Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The swoooooon dive.....

On the advice of my physical therapist, I saw a vascular surgeon on Monday. No problems, no vein issues, just another ally as I continue to manage the lymphedema. As part of the checkup, they did an ultrasound of my veins. And during the procedure, they mash on your leg to check the blood flow.

Yeah, you can guess what happened. From the description they gave me later, it surely wasn't graceful and it wasn't a swooooon, but a good ol' headlong WHACK onto the .... well, I don't know if it was the floor, the ultrasound machine, the doctor.......

The doctor doing the ultrasound said I took a step forward, he grabbed my shirt to break my fall but came down to the floor with me. All I remember is standing up one second and being on the floor and having a team asking me, "Hello? Are you with us? Can you hear me?" The doctor I was supposed to consult with was helping too, and he was telling me about another fainting incident he was party to .... in Kansas City and involving one of the KC Chiefs players! YOW.

The only problem was that I couldn't stop upchucking, so they sent me for a CT scan. Luckily it was normal -- no bleeding in the brain, but they still sent me home with orders to not return to work until Wednesday. I apparently have a mild concussion, or else they are treating it as such, just to be safe. I also have a gorgeous cut at my eye and a beautiful bruise/goose egg on my left cheek. Not sure if that's from the floor or the ultrasound machine or what. It is a beaut.

I always say that when you wear yourself down to a nub, God has a way of making you rest whether you like it or not. Well, I wasn't quite to nub status (or at least I didn't think so), but wow, God.... this? :D

So I am heading into work today. There are things I absolutely have to do and cannot be done from here at home, so......... A good thought or two or a prayer or several are appreciated!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Low-key and high-enjoyment

For way too many years, I got caught in the Christmas Crazies...... you know, working hard to make sure everyone has THE perfect gift, that the tree looks JUST right, that everything falls into perfect place. When I worked for the church, trying to make Advent & Christmas nice for all the parishioners AND to make my own holidays good too..... well, it made me a total Grinch. The pre-ghosts Scrooge would have told me to lighten up. For the longest, I just couldn't stand Christmas. An old friend opined (and I heartily agreed) that if she could go to sleep -- a loooong winter's nap -- from December 16 to around January 4 or so, then it would be great.

This year, things are different. I don't know if the November "gratitude adjustment" helped shift my perspective or what happened. I don't know if it was some long-dormant fervent prayer of my heart that finally went silently from my lips to God's ear and stirred His heart. I don't even know if I consciously set out to do it. But at any rate and for whatever reason, I downsized my expectations this year.

And I have enjoyed preparing for Christmas for the first time in a long time.

Did I do shopping? Some. At least 8 years running now without buying any gift from the mall itself. WAHOO!!! The gifts are more practical this year for everyone, less fanciful. That's fine. This is a time for practicality, of determining what is really important. (Ironically, as I type this, my father is discussing buying a new HDTV for the living room and giving me the current non-HD that's there. I'm not sure whether to be grateful or talk them into a more practical plan....).

I've done more cooking and baking -- not that I have a houseful of stuff, just that I've been more of a homebody. Also, we had a homemade/handmade gift exchange at work, so I was trying out some ideas.

Am I over-the-moon, super-hyped? Oh no. You, dear readers, know me better than that. But I am happy and content and calm this holiday season. It's been a year with lots of ups and downs in my family: Mom diagnosed with a manageable condition with no cure; my brother lost his job and is now looking at a new career path; I took on new responsibilities and have often wondered if I can handle it all. Somehow in the midst of all that, there's a calm and peace -- knowing that all is well, all will be well and all will continue to be exceedingly well. Even in an uncertain economy, a contentious culture, a polarized society, with violence and despair and discontent coming out of every news story...... there is peace.

I think of a place in the past where there was war, an occupying army, religious and cultural clashes, an economy that makes our bad one look like a windfall, and a defeated people bereft of hope. And how just at that moment, "eternity stepped into time" and changed everything. Oh, there was still an occupying army. There was still war and poverty and discontent ...... but there was also hope, peace, and light. It was and remains a light that both shines as a beacon and glows in the heart like an ember. It brightens a path and warms a heart.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it..... And the word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:4, 14)

And from one of my favorite Michael Card songs............
"Celebrate the Child who is the Light, now the darkness is over
No more wandering in the night, celebrate the Child who is the Light
!"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I am still around and kicking

I have just had a very busy December. It's always busy, but it has seemed that there's always more to do than time in which to do it ...... so I'm trying to determine what's truly important and what is more expendable. I've had to adjust some things to fit all the important things in, and yet it seems like I'm doing everything I really want to do.

I still have shopping to do -- and had planned to do that this afternoon. I tried to do some during lunch hour this week ...... BAD idea; very bad idea. Lots of honking, unseen obscene gestures (seen by me and God, not by the other drivers), and swearing. It's not worth that sort of hassle to try to save some time. As I said, I planned to shop this afternoon, but my parents decided to drive into NC to see the snow and take the dog. I realized that I didn't want to miss that -- especially since I will still have time to shop tomorrow afternoon, Monday after work, and even into Wednesday if needed.

I've done some baking as well -- we had a homemade gift exchange at work. That was the only requirement: the gift had to be handmade/homemade. I used to cross-stitch years ago, and I even bought material over the Thanksgiving break. But I just didn't have time for that, unfortunately. However, I do bake and enjoy it. I've always enjoyed baking, and now I enjoy the challenge of making food both tasty and healthy. So I made some of the Hungry Girl caramel pumpkin pudding cupcakes for my gift. Yum. Mo. For the gift exchange, nearly everyone made food gifts. Even my coworkers were like, "Oh dear. None of our stuff is something A can enjoy....." As luck, fate, God, the universe, whatever would have it, I happened to get THE ONE GIFT that wasn't food --- one of my coworkers makes those beautiful glass light boxes (you buy a glass box, drill a hole for feeding a strand of mini-lights through and leaves the plug out). OH MY!!! I was over the moon to get that gift -- I can use it all year long (just change out the bow that's on top).

I've been involved with choir -- we had a concert last Sunday and we're getting ready for Midnight Mass. What's so strange is that on the weeks when I think to myself, "I cannot do this. I'm tired, I'm cranky, and I just want to go home right from work...." and I go anyway, I always enjoy it. And we sound good -- not bragging or boasting, just stating a fact. :-)

And in News of the Unexplainable, I've also been waking up early at least 2 mornings a week to go to the gym. Yeah, the girl who's never been a morning person at all is waking at 5:00 and getting over to the gym by 5:20 or so to get in a quickie workout.

With all that, I've had to limit some of my 'Net time. Otherwise, I'd be up half the night and not a happy girl at all. While I love my time online, I haven't really missed too much either. I keep up with my friends on a few mb's and on Facebook and that's all I'm needing right now.

Yep...... right now, things are good, I'm not stressing over the holidays, and I'm looking forward to really celebrating Christmas with a happy heart. Hoorah!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Continuing to give thanks.....

Tomorrow will be my last "gratitude adjustment" post on Facebook (as November is ending), but I am certainly no less grateful for everything. I have appreciated this exercise even more than I expected. I needed to step back and really think about the everyday things for which I am thankful. Here's the latest (since my last post):

  • 11/20: "Today I am thankful for a good boss. I've had wonderful ones and I've had lousy ones. The good ones make it very worthwhile. Hats off to 'JB'!!!"
  • 11/21: "Today, I am thankful for warm socks! I know that sounds silly, but see how thankful you are for them when you're in a cold building! :)"
  • 11/22: "Today, I am thankful for the journey known as life. I am thankful for the companions on the journey and what they have to teach me .... about themselves, about myself. I'm thankful for multiple chances and grace for each moment."
  • 11/23: "Today I am thankful for dress-down week, for a 24/7 access gym, and for coffee waiting when I got home from the gym for breakfast. And thankful for polish that dries in 60 seconds. Important stuff for a Monday morning!"
  • 11/24: "Today, I am thankful that my dental appointment is AFTER Thanksgiving lunch at work! :D I'm also thankful for good dentists & hygienists, and for good strong teeth!"
  • 11/25: "Today I am thankful for a wonderful vet and staff who love my baby to death. And I am thankful that I can bring him back with me to the office this afternoon. I am also thankful that my cooking turned out well last night!"
  • 11/26: "Today, I am thankful for so much, I hardly know where to start: for grace, forgiveness, love, family, friends, and abundance; for friendships made and found again; and my sincere prayers for all who need some level of miracle in their lives. But then again, don't we all? HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!!!!!"
  • 11/27: "Today, I am thankful for a day off. And I am thankful that I only have two retail places that I *have* to visit today, and not for any BF specials. I do not do Black Friday."
  • 11/28: "Today, I am thankful to be able to help people become healthier, and to share even one or two small things to help them along the way."
  • 11/29: "Today, I am thankful for the start of another liturgical year -- the wonder and anticipation of Advent that makes Christmas a true joy. After all, the real Christmas season is Dec. 25 until Jan. 6, not Black Friday to Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM."
I will continue this exercise, but in a slightly different format. My plan is to keep a daily calendar in Publisher or Word, and put my thanks on each day. Then at the end of the month, posting it online in PDF format or as a link online.

Amazingly enough, I find that while I still have tense moments and crazy days, somehow they haven't seemed quite as bad as I might have expected originally. Ha. Imagine that. If, as Proverbs says, "a merry heart is like a good medicine" how much more helpful to the system is a grateful heart?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Not gonna, no way, no how

Black Friday sales, that is.

One, I love sleep like a fat kid loves chocolate cake. I never get enough, that's for sure (I know, I know, something I've got to work on). So you definitely were not gonna see my happy rear outside Toys-R-Us or Wally or anywhere else at midnight, 3 AM, 4 AM, 5:30 AM, or whenever. Two, I love warm houses. My internal thermostat went on the fritz somewhere around the 100-pound mark, so I cannot take the cold without being bundled up like I'm doing the Iditarod. Three, are the prices really worth it? Yeah, I can try to snag a laptop advertised at (example) $249. But if the store only has 3, and there are 500 people there also wanting a laptop....... right. I'd rather pay $299 and avoid the madding crowds.

The only places I plan to venture today are..... leaving in 10 minutes to meet a friend to pick up something. Then back home, wait on Mom to get back from a funeral (long story) and then out to Hobby Lobby to browse for something. Other than that....... MAYBE the grocery store.

