Like most little ones, I adored Christmas growing up. Picking out & cutting down our Christmas tree, decorating cookies, the crunch of freshly fallen snow under your boots. There wasn't anything about the season that I didn't enjoy. Then I got older & things changed.
Christmas became a time of year that I absolutely dreaded. How many people did I need to buy for? What was an acceptable amount to spend? When did we have to be where & what time? Did I need to bake or bring a side dish? So many things to think about, to worry about & thus I became the modern-day Grinch.
For several years the magic of Christmas was lost on me. I didn't enjoy decorating, or wrapping presents like I used to. Instead of being filled with the glitter of tinsel I was filled with a bad case of the grinchy grumpies.
Last year my grinchy heart grew just a little bit. Shelby was almost 2 years old & a bit more interactive than the previous year. She was still terrified of Santa & watching her open gifts was a bit like waiting for a turtle to cross a busy highway, I did have more Christmas glee in my tummy than I had in a long time. This year, however, she is ready & waiting for Christmas so I'm trying my hardest not to be too grinchy.
We already picked out & decorated our Christmas tree which was a lot of fun. To see Shelby short through each ornament & decided which branch would have the honors of displaying the ornament, it was entertaining & provided me with some of those familiar warm & fuzzy feelings from when I was a kid. Plus, Shelby picked out the tree this year & it fits flawlessly in the tree base. In years past we've had to secure the tree to the wall or finagle the base in such a way to prevent the tree from toppling over. She picked a perfectly straight, chubby little tree that fits perfectly in the living room.
Aside from the tree, I was looking for some traditions to start with Shelby that would be unique to our little family. Something I didn't do with my parents, but that she could potentially carry on with her kiddos. I decided to stock up on books over the last several weeks. Some I purchased from consignment stores, & others I snagged on Black Friday from the local book store. Some are Christmas themed, others winter-themed, & the rest have nothing to do with winter or Christmas. Each book was wrapped & placed in a wicker basket I found laying around the house. Every night Shelby picks one book from the basket, opens it & reads it with either myself or Tim. There are 25 books for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. Like an advent calendar but with books!
I thought about doing movies but she doesn't have the attention span to sit through an entire movie (unless it's Frozen) & let's face it, finding time to sit down at the end of each day for an hour or more, well that kind of time is hard to come by. Plus, I have always had a passion for reading & I hope to pass that love of books on to Shelby.
This basket of books is a super fun way to end the day & spend more quality time as a family. Shelby is a very imaginative little girl already so I can only imagine the adventures she will have if she fuels her imagination with good books.
What are some of your families Christmas traditions?
Thankfully, life spared me the torture of having to use a dating app. Tim & I met at work, highly unromantic, but made my life so much easier in the long run.
We were both involved with other people when we first met, & it stayed that way for several years. I was an introvert to the extreme dating an extrovert...which may work in some situations but not in ours. Tim was chasing the white picket fence & jumped headfirst into a relationship he thought would give him the 'happily-ever-after' he wanted. Needless to say, both our relationships met their demise & the rest is history.
The point is I never squirmed in my chair & bit off my nails trying to come up with a quirky, but not weird, funny but not comical, bio about myself...that is until a few days ago.
Ever heard of Peanuts? No, not the cute cartoon or the nuts squirrels go bananas for, but rather the app that was recently released to bring moms more mommy friends. That's right, it's like a dating app for mommies. You upload a cute photo of yourself, include your kids if you'd like. Type up a short bio about yourself & select three of your hobbies/interests to market yourself to other moms. And just like tinder you either swipe up to 'wave' at a potential new friend or swipe down to skip a profile.
Last night after work, Shelby asked to go to the playground. I hemmed & hawed I just wasn't in the mood. I wanted to stay home to hibernate in the comfort of my comfy pants & over-sized t-shirt but, Shelby's cute pouty face won the battle; headed to the playground we were. I brought my new DSLR camera in hopes of learning some of its functions.
