Tag: Pennsylvania writer

The weekend I learned people of ‘a certain age’ don’t actually sleep

Apparently, once you hit 70 or so, you don’t sleep. At least that’s what I’ve learned after spending two nights and three days with my parents this past weekend.

I really thought that older people slept a lot – or at least napped – sort of like cats, but, alas, that is obviously not the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that aches and pains and heartburn and simple, general old-age insomnia keep many older people awake, so that’s why they don’t sleep. I’m already experiencing it at middle-age. Still, I had no idea that people of a “certain age” only need about five hours of sleep to function each day. They may not function well, and they may function on a bit more of a cranky plane than others, but they function nonetheless.

My daughter wanted to stay at her grandparents one weekend and since we couldn’t that particular day, I told her we would do it the following weekend when her brother was at a sleepover and her dad was working an extra shift. As so often happens when I plan a special weekend, I ended up having two weird health spells while there (translation: I’m hitting that special age when our hormones shift so my nasty monthly visitor came early), which wasn’t fun, but what was fun was watching my daughter spend almost our entire time there sitting next to her grandmother playing with her stuffed animals and telling my mom all she knows  about wildlife thanks to PBS kids’ Wild Kratts. Of course, she did tell Mom that some Jaguares give birth to 300 cubs at a time, obviously not accurate, so I think she may have misunderstood something Chris and Martin told her.

I don’t have a strict bedtime for my children most nights and since this was a sleepover we went to bed late that night. I crawled into my aunt’s old room around 11:30 and since Little Miss hadn’t had a nap all day she passed out within five minutes. I started to drift off at midnight while reading a book.

Before bed I had tried to figure out how to turn off the lamp next to the bed and before I even reached it, it turned off, which made me realize it must be a touch lamp. I decided I must have touched it right and went to bed, only to have the thing turn on a few moments later without me even touching it. That was disconcerting so I found the actual switch and turned that to make sure the light stayed off. I could just imagine my late aunt up in Heaven, if she can see from there, laughing at me until she couldn’t breathe. Back in bed I curled up in the flannel sheets and tried to relax after a weird day of dizziness and high blood pressure (as mentioned before, this turned out to be related to my early visitor, but I didn’t know that at the time so my hypochondria had kicked in. The blood pressure went back into normal range the next few days.).

I closed my eyes and ten minutes later a light filled the room as if the stadium lights at a night football game had been turned on. Zooma the Wonderdog had curled up at my feet, but, of course, when she heard footsteps in the hallway she was off the bed to investigate. I figured Dad had to use the bathroom while Mom was in the one downstairs so I waited for the light to click back off again. It did, but then bam! It was on 30 seconds later. I decided I’d have to join the dog to investigate so I headed down the stairs only to meet my dad, brushing his teeth, coming up to meet me.

“I turned the light off but then I thought I’d better turn it back on because I didn’t know if the dog could find her way back to your room in the dark,” he told me.

“Dad, she’s a dog. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

I flipped the light back off and went back to bed. It was about 1 a.m.

At 6 a.m. I woke up to use the bathroom and could already hear my dad opening and closing the front door and calling for Zooma to come back inside from her morning potty break. I’d had a long day the day before so I crawled back into bed and a few hours later I staggered downstairs to find my parents somewhat wide awake and freshly baked fish on the counter for breakfast (we aren’t really breakfast-food people.)

“Good grief, don’t you two sleep?” I asked.

“What? I was up at 5:30…” Dad told me.

“Yeah, but you didn’t go to bed until 1,” I pointed out.

He shrugged.

I imagined he would catch up on his sleep the next night. Instead, I was again woke up at 6 a.m., the next morning, after going to bed too late again, this time by Zooma jumping on the bed and a bright, artificial light filling the room. Apparently, Dad still didn’t think Zooma could find her way back after her morning potty break.

The last night we were there, my 4-year old daughter and 12-year old son were eating tomato soup with their grandfather at 10:30 at night.

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I was glad it was only soup this time.

