Monday, December 21, 2009


Ahhhhh, can you hear that? It's the sound of me breathing a tremendous sigh of relief! I have finally finished my fall, 2009 semester and honestly, I could not be happier! Most of the semester I felt like a rickety old train barreling down the track at breakneck speed. A couple of times I honestly thought I was going to derail and lose it all, but I managed to get to the survival station at last!

This semester would have been hard even without my new status as "mommy." The classes were overwhelming and project intensive. I had a lot of work in every class, plus exams in most of them too. Some weeks it just seemed like the workload was more than one person could reasonably handle. Add to that the fact that my priorities and obligations have changed drastically now that I'm a mom and you can see why I've been overwhelmed. There is no way I'm looking back at this important time of my life (and my son's life) ten years from now and realizing I missed his infancy and major milestones because of school.

Of course, what that means is that school is no longer at the top of my priority list, which is definitely a big shift for me. All in all it worked out fine. I still ended up with one A and four A minuses, which is better than I expected. Things still get done, they just get done in much more randomly fragmented chunks. While 2009 did not showcase the best of my best work throughout my college was still not that bad. Man I'm glad to be done!

Now only one more big semester and two spring/summer classes and it will be student teaching time for me! I have a lot of mixed feelings about that, but definitely will be saving them for another post...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two Inches...

My 17-year-old nephew was in a car accident this morning, and the paramedics told him that if he had been two inches taller, he probably wouldn't have survived. He crashed into a semi-truck and the entire roof caved. Apparently he hit the central wheel base of the truck, and if the impact would have been to the right or left even slightly, the top of the car would have been completely cut off. I saw the pictures of the car and it made me feel sick. Apparently the driver of the truck didn't even approach Nick's car because he assumed the worst. Over the years my nephew has struggled with being the kid who's shorter than all his peers. All I can say is that I am thankful beyond words for the two inches that have turned out to be vital to Nick's life.

He is okay. Bruised, scraped, and scared...but thankfully okay. After seeing those photos, I'm honestly not sure how he walked away from a crash like that with only a band-aid and a headache. I know that if I would have seen something like this on the road, I would have assumed the driver of the car probably hadn't survived. I could cry. Thankful does not even come close to my thoughts tonight. Thoughts of how much worse this day could have been send shudders down my spine.

They took him to the hospital, and have done every kind of scan you can imagine to make sure there are no internal injuries. My family is in the process of piling in the car and driving down to Indiana to visit. It's probably not essential that we go there, but we all just want to give Nick a hug and tell him we love him. I am feeling pretty shaken right now, and still pretty upset, but also tremendously thankful that he wasn't seriously hurt.

This was written earlier today. We are back home in MI now, and all seems to be as well as could be expected with Nick. Tonight I am really wishing that he wasn't quite so far away, but it is what it is.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day of Fall

Today marks a change in the official time of year, but given how our summer has been here in Michigan, there's not much of a difference. If anything, today has been warmer than most of the days in recent memory.

Personally I'm ready for the cooling off period that is afforded by this time of year.

School started again, and I'm busy and overwhelmed as usual. I'm reaching that point where I really need to be done...I crave the finish line! And yet it's still pretty far off in the distance, with a lot of hurdles between where I am and that magical endpoint. I know it will be here before I know it...time always has a way of flying right on by, but I'm just tired. And I'm too old to be where I am. That's the real crux of the issue right there.

As I look out my window, it's only 8:10 p.m., and it's pitch black out there. That's the one part of this time of year that I don't particularly enjoy: the darkness that envelopes us and eats people's joy.

I'm rambling tonight because I don't have that much to say, but I still feel the need to write. I passed up my regular book club meeting tonight because I had a hectic and overwhelming day at school, and I barely slept last night. That, and I didn't manage to finish the book we were reading. Again. And here I sit at my computer blogging, instead of either studying, or getting some much needed rest. Dysfunctional and nonsensical, I know...

That's messy me for you!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Panera Bread Power Outage

My sister and I went to Panera Bread for lunch this past Friday, which was a rather rainy day. Just as we were placing our order, the power went out. We waited in line for several minutes as the power flickered off and on multiple times. Each time the cycle occurred, the huge stack of pagers on the counter would flash and beep, jumping around as if in frantic excitement.

