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Meet Emily
36. Floridian. Teacher. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mommy of Four. Catholic. Gator. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Dreamer. Blogger.

Perfecting the art of wearing many hats...

Giving Up Shopping for Lent | Update 1

Well today is Sunday so it’s my normal grocery day. I didn’t make a list, I didn’t load the kids into the car, I didn’t spend an hour+ at Target getting groceries. I didn’t spend time unloading and putting them all away (or yelling at the kids to do it).

And it was GLORIOUS!!!

Do you realize how much time I gained by not doing all that? Oh my goodness!! I also didn’t make a plan for the week of meals and I’m a little nervous about that but I know we have so much stuff in the deep freezer that I can’t get near the bottom so there’s food to eat in there, plenty of it.

I keep getting questions about milk and fresh foods but my answers remain the same. I haven’t worried about that yet at all. I did realize that we will run out of salt for our water softener and I’ll need to buy more in about 2 weeks. I also need to clean the carpets and I don’t think there’s enough solution to do the job so I might have to get some of that too (or just wait to clean the carpets). So far it’s stuff more than food that I’m thinking about needing to buy. It’s really making me focus on what we really need vs just what I think we need. The kicker there is, I already thought I was pretty good at that. I know how to budget and pinch pennies. I was already not spending a ton but now it’s even less. I’m proud of that!

I am also trying REALLY hard not to be swayed by advertisements. I have given up Facebook for Lent twice now and I’m not this year but I really get sucked into the Facebook ads that are marketed directly to me. They know my weaknesses, damn them! So forcing myself to ignore that stuff has been tough. I never even buy the stuff but I always browse. Maybe that’s why I’m writing now, all my free time!

So that’s your update for now, more next week!

Giving Up Shopping for Lent

I haven’t really used this platform regularly in a while but then on February 13th I announced that I was giving up shopping for Lent. My post read:

For the sake of accountability… This year I’m giving up shopping for Lent- that’s ALL shopping including groceries. I took one last shopping trip to Target today to get stuff for Easter Baskets and one last click in my Amazon Shopping cart and we’ll see how far this takes us. I’m not sure we have 6 weeks worth of food in the pantry but I know no one is going to starve. This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever given up for Lent. Wish me luck!

Not just to be clear this isn’t something I took lightly. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I also got buy in from my family because realistically it can’t be done if they’re not on board but they are and so we began this little test of endurance and sacrifice Wednesday and it will continue until Easter, April 1.

Oh the questions! I didn’t really except more than a few “good luck” comments but I got several questions publicly posted as well as privately from people who had read my post and wanted to know more. I offered this follow up to my original post:

We have exceptions. 1) any medical necessity is a given 2) any school necessity including things I may need for my class. But necessity is key. Sorry book fair (unless the kids bring their own money) 3) if we really truly run out of food of course I’ll get more. But we have a ridiculous amount right now and I’m tired of the kids wasting food. They need to become more conscientious of the waste. Plus, the apocalypse ready level of food we have currently is making it hard to know what we have and stuff is going bad. We need to become more aware of what we have and this seems like a good way to do it. No one will starve. We can get creative. If I need to get some staples part way through then so be it.

This really boils it all down. The point of giving up something for Lent is to actually give something up and for me that’s a lot of things- it’s the thrill of shopping (I love you, Target!) as well as the time filler of browsing for things online, things that I will want and then know I can’t/won’t buy for whatever reason usually because I simply don’t need it. But for the kids it’s understanding waste and realizing when they run out of something it’s gone until April. I want them to understand the first time they go to the pantry and don’t find what they want, that I’m not going to get more of it in a few days, that they will have to wait.

I got questions about milk, bread, and fresh fruits/vegetables. My answers:

Milk: We drink almond milk which has a longer shelf life than dairy milk. I purchased enough to last 6 weeks IF it is not wasted. If we run out I have some shelf stable almond milk to supplement but no one really likes milk that much anyway so it won’t be missed.

Bread: I’ll admit this is one of my biggest worries because one of my dear children would survive solely on PB&J and it’s our go-to quick snack. But when the bread runs out he will still be able to eat peanut butter on crackers, pretzels, or dried apples.