I have heard via friends on FB that it's not quite as crazy out there today as it has been before. I remain unswayed .... it's just not worth it!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Gratitude Adjustment / Channelling HRHJCB

You know, it's going fairly well...... I do notice a difference in my attitude. Each morning, shower time has become my time to go, "Okay, really, what *am* I thankful for today?" And it forces me to get that in my head early enough .... and throughout the rest of the day, it forces me to really think about being more grateful for everything that comes my way. Here's my list so far:

  • 11/9: "Today, I am thankful for those who listen to my heart as well as my words. That means more than you know!!!"
  • 11/10: "Today I am thankful for the rain.... I hate that people on the Gulf are getting hammered with it even worse, but thankful that it's also heading our way. We still need it!"
  • 11/11: "Today, I am thankful for all veterans, and for those who serve today. Your sacrifices and hard work make my freedoms possible, and we don't thank you nearly enough!"
  • 11/12: "Today I am thankful for health conditions that make me take better care of myself. They really are blessings in disguise!"
  • 11/13: "Today, I am thankful for my family (immediate and extended) and their love for me through every place and stage of my life."
  • 11/14: "Today I am thankful for bright warm sunshine and crisp air."
  • 11/15: "Today I am thankful for the opportunity to serve God and his people through singing. I am so humbled by the trust God placed in me with this gift, and it's my prayer and hope that I use it properly."
  • 11/16: "Today I am thankful for the ability to look back and say, "Nope, wouldn't change a thing." Every event, every person, every trial and every joy has made me who I am today, and why would I ever want to change that?"
  • 11/17: "Today I am thankful for my friends: you keep me sane, and when needed give me a reality check; you love me in spite of my foibles, failings and flaws; and you make me a better person by your belief in me!"
  • 11/18: "Today I am thankful for my chiropractor - I'll be even more thankful after today's appointment! :)"
  • 11/19: "Today I am thankful for my dog, Maddox. I know that sounds crazy, but I love my buddy so much. He's a good example for my own soul: he loves without regard and without measure."
And I really mean all those things.

***

Now, for those of you who are familiar with the Sweet Potato Queens series of books by Jill Connor Browne, you will certainly appreciate this:

So there I am, getting myself a fill-up and coffee fix at a gas station on the way home, and one of the girls at the checkout counter was bawling her eyes out. I mean, red-rimmed, puffy, etc. and she was telling the other girl about the breakup of her marriage (at least from the little bit that I gathered).

I wanted so badly to both give her a huge hug, and then to tell her "Okay, baby. Starting now, chin up, tits out. He is a man, plain and simple, and you can't make anything else out of him. And the man who is worth crying over won't make you cry." But I didn't -- (a) b'GOCK! b'GOCK! and (b) she might have looked at me and (rightly) said, "Chick, you know NOTHING about my situation so keep your trap shut."

What slew me was when I heard her say, "I never wanted to go through my middle years alone... (sniff sniff sniff)." She looked younger than me. One, I'm thinking, "Middle age? Hunny, when do you think that STARTS because it sure as hell AIN'T 35!" and two, I thought, "Better to be alone and happy than together and in agony." Life is just too short to be in that much misery over a jerk (note: I know full well that NOT ALL GUYS ARE JERKS!!!! There are plenty of good ones out there, and I'm blessed to count several guy friends among them. But this guy was apparently a real weiner... er, winner. Yeah. Pardon me, my Freudian slip is showing....)

So to Jill Connor Browne, thank you a million times over. Thank you for writing Book of Love (the first) and for whatever in the universe compelled me to buy it and read it again and again and FINALLY having the message sink in a few years later: "If you don't like your life, change it." Life is too short to be wallowing in misery, and I really really should have been bolder and told the girl something uplifting. I don't know that it would have sunk in, but I should have tried harder. I just hope she's got a Jill in her life who will tell her, "Okay, enough sniveling because he isn't worth the salt in your tears. Now hold your head up and go conquer the world!"

Go forth and conquer, friends!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Having an attitude of gratitude....

I generally think of myself as positive -- but I have my moments where I'm given to complaining, and most often about the tiniest irritants in the grand scheme. A real-life "Princess & The Pea" moment.

For example, I am practically OCD when it comes to kitchen storage things. I know, I laugh about it and yet it's really sad. My brother even half-jokingly refers to me as the female version of the husband from "Sleeping With The Enemy." (No, I don't need the towels to be stripe-side out, and even-lengthed, nor do I need cans with brand name facing out. If anything, I'd turn cans nutrition facts label out -- HA!) The prime example is this: I have a lot of Ziploc/Gladware plastic that I use to take my lunch in -- everything from 1 cup bowls to larger storage things. Now, even as messy and unorganized as I am, I am a real stickler for making sure it's all stacked to minimize clutter and maximize my ability to find them in a hurry (which is most mornings). I truly get all whacked out when they're thrown up into the cabinet haphazardly. I have yelled, begged, cajoled, etc. and all it does is make me super-stressed out.

This is just an example of what I mean -- it's the little things that really don't mean anything, that I'm allowing to stress me out...... when I ought to just be grateful for having the items, for having a way to wash them and keep them clean, for having a house to put them in, and food to put in them. So many things I should be grateful for --- and like an idiot, I focus instead on the part that matters least.

In my heart of hearts, I know I am blessed beyond belief and I really am grateful for all those things in my life. I have more than I need, more than I want, I have health and I have family and friends, and I have a job (such a blessing!). I have the ability to think, to create, to move and walk and breathe without assistance. There are such overarching blessings that I feel like a total, complete heel for the penny-ante whines.

So I really want to work this month on my "attitude of gratitude." I want to stop focusing on those stupid little things and instead be glad for what those irritants mean
  • Less whining about the dishes in the sink, and more grateful for the ability to put food on them.
  • Less screeching about dirty clothes that pile up, and more drop-to-my-knees-in-praise for having more than one item to wear and the means to keep them washed.
  • Less peevishness about little crap that really doesn't matter, and more rise-up-and-cry-out about things that really aren't right with the world.
From all the petty concerns -- deliver me, Lord. For the things that truly matter -- make me grateful, Lord. From those who have the least in material goods and the most in spirit -- give me the wisdom to learn from them, Lord. For those who need me to speak for them -- give me boldness to do so, Lord.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Gang still rides......

Another weekend, and I have more apple butter cooking up overnight. There were two pecks of apples to use, so........ It's about 6-1/3 pounds or so of apples before peeling and coring. So I figure it's about 5 pounds of apples afterwards. And I still have quite a few apples left to eat (my adored Pink Lady kind).

And I just realized I left out the spices! Crap! I remembered the Splenda but not the spices. Dang it. Need to go add it really quick!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Apple Butter Gang.....

Forgive this walk down Memory Lane, but when I was a kid, I got a great thrill out of Movie Saturdays at the elementary school. You see, one of my Girl Scout friends had a dad who had a great love for movies. On Saturdays during the school year, and occasionally in the summers, Mr. H would show movies to the kids using the projector. These were the days when movies and films in class were shown with big honkin' projectors and you had to get the reels just so......... Kids today have no idea how good we had it.

For the grand princely sum of 50c/week, we got to see not one but TWO kid-friendly movies in the cafeteria. Mr. H also provided popcorn and cotton candy for a little extra money. The movies were the great Disney 70s fare like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Cat From Outer Space, the original Freaky Friday with Jodie Foster, and one of my very favorites, The Apple Dumpling Gang with Tim Conway and Don Knotts. If memory serves, I also saw the first Superman with Christopher Reeve on one of those Saturdays.

But anyway, last Saturday, I became a one-woman Apple Butter Gang. As I mentioned in my last post, I got possessed, bought 3 pecks of apples, and found a very easy crock-pot apple butter recipe online! The adventure of making apple butter was more like a misadventure from one of the Apple Dumpling Gang movies -- and just as much fun! These are some of the things I learned from my great apple butter adventure:
  • The crock-pot that I thought was 6 quarts is only 5. Oh well. What can you do? Okay, what I really wanted to do was get my happy rear to Kohl's for the 8-quart crockpot they had on sale earlier this week. Like I need it. I do. Don't I?
  • Whomever created the recipe has a serious sweet tooth! :) The original recipe called for 2 c sugar for three pounds of apples. It said you could substitute Splenda. So I did. And let me tell you.......... 1.5 cups of Splenda was PLENTY for 6 pounds of AB's -- honestly, almost too much. I could have gotten away with just 1 cup of the Brown Sugar Splenda.
  • When it says cook on Low for 8-10 hours, go with the 10. I ended up putting the apple mush in the fridge until Monday evening, then getting it out to cook down some more. And honestly, I could have let it go for maybe even 11-12? These were some seriously juicy apples!
  • Five quarts of apple pieces will cook down by half. What I thought might be 1 gallon (4 quarts) of apple butter was only 72 oz (9 half-pint jars). Yeah, that's still a buttload of apple butter. And I have more to make ..... I gotta do something with these apples! We will also be making and freezing some applesauce too. MMMM!!!!
  • And, homemade apple butter definitely beats store-bought! ANY day.
Signing off now!
Suzy Homemaker

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's the only explanation...

I am possessed. By the demon of domesticity. Her name is Suzy Homemaker.

I hardly have a domestic type bone in my body for things like home cleaning, chores, decor (I'm definitely no Martha Stewart, but I have a vague idea of what works for me). But I am finding myself strangely drawn to the kitchen and whipping up all manner of food.

I went back to the orchard after working yesterday's WW meetings. I bought 3 pecks total: 1.5 each of Pink Lady (my favorite variety!) and of Arkansas Black. I also got the bright idea while standing there in line to make some apple butter.I found a very easy crock-pot apple butter recipe online, and I fired that sucker up today. I used primarily the Arkansas Blacks, with one of the Honeycrisps. I have even made a double batch, so I might be cooking these apples well into tomorrow...... And I don't know what kind of acidic-like stuff is in apples (peelings, fruit itself, etc.), but let me tell you, my hands felt like sandpaper!!! I did an improvised version of Mary Kay's "Satin Hands" routine with what I have on hand at the house, and they're starting to appear human again. I also managed to completely clog up BOTH basins in the kitchen sink Apparently our disposal wasn't really up for the peelings from 6 pounds of apples. Yeah, I know. I ought to start composting if I'm becoming a domestic diva. Actually, I've been thinking about it anyway (my God, what has come over me????).

