Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grandmother's Wedding Dress

Around the time Aunt Debra's mother-in-law passed away, she learned her mother's wedding dress would be on display at the Ohio State University's Historic Costume and Textile museum's exhibit "And the Bride Wore." My uncle could not get over the timing of it all. After my grandmother (Doris Thomas) passed away in 2001, my aunt donated Grandee's dress, along with that of three of her four attendants (my Great Aunt Lyn was the junior bridesmaid, my Great Aunt Carol was the maid of honor, my grandmother's cousin, Mimi was one of two bridesmaids, the other was a friend of hers). The dresses were kept for decades with my Great Grandmother (affectionately called GiGi my many), and then my Grandmother. 

From left to right: Great Aunt Carol (the Roxyette -- somehow even her statue stands more elegant than the others), my Grandmother (known as Dot to many), Cousin Mimi, and Great Aunt Lyn (her younger sister). It is a shame the men's outfits were also not preserved as the different branches of the military were represented, along with a tux from the time (Great Uncle Russ was not eligible to serve).

The understanding after 70 years is that Grandee's dress came from Orbach Department store. She (or was it my Great-Grandmother, I got lost in the generations, and I know someone will clear this up for me and I can correct it for posterity) made the other dresses. We've seen her wedding album over the years (Aunt Debra is holding it in the picture at the end, I have my Great Grandmother's "parents of the bride album" upstairs). This was the first time we saw the colors of the dresses. In the black and white pictures, they all seemed to be the same color. The detailing on the wedding gown is lost in the pictures, too. Now we saw they have ruffles in the back.

  We were happy the museum put flowers on the side of my grandmother's statue's head because that is how she wore her veil. That is not her original veil. The one pictured is much longer.

The rest of the exhibit was quite small. It had about a dozen dresses from different eras -- spanning over 100 years. One dress had been worn by the original bride, and two of her granddaughters. They broke the exhibit down into categories: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue (as in non-white wedding gowns), generations, war bride, and local interest. They fell in the category of war brides. 

The text in the first picture reads (couple of minor corrections made by me):
And the bride wore a sheer white rayon gazer dress over taffeta with sweetheart neckline, long sleeves, and dropped waist, and a train. The neckline and sleeves are trimmed with lace-edged ruffle. Similar layer ruffles accent the dress’s long train. The bride was accompanied by a rainbow of bridesmaids. 1945 Doris Jacquelyn Fyfe wore the dress when she married David Thomas on December 22, 1945 in New Jersey.
Doris was born in New Jersey on March 30, 1923, the oldest daughter of Edward and Hilda Fyfe’s three daughters. Her father was an accountant and later a bank president.
David Thomas was born January 29, 1922 in New Jersey to William and Mabel Thomas. William was an electrical equipment salesman.
David and Doris met in high school and began dating when they were fifteen. Their romance continued through high school until David was enlisted in the army for World War II. They became engaged while he was deployed so Doris planned the wedding under the assumption they would get married whenever he came home. David sent money for Doris to buy herself an engagement ring with his mother. When she chose a ring, Doris had a professional photograph taken of her hand and sent it to him overseas.
It was some time, however, before David could come home for his wedding. He served in Guatemala during the war, working with military records, and although the war officially ended with the surrendering of Japan on September 22 1945, he could not get stateside until December. This was probably due to the amount of records that needed processing before he was allowed to go home. Since Doris had to plan a wedding that could happen at any time, her gown of lightweight material and open-toed shoes might seem inappropriate for a winter wedding.
The bridesmaids’ dresses shown with Doris’s wedding gown were worn by her sister Carol (peach, maid of honor) and her cousin Marian Karch (faded, formerly blue). <<we later learned, Carol wore moonstone (blue) and Marian wore peach)>> The smaller junior bridesmaid dress (green) was worn by her youngest sister, Marilyn. The male attendants included the groom’s brother, Russell Thomas, a friend in the marines, Herbert Conant, and another friend in the navy.
Following the wedding the couple lived with the bride’s parents until moving into their own apartment in nearby Ridgefield Park, NJ and later into their own home in Maywood, NJ. David attended NYU on the GI Bill and was an accountant and later worked in insurance. Doris and David were happily married for 28 years until David’s passing in 1974.
Aunt Debra is holding their wedding album in this picture. From left: Don, me, Debra, Ashley, Cousin Laura. Photo by Heidi.

