Monday, May 16, 2016

Ichthyosis Awareness Month 2016: Ashlynne's point of view

Every year for Ichthyosis Awareness Month I write a blog (or a few) from my perspective.  I write about what Ichthyosis means to me, how it has affected MY life.  But I can't tell you how it feels to be the one that actually lives with it each day.  So I figured, why not go directly to the source? So here is Ashlynne's story, from Ashlynne's perspective.... Enjoy :)

"Hi, my name is Ashlynne and I'm 13 years old.  I have ichthyosis.  I've had ichthyosis my whole life, so I don't really know what it feels like to be normal.  I want to know what it feels like to be normal.

Ichthyosis makes my skin red, dry, and flaky.  It makes it really hard to bend my knees and my arms.  Sometimes my tummy is tight too.  That just depends on the day.  I also get hot a lot easier.  And I can't sweat, so that really sucks because I can't cool myself off.  I don't get to do a lot of things that other kids get to do because I might get too hot, and because I don't bend very well, like Gymnastics.

I don't like having ichthyosis.  I have to take really long baths every night.  I hate to take baths.  And I hate how long they take.  I would rather take showers.  But I don't get to take showers very often because my mom said its not as good for my skin.  And I have to eat a lot because I need a lot of calories for my skin.  My mom is always yelling at me "Eat Eat Eat!", but I'm not always hungry.  I think Ichthyosis keeps me from making some friends.  Like, the popular girls may not want to be friends with me because they don't think I'm as pretty as they are.  I also hate it when people stare at me.  Sometimes when kids stare, their parents don't even do anything about it, and that's just rude.

But there are some good things about having ichthyosis.  I do have some really good friends.  And we get to go to conferences every other year.  This year, we get to go to San Diego!  I'm really excited about that.  At the conferences, I get to meet people like me, and I get to see other people that I already know, like Jordan, Abby, and Bailey.   And some times I get seconds at school lunch.  And also, sometimes, when people stare, I make crazy faces at them, and I know I wouldn't get away with that if I was normal. Someone has to teach them not to stare!  And a couple of weeks ago, there was a show on TLC called "Two in a Million", and that week it was about Ichthyosis.  It was really cool to see people that were like me on TV. 

What I want people to know about me is that I am normal on the inside.  I may look different on the outside, but I'm really just like them.  I have feelings too.  I love my friends, and my family, and my dog and cat.  I'm a big sister, and a good friend.  I like Slim Jims, and doing things that other, normal 13 year old girls do.  I LOVE Miranda Sings, and her husband Joshua David Evans.  They're YouTube stars, if you don't know who they are, go check them out!  I also really love reborn babies.  They are dolls that look very life like.  I like when I am out in public, and I have one of them, people stare at the doll instead of me.  Also, I don't want people to feel sorry for me.  I don't like it when people say "Oh honey, you poor thing!"  That's rude too.  And you shouldn't be rude.  In the words of Joshua David Evans, be nice to people!"

Sunday, March 20, 2016

All dogs go to Heaven, at least mine do

My fur baby, Hurley
Nothing will rip your heart out quite like losing a pet.  Those little furry animals that can drive us crazy getting into the trash, or chewing up our kid's toys,  or taking an occasional dump at the top of the stairs, leave a huge whole in our lives when it's their time to go. 

Hurley was six on New Years Day this year.  She was a puggle, a pug/beagle mix, the kind of dog I had wanted for years. We got her on a whim on a trip to Kansas City on a weekend in March of 2010.  It was slushy out, and my car had slid into a ravine, and gotten banged up a little on the way down, so I was a little down in the dumps.  Russ, not knowing how to cheer me up any other way, told me we could go look at puppies.  I don't think he realized at the time I would have my heart set on coming home with one.  So my friend and I set off to the mall, and in Petland, there was a puggle up for adoption.  My heart was hooked.  I went back to our friend's house, where Russ was waiting, and pulled up Puggle breeders in the Kansas City area on line.  After calling several, we found one that had one male left, ready to go that night, and the price was considerably less than any of the others.  Bingo, there was my dog.

