Sunday, August 28, 2011

Maybe healing is really more about how you look at the storms....

I've been wracking my brain to figure out how to write about my other thoughts about healing...without sounding new-age-y or crazy. Oh well, that might be impossible. I last wrote about how healing sometimes seems like it's about getting back up and moving forward (as Dori would say in Finding Nemo 'Keep swimming')...but I often feel it is really more than that.

When I first found out about Kath's stroke I just kept swimming...some days in circles, but I knew I had to keep moving. Mind you I did my turtle impression and pulled away from every one and everything that I possibly could, thereby losing several friends because I simply didn't have the energy to keep swimming and also be there for anyone else outside my home. I was concentrating on keeping my nose above the tide while trying to hold everyone in my family, with their variety of issues, up above the waves. And everything was so heavy. So darn heavy that it took all I had to just. keep. swimming.

Then things began to ...I'm not sure what to call it...but I was able to start to breathe...maybe the waters started to recede...but, no, not really because all of the same problems were there...well, more actually, because now great financial difficulties raised the water level.

You know that anecdote that says that most American families are one crisis away from financial ruin? Well, we were hit over and over...within two years.
1) While I was working part time (job sharing my teaching position),
2) Nick had his TBI accident.
3) We found out I was pregnant (not a 'crisis', quite a blessing, but still a financial struggle).
4) Then after she was a year, we found out Kath's stroke diagnosis.
5) Two weeks later Roger had his roll-over car accident during a snowstorm, totaling the car we had just paid off and taken the collision coverage off--to save money--a few weeks prior)
6) and his head injury.
7) Our well stopped working and we needed a new one.
8) Our entire cesspool system stopped working and we needed a new one.
9) We had to purchase two new-used cars.

Each time we thought we were getting a grip on some unwieldy part of our life--something else slammed into us, with our credit card companies adding the icing on the cake by raising our interest rates and decreasing our limits then charging for being over this new lowered limit and all that craziness before federal credit card regulations thankfully came into play this past year. This basically decimated our credit scores.

What I noticed and maybe Hurricane Irene helped me notice--was how far I've come in how I look at problems and recovering/healing from them. In the beginning I used to say things like "Now what else?" but as time went on I began to say, "Ok, I'm ok, I can handle this."

I actually walked around saying that for a long time.
Until I believed it.
It took a long time.

I was introduced then reintroduced to the idea of Positive Thinking and Law of Attraction. Sounds hokey. But whatever works, right? It finally 'took.' I of course prayed, found strength in myself and found that all of those together are pretty amazing tools to have. I began to think of healing as being able to handle the big problems and the little problems without feeling like I was ripped open and walking around raw.

While Hurricane Irene was building momentum and coming up the coast we took her seriously. Afterall, this was a possible catastrophe we could actually PLAN for...we don't often get that opportunity. In my world, catastrophes hit you when you don't expect it...I don't get days notice to stock up on essentials. So we filled containers of water, made sure we had plenty of food, ice, batteries. The wash was caught up. Bathtubs were filled. Then we kept checking the news and the weather, watching the stories of what others were going through as the storm came closer. Praying Manhattan, where our son Chris lives, wouldn't flood. Praying my NYPD brother wouldn't have to risk his life to rescue some Hurricane Jerk. Praying my parents on Long Island would be okay without power and not need to evacuate. We packed up and packed in all outside objects we could so nothing would be a projectile, including my favorite outside porch chairs.

I also checked facebook and watched friends struggle with power outages, flooding and scared kids, prior to the storm actually reaching here...having a bit of a 'heads-up' warning of what to expect was pretty nice. Then I also read posts from people who seems to be trying to egg on the storm. "THAT was a hurricane? Irene was nothing!"

Those comments made me angry. Really upset. Didn't they know that when you are blessed to walk away from some catastrophe you don't say, "Eish, is that the best you got, Mother Nature?" If you are so fortunate to walk away unscathed from any type of storm, diagnosis, or evaluation, you don't taunt it, you walk away gratefully. You say thank you to God, the Source, whoever you pray to. To your planning, the early warning, the president, FEMA, your governor, the squirrels, whatever, but you don't thumb your nose and say, "Phsaw."

The reason people's attitudes probably bugged me so much because I was a bit cavalier like that before our crash.

Having so many issues to deal with, especially in a span of 2 years, has made me appreciate when things go right with a strength of conviction and gratefulness I never did before. Even the little things that others may take for granted, a sunny day after a storm, the fish survived another night, the dog didn't eat my junk food, are reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

I look at this storm...and the cups my daughter Alex, filled with water (we have jugs in the basement) so she could help prepare, and the furniture that could have stayed out of the garage and I say, "Whew, thank God we didn't need all that, but at least we knew we were as prepared as much as we possibly could be. We did what we could, we prepared ourselves for the worst and hoped for the best.

