Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

This is a short post. No time to write the longer year in review post I had hoped to post today. I still plan to do that. I do it every year, I look back and I look forward. I have been thinking about these things and planning, but it isn't in a neat and organized format just yet. In short, it isn't sharable, yet!

This year, er maybe next year, which is actually tomorrow, I will take time to organize and collate and post something (once the kiddos are back to school.)

So for now I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve! Stay safe and may your New Year be full of love and laughter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - The Final Wrap Up

So I missed a few days. I was busy making Christmas happen... no time to write when one is knee deep in cookie dough, planning a very last minute 1st grade Holiday Party, and spending time with friends, which for me has grown increasingly more important. I enjoy spending time with my peeps.
So to spare us all the pain of dragging this out, I will do the final quickie countdown...

Nine ladies dancing

One of the best parts of this holiday season, which frankly was challenging but was less so was L's commitment to do the Nutcracker with her dance school. It was an amazing production. The girls started rehearsing the minute the Halloween show was over and it included extra practices on Sundays. The show was amazing. I was so proud of them all and most especially my Diva, who has an amazing mega watt smile. They reprised the show at the local community theater and then her group used the same costume and morphed into elves for the Community Center's special Polar Express movie night. It was a huge effort on her part to learn the dances, tackle homework backstage and squeeze in the sleep she needs to function. On my part, it is make up, clothing, packed lunches and hair prep.
That said, she rarely fights me too hard on make up and hair, in fact she can do more and more of it herself. Never once did she fight me about going to practice or the extra effort. It was truly a labor of love.

Ten lords a-leaping

Since H requested time off to see her show, he has been leaping ever since. Working a ton this month. He did a Christmas pass through. Arrive home in time for dinner Christmas Eve and was up at 4 am to leave to be back to work Christmas Day. This is typical some months. The airline and their scheduling madness keep us on our toes.

 Eleven pipers piping & Twelve drummers drumming

As for pipers and drummers, I got nothing. I can say E loves the drummers in marching bands. Neither of the kiddos is that excited by bagpipes. I can say the beat of time is marching past me quickly. There is so much to be done between now and the end of the year. I am trying to spend some time gathering my thoughts, making a plan for the coming year. Some responsibilities have melted away and for the first time in a long time, I seem to have a blank slate. There is the temptation to fill the empty space, but I am not going to hurry through the process. I am going to take it slow and I am going to focus on me for a little while.I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, if you celebrate and today is Boxing Day for our British chums. I hope to post again before the New Year, but if I don't I wish every one a safe and happy New Year. For goodness sakes if you go out and you drink DO NOT DRIVE. Take a cab, a bus, hire a driver, whatever, but no drinking and driving. I would miss you in the New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Eight Maids a Milking

So I had thought to do a whole bit on geese and the golden eggs and link that to a lengthy discussion on CEO pay and why I think that is one of the biggest reasons for business stagnation and is just as responsible for the economic woes we are experiencing.

Life got in the way.

So we can shift the conversation and talk about milking the system. I think there is milking of the system on all levels. There are families or communities who have gotten caught up in the system of publicly funded social services, services designed to lend a helping hand short term have been co-oped and turned into a way of life. This is problematic. The solution to this is much more complex and I don't see any quick fix. It now goes back generations.

On the upper end of the spectrum, we have a culture, particularly in business and I am speaking about large corporations, publicly traded companies specifically. I am not a US Senator or Representative, who will talk about small family owned businesses but mean their biggest campaign contributor - ie a large multinational corporation. I am not talking about the small company that is family owned and privately held.

I am talking about AMR (parent company of American Airlines), GE, Merrill Lynch, Chase Bank just to name a few. I am talking about companies where the upper most tier of management make a salary, are almost always guaranteed a bonus (who reading this is guaranteed a bonus???), who gets an annual grant of stock options which is valued in the millions, who has a golden parachute, who gets grants of restricted stock, privately held preferred stock, pays no health care premiums or next to none, is guaranteed a free flight on the corporate jet, in many cases gets a housing allowance, has a huge insurance policy on his/her life, no premium... I could go on but I won't.

All of these perks and at a time when the rank and file employee likely has increasing insurance premiums, is being told to work longer hours with no raise or conversely is being told they have to cut back their hours, as there is not enough money in the "budget" for overtime. Worse yet, companies are laying off again quietly, right before the holidays. Happened right here in CMH. Well known education publisher, over 500 hundred jobs nationwide. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

So let's look at the numbers. I will say McGraw Hill does pay a dividend. As an aside, I only purchase and hold companies in my modest investment account, that pay a dividend. We can discuss this at a later date and I will say this example of McGraw Hill would be worse had they nixed the dividend.

So the CEO of McGraw Hill made in fiscal year 2010 - $9,591,916, his annual salary was $1,390,500.

Most of his other earnings in fiscal year 2010 are connected to grants of stock, both restricted stock and stock options. One its face it seems ok. He has been with the company for since 1980. Clearly I think it is fair to say he paid his dues.

But wait a minute. How do we measure performance. His role is to lead the company, make strategic choices and make money for the shareholders. Looking at these charts, I wouldn't say he hit it out of the park, but nor did he lead McGraw Hill to financial ruin either. Is his leadership worth $ 9 million? I don't know. Is he putting in the hours to earn his nearly $1.4 million in salary. Maybe?

Let's look at AMR. A company that is in bankruptcy, something I think we can all agree is approaching financial ruin. Or at the best is an undesirable outcome. Here is some salary information on AMR's retired CEO Gerard Arpey. I was heartened to see that he did not take a bonus last year. News reports indicate he did not get severance when he left. (I am not sure if he walked away nothing or not and if he did they did not call it severance.) Most of his compensation was tied up in stock and frankly the stock is about worthless at the moment. That said, he was the CEO for a long time. His management decisions can be credited with landing the company in bankruptcy. There is no shareholder value. Is he really entitled to anything? This is crux of the problem. Is he entitled to any compensation for running the business to the ground?

Furthermore let's think this through. So often airlines or other businesses want to squeeze the rank and file employees paycheck but then think nothing of adding in more perks to executive compensation. For ever concession he squeezed out of the pilots and flight attendants, did he take a similar one? Did he takes his lumps. After all, when he was squeeze the schedulers, mechanics, pilots and flight attendants, was he adding shareholder value or adding to his own personal bottom line? Did he take an equivalent squeeze? I would say it is doubtful.

