Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Little Over The Top Maybe? And Thankful That I'm Not

I don't know about the rest of you but "back in the day", a trip to the mall was quite the treat - much like going out to dinner. I can remember being in about the 7th or 8th grade and convincing my mom to take me to "The Limited" or "County Seat" to do some back-to-school shopping!

It was truly an adventure, a big deal! Mom would even treat us to a pretzel and a soda! WOW! And we were happy with that! Or better yet, if she could swing it, we'd get one of the fizzy, slushy drinks from - none other than - Orange Julius! Oh my!

Today, however, a trip to the mall is almost no big deal...that happen to be shopping in the biggest mall in the world... Where not only can you shop for jeans, Vans and something skimpy and inappropriate at Abercrombie & Fitch...

...but you can ride roller coasters...

and climb on/walk through bigger than life-sized buildings made of Legos!

I don't know. God knows I love my country and all that it stands for and the men and women who have and do fight for the freedoms we experience today (including having roller coasters in malls) - but sometimes I think we simply have too much.

I didn't see anything wrong with getting excited about going to the mall with my mom and getting treated to an Orange Julius and a pretzel. It was that simple and, well, I turned out okay.

I'm thankful for those days and those memories. They make me giggle now. I'm thankful that so many simple things/tasks/events are what helped make me the person I am today. I'm thankful that I got to experience more "grassroots" stuff.

I like the basics, don't you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tom Jones. Really? Tom Jones?

I love music. Pretty much all music. I'm not a big fan of Rap but then I don't consider that music.

I am back in Minnesota and was doing some canvassing in Bloomington today. I happened into a specialty store called "The Afternoon". As I was strolling through the aisles I caught myself bobbing my head to a great tune. Soon, I was snapping my fingers. Many times in these boutiques the owners will create their own playlists for their customers' enjoyment only - not for purchase. I took my chances and went to the counter to inquire about the catchy music. There propped up on an easel proudly displayed was Tom Jones' most recent release. I looked at the clerk and said, "Tom Jones? Really?" I couldn't get my credit card out fast enough.

NEVER in my wildest dreams did I EVER think I would EVER purchase a Tom Jones CD. I mean, that was music my mother listened to "back in the day". He was the guy, along with Elvis, that she looked at on the television with that goofy look on her face.


I can't get home fast enough to put these tunes on my shuffle. Running that 1/2 marathon next weekend is going to be a piece of cake with Tom crooning in my ear!!! Take my word for it, go to iTunes and listen for yourself! I can't wait to share this with my mom AND my daughter! How funny is that?! But he's singing Prince, people - Tom Jones singing Prince!!!! AHHHHH!!!!

Turn it up!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

Let's face it. Let's be honest. Not everyone has the most beautiful child, no matter what the mother says or thinks.

I am big enough to be able to admit it and know that what may be lacking in outward beauty is more than made up for with a big heart and personality plus!

We're not exactly sure what happened but we're fairly certain it was because he was so far down the gene pool...

But this is Yodie.

And we love him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thankful Thursday & The Wrap Up of Revival Week

As children, regular church attendance was not part our lives for my brother and me. That's not to say that my family was not faith-based or that we did not have God in our hearts, our home or conversations in our own way. We simply did not attend church on a regular basis and the reasons are really moot.

My husband, however, comes from a long line of church-goers, believers and deacons. He even had a grandparent that was a pastor well into his 80's. Church was an integral part of Michael's life and, along with his parents, should be credited for the man Michael is today.

Regardless of my lack of attendance and knowledge, I have always had God in my heart and in my thoughts - along with a list of questions far too great to ever expect to have answered. My husband knew this when we were married and he did his best to help me understand an area of my life that was so cloudy. While living in the DC/Metro area, we attempted to attend a church in Franconia, VA. It was "okay" and we made a few acquaintances but neither of us came bounding out of bed Sunday morning with great anticipation. Even as ignorant as I was, I knew that was not the feeling one should have. Eventually, that weekly trip ended.

