Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time For A Change?

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra

For the past many years, I've pined for sunny places.

I love Minnesota.  April through September.

But October through March is another story.

It's not the cold.

It's not the snow.

Winter 2011

It's the dark.

I have very bad Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means I sink into a depression every winter.

I use a light box every day.

I take Vitamin D.

I try to exercise and eat healthy foods.

But, I still can't get out of bed on many, many days.

The future seems very bleak.

Hope hides deep away.

It's bad.

So, I dream about living in sunny places.

By February, I'm scouring the Internet looking for jobs and homes in Florida and California.

Florida, Winter 2011

I've talked about moving for years.

But we never have.

May comes around and I forget about winter and dark and depression.

I love Minnesota again.

I love our neighborhood.  I love our house.  I love my daughter's school.

Why would we every leave?

Except I know the bad will return.

And I start pining again.

But am I really, truly ready for a change?

Am I prepared to leave my neighborhood, my house, my family and friends, to move across the country?

Am I ready to take the risk?

Today is the last day of June.  It's sunny and warm.

Everything is beautiful.

Library, June 2012

But, winter will come again.

Maybe it's finally time for a change.

Quotes on Change

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” –Elbert Hubbard

"Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change."  -Jim Rohn

"20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover."  -Mark Twain

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Could You Kill Someone?

I am a pacifist.

I don't like fighting or yelling or slamming doors.

I really hate when people hurt each other - physically or emotionally.

When I was younger, if you asked me if I was capable of killing another human being, I would have said NO WAY!

But, now I'm a mother.

I knew I was a mother when, without doubt, I was certain I could hurt, or even kill, a person who was physically harming my child.

If I walked into room and saw my child being attacked, I would not try to negotiate or talk things through.  I would stop the attack.

This must be what people mean when they say someone is a Mama Bear.

You DO NOT want to step between a cub and its mama.

When my daughter was in 5th grade, a man was flashing young girls in our neighborhood.  I told Juliana that the best punishment for that man would be to stick him in a room full of moms.  (I don't think she understood what I meant exactly, but did understand that moms really care about kids' safety.)  The post I wrote was called Kick-Butt Mom.

Don't get me wrong.

I hate violence.

I believe in negotiating and talking things through for basically everything.
I don't scream and shout.  I don't throw things.  I have never hit.
Those things freak me out.

But, if my daughter, or any small child, was being seriously hurt, I would intervene. 

I would stop that person.

However possible.

I'm linking up today with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.  The question I chose to answer is "You know you're a mom when . . ."  Usually I write funny posts for Writer's Workshop.  But today, I just had to be serious.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tribute to Dad

For Father's Day, I wanted to share some things about my dad.

Lake Superior 2011

I grew up hearing my father play the piano.

Every night after he got home from work, Dad would sit down and play the piano.  It was his way of unwinding after a long day.  He still plays every day.  One of his favorite composers is Rachmaninoff.  He visits the nursing home sometimes to play for the residents.  They love to sing along to Bicycle Built for Two.

My father is brilliant at math. 

Because he's an actuary, I know odd facts like:  If you have life insurance that is over 10 times your annual income, you are more likely to die.  (Perhaps due to a greedy beneficiary!)  Also, married people live longer.  (Just make sure not to have too much life insurance.)

My father grew up in Duluth, Minnesota.

My parents met in Duluth and now live by Lake Superior.  Because of him, I love the North Shore and know how to skip a rock and put a worm on a fish hook.

My dad is allergic to milk (and a lot of other foods.)

I grew up watching my dad eat Corn Flakes with water instead of milk.  I've tasted it.  It's not nice.

From time to time, he would sneak vanilla ice cream with honey on top.  That does taste nice.

Top 5 Dad Quotes:

1.  "Your mental and physical health are more important than perfect grades."

2. "Your birthmother must have been very beautiful and smart, because you are very beautiful and smart."

3. "You can be anything you want to be."

4. "I am proud of you."

5. "I love you."

Thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Body Image and Daughters

I have felt fat most of my life,
even as a little kid in early elementary school.

In high school, even though I was actually a fine weight, I felt fat.  People around me (including friends) told me I should lose weight.  I'd be prettier.  I'd be more attractive to boys.  Ugh.

In my 20's, while I started to feel better about myself physically, I still struggled with how I looked, feeling fatter than I should be.

