drive-in movie?  Read more about the Coyote here.

4) Check out the Ft. Worth Water Gardens, also downtown but on the opposite end from the Coyote.  I was staying at the downtown Sheraton in September and this is right across the street.  There are three distinct features:  a reflecting pool (huge!), a pool with fountains, called the “aeration” pool and a fountain that is like an inverted pyramid that you can actually climb down in.  It’s a fun place for kids to explore or, depending on which pool you choose and what time of day you’re there, a really peaceful place to hang out and enjoy a few moments alone.  These pictures show the three different features:

IMG_6090cpyAeration pool at water gardensreflecting pool from aboveReflecting pool at ground level

5)  In the fall, don some purple & catch a Texas Christian University “Horned Frog” football game at the recently renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium.  It’s impressive.  You might run into baseball great, Nolan Ryan watching the Frogs play.  The stadium was renovated completely between the 2010 and 2012 seasons, totally funded by donors with no bonds or debt.  Great care was taken to build the stadium into the ground so the Robert Carr Chapel spire would remain the tallest building on the TCU campus.  It’s a beautiful place.  Just learn the Horned Frog sign and school cheer before you go:

Rif Ram, Bah Zoo

Lickety, Lickety, Zoo, Zoo

Who, Wah, Wah, Who

Give Em Hell, TCU!

(It makes no sense to me either.  Just learn it.)

TCU stadium

6)  Catch a musical, play, symphony performance, concert……..SOMETHING, at Bass Performance Hall.  Just checking the current schedule, you can catch a variety of events/performers:  Clint Black, David Sedaris, Ft. Worth Symphony, Band of Heathens, Tony & Tina’s Wedding, the Doobie Brothers, Hungarian Folk Ensemble, etc.  The list goes on and the facility itself is blindingly beautiful inside as well as outside.  See?

Bass Performance HallMaybe before or after, you can enjoy a good meal at Ferre, an Italian chophouse right across the street!

7)  Buy yourself some real, leather cowboy boots.  One of my favorite western stores is Maverick Fine Western Wear & Saloon in the Stockyards.  You can find boots in any color or style, with stitching in myriad colors, in ostrich-skin, snakeskin, calfskin, etc. In Fort Worth, you can spend $300 on your boots or you can spend $5000.  I didn’t know that either but yes, you can.

Texas boots

8) Visit the Stockyards!  When I first began coming to Ft. Worth, I thought, “Why would I want my hotel to be beside the stockyards? I’m not a cattle farmer!”  Then on one of my many trips, my daughter and I decided to venture over that way because, after all,  JR and Jock Ewing traded cattle there.  Might as well see what the Stockyards look like.   I’ll admit that, yes, it’s a bit touristy.  But it’s just a really, really fun place to be.  There are lots of restaurants to choose from, a hotel or two (highly recommend the Hyatt Place – Stockyards), twice daily cattle drives, horseback rides, a weekend rodeo and should you so desire, on Sunday, you can attend Cowboy Church.  I could do an entire entry on the Stockyards and it’s such a great place to go with kids.  We actually stayed at the Hyatt I linked to above on our last trip and it was a wonderful experience.  Except I forgot my swimsuit and the pool is perfection.

Riscky's BBQ

Cattle Drive

Stockyards9) Enjoy a meal at Reata downtown in Sundance Square.  A Texas tornado destroyed the original location in 2000 but it’s back at 310 Houston St. and better than ever.  With four stories and 20,000 square feet plus a huge menu, you can’t help but leave satisfied.   The menu is inspired by real cowboy cooking and the Stacked Chicken Enchiladas will not disappoint.  Dine on the roof or at least go up for a drink before you leave to explore the rest of the Square.

