Thursday, July 5, 2018

8th Annual 30 Day Photography Challenge CONTEST!!!

It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions!

These are the 14 nominees for the contest this year.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll. Due to changes Blogger made this year, all voting this year will take place on the Facebook page for the 52+ Challenge Group.

The poll will remain pinned to the top of my page for the next week. 

You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll.  The voting will end at Noon MST, Thursday, July 12th.

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.

The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!

1. Walk. Jennifer Larsen

2. Sparkle. Jean Holzman Whisenhant

3. First Cup. Kelly Ceschin Acker

4. Thistle. Angela Linton-Canfield
5. Wings. Carolyn Mears

6. Signs. Gretchen Chateau

7. Shore. Holly Rexroad

8. Reflection. Jennifer Tallman

9. Adirondack. Joshua Curfman

10. Wish. Mark Rodriqguez

11. Stage. Paula Gill

12. Yellow. Sheryl Hoolsema

13. Flatirons. Susan Porter

14. Flames. Allyson DeBie

Jewelry from Penny Jules

Twin Peaks, The True Story
Perfectly Posh with Jillian
Pure Romance with LaShonta
A Steampunk Necklace from Charm Studio 2.0

Prizes are subject to change because life happens. Thank you again to all who participated and offered prizes for the contest! Good luck!!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Reason I Was Monologuing In My Car Last Night

Before I get to the actual post here, a few points. One, I am a blogger who occasionally writes about her kids, yes. This is true. In fact, this here blog started out originally as a way to share stories and pictures with family far away, then it veered very much away from quaint little funny stories about the kids and I pulled down nearly all of the content about them. I do still write about them from time to time these days, but generally once they hit about 8, I ask them first. And even if and when they consent, I still watch what I write and which pictures I post for the reasons I will explain shortly, not the least of which is that you can't control what people do with the information or pictures once they are posted. Ahhh, the internet.

Two, I generally detest parenting advice, particularly of the unsolicited variety. Most of it is terrible and never applies anyway, is given only to make the giver feel more superior about the path they've chosen as a justify the choices they've made along the way because in our twisted society somehow the only way to be a "good" parent has become to point out the "bad" parents. The truth is, I really and truly believe that most of us are trying our best most of the time given the resources and information we have at that moment, and depending on how exhausted we might currently be.

Three, I work a lot with kids. Specifically teenagers. And no, they aren't always my own, though I am myself the parent of three teenagers at the moment. I do a lot of volunteer work and a ton of advocacy. I run support groups for parents. I help kids create safe spaces in their schools. And as a result, people generally feel pretty safe to confide in me. I joke that I am the human Fort Knox, and it's not a stretch of the truth. Working as a doula magnifies this. Oh, the things people tell me. They tell me all the things.

Most adults whine endlessly about teenagers these days. Insist the kids are all lazy and disconnected, distracted and selfish. That has absolutely not been my experience at all. I love teenagers (most of the time). Sure, they are impulsive and make bad choices sometimes, they can be selfish assholes sometimes too, but so can all of us. Adults just tend to forget that everyone has bad days sometimes, demanding consistency from children when they are not even compelled to display it themselves. Well, and most adults forget what it was like to be a teenager.

So, there's your opener.

The precipitating incident to the writing of this post happened yesterday. And a few months ago. And a few months before that. And a couple of years ago. In fact, it happens all the time, where I see a parent sharing something online that they probably shouldn't be sharing about their kid in a way that they probably shouldn't be sharing it. In the process, that parent is quite often telling their newsfeed more about themselves than they are about their child, but I'll get to that in a minute. The specific context yesterday was pertaining to the discussion of parenting a child on the spectrum, and the word "burden" came up more than once. Words synonymous with burden. Words that indicated that these particular children are more work, more difficult, more needy, more more more...

It brushed me the wrong way, as comments to that effect always do. I myself parent children with mental health issues, with learning disabilities, with spectrum disorders, with serious medical issues. I've lived these frustrations, spent endless hours on the phone trying to find screenings and services, fought with insurance more times than I could say, cried at IEP meetings out of sheer frustration.