Even though I intellectually knew that the definition of beauty encompasses a huge variety of looks, I still wanted to fit into the "right" or "best" tiny segment of the beauty continuum.

It didn't work.  I still thought I was overweight.

Then I had a baby girl.

I did NOT want my daughter growing up with the same worries about body image, and frankly self-hate related to her size and shape.

I knew I couldn't protect her from everything.

But, I decided I would not make it worse.

I sat myself down and had a little chat.

I had a choice.  I could perpetuate the insecurity of feeling fat and "not good enough" or I could do something about stopping the cycle.

I vowed then and there that I would NEVER utter the words, "I feel fat," in front of my daughter:

Even though I still felt overweight and complained to myself, my husband, and friends, I vowed I would never bad mouth myself (or other women) in front of my daughter.

I would never say, "I feel fat."

And I never have.

I couldn't "cure" myself of body image self-doubt, but I could help my daughter get a more confident start in life and hopefully be better prepared to face what lay ahead.

As a result of consciously avoiding hateful self-talk in front of Juliana, I began to feel better about myself.

I still struggle sometimes.

But, I know in my heart, as well as my head, that BEAUTY comes in all shapes and sizes.

BEAUTY rocks all kinds of awesome!

Most importantly, beauty is more about self-acceptance and self-love than anything else.

And the TLC show What Not to Wear helps too.

Juliana (now 14 years old) and I have watched many episodes of What Not to Wear with Stacy and Clinton.

No matter what size or shape woman walks onto their show in the beginning, a confident, gorgeous woman leaves.

All the woman - short, tall, heavy, slender - look awesome and feel awesome too!

So, have I saved my daughter from all body image self-doubt?  Have I saved myself?


But I know she feels pretty good about herself, which is saying a lot when you're 14 years old.

More than anything, I know she's better prepared to face body image challenges than I ever was.

And that feels pretty darn good.

Spring 2012

Today in my Building a Blog You Truly Love class, we're writing brave posts.  If you'd like to read more brave posts or link up your own post, visit Liv Lane's blog.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Last Day of School (and Work)

I feel like a kid!

Today was the last day of school for my daughter.  And for me!

I work at a junior high as an in-school tutor.  I help kids with everything from essays to science tests.  But mostly I tutor Algebra.  I'll be going back in the fall, but for now I HAVE SUMMER OFF!

I'll be working some at my favorite local bookstore, but mostly I have the rare opportunity to CREATE whatever I want for the next three months.

It's liberating, strange, and wonderful!

On that note, I give you my Friday Bliss List.  These are the things that make me very happy (and blissful) today.  If you want to join in the Bliss List, go to Liv Lane's blog and link up.


1. It's a strange and exciting feeling to have summer off.  I feel like I'm cheating somehow.  But it also feels awesome.

2. I said goodbye to my tutor kids today.  It was bitter-sweet.  I'll miss my 8th graders as they move on to high school.  But I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know them so well this year.

3. I love the colors is my manicured neglected garden.  Despite the fact that my garden is mostly left to its own devices, it grows and blooms and makes me happy!

Bleeding Heart

4. Playing the fiddle.  Or rather, learning to play the fiddle.  My neighbor plays the fiddle in an Irish band.  A couple years ago I bought her old fiddle and took a class.  I can play one song:  Boil 'Em Cabbage Down.  I'd like to play more.  So, I'm planning on taking more classes this summer.

5. The Hatfields and McCoys.  My daughter and I bond over historical people, places, and stories - especially (for her) where "Bad Boys of History" are concerned.  She's gone through the following obsessions:  Jesse James, Al Capone, The Outsiders (Greasers), Pirates, and now Hatfields and McCoys.  And I love it!

Happy June!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dyslexia and Success

When my daughter was in first grade, she couldn't read.

First day of 1st grade.

Lot of kids are learning to read in first grade, but my daughter was still having difficulty with basic sight words.  And spelling them?  No way.

In kindergarten, she had scored very high on the district's Gifted and Talented assessment.  When we read stories out loud to her, she understood everything perfectly.  And she could easily guess a word's meaning if it were in context.

"Mom, I got this.  You can go now!"

But show her a single word, and she couldn't even sound it out.

We knew something was wrong.

We talked to her first grade teacher.