So when the basement sprung a leak, it was annoying and frustrating, but it was not as frazzling and overwhelming as it would have been when Kath was first diagnosed. Although when Kath did fall up the stairs, --after following us up and down while we swept up the water, she tripped and almost bit through her lip,--I did lose it. I couldn't even look at first. I held her, Roger hung up on his father and we tried to figure out if we were heading to the ER during the storm. The bleeding stopped and ice pops calmed her. Monday morning when I called the doctor's office to ask what to do...and found out I was doing right (Woo-hoo!) and all that could be done, I felt that notch click into place. I DO know what I am doing. Sometimes.

I think my idea of healing is also being able to breath again, without reminding myself to. You have to find what works for you, kind of like my idea of religion and faith (previous post). Some things that help me are Healing Touch, Power of Positive Thinking, Law of Attraction, doctor and therapy visits, grateful meditations, praying. It could also be as I said in my last post...showing up and getting back up after being knocked over. Or a combination of all of the above. I had to go through each of the above topics, reading, researching, trying them on, keeping the parts I felt worked, letting go of the parts that didn't.

One of the major constant sources of hope, help and sanity have been the fellow families who also struggle with a child on a different path, whether it is CHASA (see sidebar link for more info), facebook groups or friends I have who also have challenges. People who understand are priceless in surviving and healing in a way you just don't understand until you need them, and they are sadly scarce.

Whatever happens, whatever storm, diagnosis, evaluation, issue, I'm grateful that my tool bag of healing ideas is bigger today than it was five years ago when I began 'falling apart' with my son's accident. Some days I need each and every tool to get through the day standing. Other days, just one or three.

Healing one's body, mind and spirit is a slippery thing...maybe that's why there are so many books about it, therapists and thank goodness friends to help get us through.
Whatever works works.

Some days it all clicks and notches into place and I'm okay with the juggle of trying to keep everyone above the water. Other days I want to be on the damn beach already, sunbathing. But many of us know in our very core that now that we have embarked on this life, this journey of having a child with a different ability/path, a different Holland (, our days on the beach sunbathing are cherished healing breaths of regrouping--which may not happen as often as we want or need. No longer are those beach days the beach days of a carefree youth. We move and think differently than we did, than many of our friends do. No easy feat. One that often leaves us feeling lonely and adrift, unless we connect with other families.

We prepare for the worst and we hope the best. We smile. We laugh. We cry. We try to heal those around us and build bridges for them so they can reach mainland as often as possible and we hope we can heal ourselves along the way. And if we are smart, we learn that by trying to heal ourselves, by putting the oxygen mask (more on that soon) over our own face first, we can heal and be strong enough to help those we love around us, and we can weather the life storms with a bit more of ourselves in tact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe RingsReal Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading YA books. I enjoy books from YA better than any other type...except maybe classic lit...but I really only like them after I've read them a few times and geek-discussed them to get at the core. But YA books, I love them. First time reading. And second. Especially when they are written well, with respect to their audience and with a strong protagonist. And if they have a good sense of humor...all the better!

Ms Boudreau's book was a choice book for my 7 year-old. She saw me reading it, liked the cover, loved the idea that I knew the writer and so she stuck with it although some of the talk (first period and boyfriend crushes) were beyond her (at least I HOPE they were, I explained some, but not everything).

The main character, Jade is grieving the loss of her mom (Alex is NOT happy with how many mom's die in stories, so she was thrilled at the ending, but wants a sequel) who allegedly drowned a year ago, and although this is tragic and very sad, Ms. Boudreau manages to play the healing sensitively and humorously, especially when Jade gets her period for the first time and her geeky father showing up, trying to help, with a shopping cart FULL of feminine projects from of her crush.

When Jade discovers that she turns into a mermaid she also finds out her mother was a mermaid, who had special permission to stay human. So how could a mermaid drown? The mystery thickens. Along with a frazzled best friend relationship which promises to pull her apart, unstudied for final exams, a mom sighting, Jade shows the reader that she is made of tougher stuff than that.

