On entering a photo contest….

I decided a couple weeks ago that I was going to enter my photography into one of our county fairs (we have many counties around here -ergo the name -4 county little league, or four county this or that). My favorite county fair is the Howard County Fair. It’s not too big and it’s not small. They have great rides but not too much. They have fun local bands and a neat petting barn. I love that fair.

Last year we walked through the Fine Arts building and I looked at all of the photography that had been entered. I loved all of the shots and wondered how they decided on the winners of each category. I left feeling like I might want to try to enter a few pictures the next year -but then I sort of forgot about it.

The fall brought  me health challenges and photography wasn’t in my thoughts as much. I am always taking pictures but I wasn’t taking them with my new Nikon, I was mostly using my iphone. I would look at the shiny red Nikon and that’s all I would do- just look. I don’t know what the matter was. Well I have become ambivalent about many things and for some reason photography was one of them. I know that recovering from my cancer treatments has taken longer than expected but I think this is more mental than physical. I am overwhelmed and just the thought of taking shots and having to plug the camera into my computer was tiring for me. I know weird right? I’m a former software engineer! I love all things techie!

This problem of ambivalence still plagues me but I see it has lifted some relating to certain things. I’ve painted furniture, we are going to move my other teen boy downstairs into the basement to live with his brother and I’m all excited to get it done, and two weeks ago I got excited about photography.

Two weeks ago I was looking through some of my older photos taken with my older Canon and some taken with my oldest Canon – now long gone. I hadn’t looked at these shots for a while so I was looking at them as if for the first time. I realized they weren’t bad. As I looked at the images I realized that I am an ok photographer. So maybe I should enter some of my photos into the Howard County Fair. If it weren’t for the fact that I had been looking up local fairs coming up in our area that same week as I had been looking at my old photos i may have not had the thought. But when I saw Howard County Fair pop up on my google search I remembered the thought I had taken with me last summer when I left that Fine Arts building.

Thankfully I did pick up my Nikon over the last year a few times. ( all photos must have been taken since the fair last summer.) So I began to go through what I had. I didn’t have much time to crop and do much in photoshop elements but I found a number I liked. I ordered a bunch from Shutterfly and was expecting them last week. Guess what? -they were a no show. I found out that they were sent to my old address in my town and then returned to the forwarding center ( gotta love my town and the personal help you get when you call the post office inquiring about them-they even said they’d call if the came back through. ) The address issue was my fault and I needed a new plan and fast. So I sent some to our local CVS where they only do glossy prints. Then I ordered more from Shutterfly bc they do matte finishes and I had them sent two day. They have to be matted and taken to the fairgrounds by this Friday. I also ordered mats and backs and tape from Amazon and they just arrived as I have been writing this blog post. So I’m in this for a few bucks at this point.

I don’t know why but I am more excited than nervous. I am also so happy that I have some spirit coming back and my ambivalence is leaving even more. I feel a spark inside that I hadn’t felt very much in a while. When it flickered every now and then I just wanted it to stay on. It might be a while but I think it will.

I never wanted to lose the spark and I never thought I would become ambivalent and lethargic about so many things. I have always been a go go person. But I have been left with a less frantic version of myself- and as I wrote in my cancer blog this week- some of the changes that have occurred have been very good ones for me and my family. But the ambivalence bother me. Is it depression? Well maybe- but mild at best. Its more like having feet in quicksand. I have felt like maybe I am in a redefining point of my life. So maybe some of the ambivalence will be a catalyst for making some needed changes in my life. My nature isn’t to be wishy washy – it has always been to make a choice and get the job done. I could take on many things at once–now I find that overwhelming and often times pointless. Maybe this is the point – maybe we hit walls like this in our lives because it is time to make changes. Maybe as we make those changes some of the spark begins to return- maybe for old things and maybe for new things–(I have fallen in love with baseball- but that is for another post).  All I can say is I am so glad that I got a spark again with photography. I feel alive when I think of this project of choosing and matting and entering them – and then hoping maybe a judge likes what he sees. It is fun – it is challenging….

Funny thing is that I expect to ribbon in a category (I am allowed to enter five). It’s not cockiness at all. Though I’m not sure what it is because I know I’m up against steep competition but I just feel good about it. And honestly if I don’t win a thing it won’t crush me either. I already won this one because my feet came out of the quicksand for a time and I felt alive – and that is what is most important.

Thanks for reading.



