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Thank you:)

Music Monday // I Won’t Give Up

This man has a gift for reaching others with his music. Love this song.

Kdrausin.com/blog/

Talk Less, Say More

It’s not often that I talk about popular music here.  I mean, I guess I do but I also like to share the new stuff you might not have heard of or new music by the artists you have.

And then this song was on the radio the other day and it was like a knife being jabbed into my soul; it struck a chord; I felt something.

Whether you’re a fan of Jason Mraz or not, I don’t care; listen to this.  There’s passion; there’s a story; there’s something to relate to, especially if you’re going through something.  Just listen.  It’s 4 1/2 minutes of your time and I don’t think you’ll beg for it back.  In fact, I think it’ll become an hour of your time as you play it over and over again, but an hour well spent.  At least that’s how I’ve spent many hours this…

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Peace

Check this article out on my new blog page.

The hour before sunset is my favorite time of day. This is when I feel a pull to drive to the Cape beach or plant myself on the sidewalk outside our front door. There I sit with five cats lounging beside me, all of us silent. The sky is filled with hues of yellow, pink, orange, and blue. Palm trees wave in the wind. A dove coos. I am grateful. I find that silence heals me from the clutter of life.

Here are the words of Sue Monk Kidd taken from her book, FIRSTLIGHT.

There is an extraordinary need in our lives for silence. The constant noise and chatter, internal and external, causes us to lose touch with the center of our being. When that happens, we become caught in all kinds of unimportant things. We suffer from this noise. Many of us even cling to this pollution of noise because it drowns out painful hungers inside. There is an old contemplative saying: “If you cannot improve the silence, do not speak.”

Epic Fail Fall Cake

Epic Fall Cake

This post can be found on my new blog. Kdrausin.com/blog/.

It all began when I was perusing the Martha Stewart dessert site and I spotted the most colorful cake I had ever seen. It was called the Super Epic Rainbow Cake.

Of course in true Krista fashion I decided immediately I was going to make this super epic cake but with the colors of fall instead of rainbow colors. What better way to begin the season than with a super epic cake? That’s what I told Arielle and she replied, “but you don’t like cake. Maybe you should make recipes you want to eat.” Nah, someone will eat my cake, the fun is in the challenge of making it. That’s what I thought.

I watched Martha’s video. I went to Whisk’s Kid’s page and printed out her directions. Then I went to Publix and bought all the ingredients. Did you ever have one of those days where you felt like everything you did ended up in frustration and there’s really no reason for it? You woke up perfectly happy but as the days events unfold you realize you would have been better off sitting on the couch reading a book. Labor Day was one of those days for me. I woke early and worked on my new blog with Eric. We sat for hours trying to design the header and it wasn’t happening. We discovered we both need to improve our visual spatial intelligence. When given all the tools and skills to decorate, we have trouble seeing where everything should go. Finally, we decided it was time to walk away from the computer and we went to our separate gyms to run and refocus.

As soon as I got on the treadmill, a man I hadn’t seen in a long time came over to talk to me. I didn’t want to be rude, so I took out my earphones. He decided I was going to be his sounding board for all that is wrong in politics. I hate talking politics. I also dislike constant complaining. The negativity that surrounds a barrage of complaints permeates through my skin to my heart and feels like a weight bringing me down. This man wouldn’t stop so I added two sentences to show him I wasn’t going to join in in his bashing, blaming session. Two calm nonchalant sentences meant to show him that not everyone thinks the way he does. Suddenly, a loud voice to my right startled me. A stranger who was listening from the treadmill near me, loudly spoke up after hearing what I said. He was one angry, angry individual who needed to run on that treadmill instead of walk in order to get rid of all his hostility. I had that jumpy energy surge through my body, I smiled, threw my hands up in the air and gave a little speech about how I came to the gym to work out and I certainly didn’t want to upset anyone… everyone is entitled to their own opinions… blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile I’m thinking, how is this happening? What a day I’m having. I just want to run three miles and then make my epic cake.

Now, since I had trouble visualizing exactly what I wanted on the new header of my blog, I decided to use colored pencils to design the layers of my fall cake.

A good example of someone lacking visual spatial intelligence. (I'm no artist.)

Arielle and and her friend chose the winning color combination. Even though I was still feeling a lingering uneasiness about my day, I decided to stick to my original plan. It was around four pm. when I pulled out all the ingredients.

White Cake Ingredients from a coconut cake recipe... See Whisk Kids recipe

If you want to make the epic rainbow cake, click on Whisk Kids link above. She’s already listed all the steps. I’ll show you some of my pictures.

Maroon 5 is on the radio and I'm dancing and mixing.

I can alternate flour and milk while mixing and taking pictures. I rock!

Do I really need to line all the pans with parchment paper? Nah, that's a pain. I'll experiment and try three with and three without.

Look at all the colors of fall. This cake is going to be epic for sure.

This is awesome! I can't wait to make one of these with Valentine's Day colors.

