Sunday, September 11, 2016

Finally Found Some

This week. Oh, this week! Let me give you a rundown of how it's gone:

My birthday was Monday. The night before, we went to a favorite hole-in-the-wall pizza restaurant in a hole-in-the-wall town near the lake house to celebrate. No one offered to seat us, so we finally sat down at a table ourselves. No one around us had any pizza and had obviously been sitting there a long time. The waitresses ignored us, never bothering to give us menus or take a drink order. My son saw a mouse (correction: either one very fast mouse or several mice, he wasn't entirely sure which) several times in a hallway next to my husband's seat. One of the waitresses, after visiting the other tables and promising their pizza would be ready soon, actually RAN INTO MY SON'S SHOULDER and STILL didn't stop to take our order. My husband went to get one after half an hour (it really is good pizza or we wouldn't have still been there) and finally got our pizza ordered and drinks delivered to the table. After an hour, still no pizza (although the waitress had assured us it wouldn't be long, as most of the people in the other dining room had gotten mad and left, leaving more time for the cook to make ours). At one hour and fifteen minutes of waiting for pizza, and an hour and forty-five minutes after arriving at the restaurant, my husband went to talk to the waitresses, the cooks, and a disinterested manager, stomped back to us, announcing, "This is bullshit!" and we left. No birthday dinner.

It was my first birthday in 56 years without my mom. If I wasn't WITH my mom on my birthday, she would call me, and either way, without fail, she would tell me how x number of years ago, she was in HELL until she finally delivered 10 lb., 1 ounce baby me. It was a running family joke (although at the time, I don't think it was very funny). Oh, how I missed that story this year!

Preschool started this week, and let me tell you, it has exhausted me! By Wednesday afternoon, I thought it was going to kill me, and I fully believe my death certificate would have listed "preschool" as my cause of death.

I wrote a pretty decent Six Sentence Story and was putting the final touches on it when *poof* Blogger ate it and there was no recovering it (and believe me, I tried EVERYTHING and have the search history to prove it). I wanted to cry.

My daughter was cyber-bullied this week. A girl she knew copied a couple of pictures she had posted on Instagram and made a not very nice comment about her, and posted it on Twitter Friday afternoon, and even though she had cropped the picture and didn't show my daughter's face, if you knew her at all, you knew it was her (she was in her volleyball uniform in both pictures). 

I got hit in the back of the head with a volleyball at a tournament Saturday. The back. Of the head. And I was sitting on a mezzanine about ten feet ABOVE the volleyball court.

Ten Things of Thankful don't always just jump out at you after a week like this.

So I searched. Here goes:

1. My birthday was Monday! I'm a year older! That beats the alternative.

2. I wrote a scathing review on TripAdvisor about the pizza restaurant, and that made me feel a little better about having my birthday dinner ruined.

3. My husband promised to get me a new laptop for my birthday.

4. My dear friend Ruth sent me an article about facing your first birthday without your mom. I tried to find a link for it, but I can't locate one, so I am posting the picture of the newspaper clipping that Ruth sent me instead. You'll want to read it.

5. I'm carrying out the suggestion in the article that says to buy yourself a present. Stay tuned for that one.

6. While the first two days of classes nearly killed me, the second two weren't quite as tough. I forget from year to year how HARD it is to start out a new school year with very small people, but in a week or two, they will "get" it and be model students (she said hopefully).

7. On losing the Six Sentence story... nah, I've got nothing. That just sucked.

8. My daughter was alerted to the cyber-bullying by a boy she's known since kindergarten, one of several boys she's been friends with since she was little and who always have her back. I am grateful she has that kind of support system.

9. My daughter went to her volleyball coach about the situation, and her coach took the necessary steps to get something done about it. I'm extremely grateful that the coach handled it quickly, and I am hopeful this will be the end of it all.

10. The volleyball team didn't do great at the tournament (their own fault; they didn't play well until they got into bracket play), but they did get 5th place, and I got a couple of good photos of my daughter serving the ball:

Look hard. Look deep. There are thankfuls everywhere.

