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11 posts from June 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Phantom is Mesmerizing


For over 20 years I have wanted to see "The Phantom of the Opera" at the theatre.  And Sarah was just as anxious to see the play after seeing the movie and falling in love with the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  So, a couple of months ago, we purchased 3 tickets for an afternoon at the Belks Blumenthal Performing Arts Theatre in Charlotte, and Sarah, Matthew, and I spent several hours being completely mesmerized by the performance.


Tim Martin Gleason plays the Phantom.  His voice is powerful and his performance is outstanding.  The passion he portrays as the Phantom is believable and entrancing.  


Trista Moldovan plays Christine Daae, the love interest of the Phantom.  She is beautiful, and her performance and voice are equally beautiful and mesmerizing. 


Sarah and Matthew were sitting on the edge of their seats taking in every moment and every scene.  This was the first time that any of us had seen the Phantom at the theatre and it did not disappoint.  Belks Theatre is a beautiful place.  I felt like I was sitting in a Mary Cassatt painting.


There were people dressed in gowns and people dressed casually, but we were all dressed for the theatre, and we all felt as though it were a special day just as I am sure Mary's sister felt when she attended the theatre.


Or how about this nice lady taking in the performance?  She was smart.  She brought a pair of binoculars to get a close up view.  I not only forgot my glasses, I forgot my binoculars.  I won't make that mistake again, and I hope there is an "again" someday.


Every detail from the costumes to the changing scenes were designed to perfection.  The boat moving through the lighted path of fog that appears to be on water was incredible.  At one point fire bursts from the floor of the stage and Matthew, Sarah, and I all jumped in our seats. 

The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is incredible.  Sarah loves the song "Music of the Night" whereas my favorite is "Think of Me."  We both have every song in our iTunes library. 

The performance is in Charlotte until July 5th and will continue to travel the country.  Hopefully, it will be in a theatre near you.  If so, you really must go see it.  It is a theatrical performance that you will remember for a lifetime.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Take A Look At Yourself And Then Make A Change


Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Man in the Mirror

AN UNPRECEDENTED PHENOMENON HAS OCCURRED ACROSS AMERICA!!! Apparently thousands of 40-60 year olds have been admitted to hospitals from coast to coast in Cardiac Arrest due to a night long dance tribute to Michael Jackson.  We can't seem to get enough and the memories are flooding back as if our youth was a floodgate of music and dance moves.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

The Way You Make Me Feel

Our sympathy is hugely resulting from Michael Jackson withdraw syndrome for the past 20 years. Our feet don't move like they used to. Damn.  Our backs don't sway like they used to. Ouch.  Our butts are bigger, our waists are wider, our moves are missing.  But dang, we still have the rhythm.  Let me tell ya baby, we still have the rhythm.  We are having some difficulty pulling off that moon walk though.  I couldn't do it in my teens either.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

You Rock My World

I was a Michael Jackson aficionado.  A 70s Disco Queen.  When he stopped singin' I stopped movin' and that's been my downfall for the past 20 years.  He slowed down and so did thousands of 40-60 somethings around the world.  We're toast.  Especially now.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

You Are Not Alone

Why?  Because if you're like me, you've been up all friggin' night watching every single Michael Jackson Video ever made.  Our bodies are swaying to the music and bobbin' to the bumps.  Our feet are tappin' to the beat.  Our hands are slappin' our thighs and our hips.  Our necks are jerkin' to the left and then to the right.  We know disco baby.  Yeah, we know the moves.  And let me tell ya, I had some great moves in my day, and after tonight I think I still have 'em.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music


And so, to mark this very sad farewell to the King of Pop, I've picked my butt up off this couch and started dancing around my family room to the shock and amazement of my children.  My Big Bear is still poured into his recliner, but then again, he never did have the moves.  Nope.  He doesn't have rhythm I'm sorry to say.  But oh boy ... Have I Ever Got the Moves ... (Remember Tim?) I'm on the floor doin' the Thriller.  What did they call that dance?  Anyway, I'm doin' it.  Right now. 

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Billie Jean

So, get your butt off the couch, put on your dancing shoes, and ... Dance ... Billie Jean won't care.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Beat It

You gotta beat it across the floor.  Sweep your feet back and look down.  Just don't bother grabbing your crotch.  Naaah.  Michael can get away with it, but I'm not sure any of us can.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music


And when you're dancin' to Michael Jackson songs, you feel "bad" man, really "bad" - especially if you're out of shape.  Suddenly I feel a rush of heat going to my head like I'm flushed from all the physical activity.  My children's mouths are hanging open wondering "who is this woman and where did she come from?"

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Smooth Criminal

Just cock your hat to your nose, turn around real fast on your toes.  Yeah baby, you are one hot mama or papa - or grandma or grandpa.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Rock With You

I want to Rock With You.  Are you dancin' yet?  I mean really now.  Just turn on the video, get your butt out of the chair, and think about those days when you were really cool.  Sexy.  Crazy.  In shape.  Flirty and Fun.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Another Part of Me

Of course, you can collapse now and call 911.  Because every American who grew up with Michael Jackson needs resuscitation - I know I do.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

My body has had enough, but my feet are still movin'.  What's with that anyway?  I'll bet that's why so many people suffer from restless feet syndrome.  They grew up in an era of Michael Jackson videos and music and their feet haven't stopped movin' since the 70s.  They're permanently stuck on the disco floor.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Remember the Time

"Honey, I need 3 Advil, a back rub, a foot rub, a neck rub, an ice pack, and a heating pad.  I was not ready for Michael Jackson's demise ...

