Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oy Vey! It's Post-Pink Day!


You've all seen it. The PINK aisle.

There's one (or more) at every Wal-Mart and Toys "R-backward" Us store.

While I have largely avoided the pink aisle my entire life (never really did the Barbie thing as a youngling), my child seems to be a fan.

Sort of.

Mostly she likes construction equipment, playing in mud, and The Avengers.

When we head to the playground, she takes a moment to observe her contemporaries before, inevitably, joining forces with the rowdiest pack of little boys available.

But she has a girlish-side too.

For example, she loves to wear bright pink while wrestling the boys to the ground. Playing in the mud is more of a purple pants and pigtails activity. And just like The Avengers, she's an avid fan of tiny colored tights.

When we watch Mighty Machines, she does some lovely pirouettes to the theme song.

She also wears lots of jewelry when she sword fights. Personally, I think the effect is stunning.

So, come Valentine's Day, it was no stretch for her to dress in loads of pink before engaging in a few Valentine's activities.
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I'm generally terrible at posting holiday entries. I take a lot of photos, and sometimes we do noteworthy stuff as a family, but then I sort-of, kind-of forget to write anything until it feels silly to be posting Christmas 2010 around Labor Day 2011.

The only reason I'm making a point to post this holiday (ooonly one week late, thankyouverymuch) is that Jeff made Valentine's Day so special for me that I figured I shouldn't pass up the opportunity to give him a symbolic, bloggy kiss-on-the-cheek for his efforts.

And since this is the Valentine blog, it's chock full of pink, with a shot of red on the side. Put on your sunglasses (or your blinders) and proceed.

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First, we had a cute Valen-tiny photo shoot.

Bridgette insisted that Clifford the Dog and Sword join her.

She sleeps with both of them every night, and they keep her company at meals, in the car, etc. Unlike her blanket she can, in fact, sometimes do without them.

Which is good.

We're collecting quite the entourage of "friends" to lug around.








And then we made Valen-tiny cookies.

Bridgette can't eat dairy or high-sugar, so we're getting pretty good at finding vegetarian, low-sugar recipes.

The problem is that none of them taste good.

This one didn't either. The cookies were gross.

But they had SPRINKLES!


LOTS of sprinkles.


So, by "gross" I mean palatable without vomiting but not much better.

Bridgette and I packed a plate (of all the cookies we made) and took them to Jeff's team at work for a Valentine's surprise.

Aren't we sweet?

This was a perfect ploy because Jeff is a software engineer, and teams of software engineers are known for inhaling free treats too fast to notice any taste at all.


Oh, and Bridgette seemed to like them, so that was sufficient.


The dough (being an odd, vegetarian, low-sugar cutout recipe) didn't roll very well either and remained lumpy, even after cooking it.

I used the extra dough, as all good bakers do, to make one giant cookie to give to one poor, sad soul. In this case, my husband.

(In fairness, I told him he shouldn't eat it.)

Being a kind and generous man, he snacked on it before giving the final vestiges (about half) to the dogs.

Look, it has perfectly balanced SPRINKLES!


And I include this last photo because I thought the "flowers and butterflies" batch turned out well. I mean... at least they look like a load of lumpy goodness, right?


And that's the end.

That's all we did.

We took photos in pink and made disgusting cookies (with SPRINKLES). We're domestic and crafty like that. But Bridgette and I did enjoy the time together, and I think that counts for something.

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Okay! On to the bragging about my husband bit!

After I reminded Jeff that Valentine's Day was coming up . . .

J: What day is that again?
K: Same day as always. February 14th.
J: Right.
(Pause.)
J: And what day is that?

. . . he asked if I wanted flowers.

Which was a perfect question!

Because I didn't!

And it was so nice to tell him that I really didn't want flowers. Or chocolate. I wanted to go out and have an enjoyable evening, having arranged a babysitter that he scheduled in advance.

The transparency of that conversation was so empowering.

And he followed through in the most perfect way!

