Thursday, September 20, 2012

Your Gift

Today I felt your hands gently cup my face. Your lips lightly brushed the edges of mine and for one brief moment I looked into your face, saw the twinkle in your eyes and that “life is good” smile upon your face. I not so much heard, but ever so faintly felt the tenor and resonance of your voice.

My frenzied stress filled mind cleared and I smiled back. For a moment life felt so simple and yes, good. All too abruptly I remembered that you aren’t living among us anymore. The bubble burst. Sadness crept back in.

In the weighty midst of reality I thought, “What good was this remarkable journey that you made, if stress, tension, and sadness overflowed.” I’ve chosen to embrace the gift of your visit. Peace and simplicity dominate this night.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


This is one of those family favorite tales that my family asks me to retell. The pictures that you'll see below have made the rounds to all kinds of show and tell events.

With the advent of recent tornadoes, especially in the area where this story takes place, our tornado experience and extreme good fortune is not far from my mind.

In June of 2002; my mom, my husband, and children headed to London, Kentucky for my cousin's (first cousin once-removed to be exact) wedding. We drove from Florida and arrived in London, KY the day before the wedding. We checked in at the hotel where our extended family was staying and then headed to the rehearsal dinner. We had a chance to visit with family and my children had the opportunity to meet cousins that they had never met before. As the night came to a close, we discussed what time people were planning on arriving at the church and we were given directions to the church.

The big day arrived and the Hatch family was dressed in their finery and on their best behavior. On the road to the church we passed by beautiful countryside. We saw lush green grass across rolling hills. Tall skinny pine trees lining a creek near a baseball park and a former red brick college stood stately nestled among trees. It was a bright, mild, late-spring day; a perfect day for a wedding.

The wedding was lovey and we hung around and watched as pictures were taken by the photographer. Slowly we headed off to the reception site. After much food, dancing, and wedding cake; clothing was being shed (ties, coats, and shoes) and that best behavior was slipping. It became evident that we needed to head back to the hotel for some R &R. The kids we anxious to get back to the hotel and look for a pool.

As we headed out to the van a couple of big fat rain drops began to fall. My mom and my cousin-in-law followed us outside and I stopped to talk to my mom and Cousin Gale. We were discussing plans for the evening and next day before we all departed and went our separate ways. My kids were pulling on my arm to hurry up and get to the car. They know that when I start talking that it won't be just a minute. I was a bit aggravated with their pushy insistence and had Doug take them to the van. They could then drive to the front parking lot of the reception hall and pick me up. A few minutes later the van pulled up and off we went.

We followed the same route back to the hotel that we took to get to the church. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon in what seemed to be a small town and there were no other cars on the road with us. As we drove down the road I saw the traffic light ahead of us. It was at the bottom of a dip in the road glowing with a shiny bright green light. As we began the descent downhill the traffic light disappeared amid the leafy trees and from my line of sight. When we came up on the intersection, the the traffic light was no longer working. I remember telling my husband that that was weird because the light was working less than a minute ago. I put it out of my mind as a great variety of circumstances could have caused the light to quit working. We continued driving, heading back up the hill and out of the dip.

We continued our drive and I began to notice that there were pine trees that had their tops chopped off. The cuts were jagged and had a fresh look to them. I again made a comment to my husband, mostly speaking out loud to myself, that it looked like a twister or tornado had come through this area recently (meaning in the last couple of weeks or months). I also notice damage to the chain link fencing at the ball park and damage to signage. I began to wonder how I had not noticed this on our way to the church or reception.

