Saturday, January 29, 2011

Love Letter to My Parents

My mother and dad will be celebrating their anniversary on 2/18/2011. This is a letter I wrote to them on their 50th anniversary:

Dear Mama and Daddy,

Happy 50th Anniversary and happy 70th birthdays! I am so excited about these milestones! When I was reflecting over what to write, a fact became clear to me: that with the exception of 6 days, I have been present almost your entire marriage! And what a “great ride” it has been! As I was designing your scrapbook as a vessel to hold the “works of heart” written by your children and designed by your grandchildren, I was overwhelmed with how to capture two great lives so closely joined at the heart and soul that it is difficult to imagine one of you without the other.

You know, you hear on a daily basis, “I am this way because my parents raised me this way.” Well, the reality is, that you did not have a good model to draw from. You both had tough childhoods, defined by being poor and being lonely. But if anyone ever doubts that God exists, they simply have to look at how your two paths crossed and you decided to make the rest of the trip together. In one another, you found that perfect, unconditional, and resilient love that continues to grow and envelops all of us that surround you. I look at the two of you and often wonder how you found it within yourselves to reach deep inside and find the ability to create a different future to yourselves that you, in turn, passed on to your children.

John Rosemond says in his book, “Seven Points to Raise Happy, Healthy Children,” that the first and most important point is, “Take care of your marriage.” And indeed, you have done this in the most tender, loving way. From the admonishment: “Don’t come downstairs during our Saturday night dinner,” to, “Don’t ever sit between us,” you gave us a valuable lesson that we were not the center of this family, but that your marriage and relationship was the core around which everything else would revolve and evolve. When I hear couples tell me that they can’t take time for each other because of money or lack of time, I remember how you saved Saturday night as the special date night in which you grilled steaks and watched “Man from U.N.C.L.E” and “Saturday Night at the Movies”, and carved out time ALONE. You must have desperately needed a break from us crazy children, but more importantly, you took time out to connect with each other. I also remember that we were threatened not to come downstairs unless one of us was dead or we would be dead after you got through! Somehow, you found a way to find privacy in our crazy house.

The locked door to your bedroom represents just how sacred you saw your relationship (and had to be the “key” to how there got to be so many of us!) I laughingly tell people that you can tell that you really celebrated your anniversary in February, because 9 months later (November), five us appeared on the scene! (James and Diane had to be flukes!)

In my time management class, I do an exercise in which I get people to line up the roles that are the most important to them. When I get to the part about who should come first: children or spouses, I always tell the story of how you two have always rightfully put each other first. Your fame as the champions of happy marriages is growing!

I feel so privileged to have been your first child. I will never forget one day we were talking about your elopement and I remarked that you must have been a little upset at getting pregnant six days after you were married. You told me that you were both thrilled and that I was so wanted. I cherish the feeling I get every time I remember that conversation. I feel so loved.

I have been the luckiest child because I have been around since the beginning (and no cracks from my siblings about my age!) I remember the struggles to make ends meet. I have vivid memories of your adding up the grocery list to make sure that it fell within the very tight budget. I remember Daddy working two jobs to keep food on the table. I remember I also remember very lucky because we had so much love in our family. I always felt sorry for people who were not in our family.

I feel like those struggles taught me so much! I learned that even if money is tight, you still share with those that are less fortunate. You stuck by each other through the building of the house (that almost ended the marriage!), the fire that led to the famous renovation (aka, hell on earth to put a fireplace in the den), the famous hunting trip, the umbrella pokes, trips to Gulf Shores (in the blue bomb with trailer, dog, and dog vomit/mess in tow!), loss of the job at the Land Company, and tough beginnings at Jones Williams Construction. Why you even have to put up with those stinky brothers of mine on a daily basis! The verdict is in: sainthood for the BOTH of you.

Through it all, you repeated, “God has never forgotten us, we know he will help us.” You continued to emphasize just how important God is to your relationship.

These trials were lessons passed on to me. When I was afraid to move to Atlanta, you said, “Good, we’ll have a place to visit!” I know that you were giving me the very push I needed to start my life as a Swingette in Atlanta.

When we lost John’s parents, you stepped in to help John, Fran, and me cope with the biggest tragedy of our lives. In fact, you have been there not only for us for Jan, and Anne. They, along with Mary Anne, have nothing but the highest praise for the positive influence you have had upon them and the love and unconditional love given to them in times of trouble.

