Sunday, April 29, 2012

Flying the Friendly Skies

Shot taken yesterday...somewhere between KC and Chicago...

I hopped on an airplane yesterday, and flew from our Kansas City home south to our Florida home - and if you're wondering why that is significant, and I wouldn't blame you if you were - well, it's significant because it means more flying stories.

I fly the budget airline, Southwest, and besides the advantage of free luggage, there's also the excitement and anticipation of choosing your own seat once you've boarded. And watching people choose their seat on a Southwest flight always provides lots of enjoyment.

Seriously...some people walk down the aisle of the plane, looking like they're trying to choose their mate for eternity - when I want to scream at them, "Come on, already - it's a freakin' SEAT! We're all going to get there at the same time!"

I can't blame them, in a way...I'm sure they're all trying to do the "avoidance" dance...avoid the crying baby, avoid the kicking child, avoid the guy who doesn't wear deodorant, and avoid the woman who brought THREE styrofoam trays of chicken wings on board.

And yes. THAT woman - with the chicken wings - was on my plane yesterday...I kid you not.

For me, all I require is a window seat...that actually looks out over something that ISN'T the wing. I've found that if I can see land, or water, or even clouds below me, it helps "ground" me a bit and removes some of my anxiety while flying.

Yesterday, I was walking down the aisle, aiming for the back so I could be beyond the wing, when I saw an "extra" pilot sitting in Row 31. The seat by him - the window seat - was empty.

SCORE!!!!! I felt like I won the jackpot...not only did I get my coveted window seat, but I also got to sit by a pilot, so maybe I could actually grab some shut-eye on the plane, knowing an extra pilot was sitting right there beside me, ready to go into the cockpit and take the controls, if needed. I didn't have to be the backseat driver, for once, which is always a good thing.

No. He didn't look like THAT. But still...he was a pilot. As long as he can fly a plane, that's all that's needed.

The flight from KC to Chicago (my connection) was rather bumpy...okay, we're talking rockin' and rollin' bumpy, due to some extreme weather yesterday, but it was AWESOME being able to surreptitiously watch the pilot's face, looking for signs of worry - and after not seeing any, I was able to "somewhat" relax.

In Chicago, my pilot-friend got off, and an older woman took his place.

And I hit the jackpot AGAIN!

This woman was a riot a minute. To begin with, she was absolutely terrified of flying - worse than me!! - and so I got to teach - always a passion of mine! - and I taught her all of my lessons of dealing with fear-of-flying.

We needed them, because this flight was even worse than the first leg...there were some moments when we were dropping from the sky, which would send the woman into a kinda' took the fear out of me, as I had to help her. Distraction is always good when terrified, trust me.

When she wasn't shrieking due to the turbulence, we talked...and she was extremely interesting. The stories she had...the life she had lived...the adventures she'd had...I was hanging on the edge of my seat (well...literally...since we were bumping around so much...).

No crying babies around me. No kids kicking the back of my seat. And the chicken-wing lady had taken her foam trays and had departed in Chicago.

Life was good.

You never know what life's going to bring you...and where you'll have opportunities to meet new people and hear some great stories....

Keep your eyes open for those opportunities...they're pretty amazing.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jimmy Buffett and Me

What a weekend...after boogying down and shakin' our groove thing on Friday night, Hubby and I decided to slip away to the Caribbean on Saturday.


Not really.

We actually just headed to downtown Kansas City to partake in the 2nd annual ParrotFest at the Kansas City Power & Light District. This was an all-day free event featuring a beach barbecue, contests, games, giveaways, tropical drinks, leis, etc...etc.

It was in anticipation that night for a concert by the ultimate Parrothead, Jimmy Buffett, at our impressive Sprint Center.

Hubby and I dress a little conservatively...I go more for comfort than shock value, so we donned our modest parrot t-shirts and headed down...

There were some definite interesting outfits, as the following pictures attest to:

We got there at about 4:00 pm, and the party was swing. Let's just say, people were in REALLY good moods, and were partying like it was 1999...or whatever year it is...

