Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Menu Plan

It's been a while since I've posted a menu plan so I thought in an attempt to get my life organized and continue my cooking self-study (two New Year's Resolutions I'm starting RIGHT NOW), I figured I try it again.

Tonight (Monday) - Hubby has some steaks marinating which he is going to grill tonight on his day off, mashed potatos, and my Assistant Principal's English Pea Casserole (but I'm substituting sweat peas and cutting the recipe in 1/2 - Recipe below)

Tuesday - Grilled chicken with left over pea casserol and rice (hubby's night off again so he grills!!)

Wednesday - Tater tot casserol (Recipe Below)

Thursday - Crockpot Chicken and Corn Chowder

Friday - C. O. R. N.

Saturday - Breakfast Casserole - I'm going to try to cut the recipe in 1/2 here too since it is just hubby and I and we don't need 12 servings!

Sunday - Bridal show/dress shopping with my newly engaged sister! :) I'm sure we will eat out somewhere. I'm meeting her future mother in law! LOL

*****

Tanja's English Pea Casserole
1 stick butter
1c chopped celery
1c chopped onion
2 cans English Peas, drained
1 jar pimiento, chopped
1 jar water chestnuts, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Saute the onions and celery in butter. Combine veggies w/ peas, water chestnuts, pimientos, and soup. Pour into casserol dish topping with cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until hot and cheese melts. Serves 12-15


Tater Tot Casserole
1 lb cooked ground beef
8 oz shreaded cheddar cheese
1 can french green beans
1 can cream of mushroom soup
tater tots

Mix ground beef (I usually cook mine with onions, garlic, etc), soup, beans, and 1/2 of the cheese together and spread on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese then tater tots. Cook 20 minutes on 400.

With Orgjunkie's help, maybe I'll be able to handle these resolutions. Visit her blog for organizing tips, including Menu Planning Mondays!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Angels among us

I heard an older song today, Angels Among Us, and it reminded me not only of the story I posted yesterday, but also of a day many years ago (probably about 8 or so), when I flipped my car and two angels came to my rescue.

I was driving home from my parents house, about an hour drive down back roads and lonely highways, after dark. I was tired, and probably more than ready to get back home. I was about 23, and believe it or not, I don't think I was speeding. I say I don't think I was because if I'm honest with myself I'm not real sure, although the cop later said that based on skid marks he believed I was not speeding.

This particular patch of road was being repaired (No... A road in Florida that is under construction?? It's unheard of! LMAO) and was in the middle of nowhere. There were no streetlights and not even any houselights to be seen. There was also no lines painted on the black road yet making the side of the road more difficult to see.

My tire hit the edge of the road, which due to being repaved, was probably a full 3 inches above the old road which was about 4 inches wider than the new road forming a wonderful lip for my tire to hit.

Without thinking (obviously), I yanked the wheel and over corrected. Bad bad bad idea. The next thing I know, my car is flipping into the ditch finally landing with the driver's side down.

I had a cell phone, but I had no idea where it had gone to. I usually drove with it in my lap so I wouldn't have to search for it if I needed it, but in all the flipping, it had flown who knows where. I was in shock and not real sure where I was other than somewhere between my parent's house and mine. I knew that wherever I was there was very few people out this far and I couldn't get out of my car. I had unbuckled my seat belt (Thank God I was wearing it!), but because my mind was spinning, I couldn't think how to physically get out of my car. I managed to open the passenger side door but I couldn't pull myself out.

Suddenly these two guys were there helping to pull me out of my car and asking me if I was OK. They had called the cops and allowed me to use their phone to call my parents. They offered to stay with me and told me I could give my parents their cell phone number so that we could keep in touch until the cop got there. In talking with them while we were waiting, I found out that they are from my hometown too but were several years behind me in school. They know my younger brother though and even told me some things about him that he had done in school. That night, my mom called the phone number the boys gave several times having no problem getting through.

Luckily, I was OK (Due in large part no doubt to the fact that I was in fact wearing my seat belt) and the cop deemed the accident as no fault. He could see the tire marks and actually could tell me better than I could what had happened. It all happened so fast that I wasn't even sure other than that I had gone off the road and ended up on the other side, upside down, in a ditch.

A few days later, after things had calmed down, my mother tried to call the boys on the cell phone to thank them for stopping to help and staying with me. The phone number didn't work. My brother didn't recognize the names of the boys, yet the stories they told me were true. We couldn't find them in any of his yearbooks either.

My only explanation is that these to guys were angels send by God to protect me and help me that night. I don't know how long it might have been before someone else drove by on that deserted stretch of road if it hadn't have been for them nor what I might have done if a less than courteous person stopped instead.

Although I believe that God uses ordinary people to do His work here on earth, I know for a fact that He does send His angles, disguised as ordinary people, to mingle with us and help us out in our times of need. He is watching out for us, so make sure you don't forget to thank Him for it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Miracle- a true stoy and why I run!!!

Please read this, a friend sent this to me (after the rough-tough military man stopped crying). Then I decided to post it when I finally stopped crying. It is a true story and why I can't give up. Too many people out there need the help, and more importantly, the HOPE!

Three years ago, a little boy & his grandmother came to see Santa at the Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin . The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend? Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly.Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, & saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed."She misses you," he added softly.Santa tried to be cheerful & encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas..

When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, & started to say something to Santa, but halted.

"What is it?" Santa asked warmly.

"Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but .." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors."The girl in the photograph.... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia & isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa . any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked & swallowed hard & told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, & he would see what he could do.

Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do."What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "this is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys & girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face.Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day."C'mon.... I'll take you there," Rick said softly.

Rick drove them to the hospital & came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall. Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door & saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother & the girl's brother he had met earlier that day. A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, & Santa could sense the warmth & closeness of the family, & their love & concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, & forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!" "Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes in tact.

Santa rushed to her side & gave her a warm hug. A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder & excitement. Her skin was pale & her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, & he had to force himself to choke back tears.

Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear the gasps & quiet sobbing of the women in the room. As he & Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully, whispering "thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes.

Santa & Sarah talked & talked, & she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year. As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, & asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement & the entire family circled around Sarah's bed,holding hands.

Santa looked intensely at Sarah & asked her if she believed in angels."Oh, yes, Santa... I do!" she exclaimed."Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you," he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes & prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, & heal her body from this disease.He asked that angels minister to her, watch & keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing softly, "Silent Night, Holy Night.... all is calm, all is bright."

The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, & crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all.When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again & held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own.

"Now, Sarah, "he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, & that is to concentrate on getting well. I want you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, & I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!"

He knew it was risky proclaiming that, to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE."

Yes, Santa! "Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright. He leaned down & kissed her on the forehead & left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them & they wept unashamedly.Sarah's mother & grandmother slipped out of the room quickly & rushed to Santa's side to thank him."My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly. "This is the least I could do."

They nodded with understanding & hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by & then one day a child came up to sit on his lap."Hi, Santa! Remember me?!"

"Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her.After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment."

You came to see me in the hospital last year!"

Santa's jaw dropped.Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, & he grabbed this little miracle & held her to his chest.

"Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long & silky & her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before.

He looked over & saw Sarah's mother & grandmother in the sidelines smiling & waving & wiping their eyes.That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope.

This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive & well. He silently looked up to Heaven & humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. 'Tis a very, Merry Christmas! Thank you for making Miracles like this come true.

Merry Christmas

PS. If you have a Miracle, story of inspiration or hope please reply and share it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Japan

This isn't mine, but it is too funny to not post. The OP is an US expat that is currently living in Japan. Having been to Japan, I have to laugh as I read it...because it is so typical Japanese! I only wish that I had a handy list lke this when I went to Japan!! :) It was sent to me so I'm not sure who the OP is in order to give credit. My comments are in red.


I'm going back to the US for Christmas tomorrow! Yay!My travel agent has, thoughtfully, seen fit to provide me with a pamphlet of helpful tips to make my overseas travel less of an anxiety-filled social minefield riddled with white people and guns. I got such a kick out of these that I wanted to share. (I picked most of the fun ones. There are a lot of boring tips too.)




  • The yen is very strong against the dollar right now. This will make goods in America seem very cheap -- an excellent opportunity for shopping! However, remember to be polite in your use of money -- America is in the middle of economic malaise right now, and Japanese people with wads of money in their hand might be looked on with envy. Besides, if you are obviously wealthy in an American city, you may be robbed.

  • For our valued customers who work in the automotive industry, we advise discretion. If you must say where you work, the preferred phrasing is [English] "I work at the car company".

  • Most Americans are very polite, particularly outside of the big cities. However, outside of the big cities, everyone owns guns. Inside the big cities, almost everyone owns guns. Let's be polite together! Japanese don't own guns. Even their riot police don't carry guns so guns are taboo and a bit scary to them. It's hard for them to understand why a law abiding, "nice" person would need to own guns.

  • If you go shopping at an American department store, they will ask you if you want to open a credit card account. They are *not* asking whether you want to use a credit card. This may seem strange but it is an American custom to offer customers a credit card, in order to make them spend more money. We suggest politely declining offers of credit cards. You may have to politely decline several times. Don't think of this as rude, the Americans have to do it too.

  • Most Americans think we look like Chinese or Koreans. Try not to be too offended. Asians generally do not like to be mixed up! There are differences in the physical features between them and even though to "us" they "all look alike" they think the same about us. We all look alike to them too!

  • Most Americans will think that a Japanese person standing on the street is an American, unless they are holding a camera. If you are not comfortable speaking English, you might try bringing along a camera to say "I am a tourist, please don't expect me to speak English." Except, don't try this in the big cities -- tourists get mugged in big cities. We are used to being a big melting pot society where the Japanese aren't. 90% of the people in Japan are native Japanese so it is easy tp pick out the tourists or the non-natives who may not speak Japanese.

  • Americans have a social institution called a "gratuity". Basically, the price on the menu at any place which serves food is not the real price. The real price is 20% higher. You have to calculate 20%, write it under the subtotal, and sum to arrive at the real price. Taxis work the same way. It is considered very rude not to pay the "gratuity". You DO NOT tip in Japan. In fact, it is considered rude to tip. If you leave a tip, to them, it is equalivent to saying "I don't think you have enough money, here, let me help you."

  • In general, Americans consider it impolite to discuss politics. However, this January Obama will become the new president, and many people are excited! If they ask you what you think of him, a safe answer is [English] "Obama is really cool." or [English] "Obama speaks so well. Not like me. Hehe." Be very careful when pronouncing his name. O BA MA, just like Obama City.

  • Most big cities have Japanese food available. You may have to look hard, though -- ask your hotel for some place to eat tempura. Restaurants which say they serve sushi probably only serve makizushi, like California rolls. (Americans think California rolls are [English] "sushi".) If a restaurant says [English] "Asian" they really mean Chinese. They are probably not really Chinese, either. On the same note, in Japan, "American" food doesn't always mean what we think of as American. You probably won't get a bun on your hamburger for example!

  • Ladies: if you shop for clothes, ask for where to find [English] "petite". It means normal sized. Ladies who are petite may have difficulty finding clothes which fit in America, except at specialty shops. From experiance, it is difficult to find clothes for a 5'8" average weight woman in Japan. Physically, they are smaller. An Extra Large jacket I bought simply because I was cold and it was rainy, is still too short on my arms and a little snug.

  • McDonalds: Has no teriyaki burger in America. Portions are bigger and food is cheaper. Sometimes the person taking the order does not speak English. Please relax! They probably understand the set menu, although it is called [English] "combo", and you can hold up the number with your hands as shown. [Snip of chart for how Americans count on their fingers, which is actually different than how Japanese people count on their fingers, hence the need for a chart.] Mmmm Teriyaki Burgers.... why oh why can't American Micky D's have them??? And as for the counting, they count all on one hand putting fingers DOWN as they count 1-5 (starting with the thumb and going towards the pinky) rather than putting them UP as we do. 6-10 is counted on the same hand but in reverse order putting them up.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish work and start packing. Toothbrush, shirts, camera, bullet-proof vest, wad of monopoly money, you know, the bare necessities.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Wish List

When I was little, I loved Christmas for all of the gifts that we got as well as all the cousins that came over that I could play with. Christmas was about getting gifts and being with family to a little girl's eyes. But as I have grown older (and hopefully wiser), I've realized that Christmas really isn't about giving either. It's about wishing. Unfortunately, I as a person, am unable to give most people what I want them to have. Not because I can't afford it, but because there is no price tag on the items I wish them to have. So here is my revised Christmas Wish List:

To all my friends in the armed forces: My wish for you is peace. Peace of mind, peace and quiet, and a peaceful holiday. Not everyone understands your sacrifice or what it is you must do. You sacrifice not only your physical life, but your emotional life and family life as well. You have my respect, my love, and all my hopes for the future. Keep your head down and always come home safe.

To other military spouses: I also wish peace upon you. A peace of mind that only comes when you know your loved one is safe. It is a difficult life we have chosen and those we love couldn't do what they have to do without the love and support from the home front. Raise your chins high and know that you hold a very special position in the military and that you are admired for your sacrifices as well.

To my friends in other service jobs; Cops, firefighters, EMS, security, etc... You also risk your lives on a daily basis for those you don't know and those who may not be appreciative of your sacrifice. I wish for you safety and much deserved appreciation. You have my respect and admiration for your job well done.

To my fellow educators: I wish patience. We have a stressful, yet highly rewarding job that often requires more patience than we actually have to keep our sanity in tack! Have a restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating holiday break and come back fresh in January ready to take on the world... or at least a classroom full of very important lives!

To my friends/family in other countries: Most of you are away from home doing the Lord's work while others are serving our country in one way or another. I wish for you success in whatever your endeavors and that you touch and affect many lives for the better. Know that you are missed but loved and everyone "back home" is proud of the amazing work you do.

