Friday, December 23, 2011

Dear Sun

Dear Sun,

Come back. Please come back. I know, I know...I was just saying a couple of days ago that you were obnoxious. It was only because your awesome brightness was hurting my eyes and unSPF'd skin. Really...sunscreen on Dec. 21?

Yesterday was Winter Solstice Day you know. The shortest day of the year. All of God's majestic planetary glory aside, I miss you. Without you I've become a slug. A slug with a Snuggie.

Today it's cold and because of Nina something you cannot break through the clouds. Since you only stick around for a short time I will find myself with another unproductive evening. Darkness falls and so do I.

Does this have something to do with me OOOing and AHHHing over that beautiful red moon the other night?
It was a phenomenon, Sun. Really. A once in a while kind of thing. It's my Mom's fault you know. She was the one that pointed the Moon out to me.

I do miss you. I miss how you'd peak through the kitchen window while I'd do dishes. You would cast a radiant glow over the dinner mess and cheer me on to finish my chore. Rah rah. Now there's only darkness and it's making that meatloaf dish seem like something recyclable. It's easier to toss. What are they, like 5 bucks with a rebate from Bed Bath and Beyond? See? See what I've become without you? I'm a mess.

I can only wish that you read this and understand how important you are. Until your return I will try to go on with life. I'll go Christmas Light viewing and try to get something out of the darkness the Moon is so proud of this time of year. I will be waiting for you. Waiting with my 75 SPF, grandma hat and pool floatie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

From Grace to Grinch?

It started with a few stray hairs which, let's face it are happening thanks to that gene handed down from Grannie, God bless her. What was one hair has turned into green fur, long pointy furry fingers, long pointy furry toes. My Mom Mumble has morphed into a sort of guttural snarl.

It's happened ladies and gentlemen. Amy Junod, writer of Falling With Grace has indeed fallen victim to the ailment better known as Grinchism. She's a Grinch. Falling victim to the onslaught of Christmas Commercialism has done her in this year folks.

How did this happen I wonder? Aside from being Kelly Green from now until December 26th (which is NOT trendy this year) I am concerned about this Grinchy attitude. How did it come to this and more importantly how do I rid myself of it?

So...I'll ponder...

I love autumn and Thanksgiving especially. I want to relish it as long as I can. I resented the fact that Christmas was shoving aside a period of gratefulness, tradition and perhaps a bit of culinary deliciousness.

I was enjoying the autumn decor and looking forward to the holiday of Thanksgiving that we celebrate here in the states. One of my friends was posting on Facebook daily through the month of November on what she was thankful for. It gave me a minute to pause and reflect on my own gratitude.

Our celebration this year was brought to a somber delay as we received word that Hubby's father was not doing well and in ICU. His body was just not strong enough to fight this battle. David was able to make it back home to say good-bye. He was truly one of the sweetest men that I've had the privilege to know.

I suppose the event of my father-in-law's passing made me hold on to Thanksgiving that much harder. This year more than others I resented the Black Friday ads on TV. So much talk about buying buying buying. Was I the only one that felt an unmeasurable amount of unease this year? I did venture out to buy goods for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. I was so grateful we were able to afford as many cannot. I do admit I was sort of pissed that each item I picked up was a great deal smaller plus I was paying much more for less. SNARL! snort snort

GOTTA find a cure for this thing. The fur is getting itchy and it's impossible to find a decent product to keep it soft and subtle. This snarling is going to win me a trip to a mental ward if I can't find an elixir of some sort.

I've decided that the ads, commercials and news reports of crazy shopping madness are a trigger for me.
What crazy pressure. The TV and radio are making Grinch symptoms worse. Instead I'm going to listen to the cd mix that my sister's dog burned for me. ( niecedog that has her own Facebook page. Slight insanity on another level you can read about here in my post Falling Into A Trap)

I'm falling back. I'm making the choice to fall back into what the spirit of the holidays are supposed to invoke in us. I thoroughly enjoyed Thanksgiving this year. I was more grateful this year than ever. While missing loved ones that aren't with me anymore I found a sense of peace. The absence for me was filled with thankfulness that I was lucky enough to  have those people in my life as a blessing. Many don't.

Bah Bump...Bah Bump 

Hmm. Was that the beating of a peaceful heart? Could the cure have been as simple as merely being able to take pause and have my moment of gratefulness? 

I'm ready Christmas. I'm ready for you now. Autumn decor has been tucked away in storage and replaced by the Christmas decor. HOORAY to my merry team of elves that can be motivated by a pan of orange colored Rice Krispie Treats. (Good use of monster pumpkin shaped marshmallows. Turns out monster shaped marshmellows are kind of yucky raw. Although the kitten loves to play with them they make better krispie treats!)

I hope that you're finding yourself in a peaceful place during these weeks. If not and you're looking for a remedy for that itchy green fur drop me a line and I'll email some tips.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It Takes A Sjoggie

It's been a couple of challenging days for me. Having a difficult time seeing myself through this flare I went to one of my favorite websites to find peace and clarity. never fails to guide me toward a place of graceful acceptance.

While looking for one of Brother David's videos I happened on an old quote that had been posted months ago. I found it to be quite profound and thought it was worth sharing with my Sjogren's sisters and brothers.

Dryness promotes the formation of flower buds...flowering is, after all, not an aesthetic contribution but a survival mechanism.    -Ann Haymond Zwinger from The Mysterious Lands

Ann's book looks very interesting. The book is written about four of the great deserts of the Southwest. Desert lands...dry. OK, I admit I won't be reading this while in a flare but I will be reading this soon. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spring Forward, Fall Back...Yeah Baby!

Time for the time change. Wait. Which way is it? Spring forward, fall back. YES! 

Am I the only one that gets excited about this every year? Finally we are given back the hour that we so desperately wanted to hang on to back in spring.

One hour. What to do, what to do? To be honest I usually miss the whole extra hour thing as I've slept in only to wake up at the usual time. Over coffee I usually realize that the hour has already passed. Not this year. This year I'm going to account for it.

So I'm left with some pretty big choices here. I'm always in a state of feeling like I'm behind because of being laid up. I am hesitant to spend the time playing catch up with chores. That's just no fun. Well I know what I'm NOT going to be doing with my extra hour.

I could spend an hour flipping through LOL Cats. Years ago Hubby and I spent an hour at least scrolling through pages of crazy cat pictures. The captions are a gas. We were crying we were laughing so hard.

Shoot. Just spent a good 20 minutes looking up this silly thing and found myself sucked up into I Can Has Cheezeburger land again. It's addictive- I swear! 

OK. Back to the task at hand. Oh, hands. I could give myself a mani pedi. That might be fun. I can't remember the last time I had paid much attention to my finger nails. Sounds relaxing. Wait, the last time I tried this all hell broke loose. Nothing like a Mom with wet nails to bring on a household catastrophe. No. No mani pedi.    

I can bake with my extra hour. My sis and I were talking about how yummy Nestle Tollhouse cookies sounded. Yum. Warm, gooey deliciousness! 
 Oh my.

What did you do with your extra hour?  (You can try to tell me that you just don't get it but I swear you'll laugh)

Monday, October 31, 2011


Autumn is my favorite season. While Spring has become a friend of mine I always look forward to the arrival of fall. The air is crisp, the nights are cooler and here in North Texas the days are just beautiful.

On cold sunny mornings like this I am so often swept back to my grade school days at St. James when we'd go on our annual field trip to Kelly's Farm. We'd get to wear weekend clothes instead of uniforms which really didn't matter because we were bundled in heavy coats by then. The bus ride was always a blast. Then at the farm we would tour where they made pressed apple cider and we'd each get a sample along with a fresh made donut. 

