Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post-Hurricane Thoughts

It's difficult, sometimes, to be "snarky" or humorous when blogging, when there is so much pain and devastation in the country right now, due to the after effects of Hurricane Sandy.

I was fortunate.

Other than losing power at 8:00 pm Monday night, and enduring a chilly night of sleep and a cold shower yesterday morning in the dark, I really haven't suffered like so many others. And my heart breaks.

Since there was no power in the room, there was no TV updates for me, during the storm or yesterday morning. Once I got to HQ yesterday, there was no time to stop and watch any of the I was really "in the dark" about the extent of the damage.

When I finally got back to the motel late last night, I was at first thrilled - because we had power. Yay.

However, after turning on the TV and tuning in to CNN, I was horrified...unbelievable what is going on in New Jersey and New York.

I know, though, that there are hundreds - if not thousands - of fellow American Red Cross volunteers on the ground in those areas, working hard to insure that the residents have shelter, food, and basic supplies to survive.

Here in Maryland and Delaware, we still have people displaced due to flooding - as we were spared most of the extreme wind damage. Shelters are still open, and so our work continues....I've been busy organizing the Logistics area, and 12-hour days will be the norm for the next few days, at least.

If things wind down here in Maryland, I may be re-deployed upstate - or I may go home. It just depends on the needs, and what the powers-that-be with the ARC decide to do with us.

Today is Halloween...I can't help but think of the thousands of children that are normally so excited about this holiday - the best one after Christmas - and how their plans of dressing up in costumes and knocking on doors for candy may be cancelled....

Santa came through HQ today, collecting candy for the children affected by the storm...

I can't help but think of the people whose homes have burnt to the ground, or been flooded out, or buried in sand...wondering how they're going to begin rebuilding their lives....

I can't help but think this is pretty much the same geographical area that was hard hit during the September 11, 2001 attacks - and how much heartache the residents have already endured....

My thoughts and prayers today are for all the people affected by this storm...the residents...the emergency responders...the government officials...the electric cres...the volunteers...the children...

I can't make it better...but I can pray for better days ahead.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Begging for Buildings

Chocolate, magazines and books....

Yup. I'm ready for the hurricane. Bring it on.

Okay...besides the necessary stuff, I also have food, water, candles and flashlights at the ready here in the motel room...and I've filled up the bathtub and sink with water. Don't laugh. It's necessary.

Anyway, today began with us waking up to the rain...the outerbands of Hurricane Sandy have hit our area, and it was dark and gloomy and dreary...a good morning to lie around in bed, but drat - no rest for the weary.

After arriving in Headquarters, I took care of some paperwork, and then took a road trip...I was sent on a mission to find a 25,000 square-foot warehouse that the American Red Cross can temporarily borrow...for free. The current warehouse in Baltimore is very small, and won't be able to logistically handle the amount of food, water and other supplies that are on their way.

Have you ever gone begging for a warehouse?

I haven't. This was relatively new...but off we went, Louie and me.

The state of Maryland had offered a warehouse, but it had been abandoned for five years...and after visiting it, we could see that it would not be suitable. It looked like something that Herman and Lily Munster entertained in, and although appropriate for upcoming Halloween, it wouldn't be appropriate for disaster relief work.

So, off Louie and I went, in the driving rain and wind, to see what else we could find. If I saw a sign "For Lease" - I was grabbing my cell phone and doing my best begging spiel...

...and it worked.

I think I've managed to snag a 25,000-square foot warehouse that will meet ALL of our needs - for FREE. (Well, the owner will get a GREAT tax deduction!)

After successfully completing our mission, it was about 12:30 pm...and the conditions outside had worsened considerably. Wind gusts, driving rain, and flooding roads...NOT fun. Pretty much all of Baltimore had shut down for the day - and we were fortunate to find a Chinese buffet that was open for lunch. Yes. Louie and I dined at a Chinese buffet in the middle of a hurricane. By ourselves. Yup. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, as no other IDIOTS were out having Chinese food in a hurricane. Fun times, fun times.

Getting back to Headquarters, we found out that leadership had just directed everyone to either shelter at HQ - or get to the motels to shelter. I grabbed my roomie, Kari, and we headed back to our motel.

Kari and roommate EVER!

