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05 December 2010

My abnormal childhood

Today I had Safe Child Training at the Cathedral. It's a requirement that all people who work with kids within the diocese are trained to identify and report all varieties of abuse. As a school teacher, I'm already all to well aware of this, but I had to take this course to work as a catechist in the high school ministry. Listening to all of the details and varieties of abuse and the horrible things that happen to children today made me think a lot about my own childhood. So often we hear all of the horrible negative things that happen to children each and every day. (And in no way am I belittling those horrible things. They do indeed happen and I can't understand why an adult would ever hurt a child.) In fact, the "average family" seems to be one of dysfunction and trouble. When we all get together as adults we tend to commiserate about how rough we had it as kids. Well, I didn't have it rough. To be honest, I had it pretty damn good. So, in honor of this sentimental time of year and my abnormal childhood, I decided to write a prosaic ode. (It's a quick piece, so it may need a touch of editing! Just my general thoughts ...)

What my parents did right

Mom and Dad knew when I needed to be held and when I needed to walk on my own. They knew when they needed to catch my from my many falls, and they knew when I needed to fall and then learn from my subsequent scrapes and bruises. They knew when to kiss my boo-boos and when to tell me to "buck up and bear it."

Mom and Dad pushed me to do my absolute best and would expect nothing less. But they also knew that if my best attempt didn't achieve my goal, it was okay. They taught me to value effort and intention over end results. Mom and Dad wanted me to achieve all of my hopes and dreams, but they never pushed their own dreams upon me. They taught me to see success as something that comes from true happiness and not from money and material possessions.

Mom and Dad valued me as an individual and instilled in me a pride and self-worth that has followed me through all the days of my life. They treated me with respect and compassion and kindness and expected me to do the same to all those I encountered in my life.

Mom and Dad surrounded me with family and taught me the importance of those who share my blood. They taught me to make time for those I love. They showed me the joy and happiness that family brings us as well as the frustrations and tension. They taught me how to keep the peace and negotiate through all of life's most delicate problems.

Mom and Dad spanked my bottom when I needed a stern correction, but their hands were never raised in anger. Their discipline was consistent and fair and always deserved. They grounded me and took away privileges to teach me the lessons that they felt needed to be learned.

Mom and Dad embarrassed me on a regular basis. They called the parents of my friends whenever there was to be a sleepover to make sure that all was legitimate. Despite my complaining and frustration, Mom and Dad refused to allow me to visit those friends who didn't have parents who were present and responsible. They called to check up on me when I went out with friends, and they set strict curfews to get me home at a decent hour. They waited up for me to get home at night to make sure that I had returned safely.

Mom and Dad taught me right from wrong and then let me make my own decisions. They had faith in me and knew that they had done the best they could. They also knew that I'd make mistakes and that I would make bad decisions, but they let me learn on my own.

Mom and Dad made me get a job and earn my own money, so I would truly appreciate the value of a dollar. They expected me to work hard and save my money so that I could afford to buy the things I wanted. They took half of every paycheck and put it into a bank account for me so that I would have money to buy a car when it came time. But they also let me make my own financial decisions, including investing it in stocks when I was only 13.

All of these things that Mom and Dad did were miserable to a young child and a teenager. But now, the confident, compassionate, independent adult that they raised sees the wisdom in their actions. The torture that I endured at the hands of my parents was what shaped me into the person I am today. Today I am thankful to have had such an abnormal childhood filled with joy, love, discipline, and structure. My parents' seemingly harsh rules and expectations were strongly rooted in their love for me. And that is more than any child could ever want.

28 November 2010

Testing new waters

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I love photography. I take a lot of pics of landscapes and still-lifes and statues and monuments. Today I experimented with something new: portraiture. A girlfriend of mine from work wanted some pics of her and her daughter for Christmas cards as well as Christmas gifts. She likes my other photography and asked if I could help her out. I warned her that I've never done this type of photography before, but I would give it my best shot.

The weather was beautiful today, and I pretty happy with my first attempt at portraiture. The most important thing is that my girlfriend loved them (if tears are any indication!) and she's happy. Here are a few of my favorites from today's shoot.

As always, feedback is welcome!

18 November 2010

Virginia travels

After an exciting three days in Virginia, I've added a few sample photos to my photography page. And, as always, a few teasers to whet your appetite.

I can't wait to get to NOLA to take some more!

14 November 2010

Saying goodbye to fall

The weather has finally turned and winter has arrived. My bouquet of fall flowers has followed suit and has started to fade. I managed to snap a few fall-esqu pics before I have to send them to their final resting place. Here is a teaser. The rest can be found on my photo page

08 November 2010

A new decor

Inspired by Ms. Math (who was redesigning her blog today), I changed the decor of my digital home. I was growing tired of the pink and felt something more autumn-esque would be nice. While lemons don't exactly scream "FALL!" I do like them. I think they look warm and happy and fresh. I do like the yellow and the green though.

What are your thoughts? Are you feeling the new color scheme, or do you prefer the old pink?

06 November 2010

What a coincidence!!

After my prospectus was approved, I ordered a used textbook that my committee recommended to help me during the next stage of this arduous (Kiki!! :-P) process. The book was ordered from Barnes and Noble and shipped from an independent used-textbook clearinghouse in Columbia, Missouri. When I opened the package, I took a good look at the book to make sure it wasn't too used. When I flipped it over, the label from the original bookstore was still on the back. It was from Mando Books!! The bookstore that I used all through my undergrad and Masters! How funny is that?!

03 November 2010

Denied. Denied. Denied. APPROVED!

Actually, throw a few more "denied" in there and you'll get the real picture. I've submitted my dissertation prospectus more times than I can count, and each time it has been denied. Well, today, it was finally approved! Over a year later and more tears and tantrums than I'd like to admit to. But it's accepted, and it should be a weight off my shoulders.

But it's not. I'm not trying to sound like a brat or anything, but I was expecting it to feel more like relief. It doesn't. It's more like the feeling when you are walking up a really steep hill and you see the top. When you reach the top and turn the corner, you see that there is actually a MUCH bigger hill ahead of you that is twice as steep. It's more overwhelming and daunting than relieving.

But at least I'm one step closer to being Dr. MaryBeth, PhD. For now I'll just have to settle for MaryBeth, ABD. Better some letters than no letters, right?

02 November 2010

My immune system on strike

It's happening.

Last week was the ear and the TMJ.

This week it is a spontaneous head cold that has left me dripping and sniffing and red-nosed and watery-eyed and tired.

I'm sure it is just the end-of-trimester stress, but it's getting old. Maybe I need an injection of Vitamin C or something ....

01 November 2010

Halloween? No, thank you. Pass.

Reader Warning: Judgmental Language below

I normally love holidays. L-O-V-E holidays. Any excuse to be festive and fun, I'm there.  With one exception: Halloween.  I never really enjoyed the holiday, even when I was younger. Now that I'm older, it's just flat out annoying.

