Monday, December 12, 2011


"Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe."


Over the last several weeks, I've been witness to countless aspects of power and it's varied consequences in our lives. If you think about it, "power" is really an amazing concept. It encompasses so many different sources and a nearly endless array of outcomes. It can be both good and bad - often at the same time. Let me show you what I mean:

Power: Good v Evil
Last week, a terrible injustice was perpetrated against someone we know. A local School Board called a last moment 'emergency' meeting to discuss the dismissal of a Principal. The meeting was very hush-hush, and was called in such haste that is was clear to those close to the matter that something was amiss. The Principal in question has been a long-time district employee who has both taught at this particular school, and whose children attended the same school as well. She is well liked by students and staff alike, and has dedicated many years of service to the community she represents. Those 'in the know' felt that charges being made against the Principal were baseless and the issue really stemmed from a personal vendetta of one particular Board member. Though I'm sure not what they expected, at the meeting, the Board faced an angry gallery that was filled with parents, staff and students who supported the Principal - many of whom spoke up on her behalf. After half-heartedly 'listening' to the attendees, the Board went behind closed doors to vote on whether or not to dismiss the Principal. It was no surprise to anyone that the Board voted not to renew the Principal's contract for next school year. Score: Evil 1, Good 0

Interestingly, this 'emergency' Board meeting took place just two days before a regularly scheduled meeting. At the regular meeting, one Board member retired, a new member was sworn in, and elections for Board positions took place. With the new Board member seated, and positions delegated, a new 'emergency' meeting was called for January to re-visit the dismissal issue. Though the outcome has yet to be determined, it's fair to say that most everyone believes the Board will rescind the dismissal and renew next year's contract for the Principal. Score: Even-Steven

Power: Mother Nature v 60-year Old Christmas Tree
Wednesday (or WINDSday as we now call it) November 30th brought the most powerful windstorm that's hit our area in a very, very long time. Winds up to 90 miles per hour ripped through local towns downing power lines and uprooting 60/80/100-year old trees - snapping them like they were twigs.

When all was said and done, our small town, as well as many others in the surrounding area, lost hundreds - literally - of majestic trees of all shapes and sizes. There was no rhyme or reason as to which trees were toppled and which remained - Mother Nature was indiscriminate in her fury. One particularly significant loss was our town Christmas tree. It's been standing at the north east corner of Library Park for 60 years. Each year it's decorated with lights and ornaments and we hold an official tree lighting ceremony and follow that with a town Christmas parade. This year the lighting ceremony and parade were to have taken place on Thursday, December 1st. Sadly, the Christmas tree was downed by the powerful winds and is no longer standing. Obviously the ceremony and parade were canceled. Here's a look before and after:
Heartbreaking. Score: Mother Nature 1, Tree 0

However, there is a bit of a bright spot: the local Home Depot has donated a 17-foot Cedrus Deodara to replace the tree we lost. Hey, at least it's a start! Score: Tree 1, Mother Nature - well, I'm not one to trifle with Mother Nature, but let's just say we didn't completely completely go down in a blaze of glory ;o)

Power: Super Bug v Super Antibiotic
I mentioned in my last post that mom came home from the care facility, but was still experiencing some difficulties. Shortly after I posted that, mom returned to the hospital - she was very, very ill.

As if the accident and surgery weren't enough, while in the care facility, she developed pneumonia which they treated with antibiotics. A couple of days before she was due to be released, she developed severe diarrhea. They treated her for a couple of days with Flagyl, but it did not subside. Still, in their 'ultimate wisdom', the care facility released her to come home - even with severe diarrhea (go ahead, ask me how I feel about this ... I double-dog dare ya!). Within a few days, mom had grown worse. The diarrhea still remained, and in fact had become even more severe, and she was terribly weak and short of breath - a sure fire sign that the pneumonia had not subsided either.

On Monday, November 28th, I took mom back to the hospital where she was admitted with pneumonia and a severe intestinal infection. She had an extremely elevated white blood cell count - 43,000, and they began treating her with antibiotics immediately. By Wednesday, her white blood cell count had soared even higher - 50,000 - and they told us that mom's intestinal infection was so severe, in order to survive, she would need surgery to remove her colon the following morning. They felt at that time that surgery was the only way she would be able to get rid of the infection. She had contracted Clostridium difficile; a 'super bug' so powerful, if not treated immediately and aggressively, it can cause death. We were stunned - shocked. How can this just keep spiraling out of control? That day, they started treating her with a brand new antibiotic that just hit the market in August. It's the first drug in 25 years that was created to specifically treat this particular infection. The following morning, we all gathered at the hospital early to be with mom before she went in to surgery. By the time we arrived, they'd already taken blood to do some lab work prior to the surgery; while we were talking to mom, the doctor came in and said that the lab work had improved significantly from the previous day. Her white blood cell count had dropped from 50,000 to 38,000; the new medication was definitely working!

