Monday, March 29, 2010

I Am Human!

I had mentioned in one post about finding some of dad's matches in a coat pocket of one of his jackets after washing it. In that post I had put the fact that I don't cry much and haven't cried much since dad passed.

Yesterday, I left early in the a.m. with our church youth group to drive down to Wears Valley, TN and a service project we do every year. I came along this year, to get a free ride down for work as I have to drive over to Athens, GA and down to Asheville, NC and other place, but I do get to be with the teens for a while so, it works out nicely.

I had a larger SUV yesteday with a lot of luggage and three of the high schoolers. We had a pretty great time driving down through Indy and Cincy and then over to Lexington. We sang and laughed and had some good times. After the Man O'Way exit in Lexington, it starts hitting a little more "southern" with the mountains and such. Its beautiful and our family used to drive this exact route down quite frequently as we've always had a lot of family at school in SC. It brings back great memories.
The most recent time I've been back this way was last spring, for the oldest nephews college graduation in SC. Actually, the service group that came to Wears Valley last year had left a few tools at the Ranch we work at and so I had volunteered to stop on the way down to the graduation so we could pick the missing items up.

Dad hadn't been doing well around that time, but both he, and I, were determined that he would see his oldest grandsons graduate from college. So, I bundled him and mom up in the car and we drove down, with the agenda to stop overnight in Pigeon Forge and then head over to Wears Valley.

I've been going to Wears Valley for many years and I was excited for mom and dad to finally see the Ranch as its absolutely beautiful and a complete miracle for a lot of kids from really bad homes. God has completely made it possible and so its an exciting place to be. FYI, check out their link...

The parents and I drove down and came to Pigeon Forge and stopped the night. We passed through all the mountains and ate at the Olive Garden, per dad's request as he hadn't been tempted much by food towards the end. It was great to see him actually want to eat somewhere. Then, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn next door and in the morning, we packed up and headed up the mountain to the Ranch. I got to introduce him to Seth, a great guy we work with every year. We picked the tools up and then Seth told me to take dad and mom around the Ranch and show them the place. We drove around and I got to tell them about the Ranch and show them the kids' houses and the horses and the science lab and all. Dad was really impressed and thought it was beautiful, although, I do remember, that he didn't have a lot of energy to show massive excitement, but he did wearily snap some pictures out the car window.

As we drove down last night, right after the Merchants Dr exit in TN, which is about an hour from the Ranch, something completely hit me and I just started crying. It wasn't loud blubbering but the "kids" in the car definitely knew something was wrong and Alana, a youth grouper as well as a friend of mine, was so sweet. For some reason, this all just made me think of dad and how we used to come down and how this had been the last trip I took him. And, like all the other trips I did with them towards the end, I'm so completely glad that we did it! So, maybe it was a little happy cry too as he really did enjoy it and he was so proud of the grandsons! I passed the hotel and the Olive Garden and I just saw dad and him struggling to get into the car and struggling to eat half of the plate of food that he always loved at Olive Garden.

It also makes me sad for all the other grandkids, that he won't be able to experience their graduations. At least mom is still there! Thats a good thing.

I guess, more and more, over time, you remember people and things and even though its sad, those memories are happy in that its a memory of someone you loved.



Sometimes, All You Need Is To Go Shopping...

I had the afternoon again on Thursday after my meeting was done so I had the opportunity to take Kim over to Ellis Island and by the Statue of Liberty. Every time I go to Ellis, I find something new. This time, I found the room about charity and Elllis. There was a whole section about "mail order" brides coming over and how there were women's charities that were directed at "Americanizing" women to their new homeland. Going from the babushka to the pantyhose kind of thing.... It was kind of funny and I thought how sometimes, all we need is a little powder and a new skirt and the world seems a little better :) Proverbially speaking in some senses....

This was a mariners monument in the line to the ferry - I never noticed this before because I never have usually had a line going over to the island.... It was really kind of cool the way the guy is in the water.

Kim at Ground Zero. They're working on a monument there with these two large fountain/pools.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Seventh Circle of Hades

As Kim and I sat in the Marquis Theatre on Broadway in Times Square, watching lithe dancers whirling to the smooth tones of Frank Sinatra in the choregraphed movements of Twyla Tharpe, I leaned over and whispered "my brother would be in the seventh circle of hell right now..." But Kim and I surely enjoyed our evening anyways!
I'm in New York for a sterilization conference but we're only meeting 8 - noon on Wednesday and Thursday. So, I brought Kim along who had never been to NYC so I could take in a few of my favorite things without being by myself.
After the conference this morning, I ended up getting back to the hotel around 1 or 1:30 and so we went out to walk around. We stopped for cupcakes at a bakery called Crumbs and then we went back to the fashion district to pick out a bunch of material for Kim as she endeavours a new business scheme of making purses -- I expect her to be the next Kate Spade/Vera Bradley so I'm investing in the start up.... Someday we'll be living off embroidered bags in the Caribbean! Or maybe I'll just end up with a couple cool bags... Who knows.