So my friend and I took off to meet the breeders at a half way point, leaving the guys back at the house.  The halfway point was a casino called "Terribles".  The lady told us to meet her at the very back edge of the parking lot.  While waiting in the pitch black parking lot, and making many references to "The Hill Have Eyes", a van that I was surprised was even able to travel at highway speeds pulled up, and out stepped a little old lady, rollers still in her hair, ready to hand off my puppy.  She opened the back of that van, stuffed full of dog kennels, and pulled out the cutest puppy I have ever seen.  And when she handed him over, the smell hit me like a brick wall.  This dog smelled like it had been rolling around in a pile of dead carcasses. 
The cutest, smelliest puppy I had ever seen

Straight to Wal-Mart we went to buy dog shampoo, a collar, and other puppy essentials.  But we couldn't leave this new puppy in the car alone... thank God for big purses.  My friend cleaned out her purse, in went the puppy, and in we went to Wal-Mart.  The only problem was the still un-named puppy didn't realize that barking and whining was not supposed to be coming from the inside of that purse.  We got some rather strange looks from strangers as we were walking through the aisles getting what we needed, and even more looks when the smell would hit the passer-byes.

The bath was the first thing in order as soon as we got "puppy" home.  The name could wait.  This smell was a dire situation.  Several shampoos later, "puppy" smelled better, but there was still a faint stench.   What did this crazy ladies with the rollers in her hair keep these puppies in?  And after several names tossed back in forth, we somehow settled on "Hurley". 

The kids were so excited when we brought this puppy home.  And even my dad, who was pretty convinced I didn't need another dog, could help but fall in love with this dog.  He just kept laughing and saying "Yup, that sure is a cute little BOY", and stressing the last part.  I didn't know why he thought it was so humorous that I got a male dog.  He decided that instead of calling her "Hurley", he was going to call him "Himley".  After about a week of letting us wonder what was so funny, he decided to let us in on the joke.  "Did you ever notice your dog squats to pee?"  Well ya, but "he's" a puppy, so he just doesn't lift his leg yet, I've seen other male dogs do that... But he picked Hurley up, and pointed her belly at me, and proceeded to point out that what I thought were Hurley's "balls" was actually a hernia... "Her" privates were definitely innies, not outies.... We had a female.  The vet confirmed it a couple of days later.  But we already loved her, there was no way we were sending her back.

So she weaseled her little way into my heart.  She was Russ's first pet, so she got rather spoiled there.  She was too cute to resist.  And she knew it.  While trying to housebreak her, one night she jumped onto my bed, looked me dead in the eye, and took a dump right in the middle of the bed...  She was bold.  She was going to be noticed, and this never changed.  She always made sure everyone knew she was in the room.  And if you turned your back on her for a second, she was either in the trash, or into something that she shouldn't be. 

Over time she got increasingly fat.  We even discovered if I picked her up and squeezed her, she would fart.  And she regularly got the walking farts.  She fill a room with love, but she could clear one with her gas in no time flat.

Hurley and Zailey waiting for their treats
Then Friday, I got home from work, and she was just gone.  She looked like she was just sleeping in her kennel.  I knew when she didn't jump out at me like she always did that something was very wrong.  My heart broke instantly.  Then I looked over at Zailey, our other puggle, and she was just staring into Hurley's kennel, whining, and all of the hair on her back was raised.  She knew.  She had just been to the vet this fall, where they said she was healthy, just needed to lose a little weight.  I don't know what happened, all I know is that my heart is broken.

We buried her next to Bill, my 15 year old min pin that passed in January.  I still have Zailey, who is getting very spoiled, but I don't think I will ever get another dog.  They just break your heart when they leave.  They fill it while they're here, but there's a huge void when they're suddenly not.  They're not "just a dog".  They're a part of the family.   A huge part.  They play their own little role just like the rest of us.  And for those that say that dogs don't have souls, I think you're wrong.  I think they have more of a soul than most of us humans.  And I don't want to picture a heaven without dogs.  Especially without mine that I have lost.  Hurley is up there waiting for her humans along with Bill and Annie (my boxer that passed in 2011).  My heaven will definitely include them.  I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'd like to think that these 3 are up there playing together again,
waiting for the day their "humans" join them

Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Wife, Happy Life? I say "Happy Hairdresser, Happy Life"

Ever heard the saying "Don't piss off your hairdresser" or something along those lines?  I hear it all the time, jokingly, from people sitting in my chair.  However, after 13 years in this industry, I have realized this actually holds some water.  The sad reality of it is this:  Many people (waaaaay more than you would ever think), don't understand common courtesy in a salon.  So, here, my friends, are a few little tidbits I'm going to toss out there to help you avoid finding yourself in a situation where you have just made someone angry, who just so happens to be holding very sharp shears. 