One other time we were stranded at their house in a snowstorm when my mom began shoving several pieces of chocolate into my then 3-year old daughter around 11:30 at night. Fine, maybe Mom wasn’t shoving them in, but simply opening them one-by-one so my daughter could shove them in. We were awake until at least 1 a.m. the next morning. When I discovered the empty wrappers, I asked my mom what she was thinking and she giggled and said “I don’t know! She was just so cute!”

I swear when people hit grandparent age they forget about all those rules they had when they were parents. I can’t imagine my parents ever letting me shove candy down my gullet that late at night, or even being awake that late at night.

And also when they hit grandparent age, they apparently, forget how nice sleep can be.

 

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Part 1: Risen

Each day her memories grew stronger of the day she’d come back from the dead.

The sobs, first in grief, then in joy.

The declarations of praise.

The laughs of disbelief.

The gasps of amazement.

She hadn’t been able to move at first.

She felt weighted down.

Her mind was racing and she tried to remember why she was on her cot in the middle of the day.

Dizziness. Weakness. So warm.

She’d fallen to the ground and her father had placed her here on the cot.

Then – darkness.

She remembered the deep sleep, the voices of her family fading into silence.

“Jairus! The rabbi! He has not come! Tell him to come! We are losing her!”

Josefa bolted upright.

Her body vibrated.

She felt as if she had been struck by lightning.

A tingling feeling rushed from the soles of her feet to the top of her head. She looked around the room, dazed. Three men stood on one side of the room, looking at her in disbelief. One burst into laughter, seeming to be delighted at the sight of her. Another had his hands and face raised upward, his lips moving but no sound coming out.

A fourth was standing before her, hands outstretched, a peaceful expression on his face.

Suddenly her parents were clutching her to them, both taking turns to kiss her and cry. Their voices were loud, unabashedly loud, sounds she’d never heard from them before. They were always reserved, quiet, certain to look proper to the community around them.

What had happened? Why did she suddenly have so much energy when she could remember feeling so weak only moments before?

Josefa heard his voice, soft, gentle, yet firm.

“Do you not see? Your daughter is alive. Get her food, drink. She will need her strength.”

How could someone speak with such authority yet also with such love?

“Yes, of course, Rabbi.”

The voice of her father was reverent, trembling with emotion.

The water against her lips was cool as voices spoke excitedly around her.

“Praise be to God!”

The man who had told her parents to bring her food sat next to her, placed his hand on her forehead. His eyes were full of kindness, of life. When she looked at him it seemed as they were the only people in the room. She could hear only his voice, see only his eyes.

“Josefa, your life has been returned to you. Go forth and live it fully.”

His hands were warm as he cupped her face in them. He kissed her forehead then gently lifted her face to look into his.

“Do you understand?”

She nodded meekly, not sure she truly did understand, but knowing she wanted to.

The man her father had called Rabbi stood and turned to the other men in the room.

“Peter, James, John, we must leave. There are others who need us.”

Her parents took his hand, kissed it and then each cheek.

“Rabbi, how can we ever –“

His voice interrupted them, he gently shook his head, raised his hand.

“This is a gift. Treasure it. Tell no one what has happened here. This gift is for your family alone.”

Josefa could hear members of the crowd outside calling to him as he left.

“Jesus! Jesus! Are you who they say you are?”

“Tell us, Jesus. Are you truly the Messiah?”

“Jesus, your followers say you call yourself the Son of God. Who do you say you are?”

_____

(This post was previously published, but I needed to make some changes. The story will continue in future posts.)

Why I briefly broke my 30-day Facebook detox (and no, it wasn’t to vent about a fast food restaurant.)

I’ll confess!

Turn off the interrogation lights!

This week I logged on to Facebook, briefly breaking my 30-day detox.

I know.

I’m a total fraud.

But, wait!

Let me explain.

Here is how it all started: without logging onto Facebook, I looked at the Today Show Parenting Team’s Facebook page this week, out of curiosity, and discovered one of my posts I had submitted on the community, had been shared. It had 38 comments and 240 shares.