As soon as Shelby's feet hit the ground, she took off in a sprint to join the gaggle of kids already running & playing tag. I sat on the side watching her giggle & play while taking the occasional candid photo of her romping through the cedar chips with her new friends.
Some time passed when Shelby came to sit next to me. I asked if she was tired, of course, she told me no, she just wanted to know where Noah was.
Noah is a young boy who Shelby met at another playground a few weeks prior. Noah is the kind of kid every parent wants their kid(s) to befriend. He's kind, & considerate, funny & playful. He is mindful of the other kiddos & it's obvious he adores playing with toddlers. I wouldn't be surprised if he grows up to be a teacher, mentor, or another profession that allows him to use his compassion to help others in some capacity.
By this time Noah's mom had come to say 'hello' & introduce herself. We chit-chatted for a bit before heading down to the field where the kids had gathered.
We spent the next half hour or so watching the kids run. They giggled & laughed, threw cartwheels & somersaults on the grass, it was a good old fashion fun day in the neighborhood, & I was over-the-moon with gratitude that I sucked it up & took Shelby to the playground instead of sitting at home to sulk.
Being the introvert that I am, I tend to spend a lot of time analyzing situations & absorbing details of my surroundings. I'm a solitary creature for sure, Shelby, on the other hand, absolutely is not. She thrives on interaction with others & through her, I have learned to embrace a part of my personality that I didn't know existed. Through her, I have started to experience relationships with people differently & because of people like Noah & his mom, Tammy, I feel a little safer in doing so.
I think it's important to remember that despite all the horrendous stories consuming our local news reports, there are good people & good things happening in the world. It's not all doom & gloom. I think it's also important to remind ourselves that when we're feeling down, there's only one person who can change the way we're feeling, & that's ourselves. I decided to force myself to go to the playground, & the universe took over from there, but I had to take the first step.
I hope Shelby & myself have many more nights like that one, great memories to have for a lifetime.
Yesterday, a friend of mine had a pretty terrible experience at the playground with her two kids. It was the second time in a month she had to explain to her 3 & 2 year old that not all kids are nice, that it's okay to walk away from people who make you feel crummy about yourself.
We've all seen kids at the playground with behavior that's less than favorable & it sincerely makes me dread the day I'll have to send my sweet Shelby off to school, but yesterday afternoon may faith was renewed when my aunt sent me this photo of my daughter.
They had gone to a local playground to play & look for painted rocks. No sooner did they park when Shelby made a beeline for the playground with the BIG tunnel, only a boy was sitting in the tunnel blocking Shelby from crawling through. My aunt suggested Shelby, who’s 2, politely ask the boy to move. A few minutes went by & my aunt went to see what they were up to. She found Shelby sprawled out next to the boy while he read to her.
A woman approached my aunt, “that’s my Noah. He just loves kids."
My aunt soon learned that Noah is 10 & the youngest of 7 children. It became apparent that Noah truly does love kids as he spent a lot of his time playing with, reading to, & even correcting mean behavior. He reminded two girls that bullying is unkind after they took a hat from another kiddo, & threw it. He made his arms into a hoop so Shelby could "make a basket." He turned an ordinary trip to the playground into a wonderful memory for my daughter.
Noah gives me hope. Hope that there are parents out there who are raising their children to be kind, respectful, & compassionate. I don’t know who his parents are, but I want to say thank you. Thank you for raising such a wonderful little boy. I hope Shelby & I run into Noah again because he is truly a very special little boy.
I'm a little late posting my photos from last month, but here they are! Enjoy!
Most of these photos were taken right in my backyard, or at a local park. I'm having fun playing with the different settings on my Canon, but I'm quickly learning I'll need to upgrade my camera if I want to take photos of in-flight birds, or on-the-run wild life.
As many of you know, I recently purchased a used (new to me) Canon camera to better my picture taking abilities.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so for that very reason & to better learn my camera, I've decided to take part in a fun little challenge to take a photo a day for 365 days! At the end of each month, I'll post the photos I've taken along the way!
I've only had my camera a little over a week, but I figured I would post the photos I took the last week of May! Constructive Criticism welcome from all my fellow photography friends!