As a teen and as an adult I've never been big on how girls and women approach Halloween. For most of the female species (and, yes, we are a total separate species!), Halloween is National Dress Like a Ho Day. Normal costumes -- superheroes, witches, pirates, cops, you name it -- are suddenly only appropriate when they are preceded by "sexy." Huh? Why is it okay for girls and women to dress is such inappropriate clothing on Halloween? I completely understand the whole bit about Halloween being about exploring your wild side and alter ego. But is your wild side a really a ho? Because that's what so many girls and women dress like on Halloween. Not all, mind you, and I am thankful to the small minority. But still, I just don't get it.

I love seeing my students dress up in creative costumes, and I love the pics of my friends babies in adorable getups. But when it comes to trick or treating, I turn off my lights and pretend I'm not home. I find the whole holiday annoying and I really want nothing to do with it.

Does this mean I am turning into a scrooge?

30 October 2010

NO TV Challenge - SUCCESS!

I successfully gave up TV for the whole week! It was pretty miserable the first day, but I didn't really notice it by the end of the week. I did watch TV on Thursday when I was home sick, but ti was only for 30 minutes. That alone is pretty impressive since I usually watch non-stop TV when I'm home sick. Friday night after work I turned the TV on at 4:30 and it didn't go off until about 9:30pm. Of course, I slept through most of that; it was just on for noise and company.

A challenge isn't successful unless you learn something in the process. So what did I learn from my challenge?

1.) I watch TV to fill the house with noise. Living alone, it gets pretty quiet in here. I like the quiet, but it is the silence that bothers me. The TV tends to keep me company. The problem with that is, instead of having it on in the background, I end up sitting down in front of it. So this week I ran my Sirius radio pretty much nonstop. I leave it on during the day to keep Bailey company and just left it on when I got home from work. It filled the void just as well as the TV and without the mind-suck factor.

2.) I eat less with less TV. I already know that I'm a boredom eater. If I'm bored, I eat. TV has me sitting on my widening rear for extended periods of time with nothing to do but kill brain cells. Without the TV, I snacked considerably less in the evenings. I ate my dinner at the dining room table (something I NEVER do alone) and only snacked on granola bars, pumpkin seeds, and hot tea in the evenings.

3.) No TV = TONS O'Productivity! Seriously. I got a mountain of grading done. My house stayed clean. My laundry got done. My errands got accomplished. I planned out all my lessons. long story short, I stayed on top of the day-to-day and even got ahead.

4.) I felt like a better, more functional person without the daily Mind Suck. I was able to read for fun without being totally wiped out. (I usually only read for fun right before bed after watching mindless TV for a few hours.) I left my house in the mornings feeling satisfied in knowing that when I returned the house would still be tidy and neat upon my return. I felt less rushed during the day because I normally have to get all of my work done at school because nothing ever gets done when I'm home. I like to delude myself in saying that I can grade and plan while watching TV, but let's be serious. If that were true, I wouldn't have needed to give it up for a week! And watching less crap (i.e. reality TV, mundane comedies, reruns of shows I've seen before ...) just felt better all-in-all.

So where do I go from here? Well, I really liked who I was this past week, and I would like to see more of that self. I think I am going to limit myself to 1 hour of TV a day. I can use this hour early or late, in the morning or the evening, but it's still one hour no matter how I dice it up. That will give me the veg time that I need with my brain turned off, but it will also give me the time I need to be productive and be the human being that I like being. As a child of the TV generation, this is a pretty big move for me.

I could just cut my cable, but that would leave me with no internet and that, my friends, would simply be impossible.

29 October 2010

A Perfect Storm of Ailments

It's been a rough two days. I woke up yesterday in severe pain. My inner ear was killing me! The pain was so bad that it woke me up out of a sound sleep. If you've ever had inner ear pain, you know what I'm talking about. The only thing comparable to inner ear pain is lower back back. (Of course, I'm sure labor pains are pretty bad too, but I would know nothing about that.) I called in to work and then made an appointment at the doctor's as quickly as possible.

The doctor couldn't get me in until 11:30, so I slept a bit more. On and off because the pain was still really intense. When I got to the doctor's office, it didn't take them long to determine the cause of my pain. As it turns out, I have a trifecta of problems going on in my ear.

First, I have a touch of TMJ. TMJ is often misdiagnosed as an ear infection because the problem joint is so closely related to the inner ear. Since I didn't have any inflammation or discharge in my inner ear (from what they could see), they concluded that it was TMJ.

Second, my malformed Eustachian tubes lead to constant congestion (I thought it was normal to always have a stuffy nose!) which is building pressure behind my eardrum. I've known that my left side Eustachian tube was a bit jacked up, but I would really like to avoid the surgery needed to repair it.

Third, due to all of the scarring and damage in my ear from when I was a kid, I have chronically impacted ear wax which only adds to my discomfort. They wanted to flush my ear, but there was no way that was going to happen! The last time I had that done, I almost threw up and passed out.

After all that thrilling news, I left the doctor with quite a few prescriptions in hand: some nasal steroids for my jacked-up Eustachian tubes, some pain killers for my ear pain, and ear drops to help break up the wax. All that coupled with the muscle relaxers and pain killers from my accident a few weeks ago, and I've got quite a little personal pharmacy going on. Thankfully I'm not taking them all at once.

The ear pain dissipated last night but returned with a vengeance this morning around 10am. I powered through work since I've already missed enough time this trimester but took a pain pill as soon as I got home. I've been fading in and out of consciousness since about 4pm, and I'm seriously contemplating just going to bed. But I'm hesitant to until I can take another pain pill before bed. Is that bad?

On the bright side, all this junk has left me with zero appetite. That's gotta be good for my diet, right?

27 October 2010

Two down, many more to go

Today was the first weigh-in for the Ladies Challenge that is happening at school. A group of ladies that I work with have all decided to get fit and healthy. We started last week (quite a few of us are doing Weight Watchers Online) and everyone has lost weight. Big DB lost 4 POUNDS!! Who does that?!? I'm really proud of her. I managed to lose 2 pounds even with a long weekend eating and drinking in NOLA. I have barely exercised, so I really need to kick that up. Murph and I are taking the children (her adorable girl and my Beast) on a walk tonight before dinner. Should be a good time.

It's only two pounds, but it is two pounds in the right direction. If I can lose 2-3 pounds a week, I'll be down 10 in about a month.

Just in time for another visit to NOLA.


26 October 2010

O Frabjous Day!

Today I filled the gas tank in the new Jetta for the first time. I've been running on the same tank of gas since Saturday the 16th. I got over 540 miles out of one tank of gas! Of course, a lot of that was highway driving, but that number still makes me super happy! It cost about $40 to fill it back up, but that is because it is diesel ($3.06 a gallon) and it is a 13 gallon tank. I'll take $40 for 540 miles any day of the week!

