Thursday, September 30, 2010

Facebook: The Social Network

Facebook....friend or foe?

Facebook's getting a lot of buzz these days, thanks to the upcoming mega-movie, "The Social Connection." The movie is loosely based on a book, "The Accidental Billionaires" - which I had read about 7 months ago, and really enjoyed.

I joined Facebook in January 2009...and I think, in most cases, it has been a blessing.

I've caught up with family, friends, neighbors, church friends, co-workers, old high school friends, old college friends, and even, old boyfriends.

I have one place where I can read news, traffic, sports, entertainment and weather alerts - as well as get up-to-the-minute information from disaster management sites.

Just today, I went out to lunch with a sorority sister whom I had not seen in 25 years. (Am I really that old?! SHE didn't look a day older than 21 - and yet, I have most definitely aged!) We had totally lost track of each other over the years - but, through the power & magic of Facebook, we had reconnected and spent a delightful two hours today over drinks and dessert, catching up on the last two decades of our lives.

I firmly believe, that if used in the right way, that Facebook - as well as other social media - can be a valuable & effective marketing tool, as well as a wonderful interpersonal tool for establishing & enhancing personal relationships.

However, if used the wrong way, it can be...well....messy.

I've sometimes received a "friend request", and I am seriously scratching my head, thinking, "Who the heck IS this person?! Do I even KNOW them??!!" And I've been "defriended" - and left wondering, "What the heck did I do? Or say? Couldn't they have at least TALKED with me before defriending me??!"

But I've defriended people, myself - nothing personal; sometimes, I just eventually realize that we either have nothing in common, or I really didn't know the person and why clutter up my already-way-too-cluttered "wall" on Facebook?

On my personal page, I try to keep my posts upbeat...positive...affirming....No reason to be a "Debbie Downer" all of the time, although, there will certainly be days when I'm in a pissy mood, dammit, and you're going to hear about it. Sorry about that. I try not to let that happen very often.

I also assist in administering a "fan" page for our local Red Cross chapter - and I try to post timely, informative posts that lets our followers know what our chapter is well as what THEY can be doing to be prepared for disasters.

I have ran into people in the world that "hate" Facebook...I'm not sure why. I like to engage them in a civil debate on the pitfalls of the social medium, as I am most definitely a cheerleader.

There's really no purpose for this post...other than I've just been thinking about Facebook, due to the movie, and because of my awesome lunch today. I'm just curious as to what other people think - and why they think the way they do.

So - if you choose to respond & comment - let me know if you think Facebook is a friend or foe...and why. I'd love to hear from you!



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Early Morning Paradise

A Wonderful Wednesday As Told in Pictures....

This morning, I woke up, and quickly realized it was truly a day meant for paradise...the skies are as blue as can be, the sun is shining, and the lake...well, the lake is stunning....

Out on the dock, my kayak tempted me, as it ALSO knew it was a paradise-filled day - perfect for smooth gliding on a calm, still lake....

So, who was I to deny my kayak this wonderful opportunity of communing with nature....? my hands moved the kayak along....

...even the paddle was happy! (doesn't lit look like it's smiling??!)

...and as I approach my own dock...

I, once again, am humbled by how beautiful this world really is...and I am so thankful to be a part of it.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mystery Date Night

Sometimes, in a marriage, life kinda' gets in the way of the romance, and you need to take drastic actions to kick it up.

About a week or so ago, I gave Hubs a went something like this:

"Hubs...I've been making ALL of our plans lately. YOU get to plan our next date night. I need to be woo'd. Surprise me. Woo me. Wine & dine me."

Yes...I was feeling a little neglected, and I wanted HIM to step up and knock my socks off.

So, Friday evening, we head out to parts unknown (on my end, anyway), and I'm driving him crazy, asking a million questions on where we're going, because in actuality, I hate surprises and it was driving me absolutely bonkers to not know where we were headed, which kinda' defeated the purposes of a surprise date night, right?

He did his best to fend off the barrage of questions coming at him, but when he reached his limit, he finally said, "ENOUGH! We're going for your favorite food, okay?"

Oh! A clue! Mexican!

Sure enough, we ended up at a Mexican restaurant that we've never eaten at before...and after eating there, we now know that we'll never eat there again. It was that bad. Giant hunks of onions in my burrito - grrrrrr. Who DOES that??!!

So, dinner was rather a bust, but I tried to cheer up my despondent husband by saying, "Hey - I'm GLAD we tried it! Now we know what it's like, and we know we'll never be back! See? That's a GOOD thing!"

We left the restaurant and headed to Part 2 of Mystery Date Night...and we ended up at a movie theater that we've never gone to before. As we park the car, Hubs said, with a bit of panic in his voice, "Well, we're a little early...the movie I've picked out doesn't start until 7:55 p.m....which is an hour from now...what do we do until then?"

I said, "'s a novel idea...we can sit in the car and actually TALK. You know, about grown-up things."

But before we could engage in some fascinating, titillating adult conversation, it was driving me absolutely bonkers that I didn't know what movie we were on came the barrage of questions.

Hubs finally said, "ENOUGH! We're seeing your favorite actor, okay?"

Oh! A clue! George Clooney!

Sure enough, Hubs had picked out "The American" for us to see. Woot! How exciting!

I then suggested to Hubs, "Why don't you run in and get the tickets for us? Then come back out and we'll talk."

Hubs was looking for anything to do at this point - he would have gone out and done embroidery - if it meant less talking time - so he eagerly jumped out of the car to go get tickets....

He came back with a very weird, very horrified look on his face.

"They changed the movies!" He wails.... "Who DOES that?"

I said, "Well, most theaters do change their movies on Friday...did you not check this morning?"

No. He hadn't. No George Clooney, darn it. My choices were Ben Affleck in "The Town" or Michael Douglas in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps". Not being a Ben fan made it a no-brainer; I chose the money. Hubs then looks even MORE panicked.

