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Wordless Wednesday: Little brother armor

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Wordless Wednesday: Lego Land

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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Four Sons Plus a Sister

By Randee Bergen
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

 

Six-foot-four walks through the door

In fatigues, fatigued

Fists tight, jaw clenched

Tears in eyes

Looks down on three-foot-ten

Counts to ten

One son, one of four

Plus a sister

Looks up to his father

Tears in eyes

Sorry he swung at a teacher

This son, one of four

Plus a sister

Angry, on the edge

Because dad went to war

Mom lost it, lost the kids

Four sons

Plus a sister

Then needed to be fostered

Dad came home

PTSD in his bags

No wife, no mother

For four sons

Plus one sister

Two sons

Plus one sister

Back with dad

No job, little income

Parenting experience near none

Another son, a toddler

Back home now

One father, four kids

Trying, struggling

Dads Group, therapy

Coping strategies

Visitations with the mother

Until this mother

Becomes another

No show

One father, four kids

The littlest son

Is yet to come

Fatigued father

Breathes now

Uncurls fists

And scoops up

His son

This one son

And hugs him

To his fatigued chest.

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Old-school learning

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, November 17, 2014

Double-take? Yup, that's Jonas playing with my old school Speak-n-Math from the early 80s — and it still works.

I begged my parents for a Speak-n-Spell because I LOVED spelling. But what you want and what you need are not always the same thing. My parents bought me the awesome (not) Speak-n-Math.

SPELL — I said — SPELL!

Probably no wonder why it survived 30 years in great condition and I became a reporter.

Jonas loves it and plays it often. I'm happy to pass it along to him.

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I Finally Get Veterans Day

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, November 13, 2014

I don’t remember anything about Veterans Day from my childhood. I don’t recall talking about it at school. Don’t remember knowing what a veteran was. Don’t come from a family of many vets. Can’t think of anytime before adulthood when I saw Veterans Day on the calendar or thought twice about it when I did.

And, to be honest, for most of my adulthood I didn’t pay it much attention. I’m sure I had to get beyond early adulthood, beyond those years of finishing college and starting my career, getting married and raising a family, to have the time and energy to focus on what was going on around the world. To weigh what life must be like in other countries compared to what it is like here. And to really appreciate that.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I talk to my students about how fortunate they are to live in America. We talk about our freedoms and our quality of life. We read about people who came to America looking for jobs and other opportunities. And, especially, we talk about the free education available to every child in America. I want my students to realize that not all children around the world get to go to school and that the reasons many of them cannot is because their families cannot afford it. Or that not every child has equal opportunity. I want them to treasure and embrace the free education that is available to them and to never, ever take it for granted.

But I don’t talk too much about the price that was paid for our freedom, for our way of life, for our country which much of the world envies. It’s complicated. It’s confusing. It can be too much for seven- and eight-year-olds.

But this year we had an event at our school that provided the opportunity to teach my second grade students about Veterans Day – what it means and why we celebrate it.

A teacher at our school – who is also a mother of a veteran just returned safely from Afghanistan – organized a veterans celebration on our campus. Students and staff invited relatives who currently are, or did, serve in the United States armed services. Students brought in photos of their vets and these were displayed on a big red, white, and blue Wall of Fame. The staff at our school cooked up an impressive breakfast for the 40 veterans who attended that day. Then, the veterans, easily distinguished by their uniforms, the staff, parents, and the entire student body gathered at the flag pole shortly after school started.

We all watched, solemn and serious, as two men in uniform raised the flag against the early morning light. The silence was broken with the singing of the national anthem. I couldn’t see the person who was performing, so I watched my students instead. As they double checked to make sure they had the correct hand across their chest. As they focused on keeping their eyes on the flag, just as we do each morning during the pledge. As they refrained from talking or wiggling or joining in on the singing. As my throat thickened and my left hand moved to cover, in that crucial motion, the emotion building on my countenance. Upon that final note, I let out a loud whoop, as I would at a baseball game or most other gatherings where the national anthem is sang, realizing a second too late my faux pas. Several of my students turned and looked at me, standing behind them, utter shock and disappointment on their faces. How disrespectful, Ms. Bergen.

A few days beforehand the students had carefully penned a Dear Veteran letter and I had them role play going up to a total stranger veteran, with their hand out, ready for shaking, and say, “Thank you for your service to our country.” This opportunity – to shake a veteran’s hand and present the letter they wrote – was what they all were really looking forward to.

As the flagpole ceremony ended, I brought my class around to where the veterans were lined up. They walked down the line, so obedient, so respectful, so in awe. And I watched each and every one of them approach a vet, hand out, letter ready.

And I knew then how important Veterans Day was to me.

