Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Change is Good

I was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Maryland.  I always thought that I would live on the East Coast. The thought never crossed my mind that I would live anywhere else until the hubby accepted a job offer in the Midwest. I remember very distinctly how the job was offered.  My daughter and I had just gotten back from the local  K-Mart and there was a message on the answering machine.  The message said, "you have been offered a job and have 24 hours to make your decision."  My daughter who was 5 at the time started crying saying, "I don't want to move!"  I called the hubby at work and he didn't believe me.  The job  was too good to pass up, so he decided to accept the offer.   Things went into overdrive once we decided to move.  We had to put our house on the market and look for a new house.  My husband and I hopped on a plane and flew out to look for a house the weekend of Veterans Day 2001.  We went around with a real estate agent and looked at 25 houses within the course of three days. Luckily our house in Maryland sold in 10 days.  We moved here a few weeks before Christmas  2001.  Most of January of 2002, I remember wanting to get back in the car and drive back to Maryland!!  I'm really not someone that adapts to change very well.  After a few months I started getting involved at my daughter's school and the local church.   I literally would walk up to somebody and say, "hi, I'm Cathy and I just moved here."  I really had to push myself out of my "comfort" zone. I have found the people in the Midwest to be very friendly and very welcoming.  We just passed our 10-year anniversary of living here. It's hard to be away from my friends and family back on the East Coast, but I really feel like the Midwest is now my home!!  I see myself living in this part of the country for a long, long time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

College Already??

A few weeks ago my daughter got a pamphlet in the mail for a summer camp at an Ivy League college.  It was almost $5,400 for a 3-week camp.  Good grief!  If it costs that much for a camp how much would it cost to send her there???  The hubby and I helped my stepson through undergraduate and graduate school, so we have some idea how much it costs to send a kid to college.  My daughter will be going into her junior year of high school in the Fall of 2012.  She is in the process now of picking her classes.  I have heard from more than one person that the junior year is the hardest year of high school.   Decisions, decisions.  She has been getting e-mails from colleges for months wanting her to sign up for tours.  Wasn't it just yesterday I was changing her diapers??   I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal recently that listed the five most expensive colleges in the United States.  The most expensive one was over $59,000 for one year. The first house my parents bought was less than that.  She has been thinking of college for a few years now and has a certain university in mind.  Thank goodness it's an in-state school!! We are lucky that where we live there are great schools in-state as well as a community college that offers a multitude of classes.  The road to getting my degree was long.  I went away to a school for one semester but was homesick and came back.  I then tried the community college.  After a few years of that I took time off.  All in all, it took me 14 years to finally get my degree.  Most of the time I went to college I was also working at the same time.  I went to night school, I did weekend classes.  I think I might have even done an on-line class. One thing my dad told me frequently throughout those many years of college was, "Cathy, once you have that degree, no one can take it away from you!"  That was a pretty good motivator. There was more than one time I was ready to give up. Anytime I thought about it or got frustrated I would remember what he said.   As my only daughter heads towards the next couple of years of high school and then college,  I will continue to support her, love her and guide her towards adulthood.

