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Monday, August 25, 2014

SURVIVOR! 42 years! #SisterhoodoftheTravelingPinkSweater

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This is my friend Mary.

Mary is a 42-year survivor of breast cancer. That, of course, is not how I got to know Mary.

Mary was Charlie's preschool teacher when he was 4 years old. Then she babysat for my kids one summer. When she was changing jobs, I helped her with her resume. And from there, we became friends.

She is funny and sarcastic and like a member of the family to us. And, most importantly for this post, she is tiny enough to fit into the pink sweater.

I am blogging tonight as part of the #SisterhoodoftheTravelingPinkSweater, a project that brings awareness to the cause of breast cancer.

Through this project different bloggers will wear (or style) the vintage pink sweater that Mary is wearing. It once belonged to the first resident of Riley Towers in Indianapolis!

Back to Mary. She was just 21, a newlywed, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said her cancer was caught at the earliest stage the doctor had ever seen. She underwent a radical mastectomy and was cancer free. I asked Mary if she ever thinks about her own breast cancer.

"It was such a long time ago," she said. "I almost forgot I had it."

Maybe you know someone who fought breast cancer. Maybe it's something you can forget. Maybe  you think Mary is just too fashionable to be ignored. Read on...

You can be a part of the #SisterhoodoftheTravelingPinkSweater project in several ways:
  1. Visit the #SisterhoodoftheTravelingPinkSweater website and read more of the stories that have been contributed.
  2. While you are at the website, make a donation to the Pink Ribbon Connection, a local organization that provides underserved women emotional support, bras, wigs, prostheses, and education needed during breast cancer diagnosis, care and recovery.
  3.  Say a prayer of thanksgiving that Mary -- and thousands of other women -- are still here today despite their breast cancer fight. Then say a prayer of remembrance for those who found their cure on the other side of life.
I'm pleased to introduce the next woman to enter the #SisterhoodoftheTravelingPinkSweater, my friend Nikki Capshaw. She is a single mother of three, a certified medical assistant and one of the hardest-working people I know. You can learn more about Nikki at Domestically Single.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's a big year around here.

'Tis the season for back to school and at our house that means two major milestones. This is Annie's senior year and Charlie's freshman year of high school. Honestly. I'm not sure I've settled into the reality of that quite yet.

I'm not at all melancholy about it, although I will own up to thinking "how did that happen already?"

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But I'm so excited for them. Annie is knee-deep into college visits and SATs and senior privileges like eating lunch on the lawn and red polo shirts. Charlie has spent the summer working out with the soccer and basketball teams, has earned a spot on the JV soccer team and may or may not have already asked a girl to homecoming. 

 photo a389d3ee-5894-4360-af16-7645dabc5d9e_zps553eeaa3.jpg I'm so enjoying watching them becoming the people they were born to be. They are both such good kids (not without fault, surely). I look at this picture of them -- taken on the first day of school on Friday -- and I can't help but feel a swelling in my chest. This is really a fun stage of parenting for me to be in. I'm clueless about enough that they can tease me, but I'm up front and honest about enough that they can trust me.

Letting go of my control freak tendencies has been something I've been working on for the past year or so. That's coming in handy while parenting teenagers. I have confidence in the way we've raised them and in their ability to make good choices -- something I remind them to do, thanks to my friend Ann. That's not to say that I don't make use of the "Find my iPhone" app to keep an eye on them from time to time.

They are not going to the same high schools. That's really no surprise to me. Annie's school fits her perfectly. Charlie's fits him. They are only in high school one year together, so we will manage. (Would someone please remind me of that in about 3 or 4 weeks when having 3 kids in 3 different schools seems like an overwhelmingly crazy idea?) While I think it would have been fun for them to be at the same school, I know we've chosen the right school for each of them.

As I was walking the dog yesterday, I stopped to talk to a neighbor who'd just moved his son into a rental home for his sophomore year of college. We talked about how quickly the kids have grown. I could close my eyes and see Annie, at 17 months old, running through our then-empty home on move-in day. Charlie wasn't even a glimmer then.

And now, here they are. High schoolers. A senior! and a freshman. I didn't even see it coming. Gosh. I love these kids.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I survived 6-hour Ebola

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I survived Ebola, the 6-hour kind.

Ok, it wasn't Ebola, but about this time yesterday, you couldn't have convinced me otherwise. It started unassumingly enough in the morning at work. I felt like junk. Fatigued. Achey. Then after a light lunch of yogurt and blueberries, the egg burps arrived. I hate those, all their foul-smelling, nasty tasting, sulfuric disgustingness. So, then I felt like junk and smelled like rotting eggs. 