When I couldn’t get pregnant (and the rest of the family could just by THINKING about it!) you talked me on a regular basis to help my flagging spirit. When I lost my job, I remember Mom going to the cabinet and getting me a calendar to start my new company. You knew that food (usually the comfort I liked the best) just wasn’t going to work.

I feel that you have instilled in me the confidence to achieve my very best in life. I marvel at this when I think that you really did not have anyone to teach you this—again this is the real power of your love! Your marriage has provided a wonderful model that John and I admire and learn from on a daily basis!

We have cherished the times we have gotten to travel with you. We have seen some spectacular sites together, shared plenty of vino and wonderful food, and memories that are irreplaceable.

I always enjoy our daily phone calls—it doesn’t feel right when a day goes by and we haven’t talked.

You have achieved a wonderful balance of working, playing and loving together—this is the legacy you have given to me.

I love you so much!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wearing White Shoes Before, During and After Labor Day

I had a bad flashback when I was washing my husband’s exercise clothes Sunday night. No, I’m not talking about sweaty gym socks resurrecting some memory of a smelly locker room. I suddenly remembered washing my gym clothes for junior high and high school P.E. We had to polish our white tennis shoes every week. You know, with that yucky polish that probably only nurses used. It was the kind with the sponge on the end and look like a giant white out bottle. We had to “polish” them or really, paint over the dirt, and then “dress out” on Monday. We had inspection. We stood in our horrible blue gym suits (check out here for an example) with our pitiful shoes. We had gone from running around until we were hot and sweaty during recess and having the time of our lives to a new regime designed to make us hate exercise. Let’s see: How can we make this as bad as possible? I know! Let’s make everyone wear a horrible outfit, clean their shoes every weekend, line them up on Monday for inspection, and then make them do exercise that is boring and, oh yes! Gets their shoes dirty so they can…you know the drill.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Career Ministry

I was lucky enough to speak at every one of our church services on 10/4/2009 to introduce the Career Assistance Ministry to our parish. Here are my remarks:

"December 2, 1991 was a day I will never forget. I, along with 49 other people, was laid off from my job for economic reasons. I suffered the humiliation of being escorted out of the building and being made to come back at night to empty my desks and take out my personal possessions. This was devastating because I had worked my way through college and had, in fact, worked since I was 17 years old. I couldn’t imagine NOT working. It was probably the saddest Christmas I could ever remember. I can remember the humiliation of telling people that I had lost my job and keep in mind, this was at a time when there weren’t many job losses.
But we all know that in this day and time, layoffs have become the norm versus the exception. In fact, in the state of Alabama we have over a 10% unemployment rate. That is why I feel such a passion for the ministry we are beginning today: OLV Career Ministry (or OCM for short). We have a committee that began working on this issue just a few months ago. BJ Heard headed up our group that consisted of Eugene Maitrejean, Jim and Annette Christiansen, Mike Burns and myself. We have worked together to put together a process to reach out and help those in who are unemployed and underemployed. And notice that I did not say “in our parish” because we believe, with Msgr. Rohling and Fr. Rick’s support, that we must help anyone is suffering due to loss of work.