My daughter loves whenever a strong female character stands up for herself. She gets that nervous, excited giggle and she stands crouched on the balls of the feet at the end of the couch waiting for the next scene...she is a true pleasure to read to, she laughs out loud, she gets so nervous she'll hide her eyes, groan, and even ask me to stop, she can't take anymore. She went through all of these emotions, and I of course did too because this was a gripping, funny tale of a girl discovering who she is has more to do with her heart than her outside, whether she means the overweight outside or the fin-encased mermaid outside. Jade stands up and takes her spot in her own life and learns the power of making things happen. She learns how to apologize, how to keep good-for-you promises and how to stay true to yourself even if the boy has cute curly hair and a mysterious back story himself.

This was well worth the read and you should give it a read.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watching the Clouds at the Beach (AKA Healing? We are NOT Life Wimps!)

I have been thinking a lot about healing lately. Healing of body, mind and spirit.

I think about how different it is-- for each type as well as for each person.

Three and a half years ago Roger had a roll over car accident, he needed 6 staples to his head, and we believe he has undiagnosed post concussive syndrome. He has memory issues as well as issues with too many stimuli-he can be easily overwhelmed-which is not good for the father of four, high school teacher in an inner city school, early morning newspaper deliverer and husband of ME. He still struggles with parts of it but he isn't as easily flustered now, and believe me, Kath tries. He's trying to find coping strategies that work around his issues.

Nick had his head-on collision with a cinderblock wall five years ago and is diagnosed with post concussive syndrome and he struggles every day with memory, as well as self discipline and assorted other issues. He's still trying to figure out the outer edges of his injury and what his new goals have to be in order to move forward.

Then there's Kath stroke and the myriad of issues that has provided us.

For each of these things that needs healing I notice that it is similar to the other two types...even when one deals with a mental or spiritual 'hit' you have to go through a grieving process, it seems. The mourning for the life path you thought you were on, but are no longer. The person or persons you thought you knew and find you don't. The confusion over 'why' and 'why me' and 'who is driving this boat, anyway?'

Roger and Nick wish they could get those seconds before their accidents back and stop them from happening. I remember thinking and praying I wouldn't have a child with issues, I didn't think I could handle it (I didn't know about Law of Attraction back then, but Nick had just had his accident). However, when I was asked to take tests for different health issues...I chose not to...knowing I would have and want my baby no matter what the tests showed. After Kath was diagnosed, I definitely mourned the life she didn't seem to have a chance at anymore and the life I wouldn't be able to fold back into.

But as I sat on the beach this week I thought a lot about healing. The girls and I went to Long Island to check in on my mother who is healing from spinal surgery (Alex was finally ready for some travel after healing from having her tonsils and adenoids removed) and also so the girls and I could go to the beach.

The forecast for the day we were to go to the beach called for thunderstorms. I decided to go anyway, with the idea that we could sit in the car and eat lunch, while still be breathing in salt air. We weren't going to be fair-weather beach bums. So we packed up towels, sunblock, beach toys, umbrellas, rain boots and off we went.

The clouds were even darker and more foreboding once we arrived at Robert Moses, field five, but we trekked to the water, opened our chairs and pulled out our lunches...and we were not alone. There were several other blanket neighbor families. About three minutes into eating we had our first metaphor for life. Kath put her sandwich on top of the cooler and I thought it fell, so I did the normal mom whine..."Kaaath, you have to watch what you're doing. Now your sandwich is in the ....where is your sandwich?" She just looked at me, and a little beyond me, eyes wide. I turned around and there was a Band of Brothers Brood of Seagulls staring at us, looking a little militant. The sandwich was already consumed and they were looking for the next weak move on our part. It was swallowed whole and they had no qualms about staring us down until we dropped our guard.

Just like in life, sometimes you think you are going along all fine and good and wham...someone snatches away your moment. Or your food. Sometimes it takes the wind right out from under you and startled you just stand and say, "What the hell just happened?" Luckily this time I was semi-prepared. I packed extra sandwiches! And my blanket neighbor buddies all shared in the moment, we laughed and it is a funny story. Now. Especially when Kath tells it in her high breathless squeal, "THE SEAGULL STOLE MY SANDWICH!!!" I thought, "This is fun, I'm so glad we came."

There were boughts of sun as it burned through some clouds. It really did look like it BURNED through too. The sky was covered in strips upon strips of layered clouds but there were areas where the sun lit up the sky in light waves and other times when it blew completely through the clouds...and poured straight down in a perfect circle of a hole that lit up where we happened to be. And I thought, "This is so beautiful, I'm so glad we came."

