Too Young for Democracy? I Think Not.


It is no secret that I am a politically active Mama.  I write my legislators.  I am the chair of a political action committee.  I am also running for office in 2018.  There is simply no getting around the fact that politics are a daily theme in our household.

I took Abigail to her first march in November 2016 in Nashville.  She had just turned 6.  We marched with 15,000 other people to make our voices heard.  We wore our #NODAPL and Water is Life tee shirts.  She carried her turtle rattle.  I started to explain to her, in a basic way, that rallies, protests, marches and just standing on the side of the street with a sign making your voice known is a big part of America, what our country is built on, why her Granddaddy served in the military and why she should be proud to be an American.  To me, that’s part of what it means to be an American.  I have a voice and I am allowed to use it.  I was also proud to be there with two of my dear mama friends and their children.  We made quite the site with our four beautiful children.  But, they were certainly not the only children in attendance.  There were newborns to teenagers in attendance.


I got home on the high of American democracy at work.  The next morning I opened my Facebook to a surprising message from someone I had not spoken to face to face in 20 years, but still felt they had a right to criticize me as a mother for taking my girl to Nashville.  Their message was horrible.  I will not even repeat it here.  I was pissed.  Pissed was not even the word to cover the rage I felt over someone telling me they would “pray for me” because I was teaching my daughter what democracy was about.  I wanted to call this person out on Facebook and lambast them in every way I knew how.  I wanted to dredge up every single tiny piece of dirt I knew about them and lay it out.  But, I didn’t.  I took the advice of my girl, Michelle Obama, and went high.  I simply reminded people that just because they see me on Facebook it does not give them the right to comment, critique or criticize my parenting choices.

Fast forward 7 months to another political rally.  This time in our hometown to make our displeasure known about the House and Senate plans for healthcare.  Senator Mitch McConnell was in town and so it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  There were many children in attendance carrying heart shaped flags and signs that asked about their friends.  The picture below was posted and the comment came that he should not be at the rally.  He is too young.

carmen son

Let me ask this question.  WHEN IS TOO YOUNG TO TEACH DEMOCRACY?  Do we not think that part of the problem with voter turnout is that people do not believe in our democracy or value the vote?  Too many people believe they have no voice and have no say in what happens to them.  Too many people would rather not be bothered by all the politics.  Too many people want people to shut up and sit down.   I say NO.  I say that the younger we teach this next generation about voting, about finding their voice on critical matters, about loving their neighbor and making sure public policy does the same– the BETTER for us and our future.  And, where is a better place to do it than with them watching their elders participate?  So, no.  Three is not too young to begin the lesson.  Six is not too young to begin the lesson.  Where it is never too late to start embracing our democracy, it is also never too early to start teaching the value of democracy to the next generation.

Abigail and Thomas


Dear Dad…


Dear Dad:

It’s hard to believe three years have gone by.  It’s been a lifetime and an instant.  It’s been an adjustment that will never feel right.  But, we’ve done as you wanted and we’ve tried to move forward.  Some days have gone better than others.  Some weeks better than others.  And, in some cases, we had to take it minute by minute.

I’m getting to the point where I can focus myself on the good times before the bad.  I can think of our daily calls and texts without crying.  I can think about our summers just sitting around talking without feeling the crush of loss.  I can think about all the times you told me you loved me without feeling utterly lost.

I’m also doing my best to work on those areas of my life you always hounded me about.  I think you’d be proud.  I’m taking more downtime.  This was the first summer in my career that I am working less.  However, I haven’t mastered the art of just relaxing as you were always stressing to me.  I’m a work in progress.

I so wish you were here to experience first-hand all the wonder that is your granddaughter.  She is witty, smart, sweet and sassy, and just overall a beautiful little soul.  You knew that though.  I just wish you were here to see her.  I miss the times you used to call just to hear her babble.  Oh how she can talk your ear off now.

We’ve had some major hurdles since you’ve been gone.  But, we’ve done as you always asked and stuck together.  I made you promises and will always keep them.  Family first no matter what.

I promise we will keep moving forward.  We will honor you by living the fullest life we can just as you always wanted for us.  Please keep sending those little signs that I know are from you.  The feathers in unexpected places, the red cardinals that love my neighborhood and the strong presence I sometimes feel.  They keep me going, remembering and give me a little smile and reassurance.

I love you, Dad.  I miss you.  I always will.

Your Daughter

The Road to Independence


First Day of Kindergarten!