All of a sudden this huge tree was in front of us completely blocking the road. Across the road on the driver's side of the van, I saw people running out of a church. The first thought that crossed my mind (post 9/11) was that of a threat to the people within the church. I assumed that someone had posed a life-threatening danger to the people gathered and they were running from the building. Very soon it became apparent that they were running and pointing to the sky. As my eyes followed their fingers, I too saw what the "threat" was. In the distance there was a tornado swirling in the sky. We were horrified and momentarily paralyzed with fear!
What do you do when you're traveling in a vehicle and come across a tornado? Of course, in school they teach/tell you to leave your vehicle and seeking the lowest area laying flat on the ground. Let me tell you in reality that does not seem very appealing, wet, muddy ground, laying face down in a dress, panty hose, and high heels. I don't think so. Luckily we realized that the tornado was moving away from us and not towards us. So the need to evacuated was not necessary.

What to do next? Grab your camera, roll down the passenger window, shimmy out, and using the roof of the van as a tripod to begin taking pictures. The kids began yelling at me to get back in the van and someone was pulling on my leg as I kept saying O.K., O.K., just one more picture.

As the shock and adrenalin began to wind down a young woman emerged from behind the downed tree. She lived next door to the church and the tree was in her yard. She was pretty shaken up by events. The tree had done what appeared to be minimal damage to her home and she was physically fine. She used our cell phone to call family and assure them that she was alright and arranged for family members to come be with her.

The thought of the rest of our family entered our minds and Doug turned the van around so we could head back to the reception to find our family. Those were some terrible minutes as we worried about their safety. None of us had any idea that there was any severe weather forecasts for the area and we certainly never heard any tornado sirens. (These were the days before everyone had a cell phone and technology brought the world to your cell phone. These few phones were just used for making phone calls.) Amazingly the building of the reception and the area surrounding it was untouched by the tornado.

Our family was fine. With that knowledge Doug began driving us around town to survey the damage. There are no words to describe what you feel as you see all that destruction around you. Semi-trucks were upside down. Some of them were laying on their side having been "blown" across the parking lot. Cars were smashed, toppled, and overturned. Water was spraying from building as pipes had burst. Pink insulating was strewn all over the parking lot, across the grass, and in trees. Building were stripped bare. Amazingly we would later learn that there were no deaths directly related to the onslaught of the tornado.

Photos taken within thirty minutes of the tornado and the sky is so blue.
It was a humbling day as we came face to face with the reality of our mortality. The plain facts were that we were less than a minute or two from the tornado as it crossed ahead of the road we were traveling down. I'm positive that as we were drving down the hill to the lowest point of the road (where the traffic light was) the tornado was crossing the upper portion of that road. We could have easily been swept up in that swirling funnel of wind.

The huge old oak tree that laid across the road right past the church, where we first sighted the tornado, had to have fallen a few minutes, at the most, before we halted to a stop in front of it. We could have easily been crushed by that falling tree.

I like to tell my husband and children that those few minutes of conversation I had with my mom and cousin saved our lives. The next time and next time and next time ... that I stop to talk to someone they better not moan and groan or complain. But they do.
Two years ago my sister sent me the following e-mail. It's one of those "chain mail" things that gets passed on person to person by e-mail. I usually hate these things and trash them or check them out on to debunk those crazy urban legends. But this one resonated within me and reminds me of the blessing bestowed on my family in June of 2002.

The LITTLE Things

As you might remember, the head of a company survived

9/11 because his son started kindergarten

Another fellow was alive because it was
His turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her
Alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ Turnpike
Because of an auto accident.

One of them
Missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take
Time to change.

Car wouldn't start.

One couldn't
Get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man
Who put on a new pair of shoes that morning,
Took the various means to get to work
But before he got there, he developed
a blister on his foot.

He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid.

That is why he is alive today…

Now when I am
Stuck in traffic
Miss an elevator,

Turn back to answer a ringing telephone
All the little things that annoy me.
I think to myself,
This is exactly where

God wants me to be
At this very moment.

Next time your morning seems to be
Going wrong

You can't seem to find the car keys,
You hit every traffic light,
Don't get mad or frustrated;

It may be just that
God is at work watching over you.

May God continue to bless you
With all those annoying little things
And may you remember their possible purpose.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Quilt

This is not a family favorite story, but I just had to have a moment and brag on myself. I finished this Double Irish Chain with a Seminole border on Monday evening. It has been almost a year to the day that I started cutting the material to piece this quilt.