Having been doing this parenting thing for a very long time now, I can tell you all one thing with absolute certainty. IT IS ALL HARD. Every kid, regardless of their diagnosis or condition or needs or requirements will 100% challenge you in a novel way. Kids that seem to have no issues or conditions will do it too, they aren't magically immune. Will some kids need more? Of course. Will all kids test your limits and patience and resolve in their own ways? YES.

As I wrote yesterday, though, any insistence that children on the spectrum are burdens does three dangerous things. First, it ignores the fact that all kids are hard in their own ways. Second, it dehumanizes people on the spectrum, makes it seem like they are merely an obligation to which the parent is beholden, creates the martyrdom complex that usually sounds a lot like "I sacrificed all of this for you". Third, it ignores the fact that spectrum conditions don't just affect children. Nope. Those things are very much lifelong conditions, and they are things that affect many more people than most realize as adults, and I know for a fact that there are several people in this particular group who land somewhere on that spectrum themselves, not to mention their kids.

Our children are not extensions of us. They aren't. They are separate and distinct human beings with hearts and minds and souls away from us entirely. Sure, we are thrust into the position of being wholly responsible for them for 18 or so years, but that doesn't mean that they are part of us. Legally, we are given the job to make decisions for them, but morally, we have to think about their agency and the long term effects of the choices we make every step of the way. And, also, it's worth pointing out that no child ever asked to be born into your life. They aren't your obligation by choice, at least not on their part. They're stuck with the family they were born into. You might have chosen to have them, but they did not choose you.

That's not how this works.

It isn't just parents of children on the spectrum, obviously, to which I speak today. It's all parents, and occasionally other adults in their lives who share things that are wholly inappropriate. Parents of kids with learning disabilities, health issues, anything outside the box of societal norms are the most likely to have to grapple with teasing out where these lines are, but this issue exists for all parents, and to some extent all adults. Teachers posting videos of their students online as "inspiration" comes to mind right away.

It's parents who can't tease out the boundary between venting and sharing frustration at the reality of parenting with sharing too much about the issues of this particular child. It's a fine line, sure, and it shifts and moves quite a bit as kids get older. There's a whole lot more you can reasonably overshare about parenting a newborn than you can with a 16 year old.

And that is how parenting should go, right? As children become adolescents, they crave independence and agency over their bodies. They want decision making control. They think they know everything. Those decisions about who knows what about their personal lives should extend to what things their parents share with other people without their consent.

We should get to make fewer decisions, they 
should get to make more the older they get. 
And number one on that list should be what
the rest of the world gets to know about them. 

A while back, a former friend posted about taking her tween daughter bra shopping. (I can hear the groans from here...) It is not the most fun part of parenting by any means, but then when was the last time you enjoyed shopping for bras for yourself? (It's terrible for everyone, right?)

Anyway, this conversation was viewable to well over 1,000 people, and quickly involved details about cup sizes and preferences and what friends were wearing and more and more, and I made the suggestion that once she felt this topic had been sufficiently crowdsourced, maybe pulling down the post wouldn't be the worst idea ever for privacy reasons. A few people jumped all over me for ruining her "mommy village", insisted that I was body shaming her daughter, told me that I was being ridiculous, compared it to the struggles of potty training a two year old, and more. Then she blocked me.

She pulled the post down first though.

I really don't honestly care that she blocked me. I just hope that she saw the point that I was trying to make, which wasn't anything having to do with being the ogre stomping on her created mommy village. I'm in several small private groups where we do talk about the more difficult points of parenting in detail. I am not about to put that stuff on my wall, though. Nope. I wasn't body shaming her daughter, nothing of the sort actually. I'm the 100% body positive personal agency parent who rails against gendered dress codes. I was making the argument that her daughter should have a say in who knows what sizes and types of bras she wears. That's pretty personal information, and I know that I would have been absolutely mortified if my mom had just started sharing that with her 1,000 closest internet friends.

I wasn't telling her how to parent, even. I was merely suggesting that she take a step back and ask herself if it was truly her choice, her right, her place to share those details.