Yesterday was the first really nice day in Buffalo. Eighty degrees, sunshine, & a city full of people who were just busting at the seams to get out of their houses.
Tim & I decided to take Shelby to CanalSide for a little peek at the naval ships & maybe some ice cream. Along the way, we stopped at a giant sandbox where several kids were already playing. Last year Shelby had absolutely no interested in the sand, this year was a different story. She happily took her shoes off & ran off to play.
It wasn’t long before helicopter mom mode kicked in.
My husband & I witness a few kids whose parents were more concerned with chit-chatting & smoking on the boardwalk (even though its a public venue & smoking in public places is illegal in NY) than monitoring what their kids were doing. One of the unruly was a boy, maybe 7 or 8, with a mouth like a seasoned sailor & an attitude fit for a Friday night fight club. He was shoving younger kids, throwing sand, & at one point he followed a girl up onto the life-sized shipwreck & attempted to push her off the roof. Now, let's be clear, this shipwreck was not meant to be climbed on. It had a metal roof, hot with the suns rays, & slippery with sand, not to mention the roof was probably a good 7 or 8 feet high. After his attempted at pushing the girl off, he stuck up his middle fingers & screamed: “you can all go f*ck yourselves.”
Can I please have a round of applause for the parents of this delinquent. They are obviously doing a superb job raising such a delightful young human.
Bringing your kid(s) to an area of public play DOES NOT MEAN OTHER PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WATCHING & SCOLDING YOUR ILL MANNERED CHILDREN. I’ll say it again for the parents in the back, just because there are other parents invested in watching & monitoring THEIR child’s play does not mean you are granted a pass or a 60-minute vacation from parenthood. The day a bystander has to step in & parent my child because I'm being too lackadaisical is the day I'll wear a thong bikini in public (never gonna happen).
It was earlier in the week when a similar situation happened only less vulgar & more innocent. It was late in the evening & Shelby & I decided to hit up a local playground before heading home to get ready for bed. There were only a handful of kids still playing, one of which was a 3-ish- year old boy who had decided to try his hand at the monkey bars. All of a sudden you heard him yelling “heeeelp! Heeeeeeelllp.” His mother was on the other side of the play area, on her phone. I hurried over to find him hanging from the second or third bar, with crocodile tears streaming down his face. I asked if he needed help getting down to which is obviously replied, “yes.”
In moments like these, I try not to judge. I’m sure I have my moments where my attention is lacking, or the focus of my mind is somewhere else but, I mean, come on, you’re at a playground fitted with fixtures & attractions that are meant for much older kiddos. You have to be conscious of where your little ones are & what they're doing.
I’ll be honest, in both of these situations, I feared retaliation from the parents. We seem to live in a society where every action is perceived as invasive, or over-stepping some boundary, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to let your kid fall & possibly break a bone or let your kid terrorize other kids when you're too self-absorbed to give a d*mn.
Having kids is hard enough, & nowhere is it mandated that being an adult means you have to procreate. The world has enough a$$holes, it doesn't need anymore.
Side Note; Excuse my potty mouth.
So, I did a thing a few weeks ago.
I bought & started taking CBD oil.
I know it's the newest "thing" & there's currently a whole boatload of people jumping on the CBD bandwagon, but man, this stuff is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I wish I would have started it sooner.
It's kind of funny because originally I had started researching CBD oil as an alternative treatment for our lab, Milo, who suffers from seizures & severe anxiety. The more research I did, the more it became clear that CBD oil might be beneficial for both of us.
Milo was on a daily regime of Gabapentin & Apoquel, but the long-term effects of Apoquel are unknown. However, early studies are showing Apoquel depresses the immune system causing irreversible damage. Hence my search for a more natural alternative. As for my self, as someone who suffers from Fibromyalgia, Hyper-mobility of my joints, Chronic Fatigue & Anxiety I've tried mainstream treatment plans including prescription drugs, massage therapy, Melatonin, vitamins & supplements, diet modifications, exercise regiments, etc. to no avail. The side-effects of prescription drugs were always far worse than dealing with the daily aches & pains, or anxiety & diet changes only seemed to offer temporary relief.
