Monday, September 26, 2011

An Air of Rebellion

Today's Gemini Horoscope:

The planet of communication, and also your planetary ruler, Mercury, enters your playful, creative solar fifth house today, dear Gemini.
I honestly have no idea what this means...other than I will be playful and creative???? But aren't I always???!!!

Thoughts turn to romance, children, and entertainment for the next few weeks. Romance? Yes. Children? No, thank you. Entertainment? Always.

You express yourself with a fun, entertaining touch that draws others to you.
I'd like to think so. Hee. I DO have a whole bunch of lunches coming up with girlfriends & family, so perhaps this is true.

Presenting your ideas during this cycle is likely to be especially fruitful.
Hmmm...I guess this means now is the time to present that idea of a European vacation next summer to my husband....??? Yes????

You attract love interests through your wit and intelligence.
Well...I am most definitely witty and intelligent - duh - but I don't really think my husband would appreciate me attracting love interests at this time. Guess I'll pass on this. Hee.

Today, surprising events are possible, as an air of rebellion surrounds you.
Ooooooohhhhhh, I LOVE "air of rebellion." I've always enjoyed being the rebel, so this is intriguing...can't wait to see what today's surprises are! Maybe I'll rebel by having ice cream for breakfast....Yum.

What's in store for YOUR day???

Whatever it is, I hope it's a good one!



Sunday, September 25, 2011

52 Pick-Up Stix

Four years long overdue.

A family reunion for my husband's side of the family...

Invitations were was purchased...the house was clean and everything was ready to go.

40+ people were expected yesterday afternoon at 2:00 pm for the EVENT of the YEAR at our home.

And then?

Disaster struck.

Okay, not really a disaster...I exaggerate. (Moi? Exaggerate? Imagine that. Hee.)

Thirty minutes before the first guests are expected to arrive, I reach into the pantry to grab a last-minute food item, and I accidentally bump into a box of spaghetti on the shelf.

And my pantry floor looks like this in a nano-second:

"REALLY?????!!!" I shriek, adding, "Like I need this NOW!!!!!"

"Who the HECK left a box of spaghetti OPEN????"

I look accusingly at the rest of the family.

And then I realize...that would have been ME. As I am the only spaghetti cook in the family.


Nothing like a good game of 52 (and then some) Pick-Up Stix thirty minutes before a party.




Thursday, September 22, 2011

Camping With the Stars

Last night was "Must-See TV" viewing in our house, as it was the much-anticipated season premier of "Modern Family."

While settling in to watch, I noticed that the TV Guide description said that the families would be visiting a dude ranch in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

"Hey," I said to my daughter. "Remember when WE visited a dude ranch in Jackson Hole a few years ago? What was the name of that thing, anyway??? Lost...something."

A few more moments go by, and it comes to me. "Lost CREEK! The Lost Creek Ranch!" I give myself a high-5 on the back.

Hey - when you get to be my age, you rejoice at the simple things in life, like being able to remember things. ANY things.

My daughter reminisces for a moment and says, "Yeah - that was a fun vacation."

The episode of Modern Family begins, and in the opening few minutes, we discover that the family has landed at a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming named....

..wait for it...

...the Lost Creek Ranch.

"OH MY GAWD!" I scream, about putting the poor cats on our laps into apoplexy.


Is it weird to get all excited about having an Emmy-award winning television show film at the exact same place you vacationed at yourself just a few years ago???!!!

I guess I just felt validation that we had, indeed, picked a beautiful spot to vacation was PROOF!

So, I dug around this morning for a few photos to show our own experiences with the beautiful Lost Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole:

One of the beautiful cabins on-site...

The main Lodge building, where we'd have our meals...

A view from the Lodge, overlooking the stables...

Mickey on her horse...she LOVED going riding every day...

I preferred my own two feet for getting around...hiking is more my speed.

After riding or hiking, the pool was always a welcoming treat...and it was in the show last night, as well!

Our own two weeks spent at the Lost Creek Ranch was in 2008, and it was quite the experience...beautiful scenery, great times, and lots of fun memories...which all came to the surface last night while enjoying "Modern Family."

And when you live in the middle of the heartland of the country, and don't get too many opportunities to "rub elbows" with celebrities, pardon our excitement last night for being that close to Camping with the Stars.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Deja Vu

While being a lazy-butt, lounging around in my pajamas and totally making my kids wait on me hand-and-foot (Hey...there's always a good side to having surgery, right?!), I had extra time to go through some of my pictures....

Comparing some photos of my daughter from a trip to Walt Disney World back in 2005...with how she has changed in the photos taken last month...I'm struck by how things change...and yet, how they are the same.

Singing in the rain in 2005....

Singing in the rain in 2011...

A Pooh-hug in 2005...