We walked around for awhile in what I called the "mosh pit" - but it was crowded, noisy, and dangerous. I mean, beach balls were flying everywhere, and if you didn't hold your drink tightly, it was always in danger of being hit by an errant beach ball and could go flying out of your hand at any moment. Dangerous, I'm tellin' you.

See that dangerous beach ball??!! These menaces were EVERYWHERE. You had to keep your guard up.

Eventually, Hubby and I walked up to the skywalks, overlooking the mosh pit, so we were out of the fray a bit, and could do some prime people-watching.

At some point, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, Parrots of the Caribbean, came on stage to play...and they were good. Wait. They were BETTER than good. I think they were better than Jimmy himself, and like, how is that possible??!!

At one point, the lead singer took a break, came back out, and was dressed EXACTLY like Jimmy Buffett. In fact, most people - including me - had had quite a few margaritas by then, so we thought we were REALLY watching Jimmy Buffett!

Funny what alcohol can do to a person. Hee hee.

At one point, my cup runneth dry, so I sent Hubby down to the mosh pit/bar to grab me another one. Don't know how I managed this, but I found him in my Zoom lens and took his picture:

Still convinced that it really WAS Buffett himself, I dragged Hubby down into the mosh pit for a photo. Hubby indulged me, but he knew better...I think it's kinda' funny now that I really thought this was Jimmy:

Eventually, we made our way across the street to the Sprint Center, our concert venue here in Kansas City. The concert was near sold out, as you can see from this shot inside:

Because I was a nincompoop, I had not bought tickets the minute they went on sale, which is a HUGE mistake when it's a Buffett concert. Consequently, our seats were somewhat "behind" the stage. They were still rather close, but we had to wait until Jimmy turned around to actually see his face. I'm just glad I paid discount prices for them!

All in all, it was a fantastic show. Jimmy knows how to deliver...the crowd was rockin' and rollin' and singin' and partyin' all night long.

If you EVER get a chance to see Buffett in person - you won't regret it.

Even if you're behind the stage.

Hey - after a few margaritas, you frankly won't care.

Trust me on that.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shakin' My Booty For a Good Cause

So, Hubby and I went and got our groove on last night, boogying down at the 5th Annual Red Ball...a fundraiser for our local chapter of the American Red Cross.

Red was obviously the color of the day, and Hubby and I donned our red togs to head on out...

I wish, in this photo, that Daughter had captured the shoes I was wearing...because although my shoes were the fashion BOMB, they were NOT cut out for a night of disco dancing, as I painfully found out as the evening went on. Here's a photo - with my feet not in them, as my feet are protesting just at the mere sight of them:

Promo material for the Red Ball....

After arriving at the venue, the first part of the evening was the cocktail hour...where we nibbled and noshed and chit-chatted...the highlight for me was being introduced to Gail McGovern, the national President and CEO of the American Red Cross. She had flown into Kansas City to make an appearance at the ball, and it was an honor to talk with her exclusively for about 10 minutes. Besides asking about my volunteer experience, she told me of a new partnership between the ARC and The Weather Channel, which will be quite interesting, to say the least.

After a delightful dinner with some wonderful and lively tablemates, it was time for the entertainment...

KC and the Sunshine Band

Yeah, I'm going to date myself here...but when I was a teenager of the 70's, KC and the Sunshine Band was like NSYNC and Justin Bieber rolled into one. I can't tell you how many school dances we rocked the night away to "Get Down Tonight" and "Shake Your Booty". Yeah - the lyrics may not have been much, but the disco-rockin' beat was awesome. case you don't remember what KC looked like, back in the day, here he was back in the 70's:

Such a cutie!

And here he is now:
Still cute...but...old....

Yeah, I'm sure we've all put on a few wrinkles...time DOES indeed march on...but the years just melt away when swept up in music from your childhood.

The Band...

Check out the outfits...

The finale...