For quite a while as my husband and I would see interesting fabrics we'd purchase a yard or two with a potential quilt theme in mind. I now have a large rubbermaid tub filled to the brim with an assortment of quilting fabrics. Over the past several years I ended up with about six different St. Patrick's day fabrics with the thoughts of one day making a St. Pat's themed quilt.

One day I came across a quilting book with a beautiful Double Irish Chain Quilt on the cover. The design "spoke to me" and I so wanted to make such a quilt. At this point the only quilt patterns I had ever used were the ones where I took a class and learned from an expert. As a novice quilter, I scanned the pages of the book and thought that I could probably muddle my way through the directions and make this type of quilt. I bought the book and promptly put it on my craft shelf in the basement to collect dust.

On yet another shopping expedition far removed from the quilt book purchase, I came across this white background fabric. It's a fabric that is just so me. It has a retro feel, with a nod to tradition but is not traditional in nature. I love all the tones of green from the yellow-green, khaki, bold green, to the blue-green. The overlays of shamrocks,different sizes, and patterns has a great earthy feel. As soon as I saw the fabric, I knew just the quilt pattern to use, yep, my Double Irish Chain.

I searched through my rubbermaid tub of fabrics for two equally great fabrics to complement my white St. Pat's fabric. I selected the black background fabric with delicate green shamrocks and golden wispy vines. I had contrast and now needed a particular green to unify both fabrics. My tub of fabrics didn't make the cut. Off I went to the local fabric stores to hunt for the missing fabric. I finally found the green tie-dye fabric.

Because I purchased the black fabric a year or two before, with no specific quilt pattern in mind I barely had enough to complete this quilt pattern. I could not find more of this same fabric in stores or on the web to ensure I'd have enough. I had to use greater care than typical in cutting each strip and square so that I did not waste a single inch. When every black square was cut, I had just fractions of an inch of scrap fabric left. Whew!

I cut the rest of the fabrics, began sewing and ironing until I had a lovely quilt top finished. Then I began hunting for backing fabric. I typically buy cotton fabric backing that is approximately 108 inches wide. This way I don't have to piece the backing fabric to fit the quilt top. The drawback to the extra wide width is that the fabric selection is not plentiful. I ended up buying a creamy white fabric that was 42 inches wide. This meant that I would have to cut the yardage and sew it in such a way to end up being about four inches bigger on all four sides than the quilt top. Another first for me.

Now I was ready to take it to the lady that sews all the layers together- the quilt top, the batting, and the backing. This is the one step is the quilting process that I don't typically do myself. Once she is finished then I have one last step before the quilt is complete. I sew the binding.

The binding covers the raw edges of the quilt with a fabric trim. The initial part is machine stitched and then the final part is completed with hand-stitching. I typically tote my quilt in a overnight bag everywhere for weeks and sew. I took this one on several trips back and forth to T-Man's college and it went to FL for Christmas. I finally took my last stitch on this quilt at the end of February.

Since I've been carrying the quilt around for about nine months, the cats (my twins) have been sleeping in and all over it. (It doesn't take nine months to sew the binding. Just a week or two every evening, but for me that can translate into nine months.) Needless to say it was covered in cat hair and in need of a serious washing. Now it's washed and resting on my quilt rack and it's on to the next project.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why I Blog/Write Part I

As you can tell, I've been off the grid for awhile now. My writing phobia/paranoia returned with a vengeance in the spring of 2011, paralyzing my desire and ability to write. Slowly over the past few months the desire and confidence to write has begun to return. Although, my palms are sweating and my heart is racing as I type this.

I've often wanted to share what prompted me to write/blog my thoughts and the stories of my life. I was never much of a writer before my foray into blogging. Blogging has become the perfect medium for my writing. I have always had a love/hate relationship with writing, hence the need for several parts to this topic. The following will be a condensed version of my writing history.

