Why lip gloss…why?

One day a couple of weeks ago I was trying to convince my friend Tiffany to help me with a blog for moms in our area. “I don’t know. I’m not a good blogger,” she texted back to me. I don’t know what a good “blogger” is but I do know what a good writer is (well, I think I do anyhow) so when Tiffany sent an old blog post to me this week for “laughs” I said, “The voice in your head is a liar. You’re a good writer AND you will be a great blogger.” And then I asked her if I could share this as a guest post on my blog and she said “Do whatever you want” and I said, “awesome. I’m going to.” So, all this to explain that this is a guest post from my good friend Tiffany Kuhn, who is not a blogger, or a writer. Yeah, okay. She’s also in denial so when she starts a blog up again for fun or laughs, I’ll link to her blog. Tiffany wrote the following post in 2014, maybe right before baby number five entered the world. Yes, she’s an amazing mom of five really cool kids, six if you count her husband, which I do because he’s a fun, goofy guy with a youthful outlook on life.


Why, lipgloss, why?

By Tiffany Kuhn

Oh boy. There it goes. As I stand in front of my washer, listening to the clanking, I realize my favorite tube of lip gloss is tumbling around and around in a sea of dirty water and dirty clothes. A sight I am all too familiar with since it seems I always find something hitchhiking in there on a monthly basis at least.

Ugh. To save it, or not to save it, that is the question. Do I dare let it dry and use it after the laundry is done? Do I really want to press it up against my lips knowing that it’s been swimming and bathing in dirty water, along with soap and who knows what else while the washer does its thing?  Yeah, I think not.

While I stand here I can think of a huge list of reasons that played a factor in how and why I forgot to check my pockets and grab that ever so luxurious tube of lip-awesomeness. Instead, I am choosing to focus on what can I learn from this all too common scene that I am sure takes place in just about every home at some time or another. So many times I find items at the bottom of the washer that are dirty and need a good clean wash or rinse before I put them back in their respective places. Some things, however, just can’t even be washed and used again, such as my lip gloss.

You can never get all the funk off of it. It may look all fabulous and put together on the outside, but you know on the inside it is crawling with filth and dirt that can never be taken away.

The same can be said for us. When we fill our minds with thoughts and images that are unclean, and hurtful we can never undo that. We litter our minds constantly with violent images, dirty words and envious thoughts towards others. So just as the lip gloss, on the outside, we look all inviting and great, but on the inside, in our thoughts, we are dirty and covered in funk. Do we really want our minds filled with grime or do we want our minds filled with joyous thoughts?

The Lord commands us in Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV):

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

While it is a bummer that I have forever lost my favorite tube of lip gloss, it has also been a blessing in helping me realize that not only do I have to change my laundry habits,(such as checking my pockets from now on) but that I also have to change my way of thinking. Be more like God and less like the lip gloss.

It is an awesome thought to know that God cares for us and wants the best for us. And may you ever be reminded of Philippians 4:8 when you are collecting items from the bottom of your washer.

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Windy, your ears are freezing

 Sometimes my dad writes little stories about growing up. That’s when I realize I must have got the storytelling bug from him.

This is something he shared this week on Facebook.

Story, photos and captions by Ronnie Robinson.

”Windy, Your Ears Are Freezing”

It was a calm but frosty minus zero morning; one of those mornings you could see particles of frost glisten in the air as the sun arose. Windy and I met each other at the Laddsburg Pond Bridge. It is the coldest spot in Laddsburg. It was one of those days that was just too cold for Willis Howell’s school bus to start.

Windy, full name Harold Wandell, was a foster child who homed with the loving Effie and Stalwart Carl Norris. He had walked the mile down from the top of the hill. Not much communication in those days and I don’t know if they had a phone but neighbors just met-up. We were there to wait for the bus that did not come.

Windy was one of the older boys that would help put the chains on the bus when it would get stuck in a snow drift. That would be a 20 min delay. But a frozen up bus or bad storm could be a 2 hour delay or a no show at all. Some times we would pile up in Willis’s station-wagon for the first part of the route, then go to his place and see if the bus would start so as to pick up the remaining students for the trip to the high school.  Windy never wore a hat to school. The top of his ears were starting to turn white and I said “Windy I think your ears are freezing”. Then we made our way to New Albany.

 photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
photo and caption by Ronnie Robinson | This is the new bridge.In my mind, I see one with narrow steel rails.
 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | The view of the road from the old Corson home going past our home.

I don’t recall walking or running or how but I remember us being there and then getting a ride to Wyalusing in a milk truck that was picking up milk from the platform at the bottom of Dempsey Hill. You see, we were not that loyal to school but there was to be a WVHS Rams wrestling meet that day and we were on that team.