As we walked back to our classroom, I heard one student say to her friend, “Man, that made me get tears in my eyes.” Back in class, we had a quick discussion about the emotion we felt during the ceremony. Most students concurred; they had almost teared up.

And I knew then how important Veterans Day was to them, too.

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Thoughts on making myself cringe

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I’ve been cringing over and over thinking about this post I wrote on Monday.

I hate how whiny and desperate for attention I seemed. I hate how I let this disease get the better of me.

But, at that moment, I was whiny and desperate. And I had become overwhelmed with my situation.

At least I can say I was being authentic.

Several times I considered taking that post down, deleting it and forgetting I ever wrote it or felt that way. But I talked myself out of it.

Turns out that post received more than double the traffic than any other post on this blog in the several couple of years. I’m glad I didn’t take it down.  

The fact is that sharing that rant was cathartic and helpful. Getting positive and supportive responses from so many, especially my fellow Addisonians and sufferers of adrenal insufficiency, was reassuring — embarrassing and humbling, but reassuring, too.

Thank you to all of those who took the time to share a kind word. I appreciate you. You made a difference in my life that morning. Who knew clicking the Like button could make someone’s day better?

I know there are those who feel I dwell on this too much, share too much, cry too much and/or think I shouldn’t be writing about my illness. There are people who wish I would just get over myself and go back to the way I used to be. This exercise in sharing has made me realize I need to care less about those people.

The truth is that it’s still really hard. I liked how things used to be, all full of beer, bread and ice cream and walking up stairs and skiing and being able to do whatever I want without worrying about pain, fatigue, medication, dying and whatnot. But, those days are gone, ain’t nothing gonna bring them back.

My challenge now is to continue to focus on what’s good for me. That means continuing to write and share and cry and eat no pizza or delicious cheese sandwiches. I need to spend time with those who think I’m all right just the way I am. Also, I need to flip the middle finger to anyone who doesn’t like the me that I am now and worry less about the things I can no longer do.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.


 

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Reading the same book

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Soren and I are reading the same book. It didn't really occur to me how cool that is until I had a few minutes to read by the pool as I sort of watched the boys during swim lessons. We're sharing "The Maze Runner" by James Dashner.

Soren chose this book at his school's book fair because it is the most popular book in the third grade right now. All the kids are reading it, he said.

I was a little hesitant because as he puts it "it's a novel you know" and I was suspicious of letting him read a novel that I hadn't read before. I told him that I'd buy it as long as I got to read it too. I figured I'd read really fast to make sure there wasn't anything inappropriate in it. I just wanted to make sure that his reading capabilities didn't over-match his maturity level.

So, as I sat by the side of the pool, I realized that hover reading was a whole new genre for me. When I read about a kid getting chopped in half, I thought "Hmmmm .... is that okay for Soren to read?" Then, they introduced a girl into the mix of prison boys and I thought "Um, where is this going?"

I need to read faster.

When Soren got out of the pool the first thing he said was "How far did you get?"

"I got to where the kid got chopped in half and the girl came."

"Whoa .... wasn't that cool? Later they find out he's buried in the cemetery. Don't read too far ahead mom, we're reading it together."

Then, Soren and I talked about the book nonstop on the ride home. It's a super cool new experience for us, this sharing of a "novel," so I'm hoping that it stays PG and I don't have to cut it short. No spoilers please!

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Thank you, Veterans

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, November 11, 2014

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Just one day

By Robin Dearing
Monday, November 10, 2014

I would love to have a vacation day from this wretched disease — a day when I wasn’t constantly reminded that I am no longer in control of how I feel, what I eat, what I can do, how I can spend my money.

I would love to not have to worry about the medical bills and not feel guilty that my family has had to sacrifice so much because the medical insurance company needs their cut … with interest.

I would love to be able to eat a sandwich with real bread and drink a regular beer … even a shitty, domestic beer would be awesome without it making me so sick and ruining my gut.

I would love to be able to make it up the two flights of stairs to my office without having my legs feel like lead and worrying whether today was going to be the day I couldn’t.

I would love to not have to take archaic drugs that rot my bones and completely disrupt my metabolism.

I would love to have a day, a single day, without knee and hip pain and fatigue so sincere I feel like I have the flu — everyday.

I would love to feel, act, seem, be the way I was before my own body turned on itself. I would love to be treated the same way as I was before, too.

I would love to have the energy and ability at the end of the day after dinner is done and work is completed and errands are run to do something I enjoy, like play my guitar, make a quilt or even read.

I would love to have a day when my kid didn’t have to worry about whether I was physically able to take care of her, get her where she needs to be, do the things a mom does.

I don’t want more than I had before, just the same.
 

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Halloween night

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, November 3, 2014

Check out Kip's spooky extra set of ears! It's bat-Kip and his trusty clan of tough guys!

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