"Well, that movie starts NOW! We have to run!"

Yikes. So much for adult conversation. We looked like two kids, running into the building as fast as possible, running to the concession stand, and then running into a darkened theater to find seats....We JUST made it when the previews were finishing up.

And the movie? Bleh. Great cinematography; less-then-stellar screenwriting.

So, Mystery Date Night...I give Hubs props for making an effort - he tried. And that fact alone made me feel special. And woo'd.

Even without George Clooney.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Four-Wheelin' on a Friday

There's nothing like a little hazardous material to ruin the best-laid plans.

My parents and I hit the road early Friday morning, with the oh-so-good intentions of driving northeast for 3 hours to visit my son on his birthday. He turned the oh-so-scary age of 21 on Friday, and we were going to take him out for lunch.

About an hour into the trip, we're moving right along down the highway, when - all of a sudden - SCREECH! STOP THE CAR! The traffic in front of us is at a complete stand still. On a highway.

Hmmm....interesting. With nothing better to do at the moment, we break into the oh-so-fun game of, "Let's all speculate, out loud, on why the highway has become a parking lot." Various theories are thrown out there - road construction? Jack-knived tractor trailer? Chain reaction traffic accident? Who knows?

At first, it was amusing. But, when 45 minutes had gone by, and we had not moved AN INCH, it was no longer amusing. Mom takes matters into her own hands and calls the Missouri Highway Patrol. "Hazardous material on the road ahead," we're told. "Evacuations are in progress."

We look around at hundreds of cars, sitting in the hot, baking sunshine, going nowhere - and we wonder, "Evacuations? We aren't seeing 'em." Where are these magical evacuations happening? Why aren't WE getting evacuated??!!

We sat there for a total of two hours...parked. By now, Mom and I were busily texting on our iPhones, while Dad took a nap at the wheel. When he wasn't snoring, he was talking under his breath. I learned a lot about my Dad that day. I learned he has a whole new vocabulary that I had never heard before. It made me glad I hadn't brought my kids in the car.

(You have to appreciate the small things in life when you have nothing better to do than to sit in the back seat of a hot minivan with your elderly parents in the sun, cursing all of the Diet Dr. Pepper you had gulped down before you realized - TOO LATE - that you would not have bathroom privileges for God knows how long.....)

At some point, I was checking Facebook on my iPhone, as I had texted an SOS message to the local news station. I had said, "I'm stuck on I-35. How long will we be stuck here? Any info appreciated! Help me, please!!!!"

Imagine my alarm when the man behind the curtain at the news station texted back, "Drama'd best do whatever you have to do to get out of there. They're now saying it could be 7 hours before they re-open that stretch of highway. Oh - but send us some photos first."

Well. They ARE a news station, after all. They WOULD care about photos first before caring about my sanity. And my bladder.

I told my Dad what the text message said, and my Dad's face turned even redder than it had been before. I really didn't know that was possible...but as I said, I was learning LOTS of things about my Dad that day. I also learned he doesn't have a sense of humor when I jokingly told him about the traffic jam in China last month that had lasted for nine days. He really didn't find that funny.

Dad mumbled something that sounded like, "That's it. We're making a break for it." And then I think he said, "Hold on and hold on tight. When I hit the gas, I'm not slowing down."

It was hard to hear all this, because as he was mumbling it, he does indeed hit the gas, as hard as he can, as he wheels the car off the shoulder - down a steep, muddy embankment - through the median - and then back up the other side of the embankment.

Next thing I know, we're heading back the way we had come, passing eight miles of cars (that's not an exaggeration - that is, unfortunately, the truth) that are still stuck in this Nightmare Traffic Jam from Hell.

I was amazed. Again - something ELSE I learned about my Dad...that he could go four-wheelin' through the mud and dirt, in a minivan. With Mom and me in the car. Wow. Mom and I were bounced into a state of stunned silence.

All Dad wanted to do now, was to get back home. Asap. After I had recovered from the shock of our wild adventure of tearing through the median, I calmly asked, "Can we stop at a gas station so I can...ahem...use the facilities?"

"I'm DONE!" Dad says..."We're going HOME."

I calmly replied, "You're going to learn something new about me, very soon, if you don't stop this car at the next gas station. And that is, so help me, I WILL pee in your car."

Dad stopped.

And so much for taking my son out for his birthday. Maybe next time.

And in case you think I exaggerate (who, moi?), click HERE for a link to the news station's story on the event. Every word I said in this blog post was the truth. I kid thee not. Even all that stuff about my Dad. True.




A Close Call


Gotta’ love them. Or – maybe we don’t. Maybe we just have to tolerate them. They’re good to have around when I need something heavy lifted, or a spider killed, or the trash taken out. Or when the car starts making a funny noise, because really, all I want to do is turn the key and put a car into drive and that’s about the extent of my automotive skills.....

Otherwise? I’m reserving judgment.

I am the mom who makes a “to-do” list…daily. My list this weekend resembled nothing more than a 400-page Stephen King novel – it was that horrific.

Beginning on Saturday morning, my goal was to accomplish the following before Sunday evening:

….tennis lessons, attend a wedding shower, clean out closets, as in begin packing up the summer clothes and unpacking the fall/winter clothes – for me AND for the kids, loads and loads of laundry, start making the Christmas shopping list, pay the bills, clean kids’ rooms, get ready for the next Girl Scout meeting, exercise, get a grocery list ready for Monday, vacuum & wash my car, begin planning my son’s 21st birthday party for next weekend, go through the coupons in Sunday’s paper, watch the Chiefs football game, walk the dog, and oh yeah, here’s an idea – maybe, just maybe, get some SLEEP in there somewhere...(yeah, right.)

