Sunday, October 9, 2011

One More Thing

 Upon hearing the news of the death of former Apple CEO,  Steve Jobs, suddenly I felt old.  He has been an American icon 3/4 of my life, and I am having a hard time accepting he is gone. I never thought his death would impact me this way, that I would feel so sad. But it has.

I grew up in an "Apple" family. We got our first Apple when I was a 'tween, and I knew nothing different when it came to computers, until I married my husband, a "Windows PC" guy. I still owned an Apple when we got married, but he dragged me over to the dark side when it was time for us to get a new computer.  Even though I was resistant at first,  I eventually accepted Apple's rival device and learned how to use it with very little trouble.  But this new Windows computer's  operating system was modeled to be like an Apple, so it really wasn't that much harder to learn.

But I always had that longing. Every time I'd see an Apple ad on TV or in a magazine, I'd wish I still had one. Then for a while, when Apple wasn't doing so hot, I figured I was better off knowing how to use a Windows PC.

My parents, however, both still owned Apple computers and pretty much swore they'd never buy anything else (my brother drifted to the dark side well before me). My mom worked for a university and was surrounded by Apple products, so she wouldn't have dreamed of owning anything else.

My dad was more or less the same way. He was loyal to the brand, despite being forced to use Windows products when he was at work. And when the iPod first came out,  he was forever hooked. You see, my dad has a ginormous CD collection and so when iTunes and the iPod came along, it was as if they were made just for him. He eventually imported every CD and LP he owned, to his Mac computer. He was able to easily make endless mixed playlists, something he loved to do, and take them with him on his iPod everywhere he went.

Fast forward a few more years.  I was using a laptop with Windows software,  but getting very frustrated with its constant crashing and other annoying issues.  We'd had it a while and I was more than ready for a new one but that was just not in the budget.  Knowing this, my mom gave me her aging laptop (she was upgrading and buying a new one) and I got a chance to experience the "new" Apple firsthand.  I wasn't sure at first, afraid they would have changed their product so much it would take me months to figure everything out. But using an Apple is like riding a bike - once you learn how, you never forget.

I eventually got another, "newer" Apple laptop (thanks, Mom) and found my way back from "the dark side."  Now I work at a local elementary school teaching technology to students in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade. My job is to help to integrate the technology with the curriculum the students are learning in their classrooms. And of course, no surprise here. . . the students use iMacs and many of the teachers use iPod touches to teach their students lessons in the classroom. Our school also just got a set of iPads and are slowly, but surely, moving our way to being a "21st century school."  I also teach the students about the technology they use and help them become familiar with some of the well known "Tech Wizzes" like Steve Jobs, who passed away just one day after I discussed him with my students. He was my "tech wiz" of the month this past September.

I feel like I've come full circle.  I strayed for a bit, but found my way back to Apple products.  Not only do I use Apple products at school (my work laptop is also an Apple),  but we have a house full of products displaying that now famous logo.  My husband was the first in our family of four to get an iPod and now he has an iPod touch.  We bought my daughter, Kiki, who is almost 11 years old, an iPod Nano for Christmas last year.  I have an iPod, iPad and a Mac Mini, which was a birthday present from my husband for the girls and I (since we all use Macs at work and school). We have an Apple TV, my anniversary gift from my PC guy husband, who also just pre-ordered my very first iPhone (the 4s!!). 

Apple products have become part of our everyday lifestyle.  I rarely go one day without using something that was once just an idea in Steve Jobs' brain.  I am typically not one to spend more than an an hour or two mourning the loss of a celebrity, but this is different.  Steve Jobs became famous for helping to create some of the worlds most used and beloved products.  He had the idea to create a computer that the average person could use, no matter their skill or knowledge.  Whether you use Apple products or not, in some way or some fashion something you use everyday (or quite often) was created to be just like it, or even better, may have even been designed or created on or by a person using an Apple product.  Steve Jobs' wasn't just the Apple CEO, he was an innovative genius and I can truly say he changed my life. I have no doubt he changed America.  He certainly belongs in the same category as those other famous "game changers" like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell.

