Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

I loathe it.

I really do.

The entire process…from standing in a circus line at security, so my identification and boarding pass can be examined as if I'm Charlie Manson and Ted Bundy combined…

…from kicking off shoes, standing in my socks, pushing my belongings along a slow-moving conveyor belt towards the x-ray machine, all the while listening to some pseudo-agent bark at everyone about removing their liquids…

…from the dreaded random pat-down, where some total strange lady gets to rub her hands all up and down my junk, touching me in places that not even Hubby has touched in years...

…from herding up as we board the plane…stuffing our carry-ons and laptops and pillows and jackets into miscroscopically-small storage bins…

…from squeezing into too-small seats, strapping on a too-tight seat belt, and hoping my neighbor isn't the size of Fat Albert.

I hate flying. I hate the turbulence. I hate the hassle. I hate the claustrophobia. I hate the chaos.

But…when you're flying along and you look out your window and see the most incredible, jaw-dropping beauty unfolding in front of you…?


Such was my view today from Kansas City to Milwaukee to Fort Myers…and after seeing this, I knew that everything would be all right.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I'm A Believer

It's Christmas Eve…probably my most favorite day of the year.

When I was growing up, Christmas Eve seemed to last foooorrrreeeevvvveeeerrrrr…time seemed to stop, and the hands on the clock seemed frozen in time. And yet, that was okay, as the anticipation of what Santa Claus was bringing gave me an adrenaline rush that lasted all day.

We would sometimes visit friends…sometimes visit Midnight Mass at church, if we could stay up that late…and sometimes just sit quietly at home, watching a Christmas classic, such as "It's A Wonderful Life." If we could beg and plead and whine long enough, Mom and Dad would sometimes let us open up a Christmas gift early…but it would usually be something like underwear, or pajamas, so gah - what was the point to THAT??!!

One Christmas Eve, I took my usual book to bed, and became totally engrossed in whatever magical story I was reading at the time…and lost track of time. Suddenly, I heard footsteps…on the roof. Oh. My. God. I had stayed up so late that I was now awake during Santa's visit - the Big Man himself - and I was totally petrified. As in, my heart was racing, my hands were shaking, and I could not breathe.

"HE KNOWS IF YOU'RE AWAKE" kept repeating in my head, and I knew - just KNEW - that I would now lose out on Christmas, since I had not been sleeping, like I should have been. My folks had ingrained in us that if we were not sleeping during Santa's visit, he would skip over our house. YIKES. I was so screwed. Diving under the covers, I lay there, shaking, hardly daring to take a breath in case Santa heard. For a few minutes, I hid in fear…and then…thinking I had surely given him enough time to do his thing, I hopped out of bed, peered out my window - and I swear…I SWEAR TO THIS DAY…that I saw his sleigh and reindeer take off for the next house.

I flew back to bed, still so hyped up that it seemed like hours before I fell back asleep. Imagine my trepidation the next morning, wondering if there would be anything - ANYTHING - under the tree for me. At this point, I would have been happy with underwear or pajamas - so imagine my relief when it became evident that Santa had not "punished" me with a lump of coal for daring to be awake during his midnight visit.


Don't ask me how. Don't even ask me how I saw his sleigh take off.

But I did.

As I grew up and had my own family, with a house full of children and grandchildren, my magic is now in watching others open up their presents. I could watch all day - seeing the delight in their face, hearing their squeal of delight - it never gets old. That's the best present I could ever have…being surrounded by the ones I love, and seeing joy on their faces.

Tonight, we will head down to our local theater, where we will watch some extremely talented actors put on "A Christmas Carol". It's become our newest tradition - for the last five years or so, anyway - and we enjoy it. Hearing Dickens' tale of how Scrooge was transformed on Christmas Eve never gets old for us…and then we'll head home, enjoy some chili from the crockpot, and then head to bed.

I'll pick up my Kindle, and I'll become engrossed in my newest magical story of choice…and maybe…just maybe…I'll manage to stay awake long enough to hear those familiar footsteps on my roof again.

Because when it's all said and done…yes, Virginia…there really IS a Santa Claus.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Nightmare Before Christmas

About a week ago, the cold and flu train roared through my house, running me over and leaving me flattened in it's wake.

I pretty much crawled into bed on Sunday, December 15th…and that's the last thing that I remember. I didn't really, truly emerge until yesterday. That's when I somewhat foggily awoke from my cold-induced, drug-fed coma, and realized that Christmas was a mere three days away.

Wait, what?

Three days away???!!