Here’s how it works:
Job Seekers: Make contact with BJ! He will be in the Social Hall with brochures describing the ministry. We plan to provide job search skills training as well as information on where this training can be found. We have entered into amazing partnerships with churches and organizations all over the city who are working in this area. You will have access to vast on-line and written resources as well as personal support. Monthly meetings will be announced in the bulletin. Come to the parish hall after Mass!
Career partners: Those of you in the parish who have the ability to stay in close contact with someone who is trying to find employment. You don’t have to know how to write a resume but you do need to know how to care and to pick up the phone and call the Job Seeker to offer encouragement. We need people who are willing to step up and walk this journey with the Job Seeker. Come to the parish hall and find out details on how you can help.
Career Advisors: Those of you in the parish who know stuff or you have a great network. You know how to review a resume, you know how to do interviews, you know how to help people dress appropriately, or you have contacts. We have been humbled from folks who have found out through word of mouth about the ministry and already contacted us saying, “I know how to do financial planning!” “I can input resumes for people.” This is a lot like trying to learn how to date again after the loss of a spouse and you have this expertise. We want to see you in the social hall.
Prayer Chain: We are so blessed to have a prayer chain under the direction of Kurt Sanford who has committed to pray for the specific needs of our candidates. That is what separates us from secular efforts. This group will help you with your spiritual needs.
Here’s what I know for sure: My layoff story has a happy ending. I ended up starting a highly successful consulting business that now has over 260 clients. I am so blessed. Friends and colleagues came forth and offered support and pulled me up from the depths of depression. None of us makes it alone. I am so thankful!
Gary Roden and Roman Selig, standing behind me are the face of this ministry. Both, through no fault of their own, have been laid off from their jobs. They represent a population that is sadly growing. They need work NOW. Can you walk over to the Parish Hall lobby after Mass and volunteer your services? Can you actively be on the look-out for jobs and get this information to our committee? Can you donate a book to our Career library? Are you going to turn your back on them? There are 3 keys to human behavior: Awareness, Accountability and Action. You know the need. You know what the ministry is. Here’s the final thing I know for sure. Networking is “hello, how are you and what’s in it for me. Networthing is “hello, how are you, and what can I do for you?” Let’s add to the networth of our entire parish through our actions of giving commitment and support to one another. God bless you."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Invitation--read the fine print...

I just got an email invitation to an HR session on how to control obesity. There was also a banner headline: Free Food!

It reminded me of the time I was invited to an executive roundtable on how to cut health care costs. The food that was offered was greasy bacon, and other gross offerings. I think they were trying to cut health care costs by killing all of us.

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cruel Shoes

Oh, I can remember going to the "dime" store (boy, can't you tell there is inflation when it went from dime to dollar store?) and getting my first pair of heels. Let's clarify what I am talking about: Two pieces of plastic, usually with sparkly stuff embedded in them, with elastic that went across the feet. Ooo, I felt so glamorous when I got these for Christmas. I'm sure, given the quality of workmanship, that they lasted about 2 days. I don't even want to think that there may have been lead in them, which I am sure is the reason I had a lead foot for a few years (not now, I always drive the speed limit) I digress.

I remember longing to wear high heels. My mother had some beautiful shoes that were linen with splashes of color, that were about 4" high and had very pointed toes. Oh! They were the height of sexy shoes (although I didn't know what it meant, I knew my mother's legs always looked good when she wore them) And any time my parents went out, I got into my mom's side of the closet, got out the shoe box and would prance around wearing those shoes. My feet just couldn't grow fast enough and I couldn't grow up quickly so I could be the right age for those cool shoes.

Finally, the big day came when my mother said that we could go to Burger Phillips. It was a department store downtown and they were having a SALE. On shoes. On high heels! Mom said I could pick out a pair. I had visions of the pointy toed, 4" heels in my head as we took the long drive. We didn't have interstates back in those days, so I had plenty of time to day dream.

When we got to the store, we went directly to the bargain basement. There were shoes everywhere and the aisles were packed with shoppers who had the same idea as we: Best shoes Lowest price. I tried on many pairs of shoes but none came close to my idea of my transportation to Womanhood. I finally found a pair that could fit, and they were nothing like my vision. The heel was about 1" high, curved inward and had round toes, patent leather with a bow. My mother was thrilled: This is EXACTLY what she had in mind. I was not THRILLED. After all, my mother was responsible for my having those irrational thoughts--she is the one who had the cool shoes. I guess the only thing I thought these shoes had going for them was a bow, and there was no way these patent leather shoes would reflect my underwear, a common thought programmed into my head by the nuns at school. After I wrapped my mind around the fact that no linen shoes were in my immediate future, I quickly fell in love with my new shoes. I fall in love easily.

I then turned my active imagination to going to church on Sunday. I was already entertaining visions of how the rest of the congregation was going to be wowed when they saw my feet. Sunday just couldn't get here fast enough. Then came the big day: and for once in my Dad's life, he didn't have to cajole me to get out of bed--I was ready to go in no time flat. I was wearing a horrible garter belt with hose and my new "cool" shoes. Let the show begin!

During church all I could think about was Communion and my moment walking down the aisle. What was the reaction? Probably nothing. But in my young mind, all eyes were following me.