1.  Put your cell phone down.  The other day I did an entire eyebrow and lip wax on a woman who was talking on her cell phone the entire time.  She was on it when she walked in and made the appointment, she was on it when I took her back to be seated, and she was on it the entire time I was applying hot wax to her face.  Seriously woman, put the phone down, or next time, I'm waxing around it.  So rude.  There is nothing that is so important it can't wait the 30 minutes that an average haircut takes.  And if something is that vital, you need to be off dealing with that, and not sitting in my chair.  But the next time someone comes in, talking about the guy they met on and refuses to put the phone down... I'm serious, I'm cutting and or waxing around it.  Consider yourself warned.

2.  Don't bring your children to your color appointments.  Many hairdressers have children as well, it's not that we aren't sympathetic to you trying to squeeze your appointment into your busy schedule.  We actually very much appreciate that you are making time for us.  However, I personally, come to work as a break from my kids on some days.  It can be an escape from all of the craziness going on at home.  Many other guests in the salon at any given time are also doing the same.  None of us have time to try to entertain your child while we are working.  I LOVE kids, LOVE THEM, but when I have my hands covered in color and lightener, I can't play with your child.  Nor can I have you turning your head, and moving all around trying to see where they are, or what they are doing.  Your hair WILL BE tiger striped if you do this.  Promise.  And it won't be my fault.  Also, do you know how expensive those hydraulic chairs are?  The levers are not mini trampolines.  And let's be honest, a 2 hour color appointment is a LONG time for a kiddo.  Unless your child is getting their haircut too, I pretty much guarantee they aren't having any fun either. 

3.  Do NOT ask me if I am any good at my job.  Rude.  That's all I have on that one.  Oh, and most hairdressers I've met that aren't any good, don't realize it, so you're not going to get a "Yes, honestly, I suck" answer.  It's not going to happen either way. 

4.  Find a girl (or guy) and stick with them.  Attention picky clients!!!:  If you are that particular about your hair, and you want it done JUST like the lady did it last time, go back to the same lady!  I am not her, she is not me.  We are going to have different techniques, no two hairdressers are the exact same.  I can do my best, but more than likely I will not be able to duplicate someone's work.  Be loyal.  Pre-book your appointment before you leave each time.  It will get you further than you realize.  If I have to hear the entire appointment, about how great "Judy" was last time, and how I'm not doing it just like she did, you're probably NOT going to get my heart put into that haircut.  NOT saying that I would ever mess it up intentionally, but if I already know my best won't be good enough for you, then I'm probably just going to do my best to just get through the appointment.

5.  Don't put your hands in your hair while I'm cutting.  Piggy backing off of that last one... Please DO NOT try to check my work while I am still cutting your hair.  Do you realize how sharp my shears are?  That's a quick way for one of us to lose a finger, and chances are, it won't be me.

6.  Don't try to help me at the shampoo bowl.  Getting your hair shampooed is a way for you to sit back and relax during any service.  Just let me do the work.  So many people try to "help" by lifting or tilting their head when they are trying to predict where the sprayer is going next.  Do not do this.  More often than not, this is when you see people with water down their backs, or in the worst case scenario, when you see one or the other of us, if not both, get sprayed in the face.  I appreciate your eagerness to help, but it is absolutely not helpful.  And if I get sprayed in the face... I'm mad.  Promise.

