Fight Like A Girl

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just touches your heart? Many of us are fortunate to meet a few people like this in our lifetimes. A spouse, a bestie (<3 TH!!), a boon companion, someone who just gets you on many levels. The sensation of depending on that person for moral support, sharing hilarious moments, trading silly gifts and cards because you saw something at 9:37 p.m. at the drugstore while on a beer-and-tampon-run and you just had to get it. Sometimes the best part is their reaction to these random interjections into life. One of my favorite things to do when shopping with my bestie is to pick out inappropriate outfits and completely seriously ask her opinion, because I know every time she is going to laugh and roll her eyes at me.

Just imagine if you met a whole group of people like this. There are lots of places for moms to meet up – MOPS, church groups, PTA moms, sports moms, etc. and dads have lots of similar venues. The parents all bond over some shared aspect of life and from that, you build a group of friends you can count on to share life’s victories and sorrows, the mundane and the spectacular. Support from like minded people – whether it be at an AA meeting or friends from college – I believe, is crucial for humans to feel connected, balanced, and whole.

Now imagine that you met this wonderful group of people online. These days, it isn’t so far fetched as it used to be. When I was first on the internet, it seemed unlikely that I would actually connect with people in such a way as to think of them as *actual* people. They were user names that sometimes made me laugh and cry. Years later, I would meet the man of my dreams through an online dating website, so I knew there were real people behind those names and many of them were a lot like me – looking for connections in a society that can make it difficult to meaningfully connect with others.

When I was pregnant with Melody 9 years ago, I was looking for an online support group. After trying several that were highly recommended, I found one at an unlikely site – babyfit.com. I am not a health nut. I do not run marathons. I am not really the poster child for a super healthy adult, so a fitness website seemed like a stretch for like minded people. I took a chance though, and joined the due date club February 2007. Our early posts tracked our progress in our pregnancies. As we faced the challenges of gestational diabetes, scary ultrasounds, and hormonal mood swings, it became easy to talk about marital issues, personal triumphs at work, the achievements of older children, the fears of some of our military mamas…we bonded over the pregnancies, but became friends over everything else.

Years passed and we moved our group to Facebook. Suddenly those anonymous screen names became real names, real people, with lots of dimensions! We planned meet ups, talked on the phone, Skyped, texted….we became 2D friends. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of these women in person. They are more than just the women from my due date club. I check in on them daily, have daily conversations with many of them, dream of meeting many more. We are what I recently described as an “international group of crazy people” who love each other fiercely, madly, deeply and whole heartedly. For 9 years now, we have been a force of nature, 60-some women making our ways in life with the full knowledge that no matter what happens, we have 60-some girlfriends to back us up, prop us up and cheer us on. We have weathered the death of a child, ugly divorces, cheating husbands, and painful betrayals, but we continue to be strong somehow, bringing love and friendship every day.

This is getting long, I’ll try to get to the point, but it’s painful and I don’t really want to.

About two years ago, one of my friends was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her name is Claire. At the time, she was given chemotherapy and radiation treatment. We pulled our jaws off the floor and united in supporting her. One of our husbands created a logo for our group. One of our women wrote an amazing poem about the strength of our bond. Many of us created quilt squares which were put together by another member, then shipped to England where Claire lives, and she was able to wrap herself in a virtual hug from all of us around the world as she struggled through the difficulties of her treatments. We fundraised so her family would not have to worry about groceries, clothing, holiday gifts, whatever. At that moment, we became the 60-woman family behind that small unit of 6 people in England. She named her tumor Mo and we all chanted “Mo is going down.” We changed our Facebook profile photos to our logo to show her visually how much we support her. And, after her treatments revealed that Mo was gone, caput, shrunk so small as to be undetectable, we rejoiced! Claire had done it and we had played a tiny part! The power of friendship carried us over into a sense of invincibility. We said “fight like a girl!” and she got that shit done!

Recently, however, she has been feeling pain in her back, lower abdomen, and other places. She’s been bugging her doctor about it and they finally set up a CT scan to see what is happening inside. It isn’t pretty. Mo is gone, yes, but his cousin is in her abdomen pressing on her kidneys, and his son is in her lymph nodes. Because of the placement of the mass in her abdomen, it is inoperable. Because cancer cells in the lymph nodes opens the door for the cells to travel through the whole body, the prognosis is grim. I have not seen my group go so shocked before. For a moment of stunned silence, there was a collectively stopped heart. It is hard to describe what that feels like when you realize it is happening in many time zones across the Earth.