I had planned to make some ham & potato chowder today as well and freeze it for the winter. I have about 10 quart freezer containers just begging for some soup to be put into them. I've delayed only because I have to also bake some chicken and some turkey burgers for this week. Yeah, I can do it all at once, but Lord have mercy! Too much domesticity and I may burn out! HA!!!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

As much as I love kitchen gadgetry

it has become rather apparent that the gadgets do not love me back........

I am typing to you right now with a band-aid around my right ring finger, top knuckle. That's where I sliced/gouged it on a mandoline, trying to nicely and evenly cut a summer squash. Okay, keep in mind that this gadget wasn't a terribly expensive model -- less a "mandoline" and more of a cheap "slicer" (yeah, you think?).Further proof that you get what you pay for. Happy to report that this will be my LAST accident using said slicer -- I bought a much nicer mandoline a couple of weeks ago. I just grabbed this one out of habit.

Meanwhile, my left thumb and the top knuckle of the left index finger look as though they lost a serious clawfest with a most ill-tempered feline. This was from using the "and if you act now, we'll throw in......" portion of the package. I bought one of those "Titan" peelers that is advertised on TV, and it came with a free julienning tool. Actually, I'm rather pleased with the peeler and the extra gadget. They're both pretty nice.

These culinary preparation disasters should come as no real surprise to those who know me. Remember "danger-prone Daphne" from Scooby-Doo? Or "Messy Marvin" from the Hershey's commercials? Yeah. I'm a relative of theirs.

I have grown to love preparing food. It's been one of the nicer side benefits from the whole weight-loss thing: falling in love with food and how to prepare it, and ways I can make it tastier and better for me. But God knows, while I would love to buy it already-prepped, it's not always an economically sound idea to pay for convenience's sake. Sometimes it is -- don't get me wrong. For instance, as I stare at the ever-reddening bandage, I'm thinking maybe paying more for the pre-sliced squash could have been a good thing.

For me, there's something more "authentic" about doing it yourself. Being part of the preparation can give you a deeper connection to your food and a deeper appreciation for it. Yes, I can buy a can of soup; open and heat, and enjoy for 2 or 3 meals. Or, I can take the time to get all the ingredients, make a huge pot of the soup, eat it for days or freeze it for later, and know more precisely how it was done, what went into it, etc. I haven't gone quite so far as to using ingredients I personally raised with my own little hands; I guess I'm probably more Rachael Ray than I am Martha Stewart. But at least it's a place to start. I can appreciate all the different flavors ... improvise a little with the herbs and spices to suit my own tastes ... ponder the universe and agriculture and all that transpired to bring this food to me. And what the food will do for me once it enters my system .... and how its energy can best be used. What will I do with what the food has given me? How do I respond to that gift? (Yes, let's all hold hands and sing "All Good Gifts" from Godspell, right? Just think about it, okay?)

Where my failures lie are in the mechanics of the preparation. Food and meal prep occasionally requires great patience and an even hand. *SNORT* Okay folks, we need not address my shortcomings in those departments. I'm all too aware of them. So maybe, just maybe, that's the lesson to be learned -- even more so than the "connection to the food and the life cycle and all of creation by extension" portion. I've learned to appreciate the idea of the process, and need to work further on the timing thereof.

****

And in other news............ only 3 weeks to go and I will officially no longer be larva. Color me very psyched!!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fell a little short......

Today was Race for the Cure 2009. My goal: finish in 45:00, but be happy with anything under 48:00.

There could not have been a more ominous weather forecast. They were calling for BIG rain today, mostly all day. It looked a few times like the sky might just open up this morning. God, however, smiled on us and the rains held off. Now, it was cool .... cool and humid, as opposed to last year's warm and muggy. It's an odd combination but not a bad one. I suppose this is what doing a 5K in London would be like.

I got to the parking garage and went down to the gathering area and vendor stations in the courtyard. One of the things which I should know by now is to not visit vendor tents until after I finish the race. Nope. I go right away and end up hauling it all with me (mistake #1). I didn't get as many things this year or visit quite as many tents. Honestly, do I need another tote bag? No. I did buy a checkbook cover at a t-shirt vendor .... and it was needed. The little plastic one they gave me when I opened this account nearly 5 years ago is just about being held together by a string.

The survivor's walk began, and honestly, that part alone is worth the price of admission. This year, I was especially impressed by the women who are 40+ year survivors. I think about the horrific chemo treatments that were around back then. I know the ones my great-aunt had 30-something years ago and how terrible they made her feel (in addition to the fatigue from her actual illness). To see these ladies smiling and waving to us all .... serious lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Soon afterwards, we lined up and began. During the first mile, in order to get around some of the slower traffic, I began to walk faster, zigzagging in and out. And in some of the wider spaces, I began to jog (mistake #2). Got to the one-mile point and............... 17:16. WHAT? I know, better than last year's 21:something, but still. That's my usual pace at the office on a walk, where I'm not jogging. But I also remembered that my one-mile pace is usually my worst (because of the slower people and the 1-mile-only crowd mixed together with the 5K'ers). Okay.

So the second mile comes along and it's pretty well uphill a good portion of the way. I pulled off the jacket I had on because by this point, I was definitely warm. Wrapped it around my waist and put back on my sling backpack. A full one, again, thanks to all the vendor stuff I picked up. Not smart, not smart. Anyhow, I walked along and kept an eye out for two of my coworkers who were running it. I didn't see them at all! When I got to the 2-mile mark, my time was around 33:15 (if I remember correctly). Okay, that's a good pace ..... for a stretch where I thought I was doing my worst. Um, okay.

Soon came the time for the turn to begin mile three. I really was getting tired, and I knew I would have to do some jogging if I hoped to have a prayer of seeing 45:00 when I crossed the line. I looked down at my watch when I hit the water station and realized 45:00 was slipping away from me. I looked down a short time later and saw 48:00 had elapsed from the start time. I felt like crying, but instead...... I started jogging. I now would have to be happy with anything short of 56:26, even if it was 56:25.

I saw one of my runner-coworkers: she did 33:20!!!! I was so proud of her, and then she told me our other runner did 30:00 (roughly). WHOA!!!!! Talk about extra proud of them -- the one who finished in 30 just quit smoking earlier this month. He's about 9 days out without a cigarette, and figured that doing this race was good incentive to keep on the healthy track. And she just took up running earlier this year. Amazing, both of them!!!

I got to the final turn and couldn't find the timer that's usually at the finish line. I looked at my watch and guesstimated that I'd have somewhere around 52:00.

Apparently, we got a later start than I thought we had. I saw 48:52 at the timer (a smaller one than last year's, which is how I missed it!)..... and started running. I was gonna hit 49:00 if I could. But I didn't have quite enough juice for that.

It's okay though............. Not only did I beat my time from last year by 7:23, I'm still roughly at the same pace I was this spring. And all this year, I haven't exclusively walked as my only exercise. I've done the bike and aerobics too. In a way, I think that helped me ..... it improved my cardio enough that I wasn't totally exhausted at the end. Last year, they had chair massages available and I took advantage -- and nearly fell asleep. This year, I didn't see the massage area, but it's okay. I went back to the food court, got a Fiber One yogurt and some water, and pulled the apple and protein bar I'd brought from home out of my backpack.

I also ran into someone who hadn't seen me in a long time and she didn't recognize me. I have to admit; that's one of the best feelings ever. I love watching eyes bug out and jaws drop. I also ran into my original WW leader in the stairwell -- she didn't recognize me from behind! :D

It is astounding to think that in 2 years, I've managed to shave 17:03 minutes off my time. That amount of time is right now buying me right at another MILE under ideal circumstances (in real life, let's say it will get me 7/8 of a mile). I am thinking the only way right now I'll break 45 is to start running...... more often, so that I can build up my endurance. I can do about 20-30 seconds of straight on run-jogging, and then I have to slow it back down. It might be that I have to do a running clinic where I learn how to run.

I already can't wait for next year. I have another walk in a month for Juvenile Diabetes, and there's a place to hope for 45 too!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

20 years ago this morning....

I awoke face down on a very nice area rug in Greensboro NC. I didn't wake until 11:30 AM, but it was the next couple of minutes later that got me. When I peered out the windows, there were limbs all over the front yard. I asked Mrs. T (our hostess) what had happened, and she quietly, almost haltingly said, "Girls, the storm came through early this morning. Y'all slept through it."

That's right. I slept through a hurricane.

Hurricane Hugo. 20 years ago last night, it made landfall just east of Charleston, and instead of skirting up the coast as we expected, it came inland, hitting Charlotte, Greensboro, Roanoke and other interior portions of Virginia and eventually Pennsylvania and even up to Buffalo.

We were staying in Greensboro because we had tickets for the Elton John concert, originally scheduled for September 22, 1989 in Charlotte. We figured the storm would go up the coast, toward the Outer Banks and the Tidewater area....... no problem, right?

God said, HAAAAAAAAAA!

No concert. We stayed in Greensboro until Saturday afternoon, at which point we trekked on over to Raleigh where other friends had gathered. By Sunday morning, I was tired and just wanted to be home until I knew what would happen next. We all knew school was shut down indefinitely. I dropped off one person from our travel party in Fort Mill (just outside Charlotte). His neighborhood looked like a war zone..... trees and uprooted stuff and mangled fencing. Half his street had water and electricity, the other half did not. I remember he asked about his sister, and his mom mentioned that she was up the street at a neighbor's taking a shower because they were in the water-service area, and their home had none. I dropped off another person in Spartanburg, then headed home to wait it out.

A week later, we were back, but things would never be "back to normal." Even though we weren't there for the height of the storm, as some of our local friends were, an event like that changes you and your perspective. I never really thought I was invincible or even immortal. Having attended way too many family funerals as a youngster gave me lots of exposure to the life-and-death cycle. I knew from losing two classmates in high school that, yes indeed, it could happen to any of us and eventually it would catch up to us. So I held no illusions of invincibility or immortality. But I had an illusion of innocence -- that somehow, the world was still fresh and wonderful if I just believed it so.

That was a casualty of the storm. Wisdom and knowledge have their price, usually consisting of selling your innocence and your idealism.

At least the NBA can thank Hugo for something -- they got a star out of the deal. Tim Duncan was supposed to be an Olympic swimmer. The Olympic-size training pool on his island got destroyed in the storm, so he changed sports.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

As autumn approaches....

I'm so glad autumn, my very favorite season, is nearly here. There's a special kind of magic about those three months that grabs me and doesn't let go. In nearly 40 years, I've never quite been able to adequately describe the magic -- and even if I could, I wouldn't want to break the spell by uttering the appeal. I love the rich earthy colors. I love the crisp air. Of course, I love football season!

