It’s National Camera Day

I love taking pictures. I first fell in love with photography in high school. I can’t remember the exact day or anything but the first whiff I got of Kodak’s D-76 developer – it was all over for me. Hours were spent taking pictures. Hours were spent in the darkroom at WMHS. Roll after roll was developed. Photos enlarged. Images superimposed. Being alone in a dark room for hours on end was my nirvana.

I preferred to take pictures of buildings and shapes (I planned to be the principal photographer for Architectural Digest one day) but would occasionally shoot friends. I rarely shot family. Little did I know this would be the only way I could shoot them and get away with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

My future step-dad had given his old Pentax to me. It was the coolest gift I’d ever received. I loved it so much – it rarely left my side. I was always snapping pictures. I didn’t have much of a desire to photograph current events. There was no way I could go into photojournalism because I could never intrude on someone’s personal space when they were at their worst. I would not win Pulitzers for capturing the campus shooting or people jumping from a burning building. That wasn’t my style. Shapes. Things. That was me.

My mom recognized my interest and decided to encourage it. On one shopping excursion to the J.C. Penney outlet, she came across an enlarger. It was a sign! She bought it for me and then decided to turn one of the vacant rooms in our house into a darkroom. She took me to Cord Camera and let me pick out trays, chemicals, thermometers, and paper. This set up was to be my 16th birthday present. In retrospect this was a perfect present for that particular birthday. Some kids pine for a car on this hallmark of birthdays, but since I had run over a kitten during one tedious evening of driving instruction, I swore I’d never drive again. Cars were the devil. And since it was the tool of an innocent kitten’s death in Outville, OH, I need not have anything to do with the four-wheeled beast. It took me a good six months to come to my senses, get over my grief, and finally obtain my license.

My love of photography carried through to my college years. I was disappointed to learn that the darkroom was way more crowded at Ohio University and often a place where the dark was taken advantage of. I recall many instances – after tripping over couples making out near the enlargers – saying “Excuse me, SOME of us are trying to WORK here”. Perhaps I was just jealous.

I went on a mad spree of photographing tombstones after my step-mother, step-sister, and grandfather all died within a two month period during my freshman year of college. Somewhere along the way I decided to drop my photography classes. I changed my major from photography to psychology (which eventually turned into social work). I think after taking a couple of psych courses I learned that there were actual case studies of people just like my family members! I became fascinated and dedicated myself to learning about alcoholism, suicidal tendencies, bipolar disorders… Wow. I was no longer ET on a foreign planet. There were others just like us and there were actual NAMES for their disorders! I would no longer be spending time in the dark.

Today, I have a Canon EOS Rebel. We bought it shortly after Ben was diagnosed with NB. I photographed a lot of his treatment. I figured that he deserved to be able to look back on it all and say “Wow. I’m an amazing kid. Look what I did!” I do enjoy scrapbooking (I have a weakness for paper… ) but there’s nothing in the kid’s section of the scrapbooking stores that commemorates childhood cancer. They have “First Day of School” stickers, every sport you can imagine, and a selection of paper celebrating orthodontia… but no cancer products. I’m not being morbid. After all, they do have PINK RIBBON scrapbook paper, stickers and accessories. You’d think breast cancer is the only cancer out there. I’m anxiously awaiting the creation of a line of GOLD RIBBON products. People might think Childhood Cancer is rare, but it’s not. I happen to know lots of kids who have suffered, are still suffering, or have passed away. They deserve to have their own flippin’ scrapbook page.

Today, sort through your old pictures. Or take some new ones. Find one of yourself taken on a “good hair day”, or one that makes your butt look smaller, your eyes a bit brighter, or the one taken when you were in love… the happiness permeating through your eyes.

More tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

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Eden and Ben on Ben’s last day of treatment, March 31, 2005.

We lost our dear Eden this past December, 2008.

I’m going on the road today.

Sorry that posts have been spotty. My parents are in town as well as my sister and her kiddos. My step-dad is renting an RV as I type this and we’re headed to the Grand Canyon this afternoon. Yesterday was Ben’s birthday… whirlwind of activity.

Since I won’t have the opportunity to update from the road I wanted to let you know this week’s line-up of holidays.

June 23 – National Pink Day and Take Your Dog to Work Day. Our dogs just got the shaft… they were dropped off at the kennel this morning. ๐Ÿ™

June 24 – Swim a Lap Day

June 25 – Log Cabin Day and National Catfish Day.