As a young student, I always hated creative writing. I could never think of anything to fill up even one sheet of paper. I always thought my life was so typical, ordinary, and there was nothing to say. I could never come up with a topic much less generate anything to say when given a topic. I couldn't draw upon any details or spin a story. It seemed strange that someone who is never at a loss for words and is always talking could be stumped when it came to writing those words. I don't know if I just wasn't paying attention to my teachers as they taught writing, if my teachers really didn't know how to teach me to be a creative writer, or if even back then I couldn't bare to reveal myself to others in such a potentially lasting way.

Even though I couldn't stand to write I loved reading and had this romantic notion of writers. The idea of "writing" and even publishing a book seemed incredibility thrilling. How talented, committed, consumed, and bohemian writers must be. Writers seemed to be other worldly in my mind's eye. I definitely was not writer material.

So how did I end up becoming a "writer"? Basically, I ended up becoming an elementary teacher and had to teach my students to write. I have to admit that early in my career I stumbled about as I taught my students writing. Oh, I read books about teaching writing, went to workshops, and looked at the work other teachers got from their students. I still didn't feel a passion for writing, couldn't quite get at how to get stories to flow from the brain to the paper, and did not instill any passion in my students.

Finally my teaching of writing and my personal writing changed with the curriculum that Lucy Calkins wrote. As I read the detailed elements of how Lucy set-up a writing environment, taught children to generate ideas, and explore different mediums; I began to learn how to write the stories of my life. One thing that all writing experts say is that the teacher of writing must be a writer and should share some of their writing with their students. I slowly began writing at home (figuratively alongside my students) determined to grow as I expected them to grow. Over the past four years I've worked hard to tell my stories well.

With an awakening need to write, I'm dipping my toes into the ink. I'll take some slow languid strokes across the page with the hope that passion and daring will consume me. Those simple easy strokes will start out with some old family favorite stories; the stories my children and husband have often asked me to write. I'll write those stories they can't believe I haven't written, stories of tornadoes, snow storms, a lost diamond, stories of births, and those events in life that you convince yourself that with enough distance and perspective will one day be funny.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fireworks and a Birthday

This story begins on a warm October day in Georgia. I had woken with this metallic taste in my mouth that no amount of tooth brushing could wash away. I vaguely thought that this had happened before but could not quite place the cause. I thought I was getting sick or having some kind of allergic reaction to something. While unloading groceries from the van, I was consumed with pulling a memory from the fringes of my mind and solving this metallic taste problem. Finally it dawned on me; I was pregnant. It was the same taste I had in the early days of my first pregnancy. I had to wait about four weeks for the doctor's confirmation, but I knew life was forever changing.

My pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I had been fortunate to have had no pregnancy complications during my pregnancies and very little morning sickness. With Mimi my toothpaste made me sick. After trying numerous trial size toothpastes, I was able to tolerate the old fashion Crest toothpaste.

A difference during this pregnancy was not finding out the gender of the baby. With the boys I just had to know. During this pregnancy I was confident that the baby was a boy and I didn't need sonogram confirmation. I was going to use a beach theme for the baby's room and I only had a couple of baby items left from the boys' baby days so gender didn't really matter.

Doug and I decided to name our little boy Trey Ambrose. Trey for three because this would be boy number three and Ambrose for St. Ambrose. We had our original girl's name since the days of Dugger's birth and would use that on the off chance that we had a girl.

T-man was most excited by the thought of a new addition to the family. He cried when I told him that the baby would be a boy as he wanted a baby sister. (It's funny now because he and his sister fight like cats and dogs. Be careful what you wish for.) T-man would always touch my belly and talk to baby Trey.

Mimi was due mid-July but like the boys she decided to arrive on a holiday. I woke on the morning of July 4th with labor pains. I didn't want to have a long labor at the hospital but at the same time the hospital was about 30 miles from our home. So Doug and I headed off while my mom and youngest sister stayed home with the boys. On the way to the hospital Doug and I were trying to decide if we should change the baby's name to something more patriotic. Doug liked Patrick Henry and I liked Samuel. We never came to a clear consensus on the drive to the hospital. I figured we'd decide after we saw our baby boy.