KC and his band put on a good, albeit cheesy show - the choreography was almost laughable, but the guy was having so much fun, you had to allow yourself to be swept up in it...I mean, who can hate on a guy that sings about "booty" and "boogie"??!!

The crowd ate it up, and KC was in his element. A great evening all around, for a great cause.

The only negative? Those da*@M shoes!!!

But they sure looked good. ;)



Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Circle of Life

Yesterday, I was feeling very down...depressed...and basically, sad and annoyed with life in general.

It probably had something to do with the fact that when I went & did my regular, monthly volunteer gig at my local church, there was a funeral going on...

...for an infant.

While I was manning the telephones at the front desk, dozens of grieving friends and family members filed by to pay their respects for a week-old baby girl...and the waterworks were flowing.

I didn't know the family, and yet even I got caught up in the sadness of the entire event...and questioning why things like this happen, and how sad for the parents, the grandparents, and everyone else connected to this tragic event.

It hit me...hard.


Today...I went in for a facial...I have been seeing the same "girl" now for going on 6 years, and so we pretty much know everything there is to know about each other.

Anyway, I had no sooner got into the room, when she announced, "I'm pregnant!"

She had been trying for years for this to happen...and at twelve weeks along, she's still a little reluctant to believe that it can be true, but from the glow on her face, there was no doubt.

At that, my spirits soared, as I rejoiced in her good news....

Doors close. Doors open.

Lives are extinguished. New lives are born.

Someone grieves...someone else rejoices.

The beat goes does the circle of life.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Matchmaker Matchmaker

I've made a somewhat startling revelation about my mother the last few's somewhat scary and fascinating and terrifying, all at the same time.

My mother appears to be a Jewish Matchmaker...much to the horror and chagrin of my 19-year old son. My son is quite happy in his non-dating world, as he feels that he's just not ready for it, and besides...he'd rather save his money for a fancy new car than spend it on girls. Go figure.

Mom has been in and out of the hospital the last few weeks, living in limbo-land of suffering from stomach pain and not getting any clear answers or treatment from the medicinal powers-that-be....

She's extremely frustrated, not knowing what is going on...She goes in the hospital, she comes out, and we've learned that a phone call is now necessary before visiting her, because we don't know where she'll the hospital? At home? In transit?

Who knows? It changes by the minute.

However, last week, she was back in the hospital, so we loaded up the family, including the 19-year old, and went for a visit.

We found Mom in her usual room, hooked up to some secret, mysterious fluids on the IV pole...and I'm not sure exactly what was IN those fluids, but it must have been some WAY GOOD stuff. As in trippy, dippy stuff. Because Mom was basically as high as a kite.

Out of the blue, she reaches for son's hand, sits him on the bed beside her, and immediately begins the 3rd-degree about son's dating life that would have made the cops on "Dragnet" proud.

Image from HERE

"So...who are you dating?" she asks.

"Grandma! I'm not dating anyone right now," son replies.

"Why not? Why aren't you dating? You should be dating! Everyone dates!"

She then reaches and pushes the nurse's Call button....and when the nurse walks in, Mom asks, "Where's that young, cute nursing assistant? The one that was in here about 15 minutes ago? I need to have a word with her!"

Um. What?

Mom explains to my son, "I think that cute little nurse would be just PERFECT for you!"

"Grandma!!! Really??!!!!"

The nurse returns in a few minutes, explaining that she can't find the assistant, but is there something SHE can help Mom with?

Mom replies, "It depends. Are you married? And how old are you?"

"GRANDMA!" Son is mortified about this time...and who can blame him? His 70-year old grandmother has turned into Yente in front of his eyes.

Needless to say, we beat a hasty retreat out of that room at the insistence of my son, who on a normal day loves his Grandma to death, but on this night, was one minute away from strangling her.

Mom came home on Saturday from the hospital, and I called her to see how she was feeling.

"Oh, I'm fine...a bit frustrated."

"I'm sorry," I began. "I know how frustrating it is when they can't find out what's wrong with you."

