Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

Like the rest of the world, I'm still in shock after hearing of Robin Williams' untimely death.  Depression is such a nasty illness, and it enrages me when I read comments like, "Depression is just an excuse" "What a coward" "Get over it".  To those people who are so thoughtless and demeaning with your words:  You are the lucky ones.  You don't know what it's like to not be able to lift your head off of your pillow.  You don't know what it's like to do nothing but stare for hours for no reason and feel absolutely nothing except a void within yourself that feels so vast and overpowering that you can't even move. On the inside it feels like you are free falling in slow motion through a black hole and part of you wants to pull the cord on your parachute, and the other part of you doesn't even want to bother.  You know it's not rational.  You can recognize that.  You know that, "Other people have it worse than you do.  Why should I be complaining".  To those people who truly do not 'get it':  It's time to learn how to be compassionate.  

I struggled immensely with pre and post partum depression.  I felt all of those feelings.  Even writing this down brings those feelings bubbling back to the surface.  It is a dark and scary place that I never ever want to go back to.  But I get it.  I know what it feels like to think that the world would just be an easier place if you weren't in it.  And I know that if there is anyone out there that has those feelings who may want to talk to someone.  Or who doesn't want to talk - who just wants to sit with someone - I want to be there for you.  To sit and talk.  Or not.  But I want you to know that there is joy ahead.  A time will come when you feel the breeze on your skin again and you think about what a beautiful feeling it is to just exist.  You will let the sunbeams fall on your face and you will let tears stream down your cheeks because you are happy - so happy - that you are the one catching their warmth.  Happiness is yours.  You deserve it; you are worth it.

Talking about depression makes us vulnerable.  It makes us feel weak and it makes us uncomfortable.  But if there is a silver lining in the wake of such tragedy, it's that we can change the way we approach depression.  We can be aware of the signs, we can prevent people from taking their own lives.  We can help each other by looking out for one another.    

Furthermore, be kind to everyone you meet.  You never know when a kind word or gesture could actually be saving someone's life.   And to Mr. Williams - godspeed and bangarang...I hope you've found a sliver of peace.

Chat with someone, or educate yourself on how to be more aware of the warning signs of suicide here:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Take the depression test here:  http://www.depressedtest.com/

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sweet Sunshine

I've not been much in the mood to write as of late.  Lots going on...ups and downs, traveling, baking bread, sickness throughout the house, cleaning said ick out of the house, and Stella is trying to get her groove back, dammit.  I took a time-out to breathe this morning.  To enjoy a hot cup of coffee on the deck while there was still a chill in the air.  To enjoy the sunshine.  And to watch this not-so tiny person dance around in his bug jammies and cowboy boots.  Seriously.  Look at this kid.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Milk on a Plane (How to Travel with a Toddler)

One of the only silver linings of living so far away from your family is that your toddler becomes a pretty well-traveled tiny person.  Henry's been racking up frequent flier miles from the tender age three months, and I've learned a lot about how to keep it together when your kiddo wants to to anything but.  After experiencing many moments of wanting to run away yelling, "Where's that child's parent?!", I figured out a few things that make my life a little easier in an airport.  Hopefully, a few of these will want you to pull your hair out a little less, too.

1.  Throw all of your super hero parenting skills out the window.  
Now is not the time for personal parenting victories.  We are talking survival mode, here.  Your kid wants a lollipop?  Great.  Give it to them.  Bag of chips?  You got it!  The number one thing I've learned is that you have to be flexible.  You have to let things go, because otherwise you aren't happy, your kid ain't happy, and everyone around you is mentally pinning a 'parent of the year' award on your shirt.

2.  Quart-sized Freezer Bags
I put everything in a quart size freezer bag.  Toys go in one, snacks in another, and anything else I need to take gets organized into one of these magical baggies.  You can see through the bag, they are sturdy enough not to tear, and you can choose the bag that has exactly what you need in it instead of dumping your whole carry-on just to find a damn pacifier.  Plus, if you need a place to stash a dirty diaper or wet clothing then you have just the perfect thing handy.

3.  Backpack
Carry a backpack, people.  I have this one.  My Mama was sweet enough to give it to me.  It's perfect for the plane.  Small enough to carry on without knocking people in the head, but plenty of space on the inside and easy access water bottle pockets on the outside.  When you carry a pack, you have both hands free for more important things, like finding snacks. 

