Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grand Adventures!

It's 8:30 Sunday morning and my brother and his family of seven just pulled out of my driveway, headed off to Washington D.C. for a family trip. They drove in from Indiana last night with the intention of breaking up their drive and spending some time with me. As they backed out of the drive with their fifteen passenger van, I could hear the screams of joy and laughter from the kids as they waved madly and yelled their excited goodbyes - ready for their adventure to begin.

Craig and Leanne take their kids on lots of family adventures and it reminds me of my own childhood. Last summer they spent 18 days out west seeing all the big attractions, just like our parents did when we were little. Our parents took us lots of places, but the four week vacations out west were by far the most memorable. We saw all the wonders of nature and more than our fair share of wild beasts on those trips, which continues to make for good story telling when we take a walk down memory lane.

Between last night and this morning, my brother's kids shared one story after another of the pains of trying to just get out the door and start their vacation - the packing, the planning, and the dreaded cleaning. You can't leave the house messy because "No one wants to come home to a messy house," my mother always said. It reminds me of those little moments that my siblings and I still laugh about today.

I remember having to choose just one stuffed animal to take on our adventures and every year that decision became more painful - who to choose. I remember leaving at 4:00 in the morning to get a jump start on the day because we had to drive twelve hours through the boring states of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. I remember my older siblings teaching me to shuffle a deck of cards like a pro on those long day drives.

I know one time when we pulled the van off the side of the road due to a slight mechanical problem, one car after another stopped to see if we needed any help. Where have those days gone???

I remember one year we spent days baking all sorts of treats and desserts for our adventure and by the time we had settled in Colorado, we came to the conclusion that the reason we couldn't find them amongst ALL our stuff was because we accidentally left them in the driveway at home- absolutely devastating! I know we ate lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pistachio pudding, and fig newtons.

We sat around a campfire every single night before bed and occasionally woke up to elk standing outside our camper in the mornings. I remember finding a place once, that let you pick cherries for free, so we went totally nuts. Of course, then we proceeded to eat lots and lots of cherries - so many that most of us spent the majority of that evening in the outhouse. And if I remember correctly, that was the state park with good old fashioned smelly outhouses.

Sometimes we got lucky and Dad would choose a park with real bathroom facilities. He would give us each a quarter to take a shower and that 25 cents got you three minutes of water. You really learned to shower fast!

Every time we were about to drive into a new state or enter a significant landmark, such as the Grand Canyon, one of us kids would have to jump out of the van and pose next to the sign because "No picture is complete without a person in it," my father always said.

I remember standing on a glacier in the middle of July thinking how crazy it was that my friends back home were sweating under the hot summer sun and I was standing on a glacier. My brother, Craig actually lost one of his shoes in that glacier - not cool. We hiked in the mountains and saw real live mountain goats and rams. We took the fur that stuck on the bushes as they ran through them as take-home souvenirs. My sister and I also collected little rocks from all the places we visited and spent the rest of the year shining them up. We still have some of those rocks today. Gee, I need to re-shine those...

All the wonderful and crazy memories of these trips could fill a book. And now to watch my nieces and nephews leave my house so excited about their grand adventure makes me nostalgic and appreciative of all the great adventures my parents took me on.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Together Forever!

Today is my birthday and one of my favorite things to do is call my younger sister and wish HER a Happy Birthday! Whoever calls first yells “Happy Birthday!!” The other laughs and yells back, “Happy Birthday to you too!”

I was due on the 1st of April and came a day late, then two years later, Amy was due on the 3rd and came a day early. What are the odds?

We spent our childhood years sitting next to each other at the table, with our respective cakes and matching presents. We opened our presents fast because we always knew we were getting the exact same thing – just in different colors.

As we grew up and moved out on our own, we always managed to spend the day together, just like old times. Once while out to dinner, Amy realized she had forgotten her I.D. We were hoping to share a bottle of wine, but looking as young as she did (does) she was having a hard time convincing the waiter to serve her. We explained that we were celebrating our birthdays – that they were on the same day. “Oh, you’re twins!”