Quality Time…I hope…

Things are changing…the Sweeney family used to travel in a pack – the five of us were together much of the time for the last 7-8 years when my husband began his sales job and had a home office. We just seemed to do almost everything together.  Out of the mini-van we all came- sometimes with a dog or two in tow. We spent hours and hours at each kids sports events- each sibling rooting the other on. (or doing a puzzle-but we were all there)…We had dinners together regularly, we vacationed together, we were at WalMart together, the shoe Store, Kohls, TJ Maxx, we all showed up to friends get- togethers. We were unit.  We were together so much and probably my hubby and I did not take enough date nights together. But we traded that for good conversation with our kids – and I suppose sometimes not so good conversations. My boys were best-friends playing together for hours together.  Now it makes me happy if they hang out in each others company without fighting every 5 minutes. Its not the same these days.

Over the last few year our eldest child – our daughter- began doing a few more things on her own : more sleep-overs, more church events, just more stuff that didn’t include all of us. Then the boys followed suit with their own stuff. This week I find myself home with my two boys-my mom is visiting for the week – my daughter is in Florida for a week visiting my dad and his wife. My husband is in Chicago on business. One day after my daughter arrives home this week she is off again on a church mission trip for another full week – then she gets back and her practices begin for Field Hockey and both my boys are going to go out for different sports this year- a first since they were very young.  As I was driving to pick up one son from soccer camp i realized I am getting glimpse into our future – where we are living our own lives- meeting for a few hours to try to reconnect as we head back out. It’s not a shock – it just came pretty fast is all. One day we were a unit and together so much- and on occasions (many) we drove each other nuts – but the next day my kids are flying alone to Florida. Wow…

I am proud of my kids and their walk into adulthood. I miss their littleness but I like this time too. It is when you really see if anything you have tried to teach them is coming to fruition. They are making new friends, going to new schools, circumventing those tough teen years and trying to figure out who they are or who they want to be. Its a hard time for them but can also be a wonderful time too. Floating between child and adult- learning how to make choices  – sometimes big ones that can effect their entire life.

My role as a parent has changed quite a bit. I am there to help guide and set boundaries. To encourage and to help lift them up when they make mistakes – but to also help them learn from them. Its much different than raising them and telling them stop hitting, use inside voices (though this still comes up!), wipe feet- nose – mouth etc.

So times have changed- they are home less – and when here doing more of their own stuff..maybe not emerging during the day except for meals – or not being home at all. How do we stay connected?  I suppose my husband and i need time to connect with them more than they think they need it with us.  I have decided that i am not going to get quantity time anymore. So it has to be quality time.

While they are gone they can connect with us through the phone- I bet every parent i know has a love/hate relationship with their kids cell phones. But I am so glad my daughter has a phone with her in Florida – she shares photos and calls and texts us regularly. I am seeing this is something she needs too as we did not set any expectations when she boarded that plane to Florida. We just hoped she would miss us- a little. When we are all home again at the end of the week we will have very little time where we will all be together again — one day only — maybe we can carve out a few hours (or one) to sit together to eat and reconnect before each one takes off again.

We will get better at ( and more used to) this juggling act I am sure. This is the life with teens. They need to fly off and make their own lives and they need to come home again to a place where they are welcome, and the world is familiar and they are loved. So my goal is quality time – not quantity- it makes me mindful to pick my battles and to make sure our time is used wisely. There will be slip ups because i am super-impatient and will probably pounce on a returning kid from time to time yelling at them to get this or that done before they head out again – (its all about delivery I am learning)… but I hope in the long run my kids will someday know how much they are loved and will remember to reconnect with us and their siblings as often as they can. We built this family to support each other and to love each other and to be there for each other when it might seem nobody else is.

Thanks for reading…




Mom Summer…?

I think we are halfway through summer vacation aren’t we? Well if we aren’t we should be! Because isn’t summer supposed to be time off for moms too? A time to not nag the kids, get more work done whether it is in the home or for a job or both? Well it is not that for me. It seems the older my kids get the more I have to nag them and the more busy my husband and I are during the summer.

For kids who plan to play sports (or who want to play sports) in high school in the fall their vacation will be over as soon as try-outs begin in August. But prior to try-outs there is the nag time that I am enduring as i try to beg and plead with my son to get off his rear-end and get on outside to workout. I am the one who began to assign him his daily workouts and tried to make sure he did them. Because if he wants to make the team he needs to be able to run 2 miles in a certain amount of time(nobody will tell me how much time that is so i am going with 20 minutes). So you MUST get out there and get it done so you can make the team.

