Sunday, March 23, 2014

The moment you can never erase. My Sunday Confession.

Today marks my very first ever link up post. Basically, how this works is, the amazing bloggess behind "More than Cheese and Beer" invites other bloggers to 'link up' our post to hers, all sharing a post with their own take on a common topic. The benefit to everyone being an overall widened audience of readers. While I'm not sure I am bringing many readers to this party, I am definitely stoked to be hitching my wagon to such talented group of bloggers who I had already admired and read in the process of getting up the courage to become one myself. In that respect, I kind of feel like the awkward kid in the movie Almost Famous, nonchalantly in awe of the enormity of the talent that is all around him. The bloggers represented in this chain are my personal rock stars, and like him, I'm not going to sugar coat my Rolling Stone article on you lot. Sorry. Principles. You break up the band, I am writing it, Yoko.

Ok, all that to get down to the nitty gritty of today's throw down. Awkward moments. Oh, man. How do I narrow down a topic that pretty much encompasses the whole of my life's collective vignettes. Awkward is my middle name.

I do the wrong thing a lot. I think it may be a major reason why I retreat into myself so much. My introversion is somewhat of a defense mechanism. I am saving myself from myself, and potential harm to others. My intention with this post was to be funny and light, because so much of my awkwardness has been honed over the years into something that mostly passes for endearing or adorable, and I can totally live with that. After reading Juice Box Confession's post on today's topic, I felt compelled to go another direction entirely. This one is going to be bloody.

Juice Box Confession's link up shared a heart wrenching depiction showing a moment of hurt and betrayal she felt when a friend's unkind and insensitive words to her tragic news forever changed their friendship. It is gorgeously written and very raw.

For me, it struck a very painful nerve. I felt horrible for the pain she felt as a result of another woman's thoughtless words. I felt horrible for the loss she had endured, the sadness and grief of losing a beloved and celebrated pregnancy. I felt horrible also, for the friend, who may or may not have understood the enormity of her statement. I felt horrible for the absolute impossibility of turning back time, because, yes, I was that friend, and I am no longer. The power of a moment is one I am all to familiar with.

I am not one who has any place to comment on miscarriage. I feel guilty, somehow. I have been told that my thinking is common and it is something similar to survivor's guilt for wartime soldiers. I have 8 healthy happy children. I have never endured a miscarriage. I cannot possibly comprehend the loss.

A couple-friend of ours was expecting their fourth child. I love babies, pregnancies, and everything they entail. I kept general tabs on their progress through the periodic Facebook posts that went up. The husband of the couple was a notorious dry jokester who used uncomfortable pauses as an element of his humor. I had gone into work at our coffee shop, where a group of our guy friends went almost every morning before heading off to their various offices. My own husband was already there working. I had known by a Facebook post a week or so prior, that they had an ultrasound to find out about baby's sex, but assumed that I had missed the update with the news somewhere in the mix. When I saw the husband of the couple that morning, my face lit up immediately and I asked how the ultrasound went. He was uncomfortably silent...his standard M.O. for a joke set up. So I started laughing by default, waiting for the punch line. Glancing over at my other friends, however, I saw they were silently, violently shaking their heads 'no' at me. Then he dropped the boom. "We lost the baby." My heart sank. Nauseating dread swelled into a heavy ball in the pit of my stomach. I was  heartbroken and devastated for my friends. Just the remembrance of the incident has me in tears now, again. His look of hollowness and loss will forever haunt me. Stunned, I looked over at my husband, who had known but forgotten to tell me in the craziness of our lives and schedules. In this man's mind, I knew this news and was mocking him. I was horrified to have hurt my friend by laughing, and had no idea how to rectify it. I said how truly sorry I was, with all the sincerity and regret that I felt, but have no idea if he received the sentiment the way I intended. I carried that numbing sadness around with me for the rest of the day, and still, more than a year later, have trouble processing it properly. I went over and over it mentally, trying to understand how I could have made that moment right, and never found a solution.

I will forever be sorry for my part my friend's pain that morning. The next time I saw his wife, while I wanted to show my genuine sympathy, instead I said nothing at all, for paralyzing fear of making some other hellish mistake. My words, prayers and good intentions became aching cotton in my head, never materializing. Some days I pray that the old saying "It's the thought that counts" really holds any truth. More likely, the phrase came into being as a result of some other moment of regret involving things said, or things left unsaid. That couple's view of me likely changed forever that day,  I will never know. I do know that moment will forever live in my brain as one of the singular most distressing of my life.