“No" I said, "But, we were born on the same day. I'm just two years older than her." He looked completely confused.

Liars. Big fat liars! That’s what the waiter was thinking. We tried to explain how one of us came a day early and of one us came a day late, two years apart, but he wasn’t buying it, so no wine for Amy.

We’ve managed to get together and celebrate our big day even when we were living 12 hours apart, simply because it feels too weird not to. We did not celebrate my 30th together because her daughter, my god-daughter, was due early in the month and I wanted to fly out for the baptism later in the month, so greater priorities prevailed that year.

Today, my sis is coming for the day and we’re going to the salon to beautify ourselves. We are going to spend the day together because there’s nobody else we would rather spend it with than each other.

We are eternal best friends and I thank God everyday my parents decided to have another baby even after putting up with me. What a lucky girl I am!

Happy Birthday Sis!

I Love You!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Game On!

Okay, this Spinning thing has gotten completely out of control. I don’t know if it’s the New Year’s Resolution rush still in full swing or memberships to the gym just naturally increasing, but the spinning classes are the hottest thing at my gym right now and it’s popularity is totally messing with my plans.

A reservation of sorts, is required at my gym to get a bike in the class. One must sign up at the front desk for a bike ahead of time to insure a seat. There have been a few times lately, when I’ve arrived thirty minutes before class on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon and I’ve been shut out.

Getting a bike in Spinning class has become more like getting to the theatre an hour early to see a new release, or the mall on Black Friday at 4:30 in the morning to buy an Ipod (which I would never do), or waiting outside the call box for an hour to buy concert or Broadway tickets. These things I expect in life, but getting to the gym so prematurely for a spinning class is making my gym experience a little intense.

I have on occasion pulled into the parking lot, spotted someone I recognized from my class and immediately pegged them as a potential threat to my workout for the day. I’ve been known to speed walk – like the middle-aged women who waddle-walk fast down the street with their hips swaying from side to side and arms flailing wildly – and I’ve been known to pick it up to a cool jog, kind of like a warm up before the gym, but I have never gone to the extreme of making a mad dash for the door.

Today, I did what I will refer to as a warm-up sprint. It’s 5:37 in the morning – only eight minutes until the start of class – and I spot TWO potential threats emerging from the same car just two rows over. My paranoia set in and all I could think of was, “I did not get up this early to be shut out of class,” so I grabbed my stuff and did a mad dash for the entrance.

When I approached the front desk, there were only two spots left. I signed my name and breathed a sigh of relief. As a headed up to the Spinning Room, I started thinking about the two people who came in behind me. What if they were a couple who had got up early, planning to do a little spinning together? What if I wrecked their plans? What if I ruined their morning? I sort of felt bad.

As I got my bike adjusted for the ride ahead, I happened to spot the woman from the parking lot preparing her bike. The man she came with was nowhere to be found and I felt bad about that for a moment. But then as the class started I found myself thinking, “You know what? Maybe next time, he’ll know better and he too, will make a mad dash for the door, and then we’ll have ourselves a race!"

Game. On!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chocolate Love or Toast Love?

Many people blow off Valentine’s Day as some Hallmark holiday, but I think it’s a great opportunity to take a break from our busy lives and appreciate ALL the love we have in our lives. To me, it’s no different than honoring our family and friends at Christmas with gifts, or giving special Thanks on Turkey Day for everything we have, or taking a moment on Memorial Day to remember all those who have fought for our freedom. It would be great if we thought of these things every day, but life gets too busy, so these mini-holidays are perfect reminders of what’s truly important.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have found your True Love in life– I mean seriously, the one God had specifically designed just for you to meet, fall in love with, marry, and do laundry for for the rest of your life – if you’re one of those lucky monkeys, then this is not a day to take for granted. Love like that is what God intended for each and every one of us - some of us just have to wait a little longer than others to experience it. So, if you’ve found your True Love already, celebrate that today and do the laundry together!

