Saturday, June 25, 2016

Yes, It's Hot, And I'm Thankful For That!

For me, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say this, summer officially starts the day after school ends. According to the calendar, it doesn't begin until June 21, but that's just plain wrong. The three months of summer vacation are the fastest three months of the year, and one of them has already passed without me having accomplished ANYTHING I had planned to get done - oops. Better get with it. Until then, here are my Ten Things of Thankful for the week:

1. I really, really, REALLY hate cold weather, so I'm okay with the unseasonably hot weather we've had this week (it was 97 yesterday with a heat index of 105). You know why? Because when you're hot, it's mostly a surface thing, but when you're cold, it gets you right down inside your very core.

2. We spent last weekend at the lake house - ahhh! We went to White Water, a local water park, both Saturday and Sunday (we have season passes). The water was delightful, which means it wasn't icy cold. and everyone got along.

3. I spent a good hour on Sunday morning floating around in the Lazy River in an inner tube alllll by myself. It was delightful and deserves an entry of its own.

4. I bought myself a back scratcher for the car the other day, and it was one of my best investments ever. Am I the only one whose back always itches while driving, right in the center of my back, where you can't reach it no matter how much you contort? 

It telescopes = awesome

5. The College Boy and I went to a play last weekend as partial fulfillment of a theater class he is taking on-line this summer (general ed requirement). The college has a summer program called Tent Theater, and the plays are performed in, yes, a tent. It's been in existence since 1963 (the tent, you might be glad to know, has been upgraded since then and has ceiling fans in it) and includes a mix of college students and theater professionals. We saw "Shake It Up," a musical based on the music of Elvis Presley. It was kind of like Mamma Mia meets Footloose, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, which is a HUGE thankful, because College Boy is not into musicals. We will be seeing two more shows over the next few weeks, and we're both looking forward to it.

6. It's blueberry season in the Ozarks, and I begged the College Boy to go pick with me early one morning (and by early, I mean we were AT the blueberry farm at 7 a.m.). He's a good picker, and between the two of us, we picked sixteen pounds of blueberries (for the record, I picked more than he did, and I eat A LOT of blueberries as I pick). They are now nestled in the deep freeze in recipe-ready two-cup portions.

My picking partner.

16 pounds of blueberries

7. I found out this week that there IS a limit to how many fresh blueberries I can eat. I found this out by surpassing that limit, but the good news is it didn't kill me, and I still like blueberries.

8. Wednesday, my baby boy turned 21, which does not seem possible. As he had to renew his driver's license anyway, he decided to take the on-line boating license test (even though we do not own a boat), just so he could get a little ship's wheel emblem on his new driver's license. My husband pointed out that he studied harder for the boating test than he did for the MCAT, but he passed both, so there's that.

They were having a sweet moment.

9. My daughter is a senior model for a local photographer, and he asked her if she would like to do an extra shoot for a hair salon for advertising use. She jumped all over that, so this morning, we went to the salon, where she got her hair and make up done, and the amazing Joshua Carter took pictures, and they, of course, turned out gorgeous. Just gorgeous. WHY ARE MY KIDS SO DARN GROWN UP ALL OF A SUDDEN?!

Emma getting her hair and makeup done.

The creative mind of Joshua Carter wanted
a picture on the roof with the courthouse in the
background. I knew my limitations and
did not attempt to climb up the ladder

The model multi-tasks.

Photo Credit: Joshua Carter/LifeCaptured Photography

10. I think I'm about ready to get a kitten....

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Letter To My Son On His 21st Birthday

Dear Kyle:

When we brought you home from the hospital twenty-one years ago, we sat you down in the middle of the family room floor in your car seat, looked at each other and said, "Now what?" 

The cat took an immediate dislike to you (okay, it was really complete and total hatred), you were a barracuda when I nursed you, you blew out your diaper at LEAST once a day, you spit up gallons, usually of the projectile variety, and yet, we STILL found you exquisite. 

And then we blinked, and today, you're an adult. A real, honest-to-goodness adult, at least in the eyes of the law. I, however, know you better as the man-boy who still brings rocks home in his pockets, who gets completely animated when talking about subjects like purkinje cells (which I still don't understand), who is solicitous with his grandmother one moment, and then is bouncing around like an overgrown puppy the next.  So on this day of reflection and celebration, here are a few things I'd like you to know:

Never lose your tender heart. You try to hide it from others, maybe from fear of appearing vulnerable, but it's an admirable trait to have and should be nurtured.

Remember the importance of being patient. 

Make sure you smile more often than you frown.

Be kind. 

Although you and your sister may squabble from time to time, remember that friends will come and friends will go, but you two will always have each other.

