Monday, December 20, 2010

As Long As I'm Living, My Baby You'll Be

Last night at dinner:

Sweetie: Was it the tube way or the cut off a part of your body way?

Me: Huh?

Sweetie: How I got out of your body. Did I come out the tube way or the way where they cut off a piece of your body?

Me: The tube way.

Sweetie: Good.

M: And they don't cut off a piece of the body. They cut a slit under the mom's belly button and lift the baby out.

S: Oh..... Where's the tube now? What's it made out of? Can I see it?

M: Ha! It's not really a tube. It's part of a woman's body. It's called the birth canal.

S: (commences with rowing motions) La, la, la, la, la.... I'm on the birth canal on the way to be born!

S: (obviously thinking more, more questions formulating in her mind)

Me: Every female has 3 openings in their private parts. One for pee to come out, one for poop to come out, and one in the middle for the baby to come out.

Hubby: So you're a mixture of pee and poop!

(Uproarious laughter ensues.)


And thus endeth the cute but embarrassing little stories I'll be sharing about Sweetie. Probably. Yes - on today, her 8th birthday, I think I should call an end to publishing anymore stories that may potentially embarrass her. She's a cool 2nd grader now, you know. Computer savvy friends of hers may somehow, possible, happen upon my blog. It's time to continue on with what I've been pretty much doing of late anyway here... writing more about what's going on for me and allowing Sweetie to take a bit of a backseat. Let my baby grow up with a bit more anonymity. It's time.

Not that I won't even mention her anymore. Of course I will! This is Sweetie & Me, after all. I simply vow to mind more closely what I write about her, considering her feelings more regarding any Sweetie-focused stories I relate. It's time.

But, wow! Eight years old?! Really? Already?! I honestly cannot believe it. I mean, do you know how close 8 years old is to 10 years old?! Very close! And then - OMG! - puberty! I don't even want to think about that yet. Please, God, grant she and I both the strength and patience to manage those years together as carefully and successfully as possible. Then there's learning to drive, applying and getting into college, then dating. (Yes - dating will be the last in the sequence of events. Of course. Study first, date later. Yes.)

Yeah, right.

Okay, okay. Phew. Slowing it down a bit.

Today you are 8, my Sweetie. Eight is GREAT,  just like you continue to self-proclaim yourself to be every day. And, boy, are you right! YOU are great. In every possible way. I cannot tell you the number of times Daddy and I turn to each other and say "I just love her so much!" after admiring the latest creation you've built, hearing the last insightful observation you just made, or gazing upon you as you watch something in wonder, not even realizing there's a world of things going on around you. Of course we are completely biased, but to us, you are amazing and inspiring and practically perfect in every way.

You whispered a random question to me the other night. "Mom? Do I have more of your personality or Dad's personality?"

I answered that I thought you had more of Dad's personality but that there were definitely some parts of it that were much more like me. You agreed with me and smiled happily. And I do think you are a very good mix of both him and me. From the way you look (you used to look so much like Daddy, but now I think you're starting to look a bit more like me), to the way you carry yourself, to what your personality is and what you like to do with your time. I have to hand it to us - we sure are raising a great Sweetie and influencing her growth in some of the best ways possible.

But then - oh my! - there are oh so many ways that you are your very own person, plain and simple. Especially how comfortable you are in a crowd of people (where did that come from?!) and your general confident self-awareness. I really don't think you have ever had a shy day in your life. Daddy and I can't get over how it seems that everyone at school - from your classmates, to all the other kids in all the other grades, to teachers and parents and staff - EVERYONE seems to know who you are and so many kids of all ages seem to clamor towards you trying to vie for a slice of your time and attention.

Little boys vow their love for you and little girls are, I think,  curious about you. No, you're not the typical doll-loving, dress-wearing, house-playing girl. But you also don't mind those activities either. You excitedly went to a classmate's tea party themed dress up birthday party last weekend and brought along your "favorite" doll (read: your only doll, that usually just sits on the shelf). But how attentive you were to that baby doll! And all week after, you've remembered another doll I've adopted from my grandmother's collection and, together with both dolls now, you've been gently attending to their needs, setting up a comfy chair for them to sit together in, and directing quiet little conversations between these two new fast friends. And then, when you know they're all set, you turn once again to build cars, structures and contraptions with your Legos.

You are definitely a very multi-faceted kid!

I look back at the hundreds of pictures - man, there's probably thousands of pictures! - of you that we've taken since you came into our lives. Pictures of times that seem at once so very long ago but yet were really just a blink of the eye away - weren't they?

My baby, sleeping peacefully across her Daddy's knees.

My baby's first messy whole-foods meals, hands up in the air - "Ah da!" you said when you're spaghetti was gone.

My seemingly sad baby at her 2nd birthday party. Not really. I just happened to catch a shot of you during a quiet, thoughtful moment.

My laughing baby girl, watching for the 50th time the very funny (to a 2 year old) chickie dance video we found at, I think.

My baby, covered entirely with a blanket in the back seat of our non-air conditioned car on a late August day as we traveled to Hershey, PA. What a crazy girl! You traveled extremely well, given the conditions, and you LOVED Hershey beyond our wildest dreams. For years after you wished and wished you could go back there. No better place on earth existed, you were sure.

My baby lying in the colorful fall leaves, nothing but pure glee shining bright on your face.

My baby, dressed up as the Victorian Alice in Wonderland, celebrating her Very Merry Unbirthday at 5 1/2 years old. A forest tea party, painting the roses red, surrounded by friends and family and loving your pink and green 1/2 birthday cake. What a fun day!

My baby, off to the first day of kindergarten! Bye bye, Sweetie! I know you'll just love every minute of this next phase of your life (and you knew you would too, seeing as you jumped out of the car and trotted confidently into the building, not one look back at Daddy and me.)

My baby, proud to show off her new buddy, Mr. Bill. Found on one of your earlier geocaching excursions with Daddy. What an exciting new hobby for us all!

My baby, dressed up as a stick of butter for Halloween. Your idea. Of course. And how certain you were of it too! You and your very unique, very creative ideas!

My baby, showing off her dance pose before a big performance. How proud we were of your accomplishments! - (if not about your attitude. Oh well...)

My baby, indoor skydiving! So exciting! You jumped right in, no fear at all. The picture we have says it all - pure bliss written all over your face. Loved it!

My baby, off and peddling on her new 2-wheeler. Self taught, I might add. You just got on and rode, as Daddy and I stood aside, discussing how your non-training wheel training should proceed. Within moments you were a 2-wheeler pro!

My baby - blowing out her candles on her 8th birthday cake. Her Very Awesome Birthday Cake that looks like a Lego! A green Lego with 2 smaller pink Legos on top. The coolest ever! How proud you were to show it off yesterday at your party.

Yes. Wow. Eight years old already. A little kid. A big kid who's requested we have sushi for her birthday dinner. A smart, curious, imaginative, outgoing, artistic, thoughtful, beautiful, opinionated, great, kind, funny, and sweet young lady. Our Sweetie.

My baby. Forever.

Happy Birthday, Baby. I love you.



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Excitement

I wrote the following email this morning to a friend of mine I went out with last night. It's a simple email, but its subject has really been poking at me all day. His simple questions of "Is (Sweetie) excited about...." such & such, or "Are you excited about...." such and such, and my blaise answers of, "yeah, whatever, I guess, I don't know." Well, I just felt bad for being such a humbug.

My original post title here was "An Email to a (Childless) Friend)". But I replaced that with the title above. I thought, at first, that it was important to note this friend I saw doesn't have any kids. My wanting, I guess, to show the why of my humbuggishness. "I'm a parent, so I'm busy, and I've got to make the holidays fun for my Sweetie, I don't have time for me! Something you, without kids, wouldn't/couldn't possible understand." But then I thought better. Anyone can be stressed at this time of year. Anyone can hit a pocket of humbug attitude. Not just those with little kids.

Anyway. It all made me take a good pause. Considering what it is about the season that will bring excitement to my day. I hope your days, whatever your family looks like, are filled with joy and excitement as well.

And, with that...

Hi (Friend),

Thank you again for another fun visit, and for the dinner. I'm glad we found places to go other than the chaotic B&N! That was crazy!

I also apologize because I feel I was a bit of a downer, what with my humbug-y attitude toward Christmas and my responses to your questions about general excitement over upcoming events in our household. I guess I just think (and nothing against you at all!) that that's just a silly question - "Are you excited about ______?" because my definition of true excitement is jumping up and down absolute giddiness, and I just don't see anyone ever acting that way over anything as a general rule, except for kids, of course, getting excited about whatever fun thing is coming up in their lives. :) And to that end - yes - I asked (Sweetie) this morning if she was excited for the school Christmas concert tomorrow and she did give me a big smile, a little hop of joy, and a definite "Yes!" answer of excitement. So there you go - excitement lives! And, yes, of course she's excited about her birthday and Christmas. With her birthday first - and the knowledge that all her friends can come to her party and she's getting an awesome Lego birthday cake! - I definitely think that's at the forefront of her mind. Then after that, it's so exciting for her that Christmas is just a few days away. Like I said last night, it's a big week for her, with her birthday and family gatherings and presents, etc...