On a side note, it is hard to take pictures (and stay out of the pictures) with a mirror in the background!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 March Madness

 March Madness. For most, those two words imply college basketball. For us, though, that means seeing school plays, or rather as many school plays as we can possibly see in only four weekends, keeping in mind two of those weekends Ashley is acting in her school play, while Don is stage manager. And GO!

Well, we cheated a bit. we saw Julia in "Disney's Little Mermaid Jr." at the end of February (date changed due to school testing). It was fun to see Ashley's "sister" from Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe in a completely different
role. She has really grown in her talent -- adding singing in a Caribbean-style as she played everybody's favorite crustacean. 

The next day (the last day in February) we saw our favorite child star in "The Green Bird" at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. We have been following Chris since he was younger than Ashley in "Bye, Bye Birdie." It has been our treat as honorary aunt and uncle to watch him grow in his talent. We are only disappointed in ourselves for taking three years to see him in a college production. We HAVE to go next year. He really puts his entire body into each role, no that is not is regular nose. They all got masks for this show.

The following weekend it snowed, forcing Princeton Friends School to cancel a production of "Willy Wonka, Jr." We'll have to try again next year and be better organized about ordering tickets.

We were on top of getting tickets to see Les Miserables at Notre Dame High School. It was beyond unbelievable! It was easy to forget they are only high school students and not aspiring Broadway actors. To think just last year we saw Alexis in "A Rockin' Tale of Snow White," and this year she was Gavroche. Her voice is so powerful you can hear her without a microphone in every corner of the theater. David's portrayal of Javert was spine-chilling. It has been wonderful following his growth as an actor and singer.

The next day I saw "The Wizard of Oz" at Lawrence Middle School -- the school Ashley would go to if she went to public school, so we know some of the kids from pre-school, kindergarten, and around town. They also had about 30 grade school kids playing scene-stealing munchkins. 

The next weekend was Nate's bar mitzvah and more play practice. We did not see any shows that weekend.

Then it was time for "Sound of Music" at Ashley's school. They have two casts, the blue and the gold ones (in my mind, Blue is the Best, and Gold is the Greatest, but I haven't been able to get that phrase to catch on). Ashley was Louisa in the Blue Cast. Don was the stage manager for both casts. On the last night, Ashley was on stand-by to play Frederick, since the boy who played Frederick had been out sick all week, and the boy from the other cast who played Frederick had other plans that night. It would have been quite an experience, but fortunately he recovered.

The following weekend Ashley and I saw the Lawrence Intermediate School's production of "Disney's Little Mermaid, Jr." It was fun to book end the month with the same production that started it all. Ashley pointed out that the first time we saw it was with middle schoolers, and the second time was with 5th and 6th graders, so it was unfair to compare them, but they both did great. 

We really wrapped up March Madness with "Hunchback of Notre Dame" at Paper
Mill Playhouse -- a theater we have wanted to go to for years, but always decided against it because of its distance. The production was fabulous. There are rumors it is heading to Broadway (if not real rumors, then let me be the first to start them here). The quality at Paper Mill is outstanding! One of the members of the chorus (who had a solo as Claude's brother) was on Broadway as the "Phantom of the Opera." Not just in "Phantom," but THE Phantom. Yup, that is a few notches above community theater. We deemed it as still too far away for anything but the most extraordinary of productions -- like this one. We do try to see a Broadway show each year, and this satisfied that desire, without making Ashley suffer through a day in NYC. The poor girl really detests going to NYC.

There are always more shows to see. That is one of the best parts about living in this area. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sandy Dragon update :)

Sandy Claws Dragon has captured the interest of many of our friends. People often ask about him, or when they've heard about his health issues are afraid to ask about him.