"Oh, that's not it," she said. "I'm frustrated because every single nurse I had those few days was either married or engaged."





Saturday, April 14, 2012


"Imagine a place where people of all ages with special needs can be themselves. Imagine a place where the disabled can leave behind their crutches and wheelchairs and other impediments to soar to freedom. Imagine a place where dreams really do come true."

So sayeth the wonderful people who run the Helping Hands Therapeutic Riding Center, a local organization here that is doing fantastic things with some fantastic people.

I got a call a few days ago from a friend of mine, who said, "Hey - I want you to see this place. You'll like it."

I had never heard of "this place" - but always open for new experiences, I jumped in Mike's truck when he pulled up Friday, and off I went for a private tour of the HHTRC.

We met up with Ray, the President of the Board of Directors, who took me around, explained everything, and answered about a bazillion questions that I threw at him.

Here at the HHTRC, therapists and volunteers work with people of all ages with horse therapy - also known as "hippotherapy". could be a child with autism, where HHTRC makes it possible to encourage learning, verbal & nonverbal expression, positive social interaction, and bonding with the horses. could be a veteran suffering from PTSD, where HHTRC offers equine activities and therapies. could be a child in a wheelchair, where HHTRC uses the multi-dimensional movement of the horse to provide a dynamic, unique and motivating therapy.

Currently, HHTRC is working with over a hundred children and veterans, with approximately 16 specially-trained horses. I saw their indoor arena, as well as their pastures, stables, and dressing areas.

The indoor the children can still have lessons in inclement weather...

The wheelchair ramp, so the child can be transferred to the horse easily...

It was quite impressive.

Just one of their beautiful horses...all of which go through extensive training and testing to insure their personalities are good with the children and veterans...

I left with a whole new appreciation for what people can do with special-needs children, as well as the special people that work with them.

I may have found just another area to give back, as well. Having worked previously with children with special needs - and especially autism - this, I have to say, was pretty cool.

Check it out - here is their LINK for more information.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wiped Out

Not sure why, but at this point right now, a SLUG has more energy than I do.


Maybe I'm thinking of a sloth.



Either way, I am wiped out. As in, the Big Kahuna-wiped out.

As to why, it's a mystery...

...perhaps the fact that I taught a 4-hour Disaster Services Overview class last night to twelve new volunteers...and I've never taught this class before, and the co-teacher, who was supposed to help me, who HAS taught this class before, NEVER SHOWED UP. Argh.

Yup - class is to begin at 5:30 pm, and as I'm frantically setting up both the Power Point presentation (which required a laptop and projector), and the DVD video presentation (requiring a TV and a DVD player - all of which require a PhD in Electronics Management, which I don't have, not to mention I can't find the extension cords and the clock is slowly ticking away....), it soon dawns on me that my co-teacher has yet to make an appearance...and it's now less than 15 minutes before class.


It would have been a great time to panic, but I guess working in disasters has given me all sorts of anxiety management skills...and this had all the makings of a HUGE potential disaster.

Instead, I just sucked it up - calmly explaining to the students what had happened, asking for their patience if I stumbled a bit with the curriculum, as it was new to me - and proceeded to teach.

If it's one thing I can do, is teach. And teach I did.

Seriously, I could teach the Pope how to be Catholic...I could teach a politician how to lie...I could teach a teenager how to text...I could teach - well, you get the idea.

But all that teaching and talking and stressing and setting up and taking down and cleaning up and not getting home until 10:15 pm...

...has left me WIPED OUT.

I just gotta' learn how to teach myself how to rest...







Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hot Pink

Here are a few things that I know to be true:

Family members will always deny being the culprit who empties the milk carton of milk, and yet leaves the plastic carcass in the refrigerator, taunting me in its barrenness. True.

The day that I am in a hurry is the day that I am stuck behind the driver peddling along at 45 mph on the highway, with no opportunity for passing. True.

Firemen are hot.

Yes. Especially that last truism. So true.

And firemen in pink?

Even hotter.