When the tour of the farm was done we all would be let free into a big pumpkin patch where we would get to pick out our own pumpkin to bring home. What a sight it must have been to watch kids scatter about.

The rules for picking out your pumpkin were simple. If you could carry it on to the bus it was yours. So of course it was always a sort of competition to find the biggest pumpkin in the field. Unless you were like me. 

One of my last trips out to the farm before moving down south I took off in to the pumpkin patch and found the most perfect pumpkin. The shape was perfect. The color was a beautiful orange. The stem was curved just enough. That pumpkin was precious. It was the cutest little pumpkin I'd ever seen.

While the other kids were grunting under the weight of their pumpkin picks I made my way to the bus. As I stood by the bus I glanced over the field of pumpkins watching my classmates laboring away. Some were using the drag and roll method to get their pumpkins back to the bus. I was pleased as peaches to have my cute and tiny pumpkin.

From my previous posts you can imagine what my brother had to say about my tiny pumpkin. I'm sure my Mom and Dad weren't surprised because back then everything was "so cute"!

I'm a grown woman now and I still can't resist the little baby pumpkins that they sell in pumpkin patches.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let's Get Productive

Here in North Texas we've survived one of the hottest summers on record. In fact Summer 2011 made the record books for having the most days over 100 degrees. Yea Summer! Whoop, whoop! No. Not so much a whoop whoop but a whomp whomp.

My cute little urban garden became quite a challenge. Some plants just couldn't survive the heat no matter how much attention I gave them. I never gave up hope though. I kept watering every day regardless of the fact that the plants weren't as productive as summers passed.

This summer was very taxing on me as well so I think my garden appreciated the fact that I gave it my best shot. I think that's why I found this week's surprise in the garden so rewarding. I've been watering my cucumbers all summer long. They had the most brilliant yellow flowers and the leaves were such a gorgeous shade of green. The bees seemed to enjoy them as well.

So I watered and was pleased that the plants would respond with such beauty.  They were alive and I was well enough to water. They might not be popping out yummy cucumbers but they sure were pretty flowering plants.

One day this week after spending some quality time with the monarch filled jasmine I started my watering. Much to my surprise was a gorgeous cucumber waiting for me to pick. It was huge. I'm not sure how I have missed it all this time but there it was. What an awesome treat. It was delicious too!

I love the lessons that I've learned in my little garden. Sometimes it takes me a while for my garden curriculum to take hold in my head. Mother Nature is a patient teacher. I've had some difficulty this week with the blow to my productivity and have found myself in my own sort of pity party. Me, Myself and I munching on chex mix...sipping sugar free punch...listening to Mary J Blige. Oh, who am I kidding. No pity party is complete without some Barry Manilow too.

I just came in from the garden after tending to my baby strawberry plants and realized that I've got this whole "productivity" thing sort of backwards. Garden experts will tell you to nip the strawberry blossoms to increase productivity. I happen to think that the blossoms are beautiful. So, I keep them. The experts will also say to snip off "runners" as this will decrease productivity as well. I keep the runners. I love to coax the runners to start a new plant by placing them in soil. Now I have lots of strawberry plants.

Maybe it's not the end product that we need to focus on in productivity. Maybe it's the gentle fostering of the process of productivity that we need to pay attention to. Thank you Mother Nature once again for the learning curve.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm Goin' Down

It's been more than a week now and I think I'm still in a whopper of a Sjogren's flare. Not that there is ever a good time for a flare but this timing made me mad. I was not graceful at all when facing this one. In fact I think I begged more for this one to be postponed more than any other.

My little sister was driving up with my "preen-cess" of a niece and her Facebook lovin' dog. We were going to enjoy the pool, go shopping, play in parks and top the week by seeing Train and Maroon 5. My sis and I had been looking forward to this for months. 

As I was waiting for my sister to pull up out front I could feel my energy evaporating from my body. Now that I can recognize the onset of a flare my mind races with pleas of mercy. 

The week was filled with lots of fun, laughter, love and hugs. I was pushing it though and with each day of not following the rules I knew I'd pay for it. 

Well, this week has been a doozie. Boy howdy I'm feelin' it. Since I can't do anything at this point but to find a place of acceptance I've found myself with a tune swirling around in my head. 

"I'm going down..." 

It's bugged me for days now because not only can I not remember the rest of the words but I don't know who sang it. After a few clicks Google led me to this:

Mary J Blige I'm Goin' Down

Oh the irony when an ad for Visine was on the YouTube page. "Visine Tired Eye Relief" You gotta be kidding me!

Then I saw this little diddy by Bruce Springsteen:

Bruce Springsteen I'm Going Down

I think I have a couple of anthems for next time I feel a flare coming on. So, until this thing Mary would sing in her soulful way...I'm goin' dah-ah-ah-ah ahwn...I'm goin' dah-ah-ah-ahwn...

Oh, btw...Train and Maroon 5 are AWESOME live! Also, making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with a soon to be 4 year old "preen-cess" is the best medicine. Best!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Art of Falling, Morihei Ueshiba's Way

Before Falling With Grace was ever thought of as a blog it was going to be a magazine article. I was doing some research into the idea and stumbled upon many articles referencing Aikido. The more I read the more interesting the subject became to me.

Morihei Ueshiba

Born in 1883 to a wealthy landowner, businessman and politician Morihei Ueshiba was considered weak, sickly and "bookish". His father tried to persuade his son to be active by suggesting sumo wrestling and swimming. His father would tell him grand stories about his great grandfather who was revered as a great samurai. 

This same young boy would grow up to become a legend himself founding the martial art of Japanese Aikido. After many years of training in various martial arts and learning much from great masters his goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. 

The first stage of Aikido is actually learning back rolls, forward rolls and break falls. Learning how to fall well is crucial. The next stage referred to as Ukemi translates to the art of falling. 

While there are many elements to this art I found it enlightening that after intensive training the techniques actually require very little strength as the moves lead the attacker's momentum against himself. The energy redirects the force of the attack rather than opposing it head on. 

After reading The Essence of Aikido Compiled by John Stevens I learned that Aikido is not only the practice of a martial art but a way of life. The book describes the spiritual teachings of Morihei Ueshiba and also includes his art work. 

I've enjoyed reading stories about an 85 year old Ueshiba taking on much younger opponents. With what seems like a simple "Jedi" type swish of the hand (these are not the droids you are looking for) Ueshiba took down the brawniest of men. Ueshiba explained that it requires great mental training. You must develop the ability to relax the mind and body under the stress of dangerous situations. 

I think it was far before I learned of the teachings of Ueshiba that I knew that it seemed like the more agitated our spirits get the less effective we become. What's worse is that we all seem to collide with each other when we're like that. Wouldn't it be great if we could just find some harmony in the chaos? 

As soon as you concern yourself with the "good" and "bad" of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with and criticizing others weaken and defeat you. - Moihei Ushiba

While I'm not sure my body is ready for break falls I know that I can benefit from the concepts of Aikido. It's not the action of the blow but the art of falling. 

Another of my favorite Ueshiba quotes: Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Nominate Venus!

I'm sure by now you've heard the news reports about Venus Williams' diagnosis of Sjogrens Syndrome. I actually thought that I had heard the report wrong as you never hear about Sjogrens even though it's one of the most prevalent auto immune disorders.

The teaser promos talked about how she made the last minute decision to drop out of the U.S. Open because her illness was "causing fatigue." I truly was heartbroken for her as it's been so life altering for me. I can't imagine being such a tough, physical competitor as Ms. Williams and having to explain how it's effects made it impossible to play well.