25 October 2010

No TV - Hour 10

I've made it through the entire evening without watching the Mind Suck. I was really excited about coming home and watching the last ten minutes of my last Big Love episode. Sadly, I had about 45 seconds left not ten minutes. (Why I didn't finish the whole episode before is beyond me!) After I pouted for a few minutes, I got back up and started my evening's work. I bathed the dog, took care of the post-vacation house, did a few loads of laundry, and even graded a few classes of work. I even ate dinner at the dinner table again. Yeah! Go me!

Tomorrow it should be quite easy to avoid the Mind Suck. I've got to drive to Chapel Thrill to renew some books after work, and that won't get me home until 5 or 6 (depending on traffic). By the time I get some serious grading done, it'll be time for bed. Because, you know, I'm old, and I go to bed early.

Now I'm going to bed and taking a book with me. Happily I don't have a TV in my bedroom, so I get good reading time in before bed at night. I just usually watch hours of mindless TV before I get there. Tonight, not so much. Nice clean brain ready to enjoy my book.

On a side note, I've been pretty good on my diet. My trip to NOLA didn't throw me too far off track, but I didn't lose any either. Weigh-in isn't until Wednesday, so I'm hoping to be down at least a pound by then.

I admit it. I'm an addict.

Seriously. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but admitting that you have a problem is the first step in recovering. So, here it goes..

I am a television addict. I use TV as an escape from reality. I come home from work and, instead of cracking open a beer, I sit on my duff and vegetate in front of the TV. I get a little work accomplished while I vegetate, but it's pretty shameful. A person with as much to do as I have should not be sitting around doing nothing. I've got a dissertation to work on. I've got lessons to plan. I've always got a mountain of papers to grade. I've got a house to clean and keep up with. I've got a body that needs to be exercised. It's ridiculous how lazy I am and how the TV sucks me in.

And it's not like I'm watching any quality programming. I'm not watching documentaries or the news or even good movies. I'm watching crap TV. I'm watching stupid realty TV and old reruns of Law and Order: SVU. I even watch crappy reruns of Angel in the mornings before I got to work. Seriously?! How lame is that? Very, I tell you. So not only am I wasting time, I've killing brain cells by subjecting my already fragile brain to such low-quality programming.

There's no excuse for my laziness, and I'm tired of it. Now that I've admitted that I have a problem, it is time to take steps to working through it. So I've challenged myself to give up TV for this week. No TV in the morning before work, and no TV in the afternoons/evenings. Quitting cold turkey is going to be hard, so I've built in just one condition. I'm allowed to watch episodes of Big Love on DVD. This isn't too much of a condition given that I only get the episodes through Blockbuster Online Rentals (meaning they mail the DVDs to me one disc at a time), and I've only got about 10 minutes of my current disc to go. By the time I mail it back to them and get the new disc, it will be Thursday or Friday.

Hopefully this lack of TV will generate some impressive results in my productivity levels. I'll be sure to post with my progress as the days go by.

16 October 2010

New Cars and Old Churches

Today was the big day!! I drove to DC last night and stayed with my cousin and his family. This morning I left their cute little house and headed to Maryland to purchase my first brand new car! I absolutely LOVE this car. When I left the dealer's lot this morning, my new car had 24 miles on it. Seriously. I've never even been in a car with only 26 miles!! It's excited and empowering to make such a big purchase all on my own. I guess I'm a grown-up now. 

I know that it is a bad thing to love material things, but I LOVE THIS CAR. I found myself loving it more and more as I drove the 300 miles home from the dealer. I love that it has integrated Bluetooth technology, so I always have hands-free phone access. I love that it has a real electrical outlet in which to plug things in ... like my phone charger. I love that it has 6 months of free Sirius Radio (which I will then pay for because I already have a Sirius account). I love that the instrument panel is designed to keep the driver's eyes on the road. All of the information I could ever need ... radio station, phone information, mileage, everything ... is in the center of the instrument panel so I only need to lower my eyes about 3 inches to see it all. I love how sporty and sleek it looks. I REALLY love that I drove over 300 miles today and used less than a half a tank of gas. Seriously?! I knew I was going to get good gas mileage, but I had no idea how good. I'm pretty stoked about it. 
My new black Jetta TDI.

The weather for the drive was absolutely beautiful. It was a clear beautiful fall day, and the leaves were gorgeous. As I was heading down 301, I passed this quaint old church. I said to myself, "I'd love to take pictures of that!" And then I realized that I didn't have a schedule to keep, so I did a quick u-turn and went back to take some pics. It even had one of those old little cemeteries on the property. I took a few dozen pics (because I'm a little crazy with the camera), and they are so fall-esque.

All in all, it's been an absolutely glorious day. I hope this mood and trend continues! I live a truly blessed and fortunate life. And for that I am thankful.

11 October 2010

Sometimes what you pray for isn't exactly what you want

When I entered this whole car-buying experience, I prayed to God that He would lead me to make sound financial decisions and help me to follow my head and not my heart (I can be a bit impulsive sometimes). I honestly tried to follow whatever God's will was (which is something that I really struggle with). I know it may seem silly to ask God about such things, but a new car is a HUGE financial move for me. I needed some guidance and focus in my search. And since all things are possible through God, I knew that it couldn't hurt to bother Him with something so small.

Things were going great. I was doing some serious negotiating with dealers, and I had found an AWESOME deal in Maryland that would save me about $400. And that was before trade-in! I was feeling confident in my financial decisions and was getting excited about the idea of a new Jetta TDI sitting outside my door.

And then God forced my hand. Or so it feels.

Thursday afternoon on my way home from work, I totaled the car. Thankfully no one was hurt, and I am especially thankful that it wasn't my fault. A woman pulled out in front of me and then stopped, STOPPED!!, directly in front of me. I tried my hardest to swerve and break, but it wasn't possible. I T-boned the woman right in her driver side door. It was clear that it was her fault, and she admitted to it when the cop talked to her. Of course, I think she was trying to blame me (her English wasn't so good), but the cop understood it was her fault. Even the EMS and the tow driver could tell from looking at the scene that she was in the wrong. One witness said she was talking on the phone, but it all happened so fast that I couldn't confirm that. The funniest thing is that when the officer was citing her she asked, "Is her insurance going to cover this?" The officer was like, "Um. No. This accident is your fault."

I did go to urgent care on Friday morning because I was horribly sore. I got about a zillion x-rays of my neck and knee, and the doc reported that I was having muscle spasms in my neck. Thankfully my knee was fine (although I have NO IDEA how I hurt it in the accident. I must have slammed it against something). I got a prescription for some muscle relaxers and woke up feeling much better on Saturday. I had some lingering stiffness but nothing too major. Thankfully.