Pooh never changes, does he?

The Incredibles...and some incredibly-ugly crocs in 2005...

Looking incredible in 2011...

Old photos are fun...and finally having a chance to just sit...chill...and go through them has been a fun journey.

Not that I would recommend gallbladder surgery to get an opportunity to chill out. No. Not at all.



My Coming-Out Party

My "coming out" party - in honor of my gallbladder - was a huge success.

Early Friday morning, I headed off to the local hospital, where I checked in and the gallbladder checked out.

Getting knocked out by general anesthesia pretty much terrifies I was a tad-bit nervous Friday morning.

Heck, who am I kidding...??! I didn't sleep AT ALL Thursday night, and I was more than a "tad-bit" nervous...I was a nervous WRECK by the time I arrived at the hospital.

Imagine my surprise when a pastor from my church showed up at the hospital, which was a HUGE relief and blessing...I needed a calm, reassuring voice to alleviate some of my fears, and Rich was most definitely calm and reassuring.

If anyone ever wonders if pastoral visits to hospitals make a difference, I can resoundingly say, "YES!" They do.

After the surgery, I went home, where I've pretty much taken to my bed and not left it. Recovery is going well, but a little slow.

Friday afternoon, a card arrived in the mail...

It was a get well card, signed by the Red Cross volunteers I had worked with while deployed to New Jersey.

And while it was such a simple thing, it touched me beyond belief...actually bringing tears to my eyes that they would take time out of their crazy, busy days to send me a card.

If anyone ever wonders if get-well cards make a difference, I can resoundingly say, "YES!" They do.

The simple messages...all make a difference when someone is under the weather.

And as for me...a few more days of rest...and I should be good to go. Well. Not running any 5K's soon, but I hope to at least be able to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without wanting to pass out.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Own Best Advocates

Four years.

Four years of stomach pain...doctors' appointments...tests...scans...medication...

And frustration.

For four years, I've been dealing with the mysterious, unexplained issues that have pretty much reduced eating to a chore and not a pleasure anymore.

I found an old blog post from over a year ago, "I've Been Diagnosed With...", that somewhat discussed my issues. And my frustration.


A few months ago, my sister had a gallbladder scan that discovered an under-functioning gallbladder. While talking to her about it, an epiphany came to me that I was pretty much having the EXACT same symptoms as she had that led to her test.

So, when I visited my doctor - AGAIN - for the umpteenth time this past June, I casually suggested that perhaps a gallbladder scan was in order.

The doctor looked at me like I'd grown three heads, and while the thought going through his head was most obviously, "I don't see an M.D. after YOUR name, do I??!!", he actually said, "Well...I suppose if that's what you want....??"

In his best skeptical voice. As in I obviously didn't know what I was talking about.

No, it's not what I want, you moron, but if it can help identify a problem....

So, the gallbladder test was done, and it was uncomfortably painful, and the results are in....

My gallbladder is off-the-charts. Hyper. Over-active.

Hyperkinetic biliary dyskinesia, officially.

And the pesky, over-achieving gallbladder must come out.

Gee, doctor. Too bad we couldn't have discovered this FOUR years ago.

Anywho, I am scheduled for surgery in the morning, and although part of me is very-much relieved that finally, FINALLY, some relief is in sight, I can't help but be a little bit aggrieved.

Lesson learned in all of this...don't be afraid to push a bit for something in order to get an answer.

I don't give a hoot if there's an M.D. after my name or not...we have to be our own best advocates sometimes.



Monday, September 12, 2011

Cops Who Know Everything



NOT what I want to hear from my GPS system as I'm barreling sedately driving down I-95 last week...I was attempting to maneuver my way from Princeton, NJ to Philadelphia, where an airplane flight awaited to take me home.

Along for this crazy ride was Charley, a very quiet and mild-mannered 75-year old Red Cross volunteer. He was also hoping to arrive - alive - at Philadelphia airport for his own flight home back to upstate New York.

Little did he know what he was getting himself into when he caught a ride with me to the airport.

I had diligently plugged "Philadelphia International Airport" in to "Betsy", the GPS system that I had borrowed from Hubs during my deployment to New Jersey for Hurricane Irene. Charley and I had a pretty good idea that Philly was southwest of our current location, so we had hopped on to I-95 south.

Betsy, however, had different ideas.

She began innocuously enough...trying to nudge us immediately off of I-95 and on to the very first exit we passed.

I ignored her, but she began getting very insistent.

"Turn right here," she would plead, as we approached the very next exit.

I ignored her again. Surely, I-95 south was the direction we should be going, right?

"Re-calculating," she would whine.

After a few miles of listening to her INSISTENCE that we get off of I-95, I began questioning myself...perhaps Betsy was right, and we were wrong...? Maybe we shouldn't be going I-95 south???

