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Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Passion

 I love taking photographs. It makes me slow down to see the simplest of things. Like this grasshopper. Before I looked at them as plant eating pests. Now I see how beautiful they are! I had no idea the variety of colors and patterns. 

This one decided to rest on the eagle at the end of my flagpoles. I tried to think of something clever to say about it but I am just in  awe. 

We went on a hike to the Hoh Rainforest. Beautiful area but unfortunately very touristy. This little guy was not intimidated at all by our presence. Cute little bugger. 

So there you go. Truly my passion. Something inside of me smiles each time I get the shot I am looking for. I feel something healing at the same time. I am able to shut out the clutter and just focus. This is what I found with meditation or the Buddhist philosophy . Just to be ....quiet.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Time waits for no one...

Really? December 2010 was my last post? Ugh. I really dont want to hash about the last 8 months. So just the highlights.
Katie is at this moment in Paris with Florence and her family. Mixed feelings on sending her there but she is having the trip of her lifetime. Making memories for sure. She is gone for a total of 2 weeks...1 more week to go. I really do miss that girl! The constant parenting break has been good though.
My good friends Laura and Murray are here staying the duration of Katies trip. We have had lots of good belly laughs. They enjoy cribbage, backgammon and cards. Whats not to love. Laura is going thru a tough time with Hep.C and starts treatment when she gets home. I hope she is able to catch up lost time with treatment. We have had some good talks.
The garden is producing veges!!! My garden is doing well this year which is making my frame of mind better as well. I love the serenity I get from being in my garden and being rewarded by the produce!
Missing my family as always and wondering if we will ever get everyone together again. We did it so often in the past and I long for those days. I love my family so much. They know how to make me laugh til I cry and then some. Family gives us our deepest pain too because we love them so much and know one day we will have to let them go. Sometimes unbearable. But today I think about the laughter.
We are still a statistic for work. Mike is unemployed a solid year now and we have managed quite well. No accrued debt. We are spending the portion of savings we were hoping to invest into the future. I suppose the future is now. My spirit about good things come to those that wait is waning. I wonder if we will ever get over this hump without major life changing events. I am hanging on....
I hope to get back to doing this more often and post photos as well. Til then. Ciao

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Never Enough Time

Here we go again...2 months have passed. I cannot recall everything but it was certainly busy. There was a lot of very normal homelife. ie: Katie and Florence having a quiet evening at home.
I lie. That never happened. 
This was more common. 
"She won't give me the remote" 
"She's been on the computer all night"
"I was going to take my shower and she's in there" 
"If you eat allof that ice cream it will make you a fatty"
"Why is she wearing my dress"

Florence fit it quite well with our family. As time went on we became more comfortable with each other. We really were more like a family. Every Friday night was spent at a football game. Florence said it was like watching "Friday Night Lights".
Katie, Bree and Abbey
Tumwater High School Football

Florence and I never missed a game.

 We did some site seeing in Seattle. A ride to the top of the Space Needle.

Take the monorail to downtown Seattle for some Christmas shopping and people watching. Ice skating at the local rink . 
Shopping ...Shopping...Shopping.
Forever 21 became a wardrobe staple. 
We shopped at the Bellvue Square where they have Snowflake lane during the holidays. It was magical. At 7pm a parade of drummers and sugar plums and snowmen and elfs march down the sidewalk and the drummers take their places and music drumming and candy being handed out goes on for the next half hour. Snowflakes magically appear from the sides of the buildings and fall on us all. So pretty. It was really beautiful. 

In the midst of all of this of course is school and keeping Florence entertained while Katie has cheer practice, cheer dinners and socializing with friends. 
Florence made friends but never became close until the very last week of school. 
One of my biggest struggles was getting Florence away from reality TV and Facebook. Facebook was her connection to her social life in Belgium...with out her. Really made her depressed at times. Some of the trashiest reality TV shows were constantly trying to be watched. It became a struggle between us. I had to resort to "I need to call your mother and see if she would approve of you watching these shows" "Oh no she would never let me watch these. It's no big deal" "Not on my TV...change it". I often forgot that Florence is 18 years old. She lives a very different lifestyle in Belgium. She is used to having nannies, housekeepers and gardeners. Mother and Father are both Professors at the University and so Florence didn't really have to do anything for herself. She had lots of others to do it for her. So here she had to be reminded as Katie did too, to pickup her stuff, put away your dishes, clean the bathroom, change your sheets, do your laundry. 
I told her I was preparing her for College.

