Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 11, 8 years later

My September 11th this year was a bit focused on me and my family.... lots going on, as usual.

I started thinking about September 11th at the very beginning of the month though, knowing that it was coming. When it happened, I had a young baby, and I had the TV on in the morning as I was feeding Toph. I was so shocked when I saw what was happening. We were glued to the TV and those same images day after day after day. Our hearts went out to all of the families who lost loved ones, and we felt a special compassion for those who were still waiting to learn if they'd lost loved ones. Our hearts swelled with pride as we heard stories of ordinary people risking their lives to help save others. As a nation, we felt pretty united.

A lot has happened since that tragic day. Families have tried to mend. Rescue workers have trained in new areas. We've grown apart as a nation. But every year, as we "celebrate" this day, we can all remember what happened. It's totally a "where were you when JFK was shot" kind of experience--you'll never forget where you were and what you were doing when you heard.

I've got a different perspective on 9/11 now. Over the past 8 years, I've met rescue workers and people in the military. I've spent time with their families. I've grown up some. The selflessness of the rescue workers and ordinary people who risked their lives to help the people in the World Trade Towers amazes me to this day. Without a thought for themselves, they risked (and sometimes lost) their lives to help someone else. We can never repay that debt. When our country went to war, thousands of soldiers left their families and friends to serve our country. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. But both of those groups have some unsung heroes in them too--their family left behind. Each fire fighter, police officer, and soldier have family members who serve this country by supporting their hero. By giving selflessly of their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, etc. We owe them a debt of gratitude too.

I've met some of these unsung heroes in the past few years. I've seen the sacrifices they and their families have made in our behalf. It's not easy for the families who have been left behind when a parent deploys to go to parts unknown. They are lonely and scared--and have to learn how to live without their missing member. Their sacrifice is personal, but it belongs to us too.

Whether we agree with the war or not is pretty unimportant. The fact is that we have soldiers who are willing to risk their very lives to protect our freedom and help others. Rescue workers have important jobs as they willingly risk their lives to make ours safer. The flag is a symbol of our nation, and its composition has some real significance. Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.

We need to be proud of those who work to defend that symbol. We need to recognize their selflessness in serving us. WE benefit from their work. We benefit from their sacrifices and we benefit from the sacrifices that their families make. So as we move forward, it's my hope that WE NEVER FORGET. I hope we never forget to be thankful for services rendered in our behalf. I hope we never forget what it was like to be unified--and I pray that we can work toward that unity again. BIG things can happen when we all work together.

So, as we see September 11th on the calendar each year, my heart swells with pride. I love living here in this great nation. I love what has been done to give so many of us freedoms that we take for granted. I am so grateful for the many men and women who have sacrificed so much for me, a stranger. Let us NEVER forget!

Deep Thoughts

I've been thinking on the subject of "family" for a while now, and I think that's the subject I'll address today.

When I was teaching, I taught a short unit on the family. We defined "family" as "a group of people who live together and love each other." Many of my students were not from a traditional family, and so we decided the expanded definition was better. But our definition covered the people in a home--the definition of "family" is much broader than that.

We have, to my way of thinking, several "families" that we belong to. Of course, there's our blood family. They're related to us and we have special ties to all of them. We have "families" of people we work with, associate with, and go to Church with. And then there's our "chosen" family members. These are the people who we've chosen to become part of our family. They're as good as a blood relative. You love them as if you were related.

Does this make your blood family less important? Of course not! But we don't always live in a situation where we have access to our blood family. Sometimes they can't (or won't) step in to help us. Sometimes they've died, and we don't have access to them at this time. And our "chosen" family can fill in the cracks.

In our Church, we believe that we lived with God in Heaven, BEFORE we were born. This belief makes us somewhat unique, I know. But I like to think that sometimes when we "connect" with someone and feel like we've known them forever, it's because we have. Our spirits recognize each other from "before." I've met many such people.