For adults, though - and I think maybe especially for parents of young kids - this time of year is really crazy busy and stressful and just has a ton of things to get done, all outside of the work schedule, which for both (Hubby) and I is busier seeming this year than in other recent years. Not enough time to get excited - just have to go, go, go. I'll be excited, though, on Christmas Eve, after (Sweetie's) to bed and all the gifts are under the tree, the stockings are filled, and we are "done." Being done with all the prep work and only having the fun day of Christmas left to look forward to will be great and very exciting! I can't wait for that. Not for Christmas to be over, but for the preparations to be done and the time comes to be excited with/for (Sweetie) about what we'll all find under the tree on Christmas morning.

SO - there you go. I'm a bit of a humbug now, but it will all be great and exciting in the end. Gotta get through this craziness in order to make Christmas as magical as possible, after all. :)

Well, have a great day, a good week, and a wonderful holiday! Thanks again for everything.

Monday, December 06, 2010

This One Goes Out To All You SB Moms

Final Update: I am fine. Went to the neurologist - general neurologst, not a Spina Bifida specialist - and she determined me to be fine. No obvious signs of shunt malfunction. And I suppose I'm feeling better too. The headahes are definitely gone and I've got myself some pure cranberry juice for drinking - thus, my UTI symptoms are being held at bay. I've been instructed to go see my GP if my abdominal symptoms go on. So far, I'm holding out on that, monitoring my days as a I go. :)

Midweek Update: UTI symptoms seem to have subsided. Headache - dull, all over/including back of head headache - really only present every morning upon getting up. Goes away for the day with 1 dose of over the counter pain meds. Lower right abdomen pain more noticeable. A sore pain, like a pulled muscle or something, when pushed. This morning I've talked to the nurse at my neurologist's. She didn't seem all that concerned, as other signs of shunt malfunction not present. But I am being seen by them, this Fri. morning. In the meantime, I'm continuing to monitor as well as eat healthily and drink plenty of fluids (since taking my evening job 3 days a week I've notice my system has been different/backed up, if you know what I mean. Hoping to get things going again. Maybe that's my problem!

For all my readers who wonder where's all the "Spina Bifida" in this here Spina Bifida Moms blog... hold on to your hats, cuz here it comes!

Sore neck for the last 3 days.

Weird sort of pressure-y headache/neck ache, but (for the headache part) really just on the right side of my head when I move a certain way/too fast. Masked by pain meds, but returns every 4 - 6 hours.

UTI symptoms continue, even after being 1/2 way through my antibiotics. My second round of antibiotics.

Sore abdomen, right side. I think. Or am I imagining this one? I don't know anymore...

I think I had a spot of double vision the other night. But then again, I was walking through a winter wonderland of, basically, a tunnel of holiday lighted trees everywhere you looked. Seems to me such an environment could make anyone wind up with funky vision in the midst of all that.

Really sore shoulders and arms muscles, but that does seem like a rather random symptom to add in to the mix of otherwise neurologically-themed goings on.

Oh yeah. And crap health insurance. Crazy high deductible crap health insurance.

But at least it's the end of the year and not the beginning of a new one. Or is it? Yes, end of the actual year. But my new plan year just began in October. Crap. 

And at least I have some sort of insurance - crap or not.

No, but really... I don't get sick very often. And whenever I do - from a bad cold, to the flu, to migraines, whatever - I admit that I really do tend to take the "oh my God, this is something TERRIBLE! I'm going to end up in the hospital. I'm going to DIE!" camp. That's just how I roll... 

.... and then I'm fine.

So. I'm really probably just fine. Stop my worrying, take more Advil, finish out my antibiotics, and get over myself while I naturally get over whatever this is that's going on with me.

At the same time, I suppose a trip in to the doctor wouldn't hurt. Other than the fact that it would hurt my bank account. We just paid off the dentist, now have added back on almost the entire cost of the dentist in this whole UTI detecting scenario. Why not go full out with yet another trip in to the doctor where - yippee! - they (I'm betting) wouldn't really be all that informed about the signs of shunt malfunction and would send me right to the hospital.

It's happened before. Years ago I had a simple case of mono. The doctor was overly cautious with me, though, and was concerned it might be meningitis. Sent me for an overnight stint in the hospital. Nope. Just mono. Go home and sleep. You'll be fine.

Anyway. Ching, ching! Can you here those medical bills just go up and up and UP?!

So, yeah. I'm a tad bit concerned I'm experiencing a shunt malfunction. 

But then again...

My mood has not changed, nor my speech pattern or my intellect. My walking/gait is the same as it's always been. I don't have a fever at all, or vomiting (last night I thought I felt a tad nauseous, but not that bad.) I don't have redness or swelling along my shunt catheter tract, and I'm breathing and swallowing just fine. 

Plus I've, of course, mentioned my symptoms and concerns to Hubby. He assures me that he's had before the exact type of headache I've been experiencing. Also, my sore neck is a relatively frequent problem I've experienced from time to time and have mentioned to my neurologist before, as I've been concerned that my Arnold Chiari Malformation was worsening/becoming a problem. Her response? No - you're fine. We all get stiff/sore necks from stress and such. Don't worry.

And lastly - really, what have I done/been through lately that would cause my shunt to malfunction? I've just been living my little life, with no major bodily upset. And I know, from my last shunt revision probably 15 years ago or so, that the surgeon then put in a very extended length of catheter tubing  - enough so that I could literally grow to be over 6 ft. tall and still have plenty of tubing to spare.

I'm not even quite 5 feet tall. I haven't gone though any grow spurts of late. And I'm hardly expecting to. So I think I'm good.

And as far as these UTIs possibly/maybe expending undue trauma to my shunt... well, I've had UTIs before. LOTS of them. And some that just won't go away. Like this one. Granted, I haven't had a UTI (documented, at least) in several years, up until now. So that is a weird thing, yes. But something that would expand to and affect the shunt as well? Hmmm... I just don't know.

But I'll tell ya... I've looked up the treatment for shunt infection (as opposed to shunt malformation) and it's not just as simple as taking a strong dose of antibiotic. No, it's actually quite complicated and means a long stay in the hospital.

Merry Christmas to me and my family!

And that's another thing. I can't imagine being in the hospital, leaving Hubby to fend for life in general, essentially as a single parent, taking care of all of his and Sweetie's needs. Her baths, lunches, hair combing, picking out outfits, making sure all school assignments are getting done on time. Not to mention getting her to school in the morning - during a time when he should be well on his way to getting to his work. Or getting to the hospital. To visit me. And not working. Much like I'd not be working. Thus, neither of us earning money (as neither of us work for places that provide any amount of sick time pay whatsoever.) And Sweetie's birthday is coming up! With a birthday party! Right before Christmas! I'm not done getting ready for Christmas! Aaaaahhhhhh!!!!!

Ahhh... it's all snowballing now. Yep. One thing effects the other and leads to worse and worse things.

Much like leaving a possibly serious health problem unchecked for too long can lead to greater and greater problems.

So. That's where I stand. I think the thing to do, for now, is call my mom (a retired pediatric nurse) to let her know my concerns. Then continue to monitor everything. Finish my round of antibiotics. And take it easy while still living my life.

And do go to the doctor if that's what my gut is telling me to do. Whatever may follow from that - come what may. Better to be safe - and in worse debt - then sorry and dead. That's what I always say!

I'll keep you all posted, of course. For now, let's just all chalk it up to my being my usual overly dramatic, Doomsday self. Yep - I'm sure I'm majorly in trouble here....

.... Ah, no. Oops. False alarm. I'm fine. Of course I am. 

I hope. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

What Are Little Kids Made Of?

I've been ruminating on something for awhile these last several weeks. Probably why I've been so quiet here. I've wanted to write, but I just don't know how to focus this subject. With all the senseless bullying (right - as if bullying ever makes sense) in the news of late - primarily aimed at boys, it seems - boys who are different, you might say, from the norm - I've been thinking on how it is to have - to BE - a girl who is not quite your typical girl.

I don't know about you, but I for one admire a mom who will, for example, allow her little boy to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo. Just because that's his favorite cartoon and she is his favorite character. Big deal! If that's what he wants to be, than rock on with your bad Scooby self!

However, I do completely "get it" that this adorable little 5 year old boy also expressed concerns about dressing as a girl for the holiday. And, as such, perhaps his mom should have recognized his concern & been just as okay with letting him change his mind to not dress like Daphne after all. I mean, bravo to her for downplaying his worries - since, ideally speaking, he really should be able to freely dress as he wishes without being afraid to do so. But, of course he understood, even at his young age, that dressing as a girl would generally be considered "weird" and "odd" and "not right" for a boy to do. Because that's just not what our society accepts as natural or good. Boys do and like boy things, girls do and like girl things. To mix and match is just plain wrong and may very well lead to changing/influencing the very essence of a child's developing sexuality, doncha know.

Ahem. I think not. Actually, I pretty much know not. But that's a different story...

Besides, is that truly, truly what "we" as a society think? Or are "we" a bit more one sided about the situation? After all, as Nerdy Apple Bottom mom goes on to say in her blog post, "If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one."

She's absolutely right. Cuz my daughter dressed up for Halloween as (essentially) Darth Vader. And no one said one contrary word at all. In fact, they thought she was funny (since she was actually dressed as an Ele-Vader - punny family that we are.) But controversial? Ha! I don't think so.

My daughter also looooovvvveeeess to play Legos. And play at being a Super Hero. She couldn't care less about dolls or princesses. She'll wear a dress without complaint - and look awfully adorable in it - when I put a dress out for her to wear. But otherwise she's much more comfortable in pants and that's usually what you'll find her in.