4.  Snacks
Most problems can be solved with food.  Pack snacks that they aren't usually allowed to have and/or snacks that take a LONG time to eat.  We're buying time here, folks.  My list looks something like this:

Yummy Earth Lollipops
Fruit Chews
Jammy Sammys
String Cheese
Squeezie Pouches
Raisins in those little boxes

5.  New Toys/Books
I'm not talking about buying a bunch of expensive crap that's going to take up your whole carry-on.  I'm talking about tiny little surprises that they've never seen before.  I go to the dollar store and spend $10 on little trinkets that I think will keep him occupied for at least three minutes.  These items must meet a certain criteria, though.  They cannot roll, make noise, make a mess, and they must fit in a quart-size freezer bag.  Pipe cleaners, flash cards, ribbons, anything that lights up, anything that opens and closes, crayons, little plastic bugs, and my all-time favorite...stickers.  Stickers always buy me at least five minutes of peace.  DO NOT give your kid the whole bag as soon as you walk on the plane.  When the novelty of the first thing wears off, take another new thing out of the bag and let that new pony do it's tricks.

6.  Empty Water Bottle
Keep it in your bag and fill it up when you get to the other side of security.

7.  Milk on the Plane
Some airlines have milk as a choice of beverage during your flight.  It's free on Delta, $2.50 on Frontier, but not available on Southwest.  If you can't get it on the plane, at least wait until you get through security and buy it on the other side.  Starbucks usually has the little Horizon Organic Milk with a straw.  (Sidenote:  Don't let your kid squeeze carton with the straw inserted.  Trust me.)

8.  Pack Towel
This is my most genius travel companion.  I have this one from REI.  They come in a variety of different colors/sizes/prices.  They take up hardly any room, they are GREAT for spills (remember when I told you not to let your kid squeeze the milk carton...), you can put them under your kid's bum for a makeshift changing table, use it as a little blankie if they're cold, roll it into a neck pillow to support their heads when they fall asleep with their heads all upside down on the armrests.

9.  Monkey Mat 
If you have a kid but not a Monkey Mat, then you are totally missing out.  It's a portable, all-purpose play mat that weighs nothing and takes up no space.  Lay it in the floor of the airport for your kid to have a clean space to play, use it as a blanket, roll it up into a pillow or do just about whatever else you can think of with it.  Aside from having it at the airport, you should probably just have one in your life at all times.  They are THAT awesome.  You can get one here.

10.  iPad/Tablet
This is my last line of defense.  If everything else has failed, then he gets to watch a movie or play a game.  I usually download a new movie, show, or game that he hasn't seen yet.

11.  Cut the Crap
Pack enough, but don't pack too much.  If I'm on the fence about bringing it, then I usually leave it at home.  I operate under the motto If I really need it, I can buy it later.  Keep it simple, but be prepared.  Oxymoron, right?

12.  Gate Check First
As soon as you get to your gate, go directly to the kiosk and get your ticket for your stroller.  Unless, of course, you want to be that person that holds up the whole line.  Seriously, though.  You don't want to be that person.

13.  Your Flight Will Not Last Forever
You might feel like it will never end, but I promise you...it will end eventually.  Just breathe.  

What kind of tricks do you have up your sleeve when you travel on a plane with a toddler?

Happy travels!

Room to Breathe

It's spring time in Colorado.  The warm days are starting to outnumber the cold ones, the crocuses are blooming, and we're getting to spend days walking through valleys to admire the peaks...just like we did last weekend at Hewlett Gulch  

Spring.  New beginnings.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Enjoy.  Repeat.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Beautiful Death

I've never been afraid of cancer.  Cancer was something that happened to other people and to other people's families, not mine.  Of course, I had sympathy and compassion for survivors and for those still fighting this awful disease, but I have never been near it.  You might think it's naive, or narrow-minded, or selfish but I'm just telling you that cancer has never been something that I have ever worried about.  Until last week.

Homer Lewis Truslow was born on December 8, 1926 in Nellysford, Virginia.  His father was a blacksmith.  His mother was shot and killed while she was standing on the front porch of their home; my grandfather clutching her apron.  He was six years old.

From Virginia, he traveled the world.  After watching one group of soldiers walking down a dirt road and another group riding in a caravan, he pointed to the riding soldiers and asked why they weren't walking.  When someone said, 'Air Force rides, Army walks.', he decided to enlist in the United States Air Force.  Iceland.  Japan.  Alaska.  World War II.  The Korean War.  Just to name a few.