When Munchkin went off to kindergarten 2 weeks ago, she did so excited, confident and, frankly, like a boss.  In fact, she told me after we brought her in, “You can go now, Mama.  I’ve got this.”  And, she certainly did.  On day 2 she didn’t want us to bring her in.  She wanted to be dropped off and walk in on her own.  By Tuesday of the next week, she decided our flimsy excuses of why she couldn’t ride the school bus didn’t match up and so she started riding the bus home.  Part of me, like any mother doing this for the first time, was a little sad that she did all of this without needing her old Mama very much.  The other part of me was reminded that this is what I am training her for.

At 5 it seems a little extreme to say I’m training her for independence.  She still needs Mommy and Daddy in so many way and will always need us as her parents.  But, even as she hits kindergarten there are things we are doing that increases her level of independence and self-sufficiency a little more each day.  She thinks it’s complete crap that I won’t jump up and get her whatever she needs.  She is perfectly capable of getting herself a drink, getting her snacks and, as her Daddy wants to push, even start making her own sandwiches for lunch.  We war over cleaning her room, picking up her toys and doing chores around the house.  She looked at me a little shocked this summer when I told her it was part of the gig of being the younger cousin that you sometimes were teased (in a loving, but definitely older cousin kind of way).  I am reminded of my own days of being “Donde-Magombe” though now when they try to call me that I tell them it is “Dr. Magombe” to them.  Good laughs.  Good memories.  Horrible nickname.

But, she is perfectly capable and needs to learn from these early tasks that she can take care of things herself.  It starts now so that it is not a complete surprise the first time she is told to figure it out for herself.  She needs to learn the skills early on so that when bigger challenges come up she can feel confident in creating solutions on her own.  This includes learning to deal with conflict in school, being able to handle it when she fails at something, working hard toward a goal and feeling the great sense of accomplishment when she does it and learning, as much as I do not want to think this way, that Mommy and Daddy may not always be around to fix life’s challenges.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have always felt this way.  I was raised with an emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency mainly due to circumstances.  But, this was brought to the forefront again this week with seeing the devastating loss 11 children are going through in Oxford, MS.  It was brought to the forefront with the responses of those children in the light of tragedy in considering how they will take care of their brothers and sisters.  Those kinds of attitudes just do not appear in children.  They are carefully cultivated by parents.  I was reminded once again in a very stark and sobering way, that as much as I want to be there for Munchkin and be the one to make sure she’s never hurt or in trouble or has to need for anything, life may deal a very, very different hand.  I was reminded once again that my task is not just to love my child unconditionally, but also do the very hard work of building all of those really hard, difficult skills they need.  I have thought of those children constantly and also of those parents who probably never dreamed of this outcome.

I was much older when I lost my precious father and there were many things I still depended on him for—a listening ear and his humor just to name a few.  That void alone has been difficult to manage.  But, again, those skills of coping do not just happen.  You do not suddenly reach a specific age and BOOM!  Coping skills!  Those are also learned through a life time of challenges and problem solving.  So, next time when she yells that I am, “Completely unfair and I am ruining her life!” over making her do something she does not want to do, I’ll just keep remembering that one day she may still yell that something is ruining her life, but she will know how to pick up and get to figuring it out.  And, it is with all of my hope that I am the one there to provide a little humor and a listening ear as she rants and raves about whatever it may be she is facing but also with pride as she figures it out.

What I miss…

dad and abigail



Today I’m thinking about all those things I miss about having Dad healthy and here with us.

It goes without saying that I miss everything. Some things make sense in terms of what I miss, but others are memories that mean a lot to me and may seem trivial to others.

I miss his voice.  I do have a DVD with clips of family reunions where his voice is heard.  I play that more than I probably should.  I was devastated when I learned that my cell phone had automatically deleted his voicemails to me and there was no way to get them back.  I get scared sometimes that I cannot hear his voice in my head.  I miss his voice.

I miss his special ring tone and text tone.  We talked or texted everyday.  I’d hear his text tone and get a smile and welcomed the break to text for a few minutes.  Or, I’d give a small laugh after I made his ring tone drum corp and he’d call.  Yes, I miss talking to him and sharing with him.  But, I miss that sound that tells me he is on the other end.  It seems strange, I know, but when you are used to those sounds and what they represent you miss them.  No one else can be my “gong” or “Drum Corp” notifications.

I miss his reassuring hand on my shoulder.  Dad and I could have deep conversations about life and about things going on in the world.  Sometimes, during really bad times, at the of our conversations we couldn’t say anymore and he’d put his hand on my shoulder, his lips would be tight across the front and the only sound that would come out would be, “tut.” He got it.  I got it.  I knew we’d be okay.