I waited to watch the segment on Good Morning America. There was a part of me that would cringe when I'd hear  "rare disease" and "disease that causes fatigue" coming from the mouths of reporters from other networks. It's not "rare", in fact many have yet to be diagnosed correctly. Fatigue is an understatement. It's like having the flu every morning. I tuned back in to Good Morning America to hear from Venus herself.

As I was watching her speak I thought to myself how very graceful she is in finding her own pace in accepting her diagnosis. It was so very familiar too. She had symptoms for many years, was misdiagnosed until she was stricken with hallmark symptoms (dry eyes and mouth), she went through a period of "phew, I finally know what it is", then the "I think I've got this beat" stage to finally be ever so abruptly dropped in the stage of acceptance. She was taking it on in a graceful spirit that made her look all the more like the champion she is.

Suddenly the web was lit up with stories and info about Sjogren's Syndrome. Unknowingly I think she's been nominated as our new spokesperson. OK...I'm going to say it...I think she'd ROCK! In my head I have visions of videos created where she blasts white blood cells back with her powerful back hand. "POP!" go the cells as they scream "but I was only trying to helllllllllp!"  My corny mind continues with Venus pounding out powerful serves of Plaquenil to calm the body's immune system. Maybe her sister can play double with her every now and then serving out Prednisone for when the body is really out of whack.

Silliness aside I really do wish her the best and hope that she's got a gifted team of doctors around her. After watching the interview on GMA I can see that she is understanding her new opponent.

To watch the interview:

To learn more about Sjogren's Syndrome visit the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation website:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come On Irene

As a deadline for another writing project looms near I have had to impose a blogger time out. I'm still figuring out the balance between life, writing and stupid Sjogrens symptoms that make it impossible to peck out words. While the procrastination many times boosts my creative energy I can't count on my eyes and hands to keep up. 

Irene is making it impossible though. The reports from Hurricane Irene have been luring ideas of Falling With Grace themes. I do not take the whole situation lightly as I have family and friends on the East Coast. While I appreciate the weather reports I just hate how the reporters flock to get the best shots of them bracing against the wrath of Mother Nature. Sometimes it's like watching an SNL skit.  

So I watch. I've been switching channels back and forth. For the most part I have been watching The Weather Channel. One reporter, Eric Fisher is reporting from Virginia Beach, Va. and has had quite a day. Poor guy. While being pounded by high winds, falling debris and skin braising rain he's held his ground. 

My son and I were watching while he explained that there were still people not heeding the warnings of officials. As the report went on there were more and more people walking around to get into camera view. 
"I'm just at a loss for words actually." he said. "I really don't think that we should be showing this because it's sending a bad example. I'm depressed right now." 

I admit that my son and I laughed. Needless to say the spot was cut short. There were roars of laughter from the newsroom. 

It wasn't until I tried to find the clip on YouTube that I discovered that one of the kids romping by the reporter mooned the camera. Poor Eric. 

To be honest watching the people in Virginia Beach I can't believe the lack of better judgement. In my sister's town of Lake Charles, LA officials do it right. They make it very clear that if you're found out and about during a mandatory evacuation you will ride the storm out in the county jail. It will be hot and uncomfortable. Some tested it in last year's storms and I'm guessing they won't be around this year. 

I won't give the idiots in Va. any more time than they will no doubt be getting. Instead I thought this was cute:

Prayers are with everyone dealing with this storm. I'm back to blogger time out until I get my project done. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life Is Like Coffee Movie

I'm sharing this with you all today because I thought it was a nice message to pass on. To be honest I do take a considerable amount of time picking out my coffee mug for the day. I have many. (I was told to "purge" one since I added to my supply when I bought a mug from The Shed)

I have my "Duty Mug" which is huge, from Bubba Gump Shrimp. I have a set of pretty flowered cups that my Mom brought over thinking it would make our garage sale more fun. My Louisiana cup comes in handy when I'm missing my sis and her little Bug. My San Francisco cup is used on days when I need to be reminded that I can accomplish anything. I like my frog mug because it just feels great to hold in my hands...and... it's a frog. Great days are created by having a frog smile at you at the break of dawn.

Click "Life is like Coffee" to watch the video clip:

Life is like Coffee Movie: Do you know people that just seem to be happier in general? Do you say to yourself, "I want to be more like them"? Often, the happiest people in the world don’t have the best of everything...they just make the best of everything!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Was I Thinking Vol 26. Chapter 12

As if my life wasn't chaotic enough I had to throw in a demonic curse of a poor decision. Remember this little bundle of fur?

Bridget (Irish for stubborn, strong willed)

Looks harmless enough, doesn't she? Cute little thing. OK, so she really is but I've never known such a bratty animal. Seriously. I am convinced that her litter mates punted her down the tube where "the other one" didn't come back from. 

At first our 2 other cats thought that we'd brought Malcom back home. They were actually a little happy to see him. That was until our oldest cat took a sniff. They had been duped. We brought home a fake...a female no less. To say that there's been unrest in the home since is a total understatement. 

I woke up this morning and it looked like a mini twister had blown through the house. As I was straightening wall hangings and picking up shreds of paper I could only fear for what Christmas will be like. Her nickname this morning was Lucafina. Yes, spawn of Lucifer. 

Perhaps I'm being a little harsh. She is quite cuddly and if you pick her up she goes limp like a rag doll. She loves to be held on her back and rocked like a baby. She's ever so demure. 

After catching myself picking up all of her little toys so that Roomba won't suck them up I realized that the boys are right. She's spoiled. The other cats know it and resent it. 

Our older cat growls at Bridget and reminds me of Maude. How many times does she need to growl that she doesn't need a new friend? Just leave her alone. 

Our now middle cat is upset. She used to be the ninja kitty that we all laughed at. Poor middle kids. She used to be the one to torment. Now she's the one who can't sleep for looking over her shoulder constantly for an ambush. She's even put on .35 lbs. This upsets her. 

Now days it sounds like a jungle. Growling, hissing, snorting...and all the while Bridget keeps up. It's worse around my writing desk where I now know better than to leave bare, exposed toes. "Why can't you just let Mommy finish these two last lines?!" 


Perhaps I didn't really think this thing through. What I was thinking doesn't really matter. The truth is that when Mommy needs to close her dry eyes everyone cuddles civilly. When I grab my Snuggie the girls know that Mom needs some quite time and they all comply. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Break A Leg

It's been a little over a week now since my old Thespian Troop from high school gathered for a reunion. What started out as Facebook Group Page turned into posts about getting together. Then there was a suggestion of a date...another brave soul offered up her house for said occasion. We soon learned that we all would be lucky enough to take a tour of our old school to view the new Theatre wing the district added. Another member threw caution to the wind and offered her home up for a pre-reunion mixer for the night before.

Having a week to absorb the experience you'd think that I'd be able to jot down a few lines about what it meant to see everyone again. For lack of better words it simply felt like going home to see family. Walking onto our old stage felt like walking from the front porch into my old living room. As members would wander into the stage area one by one it was like recognizing old family members in a crowd of strangers.

It wasn't until we all were together again on that stage with all of our memories spilling out into the warm stage lighting that I realized how profoundly our lives were changed years ago. We were the lucky ones. We had the extraordinary opportunity to have someone believe in us enough to expect the very best.

Did we understand how very lucky we were? We were scrappy high schoolers from a little town in Texas with a drama teacher that dared to push the boundaries of our minds. Our drama teacher Mr. Lytle chose to raise our own expectations. If we were going to learn how to do something, we were going to learn how to do it correctly. We trusted him with every critique and block.