Monday, January 23, 2012


It has been about two months since I found out I have a heart condition. I have spent that time reflecting on what that means.  What I realized is that a few things in my life needed to be changed. One of the major changes I have made is restricting my level of sodium.  I really don't put salt on my food, I'm more of a pepper gal.  I wasn't fully aware of how much sodium I ate on a regular basis. I would look at the sides of the packages or cans of food I was eating, but not really paying too much attention to the numbers.  So many of my favorite foods have added sodium, like canned clam chowder.  It has almost 900 milligrams!! Yikes - my cardiologist has put me on a low salt diet where my recommended level for an entire day is 2400 milligrams!! Another major change I have made is that I can't continue to worry about everyone and everything at the same time.  Easy to say, but hard to do!!  My grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 101, told me once, "Cathy, don't worry about the things you can't change."  That was pretty good advice at the time (which was probably over 30 years ago) and it remains good advice now.  I'm trying really hard not to "pre-worry" which is usually my "modus operandi." My son had his dental appointment recently and I'm happy to report that I didn't get too stressed out ahead of time (like I normally would) and he did great!  The dentist was wonderful with him and he even sat still for a fluoride treatment. I was so proud of him!  My philosophy is to consider each day a precious "gift" that you have been given.  Believe me, my "unscheduled" stint in the hospital back in November with my heart "issues" gave me tons of time to think about how I would change things once I got out!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I conducted a little experiment over the holidays. My daughter and I were at a ballet performance and were sitting at the very end of a row.  For people to get to their seats, they had to go past us.  I was silently counting in my head how many people said "excuse me" to my daughter or I as they made their way in and out of their seats.  Let's just say I could count on one hand. I wonder sometimes if being polite are manners some people need to relearn.  One thing I have taught my kids from a very young age is to say please and thank you.  I don't have too many pet peeves, but one of them is when I hold the door open for someone and they kind of blow past me without a nod of the head, a smile or a thank you!  I'm so tempted to say, "you're welcome!" and at times I have. I don't hold open doors because I'm requiring a thank you, but it would be nice to at least be acknowledged.  At my local library a few months ago, I held the door open for a lady coming and going, she gave no acknowledgement whatsoever that I did it once, much less twice!!!  When I go anywhere, a restaurant, grocery store, wherever, I always say please and  thank you to people that wait on me.  My manners were drilled into me when I was growing up.  We were taught to say please and thank you and to respect your elders.  When eating, keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap. One of my favorite columns to read in the paper is "Miss Manners."  She dispenses advice to people on how to handle etiquette "issues." That column makes for some pretty good reading.  In my opinion, good manners don't come naturally, they have to be taught!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Using Autism as an "Excuse"

For close to a year after my son's Autism diagnosis,  I would use the fact that he had Autism as an "excuse" for his behavior.  Whenever I would be out in public, if he acted up, I would say, "oh, it's because he has Autism."  I felt like I had to tell every person I met whether they wanted to hear it or not.  I came to the conclusion after that year, that the best thing I could do for my son (and everyone else) was to set limits and get him into some kind of routine.  I think all kids crave routine, but kids with Autism especially like their routines!!  They like things that are predictable such as riding the bus every day to school, eating the same kinds of foods, going to bed at the same time every night (a big one for my son!!)  and reading a favorite book, just to name a few.  My son used to have a really hard time transitioning from one activity to another.  Between the great teachers he has had at school and us working with him, he has come a long way and is able to go between activities much better.  I have found that with my son I can't just say, "come on, time to go!" and then just go. Setting a time limit using the kitchen timer has worked well because he is so visual.  I can point to the timer and say, "see, we're leaving in five minutes."  He understands that much better than telling him we're leaving in five minutes - he hasn't quite grasped the concept of time. My son also knows that if I raise my voice even a tiny bit to get him to do something I want him to do, that I mean business.  I haven't had to give him too many "time-outs" as a form of discipline.  Just the threat of one is enough! My son is still a "work in progress" as I like to call it because he still has a hard time verbalizing when he is upset, mad or frustrated, we kind of go on how he acts.  That's the way it was before he was verbal and still continues to be sometimes.  I no longer blame his behavior on his Autism, I instead work on changing those undesirable behaviors.  Since I decided to do that, things became much more calm and smooth in our household!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I am a "trash" picker and proud of it.  How does that saying go?  What is one man's trash is another man's treasure?  I'd like to change that to, what is one woman's trash is another woman's treasure.  I am astounded at the amount of usable stuff people put out to be picked up on trash day in my neighborhood.  You would not believe what I have "picked" over the years.  I love plants.  I rescued a plant that somebody was throwing away and it has sat in the corner of our living room for probably close to 5 years.  It is taller than my son now.  I have found Little Tyke toys that I have cleaned up and either donated to my son's class at school or given to Volunteers of America or other charities.  I took a journey into my daughter's closet over the holidays and found clothes she had either outgrown or didn't want.  I found about 100 hangers kicking around in there.  No wonder she couldn't fit any more clothes in her closet!  I like to pass along her clothes to friends who have younger kids.  When my daughter was a baby I used to love the hand-me-downs I received!  I bought our wood desk we keep in our living room at a yard sale - it was only $15.00, I'm sure it cost a lot more than that new!  I'm trying really hard to put less in our trashcan in our house. When we have a chicken or turkey I like to make soup out of the bones.  Very little food goes to waste in our house. My grandmother who lived to be 101 told me once that when she was little they would use every bit of the pig but the "squeal."  Going "green" just takes a little bit more effort, but I feel like I'm helping our environment a little bit at a time! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Different Kinds of "Lists"

