Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

So the last I wrote (Christmas 2008) we were looking forward to Ann’s Christmas visit and eagerly awaiting the holiday; what we didn’t know was that the snow was coming…and coming…and coming. We had a white Christmas last year and it was white enough for long enough that even Christopher was done with the snow by the time it was over, three weeks all together! Ann did end up finally making it to Portland on Christmas Day, three days later than she had intended! It was an adventure for sure but I for one am not Dreaming of a White Christmas this year!

Christopher has been busy with the college search this year. His list has slowly whittled down from everywhere, most everywhere, top 30 to top 15. We visited with the top 6 choices either on campus or through their outreach programs. Stanford, Champlain, Digipen and the University of Michigan got on campus visits and I believe the top two choices are U of M and Champlain. Now we wait and see where he is accepted and who gives him the most money to attend, though Brent is, of course, humming Hail to Victors under his breath daily! Christopher is in the school Jazz Orchestra along with the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra this year. He did Funk and Groove and Salsa workshops this past summer and had a blast with those styles. He was also named a National Merit Scholar Semi-finalist and we couldn’t be more proud of him! Neither Brent nor I can believe this is our last full year with him in the house before he leaves for college. The time seems to have flown by!

For me this year has been Denise’s Taxi service as Christopher opted out of driving but opted in to a busy schedule with school, band practice and courses at the junior college. I tell everyone this is the year of the car. That’s where I am most days, sitting in the car either driving someone somewhere or waiting! But it’s been nice to get the bonus time with him. I also had the opportunity to take a trip to Toronto this past fall to meet with a group of friends I made through an online game. I know, it sounds just wacky, but it was a great time and so much fun to meet people face to face I had gotten to know through the virtual world for the past year.

Brent is looking forward to his Sabbatical this summer. Instead of using his time off to watch Christopher during summer vacation this time he will be taking him to college! Brent was also able to reconnect with his cousin Kim this year and on the campus visit to Michigan he and Christopher were able to spend time with Kim and her family and had just the best time. Kim is now actively campaigning for Christopher to attend U of M!

Ann was able to come for another visit in May and not only spent time with us but was able to drive north to spend time with a family friend in Washington for a bonus visit! We did a quick (and I mean quick!) trip to Disneyland over Spring Break and had a great time there as well.

My family in New Mexico had a more difficult time of it this year as my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma this past spring. She underwent chemo therapy and the doctors are keeping a close eye on her but she is doing so much better than she was and we are all hopeful for a full recovery within another year. I am extremely grateful for my brothers and sisters in New Mexico for keeping me informed and in the loop during all of her treatments. They really had a rough go of it during her treatment and I am so glad that they were there for each other and for her and Dad. We are planning a trip home this spring to see everyone, to celebrate Christopher’s graduation and to see our new Grand Nephew Liam.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

In defense of the the Christmas letter

Some Christmas traditions seem to be universally despised. The two that top the list most often are Fruitcake and the Christmas Letter. I grew up in a house where Christmas morning always included Fruitcake's German cousin Stollen. My mother would make the annual trip to Zinn's Bakery to pick up the Stollen and I would hope and hope and hope that they would be out and she would have to pick up the Cherry Cheese Strudel instead...but no...every year the Stollen made it on the table. Every few years I would try a slice just to see if maybe I was remembering incorrectly and it was actually a yummy treat...and I can safely say that I am never going to be a fan of Stollen or Fruitcake.

Now the Christmas letter used to be met with the same level of disdain and even outright mocking. When Brent and I were first married I composed a Christmas letter putting our family 15 years in the future filled with all of the wonderful amazing things we were doing. Solving the world's problems, curing cancer, winning Nobel Prizes and I swore that would be the last Christmas letter I ever wrote. But then a funny thing happened...

Christmas would come and we would get cards from family and friends and I started to notice that my favorites were the ones that included guessed it...Christmas Letter. Brent joined the Navy shortly after we got married so we spent the first few years of our life together moving around with the Navy. Then he went to work for Intel and we spent the next batch of years moving around with Intel. All of that moving means we have friends scattered across the country. And in the days before things like blogs and Facebook and MySpace and Email and free long distance it might be only once a year that you hear from people. That Christmas letter gave me a window into what was going on. How everyone was. Just for a minute I was back in their life sharing their world.

So I figured if I liked getting the annual missive, then others must as well. So the Christmas letter was revised. I started sending one out the year Christopher was born and I have every year since. It's pretty standard fare. I have friends who write letters that are really works of art. Even though we live in the same town, we chat on Facebook, I read her blog, and see her at least once a month I love getting my friend Raquel's annual letter. Each year it's a different theme and it's always funny and still covers the year they had. Brent's father used to write a letter (never quite made it out at Christmas, usually closer to New Year's) that was snarky and funny and reflective of his sense of humor. Megan's mother took the Christmas letter completely digital this year. She did a webpage and posted photos of events through the year with little blurbs about what was going on. It was beautiful and so sweet to see.

Now some years the letter is harder than others. When Brent's father died I wrote and rewrote the news. I put it at the beginning then moved it and put it at the end. I really struggled with how do you put that in a letter with the same news that we went to the beach that summer? But in the end I decided that it was our life. And there would be people who hadn't heard the news and so it went in the letter. The same thing with my mother's cancer this year. It's a big part of our lives.

I always forget something and wish I would have added it once the letter goes out. This year it was that Amanda Frost showed up unannounced on our doorstep last spring. Amanda is the daughter of Hoke and Margaret and we have known her since she was 11, she is now a young mother with a daughter of her own. Hoke died unexpectedly five years ago right before Thanksgiving. That was another really difficult Christmas letter to write; grieving and reflecting on the year at the same time makes for a maudlin letter. But seeing Amanda and "hearing" her dad talk through some of her attitudes was a real treat.

So the letter went out this week and it is posted on my Facebook page for those that have gone digital, and I will post it here in the blog as well. The Christmas Letter is now one of my traditions and I have grown to really appreciate the other families who send one as well. But as far as fruitcake is concerned? Nope...still just no.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friendly advice...

A month ago at Sheila's wedding reception Megan and I were talking about "social networks". Love the formal name, "social networks". A friend of hers had told her that she didn't like things like MySpace and Facebook because it was leading to the decline of "real" social interaction. I hear this argument a lot. Usually it's delivered with a sniff of disdain and a "I prefer my REAL friend's company."

Megan and I talked about it for a little bit, both of us coming to the conclusion that people that feel this way are 1. Not from fields of work where it's common to work with people you might never meet face to face. and 2. Really limiting themselves and their world view down.

In both USA Boxing and in the advertising world I would work with people that I would either only see at tournaments or meetings or I might never interact with face to face. I have a group of friends in Kentucky that I love dearly that I have seen face to face fewer than half a dozen times. But it doesn't make them any less "real" to me. I think if you have a job that is done with people spread over the country it's easier to make the transition to making friends with people spread over the world. Just my theory.

But this brings us to Facebook. My experience with social networking started with MySpace. I joined just to be able to chat with my niece and nephew who seemed to be active on their MySpace pages and no place else! Brent was on Facebook but was using it mainly as a networking tool for work. Megan had Facebook and kept trying to convince me it was so much better, but I looked at it as more of a business space. Eventually Brent convinced me to give it a try and I was hooked. More people that I knew were on Facebook than on MySpace (most of them had set up pages in college and just continued them) and others were joining every day.

One of my friends from Kentucky sent me an invitation to play a silly little Facebook game. I started playing and for whatever reason it captured my imagination and I was hooked. I got Brent playing, Christopher set up a Facebook page just so he could play and then I started interacting with people on the forums for the game. During this stretch I was transitioning out of advertising so I was noticing that I could go from when Brent and Christopher left for school and work to when they came home and not talk to another person. Even if I had a client the work I do is mainly done with very little conversation. So basically I was lonely and a bit bored.

I noticed that I had gone from just reading posts that others made to throwing in a comment every once in awhile to looking forward to my morning "coffee" with Teri and Corrie and Ashley. Sometimes we would talk about the game but more often than not we would just chat. How are the kids? What did you do last night? What's the weather like where you are? Big plans for the weekend? The same sort of conversation you would have with your office mates. And as happens in life my social circle within the game grew. One day I realized that no matter what time I logged on, there would be someone online I knew. I had friends in Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore, England, Ireland, Canada and all over the states. I have friends who are stay at home parents, lots of artists, authors, students and more variety of other jobs than you can even imagine.

Right now I am waiting in an airport getting ready to board a plane that will take me to Toronto to meet a few of these people face to face. I am so excited to be able to see people and hear their voices (it's odd, right now everyone has an American accent, I wonder after this weekend if I will "read" their words with their voice?) Some would say it's a little nuts to plan a trip to meet strangers, but I can tell you these people are no strangers. I know what their kids are doing in school, I know their struggles and their joys, I know who recently bought a house, who is still looking. I've read their stories and their poems, seen their artistic creations, celebrated the joys and cried over the sorrows. I also know we are all so excited to see each other we have been driving everyone around us crazy for the past few weeks.

More people couldn't make it than can make it,and I can tell you that the ones I won't meet won't be any less "real" to me. And I will have lots of pictures for them to see that will give them the feel that they were there as well. And they will be, in our conversation and on our laptops! We are all connected with a push of a button. And I like it that way.

Friday, October 30, 2009

If you told me you were drowning...

Twice in my adult life I have come close to dying. Or at least twice that I am aware of. Who knows how many close calls and near misses we have in our daily lives that we never even know about. But anyway...twice as an adult.

