Friday, December 31, 2010

The year 2010-in books

A copied this survey from Erin at  You can read her survey responses here

Best book of 2010?

2. Worst book of 2010?  
The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony, and Other Stories

 I really disliked In the Penal Colony-and found the others just ok.  When I got together with my book club I actually liked the book better from their perspectives (but still hated The Penal Colony).

3. Most disappointing book of 2010?

The Year of the Flood

I may re-read this since I just read Oryx and Crake-a prequel of sorts-and liked it.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?

This book revolves around math-and I found myself fascinated by it.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?

The Alex Rider Series (It's young adult-but I really like it 
 Stormbreaker Stormbreaker (Alex Rider, #1)

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?
 Karin Slaughter 

Blindsighted (Grant County, #1)

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?
Although you don't actually read this book-it's a bunch of hysterical drawings.

 9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?

Never Let Me Go

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?
 I love this author


Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

The finale-it was all I expected it to be!

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)

The Housekeeper and the Professor
12. Most memorable character in 2010?
Katniss  Everdeen
The Hunger Games The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?

Oh My Stars

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

15. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?

Emily of New Moon (Emily, #1)

I loved her Anne  of Green Gables series!

Your Turn!

What would your picks be?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favorite Tree


This tree is one of 3 identical trees in my family.  No one remembers who made them.  Mine has the name "Pearl" on the bottom-possibly meaning my great (or great great) aunt Pearl.  I think my Dad's does, too.  They are passed from generation to generation.  My Dad has one (from my great-grandma), my Aunt has one (from my grandma's sister (?))...and this one was my grandparents.  It now sits in my bedroom so I can fall asleep to it's light.  Growing up, it was always my favorite Christmas tree.
It still is.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where's Molly?

Growing up I knew I had a great-uncle who wasn't "right."  He is there in my early memories from when I traveled with my grandparents to see their mothers.  Uncle Bob was my grandfather's brother.  He lived with his mother.  I knew something was "wrong" with him...but I was a child.  I didn't really understand. When she died (I was 9) he went to live in some type of residential facility.  I don't know why, except that my grandparents were already caring for my grandmother's mother and I don't think they felt they could care for him, too.  I am sure, knowing my grandparents, this was planned out and agreed upon with his mother.  I visited him once with my grandparents a few years later.  My grandparents kept in touch with him through phone calls and as many visits as they could-at least yearly (we lived in Pittsburgh and he lived, I think, in St. Louis-or somewhere relatively nearby.)  They talked about him.  A few years ago I saw him in a picture, and pointed him out to my siblings. It was at that moment I realized he had Down Syndrome.  To my adult mind, it explained everything in an instant.

Working in special education you hear of how things "used to be."  That children with disabilities were routinely sent away to institutions, never seen again. I admire my family for refusing to do that to Uncle Bob.  They realized that Down Syndrome made him who he was-and that he was a part of the family no matter what.  I am sure it was difficult-in a time when a disabled child was a stigma. 

I knew my Uncle Bob.  My grandfather new his brother.  My Dad knew his uncle.

I can't imagine how I would feel if I didn't even know about him and then finding out years later he was institutionalized his whole life. Alone.

What would I have done?  What would you have done?

There is a documentary about this topic.  You can learn about it here.
You can read the story here.  (keep tissues handy)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a great day!  Eat all you want!
Take time to remember what you are most thankful for.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Funerals are never easy.
I have been to a few.  Not as many as some people.  Definitely more that I wish.

I went to my grandparents funerals in June and then September.  Because the funerals were held where they grew up (St. Louis) yet lived in Pittsburgh for over 50 years the family held a Memorial Service  in November for their friends and our family.
I am not going to lie-it wasn't easy.  Even though they lived full lives (93 and 94 years old).  Even though they both were not well for years.
But-is it ever?

There were bright spots amongst the sadness:
Family I had not seen in years came.  I'm the oldest grandchild so I knew them all (even if I was a child the last I saw them).
I got to revisit memories that had long since been buried.
I shocked some people at my memory.  I knew who neighbors of my great-grandmother were-and asked about their children (all my age).  I remembered the woman who helped take care of my great-grandma--even if she didn't remember me at first (I had grown-a lot).  I remembered many stories about her (she sued an internationally well known company because they continuously promoted men over her--men she trained.  She won.)  I remembered them and was able to tell my siblings and cousins all the info they ever needed to know  :)

The very best part, however, was something embedded in all of the services.  A time of remembrances.  Rather than have someone perform a Eulogy-a life story was read about each (combined at the Memorial).  Then, the people gathered were asked to speak up about their memories of them.  Stories, details, anything.  This was new to me--as I said, I haven't gone to many funerals-but none of them offered this.  My uncle, a minister, presided over all 3 services.  I know his family religion is the origin of this.  I loved it.  Friends, family and others spoke up.

I heard so many stories.  Some I already knew.  Many I didn't
Some that just reflected my grandparents personality so much we all chuckled because we could imagine the scene perfectly.
 3 men who used to work with my grandfather came to the memorial.
 I learned that my Grandfather created their pension from scratch-and made it 100% iron clad so the company couldn't touch or change it in any way. These men were so thankful-and said that he touched so many lives by doing this-even though those people didn't know him.

I learned my Grandma designed and (had) built a house for them-and the day it was finished-my grandfather got transferred.  She never got to live in her dream house.

I learned my Dad, Uncle, Aunt and their cousins had a tomato fight in the (finished) basement of my great-grandmother's house.

There were so many stories.  I need to document them.
They are gone-but memories remain.  Memories I don't want to forget.

I hope, when I am gone, there are wonderful memories of me to share.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My husband thinks I am insane.  and maybe I am.
I peruse the pictures of kids in foster care that are potentially available for adoption monthly.  It's an obsession.  It's a huge obsession-I want right now to start the process.  Actually, I wish it was already started.  I have criteria established-basically age and what level/kind of (any) "issues" we could handle.

So, he was not surprised when I shoved the computer at him and said, "Look-I want to adopt them-and I am serious."

He was not surprised at that.  I have pointed out several children before.  Usually to get him thinking about starting the process-because it can take awhile to even get approved-and "those children" will most likely be adopted...or older than we want to adopt.

He was surprised at what I showed him-a sibling group.  Not of 2...or 3 siblings...but 4 siblings.  4 perfectly adorable siblings under our age criteria.  4 children with "issues" that appear reasonable (it's foster care people-there are always issues)  4 siblings who I know I would love.  1 stop shopping.  1 crazy adoption process.  4 beautiful kids?  4 beautiful related-look alike-kids!

He thinks I am insane- and I am.  But, we could do this, right?

Ok-I admit.  The dreaming side of me is insane.  The reality side of me is trying to comprehend housing, feeding and clothing them with our budget-- from zero to 4 kids overnight.  all at once? but the dreaming side has me-well, dreaming.  All night I dreamed of them.

I am insane.  But.....what if we could do this?

For now, I will dream....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A running update

The good:
I can run a mile consistently.  I DO run a mile consistently.  I typically walk a mile, then run, then walk the rest-totaling 4 miles.
I worked up to 1.5 miles and was ready to move on and then got something-a mild cold, an allergy overload-something-which had me take a couple days off and then walk only for a day or so--and I was back to struggling to go over a mile.

The bad(?)

-I am really only running on mostly downhill graded trails. It isn't 100% downhill and you don't really notice the incline-it usually looks flat.  It has just been the way it is-not by design untilthis weekend.  Since I need a mile warm up-and that's the way the trail is.

 I have started attempting to run as much of my "easiest" neighborhood walk-which has some hills.  I do this on the days I can't get home before dark (and therefore trail running is out) and I don't have time/desire for my long neighborhood walk with the steep hills.  I need to be able to run hills-I feel like I struggle more than I should-so it's a mini monster I am battling. 