To my "online" friends: Some of you I only know through your blogs or other means of computer communication such as a chat room or forum. I've hooked up with you for various reasons. Some perhaps on my journey to learn how to cook, while others are military wives who have helped support me when Hubby is gone. Other are there for me on my weight and running journeys. You've helped me tremendously and I thank you for that. My wish for you is that I or someone else out there in cyber world be as helpful to you as you have been to me...oh and may your modem always be fast!

To my "real life" friends: You have been there for me when I was lower than low and helped me to stay grounded when I was high on life. You've picked me up and encouraged me to go out be it with a girls night out, a girls night in, or just a long in depth phone call at odd hours of the day or night. No one could make it in this world without friends and I have the best of the best. I wish for you the energy to continue to do the things you love, the light of God to help you along your path, and of course, a few rounds of Chocolate Martini's!!

To my family: Thank you so much for all of the love and support you have given me in my life's journey. It hasn't been an easy one and I have fallen many times. I praise God that you have been there to pick me back up again. I wish for you love, happiness, grace, and peace as well as the patience to continue to put up with me! :)

To my husband: I love you more than I could ever express in words. You have helped me in more ways than you can imagine, both physically and emotionally. You are my best friend, my love, and my hero. I wish you happiness, love, plenty of time to go camping, lots of ammo, and of course... bananas and grapes :) I love you!

I asked my family not to worry so much about gifts for me this year, but instead t donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society via my donation page. Several of them did and I am so grateful to them for that. he greatest gift in the world that I would wish for myself, my family, and anyone else who has suffered due to cancer is to find new treatments and hopefully a cure for cancers like my father's, my brother's, my friend Dominic's, Alex's, and little Gracie's. As of this morning, I am only $121.10 short of my Christmas goal of raising $3000 for LLS. Not too shabby if I do say so myself! If you'd like to help make my Christmas wish come true, check out My Reason to Run and donate a few bucks if you are able.

My wish for everyone is to have a Blessed Christmas season. Live, Laugh, Love!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Camping

I love camping! Being in the middle of nowhere with nothing around but the river, the woods, and the creatures (and family and/or good friends) is one of the best feelings in the world. So relaxing and peaceful. For just a little while, you can forget all the troubles of the world, the economy, the stress, everything but how wonderful this life can be.

This is the first Christmas in 3 years that Hubby has been home for Christmas, yet he still isn't going to be able to take part in the family Christmas activities because he has to work. Instead, we went camping for a couple of nights with his parents. As a Christmas gift for them, I put a few of the pictures together in a digital collage and will grab a few matching 8x10 frames to put them in today. Here's what I came up with:


Here are a few more pictures that didn't make the collages but I think are worth showing.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

The ups and downs of a 20 mile run.

It is still amazing to me how many highs and lows one goes through in a long run such as the run I had this morning. Today was make-up 20 mile run, which is the longest training run we have prior to the Marathon in January. Last week was the official 20 miler but I was SICK and a few others missed it too so we made it up today.

Usually we wouldn't "make up" a missed run, just catch up with whatever the group is doing the week we come back. However, while a 20 mile run isn't physically necessary to train for a marathon, often it is mentally needed. First time marathon runners can get pretty freaked out by the mention of these longer miles and 20 seems SOOO much further than 18 for some reason.

I've done marathons before so I know what it feels like to go 20 miles (and 26.2 also), but I still wanted to do it, plus one of my running partners was unable to finish the 20 miler the week before and wanted to do it so I decided to go ahead and do it with her.

The first few miles SUCK. There is no easy way around it. My body is screaming in protest. "Why are you awake this early on a Saturday? Why aren't we comfy and cozy in bed or at least on the couch? What the heck is this repetitive jarring motion? OMG...ARE YOU RUNNING!?!?!?!"

Once my body has given in to the fact that yes I'm awake, yes we are out of bed, and yes I am running (and will be for a while), I am able to settle into a comfortable pace and actually enjoy the running. This finally happened around mile 3 or so and carried me through until about mile 11 or 12. There are of course a few small ups and down within this time but they are still to be considered more up than down, even if the water stops are the best sights in the world.

For some reason mile 12 seems to hold a sort of a wall for me. Not THE WALL that is made out of brick and takes a bulldozer to get through, but a smaller, shorter wall, more of a hurdle, that I still need to get over. This is where the aches and pains first start showing up. Not screaming ones, just little annoying pings of dull pain at this point.

Again, a mile or two later, the dull pinging pain is gone (or I'm numb to it) and I'm doing OK again. However, near the end of the run, in this case, mile 18 is the ever-present, daunting WALL (yes, this is THE WALL). Everything hurts and your body as well as your mind is screaming "WHY OH WHY!?" In an actual marathon it seems to come around mile 20, but for some reason, when you are only doing 20, it hit around 18. Nothing wants to move. It hurts to keep running, however, completely different muscles hurt to walk. At this point it hurts just to be alive and short of changing that state, you must decide which muscles hurt more, the walking or the running ones. It usually changes so you go back and forth between running (shuffling) and walking (dragging your feet) until you get your second wind.

Once you realize that you are actually very close to the end and you CAN make it, spirits lift and the aches and pains seems to dissipate a bit, not completely - they don't completely go away for a day or so haha - but they seem to pale a bit in your pure joy of being almost done. This carries you through the finish line where you can happily collapse amongst cheers and congratulations of your teammates who only did 14 miles (yes, ONLY 14), because they completed their 20 mile run the week before.

It's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause, it's all for a good cause...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas decorations

I thought it was about time I made a new post! I took a little break after my 31 posts in a row, then I got sick and didn't feel like even looking at a computer screen. I finally got around to putting up a few decorations so I thouht I would share what I have done so far!




(The magic key that lets Santa inside on Christmas night since there is no chimney!)


(Over the bar)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Carded

2nd anniversary of my 29th birthday (plus a day) or not, yesterday I ordered a martini at dinner and was carded!! haha! YAY!! What a way to make you feel good about yourself again. "This total stranger thinks there may be a CHANCE that I'm under 21"

Ahhh... :) Happy feelings!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

29 and holding...

Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,
Happy Birthday to me!

haha

I've had a pretty good birthday. Nothing real special I suppose but a nice quiet day curled up on the couch either reading or watching a movie. Cozy. It was chilly and rainy outside so I couldn't ask for more. I even pampered myself with a bubble bath!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pictures

Me and my nephew out in the pasture after Thanksgiving lunch

Baby Cousin Sarah meeting her newest baby cousin Vusi in South Africa for the first time.


True Redneck Thanksgiving :)


Even the cat wants to watch the Gators beat the Noles! GO GATORS!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Far Far away from the mall

So many people today crowded chain stores and malls looking for the perfect gift for the people on their Christmas list in (what should be) the official start of the Christmas season. I wasn't one of them.