Reata's Rooftop

10) Explore the West 7th Corridor!  This is one of my very favorite areas of Fort Worth!  It’s near the museum district so if you enjoy lunch at the Museum of Modern Art, you can have  a wonderful dinner here.  It’s walking distance.  (But should you drive —  there is plenty of parking in the parking structures.)  There’s even a Movie Tavern,  if you’d like to catch a movie and have a drink too.   Shop at WRARE, a unique home furnishings store.  I wanted so much of what they had to offer,  but Chuck was along too.  I did make it home with a very neat metal “B” to add to my collection.  There are sooo many restaurants, which you can see using the link above.  Be sure to end your night at Sweet Sammie’s, an ice cream shop where you can create your own giant ice cream cookie sandwich.  Yet another thing in Ft. Worth that your kids will thank you for.

I’m a firm believer that every city has a lot to offer if you look hard enough, but you won’t need to look long in Ft. Worth.  The dining scene is stellar.  The cultural district and the area surrounding TCU offers museums and a zoo plus too much shopping to even get started in a weekend!  Hotel rooms abound and I’ve scored some amazing deals on Priceline.  I look forward to each trip because I know I’m going to discover something new.  With our daughter living there for the next four years, you can expect more posts on “Cowtown” in the future.  In the meantime, take your family and check it out for yourself.

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This Too Shall Pass…

About a week ago, I was telling someone my current situation and they said, “Wow, you’ve had quite the crappy year!”  It kind of stunned me because when I think of this past year, I think that we got to go skiing for a week, my daughter and I went to Charleston, S.C., we had wonderful trips to FL for Spring Break and summer vacation, Ryder got accepted to TCU and became a Kappa there, we had a great trip to St. Louis, Chuck and I celebrated 20 years of marriage, etc.  I could seriously go on and on with the good things in our life.  What my friend was referring to, however, was my knee injury I sustained in Colorado on our ski trip, my mother’s house fire & my latest problem — I was recently diagnosed with SI (sacroiliac) Joint Syndrome.  Here’s the scoop if you want to read up on it.  But this is what’s been going on with me for, well,  a month this past week.

During the process of moving Ryder into her dorm at Texas Christian, I somehow injured, or re-injured, my back.  I am lucky to have a wonderful orthopedic doctor who saw me right away (Dr. Kenneth Rosenzweig) and even luckier that his years of experience led him to diagnose me with SI joint problems immediately.  It’s a condition that is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, sometimes for YEARS.  I cannot imagine.  It’s painful. Terribly.  For me, sitting upright is just downright agonizing.  Standing hurts too, but sometimes it’s a great alternative to sitting.  My doctor did my first round of steroid injections two weeks ago and the pain block worked for a few days, which in the case of this disorder, tells us that the source of the pain IS indeed the SI joints.  However, with this condition, the pain is not usually eradicated until after the second round of injections and sometimes the third.  My doctor has only had to resort to surgery for this once in the last 30 years.  We are on the right track.  Unfortunately he says this is one of the more severe cases he has seen.  Of course.  I excel at everything :-)

I have had to stop training temporarily, have cancelled things that were going to require me to ride in a car more than across town, have become what I feel like is a huge burden to Chuck, & have had to ask people for help, which is WAY outside my comfort zone.  But it’s going to get better and thankfully one aspect of my job (photography, for those of you who don’t know me personally!) can be done flat on my back with my laptop.  I’m not someone who just enjoys doing nothing so thankfully I can still do needlework.

Saturday, I decided to get out and run to Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  Not a good idea.  I came home and collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day.  Sunday was a bad day.  I went to the ER for the second time since this began.  The pain gets really bad, to the point that I’m nauseous.  Electrical-like pains shoot down my legs and up my back sometimes, I have hot and cold sensations that are just freaky for lack of a better word.  Sometimes the pain medicine affects every other part of my body EXCEPT the part of my back that is hurting.  That’s always fun.  Other times, like last night, it works so well I’m actually able to move around & accomplish things.  Having been down for six weeks already in early 2013 when I tore my MCL skiing, the mental frustration with having my activity limited again is high.  I have a giant list of things to do to our house and of course, they have been put on the back burner AGAIN.

