Category Archives: Thoughtful Musings

Mothers Day

1 Day old. Not much bigger than the BIC brand ballpoint pen shown on his back. 1 pound 7 ounces.

8 years ago, I had my first Mothers Day. My son was 3 months old at the time, but in reality, was not even due to have been born!

Born at 28 weeks he was not only 3 months premature, but small for gestational age (SGA). At 1 pound 11 ounces (765 grams) and dropping to 1 pound 7 ounces (652 grams) he was what is considered ‘micro-premmie’.

Micro premmies are babies born less than 2 pounds and/or less than 26 weeks gestation. The list that the doctors give you as a parent of a micro premmie of things that may be wrong with your child, is both large and fear-inducing.

70-75% survival rate with 50-60% of children having lasting disabilities, with a much larger proportion of boys than girls. Disabilities range from cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness, deafness, developmental delays, behavioral issues, and more.

Our son is 8 years old now, he is in 2nd grade and is on par for all his subjects, except Math and Art. He excels at Math and has won awards for his Artwork. His sports skills leave a little to be desired (but that is much more likely a result of being my son – a less co-ordinated person you probably could not find than me!)

He is smart, funny, kind and compassionate. He reads and writes well and is also learning both French and Japanese at school. He has no behavioral issues. He is our miracle boy!

He was placed on a ventilator the day he was born. A ventilator is a machine you often see that breathes for the person – it puffs air into the lungs via a tube. It it often means your child will be diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease. (Something my son has been diagnosed with – though I suspect since our move to Aus, if he were to be re-evaluated he may have the diagnosis reversed – he’s so healthy here!)

Moments after birth, the doctors hand seemed so much larger than his head!

He spent a little over 3 months in the NICU and the fun times included (in addition to the day-to-day dramas) Pneumothorax (Collapsed lungs), Full Blood transfusion, various infections, feeding difficulties, almost daily bradycardia incidents (heart beating too slow), breathing stopping on various all-too-frequent occasions.

Fun stuff!

Holding Hands – holding my pinky finger the day after he was born

Holding babies these small is not usually an option right at the beginning, their skin is so fragile that movement and touch can be physically painful for them. ‘holding hands’ is the closest we got other than a few family photos for the first few days.

Nearly 3 weeks old and his fist still fits in daddys wedding ring

I wish I had taken this ring photo earlier, he was nearly 3 weeks old here. Had we taken it the first few days after birth he would have been wearing it as a bracelet. FYI my husband has small fingers, this ring is a size 7.5 women’s (I know this because I am a size 7 and this is only slightly large on me.)

Pacifier is getting smaller!

In the photo above he is nearly 4 weeks old! As you can see the pacifier is getting smaller….or maybe… he is getting bigger!

9 Weeks old! Pacifier is IN the mouth and shrinking!

And… a few weeks after he came home (4 months old) at just over 5 pounds:

Lastly, a photo take today.

8 years (almost to the day) that he was released from the hospital, and here is the very same brand and style of pen that was in the original photo. How 8 years changes things!

8 years old. The same brand of pen. How things change.

So Happy Mothers Day to me and all the mothers out there ! I have a happy, healthy, growing and thriving boy – what more could a mother ask for?

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Hello 2012, The Year Of Contentment.

sydney habour bridge & opera house fireworks n...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m naming 2012, ‘The Year of Contentment,’ is there really any better goal in life?

To be rich, beautiful, famous, successful… whatever your desire, we see these people splayed over our TV’s, ipads and computers. Attaining these goals has not made them more content, nor more worthwhile individuals. Do we really think Kim Kardashian is content? All that (plastic) beauty, money, fame, travel, clothes…not for one minute do I believe she leads a full and contented life.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, J-Lo,  when I look at these people – and the train-wrecks that are their lives – I see nothing even resembling contentment. It’s been written about, and proven time and time again, money doesn’t buy happiness, but what about reaching ones hotly-desired-and-worked-for goal?

Whether it be fame, riches, notoriety, publishing your first book, building the dream home, buying your first new car, a laptop, phone, holiday…. people dream and wish and hope, and gruel-it-out at their jobs just to get to the goal.

When they finally do, they are left with a stark reality. They are the same person – with the same struggles, angers, frustrations and flaws – as they were before they attained the goal. Goals are not a terrible idea, but placing all your life’s hopes and dreams on one ultimate goal, may well set you up for disaster.