I'm so very sorry. Words will never be enough. If I could take it back, in a heartbeat it would be gone. I have no excuse. If I am truthful, many more moments have since gone by silently in the aftermath.

To link up with all of the other amazing bloggers participating in this week's Sunday confessions, check out my girl over at More than Cheese and Beer.

Our day of nothing.

Saturday. Under normal circumstances, and I use the word "normal" loosely and in a context that in no way resembles its actual definition, we are fully booked with more events and obligations than are physically possible for the average family (not that they are physically possible for our anything-but-average family, but they are booked and on our calendar nonetheless). Sporting events, work events, family and friends' birthdays, holidays, you name it, we usually have anywhere from a handful up to a dozen entries on any given calendar's Saturday.  I usually never like dealing with things until they are actually upon me (they tell me it's called denial, but whatevsies), so I never ruin the surprise by actually looking ahead at our calendar of craziness. The day I am living is usually way more than enough for me to handle, anyway. Because of this constant chaos called Saturday, you can imagine my supreme delight when, on getting into bed last night, I asked my husband what was on the calendar for today, and he replied with a casual "nothing".

"Wait, what?" I would have looked ahead for that. I didn't even know how to respond.

So today, we had our day of nothing. And it was just as blissful as I imagined it could be.

We slept in until the crack of 8:30 (Which is like 1 in the afternoon in middle age parent time). The cars did not leave the garage. All. dang. day. long. My husband and I are both still in the pajamas we woke up in. Maybe gross, but don't lie, you're jealous.

Every stitch of clothing got laundered, dried, folded, and put away. I had very little to do with that. My husband has a thing about finishing what you start when it comes to laundry, and it is beyond my capacity to even listen long enough to understand what he means...because, hey, if it's clean, it's golden. Bonus if it is folded in neat piles, separated by the human who is currently wearing them. But putting them away in the drawers, and hanging in the closets?...psh...sounds like the stuff of Elizabethan romances and magical animated Disney animal servants. To my husband's thinking, however, this is what needs to happen to the laundry to be done, so 6 loads of laundry are fresh and in their proper drawer, closet, and cubby.

I got 8 loaves of bread baked, which is about enough for 3 days. Basketball was watched, baseballs were thrown, and a toenail was ripped viciously from it's bed in a freak door opening incident (don't happens.) She heals quickly.

Two pots of coffee were consumed and three meals were eaten, all in the comfort of our home, all in the company of my family, my favorite people on earth. While this might not sound like much to most, to me, the quietness and togetherness made this Saturday something altogether special. Its rarity transformed something unspectacular into a day that insanely enough, I can honestly describe as wonderful.

I adored our day of nothing. I am writing about it to serve as a testimony of hope. A day of witness for myself to look back on, because I know with a certainty it will be many moons before another comes along. To remember that such a day existed. That it was wonderful. That it will come again, someday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ten apps that rock my life

I love apps! As a mom who is always on the go and always in the middle of about 600 things, having apps on my iPhone and iPad are basically as essential as oxygen or you know, video games for teenage boys. I have a gazillion of them, but want to shout out my absolute die hard favorites!

10. Quiz up (FREE): ***Disclaimer*** I am not in general a gamer, because I don't like the idea of frittering away my limited time with no fruit for my labor. Thankfully I was able to escape being sucked into the craze of Candy Crush or Angry Birds that everyone and their pets went gaga over. This is a game, but I rationalized it was educational. With almost 300 different quiz topics, there is something for LITERALLY everyone who can read. So that was the premise under which I got this. Well, if you are a competitive personality (like me), your time could very well be sucked into the vortex of Never Never Land, leaving you bleary eyed and dazed when you emerge from the Quiz Up fog. I became World Champion of Classical Literature in 3 days of practically non stop play. My family is grateful that after 3 days of no laundry and barely stopping to feed them, I snapped out of it and came back to my senses. Now, I more prudently play only when I am waiting in unavoidable lines, or waiting for my kids to come out of lessons/practices.