And I do this because I work with kids, kids who tell me things, kids who don't often feel comfortable talking to their parents about much. Some of them think their parents won't understand, will shame them in some way. Some of them are afraid of being punished. Some of them refuse to talk to their parents because they can't trust what their parents will do with that information, who else they will tell. Some of them know that the only way to preserve their privacy is to not tell their parents at all.

Is it entirely okay to talk about being frustrated? Of course it is. In fact, please share those frustrations more because social media is full of people lying about life, only sharing the good stuff. Parenting is mostly monotony, sometimes absolutely awful, and occasionally awesome. If you only share the awesome stuff, you're skewing the pool.

Can you share frustrations without being specific? Fuck yeah. More of that, please.

While we're at it, social media types, stop fucking shaming vaguebookers. You are not entitled to know the personal details of anyone's struggle simply because you are Facebook friends with them. If you don't like to see vague complaints, if it somehow offends your psyche to see people venting non-specifically, scroll on by. Unfriend them if it bothers you that much. If they wanted you to know, they'd tell you, dammit. People are allowed to vent. You don't need juicy, personal details to give a shit about them. Honestly.

Can you talk about how much it sucks to navigate the health care system or the mental health system or complain about lack of resources? YES. Please talk about that. Should you mention how difficult the IEP and 504 process is, how treating kids like a set of symptoms instead of a whole person is endlessly frustrating and self-defeating? YES. Because Thor knows that there are tons of us fighting back tears in those meetings, hearing people talk about percentages of goals met as though the value and worth of our child could ever be quantified.

Should you advocate for better services, for research funding, for reducing stigma? YES. Can you do it without throwing yourself on the sword of sacrifice for the world to see? Yeah...yeah, you probably could do that. Do you need to mention personal details? Nah.

Should you mention how exhausting having teenagers is? YES. To be honest, I parent my teenagers and toddler in basically the same way. Do you need a snack? Do you need to poop? Need a nap? Have you drank any water today? A good 70% of life's issues can be fixed with that short list, goes for us grown up types too. (true story).

But should you start talking about the people your kids are dating or speculate about their orientation or mention specifically which class they are failing or post about the latest argument you had with them that you will forget about in two days anyway? Maybe not. It's the nuances. The details. The personal.

Because here is the thing about kids that too many parents don't realize until it is too late: 

If they lose the ability to trust you, 
you've undermined everything about
 parenting teenagers that you're 
going to need to tap into the older they get. 

If they are always wondering if you're going to use this in a blog post or make it into a meme or whine about them on Facebook, they're going to stop telling you things. Believe that.

And once they stop talking to you, there's not a whole lot that will ever get them to open up again.

I know because I remember what it was like to be a teenager. I can distinctly remember the day that I stopped telling my mom anything. The day I started censoring what she knew. The day I began hiding everything else.

So, parents of the world, I ask you to ponder for a minute before you click post. I say this not as a parent, really, but as someone your kids will talk to when they won't talk to you. I say this as someone who remembers what it was like to have her trust violated by her mother. I say this as someone who stopped tell her mom things as a result. 

And when in doubt, ask them. The children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. (please get the reference, someone...)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

On love and time and the places in between

Dear Mr. Hive,

I bet when you married me twenty years ago, you never thought that someday you'd have a secret identity on the internet. (insert maniacal laughter here)

If I was going to make a list of all the things we never saw coming, this would be a very long post indeed.

Life hasn't exactly worked out the way we thought it would, has it?

There are parts of me that still remembers what it was like back then, when we were young and clueless, when we honestly thought that love and optimism were all we needed. We had all these amazing plans, plans that involved successful careers and loan repayment, that involved world travel and someday buying a little house by the beach, that would eventually include two kids.

And here we are, all those years later. Loans are nowhere near paid off, and you're back in school again. We haven't left the country since before the kids were born, never getting off of this particular continent. We live in the middle of the country with a mountain view now, about as far as we could possibly have gotten from the beach. And then there is the matter of those kids. There aren't just two of them, not by a long shot.

Plans were great, I guess. But life told us that we were young and clueless and that things needed to change again and again and again.