What if we were...gulp....LOST??!!

Going along at breakneck speed - during the stormy rains of Tropical Storm Lee...I asked Charley if he would double-check Betsy's programming. I didn't exactly want to take my concentration off of the wet roads and the traffic to re-assure myself that Betsy knew where she was going.

Poor Charley.

He looked at Betsy as if she'd grown three heads and was covered in arsenic and radiation poisoning...much the same way he was beginning to look at me, as I was starting to panic that perhaps we WERE going the wrong way and I was now going to be solely responsible for us BOTH missing our flights.

"Re-calculating," Betsy droned on. And on. And on.

"ENOUGH," I screamed.

Poor Charley.

He's never really had to deal with a crazy little blonde known as the Drama Queen, let alone a crazy whacked-out GPS system that doesn't seem to know where it is, let alone how to get us in a timely manner to Philadelphia.

Do I turn around and get off the highway, at Betsy's insistence? She just wasn't making any sense at this point.

I quickly checked her settings to make sure I hadn't inadvertently changed the settings to "Avoid Toll Roads." Nope. That wasn't it. I quickly checked her settings to make sure she was still set for Philly. Yes.

ACK!!!! Why was she going CRAZY???!!!

And then...inspiration struck.

"A-HA!" I screamed. Charley jumped.

"I have a COUSIN who lives south of Philadelphia! He'll know if we're going in the right direction!!!"

I quickly called up my cousin John, a former Philly cop who is not fazed in the least by panicky blondes who are lost. On I-95 South. In a rainstorm.

"JOHN!" I wailed. "OMG, I'm trying to get from Princeton to Philly, and I'm heading south on I-95. But my GPS is going BALLISTIC, telling me I need to get off of I-95 and head north!!!! Am I right??? Or is Betsy right???"

In his very best "I'm a cop, and I know what I'm talking about voice," John says, "You're right. I-95 South will take you right to the Philly airport."

And it did.

I called John back to let him know we were approaching the airport, and I said, "I wonder what was wrong with Betsy??"

John replied, with a hint of sarcasm, "Operator error."

"Ha, ha, John," I responded. "I checked her THREE times, and I can assure you, it was NOT operator error. She's just past her prime and needs to be trashed."

So, when I got home the other day, I handed Betsy back to Hubs and said, "She really needs to go into the trash can, for all the good she did me trying to get to the airport."

A few days have passed.

Yesterday, Hubs came in and said, "I figured out what was wrong with Betsy the other day."

I looked at him expectantly.

He said, "You had changed the settings to 'Avoid Highways'."

Say what?? I did WHAT???!!!


I literally fell on the floor laughing, holding my gut as tears rolled out of my eyes. "Avoid HIGHWAYS???!! Can you even DO that?" I gasped.

After I caught my breath, I said to Hubs, "That would explain why Betsy wanted me - with every core of her being - to get off of I-95...but I wonder how the heck she would have gotten me to the airport??? And how long it would have taken???! That is TOO freakin' funny!!!!"

It was funny until I realized that my cousin had been right all along.

It was INDEED operator error.

Darn cops. Think they know everything.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

Love Conquers All

Ten years ago today, men who were filled with hatred attacked our nation on our own soil.

They thought that this act of violence and hatred would destroy our nation...




They were wrong.

Our nation was brought together in ways never before seen.

People reached out to each other...neighbors helping neighbors...strangers helping strangers.

Men and women alike joined the military to protect their fellow citizens.

Volunteerism swelled, as people realized they wanted to do something for others.

People reconnected with their families and friends...relationships strengthened...bonds cemented.

As I struggle sometimes to explain the events of September 11, 2001 to my kids, I always try to mention the incredible outpouring of love that resulted from that day.

Hate never wins.

Love conquers all.



Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Not A Misprint

September 10, 2001.

Anyone remember THAT day?

The day BEFORE our world changed, as we know it?

What were you doing on September 10th, 2001?

I remember September 10th.

I remember driving home from a glorious, fantastic, absolutely-near-perfect 4-day weekend in western Colorado with my hubby. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison had been our destination, and it was stunningly beautiful.

The weather had been absolutely beautiful...skies were blue...the mountains were majestic...the aspens were starting to turn...

As hubby and I drove the long stretch of lonesome highway through Colorado and Kansas, heading east to our home and our children, we talked and reflected on how fabulous the long weekend had been...

We talked about how just beautiful parts of our country were...and how lucky we were able to live here and able to hop in a car and drive where we wanted to.


We talked about our travel, to talk, to DO.

Little did we know that the very next morning, our country would be attacked because of those freedoms.

On September 10th, 2001, I was innocent. Naive. Trusting. Full of hope. Fearless.