Once at the hospital my labor stopped but the doctor decided to have me stay because of the long drive. So the doctor broke my water and labor resumed. Hard labor came quickly and the nurse delivered my baby girl as the doctor entered through the doorway. Surprise, surprise we had a teeny tiny baby girl. She was so tiny that none of the unisex clothes we had fit her. She wore a pink cotton onesie home from the hospital that was too big . My mom and I had to search the stores for premie clothes.

Because of my baby boy blunder, T-man would cuddle up to his baby sister and in his sweet adoring voice call her Trey and then say oops Mimi. As we settled into life with baby number three we've had quite the adventure. When Mimi was about four months old Doug was out of town and she had an asthma attack. Dugger who has asthma was four or five years old before he showed asthmatic conditions. In the evening after she coughed and coughed and I paced and paced with her, I broke down and called our pediatrician's emergency number. This is something I had never done before and was amazed when he called me within minutes of my leaving a message. I'm crying and telling him Doug's out of town. I even hold the phone up to Mimi so he can hear her coughing (although I don't think he needed to hear her to know what was going on.) In the nicest, calmest voice he told me to give her the nebulizer treatment that I would give Dugger, told me exactly what to do, and to meet him at his office Saturday morning. Dr. C. holds a special place in my heart.

Let's see, when Mimi was three she was attacked by the neighbor's dog who escaped into our yard. The boys beat the dog off with their plastic golf clubs as Doug charged outside to chase the dog away. I held her still and swaddled in a sheet as the emergency room doctor put stitches in her head.

Oh yeah, even though she was born on the Fourth of July she hated fireworks. She has an acute sense of hearing and the exploding sounds hurt her ears. She used ear plugs, put her hands over her ears, and I had to put my hands over her ears too. Within the last two years she has finally enjoyed firework displays.
Mimi has been a lot of fun too. She is a great dancer and loves to perform. She's a very good swimmer and loves the summer swim team. She finally realized that she has phenomenal mathematical abilities and loves math.

She also loves to read. If you know Mimi you know that she is never without a book. The year the movie Bridge to Terabithia was coming out she wanted to read the book then see the movie. Knowing what a sensitive soul she is, I cautioned her about the sadness of the book. I even broke down and told her that a child dies at the end of the book. She still insisted that she could handle it so I gave her my copy of the book. Several evenings later, I hear this boo hoo hoo coming from the hallway and she launches herself in my arms. Sobbing she says, "You told me someone dies. You didn't tell me it was Leslie." That was our first venture into more mature books.
Last summer Mimi decided to reread all the Harry Potter books in order to get ready for Part I of the last movie. Her personal goal was seven books in seven days. Now, the last several books in the Potter series are quite lengthy. She told me that she'd have to finish the first three books in less than three days so she could spend more than one day each for the last couple of books. She sat and walked around all week with a book open. She was mad at me because I made her clean her room and help with the basement clean up during her goal week. She didn't make her goal because Grandma and Megan, Mimi's cousin, came to visit and she didn't want to be anti-social.

In the summer we both read A Midsummer's Night Dream with plans to go see the play at the Shakespeare Festival. This year she read My Sister's Keeper for a school assignment. We had quite the discussion about the book and disappointment in the movie.

