Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wish. Wonder. Believe.

This is probably one of my all time favorite pics that I’ve taken! It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and I was out walking the dog. The sun was hitting the neighbor’s yard in just such a way as to light up the dew, like tiny little diamonds sprinkled across the lawn. When I moved closer to snap a picture, I realized that this single dandelion, gone to seed, stood tall and proud.

As I focused on the dandelion, I pondered on what this might mean. I saw some significance to the ‘gone to seed’ part of the photo, as I was feeling pretty seedy at that time, myself! But I was also on the verge of coming out of the dark, and I loved the sparkling points of light that blurred behind the central figure. I imagined that the lights were the cheering crowd, urging the dandelion on to it’s next life. Perhaps it was wishful thinking.

I posted the picture to our family website, and asked them to give it a title. One cousin suggested “Wish”. I hadn’t even thought of the childhood ritual of blowing on these puffs, making a wish as the precious seeds full of promise wafted away on the wind! It was such a poignant title, and hereafter, I thought of this photo as such.

Wish. Yes! Wish for peace in my soul. Wish to be where the Lord wants me to be. Wish to accept change as it comes. Wish to be what I am supposed to be. Wish to be whole again.

Just like the flower that had been both beautiful and bright, I had evolved. I had gone to seed. And it was time to let myself go, sailing in the breeze without care for where I would land, knowing that wherever it was, I would bring more beauty and life into the world. I would trust that the current of air would take me where I needed to be.

Since my return from Bro’s house, I’ve been busier than ever. Opportunities are presenting themselves like I would never have dreamed possible. The world is opening up, and I’m oddly at ease with all of this. I feel myself softly coming to rest on a variety of fields, tentatively catching hold of the fertile soil. Seeds are being sown before me.

Some will develop into beautiful, hearty plants. Some will cling to rocky places, struggling to maintain their hold. Some will blow away, perhaps coming to rest in another place. Still others will wither and die before they can even begin to grow.

And I’m all right with that.

I wished for peace, and I have found that. I know that no matter how hard the wind blows, I have anchors to hold me…and if not, I can trust in the Lord to take me where I need to be. He will guide me, sustain me, and comfort me.

I wished to be whole, and found that being whole is something entirely different than I had dreamed. Sometimes, to be whole, one has to be ready to unfold, and leave yourself open.

I’ve also learned that it helps to be standing tall like that little dandelion. You are able to scatter further and further from yourself, finding new and greener pastures. Had that little flower been lying on the ground, broken, the seeds would never have travelled on the wind.

Wish. See the wonder. And then believe!

You just might get it all.

4 the Record

I was reading Becky Higgin's blog today, and read that she had done a personal history project with the Young Women at Girl's Camp in her area. She has posted a beautiful starting point for your own story on her website. It got me all excited about writing my own!

I am all about keeping a history. I've found that the things that make me the happiest, and the things that make me feel the most fulfilled are all related to record keeping.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to develop a class on personal and family histories for our church. Mom and I brainstormed ideas, and had so many that we couldn't include them all in the class schedule! We called the class "This is your Life" (I was really into the Switchfoot song at the time!), and our teaser was, "Bring your history to life, and Life to your history!"

Each month, we met as a class and talked about some aspect of journaling or histories. Each month, we had an in class exercise, and then if we were willing, we shared these writings. It was so wonderful to hear the things that others wrote about their lives! We got to know one another better, learned things that we would never have heard in other situations, and inspired one another to get writing! I also issued a monthly challenge to be completed prior to the following month's class.

While the classes were not always huge...normal for our area, as we are a small branch and not a full sized ward, and our area covers a great deal of mileage...we always had a good time and left feeling good about our stories.

I'll include some of the information here over the next few weeks. I'd love to hear about your experiences, if you try some of the techniques!

4 the Record - Month One

"Every person should keep a journal and every person can keep a journal."Everyone has a story to tell, so why don’t we rush to tell it? Are we caught up in the rules and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that we don’t even start? Is it intimidating...or do we just think it will be boring?Let’s change all of that today!>Why keep a journal or write your life story? Well, for starters, it’s theraputic! It allows you to record your life for posterity. It can help others by offering a view of how we handled the trials and joys along the way. There are many reasons, but the main one being : it’s a commandment! We have been counseled by many latter day prophets to keep our records.

And there are so many ways to keep your personal records that surely you will be able to find a way that suits your style and time frame!

Here are some ideas:

· Your Standards: Journals, diaries, and notebooks are the age-old standard for journal keeping and history writing. Feel free to DOODLE a bit, or add embellishments, ephemera (Ephemera is transitory written and printed matter, not intended to be retained or preserved, such as receipts, brochures, letters, tickets, etc), or whatever strikes your mood. Make it FUN!

· The Technology Savvy — If you are good with a computer, you might want to try computer journaling. You can use a word processing program, or a program specifically written for journal keeping. See\products\idailydiary.htm, or examples The advantages here are that they take up little room (burn them on CD!) and can be searched electronically, as well as copied, easily read, and edited as you wish.

· The Shortcuts — Use your day to day correspondence! Save letters, emails, or online posts to tell your story. You are already writing it anyway! Just be sure to write often.