My grandfather met Wanda Mae Jenkins in 1953.  He had a motorcycle, a tattoo, and a twinkle in his eye.  She rolled her eyes and said she'd never be with a man who wore motorcycle boots and ink on his arm.  They were engaged almost immediately and then spent a year apart before their wedding while he was stationed in Iceland.  They lived for each other.  In.Every.Way.Possible.

Five months ago, my Grandfather, or Papa, was a robust, 86 year old man who knew no bounds.  He just bought his first tractor...a purchase for which he had literally waited a lifetime.  In October, he was lifting 80lb bags of concrete.  He was still telling stories about jumping out of an airplane over the Himalayan jungle and watching the plane crash to the ground.  He could tell you just exactly how to get anywhere you needed to go in the United States without looking at a map.  Satellites and GPS devices had nothing on the knowledge inside his head.  But most importantly, five months ago, he was taking care of my Grandma. 

My Grandfather's love for my Grandma never waned.  As her health started to decline, he stepped in and did the things that she no longer could.  He cooked - even if she was the one directing.  He cleaned - even if she had her own 'suggestions' on how to do it the 'right way'.  He drove - even if she refused to wear her seat belt.  He put her quilts in the frame so she could quilt, he kept the fires going, and he did every.thing.in.his.power. to keep her happy.  His happiness laid in her happiness. 

Four and a half months ago, he had a heart attack and a few days later he had a series of strokes.  He spent a month in a rehabilitation center, where he spent time re-learning everyday skills.  Two months ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer, with indications that it had spread to other parts of his body.  Three weeks ago, the cancer metastasized to his brain and he began in-home hospice care.

We lost him eight days ago.  He was surrounded by people that loved him and the people he loved.  I was so blessed to spend his last days with him.  So blessed that I got to tell him goodbye.  I knew he could hear me as he rubbed my hands while I thanked him for teaching me to count change, for churning the ice cream bucket on hot summer days when all of the kids gave up, for making me cheese omelets, for teaching me patience, and for showing me that it's not impossible to always, always do the right thing.  He never raised his voice, he never got angry, and above all else, he was always, always kind.

These photos are of his last days and they are a gut-wrenching testament to true love and to wedding vows that really do mean something.  It's a strange thing to see the beauty in death; to find comfort in the end, but the love that surrounded him in his last days is such a rarity that I felt compelled to capture it.  Everyone who visited, everyone who fed him, held his hand, talked to him, kissed him on the head.  His loyal sidekick, Joey, who never left his side.  My son playing peek-a-boo over his bed rails.  The constant presence of the love of his life. If there is such a thing as a beautiful death, my grandfather was of the most deserving, and it was an honor to call him my Pa.   

My son, Henry, with his Pa.

This is the last photo that was taken of my Grandparents.  He passed away the next day.  

Thank you for your continued thoughts, prayers, healing vibes, and faraway hugs for my Grandmother.  Learning to live alone after 60 years of marriage is unbearable for her. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

He's Crafty. And he's just my style.

What do you do when you're mega bored and there's 37' of snow on the ground?  Well. You make fake snow, of course.  Making fake snow while there's real snow outside is kind of like going to the pool when you're at the beach.  You still get to swimming, you just don't have to deal with all of the sand.  Ugh.  Sand.  Same thing with fake snow.  You still get to play with the snow, you just don't have to deal with the boots. and the pants. and the jacket. and the gloves. and the hat. and the crying...you get the point. Or I could just chalk all of this up to "sensory" play and pretend that I'm not too lazy to spend 20 minutes getting my kid bundled up to go outside for five minutes before he gets too cold and we have to come back inside and do the whole boots.pants.jacket.gloves.hat.crying dance again.  Anyway!  

I spent big bucks on this project - two whole dollars.  A can of 'sensitive' shaving cream, 'cause you know...Henry is sensitive, y'all.  And a box of baking soda.  I wasn't really sure how the whole thing was supposed to work, so I just mixed them together and acted like I knew what I was doing.  What's the worst that could happen?  

We learned that fake snow makes excellent T-Rex tracks, whisks are great at flinging 'snow' from here to Denver, and just because there is a place-mat under something doesn't necessarily mean it will keep your table clean.  Ultimately, there is no substitute for the real deal.  After a little coloring, we wound up outside anyway.  

He finds my hair ties around the house and likes to wear them as 'bracelets'.