Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z to A in May: Blogging Challenge with a Twist

What? Another challenge? But you never finished this one!

No, I didn't. My father had to have brain surgery and has been in the ICU for over 2 weeks now. My extra writing time has been sucked up by trips to the hospital, conversations with the doctors, and updating family and friends. I've also been dealing with things with my mother who has Alzheimer's.

April has been a long, difficult month. But I vow to finish the blog posts for the original challenge and THEN I will try to work on this one. I think I can do it.

Join us!

Monday, April 25, 2011

L is for Love and Loss

On this rainy April day, I should be writing on a topic that begins with "U." As many of you who have been reading know, though, I have been dealing with great difficulties with my parents. My father had unexpected brain surgery a week ago and my mother is moving to a new facility that specializes in Alzheimer's, so I am a little behind.

I have had a lot of loss these past few months. In addition to the difficulties with my parents, my grandmother passed away in September. It has been a rough journey, but I keep putting one foot in front of the other. The love for my family and from my family has kept me strong and persevering. The same is true for my friends. I have been reconnecting with people I haven't seen or talked to in years. Help is coming from the most unexpected of places.

Adding to my sense of loss this morning was a phone call. One of my friends and colleagues suddenly lost her husband over the weekend. They are two weeks away from their daughter's college graduation. Everything was fine and BAM their lives are forever changed. I only pray that her family will receive the same love and support that I have been fortunate enough to have over the past couple of weeks.

Hold tight to those you love. You never know what is going to happen.....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

K is for Kindness and Karma

The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me. These past several weeks, dealing with my parents, has been quite difficult. But people have been overwhelmingly supportive.

As my father went into the ICU and had to undergo brain surgery this week, I repeatedly sent out prayer requests on my Facebook status, in all of my writing groups, and via all three of my Twitter accounts. People I have never corresponded with have been adding him to their prayers lists and sending their best wishes. They are even following up on his status.

I started the How to Laugh at Alzheimer's blog as a way for me to cope with my mother being placed in a nursing home and becoming a person I do not know. Comments have flooded in from all over, sharing the experiences of others and thanking me for what I am doing. It is quite humbling.

The hospital where my father is recuperating is full of hundreds of doctors and nurses. Yet every day I am greeted with a smile. People ask how I am holding up. They are patient as I ask a hundred million questions, to satisfy my need to know everything that is going on. They have been patient as I have burst into tears over seemingly nothing.

Friends are asking how I am doing and offering prayers and support. Some of them are dealing with their own horrible family and personal issues. Yet, they are taking the time to talk to me, even if I seem a little irrational or appear to be jumping the gun. I am trying my best to keep up with what they are doing and how their situations are panning out. I don't mean to be self-centered and I am trying hard to not be. And they seem to understand that.

I love the offers of food. I would love to pretend that I am keeping track of what I am eating and when, but I know I am not. I can forget to eat because I am so wrapped up in helping both of my parents. People are making sure I am fed and getting rest.

And I am getting back in touch with members of the family from whom I have been accidentally estranged for a few years. It was never my fight or my issues that caused the separation. But as soon as they found out what was going on, they reached out to me as I had reached out to them. I am grateful. I just wish it wouldn't be such horrible experiences leading to us bonding again.

I truly feel that the positive support that we are getting regarding our parents is karma paying my parents back for being such beautiful people. They have always taken care of everyone else, while simultaneously caring for their own family. I have only one biological sister, but we grew up with numerous brothers and sisters. I like to think that my helping others in need is contributing to getting help now when I need it. And I hope that I can pay it all forward some day, when someone else is in need of a little kindness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

J is for Juggling

I think it is in a woman's nature to juggle a lot of things. These past few weeks I have been juggling my full-time job as a Montessori educator, my part-time job as a writer, handling my mother's move into a facility for her Alzheimer's, and today my father had brain surgery. This has included numerous emails and meetings about my students, and numerous phone calls about my parents. I am also trying to get them settled while taking care of myself. Thank God my school is on Spring Break this week. Of course, I would have been home for the ICU and surgery, anyway.