After work, Annie picked me up to take me to parent orientation night at her school. On the way, she said "Mom, did you fart?" 

"No." I wasn't about to tell her that smell came from my mouth, not my butt.

She dropped me off and I chose a seat in the middle-ish of the room. Despite the air conditioning, I was sweating buckets and kept dragging the back of my hand across my forehead to wipe the sweat away. As I sat listening to the principal and other administrators address the parents of returning students, I wished to heck that I had chosen a seat way out of the way of other people. The egg burps kept coming and I kept my lips tightly pursed together, not wanting anyone to wonder if I was sitting there blatantly flaunting flatulence. The more I swallowed the burps, the worse I felt.

After the presentation, I was more than ready to go home. But, I was catching a ride home with another parent and there was an information fair to visit. I stood in a few lines, feeling my stomach bloat by the minute, desperate for some water or, better yet, my bed. I took a sip from the drinking fountain and prayed that my ride was ready to go. 

"Oh, I need to do one more thing," she said. I hadn't let on that I was feeling rotten, so she had no way of knowing. "Sure," I said, as I spied some peppermints in a bowl. I grabbed one, thinking the mint would settle my stomach. That is when everything went, well, Ebola-riffic.

I put the peppermint in my mouth and immediately that pool of saliva that comes right before you throw up made its appearance. I ran to the bathroom, hit the first stall and didn't know which end to put down. I opted to sit, having had plenty of experience breathing through nausea when I was pregnant. As I practice my best "please, please don't let me throw up" breathing, my liquified insides drained. And then, it happened.

There was no breathing through this nausea. I tried to get up and swing my head to the toilet, but the result was a very art deco-ish swirl of vomit that coated the side of the stall and the wall behind the toilet. I could only think to pray that a.) there was no one else in the bathroom and 2.) that I did not have diarrhea or vomit dripping from my clothes. 

Thanking my lucky stars that my clothes had been spared attack, I got some wet paper towels and cleaned up what I could, though the result was no where near "clean." I left washed up as best I could, went out to alert the school staff that cleanup was needed in stall #1 and prayed that my ride was ready to leave. Thankfully, she was. 

I worried about getting sick again on the way home. I didn't mention anything to my friend, feeling bad that I was going to be placing my germy self in her car for the next 20 minutes. Instead I tried to make conversation and was silently thankful that my friend is a nurse, in case something unspeakable did happen.

I got home, dropped everything and took myself straight to bed. Which is where I stayed for about 3-1/2 minutes before I was assaulting our own toilet. And that's how it went for the next several hours. Time was a blur. I couldn't fall asleep, but I couldn't read or use my phone. I don't believe I have ever been that deliriously sick in my life. Eventually, I gave up trudging back to bed after getting sick and instead laid on the bathroom floor. 

By 1:00am, the torrent of bodily fluids appeared to be over. I awoke this morning feeling like I'd been run over by a garbage truck with a head that felt like it was in a vise. I called in sick to work and spent the rest of the day sleeping with intermittent periods of answering emails from work. 

And now, 24 hours later, I'm bravely attempting a baked potato, watching Cinderella on DVD, and sharing this story that you probably wish you hadn't read. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If you buy a kid some school supplies

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If you buy a kid some school supplies, he's going to be super excited to open them.

When he opens them, they are going to be spread all over the family room floor.

When they are spread all over the floor, you'll tell the kid to put them in his backpack (not a new one because we just bought this one last year, doggone it).

When he puts them in his backpack, they will be all safe and ready for the first day of school (which isn't for another 15 days) until...

The kid decides he needs to take them out of his backpack so he can use the backpack to take with him to SkyZone. You'll tell the kid to put the school supplies back in his backpack and find another bag to take to SkyZone. Then you will leave for work, not being wise enough to tell your spouse that the kid should not, under any circumstances, take his backpack to SkyZone.

So of course, the kid takes his backpack -- filled with $857 worth of school supplies (so I'm might be exaggerating a little) -- to the Boys & Girls Club with him and then to the club's field trip to SkyZone.

And...say it with me...LEAVES. THE. BACKPACK. THERE.

Yes, the backpack that was filled with school supplies. The backpack that was supposed to stay safely on the bedroom floor for another 15 days.

