Sunday, January 31, 2010

Are There Brown LaGooses in YOUR House?

Do you all have brown la gooses living in your home?

Yes, you read that right....brown la gooses...

Haven't heard of those?

Well, daughter came home this morning from a sleepover and asked me, in all seriousness, if we had brown la gooses living in our house.

"What?" I asked, sure I had misheard her.

"Brown la gooses", she repeated.

"What do you mean, a 'brown la goose'?" I asked again....

She answered, "You know - a brown la goose spider. Mandy told me that brown la goose spiders will get in your shoes and bite you and kill you."

It took a second - remember, I'm on MAJOR sinus infection drugs - but then it hit me.....

a brown RECLUSE spider....


I had to reassure my daughter that as long as she kept her room clean, there was no chance of brown la gooses living in her room. And then I quietly went into my bathroom where I shut the door and laughed so hard it hurt my face.



Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fickle Finger of Fate

The last thing I saw – before I blacked out and hit the pavement – was a baseball. Heading right towards my face. In a sheer reflexive move, I turned my head slightly to the right, in a move to avoid the impact of the baseball that was heading directly at my nose.

And then – CRUNCH. Moment of impact. A round cushioned cork, wrapped in wool and polyester/cotton yarn, and then wrapped in cowhide – smashing into my face at a speed of about 50 m.p.h.

My nose never stood a chance.

When I came to, after the collision, I was laying on the pavement of my church parking lot. I was 12 years old at the time – and the youth group at my church had been playing an impromptu game of catch in the back parking lot – boys at one end, girls on the other.

A kid named Stuart Hamilton had made the fateful throw that would change my life forever – he heaved that baseball as hard as he could – and as it came hurtling through the sky towards us girls, two girls in front of me gave indications they were going to catch it. So I didn't make any effort to catch it. And at the last second, they both inexplicably ducked away from the ball – probably trying to be polite, as girls are prone to be, in allowing the other one to catch it – but thereby insuring that neither one of them caught it and only my nose would now catch it. And catch it, it did. POW.

Because of that slight right turn I had made a split second before impact, the baseball literally shoved my nose across my face to the right – leaving a hideously malformed, shattered, crooked bump on my face.

Surgery was immediately called for – and done – to repair the damage. And although the nose looked good on the outside, the damage on the inside was a little too much – a little too severe – to totally repair.

And the problems began.

Thirty-five years after that fateful day (May 12, 1974 – isn’t it funny how we can remember pivotal dates that change our lives?), and two surgeries later – I still suffer from chronic sinus problems….

This latest sinus infection, though, was admittedly one of the worst – I get them frequently, and have learned through the years to manage the pain and the inconvenience. But man, oh man – this one has kicked my ass. I have done nothing except lay in bed, going through Kleenex, Tylenol, Afrin, Sudafed and now my antibiotics as if my life depended on it.

I haven’t had an infection this bad in at least 2-3 years, so I guess I was due. But wow. Just wow. I think I’m on the upswing, now – I’m on Day #2 of a 10-day supply of antibiotics, so it can only get better from here on out, right?

Fate is funny sometimes…I have wondered how my life would have been different…if only….

But that, my friends, is a colossal waste of time. Fate deals the cards and we must play the hand we’re dealt with. I gotta’ crappy hand when it came to noses – but I pick myself up – squirt a little nasal spray (my lifesaver) - and move on.

Back to bed for me now. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I’ll be off of the self-pity blogging and I’ll be back to my old self. ☺



Friday, January 29, 2010

Exploding Ears!

Brought to my knees by a sinus infection.

That's the official diagnosis from the doctor today. Yes, hell froze over, folks - the day the Drama Queen picks up a phone and calls for a doctor's appointment for HERSELF is a small miracle. Goes to show how miserable I've been feeling the last 3 days. After suffering through another horrible, sleepless, painful night - I called the doctor's office today at 9:30 a.m. The receptionist said they could see me at 9:50 a.m.

I had seen the doctor and was leaving with prescriptions in hand by 10:02 a.m.

Now, THAT's service.

I probably would have let things go except for the fact that I have another mission trip (to Belize!) coming up in a week - and the last thing I wanted/needed was to be sick - on a plane or in a foreign country. I couldn't imagine having any more pain or pressure on my ears than I've had for the last 3 days - on a plane, surely they would explode. Yowza. Exploding ears is what got me to call the doctor.

So - I'm off to take my medications and get some rest and drink lots of fluids. Sometimes even Drama Queens must take it easy and just let things go - and although it's hard to not want to clean the house or do the laundry or cook dinner or pay the bills or run errands - I know that my job - at this moment - is to take care of me.



Thursday, January 28, 2010



Very sick.

Stuffy nose, sinus pressure, headache, earache.

Up all night. Hurt. Body hurts.

'Nuff said.

Back to bed.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010


HGTV’s “Bank For Your Buck” wants to film our basement!

Seriously…they do!

And I said no.

If you remember, we just finished a HUGE five-month remodeling job on our new house – where just about 99% of the house was gutted and redone. This included our basement – BUT – (and this is a BIG “but”) - we had to stretch the budget somewhere, and so our basement didn’t exactly get the “wow” factor. It got the “good enough” factor, if that makes sense. The “wow” factor went upstairs – on the main living area – and we were okay with that.

So – anyway – I guess HGTV is coming to Kansas City the first week of March to film basement remodels – and we received an email this week from the producer with an application. They got wind of our remodel from one of our contractors, and they felt that our basement would be “perfect” to showcase on the show.

What an honor, right? But I said no.

If you know anything at all about the show, “Bank For Your Buck” will showcase 3 families who’ve done a remodel – all spending approximately the same amount of money. While the family watches remotely, a designer and a realtor will then come into your remodeled space and critique it – they’ll tell you what you did right, and what you did wrong – and then they compare the 3 homes at the end of the show and decide who will get the most money back in resale – the most “bang” for their buck.