He took me to a Valentine's Dinner & Dance at Thanksgiving Point, complete with a delicious chef-selected multi-course meal and a live band that was truly fantastic.

Wait.

Did you catch that?

I said Jeff took me to a . . . a . . . a . . . DANCE.

I know! (Squeal!) I write the word DANCE like Bridgette says the word SPRINKLES!

This was waaaay out of Jeff's normal interest and comfort zone which made his gesture all the more generous (kind of like forcing himself to eat a cookie that tasted like canola oil mixed with apple sauce and salt, only better, cuz it made me really, truly happy).

He doted on me the whole evening.

Opened doors, pulled out chairs, took photos, talked to strangers (yes, that is doting on me), and he even DANCED. I figured I'd be lucky to get one song out of him, but he danced for over an hour.

(He said he mostly liked to watch me on the dance floor because I was hyper and giddy and crazy like a little kid. Which was true. Because he took me to a DANCE! I mean . . . ahem. In case you hadn't heard.)

Here is a photo of us when we first arrived.

It's a highly-pixelated self-portrait taken with that reverse feature on the iPhone which is cool in concept only it changes the pixel density from about 500,000(ppi) to about 5(ppi).

Still. We were at a dance.


I didn't think to take a picture of the food. I'm not a proper foodie like that.

You can imagine it instead.

Pomegranate salad. Mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash, carrots. Steak. Chicken in some kind of creamy mushroom sauce that I cannot possibly describe in words. (No mortal could.) Bread & butter. A trio of delightfully presented mousses and mini-cakes.

Yum!

Although I failed to photograph the food, Jeff did not fail to photograph me.

So this is a picture of what I wore.


Know where I got that dress? It was a costume my roommate in college helped me slap together for a live Clue party in which I played Miss Scarlet.

Of course.

What, you didn't guess that?

Also. It's red. Like, you know, Valentine red.

Also, also. I like to be as obvious as possible. In case you hadn't noticed.

Then there was the band.

When I mentioned before that they were fantastic, I was not exaggerating. They played covers of everything and played them all perfectly--Dean Martin, Neil Diamond, Adele, Michael Buble, Bruno Mars, even Beyonce--and everyone else.

They were (channeling my inner Darth Vader) most impressive.


And here is where we danced the night away.

We are not in this photo (obviously, and I apologize to the woman in purple who didn't hear me count down and shout, "Smile, everyone!") but there were a lot of folks, and the whole evening felt very glamorous.


(These were the couples dancing instead of eating their main course.)

A handful of couples showed up in jeans, but they likely felt out of place.

Most were dressed like us--a dress, a suit.

Oh! Yes! How could I have forgotten to mention this earlier?

(Slapping forehead.)

Jeff wore the suit he wore at our wedding! And he hasn't worn it since the wedding because he abhors suits in every possible way. And not only did it fit, it made me feel awesome because he dressed up just for me.


So the rest of the people (and I loved this), maybe 10% or so, were in tuxes and gorgeous formals. I even saw one woman wearing black evening gloves.

It should be mentioned, some couples were ridiculously expert dancers.

Most just danced.

A few, like me, were a bit on the nutty Look-At-Me-I-Haven't-Danced-In-Years-And-I-Feel-Like-I'm-Sixteen-Again side.

And then, well, let's face it . . . Jeff wasn't the only shuffling software engineer in the crowd who had made a strategic (and loving) move in garnering relationship points but maybe, just maybe, wouldn't have been there for any other reason.

But it really seemed like everyone was having a good time.

So.

Happy Valentine's Day.

And a big thank you to my husband for making V-Day 2012 amazing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our Little Time on Earth


Yesterday, a sweet little boy named Caleb passed from this world. He was seven years old. We loved him dearly.

Through Bridgette's personal challenges, we have been SO lucky to meet (and to "meet") other children and parents who have also been handed something unexpected. Many of these parents and children cope, every day, with so much more than we have ever had to.

I've cried a lot the last 24 hours.