Nope, instead, I stayed home, far far away from any craziness related to shopping. I didn't even do any online shopping today.

I spent the first part of my morning in front of my computer completing my homework. After that chore was done, I continued on with my day of reading and watching old black and white movies. I may not have really accomplished much other than my homework, but I think it was a very productive day. I am relaxed rather than exhausted, and I still have what little there is in my bank account!

By the Way...100 Days to Christmas didn't go shopping either! Smart Girl!! :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get."
--Frank A. Clark

Last year, I posted a blog where I made a list of things I was thankful for, however, I did it a bit after Thanksgiving on a day I was feeling very alone and down in the dumps. This year, I'm doing it on Thanksgiving, and in a much better mood. Perhaps next time I'm in a foul mood I can refer back to this page and cheer myself up a bit!

So here it is. This year (and always), I am most thankful for...

  • My husband is home for the holidays! He has missed the past 2 holiday seasons due to military deployments. It is great to have him home. Celebrating with family was almost sad and depressing without him!
  • As strange as this my sound... growing up redneck! I had a great childhood! While I didn't want for much, I was never spoiled either. I worked in the grove, got dirty, went camping, shot guns, thew cow patties at my brother, swam in the river, and had to help work the cattle from time to time. But I also got a brand new car for my HS graduation (with stipulations - I had to keep grades up in college for one); always had new Speedo swimsuits for swim team and any other "extras" like goggles, fins, and weight gloves that I needed (or more accurately, wanted); all of my senior year stuff was paid for like prom, homecoming, the senior beauty pageant, senior pictures, invites, announcements, etc; I was sent to college without getting/needing student loans so there is nothing for me to need to pay back now. In college I was given just enough "spending money" so that I could pay my bills without working ALL the time leaving no time for studying or a social life, but I did have to have a job. What my parents sent would not pay my bills alone, a part time job was necessary. It was a well balanced life and my parents did an amazing job at keeping me on the fine edge.
  • Along with that, I am also thankful to be getting my Master's Degree without student loans. I have a scholarship that pays for 1/2 of the tuition, Daddy has agreed to pay the other half provided I get A's in the class (so far, straight A's with five more classes to take!), and I pay for my books and supplies like any computer software I've needed. I realize I am very fortunate in this and can never thank my father enough for this gift. He says my success will be payment enough for him. I hope I can live up to it!
  • Family. Yes, family can get on your nerves at times, and some members of the family more than others, but I have an awesome extended family that I know, even through fights and squabbles, will always be there for me in an instant if I need them.
  • A good book and a cozy blanket. I LOVE to read a good book. It's the best relaxer I've ever found. You can totally lose yourself for a while and slip into someone else's world, forgetting your own troubles momentarily.
  • Good friends. Not only do I have awesome friends that are there for me in a heartbeat, but my husband has great friends as well. I may often prefer the company of my own friends, but I know that my husband's friends will always be there for me if I need them as well. Maybe not for a mani/pedi/spa day, but definitely for the bigger stuff - haha - I suddenly have images of Hubby's friends, all current or former military, getting pedicures! I have no doubt that if, God forbid, the worst happens, in addition to my own wonderful friends and family, I will have a house full of military men and women, some who may have flown in from the other side of the country or the world and many of them having never actually met me in person, offering to do anything and everything I need.
  • My health. Having a father with cancer and a little brother who is in remission allows you to really see up close and personal how delicate life is. Even though I know and have met so many people who have overcome so many terrible things such as cancer, polio, and diabetes, I am am thankful that for the moment, I do not have to endure that struggle.
  • My family's health. No, not everyone is as healthy as I would like them to be, but this year there is no one in the hospital (knock on wood) while I write this. My step-brother Carl is in Remission. Daddy is doing great. My nephew is out of the hospital and is beginning to crawl around and be a "normal" 1.5 year old. Do I wish everyone was in 100% perfect health, yes, of course, but I am thankful for the small things as well as the large ones.
  • As yesterday's post pointed out, I remain thankful for my father's bone marrow donor, as well as everyone who is on the list.
  • Of course, as always, I am highly thankful for the men and women of the armed forces who risk everything they have from their families to their very lives to protect the rest of us. They fight so that we can feel safe in our beds at night in our own homes.
  • Last but definately not least, I am thankful for those who have come before me and made my way of life possible. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, the founding fathers, and numerous others who fought, made tough decisions, and never gave up on the hope and dream to make the world a better place than the one they were born into.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Truly Thankful

I got the following story in an e-mail today:

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away". Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

It is a very sweet and touching story and all too relative to me today. Last year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I found out that someone, like the little brother in this story, was willing to help my father. Perhaps this mystery person knew there was little risk to himself, but it was still an act that he/she did not have to do for my father...for my family.

You see, my dad needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life. Everything else had been tried: Chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant, and every experimental drug and treatment that we could find. His brothers, the best chance for a match, were not a match for him and things were starting to look grim. The Lymphoma that has been attacking his blood and lymph nodes was starting to win the long fought war.

The National Bone Marrow Registry had been searched, and re-searched several times with nothing coming up as a match.

My husband was gone. He was 300 miles away at a Navy base waiting to be sent to South America for a 6 month deployment. It would be his 2nd holiday season in a row that he wasn't even going to be in the country. I was driving to a town half way between our house and his parents to meet them for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant not far off the interstate before they left for a family camping trip with the rest of their extended family when I got the call from my mom.

I started crying while I was driving down a busy interstate. Not so safe. I had to pull over when I realized that my tears were impairing my sight. They were the happiest of happy tears. Someone had matched with my father on the registry and had agreed to do the transplant (Even if you agree to be on the registry, you can still change your mind if they call you). I called my husband's cell phone praying that they hadn't left early forcing him to turn his phone off. They hadn't.

I scared Hubby to death I think. I was crying so hard that he couldn't make out what I was saying, yet he knew that I should be driving to see his parents and that the interstate I was driving on is notorious for bad accidents. After a little while I was able to calm down enough to tell him the news. He was just as relieved as I was, even if he didn't cry!

It was, to date, the best Thanksgiving my family has ever been. We've always been thankful for everything we've had, but this took the proverbial cake. We were thankful for the very life that my father was being given, and thankful to the still anonymous person who made it possible by offering to give his or her bone marrow to my father to save his life.

A year after the transplant, Daddy is doing great! He has had some ups and downs but is hanging on and doing fantastically well according to his doctors. He is still considered "terminal" as so far there is no cure for his particular type of Lymphoma, yet the outlook is nowhere near as grim as it was a little over a year ago.

To the person who made this possible, you may not know me, but I have prayed for you and thanked God for you every single day for the past year. You may never know how much my family and I truly appreciate how much you have given us by your wonderful act of selflessness. I only hope that one day, you can be repaid in some small way.