It's been - and continues to be - a very long, slow process, but each day mom gets a little bit better. Currently, her white blood cell count is within normal limits, her vital signs are stable, and she's recovering. Score: Super Bug 0, Super Antibiotic 1

Power: The Awesomeness of God
Though not overtly 'religious', I'm definitely a believer - I always have been. But the last couple of months have really shown me the incredibly awesome power that is God. Most days I have my own casual conversations with God; thanking him for the many blessings in our lives - each other, our families, our jobs, food and shelter - the usual things. Lately, however, with the lives of two of the people I love the most dangling over the edge, my prayers to God have been different. Multiple times a day I find myself talking to God - praying for my parents' restored health; praying for the wisdom of the doctors treating their ailments; praying for the compassion of the nurses tending to their needs. These prayers are different; they are more direct in desire, and more complex in scope. I find that I'm praying to God for wisdom of my own; for the strength to give everything up to Him, as I know it should be, and to be at peace with His chosen results.

I've always known it - and somehow felt it, but recently I've witnessed first hand the power of prayer and the power and awesomeness of our loving God. By the grace of God, I am blessed. Score: God 1 - and really, that makes us all winners.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

So Much to be Thankful For

The day after my last post, our family had another near tragedy.

With mom away in the rehab center, dad was left at home all alone. Deb, Kevin and I had been going up a couple of times a week to check on him and calling him several times a day. Still, he hadn't been feeling well and hadn't been eating much and kept getting weaker. Friday morning on my way to work around 7:00 a.m., I called the house and there was no answer. It made me a bit uneasy, but I thought maybe dad was out getting the paper. I waited another five minutes and called again. This time, mom and dad's neighbor, Jose, answered the phone. He sounded frantic and said that he'd found dad in the driveway; he was curled up on his side and wasn't breathing. Jose said that 911 had been called and they were just pulling up. I told him I was on my way. I called Deb immediately and she made a quick dash into school to let them know there was a family emergency and she could not stay; she headed over right away. I called Kevin and he said he'd meet me up at the house.

Of course it would be raining that morning. Of course there would be a ton of traffic. Still, I made it up to the house in about 12 minutes or so. By the time I arrived, they already had dad loaded in the ambulance and they wouldn't let me see him. I knew by the look on everyone's face, it was grim. I began sobbing, got in the car and followed the ambulance to the hospital. I called Kevin and told him to meet me at the hospital instead of the house - I lost control and just sobbed into the phone.

When we arrived at the hospital, I insisted upon seeing dad. The ER doctor did try to stop me, but I marched past him anyway. Dad was laying on a gurney and did not look good. He was completely gray and his chest was sunken in. I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss before they rushed us out to keep working on him. Someone from the hospital - a social worker I think - escorted us to a private conference room. Kevin and I sat in there not knowing what was going to happen. We were both in a panic and crying. The doctor came in and asked what we wanted him to do. He said it did not look good and they didn't know if they'd be able to get dad to hang on. We told him to do whatever he had to do to keep him alive. At this point, Deb was still driving through traffic and hadn't yet arrived at the hospital. The doctor came in once again and told us that they'd inserted a breathing tube and had set up a dopamine IV; both things were keeping him going, but he was still in grave danger.

Deb arrived and we all waited in the conference room for the next update. The doctor came back in and told us that we could go in and see dad in a few minutes. The three of us huddled together and said a prayer. After several moments, we gathered together and went in to see dad. He still looked so pale and fragile just laying there in that gurney. Deb and I each took a hand and began talking to him. He was completely out - they'd also given him a sedative - but I still think that even in that compromised state you can hear what's going on. With that in mind, we just kept talking and talking. We told him how much we loved him, and what a great father he is. We told him he was a good man who'd lived a good life. We said that we didn't want him to leave us yet, but gave him permission to do so if that's what needed to happen. We took turns talking, and then talked at the same time. On and on it went.

Finally they told us that, though he was still in danger and they didn't know what to expect, he'd stabilized enough to be transferred to the Critical Care Unit upstairs. Up we went. As it turns out, he was placed in exactly the same room mom was in just a few weeks before. We affectionately dubbed it "The Maxwell Suite". We kept talking throughout the day and into the early evening. Around 6:30, dad began to try and open his eyes. We called the nurse in and she said that sometimes that just an involuntary reaction. She called his name and said "George, if you can hear me, hold up two fingers." HE DID! For another hour our so, he kept opening his eyes and looking around at Deb, Kevin and myself. He was agitated with the tube in his mouth and, had it not been for hand restraints, would have tried pulling it out. About 7:30, they asked us to leave the room for a while during the nurses' change of shift. When we got back an hour later, they'd sedated him again and said that he'd be out the rest of the night.