Also, I am so uncoordinated I never seem to get into a groove-I feel like I am just plodding along-and that I will fall flat on my face any minute. I envy those who run with ease. I just--don't.  My pace varies and I just can't figure out how to work on making this steady and easy.  If I have to adjust something (the ipod, lapping my stopwatch on my phone) I feel like I am flailing about. I mean I am so clumsy I tripped over the computer cord (again) and walked by my husband and knocked over several things on the end table with an empty laundry basket (again).  Within an hour-Yestderday.   Recently, when running, I hit my ankle with the heel of my other show-causing a bruise.  Which bothered me for 2 weeks.  Any tips?

So my 2 goals now are:
increase my running distance
increase my abiity to run hills

So-on goal # 1:
I decided to split a longer run on the trail-something I don't have time for now with this time change during the week.  In order to increase my distance-I looked at the trail and decided to go with another section of the trail with more downhill incline than up.  
 Yesterday, I walked 1.2 miles, ran 1.8, walked 1.8, ran 1 mile and walked .2 (3 miles out and back on the Montour trail-conveniently sectioned out for me). 
I figured this is the best way to increase my distance and time...and this will increase my endurance. Over time, I will run the entire 2.8 without a walking break.

Goal #2:  My "daily" 1 mile+ will be in the opposite direction.  To up my hills (and really, it's only a slight grade-that's what Bothers me about how much I struggle!)  and I will continue attempting to run my "easy walk" neighborhood route-

The Ugly:
My shoes.   They are driving me crazy.  They have been wonderful in keeping me from being injured-and allowing me to actually run.  But something is just not right with them anymore.
The left foot is mostly good.  I have to adjust the way it is tied it a little-not much.  Not worries.  It is the right foot that is insane.  If you look at both feet.  The right laces are pulled so much closer than the left.  They must be tight-but over the bone in my foot-not tight-not loose.  Where I tie them they have to be loose to allow movement-firmly tied hurts.  If the shoes are not exactly right-my knee clicks.  and clicks.  and clicks.  I had to adjust them 4 times the other day-and they still weren't right.  I don't have enough miles on these shoes to say they are worn out.  Throwing them in the washer helps.  I only had to adjust them once after the last wash.  I think they are stretching out over a week or two.  I need new shoes.  I need to go back to the running store and get re-fitted.  I know this.  But money's tight-so I will make due.

I need a Nike+ sensor, too because I am obsessed with timing my walks and runs--and keeping track of the distance.  My current method is not my favorite-since it's my phone and any calls stop it.

Since I am new to running-does anyone have any tips?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010


As October winds down the pink is slowly fading from view I can't help being relieved.  Every pink ribbon is a gut punch and reminds me of how many people I know affected by this horrible disease.  I don't need any reminders.  They are ever present in my head.

My mother-in-law died when my husband was 16 from it.
His grandmother (paternal) had it when she died at 94.
One of my friends is in remission (thankfully it was caught very very early)
A coworker (from a previous job) has had 2 battles with it.
A friend's mom died from it. 
My great aunt (grandma's sister) died from breast cancer.
Her daughters have battled it.
I have had more than one scare myself.  I have had 2 surgeries to remove (benign) lumps and tissue.  I have had mammograms every year for 10+ years (some years 2 or 3).  I have had cysts show up-and disappear (or that would have meant surgery #3).  Every month I worry I will feel something.

I am scared one day it won't be benign.

I think pink all year-not just October.

October is Breast Cancer awareness month

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Advice to myself

A few days ago, Kelle at Enjoying the Small Things posed the question "What would you tell your 13 year-old self?"  This questions has stuck with me over the last few days and here is my response.  I chose each of these, no matter how silly some seem, because I know by changing them it would have had a serious butterfly affect in my life:

Dear Self;
Grow your hair long.  Trust me. You hate your hair now.  You will hate every single hair style until you grow it out.  Start now.  Put it in barrettes or pull back the top into a ponytail during the long awkward stage (and it will be long.)  Growing your hair long will give you more confidence.  It will fit your tendency to sleep until (and past) the very last second possible to get to school.  It will solve so many problems.

Wear your contacts.  I know they are new.  I know that the doctor told you to wear them 1 hour today-and increase by 15 minutes each day until you can wear them 12 hours--which is an impossible feat for someone in school.  Ignore him. Wear them all day.  Take them out when you get home, if you must. Carry your glasses as a back-up (but you'll probably never wear them outside the house again.)

Do well in school.  I know-that's what the parents say.  I know you can barely do the work or study and get decent grades.  But you have a brain.  Use it to really excel in all classes.  It will make your choices later easier.  Math and science are tough, yes. But you have a brain and eventually you will see they are fascinating-even if they don't have a plot like books do.

Take Spanish-not French or German.  Also, become an exchange student.  Do it.  You want to.

Pay attention to the world around you.  The parents expect you to learn about the many career choices, life skills and street smarts at school or on your own.  You need to take charge of this.  Tell them what you need to learn.  Make them take you to colleges to visit.  Explore careers.  Microbiology, Meteorology, Astronomy, Radiology, Computers, physical therapy, etc.  Learn how to invest.  Learn everything you can.

Talk to both parents about issues.  Dad doesn't really talk to Mom much.  He says things that are not really 100% true.  He thinks he knows what is best for you.  It isn't always.  It will backfire on him..and ultimately you-so prevent it by making sure YOU talk to each parent about stuff.  Don't assume that one agrees with the other just because "he or she" says so.  Usually one lacks information.  Decisions might not always change-but I know some will.

Exercise and eat healthy.  Go to the doctor and request inhalers for your "mild" asthma.  Life will be so much better. No more 3 month colds.  You can breathe when you exercise.  Try out for the cheerleading squad this year.  You will make it.

Go to a college away from home.  Ignore Dad.  He only wants you to go "there" because he gets a discount.  It's a great school-but you need to get away (see below) and experience college life more.

Date him.  Then move on.  Move on.  You need more time.  You need to experience life more.  You need maturity.  I won't lecture here-just trust me.  If you do nothing else I say--do this.

Don't get involved in/with drama llamas.  High school girls are awful.  Don't let them in your head.
High school is not like the rest of your life.

Stay in touch with your friends.

Save money.  Spend wisely.  Don't get in debt.
Invest a bunch in Apple, Inc. 

You are beautiful.

Have fun.

What would you say to your 13 year-old self?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fragmented visions

When I was young (some time under 9), I traveled with my grandparents to visit my great-grandmothers several times.  My grandfather's mother lived in a house with hardwood floors.  It was very clean, very neat, and shiny.  There was a big porch out front.  This is about all I remember, except my grandfather's brother lived with her.  My memory is a little fuzzy-but I have clear pictures of "Uncle Bob" standing behind my great-grandmother's chair.   I clearly remember him standing there. Looking at me.
In my memory he moved once.  He moved-took a couple steps to come around the chair and was immediately reprimanded and returned to his standing position.
My memories are truly only a brief snapshot of that time.  I was a young child.  Perhaps the reprimand makes it stand out.  Uncle Bob didn't really stand there the whole time. But that's what exists in my memory.  What also exists in this memory is the fact that I knew he was different-but couldn't figure it out.  He looked like he wanted to play with me-but wouldn't/couldn't.  It's hard to explain.  I knew he wasn't "normal" but no one told me why.  I knew he was "slow" He was shorter-not the height of the men in my life (over 6 feet)-taller than my friends-but not tall enough for "an adult." I think I was kind of nervous/scared around him (perhaps because of how the adults acted)

I saw him another time.  He lived in an institution (?) after his mother died when I was 9.  We (my grandparents and I) visited him there.  I remember he came out and was happy to see us.  I remember pepto-bismal walls  That's it.

Fragmented visions.

