9/28/2012

Captured Innocence



When I was a child, I am not sure if taking photographs was frowned on, considered vain, poor etiquette or just not done like it is these days.   In any event, I can say there are relatively few pictures in existence of me when I was under the age of five or six.  Unfortunately, the ones beyond that age should be used to start a big bonfire.  To say I was a goofy looking child would be putting it mildly.   Maybe that was my goal, to make folks laugh.   I think Ugly Betty and I would have been best friends.   And my fashion sense, well that is another topic all in itself!

Maybe, for that reason, I have always gone slightly overboard on taking photographs of my own two children. I wanted to be sure they always had images of their younger years.  I felt it would be interesting to look back, when they had babies, to see if there was a resemblance.  Those old baby books I kept, with the infant and preschool photos inside are priceless, to my adult children and to me.  Now that they have children, I find about the only thing they care to look at in the book are the photos. They could care less what their first word was, their first solid food, etc.   

I was one of those mothers who dragged the kids and the husband to Olan Mills Studio for all three pictures sittings when offered this deal over the phone.  You remember the deal?  That is, after the 5th call to my house and three weeks of no sleeping at night, they finally wore me down and I said yes.  When I got to the studio and saw my baby’s pictures,  I broke down and bought the entire package.  How could I possibly say no when it was such an adorable picture of him smiling? Never mind that he probably just passed gas, in my mind, he was a happy baby full of joy.   

Oh and the next photo shoot, this sitting was the screaming photo. I am guessing this is a standard for all new moms.  This one his face almost matched the cute red corduroy pants his grandmother bought him for Christmas.  Even his bald little head was red.  She was going to be so touched I used them in these pictures.  This one he was not cooperative at all, I suppose colic kicked in. I really am not sure the lady believed me because all she seemed eager to do was get me and my son out of her studio and on our way.  That is, until we came back in to view the pictures, then she thought he was precious, even with his mouth wide home and tears streaming down his face.  I valued those pictures, at the time.  

By the time I was done with Olan Mills Photo Studio, all 3 sittings for their “fantastic deal” for new moms, my expense that year was equivalent to a house payment.  Good-bye Olan Mills Photo Studio, hello K-Mart special deal in the middle of the Blue Light special by the ironing boards.  Ironic too that a few years later, I found pictures lying around in a box.  I realized these were extras of those old Olan Mills picture days. Wow, what was I thinking; especially that second one. The only thing cute in the photo was the red pants!  I did the right thing, I burned them!   

When my grand-kids came long, my passion did not lessen any towards taking pictures. It only intensified. Facebook hasn't helped any either.  My adult children are very good-natured about it now. Much more accommodating than when they were the subjects of my photographs.

However, my grand-kids are quickly learning to pick up their parents’  attitude towards
Grandma’s camera. I am seeing a pattern begin with the older two.  Often, one of them will either start to run for cover or turn up a lower lip making a naughty shot that says pouting is what you are getting on film.  Or Ava, my only grand-daughter, is fond of simply turning her head down so I have a nice shot of the top of her head.  At least her mom puts pretty bows up there so I have a shot of a gorgeous bow for her in years to come.   Lately, though, I have found if I keep clicking my camera away, laughing all the while, eventually she will look up. And then, I get the perfect picture of her smile! Boy, what we Grandmas have to do to get a good picture.  Delete ten bad ones to get one good one. 

This year, prior to the  Autism Walk in Nashville, I asked my friend, Carole Robinson, reporter/photographer for the Williamson Herald for a favor.  She agreed to take photographs for me at this event of the kids. It is hard to be interactive with the children and, at the same time, be a shutter bug with the camera catching them in action. And the action shots are always my favorite, I hate the posed shots.  I wanted someone to be able to capture the special moments for me so that I could just be there, loving my grand-kids and be a part of their special day.

The Saturday the event was held was a perfect setting for pictures because it was made for children like my grandsons. Both boys are autistic, one is two and one is three.  Ty and Jake were two of the stars, our heroes.  And the field was wide open giving the kids full rein to run around and be free, something both boys so enjoy doing at will.   It was a beautiful sight  to see them in their wide eyed innocence, happy and laughing.   My niece, expecting her first born child child, watched with a twinkle in her eye wondering if her upcoming baby might one day be just as boundless in energy.