I strongly encourage anyone who reads this to join the National Bone Marrow Registry. You never know whose life you may be saving or touching.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday Teaser

Well, I'm crashing. Last week at this time I was jonesing, then I got my books and I was on a high again, now I'm done with the series and I'm crashing :( Now what? LOL I feel so lost! I guess I could head over to Stephanie Meyer's website and read all the outtakes and the first few chapters of her unfinished book Midnight Sun that some inconsiderate fool put out on the web before she was ready for it to be published (She is now unsure if she will ever finish it, but knows that curiosity will kill the cat so re-published the already leaked portions on her webpage).

Just before I finished reading the final book, I saw Lisa in the hallway.

me: "A ___________?!?!? What is that all about??" (not wanting to give away too much here >wink<)
her: "haha! You're already to that point?"
me: Laughing "Yeah, you sucked me in, it's all your fault, ya know."
her: "Yep! Has ________ left yet?" (Again, not spoiling it all here)
me: Frowning "Yes"
her: giggle
me: "It's killing me to not ask you what's going on with that."
her: "I wouldn't tell you anyway, Mrs. A!"

UGH, I've taught her too well! :)

Here are the teasers for the 3rd and 4th books in the Twilight Series.

From page 377 of Eclipse:

" She looked right at me as soon as I called her name, despite the thudding bass that should have drowned my voice. I waved eagerly, and watched her face as she took in the three werewolves leaning over me."


From page 376 of Breaking Dawn:

"The fire blazed hotter and I wanted to scream. To beg for someone to kill me now before I lived one more second in this pain. But I couldn't move my lips."

To see my review of the move based on Twilight, go here. Careful though, there are spoilers!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Menu Planining

Not much cooking got done last week for one reason or another. We went to the buffet down the road twice (one planned and once we were out and were right next door to it when we realized it was late and neither of us wanted to cook). Hubby made veal one night but I wasn't feeling well so I didn't eat any. Friday we went to see Twilight and ate at the mall while we were there. Maybe some more coking will happen this week even with Thanksgiving thrown in there.

Monday - 10 minute Salsa Chicken

Tuesday - Pizza Pinwheels

Wednesday- Hamburgers on the grill

Thursday- THANKSGIVING DAY! :) Gobble Gobble Gobble Going to Grandma's house!

Friday - Leftover's from all the goodies at Grandma's house

Saturday- Kielbasa Sausage and Mac n Cheese

Sunday- My birthday! :) Dinner out!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

16 miles!

Ahh... Sweet 16, miles that is :) Today my marathon team ran a 16 miles "bridge to bridge" run. Being the slacker that I have been for the past few weeks, I had some conserns about being able to do it. I mentioned this to my coach beforehand and was told to only go as far as my body would let me.

Just before we left, a friend of mine, Shelly, asked me if I took the suplement she had given me the week before. Muscle Fuel is supposed to be mixed with water and taken just before a long run or workout. My answer to her was, "Shoot, no, I forgot." She laughed and handed me another to mix with my remaining water. I little fizzy and not something I would drink for pure pleasure, but not all together bad either. I crossed my fingers and started to run with the pack.

When we hit the first water stop (mile 2) I was fine, no problems what so ever. By the second water stop (4 miles) I was STILL fine. That was when I started to wonder what was going on. Even in shape by 4 miles I'm a little winded, but not today. In fact, I was staying with the pack and doing fine all the way until mile 12! No problems what-so-ever. Suddenly though, the back of my knees were kiiiiiiiiiiiillllllling me! I had to slow down. A Chinese prover that I have in my classroom came to mind: "Be not afraid of ging slowly, be only afraid of standing still." Even though I slowed down considerably and was falling behind the pack, I still kept up with the 4:1's for the most part. John, a teammate and team mentor, noticed I was trailing and slowed down to stay with me. He is probably a big part of why I continued to keep up with the 4:1's as long as I did.

When we got to the last waterstop before the end (Mile 14), the group we had been running with was just leaving. Maybe I wasn't quite as far behind them as I thought I was...then again, it's possible that they just spent a really long time at the stop giving me time to catch up. I like to think it was the first one though :)

On the last time over the final bridge (there were two bridges, over each one twice), John and I ran to the base, walked up to the top, then down and nearly to the finish. We took our one minute walk and then ran in. I don't know what my actual time was, but prior to mile 12 when I started putzing out, we were averaging 11 minute miles.

Michele, our coach, is also a deep muscle massage therapist so she often has a line waiting for her to ease our aches and pains after our runs. After our stretches, I had her fix my knees. Somehow, she knew exactly what to do to my upper thigh (just below my butt) that fixed my knee! I winced and grimaced as I lad down, yet I almost hopped up. Afterwards I was sore simply because I had just run 16 miles, but the knees weren't hurting me so badly! :) YAY Michele...she's my hero of the day!

Once home, I took a cool bath with apple cider vinegar (laugh, but it really works for muscle soreness!), then a quick shower so I didn't smell like a salad, a short nap and I'm all better!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twilight - CAUTION - MOVIE SPOILERS!


*** If you haven't read the book OR seen the movie and don't want to know what is going to happen STOP READING!***

Hubby and I went to see Twilight last night, opening night of the movie here. I've finally finished reading all four of the books (just in time for the movie), so even though I warned him that this would probably be a teen-girl movie and all the teenage girls would be all over squealing, laughing, and giggling, Hubby agreed to go.

Before I left for the theater, I looked up some of the reviews. Overall, from what I saw, it received 3 out of 5 stars, a solid C. While reading the reviews I realized that several of the reviewers were put off by the teenage-girl style of the move while other were bothered by he vampires themselves (one even said they were more like fairies than vampires). Overall, I figured that the first one was a middle aged man who just didn't get the romantic gushy-stuff and the later hadn't read the book and didn't realize that Stephanie Meyer's vampires (or at least this family of them) aren't scary human hunting vampires.

We got there just in time, literally. As soon as I sat down and looked up, the lights dimmed and the previews began...to lots of screaming and squealing by the teenage girls.

Last warning...STOP NOW if you don't want to know how the book is different from the movie...You've been warned.....

Most of the important parts from the book were in the movie, just in a different situation. For example, Bella's truck isn't sitting in the driveway when she gets there, Billy and Jacob bring it to her a little while after she gets there. That is the first time Bella and Jacob meet rather than at the beach at La Push.

Another difference is that Jocob never outright tells Bella that the Cullens are vampires, only that his tribe is decedent from wolves and the Cullens are apparently descended of something "opposing" but wouldn't say exactly what. While in Pot Angeles with the girls, Bella does in fact go into the bookstore to find a book about the Quileutes' legends. Since she isn't sure yet when Edward rescues her from the would-be rapists, that conversation happens later rather than on the ride home.

That night she reads through the book and finds references to vampires with cold skin, speed, and beauty, all which point to the Cullens being vampires. She catches Edward's eye the next day at school and leads him into the woods where she confronts him with what she knows, or believes she knows. That is when the truth comes out, there in the woods. He picks her up and runs her to the top of the mountain above the cloud break where the sun is shining and she can really see what he is in the sun. There was no pretending to go to Seattle, in fact there was no girl's choice dance at all...only prom.