On September 11, 2001 - I was forever changed. No longer innocent. No longer trusting. Realizing that our country could indeed be attacked from within. Scared. Helpless.

And yet - determined. Determined to not let a few men and their misguided beliefs affect my children and their dreams.

A new reality.

In the sad & heart-wrenching days that followed 9/11, how I sometimes longed to go back to those sweet, innocent days I ached for the feelings I had on September 10th, and how I wondered if I would ever have those feelings back.

Where were you on September 10th, 2001?

Do you remember?

On the 10th anniversary, I've given pause to how I've changed over the years.

I'm not as naive. I'm not scared. I'm not as trusting. I'm more skeptical.

And my determination? To protect my children and my country?

Even stronger.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jersey Musings

(Image from here)

I'm back from the Jersey Snookie sightings. No boardwalk sightings. Not even a beach sighting.


Such is the life of volunteering with the Red Cross.

I flew out on August 30th to Philadelphia, where I hopped in a rental car and drove east to Tinton Falls, NJ - considered to be part of the Jersey Coast, but a little bit of ways from any ocean or sand.

There, I worked in Red Cross Headquarters for several days - assisting in coordinating the ERV trucks (Emergency Response Vehicles - those things that look like ambulances used by the Red Cross) that drive in disasters to deliver food and water to people affected.

A couple of days in, the decision was made by the powers-that-be that we needed to move the ERV operation for better efficiency and delivery of service. They sent half the ERV crews up north to Morristown, NJ, and they sent me and the other half to Princeton, NJ.

In Princeton, I found myself the sole ERV Coordinator...a fleet of 10 trucks and 22 people (20 drivers and 2 "tag-a-longs").

My territory? All of central and southern New Jersey. Yikes.

My assignment? Feed the people affected by the flooding of Hurricane Irene.


Feed the people.

A typical day would be as follows:

Begin the day with Leadership meeting at Headquarters to debrief on the day before.

Meet with the ERV crews in the morning to assign feeding routes & discuss issues.

Handle 250 phone calls daily from:

...ERV drivers ("My truck is broke down." or "We're lost." or "The caterer doesn't have enough food for what we're supposed to deliver." or "We ran out of water." etc, etc.),

...Red Cross headquarters in Tinton Falls ("Do YOU handle Mercer County? Or is that handled by the Northern team?"),

...Red Cross headquarters in Morristown ("Are WE supposed to be handling Mercer County? Or is that YOU?"),

...police chiefs in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to serve food in my city??!"),

...Emergency Operations Managers in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to serve food in my city??!"),

...Red Cross Shelter Managers in various towns across New Jersey ("Are you coming today to bring food to my shelter???!"),

...and so on, and so on.

For every phone call I would actually answer, I'd hang up, only to find 3-4 voice messages that had come in during that time that needed to be addressed.


The phone was so attached to my ear that at one point, someone said, "You might as well put fertilizer on that phone, the way it's growing out of your ear."

Between the various phone calls, I would try to type up Daily Situation Reports, Route Reports, and Daily Counts. Each driver would report to me how many meals, snacks and water were served for lunch and dinner, and those totals would be reported to the Big Shots.

Before the end of each day, I'd try to get information on the status of electricity, gas and water in the towns. This would help me determine how much food I wanted the caterer to prepare the next day for my drivers to deliver. You always want to have enough for people that need it - but you don't want to waste donor dollars, either. It's a tricky thing....

I'd stumble back into my hotel room late each night - so exhausted that the simple act of trying to get ready for bed was enough to do me in.

No energy to write a blog. No energy to watch TV. Barely enough energy to call my family and tell them I loved them and was thinking of them.

I never even made it over to see the Princeton campus - which was only a paltry 3 miles away. Sad, huh?

I'd like to think, that in the overall scheme of things, that I did a good job. I know I certainly tried.

I put my heart and soul into providing the best service delivery plan for my drivers and the people of New Jersey. I know we fed thousands of people each day, either on the streets of towns called Bound Brook, Manville, Monroe, and Trenton - or in the shelters in Burlington and Raritan Valley.

I know that if I ever get an opportunity to visit a town called Cranford, New Jersey - that I will have to personally meet the Police Chief, Captain Baer, who I developed a pretty good relationship with via telephone after I personally saw to it that his people were assisted by the Red Cross.

I think, in the long run, that the accomplishments our team did far outweigh the frustrations and aggravations that popped up.

And I was just a very small cog in the humongous wheel of the American Red Cross.

This is going on...every cities across the country, as various disasters occur.

Wildfires in Texas. Flooding in New Jersey and Vermont and New York. Tornadoes in Georgia and Alabama.

It never ends.

But, my journey has ended. I'm home now. Resting. Recuperating a bit. Trying to get caught back up on sleep and food.

And, of course, my very-neglected blog.