Now that you are legally old enough to drink alcohol, I hope you don't make it a habit to do so. I especially hope you never use alcohol in an attempt to fix anything in your life, because it won't.

Look for the good in every situation, no matter how hopeless that situation seems to be.

Wear sunscreen.

Drive friendly.

When the right girl comes along, you'll know it. If you aren't sure, then she isn't it.

Know that I will always make time to talk to you whenever you need me.

Don't worry so much about what others think of you; chances are, they aren't thinking about you at all.

Shyness can be mistaken for arrogance. Even in the most socially uncomfortable situations, when you wish you could disappear down a rabbit hole, do everything you can to look pleasant and relaxed.

If you have to ask yourself if you should be doing something or not, the answer is not.

Compromise is a good thing; settling is not.

Never let yourself run out of toilet paper.

Develop some strategies to prevent procrastination; it is your worst enemy.

Never stop picking up rocks and bringing them home to me.

Happy birthday, College Boy. I love you more than words can describe.



Friday, June 10, 2016

Two-fer The Price Of One Thankfuls

This week's Ten Things of Thankful is a two-fer, since I didn't get one written last weekend. Go take a bathroom break before you start this; it's going go long....

1. My jug of miracle milk finally gave out, but boy, oh boy, it was a good run! I bought this gallon of skim milk from Aldi in early April when the College Boy a/k/a the Milk Drinker, was home. He drank less than half of it before going back to school, and then it stayed fresh until AFTER Memorial Day weekend. True story! Every time I needed milk for a recipe, I'd get it out, completely convinced that it would be sour, and it wasn't even a little bit blinky!

2. After our week of going to the lake house, to Columbia, and back to the lake house, my daughter and I came home and repacked our bags for Nashville. 

3. I had my yearly post-op follow up in Springfield with my surgeon, a/k/a Dr. Dorian Grey, and everything was fine. I mentioned I sometimes have pain near my left arm pit, and he said it was only due to the removal of the lymph nodes there. I was an eensy bit worried before I asked him, but now I'm not, so yay!

4. Emma and I were the last folks to leave the lake house, staying an extra day to clean and put everything into order. After we got home, I realized I had no independent recollection of locking the back door onto the deck. Emma was the one who closed the door, and SHE didn't have any independent recollection of locking it, either, so she and I swung by there after the doctor's appointment and before hitting the road to Nashville (not exactly on the way, but I couldn't NOT check). Good news - door was locked! 

5. This little detour to the lake house gave me an opportunity to pick up the big ol' jugs of Metamucil and Miralax that are a very expensive necessity when one has to take major doses of calcium to counteract the side effects of aromatase inhibitor therapy for breast cancer and that I left on the kitchen counter.

6. It rained on us, off and on, the entire way to Nashville, but there was no severe weather, and it never rained so hard that it was scary.

7. Emma talked non stop for half the trip, as in for 4+ hours, and I loved every minute of it.

8. We got to see a crop duster as we drove across the soy bean and rice fields in southeast Missouri. I'd never seen one before, and while we were pretty sure it was going to crash into (a) the field or (b) the highway, it was awesome to watch it.

9. We stopped in Cairo, Illinois, so I could show Emma a place on the levy along the Ohio River where you could look over and see tug boats pulled up to shore that I found on my last trip to Nashville in January. I couldn't find that exact spot, but I did find one that was even better; it was a cut-through with a road and a boat ramp and everything. I was way too skeered to drive down there (recurring nightmare about boat ramps), but we parked and walked through and looked at the Ohio River at its absolute widest point, right before the confluence with the Mississippi (more on that later). Emma wasn't particularly excited about it ("If you're so scared of crossing over it on a bridge, why do you like to look at it so much?"), but I thought it was totes cool, and the answer is BECAUSE I'M NOT IN IMMINENT DANGER OF FLYING OFF THE BRIDGE OR HAVING IT COLLAPSE BENEATH MY CAR AND AM SAFELY WATCHING THE WATER FROM THE SHORE.

I could not, for any amount of money, drive down this road.

10. We spent our time in Nashville eating, talking and being very, very lazy. It was perfect!

We suck at taking selfies of ourselves,
so Emma and Mackenzie amused themselves
by taking pictures of us taking pictures
of ourselves.

11. My Person, Terri, has a knack for getting free stuff. She and her daughter had two tickets to go see a production of West Side Story at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Saturday afternoon that they already had when we planned the trip. Then Terri found out she could get two FREE tickets to the performance as well, so we were all able to go. Well done, Studio Tenn! We were in tears when it ended.

Inside the lobby of the Schermerhorn.