She also loves math. And science. She loves to ride her bike or "work" with her Daddy in his "mad scientist lab" (read: woodworking shop.) She also loves to go on hikes with her dad. She's never been what one would consider shy.  She's rather interested in cooking and baking... but that's another Daddy & Sweetie activity, since I am not the cook in the family at all.

She's also definitely caught the romantic attention of at least a few boys in her school. Cute little boys who tell her they love her every day. Who tell her they want to marry her when they grow up. Who fight with their little brothers over who gets to walk and talk with Sweetie for a little while. And while Sweetie is well aware of these boys' feelings for her, she continues to just take it all in stride. Not mentioning to me or her Daddy that she actually like likes these boys as well. No. She really doesn't care. Boys are just "whatever" to her still.

And maybe forever. Who the heck knows! I'm certainly not concerned now with which gender Sweetie will most be attracted to as she grows older. Her current playtime interests, to me, certainly aren't directing her towards one sexual orientation or another. To even suggest that is ridiculous. She plays what she want to play - the end. How in the world can that possibly be linked to whether she's going to be attracted to males or females as an older girl?

But yet - as seen from Nerdy Apple Bottom mom's post as well as the countless other newsworthy bullying and suicide incidents lately - if you're a boy who tends to like the typically more "girly" things in life, then you're obviously a boy who's headed down a highly controversial path and will almost certainly come out as a homosexual person somewhere down the road.

It's a horrendous double standard, if you ask me. Why is it that shy little boys who like to bake with their moms, or want to learn how to sew, or who's best friends are girls, or who would rather take up dancing than run around outside getting dirty digging up worms while tossing a football around... well, obviously these boys will one day prove themselves to be gay. At the same time, we continue to teach our girls that they can be anything, do anything they set their minds to. Play sports! Be outgoing and confident! Be the best student you can! You don't just have to sit around having tea parties, learning to bake and cross-stitching samplers. Whoop those boys fannies and boldly get out there into this great big world!

It's praised, don't you see, for a girl to do the more "boyish" things. I admit it! I feel rather proud of my little girl for doing what she wants, being who she wants - not "playing by the rules" that she has to like Barbies, dress up, and the like. Yet for boys, it's severely frowned upon when they gravitate toward typically girl-driven activities and interests. "We" want to hide those boys. And not that "we'd" ever admit it, but I dare say "we" are almost ashamed of our sons who tend toward the more feminine interests.

When did it become so shameful to be a typical girl?

What's shameful, I think, is that our kids as a whole - boys and girls alike - feel any pressure at all as they grow up to "do the right things" or play the "right" way.

Little girls who only love to wear dresses and hold tea parties every day for their bevy of stuffed animals and dollies and who take ballet lessons and love to draw and skip and play house are just as amazing and awesome and powerful as little girls who climb trees, play super hero and build with Legos while dreaming dreams of car racing and becoming the quarterback of their favorite pro football team. Likewise we should recognize and encourage the beauty, strength and confidence present in every little boy - whether they prefer to sit in a corner and crochet while playing with their teddy bears then go off to play dress-up with their mom's wardrobe, or they're typically found covered in mud and scrapes, kicking around a ball with their buddies or attacking monsters and other nasty villains on their latest video game.

Kids should be allowed to be kids. As I said here today - and have said time and again within this blog - Hubby and I are nothing but proud of our Sweetie. She's a confident girl who's not afraid to speak her mind, couldn't really care less what other's think, and continues to play at whatever it is that makes her the happiest - other kids or grown-ups be damned! And I know & have known plenty of other girls like this as I've grown up. It really does my heart good to see the little ladies of our world having the confidence to live their lives the way the want and to become the genuine people they're destined to become.

Now if only we could allow all the little boys of the world to be their true genuine selves as well. Letting them know that it is alright for them to be as they wish, do as they please, and not be afraid of the consequences of such behavior. Indeed, teaching our boys that acquiring some quiet sensitivity is quite an asset to one's character!

If we can raise our boys to know & live the truth in their hearts, if we can become a society that accepts every individual for their true authentic self... only then will we have succeeded in stepping much closer to a peaceful and meaningful existence.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something Old Something New Something Borrowed Something Blue

No, no one I know is getting married. At least not that I'm aware of. No, this old wedding verse is actually applicable to what Sweetie's Christmas is shaping up to look like.

And she's gonna absolutely freak.

Something Old: "The Invention of Hugo " book. An "old" book to her because we already read it together as a family this summer when we borrowed it from the library. But, man oh man!, did she love it! I have never seen her so interested in a book before & so wanting to get back to family time reading together as she was with this book. And, since it's a several hundred page chapter/picture book, Hubby & I figure Sweetie deserves to have her own copy to read & cherish & continually find something new about for years to come.

Luckily, for Hubby & I, there are a few other presents for Swee that fit into the "old" category...

1) Hubby's old kid's sized guitar from when he was young. We'll have to have it restrung for our left handed girl, but otherwise a gift in perfectly good condition that she'll be thrilled to get.

2) My old drafting table - a gift I received when I was about 11 or 12 years old. For this one we are still hoping the thing can actually be found in my parents basement. But if it's there, we know it's the sort of gift that will make our budding artist completely happy.

3) Old (but very clean & new-looking) dress socks from Hubby. Yes - socks. And (here comes the "borrowed" part comes in) assorted foam parts & pieces from Sweetie's very own already existing collection of foam parts & pieces which she very rarely ever plays with. We'll toss in some borrowed yarn strands & buttons from Nana's and/or Grammy's craft areas & - presto! - Sweetie's got herself her very own Burping Yeast Sock Puppets Making Kit from her beloved Alton Brown "Good Eats" show.

Now, I reckon if you all, dear readers, aren't familiar with the Food Network's "Good Eats" show, then you obviously also don't know about the burping yeast sock puppets that occasionally make an appearance on that program. But let me tell ya, they do. And whenever they do, Sweetie just thinks they're the funniest things going. Hubby & I think she'll get a big kick out of making these "TV Stars" her permanent friends.

4) Since we're talking about rather off the wall gift ideas, try this one on for size! We are going to give Sweetie her very own piece of wood!!!! Woo hoo!!! We ROCK as parents!!! (or, at least, we "wood" rock, if only...)

Anyway, yes. A simple piece of wood will be one of Sweetie's gifts. But she's going to love it! Know why? Because it will come with a label exclaiming the question "What WOOD You Make?!" And then the rest is up to her. She so loves spending time with her daddy in his "mad scientist" wood shop - drawing on wood, making design plans with him, and otherwise being her amazingly creative self - that we figure if we let her have carte blanc freedom with this gift, allowing it to become whatever it is she can imagine, that she will come up with something pretty awesome. Bonus Daddy & Sweetie time included if her ideas include anything that involves power tools & more than simple building.

5) Last on the "Old" list are previously used Legos, purchased off EBay for an inexpensive but sure to please present. We can easily get a large collection of Lego pieces for around $10.00. And since Sweetie's free time is largely spent either coloring/drawing or playing Legos, this one was a no-brainer for Hubby & I. For all the time she plays with these little plastic building pieces, she has proportionately very few pieces to actually build with. The girl needs more & we're happy to be able to provide her with some with as little damage as possible done to our bank account.

Something New: Lest you worry that Sweetie's getting nothing but hand me downs, old clothes & blunt objects with which to beat her crazy parents senseless, don't you worry. There are some brand new items on tap as well. New books, a new jigsaw puzzle, a new DVD, & new clothes are all on the list. A new fairy door might even show up at our new house, courtesy of a fun scavenger hunt. And, of course, everything she's getting is new, to her, at least. I don't think we'll be hearing any complaints at all.

Something Blue: And now, for the big one! The big "Blue" gift for the whole family. The one gift made possible via all the pennies saved on the other "old" & "borrowed" gifts.

We're getting tickets to see The Blue Man Group in Boston for a performance a week after Christmas!

Sweetie is going to freak. I'M freaking! Hubby's already seen their show years ago & is so excited to take Sweetie & me. Sweetie's seen these guys on one of the PBS kids shows she watches as well as a PBS special of theirs that played somewhat recently. Yes, we know their particular brand of concert/theatrical show isn't everyone's cup of tea, & there may even be parts of the show that aren't exactly meant for kids. But for our little family, seeing the BMG live & in person will definitely be one of life's highlights. And as for the non-kid-friendly potential bits - eh. Whatever. Either Swee will get treated to a naughty little laugh, or the whole bit will go right over her head. We're honestly not that worried about it.

So, yeah. Looks like Sweetie's going to have a pretty kickin' Christmas this year. And don't forget too that her birthday is just a few days before Christmas, so all these things will be spread out over the 2 gift giving occasions. We're not inundating her with all this stuff all at once, that's for sure.

Getting so excited for the holidays! Christmas used to be my favorite time of year because I so loved getting presents. And now it's still my favorite holiday... but so, so, SO much more because I love to see Sweetie's reactions to the gifts Hubby & I are able to give to her.

It truly is so much better to give than to receive. After all, after receiving the gift of Sweetie herself - right near Christmas, no less - what more could I ever ask for for myself?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Taking a Cue from D. I. Leaders Everywhere

I have never really been a "yes girl." At least I don't perceive myself as one. I feel I have a pretty good sense of what I can and cannot take on, and I'm not afraid to turn something down because to take it on would certainly lead me to feeling overloaded.

