Friday, November 11, 2011


Yup, it’s almost 2AM and here I sit, wide awake.  *SIGH!*  We had a crazy day yesterday starting when Leah woke up at 4AM.  I never quite got it right thereafter.  I tried going back to sleep around 9AM only to have company arrive 20 minutes later.  I tried going to sleep around 1:30, only to have the contractor show up and start banging like hell and running an air compressor!.  He left and I finally feel asleep around 2 and slept for 3 solid hours.  So of course, now I CAN’T sleep and I’m due to leave for Woodbridge in 6 hours.  AUGH!  On the plus side, Leah will be with Melissa tomorrow, so I can sleep and get lots of other things done.

I have continued weeding things out around here.  I managed to eliminate an entire cabinet of DVD’s—placing the ones I was keeping on 2 shelves of the cabinet the TV now sits on, and the few (like 5) others I’m not keeping are going to Goodwill.  We are conflicted about what to do with the cabinet.  We’ve owned it since we first moved in together.  We bought it so I would have something in which to store my clothes and it has also been used to store pantry items and DVD’s in its history.  I am reluctant to part with it, so part of tomorrow’s task will be to empty the crawlspace and see if we can find a spot and a use for it in there.  I had another cabinet downstairs with glass doors that Leah was forever trying to break into, and I decided I should get rid of that.  Tonight while I was watching the documentary Winnebago Man (highly recommend it, by the way!), I cleared it off and moved it out, but felt the space left behind was too empty.  So I took the glass doors off it and filled it with Leah’s toys.  I like it better than having something of a pile by the rear door, and hopefully it will inspire both her and me to keep her toys picked up.

I started Christmas shopping this weekend.  Compared to last year, I have a very small list—we really went overboard last year and I don’t want to do that this year.  We are hosting Christmas and hopefully my sister will host Christmas Eve, so some of the pressure will be off a little bit.  As I think I said before, Penny’s brother will be with us for the holidays and I’m trying to consider what I can do to keep him entertained.  I’m sure it’ll be an entirely different experience having a boy around.  But I wonder if he’ll be anything like Penny!  I am considering a day trip to Philadelphia, but it would be easier with a second driver, and also depends on if Mike is planning to work or not during the week before Christmas and New Year’s.  He often does.

This week will be busy—I have my end of the year book club party Wednesday and meeting up with a classmate and then seeing Diane Keaton Thursday.  I have been busily working on my NaNo book, and it’s coming along nicely.  I decided to erase stuff from the white board when I finish that chapter or section, and it helps me see the progress I am making.  I need to find out when registration opens for the spring semester and get registered for next semester’s classes.  There is one I want to take that is only open once a year, so it’s important I get it in now to try and determine if it’s a direction I want to go in!

Well, I guess I’d best TRY to get some sleep!!!!  Talk to you all later!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bloggety, Blog, Blog, Blog

The last time I blogged was on 9/11 and little did I know that all hell would continue to break loose around here.  We got our basement fixed up beautifully—I’m happy to say you would never know anything happened.  There is one less couch and there is a lot of extra lighting now, which is awesome, but other than that, life is back to normal downstairs!

In the meantime, the car needed new brakes and I needed glasses, which added up to a lot of money!!!!!  Thankfully we were able to get both done and finish paying off the credit card bills, because things just kept getting crazier!

Unfortunately, just as we were preparing to go to NY for my dad’s 60th, my mom called to say her long time companion Jim had collapsed after having suffered a massive heart attack.  He passed away on September 28th.  Having been a big part of our lives for a number of our years, this was a really sad loss for the family.  I was thus in Florida for almost 3 weeks.  During this time, Kristin from Iceland moved out.  I was disappointed in a way, but I think it was probably for the best and since I am still working with her new family’s other student, I will see her here and there.  I very much doubt we will host next year although I said that this year, so who knows, but I’m excited to say that Penny’s brother Mickey is coming to spend Christmas with us this year, so it’ll be kind of like celebrating with an exchange student anyway and we’ll get 2 weeks of fun before sending him on his way.

rhino Florida was a good time, despite the circumstances.  I found things for Leah to do in and around Vero Beach and we went to the Brevard Zoo, SeaWorld, and Lion Country Safari.  I do believe the kid knows more about animals than any other 2 year old around!  Her particular favorites were the sharks and penguins at SeaWorld.  I also took her to see the movie A Dolphin Tale, which she loved and went around telling everyone she could find that the dolphin broke its tail.  We came home from SeaWorld with a 3 foot long Shamu, and just recently Leah ripped all the stuffing from ‘Mu’s tail and has informed me that Mu has a broken tail like the dolphin.  When I re-stuff Mu, we shall remedy his broken tail with a band-aid!  We also paid some extra money to go pet a rhinoceros, which was a pretty awesome experience that I won’t soon forget!  Leah liked taking a scrub brush to him and tickling him.  Whenever I ask her about the rhino, she says, “BRUSH!” (you can kind of see the rhino behind my mom in the picture above)  So we did a lot of things we might not otherwise have gotten to do and I got to go to the beach (even if it wasn’t Myrtle Beach) and just chill out and help out my mom as needed.  We kind of tossed around the idea of Disney World, I think more because Mom and I wanted to go than we really wanted to take Leah, but cooler heads prevailed—she really is still too young and we want her to remember that first time forever.  Another couple of years!


This class I am taking is really kicking my butt.  For 3 weeks, I basically did nothing, as the professor told me not to worry about it, so I’ve been playing catch up ever since.  We have group projects to do, and I’m happy to say I have great group members who really picked up the slack for me, and so I am now going to work doubly hard to make up for the work I didn’t do on Assignment 2.  Only 36 days till the class is over, THANK GOD, and let us hope I never take a class about organizing data and information EVER AGAIN!  Next semester I hope to take Introduction to Archiving so I can see if I really want to pursue that as a career option like I’ve been thinking I might.

I had fun in October going to the Kennedy Center to see Les Mis with some members of my choir, and then spending that evening answering phones for WAMU at their annual member drive.  We had a recordbreaking night, getting $35,000 in 3 hours, which is pretty incredible.  I love volunteering during The Big Broadcast—the most interesting mix of people volunteer and we had  fun table.  It was nice to unwind and let my hair down after the stress of Jim’s death and the classwork piling up.  The production of Les Mis was spellbinding—literally I wept many times and it was just a great performance. 

jp Leah and I have been having a lot of fun getting ready for Halloween.  We’ve been doing little projects now, like baking bread and making pumpkin-shaped jello and pumpkin-shaped crayons from all the crayons she broke to bits.  I went over to the local teacher supply store and bought a few charts for the walls so we are learning our colors and taking little scavenger hunts.  We talk about the weather and count the days on the calendar.  We went to the pumpkin patch and carved pumpkins today.  It’s fun and keeps her engaged.  I am looking forward to getting her into preschool, but am not in any rush.  We are keeping busy with a music class and MOPS and various and sundry other activities and are looking into gymnastics.  She’s a fun kid and able to do so much more.  Even though I miss snuggling with a newborn, I do enjoy these toddler days!  I like being crafty and even little things turn into a lot of fun for her, so I try to come up with something to keep her interested and teach her something new, while allowing me to stretch my creative muscles and keep from getting cranky!

Hopefully our bathroom project will get underway soon.  We finally got our loan approved and got the money to pay the contractor, so we’re ready to go.  We picked a design and that’s that!  It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 3 months since the Great Flood, and while it had unintended consequences, it’s fun to think of the positives of the situation and how we’re going to come out of it.  We also paid off our car this month, ahead of schedule, which loosens up our budget some to do some other things.  It’s the first time in 6 years we don’t have a car payment.  We nearly got hit today by the local ne’er-do-well on our way out to get pumpkins to carve, and I thought, “Wouldn’t that just be my luck!?” but thankfully he got back on his side of the road with about 6 inches to spare before he hit us.

joel Joe and I went and saw the MST3K live show, Cinematic Titanic, again on Thursday night.  It’s a fun way for him and I to celebrate our frienshipversary—this year being #17.  It won’t be long now before I’ve known him more than half my life, which I find mindboggling.  We had our traditional Bertucci’s dinner and then walked around DC for a couple of hours before the show started.  Afterwards, we got on line for the signing and I got myself a poster to have signed.  We also discovered Joel was allowing people to take pictures, so of course, we took full advantage.  I like that all of us are modeling sexy eyewear! :-D  My next big celebrity trip will be in November to see Diane Keaton at 6th and I Synagogue, which should be quite interesting.  I enjoy watching her, and she seems like she’d just be a really nice and down to earth person, so I’m looking forward to meeting her!  I wonder if she’s going to wear something crazy or just dress casually.