Another event I remember well was: “The After School Blizzard.” Mary,Mary Inez Corson and I got of the school bus one blistery evening to walk the two  mile (well not quite, it was a quarter mile)  up the dirt road to my place. My parents lived there too. The wind was fierce and cutting. It was difficult to see. It was blowing frozen sheets  and chunks of icy frozen snow from the fields.The  previous snows had melted from the sun shine and then refroze. They were now breaking up and air-born in the strong wind. I think the drifts were making it more difficult also, but the blowing ice and the snow is what I remember most. We had to shield our face from getting hit by them. I was about thirteen then and I felt so manly proud because finally I was able to be ahead of my adventurous mentor and surrogate sister. I walked backward some and I could see her still walking.

 Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.
Photo and caption Ronnie Robinson | You may see a set of foot prints. I vividly picture two sets.

Thinking back on this now with a touch of shame I realize it would have been more manly-mature of me to help her.

She may have been wearing a skirt. Girls in that day wore skirts. Sometimes they carried snow pants with them. Also being a good student she may have been carrying books. I don’t remember anything after getting to my home. Mary had to walk the five hundred more yards to her home.

Mary, my forever friend, died suddenly at the age of 56. She donated her body to science. She lived in Texas with her husband. My wife Carolyn and I spoke with her when she and her husband were in Bradford County for her father’s funeral.

The portion of that conversation I recall was about being born again. I hope to see my sister again in the “Land Of No More Storms.”

Storytelling through your lens: 10 tips for sharing authentic stories

Thank you to Elizabeth Willson of It’s Still Life Photography for this great post about visual storytelling and authenticity in your photography! I loved it and hope you do too!
 


It was a process. As my children grew I dedicated my free time to learning the technical aspects of my camera. To obtaining gear. To capturing images for others. Yet over the past year, I’ve found joy in embracing the story. Each time my camera is raised is an opportunity. It’s a chance to capture a bit of the true life unfolding in front of my eyes, my lens. Not every story is perfect, yet my challenge is to find the emotion and beauty in it. To connect the brilliance and light to the heart.

While each image may tell a story, sometimes a collection of photographs gives the viewer an enhanced scope of the richness of the moments. Here are a few simple suggestions on how to document YOUR story for you to experience in your memory and others to grasp through your visuals.

Choose an event.

In our home of South-Central Pennsylvania, we are surrounded by gorgeous orchards, fields and farms. Our climate leaves only a few short weeks to pick seasonal fresh fruit. When I received an email that our favorite apple-picking orchard offered cherry-picking, I jumped on a free afternoon. Packed up water bottles and my four kiddos, rolled the windows down, and headed for the mountain. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. An afternoon at the playground, baking cookies, your bedtime routine…

Get Wide.

To grasp the “big picture” use a wide angle lens. My go-to is the Canon 24-70 2.8L. If you find yourself with the inability to go wider with a lens, then simply back up!

Capture the details.

Cherry-stained finger nails? Yes! Yes! Yes! The little things all combine to create the larger narrative and add the sensory element (smells, tastes, touch) that enrich the story as it unfolds.

 Vary your perspective.

Shoot from above, shoot from below. Lie down, climb trees. Perspective makes a huge impact in giving the viewer a more holistic look at the story.

 Shoot Through.

By using framing of objects in the foreground you can create a “tunnel” effect, like you are peeking through a keyhole or looking glass into the action. There is a mysterious and secretive nature to shooting through objects.

Switch up your lenses.

Yes, it’s ok to change lenses in the middle of a cherry orchard! Personally, in order to add a bit of wonder to my images I shoot with either of my Lensbabys (Velvet 56 or Sweet 35), but you could grab a macro lens, switch out primes or even free lens to get varied effects that contribute to your story. 

 Capture the connection.

Relationships are tough, right? But they are so very rich and deep. I simply adore the connection of my children particularly during the rare moments when they peacefully work together (and enjoy one another).

Get. In. The. Frame.

I know, I know. But bottom line is, YOU. WERE. THERE. TOO. And although you remember it was you behind the lens, your children and loved ones (and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) want that visual reminder that you shared intimately in their story. So, sit your camera down on the ground (gasp!), set the timer and run 🙂 Or if there happens to be someone else around, pass off your camera to someone you trust. Let go of how you may look and embrace your beautiful role in the story.

 

Include photographs of “things”

While every story has a “main character”, the setting and supporting elements certainly contribute (sometimes pivotally) to the plot. Grab those “things” even when the people aren’t present.

 Be authentic.