Caleb and his family, especially his mother, touched our hearts in ways they will never know. April is the closest thing I've seen to an angel who walks among us. She was Caleb's perfect guardian.

His death has me thinking, as so often happens when these hard moments come, about how short life is for all of us and what it means to make the most of the time we have.

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Making the Most of It
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I had reason, earlier in my life, to think I was not going to live as long as others might. As a result, I felt an extra push to "get it done."

If I wanted to travel, then I'd better travel. If I wanted to achieve, then I'd better achieve. If I wanted that story, then I'd better go find it. I needed to talk to people, ask hard questions, sign-up for that class, attempt that sport, take that tour, unscrew those screws, eat that new food, run faster.

Do it all. Do it now. Get it done.

That attitude, I discovered, makes for intense, spontaneous experiential-living and a lot of random opportunity.

Now that I have a kiddo, as so many parents discover, I can't live for myself anymore. Not in the same way, at least.

And when you have a child with sincere challenges, suddenly, you are quite literally living for him/her-- day and night.

If you want to get on a plane and travel to __________ for the sake of your OWN experience, you can't. You have to save the desire, store it in a box, place it on a very high shelf where you can't see it and can't dwell on it, and return your focus to your child.

S/he needs you.

Their challenges become your challenges.

When Bridgette was born, of course our lives changed. And when she had surgery, our lives changed more. And when she received her first developmental evaluation, the change continued.

Now that she is active, trying to communicate, and experimenting on her own, we can only try to keep up with the change that is happening inside her.
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As life changes
Whatever that change may be
Wanted or not
It's up to us to rediscover an outlook
To help us make the most of
Our little time on earth

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Lessons Learned This Week
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Before I heard about Caleb, I had been planning to post an entry on "lessons learned this week" with a bunch of silly mom stuff I've experienced in the last 5 days.

For example:

--Crayons were designed(!) to fit into straws.

--And you can indeed(!) paint the walls with lettuce.

With Caleb's passing, I'm not writing the same post, but my conclusions about those moments feel more poignant.

Like...

Maybe, ultimately, it's exactly those kinds of experiences that are the most important to living life to the fullest. For me. Right now.

--Discovering the diameter of a crayon. Who knew?

--Teaching myself to take a deep, calming breath when I'd rather yell.

--Figuring out how to find humor in lettuce. And in paint. At the same time.

--Giving a kiss for creativity and getting a big hug in return.

--And instead of the punishment and tears that could have happened, hearing my daughter say, "I love you, mommy," when, last month, she couldn't say four words in a row.

Now that's living!

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On Experience
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No one will ever live my life but me. No one will ever see out of my eyes. There are things I've seen and done, day-to-day-to-day-to-day, that no one will ever know, and frankly, I may not even consciously remember.

Letting those little things add up --the uniqueness of each moment, every observation, each bit of knowledge, every tiny experience-- shapes who I am, how I think, and what I become.

This is important, certainly, to who I am. But perhaps, and this is getting a titch philosophical, more important is what I do.

What each of us does. And how it affects others.

No matter our stage of life, we experience. Because of our experiences --good and bad-- and how we react to those experiences, we become. Who we become then affects what we do. What we do causes others around us to have their own experiences.

What a wonderful interactive cycle.

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Caleb and April -- Being, Doing, Becoming
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To me, Caleb was the perfect "being" while April was the perfect "doing."

Together, they were both "becoming."

Through their experiences together they were becoming something greater than either would be alone.

But what they also did, by nature of "doing," is add to my individual experience.

They added to the experience of *hundreds* and *thousands* of other people who have become better people for having known them.

Their challenges, and the way they reacted to them, have blessed people around the world.

We are grateful to them. To their whole family. To Caleb's father and brothers. To April, for inspiring us by writing Caleb's blog.

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The Greatest Lesson
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Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned this week came from that leveling reminder that we all die. And life really is short, for everyone.

Although we cannot "carpe diem" every. single. moment. because we're only human, we CAN try to find the value of putting our wants in a box for a while to influence someone else's experiences.