Mimi loves animals and constantly wants to add more to our home and school brood. She is particularly interested in a mouse or hamster. She is quite phobic about spiders, bees, wasps, etc. so I'm a bit surprised that she followed in her brothers' zoo experiences and is a Jr. Zoo Keeper. She's handled hissing cockroaches, snakes, and has dissected fish. She's even been stung by a bee in the goat yard.She performs on stage as a dancer but gets physically ill as an altar server at Church. She's the only one of my children that likes to go to Adoration with me in the wee hours of the night. She serves others with a smile and this summer she volunteered to help me teach my crafting classes and she has been very helpful. We've had a fast paced year with two graduations, a Confirmation, family crisis, her dad's illness, and college visits. With those ups and downs we have seen Mimi mature and rise to the challenges of growing up. Right now she is reveling in the fact that she'll be the only child at home this fall. As Mimi's grown we've had our share of emotional drama as well as interesting discussions and great fun. There are so many more things I could share about my baby girl but I think I've said enough for today. Happy Birthday to my amazing baby girl.

Monday, May 16, 2011

College Bound

No I'm not heading back to college for another degree. Although, I've had a few thoughts about that lately and am toying with an idea. Shhh don't tell Doug.

This is about my baby boy. He will graduate from high school soon and I wanted to share the adventures and frustrations of his college search. In his junior year, he went to a couple of college showcase nights to get a feel for many colleges across our state and the U.S. Let me tell you those recruiters are everything. My son who knew nothing of Michigan State, decided after one of these showcases that it was at the top of the list (right behind our local state university) of possible colleges to attend. Up to this point he had maintained a dedicated desire to attend our local college (where his dad and I work). We use to laugh about him living in the dorm that can be viewed from our family room window. We figured that his dad and I could post signs advertising the dinner menu in our front window for him. We'd get him home with those signs!

So in the summer between his junior and senior year we began making college visits. We thought we would be right in the game of college planning. We soon found out that we were running to catch up in the race for college selections and scholarships. The whole family headed out in July to go to East Lansing, Michigan. Doug, T-man, Mimi, and I attended high school preview orientation. It was my first ever college preview for high school students.
I was quickly sold on Michigan State. The head of academic advising was phenomenal at making you believe that this was the place to be. Everyone was friendly and helpful and things ran so smoothly. If you ever have the chance to visit the campus, I highly recommend it. It is simply gorgeous with mature trees, green grass, and a river running through the middle of campus. Sparty is not too bad either. On the academic side they offered a very nurturing college within a college program for natural science majors. When we returned home T-man immediately applied to MSU.
As the summer came to a close T-man and Doug made a few day trips to some of our other state colleges. T-man applied to several of these schools as well. After each trip, I'd ask how he liked the college. He'd say, "It's good." Do you think you'd like going to school there? "Yes." Do you have a favorite? "No."

In family discussions as Doug and I tried to get a sense of what our son was interested in studying and in turn evolving into a career, besides science. We began to steer him towards engineering. T-man has a strong math and science aptitude, is a great tinkerer, and is good at creative problem solving. With his interest in this new focus, we began looking at engineering colleges.

At this point (early October) I was done with college visits. My impatience and need for control was being held in tight reign while think enough already make a decision! Instead we headed off to the University of Illinois. I like the U of I about as much as I like the University of Florida. But I was good, so very good. I constantly reminded myself that this phase of our lives was not about me but about my baby. Off to the U of I we trekked. The nuturing feel good vibes of MSU were definitely not at the U of I and their arrogance was quite clear. Yet as we toured the engineering quad, I could see my son's eyes lighting up. It was hard not to be enamored with all the state of the art tools and research labs. Even I was getting excited. The concrete machine that stress tested concrete was amazing. He was definitely feeling pulled towards the U of I.

Not wanting to limit T-man's engineering options, Doug and T-man headed to Purdue. I didn't go on this trip, as someone has to teach those kindergartners. When T-man came home with a Purdue sweatshirt and stars in his eyes, I knew he was sold. But there was one last college to visit.