…when Hubs said to me, late Sunday evening:

“What’s happened to your blog lately? You’re neglecting it.”

I quickly checked my to-do list, and because I didn’t see, “Murder the Hubs” on it, I let the comment go.

So, he got away with one. He’s darn lucky. Just wait until my NEXT "To-Do" list.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Against the Wind

After having a near-death experience this week, due to my own stupidity (why are you not surprised?), I am savoring every minute that I have on this earth.

Oh? Did I forget to post about my terrifying, heart-palpitating horrendishly-horrible experience? I guess I did. Oops.

I can blame my stupidity on my OCD. That "Type-A" personality that I was cursed with.

I kayak on Tuesdays and Thursdays...other days, if I have time...but on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That, dear readers, is a given. That's my OCD at work.

And so, this past Thursday, I woke up, threw on some clothes, strapped on my life jacket, and hopped into my kayak.

My OCD also tells me that I must go counter-clockwise around the lake...and so, I turn left when I leave my dock, and begin paddling.

I soon realize that I have a pretty good wind behind me, and it's pushing me right along down the shoreline of the lake...I am going so fast, I have a sense that I am flying. This is feeling pretty good!

Midway down the shoreline, I turn to the right, so I can cut across the lake and begin paddling up the other side. Wow. That wind is getting stronger...blowing me from the side, now - creating little white caps on the water. It's starting to concern me a little. Why didn't I notice this wind before?

I reach the other shoreline and begin paddling...and here is where the trouble begins. I am now paddling into the wind - and we're talking a steady wind of probably 25-30 mph.

I stroke once, and instead of moving forward, I'm being blown backwards. Away from my house. Away from my dock. I stroke harder, faster, and I'm barely creeping along. This is not good.

I paddle as fast and as hard as I can, not taking a break at all - a break of a few seconds can cost me 15 feet of progress...the waves are rocking the boat from side to side, and I fear I will be dunked before this is all over. I don't know how to swim; I'm terrified of water - but I do, thank God, have my life jacket on.

At some point, I begin to slightly panic, as I realize I'm never going to make it, and I'm going to be stranded - possibly forever - in the middle of the lake. No one else is on the lake - no one was stupid enough to venture out in conditions like this - and so I will be all alone.

Yes, I was being dramatic. But, you would be, too, when faced with your own demise.

After my one-minute pity/panic party, I took a deep breath, and said, "Just DO it." (with acknowledgement to Nike). And so I crazy...never taking my eyes off of the prize - my dock. One breath in, stroke. One breath out, stroke. Over and over and over again.

Against the wind. Through the rolling waves.

And eventually, I made it. I touched my dock. I was home. It took an hour of constant paddling - and my arms are now jelly - but I was home. Whew. No capsizing in the lake.

Lesson learned: Weather conditions trump my OCD.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Heart is Full

I have the best children ever.

My oldest son, Brad, is away at college...tomorrow is his 21st birthday. The plan is that my parents and I are going to drive the three hours to his campus, and take Brad out for a birthday lunch.

I was chatting with him the other night on Facebook, and teasingly said that "just my presence alone on your birthday should be a sufficiently wonderful gift."

And Brad, bless his heart, said, "Of course." And he even added a little heart:

Oh, son. I "heart" you, too. Can't wait to see you tomorrow.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flippin' Over a Flip

I'm cursed.

Really. I am.

I'm cursed when it comes to presentations.

If you remember, awhile back I went to do a Red Cross presentation, and discovered that I had a projector...with a projector. No laptop. Which meant, no DVD/slide show. Curses.

Then, a few weeks ago, I went to do another Red Cross presentation, and discovered that I had a projector and a laptop (which was good news!)...but I had no cord to connect the two. Bad news. No cord, no DVD/slide show. Curses again.

Today, I had two presentations to do...on my way to the first one, I received a phone call from the organization hosting the talk. They could not find their projector screen. I said, "That shouldn't be a problem...we'll just use a blank wall." The lady hesitated, and then said, "You won't believe this...but there's no blank wall in the presentation has a mural, windows, doors, etc...but no wall."

Seriously? No wall? Am I not cursed, or what??!! I really thought she was pulling my leg for a second....

She then went on to say that I could postpone the presentation, if I wanted, but I told her I was flexible and could "wing it" without the DVD/slide show.

I've become a very good winger. In fact, I am the QUEEN of winging. NO ONE wings it like I do. NO ONE. I have the crown of winging.

And so, for the third time in a matter of weeks, I winged it.

And it went very well, actually...thank you for asking.

It went so well, that the lady said she would request ONLY me to do any and all future presentations, because I obviously enjoy what I'm doing, and I had kept everyone's attention and I was just all-around fantastic (okay, I made up that last part about being fantastic, but really, can you blame me? My ego was feeling pretty good at this point, and so forgive me for going overboard....)

I did a presentation yesterday at the Missouri Lottery Association. I was hoping they'd give me the winning Powerball ticket in appreciation for speaking, but I guess they can't do that, darn it. It was nice to dream about it, though.

My second presentation today was at the Internal Revenue Service.

As I said to the IRS employees, "Is this not irony? Yesterday, I spoke where they GIVE you lots of money...and today, I'm speaking where they take all that money away...." They liked that...It's always good to get IRS employees in a good mood. Keep 'em laughing, I always say.

And I learned a lesson is most definitely, MOST definitely a no-no to take a camera into the IRS. The security I went through today was incredible...all electronic equipment had to be removed from my iPhone had to be turned off; my iPod had to be turned on and THEN turned off (I guess to show it wasn't going to blow up), and then, to my horror, I realized I had my Flip Video Camera in my purse.

Dum Dum Dum....(said with a very, very ominous tone of voice)

The guard looked at it like it had napalm and bubonic plague and the Spanish flu all wrapped up together, and says, "You can't take that in."