I never fully understood the importance of my "chosen" family until I moved away from my blood family. For 30+ years, almost all of my family lived within a 30-minute drive. I have been very fortunate to have known all of my grandparents, and some of my great-grandparents. I saw my family on a frequent basis, and moving away from my hometown was VERY difficult because I couldn't just go see them whenever I wanted. When we first got here, I was so relieved to go to Church the first time, because I knew that I had a new Church family who could help me if I needed help. In the 3 years that we've been here, I've made some new "chosen" family members. Because I spend a lot of time with other Moms, most of my chosen family are "sisters from another mother." We don't have the history (or baggage) that I share with my own sisters from birth, but my relationship with them are equally important. I can pick up the phone and call my sisters (and brother), and I can see them a few times a year when I go back and visit (0r they come here), but I don't get to share in their lives like I used to. If I got into an accident and broke my leg, my birth family couldn't drop everything and drive 6 hours to come help me. But my chosen family members could band together and help me. Because we do stuff like that for each other.

They are the "other" mothers of my children. And through them, I have "other" children too. It's great! We uplift and serve each other as if we really were related. When they have great things happen, we cheer with them. And when life throws them a curve ball, we cry with them. And when our circumstances change and we must move away from each other, we grieve that loss as if we were related by blood.

I'm so grateful for my "chosen" family! They go beyond the bounds of friendship to really earn a place in my heart. They teach me things and enrich my life. And I don't think I say thank you enough for all that I have gained by having them in my life. So thank you "chosen" family, thank you to ALL of my family!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Someone recently commented that I haven't posted in awhile, and I was missed. Thanks for missing the posts. But there really hasn't been much to tell. It's the Same Stuff, Different Day around here.

School is going well. The kids love their teachers. Homework just started--so we'll see how long they still love their teachers. I imagine the homework won't really change their opinions. I am enjoying my new-found freedom of not having to personally fetch Hannah after school. She's a big 1st grader, after all! But we were having issues with "what am I supposed to do today" and I had to get creative. I made a set of tags to hang on the kids' backpacks with their after school instructions: car pick up, WAIT for Mom, park, and playdate. So far, the tags are really working. It's win-win for all of us. Now we just need to get the kids to cooperate on the whole "car pickup" thing. Hannah and Toph are supposed to walk together. Hannah gets impatient, and instead of walking across the walk to Toph's room, she just heads to the pick up place. Toph takes his responsibility as big brother very seriously and will go to the office and ask for an all-call for Hannah. I *think* Hannah's got it down now. (I hope!)

Aside from school, we're really enjoying the return of park days. We've had a few HOT ones (yes, it does get hot here in paradise), but we enjoy them anyway. Since our cub scout night changed to Tuesdays, we don't have to rush home either, and I'm liking that! Yes, we still have cub scouts. I've got an interesting mix of boys right now, so Hannah gets to go to boy scouts with Robert instead of coming with me. It's working out well for both of us. Toph is still LOVING his den and being in scouts. He recently got his Wolf award.

The other thing we're enjoying is our sessions with Toph's psychologist. Dr. Mantell is a gift to us all. He's helping me to learn how to parent an ADD kid, and he's helping Toph learn how to be a more effective ADD kid. He's SO smart! We just love our session times, because we leave feeling so positive about life. I'm glad we have the option of having this time with Dr. Mantell. It's so helpful to know if the frustrations I'm having are from Toph's condition (and something he really can't help) and it's helpful to look at things from a different perspective and learn how to "tweak" how I'm doing some things to make them better for Toph. There's a fine line between knowing what he can't control/help and using the ADD as a crutch. Toph knows that ADD just means that he has to work harder in some areas of life. It's not an excuse for bad behavior.

Toph, Hannah, and I also got to go visit Dr. Rachel on Friday. The kids had been complaining of sore throats for most of the week--and we HAD been exposed to strep. After Hannah woke me up 3 times during the night, I figured we'd skip school and determine if the sore throats were from strep or not. NOT! Just cold/allergies. We doubled up on the Benedryl at bedtime, started Sudafed for the stuffies, and we all enjoyed milkshakes for dinner on Friday. Please, no lectures on how the milkshakes will increase the mucous--they felt good on the sore throats! Hannah had a rough night with the stuffies, but she's doing much better today. Toph was better Saturday. There's something healing about visiting the doctor's office sometimes. Now let's cross our fingers and hope that we didn't pick up new germs while we were there!