When we knew, decided and accepted to move to North Carolina, one of the first things my DH said to me was "this is so great - we'll be able to find a small, comfortable, country church for sure". Whenever anyone asks me what brought me to North Carolina I start by saying it was my husband's job. But it didn't take me long to learn that it was God who brought me here, not an employer. You see, 14 months after we moved here, Michael lost his job. HOWEVER, within that 14 months we did find a comfortable country church and I found my salvation. I believe with everything I have in me that I was led here for the purpose of securing everlasting life in eternity. And it was during Revival Week in August 2003 when it happened.

So, my little country church and the Revival Week it hosts every year in August holds a VERY special place in my heart. And every Sunday morning I wake up with an anticipation that I've never had before. I look forward to putting on a pretty skirt and some tasteful lipstick and making my way the 4 miles down the road because I know there's something awesome waiting for me there. And there are people there that care about what's going on in my life. They ask faithfully about my DH because he can't attend on a regular basis due to his work schedule. They pray for Michael's safety everyday he goes to work. They prayed their hearts out when I was unemployed. They pray for my safe travels in this new position. And they pray for my mother and father when they're on the road. I never knew or had a church family as a child but I have a strong one today.

I still have a list of questions too numerous to ever have completely answered (at least in this earthly life) but slowly and surely I am gathering a clearer understanding and I'm definitely experiencing a closer walk...

As we wrapped up our Revival Week last night I drove home thinking how immeasurably grateful I am and how amazing He is and that eventually all the peaks and valleys in our lives do make sense. Leaving the DC area for central North Carolina was a culture shock in the purest sense. But this is where I needed to be in order to be quiet and listen so that I could make the connection He knew I was looking for. And at this time in my life I don't want to be anywhere else in the world.

Thank you Jesus...

My little church in the country...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Every Parent's Desire

If you are a parent, you know exactly where I'm coming from today.

It occurred to me that I've never introduced you to my son-in-law. It still makes me giggle when I say that - "son-in-law"! For two reasons - 1) I'm barely inside my forties and I have a son-in-law - have had him for 7 years this September - and 2) my son-in-law is only 10 years younger than me! (Please, don't take time to do the math or ask questions. Just know I became a mom at a very early age. That, and he's considerably older than my daughter).

That's not the point or the issue here - this is...

JC adores my daughter. He literally gazes at Brandi Lee. He wants to stand close to her. He enjoys just being in her presence -not even having to say a word to her.

JC respects Brandi. He values her opinion and together they make choices that are right for them as a couple. He understands how important her family is to her and is more than supportive when she simply HAS to make her pilgrimage back to Northern Virginia to get her "family fix"! He has even sacrificed living anywhere near his own family for the sake of Brandi's happiness.

JC pushes Brandi when she needs it. Bran can get "comfortable" and, as a result, be a little reluctant to change (it's true Bran...). When JC sees opportunity for Brandi, he steps in and nudges her in the right direction. And because I know how deeply JC loves my Bran, it's easier for me to stay a step back. I don't worry so much about life decisions they make because I know JC requires Brandi's input in everyone of them. I'm not saying I agree with every thing the kids do, that's none of my business anyway. I'm just saying I trust them, together as a couple.

It took me awhile to get to this point, believe me. There's no doubt I think Brandi married awfully young and there are times I wish she and JC would've waited or "lived a little" before taking those vows. But I tell you this for free people, she couldn't have picked a better man for herself.

I have never known a greater love than the love I have for my daughter. I never even knew I was capable of feeling such love until I had her. As such, my one greatest desire has always been for Brandi to simply be happy. And JC makes Brandi happy. What more could an over-protective mom want?

I love you for who you are, JC, but I love you more for loving Bran the way you do. And I thank God for all of it...