We called first thing in the morning before we left to go to the hospital to see if there was an update on his condition. The nurse said that he was awake, alert, responding to commands and seemed to be doing well. UNbelievable! By the time we arrived at the hospital, they'd removed the breathing tube (to which he responded: Well, that's better!) and he was breathing on his own and talking up a storm. He continued to improve over the next several days; his only complaint was that his chest hurt from the CPR the paramedics and docs in the ER had performed.

As it turns out, the reason the fire department would not let me see dad in the ambulance is because he'd crashed and they were certain that he'd passed away. En route to the hospital, they were able to resuscitated him - only to have him crash again while in the Emergency Room. When mom and dad's neighbors heard that he'd pulled through, they were astounded; they had been told that he'd passed away. I called the fire department that Sunday to let them know, too, that dad had pulled through; they couldn't believe it.

It's been a very long and emotional six weeks for our family. Both mom and dad have had some major obstacles to overcome - and are still in the long process of doing just that. However, at this point, they are both on the mend. Mom came home from the rehab center just this past Monday. She's still having difficulties, but is enjoying being back in her own home. Dad is now at the rehab center and will, hopefully, be coming home by the end of the week. It's a long and difficult road ahead. Deb and I were saying just this morning that it sometimes feels like mom is making a baby step in progress, and then a slide to two steps behind. We're still very concerned. Dad is really doing well. He's hoping to 'get his legs under him' and gain some strength so that he can be home soon.

Thank you for all of your kind wishes, words, thoughts and prayers. God is so good! Prayers do work, and miracles happen.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mom Update

First, let me say thank you all so much (!) for all of your kind emails with prayers and good thoughts for my mom. My family and I really appreciate it - it just means the world to us.

Mom is still in the rehab facility, but is progressing. Her wounds are healing nicely and most of the stitches in her forehead were removed this week. We've had a very difficult time with the facility with regards to getting appropriate care and communication, but we had a meeting with them the other day and things seem to be looking up. She's now getting physical therapy twice a day, which is making her stronger, and she's been able to eat more which is helping to build up her strength as well.

We have an appointment with the neuro-surgeon on Monday. Hopefully he'll give us a good report on how her neck is healing.

The closest estimate we have at the moment is that she may be released from the rehab facility in a week to a week and a half. The (GP) doctor phoned this afternoon and said that, based on her chest x-ray, they were putting her back on IV antibiotics as a precaution. The last thing she needs at this point is pneumonia!

Please keep mom in your prayers. God is good.

Little Green Men

Kev's school had a Halloween costume contest on Friday. Hands down the most clever and creative costume of the bunch belonged to the trio of girls who were dressed up as the Green Army Men from the movie Toy Story.

Kevin said they walked around with something that looked like a skateboard, but when asked to 'strike a pose' the girls would drop the things and stand on them - their platforms! - and hold their pose.

Take a look (click on the photo to make it larger for a better view):
Too funny!

Ahoy Mateys!

So ... remember the ship? Well take a look at the final product:
Isnt' it the coolest?!

Sunday morning we were going to breakfast with my mom-in-law, Vicky, and her brother, Bob who was visiting from El Paso. I asked Kev to drive us by the 'ship house' so we could see the progress. As you can see, they added a TON of stuff since the last set of pictures! First of all, they stained the natural wood to a darker finish. But the biggest additions are INside the ship. We parked the car and got out to take a closer look and, when we did, we happened to see the homeowners outside getting ready to begin work on their project for the day. We struck up a conversation about the ship and asked a lot of questions. For instance, there is a door in the side of the ship...
and I asked the homeowner if that's where the Trick-or-Treaters would come in to walk up to the door. She said that it actually led to the 'Treasure Chest'. She invited us in to take a look. DARN IT! I didn't have the camera with me - of course! But it was SO COOL! They had it all set up ala Pirates of the Caribbean. with lots of glistening treasures and skeletons of the unlucky souls who tried to hoist the sunken treasure. It was so much fun! We were all so impressed with the Treasure Chest that she invited us over to the other side of the ship's interior where the 'Voodoo Hut' was located. Amazing! It contained all sorts of bones and bats and shrunken heads - and a stone fireplace that looked pretty darn close to the real thing. We asked what it was made of and she said styrofoam! They have a styrofoam cutter that sort of melts the edges of the styrofoam to make whatever you're creating look more like 'the real thing'. Here's an example of the cut styrofoam (the ship's railing, not the skull):
After our tour, I asked her about how many Trick-or-Treaters they were expecting. She said that they've been doing this for 23 years and they're now up to about 1,000 Trick-or-Treaters! They have goodie bags for the smaller children, mardi gras beads for the teenagers, and candy for everyone. They will have family and friends dressed up as pirates on the ship handing out the loot. How fun is that?