I am a maker of "lists."  I make grocery lists, lists of books I want to get from the library, a list of ingredients for a favorite recipe (my lists go on and on).   I like that feeling of being able to check things off I've done.  I always seem to have at least one "to-do" list going at all times.  Two of the things that have been at the top of that list for a while were setting up a dentist appointment for my son and making an eye appointment for myself.  Both were long overdue.  We have attempted to take my son to our dentist that the rest of us use every six months since he started getting teeth.  They have never been able to get inside that mouth of his for longer than about 30 seconds.  The first "special needs"  dentist I tried a while back didn't work out too well.  I have an appointment for him coming up with another "special needs" dentist that two different friends of mine have recommended. I have great hopes that he will do better.  The second thing that's been on my list for three years has been getting an eye exam for myself.   I know, it's a long time to have something on a list.  I kept putting  it off and putting it off!!  I finally did it last week and I'm really glad I did.  The eye doctor told me I have borderline glaucoma! Luckily,  I don't need eye drops (yet).  After the long holiday break, my hubby and daughter both went back to work and school today, respectively.  My son went back to school yesterday.  The first thing I did after I had a couple cups of coffee under my belt was to work on my list for today.  I already filled up the piece of paper.  I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my "list" was just a little too ambitious!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Is Technology Passing You By??

Sometimes I feel like I'm standing still and the latest technology is passing me by.  I am starting to feel a bit more confident texting, but I still prefer e-mail or Facebook as my electronic form of communicating.  When my daughter was about 2, she started using the computer.  Her little brother has followed in her footsteps. He can turn on our laptop computer, put in our password and start using it.  He can maneuver around the keyboard and knows the website addresses of his favorite websites - he's 7!! I can remember when I was growing up our family saving up for a computer I think called the, "Commodore 64."  Does anybody out there remember that one??  After some research, we decided to get an iPad 2 as a family gift to ourselves for Christmas.  My daughter had that thing up and running within about 10 minutes, it took me several minutes just to figure out how to turn it on!  Just like texting, my daughter was offering me  "lessons" on how to use the iPad.  That device is truly amazing. My son uses it in his class at school - there are terrific "apps" for kids with special needs - I'm sure my son already knows which ones they are! I have thought about getting a Kindle because I love to read.  I have gone back and forth about it and decided I like the feel of a physical book in my hands.  I'm kind of the same way about the newspaper.  When we moved from the East Coast to the Midwest a little over 10 years ago,  one of my favorite newspapers to read was the Washington Post. I tried to convince the hubby to continue to subscribe to the paper version, but his response back was, "just read it online!"  To me, it just doesn't feel the same. Over the weekend, one of the local bookstores where I live closed its doors for good.  It made me kind of sad to see that.  But, I guess it is a sign of the times.  There are lots of books you can read on a Kindle or a Nook.  You can even write your own book and Amazon will publish and sell it as an "e-book" within a couple of days.  Fascinating!  I'm one of those people that is kind of slow to change their ways. My family would even say I'm stubborn :)   I  recently figured out how to upload pictures to my blog with some level of confidence. I can remember before digital cameras, how my mom would send our rolls of film to a photo processing place and we would wait about a week and get them back in the mail.  Now, you take a picture and have it instantly.  My daughter told me a few days ago one of her textbooks is outdated, it still listed Pluto as a planet.  Information changes so fast, textbooks are outdated as soon as they are printed. When I was in high school you had to do your reports from books from the school or local library.  It blew my mind a few years ago when my daughter did a paper that required no books, only the Internet!  Her school doesn't send paper report cards, they are accessed online exclusively.  One electronic form of communication that I really like is Skype - we are able to have our weekly chats with my stepson which I think is really cool.  I still haven't figured out how it's free, but I'm not complaining.  I guess I'm going to keep trying to change with the technology - I don't have much of a choice!  Am I the only one out there that wishes technology would slow down a little and let me catch up??

My New "Relationship" with the Sun

Long gone are the days that I would sit on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean for HOURS at a time with just baby oil on my skin for prote...