O magazine had an interesting article on intuition last month. I read it. Did I listen when my little voice told me something was wrong. Nope. Did you spot it yet? This could be like Where’s Waldo of cooking. Where’s Krista’s mistake?

There are absolutely no egg yolks in that egg white mixture. And there was absolutely no swearing during the separation of egg whites and yolks.

Lots-o-butter!

It was around this time that I decided to take a little break and eat a tofu burrito from Moe’s.  When I returned to my baking, I was elated because my frosting went from soupy to fluffy.

Putting it all together. Hey, this looks more like a pancake than a cake.

This is when I knew. I had a sinking feeling that the mistake I made could not be undone. The cakes were not fully cooked – possibly not edible. My instinct told me to insert a toothpick and see if the batter was still sticky… I ignored it. I had cooked the cakes five minutes longer than the recipe stated. I assumed they appeared small because I had separated the batter. Opps. There was no turning back. The cake could still look pretty.

Or Not!

Note to self... self, make sure there are equal amounts of frosting in between the layers.

Whatever you do, please don’t click over to Whisk Kids page and compare our cake frosting skills.

Unless you feel like laughing.

It was ten pm. and the cake was finally done. Yep, I spent six hours baking and taking pictures of my Epic (Fail) Fall Cake. The family gathered together and Eric assured me that I was worrying for nothing. (Nice supportive husband.) Then he took a bite and said “oh.” Not what I wanted to hear after six hours in the kitchen. Soon, laughter followed.

Laughter...

Laughter...

And more laughter.

Our cat, Edison, literally made a face and ran away when Arielle offered him a piece of my cake. That’s what sent everyone into hysterics – including me.

I had great expectations on Labor Day for how my blog header was going turn out, going to the gym and making a fabulous cake. None of those expectations came to fruition. The only thing left to do was laugh at myself and know that tomorrow’s another day. And understand that I should stick with boxed cake mixes and canned frosting if I want to make a cake in under six hours. Oh, there will be another six layer cake. I’m determined that way… I’m thinking cream cheese frosting with my favorite football team’s colors. All I need is a favorite football team… Philadelphia Eagles or maybe Miami Dolphins?

Congratulations to Lisa! She won the drawing for last weeks giveaway. You’ll also be happy to know that the new blog design is almost complete. We’ve been working on it every evening and stretching our visual spatial intelligence. Feel free to let me know if you try this recipe and have more success than me. By the way, you don’t need to use parchment paper. Crisco will work just fine.

Fail to Succeed

  Please visit me at my new blog kdrausin.com/blog/.

My husband has a saying he likes to repeat to me, “You must fail to succeed.” He said he learned this from going to the gym.  The only way he can improve his strength is by choosing a weight so heavy he is only able to do four to six reps instead of the normal eight to twelve. In failing to lift the weight the full amount he succeeds in building his muscles. Eventually the weight he could only lift six times is lifted twelve and more weight is added. The process begins again.

This saying of his has been on my mind lately. Is it true? Is it in failing that I succeed?

Two years ago I met the most amazing group of women. Seven of us traveled to Honesdale Pennsylvania to attend a two-part writing workshop called, “The Heart of the Novel.” Our teacher was the well known editor Patti Gauch. She was the reason we were all there. On our first visit we listened carefully to Patti’s every word, ate incredible food and then retreated to our individual cabins to write. Our goal was to have a completed novel in six months and send it to Patti to edit before our next gathering.

When we all returned to Honesdale it was like a family reunion. We had kept in touch through email discussing what we had learned and supported one another in our writing. We were all anxious to see Patti’s notes on our novels.

This was my first children’s novel and at the time I was still figuring out the differences between an editor and an agent responsibilities. I had two drafts written of MYSTIC and in my mind, I was done. It was ready.

I’ll never forget the rainy afternoon that I received my notes from Patti. I sat on the bed listening to the ping of rain on the tin roof of the cabin reading through her pages and feeling as though I was the worst writer in the world. I wondered why I even tried in the first place. I felt foolish and embarrassed.

I got out my cell phone and climbed to the top of a hill, umbrella in hand, trying to get more than one bar on my cell in order to call my husband. He would comfort my failure and probably even lie to me and tell me I was a great writer. Because that’s what husband’s do.

When it was time for my meeting with Patti, I asked her if she thought I should take a creative writing class. Here I was at a writing workshop with women who had already been published. Women who had graduated from prestigious colleges and I was just a teacher who liked to write. I was feeling very sorry for myself. Patti said no to the writing class and then said something  I’ll never forget. “You’re closer than you think.”

Saying those words to me made me see her notes in a different light. I realized that everything she was telling me about my story was necessary in order to make the story better. My expectations of what I wanted to read in her notes were unrealistic. An editor is a teacher and a guide. A talented soul who helps writers hone their craft.

We focused on the first chapter. She showed me my mistakes and challenged me to try again. Still feeling vulnerable I went back to my cabin and forced myself to sit down with my laptop. I rewrote the first chapter. The next morning the sun shone bright. The dark clouds had disappeared taking with them much of my insecurity. I was not going to give up. Patti read my chapter and smiled. I learned and improved. The process of storytelling was finally sinking in.