You just gotta love the kids that never grow up ;o)

Knott Knott's .... who is there?

For the boys' 8th grade promotion in June, mom and dad bought them tickets to Knott's Berry Farm. Well actually, they bought all of us tickets to Knott's Berry Farm! Somehow the summer escaped and we never quite made it there, but we still had through November 1st to use the tickets. Even though things have gotten a bit crazy lately, we didn't want to miss out on the generous gift from mom and dad, so we decided to meet at the Farm this past Saturday for a little bit of fun and relaxation.

We had such a great time! The boys have never been to Knott's Berry Farm and the rest of us hadn't been there in ... well, years - literally! It's changed a lot since the last time I was there - they've added quite a few roller coasters and thrill rides. On the one hand, Pat is a thrill-seeker who absolutely loves roller coasters. Drew, on the other hand, uh ... not so much. But it all worked out. We went on some rides together, and split up in various groups for other rides. Overall, everyone got to go on the rides they were interested in, and we had a great time together.

One of the best parts of the day was dining at Mrs. Knott's Restaurant. They have the best fried chicken dinners - YUM! We haven't been there in years either, so it was a fun treat. Saturday was Deb's birthday, too. I'd made her a birthday badge to wear for the day, and a cut-out that said 'Birthday Girl'. At the restaurant, I snuck a cupcake candle into her celebratory boysenberry sherbet, and we all sang Happy Birthday.

Thanks mom and dad, for treating us all to a fun family day!

Old Blue Eyes

Several months back, we found a great deal on a 3-show pack of tickets to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Last Friday night we went to the first show: Come Fly Away. We didn't know too much about the show - other than it's a concept piece by Twyla Tharp, and it's based on the music of Frank Sinatra - so we weren't quite sure what to expect.

WOW. It was amazing!

The show is completely free of spoken word. It consists of a small jazz band on a riser on the stage, a nightclub-type set that stays the same throughout the entire show, and a troupe of dancers that are phenomenal. Though there's no spoken word, you know exactly what the story is just by listening to the choice of Sinatra song, and how the dancers move. I know, it sounds a bit out there, but trust me, it was phenomenal. The show was 80 minutes long with no intermission and it felt like we'd only been there about 30 minutes; it flew by quickly because we were so entranced. The band was fantastic! All of the Sinatra songs were mastered to contain only his voice; the band played the music to each song perfectly. The dancers were incredible - they made it look so easy ... but of course, it's not. As Kevin said, it didn't ever look as if they were even breathing hard.

Next up: Riverdance in mid-November, followed by Wicked in early December. We've seen Wicked before and can't wait to see it again. We haven't seen Riverdance, so I'm sure it will be fun. Or as Kevin says "First we see the full dance (Come Fly Away), then we see the waist-down dance (Riverdance), then we see the play (Wicked)." He has a way with words, doesn't he? ;o)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just in time for Halloween ...

a smashed pumpkin.

One week ago today, my mom went out to get the newspaper at 6:30 in the morning and fell. She leaned over and either lost her balance or slipped - either way she landed right on her head. Dad wasn't out there and she couldn't get up, so she crawled up to the garage on her hands and knees. She made it into the house and dad called 911. They took her to the emergency room with a huge gash in her head, all of the skin off her legs and knees, scraped up hands and a scraped shoulder. Dad called us and Kevin went to pick him up while I went on to the hospital.

The result was two broken vertebrae at the base of her skull which required surgery and 28 stitches on the gash in her head. She had surgery on Thursday and came through it just fine. The surgery consisted of inserting a screw through one of the vertebrae and putting it back into place; the other vertebrae did not require surgery but both with take quite some time to heal.

Currently, she is doing pretty well. The scrapes and gashes are beginning to heal, her facial swelling is mostly gone and she's a lovely shade of purply-yellow ;o) They've transferred her from the hospital to a rehab facility just across the street. We're thinking that she may be home by the weekend, but we're not certain at this point. She's getting physical therapy to build up her strength and help her walk (she's been off her feet for a week now and is fairly weak) and to help her adjust to the collar she will be required to wear for the next 10 weeks.

It's been a terribly frightening experience for everyone, but really, she was very lucky. The broken neck could very well have resulted in paralysis, so we're thanking God every day that that's not what happened. Mom said that when she fell, she could heard what sounded like a smashing pumpkin and realized that was her head. UGH.

