This is My "Real" Blog: August 2008

Angie's Blog!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Buzz

Nope. It's not about a Vice Presidential nomination.
It's not about Britney, Paris, Lindsay, or K-Fed.
It's not even about the New Kids on the Block (reunion tour)

It's really about a BUZZ.

While making potato salad this afternoon, I had a "fly by" in my right ear. I brushed it off as a random bee that got in the house, and swore I'd get him when I was done.

Soon I noticed two bees, then three, then seven.

There's a nest. . .someplace. . . and the inmates are getting out.

Sigh. I'm off to kill some more. I'm up to six!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm Kicking Myself for not Answering the Phone!

Yeah, the rumors you've heard are true. John McCain called me first. . . I didn't answer because I didn't recognize the phone number on my caller ID.


Please bear with me as I attempt to put my genuine reaction to Sarah Palin's name being on the ticket for the Republican party into clear, coherent words.

Let me begin by saying that I am totally impressed by her resume -- spiritually, personally, academically, and politically. And, although I didn't get to hear her speech in its entirety -- Dude, she rocked.

However, this is one of those situations where I am a little nervous at the spotlight that may be shed on the Down syndrome community. I mean. . .the Phil Williams show has only been on for 48 minutes today (local talk show -- follows Rush Limbaugh) and I've heard the term "mongoloid" and "special needs" bantered around at least twice.

As cool as I think it is for a woman to be on the ticket. . .and as cool as I think it is that she and I are the same age. . . and as cool as I think it is that her son and my daughter share a special genetic connection. . . I'm feeling a little "skittish" about this news.

And, of course, I've been getting emails, notes on Facebook, and phone calls. Don't get me wrong--I'm not upset about them. Thanks, everyone.

But, I guess I'm leery of people assuming that the entire Down syndrome community (caretakers, family, etc.) is going to jump on the McCain/Palin bandwagon just because she has a family member with Down syndrome.

. . . need I remind everyone that the Kennedy/Shriver family has their hands deeply involved in Special Olympics because of a family member with Down syndrome?

. . .and there's congresswoman in Washington State whose son has Ds. And if memory serves, she's a democrat.

So, Sarah Palin isn't a "lock" for me -- just because her beautiful son has Ds.

These things . . . the fact that she's a Christian. . .a member of the NRA. . . a supporter of the troops. . .a successful businesswoman. . .an avid hunter & fishing enthusiast. . . and a butt-kicking mother of FIVE kids. . . a woman who's not afraid to shine the light on corruption (even when her family might be involved). . . .now those are some things that might get me excited.

So, yes, this is a monumental day. She's not the first woman to be on a ticket. . .but she's definitely turning heads. And, if it helps to advance the realization of the JOY of raising a child with Down syndrome. . .and helps us wave the banner of their abilities not their disabilities. . . well, that's just gonna be the icing on the red, white, and blue cake!

I have, however wondered (with a sneering grin on my face) what Ms. Clinton said when the news reached her.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

ThbBbBbBbBbffffffffffeeeeeewwwwwww!!! Or: Holy Cow. . . I'm tired.

But it was a good, good day.

I made it to my meeting in Downtown KnoxVegas -- and didn't even get lost! (I love that Tom-Tom dude) I was able to secure the police presence, and city engineers that are needed to make the Buddy Walk a success.

I did good.

Then, it was off to A.C. Moore to get supplies for a craft project thing-y at church. (Goes with Home-building Sunday) And yes, I *did* manage to find a few scrapbook papers that just had to come home with me. (snicker)

After A.C. Moore, I hit up Kohl's. Man, I loves me some Kohl's. Found a new slate placque for my kitchen, and a couple of thank you gifts for some special people. Then, it was off to Target for the things that I usually buy at Walmart. I can't explain it -- but it just felt better to buy toothpaste and deodorant at Target.

And, after all that, believe it or not, I was home by 12:30 p.m. I even stopped at my office to drop off/pick up a few things. Talk about your successful morning!

After lunch, it was Buddy Walk stuff -- I know, surprise, surprise.

Caroline and I ran to the Post Office and grocery store after she came home from school. I felt bad, because I lured her into the van by saying we were going to the "office" (which means MY office). Unfortunately, I meant the Post Office--and we didn't go inside. We just dropped the letters in the outside box.

When we left Kroger, and had loaded the car with groceries, she said, "Okay Mommy, go to office now?" Sigh. I'm a bad parent.

I thought the oatmeal/raisin cookie in the deli would detract her attention from a trip to the church, but alas, I was wrong. I told her that we were actually going home because Daddy and Edison would be there. (Shortly after our arrival) And, God love her heart -- she fell for it.

After coming home, she gleefully played with her puzzles, and watched Barney. I began unpacking the car of groceries, and started cooking dinner. I tried to imitate something I saw Rachael Ray do the other day. It wasn't half bad. . .if you don't hold the "no vegetables" against me.

I made seared pork chops (boneless). After searing them (and nearly burning them) I let them rest while I heated apricot preserves and soy sauce in their cooking pan (yum). I then put the chops back in that juice for more cooking.

Meanwhile, I cooked 1/2 box of whole wheat spaghetti -- and tossed it in a skillet where I'd been sauteeing green onions, garlic, mushrooms, and edamame (soy beans). After things were "tossed" I threw in some of the braising liquid from the chops (with the apricots) and some teriyaki sauce.

Oh. . .I also made rice, because I wasn't sure the boys would eat the noodles. But they did. Caroline scarfed down her rice and noodles. (This girl is made just like her mommy -- CARBO Queen!) She also managed to eat some pork --with nagging. All in all, it was very good.

We each had some form of chocolate for dessert -- you know, it's sort of a vegetable. Hello? Cocoa BEANS???!!!

Then, it was bathtime for Caroline--homework time for Edison--dishtime for Mark--and naptime for Angie.

That's right. . . I fell asleep watching a rerun of "Law & Order." I'd seen it before -- and it didn't involve Vinny. . .so it wasn't an abomination for me to fall asleep.

After that, Mark and I collectively helped Edison write his speech for the Student Government elections which are being held tomorrow. He was nominated for SGA Chaplain. I hope he gets it. The kid really does have some good leadership skills--especially when it comes to spiritual matters. I am praying that this will also give his self-esteem a little "kick-start."

I'm saying. . . being a woman isn't always like riding the Ferris Wheel at Coney Island. . .but I would NOT want to be a boy, and deal with the pressures of growing up. (sigh)

So, after he went to bed, I headed for the computer here. I'm scheming how I can get my hair cut tomorrow. If I have to, I'll wait until Saturday. But, I'm hoping for tomorrow. We're trying to decide about having a "small group" picnic on Sunday night. . .and I'm gearing up for a day at HOME tomorrow. Caroline has a 4-day weekend, so I won't be alone. But still, it will be nice to not have to go anywhere if I don't want to.