Which brings me to fresh fruits and veggies: Well considering I have 6 rotting bananas on my counter right now and recently found 3 very shriveled up apples in the refrigerator, I don’t think my kids are appreciating the fresh fruit and vegetables too much as it is and it’s being throw out. We have lots of frozen vegetables and I mean LOTS. I’m not worried about this. It’s called a sacrifice for a reason. Their meals will still be nutritious even if the green on their plate was frozen first. Oh, and since all 4 of them eat at least one meal or snack at school, all of which include fresh fruits and veggies, they will still be getting it daily.

So that’s the run down for now. I figured this is as good a place as any to post updates on our progress. In 3 days I have spent zero $$. I did browse online but stopped myself from buying what would have been an awesome deal. I was proud of myself. I can tell this is going to be VERY hard.

2018

Here it is 2018 and the last time I posted it was the last day of 2014. So much has changed since that last post that I feel like an imposter here, looking in at someone else’s life. For one thing, we doubled the number of children we had to four. But the world has changed. It is no longer prudent to put yourself out there the way I used to. It opens you to unwanted criticism, hateful judgment from perfect strangers, and general wrath from people who look through the window of your life as though they have some right to peek inside- and I suppose when you are sharing your story for the world to see, they kind of do. In any case, I used to enjoy writing and sharing my life here. I like to think that I was a blogger before blogging was a thing tons of people did. I built this from the ground up, teaching myself along the way. And for now I’m moving on. I will keep my life more private for my children, and for myself. If you’ve stopped by here and we know each other or even if we don’t, say hi. I can’t promise new posts any time soon but it felt like an update was needed. Until next time…

Twenty Fourteen

I love the Time Hop app. If you don’t have it, you should get it. It’s like a little trip down memory lane every day. Today when I checked mine, I was reminded that now’s the time to make my annual end of the year post to my blog which, I was also reminded, was born 10 years ago this month. That’s really a long time when you think about it especially because back in 2004, blogging wasn’t a *thing* yet. WordPress wasn’t nearly as user-friendly as it is now either and I taught myself from the ground up while sitting in A’s tiny (gross) New Jersey apartment. At that point in time we were married but I lived and worked in Florida and he was still stationed in NJ. I spent the week after Christmas with him that year and while he worked, I learned the art of HTML. Ah those were the days.

In any case it’s time for reflection.

There, done.

I guess this isn’t really a year I want to rehash. Some great things happened this year. Some truly awful things happened and that’s just personally. Every time I watched the news it seemed like another tragedy, another disaster. So dismal. I hope 2015 has better news in store for us. I hope humanity will have a collective change of heart to try to do better and be better and put positive influence over the things we can control so we can more easily come together when we are struck by the things we cannot. But I can’t control humanity (nor would I want that task) so I can only change myself. Resolutions/goals to follow.

But first, let’s look at last year’s goals:

  1. Read 40 books– same as 2013
  2. Run a 5K– running the entire time, no stopping and dying on the side of the road or anything
  3. Going along with number 2, get my body back in shape by eating better and more natural foods. We will be replanting our vegetable garden in the spring and that will help but we are also going to switch to organic meats and continue to cut back on processed foods (which we are already doing pretty well with).
  4. Finish the darn baby blanket I started making 6 months ago!
  5. Take on and complete a new photo project.

And on a scale of 1-10, 10 being 100% completion of everything, I’d give myself a 7.5. Not too shabby.

Books: I read 36 (after finishing the one I’m reading– plan to finish it today). I’m so frustrated by this. I had 40 well within my grasp but I got stuck in a rut. After finishing book #35, I literally started 8 different books and could not get into any of them. That was 5 weeks ago. I would have broken past 40 but alas, I’m still short. You can see my completed list here https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3296989 (I am not sure, you may need to follow me to be able to see the list). Several of the books were re-reads in preparation for the final book in the series but I still counted them. I don’t want to go through all of them right here but I do want to discuss a few that really stuck with me.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. My friend kept telling me how great this book was and she was absolutely right! This book captivating and totally different in concept than anything I’ve ever read before. I highly recommend it.

The Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is a YA series that scared the crap out of me. I still think about it sometimes. The premise is that an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it closer to earth and the change in the gravitational pull sets off a chain of apocalyptic events that basically destroys the earth and reduces the world population by billions. But instead of the story taking place long after the apocalypse like some stories, it’s page by page the story of this one family’s survival as they slowly starve to death. It’s brutal and sad but also a page turner and a story of how family is what holds you together. It’s also a little eye opening and it made me evaluate how quickly we’d die in this sort of event (quickly) and if I’d even want to survive (no). I recommend the series except the 4th book which was awful. Just read the first 3 and pretend it ends there. I promise the 4th book doesn’t add anything.

Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi. I re-read the first two before Into the Still Blue came out in January. This series had such a great and satisfying ending unlike the Divergent series which I know really angered a lot of people. This series is also YA dystopian/post apocalyptic.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Ah yes, see I do read books intended for adults 🙂 I discovered a great author and also read her book Three Wishes. Both were wonderfully written, crisp, and true to life. Both dealt with some heavy subject matter but were a nice change from the apocalypse.

The book I’m about to finish is called What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. It was a Christmas gift and it’s awesome and also very nerdy (which I love!) Want to know what would happen if you drained the world’s oceans or threw a baseball at 90% the speed of light? These questions, among others, are answered.

Moving on… #2 Run a 5K *check* Completed this back in March. I didn’t die.

#3 We did REALLY well on this. I know this probably sounds nuts to many people but we had never been meal planners. For years we have done the haphazard “What should we have for dinner?” thing at 4pm which ended up with us getting take out or eating cereal. Awful. I can’t believe we did that for so long. I plan our meals now using Plan to Eat and I’ve also started really cooking, not just heating something frozen. We eat so much healthier now and no longer eat out 4-5 times a week. This has been life changing for us.

#4 I finished the baby blanket. It came out beautifully! I followed this tutorial http://moderngracedesign.blogspot.ca/2012/09/baby-blanket-free-pattern.html and it looks pretty much exactly as pictured.

#5 I started but didn’t finish. I’m over the photo projects. I like to take pictures, no I love to take pictures. I had a blast photographing the beauty of Ireland. I also truly love taking pictures of my kids in their everyday life but making time each week to sit down and post something felt like an unnecessary stress. From now on I’ll just post pictures as I feel like it. No need to make something that’s fun into a chore. On a side note, I did finally photograph lightning which was absolutely incredible and a huge goal of mine so let’s count that.

 

Phew this is getting long.

So what should I do in 2015. Here’s my list

1. Read 40 books. Yes I mean it. I WILL accomplish this goal!

2. Increase my step count. I got a Fitbit back in January and I average on a good week, around 45,000 steps but I can do better. I don’t want to put forth a specific number except to shoot for more than that.

3. Stop reading the comments on internet articles. I know that probably sounds silly but I have to stop this. I get irrationally angry by the comment section. I’m losing my faith in humanity and I shouldn’t allow people like that to get to me. So no more reading the comments sections.

4. Make more things. I know this is kind of vague (ok very vague) but I like creating and I seeing a project through from start to finish. I’m not sure what I will make but I’m going to leave it open to whatever inspires me.

5. Be less connected and by that I mean, put my phone away. I’m not going to do cold turkey thing. I don’t think that’s necessary but I also know that I don’t need to have it in my pocket all hours of the day. I’m going to start putting it away for a couple hours a day. If you try to reach me and you can’t now you’ll know why.

6. I don’t usually do 6 but I’m going to set a goal for myself to become an educational consultant with Usborne and grow my personal business. I’ve had several moms buy books from me and then come back to tell me how much their children love them and how it has changed how their kids feel about reading. Music to my ears! Being an educational consultant would allow me to sell to schools and I think that would be a great personal experience in addition to being a good business goal.

Now that you’ve gotten through my list, what are your goals for 2015?