I know I used to have more memories of him.  I would list him in my list of extended family.  I would ask how he was.  I visited him before age 9 several times.
I was sad when they told me he died 18 years ago.
Sadly, time has erased most of the few memories I had.

I never knew he had Down Syndrome until 3 years ago-looking through old family pictures.

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Things this week that...

Things list week that caught my attention:

1)  A man walking his dog using a Segway.  A Pomeranian.  That he had to pick up half-way down the trail (A 2-mile portion of the Montour Trail)

2) A woman on a cell phone walking while pushing her large dog in a stroller.

3) A Ten-dollar bill blowing down the street (Mine now!)

4) Actively avoiding 4 accidents because other people
-ran a red light (He got tired of waiting for it to turn green and went anyway-even thought it was the  opposing traffic's turn.  where was he going?  The Sub shop on the opposite Corner)
-Looked only one way before pulling out into traffic
-Pulled into my lane (in the spot my car was currently occupying)
- once again someone runs the stop sign at the beginning of my street when I am turning in.  The cops could make their monthly quota here on my short, out of the way street.

5) I think my brother and mother drunk called me last night-giggling over some foreclosures "I should buy" in Florida.  I am not sure which is worse-that they were drunk-or that they weren't.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A simple reminder

It is no secret that marriage is tough.  I used to think once you married the guy you didn't have to continue to do anything-that once the ceremony was over we all lived happily ever after.
Now as a grown-up, I know that one has to put effort into maintaining and growing as a couple.  It is easy to let things slide, to put off "us" time and give in to the grind of daily life.

Lately, my husband and I have had a lot of difficulty.  Not marriage ending difficulties-but more stress than a couple should deal with (infertility, money, he is out of work and the job search is not going well, illness and more).  We are very different in expressing our feelings.  He is quiet and reserved.   I am not.  I like to snuggle.  He tolerates it.  You get the idea.  There are fleeting moments when I wonder how he really feels.

Then, out of the blue, something happens to remind me that he may not say the words or like cuddling-but he shows how he feels in other ways.

This was waiting for me when I got home after my book club tonight:

Porch Light

My husband thought about me-and that it was dark-and turned on the porch light.

This is not the first time.  In fact, every single time I leave when it is light out and return when it is dark-the porch light has been turned on.
Every. Single. Time.

I can't say I have done that for him...

Thanks for the reminder, honey.  I love you, too.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cross this off my bucket list!

I ran my first whole mile today. Ever.

This may not seem like a big thing to you-but to me it is monumental.

Having unmedicated asthma and severe airborne allergies-sports were never my thing.
I wanted to run, but was never successful.
The farthest I have run in the past was 440 yards.  (1/4 mile / 1 time around a track)-and that was after a couple months of trying.

Now, with asthma and allergies controlled and a strong desire to succeed, I am attempting to run again.  It has not been easy.  I tried the Couch to 5K program.  I never even made it past Week 1.
I didn't have the right shoes and got patellar tendonitus. My knee became too stiff to walk steps easily.

I gave up twice and let my body heal-and bought new shoes.  I lost 10 pounds.

I have great motivators, however, via Twitter and daily mile.  My friends run.  5K, 10K and half-marathons.  I want that. (at least the 5K part).

This summer I have walked several times a week.  Faster and Faster.  I began running the short blocks here and there on my route that was flat.  I increased my running.  I made sure to have lots of rest days and "just walking" days.

Today, I ran a whole mile on a flat trail. I walked the mile back-telling myself the whole time to take it easy because I really wanted to run intervals back.

I am sure I will hurt tomorrow.  The muscles above my ankles/lower part of shin burned the last part of the run.

It will be worth it!  It felt great!  I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, September 27, 2010


I did it!  I attended PodCamp Pittsburgh this year!
I signed up early-and wavered back and forth about actually attending.  I really wanted to go-but dreaded two things:
1)  Not knowing people-and afraid that everyone would know everyone else and I would just be lost...I was feeling out of place-and out of my league-I have this little blog-and I am on Twitter--but I am but a speck in the whole blogosphere and twitteruniverse. A tiny speck.
2)  Telling my husband where I was going-he is SO NOT into the whole social media movement.  (well I didn't dread telling him where I was going-but dreaded having to listen to what he would say about it all....) He refuses to have a facebook page and sees no use for twitter or blogs.  It will take someone else to convince him of the wonders to be found and the friends to be made using social media.

Then, I realized that some of my tweeps were going to be there and  I could hide with them until I felt comfy.  In reality-this didn't happen much-but I managed and struck up conversations with some great people.  I fake being outgoing (Fake it until you make it!) pretty well-but inside I am scanning for the best hiding places!

As for the husband-he still doesn't get it, but took the reason for my absence from our weekly ritual of watching of WVU football without saying much-and even texted me updates from the game.

I learned so much and met some amazing people-too many to list.  Too many to remember.  I met some new people:

I met @tallcathy (Kiss 96.1) and Secret Agent L  (Notable because (squee!) both are taller than me-a rare thing for me at 5'9"!)
I met @unclecrappy  (He encouraged me to come via twitter when I was waffling!)
I met 2 of the BitchBurgh women (one of whom I share an odd allergy with (Wormy) and one (hotmama) who helped me more than she knows by talking to me when I was waiting for things to start!)
 I discovered that one of my tweeps was family.  Which was great and funny all at once! 

I went to great presentations by @burghbaby, @secretagentL, @justinkownacki, @bitchburg and others!  I learned a lot and definitely plan on returning next year! 

My favorite quote from Podcamp?:
She loves people and puppies-more than shoes and handbags...

I am so glad I went!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

God Bless Southwest

It was like a movie-the Southwest airline worker asked for our Driver's License and all 3 of ours hit the counter at the exact same time-in a little circle.  This was closely followed by a credit card-landing right in the middle.  The Airline worker is yelling across the room to "hold the plane!" as another airline worker was about to shut the door to the jetwalk and my brother, sister and I are all panting and apologizing to the many people in line that we cut in front of and not even caring where this plane is going-as long as it is going to St. Louis.

My brother, sister and I were flying to St. Louis to our grandfather's funeral. 

A funeral that had family visitation in 3.5 hours.

And our flight had been canceled.

We were supposed to be flying on USAir.  We arrived at the airport early and cleared security.  We sat in a bar and loaded the terrified to fly sister up with some liquid courage.  We bantered back and forth as siblings do-keeping our thoughts well away from the reason for this trip. Then, things went south.

The parents had flown out to St. Louis on the exact same USAir flight the day before to take care of the few remaining funeral arrangement details that had to be done in person.  Except the flight was canceled due to engine trouble and they ended up sitting in Chicago, finally getting to St. Louis around 9pm-long after the cemetery and funeral home had closed.

45 minutes before takeoff the phone calls started.  My Dad, very stressed, was calling because our flight was reporting a delay.  At the gate it was still reading "on time".  I nicely approached the worker and asked him about the flight-using the words we know what happened yesterday and we have to be at the funeral (visitation) tonight.  He was nice and said that the plane was fixed and flying in from Hartford-and was running late but we would be out on time.   10 minutes later the board registers a 15 minute delay.  My brother approaches him this time.  He knows our situation, he says, and this plane is fine and just behind schedule.  The flight arrives and some of the passengers get off.  10 minutes later, they make the remaining passengers (who were going on to St. Louis) get off.  Then the flight attendants and pilots get off.  The status changes to "delayed" and the airline worker disappears.  This is bad. We hear words like "engine trouble" floating around.  WE are the only ones who know this is the same damn plane as yesterday that had the same damn problem. WE are not happy.  WE know this is not good.

My brother goes directly to the source-the pilot.  He talks to him for about 30 seconds and then walks to the Customer Service Desk down the hall. 5 minutes pass and he calls and tells me to grab the sister all of our bags and RUN.  Our flight is canceled and there is a Southwest Flight boarding now-leaving in 4 minutes.   I grab sis and our bags and take off.  She asks what's going on and I loudly yell to her (and the entire waiting room) It is canceled.  We have to go NOW! 