On my school holiday we headed to Southern Illinois Edwardsville to check out their engineering program. I had heard that it was a lovely campus nestled in a small town. All of that was true. SIUE pulled at my heartstrings as it reminded me of the Georgia campus where Doug and I worked for many years. Unfortunately they were a bit disorganized with their orientation and seemed unable to handle the large crowd. I was ready to leave without finishing the preview. As they did have admissions advisors available my son and I sought them out to find out what was holding up his acceptance to this school. The advisor was very helpful and looked up his file. The missing information was located in another file and they admitted him on the spot and began handing him scholarship information, explaining in detail how to apply for these school scholarships. That lifted our spirits. We spent the day getting the full tour. The engineering college was nice but lacked that wow factor of the "big" schools.

Now, Mimi loved the school and declared that she is going to go to SIUE and major in engineering. (In the summer it was USF and a major in Spanish.) Luckily we have time, lots of time. Although time seems to move quickly around here. It seems like yesterday that T-man was running around the Citadel quad with a cadet silhouetted in his shadow and I had a teary moment thinking of my four year old growing into that cadet and heading off to college.The time had arrived when T-man began receiving acceptance letters to most of the schools for which he applied. I thought we'd have a big college acceptance unveiling in December once all the college acceptance letters were received. The big schools have one big early admittance mail/e-mail day in December. Unfortunately T-man was crushed when he did not get admitted to Purdue. We were all quite shocked and it put a pallor over our anticipated reveal. It's so hard to see your child so disappointed. There was a good lesson in this rejection for T-man and his sister. Test scores are wonderful but consistently strong grades and service are big factors as well for these highly desired schools. I also reminded him that he had to have faith in the fact that there is a reason beyond what we can see for his future. He could take solace in numerous acceptance letters to a variety of colleges and universities (MSU included) as well as two scholarships offers to two of the colleges.

For me, not being able to keep this disappointment from my baby's life was painful. Unfortunately it also meant that a college selection would probably be a long time in coming. Finally Doug and I set a "signing date" of April 1st for T-Man. For most schools May 1st is the college and university acceptance deadline. He kept Doug and I guessing till the very end. We figured that it would be Illinois State or Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Up till the last moments, I still felt like giving a nudge for MSU.

Where's the school of choice? Southern Illinois Edwardsville and an academic scholarship!!

Now it's the last days of school, graduation, and celebrations. Oh yeah, and summer jobs for all of us (except Mimi) to help with college expenses.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photos and a Birthday

For my 40th birthday my mom had my brother make a DVD of family photos of me through the years. It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful addition to my sparse collection of older family photos.One of my favorite photos (1968). Sister #2 is on the left and I am on the right.

When my brother's 40th birthday loomed near, my mother asked me to make a DVD for him. In my movie making novice, I was quite excited to continue the gift of a photographic timeline. I had previously used a software not really designed for movies to make some simple slideshows. I really wanted to pull out all the stops for my brother so I began looking for a Mac movie software and ended up with iMovie and iDVD.

I began scanning pictures my mom sent, used pictures from the DVD my brother made, and perused my albums for photos of my brother. Doug helped me with the music selection and my artistic fervor took over. I burned DVDs, made a CD of photos, and designed a lovely cover for the jacket of the DVD and CD case. I am often quite late when it comes to completing projects by a deadline. It's one of those flaws that I continue to struggle with. So I was thrilled to have completed my project before my brother's April birthday, I called my mom to tell her I'd send the DVDs and CDs to her so she could unveil the movie on my brother's birthday.

Spiderman and my brother (my brother is on the right.)

As you can imagine, my mom was quite happy and was a bit caught up in my excitement as I gave a detailed play by play of the arrangement of photos, music rejects and selections and how I mastered the trickier parts of the software to get the look and feel that I was striving for. When I finally paused and took a breath my mom said, "You do know that your brother's 40th birthday is next year and not this year." Somehow my mom, siblings, and nieces found this to be quite humorous and often remind me of this when I promise to do something for them.

So for some reason my mom, once again handed me a stack of photos and asked if I would make a DVD for my baby sister's (sister #3) 40th birthday. She started early and gave me photos quite awhile ago to scan. I began a desktop folder and went through my brother's photos, my photos, and the folder that I started for sister number 2 who is a year younger than me, looking for digital pictures of sister number 3. My mom would occasionally ask when we called each other if I had begun scanning the photos and I'd say no not yet.