12. When we picked up the free tickets at will call, we were given an upgrade to the third row, left side (Emma and Terri's daughter Mackenzie had the paid seats that were in the fifth row center).

13. Before we went to the play, we had brunch at Terri's son's restaurant, Party Fowl (if you're ever in Nashville, go there for Nashville hot chicken). I had the apple stuffed cinnamon brioche french toast (dipped in orange custard before frying) with hot chicken on the side (because food rules don't allow for it to touch the french toast). Sigh.


14. Emma and I shopped at our favorite thrift store, Music City Thrift. I scored Hawaiian shirts for the College Boy and Emma scored some Southern Shirts for next to nothing.

15. We ate at my very very very very VERY favorite place, San Antonio Taco Company, TWICE (another must visit if you're ever in Nashville).

Chicken soft tacos and queso and chips.
My tummy is in lurrrrrve.

16. I made the mistake of driving Emma around the campus of Belmont University, and now she's in love and thinks she will die if she doesn't get to go there (with tuition, room and board and books running about $42,000 PER YEAR, she may as well start planning her funeral now, because it isn't going to happen). 

I took this from the top of a parking garage.

17. Although neither one of us wanted to leave, we finally had to, so to make the trip a little less depressing, we made a couple of stops along the way. The first one was at Fort Defiance park, which is where the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is (I SAID there'd be more about that). I have tried to see it for years, ever since I learned about it from Christine, but it's either been under water or damaged because of flood waters. Finally, FINALLY, it was open! AND IT WAS AWESOME, although I have to tell you the Mississippi River smelled like raw sewage, while the Ohio was pretty and blue and odor-free.

See the blue water on the left? The Ohio River.
See the dirty brown water on the right?
The Mississippi River.

18. We met this man while at the confluence. He told us he had been kayaking on the Mississippi, headed to the Gulf of Mexico, but the water was so rough that it caused him to capsize, and he had decided to abort the trip. He was spreading his stuff out to dry and waiting for his son to come from Cincinnati to pick him up. This thankful is for him that he didn't drown, because he certainly could have. AND THAT'S WHY I DON'T WANT TO BE ON THE WATER OR OVER THE WATER OR UNDER THE WATER. Next to is just fine, thankyouverymuch.

This is either a very brave or very stupid man.

19. We made another stop at Big Spring State Park in Van Buren, Missouri. It's a few miles off the beaten path, but it's really spectacular, with 288 million gallons of water bubbling out of it on an average day (ONE DAY, PEOPLE, DID YOU GET THAT?!). To put it into perspective, it would fill Busch Stadium in only 33 hours. 

Big Spring State Park

20. When we finally got back to Joplin after two weeks away, Emma had to spend the day raiding the closets of her friends for her senior model photo shoot on Thursday. Ever since she was a freshman, she has wanted to be a senior model for a local photographer whose work she has admired, and she was selected to be one earlier this spring. I don't know if the senior model thing is common elsewhere, but around here, the local photographers choose these models and do shoots with them, then the models are supposed to put the pictures on social media to try and get more business for the photographer. When someone mentions they came to the photographer because of the senior model, that model gets a discount on her pictures. The shoot went unbelievably well, especially because I find it unbelievable that SHE'S A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL. These aren't even the "real" senior pictures yet. HOW AM I EVER GOING TO CHOOSE?!

Photo by Joshua Carter/Life Captured

There! Two weeks' worth of thankfuls. And one more for YOU if you stayed with me all the way through to the end of this post. Are you thankful? Sure, you are! Link up your list below.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

No, I Didn't Buy The Coloring Book And Other Thankfuls

Welcome to the weekend and Ten Things of Thankful! You'd be AMAZED at what a person can find to be thankful for, if they try hard enough. Like these:

It was my first full week of summer vacation. I did nothing productive, but I had good intentions, so there's that.

Our Ten Things of Thankful creator was not only visiting 'Murica this past week, she was only a little over three hours' drive away from me, so drive I did, and Lizzi and I had a lovely pic-a-nic and long visit and it was very, very nice.

My trip home from Oklahoma City was not so great, and you can read about it here, but I SURVIVED and that's what's important, right?

My daughter has gotten her bedroom about 65% cleaned up, which is about 75% more than she's gotten done in the past three years.

Rain and rain and rain and rain, but no further severe weather (after the Oklahoma fiasco) other than thunder and lightning, and I'm fine with that.

We went to the lake house on Wednesday, so I could give it a good cleaning before the weekend. I brought my awesome Shark Navigator vacuum cleaner, and it ate a piece of carpet that my dad has lying in front of the fireplace. Fortunately, it's just some scrap carpeting that he keeps there as a hearth rug, so whew!