I will not spend my days mourning him, but I will honor him the best way I know how - to continue to use the products he loved so much and wanted to share with the world.  To continue to teach and hopefully inspire the students I work with everyday, and my own children, to work hard,  to learn, and to never give up on their dreams.

Steve Jobs said it best with this now famous quote, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for never letting anyone "drown out" your inner voice, for believing in yourself even when others did not, and for giving us that "one more thing."  RIP, Steve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Light a Candle

Like so many others, I was shocked and saddened when I heard the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial. Since I read about the verdict, I've seen all kinds of people wanting to light candles, leave their porch lights on, etc., for Caylee. I've read all of the cries of outrage on Facebook and Twitter. I even expressed my own shock when I first heard the news.

However, I want people to remember that there are thousands of cases of abused and neglected children in this country every year;  hundreds more are murdered. Sadly, many of their perpetrators never spend a day behind bars because the laws related to crimes against children just aren't strict enough. And when people are convicted of these crimes, they often receive a slap on the wrist, and are not punished severely enough. 

The media coverage of this trial was complete overkill.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of others stand trial (or are waiting to) for doing unspeakable things to children, yet their cases never make the news. I don't know if I will ever understand why the media was so fascinated by this particular case, and why people let themselves get sucked right into the coverage of the trial. Sure I read about it, wondering how someone could ever hurt a child this way, yet I know this is just one of so many other cases like this.  

So many people fail to see this type of thing happens in their own neighborhood,  sometimes practically right in front of their eyes.  Maybe the circumstances aren't the same, but that doesn't make any one of those children less important, or any of those perpetrators less evil. I'm not saying that Caylee isn't important, but just hoping people realize she is just one of many children who suffer at the hands of some sick and cruel individuals.  

 If you want to do something for Caylee, turn off your T.V.'s, computers, and put away your cell phones for a while.  But before you do, post a Tweet or Facebook Status, and share this message. Invite your friends to join together and leave a porch light on (or light a candle) not just for Caylee, but for all of the abused, neglected and murdered children who so badly need our attention.    

We can best honor Caylee by speaking out against child abuse and other crimes against children, and demand tougher punishments for their perpetrators. The news media can honor Caylee by turning off their microphones and cameras and finally let poor Caylee rest in peace.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Their Feet Were Made for Dancin'

This is what happens when the girls get together with their Ohio cousins. . .

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Voice

As many of you know, I am a big supporter of many different causes, most of which pertain to children. You don't have to look far to see those causes, as I list many of them on the sidebar of this page. Those that know me personally, would tell you that I am generally a giving person and that I would gladly give my right arm and left leg if I knew it would save someone's life. I often wish I had more money,  not so I could have a bigger house or fancy car, but because I'd love to donate more money to the charities I support.

I may not be rich, but I am not without resources. I may not have millions, or even hundreds of dollars to give, but I do have a voice. I've realized that I can use my knowledge and experience to write about these important causes and share them with others, who in turn may be able to help in some way, either by donating money or by continuing to spread the word.

The main reason I started this blog was to share stories about my life as a Mom. I never expected I would use it as a platform to speak out about my causes, or as my soapbox to preach or rant about anything related to politics. However, I am finding that has very much become one of my main reasons for continuing to write. I may not post as often as I'd like, but that is because I typically post only when I feel inspired or have a story to tell. I've yet to bring myself to write just for the sake of writing, or posting just because I have a blog to update. I have written a few times because I felt I should and either posted something I considered mediocre, or didn't bother to finish the post at all.   As I've said before, time is an issue too. Now that I work full time outside of the home, my time to write is more limited. And when I do have time, my brain is fried or I'm simply too exhausted to write.

You won't see me post about politics often, because this is not a political blog. There are plenty of those types of blogs out there and mine is not going to be another one. However, that doesn't mean I won't ever mention any political issues, but you will find the topics I write about to be mostly related to children, education or health care, my three biggest "hot buttons."

In the near future, I am looking towards revamping this blog and adding a page (or maybe two) or possibly a separate blog for my "soapbox" issues and causes. Until then, I will post about them right here along with my stories about the girls.