I think the business community needs to look at themselves in the mirror and think long an hard about what we define as valuable. Who is adding shareholder value, I mean who is really adding it? The amount of over inflated incentive compensation at the executive level is crazy. The sense of entitlement. At a rate of 2.5 to 3 million per year, 2-5 regular people jobs could be saved if the average executive commitment employee took a modest ($300,00 to $400,000 pay cut.)

While we are speaking about entitlement, let's talk about the notion that we must pay these over inflated salaries in order to attract and retain the "best." I am not buying it. I will tell you why. Most entrepreneurs, true visionaries don't do it for the money. They like the big idea pay off. They like the hunt, the design and the coup of creating or cornering a market. Look at Steve Jobs, he left Apple - dabbled with Pixar and then came back to Apple, only to unveil a string of revolutionary products. I would argue he liked the creation process and not so much the stewardship of business process. Managing  a mature business was not his goal. Did he get crazy rich in the process yes... but bilking or milking the company for all it was worth was not his motivation. I don't think there is anyone who can argue that he did not add value. Was he perfect no.

So how do we define value? How do we define leadership? Does it really make sense to have the executive committee making millions in salary, even if the company is losing money left and right? How is it that Corporate Boards are endorsing contracts where bonuses are guaranteed? (that is the big one in banking folks, a guaranteed bonus??? Talk about NO SKIN in the game.)

I don't agree with most of Occupy Wall Street. I also don't agree with much of what Wall Street is doing. The conversation we need to be having is multifaceted and complicated. I am a firm believer in the free market. Which we don't have. Not by a long shot.

I will also say this. The average person is so disenfranchised at the moment. We are seeing declining wages or frozen wages. Unemployment levels at record numbers in some states. We see banks who make all the rules, don't know their own rules, who are paying HUGE executive comp and foreclosing on people left and right, so that houses can sit empty. This is not good corporate citizenship. We the consumer have no rights. We are faced with agreement documents so loaded with double talk and company protection, binding arbitration and gotcha moments, it has become in many cases protected grand larceny on the part of the business.

This is what we should be protesting. This is what we should be upset about. We have fixated on taxation and the wealthy who don't pay their fair share. Perhaps this is one avenue. I suggest shifting our focus and have the value conversation. Why is there the huge disparity in wages? Why is the cog worth so very little to those controlling the wheel? Why are we willing to work for so little when the executive committee on one hand cries poor, ladles the gravy onto their plates and mismanages the company to boot. I don't understand this and folks, I have an MBA.

I would humbly submit however that the milking or the bilking of the economy, the decimation of the middle class is not solely occurring at the IRS. It is occurring when companies are REWARDED for moving jobs to China. When companies choose to freeze salaries and benefits or cut benefits all while still paying the executive committee over inflated wages and bonus. I am of a mind that the CEO should be paid last, not first. His job is to inspire and lead. His job is to make the company money. In any year that he has to lay off workers - he should forgo his bonus. A good leader worries about those under him, not as a number, but as people. It is never a success, when you have to lay off entire departments and trim the workforce. It does not add value when you "save" the amount of your bonus through laying others off.

It is milking the system. The business community, specifically those in positions of leadership have grown soft. They have very little skin in the game. I used to think stock options and restricted stock were enough incentive. They aren't, obviously. If they were, people like Stan O'Neil and Gerard Arpey would have done the right thing, worked like a dog to solve the problems facing the companies they ran, made those companies profitable instead of running them into ground and then sailing off in to the sunset, whistling all the way to their banks. They failed and yet they do not face financial ruin, they are on easy street, all the while the employees who came to work day in and day out are told, to do more with less and tighten their belts and that my friend is the true inequity. When the rank and file have more skin in the game and more to lose than the CEO. Think about Lehman Bros. The actions of a few, killed an entire company. I ask you, did all that executive comp - did it get the best. I really don't think so...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Seven Swans a Swimming

Anyone who has watched Wild Kingdom knows that nature is both wild, beautiful and dangerous. Swans are not just beautiful, majestic swimmers. I know this for certain.

We have been zoo members since L was a baby. We live near the zoo and love to go. When L was little we would go and treat the zoo like a park, just go for a bit to enjoy a short walk. One day L and I went and decided to loop through North America. We stopped by the swans for a snack. L was munching crackers and watching the swans and the ducks. She really liked ducks as a toddler.

Apparently one of the mallard ducks offended one of the swans because he/she charged over to the duck, picked the duck up by the neck with his/her beak and proceeded to viciously shake the duck back and forth and then with great force slam the duck repeatedly into the the dirt and rocks at the edge of pond.

L was watching and then yelling, "No, no, no... stop that big duck."

As the water fowl assault intensified, I quickly hurried L back into the stroller and took off. In part not wanting to see what happened after the swan tired of the duck slam and a tiny bit worried the swan might charge L and try to give her the offensive duck treatment.

I knew swans could be territorial and aggressive. The ones at the pond I liked to study near in college could get mouthy and mean. Charging the picnic tables and just generally putting up a fuss. Sometimes biting and pecking at your shoes. H would say they were "fresh."

This swan however, she/he was obviously trying out for swan version of the WWE Au natureal version or something similar. Even today, I tend to walk quickly past those swans at the zoo. They scare me more than the big polar bears.

So honestly, I am not sure I want seven swans doing anything near me, at all, ever. My true love can keep them... at his house.

12 Days of Christmas - Six Geese a Laying

I know I am a day late. I have been celebrating. A very special Birthday and with the ladies in my book club.

Not just laying about, eating bon bons and watching television.

So I will say this, taking time for myself seems like such an indulgence. I used to think that I might never get any time for me. I think mothers of young children often feel this way. I remember a time when I thought, I might never get to shower or use the toilet alone ever again. E was my little shadow. It is better now, but it has taken time, lots of it.

So if you are struggling with some last minute gift ideas. Consider offering a helping hand. If someone on your list is the mother of school age or younger kiddos, consider a gift card for a massage and the offer to babysit while she goes. This goes for dads too, or young couples with kids. Sometimes the best gift you can give them is a chance to get out minus their wee ones.

Down time is precious. Priceless really.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Five Gold Rings

I like gold. I like rings. I could be down with this one. This is the first practical gift the song has the  true love giving his beloved. Gold has monetary value, at the moment investment value, although between you and me the price at the moment is on the high side, and gold has decorative value.