The post, entitled “A Pregnancy Loss is A Loss No Matter How Small” was about my early pregnancy loss, which was caused by a blighted ovum. The post focused on the feeling by some women that they don’t feel they have a right to mourn an early pregnancy loss. In  reality they do, because that pregnancy, no matter how brief, represented their idea of what was to be. And because that pregnancy was the start of a life that ended too soon.

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Some of the comments on the post were so heartbreaking that I wanted to show the grieving mothers support so I hesitantly broke my Facebook detox simply to try to offer them some words of comfort. A couple days later I checked on the post to see if any other women had commented and discovered my post had also been shared on the Today Show’s main Facebook page and there were now 408 comments, 2,652 shares and over 11,000 reactions. I was flabbergasted and knew I couldn’t comment to all those women so I just read most of the comments and cried at how many of them had been told they had no right to mourn such early losses.

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I just couldn’t imagine not offering some words of comments to these hurting moms, especially one who had lost a baby only a couple of days before she commented. She had been 32-weeks along. My daughter, my rainbow baby, was born at 37 weeks. I can’t imagine being so close to full term and losing a child. I have at least two friends who have lost children later in the pregnancy and it breaks my heart to think of the pain they suffered during that time. It breaks my heart even further to imagine they may be afraid to talk about those losses because we live in a society where miscarriages can be so easily dismissed, especially if the loss is early in the pregnancy.

I want those women to be able to share their feelings. I know I blogged about my feelings here and under the Today Show’s Parenting Team challenge to share about a pregnancy loss, but the whole situation is still difficult to talk about.

There was a lot going on in our family during that time in addition to the loss. It was a whirlwind of emotions and confusion and rejection and part of me shut down after the miscarriage. There was some shame mixed in because the pregnancy came during a marriage trial.I worried some might think the pregnancy came to try to save the marriage when that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Even now I feel myself cringing inside as my fingers hit the keyboard. Despite having a personal blog, I’m not a person who thrives on sharing intimate thoughts or feelings, even if I think the sharing might help bring comfort to someone else.

What I hope the post the Today Show shared will do is help grieving moms have the courage to speak about how their pregnancy loss made them feel and ultimately understand they are not alone.

When you slowly let go of what everyone thinks of you

000001_DSC_5255When I saw the notification on my smartphone screen and read the first few words I knew the message wasn’t going to be a fun one to read. I dreaded opening that message and maybe I should have ignored it, but instead I decided to bite the bullet and read a scolding I had expected to come in the form of a phone call instead.

The words on the page were a surprise to me, full of accusations I hadn’t expected.  In the past an encounter like this would have sent me spiraling into a deep depression and a long period of self doubt. The fact I cried uncontrollably for two hours, versus four, and only flew off into a rage-induced rant twice after the incident is something I count as progress, even if others wouldn’t.

And the fact I never even answered the person, but instead deleted the message and blocked them from my social media so I could regroup and cool down? That’s a complete about turn from my reactions of the past.

There I was, reading something written to me by someone who was hurt and had misunderstood, and I found my emotions mixed. My first reaction was the familiar anger that sets in when I feel as if I am being attacked. Then I felt sad and like I had done something wrong. I wanted to gush out an admission of my guilt, like I usually do, even though I knew at least one thing they were upset by was a complete misunderstanding.

This time, though, the anger, depression and guilt was soon replaced with a sense of unexpected calm and a feeling that what was said wasn’t going to change my mind about the decision made.While I once would doubt a decision, or even change it, based on criticism from someone, this time I didn’t let my resolve waiver. I knew what we had done was in the best interest of our family and I wasn’t going to let that decision be shaken by what someone else thought of me.

It isn’t that I am unwilling to admit my wrong in a situation, but I’ve spent far too much of my life believing I need to change who I am, or the decisions I’ve made, based on the opinions of someone else.

It’s definitely hard when we feel the judgments of others and know that somewhere out in the universe is someone who isn’t a fan of us. But in reality it doesn’t matter if other humans aren’t our fans. We all know we aren’t perfect and that the only opinion that  really matters is the opinion of The One who created us.