The odd thing about them is they both happened in October. Just a few years apart as well. The first time I didn't realize how close I was until it was over. I had run to the grocery store and when I grabbed the cart there was a bee on the handle. I put my thumb down square on the poor guy and he responded in a completely bee like manner by stinging me. The stinger went into the joint of the thumb on my right hand. Hurt like a big dog, but I am not allergic to bees so I wasn't overly worried about it. Scraped the stinger out with a credit card, washed my hands and finished shopping. Went home, showed my owie to Brent and put some antibiotic cream on it and that was that.

My thumb hurt a little all week but nothing too much. Saturday morning (it was right around Halloween) I woke up and discovered the meaning of "sticks out like a sore thumb." My thumb was swollen and hot and I couldn't bend it or pull it into my palm so it stuck straight out to the side of my hand. I put a cold compress on it and took some Advil to try and reduce the inflammation. By Sunday morning it wasn't any better so I went to Urgent Care. By that point I was running a slight fever as well as my thumb being warm and red. After a quick examination and another washing of the thumb I got one shot of antibiotics into my arm and another into my rear end. The needle they used on my tush was (I think, going by how it felt) the size of a drinking straw! Ouch! Then I was told to go straight into my doctor's office the next morning for a follow-up.

By the next day the swelling was gone and only a little redness remained, but being a good patient (and having told Brent I was supposed to follow-up with my doctor so he made sure I did) I went in to see my primary care physician. The Urgent Care had already faxed over the records from my Sunday visit so the Nurse Practitioner (we lived in C.S. for almost 3 years and think we saw the actual doctor once) reviewed the records, took my temperature again and casually let me know if I had waited one more day to come into the doctor the blood poisoning would have spread to the point it most likely would have killed me. Ummm, what? Seems that either the bee had some dirt on his stinger or I had some dirt on my thumb and when he stung me he buried that nastiness right in my thumb joint where it festered all week and then started to spread.

The first shot I had received in Urgent Care was a fast acting antibiotic that basically got the top end bugs that were spreading, the second one was the gold standard of wide spectrum antibiotics that wipes out everything. I was dumbfounded, they hadn't said anything like that in the Urgent Care, they had just given me the shots and stressed that I go to my primary care doc. But I took it in stride when the Nurse told me and I got my follow up care instructions and left. When I went out into the parking lot I called Brent from my cell. And broke out into hysterics. Full on ugly cry, uncontrollable shaking. Delayed panic attack. Once I got it under control I made sure to go over all of the paperwork she had given me and I kept an eye on my hand for any changes over the next few days.

But everything was fine from that point on. Took about 5 years for most of the nerve damage to the thumb to heal, seems the poison in my system broke down the pathways and though nerves do grow back, they do it at a VERY slow rate. I have one patch that is still semi-numb but most of the feeling came back. Took about the same amount of time for me to not have a panic attack every time I would see a bee. I have a picture from Halloween that year, I am standing next to another woman in my office and we are both in costume, and it amazes me to think at that point in time there was a poison running through my body that could have killed me and I felt perfectly fine.

The second time I knew it was happening and even thought to myself, well this is it. We were in Hawaii combining a business trip for me with a vacation for the family mixed in. Our last full day there I went down to the beach for one more dip in the ocean. I love the ocean. I love the vastness of it. I love to sit on the shore and look out at the waves as they crash in on the shore. I love to be in the water. One of my favorite things about living in San Diego was the easy access to the ocean all summer long. The water in Oregon never really warms up enough for swimming so I tried to get in the ocean at least once a day the entire time we were in Hawaii. Christopher preferred the pool and so Brent would stay with him while I went swimming. This day wasn't any different.

There were probably 25 people in the ocean along the stretch of beach by our hotel. There was a group with a bunch of little ones towards what would be the middle stretch of beach as you looked down from the hotel and they were having a hard time controlling their wave boards. Since I wasn't boogie boarding and would rather not risk getting smacked in the head with one of their boards while wave jumping I decided that going to the right of them would be a good idea. I spent some time jumping the waves and enjoying my last stretch in the water.

Then it was time to come back in. And I couldn't. While jumping the waves and swimming I had been carried out farther than I had intended and my feet were unable to touch the ocean floor anymore. I was swimming and not going anywhere. Just swimming and swimming and staying in the same place. I did the things you are supposed to do, swim parallel to the shore, use your strongest stroke, which for me is actually the back stroke, everything you are supposed to do and I wasn't breaking free of the rip tide I was caught in and I was getting exhausted.

Scott, a friend of mine(also a client) had come down to the beach to set up beach chairs for him and his wife to have a nice drink by the ocean before the final night festivities. He saw me in the ocean and waved hello. I waved back, but not in a friendly how's it going wave, but a Help! wave. I shouted "I NEED HELP!" and to this day he isn't exactly sure that he heard me over the crash of the waves, or just could see from how I wasn't moving right that I was in trouble. He dived into the ocean and came to help.

The problem we soon discovered is that to get to me, he had to break through the edge of the whirlpool I was stuck in. So as I was stuck inside and wearing out fast, he was stuck outside and soon doing the same. The next part of the story is choppy in my memory. Like an old film reel that was poorly edited. Scott remembers parts and I remember parts and they don't always match. Eventually Scott grabbed my arm and pulled me through the edge of the whirl pool area towards him, which was deeper into the ocean. At that point we were both exhausted. I can remember telling myself not to panic and grab him, and I really remember not doing it, though he swears I almost choked him. We were still caught on the trailing edge of the pool and I could feel it trying to pull us back towards the center. And we were both too tired to swim hard away from it. Right at that point I thought...this is it. This is how I am going to die. In the ocean. I thought of Brent and Christopher up at the pool not more than a football field away from me, but completely unaware of what was happening. I thought about Scott's family and hoped that if he let go of me he would have the strength get back to the shore.

While I was getting ready to give up, Scott was still figuring out how to get us out of the mess we were in. He came up with sinking to swim. He dropped down to the ocean floor and would stand there and throw me forward. Then come back up, get a breath and pull himself forward to where I was, holding onto my legs the whole time. Then back down to the ocean floor, toss me back up, pull forward. He did this all the way up to the beach. I had to tell him we were in inches of water and he could let go before he stopped. We got back up on to the shore and looked back out at the ocean, you could see the area I had been trapped in. It wasn't very big, but the water was just swirling around and around. It looked really superficial, like if you threw a rock into it it would break up. Hard to imagine how strong it really was just by looking at it.

While we were catching our breath and freaking out Scott noticed that the daughter of one of the other franchisees and her friend were stuck on the edge of the pool. He went crashing right back into the ocean and pulled them out as well. They weren't as far in so it wasn't as hard of a swim, but they were stuck in the rocky shore area so he came out of that encounter scraped and bloody.

Imagine Laura's surprise when she came down to the beach for her relaxing evening drink to find me doubled over on a lawn chair gasping for breath too weak to walk and Scott walking up the beach soaked and bleeding. When I was able to catch my breath and my legs stopped feeling like jello I went to the pool to see Brent and Christopher and tell them what happened. Brent took Scott and Laura a couple of Coronas on the beach. I joked that it seemed a good trade, my life for a couple of beers. I also know I went into shock somewhere in that time period and spent, as best I can guess the next two days there. I kept replaying everything over and over in my head.

That night at the final night dinner everyone had heard bits and pieces of the story and wanted to hear details. I don't know how many times I told the pieces I could remember. I told everyone the important part of the story was that I would never win another argument in a co-op meeting again. Scott held the ultimate trump card. "Yeah, well, I saved your life" Argument over. One of the wives who is sweeter than she is bright told me she was glad I hadn't died because it would have really put a damper on the meeting! Well, yes, I was glad they were all spared that as well!

When we all got back to Oregon Scott and I had coffee and told each other our stories and tried to piece the whole series together. There are still chunks missing for both of us. We have no idea how long it all took. Like I said, it's much like an old film reel that was poorly edited. Everything jumps around. My biggest regret is that I didn't go back out into the ocean the next morning before we left Hawaii. I hate that my last day in the ocean wasn't a peaceful one.

I will always be grateful that Scott didn't even hesitate for a second before coming out to save me, and impressed that as exhausted as he was he didn't hesitate to go in again after two more people. Every year on the anniversary of that date I call, text or email him and just say thanks. There are not words to really capture the gratitude I feel and the debt I owe him. When people ask how you know who your friends are I can say, I know, on October 25, 2005 he proved it.

Thanks, Scott.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dogs and cats living together...

Today a friend of mine got bad news about the health of her beloved pet. He has renal cancer and they are not sure how much longer he has. She is, of course, heartbroken. As she told a group of us about her cat the reaction was immediate. We all felt so horrible for her and so helpless to do anything to make her feel better, and then we all remembered our similar experiences. Anytime I hear someone say, oh it's just a dog or it's just a cat I know that person has never had pets.

Growing up I had dogs and cats and birds and fish. Mitzi the Witzy Spitzi who was so smart she would whisper if you told her "Shhh, Daddy's sleeping." Sunshine the black fuzzy mutt who inspired a vet to tell us that dogs are like people, some are bright and some are well...not. Chris the Siamese cat who loved my dad the most (he is NOT a cat person), Jeremy a giant tiger cat who would come running when he heard my voice even after I moved out of the house. Petey who was a boy parakeet for the first 5 years of his life, then the blue band on his beak faded out and he started laying eggs. And more fish than we could have ever named. There were a few others but these were the core group of the menagerie I grew up with.