If Patti had told me that my story was brilliant, which is what I wanted to hear, I never would have grown as a writer or as a person. I had to fail in order to gain the strength to persevere.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Perseverance – through the perceived good and perceived bad. If I don’t falter in following my path, I know all my failures are just stepping stones to success.

This morning  I typed J into Google. I wanted to research the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. But when I typed J – pictures of J. K. Rowling appeared. I had to look because last night I watched the Lifetime movie of her life. And a few days ago I wrote about Daniel Radcliffe.  That’s when I found the following in Wikipedia.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew.”[42] Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea.
And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – J.
K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008.[42]

Bonus, it tied right in with today’s title.

Thanks for reading and here’s to failure!

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July! I’ve been perusing YouTube searching for the perfect Fourth of July videos. I came up with three. The first is a history lesson for anyone who has forgotten some of the facts they learned in social studies. Next, is a short patriotic clip. And finally a song I’ve heard many times on the radio. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to teach my children since they were little: be yourself, be independent, and follow the light inside you – it will show you your path.

http://www.history.com/topics/july-4th/videos#fourth-of-july-history

Wasted Time?

How can time be wasted when it creates such beautiful memories and holds the promise of an unexplored future?

Every-Day Moments

There are times when I am filled with gratitude knowing that what I’m doing at that very moment is what life is all about. I may be listening to my son’s steel drum concert, watching my daughter race or sitting at the dinner table with my family laughing at how only I could ruin Pillsbury pizza dough. Those are the special moments that make life perfect. Too often I am distracted by my mental to-do list and those moments pass by barely noticed. There will always be laundry, dishes, bathrooms to clean and errands to run but there won’t always be two precious children sharing each day with me.

For the past several years I have had an Eckhart Tolle calendar hanging in my kitchen. This has been where I’ve written all of our family activities. December 31st I take the calendar down and place it in a drawer thinking one day it will be fun to look back and remember.

This August my daughter will be a senior and my son will be in eighth grade. Next May we will celebrate two graduations. Because I know how fast the school year can go, I have decided to add more to my calendar. At the end of each day I will list two things I was thankful for during that day. This way I’m sure to recognize at least two special moments of every day and not let all the responsibilities of being a parent cloud the love and gratitude I feel for my family. One day when I look back at my calendar I will remember more than the activities and project due dates, I will also remember what it felt like to be thankful for the special moments in between.

Thursday June 26th: 1. Being a chaperone and watching Kai play the drums during his steel concert. 2. Reading while listening to Elle’s music blasting from her bedroom and Kai’s guitar strumming upstairs.

Friday June 27th: 1. Booking a mother-daughter trip to N.Y.C. 2. Watching, I Am Number Four, with Elle and Kai. 3. The smile on Kai’s face when I handed him his Pizza Hut pizza!

Reflection

This has been a week of reflection. School is ending. Graduation is just days away. I’ve completed another edit of MYSTIC and it’s time to begin a new novel. It’s been three years since I left teaching full-time. I’m at a place where I’m standing still, looking ahead and looking behind in order to feel comfortable and confident in the now.

I’ve been reading some of my articles on this blog from years past. Some make me cringe and I immediately want to edit or hit delete. Others have shown me my reflection, a gentle reminder that I am on the right path, that I have grown in three years as a mom, teacher, wife, friend and writer.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for sharing my blog with others. Never did I imagine that I would have so many readers. Thank you.

Open The Door

Everyday I drive to the end of our street, stop at the sign and glance to my right. There on a lanai in a tall metal cage is a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw. Tied to the bars of his cage is a toddler’s busy box. He sits on his perch silent.

Surrounded by bars on a beautiful spring day he listens to the calls of the gulls, doves and osprey around him. Is he happy? His existence mind-numbing. My heart clenches every time I see him. Trapped. He’s blessed with wings that have a span of three and half feet, intelligence, thirty to fifty years of life and beautiful bright yellow and blue feathers. But he must wait for someone to open his cage.

How lucky am I that I don’t have to wait for anyone to set me free. If I choose to live my life following the same habits and patterns am I no different from the trapped Macaw?

I am rereading Sue Monk Kidd’s, FirstLight. It’s one of my favorite books. These are her beautiful words. The most gracious and courageous gift we can offer the world is our authenticity, our uniqueness, the expression of our true selves.

The Lonely Dog

All week as I sat at my computer editing MYSTIC, I listened to a howling, whining dog from across the canal. From early morning until mid afternoon, this dog was determined to let the neighbors know of his loneliness.

The Cape has many empty houses. I worried that maybe he was abandoned and starving. A group of trees blocked my view of where I thought the howling was coming from. Refusing to close my window because soon our air conditioning will replace our fresh air, I began talking to the dog in between chapters. “I hear you. It’s okay.” He would quiet down.

Finally, I decided to act. I drove to the house where I thought he was and rang the doorbell. No answer and no barking. Strange. I gave up and continued with my errands.