· Be Scrappy — If you are creative and like visuals, scrapbooking may be for you. Try your hand at scrapbooking your memories - -with or without your photos!

· A/V Cool — The very technologically gifted might opt for a video or audio journal. How exciting for future generations to hear your story directly FROM YOU!

· Specialty Journals — Use separate books for special memories, such as spiritual experiences, gratitude, happiness stories, etc.

— at the very least, everyone can take a minute at the end of the day to jot down important events, feelings, etc on a calendar, date book, or desk planner. Quick, easy, but effective!

· Blog It — The new craze is “Blogging”! (A blog — a portmanteau of web log — is a website where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. ) See,, or other sites that will host your blog for free. The advantage is that you could develop an audience, which would encourage your daily entries! Friends and family can keep up on your daily comings and goings. This is especially effective if you are dealing with something that will help others, such as an illness or condition.

· Fill in the Blank — Find a book or questions that allow you to just fill in the blanks to record your life. See any bookseller online, and search for “memoirs” or “personal memoirs”.

Now, let’s get started! The challenge for the month of July is to find a way that works for YOU...something that is exciting, easy, efficient, and will inspire you to write often! In future months, we will be talking more about what to put into our personal history and journals, but here are a few ‘ground rules’.

1 There are no rules!

2 There’s no journal police.

3 You don’t have to have perfect grammar.

4 You don’t have to have lovely handwriting

5 It doesn’t have to be fancy

6 It doesn’t have to be in story form

7 It helps if you use archivally safe materials, but something is better than nothing!

8 It doesn’t have to be a travelogue. Write from your heart, not your schedule.

That being said, here are some things that you should do:

1 If you miss a few days...or a month...or years...just start again! Don’t beat yourself up about it, but get back on that horse!

2 Write it now, while it’s fresh!

3 Be true to yourself. Don’t paint a rosy picture, hoping that your posterity will believe your tall tale. Let them get to know the real you. They’ll be much more pleased!

4 Be complete. Include full names, dates, places, and any other pertinent information that the reader might not know inherently.

President Kimball said, "People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations. Each of us is important to those who are near and dear to us—and as our posterity read of our life's experiences, they, too, will come to know and love us. And in that glorious day when our families are together in the eternities, we will already be acquainted."

Next month: “It’s the little things...”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blasting off to Space Camp

I had the incredible honor of going to Space Camp a few years ago, not once, but four times! I was chaperoning a group of scholarship winners from our area, and was able to see the program up close, take pictures of the kids as they participated, and get to know some of the kids who attended. They were all AMAZING, and Space Camp is undeniably one of the greatest experiences ever!

I'm going to share a press release from those Space Camp days....

It’s not your average summer camp….in fact, there are no silly crafts, no camp songs, and the closest thing to a campfire is the glow of a computer console as you blast into space with a shuttle mission simulation. This is serious science and technology, in a format that inspires and teaches young minds.

In the sultry southern humidity of Huntsville, AL, I chaperoned a group of scholarship winners attending Space Camp. When most kids were fanning themselves in the summer heat or splashing in water, these kids were learning about astronauts, space travel, history, crew systems, and much more.

The program is fast paced, with activities ranging from briefings and presentations to hands on simulations and training. The day also includes time for team building and fun activities such as climbing the rock wall at the Mars Mining Simulation. It is a successful mix of information with kinetic activity, real life exhibits of objects from space history, and realistically designed experiences with space training that not only keeps their 9-12 year old minds occupied, but fills them with wonder and excitement about the world around them and the space beyond.

Two Shuttle missions allow the Trainees, as Space Campers are most commonly called, to become a member of NASA and learn firsthand what it is like to blast into space or to manage the proceedings from Mission Control. Trainees are assigned a job and instructed in their particular position. When mission time comes, it’s the real thing….astronauts enter the Shuttle Intrepid through a side hatch, climb onto the flight deck via a ladder, and take their headsets to begin countdown to liftoff. Each Trainee has tasks for the mission, and the switches and led displays are real and responsive. Monitors alternate between real-time shots of the Trainees in the Shuttle and dubbed in footage of actual missions to create a convincing environment for this exercise.

Each team, consisting of 12-14 Trainees, is evaluated during their missions for professionalism and cooperation. During training time, it is not uncommon to find the Trainees mugging for the closed circuit cameras or giggling on the headsets. Once the mission begins, however, play time is over. Trainees are required to behave as their NASA counterparts, and teams are docked for any antics with the equipment. They learn to use microphones without speaking too loud or causing unnecessary noise, and courtesy when a teammate struggles with a task. They are taught to encourage one another, work together, and pay attention to detail. Mishaps can occur, and the Flight Director has the means to talk the Shuttle astronauts through the problem and return them safely to Earth. And systems actually record the input of each Trainee. One team returned to Earth with their Payload Bay Doors wide open….a mistake that could have cost the lives of everyone aboard. It’s an effective lesson in taking your responsibilities seriously.

But then again, it’s more than that. While Space Camp greets each Trainee with a sign above the door that reads, “Through these doors walk America’s future Astronauts, Scientists, and Engineers”, we can assume that not all of these aspiring young minds will enter the Aerospace industry. What will the others take from the curriculum?