After Brent and I got married and moved away the first pet we bought together was a ferret. Redd Ferret, her parents were Bartles and Jaymes and Red was the newest flavor. Trust me this was very amusing in 1987! We had Redd for a few years until Brent was transferred to California. It's against the law to own a ferret in California so we had the option of sneaking her into the state and risking her being destroyed if she was ever found, or finding her a new home in Idaho before we moved. Loading her and her boxes and boxes of toys and supplies into a station wagon with a very happy 12 year old boy and an indulgent mom who really had no idea what she was getting into I held it together until they pulled away from the curb, then I stood in the yard and cried until Brent gently steered me back inside the house.

We didn't get another pet for a few years. We were moving too much and Brent was gone a lot. And then we had Christopher so we were too busy to think about adding a pet. But eventually we got Samson. Samson was the world's coolest cat. Not just my opinion, but everyone who met him agreed. He was a dog trapped in a cat's body. Extraordinarily social. Would play fetch. Come when he was called. Always wanted to be where the action was. He was also (to the vet's best guess) about half Maine Coon. Twenty pounds of Grey Tiger Striped Cat. Head the size of a soft ball. When he really wanted your attention he would take a running start at you and tackle you. Twenty pound wrecking ball to the back of the legs!

When Samson was about two years old he had a stretch where he started vomiting constantly. He couldn't keep any food or water down at all. The vet was able to give him some medication that stopped it but it was a rough week of him getting sicker and sicker and sicker. About a year later it started again. We had moved to Colorado Springs and it was the 4th of July. He spent a day in the vet's office, then to the emergency vet hospital. They couldn't get him to stop this time. He couldn't keep anything down and they couldn't figure out why. We had x-rays done, and blood work and day after day in the hospital. Then they called me to let me know he was getting better and that I would be able to bring him home that afternoon. I was so thrilled! Brent and I were working in the garden waiting to hear back that we could come get him when the vet called again. Something had changed and we needed to get there right away as he wasn't going to make it much longer. He had gotten so weak that one by one his internal organs were failing.

We got to the vet in time and we were sent back to see him. To this day I am not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He was in a lot of pain and was terrified. When he saw us he started crying loudly. I still hear that cry in my head and it's been eight years since this happened. The vet gave us the option of staying in the room while they euthanized him. I couldn't do it. I said my goodbyes, pet him one last time and sobbed in the waiting room until it was all over. They performed an autopsy on him and discovered he had been born with multiple birth defects and we were just lucky we had him for a long as we did.

A month later to stop me from crying all the damn time we got George and Gracie from the pound. I called them the Replacements. Two to fill the space of one. And it's true, nothing helps grief like a kitten. It was too hard to be sad when you had two goofy balls of fluff tearing around the house. But it was a temporary fix and the grieving for Samson is still going on to this day. He was a part of the family and I still miss him and feel a little cheated that we only had him for a few years.

Today my thoughts are with my lovely friend. I hope she and her kitty have a peaceful weekend together and they find a way to keep him comfortable and as healthy as possible for a long time yet to come. And when the time comes to let him go, cherish the time you had with him and all that he has added to your life. Much love to you.


Friday, October 23, 2009

The moment.

Weddings, birthdays, anniversary parties, graduation ceremonies. People love their ceremonies to mark an important moment. But most of the time you don't feel any different after it has passed. How many times on your birthday do people ask you if you "feel" older? Like you woke up that morning and BAM! difference. The change isn't in a moment, it's gradual over time. I feel older now. I don't feel as old as I am, but I feel older than I was. But it didn't happen on my birthday.

Marriage is another one. Do you "feel" married? Ummm...well...not sure there is some magical "This is what is feels like to be married" that is bestowed on you when you say your vows. Especially since it feels different to each person. And that's what the first year of marriage is all about, figuring out what it means to the two of you. Eventually you realize that you make decisions based on we and not on I and you notice that you "feel" married.

But there are moments that happen that change everything. That you know from this point forward it's all different. And these moments are different for everyone. The phone call in the middle of the night, the plus sign on the stick, the car running the red light. There are moments that as they happen we are completely changed from that point forward. Life as we knew it is over. Could be better or it could be worse, but it is different.

Brent and I planned for Christopher, he wasn't a surprise or an oops baby (like both Brent and I were) he was planned and prepped for. I KNEW I was pregnant before I ever peed on that stick. I actually waited a couple extra days to test because we were going to Disneyland and I wanted to ride all the rides. I knew the health risks were for women farther along than I would have been, he was pretty darn protected being the size of a pin head inside my womb at that time. But I still knew if I had taken the test and KNEW knew I was pregnant I wouldn't ride the rides. So I waited. Great logic right? So anyway, when I did take the test and it was positive it wasn't much of a surprise. I didn't "feel" changed. And for the next few months though my body sure changed I still didn't really feel any different mentally.

Then we brought him home from the hospital. I remember sitting on the couch holding him and panic setting in. We lived in Idaho and all of our family was in New Mexico. I can remember thinking, "Why did they let me bring him home? I don't know how to take care of him at all!" That was the moment for me that I became a parent. That was the moment of realizing that everything had changed. From that point forward I was a MOM and I was RESPONSIBLE for someone else's every need. And it was terrifying. Now I can't even remember what it feels like not to be someone's mom. It's just part of who I am.

Yesterday afternoon I was witness to the moment before that moment for a family. I was driving to meet a friend for coffee and saw a car parked on the side of the road. First one Marine in Full Dress got out of the car, then the second. I got a glimpse of their faces as I drove by, two older Marines, both very solemn, one wearing the collar of the clergy. This is the stuff of nightmares for military families. Two serviceman in Full Dress knocking at your door means your person isn't coming home. As I drove past them and they started their walk to the houses I thought, "This is where your life changes."

When I met my friend the first thing he asked was what was wrong. I just couldn't hold back the tears. And of course as I told him he welled up as well. Right down the street from us at that moment a family was learning the worst. That moment for them will forever change their lives. The next few days will be a blur to them as they take care of the vast amount of arrangements that need to be handled. If their experience is like ours, the military will step in as much as possible to help them through everything. And one foot in front of the other, one day, one week, one month at a time they will get through it. But that moment, that moment of opening the door and seeing those two Marines (who have the hardest job in the military in my opinion) that moment is the one they will remember the most.

Peace to them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writers write.

I am sure this is going to come as a huge surprise and shock to all of you but I dreamed of being a writer when I was younger. I think most people who are avid readers entertain the idea at one point or another. I bought a lot of books on what it takes to be a writer. (Stephen King On Writing is brilliant by the way) Two things stuck with me from the time period where I was sure I was going to be a writer. One is my father-in-law telling me that just because you can read doesn't mean you can write. The other is a line in one of the writing books I read that put it quite plainly. Writers write.

The author expounded on that sentence, that if you are a writer you HAVE to write. It's almost a compulsion. I have the honor of being friends with a few people who are very talented and gifted writers. Poets, musicians, short stories and novels, and it's true. Writers write. You give them an idea, or a jumping off point and they will weave a story out of it. (check out Snippets by Shay a blog I follow for an example) I thought for a long time that because I am not compelled to put pen to paper at all hours of the day that I must not be a "writer". But the other day as I was folding laundry and my mind was going a hundred miles a minute as is its wont, I realized that I am constantly "writing". I am just lousy at sitting down and putting it into a form that others can see.

When C was little he would climb in bed with Brent and I on Saturday and Sunday mornings and I would tell him stories while Brent tried to sleep in. Fourteen years later we still have jokes about those stories. "I am pretty sure he was shot", trust me to C and I that is comedy gold! When I was a teenager I would tell stories to my youth group as we were traveling on the bus. When I first started at the agency I wove a story out of the salad and baby corn that started my friendships with the front office staff.

My father was and is a storyteller. He can lead you down the path of what happened to him on the way home from work and you don't realize until the very last second that it was all an elaborate setup for a joke. He also has always been a firm believer that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I have borrowed liberally from him in my style. I had a girlfriend tell me once, "I love when you tell about what happened when we did something because I am always much wittier and funnier than I remember being." I am not opposed to a quick rewrite and edit on the fly. If I had a good line during the conversation I will often "give" it someone else in the retelling. If it was actually said and it would be funnier if someone else said it, then I don't have a problem moving the dialog around for a better story. And that is the conclusion that I think I have come to. Writers write. But Storytellers, well we just like to tell stories.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cleaning out the closet

So today I spent a few hours getting rid of clothes that don't fit anymore. You know it's amazing the things you find when you are cleaning things out. And it's amazing the reaction you can have to them.

As I was trying on a gold blouse that still hung in the closet with the tags on it I heard the following in my head..."Well the outfit is okay, but can we put a bag over her face?" Time to clean out more than one closet...

Just over 5 years ago I lost quite a bit of weight on Atkins (which as you all know I gained right back as soon as I decided I love bread more than being a size 8!) any the end of that weight loss stretch I had a big meeting in Las Vegas. It was a national AKFCF meeting and there was going to be a formal dinner and dance to end the meeting. I spent a semi-panicked Saturday trying to find something appropriate to wear. It came down to two outfits. One was a black satin dress with thin little spaghetti straps and the other was a gold satin halter style top that was cut down to there in the front and had a back that was just high enough to cover my tattoo but that was all. It was much more va-va-voom than I would normally wear but this was Vegas and I had lost all of that weight so I was feeling a little daring. Brent thought I should go for it and wear the gold but I wasn't sure, so I had him take a picture of me in each outfit and sent them via email to my girlfriends for opinions.