7.  Just remember we are people too.  We have our good days and our bad days, and as much as we try to leave our problems at the door, you never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors.  We try to conduct ourselves in the most professional, courteous manner, and we would appreciate the same from you.  Don't take your bad day out on your hairdresser.  In fact, if you've had a bad day, in all honesty, that's one of the worst days to come to the salon.  See Below:

8. Don't make drastic hair decisions on bad days.  When I went through my divorce, my hair went through a transformation.  I went from long, gorgeous blonde hair, to short, chopped 2-toned reds.  That day, I loved it.  Looking back, I ask myself what I was thinking.  If you want to change your hair because your life is changing, awesome.  I'm all for drastic changes, in fact, it's an adrenaline rush for me.  But the last thing as a hairdresser that I want, is for you to hate your hair.  So please, don't come in and chop all of your hair off because you are mad at your boyfriend, and he likes it long.  You WILL regret it, and chances are, you will be mad at me for letting you do it. So please, just don't put either one of us in that position.  There's a saying "A woman who is about to change her hair, is about to change her life".  Let's just work together to make sure that's a positive change!

Seriously, there's clip art about this?
Bring a picture, then!!
9.  Bring a picture.  If you are going for something "a little different", please have a point of reference.  Nothing will irritate a stylist faster than you expecting us to read your mind.  Just remember, "a little off"  to you, could be way different to me.  With Pinterest and Google, there is no
excuse for not having a picture with some general idea of what you want.  Not mind readers here...

So, there it is.  Just a FEW tips on how we can all peacefully coexist.  I love my clients, and I don't think any of them would intentionally do anything that they would consider rude.  However, there are different professional courtesies from industry to industry, and how is everyone supposed to know if we don't enlighten them?  That's what I'm here for folks... Until next time...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Open Letter to my daughter, as she becomes a teenager

My sweet baby girl,

I know you're probably rolling your eyes (because by this age you have perfected that so well) at the fact that I just called you that, but that's exactly what you are.  My first baby.  And that's exactly what you'll always be.  I can't believe that my sweet little baby, that I brought home nearly 13 years ago is now entering into her teenage years.  And when you enter those adult years, and become a mother yourself, you will still be just that.  My baby.

I remember bringing you home after two weeks in the NICU, wondering how your life would be.  Wondering if you would even make it to 13, for that was so uncertain at the time.  Wondering if you would struggle more than most.  Wondering if you would have friends, or boyfriends.  Wondering how this big, mean world would treat you.  I had so much anxiety for you for these upcoming years.  Everyone always talks about, and it's no secret, the fact that middle school can be the toughest years of your childhood.  God, I was scared.  But guess what I have figured out?  Your teenage years are going to be freaking awesome!  Because that's exactly what you are... Awesome.  You will approach them with your contagious smile, your amazing sense of humor, and those big blue eyes, taking it all in, just as they have done since the day you came into this world.

While I know that you will take these tough years and make the best of them, like you do most situations, I also want to warn you that you will be facing some tough times ahead.  No one makes it out of these years unscathed, sweet girl.  Even the most ideal of childhoods produce less than ideal memories from this age.  You will fight with your friends, have your first boyfriend, break up with your first boyfriend, lose people you love, experience your first heart break.  And I will be there to hold you as you cry during all of this.  As long as I am walking this earth, I will always be a safe place for you to fall.

I am prepared for the fact that as you grow older, and your social life becomes more important, that movie and snuggle nights with mom will become less cool.  I am well aware of the fact that my opinion won't matter quite as much as it did a few years ago.  I am somewhat prepared for the fact that there may be a time where "I hate you" or other terms of endearment are thrown my way.  Why am I so sure these things are bound to happen?  Because I was 13 once too.  But just as I know they will happen, I also know that some day, you will chose to drive home from college to see me "just because".  I also know that you will beg me for a girls night or weekend.  I also know that you will someday call, crying telling me you're sorry for all of the times you told me you hated me, because you now realize how much I have loved you when you look in the eyes of your own children.  Why do I know this?  Because I have been there too, sweet girl.

The first time I ever held you in my arms.  A moment frozen in time
As each day closes in, I know that you are closer to becoming an adult, and you may not "need" me quite so much.  But I also know that you will some day replace that need with a want.  The more and more independent you become, you will need me less, for a time not want me at all.  But then some day, that pendulum will swing, and you will want me back by your side.  But we aren't there yet.  Right now we are in that transitional period that so many moms have warned me about.  The teenage years are supposed to be as trying, if not more, than the toddler years.  You were a very easy toddler, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these teenage years don't break us!  But when you get to the point, and you feel broken, know that I am always here to help put those pieces back together.  Know that I will never let you completely fall apart.  Know that I love you with my whole entire heart.  Know that the first time I held you, was the first time my heart ever felt whole.  And it has been whole every since because of you. 