I hadn't thought about those shoes in years until today. My hair stylist was wearing shoes with heels shaped just like my first. We laughed about that and then reflected that just as we fought hard for the right to wear big girl shoes, we couldn't wait to get OUT of heels. I love the days when I don't have to pull out heels, and flats will do just fine. I'm not ready for orthopedic shoes yet and Dr. Scholl's will just have to take a hike. I still putting my best foot forward and hiding my Achilles Heel.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

There She Is!!

I can still remember Bert Parks singing that song every September in the 1950's and 60's. It was a big deal at my house to gather around the TV in September and watch the annual Miss America Pageant. This, of course, was back the day when there were only one piece bathing suits (Janzen) and the only "platform" was the stage on which the 50 state representatives stood. There was no fund raising and I really doubt if anyone entered the contest for the scholarship money. There was the happy winner trying not to do the "ugly cry" which is the one in which your mascara runs all over your face, and she headed down the runway being serenaded by Bert as she greeted her "subjects" (that would be us). Honestly, I loved watching the show. It was never put into the category of "guilty pleasure" because before feminism, everybody got into the show.

But here we are in the year 2009 and I am the first to admit that I am really looking forward to the Miss America pageant next Saturday. Why? Because I know the Miss Alabama contestant, Amanda Tapley. And my unbiased opinion, without having seen the rest of the contestants, is that she ought to win. Why? Because she is absolutely one of the purest spirits I have ever met. She is eternally kind and loving towards everyone she meets. She is totally oblivious of her external beauty and genuinely seems surprised that she even made it to the top. I'm not. I know the judges could see the same thing in her that I do. Oh, and did I mention? I sing in choir with her. Bert (R.I.P.) will be getting lot's of extra voices added this year because our entire choir wants to join in..."There She Is!" Congratulations, Amanda. You are a winner no matter what happens.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lamaze Method at the Lovoy House

Hee-hee-hoooo, push! Hhee-hee-hoooo, push! Am I talking about birthing a baby? Heck, no! I'm talking about the annual "Let's put the tree back into two boxes that seem to get too small every year for that darn 10'fat tree."

My husband was huffing and puffing and trying to shove the trees into the tiny boxes (notice how they keep getting smaller) and I was "coaching" him and giving him LOTS of encouragement. I then broke out into laughter because this felt like childbirth, only our roles were reversed. And, hey, I was really enjoying this one because I wasn't doing all the pushing (and sweating) John got tickled, too, but also reminded me that childbirth is about pushing something OUT not pushing something in. Good thing we didn't get that confused when Casey was being born...Hee-hee-hoooo, push!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We Three Kings Disoriented Are

I love Epiphany Sunday because we FINALLY get to sing the song "We Three Kings." My favorite part comes when Casey and John lean their heads together and bellow, "OH OHHHHHHH" with added emphasis when hitting the refrain. It should be pointed out that this is not a private performance and is during church with lots of people sitting around.This is the one time they don't mind singing extra loud. I have to fight the giggle factor from setting in.

This Sunday also reminds me of a fun tradition we had when Casey was little. We put up several manger sets all over the house. However, we absolutely did not put in the Baby Jesus until Christmas. Also missing were the three wise men. Why? Because we put them elsewhere in the house and moved them up a little closer to their respective mangers. We had wise men on the steps, in the living room, you name it. Pacing and making sure they got to the right manger was critical. Air traffic control nor "The Amazing Race" never had it so hard!! OH OHHHHHH!

All Are Welcome!

I attended church while visiting my sister in November. At our church we celebrate "All Saints' Day" which is a wonderful way of remembering those who have helped others while living on this earth. Even though I was in another city, my sister and I found the closest church for me to attend. What I found was this lovely gentleman with angel wings and a halo waiting to welcome me and everyone else to church that day.

Each time I look at this picture, I smile because I think about the guts that it took this man to strap on the wings and don the halo.

Being the scrapbooker that I am, I whipped out my camera and asked permission to take his picture. As you can tell, he rewarded me with a big smile and let me take a front and back picture.

Maybe we ought to all start wearing wings, halos, and most importantly, BIG SMILES to remind us that we are saints on earth! Starting the year off with a little "happyness" (a nod to Will Smith) is not a bad idea. Mmm...I think I'll stop by Party City tomorrow and see if there is a pair of wings that will fit me.

Happy 2009!! :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Where's the Bathroom?