Monday at work one of the ladies I worked with and I were talking about the outfits and she said, forward me the pictures and I will give you my opinion and so I did and didn't think about it again. So when I got back from Vegas I did my normal back to work routine and cleaned out the work email spam filter. One of the emails was my forwarded email of the outfits, thinking that it was a reply to me about the outfits from the person I forwarded it to I opened it to read what she had to say to me. Imagine my surprise to see a long thread of comments from not only other women in the office but a woman I had never even met. Now at this point I should have closed the email, but I didn't. I read every last word in there. And let me tell you, things don't get caught in a spam filter if they are all lovely pleasant words.

About halfway through the chain was a comment from the woman I had never even met, "Well the outfit is okay, but can we put a bag over her face?" Right after reading this the woman I had originally forwarded the pictures to came into work. She asked how my trip was and what I had chosen to wear. As I was trying to reconcile what I now knew and her butter wouldn't melt in her mouth demeanor I found myself bursting out into tears. I apologized (if you can believe it)and then spent the rest of the day in shock. This was the first realization for me that work was much worse than I had thought, you have read the progression in other blogs, but this was the start.

So fast forward 5 years and this morning I put that top on and that hateful thing popped right back into my head. So I started to wonder what other things are in there that just need to get out? One thing came right to mind...

I love to sing, love it. If you have ever ridden in a car with me you know I will sing to anything I know the words to. Between my Freshman and Sophomore years in high school my on again off again boyfriend convinced me to try out for show choir. I met with the director and he said if I made it through auditions and would take choir as a regular class then I was in. So I was looking at a schedule that would have Entertainers, Choir and Drama plus academics. Kind of an ideal thing for a kid that just wanted to be on stage. Well, sitting in the little orientation section during what would have been the week of auditions the doubt started in. I could hear my sister's voice in my head..."You sound like a dead cow." that was her normal response when I would sing. Which doesn't even make sense when you think about it. A dying cow? Sure, but a dead one? And then listening to everyone else singing I started thinking, there is no way I can do this. I don't have the talent for this. And I let the doubt win. I let her voice drown mine out. I made an excuse about not wanting to be to school at 7, but it was fear and doubt that did me in.

I don't have a lot of regrets, but those are two areas that if I could have a do over I sure would. I would have tried out, and succeeded or failed on the tryout and as far as work goes, you know it ended up okay in the end but if I could have a do over I think I would have commented on the email and replied to all letting them know that I had seen what they said and how it hurt.

I hung that gold shirt back up in the closet this morning. Maybe someday I will be brave enough to wear it in public (it fits again and I can still eat bread!) but for now it hangs there as a reminder not to let someone else's voice usurp my own. Clean out that closet.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years

So this morning I woke up and turned on the news and was just in time for the marking of the first plane hitting the World Trade Centers.

Just yesterday I had been thinking to myself, why? Why do we mark this time every year? Why do we put ourselves through it? Why "celebrate" the anniversary of such a horrible and tragic piece of our history.

But then I watched the news as President and Mrs. Obama walked out of the White House and stood silently, heads bowed for a moment of silence, then placed hands over heart as Taps played. The tears ran down my face and I realized, yes, yes, we still have to mark this date. Yes, it's important to remember the loss. The devastation. The fear. The humanity. The love and strength as well.

So here is my "where were you?" remembrance.

We were living in Colorado Springs. Brent had already left for work and I was taking Christopher to school. I didn't watch the morning news or listen to the radio while getting ready so it was a really normal morning until Christopher and I got in the car. The radio was on low but I was catching snippets of the broadcast. As everything started to filter through I told Christopher to hush for a moment, it sounded like maybe a bomb had gone off somewhere. I immediately thought of Oklahoma City and the bombing there, remembered watching it on the news and then being horrified as that story unfolded.

Things were still very confused as I dropped Christopher off at school and made my way to work. I was listening to the news on the radio, someone reporting from New York City as they watched the second plane hit the other tower. Now we knew that this was an attack. This was planned. I can remember feeling sick to my stomach. I made it to work. At the time I was working for USA Boxing on the US Olympic Compound in Colorado Springs. There was a gate at the front but it was never locked. The guard tower was manned by one person whose main job was to direct tourists to the museum or newly arriving athletes to orientation areas. As I drove onto campus that day the guard in the shack was sitting staring at his radio in shock.

As I made my way into the office I walked through deserted hallways past empty desks and I thought..This isn't real. This can't be real. I found everyone crowded into our break room watching the news. Tears on some faces, shock and disbelief all around. We were watching the news as the Pentagon was hit. Still watching when the first tower fell. Mike our CEO had been in NYC the week before. Had been in the Towers. As the South Tower fell he placed his head in his hands and began to cry. Andy went to her desk and began trying to call her brother. He worked in the North tower. The phones lines were overloaded and she couldn't place the call. We spent the day glued to the set, watching in disbelief as the reports came in of flight 93 crashing in the field in Pennsylvania. Watched in horror as the second tower collapsed. Watched over and over as they showed video of the Towers collapsing. The people jumping from the buildings. The devastation. It was unreal.

Those of us with kids in school tried to decide what we should do, do you go pick up your child or leave them in class? Do you go home or stay at work? What do you do? Andy spent the day on the phone trying to reach her brother. Finally right before we all gave up and left for the day she heard from her sister who had reached him. He had overslept that day due to a dead battery in an alarm clock. He was cursing his bad luck at being so very late to work when he heard about the attack. His dead battery ended up most likely saving his life.

Colorado Springs is home to NORAD. There were reports that the President and or the Vice President might be evacuated to the Mountain. I wasn't sure if that made me feel safer or more insecure. School was canceled for the week. Work was closed for the next few days as the powers that be tried to decide if the US Olympic center would be a target. When it did reopen the gates were closed, there were two guards in the guard tower and no one made it on Campus without an ID. Flights all across the United States had been grounded but when you live in the shadow of NORAD, the Air Force Academy, a military base and the flight path for Denver International Airport you really notice the silence in the skies when the planes are no more.

We turned off the TV that night. Couldn't stand to watch it anymore. And it stayed off for awhile. But it's burned into my memory. The pictures. The images. The fear. The panic. The ripping apart of our veil of safety. But then what came next helped to put all of us back together again. The stories like Andy's brother. Where what seemed like bad luck turned out to be not so unlucky after all. The stories of heroism from the first responders. The NYPD, NYFD, the paramedics, the people on the street who just wanted to help. The brave people of Flight 93 who knew their lives were forfeit, and so they chose to save so many more. The way the rest of the world came to us, offered us help and condolences. The world felt our pain and cried with us on that day. We the people, not just of the United States of America but of the World felt the loss.

So I say, yes, we need to mark the day. But hold it in your heart as a reminder that we are strong. We are all united. Bad guys are just that, bad guys. And they shouldn't win. And there are more of us than there are of them. So remember. But don't be confused as to what you are remembering. Strength, love, compassion, the after. Don't mark the death, mark the life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He's a what?

Today was the first day of Christopher's Senior year. Class schedule picked up, Senior pictures are taken, school's back in session. He is taking it in stride.

I, on the other hand, am quietly (mostly quietly) freaking out. Which is odd for me. I don't put a lot of stock in age. It's a number and yes, it does keep going up but I don't feel "old". I tell myself I still look damn good, and not just for my age, so please don't add that to a compliment and think it makes it a better one, it doesn't. I didn't cry when he started Kindergarten. I didn't flinch at First Grade. I was a little shocked when Middle School came. Then when I somehow had a kid old enough to be in High School I was a little confused as to where the years went. But as far as real true freaking out over him aging or me aging, it just hasn't happened. Until this summer.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. I know why. I also know it's completely irrational. But that's what freaking out is right? An irrational response?

Ready? You knew it was coming, back story time!

Registration my Senior year. I was sitting on "The Wall" with Cinnamon having a cigarette and seeing who all would be around picking up schedules and books. Across the courtyard by The Triangle came Eric and Brent. I watched them walk for a little bit and then turned to Cinnamon and asked, "When did Brent get cute?" and that was the start of it all. We didn't actually start dating until October. We saw each other a few times and then started dating "For Real" in November. We had known each other since our Freshman year but just had been friends. By February of Senior year we were engaged and Brent was set to join the Navy. By Easter we were living together. June graduation, full times jobs, marriage December after our Senior year, January enlistment, March move to Florida and that was all she wrote.

Looking back on my Senior year it was just a place holder. Time that had to be marked before we could GET ON WITH IT already. I have blogged about how I was leaving the Church by that point. I was in a really bad place with my family and my Senior year and the stretch of time before I left for Florida were probably the worst it's ever been. Brent and his folks had a huge falling out as well. We were disengaging from parents and siblings and life in New Mexico at a really rapid rate. So for me to realize that Christopher is the age I was when I decided to marry Brent, leave New Mexico and leave my family blows my mind.

Now truth be told, Christopher is a MUCH better kid than I have any right to have expected. He goes to class, he gets excellent grades, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink, he's respectful. He and I have a good relationship. Not just a good for a teenager good, but an honest to goodness good one. We talk about most every important thing out there. I have worked really hard at making sure that he knows he can come to us with anything and I think he does. I enjoy his company and I believe he enjoys ours. But he is a Senior and for me, that means leaving. And so I am doing my best not to try to hold on too tightly. To let him go do his thing knowing that he isn't me, he isn't just chomping at the bit to get out of Dodge. That graduation will come and go. College will begin next fall and he will still be just a phone call or text away, still willing to tell me about his day, his classes, what cool new idea he has been exposed to. Sending me xkcd cartoons that he then has to explain why they are funny...