It did start to rain. One of our blanket neighbor buddies--an older couple with their grandchildren said, "Don't worry, it will pass quickly." I laughed and said, "Ah, spoken like the people who are under an umbrella!" And he laughed and said, "Well, we always have to believe that, don't we? That it'll pass quickly? Or we wouldn't do anything!" And it was suddenly one of those moments where you know you are getting life advice from a wise person...not just a weather report. This couple was one of the healthiest older couples I had ever seen. They ran around and played with the three kids, he swam laps in the ocean and had very fit legs, might I add, in a hopefully nonstalkerish way! And she smiled and laughed with her whole essence. And because he said that, even though I started to pack all of our things into our beach buggy, we stayed and it DID pass quickly. And I thought, "Wow, that is like life, sometimes those storms look so bad and you think you'll have to duck and cover, but all it takes is one person, sometimes a complete stranger to say, "Hey, it's okay..." and you stop the panic and you say..."Hhmmmooookay" and you see those great big raindrops aren't meant to be scary (this time), that the bad did just pass quickly and we can get back on track with our fun. And that was exactly what we did. Sometimes 'bad stuff' isn't horrible and breathtaking, it's just 'notgreat/notgood' and having that reminder is good. I thought, "Wow, I'm really glad we stayed."

Alex build a huge sand castle kingdom. Alex is my shy, focused kid. Very much like Nick use to be when he was younger, and in many ways he still is. She was determined to build this huge kingdom...she brought buckets up and down so many times, and the sand just sucked them up (we were too far away from the water), and she was too stubborn to stop. There was a two foot drop off from the area we had our blanket on to the water (it looked like the state had done some plowing of pushing sand inland) and so she had to go down a little ways where it wasn't so high, and back and forth she continued. Alex was not distracted by the two little grandboys next blanket over who were 'falling' off--in Charlie Chaplin style-- the two foot cliff, she barely looked at them. Well, except to eyeball them and her castle as if to say, "Don't mess with this, grrr." (Come to think of it, she might have learned something of that look from the militant seagulls.) Kath, on the other hand, was belly laughing at their antics...thereby providing an appreciative audience for them and egging them back on.

Side by side my serious girl and my goofball.

Kath lay back in the sand and swung her legs and left arm up and down. "What are you doing?" "I'm making a sand angel!" So I went over and helped her right hand make its path so she could have her angel with two wings. It was an instinct, but maybe I should have let it be. The way she is is fine with me, but I do try to 'fix' it sometimes and I never know if I'm right to. I know it is right for her to have therapy and to work so she can have the most use out of her body with cerebral palsy, but I wonder if I always should be 'correcting.' Sometimes, I think she should just be allowed to be. I didn't try to 'correct' Alex...I let her just be to figure it out on her own, but for Kath everything seems to be a lesson or therapy. I sat there watching them thinking, "I'm so glad we came and played. And that they make me rethink, always, even if it's exhausting."

Down by the water Alex is a dolphin who would LOVE to dive right in. Kath makes me hold her, then she clamps her lips tight. The last time we went to the beach she laughed sea water right in and down her throat. Kath learned quickly to keep her mouth closed, but she learned it to such an excess that even up on my hip, her lips are pursed and locked as she laughs nonstop, although muffled. I finally put her down and made her reapproach the water on her level...and by the end of the day she was doing that great little girl loop of running-and-laughing-like-the-wild-thing-she-is into the little waves then running out onto the beach and still laughing-and- running back into the waves. Watching them, I thought, "This is so freeing, I'm so glad we came."

Then another healing/life lesson was the rip tide. Once they both got their confidence wouldn't you know, the tide shifted and there was a very strong rip tide current. So I had to teach again about how beautiful and fun it looks on the surface, (my little self-life metaphor is it's just like some people, situations, life itself) but yet underneath there is something that wants to just knock you off your feet. Despite this, they still had fun feeling the tug from a safe distance, digging, grabbing shells, running in the winds and laughing deep in their core. Despite the danger, I was glad we were there.

I'm not sure if I really did learn anything earth shattering about healing, but I know that I came to the ocean for some healing and as I watched those clouds, the seagulls and the riptide I was oh, so very glad that I hadn't sat back; that I had risked the day. Instead of staying safe at home, I went to the beach when a storm was possible, and in my effort not to lose any beach time, I dipped my toes into solace, watched my kids just be and have fun and I breathed. Maybe it isn't really about healing (whatever THAT word does mean!)...whether from physical injury, mental insult or injury, or spiritual lags, maybe it's just about waiting the yuck stuff out, hoping the rough stuff passes through quickly, but at the same time keeping your eyes open to the humor, the joy, the inspiration, the teachable moments, the importance of blanket neighbor buddies, and the deep breaths of just being. in. the. moment.