It wasn't just fate that intervened, of course. There were choices along the way. Some good, some terrible, none without consequences, every one of which changed our trajectory just a little bit more until we arrived where we are now.

If someone would have told us 20 years ago that we'd be in Colorado with 5 kids and 3 dogs and a cat, that you'd still be in school, that our oldest kid would be a high school Senior, I know I wouldn't have believed it. Well, maybe the dog thing. I might have believed that part...

When we were talking about our anniversary plans a few days ago, I mentioned not needing a fancy dinner, and it is true. I've never needed those things that society tells us we are supposed to do and have to mark these moments of importance. The jewelry, the flowers, the trips, the extravagant things.

All I ever wanted was you. Us.

There were times that I wasn't sure we'd get here, but we did. We're still here, still digging in deep and fighting for our family. This year has been a tough one, putting us all through more things we never could have anticipated, testing our resolve as parents more than anything else.

I've needed you to be the soft place to land, and you have been.

What we have isn't perfect. It's messy. It is complicated. It's sticky. It's a constant work in progress.

It's texting each other about vacuum cleaners and the panicked look on your face when we have to find $500 to take the dog to the 24 hour vet.

It's spending holidays ripping out carpet and building fireplace mantels and entertaining my crazy DIY tendencies.

It's dinners around a beat up table with a kid in his underpants where someone is singing and someone is whining.

It's going out to dinner for a break from them and being seated next to a family with 4 young kids and remembering what it was like when we were there.

It's inside jokes and nicknames and replaying the same home videos over and over again.

It's building proton packs with all the hot glue guns we can find.

It's sharing the things we love with the kids and having the chance to watch them do the things they love, whether it is on a stage or a soccer field or triathlon course or arena floor.

It's working bingo and fundraising so they can do all those things they love.

Here is loud. Here is chaos. Here is conflict. Here is worry.

And here is pretty amazing.

I love you.

(you know)

Happy anniversary.

Monday, May 28, 2018

8th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge Information!

It's the 8th year of this challenge!!!

Let's do this, people.

Here are the prompts for this year, in the image below. Each day of the challenge corresponds with the date in June. For example, Day 1 is for June 1st, and pictures should be posted on the 1st. Ideally, you will add the picture directly into the album designated for each day in the challenge. Please try to get them into the correct albums. With this many people, it's going to be impossible for me to move all the pictures that aren't put in the right place.

All pictures are going to be shared in the group on Facebook. If you aren't a member yet, please request to be added to it here. It is DeBie Hive's Project 52+ Photo Group.

When you post a picture, please be sure to tag it with the number of the day in the challenge and any pertinent information you'd like us to know about the picture.

We will be utilizing the hashtag #30dayphoto this year. Please add it to the images you post so that they will all be searchable with the hashtag.

Please remember that the group is a public group on Facebook. All images posted will be viewable by anyone.

The Rules

  1. One picture per day per person. Please stick to this rule during the 30 day challenge. There are hundreds of people in the group now. Thanks in advance.
  2. Please try to add the pictures directly to the albums that will be set up for each day. If you can't add them to the album, no biggie, but it would be preferred.
  3. There is no requirement that you participate every day to be eligible for the contest.
  4. You MUST email me your pictures to have them considered for the contest. There is a strict limit of 5 entries per person, and the pictures MUST be sent to me at by midnight on June 30th. There will be a release you must sign in order to enter the contest. More information on this later.
  5. What is chosen for the contest is entirely at my discretion.
  6. I will remove photos I deem offensive, and reserve the right to do so.
  7. Only post pictures of people you have permission to post images of.
  8. The idea is to take NEW pictures. You may not re-use pictures submitted in past years.
  9. The contest runs after the challenge ends, hosted on my blog, for seven days. It will start July 2nd and run for one week.
  10. Prize details to come.
  11. HAVE FUN!!!! I love photography and started doing these to get people out there experimenting with their cameras.
Tips for taking self-portraits

1. Pay attention to the lighting. Avoid using the flash whenever possible
2. Decide what your best angle is - makes faces at yourself in the mirror if you don't already know.
3. Look just up and to the side of the lens, not directly at it.
4. If you have double chins that you'd like to pretend don't exist (not that you do, of course LOL), look slightly up to take the picture, hold the camera a tiny bit higher than you normally would.
5. Make sure there isn't anything messing up your background, or giving you bunny ears, or growing out of the top of your head.
6. Take more than one picture, with slightly different expressions. Then you can pick the best one.
7. Try to laugh naturally so your smile doesn't look forced.
8. Remember you can always zoom in, but you can't zoom out once the picture is taken.

