Monday, June 18, 2012

What's The Best Birthday Gift Ever??

Today was one of those days that I was absolutely, unequivocally, dreading.

The day I turned the big FIVE-O. As in fifty.


Half a century old...eligible for the ultimate Senior Citizen Status Club, AARP...and a far cry from my ebullient, carefree days of my twenties.

Fifty. Bleh.

I cried. I gnashed my teeth. I threw myself down on the floor, kicking and screaming, fighting the clock that is ticking away on the mortality of my youth.


A few months ago, I thought the only way to tackle this dreaded milestone was surrounding myself with big, shiny stuff that would surely take my mind off the fact that I was now on the back end of the curve of life.

And hence the bright, shiny red convertible Mustang sitting in my garage - which has allowed me to feel carefree and young, if only for a moment - as I go barreling down the highway at high speeds, the top down, and my hair whipping wildly in the wind.

And hence the two-week Mediterranean cruise that the family embarks on tomorrow, first-class all the way, to take in the sights and sounds and gastronomical delights of a culture that is far, far older than me.

And yet.

And yet, the last few weeks has found me reflecting on what is TRULY important in life...and what is truly the best birthday gift of all.

It isn't the bright shiny car, or the fabulous vacation...although don't get me wrong; I'm very, very grateful for the opportunities to enjoy them.

No. It's more than that.

The best birthday gift is tickling the grandkids as they come barreling at you for just "one more" Tickle Bee attack, after a delightful birthday dinner celebration....

The best birthday gift is reading the dozens and dozens of heartfelt birthday messages from friends, family and co-workers, via Facebook and email, and reflecting on each of the senders and how they've enriched your life....

The best birthday gift is being surrounded by my loving parents and siblings and nephews and nieces, as they shower me with good food, delicious cookie cake, and good-natured ribbing....

The best birthday gift is having a son who comes home from work and says, "Let's go shopping, Mom - for your birthday - anywhere you want to go...." and you realize that just the thought of that melts your heart....

The best birthday gift is receiving a birthday card from your 12-year old daughter, who writes in it, "You're not only the absolute best Mom anyone could ask for, you're my best friend...and I love you for all eternity"....

The best birthday gifts are a loving husband...loving children...loving pets...

And it came to me...

The best birthday gift?


It's all about the love. I feel very loved.

I think I'm loving turning 50.

Happy 50th birthday, to me. :)



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kitten Encounters of the Close Kind

Every other day or so, Hubby and I strap on our running shoes and run.

Well. In full disclosure, there's a tad bit of walking in there, as well, but lately, it's more running than walking, which is a good thing.

Anyway, we follow the woodsy road around the lake, which has curves, hills, gravel, an occasional car, and animals.

Lots and lots of animals...since we're running in the woods by the lake, natch.

We've encountered possum, skunk, raccoon, deer, and cows on our nightly excursions.

Yes, cows - as in big, giant cows that live in a pasture across from the woodsy road around the lake. And, I don't claim to be a cow expert by any means - but those cows sure give us the side-eye every night as we go jogging by. I'm not sure if they're more disturbed by us, or by the peppy music that's blasting from my iPhone...but whatever it is, they do not take ONE EYE off of us until we are safely around the corner and out of sight. I'm always a bit flustered by the creepy, staring cows, but that's neither here nor there.

One night, we thought we saw a wolf go sprinting by us into the woods, which gave me a bit of the heebie-jeebies, but we finally decided it was probably just a wild dog. But still...Hubby has now taken to carrying a pocket knife so he can protect us from the big, bad wolf of the woods. I feel so safe. Not.

Anyway, this morning, my daughter decided to accompany Hubby on the run, being that it was Father's Day and all...and I decided to stay home and get things ready for Father's Day festivities to be held later in the day.

A few minutes ago, they both came in, all excited, rushing to tell me of their latest animal encounter.

Apparently, as they were running along, a "cute, cuddly grey kitten" (their words, not mine) came out of the woods and began following them, meowing plaintively either for food, or attention - or possibly both.