The chase with James didn't last near as long nor did it seem nearly as frightening at is did in the book. It was over all too quickly and they made no reference to the fact that Alice didn't remember being human or that James knew what had happened. In fact, Bella and Alice seem to barely know each other, much less become close friends like they did in the book.

Overall, it was an OK/better than decent movie, not great mind you, but a solid "pretty good." I didn't expect the movie to be quite as good as the book, they rarely are. I had hoped there to be more feeling for the characters, but it moved quite slowly and it never seemed to create too much depth into the characters. It did however, seem to set the scene for the next book to also be created into a movie!
Anyone else see it? What are your thoughts??

Friday, November 21, 2008

Death by Testing

Everyone hates taking tests. I don't know a singer person who wakes up in the morning and says, "YAY! It's TEST DAY!" or anyone who thinks, "Hmmm I'm bored, why don't I go take a test?" It just isn't done.

Yes, testing is a necessary evil, I know. As a teacher I test for many reasons. I may test as a placement tool to see where to begin instruction. I may test for achievement reasons to see how much growth a student has made. Or I may give a diagnostic test to see what is going on and what I need to do or change to better help a child. Lots of testing going on in schools.

But how much is too much? This week alone, my 6th graders had a test EVERY DAY! All this testing wasn't because they have a mean 'ol teacher either. Because this mean 'ol teacher didn't want to give about 1/2 of them and won't even see the results of many of them. Let me list the tests:
Monday - Selection Reading test (graded, on the story and skills we finished and reviewed for on Friday- instructed to be given and scores are recorded and sent to the principal on a weekly basis)
Tuesday - District Writing test (If I'm lucky I may get these scores back in a few weeks but rarely get to actually see what the kids wrote)
Wednesday- End of the unit Math test
Thursday-Vocabulary and Spelling Test (done on Thursdays now due to the Friday Weekly tests that are required every week)
Friday- Reading Weekly Test, Math Weekly Test (These are tests provided by the school, that cover random "grade level" skills that may or may not have been covered in class and we may never see the results of these tests or at best we will see an average of the grades in a month or so at our grade level meetings)

I really can't blame my kids for shutting down. As an adult, I would have a hard time with a test every day...now imagine you are a child with a learning or emotional disability, and most of the testing material is over your head to begin with because you are below grade level due to your disability. When is enough really enough?

I don't remember being tested to death as a child and I turned out OK. Am I preparing my students to be lifelong learners and successful members of society, or am I preparing them to be good test-takers? I often wonder...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sidiki Conde

Today my school had a very special treat... SIDIKI CONDE! Who is Sidiki Conde you may ask (I know I did). Sidiki is a dancer, singer, and musician from Africa. However, unlike most dancers (and singers and musicians too), Sidiki contracted Polio and lost the use of his legs at the age of 14.


Polio, or any contagious disease, was considered to be bad luck so Sidiki had to go live with his grandfather in a remote village in Western Africa. Upset by the fact that he wasn't going to be able to participate in the Coming of Age Ceremonies if he couldn't dance, he taught himself to dance ON HIS HANDS! Since then, he has formed a group called Tokounou All Abilities Group that travels around the world singing, dancing, and playing music for children and adults encouraging them to overcome any adversity life throws at you.


His performance was nothing short of AMAZING! I have never in my life seen someone so truly happy with how they are despite what could have been a debilitating disability. He spoke to the students about loving yourself the way you are and not giving up on your dreams just because people think you can't accomplish them.


The translations of two of his songs particularly hit me and I'd like to share them with you.


Dounougna

In this world we are many different people We are fine
Some people have no eyes, we are fine
Some people have no ears, we are fine
Some people have no voice, we are fine
Some people have no legs, we are fine
Some people have nothing
Some people have everything

We are fine.



“N’na”(Mother)

I know you carried me twice:
Once when I was a baby
and again when I could not walk
Thank you Mother
Mother do not cry and do not worry
I am going to make you happy
I am not handicapped
Handicapped is in the mind I can sing and I can dance

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Zombie Attack!


My hubby and his buddies all have bug-out gear in case all hell breaks loose and we suddenly need to trek across the state (or country) with only what we can carry on our backs. It's the military in them I suppose :) One of the things they constantly make sure they are prepared for is a zombie attack. The theory is, if you are prepared for a zombie attack, you are prepared for anything this world can throw at you! This comes, in part, from the book World War Z by Max Brooks, which I am told chronicles a zombie apocalypse (I haven't actually read it, but Hubby has).

I saw this quiz on another blog and had to laugh, immediately bringing thoughts of my Hubby and his best friend sitting on the floor of my living room (and the BF's living room too)surrounded with all sorts of survival equipment packing and re-packing their bug-out bags until they are just right. I answered these questions according to me as I know I am. The me that would react if hubby or his friends weren't here, but still knowing what I know based off of either my own experience growing up as a "redneck" child, as well as from my husband's instruction. Some of the questions I know (or at least think I know) what the "correct" answer was, but I also know me, so I put what I would probably naturally do. 56% chance of survival isn't too bad I suppose. I figured it would be higher with "Hubby and Company" around to check and secure the perimeter for me so I then went back and I answered the questions the way I think Hubby would answer them, suddenly I had an 84% chance of survival! haha Yup, he's living longer than me in a Zombie Attack!

Find out how well YOU would survive a Zombie Apocalypse at

http://www.oneplusyou.com/bb/zombie

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday Teaser

Well, I got sucked in. This must be what a drug addic or an alcholic feels like. Where is my air? Why can't I function straight? What is this!!!???

I finally finished Brisingr and one of my students talked me into begining the Twilight series by Stephanie Mayer. Day one- I start the first book, Twilight. I get one chapter in before heading to work. I'm hooked. It's like the first free sample that they know is going to get ya to come back. I stuck the book in my school bag and went off to work. 8:00 rolls around, sixth graders are coming in, and here comes Lisa.

her: "Did you read it, yet?"
me: "I just started this morning, I got through the first chapter, she's just finished her first day of school."
her: "Did you get to the van yet?"
me: "What van?"
her: "Guess not."
me: "So if Edward is a vampire, which he is because it says so on the back cover, how is he out in the daytime?"
her: >smirk< "Mrs. A., I'm not telling you, you have to read it yourself!"

So I did. On my lunch break, on my planning, after school when the kids left but before teachers are allowed to go. Luckily I'm all caught up with my paperwork by some miraculous miracle. By the morning of day 2, I'm 1/2 way through the book. I would have gotten more done but I had things to do that night that couldn't be changed or avoided so not much reading. But, again, I can't seem to get enough of it! So I read every spare second I had on Day 2. By the time I went to bed, I was done not only with book 1, but also with book 2, New Moon, as well! I didn't like book 2 as much as book 1 but I read it quickly because I was anxiously waiting for the one event to happen that I knew HAD to happen for me to like the book again...and of course it did happen. In fact, Stephanie Meyer suggests on her website that readers should read New Moon twice, because apparently many people do the same thing I did and rush through so much of the first part of the book trying to find out when "it" happens. She suggests reading it twice because the second time, you know how it is resolved and can take in more of that beginning.