Hubby and I talked it over – and we feel that the last thing we both need right now is the stress and pressure of a television crew in our basement – critiquing our choices and our redesign….Not to mention, I don’t take criticism well…at all. Period.

And I don’t know that I could calmly sit there – while being filmed – listening to some designer tell me my basement is ugly. I would so rip their throat out. Seriously. And that wouldn’t be so good for my image, I guess. And then my kids would be teased mercilessly as the children of the “crazy lunatic lady who ripped the throat out of a designer on that HGTV show.” Who wants that stigma?

And the application? Oh my God. It is seriously thicker than a college application. It’s 7 pages long – including the “interview”, where they ask questions like, “What kind of personalities do you and your spouse have?” (probably trying to see if we’re crazy and ultra-sensitive and subject to ripping out throats), as well as, “What would you say is your style?” Snort. Style? I have no style – unless you can call “Get ‘er done!” a “style”, as that became very much the impetus behind most of my design decisions for the basement. (“Just get ‘er done so I can move in!”)

So – you will not be seeing the Drama Queen’s basement when they showcase Kansas City on “Bang for Your Buck.” And I am at peace with that decision. It’s nice to just be able to relax and live and be ourselves in the house – style or no style.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad's birthday. He's 68 years old today - and spending it in the hospital with pneumonia. He should get to go home today, thankfully. So - in honor of Dad, here's a "10 on Tuesday: 10 Things You Should Know About my Dad":

1. Dad was my softball coach for many years. He taught me how to slide, how to bunt - and more importantly, how to switch hit. Back in the 70's, these skills were hard to come by on softball teams - and because of Dad's amazing coaching, our team went on to win the city championship. The first time I ever switch hit in a game, I hit a double - and while Dad was proud, I was shocked. I never thought I'd hit ANYTHING left-handed, let alone a double.

2. Dad is a softie when it comes to dogs. He has always had a dog, and dogs are his babies. I've seen him sneak french fries, ice cream and cookies to his "babies" - much to the chagrin of my mother. His dogs are spoiled rotten - I think us kids were jealous of the dogs growing up!

3. Dad is slow to warm up to strangers - but if he likes you, he'll be your friend for life. He doesn't hold grudges - but he takes his time in getting to know someone and deciding if they're "okay." And he won't talk much - he's rather quiet - but that's okay. That's just my Dad.

4. Dad always stressed to me the importance of education. Growing up, I never had a choice of what grades I would get - Dad let me know that nothing less than an "A" was acceptable. He also told me that college wasn't a choice - it was mandatory - and I wasn't even to THINK about getting married before getting my degree. And Dad always told me how important math was - (I hated it) - and how I would use math the rest of my life. He was right. Dammit. I hate it when he's always right.

5. Dad is good with tinkering on stuff. He's always been a jack of all trades - and I always knew there wasn't anything that dad couldn't fix. Especially cars. Dad's always been good at tinkering and restoring old cars. His latest hobby has been painting - and he's actually pretty good. Why am I surprised? He's always been good at anything he tries.

6. Dad loves silly, quirky movies...just like me. The sillier the movie, the better. I think my sense of humor comes from my dad. I love to watch funny movies with my dad, just to see him chuckle.

7. Dad has an amazing ability of just lifting one of his eyebrows to indicate his displeasure at something. All of us kids learned to dread the lifted eyebrow - that meant we were in BIG trouble. He never had to say a word - he'd just lift that eyebrow. Uh oh.

8. Dad can't be trusted to remember anything scheduled for the future. We've all learned that if we're planning a party or get-together, do NOT tell Dad...he'll never tell Mom, and they won't show up. You HAVE to by-pass Dad and go straight to Mom to keep track of the family calendar.

9. Dad loves to give the mushiest cards - for birthdays, Valentine's Day, etc. You'll never get a funny card from my dad - it's always the sentimental card.

10. Dad has been with my mom now for 49 years - and he has taught me how to love someone, how to be patient with someone, and how to make a marriage last.

So, happy birthday, Dad. I love you.


Monday, January 25, 2010

When Barracuda & Hubby Attack

A few years ago, hubby and I were enjoying a delightful day sail off the coast of St. Thomas, where we indulged ourselves in decadent food and drink and generally behaving like sloths…we’d lounge on the boat and every so often, jump into the warm waters of the Caribbean and partake in the delightful underwater visuals by donning a snorkel mask and fins.

I was floating along, not a care in the world – delighting in the beautiful fish and rainbow-colored coral that was laid out in front of me underwater….when – out of the corner of my snorkel mask – I see some shadows approaching.

And – I swear to God – I hear the menacing chords of the music from “Jaws” …Seriously.

I look to my left, and several long, thin fish swim right up beside me – and then stop. Staring at me. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a fish expert. But I know a barracuda when I see one. And this wasn’t just one – there were about 4-5 of these monsters of death – on my left side. I slowly look over to my right – and HOLY CRAP! There’s 4-5 of them on my right side!

I’m in the middle of a school of barracuda!!!! And all of them are looking at me like I’m a tasty Vienna Sausage appetizer in a swimsuit! YIKES!

I don’t swim. But somehow – probably powered by pure fear and adrenaline – I began swimming like only Michael Phelps can…

It was a moment of pure-Olympic heroism that powered me back to the sailboat, where I somehow, unbelievably, “leaped” from the water right into the safety of the boat.

Captain Omar looks at me in bewilderment; heart thumping madly, eyes rolling wildly, I gasped out an explanation: “Barracuda! Surrounding me! I had to swim for my life!”

