Tuesday, March 31, 2009
When you register with the Army of Women, you are indicating your interest in learning about active research studies in need of volunteers. You will then receive email updates from the Army of Women announcing new research studies looking for volunteers just like you. The email will detail the research project and who and what the researchers need. If you fit the criteria and you’d like to participate, all you need to do is reply to the email and let us know you’ve accepted our “Call to Action.” If you accept the Call to Action, you will be contacted by an Army of Women staff member, who will make sure you meet the study criteria and answer any questions you might have about study participation. You will never be pressured to take part in any study. The decision to take part is yours — and yours alone. If you meet the study criteria and are interested in taking part, the Army of Women staff member will let you know what you need to do next.
I registered with the Army of Women a few months ago. My reasons for doing so include the fact that my mother had breast cancer at the age of 40 (and luckily came through it just fine) and I have a keen desire to make some kind of impact in helping to fight this insidious disease.
So far, the Army of Women has called all of its volunteers, which as of today number over 270,000 women, to action for about five studies. I have not fit the parameters for any of the studies yet and therefore have not been able to participate in any kind of research but I hope to do so some day. I do find that I feel great knowing that I’ve put myself out there as a volunteer, and even if my services can’t be used right now, I’ve offered them up to the organization; in doing so, I’ve taken a crucially important first step in helping scientists fight the battle against breast cancer.
I challenge you to do the same.
Check out the Army of Women’s website at: www.armyofwomen.org.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Somewhere between the two weeks of 12 hour days, the launching of a new graphics system and being pregnant - I am exhausted and out of time.
But I've got a very specific topic on my mind right now, so if I get some time, I promise I'll throw it up here for discussion.
So...does that sound obcessive complusive?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This weekend I spent more time with my mom on my own than I have in years and it was really nice. We had a pedicure ( a real treat for me- I have only had two in my life), dinner, a play an shopping over the weekend). If you are ever in the Chicago area and in need of a good laugh, I would highly recommend, "Don't Dress for Dinner" at the Royal George Theater. It actually a British play that is very well done and truly funny. My husband actually joined us for this part of the weekend as well and he was pleasantly surprised;)
Now, having gotten the female conversation fix that I have been craving, it's occurred to me how little time I have spent with my family and friends lately. It is not something I have been consciously doing; just going through the routine, spending time with my husband on weekends and going from one thing the next, but, it happens and every once in awhile when I get the opportunity to share some stories or listen to a friend, that I realize how much I miss it.
I also realized a couple of things. Technology has actually made it easier and harder to communicate. While it is easier to send a quick email, instant message or text someone when we need to, we may have lost the ability to communicate on a more personal level. While I owe my living to technology and appreciate all of its conveniences, I have learned that picking up the phone or making the time to see a friend in-person is much more gratifying.
Secondly, the old adage about time spent at work vs. time spent with family and friends is very true. At the end of our lives, when we are reflecting on what we have had and what we did, we are never going to say, "I wish I had spent more time at work!" I need to remind myself of this when work gets hectic and infringes on personal time like it has been lately.
Third, it has been a long cold winter here in the Midwest, so much so that I am beginning to wonder if I have inherited the Seasonal Affective Disorder that the rest of my family seems to suffer from. Now that I am through it, I am realizing that I am way overdue for some more time with people one-on-one. I am also overdue for making time for myself (to be by myself), because I have learned this can be valuable as well.
You see, I know the value of time spent with friends and family and on myself, but, every once in a while we all need reminding. It will do me some good to work on this concept, until I feel better about my schedule again lately...
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
First let me get you up to speed about something: Kurt (Sr.), now 47, is a landscape artist. This just came into being about seven years ago. Up until then, he was just your ordinary guy, who would mumble a reply of "Uh-huh" on all of the many walks we took in the evening here in Texas when I would rant and rave in awe of the lovely colors of the sunset. (Thank you to polluted Houston for that!) At the time, we had lived in our house for about three years. Our walls were still mostly bare, because we couldn't agree on purchasing any kind of art that we both liked. Kurt's mom, an art major and artist herself, suggested that we simply paint some pictures together and hang them on our walls. My response was a very sarcastic, "Yeah, right" as I never advanced from stick figures and finger paints from my childhood years. Kurt was intrigued by the idea, however, and began painting. Over the years, he's become quite good at his craft and his paintings adorn our walls. Here is a painting he recently finished that now hangs over our fireplace mantel:
And here is one of my favorites which hangs in our front hallway:
Lastly, here is his work that always makes me smile when I look at it. It is Kurt's painting of the Fairy Tale Meadow framed by the Karawanken Mountains in Austria, where Kurt and I met and went on our very first date. Kurt is a fanatical mountain climber and hiker, and this date was a "test", a supposedly "easy" 7 hour hike to test my love of the outdoors and physical prowess. I passed the test but could barely walk for the next 5 days. (Not kidding.)