Were you?"

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Black or White

For me, having grown up loving all of his music from the Jackson Five's ABC, and every song in his professional career, Michael will be sorely missed for his music, his humanitarian efforts, his artistry, his charisma, and those dance steps that seem to defy gravity.  He was a creative genius and I believe overall a good person.

Michael Jackson |MTV Music

Heal the World

Last, but definitely not least, and probably one of the most important songs of his career - Heal the World. I think Michael carried the weight of the world's woes on his shoulders. He was a delicate spirit and a fragile soul. All the good he did in this world far outweighed whatever bad he may have been accused of. I'm not sure I believe some of the accusations. He was different, yes, but that didn't make him a bad person by any means. He will be remembered here for all the good he did, all the joy he brought to this world through his music and creative genius. I hope that all who knew him through his music, and all who knew him - will love him, remember him for all the good he did in this world, and pray that he is at peace and with the angels in heaven just dancing from cloud to cloud.

By the way, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below - What were your favorite Michael Jackson memories? Your favorite songs?

My top favorites are: Heal the World, Man in the Mirror, and Black & White. I hope you have enjoyed some of the videos. I know I have.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hello, I Must Be Going

I just finished reading the book "Hello, I Must Be Going" by Christie Hodgen, and as much as I enjoyed the book, I found it to be, at times, puzzling.  The young narrator is Frankie Hawthorne, who is growing up in a lower-income family with a younger brother, Teddy who can be difficult at times, a mother, Gerry, who is a waitress at a Friendly's Restaurant and a chain smoker, and a father, Randall, who was a Vietnam Veteran and an amputee, who masks his depression through his comedy.  The book is supposed to be set in the year 1980, but I sense it more to be set in the early 1970s as the family is suffering from a detached appreciation for Vietnam Vets as a result of a very unpopular war. 

HelloIMustBeGoingMedI say "supposed" to be, and this is where I'm puzzled, because the images that I conjure up in my brain while reading Hodgen's story is from the 1960s and early 1970s. The Lawrence Welk show, Dick Van Dyke Show, Jackie Gleason, The Three Stooges, Black & White television.  1960s right?  I mean, I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I remember what went on, and I found myself checking the inside flap of the book 3 times while I read it just to make sure something wasn't wrong with my eyesight. 

However, with a father that is a Vietnam Veteran and attempting to go back to school to complete his education, I can see how that would be the early 1970s.  Still, there were periods of confusion in the storyline that conjured up images of a different decade than the one I "think" I was supposed to be in.   

Nevertheless, the story was sad, funny, and interesting.  Frankie is struggling throughout the book, because early on, after returning home with her mother and brother from a Christmas outing, she runs into her father's office to get him and discovers he has committed suicide.  This, of course, haunts her throughout the story, but how she deals with it is through silence and detachment. 

Frankie likes to take her situations, and at times, replay them in her mind in the third person, or sketch something silly in her sketchbook (illustrations are throughout the book), or banter back and forth with a school psychologist named Mr. Jolly.  It is all a bit odd and sad.  You get the sense that Frankie really wants to talk about her feelings of loss, but she never gets around to it.

Teddy doesn't have a voice in the book, although I sense he was growing apart from his family more and more as he got older, ultimately resulting in a car crash.  He survives, but you never really know what happens in his life. 

Gerry, the mother, struggles with single-parenthood, her own feelings of loss, and ultimately meets someone who "I think" cares for her and wants to build a home with her.  However, towards the end of the book, Gerry and her daughter, Frankie are putting everything they own in the house on the front lawn and grappling with people over price and condition of furniture and toys.  Apparently, Gerry is certain that her new boyfriend is going to buy all new furniture for the house, but we never really know.  All we know is that they are now living together and the kids aren't too happy about it (they aren't really "kids" anymore by the end of the book, they are late teens I suppose). 

HelloIMustBeGoingMedI enjoyed the book, albeit somewhat depressing, but I don't really know where the author was trying to take me with this story.  There was not a firm conclusion or even a hint, really, of a conclusion that I could grasp.  I know that Frankie ultimately goes to college in New York, but although the author leads us in a direction of apprehension and fear of New York for Frankie, she never validates that fear or writes anything about her experience in college once she gets there. 

As for Teddy.  Beats me.  After the accident, he was injured, but I'm left wondering what ever became of his life.  Also Gerry - what becomes of her life going forward?  And in the beginning there is an uncle Harpo who is their father's brother who pays an unexpected, but very interesting visit and then leaves.  Although he is remembered fondly throughout the book, we are left wondering what the heck happened to him?  Where did he go? 

I enjoyed the story, but I feel like I am left with a lot of unanswered questions.  I tried to contact the author, but could not find any contact information.  So, if she happens to come across this book review, I would love for her to answer some of the hanging questions I have for her story.  I very well could be missing something here, but I have a memory like a steel trap, so I don't think I overlooked anything.  If it was the "unwritten" that I was supposed to grasp, and didn't, then that explains it.

You will enjoy this book.  It is a good summertime read!  If you would like to get a copy, click on any of the book covers you see above for "Hello, I Must Be Going!"


CHRISTIE HODGEN is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC).  She was educated at the University of Virginia (B.A.), Indiana University (M.F.A.) and the University of Missouri-Columbia (Ph.D.). Her novel, Hello, I Must Be Going (Norton 2006), was featured in Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers series. Her collection of short stories, A Jeweler’s Eye for Flaw (University of Massachusetts Press 2003) won the AWP Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Georgia Review, Quarterly West, New Stories from the South, and Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops. Her awards include a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the Faulkner Society Medal for the Novella.