June 26 – Beautician’s Day and Forgiveness Day. I’m sorry to miss that one.

June 27 – Paul Bunyan Day and Sun Glasses Day

So. Now you’re set for the week. I’ll be posting trip photos on Facebook so keep an eye out for those!

More next week. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s National “Go Skate Day” and “Finally Summer Day”

First of all, let me say HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all the dads out there. From a child’s standpoint, I feel very conflicted about the role of the father. My biological father is an interesting specimen – he’s a total deadbeat. I’m glad to have a “fill-in” in the form of my step-dad. If it weren’t for him, well, let’s just say it was good to have him around. From a mother’s standpoint, I’m amazed by my husband’s love for his children. He is a great father. Dads, I hope you understand how important you are to your kiddos. If you can’t be there with them all the time, just make sure you’re “there” for them 100%. Your kids need you.

Now. An apology. I missed posting yesterday because I took a day trip up to Summit County with my dear friend, Hillary. She’s moving back to Ohio shortly and we just had too much fun. See the photos on Facebook. So I missed Ice Cream Soda Day. Bummer. Having worked at the Kirk Kone, I know I have some good stories. However, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so you’ll have to wait until next year.

OK. National Skate Day. Man, I loved that roller rink in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. My Elementary school experience wouldn’t have been the same without it. Lacing up those skates, loving the pulsating music, waiting anxiously for the hokey pokey and backwards skate. I ROCK at skating backwards. And I had “the comb”. You know, the big-toothed comb with the oversized handle designed to fit in your back pocket. Completely necessary for perfecting feathered hair. These combs usually declared a statement of some sort on the handle. Mine said “If you can read this, you’re skating too close”. I loved that thing. It was a necessary skating accessory.

Ben’s school has a skating party once in a blue moon. We’ve been once. Madeline was too young to skate on her own so I couldn’t really get my groove on. But the next time we get the opportunity I’m so there. I’m going on eBay to find an oversized comb and while I don’t have feathered hair anymore, I’m so going to request “Renegade” by Styx and rock out the rink.

I hope I don’t fall and break my hip.

So. Finally Summer Day. I love this day. Not because I love summer. I have red hair and very fair skin. Our species are more akin to wearing long pants, parkas and, well, covering every inch of skin we have. I love this day because I like to tease my son. See, I went into labor with my fine young son on June 21, 2001. June 21st is the summer solstice. It’s the longest day of the year. I realize that the longest day of the year is technically all about the amount of sunlight we receive, but I tease my son that since he took forever to arrive – over 25 hours of labor – that it was, indeed, the longest day of the year.

June 19 was my “false labor” where I did the “walk of shame” (see post from June 19). So, I went in to my OB/GYN for a follow up on June 21. Matt was with me, as was every other pregnant woman in the Central Ohio area. The waiting room was PACKED. I was miserable. My feet looked like overfilled water balloons by this point. These feet could have starred in their own horror film.

After realizing that my wait to see the doctor would be extensive, I knew I would have to go potty before my actual appointment. I went up to the nurses station and requested a little cup to leave my specimen in and headed back to the bathroom. Just as I was starting to sit down on the toilet and position my cup, a big splash occurred. I mean BIG. Being a normal person, I should have just assumed that this was, indeed, my water breaking. However, since I had just done the “walk of shame” on the 19th, there was no way I was going to embarrass myself again. So, I left my “specimen” and said nothing. I went back out into the waiting room and whispered to Matt that I thought my water had just broke. He urged me to go say something to the nurse but I declined. No way. I’m not embarrassing myself again. Forget it. I’ll just wait.

A few moments later a nurse came out into the waiting room. She was holding my sample. Glancing around the packed waiting room with a look of “duh” on her face, she said, “Uh, Sarah Brewer?” Feeling like a child get a scolding, I lowered my head a bit, lifted my eyes to her and even raised my hand a little bit. “Yes, ma’am. That’s mine.” I stammered. Every woman in the waiting room glued their eyes on me. They KNEW what was in that cup. I wasn’t so sure. The nurse said “What is this you’ve left me?” All the women were anxiously awaiting my response but I was horrified to answer. So, since it wasn’t multiple choice, and no one was willing to help me cheat, I gave my standard response: “I don’t know”. She looked at me, pointed at the door and said “Go to the hospital. Your water just broke.”