Here, we have candles...flashlights...extra food to last a day or two...water...blankets...books...magazines...and a good attitude to get us through this storm.

There's already over 30,000 power outages in the Baltimore area alone, and that number is expected to rise up to 1,000,000 before tomorrow morning. Yes. A million. However, the good news is, Baltimore brought in tons of electric crews ahead of time, so they're staged and ready. we go. We're hunkered down for the night, prepared to wait it out and get back to work as soon as we can - whether that's tomorrow or Wednesday....

Be safe!


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Ain't No Sunshine

For a self-professed sun goddess, I seem to find myself in some really adverse conditions...honestly, I'm not sure what bizarre personality attribute I have that drives me to chase hurricanes across the country, but whatever it is - it's annoying, and I need to stop it.

For anyone who's been living under a rock lately, I'll let you in on a bit of a not-so-secret: Hurricane Sandy is barreling her way up the coast, preparing to slam into the mid-Atlantic states, potentially leaving havoc and destruction in her wake.

And here I am.

Right in the middle of it.

It began innocently enough on Friday, when I began to have nudges that perhaps, just perhaps, I might end up deployed with the American Red, I spent Friday evening packing. Just in case, you know.

Saturday morning at 8:00 am, the phone rings - and a voice says, "You're going."

At 8:30 am, the phone rings again, and the same voice says, "Oops - made a mistake. Never mind. You're not going."

At 10:00 am, the phone rings yet a 3rd time, and the voice says, 'Oops - 3rd time's a charm - you're going. And you have to go TODAY."

What followed next was a madcap few hours spent finalizing the packing, making travel arrangements, and getting my affairs in order, as I could be gone for up to 17 days.

A mad dash to the airport, where I was met by a local reporter for a television interview, leaving me the last person to board the plane. I just made it. Whew.

A bumpy ride to Atlanta, a madcap race through the airport to make my connecting flight, and another bumpy ride to Baltimore - gathering my luggage, a rental car, and a late night drive to a motel. I collapsed, exhausted, around 11:00 pm last night.

Arriving at Headquarters this morning, I attended a brief Orientation meeting, and then hit the ground running...working in what is called "Logistics', I'm helping to insure that all the counties in both Maryland and Delaware have their needed supplies for shelters, kitchens, and headquarters.

Another meeting at 1:00 pm where the various "leads" got together to discuss how the operation is progressing - we're still "pre-storm", so we want to get as much on the ground in place as possible, before road closures and dangerous conditions ground us. It was a crazy, busy place today at HQ, for sure.

What we're doing in Maryland/Delaware is being repeated in ALL the mid-Atlantic states by other American Red Cross volunteers...New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine -
to name just a few. Insane, stressful, harried - but oh, so gratifying.

A couple of telephone media interviews, and a mad dash to a grocery store tonight to pick up some supplies that I, myself, may need in the next few days...a long day, indeed. Tomorrow, it starts right back up, and we work until the storm forces us to hunker down and take cover...and then later, we'll pop back out, assess the damage, and get back to work.

The weather turned for the worse today...cloudy, cold, windy - and the rain began this evening. I'll miss my beautiful sunshine - who knows when it will decide to make its presence felt again?

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to provide my own internal sunshine...right? :)


Pray for safety for everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smothered Cheesy Chicken

So, in my ongoing challenge to live like I only have 30 days left, I've been making several changes in my life... of which involves cooking.

In my 50 years of living, it was very obvious that I was in what could only be referred to, as a "rut". I had a rather small collection of "go-to" recipes for dinner, and I'd recycle them, over and over, with little variety for the family. Bleh.

That's changed.

In the last week or so, I've challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone in the kitchen, and find some healthy recipes that the family will find delicious. For the most part, I've been pretty successful in this endeavor, and when I see clean plates and hear sighs of appreciation after dinner, I know that my efforts haven't been in vain.

I'll try to share some of these recipes when I can, for those who are interested. And stay tuned for future blog posts, when I discuss other ways that I've broken out of my rut...with some surprising results.

Today was a blustery, chilly day, so I opted for a comforting recipe that was surprisingly easy to make....

Smothered Cheesy Chicken...fresh out of the oven tonight!