Instead of gold rings, I want to talk about CORE values, the values that define you as a person. I think these are very important. Having clearly defined CORE values will mean that you have a compass of sorts to guide you.

I will admit, I sometimes watch The Millionaire Matchmaker. I rarely can make it all the way through an episode, but in the bits and pieces I have caught, Patti often asks the bachelors or bachelorettes to come up with a list of  five non-negotiables. What are the five qualities the person you want to date must possess. I have no opinion as to whether this is prudent dating advice or not, but it did get me thinking.

I think we should all have such a list - but about OURSELVES and our lives.

I think we should all have a list which reflects the 5 guiding principals in our lives. I dislike the phrase "moral compass" but that is what I am suggesting. I think it would be time well spent, for all of us to devote some time and energy into developing our list of 5 non-negotiables. What are our five golden rings, points of lights, whatever you choose to call to them.

At the New Year, I think many people take a few moments and assess the previous year and look towards the new one. This year, perhaps taking a few moments to think about what are your non-negotiables, be they in love, with your family, your career, or all of the above. What can't you do with out, what are the things that define you.

I humbly submit that most of the social and political problems we have today are rooted in a lack of leadership and a lack of convictions. I suspect very few people have a list of 5 non-negotiable.

It might be the best and most rewarding gift you give yourself.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Four calling birds

Don't call me. I am on the do not call list, I do not want to talk on the phone. For 10 years, in my former job, the phone was my life, I was on the phone nonstop, if I was in the office, I was on the phone. I dislike the phone greatly.

There are a few people, I can count them on both hands with fingers to spare, who I want to talk to and that is it. These are people I actually know or the parents of kids my kids know. These kinds of calls I am more than ok with, but people calling to waste my time with things I am not going to buy, no thank you.

While we are talking about phone pet peeves, I shall list mine in no particular order:

  • Businesses who ask for your phone number when they ring you up. I always say no.
  • Automated "thank you for your business calls" - If my business was truly valuable, you would call me in person to thank me.
  • Political calls by a human annoy me, political calls by a computer make me nuts. I am on the do not call list and I think that should include everyone. Unless I have given you my number personally, DO NOT CALL ME.
  • Doctor's offices who have an automated reminder call, but who stipulate you must cancel this appointment 48 hours (business days only) prior or incur a missed appointment fee. They call you on a Saturday morning for a Monday morning appointment. This makes them look stupid and sloppy and honestly, I am not sure I want to go to a doctor who is sloppy or stupid.
  • Solicitations of any kind, honestly I am a woman of the 21st Century. If you have even done an ok job of establishing a web presences I will find you. No phones needed.
  • Inappropriate cell phone use. In general, no one wants to hear your conversation with your BFF about your UTI, which you think you got cuz you shagged some guy you met in a bar, while you browse the shoes section at Macy's. I don't and my kids sure don't.
And while on the topic of phones, I think we should abolish the phone book. I have tried repeatedly to stop the delivery of the phone book with very mixed results. It is soon to be 2012, I have no need for the phone book. First of all I have a smart phone and second of all, I avoid using the phone as much as possible. I shouldn't have to opt out, I think people should have to opt in, if you want the phone book, pick up the phone and call them and request it.

If the calling birds are homing pigeons, that could open up the topic of junk mail, but that is another post for another day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why it is wrong...

so I have been fired up. I try to avoid the news. I really do, but sometimes things are just so glaringly wrong, that they have to be talked about. Or researched. And I have spent the last two days doing both.

I also want to say that this is a free country, we have the first amendment and it is an important one.

So there is a show on TLC about Muslims living in Dearborn. I suspect the point of the show is to show Americans what it is like being an American and Muslim. I watched the bits of the show I could find on Hulu, YouTube and the TLC website. I gotta tell ya, it is pretty normal stuff. Some wedding stuff, some baby stuff, some I want a baby stuff, some work and life balance stuff. Might I even say that it was approaching boring stuff...

Which I think was the point. These are Americans, in many cases first, second and third generation Americans. (As an aside, my husband is a 1st generation American. You guessed it, my husband's parents were not both American citizens at the time of his birth. They both emigrated from Germany. Right after WWII for his father and the early 70s for his mother. They spoke no English in the house until H went to school.)

No big deal right? Another reality show, on a channel devoted to reality shows.

The FFA didn't think so. They felt that because the show only showed normal boring stuff that they were covering up the Islamic agenda. So let me get this straight, if the show had been about my husband and his family and it showed them going to Catholic mass, work, school, and out to dinner, speaking German and so forth, then that show would be somehow covering up the insidious German Catholic agenda. All Germans back then were Nazi's right? How could they make a show that did not reflect that stereotype?

Or are Muslims somehow special?

The entire point of the show is to say - hey look, it isn't all that exciting, we do what you do. We eat lunch out, we have babies or we are trying to have a baby, we have interfaith weddings, and we struggle for family life balance. We struggle with our faith. We make choices about god, and god's place in our lives.

And understand, I support FFA's right to write letters, to maintain a website and they certainly are entitled to their opinion. That is part of the first amendment. And I did something many people who are upset probably didn't do, I actually read their website. It was hard. I think they are off base on 99% of what they have posted, but that is the beauty of a free country, I am free to disagree. I will say, in their slightly marginal defense, if what they have posted is true about a possible honor killing in Tampa, which is not being prosecuted, then that is the issue they should be focused on.  As much as I value religious freedoms, no one, is free to kill their daughter in the name of "religious" and cultural traditions. Not in the US for sure. That said, it is hard to take them seriously on this very serious issue, when they have so much other noise going on.

So what is so wrong. I will tell what is so wrong. Both Lowe's and KAYAK have confirmed that out of the 27 businesses targeted, they pulled their ads from the show. Based on the opinions and letters of a few, these companies choose to break their ad contracts with a given show, because in the minds of a few, the show is not fitting their stereotype of what a Muslim is.

Update: This evening it appears that perhaps FFA duped Lowes into believing more companies were on the bandwagon. That is even more disturbing to me. I also think that someone should be looking into FFA's use of trademarked logos on their site without permission.