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Am A Cat Lover

An animal lover in general, really. But cats, in particular, intrigue me. They are fascinating in every way, from the way they wash obsessively after they have a meal to how they can catch a flying insect mid-flight. They can walk among the finest, most expensive breakables and never touch a thing. They will love their tuna one day and the next look at you as if you've just offered them a petrified field mouse. Some evenings, at bed time, they trip you trying to get under the covers first and the next, you call and call and call for your feet warmer and they act as if they don't hear a thing.

As you may know, cats are revered, even worshipped in some countries. So much so that they were used as subjects in priceless paintings.

Monuments were even created out of respect for the cat.

And they were often given as gifts to royalty to show affection and love and deep regard for the hierarchy.

... and then... there's Bean.

Yep, I LOVE cats.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On The Road Again

I'm back in Minnesota, visiting our shopping center in Stillwater and doing some canvassing for local tenants (without much success - shop owners are doing all they can to hold on to what they currently have and are in no way interested in expanding). Frequent rejection is simply part of the leasing world. But usually before the entrepreneur turns me down, we chat and laugh, I may even make a small purchase and I almost always walk away having learned something - something about their business, about a particular product, about the area in which I'm visiting or maybe even something new about myself. This is the part of the job I like most.

I couldn't be here and not make a quick stop in historic Stillwater. Here's a picture of the bridge spanning the St. Croix River. It will take you to Wisconsin and is used heavily by commuters. It's really an awesome sight in person.

Here's another view of the St. Croix River, opposite of the bridge above. I think it's a small marina for the locals. The grassy area is a hot spot for a quick lunch for the local businesses and office workers. Hmm...I'd have a hard time heading back to the office. This is where numerous events take place in downtown Stillwater (art shows, boat parades, 4th of July event, etc.). There are also great casino paddlewheels that float leisurely up and down the St. Croix.

And, of course, I couldn't pass up a quick visit to one of my favorite local shops "Rose Mille". The damage done here wasn't bad at all, under $20.00 as a matter of fact! Look, two GREAT cards. One a birthday card for my secret pal at church (I'm fairly certain she doesn't "blog" in any way...and if she does, well, you'll be seeing this card again soon Miss. Jennifer! ha!) and the other a just because card because I LOVE seeing the belly laugh on this lady's face! Isn't it great? Doesn't it just make you want to giggle?! I actually purchased two of these, one to send to someone just because and the other to put in my little pink wire "bulletin board" over my desk in my bedroom. I also picked up the vintage butter pat for a steal. I'm not sure where it will land - maybe on my desk in my room to hold a roll of stamps? And how could I possibly walk away from the footed salt cellar? It's a little hard to see here but the "feet" are gold (plated) and there's a dainty flower hand painted on each side. Just to be on the safe side, this little gem will find a home in the glass-doored cabinet in my bathroom.

I'm guilty of shopping the "big boxes" (Wal-Mart, Target, Harris Teeter, etc.) for the products I need to run my household. But whenever possible, I make it a point to shop my "locals" (independent shop owners, flea markets, farmers markets, etc.) for that something special, that one-of-a-kind item, that perfect gift for someone I think so much about. I want to help support these shop owners so that, for selfish reasons, I have them to go back to when I have to buy for that "hard to buy for" person or when I'm looking for something to help make my house a home. I would encourage everyone to do the same. It would be a very dull shopping world if all we had were cookie cutter retailers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I've Been Away...working




I'm not fibbing...

it was a work trip...

My company, "Lamar Companies", hosted a leasing meeting this past week. We were to meet in Clearwater Beach, Florida on Thursday afternoon August 7. Our spouses/significant others were welcome to join us, they simply had to pay for their own airfare. It was on like donkey kong here in Bear Creek! I've never seen Michael Mineer work his Priceline magic so fast or with such care! There was NO WAY he was going to miss this trip! The beach? Accommodations paid for? ALL YOU CAN EAT SEAFOOD BUFFET PAID FOR FOR TWO DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS - WHAT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? If he had to work 5 "side jobs" to pay for his airline ticket, Michael was going to Florida with the Mama!