So-if you were in the airport around 2:15 Tuesday you saw 3 adults running as fast as they could-bags in hand-through the concourse.  In the middle of this-MY phone rings.  It is our Dad.  I answered the phone, dropping my brothers water bottle and my purse and yell "WHAT?  I am running as fast as I can!! We have 2 minutes to get on this plane or we are not making it to St. Louis tonight!"  Dead silence on the other end-and then a "call me when you know if you can get on a flight".

We have no idea where to go other than "Concourse B"  So I run up to the first desk and ask for help, gasping and out of breath (asthma-I felt fine-just sounded bad).  The Southwest person was immediately helpful.  She asked what was wrong-and told us she could help us-the flight behind her was the one we wanted.  She calmly stopped what she was doing and started working on our problem-while letting the long line (of nice and understanding travelers going somewhere else-thank you, btw!) know that our situation required her immediate attention.  In 5 minutes we had tickets, a flight number and the knowledge we would stop in Chicago on this plane-but not get off-and were on the plane-door closed and getting our pre-flight directions (exit doors, etc.)  I was on the phone-literally standing at the plane-touching it-while on the phone with my Dad letting him know the flight details-and that our return flight needed rebooked because USAir canceled our entire tickets.  I am not even sure if we GOT paper tickets-all I had was receipts for paying for them.

There were other hiccups-but all of them mild in comparison:  A windy Chicago delayed our take off for bag wouldn't fit in the overhead (I was last on the plane) and asked then to "check" it-they did but I had no idea that meant I had to go to baggage claim to get it-another delay. 

We kept sis fairly liquored up and I asked a couple of people to move on the plane so we could sit together (or THEY would have to deal with her  :)  ) and they complied-and wouldn't even let me bye them a drink!  I kept her mind occupied on the first leg-and handed her off the the brother for the second leg.  By some small miracle we encountered ZERO traffic during rush hour.

In the end, we arrived at the hotel about 60-90 minutes later than we first planned-but we were at the funeral home for the majority of the Visitation.  Which, considering the alternative (late night arrival) was great.

Thank God I had that double shot of Tequila!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Grandpa

My grandpa:

-was the most honest and ethical man you would ever meet.

-was meticulous, methodical, a perfectionist, patient and kind.
Everything had it's place. He picked up microscopic pieces of lint of the freshly vacuumed floor.  Recently, my dad found a file labeled "raincoat" in a filing cabinet full of stuff of my grandfathers-work stuff, bills, etc.  He expected to find a warranty for some kind of raincoat.  Inside this paper thin file was-a perfectly folded vinyl raincoat. I found a book about math or chemistry or some science today of his today when sorting a box looking for pictures to take to St. Louis.  His printing was the neatest printing I have ever seen.  It resembled a type writer. The drawings were perfect and exact.  There were no eraser marks, no pages missing.

-wore bolo ties and "Mr. Rogers" sweaters.  Wore slacks every day.  He wore a suit coat and hat when he went out.  I never saw him in khakis or jeans-even when doing any type of work around the house. 

-collected stamps (and some coins).

-would not let me walk on the (paved) driveway in bare feet.  There is a picture somewhere of me with one foot in the grass and one on the driveway looking at him with a glint in my eye.

-started at a chemical company (now Bayer) as a washer of beakers and test tubes while going to college.  He retired as Treasurer.

-loved my grandmother.  I have pictures of him looking adoringly at her throughout their life together.

-was a gentle, patient man.  Never raised his voice to us grandkids-even when obviously annoyed with us.

-was my only grandfather.  I have 4 grandmothers that I remember (both of my parent's parents and their parents (in other words-my grandma and great-grandma-from both sides of my family).  But only 1 grandfather exists in my memories.  The rest were gone before I was born.

My grandpa died yesterday.  He joins my grandma, his wife of over 60 years, who died 3 months ago .
He lived a wonderful life.  The last couple years he has steadily declined and had his ups and downs, good days and bad days. He was 94.  I was blessed to have him as a grandfather.

I miss him...

Friday, September 17, 2010

I blinked....

I blinked...
-and it is almost fall.  It seems like just a few weeks ago Snowmageddon occurred and we had  almost 2 feet of snow overnight.


-3 weeks ago it was HOT and HUMID!.   90's! The kind of hot where you want to stay in the shade!


 -So hot I wore a dress to work it was so hot (me sitting on the floor playing with preschoolers all day is not exactly dress up time).

-Now, I see the trees are turning to golds and red-no longer "just 1 or 2"-but most have some spots of change.

-There are leaves all over my yard-laying on still blooming flowers and green grass.

-I saw Halloween decorations in yards today.

-My husband suggested taking the air conditioners out of the windows.

-I love the colors of fall
-I love the smells of autumn
-I love halloween
-I love football weather

-It was what I missed most when we lived in Florida

-Now, what I miss most is warm, sunny, hot weather.

-Could we just skip winter this year? Huh? Just once?  No daytime temperatures below 60? Lots of sun? No snow? No cold rainy icky yucky days? No ice? No dead landscape? None of it.  I don't think anyone would miss it this year...Please?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

YouTube Finds

Some feel good videos.....

My absolute favorite Simon's Cat video.  Classic.

This cat doesn't move...but each fram he gets closer..and closer


Sunday, August 29, 2010

The non-facebook questionairre

 There is this list of questions going around the blog-o-sphere.  And since someone actually asked me to fill it out--I am...

Do you think that Chicory Blue:
…likes British accents? Yes.  Oh my.  Yes.
…likes blue eyes? I used to have blue eyes and blonde hair...then came puberty.  I love blue eyes (which is ironic considering I have never even once dated a man with blue eyes)
… is part of the Mile-High Club? I can hardly fit in  the seats/bathroom/stand up in a plane-what do you think?
…can cook? Yes-I do better when I have a recipe to follow...
…has ever failed a class? Yes-but not because I didn't know the material-I quit the class but didn't withdrawl
…is a good driver? Yes--but I hate to drive in unknown places, traffic, when there is a concrete wall/barrier and no shoulder or in the yes unless any of those are occurring-then I am probably that SLOW driver you hate!
…has good taste? I think I do-isn't that what counts?
…recycles dirty underwear? No.
…will do anything to get what she wants? Depends on the "want".  There are a select few things I would do anything for...
…should pass on the chocolate cake? I should-but I won't.
…is hot?No-this chick loved living in Florida and misses the weather
…thinks shopping at Walmart is classy? hahahahahahaha
…has ever slapped anyone? Yes..I am sure I have once or twice-always a man-always deserved it-never slapped them hard enough though.
…spends more than an hour on Facebook every day? No-I pretty much check my friends updates and go...
…has ever skinny dipped?No-the opportunity never came up-seriously.
…has ever eaten a booger? No.
…is a jerk? Isn't everyone at one time?
…has ever stolen money from friends? No
…has ever cheated on a test? Yes. I seem to recall passing French because I sat next to someone who knew the language during the final in highschool
…was a dork in high school? Yes-all 3 of them.
…has ever lied to avoid a date?Hmm?  Probably.
…is fun to be around? I am sure it depends on the other persons' point of view
…is cute? No.  cute is for children and pets.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hiking with Chloe

4+ foot black snake (nonpoisonous)

black and shiny

We walked a ways through the woods and into a field:

and then down a hill and across another field to a monument.
Those little legs get tired....

The Ride

Best Seat

Taking the easy way

Please say some prayers and think happy I was posting this----a couple hours after we got home--Chloe hurt her back (? or hip) playing ball....we are watching her now-and a vet trip seems imminent.

