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Parallel Realities

Very infrequently I post articles and comments about Women’s Issues and Gender Equality. Some of those posts make me outraged and/or disheartened. The reality is that many women around the world and the U.S. are oppressed. They are physically attacked, harassed, excluded, secluded, confined, marginalized, and belittled. But women, all over the world, still manage to do great things. There is a parallel, but no less real, reality where women are achieving, succeeding, and doing exactly what they want and need to be doing.

I know women who started their own school.
Women who run their own non-profit.
Women who have Ph.D.s.
Women who are the primary breadwinners.
Women who are the only breadwinners.
Women who are publishing books.
Women who are leaving unhealthy relationships.
Women who are reinventing themselves.
Women who have paintings in galleries.
Women who are working for LGBT rights.
Women who are their own bosses.
Women who are programmers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, photographers, musicians, editors, psychologists, television producers, actresses, and poets.
Women who are redefining their field.
Women who travel around the world.
Women who are wicked smart and marvelously hilarious.
Women who are handling everything all by themselves.
Women who write music.
Women who run marathons.
Women who run ranches.
Women who are doing the best they can with what they have.
Women who are starting new ventures.
Women who are off on adventures
Women who are kind and compassionate and also powerful.
Women who are going back to school.
Women who are graduating.
Women who are activists.
Women who have changed things and helped many.
Women who are teaching their sons and daughters to treat everyone with respect.
Women who are doing very interesting things that are important to them and that just might change the world in a small or big way.
Women who are creating a better future for themselves and their children.

And when I say women I mean several, not just one. And my friendship circle isn’t even that large, although it is obviously pretty accomplished. The women I know are inspiring, smart, funny, strong as steel, and awesome.

I also know some really good guys:
I know more than one stay at home dad and even one stay at home husband.
I know several men who are Feminists and use their voices to further gender equality.
Men who support their wives’ dreams and ambitions.
Men who are gentle and kind and good.
Men who listen.
Men who are actively engaged in parenting, teaching and homeschooling their sons and daughters.
Men who are activists.
Men who will not let themselves be defined by archaic gender roles, nor define others that way.
Men who share and help and are awesome at cooking.
Men who watch Downton Abbey. 😉
Men who are good husbands and good fathers and interesting people.
Men who want to make the world a better place and are doing something to make it so.

I mostly know cool men. They give me faith in men and mankind. I know there are guys out there who are oppressing women, making things worse, and making things harder. But not my peeps. I know so many inspiring people and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing kids.  It is good to remind myself of this reality, a reality that is closer to home.

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12th Birthday Party

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Yeah, it’s me. We are all moved into our new house and looking forward to visits from our friends. I know the promise of spending time with me is enough of a reason to make the trip. But Philadelphia has more to offer than my charm and wit.

Philadelphia has a wealth of history and historical sites. You could easily spend your days learning about the American Revolution where it actually happened. We have the Liberty Bell, Betsey Ross’s House, Independence Hall, The Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and many more sites of historical significance.

Depending on when you come you might even get to experience a live action reenactment. They are having them somewhere around here all the time. There is also areas of civil war history and underground railroad history sites and reenactments.

Yep, Philadelphia really loves and appreciates it’s history. But we also have a pretty cool modern city too.

This is the view from B’s homebase in the Comcast Building, the tallest building in the city. I’m so jealous that he gets to work in the city and be near all the great shops and restaurants.

Downtown Philly is great for sight seeing, especially if you like art and architecture. This Swann Memorial Fountain symbolizes Philadelphia’s three major waterways, The Delaware, The Schuykill and the Wissahickon.

We also have Christ Church, City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary and and many buildings by Frank Furness. Here is more info about the architecture of Philadelphia.

I love the old architecture of the city and surrounding areas. Building’s like this are common place.

This was someone’s house. Now it is a Catholic Home for Children.

An example of Victorian Architecture in Wyncote.

There are several castle type buildings in the area. This one of Chestnut Hill College.

Here is a list of 19 Beautiful Castles in Pennsylvania, many of these are close to where I live.

If you are also into art The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States.  Many great artists are represented; Monet, Picasso, Dali, Rubens, Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, etc.

The museum also has sculpture, tapestries, and other decorative arts as well as the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States.

For more art, you could visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Barnes, and The Rodin Museum.