Please, go easy on me these next few years.  Remember, you are my first child, so being a mom to a teenager is all new to me too.  Let's forge this road, just as we have done all the others: Together.  Remember baby girl, It's us against the world.  Let's take it on.


From the most precious little baby...
To the most spirited young woman I know,
Happy birthday baby!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What you have to know when raising a strong willed child, coming from one herself

I got spoiled with my older kids.  They were so easy, although I didn't realize it at the time.  Last but not least, came Breckyn.

For the past 4 years I have said if B would have been my first child, she would have been my only child.  Being the youngest of four, she has definitely been my challenge, and I guess many would say, my payback.  Time after time since she has been born, I have heard it said that she acts just like me.  And while many days I have felt like I want to either rip my hair out or overdose on happy pills, I can also say that I get her.

Being a very strong willed "child" myself, I can remember some of the frustrations of being a little
Here we have a ruffled sleeve shirt,
some Nike shorts,
and some ballet flats. 
Who says this doesn't go together?
person that has so many rules to follow.  Some of the most common fights can be avoided with her by simply picking my battles.  I have learned I can't put too many restrictions on the choices she gets to make.  One of the most common battles we have had is our morning routine, and deciding what we are going to wear.  I battled this for so long with her, until I finally just gave up.  I remember being younger, and laying out my clothes for the next day and hearing "No Cora, pink and red don't go together", and I've found myself saying very similar things to B in the mornings.  Then I remembered how frustrated I used to get by that.  To me, it didn't matter if it matched, I like the pants, I like the shirt, and I wanted to wear it together.  And today, many times I have heard my sister say that she never would have thought an outfit I bought looked good on the rack, but once I put it all together, she loved it.  Maybe in her mind, B is doing this too.  So one day, I let go.  I just let her wear it.  And the most miraculous thing happened, we had a good morning.  So I decided that's how it would be.  As long as it's weather appropriate, she can wear it.  Who cares if she looks like one of the kids that came out of a Gap Kids ad?  She's happy, and "expressing herself".  She's not hurting anything at all by wearing a pair of rain boots with a Christmas dress.  As of lately, we have been wearing our swimsuits to bed, and guess what?  The world is still on its axis.

I HAVE to answer her.  If  don't, she will just keep at it.  Fighting for her place among 3 siblings, sometimes I think she just wants to know she is important too.  I can't get away with just telling her to wait a second, or ignoring her until I get done with what I'm doing.  She needs to know, and she needs to know now.  It doesn't take that long for me to simply look away from what I am doing and give her an answer.  I don't have to give her exactly what she wants right then, but I do need to give her an answer and acknowledgment of what it is she is saying.  It may not always be the answer she wants, but I have learned that if I at least answer her, the meltdown lessens. 

To piggy back off of that, she needs explanations.  Simply saying "No" won't cut it for her.  It wouldn't have for me at that age, and it still doesn't work for me.  I want to understand reasoning for things.  If there is a reason I should or shouldn't be doing something, I want to understand why.  She is a little person, growing every day towards adulthood, so why shouldn't I help her understand things?  No, I don't cater to her, or bargain with her when she doesn't like the answer, I simply explain why it is the way it is, and most of the time we can just move on.  She simply wants to understand the way of the world, just like most of us (though little does she know, we will never fully understand how most things work the way they do).  Another thing that I can attest to from first hand experience, is that most of those famous Breckyn meltdowns come from frustration.  I know, because I had them, and sometimes still want to!  Strong willed kids are so black and white, that they just don't see why it can't be the way they want it.  You have to take the time to explain things to kids, and that some times things just don't go as planned.  I used to be that mom that would say I didn't understand why people would sit there and explain things to their kids after they had said no.  NO means no, right?  Why sit there and debate over it?  Don't let your kids be in control.  Tell them no, and let that be the end of it.  Well, for some kids, that's enough, but for B it isn't, and it helped me remember that it was never enough for me either.  Explaining isn't letting your child be in control, it's YOU taking control of the situation, and avoiding a meltdown, potentially in a very public place. Help them understand, and remove the frustration.