In gambling we all know that riding all your money on one hand can make or break you – and the odds are not good, of it making you. Non-material goals are probably going to work out a whole lot better than the material ones, they bring a sense of self-satisfaction that a iMac just can’t compare with.

The only way to truly become content is to be happy with who you are, and the choices you are making right now. Who knows what 10 years will bring? Sure its good to have your 5-year and 10-year goals – we all have them, and it often helps us focus and not get lost or overwhelmed with day-to-day life – but be careful not to live for your goal.

You may find your life has passed you by, in your desperation to get to the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow – or worse –  you may find that it was all a fairy-tale to begin with and the pot of gold doesn’t even exist. It was built-up to such a frenzy that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype that was created and it’s not nearly as satisfying as it was supposed to be. (Kind of like Google +.)

So my ‘goal’ for 2012, is to be content, just the way things are.

I still have a way to go, but I know I am closer to it than I was 12, 18 or 24 months ago, and that’s an achievement in itself. I make my choices for me and for the betterment of our family, and have zero concerns about outside influences and their opinions of my choices.

So what are my goals for 2012, other than contentment? (A heady goal, I know!)

One of the foremost long-term goals I have, is the kind of son I want to raise. Sticking him in school to get an education, and exposing him to a few sports for team camaraderie, while feeding him 3-minute pizza and mac ‘n cheese, simply isn’t going to cut it for me. In recent years we have made some tough decisions for what we believe is his benefit.

On an ethical level, we wont’ take him to the circus, even if ‘everyone else is doing it,’ because our family will not play a part in contributing to the suffering and abuse of animals.

On a moral level, we have removed people from his life who were dysfunctional, choosing to further their own agenda, at the expense of him and his betterment.

On a physical level, we moved him to a new environment – 1/2 way around the world – in part, to help with his health, and his lungs have never been better! He hasn’t seen a doctor in over 12 months, a first for our family where we have been used to bi-monthly visits.

On a nutritional level, he eats a 90% organic or biodynamic, home cooked, wholesome diet – because without it – we believe his mind and body cannot operate as it was intended.

But what about character?

I have a clear path and direction that I want to lead him in. It is not one of achievements, trophies and awards (though those things are of course nice, and even admirable), its of a greater achievement for which there is no adulation, no award and no prize.

My goal is to raise him to be a person of integrity and clear values. A kind, considerate and empathetic person, someone who will sacrifice of himself to help another. To see a need, and move to fill it as a matter of habit. A person who will evaluate the cost of a decision and make a choice – even if it is to his detriment – if it accomplishes a greater good.

I watch the world we are creating for our kids. A world of processed foods, high-tech TV and video games, instant gratification, and selfishness. One where people no longer matter unless they contribute something to us of value. The term “networking” has become the new way to find employment all over the globe. People pass out cards and promote themselves endlessly. What about reputation? Integrity? Hard work and consistency? Honesty? They seem to have fallen by the wayside in favor of a buck, (or saving a buck).

I don’t want to forget to teach the basics, opening a door for a lady, saying “please” and “thank you,” standing for an elderly person, or pregnant woman on a bus. Respecting your elders, even if the conversation seems boring and out-of-touch.

I don’t care whether he grows up to be a Jew or a Christian, a punk, or preppie. I don’t care if he chooses to be a janitor or a doctor. I care about the impact he makes on the world around him, however small that impact may be. I want him to leave this world a better place than he found it.

He will have flaws, it is of course, impossible not to.

Acknowledging his mistakes, and making an effort to do better is as important as never committing the mistake in the first place.  A lesson without a mistake to learn from, is not a lesson – it’s a tutorial. (Personally, I never learned too well from tutorials.)

To this end, this holiday season, after reading the wonderful post by Southern Sea Muse, we researched children’s homes in our area. Unfortunately, we are in a small country community and the do not exist here – though we do have the contact details to use for some in the city, come Easter and next Christmas.

We made the decision instead, to call our local public nursing home run by the Salvation Army. They service both low-care and high-care patients, and after talking with a wonderful lady, we agreed to bring gifts and cards to 8 elderly people with no family. 4 women and 4 men.

We arrived bearing our gifts, plus flowers for the ladies. My son had made cards for each and every person, and they loved it. He was in fact (as far as I could tell), the closest thing to being treated like a Rock Star, without the microphone and sell-out crowd.