I have no right to ask, but I'm going to anyway: If you're reading my blog, please keep my mother (and father who has not been feeling well, either) in your thoughts and prayers. I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'll Scratch Your Back, Don't Stab Mine

(Caveat Emptor - Be very, very wary if you ever decide to make a purchase from this website:

As sort of a gag gift for my sister, I wanted to buy her a backscratcher (pretend you didn't see this, Deb). I found what appeared to be a nice website that carried several different types of backscratchers at a reasonable price. The website indicated that each order included a 'free' backscratcher.

I decided on what looked to be a sturdy, durable model - priced at $14.95 - and placed my order. They promised fast shipping and, true to that statement, the order that I placed on 10/11/11 arrived today in a timely manner.

When I opened the box, I was disappointed to find just the backscratcher I'd ordered - no freebie. I called the number on the invoice in my order, and spoke with someone who had a very surly tone of voice. I explained why I was calling and she said "Did you put the free item in your cart?" I told her that I hadn't, not realizing that this was required. I did say that their website states that a free backscratcher is included with each order, so I didn't understand why I had to add it to the cart. Clearly irritated, she put me on hold.

A minute or two later, another voice came on the line. I was very nice and polite and told her that I'd received my order and the item arrived in perfect condition. I again mentioned that the order didn't include the free backscratcher that had been indicated on their website. With a tone of voice bordering on rude, she asked if I'd added the 'free' item to the cart. I explained that I had not, that I didn't realize I had to, but that their website did indicate a free backscratcher with every order. She told me that if I didn't add it, I wouldn't be getting it. I was shocked by the tone of her voice and her attitude!

I continued the conversation by politely asking her name - which she gave - and I asked her if she was the owner of the company. She said she was and that as such, she would do business any way she chose to. I can't tell you how taken aback I was. I said that I didn't understand how they could stay in business this way to which she replied "And I don't understand how YOU function!" I told her that I would be reporting her to the Better Business Bureau and she told me to "Go right ahead".

Unreal!! I've made hundreds and hundreds of online purchases and I've NEVER had anything like this happen. There have been times where items have arrived damaged; I've returned them with no problem. There have been times where I've received the incorrect merchandise; when I've notified the company, they rectify the situation immediately and tell me to keep the incorrect item. Whatever the problem has been - and honestly, there have been very few - every company that I've ever dealt with has handled it quickly, professionally and to our mutual satisfaction. Not this one. Not this time.

I did report her to the BBB, and I'm letting everyone I know to use extreme caution should you ever decide to order from this company.

My advice: stick with the world's best backscratcher:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Great Race Place

Yesterday Kevin and I 'trotted' off to Santa Anita - the Great Race Place! Mom and dad received some free tickets in the mail and were unable to go, so they offered them to us. We had a great time!

It was a beautiful day - not too warm, not too cool and lots of hazy sunshine. Having been to Santa Anita over the past couple of years and seeing how the crowd has really dwindled, we were so happy to see that there was a very nice crowd! When I was younger, my parents and grandparents went to the races often. At that time, there were very few off-track betting sites (of which there are many now) so the track was nearly always packed during the season. Watching the crowd lessen over the past couple of years has made me kind of sad, so I was thrilled to see more people in attendance yesterday.

How did we do? Well, let's just say we'll be reporting to work on Monday ;o) But we had a really fun time. This is was just the fall Oak Tree meet; we're looking forward to going back when the regular season opens in late December!

...and, I'm off! (but you already knew that ;o)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do you remember these?

Apparently these have become like fine diamonds and gold ... rare and terribly expensive!

These little Halloween treat sacks used to be a dime a dozen - literally. Around the first of October when everyone started filling their shelves with candy corn and other Halloween goodies, you'd find these cute goodie bags right along with them. Of course, those were the days before plastic became king.

The other day, one of our teachers brought in a catalog that she'd received in the mail. The catalog had all sorts of nostalgic, hard to find items. Two pages had old fashioned candies, which made me start thinking. For Halloween, I thought it would be fun to have a 'Retro Candy Day'. I found a site that has lots of favorites I remember from when I was growing up, so I sent the site to the staff and asked what they thought of the idea. There were many enthusiastic responses! Since it looks like it's a go, I thought it would be fun to bring a bunch of the classic Halloween goodie bags so everyone would have something to hold their treats.

Silly me, I thought I'd just be able to pop into Walmart and find the bags without any problem. Um. No. You know what you can find? Lots and lots and lots of plastic and cellophane bags. It's not that they're not cute, and I'm sure that one day we'll consider them retro, but they're just not the same thing. So I came home thinking I'd be able to find them online --- and I was right, you can. ...if you don't mind spending and arm and a leg!

I found some plain paper treat sacks and Michael's and ended up buying those, but I am SO disappointed. Not just because I couldn't find them to buy, but because it seems like that's just one more piece of my childhood that's gone by the wayside.