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Felt The Earth Move Plus A List Of Thankfuls

Every week, without fail, I think about what I'll include on my weekend Ten Things of Thankful post. If I'm smart (and I'm not often), I even take notes on my phone so I won't forget anything. No notes were taken this week, however, as I had a pretty good list going in my head, and then, early Saturday morning, I was shaken from my sleep by a FREAKING EARTHQUAKE and every mental note got shaken right out of my rattled brain.

Mind you, this was not my first earthquake. When you have live in southern California and you have been through the 7.1 magnitude Northridge earthquake, then this one we felt Saturday morning was not that big a deal. UNLESS YOU ARE IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI, WHERE WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HAVE EARTHQUAKES.

Note: the most active seismic area east of the Rockies is located along the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri. More than 200 earthquakes a year are recorded in the area, although they are too small for humans to feel; the last Big One was in the early 1800s and caused the Mississippi River to change its course.

I was still asleep when the shaking woke me, and it took me a few seconds to process the situation. My first thought was that one of the cats was on the bed, violently scratching an ear with a hind foot, but once I remembered we were (a) at the lake house and (b) cat-less this trip, it began to dawn on me that it was an earthquake. With windows rattling and floor shaking (along with my knees), I walked out into the hallway at the same time my kids came out of their room and my husband came down the hall from the living room. The kids were wild-eyed. "WHAT WAS THAT? WAS THAT AN EARTHQUAKE?!" 


The news reported a 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Pawnee, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City, and while the WHY of the cause of these earthquakes is still being debated, they are definitely man-made. The state averaged one earthquake over a 3.0 magnitude per year from 1978-2008, then oil prices went up and fracking increased, and in 2015 alone, there were 890 earthquakes above a 3.0. 

Sooo, anyway, I forgot what was on my list of thankfuls after all that, but I shall make a new one, starting with no damage for us, just a good scare, and no injuries reported anywhere for this earthquake. Now to normal stuff:

2. Our volleyball team was pounded twice this week by worthy opponents. In other words, they played teams that were REALLY, REALLY GOOD, not that our team is bad or anything. This doesn't sound terribly thankful, but the thankful part is Emma played very well at both games (all season so far, in fact), and I'm really proud of how well she is doing. 

3. Open House at preschool this week! Tuesday morning was the day my Primary class (3 year olds turning 4 over the course of the year) came to visit. It's a big class, with 13 enrolled in it, but it should be entertaining!

4. Wednesday was open house for my Pre-K class, and let's just say it's going to be a lively year!

5. My Shark Navigator vacuum cleaner. 

6. The pet hair remover attachment for the above vacuum cleaner.

7. Propel Fitness Water. Grape, berry, peach or cranberry-l
ime, please.

8. Impromptu frozen custard date with my husband.

9. Buy one, get one free coupon for the frozen custard.

10. A weekend of cooler temperatures, giving us a hint of fall and thoughts of pumpkins and leaves and other wonderful autumn things.

How was your week? Did your world rock, either literally or figuratively? 

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Block: A Six Sentence Story

I had intended to have a leisurely bubble bath, soaking in warm water, scrolling through Pinterest on my phone, before going to bed, because who doesn't sleep better after a long, soaky bubblebath? I ran water in my large Jacuzzi-style tub, adding plenty of bubblebath, and when the tub was full and frothy, I climbed in and leaned back onto my bath pillow, not realizing until I got myself completely settled that the water was hotter than was really comfortable, and while any ordinary person would sit up and run some cold water into the tub to bring the temperature down from poach to slight simmer, my stomach muscles won't allow me to do that since my reconstruction surgery from bilateral mastectomy four years ago; instead, I laid there, sweating and scrolling through my phone, even dozing off a few times, until I reached the hard-boiled point and decided to get out.