UPDATE:  She is walking somewhat better today-especially after she gets we decided to let her rest and call our regular vet tomorrow.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Surprisingly, I have read over 50 book so far this year.  Here are my favorites (so far):

Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosney
This book is set in both current day and World War II.  While researching for an article she is writing, woman tries to find out what happened to Jewish  family who occupied her husband's families apartment prior to their ownership.  She find that the young girl of the family (Sarah) was the only survivor-she finds out how her husband's family and Sarah's are connected. 

The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Norman Doidge
 I loved this non-fiction book because it shows you how people overcame serious issues with forward-thinking doctors.

Best Easy Day Hikes-Pittsburgh, Bob Frye
 This book  has many great hikes usually 1-3 miles in length in parks in the Pittsburgh area.

Oh My Stars, Lorna Landvik
I think the last paragraph of the Goodreads description says it best: "It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery–as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way."

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, The Man Who Would Cure the World, Tracy Kidder
This is the story of a doctor who sees problems in Haiti-and fixes them.  He went to Haiti at 23 and began treating the poorest of the poor.  He has since developed a model health care system and hospital (for the area of Haiti he lives in) and solves many problems simply.  Written before this years earthquake-I would love to know if/how his area was affected and his solutions-truly a great man.

Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum
Set in World War II  Germany-it's a story of a woman and her struggle to survive in war-torn Germany.  A survivor of the holocaust-from a different angle, a German woman.  She falls in love with a Jewish man-then, pregnant and alone she finds refuge in a bakery-who makes some hard choices and struggles to live with them.

Simon's Cat, Simon Tofield
-This is just a fun book!  A book of cartoons about Simon's Cat of youTube fame. I swear I know a cat just like him!

A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents, Liza Palmer
Grace is leading a good life-great job, house and boyfriend, however, she has a secret-her family. When her father is in the hospital she finally goes home-to face her family and herself.  not quite Chick-Lit...Not quite novel-somewhere in between.
I love another book by this author (Seeing Me Naked) even more!-

Matterhorn: A Vietnam War Novel,  Karl Marlantes
-Definitely a book I would read again. It appears realistic (I say appears because having never been a soldier I can't say 100% for sure).  I am not into war books but this one grabbed me and pulled me through the thick book- I had to stop and read the (very thorough) glossary to make sure I understood at times-but it didn't really hamper the story-or my reading ease. It held my attention all the way through and I reluctantly put it down when I was finished. I wanted to know how it turned out for some characters. It is as much about the soldiers as it is about how war is directed-with the higher ups phoning in orders from safe locations and having no clue what is actually going on in reality.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
-This book is about a young girl at what at first appears to be some type of boarding school/orphanage...but you eventually find out the truth...Told from the "present" when the main character meets up again with her private school friends.  It's chilling when you, the reader, realize the truth about their lives.  I heard recently this is being made into a movie.

Night of Many Dreams, Gail Tsukiyama
-The fact that I love this book isn't a big surprise to me-she is one of my favorite authors and there are only a couple that are not appealing to me.  this is a coming of age novel set in hong Kong-the story of 2 sisters during and after World War II. 

What are your favorites read (so far) in 2010?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Here is what I made for dinner tonight.  You could substitute ground chicken or turkey or vegetarian crumbles OR black beans and refried beans.  Sorry-no pictures. 

Mexican Casserole

1 lb. hamburger
1 package Taco Seasoning (I use the less sodium, no msg one)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 box frozen corn, defrosted 
1 cup shredded cheese
2 boxes Jiffy corn Muffin mix

Brown the Hamburger.  Drain the fat.  Add in Seasoning, tomatoes and corn.  Simmer until warmed through.  Place in a casserole dish.

Prepare the Corn muffin mixes per the box (1 egg and 1/3 cup milk for each box), adding a little more milk so the mixture is pourable.
Pour onto the hamburger mixture in the casserole dish-so that it covers the mixture. 
Top with Shredded cheese.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure the Cornbread is cooked all the way through in the center-bake in 5 minute intervals if more time is needed.

Serves 6 (?)  (There are 2 are us and we probably have leftovers for 2 nights)

Variations:  add in chiles, black beans, use Salsa instead of diced tomatoes.  Add more cheese on top for the last 5 minutes to get a gooey effect.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Embracing Me

The lovely and talented jayesel wrote on her blog about “Imposter Syndrome”and how we seem to doubt our own selves and what we are good at.  It's a good read-so go read it and then come back.

She asked her readers to come up with a list of 7 things we are good and be proud: 

7 Things I Do Well:

1)  I am a kick-ass speech therapist for preschool-aged children.

2)  I am a good Navigator.  I am in charge of getting us to and from points unknown-and the various detours to take if a turn is missed.

3) I have a great memory, especially auditory memory. I am famous for repeating verbatim conversations-especially when someone else is in error.

4) I am a good reader.  I devour books, magazines, labels-anything.

5) I take good pictures.  Hence the reason I am not in any-I take them ALL.

6) I am a good and supportive wife.  You'll just have to trust me on the reasons for this one.

7) I am a good flower gardener.  My yard is always in bloom during the summer.

Continue Jayesel's challenge!  What are you good at?  Post your own list!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The contest

I dislike housework-until it is done and I love how good everything looks.  You wouldn't know that from this summer when I cleaned every. single. wall, closet, drawer, floor, nook and cranny.  My husband hates housework.  I won't ask him directly why because if he answered like I think he would (some of his family think it is a sin to let boys/men do any housework)  there would be blood-and not mine.   My husband uses his back injury to not do housework.  I get that his back hurts-and sometimes it is bad-but not all the time. 

Over the years I have devised ways to get him to do house work-I split up the rooms and I have practiced turning a blind eye when things are dusty--I know he will eventually clean because his "messy tolerance" is lower than mine (but not by much!)  My best scheme?
I bought a Dyson.  My pet and human hair hating husband loved it so much I have barely used it.  (I recently bought a shark, too for quick cleaning and same result-his baby).

This year a new hurdle in the chore department arose-lawn mowing.  Before moving here I had never mowed (really)  I made it 30+ years without touching a lawn mower.  My parents sent me away when they mowed grass due to my allergies.  I rented as an adult in places where the landlord took care of the lawn.  Not here.  We have to take care of the yard now.  Don't get me wrong-I love yard work.  Love it!  I have mowed the grass for 3 summers with only a few complaints even though I am a horrible mower-since.  I cut in a random way, I can't mow along the fence without getting the mower stuck- I cut off the flower on my hostas, I displace the borders on m flower beds every single time.

All of this I chalked up to a learning experience until I mowed over a Cast Iron cover to a sewer vent (?)  that was flush with the ground-something I had done dozens of times in 3 years--and, for the record, something my husband did too the few times he has mowed.  This time, however, when I mowed over it the blade of the mower caught it and shattered the CAST IRON top into a gazillion pieces.  (We have not been able to find a replacement that fits either).

The Husband got angry.  I got angry at him for being angry.  As I said-this is the way we have both mowed that spot for 3 summers.  So I quit mowing. 

Surprisingly, he started mowing without complaint.

It helped  that the neighbor asked loudly why I was the only one mowing and my husband wasn't-and my answer may not have included "back injury." Men hate it when neighbors point out things  :)

It helped for awhile that I hurt my knee and my asthma has flared up majorly because of the long, hot, wonderful actual summer we are having.

Now, he has an intestinal issue (IBS) and he is going through a huge flare up and getting off the couch isn't high on his to-do list.  (He has an endoscopy tomorrow-this is a baaaad flare-up)

I am still having asthma issues.  Big ones- where mowing the grass may not be okay-and I'm not going to find out.

So now neither of us is willing to mow the lawn.

The grass is high enough to 'flower'.  I am thinking of tying a flag on the dog so I can track her movements in it.