 

The Kiddo, Bearing Flowers and Gifts for the Elderly

Oh, I watched him cringe when the first old lady with long whiskers sprouting from her chin wanted to hug and kiss him, and I also watched when he softened at her delight and he hugged her just a little bit harder. We laughed together at the 96-year-old man wanted me to ‘come back tomorrow’ so he could bring me some roses from the home garden and ‘take me out on a date.’

We felt somber as we visited with the elderly woman with no hair and a body swollen with  fluids who, we were told, would not survive the next 48-hours. We patted her hands, left her with the last Christmas card she would ever see, and her last human contact from someone who wasn’t earning a paycheck to be there.

We wondered out loud, how one is unfortunate enough to end their life this way.

My son received an education in the theory ‘it is better to give than to receive,’ and in the harsh realities of life for those that have no family who care, and whose friends have all passed on long ago.

Did he leave his experience so impacted that his life would be changed forever? I suspect not.

The indicator? On our way home while I was extolling the virtues of the experience, I suggested we do the same thing every year. He responded with ‘uh, how about every second year?’ Clearly my job is nowhere near complete. He is a child after all, a 7-year-old boy who has no true understanding of loneliness, old age and death…. and as it should be.

But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? This is why my goal for raising him must never lose focus, never deviate.

It is the nature of the beast to want to satisfy ourselves, turn a blind eye and pretend we didn’t see that thing we should take action on, and fulfill our own empty desires. It is the nature of this 21-st century to tell us we deserve it, we deserve it immediately and without sacrifice – and should anyone else get in our way we should cut them off at the knees – it’s a dog-eat-dog world, after all.

This is what parents these days have to contend with. It’s a crap-shoot people – we’re just rolling the dice, hoping for the best – and praying we did our ‘homework’, that the job we have done is enough, and we won’t see them on the channel nine news in a police chase inside a decade.

I jest of course. I will be content this year if I fulfill my role to educate and guide my son, to be better than what the world tells us is acceptable, even desirable. If I guide him to want more than what is on offer from the media, and the ‘cool kids.’

Oh, what a goal I have undertaken!

Lets face it, whether you are rich or poor, beautiful or homely, healthy or sick – we only have one shot at this year that is 2012 – let’s make it count for all the right reasons.

Happy (Australian) New Year!

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In The Spirit Of The Holidays And All Things Good

Christmas tree

Image via Wikipedia

“You Must Be The Change You Want To See In The World”

Mahatma Ghandi

Though I spend most of my time making this blog one of light, airy humor, there are times where something of a little more substance is warranted – today is one of those times, and I do hope you read on, because this is vitally important.

One of the most poignant and valuable writers I have found on the web today is Southern Sea Muse.

She is a clinical therapist to ten broken children. Children that we – humanity – have broken. They were not born this way, but it has been their unfortunate lot in life to have the hope, faith, joy and happiness extracted painfully from them over time, by the very people who should have protected them.

SSM takes it upon herself, to spend her days doing what she can to restore their faith in us, willing them to give us another chance.

In her spare time, she portrays in such vivid detail on her blog, the lives of these children – I feel like I have stepped into their world – if only for a moment. In response to her herculean efforts, it’s up to us (yes, you and I), to take up the baton and do what we can to help her on this mission to restore what she terms as their “disintegrated hearts.”

Especially at Christmas.

SSM writes very openly in her blog about how she sees these children and their experiences, and it is insight into a world I personally cannot comprehend. A world, I need to hear and learn more of, because without education there is no understanding, and without understanding there is no call-to-action.

This being the case, I thought it a perfectly worthwhile venture to repost her latest post here (with her permission), in the hopes that more people will not just continue to stop and be thankful for a moment about how fortunate we are, but more importantly, take action and do what we  can for the forgotten children who exist in our cities.

To pave the way for a better future for them and children like them.

Without further ado,

The Sequestered Angel Tree

by Southern Sea Muse

In a land far away from our minds stands a lone angel tree today, seen by few, known by fewer. This tree is different from the rest.

You know of the others. Right now in stores across the United States stand hundreds of “angel trees,” decorated with carefully disguised identities of needy children in the community. These are children who through no fault of their own are in situations which render them financially less fortunate than other children on Christmas day. These children may live with their families or perhaps are foster children, but they still have the freedom to live with a family, attend school, and, although challenged, have a fairly typical daily routine in the daily world.

Allow me to introduce you to a similar, but rarely-seen angel tree.

This tree also has the names of carefully disguised identities of needy children, but these children are apart from the community. These children are the emotionally less fortunate who, through no fault of their own, have been subjected to and somehow survived unconscionable circumstances which have scarred their souls so badly, that they are unable to function in society as we know it. These children cannot live in a home, neither with family of origin nor foster home. These children cannot attend school due to their disintegrated hearts.