Our walking team was there to also show our support for the boys best supporters of all, their immediate family.   Every day my son, my daughter-in-law and their big sister Ava live with autism, the work and challenges that go into life with autism, never complaining, never questioning, just loving and accepting the challenges and moving forward.   They are the face of an American family dealing with a life altering diagnosis that is forever changing the landscape of their life.  In reality, it is affecting all of our communities, it is just some citizens have their heads turned downward,  like Ava occasionally does.  Eventually, just like I tell Ava, everyone in the communities will have to lift their heads up, look around and see....it is there.  You can't keep your head down forever. 


Captured images speak louder than words.  Perhaps this is where the blog should end and the video should begin…..    (click on the link below)   
Where's Jake?
                                                        ***VIDEO LINK***                                             







9/21/2012

Torture in U.S. Prisons? Historic Senate Hearing Takes Up Solitary Confinement's Devastating Toll

Torture in U.S. Prisons? Historic Senate Hearing Takes Up Solitary Confinement's Devastating Toll

(Click on Link Above)


This topic is something many Americans do not want to discuss, the plight of prisoners in the American prison system.  So many people, not a part of that system, feel the answer to issues involving right and wrong is simply to throw an unlawful person behind bars and toss away the key.   If a prisoner is treated poorly, so be it.  Perhaps inmates should have thought more cautiously prior to their offense.  For some reason, in society's mind, once they commit a crime, they lose their rights and  give up their right for human dignity.

How easily the general population forgets one day they may be back out on the street and even more angry than before they were pulled out of their home/life and put in a cage/prison cell.  What do they suppose the inmates will do with all that pent up anger if they are caged and treated horribly and find themselves finally free with a chance to let it all out?   What of the inmate who has a family at home hurting because their son, their spouse, their mother or their father is incarcerated because of poor choices; do they, the inmate deserve to be kept safe while in the state's custody serving time?  Does being incarcerated mean they are eligible for poor treatment, no dignity?  Isn't that system suppose to attempt to punish them and yet also give them time to reflect and come out a better person?   How can that happen if they are tortured?  What if they are falsely accused and, while awaiting trial they are put in isolation and are awaiting a second trial and at the first one are charged?  Your attitude changes dramatically on this topic when it becomes personal!

These are tough questions and I tip my hat to Senator Durbin for sticking his neck out there and delving into this topic.   He is showing compassion for a topic that is less than favorably in so many people's eyes. I believe that anyone who has an interest in this issue should let any member  serving on the Senate Judicial Committee know.

I can honestly say, until it touched me personally, I would have been hesitant to watch the clip, would have reservations about writing a congressmen and would not have taken the issue to heart.  Now I have learned more and I am astounded with the fact. Inmates are being placed in solitary confinement that are non-violent. It is not reserved for serial killers, rapists, ax saw murderers, repeat offenders. It is at the jail's discretion.   You, as an outside, never really know what is going on inside because all communication is screened going in and coming out.  Some people get put in isolation and the key is, metaphorically, thrown away.  23 hours a day  in a small cell by yourself day in and day out when you are not a menace to the prison population and are not given a chance to get counseling and yet the prison will claim you are evaluated and are fine.   Ask health care professionals in the mental health field  who would be fine under those circumstances.  These inmates have no bonding with anyone, they are alone, scared and feel lifeless   Essentially they lose their minds.   Thus, suicide abounds.   Some don't even wait for their  trial dates in court to check out.  They give up before they even get a conviction if they are kept in solitary too long.  The silence in a cell can be deafening.

Anthony Graves was a quiet man. He had to be for years.   He served 18 years in prison in the state of Texas on Death Row for killing a woman and several of her children. Now he is making noise; positive noise.   I hope people are listening to what he is saying and people care about his message.  Wrongly convicted, Mr. Graves spent much of his time in solitaire.  In 2010 his conviction was overturned  when the real killer stepped forward. In Graves words "Solitary confinement dehumanizes us all." He is now speaking out about his experience  in prison , testifying infront of Congress's congressional hearing looking into this Prison system of solitary confinement's precedence in our country's prisons and its effect. He also is  speaking all over America about the effects of this type of torture going on in our prison and his personal experience.

Isolation, solitary confinement as it is called, is not the beginning of rehabilitation, it is the end.   The beginning of the end.  It messes with the mind; it drives  even a sane person insane.  It is not humane treatment and it is being used at alarmingly high rates in prisons nowadays..  Inmates are creating self inflicting wounds or killing themselves because of this torture.  It cannot go on unchecked.   We have more people incarcerated in isolation than any other democratic state in the world. This has to stop.