It’s not Broadway but Philadelphia also has some great theaters, orchestras, and operas. All the big name bands and the small “alt rock” groups come here too. It’s a great place to catch a live show.

Besides being home to the first public library, post office, savings bank, university, and hospital in the United States, Philadelphia also had the first zoo. There is also an aquarium (um… over the river in New Jersey, but close enough). For kids there is also the Please Touch Museum.

For science lovers will love The Franklin Institute where Zoe and friend are pictured here, riding inside a flight simulator. The Academy of Natural Sciences right down the boulevard has collections containing more than 17 million specimens. There are several botanical gardens and arboretums to visit, as well as sites along with rivers, like the Seaport Museum.

If you are looking for something a little more unusual Philadelphia has that too. One of my favorites is the Mutter Museum which contains a collection of medical oddities. It is really gross but quite unique.

Laurel Hills Cemetery is a huge, grand cemetery overlooking the Schuylkill River, with over 33,000 monuments. It is really an amazing place to visit.

Literature buffs would like The Edgar Allen Poe House, The Rosenbach Museum & Library (which has the largest collection of the late, great Maurice Sendak’s illustrations and manuscripts), and The Free Library, who’s Rare Book Department features a Charles Dickens collections with first editions, personal letters, and Dickens’s stuffed pet raven, Grip.

The historic Eastern State Penitentiary is also open for tours and has an amazing Halloween event.

Other places of interest in the city are The Comcast Center, with it’s 2000 sqft television screen, Chinatown, the Reading Terminal Market (a truly fantastic farmer’s market), Rittenhouse Square and Franklin Square.

Philly is also fun for foodies. Every kind of food is represented, at every price point. Max Brenner is a favorite of ours. It is a chocolate restaurant and that is a chocolate hamburger with marshmallow mayo, raspberry ketchup, and white chocolate mustard and it is even better tasting than it looks.

If you know me then you know that my favorite place in Philadelphia is the Wissahickon Creek and the parkland that surrounds it.

It is kinda of ridiculously cool. The path along it is called Forbidden Drive. It has a cave that an early American mystic lived in. There is Devil’s Pool, Hermit’s Lane Bridge, Lover’s Leap, Ma Rinker’s Rock, a 15ft sculpture of a Lenape Indian warrior, many bridges, trails and ruins of old mills.

Forbidden Drive

Devil’s Pool

I think it is so amazing that you can just be walking on a trail and come to something like this. What is more amazing is that this huge wooded place is right in the city.

In Philly you can be driving in the city or a close suburb and suddenly find yourself in a rural scene, like a Revolution era barn, or a ruined structure of Wissahickon schist. Sometimes the wildlife comes right up to your door, like these deer in the front yard of a suburban neighborhood, or the red fox that was on our doorstep last night.

Speaking of our doorstep, come inside Gnarlwood and let us entertain you. B loves cooking for company and I love it when he does. You will too.

Right outside the back door we have the Coop/Scoop where we serve food off the grill and ice cream, as well the hot tub, and the pool. Come on in, the water is fine.

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For Zoe’s 11th birthday she got an acceptance letter to Hogwarts and a Hogwarts/Harry Potter birthday party. Zoe has loved the Harry Potter series since she was three, and we listened to the first book on tape. Soon she was reading them, over and over and over again. Then she was asking for the soundtracks for her birthday, and DVD’s of the movies, not to mention dressing up as Hermione and Bellatrix for Halloween, going to at least 3 midnight releases of the books, and participating in several other Harry Potter themed activities over the last 8 years.

This series has really been a defining presence in her life, as it has been for many other kids her age. Now the book series is over and all the movies have come out, but it doesn’t have to be the end. The World of Harry Potter lives on, and not just in Orlando.  You can throw a Harry Potter theme birthday party anytime, but the age of 11, when wizards and witches get their acceptance letter to Hogwarts is a particularly good time.