"Even if I leave it turned off?" I really had no intention of turning it on...I mean, as much as I love the IRS (sarcasm), there's nothing there I would film....

The guard was most emphatic...."NO! You CAN'T take it IN!"

My car was parked only about 500 miles away...and I was cutting it very close on when I was due to present. I must have had on my best helpless, hopeless look, as an IRS employee standing there spoke up and said, "Oh, I have camera privileges...she's with me."

(And yes - before you freak out and call the IRS camera cops on me - I really WAS with this guy...he was the guy who was taking me to where I was relax. He was telling the truth....)

Whew. I was not looking forward to walking 500 miles over a freakin' Flip camera. Sorry, I love ya, Sony, but seriously?

So, all three speeches this week went very well. I am done for the week, and tomorrow?

I kayak.

I am SO ready.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

10 on Tuesday: The Superficial List

Do not judge me because sometimes I am superficial. I can’t be all deep and philosophical all of the time – for one, it would absolutely give me a headache. And sometimes, it is just easier on my brain to be a little ditzy and a little fun and a little shallow.

With that said, I thought I would indulge a little on 10 things that I don’t think I could ever live without…in a shallow, superficial way, of course. I mean, really, if we truly thought about things we couldn’t live without, we’d have essential items like food, water, and shelter on our lists, as well as our pets and our family (actually, there are certain family members that I most CERTAINLY could live without, but we won’t go there) and we’d have things like peace and hope and stuff like that. Gah.

That’s a post for another day.

So, without further ado….here are my life’s superficial necessities….

10. Chocolately Pretzel Special K Bars….because, really, these are truly the best things EVER for breakfast…or lunch…or snacks in-between…..It has become rather sadly obvious that other people have discovered the joy of these, as my local grocery store seems to have empty shelves now where these little treats USED to reside…sigh.

9. Diet Dr. Pepper…the commercials are true…this SO doesn’t taste like a diet soda, at all. I especially like the Diet Dr. Pepper WITH cherry – as it’s a little secret bonus in my soda pop. Hubs would tell you I drink way too many of these, but really, who can make that determination?

8. Oil of Olay…snicker if you must, but this face cream is pure magic as far as keeping me youthfully sexy and oh-so-hot. In my own mind, at least.

7. Simply Vera t-shirts…these are truly a little bit of heaven on my skin. Once I discovered the pure bliss of these, I simply had to have one in every color so that I could wear one every day…and last week, I found the LONG-SLEEVED version, and so my skin will be in heaven all through the upcoming colder months. Life is good with Vera Wang.

6. E-books…whether I read them on my Kindle or my iPad, there is something so selfishly-gratifying about ordering a book online and reading it a mere five seconds later….for an impatient person such as myself, e-books are a pure delight.

5. GPS…Yes, I’m directionally challenged. I own it. I could get lost heading west on a sunny day…and so my GPS in my car is a true lifesaver, as I would never make it home each day and my family would begin to wonder where I’m at and why dinner isn’t on the table, and really, just where do I think I am now?

4. Facebook... Be a hater if you want – but I love this social medium and how it has opened up doors and made my world just that much bigger. I think I have a slight girl crush on Mark Zuckerberg….

3. Chipotle…I’ve blogged about this restaurant before, but it really is that good. And I really could eat there each and every day, because they claim that there is a staggering 65,000 combinations of burritos that one could have…and so I did the math, because I really had nothing better to do, and if I did a different combination every single day of the year, it would only take me a mere 178 years to exhaust the menu….

2. Bravo T.V.... Being a self-proclaimed reality TV show junkie, Bravo is my crack. It has such quality shows as the Real Housewives, Flipping Out, as well as Top Chef…and truly, how would I get through a week without watching self-entitled fame-whore women yell and scream at each other? Or drama-inducing gay chefs create the most fantastic-looking delicacies that I would just die, I mean, die, if I could just reach through my screen and take a tiny little bite? I love my Bravo T.V.

And…the number one thing on my “Superficial Can’t Live Without” list is….

1. Chocolate. Need I really say more…? I mean, really?



Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekend in Review: The Wiped Out Edition

It's another Monday (do I hear cheers? or is that groans I'm hearing?? Hmmm?) and so it's time for another Weekend in Review installment. And oh, how I WISH I had exciting stuff to put here....I could tell you stories of a romantic dinner for two on Friday night, a hot air balloon ride up into the heavens on Saturday, and front-row, 50-yard line tickets to an NFL game on Sunday.

But that's just it. It would all be stories. None of it true. Darn it.

In actuality, I had a very quiet weekend. Which is rather good every now and then...I think we all need weekends when we just slow down a bit and re-charge our batteries.

Friday night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of Chipotle. A veggie burrito bowl with extra guacamole - no salsa, please - and I am a happy girl. Delicious, fresh ingredients...made to order...Yum. If I did nothing more on Friday night than enjoy that burrito from Chipotle's, than it would not have been a Friday night in vain. And actually, I don't think I DID anything else on Friday night. Other than to enjoy that burrito. And life was good.

Saturday morning brought heat...humidity...and our weekly tennis lessons. A strange thing happened on the tennis courts this week. We spent half the time working on our forehand, and the second half of class perfecting our backhand. And we all discovered - to all of our amazement - that I have a pretty good backhand. Better than my forehand, and most certainly better than anyone in the class's. Huh. Who'd 'a thunk it?

The tennis coach thinks its something to do with my softball background...he went into this long explanation of my wrists, and how they're turning on my forehand, but being oh-so-perfectly locked and in alignment on my backhand, but I pretty much lost him when he got all technical, and just silently thanked the tennis gods that I had at least ONE thing that worked in my favor and so wasn't making a total fool of myself on the court.