An Unreachable Goal of Perfection

I love to sit in the evening and scroll through Facebook looking for interesting articles or silly quizzes and things of that sort. The other day I came across a Buzzfeed list called “19 Secrets Teachers Won’t Tell You“. I read through it. Agreed with some of the things, got a little chuckle and moved on. I didn’t even bother to repost it. For whatever reason however, I decided to look at the comments. I should never look at the comments because in virtually all cases, comments on public articles are utterly horrifying. These were no exception.

There were dozens upon dozens (at the time, probably hundreds now) of people tagging teacher friends asking them if the list spoke truth. Others were calling out teachers for being horrible human beings should the list be true. Others still, saying that any teacher who doesn’t love all his/her students equally should be out of a job. It was basically criticism after criticism. Now the list itself was a very poor representation of what teachers feel on most days but I think just about any teacher could have said or written some of those things on a bad day and that’s where people who comment these mean things really lose me.

Why are teachers held to such a ridiculously outrageous expectation of perfection? Nothing less will be acceptable. Not only must you get kids on target in all their subject areas, you have to make sure they get along, don’t participate in bullying behaviors, feel loved, eat all their lunch, and get into the best college and lets not forget those teachers who also have shielded their children from crazed gunmen and tornadoes, too. There is no gray area here, it’s not a sliding scale. To some, this is an all or nothing thing and if you’re not doing all these things you’ve failed miserably and should look for a new job. And you know what? As a teacher I was okay with these expectations. They are things I’d have put on myself even if others didn’t. But according to these people commenting on this article you also have to love every student every moment of the day, you cannot ever vent to others when you are frustrated, you may never have a bad day where you put in a movie for the kids, you must be filled with joy when you see students outside of school and on and on. Say what? Are these people asking for a human to teach their children or some sort of robot? News flash– these things ARE true. Not always but sometimes. Do parents of multiple children not occasionally feel frustration towards one child while not with the others? Are there not days that even the best of parents think (not say, not act, but think) that they love their child but don’t like them very much in that moment? As a teacher there were moments of frustration. What made me a professional was that I could and did still show my students the respect they deserved. But now, according to these people, I wasn’t allowed to think the frustration either.

And these thoughts are what led me to thinking about my current job as a mom. The message we get as moms is a complete 180 from what is expected of teachers. Having a bad day and are frustrated with your kid and yelled? Don’t worry, it’s okay, all moms have bad days. You still love your child. Not feeling well and put your kids in front of the TV? It’s okay, moms need time to themselves too. Moms don’t get sick days. You just have to do what you need to do to get by. Your child is 7 and not reading yet? Don’t worry, all kids are different and grow at their own pace. They will get there eventually.

Why are these the messages that moms are given yet if you turned it around and replaced mom with teacher it would be deemed completely unacceptable? We are forcing this already greatly under-appreciated profession into a realm of expectations that is so wildly unrealistic that it is driving teachers to leave the classroom and seek other careers entirely. And it’s a terrible shame. So my request is this. Next time you get upset at something a teacher says or does, ask yourself it it’s an expectation you’d want held to you as a parent. And if you can’t honestly say you never would or could do whatever that thing was, then cut the teachers some slack. They are human too.

Flash Forward

The other day I had a moment the likes of which I really can’t recall ever experiencing before. It was the sort of thing that happens in movies where the character is watching a scene unfold and then suddenly, without warning, the scene shifts as you enter the character’s imagination and they are seeing not the present but the future. I had a moment like that.

Let me set the scene for you. Tuesday morning, it is so muggy and hot, Allison’s hair instantly curls into ringlets the moment we get out of the car. I have Molly tucked away in her Tula and we walk together, me and my girls, into the preschool for the first day of school. Allison’s backpack contains exactly the following: 1 folder- purple, 1 butterfly lunchbox. Allison insists on walking in with it on her back but it’s clear that it’s too heavy– that water bottle and ice pack are enough to throw her balance. I offer to help but she replies “I’ve got it”.

We see her friend who is walking with her mother into school as well. This little girl is only the second person Allison has ever identified as “friend” and I’m thankful she’s chosen well in both instances. The girls wave and the moms break out cameras to snap a few quick photos.