So, first thing to do if you want to throw a Harry Potter party is to get all your Halloween/ Harry Potter stuff out of storage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you mean you haven’t been collecting Halloween decorations for the last four years and Harry Potter things for twice that long?? Well, check and make sure, we are talking about candles, cool shaped bottles with “magical” labels that you can print from the ‘net., cauldrons, spooky looking books, dragons, etc. I got 90% of this stuff at Goodwill, especially in October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had this cool suitcase which I outfitted with some things from our Harry Potter gear, like her wand, Griffindor badge, S.P.E.W. badge, bag of galleons, and some magic books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the party we had two crafts and two activities.  Our first craft was making wands. I bought some wooden sticks at Michaels, and a dark wood stain pen. I stained the rods and then, just to test the concept, I decorated a couple with glitter glue. At the party the girl got creative with the glitter glue and each decorated their own wands. Some used their “house colors”, they all made neat designs, and the sparkling glitter definitely gave them a magical look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next craft I did, for our first activity, was to make some “quills.” I bought some colored feathers, at Michaels, and some small gel pens. I cut the tip off the feathers, took apart the pens, and inserted the tip with attached internal ink into the feather. It worked just like I thought it would and the kids LOVED them. In this picture is a reg. pen, which was too long for the feather.

Staples has mini pens that worked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also bought them small inexpensive notebooks from Target, to be their spells books. The quills and spell books were used in our Charms class. I gathered some Latin roots from wikipedia and made a list like:

lumin-            light                    luminary, luminous
lūn-                Moon                lunar, lunate, lunatic
lup-                wolf                    lupine

The “students” put the latin words together to make their own spells and then we had a contest for the Most Ridiculous Spell, The Most Powerful, The Most Day-to-Day Useful Spell. The kids were really into this game. Some even described the wrist movements needed for the spell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite craft, and decorations was The Owlry. In Harry Potter World mail is delivered by Owl.  Harry’s owl Hedwig is a much beloved snowy owl. Zoe’s acceptance letter was delivered by the soft furry Great Horn owl, that she named Porridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found tons of awesome owl crafts online. You can find them too by googling “toilet paper roll owl,” “paperbag owl,” and “Paper Lantern Owl.” Here are some I made to populate The Owlry and a small collection of owls I got from Zoe’s stuffed animals and thrift stores:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The paper lantern owl was SUCH a fun project, and, since it is just an owl, you could pretty much do it anytime. Owls are really popular now too. I wanted to include a DIY  for how to make these cute owls.

What you need:
Small Paper Lanterns
Yellow scrapbook paper for feet and nose

Glue Dots to attach nose

Tape to attach legs/feet

More patterned scrapbook paper for wings

Tiny brads to attach wings

Scissors

Round sticky-backed scrapbook embellishments (2 for each owl) for eyes.

First I drew nose and feet on the yellow paper and cut them out. I didn’t want the girls to have to spend time cutting during the craft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again I wanted to do a proof of concept, so I made an owl for myself. I stuck some big flowery eyes to the outside of the lantern and used a glue dot to attach the nose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought a small book of patterned scrapbook paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut one sheet of the paper in half and cut my wings out of that. And attached them with tiny colorful brads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a little tricky to open the brads inside the lantern because the lanterns were small and my hands not so much. I did manage but I had to do it for the girls. If you didn’t care about the wings being able to move you could just use another glue dot or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I folded the feet like “nyah” and taped them onto the metal bar at the bottom of the lantern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girls seemed really excited about this craft. Seriously, they were like vultures for that scrapbooking stuff. It was scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the finished craft. Aren’t they adorable??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last activity was a Divination Class with a tea leaf reading. I found some info about how to perform Tasseomancy online.

I covered a round coffee table with red fabric, bought a clear glass round light cover (50 cents at the thrift store), and draped some scarves over our folding screen to decorate the Divination class room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought some loose leaf tea and performed the “ritual,” upended the cup, and then we tried to see our fortunes in the leaves. Of course, someone saw The Grim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason the kids were REALLY excited about this activity. Of course, I was TOTALLY making things up, but  I interpreted hearts, birds, pyramids, snakes, and letters of the alphabet.