On the way home the girls dug into a bowl of watermelon slices, polishing them off before we reached grandma's and our dinner out-- more stickiness added to the baby powder sand removal, some sun on everyone's skin that eeked around the sunblock...and further proof that worrying about dinner appetites and sticky, sandy skin is for wimps. And if my girls helped to show me anything on this storm-like beach is that we are definitely not Life Wimps. And maybe healing is just a metaphor for getting up and trying again the next day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If you haven't hung around a 4 year-old in a while...

I strongly suggest it. As long as your intentions are pure.

Have you ever heard the squeal of a child who is watching a slug inch its way across the pavement and when she accidentally touches it she says it felt like a kiss--wet and squeeshy? I never would think of describing it like that...but she does not yet have the prejudices of 'good' and 'bad' bugs or whatever species they are. All bugs are kinda cool to Kath..except the ones that bite..oh and ants (we've had our fair share of those buggers this year).

"This paper makes me smile; it's fun to write on!" "Why did he say he hated her?" "I playing." "I love you."

How about when a four year old grumbles? That is pretty hilarious. "Grrrrr, where is the garbage pail?!" I moved the garbage pail to a new post in the laundry room yesterday, but since I'm on a cleaning rant it has been following me room to room. So it moved to the front of the pantry and craft area with me today. She looked at me, eyes flashing, "You need to move that back!" She didn't like going to the pail's new spot and finding it gone. She likes things in their spot, even if that spot is only one day old. She especially finds a value to things being put where they belong if she is trying to FIND that object, not necessarily when she is putting that object AWAY herself.

Or how about when they exclaim "Dammit!"? Roger doesn't think it's funny, but of course I think it is. No, I don't want my kids to be cursers, but Kath actually uses the word correctly...when she is extremely frustrated. Yesterday she even had Roger laughing. He asked if she was ready for her second book (at bedtime). She told him, "I have no underwear on!" (How he, who got her ready for bed, wasn't aware of this---I have NO IDEA, but it may help to explain the high level of frustration I have some days and then the shrugging and 'whatever-mode' I alternate between--I cannot make up this insanity.) So Roger told her she had to go get her panties, she left them in the bathroom. She heaved herself up, grumbling, "Dammit!" as she went.

Oh, and as for feeding the animals. Whether it is the birds outside, or the cat, dog or fish inside it is a major production. If we spell C-O-O-K-I-E, Bucca (our Staffordshire Terrier, aka pit bull) goes nuts and tramples (in comedic form) whomever is so kind (crazy) to attempt to get her a dog treat. Moran (our feral, no-longer-quite-so-wild cat) will weave between anyone's legs when she is trying to coax you to the food and bowl. The birds outside will 'yell' at us if we forget to feed them. They sit at the feeder or on the deck and squawk, staring in the windows, until I grab the food and fill the feeder. The squirrels will help themselves if the birdseed is accessible--which it IS to anyone who can chew through plastic containers. The fish...the aquarium is up and running and we finally have Alex's favorite fish, the pleka AKA the sucker fish. The girls fight over who gets to feed the fish and who gets to feed the sucker. However, no one fights over cleaning the tank or the kitty litter box.

I love the sounds of my two little girls playing in the playroom. Amazingly cool. I love when they play 'family' and 'the mom' sounds so kind and loving. (Whew! :D) And I love when they play school and say how much they love to learn. I love the spontaneous concerts of songs sung at the tops of their lungs, I've missed that while Miss Alex heals. I love too how Kath will just sit down and play with playdo, imagine sandy worlds in the indoor sandbox or find fun books to look at. And how much Alex loves to read and write and draw. Alex's healing from getting her tonsils and adenoids removed has been slower than we hoped but she's starting to play more, a sure sign of recovery.

"I found the book we jump in!!!" (It was Winnie-the-Pooh, Kath saw the movie coming attractions where Christopher Robin jumps into the book.) "I had a dream a penguin came home!" "Hold me, I had a bad dream."

My, how little kids love with their whole being! "You are the best mommy in the whole world!" That's something I hear daily from my 4 and 7 year-olds, but rarely from my 22 and 23 year-olds. :) Not that they don't think it (haha) but once we become adults we don't tend to GUSH our love so openly and unconditionally.

When people say to me..."You were almost 'done.' Why were you so crazy as to have more kids when the boys were almost out of the house?" I say and I mean it--now more than ever: Because I never want my house to be empty of little voices that belly laugh, point out how clever slugs are, or how amazing sucker fish are. I never want to forget how wonderful the lens is which kids look at life, unprejudiced by the things adults allow to fog up their life's windshields. Because when I sit and talk to my little girls I see what really matters and I breathe a whole different air than I do otherwise. The only other time I get to feel that way is when I write, when I try to recreate those worlds where a person can just jump in and get absorbed by a book, like Christopher Robin.