In general, I’m just feeling quite content with life.  I seem to have made friends with some exceptionally kind and low key people—just last week I was able to go out to dinner with 3 new girlfriends and we all sat around and laughed and chattered until before we knew it, 2+ hours had gone by.  I’ve joined a new book club here in town, which is fun, and my NoVa book club seems to have gotten back on track, surviving the 7 year itch.  I’ve become very friendly with a wonderful couple down the street and their daughter, all of whom think Leah is the best kid in the universe (and of course, I quite agree!). 

I’m keeping busy, busy, busy and keep telling Mike, “I promise, I’m going to calm down…after this week”.  Fortunately he’s been patient with what has been a ridiculous autumn!

There have been a lot of fun little things going on and I always think, “Oh, I should blog about that!” but usually I am too tired!  It’s a shame—Leah says some damned cute stuff that I’d like to remember and we have a lot of fun and do a lot of things, but time just keeps on slipping away…  I really can’t believe tomorrow is Halloween!  Then it’s November, and I do debate doing NaNoWriMo just so I can get this damned whiteboard down from my bulletin board and finish my book!  And then in a few short weeks, it will be Thanksgiving.  Mike and I have been debating what to do in April for our 10th wedding anniversary, and yet it seems like just yesterday we were getting married.  I feel too young to be this old and too old at the same time. 

I’ll close here and who knows when I’ll blog again!  The new Facebook sucks, but it doesn’t seem to keep me from using it, so of course, you can get my updates there if I don’t update here :)  Ta ta!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Remembered

It’s hard to believe it’s 9/11 for the 10th time.  I usually don’t tune in and watch the TV coverage—it was a day that I will never forget.  However, I suppose this year being the 10th anniversary of it happening, I decided to get up this morning and watch some of it.  Leah soon joined me and together we watched and she patted my cheeks and dried my tears.  Facebook is abuzz with where everyone was and how everyone felt, and I have thought about it all week, but don’t have enough space in a mere status update to post everything I would want to about that day.

Mike and I were fairly newly engaged and planning to attend three weddings that fall.  It was a happy and loving time.  That morning, I had to report to the office where I worked in Boston—as an itinerant teacher, typically I would be on the road 4 days a week, but not that day.  I was in my office doing something and a co-worker came in and said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”  I thought he was joking, but then I thought back to other people flying little prop planes into things like the Kremlin and figured ok, maybe it did, but maybe it wasn’t such a big deal.

Working in an office dedicated to the blind, there was no TV that had any cable or any kind of reception.  Consequently, we had to rely only on what we could get from the radio.  That day’s volunteer receptionist flipped on WBZ and we heard about the plane and the WTC being on fire and started to think maybe there was something more to this than just a simple accident.  And just a few minutes later, the second plane hit.  We all just stood there, trying to figure out in our confusion what the hell was going on, and not being able to see it.

The woman who ran our small store there managed to find one of those handheld portable transistor-type televisions and all of us crowded around it to watch the drama unfold on about a 4 inch TV screen.  We tried using a TV screen magnifier for the supply closet, but the picture became blurry and distorted.  We moved into the conference room and held the TV up to the window, where the reception came in the best and just stood there.  There was a phone, and since the planes had left from Boston, we were all calling our loved ones as the drama unfolded.

I called Mike and was so relieved to hear his voice.  I asked him where he was and he said they were all leaving early and he was going to try to get to me.  Because I didn’t work in a T-accessible location, I told him to go home to our apartment and I would meet him there. 

Just moments later, the first tower collapsed.  I will never forget the look on my co-worker Robert’s face.  He heard the news on the radio back in his studio and came running in to join the rest of us, and just stood there, stock still with his jaw dropped open.  There was a sense that what we were seeing wasn’t really happening, and of course the reports from the Pentagon started rolling in, and suddenly there were reports that there were 50 planes in the air unaccounted for, and the combination of total fear and confusion and disbelief and grief settled into my chest with a chilling numbness that I will never, ever forget to my dying day.

The second tower collapsed, and I went home.  For some reason, I had an aerial antenna stored in our laundry room—something I had brought with me from Arkansas where a friend had given it to me. I collected Mike and we went back to my office and plugged the aerial antenna into the conference room TV and miraculously got a picture to come in by setting the whole thing in front of the window.  Our whole office came through and we all sat at the conference table and watched it together.  There were a lot of hugs, lots of crying, and just a sense of togetherness.  The word came down from on high that we should take the time to deal with this in whatever way any of us saw fit, so I decided to go home, and I took a couple of days off.

In that intervening time, my sister called and said, “Did you hear about Shannon Adams"?”  I hadn’t, but was stunned to hear that a boy I played with as a child in his grandmother’s yard and behind the Baptist church had perished in those towers.  I called my mother and her reaction was “What was she doing there?”  I said “not she, Mom, he, Shannon Adams” and her reaction was “Holy shit.”  Neither of us could speak.  Shannon was an amazing guy—he was literally friendly and nice to everyone and you would NEVER see him without a smile on his face.  It was a blow to all of us to believe he was gone—his family hadn’t heard from him at all in the aftermath, and to this day, his body has never been recovered.

When I think of those early days, the word that comes to me most is fear.  There were rumors swirling like crazy about “what was next” and what we needed to do to prepare ourselves for whatever hell was going to be unleashed on us next.  The general feeling among the people I was with was that now they had our attention and the real terror was about to begin.  I remember getting a phone call that all our paper and water supplies were going to be tainted and that we should go buy as much bottled water and toilet paper and paper towels as we could get our hands on.  For probably the only time in my life, I had a decent emergency supply kit with flashlights, water, batteries, canned goods, and more, stocked up in the sunroom of our apartment.  Being that these were pre-Facebook days, and in fact, there wasn’t much on the internet to speak of, we spent hours on the phone with family members and friends, pledging our love to each other, and made silent oaths to cherish each day as it came, since there were suddenly no guarantees that something crazy wouldn’t happen out of the blue.

The past ten years have been challenging for our country, no doubt about it.  I think the nation in many ways is far more divided than it ever was.  I have had times in the past ten years when I have gotten very, very politically active, and one of the best times of my life was going with my sister to meet Cindy Sheehan and march on Washington with her crowd. 

This week I’ve given a lot of thought to how I want to be as a person and how I wish our country was.  I think back to September 10, when there was a freedom from care and worry about security and I could have walked into the Smithsonian without a bag search, or gotten on a plane and had my husband walk right up to the gate with me.

I have concluded one thing:  I never, ever want to live in that state of fear again.  The constant fear and panic and what-if thinking was exhausting and debilitating. 

I also don’t want to contribute any more to the division.  I have a lot of opinions about the current state of affairs, how we got here, what we need to do to get out of it, but a recent interaction with a friend who has widely divergent views from mine led me to conclude “Why bother?”  There is nothing you can say to anyone who believes anything totally different than you that will make them change their minds—believe me, I’ve tried.  And it is tempting to jump on the bandwagon of those who do tend to agree with you, to form an “us versus them” mentality, but that’s not going to accomplish much either.  So from here out, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut, smile politely, perhaps on the inside think, “This guy is a real f***ing idiot!” and move on with my day.  I am going to form my own opinions, not just parrot the opinions of the popular ideologues and talking heads on any side of the equation, and my present opinion was formed by 9/11 and it was this:

What matters most is people.  And whatever we can do to make everyone’s lives better is what we should do.  And if something isn’t going to make our lives better, then we should not.

That’s what I learned from a bunch of guys flying planes into important places in the United States.  Maybe it’s not the lesson they wanted me to learn, but I’ve learned it through non-judgement, forgiveness, compassion, and love.  And for that goodness to come out of something so horrific, I think it’s a pretty good legacy for all of us, but especially for me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


When I say this summer has been the craziest summer ever, I mean that quite literally.  Not one thing has happened that we planned on, and everything is just going crazy all at once.