I was hoping that the waiting room would erupt in a cheer but that didn’t happen. The air was thick with envy. So, we collected our stuff and I commanded my grotesquely overblown feet to get me out of that waiting room.

Labor was grueling. Exhausting. Never ending. Two epidurals worth. My little Ben had no desire to come out. I was threatened with emergency C-section at one point during the night. I was fine with that. I was completely over being in labor. Enough already! Plus, I really wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. C’mon, kid. Don’t make me wait any longer.

Finally, at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2001, he arrived. Benjamin Harrison Brewer. 7 pounds, 2 0z. 19 inches long. Red hair. They gave me a chance to rub his little toes before they whisked him away. He was in distress. Cord issues… not passing APGAR initially. He was tired. Me, too. But it was worth it. It still is. It always will be.

Love you, kiddo. Thanks for making that longest day of the year one with such an incredible ending.

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It’s World Sauntering Day

Sauntering: to walk with a leisurely gait; stroll: sauntering through the woods.

Let’s all slow down. As I type this, my five-year-old daughter is walking around in fancy shoes, wearing gaudy blue eyeshadow and wanting me to fix her hair so she can look more grown up. My heart twinges when I see her rush like this. But it’s a rite of passage. And I know it’s not going to slow down any time soon. One minute they’re a sweet baby in your arms and the next they are all grown up. *Sigh*

Eight years ago today I was in the process of my “getting ready for work” routine. I have to follow a routine or everything gets thrown off. I think this is all a part of my ADD issues. Anyway, I had stepped out of the shower, dried off, and began to brush my teeth. Half way into my brushing something watery hit the floor. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I was nine months pregnant with my first child – gender to be determined. My toothbrush fell into the sink and I excitedly yelled for Matt to come into the bathroom. I called the Doctor’s office, told them what had happened and they told us to head straight for the hospital.

We excitedly drove to Riverside Hospital thinking that by the end of the day we’d have a baby. Part of the excitement was finally learning if it was a boy or a girl! I couldn’t wait!ร‚ย We checked in at the front desk of the maternity unit, excitedly chatting with nurses about finally finding out what we were having. They led us to our room, directed me to change into a gown, and proceeded to check out my “progress”.

The nurse who initially inspected me was saying “Hmmm” a lot. She called over another nurse, who began her own inspection, and pretty much had the same to say. As they both stripped off their gloves with a loud snapping sound they both said “Nope. Your water didn’t break.” What? Then what hit the floor while I was getting ready this morning? While they weren’t 100% sure of what it was, they suggested it was the mucus plug. Man. The process of having a baby is just gross. ๐Ÿ™‚

So. I begrudgingly took off my hospital gown. We would not be meeting our baby today. I redressed as Matt collected our things. The little gown that was appropriate for a boy or a girl… the video camera… stuff to help me through the delivery (which I later learned the only thing that would help with that was an epidural).

We left the room. As we were walking down the hall, one of the nurses was erasing my name off of the big white board of patients. I lowered my head and began what could only be described as a “walk of shame”. I felt them all looking at me, saying “Tsk, tsk. First time parents. They know nothing.”

I was sad that we wouldn’t meet our son or daughter that day. I felt as if I just couldn’t wait another day. My feet were swollen. My body was tired. I wanted to finally learn how to put a diaper on a real baby. I just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, when my boss found out that I wasn’t truly in labor, he called me back to work. Ugh.

Waiting. It stinks. But when we distract ourselves with other beautiful things in the world, hopefully we learn that it will all eventually come to us, just as my sweet little Ben came to me just three days later.

More tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Three for One: Go Fishing Day, International Panic Day and National Splurge Day

Wow. Some days are just loaded with holidays! You’ll have to get started early in order to celebrate all three of these because they run the emotional gamut.

Fishing. I sincerely enjoy fishing as a sport but cannot stand to eat fish. I’m more of a catch and release girl. I caught my first fish at Buckeye Lake when I was four years old, with my drunk Grandfather acting as my coach, while he was off peeing behind a bush. “Just reel it in, Dan-elle”. He always pronounced my name as if it were two separate words instead of how my parents intended it be pronounced, Duhnelle, which isn’t much better. Is it any wonder I eradicated this name from the line-up? So, I caught a catfish. Nasty looking creature. And there was no way I was going to eat it.