Speaking of making a fool of myself on the court...remember how I mentioned the heat? And the humidity? Add to that one slightly out-of-shape, middle-aged drama queen who doesn't handle strenuous exercise well in heat and humidity, and you get one very-close-to-passing-out-due-to-the-heat tennis chick. Moi.

I was dying. Seriously. I know that sounds all dramatic and all, and I AM the Drama Queen, after all, but seriously. I probably should have recognized the symptoms of heat exhaustion - I've had them before - and I probably should have walked off the court and found immediate shade and drank some immediate water.

But I didn't. Because I'm stubborn. And I'm stupid.

And I refuse to admit my weaknesses, sometimes - which can be dangerous.

At about the time when I was most certainly going to collapse into a puddle of confusion & disorientation on the tennis court, practice was over.

I stumbled off the court - stumbled into my car - and somehow, some way, got daughter and myself home. Stumbled into the house and DID collapse. Yikes.

Shaky. Weak. Exhausted. I was a mess.

Hubs and Daughter went onto a local festival here in town for the rest of the day, while I recovered at home in blessed air-conditioning.

I didn't suffer too much, though, as college football was on TV ALL day - and my two favorite college teams, Missouri & Auburn, both won.

When not wallowing in pigskin paradise, I did manage to work on one of three presentations I have this week with the Red Cross. It took four hours of research on my part, but in the end - this presentation will knock their socks off on Wednesday. (I still have two more to work on - but they're short and sweet and I can knock them out today. I hope.)

Sunday was spent relaxing at home, and watching more football. (This is pretty much the story of my life during the fall football season.) I made some delicious taco chili and brownies, and we watched the Chiefs eek out a victory over Cleveland, and then watched Denver womp all over Seattle. (darn it).

It wasn't until last night that I FINALLY didn't feel like a arms and legs began "working" again...and so I learned an important lesson this weekend.

No matter HOW wonderful your backhand is - get off the damn court if you're going to pass out. It ain't worth it. Trust me on this.



Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Tapestry of Love

A young rapper from Harlem...

...a Hispanic family in Galveston...

...a teenage boy in the foothills of California... old man in Fargo...

...these are just a few of the thousands of people who have woven colorful and heartwarming threads through the tapestry of my life and left me richer for it...

...these are the people who have been on the receiving end of assistance from the American Red Cross, while I was on the receiving end of their friendship and their warmth and their love and their humanity... strangers brought together in moments of tragedy...united in our hope and our determination to make things better...

...they had needs...and I had the joy in providing... the case of the rapper, a shelter in an ice storm... and water for the family in Galveston after a hurricane ripped through the island...

...a shovel and sifter for the teenager, so he could sift through the ashes of what used to be his home...

...and an ear for listening, for the old man in the Fargo flooding...

There are so many many stories...that I sometimes fear they will begin to blend in with each other and I will "lose" them...I will lose what made each person special...each situation unique and heartwarming...and I don't want to lose them. They deserve more than that. They deserve their own memories...not all lumped in with each other in the confusion and jumble of my mind...

...and so I write...and I share their stories with audiences...

...and I salute them, for making me a better person than what I deserve to be.



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Living in Paradise

We called him "Opa."

He was my maternal grandfather...and this week, he would have celebrated his 98th birthday...

When my mom grew up, my grandparents lived here in Kansas City. My grandma, Oma, was a dean at the University of Missouri; Opa was an attorney. At some point, in the late 1950's, they moved to Wisconsin, due to a job opportunity for Oma.

In the early 1960's, Opa took a vacation down to St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands, to visit his brother. Opa never came back. He called Oma, who was holding down the fort in Wisconsin, and said, "I am in paradise. If and when you want to join me, sell the house and come on down."

It took a few years, but eventually, Oma joined him, until her death in 1976.

Opa lived in St. Thomas for many, many years...enjoying the beach and enjoying the slower pace of life. When I was 17, I got to spend a few weeks with him that summer, and it was amazing....except when he made me eat turnips for the first time in my life. And brussel sprouts. Ugh.

Hurricane Hugo wiped out Opa's hillside home in 1989, and the family decided that it was time to bring Opa back to the States. He was getting older, and it was easier to "keep an eye on him" if he lived with us in Kansas City.

He was a man of few words...he really enjoyed just sitting and observing with his keen eyes that didn't miss a thing. When he finally DID decide to offer a comment, it was usually a zinger...full of sarcasm and dry wit that would leave you rolling. I called him "E.F. Hutton" behind his back - as in the commercial - because when he DID talk - you'd listen. Or else.

Opa expected nothing less than the best from us...His philosophy was, if you're going to do something, then you're going to do it well. Or not at all. He set high expectations for all of his grandkids, and I strived to meet those. Sometimes I would. Sometimes I let him down.

But...he always loved. You could see the love and pride in his face as he would sit and observe his family around him. He wouldn't say it - but you could feel it. It was there.

Alzheimer's eventually took over my grandpa...his memory got confused, and he got quieter and got to be very hard to visit him, as you wouldn't know "which" Opa would be there...the one who remembered who you were? Or the one who had no idea who the hell you was very, very tough.

He eventually passed away. And I cried. I cried a lot. I missed him. I missed his wit. His sarcasm. His dry observations.

And I missed his love.

He's been on my mind this week, as I silently observed his birthday.

So, cheers to you, Opa.

Miss you. Love you. And I hope you're enjoying paradise again - only this time up in the Heavens....



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project...

...where you focus on things that make you feel all sugary and sweet and warm inside...

...such as a Kansas City Chiefs win on Monday Night football...

...such as a fantastic Girl Scout meeting last night, where I sat with my 8 little Scouts and discussed grown-up topics...

...such as receiving a phone call from the doctor who says that my pathology report is back, cancer-free...

...such as a fantastic family who continue to surprise me and amaze me with their accomplishments and love...

...such as an amazing group of friends who surround me with their support and encouragement when times are rough...