If that isn't bad enough, I also realized that we are having a party. Tonight. For about forty people.

Here. At my house.

The house that LOOKS like I've been in a cold-induced, drug-fed coma for a week.


I keep waiting for someone to tell me I've been punk'd, and that this is all a bad dream - but no such luck. It's real. It's happening. Our annual Reindeer Games is ON like Donkey Kong…(it was supposed to be Saturday night, but was postponed due to the weather. Gah.)

So…I may not have the house perfect tonight…and that's okay. My tinsel may be dusty, and my Christmas tree may have enough cobwebs on it to look more like Halloween…and that's okay.

I may not have all of the planned baking done…and that's okay. My dips may be warm, and my veggies not-so-chopped…and that's okay.

There will be food, but perhaps not gourmet…and there will be cold beer and delicious wine…and there will be a house full of people that hopefully won't care about the dust and the cobwebs and the lack of fresh, baked cookies and breads…. Family and friends are forgiving like that.

So…off to get things ready. I'm going to at least dust off the stereo.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

TSO: Ticket Snafu Omnipresent

I'm cursed, I tell you.


There's no other explanation for this, really.

See, there's a certain band called Trans-Siberian Orchestra…perhaps you've heard of them? An "orchestra" in the loosest sense, playing classical music with a hard rock edge to it. Then throwing in some amazing laser lights, flames and smoke - all resulting in a mind-blowing performance good for all ages.

A lot of folks will call them "TSO" for short - but I've discovered that TSO does NOT stand for "Trans-Siberian Orchestra"…but "Ticket Snafu Omnipresent". This is because we've had not one…not two…but THREE ticket snafus with this group over the last ten years…which is not only weird, but downright frustrating. Gah.

Seriously, I do NOT know what is going on…as I have never, ever had these ticket issues with anything - or anyone - else. We have tickets to all sorts of plays, theater, concerts, etc - and have NEVER been cursed like we are with TSO. Very weird.

We started seeing TSO way, way back in 2002 or so…they would come to Kansas City and appear at a little venue called Memorial Hall, which had a grand capacity of 3,500. We'd pay a few dollars and sit practically on top of the stage - a very intimate experience, for sure, and one we tremendously enjoyed. No one had really ever heard of this group at that time, so we pretty much had them to ourselves, which was pretty cool. Snafu #1 occurred at this venue…our second year of attending…when we dined at a restaurant pre-show, and then went off and left the tickets sitting on the restaurant table afterwards. Didn't discover it until we'd arrived at the concert hall and discovered we HAD NO TICKETS. Yeah, imagine how happy Hubby was to turn around, drive all the way back to the restaurant, retrieve the tickets (which our waiter had fortunately stowed in a safe place for us), and then get back in time for the show. Not.

The band got bigger, their popularity grew, and it wasn't too long before they were appearing at a much bigger venue in Kansas City, Kemper Arena. Ticket prices went up along with their popularity, and although we still enjoyed attending their annual concert, we didn't quit have the intimate experience that we'd had before. Still, though, it was a family favorite, and we would often invite other family members to attend with us - grandparents, cousins, foreign exchange students - strangers off the street. We're friendly like that.

Snafu #2 occurred one year at Kemper…when the day of the concert, I couldn't find our tickets…anywhere. ANYWHERE. I turned our house upside down, searching for those gosh-darned tickets - EIGHT of them, by the way - to no avail. Those tickets had VANISHED into thin air. I accused everyone - even the dog - of perhaps accidentally throwing those tickets away, because TICKETS JUST DON'T WALK AWAY!!! In a panic, we drove to Kemper Arena that night, and fortunately, after working with the wonderful folks at Will Call, we were able to prove our purchase and were admitted to the show.(By the way - the eight missing tickets turned up four years later, when we moved out of that house and into our current house. They had fallen down behind a bureau, and were quite hidden. Oops. My bad.)

It was at Kemper one year when the band got so loud, and so raucous, that some ceiling tiles file down on some guests in the section next to us. They weren't hurt, fortunately…but that was exciting, especially for my kids. Things falling from ceilings always get their attention…and they still talk about that to this day.

Kemper is now closed for concerts, as Kansas City built a new and improved concert venue, Sprint Center, which is where TSO now appears. We're doing good if we're within 500 miles of the stage in this new venue, but it's all good. It's been pretty cool to see the legions of fans grow and appreciate the band; we feel sorta' like proud parents.