I believe that with every production we were driven to push through our own perceptions and our eyes were opened to what could be. The results of one person telling you can do something are astonishing. As Mr. Lytle believed in each one of us, we had to rely on each other. No one wanted to be the weak link and we supported each other to be better. Just like a family.

So it's really of no surprise that so many years later we would all gather as adults and stand in wonderment of it all. Looking back we were really lucky kids. Now as adults the lessons taught in Room 501 and on that beautiful wooden stage are just as important today.

Don't upstage.
Have a motivation for each move.
Don't drop your lines.
Check your props.
Never turn your back to the audience.

Add your own favorite "Lytleisms" in the comments area gang...I know I've left a few rules out!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kevin, Go Get Your Sister!

In an earlier post Following My Brother Kevin Michael Junod I mentioned that my brother had left me up in the tree house once. I was too scared to climb down myself, fear of falling.

I found something yesterday that has prompted me to finally tell the story.

When I was little I followed my brother and his friend Paul around everywhere. At the time I didn't see anything wrong with it. Now I know it must have been such a drag to have your little sister with you. It must have been so uncool. When walking to school I was instructed to walk 12 sidewalk squares in front of him. I complied.

I was so excited one day when he agreed that I could play hide and seek with him and Paul...and I didn't have to be IT. So thrilled I darted off to find the best hiding spot I could. There I sat. And sat. I sat some more. I thought I must have really found a great spot. So I sat some more, snickering a bit at how long it was taking them to find me.

I am embarrassed to admit how long I sat there. Let's just say it was long enough to figure out I had been had. When I went home and asked my Mom where he was she said he had gone to the park with Paul. UGH!

One would think that having learned from that experience a young girl would wise up to her brother's games and stay alert for the next "punk". No...not this little girl.

I followed my brother and Paul up the fort stairs. It was quite a climb. It was cool up there. I imagined that they played Cowboys and Indians or maybe Cops and Robbers. I knew I'd have a lame part to play in the charaid but I didn't care. I was hanging the fort...with my big brother.

It wasn't very long before it was too uncool for him to be with his kid sister. He told Paul that they were going to go somewhere else. The two of them climbed down. I called out to my brother to help me climb down.
"You'll be fine!", he said brushing me off with his hand.
"Maybe we should help her down", Paul said.
"No, she can get down." he insisted.

As they walked off Paul glanced over his shoulder at me as if he just knew there'd be repercussions. Perhaps there was maybe even a little empathy. All I know is that they ditched the fort...knowing darn well that I couldn't climb down those stairs.

So...yes gang,  you guessed it. I sat. Well, not before trying to figure it out myself. There was just something so very terrifying about turning around, grabbing on to that top step and maneuvering down the stairs. Remember that I've admitted before that I have the gracefulness of a sloth so just imagine.

I thought, "How long could he stay away knowing he's left me up here? He'll be back."
I sat.
And sat.
And......sat some more.

From my vantage point I could see into the kitchen window and see my Mom at the kitchen sink. It was nearly dusk when I saw my brother walk in the kitchen.
I imagine the conversation went something like this...
Mom: Where is your sister?
Kevin: I don't know...the last time I saw her she was up in the fort.
Mom: You haven't seen her since?
Kevin: No, she can't get down.
Mom: So you left her up there?!

That's when I saw my Mom turn and look out the window up at me, my chin resting on the side of the fort.'s me Mom. Still up here.
My Mom's head spun around so fast toward my brother. I'm glad that I didn't have to witness the piercing eyes as she must have told him with gritted teeth, "GO. GET. YOUR. SHISHDIR!" (sister spelled shisdir because it's the only way to say it with gritted teeth)

Fast forward many years later and imagine my surprise to happen on a photo of my brother standing in front of said fort. At first I was filled with glee to see my brother and the fort. Yea...good memories.

Then I really took a look at the fort. For real? The fort along with it's stairs that in my memory took hours to climb up and with such frightful heights was...5 feet off the ground? If that much...really. Really?

I would've left me up there too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Dad Taught Me Heaven Is For Real

Yesterday my eyes were scratchy and dry from an oncoming Sjogren's flare so I gave in to it and curled up with an audio book. I was actually a little chilly having come in from the pool and it felt so lovely wrapped up in my Snuggie. 

I love retreating to my Audio Books when my eyes fail me. Who doesn't love to be read to anyway? Right now I'm listening to Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. It is an account of his son Colton's experience with having visited Heaven. 

I'm halfway through the book now and I am enjoying it. While it's written through the perspective of a Christian I think anyone can appreciate the honesty of a child's interpretation of such a grand adventure. His accounts of the experience are so very sweet as only a child can describe something. I've enjoyed his father's explanation of what it's taught him as well. 

I do believe in a higher power. I was raised Catholic but my own spirituality has gone beyond what my faith has taught me. My own experiences have made my faith grow into belief. Perhaps an unshakable belief. I believe in the power of prayer however it may be. Hymns, reading Scripture, rosary, meditation or just plain speaking to God. One on one. I believe in God and he listens. I don't think he'll complain about the method in which we try to reach him. 

I believe in Heaven too. I was with my Father when he said goodbye. My Dad was not a man of flowery words but very matter of fact. He was a steadfast family man who shared everything. Having battled prostate cancer he was in his last hours when he opened his eyes. He looked around at us smiling and said that "They" were here for him. He hadn't been coherent for some time so to hear him speak so clearly was something in itself. He spoke of a light. There was some hesitation in his voice not of going but because he was leaving us behind. My Mom told him that it was ok to go. The peace that fell over my Father's face is something that I will never forget. All I can say is that it must be breathtakingly awesome. He said that he loved us all. He said he was sorry but that he was going to go with them. We all said that it was ok, he could go with them. He looked upward and smiled again. "Ok then...I think I'm going to go. I love you all." 
He never spoke another word.

What a priceless gift my Dad had given to us. I always believed in Heaven but from then on I knew there was an afterlife. Not only that but that in dying there is majestic process to passing.

Science has tried it's best to explain away and reason for these accounts. There seems to be a growing number of scientists willing to explore the boundaries of our current comprehension of life and death. That's why I love to find stories of children's accounts of experiences. From the mouth of babes, so simple and honest. Heaven is for real.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Family Traditions

One of our favorite family traditions each spring is driving out to Edom, Texas to pick blueberries at Blueberry Hill Farms. There are other farms in East Texas but we've continued going there partly because we love the family's story so much.

The couple that bought the farm had worked in the telecom business. They wanted something different for their daughters and decided to buy the farm. It's been a huge success and we've loved watching the farm expand. The daughters have all played a role. One has quite a big baking business. Another made ice cream and another sold blueberry lemonade. Last year they even had the Grandfather out in the parking area helping to direct traffic.

I am amazed that our boys, who are well into their teens still enjoy the trip. We take off at the crack of dawn so they usually sleep along the way. It was fun for me to remember them as little guys out there with their small buckets picking one berry at a time. Pick...plunk in the basket. Long pause then pick....plunk in the basket. 

This year it was blazing hot out there. We usually get out there earlier in June and yesterday it was a killer. I am already prone to being bothered by the heat and sun because of Sjogrens. I was feeling a little woozie and was afraid that I was going to pass out. If I did and woke to find my basket of blueberries scattered all over the pathway I would be crushed. So I retreated to the water tent.

When the boys and Hubby walked up announcing that they'd had enough too I felt better. All things considered it was another successful harvest of the lovely, plump, blue gems. We had our bounty bagged up for us and purchased one of the daughter's famous blueberry cream pies.