We can rediscover an outlook, every day if we need too, that will help us make the most of life.

Last night, Caleb's passing reminded me to hold Bridgette closer, tighter, longer. It reminded me that my minutes with her are precious.

What a meaningful experience to have with a little time on earth.

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A Note from Bridgette
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Hi, April.

Thank you for letting me be one of Caleb's special buddies.

Love,
Bridgette

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Deal!

It's done! With some trepidation but mostly excitement, I've signed my first book contract!

The details are thus:

I've been in a writers group (bless them!) for a little over a year now. I've focused on writing a distopian, human-rights oriented, science-fiction novel during that time.

One of the group members (bless her!) has already been published with a local company called Cedar Fort. Back in October, she forwarded an email she received from Cedar Fort about a Christmas short story competition.

Cedar Fort had already chosen a cover author, and those who were lucky would see their short story included in a compilation.

The competition rules were broad---write a story, fiction or non-fiction, 2,000 to 20,000 words. That was it.

I ignored the email.

(Having Googled the words "Christmas Sparkle," this image seemed the most conducive to how I felt about writing a Christmas short story. I don't really do Christmas. I'm Scroogey like that.)



That night (true story!) I had a very vivid dream and woke in a jolt, sitting up and speaking the words that became the title of my Christmas story.

I have a lot of weird dreams, but the timing of this one was impeccable.

So I decided to enter the competition after all.

The story was due on November 1st, so naturally I waited until November 1st to write it. 8PM to 4AM has never tic-tocked away so quickly. In the wee hours of November 2nd, I submitted my manuscript and went to bed.

Calling it a "first draft" would be putting it mildly.

The competition winners were to be notified on January 16th, Civil Rights Day.

I was not notified.

Ah. But it was a holiday! Maybe no one was notified.

Almost a week later, I was feeling rather jilted that my story hadn't even been worth a rejection letter when an email from Cedar Fort popped up on my phone.

It was Friday. I like Friday. My first thought was, "Why did they have to send it on Friday and ruin my weekend?"

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As a related aside, we're in full band-aid mode at our house right now. I buy a box of band-aids with every trip to the store.

Bridgette is covered in band-aids at all times, and so are most of her toys. She's convinced this relieves her pain, even if her pain is from hunger, having tangles brushed from her hair, etc.



At some point she takes on the look of the living-dead, sodden band-aids hanging limply off her limbs. It's gross, so I pull them off. "No, mom! It hurts!"

We chat about being brave before I rip them quickly from her skin.

And she usually cries. Or at least she "cries," whatever crying in quotes means to you. She's fine once she's distracted.
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Back to the book.
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I opted to rip the proverbial band-aid off my tender ego and open the email. I'd "cry" then find someone/something to distract me.

Aaaaand . . . !

I was not the winner. Alas, alack, and all alliterations.

The email was lengthy for a rejection. The acquisition manager continued. "We think you should change the story here, here, here, here, everywhere!" She gave lots of specifics.

I wondered if she had suggested improvements to prove she had actually read it, despite it having been technically submitted after deadline. Sort of a... "See? We read it, ergo, we know that we don't want your story. P.S. Here are some ways you could be a better author."

Which was nice, in my mind, but not necessary. A simple rejection would do.

But then! (But then!) She wrote, "If you are willing to make these additions, we're happy to offer you a publishing contract. The book will be released in October 2012 with the rest of our Christmas titles."

Well.

That was unexpected.

And so it is. I only just signed today because of reasons I don't need to elucidate. But the truth is that I'm really excited.

As a small-ish publishing company willing to take on first time authors, Cedar Fort doesn't have the marketing clout of larger publishers. I am therefore required to hock my own wares, so to speak.

I'm hocking! I'm hocking!

Which is ironic for a writer because that refers to a tarsal joint or small cut of leg meat.

Let me try again.

I'm hawking! I'm hawking!

That's better.

So, come October, I would appreciate it if you readers (all five of you!) would please buy my book.

It's called The Window Builder.