Then it was time for cake. Look! It’s a Zoe Witch Cake. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chased down with some butterbeer. ❤ Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that wasn’t enough sugar the girls each got a trip to Honeydukes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fun party. Zoe has some really great friends, every one of them. And, the birthday girl had an amazing time. 😀

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Celebrate good times

I like to celebrate. I celebrate birthdays, holy days, TGIF, quitting time, the start of basketball season, accomplishing a hard won goal, the release of the next great book (or movie) in a beloved series, graduations, milestones, transitions, the longest day of the year, the longest night, and the days when the day and night are the same length. 😉

I like excuses to eat special food, decorate the house, maybe even buy some special gifts to commemorate the event. Celebrations don’t really stress me out. Maybe because I usually keep it low-key. But, sometimes, I really don’t. *cough*Halloween*cough* I guess I like to make life more magical. I’m kind of still a kid in that way (and in many other ways too :P)

Today is another big milestone for me. Today is my one year anniversary of being cancer free. Last year, at this time, I was being taken into surgery to have a bilateral mastectomy. They found 2 tumors, one was stage 2 and one was more like stage 0. After my surgery, I was, for all intents and purposes, cancer free.

I was SO scared in the couple weeks leading up to the surgery. Not about the cutting or the loss or the pain. Nope. I was scared of going under anesthesia. I really hated the idea that I could be put to sleep and never wake up again. I knew it was extremely unlikely, but still, the idea haunted me.

I had, just recently, bought remastered versions of every Beatles’ album on CD. And I decided that, if I did die, I wanted to leave something to my friends. So I wrote the names of my friends on slips of paper and put one in each CD. Then I told Brian “If I don’t wake up make sure my friends get these.”

I pulled out some special books from my library to give to other friends. I wrote Zoe a letter. I told Brian my final wishes, etc.

But then, a couple days before the surgery, I let the fear go. Or maybe it let go of me. I realized that if I did die, well I wouldn’t even know. And that there would be nothing for me to be sad about. I knew my family was strong and that they would be okay without me. And my friends, well hopefully whenever they heard certain Beatles’ songs they would think of me and be happy they knew me.

This morning, when I woke up, I lay in bed and tried to remember the series of events leading up to my surgery last year. I remembered the brown coat I wore to the hospital. I remembered the velcro things they wrapped around my legs to keep me from getting blood clots, I remembered the dark warm room where they drew x’s and lines on my breasts. I remember trying to keep things light, for Zoe’s sake and holding Brian’s hand.

There are parts I can’t remember, because the anesthesia has a amnesic effect. But I do remember struggling to wake up in the recovery room. And I remember part of my drug addled brain being super-freaking-fantasically-happy to have woken up.

Then I found out that the surgery went really well. I got to go home the next day. And, over the next few weeks, I healed quickly and without complications.

I had to do chemo, just in case there were any stray cancer cells still in my body. But there was no reason to think there were. My margins were really good and so was my surgeon. So, as far as we know, December 10th 2010 I had no cancer in my body. And, as far as we know now, I still don’t. :)IMO, that is definitely worth celebrating.

I suppose if my friends lived nearby I might have them over tonight for a happy little party. Hmmm, that would be cool. Maybe for my 5 year anniversary. 🙂 Maybe then I’ll take those slips of paper out of my Beatles’ CDs too.

My plans for today are to go to the mall, by myself, and buy a fancy dress to wear to Brian’s company Christmas party. I am looking forward to it because I don’t really get a lot of time to myself. I might treat myself to a holiday latte and maybe some cute new shoes too. Tonight I will do something with B and Z. Brian is downstairs concocting a family game for us all to play together. I might request some serious snuggling time as well.

I don’t think you have to do all that much to celebrate. It is more of a mindset. You just decide the day, the hour, the moment is special and make it so. But, I definitely and legitimately have something to celebrate today. 🙂

 

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Last night I was feeling kind of insecure about mistakes I’d made earlier in the day, about times when I was not my best. My mind went to the old familiar place of shame and fear that I am not good enough. Then I went to the next habitual place of “what can I do to be better?”

I think I set a lot of challenges for myself, like Nanowrimo, or this month’s, “exercise everyday for 60 min”, for not totally healthy reasons. I think I am often trying to better myself as opposed to loving myself. And maybe, probably, those two things don’t have to be opposed. But for me, loving myself hardly ever enters into my mind, or my life. I am not sure I even know how to love who I am, without the constant striving. I have a really hard time forgiving myself for not being better.

But that is not how I treat people that I love. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, for every little part of them. They don’t have to be perfect, or better than they are. I love the whole package.

So, how do I turn even a fraction of that love towards myself? Last night, in my quasi-dream state I thought I might make it into a challenge (of course I did), something like “Try loving myself for 30 days.” Heh.