Fast forward a few years. 1988. Pennsylvania. I’m a camp counselor at Camp Weequahic near Binghamton, NY. Camp for the very privileged, ages 6-16, predominately Jewish kids from the NY-NJ area. The kids were dropped off in June and picked up in August. I was hired for my knowledge of photography… they had a darkroom at this camp! Since I’m a fair-complected individual, being in a darkroom at a summer camp in the Poconos is a perfect place for me. I was also hideously shy (I know some of you will doubt this but my high school friends will understand). I didn’t know a single soul at this camp. I decided to go on a whim. I was there for a week before the campers got there – getting the darkroom ready – and while I met my co-counselors, I didn’t really branch out and meet very many others.

So. The very first day that the children arrived I was down at the fishing dock helping the wee-little ones adjust to being without their parents. I was tending to several six-year-olds, helping them with their rods and setting them up with bait. I was bridging a gap between two piers to help some of the kiddos get from one side to the other. With a leg on either dock I would lift up the kiddo on one side and place gently on the other. One child decided to leap at me instead of waiting to be gently placed on the other side. I caught him, but my balance wasn’t what it should be since my legs were spanning two docks floating in the water. We went in. It wasn’t very deep, but it was rocky. I came up, gasping for air, but my little six-year-old daredevil didn’t. Here’s where we start to celebrate International Panic Day. I dove back in and was able to grab my little sweetie-pie’s shirt. I pulled him up. Come to find that his shoe was caught in some rocks – that’s why he couldn’t get up. He was sputtering, gasping for air, and I was convinced that his first words were going to be “I’m going to sue you”. I checked him for major injury. Whew. Just a few red spots. I shouted to another counselor to watch the kids and started running towards the waterfront director. I just knew I was going to be fired. I didn’t realize I was hobbling more than running. When I finally got to the waterfront director, I was gasping for air. Grabbing onto his shirt for support I started babbling “I… just killed… a… six-year-old… on the… fishing dock. I know… you’re going…. to fire me.” Panting. Gasping. I’m a natural over-reactor. The waterfront director, Paul, ร‚ย looked toward the fishing dock and saw a soaking wet kid, but he was well enough to be fishing again. He tried to get me to calm down before I started hyperventilating. He told me the little boy appeared to be fine but he was ultimately worried about me. I started panting again, trying to tell him that I would eventually stop hyperventilating, and he said “No. There’s something really wrong with your leg.” At that point, I stopped breathing all together as my head shot down to look at my leg. Indeed, there was something really wrong with my left leg. There was a gash from just above my ankle to just below my knee. And a flap of skin that hung from the right side to the left side. I started to pass out.

Click pic for full effect.
Click pic for full effect.

The next thing I know, I’m in a golf cart headed for the infirmary. The doctor was trying to tell me that he was going to give me stitches. I started hyperventilating again (I’m supersize afraid of needles – another story for another time) and refused the stitches. Since I was dead-set against getting the stitches he had to wrap my leg up as if I was being prepared for mummification. AND I had to stay immobile for several days. Which meant I was laying in the infirmary for a week instead of teaching photography and being a counselor to my 12-year-old girls. Nobody knew who I was so nobody visited me. I spent my days reading Judy Blume books (since it is technically an infirmary for adolescents… not 20-year-olds!)

When I was finally sprung, I hobbled down to my bunk. On my way many people stopped me to ask who I was and if I sincerely belonged at the camp. So, I had to start the painful process of reintroducing myself to everyone all over again. And, instead of being known as “Sarah” (my first name, which is what I switched to after my 19 years of being Danel) everyone called me SCAB. I had that nasty scab all summer long. Good thing I was in a darkroom for most of it!

Go out and SPLURGE on something today. More tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

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It’s World Juggler’s Day

WARNING: If you have any aversion to bodily functions DO NOT READ TODAY’S POST!

It peeves me to say this but I can’t juggle. I cannot control the direction and speed of any three items simultaneously. I’ve tried. My step-dad is an excellent juggler and in my wanting to be just like him I asked him to teach me. But I never caught on.

This certainly runs over into my daily life, this not being able to juggle. I try but my mind cannot handle more than one thing at a time. I think in today’s world this is called ADD.