So, now that I've bragged a little about my husband's artistic skills, it's on to the project that he completed for our son this past week. Kurt's "studio" is our garage. He built himself his own monstrous easel and spends whatever time he can (which isn't much as a dad of a preschooler) creating additional masterpieces. Kurt decided that Kurt Jr. needed to have an easel of his own, too, so he built a miniature one for him and even a little table next to it to organize his paints. Our son loves it! He and Papa can now paint side by side to their hearts' desire. This is the two of them hard at work:
Isn't that just the sweetest thing??
And here's Kurt Jr. happy as a clam with his easel and paint table:
I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband and father to our son!
Monday, March 23, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
I'm one of those moms who does not sugarcoat motherhood. You'll never catch me touting the life of the SAHM, gushing with joy about how delightful my time with my son is. Half of the time, when I voice my true feelings in this regard, I get various degrees of disapproving looks from most SAHMs. So, if you're one of those moms right now with that "Man, this chick is screwed up" look on your face who's super relieved I can't see you at this very moment through the blogosphere, it's OK; I've witnessed it hundreds of times before and have become downright thick-skinned about it. Don't get me wrong, though; I love my son beyond words and cherish (most of) my time with him. However, I'm honest about my feelings about being a mom. For me, it's not always the greatest thing in the world. Frankly, I think working full time, although draining, would be easier on the mind for me. I miss my full time work. I was an educator for 12 years teaching high school German. Now, I still do work part time as an adjunct instructor at a local community college and I LOVE it. But I miss being an important and daily part in the lives of young people. I miss eating lunch with my colleagues and sharing countless laughs about our daily struggles and triumphs as teachers. Most of all, I miss the way my mind was completely, 100% occupied with the intellectual stimulation of work throughout the work day.
So, I'm sorry, but Candy Land just does not cut it. And sometimes when I play it with my son, I think I'm going to keel over at any time. Cause of death: Boredom Beyond Belief.
Perhaps you're thinking, "Well, come on, as a mostly SAHM, you ARE an important and daily part in the life of the most important young person in your little circle, your son!" And I fully agree with that. However - believe it or not - I actually find working with teenagers a lot easier than the "work" I've done raising my son since his birth four years ago.
To keep myself motivated as a parent, I have an article that I cut out of a magazine stuck to my refrigerator for me to glance at every day and remind me of my important presence in my son' life. It's entitled, "Sacred Time with Children" by Thomas Moore. Moore writes that "being a parent is a spiritual office...when you are giving so much, you are becoming a vaster, more enlightened being." And I agree with him 100 percent. I do believe, as Moore states, that on a daily basis during all of those countless daily necessities of "cleaning, teaching, picking up, driving, paying for school and lessons, guiding, counseling, feeding, clothing, and entertaining" that I am "ministering" my son in order to "transform [him] into a thoughtful, engaged adult."
Seeing that article everyday is a great way for me to begin my day motivated to live in the present and to smile and laugh with my son as much as I can. Except that is, when my brother-in-law pays us a visit. He sees the article and calls it, "SCARED Time with Children." And, to some extent, I just can't argue with that, frankly.
So now that I've revealed my true feelings about motherhood to the entire blogosphere, I do think this post comes down to one thing: I need a new game. Board game, that is.
I'm wondering if any of you have any suggestions for fun games for preschool-age children. I'll share my son's favorites in our family's collection (and I won't mention Candy Land, because, as I'm sure you've figured out by now, if we're playing it nine times in a day, it's gotta be a given):
1) Captain Hook's Shipwreck by Tomy: This game is so cool! The game is an actual pirate ship which can pitch back and forth and all around. The goal is to move a weighted ghost of Captain Hook around the ship and knock your fellow players overboard before they can get to the pirate treasure on the ship before you do.
2) Cariboo by Cranium: This is also a treasure hunt type of game but it's played in a more educational manner. Also a fun game!
3) Diggity Dog, by International Playthings Inc.: Love this game; it's just too cute! You move little doggies around a game board and try to find your doggy color's corresponding color bone. The dogs have magnetic noses and can "sniff" the bones to look at the colors underneath them.
So, what are your suggestions? I'm hopeful for as many responses as possible.
Because if I have to play another game of Candy Land today, I may do something drastic...