If you find any, please let me know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Hull-uva Ship

I definitely know when it's getting close to Halloween around these parts. Not because of the falling leaves and chill in the air (uh, no chill here ... it was 100 degrees today!), but because the neighborhoods in our area begin decorating their houses to shiver the timbers of the young trick-or-treaters who will soon be making their way across the lawn and up to the front porches across city to fill their goodie bags with candy.

One of the neighbors whose house I pass every day on my way to work has decided to make a change this year. In past years, they've built a 'castle' in their driveway marking guidelines that all of the hob-gobblins follow along to reach their destination. This year, however, they've decided to build a ship. Or, rather, part of a ship. And let me just say, it's *amazing*! I'm not sure what these folks do for a living, but considering how elaborate their displays are, something tells me they might be in set building and/or design.

I was describing this ship to my friend Linda yesterday when she asked me how big the ship is. I told her that it probably stood about 12-15 feet. Then I decided that pictures speak louder than words, so I stopped this morning on my way to work and snapped a few photos. While they are still in the process of building it, what they have so far is pretty impressive! Check it out for yourself:
Pretty cool, no?!

I can't wait to see the finished product. I'll post more pictures when it's complete.

Having a Mary Tyler Moore Day

My sister Debbie left a voicemail message on my cell phone the day before yesterday. She said "I'm having a Mary Tyler Moore day!" Without even thinking about it, I knew exactly what she meant.

I called her back and when she picked up, I asked her one question: "How is your hair bump?"

She explained that, while it had been tamed by then, the day before every time she moved her head, she could feel it flopping from side to side.

I'm not sure if it's a sister thing that I knew exactly what she meant, or a generational thing. We grew up in the Mary Tyler Moore Show era and can remember a TON of things from the show by heart. Did you do this in your family, too? Our drama teacher came in to the office yesterday and I asked her what she would think of if someone said to her that they were having a MTM day. She immediately said: hair bump! Solidarity, sistah! She gets it. She said that she and her sister do exactly the same thing my sis and I do. She said that episode is also famous in their family for another reason. Every time she and her sister feel like they're not looking their best, they say to each other "I usually look soooo much better than this!" ...exactly the speech that Mary gave in that episode when she walked up to receive her TEDY award.

While I believe it is a 'sister thing', it's clearly also a generational thing. While having this conversation, another friend of mine asked our office aide if she knew who Mary Tyler Moore was. (Keep in mind, these are middle school students we're talking about.) She said "no". My boss asked her if she knew what M*A*S*H was. She said "no". I asked her if she knew who the Kardashians were; she said "Yes!".

I don't know about you, but I'm afraid of this generation. Very afraid.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Time!

Yesterday we went up to mom and dad's for dinner and to help with a few chores. One of the things on the list was picking all of the apples from the tree. This isn't exactly a 'chore', it's really more like FUN!

Mom and dad have only one apple tree in the yard, and in past years, it really hasn't produced a whole lot of fruit. And what fruit it did produce was generally eaten either by the squirrels, the birds, or both. Last year, however, dad discovered these little bags filled with dander that the squirrels don't like at all. You hang them in the spring and the squirrels pretty much leave the apples alone. Which is a good thing for us! Last year the tree yielded quite a bit of fruit, and this year, even more!

After we picked the apples, all I could think about was a warm, fresh apple crisp. Mmmmm. I couldn't resist - I just had to make one! Does anything say "Fall" more than fresh apples cooking in warm, spicy cinnamon? I think not! After dinner, we dished up bowls of apple crisp and topped them with a scoop of rich, decadent vanilla ice cream. Mercy. It was delicious!

Thanks mom and dad for all of the wonderful apples! We've shared some with our neighbor, Ted, will enjoy eating some out of hand, and freezing the rest for holiday pies. YUM!

The Good, the Not-so-Great, the Ugly, and the Completely Unaffordable

The Good: A friend of mine at work started selling cookware as a sideline. He has some health issues he's wrestling with an was told by his doctor that, to avoid going on a certain medication, he needed to lose some weight. Just about that time, he discovered a line of cookware that helps him cook more healthfully. As a result, he lost 25 pounds! He is so excited about it, he decided to start working for the company.

The Not-So-Great: This friend is a nice guy and is well liked at work, so everyone is really trying to support him in his efforts and everyone has been booking cookware demo parties right and left. (*Awkward*) Though invited to several of the parties, I'd managed to successfully avoid committing to any of the parties, until...

The Ugly: Until one of my friends said 'Remember that desk I moved for you?' I did remember, but it has been years and years ago. Not knowing where this was leading, in a puzzled voice, I said 'Sure, I remember.' To which he replies 'Will you and Kevin come to my cooking party?' UGH. There it was, right out there in the open: the spider and the fly. Sure, we'll come to the party.