I give this book  3.5 stars out of 5.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

We Need Fathers to Step Up

By President Barack Obama

(And a tribute to my own father at the end)


As the father of two young girls who have shown such poise, humor, and patience in the unconventional life into which they have been thrust, I mark this Father’s Day—our first in the White House—with a deep sense of gratitude. One of the greatest benefits of being President is that I now live right above the office. I see my girls off to school nearly every morning and have dinner with them nearly every night. It is a welcome change after so many years out on the campaign trail and commuting between Chicago and Capitol Hill.

But I observe this Father’s Day not just as a father grateful to be present in my daughters’ lives but also as a son who grew up without a father in my own life. My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I knew him mainly from the letters he wrote and the stories my family told. And while I was lucky to have two wonderful grandparents who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, I still felt the weight of his absence throughout my childhood.

Obama-family-4 As an adult, working as a community organizer and later as a legislator, I would often walk through the streets of Chicago’s South Side and see boys marked by that same absence—boys without supervision or direction or anyone to help them as they struggled to grow into men. I identified with their frustration and disengagement—with their sense of having been let down.  

In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence—both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference. 

That is why we need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.

As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well—but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.

Obama-01 And it’s not enough to just be physically present. Too often, especially during tough economic times like these, we are emotionally absent: distracted, consumed by what’s happening in our own lives, worried about keeping our jobs and paying our bills, unsure if we’ll be able to give our kids the same opportunities we had.

Our children can tell. They know when we’re not fully there. And that disengagement sends a clear message—whether we mean it or not—about where among our priorities they fall. 

So we need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what’s going on in their lives.

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work. 



We need to realize that we are our children’s first and best teachers. When we are selfish or inconsiderate, when we mistreat our wives or girlfriends, when we cut corners or fail to control our tempers, our children learn from that—and it’s no surprise when we see those behaviors in our schools or on our streets. 

Obama-04 But it also works the other way around. When we work hard, treat others with respect, spend within our means, and contribute to our communities, those are the lessons our children learn. And that is what so many fathers are doing every day—coaching soccer and Little League, going to those school assemblies and parent-teacher conferences, scrimping and saving and working that extra shift so their kids can go to college. They are fulfilling their most fundamental duty as fathers: to show their children, by example, the kind of people they want them to become. 

It is rarely easy. There are plenty of days of struggle and heartache when, despite our best efforts, we fail to live up to our responsibilities. I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood. There were many days out on the campaign trail when I felt like my family was a million miles away, and I knew I was missing moments of my daughters’ lives that I’d never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept. 

Obama-03 But on this Father’s Day, I think back to the day I drove Michelle and a newborn Malia home from the hospital nearly 11 years ago—crawling along, miles under the speed limit, feeling the weight of my daughter’s future resting in my hands. I think about the pledge I made to her that day: that I would give her what I never had—that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father. I knew that day that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless she had every opportunity in hers. And I knew I had an obligation, as we all do, to help create those opportunities and leave a better world for her and all our children. 

On this Father’s Day, I am recommitting myself to that work, to those duties that all parents share: to build a foundation for our children’s dreams, to give them the love and support they need to fulfill them, and to stick with them the whole way through, no matter what doubts we may feel or difficulties we may face. That is my prayer for all of us on this Father’s Day, and that is my hope for this nation in the months and years ahead. 

Published on 06/21/2009

Parade Magazine



Dad1 I read this letter in today's Parade and it really touched me.  My own father was ever present in my life until his sudden death when I was 21 and 5 months pregnant with my 2nd daughter, Kimberly, who was born 4 months later with heart disease that almost took her own life.  I reflect on my younger days when my father was alive, vibrant, involved, and interested in our lives.  He always let us know how much he loved us and how proud he was of my brothers and me.  He passed away far too young and it makes me reflect on my own mortality. 

Most of all, even though my father was a staunch Republican, I truly believe he would be proud of our current President because he would see that Obama is a man of integrity and virtue.  My father was not perfect, but he was a man of integrity.  He looked up to those men and father's of higher standing who were men of integrity, successful in family and career, and intelligent, and tried to live a good life.  He recognized his own shortcomings, and only hoped that his children would succeed him in education and success throughout their lives.  We are all blessed, and we have our father to thank for our glorious journey through life, no matter how difficult it has been at times - for the bumps have surely made us stronger. 

When I reflect on the days that I would sit with my own father and we would talk about what was going on in my life, what I thought about certain things, or just chatting, I recall how interested my father was in me and how valued that made me feel.  It was "our" time and it was important to me.  He let me know it was important to him too. 

Dad if you can hear me - "I love you and I miss you every day.  I cannot believe it has been almost 30 years since you passed away.  Maybe you were a little too anxious to jump into that cold swimming pool in your shorts just 6 days after moving into your new home in Florida.  I remember your call to me on that day telling me that it was blue skies and white clouds and sunshine and that you couldn't wait to see us that Christmas 1980.  Your sudden death was a shock to all of us.  I still hear your voice, I still feel your guidance, I know that you are always with me and helping me walk through this life.  I can even hear your counsel when I need you.  Thank you Dad.  You may be gone from this world, but you are always with me in spirit.  You are never forgotten.  You are always loved.  And, you are dearly missed." 

