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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.

2 comments

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.


 

2 comments

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!

3 comments

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.
 

2 comments

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!

1 comments

Boo!

By Robin Dearing
Friday, October 31, 2014

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The joys of working at home

By Robin Dearing
Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Monday. That means I'm at my desk upstairs writing lectures for my art history classes surrounded by piles of books, a dog and a cat or two.

I was startled by the doorbell when it rang about 10 minutes ago. I trotted downstairs thinking that we hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting anyone. I was muttering about being bothered while I was working as I approached the front door.

I noticed a man and a woman looking toward the street standing on my porch. They were nicely dressed and carrying pamphlets and a thick book.

Church people, or at least, religious people of some sort.

They hadn't seen me yet, so I quickly crouched down on the tile floor next to the door. 

I heard them talking. I waited.

I considered taking a nap. But the tile is cold and hard. 

I waited a bit longer. While I didn't want to talk to them, I also didn't want to hurt their feelings. I'm sure they were lovely folks only trying to offer some form of salvation or atonement. But I just wasn't in the mood to: A. Disappoint them. They must get so much negative feedback. B. Listen to what they had to say. It's Monday, not a day I want to take time from writing my lecture on Islamic Art to discuss whichever religion they were touting.

I started to laugh. I didn't owe them anything. I didn't ask them to ring my bell. But there I was a fully grown, middle-aged woman scrabbling around on the hard, tile floor because I didn't want to have a conversation with strangers at my door.

Finally, I picked myself up and got back to work. 

I do some strange things sometimes and I'm glad I don't have coworkers around when I do.

1 comments

Pinterest is bad slash good for party planning

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yup, talking about Pinterest again. What can I say? It has become an encyclopedia of sorts for homemaking. Or cooking. Or party planning. So of course I went there first when I started planning Melinda's baby shower. You can read about it here!

I started a board called "Melinda's Baby Shower" and I started looking around at baby shower things. I fell in love with this orange and pink picture:

I love the orange and pink baby shower and decided it was the perfect thing for an October baby shower for a little girl. I spent a long time, and I mean a looooong time, amusing myself with orange and pink pinning. I had so many ideas for the perfect shower from candy buffets to cheesecakes to favors.

I had done so much pinning that when it came time to shop I found myself a bit overwhelmed. As much as I'd love to throw the perfect shower, (like the kinds of very extravagent parties that are shown on Pinterest — wow — have you seen some of these parties?) I also knew that I'd better get a little more realistic. I had to talk myself out of the world of Pinterest and back into the reality of Big Lots.

The reality was it is really hard to buy things that are orange and pink. I know it sounds so easy but not so much. Most the orange this time of year is a fallish type hue or a Halloween-type hue, both of which aren't exactly what I was looking for. And pinks this time of year tend to be more maroon rather than fuchsia. I ended up with some orange candle holders that I filled with bright pink carnation.

I found pink fans and white laterns to hang from the roof over my patio area. The game prizes were simple manicure and nail polish sets.

The food table was covered in white with a decorative jar filled with pink candy, a subway art sign, orange plates and napkins. We forgot to take a picture of it. Maybe because the end was filled with wine and champagne.

Was it Pinterest perfect? Nope. But we did have a good time on a beautiful day in my backyard. And most importantly, we showered Melinda with love and support and gifts for her new baby. That's all that really matters.

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It’s a girl!

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Last Friday was my mom's 71st birthday. We decided to celebrate by taking an impromtu trip to Denver. 

Saturday, we visited the Denver Botanical Gardens to see the Dale Chihuly blown-glass exhibit.  It's really something beautiful. If you are going to be in Denver before the end of November, go see it, you won't regret it.

Because it was her birthday weekend, Shirley got to decide where we had dinner. She loves crab and had heard about Joe's Crab Shack, so, off we went. We were met by my Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Rich. Also, my stepson, Sean, was in Aurora for the weekend drilling with the Air National Guard, so he joined us, too. Lookit Sean and his dad in their crab-eatin' bibs:

At dinner, all I wanted to talk about was the impending arrival of Sean's baby girl. Yep, Sean and his lovely wife, Lacie, are expecting their first child in just a few weeks.

I'm going to be a grandmother, people.

And I couldn't be happier. I've been known to cradle baby outfits in my arms and get teary-eyed thinking about holding my grandbaby.

It's been such a delight watching Sean and Lacie through this pregnancy. They've been married two years and have been trying for a baby. It didn't happen as easily as they had hoped, but this pregnancy has gone smoothly. Thank goodness for that.

Seeing Sean light up when talking about the arrival of his baby girl is really touching. Watching Lacie take meticulous care of herself has been quite inspiring. She's one of those beautiful pregnant women that you see in baby magazines. Here, take a look:

What a gorgeous baby they'll have, eh?

With all the illness and death we've suffered in the recent years, it's so wonderful to be able to focus on the joy of watching Sean and Lacie embark on the incredibly journey of parenthood. I'm excited for all of us grandparents of this baby, not to mention the aunts and uncles. She will be so loved.

So, yeah, Margaret will become an aunt at 14 and I will become a grandmother at 44. I relish the role and can't wait to hold that baby in my arms. 

Really, the only thing I didn't immediately love about becoming a grandmother was the idea of being called, "Gramma." 

I started looking through lists of grandmother names and coudn't find anything that I thought suited me. Then, while camping over the summer, my dear friend, Pam, came up with "Birdy," a nod to my name, but still distinctly gramma-ish.

So next month, I'll be taking on a new role and yes, you can call me Birdy.

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