Later that night, the howling started again. I made my family stop eating dinner and listen. Where was it coming from? I explained my concern. This dog could be in trouble. I asked my husband to drive around with me and search. After over twenty years together he knew better than to try to convince me the dog was okay. “Let’s go.”

We drove up and down streets, parking in empty lots, listening for his howls. I realized that with all the time I had spent writing I could identify all the dogs in our neighborhood not by their names but by their bark. My friend across the canal was silent.

The sun had set. We parked in the empty lot next to the original house where I first believed the dog lived. We found him! Chained up, with access to an open patio and a backyard. Big, beautiful, fat,Weimaraner. He greeted us with only a wag of his tail, as if he recognized my voice. His food dish was full and his water dish empty. A hose sat next to his dish. We filled it up. He was safe so we said goodbye.

This morning my Weimaraner friend is not calling out to me. Maybe his owners are home, maybe he is satisfied because his water dish is full, or maybe he just needed to know that someone was out there and someone heard his cries. It makes me wonder how many people feel the same.

Integration in Sports

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Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Today is the first track meet of the season at North Fort Myers High. I’ll be working the concession stand and darting out to take pictures of all the high school athletes-and smiling. Arielle will be among them thanks to the FHSAA and CAF. (Florida High School Athletic Association and Challenged Athletes Foundation)

It is my hope that every year will bring more wheelchair athletes to our high school track programs. More teens across Florida with unique mobility abilities will have the opportunity to experience high school team sports. It is also my hope that those athletes who want to go on and accept the next challenge will be granted the same opportunity in college.

Thank you to everyone who helped and took the first steps in faith two years ago to make this happen. A special thank you to Rob at the Reeve Foundation who helped our voices be heard.  http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.5036577/k.5A52/Standing_Up_for_What_is_Right.htm

This year, information was sent out to all the Florida high school track coaches, telling them of the new opportunities for high school challenged athletes. Please help spread the word and give kids an opportunity that could change their life. It only takes two clicks to share this article with others.

If you live outside of Florida, you can still help.
There are only a handful of states that allow wheelchair racing in their high school track programs. A  little courage and some unified voices can create change.

If you want to check out some professional wheelchair athletes, take a peek at the University of Illinois team. Several of them will compete in the 2012 Paralympics. http://anjaliforberpratt.com/sponsor/university-illinois-track-and-roadracing

Show and Tell Love

A teacher with her students.

Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. Always has been. Maybe it’s all the pretty red hearts, giving of cards, all the smiles, or maybe it’s the chocolate. Valentine’s Day always makes me feel joyful.

So that’s why I was frustrated when I couldn’t seem to come up with a topic for my Valentine’s Day blog. I love to write, I love Valentine’s Day… there shouldn’t have been a problem. I read poems, searched the internet, meditated, and completely stressed myself out with worrying about what to write. Finally, I reminded myself to take my own advice and “let go.” If I had something to say, it would come to me. This morning I received an email that sparked a topic. I did have something to say. Love = Kindness

Yesterday, while in a convenience store buying water after a long hot parade, I overheard the clerk say to a customer “I’m sorry that happened to you.” When the customer left, I said to the clerk “You were really kind, I’ll have to remember that phrase.” I’m not usually one for speaking to strangers but her words were genuine and the moment touched me. Then I saw the smile on the clerk’s face. My words had made a difference in her which in turn made me feel good. Kindness.

Earlier this month I went out to dinner with some teachers. One teacher told a story of how she had received a phone call from her son’s school. She felt instant dread. What had her son done to elicit such a call? Her son’s teacher surprised her and told her she was calling to say what a wonderful, kind, helpful boy, she had. Shocked, it made her feel so good to receive the call that she decided to do the same with her own students. The next day she called several parents to say positive things about their children. Afterwards, a student came and thanked her and said because of her phone call, his parents were taking him on a special fishing trip. Kindness.

The email I received this morning was from a teacher expressing to me how she was questioning her value to her students after many years of teaching. Unfortunately, this is a common feeling among teachers. The emotional stress of being in a classroom of students with varying abilities and personalities and being responsible for their success on standardized tests is incredible. Teachers can do one hundred tasks right and receive no acknowledgement but as soon as they make a mistake no matter how small, they can have parents and sometimes administration reprimand them, leaving them feeling very unappreciated. There is a lot more I could say on this subject but for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to ask parents and students to remember teachers-and teachers to remember students and parents. A simple sentence showing kindness or appreciation can make someone feel loved and that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. Well, feeling loved and eating chocolate! You can never have too much of either one.

Fire In the Heart by Deepak Chopra: I can remember words people told me years and years ago that changed how I saw myself. “You are a good person” is an incredibly powerful statement from the right person, someone you really respect. “You’re so thoughtful” or “I like the way you say things” or “I’m glad I can count on you” are all words of appreciation that someone wants to hear. When people sell a house and get more than they expected for it, they say it appreciated in value. The same is true for human beings. If you appreciate them, they will increase in value before your very eyes.