Today I was replenishing the bathrooms in our house with toilet paper. I had to pause for a moment and say, "Thank you, Lord." Lowly toilet paper. One of things we take for granted, spin around, grab a few squares, do the duty, and flush it away. But I have to think for a minute about all the people that have no toilet paper, or a place to even go to the bathroom.

Last week we attended our Beyond JustFaith meeting, which focuses on our efforts to put into place our efforts for ending poverty. Tom Bole, a real sweetheart in the group, told the story about being down at the Church of the Reconciler. He said that a man came in and Tom asked, "Can I help you!" The man screamed, "I need some toilet paper NOW." Tom said it took a moment to register what he was asking and then Tom scurried around to help the man. As Tom said, "When a man has to go, he HAS to go!" We talked at length about lack of public toilets for the homeless. I know both sides of the argument. Who would clean them? How would you keep people from being harmed by being attacked in the restroom? What about people who would sleep in the bathroom? Are people being enabled to stay 'homeless' if more infrastructure is put into place? I don't know the answer to any of the questions.

I must admit that restrooms are something to which I pay a lot of attention. First of all, there is a huge lack of stalls when there are a lot of women involved. I maintain my staunch position that it has to be because of male architects. Women would never do this to other women. Then there is the problem when you get to the airport with your luggage and you try to squash yourself into a stall with all your belongings. Again, I blame men for this misery. And I must admit that I have taken over a men's restroom by posting a woman at the door to stop any men from coming in when there are a lot of women. Paybacks are heck. And poopies happen.

But, ah, then there is Adtran. They are a lovely client of mine in Huntsville. You walk into the bathroom and there are 12 (count them because I obviously have) stalls. No line. No waiting. And the stalls are large. You could have a party in there. But then again, maybe that is a bad idea. But I digress. I never fail to stop for a minute, look down that long line of doors and say a prayer of thanks that someone had the foresight to build enough stalls. And, I never cease to find the people in charge of the bathrooms and thank them for their incredible work of keeping these stalls sparkling clean.

Thank you, Lord, for bathrooms, toilets and lowly toilet paper.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Perfect End to a Perfect Day

As an Extravert, I am often 'blessed' with saying things before my brain becomes fully operational and is able to say, "Don't say that--you'll look stupid!" One of those occurrences came at the end of an eventful day. Let me explain.

Pre-TSA, I had arrived for my flight an hour early, checked in with Delta, and knew I had plenty of time before my 6:00 a.m. flight. Knowing I had plenty of time (wow, this really is the old days!) I went to McDonald's and had breakfast. I got to the gate 30 minutes in advance, ready to stroll on to my flight (remember, this is pre-TSA). The Delta gate agent blurted out, "Where were you?" I replied, "What do you mean? I'm on time for my 6:00 a.m. flight!" The agent said, "October 1st!" Yes, this was the date, but I must have look thoroughly confused. The agent went on to explain that on on this date, the times changed for the flights and my plane left 30 minutes early. As you might have guessed, this was also pre-email, so I had no idea that anything had changed. Then I got really frantic because the client for whom I was teaching had changed two shifts of employees to get them all in the room all at the same time for my training class. In other words 60 people had rearranged their day waiting for me to show up.

To make matter worse, there were no more flights to this little town in Texas. The agent told me to go to the Continental desk because they had a later flight and to BEG. I ran in my navy blue pumps to the Continental desk crying the entire way picturing my clients angry and frustrated. I remember standing in line with sweat pouring down the back of my navy blue power suit. When I finally made it to the counter, I explained my dilemma to the agent (with probably TMI). The agent replied knowingly, "Oh, yes, it's October 1st and that all the schedules changed." This October 1st thing had to be the best kept secret!

I told her I would happily take overhead bin space if they could just fit me in. I was also filled with dread thinking about how much I would have to pay since I was making this deal the day of my class. The agent went to typing and said that they had a friendly relationship with all the other airlines and would simply swap the ticket with Delta (wow, things really have changed!) She said THERE WOULD BE NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE. Be still, my heart.

I happily boarded the flight and took the first leg to Charlotte. The Delta flight was also supposed to arrive there. I remember watching the Delta board and seeing that their flight was late. I kept watching the board and saw that they had posted that the Delta flight was not arriving. Again, be still, my heart. I got on my Continental flight and made it to the training site only 10 minutes later than my original arrive time.