It's a contest to see who breaks first.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Seriously? I already take 5 medicines just for allergies.

I have been very very good about double (and triple) checking everything unknown that I eat since the Almond incidents of June
So why am I sitting here typing this with hive covered eyes?  This has happened to me 3 times since June.  Once when I was in St. Louis,  last week when I came home from the Farmer's Market and now tonight-after a book club meeting at Panera Bread (had lemonade only) and ate 1/2 a fudge sundae (no nuts) from McDonalds that my husband gave me.

This is very scary.  Knowing what I am allergic to is so important since my symptoms can be life threatening.  I have not had a new food allergy since I was 14, when almonds started causing  hives.  (Bananas and Avocados started around 11 or so.) 
In fact, the "newest" allergy is 10 years (or more) old-Latex-and related to the banana/avocado allergy (fruit-latex syndrome).

Nothing from the three outbreaks is the same-italian food, a bite of a cookie (this one I guessed might be almond oil in the cookie mix-but really not sure) lemonade and fudge ice cream sundae.  So-is it food?  Airborne (because I am allergic to basically everything you breathe out there), the dog (please NO!), the mold wall at work (yeah-it is nasty imagine a 3 ft tall swath of mold that goes fro 10 feet or so-I guess I need to keep a mirror handy) or one of my many medicines suddenly rebelling?   I have no idea-I can't find the connection. 

I think this means a trip to an allergist-once I find one.  5 medicines for asthma and allergies are apparently not enough.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ramblings BAD/GOOD

 BAD:-My husband has been jobless for 3 1/2 years.  (2 1/2  years of this he was in school unable to find part-time work) but now he has a degree and nothing)  We are down to our last month of "extra" money to cover food and gas and any other expense (my check pays the bills only).  He sends out 30 resumes a week. For his degree (Sport Management) and any other jobs.  He applies for "minimum wage" jobs.  He can't stand on his feet all day (but can some of the day).  He is either under or over qualified-or he hears nothing.
GOOD:  I asked my boss for a new Mac laptop, a $300 program, an ipad (+ apps) and a flip video camera and she said there grant money to fufill my request THUD (that is me hitting the floor)

BAD: This is the last week I see my students who go to Kindergarten-it is a week filled with tearful goodbyes and "putting out fires".
GOOD:  Hello reduced caseload and time I can actually do paperwork! (for a few weeks anyway)

BAD: I found out my niece and nephew (ages 6 and 7) are living in a 1 room motel with their Mom and her boyfriend since they got evicted for not ever paying rent (yet have blackberrys, video games, throw parties and (we highly suspect) buy drug (pot at least-we can smell that).
GOOD:  My brother might actually step up and get custody of the kids.  One can hope.  Right now he is in a "watch and wait" situation--seeing what unfolds before he "jumps the gun"

BAD: One of my students has a relapse of cancer.  It doesn't sound good.  The Dad also was recently diagnosed with cancer. 
GOOD I'm at a loss for a good point-he just turned 4.

BAD:  My dog (who is almost 11) has lumps on her belly. 
GOOD: She doesn't seem sick.

BAD: I was charged for HBO last month (I cancelled it before it was no longer free)
GOOD: They refunded me
BAD: I was charged AGAIN
GOOD: I got to vent to Verizon (again) (I was nice and sent it via email this time)
BAD: I still am unsure if it is actually fixed.

BAD:  Took my car in to get looked at for an exhaust leak
GOOD: No leak
BAD: need front parking light, back license light, struts and something else (brakes?) by Inspection in October
GOOD:  I have until October
BAD: Got home and discovered they forgot to put the lens back on my parking light
GOOD:  Called and took it in-they found it/put it in
BAD: Just discovered the license plate light cover is gone.
GOOD: I get to vent more frustration out to Rorich  :)

BAD: Inservice all next week
GOOD: followed by (my last) 2 weeks off

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Kids + No money = My Summer Staycation

Well, Summer 2010 (as far as vacation goes) is almost in the books for me this year.  Having no money this year to go anywhere I am staycationing at home by...are you ready for this...Cleaning.  Yep.  I spent my summer cleaning every single nook and cranny of this house.  I scrubbed the walls, sorted through and organized drawers, shampooed carpets and wiped down every surface (even candles got a wipe!).

I found the perfect dry sink for my kitchen gained a bunch of storage-and found my countertop again! I cleaned the basement-dusting and vacuuming all the cat hair up.  We spent a Saturday having a yard sale--and supposedly we will do it again in August.  We donated to goodwill.  I pitched a bunch of stuff (old spices and just general junk not worthy of goodwill even.)  I even managed to convince the husband (aka Pack Rat and Future Hoarder) to sort through some of his stuff (15% of it maybe but it is a start!).

I even went into work one day for 3 hours and did some organizing there (my office supplies and some of my therapy material since I can't dot it during the year (no time and my office is a desk, cabinet and filing cabinet in a therapy room and she always has kids in there so I can't do anything "distracting")

I took it slow-one room a day with some breaks in between (1 break because it was so freaking hot and we lack AC, 1 break because my asthma flared up from all the dust (?) and 1 break to go help my Mom harvest, freeze and can the early garden stuff)

I do have a couple things left:
-the oven needs cleaned.  It is self cleaning and it is still too hot to have it exude extremely high temps into our already too warm house
- I need to somehow organize home office supplies and my scrapbooking stuff (but I can't until someone gets his electronic (dvr, dvd,burner, vcr, cd and who knows what else) mess off of it all)
Redust the basement since my Mom's cat came for 2 weeks and he just doesn't shed-he leaves hair bunnies everywhere (and they get together and multiply!!)
-I need to figure out how to store my grandma's paintings and get them under the bed.
-Figure out how to get Mr. pack Rat to go through the other 85% of his stuff.

Somehow, all this cleaning makes me feel good-but at the same time it makes the other stuff that needs done stand out:
-refinish the 1/2 stripped coffee table
-declutter all my email accounts
-clean my car (traveling office really-the trunk and back seats are jammed with toys and therapy stuff)
-color, cut and laminate the bad full of therapy materials I copied to make
-I have a shoe (boot) box of recipes (from friends and magazines) that need gone through and made into a home made cookbook.

By the time I finish everything it will be time to do this all again, Sigh

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Random Stuff

I should really stop composing posts in my head while traveling in a car.  Apparently there is a mind block between the car and house-I can't ever remember the bright and witty post I 'finished' when I pull in the driveway.

I dropped my Jetta off at the VW dealer where I bought it for a look-see because it sounds like there just might be a hole in the exhaust (and of course there will be since just this week we overhauled the brakes and rotors on the Nissan-it is some law that both cars must have major repairs at the same time).  As I was dropping my key into the overnight slot my I noticed a tiny sign on the window that said, "As of May 2010 we will no longer be an authorized VW repair place."  Seriously?  I called and made an appointment for my VW.  I called and doubled checked the day.  You called and reminded me.  I have been a customer for years and YOU NEVER MENTIONED THIS on the phone or dropped me a FYI postcard!  Apparently they dropped the whole VW line at this dealer.  Customer Service

A friend of mine is ditching Disney for vacation and going to Cleveland-what is in Cleveland that surpasses Disney?  I mean, you can day trip to Cleveland to see anything worth seeing.

I know why they call it "Spring Cleaning."  You should do this in the Spring-when the temperatures are lower.  I have cleaned all the rooms in the house except the kitchen (scrubbed the walls, sorted, organized and trashed things.  I have shampooed the carpets.  I got the pack rat my husband to go through some of his stuff.  I vacuumed and dusted (ick cobwebs!) the basement.  I still have to do all of this (minus the carpet) in the kitchen-and vacuum the basement again (once my Mom's cat who leaves fur bombs daily leaves.)  I have done all of this so far in the heat-with only one room having AC.