For example, for the last couple years I've co-edited our church newsletter - meaning some months it was my responsibility to edit on my own, and some months it was the other editor's job. But this year, in light of my several part time jobs I've recently taken on, when I was asked if I could help out with these duties for this year, I politely declined. No, ma'am. I'm sorry, but my schedule is much too busy these days. Sorry!

Likewise, I really don't fit you're "typical" image of a busy working mom. Working outside of the home, raising the kids at home, taking care of house and home. Yeah, I do all that, but not alone by any means. I feel very blessed that I have a Hubby who likes to cook and provides us with our dinners every night. And he's good for taking care of outside the house duties (mowing, shoveling, etc.) as well as whatever inside-the-home repairs need tending to. As for me, I do the dishes (no dishwasher for us) and the laundry. I vacuum when needed. And tend to Sweetie's day to day needs (prepare her breakfasts, make her lunches, assist her with her bath and hair washing, make sure homework is done on time, etc.) And I try to take care of myself. Reading when I can, watching some favorite shows, playing on the computer, etc... And I don't feel too bad about it, either.

What I don't worry too much about is the day to day tidiness of our home. Heck, that's what guests are for! Hubby and I joke that the only reason we ever have people over is because it makes us clean up the house. We ourselves don't worry too much about the state of our place. At least I don't think "we" do. I don't - obviously. Anyway, the fact remains - our family's general happiness does not and never will turn on the basis of whether our knick knacks are dusted and our things are picked up.

Not that I'm saying we're a pig sty either. Not by any means! Just saying - with a child in the house as well as 2 adults who tend to just put things down "wherever," I'm not too concerned about making sure we keep "show clean" at all times.

Anyway... what was my point? Oh! Yes. I'm not a "yes girl." Right. And I'm not. True enough.

However, (you knew there'd be a "however," didn't you?) in one of my jobs I've kinda lately been feeling like I have no choice but to be a "yes girl" when it comes to getting all the lofty goals and aspirations of my boss up off the ground. She wants to grow! And change! And update! And create! and get with the technical age! And sell! Yay!

Aaaaannnndddd.... I'm her only employee. The Office Administrator. She wants to get these projects going so great things can happen and I have to do them all!!! Yes!!! I'll get it done!

.... No. No. Really. I don't have to do them all. I can't do them all. Primarily because I don't have the background education to make all these various projects come to life. To think that I myself have to get it done is overwhelming, to say the least. It was making me feel nervous and as if I was less of an employee. A disappointment. Like it would somehow be cheating or trying to get out of work by asking someone else to help me with this or that. My boss wants these things done and I must use my time to make them so - even though I don't have many hours each week at this job, nor the vastly different sorts of skill sets to get it all done. Sure, I suppose somehow, someway, I COULD get things done. But none of them fantastically. None of them to the best end product that's possible. I need help.

So I've done a lot of thinking this past weekend. And re-realizing my role as the Office Administrator has helped a lot. After all, my job really is to facilitate things getting done - not to necessarily be the one to do the actual work in all cases.

(Thank you, random article I read on the recent D.I. leader training that took place in our area. Leaders are supposed to facilitate things for their teams of kids, not do the things for the kids. For example, show the kids how to fish and where to buy a boat, but let them pick out the boat they want and do the fishing all themselves.)

So, great! Need to create an e-commerce store on our site? Fine! Here's this recommended site designer who can help us.

Want to create a kickin' full-color glossy professional-looking brochure? I know just the person for that!

Want to get to the top of Google when certain key word searches are done? Here's some information I've found and some people and programs that could answer a lot of our questions.

Help, people. I need help. And I'm not afraid to ask for it.

After all. It's my job to help my boss grow her company. And sometimes the biggest help I can give her is getting the right people in front of her and I to make things happen in the best ways possible for everyone and everything involved.

Yes! I can do that!

(And, no. No, I still can't get my house into pristine show quality at all times. In the grand scheme of things, it's just not that important to me. This I know for sure.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In The Now

Here I am again, blogging outside as I watch Sweetie have some bike time. Here to make sure I'm close by if something goes wrong, but also able to take some time to get my thing done. I am a pretty good multi- tasker. My years working at the newspaper taught me that. But I gotta say, this past week has really made me realize the gift of being "in the now."

This week was my first week of working multiple jobs. eBay product listing most mornings, office administering in the early afternoons, then finishing up with call center work into the early nighttime hours. Throw in a few hours of tutor training & you now have a pretty good vision of what last week looked like for me.

This week will be much the same, until next week when I give up the call center hours on Mondays in favor of actually taking on a student to regularly tutor at that time. Yay!

Each of my jobs have very specific duties & responsibilities. Each one requires my utmost concentration - especially during this learning phase I'm in with most of them. I can't be thinking about how to help my exam prep student succeed while I'm making calls to people & reading from a prescribed script anymore than I can think about how to better promote my boss's seminary school while I'm in the middle of writing a snazzy description about this here blue sweater or shimmery button down dress shirt. All very separate, all very important jobs in their own ways.

And then there's home time. 8:20 comes around and I'm arriving home just in time to visit with Sweetie for a few minutes and look through her backpack with her before tucking her in to bed & reading another chapter of her bedtime book to her, if it's my night to do so. And you know it's my absolute pleasure to do so - leaving behind all the stresses, problems and worries from my day so that I can give my full attention to her & completely enjoy my fair share of Sweetie-provided hugs, kisses, noses & poses.

Finishing up the day with Hubby as we watch some T.V. & talk a bit about our day. So nice to be home with enough of the evening left to relax with him before heading off to read in bed.

Then it all starts over again in the morning, with the added a.m. responsibility of maybe working on some spelling homework with Sweetie if she didn't have a chance to get to it herself the night before.

Yes, it sure is handy to be able to get several things done at one time. But sometimes it's definitely nice to stop & appreciate the concentration needed to give your all to just one thing, blocking out the rest of the world for a bit of time.

Especially, I gotta say, the coming home to those you love part. Letting them know that now you're here & the only thing you care to do at this time is to be with them & hear about how they are.

And to know for yourself that, no matter what happened during your day, even if it wasn't the best of days because you may have made mistakes or upset some people, you still have this wonderful family who loves you always, whole-heartedly, every single day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blogging From the Outside In

So right now, as I write this, I am outside on this beautiful New England fall day watching my proud Sweetie enjoy herself to the hilt as she rides her new, bigger bike WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS! Wow! That's right! I can hardly believe it!

Yesterday we were given this bike by a family at church whose older daughter has outgrown it. No training wheels attached. We tried to attach the wheels from Sweetie's old bike, but quickly saw that she relied too much on these too small "helper" wheels, making the riding experience actually dangerous. She'd have to just go out there & learn. Just do it!

So after angrily debating with Hubby about how these lesson should continue after the one miserable loop he did with her while hanging on to Sweetie as she rode, we noticed something... Sweetie was on her bike & had just successfully pedaled herself a short distance. Wow! Do that again! Now see if you can go farther. You did it! You're riding!

Well, that was easy.

Just a few tips from Daddy on how to safely jump away from the bike when it falls, and she's good to go. Still - can't yet be outside on her own with it just yet. But otherwise, she's proven herself a good, safe rider who's made an awfully quick study of all this! Yay, Sweetie!

And as for the story of how we came to acquire this bike... That's another "wow" of a different sort.

Trying to make this as short a story as possible... after our very enjoyable potluck dinner last weekend, Hubby & I gained a lot of knowledge from our friends about where to find some help with the things we need (inexpensive or free food & clothes) as well as the confidence & "approval" that it really is okay to ask for help when you need it.

So, with that, I hung up a sign the next day at church, displaying our need for Sweetie to have a bigger bike.

Not 2 hours out of church & we got the call. Someone's daughter had well outgrown her bike & we were welcome to it. Yay!

I'm so thankful to this family as well as to so many other families & individuals who have helped us this week.

To an old friend/co-worker who told me about a PT job opening where she works her 2nd job. I start there tomorrow.

To the owner of a local tutoring company who called me in after receiving my resume. Or should I simply be thankful to the universe on this one? I think I was the right candidate at the right time interviewing with the right employer. I go in for training sometime later this week.

To another fellow church friend Hubby & I had the honor of getting to know better at last week's potluck. She could use some help with getting more items up faster on her EBay store. If I help her with that, we could both profit from the increase in items sold at her site. I've been helping her for almost a week now.

To the host of the potluck who gave us lots of helpful info, including a reminder of another friend who always has fresh fruits, veggies & breads available at her house - clear outs from a local large farm stand. Perfectly good food they're taking off their shelves to make room for new product. Now available at this other location, free to anyone who's interested and in need. We've been there 3 times this last week. Surprisingly good stuff!

To my parents, who didn't complain when they found out they unknowingly let us "shop" their house for needed groceries while they were away last weekend. And, of course, for all the other ways, big and small, that they've help us so often.

To my aunt who sent Hubby & I a thank you gift for checking in on her cat while she too was away last weekend. A too generous monetary gift. Just nearly the perfect amount to allow Hubby & I to go out for that anniversary sushi dinner. So we did - & had more than enough to pay for it when we included the money Hubby's grandparents sent us to help us celebrate our day.