For Dan, my step son, solitary confinement was the end of his world. When he was placed in jail, he began in solitary confinement. It was the beginning of December 2011.  Four months later, with no break from the isolation,  he decided not to wait for his trial date to come.   I suppose he thought the key to his cell was lost and that the prison guards had given up looking for it.  I think he thought the world had forgotten his existence and went on without him.   On March 19, 2012, he went out of that cell the only way he thought he could leave.  

Please care about this issue.  These men and women are not just statistics.


9/15/2012

A Lesson Learned




My husband and I were talking the other day while walking through the neighborhood. It was dark and the night was still. Perhaps the somber mood was appropriate as it matched my mood. Earlier in the day, I was recalling a previous memory of someone near and dear who has since left us.

For someone never short on words, I found myself rather tongue tied. How does one express such a loss that can’t be filled?  There is a hollow place in my heart that will always remain and yet I know my husband’s hole is far greater than mine. His sense of loss from the passing of his son, his only son, is an impassable pain that far exceeds mine.  And yet, I am still brought to tears if I recall some of my fondest memories of him. I never dreamed those would be the memories that would have to last a lifetime.  I only wished for one last hug, one last phone call, one last conversation, one last anything. Now I have to settle for prayers. 

I often wonder is there a good way to let go of someone before they leave your world, watch them die slowly so  thereby having a chance to say the long good bye or a passing where there is no chance to do so it is over quickly.  Maybe it is just plain self serving to even consider such a thing.  It would be too easy to be influenced by what is easier for you, the one left living verses the one that is dying. And besides, this is all God’s call, He controls destiny. 

Each moment is truly precious.   It is so easy to forget that and not treat it as such. In the blink of an eye,  we or someone we love dearly could be gone.  I had no idea, the last call would be the very last call ever from Dan. Who thinks that of a step son at age thirty two? Had I known the last message on the recorder would be the last one, I think I would have left it on our machine for years.   I don’t want to forget the sound of his voice.  No one sounds like Dan and I miss his sound. 


Gone are the days of Dan coming over and eating every last Reese cup in our house.   No more will the phone ring and we hear his voice on the other end with updates on his live and be overjoyed when something good is happening.  His children will miss his smiles.  No one to send Happy Birthday cards to when his birthday rolls around anymore even though he was too young to die. That trip we planned one day to take him to Disney World in Orlando, well it is never going to happen.  He won’t be walking his daughter down the aisle or kissing a future daughter in law who marries his son.  He won’t be there for either of his parents when they age and he won’t be there to hold our hands when we just want to be with him to let him know we love and miss him. 

I am not so naive to think we have the market on death or loss. I have attended far too many funerals for cancer victims over the last five years.  I also know everyone experiences death many times in their lifetime.  Many have felt just as cruel a loss as we have.  Mothers, fathers, children, wives.  It is never easy.   Going through this experience, though, has been different than another other death for me.    This is far different than losing a grandparent, a great aunt,  a casual friend.  This person was part of the heart of us.  This is someone we were certain would be a part of our future in some capacity, someone we were eager to see what his future held for him and his children! 

Death can be cruel to those  of us left on earth.  We celebrate the joy our loved ones created in our lives. We celebrate their legacy and their endless peace now in eternity.   We rejoice in it and that gives us comfort, most days.  But yet we still grief, to varying degrees. We often times have trouble carrying on. Some more so than others.   

Unfortunately, even those that move on well with life, have stormy days that come out of nowhere when the pain grips the soul.   Those days,  when it hits me, I miss Dan so much that it feels like a fragment of my heart breaks off.  The finality of not seeing or talking to him ever again is recalled like it is the first time I have ever faced it all over again.    

I had to write a paper in college on if I could spend one day with someone deceased who would it be and what would I say. At the time, I picked my Grandma Gliatti. I loved her passionately and had such fond memories. I think now I would have to change it and pick Dan.  Yeah, I most certainly would pick Dan Bronold.  I think some of what I would say is below.

“Dan, you always had a good heart inside.   Everyone that knew you well could feel that. When you died, your father, mother and I received countless cards, letters, emails and phone calls from friends that loved and missed you. Each one had stories to tell of what a wonderful support system you were and a great friend. 

Those stories made us laugh. Some made us laugh so hard we cried. The pictures your dad got, oh if you had seen his face you would have died laughing! They were pictures of you clowning around and he was so proud of your ability to make your friends enjoy life and be happy to be around you.  

Your mom held together well Dan but was so distraught inside that you were gone.  You meant the world to her so please keep a close eye on her from heaven.  You are needed by her and by us even from that place up there.   You thought you needed us but we need you too. 