Mid-July I was trolling the “Hosting with AFS” Facebook board and feeling all nostalgic when a post popped up from a mom in New Zealand who was looking for a host family for her daughter.  I spoke with AFS about the possibility of being a welcome family for that girl, and was told she had a placement in the works but that if we wanted to be a welcome family, we should contact our area team.  So we did and were immediately fast tracked to be a welcome family.  It took a couple of weeks and we were initially matched with a girl from Finland but they found her a permanent home, so then it was a whirlwind of who we would choose to take.  It finally came down to Hong Kong and Iceland as the two countries we’d host from and, deciding to take a break from Asia, we chose the girl from Iceland.  We were told she’d be a late arrival since we started everything so late in the summer, but surprise, surprise, it was all approved and we had roughly one week between when we were allowed to contact Kristin and when we had to pick her up.  She arrived on August 12 and starts school on September 6th.  More on her time here to follow.  But first…

In the middle of the matching, interviewing, and applications process for that, I flew to Tucson for 10 days to start my library degree.  It was the most stressful 10 days of school I’ve ever endured, not to mention the two weeks leading up to it, which was a “reading period” that involved reading a couple thousand pages of information and attempting to synthesize it before 8 straight days of classes, group projects, paper research and writing, library tours, and computer projects.  By day 2, I ran from the classroom and hid in the bathroom and cried.  It was hot, I had jetlag, I missed my baby, I was stressed, and I was staying in a dorm I dubbed “The Pit”.  As a bit of a reward for my survival, Mike let me book my last night in a swanky hotel near the airport and a friend gave me a ride so I didn’t have to pay a cab.  The morning I was due to leave, the flight was oversold, and so I offered to give up my seat, which got me a $300 travel voucher for future travel.  Since the AFS host moms from last year are planning on a trip to Las Vegas this fall, I can probably travel basically free, which is a good thing, since…

The day after Kristin arrived, I went to brunch with friends.  I got home to find Mike and our neighbor frantically running up and down the stairs.  The toilet upstairs had overflowed, and Mike and Kristin had been unable to shut it off.  The resulting flood swept into our basement and I called the fire department, not really knowing what else to do, which resulted in giant holes being knocked in the ceiling to drain out the water.  Two days later, the cleaning company and insurance company arrived, and we’ve been ceiling-less ever since.  Our carpet looks practically brand new however!  Work begins tomorrow—an electrician is coming to install some new lights downstairs so it won’t be so dark, and then the contractor will come and do the dry wall, mud, paint, etc. 

Unfortunately, when the cleaning company ripped up the bathroom floor, they discovered black mold!  OF COURSE THEY DID!  So, now we have to get that cleaned up.  They talked about the clean up process and how basically we will need to take out the vanity and get that replaced, as well as the floor.  In looking over our options, we’ve decided to have the bathroom replaced.  Everything in there is kind of basic grade, not very nice stuff, so if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right and not half-ass it. 

So then came the crazy weather phenomena, like the earthquake and then a crazy thunderstorm from hell that knocked over Mike’s radio antenna.  That now has to be either repaired and re-installed or replaced.  Then came Hurricane Irene, which caused our power to go out for about 12 hours.  When it came back on, the air conditioning no longer worked.  Believing it to be an a/c problem, we called the emergency service line of our heating and air contractor, but when they came out, they discovered that a blower inside the furnace had burned out, and in putting in a new one, the entire system was off balance and making all kinds of crazy noise.  The air conditioner itself is just fine and dandy, but because the furnace controls the movement of the air, it has to be dealt with as part of the air conditioning system. 

They came out this morning to quote us the price for repairing and for replacing the furnace, and we are going to go ahead and replace the damned thing.  It’s 11 years old and we would probably be piece-mealing it for the next few years till it reached the end of its natural life cycle, so we might as well just take care of it and be done with it.  They are coming to work on Thursday. 

Just as a reminder, in case you’ve forgotten, we’ve had a 17 year old from Iceland here through this entire venture.

So upon discovering all this, I had myself a 30 minute nervous breakdown, walked around the block, called my dad, tossed a couple of rocks, and now I’m ready to roll.  We’ve been wanting to a lot of these repairs for a while now, and this is kind of the impetus we need and the opportunity to do things that we would have liked to do for some time.  I have decided to turn into an eternal optimist as a result of all this.  My opinion now is “Better the furnace died in August than in December and we freeze half to death!”

I will call the insurance company again tonight and see what’s what.  Hopefully they’ll cover some of it, but I have my doubts.  I was talking with my neighbor yesterday and suggested that he sprinkle holy water between our two plots of land.  He thought I was kidding till he heard about the furnace, but now I’m sure he’s thinking about it. :) 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hello, Old Friend

It’s been a while!  I think I say that every time I update the blog, as I should, since my best intentions to regularly update don’t seem to happen.  Well…  Here we are.  It’s July.  July.  JULY!?  Jeez!  I can’t hardly believe it ;0D

So much has changed since the last post.  Penny is gone.  She has returned to Thailand.  She misses us, doubtless, and we miss her too.  It was an extremely challenging year for all of us, and I’m glad it’s over, but also quite proud of our family and how we pushed through.  The last month was a whirlwind—we did a lot of sightseeing and traveling.  She got to go to Luray to see the caverns, we took her up to Baltimore, and of course the big NYC trip.  It was a blast.  We had a good-bye party for her the last weekend she was here and at least she got to see everyone one last time and know that so many people cared about her, whether she accepted their love and care or not.

I’ve busily put my grad school career back on track.  I did everything on the checklist pre-departure, and the class went live last week, so I’ve been busting my @ss, doing readings and homework and tons of writing.  The message board is all abuzz with travelers and locals swapping tips, and last night I sat down and printed out maps and bus schedules and watched a video about the dorm I’ll be staying in.  It has free laundry facilities, and is right next door to a student union with a convenience store, so at least I can run over and get about 5000000000000 gallons of water every day.  I also participated in an on-line advisement session and “met” my advisor, Tom, who seems like a nice guy.  I hope he’s a nice grader.  Haha  I’m learning new words like crazy, and am committed to doing as much as I can in terms of getting the readings done and being prepared.  With this type of kamikaze class, 2 weeks reading, 1 week in Tucson, and 1 week post-class busting my @ss to finish projects and whatnot, I’m so glad that I’ll be on a semester schedule afterwards.  Mike and I splurged and got a new laptop to take with me, although he isn’t yet done perfecting it, so I’ve only touched it to take it out of the box and not been able to use it since.  Supposedly tonight he and Andy will finish it up, and hopefully I’ll be able to use it!  I stole the desk from Penny’s room and have set up what I call the LIS Command Center in the empty corner of our bedroom, and would like to have the laptop up there, since there are far fewer distractions.

But I’m basically very excited about going and learning and meeting all these new people.  My dad will be here minding Leah and taking orders from Mike, so while I’m not sure exactly how this battle of wills is going to turn out, I’m pleased I won’t be here to witness it!  The three of them are so stubborn and they all like to have things their own way immediately, so it should be interesting.

On the Leah front, things are going very well.  She is in and out of potty training, does it when she feels like and not when she doesn’t.  She knows WHAT to do, but doesn’t always feel like it, and often says, “Potty!” just because she enjoys watching us jump around and get her on the toilet, only to find out she doesn’t actually have to go.  She seems especially fond of this little trick when she either doesn’t want to do something (sit at the dinner table) or is bored of her current endeavor (going to the grocery store) and wants to mix it up a bit.  Her favorite movies at the moment are Tangled and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp version) and she is obsessed with her cousin Dot Dot.

On the horizon is meeting up with a fellow AFS family and trans-racial adoptive family (weird I met someone on Facebook who hosted a girl from Thailand AND adopted an AA baby too!  Go figure!) from this past year in early August, AFS host moms camp out in Las Vegas in the fall (Hooray!  Can’t wait to go back to Vegas and to meet these awesome ladies!), my dad’s 60th birthday coming up in September, starting my work as an AFS liaison this fall (I will be sponsoring girls from Italy and Turkey), and continuing my many writing projects.  I recently wrote a guest mini-series for my friend Elizabeth’s adoption blog Adoptivity, I’ve been hired by my choir to write a regular column in the newsletter, and I am still busily busting out articles for Yahoo News as the occasion permits.  I am really enjoying all of the writing—it’s given me a focus for my brain that doesn’t involve Oompah-Loompahs or giant purple dinosaurs.  I’ve got a book club that I’ve been going to here in Fredericksburg and of course the NoVa one, so that keeps me busy.  I took the summer off for the chorus, but will go back to it in October—I’m happy to say 3 choir members have let me know they miss me.  Hooray!  I’m loved and missed. :)

Mike and I have been busily tightening up our budgets some.  The last couple months from March to June were a total drain on our finances, and so we’ve been taking little opportunities as they come to make some changes.  We dropped a big chunk of our cable, saving us $300 per year.  The young lady who cut our grass decided not to do it this year, so we spent $15 on parts, got our lawn mower repaired, and I am now mowing, saving us roughly $200 per year.  I no longer have a cell phone, saving us $600 per year.  We switched to a different trash service, saving us $120 per year.  We bought an electric clipper so I can buzz Mike’s hair, saving us $150 per year.  On their own, these things might not seem like a big deal, but add it up and it comes to a total savings per year of over $1300.  We’ve also totally quit going out for meals unless there’s a really, really, really good reason (laziness is not a good reason), which is a huge savings.

I’ve also instituted “Not going anywhere one day a week” in which I am totally car-free.  It’s been Sundays, although that will have to change because I will have choir practice on Sundays this fall, but one day per week, I flatly refuse to get in the car for any reason.  It has been a success.  We spend a good bit more family time together, I am forced to make good decisions about how to schedule my time during the week to accomplish our goal, and I really do feel my blood pressure going down as I stop running around so much.  This past Saturday, I was at Giant and the car’s battery died.  Getting stranded SUCKED, getting stranded without a phone SUCKED HARD, but we survived, fortunately we had a friend visiting who came and jumped the car for us, got a new battery, and all’s well.  As a bonus:  if that had happened a month ago, I’d have been raiding the savings account and panicking.  Now I can afford to take it in stride a bit!