But now, I don't have books 3 and 4! ACK What do I do??? I HAVE to know what happens next! I need my "fix!" I'm wondering if I can make it to Wal-mart to get them without being late to work...

Here are my teasers for both books one and two:


From page 376 of Twilight:

"Their sharp eyes carefully took in the more polished, urbane stance of Carlisle, who, flanked by Emmett and Jasper, stepped guardedly forward to meet them. Without any seeming communication between them, they each straightened into a more casual, erect bearing."



and from page 295 of New Moon, more than 2 sentences but they are short sentences and are needed for comprehension:


"There was no cult. There had never been a cult, never been a gang. No, it was much worse than that. It was a pack."


Monday, November 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I (almost) stuck to a menu plan last week, but that is only because most of my week was non-committal with "leftovers or something" while I was on my own. Since hubby is often either deployed or gone for some training or some such, I really need some single-gal recipes. I hate making a full thing of anything knowing I won't eat it all. I'm very picky about leftovers. If they taste like leftovers I tend to not eat them and I don't want to be wasteful so when it is just me, I tend to go with cereal, sandwiches, I had just a bag of popcorn one night. Please, please, please, if anyone has any great single portion meals/recipes... share them?

I did manage to make the cheesy chicken and rice casserole..but I altered it a bit to use what we had here. I had a package of knorr Broccoli Cheese Rice so I used that instead of regular rice, and instead of regular mixed veggies (ya know the kind with peas, corn, carrots...) I had a thing of vegetable gumbo which included corn, okra, celery and red peppers. Of course, there was also the broccoli from the rice as well. It turned out REALLY well. Hubby and I loved it! Super easy too.

I didn't make the dip for my spa party because I didn't have very many people who had committed to coming. I had a fruit tray, some trail mix, and a bowl of left over Halloween candy out for everyone which seemed to be plenty.

I went home this weekend and while I was there picked a large bag of oranges from my family's grove. I love to peal and eat an orange but I'm going to have to do a bit of research and see what yummy things I can find to make with them! If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Until then, they make a greak snack just the way they are now (well, peeled of course)

I'm again not so sure about this week. I don't want to go grocery shopping again and I'm not so good at creating my own things with what I have yet so I'm going to have to do some digging and thinking.
Monday - Out to dinner
That's all I know so far. The rest of the week will be CORN (Clean Out the Refrigerator Night) as I try to empty the pantry and fridge a bit. This is going to be interesting because as I have gotten better at following a recpe, but using what I have and "creating" something with the stuff already there isn't my strong point. We'll see what happens! While I'm asking suggestions for single serving meals and oranges I guess I may as well ask for this too... Any tips on doing with what you already have or does it just come with time?
I'm heading over to Orgjunkie to see what theyare planning, maybe I'll get inspired!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thanksgiving Comes First!

A few days ago, I posted a blog complaining about the Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving. This post is going to be very similar to that one.

I was directed to another blog about this very same issue and decided that he was on to something! Many of his reasons for being outraged about this insulting epidemic of Christmas-before-Thanksgiving-itis echo mine.

Here is a list of why it bothers me so much to walk into a store, or even down the street and see Christmas decorations put up so early.

  1. Too much of a good thing is just too much! I love Christmas. Unequivocally it is my favorite holiday. However, if the Christmas music starts mid October, by late December I'm SICK of it and just ready for the holidays to be over rather than reveling in the joy of the season. I will admit, while in CVS prior to Halloween, I did buy some Christmas socks - I run in special toe socks due to a funky pinky toe that likes to "hide" and gets blistered easily. Well, I happened to see Christmas toe socks with bells on them and knowing that I am signed up fo a "Jingle Bell Run" where everyone puts bells on their shoes, I couldn't resist them...but I didn't go in there looking for them, and they are tucked in my drawer NOT to be taked out until December!!

  2. Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Sorry to all those who love Christmas yet aren't Christian, but, without Christ, there would be no Christmas...we shouldn't forget that! With the stores putting all the materialistic and commercialism aspects of the Christmas season out so early, people are less likely to focus on the real meaning of Christmas and rush right into the "my-tree-is-bigger-than-your-tree" syndrome. Oh and lets not forget that one relative or friend that we all have that uses Christmas gifts not as a symbol of love and appreciation but a show of look-at-how-much-I-spent-on-you. Please don't cheapen my favorite holiday!

  3. Thanksgiving seems to get pushed under the rug. Thanksgiving is a time for reflection on the blessings we have received and a time to spend with family and loved ones, yet it is slowly becoming the forgotten holiday. Costumes and candy are out for a month before Halloween, then right after the costumes come down, the Christmas trees go up... where are the cornucopias to remind us of our bounty and the Fall foliage to remind us of change?

  4. Since we are on forgotten holidays...Let's not forget that my birthday is November 30 which falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas!


Perhaps I should have joined the cruisade a little earlier, but better late than never!


To show that I do not have Christmas-itis yet, here is my Thanksgiving table :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Space Shuttle Endeavor Night Launch

I'm very fortunate. Fortunate because I live very close to a place like nowhere else in the country. When the space shuttle launches, it is always an awesome experience, but when it launches at night....it is spectacular. No, more than spectacular, magnanimous perhaps. The whole night sky lights up and you can see the shuttle from miles and miles away.

Knowing that the streets and all the good viewing spots are crowded and busy, I decided to stay home with the TV on and step outside and watch it from here.

video

The video doesn't do it justice what-so-ever! The sky over my house went from pitch black to very bright in just a matter of moments. I could even hear the rumble of the boosters as they lifted off! Many people wish they could see a shuttle lift off or drive for hours to come see it. I am lucky enough to step out of my door and see it in my backyard! We've been told that this is most likely the last night launch ever.

I remember being young and watching the shuttle launch from my home in Central Florida. We were told how lucky we were to be able to see the small dot in the sky that our parents and teachers informed us was a space shuttle. I believed them. However, I now know that I wasn't so lucky then, that was NOTHING compared to what my students get to see here. At home it was a small dot in the sky that was easily missed if you were looking in the wrong direction. Here, you can HEAR the shuttle take off and can't help but see it in the sky, especially at night. Also, when the shuttle comes home become a totally different experience here. At home it was a sonic boom that made ya jump a little, but even if you were outside you couldn't see anything and didn't know it was coming unless you had the news on. Because of this, I never thought about trying to see the shuttle land. I got to see my first shuttle come home last year during school. Another teacher ran though my class and told me it was about to land and we all filed outside. We saw the white shape in the sky coming in and heard two distinct booms that did more than make you jump, they rattled the windows! I was on the cell phone with a friend of mine on the other side of the state once and reminded her that the shuttle was coming home any minute. Apparently it isn't as big of a news item as it is here because she had no idea. All of a sudden she says, "I think I just heard the boom" I laughed. Here, you don't think you hear it, you KNOW you hear it, and a little while later, I KNEW I heard it... and so did my cat who took off running to hide under the bed!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spa!

