Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Express Yourself”

Rather than a single photo, I’m contributing a video of a fun and beautiful expression of love.

My family’s expression? Couldn’t be more pleased!

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The Refractive Power of Waterfalls

The easiest way to explain refraction is the bending of a wave, rather than it being directly reflected back in a straight path. (For us, we can see this with light waves.)

The Weekly Photo Challenge just happens to be on that topic: Refraction.

So let me refract your attention…
Anyone who knows me also knows how much I love hiking, waterfalls, butterflies & rainbows. (Note that I outgrew adding unicorns to the list.) But none of these compare to me nearly as much as the love I have for my family.

I believe I’m going to be able to work in all of these themes into this one post – without it being too much of a challenge (again, except for the unicorns)! 😉

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Waterfalls are often good places to spot the refractive power of the bending of the light spectrum. And you can see that I found my treasures at the end of this waterfall rainbow!

 

 

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Another North Carolina waterfall that we ran across on a short hike together – more like a 1/2 mile stroll in flip-flops. (Wait to you see what was enjoying the water being refracted from the rocks at the bottom!)

blue mountain butterflies

Tiny water droplets surround the blue mountain butterflies, who are enjoying the refreshing splash from the base of the falls, as each drop is refracted (along with glimmers of pyrite) from the sun’s rays and the shape of the camera lens. (The sunlight is actually also causing the blue from the upper part of the wings to be cast through, reflecting blue onto the otherwise brown side, as the butterflies fold up their wings.)

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More water droplets depict refractive qualities, bouncing from the ground and out of the camera frame – much like the majority of the butterflies, now also making refractive pathways. (Notice the one in mid flight – towards top-middle of the frame – and how its underside camouflages it when its wings are folded & the light isn’t reflected through it, by blending in with the ground covering.)

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And someone has been refracted from his upright position here, proving that tickling may be the most intense refractive power of all!!!! (Who knows? It could’ve even crippled Superman worse than Kryptonite!)

Why I Let My Kid Skip School (to come to My Defense)

The school-skipping offender – and his pup

I let my son skip the first day of his high school junior year this week.

I’m pretty sure it was a more difficult decision for me than for him.

Like most parents who care about their kids’ success, I didn’t want my son to miss out on any key information – like his new locker combination.

I didn’t want him to get behind before the school year had even started – especially behind some cute little gal who’d swing her hair all over his desk during the school year because he missed getting a seat up front, near the teacher. (Surely, that’s where he always tries to sit.)

I didn’t want him to miss out on the excitement of those first few magical moments of a new school year – the high-fashion runway reunions that are only surpassed by the final few hours of summer bum hang-out plans that will now have to wait until about 300 days into the future.

But my son wasn’t having it any other way. He wasn’t going to take ‘No’ for an answer.

Do you think that makes me a weak-minded parent?

If so –

Let me take you back 5 years, to the beginning of his first day in middle school.

That’s when we began our new journeys together. He was transitioning into a new school, where he didn’t know anyone…and so was his mom. (Different school, different anyones.)

He was entering a world where the development of personal organizational skills would be just as imperative as grasping the meaning of girls’ eyes being batted at him with curves trickier than hard hit baseballs – to which he was only otherwise accustomed.

I was entering a world where my batting average of organizational skills would be the only means by which I was going to stay in the game of academia. No sooner had I dropped my son off for that first week of school and gotten my work day in, than I was sitting in a classroom of new colleagues myself. My class was on its way to forming robust doctoral candidates – and sturdy support systems for one another.

I’m happy to report that both my son and I made immediate and long-lasting friends during our week of firsts…and we’ve both honed our organizational and study skills over these past 5 years (while he’s apparently honed his girl-reading skills during that time too). Much of that (not the girl-stuff) came from many study sessions and hours of commiserating – not always solely with our peers, but quite often with one another.

I can think back to one evening at the table when my 7th grade son discovered that, with his new-found algebraic skills, he could easily perform my graduate statistics textbook equations. From there, he double-checked my homework answers for me, assuring me I should get a 100% on my assignment.