Finally I asked the manager how long she would wait before declaring the power gone and closing the doors. She asked if I had cash, and I said, "No, I actually have a gift card." She shook her head and explained that they couldn't process any plastic without power. She then turned to the clerk who had been taking our order and told him to write down orders for everyone currently in line. Looking back at me she said, "If the power happens to come back on while you're still here, please come back up and pay for your food. Otherwise, enjoy your lunch."

So we happily ate our lunch in the slightly eerie glow of the emergency backup lights. I guess we had some fortuitous timing...we left Panera Bread with full tummies and my gift card still full too, cool!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Foot Loose

...and Fancy Free!

The other day I was lying on a blanket in the grass with my son. We were outside in the yard, enjoying the 94 degree day. For some reason, feet became the name of the game. I got a few cool, if random photos of our feet, Michael's feet, and doggy paws to boot: (ha-ha get it, to boot!)

where dog meets man

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Arriving in Hell, On Left

Yep, that's n we took a day trip to Hell...Hell, Michigan that is. :) We had a great time, even though Hell is so small that if you blink while driving by you're likely to miss it entirely. Michael's sister, Margaret has been visiting from Scotland, and she decided her visit wouldn't be complete without stopping by Hell so she could send a slightly singed post card back home.

We all got a good laugh when the computerized voice on the GPS said, "Arriving in Hell, On Left." Yes indeed, this tiny town has made the most of its name...there is no shortage of cheesy hell jokes and amusing decorations!

There's a general store on one corner where you can buy all sorts of themed paraphernalia, including Halloween decorations galore, as well as the a fore mentioned post cards. Then on the other side of the parking lot, there's "Hell's Kitchen," where you can get some pretty darn good grinder "sand-witches." We all had a good time playing with Charlie on the porch while we waited for ours.

In the middle of the two shops, there are a myriad of photo-ops, as well as a miniature golf range for the kiddos. Completing the package is a church with a question mark for a steeple. I know some people wouldn't be able to see the humor in that, but we had to laugh. I think they actually do real weddings!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hiding in Plain Sight

This morning as I was mowing the back yard, a lovely sight caught my eye. There is a bird (I think a finch, though I can't be sure) who has built her nest in the lowest branch of our walnut tree. She's presently sitting on her eggs, which just tickles me to no end.

I only saw the nest because of the strands of nesting material that are hanging down from the branch. It's actually quite a smart little spot...low enough so that the baby birds (hopefully) won't fall, but still protected from predators bu the thick grown of leaves all around. If you didn't specifically look, you wouldn't even know the nest was there.

I'm mildly concerned because of our Jack Russell's hunting tendencies, but I'm keeping a close eye on the pet I so love. I feel fiercely protective of these baby birds and their mamma, and I honestly don't know what I would do if Ditto caused them any harm. In short, this simply can't happen, so I'm going to make sure it doesn't!

Isn't springtime sweet!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Container Gardening

This year has really gotten away from me in terms of gardening. It seems like spring was upon us in one instant, and now it's almost flown right by. Still, I couldn't let the season go without doing my traditional planting of annual flowers in containers for the back deck.

Sunday was a beautiful day, sunny with a cool breeze. I spent a couple of hours at the store, picking through what was left of this year's flower selections, and then I came home and planted until the sun went down. Here are the resulting pictures:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Final Grades & Scholarship Award

Life has been a whirlwind for me lately, what with my most recent crazy semester coming to an end immediately prior to us welcoming our new baby home! This morning I finally had a chance to catch up with all my grades from this past semester. Considering I took 19 credit hours, I'm happy to say that I still got almost entirely straight A's. Here's the breakdown of my semester:
  1. Life Science for Elementary Teachers - A
  2. The Developing Child in Early Childhood Education - A-
  3. The Developing Child in Early Childhood Education Practicum - Pass (A)
  4. The Developing Professional in Early Childhood Education - A
  5. Field Experien III: Elementary - Pass (A)
  6. Reading/Writing Connections in Elementary Grades - A
  7. Literacy Across Curriculum for Intermediate Grades - A-
  8. Math for Elementary Teachers I - B+
Not too, I received a pretty fantastic bit of mail yesterday too! I've been awarded a $1,151 Gail Ardis Hughes Elementary Education Endowed Scholarship for the 2009/2010 school year. Especially in light of the fact that we now have a new mouth to feed/bum to keep diapered, this will be a tremendous help with expenses this coming year! Let the good times roll!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Since When?

does Kroger close at 1:00 a.m.? I know we are in a major recession, but this caught me off guard! I guess it makes sense - I mean it's a really great way for them to unobtrusively cut their costs, but wow...I had no idea!