And to Sweetie. In case you didn't know, Sweetie makes me one proud mama. For her smarts & creativity & general "great" attitude about life itself. But for this post's Sweetie pride, I'm focusing on Sweetie's simple happiness & her unassuming generosity. Sweetie doesn't care that her new bike isn't truly new. She doesn't care that much of her clothes are hand me downs or from the consignment store. She doesn't complain about having soup night after night for dinner (making homemade soup is cheap.) She thinks nothing of us going "grocery shopping" at our friend's driveway instead of the real store. And she rarely, if ever, fills the air with whines and wants whenever we pass by a store's toy aisle or she views certain kid-centered commercials. All she knows and cares about is that she's well loved, she eats enough & she has some fun toys & books to entertain herself with.

Not only all that, but she's just as happy & understanding when we pass along her old clothes, toys & books to others who can use them better than she can. In fact, this giving & receiving among friends & family - and strangers in need - is really a very natural part of her life by now. (I gotta say, it made me feel sooooo good yesterday to find out about some specific items my SIL could use for her daughter and to know that, yeah, we have that... and now you're welcome to it!)

What better gift can you give to your child than the gift of empathy, gratitude & knowing the joys in simple pleasures?

What better quality can you see shining through your child's eyes than simple happiness, generosity & understanding.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Better Together

"Here's a recipe for Apple Brownies. We don't have apples, but we have the peaches from our tree that you canned. We can make this.

Oh, but we only have half as much butter that's needed, and the same with eggs. We literally only have enough money this week to pay the bills due - and in some of those cases, only a portion of the total amount. So I was really hoping we could make something for the potluck tonight that didn't require us to spend money at all.

Well, we can substitute half a banana for the egg we need. And use oil for what butter we don't have. Sure! This is totally doable. Let's make it!"

So, using most of the sugar my mom gave us yesterday, as well as all the other substituted and not substituted ingredients already in the house, we worked together to make a very yummy smelling Peach/Blueberry Blondie (can't really call it a brownie, now, can I? Seeing as there's no cocoa in this or the original (old family) recipe.) Haven't yet tasted it, but I dare say our little experiment has worked itself out quite nicely.

We'll be able to tell just how yummy it is when we serve it this evening at the newly formed Common Security Network potluck dinner - a small group of church folk who, like us, are looking for support and assistance, in any way possible, with our common financial struggles. Not yet sure exactly how this group is going to function in its support, but that's what this first meeting is all about. Coming together to exchange ideas and figure out the best way for this Network to proceed.


Ever since this summer, when Grampy jokingly suggested it, Sweetie has wanted to be an ear of corn for Halloween. Her idea before that was to be a robot. But the corn idea was a good one, and very unique. But I warned Hubby (the creative one) that he better get on the making of this costume sooner rather than later - or it'd never happen.

Well, it hasn't happened yet. And now more than half of what I brought home for income has been taken away. Parts we should have already bought to create this costume have not yet been purchased. And the whole thing really needs to be done by mid-October, not the end, because of various holiday festivities we'll be attending where dressing up needs to take place.

And so I gently suggested to Sweetie that I didn't think we'd be able to make a corn costume this year. Would she mind us helping her think of something else she could be instead?

Her surprising response? No problem! She didn't mind if she dressed up like a robot, or a vampire, or a witch, or computer, or - basically - whatever. 


In the end, we've now all very happily settled on a new idea. A very punny idea. She's going to be an Elevader. What's that you ask? Well, it involves a Darth Vader mask and gloves (yes, parts that we will have to purchase, but hopefully not for too much money), a fabricated bellhop uniform, and a created elevator button display board around her neck. Totally awesome, huh? I'm thinking it's all going to turn out fantastically!


A friend invited me out to coffee or lunch later this week. A friend who's been through some pretty life-altering stresses of her own recently. We both could really use a couple hours together to visit with each other, vent to each other, and try to forget about all the troubles. I wrote to her that, given my recent job loss, I didn't think I could afford a lunch out, but could swing a cup of coffee. So, it's on. It's a date. And I'm very much looking forward to it. At the same time, though, I'm looking at our finances and seeing that even a coffee is too much of a luxury this week. As I said above, anything beyond our regular bills this week pretty much cannot happen. I'm bound and determined to make it happen. It will happen. But I know I'll also feel guilty for spending any "extra" money we have on something like this.

But, really, it's the getting together with a friend I'm looking forward to most. And I do feel I need that. I'm certain she and I both will feel better seeing each other and talking out our woes for just a little while. 


Next Saturday is Hubby and my 11th wedding anniversary. A date that had me insisting that we go out to celebrate at a local, very yummy sushi restaurant. It's been too, too long since we've been out at all, let alone alone together out for sushi! And this is "Happy Eleven!" It has to be done. The plan was made.

And then... I lost my job. So a sushi date that was completely within the budget just 2 weeks ago is now completely out of the question. Any kind of dinner out, actually, is now not able to happen. Now we basically have no means to fund any sort of celebratory happening - with or without Sweetie - to mark our special day. No movie. No dinner. No special trip anywhere fun. A nearby town is hosting a Pumpkin Festival that day. Something we can certainly go to and mosey around at without cost. But, really, that's something we'd probably do anyway this season. It just happens to be on our anniversary this year. What I was looking for was something out of the ordinary to do with my Hubby, and I just can't now imagine what that possibly could be when you also have to consider the "free of charge" portion of the equation. Hmph. At 11 years into our marriage, it's pretty depressing to think we're really no better off financially - and very likely actually worse off - than we were when we first began together. 


Hubby was ranting a bit earlier this week. Railing about all he does and how tired he is. He works full days, far away, doing very active work. He goes running every other day - fitting it in by either getting up extra early or stopping during his long drives home in the afternoon to run several laps around a neighboring town's high school track. He cooks us our meals, even after these long, hard days. And, in his free time, he goes out to his wood shop to create items he can hopefully sell - now even more so, since I'm down so much pay. 

Yes, it's all so very true. He does work hard. Then he does come home and cook dinner. He fits so much into a day, and most - if not all of it - is for the benefit of Sweetie and me. He works hard for our little family. He's a great, great husband and daddy. And I find it - ironic? is that the word I want? - that ever since he and I started working together weekly on our budget, that it's pretty much been a terrible time for us in that regard. He was down some pay. Now he's struggling to get back, but my pay was cut. It's just not cool.

But his ranting, this week, upset me about what I bring (or don't bring) to the "family table." I bring home pay too! And it's not my fault I got fired because my boss got scared and wouldn't take the time to train me correctly and help me to improve! I don't have a skill, like woodworking, where I can just produce something and hopefully sell it. But I'm trying! I'm actively looking for a job! I can tutor and I've signed up again with the tutoring company that gave me students before. I can't control how quickly I'll get students, though. But I'm trying!!

Not to mention I clean up from his cooking and I manage most, if not all, of Sweetie's day to day needs. I'm a darn good mom, if nothing else. 

To all this... Hubby apologized. And he said, with all the honesty in the world, that he doesn't feel poor at all. With all the struggles we have - Sweetie hasn't a care in the world, and he doesn't feel poor. 

Neither do I.

Dreams of the future may turn into dreams in the night. And where you find yourself today may fall short of where you thought you'd be. But whether we dine on sushi, or create a recipe out of nothing... whether we travel to luxurious places or simply wander in the nearby woods... it's all so much better when we're together. 

Love is the answer at least for most of the questions in my heart, like
Why are we here? And where do we go? And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's so much better when we're together.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Week of Ups & Downs

So. This week was... interesting.

Started with me being, let go (ahem... sounds so much better than that other word) from my afternoon job. Yeah. Rather all of a sudden-like. Not going to say much more on this. No burning my bridges and all that. Do I think it was unfair? Do I not think I was given a proper chance? Do I think it's all based on one inadequately trained for - and therefore failed - day? Yes, yes, and definitely. But in truth, I knew I didn't belong there anyway. So, other than the lost income, I can't really say that I'm all that torn up about it all. But it happened, and it made for a less than great start to my week.

That was Monday day. Monday night produced for us a sick Sweetie. Coldy. Whiney. Tearful. Slightly feverish. Just all around yucky. But ask her how she was?! Of course the answer was, as always, "Great."

Sweetie, you don't always have to be great. If you're sick, or sad, or angry, or happy or whatever - it's okay to feel anyway that you feel. And now you have a cold, so I don't think you're really great.

Well, I am always great. But then there's how I really feel.

Ha! Okay, fine. So you're great. And now how do you really feel?


And thus ensued an evening of whiney tearfulness. So glad I gave her permission to feel what she feels.

Tuesday night had us attending a Destination Imagination meeting at our local high school. We were attending as much for finding out if Sweetie's involvement would be logistically feasible for us as we were attending to find out if Sweetie was even interested enough to get involved. I told her as much, as we drove to the school, and let her know that she needed to pay attention and give us her honest opinion about the whole thing.

Well when your sick, highly dramatic, very rule dependent child responds to a mock D.I. challenge with an enthusiastic "That was awesome!", you know you best be signing her up on a team ASAP. In fact, we're all very excited about this new venture for Sweetie. Hubby was even conflicted as to whether he wanted to be a team leader or not. Something he would usually SO want to do. But doing that would also make him have to miss some of Sweetie's involvement in competition. This year, we agreed, we'd just sign her up and see how it goes. In years to come, he can help out in any way that he wants.

On Wednesday I was able to attend a magic show with Sweetie at her after school program (You have to pick me up on Wednesday at 5:00 so you can see the magic show with me. - You know what, Sweetie? I think, this week, that is something I can definitely do.) Sweetie loved the show, and was honestly thrilled to have me there with her (as proven by the extra hugs and kisses I received while we sat waiting for the show to begin.) I was so happy to spend this time with her as well.