Yum...delicious. When I make this again, I'm going to cut back a bit on the fresh parsley, and perhaps add a hint of lemon, to bring out the flavors even more....

Smothered Cheesy Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt & pepper to taste
3-4 oz sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or 4 slices)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a lightly sprayed or oiled 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Brush with oil and sprinkle with oregano and season with salt and pepper. Divide mushrooms and parsley evenly among tops of breasts. Cover each with the shredded cheese. Bake, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink in the center and cheese is melted, 35 to 40 minutes.



Irma Who???

I always liked to think of myself as somewhat of a theater "snob"...having attended hundreds, if not thousands, of live theater performances over the years....Whether it was a Neil Simon comedy, or a Shakespearean drama, I liked to think I'd seen them all.

And then...last night happened.

And last night, I realized just what a novice I really am when it comes to theater...and just how much I have to learn.

Hubby and I have season tickets to several venues here in the Kansas City area, and last night, we headed down to one of them, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, to watch a performance of "The Mystery of Irma Vep."


"Irma, who?" is what I had been saying beforehand, as I had honestly NEVER heard of this production...would it be a comedy? A mystery? A drama? A tragedy?

Hubby and I quickly settled into our seats for a two-hour ride, little knowing that we should have worn seat belts - as this was one WILD play:

Irma Vep is a WILD, madcap farce that features two men, playing eight different characters, with over 35 costume changes...Hubby and I were in stitches the entire night, at times laughing so hard that our cheeks hurt.

There were literally jaw-dropping scenes when a character would walk off the stage in one costume, and reappear a SECOND later, dressed in a completely DIFFERENT costume!!??! The audience was left gasping in wonder, "How'd they DO that??!!"

Vampires, werewolves, mummies, Egyptian curses, Victorian society - the play ran the gamut with references to Shakespeare, Ibsen and Poe...quite appropriate for a pre-Halloween production.

As far as what it was...? It was indeed a comedy, a mystery, a drama and a tragedy - with nary a second to spare for us to catch our breath. The two fine actors on stage were excellent in ALL of their various roles, with fantastic dialogue and plot lines to work with.

You KNOW a play is good when Hubby says afterwards, "You know...I'd pay full price to see that again."

Now, THAT'S an endorsement, trust me!



*Image from HERE

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Desperately Seeking George

Life is sometimes a journey of self-discovery, and last night, I made several important discoveries about myself: I am a crazy potty-mouthed creeper stalker who should NEVER quit my day job to become a paparazzi.

Yup. 'Tis true. Here's how the evening - and self-discovery - unfolded:

Last night, Hubby and I attended a fundraiser here in town for our local American Red Cross chapter. The event was two-fold: a cocktail party to kick things off, followed by a program with famed political advisors Mary Matalin and James Carville.

Dress was business casual, so here's a photo of Hubby and I, looking quite dignified and refined, if I do say so myself, before we set off for our evening of fun:

We arrived at the cocktail party, along with 700 other guests, and nibbled and noshed and chatted with what few people we knew. I was behaving myself rather nicely, putting on my best social airs and graces and manners that my Mama tried to instill in me. Yes, all was going well at this point....

Soon, it was time to head across the street to the theater, where the program would be held. As Hubby and I settled in our seats, it was then that I made a very startling I was perusing my program, where the donors were listed, I happened to see these names pop out:

Leslie and George Brett...???

"HOLY PINE TAR, BATMAN!" I squealed...much to the astonishment of those sitting around me.

"WHAT??!!" Hubby answers, imagining that I've done something truly horrible, like forgetting to turn the oven off at home or something else just as horrible....

"LOOK!" I point out George Brett's name in the program..."It's George Brett!!!! The most famous professional baseball player to EVER play in Kansas City!!!!"

Not to mention the guy that I spent most of my pre-teenage years crushing on big time. He was my Justin Bieber, David Cassidy and Robert Pattinson rolled into one. Sigh. George was the whole reason why I dreamed of playing professional baseball when I was a little girl.

"I don't remember seeing HIM at the cocktail party," I said...with a bit of suspicion. Seriously...I would have noticed him - so was he perhaps HIDING from me?? Did he KNOW just how obsessed I am with him??