We always top off the trip with a visit to The Shed Cafe for lunch. While they are famous for their crazy delicious pies they are forever in my heart for their chicken fried steak. Yes...a southern staple that's slowly being stricken from menus across the south. Stricken because it's fried and perhaps not the healthiest choice on the menu. Throw in mashed taters and seasoned green beans and this girl is in heaven. Sigh.

I'm off now to bake. It's muffins this morning. Pancakes tomorrow...pie for after dinner. Yum.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keep Moving!

Totally scrapped today's message and decided it's time for some fun. I dare ya to sit still while watching this...

I'm ready for a margarita! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Falling Into A Good Book

I just love summer time reading. Reading wasn't an easy thing for me as a kid. I had problems with "perception" which back in the day no one knew how to remedy. It took a good number of years to catch up but I did. I always loved the Summer Reading List that the school would hand out at the end of the school year. I have never outgrown my love for the Summer Reading List.

My first recollection of falling deep into a book was while reading Leo. It was about a Norwegian Elk Hound. The landscape was so descriptive that I felt swept away. I don't remember the author and have searched for the book off and on for years. I keep thinking that if it was worthy of the Summer Reading List surely I can find a copy. I would just like to have a copy of it on my shelf.

As an adult an entire summer was spent reading Anna Karenina. This was a selection for Oprah's Summer Reading. Tolstoy. It was so much fun to read along with others and discuss the book chapter by chapter. Oh how I fell in love the the characters and their dilemmas. Feasts were described in such great detail that I too wanted to have my own harvest bash. Oh the angst of Anna. I vowed that if a gob of money were to miraculously be thrown on my lap I would make it into film. I would beg Catherine Zeta Jones to play Anna.
(I still can't picture anyone else) I was sad when I finished the book.

This summer it's been humid, which really does stink because it's already 100 degrees. Sjogrens Syndrome has dried my eyes of darn near all of their moisture so humidity is a good thing for dry eyes. I just finished Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck which was perfect for the busy days I've had this last week. It's a collection of essays and articles. She's so funny and a very talented writer. Sure made standing in line after line  tolerable.

I ran to the library and was able to find Elizabeth Berg's The Last Time I Saw You. Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite authors. I love how you get to know her characters through the dialog between each other. This book is harder to pull away from so I enjoyed getting comfy while my son was in with the orthodontist today. I know I kind of scrunched my eye brows when he came out after I had only finished a few chapters. (Can I send the kid back for another wire tweak?)

Our city has a great library system which runs a super kid's reading program. I think it's a great way to keep kids motivated to grab a book. I know it sure helps the kids when school begins again and their minds are sharp from reading every day. Falling behind in reading skills makes for a tough autumn.

My next book is a paperback so I'll be able to bob around the pool on my "floatie" while being whisked away to Shanghai. (Shanghai Girls by Lisa See)

Oh, a side note to my Sjoggie pals...I'll slather the sunscreen on thick, wear the sunglasses, wear the goofy hat and I promise to "bob" in the shaded end of the pool. Promise.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shania Twain Gets Back Up

When I woke up yesterday I had every intention on finishing another piece for the blog. Then I saw Shania Twain's reaction to her fall at the CMA Awards the night before. I thought her comments after the fall were so honest and sweet. I loved the fact that she was thinking about donating the shoes to be auctioned off for charity. I hadn't seen the video of her falling yet but I instantly thought, "Sounds like a Falling With Grace theme to me."

Ouch. Then I saw the fall. Man, that had to hurt. Sometimes when you see video of people falling it makes you say, "Oh!" Then there are times where it's a funny fall and yes...I will fully admit that I come from a family that loves a good funny fall. This is only if the person isn't hurt though. Shania's fall made me say, "Ouch!" It wasn't the "what the heck" kind of expression she had on her face. It looked like it hurt.

None the was a fall. You know what? Her reaction to it made me like her even more. That's the grace part of the fall. She's gotten back up from tougher falls and seems to have taken to her feet brilliantly.

I have really enjoyed watching the series Why Not on the OWN network. The series chronicles Shania's journey to "find her voice" which somehow had been lost along the path. I think that we all can relate to some point in our lives where a piece of us has been lost. It's a powerful moment when a person can get back up and look forward. I admire her humility and honesty that she's projected in the series. Her willingness to share her journey shows that maybe she already had her footing after all.

Update 8/16/2011:
This is a link to eBay where Shania is auctioning off the shoes she wore. Proceeds benefit Shania Kids Can.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Grannie and the Gogo Boots

I've really struggled with this post for weeks now. For all of the potential material that I could pull from I simply couldn't find the words. My grandmother Anna Mae Pilling, AKA Grannie Annie, passed away a few weeks ago. This was one fall that she wouldn't be able to recover from.

I've written and rewritten pieces but nothing seemed to feel right. How could I wrap up a life like Grannie Annie's with just a blog post? It just wasn't happening. That was until this morning. 

One of our sons was watching one of the Austin Powers movies on tv this morning. The retro scene blasted me back to when Grannie bought me boots. Not just any boots but shiny, red gogo boots. When I told my son that Grannie bought me gogo boots he kind of laughed. I'm not sure if he was laughing at the picture of me wearing gogo boots or the fact that Grannie was the one to buy them for me. 

All of a sudden I remembered the story my Grandmother had told hundreds of times about the boots that she always wanted as a girl. She called them "flappers". They called them flappers because they had buckles instead of laces. The cool girls wore the boots with the buckles unclasped, which would make a flapping sound as they walked. Flappers. Oh how my Grandmother wanted those boots. 

One bitter cold night there was an awful fire that destroyed my grandmother's family home and the entire contents. My Grandmother had recently admitted that she was secretly wishing that when her boots were replaced that she would get some "flappers" since she hated the lace ups so. She told my son that instead of "flappers" her Grandmother bought her another pair of lace ups, which by her recollection were uglier than the first pair she had. 

My mind flashed back to my own younger days to the shoe department of JC Penney where my Grandmother was supposed to be buying me shoes to wear with my uniform. While passing through my face lit up at the sight of the red gogo boots. I picked up a pair, just to feel them. I never really thought that I'd own a pair. These were the wrinkly shiny kind too. Oh how I loved the look of those boots. 

I don't even remember there being any pleading on my part to get the boots. Grannie simply asked me if I liked them. I must have looked like I was holding gold because she had me try them on. I remember a bit of hesitation...eeeeeee! So I tried them on and they fit like they had been stitched specifically for my feet. I looked up at her in sheer delight. She asked me if I wanted them. Heck yeah I wanted them! So that was it. The purchase was made and I became the proud owner of shiny, red gogo boots. 

When we got home my mother questioned the purchase of the shiny, red gogo boots. My Grandmother simply told my mother, "She liked them." 

They may not have been "flappers" but to Grannie they might as well have been. I loved those boots. I'm not even sure how many times I got to wear them since they weren't something that I'd wear to Sunday Mass or to school. I felt special in my shiny, red gogo boots. I sure feel special now that I've put the "flapper and gogo boot" connection together. 

I love my Grannie and miss her more each day that passes. I could just go on and on about how many things she taught me. No doubt she'll make an appearance in the blog again. I think she'd be pleased to remember the red gogo boots story. I can picture her in her flappers right now. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom Day

I'm not sure of another role in life that can make a person feel so proud yet feel totally out of control at the same time. I love being a Mom. I love every part of it, even the crazy stuff that makes the-crazy-stream-of-run-on-jumbled-words spew from my lips. Even though it scares the hell out of me sometimes, the whole "on the job training" aspect of it all keeps life interesting.

