Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Creative Outlet...

It was almost a year ago when my oldest daughter contracted the H1N1 flu, and was hospitalized with life-threatening complications. My husband and I took turns staying with her around the clock; one was at the hospital at all times, while the other would be at home with our younger daughter.  We took 24-hour shifts and the arrangement worked pretty well, considering the gravity and stress of the situation.

During one of my shifts at home, however, I was feeling particularly restless and felt the need to DO SOMETHING.  Hoping to share my daughter's story and send out a plea for people to pray for her recovery, I spent a few hours learning the ins and outs of video slideshow production. Quite pleased with the results, I then posted it to YouTube and Facebook.  The video got a lot of positive response... and as a result, I found a new creative outlet in the midst of very unlikely circumstances.

In February, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and I wanted to create a tribute to them.

This is the result:

Of course, it was only fair to include my youngest daughter in the mix...

For my 20th wedding anniversary, a retrospective was in order:

And then, there is my most recent project, a video of some of the horses and scenes from around the farm:

I truly enjoy producing these videos.  When my daughters ask about what they should do or be when they grow up, my answer is always the same: they should do whatever it is that when they are in the midst of it, they get so absorbed that time flies by and they lose all track of it.   I am so fortunate to have a number of passions, and to have to opportunity to devote much of my time to them... my horses, my writing, and now this new creative outlet as well.  Its amazing to see how they are all coming together to work in conjunction with one another... and proof positive that keeping an open mind to the possibilities in life really does open up new opportunities.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Of Teddy Bears and Pixie Dust

Six years ago tonight, I was nesting.  Folding and re-folding tiny onesies and sleepers while watching television, something I've done relatively little of in the years since.  I was excited, restless, and yet... content.  Looking back, I realize now that I should have been sleeping.

The next day there was to be a routine check-up with my doctor... then grocery shopping, and after that, a relaxing weekend with my husband and seven-year-old daughter.  There is a saying, however... if you want to make God laugh, just make plans.

The next morning was rushed; I learned early on in my first pregnancy that if one does not wish to spend hours in the waiting room of a busy OB-GYN practice, its wise to make your routine appointments for early in the morning.  So, it was hurry-up-get-my-daughter-on-the-school-bus, then jump in the vehicle for the seventy-mile trip to the doctor's office.  I remember it being the most beautiful of September days.  Little did I know, I would not return home for a week.

As is the case at every late-term prenatal appointment, the doctor took my blood pressure and then checked my "progress"... and I will never forget the look of grave concern which crossed her face.  Nor will I forget the speed at which I found myself suddenly placed into a wheelchair and pushed to the other end of the building to the maternity ward, checked into a room and hooked up to an I.V. which would drip labor-inducing drugs into my system.

For a pragmatic woman like myself who likes to do things by relatively natural methods, the whole scenario was stressful and disappointing... yet when your baby's life (and your own) is at risk, ideals tend to quickly get thrown out the window in exchange for the most technologically advanced medical intervention possible.  My labor was induced, I was given an epidural early on (as the baby was in a bad position and the pain excruciating), and we narrowly avoided a c-section.  We found out days later that the baby had broken a clavicle (collarbone) during delivery; she was jaundiced, I was severely pre-eclamptic, we were both very ill, and we both spent the next two weeks in and out of the hospital before things settled down and we could just be a family.

But, despite our stressful introduction, one which would make any natural-childbirth proponent gasp in dismay (me included)... we survived.  We bonded.  We looked into one another's eyes (hers, rimmed with the most beautiful eyelashes to ever grace a human child) and fell immediately, totally in love... and have, until a few weeks ago, been apart very little in the years since.

The best advice I ever got from anyone in regard to parenting was to "enjoy every single moment.  They grow up way too fast."  I took that advice to heart, and stayed home with my daughters; it was a decision I will never regret.

That does not mean it was an easy road, however.  The "date nights" were few and far between.  We ate, at times, a lot of potatoes and venison.  I learned to cook creatively out of necessity, rather than real culinary talent or desire.  If I wanted Mexican or Chinese food, I learned how to make it myself.  The telephone and computer were often my only social outlet.  February usually lasted three months.