. . .yes, there ARE Buddy Walk things to do. Calls to make. Faxes to send. And I'll work on them. . .as I choose to. I'm going to enjoy my house tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing. (really) I've talked before (ad nauseum) about the virtues of Facebook. I cannot begin to say how much fun I've had since I signed up a few months ago. I have reconnected with friends from college, high school, junior high. . .you name it.

Well, two days ago, I was able to reconnect with my old buddy Dan. Dan is literally one of my favorite people in my entire life. He and I became friends late in high school. Maybe our junior or senior year...? I cannot even remember HOW -- because we seemed to have totally opposite interests. He was in band. I was in choir. He took German. I took Spanish. I think he did the Humanities track (2 years) and I did the college-prep reading and writing classes.

So, how we became friends is a mystery to me. But, while I was away at college, we began writing each other. He would come visit me when I was home on Spring and Winter breaks. He took me to see "The Christmas Story" in the theater. It wasn't a date. We were just good friends.

My favorite Dan memory -- and I wasn't there. . . he showed up at my parents' house when he thought I was home for Spring Break. I had actually been home the week before. However, the funny part? He showed up in a gorilla suit. . . knocked on the back dad answered the door, and all he said was, 'Hi, Dan!' Dan just hung his head, and shook it back and forth.

It could have been no one else.

Anyway -- Dan is on Facebook! I have not only gotten to catch up with him. . .I've met his beautiful wife, Sherry! Talk about amazing. Totally cool.

As we've written messages (LONG ONES) back and forth, I remembered why the letters he sent me in college were such a lifeline. . . they're HILARIOUS. I am going to attempt to cut & paste the last paragraph of today's message from Facebook. This is just one example of my crazy, zany, wonderful friend, Dan.

". . . to close, here is an amusing thought. . . .

What would happen if 1,000 people gathered in one space to simultaneously blow up and release their large party baloons? I'm not talking about the quaint helium-filled Hallmark-moment kind of experience. I'm talking one long sustained


I hope to orchestrate such a moment some day."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well, never mind!

My meeting was cancelled, almost literally, at the last minute.

I didn't mind, really. I ate pizza with the fam. .. frozen pizza. But, it was still good. Caroline ate her three little pieces -- and on the last one, she just pulled the cheese off, and started "gnawing" at it. Hilarious!

And, all through dinner, after dinner, during her bath, and in her pre-bedtime routine, she was being a little ham. Again, hilarious.

Maybe she was giddy because Mommy got to stay home, instead of go to a meeting...? Who knows?

I still have a meeting tomorrow morning -- downtown Knoxville. It's the City of Knoxville Special Events planning meeting. These people are really cool--and very kind. They realize that I'm a short, short puppy in some tall, tall weeds. They've been very gracious to me so far this year -- and with the walk looming just around the corner -- they're not giving up on me!

Other than that, tomorrow holds some promise for being a super-productive day without kids. Caroline has no school on Friday. Edison does. (I'm sure we'll hear about this) I still desperately need a haircut--and the biggest, seriously the biggest thing our church has ever done is going to happen in 10 days. I've got a lot to do to get ready for it.

So, even when the checklist for Buddy Walk gets progressively smaller, the work stuff keeps piling up and up and up.

OH? You want to know what we're doing? It's really cool

. . . we're going to build two houses for Habitat for Humanity on Sunday, September 7. . . in our church parking lot.

It's true. I wouldn't lie.

I'm very excited. I wouldn't lie.

And, for the people that aren't in a "house-building" mood, we're going to sew blankets for a mission in Mexico, make ornaments/door hangers for nursing home residents, construct some items for Buddy Walk, and cut out laminated stuff for local school teachers.

Sound cool? Yeah, I thought so.

But, all this speculating and planning is making me tired. So, it's goodnight -- for tonight! Have an awesome Thursday!!

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

It seems like meetings are going to be a recurring theme for me over the next couple of weeks. I'm about two -- count 'em -- one, two -- minutes away from a staff meeting this morning at church. Tonight, I have a Buddy Walk planning meeting. I think someone talked about some kind of meeting after church on Sunday. You can see how the list goes on and on. . .

So, if I appear to be MIA -- it's true. I'm probably in a "Meeting Involving Angie" someplace.


Please, pray.

Monday, August 25, 2008

There's Just No Way to Describe It. . .but I'll try!

Trying to describe our weekend working at Bristol is just too difficult. But, I've got lots of pictures, and two very sore knees, and two (continually) aching feet, so I will try. . .

When I came to TN in 1982, to enter college at Milligan, I guess I had heard of NASCAR. I didn't have any idea, however, the impact that the Fall Race at Bristol would make on a community, or a network of communities.

In upper East Tennessee, you are hard-pressed to find a hotel room within a 75-mile radius of Bristol, because of the races. . .especially the Fall race. And in 1982, the Fall race coincided with Orientation weekend. It didn't take the folks at Milligan long to figure out that changing the timing of orientation was beneficial. So, they did.

These days, it is nearly impossible to get through the town of Bristol during race weekend. Many of the locals leave town, and rent their houses out to race fans. I kid not. It's something that defies description.

Last year, DSAG (the Down syndrome support group with whom Mark and I work) were offered an opportunity to raise funds for our group by running a concession stand. We decided that it would be fun. We were right. What we didn't anticipate was the insane amount of work, time, and energy.

Last year? We raised about $1,500.
This year? We will probably double that amount.

For me, it's a chance to get sorta "up close and personal" to a sport I really love. And no, I still cannot explain why I love stock car racing so much. For those of you who have known me for years, I would imagine that this is quite a departure from what you would expect. But, it's just fun. I love it.

So, putting two things that I love together just seems natural. So, work we did. Here are the pictures:

This is Bristol. It's a sea of people for 4-5 days. Literally -- 160,000 people fit in the stands. Amazing.

Mark happened to get a picture of just some of the Goodyear tires that would be used for the race. Oh, and that's Ryan Newman's car behind the tires.

Here, Mark happened to catch my favorite driver (have I mentioned Jeff Burton before?) and his crew, as they're making their way out of the garage. (AT&T suits)

This is the stadium -- now picture every seat full. Yeah, that's Bristol.
While Mark was out getting me my new Jeff Burton shirt -- he loves me -- he saw Michael Waltrip at the Toyota booth. Michael was being interviewed -- but was enjoying "people watching" as much as he enjoyed being interviewed. I love this guy!!

My pictures aren't necessarily in any specific order . . .but this gives you some idea of what it's like. It's loud. It's exciting. The colors are bright. It's amazing.

And, for the first time, my mom got to catch a little "NASCAR Fever!" She really enjoyed the flyovers (there were four of them!) and hearing the roar of the engines. It's hard to describe.