I'm going on a field trip too. To the liquor store.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Things turn up in the most unlikely places

What is one place you would be surprised to find me (besides a Zumba class -- that is NOT happening)? If you answered "a NASCAR race," give yourself a high five. You're right!

And what is one thing you would not expect to find inside a NASCAR race car (which, by the way is a palindrome -- racecar spelled backwards is still racecar)? If you answered "corn," you are either very good at guessing or you know a little something about the fuel used to power NASCAR.

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Why do I care? Well, because I've never been to a NASCAR race -- including the Brickyard 400, which takes place at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If I had a things to do in Indiana bucket list, attending a race at IMS would be on it. So when the Indiana Corn Marketing Council gave me chance to snag two free tickets to the Brickyard 400 in exchange for educating myself -- and you -- about the use of corn in NASCAR, saying yes was not too difficult.

Back to the corn. No, NASCAR drivers do not weight the back end of their cars with sacks of dried corn. No, the winner of the Brickyard 400 does not munch on an ear of corn in the victory circle, though that would be kind of cool. NASCARs are powered by ethanol, a type of gasoline. Ethanol is made from corn, which is a renewable source of energy and one that can be obtained without threat of international violence. In fact, Indiana is a key corn producer and home to 12 ethanol plants, which produce 1 billion (with a B) gallons of ethanol a year.

NASCARs run on Sunoco Green E15, a 15% ethanol blend. And during the Brickyard 400, which takes place on July 27, NASCAR will turn 6 million miles driven on E15. That's a lot of miles and a whole lot of corn. Driver Austin Dillon will start the Brickyard from the 17th position driving in the #3 Dow/Mycogen Seeds Chevy.

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You don't have to be a racecar driver to use ethanol. Flex Fuel cars, including Mike's former and much missed Chevy Suburban, run on ethanol blend gasolines. Most Flex Fuel cars run on E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline). Even unleaded gasoline contains 10% ethanol. You can tell if your vehicle is a Flex Fuel car by the (corn) yellow gas cap.

Be sure turn up on the 4th Frog Blog Facebook page tomorrow. I'll be posting pictures and observations from my first NASCAR race. If you're a NASCAR-going veteran, feel free to leave some tips for me here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday's Child: Monkey Do Project

I've had a thought for a while to blog about certain non-profit organizations that are important to me or that I think are doing good. I've decided to try posting once a month on a Friday. I'm calling this "Friday's Child" because the childhood poem says "Friday's child is loving and giving." I am happy to feature the Monkey Do Project as my first "Friday's Child."

When I was a sophomore in college, I participated in a mission trip to the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky the week before Christmas. The small group I was with packed and delivered food baskets and other items, which was the only Christmas many of the families we visited would have. I remember driving past boarded up, ramshackle houses that I would have assumed were abandoned except for the fact that smoke was trickling out of the chimneys. We visited a family with two boys. Their mother sat in a chair and graciously accepted our offerings while the boys looked on. There was no myth or magic of Santa there.

My most vivid memory from that trip was packing up stacks of flattened cardboard boxes and transporting them to the house where two elderly brothers lived. I would guess they were in their 70s. They lived in one of those surely-this-is-abandoned houses. They invited us in and the living room was dark. Everything was dark, except for the bedroom to the right. We all crowded into this tiny bedroom -- the two brothers, seven or eight volunteers, and the brothers' tiny dog with paralyzed back legs. He propelled himself around with the help of wheels harnessed to his back . The brothers -- they had names that I've forgotten -- explained that in the winter, they closed up the rest of the house and lived only in the bedroom because that's the only room they could heat, nodding to the wood stove in the center of the room.

The brothers offered us a seat on the one twin bed. They took turns sleeping in the bed. Whoever didn't get the bed slept in an old recliner. We glanced at the bed with its dingy gray sheets that clearly had not been washed in a very long time and politely declined their offer.

They thanked us for the cardboard and that's when I noticed the walls...covered in flattened cardboard boxes to keep out the wind. We had carried in with us their winter's insulation. Soon, we left and I felt ashamed. Those two brothers offered us what they had -- a seat on their bed -- and we turned it down. We in our sturdy jeans and warm winter coats deemed their gift unfit.

It's a lesson I'll never forget and it's given Appalachia a place in my heart. So when my friends Jackie and Crystal said they made a pledge to use their Monkey Do Project to fill a food pantry in Appalachia -- this one in West Virginia, I knew I wanted to help.