Then the moment comes. We continue walking into the building along with other parents as we carry our heavy bags (mine is my purse with camera, Allison’s her backpack) and suddenly I was no longer there, instead I was walking into a dorm room in the middle of August feeling the cold air conditioned air burst forth into the humid summer. We are loaded down with boxes and Allison’s ringlet hair is longer, her body taller yet still just as slender and toned as it is now. She is starting college.

I could feel my eyes start to mist but not because I was dropping my baby girl off at preschool but because I blinked and she was starting college.

And I know. I just know with every ounce of me that I’m going to blink and 15 years will pass and she will be all grown up, the daughter I thought I’d never have, off on great adventures and changing the world one fiery, independent, fiercely loving moment at a time.

Best of Allison 454

“Filter” courtesy of Florida summer. (Really, my lens just would not unfog.)

What I Miss Most About Teaching

When I was three years old, I had my very first, first day of school. I don’t recall a thing about it, not even a vague recollection of an old photograph but I do know it was the first of a very long series of first days of school.

 

After I graduated from college in December of 2002, I spent 2 months as a substitute teacher and had yet another first day right there in the middle of February 2003. By August of that year I was working in the Kindergarten room of the daycare on the Air Force base where we were stationed. And there I experienced yet another first day. By 2004 I had my very own classroom and so began my career—the only career I’ve really had and with that came 8 more first days of school. I missed the one in 2008, having given birth a mere 14 hours before. I missed the one in 2011 as well—if memory serves, Allison was born on the 2nd day of school that year. And last year I didn’t teach but was hugely pregnant on that first day. And this year I am none of those things, neither classroom teacher nor pregnant. And so I believe this is either the end of one era or the beginning of a new one because next week school will start and my role will be as parent and nothing else.

 

Not that being a parent of school children doesn’t have it’s own host of responsibilities. But this isn’t about that.

 

There were a lot of things about teaching that I don’t miss one bit and I’ll get to that because it’s worth discussing. But first I want to share what I DO miss about teaching and what comes to mind during this time of year when it feels very very strange to walk through the aisles at Target and purchase supplies for only two children and not 10 or 20 or 30.

 

Things I miss about Teaching

 

  1. I miss the anticipation of the first day back, not the first day with kids but the first day you walk into your classroom after a summer off. It’s quiet, and empty and bare. Mine always had this musty stale air smell and was usually terribly hot inside after not having conditioned air circulate through it all summer. I was lucky enough to be in the same classroom all 8 years. I left my personal items locked in a closet. Opening my door to my classroom was like greeting an old familiar friend.
  2. I miss the sense of purpose and direction the first few weeks of school brings. I always had my goals lined up and ready and with a fresh 180 days I was always optimistic about what we could accomplish. I looked forward to putting into action all my ideas from the summer.
  3. New stuff!! Ah, nothing feels quite like a brand new notebook, or freshly sharpened pencils, or dry erase markers fresh out of the package. There were boxes of crayons with all their tips perfectly sharp. There were new backpacks not yet frayed or dirty (or peed on by cats—one student had a cat who regularly peed on his backpack!) Everything was new and clean and ready!
  4. Meeting the new students and seeing the old ones. I loved this part. I loved trying to figure out the dynamic that particular arrangement of children would bring to the classroom. And also, being in special ed, I started every year reading the files of the new students so I knew why they were at my school and I saw it as a great challenge. My favorite kids were the ones who didn’t like school. My first goal was to change that and help them like school again (or for the first time).
  5. You always know the day of the week and the date on the calendar. Always. As the bell ringer in my school—yes we did it by hand—I always knew what time it was too. It was several months after I left that I stopped feeling my body remind me it was time to do something at 45 minute intervals through out the day.
  6. Learning new things. This should speak for itself right? You have to stay on top of world events, latest advances in science, pop culture news, latest trends for whatever age group you work with, and then of course academic things. It was never ending and it was wonderful.
  7. The last thing I can think of right now (and know there are so many more little things but these are the big ones) I am having a hard time putting to words. Yes I’m mom now but I enjoyed being a teacher too. I don’t want this to sound egotistical which it will even though I don’t mean it that way, but being a teacher means having kids look up to you. Kids think their teachers know everything (I always assured them I didn’t) and that gave me a sense of duty to them. It gave me a sense of purpose. I didn’t want to let them down. I guess what I’m saying is that I liked the responsibility.