It seems like just when I'd get a handle on things, life would get more challenging. Like being "leveled" up in a video game. Life's way of saying, "Yea! You did it! By the way, duck!" I open my eyes and darned if the kids aren't teenagers already. 

What I love about Momhood is that no matter how far advanced our world gets it's always the simple things that make all the difference in the world. I love that in spite of there being a book or video on every aspect of parenting, the stuff that really works is what's been learned on the job. Sometimes it's the most simple action that makes the biggest difference. Other parents share their experiences and it's like magic. 

I've lost count of how many moments I've relayed something to my Mom and after a bit of a pause she'll say, "Uh huh." It's never been a snarky "uh huh" either. It's been a subtle, "Oh honey, I've been there" kind of uh huh. 

Those frazzled mom moments are really unmatched by the awe of seeing the world again through someone else's sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Leaves are beautiful. Orange Sorbet really does hit the spot on a hot day. Hearing your favorite song on the radio can lift your mood. And nothing's better than a wonka wonka hug at the end of a long day.

So I'd like to say that I think I get it. The pride, the angst, the elation, the worry...I understand it all so very much. It's with this understanding that I have to take a moment to say how very grateful I am to my mother. I'm very grateful for all you have given us.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lost Pieces

It always seems like when I think I've got everything under control something happens that throws everything into a whirl. Sometimes I feel like my life is slapped onto a potter's wheel but instead of being molded, sculpted it's left alone and spins around all floppy. Tiny chunks of my life's messy mud is flung around, clinging helplessly to any porous surface that will support it.

While most times I seem to manage to clump my life back together again there always seems to be a piece missing. It's not the chunk that my kitten batted under the fridge either. I've accounted for that piece but what's happened to the rest of it?

This last week was probably the first time that I gave a good long stare down at my Sjogrens Sydrome. Instead of the recon like scouting I've done previously, I really took a realistic examination of my new opponent. Life is complicated enough without this throwing more mess into the mix. After careful observation I think I've found where my missing chunks of life have gone.

With each "flare" I have realized that I come out of it with a bit more apprehension. I'm not as quick to throw on my apron and whip up a batch of cookies. I've found that I'm almost never a morning person anymore. I miss making big breakfasts on the weekend. When I say yes to an invitation I try real hard to squash the whispers of fear that I might not feel well enough to make it. I'm not the cheerleader on the sideline anymore that can shout out rah rahs for my loved ones' endeavors.

Those might seem like silly things but to me those chunks weren't just pieces...they were "peaces". They were little moments of peace amongst the chaos that family life is. I miss those parts of me that I've set aside from the lump.

The hardest part for me is never really knowing when the potter's wheel is going to be turned on. I rather like the idea that I'm being molded into something new every day so I don't resist being a lump of clay. I just resent the fact that Sjogrens gets to keep it's foot on the peddle. Just when I think I'm steady I begin whirling around again. This latest "flare" has me dizzy, let me tell you.

This afternoon I'm trying to find the chunks again:

  •  I'm grateful that Hubby is making dinner.
  • I'm so glad that  I don't have anywhere to be this evening so jammy time can be early.
  • Got word that the seeds my niece and I planted are sprouting. She was so proud she shouted, "I did that!"
  • My untended garden is more abundant than it logically should be. 
  • My boys are old enough now to notice that we're spoiling the kitten and that maybe it needs discipline. 

So now I'm pretty much back together. I'm realizing that people pay good money for this kind of dizzy. I should just be still, kind to my body while it rebounds. I know there are some things left undone and that's ok too. And you know what? That chunk of me that the kitten bopped under the fridge... I can do without. That was the part that was crazy enough to care how clean the underside of my fridge was!

Friday, April 15, 2011

We Can Get Through This Together

It's been one of those crazy, hectic weeks. As I've mentioned before, I've made my peace with Spring so we're good, Spring and I. This time of year is just crazy though. Have you noticed how much gets crammed into 2 months?

Since making my peace with Spring I've really taken the time to stop and try to figure out what the heck is going on in the weeks of April and May. I used to just think it was my issues with the tail end of my friend's days. Now I'm really beginning to think it's not just me.

First, there is the "End of School Year" stress. If you're a teacher, you're trying to stuff as much knowledge into your students' craniums as the state regulations will allow.
If you're a parent, you're trying to keep up with the stacks of papers notifying you of reports due, special programs and your kids' next year's curriculum. Oh, and the Cranial Factual Data Compression Consent Form. Hey, where is that one? Darn it...they even printed that one on canary yellow.
Anyway, if you're the student, it's the "Holy Crap" moment of the academic year when you realize that the spring time slacking has savaged your grades.
Up goes the stress...Mom's screaming for some yellow form...teachers remind you of how they tried to warn you. AHHHHHHH!

My second thought was that it's just a hard time to balance work and play. With the warmer months there are always house chores that have been put off until Spring. Here in Texas we start warming up in March but it can wain back and forth until the end of April. There is about a week until it starts to really heat up. Throw in some stormy weather like we had last night and your clean up efforts are tripled.

Maybe the stress is due to allergies? After having another bad bout with allergies I was wondering how many people are doped up on Benadryl. It's hard to get anything done with a tissue clenched in each hand. It's just impossible to stay on track. (For some people, literally) When the "four hour relief" wears off and you sober up you realize you're four hours behind!

All that I know for sure is that we're all pinging off of each other on God's green Earth. The more agitated we get the harder it is to move around freely. I am deeply sorry to the Bubba that was riding my tail this morning. I cannot risk a speeding son's summer camp fee is due. Just because you're rushing back to school to drop off your yellow CFDCC form doesn't mean you get to drive the rest of us off the road. Besides, it's not that form that's due's your taxes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Watch That Straw!

Remember this game? When I started writing this blog entry I remembered having this game. The game itself is pretty simple. Each player takes a straw and places it in the basket on the camel's back. The one who puts in the last straw that breaks the camel's back is the loser. 

What is your last straw? When do you know when you've reached your limit? As kids we knew when my Dad was at his limit of parental patience. He would just stand at the top of the stairs and pat his head with both hands. He'd shake his head while doing the patting...maybe as if he was shaking off the last fragment of patience before blowing his top? This was not a good sign. In all accounts, this meant the Junod kids had pushed Dad beyond the limit. Surprisingly, there was never any yelling involved with the head patting. In the silence of Dad's maniacal head patting we would all look at each other with distress. It didn't matter who might have started the incident, we all were in it from there out. It usually moved us into action, the very action that was probably requested of us in the first place. 

I've referred to how my "last straw" looks. I hold onto stuff inside until I spew like a summer time water toy. My "tell" is when I tug down hard on my face with my hands. With my fingers bearing down on my cheek bones I tug down on my bottom eyelids. There's usually some groaning eyes wide with fury. This is where Nice Amy splinters into her other self and she begins talking in latin. Oh,'s not that bad. Although I have no idea the words I say, they must be motivating. 

Have you ever encountered someone who's response to a situation is totally blown out of proportion and inappropriate to the problem? The truth is that it's probably not that one situation that has made the person irate. It's probably the fact that so many "straws" were put in the bucket that the person was carrying. That one tiny incident was the final straw. 

You never know what kind of heavy load someone is carrying. In a world where we seldom take the time to really listen to what's going on in a person's life it's hard to tell. Sometimes people have carried the load so long that it just looks like the ordinary burden. The person has shifted the weight around so that you can't see the weight of it all. It's there though...ready to break free from under the pressure. Just one straw is all it takes.