Football seemed to never end. This team could not lose. They went into the State playoffs and games went all the way into December!

So, here is Katie with her squad at the Tacoma Dome for the State Championship. It was so exciting and I was so happy for these girls to experience this moment.


And here is the 2010
Washington State 
2A High School Football 

 What a great time that was. Glad it is over though because Basketball started right at the time of playoffs. Whew. I need to be younger for all of this.

 We finally headed out to cut down our Christmas tree the second weekend of December.

We decorated the tree, baked cookies and breads and more cookies and chexmix. We ate alot and sang Christmas songs and drove 2.5 hours to find the perfect hill for sledding. It was so much fun. 
Then Christmas was here and over and on the 27th it was time for Florence to go home to Belgium. It was bittersweet. We all cried and promised to keep in touch. 
Today we called her and she made it safely home and sounds ecstatic. I am so happy for her. 
Being an exchange student requires alot of emotional strength. You are forced into an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation with a foreign language thrown in. You have to think about every word that people are saying to you and respond not in your native language. Family and friends are far away and you must be pleasant. I feel for the students who are here for a year. I would not have been able to do this at the age of 17 as most of the exchange students are. 

During this whole time we managed. We managed schedules, we managed food, homework, grades, emotions. We managed to make it to today. Mike has been unemployed the entire time and I worked but reduced hours. Life goes on no matter your situation. I found strength in the words of others and by being grateful for everything in my life. My family, my health, my friends and all who surround me.  I am so blessed. 
What a great experience this has been. 
Would I do this again? Probably not since Katie is getting ready for college and it wouldn't be fair to have a teenager here so far from town without another teen to relate too.  
I highly recommend it to others though. 

This has all distracted me from much bigger issues in life like the health of my family far away. I feared loss of my family because of their health. I cannot stop what is happening. I can only comfort. I cry from my broken heart but it is for my loss. I now must be strong and less selfish and be their for them when they need me to hold them up. I will do my best but I cannot promise. I will be sad for losing them but I know that there is a circle that must be completed and we cannot stop it. 

Every day must be lived in this very moment. 
And so I do. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Catch Up

Wow two months have gone by very fast. There is a lot to catch up on but I am going with the photos
We have enjoyed having Florence staying with us. It has been very interesting to see the changes she has gone through in such little time. I find it ironic that we got an exchange student that is just as independent and outgoing as Katie. I cannot imagine having an exchange student without another teen living in the home. Oh how bored they would be. We have met many of the other exchange students at events and their host families. I was really surprised how many there are just in our district. We are learning alot about Belgium in particular. At 16 you are allowed to drink beer at local pubs. So that is what the students do every Friday after school or even half days. You are not allowed to get a drivers license until you are 18. Probably a good thing, hence the beer.To say that Florence misses the pub is an understatement. I told her that is why her Mother sent her here so she could experience being a teen without drinking. There have been lots of laughter in our house. The silver hats were made because Jupiter was clear in the western sky at sunset and it looked like it was flashing red, blue and green. Florence insisted that it was Aliens spying on us. So Katie convinced her to make the hat and actually were it!!!!  
    Florence and Katie warding off the aliens with their aluminum hats
 We had the pleasure of going to see the Seattle Symphony at our local arts center. Oh it was so amazing. I felt renewed afterwards, it had been so long. Katie really enjoyed it too and wanted to go home and play her clarinet again. Florence wanted to take a nap and couldn't believe how long it was. Oh well. Exposure is always good.
An afternoon of culture
Gerard Schwarz last 25th year as conductor and his last year.
 Then it was time for the first razor clam dig at the beach. It happens regardless of the weather. Always at the first low tide. Florence had no idea what she was getting herself into. It was such a stormy day that we really didn't get very many, maybe enough for a pot of clam chowder. The girls were troopers though and let their inner child emerge and played on the beach in their rain gear until the wind was blowing so hard you had to lean into it to walk. Hot chocolate, chips and salsa and a hot shower erased the cold within.
Razor Clamming in the worst weather ever @ the beach
 And then there is football every Friday night. Katie's school is very spirited and they have lots of school pride so they really turn out for support. Florence doesn't understand why Americans are obsessed with sports. Soccer and Tennis really does it for the Belgians. But not a priority. At first Florence just looked in bewilderment now she even sings the school song with every touchdown. High school football is so much fun!
     Friday night football