On a related topic, I have been skipping periods left and right. Last month was the first one I had since November! Yikes! I knew I wasn't pregnant because I tested frequently. Now, I am two weeks late again. It's a little unnervering. Last year, I was put on the pill for excessive menstral pain but I have been off of them since August. I am only going to be 39 so I don't think it is perimenipause yet. My doctor says it's hormones but, am I not too young? Has anyone else experienced this?
Other than that, I feel great. I have energy again and I spring out of bed in the morning. I get tons done and I even enjoy doing it. It's just this pesky little thing that is bugging me. So blogosphere...lend me your thoughts. Am I a freak of nature?
Friday, March 13, 2009
Unfortunately for you guys, there's only a few things that have been on my mind lately: the baby, getting our house ready for the baby, and work.
So, let's try a variation on the theme: how uncomfortable the baby is making me and my fear of maternity pants. I know, I'm crazy. But I actually have a deep-seated fear of three articles of women's clothing: full-panel maternity pants, granny underwear and house coats.
Now, these are my fears and I own them.
I know many rational women, that I respect, who claim they love full-panel maternity pants because they fit and are super comfortable.
My mom wears a house coat every night around, well, the house.
And granny underwear? You may have a reason for having 12 pairs in your drawer, but I just can't help it. I don't own any and I never will. It makes me feel old. And un-sexy (not that you ever feel sexy when you're pregnant!)
So, I wear maternity bikinis, low-rise maternity pants and sleep in a tank top and shorts.
I don't think what you wear changes who you are. Or what you're going through. I am not any different than a mom-to-be in a polka-dot tent dress and a bow at the neck.
But by avoiding those three simple things, I feel better. It's a psychological game I play with myself. What about you?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I thought my friend Jane (not her real name) had done a pretty good job and something most of us would never have the guts to do in pursuing her dreams. For the past four years, she has been in a number of commercials, stage plays, and an ensemble member of a local theater company that works with children and adults teaching them life skills such as tolerance, communication, self-esteem, and more. I thought she was already pretty good at figuring out what made her happy. Then I received an email from her asking for me to take part in a “think tank” session to listen to her ideas to open a new kind of art gallery near her home.
The participants in the think tank session gathered at her apartment and were treated to refreshments and a warm reception. Jane asked a friend to mediate the discussion to make sure we stayed on track. We were instructed first to listen to Jane’s idea and learn what input she would like from us before jumping in with our own ideas or information. Jane shared with us her idea for the gallery which she had already spent a good amount of time determining what would make her gallery unique. It was her chance to share with us what she had been contemplating; for it to become real by sharing it with people she respected.
Then it was our turn to provide feedback and support. We were thrilled with what she had come up with even though she admitted that when it came to the business side of things she would need help along with way. So we shared with her one by one how we would pursue such an endeavor and what contacts and information we had on hand. Here is the list of the group's suggestions that I thought I would share with you in case you too are considering a new direction:
- Do your research. Comb the Internet to find professionals and the organizations that will share with you the best practices of their field.
- Find examples of people who are doing it right and those who have made their mistakes and learn from their stories.
- Go to events, or make some phone calls that will put you in touch with people who are already in the business or doing what you are interested in whether it is a new career, becoming a stay at home mom, running a marathon or painting a landscape.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Create a list of everything you think you need to make your dream a reality.
- Put together a plan -set small and achievable goals (milestones) that you can work on along the way.
- Share your idea with friends via email or in person – you never know who else your friends or family knows; they could be the key to taking your plan to the next level.
- When it comes to starting a business, take on a partner (or two) who will compliment your skills and knowledge with the qualities you have learned are necessary to succeed.
- Put together a proposal that details your short term and long term plan.
- When you are thinking about starting a new business, include in your proposal all of the costs, not just for establishing the business but keeping it on track in the good times and the bad. Again, in terms of a business, you would want to provide details about your plan for the next five to ten years (or however long it would take to repay the loan). Investors want to know you have done your homework and you are serious about making the business last.
Some of these ideas may not apply to what you are after, but, a number of them are sure to be useful if you are thinking about making a change regardless of what you are thinking about. The point is, if you want to try something new, don’t just leave that dream on the shelf. The more you do to move forward , the more real it will become and the better your chance of success.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When I was 14, my mom spotted two moles on my body, one on my stomach and one near my left temple on my head. I knew they were there; they'd been around for as long as I could remember, but being a kid, I didn't know that their scaley, crusty appearance was anything to worry about. By chance, my mom saw me naked that day. I don't think she had in a long while. Once I hit those preteen years, the thought of anyone seeing me naked was horrifying (despite the fact that there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to see). So, the fact that my mom was able to take a good look at me with my birthday suit on was pretty out of the ordinary. Personally, I've always thought there must have been some divine intervention, because I think my mom saved my life that day.