I breezed into the classroom, feeling like I had dodged a bullet. Then came THE MOMENT. I saw an African American gentleman who was in my class. He looked like someone famous. At the end of the class, I blurted out, "Do you know who you look like?" Bewildered, he said, "No." I followed up with, "Morgan Fairchild!" feeling proud that I had made the connection. He walked out, looking back at me, like I was an idiot. It was only after the door shut that I realized that I had told him that he looked like a blonde headed white woman instead of an elegant African American actor (Morgan FREEMAN). Duh...could we rewind that tape?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

1 degree from an Olympian

My daughter Casey had the most awesome 4th grade teacher. Her name is Frances Greenhalgh and the kids used to call her "Miss Greenhouse." She was optimistic, fun loving, and made each child feel special. And the feeling was mutual.

The year that Casey was in the 4th grade, Mrs. Greenhalgh's son was in a serious accident. Through his treatment he became involved with Lakeshore Rehabilitation. Being like his mother, Tommy never asked others to feel sorry for him. Instead, he threw himself into finding his highest potential and became a Para-Olympian in sharp shooting. He also became involved in para-rugby. This sport is grueling and rough. One of his team mates, Bryan Kirkland, was at a hugh disadvantage because he didn't own a sports wheelchair.

Casey's class got into action and began a campaign called "Pennies from Heaven" that was designed to get the funding Bryan needed to get the right chair. Children from all over the school emptied their piggy banks and their parents' checkbooks to raise the funds. It was a rousing success and the money poured in. The goal was met in three short weeks. Bryan came to the school and I will never forget his reaction. But the kids got more than they gave. The Lakeshore team showed up to play a game of rugby at the school and they got to see players who gave it their all.

Last night, Bryan was on television for a news spot. Turns out he is going to the Olympics!! I couldn't have been more proud. He is now working at Home Depot (a great supporter of employees who participant in the Games) and he spoke briefly about his upcoming trip.

Wow. I am so proud to think that my daughter and her class invested in this young man who will now be on a world stage. He has already struck gold in our hearts. USA! USA! USA!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I absolutely love the fact that every two years there is this huge celebration where cool, fit people come together and share the gifts of their hard work for the last four years. Wow. I wish I was half that disciplined and I wish I could burn calories for watching the Olympics.

True Story: Several years ago, NBC decided to broadcast the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on MSNBC. Big problem for us because at that time we didn’t get that channel. I contacted Charter Cable and through persistence and people on the other end who were eager to pass me on to someone else higher on the food chain. I finally found a guy there who listened to me as I made my case for this long-time family tradition of gathering and watching every moment of the opening ceremonies. Turns out the cable station was going to get MSNBC the following week. Poor guy, I bugged him every single day the week of the opening ceremonies. He called New York and they agreed to give us the channel a week earlier than planned. The cable guy called me on Thursday to let me know that Friday I would get my wish. Way cool!!! Yes, I have that Jones gene factor in me that won’t let me take “no” for an answer.

Oh, yes!! I should mention that we have gotten to visit Athens, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City, all Olympic hosting sites. We got to see the original fields where the real Olympics were started. All with nude men. Now I am going to spend my time campaigning for that!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Loss of a Young Life

This has been a hard week. First, I heard about the passing of Katie B, the daughter of Shelley Burkett, a beloved scrapbook designer. Then I just got news that one of my daughter's friends, Monica Chao, was fatally injured in a car wreck Friday night. This girl was at our house on many occasions and we have so many pictures, you know ("Oh, Mom, you're not getting out the camera again"), and now those pictures are all we have.

I love how Erin, Katie, Casey and Monica hung out and had a great time in high school. It can be a tough time if you are not surrounded by girls who care for you and won't criticize you behind your back. These four girls had that kind of friendship. It was a joy seeing them together.

My heart goes out to Monica's parents who are now traveling down the road already pioneered by Shelley and her husband Mike. They all join the friends of mine: Theresa, Doug, JoAnn, Steve, and Anne who have had the sad duty of burying their children. As a mom, this just breaks my heart. I also grieve for her older sister, Frances, who is having the sad job of communicating to all of us the plans. I pray for her to have strength to put one foot in front of the other.

I would like every parent out there to hug their children a little harder, call them just to say, "I love you," and take all the pictures you can, despite the protests.