We caught an early meal at this place in Times Square called Becco which is owned by Lidia Bastianich (from Lidia's Italy on PBS) . We had this special that included antipaste and then they come around with three different pasta specials and its unlimited. It was only $22.95 which was pretty good for how stuffed we were when we left. There was a seminole gnocche that was out of this world and then they had a spaghetti with tomato and fresh basil and then another pasta with bacon and cabbage. Of course, I had to try my beloved panna cotta for dessert, but I made a mistake and got a black and white one that completely masked the wonderful smooth taste of the panna cotta. Don't ever do black and white panna cotta!
We walked back around Times Square as we had finished early and then headed over to the theatre.
Something I've always wanted to do in NYC but have always wound up standing in an eternal line which I get sick of and just end up ditching, is to go to Serendipity for a frozen hot choclate. SO, since we had eaten dinner at 4:30, after our show, around 10ish, we trundled down to 60th Street and stood in a 5 minute line to sit at a little table and get frozen hot chocolate headaches. They were okay, but not stupendous as I had always imagined so, this experience was just a chalked-it-up-to-experience experience.

Who knows what adventure we'll hit tomorrow after my meetings and before we leave on an early early plane Friday morning.... Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Quite A Day!

This morning was spent at the ortho dr with my mom, waiting and having x-rays redone, in order to find out that mom has fractured her femur! She's got osteoperosis and so apparently, she didn't really need to do anything, which she didn't, in order to have the fracture happen. The good news is, that if she's good and stays off of it for 6 - 8 weeks, she can probably go without having surgery on it. Thats a really good thing. In the meantime, poor mom is stuck in this stiff leg brace and can't do anything because she can't put any weight on her left leg whatsoever. Good thing she just got the next series of her favorite NCIS series!

After getting mom settled at home with Pat, I took off for the airport and another return flight to New York -- once again, my dear LaGuardia..... For some reason, I always go through these blocks of having to be at the same airport for weeks on end. It was Charlotte a few weeks ago and now its to be New York. This is the second time I've gone through it in a week. At least, I didn't have to stay in NY this time. I had to rent a car and drive to Danbury, CT. The good thing about the flight I took is it got in late enought that I didn't have to wade through rush hour traffic in NY. I flew through New Rochelle and Yonkers and got to Danbury within an hour.

Its interesting going through the rental car area at LaGuardia because you have to go through these neighborhoods that totally look like they belong in another country. I don't know if the tenants there are Greek or Hispanic, but the houses just intrigue me. They're boxy and all fo them have haceinda kind of yards with tall metal fences around the houses and the cars of the owners. They have fake flowers and you can look in the windows and see brightly colored walls. The reason I question the Greek thing is that a lot of them have those big fountains in the front driveways that are way too big to match the size of the house. They're all packed together, one after another, with little room for yards in between.

Tomorrow I have one appointment in Danbury - a product complaint which I hate dealing with because its always their say against mine even when I know they're doing something wrong. It should be a pretty quick call and then back to the airport to catch another flight home.

Good night New York!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another Day Another Funeral

Uncle Joey passed away the end of last week and today was his funeral. Mom and Pat went to the visitation last night and I opted to go to the funeral today. It was pretty small - it made dad's seem monstrous in size. There were only about 4 cars that went to the cemetary where Uncle Joey was buried as a veteran and my cousin, Debbie, got the flag as she was one of Uncle Joey's only living relatives.
I thought dad's military thing at the cemetary was much better. The military above didn't quite get the flag folded as well as dad's and it took them a bit longer. And at dad's, I really couldn't tell if the Taps that they played were recorded or live -- at Uncle Joey's, I could tell it was recorded.
We went over to Bonnie Brook Gold Course for lunch afterwards, one of Uncle Joey's favorite gold courses and restaurants. But, they didn't start serving until too late and I had to go home to get mom to bring her to her hair appointment.
Mom has her ortho appt tomorrow so pray that all goes well!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mom's Knee

Mom had her MRI today. She won't know the results for 48 hours, in time for her appointment with her ortho doctor on Thursday morning. If anyone knows how to read an MRI and can tell me what the above pictures are, then maybe we'll know before Thursday...