No Mama Cat could be found, and both Hubby and Daughter stopped to give the kitten some love...which always leads to trouble. The kitten didn't appear to be shy of people at all - rubbing affectionately and purring contentedly with my running warriors' ministrations.

They eventually came home - without the kitten - and immediately said, "We wanted to get your wisdom" - which is code-speak for, "We really, really like this kitten - and would love to bring it home - but we already have two cats and a dog - so let's have MOM make the decision."

Well, THAT could lead to trouble. Because if left to me, I would be the "Crazy Cat Lady" with 500 cats running around my asking me for my "wisdom" in what to do with a stray, cute kitten is not the most wise decision.

Well, let's review our current situation, here.

We're leaving for a two-week vacation on Tuesday.

After vacation, I'll then be leaving for Florida for a month.

Having a new kitten around would not be the wisest decision at this time...especially when one of our cats is totally ALPHA and would probably tear the new kitten to shreds - especially if we're not around to act as the United Nations Peace Keepers between the two.

But...gosh darn it...he sounds so, so cute, which kittens are prone to do. He's cuddly. Purry. Affectionate. Needy.


What to do, what to do?

In my most Solomon-like voice, I finally declared that we should take some food to the kitten, but he should not be brought home at this time. Tomorrow - if the kitten is still there - we'll scoop it up in a cat carrier and take it to the nearest no-kill pet shelter.

Here's hoping I've made the smart decision. If we brought home every cute, cuddly, affectionate being, our house would be bigger than Noah's Ark. And I really WOULD be the Crazy Cat Lady, which is not exactly a title that I'm hoping to achieve.


Kitten making himself at home in the basement....

Update: As of Sunday night, the kitten was happily ensconced at our house. Of course it was. Because me, in my infinite "wisdom", decided to have a look at the kitten myself. Remember that song..."Just one look...that's all it took...."???? Yeah. One look. Kitten happily came home with us, and has been loving all over us and purring and making himself at home.

I contacted my sister, who I decided was in serious need of a cat...and I think that may be where "Shadow" - or whatever they decide to call him - will make a permanent home. He is truly a beautiful, loving cat.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Cowboy Heaven on a Sunday Night

There's nothing like hanging out on a Sunday night with 60,000 cowboys (and cowgirls, natch)…who are in a party mood and want nothing more than some good music and good beer.

That’s where we found ourselves when we boot-scooted on over to the “Brothers Of The Sun” tour – featuring headliners Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney – which was appearing Sunday night in Kansas City.

Count me in.

In homage to the temperatures, I didn’t dress up in full-cowboy-up gear; I did don my hat, but my boots were deemed too hot and were subsequently left at home.

Hubby has few faults…and one of them is that he is SO not a cowboy. So, he decided to go with a “Tom Cruise – before he was crazy” look. Sigh.

Upon arriving at Arrowhead Stadium, we were the victims of an organized and sanctioned extortion…we were charged a whopping $27 to have the “privilege” of parking a mere 2.5 miles away from the venue. I kid you not. (And as much as I love my cowboy boots, my feet were very tickled at this time to not have to walk 2.5 miles in those boots. Once again, they’re for total looks…not comfort.)

We had most-excellent seats…we were about 12 rows from the field, and very close to the stage. The stadium was slowly filling up at this point, and it looked to be a rollicking crowd. Yee haw.


Speaking of “Yee Haw”, Jake Owen was first up…and he got the crowd rocking and energized with his sexy blue eyes and guitar riffs. Fun stuff.


Up next was the very energetic Grace Potter and the Nocturnals…who are definitely more rock than country, and are never…um…dull. She’s a little pistol of energy with a sultry voice, and it was pretty obvious that she LOVES what she does. Bouncing around the stage in a killer mini-skirt, rockin’ some killer legs, I looked at Hubby and said, “I’ll have what she’s having.”


After a brief break to switch the stage, out came the always-cute and always-wonderful Tim McGraw…looking SMOKIN’ hot in all-white. Yummalicious, is all I have to say.