The basics: The quizzes are real time one on one trivia style, played against other online players. You can connect it to your Facebook profile or have it independent of any other social media. Connecting it will allow you to see which of your friends are also playing and which topics they are going at. The quizzes are each 7 questions long (so perfect for a few minutes of unoccupied time), and you are given points for playing, with winners obviously getting more points. Each quiz topic has it's own independent  ranking of cumulative points and you are ranked on state, national and world scoreboards.

9.Pinterest (FREE): Yep, like every other lady on the planet who has gotten the bug, I LOVE me some Pinterest. Their app lets you check out the genius of your unknown muses while you are out on the go, being fabulous.

For Homeschoolers like me, this is a God send of ideas that keep you from getting stale or redundant in your lessons. There is a never ending stream of brain food to stimulate the studies for your kids. I can't even begin to name all of the things that can be sparked from the creativity of both other homeschooling homes and public school teachers. I would say that if you homeschool, and DON'T use Pinterest, you are doing yourself a disservice, and probably re-inventing the wheel and working way harder than you need to be.

The one caveat to this one: it seems to get bogged down as you pin, loading it up with more and more data, and rendering the available storage space on your phone more quickly filled up. To combat this, I will delete and re-install the app about twice a year. This seems to re-set the storage on your device, while all of your Pinterest data remains intact.

8. Show Me (FREE): available for iPad only. As a homeschooler, we teach our children in our home, and every place we go becomes a classroom as well. This digital whiteboard was such a find! With it you can have a writing surface (multiple color options), in addition to being able to paste photos or images onto the board, record sound, and record the work you are doing for future playback. In addition, it is a social platform, so you and other users with the app can upload work and it can act as a virtual distance-learning platform. We absolutely love this app for how versatile and user friendly it is.

7. Countdown: (FREE): What parent doesn't need a timer? Whether you need to time your kid's shower or how long you're holding a plank (2 ways I actually use mine), this timer is great. It does a count up, or countdown, and allows you to select your buzzer music or sound. It is very easy to use, so small children can navigate and use it easily.

6. YouVersion Holy Bible (FREE): These days,  I rarely have to take my paper version of my bible anywhere unless I am teaching. This app has everything I need. It gives a verse of the day when the app opens, and allows you to bookmark, share passages to social media, select a reading plan with a layout and checklist to guide you in reading through the entire bible, and has every major version of the bible all in one app (which makes comparison between the versions a snap). The app also has a tab that allows you to take notes on what you are reading.

5. Flashlight (FREE): I would have to say that this app is the MOST used feature on our phone, hands down. We have searched for toys under couches, shoes in pitch black parks, found our way along rocky paths, searched for monsters in closets, and looked in ears and up noses with this app. It is a parent's best friend. No one with children should be without this one. Period. It is super bright and stays on as long as you need it.

4. Phonto (FREE): This app is fantastic! You can take pictures and add text and shapes, making the creation of funny memes effortless. It is so easy to navigate and turns out a professional looking end result. The choice and variety of fonts is huge, and it allows you to import any font you can find.

3. InstaFrame (FREE): This is our go-to frame for creating picture collages for Facebook and Instagram. It is user friendly and not glitchy, plus it doesn't bother you with pop ups every 10 seconds.

2. Photoblend (FREE): This app allows you to layer one picture on top of another. You can control the opacity of each photo, and adjust the image until it is exactly what you want. It is great for creating word art and double exposure effect images.

and drumroll please.....

1. BubbleFrame ($1.99): This is my ALLTIME favorite app! It has so much versatility and can be used for so many different projects. Every update this app has undergone has just made it better.  It cost $2, but to be honest, I would have paid for this app at ten times that price. You can make images from photos, start with a background out of their collections (that update seasonally, while still giving you access to all of the past archived collections) or simply create a background color to begin. You then can make bubbles (which can morph into any circle to square shape) and fill those with photos or colors. You can add in text either straight across the image, or you can have text run along the edges of your bubbles in a geometric effect. Fonts can be downloaded from the internet directly to this app for instant use. When you save your image, it can be set to a high definition resolution, for a crisper effect when used on social media. I'm sure I am forgetting a ton of things this app can do, but let me tell you, this is by far the best $2 I have ever spent in my life. I would only be joking a little bit if I said this app has improved the overall quality and contentment of my life.

So there you have it. Some of the greatest apps that help to make my days easier and more efficient. Be sure to leave a comment with the apps you can't live without, because we gotta have each other's backs in getting our lifehack on, right?!