Then we were saddened to learn, toward the end of the week, about the loss of a baby that our good friends were expecting in February. A routine ultrasound found some complications, and a follow up scan proved the fetus was just not viable. A sad, sad time for this family. They do have two very beautiful, very healthy children already, but to know that another little life would not be joining their family was just heartbreaking to hear.

Yesterday we had "Movie Night" with our friends from Hubby's college years. Something we try to have monthly, but it's actually been about 4 or 5 months since we've all been able to get together. And Sweetie was excited because FINALLY she'd get to see the videos of her Daddy during his years when he and his friends were involved in a campus variety T.V. show. So exciting! She loved it! So much so that she's actually planning on bringing the show back to life, and I dare say she already has the first couple new episodes already worked out in her mind.

And then there was today. TODAY! A very well anticipated day for Sweetie, since she'd be attending the birthday "event" of her good friend (the daughter of the afore mentioned couple who lost their baby.) And what an event it was! High flying action took place and Sweetie was beside herself with excitement. What a thrilling experience! Definitely a fun-filled, happy day that all families involved in certainly deserved.

Phew! What a week it's been! I'm personally hoping for a more even-keeled week for the upcoming few days. Boring, even, might be okay with me.

The lows were certainly low, but the highs were fantastically high. All in all, I really can't complain.

How am I? Great!

And then there's how I really feel. (which, for now at least, is actually not too far from great anyway.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Under The Influence

Everyone has something they do well. Hopefully I have at least a few things that others think I'm particularly good at. One of them, I feel confident in stating, is writing. I love to write and it's a skill that comes so naturally to me that it doesn't even feel like a skill - it's just a little thing I can do well enough without much effort - enough to hopefully entertain others and satisfy me.

So it's somewhat funny to me that, since I can write well (that is, communicate effectively through the written word), I am not at all good at speaking well. And I'm not only considering public speaking. No, I can't even always speak one-on-one with a good friend without stumbling over words or just plain not knowing how to transition from one topic of conversation to the next.

I am just a bad, bad speaker. Too quiet, too quick to get nervous/turn red over the tiniest of (self-perceived) "things", and not enough up on current events to meaningfully engage in/begin even a bit of small talk with someone.

I remember in college, in fact, thinking that my Humanities discussion class in particular was just a huge lie in that surely none of these college peers of mine truly had any real interest in discussing the philosophy of Socrates or the lessons of Camus. I saw their classroom contributions as pure BS, knowing that out in the Real World they'd much rather talk about beer and sports and the opposite sex and whatever other subject of nothingness going on immediately around them. And I - just didn't talk in class. Because I didn't care either! Or I did, but I didn't want to come off as a nerd. But either way, I didn't want to be a liar - so I just didn't say a thing.

All, I believe, contributing to my current inability to hold an interesting conversation with someone now.

Hubby wouldn't mind me saying that he too is not the best at speaking with others in social settings, and certainly not great as the sole speaker in front of many. In fact we joke together that, when at large family gatherings or other party-type situations, we often find that the people we choose to migrate toward to speak with usually roam away from us within just a few minutes.

We're obviously really that bad. It's pathetic.

So after a recent family (family!) small (small!) get-together where he and I (well, at least I, as far as I'm concerned) spent way too much time sitting in silence while others around chatted, I mentioned to Hubby that I wished there was either a course to take or a book to read about how to Learn to Make Small Talk. He agreed that that would be great for him as well.

I searched the 'net for any books on the topic, but could not see that any in existence could be found at our small public library. Oh well. Maybe someday I'll pick one up at the store.

In the meantime, another thing I know about myself is that I am able to rather comfortably speak with others after imbibing in just a glass or 2 of wine (or other some such alcoholic beverage). Mind you, I'm not saying I have to be completely drunk - just a tad bit loosened up and tipsy. Catch me then, and I'm happy to speak with you for as long as you'd like - and I'm sure we'd both find each other's time very well spent.

With this in mind, and a quick Google search yesterday successfully leading me to "12 Easy Tips for Making Small Talk," - a list of tips I shared with Hubby as well - I felt somewhat prepared to go to - and enjoy - an event last night at our church.

Wait! No... that doesn't sound good at all! Change that to "with the realization that I feel more comfortable after a drink or 2 (but not after having actually had the drinks), and with the Googled tips, I was able to go to the church function knowing what I had to do to more easily engage in small talk."

I just had to act like I was under the influence.

And you know what? I rather think that worked!

We found a small group of friends to sit with, and I felt pretty good about the give and take of our conversation. I was able to ask questions, offer information, and entertain as much as I felt entertained. At least I hope so, anyway.

And again at coffee hour today. We tend to leave pretty soon after getting a quick coffee and snack. But today we stayed and chatted with some friends we hadn't seen all summer - along with a friend of theirs they brought along for a visit. I had fun today and really enjoyed both catching up with our friends and learning something about their friend who was there with them.

So that's the trick! All I have to do is remember how easily conversation comes to me after having a few drinks - remember how I'll happily contribute stories and opinions without worrying that they don't really fit in with what's being discussed around me, but are close enough anyway. And I'm good! By no means the life of the party, but an interesting enough member of the gathering whom others actually wish to stay and speak with.

Hmmm... come to think of it... maybe I should have had a swig or 2 back in college before my Humanities classes. Then I'd have been a fascinating contributor to the class instead of a wilting wallflower.

Maybe that's what my classmates did. Yep - they weren't thinking about drinking - they were drinking!

Ahhh.. it's all so clear now. If only I'd been a bit of a wild child, how different my life would be...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beach Blogging Bingo

Well, okay. Not really Bingo so much as Apples to Apples. Or Quiddler. But there may be bongos, I suppose! All depends what sorts of talents/ no talents present themselves at tonight's show.

Whatever. S'all good. We're having a grand time, as expected, here at the beach. Our only real vacation this year, and we've really been looking forward to it.

Of course, it will all be over too soon. Just a quick 2 night trip away, joined with many members of our church for some fun, free time and fellowship. After a summer "off" from church (gotta love a church that values family time enough to provide you with a whole summer's worth of it each year!), reuniting at the beach each September is an amazing way to reconnect with those who really have become an extended family to us.

And the family aspect of gathering here really is such an important and comforting part to us. Sweetie is free to play and run around wherever, whether we are right there with her or not. We know that everyone here is watching over and keeping safe all of our kids - not just the one(s) who biologically belong to us. Sweetie's either outside, in a friend's room, playing in the common room or snacking in the dining hall. Do we really know exactly where she is every second? No. But it doesn't really matter - we know she's safe wherever she is, that she's not making a nuisance of herself (too badly, anyway), and that she is more than likely having the time of her life.

As are Hubby and I. Staying up late playing cards and boardgames with the grownups, collecting driftwood along the shore at daybreak, and visiting with friends old and new. Such a fabulous, fun time to stop and refresh the soul.

Looking forward to this evening's cocktail hour and the afore mentioned Talent/No Talent Show, followed by a bonfire for marshmallow toasting and s'mores.

Oh yeah. Did I say yet that I was in Heaven? Because that's exactly where I feel like I am.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Secret Lives of Parents

When I was a little girl I remember sobbing to my parents time after time, could I pleeeeeaaaassseee go with them out to dinner/to the movies/to whatever grown up activity they were embarking on instead of stay home with my brothers and the babysitter. I so wanted to go with them - not to be left by them. To be involved in whatever kind of Exciting Fun they were about to have instead of stay home, having a regular ol' evening with my siblings and sitter. Not that I didn't love our regular baby sitter. And my brothers didn't treat me all that badly, either. But just to be with my parents, doing the obviously amazingly fun and different and exciting thing they were about to do - that was where I wanted to be.

(Or, was it more like I simply didn't want my parents to go in the first place? Yeah - that was probably the case at least some of the time.)

So of course when Hubby and I get the chance to go out every once in awhile, there's Sweetie... skipping with joy into Nana's house, already thoroughly entranced in her Lego playing within a minute of arriving, hardly even acknowledging the fact that Daddy and I are going away for a few hours or (as was the case last night) leaving her to sleep over, since he and I will be out past her bedtime. See ya, Mom and Dad! Have a great time!

Heck! When sleepovers are involved, there's practically an enthusiastic countdown of days leading up to the Super Fun event!

I don't believe Sweetie has ever asked why she's not allowed to go with us out to dinner/ out to so-and-so's house/ to the movies/ to the wedding (last night's event - for my boss's daughter's wedding.) Even when she knows perfectly well who we'll be seeing, where we'll be eating, what kind of fun can be had at the given event - nothing. She knows she's going to Nana's & Papa's house, or possibly being watched by Grammy and Grampy, and she is one happy little bee with her assigned place in the situation.

And even though I have 7 (and a half!) years of experience with this, it seemed that last night more than ever pointed out to me what exactly adults - specifically, parents - do with each other when they are fortunate enough to have an evening away from their kids.

We talk about our kids!

Of course, Hubby and I have been out for evenings before with other friends who are not parents. And inevitably we will bring up the subject of Sweetie one or two or 10 times. But we really do try to make an effort to "leave Sweetie at home," not talking about her too much because, well, we imagine the subject of parenting is just not all that interesting to those who are not involved in it. In fact, I imagine that they imagine we as parents are excited to have an evening away and to not "have" to talk about Sweetie would be our idea of a relaxing night out.