I miss his fried potatoes.  Man, I do not know what that man did to those potatoes, but I’ve never been able to recreate them.  Hubby loved Dad’s breakfasts when we were home.  He did them right.  Dad would laugh and tell me they are just normal potatoes fried in a pan, but I don’t believe him.  He was saying something to those potatoes to make them so good.

I miss him complaining to me that I am messing up his lawn.  He would OCCASIONALLY let me mow the lawn at the house.  But, boy, he would pace (he’d exaggerate that pace to make it dramatic) but not really because he loved his lawn and loved having it “just so.”  Hubby now takes that task because, like Dad, he doesn’t think I can mow a lawn properly. But, I love being on the riding lawn mower at home and coming over every inch of the land he loved, but miss the ball cap being thrown to the ground (in a comical manner) and the clutching of his heart (Fred Sanford style) when I would mess up the mow lines.

I miss him giving Abigail Pepsi, ice cream sandwiches, candy, cakes–you name it–he’d give it to her and then tell me he “forgot” I didn’t give her that kind of stuff.  I miss him sending a weekly DVD for her.  I miss him calling just to listen to her babble.  I hate that my daughter will never know the kind of Grandpa he wanted to be.

The list could go on and on, but for some reason these are the ones on my mind.  But, I also miss something else.

I miss the person I was before he died.  The saying “Death changes everything.” is no exaggeration.  There is no way I can be the same person before as I am after.  I live a full life.  I laugh.  I joke. I love.  But, I’m not the same. You are fundamentally altered after such a loss.

While it will be sad to see another year pass without him, I will remember to laugh as much as I can during this hard month because I am so fortunate to have so many things to miss and love about that man.










Today fear hit me in such a way that I am still processing everything that happened and my own feelings about it. Writing seemed the only way to be able to start reflecting on the events and a part of my new reality I haven’t confronted before.  One that is always in the back of my mind, but I never dwell on it instead choosing to believe it will be sometime in the far, far distance.

It was a regular day.  I was grading papers at my desk thinking toward my afternoon class.  My phone rang. It was Mom. Except when I answered it wasn’t Mom. It was her co-worker telling me she was having chest pains and needed to go to the hospital. I RAN from the office and probably broke a few laws getting to my Mom.

Mom on the gurney. Mom hooked to machines.  Mom looking SO pale and frail.  The calm nature of the doctors and nurses. Me screaming in my head as I observed all of this, “Why are you so calm?  Don’t you know this is my Mom?  Don’t you know this is the only parent I have left?”  Me speaking to the nurses in my own calm voice answering questions about her medical history, family medical history, current medication–so many questions.

Waiting–oh the waiting!  I thought answers about heart attacks would be quicker. Nope–a 3 hour wait to evaluate cardiac enzymes or whatever they are called. Pacing, sitting, standing, looking at my phone, pacing some more, sitting some more.

And then finally the non-answer. She didn’t have a heart attack, but the heart is a funny, funny muscle. She could have been feeling something but only tests from a cardiologist will be able to tell us more.  The ER visit today was to solely tell us she didn’t have a heart attack.  Then, he kind of made me laugh when he essentially told us he was also going to treat her for gas, because you know, it could also be that.  I brought Mom home and then proceeded to nearly give her a heart attack with the number of times I crept into her room to check on her.  And, I will likely do this for some time to come or until we have more answers.  I definitely will be these doctors worst nightmare in the weeks to come as we have these tests.  I want to understand every detail.

But, I’m also sitting here thinking about my support system.  Wow, these people cover me in love and concern when I need it.  Hubby was home ensuring Munchkin was happy and content and, above all, oblivious to what was happening. Texting and checking in.  Making me laugh even when I didn’t want to.  My sister–stomach all torn up with worry right with me–feeling the same fears.  Mind going a million different directions–none of them good.

Two other women, the most unlikeliest of friendships, like always were ready to do whatever I needed.  These two women have been the most amazing friends since we moved to town.  I’m the youngest, J is 10 years older than me and R is 10 years older than J.  I do not think I would have been able to stand, stay focused and be as healthy as I am without their constant friendship.  I do not thank these two women enough for being such good friends and strong examples to me about motherhood, friendship and overcoming challenges. They jumped in and took care of what needed to be done at work and then just kept in touch with me and would have been in that ER in 10 minutes flat if needed.

Later, I reached out to some family to let them know what was happening.  I was scared.  Just needed some reassurance.  They always provide the level headedness.  And, as always, I wish my Dad’s family was just a little closer distance wise during times likes these and that my sister in law was just down the road.