I'd open my file cabinet drawer and see the stack of my sister's photos and think, I've got to get this project going. This spring one of my son's friends sent me an e-mail saying that he was going on a mission trip with his church and was interested in working for people to earn money for this trip. I thought with this young man's help I could quite possible get my sister's DVD finished during her birthday month of May.

The young man came over the day after Easter. I explained the task and gave him a quick demonstration of my scanner. He began work in earnest while conversing with my son. He put in a full day that included going out to lunch with my husband and son, playing XBox with my son (who introduced this young man to the concept of Hatch kid "breaks", and finally completed the stack of photos I gave him. Unfortunately I had another stack still in the file cabinet and he mysteriously hasn't come back to scan more photos.

After my young worker left, I looked through the scanned photos. I laughed and I cried as I looked over all those old pictures. My baby sister is five years younger than me and she is the only one that I remember coming home from the hospital. Our neighbor from across the street stayed with us while my dad was at the hospital with my mom. I remember waiting by the window as our white station wagon pulled into the driveway with my dad, mom, and baby sister.
My sister was and is adorable. She was the only one of us to have curly hair. How I wished for curly hair. She also has a dimple in her cheek and of the four of us kids she is the nicest and sweetest one.
My sister's first day home. Me, my brother, my sister, and my mom.

I remember that we had a big white wicker bassinet in the family room and we would put my sister there. I guess she had a crib too but I don't remember one. I loved looking at her. I think she morphed over night from a newborn to a toddler that went everywhere we went. When you are the youngest you get dragged everywhere. For the first four years of life she shared a room with our brother and slept on the bottom bunk.
The only picture of my sister pouting.

In looking at pictures of her, I realized that I don't remember much of her teen years. Was I there when she was Confirmed? Who are her friends in those pictures? Was I at her high school graduation? For years I wondered about that picture on the USF campus. My sister and dad are the only ones in our family that did not graduate from USF so why is she in cap and gown in front of the Sun Dome. As we girl siblings tend to look alike at various stages in our lives, I thought that maybe it was sister number 2. No, I was sure that it was my youngest sister. Just recently I realized that it was her high school graduation picture. The Catholic high school that we all attended held the graduation ceremonies at USF. She is also the smart one who applied her smarts to her studies. She was the only one to get a full academic scholarship to college.

What I do remember is going to a few track meets, seeing her perform when she was the college mascot, and her college graduation. I remember the day my mom called me to tell me my sister had been hit by a car walking across the street from school.

I remember the day my brother called me at work because he and my sister were playing "chicken" on their bikes and neither one chickened out. My sister ended up the worse for wear as she landed on the ketchup bottle that they had ridden to the store to get. My sister was covered in "blood" and a neighbor scooped her up from the street and put her in their bathtub to clean her legs and assess the injuries. Most of the blood was ketchup and she ended up with cuts and bruises. My parents and other sister were gone for the day (in the days before cell phones) and since I was at work with phone access I got the call. I rushed home terrified and on the verge of hysteria to hear this chicken story. Between the heavy accented Spanish speaking neighbor, my brother's versions, and my sister's version I finally pieced the story together. I wish I had a picture of that day.

In spite of her crazy siblings, my sister has turned out quite well. She's still super kind and brilliant, has had two very different careers, has a dry witty since of humor (thanks to her siblings), has some wonderful pets, is very independent, and loves her nieces and nephews.
My sister and I at my brother's wedding.

My sister with our oldest niece.

Her great vehicle purchases have been perfect for outdoor photo opportunities. The nieces and nephews love her trucks.

So I called last week to tell my mom I finished scanning the photos of my sister and I thought I could get my sister's movie made by the end of the month. My mom said, "That's nice. You do realizes that your sister will be 41 next week." I'm thinking the movie can wait till summer and sister #2 can get her belated DVD as well.