“I Hate You!” Parenting Teens


There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your child mad at you. This precious being that you have devoted your life to and love more than they can comprehend, glares at you like you’re an evil sorcerer who has cast a spell of unhappiness upon them. Then the door slams and you’re left standing there asking yourself what happened. Didn’t you make yourself clear? Was there a better way to communicate, “The trashcans must be brought up from the curb as soon as you get home from school?” Or “Please clean your room by 4:oo pm.” Or “It is your responsibility to do and turn in all homework assignments.” So when these rules aren’t followed, there’s a consequence and somehow it always comes as a surprise. How dare I keep my word and follow through with what I said. This leaves me baffled. Was there a time when I was inconsistent and didn’t follow through with a consequence when a rule was broken? Did they think I wouldn’t notice the trashcans or the messy room?

Still the questioning, emptiness is there when I’m on the receiving end of a deadly glare. Even if I know I’m right and it’s my job as a parent to help my children learn how to be disciplined and responsible. Thank goodness for that old T.V. commercial where the parents practiced slamming a door in each others faces while screaming, “I hate you!” Be the parent the commercial stated-or something like that. Every time a door slams in our house, I remember the commercial. I’m not torturing my teen-I’m being the parent.

There was a time when I was very scared to have teens in my house. I’d look at my children when they were little and try to picture them in middle school or high school. I couldn’t do it. It felt as if it would be forever until they got that big. I was wrong. My son’s voice is deeper than my husbands and when he lounges in our Lazy Boy his legs drape off the sides and I am left staring at the size of his sneakers. Parenting is different. I have two budding adults and little time left to teach them how to be the happiest, most content people they can be. All the while still trying to learn how to be the best person I can be.

I took my teens to a Get Motivated seminar because I wanted them to hear speeches of individuals considered to have had significant leadership success in their life. General Colin Powell surprised me with having a great sense of humor and the ability to laugh at himself. He joked about missing his jet. He would walk the red carpet and wave to everyone as he boarded, someone would serve him a Diet Coke on a silver tray and as soon as the soda hit the table, the jet would take off. If that’s not an ego rush, I don’t know what is. And it was refreshing to see a man who held the positions of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State tell of how his wife was not all that excited when he retired and was not going to be getting up and going off to work every day. Or to hear him talk about trying to learn how to communicate with his sixteen year old grandson in a world of Facebook and Twitter. “Why is it called tweets and not twits?” General Powell refused to get a Facebook account until his grandson told him someone had set one up for him and he already had thousands of friends. Well, then it was okay, he joked. “Just because you possess a title doesn’t mean that you obtain the respect of those around you. True leaders gather a following through vision, determination, wisdom, expertise, compassion, and integrity.” General Powell.

As a parent, I am a leader responsible for the lives of two individuals. Even if they glare at me, slam doors or go for a day without speaking to me, it is my job as their leader to help them learn skills such as effort and self-discipline. I am not their best friend that title belongs to their peers. I am someone they can always count on for support and guidance. It is my job to learn how to set and enforce rules and still have the respect of my children. The great thing about teens is that you can talk to them like adults, explain your point of view and listen to theirs. Listening is key. One of my favorite times of day is after my kids get home from school. I make myself available to sit and listen to them talk about their day. As they talk, I am so thankful to have the time with them and I am constantly amazed at the incredible people they have already become. I wonder how I could have ever been scared to have teens in my house. They’re so much fun! And they can carry a lot of grocery bags. I no longer have to make several trips to the car. Bonus!

The message I heard most clearly from General Powell and the other speakers was that leaders know they are human. They have experienced failure and success. They question themselves and question others with opposing views before making a decision. They do not see themselves as dictators imposing rules because it supports an egoistic need. They see themselves as public servants. They have a vision and pursue that vision with great determination but never forget that those they are leading are valuable individuals that must be listened to and respected.

Feeling the uneasiness when my children are upset with me means I’m human and I’m questioning my parenting ability. As hard as it is to say “no” or take away a cell phone or video game, it is my job as a parent to help my children understand that there are consequences in life when rules are broken. Better it be a video game or a cell phone than a jail cell.
K.D. Rausin

Moments

Moments

My grandmother always had a camera in her hand. Thanks to her example the habit has been passed down to my mother, me and several cousins. We love taking pictures.

This year as I received many beautiful holiday cards with family portraits it came to my attention that we never created time for our family picture. I went to the computer and searched through files of this past year, trying to find the perfect three or four pictures to incorporate into a card. This seemed much easier than getting everyone dressed up, finding a location, and hoping we could remember how to set the timer on the camera. As I looked at picture after picture I realized how many brought forth dialogue and feelings from the exact moment it was taken. My quick search ended two hours later and my list of pictures for our card filled half a page. This is why my grandmother always had a camera in her hand. She wanted to capture those moments that brought feelings reminding her of the life she was living, the journey she was on, pictures that captured more than an image but a memory of what it means to be alive.