I will not be posting blog posts with the prompt each day this year. I will post each day's picture in the group and on my Facebook page. They will all be posted to Instagram and Twitter as well. If you aren't following me there, Twitter and Instagram are FAR better at showing people the things I post.

My Instagram profile can be found here. 

My Twitter profile can be found here. 

Finally, if you would like to offer up a prize for the contest, please let me know ASAP. Your link and a picture of the item submitted will be added to the contest post, which is seen by thousands of people each year. My email is

Have fun with it!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Birthday on Borrowed Time

Dear Oldest,

I have been trying to write this birthday letter for weeks now. I know that you still want me to do it, and I know that I need to do it, but I've sat and stared at this flashing cursor a few times now, then pushed myself away from the computer and vowed to try again later.

At State. Hair in the air. Heart in the sky.
 Just makes sense, I guess.
It isn't that I don't know what to say to you this year, it's that there is so much inside my head and my heart and I'm afraid that if I start to let it out even a little, the floodgates will open and devour me whole.

This parenting thing, man. It's rough sometimes.

There is a part of me that still sees the little boy getting on the bus for his first day in kindergarten when you look at me. There is a part of me that still sees you running around the house in your Buzz Lightyear costume instead of drumline t-shirts. There is a part of me that still instinctively wants to swoop in and scoop you up and shield you from all the things in the world that are unfair and will harm you.

I'm already crying, by the way. I just figured you'd want to know how far I got into this before the sobbing began. You always have liked to keep track of my sentimental tears, like that time you and I went to see Toy Story 3 in the theater and I sobbed through damn near all of that movie. And not the quiet subdued sobs, either. The loud gaspy ones, bad enough that you had to check on me a few times to make sure I was alright.

I was. I just saw my future on the screen. You've always been Andy.

And back then it was just a preview of that future. We're here now.

As of yesterday, you are officially a Senior in high school, and I don't know for the life of me how we got here. I really don't.

The days seem relentlessly long sometimes, but the years have flown by so fast that I cannot even try and capture how unreliable time is once you have kids. Someday, if you have children of your own, you'll know what I mean when I say this. Time isn't linear, not in any discernible way that makes sense.

As I wrote on my Facebook page this week, if you'd have told me ten years ago that this kid would finish his Eagle, that he'd be drum major his Senior year, that he'd be volunteering at the hospital, that he'd be kicking ass in school, that he'd be using everything in the house as a practice pad, that he'd already be making plans for independent drum corps after graduation, that he'd already know where he wants to go to school, that he wants to someday become a high school music teacher, I am not honestly sure that I would have believed you.

I didn't know who you'd grow up to be yet. I had no idea that you'd turn into this amazing human. I had hopes, sure, all parents do. We all want more for our kids than we had.

My life has been full of potential unfulfilled. Things I should have done and didn't for a million reasons that aren't really relevant for you. I've had lofty ambitions and big goals and huge dreams...I just didn't often make good on them.

I wanted better for you.

I fought like hell to make things better for you.

And now we are here.

And you've done so many of those things already.

You've sacrificed, you've worked hard, you've stayed up late at night finishing work so that you could fit everything else in, you've dropped EVERYTHING when someone needed you to be there. This year has been especially difficult in terms of that stuff. The people needing you thing. It's been a lot.

A ton, actually.

When your family needed you, when your friends needed you, you were always there. Maybe you didn't understand what was going on, maybe it didn't make sense to you, but it never mattered. You never needed an explanation to be there for someone else. You were the quiet support that people have come to rely on. You have learned to check on your friends, your siblings. You observe and pay attention to the nuances and the things they aren't saying. You know already that most of the things that people are preoccupied with aren't really what is important.