Our responsibility was a concession booth where we sold: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, nachos, nachos supreme (meat, salsa & sour cream added), hot pretzels, popcorn, chips, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Gatorade, Dr. Pepper, Mt. Dew, Sweet Tea, Bud, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite, and, of course bottled water.

For the first time, we had a "beverage" booth across from the regular stand. I manned that booth most of the time for those two days. As a beverage stand, I had all the drink options and popcorn & chips. I also served as our group's "banker" which meant that I was responsible for counting all the money and preparing the deposits. That part was actually fun. You got "chauffered" around the track -- because they don't want you walking 1/2 mile with $10,000. So, I kind enjoyed being a "VIP" for the weekend!

This is the length of the regular booth. Six serving windows. Two prep lines (steamer tables). Kinda crowded -- kinda warm -- kinda cool!

Oh, remember what I said about people? Here's a little glimpse:

Yeah, I served half those people!

So, there you have Bristol, from my perspective, in a few pictures. I didn't do it justice, but I tried.

Oh, did I forget to tell the "Lick Daddy" story? Sorry. . . and yes, it is supposed to be "LIQ Daddy" but that's not nearly as exciting. Here's the scoop. . . .

Part of our booth's responsiblity was not only the "beverage" tent that I manned. . .but also a small cooler with "Liq" pops. Yes, that's right. We pandered to the lowest common denominator and peddled Margarita and Strawberry Daquiri flavored popsicles.

To make matters worse, the marketing campaign manager (we called him the PIMP) brought 3 hired models by to "hang around" the Liq Bar and market them to the consumers or would-be consumers. I think the picture says it all. . . .

And yes, if you look closely, that is a somewhat disgusted look on my face. I believe one of my first comments was something like: "A healthy self-esteem is highly overrated!"

So, needless to say, some of the gentlemen in our concession booth were more than willing to man the Liq bar while the "Liq Girls" were there. Mark actually spent some "quality" time with Aleshia. (What an airhead) And, while he was being the benevolent "mentor," as it were, many pictures were taken of him. This set about the evolution of his new nickname "Liq Boy." Then, when Edison arrived at the track -- it somehow evolved into "Liq Daddy." But again, it made you more curious when I mis-spelled "liq" didn't it?

Yeah, I decided that the women's movement was set back 40 years by the presence of these (hussy) girls. But, it was a pretty lucrative marketing strategy for the company. How do I know? Well. . .we sold over 40 Liq bars on Friday. On Saturday. . .no girls. We sold seven bars. Need I say more?

In other news. . .there's a new phrase being uttered around our house.

It goes something (exactly) like this:

"I. . .do. . .by. . .self!" (I'll do it by myself)

This applies to everything from eating breakfast. . .to climbing in and out of her carseat. . .from taking off her clothes. . . to getting into bed. And, for the record, I love the independence and self-motivation. But, when you're ready to get in the house, and you've really got to use the potty, and you feel like you're going to just burst if you don't get in the house soon. . . well then, it drives you nuts.

I gave a "mother's perspective" presentation at South College today for some nursing students. (Hi, Megan!!) It was an awesome experience. Their professor (Hi, Linda!) wanted these nursing students to get a heart-to-heart "lesson" from mothers who have experience the anguish and joy of receiving their child's diagnosis of Down syndrome.

I tell you, every time I get to talk about Caroline in a setting like this, I cannot help but cry. I think it's just the absolute LOVE that swells within my heart -- and knowing that my sharing might change the way these students will talk to, and relate to parents in the future. . .well that part just blesses me in more ways than I can really express. These students had great questions for us -- they wanted to see our kids' pictures -- they hugged us. (Well, Megan hugged me!) They cherished our opinions, and listened to our stories. That made it all worthwhile.

I keep praying for more opportunities like this -- because I truly believe that's the reason we have Caroline. Sure, we've got her to love, and nurture, and raise to be a godly woman. But, she's also given us an opportunity to make an impact in the world -- and to show God's love in very unique ways.

Kinda makes me celebrate everytime I hear, "I . . .do. . .by. . .self!"

. . . .ya know???

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Um. . . . .

I cannot remember a time when I have been this tired.

I promise to blog tomorrow.
I promise pictures.
I promise funny stories about Mark's new nickname "Lick" Daddy

But, I promise, if I tried to blog now, it would be pretty ugly.

Good night, my dear friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We'll just pretend yesterday didn't happen.

Right Beth?

If I was one of those crazy people (Sorry, chick) who promised to blog every day, I'd be in sorry shape. One, because I would've welched out big time on a commitment, but "B" because I would be under unspeakable amounts of pressure.

Kinda like today. . . I have one hour until Caroline gets home. In that hour, I need to:

Put away dishes I just washed
Put away clean clothes
Sweep the floors
Finish packing
Sort out shirts for the Hookers, Suiters, Carmen, Kathy & Andrea
Deliver shirts & parking info to Carmen
Take shirts & parking info to the Hookers
Get Caroline off the bus
Go to the grocery store -- we need milk.
Load the car
Make my bed. . . you know, the pillow part
Pack Caroline's clothes for Friday/Saturday/Sunday

. . .and there's probably 15 other things I need to do, as well.

So, all that to say -- I'll be seeing you on Sunday afternoon. We're headed to Bristol Motor Speedway -- the world's most dangerous 1/2 mile. . . .racing the way it oughta be!

DSAG is going to run a concession stand. . .just like last year. We're going to peddle hot dogs, burgers, nachos, popcorn, hot pretzels, sodas, coffee, and yes. . . beer (in various forms). It's a lot of fun. You get to flirt with the rednecks. (Hey -- don't judge . . .there are "tip" jars, and all that money goes straight to the kids!) You get to watch qualifying, practice, and some of the "real" race -- when the 160,000 paying fans are in their seats.

And, you get to be exhausted. I'm already not looking forward to that part. But again. . . .

it's for the kids.

Speaking of kids. . . . let's see, what are this week's highlights?!?!

Caroline started preschool today -- the bus came for her at 7:15 this morning. That's right. . .I've been vertical since 7 am., which is normally unheard of for me. I have a feeling I'm going to sleep on the way to Bristol.

Her bus driver is so very sweet. She (Caroline) was excited to go to school. She'll be home around 3:45 this afternoon. I know. . .it's a long day. But, there's naptime built into that schedule. We'll see how it goes. I have pictures. . .but you've read what my day is like. I shouldn't even be typing this . . .much less putting it in italics.

Edison? Well, the 'honor' student/football star decided he didn't want to walk, or jog around the football field (not even the entire perimeter) yesterday, to he decided to "jump" the fence. He missed. . . ripped his shirt, and scratched the crap out of his inner arm.

Yeah, we're busting with pride.

Until Sunday, my dears. . . .have a blissful weekend!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I Said. . . and would say again. . .