He was also pretty hot from the back side, if you get my drift.

Tim did not disappoint…playing old stuff…new stuff…getting the crowd to sing along and dance in their seats. LOVED his set…which lasted about 90 minutes.


Another brief intermission so the stage could be switched out for Kenny Chesney, and then the lights dimmed…and up popped Kenny from the back of the stadium. He then hopped in a suspended chair that was elevated above the crowd, and he slowly moved towards the stage.

Tim McGraw can best be described as mellow. Kenny Chesney can best be described as…hyper. The guy was bouncing all over the stage, so trying to keep him to hold still for just one freakin’ second, so I could get a good picture, was next to impossible.

We enjoyed Kenny…not as much as I enjoyed Tim, but still…Kenny knows how to put on a show. High energy…loud percussion…and lots of sing-along songs that extol the joys of drinking, sunning, and loving.

Beautiful weather…great crowd…and fantastic entertainment. Life doesn’t get much better on a Sunday night in June.

Yee haw is right.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiaras and Saturdays

...of which we discuss magical happenings on a Saturday...

So...we are now on to Part 3 of our Incredibly Over-Scheduled Weekend...Saturday.

ahhh....Saturday. When I was a wee one, Saturday was a mixed blessing for me. It would begin innocuously enough, with Saturday morning cartoons. These were the days with such classic cartoons such as the Looney Tunes, Huckleberry Hound, and Yogi Bear.

I'd make up a big, giant bowl of Lucky Charms cereal and plant myself in front of our one-and-only television so I could take in all the magic of vibrant colors, stimulating sounds and magical animation.

Unfortunately, as soon as the cartoons were over (usually around noon), my Mom would march in and lay out the chores that now needed to be done. Sigh. Just what every kid wanted to hear on Saturdays - the dreaded list of stuff that-had-to-get-done-or-there-would-be-dire-consequences. Bleh.

As I've gotten older, my Saturday routine hasn't changed all that much. Of course, you'll need to replace "watching cartoons" with "reading newspaper and checking the internet."

And you'll need to substitute eating a "granola bar" instead of Lucky Charms cereal...and strangely enough, granola bars aren't "magically delicious" like the Lucky Charms were, of old. But I guess they're healthier.

However...doing Saturday chores hasn't changed. Bleh. There are still lists of stuff that have to get done - or there will be dire consequences....

So, this Saturday morning was spent on "the list." Laundry, yard work, house cleaning, bill-paying, grocery shopping, organizing, etc, etc. You know the routine.

In the middle of my routine, though, something magical happened...and it didn't have anything to do with cartoons or Lucky Charms.

No. It had to do with the mail.

Yes. Of all things - the mail.

I went out to get the mail, and lo and behold, there is an envelope. A padded envelope, no less.

And it's addressed to "Queen Sherri."

Well...this is certainly curious. I don't get mail every day addressed to Queen Sherri...and since this didn't appear to be ticking - or leaking white powder - I figured it was safe to open. (Well...not to mention, the return address indicated this was from a friend - so I figured it was safe. Thanks, Renee, for my gift!)

So I did. I opened it.

And inside.....was a tiara.

A beautiful, sparkly tiara. For me. Queen Sherri.

And with the tiara was a beautiful, sparkly card, that wished "Her Royal Highness" (which would be ME) a happy 50th birthday. (which is next Monday, if you're interested. Hee.)

Well. Needless to say, that tiara went right on top of my head.

And how fun is it to do Saturday chores with a tiara on your head?


Who needs cartoons? Or Lucky Charms? All you need is a tiara on a Saturday.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kamikaze Blueberries

We're approximately two-thirds of the way in of what I jokingly refer to as our "Incredibly Over-Scheduled Weekend."

Ever have those? Where there is something going on just about EVERY FREAKIN' MINUTE of the WEEKEND??!!

Where you were hoping for a bit of rest & relaxation, and instead you're rushing here, there, and everywhere???!!

Oh my GAWD, I hate weekends like that...and yet here I am...stuck in one of them. Again. As usual. Sigh.