And certainly, had either Lowe's or KAYAK cited that the show did not have enough viewers or some other verifiable business reason (note: data, real verifiable data makes it easier to make a case that there was a business purpose and not bigotry involved), this would be a none event. In fact the show, averages an average viewership. It is scheduled to be 8 episodes. I suspect the viewership has gone up slightly now... the other advertisers thank you Lowe's and Kayak. Instead Lowe's links to the letters from FFA and their supporters, offers a lamely written excuse and then hides. They have all but retreated from their social media sites.

That is what is not ok. Television is about a certain perceptive. Docudrama is a genre all its own. It isn't designed to be taken a gospel or fact. Reality television is rarely grounded in 100% reality. I find many other shows on TLC much more offensive. Much.

For Lowe's and KAYAK to bow down to single opinion of a fringe extremist group, which is what FFA is, is discriminatory and it is insulting. To us ALL. We live in a free democratic society and with that freedom comes great responsibility. We are free to hold our own thoughts and beliefs, we are free to write about those beliefs, make shows about those beliefs, hold public meetings about those beliefs, make purchasing decisions taking into account those beliefs,  what we are not free to do is impose those beliefs on others. We are not free to assume that others must believe what we believe. What happens in your own home and your place of worship is up to you, what happens on the public street, on the public airwaves, is printed in the media, that must be held to a community standard and the community standard must take into account all parties involved and not just the loudest and best funded few. Religious preferences of any persuasion cannot be the only basis for that standard. Stereotypes held by a few cannot be the basis for that standard. The standards must be grounded in verifiable facts, not religious texts and teachings, not stereotypes, not bigotry, but verifiable fact. Furthermore, these standards should be such that they are not exclusionary, but rather inclusive and sensative to the needs of others. We are all free to then limit what we expose ourselves and our children to, but we cannot do that by legislating, we have to own our convictions and be honest about our convictions with our children, families and friends.

A company committed to reflecting that standard does not pull its ads from a show that fails to paint a certain group in the stereotypically way a certain other group believes to be true.

Democracy cannot work that way.

12 Days of Christmas - Three French Hens

Three French Hens. Whether you are a fan of French cuisine or not, one has to admit, the French eat a very rich diet, lots of carbs, lots of rich sauces and butter, oh my the butter. That said, the French eat fresh food, artisan food, gourmet food, on smaller plates and they share their meals with friends. Did I mention wine. They have small family farms, not commercial enterprises.

The French do not have the market cornered either. I would argue that the Germans and Italians eat a very rich diet, with lots of carbs, lots of rich sauces and butter, oh my the butter.

So why are American's the ones with the increasing incidents of food allergies and obesity? Don't believe me, based off this study America is first with nearly 31% of adults falling in the obese range, compared to Germany at 12.9% and France at 9.4%. The pasta loving Italians? They are the lowest of the four, barely tipping the scale at 8.5%. (Oh my, all that pasta and all that cheese!)

I humbly submit that the European diet is largely pure, local and seasonal. There are no frozen convenience foods - engineered and full of salt and fake ingredients - taking center stage on their plates day in and day out. In fact the EU has some of the most stringent rules about labeling, disclosure and prohibits genetically modified foods. Most Europeans use fresh, seasonal ingredients in their cooking and a farmers market is fairly standard in most towns and cities.

I do most of my own cooking. I use whole food ingredients and given all my issues, I cannot eat loads of processed items. I know this helps with my weight management.

I also think portion size is an issue. Go to Europe and you will be surprised how much smaller EVERYTHING is. 250 ml of Coke is the size of a juice glass. Dinner plates look like salad plates here. Salads are small affairs, not massive bowls loaded with bacon, cheese and dressing. Europeans have never heard of an all you can eat buffet.

The Europeans eat meals. Not on the go, not quick fast food. They sit down to a meal, with friends, colleagues, with family. They have a drink with their meal - commonly wine. They laugh and they eat and they feel fuller, because they have made eating a sensual pleasure. They eat lots of fruits and veggies. They eat smaller servings of meat (trust me, meat in Europe is expensive.) Also I have observed that Europeans are always eating. They snack and drink often. They spead the calories out over the day.

I also think that most Europeans do more physical activity than the average American, they walk to the bus stop or the subway station, they have outdoor shopping areas where cars are prohibited. They bike, everywhere.

I find the excess of the holiday season sad and scary. We drink too much and we eat too much and all in the guise of being "merry and bright." Why not make every day a celebration of food. Why not celebrate the bounty of the earth that we get every single day. Why not respect ourselves and what we are putting in our mouths and bodies?

Three French Hens win over one over processed warehoused American hen, any day of the week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - Two turle doves

These little guys - or likely a guy and a gal are turtle doves, best I can tell. Doves are traditionally a symbol of peace. The dove sees its origins as a symbol of peace in ancient Christianity (although one has to wonder when a dove was often a sacrificial bird. Which I think serves to muddy the waters just a tad.)

My mother wanted this song played at her funeral. I think more than anything, we need to live this every day. We could end so much if we tried to imagine every day to be just like Christmas day. Think before you say something mean. Approaching life's problems with not only wanton self interest but with compassion, empathy and love.

I had planned and partially wrote a very angry post for today and then I stopped. We are surrounded by hate, mean spiritness and countless examples of people (businesses) putting wanton self interest above the good of humanity.

This past week I have watch my neighbors bicker and be passive aggressive (if not aggressive) with each other on our neighborhood google group, mildly entertaining, but it is a symptom of the over all problems facing our culture today. The art of being nice has been lost.

So in a season of "good cheer" I suggest that perhaps we should practice the art of kindness year round and not just as Christmas.

Good tiding of peace... Two turtle doves.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas - a partridge in a pear tree

Instead of a partridge in a pear tree let's consider a chicken in every pot. And I don't mean in the classic sense, like what Hoover promised.

It wasn't just chicken. During the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

What I mean is as a nation we all need to come together to combat hunger. We need to take real steps to ensure that not a single child goes to bed hungry. We need to as a nation allocate resources to ensure schools are providing healthy meals. No more pizza as a veggie. No more french fries as a veggie. Many children depend on their school lunch as their principal source of nutrition. Do we want them eating empty calories or getting solid, brain building  nutrients.

Furthermore how can we expect working Americans to work at their optimal best when they are food insecure. Worrying about paying their bills and literally putting food on the table. What about parents who forgo their own nutritional needs to ensure there is more for their children to eat.