My sister told me that I am trying to take on too much. Perhaps I am. I am grateful that I do not have young children to care for right now. It is difficult enough keeping up with my three furry kids who accompanied to my father's home.

I did manage to write one article today. This is my first blog post. I may have to write a few more to continue organizing my thoughts to calm my head so that I can finally get some sleep tonight.

A lot of other people I know have a tendency to juggle a lot. I try to just put one foot in front of the other to get through these tough situations. I am trying really hard to remember to eat and drink and to take care of myself. That is something that many of us who juggle a lot tend to neglect. I am also learning how to let some things go.

For example, this has been one of the most strenuous years of my life. So, I try to keep my school duties contained within the allotted time frame as much as possible. If I do work late, which is a necessity in the profession, I set up a cut-off time. Whether or not I am finished, I leave. I do the same thing with my writing. If I can't do it, then I don't do it. That is part of the reason that I am so far behind on this challenge. I may not catch up on all of the blogs, but I think I will be able to catch up on most of them. I have been hiking more frequently to physically relieve some of the stress. Because the juggling isn't going to stop any time soon and I need to keep on keeping on.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Am Mine

There is a song by Pearl Jam called "I Am Mine." The lyrics go "I know I was born and I know that I'll die. The in-between is mine. I am mine." I love that line, and I have made it one of my mantras. Another good one is "I only own my mind."

I am going through a horribly rough time right now. My grandmother died in September at the ripe old age of 95. My mother, who has Alzheimer's. had to go into nursing care in February. And my father went into the ICU Thursday night. This morning (Saturday) they had to intubate him. He has taken a couple of steps backwards, but this could be a good thing to help him finally recover. He has a lot of medical problems right now. We are extremely close and it is very hard for me.

My sister has also come to town to help out for a bit, but she cannot stay as long as I can. It is up to me to be the strong one who takes care of a lot of the problems. But I have a choice. I can choose to let it get me completely down and get depressed. Or, I can let out my emotions and just continue to deal with what life throws at me, one step at a time.

Do I cry? Yes. If I don't cry it makes it worse. Have I stopped doing what I love? Absolutely not. I take care of what needs to be done and try to have a little fun at the same time. I take things seriously, yet try to find ways to chuckle. I am the one who is in control of my reactions. I am mine. I can do what I need to do and not lose face.

Another great song lyric that pops into my head is "I am a rock. I am an island." That describes precisely how I am feeling right now.

Or check out this live version from Reading '06. Pearl Jam is always better live. :-D

Thursday, April 14, 2011

H is for Hiking

I have always enjoyed doing some moderate hiking. I always say that I could walk for hours. Of course I grew up in NW Ohio where the ground is completely flat. Long walks are pretty easy.

Before I moved, I was hitting up my favorite Metroparks in the Greater Toledo area on a regular basis. I could walk on trails in the woods, meadows, and even swampy areas. One of my favorites is a boardwalk with an observation deck at the end of it. I still go on them when I go home to visit.

When I moved to NY I found myself primarily walking along the trails that follow the Erie Canal. I also discovered the joys of hiking up and down the glacier-carved hills of Mt. Hope Cemetery, as well as the historical fascination. (People like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are buried there.)

A year ago, I discovered a book about hiking in the Greater Rochester area and decided I should check it out. I hit up a couple of trails, only to burst a cyst and later require minor surgery. Flash forward six months and introduce a new friend who is much more hardcore. He actually gets pleasure out of hiking in the snow and freezing cold. The steeper and more remote the hills the better. And who cares about trails? Start on one and end up on another.

Thanks to him, I now have real hiking boots and two new coats and am kicking my own ass hitting up hills and trails. I mistakenly believed that I needed to follow him along these treks, to push myself. But now I am hitting up hills like this one, all by myself.

I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I discover or conquer a new trail. I love the peace and quiet of the outdoors. And I love that stiffness in my body when I have gone too long without hitting another one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

G is for Grover

One day in my Montessori classroom, my kids kept jumping over the rugs. I said, "You must walk AROUND the rugs, AROUND, AROUND, AROUND." I suddenly thought of this classic Sesame Street sketch by Grover:

I pulled it up on my Droid and let the kids watch. They laughed hysterically and asked to watch it again. Then I noticed it was also available in Spanish, so we watched it in Spanish.