Wait. I guess I have done a little juggling in the past. I don’t know how successful I was, but I did have to juggle. During Ben’s illness I was juggling a bowling ball, a water balloon and a chainsaw. The bowling ball was my emotional state, the water balloon was my newborn infant that needed her mother, and the chainsaw was Ben’s cancer that demanded everything I had – and didn’t have.

Now that I think of it, I can recall a specific day that I tried to juggle these three items. It’s funny now when I look back on it, but my emotional state then nearly pushed me off the cliff.

September, 2004. We were at Children’s Hospital. Ben was one week into his bone marrow transplant. He had just finished his introductory chemo, which is designed to kill everything in him. The way it was explained to us was that they had to kill him in order to save him. Okie Dokie. Process THAT without completely shutting down! Anyway, he had just finished his last round of chemo before they reintroduced the new stem cells. He was technically having a “day of rest” before taking the next step. We were in strict isolation, meaning he could not leave the room until his new stem cells found their way into his bones and started making new red and white blood cells as well as platelets (this is where I wished I would have paid more attention in science class).

When we initially met with the bone marrow transplant (BMT) team, they advised us to find alternate care for Madeline. She was five months old at the time. Up until then she had been able to stay with us on the oncology unit, mainly because I was breast feeding her. In a transplant scenario, there is no set time of when the patient will begin to recover. The average kiddo is in transplant for three months. Ben’s was a bit different so they didn’t expect him to need three months to recover but there was just no way of knowing how long it would take (ultimately, we were in there for 31 days). So, not wanting to be away from Madeline for any length of time, we asked that Madeline be able to stay in the room with us. She would have to follow the same precautions, meaning that she wouldn’t get to leave the unit until Ben was discharged. So, we buckled down for the duration.

Honestly, Madeline was the perfect age for this scenario. She was strong enough to sit in an exer-saucer yet not fully interested in crawling around. Ben slept in his hospital bed and Madeline and I slept on the couch (the first few days of Ben’s transplant, Matt had a sinus infection and was not allowed in the room with us). When we woke up each morning, I placed Madeline in her exer-saucer, gave her some toys, and tended to Ben.

This particular morning was very quiet. Ben was finished with chemo and the transplant would take place the following day. Since he wasn’t receiving any meds that day we didn’t have many doctors or nurses stopping by. He was sound asleep and Madeline was content in her exer-saucer. I decided to pop in a Pilates DVD that I had brought along – just in case I had the opportunity to “relax”. I was about 10 minutes into it when Ben shot up in his bed, pointing at his mouth and crying. I knew this was his “warning” that he was about to throw up. I grabbed the yellow pan and quickly ran over to him. I can’t even explain what it was that came out of him except that it was green and challenged my own gag reflexes. From behind me, Madeline started crying. I was patting Ben’s bald head as he was throwing up, attempting not to throw up myself, and trying to soothe Madeline with my “calming” voice over my shoulder. “I’ll be right there, baby. Right after your brother stops puking up this green bile and I get myself under control.”ร‚ย Right.

Ben threw up for several minutes. I kept having to turn my head to try to stop gagging, which was the point where I tried to soothe Madeline. Cue circus music. Once Ben was finished I put the pan on the floor by his bed (we had to save everything for the nurses to document… eeewwww.) Whew. One thing down. This is when I turned to find Madeline, in her exer-saucer, covered in poop. Evidently, she had pooped about the same time that Ben had started to throw up. Several minutes later, it was all over her and her footed pajamas, all over the exer-saucer, just all over everything. My gag reflexes went into overdrive. Circus music gets louder.

I picked Madeline up – *gross* – and started to clean up poo. Developmentally, she was not at a point where I could put her down, so I had to hold her the entire time I was trying to clean everything up. The exer-saucer would have to be dismantled. Right in the middle of this, Ben shot up in bed again, pointing at his mouth. Oh no. With his immune system compromised, there was no way I could take Poopy Madeline anywhere near him. I tried to fling another yellow pan at him without much luck. That’s when I stepped into the first yellow pan that was sitting on the floor. With my bare feet. Holding a poopy daughter. Watching my son throw up more of the same that was covering my feet.

I’m done. There will be no more circus music. No more juggling. Done. I’ve gone over the edge. I dropped the ball. I’m never doing Pilates again.