But now, now, there's legal CBD!
CBD is one of the main ingredients in Cannabis but will not get you high as it does not contain THC. Without getting too complicated, THC attaches to the CB1 & CB2 nerve receptors in the brain which are what causes the psychosomatic euphoria associated with Marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not attach to the brain receptors & will not have the same psychosomatic effect. Don't misunderstand, CBD does contain a small amount of THC, between .3 & .5%, but not enough to attached to brain receptors releasing dopamine & cause hallucinations.
Not all CBD is created equal.
Since the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018, if you haven't noticed "CBD sold here" signs on your local storefront windows, then you simply aren't paying attention because it's being sold EVERYWHERE! Gas stations, pet stores, convenience stores, & salons are just a few of the establishments where I personally have seen "CBD available here" signs plastered in their windows. But let's make one thing clear; just because they're selling it doesn't mean they're a reputable place to buy.
It's important to understand that CBD is not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration making it even more imperative that you research potential suppliers before you purchase a product. In fact, a study completed in 2017 by Michael Bonn-Miller, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, revealed 7 out of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of CBD indicated on the label. Nearly 43% contained too little CBD, while 26% contained too much. Too much CBD can have adverse effects like increased seizure activity in epileptic patients & increased anxiety in those suffering from the disease.
So, what can CBD be used for?
That, my friend, is a very long list. But keep in mind while there are hundreds upon thousands of personal accounts claiming CBD has worked wonders, there is very little verified research out there. Just something to be aware of.
In an effort to help guide you I put together a quick list of the top 5 things to look for/ask when purchasing CBD:
1. Third-Party Testing
2. Where is the hemp sourced from?
3. The percentage of THC in the product.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a CBD product is how the CBD is extracted from the Hemp plant. There are two methods; Ethanol extraction & extraction using Carbon Dioxide. There are drawbacks & benefits to each. It's going to be up to you to decide which method you feel most comfortable with.
Ethanol extraction is the process of heating the Hemp to remove carbon atoms, soaking the plant in Ethanol for an extended period, filtering to separate the liquid from plant matter, & finally, leaving the remaining liquid in the open for the ethanol to evaporate. While this process does make it nearly impossible for all the ethanol to be removed, it does provide for the most efficient means of digestion into your body. It can also be certified organic.
Extraction of CBD using Carbon Dioxide is slightly different in that instead of using heat it uses pressurized Carbon Dioxide to pull CBD from the Hemp plant. When Carbon Dioxide is in a supercritical stage, meaning it has properties of both a liquid & gas, this is when the extraction occurs without causing any damage or denaturing to the CBD. For this reason, extraction using Carbon Dioxide is the preferred method, but extraction using this method is very costly.
CBD oil has been a game changer for me. While it doesn't eliminate my pain completely it has provided more relief than prescription medications with zero side-effects. I have more energy, I'm sleeping better at night, & the brain fog associated with Fibromyalgia is at an all-time low. Of course, not everyone will have the same results, but I think anyone who has thought about trying it really should. It could make a world of difference in your day-to-day life.
If you have any question, I'm no expert, but I'll do my best to help! Or if you have an experience with CBD, good or bad, please share!
Recently, state police & canine units flooded a local middle school for an unannounced sweep searching for illegal drugs. Having attended that very school, I clicked to read some of the comments, & I was shocked to see the number of negative replies;
“Such a waste of tax-payers money.”
"They would have better luck at the High School."
"What 12-year-old- keeps codeine stuffed in their locker? Such a joke."
There were even comments with eye-rolling emoji’s.
Unless you live under a rock in the middle of Alaska, with no internet connection, no local newspapers & only Caribou as companions, you have heard or seen the recent rise in deaths due to the opioid epidemic. If not, pick up a newspaper, watch the local news, or just reach out to some friends & they'll likely be able to enlighten you, & if you think this epidemic doesn't affect you, you are wrong. If you think 'not my kid,' you could be wrong, very wrong. Sometimes, the people who you least expect to fall victim to such a disease are the ones who need help the most.