Since I can't sit up, the only way I can get myself out of the tub (short of using a wrecker) is to roll over on my side and get up on my hands and knees, at which time I can stand up, towel off, and step out of the tub. Maybe it was the extra bath bubble solution that I put in to ensure an extra-sudsy experience, but this time, THIS time, something went terribly wrong, and the second I rolled over onto my right side to begin the launch process, I flipped like a turtle onto my left hip, my back against the outer edge of the tub, and torpedoed around the periphery of the tub, continuing until I had made it three-quarters of the way around the and stopping only when I whacked the back of my head on the faucet. And I didn't hit the hard part of my head, but instead made contact with the faucet with the soft part, just above the nape of my neck, the part that seems to be unprotected by skull and vulnerable to brain injury (or at least a whopper of a headache) when it thwacks into something hard and stationary, such as a faucet. Had the faucet not blocked my forward momentum, I fear I would have been a living example of Newton's First Law of Motion, spiraling around and around the tub into eternity, or until someone in my household, be they either two- or four-footed, needed to be fed.

Death spiral began at green arrow, ending
abruptly at faucet (that's a faucet the red arrow
is pointing to, not an elephant or worse).

Linking up with Ivy at Uncharted for Six Sentence Stories with the prompt "block."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Travels With Dyanne & Christine, Told Mostly In Pictures

I got together with one of my very favorite friends recently, which doesn't sound like that big a deal unless you're me and are apparently liked better by people from a distance. Not only did I meet this friend FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND, but we did it around the schedules of eight kids, two husbands and over 500 miles separating us, because sometimes, SOMETIMES, the stars align and all the pieces fall easily into place and that which would have ordinarily been a nightmare to coordinate became a piece of cake (quite literally, as it turned out).

Through the miracle of the interweb, Christine of In The Coop and I have become friends. Good friends. Pick up the phone and call or text the other one at any time friends. We've been lucky enough to meet up two other times, but it's never been long enough (and honestly, it still hasn't been), but two weeks ago, during a text conversation, we went from talking about how much we wish we could hang out and visit to Christine asking if I could meet her in St. Louis (go ahead and sing it, I'll wait...) on the 12th. Miraculously enough, I could and she could and we did.

We (Christine did all the work, not going to lie) arranged to stay in St. Charles, a lovely historic town on the Missouri River very near its meet-up with the Mississippi (more on that later) and halfway between the two of us. We left our respective homes just about the same time, expecting to arrive around 7:00 pm on Friday evening, but after enduring torrential rains, thunder and lightning (me) and miles and miles and MILES of road construction on the freeway (Christine), we both rolled into the hotel parking lot WITHIN TEN MINUTES OF EACH OTHER and only an hour and a half later than we intended.

Deciding on where to stay was really the only plan we made, other than eating often and in great quantities, but one of the many things she and I have in common is that we both love a good confluence, so after stuffing ourselves silly at breakfast, we hit the road to find the Missouri/Mississippi confluence, which was about 20 minutes away. Christine drove, I rode shotgun and handled navigation, mostly courtesy of Siri.

Drive, drive, drive, over the river and through the woods (not really, there weren't any woods where we were), past wetlands and corn fields and we were getting more and more excited at the prospect of seeing the two rivers meet when we came to a gate:

Christine with pouty face.

Guess what? We're not that easily deterred.

After learning from the workers at the nearby Audubon Center that there was a viewing tower across the river (as in the Mississippi River), we were off. Welcome to Illinois!

Wait! There's a lock. With a museum. And TOURS.

Lock on the Mississippi River at Alton, Illinois
(or Altonill, as Siri calls it).

Bummer. A sign in the gift shop says the elevator's broken, so tours are limited to an auxiliary lock. Never mind.

Drive, drive, drive. There's the tower. Where's the turn? Oops, back there (slight navigation failure with a happy ending). Turn around up ahead and - hey! A museum! A Lewis and Clark museum! 

Christine and I sitting on the front porch of the
replica of the cabin that Lewis and Clark might have
stayed in when they were preparing for their journey.

Back to the tower with a coupon courtesy of the nice volunteer in the museum. One dollar off for each of us for the $5 elevator ride (rather steep, no pun intended).

Trouper that she is, Christine laid on her back
on the sidewalk to get this shot. I would have
taken a picture of her doing it, but she
was using my phone for the pic.

Tower prices have gone up to six dollars.

Yer lookin' at the gen-u-ine confluence of
the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

The kid guy young man worker who took us up told us there is ANOTHER access to the confluence from the other (apparently unflooded) side, at the Columbia River Bottoms Conservation Area.  And we're off again!