These children are locked away in an institution, both for their safety and for the safety of the community, or because they are the most emotionally fragile of children. They simply cannot handle life as we know it. They are there to mend their hearts and souls, and remain there until they are fit for society. This may take days or weeks for those in acute care; months, or even years in the long-term residential facilities…all of which are eternities, in a child’s eyes.

There they spend their days and nights, eating and sleeping, playing and fighting, wondering how they got there, and contemplating what they need to do to get out. There they try their hardest to get through each day with the shadows of their past following and haunting them, trying to do what schoolwork they can, trying to get along with others, with varying levels of success.

Some try their hardest because they have hope. Others do not try because they have given up hope, and need encouragement from one moment to the next. Still others try their hardest to show others their very worst, because if they can be disliked or violent enough, they can reject others before others have yet another chance to reject them…at least it is one thing in life they can control.

Their angel tree sits quietly in the corner of the small, empty lobby, the only unlocked room in the building. Other than the receptionist, it is only seen by the few still connected to these children who are able to visit: the state worker who must ask the child to choose between a voucher for clothing or a voucher for toys and who will be home with their family on Christmas; the ashamed, distant relative who is reluctant to be involved but wants to make a good show, the occasional lost driver who took the wrong turn down the end of the long road; the tireless staff and nurses doctors. Oh, and the UPS guy and mail carrier, neither of whom bring things addressed to specific children living there, except on rare occasions.

The requests for needs for these children seem somewhat unusual. The angels on this tree bear wishes for things like socks, because their roommate flushed their last good pair down the toilet during another one of his nightly rages, with enough bone-rattling shrieking to create a new nightmare for another child down the hall on the unit, unable to sleep…and not a shred of memory of the crisis, come sunup.

Like playing cards, since many of the games on the market, electronic or otherwise, further cause them to be unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and may trigger violent flashbacks. Or reinforce their tendency to want to solve problems with disconnected sarcasm and indifferent violence.

Like soft, stuffed animals or dolls, since anything battery-operated requires batteries – and anyone who’s been behind those locked doors long enough knows that if you slam a battery in the door near the hinges just right, it will expose a very sharp object that can be found in the core of the battery, which can then be used as a weapon to hurt someone. Or, for the self-harmers, to cut on themselves and draw blood, and wind up wearing scrubs and on 24/7 observation for days as a result. It is unfathomable to think how a young child might learn such behavior, but there it is.

Hygiene products are also popular, since the hospital-issued products are not exactly kid-friendly, and it is much more fun by far to brush your teeth with sparkly bubble gum toothpaste, like most other children enjoy on a daily basis. A pretty ribbon for her hair. An emery board, since nail clippers are not allowed on the premises, and long nails can be used to gauge eyes in a sneak attack from behind. A SpongeBob blanket for a bed instead of the typical ho-hum hospital sheets. Warm Cinderella footie jammies. Or a visit from a volunteer big brother/big sister or mentor, an objective other who will play a game with them and listen to their story…a story most can’t bear to hear, a story which defies common sense and human rationality.

Food item requests are never found on this angel tree; some children are on strict diets due to side effects of medications. And besides, the child who roamed the streets for his next meal has been known to wheel deals with other children: “I’ll give you the coupon I earned for extra game room time, if you give me your snack.” Snacks are then discovered hoarded under mattresses, up in ceiling tiles or in the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom which the adults all assumed were locked and childproof.

Some children ask for earmuffs to block out the incessant noise, which may come from either side of their skull at any given moment.

How did they get there, anyway? It may be because their parents sold them for sex in exchange for drugs. Or left them for long periods of time to fend for themselves. Or perhaps they locked them in closets or entertainment cabinets for their convenience. Or molested them repeatedly over the course of years.

These are the children who don’t know where their parents are, and the parents are either dead from their misdeeds or are happily homeless, preferring drugs and alcohol over their child….or simply abandoned the child and left the state, never to be heard from again. Some children may know where their parents are, but their parents voluntarily turn them over to the state because they don’t want them anymore. These children may have been in 15 foster homes, with no stability or sense of permanency. These children may have been along for the ride and witnessed a drug deal gone bad, resulting in murder. Or witnessed murder in their very own living room. Or tried to murder their family during a psychotic episode.