Blessings to all families...

Center of the Watermelon

Nothing says “Summertime” like a good watermelon. But not just any ol’ melon, it has to be ripe, red and sweet. I’m sorry, but no matter how much training I get (mainly from the produce guy or any other Wal-Mart employee who happens to be walking through the produce section at the wrong time) I just can’t hear the “thunk” that lets me know it is a good watermelon.

When I get home from the store with groceries and watermelon buying was part of the process, I immediately cut into the melon to see what I got. Ripe? Rotten? Pale pink? Mushy? All of these thoughts are racing through my brain as my ginsu knife is making its way through the rind. Anticipation while I’m holding my breath. Nothing is worse (ok, maybe it is not the end of the world) than opening up the watermelon and, darn it! Another bad watermelon.

But oh, get a good one, and that is the absolute best. And yes, I have been known to eat the center of the watermelon and leave the rest for later. And I have never had to share. John and Casey don’t care for it. Well, that was true until I heard bad news from Spain earlier this week. Casey is finishing up her Spanish minor while abroad. When we were talking about the foods to get, I was rattling off the list:

Apples (check)

Bread (check)

Jello (sugar-free, check)

Redi Whip (no-fat, check)

Chicken to be grilled (check)

And then she said, (gasp!)
"I want some watermelon, too." “You do?” I questioned weakly. “Yes,” she replied, “I have been eating it over here.” Darn!! What happened? How did my watermelon monopoly suddenly collapse? I should have seen the signs.

When I was pregnant with Casey (born in September) I ate watermelon everyday. You know how they say, “You are what you eat.” Well, that had to be true, because my stomach was growing like a watermelon. I can even remember very vividly a dream that I had while pregnant. I dreamed that watermelon became scarce and was being sold for $50 a pound. Further, the only way it was being sold was by the slice and and it was displayed under glass (like the kind that covers cakes.) My husband says I dream in amazing detail and that there is usually a storyline.

After Casey was a baby, I took her to the grocery store. After I finished shopping, I strapped her in her seat first and then surrounded her with the paper bags full of groceries. On the way home, I could hear scraping sounds against the sides of the bags, and I asked, “Casey, what are you doing back there?” I didn’t get an answer. In fact, I asked her three times with the same results. She wasn’t being stubborn, she just hadn’t learned how to talk yet, That, of course, didn’t keep me from talking to her because I had a captive audience and I wanted to take full advantage of the time in which I didn’t have to worry about her talking back.

When we got home, I opened the back door of the car. Lo and behold, there was Casey, sitting in her seat with red juice dribbling down her mouth. There was the watermelon half covered in plastic. The little stinker had poked a hole in it and had been scraping out watermelon with her fingers. That was the last time I remember her eating watermelon because she has always turned up her nose anytime I offered. I didn’t care, more for me. Until now. Darn.

PS: When Casey scraped out the watermelon, wouldn’t you know it was the center? Like mother, like daughter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, You Will Be Missed

I was thinking about Randy Pausch during my yoga class today. If you've missed Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People or the Oprah show where he appeared, you need to start the hunt for information on this man. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. But he would be quick to tell you that he was a husband and father first and then a professor. He also has pancreatic cancer. Put away the hanky because he chides those who feel sorry for him. His motto was probably: Don't cry for me, Argentina, or any other country for that matter. His goal was to live his life to the fullest.

I frequently dedicate my workouts to him as a way to remind me to be thankful for having a healthy body. Because I know that he is dying, I know that he would have loved to have been sweating. He definitely would not have been complaining about having to exercise.

I have been closely following Randy’s progress and have been checking his blog for months and scouring the internet for information on how he was doing. What I found was almost no news. This let me know that he was engaged in the right thing: concentrating on his family during his last days and putting the rest of us to the side. Good choice. Another good lesson for us.

I returned home from the Y and a dear friend let me know that Randy died today. I would love to say that my intuition was at work and that is why I was thinking about him. But the truth is, he has been present in my thoughts for a long time and I have told every single class that I have taught for the last few months about Randy’s story. I wanted everyone to catch his joy and gusto for living.