And then, then this force of nature, this international group of crazy people, we all sprung into action. We have been brainstorming how we can help, because honestly when you live 5000 or more miles away, there is no popping over to help with the laundry or taking the kiddies out so Claire can rest, but it is in our very nature to want to help. We are all moms, you see, and we kiss skinned knees and soothe hurt feelings when friends say something mean. We decided that the way we can help right off the bat is to make it so the “Redfraggle” family (their cute nickname for themselves) can concentrate on being together, making memories that will last forever, and not have to worry financially. Do they want to take the kids out for ice cream at 11:30 Tuesday morning? So be it! Shall they go on a driving trip to their favorite place? Off you go. But we aren’t made of money either. If we all pitch in together, maybe we can make those memories easier to happen.

We have started a YouCaring page. YouCaring is different from GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites because they only charge the processing fee (rather than other sites that take up to 10% of the donation amount in fees) and they allow international currency. Because we have people in France, England, Australia, South Africa, Japan, America and Canada, we really need an international program! :-) perhaps you might like to help a little bit, too. It doesn’t need to be much, that is the beauty of crowdfunding – if 100 people gave $5, pretty soon we’d have $500. I hope that this essay has not been so long you have stopped reading. It is very difficult to convey just how much this special lady means to our group, and to me personally. Her son and my daughter were born on the same day. We are the same age. We have had similar struggles in life but still manage to come out with a smile and a laugh for others. She is kind and caring, with a beautiful spirit that is uplifting and warm. She is my friend and not enough people in the world have had the opportunity to be blessed with meeting her.

If you feel so moved, please click the group logo below to jump over to the YouCaring site and make a donation. It will mean four children will have their mother with them a bit longer and a man will have the love of his life by his side at night. Thank you.

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Click to go to YouCaring

 

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Peanut Butter Eggs, Made

Gram's Recipe Box

Not too long ago, I posted three recipes for peanut butter eggs, and at the time I thought they sounded pretty easy. So, this past weekend I decided to try one of them! Here we go.

IMG_1334 Ingredients for peanut butter eggs

Here’s the ingredient list:

1 lb box xxx sugar

3/4 c melted butter or oleo

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 T cocoa

5 T peanut butter any kind

I omitted the salt, as my friend and frequent site reader Diane B commented, a pinch of salt in a pound of sugar sounds irrelevant. I used creamy peanut butter and unsalted butter.

It's like brownie batter It’s like brownie batter

Once combined the mixture was a bit loose, like a pudding. Hm, I thought, how am I going to shape these into eggs? Off to the store for a candy mold! Joanne’s is a dangerous place for a woman and child…

View original post 388 more words

The luck of good dentistry

Today I had to have two on-lays put in, much to the dismay of my pocketbook, but they got me to thinking. One of the fillings replaced was the very first filling I ever got, when I was six or eight years old. My dentist was Shigio Kishi DDS, in Fountain Valley. When I was growing up, it seemed like everyone went to to Dr. Kishi or his partner Craig Ota DDS at Westhaven Dental. The practice was right next to the Fountain Valley Twin theater where we saw Bambi and The Bad News Bears (the real one, with Jodi Foster). The center had a Market Basket grocery store and we often rode our bikes across Mile Square Park to go to appointments.

Later on in our dental adventures, everyone seemed to go to Dr. Benedaret just up the street. They probably had a nice referral program lol.

Anyway, my very first filling, an amalgam silver filling, the worst kind, had no decay under it. It had not fallen apart. It had not even stained the surrounding tooth surfaces. Believe it or not, this 38 year old filling would probably been fine, it was the crack in the tooth that necessitated the replacement. I can only credit this to the excellent work done all those years ago by Dr. Kishi, carried on by Dr. Ota, and now by Dr. Toorani, who bought into the practice some 15 years ago. My chart is so thick they scanned the majority of it because it was falling apart. I have been fortunate to have every teeth cleaning except one at this practice.  :-)

So, here’s to the luck of having good dentistry! So many of my friends were scarred by a negative dental experience as children, but I can honestly say that I never did – unless you count my disappointment when I realized the treasures in the treasure box were really just cheap trinkets. Melody still loves them, though, and we are continuing the positive experiences with her too. How many kids say “yay!” when you tell them they are going to the dentist?

Nest learning thermostat learned to be a jerk

We installed a Nest learning thermostat last year when we replaced the heating & air conditioner. It’s nifty, we thought! It will learn our preferences, we thought!