Captain Omar begins to chuckle, and says, dismissively, “Those weren’t barracuda. Those were wahoo. A lot of tourists get them confused. They’re harmless – but they like to have a little fun with you.”

Sure enough – if you google “wahoo” – it will tell you that they are often confused with barracuda. And I love this next part – this is a hoot: “The great barracuda is sometimes confused with mackerel and wahoo, but is easy to distinguish from the latter two species. Barracuda have prominent scales, larger, dagger-like teeth, and lack the characteristic blade-like tail characteristic of the mackerel/tuna family of fish.”

Yeah, like I’m going to notice all that while I’m surrounded by them, while they’re all licking their chops, staring me down. Not.

Anywho, I’m on the boat, trying to get my breathing and heart rate back to pre-scared-to-death levels, when all of a sudden – I see my hubby, swimming towards the boat like his life depended on it – and when he reaches us – he, too, does a gravity-defying “leap” – right in to the boat.

His heart is thumping out of his chest, his eyes are rolling, and he says, “Barracuda! All around me! I had to swim for my life!”

Well…never one to pass up an opportunity on proving how smart I am to hubby…I roll my eyes in disdain, and say, “Oh, honey. Those weren’t barracuda. Don’t you know anything?! Those were wahoo. Trust me.”

Hubby looks over at Captain Omar for confirmation – because, surely, I MUST be wrong, and Captain Omar nods his head, and says, “Yup. She’s right. Those were wahoo. You’ve sure got one smart wife on your hands. Better keep her.”

I love that story. Whenever we’re at a get together, and the talk turns to snorkeling, that’s my “go-to” story. It’s always guaranteed to get a laugh, and it’s all true, so it makes it just that much better of a tale.

And we had just such an opportunity last Saturday night, while out dining with family and friends. A couple had just returned from a trip to CanCun, and they’re regaling us with their stories of snorkeling and sailing and general water-fun.

At the appropriate time in the conversation, I begin telling “the barracuda story.”

I had just reached the part where I say, “I’m in the middle of a school of barracuda” – when my dear, dear husband interrupts me by saying, “It wasn’t barracuda. It was wahoo.”

Oh no he didn’t.

The wind literally sucked out of my sails – my story ruined forever for this group – I rolled my eyes over to him and said, “ You. Just. Ruined. My. Story.”

He says, “Well – I didn’t mean to. But it wasn’t barracuda.”

I said, “I know that. I’m well aware of that. And our audience would have been well aware of it, too, if you would have let me continue before rudely interrupting.”

I finished the story – but it somehow just lacked it’s normal punch – wonder why?

I do love him. I do. But he can really drive me crazy sometimes.



Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Do I Blog?

On one of my recent postings, I had an anonymous comment that said, “Keep posting stuff like this – I really like it.”

Such a simple comment – but one that actually gave me pause and made me think…

….why do I blog?

Do I blog for YOU, my dear readers?

Do I blog because I’m on a quest to impress all of my dear readers with how witty and urbane and clever I am?

Do I blog because I want to entertain all of my dear readers with funny and comedic adventures that will leave you laughing until you cry and beg for more?

Do I blog because I want to inform and educate all of my dear readers with information and advice – especially with regards to disasters and mission trips and traveling and parenting and volunteering?

….why do I blog?

Or, do I blog for MYSELF, the Drama Queen?

Do I blog because I want to capture my feelings and thoughts and adventures, such as a diary, only in this case my diary is not being kept under lock and key and hidden – but is out there, exposed, for all of the world to see and criticize and critique?

Good questions…

If I’m blogging to impress you – then my stories will become very grandiose and overblown – and that’s not who I am….

If I am blogging to entertain you – then I feel that my blog will become a caricature of myself – and it will become very fictionalized. I could eventually resort to “making stuff up” just so I could get the laugh – and THAT’s certainly not who I am...

If I’m blogging to inform & educate you - my stories will become far and few between, because frankly? Who am I kidding? What am I an “expert” on that would keep people coming back for advice?

So – why do I blog?

I guess it’s a combination of the above….

…there are days I want to impress; other days when I want to entertain; and other days when I want to inform.

There are days when I’m recounting adventures from the past…that’s the entertainer in me.

There are days I’m reflecting…some days, things just don’t make sense, and I’m trying to sort it all out…that’s the thinker in me.

There are days when I’m ranting and raving and bitching and complaining…that’s the Drama Queen in me.

There are days when I’m preaching…I guess that’s the parent in me.

There are days when I’m educating…and that’s the teacher in me.

If I only blog to satiate and satisfy my readers – gearing all of my posts to give you what YOU want – and not what is “me” – I fear the honesty of my blog will be compromised. And I don’t want that to happen. It will cease to be a true representation of ME – the clown, the thinker, the Queen, the mom, the teacher.

So…my blog will continue to be what feels right for me – regardless if it is what my readers “want” from me. Some days, you will like what I write – and other days, you won’t. And that’s okay. If you don’t like what I write about today – tell me – and then come back tomorrow to see if it’s more to your liking. But – don’t expect the same stuff every day.

That’s just not me.

So, tell me - if you blog, why? Why do you blog? For you? Or for your audience?

I'm just curious....


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sepia Saturday: The Zen of the Lake

We've now been living here at the lake for two months...and it is still a breath of fresh air every day - and new discoveries every morning when I wake up, look out my windows, and see how Mother Nature has dressed the lake for the day.

I have found myself calmer...more relaxed...and more 'zen' since moving here....If I feel myself getting stressed, it seems all I have to do is look out the window and watch the water...I watch the ripples; I watch the sunlight dancing off the waves; I watch the geese as they socialize in their little circles; or I watch the fox as he approaches the lake, looking for dinner, perhaps.

This was a good move for us. I am happy.