I came clean to Christopher last week and told him I was having a hard time with this year. That it was bothering me and I told him why. And with the true heart of compassion he said, "That's dumb." :-) So I am dealing with my freak out, and putting it away, and knowing..."That's dumb."

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Complicated....

So, I am on Facebook. I really dig it. I have connected with people I haven't seen in years and gotten a chance to see what they ended up doing in life. I have family that's on Facebook that I get to see pictures they post and status updates that help me feel much more connected to them than I would have been in the past. There is also a social aspect that I love since I work from home instead of in an office now and without people to "chat" with I would go a little stir crazy.

But there are aspects of Facebook (and the online world in general) that still boggle my brain. For instance, this morning while I was answering a question on someone's wall I noticed that their relationship status was "It's Complicated", now you see this every once in awhile. It's Complicated. I always wonder a few things when I see that. First I wonder is your partner on Facebook? And if not would they be surprised to see that your relationship is Complicated? Or is it really Complicated? I mean, you have options right? On Facebook you actually have 7. Single, In a Relationship, Engaged, Married, It's Complicated, In an Open Relationship and Widowed. So none of the other 6 encapsulate your relationship? You had to go with It's Complicated?

What's Complicated about it? Did you get in a fight this morning and this is the warning shot across the bow? Are you poly-amorous or a polygamist? So not really an open relationship but not really traditionally married either? Are you a stalker so YOU think you are in a relationship but the object of your affection does not? Are you single but dating someone and you don't want to be the first one to post In a Relationship, but you don't want to keep it at Single so you choose It's Complicated? Are you trying that think it into being thing? You know, you really want to not be single but you haven't found someone yet but you are doing self actualization to bring them into your life so you choose It's Complicated?

I guess there are Complicated options out there, but I always wonder. And the cynic in me always thinks It's Complicated really means, "In a Relationship but Willing to Entertain Options Just Don't Tell My Partner".

Friday, September 4, 2009

Family and the miracle of time.

Thanks to Facebook Brent has recently gotten back in touch with his cousin Kim. It's been really fun to watch him interact with her. Family is a really different thing for him to get used to. I have an excess of it. He has always had very little. His dad had two brothers and they each had two kids but once Jack and Ann left Michigan they really haven't kept in touch. Jack's parents are both dead and Ann's father is as well. Brent's grandmother on Ann's side is still alive but we don't have much contact with her. Basically up until a month ago if you were to ask Brent about family he would probably have mentioned Christopher and I and his mother and that was it.

Kim and Brent have been catching up and visiting and commenting on each other's posts and doing all of the things family does. Shared family and shared experiences are a cool thing. Even if it was years ago.

Kim sent a package to Brent this week of photos and mementos his grandmother had kept. His dad's 7th grade yearbook, a bible that belonged to his dad and pictures. Pictures of Brent's great grandparents. Pictures of Brent's grandparents. Pictures of cousins and aunts and uncles. It was nice to look through them. When Christopher was born I put together two photo albums for him. One called Mom's Side and one called Dad's Side. There weren't a lot of pictures from Jack's side of the family so this is a great find for me to add to Christopher's books.

When the package got here we looked through everything. Then looked through it again. Who is this? When was this? Oh my gosh look at this! I knew Jack was raised in a household similar to mine as far as religion goes, but to see he also went to a private Christian school was interesting. To read the dedication in the bible he received from his folks made me smile. He would have been about the same age I was when I got my own. And to know that he had come to the same conclusions about religion as I had later in life gave me another touch stone with my father-in-law that helps explain why we got along as well as we did.

There was also a picture that made both Brent and I laugh. It was a picture of Jack that had obviously been cut out from a bigger picture. Kim's note said that there had been "Someone" else in the picture but she cut them out. Brent and I had to laugh because the "Someone" else had to have been Jack's second wife. Jack and Ann married very young and had Brent within two years of marriage. Jack went to Vietnam and Brent was born while he was there. When he got back he was transferred to Germany, Ann said she wasn't going and they ended up splitting. While they were divorced they each married other people. When Jack was transferred back to the States his second wife said she wasn't going, so they split as well. Years passed and eventually Jack and Ann remarried. This is just family history. But it made us laugh that Kim would go to the trouble to cut Pat (we think that was her name) out of the shot just in case it would upset Brent to see his dad with his other wife. Kim is good people, as my father would say.

Now the part that amazed me the most was the miracle of time. When you lose someone you get all of the condolences and the sayings of comfort. The main one you hear over and over is "it just takes time". This week was a strong lesson on the healing power of time. That package? With pictures of Jack, and Jack's things? You know the day it arrived? September 2. The anniversary of Jack's death. Two years ago Brent's father died. It ripped a hole in all of our lives that at the time felt like it would never heal. Last year on the anniversary of his death I cried most of the day. We called his mother and cried with her. This year we talked about if we should call or not and decided that it was macabre to mark the time every year and so we would choose to not. But that package came anyway. Kim didn't plan the day of its arrival, just one of those quirky things that happen. And we looked through everything, and talked about the pictures and family and laughed at the cut out. And didn't shed a single tear.

Time heals. It really does.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Short angry political blog...

Okay, I give up. Health care reform isn't happening in any significant way. All of the politics and posturing and nonsense has prevented America from truly showing that we care about ALL Americans.

But as I give up I just want to give a special shout out to the Republicans specifically. You say you don't want the government involved in your health care decisions at all? Great. I think that is a wonderful idea, make sure you keep that in mind when it comes time to vote for things such as...oh I don't know...a woman's right to choose her own reproductive health care choices. Let's keep that decision between a woman and her doctor, the way YOU say it should be. Glad to see you finally came around.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I've the got music in me...

Okay, maybe I don't, but Christopher and his friends sure do.

Last night The Purple House Big Band did their last performance and it was excellent. What is The Purple House Big Band? You say you haven't heard of them before? Well that's because it's the equivalent of those old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies from the 1940s. "Hey my uncle has a barn we could use as a theater, let's put on a show!"

The PHBB is directed by Alex Milsted. The band is a blending of some of the best Jazz musicians from all across the Portland/Beaverton/Hillsboro area. The catch is that the musicians range in age from 15-21. Alex graduated from Christopher's school last year and leaves next week for Berklee on a full ride musical scholarship. Caili O'Doherty who played piano for PHBB also has a full ride to Berklee. She graduated a year early to make sure she could take advantage of the scholarship. J.J. Kirkpatrick was a senior Christopher's freshman year at ACMA and he actually student directed the band Christopher was in that year. He returned to Portland for the summer and played trumpet for PHBB after three years at Manhattan School of Music (you guessed it, full ride scholarship). Devin Riley was one of the trombonist, Berklee starting his sophomore year this year. And a host of kids that I don't know because they were picked up from schools across the area.

Watching Christopher on stage last night playing with this group of talented kids made me really proud. Not just of his talent. Though I am. Who knew when we got him that trumpet back in the 4th grade that he would still be playing, or playing at this level? But proud of all of the kids on that stage and their commitment to their music. This wasn't a group put together by parents. It wasn't something they had to do. Like a school band or even all of the workshops and camps they all attend. This was a group of talented kids getting together and figuring out how they could all play in the same band. Rehearsals were scheduled at people's houses, venues were found, and practice happened without parental nagging.

I told Brent how amazed I was that they did it, and he said, that's what talent does, it seeks out other talent to be with. And that's what we were privileged to witness last night. Wish you had been there...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's all political...

So Christopher requested that I blog about politics. I have spent the better part of a week trying to decide exactly how to tackle this subject. I never did come up with a great way to tackle it, so I am just going to dive right in and work my way back out.

The very first time I can remember being even aware of the political world was standing in line in the cafeteria in what would have been the second or third grade, prices were going up for hot lunch and we were all talking about it. Heady conversation for 8 year olds to be having for sure. I can remember saying that if Jimmy Carter were elected president that he wouldn't raise our lunch prices. Now, I have no idea where I got it from or why I had this idea, but I was sure it was true. He was elected, and what do you know, he didn't really care about the cost of hot school lunch at Mitchell Elementary School in Albuquerque, NM.

The next time I remember really thinking about politics was waiting in the parking lot at Highland High School during the 1980 elections. Highland was the local precinct for my parents to vote and my mother had finished before dad so we were waiting for him to be done and then were going to get dinner. I said to my mother, you are voting for Carter right? And she was appalled! Oh no way, they were voting for Reagan and that's the way EVERYONE should be voting. New Mexico at the time was a heavily Democrat state and my parents I had just discovered were staunch Republicans. I really didn't know what to make of that. From what I had seen I wasn't sure what would make my parents think Reagan would make a good president other than his resemblance to my dad.

So then I started to pay a little more attention to politics. What made a candidate a good choice? What didn't? Why were my parents Republicans and the majority of my friend's parents were Democrats? And at 12, I didn't get it. I couldn't understand what would make people vote for one person over another just because of their party affiliation. I couldn't see a lot of differences between the two sides. So I let it sit for a few more years.

Voting and being part of the process was drilled into my head from a very young age. It's your responsibility as an American to register and to vote. Now, a lot of kids get the "you could grow up to be president" lecture, but I never did. My mother was of the opinion that being president was the worst job in the world. Too much stress, too much pressure, too much blame and not enough credit. I have to agree with her. All it takes is looking at someone when they enter the office and then again at the end of their first term and then their second. They age at such an accelerated rate it's kind of scary. So running for office never a thought but voting, that was different, that was a must. Christopher has been reading the voter's information pamphlets that come with the ballots since he was 10 or 11. He is ready to vote, just as soon as he turns 18, and wishes like mad that he could have voted in the last round of elections. And honestly I bet he was more prepared to make an informed choice than a lot of people who had the option to vote.