Today the collision center told me that they are totaling the car out. Once I reach an agreement with the insurance company, I'll have 5 days to return my rental car. That means I'll have five days to get my new car.  I was ready to buy before, but I've lost my trade-in. Hopefully the insurance will offer me a fair price for the total, and I can put that down on my new purchase. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

I can't help but see this whole situation as God's way of communicating with me. Clearly it is the right time for me to get into a new (or newer) vehicle. I'm not saying that God wants me to buy a Jetta or anything else, but it seems that all signs are pointing to a different ride. How else can I interpret a totaled car? While I certainly didn't pray for this to happen and in no way wanted it to happen, it is what it is. God knows what He is doing, and sometimes we just need to sit down, buckle up, and do what we are told. We aren't supposed to know the plan; we're just meant to follow it and face our challenges with a brave face and a willing heart.

And the winner is ....

Well, actually, the WINNERS are ....

Kiki Mojo and Gigi the Hop!!

Ladies, please contact me ASAP with your choice of photo. We can exchange contact info and shipping information at that time.

Stay tuned for future contests!

06 October 2010

Sexism is still strong in sales

If you've been paying attention to my tweets and my FB, you'll know that I'm looking to buy a car. A VW Jetta TDI Sedan, to be more precise. I'm excited about buying it because it is a great car and it looks great. However, the problem lies in the fact that I refuse to get "taken" during this process. I know that car dealers are out to make a buck, but I want them to make as little as possible off of me. I know how much I want to pay, and I'm not going to compromise that number. I've always heard that car salesmen treat women poorly, but I'd never experienced it so I really didn't understand. Well, after tonight, I can safely say that I've been indoctrinated into the sexist world of car sales. It wasn't overt sexism but enough to frustrate me.

I had been working with a young guy (who is actually from my dad's hometown!), and I was pleased. I walked in tonight to begin dealing after test-driving last night. They didn't really seem to want to haggle or negotiate which was disappointing because I'd been prepping all day! They came down in price by a few hundred, but I kept telling them that I had seen lower prices elsewhere. The young guy I was working with went to get the financial manager (who I had met yesterday), and the financial manager sat down to set me straight. He didn't say this, but it was clearly his intention. He began talking about his "invoice" price, and I said, "I know how your invoice pricing works."

He looked at me, skeptically and said, "Oh yeah? You do? Well tell me."

I told him that I was well aware of his "invoice" price and how it isn't really an invoice price. It is what the factory lists as an invoice, but dealers get considerable discounts and reductions. He quickly reassured me that the dealership got absolutely no discounts and the number he showed me was indeed the invoice. I told him that, if that was the case, then I'll have to pass. At this point, I can tell he's annoyed.

"Well, when you go to those other dealers and discover that they've lied to you, you'll see us again."

Seriously? That's how you want to sell a car? Bully me into it? I don't think so. I told him thanks and started to follow him out of the office. VW is doing this whole "1960s-tye-died" thing so all of the office doors have psychedelic beaded curtains. As he walked out, he didn't shake me hand, didn't say goodbye, didn't acknowledge me, and then let the beads close directly in front of my nose. WTF?!

Up to that point, I was fully prepared to come back and resume negotiations at another time. After his pouty-boy, temper-tantrum behavior, there is no way in hell I will go back there to buy a vehicle. No. Way.

I know that women are generally treated as idiots by salesmen, but I'm not your average woman. I research. I talk. I shop around. I'm not willing to walk in and be taken advantage of. I don't walk in blind, looking to be taken care of. And I'm willing to walk away. This guy's behavior was ridiculous. Acting like a spoiled child because you can't buffalo some little lady isn't going to help you make the sale. Grow up and be a man. :)

04 October 2010

Still mourning the loss

14 years ago today, two innocent lives were stolen from this earth, and I've never been the same. I was lucky enough to be able to visit their grave site today. I haven't been able to visit their grave in far-too-many years, but it was nice to finally get back there on this solemn day. I've posted this before,  but I think it bears reposting. I've come a long way since that fall day 14 years ago, but the memories and feelings are still surprisingly raw.


It was a Friday. There was to be a football game that night and excitement filled the air. There was also a little concern in the air. Not high level concern as there is when you see a burning building or a car crash. It was low level concern like when you think you’ve left the iron on when you leave home in the morning. Two of the star cheerleaders, Sarah and Jenn, failed to show up to school that day. This wasn’t a big deal except that if they didn’t attend school, they weren’t permitted to cheer in the game. Both girls were fanatic about cheering so it was a little strange that they didn’t show. But, it was a Friday and Sarah’s parents’ were out of town. There were rumors that the girls had taken a little vacation to Atlantic City or some other fun place. Most of us who knew the girls at all knew that those ideas were bogus because the girls would never do such a thing. Even still, there was no major cause for concern. Yet.
However, the concern began the next morning when no one had heard anything from them still. I remember that I was working at the local drug store that Saturday morning. When my mom got out of work, she came by to check on me and to hand me a pile of posters. I looked at them and couldn’t believe what I saw. They were missing persons’ posters. Each poster had a picture of Sarah and Jenn with their descriptions and a reward for information leading to their return. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was unreal that two of my friends were on a poster offering a reward for their safe return. These things didn’t happen in Smalltown, America. These things happened in big cities where children stay out to all hours playing in the street. My throat got tight and my eyes started to well. My mind kept praying that they were indeed in Atlantic City goofing off. 

As soon as my shift was over, I rode around with my mom as she distributed posters to all of the local business. My mother was close friends with the parents of both of the girls and felt that she must do something. She found comfort in spreading the word about their disappearance. We all felt completely helpless. What could we do but hope and pray for their safe return. The fear I felt inside was unlike anything else I had ever felt. The only thing I can relate it to was when my brother was serving in the Marine Corps in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. I remember going home every day after school, sitting in front of the t.v, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t see my brother’s name and face flashed upon the screen.

As word spread about their disappearance, the details of the case came out. As it turned out, Sarah’s home had been invaded. The phone lines had been cut and the shower curtain had been pushed in as though someone had been thrown against it. The cheerleading uniforms were still hung up on their hangers and there was no trace of the girls.

The rest of the details are personal and revealing. To keep things private for those involved, and to maintain my composure, I’m going to skip the rest of the facts. But, I will say that Sarah’s neighbor had broken into her home while she and Jenn were getting ready for school and took them away. He then killed them and hid their bodies. He was a husband and a father of a young boy. He had been their neighbor for years. His bedroom window looked directly into Sarah’s bathroom.

It’s amazing how people change when something bad happens. Before the tragedy, my class was a cliquey, divided group of teenagers. While, because of the size of our school, we all knew every one of our classmates by name, few of us crossed those rigid clique lines to have close interactions with our peers. We weren’t unique in that respect. Every high school has cliques to some degree or another. But, after the news of Sarah and Jenn broke, things changed quickly and completely. As a whole, my class became tight knit and dependent upon each other for support. Two of our classmates were missing and presumed dead (although we all still hoped for the best). We leaned on each other for comfort. Friendships were formed that would prove to survive anything. I’ve always heard that something good always comes from something bad. I never really believed it until I lived it. The tragedy that struck our hometown brought us together. We had a special bond that no one could ever duplicate or take away. We were friends formed from grief. We could simply look at each other and see how our friends were feeling. No words need to be spoken. Things are still that way today. 