Well, ok, I’ll probably see you in a couple of months. I would like to think I’ll be able to blog from Arizona, but our professor said we should get some sleep before we come, which does not bode well!  So if not, I’ll update with how it was.  Wish me luck!  TTFN!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Updates from Susan-Land

It’s been a busy few weeks.  It’s hard to believe we have less than 40 days now until Penny leaves us.  There were times we never thought this time would come, and now here we are in many ways dreading the fact that she has to leave at all!  It will be an interesting summer, though, and we have a lot planned, so I think we’ll have some fun.

P1010266 The big news this past few weeks has been that we had to have our beloved little bunny, TomTom, put to sleep.  He started acting a little punky and out of it and then just started smelling really bad, and finally had a hard time moving at all.  I took him to the vet last week and she said that he was having kidney issues and they could try to nurse him through it, but there were no guarantees and it would be kinder just to let him go.  For all the kidding around we’ve done in recent years about waiting for him to die so we could install bookshelves in his spot downstairs, it was incredibly sad and painful to bid him farewell.  This picture was taken when he was about 4 months old, and he lived to be 6, so he had a good, long life.  I know living in his pen in the basement wasn’t his favorite place to be, but we did the best we could by him, and I think as long as we gave him carrots and whatnot, he was happy.

I am busy now with two major goals, the first of which is finishing off everything I need to do in order to start school this summer.  This includes completing a checklist of things they have on the school website for the summer course I’m taking, as well as the nuts and bolts, like applying for a loan, making travel arrangements, getting the text book, getting tested for immunity to measles, and making arrangements for where I’m going to stay.  I’ve got an email address set up now for my school stuff, so I can say I’m official, and now that the bill is in, I guess I’m really going.  The worst part of it has been dealing with my doctor’s office, trying to figure out about how I can get tested for a measles immunity.  Despite my repeated phone calls, they haven’t called back, so finally I called the clinic in Central Park here in Fredericksburg and they can do the test and have the papers ready in 2 days.  I should have gone there 3 weeks ago!

The other major thing is working on getting Leah potty trained.  She has indicated a readiness and willingness for the task, as for the past couple of months, she’s gotten very upset when her diaper is wet or dirty, and tries to get it off.  If she can’t, she screams and cries pitifully.  We’ve been at it almost 2 weeks now, and she’s definitely getting the hang of it.  She likes earning little rewards and she loves wearing underpants instead of a diaper.  So I think we’re making good progress.

Last weekend, Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s butler, came into Fredericksburg to help raise funds for the new children’s museum they are hoping to build here.  Of course I jumped at the chance to go meet him and brought Penny along as her opportunity to meet a celebrity.  We had a great time—he got right on the floor with Leah, and Penny was so happy that I talked her into going back and getting herself a book signed and asking him about the royal wedding.

P1100806 P1100801 P1100805Penny has developed an interest in the British Royal family thanks to my tutelage, so it was kind of special to share in that after we watched the Royal Wedding together and I taught her some tea sandwiches and scones to make English tea, which we did for both the Royal Wedding and for Mother’s Day.

P1100855 Today we rolled down to Westmoreland Berry Patch to pick berries and play with goats.  She LOVED it this year, as opposed to last year when she really wanted nothing to do with it.  She sat in the mud happily mashing and eating berries and then we fed the goats and had lunch.  They give you a handful of corn or a handful of goat feed for a quarter, and she was determined that the goat was not getting more than one niblet at a time, and even then he’d have to pry it from her fingers, but the goat was quite patient and happily ate whatever she was willing to give without biting.


I have been penpalling a lot lately, and have new penpals from England, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.  It’s a lot of fun and very interesting, and helping me travel vicariously, since I’m not likely to go too many places between now and who knows when!  One of my Australian penpals friended me on Facebook and it is hilarious to see her snow pictures while I’m gearing up to roast off a few pounds here with summer kicking off.

Otherwise, we’ve been sticking close to home.  Gas prices being what they are, I’ve canceled our summer travel plans and am now making plans for things we can do locally.  This past week I only used one tank of gas, which for me is astounding, since I was going through 2 a week.  We are enjoying Toddlin’ Time and MOPS, and at the MOPS event on Sunday, they were talking to me about putting Leah in pre-school this fall, which I am still thinking about.  I’ve been leaning away from doing it, but at the same time, it would give me a couple of days a week to get schoolwork done, as well as allowing her the chance to socialize and learn some things…  So we’ll see.  I would like to take her to the Richmond Zoo and Ginter Gardens this summer, and we’ll go up to DC to Mike’s new office and to meet his co-workers.  My old office is having a party next week and I’m going to go to that.  My book clubs are still going strong, and I’m enjoying them both.  Zipping around a lot with Penny now that she’s gotten more involved in school and friends.  She really enjoyed the prom last weekend, and this weekend is having Korean food with friends, volunteering at a local 5K, and wants to go see Pirates of the Caribbean.  Monday night, Mike will be out visiting some friends from RI who are coming to town, so we girls are going to have a little girls’ night, and I know she also wants to go to Charlottesville again, as well as go berry picking.  Last night was her last choir concert, tonight she has to go to an improv show for her school.  So it’s a busy time for all of us!

This summer, I’m going to go enjoy my first concert at Celebrate Virginia Live, when Barenaked Ladies roll into town.  I’m also hoping to get to see Hello Dolly over at Riverside.  I’m really excited to go to Tucson, and also to swim, spend time with friends, and start planning my dad’s 60th in September.

That’s all for now!  The fun never ends! :-D

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some Reading Updates

I’m sure very few people, if any, care much that I blog any more, and fewer still probably care if I blog about what I’ve been reading, but I enjoy blogging, so I’m going to do it anyway.

I went over to the soon-to-be-defunct Joseph Beth the other night with my buddy Jacalyn, and we roamed around look at sale books.  I had my iPod out and my PBS Wish List open, and that way I was able to try to find books I had been wanting. 

I’ve ready one serious book and one silly book this week, and considering that only puts my total on the year up to 15, 2 books is a significant amount of reading for one week.  That they were both excellent reads was even better.

LITTLE%20BILLY'S%20LETTERS%20cover One book I found at Joseph-Beth completely by accident is Bill Geerhart’s Little Billy’s Letters.  Here’s the description from

What do Tori Spelling, the Church of Scientology, and Donald Rumsfeld all have in common?: They -- and many others -- have answered letters from "Little Billy", a grown man with a cache of stamps and far too much time on his hands. Funny, touching, and delightfully quirky, Billy's letters cover a broad range of subject matter:

  • Operation Drop-Out: Considering dropping out of elementary school, Billy writes to serial killers and celebrities seeking their wise counsel.
  • Billy's Law: Which Supreme Court Justice prefers the Big Mac to the Whopper? Who is Janet Reno's favorite crime fighter? What does Robert Shapiro say is the best defense for being framed for murder? Billy finds out.
  • The Making of the Class President: Billy runs for class president and collects "endorsements" from Nancy Reagan, Dick Cheney, George HW Bush, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Ken Starr, and Colin Powell.
  • Choosing My Religion: Billy asks representatives from the Catholic, Presbyterian, Mormon, Raelian, Satanic, Scientologist, Hare Krishna and Unification Church (Moonies) what is "cool" or "easy" about their religion.

Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Celebrities, Heads of Corporations, Serial Killers, Robot Makers, and the NesQuick Bunny have all replied to "Little Billy's" scrawled questions.

This book was absolutely hilarious, riveting, clever, and fascinating.  I started reading it while standing at the humor shelf in the store, and couldn’t put it down.  Jacalyn and I were dying laughing over the letter to and from Charles Manson (Jacalyn, if you’re reading, there’s a second letter from Manson that’s even crazier than the first one!), and I absolutely loved that so many of these people took the time to respond to these letters in so many different ways—some just sent a picture, some actually wrote whole letters, you name it, it was done.  The letter from Mr. Rogers will make you cry, unless you have  a heart of stone.

An added bonus is that this book counts towards the What's In a Name? reading challenge, as a book with a size in the title!  Woo hoo! 

The_Magicians_Assistant-120361598275115 The second book I read this week was Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant.  I had previously read 2 books by Ann Patchett, The Patron Saint of Liars and Bel Canto, both of which I consumed and adored. I have had The Magician’s Assistant on the shelf for a while now, and I tell you why:  it’s Ann’s books.  I need to take serious breaks in between reading them.  Whenever I think of my favorite authors, I never really remember Ann Patchett, but as soon as I read one of her books, I’m reminded again of how fantastic a writer she really is and I remind myself that I need to include her in my top 10 list of authors I love.  Every book is a beautiful story, so densely packed with characters you love even if you hate them a little bit, a story line that literally has me biting off my nails even if it’s not a taut thriller, and I’m pleased to say The Magician’s Assistant was no different.