So I have been registered to vote since I was 18. I have voted in every major election since then and most of the minor ones as well. Nothing makes me crazier than Oregon's double majority laws. Basically to pass any new bond measures or taxes it has to get a majority of voters to vote and then that majority to approve to pass. What that boils down to is that someone who is too lazy or apathetic to actually put pen to paper and cast their vote ends up with more say in the system than someone who does the research and casts their vote accordingly. And of course to repeal it would take a double majority again. It's my biggest frustration with the way the system works here.

I am a registered Independent. I don't think the two party system is great shakes. I believe that when people start voting along party lines without actually looking at the candidates they give up their vote just as much as if they hadn't voted at all. My last ballot had both Republican and Democrat votes and I believe one Libertarian. Now I haven't always been registered Independent, when I first registered to vote at 18 I registered Republican. How's that for a shock for some of you? Yep, at the State Fair registration booth, signed up and clicked the R box. Brent asked, "Why Republican?" and I said, "...." I didn't have an answer. I was registering Republican because everyone in my family was Republican. My soon to be husband was joining the Navy so I must be Republican right? But when I got my first ballot and chance to vote and realized I wouldn't be voting straight Republican I decided to change my status to Independent, and I never looked back.

I really like a good debate and exchange of ideas. I like to know why people think the way they think and feel the way they feel. But more often what I find in politics is that people are so staunchly in their belief system they really don't care what the other side is saying. They just want to scream at them until they acquiesce. I am not a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Keith Olbermann.

I lean left on social issues. When it comes to gay rights I lean so far left I could fall over. I believe in the separation of Church and State. I do not believe we should spend money we don't have. I do believe that before we stand around patting ourselves on the back about being the greatest nation in the world (though I think we are, all things considered) we should look at our education system and the homeless problem and the rampant poverty in certain areas of the country. I was in favor of the war in Afghanistan and against the war in Iraq. I believe you can support the troops without supporting the Commander in Chief's decisions to send them to war. I am pro-choice but anti-abortion. I believe in the death penalty for certain crimes, including child molestation. I believe that being called a tax and spend liberal is a laughable insult. I believe there should be a tax before a new budget item. Or a cut in an existing program, either one, but let's figure out how to pay for it before we buy it shall we? I think a "tax break" and no budget cuts big deficit conservative should be a bigger insult. I don't believe in unlimited welfare but instead in programs designed to get people on their feet and working. Ever want to see a great welfare system in action? Look to the LDS church. They take care of their own and then teach them how to take care of themselves and others. It's pretty darned impressive. I would have been really torn as to who to vote for in the last election if John McCain (who I respect and wish had gotten the nomination instead of W way back when) hadn't made the choice so easy for me with his VP choice.

So I guess that gives you the general overview. So when I start posting about issues you know where I stand. Right here in the middle.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oh God, Book Two...

So to sum up...I was raised in a very conservative Christian family. I was a full believer for years and years and left the Church when I was a teenager. My family still practices the same religion.

As most of you know Brent and I were married as mere infants and then set out to see the world. Or at least he saw the world and I saw where ever we were stationed. Or at least he saw the inside of a Nuclear Engine room in a lot of different places around the world. If he made it out on deck, he definitely saw the world. So what does this mean to the God talk? It means I have been privileged enough to live in some very distinct parts of the country.

Growing up in New Mexico the predominate religion is Catholic. I was raised in the Christian church and attended a Baptist middle school. So as far as those three religious bases go, I was pretty well covered. And yes, I know they all fall under the big umbrella of Christian but if you are speaking to a Baptist he will let you know he is most certainly not Catholic and if you are talking to a Catholic they will tell you the same about Baptists. Same umbrella different storm. But by living around the country I have been able to see a lot of different storm fronts, if you will, and have my opinions on all of them. The Baptists, Southern Baptists, Catholics, Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, LDS, Unitarian, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. you name it, I know someone who practices it!

But here is the other religion that people don't mention, though it's really the same in my book. Atheism. I truly believe there are people out there that take their lack of belief in God and turn it into as much of a religion as someone who is a strong believer in God. Penn Gillette being a famous example of this. It's as if they have decided that they don't believe in God and it's their job to make sure others don't as well. Now don't get me wrong, I think Penn is a fabulous entertainer, I think Bullshit by Penn and Teller is a great show for those of us who tend to be skeptics. But having been raised in a church where you were told what to think about God, I am just as leery of someone trying to insist that I don't. A friend of mine calls this Devout Atheism.

A branch of Devout Atheism is the Mock the Christians branch. My mother-in-law is part of the Mocking branch, though I am not sure if she is a true atheist, or possibly an agnostic, anyway...About 5 years ago standing in line to see a movie my Mother-in-law, Father-in-law and Christopher are behind Brent and I and they were discussing the Harry Potter books. The discussion turned towards a girl who rode the bus with Christopher who wasn't allowed to read the books because they dealt with witchcraft which was against her family's religious beliefs. My mother-in-law announces to Christopher that that is because people who are religious aren't as bright as the rest of us and can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. Now, normally I will let a lot slide in their discussions, I want Christopher exposed to a lot of ideas, but I do feel there is a right and a wrong way to do it, so this time I couldn't. I turned around looking only at Christopher and said, before you let that sink in too much remember, fully half of your family is religious and do you really believe they are dumb? My mother-in-law had the good grace to apologize later, but it is attitudes like that among the devoutly atheistic that drive me crazy.

On the flip side of that, of course, are the devoutly Christian who feel they must convert you to save your soul. I tend to have a little more sympathy for this side of the argument, only because of motivation. If an atheist is busy trying to point out to me that my belief in God shows I am stupid I am not going to take that too well. But on the other hand, I know my mother is genuinely concerned that because I have not raised Christopher in the church and that because he and Brent aren't baptized they will go to hell when they die, I tend to cut her some slack when she tries to get me to go back to church. BUT I don't cut any slack when she tries to tell me I am not living a good life because I don't go to church. I would put my son's moral code up against any one else in my family without a moment of hesitation. He is one of the best, kindest people I know. And Brent and I did that without putting the literal fear of God in him. Living in Colorado Springs, the home of Focus on the Family and in Idaho Falls, bed of conservative LDS beliefs, I had my fill of people trying to convince me through ways big and small that as a non-Christian I wasn't a good person. I also have no patience what so ever for politicians who try to legislate religion. But that is, again, another blog for another day. Oh yes, we will talk politics too!

So before you think I am anti-everything I want to tell you about someone in my life. Megan (I warned you, you were going to show up in a blog soon!) is a dear friend of mine. She is a creative force to be reckoned with. (check out her blog to see her work But she is also the person that I think of first when I think of a Christian. She walks her walk and talks her talk. Her father was a minister and she went the good daughter route instead of the rebel route that minister's kids often take. Megan knows that I don't believe what she believes but we are still dear friends. It's not an issue. We talk about what she is doing in her church, she is one of the young up and coming leaders there. We talk about her path and her faith. I love that she believes so strongly in her faith. And I love that she accepts that I don't. Now I have to say, if I were meeting Meg as a clean slate, not a grown woman with years of opinion forming about religion behind me I would want what she has. I would have been going to her church, I would have been meeting with her for Bible study, I would be trying my best to emulate her lifestyle. Megan makes you feel good about yourself and the world around you just by spending time with her. And her faith is so strongly a part of her that it's just natural to associate that good feeling with her faith. If all Christians could harness part of what she has going on, which I believe is true honest belief, they could convert the world much quicker than they ever will accomplish by trying to force themselves on everyone.

So what do I believe now? I am the bane of the Extremely Religious and the Atheists alike. I know it's coming...Spiritual but not Religious. One of the smartest people I know once told me that Agnostic was really the only logical choice to make, you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, or a godlike presence. (that very smart person being my son) I am more to the side of there being some sort of godlike energy, than there being a man in flowing white robes, but I do believe there is more to us than just a collection of randomly firing electrical bits. When I see the beauty in a sunset, the magic that is in math (look at a seashell to understand that), hear the laughter of a small child I believe there is something out there tying us all together. But I don't believe in Heaven or Hell as places you go after you die. I don't believe in God and the Devil as separate entities vying for your soul. I don't believe that the Bible is a book of hard and fast rules, but more a collection of stories with a moral.

I have Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, Christian (all branches Catholics to LDS), Muslim, Jewish, Flying Spaghetti Monster and I don't know get back to me later friends. And I have learned something from each of them. I have cherry picked my way through the world's major religions as well as many of the Spiritual flavor of the week trends and I have cobbled together what I believe. It's a discussion best held over drinks, amongst friends who can discuss and disagree without taking it personally, but it's always a fun topic for me. Understanding what you believe and understanding what others believe is the beginning of realizing that we are all really very much alike and that our differences aren't as important as our similarities.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tell me all your thoughts on God...

Okay, here it is. Blogging about religion. I think some of the most interesting discussions come from talking about the things you aren't supposed to talk about. How are you supposed to know what you really believe if you never explore it?