But in truth... uh uh. We parents honestly can't get enough of our kids and are thrilled to talk about them with anyone who'll listen. And what better group of people to do this with than with other parents who are just as enthusiastic about sharing their own kids' impressive qualities/maddening habits/sicknesses/achievements/challenges, etc., etc., etc....

And now I know beyond the shadow of a doubt... when I was little and my parents went out against my wishes!... they too, no doubt, were talking about my brothers and me with just as much heart and pride and amazement as Hubby and I now apply when talking about our Sweetie.

You are a joy, Sweetie. Yes, you're also a stubborn, at times whiney kid whose ears don't always work as well as they should. But mostly - a pure joy. And even when you are not with us, please know (and I think you do) - you are always at the forefront of our minds and we can't get enough of sharing stories of our life with you with whomever we are with who cares to listen.

That's what we parents do.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Free to Be...

... You and Me.

I'm loving that commercial - I don't even know what it's for! Target? - that features the Free To Be You And Me song. We used to own that record when my brothers and I were little. I've wanted to get the anniversary edition of the Free To Be You And Me book for Sweetie. Just haven't gotten around to it yet.

At any rate, I think that message is a great way to preface this post. What I'm about to write here is solely MY view on things. I do not intend to offend or otherwise diminish the opinions, thoughts or feelings of anyone else. I only mean to use these things as a jumping off point for expressing how my opinions, thoughts and feelings fit into the mix. Everyone is, indeed, free to be - and feel - however it is they do. Just like I am free. I'm just going to apply my freedom by writing this here blog post...

With that said, I'll remind you again of my quest to reestablish my blog roll. In addition to recalling the blogs I've been linking to all along, I've also been searching the blogosphere for new blood. Specifically, blogs themed around disability in some way or another. A mom or dad writing about the ups and downs of raising a child with a disability. A disabled adult chronicling his or her everyday life. Something new to my readers and something, ideally, with a positive/motivating spin on what it means to have a disability.

Unfortunately, what I've actually run into more often than not, it seems, are blogs that either A) look like they'd be great but haven't been updated in at least several months, or B) have a very definite political/socio-cultural bent and are typically angry in nature. Angry about how disabled people are treated in our world. Angry about how said writer personally feels about his or her disability-laden lot in life. Angry about lack of respect, lack of ability, lack of opportunity. Just plain angry. And sad.

Well that makes me angry. And sad.

This is not to say that I disagree with these bloggers. Sure - when grouping all people with disabilities in a very large, very "in-general" grouping - "we" certainly are not as well respected or offered as much opportunity as others. And as I said at the beginning of this post, I definitely don't mean to detract from the very real opinions and feelings of others. But it's just not a stance that I personally want to promote.

And whereas I cannot speak for - would never dream of speaking for! - all disabled people of all different types, I can speak on the more specific topic of what it means - what it feels like - to be a person living with Spina Bifida. What it's like to be me.

Because in my blog searching I've also come across those few and far between sites written by individuals with Spina Bifida. And again I am saddened and shocked by the percentage of them that feature writers who are so angry with life. Who can't get past how they're being treated and oppressed and brought down by The Man. Writers whom, it seems to me, do everything they can to blame others for the poor way they feel about themselves.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get that. I mean, it's not like Spina Bifida is something that happens to a person after years of living a totally awesome and carefree/disability-free lifestyle. It's a birth defect. You're born with it. It hasn't changed the way you live your life - it just is part of your life. It's part of who you are and have always been. Deal.

Most things that I am not able to do that other "regular" people can, I've never been able to do. So these are not activities I miss. They've just never been in my repertoire of abilities. Big deal. There are many other things I can do. Some even way better than "regular" people. So there!

Yeah, okay. So there are some things that have changed for me over time which are directly linked to Spina Bifida. Up until my last major back surgery about 14 years ago I didn't have to walk using a walking stick. I just needed my braces and I was good to go. I could even run if I wanted! It was not an advised activity, since I could break my braces if I was too hard on them. Or I could get blisters on my feet. But still, I could physically do it if I wanted.

My need for a hysterectomy - due to a uterine prolapse - a few years back also has, I strongly believe, a link to Spina Bifida. See, my uterine musculature - like other muscle groups in my body - was simply not strong enough to hold everything in place after the stress of my pregnancy a few years prior. I personally know at least one other woman with Spina Bifida who has gone through the exact same thing as me, plus I've read articles that discuss the likelihood of uterine prolapse in women with Spina Bifida.

And speaking of my pregnancy - my chronic back pain and left leg numbness has only been an issue for me since having Sweetie. It sucks, yeah. But it is what it is. And as I've said in recent posts, I actually think my pain and numbness is lessening since taking on my more physical part time job. Yay, me!

You could maybe, maybe even say that my long job search that still hasn't even landed me the full time job I ideally need has been made more difficult because of my disability. Potential employers who did not want to hire me because of being discriminatory against people with disbilities. But I don't know about that. It's not what I choose to believe, anyway. I hope that any potential employer I seek out and who meets with me judges me based on my resume, personality and job specific skills and not the fact that I have Spina Biifida.

And, sure - there are definitely things about who I intrinsically am as a person that have no doubt been shaped by my disability. I'm quiet, for instance. Being the girl in school who was "so different" than my peers didn't help me to feel very comfortable opening up and being as talkative with them as I was at home with my family. And, for better or worse, it's a trait that's stayed with me until this day.

I also know what I can and cannot physically do. More to the point, I know what I can do, but in ways that are more slow, clumsy or just different from other "regular" people. And so I may ask for help with these things rather than make the effort to get the thing done on my own. My doing this, I feel, kind of spills over to other parts of my abilities. That is, I'm not comfortable figuring out how to do new things (to me) on my own. I'd much rather have someone walk me through it. Even if they too have never done the thing in question. Strength in numbers, and all that. Spreads out the blame when wrong things happen, too. But in reality, I have got to realize that I am perfectly capable of taking on any number of new challenges thrown my way all on my own.

But that's my point. These things about who I am as a person - they're my hang ups! I am just as able as anyone else to work through the lesser feelings I have about myself. Or not! Who cares - it's my problem! Because don't we all - disabled or not! - have things about ourselves that we just don't like?! Can't we all tick off a whole slew of problems we find in ourselves/! Aren't we all aging and aching and moving more slowly, more carefully, as we go? We don't need to blame society or government or The Man, as it were, for bringing us down in this world. Disabled or not, we've all got the ability to do that personal bringing down thing all on our own.

As the awesome Marlo Thomas said, we're all Free to Be You and Me. I'm happy with my "regular ol' life." I rarely if ever feel particularly disabled. I just don't think like that. But if others are happy to constantly be down on life and others and themselves, then that's fine for them. Rock on! But stay out of my way, because you and I will never walk the same path.

Live life. Be happy. That is all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Beginnings

Hey! Notice anything different around here?

I am sooooo excited about my blog's new look! Hubby designed my header for me and I think he did a fabulous job. That's a painting of me when I was a little girl, done by my grandmother (mom's mom). Then add some photos of - who else? - Sweetie and me across the way (all of which just happen to color coordinate oh so well with the painting!) And I just love that picture of Sweetie in the twirly ride thing. Such a great photo, I just had to include it!

However, in making over my blog, I lost everything in terms of comments people have left on my posts as well as my many different categories of blog rolls. I've started to redo them, as you can see over to your right. But there's ton more to add. Especially in terms of posting links to sites about Parenting with a Disability, Spina Bifida, and other random but important links I used to have and now have to reacquire. Ugh.

In that vein, if you are reading this and either, A) used to be on my blog roll and now see that you're gone, or B) can direct me to some great blogs and/or sites of interest for my specific topic(s), then please, by all means do leave me a comment with your information and I'll get to adding you right away. Thanks so much! And remember, in terms of blogs, I'm mostly wanting to keep to the topic of parenting and/or raising special kids and/or being an amazing adult. Having a cooking or knitting blog listed in the middle of other on-topic blogs, I feel, would not fit in well at all. Thanks!

And, in other news, Sweetie started 2nd grade this past Wednesday! Can you believe it?! What, she was about 2 years old when i started this blog? Maybe 1 1/2??? Now she's 7 1/2 and so excited to be back in the classroom, catching up with her friends and waiting to see what great things will happen this school year.

Here's to a great school year! We're excited too, Sweetie, to see you learn and grow and create every day in lots of little ways. You make us so proud!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Around the time that Hubby and I got married, my grandfather sent us a newspaper clipping from Dear Abby. "'Make love" every day wife's advice," shouts the headline. Hmm. Wow, how progressive of my grandfather to send us such advice!

Upon reading the letter, though, you find out that what the wife in question is really advising, after 50 years of marriage, is that it's the little acts of love that really hold a marriage together. A smile across a room. a hug, a "special look." Hand holding. If you do all that - and more - your marriage, and love, will make it through "better and worse."


Sweetie goes to bed every night, and I am done. I may be sitting there on the couch, but I am "done" for the day. Hubby tries to talk to me. Tries to make me smile, laugh, simply just engage in conversation with him. And I don't respond. Don't want to respond. Can't respond. Not in the mood. Just done. More nights than not, this is our experience. Hubby at the computer, around the corner from me, and I on the couch. Watching T.V. and playing on my Ipod. Or he gets the T.V. - usually watching nothing I'm interested in in the least - and I'm on the computer, or up to a bath, or doing dishes, or up to bed. Our interactions, as I said, are minimal at best. This, unfortunately, is our "typical," after Sweetie goes to bed.