I got home and I reached out to my silent, constant–K.  She knows the deep rooted fear since she lost her father many years ago now. She was right there and you know what, I know with out a doubt in my heart that if I had said, “K–I need you here.” 8 hours later she would have been in my driveway.  She shared how she’s dealt with the fears.  The healthy ways she’s tried to channel it.

And there are many more.  I know that.  And I know I am so blessed in having this support.

But, I’m not going to lie.  It freaking sucks to have this fear of losing my one parent.  I have many friends who have already lost a parent or both and I think, “How do we do this?”  How do we keep all the fears in check or how do you keep the grief in check?  How do I make sure this episode doesn’t put me back into that dark place I was a year ago; two years ago? I just don’t know.

I know I will have this fear, this far reaching, deep fear of losing my only parent.  I know that I have to recognize the fear, deal with it in a healthy way and then handle the future with the same calm on the outside with hopefully more calm on the inside.  I also know that I still have an amazing circle of people around me who will help me with whatever comes my way.


A New Start


Letchworth State Park, New York State


I woke up on January 1, 2016 and I felt different.  I just felt lighter, more motivated and that inkling of “me”–the person I was before overwhelming grief.  the person I was before where I didn’t question every decision I’d ever made.  The person I was before where I didn’t feel an overwhelming guilt.  Even now, 25 days later I cannot quite put my finger on it.  I’m still grieving.  Today proves that–I’m having an angry day. I still have those moments where I question the decisions I made.  I still have a lot of regrets.  But, my outlook on the future, what I want to do with my family and what I want to accomplish professionally is suddenly clearer again.

I’ve found myself in the last 25 days reaching out to my friends again.  Over the last year and  half I just simply didn’t have the energy.  Not that my friendships take a lot of energy.  They don’t.  I have a great circle of women who just let me be.  They understood.  They knew I needed time.  They didn’t take it personally.  They loved me from afar.  But, even just picking up the phone and trying to explain how I was doing was a task.  I had no words to explain.  I couldn’t talk about how I was really doing when I couldn’t explain it to myself.  I turned inward toward my family–those who knew and loved my father best–and just sought their comfort.  I needed that and now I feel stronger and more able to articulate my feelings.

Hubby and I are making plans again.  We are thinking toward the future and the kind of lives we want to lead, the experiences we want Munchkin to have and we are actively pursing those.  We are taking steps to make our shared dreams come true.  We are actively seeking new adventures.  We are excited about potential opportunities.

I’m excited to start the semester.  The last two semesters I had no excitement of being back in the classroom.  This was nothing against my students.  I just didn’t have the energy like I normally did to give them all they needed.  I beat myself up for it.  I hated feeling like I was giving less than 100% in the classroom a place that holds my passion.  I hated feeling like I was putting on a show and going through the motions.  But today, 3 hours from my first class of 2016 I am energized and ready to go.

I also feel Dad saying, “Good for you!”  As much as I miss him.  As much as I want him here.  As angry as I sometimes feel that he’s not with us–I know he’s encouraging me to have a new start and take what I’ve learned about myself in the last 18 months and do good with it.  As he always said at the start of football season about his beloved Buffalo Bills, “This is our year” and in many ways I feel this is mine.  To continue learning to live without him, to enjoying my baby girl to the fullest, to continue going after dreams with my hubby and to be a good daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

Here’s to 2016 and all it may bring–whether good or bad–I’m ready to tackle the future with a fresh, clear outlook.

Disney Extravaganza!!


A dream is a wish your heart makes…


This BLT Mom blog post is very different. It is my trip report from Disney World to share what I learned and our experience with my fellow Disney addicts. I will say–we picked a great week to go crowd wise. We had our moments–this was our first major trip as a sandwich generation family and so we learned a lot about traveling together. I felt my Dad a lot throughout this trip. In fact, right after a character meet and greet in Animal Kingdom Munchkin and I were walking up a tropical path alone and a single white feather floated down in front of us. Feathers have always been my sign and I just smiled and teared up. Always close at heart…

I am thankful that we were able to take this trip. It was everything I’d hoped and more!

Trip Report 12/10/15—12/15/2015

Travelers: On this trip it was me (36), hubby (35), my mother (58) and our daughter (5). This was the first big trip for our new sandwich generation family and Mom’s first trip using a scooter due to mobility issues. Hubby, Mom and I have been to Disney several times. Most recently hubby and I took a trip in 2013. This was our daughter’s first trip. I spent months creating touring plans through I had it down to a military science. And then we arrived.