Here are a few of those moments that have special meaning to me.

Happy Holidays and may this new year bring many moments worth capturing, sharing and cherishing for years to come.

Wall of Good-Byes

Every year I get the most beautiful Christmas card from a family I hold close to my heart.

There was a time, it almost seems like a lifetime ago, when I was a foster mother. We lived in a small two bedroom house. Kai was barely two and Arielle was six. I had seen a news program about orphans in Eastern Europe and knew I had to do something because the thought of a child having no-one in this world was unbearable. It wasn’t an option for us to adopt but I knew there were children in our community who also needed to find loving homes. Eric and I became a foster shelter home for infants.

She was three weeks old, chubby cheeks, dark hair, and she cried and cried. If she wasn’t in our arms, she was crying. One day the doorbell rang and I put her in her car-seat which sat on top of the dining room table. She screamed. I signed for my package, closed the door, and when I turned around saw Kai sitting on the table holding a bottle up to her mouth. There’s magic in seeing a toddler show compassion, that memory has been etched in my mind more vivid than a photograph.

We took trips to the park, mall, Discovery Zone, and at least once a week to Shell Point, my grandmother’s retirement village where we swam in the pool, ate in the Crystal dining room and rode the village train.

In every way, like all the other children, she was part of our family. Then came the phone call. The one that left me numb. An adoptive mother was found and she would be leaving to go live with her brother and sister. Breathe, I told myself. It’s for the best. Breathe. In my mind a tug of war between….you’re not taking my baby!… to….Look at the big picture. This is what I wanted to do-help-I did and now it’s time for her to go to her forever family. The sadness was deep. She was only three months old. It was December. I remember the Christmas tree and me placing my baby girl into another woman’s arms. We said good-bye. I was building a wall of good-byes and each brick had a different child’s name. My tears hid behind the wall. I said good-bye.

Three months later I received a call from her social worker. The woman could not handle three small children, she had changed her mind and no longer wanted to adopt. I was furious. How could our system let this happen? It was a wake-up call for me. I had to be a stronger advocate for the children who came into our home.

When I opened the door I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t recognize her. Wisps of dark hair had turned to a head-full of gorgeous black curls. She was six months old and absolutely beautiful. She cried. Arielle ran into the room to see her and Kai could now say her name. She was back but it took days before she would smile.

A few months later I received another call. Her brother, two years old and her sister, three years old, were going to be moved to yet another foster home. This would be their fifth move since being in the foster care system. Eric and I were outraged.

We decided they needed to be with us until a true adoptive family was found and this time I would be their voice.

Five children, Arielle was the oldest at six and a half, her big sister was three, Kai and her big brother were two and she was nine months. Seven of us, a greyhound, three cats and a guinea pig, in a two bedroom home. It was crazy! Eric and I quickly became a team and worked together to make sure all of their needs were met. Our house was full of love and noise.

After three months and careful checking and many phone calls, a young couple with no children, wanting to adopt, came to our house. They fell in love.

It was September a few days from her first b-day and we met at the park. This time there were three good-byes. Nothing can describe the loss I felt, mixed with the joy of watching the instant birth of a family. I watched them pull away in their minivan, hugged Arielle and Kai and hid my tears behind my wall of good-byes.

Every Christmas a new card gets placed on my fridge and it stays there all year.

31 Hours

It all started fourteen years ago with one question “Where’s the closest post office?” I was standing in the parking lot of, A Happy Beginning Nursery School wondering who this bubbly stranger was. Little did I know at the time but I had just met one of the most influential people in my life, a strong woman who has taught me about happiness, people, friendship and parenting. My dear friend, Elena.

There was an instant connection between the two of us and from that first meeting arose a group of friends organized by Elena, that we still lovingly call, “The Playgroup.” Back then we would meet at each other’s houses for lunch with all our toddlers and the children would play while the mom’s discussed everything from how to handle temper tantrums to future elementary schools.

We were all from varied backgrounds with different political and religious views but we shared one strong bond that connected us, our love for our children. Our children came first and we took our jobs as moms and one Mr. mom very seriously.

There were camping trips, holiday parties, game nights, countless birthday parties, singing at my grandmom’s nursing home, trips to the hospital to see our new arrivals, dancing lessons, biddy basketball games and an annual mom’s only, November weekend shopping trip. Each of us with our unique personalities would share a room at the Embassy Suites, Elena the social queen who made everyone feel special, Kelly, the logical money-wise math teacher who insisted we all tie our shopping bags with different colored yarn. That way we would know how to sort the bags when we returned home. Kim, always fashionable and witty, Jo, our friend from England, responsible and proper we loved to make her laugh, and me the youngest, I suppose they would say easy going, quiet, the watcher. Many times I found myself, cheeks burning, laughing hysterically next to Elena, hearing “What’s the matter Krista, did I embarrass you?”

As the years past our times together became less frequent. Life was busy. We still scheduled birthday dinners and game nights but our trips to the park, Imaginarium, and Lowry Park Zoo were now only memories.

