Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hello. I miss you.

I don't know who's in this picture with her, but love this early picture.

My Nonnie gave me the nickname Tissy-Teenie. From this the prevailing names of my childhood came, Krissi and Teenie. She taught me to bake bread, and made the most amazing biscuits. She was truly kind. She once canned green beans while a tornado went by. When asked what she was thinking, she said, "If the Lord wanted to take me, he'd take me. In the meantime, those beans weren't going to can themselves."

Nonnie with her brothers and sisters, and my mom photobombing

It was about this age when my Nonnie was sure that my  Uncle Phillip couldn't tell the difference between the front and back yards.

With her baby brother

She read to my older brother and me more than she probably wanted to. She introduced us to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Little Princess, and A Secret Garden. 

I always wanted to be just like her. 

When they went to pick up one of my aunts. I think this is Ruth Ann.

I'm sure I got my sense of style from her. I'm going to start calling my head scarves 'Nonnies.'

I called my Nonnie long distance for the first time when I was barely 18, just out of boot camp, from A school in San Diego, California. Prior to that, our phone conversations had consisted of,"Hi, Nonnie. Can I come over?"

Redneck camping

The first picture I found of us together

The pay phone was across the hall from my room, and while my mom got my drunken, homesick, middle of the night phone calls whose only purpose was to say goodnight, Nonnie got the occasional phone call to just chat. 

With her brother, my Uncle Bill


San Diego was followed by Norfolk, Virginia, Spain, Italy, Greece, Florida, and Maine. We would talk until my pre-paid calling card ran out. When unlimited long distance came into my life in Maine, we would talk for as long as we had time. 

Nonnie had a stroke right after Dominic was born. She didn't die for another 3 years, but talking on the phone was hard. I miss her. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

San Andreas Review

Some of the members of our family abandoned us for cooler climes, so Xavier and I are on our own this week. That means we get to do what we want. Eat where we want. Watch what we want. Last night that meant San Andreas.

First, it is important that you understand that I LOVE disaster movies. The only movies I like better are superhero movies. That's my disclaimer before I start gushing. Also, there may be a couple spoilers, but I'll try to keep them from actually spoiling anything for you. I mean, really, what is there to spoil? It's a disaster movie. We know what happens in those.

So, first, I'm really impressed with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's improved acting skills. Either I'm just becoming a fan of big, tough guys (not likely), or The Rock's going to have to find a new stage name. The man is starting to loosen up and act well, showing feelings and stuff. If he keeps going like this, he'll soon be able to expand out of the action genre, but no one wants that. He's too perfect for the action genre. (I don't know. It might be fun to see him as a goofy professor type.)

This movie contained all the great disaster tropes: explosions, buildings falling... I don't want to spoil it too much. The trope I enjoyed the most was when the one they flipped on its head. (Spoiler alert! Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want a little foreknowledge.) I loved that instead of having a beautiful woman that needed saving, they had a beautiful, intelligent woman who saved a pretty man with a gorgeous accent. That's not to say the man didn't deserve saving, or pull his weight in saving the woman, just that his was not the main saving role.

They killed off the bad guy at just the right time, in just the right way. A smart guy was a hero. Humor abounds. Disasters and rescues come one right after another. So... Where does that get us?

Armageddon Rating: 5 stars
I'm not sure how they could have put any other disasters in the movie.

Bechdel Rating: 4 stars
I have a bit of a problem with the Bechdel Test. I like the concept, but it can be hard to place in a movie like this. Does the test have to be completely about conversation? What if the movie has little conversation? In this movie, most of the conversation takes place *between* the sexes, versus between members of the same sex, so I've decided that counts. Plus, there's that whole strong woman doing strong woman things aspect. Sure, the star is a man, but we're getting somewhere.

Star Wars Rating: 3 warnings
This is a special rating we have for movies at our house. Is it worse than Star Wars in terms of violence? If not, the kids can see it, since they've been watching Star Wars since Xavier was born.
I give this 3 warnings because a lot of people die in this movie. It's a disaster movie, after all. Some of the deaths are up close and personal, although none of them are exceptionally graphic (blood and guts kind of thing).

Sensitivity Warning: 3 warnings
We don't see children die, and only a few prominent characters die. It does talk about the death of a child, prior to the movie timeline, and how it impacted the family, so has an emotional component for sensitive children. Also, due to the nature of disaster movies, this could cause nightmares, and anxieties involving high buildings and stairwells. Also, I'm not sure any child going to San Francisco should see this before the vacation.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Then and Now- School

This was supposed to be a post with first day of kindergarten and last day of high school pictures. Then, Gabriel made the point that he started learning the day he was born, and never planned to stop, that life is his school. So, I included a gratuitous first day of life in the NICU. He's such a homeschooler.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

*This post was first posted on BlogHer in 2013.

Did you know that the flag is only flown at half-staff on Memorial Day until noon? After that, it is raised to full staff to represent the hope we have for the future. So what can that tell us about how we should observe Memorial Day?

Raising the Flag

First, of course, there are customs to be observed, like visiting cemeteries to place flags on graves, visiting memorials, attending ceremonies, and flying the flag at half-staff until noon. These things remind us of our duty to honor our fallen soldiers. These customs remind us to take care of the families of our fallen soldiers. They remind us that there are disabled veterans who need our help slogging through the mess that is the VA. They remind us to appreciate our freedom just a little bit more.