I can think back to an 8th grade science project where my son tapped into the collegiate research process to develop his research poster methodology, which he then had to explain in detail to his science teacher to receive a grade. (The more popular ‘swiping water faucets for germs experiment’ doesn’t generally require mixed methods of study.)

And I think back on my past few years of ‘bleacher classes’ – all of those evenings when my textbooks, articles, and my own research work were strewn across seasons of both indoor and outdoor bleachers – just so I could attend all of my son’s sporting events to cheer on his stellar athletic feats. (Yes, I’m a mom. Of course they were all stellar. No, I don’t ordinarily work the word ‘strewn’ into my everyday conversations.)

From the beginning, my son understood that my goal was to beat him – meaning that I hoped to graduate before he did. We might have even gotten a little competitive about it on occasion. There were times when I wasn’t sure I would make that goal. But as of this week, my day finally came. After a huge push of collecting the final data in my longitudinal study, carefully analyzing the information, and working to best communicate the results during this past year…

My Day of Defense Arrived!

Unfortunately, my dissertation defense was scheduled later than I had anticipated, what with research never quite going as planned, the scheduling of my own students’ graduation, and then some of my committee members out of town (or even out of the country).

I was extremely disappointed when I learned that my defense wouldn’t take place until the morning of my son’s first day of school. I had wanted him to be there to experience my defense – to see the final product of the past several years of our educational journey together…but not at the cost of him missing his first day of school. I come from a long line of teachers, you see, so this was pretty much a commandment growing up: “Thou shalt not miss school.” That rule was so ingrained in me that I even stayed at my desk at the age of 10, doubled over with a fever – at least until my appendix eventually gave way and exploded.

Despite me pulling out the engraved commandment stone (albeit cracked from misuse at some point during my mid-teen years), my son wasn’t going to have it any other way. He argued that he would only be missing 2 or 3 morning classes. He argued that he wouldn’t be missing any information that he couldn’t gather the next day. He argued that even his teachers would agree it was important for him to see a doctoral defense – that it would inspire him in his own post-high school education. And then, when all else failed, he pulled out the big guns and aimed. He argued that we had started this journey together, and he wanted to see it to completion. Didn’t I, after all, plan on being there for him when his school years concluded?

On the morning of my defense, there he sat – along with other family members who surprised me by changing their work schedules drastically (meaning they were supposed to be in other cities and states) to be there in a showing of support for me. As I took my first breath to begin my defense, I knew immediately that all was well. Had I stumbled over my words or my feet, had I bumbled the entire presentation and been at a complete loss for words, I realized that none of that truly mattered. This day was complete. I was supported greatly in love.

My youngest son wasted no time getting a ride back from my colleagues the minute my presentation was over – since I had to stay to meet with my dissertation committee for a final time. In his lack of words, I heard the message. My son was assuring me that his academics were important to him too.

I didn’t see him again until late that evening, when he finally came in from his football practice – hot, tired, and hungry. As he sat his backpack and gym bag down, he walked over to me, hugged me up and said, “Mom, you did a great job today. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.”

I’m pretty sure it was his way of saying that he was glad I’d let him skip school – and maybe (just maybe) that I’d even beaten him to graduation.

Hope Melts

Christmas was coming. Lisa was missing her husband, Brian, who was still serving his country abroad. More than that, her children were missing their daddy miserably during that Christmas season of 2011. A majority of our American soldiers had been removed from Iraq by then, but not Brian. He was still one of those remaining, stationed there until May 2012. Lisa brought her little family to church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service that year. She was home for the holidays, surrounded by as many extended family members as possible. Both her children clutched their Daddy-ARMY-dolls that evening, but even a picturesque representation of Dad wasn’t going to stop the melt-down later that night. Santa may be coming to town…but Daddy wasn’t.

Despite their sad little hearts, they sat among us at the Christmas morning service. When our pastor asked if anyone had a praise to share,  7-year-old Nat was the first to respond. Without hesitation, she stood and proclaimed, “I’m thankful to be with my family on Christmas.” The wet drops sliding down many cheeks across the pews attested that all hearts there had begun to melt.