Last summer he was one very sick dragon. I brought him to the exotic vet and rang up bills only a pet loving owner would admit to doing. The end result was a diagnosis of kidney failure and the need to inject fluids into him daily and give him meds orally, also daily. I felt as if I had suddenly become a vet's assistant.

Sandy was very lethargic. He was still a great snuggler, but didn't do much else. We've taken to feeding him by prying open his mouth and inserting food, and quickly removing our fingers before we get bit. At least most of the time. "Hi my name is Jacquie and I really love my pet."

A while ago we stopped giving him the meds and the saline. We noticed he started to improve. His poop became more solid (which is why we started the meds in the first place). A couple of weeks ago we noticed his tank seemed too small for him (we had been thinking about using a smaller tank since he wasn't moving much) and started taking him out again. He now takes a stroll around the kitchen.

Sunday (April 12) he was the focus of the children's sermon Ashley gave as part of Youth Sunday. The scripture was Luke 8: 26-37 -- the story of Jesus

casting the demons out of a man.

There are some things that look scary on the outside, but that really aren't. For example I have a lizard called a bearded dragon who we named Sandy Claws. He looks very scary from the outside. (holds up picture of Sandy showing his spikes) He has all of these spiky parts on the side and it looks like if you were to touch him, you would be in a lot of pain. But, if you do touch him, those sharp points are actually the softest part of him, and the rest of him isn't too sharp either. Sandy is very cuddly and nice.
This is like the scripture reading today. It's about a man who looks very scary, so everyone stayed away from him because they were scared. But there was one man who knew that it wasn't that scary man's fault. This man, named Jseus, knew the man was a child of God just like everyone. Jesus had the courage to go up to the man, and the kindness to heal him. Then, the man was all better. We should always have courage and kindness because those are two things that will always help us.
Now let's pray: Dear God, please bless everyone here and help them to always be kind and brave like Jesus. In your son's name we pray, Amen.
So perhaps the message was taken from our having seen "Cinderella" while in the planning stages of writing the message. It still fits. Have Courage and Be Kind. 

The next day Don bought him a new ramp/rock. He actually climbed on it. He is getting around more than we could have imagined.

The cats are still really good around him. If they know what is good for them, they'll stay that way!

He continues to give us much unexpected joy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

PSA: The downside to going green

About a month ago we called our local fire department. You see there was this odor. A very hard to describe odor. Perhaps like burning plastic, so we immediately checked the lights on Sandy's tank. For once they were not causing melting any plastic (those bulbs get very hot).

I had been invited to sub that day at PDS and had to leave. Don was still home (he had offered to take Ashley to the bus stop so I could be on time). He kept smelling the odor, so he worked from home.

Fast forward a few hours. Ashley came home. She immediately commented on the odor. I came home. I immediately commented on the odor. By this point, Don had turned off the lights in the kitchen thinking maybe it was related to that? Maybe?

It gets dark early the first week of January. I called the fire department to see what they thought. They were already out on a call and would swing by on their way back to the station.

I said it was a burning smell, but no smoke. They called it into the truck saying we have smoke. Three or four trucks arrived -- not just from our little station, but from Slackwood, too. Big guys with full equipment. We wanted one guy with a good nose to identify the problem.

For once I was too stunned to take a picture, but fortunately Ashley did. 

They were not here long, just long enough to identify the problem as our CFLs dying and emitting mercury. Try to be good for the environment, and you end up nearly poisoning yourself with mercury.

I went outside, swept the latest dusting of snow, and answered questions from the curious neighbors. 

That's it -- next time you smell burning plastic, check and see if it your compact florescent lights (CFLs) dying.

PSA: What I don't want to learn about on FB

Social Media, and Facebook in particular, has really changed the way we communicate. I am now able to be in touch with people I knew as a child. I am now able to learn more about people I have barely met, but have an inkling that if we lived closer, we could be truly awesome friends. I am now able to keep in touch with family and long-time friends from all over the globe. 

There is a downside to this social media, though. This week I learned something on Facebook that I had no right learning the way I did. It was something a close relative was not ready to share with the world, but someone else felt necessary to broadcast. They know who they are. They might even be reading this post. The point is not to fix the past, because that will be hard to fix. The point is to set ground rules for the future.