She said, "It's too early to tell if a child has a reading disability.  It usually 'clicks' for kids by the end of the year."

It didn't 'click'.

We talked to her second grade teacher.

We said, "Juliana's reading isn't up to the same level as her other work.  We really think there's something wrong.  Maybe dyslexia.  What should we do?"

He said, "She's doing pretty well.  Let's see how the year goes."

First day of 2nd grade.

By the end of second grade, we decided to do something about it - ourselves!

We got Juliana tested through the Reading Center in Rochester, MN.  Sure enough, she had (and will always have) dyslexia.

We were relieved to finally have answers to our questions!

It's very stressful when I know something's not right, but I don't know what it is exactly or how to deal with it.  When I finally get an answer - good or bad - at least I know in what direction to focus my energies.  So getting the confirmation of dyslexia helped propel me to the next level.

We set Juliana up with tutoring, with an awesome woman named Patti, 2 days/week for all of 3rd grade.  Then 1 day/week in 4th grade.  It was a big time (and financial) commitment, but worth every minute and penny!

But not everyone has the ability to set up their own testing and then pay for tutoring.

Parents have to be their child's advocate BIG TIME when it comes to learning disabilities.  It's super important to catch a learning disability like dyslexia early.  I wish we had pushed harder way back in first grade when we first knew something was wrong.  I tell parents now, "If your gut says something's not right, then you have to speak up!  You have to keep saying it over and over until someone listens."

* * * * * * * * * *

This Friday, Juliana graduates from 8th grade and will start High School in the fall.  Last night was the Junior High Awards Ceremony and I was compelled to write this post.

Juliana received many awards, including "A" Honor Roll and "Excellence in Science."

But it really hit me how far she's come when she received the "Excellence in Challenge French" award.

Most people with dyslexia have great difficulty with foreign languages.  Juliana was no exception.  But she was determined to take Challenge (accelerated) French.  And it was a challenge.  But she loved it and ROCKED that class big time!

In fact, she was the only student in her grade to receive the "Excellence in Challenge French" award!

She will never be a great speller.  Who am I kidding?  Her spelling stinks!  And it always will.

But, there are ways to deal with poor spelling.  Like practice and Spell Check and Mom.

So imagine spelling a French word when you can't even spell the English equivalent.  Tough!

But, learning French is more than just spelling words correctly.  And even those tricky words got easier and easier for Juliana.  She ending up loving French class, Madam Fair (her teacher), and the French language and culture.

Last night as Juliana walked across the stage to receive her awards (in WAY too tall platform shoes, I'd like to add), I was so HAPPY for her!

She has come so far.  Dyslexia and all.

8th grade Awards Night

Dyslexia and Success can go hand-in-hand.

It just takes a little patience, a lot of perseverance, and bucket loads of love.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

St. Anthony Park Arts Festival

The first Saturday of June each year is the St. Anthony Park Arts Festival - which is today!

Every year we go to:

- See art,
(My favorites tend to be usable pottery, wooden bowls, mixed-media, and woodblock prints.)

- Socialize with friends,
(Everyone's out for the fun.  Except when it rains, which is every other year.)

- Eat yummy food,
(Usually gyros, kettle corn, and homemade ice cream.)

- Buy something(s),
(This year I bought several handmade cards and some glass pieces.)

- Enjoy the beginning of Summer!

I brought my camera along and have been trying out my photo editing (and arranging) skills using PicMonkey.  I like PicMonkey because it's easy and free!

I call this one the "My Daughter is Fascinated with Pirates" collage.

Pirate henna tattoo & stuffed yellow penguin,
my husband and daughter, pirate tattoo close-up

My daughter has always been enamored with the "bad boys"of history.  I wrote about it (on my former Bookshop Gal blog) when she was 12 years old:  Bad Boy Obsession?.  Her obsession appears to be continuing, this time with pirates.  At least it's still contained to the bad boys of history vs. her high school.

This photo collage is called "Around the Fair."

The library, art booths,
food truck with awesome curried chicken.

Last, but not least, I snapped a photo of our friendly neighborhood grocery store which was decked out in flowers for sale.

I just have to say, Speedy Rocks!

I enhance this photo on PicMonkey.  I think I'm getting the hang of it.  I just need to take the picture horizontally next time.

I hope your June 2 is sunny, warm and wonderful.

Here's to summer!