Our Trifecta of Tiredness came about partly due to bad timing, but also partly due to bad scheduling on my part. I guess I'm trying to blame someone else for this misfortune of events, but in actuality, the blame can pretty much be placed right at my own two feet. As usual. Sigh Again.

Big Event #1 was Friday evening...Hubby had no sooner walked in the door from work, when I was rushing him right back out the door so we could make our dinner reservations at a local restaurant, the Blue Bird Bistro.

We had theater tickets for later that night, so time was of the essence ("Hurry! We gotta' go! Now!")...and I thought we'd try a new place (for us, anyway; the Bistro has been around for years) for dinner. The Bistro is known for using organic, sustainable, local & all-natural ingredients in their food - and since I am trying, half-heartedly, to be sure, to eat healthier - there we were. At the Bistro. On time. Yay.

We began with bruschetta, topped with blueberries and a drizzle of honey....and although this LOOKED very pretty, it was pretty difficult to eat. Blueberries are round...and round objects have this annoying tendency to roll...and so, I would take a bite of bread and find several blueberries had managed to roll right off the bread and plop into my lap. Drat. I hate it when that happens.

And the honey? Sticky.

I would imagine that if I had ever been able to get all the flavors in my mouth at the same time, this would have been tasty. But that never happened. I HATE food that's hard to eat. Make it easy for me, folks - that's all I'm asking.

I don't really want to spend my Friday evening fishing kamikaze blueberries out of my lap.

Now, our salads looked mixed greens tossed with a house made blueberry vinaigrette and topped with crumbled blue cheese, almonds and candied onion slivers.

I am a cheese lover. Let's make that perfectly clear - there's never been a cheese that I don't like. But the blue cheese on this salad was pretty much over-powering...and I can't believe I'm saying I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE blue cheese. A little blue cheese goes a long way, though...and in this case? That salad was swimming in cheese.

I never tasted the blueberries...or the almonds...or the candied onions...all I tasted was...cheese. Lots and lots of sharp, tangy, blue cheese.

For dinner, we had what I refer to as the Boring Brownish Beiges. Seriously. Both of our plates came out and I giggled at the lack of color on the plates, especially after the vibrant colors of the bruschetta and the salads.

Hubby had the boring brownish beige chicken risotto, which was pretty tasty - and peppery.

I had the boring brownish beige meatloaf and mashed potatoes...but you wouldn't know that, would you? Because they slathered my meat loaf in boring brownish beige mushroom gravy. They DROWNED it. Once I managed to scrape off some of the gravy, I found the meatloaf to be quite tasty.

For dessert, we tried the chocolate chip bread pudding...and trust me. It looked much better than it was sorely lacking in flavor. And rum. Te tum tum.

After dinner, we hustled over to the theater, where we settled in to watch a 2009 Tony winner, "Next to Normal."

Not having ever seen this show - nor having heard much about it - I was bolstered by the positive reviews it had received in our local newspaper. About all I knew was that it was a rock musical dealing with mental illness. And it was directed by the same guy who directed "Rent", one of all-time favorite rock musicals.

Sounds like fun, right?


Um...Hubby and I go to a LOT of live theater. LOTS. We have season tickets to several theater venues in town, and average 2-3 shows per month. I don't consider us theater snobs - it usually doesn't take much to impress us, and we appreciate the efforts to put on shows for entertainment.

And rarely do we leave mid-performance.

This show? We walked out at intermission. Along with about half the theater. Seriously.

Who wants to go out on a festive Friday evening and be DEPRESSED, watching a woman deal with bipolar disorder and demons and then attempt suicide and later, receive electroshock therapy??

Not us.

So...after leaving the theater earlier than scheduled, we headed home...quickly changed out of theater clothes and into walking clothes...and headed to Relay for Life, which was Part #2 of our Incredibly Over-Scheduled Weekend, and which I've already blogged about HERE.

I'll pick up Part #3 later...and yes. There's a Part #4. Ack. TOO MUCH STUFF.