Love, to me, is not just a word, but an intense feeling, something I do not say lightly or take for granted. I genuinely feel love in my heart for you and appreciate your ability to find love in your heart for me over the years and allow me into your life.  

Your parents may not have been perfect but everything they did they did out of love.  Your father may have seemed very hard on you Dan but he was so saddened that you did not believe in yourself and kept giving up on yourself. He tried everything to get you to believe in yourself and love yourself and you just didn’t.  Don’t mistake that disappointment for a lack of love because that deep profound love was always there Dan, it still is.   

I am glad you have seen and felt the Hand of God and his everlasting love. I am happy you have found peace.  I am saddened that you were the one person I waited one more time to say all the things I wanted to say and then never got the chance.  Know we will meet again and until then, know we hold you alive in our hearts in deep everlasting love Dan and we will miss you horribly until we are together again. “

didn't see this coming.  I didn't get to say any  of this to him. Now he is gone.  For someone who prides herself on being open and honest and never holding back words, with Dan I did.  The silence between calls became longer and it became easier to just keep silent rather than say what was in my heart when things in his life were on a downward spiral.  Maybe that is when he needed to hear them the most?   Things were left unsaid, always on the hope for a brighter tomorrow and then I would say them to Dan.  That day is never going to come.

                                                            Regrets can be painful lessons.   

9/10/2012

Can We Talk


Charley, I am not one to complain. Well, maybe not much. Well, maybe on some days not much anyways. But when I do, can I just say I really appreciate you listening and not judging me for voicing my opinion. You seem to always know it is important to hear me out and let me say my peace. I love how you have the sensitivity to let me set it up with the proper lead in without rushing me through so I can really cathartically relive it and get over it and move on.   What would I do without my four legged friend?

It reminds me a good work buddy of my husband’s Jason.   All his wise cracking and practical jokes on everyone.  He could get everyone laughing at him at the drop of a hat. But boy, his dog Jackson, he could make Jason laugh like nobody. He would come into work and tell Jackson stories and have himself in stitches just recanting the adventures of Jackson. Perhaps the funniest image left of the dog with us was when he entered his little pug in a costume contest. In his mind, I am sure it was a beauty contest. Anyone familiar with pugs knows, there is no way they are in the category of beautiful!   Well, the picture of Jackson in the local paper showed him in complete leather motorcycle garb looking tough.  Ah, except for one little thing, he was quite obviously not paying attention to the announcer because he was too preoccupied  sniffing another dog’s butt.  All I can say, on the bright side is it was not Jason’s. 

Charley is always eager to see me, unlike my adult kids. My daughter travels in from out of town and feels as if it is penance to stay with me. On the flip side, her Rottie Belle thinks Grandma is the bomb.   Belle had been living with us for  6 months.  I was followed everywhere by her. I could literally not get up in the middle of the night and walk out of the bedroom without tripping on her. She was right under my feet to ensure I did not leave without taking her.   Funny how your own kids want to run away from you and your dog wants to never leave your side and if you try to run away they want to run with you.   This dog wasn’t even mine and still would not leave my side.   What a sweetie!  My daughter must not have talked to her about me is all I can figure.

When I walk Charley up the street at night, I can hold my head high. There is no real drama with him other than he has this dramatic flair for pooping in other people’s yard.  Why is our yard not good enough anyways? Then we have to  clean up his ‘do’ and carry it home like a new bought toy in plastic bags.   A few moments of holding your breath and collecting the specimen as quickly as you can and we are on your way.  

With family or friends, the poop that flies is not nearly as easy to scoop up in a plastic Wal-Mart bag and yet it’s just as toxic.   It is the kind of stuff where someone says something about someone else and as it goes around, it gets inflated and creates havoc.   In families, it can create scenarios where someone can become the scape goat whereby one person becomes the cause of every bad; the root of all evil and no one cares anymore.   This is like a board game that ends with the pieces and the board getting thrown up in the air except its real life.   Dogs sometimes have it easier, aye?  

Speaking of aggressive tongues, well they say it often times comes from insecurity. Many people mask that by being mean. I wonder if the same is true of dogs also. If so, my sister has a very highly insecure pup then. Her dog Jake, when cornered by my husband Jim, simply trying to get him home safely to his owner from our house, became possessed by a She Devil.  With next to little warning, he lurched forward and bit my husband. With a history of large dogs, my husband had never been bitten in his own home, and now this small dog comes along and scares the heck out of him snapping at him.  He will forever be known to us as simply “Jake the Biter.”  