DSC_8419To be able to see progress within ourselves is so satisfying, even when we know we have so much more to learn and so many more positive changes to make. Most of us are never satisfied with who we are. We often think we’ll never improve, or bid farewell to some of our more annoying character flaws.

We won’t change or improve overnight. God knows this. He only wants us to take steps, small ones even, to become more like Him.

“Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth,” pastor and author Rick Warren says. “Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.”

Paul wrote often about the process of becoming like Christ, knowing that we will stumble and fall, just at the disciples did, even as they walked with Christ on Earth.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:13-14

We often look ahead at how far we have to go in our journey, but we rarely look back and see how far we’ve come. While we don’t want to dwell on the past, it doesn’t hurt to recognize the progress we have made along our journey.

Maybe we aren’t where we want to be, but if we are making small steps toward improvement, then we should acknowledge the progress, no matter how small.000000_DSC_6000

 

Faithfully thinking: Don’t base your value on the fake world of photography

Photography today is creating what isn’t real. It’s manipulation of you, the viewer. That beautiful scene with that family in an open field with amazing sun?

Nine times out of ten that’s not real. It was edited in Photoshop.

The power lines were painted out, the sun flare was added with an overlay and that kid who photo bombed the whole thing was quickly and quietly dispatched with the gesture of the mouse and click of a few keyboard commands like the photographer mafia.

That little girl sitting on a box, in a perfect white room, no clutter, no mess, no toys scattered around her, enjoying the wind of the fan blowing in her face?

Also fake.

The toys were pushed to one side, or brushed away via editing software.

Fake.

Fake.

Fake.

And more fake.

Much of what you see in the photography world is fake.

It is airbrushed.

It is whitewashed.

It is cloned out and over.

It’s made to look pretty because people like pretty.

 

People like fake.

People like fake so they don’t have to face reality.

The problem is that even when a person knows it’s fake they tell themselves it’s real.

They compare and contrast their life with the fake.

Their house isn’t that clean.

Their kids aren’t that well dressed.

Their walls aren’t that white.

Their sink isn’t that clean.

The pictures in their frames aren’t that professional.

Their life isn’t that perfect.

Newsflash: no one else’s is either.

They just don’t want you to know.

I found myself awake too early after a long night helping my oldest with a stuffy nose and watering eyes, caught up in the popularity game of social media. Because that’s what it is – a game. An attempt to fit in with the popular kids, to be in the “in crowd”.

I was playing the game hard.

And I was losing. Hard.

I didn’t have as many likes, as many followers, as many comments.

Maybe I was posting at the wrong time.

Maybe I needed to network more.

Maybe I needed to edit differently.

Maybe I needed to kiss some more virtual butt.

To me the lack of likes and comments was equating to not being good enough, not being talented enough, not being important enough, just not being enough.

Because I don’t feel good enough as a mom and a home keeper (seriously, God, are you sure this is where you want me? I am horrible at keeping a house clean!)

I have found myself second guessing all my photography, my edits, thinking constantly abit how others edit and that If I don’t shoot or edit the way they do then I won’t fit in, I won’t sell with stock photography, I won’t measure up.

I really wish more people would stop trying to make themselves look enough.

That I would stop trying to make myself look and feel enough.

God says I am enough but because I stare at a phone or computer screen too much I don’t hear him.

I can’t hear him over the shouts of “Keep up! Keep up!!” In my head.

The demands to make my house look like her house.

To dress my children the way she does.

To edit photos like he does.

To write like her.

Cook like her.

Look like her.

Pray like her.

Trust God like them.

Hear God speaking to me daily like him.

Know God’s purpose for my life like her.

To speak positivity and prosperity over my life and have it all change in two weeks like the lady on that podcast.

Over and over and over those thoughts spin in my head.

There is only one way to silence them: recognize you are NOT THEM.

God has a unique plan for each of us.

Each plan is unique because each person is unique.

Stop playing the game.

Stop comparing.