Last September we decided it was time to revive our annual shopping weekend. Despite our reservations about, money, timing, or other activities, we scheduled our women’s weekend.

Friday November nineteenth, Elena, Kim and I packed our bags and headed for Tampa. The two hour drive felt like minutes and the uncontrollable laughter commenced when I managed to get us lost even with a GPS. The memories of all those women’s weekends came flooding back and I realized how much I missed this special time with my friends.

Friday night ended with the three of us chatting in our hotel room in our sweats at 10:30pm. Elena declaring that Saturday night would be the night we hit Ybor City and went bar hopping. Kim and I laughed.

Saturday morning I found myself listening to a long conversation between Elena and Jose, the man who made our omelets and Elena and Lynn, our waitress. Lynn was ready to come shopping with us but unfortunately had to work. Elena’s love of life and happiness is felt not only by her friends but by complete strangers.

After a full day of shopping we loaded the car with packages and Elena and I stood at the open trunk trying to figure out how take a picture and send it on my iPhone while Kim was already in the car tapping her watch “Let’s go ladies, it’s happy hour at Embassy Suites.”

We sat at our table in the lobby with our free drinks and chips realizing that our planned movie and excursion to Ybor City was merely ambitious thinking. We were having too much fun once again simply sitting, chatting and rediscovering the closeness we had shared for many years. Now, instead of elementary schools we were discussing colleges and future careers for our children.

Amidst our laughter, Kim’s cell phone buzzed and she casually picked it up to listen to her message. Phone in hand she said “My mom’s having a heart attack.” I watched her face and waited for the punchline. There was none. Her mom had left a breathless message from the ambulance. Instantly, our attitude changed from relaxed to emergency mode. I too had experienced the shock one phone call can bring and understood Kim’s panic. We did our best to ease her worries, packed our bags and headed for the hospital back home.

Later that night unable to sleep, I questioned what it was about our thirty one hours together that had me feeling such closeness to these two women. It had only been two months since we all shared dinner together. I came to the conclusion that it was in the simple act of making our friendship a priority above all else for an entire weekend. By spending time together we told each other that we were valued-our friendship and our past experiences were valued. Time. We took the time for one another. Thank goodness we did because Elena and I were able to be there for Kim and show her our concern when otherwise Kim, also a strong woman, would have handled everything on her own.

Kim’s mom is recovering in the hospital. Elena, Kim and I will never forget our weekend together. I am extremely grateful that I have been blessed with this playgroup of friends in my life. All of them have been my teachers, my listeners, my helpers in times of need, my guides, and most importantly, my family.

Fantasizing is Not Cheating

I’m talking donuts here. Big round chocolate covered donuts. I’ve been dreaming about them for days.

It all started back in August when Elle and I went to Illinois to the National Junior Disability Championship. We were lectured on the eating habits of athletes. Elle was told that if she wanted to be faster she was going to have to drop the pounds.

At that point, I was going to the gym several times a week and Elle was racing many miles a day. We both were in good shape. Rarely did we drink soda, we never ate fast food, meat was not in our vocabulary and I thought we were eating healthy.

Knowing her aspirations for a successful racing career, I said we would lose weight together. I remembered a trainer at the gym telling me to allow myself one day a week for sweets. He said I needed to shock my body and not let my body fall into a routine. I needed to change things up in order to see results. Well, my thinking then was, I work out so I can eat whatever I want.

I told Elle we were going to have sweets only once a week. I didn’t think this would be a big deal because we weren’t eating a lot of junk. Boy was I wrong! We came home, started our new diet and the first night after dinner I craved everything from mint chocolate chip ice-cream to potato chips. Technically chips weren’t sweets but I knew better and included my love for Cape Cod chips and tortilla chips in my sweets category.

For the first week, I had to have sugarless pudding just so the craving would subside. I looked with great anticipation to sweet day and started my morning with a Toblerone in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Heaven! The day after sweet day, I would find myself staring into our pantry thinking, I didn’t want any stinking herbal tea to help calm me before bed. I wanted a giant banana split with gobs of chocolate sauce pooling in the bowl.

The first few weeks were tough and the scale only dropped two pounds. I was not happy. However, I did quickly realize how much sugar and junk food was actually in my diet. I had been under the illusion that I was eating well.

Then one morning after about a month of our new journey something wonderful happened. The scale dropped. A week after that I was at my lowest weight ever. I felt stronger, healthier and since it had been over five weeks my desire for sweets declined. In fact I ate less and less sugar on my official sweet days.

Arielle too has tasted success. She has dropped pounds and has become faster. This last 5K she completed she beat last year’s time by over three minutes.

We both feel that we accomplished the challenge of one day a week sweets so we have set our goal higher. I’m going for two weeks and she is going for three. So far, I’ve made it a week and a half but every time I drive by Dunkin Donuts….. MMMMM!

I had been content with the way I was. I never set out to change but life presented me with a challenge and I took it. I’m glad I did because I never would have known the strength I feel now. I would have continued with my habits not realizing what I could be. A door opened.