The maple tree out back has always been my fall barometer. When I was a kid, I always knew it was close to my birthday because there would be tons and tons of leaves all over the yard from the maple. As time has gone on and the climate has changed, I can't count on the leaves as the telltale sign of my birthday. For many years, the leaves didn't turn, let alone actually fall, until November -- past my birthday. Other years, especially the drought-stricken years of recent memory, the leaves have turned and gone by mid-October (too soon for this girl!).

The tree isn't much longer for this world. It is very old, drying faster than you can imagine, and we've already had to cut limbs weakened by summer droughts and winter ice storms. It makes a nice wood to put in the fire pit, but there's sadness in that burning too. I dread the day the tree will come down at last. It's coming fairly soon -- the tree trunk is just barely on our neighbor's side of the property line, but the branches extend to both yards. As a kid, I always thought of the tree as ours and in a way, I still do. Dad and the neighbor have discussed it several times over the last few years -- we all know that the tree is dying. When limbs were cut a couple of years ago, one limb in particular had a portion of the center hollowed out and full of black ants. Yeah. Not good for the tree or for our respective properties (his shed, Dad's shed and our deck).

It is startling to realize that I'm about to turn 40. Honestly, it's a birthday I've looked forward to for quite some time now. I've been prepping myself for months, telling myself I'm 40. It's just a number. That's all. But it's a good number. I feel very at ease in my own skin and in my own life. It took me such a long time to get there. With age comes wisdom (sometimes, anyway), and as much as I still think of myself as being younger (I'll always be 27 in my mind!), I wouldn't want to do it all over again. I gained this perspective and insight and wisdom through my failures and missteps and stumblings -- and even if I could go back and change things, I wouldn't. Do I want to trade off the hard-earned knowledge for getting my way (and maybe getting far worse)? Not a chance. I'm keeping what I've earned. Yeah..... that's it. A sense of earning my keep in this world. That what I know and what I feel and sense and believe has been earned, and not just handed to me. That's what's making 40 feel like a great place to be.

Makes me giddy. Fall and 40.

***

One very VERY sad note: I lost a fraternity brother this week, and I am just heartbroken. Carolyn was only a few months younger than me. She was a dedicated teacher, coach, friend, and all-around good person. There will never ever be another person like her -- yeah, we all know that. But in this case, it's so very true. Carolyn wasn't the life of the party; she was the party. It really makes me so very sad to realize the world is a dimmer place without her. I pray today, the day of her funeral, that her family is strengthened and comforted by God's love and care, and that they take solace in the love shown by the legions of people whose lives were touched by her -- all the kids she coached, the students she taught, her colleagues, the friends who loved her, and anyone whose life was changed by her care and concern.

As for me, I am sure that the angels welcomed her warmly into Paradise. I also have no doubts that she's already organized a parade, followed by a barbecue, for all new arrivals to have a meet-and-greet! And is passing out clown noses and balloons to everyone. "Hey, Moses -- here you go, you forgot this! HONK HONK!"

Godspeed, Shotgun. You will be sorely, dearly missed, and I know we shall meet again.

Friday, September 04, 2009

An ugly W is still a W!!

Hallelujah, it has begun and the long national nightmare is over -- college football season has arrived!!! My beloved Gamecocks were again the Cardiac Chickens......

Last year, the game at NC State was almost a yawn: 34-0 and NC State looked baaaaaaad (and I don't mean "Superfly" kinda bad). This year, it was much, much closer, and near the end, looked pretty dang scary. We squeaked out a 7-3 win.

Actually, it's a good thing. For me, the harder you work for something, the more meaningful it is. And two, you learn more from your challenges than from your creampuff moments. Next weekend, Georgia is NOT going to be an NC State (no offense to the Wolfpack, mind you) so we had best develop our A+ game this week. Georgia will be bringing it -- especially if they get punked by Okie State.

Fall is just around the corner. It is official now! LET THE GAMES CONTINUE!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A veggie tale of sorts.....

I am a proud product of the South...... except for some of the food.

Fried chicken? Check (okay, these days, it's faux-fried in the oven but that's not the point). Buttermilk biscuits? MMMM.... gimme!!! Cornbread? Very much so, but it took me a few years to get there. Same with bluegrass music; took years me to appreciate it. Collards or turnip greens?..........

Well, let's pause there.

My parents, every New Year's Day, would have black-eyed peas and turnip greens. Mom is not a fan of collards so they substituted turnip greens for the annual New Year's Day ritual. Supposedly, you eat these foods as a symbol of the money you hope to obtain throughout the year. Frankly, I prefer -- and practice -- the money-burial ritual instead (don't ask, it's a long story). And to show our disdain for those disgusting foods, my brother and I made a tradition of splitting a frozen pizza and bag of chips.

I'll also say that while I was a somewhat picky eater as a child, as I've grown older my tastes have developed and changed. The broccoli I absolutely hated as a child is the same food that I have never gotten enough of from age 12 on. The cornbread that I refused to eat all through my childhood and teen years (except as Thanksgiving dressing) is the stuff I love now. I still don't like black-eyed peas or field peas or butter beans or anything of the sort.... I do like a small amount of black beans (usually as part of a soup or corn salad), and I love kidney beans in chili, but that's about the extent of my bean adventures.

About a year ago, we had a catered luncheon at work from a local upscale barbecue place. One of their sides that came was cooked collard greens, cooked "southern-style." Flavored with ham and onions. I needed a couple of extra veggie servings that day, and I knew I couldn't count macaroni as a vegetable (much as most meat-and-three places try to convince me otherwise). So with much trepidation, I got a small serving of the collards. I wouldn't have called it love at first bite, but I did go back for seconds.

Now, eating Smoke on the Water's collards is one thing. But to fix them myself is another. And to venture even further is yet another. But it happened. I was passing through Durham NC a few weeks ago and stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch. And with hardly a second thought, one of the sides I ordered was the turnip greens. Now that was love at first bite. I downed them pretty quickly. It had to be a fluke, right? I mean, really, there's no way this can be happening to me.

This past week, I went to Whole Foods' hot bar for lunch. One of the veggies? "Southern-style Collards"...... and they were very good.

What is happening to me? Are black-eyed peas next (I like their music, but....)?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Are you ready for some......

FOOOOTBAAAAAAALLLLL???? Dang skippy.

I love football -- a near-unhealthy love of it, compared to others of us who have a set of double-X chromosomes. Any future husband had either better love it as much or prepare to be a football widower. The tailgating? Check. And I'm far less apt to look at cute tight pants as much as I'm looking at their stats and how the team is doing overall and compared to their opponents. College is my favorite, but there's nothing like a Sunday pro game too. AAAAAH!

And with that in mind......... I have two pro teams to which I have pledged my allegiance: the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers. I've been a Packer-backer even when they sucked very badly in the late 70s/early 80s, so it wasn't just a Favre thing. (Matter of fact, I kind of hope Favre STAYS retired at last. The drama is useless, and he ought to know better.) And I've been a Panthers fan since the expansion. When it comes to it, I'm an NFC girl, and mostly the NFC South. I'll root for the Packers and whomever plays the Bears (ha!) in the NFC North. NFC West? Snore.

NFC East..... well, I've never had much of a favorite team..... of course, it's only recently been aligned the way it is now (last few years). When I was a kid, I was a Dallas fan..... but as St. Paul says, "When I was a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child...... but now that I am a man, I put away childish things." Well, that and Jerry Jones unceremoniously dumping Tom Landry, the last of the true gentleman-coaches. And in the last few years, nothing has given me greater thrill than watching the 'Boys lose. But they've been replaced on the bottom of the NFC East rung by...........

The Philadelphia Eagles. And if you need to ask why, you have obviously been living under a rock or not watched the news in the last couple of days. Michael Vick has a LONG way to go to prove to me that he's a changed person. I think what bothers me most is referring to his crimes as a "mistake." Again, a mistake is leaving the iron or coffeepot on all day, or messing up a formula in a spreadsheet. Bankrolling an illegal activity, participating in it (and not just merely watching the dogfights), and killing the losers....... that's evil. Just plain evil. That's not a mistake, that's a deliberate disregard for God's creation. There's no amount of money that can get his PR back on track -- it will take years of concerted effort, of genuine remorse, and of owning up to what he did instead of glossing it over and calling it a "mistake." It was no mistake; it was a crime, both against society and against creation.

And until he decides to do so, I cannot support him or any team that takes him on. Let's hope that Tony Dungy (as his mentor) and Andy Reid (as his coach) will help him see the light.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Proud child of the 70s.

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You know, I was talking with some girlfriends recently. I mentioned that I had a cousin's wife whom I don't think I ever saw without a ciggie hanging out of her mouth from the time I can remember first seeing her until she passed a few years back. I also remarked that back in the 70s, when I was getting my vaccinations, etc. in my family doctor's office, he smoked in there. The whole office smelled of smoke and no one thought anything about it.

We rode around town in big ol' honkin' ugly woodgrain-paneled stationwagons. Without seat belts or car seats (car seats? you got out of those once you turned a year old!). Standing up in the passenger seat or sitting on the fold-down armrest. Riding our bikes all over town in the summer without parental supervision.... sometimes without direct parental knowledge (oopsie). Actually being encouraged to stay outside all day and NOT come home until called for a meal. Walking to the store for penny candy (only by then, 2 for a nickel) .... in my case, the Speedy Mart and Mr. Owen's store (OMG, does anyone else remember Astro Pops??)

Seeing the pictures of me in my Girl Scout uni with my other Brownie friends. Going to Camp Wabak...... oh my. Plaid. Plaid. Plaid. My orange-and-black rugby striped shirt for my 4th grade picture.

I'd love to hear some more of your 70s memories -- share them in the comments!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mistake or bad choice? and thoughts about the South

Okay, so the big sports story of the day is the "conditional reinstatement" of Michael Vick to the NFL --- provided there's a team that will take him. More on that in a second......

First, though, I was reading a commentary on MSNBC, and the author more or less suggested that it would have to be a Southern team that would take him ...... because after all, Southerners are more likely to shrug off dog-fighting as "boys being boys." Excuse the (multiple expletives deleted) out of me, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, dude????? Now, I realize there are Southerners (and I know a few) who would shrug it off -- kind of like saying, "That's just racing." But most of the ones I know would be highly incensed by the very idea. I knew a few "good ol' boys" when I was in high school -- heavy into outdoor sports (meaning, hunting and fishing). Most hunter/fishers I know would take better care of their hounds than any other animal. Hell, some of them might even treat their dogs better than they do their wives or girlfriends. The very idea of breeding an animal simply to fight for man's sport would be viewed as irresponsible at the mildest, unredeemable at worst.

Now, you all know I'm a dog lover -- and almost all other animals, save for the creepycrawlies and especially the slitherers. So what Vick did disgusts me to absolutely no end. The fact that he remains practically unrepentant is what sticks in my craw. He has yet to stand in front of the media and admit that he bred dogs to fight, bred them to kill, and killed the slower performers. He allowed female dogs to be tied to "rape stands" so that they could not get away, all in the name of breeding a stronger, meaner dog with a worse killer instinct. And he LIED about it to the federal investigators. And what does he call all those things? "Mistakes."

Hell no. A mistake is when you go off and leave the iron on at home. A mistake is an error in a formula on a spreadsheet. His actions could at easiest be labeled "bad choices." He has yet to own those choices. He has yet to say, "Yes, I chose to get involved in this horrendous thing. I chose to ally myself with guys I knew growing up who have no futures. I bankrolled the whole thing so they could roll with me, since I was making the big bucks. I thought I was above the law and could get away with it .... I figured they could never trace it back to me." Man up, Vick. Man up.

While I'm at it, I'm still pissed about the article assuming that Southerners are all (still) inbred racists who love nothing more than bloodsport. You know, I was thinking about this the other day with the whole Dr. Gates thing at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Where have most of the racial incidents of the last 20 years occurred? That's right. NOT IN THE SOUTH. Rodney King and later Reginald Denny? Los Angeles. I can't think of the guy's name, but it was the guy shot 41 times -- in New York City. Dr. Gates' arrest? New England. Folks, those places are way above the ol' Mason-Dixon line. Is there still racism in the South? I wouldn't doubt it. But I get so tired of the stereotype that all white Southerners are born to hate.

I'd better get off the soapbox. I'll stay here all night, otherwise.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Twelve years and 3 hours ago.....

My phone rang. It was my best friend, sounding horribly tired but happy: "Hey, just wanted to let you know, SHE'S HERE AT LAST!!!!" With those words, my godchild entered my life, long after she'd entered my heart. That happened when they called to tell me I was going to become a godmother.

It has been my delight, my honor, my privilege and my great joy to watch her grow and develop into a young woman. Being her godmother is a responsibility that I cherish and don't take lightly. It is my sincere hope that as the years continue to go by, she and I will be more than just godmother-godchild, but true friends as well.

Happy Birthday, Reebs! I hope you know how much you are loved!!!

Are there any answers??

I'm a bit stymied ...... around 2 weeks ago, I had bloodwork drawn for an FSH test. Those results came back just fine. So a week ago, they drew more blood for a TSH/T4 test (thyroid) ..... and those results came back fine.

I'm beginning to wonder if there are any answers to be had. I don't know anymore. I am stumped. My doctor is stumped. But I have to have answers ...... I have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

My baby's first "sleepover"

We are going out of town this weekend, and are boarding Maddox for the first time since we got him. He was used to being boarded on weekends with his previous owners, but that was two years ago.

Last week, we had a minor issue with Maddox that gave us cause for concern: he growled twice at my mother. Not just a "hey nanny, something's going on behind you" kind of thing. It was looking right at her and decided something wasn't kosher about her. That is definitely not Maddox .... and especially given that my mother is his chief dogsitter! He even growled at my dad -- and he usually worships the ground my daddy walks on (wonder where he picked that up...). Dad popped his nose and said, "NO!" He looked at my dad like, "Huh? What happened?"

So I called the vet and they suggested bringing him in for a checkup.... just to make sure there was no medical issue. And luckily, there isn't. He apparently was just having a bad day.

I think part of it is that I take him for grooming at a large pet store, about a half-hour drive away, and by the time it's all said and done, it becomes a six-hour ordeal. He isn't crazy about long car rides, either. I think he gets motion sickness (more on "like owner, like pet" in a moment). So my mission became to find a groomer closer to home.

I found a lady only about 5 miles down the road, out in the country, who grooms, offers day-care, and boarding. We had planned to just take him down on Friday morning and have my brother pick him up Friday evening (since he is not able to join us for the vacation). As we discussed the Fourth and fireworks, Miss D mentioned that they don't have a lot of that out their way. My dad (who went with me to help handle Maddox) and I kind of looked at each other, smiled and said, "Uh, how much to board for 3 nights?"

I took Maddox to her tonight since we're leaving before she opens shop (and to help him get accustomed to their house). He went inside his crate where I had placed his bed and my pillowcase (for a familiar object from home). He whimpered -- not sure if it was because we were leaving and he sensed it .... or if it was the rabbit in the crate near him. He was excited about that. I can't wait for him to see their kitty-kitty.... (How he missed that, I will never know!)

When I heard the whimper, I had to leave. It was breaking my heart, and I had to get out before I took him out and screamed, "No, he's coming with us, no no no!" I know he can't.... but Miss D and her husband seemed to like him a lot.

So I am leaving him in their very capable hands. Miss D has been grooming, training, and showing dogs for nearly 30 years, and worked for a vet for 10-plus years. I know she will be good to my baby. It's just hard to leave...... I think this is the closest I will get to parenthood, so......

***

Now for the "like owner, like pet" stuff.

I have been having some medical issues, and last week had to have blood drawn for labwork. It turned out okay, but now they have decided to check my thyroid. Maddox has hypothyroidism (underperforming) ..... Now, I have heard that people and their pets begin to look alike. But I've never heard of people and their pets sharing a medical condition!!!

I'll find out my results of this test next week. URGH. If it's normal and they have to draw even more blood I will just scream.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

WHEEE!!!!

Yes, the minutiae of this day is boring. Imagine if I had a Twitter account. Mama has a new MP3 player -- a Creative Labs Mozaic 2GB in black. Thank you eBay in so many ways today.

More to come...........

I spoke too soon.

The Insignia player is working but it's temperamental at best. Twice now it has locked up on me, and can only be undone by a quick jab to the reset area. Thin pens are getting their workout today at my abode.......

I've also noticed that perfectly legitmate uploads -- and by that, I mean songs that have been uploaded before with no problem -- suddenly are completely inaccessible..... For example, it will skip straight from song 5 to song 7. Every single time. And again, no clue why?

I'm peeved all over again and too tired to care tonight. I had just gotten off the phone with BigBox's customer service, cancelling my online order, when I discovered this. I just didn't feel like bothering to call them back to say, "Uh, fellas? Guess what?"

Needless to say, Mama's going shopping. Again.

***

Oh yeah -- also, don't get me started on a certain national/regional sporting goods dealer. This Sunday, they had an ad for buying a heart-rate monitor for an incredible rate. I mean, SUPER good deal. One I wasn't planning to even think about passing up. Went to their site, clicked on the "buy online" link -- "not available." And I know my local one didn't have any of that brand in stock yesterday but plenty of a competing brand - and naturally at a higher price.

Boys, I believe it's called bait-and-switch. Well, guess what? Found the same exact monitor on eBay, with FREE SHIPPING, and even with my dollar donation to a very worthy cause, it's STILL costing me less than it would have from you even if you'd had them in-store yesterday. Honestly, I'm kind of surprised you're still in that location anyway -- seeing that you have a sister store only about 3 miles up the road, a big competitor across the interstate in a well-traveled shopping center, and even newer competition going in practically across the street. I don't think your location will be around long. I'm amazed you haven't merged with the other store yet.

Anyway ........ HA!!!!!!!!

Well, dang it all.........

***STOP THE PRESSES, VICKI VALE!!!***

I got the Insignia player to work. Turns out there is a little reset area where you stick the end of a pen in there and VI-OLER. It came back to life, just like the little girl in today's Gospel. Thank you Lord. -- Annette

We now return you to the regularly scheduled rant I had typed up, which I thought was pretty dang good, so I'll leave it.

***

Yesterday, over at Weighty Matters, I posted this big loooooonnnnnnng post about my MP3 player, and the list I currently have and what I'm going to cull from it, etc. etc.

So this afternoon, I did it. I excised the old songs, put on the new, and realized I was missing four of the keepers out of my library. I disconnected my MP3 player (and the corresponding USB cord) from the port, put in the jump drive where I had those songs stored, and reconnected the MP3 player.

Dead. Dead as a doornail. I disconnected it. Tried to turn it on and..........
Still dead.

You know, I had opined a few weeks ago about getting a new one, but I did not expect to have to get one so soon. I do not want an iPod at all. Nothing against Apple, but I prefer not to have to do things so weirdly. Thanks to BigBox, I am using iTunes as a music store, burning to CD, and then ripping -- all because I can't get cards there anymore for Rhapsody, my preferred music store.

But dang it all. I am going to BigBox anyway to replace it. I found an inexpensive 2GB Sony model to get me through for a while. But this other one is dead. Just plain dead. You can't see it, but I am pitching an inner hissy fit. This Insignia player has been good, and performed well. What has ticked me off more than anything is BigBox's decision to stop making accessories or to offer much for their older products (the point of my previous rant on this) I am thinking, "What? Do they expect their products to wear out so quickly that you'll come running back for a replacement within months?" Because sorry -- this one (until now) was very well constructed. I've put it through a whole lot in the roughly 27 months I had it. But I really, really, really hate losing it.

Le sigh. If this one conks out in a year, then I will go all sheeple-like and become a Pod person. Actually, I'll probably not and be the last holdout on Earth. THAT'S IT!!!! iPod is SkyNet! It explains everything.......... (hee hee hee).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Almost July and time to recharge.

June has been crazy so far (hence, far fewer postings than I would normally like). I mean, really, it's just been a blur!

So what's been going on?

Work: Busy as ever; maybe even more so. A couple of new things landed on my plate this month, and I have to find a way to balance it all or I will not be long for being able to do it. Nothing makes my immune system go crazier than stress. Even my chiropractor can look at my shoulders/upper back (serious stress area for me) and say, "Holy mackerel, what have you been doing since your last visit?" Yeah, it's not good when that happens. I don't know how to make it work, except to set up a schedule that says something like, "Mornings each day: purchasing duties. Monday and Wednesday afternoons: HR. Tuesday afternoon: accounting. Thursday afternoon: accounting and system testing. Friday afternoon: mixed bag. Please hold all your stuff until the appropriate time unless someone is bleeding or dying. Otherwise, I can't handle it." There is only one of me, and I'm not doing such a great job right now making it work.

Vehicular Things: The upside? I got a better vehicle. The downside? The stress of figuring out my checkbook to make it all balance well. I think I can do it with minimal impact. Knowing I also only have about 9 months left on my accelerated payment plan for student loan is helping out too. It's like "hold on for nine months and things will be good."

Health: Maintenance for WW has been tough on me. I've actually gained weight. UGH.... so I'm back on plan as I try to get back to goal (or within the limits they set). I'm trying a few new things to shake it up. Part of the quick gain may not be so much due to the usual issues from maintenance (adding food back, etc.) but due to another little wrinkle. There could be a hormonal imbalance that is causing weight to come on and off suddenly. So this past week I had some bloodwork drawn for a lab test. I will know my results on Monday. Either way, there will be some sort of treatment -- just which one will depend on the results. More tests may be forthcoming too based on the results. I have a whole slew of mixed feelings based on what I have been told so far. But that's another post for another time.

Recharge: I am heading to my cousin's lakehouse in North Carolina next weekend to play catch-up with them, and to recharge my batteries. I have gone too long without a break .... one day off (Memorial Day) does not a break make. And really, this long weekend isn't going to do much either but it's a start. In mid-July, I'm heading to the Tidewater area for a girls' weekend with some good friends. I am really looking forward to that for a recharge. And depending on how things go when I get back from this coming weekend, I may also sit down with my boss and try to come up with a plan to help me handle everything better. I appreciate their trust in me but there comes a point when I have to say, "No, really, I can't take on any more."

There's the old adage that God never gives us more than we can bear. It's small comfort to know I can bear this much. Apparently, I have even more strength that I wasn't aware of -- and I've learned in the last few years I had way more than even I imagined. The idea that there's even more within me is comforting and yet frightening too.

And with that, I still have miles to go before I sleep later tonight..... errands to run, chores to complete, life to live.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Devil's music, my butt.....

Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves

This is our last dance
This is ourselves under pressure
Under pressure
-- David Bowie & Queen, "Under Pressure"

Okay, so I am only 27 years late to the party on these particular lyrics.

I love our priests at my parish, and way more often than not, they have fantastic homilies (which is similar to a sermon, but shorter, sweeter, and to the point). But on the way to a dinner party this evening, I had this song cranked up and was really listening to it intently. The lyrics just struck me as being as powerful as any homily that I have heard.

"Love dares us to change......" You could stop it right there. Love really does dare us to change everything in response. Real love is transformative and transforming. It is what inspires us to action .... to see the world in a new light, a new frame, and to do something to make it better.

I don't know why these words resonated with me today. But they have, and I have to figure out why. What is that greater love calling me to do?

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm still around and kicking....

I have a lot of things I'm thinking about, but just haven't had a chance to write them all down yet.

The biggest news is that I finally reached my weight goal -- you can read all about it on my Weighty Matters blog. I'm still processing everything that has happened with that. I'm so excited about it, and trying to really plan my next moves (besides maintenance and becoming a Lifetime member). It's figuring out the plastic surgery/skin removal thing and how to make that work.

I'm excited about a girls' weekend coming up next month! I'm planning some things for that as well. Everyone needs some time off, and I am way overdue! :) It's going to be great to see my girls and have a great time just laughing and forgetting my everyday life .... even for a couple of days. I have a whole train of thought about the American approach to vacation versus the European approach. Even this workaholic American is starting to lean toward their viewpoint.

Work is keeping me really busy.... see above paragraph.

And speaking of, I had best sign off. Almost time to leave and join the masses on the highways and interstates. Le sigh.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy birthday, buddy!!!

Today is the birthday for a very special friend of mine. He came into my life 2 years ago in May, and my life has not been the same since. This friend has enriched my life in ways I never expected, has been there for me when I couldn't tell my troubles to another soul, and loves me without question or condition.

Of course, I'm talking about Maddox.

For non-regular readers or close friends, Maddox is my Lab mix. I'm not sure what the other half is -- I was told Husky, but I've thought of Great Pyrenees, wondered about Malamute, and also been told Shepherd as well. Whatever his lineage, I could not ask for a better dog. He has been one of the best gifts to come into my life. He is friendly to mostly everyone (though we've noticed lately he is not very thrilled with children between ages 2-5 or so..... gotta work on that), loyal to a fault, and I have no doubts that he would defend me or my family to the death. He is the delight of my heart, my walking buddy (though lately, he's slower than I am... might have to take up running to get him in gear again), and I cannot imagine my life without him.

I am not a believer in love at first sight. Attraction, yes; love, no. I made an exception to the rule that said, "No love at first sight, unless it's your baby." I have amended that to "There is no love at first sight, except for children and dogs." It's true. I saw him at the kennel that day and it was an instant "I *have* to take this dog." I don't know if I felt he needed us that badly, or if my soul was saying that I needed him. Either way, it's been the deal of a lifetime. What he has given in return for some shelter, food, and a daily walk cannot be bought or measured.

Happy birthday, buddy-buddy! I love you more than you can ever know.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's Memorial Day Weekend....

This weekend, I would like to take time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live and enjoy the great freedoms we have in our country and to keep the light of freedom shining in the world.

First, there is my great-uncle James. He died in 1942, in World War II, somewhere in the Pacific Theater. My father never got to know him (obviously, having been born in 1944), but I have heard that my great-grandmother was just completely crushed by his death. She bought ten plots at the cemetery, but only two have been used -- his and hers. I have traipsed all over Eastview Cemetery to find theirs and haven't yet. It's not that big of a cemetery, so if the weather is good on Monday, I would love to drive there, and get a small flag to place on his grave (if I find it, that is!) If not, there are plenty of other vets there, so the flag would not go to waste!

The county in which I live has an unusually high number of recipients (per capita) of the Congressional Medal of Honor: PFC Furman L. Smith, US Army (WW2); PFC William A. McWhorter, US Army (WW2); PFC Charles H. Barker, US Army (Korean Conflict); and L/CPL James D. Howe, USMC. Pickens County is also home to the first female military pilot killed in US history (Capt. Kimberly Hampton).

It is their bravery, their willingness to serve, and their selflessness that give me pause to be more like that in my own daily life. So on Monday, take even just a few minutes to pause and remember all those in the military who gave everything for your rights, your privileges, and your freedoms. It matters not how you feel about a particular war, or about war in general ..... the military doesn't get enough credit for doing a spectacular job!!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

iThink iMay have to cross over....

and become a(n i)Pod person.

I am pretty dang upset right now with Best Buy. I bought one of their branded MP3 players a couple of years back. It still works great, I'm very happy with it, and there's no real reason to trade it in for a different model. A couple of Sundays ago, I went to Best Buy to get a BB Digital Music Store download cards, just as I have done ever since I bought this model. And I went to get a new armband for it, as I have misplaced the one that came with it.

Only I have discovered....
1. "Oh we don't sell those cards anymore because we stopped partnering with Rhapsody. But we have Napster now, or you can get an iTunes card......."

Okay, back the bus up. I got on Rhapsody because of the cards, and I have grown to like the service. But I am NOT willing to pay per download outside of using the card. I got a discount that way, and using the card also gave me another level of control ..... so that I didn't rack up a $40 download bill that goes straight to my debit card. No, I like the idea of asking myself if I really need that, and do I have enough credits left on the card to make it worth my while.

I'm not switching to Napster. But I went ahead and got the iTunes card. Only I can't transfer any of the songs I've downloaded to this MP3 player as a sync. No, I'll have to burn them to a CD and then do a sync-up that way. I have not only been screwed by Best Buy, but Apple as well because I don't have one of THEIR products.

I didn't want an iPod. I never did. But......

2. "Oh, wow, an armband.... Gee. Did you look over here?" (Yes, numbskull. If I could have found it, I wouldn't be coming to you for help.)

Wow. Guess what? They don't sell things for those "old" products anymore.

I am done. Done. DONE. As much as I don't want to, I fear I have no alternative but to switch instead of fight.

I hate Big Box.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The cleaning project....

Today, after going out for lunch to treat Mom, I bought a couple of 64-qt storage containers for my winter gear. I also found quite a bit of stuff I can add to the ever-growing Goodwill bag. But I have so much further to go. I have a feeling this little project may just take me most of the week....... oh, wait. I have 3 nights where I won't be at home until well after 8:00. Dangitall....... Oh well, over the weekend then. OH WAIT. I have something I'm doing then. Guess I'll just stay up until 11:00 working on the project.

And with that, I'm off to work more on it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Spring Cleaning..... and other thoughts

I have put it off as long as I can. So after getting home tomorrow from taking Mom out for dinner, I am simply going to HAVE to start somewhere, and my somewhere will be putting up the winter clothing at last. I have a bunch of sweaters especially that I want to keep, because I intend to wear that size come next winter. I love this idea more than you can ever imagine.

***

Speaking of Mother's Day, I picked my mom's gift up today. She wanted a gift card from a local chain of clothing stores. I swear, I must have been the only under-40 person in there .... no, I take it back, I saw a child following her mom, and they must have been gift-hunting too. I have shopped in there before -- heck, in my early teens they carried some really good clothes for all ages. But now, it's like the domain of the 65-plus woman. And the front of this store has a sitting area --- usually occupied by elderly men who are awaiting their honeys to hurry up and finish so they can just get out of the feminine haze. Poor fellas; spending countless hours of their golden years waiting on the Mrs. to get her favorite pretty polyester pants.

***

I posted this over on my weight-loss blog, but....... I did a 5K this morning, a fundraiser/benefit for a local domestic violence shelter. It was a wonderful race, and I got to see several friends from various areas of my world: a longtime friend, some coworkers, one of my WW compadres, and met someone (a friend of my friend) who works at the same employer as my best friend.

Better still, I got the chance to learn more about domestic violence, and I saw this exhibit that just tugged at me. It is called The Clothesline Project, and it was t-shirts with messages from people who have survived (and continue to survive) domestic violence whether at the hands of a spouse, their parents, or both .... which probably happens far more than we can know. If a child is beaten and told they're worthless, it's easy to see why they'd be attracted to a mate who tells them the same thing. They have no reference to learn they're worth so very much!!!! But what really got me were the alternating tees..... in between the ones made by survivors & their kids and friends were the ones with a name and the phrase "killed by domestic violence" and their death date. There were names I recognized from the 6:00 newscasts.