Team building and self-confidence, according to chaperone, Jaycie.
“I was constantly amazed at the lessons learned during these missions,” Jaycie reflected. “I would watch them exit the simulators, and listened to their comments. These were lessons that they learned on their own, without the adults guiding them to their conclusions.”

One Trainee who served as the Shuttle Commander, a high profile and glamorous position on the Shuttle crew, lamented that she had hoped to do the EVA (Extra-vehicular activity, or moonwalk) as well. With a shrug, she noted that they each had their moment to shine, and she couldn’t do everything.

Another Shuttle Commander exited the simulation shaking his head. “I couldn’t remember a thing!” he noted. “I’ll never do that again!”

Discovering that we each have our own limitations and comfort zones is all a part of realizing that the team consists of many individuals, all of whom are important and contribute to the mission in their own unique way…a way that they alone may be suited to. Trainees who are uncomfortable speaking and reading aloud shied away from the job of PAO, or Public Affairs Officer. This position requires the Trainee to report to the public what is happening, and explaining technical terms in a way that the general populous would understand.

It was not just about discerning your level of involvement, but asserting your expertise, as well. Trainees found out that you sometimes had to remind your teammates that things were not going as planned. Without adult intervention, the Trainees were overheard to say things such as, “We need to work faster…we’re running out of time. Can I help?” and “You’ve done most of the work. Let me do this part.”

“The children were virtually immersed in the Space Program, learning with their peers in a stimulating environment. Not only do they increase their knowledge, expand their horizons, and consider careers perhaps not even thought of, but they develop a confidence and self-sufficiency from spending the week away from home and in a challenging setting.” added Jaycie.

An additional exercise in which the Trainees traveled to Mars was a favorite amongst the campers. Climbing aboard a small space vehicle, they experienced a ride to Mars, stopping by the ISS (International Space Station). Arriving at the red planet, they enter a lab set up to establish a Mars base. Trainees exited through a pressurized passage to the surface to perform tasks related to this such as soil samples, depth testing, checking for radiation, and finding a suitable spot to build the station. Inside the lab, they work to record and analyze the data of the surface team, as well as to build a model of their proposed Mars base.

During the five-day program, Trainees experience what a real astronaut might during training. A favorite of all is the Space Shot, which simulates a rocket launch, including a 2.5 second liftoff to 140 feet. They then experience 2-3 seconds of weightlessness as they fall back to Earth. Other simulators included the G-Force Accelerator, in which Trainees can feel the effects of 3-G’s pushing on their bodies. Chairs actually slide up the walls as the speed of the simulator increases.

Exclusive to the Space Camp curriculum are the Five Degrees of Freedom Training Chair, Multi Axis Trainer, Manned Maneuvering Unit, and 1/6 Gravity Chair. Trainees enjoyed the Multi Axis Trainer, which mimics the spins that an astronaut might experience upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Bouncing in the 1/6 Gravity Chair gave them the feeling of walking on the Moon, with it’s diminished effect on weight. The Manned Maneuvering Unit and Five Degrees of Freedom Chair actually gave the kids the chance to pretend to be astronauts, working in an environment of reduced mobility in the vacuum of space.

2003 Scholarship Trainees were honored to hear from a real astronaut in a special briefing. Colonel Richard Searfoss flew into space three times, his final mission as a commander of the STS-90 mission. STS-90 was the most complex science and research mission ever flown, in which the astronauts themselves were part of the testing for how the brain and nervous system adjust to weightlessness. He spoke to the children about his experiences not only in space, but as a member of a team. As Shuttle Commander, he had the responsibility and privilege of bringing the team together to accomplish their common goals.

Tux and Musician were greatly blessed to be able to attend with me that year, and got to hear Colonel Searfoss speak. It was a real highlight of our time there. He spoke of his faith, and the things that came into focus for him while in space…the things that were most important to him and why. We later learned that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which explains why he seemed so comfortable and familiar to us!

It was interesting to note that while both of my boys enjoyed Space Camp immensely, they had very different favorite activities. Musician loved doing an EVA, even though his helmet fan broke and he was a great sweatball by the time he emerged from his space suit. He was uncomfortable in Mission Control, talking on the microphones. Tux, on the other hand, was unimpressed with the EVA. His shining moment was as the Flight Director, a stressful position in Mission Control.

The week ends with a dramatic graduation ceremony, which takes place beneath the only full size Shuttle Stack displayed in the world. It’s imposing figure shades the Trainees, their team leaders, and parents from the blazing Alabama sun as they are awarded their Space Camp wings, and then set free…to fly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Indignity of being a WOMAN

On most days, I am proud to be a woman. On most days, I will extol the virtues of our gentle nature, our mothering instincts, and our sweet dispositions. (most of the time) But there is one day a year that I find it somewhat humiliating to be a woman.

Do you know what day that I mean? Yup, that’s the one. The day that we visit our ob/gyn.

The whole visit starts off badly. Is it absolutely necessary to say, “Hello, Mrs. Jaycie! How are you these days? Would you like to step on this scale and be completely embarrassed by how long it takes me to balance the little doohickey at your tremendous weight?”

No matter how cheerful that nurse sounds, she always follows her greeting with an invitation to step up on the plate. No sweet smile can offset that.