We watched it two days at the end of the day, and then I never heard anything about it again. Suddenly the other day, they started singing it again and asked to watch it. So, after they were packed up for the day, we watched it again. We also watched it in Spanish. I was excited to see that they had already learned the words in Spanish!

See, Sesame Street is still educational! lol

F is for Fiona

I am madly in love with Fiona Apple. I have been since the first time I saw the "Sleep to Dream" video. She is like my kindred spirit. I have a massive girl crush on her, her voice, her attitude, her power, her hair......I have all of her CDs, have seen her numerous times in concert, and even named my Siamese cat after her.

When I was searching for "C is for Cookie," I came across several Fiona videos. This one of her with Elvis Costello doing "I Want You" is intensely beautiful. It demonstrates her emotion and talent. I had this on my mp3 player, but am even more in love with it after watching it "live." And in my personal life lately, it is even more meaningful.

The last time I saw Fiona live was when she was touring on the Nickel Creek farewell tour. They played a small venue downtown. It occurred to me later that I could have hung out afterwards and possibly met her. I always say that I wouldn't know what to do, but if I can stand upright while meeting Eddie Vedder, I should be able to handle Fiona.

This is a clip that someone took of her doing "Extraordinary Machine." I love that song because I think of it as a sort of mantra for myself. "Be kind to me or treat me. I'll make the most of it. I'm an extraordinary machine!"

I was standing just behind the person filming this. I was so jealous that I had no way to record it myself, but at least this person recorded a bunch of it!


Rumor has it that a new album is due out this year. That means a new tour. Ahhhhh.....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

E is for Eddie

Of course E is for Eddie! What else would it be? I am a huge fan of Pearl Jam, and have been for 20 years now. Nothing helps my mood better than Eddie's voice crooning and yelling. The lyrics touch my soul. I feel a spiritual connection with his music in a way unlike any other.

I have written about Eddie and Pearl Jam time and time again. So, instead of rehashing all of them, I will instead provide you with links to my published works on Yahoo! and Associated Content/Yahoo Contributor Network.

Book Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (including commentary on the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder)

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder Pens the Lyrics That Fulfill My Soul

Meeting Eddie Vedder (Yes, my friend Amy and I got to meet him twice. It was a dream come true. One of these days I will find my camera again, and can upload my pictures. I will include one from my crappy camera phone below. The one taken by my friend that appears on this article is the best, though!)

Top 5 Eddie Vedder Solo Performances with Friends
(This one actually went to omg! on Yahoo!)

D is for David and Dylan

I am a huge music fan. I like almost all genres. My mp3 player is full of all kinds of contradictory tastes. But I don't care. Different music fits different moods. This post reflects on my good fortune of over a year ago.....

In March of 2010, I elected to go home for an extended weekend. We had a day off to go visit any Montessori school we wanted. I chose to go to Ohio to visit the one where I was working when I got my Montessori training. My good friend still teaches there, and it is always inspiring to visit my educator roots.

I found out that David Gray was going to be performing about two hours away in Columbus, OH that weekend. I've been dying to see him for years, so I decided to get a ticket and enjoy myself. And I am glad I did.

The whole way down to Columbus, I was listening to an old CD from 1997, A Century Ends. One of my favorite songs is "Debauchery." I kept thinking how much I would love to hear that song, but wouldn't hold my breath because it was such an old one. In the middle of the show, David says, "I don't know why, but I am feeling compelled to play this song tonight. This is 'An Afternoon's Debauchery.'" I freaked out...from my lips to God's ear to David Gray's mind?

Following the show, I waited in the alley behind the theatre, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Better than that, I got to meet him, get his autograph, and have my picture taken with him.

I wish I had a better phone camera that night. And I curse the person who took the picture, for not realizing there was a bright light in the background that made it so dark. But, that's okay. I still met David Gray. You can see a slideshow of the rest of the pictures here.