This year it looks like we are not embarking on a summer vacation-unless you count my trip to St. Louis for my Grandmother's funeral.  Other than the obvious sad parts-I DID have a little fun-my Dad drove all over his old neighborhood and related stories about his growing up there.  Anyhoo-I stumbled upon some posts I did on facebook last year about our vacation then and, since it was a funny adventure (involving cockroaches, prostitutes and being mistaken for a stripper)-I think I will post some tidbits in the next few days for some lighthearted reading. 

Why can't my husband do anything on his own?  He can't schedule appointments, order something online, troubleshoot anything, make a decision or just plan something in general.  Is it a man thing or am I just the only lucky one with a co-dependent husband?

Edit:  I am off to my Mom's (no internet!!)  for a couple days since the garden is overflowing and she needs help.  I will post my vacation redo when I get back.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writer's Workshop: Earthquake (and not where you would expect one)

I have decided to give a go at a Writer's Workshop because *wow* do I need to work on my blog writing. 

I have never lived in an earthquake zone.  That being said, there was an Earthquake here in Pittsburgh last month-which i didn't feel (I was driving and I never noticed it).  I was kind of bummed...Since it was a only mild one I wanted to feel it...but then again feeling a mild earthquake twice while living in non-earthquake areas would kind of be like being struck by lightning twice, right?

My first earthquake took place in an even more unlikely place than Pittsburgh: Florida.

I lived 2 blocks from the beach in a small coastal town (embedded in the larger St. Pete/Clearwater/Tampa area) in a duplex that was up on stilts.  Stilts! you say?  Yes-but having gone through 2 (category 2) hurricanes sitting inside it I can tell you it is actually very stable.  Anyway-the house did vibrate a little when someone moved quickly up the outside steps...or romped next door-or on the Washer's spin cycle...and other times I just won't relate here.  

So-one morning, after a late night out, we were sleeping in.  I remember the house shaking and it woke me up. I drowsily thought to myself "Oh, we must have neighbors" and "they must have kids" (sidenote: the apartment next door was a seasonal rental and we had neighbors only about 8 weeks total a year).  Then I drifted off for a second and then thought "That washing machine is off balance".
That was it.  I fell back asleep for a few more minutes, got up and began the day.  We went for brunch out-and as we backed out of the driveway I noticed that there were no signs of a neighbor-which struck me as odd but I figured it must have been maids I heard readying the place for renters.  We went to brunch, ran errands and got home a few hours later.  I turned on the TV and  the cable company's news channel Bay News 9 came on by default (the one thing I loved most about our cable company, seriously-a channel devoted to the bay area-that ran 24/7) There was a red warning scroll at the bottom so I glanced at it..took a couple steps..went back and re-read.   Apparently, we had slept through an earthquake.  It was 6.0 in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and my town had felt it the strongest (a measley 3.5 or so).

I asked my husband if he felt the house shaking that morning-and he did.  Then he said, "but we don't have neighbors so it was weird".   Yes it was, honey-it was an EARTHQUAKE!

I am glad, in the end, that we basically slept through it.  It was not too long after an earthquake caused that devastating tidal wave in Thailand, etc.  We lived 2 blocks from the ocean behind us-and across the street from the backwaters so basically a long heavy rain would make those stilts we lived on useful.  I know now that the Gulf isn't deep enough for a tidal wave-since the news people went on and on for days about our little earthquake--but I didn't know it that morning.  I would have been more than a little worried.  In the end, no one anywhere suffered any damage-just a scary moment or two.

I can only imagine what I would have thought if I had woken up that morning and walked outside to find that my house was now beach front (or middle of the ocean) property-or worse-if it was a strong quake that did damage.   But it gives me a story to relate when people ask me about living in Florida with hurricanes...I say "and don't forget about the Earthquakes!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Husband!

Way back in March-when winter still had its grips on me and summer seemed like a far way dream-my husband asked me to buy him 2 Iron Maiden concert tickets for his (June) birthday.  He planned this well.  Had it been warm and sunny out I would have been thinking clearer.  I agreed.  He wanted seats, not lawn because he has a back issue that flares up unexpectedly....and I am not a fan of the Lawn at Star Lake...Post Gazette... First Niagara Pavillion.

I bought these tickets with the understanding that we were not going to have a repeat of the Judas Priest concert of two years ago-where I ended up being the person he chose to take.  While I like some of this genre of music, I don't LOVE it and 1) I am not a headbanger, 2) I don't dress like one and 3) I only recognize a couple songs from the group playing-and that is because my husband plays their CD's in the shower.  But, guess what-my husband couldn't get one of his 2 friends to go (one of whom really wanted to, but 4 kids, a 4:30 am job and wife studying for exams = no go) -and wouldn't take my offer of introducing him to my friends fiance-a metal head---I got to be the proud holder of the second ticket again.

It was the typical scene-lots of black clothing...lots of hair...many more men than women (I walked right up to the body-pat search while my husband had to wait in a long line).  Many of the women wore very little-some should have worn much, much more.  There was a mix of ages-from 4/5~ish up to a couple I am pretty sure are retired/near retirement since Iron Maiden has been around forever...I saw fathers (and maybe one mother) passing on the Iron Maiden musical experience to their kids.  I saw a few young kids (too young IMHO) on their own And (major kudos to these men) some fathers obviously there to chaperone their rocker pre-teens/eraly teens.  These Dads were so NOT wanting to be there..obviously not even a little bit-but they were there because their sons wanted to go.  (How to spot them?  They are dressed in khaki's and dress shirts/golf shirts and have a uncomfortable looking young boy next to them).

So-all of this I noted prior to the opening act (Dream Theater-and in between acts.  But in reality, these groups put on a good show-great voices, lots of movement and good set designs.  I actually had a good time even if I recognized only 2 or 3 songs total.  I took lots of pictures (but we were too far back for them to be great, even with a zoom) for my husband.  He told me the basic pictures he wanted and I tried to accomodate him (I say try because the guy with the huge cast on one arm, a big head and a large  uncasted arm holding an equally large cell phone kept getting in my shots.  I took 3 videos and 120 he will be very happy-I guess this means I have to edit them and scrapbook them or something.

My only complaint, other than the guy 3 rows ahead that blocked all my shots, is that the people on our left took over one of our seats when we stood-I literally had to stand in front of my husband the entire time-and he would reel me back in when I drifted in front of the boy on my right (sorry about that) trying to get a shot around the bighead/arm/cast guy.  The couple next to us refused to move back to their seat area.  Oh well.

In the end-my husband had a good time--which was the point of it being his birthday present... and don't tell him-given the choice- I would go to a metal concert any given day over a country concert. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rock of Ages

I flew to St. Louis a day ahead of the viewing with my Dad and Step-Mom so Dad could finalize everything for my grangmother's funeral.  My Dad mentioned that my grandmother had kept a list of things she liked and did not like from every funeral she went to-and basically left instructions.  She wanted "Amazing Grace".  She wanted "When the Saints go Marching In" played (Recessional)".  She picked a wonderful poem, Miss Me-But Let Me Go" to be read.  What didn't she want?  "Rock of Ages".  When my Dad said that I kind of choked-but let it go.  He said it again the next day, that he made the funeral director note there would be NO "Rock of Ages"  Finally, I couldn't hold it in-I had to say something. 

Me- Dad-I can understand Grandma not wanting Rock of Ages, but WHOSE funeral did she go to that it was played?

Dad-Well, it is a very popular song and is played at many funerals

Me-Um, Really?

Dad Yes (and starts singing) "Rock of Ages...Cleft for Me.."

Me-OH! isn't the Rock of Ages that I Def Leppard

Step Mom (hysterical laughter)

Me-(Hysterical giggles)


I related this fact (that Grandma specified NO Rock of Ages) to my cousins and brother over drinks that night (and to my brother again the next day because he was too drunk to remember)...and was met with astonished hysterical laughter because we are all the same generation and they, too thought Def Leppard's Rock of Ages was the song, too... DID YOU?