Yesterday, at the gym I found myself saying to an acquaintance-“I’ve always wanted to try those push-ups you do. I’m kind of afraid I won’t be able to do more than two.” I’ve watched him for months, prop his legs on a bench and do hundreds of push-ups-wondering if I could do the same. Little did I know he was a closet trainer. He had me doing sets of ten push-ups until I had reached one hundred. One hundred push-ups! I was hoping I could do four or five just so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Soon I was getting a new lecture. This time it was about me not working hard enough at the gym. Apparently, I’m supposed to be in pain or there will be no gain. Today, I’m in pain! My shoulders are throbbing.

Monday, I’ll return for more push-ups and on the seventeenth I will enjoy a chocolate donut because I have discovered that the advice the first trainer gave me two years ago was correct. In order to see results, I must allow for change, even when I’m content.

Kids, Cars and Chaos

Look for the gems hidden in the sands of time.

Thursday and Friday of this past week were so busy the large McDonald’s coffee I drank before school on Friday left me wondering if they had made a mistake and given me decaf. By noon I was dragging and I had promised the students’ lunch with me in the classroom. I pulled out my travel mug of green tea and my Greek yogurt loaded with protein and played charades with the kids marveling at their energy after an equally long week.

I had one and half more hours, two fall projects and a math lesson to complete before the end of the school day. Luckily it was Friday which meant help; another adult would be in the room all afternoon. When children start counting down the days until Halloween, you might as well stand back and enjoy their excitement because adding and subtracting greater numbers just doesn’t compare to dressing up in a costume and getting a bag full of candy.

In the midst of collecting their, thankful leaves, cutting out pumpkins and gluing on their poems, stressing because their voices were getting louder and louder, a boy handed me his leaf and said, “Look.” Under- I’m Thankful For…, he had written-My Teacher. I froze in shock, the pandemonium of the classroom surrounded me-this was a gem. A moment that reminded me to look beyond the noise and find the treasure.

Later that day, I rummaged through the fridge. The yogurt and tea had worn off and I was ravenous. I still needed to fulfill my duties as treasurer of the Band Parents Association, and make it to the bank before six. Daughter and husband came home. Daughter had passed her driving test. I was happy for her but uneasy about this new change in our lives. Husband was sick and went to lie down.

Son needed to be driven to the high school for middle school night with the high school marching band. He was told to wear jeans for his uniform but informed me twenty minutes before we had to leave that he had none. I bolted upstairs to go through his closet and then I heard my daughter’s voice, “Mom, I cut myself can you get a band-aid?”

There were no jeans anywhere and I blamed myself for not being one of those moms who love to shop. I ran back downstairs and saw blood gushing from my daughter’s finger. She had sliced it while opening a can of cat food. Blood was everywhere! By this time, I was thinking I needed to make a trip to the emergency room instead of the bank and high school.

I ran back upstairs for some gauze pads and contemplated grabbing the super glue. I had heard of it being done before. Super glue the cut in place of stitches-tempting considering the long wait and high cost of a hospital visit.

We taped the gauze around her finger. She calmly said, “This hurts about the same as my blister.” No screaming, no tears, just the sound of my son’s drumsticks tapping the coffee table waiting for the okay to wear his shorts to the game. I stood there, like I did in the classroom, in disbelief, letting life spin around me.

Husband woke and insisted on taking son to the football game to hear him play. Always a great dad. I stayed with daughter to keep an eye on her finger. She was fine and after completing a homework assignment decided to go to the game.

I peeked out the window and watched the red brake lights flicker in the dark as she slowly backed up and headed down our street without me. It had been a crazy day and from the silence of our house I watched her drive away. After seventeen years together with me behind the wheel, listening to Raffi, then Radio Disney and finally B-103.9 in the background of our conversations, now she was in the driver’s seat. I picked up my phone and held it until I got her text. “Here” I breathed. This was going to take some getting used to.

More than ever it is clear that life is change and I must always be on the lookout for the little gems as time drifts by.

Works in Progress

Yesterday was a day of firsts. My son wrote his first song and my daughter had her first driving lesson. Some days, like the day they were born, are etched in my memory forever. Yesterday was one of those days.

Standing alone in a hospital
Body is in control
Calming my young mind
We will be fine.

Holding her in my arms
Eyes staring into mine
Love, intense, blankets my fear
Mom, that is me

Sixteen years of practice vanish like a dream.
“Just get in the car mom, I can do this.”
My eyes open to the brave person she’s become.
Mom, that is me.

Surrounded by friends and family
He screams his way into our world.
This boy has passion.

Siblings, what I desperately wanted.
Two to share time together
Love, intense, blankets my fear
Mom, that is me.

Twelve years of practice vanish like a dream.
“Do you want to hear the song I’ve written?”
My eyes open to the talented person he’s become.
Mom, that is me.

Wanting to cling forever
Time is in control
Appreciating every moment
Mom, that is me.

K.D. Rausin

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Picture book reviews, reviews of books with pictures, and pictures of books!

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