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thoughts About Cancer at 2:00 A.M.

Last night was our local Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

If you've never seen - or participated - in a Relay for Life, you're kinda' missing out. Because besides being a great fundraiser for a great organization, it's also a heck of a lot of fun. Where else do you get to stay up all night, walking around a high school track, listening to great music, and meeting lots of great folk who all want to kick cancer's ass?!

My sister, Traci, was our Team Captain. She's the one who pulled this all together and got us organized to participate in this year's event...inspired by her own battle against Stage 3 rectal cancer.

Hubby and I had some previous engagements in the evening, so we didn't arrive at the Relay until 10:30 p.m. We were dumbstruck at the sheer number of participants...there were pup tents, tables, awnings, and sleeping bags spread all around the high school track. It kinda' looked like an NFL tailgate party but with a twist of camping. The stadium lights were on, illuminating the surroundings in a fluorescent glow, and a local radio DJ was blasting up-lifting music on the loudspeakers.

He was blasting it so loud that not once, but twice, we were visited by the local police department, asking him to turn it down a WAS a little late, after all, and I guess some neighbors were trying to sleep. Humpf.

Anyway - quite the party.

However, underneath it all was the serious message that everyone there was, in some way, connected to cancer. Whether a survivor themselves, or a friend or family member or co-worker of a survivor - or victim - we were there to raise money and support and awareness.

I donned my bright purple Survivor t-shirt and began jogging around the track.

The first mile that I jogged, was for myself. (Selfish, I know.)

Diagnosed in 2005 with Stage 2 melanoma, I now have four surgical battle scars adorning my body in various locations as tributes to my own fight against skin cancer. Although I was declared "cancer-free" in February 2012, I know that my battle will be an on-going, precarious one that may never end. As I walked, I thought about what I had gone through, and what is ahead. More surgeries? More agonizing topical treatments? What does the future hold in store for me?

The second mile was dedicated to my family...whether it's rectal cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer...we've had various family members at various times going through their own journeys in the fight against cancer. My thoughts were with them. Although all are currently cancer-free, what does the future hold for them? Or other members of my family? Are we home free?

The third mile was for my friends, co-workers, and strangers...the sorority sister, the high-school friend, the co-worker, the friend of my husband...and the strangers whom I don't know, but are currently in treatment. I looked around at the dozens of strangers walking beside me, and I couldn't help but say prayers for them and their "kin."

The last half-mile I dedicated to people that are yet to be diagnosed...the people of the future who may be diagnosed tomorrow...or next week...or next year.

For all of these people...I jogged until 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Round and round the track...fighting sleepiness...fighting the moths attracted to the bright lights...and fighting the early-morning chill.... About the time when my leg muscles were screaming in agony, and the sleep cobwebs were taking over my brain, Hubby and I called it a night and came home...knowing we've done what we can to help. At least for one night.

If you EVER get an opportunity to participate in a Relay for Life - just DO IT.

Even if you only walk one lap around the track...that one lap can make a difference in someone's fight against the Big C.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Random Musings

Random musings on a Tuesday afternoon...

...I am totally in love with Sanuk flip-flops. I got my first pair of Sanuks about a year ago, in a little beach shack in Ft. Myers. Being somewhat flip-flop challenged my entire life, I was skeptical that I would like them...but I have to say - I am HOOKED. So much so, I am now a faithful customer on their web site...and my latest purchase, my "Get Lei'd" casual shoes, are like walking on clouds. If you love laid-back shoes, that are eco-green and comfortable, then check out Sanuk.

...The recent "Hatfields & McCoys" saga on the History Channel sucked me in. Six freakin' hours...but six hours of Kevin Costner and Powers Boothe? Yum. Anywho, not only was the television special riveting, it now has me reading more into the famous family feud; my latest Kindle choice is "Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance" by Lisa Alther. Good stuff.

...Bee stings suck. Especially when one is minding one's own business, like floating in a swimming pool. I guess it's part of the perils of summer...and I'm just thankful that I don't appear to be allergic to them; just annoyed by them.