We may be one of few families at his school who have a full gym with nautilus equipment and functional equipment like tires and ropes in a gym in their backyard -as my husband is a trainer and conditioning coach. Yes he is! And why might we have to be nagging our son to get out and workout you might wonder- while other kids flock to have my husband train them?! Well that is because my trainer husband is just dad to my kids..not trainer dad. So we can talk the big workout talk but to my son it is just parent nag….blah –blah –(we nag bc we love – right?).

I wonder why I even care so much. My daughter has decided she wants to make the field hockey team this year and she took it upon herself to join a team for the summer and to continue work outs that she had been doing all winter. She does not need nagging – just rides everywhere… She knows what it will take- and she gets it done. AND she still has much down time to do the stuff she likes to do. My son – well not so much- he loves one thing- video games- well maybe 2 things -if you count TV. At age 13 nearing 14 I have decided that I can handle his addiction to video games because I picture him becoming less enamored with gaming as his high school life begins (ie social life improves and studying gets more demanding). One can only hope. It keeps me going bc we have tried the setting limits thing and have endured the bad moods, and the sneaky behavior — so I lament to friends with kids the same age– and lo and behold this addiction to games is very common- and I am thankful its just to gaming– so I live with it with hopes that as he matures this too shall pass.

Why am I spending much of my summer down time worrying about my kid making soccer? Does he even care that much…I think the answer is no. So I had a sit down with him and we chatted. He does want to make the team but is not sure he wants to try as hard as i want him to. But he realizes after our chat that if he wants me to sign him up for soccer camp that I must see a commitment of some kind. So he has been going out each day to workout with my other son (who does not want to try-out for soccer but likes the workouts with his brother- bonus- …oh but this one sleeps until noon). On Wednesday – 3 days into the workouts- soccer hopeful son said he would like a break for the day–what? You had 2 workouts – and he is not even running! Ok I told him…sigh… He was back at it in yesterday but the long run is not happening. We have decided to have him evaluated by a soccer coach this weekend. We hope that someone who knows what it takes to make the team with evaluate and let him know how he can improve his chances..if this comes from another person who is not a parent it might have more impact. 

I don’t know what he thinks its easy to get on the team—its too hard –he cant really tell me and i am not sure he knows other than he is a tad lazy and rather watch video games- but I am not going to go one more day nagging him–ok i lie- I will nag but I am letting it go to a couple nags a day not my all out mom mode nagging- it is too exhausting. I want a mom summer.  I want some downtime between running my daughter to friends houses and hockey games (at least she has a social life) and worrying that I am a bad mom if I let my other son sleep past noon (we like when he is asleep- oh here he now and its 11:50am! We like when he is awake too- but wake time for him can be dramatic sometimes which equals drama for all of us – mom summer remember? – don’t judge). If soccer son makes the team he does- if not then he needs another activity- which looks like marching band at this point (yes I will have to nag him to practice…but that is in the fall!)

NOTE to mom’s of soon to be teens out there- TEENS ARE EXHAUSTING! Maybe its because I am 50 (many of my friends my age have much older kids now- I became a mom late) but I just get pooped out trying to manage them. In the fall I can provide their supplies, the link to their assignments, read over papers if asked, but i am done with the micro-managing of every day life of a teen. If they fail so be it. Oh I will be their worst nightmare if they are caught lying about who-what- where they are, if they drink, do drugs…etc. But in the everyday part of life like : are you going to clean your bathroom or live in a sty – when is the last time you bathed -are you going to study for this or that- I just have to step back- and even more in the summer- UNLESS we are having company because then I care about the bathroom and my kids cleanliness.

My mom chair

So how do I have a mom summer? I really don’t think I will have what I was hoping for but I can let up a little and just let the soccer try-outs just be what they are going to be. I can put my feet up when I get a chance…I am typing this from my mom chair with my feet up right now. I can get organized. Hey this week I even cleaned out the kid supply drawer got on a roll and cleaned out my dining buffet – our TV console – and a bookcase—purging was good- Oh yea I am living the dream! Mom summer is on!

Oh!- and one final note to moms to soon to be teens–teens are wonderful people who are growing into adulthood right in front our our eyes. It is really an amazing thing.  Parent exhaustion is really worth it… No I really mean this — …I do:)

Thanks for reading…