I had my Body Shop at Home party last night as part of my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Not very many people showed up though :( I understand however, it was on a Thursday and lots of my friends have kids and other things they have to do during the week. That's OK, the four of us that were here had a blast!

I could still use some fundraising dollars to put towards LLS, and Christmas is coming up soon, so if you'd like to check out the web page and perhaps buy an item or two for yourself or as a gift, a portion of every sale will go towards funding cancer research and directly helping patients! Just mention my name (Nicole A) in the notes section during checkout!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It isn't Christmas yet!

Has everyone forgotten about Thanksgiving? It seems that as soon as the Halloween decorations come down, up go the Christmas decorations! What happened to Thanksgiving!? 100 Days to Christmas reminded me today that it is only two weeks until Thanksgiving and 42 days until Christmas. Pssst... that means, folks, that Thanksgiving comes first; it is prior to or before Christmas. Why oh why does everyone seem to forget Thanksgiving until the day or two before.

With all of the Christmas decorations up, people are starting to get Christmas gifts (my mother informed me she bought mine, the last one she has to buy this year, yesterday and is officially finished with shopping). We even filled out our "Secret Santa" slips for school yesterday and one of my students wore Santa earrings this week too!

Thanksgiving will creep up on you this way! The day before Thanksgiving people will be scrambling around trying to get ready for Thanksgiving because they have been so focused on Christmas. That is, of course, unless you have been following 100 days to Christmas who, although she is counting down to Christmas, didn't forget to prep us for Halloween and is currently reminding us to prep for Thanksgiving so we can enjoy our day in 2 weeks rather than running around like a chicken (turkey?) with our heads cut off!

My opinion? The sequence of events is Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday, THEN Christmas. Don't skip those holidays in between - and yes, my birthday is a holiday! I refuse to pull out my Christmas tree and decorations until at least the day after my birthday (Which would be December 1 since my birthday is Nov 30).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Genetics

Nurture vs. Nature. That has been a popular question for years among scientist. I too have often wondered about it for my own reasons and purposes. You see, I was put up for adoption by a very young mother who understood that she was unable to give me the kind of life that she wanted for me. Therefore, I was raised by an amazing family who does not share any biological DNA at all.

Growing up, I knew I was adopted but it didn't bother me other than the occasional thought or wonder about why my parents looked like or what they were good at (Did my mom hate math as much as me? Was my dad a swimmer too?).

Growing up, many people would comment to me that they could tell I was my (adoptive) father's child because I looked "just like" him. Daddy and I would just look at each other, giggle, and say thanks. Funny thing is, I did/do sorta resemble him. Dark hair, brown eyes, and we are both pretty tall - he's 6'4" and I'm nearly 5'9" which is pretty tall for a woman. The funniest thing is that we coincidentally have matching moles on our temples! My (adoptive) mother and I don't resemble each other as much. She has very fair skin with red hair and blue eyes and is only 5'2". However, she is my "mommy" regardless.

When I was 18 I suddenly had contact with my biological family. I was adopted through a lawyer who happened to be a family friend. My biological paternal grandmother contacted him and gave him her name/number/address/info in case I ever started looking for my biological family. Being a family friend, he told my mom and dad, who decided to bring the information to me and let me decide what to do with it. I began writing to my biological mother on a fairly regular basis and eventually met her along with her family and my biological father's family.

It was amazing to look at them. Each one, in a different aspect, was like looking in a mirror. I could literally see myself in them. Perhaps it is because I didn't grow up seeing them everyday and was looking at them for the first time with more mature and critical eyes. I have my biological father's straight brown hair, my mother's hazel eyes and face. Both are tall.

But physical traits isn't were the similarities ended. The day I met my biological mother, we were wearing almost the same outfit. Red long sleeve shirts, black pants, and black Christmas vests. Weird and completely unplanned. Then not long afterwards, I was in a restaurant with my boyfriend (of the time). A woman I had never met before in my life walked up to me and asked me if I was {biological mother}'s daughter. Surprised, I answered, "Yes, but I'm sorry, I don't remember you," thinking it might have been one of the many relatives I met. This woman laughed, then told me we had never met but just KNEW who I was because when I walked in, I not only looked like her, but I have her walk and was eating the EXACT same thing she had ordered the last time they had been in this restaurant together. She even added that I sounded just like her too now that she has spoken with me. It was my biological mother's former sister-in-law with whom she is still friends.

Once, in college, I was told by someone who didn't know my family or situation that I have an "engineer's logic" - my biological father is an engineer, but I have always despised math haha. Even though I don't like math, I do have to have things in a logical order and am able to figure out logic puzzles fairly easily. Geometry was my favorite branch of math because I could "see" it whereas algebra just annoyed the crap outta me (Who put letters in my math problem?!) because I couldn't picture the numbers and letters getting along together in my head. My bio dad said he was always the same way. He can picture how things piece together in his head, but his somehow included the more abstract math such as algebra.

I answered my biological mother's phone once, it was her mother. She had a 10 minute conversation with me before she realized it was me and not my bio. mom. Apparently, people used to confuse the two of them on the phone all the time. One of My mother's boyfriends even once asked Granny on a date, not realizing who he was talking to! Now, people confuse me, my bio mom, my half sister, and Granny! All four of us sound identical on the phone. Another thing all four of us do identically is sneeze. Everyone laughs at my sneeze and have my whole life. It's a teeny little who-just-stepped-on-a-mouse type of sneeze. All four of us have the same giggle-inspiring sneeze. Most of my life people have told me that it wasn't a "real" sneeze and to "just let it out" or not to try to hold it in. They rarely believed me when I would tell them that I wasn't doing it on purpose and I would love to sneeze "normally" if for no other reason than to not be laughed at.

My half sister (bio. mom's daughter), and I often think the exact same thoughts at the same time. Now, I know best friends with no relation can do the same thing, but it is usually because they spend extreme amounts of time together. Unfortunately, my sister and I don't. I didn't know her until I was 18 and she was 7, then I was off to college and from then on, I see her a few time a year and that's all. But still, we have adopted the motto of "Get out of my head!" for the times when we do this to each other, such as recently we called each other out of the blue at exactly the same moment.

Even now, 13 years after my first meeting with my biological family, it is amazing to discover which of my traits are learned from my mom and dad, and which are probably genetically encoded into me.

With this comes some negative things also. I now worry that my maternal grandmother's Alzheimer's may be genetic or that my father's hearing loss may one day find me as well (at least I already know American Sign Language LOL). Diabetes is also a huge factor that I will have to keep an eye on.

So what prompted this blog? One of those sneezes of mine that sends my students into fits of giggles! For some reason when I sneezed this time I remembered that my biological sister, mother, and grandmother all sneeze the same way, and smiled.

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