Stop trying to be what you see in the pictures.

And by you I mean “me too.”

 

See beyond the shine and know that there is dirt.

You can’t see the mother crying just outside the frame, worrying she dressed her children “wrong” and her photos won’t look as nice as her sister-in-law or cousins or friend’s photos.

You can’t see the dad feeling inadequate because he works 50 hours a week but is still deep in debt.

You can’t see the toddler who threw a tantrum; the teenager who feels less than and rejected; the grandparents who only see their grandchildren in photographs because their daughter has been angry at them for years for things they apologized for over and over.

But really?

You can see all of that.

You can see all of it.

Because when you look at that pretty photograph, know that in it are real people in a fake scene.

Real people who struggle, who hurt, who cry, who suffer, who want to be loved and who are loved by the same God who loves you

The yard sale and the lonely old man

I was inside when he pulled up to our yard sale. My son and husband were outside with him but I stepped out to see if he had any questions about the items he was looking at. He did but only about a film camera I was selling, which turned out to be his launching point for telling stories about his life.

“I took photos a long time ago, when I was in Korea in the service. Of course I traveled other places too. I have a box of color slides at home. My son takes photos, he knows more about these things than I do. You say it still works?”

It did, that I knew of, but had been passed down to me from someone else. I always told myself I was going to learn how to shoot film, but I’d never got there and had decided it was time to give up and sell the cameras, one of which had a broken lever.

Before I knew it and without speaking much at all myself, I learned the hunched over older man was 88, had flown planes for years, had traveled the world, had lost his wife in 2009, and had almost remarried two years ago.

As we talked I realized I knew the man but thankfully he didn’t remember me at all.

It was one of those times I was happy to see someone suffering from the ill mental effects of old age. I had written a feature story on him in my old life as a small town newspaper reporter and had been quite proud of the story of a war veteran and local hero who had established a fundraiser for cancer research with his wife in memory of their son. He wasn’t as impressed. His lack of praise for the article didn’t come from inaccurate information I had presented but the fact I had made him look “too good.”

Apparently I had idealized him too much and given him so much positive coverage he felt embarrassed and humiliated, as if he had been bragging about himself. So there I stood one day, in the front of the office of the small town paper I worked for, listening as he scolded me for saying too many nice things about him. I didn’t even know how to respond, other than to silently consider digging up some nasty dirt on him to balance out the portrayal.

This annoyed response to a positive article actually wasn’t the only of its kind for me. A few years before that the mom of a friend had told me the same about an article I wrote on their dairy farm. My personal affection for what I saw as an idyllic rural upbringing transferred the story, in her opinion, into an unrealistic view of their world and made it appear that she and her family were perfect, when she knew they weren’t.

Again, I was stumped. After these incidents if I began to second guess positive feature stories I wrote, wondering if should throw in some negative antidotes about the subject or ask them to provide me with some personal failings to flush out the story and make them look less appealing as a human being. I tried my best after those complaints to never make a person look “too good” again.

The man at the yard sale talked away, saying my name sounded familiar, thought he knew someone with my last name (he does and it’s me and my husband, who he’s also been interviewed by for another story about the fundraising event held in memory of the man’s late son.).

“I used to have one of these. Took photos when I was in the Air Force,” he says, the camera strap hooked around his neck now. “I’ve got some old color slides in my attic. Korea and Greece and places like that. My son knows about cameras. He takes photos. He lives over in South Waverly. Just down the road here.”

Each item he looked at seemed to trigger another thought.

“I almost got remarried a couple years ago. I knew her in high school or course. We used to go to the roller rink. She got married and has some kids and so did I. My wife, Joan, she died in 2009 and her husband had died. She would pull up in front of house and I’d go out and we’d talk. Well one night I went to hug her and she pulled away and said “what are you doing? I’m not a hugger.’ I said to myself ‘well, that’s that, because I’m a hugger.'”

He talked away, about nothing and everything.

I listened because I knew he needed someone to listen.

Even though he didn’t remember me or know that I knew him, I did remember and I did know.