Getting the most out of our $5 ride to the top.

We passed this place when we went to the lock. Turn in and let's check it out. It's a little creepy (although not as creepy as things to come).

It's the National Great Rivers Research & Education Center.
I looked it up. Nothing nefarious, although those pipes on
the right made me wonder if it was a front for Soylent Green.
The picture in the middle IS THE ACTUAL BUILDING.

Back to Missouri. Siri is directing us into the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area. Hey, what happened to the pavement? Why did this turn into gravel? Didn't that kid say it was paved all the way? WHAT IS HAPPENING? Oh, look, there's a map on the back of this brochure. Oops! Hey, look, Siri was wrong. Drive, drive, drive, and...

We're getting closer....

Walk, walk, walk.


Mission accomplished, and it only took us four hours! After a walk (and rather large ice cream cones) in the historic district of St. Charles, we headed back to the hotel for showers (confluence hunting is hot, hard work), naps (see previous comment) and dinner at a local Italian restaurant (yum!). Then we did this:

And we used my big $12 winnings (from my $4 investment) to eat pie.

As we were about to fall asleep (after a rather interesting trip from the casino back to our hotel which included zig zagging through a quiet and not well-lit neighborhood - Siri seemed to be having fun with us again), I scrolled through "Things To Do In St. Charles" and found us an absolute GEM to visit the next morning.

It was raining.

Guys, this is a nuclear waste site. AND WE WALKED ON TOP OF IT. It's a pretty sad story, really, as it started as the world's largest explosives plant, built in 1940 and it displaced the people from three towns and many farms in between. After the War ended, the plant closed and ten years later a uranium ore processing facility was put there, operating for about ten years, at which time it was abandoned. Hazardous materials and equipment were left scattered all over the property for more than 20 years. In 1985, the U.S. Department of Energy started the long, slow clean up process, and by 2001, 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste was entombed in a mound 75 feet tall. The area around it has been transformed back into natural prairie, and it's lovely and horrifying all at the same time. Oh, and there's a museum!

75 foot tall man-made mountain.

The path up.

On top. In the rain. And wind.

Christine venturing out onto the rock layer (there
are many, many layers below that, thank GOD).

Me not venturing very far, as I am
wearing the always-sensible flip flops.


A picture of a picture inside the museum that shows
just some of the toxic waste left behind. The
pond in the background was where they dumped
processed uranium ore.

Okay, just when you think you've seen it all, the women who worked in the museum (by the way, the museum building was where they once screened workers for radiation exposure) told us there were about 100 bunkers scattered all over land just down the road that were built during World War II. They were once part of the explosives factory property and now in the August Busch Conservation Area. Guess where we went?

How. Creepy. Is. This?

The door was ajar. I'm standing by the car,
prepared to call 911 (or hide) if a hand reaches
out through that crack and snatches
her inside.

Contrary to how this looks, I was NOT running away
like a baby; it had rained, it was muddy, and I was
hopping over mud puddles, trying not to get my
feet in it (flip flops, remember?).

A beautiful stand of native pine trees with a path
that was supposed to make a loop and circle back.
It did, in a manner of speaking, although it was
obvious that for years, hikers had simply
turned around and gone back at a certain point
and we ended up trail blazing and hoping there
was no poison ivy, since neither of us were
completely sure what it looked like.

Yeah, we off-roaded in a minivan, where
I learned Christine could drive in reverse
like a CHAMP.

Off-roading gets you to bunkers.

It also gets you a great view of the back of a bunker.

We headed back to St. Charles and had lunch at Lewis & Clark's (they're quite a thing around there) where we sat on an open porch on the third floor and where we could see the Missouri River. And then we ate cake. 

And then we had to say goodbye.

For now.

In the meantime, we'll be working on our GENIUS idea of becoming tour guides.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Who Needs A Whole List? I Just Needed ONE Thankful!