Having known people who were victims when I was younger, I found it hard to understand why they just didn't leave. I never realized that my own sense of self-worth had been hammered in from my childhood. Not that my parents were 100% perfect all the time, because no parent is. But if they said hurtful words, they apologized and things were eventually restored. And somewhere deep within, I had a pretty resilient spirit anyway. So it was very hard for me to fathom why a woman (especially) would knowingly stay with someone who told her she was useless and worthless and ugly and no good and then proceed to beat her to show her this. I did not get it at all......

What I've come to know is that it can happen to anyone, of any social strata, in any location, at any time, and that if it happens often enough, even the strongest woman can have her self-worth eroded to nothing..... and she feels she has no worth and maybe he's right.

This makes me want to learn more about the subject and to do something to help educate others about the warning signs, about the dangers. But most importantly, to love my sisters who can't seem to love themselves, who don't think themselves worthy of care and love. What I need to do is show them they are. And hopefully my actions and words will plant a seed that will sprout into something strong and hardy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Just a quick thought.....

One would think that by now, if they can vaccinate against all manner of childhood diseases that used to cripple, maim and kill --- and if they can now vaccinate against a strain of virus that can be a cause of cancer ........

Just when are they going to make a vaccine for migraines?

I am truly blessed not to have severe migraines that make me nauseous and knock me cold for hours or days on end. But I seem to have ones that just remain at a level 4-6 .... just irritating enough that they never fully develop and don't seem to ever fully go away. As the weather gets warmer, my headaches will either worsen or become more frequent. Something about the heat must be a trigger. That's the one nice thing about winter; I don't get nearly as many of these PITA headaches.

As much as Excedrin Migraine helps, I know that it's reaching a point where it will no longer be enough. I'm not looking forward to the day I go for testing. I know it's going to happen. I'd just like to postpone it as long as possible.

Out, out damn headache!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The best laid plans.....

Yeah, take it to mean the spring cleaning didn't even get started. I ended up napping a little Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon as well -- less than an hour each time, but apparently I really needed the sleep.

And I had planned to do some organizing at work today too. Well, that didn't happen either. We're getting ready to do open enrollment, and there were some things I needed to coordinate with our insurance broker instead of organizing myself. Plus another thing I needed to get done today, or at least close enough to it. The other thing I had planned for the afternoon ..... ha ha haha haha hahaha. Yeah. You know what happened.

I have a two-hour meeting tomorrow morning. So tomorrow afternoon..... I am locking the door. I am putting the phone on DND, and I am getting something D.O.N.E. I have to.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today is the day....

My original plan was to spend yesterday doing spring cleaning. I mulled over doing the Azalea Festival 5K, and then was going to do cleaning. I did the 5K alright (click on the link for details), but the cleaning? Nah. It didn't happen.

But today, I at least have to start organizing some things again. And once again, I can see the Goodwill bag getting full. Maybe not as much as last time, but there will be some things for certain! So in about 5 minutes, I'm going to start on Sunday lunch (baking a meatloaf), read the morning paper (which I didn't get to do since I cantored the 8:00 service), and then after lunch, start cleaning / organizing.

Organizing: one of the many skills that I just don't take the time to do as I should. But that's another story.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Help. Help me. Something is very wrong.

I don't know what's wrong with me. Something has come over me and I don't know how to stop it. I feel a strong urge to not only do this but (gasp!) plan for it:

Spring cleaning.

Stop me before the disease grows! BWAAAAAAAAAAH!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Lord is risen; he is risen indeed!

Okay, I don't normally write spiritually-oriented stuff on my main blog. I have a separate private blog for my spiritual/religious thoughts, and I try to limit it to that part of cyberspace. But today is Easter, the holiest of holidays in the Christian church, and today, I feel the great joy of the resurrection. I would not be true to myself if I did not acknowledge that. My faith is very much a part of who I am. Perfect? Heh. You read the blog; you know better. Forgiven? I believe so -- if not, then I would be most miserable of all humanity (to paraphrase St. Paul).

The season of Lent is a wilderness experience, to learn how to depend on God for our needs, and to prepare ourselves for our own passion-death-resurrection experience. While we will all face the ultimate PDR experience, we can experience them on smaller scales in our lifetimes.

Since mid-February, my life has been given a few twists and turns, and I'm still trying to sort through everything. I am trying to simply keep treading water and not drown! I have some new responsibilities, new learning of all kinds, new adventures and challenges -- and at a few times, the same old level of self-doubt. But I know that deep down I am a hardy girl and I will not only survive but thrive.

During the times when I feel that I simply cannot continue, that I can't last even just one more moment, I think back to a thought shared with me by Jill Connor Browne THE Sweet Potato Queen: "The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot sustain you." A few years ago at this time (when Jill shared that thought with me), I was in a wilderness of self-doubt. Mostly, I needed to rediscover the person God meant me to be. I had no idea that within a very short time, that would be exactly what would happen. All this time later, I find myself looking back at that desert experience, my time of temptation when it would have been easy to give up --- and to look ahead at the Easter garden that surrounds me now.

I don't want to bring the desert into the garden ... and yet I have to do so. It is because of the wilderness/desert experience that I can appreciate more fully the lush green pastures and beautiful flowers of the garden of today. I have to bring a piece of the desert with me, to remind me of how far I've come, and what I may have yet to face again. I do not know when the garden may wither. I do not know when I will find myself in the wilderness yet again. I do know that whatever happens, my hope and my security is because of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

I know that there is nothing in this world that is greater than the love of God, love so powerful that it can correct even the greatest injustice and bring life from death. Fr. E (one of our priests) said these words this morning: "In Easter, life is proclaimed where death is expected."

The women went to the tomb expecting to anoint a cold, dead body. What they found was a messenger proclaiming the triumph of life and an empty tomb. Their world was once again turned upside down in just a matter of hours; only this time, their hearts were full of joy and wonder instead of grief and darkness. There was no question in their minds -- he had risen, just as he promised.

As Easter people, we can be no less joyous. We must proclaim life boldly where death is expected or even embraced.

Surrexit Christus, alleluia! Cantate Domino, alleluia!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Oh me of little faith ....

This morning, I shared with our choir director the saga of the great Portable DVD Player search of Yesterday. She said, "Oh hang on, let me call my husband, he won one of those things and I know he'll lend it to you." Bless their precious, sweet, kind, loving hearts.

I am stopping by their house on the way out of town to borrow it. I'm taking the DVD player I bought JUST in case; I mean, you just never know.

And I got some great advice from my buddy Talmadge about connecting my DVD (just in case).

YAHOO! It's good.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Frustrated and futile...

a/k/a My Search For A Reasonably-Priced Portable DVD Player

So, I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon for a 2-day business conference in northeast Georgia. Since I am not familiar with the town, and don't feel safe or adventurous for leaving my hotel to walk through town, I got the idea to take a portable DVD player in order to do some exercise in my hotel room. My hotel most likely doesn't have a fitness room; nothing in the amenities list mentions it. I could have stayed at the hotel where the conference is, but swear to y'all, there was like an $80 difference (and that's WITH corporate rates). Okay, I'm a bit cheap, but who isn't these days?

Anyway, after my WW training ended this morning, I went all over hell and half of G-vegas in search of said portable DVD player. Again, I wanted something that I would consider a reasonable price, because I only really plan to use this DVD player for travel. If it were something I'd be using on a more regular basis, then I would choose something a little sturdier, and of somewhat higher quality.

So I searched at a nearby Fred's: nothing. I went to Big Lots: nada there either. So I decided to head home and began to rack my brain for a Plan B or even a Plan C. Now, keep in mind that NEITHER of these plans involved getting anywhere near a Wally if at all possible. On the way home, there is a K-Mart and I thought, "Okay, as much as I don't want to....." so I went in. They had one -- but for a higher price than I was willing to pay (and especially for an off-brand). No. No, no, no. Then it hit me that occasionally, Belk or JCPenney will have some personal electronics. So I stopped: and again -- NOTHING. I wasn't going into Radio Shack just because I kind of figured they'd be there but more $$. So home I went.

I checked Craig'sList, and yeah, there were a couple listed. However, the sellers are in the completely opposite direction of where I'm heading tomorrow. So that wasn't going to work. I even checked Wally (again) just to see if there was one available in-store. And yes, they had one, but again, not at the price I wanted to pay. Call me cheap; I can take it.

So on a lark, I called the Fred's store here in my hometown. "No ma'am, we don't have any in stock." So I called the next town up: "Yes ma'am we sure do." I go flying up there....... I asked the manager where they were and he asked me with whom I'd spoken to get this information...... I gave him a vocal description (this poor employee had a bad sore throat, so it was pretty easy to describe a gravelly voice). He sighed and said, "Oh, that was my cashier. Well, unfortunately, we don't have them and I hate that you wasted a trip due to misinformation."

Well, it wasn't an entirely wasted trip. What I have done was to buy a refurbished DVD player that they had on sale, a connecting cable, and my plan is to hook the DVD player up myself when I get to the hotel.

After I return, I'll let you know if I've added "electronics wizard" to my skills set .......... BWAAAAAAAAH!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Round & round & round it goes, where it all ends.......

I have been so busy I hardly know where to begin. I've been given a few new responsibilities at work, training to become a WW employee (receptionist and eventually leader training once a few things fall into place), and trying to be a good daughter/friend/worker/singer/insert-other-function(s)-here.

One thing I am striving to remember is to make the time care for myself in all this. I have to eat right (which I do anyway), to exercise (which doubles as "me time"), to get enough sleep (okay, let's call it getting by on what I can), and to cultivate my mind through watching documentaries, reading, or word games. I need to constantly remind myself that I am worth the extra care and attention. I not only have to treat myself as well as I possibly can -- I deserve the extra care. And if I don't care for myself, no one else will.

So as everything swirls around me and goes crazy, hanging onto these pillars of care is extra important!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Are we turning the corner?

Well, as much as I would like this thought to be about the economy, the actual thought deals more with the extreme drought that our state has been in for about 3 years now.

Actually, let me back things up just a little ........ we have probably been in at least a moderate drought really since the late 80s. In 1986, we had such an awfully dry summer that farmers in the upper plains sent us excess grain and hay for our farmers. We had done that several summers earlier, and they repaid the favor. It was really odd, since July 1984 was the wettest July we had on record (23 inches of rain in 31 days). In just 2 years, we had so little rain, we went into drought mode. Truth be told, I'm not sure that we ever really bounced back from the '86 drought. Two years later, the same thing happened. Even the foot of snow we got in winter '86-'87 and the other foot in '87-'88 weren't enough to offset what would be the Summer '88 drought.