But oh, the joy.  Of being there when my baby took her first steps, babbled her first words, cut and then lost  her first tooth.  Of walking the floor with colic/earache/strep throat, of the thousands of miles she and I put on our hand-me-down rocking chair.  Of watching her personality develop, and her character and confidence blossom....

Three weeks ago, she started Kindergarten.  It was an emotional day for me, but we were both ready.  This daughter has always been an adventure-seeker, one who lives to see what's over the next hill, and had no trouble whatsoever walking on that bus and into her future.  There were no "I miss Mommy" tears, no regrets, and there was no looking back.  And now every day at 4:15, I do a "3-2-1" countdown before the hurricane of enthusiasm that is my youngest daughter, blows through the door to tell me all about her day.

As I tucked her into bed tonight, she was squirming with delight in the knowledge that tomorrow is her birthday, her first "friends" birthday party, that there will be gifts and cake and oh, yeah, gifts.  It is also her "V.I.P." day in her classroom.  Her joy and excitement is something I wish I could capture in a jar, to save on the shelf and savor in years to come.  While she said her prayers in a sweet little voice, I found myself wishing for the ten-thousandth time that time would just... stop for awhile.  That it would just let me squeeze out every last drop of her at five years old.

But as my friend Gladys would have said, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."  And so I sit here tonight, having wrapped my daughter's birthday gifts, baked the birthday treats for her class and packaged the party favors... savoring the moment.  She'll not be five years old again, after today.  Gone are the days of diapers and pacifiers and that sweet, fuzzy, sweet-smelling head nestled against my shoulder.... of teddy bears and pixie dust... but that's okay.  I savored them, drank them in, wrung every last succulent drop out of them.  Those days are now replaced by ABC's and 123's and the occasional eye-roll.  Much to my surprise and delight, they are every bit as joyful.

Oh... and and after six years, I am actually... finally... catching up on sleep.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Service With a Smile


The small town nearest to my farm now has two convenience stores.  

Big news, I know! But bear with me here for a bit... this is a teachable moment... 

I frequented the first store every few days for a couple years, and while the faces grew familiar, they rarely were anxious to smile, converse, or thank me for my business.  It often seemed as if they felt they were doing me a favor in taking my money, of which I gave them plenty (being one of those evil, die-hard SUV owners and all).

So when the second store opened, I gave it a try.  Much to my delight, the staff is friendly, helpful, accommodating.  They once tore the place apart attempting to find a stamp for me when the post office down the street changed its hours and I needed to get a letter in the mail.  Tonight, while waiting for my "Friday Family Night" pizza, one clerk with whom I've chatted a few times suggested we should get together for coffee (she and I realized we are neighbors), and we most likely will do just that.  I actually look forward to visiting that store, which is probably high praise for a gas station.

These two stores are similar in many ways.  Their pizzas and prices are comparable, though the first store carries a larger selection of products.  And, of course, gasoline is just that.  But here's the kicker... to patronize the store I favor, I must go out of my way and cross a busy four-lane highway.  This girl does not generally go out of her way, nor am I much of a shopper.  I tend to visit the most convenient location, get what I need and get out, even if the convenience costs a few cents more.

Unless, of course, it feels good to go out of my way... and in this case, it does.  By simply acting as if my business matters to them, by building a relationship and offering pleasant customer service, the second store earned my willingness to make the extra effort to cross the highway and spend my money at their establishment.  

If that seems inconsequential, consider this:  I drive a large SUV (a necessity), live fifteen miles from my daughters' school, twenty miles from the town in which those same daughters attend tae kwon do classes four nights a week, and eight miles from our church.  That adds up to a whole lot of miles and a whole lot of gasoline most weeks, and does not account for the couple times a month I drive into the city, or to my parent's house an hour away, or the occasional family road-trip.  We buy gasoline for my vehicle, more for my lawn mower, and diesel fuel for the farm pickup and tractor.  And of course, we occasionally purchase a pizza, or case of soda, or some paper towels... 

These two stores are an apples-to-apples comparison; the difference is in the small details.  Relationship building and customer service are not rocket science.  Its pretty simple, really. 

Smile.  Ask about your customer's day.  Be helpful.  Be authentic.  

It makes a difference.