They then whisk you off to a room where you are asked a series of questions like:

“How old are you?” For heaven’s sake, you have my chart in front of you, and it clearly states the year that I was born. Can you not do the math??? Must you make me say it out loud, when I am clearly in denial over the whole thing?

“Three children?” You thought that perhaps I was crazy enough to have MORE? Or did you think that three was far too many mini-me’s to have let loose upon the world???

“Date of your last known period?” Okay, this one is tricky. I’m sure that I had one last month, but I may have had one in the meanwhile that just slipped by me without me knowing.

When this is over, she invites you to go into the lavatory and leave a sample for her. At least this is easier in my normal state than it was nine months pregnant, when they want you to do this for them weekly. Truly, do they expect you to get a clean sample in that little cup when you cannot even see your own FEET, much less the nether regions of your body? Really, a joy to do today, when you think of it in that perspective.

Next is the doctor’s turn. I enjoy this part, as my doctor and I go back to the birth of Tux. It made me laugh today when he asked the ages of my children, sighing when I told him that Tux was now 18 years old. We’ve been together for a long time, my doctor and me.

He always asks me if my parents are alive and how old they are. I take great pleasure in reminding him that my father is HIS age, and my mother a year younger. I know this because once during a pre-natal visit, he and my mother got talking and realized that they lived in the same valley and had once attended many of the same record hops that a local radio station sponsored. (the wild kids attended these record hops, just to let you in on a little secret!)

He asks his own set of uncomfortable questions, and follows up with, “Hmmm…your weight is up a little.” Really? I hadn’t noticed! And thank you so much for bringing it to my attention, because my day wasn’t nearly bad enough already.

Then things get really interesting. He gives me the lovely little paper drapes and tells me that he will be right back. I stack my clothing neatly on the chair, so as not to look like a slob…tucking any unmentionables into the folds of my jeans so that there is nothing embarrassing hanging out. Then I don my special ‘clothing’, and try to sit nonchalantly on the table.

There is absolutely no way to look casual sitting on an exam table wearing paper clothing that covers only one hemisphere of your girth. Let’s just get that out in the open. So I am trying out positions in which I can pose to look the least awkward when he comes back in. Despite repeated efforts, I never find one that feels carefree.

He knocks on the door. What do you answer??

“Come in!” (always delivered in a singsong voice like you are hosting a Tupperware party in there)

“I’m ready.” (said somewhat provocatively? Or perhaps with doom and gloom dripping from each word?)

“It’s okay!” (which technically means that he is not going to catch my lily white bum as I dash to the table, trying to cover myself before he gets fully into the room, but in my mind, means that I approve of this situation, of which I do not!)

“I’m NAKED!” (which seems the most natural, and what comes to mind first!)

Or the more direct, “I’m as covered as I’m gonna get and you are going to see it all in a minute, anyway!”


At this point, I get to explain to him why my three year old still thinks that he needs to nurse at night, at which the doctor gets a case of the giggles and spends the rest of my time laughing about needing a little nip before nap time. He apparently enjoys this joke, as it keeps him amused throughout the exam.

I add to the conversation that Todd announced to me in Sacrament Meeting at church the other day, (quite loudly) “Don’t wake up my brudder and don’t get your nipples out!” Now, clearly, his brother needed to be awake during church, but the nipples thing? I mean, really, I usually pop them out during our meetings, don’t I? This is after he had loudly thanked his brother for passing him the Sacrament, and then both kissed and licked the little girl sitting behind us.

As we get to the heart of the exam, our favorite part…where usually you look at the ceiling in silence and hope that no one notices that you are there…I decided to defy tradition and looked up over my drape to tell my doctor that SOMEONE needed to invent instruments that were a bit more comfortable.

I think that he was as glad to see me leave as I was. Thank heaven it only happens once a year.

Now I just have to do the follow-up mammogram. Not a bad test, really, for all of the bad press that it gets. It’s been years since I had one, although I’m supposed to go regularly, as my mother had breast cancer a few years ago.

Last time I went, Musician was about nine. He wanted to know where I was going, and I told him that I was going to have pictures taken of my breasts, so that the doctors could make sure that I didn’t have any cancer like grandma. He only caught the first part, and looked a little worried.

“They are going to take pictures of your breasts?” He asked for clarification. “Why? So the doctors can go…” he raised his eyebrows repeatedly and then got a big grin. “Woo hoo?”

I’ve had three children and nursed for a total of 81 months. Trust me. There’s not gonna be any woohooing for THOSE pictures.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

When life gives you lemons....

She planned the party carefully. It had to be perfect…she was hosting the event of the year. Celebrating her newfound freedom, she wanted to make sure that it was both festive and fun, as well as fruitful for attendees and hostess alike.

She pressed her dress, laid it out on the bed the night before. The morning would come too soon, and she wanted to be ready. Her guests would be arriving promptly at 10AM, and she would need to be on the top of her game. The lemonade was chilling in the refrigerator already.

When morning came, she loaded box after box into the front yard, arranging them just so. When the finishing touches were done, she took the invitations…signs, as it were…and drove to the nearest intersections to post them.

“New-Husband-Ditched-Me Garage Sale”, they boasted. She had to admit, they were brightly colored and would surely generate attention. If not for the cheery colors, they might intrigue passers by with the honesty of her signs.