We had tickets for the 3:00 pm show today, and it was then that Snafu #3 occurred. I'd ordered the tickets months ago, and had stashed the envelope in a safe place, so they wouldn't fall back behind a bureau. When I went to go retrieve them today, I came up with four tickets…and yet, there are five of us. Hmmm…four tickets? But…we have five people? Houston, we have a problem. Why would I buy a ticket short??!! This made no sense, and I was kicking myself all morning…"What an idiot," I thought…."Do I really not know how many people are in my family??!! I can't believe I only bought four tickets??!! GAH!!!!!"

Upon further investigation, I discovered that I had, indeed, purchased the correct amount of tickets…but I had only received four in the mail. My order showed five. I received four. Did I ever bother to check the envelope when I first received these tickets months ago??! No. GAH.

So, off to Will Call we went this afternoon, and once again, they were gracious and fixed it. They're pretty much getting used to me by now, I think. I'm becoming a regular. Derp.

As far as the show - it was awesome, as usual. My daughter has loved, loved, LOVED the violinist since she can remember, and she's always inspired to continue her violin lessons after these shows. My boys love the lighting effects and the pianists, and Hubby and I just love the music. (Actually, I love Angus, the long-haired guitar player, but we won't go there. Shhhhhh…..)

A great family trip today…and here's hoping no more Ticket Snafus in the future. I'm getting too old for these.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Big Game

There's not been too many times in my lifetime where I have been SO shocked, SO surprised, and SO amazed, that it's reduced to me to tears.

Last week was one of those times.

There are three things in life that I'm passionate about. (Okay - actually - I'm passionate about a lot of things, but for the sake of this story, let's just focus on THESE particular three things. Just go with it.)

Those three things are:

#1. football

#2. University of Missouri (Go, Tigers!)

#3. Auburn University (Go, War Eagle!)

A week or so ago, after the Saturday football games had completed and Auburn University had shocked the nation when they beat Alabama on the final play of the game, and the moon was in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligned with Mars…

…it dawned on me that my #1 favorite team, Missouri, would be playing my #2 favorite team, Auburn, in the SEC Championship football game in Atlanta. On December 7.


Have you ever joked with your significant other about something so ridiculous, so insane, that you would never dream they'd take you serious? Kinda' like, "Hey, honey - let's go to Bora Bora tomorrow!" Or…"Hey, sweetie - let's sell everything we own and buy a yacht and cruise around the world?"

So…I joked with Hubby, "Hey, Hubby - wouldn't it be awesome to get tickets to that SEC game with Missouri and Auburn? In Atlanta?"

Imagine my shock…my surprise…my amazement…when he replied, "Yes, it would. It would be totally awesome. Why don't you get tickets for you and son?"

Of course I looked at him like he'd just sprouted two extra heads and fifty extra eyeballs.

"Are you CRAZY??!!" I said, adding, "Don't even JOKE with me about that."

He said, "I'm not joking. Do it. Merry Christmas!"

Well. I pretty much fainted. Then I freaked out. Then I fainted again. Remember all those videos that parents post on YouTube where kids are jumping up and down, screaming in ecstasy, because Santa Claus brought them the GIFT OF A LIFETIME??!!

Yeah. That was me.

After I recovered from the sheer shock, I went. And I took my son, who is as passionate about football as I am, even if he's not a Missouri or Auburn fan - gah. (He roots for Oklahoma…don't ask why, because I have NO idea. I agreed to take him after he pinky-swore that he would NOT wear Oklahoma crimson, which could be misconstrued as Alabama crimson (Crimson Tide, anyone??!) in which case we'd get totally killed by some irate Auburn fan. He, wisely, agreed to this.)

We had an awesome time…words can't describe how much fun we had. Here's a photo montage of what our weekend was like:

First, we caught a charter plane to Atlanta…180 passengers, decked out in black and gold, and passionate about Missouri

We stayed at the impressive Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, who decked their halls especially for us...

Son and I spent Friday afternoon walking around downtown Atlanta, including making a trip to the Georgia Dome. See that guy in the bottom right corner in a red shirt? Little did we know...

…that he was a reporter for a news station out of Birmingham, AL - who caught up with son and I for a "man on the street" interview. If you want to see the entire interview, click HERE.

We then got gussied up for a cocktail party for Mizzou fans and alumni later Friday night...

Here, we noshed on some goodies, met some fellow passionate fans, and loaded up on some free Mizzou souvenirs...

After the party, we met up with a high school friend of mine, Allison, who coincidentally lives in Atlanta. We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, and would never have dreamed that we would be the ONLY Missouri fans in a sea of Auburn fans. They were chanting, screaming, and having a great time…which left us feeling a bit outnumbered! It was great, though, to see Allison again!