...I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I am in love with the Nike+GPS application on my iPhone. I had the "original" Nike+GPS gizmo, where you had to put the little sensor in your running shoe. Hated it - mainly because I don't like Nike running shoes, so it was somewhat worthless. This newer application doesn't require a separate sensor, and it is very user-friendly. I am totally geeking out seeing my runs mapped out, along with my pace....Too cool.

...Two weeks from today, our family will be boarding a plane, on our way to Europe for a two-week vacation. Spain, France, Italy, Turkey and take in history, architecture, culture, and food. It will be nice to finally be in the "enjoyment phase" rather than the "planning phase" the planning has been well over a year now.

...Two weeks from yesterday, I will be reaching a milestone birthday. A half-century It's very true that although the body may age, the mind stays young, so I don't FEEL like I'm getting older. Although when I creak and hobble sometimes, my body tells me otherwise.

Off to enjoy the rest of my Tuesday afternoon...and staying away from angry bees who don't like humans sharing their swimming pool...



Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Hills Are Alive

Yesterday morning was the Hospital Hill Run in Kansas City...the granddaddy of races here, celebrating it's 39th year.

It's so named because it takes place in an area of several local hospitals, that rest among some - well, hills. And if you know anything about western Missouri/eastern Kansas - hills are rare. Very rare. In trying to train for this, it's not easy to find hills in one's neighborhood to emulate what you'll find on the course.

I had been training the last few months to participate in the 10k...which is something I've never ran before. However, some issues with my hips, as well as some surgery adhesions, convinced me that I was probably not ready for the 10k - especially on such a grueling course. So, a few days ago, I switched to the 5k.

After getting up at 5:15 am yesterday morning, Hubby and I made our way downtown...joining approximately 9,000 other dedicated runners to "conquer the Hill." There were three courses - the 5k, 10k and the dreaded Half-Marathon. I can't even imagine the Half-Marathon at this point, but that's a goal further on down the road.

Hubby and I found our assigned corrals, and shortly after 7:00 a.m., we were off.

The first quarter-mile was all downhill...and I was lulled into a mistaken sense of false security, thinking, "Oh, this isn't so bad. I can handle this."

Yeah, right.

We eventually turned a corner, and there, looming in front of me, was our first (of several, it turned out) hill.

We learned very quickly that they aren't kidding when they call this the "Hospital HILL."

It seemed that we'd no sooner reach the crest of that hill, and I'd look up ahead and see a mass of humanity all going straight uphill. Seriously?

"Oh, crap!" I said at one point. "Are you KIDDING me??!!! This is RIDICULOUS! Where did all of these freakin' hills COME from??" Like the race organizers brought them in special just for the race.

Hubby said, "Quit looking ahead! Just look at the pavement, and you won't KNOW you're going uphill!"

Uh huh. Like that's going to work. Sorry, Hubby - but my hips and knees know when they're running uphill. They're not dumb.

You know it's bad when the winner of the Half-Marathon, a Kenyan, was quoted after his win, "Those hills are raging...." That's a new one - "raging hills" - but I get his point.

While running up the 3rd or 4th mountain, (because, really, at this point, they'd moved beyond "hills"), I overheard someone tell their racing partner, "Just pretend you have helium balloons attached to your knees."

Hee hee. That actually gave me the giggles, which gave me some extra energy to make it up that particular hill. Thanks for that, whoever you were. I'll have to remember the helium balloon trick for next time.

Our goal yesterday was to finish. With a respectable time. And not be last. We weren't out to medal, or place - we were just hoping to not die. And so, we accomplished our goals.

My pace was a somewhat sad 13:14 per mile, which isn't the greatest, but for my first big race, and for not training the last few weeks, I was happy. It gives me something to work towards - something to beat - and I think...perhaps...if I can get better in my training ...that 10k is within reach next year.

Yesterday, at least in Kansas City, the hills were alive...with the sounds of some heavy breathing on my part, along with some cursing - those darn hills!!!!