I’ve had this book so long, I honestly can’t remember where I got it.  It strikes me that I got it from the library book sale, because I can sort of remember saying to myself, “Oh, Ann Patchett, I think I’ll pick this up.”  This past week with all the nuttiness happening, I’ve been in the mood to just read an excellent story, and I had a feeling this book would deliver.  And somehow, after putting TomTom to sleep last week (SOB!), seeing the rabbit on the front cover of this book was an absolute comfort to me.

The story revolves around Sabine, who has been magician Parsifal’s assistant for more than 20 years and wife for just a few years.  When Parsifal dies suddenly and unexpectedly, Sabine’s attorney finds mention of a family in Parsifal’s will that Sabine never knew existed.  She had lived with the assumption that Parsifal was an orphan with no relatives, but in fact, his mother, sisters, and nephews are alive and well in Nebraska.  She chooses to meet them and learns much about the man she thought she knew, and about herself in the process.

The minute I dove into it, I knew I was in trouble.  I did not put the book down much, I can honestly say.  But Monday, as I got to the bombshell I never saw coming, I literally had to put the book down and walk away.  Just reading the middle section of the book exhausted me.  And yet, within hours, I was ordering Run off PaperBackSwap, and I’m hoping it comes soon. 

Where Patchett shines in The Magician’s Assistant is in not bashing the idea of Sabine’s grief into your head.  The story really is focused on Parsifal’s family, and on Sabine’s discovery of that family, on what she assumed and thought and what they assumed and thought, and how the truth was in that grey area in between.  Exploring all that underbelly stuff could get complicated, but Patchett manages to never let it get messy.  When I began weeping 100 pages before the book was done, I knew good and well I was in deep.  Typically I can’t stand neat and tidy endings, but in this case, I was cheering for Sabine to make certain decisions, and while she did make them, we are left to make up our own mind about how those decisions will play out in the future. 

I felt so deeply for Sabine and for Parsifal’s family, that to close the cover on this book was nearly devastating in itself.  I’ll be adding Ann Patchett to my “must read” lists in the future, and while I may take another lengthy break before investing in her again, I am very pleased to see that she’ll be appearing in DC on June 8th and have every intention of going to meet her and get some books signed…  That is my neat and tidy little ending, and one I’m very excited about! 

I gave Little Billy’s Letters 4 stars on GoodReads and The Magician’s Assistant 5 stars.  I highly recommend both of them!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Taste Test

I’ve recently become addicted to a podcast for the first time.  Mike and Tom Eat Snacks is a podcast by Tom Cavanagh and Michael Ian Black, formerly of Ed fame, which was one of my favorite TV shows back in the day.  They’ve both gone on to do other things, but recently re-united to start doing this podcast in which they taste various snacks and discuss them, usually while touching on lots of other pop culture topics.  It’s hilarious and fun, and makes me think about my snack options!

We just got back from nearly a week in New England and while I was taking Penny grocery shopping to prepare some Thai food for Mike’s family, Mike asked me to please pick him up some Yodels.  Mike is a big fan of Drake’s Cakes and Yodels are his top pick.  I got two boxes, and then noted that Drakes has been taken over by Hostess.  I thus made the pronouncement that Yodels and HoHo’s are the same thing and from now on, he could just eat a Ho Ho.  I was informed that a Ho Ho and  a Yodel are two totally different animals and it was an insult to the Yodel-eating universe to suggest that one could be substituted for the other.

I then suggested that perhaps a Swiss Roll by Little Debbie was a good alternative, and again was rebuffed.  So I posited that if he was so sure of himself, we’d just set up a blind taste test and if he could choose the difference and correctly identify the Yodel, I would, in essence, shut up.

P1100624 Last night, I went to the grocery store and picked up Ho Ho’s and Swiss Rolls.  The stage thus set, we decided to set some ground rules.  Mike said he’d be able to tell just by holding the cakes in his hand which was which.  Consequently, until the test was over, I made him eat with a spoon.  I couldn’t do much about smell, which he also said would be a clear indication.  So I set up the test and he sampled all three.

He correctly identified one out of three cakes, but the one he correctly identified was indeed the Yodel.  He confused the HoHo and the Swiss roll.  Thus mollified, Penny and I had to jump in on “the snack game” as Mike and Tom call it and sample the cakes for ourselves.

P1100628 Having now sampled all three cakes at the same time, I can confirm that they all do have distinct tastes.  Here are our findings:

P1100626 (From left to right:  Swiss Roll, Ho Ho, Yodel)

1.  The Ho Ho was consistently all three of our least favorite cake.  Mike said it was plastic tasting, and I found the cake to be quite dry.  We all agreed it had the most frosting on the inside and the smell was the chocolatiest of all the cakes.

2.  The Yodel was Mike’s favorite and Penny and I were not able to say we liked it more or less than the Swiss Roll.  It had much more cake and much less frosting which actually fooled Mike into thinking it had chocolate cream—you really couldn’t taste the cream very much at all.  It also had the darkest chocolate coating on the outside.

3.  The Swiss Roll is the one I would lean towards as my favorite.  While it seemed to have the least chocolate on the outside, it was the easiest one to taste the various components of the snack (frosting, cake, coating).  The chocolate was quite pale on the outside.  The Swiss Roll was also the sweetest.

P1100623(The all-important sniff test)

Interestingly, despite the Swiss Roll tasting the sweetest, it contains fewer grams of sugar than the Yodel.  The HoHo had the least sugar of all the cakes we sampled.

It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs while we sampled the cakes.  I doubt this is something we will do any more of, but I think it’d be pretty cool if MATES did something similar—compared the offerings of several different companies’ version of the same snack.  And if they need a box of HoHo’s, they just have to ask.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Can It Be True? My Baby’s Two!


She brings me more joy than I ever imagined possible.  I love you, my darling girl.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring 2011

Life’s a beach for me and my girls…

P1000572 P1000574

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Can I Be Famous?

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Yahoo about their new Contributor program.  This allows you to sign up to write selected articles for them about various news events.  I think I was sent the notice because I am a fan of their Royal Wedding updates on Facebook.

Anyway, I clicked on over and signed up and listed the Royal Wedding as an interest of mine and a week or so ago, I was sent an alert that they were looking for “unique” articles about some aspect of the wedding.  I chose to write about the Welsh island where William and Kate are going to live after the wedding.

Well, guess what!?  Today I was told THEY BOUGHT IT!  And PUBLISHED IT!!  I am officially a published author.  Check me out HERE!!!!!  YAHOO!  Literally :)  And I don’t know who all is sharing it, but 25 people have shared it on Facebook at last count, and 2 have shared it on Twitter.  That’s awesome.  I get performance pay as more people click on it, in addition to the base rate I was paid for the story.

So today I was offered another crack at it, and I signed up again to do another piece on the wedding.  Whereas before I was really struggling to come up with what to write about that hadn’t been covered before, this time I had 3 or 4 ideas and had to really sit and consider them.  It ultimately came down to what I could most easily find on the internet.  It’s taken me a couple of hours, but I just submitted my second piece and I hope it’s also accepted.  We’ll see!

So yeah, you can tell everyone you know the great Kate Kosior, journalist and writer :-D

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Worst Thing About Lent…

The worst thing about giving up Facebook for Lent is that I feel cut off from all my dear friends and my wonderful support system.  I’ve been depressed about it, really, over the last couple of days. It’s been a rough week, for a variety of reasons, and a lot has been on my mind.  Ordinarily, I’d just pop up a quick status update and get a million responses.  Now, I either need to sit down and write out an email, which by the time I get done writing and reading it makes me a little sick of my own neediness and I don’t send them, or else just kinda hang around and ponder what the heck my friends and I ever did before Facebook!

I remember emails.  Long emails, the kind that read like letters or books.  Responding after each paragraph, avidly reading through the original letters and the responses and adding more and more onto each email.  I remember tossing up a blog post and getting 3 or 4 responses immediately, going to other people’s blogs and posting.  Now it’s more of a personal pursuit that I’m doing to clear my own thoughts.

I am really sad this weekend about the fact that Leah will most likely be sibling-less.  My wonderful neighbor down the street gave birth to her second son this past week, and it made me realize that Leah will be alone when we are gone.  Despite many arguments and disputes with my own sister, there really is nothing like a sibling to share your life with.  I think ahead to when Mike and I are old and Leah will have no one to shoulder the burden with.  When we are gone, she will be alone. It depresses the hell out of me.  But selfishly, I suppose, I also do not especially want to have another baby come into our lives.  So I guess I’m just one big paradox!!!