I want to be the one who has playdo in my nails, crayons in my pocketbook and a sandbox in my foyer...forever. I want to be the person who watches that sucker fish wiggle around and says, "Hey! Look at that guy!" I want to be the life experienced 43 year-old woman I am with the perspective, optimism and love of a 4 year-old and the wisdom, kindness and appreciation of a 7 year-old.

This is my new life goal.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Persuasion by Jane Austin

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Austin managed to write books that were not simply romances, not simply cultural/societal tellers for the time period, but also studies in human behavior. I never thought of the similarities between the Cinderella story and this until I did some further reading on the book.

I read this book awhile ago and enjoyed it, but now that I reread it I think I must have been sleeping when I first read it. Here is a story of a person who has made a decision when she was 19, has to live with it and around it for 8 and half years until she can somehow try to fix it and reclaim her life.

There are so many really great literary parts to it but the story itself...I was never impressed with Anne Elliot. I thought she was weak to have been persuaded so easily, until I remembered (especially now that I am OLDER) how easily it is to be unsure of one's self, especially at 19. She spent the next 8 1/2 years living her life, taking care of others and keeping true to herself. She didn't believe in the societal trappings of needing to marry for the sake of marriage and since she feels she threw away her chance at love, she stays single.

Throughout the book we see Anne Elliot's softness and her quietness is often overlooked as a sign of weakness. But underneath she is a strong person who is trapped in her time. Well, until Captain Frederick Wentworth steps back into her life that is. He is still the man who makes her stomach flip, but she stands aside as he seems ready to chose another. She has no claim. However, once he is at liberty (minor misunderstanding that almost traps him in Lyme), she makes sure he knows her feelings and she steps back into his life, literally at the concert and figuratively with her philosophy about how a woman loves longest with Captain Harville. Captain Wentworth is a man worthy of Anne, he has stayed true to her and he writes an incredible letter asking her to say once and for all, is there still a chance?

At the same time as all this soul piercing love is going on, we see the silliness of Anne's own family as they feel they are worthier and better looking than they are. I enjoyed how dimensional all the side characters were designed. We get to see how important connections were to the society levels, and how easy it was to get away with being a false person. We see the trappings of this time period and how people either rise above it or succumb to being caricatures of themselves.

I enjoyed Ms Austin's language, her story and her ability to grip your heart as you breathed life with the characters then also laughed with the absurdities. I will definitely be rereading this one. Again.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Princess School:If the Shoe Fits

Princess School: If the Shoe FitsPrincess School: If the Shoe Fits by Jane B. Mason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ugh. I just wrote a pretty long review and something made it disappear.

And of course I didn't save it first. Ugh. Anyway...

My 7 year old has been eating and loving these books. Her eyes light up when she reads them. She even has to put the book down sometimes because she gets so upset with some action a character did. She asked me to read these books along with her and I said yes, but it really did just go on the bottom of my own huge mental pile of books-to-read until I was trapped under a sleeping child and this book was the only thing I could reach.

I was very grateful and happy that Jane Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens are so good at telling a good story. By using the main princess characters that many of us know, with peeks at a few other fairy tale characters (Red Riding Hood), these authors weave the story of 'before they were famous.' This book is about Ella and how she not only has to deal with her horrible backstory (abusive family, yes a silent father is abusive in this situation), but also school, fitting in, figuring out who she is, clothes that don't fit and are rags, bone wearying chores, and dealing with other girls who bully.

Overall, I found the voice of this story easy to get into and easy to like. I found that what and how the authors were saying was a really great and powerful message for young girls to hear. Life is tough sometimes, but a magic wand will not solve your problems, however if you study hard, work hard and do the right thing (even when it is hard) and surround yourself with a strong support group of friends you can weather anything.

I will not worry about my daughter being so absorbed in these stories. They are well-written with a good message told by likable characters who don't get a wand and a fairy godmother to get them out of the difficult times, they have to use their brains and count on their friends. This was a good read.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Tonsils and Adenoids Gone AKA Didn't There Seem to be More Fireflies When We were Growing up?

My brave Alexandra worked on making a potholder on the way to the hospital on Monday. Then while waiting to be called she and I walked around the gift shop and we worked on a Word Find Puzzle book with daddy.

We spent the weekend before worrying about whether we would be able to even HAVE the surgery since Little Girl started to sit around and say assorted things like, "My ear hurts," "Both ears hurt," "My stomach hurts," all which are indicators for Alex's strep. I took her to on-call on Sunday and she was even running a fever. However, that was the only time she ran a on-call. She tested negative for strep and no for an ear infection. So we went to the hospital the next day, told them about our weekend. They checked her over and decided that since their check-up and our thoughts were in agreement, the surgery would go on. (I think her body was reacting to pre surgery stress.)