You may be new to my blog.
See this post.
(You have to go all the way down to the "Edited to Add" part)

Monday, August 18, 2008

You can simply call me "Mike!"

I am not blogging about Michael Phelps. It's been done.
I am not blogging about my children. Well, at least not tonight.

I am blogging about some of my wonderful friends.
These friends have said some wonderful things about me.
I didn't pay them.

From time to time, blog awards are presented by other bloggers. I have received some awards over the past couple of days (and weeks, sorry!) and up until tonight, I haven't posted the awards.

That, tonight, it changing.

Here they are. . . there are three of them.
One might be gold. . .one, silver. . . one bronze (following that Olympic theme)

My friend, Judy, gave me this award. I love it. And, for the record, I love her blog, too.

My friend, Kate, awarded me this beauty. Honestly, she awarded it to me a couple of weeks ago. I have been busy -- and forgot to put this on my blog. Sorry about that, Kate! It's still a very precious award.

(In last night's post, I mentioned a "Hall of Fame" group -- Lexie is Kate's beautiful daughter with Down syndrome)

I received this award from both Kate and Christy. I never think of my blog as brilliant -- but it means alot that people take the time to come by and read. Christy even said on her blog that she reads my blog every day. (That means a lot to me. .. of course, it also makes me feel guilty on those days when I don't blog!)

And, if I'm honest. . . I read the blogs that you see on the right. . .every day. Sometimes, I read them twice -- just hoping for updates. (Not meant to add pressure...I'm just being honest!)

Now. . . protocol says that with blog awards, you are to forward these awards to your favorite blogs. If I have learned anything in 12 years of ministry, I have learned that you NEVER publish a list of people -- because you're bound to leave someone off, and hurt their feelings.

So, I'm going to say a humble "thank you" to Kate, Judy, and Christy for awarding my little blog with these beauties. And, please know that if I have listed a blog on the right, it's because not only do *I* enjoy these blogs, but I think you will, too.

I am going to sign off pretty quickly tonight. I'm sure I have more to say -- but I'm out of energy. I woke up this morning with either a sprained ankle, or a heel spur. I haven't a clue what I've done. But, I am grateful for some "leftover pharmaceuticals" from surgeries in my recent past. As they begin to kick in. . . it's becoming clear that I need to sign out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This One's for You, Beth!

In my previous post, I mentioned the fact that blog posts will be "hit or miss" for the next couple of months. . . until we get through Buddy Walk. I will honestly do my best to blog on a regular basis. I wish it could be every day -- but it's just not going to happen. So, I'll give a brief weekend update (not the SNL kind) and a look ahead to the coming week. It's gonna be a doozy!

This past week was Edison's first week of school. And, like you might imagine, he survived. He somehow managed to get to school on time each day -- despite oversleeping one day. His uniform choices (khaki shorts/blue shirt . . or blue shorts/white shirt) were surprising. You see, in the past, he has almost exclusively worn the khaki/blue combination, and left the white shirts to (literally) rot in his closet. This week, I believe I saw two, not just one, but TWO white shirts head out the door. (I'm still in bed when he leaves -- Mark gets him out the door, then I get up for round #2)

However, all those bets will be off this week, because Caroline starts school on Thursday. Mark went to her orientation on Thursday night -- and really liked the new teacher. She has a son with autism, so her ability to identify with us as parents of a child with special needs will be a huge blessing this year. We're looking forward to really great things.

At this point, we don't know when Caroline's bus will arrive -- but with school starting at 8:30 a.m., and it being 20 miles away -- I'm guessing we'll be walking her to the bus at 7:30 a.m. (sigh . . and yes, it will be ME, because Mark will be taking Edison to school by then)

When her school starts, she will go five days each week -- four to school, and one to her Parent's Day Out program. This will be her last year for both of these programs. Next year it's time for KINDERGARTEN. (I'm still in denial on this one)

So, I'm looking forward to the end of this week, which sounds bad. But, it has become difficult to "manage" the two sides of my life (home & work. . not to mention DSAG/Buddy Walk) with kids at home. Once we get back in that school routine, I really think things will settle down some. Now, don't get me wrong--they will still be busy--but there will be a regularity that will be comforting.

On Thursday, Mark and I are traveling over to Bristol, TN for NASCAR weekend. No, we do NOT have tickets for either of the races, but we are working in a concession booth (like last year) to raise money for DSAG. It's probably one of the most tiring events we do, but it is totally worth it. This year, in addition to our four friends who went last year, we are bringing about six or seven other people from church to help out. The cool part? During qualifying and practice, you get to sneak up into the stands and watch your favorite drivers. It's amazing.

Me? A favorite driver? Well, I guess I do have one. . . . and, I'm looking forward to seeing that bright orange AT&T car. He won the spring race at Bristol -- and I'll go absolutely berserk if he wins the fall race, too. We'll see. But, Thursday night, it's all about training and inventory in our booth. We'll also get to spy out some of the drivers practicing. I'm looking forward to that. . . and to taking lots of pictures along the way.

Sunday will be good -- I've taken the day "off" and am turning the worship leadership over to a young man from Johnson Bible College. He's a great worship leader -- and he's going to work with my exisiting band. I'm excited to see what they come up with for Sunday.

Other than that, we *think* Edison has a game on Tuesday night. . .we're not sure. (Yeah, private Christian schools are TOTALLY the way to go -- sometimes!) And, of course, there are many Buddy Walk "activities" on my to-do list for the week.

And, if I may. . .let me give you something to think about:

For the last week or so, there has been a lot of talk (picketing/boycotting) about the new movie "Tropic Thunder" starring Ben Stiller. In this movie, the "R" word is used not only repeatedly, but PURPOSELY. There is a story within the story about an actor who portrays a developmentally disabled young man -- to the point where they show movie posters and clips (or so we've been told) within the context of the movie.

The characters within the movie (while liberally using the R word) go so far as to say something like, ". . .now you've gone full retard. . ." or something equally appalling. And, when approached by many concerned individuals representing developmentally challenged people, the actors, the studio, the advertisers. . . EVERYONE took the stance of: "It's not real because it's what a character is portraying in the movie. . ." and refused to change anything. They even have started printing T-shirts with the phrase "Going Full Retard" on them. Yeah, it's a great time to be alive.

Okay -- so here's where I'm at with this.

In the same way that evil will never completely be conquered until Jesus returns, some of this struggle is never going to end. Years ago, the "n" word became nearly illegal to say. (Let's face it, a man got away with two murders because of the word)

I cannot imagine this, but I remember saying (or hearing) that word when I was growing up. I think when I first said it, it was purely innocent, because I'd heard it at school. But, if I'm not mistaken, my parents quickly and efficiently taught me that such words were not ever to be spoken. And, it stopped.