Your loving daughter, Susan (Soapsuds)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Click click Here, Click click There


This is my good friend, Liz.  Her hair is a bit of a mess, but she drove to Atlanta and back to Charlotte on Sunday and by the time she got to our house for Bob's Birthday party she was tired.  Still beautiful, but tired.  She didn't want me taking her picture.  She smiled for this one though.


And this one.


But not for this one.  I had to chase her down with the camera.  "Susan! Stop taking my picture!"


I snuck (is that a word? snuck, sneaked?) in a picture of Liz here ...


And Liz talking to our friend and neighbor, Dan, here ...


But, uh, "Susan Stop it!  Stop taking my picture!"  Of course, everyone knows that you can't come to our home without running smack-dab into my camera.  Sorry, but those are the rules.


Here ya go - a great picture of Liz with her beautiful daughter, Ashley, who just graduated from high school and begins college in September at the University of Georgia.  She is one smart gal!


Liz is so proud


And so is Big Bear (no looking at our unfinished kitchen.  I need another 12 years to finish these cabinets)


And Sarah is proud of her friend, Ashley, too. "You Go Girl!"


And me too!  I am very proud of Ashley!  She graduated with a 3.8 gpa and worked hard for it too! 


I handed the camera over to someone (can't remember who - must be short-term memory loss) and got a picture with Liz.  And you wanna know something weird - we all just turned 50.  Liz turned 50 on April 20th, I turned 50 on April 27th, and Bob turned 50 last Sunday.  He's such a baby.


Of course, once the camera is back in my hands ... "Stop it! Susan! Enough already!"  Did I hear someone say something?  Liz?  Did you want to eat in peace? 


Now here's a willing picture-taking-participant.  He's 9.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Child Abduction Emergency in North Carolina?


You've got to be kidding, right?  Everyone is in bed sleeping and Matthew was spending the night with his best friend next door.  They are always having sleepovers.  Well, at almost 1:00am the phone rings and it is Matthew crying and wanting to come home.  "Sure bud, I'll meet you outside.  Is everything alright?"  I asked.  "I don't feel good, Mom.  I want to come home."  So, I ran outside in the drizzle and met my little boy in the driveway.  He ran into my arms and we walked inside.  He was shaking and really upset.


When we got indoors, I hugged him and said "What's wrong sweetie? Why are you so upset?"  He was crying and said "There is a child abduction alert for all the counties in North Carolina until June 19th."  I looked at Matthew stunned and hugged him, smiled, laughed a little, and reassured him that he was going to be just fine.  But, I could see that he was clearly and understandably upset.  So, to reassure him, we went online and I honestly did not think I would find anything, especially since he told me he was watching the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network or something like that when he saw the alert flash across the screen like a weather warning alert. 


Well, you won't believe this, but as it turns out, North Carolina put out a Child Abduction Alert and posted it across the screen of cable and local channels like a weather emergency and it scared my son clean out of our neighbor's house at 1am in his skivvies. And from what I read online, they do this regularly!  I mean, what's the deal with that anyway?  They don't give any information - none whatsoever - they just flash a generic warning across the screen that reads: Child Abduction Emergency for the following counties in North Carolina...Union, Mecklenberg ... until June 19th. 


Okay you guys with the weather alert and child abduction alert system - what are we supposed to do?  Tie our children to their beds or lock them in their closets until June 20th?  Or maybe we should only let them play outside as long as we are behind them with a large blunt object to ward off any shifty looking fellas who might be roaming the neighborhood.  Better yet, how about we just sic Adolf on the next child abductor that crosses our path.  That oughta do the trick, don't you think?


Put it this way, if the North Carolina Child Abduction Alert/Emergency system is going to broadcast an alert like this, especially on a children's channel, at least have the decency to explain what's going on.  My son was so upset he ran home in his pajamas shaking all over afraid for his life.  The poor little guy thought there was a mass child abduction going on until June 19th in Union County, North Carolina for God's Sake!!!  The first thing he asked when we sat down on the sofa and cuddled up was "Mom, where's Adolf" In 2 seconds flat Adolf was at his feet and lickin' his face.  "Feel better now?"  giggles - "Yep."


It is now almost 1:30 in the morning and I think I am going to cuddle with my little boy on the sofa and we can veg out together and watch some television with 2 glasses of chocolate milk and a cozy quilt to keep our toes warm.  The house is locked and bolted.  The alarm is on.  And Adolf is on Red Alert for any shifts in the wind within 500 yards of our front door.  He knows how to take off an arm - Big Bear found that out today in Schuntzen training.  Adolf had a grip so tight the trainer could sling him around off the ground.  If the trainer had not had on a bite sleeve, Adolf would have taken off his arm.  Thank you Adolf.  I feel much safer now - and so do the 3 precious children we have in our home and especially the little man you just licked. 


Now which one do you think is more ruthless? Harmless, eh?  Don't underestimate this little gal, she's a mean ankle biter and been known to chew up quite a few pencils.  Oh, and she is Adolf's sparring partner - growling, teeth, and a bounding leap to boot. 

I think we'll just settle down now on the sofa with some chocolate milk - and Adolf.  How's-a-bout-it-bud?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Bit of Heart & Soul on the Homefront


Sunday was a great day.  Big Bear turned 50 and he can no longer call me his "old lady."  Yep, I'm 6 weeks older than Bob.  Big deal.  My gpa was higher than his when we graduated from high school too.  ha ha.  Okay, time to get back to the music ... 