...such as warm, fuzzy, furry pets who love me unconditionally and show me the value of a good belly rub...

...such as a beautiful, sunny Tuesday morning after Monday night showers...

God is good. Life is good.

Enjoy the day.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekend in Review: The Friendship Edition

There is something to be said about the power of friendships...

Friday, I had lunch with a girlfriend...she had read my "cry for help" blog post last Friday and felt compelled to respond. We had a very enlightening lunch, and I felt so much better with things after talking and laughing with her. She was able to see things clearly and offer some sage advice and wisdom - and I really, really appreciated having her as a sounding board. Girlfriends are very special.

That evening, Hubs and I went to Starlight Theater, our outdoor venue here in Cowtown, to see "Rain." Rain is a Beatles-tribute band, and I was looking forward to this show ALL summer.

We arrived early so we could have a delicious dinner (salmon! Yum!) there at the theater, and then took our seats shortly before the 8:00 p.m. curtain.

The show started - and it was fantastic. The four guys not only look exactly like the Fab Four, but they sound like them, too! It was amazing! It was like being transported back in time to watching the "real" Beatles.

Unfortunately, about 15 minutes into the show - Mother Nature decided to bring a little rain of her own into the picture.

The band left the stage, and management came on to warn us that severe lightning was moving into the area, and we would all (7,000 people!) need to take shelter.

Hubs and I made our way back into the restaurant, and found a seat with some other folks, where we spent a delightful 30 minutes discussing our kids, their colleges, and the Red Cross. Hey - I'm always plugging away for the organization that I love!

The lightning moved on, for the most part, and the show resumed...but the rain kept coming. No worries - Hubs and I are Proud Poncho People - we wear our rain ponchos very proudly whenever we're at an event, whether it's Walt Disney World, Europe, or a concert - and so, we plopped on our ponchos and danced and sang in the rain.

It was awesome.

Most of the crowd stuck it out to the final encore - a huge, rousing sing-a-long of "Hey Jude" that had everyone on their feet, swaying in the rain, and feeling the love. 7,000 people - united in their love of "feel-good" music....

Saturday morning was tennis lessons - both Daughter and I are now taking official lessons so we can improve our game. Her lessons were at 10:00 a.m., and so I sat on the sidelines and watched how she did. And she did pretty good!

And then, when it was my turn...hmmm....I struggled. I have way too many years of softball invested, and my arms, feet, everything - want to swing a tennis racquet like it's a baseball bat. In fact, I DID hit a home run on Saturday - I knocked a tennis ball over the fence and a good 100 feet...NOT what you want to do in tennis. Oops.

Its going to be difficult to "unlearn" many years of softball, and relearn tennis...the footwork, the backhand, - ARGH. But, I am learning. And it was good exercise. Especially when I had to go chase the home run I hit.

After tennis, Daughter went on to a local amusement park in town, Worlds of Fun, so it was just Hubs and I at home for the day. He piddled and I piddled and I watched the sailboats that afternoon as they glided by in the lake. It was pretty awesome. Our lake has a Sailing Club, and the boats were doing some drills in the water....pretty amazing to watch them maneuver.

That night, Hubs and I went for a brief visit with my folks, and then went to a local restaurant, Jess & Jim's, for a delicious dinner.

Hubs had the steak and I had prime rib. Yummy. And the baked potato was absolutely to die for. I ate more of it than I did my prime rib. I'm just not a red meat person - pretty much allergic to beef - so I'll stick with the potato.

Sunday was spent just relaxing...working in the yard for awhile...and watching NFL football on T.V. Both the teams that I "hate" - Denver and Oakland - lost, so if the Chiefs can win tonight, on Monday Night Football, we'd have sole possession of 1st place. For a week, anyway. Hey. It can happen.

I hope your weekend was awesome...spending it with family, friends, good music, good food, whatever it was you did...I hope you enjoyed the days and the weather - and just life. Just enjoy life.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11 Remembered

It had truly been one of the most amazing weekends, ever.

A four-day brief foray into western Colorado...a surprise trip from the Hubs, for just kids, no distractions...

Our four days were spent exploring the beautiful aspens, streams, and mountains of Colorado - tracking elusive wildlife, hiking long-abandoned trails, and just taking in the absolute stunning beauty that makes America the wondrous country that it is....It was an absolute, fantastic four days that I wanted to last forever.

Unfortunately, reality arrived, and it was time to head home...we arrived home late, on a Monday evening. I opted to take Tuesday off of work, so I could catch up on "Mommy" chores: laundry, bill paying, cleaning, shopping, etc.

The kids were up early that morning...the two younger boys were eating breakfast, getting ready to catch the elementary school bus...Dear Daughter was all of 2-years old that day, and so I kept her home with me, in lieu of day care....

I turned on the television with the intent of flipping it over to "Blue's Clues" - my daughter's absolute favorite program at the time. However, when the TV came on, it was on ABC...and was broadcasting "Good Morning, America." My eyes glanced at the screen to see what was on...and I don't think my eyes left the screen for 3 or 4 days....

The image was of the Twin Towers in NYC appeared to be on fire...and the news anchors were sounding a bit confused and bewildered, as they speculated on the air about what had caused this horrific fire at the World Trade Center. I sat down for what was supposed to be just for a minute, so I could absorb what I was seeing, and process it...A bomb, perhaps? An electrical fire? What had caused this?

And then...the unthinkable...on live TV, I distinctly remember hearing my 2-year old daughter exclaim, excitedly, "Mommy! A plane! A plane!" as the image of an airplane appeared on the screen, and slammed into the second Tower.

I screamed. I burst into tears. I immediately recognized that my beloved country, the United States of America, was under attack. By an unknown enemy. But we were clearly being attacked.