Unfortunately, it is seen as funny, or has been accepted as "colloquial" to say the word "retarded," or "retard," in casual, everyday conversation. And, to someone who studies language, it does mean slow. In music, the terms "ritardando" or "ritard." mean to slow down. But, to use the term as a way of teasing or poking fun at someone -- regardless of whether they have a delay or not -- is unspeakably offensive to me and to my daughter.

Am I going to be able to stop it? Probably not.
Will my boycotting the movie make any difference? Nope.
Could I have picketed the movie? Sure. But, I didn't.

I guess it's got something to do with the way I was created. I want people to stop using that word. I really do. But, for me, sharing my heart in small groups, or one-on-one seems to be the best way for me to stem the tide against the "r" word.

I remember one of my college professors saying to me that some of the best teachers aren't necessarily the "A" students. Most "A" students get the answers right without really having to know why. But, a teacher who was a "B" or "C" student had to work at the "how's and why's" before they could master something. I was a "B" student, mostly. My approach has always been to share and explain when trying to teach or retrain someone.

Look at it this way. . .

Caroline's Trisomy-21 diagnosis is just that--a diagnosis, not a definition. It's part of her overall genetic structure. This structure was designed by a Master Creator. He knew, long before time began, that there would be a Caroline. He knew that she would be wonderful. He knew that she would be delightful. He knew that she would captivate hearts the minute someone meets her. He also knew that she would have an extra 21st chromosome. He knew that this would affect every cell in her body -- including those that govern her mental and physical development.

He knew that she would be labeled as mentally retarded. And yet, he lovingly created her anyway. And, for some reason that still escapes me at times. . . he decided that I was worthy to be her mommy. I don't know why. I feel so inadequate at times. But, I'm not mad, or disappointed.

Oh, there are days when I get sad. There are times when I realize that her peer group is developing faster than she is -- and that eventually, she will be left behind by some of the kids she considers her 'friends' now. And that literally breaks my heart.

But God provides. I know now -- in the same way that I pray for Edison's wife -- God is preparing 1 or 2 very special friends for Caroline. These are friends that she may know now; or she may not know them. I know that they will be people who will accept her despite her delays, and they will cherish her and befriend her so that she won't be lonely. They may have Down syndrome, too. They may not. Like I said, I don't know who they are at this time -- but I pray for them.

Caroline offers absolute, unconditional love and acceptance. And I pray that it will be offered back to her. We get looks when we walk through the grocery store -- but just as often, I get asked where she is if I go shopping alone. Sometimes people give me a "oh, you poor thing" look when they see us out in public -- and I swear, God seems to always give me an opportunity to either laugh with Caroline, or hear her say something totally amazing (with amazing clarity) just to prove that it's not a pitiful situation.

Caroline's got big things in front of her -- diagnosis or not. She's got amazing potential. She's got a sense of humor. . . a halfway decent sense of rhythm. . . and an appreciation for music that absolutely fills my heart with joy.

. . . and if I could, that is why I would ask Ben Stiller not to use that word in his movie. Or make T-shirts with that phrase on it. I really am offended by the blatant use of the word "retarded" in society -- but more than that offense, I am heartbroken that the world is given such a limited view of kids and adults like Caroline . . and Henry. . .and Jenni. . .and Morgan. . .and Anthony. . .and Lexi.

Because, until they know a Caroline, they just won't get it. Yeah, that's what I'd say . . .but I could never get all of that on a picket sign.

Friday, August 15, 2008

This is How it's Gonna Be

. . .these intermittent posts. Yep, it's reality until October 6.

What, you may ask, is the significance of October 6? That's the day after Buddy Walk. I will be human again on that day.

Of course, we will still be in the midst of fall/winter stuff at church. And, both kids will be busy with their stuff.

. . .but I'll be done.

Today was spent traveling down to Children's Hospital -- to pick up the posters. And yes, Caroline is one of the "poster kids" again this year. It's what happens when your mom is on the committee.

After picking them up, we went upstairs to Dr. Jennings' office. Of course, Caroline ran right in -- and jumped in his lap when she saw him in a dark office. He was reading results of someone's child's test -- and my child decided she wanted to "play." Amazing. He's so patient.

So, after a quick visit, we headed out to West Knoxville to deliver some more posters to another one of our corporate sponsors. She was totally thrilled to meet Caroline. I tacked on a couple more errands, and then we were home. It was a 6-hour trip. . . and Caroline is a real trooper.

But, I fear this is what the near future holds for me. It will be worth it in the end. And, hopefully, our efforts will not be in vain.

But until then, I am going to be somewhat sporadic in my posts. Forgive me?

. . .thanks!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Game on!

Edison's first football game took place tonight. It was a scrimmage, so it was a shortened version, and probably not as closely refereed as the "official" games will be. But still. . . .

They scored THREE touchdowns!

I don't think -- in the past two years that he has played -- that I have witnessed even ONE touchdown by his team, so this was monumental.

Caroline wasn't a big fan of the whistles -- but at one point, tried to run out on the field. So, it cannot be all bad, can it? Here are some pictures. . . .

It was certainly easier to know which one was Edison. . .by the "tail" he tucked in his pants. It's a boy thing, I suppose. I have NO clue what its purpose was--other than to 'clue me in' on his whereabouts on the field!

Yeah. . . "enchanted" would be one way to describe Caroline's reaction to the game. She actually enjoyed the cheerleaders more than the players. . . .go figure.

Kinda hard to tell--but he's the center -- the one holding the ball.

My baby boy is growing up way too fast! Mark said the cheerleaders were keeping an eye on him. I didn't see that. . .and usually I catch on pretty quickly to hussies eyeing my boy. But, I was also in "mother bear" mode because some of those opposing players were BIG.

Backtracking a bit. . .

I failed to put some pictures on the blog from our visit with the Swither's family on Sunday. They're down here -- well, in Pigeon Forge, actually -- for a family reunion with Steve's family. Having them at our house is like a family reunion.

Her boys were entranced with southern accents. They were "affected" by the desk clerk at their hotel on Saturday night. (I would DIE to know what they thought when they visited Dollywood this week!)

Here are some lovely (I think -- haven't taken them off the camera yet) picture. Enjoy!!

When I got home from church, the kids were already watching the Olympics. When we got done with lunch. . . back to China we went!

Becca and Caroline spent some quality time in the sunroom. Becca is their only daughter -- four brothers. Such a saint she is! And, Caroline loved the individual attention.

We attempted a group picture of both families. Of course, we had to interrupt the impromptu "Super Bowl" that erupted in the front yard. At some point, one of the boys said, "Hey Mom! Look at those MOUNTAINS!" We are blessed--we forget, sometimes--but, we are truly blessed.

This is their BEAUTIFUL family. From L to R: Isaac, Sam (tall head in back), Jake, Julaine, Joey, Steve, Becca. I miss them so!!!