The end result is a child who is unable to make sense out of the world, who relates to others as they have been related to, and who does not and may never know childhood, as it is supposed to be known.

These are the children we forget about because they are quietly locked away from the rest of us while they pick up the pieces of their bewildered, shattered lives. You will not see them in schools or on sports teams. You may spot them briefly at the store, at McDonald’s or on a playground closely monitored by staff, if they are deemed well enough to go out into public at the time and their medication and behavior are stable. If that is the case, you will likely not know it is them you are seeing, and it likely will not register in the moment you see them, just where it is they lay their head at night – a place where they must be to work out their raw feelings of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis…their fear, their disappointment, their confusion, their rage

The angels on their tree represent a completely different type of need – a need that is real but often goes unknown and unheard by most.

Still needing and wanting to believe in something despite their inability to trust mankind, the younger ones hold fast to their belief in Santa. No, there is no chimney in this place, but they are assured that Santa has keys to the joint, nonetheless. Their lives may have taken an unthinkable course, but their anticipation and hope in being loved and cared for like any other human is entitled to, is no different from yours or mine.

I urge readers (and writers) to locate the nearest children’s psychiatric hospital in your area (and they are there, somewhere…I cannot point you in the direction of the children I know due to privacy and confidentiality issues). Please consider dropping off a small gift  for one of these children who will wake up Christmas morning behind locked doors…on the inside looking out, never sure when they will be ready, if ever, to be the one on the outside looking in.

This gift needn’t be material…write them an anonymous letter and tell them how brave they are, how proud you are of them for enduring all they have. Tell these children that they can do it, that they are loved, admired and respected. That they are believed, that their feelings are real and important. Tell them that they matter. Color them a rainbow with your words, that they might be assured that their world will hopefully not flood like that again.

Such a small gesture has incredibly meaningful ramifications.

For what is small to us, is huge to them, bigger than we might ever guess…whether or not we remember about their angel tree now and in years to come. Like a standout, cherished childhood memory, they will remember, and it may just be the one memory of hope and love that will help heal them on their horrific journey. It may be the one thing they have, hold, hang on to and refer back to as the biggest spark of light that brought them through their darkness.

God, help us all help the sequestered and forgotten children of the world, the ones least seen in our communities – the ones who most need miracles and a reason to believe again.

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Planking Mario’s, School Principals, and Lunar Eclipses.

We love my son’s school. Love. If I could go back in time and go to school again, I’d attend myself.

It’s one of those nice unexpected surprises in life. You pretty much assume that you’re going to like some things about your kid’s school, tolerate others, be totally agitated by a few, and pretty much just get through. When your expectations are exceeded, it’s like winning the lottery.

Before my son started at this school, we checked out another. We met with all the appropriate people and liked them. It seemed like a good fit, the grounds were well-looked after, facilities were great, class sizes reasonable. It ticked all the boxes – until we met the principal.

I’ve had a theory since High school that all school principals are assholes (sorry to all the principals reading, but bear with me on this!) My principal(s) were very small men (figuratively), who took great pleasure in being king of their castles, and wielding the power whenever possible. I went to a private schools so rules were usually more strict and discipline was of primary importance.

One such rule was when you were old enough to get your drivers permit, you could only drive your car to school on approved days. The reason?  There was not enough parking in and around the school for teachers and students.

What this translated to for most students, was the permission to drive to school a day or two per week, necessitating train and bus transport for the remaining days.

This is almost an exact replica of my first car. Except mine was a faded baby-poo green. I'm sure you can imagine my popularity and level of coolness.

Unlike most of my more intelligent counterparts, who drove whenever they liked, and parked a decent distance from the school – walking the rest of the way and keeping the school none the wiser – I decided to confront the system with honesty, and buck it to their faces.

Why, I questioned, did the school not plan for this growth and expansion by choosing a location with ample parking? What was the board of directors doing about this issue? Many hours of valuable homework time were being lost by seniors, wasting time on public transport when they could be home focusing on work (or the latest cosmo magazine and manicure), depending on your definition of ‘work’.

I found a lovely old lady who lived a few houses up from the school, who had no car and an empty driveway. She was more than happy for me to park my car at her house every day. The principal declared it a ‘no-go’. It would be unfair to other students, he claimed.

My father got involved and there was a lot of back-and-forward letter writing for a while, before, totally exasperated, dad decided to call the principal and talk it out – hopefully solving the problem once and for all. I don’t remember much about the conversation other than hearing him shout “You have your head so far up your ass you can’t see the light!”