When it comes to fashion, Charley loves whatever I have on. Infact so much so that he rubs up against it to basically love on it. Too bad his hair has a way of falling off and depositing itself on my articles of clothing! We have actually now placed lint rollers, or should I say “Charley hair rollers” at key locations throughout all of our entrances to our house and in all of our motor vehicles except our lawn mower. My husband says it is irrelevant to have dog hair on clothing when mowing the lawn.  The one and only time you can walk out the door and not have to spend 15 to 30 minutes swatting every area of your body with a roller! In the country, clothing on mowers is optional.   Heck, dogs luck out in this area of life, never having to wear any.  Having a dog is like having a close friend that is not into fashion at all, unlike some people I know who shall remember nameless!

  My sister’s dog Pinkie is as cute as they come.  She never hurts a sole but yet, someone in her house still felt compelled to make her look more like her namesake. Did she complain?  Nope, not a word. It didn't matter to her she was the talk of the town.  Dogs everywhere in Springboro were probably howling back and forth about her for weeks. I mean how ridiculous it looks to have a mild mannered female dog with a pink Mohawk on its head? When my sister rolled my hair in rags years ago, my hair looked about as cool as Pinkie’s and I whined about it for days. Not Pinkie, she took it in stride. Just makes my case even stronger, dogs allow you to pick on them and are good sports.   We need more dogs in the world and less friends.


Charley is a pretty good sport in this area too. Around the holidays, I attempt to put that ridiculous Christmas collar on him. You know, the one with the wide red Santa velvet look to it and the big ole bells that jingle every time he moves.  How wonderful that must be for him to when the sound is so terribly close to his ears.   I bet he just loves that!   And then when I try to compliment the look with the accessory of the season, a Santa cap, well does he look jolly. I must admit, he does scramble abit over that but I can manage to get a photo or two off before he manages to get it taken off.  But hey, no one else in my circle of friends or family would dare wear it or one of those Christmas sweaters loaded down with Christmas tidings of joy hung all over them. But Charley will wear anything I put on him, at least for a few minutes, before he can get it off and chew it up!

I love how no matter how long I am gone; Charley is just as excited to see me. I can simply go outside and get the mail and it is as I was gone for days. Charley is wagging his tail, smiling and eager to see me walk through the door again.   Not too many people in your life are that eager to see you. I think my friends Bonni and Gary would agree as their dog Roxie goes positively nuts when you come over, even strangers!  What is even more precious is every day, when Gary comes home; Roxie arrives at the door to greet him and has held on to her little gift, her daily dump. Yep, how many of us would be willing to actually hold on to something we need to do and fight the urge just so we could wait and save it for our best buddy?  You just have to love Roxie’s loyalty to Gary!  I know Gary just treasures his girl.

Friends come and go in your lifetime, unfortunately too many times. Even with family, far too often anymore, it feels as if they are not there when you need them. In my circle, I sometimes feel used more than aided.   That is, with the exception of Charley. He, as long as he is kept on a lead, is always within a leash length to help me.   I do mean that literally. When I need him to be there for me he is. Unfortunately, his only major deterrent from this is his pesky persistence in trying to jump our fence.  Even an electric fence won’t work with Charley either so we are the only family I know that walks a dog on a leash in a fenced in yard.  But, if that is the price I have to pay to have a loyal friend and companion, and keep him somewhat captive, I will. Everyone has to have friends. So maybe I have to cohere mine a bit.   We all do what we have to.

My daughter in law, her dog, Bruiser, he thinks every dog wants to mate with him. Bruiser should be nicknamed, Boner.  I really don’t think any further explanation is needed is it?   We simply stare in amazement when he is at our house to see a small beagle boxer mix humping the side of a sleeping 112 lb. lab.  I think Bruiser has read too much doggie porn!

But again, Rebekah has had Bruiser for a very long time and he is a loyal dog and a wonderful companion. We all need that. When times were tough, Bruiser was there.   Just like Charley.   That is what counts.

So yeah, dogs can be weird.  So are you sometimes.  We dog owners can put up with their idiosyncrasies.   But heck, they put up with all of ours and never ever spill their guts and tell a sole about any of ours, they are totally trustworthy.  Come on, where do you find friends like that?   Who never laughs at you even when you are stupid?   Who sits with you even when you are stinky?  Who loves you, baby, all the time?   One place only will you find that..... in the doggie kingdom.  Adopt a dog, not a family member or a friend!  You just might live longer!