Paul talks about the small child leading us. You see, Nat was surely heartbroken. Yet, she refused to stay focused on the negativity of her situation. Instead, she caught a glimpse of the hope – and somehow instinctively knew she needed to SPEAK IT to make it more real. If she could begin to openly express that May would bring her daddy back to the United States – back home to her family – then she could envision that she and her mother and brother would be with him once again.

Oh, what spring-like joy welled up when May rolled around! Can you imagine what that reunion must have been like? For me, it was an infinitesimal glimpse of what our reunion with loved ones in heaven might one day be!

Oh, and in case you’re interested – their earthly reunion looked something like this…

welcome

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I’ve been wanting to share this as a Christmas story for some time, so today seemed a perfect opportunity to integrate it with the Trifecta writing challenge (with a 333 word limit) and the 3rd definition of the challenge word. I stretched my options – and my luck – by metaphorically using the first definition to ultimately depict the 3rd definition. Even if I get called out on a foul, I wanted you to hear this beautiful, triumphant story that I was privileged to witness. It surely made my own heart melt. 🙂

Hope & Joy,

-jody

MELT (transitive verb)
1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat

2:  to cause to disappear or disperse

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.3xwaQzF7.dpuf

Happy Thanksgiving (especially to those who “dress” rather than “stuff” your turkey)!

How to Dress Your Thanksgiving Turkey – and give it an alias…

While still in elementary school, my son brought home a cardboard turkey one November with the assignment of providing some suitable dressing to go with it.

Being of that magical age in which one celebrates that Wilbur the Pig will live in slop heaven for the rest of his mud-laden days because of winning a Web writing award at the county fair (something to which many of us bloggers aspire so we might earn some extra bacon), my son wanted his turkey to have the appropriate attire to assure his feathered friend’s absence from the chopping block.

For a fowl character like this to survive when he’s on November’s most wanted list, his accompanying dressing better be bad – to the bone. He’d better be better than a homegrown pig. He needed to be a Wild Hog. And he’d better be one hasty hellion to avoid the Thanksgiving dinner table. I ask you – would you want this tough, gristly, grimy guy served up on your platter?

Oh yeah. I said grimy. Check out the t-shirt to see how long he’s been dusting down the road. Don’t miss that this guy ain’t just any ol’ run-of-the-mill gobbler either. Heck no. “Turkey don’t ride café style.” This is one bad outlaw on the run.

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Feel free to help us come up with a suitable alias for our Outlaw Turkey, so he can survive this year’s Thanksgiving season without being seasoned again!

The Family Adult Privileges Act: As Enacted with Teens

much_expected

My first summer as a single parent was already sweltering upon me when my two teen sons heatedly approached me one morning to proclaim,

“Mom, we’re tired of you treating us like kids. We want adult responsibilities.”

Rushed to get my toddler to pre-school and myself to a meeting, I agreed to give their request some thought and get back to them about it that evening at dinner. I then found myself wrestling with their request the rest of the day, recognizing that they already had so much more expected of them than many young people their age. As I inventoried the situation, I at least felt relieved that sports and work schedules lessened their time for certain other extracurricular activities, but I also knew that summer still afforded them too much time on their hands. It took quite a bit of reflection before I was ready to decisively act. However, by dinnertime that evening, I realized they had actually assisted me in being more prepared to become a change agent of our household in granting their request.

As we sat down to dinner, my teens immediately broached the subject, again complaining that I didn’t trust them and treated them like kids. They reminded me that it was time for them to transition into adulthood, to which I reluctantly agreed – then asked them to wait until after dinner for a family meeting.