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The Organization: The Monkey Do Project is a registered non-profit that focuses on the most distressed areas of Appalachia, defined by the US government as the poorest regions in the country. Monkey Do works as an outreach to partner with groups, churches, organizations and other non-profits to provide for the most basic needs of people in those areas.

The Problem: Summer starvation. Most children in this region of the country get two meals a day at school. During the summer, school is out and so is the children's opportunity for breakfast and lunch.

The Pledge: The Monkey Do Project is partnering with a food bank in Clay, West Virginia to help fund their summer food program. This program is designed to help replace the two meals a day kids get at school - for many of these kids, those are the only full meals they get in a day. Two previous drives organized by Monkey Do have made a great impact on the ability of the food bank to meet the needs of the area.

How You Can Help: Give. Donate what you are able through the secure giving form on the Monkey Do Project website. Pray. Jackie and Crystal and others involved in the Monkey Do Project know the power of prayer. I ask that you pray for the people of Appalachia and for the success of the Summer Starvation/Fill the Food Bank project. And if you want someone to pray for you, there is a place you can leave your requests on the Monkey Do website, too. 

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Thanks to the Monkey Do Project for the photos above. Those are actual photos of the Clay, West Virginia food bank when Jackie & Crystal visited last fall. Since then, Monkey Do has worked to keep the shelves of the food bank stocked.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The 7 refrains of motherhood

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I like to sing. I'm not good at it, but I like to do it anyway. My repertoire pretty much consists of church songs and show tunes. This morning when I woke up, I didn't awaken singing. Instead, I woke thinking about the refrains of motherhood.

Like the refrain of a song -- "Let it go! Let it go! -- the refrains of motherhood are those things I find myself repeating over and over again, day after day, year after year.

As I thought about them, I identified seven refrains of motherhood.

Don't touch. This is one of the things we tell our children from their very young years. Don't touch...the things lining the shelves in the store, the hot stove, my Diet Coke. As our kids get to their teen years, "don't touch" takes on a whole new meaning...drugs, alcohol, and again, my Diet Coke.

Be careful. These words of caution start out as physical admonitions, encouraging our kids to be careful when crossing the street, climbing a tree or jungle gym, swinging a baseball bat for the first time. Slowly, they morph into words that are meant to guide our loves to make wise choices for themselves, to protect their hearts and souls. And when they set out, car keys and shiny new driver's license in hand, for that first solo drive, "be careful" again carries it's most basic and urgent message, the one that says "please come back to me in one piece."
Great job. One of my favorite parts of being a mom is the feeling of that heartswell when one of my kids does something good. It was a swell I felt at their first steps, the first time they rode a two-wheeler by themselves. Even better is the joy we feel when we see them include someone who is sitting alone or give up something important to them for the benefit of someone who needs it more. As parents we don't keep that swell within. We rush to our kids, wrap our arms around them, and tell them "Great job!" Sometimes we use different words, but truly, the refrain is same. Great job, indeed.

Do it now. This is one of the exasperated refrains of motherhood. Nothing is so maddening as having to repeat myself several times, waiting for one child or another to move on a request I've made or a directive I've given. Old family folklore has it that my mother-in-law used to reach the end of her rope, particularly when stalling about homework was involved, and shout in a maniacal voice, "Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!" I may have sputtered the same words once. Maybe twice.

Be nice. It's really one of the most basic things about being human. Be nice to others. Treat them as you wish to be treat. When our children are little and are greeting a new sibling or are playing alongside another child, we often gently tell them "Be nice." As they get older, the direction can sometimes be more complex, even harder to follow. "Be nice" to people who rub you the wrong way. "Be nice" to the mean girls in the school cafeteria. "Be nice" to the kids who other kids might make fun of you for being nice to. "Be nice" to the one who broke your heart. "Be nice" to the teacher who you think is mean. "Be nice" to yourself.

Go ahead. Our jobs as mothers, as parents, is to hold our children's hands while they are little...and sometimes when they are big. At some point, though, we let go, nudge them forward and tell them "go ahead." We say it as they take their first teetering steps, as they push off for the first time with no training wheels. We say it as they get on the school bus or they stand in front of the class to share their project. When our children are reluctant or fearful, we might want to swallow those words, to save them for a better time. Yes, sometimes "go ahead" are two of the scariest words we can think to say, but we know they are words of love. As the mother of new driver and a child just a blink away from college, I know the loving terror and joy of this refrain.

I love you.  All the other refrains of motherhood are really just alternate ways of singing this one. If the only refrain my children remember is "I love you," I will have done my job.

What are other refrains of motherhood do you find yourself singing?