Method of Travel: drove 12 hours from Kentucky in a rented van and then used Disney transportation for the rest of the trip. From our resort (All Star Movies) we did not wait any more than 10 minutes for a bus. Our longest wait was an evening wait for a Disney Springs bus. For our return trips from the park we tended to wait in the parks shopping while the bus lines went down. This was a great way to do a little shopping and avoid a long line. I don’t know that we will drive again from Kentucky. The trip down was just fine. The 12 hours back was pure torture. I didn’t think too hard on how tired we would be after 5 days at Disney.

Accommodations: We stayed at the All Star Movies. On previous trips I’ve always stayed at either moderate or deluxe resorts. However, because on this trip we would need 2 rooms we decided to stay at a value resort. The rooms are fairly basic (think Holiday Inn Express but smaller). They have a refrigerator. We paid for preferred rooms and were in the Toy Story section. This was a quick 2-3 minute walk to the pool, transportation and front desk area including cafeteria. The outside of the hotel is very neat. Our daughter loved walked to the different sections and seeing the huge characters in the courtyards. I used the touring plans fax room request option. I intentionally selected rooms on the backside of the resort to hopefully have a quiet room. We got the exact rooms I’d requested and they were very quiet. We ate in the food court one evening. The food was ok—nothing spectacular, but filled the void. They had kid’s activities going on and our daughter had a blast watching movies and playing video games with the other kids. It gave me a chance to kick back and enjoy a hot cup of tea and talk to the other parents.

Magic Kingdom: We did MK 2 days. One regular park day (5/10 crowd level) and 1 Christmas party (sold out). For the Christmas party we focused on rides and not the special meet and greets. We walked onto several of the big rides but for others had no more than a 10 minute wait. We also did Be Our Guest for dinner before the party started. It really is about the experience. I ordered the Shrimp and Scallops as did my Mom. The food was overall pretty good just really small portion sizes. Hubby ordered the braised pork and said it was seasoned well. Our daughter had the steak and it was a little on the dry side and over cooked. BUT, our daughter was just so happy to be in Belle and Beast’s castle that it made everything seem insignificant. We watched Wishes from what is typically the Fast Pass spot for Wishes. It was a really great spot. We then moved to main street for the parade. As expected, fireworks and parade area were very, very crowded. But the fireworks were the best we’ve ever seen at Disney and the parade was a lot of fun. I do it again.

On day two we had a 10:35 Boutique appointment for our daughter. My plan was to be in the park by 9:00 a.m. and do a FP at Peter Pan. She was so exhausted from the party the night before that my plan went out the window not only on this day but every other day too. She and I went on our own as a special mommy/daughter date. We arrived at 10:30 and by 10:35 she was in her chair. Our attendant was FANTASTIC. Her name was Kelsey. She was so much fun and Abigail just adored her. They had the photo pass photographers so I just got to enjoy and not worry about taking pictures. We finished within 40 minutes and then met the rest of our group. We did Fantasyland and then had lunch at Cinderella’s Table.

Abigail loved meeting all the princesses. This was our main reason for doing it. The food was nothing to write home about. Mom & hubby had the special which was salmon and I had the chicken. Abigail had steak once again. She ended up eating my chicken and I her dried out steak. Salmon was tasty. But, again you are paying for the princesses and the experience not the food on this one. But, honestly, I felt rushed at CRT. Snow White was by so quick I barely had time to snap pictures. Aurora and Jasmine stayed a little longer and Ariel was great—she stuck around a good bit.

The rest of our day we did Frontierland and Tomorrowland. Abigail is big on rides so we did all the must do big coasters. I had FP for Mine Train, and splash. Everything else standby and waited no more than 15-20 minutes. I was really impressed that there were very few rides where Mom couldn’t ride her scooter right into the attraction. That really helped her. We finished out MK by eating at Cosmic Ray’s—typical fast food. We met a few characters, but the Tremaines were the BEST! Really try to meet them. We were back at the hotel by 7:30 p.m.

EPCOT (7/10 crowd level): This day was a bust for us. Abigail did not like this park at all. She normally likes science, but just wasn’t feeling it. She did Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. We convinced her to wait to meet Belle—line was too long for Mulan. We canceled our ADR at Teppen Edo (thankfully they waived the fee) and my Mom took her back to the hotel pool while hubby and I enjoyed an evening at the World Showcase. It was packed, but we still enjoyed eating our way around the pavilions. Definitely try Tangereine Café in Morocco. VERY good counter service place. I got our spot for Illiuminations about an hour before and had a great view beside the Mexican pavilion. I think this is a toss up park for young kids. I thought she’d like the KidCot stations, but again she just wasn’t interested. Her most fun was the fountain in Morocco. I finished her KidCot Duffy bear with stamps and signatures. It was fun! And traveling with Nana had its perks–a date night at Disney. WHAT?!