And then - I realized I had to pull it together for the sake of my kids, who were now all watching me for cues on how to react to this. Suck it up, sister - you're a Mom, and you have to keep the kids calm and not freak them out. It was ALL I could do to put on a brave face and get my sons out the door for the bus....

Many phone calls were made that day...calling to check on the welfare of friends and family and parents came over and spent the day...perhaps we all felt that tug of family, that need for the secure and the safe....and we watched the screen, looking for answers, looking for reassurances from our leaders, and hoping and praying for the families and people affected.

It was the worst of times that came off one of the best of times, and it was very surreal - to go from an extreme Rocky Mountain High to accepting the reality that there were men in the world, so evil, they could do these acts to innocent people.

I will never forget...I will always remember...and my prayers and thoughts today are with all of us who were affected by the events of September 11, 2001.

Peace. And I say that with all my heart....



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fool Me Once...

And today's lesson, dear readers, is all about being prepared....

A month ago, I visited a local community organization on behalf of the Red Cross...they had asked me to come out and do a presentation on the Pandemic Flu.

On my way to the civic center, I swung by my office at the Red Cross, where a co-worker had set out everything I needed to do the presentation...brochures, a projector, and a laptop computer. The brochures were in a giant plastic bag, and the electronic equipment nestled all snug in their respective black cases....I grabbed all of the bags and loaded up my car and headed out.

However... when I arrived at the civic center, I discovered - to my horror - that I had brochures, a projector, and a....projector. No computer. No way to run the slide show. The co-worker had inadvertently set out TWO projectors and NO computer. Oh, NO! Disaster!!!!

Having the wonderful God-given gift of gab, and quick thinking, I improvised, and did a wonderful presentation on the Psychological Stages of a Disaster...something that I've spoken on numerous times and can do off the top of my head.

The audience - of which there were 75 people! - ate it up and everything was cool....Whew. Crisis averted.

This is a monthly speaking engagement, and today was my day to head back out to the same civic center, and this time, speak on earthquakes.

I swung by my office at work, and my co-worker had set out brochures, and the two black cases....which, hopefully, held a laptop and a projector.

Not wanting to take any chances, I checked the black cases before I left my office to insure that they did, indeed, carry the necessary equipment...and to my relief, I saw a laptop in one and a projector in another. Whew. I was good to go.

So, I arrived at my destination, and began taking the laptop and projector out to set up...everything was going along very nicely until I began searching for the cable that "connects" the laptop with the know, that very-valuable piece of cording that allows the laptop to "speak" to the projector. Without it, you're screwed.

And guess what? (Yeah, you know where this is going, don't you?)

No cable. No connection. I'm screwed.

Are you KIDDING me???!!!

I seriously looked around for a minute, swearing on everything that is holy that I was being punk'd....and when I realized I wasn't being filmed for "Candid Camera", I just continued swearing on everything that is holy. But, you know, silently, as I didn't want to freak out the audience.

Having the wonderful gift of gab, and the wonderful foresight to be prepared for disasters, I had fortunately printed off the Earthquake slideshow before I left the house this morning... I was able to do the presentation on the fly...using my notes as back-up...and the audience ate it up and everything was cool....Whew. Crisis averted.

But seriously? Two months in a row?

Next month, you know darn tootin' that I will be taking EVERYTHING out of the black cases while I'm STILL at my office to insure that I have EVERYTHING I need to speak...I'm really running out of the gift of gab.

And I'm starting to get just a bit paranoid...justifiably so, I think.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Red Cross Ramblings

Busy, busy, busy...'s September...which means it's National Preparedness Month...

...which means I'm crazy, insanely, over-the-top busy with Red Cross.

Yesterday, I visited a local high school, and did back-to-back presentations on Disaster Preparedness. My first presentation was done with a class that was supposed to be "Team Sports." Boy, weren't the jocks surprised when they saw they weren't shooting hoops in the gym - but instead were having the wonderful opportunity of hearing me jabber about disasters for an hour.

They were thrilled - THRILLED - with sitting in a rather warm, stuffy library...after lunch...discussing how to be prepared if a tsunami were to hit the Midwest tomorrow.

Okay, enough with my actually went pretty well...once they got over the shock and disappointment of it all. I think they actually had a bit of fun - but they would never admit it. They're teenagers, after all.


Today was spent meeting with the Leadership Council of the American Red was our monthly meeting, where we can sit and pow-wow...some good news came out of this, as we are just that-much-closer to finding our 5,000 beds for possible Louisiana hurricane evacuees.

In the meantime, I still say a prayer every time a tropical storm perks up in the Atlantic, invoking every thing that is holy that the storm will bypass our good friends in New Orleans. Now, don't get me wrong - I LOVE the people of the Big Easy - but I love them even more if they don't have to mandatorily come visit me here in Kansas City. And I have to house and feed them. For weeks. Possibly.


Tomorrow, I have the unmitigated joy of visiting a community center in a nearby town, and doing a presentation on something near and dear to my heart...earthquakes.

You probably didn't know I was the Queen of Earthquake Preparedness, did you? Well, I am...and I have a kick-ass speech, full of pathos, humor, passion, joy, and amazing trivia - all about the Big One That Is Yet To Come....And all of the ones we've had before...such as the deadliest earthquake in recorded history, which was in China in 1556. I wasn't there, of course, but I have it on good authority that over 830,000 people were killed...can you imagine that? Unbelievable.

Now, see...? If the Chinese people had had ME come and do an earthquake presentation - they would have been PREPARED and would have known what to do when the ground started shaking. Think of all the lives that could have been saved...???!!

I'm just sayin'.....



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Third Time's a Charm?

When my Dear Daughter was 6 years old, she begged and pleaded to have her ears pierced...

...when it reached the point where I no longer delighted in seeing her beg and plead and suffer and it crossed over to where it was just down-right annoying, I caved and took her in and had the deed done.