My father was not prone to bad language. In fact, this might be the only time I ever heard him use the word ‘ass’. Clearly this principal had driven him to the point of absolute frustration with his lunacy. I understood completely.

As I heard him hang up the phone, I smiled to myself, knowing that only a positive outcome for me could come from such a statement.

It did. I drove every day for the duration of my schooling.

I digress.

When we met with the principal at the alternate school we were checking out, he put out his hand to shake ours and his voice boomed; “You are so lucky to find a space with us…. this school has such an exemplary record, we have a waiting list of people desperate to get in. You really should consider yourselves incredibly lucky. I was honored as one of the top 20 principals in NSW in 2002.”

2002!! That’s like 9 years ago dude! Before wireless internet and Justin Beiber (his fame – not his birth – though it’s probably a close call). It barely counts as this decade! (Judging from his personality,  I also suspected the criteria was very ambiguous.)

I mumbled something polite, while giving my husband the look. The look said; “we are not sending our kid to learn under this douches guidance, under any circumstances.”

We left and I exclaimed, “Can you believe it? I thought it was only because my last memories of school were as a kid, that I thought all principals were such douchebags! They’re still douchebags, even though I’m an adult!”

(Perhaps not the most eloquent way to describe it.)

My opinion changed when I met my sons current principal.

I liked him immediately. As we toured the school he shared story after story with us, keeping us laughing and impressed all at once, but what sold me was this statement;

We have a zero tolerance rule for bullying in school, we don’t have a bullying problem…well except for Jennifer L,” he sighed dramatically.

Jennifer L is a grade A student, prodigy at violin, mathematics state champion 4 years running, volunteer firefighter and all-round incredible person. Unfortunately she had a fight with her boyfriend in the senior center last year and slapped him across the face and she’s been labeled as a bully ever since.”

“I flinch every time I see her, or use a book as a protector shield if she comes to my office – I just never know what she might do. She is mortified. I use her as the example for bullying for every new student that comes in the school.”

His eyes twinkled as he described the situation and his mouth showed the beginnings of a smile.

It was hilarious imagining this super-achieving ‘good girl’ let the emotions get the better of her (as only teenage girls can do) – and slap her man  – and then be the poster-child for bullying for the rest of her school life.

I loved it. And so did he. The smile on his face told me he enjoyed telling the story and he enjoyed ribbing her about it at every opportunity. I suspect she is able to laugh about it too.

So here my son will stay (at least until their bullying mascot graduates and then we’ll need to reconsider our options), and in the meantime this school has given me hope that there are school principals that exist who are nice, normal, amusing, and not on some kind of crazy power trip.

Thank you to all those who fulfill this role with dignity, fairness and kindness.

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As we all know the lunar eclipse happened on Saturday night (Australian Time). It started about midnight and I had decided to stay up to watch and try to get some photos.

Clouds did not predict a successful outcome

I am not particularly great with a camera. I love photography, but the aperture, ISO, white balance..blah, blah, blah… is just all to technical for my little mind and so I just randomly change these things up and down as I take photos and hope I get a few that work. (Really, I do. Makes my husband crazy.)

Unfortunately, this theory landed me with a hundreds of photos from the eclipse that were useless at best. Shockingly, a few of them did turn out OK and I decided to include them here. All I used was my Canon Rebel XSi, a tripod, my Front Porch, a Sigma 70-300mm lens, and a bottle of wine.

(Bottle of wine is mandatory, remember you are staring at a big light in the sky for hours with nothing else to do but check out the edge work on your neighbor’s lawn. Studying that edge work is a lot less arduous when you are liquored up. Trust me.)

It started really cloudy, so I didn’t get any good full moon shots, and I wasn’t sure how it would end up

They eventually started to dissipate and I decided to hang in there to see what might be

Clouds moving - Showing some promise

I got it!

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Ode To My Husband (The Only Man In The World Who Would Have Me)

The Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colorado

9 years ago today, we walked into a courthouse in Denver and eloped.

As we left, you with a lifetime of possibilities and me with my free goodie bag of Tupperware (a total 1950’s housewife gift, I was insulted and planned on writing a complaint letter. Like most of my planned complaint letters, it never materialized), I hoped I’d done the right thing.

The Day We Eloped - Ootober 18, 2002

A few months later with 80 of our friends and family, we officially tied the knot at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel (and I was right, it was an improvement on a Mexican restaurant).

The roller coaster ride began, and it hasn’t slowed down since.