Contrary to what you may see on Pinterest-perfect social media, I’m sure you’ve experienced that stories have their ups and downs. There’s whining, there’s frustration, there’s disagreements, there are hot, tired children (and let’s be real, parents too!). Go ahead and capture them. We’ve all been there. And it’s incredible to share the joys and triumphs through it all.

May you be encouraged to embrace your role as “storyteller” and capture your daily adventures.

I’d love to hear from you with any questions and/or see your favorite storytelling images based on this post. Contact me at:

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Yes, Virginia, there really are Stay At Home Dads

You are about to hear a question.  

It may amuse you. It may shock you. It might make you angry. It will definitely confuse you.  

I get it. I felt all of those things the four times someone has asked me the question. I was at a park with my daughter the first time I heard it, a lovely, sunny day.

“How long has her mother been dead?”

I found out that day that if you are confused enough about something you hear, it can help to blink slowly in disbelief. For some reason, blinking slowly seems to wash away stupid in the ears the same way it washes away irritants in the eyes. Someone should look into that, because there might be a Nobel Prize in it.

With the birth of my son it became: “How long has their mother been dead?”  

At first I thought it was just me. My mother died when I was ten. “Maybe,” I thought, “I just have that dead parent vibe.” But then I talked to other dads. I saw the question listed on an at home dad poll of the oddest questions you get with a high percentage of men getting that blink inducing question.

So the reaction to seeing a father playing with his child on a weekday afternoon, loving her, enjoying her antics, meeting her eyes when he talked to her, engaged in all she did, and smiling at the very thought of her… was to assume that the only possible thing that could cause it was one of the most tragic events that can befall a family.

This article is about how that question is really the least of it.  

My wife and I made the decision that I would say at home on economics alone. Her paycheck was more than mine. Childcare would literally be the entirety of one of our paychecks. The math was clear that one of us could stay home with the kids, work part time, and we would actually have more money! It was an obvious choice that I should be the one to stay home. There are a dozen other good reasons that a parent should be home if possible, but the first one that brought us into this was the basic math.  

So what is this ‘being the parent at home in the day’ thing like?  

It’s amazing!

It is the most challenging and singularly rewarding endeavor in which I have ever been privileged enough to engage. This time with the kids is a gift from God that I am deeply thankful for… even as I prepare to potty train my son.

Which is why I would like everyone to focus for a moment on the misconceptions a father deals with when he decides to take on this challenge. To explain why one of the biggest terms used by society at large to describe at home dads is wrong. Parenthood does not fit in a pigeon hole. It does not exist in soundbites. It cannot be explained in a tweet. And that leads to some terms being misleading. It also leads to people saying some foolish things when they see something outside of their comfort zone.

But first let me get out of the way something you may be wondering. How did I answer that question at the beginning? What did I say when asked four times a nice euphemism for, “You’re a guy! To get you to parent someone must be dead!”

Well, here are the responses, in chronological order:

“She didn’t, I am a stay at home dad. She’s at work.”

“She’s at work, I take care of them in the day and work overnight.”

“I just called her and did not use a Oujia board so unless Verizon expanded their map she’s good.”

Leaned in and just went, “Shhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Clearly, I am at the amused stage of reaction.

People say they ask it because, “You’re just so good with them!”  As if that isn’t a complete double down on the original line of thought that the only thing to make a good father is a dead wife. But that is the general thought. For a father to rise to the base expectation of being a Dad, it must require a heroic situation.

At home dads with their kids get one of, or a combination of, four reactions:

None.

You are some kind of Hero!

What odd turn of events caused this?

Where is mom today?/So are you babysitting today?

I left out one reaction because it is too big for this: That to be a stay at home dad you must be lazy. If someone wants to describe five minutes with young children as lazy… go ahead. I honestly lack a response to that much stupid in one sentence. And frankly, I have never had to deal with that. But many others have.

Let’s look at each reaction.  

None.

It’s normal to be with your kids. You get this more than half the time, and that’s an encouraging sign.

You Are Some Kind of Hero!

On the trying to be nice side, you get people who act like you invented a life saving heart operation… because you do laundry. They speak with the halting admiration reserved for musketeers charging, people stepping foot on the moon, or a man performing CPR to save a kitten.

And at the end of the day, we are just a parent. Doing what all parents should do. I just happen to do it as a Dad.

When my daughter was born I read some books on being a dad. One was by Dr. Meg Meeker called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and had three very important take aways: Be the man you want her to marry; You are her first love; and She needs a hero. That hero part was not about doing laundry. It was about something far deeper and more meaningful.

To be a parent is a heroic effort. Any mother or father going into that breach with their whole heart is a hero. But that doesn’t mean that a dad is special because he takes care of the kids, and does the chores that need to be done, because he is physically present. Those things are part of the experience and not the experience itself. He is special because he is a dad. He need only to live up to that gift.