Within two months, because of lack of care and lack of initiative on her part, her ears closed up and they were pierced no more.

When Dear Daughter turned 9, she once again began begging and pleading to have her ears pierced. This time, though, I fought back a little more and reminded her of how she had not shown responsibility for the ears when she was 6, and why should this time be different?

"Because I'm older and I'm more mature," was her very wise and mature answer. She then tacked on a plaintive "PLEEEAAASSSE!"
for good measure.

We debated back and forth for a few weeks, and after repeated assurances from her that she would take care of the ears, I took her in and had the deed done. Again.

And again...within a few months...she had neglected to keep earrings in, and the ears closed up and they were pierced no more. Deja vu.

"I'm done," I said to Hubs. "She can beg and plead until the cows come home, but I'm done. No more."

I knew Daughter was too smart to come to me and beg and plead any more...she knew I stood firm and it wasn't going to happen any more on my watch.

What I didn't count on was her roping in someone else.

Yesterday, her older sister (We'll call her "Daughter J") called and asked to take Dear Daughter (who's now 11) out for the day...they'd go to a local festival in town, do some shopping, and just hang out.

Daughter J is 30 years old, married, with two sons of her own. I know she likes female company, so I said, "Sure. No problem."

As I sent Dear Daughter out the door yesterday with Daughter J, I hugged her and said, "Now - be good...don't be a pest. Make good choices and be smart." You know - all of those "Mom" things we say as we send our kids out the door.

Dear Daughter came home last night with two, fresh holes in her ears...I guess her idea of "being good" and "making good choices" and "being smart" was begging and pleading older sister to take her to get her ears pierced.

Argh. Here we go again.



Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekend in Review: The Water Edition

Ft Myers Beach...Labor Day weekend...2010


If my weekend had a theme, it would be water...isn't water a wonderful thing?

I spent Friday morning in Florida, waiting for the guy to show up who was going to install my recently purchased water softener/filter unit.

I had discovered - to my horror...well, actually, more to my hair's horror - that our water in Florida was extremely hard, and extremely full of chlorine. And ammonia. Gah! That week we spent in Florida last month had done a number on my hair - to the point where even my hairdresser had exclaimed, "What the heck happened to your hair??!!"

If you're getting chewed out by your hairdresser, then you know that something needed to be done. And soon. So, without further ado, I purchased a water filtration system, and it was to be installed on Friday. Oh joy.

The guy showed up only 90 minutes late (gah!) and with my assistance ("Where do you want it, ma'am?" , or "Where's your nearest GFI?" and "How much salt do you want?" and so on and so on), we got it done by noon.

Isn't this a thing of beauty??!!

After the guy left, I looked longingly out the back door at my pool, and heedless of the doctor's warnings about swimming so soon after my surgeries, I plunged in. To heck with it - the pool was full of chlorine, so how infected could I really get? I mean really? And even if a teeny, tiny bit of infection was to occur in the incisions, that could be managed with some antibiotics, and the pool was looking so inviting and so refreshing...and you could really see where my brain was going...

The pool water was it's late-summer glory of absolutely divine temperature that cocooned my body and washed all my cares and worries away....

And it felt so, so good.

After the dip in the pool, I took a shower - and it was pure joy...

....I have to say that my hair was very happy and pleased with the results. My shampoo was foamy and bubbly; my skin felt clean; and my hair? Was doing the happy dance afterwards. No more lectures from my hairdresser. She will be so happy, too. Happy hair and happy hairdressers are the simple things in life we should savor....

That evening, I drove down to Ft. Myers beach and had a delicious, old-fashioned chocolate soda from Kilwin's Chocolate Shop. And I will confess, dear readers, that the heavenly scoops of chocolate ice cream and foamy mounds of soda water was my dinner. Hey - I was by myself, and I had no children around that I needed to be setting good examples for, so veggies? Organic? Poo on you....I was having a chocolate soda for dinner.

And it tasted so, so good.

Saturday morning and afternoon was spent fiddle-farting...I read some more Randy Wayne White, I shopped some more at a home decor shop, and I swam some more in that delicious pool...

At about 3:00, the phone rang, and it was Kevin, my Hub's boss. Kevin is the one who initially bought a house a year ago in Ft. Myers, and convinced us to do so, as well. Kevin was also down in Ft. Myers for the Labor Day weekend.

Kevin says, "What 'cha doing?"

I said, "Nothing of importance. Why? What's up?"

He says, "I'm fishing off my boat. Wanna' join me?"

Before he had said the last word, I was already jumping in my car and heading on down to his place. Kevin has a kick-ass boat...and when I say, "kick ass", I mean this thing is has a 600-gallon gas tank, and has two bedrooms, a kitchen, and enough room to hold 30 people. I like Not so much - but I could watch while he fished, and I could enjoy the boat.

We spent several hours on his boat - watching some of the other boats go by, including this monster:

And fishing? All Kevin would have to do is throw out a line, and a minute later, he'd have something, like this:

...we then took the boat out for a cruise around the beach, and I managed to snap a (blurry) photo of what appeared to be a bald eagle in the mudflats....

...the evening was beautiful and it was just an awesome trip...Kevin's wife, Debbie, had joined us and the three of us kicked back and relaxed.

And life was so, so good.

Sunday, it was time to come home. First, though, I went next door and socialized a little with my Florida neighbors, Larry and Linda. They are some pretty cool people and I needed to say my good-byes until the next time.

Around 11:30, my car had arrived to take me to the airport - and so off I went, locking up the house. It's always sad to leave the house - wondering when I would be able to return...hoping that it's okay while we're gone....

A very, very bumpy ride home, as there were lots of thunderstorms and giant clouds we went through as we flew north....but we landed safely in KC around 4:30 and I was met by my smiling family.

Coming home, I was met with piles of laundry and piles of mail...and some happy pets.

And being home is so, so good.