A bit dryly, Hubby answers, "There were ONLY 700 people at the cocktail party...I'm sure you just didn't see him. Besides...he most likely just made a donation by mail, and he's probably not even here...he's probably playing golf in Pebble Beach or something."

Drat. Hubby was right. What would be the likelihood of the famous George Brett attending an American Red Cross fundraiser??? Not very much. Sigh. I settled back in my seat, waiting for the program to begin in a few minutes...

...and then...that's when I saw...three rows up ahead of me...

...none other than GEORGE BRETT himself coming down the row to find his seat!!!!!

"HOLY CRAP!!!!" I squealed, smacking Hubby's arm to point out the unbelievable sight of George Brett less than 10 feet in front of me....(and I do have to say, George's wife Leslie was with him, and she was looking as beautiful as ever...sigh.)

Hyperventilating a bit, I immediately reach into my purse for my camera, as Hubby looks at me, horrified.

"WHAT are you doing??!!" he hisses..."You can't take a picture! If that camera flashes, EVERY person in here is going to look at you to see what you're doing!!!! And they're going to KNOW that you're a crazy creepy stalker!!!!"

Drat. He had a point. Did I really want 700 of Kansas City's finest looking at me with horror and disgust?? To give you an idea of just how crowded this theater was, here's a photo of the crowd:

Thinking fast, I come up with a perfect solution. Fine. I'll turn the flash off. Then, these particular 700 people won't KNOW that I'm a crazy creepy stalker. So that's what I did. I turned the flash off and took the photo. And here's the photo I took:

FANTASTIC photo, yes?

That's the back of George's head, if you can't figure it out.

Yeah...I don't think the paparazzi have anything to worry about with me. Their jobs are safe.

Frustrated with my inability to document this momentous occasion with photographic proof, I gave up trying to be a crazy creepy stalker and focused on the program, which turned out to be extremely fascinating.

Steve Kraske, the moderator, with Mary Matalin and James Carville....

Mary is a staunch Republican, while her husband, James, is a staunch Democrat...I came away from this, thinking I would LOVE to sit at THEIR dinner table every night to listen in on the conversations....

...of course...that would probably make me a crazy creepy stalker, and we don't want people thinking THAT, do we??!!



Sunday, October 14, 2012

For Jessica


What do you say to someone who's had a family member savagely murdered? Especially when that family member is a precious little 10-year old girl?

That was the position I found myself in yesterday...and I can only hope that what I managed to mutter held some comfort, or some solace, for the grieving family.

Let me back up...

This was National Safety Week, and a local K-Mart store had asked for American Red Cross volunteers to discuss fire & tornado safety with their customers, and especially, children. There were two of us who volunteered to work for about four hours yesterday, and we were kept busy, quizzing the kids on "Stop, Drop and Roll" and insuring that parents had discussed fire escape plans with their children.

We were stationed near the Customer Service desk, and midway through our shift, a group of people walked in...they were wearing purple ribbons labeled "Jessica", and it was easy to see the grief and shock on their faces.

I knew immediately who they were, and my heart suddenly broke into a million pieces....

If you've been following the national news lately, you know that Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year old little girl, had been found murdered this week in Colorado. All Jessica had done was innocently head out to go to school that morning. Jessica's father lives in the Kansas City area, along with a lot of Jessica's extended family, so this tragedy has hit close to home for us living here.

The extended family came to K-Mart yesterday afternoon to see if the store would donate purple ribbons, as they wanted to make additional ribbons to be distributed at a balloon release later that day. Purple was Jessica's favorite color, and they wanted to keep her memory and her spirit alive.

As they were talking with the manager, one of the ladies turned around, and made eye contact with me...and time stopped for a split second.

...I saw a woman in so much pain, so much sorrow, that I was instantly struck almost to my knees with the weight of it.

What she saw when she saw me...I'm not sure...

Did she see the American Red Cross logo, and instantly connect the Red Cross with times of tragedy and disaster? Perhaps she saw the logo and thought of recovery...or of hope....

Or did she see a mom of a 13-year old daughter herself, who can so relate to this horrific tragedy?

Whatever it was we saw in each other as we stood there, it must have been a magnet...because we then began walking towards each other and were then in each other's arms, while she sobbed on my shoulder.