For quite a while (read, summer time) it was wonderful. Sometimes we would adjust the temperature on the fancy iPhone app, but it usually kept the house comfortable.

Now it’s winter time, which in Southern California means we have chilly nights and can get up to 80 degrees during the day. This morning it was 40 and it’s forecasted to be 75, so a 35 degree split. This seems like the perfect challenge for a Nest learning thermostat! Figure out that we like the house to be right around 70-72, so give us a little heat in the morning and maybe a little cool in the afternoon (if at all), then only if it gets cold outside, give us a little heat at night. Not too difficult.

Recently, we found that every afternoon, the heater was coming on and running hell bent for leather because the Nest had set itself to 77 degrees. We turned the temperature down. The next day, the same thing happened, we turned the temperature down again. The next day, repeat…until I finally googled this and it seems Nest will automatically set target temperatures based on what it thinks you like.

I have never set the heat to 77 degrees. Ever. My husband is a walking heater so he certainly hasn’t set it to 77. Where did Nest get this idea?

It's lying to you

You set it here, but psych! it’s 77

As it turns out, other people have been complaining about this very thing. One poor guy’s Nest was kicking up the heat to 90! The Nest is supposed to learn your schedule as you use it, and then it creates scheduled temperature actions, such as heating or cooling, based on your habits. Since we haven’t ever set the heat to 77 I’m not sure why Nest thinks we want that, but I digress. The only way to try to trick the Nest is to delete the preset schedule. Hurray! we thought, we have fixed it! John deleted the full week’s worth of preset temperature spikes to 77 degrees in the afternoon.

Wouldn’t you know it. Nest has added a full preset schedule to send that temperature up to 77 every morning.

I don’t want it to be 77 in the house. Ever. That’s the point I start thinking of turning on the air conditioner. Searching the Nest community forums revealed that you cannot really get rid of this scheduling feature. You can only “teach” your Nest better. Really? 8 months of teaching this thing isn’t enough for it to know that 77 degrees is hot. It’s frustrating.

The concept of a learning thermostat is only as good as the programmers that allow the consumer to actually teach the damn thing their preferences. At this point, resetting the Nest to its original out-of-the-box status and starting over might be the only way to teach it we don’t want to roast. The one thing Nest does have going for it is the convenience of the iPhone app. If I had to interrupt work to walk over and reset the thermostat every time it had a hot flash, I’d be tempted to smash it off the wall instead.

Armistice Day / Veterans Day

The beautiful “The Green Fields of France” pays tribute to the terrible war that ultimately brought us Veteran’s Day. Armistice was called to take place at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month – November 11. After WWI, Armistice Day was observed, really by a moment of silence at 11:11 a.m. Later on in America and elsewhere, it was changed to honor all veterans, because sadly, The War to End All Wars didn’t accomplish that.

Scroll down for a photo video with The Fenians playing this haunting song, and then a simply beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner by the Fenians at our local pub Muldoons.

“The Green Fields Of France”
(originally by Eric Bogle)

Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in 1916
Well I hope you died quick
And I hope you died clean
Or Willy McBride, was is it slow and obsceneDid they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forestAnd did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart you’re forever nineteen
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane
In an old photograph torn, tattered, and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

The sun shining down on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished long under the plow
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard that’s still no mans land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation were butchered and damned

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

And I can’t help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

Hating Columbus

All across the internet yesterday I saw numerous posts and articles about how horrible Christopher Columbus was because in 14 hundred and 92 he sailed the ocean blue – and accidentally landed in the Bahamas instead of India.

All these posts bashing Christopher Columbus just irritate me.

I find it disingenuous to constantly lambast Columbus.  Europeans were coming to America before him (Leif Ericson in 1001) and continued to come after him.  If we didn’t celebrate Columbus Day, we would celebrate some other explorer’s day. People were moving around, finding out what they could do, it was the Age of Exploration, for goodness sakes! The cost of goods coming overland from the East was high and the demand for those goods inspired the quest for better trade routes. Whether they sailed south along the coast of Africa or west across the Atlantic Ocean, financial gain and greed drove the explorers onward.