Things I want to learn from my family (aunts, uncles, and cousins are also included) and close friends before "the general public" gets to read about it:

1) Moving (buying/selling a house/relocation...)
2) Changes in marital status
3) Changes in number of children
4) Major health concerns
5) Deaths

Things I don't mind reading about on FB and you do not need to tell me about first:

1) What you ate that day
2) Trips (unless they are to see me, so you can get on the calendar)
3) Cute things your kids did or see

Get it? Daily stuff you do not need to tell me about in advance. Major life changes you do. I will try to give you the same respect. If I don't, feel free to call me out on it.

Feel free to add your must knows in advance in the comments.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Elephant in the Room

I'm in the beginning stages of the hardest battle I have ever had to face. Late January I went in for a routine blood test and found out I had full-blown diabetes at levels described by my then-PCP as "toxic" and I "must go on meds immediately." By the way, this was a very hard call for her to make. Boo hoo for her.

Two and a half months later, I'm still not able to accept this label. I'm typing this and posting about it because each day it gnaws at me. Because each week I repeat myself and tell someone knew about the diagnosis and how much emotional pain I am going through. However, I'm hiding it and only the most avid PillsPress readers will find it. If you do, please type a few words of encouragement.

If this is not the first time you are hearing about my diagnosis, it is because I felt I could trust you enough not to judge me or because I felt you needed to know because we were meeting for a meal. Most have not disappointed me. Some of you have. That gnaws away further at my damaged emotional state.

You see according to the ADA website, diabetes is preventable. It also does not have a cure. They recommend checking your risk factors to make sure you don't get this dreaded disease. Gee thanks. I had two risk factors out of 10: age and family history. That's it. Neither of which I could change.

I'm not your face of the typical diabetic. I cringe when I read posts on friend's FB pages or off-hand comments about them eating so much junk they are "diabetes just waiting to happen." Gee, is that what you think of me? I run, I eat lots of wholesome grains (or rather ate lots of wholesome grains), my weight is good (or was until I started losing so much), everything the ADA says to prevent diabetes I was doing naturally (drink black tea, stay away from alcohol, eat lots of veggies, etc.). 

So how did my A1C suddenly become an 8.0 when the year before my non-fasting BS was 108.

The first nutritionist said my trying to go vegetarian probably put me over the edge. My sister said her diagnosis came 6 months after she quit smoking. Sounds like the advice is to live life to the fullest until your doctor tells you otherwise.

I've significantly cut grains and sugars from my diet. This is really hard for this omnivore to do. I've added fish, eggs, and much more cheese, and I'm working on adding fats back into the diet in non-sugary ways since I keep losing weight. The early advice given was "don't lose weight." Quite a challenge when you eliminate grains and sugars. What is left? Cucumbers and celery -- which are all water. 

* The diagnosis came days before Fat Tuesday -- could not face pancake dinners
* Someone sent me an edible arrangement of fruit dipped in chocolate -- the week after the diagnosis. I gave it away with tears in my eyes.
* Having salad as everyone around me eats pizza or pasta.
* Narrowing down menu selections to one or two options because the rest are just filled with carbs.
* The escalating grocery bill (meat and veggies are much more expensive than pasta and spaghetti sauce).
* Eating 5-6 meals a day (eating every 2-4 hours to keep levels stable), and planning for those meals.
* Every time I eat I am pairing a carb with a protein -- while still trying to not have many grains. I'm sorely lacking in variety. I'd love to just grab a banana and go, but the banana has too many carbs and no protein, so a banana (perhaps the greatest on the go food) is now a sit down meal when paired with PB, and stick to only half of that banana, thank you very much.
* Feeling worthless because I allowed myself to get a preventable disease without even trying.
* Hearing about friends/relatives/selves who just lost 100 pounds and got off of all of their meds. I'd weigh less than Ashley if I "only" lost 100 pounds. I'm trying to stay off of meds.
* Being at a social event and only seeing carbs -- maybe all of the drinks are soda and alcohol, or the food is all carbs because that is what Americans eat.
* Being at a meeting where someone brings the most delectable brownie ever from the new bakery and being the only one not eating it because of this diagnosis, and because I don't know how to pair a protein with it at that moment. Do I spoil the mood of the unsuspecting person by telling her WHY I am not eating her treat that everyone else is drooling over or do I run out of the room screaming because every pore in my body wants that treat, but I know the pancreas pores would scream if I had it. So I sit there quietly pretending to be some saint and probably hurting the woman's feelings anyway. 
*Turning down an invitation to a dessert party because I know I can't handle being in the room while everyone else is devouring the treats.