You all know me, I love my background stories, so here it is for the religion and God topic. I grew up in a very religious household. My family is Non-denominational Restoration Movement Christian. Non-denominational meaning not Presbyterian or Lutheran or Baptist or what have you; Restoration Movement meaning that it's strictly Bible based, the restoration being going back to the Bible and stripping away the things that were added by, oh let's say the Popes. This also means the belief is that the Bible is divinely narrated. Basically God wrote the Bible through the hands of man, but it's His word. As my mother sums it up, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. From here on out I am going to call the religion mine or ours just for simplicity sake. Because technically as a baptized member of the church it still is mine.

I was baptized when I was 6. This is actually really young for my church. The norm would be a teenager, if you were raised in the Church, or as an adult if you came later. But I was insistent on my baptism. The reason being I understood the teachings of my church to be, children were innocent and without sin but as soon as you knew the difference between good and evil, right and wrong you MUST be baptized or you were going to hell. I was not going to go to hell. So I pestered my parents, I pestered our minister (also my parent's best friend) and when the new youth minister started in the Church I pestered him as well.

I still remember the final argument I had that won me my baptism. I was sitting in the minister's office with both our minister and our youth minister and I asked about people that lived in parts of the world that had never heard of Jesus. What happened to them when they died? I was told that that was why we needed missionaries to reach those people. But I was insistent, what if the missionaries didn't reach them? What then? So I got the pat on the head and was told, God would protect them as he did little children who didn't know any better. Then this was followed up with, but if they are told about the Word and they do not follow it that is different. So I said, if you know that you should be baptized and aren't then no matter what you couldn't go to heaven? And they agreed. So I said, then you have to baptize me because I know that. And they knew they had lost the argument and I was baptized the next Sunday.

A typical week through my school years was church at least twice on Sunday, three - four times if you counted Sunday School and Youth group separately. Wednesday night Bible study. When I was in high school we had a Bible Bowl team (basically memorizing books of the Bible down to the number of times a word was used) and so we had BB study twice a week as well. One thing churches are good at is keeping kids busy and off the street. Summers were spent either working or being a camper at a Christian camp or touring with our youth group.

Now as a teen I had already been a baptized member of our church for ten years. At one point in time I would have put my Bible knowledge against anyone out there. Just for flat out knowing the verses, knowing the context and knowing what to use to back up any argument I might have. But like any other knowledge, if you stop using it on a daily basis you lose it. And I stopped practicing the religion I was raised in when I was 18. To be truthful I had been leaving the Church for a couple of years by that point in time.

You remember the argument I had with my ministers that won me the right to be baptized? Well I didn't stop having arguments like that as I got older and I stopped being satisfied with the pat answers of "it will just be okay". If it would be okay to die in deepest parts of the Amazon Forest without ever being reached by a missionary and as long as you lived a good life you would still go to heaven, then why did we need to be baptized? Or if you lived in the deepest parts of the Amazon and lived a good life but were never exposed to a missionary and you went to hell when you died what sort of God were we worshiping anyway? And what about the other religions? Because I wasn't sure if anyone had noticed, but they were all saying the same things, and couldn't it be possible that if God really is all powerful and all knowing he would know that certain people would respond to Jesus and others to Buddha, and others to Mohammad and as long as you found your way to him and to a good life what did it matter which book you were reading?

Then there was the growing feeling that the church's stance on homosexuality was just wrong. I have mentioned before that a friend of mine in high school brought the whole gay/lesbian argument to a tidy close for me, but I want to touch on it here with a little more depth. Stephanie (and oh how I wish I could remember her last name!)was a friend of a friend. But the first time we met we instantly hit it off. She was a complete New Waver (if you were raised in the 80s you know the look) and she was an out and proud lesbian. Tough choice for a 16 year old, and especially 25 years ago. Anytime we were at a party at the same time or she was visiting with Cami at the theater at school she and I would end up in these long meaningful discussions about life in the way only 16 year olds can.

Because Stephanie and I talked about everything and anything the talks eventually turned towards what I viewed as her choice to be gay. She looked at me and said, "When did you choose to be straight?" I said, "I didn't choose, I just am. I just like boys." and the light went on. She didn't choose any more than I had. She just was the way she was born and that was it. We talked more about how old she was when she realized she was different from her other friends. This was really important to me on a few levels. One of the main ones was that I was really starting to believe that my nephew was gay. Or would be gay, since at 4 I guess nobody has a real sexual preference. Stephanie was the first person I said the words to out loud. I believed my nephew was born gay. (again another blog for another day, but trust me we will talk more about my thoughts on this) But to tie this to my leaving the church, I was talking with someone I respected about who THEY were and they were telling me, it wasn't a choice, I was watching a person I loved deeply grow up and by all signs show that he was not going to have a choice in who he loved either, and the church was telling me that this was wrong. That choices were made. That God did not create them to be the way they were. Hunh...didn't make sense to me at all.

The final straw for me was my junior year I had a falling out with one of my Bible Bowl coaches. This particular year there were 16 of us that were on teams. There was a tournament at Cincinnati Bible College and only 4 team members could go. It was decided that the four oldest should go since we would be the closest in need of scholarships. Through some backhanded wrangling one of the girls that didn't get to go tried to get me kicked off the team. The coach called my parents with the accusation from this girl, my parents having raised one really problem child double checked the information before coming to me with it. What she had said was false, but if my parents had just believed the coach, like the coach had believed the other girl I would have been in huge trouble. But as it was, I was struck by the hypocrisy of the move and was livid.

See, that year one of the books we were studying was Matthew. There is a passage in Matthew that speaks to what you must do (by the rules of OUR church) if you have a problem with a member of your church. And as a baptized member of the church I should have been treated in the same manner. Matthew 18:15-20 if you are interested. :-) After a few more rounds of wrangling I ended up quitting the team. Looking back I should have quit when we got back from Cincinnati since the lesson the nasty little thing learned is that you can get your way by being awful, but that is my lesson, don't let the nasty people win!

But that was really the end of it for me. I was starting to not believe everything I was being told. I was starting to see that there were other thoughts and ideas in the world that needed to be listened to and weighed. And I spent the next year going through the motions, I lived under my parent's roof so that meant, church and youth group on Sunday, but I stopped anything extra. And since I have been married I think I have been in a church for Sunday services twice. That was my end of organized religion.

Sheesh and I have done it again, an entire blog of back story and not even touching on the points I had planned to make! Okay, a new one later going into what I had meant this one to be at the start! Stay tuned for more God talk later... ;-)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More to Love...

So I watched half of More to Love on Saturday night. For those of you that don't know it's a Bachelor like dating show but with heavier people. Now I don't watch shows like The Bachelor as a general rule. I don't understand anyone who is content to be part of a herd chasing one person trying to get them to love you more than the rest of the group that is doing the exact same love ME dance.

My excuse for watching any of this one is that while I was waiting for Brent to get back in the room to start Robot Chicken (the sort of high minded intellectual show I usually watch) TiVo reverted back to normal TV and that happened to be the channel it was on. Okay, so yes, I could have changed the channel, but there was a little write up about one of the contestants who happened to be from Portland and how she was the only one to show much personality so I decided to watch while I was waiting for Brent to come back into the room.

And they were right, the girl from Portland was sassy and witty and all of the things you would expect including tattooed and pierced. I kind of love her myself, not sure why she is on a dating show. ANYWAY...every time they would show a woman on camera doing the "one on one" chatting, they would put up her name, occupation, hometown just like normal reality show stuff AND her height and her weight! We can all see that these are not your normal Barbie doll, lollipop heads, do we need to see their stats?

But here is my own shame. Every time they would pop that number up on screen I would do the math. How much of a difference was there in my weight and theirs? How about at my heaviest? How much of a difference then? What is our height difference? And if she happened to be my height then her weight was scrutinized even more. How does she carry her weight? Would I look like her at that weight? Or would I look like one of the other girls on the show? For a half hour I compared every woman on that screen based on her weight vs. mine.

For those of you that have known me for any length of time you know right now I am in the process of losing weight. Again. I have put on and taken off the same 30 pounds three times in ten years. I am currently down 20 pounds from my starting weight and trying to decide how much more I want to drop. As far as weight goes I won and lost that genetic lottery at the same time. The losing is that I can gain weight incredibly easy. In my family I really am the thin one, and only because I really work at it. The winning is that I gain weight evenly. I am not a pear nor an apple but a true hourglass. The only thing that changes is how much sand is in the glass!

I have looked like the same version of me since I was around 12 years old. Big boobs, big butt, small waist. And I flex in and out from there. But it's the same basic shape. What that means for me is that I can carry a few extra pounds without people really thinking I am that heavy, I am full figured for sure, but I am full figured even at my lightest. Which is where the complication of my shape hits me full force. I don't ever look significantly different. Smaller yes, but still I will never be a hard body. I am built for comfort not for speed.

When I was younger I really struggled with that. I was always trying to lose that last 5 pounds. I look at pictures of myself from when we lived in California before I had Christopher and I think, "Why in the world did you worry so much about your weight??" I can remember on my wedding day as the photographer took a picture of me sliding the garter on she told me, "You are going to look back on this picture in 3o years and think how much you wish your legs still looked like this!" I remember it because when she said it I thought, "Are you nuts? Look at the size of my thighs!" Now on my wedding day I was the skinniest I will ever be. I had been very ill and dropped so much weight in the months before the wedding that my dress (which had fit at the final fitting two weeks earlier) was gapping and too big.

My 2os were spent chasing an unrealistic body ideal. I tried every diet out there to try and get to an arbitrary weight and a body shape I could not have achieved with out major surgery. I ate cabbage soup, I fasted, I did diet shakes, I worked out in plastic suits. I was never happy with the results. By the end of my 20s I was genuinely unhappy with the way I looked. I dressed to hide every bit of myself that I could. My weight then? About 10 pounds heavier than I am right now. That's all. But you wouldn't be able to tell from the oversized sweatshirts and loose frumpy work clothes.