You've had to learn those lessons so much younger than I wish you'd had to learn them, and yet, now you have that experience and are armed with the knowledge and power to be a better support for others going forward in your life.

You've dealt with worrying about things out of your control. You've dealt with loving people through traumas. You've dealt with diffusing situations no 17 year old should have to understand. You've been an extension of my eyes and ears and heart every single day.

You've had your heart broken, and rather than opt for anger and sadness, you instead went to compassion and understanding. You allowed other people the space they needed and didn't make it about you. You could comprehend that even if you were hurt, it wasn't about you. It never was. That doesn't make it hurt less, no. I won't lie to you and tell that it is ever easier to be someone else's collateral isn't. But you had a choice in how you handled it all, and you did so with grace and kindness.

You are a good friend. Truly, a good friend. And this isn't just me saying this because I am your mom and I am supposed to. You have figured out how to give to others without sacrificing yourself in the process, which is something I still haven't learned.

You were put here on this planet to make a difference in the lives of other people, and you have. You do. Every day. You are a joy bringer. You are a breath of fresh air in a world full of negativity. You are an unyielding optimist. You always have a joke or a meme queued up, ready to show someone.

I hear there's an award for that.

You are resilient. You don't let disappointments shape your choices. If you want something badly enough, you hang out there in the sadness for only a moment, then you start taking inventory. What can I do better? What can I learn from this failure? How can I improve for the next time?

You've also learned to walk away from the people and the things that aren't meant for you. Already.

It took me until well into my 30s to have any grasp on those realities.

This morning as you were getting ready to play in the band at the last high school graduation you'll ever play at, you excitedly started sharing details about Battalion for next summer. You think you might be able to make it in with your audition, travel the country playing with drum corps. And you just might be right.

You can do just about anything you want enough.

And it is amazing to watch. Truly.

You haven't just grown older and taller. You've grown up. You've really found what brings you joy. Music. Maybe I knew it all those years ago when I found that drum kit on clearance. I think you were five years old. Your father thought I was crazy. (He's not wrong, by the way.)

That same kit is the one you refinished last year. The one that you've taped together and added rice cooker bowls to and hauled in the back of your car to fundraisers and played and played and played to work out your stress and your frustration and your sadness. You've broken drum heads and sticks, played until you had blisters on your fingers. Literally.

I'm sure that even if you add more drums eventually, that first one will go with you everywhere. It's basically become an extension of you.

When you were talking about Battalion this morning, I smiled on the outside. Asked questions. Encouraged you. All that. The things supportive parents do.

On the inside, though, my heart and my soul were breaking a little bit, knowing that I'm on borrowed time with you. One more year and you'll be off, out in the world, chasing those dreams. We may not even get next summer with you, not if you manage to make it into Battalion.

I know that I don't have much time left with you here.

And I know that all the parents of grown children out there will tell me that you'll still be around, and that things will be fine...I do know that, but it won't be the same. You won't be here anymore.

You won't be throat singing in the bathroom (that's where the good acoustics are). You won't be drumming in the basement. You won't be eating everything in the house. You won't be here to take your baby brother to the park when he gets extra spicy and needs to run. You won't be here for a lot of stuff. It won't be the same, even when you are home.

I know I am on borrowed time.

The truest element of parenting I have learned, though, is this: it's all borrowed time.

From the moment you were born, you weren't mine. I was just lucky enough to get to keep you around for a while. Kids don't belong to parents, not in the way that most people think. You've always belonged to you, I just was gifted the opportunity to watch you grow up.

And it has been an honor.

So, go easy on your old mom this next year. She's going to be weepier than normal. She's going to hug you a lot. A. LOT. Be prepared for that. She'll be around, doing all the things, watching from the corner like she usually is, watching time flash before her eyes.

I'm proud of you, sweetheart, even if you still need to sometimes find a bird statue.


p.s. the video is so getting played at your graduation party next year

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