Today, I slept until almost 1:00, despite having someplace to go at 8:30 this morning.  This past week has just been awful, getting up every morning between 4:00 and 4:45 (my internal clock started screaming “you have to leave soon!” at 4:00 towards the end of the week), not getting back to sleep till 7, not hearing Leah if she was yelling to get up, waking up at 9 or 9:30 and then running around because we were chronically late… 

Last night was busy.  Leah got a bit of a late nap in, as we went to the park after Toddlin’ Time, and then by the time she fell asleep, Penny got home and I asked her to pack so we could leave by 3:30 to meet Mike up in Alexandria.  We were getting our taxes done, a task which I know is tedious but necessary.  Penny and Leah were climbing the walls in H&R Block, and finally went for a walk at the pet shop next door.  We had a nice dinner at the Olive Garden and then dropped Penny off at Melissa’s for the night so she could get a ride into Fairfax today for her TOEFL.  She has spent the remainder of the day with Judy and family and I am leaving sometime soon to go pick her up.

After sleeping half the day away, we went to lunch, where I was able to solicit another donation on the choir’s behalf (hooray, me!) and then got Leah home for a nap.  I spent that quiet time working on an article for Yahoo Contributors, for which I signed up in the hopes of getting some writing experience, and also some solicitation letters for the choir.  We are looking for some corporate sponsors, and I figured I’d take a shot at some local companies where we have spent some serious cash.  Will it bear fruit?  I don’t know!  But I had to try.

Once Leah woke up, we decided to go play outside and eventually decided she’d have more fun at the park, so we had a small family picnic at Duff Green park.  I just got Leah to bed, put away the second load of dishes, am now here, bitching to the universe.  The silence in the house without Penny here is absolutely deafening.  There’s a definite sense of something missing, even when she’s up in her room studying at least we know she’s there.  So I feel pretty confident that things will seem seriously out of whack when she leaves for good.

Tomorrow, Penny will be going out with her liaison from AFS to the Melting Pot.  I hope she enjoys the experience there as much as I do when I go.  We have an extended choir rehearsal tomorrow night and then next week will be a short week as on Friday we have our annual physicals and then leave for Savannah.  I need to arrange for someone to come feed the rabbit while we are gone.  Savannah should be a fun, although quick, trip.  Penny wants to climb the Tybee Island lighthouse, which I’m actually pretty excited about, and I’m excited about my first trip to Tybee Island period.  What else we will do, I’m not sure, but I know the Wellses will treat us to a good time.  When we get back, it’ll be CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME! and I’ll definitely be taking a day to go to DC.  And then, shockingly, it’ll be April, and my baby will be turning 2…  The first quarter of the year gone.  How is it possible?

So c’mon April 24!!!!  I want to see some Facebook!!!!  I miss everyone :-D  For anyone who might be reading and want some Leah love, here’s the best I can do.  She’s been too busy to pose for pictures lately, so here’s a profile of her, showing her great love of Greek yogurt.


Monday, March 14, 2011

One of Them Thar Days…or Weekends!

It’s Monday and I’m exhausted.  This time change thing SUCKS.  Over the weekend, Penny was consumed by the events in Japan, quite possibly the first time she’s been engaged in the news.  We had to keep her busy, or she’d have spent her every waking minute in front of CNN, which is not a good or healthy thing.  So instead of sitting around, making her study for the TOEFL, which is next week and which I predict she will not do well on, we kept her pretty busy.  She did finish a research paper she had due, and we made a cake, went to Chuck E. Cheese, did yardwork, watched movies, went to lunch, and had choir practice. 

The time change has thrown all of us off.  I really am missing that hour.  This week, Mike’s carpool driver is in Florida.  His back up carpool person called last night to say her dad is in ICU and she won’t be going to work this week.  So I had to get up at 4:45 this morning to drive to the train station.  When I got back, it was time for Penny to get up, and she is LOUD in the mornings.  I didn’t get back to sleep till nearly 7:00.  I awoke from a haze at 9:30—no idea if Leah was doing anything at all this morning while I was sleeping!—and realized I was supposed to drop Leah at Wiggle Worms so I could teach my friend Sherry to do video editing on Windows Movie Maker.  I hurriedly got up and got my sunshine girl moving, then checked the caller ID.  My neighbor had called.  My heart temporarily stopped.

My neighbor, Lisa, is heavily pregnant and ready to pop.  I am her night time back up person, so that if she goes into labor overnight, she can call us and leave her older son here until her mom can get here.  So last night, I didn’t take the phone to bed with me, and of course, there was a call from her on the caller ID.

Mercifully, or so for a moment I thought, she called this morning.  And then I remembered it was because I was supposed to babysit Daniel this morning while she went to her final doctor’s appointment!

I had already told Sherry I might not be here at 10:30 on the dot like we’d planned, so I had to quickly get in touch with her and say that not only would there not be no toddlers running around, there’d be two toddlers running around.  So she and I decided to reschedule.  Lisa arrived with Daniel right on time, while I was on the phone with my dad, of course, so I got them in and got Daniel and Leah settled while Lisa took off.  My goal for the morning was to keep Leah and Daniel as physically active and busy as possible, so we went out in the backyard and played “Let’s add sticks to the stick pile!” and “Let’s kick balls into the ever moving soccer goal!” and “Let’s run up and down the driveway with the toy car!” and “Let’s run up and down the alphabet singing loudly!”  It worked.  Leah is out cold, and I suspect Daniel was going to have a nice nap, since he looked pretty out of it when his mom picked him up.

So this afternoon I need to prepare some food for my book club girls, the number of which is rapidly dwindling, and then make dinner for my family, pick up Mike, and go to my book club meeting. 

What else have we been up to?  Let’s see.  My choir is having it’s annual gala fundraiser.  We’ve all been tasked with gathering items for the silent auction.  I am not the fundraising type, and I hate asking for donations, so I decided to devise a little email that I thought I would send out to the people I know here in town.  It turns out that I know quite a lot of people who own or manage quite a few businesses in town.  So I sent out about 20 emails and I got 15 responses.  Then I started asking people about donating their hobbies, and I got several responses for that (computer repairs, metal detecting, etc).  Now I’m up to emailing random businesses with whom I have zero affiliation and asking them for donations.  It’s turned out that I’m quite good at this stuff.  I’ve gotten close to 25 donations thus far.  If you’re out there and reading this and would like to donate something to the SRCS silent auction, please leave me a comment or drop me an email and I’ll get in touch!  All donations are tax deductible!!!  And if you want to buy a ticket and come hear me sing, then please do so!  Your ticket is $85 and tax deductible except for the cost of your dinner!

This weekend I did a lot of yardwork, finishing up trimming and pruning the trees in the backyard.  They were in pretty rough shape, totally overgrown, and some seemed to be on the verge of death.  I started 2 weeks ago with hand trimmers, which did a good job, but Saturday I bought a chainsaw (which of course didn’t come with any bar and chain oil and the goons at Home Depot didn’t tell me I needed any, so I got home and immediately had to go back out to another hardware store and get the oil) and set to work.  Unfortunately, due to my injury last summer, I don’t have the arm strength I had in my left arm, so it was a bit of a challenge. 

So I chainsaw massacre the living daylights out of the first 7 bushes, which I could reach and then Mike and I devise a plan to snake the (of course too shot) extension cord through the windows into his office so it’ll be long enough, and it’s sort of long enough, but not really, but I decided to take my chances.  So I get to one really good sized log I’m ready to take out and the saw gets halfway through it and the chain comes flying off the cutting bar.  So I go inside and ask Mike to send a message to our neighbor, Aaron, who comes over to fix the chainsaw, only he didn’t tighten it enough and I get through 2 more branches and the chain flies off again.  So I’m thinking, “@#)($*_!” and go back inside and tell Mike I’m done! 

So Mike texts Aaron again and tells him that I am in the backyard taking a break, so I leave the comfort of my sofa and head outside only to see our other neighbor, Jett, who tells me how great everything looks and he can’t believe I’ve been chainsawing the things myself!  While he and I are chatting, Aaron comes back.  Now, I immediately sense trouble.  Men + power tools + perceived “helpless female” + trees = woodchips a flying!  And sure enough, they perceive that despite the fact that I managed to mow through 8 trees without them that because the chain has now come off twice, I am clearly incapable of sawing down my own trees.  So I now point to what I want gone, and Aaron does the cutting.  I come to find out that he has been invited to a dinner party at his wife’s boss’s house, and he does not want to go.  When Jett catches wind of this, he decides that I have clearly missed branches that MUST come down on the other 8 trees, and the two of them plunge back and forth along the row of hedges cutting the heck out of my shrubs and talking like little old men about the quality of the chainsaw I bought, what’s going on with whom in the neighborhood, etc.  They swear they are coming back with a trailer to haul all the debris.  I’m hopeful!

I’ve managed to read 3 books in the past week since giving up Facebook for Lent on Wednesday, which is a true testament to what a timesuck Facebook really is.  I loved Sarah’s Key and The Hunger Games, and also read Princess Sultana’s Circle, which was merely ok.  I’m hoping that since at least half of us have now read Sarah’s Key, my Fredericksburg book club will get to meet again soon.  I find myself unexpectedly looking forward to it.  So that’s a good sign, right?