The Completely Unaffordable: Though it was his party, because we had only three people (besides my friend who booked the party and my friend who was doing the demo), they asked if they could have the party at our house. Sure, that's fine. At least I get to come home, change into comfy clothes, and sit in our own kitchen for the demo. For the demo, they prepare a five course meal for you: salad, mixed vegetables, 'fried' chicken, lasagna and a cake for dessert. Throughout the demo, they talk about the benefits of the cookware, the company itself and how it started, how they found the company and how it's changed their life, etc. After the demo and the meal, you get down to brass tacks and find out the price of the cookware. HOLY MOLY I'd heard that it was expensive, but I had no idea that it would be THAT much. How much? Well, let's just say the top of the line set would be equivalent to buying a very good used car. And the monthly financing would, indeed, be just as much as a car payment.

Takeaway of the Story: It's great to help out your friends (keep your friends close), BUT be realistic and don't let the pressure get to you and buy something you know you neither need nor can afford (keep your checkbook closer).

We did have a fun time, though! Here are a few pics of the evening...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Grammy Museum

Gosh, time flies doesn't it? I can't believe I haven't posted this event yet since it's two weeks old! Well, almost...


For the Smithsonian Magazine Free Museum Day event, we chose the Grammy Museum at the LA Live complex by Staples Center. What an AMAZING place! I mentioned that I really think it's mis-named; though there is Grammy material and information there, it really encompasses music in general, not just specifically 'Grammy's'. A fine line maybe, but I think it's a distinction worth noting. Some people might not be inclined to go to such a specific museum, but if they knew that it was more broad spectrum, they might give it a try. And trust me, it's totally worth it!

The museum itself is 4 stories tall. The bottom floor really doesn't account for too much - it's basically just an entrance. It did, however, have one of Keith Moon's drum sets, so that was pretty cool! From the bottom floor, they direct you into the elevator that goes to the 4th floor and drops you off - that's really where the museum begins.

There were TONS of things on exhibit (Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar, Buddy Rich's drum sticks, Pavarotti's tuxedo...) and lots of interactive, hands-on opportunities. There were guitars that you could 'play'; you put on a set of headphones and pressed different buttons on the guitar to get different sounds and pressed different 'waaa-waaa' pedals to add different dimensions to the sound. SO COOL! They also had electronic drum sets that you, again, would listen through headphones to a piece of music (all different types from rock to symphonic) and play the drums for the track. Again, SO COOL! There were also mixing boards, tons of music history, exhibits currently dedicated to James Brown, Roy Orbison and Bob Marley - and so much more. There were fun, interesting, and different things to do and see on each level.

We had lunch at the Farm of Beverly Hills first (also at the LA Live complex) first, and then headed over to the museum. By the time we finished lunch, we didn't get to the museum until a bit after one, and because one of our friends had other plans for the evening, we only stayed until about 3:30. Next time I would definitely plan on spending more time there - there was just too much cool stuff that I wasn't able to explore as fully as I would have liked. No matter - we had a fantastic time! If you're ever in the area, I'd definitely recommend that you pop into the Grammy Museum for a visit; it's still a bargain - even NOT on free museum day - at just $12.95 for a ticket.

Here are a few pics...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Booger Stickers"

It's a good thing I work at a school, because I think I'm really just a kid a heart.

For the last couple of years, I've been buying gel stickers for every holiday and season, and putting them on the windows in the office. At first I said it was because I thought the kids would enjoy it, but now I know that I really do it because I enjoy it just as much.

Last week I put up all of the fall/harvest stickers I've collected; my favorite is this owl:
I put him right smack in the middle of the window of the door so that everyone sees him when they pass by. He's surrounded by lots of fall leaves, pumpkins, scare crows, and such, but my owl is still the best of the bunch.

Kids will come into the office just to touch the stickers. Have you ever felt them? They have kind of a soft, sticky consistency ... I call them 'booger stickers' (Hey, what can I say? I work at a middle school!) One of our new students was in the office after school waiting for his mom to finish up with a meeting. He wasn't in trouble - he's a very sweet boy with Asperger's and his mom was in a meeting following up with some things she was concerned about, so he was just hanging out in the office. I watched him walk over and start touching the stickers and pretty soon he said "These feel funny." I said, "I know - aren't they cool?! I call them booger stickers because that's what they feel like - boogers!" He absolutely cracked up and touched more of the stickers, just to make sure they all felt like boogers.