Understand I am not advocating for welfare or another government program - the Bickerson aka all of Washington can take a long cruise for all I care, they are useless and would only argue about it and then try to scam off the top. I am talking about small grassroots efforts. Stop hunger in YOUR community. Act locally. Work to change laws and ordinances which take food out of the mouths of the poor. Did you know in many areas it is illegal for restaurants to give food away? What about surplus from groceries... the food is in our communities, it is getting it to those who need it that is the challenge.

Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security[2]
  • In 2010, 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 32.6 million adults and 16.2 million children.
  • In 2010, 14.5 percent of households (17.2 million households) were food insecure.
  • In 2010, 5.4 percent of households (6.4 million households) experienced very low food security.
  • In 2010, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.2 percent compared to 11.7 percent.
  • In 2010, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.2 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (35.1 percent) or single men (25.4 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.1 percent) and Hispanic households (26.2 percent).
  • In 2009, 8.0 percent of seniors living alone (925,000 households) were food insecure.
  • Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 5 percent in Steele County, ND to a high of 38 percent in Wilcox County, AL.[3]
Nine states exhibited statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2008-2010:1
United States                    14.6%
Mississippi                          19.4%
Texas                                    18.8%
Arkansas                              18.6%
Alabama                              17.3%
Georgia                                  16.9%
Ohio                                      16.4%
Florida                                  16.1%
California                             15.9%
North Carolina                   15.7%


What is food insecurity you say? It is not knowing if you can afford your meds and food. It is not being able to afford the barest and I mean the barest minimum as outlined by the USDA to meet nutritional needs. 

It is having a budget so tight that anything unexpected means the next weeks meals are in question. A school yard accident, a car or truck that breaks down, a cold or flu or other illness that means you can't work for a few days and your employer has no sick pay policy - because it is cheaper that way. A sick child, who cannot go to day care and you cannot work.

This is not rocket science. This isn't a case of famine, crop failure, warlords looting and misdirecting aid. This is simply a case of all of us failing to do enough 365. I am also guilty of this. I need to be more proactive about giving food to the food pantry.

I can hear my detractors, the poor deserve to be poor, they made bad choices, they make poor choices at the grocery, the seniors should have saved more, spent less, and planned ahead, the poor choose to do drugs, or they have too many children.

And maybe that is all true, BUT we cannot solve all of the causes of poverty overnight. We can, I believe end hunger. We could end hunger in the United States right now, this year if we decided that is what we are going to do.

One of my pet peeves about the Christmas season is that we over hype this one day or in fairness two days and there is a crush to show support for some many causes. What about the other 364 or 363 days. What about a rainy day in March and the cupboard is bare? Christmas a distance memory.

To answer L's questions about my beef with "Christmas" and what I think will likely be the over arching theme in my 12 days series - is why is it so important that "those people" have a "good Thanksgiving" or "a good Christmas" when "those people" are hungry every other day of the year.

Among members of Feeding America, 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters reported that there had been an increase since 2006 in the number of clients who come to their emergency food program sites.4
This is not acceptable in my opinion. There is no reason that this number is increasing. We live in a land where food is abundant. This is not communist Russia in the 80s and it is not sub-Saharan Africa, this is the United States and we have ample food. No one and I mean no one should be going hungry. In my opinion no one should be eating a processed food diet either, but this year, I will be happy if we all make the pledge to do what we can to end hunger.

That is the Partridge in THE PEAR TREE this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12 Days of Christmas

So today, as L and I hung window clings, cute little penguins and snow flakes, she started singing Christmas songs and I cut her off, saying not yet... It is a rule of mine, no Christmas music until 12 days before Christmas.

She said, "What is it with you, why don't you like Christmas."

It isn't so much that I dislike Christmas, I dislike the insanity. I fail to see why we need to start selling Christmas crap at Halloween. Why must we be tortured with Christmas music starting November 1? Why must we only remember poor people at Christmas time? Why must we have loads of special parties and dinners, now at Christmas time. Why must we only show our appreciation for our hair stylist, bus driver and bank teller only on Christmas? Why can't we be kind to people all year round?

I could on, but I won't.

So what I thought I would do, is to take apart the song, the 12 Days of Christmas, and try to talk about a timely related subject, hopefully pointing out opportunities to be kind year round, to live the "Christmas spirit" 24/7. I have no idea if this will be fun and jolly or dark and dreary. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So be on the look out. No promises, but here goes nothing.

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Music Monday - Dave Koz, Eight Candles

In years past, H and I have made it to Dave Koz and Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas special. The first time we went, I was pregnant with E. A few years ago we went, it was very chilly that night.

This year we couldn't make it, as H would be overnighting in Denver Saturday night, a destination it is near impossible to fly home and back  in a 24 hour period. Had he been in New York or DC, I suspect we would have made it again this year.

Friday night we went to the Columbus Symphony's Holiday Pops and had a wonderful time. It wasn't Dave Coz and it wasn't my favorite way to experience the songs of the season (not that I am a huge fan of the songs of the season anyway) but it is always a joy to experience artists, creative people, using their talents and gifts and obviously having a wonderful time. There truly was something for everyone last night and it was so worth it. Also it was at the Ohio Theater, which isn't shabby.

As I sat there, listening to some very old carols, I could not help but think that fashionably dressed women and men, for centuries have been experiencing, embracing and more importantly supporting the performing arts. Chamber music, orchestras, quartets, choirs, singers and dancers. Before television and the motion pictures, peoples entertainment monies went to live performances. Be they in a private home, well ok a palace or manor house or in a theater.

L is a working dancer at 9. Her Youth Company makes money for their studio through three annual productions per year. Is it alot of money, not really, but the girls get a taste of performance for money.

I also think that it is important to support the local arts scene. It is valuable. Some of these musical traditions have been handed down through the ages and some like Dave Koz's Eight Candles are a modern interpretation. It all has value. It is all important to our collective experience.

Just as preserving our historical theaters has value. There is history in those stage floors and the plush velvet chairs. The walls have absorbed millions of notes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NOPHO Week 4 - Negative Space, The Runners Up

Again this week, I took multiple pictures, edited multiple pictures and then had to weigh my options. I had three I really liked... L wanted to pick one of the runners up and H helped me make my final decision.

These two seemed too special not to share.

L's favorite

and this one was the one I was most hung up on. It reminds me of my grated street light shot from the September challenge.

