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!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Music Monday: Jean Elan - Where's Your Head At

Now picture my Little Diva, in my bed room aka the house ballroom and dance studio, with a purple plastic trick or treat jack o lantern dancing. Yep that is what most days are like around here.

She is dancing and planning and organizing her own Halloween show! I suggested jokingly about a week ago, she should do her best Ichabod Crane and this song and the trick or treat buckets would be a great prop.

All I can say is be careful what you suggest!

This past week has been a challenging one and my Little Diva made a very adult decision to still dance with the Youth Company at her dance school in the annual Halloween Spooktacular! Having made that choice, she danced her heart out and I couldn't be prouder of her. This week she will perform at the annual trick or treat alternative event at the recreation center and tomorrow she misses school, to go perform in a few inner city schools and a nursing home. Her Youth Company brings dance and Halloween Cheer to those who might not otherwise experience it.

The arts do matter. They enrich our communities and just as communities are better for the support of the arts, I think artists, when they give back or pay it forward, they make our communities so much better.

So I have no doubts where Little Diva's heart or head is at...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Around the house...

H and I have been making some changes around the house. When we bought our house, we both fell in love with some aspects and others we knew we would some day change. It has been a long process, filled with babies, new jobs and a busy life. The kitchen and master bath came first. Then I tackled the mudroom this spring and summer (and the hallway that connects the mudroom and the kitchen.) Then we moved immediately into the family room. We were couchless for much of the process. This amazed and confused the children's friends. L's BFF asked repeatedly, "when are you getting a new couch?" E's new school buddy asked, "Where do we sit?" E explained that is why the room had a floor. I know we are quirky. No way was I painting the room with new furniture.

About a month ago we moved in these guys from IKEA. It seems strange to unpack your couch from a box and then assemble it, but we did it and I think it was more than worth it. I love that in a few years, if I get bored, I can change slip covers and much more cost effectively than buying a brand new couch. (The current slip cover is dry cleanable also! A decided bonus in my opinion.)

I would also be remiss - not mentioning I finally have a chaise. I have wanted one forever... we did put the chair and chaise together for a unconventional love seat.

As I mentioned, this summer we focused on the family room. It had been a yellowish cream and we changed it to a warm, rich light brown. I love the color. H isn't in love with it, even though he picked it. We also got a new sofa and love seat chaise combo. The biggest change is we replaced the drafty, cheap and poorly installed faux french doors with a beautiful, energy efficient window. I love the change. Another coat of paint and it will be time to buy blinds, curtains and lamps.

And no we did not forget to remove the stickers, the kids and I have been decorating for Halloween. We love window clings.

For anyone who has visited us, it is noticeable that there is very little art on the walls. H and I have different and I mean radically different taste in art. We also put it off, because we were always going to "redo the family room." Knowing he favors pasture scenes with cows and dogs and I am more into impressionism and modern art, I decided, why not photographs, better yet, why not our OWN photographs. Better yet, why not photographs of one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, Iceland. So when Living Social did an offer for Image Canvas I jumped on it. It really was a good deal and the results are very nice. Exactly what I wanted.

While nothing can be done about the awful cold air return, we have done our best and I love the photos. Also, the service from Image Canvas was wonderful. Reasonable turn around time and reasonable shipping costs.

And while H was hanging pictures, a task he relishes with the utmost joy, I asked him to hang these two as well. I bought these, almost 4 years ago, while in NYC. I stumbled upon a market or flea or something at University Circle (or is it a square) and I really liked them. Just this summer, I finally, had them framed. They are vodka bottles with flowers, so I decided we should hang them over the bar.

The pumpkins my mom gave us and the owls are my most recent obsession. They stay, the jack-o-lanterns will be with us through Halloween. The tape - that is caution tape and I have plans for that, just wait. We are going all out this Halloween.

Remember those squash vines I blogged about all summer. Well they yielded three pumpkins, two possible squash and about three dozen gourds. The kids' teachers got gourds, neighbors have gotten gourds and my BFF got some too... I arranged these guys on our mantel. Again, the paint color really sets them off nicely.

I think the kids have rearranged them about a dozen times but they are all from our yarden. A few of them night be squash but I am not sure, so I am going to refrain from eating them.

We really love Halloween and this weekend is apple picking and pumpkin gathering. Some of the most fun things to do in the fall. I cannot declare the family finished until I tackle window treatments and lighting, but it feels good to get cozy on the new sofa or chaise and blog!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Flowers in the Yarden

Yes, you read that right, I am still getting flowers in the yarden. I am as shocked as you, but my Dahlias are going strong. I planted these bulbs on a whim. I bought glads and dahlias bulbs in the spring at the Andersons. I thought, why not. I put the Diahials in a spot in the front side yard, where NOTHING grows. I have tried on and off for 9 years to get something to grow in this spot.

In July when nothing has sprouted, I decided I have been thwarted again. Then in late August we had greenery and then in September we had blooms.

First these two

and then a few smaller ones and I thought, well that will be that.

I was wrong. We have a fresh crop of buds and some opening. After all this rain and then a few days of sun, I picked these three today. Decided to bring some color into the house.

I am very excited for one bud to hurry up and open as it looks orange and yellow and just perfect for fall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You can't have it both ways...