Rock of ages, rock of ages
Still rollin', keep a-rollin'
Rock of ages, rock of ages
Still rollin', rock'n'rollin'

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Grandma

*My grandma taught me to play board games and card games.
She taught me to play Kings on the Corners, Gin (5 and 7 card), Pinochle and Oh Hell!
I went to her house every day after school some years-and many days in the summer and she played games with me for hours.  I never thought about all the time she devoted to me just playing games with me. She taught me to win and lose graciously and never cheat.

*My Grandma taught me to love books-especially mysteries.  She introduced me to The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. 
I was allowed to sit on the library's counter (where she volunteered) even though there was a sign clearly prohibiting it.

*My Grandma made the best coffee cake and the best Plum Cobbler.
She, along with her mother who died when i was 17,  made the best Custard Pie, Stollen (German raisin bread) and home made noodles.  I remember from before Thanksgiving to Christmas her living room was set up with tables for noodle drying-and how I would run in and snatch a few to eat.

*My grandma took up painting in the 70's. She gave me her first painting ever, a seagull, which hangs in my hallway.  I have other of her paintings-they are treasured possessions in my family-and guarded with all the fury a mother cat guards her kittens (through no fault of his own-my brother came to think the Seagull picture was his as it hung at my Mom's house for years when I was in college and early adulthood and he has tried to steal it from me (hopefully as a joke).

*My grandma taught me to love flowers.  The things she missed most when they moved to a retirement village was her flower garden.  So, she became the head of the Grounds Committee (a volunteer position)-in charge of landscaping, hiring and firing of garden personnel for the entire complex.  I remember how many years she tried to get a hillside to grow wildflowers.  Through multiple planters-making them each reseed when they, yet again, failed to grow.  She would take me out on the balcony and tell me the latest development.  I am not sure that hillside ever bloomed.

*My grandma took me on many vacations with her (and grandpa) to visit family in other states.   I am the oldest grandchild and the only one who experienced this-except my brother once got to go because they drove me out to visit my Mom and brother when they lived in Oklahoma-and he drove back to Pennsylvania with us so he could stay with me and Dad for awhile.  I am the only grandchild with memories of her sister (Aunt Glad) and her children, and their children (my cousins) who are around the same age.   I am also the only grandchild that saw her tipsy-once-after her Mom's funeral at the restaurant after 1 or 2 glasses of wine.

*My grandma, as a young woman, once worked for a judge as a secretary.  She was bored one day and decided to organize his accounting books.  She discovered along the way information that led to the discovery that the judge's business partner was embezzling.  She had to go to trial.  The guilty party issued a death threat in public towards her.  I get my constant seeking out information from her.  I can't ever let my mind just sit still.

*My grandma once let it slip that I was her favorite grandchild.  She told my husband when we were leaving to go home to Florida how he was taking "her favorite" away.  I know what she meant.  She loved all her grandchildren equally.  I just happened to be the one who spent the most time with her-the one she saw daily some years-the one who lived in the same town. The one who grew up in front of her-rather than in fleeting visits or photos.

*My grandma died today.  She lived a full life well into her 90's. I know she is finally at peace and free from a body and mind that for the last years trapped her inside and made her a mere shadow of herself.

*I miss her so much

Thursday, June 17, 2010

There better not be a third time!

I can't remember a time that I wasn't allergic to something.  Trees, grass, pollen, mold, cats-the list goes on and on.  I was a sneezing itching watery eyes mess growing up-my friends used to count my sneezes as an Olympic Sport OR I was sleeping off the allergy medicine. The person who invented Claritin-my hero.  In my teens I developed a few more allergies-these ever so fun-bananas, avocado and almonds.  The banana and avocado allergy has manifested itself as something that feels like hives inside my stomach.  Joy.  I haven't eaten either of these since I was 14 or so.  Of course, these was the accidental ingestion-a sour apple martini-which, by the way, is made with banana liquor at certain locations.  Live and Learn.  Almond has been my worst allergy.  The last time I had an almond was when I was 15 and I ate a chocolate and almond bar.  My face got really swollen.  Thankfully, I was very unaware that I could have died.  I just sat at home and waited for the swelling to go down.  In allergy tests I am, on a scale of 1-4 a 4+.
Dining out, pot luck dinners and grocery shopping are oh so fun with these 3 food allergies.  Bananas and avocado are pretty easy.  I know what foods they lurk in-it is pretty obvious I don't eat banana bread or guacamole.  (Except smoothies-so many smoothies have banana as a secret ingredient!) Almonds, however, lurk in the strangest places.  Cereal Bars is the best example.  Ever heard of Almond paste?  It is the most popular filler in cereal bars-even ones that don't have any nut in the title.  I picked up a bag of popcorn at Walmart the other day and had to put it back.  Why?  The lone ingredient was popcorn but the allergy statement plainly says "contains trace amounts of almonds"  Seriously.

I am very diligent about checking the allergy warning labels.  I am that annoying person at pot lucks and restaurants asking about ingredients (twice servers have insisted their food was almond free and I have been served green beans with almonds and pie with them baked into the crust).  I have also learned that "familiar" dishes are not always safe (who puts almonds in oatmeal raisin cookies?  At least they were clices to when I bit into one the almond popped out to say hello!) My coworkers are diligent as well to not bring any dishes with almonds or to warn me-setting the offending item on a different table even so I will remember.

So imagine my surprise the other day when, after we ate out pot-luck salad bar lunch, one turned to me and said, "you didn't eat the fired onions did you? they have almonds."  My reaction: instant panic attack because, yes-I ate some.  Instantly, everyone panicked with me.  "Do I have an Epi-Pen?" (No, doc won't prescribe). How do I feel? (I can't breathe but that is because of the panic).  After a couple minutes I just went to my office.  I was in tears. I was shaking.  Let's face it-I was scared.  My friends sister died of a food allergy reaction not to long ago.  Eventually, someone came to tell me that the Onions says "may contain because manufactured on a facility that processes almond".  That calmed me down-not that that isn't bad--but it is a hell of a lot better than the fried onion almond salad mix they first thought it was where almonds are actually part of the ingredients.  Eventually I declared myself OK-and went about my day.

Did I mention I am extremely diligent about checking ingredients?

Well, last night I stopped at Giant Eagle and bought a last minute birthday cake for my husband.  We went out to eat at a place where we don't eat dessert.  He wanted a white cake.  I grabbed the only white cake they had.  I looked at the ingredients listed on the top-no problem.  Around 10:30 last night he wanted his cake.  I noticed that the ingredient list on top was really only for the sprinkles-so, diligent me-looked at the allergy warning for the cake-wheat, soy, eggs and milk.  No problem.  I pulled off this label in pieces because it was stuck on with of the stickiest glue ever-ate the cake and that was it...Right?   Wrong!

About 15 minutes after I finished the cake my husband noticed I had a piece of the label stuck to me.  I playfully put it on him.  He pulled it off and went to throw it away-except he looked at it first.  The pretty white cake I bought?  It was WHITE ALMOND CAKE.  Eff. Instant panic attack.  Hubby wants to drive toward the ER (30 minutes) and I am thinking we should just drive over to the ambulance station a couple blocks away if I have a reaction.  It would be faster than even calling 911.

Then I remembered the allergy warning didn't include nuts.  We pieced together the label and (except in the big title I didn't even look at) there is no mention of almonds, almond oil or anything nut related.  Thank you, Artificial Sweeteners!  Still, I stayed up until 2am (the arbitrary time my husband set to monitor me) thinking every single twitch, itch, feeling in my face was the beginning of the swelling. It wasn't and I thanked the artificial sweetener gods and went to bed with one thought:

I am not eating any more of that cake!