Wouldn't you know it, the one time in my life when I might be likely to need something from Kroger after 1:00 a.m., it's not open. I guess there's always Meijer...but maybe a better plan would be to keep a backup stock of formula and diapers on hand! :)

Welcome to the real world...

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Life Will Never be the Same Again...

On May 1, 2009...I became a MOMMY!!! We got THE CALL about our precious baby boy on Thursday, April 30, and we welcomed him into our home and our hearts the very next day. Charles Michael Emerson was born on April 28, 2009. He weighs six pounds, 12 ounces, and he is 20 inches long. His daddy and I could not be happier, or more overwhelmed and exhausted!! For more details (including lots of pictures,) hop on over to our adoption blog and see the big story!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chance Encounters

Wow, I am pretty speechless right now. I just got home from CVS Pharmacy, where I was printing some pictures for my sister. A man and a little boy were waiting for my kiosk. As I was about to walk away, the man asked me if I knew what I was doing with the Kodak easy-print machines. I said that I did and he asked if I could help him.

I had plenty of time and was more than happy to lend a hand. As we scanned in his photo, he explained that the young girl pictured was his daughter, and that she had recently passed away in a car accident. He was scanning the picture in so he could use it for her obituary. Tears immediately came to my eyes and I got a chill. You never know who you're going to meet, or how your actions are going to affect other people. I could have been rude, or dishonest. There have, unfortunately, been plenty of times in my life when I have been too busy and/or too impatient to help others. I'm glad my encounter today wasn't one of those times.

My heart goes out to that man, and to everyone in his family.

There are some occurrences in life that simply do not make sense to me. It seems completely meaningless that a 24-year-old woman, and her teenage cousin should die in a car accident. It seems horrific that there are mothers and fathers, right this very minute, who are trying to process and grieve the loss of their children. This has really made me think, and has served as a powerful reminder that every moment of every day truly is precious.

The next time I have an opportunity to help someone, I'm going to take it, regardless of whether or not I'm in a hurry. When I'm given the choice between smiling and speaking a kind word, or being self centered and rude, you can bet I'll spend the moment it takes to do the right thing. Any time I feel annoyed or irritated by someone, I'm going to pause and consider that maybe there's a reason they're driving slowly, or whatever the case may be. In this crazy, hectic world, people are rude a lot of the time, myself included. I'm going to try to break that cycle in my own life because, as my chance encounter at CVS taught me today, every moment really does matter.

Please say a prayer for the Varney family that they may find peace and comfort as they try to deal with this tragedy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Garlic Mustard Weed-Out Day

My younger sister, Holly and I went out to volunteer for the 11th annual Garlic Mustard Weed-Out day today. We went to Bird Hills Park in Ann Arbor, and we had a great time while also doing something productive and beneficial for our local environment.

If you don't know about it, Garlic Mustard is a non-native, invasive species that was originally brought over by Europeans.

It spreads very rapidly and can quickly snuff out the surrounding plant life, thereby impacting biodiversity and ultimately affecting the entire natural habitat. But--thanks to adopt-a-park workers and volunteers, there has been an organized "fight" against this weed to help control the spread of the beast.

When the plants are young (around this time of year in Michigan,) it's relatively easy to pull them out by the root. As long as they are properly disposed of, in a sealed garbage bag for instance, people can really aid in preventing the loss of other plant (and animal) life. Oh, and speaking of proper disposal, it turns out the tender, young version of the garlic mustard plant is edible! We were given several different recipes today, but I didn't feel quite brave enough to bring any weeds home for cooking. The leaves have a very pungent, garlicky smell when you're near them. Incidentally, that is one sure way to know you're picking the right thing since they do bear an uncanny resemblance to young violets.

Overall we had a great time, and we both felt good about our volunteer efforts for the day. As luck would have it, we left the park a few short minutes before a glorious spring thunderstorm rolled through.