A nurse walked in about that time, and with a quick assessment of the situation, took over with Ben. I cleaned up Poopy Madeline and her exer-saucer. I got around to cleaning up myself after having a mini-mental breakdown.

I think with continued therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I can once again try Pilates. But I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to juggle again.

More tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s National Eat Your Vegetables Day.

I like vegetables. A lot. I’m a fan of corn on the cob, okra, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and even brussel sprouts. I prefer vegetables to meat. It’s a fact that I didn’t have my first hamburger until I was seven and to this day I am completely grossed out by any meat still on the bone. *Shudder*. I’ve dabbled in being a vegetarian but could never meet my protein requirements through beans and eggs and tofu.

One vegetable that I’m not crazy about in its natural state is the cucumber. They’re OK in a salad but I can’t say that I’ve ever craved them on their own. However, stick a cucumber in a barrel filled with brine and extra garlic and I just can’t get enough. I love pickles. And, believe it or not, I have a story about a pickle.

The year was 1997. It was June and I was in Hawaii on my honeymoon. Oh, there’s nothing like being in Hawaii when you’re in love. Everyone on the island was either just married, celebrating an anniversary, or in the service industry. I think if you take an aerial photo of Maui there is a strong resemblance to a heart shape. And that heart shape is wrapped in a warm crust of love with a creamy lava center. Love, love, love. Everyone was in love. And I wanted to shoot them all. Because I was on my love-filled honeymoon by myself. That’s right. My jerky fiance broke up with me three days before we were to be married. Oh, he still volunteered to go on the “trip” with me, and that’s when I told him to, well, you can guess the expletives I used.

So. Everywhere I turned people were hand in hand, kissing, taking photos with their post-nuptial glow, just generally happy. It burned my butt. I decided to take surfing lessons every day because that was an activity that demanded you be solo. Party of one. My lonely self with shaking legs trying to find my balance again. “Here, Jaws. Come and get me.” Much to my dismay, Jaws never came to put me out of my misery.

I know, what does any of this have to do with a pickle? Patience, my friends.

My family was there (the plan was for them to come to the wedding on the beach, celebrate at a luau, and then they’d go on a tour of other islands while we enjoyed our wedded bliss). They didn’t want me to be completely alone. So, while my mom and sister were out doing touristy stuff, my step-dad and I decided it would be good to start drinking. Immediately. We found a nice place where we could sit outside and at least enjoy the weather. I can’t tell you how much beer we put away but at one point our server said “I can’t remember ever serving as much beer as I’ve served to you two.” It was a moment to preserve in my wedding scrapbook.

We decided it would be a good idea (and with our server urging us to do the same) to get some food. I got a sandwich of some sort that came with some chips and a very sad looking pickle. I ate about 1/2 of what I was served but just couldn’t eat that pickle. It was just as sad as me. I poked at it, stared at it, considered talking to it. You know, drunk talk. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had”. Me and that pickle, we were two peas in a pod. Sad. Miserable looking. Lonely. I could probably surf better than it could though. At least I had that going for me.

My step-dad was trying hard to cheer me up. We ordered more beer. Our server came to take our plates but I wouldn’t let him take my sad little friend away. Then, out of the corner of my eye, two elderly couples rounded the corner and were walking down the sidewalk towards our table. I love to people-watch but there was something about these two couples that made me stop and stare. Each couple was perfectly matched in their Hawaiian garb – a very colorful muumuu matched with their respective spouses’ Hawaiian shirt. The sight was overwhelming. All four of them were looking at me and smiling, walking hand-in-hand with their spouses. I wanted to start crying. They represented everything that I didn’t have. Someone to hold on to, to enjoy life with, to grow old with. Damn Jaws. Why didn’t he come get me? I watched them start to pass by our table. I looked up, tears threatening to spill over, and locked eyes with one of the men. It honestly felt like he could look straight into my soul and see that I was hurting beyond belief. At that point, his smile brightened a bit more. He looked down at my plate, looked back up at me and said “eat your pickle”. Then they were gone.

I am confident that this was his purpose in life, to tell me to eat that pickle. I took his advice. And I felt a bit better.

I married that jerk anyway once I got back to the mainland. We were married just under two years before getting a divorce. I can’t say that I have much of a desire to go back to Hawaii. I do, however, replay the pickle scene during times of great duress. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I wonder if that man is still alive? I wonder if he recalls that moment? I wish I could tell him the impact it had on me.