Our neighbor, Pat, is a musician - and a dang good one too - and he and his wife, Janet, are also our friends.  We invited them over to celebrate this wondrous event.  Yes "wondrous" because he has reached the top of the mountain so to speak and everything from here on out is all down hill.  Suddenly seeing the other side of the mountain (if we are so blessed to experience a long and healthy life) is not so glorious.


Pat is a wonderful musician, and he was really impressed with Sarah's "Waterfall" composition.  Nobody at the party could believe that she wrote the piece herself.  But, "yep" she sure did.  We're all proud of her.  Pat immediately sat down with Sarah and said let's play "Heart & Soul" and he proceeded to show her what he wanted her to play and then he would improvise on his end of the keyboard.   Pretty cool, eh?


Sarah loved it, and Pat was definitely in his element.  The next time he has a gig around these parts, I'm going to tote my video camera with me and you can see for yourself.  Talk about great music!


They started banging out some tunes together on the piano and it was great. 


We were all greatly entertained.  Thanks Pat!  Thanks Sarah!


But you see, I wasn't thinking clearly when they were entertaining us all at Big Bear's Birthday Bash.  Nope, I was mesmerized by the music, and so, I was taking pictures instead of video taping the entertainment. 


I did finally snap out of it, but unfortunately it was in the final 15 minutes of the musical heroics, so, once I grabbed my video camera, I only got a little more than a minute of entertainment before Pat jumped up.  I think the video camera intimidated him a bit.  They messed up at the end.  What a laugh.  But what great fun it was.  So, I am going to give you that minute of entertainment at the end of the evening right here ...

Enjoy ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Adventures of Gregory


Sunday was Big Bear's 50th Birthday and we were ready to celebrate.  We invited 20 of our close friends and neighbors over for the celebration.  I, however, had my sights on the cutest fella at the party - Gregory.


This little guy was my favorite guest.  I wasn't the only one who had their eye on this little fella, either.


Gregory was very animated - and he had his eye on the cake.


His mother gave him a toy instead.  Of course, it didn't taste nearly as good as the cake.


Look at the face on this sweet baby.  Is he scared out of his mind or is he still looking at that cake?


I think he is still looking at the cake.


"Wait a minute, there's more food over there.  I want it Dad, take me over there"


Dad handed him over to another guest, Wendy, and she became immediately enamoured with Gregory's cuteness, and Gregory immediately started eating her hair.  Mmmm, good.


Ol no, Wendy's a gonner.


Totally.  I feel for ya, Wendy.  He sure smells good doesn't he?


Of course, when he didn't smell so good anymore, Wendy handed him over to his mother.  Stephanie didn't mind, though.  He's loads of fun, even with a load in his drawers.


Yep, Gregory made his rounds.  I played with him too, but since I was the only one with the camera at the time, it was difficult to take pictures and hold Gregory too - so I kept handing him over to his father.  Big Greg did what father's do best with their sons - give him a ride on his shoulders.


"So Dad, when are they going to cut the cake?"

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Time Has a Way


I woke up this morning reflecting on the fact that time has a way of healing all wounds - well, maybe not all wounds and not all the time.  When the wounds concern your children, whether they are self-inflicted wounds, inflicted by your children, or inflicted by others - they still hurt.  There is always a grieving process.

In that process, there is always some lowlife out in the world who wants to rub your nose in it, make you hurt more, kick you while you're down.  Yes, there are some seriously sick individuals out in the world as I have unfortunately come to learn as a result of having this online journal.


I've had one person who has been getting a thrill out of coming to my site, reading my stories, and either leaving a nasty comment, or sending me a nasty email.  You know who you are.  I've had remarks like:

"We all know Kathleen is a drug addict and our tax dollars are paying for her and her son." 

Not on both points.

"Why don't you ever talk about Kimberly?  

None of your damn business.


"How come you never write about Kimberly? Did you run her off too?"

Again, None of your damn business, and when I'm ready to talk about Kimberly - the daughter I lost 21 years ago - I will.  That is not your place or anyone's place to ask such a question.  This is my life story.  If you don't like it, then get off my journal and go berate some other blogger.  I've done nothing to hurt you, but you are certainly doing your best to annoy the hell out of me.  Fine.  If you get your sick kicks out of leaving nasty comments and sending nasty emails to people who share their life story - the good, the bad, and the difficult side of life, then you should get some serious help.  Sounds to me like you have some serious issues of your own.


"You are only trying to be like the Pioneer Woman."

That's not even possible.  First of all, I don't live on a ranch.  Secondly, my blog isn't about everything that is good in life, nor am I as funny as Ree, although I wish I had her humorous wit more often.  Thirdly, I write about what is really on my mind, and what is "really" going on in my life.  Not that Ree doesn't, but Ree is living what I consider to be every woman's dream - with a ranch, a stud for a husband, beautiful children, horses, cows, bulls, and lots of financial resources at her disposal, for anything she wants to do including wonderful giveaways and contests on her blog.  Other than the beautiful children and the stud for a husband, I don't claim to have anything else.  Ree is always happy and funny.  I think it's great reading because her stories take my mind off of my own stories.  However, her stories do not reflect real life - at least not for most people.  Fortunately for me, most of my stories are happy ones, fortunately for you, I suppose, I choose to share all the stories - even the difficult ones that helped to shape the person I am today.