Friday, January 22, 2010

The Message vs The Package

Do you all remember my Oscar-worthy performance that was filmed by the American Red Cross for an upcoming fundraiser? If you don't remember, the link is here.

There was no sound for that taping - I was told then that I would be called to come into a recording studio for a "voice over" not to worry....

Well....we need to worry....

This week, I got the call to head to downtown Kansas City, to a local recording studio, for the voice over. No problem, right? Other than the day of the taping, I woke up with a horrendous sinus headache and congestion and an over-all "bleh" feeling. The taping wasn't scheduled until 3:00 p.m. that day, so I had plenty of time to buck up, suck up and get better. In the meantime, knowing it was just a voice over, I didn't bother with make-up...or even hair...the way I was feeling, my hair was lucky to get brushed that day - let alone styled. Sinus headaches will do that to you.

I threw on some old clothes that only come out when I don't feel good - they're for comfort and warmth, certainly not for style - and headed downtown.

I walk into the studio - and immediately alarms start going off in my head. If you in you're 40's, and ever watched "Lost in Space", on television, my head started sounding like that Robot: "Warning, Will Robinson! Warning, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!!"

There is a chair - with a bright light - and a camera....and the "director" tells me to go sit in the chair, so they could adjust the light and camera.

"Whah???" I say in confusion...."I thought this was just a voiceover....? Why is there a camera here??"

"Oh - we're going to have you sit in the chair, and film you while you talk...don't worry; all you have to do is answer the questions; there's no acting involved today. Just an interview....Piece of cake."

"But...! But....! I didn't know I was going to be on CAMERA!" This was said in my best whiny voice - which, if you know me at all, you know that I can do a pretty damn good whiny voice. My whiny voice could win awards. My parents tell me that when I was a little girl, they actually heard me sitting in my room, practicing my whiny voice. Seriously. I PRACTICED my whiny voice. After 47 years of practice, I have it down to an art.

"I'm not dressed right! And I don't have any make-up on! And my hair - OH MY GOD! My haaaaaaiiiiiirrrrrrrr!" More whiny voice, mixed in with a bit of pleading and a little bit of theatrics - hoping against hope that the studio will magically produce a miracle worker who can instantly make me look beautiful - and not

"Oh, it'll be just fine. Have a seat!" The director - so chirpy and cheerful - made me want to just shoot him. Easy for him to say - HE wasn't going to be on a giant screen - in high def - in front of hundreds of people. Looking like death warmed over.

So - what was I to do? I bucked up, sucked it up - and gamely did my best - all the while knowing that I looked like a cross between Casper the Ghost and the Wicked Witch of the West......all the while, saying a little prayer that the patrons of the upcoming fundraising ball will look past my appearance ("Oh my God, Herb - she looks like walking death! Is that what volunteering for the Red Cross does to you?!") and focus on my words and will whip out their checkbooks and be very generous in their donations.

Thirty minutes later, it was all over. Everyone in the studio was very effusive in their praise ("You did GREAT!" "You're a natural!" Blah, blah, blah), but all I could think about was my hair. And my un-made-up face. And my wrinkled, old shirt.

Later that night, while watching the news - and once again, seeing images of Haiti on the screen, with the horrors that the people there are going through - I mentally gave myself a big slap upside the head and realized that every now and then - I get my priorities really screwed up.

I realized it was the message I was sending in the studio that was important. Not the package that it came in. People at the fundraiser aren't going to be looking at ME, the Drama Queen...they'll be looking at an American Red Cross volunteer who is passionate about what she does and believes in what the ARC stands for...

...and maybe...just maybe....they'll believe in it, too...and they'll whip out those checkbooks and show us just how much they believe in it.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Undermined By A Fox

I would be the first to admit - to anyone - that I have done some rather stupid things in my life....some of which is documented right here, in my blog, for the world to read.

And I will also admit that I am relatively "new" to lake-living...moving from the suburbs to the lake only in late November of this year - so I am unfamiliar with lake activities, lake do's and don'ts, lake etiquette, etc.

However - as naive as I may be - I do know ONE thing about lake living that I have stressed over and over lately to my own children - and that is:

Don't walk on the ice on the lake.

The kids have begged and pleaded that it will be safe (our temperatures have been above freezing now for well over a week - so no, it will NOT be safe) and they'll be okay - at the same time I sternly tell them of the horrors and dangers that befall anyone who attempts to walk on the lake at this point.

As I saw yesterday, though, from the following picture, apparently this little critter didn't get the same message from HIS mama:
Yes, Dear Readers, that is a fox. A red fox that crossed the lake yesterday afternoon - as I held my breath hoping against hope that the little critter didn't fall through the ice, necessitating a fox rescue on my part. I've never attempted a fox rescue, and frankly, I really didn't want to start.

Thankfully, he made it. Whew.

Of COURSE, both my kids witnessed this miracle on ice....and so now they absolutely don't take me serious when I tell them to not walk on the lake.

Damn fox. Now I almost wish you'd fallen through the ice. Just to prove my point.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Legend of "Runs With Ants"

While organizing our DVD collection the other day, I stumbled across the “classic” (said tongue in cheek) movie, “Dances With Wolves”, with Kevin Costner. In the movie, Kevin played a soldier who, at a remote Army outpost, assimilates with the local Indians and gets his name, Dances With Wolves, because of his interaction with the wolves.

Which leads me to today’s story.

The story of when I planted bamboo in Guatemala. And – just for the record – let me start right off by saying, if ANYONE ever asks you if you want to plant bamboo – especially in Guatemala – just say no. Let me repeat that: Just. Say. No.

“But why, Drama Queen?” you may ask. “What can be so horrific about planting bamboo?”

Well, Dear Readers - I will tell you why it’s horrific. I have first-hand experience. And it wasn’t pretty.