I don't think I would have been as brave as she was. Actually I was nervous and sick to my stomach, but trying to fake it. I think I did okay because she usually feeds off my vibes and she was, as I said, amazing. She made sure her mind was occupied so she didn't get lost in the fear. Wow.

And during this week of recovery she has continued to be amazing. She takes her medicine. Eats her ices and she tells me not to make her laugh. Of course there is pain and discomfort but she seems to have expected and prepared for the worse, until Thursday and Friday mornings, when she seemed to falter for a few hours but she got the meds in her and rebounded. Those were also the first mornings after she slept through the night, taking meds but not drinking every few hours.

She and I sleep on the couch so she doesn't wake Kath, and so I can grab her ice, meds, walk her to the bathroom. Yet every early morning Kath has woken up, searched us out and followed our scent to the living room. She climbs over me and snuggles in so the three of us are sleeping on one couch.

Big Bro Nick came to the hospital and was there when Alex woke and came the next day and watched a movie with her (Spy Kids). Big Bro Chris wished he lived closer but called and texted. She has enjoyed having time to just be together with me at night. She has been reading now that she can handle it again, she wouldn't read the first two nights, but now she can read for hours. She has loved the cards she has received and is looking forward to the IHOP gift certificate when she heals and can devour pancakes.

While we were waiting in the surgical waiting room Roger asked me if I ever had to go to the doctors with the boys as much as the girls. I said no, but then I remembered that shortly after Chris was born the doctors found his fontanel closed up prematurely. Every month for his first year I had to take him to a hospital to have him checked. Every month, while I was 20 years old, I had to look at Chris' developmental stages and remark back to the doctors. We were lucky; each month he was ahead of the developmental curve.

I thought back to each child and each one has had his or her times of stressful worry. A couple of them keep it going for longer than the other ones, but each one has dug in and made a niche of worry in my heart and claimed certain grey hairs as his/her own from the boy whose fontenel closed up too early to the boy who ran into the wall to the girl who has been sick since she walked into kindergarten to the girl who had a stroke before she was born.

Alex asked me to 'test' her on these bug info cards Wednesday (I know...isn't she crazy?) One of the cards was about the firefly. My girls didn't recognize that beautiful bug that magically lights up the night time dark areas of my childhood. Granted some of it is because they are inside and in bed by dark most of the time. Granted they are too young (and we live in the boonies) to play SPUD with the neighborhood kids, but I thought how sad it was that even now I didn't see many of those bugs. Is it because I didn't stay up late playing SPUD and other street games like I did growing up on Long Island or was it because the bugs are disappearing or is it because we don't often stop to really look around at the things that light up...especially when we can play on Facebook for hours or get lost in the dark areas of our adulthood doing our day to day stuff?

I thought I would spend the summer sitting outside writing. I do try. I sit on the front porch and watch the hummingbirds in the morning for a few minutes, before my kids' locator device zones in and I'm found. But my visions of sitting on the back deck in the screened gazebo, after everyone goes to sleep are not happening, partly because we don't have a screen on the back door and I would have to close the door. One more barrier if I have to escape a bear...I'd have to unzip the gazebo door and pull open the oft-stuck back sliding glass door...I'm not sure I can do that faster than a bear. Yep. I'm a freak.

But even so. Where are the lightening bugs? Remember that time of life when it was fun to run around in the dark, the glare of the streetlights shining/blinding you to a loud obnoxious neighborhood game of "Freeze Tag" or "Hide and Seek." Our parents were usually sitting at someone's stoop talking, maybe drinking a beer and they were laughing and being obnoxious, too. We caught lightening bugs, kept them in that special Lightening Bug Container with the green top with the air holes.

Didn't life seem so much easier? When all we had to do was yell "Spud" or "Freeze" or "Red Light Green Light 1-2-3" and everything did stop? For at least a few seconds. Or how about when you asked to be spun around--Salt meant slow, Sugar was medium, Pepper was fast. The Spinner would grab your forearms and spin you both around in circles and sometimes just let go of you...well, usually just let go of you. The next part of the game was when after you fell the Spinner got to come around and tell you what he wanted you to pretend you were or were doing based on how you fell. And you had to do that until the Spinner yelled stop or you all just laughed too hard and someone needed to go to the bathroom.