So wish me luck with Thursday’s injections.  Pray I plug along until Chuck gets home on Thursday night.  Did I mention he is out of town until then?  Fun times.  There are so many people dealing with much worse than this so I will get through.  But I’m living for the day that I am able to work out, drive where I want and sit without agony!

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Letting Go

Packing UpThere were so many things to think about this summer before THIS  ^  occurred.  “THIS” being the life-altering event of moving my first-born child and only daughter, Ryder,  out of our home and into her dorm room.  Out-of-state.  Six hours away.  In a much bigger city.  Where she only knows a few other students, and none of them particularly well.  I told myself it was exciting, which it is, and that she was ready, which I truly think she is.  But I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was.

I found plenty of distractions.  In June I had to take Ryder to orientation at TCU.  There was no reason to think about her leaving until she had been oriented, right?  And then not long after that she left for a 10-day trip to Italy.  No reason to stress while she’s relaxing in the Mediterranean.  I could do that when she gets back….might as well relax too!  Four days after her return from Italy was our family vacation to Florida, and we took two of her closest friends with us.  It seemed only logical to enjoy them & not fret about how much I was going to miss them.  But then DANG!  It seemed we had barely UNpacked our suitcases and we were busy packing big Sterilite containers and making sure we had duvets and pillows and necessities purchased.  It sneaks up faster than a tornado on a trailer park.  Now that I’ve been through it, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the myriad emotions that you’re going to feel.

Ever the planner, I had assumed that with a move-in date of August 10th, we would leave on the 9th.  Well, be warned that those childhood friendships grow stronger in the months leading up to college, when the notion of existing without each other becomes real & they become very, very hard for your child to leave.  I got that because I, too, chose a university away from all of my high school friends and I set off on my own, not knowing a soul in the town that would be my college home for four years of my life.  If your child has friendships that move them this much emotionally, thank God for that.  I missed my friends terribly and when my daughter said, “I don’t want to go until the day I’m supposed to move in,” I understood.  I also thought it would be a chance to go on ahead & spend a night alone with Chuck to sort of decompress from the stress & drama of packing and getting ready to leave.  And be warned, with girls, there is drama in getting ready to leave!  Chuck & I loaded the Suburban to maximum capacity and headed for Ft. Worth on Friday.  Ryder spent her last night at home, surrounded by her friends, who made sure she was up at dawn and stood in our driveway as she pulled away.  I will be forever grateful to them for this & I think it was the perfect end to her summer because we, her family, will be in her life on a consistent basis for the rest of her life and those friends will head off in separate directions, making it harder to see each other as often.  I love them all as my own & I cried myself to sleep those last two (or three) nights, thinking that late-night pow-wows on my bed and girls strewn all over my living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings would be coming to an end, or at least be less frequent.  I was able to spend a wonderful spring break with Ryder and her friends and enjoy a vacation to Dallas with them this summer and I will always cherish those trips.TCU/Texas

The tension of move-in day was eased by the fact that TCU is a small campus with a very organized and dedicated group of people who made the transition from home to college life as easy as possible.  A friend of Ryder’s who was already at TCU had introduced her to her roommate and they had been communicating via social media since March.  There was absolutely no tension when we met – both of our families seemed to mesh immediately & getting their room set up was so enjoyable.  I think she’s off to a great start.  We took her to dinner that first night and she fell asleep in the booth at Macaroni Grill.  Afterward, we went on a whirlwind shopping trip to Target & back to the room.  She bid us goodbye without a tear and we headed back to our hotel, leaving her to sleep in her new digs.

Dorm room!We walked into our hotel that night & got on the elevator with a family who appeared to be leaving a wedding in one of the ballrooms.  There was Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad & a little girl about three with short bobbed brown hair and blue eyes, eerily reminiscent of Ryder at the same age.  She was twirling in her fancy dress and ballet flats and expressing joy at getting to ride on the elevator to the 4th floor.  We were admiring her cuteness & sharing that we had just dropped our daughter off for her first night at college.  As we got off the elevator the little girl got off and skipped ahead of us all, soaking in the wonders of a nice hotel as if it were her castle and she the princess who lived there.  As she got smaller and further away, we approached our room and I slid the key in the slot, took a deep breath & accepted the fact that I would end my night with yet more tears, this time a mix of sadness for what I was going to miss & joy for what wonderful things I know are ahead.