I'm glad to say this photo was taken from the relatively safe and dry vantage point of Holly's car!


If you want to know more about garlic mustard, here is a longish, but rather informative video about the plant:

Garlic Mustard Identification and Control from Barbara Lucas on Vimeo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Therapy at North Bay Park ...a Photo Essay of My Day

For me there is nothing quite as therapeutic as some sunshine and a date with my camera! Today I took the doggies out to North Bay Park, which is a couple of miles from my house. The sun was shining and it was warm with a lovely spring breeze.

it's been far too long since I've taken my camera out to play...

this is good for my soul!

And speaking of my camera, I need to talk about that word a little. To me, the word camera seems cold and metallic, much like the device. "Camera" comes nowhere close to describing how I really feel about this little piece of metal, plastic, and glass. Granted, it is only a thing, but it's a thing that I really love! For this reason, I refer to my camera as my "camrade" sort of like a comrade. :) My family members have heard me say this so much that they've begun to use it themselves, which I find endearing.

Today's little excursion was a therapy trip for my dogs too. It's been a long time coming for these sweet, faithful girls! They needed to get out of the house and see a bit more of the world! They are happy and well-loved to be sure, but the truth is that when I'm in school they spend a lot of time waiting for me to get home...and waiting for me to finish my homework.

Ditto and Dinah, my "doggy daughters," enjoying their ride in the car.

Once at the park, one of the first things I saw was a kite stuck in the edge of a tree. This made feel a little sad, and it made me think of life. Sometimes I feel as though I'm "stuck" just on the edge of freedom, just on the edge of breaking through to a more fulfilling life...a lot like this kite. It's the old "if only" adage that so many people live by, but that I try not to dwell on too much. I also thought about the child who lost this kite. I wonder what that day was like? I wonder how much time the adults who were present had to spend consoling?

We started our walk with a lovely view of the path stretching out ahead of us...

...but it didn't take long for the girls to find a log that smelled absolutely heavenly to them.

After stopping to say hi to lots of passers by, and of course to have a nice, long sniff at every opportunity, we finally made it down to the water. The sun was shining and the water was beautiful. Even the old, dead logs were glittering like diamonds!

These are the prescription sunglasses I got for Christmas last year. It was nice to finally put them to use for something other than driving in the car or walking around campus at Eastern. I am one lucky girl!

Once around the other side of the lake there was a bit more shade. The trees in Michigan are just gorgeous right now. They are all rife with buds and the colors are just beginning to burst forth in anticipation of warmer days ahead.

Standing under these huge trees, I felt almost as if it was raining willow branches. The way they were swaying in the breeze, and blocking the sun from my was like a magical little world under the willows, belonging only to me. But, as if on cue, there was the ever-present reminder of humanity. A huge plane taking off from the local airport. I like the juxtaposition between nature and people in the photo below.

Also in a strange parallel to life, my walk wasn't all sunshine and roses. {Fair warning: if you are squeamish you may not want to look to closely at the following two photos!} About half way around the lake, I saw what I first thought was an old, hollow log next to a tree, but it didn't look quite right. Upon closer inspection I realized it was actually a dead fish. To be honest, I couldn't decide at the time if it was a dead bird or a dead fish, but after showing the pictures to Michael, we decided this was most certainly a former fish. How it got up next to the tree I have no idea. I'm certain there is some interesting story that goes along with this image too, much like the kite, but your guess is as good as mine!

All in all, dead fish included, I had a lovely day that made me feel more refreshed than I've felt in a long time. To top it off, I came home to find a very sweet card and gift from my young friend, Kyra. This is the little girl I cared for from the time she was two weeks old until she turned three-and-a-half and went to preschool. You can read more about my time with K. in this post, but the gist of the story is that this sweet gesture really warmed my heart. Kyra's mom called me last week to tell me how much they've been thinking about me. I've been thinking about them a lot too, but with all the craziness at school, calling them back has remained on my to-do list. :( We haven't been able to make time to see each other nearly as much as either one of us would have liked this past year, but the love is still there. Kyra is five now, which is unfathomable to me. She's a lovely little girl and I still miss her so much it hurts sometimes. It was really nice to know they were thinking of me, and the bracelet she made is darling. I've been wearing it all evening, but I did take it off for a minute so I could scan it in:

So sweet...what a lovely day it's been!