I hear that there will be a January challenge and I am toying with perhaps setting up a challenge of my own for 2013. Music Monday as worked out well for 2012 but I think perhaps it is time to change things up. What do you think? Anything you are dying to have me write about, anything you just cannot live without hearing my opinion on?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NOPHO Week 4 - Negative Space

I had such fun shooting this weeks photos. The kids and I went to the Franklin Park Conservatory - one of my favorite places around town and I went to town with my camera.

Having no photography background and my artistic background is limited to one Art History class in college, I will admit I had to do some research on the topic of negative space. I think I captured it. At least I hope so.

Again, I have to thank Allie for another wonderful challenge. I have learned so much. First of all, I have learned about my camera and editing digital photographs. I have struggled with temperamental models. I played with a concept, until I got something that really worked. And this week I expanded my knowledge base, in terms of photograph as an artistic medium.

On top of all of that, I had a great time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NOPHO Week 3 - Elegant



[el-i-guhnt] Show IPA
tastefully fine or luxurious in dress, style, design, etc.: elegant furnishings.
gracefully refined and dignified, as in tastes, habits, or literary style: an elegant young gentleman; an elegant prosodist.
graceful in form or movement: an elegant wave of the hand.
appropriate to refined taste: a man devoted to elegant pursuits.
excellent; fine; superior: an absolutely elegant wine.
Between you and me I elegant is like porn, you know it when you see it. Otherwise it is hard to define. Sometimes elegant is bordering on regal. Sometimes it is the opposite of trashy, ostentatious, or too much. Sometimes it borders on austere.
It is subjective and really a matter of sensibility and taste. Or in terms of art, ascetic.
L, wrinkling up her nose,  asked me what elegant was exactly and it took me a bit to explain it. She snorts and says, "you mean boring." L's tastes skirt or dive into ostentatious, depending on the day. She hasn't met a pattern she couldn't live without or mix and match with... She thinks black and white as a design scheme is in a word, BORING. (She also gave each photo in last weeks wrap up a thoughtful and very critical critique. She knows what she likes and she has, even at her young age a very fierce and well defined aesthetic.) 
I struggled with this photo this week. At first I had planned an outing for myself and I had an idea of what I wanted to shoot. Somehow I never made it there. Then I set up a shot in my kitchen and while I like and it is very sensual, it just wasn't exactly what I wanted.
I took a shot of the cat and well elegant it isn't, but regal, we nailed regal.
On a lark I took my camera with me Saturday as we hit the park and I hoped something would speak to me. The park is new and the season at a rather stark point, but I decided to be free and just take pictures.
As I edited the photos, I realized I had a few wonderful shots. And then finally, in the last three, I saw my picture! Simple, strong, and elegant.
(I posted the runners up on Monday and Tuesday and will finish up on Thursday and Friday. A week of photos this week.)
Don't you agree?

Monday, November 21, 2011

NOPHO Week 3 - Elegant - Runner Up

I think this reads more regal than elegant.

She is a beauty and she knows it. Her color is pink with skeleton's on it. She is a goth cat, our Snickers. This picture shows off her amazing stripes and lovely caramel colors. It also shows her eye, which isn't exactly right. Much better after her surgery. She is perched on H's car, which was warm, I had just come back from being out to lunch and running errands. She sits on the cars alot, she likes to be up. She can also see into the house from this vantage point.

This will be our second winter with Snicker's I think. We have tricked out her winter abode and she has a very plushy bed. This is the time of year where she stays closer to home and eats alot of cat food.

What can I say - she is Queen of the Garage. And wants every body to know it.

Music Monday: LIVE - Lightning Crashes

It's been a month. A month since we walked away from a hole in the ground, leaving her behind. In the freezing rain and puddles of mud.

It is the circle, I know it is, we are born, we live and we die. Sometimes in a matter of hours, sometimes in a matter of weeks, and sometimes that time stretches into years. We are dying the minute we take that first breath... it is the first, until it is our last... Only what if we are ready for it to be our last or her last...

Going through her jewelry, I found last night the scrabble tiles the kids picked out for her, on the pretty pink chain. Only a year ago... it seems like forever and yesterday all at once.

oh now feel it comin' back again
like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin' from the center of the earth again
I can feel it.

(H took me to see LIVE in 1994, I think you could say it was one of our first dates, only I did not know it at the time. I had never heard of LIVE before he invited me to the concert. I am not sorry I went... They remain one of my favorite groups.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NOPHO Week 2 - Comfy Cozy

So this week, I took and edited two pictures because, I had to learn a bit of a lesson about digital photography and frankly my helpers like to push random buttons.

The long and short of it is, my camera was set incorrectly, therefore I was taking pictures at a low resolution. Allie is a dear and emailed me that again, same as last week, my pictures was an incorrect number of pixels. Thanks to H and a friend, I have been set straight and they tried not to make me feel too dumb in the process, even if I did sense some head shaking and muttering under their breath.

What did I learn - you cannot in photoshop resize a picture that is 400 px to one that 700 px. What you have to do is reshoot. Which is big fun when you use models. L and E were each paid two pieces of candy for their collective time investment of 10 minutes, 5 minutes or so on Friday afternoon and again 5 minutes or so on Sunday late morning. I will say laying under a blanket is hard work and they probably deserved more pay than two pieces of candy, but I am working with a budget.

The idea for this week's picture came from my childhood, I always liked to hide under the covers. I would read, play with my dolls and color, all while hiding in my bed under a pile of blankets. Also, E is a tornado in the bed, he is all over the place. So many mornings, when I peek in at him, all you see is a huge pile of balled up covers with his little feet sticking out. It is so adorable.

And as they say a picture was born.

What you can't see is their arms are sticking out and they are each holding two of their favorite stuffed animals. We experimented with some longer shots - to show hands and feet, but for some reason, their feet won out.

It was a fun shoot, even if my models were a tad surly and cranky and frankly, bossy. Talent these days, what's a girl to do?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Holiday Story -- Santa Gets Thanked by L

L had to write a story for class and frankly, it is pretty good and it proves my point, a writer writes and a writers personality and sensibilities shine through, even in works of fiction. She asked me if I thought it was good enough for my blog and I told her it was absolutely good enough for my blog.

So here is her story!

Santa Gets Thanked
by L

It was the night of Christmas Eve Seema and Percha were hoping to get all they wanted. Seema and Percha were sisters. The two sisters were sitting on the to rusty metal chairs on the deck. “Mom said we have to get to bed early if we want Santa to come,” said Percha.

“I know,” said Seema “but I want to see what Santa looks like."