I am hoping to find a way to post more often. I can't commit to every day or  even every other day, but I will try to post at least twice a month (who knows, maybe once a week!) even if it is just a picture or two. Sometimes a picture sums up everything I want to share, without ever having to write a word.

If you have any suggestions on possible titles for my new "causes" page/blog, I'd love to hear them - you can email them to me or post them as a comment below. I do have a few ideas I'm kicking around ("Stepping on My Soapbox" is one but I'm sure it has been used before - maybe a variation of that?) but nothing that I really like enough to use.

I have a few posts in the works and will hopefully have them up very soon,  including my "too late to be called a birthday post"  that I started writing for Kiki more than two months ago.

No matter what, please don't give up on me. I may not post everyday, or even every week (or month *sigh*). But know that I am still here and that I will be back, ready to use my voice the best way I know how.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

She Shines Like A Star

Just eight short years ago, on January 4, my little fighter was born.  Boo arrived eleven days late,  without breath or heartbeat, and fought for her life in the NICU.  Even though the doctors gave every worst case scenario (I know, they have to), she proved them wrong, won the fight, and is now a strong (and stubborn!), smart, spunky and healthy child.

I often feel Boo is our miracle baby, and because she had a rough start to her life, shouldn't have to ever fight that hard again in anything she does.  Life however, has already been full of challenges for her.  I know that many children go through so much worse, but as her mom,  I can't help but feel badly for her when she has these experiences.  I sometimes feel like she has gotten and continues to get the "short end of the stick."

Her most recent challenge happened this past December, just before Christmas. Boo was part of a local dance company's production of The Nutcracker.  Her older sister, Kiki, was in the same production in 2009 and just minutes after Boo watched her perform, she knew she wanted to try out the following year.  She almost immediately announced that she wanted to be a Gingersnap, the Nutcracker role this dance company often gives to dancers Boo's age.  She talked about being in The Nutcracker off and on from December 2009 until auditions this past August.  Boo auditioned, was chosen to be in one of two Gingersnap casts and was simply over the moon with excitement.  Nothing (except maybe a pet pig) could have made her happier.   Boo cheerfully looked forward to and attended every rehearsal, and like a child anticipating a birthday or Christmas morning, frequently asked how many more weeks/days/hours/minutes/seconds until her performance.

Finally "Nutcracker week" arrived.  Boo danced her way through the week, practicing her part in the kitchen, prancing down the hall into school every morning, and asked to listen to "her"  Nutcracker music over and over (and over and over) again.  Soon the night of dress rehearsal arrived and she was literally dancing for joy before, during, and after it was over.  Not even a late night of rehearsal made her tired, and getting her to go to sleep afterward was a challenge.  I truly believe she ate, slept and dreamt Nutcracker that whole week. 

Finally, performance day arrived.  Boo woke up slightly grumpy - I assumed at the time it was due to being up a touch later than normal the night before at a family birthday party.  Looking back I wonder if it was a sign of things to come that day.

Even though Boo's call time wasn't until 6:30,  I had to get her ready in the morning  (Bill is bun-challenged) before taking her sister,  who was a mouse in The Nutcracker,  to her Saturday afternoon performance.  Because Boo's part was double cast, she was only in half of the shows, and her cast was to perform Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  When I left to take Kiki to her call time, Boo was a little disappointed she had to wait until much later to go, but she was otherwise perfectly happy and bouncing off the walls, bubbling with excitement.  Little did we know, that was all about to change.

Saturday night finally arrived.  After dropping Kiki off for her curtain call time, I waited in the lobby for my husband to bring Boo, who had a much later call time.  She arrived on schedule, full of excitement and so happy to finally have her chance to perform.

Fast forward to show time. . .  As The Nutcracker opening music started, my heart started pounding with excitement (and a touch of nerves) anticipating watching the girls' performances.  I was especially excited to see Boo, whose Nutcracker moment finally arrived.  Bill and I sat in the audience with my Dad, who had flown in from North Carolina, and with the majority of Bill's family, who had trekked in from Ohio.  All of them made the special trip to see the girls perform.  More guests, including my Mom, were due to see the Sunday afternoon performance the next day.