This blog was never intended to draw any attention from anyone other than family and friends from coast-to-coast who enjoy keeping up with our going's on.  My online journey began with ebay, grew to be an online baby boutique for 2 years that I successfully grew and sold, and then an online site to display and sell my artwork emerged from that.  Wanting to give back to the visual arts community, I created Red Easel, but struggled with having a regular story to share, so I added a gallery of incredible artists, information and resources for artists, and more.  Because I am a perpetual writer, I wanted to share my life experiences with my family and friends and so began "Vaughn Family Traditions," but I thought the name sounded corny, and so I tried "Boomerbaloo" for about 2 months, and didn't like that either.  One morning while in a creative mood, and eating raisin toast, I decided to start my personal blog from scratch and create a site that was about "everything" going on in my life, so I merged the stories from the two other blogs into "Raisin Toast" and here we are almost a year later.  


I just want to say that I have met some lovely people during this year's journey.  It has been a roller coaster ride, but most of my life is just that - a roller coaster ride.  Personally, I love roller coasters and prefer them to the predictable ferris wheel any day. 

There have been a number of times I have thought about ending this online journey, but then I always have something to write about - like right now - and I love taking the pictures and sharing the stories with my family and friends - old and new friends. 


I knew I had a choice when I started this blog, I can tell the truth or I can sugar coat the truth.  I can talk about real life or I can write imaginary stories.  I can share my true thoughts or I can appeal to my readers and tell you what you may want to hear.  There is always a choice to make when one starts an online journal or blog - I chose to tell my life story, to tell the truth as I see it, to talk about real life, and to share my true thoughts.  I chose to build that story around pictures of my family from years gone by and days of old to present day.  I made a decision that no matter how difficult this journey, I would be open and honest about my life experiences, including the ones I am not proud of.  And, that in my journey, I would have to accept that there will be people out there who will want to be the critic, be ugly, and kick me when they can.  


I decided that I would be true to myself by telling the stories from my eyes and my perspective.  There are always 3 sides to every story - My side, Your side, and the Truth.  Whatever that truth may be, only God knows.  I am only sharing my side of the story as I see it.  I've been wrong before.  I'm human.  I will say, though, that I have tried to humble myself to my past mistakes and learn by them.  I have tried to understand the underlying lesson in all of my life's journeys.  I have tried to sit in the front seat of every roller coaster ride with my hands and my head held high, and my faith on a wing and a prayer, knowing that there will be the climb, the fall, the loops, and the bumps that nearly dislocate my spine.  


I also realized that there were benefits to having this online journal.  A huge benefit - especially to my family, because if anything were to happen to me and my life were to end, my children and my family would have this piece of me that they could take with them if they desired.  They would know not only who I am, but what I loved to do, what I loved to read, what I was passionate about, and what scared the hell out of me.  They would know how I became the person they grew to know in life.  They would also know who my mother was, and my father, and my grandparents.  They would be able to read my stories and share them if they like. They would see first hand what brought me joy and what brought me to my knees.


Unfortunately, there are those who enjoy seeing that I am brought to my knees and held there.  That does not seem like a valued life calling to me.  Yet, there are entire blogs and magazines devoted to tearing people down, kicking them in the teeth, and serving them up for dinner to the hyenas.  Satan is everywhere, and believe me, he is alive and well on the internet.


Bottom line, nobody "has" to read my blog.  It is just my story on this journey through life.  Some parts of that journey are more difficult than others, but writing is cathartic for me - and so I write.  That is also why I love reading blogs - the stories of life, love, and even cow manure.  There are some blogs that are so positive and everything in life is great (like Ree at the Pioneer Woman) that it almost doesn't seem real.  Yet, I am happy for her.  She has lived a gifted life and continues to live a gifted life.  She is happy, beautiful, funny, and blessed beyond most.  Ree has every reason in the world to share her joys on her blog.  She is so happy, in fact, that she would otherwise probably explode if she couldn't get it all out on a daily basis.  We should all be so blessed.  So instead, we live vicariously through her by trudging through the cow manure and the recipes of her life with her.


There are blogs that are sad too - about the loss of a child, or the loss of a job.  There are blogs about living with cancer and living with a loved one with cancer.  There are a million mommy blogs out there, including mine, although I don't know that I would call mine a mommy blog.  It is more a life blog, as I share everything in my life that surrounds me from my painting to my photography, my children and the homeschooling experience, my terrible cooking to my friend Beth's wonderful cooking, my Big Bear's desire to get a good job to his desire to be a true farmer.  I share everything from injured toes to injured hearts.  The good days, the bad days, and all the days in between.


I suspect there will always be someone out there who will want to tear me down, kick me hard, and make it their life mission to destroy me on this journey.  It is a sad reality that there are people like this.  Still, for that person, do what you feel you must do to get your kicks in life.  I suppose that tearing people down is part of your life journey.  I'm not going anywhere - because this is my life story and I am writing it for my family first and foremost.  Secondly, I don't owe you anything, including an explanation, but this was on my mind this morning and so I write ... it gives me comfort, and it is the best course I know to having peace of mind.  I hope you find some of your own someday.

Note: Cyberstalking is a crime and if it continues, I have saved every email and every comment, every IP Address, and every fake and real email address, that I will gladly turn over to the authorities.  So, please find another hobby. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You Can Lead a Horse To Water


We've all heard the adage "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink."  Well, this horse has walked away from the water entirely.  That horse being Kathleen. 


The 3 months that she has been home have been wonderful (for the most part).  I'd say that 95% of our time together was positive, good, loving, and productive.  But, Kathleen suffers from what I used to suffer from - a chronic case of PMS, and about 4 days before a cycle kicks in, the bad attitude kicks up.  Fortunately for me, though, I had that "thing" taken out about 7 years ago and have been at peace ever since.