The day we heard about their deaths still plays in slow motion in my head. It’s almost like a dream. Rather than seeing through my own eyes, I see myself as I walked around. Nothing seemed real. I was in math class. Mr. Prugh. He knew we couldn’t focus on any real work so he was simply wasting time with review and idle talk. The principal interrupted our classes to make an announcement. He then told us that Sarah and Jenn were confirmed dead and that classes were released for the day. If we had a way home, we could leave but the building would remain open for those who didn’t want to be alone. We weren’t allowed to leave without a responsible adult. I walked out of my classroom and saw one of the saddest scenes of my life. Jenn’s younger brother was overwhelmed with grief and punched a hole in the glass windows that lined the hallways. How did they expect him to react? His big sister had been stolen from his home and murdered. His sadness permeated the hallway. No one knew what to say because none of us knew how he felt. I wandered my way to the front office and waited in the long line to use the phone. Although the school had a strict no cell phones policy, students everywhere were dialing on their wireless phones to contact home. Even the staff members were borrowing the cell phones of students. When I finally had the chance to use the phone, my mother told me that she would be there in a few minutes to pick my up. I walked out of the office and saw my best friend, Justin. We hugged tightly without saying a word. His eyes were so sad. It broke my heart even more. He asked if I was going to be okay and I simply nodded. He then asked if I had somewhere to go and, again, I simply nodded. He continued to stand there as I turned to wander down the hall. The hall was in a state of silent mass confusion. No one knew what to think or where to go. All that we could do is hold each other and sob. People were walking around crying or searching for friends. I eventually found my way outside and my mother was waiting in the van directly outside the door. It was almost like a movie. Things fell together so perfectly. I didn’t have to look around to find her. She was right there. But, looking back, she’s always been right where I need her whenever I need her.

The sun. I remember the sun. The sun was shining bright and the sky was blue. It was warm and not a breeze to be felt. It was such a beautiful day. Normally on days like this we would spend the lunch period out on the lawns, playing Frisbee or hacky sack. Days like this normally brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Today was different. My face was frozen and marked by trails left by endless tears. My heart had already begun to grow cold. Aren’t tragic day supposed to be rainy and gray? This day did not fit the mood. The sun was too bright and the sky was too blue. It all had to be a dream. But it wasn’t. My mother and I drove out to Sarah’s house to console the families. As we pulled up to the house, cars lined the streets and people littered their yard and the neighboring yards. It’s a very odd scene when there are fifty or so people gathered outside on a beautiful fall day and no one is wearing a smile. When we crossed the yard, Sarah’s mom, Sandy, met us half way. As she hugged me, I felt so much of her pain and grief. To this day, the memory of that hug makes me tear up. She held me so tight and so long. I felt guilt and grief, joy and relief. I was aware of this odd sense of guilt that my mom still had her daughter while Sandy no longer had hers. The grief that Sandy felt seemed to transfer into my body. By no means could I ever wholly experience or understand the pain that she felt, but for a brief moment, I felt a part of that and I understood her immense sadness. I also felt her joy and relief. Joy that I was safe and no other children had been taken and relief that she finally knew the fate of her beautiful daughter. All I could piece together was “I’m sorry.” What else could I say? In the coming years, I would grow to hate that phrase. It’s often used so artificially and is too often used by people who really don’t care. But, I had no other words. My mind was reeling but it was neither the time nor place for my many confused thoughts. It would be a long time until I could put my feelings into words. But, I truly was sorry for her and her family. I couldn’t compare any amount of grief I had ever experienced to the grief she felt at that moment. I couldn’t tell her that it would be all right because I wasn’t sure if it would be. Honestly, at this point, I thought that things would never be all right. All I could do was stand there, mutter my innocent consolation, and be held by that saddest woman in the world.

I had never before been to such an event. At Sarah’s home, all of her family and friends had gathered to join in their grief and console each other. I saw many faces I recognized and many I had never seen before. Food miraculously appeared on the counters and tables. No one really ate it. It just sat there, looking out of place. There’s always food at sad events. I don’t really understand it. Who ever brought the food was making an attempt to be helpful and to ease just a piece of the pain the families felt. But, who could eat at a time like that? Food was the farthest thing from our minds. But, the food was still there, decorating any surface that wouldn’t move.

Finally, after an eternity, my mother and I left, to drive home in an awkward silence. My mother and I have always talked about everything but, for the first time, we seemed to be at a loss for words. I had so much to say but the words were lost. Anything I wanted to say seemed so trivial compared to the magnitude of the events. My mind was racing with thoughts but, for the first time in my life, I had no words to say them. We held hands as she drove and I silently sobbed all the way home. 
Never before in my life had I felt so lost and hopeless. I had been raised in such a safe and protected home. I was the only kid I knew who had a mom and dad who weren’t divorced. My parents never left us alone overnight without someone to stay with us. I was sheltered and well protected. My safe, secure life had suddenly been ripped apart and exposed to the harsh reality of life. Bad things, very bad things happen to good people in small towns. No one is safe. Anyone can be a victim. 

Looking back, my innocence was lost at that moment. People say that we become desensitized to violence through all of the violence we watch on TV. They are wrong. I was raised watching such shows as COPS and America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Nothing I had ever seen on TV could have prepared me for what I had just experienced. The events of October 1996 affected me more deeply and profoundly than any other event in my life. My life has never been that same and never will again, all as a result of one crazy man. I felt so much hate inside. I was raised to never hate another human being and now I was experiencing a profoundly scary feeling that I had never known before. Feeling such hate was very scary. I thought that something was seriously wrong with me. It kept me awake at night and settled in the pit of my stomach like lead. How can I hate so much? To this day, I still feel that hate towards him. It still scares me, but not as badly as before. Surprisingly, the feeling hasn’t dulled all that much. When I think of that man’s face, I cringe inside. He is the only person that I have ever wanted to physically hurt. I remember wishing that I could have just a few moments alone with him so I could make him feel just a sliver of the pain that he caused. I would have been no better than him but I still felt that anger and hate. Knowing that I am capable of such strong emotions is very frightening. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of emotion; hate and detestation.
Feeling blessed and lost at the same moment is a very overwhelming blend of emotions. I felt blessed that I could live another day while two girls I knew and cared for were robbed of their futures. I thought forward and realized that they would never fall in that true love we all want so badly. They would never see a graduation gown or experience going off to college and living on their own. They would never stress over term papers or buy their first new car. They would never experience motherhood and gaze into the innocent eyes of their newborn child. They would never have grandchildren or see the Northern Lights or cruise through the Bahamas. All of those things would happen to me, but never to them. It scared me that futures could be stolen so quickly and quietly. Feeling lost is a bit harder to describe. I remember sitting curled up on my family’s big blue couch. I don’t remember when this was but it was shortly after we discovered their deaths. All I could do was sob. My mom got home and asked me if I was okay. I couldn’t answer her. I felt so confused and torn up inside. I didn’t seem fair that someone as average and boring as I could continue to live when two shining stars with so much to offer were taken away in the cover of night. These two girls sparkled. They really did. I look back through my scrapbook of that time and in the pictures from the newspaper, their eyes still glitter. Their smiles, while haunting, still make me smile. They were smart, kind, and were going places. Now it seems so silly that I felt that way but it was a very real concern at that time. Sometimes I still feel that if by some chance I could give myself to save just one of them, I would do it in a heartbeat. If I could ease the pain of their families in any way, I wouldn’t hesitate. 