"Wait," you say. "Firemen in pink???!!"


Last week, I arranged for a super secret surprise for my baby sister...a visit to her home by the Guardian of the Ribbon fire truck.

In pink.

With firemen aboard.

In pink.

Hot. sister has been battling Stage III rectal cancer since April 5, 2011. She has undergone debilitating chemo, burning radiation, numerous surgeries, unmitigated poking & prodding - with a spirit that is undaunted and never-ending.

In her honor, the local Guardian of the Ribbon brigade made a surprise home visit to encourage her in her battle, as well as a show of support. Their motto is: "These men honor those who can no longer fight, stand with those who can fight and inspire those who watch."

And do they ever.

We think of firemen as heroes, and they are quick to point out that it is women...who are fighting life-threatening diseases...who are the true heroes.

In my sister's case, she was a bit shocked to see not only the pink fire truck pull up, but a local "regular" fire truck as an escort.

She got to sign the pink fire truck, alongside thousands of other signatures of women & their supporters...

Adding her name to the wall of honor...

Family, friends & firemen....

The firemen presented my sister with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, as well as a Warrior T-Shirt, leaving my sister rather speechless.

It was a wonderful evening - a great show of support for my sis, who's been such an inspiration to us all.


The Guardian of the Ribbon is a national organization that supports women in their fight against cancer. Go to THIS LINK to get more information...or to find out how to schedule a Pink Fire Truck home visit for someone YOU know.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Life Gets In the Way

I'm such a loser.

No, really.

I am.

I have been neglecting this poor, little, under-appreciated blog...for what?

A life??!!

Yes. Life gets busy.

But that's still no excuse. Right?

Anyway, I promise to try and do better.

In the meantime, I could update you on my exciting weekend.

Saturday, I spent half the day with the American Red Cross, participating in an annual field exercise where we send teams of volunteers out to "pretend" to do damage assessment after a "pretend" tornado.

The exercise was pretty cool; I got to sit at Headquarters and play with a new software program we have that allows our teams to text us with all kinds of information. The software is a little "buggy" at this point, but once the developers work through the kinks, it will be amazing. Seriously.

Hank and I checking out the new software...

While at the exercise, my dad calls to tell me that my mom is in the hospital with severe stomach pains. Oh, wonderful!

Mom has been in the hospital ever since, while they do a myriad of tests to see what is causing the mysterious pain. The last guess was pancreatitis...but nothing definitive at this time. She is hoping to go home today, so we're saying some prayers.

Saturday night, Hubby and I went to the American Heartland Theater, where we saw a hysterical performance of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." Oh my God, I laughed so hard - I had a side ache on the way home. Unfortunately, not a lot of the audience appreciated Oscar Wilde's wit and observations about society in general - it seemed that sometimes, I was the only person laughing...and wasn't that embarrassing?!

After a late night on Saturday, what with preparing the house for the Easter Bunny's visit and all, (why, oh, why do I wait until the last minute to assemble Easter baskets & stuff plastic eggs??!!), Sunday was rather hectic. Initially, Easter Dinner was going to be at my mom's. Well, her being in the hospital kinda' changed those plans, so Guess Who? stepped up to the plate??!!

Yup. Moi.

Expecting 11 people for dinner, with a birthday party for my son to follow, it was a busy day spent cleaning, cooking, and setting tables. I have to give kudos to my 12-year old daughter, who was right there with me every step of the way, with offers of, "What can I do to help?" and "What next, Mom?" She is amazing, and I'm very blessed to have her in my life.

Easter dinner was a success, except for some stubborn rolls that refused to rise...argh....I then cleared the kitchen and set everything out for the 19-year old's birthday party...complete with two cakes and ice cream. Whew.

After dinner, and the subsequent birthday party, I supervised the 22-year old son working on his college graduation announcements, while simultaneously supervising the 12-year old working on her Digital Movie Making Girl Scout badge.

Busy, busy, busy.

And I wonder why I can't find the time to write on this blog???!!!