And that's when I thought..."What do you say to someone who's had a family member savagely murdered? Especially when that family member is a precious little 10-year old girl?"

"I'm so, so sorry," I whispered. "If I knew the words I could say that would make the pain go away, I'd say them...but I don't know the words. All I can say is how so, so sorry I am, and how I wish I could make things better for you and your family."

Because, after it's all said and done, isn't that what it's all about? Don't we strive to make things better for each other?

When people have asked me why I volunteer with the Red Cross, I can never seem to articulate exactly why....but maybe that's what it boils down to...that I want to make things better, for people who have gone through a disaster...or a tragedy....

I hope we can ALL make things better in our our country...even in our own neighborhoods. I hope we make things better in our homes, and in our schools, and our work places....

Life is short, and it can change suddenly on a dime, with a simple act of walking to school....hug your loved ones closer, and make things just a little better.



*Image from HERE

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekend in Review: Hodge Podge Edition


What a weekend.

Between found money, lost beef, tiny foods, freezing temperatures, strange art, sucky football, and great family get-togethers, it was a busy, busy weekend, for sure.

Friday was spent going shopping...time to hit the grocery store and the local drugstore. Armed with my lists and a purseful of coupons, I managed to save $25 at the grocery store and an impressive $65 at the drugstore. My 19-year old son had tagged along with me (at his request, not mine), and he was dutifully impressed. He's expressed an interest in couponing, and I can't wait to show him all the tricks!

Unfortunately...when we got home...we realized we had left $10 of meat at the store. For whatever reason, it didn't make its way into my trunk - which necessitated another trip to the store. Ack, I hate that.

That evening, Hubby and I had a romantic date night...spending the evening at a local restaurant, Julian.

This is a James Beard Award-winning culinary experience that was created by Top Chef Masters Celina Tio. We found the flavors delicious, but the portions small...perhaps that's a GOOD thing, as my exercising has been hit-or-miss lately.

Saturday morning, we headed up early to the local Art Fest, as I blogged about previously. During the hours that daughter was creating her beautiful chalk masterpiece, Hubby and I wandered around, checking the dozens and dozens of art booths.

We bought three pieces that morning, including this one that will go PERFECT in our Florida home:

...with the artist, Aaron Coleman...

We have a space over a bar in the Florida home that is HUGE, and needed something bright...I also wanted something unique, that gives a "Floridian" feel. This artist has some really cool stuff - created with a layering technique of acrylic, epoxy and other materials...check out his website HERE.

Another neat piece that we purchased was this one:

...with the photographer, Kent Durk, and his wife....

This is a TERRIBLE photo that we took, as the piece has plastic over it, and the photo is reflecting the plastic. This artist travels to creepy old houses and barns, takes photos, and then creates some really interesting photos...check out their website HERE.

Sunday morning was interesting...we were a bit late to church (shhh....don't tell), and when we walked into the auditorium, it was rather dark. I couldn't see a darn thing, but as we wandered around the back, trying to find an empty seat, I could see someone frantically waving at me. Squinting, I could see that it was a girlfriend, Suzie, and she had empty seats by her. Whew. We slid in and enjoyed the rest of the service.

Strangely enough, when we got home from church, I was checking my iPhone, and I had received a text message from Suzie - sent to me BEFORE church started. It said, "At 9:15 church now, you all coming to this one? I sit on the far side a few rows in front of the sound panel."

I never saw that message until church was over, so it was pure coincidence that I had found her! Too funny...guess it was meant to be!

After church, we headed over to my sister's house to celebrate my brother-in-law's are some family photos:

Jason, opening his cards....

My mom and I...

Mickey and her grandpa (my dad)...

My sister and I...

My one and only nephew...he's a character, believe me...he keeps me laughing....

We spent the afternoon watching the Chiefs lose (again...same old story), and watching the 25-car pile-up at Talledega...exciting stuff.

Before we knew it...another weekend...gone. Done. For the history books.

How did you spend YOUR weekend?



One Month to Live?




Probably the least-liked day of the we all start the weekly grind and rat race once again....

But...what if you only had a month to live? And today - Monday - was one of only four Mondays you had left?

Would you feel differently about today?