We have joked for many years that we are each other's best friend. I don't know if she still claims me as one, but in all my years, I have known very few people who allow me to be totally myself. I love you, girl! And yes, she IS stooping down to be on "my level" because she's that kind of friend.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Now THAT is some food to clap about!


We had dinner out at a new Japanese restaurant tonight. YUM.

It kinda scared the HOOEY out of Caroline when they set the word "HOT" on fire on the grill. I think I still have the fingernail imprints on the back of my neck from where she grabbed on for dear life. I had the filet and shrimp. The fried rice was AMAZING. The veggies were delicious. The salad dressing? I ordered the ginger dressing. Mistake. Next time, I'll get the shrimp dressing.

Oh well. . .lessons learned.

When the chef was done cooking our meal, we clapped for him. He deserved it. Hot grill. . . 11 people. . . each order different. . . he deserved our applause.

This afternoon, after leaving work, I spent the afternoon here at the computer -- watching/listening to the Food Network while feverishly working on details for the Buddy Walk. It's getting closer and closer, and I'm getting more and more nervous as time progresses. I have an awesome team working with me, but still. . . . there are lots of details to iron out before October 5 gets here. So, until then, I may be a bit frenzied.

I noticed something kinda bizarre while watching the "glutton channel" this afternoon. From 2-3 p.m., Emeril LIVE! is on. I like Emeril. He cracks me up. He appears to be a very good chef. And, for the most part, the recipes he cooks on his show(s) seem to be quite delicious.

The bizarre thing? Every time Emeril declares that he's cooking with garlic, the audience goes up for grabs.

Ginger? No response
Soy sauce? Nothing
Shallots? Silence

But garlic? You'd think it was an audience full of vampire victims. They completely come unglued.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like garlic. I like its bread. I like its sauce. I like it roasted. I like it minced and fried crispy. I'm all about the garlic. . . bad breath notwithstanding. But I cannot remember the last time I stood up and cheered for it.

. . . of course, I've never had Emeril cooking with it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Quirky. . . me? Never.

My buddy Lois (not her real name, by the way) tagged me in a meme. I like this one. It's about quirks. Do I have quirks? We're about to find out.

Rules for this meme are as follows:

1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Mention the rules.
3) Tell six quirky yet boring, unspectacular details about myself.
4) Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.
5) Go to each person’s blog and leave a comment that lets them know they’ve been tagged.

Okay, here goes. . .

1) I have to take my shower in order. . . I have to wash my hair first, then do the body wash thing. Otherwise, I have been known to forget to wash my hair -- and that is unthinkable.

2) Another bathroom quirk. . . I have to brush my teeth immediately after getting out of the shower. This goes back to a morning radio show I used to listen to in Chicago (I'm a Kev-Head) where the sidekick said that she always brushed her teeth after getting out of the shower because if she wouldn't have, that would have been one part of her that was unclean. (It kinda stuck with me)

3) When putting dishes away in my kitchen, it drives me nuts when people (Mark and Edison) do not "nest" the measuring cups in order. Those things have GOT to be put back the way they belong.

4) When I'm driving, and I am lost or trying to figure out where I'm going, I turn down my radio. I'm not sure why -- I just do.

5) Many times during a meeting, or listening to a sermon, if I don't have my hands busy, I will type a "transcription" of the message, or the discussion.

6) When falling asleep at night (unless I'm totally exhausted, or on drugs) I have to lay in three distinct sleeping positions before falling asleep. . . .on my left side, on my back, on my right side. Then, I'm off to sleep!

Okay, so now that you think I'm completely looney, do it yourself. I'm tagging the following people because I am dying of curiosity to see what their "quirks" are!

That Chick
and, of course. . .the favorite brother-in-law.

If I did not link you, please don't be offended. I'm tired, and to be honest, a bit lazy today. Anyone is welcome to do this. If you don't have a blog, leave me comments with your quirks.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Star is Born

We enjoyed our time at Country Tonight. . .tonight. Here are some pictures. I'm exhausted -- and there's still a lot to do before tomorrow! Good night!!

Caroline demonstrating her harmonica abilities to Mike Caldwell (Musical Director - and Harmonica player). He's been giving Dad harmonica lessons for the past 2 -3 years.

Caroline "stealing" the mic away from Kevin Wilson, our dear friend (and show host). Every time he came out to the audience, he waved at Caroline. Of course, she waved back -- and I believe kinda developed a little "crush" on Kevin. (Who could blame her?)

Then, there was Bubba. He's the comic relief -- and boy, he does his job well. Here he was singing "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love" because, really, *could* a night at a Country Music Show be complete without it?

. . .and yes, they did sing "Rocky Top."

I miss having Kevin at our church. He was always a great "go-to" guy for solo work. Amazing voice. . .and again, have I mentioned? He's pretty easy on the eyes.

Whether or not you enjoy country music, this is a great show. There's a salute to the men & women serving overseas (now), and a tribute to veterans. (That part always makes me cry) Here, during the finale, they're singing "God Bless the U.S.A." (and again, I'm always driven to tears)

Great night! Enjoy the pics!


God's Kinda Funny Like That

I think I've titled an entry like this previously. But honestly? I'm too tired and too pressed for time to go check.

I'm somewhere between madly getting the house ready for company tomorrow. . . and getting ready to go out tonight with my extended family. My sister and brother-in-law and their kids are here for a visit with our family. Tonight, we are going to Country Tonight, which is a theater in Pigeon Forge. We go annually. . . as Dad is taking harmonica lessons from Mike Caldwell, the musical director (Mike gets us free tickets!)

Mike has a surprise in store for him tonight, however. Caroline now "plays" Grandpa's harmonica -- even fanning her fingers for effect. Pretty cute. We hope she'll do it for Mike. We'll see.

Today was Caroline's favorite babysitter's wedding. . . and day that I dreaded for a long time. Brittany was a little girl when we moved here. She got married today. It felt like the beginning of the end. From this point on, all the weddings are going to be of kids that aren't that much older than Edison. . . and I can't stand that!

Here are a few pictures. First, the bride and groom. . .

Then it's time for the Father/Daughter dance. . .

Dancing to Steven Curtis Chapman's "Cinderella" (yeah, I was a mess during this one!)

This would be me. . .sometime between the Father/Daughter dance and the Mother/Son dance. I'm telling you--this wedding got to me!

But it was a beautiful day. Gorgeous weather. Oh, and today's title? Well. Sigh. This one's for me.

You see. . . I played the piano for this wedding. And, the particular piano I got to play is a Baldwin Grand. It's got a lovely sound. Lots of resonant bass notes. Really sweet. Everything was going well. I was very pleased with the musical selections I chose. And, in my estimation, it was a success. That's when it happened.

After the grandparents were escorted in (to the tune of "Great is Thy Faithfulness"). I finished the song. . . hit the last note. . . and one of the fingers on my left hand brushed a note that was NOT in the song. . . or even in a related key.