 Then there was Homecoming. Another American Tradition. There was lots chatter about dates, restaurants, dresses, hair and such for 2 weeks. Poor Mike. He survived and nearly cried when he saw Katie. Now for me I realize how quickly time is moving forward now and I am trying to be in every second of every moment and drink it all in. What a joy.
Katie's invitation to homecoming umm on my car by the way
 And no the car wash does not take all of that paint off but it does a great job of embedding it into every little crack and crevice on the car.
Two very cool girls w/ dates jackets
 Tumwater tradition is to go to the steps of the Capitol since it is only minutes away and take pictures of the kids right around sunset. It was so beautiful.
Yep, couldn't be prouder

The Group that went to Homecoming
So there you have it. So many other things have been going on but these are the lasting memories. Katies football team is competing in the State Championship so football cheer will overlap with basketball cheer. Poor Florence. She says that when she is at the games she feels like she is watching an American movie.
Florence talks about missing her family and it makes me really home sick too. I have fantasies of family living close by and having Sunday dinner together and seeing them on a daily basis. I am happy to have the internet now so that I can read the blogs and chat on IM and email and texting and  free long distance with the cell phone.But there is nothing like a hug.

This weekend is Halloween then before too long Thanksgiving. Florence will not believe the spread we put out for a holiday of gratitude!

I hope it will not be 2 more months before I post again but...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome to America

Florence has arrived! Poor girl, when we met her at the airport she looked terrified. Of course I hugged her right away because that is what I do without thinking and then I realized I probably shouldn't have done that. Oh well. Welcome to America!
 She was quite nervous, understandably. But I am so impressed with her. She seemed very reserved but has since loosened up. Florence speaks English very well. As the days go by more and more without a strong French accent. Within 24 hours she was off to a birthday party with Katie at her friend Reid's house.
They went to the mall to have Reid's nose pierced, shopped then went to Reid's for a BBQ and Birthday Cake!
She fits right in here. When I apologize for Katie and her friends being so goofy and loud  she says "This is how I act with my friends too". Good to know.
Each day we learn a little bit more about Belgium and Florence and her family. She has very strong family ties.

Florence, Reid, Katie, Stephanie

Doors of the State Capitol Olympia
We have played tourist as much as we can with Katies cheer schedule. We have visited the Capitol. (not very impressed, I think because when we say that it is 100 years old that is nothing compared to the buildings in Belgium that are centuries old). 
We did a picnic at Burfoot Park
Trail to the Sound at Burfoot Park

Dip into Puget Sound

Mike and Katie on the sound.at Harstine Island.  Katie skiied for quite some time.
Florence attempt at skiing. What a trooper!

We spent the weekend at Mikes Dads place and had a great time in the sun. My friend came for a day with her 3 kids. They were quite loud and Florence got very quiet. Hmmmm...

We have been to the mall at least five occasions. Signed her up for a library card and registered for school. 
I have watched more Real Housewives of Jersey Shore than I have ever wanted too. Florence loves the E channel and is shocked that we do not have MTV. I wish we didn't have E! She has spent hours on the computer IMing her friends on Facebook. 

Yesterday we  signed Florence  up for her classes. Took her for a thorough tour of the school. She is very nervous about starting. She has no classes with Katie and so far not with Katies friends either. She feels strange going back to High School after just graduating. There will be a lot of adjusting for her but she is a teenager and their is the common language. She will have no problem making friends I am sure. She is not interested in after school activities which brings certain issues for myself and transportation. We have no public transit to our house and do I let her ride with other kids I do not know!!!!!! I am a very protective mama bear. We will cross that bridge when we get there.Tomorrow is the first football game and I get the feeling she is not very interested. I hope she has a good time. 

So there you have it. Pretty well up to date. Florence comes from a very upscale family with housekeeper and gardener. She has done her own laundry and cleaned the bathroom without complaint so far so good. I think she is adjusting well. As well as we are too. It feels like she has been here longer than 2 weeks. I am sure she will be leaving all too soon. 
To Be Continued...