A dad is a hero when he loves his wife and his children with all that he is. Moms and dads are heroes because they find a way to donate all that they are to each other and their children while still being uniquely themselves. The heroism comes from the love given. Because that love is what reflects God’s love for his creation.

Bottom line, I do laundry, don’t fold it well, clean the house, and keep everything mostly nice. The fact that I do that with a Y chromosome does not make me the Pope performing brain surgery on an orphaned chipmunk.

What Odd Turn Of Events Caused This?

A father with his kids… Cats and dogs must be living together!

This is the realm where the question at the beginning lives in all its regal, blink inducing splendor. The idea that there must have been some unimaginable tragedy to cause you to be a stay at home dad is pretty common.

I’m not going to pull sexism on this one. It frequently happens to moms too.

Yes, the stay at home dad shocks people more.

But what really shocks them is the willing loss of income.

“How do you do it? What about money? You must be rich!”  

Trust me, most at home parents are not rich. Not even close to rich. But many people are amazed when either parent is at home. And for dads, the only natural reason he could be there is the death of his wife.

The core of this is the total disbelief that a parent would want to stay home when they could have a job, put a child in all day care, and be, essentially, child free for many hours a day. Because, who really wants children in this day and age?

Where is Mom Today?/So Are You Babysitting Today?

Did you know? According to the federal government’s most recent census, a dad taking care of his kids is classified the same as anyone else, even non-relatives taking care of them?  

He’s not a parent! He’s a babysitter!  

By far, the thing a father is most accused of is merely babysitting. You’re ‘giving mom a break!’ or told something equally dismissive of your irreplaceable role in your children’s lives. This is where the term primary caregiver comes from.

Dads felt the need to defend that they were not babysitters. They had to, somehow, highlight they were just being a parent when the term “parenting” did not satisfy. He had to be babysitting so mom could ‘have a break.’ Maybe, in their minds, mom is on a fainting couch in a dress from Gone With The Wind while the husband takes the kids to play on the swings. Sure, it’s sexist, but at least it’s assumed that she’s alive in this scenario.

So we end up with the term ‘primary caregiver.’ I know, it is a legal term. It is also a term that reflects nothing in reality.

Think about it for a moment. In a relationship where you have a mother and a father fully engaged in parenting their children; what exactly determines primary and secondary caregiver? In a home where the mother and father live together and work together to raise their children, who could possibly be considered primary? But someone needs to be ‘primary caregiver’ and stay at home dads latch onto this. I even fell into the term for the first year because it was all anyone used in the definitions.

But it is an empty term based on a non-existent reality.

My wife and I parent equally and differently. We keep them fed, clothed, amused, educated, and provide for our children at different times. We love them all of the time.  We care for them all of the time. We don’t count percentages based on some legal definition of care giving. My wife should never be called secondary just because I make sure they eat when the sun is in the sky.

She does not walk through the door only to have me throw a kid at her yelling, “Your turn! I put in my 51%!”  

When a kid needs changed she does not look up from her book and say, “I put in 49% this week. You need to do that one.”

Parenting is not equally divided. It can’t be equally divided when done right. Parenting is a constant 24/7 effort for both mother and father. I am one of two constant parents. One of two people who can not and will not turn off their love for each other or the kids for even a second. One of two irreplaceable parts in a larger working whole.

Allow me end by going back to the first time I was asked the question at the beginning. I was asked and I answered it with my usual humor of having heard it a million times. And after double downing on the ‘I was so good with my own children’ line, she attempted to restart the conversation on what she thought was a better note:  

“I’m sure you’ll be happy when they go to school and you have more time to yourself.”       
 

“Oh.” I smiled. “We’re homeschooling.”

 

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David Nicastro is a dad who homeschools his kids in the day and works in a library overnight. He sleeps little but somehow manages to hallucinate even less.

 

Who is your pilot today? | Guest blog post

Thank you to Michelle Delp from Pasture-ized for sharing this guest blog post with us today!

 

A pilot relies on the person in the tower to navigate him to safety.

He can’t see that air traffic controller. He can’t always see the dangers around him, but he trusts that when he gets the message to alter his course, it’s for his own good.

What would happen if the pilot decided to turn off his communication, and just “do his own thing”?
He might be successful for the short term, avoiding tragedy by inches here or there, but at some point he’s going to crash and burn.

We aren’t designed to navigate life alone.

Sometimes God asks us to bank to the left for a reason.

Maybe you’re feeling a little air sick from all the circles life is taking you in, and you look out the window and you can’t even pinpoint where you are any more.

Turn the two-way back on.

Proverbs 3: 5,6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.