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44 Things………update!

Earlier this year,  I drafted a list of 44 things to do before I turn 44 years of age.  That happens on December 14, 2013.  Just a few short months, really.  I promised an update at some point along the way, primarily as an incentive to make myself accountable.  I think blogging it helped motivate me tremendously.

1. Try 10 new recipes.I’ve been doing a really good job on this one.  Banana pudding, easy lasagna, ebelskivers, hummus, etc.  I’ll be at 10 before I know it.  Then I’ll pick a day and share the recipes.

2. Complete 6 needlework projects.  (Finished one today!) – I’m not sure I’ll make it to six but I finished the one mentioned, have all but the background done on one and have gotten pretty far into another.  I also did a rather small one for Ryder and it just occurred to me that I never gave it to her :)  So yeah, maybe I will get to 6!

3. Be a more engaged parent.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in the room but not tuned in.  I need to improve this.This one is hard for me now that the kids are older.  They don’t want read to, they have no interest in my hobbies and I don’t play video games.  But I’ve been playing a few games and making a concerted effort to listen in a more intent manner when they want to engage in conversation.  I’m easily distractible, which doesn’t help.  But I’m making improvements.

4. Have a professional massage.  Or 2!

5. Volunteer at least 60 hours. – Getting there!

6. Paint 2 things at the Painted Pig.

7. Buy a pair of cowboy boots.

8. Visit my daughter at college! - We just dropped her off last weekend and have plans to attend family weekend in September, so barring something unexpected, I’ll easily manage to meet this goal.

9. YOLO board in Watercolor, FL on Hwy. 30-A. – We did this on our vacation in July and it was a great experience.  I want a YOLO board now and I want to find a place to enjoy the sport locally.  Success! CHECK!

10. Learn to make a great chocolate cake.

11. Successfully make “Cupcake Cafe” buttercream.

12. Design a crewel stocking pattern.

13. Save $1000 using coupons and rebates.This is not going so hot.  Need to step it up!

14. Blog photo tips on a regular basis.

15. Paint entire kitchen white and then go from there with kitchen decor….

16. Buy rainchains for the corners of our house.

17. Re-do/paint our front porch.

18. Make peace, or attempt to, with someone I don’t get along with. –  (I did this.  It’s overrated.)  - CHECK!

19. Learn to use Netflix via the PS3 without the assistance of someone 13 or under.  Or Chuck. - Wyatt pointed out that it’s just as easy if not more so, to use Netflix on my laptop so I guess I’ll consider this one a CHECK!

20. Climb Pinnacle Mountain again.  The hard side.

21. Take a vacation with just Chuck. – It’s scheduled for Labor Day weekend to celebrate 20 years!  Yay!  Fairmont Dallas, here we come!

22. Visit Eric & Stephanie in St. Louis! - We had a fantastic time even though it was a whirlwind trip to St. Louis and we only had time for lunch at Pappy’s Smokehouse.  But the food and company was great.  I had not seen Stephanie since she moved to Kentucky in 2nd grade!  And Eric since he left in junior high.  GREAT time!  CHECK!

23. Weigh 135.I’m steadily heading toward this goal but need to step it up if I do it before I’m 44.

24. Rewatch all Seinfeld episodes. - I bought season one to start.  May not get through ALL of them but you never know.

25. Read 10 books. - I’ll easily reach this goal!

26. Paint the living room.

27. Buy a desk for myself.Did it at IKEA when we took Ryder to orientation at TCU.  I had to compromise on color but it’s grown on me. CHECK

28. Compile dad’s Vietnam pictures into a book for him.  (I guess after posting this it won’t be a surprise.)

29. Open an ETSY shop.

30. Camp with Tcheanina and all our boys. – The summer has kinda of gotten away from us.  Didn’t realize how much other travel would consume my time.  But I haven’t completely ruled it out!