Pick your battles.  Every once in a while, you just have to give in.  You/I may be busy cleaning house, or getting caught up on binge watching Netflix, but it won't kill to me to stop and put in a Monster High DVD and watch it with her for a few minutes.  Besides, soon she will fall asleep because she has been going a hundred miles a minute all day, and some day, hanging with mom won't be cool.  When she is "bugging" me, hounding me about putting that movie in, what I really need to understand is that she is asking me for a few minutes of my time.  While she might be doing it in a very demanding manner, she is simply wanting me.  The laundry can wait.

On the flip side of that, you also have to be consistent.  You have to stand by your words.  If you say no, for whatever reason, don't go back on that.  If they aren't allowed to play outside for the night, don't give in just because they are pestering you about it.  If you give in once, they will see that, and never forget.  You will forever be pestered about changing your mind, because you've done it before.  Trust me, I know.  I did it.  They can be stubborn, but you have to be more stubborn.  You can win this battle!

My mini-me and I, having the time of our lives
Let them be them.  Don't dampen their spirit.  That strong willed nature, or stubbornness if  you will, will carry them through some down right hard things in life.  That nature may be what gets them through certain things that other people would give up on.  Very rarely will these kids take the easy way out.  They're
going to do something, or finish something, simply because people thought they couldn't.  They are going to try their hardest to prove everyone wrong.  And because of this, they are going to do great things.  These kids grow up to be leaders.  That can be good or bad, depending on how we shape them.  So mold them into something amazing, and they will do their very best to make you proud! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Adios 2015

I didn't send out Christmas cards this year.  I've always said I was going to send out one, with the cute collage of family pictures, and the letter explaining our year, but it still hasn't happened.  And this year especially, I just wasn't feeling it.  I wasn't feeling especially festive, and I didn't want to send out a Debbie Downer Christmas letter, because it may have potentially gone a little something like this:

This year has been a living hell.  Filled with one obstacle/tragedy/whatever!, after another, and it has really gotten this girl down. I wouldn't relive this year if someone offered me some obscene amount of money.

It started in mid-January when they announced they were putting my grandma on hospice, followed by my mom's wreck, a major surgery for one of my uncles, my aunt having stints put in her heart, my cousin's house burning to the ground, a very personal tragedy for another of my cousins, and possibly the most heart wrenching, my grandma's passing in April... and that was all in the first 5 months of the year.  The in between times were filled with an exceptionally challenging year at work, toddler challenges, and the stress brought on by everything combined.

By the time it was all said and done with my mom (if you didn't hear about her wreck, here is the scoop), she had 11 surgeries under her belt, stays at 3 different hospitals, and a total of over 40 days spent in the hospital combined.  It was crazy scary, exhausting, and heart wrenching to watch her hurt and struggle.  She is officially out of her wheelchair now, having turned it back in to the company she rented it from, but no where near 100%.  The sad reality is this:  This may be her new 100%.  This, walking with a severe limp, and moving slowly and cautiously, may be as good as it gets for this one time go-getter.  And I've never witnessed something so frustrating as watching my mom struggle, and just wishing I could fix that damn leg.

Grandma lost her fight on April 9, never getting to say goodbye to mom because she was not able to travel other than to and from the hospital at the time.  That has to be what is weighing on my heart the hardest about this year.  The two most important women in my life, both crying over each other.  And I can't fix it.  I will never have that chance, or the power to do so.  And I miss her.  Oh, I miss her terribly.  My world just hasn't seemed right since April 6, the last time I heard her voice.

Work has been especially crazy.  I lost a couple of girls due to career changes, and have hired more, which involves training, and coaching, both for them and myself.  I have some pretty high expectations put on me, both by myself and the higher ups, because of the good numbers my team has always pulled.  Because of that, this year was by far the most stressful I have experienced as a manager.   

To top all of that off, we have preteen hormones, and toddler tantrums running rampant through this house, and my dog that I had had since I was a senior in high school died.  He was my first side kick, and the best feet cuddler ever.  Some days, it was hard to pick if home, work, or Zimbabwe was where I wanted to be.  There were days where running away had never sounded so good.  There were plenty of days where the sound of my phone going off made me want to vomit.  Locking out the world seemed like the better option for a good portion of this year, however unrealistic it actually was.  I just didn't have that option...