In the meantime, she's hobbling around on a crutch and I went to church and retrieved the transport chair I had bought for dad -- we're reliving dad -- only mom is much easier to tend to. She's not as stubborn and will ask for help on occassion. She's resting up and will know what's going on and what needs to be done by Thursday evening, probably. Look for a post then!

Another Day On The Slopes

We started off and only took to skiing for about an hour before Dawn’s inability to take the hills led me to a decision. It was time for a new sport!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my snowshoes with so Dawn and I both ended up renting snowshoes and trekking all over the mountain. They and snowshoe tracks leading around and we were out for about 4 hours going up and then down the mountain.
Since it was time change on Saturday, we had supposedly changed out clocks to reflect this. So, after looking at Dawn’s watch and determining that we had time, we left the bottom of the hill on our snowshoes to go up to the top to where “The Cabin” is. Its up at about 2500 feet and so we hiked all the way up to have some hot chocolate and sit by the fire for a half an hour or so. We knew that that The Cabin closed at 3:30 so we got up there around 3ish. When we got there, the guy who manned the cabin was working on his skis and the food counter was all closed down. Guy working on skis barely said two words to us and there was no one else up there. The weather was a little nasty so the lack of people didn’t surprise us. We were a little offended that Cabin guy barely said anything to us, but we were ok just sitting by the fire for a few minutes and then strapping the shoes back on and heading back down the hill.

Once again – Dawn is a trooper! She’s a widow, has four kids and works some at their school. She’s a busy lady and she works out when she can but she doesn’t have the time that I do to good around and run and all. Needless to say, she had never skied or snowshoed and she wasn’t quite where I am physically (no offense at all Dawn!), but she was awesome! She was right on my tail almost the whole way and she was in for anything. She followed me to the top with no complaints and she came down without whining or acting like she was dying. She is a trooper!
The end of our mountain treck brought us back down to the ski shack to return our snowshoes which, God’s timing is perfect, and we came up to the shack right when the manager was pulling out. She stopped and asked if we needed to get in – and that’s when we found out that Dawn had not changed her watch as we had thought. It was actually an hour ahead of her watch time. When we had gone up to the Cabin, it was actually closed! Poor Cabin guy didn’t even say anything to us even though he had closed a half an hour before. What a nice guy!

Always Wear A Backpack!

Backpacks are extremely useful items. They aren’t always the most fashionable or excessively chic, but they are the epitome of usefulness! You can pack your weekend gear in a backpack and go on a camping trip. If you’re hiking, you can throw in your lunch and your first aid gear. Flying with your backpack is the best for getting in all your books and the little tidbits you might want on the plane. And, as discovered on another trip this weekend, backpacks are the height of safety while skiing!

Saturday, we headed out for our first day of skiing on the cross country trails at the Trapp Lodge. The weather was perfect, in so many words. It was about 44 so it was fairly warm. The snow was still on the ground in the mountains, but it was getting a little granulated from weather and use. The tracks were pretty well worn, but it was smooth sailing to start. Dawn was wonderful and a good sport and followed me off the beginners trail even though I was teaching her as we went. She’s a quick learner and adventurous so we set off up one of the blue slopes which is for experienced skiers (but wasn’t the difficult level yet). It was almost straight up. We would ski a little and then we’d have to do the V walk up a ways or stamp or feet to walk up on our skis. The whole while we were saying “what goes up must come down!”

After about 45 minutes to an hour of going up, we had to take a turn and – there we were greeted with the path that went down… STRAIGHT down. We’re talking like a almost complete angle downwards. Here’s the deal with cross country ski trails as well – they aren’t the fairly open, broad tracks that down hill ski trails are. They’re usually narrow, about 5 feet wide, and they usually wrap in and out of trees, to the point where you really can’t see where you’re going.
The technique of snowplowing is a wonderful technique overall. Put your skis in a V and dig your heels downward in the back and kind of plow down. This works wonderfully when you’ve got a nice gradual, short slope down. But, when you’ve got a slope that goes on for about a mile and you’re on icy snow and the angle is straight down – snowplowing just becomes you screaming down the hill. On top of that, Nordic skis are much harder to control than downhill skis in that regard.