Yes, my friends, it was the "Clam Heard 'Round the World." And I deserved it. I was feeling way too good about my own performance, and God reminded me that this was not about me.

I've already asked the videographer to edit the note out of the video. Here's a picture of the two of us discussing my mistake.

Yeah. Proud moment for me. . . but as they say: Pride goes before a fall.

. . .and in my case, it was a LOUD fall!

Here's my favorite picture of the day. . .


Friday, August 08, 2008

When You Try to Talk with Your Tongue in Your Cheek. . . . often bite your tongue. So here it is. I'm laying it out for everyone to read (all 15 of you).

I have deleted a recent post which has caused some turmoil in the blogging community. When I posted last week about being 'excused' from the Muter's blogroll, I was not mad. Nor, was I soliciting any defense or ammunition against him. I was being sarcastic.

Yes. It gets me in trouble.

Honestly? I felt bad because I failed to meet a deadline. I don't like missing deadlines.

So. . . .for those of you who have been confused by the whole ordeal, please know that I bear NO anger or malice against Jake. In fact, I wrote him a very nice email before writing this post, encouraging him to continue his site. It's a lot of fun. He has lots of great ideas. I just had an exceptionally busy couple of weeks, and I wasn't able to keep up with his assignments.

But please don't think that I am starting some sort of campaign against him. . . and Jake, if you're reading this. . . .I wasn't mad.

Now, I really have to get in the shower, and get Edison down to Ross the Boss for a haircut. They're about to recruit him for the girl's soccer team.

. . . .kidding.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm a "Demanding" Woman, What Can I Say?

When we moved to our house last year, we transferred our cable over from the old house. I will gladly admit that part of the motivation for us to have cable was the fact that NASCAR races aren't always on network television.

In fact, there was, I believe, a 7-week stretch last year, when they were on cable stations. I just couldn't accept that as my reality. So, my wonderful husband indulged me and I only miss races when I choose to.

I am choosing to miss a race this weekend because we have friends coming to town, and after they head to their vacation spot in Pigeon Forge, we will spend time with my sister and her family. There are times for which I am glad to miss a race. Friends and family always win out.

But, lest you think I am a total saint, you need to remember that this week, they are racing in Watkins Glen (NY). It's a road-course race. (I don't like road courses.) So, please remove the hypothetical halo that you've placed over my graying-head. It would fall off, otherwise.

We have also enjoyed some of the spoils of cable television in the form of Noggin (Preschool shows on TV 24 hours!!) Can you say "watch this when your kid is up in the middle of the night?" I thought you could. And then there's Cable TV on Demand. This was truly a gift of the gods.

If I wanted to -- right now -- I could walk over, take the remote out of Mark's hand, and watch the Finale of the Next Food Network Star (which I missed when it aired.) I know who won, so it's kind of a moot point, but still . . .I can do it if I want to.

Yesterday, I got demanding about my demands. That particular feature wasn't working. I called the cable company. They sent out a repairman this morning. THIS MORNING. By 10 a.m., we were watching Max & Ruby on Demand. They weren't on the regular schedule. . .but we could "call them up" and watch them when we wanted to.

A little power is a dangerous thing. But, I'm glad I've got it. (bwaa haa haa haa!)

Since starting this blog, I have always been forthright with my readers. I haven't held back. (I rarely keep secrets -- to my son's chagrin) So, it seems like a natural time and place to share what's going on in my life right now.

Facebook is amazing. 'Nuff said.

I have connected and re-connected with friends from GRADE SCHOOL through Facebook. If we happen to be online at the same time, we "chat" live. I have reminisced, laughed, cried, and taken several walks down memory lane since joining Facebook. I really love it. (And no, we are NOT allowing Edison to have an account. . . calm down!)

But last night, I chatted with a friend from college. Pam and I haven't seen each other in over 22 years. We were able to talk, laugh, share, and remember some great (and not-so-great) times just by being online at the same time. (I know -- IM is nothing new, indulge me.)

But, as we talked, our conversation crept over into our health. Pam is one of my taller friends. Yes. . . I know everyone is taller than me. Pam is seriously taller than me. As we talked about being in our 40s, we talked about body image, weight issues, and the struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle while chasing around two kids -- and raising a family.

As we shared, we both agreed that going it alone is difficult, if not impossible. So, we agreed to be accountable to each other -- and we're going to email on Mondays to talk about our weeks. Just knowing that I would be writing to her (and confessing) gave me the gumption to eat better today.

I have been struggling with getting back on track. And, it seems every time I decide that I want to start eating healthy again, someone at church stops me and asks me how much weight I've lost. And here's where I get frustrated with myself -- even though I KNOW I have been mis-behaving, I allow their "compliments" to give me license to continue in some very bad habits I've re-established.

So today? Well, today was different.

I actually ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I know for some, this seems elementary. But, I've fallen into a habit of eating breakfast burritos at various fast-food places. (I'm especially fond of the McDonald's McSkillet Burrito) I have no idea how many points one of those bad boys has. . .but I'm done eating them for a LONG, LONG time.

Lunch today was out with the kids -- our last hurrah before school starts. Wendy's chili and a baked potato made a very nice lunch. Another bowl of (high-fiber/low points) cereal was my afternoon snack, and dinner was a big bowl of grapes and a bagel with low-fat swiss cheese spread.

Could I have eaten more veggies? Sure. I'll eat more of them tomorrow.
Could I have eaten less bread? Sure. I'll try to do that tomorrow as well.
Could I have drunk more water? Yep. Again -- I get to hit "restart" tomorrow.

So. There it is. I'm laying it out there. I'm back on the bandwagon. It's time. It's been more than time for a long time. And now, I've got people who are going to demand (see what I did there?) that I remain accountable with them.

Happy Weekend, everyone! With all of the goings on we've got around here, I very likely won't blog again until Monday. We'll see.

(I miss you, Beth!)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Holy Shrimp Boil, Batman!!

Okay, first of all. . . be very, very careful when using Pig Latin. Especially if you decide to pronounce the word GLASS! That's all I'm saying....

We had an awesome time tonight with Jules and her family. Jane & Stan had invited our whole family (Mom & Dad included) for a shrimp boil. If you have never experienced a Low Country Shrimp Boil. . .it's a thing of beauty.

New Potatoes
Corn on the Cob
Smoked Sausage
Beer (or chicken broth)

Put 'em in a pot.
Boil 'em.
Eat 'em up.

Seriously good stuff. There's a bit of spice in the sauce -- and it permeates the food. But, oh my goodness, is it worth it!

We also enjoyed garlic bread, homemade cocktail sauce, Mark's favorite zucchini chocolate chip cake, and watermelon from Gibson County, Indiana. Gibson County is, by the way, the watermelon capital of the world. Be impressed.