Animal Kingdom (5/10 crowd level): We arrived in the park about 10 a.m. and Kilimanjaro Safari was down. I took a chance on Conservation Station because Abigail loves animals and science. It was a GREAT idea! She loved every minute of collecting her badges and learning. She got to pet a snake. She also got 5 meet and greets on the island—Miss Bunny, Thumper, Chip, Dale and Rafiki. She got so much time with them since there was no one around. By far the best character interactions of the trip. We spent nearly 2 hours over there and then hit Festival of the Lion King. If you can get near the front your child has a chance to participate. Abigail got selected and she was thrilled. We did lunch at Tusker House. Once again, fantastic character interaction. We didn’t feel rushed at all and I was glad for that. Each character took their time. The buffet was pretty good. Lots of selection. I enjoyed trying the specialty dishes. We did Expedition Everest twice—1 fast pass and a 30 minute stand by. We ended the day by meeting Pochahontas who, again, just spent a lot of time with each child.

I felt like we packed in a lot that day (even though we didn’t remotely see everything), but didn’t feel the rush I felt at Magic Kingdom. I think that disappointed me. Everything from character meet and greets to rides to meals just felt like we were in a constant race. I know they are trying to get a lot of people in, but it really all seemed like a blur. After our day at Animal Kingdom I really noticed it.

Hollywood Studios (6/10 crowd level): I’ve heard people say this is now a ½ park. I don’t see how. We really enjoyed our day here. We did Star Wars, Toy Story, Rockin Coaster (standby—1 hour but I didn’t get FP because I wasn’t sure Abigail would make the cut height wise), Launch Bay, Frozen Sing along, Tower of Terror, Osborne Lights, Fantasmic, Honey I shrunk the kids playground and I know I am leaving out some other things. I think we did the most actual shows/activities this day and it didn’t feel rushed at all. Maybe we were getting into the groove? Our wait times were pretty low even on a 6/10 crowd level. We waited 20 minutes for Chewy and 30 for Darth Vader. But, I didn’t think anything was outrageous. We wouldn’t have waited so long on the Aerosmith coaster, but it broke down for about 20 minutes making our wait an hour instead of 40 minutes as posted. The dance party is a really fun thing for the kids. I’m so glad we got to see the Osborne lights before they are taken down. Though **rumor alert** a CM told me lots of people were murmuring that they may be relocated to Disney Springs. Take that for what it’s worth—haha. We did Minnie’s Holiday Dinner. The food was good—very similar to Tusker House. Abigail had a great time meeting Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. We saw them all twice. I didn’t feel rushed in the least bit.

Disney Dining Plan: We did the plan this trip. We did 3 character meals and knew we wanted to snack our way around EPCOT. We didn’t leave behind a single credit and even used our resort mugs quite a bit. In the end it was worth it to us. Next time we go we likely will not do as many character meals so I will probably not purchase it. So, just do the math for your family. I will say this—for my price conscious hubby it was great because when the $200 bill for a buffet came to the table I could say it was paid for. This mattered to his attitude and my happiness a lot. 🙂

Scooter: We rented from Buena Vista Scooters. The scooter was waiting on us. We never had a problem out of it. It took her some time to get used to it. It made the trip possible for her and she got to enjoy every minute with her granddaughter. So, when someone accidentally cuts in front of you in a scooter or you get behind one who is going a little slower just remember they are trying to have some magic too.

My last thoughts:

1. Remember to bring allergy meds that work best for your family. I didn’t even think about the weather change and Abigail was miserable the first full day.

2. Plan an extra day just to hang out at the resort. Other than the EPCOT meltdown we didn’t see much of a really neat resort not to mention all the other great Christmas decorations.

3. Plan! Plan! Plan! What!? I thought you threw out your touring plan! I did. But, because of all that planning I still had lots of ideas of how to handle the changes and didn’t just feel lost.

4.—I used this website obsessively in the months before our trip. I learned so much from the chatboard. I don’t think our days would have been near as successful without the time I spent with the people on this website. I was thankful one of my Facebook friends turned me onto it. After checking out the statistical models they use to predict crowd levels, etc. I was hooked.

5. Expectations: This is Disney World. People expect them to hang the moon, rotate it and then put it in their room at night. Disney is a special place. It is magical. But, there are also jerky people, melting down kids, grumpy CM’s, rides break, etc. You have to temper your expectations that everything will be perfect. We had so many imperfections on this perfect trip. It was perfect because we spent 5 days together not worrying about work, the outside world, etc.