So I trudged through.  And I made it.  Always looking for the silver lining in that proverbial cloud, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year.  First off, I made it through it all.  "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  Yeah, I have heard that quote, but didn't really want to test it out again.  Second, my mom made it through it.  I don't know that I could have made it through all of this without her, so we were kind of a package deal there.  Third, I got 32 full years with the most amazing, loving woman I ever could have known.  If I can end up being half of the woman that my grandmother was, I will consider myself a huge success.  Fourth, while my career was more exhausting and stressful than ever before this year, it also prospered, and grew.  My client base grew, my skills as a stylist, and definitely as a manager and leader grew, so how can I consider that anything but a success.  And last but not least, my kids are GOOD.  They're healthy, they're happy, and they're smart.  And they love their mom... HUGE success right there.  No greater reward.

While it was definitely the most challenging year I have faced to date, it wasn't all bad.  There were definitely some bright spots.  In January, adding another iron to the fire, I signed on with Mary Kay as an Independent Beauty Consultant.  I have taken a trip to Dallas, hosted several parties, and actually made some money!  So far, I am loving it, and have found that it is actually enhancing my career as a hair stylist as well.  It all kind of goes hand in hand.  In June, I got to take a trip, with Ashlynne, to NC to see one of my lifelong best friends.  While we were down there, we took a side trip to Myrtle Beach, where we met up with my "sister from another mister", Jordan, and I finally got to get my hands on her perfect baby girl, Sadie.  While in Myrtle, Ashlynne tried to buy a "tobacco" pipe, and then a matter of minutes later, smelled what it is that pipe was really used for when we walked through a cloud of smoke on the board walk.  She also got to see some "working girls".  I would say the trip was pretty enlightening for her.  Toto wasn't in Kansas anymore.  Gavin had his first year of tackle football.  He learned so much, and had a blast getting in those pads every week.  And I was so proud watching my little bruiser out on that football field.  Breckyn played her first year of tball, and Logan his first year of coach pitch, and both survived and enjoyed it!  Logan survived another entire summer with us, and I think actually had fun!  Breckyn and Ashlynne both did their first year of dance and had some adorable recitals.  My children have always been my driving force, and this year, I really had to lean on that.

I also had two other friends that both had happy, healthy baby girls.  I so much enjoy watching my friends have babies, and look forward to getting spoil their kids as they have done with mine.  And through all of this I have learned that I have some pretty amazing friends, and a lot of people in my life that really love me.  Sure, I had some people that I expected to be there that let me down, but that was the least of my worries when I looked around and saw the overwhelming amount of support I had.  So one thing I guess you could say that I wouldn't change this year, is that, becoming more clear.  If ever I had a doubt about whether or not my friends would be there for me, there was no reason to doubt that now.  I hope that I never have to repay the favor in the form of what they did for me, but I would do it in a heartbeat if life played that card.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
from my family to yours!!
So I will gladly close the door on this year, and welcome 2016 with open arms.  If new years are about new beginnings, then let's begin it already.  2016 has GOT to be a better year than this one.  I am going to make it a better one.  That's my goal.  I won't let the hard knocks of life take another year from me.  I'm going to take this new beginning, and run with it.  Look out world, cuz this girl is on a mission.

Happy New Year!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Be the change...

A tragedy rocked my little hometown to the core this week.

A teenager, a 16 year old boy, took his own life.  Leaving a very loving, very devastated family behind.  The PROJECTED reason? Bullying.  I don't know for sure that this is the reason that Tommy isn't with us anymore, but it has started a serious discussion around here.

This has been a subject that has been a very hot topic for years.  We have workshops.  Our children attend anti-bullying assemblies.  We drill into our children that there is zero tolerance for bullying behavior. We try to teach them to report it, and speak out against it. But it seems as if it never really gets better, regardless of the action plans that schools and communities seem to put into place.  I feel like there are a couple of reasons for that, and if we open our eyes, they aren't hard to pinpoint.