Saturday was Game Day! Here's some of the bling that we gathered…all of this would be worn/carried to the game!

After getting decked out with our bling, lucky scarf, pompoms, etc - it was time to leave for the tailgate party...

The Tailgate Party was amazing! Food, drink, the marching band, cheerleaders, chancellor of Missouri - and 6,500 fans! It was a true sea of black and gold, and we spent some time watching the Missouri basketball team beat UCLA on some giant TV screens. We happened to meet up with some fans from our own little small town, and we had a great time pre-game….

A "selfie" at the tailgate party…

Soon, we were at the game…where we had the BEST SEATS EVER!!! We were on the 32-yard line, in the upper deck, in the first row! A birds-eye view of the action on the field…where we watched both bands come out to perform the National Anthem...

Soon, it was kick-off…and the game began. WHAT A GAME! We thought we came for a football game…ended up being at a track meet, where we saw 100-yard dashes up and down the field. Back and forth went the score - first, Missouri up…Go, Mizzou! Then Auburn was ahead…go, War Eagle! WHO WOULD PREVAIL??!! Such a nail-biter!!!!

When it was all done, Auburn won by a score of 59-42…certainly the highest scoring game I've ever witnessed in person! At the end of the game, the fireworks went off and the streamers fell…and although my #1 team lost, my #2 team won…so I was happy. And VERY PROUD of my Tigers!!! Both of them - hee hee!!!

#26 on my Bucket List (located on the right side of this page) can now be crossed off…and I came back to Kansas City one happy, happy girl.

The cost of the weekend:

Tickets to the SEC Championship Game: $200

Airfare/Motel costs for a weekend in Atlanta: $1,300

Spending it with my fellow-football-loving son: Priceless



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Goodbye, Miss Juliet

The tears are flowing so fast and hard right now, that a mere Kleenex can't keep up with the deluge.

And my heart…oh, how my heart hurts…it aches to the point where I want to rip it out, hoping that will stop the pain.

All of this…over a cat.

My beloved cat, Juliet, passed away this morning…about an hour or so ago, actually…fresh enough to bring on this state of mourning and grief that seems unbearable.

She was my baby…my precious little sweetheart…who only wanted to love and be loved in return. None of the usual diva-cat behavior from her - she carried no attitude, no superiority complex, no finickiness…she just wanted to sit on your lap and purr.

We had seven years with her…seven years of sweetness, gentleness and love…wrapped up in a giant furball of hair so thick and bushy, that I had nicknamed her my "Squirrel Girl" a long time ago. She was calm, she was serene, she was zen…and if you'd had a bad day, her mere presence on your lap and steady purring would be better than a week at a relaxation camp. An informal poll done in our house had revealed that she was everyone's favorite pet in our house, but of course, we'd never tell that to the other three.

She had seemed in perfect health…up until last week, when we noticed she wasn't eating or drinking in her normal way. Normally, Juliet is what you would call a "Hoover" - she would suck up and eat anything and everything in her path - again, I say, not finicky in the least. I would often call her "Miss Piglet" because of her snarfing up food…so to see her turn up her nose at dinner was our first red flag of something not quite right.

We monitored her over the holiday weekend, but by Monday, we knew something was wrong. Off to the vet's office she went, where she had been ever since. Fluids were administered, food was forced down, and my twice-daily visits were spent talking to her and scratching her lethargic body, as I tried to figure out what was going on. This is when it can be so frustrating to not have a common language between us and our pets - so they can say exactly what hurts. I'm a mom. I want to fix the hurt. But I can't fix it when I don't know what it is.

The vet didn't have any answers…saying that cats will sometimes just choose to "shut down." But this made no sense to me…as Juliet had everything to live for.

This morning, I was literally heading out the door to visit her, when I got the sad news…that Juliet had had a seizure overnight and passed away. I was stunned.

It may seem crazy or ridiculous to be this upset over a pet, but for pet owners, we know how much we fiercely love and protect our fur babies. They're our children, and are treasured and loved just as much as a real child. I know, that with time, I will heal…the pain will go away and the tears will lesson…but for today, I hurt.

Rest in peace, Juliet, my little Squirrel Girl. You will be missed.


Postscript: The vet called while I was writing this…a quick autopsy revealed that Juliet had congenital heart disease, along with a packing peanut obstructing her intestine. I have no clue as to where the packing peanut came from…but that, combined with a weak heart, led to her death.