“Well,” said Percha “Santa has a fluffy white beard and a red cloak”.

“I know that,” said Seema “but I also want to thank him for last years gifts”.

“Girls,” called mom “time for bed.”

Seema and Percha quickly got up, ran inside, got on their PJ's, and went to bed. I really want to see Santa thought Seema. Seema had a hard time gong to sleep but when she did, she woke to a very loud sound. Seema jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs. When Seema got down stairs she saw me. Seema carefully crept up to me. I finally looked at Seema and said “Hi are you Seema?”

“Yeee...sss,” Seema said very scared.

“Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho!” I said, “there is no need to be scared.”

“I came to say thank you for last years gifts,” Seema said.

“You are welcome,” I said and with that I was gone.

Seema sat on the chair and softy touched the wrapping paper. Seema looked at the clock, it was 6:00 am, one hour before her sister got up. So she waited and waited. Her sister was up half an hour later. Seema and Percha opened the gifts. Seema got two stuffed animals, a craft and a movie. Percha got the same. Both of them had the best Chrismas ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bench 'em All, Sack 'em All - Their season is over

I will be the first admit, I am not a sports nut. I like the occasional baseball game, I love Wimbledon, most especially the cut outs to the little British cultural bits and the fashion. Venus and Serena Williams have made women's tennis wear fun and high fashion.

I loathed youth soccer, but the little boys loved it. In fact I think sports are healthy for kids in moderation. Being a part of something larger than yourself, learning discipline, team work, driving hard towards a common goal. Those are all very important and impactful lessons.

Over the last few days my Twitter stream (which by the way is my source for news. If the tweeps are talking about it, it is probably something I so at least take a gander at. I also follow the AP news wire.) At first I ignored the Penn State news. Football, coaches, blah, blah, blah - just not on my radar. I blame the Buckeyes, no really I do. One cannot move around this city and not get blasted with some flavor of Buckeye Fever and so I have developed a finely honed protective anti-football talk filter.

This is until the posts in my timeline made it clear that this was sexual abuse or the attempted sexual abuse of children, young boys. Um, what? For years. With witnesses. What? On what planet does someone see a child being assaulted by an adult and does not call the police, scream stop, break it up, jump up and down, yell, all of the above or something equally impactful. Run over and grab the child out of the abusers clutches? There are dozens and dozens of better responses than the doing nothing...

What is wrong with people? I mean we are talking about possible life long physiological scars, which sex abuse and attempted sex abuse leave, verses possibly offending a coach of a football team.

If the graduate student saw a coach, in a locker room, with a 10 year boy and the adult's mouth is on the child's genitals, or worse yet there is the adults fingers, mouth or genitals are in or near the child's anus,  I think some immediate action to stop that is in order.  Do not pass go, do not go for coffee, do not even take 5 minutes to pee, stop the behavior, yell - scream - do something for the love of mike. That behavior is illegal. Period. Beyond that the sexual abuse of a child is immoral. There are somethings which just are not allowed to happen, under any circumstances and the sexual abuse of a child is one of them. Period.  If the kid had his pants down and there was some question, is the coach looking at a possible injury, well then, I think the witnesses should have made themselves known and at least asked a question, "Um, what's the issue? Should we get the team trainer or doctor?"

(UPDATE: After rereading the grand jury indictment a janitor saw something similar two years prior and reported it to his supervisor. Nothing was done. Seriously people, did it not occur to you to intervene and aid the child?)

Instead they go to the head football coach's house to discuss this. What is there to discuss? This is illegal. If you saw it in a mall bathroom, you call security and or the police. In a public park, you call the police, in a train station, you call the police. Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

My eyes about popped out of my head as I read multiple news reports where the lawyers are playing legal semantics. The statute of limitations, the burden of this, the burden of that, the following of internal protocol. We have a strong defense.

Newsflash - you have no defense. You are morally bankrupt. Every single person, who knew what was happening and DID NOTHING has no defense.

Now hear this the lot of you. You are horrible, vile excuses for human beings. Anything short of benching and sacking and throwing the book at everyone and anyone who knew about the abuse of children is unconscionable and speaks to how devoid of common decency we as a society have become. They should all be hung in public stocks and pelted with rotten fruit for days for starters.

These 8 to 10 children had something very important and sacred stolen from them and then they were violated again when other influential people, who were in a position to help them and furthermore prevent the possible abuse of another child, decided that protocol, chain of command, and unbelievably FOOTBALL was more important.

What play book are we working from? What has happened to our society that this was even allowed to become such an issue? Is a National Title really worth that???

Crafty: Canisters

So I have been slowly, very slowly working to achieve a Zen pantry. I crave organized spaces, not that I ever really seem to achieve them, I crave them all the same. I have slowly thru the acquisition of a number of wonderful IKEA containers, slowly gotten a handle of a number of our loose odds and ends in the pantry.

I struggled with canisters. I don't have just regular AP flour to worry about. I have besan, and sweet white rice, and sorghum and the list goes on and on. The joys of being gluten free.

Early this summer I spied these glass jars with screw top lids at the Wasserstrom stall at the North Market for a buck a piece. I know totally cheap! The problem is with so many flours, I need to be able to label the jars.

Chalkboard paint.

Right - chalk board paint. I can change the label when I need to, it is cheap and easy.

While I couldn't find the paint in a can that I could paint on with a paint brush, I did find spray paint and I decided to give it a try.

So I used painters tape to tape out a rectangle on each jar. I will be the first to admit, I totally eyeballed it. I didn't measure and I wasn't consistent. The last two were the best, and if these guys were going to occupy a place of prominence on the counter, I would have gone back and reworked the others, but they aren't. These jars will be in my pantry and the only person who is going to see them is me.

Monday afternoon I went outside and painted these guys as the evening was calm and warm enough that the paint would work properly.

I used paper to cradle the jars and an old shirt to cover the lid and top portion of the jar.

Following the paint can instructions, I shook the paint well and worked in controlled overlapping rows, re-shaking every time I moved onto the next jar.

The paint goes on very shiny but dries to a dull black. As per the can's instructions I allowed the first coat to dry for an hour and then did another one.

Yesterday I carefully removed the tape and lucky for me there was very little stray paint. It removed easily with some finger nail scrapping or paint remover.

All I have to do now and condition the surface, which means coloring it with chalk and then wiping it off.