First of all, do kids really even understand what bullying is anymore?  It's not just physical.  It's not just a group of kids encircling one kid on the play ground and pushing him around.  It's not just shoving a kid into a locker.  It's RELENTLESSLY tormenting someone.  It's not giving this kid a break.  And a lot of times, it's sneaky.  Its done when the teacher isn't looking.  It's done when walking home from school, where there isn't an adult to stop it.  It's on Facebook, or Instagram, or snapchat.  Social media apps, such as After School, have given kids a way to torment others, completely anonymously, allowing them to hide behind a computer screen.  It doesn't just stop once kids walk out of the doors at school.  It follows them everywhere.  It's when someone actually makes a sport out of ruining someone else's day.  But this term has been used so loosely.  I've heard my own children use the term when someone just doesn't talk to them.  I have had to explain, there is a huge difference between someone not talking to you, or going out of their way to be your friend, and bullying.  But because this term has been pounded into their heads, and gets used so frequently, I have witnessed a generation of kids that misuses a very serious term, and has desensitized the rest of us to this word.  It has almost become a situation of the boy who cried wolf.  And in cases like what happened this week, it sounds like we should have listened.

Second of all, I think we, as a society, need to take the blinders off when it comes to bullying.  EVERYONE is susceptible to being a victim of bullying.  It knows no socio-economic boundaries.  It does not discriminate.  Just as equally, everyone is also capable of being that bully.  Bullies don't just come in the form of the big jock with the crew cut wearing his letter jacket.  Your kid may be getting bullied, but as parents, we need to open our eyes to the fact that our own kids may be the bullies we speak of.    Breaking this cycle has to stop at home.  We need to teach our kids right from wrong, hold them accountable if they don't make good choices, and be AWARE of what our kids are doing.  Monitor their social media, get to know their friends and their parents, pay attention, and lead by example.  If you bully your children, you can almost bank on the fact that they are passing that on to someone else.  And if you bury your head in the sand, and think your child is incapable of doing wrong, or would never do that, you can bet they're probably doing it, and knowing they're getting away with it.  Step up.  Make your kids take responsibility for their actions.  Teach them right from wrong.  Teach them compassion.

People are so quick to place blame on school administrators and teachers for not doing enough to prevent the bullying, or stopping it once it starts.  But our educators are paid to educate our children, not raise them.  That is our job. Fingers have been pointed at three administrators in particular this week concerning this topic, saying that over the years they haven't done enough.  But I ask you this: how do we expect these 3 administrators to know what is going on in the lives of over 1000 kids in our school system right now?  Shouldn't that be the role of the parents?  When I got in trouble at school, I got a call home, and that was the worst punishment imaginable.  But too many parents become defensive and combative when problems are brought to their attention, rather than sucking it up, accepting the fact that their kid may have screwed up, and handling the situation.  It sucks, you don't  want to imagine your kid may be part of the problem, but it's time to get realistic.  We have created an environment where educators don't feel comfortable approaching parents for a variety of reasons.  Whether it's because nothing gets done, or because they end up feeling attacked or because it's just easier, that bridge has, in many cases, been burned.  But have any of you stopped and thought about this:  the frustration we feel, many of our educators feel as well.  Why?  Most of them are parents of children currently in the school system.

So I propose this:  Let's all step up.  Let's hold each other accountable.  Let's stop being scared to approach another parent to have that difficult discussion.  Let's be the change that we all keep saying needs to happen.  I promise you, that if one of the "popular" kids, stepped up and said, "this is wrong and I'm not taking it anymore"  they would quickly see the influence they have and many would follow suit.  And if you have been one of the people bullying, it's NEVER too late to change how you treat people.  Young or old, we are all given another chance to change each and every day.  There are some people that are natural leaders, and some that are natural followers.  I can honestly say that I don't ever remember "bullying" someone.  But I can also remember plenty of times I saw it happening and did nothing to stop in.  As an adult, reflecting back, I wish I could change this, but I can't.  So I am drilling into my children the importance of it.  Not once, did I ever have a friend turn their back on me because I stood up for something that was right.  We need to stop being so scared.  I am very proud of some of the young people that I have seen speak up in Abilene this week.  They have shown class, and compassion during something that people their age aren't equipped to handle.  And this gives me hope.

Today, as Tommy is laid to rest, let's all decide to stop fighting.  Let's pull together.  Let's stop talking, and start doing.  Let's make this town, this school district a better place for our young people, and many generations to come.  Change can start with one person, I believe it already has.