Flash forward a couple of weeks and I noticed a contest on Jakob Dylan's Facebook page. You could enter to win a pair of tickets to a show of your choice. I picked the Albany show, as that was the closest one to me (despite being four hours away). I didn't think there was any possible way I could win, because I never win this stuff. Imagine my surprise when I received notification that I was the winner!

I tried in vain to find someone to go with me, but either no one else was a fan or just couldn't go. It was hard to find someone with about 24 hours' notice. I didn't let that stop me. I booked a hotel in Albany, and took off on a fun road trip by myself.

My seats were amazing - second row behind the orchestra seats, dead center. When Jakob Dylan took the stage, I could literally make eye contact with him as he sang. It was almost like he was singing to me and no one else. Neko Case was onstage with him. The two together were magical.

Alas, the way that The Egg in Albany is set up, I was unable to find a way to meet Jakob Dylan after the show. I was able to meet the opening act, though, called Mimicking Birds. They were interesting, but I have never heard anything further about them.

This is one picture of Dylan and Case onstage. I really hated the old camera phone for taking such pictures. It makes the stage look much farther away and it is difficult to see much detail. But Jakob is in the middle with the hat, looking more and more like his dad every day (except much more attractive!). Neko Case's red hair is visible to the right.

I'm so ready for more shows! I've been a big fan of concerts and trying to meet celebrities since I met another "D" act, Def Leppard. That's a fun story, too!

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Cookie

Ok, I know I am not the only one to do this today, but dammit, LONG LIVE COOKIE MONSTER!!!!

Another version with Marilyn Horne

And while we're on the topic of Sesame Street, my students got the biggest kick out of watching Grover. We watched this about four times on my Droid a couple of weeks ago. This is the best!

C is for Candida

Ah, candida. The bane of my eating existence. Throughout the process of dealing with another medical issue beginning with "c" (and I don't mean the "BIG C"), we discovered that I had an intolerance to yeast that often resulted in an overgrowth. An overgrowth of yeast can manifest as an external yeast infection, migraines, swollen legs, depression, fatigue, and more.

I actually discovered that my symptoms could be due to a candida overgrowth while I was reviewing a book called The Super Allergy Girl Cookbook. In it are listed many common, and not so common, food allergies and intolerances, complete with their symptoms.

So, I began to wean myself off of yeast. At first, I thought I would go cold turkey, but like quitting smoking, it isn't quite that easy. Do you how much stuff has yeast in it?

The obvious culprits are breads and beers. Two of my favorite things. I thought perhaps if I just cut back on them and upped my yogurt intake I would be okay. Not so much.

I started taking an herbal mixture called Yeast Fighters when things got bad, so that I could continue to occasionally have bread. Again, not a great idea.

I kept doing research on the proper diet for someone with candida issues. I honestly get depressed every time I do. Basically, there is very little that is left for me to eat. Technically, you have to eliminate anything that contains yeast, anything produced by yeast, and anything that feeds yeast, such as white flour and sugars. That actually leaves very little that you can eat.

So for over a year now, I have kept playing around. And now, after doing an intensive treatment for over a week, using both prescription and over-the-counter herbal remedies, I am finally doing much better. I have found that I need to maintain supplements, such as pau d'arco and acidophilus. I need to avoid as much yeast as I can. And if I am going to indulge, I had better be.prepared to deal with the.consequences!

I would love to hear from people who have do the same in their.diets.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for....

Ah, Day Two. B Day. I have had a million thoughts running through my head all day. This type of a challenge is dangerous for a brain like mine that never stops working!

B is for...babies. I love babies. And they love me. I swear they know I am a teacher an find me as soon as they walk into a room, or as soon as I walk into a room. While I don't have my own, I love taking care of everyone else's. And I think about six people I know have had a baby in the last several weeks. Auntie Andi is ready to snuggle!!

B is for...boredom. This is a comment directed at a friend of mine. I went out to lunch with a friend today. After lunch and ice cream, her seven year-old went to the salon to get her hair cut off so that she could donate it to Locks of Love. While we were waiting, I was hanging out with the teenager. We were sharing Facebook on the phone, comparing our tastes in boys. Ah, the generational differences.....anyway, after waiting for about an hour, we both started getting bored. I joked that I should make a post about boredom.....