31. Start my “other” blog.

32. Photograph 10 dogs.

33. Draw & paint for fun.  On a regular basis.

34. Launch a black & white division of Buttry Photography. - In progress

35. Organize my home completely.  Room by room. Closet by closet.

36. Keep a “good things” jar.CHECK, or in progress, anyway!

37. Visit Albert Pike Recreation Area for the first time since the flood.

38. Frame my needlework projects.I’ve had lots and lots of these done!  Yay!

39. Walk the dog more.Ummmm……

40. Have another trip with just my mom.She went to orientation with Ryder and me so if we don’t fit in another, I’ll count that.  Had a great time.

41. See 5 movies at the theater with Chuck.  - Working on this one too.  Have seen a couple of them.  The Vow.  The one about magic. Working on this one too.  

42. Learn to make really good & pretty sugar cookies.

43. Keep an art journal.CHECK, in progress, but not as much as I’d like to.

44. Practice random acts of kindness.  26 at least.  For Newtown, CT. - I’ve done a lot of these.  Very proud of myself.  Anonymous, when possible and gives you a great feeling.

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Child-Rearing: The Fine Print…..

Some of you are contemplating having children, adopting children or, if you’re exceptionally desperate, perhaps kidnapping a couple of infants. (Take them back please; someday they’ll be hormonal and you’ll be searching for the address to return them to on anywho.com, and, besides, who needs a felony?)

Disclaimer:  I know some of you are struggling with being unable to have children and I’m in no way attempting to minimize that desire that burns within you to be a parent.  It’s real and it’s wonderful and it exists. And more than anything, I hope your dream comes true.  And most of that dream will be WONDERFUL!  Just don’t act like being shat upon at 3 a.m. is a moment you were waiting for & will cherish forever.  You may laugh heartily later but you won’t want to repeat it.  Now…..

Potential parents need beneficial advice, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns.  It’s not.  Sometimes it’s poop explosions, vomit and bloody noses that never seem to end.  It’s baseballs-through-windows & broken limbs & stitches & Sharpie on couches.  It’s “everyone-but-me-has-a-smartphone-and-I-might-as-well-be-exiled-to-Tanzania.”  (Neither of our boys, 11 & 13 have them. They’re still here, functioning fairly normally – the boys, that is.)  As much as you plan to ‘cherish every moment’, no one enjoys a stream of pee in their ear canal or shit smeared on their brand new white J. Crew tee.  I know this.  Don’t try to sell me on that bullshit. You’re exasperated. You laugh about it later but you’re exasperated!

We need to get to a point in our society where we are honest about the reality of parenting and what it involves. We need to understand that some of the people who have had children and melted down under the stress were simply not prepared.  A lot of us weren’t. I’ve melted down A LOT!  When reading two freaking chapters on “What To Look For When You INTERVIEW Your Pediatrician”*, nowhere does the article say, “Be sure you find out which of his buddies was a psychiatrist because you’re going to need some scripts for yourself before your kid starts on whole milk.”  But it should.

No one is honest with parents-to-be.  No one tells them that it’s ok to complain.  No one told tells them that it’s not going to kill Little Johnny or Sara’s self esteem if they’re disrespectful to you and you tell them they’re being a miserable little asshat and that their game controllers will indeed reside in Dad’s office drawer for a week.  As a society we went through decades of being told that we need to build up our children’s self-esteem and let them know that they can do anything they set their minds to.  There’s some truth to this.  Help your kids find their talents and encourage them, yes.   I’m not sure how many of you watch American Idol auditions but sometimes we definitely need to tell our kids they can’t even carry a tune in the cargo hatch of a Range Rover and should suggest that maybe they pursue being a sandwich artist at Subway while letting better talents and abilities emerge. (Back off!  I know there are wonderful, pride-filled sandwich artists out there. Love me a turkey on wheat! NOT HATING.)  Maybe your husband was a great athlete, but if little Tommy isn’t loving going to the ballpark, he might be happier playing chess, or golf or making movies.  Be big enough and brave enough to let him.  And to let go of your dreams for him.  Pretty sure neither of my boys is going to be a professional dancer or golfer so why would I push them that direction?  Guide your kids.  Don’t live through them.  It’s ok to quit soccer or football.  Or cheerleading.  This is hard but no one tells you it’s coming.