I thought the hard part would be giving up ice cream. The weight watchers slogan "nothing tastes as good as feeling thin" keeps coming to mind. I like that I've lost a few of those pounds that had been clinging to my calves (and preventing me from zipping up boots) and to my extra chin. 

Another positive, my run times were getting faster and stronger. I feel more motivated to run because it kicks out my feelings of worthlessness.

I still look longingly at pastries, and menu options I can't choose. I look at carb counts on labels and wonder if it is worth it. I eat with friends on similar "diets," who use seeing me as an excuse for a "cheat day." No "cheat days" in my life right now.

The sister who is diabetic firmly believes we have MODY version. This is strictly related to genetics (which would eliminate the guilt factor), but cannot go away with diet. The pancreas will not heal itself. Hers responds very well to the Paleo Diet. Mine seems to, but I can't quite give up a 1/2 cup or rice at dinner or my square of chocolate. She told me which meds work for her and which ones don't. I suspect Doctor #1 would have put me on one that would not work for me and then I'd feel even worse than I do right now.

So, what does my future hold? I'm trying to be strict for this four month period (my doctor gave me an extra month on the three month test to get my diet in order). I take the A1C and a flurry of other tests (such as a scary one to see if I am really Type 1 instead of Type 2), check protein (am I over doing it with the meats?), cholesterol (am I over doing it with the eggs?), and get a better sense of what my future holds. 

I test myself every morning. It has been in the normal to pre-diabetic range EVERY DAY for six weeks now. That has to help the A1C, right? The problem is I stress so much over taking that test and seeing the numbers it hurts. Not the pain of the prick, but the anxiety over the numbers. The anxiety over how did I end up with a disease that is preventable and has no cure? It is a giant loop that keeps running in my head and preventing me from enjoying life.

I'm also searching for a nutritionist/dietician that will understand me. I have a couple of good recommendations, but have not been able to connect with them.

This is long, but important. I can email the link to people as they need to know. Maybe someday I'll have the courage to tell everyone and not be ashamed or feel guilty.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo, How about You, You, You?

A decline in gas prices (under $2 a gallon), and a nice day in January encouraged us to drive down to DC for the day to see Bao Bao and her parents. Bao Bao is rapidly growing up. She was just a cub when we went to see her last year. In that time she went from being a cub who slept all the time, to a sledding rock star when the world watched her play in the snow for the first time. A few days before we went to DC, Bao Bao hit another milestone: she was separated from her mother. Bao Bao, Tian Tian, and Mei Xiang all have their own enclosures, since pandas tend to be solitary creatures in the wild.
When we arrived, Tian Tian was still outside, but just about to go in for lunch. The best time to visit the zoo is when it first opens because the animals are often outside at that point and just cute as can be. Driving 3-4 hours, and often leaving after rush hour, does not make that happen. We are happy when we do see them outside in a more natural environment.

The pandas are the star of our visit, but we also love seeing all of the animals. The elephants have a great new wide open space, but we still seem to catch them inside. We have yet to see orangutans fly overhead. As cool as that sounds, I suspect if I really saw it happen I would scream or run for cover (just from the poop, not from the animals that weigh more from me, right?). 

We had the pleasure of seeing the seals get fed and weighed. The zookeepers seem to have so much fun working with the animals. Lucky them!

Mostly we just walked up and down Olmsted way before heading back to the car for the 3-4 hour drive home. 

It was just nice to be able to spend the day as a family and not have any other obligations.