Before long his mom came out of the meeting and, as she was signing out, he was playing with the stickers on the window. She told him not to touch them and I told her that it was okay for him to touch them and that we'd been talking about the stickers. I asked him to tell his mom what we call them; he blushed and giggled and said he didn't remember. I reminded him that we call them booger stickers and he put his head down, and became very shy. His mom let out a good belly laugh and he looked up at her with a huge grin on his face.

I know it sounds like such a simple thing, but it was really cool interaction with a young boy who has a lot to handle on his plate. Sometimes it really is the simple things in life that are the best.

First Day of Fall

Tomorrow we're celebrating a birthday in our office at work. Usually it's just the 10 of us that work in the office that celebrate, but since it's the first day of fall, I thought I'd make a treat for the whole staff.

Pumpkin muffins with a dollop of cream cheese icing. YUM! I found what looked like a great recipe - the only problem was that as it was printed, the recipe only made 12 muffins, so I had to quadruple it! I'm always a bit leery about doing that because sometimes it just doesn't turn out well. Luckily this one did. It made a HUGE amount of batter, but in the end, it made exactly 48 muffins. Perfecto! And did they ever make the house smell good! Warm and spicy ... absolutely delish.

I hope the staff enjoys them.

Happy fall, y'all!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smithsonian Free Museum Day 2011

Each fall, Smithsonian magazine sponsors a free museum day. We love participating in this event! Over the past several years, it's grown to include a wonderful selection of museums - this year is no exception.

The event will take place this upcoming Saturday, September 24th. Click here to find out all of the information and find a venue near you. Just a head's up: this year you are required to have a ticket. No worries. If you follow the link and read all of the information, it will lead you to a registration page. All you need to do is complete the required information and a ticket good for two people will be sent to your email address.

This year we'll be going to the Grammy Museum. Sounds like fun, right?! Happy Free Museum Day - enjoy!!

L.A. County Fair

Yesterday Kevin and I went to the L.A.County Fair. We haven't been in about 5 years, so we thought it was about time. As luck would have it, just before the fair opened, there was a great Groupon for the fair: two adult tickets and preferred parking for just $25.00. That's a darn good deal! Usually, entry on the weekends is $17.00 per adult, and preferred parking is $15.00, so this was definitely a money saver.

We had a good time: ate some good food; tasted award winning California wines; watched a cooking demonstration (great recipes!); shopped a bit; watched a cool lumberjack show; took some silly photos (see below); and even got to visit with Kevin's brother Brian who was working at the fair for the pool company he represents.

Still, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. We used to go to the fair almost every year when I was growing up - either as a family, or as a school field trip. One of the landmarks of the fair is a huge clock tower that's easy to spot from wherever you are. Or I should say was. Yesterday morning, I talked to mom before we left and she teasingly said that they would meet us at the clock tower. We were going to have someone take a picture of us at the clock tower, post it, and say to mom and dad 'We waited here for you, but you never showed up!', but we couldn't. We looked all over for the tower thinking we'd just remembered incorrectly about where it had been, but we found out that we could stop looking as they'd removed the tower to make room for more carnival rides. BUMMER

I just don't understand why we are a nation of makeover artists. I understand updating and moving with the times, but there are just somethings that define a place, or time, or event. Can we not learn to leave these things alone? For years they also had a giant slide. I remember that, for the longest time, that slide terrified me; then, when I actually went on it, I had a blast! Well, except for the scratchy burlap patch you had to sit on to slide down. Well guess what? They took that out this year, too. Grrrr.

As I said, we did have a good time, but we were both disappointed by the unnecessary changes. And while we may find ourselves there another time, I really think we're pretty much done with the fair for a while.

On to the silly pictures ... They have these whacky painted wooden cut-outs at various locations. I couldn't resist taking some photos of us with our faces popping out of some of them. After all, aren't count fairs supposed to bring out the silliness in us?
And one seriously gorgeous sunset

Quakin' in our Boots

Having done this last year as well, I think this has become a new First Avenue tradition. Last Sunday night, a bunch of us went to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game at the Epicenter. We had a blast!

Though we'd already bought the tickets, I was worried that with Kevin's oral surgery, he wouldn't feel up to going to the game - but he insisted that he was okay and wanted to go. Poor guy had a heck of a time eating ... until we bought ice cream - then he was all smiles =) (Side note: You should have seen us trying to explain away Kevin's black eye!)

There were about 30 of us from First Avenue; 10 or 12 staff members and our families. It's always so fun when we get together because we've got a relatively young staff, many of whom have small children. Nearly all FA events are family friendly and most everyone feels free to bring the kids - this event was no exception. And the kids were having a great time, as were the adults!

Here are a few pics of our evening.
The kids had a lot of fun shooting silly string with Tremor, the Quakes mascot
We even saw Tommy Lasorda!
Thanks for organizing this fun event, Catherine. We had a great time. Can't wait 'til next year!