Then, returning home, she donned the wedding dress, carefully pinning a “for sale” tag on the lapel. With a grin and a deep breath, she was ready.

The day was a huge success, as she greeted her patrons and guests with ice cold lemonade…an homage to the old adage that when life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. Her wedding dress, now a mockery of the short marriage, was almost fun to wear in this instance. It certainly gave her plenty to talk about! Her wares were fascinating, especially when the guests noticed that HIS things were for sale across the yard – far, far away from the things that she was selling. She would reap the rewards of the things that he left behind, but they would not be allowed to mingle with her things.

Hubby attended her sale, and laughed as he recounted her careful preparations and forethought. Surely, the most memorable garage sale that he had ever attended.

Think of our little bride next time life gives YOU lemons. Don’t just make lemonade…throw a party. Laugh about your situation. Sell the stuff that offends you.

Living well is the best revenge, don’t you think?!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Luna Lovegood is my hero!

I love Luna Lovegood. From the moment that her character joined Harry Potter’s little band of misfits, I knew that she was going to be my favorite. A little offbeat…okay, a LOT offbeat…but she is wise and open to the universe, allowing her to see beyond the obvious to the truth.

The following conversation has been on my mind this last week:
Harry Potter: How come you're not at the feast?
Luna Lovegood: I've lost all my possessions. Apparently people have been hiding them.
Harry Potter: That's awful!
Luna Lovegood: Oh, it's all good fun. But as this is the last night, I really do need them back.
Harry Potter: Do you want any help finding them?
Luna Lovegood: I'm sorry about your godfather, Harry.
[clasps his hand comfortingly]
Harry Potter: Are you sure you don't want any help looking?
Luna Lovegood: That's all right. Anyway, my mum always said things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end.
[they look up and see a pair of her shoes hanging from the ceiling arch]
Luna Lovegood: If not always in the way we expect.

I was watching “Order of the Phoenix” with Allie and CJ, getting ready for the premiere of “Half Blood Prince”, and I had been lamenting the loss of some jewelry that got lost in the trip from home to their house. It wasn’t anything costly, but each piece was something special to me for sentimental reasons, and I wasn’t very happy about losing the case that they were in.

I’d looked through my suitcases and bags…at least four times…to no avail. I’d asked my family back home to see if maybe I left it there and never packed it at all, but they didn’t see it anywhere. I heard this in the movie and was cheered. Perhaps my jewelry would find it’s way back to me, eventually. I returned home and searched the house myself, still with no luck. I was getting increasingly discouraged, but Luna’s words kept echoing in my head.

Today, she was vindicated! Sis called to tell me that Allie had found my jewelry in their house, stacked in a pile of clothing that I had brought for the girls. I can’t even tell you the relief that I felt! I am so happy to know that I would see it again, soon. The fact that they were found where I NEVER expected them to be was amusing, right along the lines of Luna’s “if not always in the way we expect”.

I think that the most appealing thing about Luna is that she is centered, focused on all of the most important things in life, and not caught up in the politics of every day. Sure, she has some odd ideas like nargles and wrackspurts (which I’m not entirely convinced do not exist, based on personally experience with losing things and fuzzy thoughts…), but she is a spiritual character that is what I would consider a “clear spirit”, one unhindered by worldly bias. She is a treasured friend to Harry, who actually considers her advice and observations.

Luna Lovegood: [about her father] We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore.
Harry Potter: Thanks. Seems you're about the only ones that do.
Luna Lovegood: I don't think that's true. But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel.
Harry Potter: What do you mean?
Luna Lovegood: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat.

Again, applicable in our lives, as well! Doesn’t Satan want us to believe that we are alone? Aren’t we less intimidating to him if we feel like we are cut off from the world? We become easy prey for him. If we are surrounded by those that we love and that love us, however, he has very little leverage with which to turn us from truth.

She just makes you feel good when you see/read her! Definitely the kind of friend that I would want to have around. Luna doesn’t care much about what others think, and is only mildly concerned that she is considered “loony”. She just continues to do what she feels is the right thing to do, even if no one else believes her or appreciates her.

I totally wish that she and Harry Potter had ended up together, instead of Ginny. The chemistry was better…they are both “different”, and she understands him so much more deeply than Ginny could. I think that he was the most relaxed around her, the most himself. I am not sure why Ginny was chosen, except that Harry spent so much time with the family, but it didn’t really work for me. He and Luna were meant to be together.

Luna Lovegood: I've never been to this part of the castle. Well, not awake. I sleepwalk, you see. That's why I wear shoes to bed.

Practical, that girl. I love it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Just when you think that you have it all together...

I wasn’t going to write today. I’ve been out of town and missed so many days anyway, it seemed like the right thing to do. Especially since I woke up feeling physically not well…and mentally even worse.

Of course, I’m feeling a little lonesome for the family that I had to leave, even though it’s wonderful to be back with my own family. I just see Bro’s family so seldom that it’s hard to say goodbye.

I know that I am suffering from “jet lag”, that post-vacation syndrome in which all of the running and not sleeping that you did on vacation comes back to haunt you. I’d also suffered from allergies or some sort of cold, and that was wearing on me. And of course, coming back from vacation, you are always overwhelmed by the realities of life that come back all at once, like bills and responsibilities.