I think I’ll go have a pickle.

Flag Day

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Flag Day is not an obscure holiday, but here are some facts that everyone should know: ร‚ย the flag is one of the most complicated in the world. It needs 64 pieces of fabric to make. The current flag has 13 red and white alternating stripes (representing the original 13 states) and 50 stars (each star represents one of the states of the Union) on a blue background. The national flag cannot be used for advertising. It cannot cover a monument or any ceilings. It must not be folded while being displayed. No one should write on an American flag. Ships can lower their flags slightly in greeting each other, but otherwise should not be dipped for any other object or person. (Information taken from www.about.com)

Today is also my Grandma’s birthday. Her name was Sarah Margaret Young. She was born in West Virginia in 1919, the youngest of 22 children. There were many multiple births in this family. In fact, Grandma was a twin but her twin died shortly after birth. I can’t say I know anything about Grandma’s upbringing other than she was given to my Grandfather when she was 13 years old. My Grandfather, Jacob Clayton Phillips, was 20 when he picked out his 13-year-old bride and moved her to Ohio. (You are allowed to say “Eeewwww” at this point of the story.)

When I was five, I basically lived with my Grandma and Grandpa while my parents were getting a divorce. My Grandma got me off to Kindergarten each day and played with me in the afternoons. Having been robbed of her own childhood she took great delight in making me paper dolls out of brown paper grocery bags. She colored with me. We watched Captain Kangaroo together. We’d sit for hours and dream of what I’d be when I grew up. She just knew that I’d be famous at whatever I eventually ended up doing (!) and that I’d be able to buy her a house in Hawaii where we would live together for the rest of our days. I loved my Grandma so much. I wish I could have given her the world.

The man who was supposed to give her the world never even attempted to. My Grandfather, known as “Jake”, was a master carpenter but had his PhD in alcoholism. He was a raging drunk. There was not a set time that rang in “cocktail hour”, he’d start as soon as he got up. I think the phrase he used the most was “Sarah, get me a beer” followed by “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy” when he was close to passing out. I wanted to like my Grandpa. He took me fishing at Buckeye Lake. He grew incredible tomatoes. But he was an incredible jerk.

One day, and I can’t remember my exact age but I know I was still in the “single digits” (under 10), I was back in my room reading a comic book when I heard them start to fight. This was not uncommon given my Grandfather’s constant drunken state but it just sounded different to me. I ran out to find my Grandfather holding a knife to my Grandmother. He started yelling at me saying that he was going to kill her. At that point, she fell to the ground, breaking a coffee cup on the table as she fell. ร‚ย I can still see the coffee running over the side of the table, pooling on the floor near my Grandmother’s body. I thought she was dead. My Grandfather then took off into the kitchen, sat on the floor, rocked back and forth, repeating over and over that he was going to kill himself. I just stood there in the middle of it, completely stunned. As I was heading towards the phone, my dad walked in. He wasn’t due to pick me up. I don’t know why he stopped by at that particular time. But as he sprung into action and pried the knife away from my Grandfather, I walked back into my room. Dazed. And proceeded to pinch myself up and down my arm because I knew I must be having a bad dream that I needed to wake up from.

Grandpa didn’t kill anybody that day. Grandma had fainted and was treated for a bump on the head. My Dad had stopped by to borrow money, not to pick me up. We brushed the event under the rug and never spoke of it again.

My Grandfather died in 1987. I thought that Grandma might try to live a little after he died, but she didn’t. I think she probably didn’t know what to do with herself after being a prisoner for so long. She died in 1990. Some of you might be shaking your heads and thinking that hers was a life completely wasted. I’d agree to some degree, but I like to think her purpose was to love me when nobody else had the time to. And she did an incredible job at that.

Happy Birthday, Grandma. I miss you.

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It’s National Sewing Machine Day

Sorry. I missed two National Days. Hug holiday (the 11th) and Red Rose Day (the 12th). I don’t know that I would have had too much to say about those days other than I’ll hug just about anybody and I’m not a fan of perishable gifts.