Quick lesson for those who don’t know – there are two types of “cross country” skiing. There’s Nordic skiing which uses long, straight, skinny skis (which mine are excessively straight and very skinny). Nordic is the traditional skiing you see in those old movies where the Germans are skiing and yodeling through the mountains – just going in straight lines. Skate skiing uses straight, shorter skis and more of a ski boot as this is a combo of skiing and, well, skating. This is what you see on the Olympics now for the sports that are the combined shooting and skiing and for a lot of the other cross country skiing sports. You keep you ski in a V with you tips pointed out and then you “skate” from one foot to the other. Tough on your ankles if you’re not good to begin with. Oh – I can’t forget my favorite cross country skiing – skijoring…. I would LOVE to do this – if I had an obedient dog… Skjoring is you, on skis, with a tether around your waist, connected to you faithful, obedient – dog. The whole point is for Fido to pull you while you ski. One must have a focused and controlled canine to do this – unfortunately, although Calvin can be extremely focused – on squirrels does not count as a safe ski for me.

What about the backpack, you may be asking at this point. Well, here’s my story. I like being the designated backpack carrier on my cross country expeditions in hilly country because when I’m swooping down the mountain and feel like I’m about to loose control and my skis are stuck on ice and I’m ready to just wipe out, I like to turn myself and just let myself go down – on my backpack. Its kind of like I’m a big skiing turtle. I don’t suffer injury because backpack protects me! Its so clever! The only time its proven faulty was when I was skiing with friends in Idaho (see the picture at the top for my blog title) and we packed snacky things for when we went out. When we stopped halfway through the day to take a break and eat something – I opened the backpack to discover the bananas we had packed were completely mush – which wouldn’t have been a problem if they had not just squeezed themselves out of their skins and were squishy mush all over.

Anyways – I’ve determined that I need to get better at the downhill part of cross country. The little hills we have around us, like at Kettle Moraine, are pretty easy to take and I can control and know what I’m doing there. But, put me on a mountain mountain with those long Nordic skis and I’m at a loss. I will conquer it yet!

In the meantime – it always good – and safe – to travel with a backpack!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Moonlight In Vermont

A few things at work had scheduled me in the Maine/Vermont area. I had scheduled to take my college friend, Dawn, mom and my aunt with as well for a little weekend get-away. It turned out that, one by one, mom's travel buddies backed out or became ill so mom and I ended up travelling out alone and meeting Dawn.
Our first night we stayed in Burlington, VT. I was supposed to have driven over to Maine for some work and it was fairly close so we stayed right on the shores of Lake Champlaign. It was really pretty with the sun setting over it.
We ended up having to take mom back to the airport and putting her on a flight home as something had happened with her knee and she was having a hard time walking and was just wanting to go home. That was quite an adventure arranging all that. But she did get on the flight and made her connections and got back home where my brother, Alan, picked her up. She has an order in from her doctor for her to go and get her knee x-rayed on Saturday. We'll see what they have to say.
It was a little disappointing, though, as we were staying at the Trapp Family Lodge (as in Von Trapps). Dad and mom were supposed to have stayed there a few years ago but, funny, dad was having knee problems then so I ended up having to cancel their room and they never got there. Now, mom has something with her knee and she doesn't wind up there. Sad :(
Later in the day, before it closed at 5, we got in to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory for a tour. It was kind of interesting, but nothing too great. They did have the Scoop Shop there, though, with ice cream flavors that they don't sell anywhere else. They had this one awesome one - it was Coconut Seven Layer Bar with coconut, choclate and graham cracker. Oh - Cake Batter was the best with cake batter and swirls of choclate frosting.... YUM!
After the tour, we went "out back" to the flavor graveyard where some of the more popular retired flavors are "buried". There are actually about 450 flavors total that have been retired (including one of my favorites, S'mores). It was kind of cute.
We hit B & J's on the way to the Trapp Family Lodge where we checked in around 6ish. So - I had actually paid for ahead of time, rooms with two beds in them. I had even looked at pictures. But, they end us bringing us up to a room with one king bed in it. So, I call to say this is not what I had bought and the guy I'm talking to is asking me how many people we have and basically saying that this room was an appropriate room then with only two people. When I say that no, we want two separate beds, he tells me that there are two beds in the room and I tell him, no, I'm standing here looking at one. THEN - this is what he says, "No, there are two. The sofa is a bed". WHAT?! This is a hotel. I have prepaid, $200 a night, for a room with two ACTUAL beds - I had even seen a picture! When you pay $200 for two beds -- the sofa SLEEPER does not count as a bed. He continued to tell me if we had more than 2 people than maybe they could do something more to help. Well, lets just say, when you're whiny enough, you get what you want - sometimes :) This time it worked :) We got the room that I saw in the pictures when I "bought" the reservation.
My take on the rooms is - its a cross between Christian Conference Center room, home done hotel room. There are stencils all over and the curtains are kind of country cliche. The bathroom is totally like a college dorm room bathroom. Its definitely nothing upscale or wonderful. But, I've heard the ski trails and all else makes up for it.
We did have dinner down in the dining room which was a pretty nice place. It looked like it was more recently redone. I had Weiner Schnitzel in honor of dad who never got here - it was actually close to wonderful (except they put ligionberries on it - blech). Oh, I think mom's spaetzels are way better! The apple streudel was pretty good too but too many raisins....
We'll learn more about everything as the weekend moves on, but, I did learn today that Maria was 22 when she married Captain Von Trapp -- who was 47!!!!!!!!!! He was 25 years older than her when they got married. Weird! His sons looked like they should have been with Maria.
Over and out for tonight!
Tomorrow we ski!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Party Like Its 1989 - Because Thats The Last Time I Was Up This Late!