I knew he was alone in a tiny little house he’d once shared with his wife and his twin boys and a daughter. I knew one boy had died from cancer as a teenager.

I knew his life had been hard, full of pain, but also joy. I knew he was humble and didn’t like anyone to think he thought he was better than anyone else.

I knew he needed to talk and he needed someone to really listen because really it’s what we all want – someone to really listen when we talk and not just listen, but really hear.

I told him to stop by and show me the photos he took with the camera. He said my address out loud a couple of times, to commit it to a memory slowly failing him and promised he’d stop by again.

He crossed our busy street, back to his van, and we waved our goodbyes.

I didn’t know if he’d remember me later, or even the conversation we’d had that day, but I was glad to have been someone who listened to stories of his past on that summer day.

Mud, leg bruises and fun

I picked up my 10 year old son  the last day of camp and found him covered in mud and smiling – just the way I like to see him.

He attends a day camp about 45 minutes from our house in rural Bradford County, Pa. for a week each June.

Stoney Point Camp is literally in the middle  of nowhere, or at least it would be considered the middle of nowhere to anyone not originally from Northern Pennsylvania.

Someone from this county is used to dirt roads that lead to camps deep in the woods or sometimes to another dirt road and sometimes to an empty field.

The camp is full of Christian-based adventure and the day camp offers activities related to Christ and wildlife. They also offer horsemanship and teen camps throughout the summer.

Each day my son learned about wildlife, nature and God, which sounds like a good way to spend a summer day to me.

He spent two nights away from us at his  friend’s house because our friends live less than ten minutes from the camp and it was easier on those days to have them take him with them. My friend is also one of the art instructors at the camp.

I won’t lie, we missed him terribly while he was gone. 

We missed his laughter and the way he can make even the gloomiest day seem brighter.

He’s never been big on sleep overs, taking after his mom and preferring to spend his evenings home in the familiar so he was ready to come home on that final day, he said, even though he’d had fun with his friend.

We weren’t sure how Little Miss would handle her brother not being home since she’s so used to him being there every night. She handled his absence better than I thought, but did ask each night before bed where he was. The day we were ready to pick him up after his sleep over, I asked if she was excited to go get him, expecting a “yes!” but instead she said “No. I’m not excited anymore.” 

I guess the process of preparing to head out the door to pick him up had eroded her anticipation.

But she was excited when we finally had him in our van and headed home for the day, stopping by an ice cream stand, complete with a climbable wooden pirate ship and a small playground, on our way home.

Jealousy, lost dreams and love

I scroll down the page and my heart sinks. Here I am again, feeling left out and less than.

A group of photographers met up and their meeting was full of creative opportunities. They’re all sharing photos and gushing about the chance to expand their artistic wings.

Comments on each other’s photos range from “amazing!” To “outstanding”. My photo, posted five hours ago, has three pity likes and no comments. In some ways I feel like I’m in high school again.

I look around my room

Our washer just died and I’ll most likely be packing up the laundry to visit the local laundry mat the next day.

The cat is screaming and I’m threatening to throw her in the street if she wakes up the kids. My bedroom is a mess and I know I need to add cleaning it to my list of chores. There are groceries to buy, diapers to change, playgrounds to visit, bills to pay.

Artistic outings aren’t a reality in my world.

I feel the envy rising up.

The comparison game is being played.

The dreams never realized are on my mind again, long after I thought I had succeeded in pushing them into the box marked “failed ventures. Move forward and don’t look back.”

It’s days like this that remind me social media breaks are needed and necessary and welcomed. To stop the voices, the comparing, the wishing, the envy and the hurt.

I look around me and my children are asleep next to me. The cat has finally stopped screaming and she’s asleep at the end of the bed.

I’ve been reading more about God and His plans for our lives.

I’ve been claiming His healing, listening for His voice.

I don’t know why some of my dreams were never realized or why I always seem to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the photography circle, but I know I am a child of the one true king, a mother to two amazing children, and success isn’t defined by accolades or attention but by love.

And I am loved.

And so are you.