Before I left, I put some spare jewelry in a Ziploc baggy…everything gets packed in Ziploc bags…but it never made it to my destination. I’m really not sure that I actually packed it, as it was one of the last things to be packed, and I was debating as to where it should be stowed for safekeeping. There wasn’t anything of great value – monetarily speaking, anyway – but they were things that meant a lot to me and I cannot find them anywhere.

I’m frustrated by a world that places such a value on dishonesty, and rewards this heavily. I always fall short because I can’t seem to get it through my thick skull that honesty may be the best policy, but it means that you will never catch a lucky break.

When I get into this sort of mood, it’s easy to see the cracks in the sidewalk, so to speak. To see that the state of the economy is scary and getting scarier. The news is never good. A ten year old girl that disappeared in our area before I left has not been found. Iranian guards are raping young girls to make their executions legal.

I turn to my “happy things”…a technique that I’ve employed with my depression for many years. I go to the things that make me happy, like scrapbooking, reading, and so on. I’ve not had a lot of time to do these things, as I’m unpacking and have other things that NEED to be done. Or at least, I have myself convinced that they should be. What I need to do is stop with the things that are making me crazy today and just do what I want to do, what will make me whole again for my family.

Here are some techniques that my therapist recommended, and I highly recommend to everyone:

1) Recognize that you are sinking. You need to catch it before it drags you into the depths and you are unable to pull yourself out.

2) Do something that makes you feel good! You should have a list of things that you enjoy doing, things that make you happy. Activities, sounds, sights, anything that you can bring to mind to ease your troubled soul. Take the time today to do three things that are on your list, especially when you are recognizing a downward trend.

3) When all else fails, let today be your down day. Cry if you need to, feel sorry for yourself, and wallow a bit. But promise yourself that you will not allow this tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can overcome these feelings of hopelessness then.

I think that I’ll take some Tylenol, let the tears flow, and pull out some pictures to scrapbook. I’ll hang with my family and ignore the dog hair that has accumulated in the corners, the suitcases that need to be unpacked, and the bills that have yet to be paid. I may plant some crops on FarmTown and read a little Harry Potter.

Tomorrow, we’ll face the world again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Knocking around in someone else's house...

Staying in someone else’s house is fascinating. (Especially when they are not home!)

The girls are here to help me find things, although I’m sure I’d figure it out because Sis is pretty darn organized. Her pots and pans are all stacked in neat piles (unlike the jumble of dishes that I have in my cupboard. In my defense, a) none of my dishes are from the same set, which happens after 20+ years of marriage, and b) I have teenagers who help in the kitchen and have no regard for neat piles!). Her drawers are not a mod podge of items, there are definite categories. In her linen closet, the towels are all the same size and folded identically, then stacked. Toiletries and odds and ends are sorted and stored in sweet little lined baskets.

She has air fresheners everywhere, which makes me remember that I have a stinky dog at home, and perhaps I should invest in more of these. Speaking of the dog, it’s quite nice to have a vacation from the constant vacuuming that we do at home. Here, once or twice a week is gonna do it. At home, it’s once or twice a day!

Cooking is interesting, as they have different ingredients on hand than we do. For instance, I was looking for sour cream, a staple at our house. In fact, so much a staple that we have sent Tux to the store as often as twice a week because we have run out. But they didn’t have any, and looked surprised that one might need such a thing. They don’t have powdered sugar. They do have Fish Sauce, jasmine rice, and other ingredients that at my house would be considered exotic!

I think that I’ve finally won over the cat, who first viewed me with much disdain and only a touch of amusement. Sis says that she is a funny cat, not very sociable. For that reason, Sis doesn’t often feed her wet food, which she loves. She feels that the cat should be lovey and THEN get wet food.

The first couple of nights that I was in charge, I made sure that Muffin saw ME with the can of wet food, placing it on the mat for her enjoyment. I would go find her in her hiding places and show her the can, then coax her out to the kitchen to eat. I wanted to her to know which side of the bread her butter was on! She now seeks me out in the evenings, snuggling a bit to see if perhaps, wet food is in store for her.

Aunt Jaycie never promised that she wouldn’t spoil the kids – or the cat – while they were away!

The dishwasher, however, is another story. The thing is possessed, I’m sure of it. It turns itself on without regard to the fact that it’s EMPTY, or has only one or two dishes. It doesn’t even seem to care if it has soap or not! I’ll come into the kitchen and discover that it has 32 minutes left (of a 2 hour and 14 minute cycle!). It’s electronic and has extremely sensitive buttons. Apparently, a passing child or merely a breeze can set it off. We had a real serious discussion yesterday, however, and I’ve kept it from washing air for nearly 24 hours. I am victorious!

It is also fun to learn to navigate in a strange city, which is even strange to the family. They moved here three weeks ago, only to leave again. They took me on a tour before they left, of the major places that I would need to go…McDonald’s, church, and Wal-Mart. What more do you need??? I am pleased to announce, though, that not only can I go to those places, I can take the back roads and not the main roads. I can find alternate routes home. I found the post office! (okay, mapquest gave me a little help) But even Sis has not been there. I am a great explorer.