When I hit my 30s I started to find personal acceptance of my shape. I am built the way I am built, nothing is going to change that. I decided I could learn to love my curves or continue railing against them. I took stock in my body and got realistic about it. I stopped dressing to try and hide my body but chose to show it off instead. Brent's ring tone for me on his phone is "Brick House" and I am Mighty Mighty. And the amazing thing is that as soon as I stopped struggling with it I lost weight. This was the first time for that decade. I was working out, eating well all of the things your are supposed to do and the weight started coming off.

Then we moved. It took awhile, but the combination of really not liking living in Colorado and changes in routines I put back on the weight I had recently lost. But I was okay, still fine with what I was doing and how I looked. We moved back to Oregon and I put back on a few more pounds doing the fast food convenience thing as we settled back in. Then Brent decided he wanted to lose weight. I had been toying with the idea of Atkins for awhile and it really appealed to him so we did that. And within 4 months the weight was gone. Amazing! But two problems for me, first off I really really love bread and carbs as a whole. So yes, I liked being thinner, but I wasn't going to be able to maintain that way of eating for ever. It just felt too much like deprivation to me. The second was that the weight came off so quickly my body didn't really have time to adjust.

This one is hard for people to understand. I really didn't like the way I looked at the end of losing weight on Atkins. Yes, I was thinner. Yes, my basic shape was still the same, but I felt like I looked hollow. Like my skin was too big for my body. I just didn't feel I looked "right". My face seemed too bony, my clavicles were too sharp, my skin was too loose. I just didn't like it. So it wasn't a real heart breaker for me when I started to put it back on. I thought, just a little and then I will level out. Of course that's not what happened. I put on a little then a little more then went back to how I was eating before and put it all back on.

So this time around, looking in the mirror one day I decided that I had more sand in the glass than I was comfortable with and more than was healthy and I was adding sand at an alarming rate! So I looked around on the internet, trying to decide what to do (I went back to Atkins for a small amount of time, didn't lose a pinch) and Weight Watchers kept coming up. It's the slow and steady way to do it. It's the most successful program out there, blah blah blah...I wanted quick and easy. Then I thought...(beginning conversation in my brain) okay, wait, what are you doing this for? Health or vanity? Honest answer...a little of both. Okay, well, odds are you are still going to be vain in 10 years, so what does it matter if it takes you longer to lose the weight this time around? You are supposedly doing it mostly for your health so go get healthy. (ending the peek at the conversation in my brain)

And that's what I did. I have the time blocked out on my calendar every week to go to meetings. I track what I eat. I pay attention to making sure that for the most part what I use my limited number of points on each day is good for me. I am working out again. I am doing this the right way. I have lost 20 pounds but I don't look hollowed out. My body is tucking back in the way it's supposed to. No easy answers, no magic bullet, just following the plan. And the deal I made to post results every week good or bad, that's been huge. Accountability for the win!

So this brings us back to the rerun of More to Love on Saturday night. Watching and comparing my weight to that parade of women. I have to say at first I didn't really even notice I was doing it. It was like an automatic response. So then, of course, once I noticed it I had to analyze it. Why? Why am I still after all of this time measuring myself against everyone else? Why am I not just happy with my rate of weight loss? With how much better I look and feel? With the milestones I have been knocking down? With the lifestyle changes I have been implementing that are making me and the rest of the family healthier? Why?

And I don't have an answer. And that bothers me. So I will keep chasing that dream of total self acceptance. My 20s were the decade where I fought my shape, 30s were the decade where I started to appreciate it, let's see if the 40s can be the decade where I accept myself completely.

She's a brick----house....
she's mighty mighty just letting it all hang out
yeah she's a brick---house.
the lady's stacked and that's a fact
aint holding nothing back....

Thursday, July 30, 2009

First impressions...

This blog has taken more turns than a pretzel and I haven't even written it yet! I think I have settled on a theme but bear with me if it goes a little sideways...I am trying to blend two stories into one...

I have told you about the last place I worked before going back to school. And I mentioned how lovely most everyone was that worked there (by the end). And by lovely I don't mean just wonderful nice people though they were, but truly lovely women. When prospective clients would come into the office you could almost see them wondering if they were being set up. And for a long stretch it wasn't just that the women were lovely, they all shared a look. Not exact, but enough if everyone was out to lunch together more than one person wondered if it might be a family meal instead of a work gathering.

It probably should have been a harder ride on my ego than it was; being over a decade older and a few sizes bigger than they were could have been very hard, but as I said, they were all really lovely people as well so most days I didn't really notice. Most days...

Today I am going to tell you about Jenn. The first time any of us saw Jenn she was a recent college graduate and was coming in for an informational interview with my boss. We had just moved into a new office space and hadn't finished building out the waiting area. There was a couch and a couple of chairs in the middle of the space, a small conference room table and chairs to the left as you first entered and a low table for placing out going mail and such things to the right. As Jenn waited for her interview time she had a seat. On the table. Now to be fair, Jenn was not the first nor the last person to mistake the table for a bench, but it never failed to make me laugh when someone did it and it stuck in my head.

Fast forward, I want to say maybe a year, and one of our AEs is leaving for greener pastures and Jenn is going to come work with us. Now my boss has already started earning his reputation for his unusual hiring practices (remember I was hired by the old boss, it's how I snuck in!) so we were all a little skeptical as to why exactly he was hiring Jenn. Jenn is that impossible combination of pretty you get when excellent gene pools collide. She is tall and thin, but with a cute figure. She has curly hair, but it's still soft and silky to the touch, she has an almost elfin quality to her face with the sweetest smile. The kind of person that you are either instantly drawn to, or you instantly hate. Really depends on where your mind is as an individual.

Jenn's first day in the office happened to be a party day. It was my 37th birthday and our bookkeeper's 36th. So we started the day with drinks and never stopped. I can remember sitting over by Jenn's desk getting the "Welcome to the Company" talk going and staring at my feet, my toes had been recently polished and were very shiny in the light over by the window. I at least had the good graces to fully admit I was drunk and would be spending the day that way. :-) That evening we went out to a bar after work to continue the festivities and Jenn joined us for a while. She fit right in, I thought, she shared some stories, made some jokes then she had to leave. I was thinking, I really like this girl and the person sitting next to me said, "I think I hate her" and she wasn't kidding. So you see, it depends on who you are as a person on how you respond to others.

Jenn coming to work for us was the turning point for me during my hell years at the Agency. I had had Jenny as my refuge, her Switzerland stance helped out so much, but Jenn was where the shift in tone started. After she had been at work a few weeks as the senior AE in the agency I felt I really needed to take her to lunch and see how she was holding up. Our boss was great with clients, tons of knowledge in his head he could have shared to make someone a great AE, but he was a lousy mentor, so it was always good to keep tabs on the new kids and see how they were holding up.

Jenn and I visited through lunch and I became more and more impressed with her. Her parents owned their own company and she had been working since she was a young kid. She found a scholarship for her college tuition that paid full ride for her for four years for basically hanging out at a golf course for a few summers during high school. This girl had some serious brains in that pretty little noggin of hers! But the most important part of the meal came for me towards the end. I have a freakish memory, so this will surprise everyone that knows me, but I cannot for the life of me remember the words she said. It was that much of an emotional kick for me. But basically she let me know that she knew about the tensions in the office, knew about parts of what had been said about me, knew where it was coming from and just wanted to let me know that she formed her own opinions about people and she thought we were going to be great friends. And we have been. Through Jenn we hired Becky and then Danyel. Sheila and Megan had joined the crew as well and before you knew it, it was a brand new ball game. But for me, that lunch meant I had a life line to a normal work life.

So after all of that glowing review do you want to know what I like best about Jenn? She has a series of scars on her back. Big scars. Those scars mean the world to me. Living in the Pacific Northwest we get greedy about our summers. We want to spend as much time as possible in the sun, on the river, in a lake, at the beach. Just soaking it up as much as possible while it is here. Jenn is no exception and spent many hours outside. Shortly after starting at L/N Jenn went into the dermatologist to get a mole screened. That screening led to numerous removals and tests. When they take a mole they suspect might be cancerous, they send it in for testing, if the tests come back with abnormalities they call you back in and take another sample, widening the borders of the incision until they get a test back that shows only normal tissue. For a stretch Jenn was in the dermatologist's office every few weeks. It was a pretty scary time. She was in a lot of pain from where they had taken samples and a few of the incisions didn't heal as cleanly as they needed to and had to be treated again. You just ached for her.

But the part that makes those scars truly beautiful is that they not only saved her life, but saved others as well. When you see a 23 year old girl going through the extensive tests she was going through it makes you think twice about ignoring your own odd moles. There were at least 3 of us in the office that went in for testing, and then friends of each of ours went as well. Jenn actually went with me to my first screening. She had an incision that needed checked so we went in together. You know when the doctor looks at a mole and says, "Do you have time to get this removed today?" you should pay attention. So I have a scar on my hip, two on my arm and a really good sized one on my rib cage. The one on my rib cage was the repeat tester for me. It took three times getting re-cut before the edges were clean and the precancerous cells were gone.

Jenn, like most of my friends, is also a client of mine and as I worked on her back this week, I looked at those scars, and was once again so grateful for everything she has done for me.

But I still tease her about sitting on the table. ;-)