Sidebar: I am not going to debate whether or not addiction is a disease because it doesn't matter. Regardless of whether you think it's a disease or not, people are still dying. Brothers, sisters, mothers, father, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. they are people facing a problem, a problem we need to find a way to address because dead is dead, it doesn't matter if you label it an addiction or a choice.
This isn’t a joke. This isn’t a drill. Our children are dying & some would rather live in denial than address the problem head-on. Whether the sweep resulted in anything or not, whether it was used as a scare tactic or not, it is well worth our tax dollars. Just do a search for opioid epidemic & children. It won’t take long for your jaw to hit the floor in disbelief.
Researched released in 2018 from the Journal of Pediatrics shows the number of children brought in for opioid overdose doubled from 2003 to 2015 & the number of deaths from opioids overdose tripled from 1999-2016. Here’s another stat for you; there was a 45.2% increase in the number of deaths involving synthetic opioids from 2016-2017, according to the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
Opioids are the LEADING cause of death in individuals under the age of 50.
Opioids produce morphine-like effects. Medically they are used for pain relief, but heroin is also classified as an opioid due to the feelings of euphoria it provides. Enter synthetic opioids like Fentanyl & you have yourself an economy sized problem. A problem that results in an estimated $78.5 BILLION economic burden per year according to The Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
Just let that sink in. Besides the fact that there are roughly 130 people dying daily in the United States from opioid overdoses, our tax dollars are paying for their healthcare, rehab, lost productivity, & any criminal proceedings resulting from their opioid use. So yeah, if we can prevent or intervene at the middle school level, I say go for it.
For all those playing the "who's to blame" game all I can say is yes, this crisis may have started with an overabundance of doctors prescribing painkillers when they probably, really weren't necessary & insurance companies much rather pay for a tiny little pill than long-term therapies, but the fact is that we have to find a solution. It's time clean up the mess not point fingers because pointing fingers isn't going to save anyone who's already lost in the trenches of opioid addiction.
Turning a blind eye doesn’t make the bullet stop after the triggers been pulled. Just saying.
I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. The craft of forgiving but not forgetting.
We've all been wronged in our lives, but I think its what we do with that anger or hurt that really defines us as people. I realized recently that forgiveness isn't about letting them off the hook, it's not even done for his or her sake, it should be done for yours. It's like hanging a "for rent" sign followed by another reading "free" in your mind & letting that person or event occupy the space no strings attached...indefinitely.
While I was painting the other night I was thinking back on the recent holidays & how my family & friends have evolved over time. There are people who were staples to the family that are no longer with us, & there are people who have burned bridges with others & no longer partake in family functions. There are also friends who I thought would be in my life for a lifetime that are no longer friends but rather just acquaintance, if that. Just when I was getting a little emotional, Winnie, our foxhound who was heavily abused, meandered over for a little loving & that's when I realized that holding onto the hurt, or anger means there is forever a tie between me & the person who did me wrong. Winnie experienced the unthinkable but she persevered & did what so many people can't seem to do, she let go; she forgave without forgetting. If she had held onto the fear & anger she would still be spending her days cowering in the closet rather than sprawled out on the loveseat soaking up all the love & snuggles we dish out.
When you hold onto a grudge you limit yourself in ways you may not even think about. You might not go to a party because someone you had a falling out with may be there. You might avoid a certain restaurant or store because you know a certain somebody frequents it. Avoidance becomes a game you spend too much time on. Not to mention you might miss out on the night of your life because you didn't want to risk the possibility of seeing someone who hurt you. Why give them that power?
Forgiveness does not erase the past, it can't, but a healed memory is not a deleted memory. Forgiveness, hopefully, changes the memory of our past into a hope for the future & provides us with more time to focus on the good things in our lives.
We all make mistakes. We've all hurt someone whether intentional or not, but we shouldn't dwell on the things we cannot change, nor should we let them hold us, prisoner. Let go. Live a grudge-free life, it's the best revenge you can have.