 

In fairness, there are things I don’t miss.

 

  1. There is never ever enough time. All those goals you start off with he first day of school? Well I never finished them all. I got very close a couple of times but that was only after I’d been teaching long enough to know better how to set them. I’m one of those teachers who start on the first day and keeps teaching until the second to last day (come one, no one teaches on the last day of school). There are never enough resources either. I think teachers in general excel at making do with what they have but in an ideal world there would always be more access to things that would make teaching better/more efficient/more exciting.

 

By the same token- it’s a career that is highly politicized and not well respected by some government officials. School districts frequently have to justify why they shouldn’t have to make certain cuts, which inevitably happen anyway.

  1. Disicplining was my least favorite thing to do. I was either too strict or not strict enough and my downfall was that I didn’t find that sweet spot in the middle often enough. If I ever go back to teaching this will be what I work on the most.
  2. Patience. Teaching takes a lot of patience and sometimes, oftentimes, I used all mine up by the time I got home. My kids never saw the best of me because I’d used it all up on my students. My kids got to see grumpy, tired, snappy mommy.
  3. Parents can be hard to deal with. I will leave it pretty much at that. No I’ll say just a bit more. If anyone reading this has school-aged children but has never been a teacher I ask this of you—trust your child’s teacher more. Trust that they have your child’s best interest at heart. Trust that they are doing the best they can, and trust—this one is tough I know—that your child is different with them than they are with you. That last one is so hard. It’s not an us vs. them situation. Parents should be on the same team as the teachers and I feel like these days it’s so adversarial and it shouldn’t be. Teachers put everything into their jobs and sometimes it feels that teachers are not under appreciated, they are not appreciated at all. This is by no means all parents or all students or all situations but it wears you down and it makes it hard to give your very best every single day when you know someone is just waiting for you to slip.
  4. The expectation of perfection. I’m human. You’re human. Enough said.
  5. Few opportunities to work from home. These days more and more companies allow their employees have more flexible hours or the chance to work from home all or some of the days of the week. I’d love to teach for Virtual School but it’s incredibly hard to get a job. Some people will probably point to having summers off and yes, that’s wonderful, but you are still pretty locked into the school schedule and working from home isn’t an option.
  6. I’m not going to say a 7. I want there to be more good things than bad things even though really, neither list is complete. I can’t imagine going back right now and being a mom of three and a wife and a teacher. I can’t imagine how I would get my kids to two different schools and myself to a third and still take care of all the shopping and cooking and day-to-day living. I know people do this every single day and I think I would make it work but I also think I’d also be a zombie and not good enough for either my students or my children. But I hope someday I will find my way back into a classroom. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and I’ve enjoyed some and hated some but my heart is in a classroom and I think it always will be.

Project Not So 52 | Lesson 14

ATB 6th

Not planned this way but… you can see Andrew’s newborn picture in the background.

ATB 6th

He nailed it. All 6 candles on the first try! Hope he wished for something good!

ATB 6th

So handsome 🙂

Hey look at that, we’re 2/3 of the way through the year and I’ve made it to 14. And I’m out of lesson ideas and I’d rather just talk about whatever comes to mind in the particular moment my fingers touch the keyboard. I know no one cares but I have a choice– I can be woefully behind, or I can have accomplished my goal at least 14 times for the year. Today’s particular mood leads me to the more positive of the two choices. No lesson included today. Let’s play Common Core– make it up yourself!

Ah digression.

TODAY IS A SPECIAL DAY!!!!! Yes, today is Andrew’s 6th Birthday!!!!! I believe that at some point I will stop cheerfully reliving all the moments of the days leading up to the births of my children but that point certainly hasn’t happened yet and I still feel all the lovely nostalgia that comes from the experiencing the anniversary of a major life event. I was watching the Bucs (lose) last night on TV thinking about how 6 years ago– a Sunday– the Bucs WON their preseason game vs the Patriots. It was on TV in the hospital recovery room but I could hear the cannons firing in the stadium that you can see from the hospital. When I think of Andrew’s birthday I think of (in no particular order): Preseason football, Shells– the restaurant, full moons, Cheesburgers, the Olympics, beach volleyball and tropical storms. It’s an interesting collection of thoughts. All of them never fail to make me smile and think about the day we became three and the day I became Mom.