I mentioned before how tragedy tends to bring about good. The first good it brought was the closeness between my classmates. The second good was the bond that developed between my big brother and me. My older brother, Donnie, was twenty seven when the girls were murdered. He was married and lived about a half an hour away. I remember sitting on my bed one afternoon shortly after the news of their murder. I took up the habit of cutting newspaper clippings out of any newspaper or magazine that ran stories about the girls. I realize now that this probably wasn’t the safest thing for my mental health. To this day, I still have the scrapbook that I created from those clippings. My brother came into my room and sat in my chair. He looked at my teary, swollen face and said two simple words: “You okay?” Those two words changed our relationship forever. For the first time that I could remember, my brother seemed concerned about me. I know he always loved me but we never really had much to discuss, being ten years apart. After those two little words, our relationship opened up and began a new chapter. We still fight and argue about the normal sibling problems but I know that beneath it all, we have a connection that no one can break.

The school hosted a memorial service the weekend after the news of Sarah and Jenn’s deaths were official. The weather was gray and rainy and cold. Appropriate for the circumstances of the day. We parked in the soccer field and walked across the wet grass in our nicest shoes and darkest outfits. Sad events like funerals and memorial services never have nice weather. I don’t know if the massive sentiment of sadness affects the weather or if the weather exaggerates our depression. Or maybe it’s an even combination or both.

A school gym is an odd place to hold a memorial service. There was no place more appropriate for this service but it still seemed out of place. Schools are places of laughter and happiness, not mourning and tears. The gym where we had spent so many hours playing extreme badminton and soccer and basketball with our friends had been transformed into an ominous and heartbreaking environment. To see all of your friends and classmates gathered in the high school gym with no smiles is a very unsettling sight. It just shouldn’t be that way. But, a service held anywhere else would have been awkward and strange. Sarah and Jenn had lived in that gym during the cheer seasons. We had all seen both Sarah and Jenn cheer at many basketball games in that gym. They felt at home and at ease there. Sitting in the bleachers, surrounded by tearful classmates, one could almost feel their presence. The service was sad yet not depressing. As with all services, the happy and joyful times were the focus and the tragic events surrounding their deaths were only mentioned as a backdrop. There were huge collages of pictures taken at every stage in their lives. It’s odd how a person can laugh at such an ominous event but seeing their smiling faces in candid shots brought a smile to all of our faces. They loved life so much, it was impossible not to see that love in their eyes. I truly believe that Sarah and Jenn were with us that day. They were sitting there among their tearful classmates who were collapsing under the weight of their grief. They put their arms around us and gave us the strength to carry on. 

If you cry enough, tears seem to wash away the pain. But, when the tears dry, the pain is still there. For a long time, the pain seemed to remain constant. Every morning, I would wake up with tears caked onto my cheeks. Small events would trigger memories and set me off for seemingly no reason. I would see a spectacular sunrise that would set tears streaming down my cheeks. I would see a girl with bouncing blond curls or straight red locks and I would see Jenn’s or Sarah’s face again and the tears would fall. I must have looked like a basket case to those around me. I didn’t know how to deal. I thought that the pain would never end. And it didn’t. But, it did get duller. At first the pain was a sharp shooting bullet through my chest. But, as the months went by, the pain eased into a dull, throbbing ache deep down inside of me. To this day, that ache is still there, hiding behind my heart, deep inside my chest. On bad days, that dull throbbing can flip into that shooting pain. But, luckily, those days are few and far between. I’m afraid of the day when the pain is completely gone. I’m afraid because that means that Sarah and Jenn and Katie and Mr. Cassell and everyone else has been forgotten. I don’t want to forget. Ever. They have shaped who I am and the memories are a part of me. Although it’s painful to think about those days, I still smile at the good times. The throbbing hurts every day and it’s almost comforting to know that they are still there. They are still a part of me. Still a part of my life. They aren’t just a memory that will fade in time.

When all is said and done, a person hopes that they can one day forget all of the pain that they have experienced. But, somehow, the events of your life keep creeping up on us and slapping us in the face. Three days before Christmas in 2002, the local newspaper published an article rehashing all of the tragic events that had stricken our town. The article was spurred by recent events when a pit bull had mauled a young man (who resided in our town) to death. I was amazed at how free and fresh the tears fell. Over six years had passed and the pain was so easily refreshed. As an outspoken English major and one who already dislikes the press, my first reaction to the article was to write an editorial speaking out against the timing of the article and it’s frivolous nature. I felt better after writing down my ideas and feelings but the tears still fell, cleaning my soul of my rage. In an odd way, I don’t want to forget. Ever. My junior year formed me. It defined my strength and courage. Without experiencing those horrible days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, I wouldn’t be me, the girl who loves to write and the woman who wants to touch lives. Losing friends was the most arduous experience of my life but it made me who I am today. And, I am stronger, braver, more loving, and less trusting. I’m not happy they are gone. That’s not possible. But, I am a different person as a result of those events.

500th Blog Post Contest!

To celebrate my 500th blog post (which may not seem like a big deal in the blog-o-sphere, but it's a pretty big deal to me!), I am hosting a contest inspired by Kiki. Kiki always hosts such fun contests on her blog, and I figured I would do the same on this special occasion. It's easy to enter, and I think the prizes are pretty sweet. Of course, I'm a little biased. ;-)

Here's how to enter:

Follow my blog: 1 entry
Comment on my blog:  1 entry
Follow me on Twitter (nwhyluckysgirl):  1 entry
Tweet about the giveaway (with hashtag #mb500): 1 entry
RT my tweets about the giveaway:  1 entry

Every entry gets you an additional chance at winning, so start commenting and tweeting and retweeting!

The prizes -- there will be two! -- will be a photo of your choice in either an 8X10 or 11X14 matting (again, your choice). Examples of my photography can been seen on my portfolio page. I've just added a bunch of fall-inspired pics that you may enjoy as well.

The contest will run from today, October 4th, until noon on October 11th. I will announce and contact the winners on October 12th.