The time was 2005. The place was La Nueva Providencia, a very small village in the western highlands of Guatemala. We had traveled there that summer with the intention of building a school for the children of the village.

The construction was going very well – so well, in fact, that the village leaders approached us one day with an additional project that they needed help with. The village mayor, Cux (pronounced “Coosh”), hesitantly walked up and said, “Can you help us plant bamboo on the mountain?”

Well – I’m always up for an adventure – and honestly, this sounded pretty tame – I mean, how tough can it be to plant bamboo? On a mountain? I looked at my friends, who were initially hesitant, and said, “Oh, come on! How many opportunities do you get in a lifetime to plant bamboo on a mountain in Guatemala? Let's do it!”

So, several of us enthusiastically said, “Sure, Cux! We’d LOVE to help you plant bamboo on the mountain! Lead the way!” (Okay – I exaggerate on the enthusiasm – perhaps I was the only one enthusiastic. The rest of my group was still hesitant. Little did I know they were the smart ones.)

Cux led us on a hike – where we began climbing…and climbing… through a very thick jungle – up and up and up a very, VERY steep mountainside. You all know what a 90-degree right angle looks like, right? This damn mountain was seriously at a 75-degree angle. At one point, I started sliding back down the mountain, and so instinctively, I reached out to grab the nearest tree to hold on to – and I just about put my poor, unsuspecting hand around the tree of death. The tree trunk was literally covered with thousands of killer thorns. Killer thorns! Only the hand of God stopped me from grabbing that tree – I have no other explanation for what stopped me at the last second from grabbing that damn tree.

After sweating, sliding, hiking and panting – we reach the part of the mountain where Cux wants the bamboo planted. There, in front of us, is a pile of bamboo “plantings” – stalks about 3-feet long in length, about 4 inches wide.

Piece of cake, I think. We’ll dig a little hole, plant that little sucker in there just like a tree, and voila! Bamboo planted! Right? Right?


Cux picks up a stalk of bamboo and gives us the shocking news that bamboo is NOT planted vertically, like a tree – but is planted horizontal.

Whah??? Repeat that, please?!?!

“Yes”, Cux explains. He says we must dig a “trench” – 4-feet long, 9” deep – and lay the bamboo in lengthwise. And we have about 50 stalks to plant.

By about this time, the other volunteers are shooting me dirty looks and cursing me under their breath for getting them into this project…but I plead ignorance. How was I supposed to know?

So – we gamely pick up our hoes…and here, I must insert – these are not your ordinary, American garden hoes. Oh no. These hoes were handmade by the men in Guatemala, which we are borrowing. Men in Guatemala are short. Very short. So – imagine hoes that the Munchkins in Oz would be using. Those are the hoes WE were using. To say it was back-breaking work, as we had to lean way, way over to dig that trench – is an understatement,

We bend way, way over – begin hacking and digging our way into the dirt – which is not easy, because this is the floor of a jungle and so the ground is hard, rocky, and full of roots and debris…and while we’re bent over at the waist, digging and hacking, we’re holding on to anything we can (with the exception of the trees of death) for dear life so we don’t slide right off the face of the steep, steep mountain…and we laugh.

What else can we do at this point? We laugh – at the absurdity of what we’re doing. We get our first trench dug after about 45 minutes of digging, sweating, cursing, sliding, hurting, and laughing – and I lay the bamboo stalk in – and cover it back up with the mountain soil. I stomp on it a few times for good measure to really pack that soil down.

“There!” I said gamely. “That wasn’t so bad! One done – 49 to go!”

About that time, another volunteer, Kathy, looks at my ankles in curiosity, and says, “Why is the dirt on your ankles moving?”

“What?” I said….”Dirt doesn’t move….are you okay, Kathy? Are you hallucinating in this heat?”

I look down at my ankles to see what she’s talking about – and there I see a sight that can only be described as something out of a Stephen King horror movie. I see that both of my ankles are covered…by a moving mass of….not dirt….but ants.

Thousands and thousands of ants…crawling over my ankles…beginning to bite…and seriously, freaking me out. I can handle a lot of things – but not ants. On my body. Crawling all over me. Biting me.

To this day, I have no conscious memory of what happened next. Local legend has it that I began running – straight down the mountainside – screaming like a Guatemalan Howling Monkey – and ran until I eventually found a stream at the base where I plunged both feet into the water – thereby mass-murdering thousands of ants in one plunge of frantic desperation.

The villagers in La Nueva Providencia still talk about the blonde woman they know only as “Runs With Ants.”

And needless to say – the bamboo didn’t get planted that day on the mountain. And if anyone EVER asks me to plant bamboo – EVER – I will just laugh. And I will walk away.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Teenage Angst

I’m still somewhat new to this Craig’s List thingy – and I’ve never gotten the hang of eBay – so I have a question for you all:

Can I list a kid out there? And give him away? For free?

Cuz’ I’ve got one 16-year old male child that I am willing to give away free, to a good home. Okay, heck – who am I kidding?

I’m not that picky – I don’t really care about the good home. So forget that part. How about, “Free Kid. Period.”

For the most part, he’s really a pretty good kid. He gets decent grades in school. Nothing to write home about – but he’ll graduate next year. That’s good. He’s fantastic in sports – especially in baseball. He can pitch a hell of a game. And he’s very charming. Oh yes – he’s got “charm” and “flirt” down to a science.

He keeps his body parts clean – for the most part. Only now and then do I have to gently remind him that deodorant and soap and shampoo are NOT poison and can actually be used on a daily basis. He sometimes forgets.

However…I believe in truth in advertising, so I guess if I talk about his good points, I gotta be up front and honest about the not-so-good points.