The self-esteem movement is part of the undoing of America that we’re seeing.  It’s all about ME.  Oh trust me, my kids can be “all about me” quite often and I tried NOT to parent that way.  They get on my last nerve not considering others feelings before their own a LOT of the time.  I’ve tried and preached and gotten angry and  I’m admitting that I would love to change that trait but in all honesty, I don’t know what to change. I’m doing the best I can, praying, trying to be a great example and hoping maturity will help.  We live in an age with so many outside influences that our parents and grandparents had no concept of.  No, it’s not all happiness and family dinners.  They aren’t all going to make good, or God forbid, PERFECT, grades.  You shouldn’t expect them to.  Loosen the fuck up. Forgetting a thank you is NOT the end of the world.

Baby showers and presents and shower cake and decorating nurseries are exciting & nice…..I’m sorry, I meant “finger sandwiches & hor d’oeuvres”.  We can’t have sugar and gluten-filled cakes and punch at baby showers  anymore!  Harrows! Then that baby could be born with a BMI of 35!  Don’t even get me started on freaking PUSH PRESENTS.  Gag. (I think when I birthed Ryder, Chuck let me watch “ER” instead of the Cardinal game. That was my present. And it was the episode where a lady died in labor.  Thanks, hon.)  Pregnancy, birth & delivery all seems exciting and it IS but I’m thinking this dose of advice might be helpful in list form.  It’s not what people (except me)  write in your little book at the gluten-free shower.  Nap when the baby naps!  Make your own baby food!  It’s so easy and so cheap!  Just tell him you’ve already been up with the baby twice – he’ll NEVER know! ** And this handy, numbered list will be much easier to refer back to by number when you’re railing on me in the comment section:

1. Your kids & you will only come down with ‘projectile vomiting/simultaneous poop shooting illnesses’ while your husband is enjoying his business meeting at the Boca Raton Resort and Club drinking martinis brought to him by a lovely waitress named Fawn after he finishes his exhilarating game of golf on the links.

2.  You will at some time in your child-rearing years wonder if medication would help both you and your child.  Sometimes it helps your child.  It most always helps you.  There are, in fact, two kinds of people in this world: those who are properly medicated & those who should be.  This I know for sure, OPRAH, so shut up.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You’d medicate your gall bladder if it wasn’t working properly. Or your heart.  Our ancestors used medication too, in the form of bourbon and martinis.  Our options are much safer.  You don’t have to feel like the world is closing in on you and it doesn’t have to be “just” post-partum depression or baby blues.  It can be when they’re 14 and want to go to the mall but they don’t have the right bra at that mall (because there are no visible tits on your child to begin with) so they need to go to Target and while they’re at Target they find three shirts they need and they have to have all three and you are such a BITCH because you set a budget of $30 and how is she ever going to not be laughed at when she goes to the PARTY & in that 30 seconds in Aisle 2, YOU JUST RUINED HER LIFE!  It can be then.

3.  Some of your child’s grandparents will possibly drive you stark-raving mad.  Because they will either tell you how to raise your child LIKE THEY DID decades before OR, EVEN WORSE, they will give this little smirky look like John Boehner gives Obama when he sits behind him during the State of the Union address & disagrees, which, much like with the grandparents, is every other sentence.  That look from grandma means, “Oh, you think you’re being so progressive making those babies do things like sit in car seats and not snack on raw weiners but YOU SURVIVED & YOU’RE PERFECT!”  Which ultimately means, “Look, America!  *I* raised perfection & my kid doesn’t measure up!”  This will anger you to no end and I applaud you for not smacking them.  This is one of the toughest things I’ve dealt with as a parent.