B is for...bands. When I was in college, I was a total band groupie. Not the traditional groupie who slept with the entire band, but the one die-hard fan who went to every single show. I continue to enjoy hanging out with bands and meeting musicians.

B is Today is actually World Autism Awareness Day. I apparently jumped the gun yesterday. To honor those with autism, you were supposed to wear blue. Because my favorite football team is the Michigan Wolverines, it was convenient that my clean shirts for weekend wear were only my Michigan ones. So, the blue today served a duel purpose. Some of my closest friends have children with autism and I am a die-hard Wolverine fan. GO BLUE!

B is for....Bananarama, Bangles, Blondie. I have no idea why those just popped into my head, but they did. I love cheesy music from the 80s. I have fond memories of doing karaoke in college, and belting out tunes with my roomies....

To end the babbling, I will now just link you to other random thoughts of the day on the other blogs.

B is for...Beauty Beauty is a core necessity in the Montessori classroom. Read about it at Montessori Writer.

B is for...Bronte. Did you realize there were three Bronte sisters? Each of them had their own novels and they all wrote poetry, as well. Read about them at Andi's Book Reviews.

B is for...Brett and Berenstain. I had two posts on Andi's Kids Books today. Jan Brett is one of my favorite children's authors. I'm also a big fan of the Berenstain Bear books.

B is for...bulbs. I love to plant bulbs. I planted several hundred last year, and they are just starting to come up. This post includes links to slideshows.

B is for...Brain, Babies, Boyfriends, and Bras. I ended up with two posts today about Alzheimers. One is about the brain, babies, and boyfriends. The other one is about bras.....

A is for.....

Well, I'm already behind on the A to Z challenge, as today is April 2nd (B Day) and I still haven't done A. I had a long week, and got three blog posts up on other sites, so :-P

Hey, that brings me to my first random word....attitude. Yes, I have an attitude. I have known this since I was little. But I try to use my attitude for good. I get annoyed with people who act dumb or unreasonably, and then that attitude can rear its ugly head.

A is for...anger and acceptance and Alzheimers This was the topic of my first blog post for the new blog at How to Laugh at Alzheimer's. I also go through waves of anger and acceptance in other avenues, but this one seems to be the strongest right now.

A is for...apples. I love apples. I also equate apples with being a teacher. I forget how that whole idea of "an apple for the teacher" came to be. Wasn't it something like students showed appreciation for their teachers by giving them an apple, because fruits were like a specialty? Anyway, somehow, I have come to resent the teaching symbol, because I am not a fan of traditional teaching. I still remember when I was 19 and had an art project due for my final. It was an expose of myself, made up of numerous little pictures that represented who I was. One of the pictures was a pencil stabbing an apple. Public education and I do not get along. I am a full-blown Montessorian at heart. I also resented all of the coursework I had to take, just to become a teacher. Some of it came in very handy, and some of it was completely useless.

A is for...autism. Speaking of my educational background, I wish we would have done more with autism. Then again, sixteen years ago, we didn't talk about it as much. It was always just a blurb in the textbooks, even in my special ed classes. Of course, back then, I never dreamed that I would be encountering autism and Asperger's on such a regular basis. Alas, it has become a passion of sorts of mine. I am completely fascinated by the world and strive to understand it. It was the topic of my Montessori Writer blog post yesterday.

A is for...Andrea. That is me. There are so many aspects of my personality and nature. Some of that is going to come out in this challenge. Some of those facets may seem contradictory in nature. Oh well.

I think this is going to be fun. I have word lists constantly moving through my head. I feel like I am in my classroom, going over the "sound of the week" with my older kids. I read them a book that focuses on a sound. Then, I have them brainstorm words that begin with that letter. I love them, because even at the ages of four and five, they have figured out how to find the letter in a picture dictionary, and use that for brainstorming. Call me awed and impressed.

And I will end with acceptance. This blog challenge is bringing me new readers, and I have already been embraced in a couple of the blogs, in a way I had never expected. I feel tremendous responsibility, and I thank you.

Until later today, when random thoughts of "B" flow from my head.....