Enough of my own rambling, let me tell you about my no-longer-a-little-kid Andrew!! Andrew is about to start 1st grade, he lost his first tooth on Friday! He loves reading, science and math in school although he’d probably tell you his favorite part is talking to his friends. He also loves soccer, karate, gymnastics, swimming, bike riding, playing outside and Legos. Oh Legos! Oh and of course I can’t forget- Angry Birds. Yes that’s my 6 going on 30 year old in a nutshell. I would say more but I don’t want to embarrass him. Now on a serious note: Andrew you are my golden boy. You are the best thing that ever happened to me and when I look at you I know that God put you in our family for a reason and His plan is perfect. We are so SO blessed to have YOU as our son! You’re an amazing big brother and all around a very awesome little human being. We love you so much!

 

Ten Years

Lesson 13

A combination of things happened last week that led me to experience some very powerful memories. I’ll explain: in the summer of 2004, after 364 days living in New Jersey, we drove my old blue Honda CR-V and a packed U-Haul trailer back home to Florida. Shortly before we left, we celebrated our 1 year anniversary. Shortly before that I took my dream job back home. And in the year before that I spent most of my time being sad, lonely, and saying goodbye to my husband who was constantly TDY (not there, for you non military folks). I say this to explain why my trip was one way while his was not. I think most anyone who knew us then and has seen us these past 11 years understood that it was a testament to how strong we were together that we agreed to live apart so I could have a career too. Thankfully that time apart was temporary but we didn’t know that at the time. And what I want to focus on right now is that transition in July of 2004. Moving home, back into my mother’s house, with my younger brothers. Taking a new job. Buying a house that I would live in alone for the first few months. Our trip to the beach. And that’s really where today’s story starts because since that time 10 years ago we’ve gone to the beach every single year and before that time 10 years ago we went to the beach most every summer before that too. So it’s amusing that every time we go, no matter where we go, my mind focuses back on that summer. I think it’s because that summer more than any other transitional time, felt like a dividing line for me. I was no longer a student, nor was I just a wife (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but at that time I got a new title- Teacher. And despite everything I was happy.

That summer also brought four back to back to back to back hurricanes that pummeled our state. That was a terrifying summer for that reason alone. I hope never to experience that again although I know it’s ridiculous to think I never will. I started a new career then. I remember so many things like having to scrape together money to buy a few professional looking outfits, and sitting in my childhood bedroom at night rehearsing my lessons in my head until I knew what I was going to say. So much is so clear in my mind, even though it was really quite some time ago.

So what’s all this about? “You’re rambling,” you say. And I am. But I’m trying to make a point. Because all this feels like it happened in another life. In that time we’ve been married 10 additional years (for a total of 11), we’ve had 3 living children and one angel twin. We’ve lived in 2 different homes. We’ve adopted 2 additional cats (total 3). We’ve collectively worked for 5 different companies. We went through one deployment and 230,000 miles worth of business trips. I took one trip to Europe and am planning another. Together we have accomplished many things in that time both as a family and as individuals.

And on the very back burner there has been a simple little goal. Nothing life altering, just something I wanted to do.

You see before I moved home that joyful July of 2004, I took a class at the local community college in New Jersey. Just to be clear here we had zero money. Our daily no frills living brought us into debt. I paid for the class using money I got for my birthday. It was a B&W film photography class and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I unlocked the mystery of film photography but the instructor unlocked one more mystery for me (oh, I see Emily, you’re finally getting to the point!) Yes, he described how one would photograph lightning. In those 10 years I’ve owned 1 SRL and 3 DSLR cameras. Every summer at the beach I bring one with me with the hopes of catching a lightning storm with just the right set up and every year it doesn’t happen.

Except when this summer it did.