29 September 2010

Disappointed in me

I've had a pretty consistent struggle with my weight for most of my life. As a teenager, I had a rather svelte body and was content. As I've aged, I've slowly gained more weight than I would like to admit. The good (bad?) thing is that, because I am tall, I can carry more weight on my frame without looking heavy. We all have an ideal number on the scale, but I am driven more by the way my clothes feel on me. Lately, they have been feeling more snug that I would like. Tonight I tried on last season's jeans (because its that time of year again!) and I almost started crying. I am VERY unhappy with the way my body currently looks without clothes as well as with more fitted clothes.

There is no excuse for this other than sheer laziness. I'm lazy, and I love to eat. I know that I am capable of losing the weight and staying trimmer, but I've just been mailing it in these past few months. Back in March I won the Biggest Loser competition at school after losing like 15 pounds. Well, its all back and more. And there is no reason for it. Seriously. And there is no time like the present to make a change, right?

I find that if I make resolutions in a public forum (my blog) I am more likely to stick to it. I guess it is some kind of internet accountability. So here it goes. I'm going to lay out my "plan" for making a change.

Week 1 (9/30-10/7) - I'm going to do a pretty hard core, kick-it-into-high-gear week of all fruits and vegetables and limited dairy. I'll eat a bowl of cereal in the morning (I need the dairy for protein and the carbs for energy!) but only vegetables and legumes for the remainder of the day. I'll only consume water and hot tea with absolutely no pop of any kind and no booze. The no booze thing will be a bit challenging given that I'm going home to visit, so I might have to make a one-day allowance. I also want to get in at least 5 40-minute bouts on either the elliptical or my Nordic Trac. If I can't do those, it will be a walk for 40 minutes. Weather permitting, I'm also planning to take B on some lengthy walks.

Week 2 (10/8-10/14) - After a week of veggies and fruits with minimal dairy, I hope to feel a bit cleansed and rejuvenated (as well as a few pounds lighter!). The food for this second week will still be fruit and veggie heavy, but I'll incorporate a touch more carbs (pasta and rice) as well as more dairy (cheese, yogurt, and milk). Again, I plan to get at least 5 40-minute cardo workouts in as well as some addition B walks. A cocktail or two, especially at Amy's wedding, will be allowed.

Week 3 (10/15-10/21) - This week will basically be the same as Week 2 but with lengthier (50-60 minutes) cardio workouts. I wish I had access to a good gym with weights and machines, but, alas, I don't. I'll have to figure out a solution to that later, but the cardio is good for now. Again, a cocktail or two will be permitted.

I don't eat meat at all anymore (with the very occasional weakness for Mexican food), so it is important that I get my protein from other sources like beans and nuts and things of the like. I don't miss meat at all, but it makes getting my protein a but more challenging (and fattening!) sometimes. Either way, I need protein and I need to find a way to get the appropriate amount each day without countering it with a ton of fat (i.e cheese. I LOVE CHEESE!!).

Hopefully the next three weeks will kick start my motivation and metabolism to get me on the track to a healthier and fitter body. A bonus of a few less pounds would be ideal as well! The week immediately after Week 3 finds me in NOLA for a visit with The Boy, so I'm not making any strict plans for that week. that would just be setting myself up for failure. Of course, I don't plan of gorging myself, but I'm also not going to set any unrealistic goals that I cannot achieve while on "vacation."

As a part of my renewed fit and healthy journey, I'll be posting updates and progress reports on a fairly regular basis. I really need to make a change in myself to make myself look and feel better, and that change needs to happen now.

27 September 2010

Doggie Drama

Bailey tends to be pretty well behaved while I am gone during the day. She sometimes "investigates" things and pulls them off the counters and surfaces, but she very rarely ruins things. I don't blame her for getting bored while I'm away. I would get bored sitting home all day as well. (Seriously, people. I wouldn't. I would love to be homes all day!) I'm used to her antics because they are usually so benign.

Until today. For some reason, she decided to act out in a big way while I was gone today. I'm not sure what triggered her bad behavior, but she definitely acted out. The first damage I noticed was that she had dug and clawed at the office door. What is that about?! I had to vacuum up paint chips and wood chunks as soon as I got home. But that didn't bother me nearly as much as I what I discovered next...

She CHEWED MY SHOE!! If you now anything about me, you know how I have a "shoe problem." I adore shoes. I keep them all organized in special see-through boxes, and I can't remember the last time I wore a pair of shoes out and had to replace them. Seriously. I own ... more pairs than I should admit. And Bailey has NEVER touched a shoe except to curl up with it on the couch in my absence. Her lack of interest in shoes has served me well. To come home and see a pair of shoes chewed on ... ugh! I blew my stack. She knew that she was in trouble long before I found the shoe. She was hiding and cowering in the office as I was walking around the house. The pair that she chewed was one of my favorite pair of summer thongs. They were leopard print with a little gold buckle and a kitten heel. Truth be told, the shoes were in pretty rough shape to start with. I've worn them for three summers now, and the shoes probably needed to be laid to rest. But the fact that Bailey forced me to get rid of them by chewing on them frustrates me to no end! I was SO angry. I didn't lose my temper too badly, but I was definitely annoyed. To punish her, I clipped her nails (which she was in desperate need of but absolutely hates). Maybe I'll even give her a bath later.

Suffice it to say that the Beast and I are not exactly getting along this evening. All I can say is that this better not be a sign of things to come!

23 September 2010

The MB 500

I just realized that I am now three posts away from my 500th! I started this whole thing in February 2007 which means it has been going (strong at times!) for almost four years. I really thought it was longer because I remember starting it when I lived in Greensboro. I though that it was the first year I lived there but clearly it was halfway through my second year. Either way four years and 500 posts averages out to about a post every three days. Of course some days had multiple posts and there were also significant dry spells.

I'll have to plan something big and important for the 500th post. I'm not too sure what that will be because I'll most likely be home visiting the family for Grandma's 80th birthday. But, in all honesty, that's a subject worthy of a 500th post. Grandma, God willing, will have lived longer than ALL of her relatives ... living and dead. We don't come from long-living stock, so we're all pretty excited and happy to have Gram still around. Especially since she is still quite youthful!

Now I've got some planning to do ...

19 September 2010

Teaching CCD

Today was my second Sunday teaching CCD at Sacred Heart. I'm working with the 9th graders who are in the first year of the CCD program. At Sacred Heart the CCD program is a two-year cycle. Ninth graders attend classes that are more inquiry-based where we discuss the basics of the faith and have an open forum for any questions that they have. The 10th grade program is a Confirmation-prep program that ends in May when they are confirmed as full members of the Catholic Church. Last week was simply a "get-to-know-you" week where we played some name games and shared some details from our lives. This week we started the curriculum.