Nowadays it is filled with...a lot of other things. When I read my homepage on Facebook it is a mix of people who have children with health issues, friends who have health issues or their family members who do, friends with children with disabilities, writer friends, high school friends, students. Everyone has something going on, but so many times my wall is filled with people who stop and show the rest of us their lightening bugs.

The pictures of accomplishments. The positive quotes. The amazing stories. The wonderful "Like" button.

Of all things..Spy Kids...I think 3...lots of movies this week...ended with the grandfather saying to his arch enemy that he was upset with all that he lost because he was in a wheel chair...but he wouldn't trade that for all he living this different life. This adult life of mine is not about catching real lightening bugs anymore, chasing them in the dark, gently placing my hands around them, trying not to smother them, watching them light up, then move on, then light up...but my life is a lot like that still.

Today Kath traced her hand (by herself), cut it out and then taped it to the wall so everyone could see. She did some mazes (follow the letters A,a to get Abigail to the apple trees). My little lightening bug lit up, moved on, lit on, moved on. (Her attention span is about as long as those bugs light up, but even that is improving in leaps and bounds). Alex flitted through the last few days lighting up and showing us how to deal with something out of one's control, she did it with strength and with heart. She lit up, moved on, lit up.

While I've been looking around saying, "Eish when I was kid I chased lightening bugs and life was easier" my daughters have showed me, 'Childhood might look like that when you look at it from 5 foot 4 and 43 years but it really is about the same kinds of things. That is IF you let it. The setting might look different, the players may appear wiser, but maybe that is just how it appears with these hindsight glasses.

Maybe some days we are just more weary than others and we don't move on, so we rest, and we don't appear to glow. Then after we regain our strength, we move on, lighting up as we go and not even realizing we lit someone's path.

This is a thank you to my friends who especially helped me this week (and well, for all those other dark times too), whether you watched Kath, made us a tray of mac and cheese, sent prayers and healing thoughts, texted, sat and watched a movie or even shared a funny story in your memory about someone cutting off their hair just like Kath did this week (that can be its own blog post!)! Thank you for reminding me that those little lightening bugs are still there bringing the magic into the dark spots.

Thank you, my lightening bug friends and family.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Jane Eyre.

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, since I've been on a Jane Austin kick and I happen to see the movie "Jane Eyre" who had an actor from "Persuasion" as Rochester, I decided to give it a go. That lead to looking for more movie versions of "Jane Eyre" (I get obsessed sometimes). I read that Toby Stephens' Rochester from Masterpiece Theatre's version was fantastic and steamy. So I figured I would give it a try, not expecting to like it half as much as the BBC version. Alas, I fell in love with Toby Stephen's Rochester. I watched it several times and then grabbed the book off my shelf so I could compare the dialogue between the two versions. Finally I stopped the movies and threw myself into the book.

Ah Ms Bronte. You wove such a tale that when I was younger I would not have appreciated the difficulty of Rochester's life decisions, nor Jane Eyre's. There were passages where I stopped and reread for the simplicity of the power of her language. For example, when Charlotte Bronte writes, "And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked me down" I don't think one too young can understand that intense feeling, how devastating one's coldness could be to someone who is passionate. (And that just made me dislike St John, the person she was writing about, even more.)

I have carried the book around with me this week so that I can read whenever possible. In between my daughter's surgery and running for ice chips. Admittedly I did sneak it several times because my stomach was in knots waiting to see what and why and how Jayne Eyre would carry on in a time when women were limited in their choices. I was often mad at her for her apparent coldness to Rochester, even though I understood her motivations and fully supported her. I wanted her to cut him some slack, and I really wanted her to toss St John on his backside. (She was good enough to be a labourer for St John, but not to love! Hurumph.)

Then when Jane Eyre heard Edward's voice cry out to her and she answered. AND HE HEARD. Wow. I thought how powerful a connection they have (I believe in that stuff), even though she does not tell him that she did cry out those same words. More than just a romance novel this book made me rethink the time period, the long walks that cleared one's head and made one healthier (I'm afraid of the dark and JE often came home wet and in the dark, weren't there wild animals there?) and of course the importance of staying true to one's core. Afterall if you don't have yourself, then who do you have when everyone else leaves you?

I did wonder why Ms Bronte left the book ending talking about St John though, instead of our Edward, since he was the chosen one and the one I most wanted to know 'what else' about.

I enjoyed the "Dear Reader" aspect of the writing and I'm considering using that tool myself since I found myself looking, paying more attention when Ms Bronte addressed me specifically. It was as if we were talking across a cup of tea and she was trying to give me a head's up to what she was thinking.

This is a book I would reread. It actually made me consider working on a course of women's lit...The Nondamsels or something like that. Enjoy!

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