Pete packed himself.

On Thursday, Emma and I picked up the College Boy, and the three of us drove up to Columbia so my son could attend a workshop about the medical school application process on Friday. We are VERY thankful that my brother and sister in law live there and let us stay there whenever we need to, even though they were leaving on Friday to go - where? - to the lake house to spend the weekend with us and my parents.

After we got to Columbia, like several hours after we got there, the College Boy realized he forgot the bag with his underwear, undershirts, tennis shoes and extra clothes in it, leaving him with the clothes he was wearing, the dress clothes options he brought to wear to his workshop (where he brought no less than eight ties to choose from). Thankful that Walmart is open 24 hours and that my brother took him there to get the necessities he needed for the next day. I'm sure everyone at the workshop is thankful for the fresh underpants as well.

Emma and I spent the day bumming around Columbia, mostly in the shops downtown. One of the places we went in was a book store that was nothing short of interesting. I snapped this picture of one of the many items offered for sale there, and I'll just put it right here and walk away....

My husband said your tan crayon
would wear out rather rapidly

It's the weekend now, and we are all at the lake house together and life is good.

Ten Things of Thankful

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Staying On This Side Of The Rainbow

I got the chance to visit my blog friend Lizzi today, which is pretty cool because she lives in England and I don't. Lucky for me, though, she was not only visiting America again, but she was in Oklahoma City, a three hour and some change drive from Joplin. We made plans to have a bear-free picnic (long story, but we had the very real possibility of having a very NON bear-free picnic last September when she was in America, but all's well that ends well, right?).

Before I headed out on my little road trip from Joplin to Oklahoma City, my husband, the Nattering Nabob of Negativity, expressed some concern about the weather. It's tornado season here in what is known as Tornado Alley (the fifth anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that destroyed one-third of Joplin was just two days ago), so he was by no means out of line to suggest that I pay attention to the weather, especially since a tornado touched down in northwestern Oklahoma just yesterday afternoon. But I also ever so slightly took offense at the implication that I wouldn't be on top of the weather forecast, because I'm not an IDIOT, after all....

I checked the weather again before I left the house, took the turnpike to Tulsa, took another turnpike to Oklahoma City, took ANOTHER turnpike to Hasty's home, where Lizzi was staying (more on the turnpike story later this week). The sky was blue, there were a few puffy clouds in the sky, and it was windy, of course, because it's ALWAYS windy in Oklahoma (prairie thing). 

Lizzi and I had our bear-free picnic on Hasty's patio, we took a walk around a nearby lake, we talked and talked, and then it was 4:15 and I needed to hit the road, as I had made a bet with my husband that I would be home by 8:00, and he didn't believe I could do it, so I had something else to prove, along with me being right that there was no severe weather forecast for the area.

Photo credit goes to Hasty Words

I was toodling along the Turner Turnpike from Oklahoma City to Tulsa and was nearing the halfway point when I saw some dark clouds brewing to the northeast. Hmmm. The gas gauge showed I had a little more than a quarter of a tank, and if rain was in my future, I sure didn't want to be filling the gas tank in it. The bad news about turnpikes is exits and services are few and far between; the good news was I was almost to the toll both at the halfway-to-Tulsa mark, and there was a gas station/truck stop where I didn't have to exit the turnpike (another hint about the turnpike story to come later this week). 

As the sky grew darker, I filled the tank, availed myself of the facilities, got a diet coke, and then went back to my car. By this time, the clouds had become threatening, and I opened the weather app on my phone and checked the radar and learned a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued. Severe thunderstorms may include strong winds, dangerous lightning, hail, and, quite possibly, a tornado. I left the gas station and got back on the turnpike (kicking myself over and over for THAT move), thinking I would get off at the nearest exit if it got bad (refer back to the previous paragraph about turnpike exits being few and far between and see how really stupid I was about this whole thing; I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, but this move was, by far, the stupidest).

I changed from satellite radio to a Tulsa news station right as they broke in with a bulletin from the National Weather Service issuing a tornado warning for the area and saying to stay off of the Turner Turnpike from mile marker 182 through 215, and if you were in the town of Bristow to take cover immediately (I had never heard of Bristow, and I had no idea where it was, but I knew I didn't want to be there right now). Moments later, I arrived at the toll plaza. As I paid my toll, I asked the attendant where the next exit was, and he said it was the Bristow exit at 196. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road, along with about a dozen other cars and trucks, and waited.