Each week has a focal topic for discussion, and this week's topic was "God." My essential questions for the kids were, "Is it reasonable to believe in God" and "What kind of relationship can we hope to have with God?" I did a little bit of lecturing and then we had some discussion. I shared my personal faith story with them, and they shared some of their doubts and beliefs with me and the rest of the class. It's interesting for me to teach about Faith. It really gives me an opportunity to explore what I think and feel about my own faith. I still question and wonder and grapple with my understanding, and exploring faith through the eyes of the young helps me to investigate all that with fresh eyes. I understand their doubt and their fears because I have been there myself. I spent ten years in the desert before finding God and realizing that I needed Him to truly make sense of the world.

Tonight some of the students asked very legitimate questions about prayer and God's promise to help us and guide us. Of course, the questions that asked were "big" questions with no real answers. They were questions that are unanswerable and we struggle with them every day. When we pray to God to take care of the infirm or the dying, is that selfish because we really want God to make them live and not die? If they do die, is God actually answer our prayers? If He is, how is that answering them when what we wanted was for the person we are praying for was to heal? We discussed how Heaven is Paradise, and we should all be so lucky as to earn our place there. We also talked about how God doesn't always answer our prayers in the most obvious way. (Here is where I talked about Kiki and her struggles with patience!) Instead of granting us what we ask for, God instead often provides us with an opportunity to practice and refine the trait that we seek (patience, humility, faith, strength ...).

We also brainstormed for a while what traits the ideal father would have. We then transferred those traits to God, Our Father and compared which aligned well and which needed to be deleted or added. During that part of our discussion, one of the kids posed a really great question. If God knows all and knows what we want and what we are going to ask for, why doesn't He just give it to us? I loved that question because it really helped to cement the "God as our Father" relationship for the kids. I responded to his question by giving the example of a father who repeatedly watches his child fail at a task, waiting for that child to simply ask for help. We've all been there and had that experience, and God is no different. He wants us to acknowledge our need for His help and intervention and humble ourselves to ask for His aid. The kids seemed to "get it" and really start to make connections to their own relationship with God. Hopefully we'll continue to have great conversations like this.

I'm enjoying my new "position" so far, and I'm happy to be able to offer my 'talent" to the church as well as my "treasure." It is a nice change of pace from my everyday teaching, but it definitely presents its own set of challenges. I'll keep posting as the weeks progress.

18 September 2010

Photos for sale!

I've decided to put some of my photography portfolio onto the blog to share with the world and also to sell. Head over to the Photography by MB page to see what is currently listed. If you are interested in any of the pics, contact me for pricing and printing options. I can do a variety of sizes as well as framing options. I'll also be adding new selections over time, so be sure to check back regularly!

Even if you don't want to buy, I hope you enjoy looking! I know I enjoy snapping the pics!

15 September 2010


Bailey is feeling much better tonight. She actually got up and played for a while and was doing some SERIOUS begging at her food bowl. It broke my heart to not let her eat, but doctor's orders!

In other Bailey-related news, I photograph that I took of her this summer has made it into the Top 50 of the Boston Globe's Pets at Play Photo Contest. I've entered their photography contests a few times and have made Top 50 twice. I'm pretty stoked that this pic was selected as one of the the Top 50 out of about 160 entries.

You can see her in all her glory here.

Bailey is lucky she's cute

This morning was a normal morning. I got up. Ate breakfast. Showered. Got dressed. It was the start to a good day. Then Bailey decided that she was sick. And then the good day ended.

If you aren't interested in the gross details, I suggest you skip the next few paragraphs.

She started having uncontrollable diarrhea and looked totally miserable. I felt bad for her so I let her lay on her blanket on my bed for a little while. When I went back in to check on her, her diarrhea had turned to blood. Bright red blood. And she had lost control on the bed. Thankfully her blanket protected my comforter ... for the most part. she barely made it outside before leaking all over the grass. At that point I knew that going to work wasn't a feasible option. I felt absolutely horrible calling in since today was supposed to be a pretty intensive technology day with my kids. But I certainly couldn't leave The Beast home all day and know how ill she was. The mess I would come home to would be unbelievable. Luckily, I managed to get squeezed into an 8am vet appointment.

We headed off to the vet, and thankfully there were no accidents in the car. The vet did an exam with all sorts of poking and prodding. Bailey was most definitely not okay with the poking and prodding. The vet loaded her up on Atropine to slow down her soft tissue issues (i.e. no more diarrhea) and injected 500cc of fluids under her skin. She looked like she had a humpback, but it definitely helps to improve her dehydration. We left with a handful of meds and a strict "no food" order. She isn't allowed to eat until tomorrow, and, when she does get to eat again, it will be boiled chicken and bland carbohydrates. In addition to her weird colon issue, she also has a heart murmur (not too much to worry about now, but it will most likely eventually get worse and lead to heart failure. Joy.) and conjunctivitis in her eyes.

When we got home, I washed all of the dirty blankets while she slept. She's still sleeping now, looking massively pathetic. The doc told me that if the blood continues tomorrow, B needs to be brought back in for some testing and further procedures.

Is it bad that I kind of love her when she is sad and mopey? She is so sweet and docile and fragile instead of her normal bog, bold, and crazy self. I just love to cuddle and love her when she is sad and sick. I by no means want her to be like this more often (my stress level and bank account couldn't handle that!), but she is rather adorable when she is like this.

Poor Bailey.

10 September 2010

Do you have my card?

I finally got business cards made, and they are beautiful! Why does a teacher need business cards, you ask? Well, I attend conferences and network on a fairly regular basis, and I never have my info handy to share. Now I do! I had them made here, and they feature some samples of my photography.

Now I can't wait to get to some PD events and pass out my beautiful new cards!

Aren't they pretty?!

09 September 2010

Tomato Hornworm Update

I decided at let the tomato hornworms that had invaded my tomato plants to have their way. I ignored the plants, harvested what tomatoes matured, and tried to pretend that all of my hard work and nurturing wasn't for naught. Today, since September has come and fall has officially started, I decided that the tomato plants could be "trashed." (They weren't actually trashed. I left them in the creek bed to biodegrade back into the soil.)

To my surprise, only one hornworm remained. And it didn't look normal. It had had some rather weird growths on it. There were little white pods all over it. They looked like little grains of rice. The hornworm didn't move, so I figured it was dead.

I pulled all of the plants out to the stream bed and noticed that the nasty little rice-covered worm started to move slowly. I was happy that it was now far away from the house! 

I rushed into the house, turned on the computer, and searched "what is on this hornworm?" Seriously. That was my search phrase. Turns out, these little grains of rice are actually wasp cocoons. It is a parasitic wasp - Cotesia congregatus - that will eat the hornworm from the inside out after it hatches! It's actually a recommended natural pest control when dealing with hornworms. And the wasps are completely benign to humans. In fact, they are only about 1/8" long when hatched. I can't wait for them to hatch and eat that nasty creature. I know that sounds mean, but I can't help it. He ruined my plants. 

Before I tossed the plants, I was able to harvest three last ripe tomatoes. Goodbye, Summer. Hello, Fall!


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