We had a blast!! My co-leasing agents, Mike, Mike and Sam (yep, that's right...3 mikes on this trip. Easy for my boss to remember everyone!) were there along with Mike M's wife Susan and Sam's fiance Cara. Mike C's wife stayed back to get their rising college freshman ready to head to Virginia Tech. I hope to be able to meet her at the NEXT leasing meeting (hmm...wonder what tropical place that will be...). And, of course, my boss Jeff and his wife Lynne were there.

Lynne did all the planning and really did a fabulous job. It's not easy trying to make a group of people happy! We had a beach-front hotel that was to die for! Pictures number 2, 3, and 4 (from top to bottom) are the view from our balcony. Hard to take, huh? Oh, the birds "talking", the waves lapping, the seagulls yelling, the pool splashing... no wonder people retire there. It was a real treat to wake up every morning...

Thursday afternoon was a meet and great. Most of us had never met before. That's one of the down sides of telecommuting, never meeting your co-workers. Thursday night we were off to Shepard's for the all you can eat seafood buffet. You wouldn't believe me if I told you... Friday was a work day. Our spouses were on their own in the morning. We had conference calls from 7:30 - 11:30 AM. We all met for lunch at the Calypso Queen (pictured above). It had a buffet, too but...well...not so good. Either that or I was just a little queezy from the motion of the ocean (or Gulf of Mexico in this case). Actually, the little luncheon cruise was a little "cheesy" but wonderful nonetheless! Hey, I was out from behind a computer, on the water, wind in my hair, sun on my face, surrounded by new friends and my hubby!!! What a lunch hour, huh?? After lunch, the spouses went back to doing whatever they wanted and we went back to work. Later that evening, about 6:45, we met again for a group dinner. This time we headed to "Crabby Bill's". AMAZING!!!! The oysters on the half shell were flying - couldn't get to our table fast enough! And Fernando the waiter was one I'll not soon forget (rats! forgot to get a picture of Fernando...). There was a little chaos in one of the cabs on the short (okay maybe 5 blocks) ride back to the hotel. Picture "cash cab" middle eastern style! Ha! You really had to be there (rats! forgot to get a picture of the cabbie "Moses"...from Israel... I'll let you picture your own scenario here). Night caps were had on the deck in the restaurant of the hotel and goodbyes were said there.

Mike and I, like the others, decided to take advantage of already being there and stay an extra day/night. So, we got up Saturday, rented a car and headed off to Madeira Beach and "John's Pass". B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!!!! We had an early lunch at Bubba Gump's (I was in heaven - one of my FAVORITE movies of all time) and then hit the boardwalk and surrounding areas. We spent hours in John's Pass going from shop to shop to shop. How many tee shirts can one man buy/have? Seriously people, I bought one tee - from Bubba's - and I was/am a happy girl! Now, I also snuck in a pair of Rainbow flip flops but they were on sale for $30.00 at The Walking Company! $30.00 bucks people for a pair of Rainbows!!! I'd have been a fool not to get those babies!!! And, I really DID/DO need a new pair of brown flips!

We tooled all around that area all day and then headed back to Clearwater. We got cleaned up and then walked to "Frenchy's" for dinner that night. "Frenchy's" is a long-time favorite in Clearwater and highly recommended by the locals. It's famous for it's Super Grouper Sandwich...and I have to publicly report...the Super Grouper kicked DH's butt!!! For those of you who know my husband, he likes to eat and RARELY does he take on more than he can handle. But the Super Grouper, well, it was just a little too much for Mikey. Of course, the clam appetizers and the salad didn't help! We topped the evening off with a walk along the newly created "boardwalk" and then out on the pier, where we met Jack Sparrow - arrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!

Sunday it was up, breakfast with the birds (literally), a fond last look at the beautiful Floridian coastline and a quick plane ride home to NC.