So this lesson is really easy– STICK WITH IT! You see how much has happened in that time? I am a different person now than I was then. I have done so many other, frankly more important, things and yet I held on to that one goal and I waited patiently and my time came. I did it! I am pleased with the outcome, indeed! There is nothing that feels quite as good as crossing a goal off your list. I listed this as a New Year’s Resolution last year and this one and guess what– it’s DONE!

Now a bit about the picture. For those who, like me 10 years ago, always felt that lightning photography was kind of a mystery- or who never bothered to google it, there are a few things to know. To photograph lightning you need an SLR camera where you can control the shutter speed completely. You need to set your camera to “Bulb” mode. If you’ve see that and didn’t know what it was for, basically it lets you control the opening and closing of the shutter by hand. For this reason a tripod is essential. I of course, didn’t bring my tripod this time because space was rather limited. I rested my camera on a cooler balanced on a balcony (camera never left my grip, I’m not insane). It’s also really helpful to have a remote switch which I did have with me but it was so windy it would have hardly made a difference. Next, the set up- it’s not that lightning storms are hard to come by, especially in Florida. We have them a few nights a week. But at home there are street lights and other ambient light that prevent total darkness and if you’re going to open the shutter for 15-20 seconds at a time, thus letting in gobs of light, you really need it to be as dark as possible. In the picture above it wasn’t really as dark as it should have been but I was torn between wanting to get the shot or missing it completely when the storm was overhead. I will post my other picture below– it was darker but the bolt not as impressive. Anyway the beach makes a perfect backdrop because over the water there are next to no lights and because of the sea turtles, far fewer street lights as well. So I had the location all I needed was the storm and boy did we have one! I didn’t have the greatest vantage point because a building was blocking the bulk of the action but I got what I got. At one point I walked down to the actual beach– pitch black, ferocious wind gusts, and not another soul out there. I’ll admit I was scared but I only turned back when it started raining (can’t get the gear wet!)

The above shot was edited down 1/3 stop as it was a 20 second exposure which could have been shorter. The shot below was a 2 second exposure. Both taken at f5 100 ISO, bulb mode.

Sanibel 2014-350

Project 52 | Lesson 12

Lesson 12

Well It’s about half way through the year and I’m still doing this even though I’ve only done 12 so far. Oh well. I figure only a handful of people even look anyway so I shouldn’t stress myself right?

Father’s Day!

Yes, Daddy has seen this already. We celebrated Father’s Day today instead of tomorrow (well, we will celebrate tomorrow too but celebrating Saturday afforded Daddy the chance to sleep in which we can’t do on Sundays because of church). My kiddos were VERY excited to take this picture surprise and didn’t even spill the beans!

But I’m having a hard time thinking of a good lesson to share so instead I’m going to say what lessons I’ve learned.

I’ve learned that it’s hard to truly fully appreciate your own parents until you become a parent. This is not a knock on people who don’t have children, it’s just that there have been moments while I’m in my 4th hour of driving around town for the day or sitting on the hard floor of a dance studio or maneuvering around the gymnastics equipment helping a toddler do cartwheels with a baby strapped to my chest, that I’ve thought “yup, my parents did this for me and I took it for granted” and I think at the time it was happening in my childhood, I knew that. But what I didn’t realize was that yes, my parents made sacrifices for me and yes they were often tedious and mind numbingly boring (watching me run at a track meet, eek!) or expensive or stressful or any number of emotions but as a mom I realized that even though sometimes parenting involves all those things I still love doing it and I wouldn’t want it any other way and I can only guess that my mom and dad felt the same way watching me and my brothers and that was something that I didn’t realize at the time. It never occurred to me that they would find beauty in the mundane aspects of shaping your children into who they will become. Kiddos, sometimes you hear parents say “Someday I hope you have kids who are just like you!” And it’s not exactly said in a positive way. But instead today I’m going to say, “Kids, someday I hope you have kids and you enjoy them the way I enjoy you.” Thank you for making me a mother and thank you for making your Daddy a father. This day is our day to honor him the way you all honored me a few weeks ago but really I have to give it all over you YOU, my dears and to my own parents for this moment in time and all that came before it and all that will come after it that we get to be a family.

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