I guess, when you look at it, it’s given me plenty of chances to feel like I’m successful. Maybe I should stay here a little longer!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Moment to Myself

I am living the life of a single parent.

Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong with me and Hubby! I’m staying at Bro’s house, taking care of his three children while he and Sis attend a conference out of town. The girls, CJ and Allie, are 10 and 8, and JJ is 4. I also brought along Todd, who adores his cousins and is a wild man playing with them.

But that presents some logistical problems. We’ve had a lot of fun playing, doing crafts, and hanging around the house, but we can’t stay cooped up forever. They need to get out and about some, and that means taking all four of them in the van…to someplace PUBLIC. LOL Not really a problem, as the girls are really cute with JJ and Todd, and mother them so that I can just direct the crowd where I need them to be.

The problem comes in when you have to go out for just one thing. Yesterday, we ventured to Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart to stock up on craft supplies, goodies, and necessities. We got some hot dogs for dinner and headed to the bakery section to get some buns. Everyone was getting crazy by then, and when I saw the batteries that we needed, I dropped them in the cart and headed for the exit. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that we still needed buns!

So…do I serve them hot dogs on bread and hope that they are okay with that? Do I drag the whole group back to Wal-Mart? Is there a mini-mart somewhere that I could dash in to? Leave them in the car? NO. That would make me crazy. Have the girls run in and get it? NO. They are living in a brand new area that none of us knows well yet and I couldn’t feel good about that.

We ended up eating leftovers and we’ll get hot dog buns next time we end up at Wal-Mart. It’s a different situation for me, as I usually have hubby at home, so I can leave Todd with him, or better yet – send Tux to the store to get what I need.

Most of the time, things go really well. They all jump on the trampoline, play quietly in their rooms (or not so quietly, but still happily), or watch TV. We walk to the park to play, or some other group activity. It gets crazy when one or more members of the group want to do something different, or definitely DON’T want to do what the others are doing.

And then there is the matter of quiet time. The kids are missing their parents (including Todd, who cries on the phone with Daddy and his brothers), and that means that they need some extra special attention. I also have to make sure that they eat somewhat nutritious meals (Aunt Jaycie did NOT promise that she wouldn’t feed them a lot of junk food during the week!), get enough sleep, and that the house is not completely and totally trashed. I spend the bulk of the day entertaining, comforting, cleaning…and then when it’s time for me to put everyone to bed and have some ME time…they are needing some lovin’. I’m happy to give it to them, but after a few days, I’m missing my blog, my Facebook time, and our family website! Not to mention the daily sojourn with Digifree, where I stock up on fun digital scrapbooking supplies.

And because my brother is military and we are surrounded by others in similar situations, it truly makes me appreciate military wives all the more! I know that Sis is often alone, when Bro is TDY for long periods of time. She does this for months on end sometimes, never having a reprieve or another parent to leave the kids with (or send the kids away with) for a moment’s peace.

Add to this the pressure of adjusting to a new area every couple of years, which means new routines, new friends, new surroundings. In this move, they even crossed the country, which means a different culture and different weather.

Before they left, I noticed that she sneaks out occasionally to weed the yard. That’s her thing here, they said. It’s therapeutic and allows her that down time, time to think. Time to regroup in her own head. She’s been lucky so far, as Bro is close to home, but the day will come.

It makes it all the more important to have a network of good friends that can help out. Trade babysitting, run errands, just to have adult conversation with!

Of the many things that I admire about military wives and Sis specifically, I have to point out one that you might not even consider. I have lived in my home for about 8 years. I still do not have all of the d├ęcor on the walls! Some rooms are decent, others a little bare. I just can’t decide what I want to do or can’t commit to anything.

Sis has lived in this house for three weeks. It is perfectly decorated with all of their things. It looks very much like the home that they had when CJ was born, and with the furniture being the same, it almost feels like that home, but without the humidity!!!

I have the luxury of taking time to make my home HOME. Military families move so often, and need the continuity of their home…and it makes it incredibly important to make it home immediately, especially for the children. I can see where it would make even the parents feel better about their new digs, too!

So today, I say hats off to military families everywhere! We appreciate their sacrifices, both great and small, on our behalf. And to all of you single moms, my heart goes out to you! Whatever brought you to this place, you are a saint to take on the task of raising a family alone.

Now, I must go, for the little boys are quiet…and that is never a good sign!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bye Bye Birdy

Isn’t there a movie where the bird appears and it’s a bad omen?

Yesterday, I was driving down a hill and saw a crow in the middle of the road, facing the side of the road but staring straight at me. Crows are stupid, they wait until the absolute last second before soaring off.

(on a side note, a nasty know-it-all boss that my hubby worked for used to insist that crows were incredibly smart. Which always made me question the fact that you always see dead ones on the side of the road – were those the only stupid ones?? I decided that the know it all was the stupid one, and hence, every time I see a crow, I think “That man was an idiot!” In the defense of my compassion, this was not his only attempt at proving his intellectual prowess and failure thereof, while at the same time belittling everyone around him)

Back to my crow. He stared straight at my car coming at him…and didn’t move! I was so upset! He would have been upset, had he not been bouncing alternately off the road and the bottom of my car. I am squeamish when it comes to the loss of life – any life – and it bothered me all day. (Gives a whole new meaning to "I can't Tweet", doesn't it??) I tried to put it out of my mind, but still kept thinking about it.