But, as we close in on 11 years of marriage this fall, I have to tell you I love him just as much as ever, if not more so. And as the Dear Abby clipping hangs on our fridge to this day, we do abide by its teachings to "make love every day."

- Ever since I can remember with Hubby - before he was Hubby! - we have always kissed each other 3 quick times in a row. Our wedding day kiss was three quick kisses! (okay, maybe 2 quick kisses, with the 3rd being a bit longer, but still...) Every morning he still kisses me goodbye with those three kisses. "Why do you give Mommy 3 kisses and I only get one?" Sweetie recently asked him? "Because I've always given her 3 kisses. It's our thing," was his matter of fact response.

- If we do watch T.V. together after Sweetie's in bed, you can almost guarantee that it's a "murder show" (CSI, Castle, etc....) and we both enjoy our time together, figuring out the mystery of how the given murder was committed and by whom. We'll also usually be playing Scrabble together (well, together on our Ipods) at the same time. And I'll be fixing Hubby's feet with a foot rub after his long workday standing on concrete basement floors. Not my most favorite thing to do in the world, by any means, but something he loves and needs. After his working so hard, then coming home to cook us dinner (a great act of love on his part), he deserves a little love and attention from me.

- I'm almost always asleep by the time Hubby comes to bed. He stays up until midnight or so every night, and I'm out cold earlier in the 11 o'clock hour. But if I am awake, I'm just coherent enough to roll over in bed so that he can wrap his arms around me. He claims to not be able to sleep without holding me, and I can't completely settle for the night without his warm, comforting squeeze.

- Our new money management ritual is definitely an act of love. Every day we now hand over receipts, and generally let each other know if money was spent. Every Friday night we now sit together and look at our finances. For the now, for the upcoming week, and for the upcoming month. We figure out what we can send to certain "big debt" bills. We see together just exactly where we stand. I no longer solely take care of the checking book - a situation that often left me scared of our standings and afraid to admit to Hubby the truth of the matter. But, wow! It turns out this little act of what-doesn't-really-seem-like-love-but-definitely-is, is so amazing. It really is so much better to work together as a force than to be scared alone.

- And then, when we go out together, for any purpose - typical daily errands, the rare date night, whatever - you can bet that Hubby and I are always, always, holding hands.

Yes, I'd say that the number one reason for this little act of love is for him to help me get around easier. After all, I can be so much faster and more stable on my feet if holding someone's hand. And I almost require a hand hold when going up an incline of some sort. It just makes my mobility that much more safe and secure.

But even so - yes, you could say that he "has to" hold my hand to help me. So what?! After being together for more than a decade - and just like our 3 quick kisses - it's just become something we don't even think about. Just something we do. It's our thing. And it's a wonderful act of love. Not just him towards me, since he's "helping me out." But a mutual act of love toward each other.

Back in the days when he and I were newly dating, and I was still on crutches after major back surgery some months earlier, we were leaving the movie theater one night and he lamented not being able to hold my hand because of my holding onto my crutches. Later that summer when we went miniature golfing, we both realized how well I could get around without my crutches and just using the golf club as my walking stick.

I do believe it was from that day on - well, very shortly after that day, anyway - that I "graduated" to using a Hubby-made walking stick as my main walking support. No more crutches! And - finally - the ability to hold hands with each other.

And we're still holding hands. To this very day.

So as we approach our "Happy 11" anniversary (our first date was on the 11th of April, so month after month, we'd celebrate "Happy 11" mini anniversaries), I admit that, in several ways, our marriage has settled into a bit of a comfortable groove. A place where we don't necessarily talk meaningfully every day. A place where parenthood more often takes the lead over couplehood. A place where either - or both! - of us can just be "done" by the time we finally get Sweetie settled into bed. Work, and Sweetie, and life in general has tired us out for the day.

But it's all okay.

We still have my grandfather's newspaper clipping hanging on our fridge. We still heed it's advice. We still "make love every day" in so many little ways.

I wanna hold hold your hand for the rest of my life, Hubby. Thank you for holding mine.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Big Questions

The other night I started reading Superfudge by Judy Blume to Sweetie as her bedtime book. But as soon as I started reading, I saw evidence of a Big Question that was going to be asked by little Fudge.

Where do babies come from?

I actually stopped reading and asked Sweetie if she was sure she wanted to pick this book for me to read. After all, it's really for kids a bit older - like 4th or 5th grade. Maybe she'd prefer to read it on her own when she was older.

"No, I want you to read it now. And maybe by the time I'm older, I'll have forgotten it and I can read it on my own then too."

Okay. Here we go...

But, unlike Fudge's question to his parents, Sweetie asked me nothing. Okay, then. Good.

...Until Daddy read the second chapter to her last night. HE got "the question." And HE gave her silly answers. Answers she knew were too silly to be correct. Apparently, she wouldn't give up, but Daddy just told her he'd keep on giving her silly answers, so just stop asking.

Hmph... if it were me, I would have given her my most appropriate response for her age and her specific question. Or at least, that's what I'd like to have thought I'd done.

So today I've been prepping myself. Researching what to say to a child of her age when she asks the Big Question. I think I'm prepared now. IF she asks again.... Heaven knows I'm not going to bring up the subject myself quite yet!

But beyond this classic Big Question that all parents must forge their way through in one way or another, I know that Sweetie will surely be asked some pretty Big Questions herself about another topic... Me.

Questions from her peers about why her mom walks funny. Why does she wears those things on her legs. Why does she use a stick to help her walk.

And maybe - we told Sweetie recently when we were having a family discussion about bullies - these questions would be asked in a mean way by kids who were trying to pick on her for having a mom like me.

(To which Sweetie looked incredulously at me, with a heartfelt, "But why?! Just because someone needs to wear braces on their legs doesn't mean they're not a nice person or a good mom! Maybe they will grow up and have to wear braces on their legs! They shouldn't pick on you! That's not nice!"... That's my girl!)

Now, it's not like Sweetie hasn't dealt with this already - or like I haven't written about this already. In fact, I clearly remember picking her up from preschool one day when the kids crowded around me and started - innocently, but curiously - asking me questions. To which Sweetie quickly piped up and started giving her matter of fact answer that these extra things I have help me walk because my legs aren't as strong as everyone else's.

But now, it's just that the older she gets, the much more likely it is - I feel - that she will start to feel the effects, negatively, of having a disabled mom. At least as far as peer relations go.

As far as Sweetie herself goes, I know her to be a strong, independent, creative kid who really couldn't give a hoot about fitting in with the "in" kids or doing something with her classmates just because "everyone else" is doing it. In fact, that's something both her kindergarten and 1st grade teachers have pointed out to us. Sweetie doesn't really have any close friends in her class.... she much prefers to choose an activity to get involved in purely based on the activity itself, not because of which other kids are involved in said activity.

"Oh, playing tag looks like fun! Jimmy, Jon and Jen are playing tag? Okay! I'll play that with them!"

So if Sweetie happens to be picked on for some issue solely concerning herself... her lack of a best friend, her always wanting to play Super (Sweetie), her love of the colors pink & green - whatever! - I'm pretty confident that she'll take it in stride and not let it get her down. At least not too much, that is.

But when it comes to being picked on because of someone else related to her - especially her mom! - well, I just don't know if that will roll off her back so easily.

Her very reaction to my suggestion that such a thing may happen proved to me A) how outlandish she knows it is to pick on anyone just because they're different, and B) that it really is hurtful to hear others making fun of someone you love.

Who knows... for now she may still be just fine. After all, she's still pretty young and she's been with this same group of kids since she started school (granted, that's only 2 years now.) From my personal experience growing up, I know I felt comfortable - albeit pretty dang shy nonetheless - from kindergarten to 4th grade because I started off with that group of kids and they got to know me well enough and look past my disability. It wasn't until moving to a new state and new group of classmates in 5th grade that I became ultra shy and feeling much, much more different than everyone else around me. Likewise with Sweetie - hopefully the kids she's with now, who are the only kids she's been with, do and will continue to accept her for the awesome, independent, great kid she is and not think twice about painting her in a different light just because her mom is "so different."

But we will be moving again. Probably next summer. Possibly later. But we will move. In fact, I'm not thrilled with what I've heard about her school in terms of the older elementary grades, and certainly not the middle/high school. Hubby and I want to get her out of this school before too long. So inevitably, she will be faced with all new faces. Friends, bullies and peers.

I'm not looking forward to the day Sweetie comes home crying for any reason that another kid would intend to make her upset. Whether it's within the first few weeks of 2nd grade, or the last weeks of senior year in high school. To have your child so hurt by someone else's words and/or actions - well, I know it's going to hurt me just as much as it hurts her.

We don't want to force the issue now. But we want her to be aware, too. And we definitely want her to know that, no matter what, both Daddy and I are here for her to talk to anytime about anything. If she's doing great at school and making friends and having fun, great! Tell us about it! If she talks back to a bully who's trying to hurt someone else's feelings - and it works to shut the bully up! - let us know! We're proud of her for sticking up for someone else (even if it doesn't work and possibly gets herself in some trouble.) And if a bully tries to pick on her for any reason at all - including the sole reason of having such a different mom - then we need to hear about that as well.

No matter what, together we can talk things out, and sort out feelings and answers to big, difficult questions and situations. Together, we can help each other through anything.

May you always keep strong, Sweetie. May our communication paths always remain open. And may the Big Questions of life dwindle in size and scariness when worked out together in love.