6. I bought Memory Maker. I LOVED this product. I simply wish they had the photographers in the character meals as well. It is a pricey product and the meals are pricey. We should have access to the photographers. I came home with 369 photos where I completely enjoyed the experience and not worrying about capturing it. For that—it was worth the money.

7. I’m a foodie. I like good, quality food. I think I’ve changed in my definition of quality food because my 20 year old self thought the food was fantastic at Disney. My 36 year old self not so much. I ate some really good things (bakeries in EPCOT, Tangeriene Café), but they were the unexpected places and not the places that herd through 500 people in a seating.

8. I’d stay at a value resort again. Without reservation.

9. Weather: in December pack for it all. It was 80 during the day and 60 at night and we needed a light jacket.

10. I think my biggest mistake in Magic Kingdom is I let the CMs rush me. I can think back now to times that I should have spoken up and just taken a few more moments. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take the time you need.

Well, hopefully something I said is useful to you. Enjoy your trip. We loved ours and Abigail is still humming Disney tunes. I have my Mickey ornament on the tree and I smile every time I look over to it. Eight months of planning for 5 days of pure joy. It was well worth it!!

I was an Angel Tree Baby…


I live a healthy middle class life style now.  People look at Dr. Sociologist and it allows for the past of a young girl to be hidden.  Put away.  Never talked about.  I have (had) two loving parents.  They had their moments with each other and with us.  Neither are perfect.  Neither ever claimed to be.  Each has a list a mile long of things they regret.  But, as an adult I can now look at their struggles in a different light.  I can look at the challenges they faced with compassion. I can truly start to understand just how hard they worked for us.  AND, if they had NEVER been able to raise their income levels I would still say the same thing–my parents worked HARD.

As a teen I would have never admitted that I was once an Angel Tree baby.  However, I think it is time I talk about that experience.  When it comes time for holiday charity I hear a lot of grumbling from those who have never experienced poverty.  I heard this kind of grumbling this morning while I passed the local Angel Tree and it made me mad.  And, this blog is written out of anger.  But, I am ok with that.

They have never seen their mother worry about how to buy food, pay bills, the fear of one medical crisis, the look of despair when she knew should couldn’t give her girls something they wanted.  They’ve never seen their father at a loss as to how to help his family when he was laid off.  They have never been the teen in the hand me down clothes that someone in your school recognizes as their own.  They have never made up so many excuses of why they were not participating in this party, event, or activity.  I was young.  Very young.  But, I saw and understood all of this.

Some might go directly to blaming the parents that they just simply didn’t work hard enough.  I vehemently disagree.  My Mom was and is a hard worker.  She has always busted her ass for us.  Many people do not consider just how hard it is to raise a family on minimum wage or under the table work as my Mom did for a long time by cleaning houses.  They may only look at where she ended up in upper management after 25 years worth of work.  My Dad was also a very hard worker–physical labor for many years which is so hard on a body.  No one can say my parents did not work hard.

My parents were divorced.  Some would then jump to, “Well, they brought it on themselves.”  One might wonder, “well, where was the Dad?” as we lived in one state and he in another and then the “Well, just another case of ‘those’ people.”  My parents were human.  They did the best they could emotionally after a messy divorce.  I can see that now.  I can understand their context now.  I can understand why in that instance, in that one period of our lives that my Dad was not as present as he was for the rest of the 34 years I had him and that my Mom was 35 years old trying to figure it all out.

So, yes I have experienced poverty and I was, at age 13, very thankful for being an Angel Tree baby.  I knew it took everything out of my mother to apply for that kind of assistance.  She had already talked to my sister and I and told us that we would not be doing presents for Christmas that year.  At 13 and 8 that was a hard pill to swallow.  We were kids.  Christmas meant presents no matter what someone else tries to tell you.  But, on Christmas morning another more fortunate family was able to provide joy to a 13 year old and an 8 year old by giving some of their resources during a hard time.

You may say, “Well, I know so and so and they cheat this system and that system” and I don’t have a problem with people who need one time help.  Here’s Dr. Sociologist talking now–Your few experiences of people you may deem as “cheating a system” in some way are in no way a generalization of the millions of working poor in this country.  People who will remain working poor for the rest of their lives because of a thing called structural inequality.  Pay people a decent wage for 40 hours worth of work and guess what–you’ll have more people able to help themselves.  Hold corporations accountable to take care of their employees by paying a decent wage and guess what you’ll have more people able to help themselves.  Make healthcare affordable and guess what you’ll have more people able to help themselves.  Make childcare affordable and guess what you’ll have more people able to help themselves.  These are things we CAN DO as a society.  As a community.  As an engaged citizenry.