Just as The Nutcracker party scene was ending, my phone (ringer off) started buzzing in my pocket.  I ignored it, figuring whomever was calling could wait.  A few seconds later, the phone buzzed again, so I pulled it out thinking "Come on! Who doesn't know I am watching my girls dance tonight!"  I didn't recognize the number of the "unknown caller, " rejected the call and put the phone back in my pocket, only to have it start buzzing again!  I started to worry - what if one of the girls was hurt or sick? Maybe someone backstage was calling?

Sure enough, just as that thought crept through my brain, I got a text message from someone working backstage saying Boo had just thrown up twice. My thought was "Seriously!?" Then they asked us to come and get her.  My heart sank.  I showed my husband and he shook his head in disbelief.  I was so torn:  my older daughter, Kiki, was just moments from taking the stage, and I didn't want to miss it, yet I knew either Bill or I had to go take care of Boo.  Before either of us could get up, someone came to get us.  Bill decided he would just go and leave me to watch Kiki dance.  I stayed and watched the rest of the show, but it was really hard to enjoy it when all I could do is think of Boo missing her performance.  I cried when her Gingersnap cast took the stage and I saw a different dancer in her place.  I was thankful we had tickets for Sunday, hopeful that she would bounce back quickly and be able to make her 2nd performance. Knowing that no matter what happened with Boo,  Bill would at least have another chance to see Kiki perform so I prayed hard that she wouldn't get sick too.  

Fast forward to Sunday. . .Boo was still horribly sick with a nasty stomach virus, and had to miss both of her performances in The Nutcracker.  We were all so heartbroken for Boo, knowing how hard she had practiced, and how badly she had wanted to be in the show.  She was too sick to think about it on Saturday,  but when she realized on Sunday morning she was going to miss both performances, she was distraught.  When she realized she would not get to perform, she wailed,  "I did all of that practice and now I don't even get to do the show!" Then she put her head in my lap and just sobbed.  To see her that way was so heartbreaking, and I cried right along with her. I tried my best not let her see my tears. While I did want her to know I felt sad for her, I was afraid if she saw me cry, she would be even more upset. 

Heartbreak and all, Boo did not let that whole experience get her down for long.  After the final performance on Sunday, her sister Kiki brought home a special surprise for her - a Get Well Card signed by the entire Nutcracker cast. Kiki told us how one of the dancers, a 5th grader, had the idea to make the card and have everyone sign it.  That same sweet girl wrote this note to Boo, "You will still shine like a star even if you aren't here."  I teared up when I read it, and Boo just beamed.  Despite knowing she missed her performances,  the act of kindness shown by this girl and the rest of the cast made her feel so special. She hugged that card as if it were her most prized possession (at the time, I really think it was).


Soon after The Nutcracker was over, winter break and Christmas came,  providing a great distraction from Boo's sadness.  She still did have a few moments when she thought of something else she missed out on, and would say things like "I didn't get my picture taken with Mother Ginger!"  and "I didn't get to sign autographs on stage!"  But her sadness gradually morphed into determination:  Boo says she is definitely going to try out for The Nutcracker again next year and even wants to audition for the spring ballet production of Cinderella. She is not going to let anyone, or anything - not even a stomach virus - keep her for having her chance to shine.  What Boo may not yet realize is that she already shines and has for eight years now.  She IS a star in our eyes, whether she is on stage or right here with us. We are so proud of her and love her very much.  Happy 8th Birthday, Boo!

*I started this blog post on January 4, determined to follow in my annual tradition of writing each girl a birthday post.  However, I realized that I won't do those posts any justice if I rush to try to get them written in time for their birthdays. That was the case with this one. I had too much of  a story to tell and the perfectionist in me just couldn't get it written and edited in time to put it up on her birthday.  My tradition will change a bit from here on out - I will try to post something about each girl sometime around her birthday, in addition to my sporadic posts throughout the year.