DISCLAIMER #2:  My dad and stepmom have never done this.  They may have disagreed a couple times with how we raised our kids but never raised an eyebrow and only gave advice when asked.  Imagine that – the ones that don’t express judgment get asked :)

4. Your baby may not like breastfeeding.  You may not like breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is not the PERFECT food.  The food that works for YOUR child is the PERFECT food.  My daughter liked her bottles ice-cold, like most people like their beer.  A doctor told me I was crazy to feed her like that.  It could be traumatic on her infant stomach.  I told her to come over at 3 a.m. & help feed her.  That’s traumatic.  PERIOD.  Cold ones, it will be if it makes her happy.  Seriously though, go to a playground, ANY playground, right now and tell me which kids were breastfed and which weren’t.  (No fair, naming the 6 year old who is latched on to his mom lying across the park bench.  That’s a give-a-way.  And if you’re that mom, don’t be surprised when a line forms.  Kids are curious. That shit looks appealing.  To kids AND grown men.  Save that for your home quarters, please.)  But if breastfeeding is not for you, who cares?  I just wanted one person to tell me, “This is not necessary, you know.  Just quit.”  And finally someone did.  With Wyatt, I nicely said, “Please don’t tell me to breastfeed.  I’m very comfortable with my decision.”  With Brooks, I said, “Honey, did you pack that Koo-Aid here for junior in the diaper bag?”  There are no concrete rules with child-raising, except maybe to be honest with your pregnant friends, relatives, daughters, etc.  Don’t judge them.  Some things are just a personal choice and they’ve become a needless political platform.  We literally have organized groups that harass women who do not breastfeed.  I was a victim, practically stalked by a LaLeche woman.  I lived in Colorado at the time.  You have no business telling someone to nurse their baby anymore  than they have any business telling you whether you should wipe your ass front to back or vice versa.

5. People will judge how you educate your child.  There are so many ways TO educate your child.  Not every type of education is right for every child.  Our daughter did public education, K-12, though aspects of it were hard for me to watch.  It was her choice to stay and she did fine and is now off at a small university.  It might be right for your child.  Our sons go to a private Christian school because we wanted more individualized attention, staff & faculty that see individual differences in children and teach accordingly, friendly faces that act happy to see us & our kids instead of acting angry & exasperated.  We definitely LOVE less bureaucracy.  At this school, I’ve never felt a need to request a teacher, never seen a child grabbed by his arm and jerked, and the administration KNOWS my family.  I couldn’t tell you who the public LRSD administrators are on any given day and they certainly don’t know me.  It bothers me that people who have NEVER set foot on my kids’ campus judge it based on rumor & biased articles and have never experienced how it really feels.  That’s unfortunate.  It might be right for your child.  Some people have kids who thrive through homeschooling or online home education.  This would be absolutely no fun for either me or my kids.  I do not have it in me.  But my friends who do it?  I have them up on a pedestal with the inventor of the donut and people who can paint awesome portraits.  ULTIMATE ADMIRATION.  Maybe that’s right for your child.  But when you’re pregnant, no one tells you what a huge part of your life your child’s education will be beyond being sure they advise you to buy your home in a good school district.

6.  Sit down for this one.  You kids will hit adolescence.  They will lie.  (Yep.)  They will connive. (Yep.)  They will annoy the goddang hell out of you to do the silliest shit.  I personally would do high school over twice before I’d do 4-6th grade again with my daughter and sons.  They are hormonal.  They have no clue who they are or what they want.  They hate you because it’s cool to hate you.  Until they need you.  Then it’s cool, until they walk out the door and tell their friends with hair flip and eyeroll how much they HATE you.  (They will walk out the door, but bonus to you for your childrearing in their formative years if they shut it behind them.)  But wait,  none of their friend’s parents want to drive so you take the kids everywhere and pick them up.  The up-side to that?  You know where they are and what they’re doing.  It’s a pain but also, it’s time with those kids you can’t replace.  I cherish it now.  Oh, and sometime in middle school,  girls will want to dye their hair.  You’ll try to fight this.  I finally gave in.