I am a brave woman, at least I would like to think so. However, I wasn't brave enough to go to bed at 2 a.m. this past Friday night.

The back story here is - I had a sleep-over for all the senior high girls from church. It had been a while since I spent some time with them and I had the free time this past Friday, so our worlds all collided! I had about 8 of them come, however, a few of them had to leave early and one of them came while the other three were leaving. I ended up with 4 who actually slept over.

The first thing I have to say is I did have a blast. These girls are crazy and fun and I love hanging out with them.

The second thing I have to say is, these girls have energy! I thought I could keep up, and I did for the most part, but around 2 a.m. I HAD to get some shut eye and they were all yelling at me to go bed - but I was scared. I had laid down on the couch and was watching a movie and I heard them all in the front room, laughing and banging and crashing around. I think they were wrestling or something, but every bang I heard, I shuddered. And the next bang made me think - I can't go to bed as I'll wake up and the couch will be in the kitchen and the tv will be out the window and one of the girls will be stuck in the wall with just her legs sticking out -- and then all the parents won't ever trust me again and they'll talk about how irresponsible I was for leaving senior high girls to their own devices at 2 in the morning. I laid there cringing and crying inside because I was SO tired.

After much prodding, I finally got off the couch around 2:30 and made the girls PROMISE not to destroy anything and told them a story about how this was the only house I had to live in right now and that I would cry and cry if they did anything bad. I slowly dragged up to bed and fell asleep instantly as soon as I hit the pillow.

When I got up at 8 a.m., I was very pleased to see that everything was still in tact, and one girl was sleeping up in a bedroom and the other three were snoozing fitfully in their sleeping bags on the floor.

It all worked out well and I feel bad now that I was ever scared, but being excessively tired really does play with your head, you know!

Before everyone left the party the night before, I had all of the girls make an apron for the girls in the Romanian orphanage that our Romanian missionaries work with. Liz is trying to teach all the Romanian girls there how to cook, so I thought a good project would be to make some aprons for each of the girls to wear. We had fun with the puff paint and all the iron-ons. Hopefully the Romanian girls will enjoy wearing them as much as we had fun making them!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Will Make You Laugh Till You Cry!

I heard this on the radio this morning! H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!!!!

(Click on the post title and wade through the begining advertisement -- then the laughter will begin...)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back With Baby!

It may not be walking on the beach, but as long as I've got my baby with me, its a pleasure to walk in snow drifts at the dog park!

Twist That Knife!

So - I'm back... boo-hoo. Got back around 9:30 on Saturday evening this past week.

When I got in, I had an e-mail from Randy my brother in law, that gave an itinerary for him and my sister for the Cayman Islands. They're taking a week there. I sarcastically (can you imagine me being sarcastic??? Really....) responded "are you trying to make us all jealous? Won't work on me as I just got back from St Thomas."

Sunday night I went over to Pat and Randys and Randy commented on my comment about the Caymans. I ended up asking when they were leaving and he looked quizzically at me. Tomorrow, the 1st, he said, and added, you're bringing us to the airport, right?


Apparently Pat was supposed to have asked me -- I dare not argue or debate that point.

The knife was in, and now it was twisting.... My tan from the Caribbean has not even begun to fade and my computer fingers are starting to hide in the prospect of having to be back on the keyboard, and here I am having to take them to their tropical paradise vacation. OUCH!

And what time does the flight leave, I ask Randy.

Well, we need to leave at around 5 a.m.

OUCH! The knife is twisting even more as I close my eyes with the prospect of getting up at 4:45 in the a.m.

Welcome home!

I did take them and saw them off and it didn't hurt as much as I thought as I finally got into the office and had so much to do that I didn't even have time to think about anything.

Don't cry for me, Virgin Gourda.... the truth is I never left you.... :) well, as long as I have my tan, I feel like I've not left you.... but I don't think Patti LuPone is going to be singing that rendition anytime soon (I referred to the musical Evita for the sake of my brother, Karl, who absolutely adores a good Broadway show!).