A few days later, I found myself in her doctor's office undergoing a minor surgical procedure to have both moles removed. We found out later that week that the biopsy reports were normal; both moles were just your average joe-shmoe moles, nothing to worry about. Pfew! Truthfully, I didn't exactly know what we were so relieved about. I knew that cancer was a sickness. My mom had had breast cancer a few years before then, but she came out of it just fine. The word melanoma was foreign to me at that age, perhaps even to my mom, too, I think to most people back then, frankly. Skin cancer just wasn't a big concern in the early 80s; no one talked about it or knew much if anything about the disease.
Now, somewhere right around that time, I don't remember if it was before or after that first mole removal incident, my family and I took a vacation to Sanibel Island off of the coast of Florida. What a paradise! Coming from chilly Wisconsin where the weather is less than desirable 8 months out of the year, my family was totally into the tropical island experience. I still remember my dad pointing up to the sky periodically during our visit there and shouting, "Boss! Dee Plane! Dee Plane!" Yes, I must ruefully admit, we were faithful TV viewers of Fantasy Island at the time, and during that vacation on that breathtakingly beautiful island, we lived out our own fantasies of lazy days on sandy white beaches surrounded by nothing but lush vegetation, water, and sunshine.
Until the day we decided to go shell collecting. We woke up before dawn and made our way to the beach in the dark during low tide when shell finding is supposed to be at its best. We walked with our heads down, scouring the beach for miles, finding as many beauties as we could for hours. Finally, somewhere around noon, my mom decided it would be a good idea to put on sunscreen. No, we didn't have any on until that point. And, yes, it was too late. We had been out in the sun for about 5 or 6 hours already and had completely underestimated its morning strength. We sure felt it later though. To say we were sunburned is an understatement; fried is more like it, especially my younger brother and I. Red as lobsters. And in a lot of pain. It was so bad, my mom called the local hospital to find out what to do. After a few sponge baths, we hit the sack for a night of little sleep with wet, cold washcloths over the areas burned the worst. In the morning the blisters had popped out, and we could barely move. So, we spent the next couple of days in the hotel room ordering room service for all of our meals. We eventually ventured out to do a little shopping (the word "beach" was akin to speaking heresy; not one of us breathed a word of it) but were we ever a motley crew to behold. The tops of my hands were burned the worst and I couldn't lower them because it was too painful, so I had to walk with my arms raised and held out, Frankenstein-style. My brother completed the Frankstein picture, as he got hit the worst on the back of his legs, behind his knees, and had to walk with his legs stick straight; any bending caused him great pain. The tops of my mom's feet were her nightmare, so she had to walk around without shoes. My dad, who apparently has great skin, was burned but had no blisters, so he was pretty comfortable. That's the way we made our way around the island for the last few days of our vacation...and how we boarded the plane to fly home...and how we greeted my grandmother who picked us up at the Milwaukee airport to drive us home. I still vividly remember her only words to my mother once she layed her eyes on our family in the terminal: "Oh, Sharon." Now, imagine the worst tone of disappointment and frustration that you can in those words and you'll have an idea of my grandmother's dismay.
My mom still feels guilty about what happened to us during that vacation almost 20 years ago. I've tried to reassure her that we were just ignorant Wisconsinites who didn't know how strong the sun was that far south that early in the morning. Plus, everyone's version of "sun screen" back then was SPF 6. Any higher than that and you felt like you were wearing an iron shield for really no good reason; it was considered "healthy" to have a golden-brown tan on your skin. I definitely thought so; it sure helped my teenage acne, made my blue eyes stand out beautifully, and gave my hair some lovely highlights.
No one knew back then that if you got even one blistering burn before the age of 18, your chances of getting melanoma as an adult skyrocket by 50%. My brother found out, though. At the age of 27, he was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma; the cancer had spread from a mole on his back to some lymph nodes in his neck. We were all shocked when the results of his biopsy came back, me most of all. After all, I was the "moley" one. Since that first surgical procedure at 14, I visited the dermatologist annually and had a mole removed on average about once a year. Moles are everywhere on my body. I was amazed that I hadn't been the one to get melanoma, that all of my biopsies had come back with good reports.