“So, dye your hair.”

“Huh? Really?”

“Sure.  Dye your hair.”

They dyed their hair.  They dyed my hair, sink and walls too but it comes off.  There’s still a spot of dye on the ceiling but it just makes me smile when I see it.  They came out and showed me their dyed hair.  I couldn’t tell they dyed their hair but I said it looked beautiful, because in my eyes it looked absolutely perfect.  It will pass.  It will be hell and you will want to sell them, hide from them (done that – Priceline is great for this), and then damn if you don’t look forward to the happy moments again.  During adolescence they are few.  BUT THEY ARE THERE!

7. YOU WILL BE JUDGED!  Kids will talk to you like shit at this age and you will have other parents & grandparents butt in and tell you how to raise them or how “their kids never talk to them like that — not more than once!”  (I call bullshit).  Sometimes we don’t discipline our kids immediately in public.  It depends on the circumstances, severity and kid.  It’s really no one’s business.  Maybe when the offender gets home the video games are gone for three weeks.  Maybe we tie their hands behind their back at the table and gag them til we’re finished with our dinner.***  Whatever works. :-) Don’t let people’s opinions of you affect how YOU raise your kids.   Quite frankly sometimes we joke with our kids in a way that is horrifying to adults (sarcasm, advanced humor) & they stare as though we have them farmed out to be extras in porn or allow them to open for Andrew Dice Clay.  Expect judgment like this.  I didn’t see it coming and it was hard to cope with.

8.  The children will break 3/4 of everything you own in some manner.  They won’t care.  If you so much as chip the corner off one of their Legos by stepping on it with your boot, you, however,  will be subject to severe sanctions involving super glue (that after decades on the market, still fails to attach anything to anything except your finger to your lip)  or searching for “tiny pain-in-the-ass goblet from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Lego set – MINT condition” on eBay. Around 5th grade you grow a pair and throw all evidence of that shit in the trash when you break it, buried inside an empty can of vegetables that they would never touch.  Hint:  They can see them in the clear vacuum canisters :)

9. My final reality, because I’m getting sleepy is that when I had kids, I expected, when they were teens,  to be arguing over curfew, yelling “TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN”,  checking for alcohol, dealing with sneaking out,  you know, ALL the stuff you see in movies and on tv when teenagers are referenced.  Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my kid didn’t ever do anything wrong (BAHAHAHA) but for the most part, I think she and her friends have been honest about having designated drivers. She was pretty darn dependable about texting when she stayed over with friends.  We gave her freedom, put some trust out there and she stayed out of trouble, or, as a former teen, myself, I know that at least she was smart enough not to get caught….You’re probably expecting the worst during the teen years but I will forever value my dad’s theory to give me freedom and trust me until I screwed up.  Thank God speeding tickets were not considered screw-ups.

I could preach on, I’m sure, but just know that parenting is an amazing joy ride fraught with laughter, tears, frustration, anger, exhaustion, mass amounts of cash, pride, passion, and sometimes even boredom.  Some days you won’t like each other and THAT IS OK.  Some days you’ll lose your temper and THAT IS OK.  Most of us do the best we can and for the majority of us, THAT IS OK.

Footnotes:

*  I just asked my pediatrician if he takes AETNA.  You may want your interview to be more thorough.  But then my “birth plan” (remember we lived in Colorado – practically required) was: “1) Endure labor as long as I can. 2) Ask for drugs so I won’t feel it. ” Another lady in our class had one that was like 25 pages long and found it NOT funny when I asked if it included meal requests for the hospital stay.

**Okay, that piece of baby advice was mine.  Caught.

***JOKING! PUT THE PHONE DOWN.

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