One of the other host moms has also turned me on to 2 new websites: and  Postcrossing allows you to ask for someone’s address and you send them a postcard.  Once you have sent and received a postcard, your name enters the system and you start to receive postcards as well.  I’ve sent out 7 so far, 3 of which are confirmed to have arrived.  Hopefully I’ll get one one of these days.  InterPals lets you search people’s profiles to find yourself penpals.  I used to be an avid penpal person, had dozens from all over the world (My parents probably pulled their hair out with my postage costs!).  I have thought on and off about doing it again over the years, but I didn’t really think anyone did letters any more.  So I was excited to hear about this site and signed on.  I’ve found 7 or 8 new penpals and we’ll see how it goes.  I’ve got one email pal and the rest are letter writing pals.  I searched primarily in the UK and Australia, getting one in Australia and most of the rest from England, although I’m excited to say that I’ve also gotten one from Germany, which I always had very good luck with in the past as a teenager.  My German penpals were devoted writers.  So we’ll see how that goes!

This week will be busy.  As I said, today is book club.  We’ll be at Toddlin’ Time tomorrow, and going to visit Lisa in the hospital towards the end of the week.  Sherry and I are attempting to reschedule our tutoring session.  I’ve got to get around to several places to pick up gift certificates.  God willing the weather stays nice and Leah and I can get to the park this week.  We’re getting our taxes done on Friday, and I am dropping Penny off with Melissa so she can take her to her TOEFL exam on Saturday while I am at the Fredericksburg Women’s Forum.  Then it’s on back to choir practice on Sunday and the week starts all over again. 

But first, I think a nap is in order!  Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

So Much Nothing

I haven’t blogged about anything in several weeks, despite my firm declarations that  I would blog more this year.  So much has happened and yet nothing really has happened at all.  I have been trying hard to keep up with our AFS blog, since a lot of other host parent bloggers fell off that wagon pretty hard, and our blog is all over the AFS website. 

The other night I was mentally composing a blog post in my head and it was BRILLIANT, I tell you.  BRILLIANT.  I was listening to Sarah Bareilles’s King of Anything on the radio and singing along.  That song has become a personal anthem of sorts.  There are so many great parts in it, but here are some that really resonate with me:

You’re so busy making masks with my name on them in all caps, you’ve got the talking down, just not the listening…

You sound so innocent, all full of good intent, swear you know best.  But you expect me to jump up on board with you and ride off into your delusional sunset…

Now I have forgotten much of my brilliant post, but I’ll try to formulate below…

February was a month when a lot of people disappeared from my life.  I have done a lot of soul searching in the past 18 months or so, and I’ve discovered that if I had one complaint about myself, it’s that I allow people to treat me as a disposable commodity, a convenience to pick up and put down at will. 

There is a part of me that has always felt “second best” and been eager to accept any mere crumbs that have fallen my way.  Everybody’s pal, but nobody’s best friend (don’t get nervous, Lesley! :-D).  In one of my favorite movies, The Holiday, Arthur tells Iris she’s never the leading lady, only the best friend, and Iris realizes she should be the leading lady in her own life.  That part has always felt to me like the true soul of that film.

Until a year and a half ago, that was enough for me, or at least, I was willing to put up with it, feeling I deserved no better.  I thought that if I disagreed with my family or with my friends, it made me a bad friend, a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad wife, a bad mother.  I would go so far as not to express an opinion about anything—books, movies, music—until I had a gauge of everyone else’s opinion first and if I disagreed, I would just nod rather non-committally and refrain from expressing an opposing view.  I think during the first 5 years my book club was in existence, I may have opened my mouth just a few times to express anything.  I was (and to an extent, still am) terrified of saying “the wrong thing”.

So many things I’d say if only I were able, but I just keep quiet and count the cars that pass by…

All my life I’ve tried to make everybody happy while I’d just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide.

Through a lot of help and especially recently talking with a good friend of mine who had similar patterns of behavior and thinking, I’ve come to realize that the worst thing that can happen is that you lose people who can’t accept that you are changing.  That you are demanding just a little bit of respect.  (Remember Dianne Wiesst in Parenthood?  “Not a lot, just a little!”  I’m full of pop cultural references today!)  That you expect honesty in your relationships.  One thing I can really and truly say is that I am sick to death of being lied to.  And I do believe that dishonesty is a major cause of many relationship problems that most of us have.

Regardless, I am not entirely innocent either and I definitely am willing to own up to my mistakes, and I have made more than a few.  So to those of you who have been offended by something I said or did, I am truly sorry.

One interesting aspect of having Penny here is that I do feel it is more incumbent on me to be a role model.  I make no show of hiding how I feel about many of Penny’s friends, who are obnoxious and rude little shits. :-D  Since the day she has arrived here, they’ve sent her nasty messages via Facebook and the things that she’s told me about what they say to her and how they treat her when she is in their presence is literally shocking.  And I suggested to her, “You are so desperate not to be lonely that you will tolerate any abuse at all just to have someone to talk to.”  And she agreed with me, which is sad.  But I have also talked with her about my own relationship issues as they’ve come up while she’s here and let her take the lead in deciding what should be done about them.  Some decisions she’s made wouldn’t have been done the way I think I would have done them, and she’s found it very interesting and I think a learning experience to see what happens in relationships and that you can survive if people you are related to or people you think are your friends bow out. I have tried to explain to her that you can say good bye without feeling resentful.

One thing we’ve talked extensively about is how each of us has our own perspective on things.  One of the things we’ve talked about with regards to friends is how whether or not I think something is true, my friend views it as true and I have to at the very least attempt to respond to their reality.  For instance, someone recently remarked that she wants to be friends with Penny but that Penny never talks to anyone.  Penny disagreed totally with that statement.  I explained to her that whether she agreed or disagreed, that was how other people saw her was as a person who didn’t want to talk to anyone.  So she renewed her efforts and now has been making good progress in the past week or two at talking with people and seeing them respond to her as a result.  (Of course, she is pissed it is now March and she is seeing results, but it’s taken till March till she’s made this type of effort!)

So, yadda yadda yadda, just some things that we’ve been talking about, things I’ve been thinking about and discussing with friends.  In light of this, I recently cleared out my friends’ list on Facebook.  I cleared off nearly 100 people. There are more that I certainly could clear off, and I may.  Every couple of days I go back through the list and chuck off a couple more that I never hear from, that I was just being nosy about, people who weren’t especially nice to me “then” and who I really don’t care about hearing from now.  In preparation for Lent, I’ve been thinking about last year’s experiment in giving up Facebook, and I’m going to do it again. During that time, I’ll make a list of the people whose updates I miss most and delete pretty much everyone else…

In other news…

Leah’s 2nd birthday is planned.  I was going to have it at Toddlin’ Time since that is her favorite place on earth.  Then when I went to reserve it, I came to find out they already had a party booked on that date, so I had to look elsewhere.  I really didn’t want to clean the house and go to the expense, and frankly after looking at it, the price to have a party elsewhere is cheaper than the expense and trouble I go to having a party at home.  So I booked her party at Wiggle Worms and then found out that the party at Toddlin’ Time is for one of her friends at TT, and we are invited to that party.  That mom had her invitations professionally printed and the whole 9 yards, and since I hadn’t, I volunteered to move Leah’s party, which I was able to do.  My dad is going to make it down since I’ve moved it, which is even more exciting!  He is also going to come down on April 20th and give us a night off for our wedding anniversary.  Woo hoo!

Choir rehearsals have started up again.  I am enjoying it.  Our theme for this year’s gala is “Going on a Sea Cruise” and we are doing all songs about the sea, so it’s right up my alley.  I have been busy helping with the silent auction by soliciting donations and I’m happy to say I’ve gotten some pretty awesome ones, so that’s cool.  I have made a lot of connections in the past 2 years of being here in the community full time, so it’s paying off for the choral society anyway!  If anyone has eighty five dollars they don’t know what to do with, feel free to come on out on April 17th at UMW and listen to us.  Tonight we started learning choreography and stuff, so it’s going to be a lot of fun!

Well, I guess I should go to bed. I’m tired and I’m babysitting my neighbor’s son tomorrow.  There’s more stuff going on, like my great yard clean up this year, but that’ll have to wait for another post!

Good night, everyone!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Cool Experience

Yesterday I took my girls to Walmart to do a little Valentine’s shopping.  Leah got tired of the shopping real quick, so I took her to look at the fish, which she loves!  While we were looking at the fish swimming around in the tanks, an employee came over and pointed at Leah, made a questioning face at me, and kind of grunted.  I guess I kind of looked at him funny because he quickly whipped out a notepad and wrote down, “I am deaf”.