Our wedding day - January 2003

The first day of our honeymoon as we began our drive down the coast of Mexico, you impressed me by crushing a beer can on your forehead (splitting your head open when you used the wrong end – the one with the sharp edge).  I laughed for hours, and have rarely stopped laughing since.

I knew without question then, you were the boy for me.

As far back as our wedding day you were making me laugh

You have been the best sport as I laugh at you more often than with you (most often in blog posts that I share with the world), and as we incessantly argue the value of crap shows like Smallville and True Blood, your addiction to community Poker games, the necessity of me owning more than 50 pairs of shoes, why Channel and Chanel sunglasses really are not the same (despite appearances), and the inappropriateness of showing your kid how to use a whoopee cushion on unsuspecting guests.

We have come to an agreement that you may not criticize my country’s wacky city names, when your own has a place called Arkansas (Ar-Kansas) and yet, you pronounce it Are-Can-Saw. This one city name definitively established that whatever the subject matter, you have no case – and never will.

You now know that here in Australia, a napkin is not something you use to wipe your face at dinner but rather, a ladies sanitary item. (That was a humiliating lesson to learn, I know.)

We have established that we can raise a great kid, but have no clue how to raise a well-behaved dog.  We know how to run successful businesses, but cannot work in one together, we’re different in almost every way, but we’ll both stand up for what we believe in (even if the cost seems exorbitantly high), and we have learned together, the largest of sacrifices result in the greatest rewards.

Our badly-behaved, but adorable dog

We can live anywhere in the world together and have a good time (not always keeping on the right side of the law, and that’s OK, because most laws are overrated and antiquated anyway). We now know that a foreign drivers license and a confused expression will get you out of almost any tight fix.

You are a man with remarkable patience, and impressive tenacity. Your fortitude is great, and your resilience is admirable. You are the best father I know (even that man in Cracker Barrel thought so), and your ability to kill a bug in the middle of the night without your contact lenses (by sheer bionic-perception), is extraordinary!

You are the son with the integrity, the father with the most adoring son, and the husband with impeccable taste…

If you are ever unsure why you are with me, remember what you told that guy who asked you why you didn’t marry an American girl:

“ Because my wife can defend the honor of a family, confront a scam artist (and convince him to accept an appropriate consequence), make a meal, prove a doctor with a foreboding diagnosis wrong  – reclaiming the health of our child, run a business and keep a house. And she can do it all without carrying a gun, visiting a shrink or popping a Xanax. That’s why I married an Australian girl.”

It’s been a crazy ride, but one well-worth taking.

Happy Anniversary!

xxx

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New Years Resolution – Starting In October

‘Post a Week 2011’ logically,  started on January 1st, 2011.

I’m just starting it today. To be fair, I only heard about it today – so its not like I’m late – rather, I’m uninformed.

There was a very official-looking letter I was supposed to post on my blog, to let you know I was joining the challenge, and what a tough and yet inspirational slog it would be. It was all very moving, and not like me at all. So I decided to change it.

Title: I’m Posting every day in 2011!

That was their official title. As you can see, I changed mine to

New Years Resolution – Starting In October.’

(It just seemed a little more accurate, and in the spirit of honesty I decided to go for it.)

I want to blog more.  But I also want world peace and lets face it, we can’t always have what we want.

That being said, I think starting a yearly resolution in October may just give someone like me the ability to come through and fulfill it. 12 weeks, 1 post a week, how hard can it be? In addition, I get to say that I completed the ‘WordPress Post A Week 2011 Challenge.’

Not bad, not bad at all.

I’ll probably achieve this while bitching continuously to my hubby – things like, “7 days have already passed goddam it, and its that time again, what they hell am I going to write about this week?” or “Where the hell am I supposed to find the time?” and “These other people must not have jobs.”

But that’s just part of my charm.

Of course, there will always be the days where hubby, kiddo or another completely insane family member (of which we have a few), will give me some great material to work with and the words will just flow.

I appreciate and look forward to those times – but not so much the aftermath from the aforementioned people, when they find out I wrote about their issue/indiscretion/failures or stupidity – publicly.

Still, by definition an artists life is a complicated life, am I right?

(Here comes the part where I will use WordPress’ suggested formatted post – because it seems only fair I give them a good plug. After all, they are actually completing a post a day,  and have done thus far, for all of 2011 – including the holidays when the rest of us were all at the beach! Kudos to them, right?)

“Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.”