It is not our place to judge simply because the situation is always more complex than an outside facade may appear.  You do not know the whole story.  You may assume to know.  But, you are kidding yourself.  You have NO clue.  You may sit on high condemning everyone that needs help in some way.  In doing so, you hurt me because you condemn many, many hard working, loving parents just as mine were that for whatever reason cannot give to their children in this way because they are busy buying food and shelter.

This is not a call to go adopt and Angel Tree baby.  This is a call to stop and think for one moment before you judge the families that are on that tree.

A Model of Service

Dad plaque

Today was a big day for my family.  The local American Legion dedicated a room in my father’s memory.  He was a 5 time Post Commander of the Legion.  Dad loved everything about his service to the community through the Legion.  Whether it be fundraising, organizing, rolling his sleeves up and getting dirty or doing several honor guard funerals a week, Dad loved it all.  He felt honored to do the work.  He felt called to do the work.

So many people turned out today and shared their beautiful memories with us.  The room that was dedicated is particularly special.  There was an unused space that was in need of repair.  Dad started doing research on the needs of younger veterans and realized they needed a space that served these new members.  The ball started rolling to get this room remodeled and underway.  Unfortunately, in 2013 Dad had a stroke which did not allow him to be active with the legion in a leadership position anymore.  The great men and women of the legion continued the work and saw the room to completion.  So many community volunteer hours were spent to finish that space.  I am grateful that Dad did get to see the finished room and here we are a year later, the day before what would have been his 67th birthday, dedicating the room in his honor.

I wrote and rewrote the words I wanted to speak today many times.  I practiced the words over and over to make sure I could get through the speech without breaking down.  I, once again, wanted to honor Dad in the best way I knew how–by speaking of his love for the Legion and the people in that place.  Here are the words I finally settled on and I spoke today on behalf of my family.  It was truly a wonderful day.  I know Dad was smiling down on all of us.

On behalf of my sister Tiffany, Uncle and Aunt and the rest of my family, we thank you for honoring my father in this way.  The Legion, all of you, the work you did and the memories were so central to his life.

We, as a family, have felt his loss every day over the last year.  And, you wonder, whether others think about him too and miss the person he was.  Getting the message that this room was going to be dedicated to him reassured me that others felt the loss just as much.

Working on the issues important to the Legion and veterans fulfilled my Dad.  This room is a testament to that.  Along with you, he wanted to make sure younger vets had a place to go that met their needs as they returned from active duty.  Now this room will stand as a place for peace and quiet when needed.  It will be a place that even, as a family, we can come to and just sit and think about Dad.  It is an honor to see his name here.

Our family would like to provide a gift for this room.  Over the last year, Tiffany and I have slowly made our way through his belongings and memories.  It was clear from this just how much he loved this place.  We found these scrapbooks that he made over the years.  We want to present them to you to have in this space.

We appreciate the work of the Salamanca American Legion.  We appreciate the dedication of our veterans that come here.  We appreciate the way you still think of my father.

Thank you.

me dad


How do I find the words?



My Dad was a five time commander of our local American Legion.  Working on veterans issues was a real passion for him.  We found out a few months ago that the leadership of our Legion decided to name a room in the building after my Dad.  I get to speak words to honor my Dad at the ceremony.  I’ve been working on the speech for a few days.  I have so much I want to say, but I can still hardly believe I have to write about him in the past tense.

“My Dad was…”

“Dad would have been so proud…”

“Dad loved being around each and every one of you…”

I read those phrases with a feeling of disbelief.  How can I possibly be talking about him in this way?  I know it is all too real yet the words are written in a dreamlike state.  The words for this speech are much more difficult a year later.  In writing and giving his eulogy I was dealing with the loss on pure adrenaline.  Now, I am in the midst of truly grieving him.  I’ve had a year to mourn all of the firsts–first day of a new semester without my pep talk, first Father’s Day, first Christmas, first birthday.  I am now going onto the seconds and then the thirds and then the fourths.  My heart hurts as I think of how many more monumental moments in life we will have without him by our side.

But, having this room named after him is truly a remarkable gift.  A year later and he has not been forgotten and there will be a piece of him forever immortalized in a place he loved dearly and served for many years.  A year later people outside of his family miss him and want to make sure he is remembered.

A year later…it seems so hard to believe.

A year later…it is still a deep, deep pain A year later…it still seems like a bad dream

A year later…A year later…A year later…

How in the world can it be a year later?