Well, over the years I’ve taken several sign language classes, and while I’d still call myself an extreme beginner, I quickly said, “OH!” and then made the sign for “my daughter”.  This guy’s jaw dropped and he quickly asked me, “You know how to sign?”  I signed “Only a little!” and it was hard for him to interpret what I thought I was saying because I was holding Leah in one arm and trying to sign with both hands.  He gave me his notepad and I wrote down, “I only know a little” but he wrote, “I don’t care!  Very good!”

I put Leah down and signed “She loves the fish!”  He decided to try to sell me an aquarium so I signed “Too much work!” and he taught me the signs for “It gets dirty fast”. 

What followed was a 10 minute conversation in broken sign language, garbled speech, and written correspondence.  We signed about how he likes working at Walmart, do people talk to him, my blind husband and his fear of becoming blind, him wearing hearing aids or not, my family, the war in Egypt (that one took place on his notepad!), and so forth. 

He thanked me for talking when another customer came over and I promised that if I saw him again, I would say hello.  I wished Penny had been there to experience sign language, as she has adjusted so well to having a blind “parent” and I think it would be interesting for her to witness a conversation in sign.  But she was buying me a big box of Lindt truffles, so I can’t complain.

Anyway, I just felt really happy that I was able to effectively communicate in sign language even to a basic extent and it was pretty cool!  The guy was so encouraging and even taught me some new stuff.  Happily, my brain has not completely turned to mush these past 22 months! hehe

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Percy Jackson

I have completed my first book challenge read, The Titan’s Curse, which is the third book in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series for kids. 

I started reading the first Percy Jackson book last summer, at the behest of my father, who first introduced me to Harry Potter, so I thought I’d take a chance on him and let him lead me to the Jackson books. 

I read the first one and thought it was cute, although I didn’t LOVE it like I did Harry Potter.  But I read the second one, and somehow that lead me to picking up the third one on a recent trip to Walmart. 

Now, I don’t like the winter days that are gray and dreary and depressing, and we’ve had a string of those lately.  And by mid-January, I was pretty much pissed off at everyone and everything in my life.  So I started reading The Titan’s Curse because I wanted to have a book in which a lot of stuff got blown up.  And I was not disappointed.

In The Titan’s Curse, Percy is now 14 and is summoned to help rescue some half bloods at a school in Maine.  Artemis and her crew of huntresses arrive to help and Annabeth disappears.  While a fatal quest is predicted by the Oracle and in which Percy is not invited to participate, Percy goes off in search of his friend anyway and helps the adventurers fulfill their quest.

I think if I knew more about Greek mythology, I would probably get more out of all the actual mythology stuff, but I really enjoy these books regardless.  They are fun, light, and easy to read.  Percy is brave to the point of stupidity.  Grover is a sweet and loveable character who I always cheer for.  And it’s fun that in this book, they went to Washington DC.

I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, meaning I liked it.  These aren’t the kind of books you absolutely LOVE, but they’re a great deal of fun regardless.   I chose it as my book with evil in the title for the What's In a Name challenge, as a “Curse” is pretty evil.  I like to pace myself and read one of these Percy Jackson books about every 4 or 5 months, so I will probably read one again towards the end of spring or beginning of summer.  If you haven’t read Percy Jackson, I suggest giving him a try sometime!  Especially if you like to see things crushed or blown up by the Gods of the Universe.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Book Reviews of the Year

I am going to attempt to review most of the books I read this year.  So far, I’ve read 2, both of which I got at the library.  The first is The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson.  This was a book club book and while I was at the library picking it up, they had Alan Brennert’s Honolulu on display at the circulation desk, so I snatched that one up too.

Amy Dickinson is best known for writing the Ask Amy column that took over when Ann Landers died.  She also is a commentator on NPR.  Her book was supposed to be about the town of Freeville NY and the women there who raised her and supported her and her daughter when Amy’s marriage to her husband (CBS reporter Anthony Mason) fell apart.

That is a book I would have loved to read.  Instead, while interesting enough and a good enough read, the book is about her coping with the divorce while making occasional trips back to her hometown.  The book is wildly out of sequence, as we discussed in book club (in one chapter, her cat Pumpkin dies, in the next chapter, Pumpkin is alive and well).  Dickinson herself is likeable, and I found myself cheering for her successes and marveling at how she got through her low points, but in fact, the part I liked most was probably the part she expected her readers to like the least:  the part in which she encounters her wayward dad, Buck, and goes on an adventure in the mud with him.  Buck abandoned Amy’s mother when the children were young, and has infrequent contact with his children thereafter.  Amy’s marriage suffers similarly in that her husband is a globetrotting reporter who is frequently absent.  (Although he turns out to be a good dad to young Emily despite his long travels around the world.)  Still, having grown up in the North Country, to which Amy alludes, I have known many such “Bucks” in my life, and they really are the kind of colorful characters that Amy may have inadvertently portrayed her father as, and they can be lovable in their own way.  But of course, I say that without Buck being my dad.

In the end, Amy packages everything with a nice neat bow, meeting a new love interest and scoring Ask Amy while Emily happily goes off to college.  Life is messy and a “happily ever after” ending to a memoir is rarely satisfying, as is true in this case.  Amy’s story has yet to be written, as has mine, and if I finished writing my memoirs with moving to Virginia, or adopting my daughter, or conquering even some of my personal demons, I would leave out some of the best parts and lead my readers to conclude that life can be tidily summed up in an endpoint, even if it goes on. 

That being said, I gave Mighty Queens 3 stars on Goodreads.  Worth a shot if you need a quick book to pass the time.  The girls in my book club all seemed to feel about the same about it.  Thanks for the pick, Lauren!

Now, if you have been reading my book reviews or my blogs for a while, you will know that last year I was forced to read Molokai for my book club.  This Alan Brennert book was a book I was convinced that I would hate, as a) my best friend Lesley LOVED it and b) I have no interest in the topics of leprosy or Pacific Island type stuff.  Strangely though, I was totally drawn into the story of Rachel and her life in a leper colony and can say without hesitation that it was one of the best books I read last year.

During the book club discussion, it came out that Brennert had written another book called Honolulu and some of the girls wondered if it would be as good.  I mentally resolved that I would not read it, because it is about a young woman from Korea moving to Hawaii as a picture bride and again, no interest in Pacific Island stories and even less in stories about Asia.  (Sorry, but there it is!)

However, when I went to pick up Mighty Queens from the library, there was Honolulu, almost mocking me, from a perch on the circulation desk.  Impulsively, I grabbed it and when I finished my first book, I started in on Honolulu.  And I found it as compulsively readable as Molokai.

Honolulu is a story about Regret, a young picture bride from Korea.  Stifling in her father’s home, she consults a matchmaker and is soon betrothed to a Mr. Noh in Hawaii, who presents himself as a wealthy plantation worker in the Hawaiian islands, painted by Koreans as being paved with golden streets and rife with opportunity.  Regret forces her father’s hand to allow her to go to Hawaii for the marriage, and soon discovers not the wealthy and kind man who will allow her to be education, but a gambling alcoholic who beats her and kills their unborn child.  Regret flees from Mr. Noh’s shack, renames herself Jin (Korean for “gem”), and embarks on carving out a new life for herself in the Hawaiian capital city.

The story is fairly intricate, and you easily find yourself immersed in the story of Jin’s life in Hawaii only to be reminded of the “little sister” she left behind (a 5 year old girl betrothed to Jin’s brother), only to be brought back to Mr. Noh only to go back to Jin’s friends and fellow picture brides and their families.  Each and every story line remains compelling till the end of the book when Brennert gets bogged down in some actual Hawaiian history, which he clearly wanted to include in the book, but which overtook the driving story line, that being the tale of The Massie Affair.  To be honest, while I am typically a true crime buff, I really just wanted to get back to Regret/Jin’s story and so I skimmed much of the 20 or so pages devoted to this whole thing so I could get back to what I considered the real meat and potatoes of the book.

I laughed and cried and cheered and hoped for Regret and her friends and their stories.  I loved how the book concluded, and how the characters struggled with issues bigger than themselves and lived very human lives at the same time.  Alan Brennert is fast rising to the top of my “must read authors” list.  I gave the book 4 stars on GoodReads just because it did get off track with the Massie stuff, otherwise it would have gotten 5.  Check this one out today!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My One and Only Book Challenge this Year

Last year, I signed up for 4 book challenges and managed to complete 3 of them. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my favorite one was the What's In a Name challenge, and this year I am only signing up for that one. I didn't like feeling the pressure of having to try and cram in the challenge reading. Still, I'm proud I completed 3 of them anyway!

The categories this year are pretty cool too!

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:

1. A book with a number in the title
2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
3. A book with a size in the title
4. A book with travel or movement in the title
5. A book with evil in the title
6. A book with a life stage in the title

I'm not even going to speculate what books I might read to fill these in, as most of the books I thought I'd read starting out last year didn't make the cut in the end. Still, it should be fun reading!

If you want to sign up, go to

Happy reading!