People tend to forget that within ten years of Columbus landing in the West Indies, John and Sebastian Cabot landed in Canada (1497), Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope (1498), Alonzo de Ojedo explored what became Columbia and Venezuela (1499), Vicente Pinzon and Juan Dias de Solis discovered Brazil (1500), Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa discovered what we now know as Panama (1500), and Amerigo Vespucci – who America was really named after – explored the coast of South America (1501). Only 14 years after his famous voyage, Columbus was dead (1506). Within twenty years of that, explorers had visited Argentina, Florida, Uruguay, Mexico, the Gulf Coast, New York Bay, Nicaragua, Grenada, Honduras, Guatamala, El Salvador, Yucatan, Jamaica, Cuba, Hispaniola, and Haiti, and Hernan Cortez had looted the Aztec kingdom.

The day could more accurately be called European Explorers Day.

But, these people did not know they were bringing disease to the citizens of The New World. The early explorers barely understood that washing their hands and bodies was a good thing, let alone that it would prevent the spread of disease in many cases. People had been interacting with one another for thousands of years across Europe, Africa and Asia. They didn’t understand herd immunity or that isolation from disease would lower the immune systems of the native peoples. They brought colonists – just as they had in the Old World – to settle in the newly discovered lands. The colonists brought the things they liked, such as horses, pigs and cattle, coffee, citrus fruits and cotton. The new lands gave them tobacco, tomatoes, vanilla, turkeys and potatoes.

This silly meme that says “celebrate by going into your neighbor’s house and claiming you live there” is just that, silly. Throughout human history, kingdoms had been conquering their neighbors and claiming the new territory as their own – and don’t think that kind of behavior was exclusive to Europeans. The native peoples over here did the same thing, fighting among and between tribes for territory, peace treaties and alliances, and even marriages between princes and princesses of the tribes to expand territory and secure numbers. This is human nature.

We have to remember one thing. They thought they were doing the right thing based on their understanding of the world *at that time*.  Spreading Christianity was mandated by the Bible, and since many people were devout, they did as they were taught. No one seemed to “own” the land as they could comprehend, so they just took it in the name of their sponsor country. To them, the conquering and plunder of local peoples was no different from the conquering of Constantinople by the Ottomans (1453). As with so much of history, we can accept that it didn’t work out well for everyone involved, but we can’t change it by criticizing the participants.  We should not apply our own knowledge and understanding of the world and then judge our uneducated predecessors. That only serves to pander to our own egos and make us feel superior from the safety of our computers and smart phones.

But don’t hate Columbus. That’s like trying to turn a river with a teacup.

iScrapbook Templates

Some of the fun stuff I do in all my spare time results in pictures. Haha, of course it does! I use iScrapbook to make beautiful photo books these days. I used to scrapbook with Creative Memories, back when it was all analog, cutting pieces of paper and sticking it to the page. There was something special about putting in all that time and creative energy to produce a beautiful keepsake of memories and times gone by. I still cherish all those albums I made, plus several my sister made for me. Yes, it is easy to make a quick memory book in iPhoto or on Shutterfly, but I was missing the creative aspect of designing pages. I never got the hang of Photoshop Elements for making scrapbooks, and then my husband found iScrapbook. It integrates seamlessly with iPhoto, plus I can use pretty much any clip art of graphics I choose to buy or find free on the web, in addition to beautiful kits sold at their website. I have really been enjoying my digiscrapping and am able to keep up with the photos much better than I did in the past! In fact, with photo sharing (since my whole family is on Macs of some type or another) I have access to family photos almost immediately, no waiting for a CD or prints.

All that being said, there are a few things I learned back in those simpler scrapbook days that have never left me. One consultant taught us how to make quilt blocks from the various papers. I used them for my cover pages or just inside the books. Today, I still love using quilt patterns in my photo books. Although iScrapbook has smart templates that make it easy to just start making pages, after using them for several years – and them not putting out any new ones in several years – I started creating my own smart templates. A smart template features placeholders for papers, photos and elements, resulting in a quick page that looks like you spent hours on it. I started out making really basic ones, 6 portrait photos; 9 square photos, things like that. But the quilts…they kept popping up in my mind.

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Once I got the hang of making templates, I really got into it! Not only did I learn to make the quilt pages back in the day, but also to use shapes to create other images.

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Then, I went back to some more standard types of pages, just with a new thought process. How can I make pages that aren’t boring?

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I especially love using some of the panorama iPhone images in my books. They are really wonderful because they show the whole environment.

The iScrapbook shapes and presets are limited at best. I can’t create some of the really new looks, simply because they haven’t gotten there yet. Hopefully the developer will continue to enhance and build this product, and possibly even add some new templates for those of us who use it a lot! I hope you might have found some inspiration from these templates. I was going online and looking at templates to get some of my ideas and I’m happy to share these with you.