The meeting began with me facing two very smug looking young men, prepared to be victorious, as they confirmed their request for adult responsibilities and watched as I slowly, yet somewhat sadly, nodded my head in agreement. From there, I proceeded to hand them each a list of adult responsibilities that I thought they should consider, officially posting the master copy to the refrigerator. I watched as their expressions completely changed to shock upon a quick review of this task list of adult responsibilities. It consisted of things such as doing the grocery shopping, making family meals every third day, paying for a portion of the mortgage and utilities, making a plan to set back their boarding expenses for college, transporting their younger brother to daycare, and buying their own clothing. These were in addition to the expectations they already had upon them, such as making their own car payments, mowing the lawn, and doing their own laundry.

My oldest nearly stuttered his words, “Mom, this is not what we meant, and you know it.”

I’m sure my look was quite smug at that point as I reiterated,

“No, what you meant is that you wanted adult privileges. But you have to be willing to accept adult responsibilities in order to experience adult privileges.”

Obviously, the Family Adult Privileges Act underwent some major re-negotiations at the table that night; however, we walked away with a working document by which all agreed they could live. Of course, everything continued to change as these young men truly did continue transitioning into manhood and out of the house; yet that Act still comes up quite frequently in conversation among our extended family members.

My young men have now experienced the dreadfulness of failures when undertaking some adult responsibilities, as well as the need for balance in experiencing adult privileges. They now understand the importance in differences between the two, as well as how the two so closely correlate.

And I now understand this may have been the greatest leadership moment of my life in enacting my own adult responsibility as a parent, privileged to assist my children in their transition to adulthood.

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What’s Your Blood Type? Mine apparently is O-Teaching-Positive!

I lost my parents very early in life. If that wasn’t already going to be a potential educational setback, I found myself pregnant at the wise age of 17 (when you don’t necessarily worry about an education because you already know everything). I don’t really want to revisit the negative aspects surrounding the particular night of how that happened. Besides, it really doesn’t matter anymore. I moved on from there and have never once regretted being a mom. I see each one of my children as a blessing from heaven; they’ve made me a better person all the way around. But I had to support us.

I graduated high school early and had to choose a career path quickly because I’d just been inducted into the adult world. The experience wasn’t as wonderfully freeing as I’d once envisioned. I was able to get an associate’s degree while working part-time and was blessed to obtain a piecemeal education throughout my early career years, eventually adding on a bachelor’s degree. Funny how, just when you believe you’ve gotten your life on course, fate chooses a different path for you to travel. Out of the blue, I was asked to begin a health career program and to teach within it. Along came my master’s degree, truthfully in a field I had never set out to master. Needless to say, I didn’t feel worthy, didn’t feel prepared.

I don’t know why, but I found myself expressing those doubts one evening at church, while explaining my career shift to those listening: “I never imagined myself being a teacher.”

That was the moment when everything connected for me, as my pastor’s wife, a teacher herself, matter-of-factly proclaimed, “Why, I don’t know how you could have expected to be anything else. Your father was a teacher. Your mother was a teacher. Your aunt and uncle were teachers. You even had a sister who was a teacher. How could you not have become a teacher? Dear, teaching is in your blood.”

One of my students working on dissecting a pig's heart. (Told you teaching was in the blood - groan, I know.)

One of my students working on dissecting a pig’s heart. (Told you teaching was in the blood – groan, I know.)  See important disclaimers below.

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Trifecta has a bit of an eerie air in preference, so it comes as no surprise that this week’s writing word challenge would be BLOOD.

However, check your rear view mirror carefully. Not because anything creepy is sneaking up behind you (or maybe it is!), but because the third definition is creepily sneaky. This week’s third choice in definition is:

BLOOD (noun)

3 a : lifeblood; broadly : life

As always during the weekly challenge, 33-333 word count. Mine came in at 333 this week. See what I mean about eerily creepy? (Cue the Thriller music & the Vincent Price voice here.)
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Disclaimer: No pigs were hurt in the writing of this blog. Well, except for the one being dissected. But that was going to take place anyway.

Next Disclaimer: No responsibility can be taken for any emotional damage incurred by this pig’s close family members viewing this blog site. Pigs are not allowed on this Web site. No, it was not Wilbur; so E.B. White cannot make any claims either.