I'm doing well with the fibro. I'm still WAY tired all too often, but I'm looking forward to the day when that's not the case. I've had many "good" days in the last month, and I'm looking forward to more. I'm a bit nervous about my November appointment--hoping that my doc doesn't up my doseage. That would put me back in misery again, I'm afraid. But I'm enjoying all of the things that I've been able to get done and all of the good minutes. I'm learning to listen to my body and be realistic with my expectations. I'm learning how to ration out my energy for the things that are really important. And I'm currently enjoying NOT being a vampire!

Last week I got to participate in card swap again. It was really fun for me this time. I found a stamp that I adore! It's a moose stamp, so it's close to my heart. I thought I was SO ahead of schedule--because I stamped and colored when school started back in August. But then life got in the way, and I was quickly finishing things up the day before the card swap. The cards I got were really nice too. It was nice to get out of the house and spend time with some friends. Next swap: I'm doing a Christmas card! I've got one of the papers already, but that's it. I've got until November, so it's not urgent yet.

Oh, and I was able to get a "tune up" in the last couple of weeks. I got to visit the dentist and get my teeth cleaned and my filling (the one that fell out) replaced. I got to go to the chiropractor and get adjusted (need to do that again). And Wednesday I got to go to the eye doctor. I'm having a decade birthday soon, and my eyes have noticed. I have been wearing the same glasses since before Toph was born, and they're in pretty bad shape. But they have been the best glasses I've ever had. So I was nervous to replace them. But lately, I really need the reading portion of the bifocals, so I made the appointment. The good news is that my prescription hasn't really changed much. I got to see pictures of the inside of my eye (new technology is cool), and I have 2 freckles inside my right eye--nothing to worry about. And I'm going to have some really nice, NEW glasses in just about 9 days! Then I'll be able to SEE! The old ones are so scratched up that I can hardly see out of them.

That's all that we've been doing. SSDD. Sorry, no photos this post either. I'll try harder to find more stuff to write about that goes with pictures. And I'll try to remember to have the camera with me when it happens. Oh, I could awe all of my readers with a photo of my NEW DISHWASHER! It *only* took a month. Have I mentioned that I really don't care for the property management people we have? They have no incentive to please us, so they don't try very hard. It was a long month with lots of phone calls. I was kind of under the impression that when you've got a property management company and something breaks that THEY make the arrangements for the broken stuff to get fixed. Not these guys--they like to delegate. So I call them to report my dishwasher broken and then I call back later to find out if it's going to get fixed and get the number for the fix-it guy. I call that number and the guy comes and pronounces the old dishwasher dead. He gets a price quote on the broken part and phones the PMD's (Property Management DORKS) and leaves a message that never gets delivered. So when I call back 10 days later to tell them that I felt I'd given a reasonable amount of time to contact the property owner, they don't know what I'm talking about. Then I get a call from the fix it people to schedule a repair--Huh? I need a NEW dishwasher! And I get to make 3 more phone calls before THAT gets worked out. The PMD's get contacted and don't call me back. After hearing from the owner that she approved the new dishwasher, I waited 4 days (long weekend) and called the PMD's again, and got the number for the repair people. The repair people gave me the number for the intaller they subcontract to. And I did a LOT of the work to get that dishwasher installed. Somehow, I think someone else wasn't doing their job! But they also weren't doing my dishes, so they didn't really have any incentive to do their job, did they? But we have a dishwasher now, and it reminded me of the time when we were building our house in Fresno.

.....A long, long time ago, we bought a house. We got to pick the plan and the lot and the outside color and the flooring. We LOVED that house. We visited "our dirt" as often as possible and watched it being built. And we called the builders when we saw things we didn't like. Then one day they installed the appliances. From that day forward, I'd go to the house (alone if I needed to) even more often just to stroke my appliances. I LOVED my brand new gas stove/oven. It was so pretty! But I loved the BRAND NEW dishwasher even more. Most of my life I'd never lived where there was a dishwasher (or one that worked). I was like a kid on Christmas morning. Since then, I've been spoiled. I know that a dishwasher is a luxury, and I'm very capable of washing the dishes by hand. I just like the dishwasher.