Regardless, Bob and I have tried to provide Kathleen, at 30, every opportunity to get her life back on track, and it looked as though it was headed in that direction.  I helped her start her own website and blog.  We got her laptop fixed and then replaced.  It was a real mess when she got here.  She stopped smoking if for no other reason than we refused to buy her anymore cigarettes.  So, after she ran out of the cigarettes she brought here from Florida and smoked outside, she was done.  And, she did well in quitting cold turkey.  We are proud of her for her cold turkey bravado.


She gained weight (almost 25 lbs) in 3 months and she looks fabulous and healthy.


Kathleen got in touch with advertisers and had a good thing going with her blog, and an opportunity to kick that up a notch or two.  It was beautiful what she was creating.  Kathleen is extremely talented and creative.


Since she has been here she has helped around the house and decorated her room so that she was happy with it.  She even took up photography and took some wonderful pictures with the extra digital cameras we had around the house.  I thought her photography was beautiful.  I know I enjoyed photographing her.


We went shopping together and took walks together. We laughed together and cried together a few times. All in all, it has been good.  It has been wonderful having her home and helping her find her own happiness.


While here, she reconnected with an old boyfriend who is going thru a tough time and is serving in the Army in New York.  They spoke multiple times a day.  We really like him.  He is a good guy.  And, last month, he asked her to marry him, but first, he had some personal issues to resolve, and then he had to serve 15 months in Iraq beginning in October.  Having Kathleen and Glen in his life gave him something to look forward to.  He has a lot of love for Kathleen, as we all do.


Well, I don't really understand what happened really.  Bob had gone to Maryland for his interview and Kathleen had found a job at a local restaurant and started on the morning that Bob left for Maryland.  I put the kids in the Suburban and drove to the restaurant to pick her up at 7pm.  She had been at work since 11am so she had had a full 8 hour day in training.  I, too, had had a full day with the kids and cleaning up, doing laundry, and putting a desk together for our sewing machines.  Kathleen wanted to get started on her fashion designs again.


We stopped by the grocer on the way home.  We were out of milk and some essentials.  Everything started to go downhill from there.  Kathleen complained she was tired, and I understood, as I was too, but the way she communicated it was by being temperamental.  I let it ride.


We got home and the kids helped me with the groceries.  Kathleen retreated to her room and got comfortable.  I fixed dinner for the kids and for Kathleen and called her to dinner.  As I walked back into the kitchen I noticed that Kathleen had dropped her shoes in the middle of the kitchen floor, as had the kids.  So, in addition to asking the children to please pick up their shoes and put them in the shoe closet (yes, we have a closet just for shoes right inside the garage door), I asked Kathleen if she would do the same.  She walked into the kitchen grabbed her shoes and pitched them into a pile of shoes that were hers and accumulating next to the back door.  I asked her if when she was done with dinner if she would kindly put her shoes in the closet.  She said "No.  I'll do it in the morning. I'm tired."  And then she had a few choice things to say that I won't repeat here.


To make a long story short, she was short with me and disrespectful.  It would have taken her 10 seconds to put her shoes away.  So, I said "fine" and said "Well then, out they go" and I threw the entire pile out the back door onto the deck.  By the way, I've done this with the children's and Bob's shoes as well when they are left all over the kitchen and have taught them to put them away when they come home.  A few times I put Bob's shoes in the freezer.  Tough love can be tough, let me tell ya.


Well, Kathleen called me some names in front of the children and I told her that she "will" treat me with respect in our home or "there's the door."  I told her that when she can treat the members of this family respectfully, including her son who she treats harshly, she was welcome back.  I explained to her that this is our home and our family and this should be the most supportive and secure place for every member of the family.  When one member throws a wrench in the works, it upsets the entire applecart.


Kathleen retreated back to her room and packed her bags.  With attitude, she walked out the door.  She did not come home that night.  Monday morning, she came to the back door and started banging on the window.  I opened the door and said "Good morning.  Are you ready to treat us with respect?"  Kathleen turned on her heels, called me a name, and walked away.  I watched as she walked up the driveway with her purse and her suitcase on rollers.


4 hours later the phone rang and it was a sheriff asking if Kathleen was my daughter.  Of course, I said "yes."  He told me that she wanted me to pay her bus ticket back to Florida.  I said "No." I told him that she needs to come home and get her head out of the sand.  She needs to go to work the next day for a job she just started.  She has a son whom we are raising and she needs to think of him.  She needs to stop being so stubborn and treat the family respectfully and learn to appreciate all that we have done for her to help her.  He understood and said he would talk to her.  An hour later he told me that he had dropped her off at the bus station and that she had no money.


I heard nothing till the next day.  I did talk to her boyfriend, however, and he had not heard anything from her in almost 48 hours.  We were both worried, but to be perfectly honest, I was angry.  Angry that she had used us and found it so easy to walk away without a word or a care. Angry that in her bedroom I found a bag of moldy food, trash, and empty soda liter bottles under her clothes in her closet.


This morning we got a call from her in Florida.  She had made her way, somehow, back to Florida and back to the townhouse where she lived with a friend for the last 2 years.  He didn't want her back and didn't know what to do.  He had rented out her room.  But, he let her in the door and now he's stuck.  But not as stuck as Kathleen.

Hard headed.  Stubborn.  Disrespectful.  Selfish.  Unappreciative.  Ungrateful.  Unable to face responsibility and make good on her own life.  