Luckily, my brother made it through his ordeal, after an 8-hour surgery and a month of radiation treatments, with a clean bill of health. The physical scars of his surgery will always be there, but as for anyone who gets cancer, it is the emotional scars that are probably the most troubling for him. He puts on a strong front, but I think the fear of his cancer coming back is always with him, and the medication he has to take every day for lack of much thyroid activity as a result of the surgery is likely a daily reminder of what he went through and what could strike again at any time.
So, I write this post as a result of a conflict. A few weeks ago, I had an annual check up with my general practitioner. My blood work revealed I have a vitamin D deficiency. Well, duh. I hide from the sun. I fear it. I harbor angry thoughts toward it and what it put my brother through and what it puts me through every year with these ridiculous moles. Despite the fact that my body needs the sun to produce an important vitamin for its health and well-being, the sun is also my worst enemy. Hmmm, the irony, huh?
I also write this post with spring break upon us and the approach of warm weather for us all. Take what I've shared with you as a warning. All of the talk in recent years about skin cancer and the inherent risk about being out in direct sun for any longer than 15 minutes without sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 is true; I know, because my family has lived with the consequences of what can happen if one is not cautious.
Protect yourself...but most importantly protect your babies.
Monday, March 9, 2009
It's not even spring yet and I feel like I am behind. This weekend was supposed to be spring cleaning because the rest of the month is devoted to outings and of course, gardening. We were blessed with some 60 degree weather and of course, I was inside for all of it. So, I didn't even get to enjoy it. But, it was just enough to give me some spring fever!
Along with the urge to clean and plant, I have the urge for change. I have been wanting to paint the living room, get a new wardrobe and get a new haircut. Does anyone else feel this way? Does anyone else have the fever?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
First and foremost, what is the deal with Twitter?
Other than curiousity to see what famous people are doing once in a great while, I don't get what the average person gets from broadcasting each moment of their day. I barely have enough time or think that people really care that much to update my Facebook status a couple times a week let alone telling everyone what I am doing or thinking nearly every five minutes of the day. For those of you who do want to know- I need to leave for work in five minutes and I remembered this morning that I did not write my blog contribution last night so I am afraid this is it!
Other questions can wait I guess. I had more of an idea of what to write, but, no time to do it justice so I am saving it for next week. If you want to share your thoughts on Twitter or what you are up to some time today feel free. Hope each of you busy women at home, at work or at play all day understand.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Looking back on those days of Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables, I see myself as a willing prisoner of books. I remember terrible leg cramps, a sorer than all get out butt, and various limbs and appendages falling asleep. Yet, I rarely moved a muscle while I read, perhaps just to turn the pages. I remember wanting to move, wanting to leave my bedroom because I was hungry or thirsty or desperately had to pee, but I would get so engrossed in the story at hand that I somehow just couldn't budge.
My love of reading has never ceased. Today's post was actually inspired by a book. I'm about to finish A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner), and I've found it to be a fascinating read. It's about two Afghan women and the turmoil of both their country and their own daily lives, a very powerful and eye-opening story. It's the kind of book that reminds me how very fortunate I have been to live the life I've had so far, to knock off the occasional whining and self pity, and to smile and laugh a little more often.
Which leads me to a question: I'm wondering which books you've read that have had a significant impact on you specifically as a woman. Here's a short list (not in any particular order) of some of the books that I've read recently that have somehow made a change in my outlook on life as a female:
1. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book spoke to me, because I have experienced great fulfillment in my life through travel. When I learn about and experience other places, I learn more about myself and am more content.
2. The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd. This book is an easy read, but I found the sisterhood of women and the celebration of femininity in this story to be profound.
3. Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad, by Waris Dirie. This is a fascinating autobiography about supermodel Dirie growing up in Africa.
4. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza. This has to be the book that has made the greatest impact on me in a long time; its lessons about faith and forgiveness are indispensable, and the story is absolutely gripping.
So, which books have made an impact on YOU as a woman? (Plus, I do have an ulterior motive: I'll need a new book to read soon, so bring on the suggestions!)
Monday, March 2, 2009
But seriously, my therapist feels that I am exercising self-therapy at this point and I am no longer in need of her services. I am proud of myself however, I couldn't help but feel like she was breaking up with me. I felt the same way with my OB-GYN after my youngest was born. I mean, these professionals go through something very important and personal with you. You have a rapport and then when the goal is achieved, it's just over.
I blame blogging for the break up:-) Coming out here and purging my soul daily/weekly has really helped me work out the demons....even the demons that I didn't know I had. So, thank you blogosphere! That is $50 a month I won't have to spend anymore. Just don't break up with me, ok?