My wish is that you have a light load of straws to carry today. If you see someone who's struggling with too many straws, offer to take on a few of them. If we all distribute the weight it's an easier load to carry. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can We Keep It?

Can we keep it? Four simple words with a question mark on the end. Simple enough, right? To an unseasoned parent, maybe. For others, those four words mean one must tread lightly. The question mark on the end usually means something too, so don't underestimate it.

One of the things that I love about Hubby is that he can't stand to see an animal suffer. He especially loves the baby animals. So when the boys find "something" to rescue, it's usually brought in by Hubby to nurse back to health. The trick is to have rehab done before the patient is given a name. 

One year we nursed baby possums. The boys found the little ones walking out of their den hole. They put them back into the hole but the next day they were at our doorstep. We knew something was wrong when they were out by themselves in daylight. Our Jamaican neighbor had trapped their "Mom" thinking it was a giant rat. He had never seen a possum before. Anyway, Ozzie and Harriet were with us until they were big enough to catch bugs on their own. We released Ozzie and Harriet at a nature preserve and they took off digging to make their new home. Pretty cool. 

This year's rescue was an actual domesticated species. It was the cutest black ball of fur. One of our sons found it down in a drainage hole and couldn't get out. He figured he must have fallen through the grate. Our son's friends wanted to keep going but he told them he wasn't going to just leave it. 
Hubby got a phone call. "Dad! Bring a screwdriver and the gloves!"
It wasn't long before I could hear "Meee! Meeee!" It was a tiny black kitten with beautiful blue eyes. Hubby gave it a warm bath.When it was wrapped up in a towel it immediately started to purr. 

This is where the rehabbing of an animal becomes tricky for the seasoned parent. This is where the seasoned parent must establish the fact that we are just "fostering" the animal. It's not for keeps that we're taking care of it. 

Darn it! The little guy was just the cutest little ball of black fur. He looked up with his sweet blue eyes and squeaked out a feeble, "Meep!" Then he patted my face with both of his paws, lovey like. 

I had to shake it off. "Shake the cuteness off!" I snapped to myself. 
"Drop the cute act're not stayin' here," I said to him as he nibbled my hand. "Meep!" he squeaked. .

The next 2 weeks we took care of the little fella until we could find it a good home. My friend and her husband dropped by the house to deliver some Pampered Chef goods. Little did they know that they would fall under the little fella's cuteness spell. We told my friend about how he was rescued from a drainage hole. He began his pouncing play and purred loudly. They were hooked. 

They left and were going to seriously consider coming back for the little guy. The next few days I kept sending  "feelers" out to see what the rest of the family's thoughts were about the kitten leaving. They all were happy that it was going to a loving home. That was the goal in the first place I convinced myself.  

Another week passed and the little guy had gotten into the routine of the house. Our cats had even started teaching it their favorite naughty things to get in to. He had taken up napping space in the sunny spot under my writing desk...snuggled next to my feet. He was beginning to settle in. 

I sent my friend a message to see if she was still interested. She told me she was...if I wasn't too attached. As the little guy was biting my toes I replied, "No." 

So the morning came when he was getting picked up. I packed up his favorite toys and the box that we had him stay in until he could climb out. It was his "fort".
"This is his favorite toy", I said as I pulled out a purple mouse to show them. 
"Here's the kitten chow, although he prefers the adult food better. And here's the kitten formula. He likes a little before bed and seems to help him sleep through the night." 

Do those sound like the words of a seasoned rescue parent? No. No they do not. By the way, I had already started calling it names. Stupid names really...Little Bit, Squirt, Stinky Bean. 
Thankfully, my friend named him Malcom...for the captain of Serenity. That is a perfect name for the little guy. 

Yes...I fell in love with a rescue. It happened. I thought that I kept my guard up but somehow that fuzz ball got into my heart. Maybe next time before asking the rest of the family...I'm gonna ask myself..."Can we keep it?" 

Before publishing this post I got a ring from "the boys". They were on a mission to save the sibling of Malcolm. It had made a wrong turn in the underground tunnel drain system. It wouldn't come out of the hole for them. I pulled up and Hubby and son were hovering over the hole. I made the squeaky "meep" sound that Malcolm made. Out popped his sister's head."Meep!", she cried as she was climbing and trying to get out. Hubby's master rescue plan had worked. Hubby lifted up sissy in his rescue apparatus.
After a much needed bubble bath, a good night's sleep and some romping in the family room I'm looking down at it. I don't think there's any question this time. I've fallen for cuteness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Not Always In A Name

I've written before about getting this gene or that gene from either my Dad's side of the family or my Mom's. It's always easier to blame the "gene" for some stupid biological metamorphical atrocity. (stupid jawline hair, big feet, carb cravings) I rather like the green eyes and brown hair though.

My Aunt has done intensive research on my Mom's side of the family and I've loved the historical facts that she's turned up. Even cooler is that my 96 year old Grandmother's confirmed much of what she's found. The pictures and documents are fascinating to me. My Aunt Janet has the kind of mind that can twist and turn without cramping like mine does. So when she digs in she usually enjoys the puzzle of it all. 

She has recently started working on my Dad's side of the family...and has turned up some crazy factoids. My Dad's Father's side was even harder to track back because the spelling of the last name changed not once, twice but three times (and from the French spelling to the English).

It's always a crazy thing to go diggin' in the past. Everyone wishes that they will turn up some majestic ancestry line but for the most part find hard working folk. (Not that the Royals don't have a tough job) I liken this to watching Antiques Roadshow. I just love that show! I love when people bring in items that they think are worth millions only to find out the item's a fake.(Doh!) It's even more fun to see someone bring in a family heirloom just to learn more about it's history. Those are the ones that usually turn out the most valuable (and would never be sold anyway!).

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we each have a story beyond what's in the here and now. We're like living time capsules that have yet to be discovered. Who knows where that ear for music came from or the size of said ear. However we got here, here we are. I think it's beyond our current comprehension how very connected we all are. How many times have we seen each other down that family line? Did my family's ancestors bump into yours? How cool a thought is that? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rebuilding From Tragedy

I noticed the other day that I have a reader in Japan. This was the day that I posted my "Damn It' entry. I stopped for a moment and wondered how someone from a country dealing with such unimaginable destruction would perceive the post.

With each story that comes out of Japan I am in awe of their strength in facing such devastation. I marvel at how quickly they have moved into action. I've heard a great deal about how very well prepared they are as a country but who could have planned for an event of this scope?

The Japanese people show the true core of human kind. When faced with what seems to be an impossible disaster to evaluate and recover from- they've already begun. They immediately forged forward with such courage and strength. From every edge of the globe there are people mobilizing relief efforts.

My prayers and thoughts go out to everyone effected by the Earthquake and Tsunami. My heart goes out to those who still wait for news from loved ones and for those who have received news.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Just Might Have To Say Damn It

How many as parents have let a few swear words slip out here and there? It's always the at the worst possible time that the kiddos shout out a newly picked up swear word. Believe it or not, my son spat out a "damn it" in a Christian book store. I kid you not. I was mortified. 

The latest topic of conversation at my sister's dinner table lately is "not saying damn it". My 3 year old niece is oh so clever. The conversation goes something like this:

"Bobby was in time out today for saying damn it. Damn isn't a good word to say so the teacher put him in time out. Then Sarah said damn it and Ms. Clara put her in time out because you're not supposed to say damn it, because damn it isn't a good word to say. Only big people say damn it and even then it's not good to say damn it. Even though you might be mad, you're still not supposed to say damn it. Cuz damn it's not a nice thing to say...damn it isn't." 

