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!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Opportunity Knocks...

A few weeks ago I received an email from one of the professors in the Early Childhood Education program at Eastern. I've heard her name off an on, but haven't actually had any classes with her. It was a bit of a surprise to see her name in my inbox. Here is part of the message she sent:

Drs. B.eaubien and D.ichtelmiller shared with me, at my request, a select group of students whom they believe to have the potential to be real leaders. Your name was one of the names I received. I serve as the faculty advisor for the Association for the Education of Young Children-EMU. I am looking for a few students to take leadership for next year. If you are interested in serving in a leadership capacity, or just want to know more about the organization, let me know and I will include you in a group meeting...

I've just come from that group meeting, and I'm feeling pretty excited about the potential of becoming involved with this organization. Not only will this look great on my resume when it comes time for me to look for a job, but it's also nice to be noticed as a person who stands out from the crowd. This could also be a great way for me to meet/connect with people who are on the same educational path I'm on, which in invaluable.

Who knows what will come of all this, but I do feel buoyed after the votes of confidence from my current professors. I left the meeting a few minutes ago with a spring in my step and a smile on my face...that certainly counts for something!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday was a lot of fun for me this year. Although my younger sister had to work and wasn't able to be there, I had a good day with the rest of the family. My nephew was here, visiting from Indiana, which is always a plus for me since I miss him so much. My two-year-old niece, A. was a bundle of fun. This is the first year she really "got it," and I so loved playing with her.
For about the past six (maybe more) years or so, my family has been doing boy vs. girl (rather competitive) Easter egg hunts. This all started when my nephew was old enough to really participate in the fun and games, and quickly became a tradition. I have greatly enjoyed the camaraderie surrounding this little ritual, but I must say...we were all getting more and more "creative" in our efforts to be the team with the most eggs! Long story short, we changed things up a bit this year and let the two-year-old have most of the fun. Uncle Michael hid all the eggs in very age-appropriate hiding places for her,

and then we all helped A. as she looked for eggs. She had a great time with the hunt, and actually managed to find quite a few before her attention was captured by bigger and better things.

Baby L. wasn't feeling very well and was consequently pretty grumpy most of the day, but I was still happy to see her and {attempt} to help them keep her from crying too much. She wanted to be held all day (mostly by her mommy) and, even then we could tell she wasn't her usual happy self.

Of course the day wouldn't have been complete without some fun and games for the big kids too. Enter the lovely Mr. Marshmallow Peep! Nick and I decided to do the age-old microwave trick with our peep friend, and the results were...well, hilarious!

The poor little, gooey guy...I really don't think there's any way to win when you're a marshmallow peep on Easter Sunday! Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a couple of big kids at heart who will delight in subjecting you to microwave madness, you're still highly likely to be eaten alive!

And speaking of funny things, Nick got these absurdly-faced plastic eggs in his Easter basket. They made us laugh, a lot. Especially when he decided to start mimicking their expressions.

Last, but certainly not least, was the enjoyment of watching A. open her Easter baskets. She has had a sweet tooth from the time she first tasted chocolate, so this influx of more candy than she has ever seen was a delightful experience for her, and for us.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Promises of Spring

I get a giddy feeling when I look at my front garden around this time every year. Somehow it never ceases to amaze me when my bulbs and perennials begin their reawakening, and when the maple tree breaks out in buds. After such a long and brutal winter, it seems almost impossible they could come back. Today is sunny, if a little windy and cool. I took the opportunity to get out and do a bit of early spring pruning. The first daffodils have already bloomed, and if the multitude of tiny green chutes I saw are any indication, there will be a profusion of blooming to follow. I truly do love something about every season here in Michigan, but the promise of renewal and life that comes with spring is invigorating!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Just in the Nick of Time!

OK so I just got home from a very long and exhausting day at school. I'm very tired and I have a headache. Immediately after letting the dogs out, I went to the medicine cabinet to get some Sudafed for said headache. Let's just say that until today, I never realized how similar generic laxative pills and Sudafed are! Luckily, I noticed the difference just in the nick of time, before I accidentally swallowed two laxatives!! I think it was the packaging that was the most misleading and made me grab the wrong one. Both come in a silver foil-type sheet of pills. Thankfully, the pill manufacturers are smart enough to realize the possibility of this error, so they make the pills different colors. NOTE TO SELF: Sudafed pills are red, laxative pills are orange! I seriously noticed this difference as I was filling up my water glass, right before popping the pills into my mouth. Whew! I am very thanful I avoided this mishap...the last thing I need right now is those kinds of problems on top of everything else! The photo below is pretty bad since I took it with my cell phone, but you can still see how similar they you know!