I am pleased with the results. They are serviceable and will be easy to use, now that I can label them and change the labels as needed. If I were to try this project again, I would make a template out of bendable cardboard I think.

All in, I think this project cost me about $10.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NOPHO: Week 1 Arranged

On and off this fall I have been taking pictures of my dahlias. Mostly outside. These are the last of them. These guys sort of survived the frost. Since the word or the week was arranged, I contemplated arranged marriage, given my mom's passing, I thought about arrangements, as in final arrangements. Then again - flowers are often arranged.

I spied these old medicine bottles arranged on the shelf in my living room, considered furniture arrangements and then decided - no flowers in bottles. Dying flowers in bottles.

I shot about 30 pictures - playing with light, experimenting with a black light (which really did not accomplish much), futzing with the camera and the flash settings. (Yes a smart girls would have written down what she did, but I never claimed smart. Clever and creative yes, smart and organized, not always.)

I then decided on this one (number 28) and I cropped and experimented with edits in iPhoto.

Other than the shadow, which I could not seem to get rid of, I think I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I like the effect in the photo and I think the bottles are very beautiful...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Monday: Brick Songs

Today I am thinking about bricks - not the kind that require mortar though, today I am thinking about Lego Bricks.

Yesterday I took the kids to the Lego KidsFest in Cleveland. You really haven't lived until you watch your kids sit in a pile of 40,000 plus lego bricks and build like crazy. How about monochrome building stations? Giant lego murals.

Insane - totally insane.

Yesterday I learned that legos do in fact come in pretty pink and that both of my children have fantastic imaginations and can build a wide variety of things if given the chance. I joined in the fun also, it really was an event designed to spark your creativity.

So today I offer three songs about bricks.

First a snazzy remix of the Pink Floyd Classic Another Brick in the Wall.

I also particularly like this one...

Arctic Monkeys - Brick by Brick

And finally another classic... It seems fitting - considering I saw all manner of inspiring brick art and brick houses or more correctly house like structures....

The Commodores - Brick House

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Photo Challenge

Allie is doing it again and I am going to give it a go, once again.

This time the photo challenge is a bit more challenging as to subject matter and equipment - but easier in terms of time commitment. Four photos this time, instead of 30! Regular camera instead of cell phone camera. I will be using my handy dandy Canon Power Shot SD 780 Digital ELPH. This is what I used to shoot my pictures in Iceland and I love it. H gave it to me as a gift a few years ago. It might be little, but it sure is mighty.

Want to participate, there is still time. This weeks photo isn't due until Sunday.

Get all the details on her blog - show + tell.

I will also be posting my photos on my blog the Wednesday they hit her blog. I plan to tell you alittle about what I trying to accomplish and how I achieved the photo I did.

The other night, H sighed and said, "if you keep this up there are photography lessons and a fancy camera in our future, right?"

I just smiled. I am not sure, but for now this is holding my creative in focus.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Music Monday: Halloween

The werewolves danced to this during L's Spooktacular.

L's group were Mad Scientists! It was fun!!!

Devils, zombies and grave diggers - OH my!!!

Be careful out there! It is a zombie jungle out there!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Can I Do...

I haven't written about my mother's battle with cancer for some time. I kept starting and then I would stop, then start and then stop. Two weeks ago, I started and stopped.

Today I decided I should finish, only I can't. If you are a Tweep or a Facebook Friend you know that last week my mother lost her battle with thyroid cancer. It was a long and very brave battle!

When L was 5 months old, mom had her thyroid removed and underwent radioactive iodine treatment. Twice.

We thought that was it. Hormone replacement for life and all was well.

Until she underwent pre-op testing for a cervical corpectomy about 5 years ago and a routine chest x-ray turned up some strange spots. A PET scan, an MRI and a lung biospy,  and countless doctor visits later we knew... thyroid cancer... again.

After specialized radio-iodine failed to achieve the results we hoped for, we were out of options. Mom had always said she wouldn't do a clinical trial. She had seen patients who had been subjected to all sorts of experimental drugs. A good friend had participated in a few studies for breast cancer and had cautioned mom on the trials of a clinical trial. She had always said she wouldn't be a lab rat. It just wasn't what she wanted.

My mother changed her mind.

I know what or rather who swayed her. She was a 2 years old blondie with screaming blue eyes and she ran over to us in the waiting room at the super Endo's office one morning and squatted down, covered her eyes, and yelled "peek a boo!" and then burst into a riot of giggles. Her mother came over to collect her, a healing surgery scar and a worn out look in her eyes.

In that moment, I knew my mother was going to try the experimental chemo. People don't go see the super Endo, when their cancer is under-control. My mom was seeing visions of that happy little girl growing up without her mama. Mom was also very worried about L and I... and my brother - altho thyroid cancer affects men less frequently -  in fact she was worried about us in the last days of her life. Some thyroid cancers are genetic. I already have autoimmune issues and while L is still young, mom worried.

The chemo was tough, but it worked for awhile. The side effects became too much and the effectiveness questionable.

The cancer had won. We all knew it and we set about enjoying the last weeks and months. The end came sooner than we expected. We knew we were driving down a tunnel with no light at the end, but neither my brother or I knew how close to impact we were.

So now we are sitting quietly, thinking, assessing and figuring out how one goes on.

I have to say my friends and loved ones - my family - has been amazing. We have been well loved, well fed, we are basking in all the energy people have sent our way.

That said - I do want something. I have an answer to the question - "Is there anything I can do?" Today during YOGA it came to me - this is what everyone can do for me.  Learn about your thyroid. Learn about the signs of thyroid cancer. Don't ignore feelings of fatigue, a persistent sore throat, sudden weight changes and changes to your skin and hair.

If you feel off - see your doctor. Ask about a thyroid check. There is no way to know what the outcome would have been had my mother not taken the "oh it is early menopause" as an explanation early on...

So that is what you can all do... promise me you will take care of your thyroids. Women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer but it does occur in men. In fact the men in the clinical trial were showing wonderful results on the study drug... the women, not as much.

Sure we all burn the candle at both ends sometimes. Sometimes we drink too much, sleep too little, say "NO" too infrequently - but being tired is very different than feeling fatigued or so exhausted you can't move.

The down side of all of this is some problems with the thyroid are largely asymptomatic. So next time you have a physical, visit your doctor, or have blood work done, ask your doctor to tack on a thyroid panel. It can't hurt.

At least have the conversation - because that is what you all can do for me!