I have many things for which I could make a thankful list this week. I could say I'm thankful that I got to spend last weekend in St. Louis having the BEST time with my friend Christine (and there's a post nearly done about that). I could say I'm thankful for the trip I made on Monday to the state fair with my dad (and there's a post nearly done about THAT). Or how my daughter started her senior year in high school this week. And the College Boy headed back to school for HIS senior year. And then there's how I decided to try a different hair color just for kicks and it ended up being MUCH darker than I expected. MUCH. But it has faded some already and I kind of like it and have gotten several compliments on it, along with compliments for the new hair cut I got on Friday. I could also say I'm thankful the weather has been cooler this week, giving us a smidge of a taste of things to come. 

My two seniors, one high school,
one college. 

Instead of listing all those thankfuls, however, I am just going to put down one. And it's worth ten EASILY.

Today, after weeks and weeks of procrastination, the College Boy, with me cracking a whip over his head, finished his medical school application (which was L-E-N-G-T-H-Y and included a personal statement and lists of activities and descriptions of each) ...


It. Is. Done. For now, anyway. Now we wait to see if any of the schools he has applied to will want him, and then there will be secondary applications and probably MORE essays and more chances to procrastinate, but for now, for this very moment in time, the application is completed and submitted.

Thank you, God, for preventing me from strangling him throughout this process.

Click. SENT.

It's not too late to join the Ten Things of Thankful. Close, but not too late! Get busy and write 'em up!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Oh, Marian Days, You Make Me So Thankful!

I'm back, in case anyone even noticed I'd been missing.  I took a few weeks off when my mom passed away (and if you haven't read my post from earlier this week where I talked about my mom, it would please me to no end if you would), but my mom loved reading my blog, so here I am. 

The past few years, my Ten Things of Thankful post for this first weekend in August has revolved around Marian Days, an annual gathering of Vietnamese Catholics in a neighboring town. Guess what? Same for this year. 

1. I ate a big ol' bowl of pho on Wednesday.

The broth is made from parts I don't want to know about.
End result is worth it.

I SUCK at using chopsticks.
It does not stop me from using them.

2. And Thursday.

3. And Friday.

4. And Saturday.

5. And maybe one or two (or three) boba smoothies.

Avocado boba smoothie. Not to be
confused with the nasty avocado chocolate smoothie I made during
the A to Z Challenge.

6. These Vietnamese Catholics converge upon the grounds of the headquarters of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix for a four day pilgrimage honoring the Virgin Mary. Massive food tents are set up throughout the grounds, run by churches from all over the country. They all offer pretty much the same food, but we have our favorite and are always happy to get consistently delicious food each and every time.

Our favorite food vendor, from Port Arthur, Texas.

Fruit selections at a booth.

Those are jack fruit. They are bigger
than watermelon with a prickly rind
and a terrible odor.

Pork meatballs on the left. On the right,
a pork roll that can be purchased
 whole or by the slice....

A marketplace where trinkets, rosary beads,
fans, parasols, coolie hats, religious statues,
and more can be purchased. Most booths
are run by nuns from different Orders
as a fundraiser.

7. There is a mass held each evening, outdoors, with jumbotron screens all around. 70,000+ people attend (the town where it is held has a population of about 14,000), sitting in lawn chairs or perched on curbs or walls or just standing. It is a beautiful sight.

Some of the 70,000+ attendees at mass.

Those teeny figures on the stage are bishops
and not sure who else but they're important. 

At communion time, each priest (and there
were probably at least 50 that we could see)
was accompanied by a lay person holding an
umbrella with a lighted handle, sheltering
the priest and the host. 

8. It is the most peaceful, Godly event I have ever attended, yet, believe it or not, there were some protesters there. These extremist Christians (all two or three of them) had crudely made signs and stood on a (closed off) street on the fringes of the crowd during mass. No one paid much attention to them, as clearly they were complete idiots, but at least they kept their mouths shut and didn't disturb the service.

Two of the protesters, the man on the left in
the black t-shirt and the one on the right with,
well, the protest sign.

9. Don't let the outfits fool you. Nuns are a hoot.

"We are family. I've got all my sisters with me."

10. Only 51 more weeks until the next Marian Days festival!

What can you be thankful for this week? Write them down, link them up, you have until Sunday evening. Go!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts