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Gin Schaffer is a former higher education administrator and works part-time at MWHC's Regional Cancer Center as the Coordinator of Integrative Medicine. She lives in downtown Fredericksburg and enjoys walking and biking with her husband and 2 kids (especially if coffee is involved).

Pillow Talk

Putting Myself in Time Out

It was August 2014 when I posted my very first blog for Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine. I was grateful for the opportunity to write about my family's day-to-day life while dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. Blogging was the cheapest therapy ever! I have written almost 70 posts since that day in 2014 and have really learned a lot from the process. I have also learned quite a bit from you, the readers; nothing is more gratifying than knowing my words helped to make someone else's day better.

Over the past couple of months, I have been struggling with my blog writing. I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I used to rush to my laptop with a desire to write, to share thoughts and feelings with you, my fellow parents. I could say that I was tired, that I was busy, that I hadn't been feeling well, but honestly, those factors have always been issues for me. In fact, writing used to help me cope with those problems - so I felt really perplexed as to why I was experiencing that ever-frustrating writer's block.

Then, with wonderful support from the Fred Parent staff, I realized there doesn't have to be a reason. It's o.k. for me to be honest and say, "I can't write anymore." Blogging served as an excellent platform for me in my transition from Boston to Fredericksburg and from cancer patient to cancer survivor. My not knowing what the future holds is probably why I was holding onto writing this blog. But, when I started writing I was truly lost, I had said good-bye to a 20+ year career in higher education and I was fighting cancer. Now, I'm working part-time, cancer-free, and have at least a glimpse of an idea of what I want my future to look like.

And, as I re-read some my own posts, I am reminded that having faith is a huge part of surviving the challenges of life. There are no guarantees; I hope that we all learn to embrace the adventure of the unexpected. Looking at these pictures of my family (October 2014 at a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and December 2016 at the Fredericksburg Christmas Parade), I think we've done just that.

     

So, thank you for taking the time to read Pink Ribbon Journey and Pillow Talk. I sincerely appreciate it. I encourage you to read the other great blogs on the website, including Shannon Enos. Shannon's blog will now appear on Tuesdays; she has written for Fred Parent before and is ready to return to share her funny, yet insightful take on this crazy world of parenting. Also, keep an eye out on our Guests and Ghosts section - who knows, you might just see me pop-up on there one day. xoxo

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Spreading #lovefxbg in 2017

This is my third installation sharing why I #lovefxbg. Recently, my Facebook memory feature reminded me that this time last year, the UMW Alumni Office highlighted Steve and me  as a Valentine's couple - and reflecting on that article reminded me how much I love this town for its spirit. Sure, we all have our flaws, but I feel like I can always depend on Fredericksburg for trying to bring people together, for trying to do good for one another. We congregate, we celebrate, and we help one another. There is a part of us that loves showing off Fredericksburg's important past and how that past informs our need to be better for the future. I #lovefxbg and am glad our family got the opportunity to showcase this great little city of ours when my sister's family came for a recent visit.

Anna is part of a gymnastics class at the Massad - Rappahannock YMCA - my sister's family met us there and they were able to watch an exciting basketball tournament, use the workout equipment, and play racquetball. A great thing about the area around this YMCA is that the trails are connected, so if you are super-ambitious, you could find yourself visiting Saint Clair Brooks Park, cross River Road to the river, head up to Pratt Park, and walk over to Chatham Manor. The YMCA, the Parks and Recreation facilities, and Rappahannock River all of which represent bastions of what a community can do to be involved, be active, healthy, and preserve our natural resources. Make sure you visit the Massad-YMCA on February 20th for Demo Day - a day full of class demonstrations, prizes, and membership sign-up specials.

If my sister hadn't been dating a UMW water polo player in the late 80s, I may never had attended Mary Wash (or met Steve). So, she definitely had some knowledge of the 'burg and what restaurants were around back then. She is just as excited as we are to see all the development of cuisines in town (beer, coffee, and donuts included). I should mention there was a first stop - my nephew has an addiction to Cook-Out that is almost informing his college choices. I imagine many of you can relate to teenage food consumption woes; I do love their fried okra though!

Knowing that Valentine's weekend was probably going to be tough on dining out, we chose an early Saturday dinner at Castiglia's. I have been consistently happy with their charcuterie plate, pan-seared scallop appetizer and steak salad; the kids love their smiley-faced pizza and the ravioli was a hit too! Given that we returned to Fredericksburg from Boston, it pains us that we don't have a true bagel shop here, but on Sunday morning we did find some good food, and I'll give a shout out to Blackstone; I love their Power Wheat bagel. Also, I'm really excited to highlight a new place right in front of Eagle Village - Renee's Crepes & Cakes. Our server was super sweet - as we waited for our savory and sweet crepe order, she made us some coffee and all I can say is, just order it "Medium Sweet" - it was so good!

Something that I like to do on a regular basis and with any visitors in town is to walk all of Caroline Street (from the train station down to the library). I am a regular of Goolrick's Pharmacy; the personal service I get for prescriptions is terrific and our own Fred Parent staff member, Mary Becelia got me hooked on their mocha milkshake. Oh, and the deviled eggs are great too!

goolricks

If you are planning to host visitors, don't forget about our Visitor's Center. They have such fun things to share with you as you create an itinerary for your family and friends. Also, if you bring your car downtown, remember, the Sophia Street Parking Garage offers the first 3 hours of parking free -- always. Get out there and share the #lovefxbg!

lovefxbg

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Parenting a "Gifted" Child (when you weren't one)

Jack

My son Jack is a 3rd grader and has excelled at spelling bees since 1st grade. Being part of this type of academic competition was a completely new experience for me and it made me wonder if this will be a future path for Jack. He also excels at sports, so perhaps competition is at the heart of his interests. Either way, I felt a little out of my element watching some parents who at least appeared to be "old pros" at the world of academic sport. I never was involved in any type of debate team, math club; walking into these spelling bees felt a little like going into a club you aren't a member of.

Jack has a brain that works in a much different way than mine did at his age and well, like mine works now. There are many times that I don't realize he is trying to be funny, or his brain is working out unique word combinations. Being a parent takes patience and then even more when you realize you don't understand what your son is saying. Steve sometimes steps in to translate for me, he also acts as mediator when he realizes that I might be getting upset (most likely for the wrong reason) at something Jack said.

Every parent thinks and should think their child is gifted. A gift is defined as "a natural ability or talent" and each and every one of us has a gift. Some of us just find it a little sooner or maybe have that special person who calls it to our attention. But, the gift is there. It might not be the shape and size you thought it would be, but it's there.

For Jack, he showed hints of needing something different academically in first grade. Steve and I didn't really understand how the system worked because he is our oldest child and we had no experience with it, so we just let the testing play out as the teachers recommended which was to wait until 2nd grade. Maybe other parents would have demanded testing earlier, but we just didn't feel it was necessary to push it at 1st grade, especially since it was a new school fo him. Jack proceeded through the battery of tests for Gifted & Talented (GT) and began attending the program in 2nd grade. If you are wondering whether your child has some of the markers educational administrators look for, I found this chart helpful because it opened my eyes as to how Jack sees and processes things differently.

As parents, we watch our children grow and navigate their learning with such joy, hope, and admiration; I think those feelings often turn into anxiety and fear that our children will miss out on opportunities; they won't get into the right school, they won't get the right job, on and on and on. It's really easy to get ahead of yourself. I know I have simply out of fear that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Remember to breathe, don't fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet, and attend the Fred Parent Kid's Expo!

 

 

 

 

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Our Kids: They are the Now

This time last week, our country was honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King while watching the contrast as two large events took shape: the Inauguration and the Women's March on Washington. Without a doubt, it was an unprecedented time in our nation's history. As parents, it can be hard to put all the triumphs and tragedies of our nation's history into perspective for our kids. As much as we try to be "age appropriate" when we discuss various topics, our world has changed so drastically that access to information is fast and furious and we find ourselves being asked questions that never existed before.

Even during the toughest of circumstances, our goal as parents is to help our children feel safe and loved. And, something we often forget, is that they, our young people, are heard. That their voices matter. On MLK Day, Steve and I took the kids to Richmond to show them the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial (pictured below). It was important for our kids to see this memorial, a permanent marker that recognizes youth for their actions against civil and racial injustices. I stood there, trying to help my kids connect our expectations of them being kind and respectful to everyone to an understanding that injustice to one human being is injustice to all. Of course, it's going to take some time for their young minds to grasp these concepts, but we'll keep coming back to this memorial.

At the age of 16, "Barbara Johns and several fellow students led a strike to protest the deplorable conditions at their racially segregated Prince Edward County School." Read Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by my UMW classmate and friend, Kristen Green for an in depth historical review and personal narrative.

As inauguration day approached, I was hoping for a smooth transfer of power and basically, that happened. The scattered violent protests that occured on Friday were inexucusable and repeating messages of non-violence to our children is paramount. I watched some of the coverage with my mother. She came to Washington, DC in 1962. Her view, regardless of political beliefs, was that we all should be watching the inaugural events as a means to support the process, recognize our democracy. That's really hard to do, especially when there are feelings of anger, fear, and confusion about our government. But, our kids may just need to see us rise above all that. Or maybe they'll show us how. Watch these students from Immokalee High School.

Whether you supported the election of our new president or not, the fear and tension in our country is palpable, evidenced by the marches that occured on the second day of his term. When the news was spreading that a women's march in DC would be taking place, I went back and forth about attending. While discussing my ambivalence and honestly, silly reasons for not going to the march, Steve was quick to encourage me to go. I realized it was important to me, so I called my mom and told her she'd have a housemate for inauguration night. For me, it was easiest to go to the march by myself; I needed to be free to explore all that the day entailed.