I can't vouch for certain about the '90s. I wasn't interested enough in the weather to really pay much attention. But this decade has been a tough one on us -- too little steady rain, just buckets at a time. By the end of 2005, we finally had enough rain to not only put us ahead for the year, but to finally bounce us back from the drought-like conditions of 2000-2003. So what was it that brought us back? Tropical storms. All those storms that demolished Florida and the Gulf -- including the double-whammy of Katrina and Rita -- were good for us. Horrid for my friends along the coast, but a blessing for us.

We're back to drought conditions, just 3 and a half years removed from those awful storms. The lake levels this past fall were so horrendous that old roads that had been flooded when the lakes were constructed were coming not only into view, you could almost drive them again. That, my friends, is scary.

For the winter so far, we've had a good bit of rain -- and especially so in the last few weeks. Between the pretty decent snow (3-6"), and a few days of intermittent rain, we've been blessed. If I remember the weather report from the other night, we are finally at or above normal rainfall totals for the year. Let's hope that the spring and summer continue to have good rain, so that we can get out of this drought!!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'm still alive....

At least I think so. It's been so busy and crazy the last few weeks...... I cannot wait for the weekend, except I have a buttload of things to do then too. Does the merry-go-round ever slow down.... even just long enough for a quick jumpoff?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I just drove home from Stacey's in more snow than I did in West Virginia last weekend. That's some kind of strange, isn't it?

It's beautiful though! Just gorgeous!!! The one bummer is that tomorrow, I actually DO have to go into work (payroll input day). I have no idea just how that's going to work. So say a prayer for me; I-85 is getting the worse end of it, so......

AHHHH!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Country Roads, Take Me Home...

Monday, February 23: Cabins WV to Liberty SC.
Still more miles than I can count!


We awoke Monday morning to an inch of snow on the ground and some serious flurrying. It was just gorgeous!!! Amy and I sat and just looked out the cabin windows for what seemed like hours. We watched the Today show for the local weather (okay, as local as you could get -- it was coming from Hagerstown MD). We also got online to see the WVDOT and VADOT road conditions. West of us was not as bad as the news made it out the night before -- I know, surprise, right? But it was still going to be dicey for me. And as much as I wanted to try the other route, there's always the summer for that. So..... we decided my best bet was to go back WV-55 to the Interstate.

Time for check-out drew nearer, so we got the cabin ready according to the directions in the guidebook. We loaded up the vehicles and hugged and said our goodbyes. Russell & Amy headed west for their various rendezvous on the rest of their vacation, and I headed east. It flurried a little toward Petersburg.

I had planned to stop at a gift shop in Petersburg, but then I saw the one for Smoke Hole Cabins/Motel. I thought, "The heck with it, I will stop here, surely to God they have a WVU hat here!" (for my brother, who collects college caps). Oh yeah, they had plenty of them. I got him a navy one with big gold stripe and the logo and words "West Virginia Mountaineers." I got a pink WVU logo one with little rhinestone sparklies on it. Hey, I figured, "Why not?" It's cute and I can wear it for Race for the Cure this year (if nothing else!). I got my dad one with "Dolly Sods Wilderness" on it. Mom .... no, she's not the hat type, so I found a beautiful purple stone bracelet for her. Gifties purchased, on I went to Petersburg to gas up and go on.

By the time I got to Petersburg -- keep in mind, 10 miles from us -- it was sunny. No more flurrying, no grey skies, just cold wind and a Sheetz waiting for my money. A word about Sheetz: OMG. I was amazed at how nice and well-organized the stores are. But even nicer was the selection of cut fruit, cut veggies, healthy yogurt and all that .... right near the checkout! Let me tell you, I think every convenience store chain ought to have something like that. In Georgia, I stop at QT's and Flying J's because I know they have apples and bananas near the registers. But this topped that. I was majorly impressed.

Also, I'm more a fan of "truck stop coffee" than I am of coffee shop drinks. Starbucks isn't my thing, and I like just plain coffee if I go in Panera or Atlanta Bread. No lattes and cappucinos for me, primarily because they're so calorie-laden. All I want is coffee, Splenda or Equal and a little bit of creamer -- one of the International Delight mini-tubs works just fine (and only costs one point). To that point, the Sheetz coffee was very good!!!

From Petersburg, I stayed on WV-55 to Moorefield. From there, I planned to stay on 55 to I-81.... but Daddy's GPS had another plan. You know, I'm starting to wonder sometimes about GPS's. But the day was still young and I thought, "Well, why not?" So I went down WV-259 into Virginia toward Broadway, VA. And when I got on I-81, I realized I was about 40 miles south of where I thought I would come out. SWEET! It was a lovely drive, too -- a very agriculturally driven area, mostly animal farming (cattle, poultry, etc.). Very pretty, and I found another WV State Park to visit (Lost River State Park).

I came out on I-81 just north of Harrisonburg ..... which when I originally planned my trip, was where I thought I would exit to get on US-33. That was when Melissa warned me that US-33 could be somewhat tricky and to look for an alternate route. Alternate routes... story of my weekend! Anyway, I got to see James Madison University -- right there next to the I. WOW! I continued down I-81, just in pure awe of how beautiful it was. If I ever moved to Virginia, any place along I-81 is fine by me. It is just so pretty. I thought of several places I wanted to pull over and just take pictures of the rolling hills and valleys .... wondering how quickly I could cross the two lanes of I-81S to get to the big hill in the median and take pictures on what was my left. Instead, I put the camera to the driver's window and took some shots. They're not the greatest shots, and don't do justice to how gorgeous it truly is there.

One of my favorite mind-wanderings is "If I won the lottery......" well, I always know my answer. I'd build a home right here near my hometown. This is home, and my heart is always here. I'd get a home at the beach -- probably Edisto these days. And I would SO have a home somewhere in West Virginia or else somewhere along I-81 between Harrisonburg and Christiansburg-Blacksburg (closer to a town, mind you; I am a townie at heart). In a heartbeat. And considering I had family that originally lived in that area before moving to Carolina.... it feels a little like home anyway. Passing through Botetourt County (where my Gillespie ancestors lived before moving to NC), I couldn't help but smile. And as beautiful as Transylvania County is, I thought, "How could you leave THIS?" I stopped for lunch near Troutville, and continued on my way home.

I spoke to Daddy as I passed around Roanoke, and we realized one pretty important fact that I'd overlooked in my stops and starts..... at this pace, I'd be hitting Charlotte traffic right around 5:30 or 6:00. Hey, I listen to Primetime with the Packman each day. I hear the Wilburn Auto Body Traffic Report, as well as the actual traffic on the 'Net broadcast straight from Charlotte (not just the local drops). Let me tell you, I had no intention of getting caught in that web. I got to just north of Statesville and was barely able to pick them up -- but I caught a traffic report that mentioned a tangled mess around Gastonia -- in my direction. Oh no. Daddy's suggestion suddenly looked better and better: Take I-40 West in Statesville toward Asheville, get on US-221S at Marion, and end up in Spartanburg. The GPS once again thought I'd messed up and suggested I turn around. After about 2 miles it dawned on the machine, "Oh, she WANTS to go this way!" It then suggested I take US-321S..... right into Gastonia. No, I had no intention of getting anywhere near Gastonia. It took it ten miles to figure out that I had every plan to stay on I-40.

The further west I got, the more I toyed with the idea of driving on to Asheville instead and taking US-25S to Travelers Rest (my usual route home from Asheville). But I was getting tired and cranky. Asheville was really only another 30 miles or so west, but part of the rationale behind me taking US-221 was so that I wouldn't have to drive down the mountain at night. And besides, I just wanted to get back home as soon as possible.

I came down US-221. It had been a few years since I'd gone down the road, but it was a pretty smooth trip. I finally crossed over into South Carolina at Chesnee, and stopped at a Hot Spot for "drinks and drainage." I needed some coffee, badly, at that point -- not just for the caffeine, but for the warmth. Did I mention earlier that the heater in my car has stopped working? Yeah, it was starting to get cold and I just wanted to get home. It took about another 10 miles but I got to I-85, and ..... well, color me happy. I could finally travel again at a decent rate of speed!! Leadfoot Rides Again!

At that point, everything was familiar again and the rest of the trip home seemed to pass by fairly quickly. It was actually about 45 minutes, but it didn't seem to be so long. I finally got home around 8:20 PM, and I got a very warm reception from my sweet boy and my brother. I got everything out of the car, and started some dinner (I was hungry!). I was so glad to be home and happy.

***

West Virginia really is almost heaven. It is just gorgeous and I understand now why everyone I know who visits raves about it. I'm one of their ranks now!

I read a great article this week in Newsweek online about Governor Manchin's plan to try to rid WV of the toothless inbred hillbilly image. I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but everyone I met in West Virginia was nothing short of genuine and generous. The campus minister at my parish and I were talking about West Virginia -- his old parish in New Jersey does summer ministry in WV, helping to rebuild and renovate houses, and so forth. He noted that it was extremely ironic that there's such natural beauty in the state, and people so warm and kind hearted and real .... and such poverty. And he's right -- I don't know if the poverty is due to the isolation by nature .... after all, it's hard to get to a lot of places because of the rugged terrain and winding roads. I would love to see more industry in some of those areas, especially high-tech stuff which wouldn't destroy the natural beauty. But then you'd lose some of the charm that just seems to come naturally.

I admit that I am spoiled. I can't sling a dead cat without hitting bookoos of varied retail establishments and I'm so spoiled by that. Stocking up on things is as simple as running to the local grocery store -- one that for my small hometown (~4200 people) is surprisingly large and well-stocked at almost all times. To go to a Wal-Mart is five minutes one way, about ten another. At my job, I am within 3 miles of a monster retail area -- more stores and restaurants and whatever than you could believe.

But I don't feel such a sense of community in my hometown anymore. I saw real community in WV. In so many of those small towns, even in Elkins (twice the size of Liberty), there seemed to be a real sense of people knowing each other, supporting each other. Maybe their lack of easy access to resources makes them more creative, better bonded. I wish there were a way to have the best of both worlds.

And it's amazing how in just 72 hours or so, West Virginia stole my heart. I will be back. It's too pretty not to visit time and time again!