An interesting question...and one that we're currently exploring right now at church. I have to tell you, this is an intriguing question for KNOW a message hits home when you are still pondering it, hours later...and days later, for that matter. This really got me thinking...and I wanted to highlight some of the points that were brought up in yesterday morning's message.

Some of this is from a book, entitled "One Month to Live", and a website, by the same name. I've just downloaded the book on my Kindle and have yet to start it (as I'm STILL slogging my way through the almost-1,000 page Walt Disney biography), but I can't wait to begin chewing my way through this new book.

Yesterday, six points were brought up, and I wanted to share them with well as get them written down for myself, so I can remember them and refer back to when needed.

#1. Begin with the endgame.
What it is you want to be remembered for, after you're gone? I sometimes struggle with I want to be known as a loving wife? An awesome mother? A trusted and loyal friend? If that's what I want "at the end", I need to be living that way in the present. What can I be doing, every day, to be the person that I want to be?

What could I do be a better wife? A better mom? A better friend?

#2. Live on purpose: plan the work, and work the plan.
Life doesn't happen by accident...what is my plan? Do I even HAVE a plan? Do I have a good balance in my life...a balance of time for Hubby, time for my kids, time for my friends, time for myself...along with the errands, chores, jobs, etc that must be done...?

Do I have a plan on being the best wife, best mom, etc? If I have a plan, how is it working for me? Does it need to be tweaked? Adjusted?

What is my plan for today...Monday?

#3. Surround yourself with people who build you up, and don't run you down.
People are like chameleons...we tend to take on and mold ourselves into the environment that we find ourselves in. If we're surrounded by toxic people who make bad choices, then we will most likely become toxic ourselves, and make our own bad choices. Likewise for surrounding ourselves with inspirational and uplifting people - we'll take on those qualities ourselves...

Who am I surrounding myself with today, this Monday?

#4. Focus on what is amazing, rather than what is annoying.
Ouch. This is a tough one for me. I sometimes let life's little annoyances - bad drivers, negative news, my own impatience - get in the way of appreciating what is wonderful in my life. My focus definitely needs to change to the amazing, and to being appreciative of what I have in my life.

What is amazing about today...Monday?

#5. Stop whining about problems, and start working on solutions.
I think I'm good on this one...I'm not one to whine, as I see myself more as a problem-solver. However - it's still a good reminder to keep this habit strong...but in the meantime...

...have I whined about today, this Monday? Or have I solved any problems already?

#6. Love completely.
Hmmm...hard. Isn't it human nature to love conditionally? If I can learn to let those conditions go, before I open up my heart for love, I wonder how different my life would be?

Have I loved completely today?

So...what would be three things I would change if I only had a month to live?

I would most definitely focus on the amazing; I would most definitely love completely; and I would most definitely surround myself with people who build me up...

So...why wait? Why can't I begin this now?

On this amazing, beautiful, awesome Monday?



*Photo from HERE

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rockin' the Chalk Walk!

My daughter, the artist!

About a month ago, we received notification from our daughter's art teacher that she had been chosen to represent her middle school at a local Chalk Walk art festival.

Today was the festival...a frosty 30-degree morning greeted us, as we bundled up and took Mickey up to the festival.

Wait. Let me rephrase that. Her father and I bundled up, but trying to get a 13-year old teenager to bundle up is worse than pulling teeth. Mickey kept forgetting that this was an ART show, and NOT a fashion show. Geesh. After much angst and teenage drama this morning, we finally convinced her to dress somewhat warmly, and off we went.

She worked with a team of a few other students, and the first order of business was "chalking off" their canvas on the sidewalk:

It took about 90 minutes for her to complete her project...working in tough conditions of a cold, windy morning, while on her hands and knees. We had tried to convince her to wear knee pads while engaging in this, but she decided knee pads were too dorky looking, and wouldn't go for it.

Eventually, her project, entitled "Cityscape," was completed...inspired by famous icons such as the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben:

There were some amazing other creations this morning, as well, that I wanted to's an Andy Warhol-inspired piece (done by a high-school group):

Another entry in the high-school age was this one, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night":

My favorite (well, SECOND-favorite, as my daughter's was my MOST-favorite, of course!) was this one, inspired by Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel:

Another middle-school entry was this "anime"-inspired piece, which TOTALLY made my daughter jealous, as she's a HUGE anime freak:

After a cold morning, it was great to have Grandma stop by for encouragement:

Around noon, they announced the winners, and although Mickey's piece didn't win, we told her she was a winner in our book - just having been chosen to represent her school was a HUGE honor.