Then, there is the celebration. You see, to me, watching that flag being raised to full-staff is a signal to celebrate. It tells me that our lives should not be spent lamenting the lost. It tells me that we should spend our lives honoring and celebrating the lives of those no longer with us, and part of the way we do that is to find joy in our own lives. Even in the midst of our struggles, we can find joy.

 So, today, as you go about your life. Remember the fallen. Remember the great sacrifice they made. Remember why they made it. Take a moment to find out what you can do to help the families of fallen soldiers. Then, celebrate their sacrifice by living as full a life as you can. Do not just walk through your life. Dance, baby, dance.

If you would like to donate to or volunteer with some great organizations that help military families, I would like to recommend the following. If you have a suggestion of a great military charity, please leave it in the comments. These just happen to be the organizations I am most familiar with, or have a special place in my heart.

Our Military Kids provides grants to allow children of National Guard members and Reservists to participate in extra activities while their parents are deployed, and for the children of wounded warriors. They provide support and recognition to military children to reduce the emotional impact of deployments. My family has directly benefited from this organization. They helped send Gabriel to Montpelier for his first archaeological dig, Xavier to Space Camp, and got Dominic started in dance.

Special Operations Warrior Foundation- According to their website “The Special Operations Warrior Foundation ensures full scholarship grants as well as educational and family counseling to the surviving children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel who lose their lives in the line of duty and immediate financial assistance for severely wounded special operations personnel and their families.” This organization is one that is close to my heart, because it provides assistance that the larger, better known, and better funded organizations do not.

Fisher House- Another lesser known organization, at least among civilians. Fisher House provides housing, meals, and transportation for military families to be close to their soldiers during hospitalization for an illness, disease, or injury.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Robo Diary

Report from the robot week 1
slightly controversial so please don't rage in the comments

Here's what I don't understand about humans:

  • they believe that life can only exist as we know it
  • it took them thousands of years to understand that they are not the center of the universe
  • they seem to need to destroy everything natural and replace it with fake un-renewable resources
  • they enjoy watching vast quantities of violence
  • they spend hours looking at tiny computer screens that have a limited life span when there is plenty to do around them
  • if you scale there existence down to 24 hours, they arrived here 2 hours ago, their industrial revolution began 30 seconds ago, and in that time they have destroyed half of their forests
  • they constantly want to obliterate things they don't agree with
  • despite all these facts they still exist, and they write fantastic books

there're some things for you to think about

Loui the Alien Robot.

*Editor's note: Xavier will be blogging as Loui the Alien Robot for a while. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mom Vacation

Wednesday morning, I got on a plane to Kansas to spend a week playing with fiber. These are a few pictures from my week so far. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Chronic Illness Means (To Me)

A year ago today. My brain felt like it was on fire from the medication they gave me. 
Part 1

Writing about my experience with chronic illness is difficult; I feel as though I'm baring my soul in a way I never have before, even after 8 years of blogging, and basically being open to writing about anything. I am sitting here with one thought running through my mind, "I don't know how to do this."

But that is how I've felt about this whole chronic illness business. I don't know how to live with chronic illness. I lost my drive to do anything, even knitting and reading. I certainly didn't feel like leaving the house. The majority of my contact with the outside world was through my computer. It is hard for me to make plans when I know that canceling them is not just a possibility, but a probability.

Hardest for me is that my relationship with my children has suffered. There have been entire months when I barely left my bed, and some of my children felt no desire to join me in my room to spend time with me. I feel like a burden to my family, them having to take care of me instead of me taking care of them.

For the last 8 months, my most prominent symptom has been extreme fatigue. I stopped exercising completely because exercising used two days worth of energy. One thirty minute walk would put me in bed for at least 48 hours afterward. Grocery shopping was impossible. Gary took over all the cooking and grocery shopping. Occasionally, I would go grocery shopping with Gary, following him around the grocery store like a lost puppy. When Gary went out of town, we ordered delivery, or he tried to buy enough groceries to last us the time he was gone. Gary was out of town most of this February, and there was some discussion about me using a motorized wheelchair cart so that I could go grocery shopping. I forgot this idea when I went to the grocery store. Xavier pushed the grocery cart and did much of the actual shopping. We have to go to three different grocery stores to find the products we need because of food allergies. That day, Xavier did all the shopping at the second store, while I sat at the front of the store. We skipped the third. Just driving to and from the grocery store, along with walking around the grocery store was fatiguing enough that I didn't know if I would be able to drive home. It was very scary.

When I first experienced symptoms, the most prominent one was speech problems. I would forget to finish a sentence, just stop talking in the middle of the sentence and have no idea what I was talking about. I began to slur my speech and stutter. It was incredibly difficult to get my thoughts from my mind to my mouth. It felt as though I had absolutely no control over my brain or body.

Shortly after I started experiencing speech problems, we had a social function to attend. Gary sat me next to a 'safe' friend. We had been friends for a few years, and she immediately started talking. Talking was what we both did best; well, it was what we both used to do best. I know longer did anything well except sleep. When I started trying to talk, she looked at me in horror. Within moments, my 'safe' friend had moved to another table, and I was left to sit alone.

That experience has exemplified what chronic illness means to me. I have lost friends, and family has become distant. It feels as though I have spent the last five years watching the world walk away.

To be continued.


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