I have personally purchased 30 copies of his book and give them to friends or acquaintances who needs a boost or simply as gifts. “The Last Lecture’ is a wonderful read and I, for one, feel that Randy left words that will help his children really get a sense of their dad. The rest of us just happened to be the lucky bystanders. If you haven't read this, run, don't walk to your near bookstore (or go online) and get it (or even download it INSTANTLY from iTunes if you are the 'instant gratification type.) You won't be disappointed. Trust me.

And I cannot forget his wife Jai. She stands out in my eyes as a woman who loved her husband to the end and honored her vows of “in sickness and in health.” Randy picked a jewel when he set his sights on winning her heart. She certainly personified grace under fire as she gave a way a lot of her privacy to share her dying husband with the world. I only wished I lived down the street from her so I could make her a dinner or two.

Which reminds me: I may not know Jai, but I do have other friends and acquaintances that are hurting and could use a dinner or two. Thanks, Jai, for this lesson.

Tonight I raise my glass to Randy, Jai, and their adorable children. I love you all and thank you for letting us in the final days of Randy’s life. Randy, your words will live on. And I promise to be more conscious of where my time is going. Time to get off the computer and snuggle with my wonderful husband. Amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!

4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. First, because it is my grandmother's birthday. None of those dainty, old lady cards for her. I get to make cards with pop ups with fireworks and cool flag stuff. Great way to use up all my Mrs. Grossman's stickers that I bought, well, by the gross. This year is her 99th birthday and she is likely to be a candidate for Willard Scott's 100 year birthday list sponsored by Smucker's. If she makes it to 100, her card may have to have real live sparklers that ignite upon opening. Stay tuned!!

There's even more to love. One of my favorite memories of the 4th occurred in Charleston, S.C. John, Casey and I visited a ton of forts that day (John's idea of a dream day.) We then went to the Yorktown air craft carrier. We were supposed to see the symphony on the flight deck, but the driving rain caused a change in plans. We ended up in the hangar area. The director of the symphony was unforgettable. She emerged in a striking strapless red sequined dress with a tall Uncle Sam's hat. She had salt and pepper hair and looked like the character Maude. She was elegant and one heck of a director. She had the entire crowd eating out of her hand. The music was beautiful. The audience was not only the folks in the hangar but also small boats that gathered around the large ship. Each had tiny lights and looked like stars on the water.

The rain finally stopped and we went on the flight deck to see the fireworks show. It was a duel of the best kind. There were majestic fireworks and then fantastic lightning would web the sky in the distance. Man. God. Man. God. God won.

Another cool 4th took place in Boston, one of the cradles of the Revolution. We began the day by taking the Freedom Trail and walking all over Boston. We loved each glorious step. We then returned back to our hotel room because it overlooked the park where the Boston Pops were playing. We had the best seat in the house! But wait! There's more! A Stealth bomber flew over the area and the pilot tipped his wings to his mom who was in the park. The bomber flew right by our hotel window and gave us a sight few have ever seen.

As Tim Russert would say, "What a country!"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Adults Say the Darndest Things

I haven't posted for a while because I have been traveling for fun and work. However I have had an opportunity to think about some really odd things that people have said.

Here are some examples:

A woman was talking to my mom. She related that her husband had "phosphate" surgery and that they had planted "scrubbery" around their house and "uranium plants." The funniest part is that we knew what she meant. Who could make this up?

I should note that the conversation took place while the couple was sitting on my parents' bed in their hotel room. When the woman added that because of her husband's "phosphate" surgery he had to "urine all the time," my parents jumped up out of their chairs and said quick good nights to the couple and ushered them out of the room.

While in Hawaii, my mom told me that when my sister came to Hawaii with her high school choir, her choir director reminded them to be on their best behavior because they were representing "their country."

Also while in Hawaii, a fellow traveler noted that all she ever saw were cars with Hawaii tags and, "Why didn't people from other states drive their cars to Hawaii?"

Silence can be golden!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

You've Got the Cutest Baby Face

There are people who are photogenic and there are people like me, who are not. My niece, Claire (fondly known as Baby Claire by the family) is such a cutie. She instantly puts on the best expressions when her picture is being taken. I have yet to see a bad picture of this very cute child!!

I always put together the family calendar each year because I am the scrapbooker of the family and I love to do it. This year's calendar featured Claire on every page. Not one family member complained. We all knew that as the resident baby of the family, you get headline coverage. And Claire always delivers!!
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