She had fun...we had fun...and although she came home totally covered in psychedelic colored chalk, it was great to see her expressing herself in a way that she totally loves best.



Friday, October 5, 2012

A Parent's Pain

I of the toughest things EVER about being a seeing your child hurting.

Whether it's the physical pain of a broken foot (or nose...or arm...or collar bone...we seem to have covered it all in our house over the years), or the emotional pain of a broken's so gut-wrenching to know that there's not a lot you can do - as a parent - to take the pain away.

I've been spending the last two days getting caught up with stuff here at home in Kansas City...and besides the usual housework, bill paying, grocery shopping, laundry marathon - there's the special and crucial time that's needed to sit down with the kids to find out just how their lives are going.

This is something that will never stop - no matter how old my kids get - and no matter how far apart we may be physically. There's nothing I enjoy more, I think, than to just sit down and chill out with my kids.

Noticing my 19-year old son was a little 'down in the dumps', I eventually got him to open up about some relationship troubles he's been having lately with the girl that he's liked more than forever. It drives me NUTS that I can't just wish away all the pain...and I told him that, actually. I told him that as a parent, I'd do anything to never have my kids experience pain - or to experience a life that's not fair sometimes - but, unfortunately, I can't. Life DOES hurt and life ISN'T always fair - and that sucks, for sure...all I can do is to be a good listener when they need one, and to give my kids the tools they need to handle life's adversities.

I'm so very fortunate that I have good relationships with all of my kids...where we've set up lines of good and open and honest communication...where they feel free and non-threatened to come and talk to me about anything, and know that I'll be there, non-judgmental, with advice, if they want it. There's not much that I can't talk to my kids about - whether it's about school, drugs, alcohol, sex - or relationships...and I'm so blessed. I am truly blessed.

As a mother, I hurt when my kids hurt...and maybe, that's all they need - to know that they have empathetic parents who will be there when life gets in the way. was spent hanging out with my son...and I think that's right where I needed to be.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Daughter's Been Abducted by Aliens!

I came home tonight...ten days after leaving the family...and it was nice reuniting with Hubby, the kids, and the furry kids. incident with my 13-year old daughter has me wondering if perhaps she wasn't abducted by aliens while I was gone, who've left an imposter in her wake.

Getting home from the airport, I was scanning quickly through the mail that had piled up in my absence...because God forbid that Hubby actually pay a bill or manage the checkbook while I'm gone.... Anyway. I digress. the stack of mail is my 7th-grader's invitation to take the ACT test in two months...based on some good scores she's received in assessment tests recently. It's not typical for 7th-grade students to take the ACT test, but this will give her some good practice.

Thinking she's probably never even HEARD of the ACT test (and with good reason - she's in middle school, after all), I figured I'd better ease her into this....

"Oh, lookie here," I begin, oh-so-casually, while holding the envelope containing her ACT paperwork.

"I've got you signed up to take the ACT test in December."

Daughter looks at me for a moment, speechless, and I brace myself, anticipating cries and wails of shock and horror. And who could blame her - it's a scary test, the ACT - and so I mentally get my "You can DO this!" speech all set to go.

"YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" Daughter screams, fist-pumping the air and jumping up and down.

Well. This is so not the reaction I expected. Thinking she clearly misunderstood me, I reiterate, slowly, "The ACT test, honey...a college-prep test."

"I KNOW!!!" She screams. "I'm SOOOOOO excited!!!!!!"

Now it's my turn to be speechless.

She says, "ALL my friends were bragging last week how they got picked to take the ACT test, and so I was feeling left out. I can't believe I got picked, too!!!"

And off she goes...with the biggest grin on her face...while I remain standing in the kitchen, speechless.

I eventually look over at Hubby, who's also in a mild state of shock at this unexpected reaction.

"Well," I said. "That certainly went much better than expected. Certainly not the reaction I expected, but I'll take it."

So, there you go. A 13-year old who FIST-PUMPED at the prospect of taking the ACT test.

Seriously. Aliens. It's the only explanation.