I am thankful and I am blessed and I never forget it...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Shoes for Baby

It's back to school season again. And I clearly remember as a kid looking forward to shopping for new school supplies and new shoes. I didn't care so much about the clothes (I still don't) but put me in front of some notebooks, a row of prettily packaged ink pens and a store full of stylish shoes and I was one happy kid!

As a grown woman, I still get giddy with excitement when I visit Staples (it's that easy afterall) or when I visit ZBSports online. Oh, the colors, the styles, the brightness of the new sneakers...

So I couldn't have been happier or more surprised when I woke up one morning recently to find a Saucony box on my kitchen counter with a "love note" from my honey! "New shoes for baby"!! That's me - I said to myself! And while I tore into the box to see what color my treat was, I've used great restraint in not wearing them until recently - last night.

Oh, it's like walking on air. I love them. And they're pink...I love pink!

And I'm convinced they make me run faster, just like my new shoes did when I was headed back to school...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Are You Freakin' Kidding Me??

Seriously? Really?

Remember when I talked about all my mechanical troubles here? When things start falling in around you, I really think it's best just to giggle. Otherwise, you run the risk of blowing your gasket.

I had accepted that my car needed some attention. After all, it has 294,000 miles on it. I had been extremely patient and waited for over a year to have the passenger side window fixed (the regulator had gone bad and the window had been secured with tape - duct tape at first but I drew the line there and used clear, packing tape instead). You can imagine my joy when I picked up my car and it ran smoothly and I could push the button for the window to go up and down effortlessly. And while I was still "put out" that our riding mower had not yet been repaired ("the part wasn't in the box we received this week, ma'am...I'm SURE it will be ready next week"...meanwhile my yard is now a hayfield and I'll need a bushhog to cut it down) and my truck still won't run and now the driver's side window in my car is taped up (Cathy, that was the noise, the bang, we heard while driving back to North Hills the other day), I remained calm and stress-free because I simply had no control over these matters.

So, yesterday, I decided that I could at least get our pushmower out and cut around the house and up at the top of the drive and along the road where we're more "visible" and passersby (yeah, the 5 we get in a month) could easily form an opinion about us just by the height of my grass. I'm sorry, I concern myself with these images. Rednecks we are not!

I planned my strategy while in church (and yes, I was paying attention to the message) and immediately afterward came home, changed, and headed outside. I knew that I'd have to take a break to go get more gas - no problem, it was super hot and that was a good enough reason to cool off in the AC in the car for a few minutes. I refueled, started my little mower and off I went. I had a system going because the "yard" is simply too much to push mow (really, I'm too old and out of shape but...). As I mentioned, there were "hot spots" I wanted to hit and, for the most part, I accomplished what I had set out to do.

A ways into my project I ran out of gas again (like I said, the yard is too much to push). No problem, I was prepared. I filled my little tank up again, wiped my brow, took a cool drink of water and pulled the string to start the mower.... SMACK!!!! I was left standing there with the pulley, the string and the handle in my hand...

I looked to heaven and said "seriously? really? are you freakin' kidding me?" Then I giggled and put the mower away in the shed.

Thank God my dad, aka "the calvary", will be here Friday...

Friday, August 1, 2008

There's A Stranger In The House

If aliens landed their mother ship in Bear Creek, North Carolina (specifically Union Grove Church Road) they would assume that all dogs, cats and horses were either black or black and white. That's the only way we know how to grow 'em out here!

You can imagine the double take I make every time I see this little feller hanging around the property. He's just started appearing and, as is evident here, has made himself quite at home. That's not for lack of effort on the "home kitties" trying to convince this visitor otherwise. How do I know? I can hear the screams in the middle of the night outside the bedroom window and doctor Ralphie's head for fresh wounds the next morning (ah, the country life...what was I thinking???).

My gang seems to have given in and allowed this wanderer to hang around. I've even seen him eating the crunchies, drinking the water and actually laying in the front yard with the rest of the herd - at a safe distance of course. For certain, however, one false, gross move on his part and - well - it's on!

Watch your back, little man, watch your back!!