Son turned 16 last April. His Daddy (my ex – whom I normally have no issues with – but in this case, I think he really screwed up) “sold” my son a car. And told son he could pay it back when he got a job. Too long of a story to get into here, but son actually owes me for the car. Not Daddy. Me. It’s me he should be paying back.

So – many moons ago, I tell Son that he must get a job. For the car. For the gas. For the insurance. For the maintenance. For the responsibility. For my sanity.

April. No job. May. No job. June. No job. July. No job.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

It’s now January – and does son have a job?


I’m to the point where I need to just take the keys away. But dammit – that will end up punishing me as much as it punishes son. As I have become accustomed to another driver in the family who can run errands, get himself home from after-school meetings and practices, can drive himself to his father’s for visitation – all that stuff that drives me crazy but now I don’t have to do it because he has wheels and I’m lazy and I really don’t want to have to start doing it again. Yeah. All that.

I know, I know. Some of you don’t believe in kids having jobs while they go to school. Well, I do. I’m not asking the kid to work 40 hours a week – I’m asking for a few hours a week – on the weekends, if needed – to teach him some responsibility. So, I don’t want lectures on making a kid work. Hey – I started working when I was 15 and I turned out just fine. I didn’t turn into some mass-murdering, drug-sniffing ‘ho because I was a carhop at Sonic when I was 15. So – it can be done.

But not by my son, apparently.

If you hear a wail of despair – in the next couple of days – you will know what it’s all about. Even though it will sound like I’m beating him senseless, it will all be because I took away a set of keys. And grounded a set of wheels.

Oh, the ignominy.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The NEXT Reality TV Star - NOT

Friday afternoon, the local American Red Cross office called me at home, and immediately put me on speaker phone. I hate that. I never know who all is sitting in the room, and then you’re suddenly self-conscious about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it….

Anywho – they asked if I would participate in an interview with a local television news crew about relief efforts in Haiti.

Now – obviously, I’m not in Haiti right now. A part of me desperately wishes I were. A national disaster requires a commitment of up to three weeks for a disaster volunteer; an international disaster requires a commitment of up to several months. I can’t commit to that – I have kids here at home – and I just can’t/won’t be away from them for that length of time. If the kids were older and out of the house – well, I would have been on the first plane to Haiti. It’s frustrating me to no end to be sitting here, watching events on CNN, and unable to physically do anything at this time. Argh.

Okay – I’ve digressed. I’m good at that. So, the news crew wants the perspective of someone who has traveled to 3rd-world countries for mission work – and can speak on the difficulties of living – such as infrastructure, supplies, communication – when there isn’t a disaster…and how these difficulties are only compounded after a disaster, such as the earthquake. They also want me to speak on what the International Red Cross is doing in Haiti – which is the same as what we would be doing if the disaster was here in the United States – only compounded and made more difficult by the various challenges.

I had blogged just last week on how difficult it was for us to find something so basic as a pad for a paint roller in Jamaica…a 3-4 mile hike, in the pouring down rain, to 4 stores, before we eventually found what we were looking for. Last year, it was a 2-hour search to 3 different stores for a stick of butter. In Guatemala, we have ran into this, too – if we forget to bring something with us on our trips, then we go without. There isn’t a Walmart right down the street, unfortunately.

The roads? Average, at best. Mediocre, on average. Communication? Ha. Cell towers don’t often work on a normal day – let alone after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Internet caf├ęs are few and far between, and it’s certainly not high-speed, turbo-charged Internet when it DOES work. Even something as basic as toilet paper can become a challenge if you run out, and all of the stores are closed due to lack of power, or they're seriously damaged. Um, leaves, anyone? Seriously.

So, I was supposed to do the interview in conjunction with our CEO here of our local American Red Cross. I get to the television station Sunday evening, and guess what? No CEO. They were unable to contact him. I’m flying solo on this one.

I looked at the reporter, aghast, and said, “What?! No brains of the operation here? I’m just the grunt! You’re expecting me to be the grunt AND the brains? What kind of pressure are you putting me under?!?!”

The reporter narrowed his eyes, looked at me, and then said, “I’ve talked with you before, haven’t I? I remember you.”

Actually, he HAS interviewed me in the past – several times, in fact – when I’ve been deployed to various disasters. I’m sure he remembers my charisma – or my charming sense of humor – or my Queenly attitude….Yeah, that’s it. It’s my Royal presence he remembers. If you've ever been in the presence of a Queen, it's probably something you never forget.

The interview went okay. It’s difficult to “be natural” when there’s a HUGE light shining right on your face, and there’s a television camera – zooming in on YOU. And you’re hoping and praying that you’re coming across all smart and witty and intelligent and sounding halfway coherent – all the while wondering if the bright light is showing the age spots and wrinkles and fine lines for all the world to see. And also worrying about the 10 extra pounds that the camera adds. I already have chipmunk cheeks and a double chin - 10 extra pounds on my face is not a good thing. Trust me.

After the lights and camera were off, the reporter and I spent an additional 20 minutes or so, talking about my various assignments over the years - he was genuinely interested, I guess, since he wasn't recording this and yet still wanted to know. Hmmm...maybe he'll be a future Red Cross volunteer, you think?

So, I get home last night and anxiously waited for the 10:00 p.m. news...and in the first 10 minutes, on came the story. I did okay. I know, I know - I'm my own worst critic. It would have been nice if I'd had hair and make-up artists working their magic - but I think the message came across. I sounded coherent and I didn't say, "uh" or "um", like, 100 million times. I didn't even say, "like". So - that was good, right?
And this - thank God - isn't even High Definition.

Geesh. It’s hard being famous. I’ll leave it to Angelina and Jennifer and Diane Sawyer. I’ll stick to being a grunt. It’s so much easier.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Focus on Jamaica Missions

Some of you have been asking for more information about my mission trips – in particular, the Jamaica medical mission trips and my Guatemala mission trips.

So, this post will be about Jamaica – as it’s fresh on the brain – and this is for Noelle, who will one day get her RN license and will be traveling to 3rd-world countries herself to provide medical care.

Looking over a map of Jamaica, one’s eyes may focus along the coast, imagining such pleasures as swimming in the warm Caribbean sea of Montego Bay or climbing the fresh water falls outside of Ochos Rios; however, it is harder for all of us to imagine the space between those points on the map—the face of Jamaica outside of the resorts.

Falmouth, Jamaica is a sleepy little town situated about 18 miles east of Montego Bay. It is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, as it is noted for being one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved Georgian towns.

Approximately 20 years ago, a physician from the United States, Dr. Carpenter, began a medical clinic in Falmouth, with the goal of providing quality health care to the Jamaican population that would otherwise suffer without care. The Jamaican health care system requires payment BEFORE (as opposed to our system – which allows patients to pay after) services are performed, and many Jamaicans do not have the money to be cared for. Now, teams of volunteers that include physicians, nurses, nursing students, lab technicians, dentists, pharmacists and concerned individuals work at the clinic during the week, seeing dozens of patients each day.

Teams usually arrive on a Saturday, living out of their carry-on luggage for the next week so that the checked baggage can contain donated supplies for the clinic – medical supplies, eyeglasses, and medications. The teams stay in a dormitory close to the clinic – the dorm has beds for 24 people, 5 showers, and a large dining hall where a local cook whips up some delicious food each day to be enjoyed after a hard day’s work.

When Monday begins – so does the work. Patients will often travel up to 3 hours to get their name on a list to be seen by the medical team when they’re in town. Word has traveled fast among the hills of Jamaica – the population knows “the doctors are here!” and the porch of the clinic will be packed with hopeful patients when the team arrives to begin work at 8:00 a.m. Some patients may end up waiting up to 8 hours to be seen that day, and you will never hear them complain.

The majority of the patients that we see are experiencing “the sugar” and “the pressure” – Jamaican slang for diabetes and high blood pressure. These two complaints are the most common amongst the patient population – and so our future efforts there will be on nutrition education, hoping to alleviate some of this. We also see a lot of skin conditions – dermatitis, fungus, dry skin, and eczema. This man (below) had one of the worst conditions that I remember seeing in the 2 years that I’ve been there:
His condition was so bad that he could barely walk…it was all he could do to hobble back into the examining room with the physician. This photo is a close-up of what his hand looked like: The doctor gave him some medicated ointment, as well as prescribing some Prednisone and antibiotics. A few days later, a group of us were walking through the streets of Falmouth when the same gentleman literally came dancing up the street to us, praising and thanking us for the miraculous cure to his skin. It was a heartfelt moment, for sure – it was amazing to see his mobility, as compared to how it had been when he first came to see us. He was so effusive in his praise, it brought tears to our eyes.

This overwhelming outpouring of appreciation by the local community continues to amaze me. In the clinic, in the street, at a restaurant – it seems that everyone we encounter expresses their deep appreciation to those who have freely given their time and talents to keep this mission going. Evidence of God’s blessings are apparent every day.

Some of you have asked what my role is in this. I am not a nurse. Nor a doctor. Nor a dentist. Nor a pharmacist. I guess I am what you would call a “concerned individual.” Although the only medical background I have is programming computers at a hospital for over twenty years – I have found that there are various ways I can support the mission.

I have worked in Intake – where I greet the patient, review their chart, take their history and medical information, and measure their height and weight.

I have worked at the “pee and dip” station – after the patients have collected a urine sample in a small cup, I dip the sticks and record the lab results – blood, nitrates, sugar, etc.

I have worked in the pharmacy, where I’ve assisted the pharmacists by cutting pills in half, counting out pills, labeling prescription bags, and being the general “gopher” that is so needed.

I’ve held babies as they’ve slept; I’ve sat and talked with patients while they’ve waited; and I have done the “Papaya Education” – which is a treatment for the ever-common worms in the people of Jamaica.

I’ve assisted the residents of Falmouth by rebuilding their shops, repainting their fences, caulking their roofs, measured screen for their windows – any little thing that helps make their lives easier and richer.

Our trips go from a Saturday to the following Sunday – about 8-9 days. Our schedule looks something like this:

1st Saturday: Travel Day/Customs/Getting Settled in the Dorm
1st Sunday: Church in A.M.; Leisure in P.M. (Beach in Montego Bay)
Monday: 8 – 5:00 p.m. Work at clinic with a brief lunch
Tuesday: 8 – 5:00 p.m. Work at clinic with a brief lunch
Wednesday: Ochos Rios Trip for shopping & climbing Dunn’s River Falls
Thursday: 8 – 5:00 p.m. Work at clinic with a brief lunch
Friday: 8 – 5:00 p.m. Work at clinic with a brief lunch; evening spent at Luminous Lagoon
Saturday: 8 – 12:00 Work at clinic; Afternoon spent rafting the Martha Brae River
Sunday: Travel Day Back Home

The cost of our trip this year was approximately $1,500 – this was all inclusive – our airfare, transportation, food, lodging, leisure trips, and money spent to purchase medications to bring with us.

If other groups are ever interested in going, your best contact is Mrs. Marjorie Chin, who is the secretary at the Methodist Church of Falmouth, Jamaica. She can be reached at 1-876-617-2866.

Good luck! And if anyone else goes – LET ME KNOW! I want to hear about it!!!!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

You're Beautiful! So Beautiful!

And now…an important announcement…I am now honored, tickled and pleased to report that I have received my SECOND Blogger Award!

I am so humbled. Really. Seriously.

Thanks to Kate at Fabulous @ 50 for bestowing upon me the Beautiful Blogger award.

As I told Kate in my acceptance speech, sometimes I wonder, as I sit here and muse, if anyone really pays attention to what I say….and sometimes, as I struggle with writer’s block, as we all probably do, I wonder if I should just give it up.

And then…along comes some kudos and appreciation and hope is restored and the writer juices start flowing again. So – woo hoo!

Now it's my duty to tell you 7 things about myself and pass on the award to 7 other beautiful bloggers.


1. I have a mole on my little toe. Just a little tiny mole – it looks somewhat like a freckle – and I actually think it’s rather sexy. I’ve asked my hubby several times if he agrees with me – “Isn’t it sexy, honey?” – and he just looks at me like I’m crazy. Sigh. Cindy Crawford’s mole is considered sexy. So why isn’t mine?

2. I am a gadget junkie. Especially travel gadgets. I am addicted to a catalog called where I shop for all different kinds of goodies that make my travels so much easier. When I DO travel, it becomes a virtual “Show and Tell” as I show off all of my gadgets that are fun, fabulous and oh-so-essential. ☺

3. My eyes have changed color over the years. When I was younger, they were definitely brown. As I have gotten older, they have turned lighter and lighter – they are now brown around the pupils, surrounded by green, and then surrounded by blue. Some people have called them “Rainbow Eyes” – which sounds really cool. But the Driver’s License Bureau didn’t exactly let me put “Rainbow” on my license….the eye doctor told me they are genetically blue. So, blue it is. Sigh. “Rainbow” sounds so much prettier.

4. One of my first jobs right out of college was as an Assistant Supervisor in a billing department at a large area hospital. This was in the mid-80’s – I’m ashamed to admit that I would wear a “Power Suit” every day to work – with the giant, padded shoulders and tight skirts…I was so “Falcon Crest”/”Dynasty” – and I thought I was so, so hot. Oh, let’s not forget the Big 80’s hair…pouffed and teased and held in place by a gallon of hair spray every day.

5. I don’t like the sound of wind. It kinda’ creeps me out. Which makes it difficult to go on hurricane assignments with the American Red Cross, as I’ve had to ride out some hurricanes, and I am extremely anxious when the wind is whistling and blowing. A nice, juiced-up iPod with good earphones is very helpful in these situations. I’ve learned to carry 3 of them when I travel – God forbid the battery runs down on one before the hurricane is over – I have 2 for back-up. Hey. It works for me.

6. I seriously love, love, love the sun and these cloudy, dreary, grey winter days are killing me. I thought I would get a sunshine fix while in Jamaica last week, but alas – it was cloudy and dreary there, too. I can’t wait for spring. Seriously.

7. I love jewelry. I love rings and bracelets and necklaces. Earrings – not so much. But I love the bling…I wear rings on almost every finger – and the sparkly, the better. I don’t wear them when I travel – but the minute I get back home, on they go. My fingers are happy and I’m happy.

Now, my 7 winners are:

LaTonya @ 40’s Reason’s to Live, Love and Laugh Out Loud
Noelle @ Elastic Waistbands and Comfortable Shoes
Niki @ The Grounded Drink Lady
Diva Ma @ Mommy Fabulous
Aunt Juicebox @ Bacon is My Lover
Chief @ Hiding From the Kids
Jenny @ Jenny Matlock

So, thank you - for this awesome award. Now I'm going to go out for a celebratory dinner - any excuse I can find to have hubby take me out for dinner, hey - I'm all over it.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fragments

Another Friday Fragments today are some thoughts and observations I have on current events. (If you remember, my dear Hubby seems to think I need to include current events in my blog - so this is to appease him, somewhat....)

...I keep dreaming about Haiti...I'm not sure if this is because my brain is full of the images I keep seeing all over the television, or if perhaps God is calling me to go there....It's the faces of the children that are filling my dreams and tearing at my heart strings... this point, the American Red Cross is sending money to Haiti, but is not sending "domestic" volunteers, such as myself. They are utilizing the International volunteers only...I will be an International volunteer at some point in the future, I hope, but with children still at home, it's just not possible for me to do this now. If the ARC begins sending domestic volunteers, they will give priority to French-speaking volunteers - and that's not me. I speak Spanish - albeit, basic Spanish - but alas, no French.

...the situation in Haiti makes everything else seem so trivial - and ironically, the biggest "story" in our news, second to Haiti, seems to be the shake-up at NBC and "The Tonight Show." Frankly, I don't care. I really don't. If I'm even still awake after the 10:00 p.m. news, I like to watch re-runs of mindless comedies - so if it's Conan or Leno - I really don't care...

...a year ago today, "The Miracle on the Hudson" happened. Captain Sully and his heroic actions that day still warms my heart....

...I'm about ready to cancel my subscription to People Magazine. Last week, I'm subjected to the horrific image of Kate Gosselin and her $7,000 hair extensions, and this week, it's the horrific image of Heidi Montag and her 10 plastic surgeries done on one day. Do I really need to know this? Really? I don't think so. Good-bye, People. It was nice - but I think it's time for me to move on...

...airport security is beefed up - yet again - due to the looming threats from our ever-present terrorist friends. Coming home last week from Jamaica, we were subjected to several intense searches - bags, our bodies - as we boarded the plane. I am all for the searches - the more, the better - if it thwarts the plans of the bad guys. Heck, I'm in favor of the body scan x-rays that are controversial - I want the good guys to do whatever it takes to make flying safe, however inconvenient it may be...

...the 2nd wave of H1N1 seems to have subsided, and yet medical experts are warning of a 3rd wave coming soon...I didn't get vaccinated and I wonder if I should...I always worry about "new" vaccines and the potential long-term side effects from said shots...

...and that's ramblings are over. Just some thoughts on the news...and with that said, I'll go enjoy my Friday. I hope all of you enjoy yours!