I am really not sure how to do that. I have some vague ideas about being attentive to what I am feeling when I am eating, drinking, walking, reading, etc, to see if I like how I am feeling, as well as notice my self-talk and try to develop a more loving “inner voice.”

I don’t know. I feel like I have come a long way in the last few years. Therapy and avoiding situations that reenforced a negative self-concept have really really helped. But there are so many layers to this onion. I need to keep working at it.

So, how do you love yourself? Do you have any insight? Practical, spiritual, psychological? Cause I would like to feel better about not being better.

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I am not sure if I will continue to mark the anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis after this year. But it is what I feel like doing this year, so I am going to honor that.

I thought it might be interesting to remember the highs and lows of the last 12 months. For sure #1 on on the lowest of the lows was the day I answered the phone and my surgeon’s nurse told me that my report came back positive for cancer.

That next week, when I didn’t know what stage cancer I had, I have to put on the Low List and the High List. Low because it was beyond scary. But High because I came to some kind of peace with the inevitability of death.

Other Lows (Let’s have fun remembering them together! :P)

  • Fear of my surgery. I had a irrational worry I was going to die on the operating table.
  • The tubes in my chest after the surgery, they weren’t so bad for me but they freaked Zoe out. Now she has a fear of Clowns, Spiders, Wolves, and Tubes.
  • Getting shingles on New Years Eve – Worst.pain.ever. As painful as giving birth but for THREE weeks. Do you remember the fun of not being able to wear clothes and having to huddle inside a make-shift hut, so that nothing could touch me?? Good times…
  • The Doxorubicin chemo, a.k.a The Red Devil or Red Death. That stuff was a nightmare. I was walking around like a zombie. I feared it was killing who I was and all that would be left was a Heather body, without the Heather inside.
  • Having a neutropenic reaction to the chemo (very very low white blood cell count. I think I had like half of a white blood cell left.) and ending up in the hospital for days. It was scary. I couldn’t sleep because I was the only one advocating for myself. Then I was quarantined from Brian and Zoe because we were all sick.

Sooooo, we are not even up to February yet… but the Lows List doesn’t go on and on so thickly the whole year. Trust me. In fact, after I got off the Red Devil, I mostly complained about not getting to eat sushi.

  • But then, the Sunday before Father’s Day, Brian’s Dad passed away, in his sleep and unexpectedly. That was a huge blow to our whole family. Especially because my mother-in-law, Anne, had lost her battle with brain cancer just one year prior. Losing both of Brian’s parent, and so young, really sucks and continues to suck. And I still can’t be eloquent about it.

I guess I should get on to the Highlights of the past year. There were some really wonderful moments, and thankfully, they out number the bad ones. (in no particular order)

  • Our car exploding (because our insurance covered it. Yay!)
  • Shaving my head (Thanks Zak!)
  • Zoe’s birthday presents (Thinking of you Amy)
  • The presents (from all my amazing friends, your support got me through those dark times. You restored my faith in the goodness of people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.)
  • The quilt (I will treasure it always)
  • Jeanette (my most thoughtful and nicest friend)
  • Ohio (SO many GOOD times!)
  • Another cross country drive with my family and listening to my 92 track Beatles playlist.
  • Jumping off a cliff into the Mediterranean
  • That whole cruise (seeing The Parthenon, The Sistine Chapel, Olympia, The Coliseum, etc) with my sister-in-law.
  • Seeing PAUL MCCARTNEY in concert. ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod
  • Brian getting a very good job offer in an interesting city.
  • Moving to Philly.

Coincidentally, I have more than twice as many bullet point on my Highs List than my Low list. And I am sure I am forgetting some important Highs that should be on the list.

So, my first year retrospective… we experienced some huge tragedies. Death sucks. Cancer sucks. Fear and pain can back the fuck off for awhile. I don’t even want to tie it all up in a pretty bow about survival and strength, because that is not honest. The truth is that life is suffering and it never stops, until it does. But… (dang, I guess I can’t help but try to accentuate the positive, that is kind of my thing) life is also everything that is beautiful and miraculous. And that is the kind of year I had, a sucky, fearful, painful, sad, strong, positive, beautiful and miraculous year.

 

 

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