I’ve been busy over the last couple of days. Picking Ben up from camp and loving on him has been very time consuming. Ben reportedly had a fabulous time at camp. Chris, Ben’s companion for the week, said that Ben went up in a hot air balloon, rode a zip line (!!!), and made lots of new friends. As we were leaving camp, Ben cried great big tears and waved to all of his buddies. He had an excellent time and can’t wait to go back next year. I’ll post pictures as soon as Chris sends them to me.

So. It’s Saturday. I’m behind on so much stuff but I don’t want to miss today’s holiday. It’s National Sewing Machine Day. As I type this, my sewing machine is sitting on my dining room table. Over this past week, I made Ben some Star Wars pajama bottoms and Madeline a Hannah Montana nightgown. I’ve bought several 1950’s retro patterns for myself and am currently making a really beautiful linen dress. I don’t really have anywhere to wear this dress other than church but I’m thinking a trip to the grocery store with my hair swept up in a twist wearing a pair of kitten heels will make picking out produce more exciting. I’ll pretend I’m one of those housewives from a 1950’s black and white sitcom.

My mom used to sew all the time. She mostly made nightgowns but there were a few times that she made my sister and I matching outfits. We’re six-and-a-half years apart with me being the younger of the two. I’m confident that my sister had no desire to be dressed like her younger sister and even more horrified that these matching outfits were preserved in countless Olan Mills portraits. And it was the 70’s. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Although, I’m remembering a nightgown my mother made for me that was pretty bad. I loved the fabric (pink gingham) and the length (all the way to the floor) but the neckline was a drawstring. That’s right. When my step-brother realized he could make me turn blue with a simple tug of the drawstrings, well, the party was over and the pink nightgown was “retired”. I wonder who manufactured that particular pattern and can I get reparations for my pain and suffering? Seriously. With all the warnings on products now I sincerely wonder how we ever survived the days of lead-based paint, lack of child safety in cars, no helmets, nightgowns with drawstring necklines, open containers, etc.

So. Sew. I think sewing is becoming a lost art. I, for one, am happy to embrace my sewing machine and celebrate its own National Holiday. I think I’ll go finish my dress. Watch out, produce. Here I come.

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It’s National Iced Tea Day

I recently printed off a list of “obscure holidays” and have decided that I’m going to write about whatever is being celebrated on that particular day and how it applies to my life. I believe you’ll be thoroughly entertained. I’m not sure how, but I’m willing to guarantee it.

So, the only Obscure Holiday that I paid attention to in the past was September 19, which is National Speak Like a Pirate Day. There’s something about pirate speak that intrigues me. I think we’d be happier as a Nation if we’d let go of current obscenities and latch on to the pirate vernacular. Road rage would actually be welcomed if we could shout out “Ahoy, Scallywag! Ye’ll meet the rope’s end for that, me bucko!” instead of the more common string of expletives worthy of a Jerry Springer show.

But I digress.

It’s National Iced Tea Day. I don’t drink a lot of iced tea. In fact, hardly ever. This could be a problem seeing that I am officially a Southern Girl (born in North Carolina to a Southern Belle mama). OK, truth be told, we moved to Ohio before I turned two. That’s my Yankee Father’s fault (and he moved us near LANCASTER of all places, birthplace of that dreaded scoundrel William T. Sherman). However, it’s only proper for a Southern Girl to say “Yes, ma’am”, “No, sir”, and “Could I get some sweet tea, please?”. Heck. I’m sure if I’d lived back in the Civil War era I’d have offered General Sherman himself a glass of iced sweet tea. But, of course, I would have had to dump it over his head instead of serving it to him. I use this excuse as my reason for failing in the food service industry today. Oh, OK, I’m just not a good waitress.

Remember that Chevy commercial from the 70’s? Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet. (C’mon, you KNOW you’re singing it!) Apparently, these are the basics of “What’s American”. ร‚ย If the War of Northern Aggression would have had a different outcome, this commercial would have undoubtedly listed sweet tea as what’s truly American. Since things have turned out differently, the only respect Iced Tea gets now is having its own obscure holiday. I’m NOT promoting a different outcome of the Civil War. I’m just sayin’. Iced Tea got the shaft.

Today I challenge you to find a way to celebrate Iced Tea. If you’re an Ohioan I know Skyline Chili serves some SWEET sweet tea. And tonight just happens to be Family Night – kiddos eat for free! Oh, how I miss Skyline. Anyway, I’m off to brew some tea and put at least a cup of sugar in it. And all that sugar makes it truly American.

More tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