If you’re one of those people who are dating someone and think that this might be the person you would like to do laundry for every day for all eternity, then maybe you too, have found your true love. But if you’re not sure, ask yourself this question, “Is this person chocolate or toast?”

Chocolate or Toast

For most of us, just thinking about chocolate can produce a physical and emotional response. We get giddy and excited just thinking about it. When we finally give in and have a taste, we find it hard to stop because we just can’t get enough – there's nothing else like it! When the chocolate is gone, we usually find ourselves dreaming of when we can have it again.

Now think of toast. You like toast, right? But I doubt that you crave toast or moan silently when you eat toast. Add a little butter and jelly and you’ve got yourself some tasty fiber, but I’m guessing your nights aren’t filled with dreams about the toast you‘re going to have for breakfast. And you know why? Because toast is just nice, but chocolate is pure magic! When it comes to love, you can either settle for the contentment of toast or hold out for the pure joy of chocolate.

So celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating ALL the love in your life, giving a little love away, and honoring True Love by waiting for it!

Remember: When you’ve truly found great love, it won’t be like your morning toast, it will be more like chocolate fondue.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Plea For Mercy

Today seemed like the first reasonable day to consider running my little black SUV through a car wash. The weather was warmer, and from top to bottom, salt had named itself the new color of my car. Even my Life is Good magnet had lost it‘s sparkle under all the grit and grime.

As I drove up and positioned myself to get in line, I went through my purse, looking for my five dollar bill. The basic car wash used to cost six dollars, but then a while ago they dropped it down to five, which is so much more convenient than six – and cheaper, obviously.

As I slowly inched my way up, I noticed the prices posted on the billboard and it looked like the basic wash was up to six dollars again – shoot! Oh well, I had exactly six dollars in my wallet, so I was okay.

Another two car lengths forward and now the billboard and it’s ever increasing prices were crystal clear – eight dollars. Whoa! I didn’t have eight dollars. And now I’m sandwiched between two cars, with no room to escape because we’re lined up like cattle in a shoot – nose to butt – with no wiggle room. I start rummaging through my car looking for two dollars in loose change, which is a particularly big challenge for me because I’m an anti-change girl– I just don’t like carting it around.

Whenever I can, I dump my spare change into jars, waiting for it to add up and morph into real money. In Canada, their one and two dollars are coins instead of bills, which is right at the top of a short list of why I could never live there. Can you imagine lugging around all those coins? They call them Loonies and Toonies, which is hilarious, but not funny enough for me to carry around all day. I must say though, Canadian men are probably the only guys who have a legitimate excuse for being a sagger – a man who wears low, low, low rise jeans.

Anyway…….After some serious digging and praying, I miraculously found enough stray quarters, dimes, and pennies to add another $1.57 to the pot. After panicking for a moment over the fact that I didn't have enough money, I sat back in my seat, took a deep breath and realized that these people could not deny me this wash. Once I pull up to the starting line, the only way out of here is through that car wash. My car was going to get it’s much needed shower today and that was that.

Of course, when it came time to hand over the cash, my brazen attitude was long gone. Instead, I greeted the kind woman with a sheepish grin and a pathetic plea for mercy. I only had $7.57. “Please have mercy on me.” I said.

“Sure Honey”, was her reply, “just come better prepared next time.”

“Absolutely! Thank you!” That was sweet!

As I came out on the other side, four men came at my car with their super-duper rags and dried it until it was nice and shiny and black again. They even asked me to brake for a moment so they could finish the job, and that’s when I noticed the tip box outside my window. “Was that always there?” I thought to myself. “Buggers. What do I do? What can I do?“ I could roll down my window and tell these nice gentlemen that I truly don’t have one single penny to give them – because they would sooo believe that, or I could just speed off and let them get right to their discussion about the cheap lady in the black car who couldn’t even spare a penny for a job well done.

I chose option number two……………...