I have this to say:  "Kathleen, we love you.  We have wanted nothing more than to give you the opportunities you need to make a good life despite the fact that you are starting so late in life.  We tried, but we expect every member of this family to be respectful and considerate of each other.  We are all human and we will all fail at this at times, but walking away from the family and running away from your responsibilities when you don't get your way is foolish and childish.  We all need to communicate, not berate.  I love you and I miss you, but with all that I have done for you, that we have done for you, including raising your son - I refuse to put up with the crap and I don't have to.  I don't know what your plans are, but we should talk.  Let's work this out.  Running away never solved anything.  There is always tomorrow and always hope."


June 5, 2009

Kathleen ...

I'm sorry.

I should have never let you leave that night.

I should have come after you the next morning when you walked down the driveway.

I should have been a better mother when you were growing up.

I should have given you more.

I should have tried to better understand you.

I am sorry.

That is all I have to say.  I expect nothing from you.  Absolutely nothing.

I am hurt and I was angry.  I know you are too.

I forgive you.  I do not expect you to ever forgive me.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Injured Toes, Bunny Ears, and Nice Folks


Two days ago, while playing at his best friend's house next door, Matthew rammed his little toe of his right foot into a chest of drawers.  Ouch.  He came home and put ice on it and he seemed to be okay.  He even slept well that night. 


Yesterday morning, however, Matthew was limping and complaining that his foot, and that little toe, were really hurting him - bad.  I could tell that he wasn't feeling well.  So, I called his pediatrician and took him yesterday afternoon to have his toe checked out.


But, the doctor told me that he wanted Matthew to have his toe x-rayed the next day at the hospital to make sure it wasn't dislocated or broken.  And, that is exactly what I did today - I took Matthew and Glen to Presbyterian Hospital Matthews (As in "Matthews, North Carolina) for Matthew's x-ray.


He didn't look so happy.  As a matter of fact, he tried his level best to look miserable.


Glen tried to get Matthew's attention and make him laugh, but Matthew was determined to show everyone just how miserable he was.


Of course, if I berate him enough, he gives in with a crack of a smile - or is that a snicker?


Oh wait!  He's miserable again.  He is trying his best not to crack a smile.  Nope, he is hurting, and hurting and smiling don't make a good mix. 


Is this good acting "hurt and in pain" or what?


Obviously, he can't hold it in any longer.  I think he is going to burst.


Yep, he burst alright, and now I couldn't get him to stop smiling.


Of course, that was Glen's clue to make a scene in the waiting room and embarrass me terribly.  He's good at that.


This nice gentleman was very entertained with the boys.


And for a while there, he too, looked like he wanted to look miserable.


Until his lovely wife was called back for an x-ray and the nice gentleman helped her up out of her chair and told her to please not kick the doctor.  That made Matthew laugh, and then he smiled.


Seeing that he had Matthew's attention, he asked Matthew if he liked Baseball and Matthew said "yes."



So he asked Matthew if he had read today's paper about the baseball player, Randy Johnson, who will attempt to win his 300th game on Wednesday when San Francisco plays Washington.  Matthew, said "Nope."


This nice gentleman had a captive audience in Matthew (and me too!) and so he began telling Matthew all about this milestone that was in Randy Johnson's reach.


He told Matthew the story, and let Matthew read along ... that "At 45, the San Francisco lefty owns a World Series ring and co-MVP honors, five Cy Young awards and is a 10-time All-Star selection.  He's thrown two no-hitters, including a perfect game, and ranks second on the career strikeout list." 

Matthew was really impressed.


He continued to read the story ... "Some of his best seasons have come in his later years - he's won more games in his 40s than he did in his 20s." Matthew thought all of this was very interesting.  And, if nothing else, it took his mind off of his sore toe.


Yes, he was a very nice man, and he knew a lot about baseball.  And, that was fine with Matthew, because Matthew loves baseball.  He loves playing baseball too.


They called Matthew back and we made our way through the halls.


And, we sat in another waiting room where we met this very nice gentleman, Preston.  He liked my camera, although he probably thought it was strange that this woman was asking him if I could take his picture while sitting in the radiology department of a hospital.  He's probably thinkin' "dang, she's a strange camera totin' lady."  That's okay, I don't bite - promise.


The radiologist laid that heavy cloak over Matthew.  He stuck his head up only after he realized that the rest of him was plastered to the table.  Except for his feet of course.


Matthew's thinkin' "You know, this really is no big deal.  I don't know what I was so upset about."


"I mean, my mom takes my pictures all the time, (a little too much if you ask me) and this is just a bigger camera, and of course, I have to wear a lead suit to protect the family jewels because Mom and Dad want more grandchildren some day."


Before you knew it, we were all done.  Matthew was putting his socks back on with a smile and Glen was acting like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  That's normal, right?


We waved goodbye to the very nice radiologist.


And we stopped and admired the wonderful artwork of local youngsters on the walls of the hospital.


There were lots of really cool pictures to take little minds off of sore toes.


I even took my favorite boys to lunch after our excursion, and they were all smiles the rest of the way home.  I think Matthew handled himself quite well under the circumstances.  He is such a little gentleman.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009:

I have not heard back from Matthew's doctor yet.  I am waiting for him to let me know what the results are from the x-ray.  I will let you know here just as soon as I find out! 

2:15 pm: Just got a call from the Dr.'s office and the x-ray came back negative.  So, Matthew is going to be fine.  He seems to be walking around better today too.  I'm sure he'll be watching where he puts his toes from now on!

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