I know - I should avoid topics of religion and politics, but this one bugs me... Blame H, he brought the USA Today home.

I read Thomas S. Kidd's "Time for government to butt out piece" in the October 3, 20011 edition of the USA Today  and I have to say he is both right and wrong. I should preface this with I am probably as close to agnostic as I have ever been and that I left the governing body of my former church very angry and very disillusioned. I also am not a tax accountant nor a lawyer. What I am is a tax payer who is tied of subsidizing companies - like BIG BANKS and Religious Organizations who want to cry separate when they break laws - like say equal opportunity clauses. (Beyond the fact that I find it - as a non practicing former/reformed/confused/angry Christian MORALLY REPUGNANT - that a religious organization would summarily dismiss, likely without an offer of disability, a teacher who developed a medical disability. This, this is their idea of walking as Christ walks and offering charity.)

Here's my take on the situation - if religious groups take any sort of governmental funding up to and including the 503c tax exemptions, then they are SUBJECT to limited governmental oversight. In my mind it really is that simple. If you accept grants from the federal or state government, you are subject to said oversight. If you don't pay taxes, because you seek a "special" exemption - thereby availing yourselves of all sorts of perks - like clean roads, bridges which carry your folk to and from the church, prime real estate at little or no property taxes, emergency services, police, fire, EMS, all without paying your fair share - then YES, you are subject to some federal, state and local oversight. While we are on it - religious institutions pay no sales tax. They take from the local economy every single day.

If this school avails itself of busing provided by the home school distract, it is subject to oversight.

If religious groups want to be SEPARATE, then no feeding off the federal, state and local trough. Hospitals, which take medicare funds, are subject to oversight. Many hospitals are 503c entities, too.

I agree government should have no say in the ministry of particular religious groups. We do not have a state religion - that said - if these groups want to be 100% government free - pay up. Pay your taxes, don't look for hand outs, don't ask for government funds to shore up your programing. Don't look for busing to your schools and don't avail yourself of services you aren't paying for. When your church is on fire or under attack - deal with it... otherwise, be like every other business and make no mistake there isn't a religious group out there that isn't a business, and pay your fair share.

And to Kidd's point -

One cannot imagine a more obvious feature of an establishment of religion, or a clearer violation of free exercise, than the government dictating to a church that it must rehire a religious teacher, especially a person who has violated church teachings or behavioral codes. The Justice Department's position, if vindicated, raises the possibility that courts and bureaucrats may, in the name of contemporary norms of fairness, begin requiring religious organizations to hire any number of candidates who do not accept that faith's tenets. One could easily imagine future decisions forcing churches, synagogues, or mosques to hire employees who do not adhere to the tradition's norms of sexual behavior, for example.
Religious liberty will be severely damaged if faith groups cannot hire and fire according to their beliefs. That's why leaders from such an impressive range of religions are united by the threat of a government clearly overstepping its well-defined boundaries. 

 I think there is a huge difference between firing someone who becomes disabled and hiring someone who's lifestyle choices are incompatible with a given religious groups viewpoint. Either way - if you take government funds -- you march to Yankee Doodle's tune. If you want to be separate, pay up and Uncle Sam will shut up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Music Monday: Jim Croce Photographs and Memories

L is so sad the 30 Day Photo Challenge is over... I think she enjoyed it as much as I did. In truth she takes her own pictures. She has H's old digital camera. It takes photos and video. She films her stuffed animals and takes pictures all the time.

She wanted to start the challenge over this month and I told her I was ready for a break. Then she insisted we think about doing a "special" picture once a week for my blog. I think I might aim towards that goal.

It is funny we went to visit friends this weekend and I did not take a single picture. I go through spells like that, where I take thousands of photos and then sometimes I go weeks without taking any. On vacation in Iceland, I took over 400.

H and I have photo albums and for a time, I did alot of scrapbooking. Anymore, I store my photos online and only develop them as gifts or if the kids need them. I recently bought a groupon, to make the kids a memory book of the trip to Iceland. I think they will like that.

Now that we have digital technology, I store things online more and more.

So what did I learn during the challenge?

I learned that having a goal in mind makes some photos easier to take and others harder. I learned that my iPhone takes a great picture. I learned how to play with photo editing, both in Instigram (which is way cool) and Photobooth. I learned that sometimes the best photo is the one you snap quickly without thinking it through and sometimes it takes many, many tries to get just the effect you are looking for!

I urge you to go check out all the participants pictures. Allie faithfully posted them. She is going to post a recap on Wednesday which I think would be worth checking out.

In college, I spent a long time studying an old house and trying to learn what I could about the man who build that house. I sifted through tax records, parish records, the sheriff sale account record.  In 1850 there weren't pictures. Now we can document every meal we eat, every outfit we wear, every move we make. I know there are photo blogs where people do a self portrait a day. Friends post endless pictures of their new baby on facebook. I felt like I got to experience a bit of a friends recent wedding and honeymoon, based on the lovely pictures which popped up in my facebook time line.

 As with so many creative projects this 30 day challenge was as much about the output - the photos as it was the process. For me it was a great process... I think in November I may try the National Novel Writing Month, it all depends on the other things happening in my life...

I should mention the music. I love Jim Croce. All of his songs are playful, thought provoking, intense and they are stories... I have to think he understood - Art is a process...