When I was walking down to the Metro platform on Saturday morning. I saw this young woman, wearing a t-shirt she had made herself with the march logo on the front and the quote on the back (pictured below). Her name was Amaya, she was 16 and had come from Allentown, PA with some friends and family, a few came all the way from Nebraska. Malala (the activist and author) is a hero of hers and she told me she felt strongly about fighting for what she believes in; she can't wait to get back to school to talk to her friends and teachers about what she learned from this experience. What struck me is that Amaya, at such a young age, like Malala, exuded such grace and peace. I was humbled to start my day talking to her. It was that feeling that made me realize these were the voices I wanted to hear during the march event.

While in the train, I met a couple of lifelong friends and their daughters, ages 12, 13, and 14 from California and Washington. The kids had never been to DC before and were very excited that their first time coincided with what became a historic day. The oldest told me that she's writing a paper about the experience for one of her classes while another is writing a piece for the local paper. All three of these young women told me about their activism at school and I just thought to myself, "Wow, I was so lame as a middle-schooler" and then one of them said something that really got my attention...

"You know, we go to different events and such, adults tell us to keep at it, we're the future. And I think, No. We Are The Now."

What a powerful statement. It really shaped my view of the day. At the march, it was pretty awe-inspiring to see the amount of people that had come to the event. By now, you've seen and heard the various reports that came out of that day (check out the pictures). I continued to talk to youth from all over the country about why they came to the march; they all felt it was important to be part of something and wanted to spread that feeling of activism.

About the time that Gloria Steinem took the stage, I walked up to a young man sitting on one of the federal building stoops, taking a break. He was 13, from St. Louis; he was holding a huge "Black Lives Matter" sign. The look on his face was a blend of fatigue and disgust. I said hello, asked him what he thought of all this (pointing to all the people) and he said, "I just think it is so dumb that we still have to do this." I agreed, then said to him, "Are you thinking about all your friends back in St. Louis, wishing they were here with you?" This young man gave me a look and an affirming nod that truly broke my heart, he followed up by saying, "I have a lot to tell them." We talked a little more, listening to Gloria's words, and then I shook his hand and thanked him for talking to me.

Our youth are dealing with such a complex tapestry of issues that we don't fully understand. I think we think we've been listening, but we really haven't. I know I didn't seriously discuss the election with any 12-18 year olds and now I regret not having done so, especially with first-time voters. This is what I'm taking away from the events of last week: that I have to do a better job at listening and giving our young members of society a place to talk freely about their hopes, their fears, and their dreams. We owe them that and so much more.

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Digging Deep - Finding My Inner Crafter

The internet (aka Pinterest) is so dangerous! I can get some really good decorating and craft ideas one minute and the next, I'm spinning in a cycle of self-pity, crying about how I don't DO anything. Of course, this is crazy. I mean, how many toilet paper roll hacks do I need to know about? But, I think at the core of my emotional landslide is that I remember doing (and enjoying) creative projects and I wonder what happened? Why don't I feel the urge to create like I used to?

I know that motherhood has made it hard to find the time to engage in things like crafting, scrapbooking, and painting - the kids' partially finished baby books are guilt-filledreminders that I did try at one point. Time just slips by and the crazy cycle of moving around totes, full of stamps, paints, and pictures, continues.

Of course, being a mom has given me ample opportunity to do various crafts with the kids (insert popsicle stick ornaments here). The difference is that the kids and I are usually at a place, such as a fair or the library, where the craft is provided for us. It's not me setting up the creative outlet for the kids (or myself); I haven't been the one to initiate the majority of projects that they do and I've been trying to figure out why and how to get that desire back.

The holidays delivered a timely opportunity for me (and others) to give the kids some arts and crafts gifts for the holidays. I was hoping that by helping them with these projects, my creative spirit would get moving again and I could come up with future ideas for them. When I started to work on the projects, I realized, almost immediately that I probably stopped trying different creative outlets out of fear that it wouldn't be right, it wouldn't be perfect. And, I don't recall feeling that way about projects until I became a mom, and that is just so crazy to me. I don't ever want to feel like that and I don't want anyone, especially my daughter to feel like that either.

So, I changed my perspective rather quickly and focused on the time I was spending with the kids and not what the product was going to be. One of our first products was making Crayola markers with Emoji stamp tips. It was difficult at first for me to figure out the color ink combinations; Anna thought all the colors were pretty (even if it looked like all the same shade of purple to me). In the end, this was a successful experiment and even better, we were able to give 8 markers to her ever-texting, teenage cousin! This experience led me to color this cute owl tote bag for a co-worker to use at the hospital.

     

Up next? Killing our fingers on the Alex Knot-A-Quilt. It's not easy, but we've completed 2 rows and we can tell it will be cute once we get it done, but wow does it test your fine motor skills!

The kids have asked to dive into "real" paints and canvas, so I'll be putting some of my old wares to use. One of my favorite home organizer "gurus" is Peter Walsh. He emphasizes that if you aren't using or displaying that in which you claim is important to you, then it really isn't and it's time to let that stuff go. Not only is it time for me to let some stuff go, but it's also time to let go of the notion that I have to DO anything and that those anythings have to be perfect. That's freedom from the myth of perfection and all mothers deserve that. xoxo

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Pouches' Community Corner

This month Pouches learned about a very important resource for families who have lost loved ones to sudden tragedy, an organization called LLOST.

keepsake box

The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.

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