Ok, I could only stand so much niceness in one post. My personal thought is that if I can’t manage a post-a-week on my own, then I shouldn’t be writing.

But I will encourage others, I promise. In my own special way.

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Dont Let Your Love Go Quiet

Hearts

Image by eirikso via Flickr

Today as I was putting my son to bed he looked at me and said;

“You know, when my friend Stuart gets home from school every day, he gets a cookie, but its OK I get something better than cookies, I get love.”

Of course I turned to him with all the love in the world and said “Oh my God, you are the cutest thing ever…here, have a cookie.”

After inhaling the aforementioned cookie (of which I think he totally manipulated me into giving him, kudos to him) he said; “You know I think Stuart probably gets love as well, he just doesn’t know it. The love in his house is too quiet.”

A friend asked where I found such an adorable child as she was thinking of getting one of her own. (Apparently he had been hiding in my ovaries for decades and I never knew it. How lucky am I?)

The lesson here from a 7 year old politician-in-the-making is that you should never let your love go quiet.

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How To Fit In, In Australia

2006 WSOP Main Event Table

Image via Wikipedia

My American husband has been playing poker on Tuesday nights almost since we moved to Australia 9 months ago.

One of the things that really stood out to him when he first started, was the lack of people asking what he did for a living.

In our experience in the US when you meet someone new, pretty much the first question out of their mouth is; “What do you do?”

It’s so different here in Australia. People just aren’t judged by their job, we  have a completely different system for sizing people up and its pretty simple and unique; you fit into category A or category B.

A. Is he a wanker?

A ‘wanker’ is pretty much the equivalent to being an ‘asshole’ in the USA.

or

B. Is he a ‘good bloke’?

A ‘good bloke’ is generally defined as someone with nothing to prove, who isn’t trying to impress anyone and who ‘bashes’ (trashes) the Kiwi’s (New Zealander‘s) and loves beer.

So hubby starting going to this weekly poker match about 6 months ago and for the first few weeks he didn’t say anything about this. After about 2 months he came home and it was as though he couldn’t contain himself any longer…” Its been months now and no one has ever asked me what I do for a living!” he exclaimed.

He was really quite fascinated by the whole process. Everybody chatting, playing cards, drinking and having a laugh. No station or prestige, just guys being…well, guys. Its been about six months now and he just recently found out that he’s playing every week with a Doctor, a judge, a trash collector and a newspaper reporter, amongst others. What a fantastically eclectic bunch!

I really love this about my country. No matter who you are, what your situation is in life, you’ll be given a ‘fair go’ by strangers just as long as you keep downing those beers and blasting those kiwis!

Ok, I jest a little, being a ‘good bloke’ is much more than this. Being able to laugh at oneself, not being ‘up yourself’ (pretentious) and being affable and willing to lend a hand are all traits that will take you far. Things like telling people you come from a ‘good family’, or announcing some prestigious sounding job, or showing off a fancy car or watch, will take you to category ‘A’ faster than you can say ‘friendless!’

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not the fact that you might have a prestigious job, wear a fancy watch or drive a luxury car that’s the problem. It’s the need to make people aware of it that turns us off. We are always happy for a ‘mate’ to have success and good fortune. As long as he remains a ‘good bloke’.  Confused yet?

The overwhelming message here is that what you do, what your title is or where you come from, is not important. Who you are, what you stand for and how you treat others, is. And to us, it defines you.

It’s a message I am so happy to be instilling into my son as I watch him grow up.

* Disclaimer: I know that not everyone is the US judge people by these values, and of course not everyone in Australia doesn’t. This is just an observation from the snapshot of our lives and the experiences we have had overall. My husband is American and we love all of our many and varied American friends!
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Who Cares About Age?

A gray-haired old woman from the United Kingdom.

Image via Wikipedia

My 20 year school reunion is coming up in August. That makes me pretty old, right?

My husband marvels at me with the whole age issue.

I know people (usually women) who would rather gouge out their own eyes with a spoon than tell anyone their age.

The way I see it, it goes one of two ways;

Either someone says to me “You’re 37? I would never have guessed! You look so much younger.” (Awesome feeling, I look younger than I actually am!)

Or they say; “You’re only 37? I thought you were older” (Awesome feeling, I’m actually younger than I look!)

As many times as I have explained this to him and other friends and family, I still get the shaken heads and the rolled eyes. People obviously do not get at all where I am coming from.

Doesn’t it seem all ass-backwards when people who are paranoid about their age, want to hide it and tell no one, are considered more normal than people who dont?

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