One evening this week my niece was in trouble and she bellowed, "I'm so angry that I want to say damn it but I can't!"

My sister has a new plan for getting rid of the word. Princesses don't say damn it. (pronounced preen-cess)
At least one little preen-cess doesn't. (when she grows up she's gonna be a preen-cess and be reech)

I've had a couple of bad days and I've said more than my share of off colored words. "My Lord" seems to be one that I'll start out with. I'm quick to share with anyone listening that he's their Lord too,  not exclusively just mine. No one really pays that much attention to me when I pass that on. I think if Jesus was listening he'd understand. I think he's rather cool that way. 

Sometimes isn't it better just to let the tantrum rip? I do know that I bottle things up inside until I blow. My patience runs dry and I spew like one of those summer sprinkler toys. No amount of meditation or yoga is gonna get rid of that pent up frustration. THERE SHE BLOWS! 

I can imagine how frustrating things must be when you're 3 too. Maybe you wanted gumbo instead of fish sticks...Billy got the box of Mr. Potato Heads before can't do "flee-ups" off the couch. Some days are just enough to make you want to say damn it. 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Pat's Day

I have to admit, I love St. Patrick's Day. I love the stories that my Grandmother tells about the toughness of her Grandmother and my Uncle George would tell so many stories from my Dad's side of the family. 
Grannie tells of how everyone said that her Grandmother could do a jig on a stump. Heck, I have trouble walking a straight line some days so it's amazing that there are those genes rattling around in me. (the "jig" gene)

I'll share an Irish Blessing with you this day:

May you be blessed with the strength of heaven-
the light of the sun 
and the radiance of the moon
the splendor of fire-
the speed of lightning-
the swiftness of wind-
the depth of the sea-
the stability of earth and the firmness of rock. 
                From the Breastplate of Saint Patrick

Monday, March 14, 2011

Making My Peace With Spring

For years I was in a sort of bitter battle with Spring. As the holidays were over I began to get that sinking feeling and before long I was at war. It took me many years to even realize that I was at odds with the season of what most view as the time of renewal.

I was a gal that liked routine. Renewal was a word that brought fearful thoughts. Spring forced me to learn about grief, face inner demons, confront fear and punted me out of routine. I hated Spring for what it took from me. I was pissed as hell at it and I think it knew.

Like many wars, my battle with Spring went on for quite a few years. Until a wise person pointed it out to me, I didn't even see it was a war. To me it was a nasty argument that had just gone on too long. Epic battles usually involve more than two parties. Not only was Spring involved, but Me, Myself and I.

I suppose that clinically my issues could have been described as a sort of seasonal depression. The truth was that until I confronted the causes of the triggers I was doomed to face that challenger every year. With each year and another win under it's belt, Spring was becoming a nasty opponent.

It only takes one battle fought hard and well to regain a little ground. Once I knew to look for the signs I began to plan my revolt. Such an awakening it was for me to stand tall against my bitter rival. For me, the first signal that battle was imminent was the humid seasonal weather we have in February and March. There is a sort of heaviness to the air and a musky smell in the air. As triggers go, this was a big one to recognize.

The battle line was gained and lost. I would charge forward only to retreat like hell. It wasn't until Spring administered it's crushing final blow, the death of my brother, that I just laid down my arms. Broken and defeated I stripped bare of all my armor.

I was fully expecting Spring to gloat. I was expecting it to taunt me and pick at me. Instead seeing me all sprawled out and defenseless, it offered me a lift up.

I opened my heart and eyes for the first time in so many years. I began to see the world in a whole different light. One by one my questions were answered by Spring. I planted a little herb garden and Spring responded with morning air filled with dill, rosemary and thyme.

I began to trust Spring. I became an academic of my own spirit. God gives us so many gifts and blessings each day if we would just open our eyes to receive them. One year I really enjoyed the discussions that Oprah did with author Eckhart Tolle on his book A New Earth. For the first time I had learned how to meditate. For someone who simply could not shut her mind off long enough to hear her own thoughts, this was a huge growth spurt.

I thought to myself how simple it is really. We make it all so difficult on ourselves. Meditation isn't any harder than getting enchanted by watching a baby sleep. Listening to a baby's soft, sweet breath is so peaceful. Before too long you realize you've been sitting there watching for an hour!

With each new year the garden kept growing. The next year I was finally diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome. This might have been seen as a blow from Spring but it was the answer to so many questions. (Why was I so tired? Why did my eyes feel like they were full of shards of glass? Why are my salivary glands the size of almonds again? Why can't I breath in spring humidity? Why was I so dizzy? Was I just lazy? Why couldn't I understand that simple flow chart? And my joints? What the heck is up with those?)

Last year I really looked forward to my annual play date with Spring. I stood in my garden taking in as much of that lovely fresh air that I could. My dill was really magnificent which attracted Black Swallowtails. I had many birds nesting so the sounds of Spring was just music. After the third morning of walking out the back door to find a bird eggshell I likened them to baby bird announcements.

Yesterday I walked outside with my coffee. Spring and I spent some quality time together. We welcomed the finches back for another year and we got to meet one of my "over wintering" Black Swallowtail butterflies.

There we sat like the best of friends...Spring and I. Hello dear friend...I'm ready with open eyes, a graceful spirit and a grateful heart. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Following My Brother, Kevin Michael Junod

It's been 4 years now since my big brother passed away. He had been chronically ill for years and had really defied medical predictions. He fought a good fight against Crohns, Diabetes and Lupus. Lupus took the final shot and his heart just couldn't keep up anymore.

My brother was a very talented artist, both with a canvas and a comical tongue. He was a big brother- all the way. He took his job seriously. Teasing...there was plenty. Actually tormenting would be a more appropriate word. In all of the teasing though my sister and I knew we were loved.

He was a tough act to follow. Really. The first day of school my 4th grade year I had Sister Irene. She called out roll, came to my name and said it out loud. I sat up tall to say shout out "here" like all of the other kids. She gave me a glare from over her bifocals and shocked me into silence.
"Kevin Junod's little sister?" she asked. I got the distinct impression that maybe it wasn't such a good thing to be Kevin Junod's little sister. I managed to squeak out a yes I think. No one informed me of my brother's legendary jokester status. Would have been nice to get a head's up. Like I said, a tough act to follow.

I could tell the story about the time he left me up in the tree house until dusk but I'll save that for another time. (I was too afraid to climb down there I sat. Like I said, another time)

I would rather tell you a story about my brother's neighbor. He was kind enough to tell me how important my brother was to him. It was such a touching gift of a story that he told, it made me so proud to be Kevin Junod's little sister.

My brother's neighbor had battled cancer for many years. It was very aggressive. The man told me that Kevin's attitude inspired him so. Kevin would ask him how he was doing and he would stop to wait for an answer. He really cared and wanted to know. They spent many conversations talking about coping with illness. They must have created a special bond. My brother having done a good amount of woodworking helped the man build his own coffin.

"That's what kind of man he was", the man told me.

He went on to tell me that one day my brother spotted him sitting on the porch. He was having a particularly bad day. He asked my brother how he did he faced everything every day.
"Do you know what your brother told me?" the man asked, "He told me he prays for strength. He said that that's all you can do...pray for strength to get through. Then the next day you pray for strength again."
The man credited my brother's advice for beating the cancer odds.

That sums up what kind of a man my brother was. He was compassionate and kind hearted. Life was what it was and he stood up to it every day.

I miss my brother so much and I really do value his advice. I try to remember my brother's advice every day with my own prayers. I pray for energy most days, grace always and I never forget to slip in a request for strength.