This morning, I was driving Musician into the orthodontist, and completely and totally minding my own business when another bird flew along the highway, flitting about flirtily…only to bounce off of my windshield. I didn’t see him tumble behind me, so I’m hoping that it was a glancing blow.

But now, I’m spooked. I mean, really! Who has two such close calls with birds in the span of 24 hours? To top it all off, I am about to get on a plane and fly across the country. OH MY GOSH! Dare I, with my birdy troubles of late? I watch the news, I know what birds do to airplanes!

They’re watching me, I’m sure of it. Beady little eyes staring me down for offing one of their own. I’m telling you, I can’t take the pressure.

Tomorrow, I’m gonna scatter bread crumbs across the lawn. A peace offering. Show them that I’m not the monster that I appear to be. He was looking STRAIGHT AT ME! He should have moved!

Then I’ll get on that plane with my head held high…and hope that no feathers fly.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gambling that is GOOD for you!

I was fascinated by psychology in college…I was originally a psychology major…and although I pursued a career in the most opposite of fields, I am still mesmerized by the human mind. I learned so much in the few classes that I did get in, things that I have used in everyday life, raising children, and most certainly – dealing with others in the world!

One of the most interesting subjects that we covered is the reward systems that shape our behavior. It is so important to provide motivation for folks to behave in a manner that will be most beneficial for the society in the long run. Through poorly thought out plans, well meaning folks have set in place a variety of systems and programs that provide incentive for exactly the opposite. I could go on all day on THAT subject!

But let’s talk about gambling. Gambling is incredibly addictive simply because there is the hint of a reward for your efforts. It is not a guaranteed reward…rewarding every effort…because that would eventually grow old. The subject would tire of the reward, and the behavior would cease or taper off. (AND it would put any gambling establishments in serious danger of financial failure!) It is not a reward spaced at regular intervals, which again becomes repetitive and the activity loses it’s excitement.

It offers a reward that may or may not happen on the next roll…or the next turn of the wheel. Okay, if not THIS one, then the next, or the one after that. It is the randomness that makes it all the more exciting and addictive. We imagine that just ONE MORE will net us the prize. Or maybe two more…and before you know it, you have used all of your resources and the payoff is still not in sight.

(Then, just after you quit, some old lady with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other stumbles up to your machine, plops in a quarter, and wins YOUR prize!)

It’s called Random Reinforcement, and it is the most powerful of all reward systems. It creates a behavior that is nearly impossible to extinguish.

I am not a gambler. I am cheap, I am conservative, and I just can’t give up my money that easily! But I have my own gambling issues.

I have found an activity that has the same reward system…and is equally addictive. I contribute a block of time, and every so often, I am pleased to be blessed with a great treasure. The rush is incredible! And then no matter how long it took me to achieve that payoff, I am ready to invest that much more time to feel that again.

I’m talking about Family History research. I have dabbled a bit, and just when you think that the river of information has stilled and nearly become stagnant…something pops up out of the depths and you find yourself paddling to the next set of rapids.

I’ve had a great amount of success, all things considered. I have some incredible stories of how I have found information, and how the pieces all fit together so perfectly. I can tell you of the angel hands that I believe have been involved. That is the ultimate goal, to unite with family who have left this earth without completing their lifes’s work. To give them a place in our family tree and remember them. For them, my gambling addiction can be a beautiful thing.

My most recent obsession (should we call it that?) is the Washington Cemetery, the old graveyard that we visited with Hubby’s geocaching group. I am still haunted by the names that I saw there, and wanting to know their stories. I can’t imagine how they came to be so alone and neglected! I want someone to claim them, to share their ambitions and dreams.

My thought is that I could make a website for the graveyard, with a list of names. There are lists out there, but they are not complete! I checked my pictures against the list, and I found at least 27 names that were not on the original list. Maybe someone is looking for them! My hope is to spend some time there, and with the unofficial curator, a neighbor that has fallen in love with the graveyard and tries to take care of it. Maybe we can even flesh out some of the names with their stories.

I’ve started a spreadsheet with the pertinent data…I can cross reference it with any hits that I get on or…usgenweb, anywhere that I can find any data. I can post the information that my cousin, N, has given me. Screenshots of census data, obituaries, photos. I can hope that anyone who might be looking for these names will stumble across it. Maybe even give us more information.

Did I mention that I’m somewhat of an overachiever, too? I have big plans. I have grand ideas. We’ll see if I can find the time to “gamble” on making a connection. Wow. What a payoff that would be!!! N suggests that you spend 10 minutes a day on Family History, and see how much you can accomplish in that small amount of time. I think that I could do that.

Or…maybe stay up all night researching and organizing the data.

See what I mean? It’s compelling!

How is YOUR Family History coming along? What can you do in 10 minutes a day? Can you actually resist that urge to spend the time and maybe stumble across some big find????

It’s gambling that is good for you…and even better for your relatives!

(gravesite of Mary "Mollie" Hanley, and the photo of her parents (William Jackson Hanley and Mary Campbell Hanley that N found)