The radio station reported rotation in the clouds (this is bad), and that it was most likely a rain-wrapped tornado (this is REALLY bad; the Joplin tornado was rain-wrapped, and this makes them nearly impossible to see until they are right on top of you). There were no buildings at the toll plaza except for the flimsy little toll booths, and there wasn't even a ditch to lie down in; the land was flat, flat, flat. I had my purse zipped up and ready to throw around my neck if I needed to bail out of the car (never, never, NEVER stay inside the car in a tornado), contemplated sending a group text to my family telling them I loved them, prayed, and then alternated between crying hysterically and hyperventilating, all the while thinking my husband could write "I told her so" on my headstone IF they found my body. My Red Cross tornado app went off repeatedly (tornado siren sound effect, which did nothing to soothe my jangled nerves) and the only positive thing I could come up with was thank GOD I had peed at the gas station a few minutes earlier or I would have either wet my pants or been trying to figure out how to pee into an empty styrofoam cup. Wind buffeted the car, hailstones larger than peas started falling, cloud to ground lightning was crashing all around, and the rain was blinding. The radio reports said radar indicated there was debris in the clouds, proof that it was, indeed, a tornado and had touched down.

I sat there for 45 minutes.

Finally, the slow moving storm headed on across the turnpike and towards the southern Tulsa area, the tornado warning was canceled, and I started driving again. There were reports of damage at the Bristow exit and south into the town. As I passed the exit a few minutes later, although it wasn't easy to see through all the rain falling, I didn't see evidence of the damage. 

And through all of this, the sky to the northwest of me was clear and the sun was shining, and once I got past Tulsa, there were clear skies and no more rain at all, although I could still see the dark clouds moving towards the southeast, still see flashes of lightning in the distance.

And then I saw this:

I don't know what guardian angel was watching over this little sparrow and kept me on this side of the rainbow, but I do know if I had left Oklahoma City fifteen minutes earlier than I did, as I had meant to do, I would have been at the Bristow exit at the same time the tornado was. Same if I hadn't pulled over and sat on the side of the turnpike at the toll plaza. That poor angel TRIED to get me to stay at the service station by whispering in my ear, but she's apparently learned that I have to be hit over the head with a baseball bat (or have a tornado app blare a siren sound over and over) before I really listen.

Thank you, angel, whoever you are. I owe you one.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rain And Summer And More

Long week. Long, Week. Looooooong weeeeeeeek. 

That's not necessarily a negative; it's just an observation. Here are my Ten Things of Thankful for this week:

1. It rained and rained and rained this week. While I'd rather have my rainfall spread out over a matter of weeks or months, it's been pretty dry here, and I guess anything that whittles down the precipitation deficit is a good thing.

2. No severe weather, though.

3. School is OVER! Hello, summer vacation! I have BIG PLANS for you!

4. #ForLoveOfRuby continues with donations to local animal shelters by my friend (since junior high) Melody and her daughter Brianna, and by my blog friends Lisa and Eunice (better known as Tigermouse) for their donations. Also thank you to Kristi's daughter for spreading the word among her cat-loving friends in California. I'll never actually know how many people made donations in Ruby's memory, but I am forever humbled by everyone's generosity.

5. My friend Cathy sent me a picture of a kitten needing a home. OHMYGOODNESS! What a face! I haven't said yes, but I haven't ruled it out yet, so I must be healing.

6. I finally found my mattress pad! (Seriously, how does one lose a queen sized mattress pad in the first place?) I then was able to take the electric mattress pad off the bed and put the regular one on and summer could commence to summering. 

7. Know what happens as soon as you decide it's warm enough to take the electric mattress pad off the bed? It turns cold and rainy (see #1, above). Lucky for me, I now have two VERY LARGE cats who have taken to sleeping at my feet now that Ruby's gone, plus I have a warm, fuzzy blanket (gift from my LA work friends when I had my bilateral mastectomy four years ago) that is always at the ready, and I put that blanket into service (with no complaints from the two big lugs at the foot of the bed).

8. Preschool graduation went off without a hitch, as in no one cried, no one threw up (although I was a little uneasy about that one, as one of my students, in fact, DID throw up the day before; as a side note, she was very proud of herself that she made it to the bathroom and didn't break Miss Dyanne's #1 rule of Don't Throw Up In Miss Dyanne's Classroom) and no one wet their pants.

9. My parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this week. We will OFFICIALLY celebrate their anniversary, along with my mother's 84th birthday, over Memorial Day weekend at the lake house.

10. I got my hair cut. I got A LOT of my hair cut. I think I like it.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Joplin tornado, when an EF-5 tornado tore through the center of town, destroying or damaging nearly one-third of the town and killing 161 people. The world came to our rescue, and there can never be enough thankfuls for the thousands of volunteer hours as a result. We will never forget.

Link up with us! We are fun!

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