When we got there, the kids were playing out back -- shooting at bubbles being generated from an oscilating fan -- with squirt guns.

Yep, it was hilarious. And fun.

We met Drew and Owen, the Brock grandsons. So charming. . .and so individual. Drew is a natural-born entertainer. Owen is a bit more reserved. . . but has the most beautiful blue eyes I've seen in a long time.

We eventually made it to dinner. . . ate like nobody's business. . . and then Edison begged for dessert. Of course, he took one bite, decided it was "bitter" and gave me his piece of cake. (It's a chocolate spice cake -- no bacon or tofu) His loss.

After dinner, we made our way to the back porch where Caroline and Drew decided to go for a "midnight" swim (9:00 p.m. is midnight in Caroline's world) Of course, the entire time they were swimming and splashing, Edison, Jane, and Grandma (mom) were squirting everyone else with water pistols.

We managed to eke out a few more pictures before the evening was over. And yes, I was trying to bring a conversation to a close involving broken glass and hypodermic needles (not Mark's favorite topics) and I shouted out, "Ix-nay on the Ass-glay."

Yeah, I was proud. I was humiliated. I laughed out loud. And, I knew I'd made an impression, when Edison leans over to me, and simply says: "Smooth, Mom."

My kid finds me funny. . . even if it is at my own expense.

Spouse update -- Mark is able to drive -- and be social. He was very well-behaved tonight, and only got "hit" once by Drew. He didn't know. . . he was being a 4-year old. Mark winced. Drew apologized. Mark survived.

It was still an AWESOME night, groin injuries notwithstanding. And yes, it was another chapter in the "Bloggin' Summer of '08!"

Julie and I talked a little about that tonight. It is still so amazing to me -- the relationships that have come into my life through blogging. I have met so many people -- IN PERSON -- this year that I did not know two years ago. And, through Facebook and blogging, I have reconnected with college friends that I truly cherished, but let slip away because of time and life changes.

Friendships. . . relationships. . .brother- and sisterhood. . . these things are so life-affirming! Cherish your friends. Nurture your relationships. Feed your friendships. You will be blessed. I promise.

Oh? You wanted to see pictures? Shucks. I kinda knew that!

The "bubble-water pistol" game. Edison was ducking from being shot.

Caroline's "Midnight Swim" in the pool.

Yeah. We're so proud.

These two have waited a while to meet each other.

Randy and Mark did the "you take my picture, I'll take yours" dance for everyone.

Again. . .one of the great highlights of my summer. Jules, thanks so much! We had such a wonderful time!!!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Isn't She Lovely? (Warning: Long (overdue) post. . . but there are pictures!)

Who is "she?"
Who can "she" be?
There are lots of possibilities.
The "she" be many different people/places/things.

This is the first "she" and she be Judy.

Let me pause here to just reflect on what a blessing this year - especially the summer - has been for me. When we traveled to Illinois in July, I was able to meet up with Christy and her kids. I was also able to get "reconnected" with our friends in Wheaton. I was also able to reconnect with Doug & Kim (such laughs. . .such laughs). I was also able to reconnect with my best friend from junior high (that's what we called it back then) Sue. I was also able to reconnect with one of my dearest friends, Karen, from church back in the day.

So, this wasn't any ordinary vacation. For me, it was a chance to rekindle some relationships, and celebrate the path that I have traveled, lo, these many years.

But, I digress. Surprised? I thought not.

Since coming back home, I feel like I haven't stopped walking/running/jogging through the hoops of my general day-to-day life. Don't get me wrong -- I love my life -- but it's a busy one. And, although my word for the year is "Simplify" I have done precious little to make that word my true definition for the year.

A couple weeks ago, one of my blog friends mentioned that they'd be driving through Tennessee on their way to visit one of their (eleven!!) kids. Judy (Mid-Life Bliss) and I met earlier this year through, we believe, Joni's blog. We are both guessing that Joni is our "common denominator" in the blogosphere.

So....when Judy mentioned that she and Jim would be driving through TN on their way to NC to visit Jake, I casually mentioned that I-40 runs through Knoxville on its way from Nashville to parts & cities east of here.

Guess what happened?

That's right. . . this past Sunday afternoon (and after the week we've had, it seems like YEARS AGO) Judy & Jim met up with our little family at the Cracker Barrel out on Straw Plains Pike! It was so much fun. In so many ways, I felt like I was back on vacation -- reminisching with an old friend. And yet, so much of our conversation was spent getting Jim and Mark "caught up" on each others' families. But we had an awesome time.

Judy -- thank you so much for "getting brave" with me. I love the fact that the minute you came through that door, I knew it was you -- and I could see that you recognized me, too. So very, very cool.

Next on my list of blog friends to see. . .? Well, that would be Julie. She and Randy (and the boys) are coming to visit Jane & Stan, and we're going to have a shrimp boil out at Stan & Jane's on Tuesday night with my parents. Should be lots of fun . . .and lots of delicious food. Who could ask for more?

After that. . . .well, Steve & Julaine (friends from Wheaton) are coming through on Saturday the 9th. We're going to meet up with them on Saturday--and they'll be coming to church with us on Sunday (Hi Julaine!). They, along with their five kids will come over to our house after church for some sort of food "freeforall!" It will be lots of fun. . .loads of laughs. . .and hopefully, we won't push their daughter Becca too far. She and Caroline (separated by 12 years or so) will be the ONLY girls here -- amidst five boys ranging in age from 10 to 17. Yeah, it's going to be Testosterone Central here, but I cannot wait!

THEN. . .I know, you thought I was done, but I'm not. My sister and her husband and kids are coming for a visit that same weekend. So, we'll do "family stuff" including Edison's first football game for the year! Did I mention that his school starts a week from Monday! Yikes!!!

AND there's a good chance that one of our friends from our childhood will be "driving through" on her way from Nebraska to Hilton Head, of all places. So, we will get to see Kim and her five kids, hopefully as they make their cross-country trek!

See? That was its own blog post. But you know me. . . I started a theme here, and I'll be dipped and fried before I'm going to give up on it!

"Isn't she lovely. .. isn't she wonderful?" So, who is she?

Well, in this scenario. . . let's call "she" my new oven! That's right, the wonderful men from Lowe's delivered "Vera" my new stainless steel range yesterday -- while I was at work. Mark and Edison kept a close eye on things as she was delivered. Here you see Vera's predecessor and Vera. Isn't she lovely??

Will I really call her Vera? Most likely not. But, it was the first name that sprung to my mind. I suppose other names would be appropriate. . . say, "Blanche?"

Sorry, it's been a long week.

I did use her tonight for the first time. I baked some muffins -- and to my delight -- they didn't stick or burn on the bottom. The house does kind of have that "new oven" smell. It's not as scrumptious as "new car" smell. There's a few "things" that needed to be baked out of the oven. . . in another day or so, it should be fine.

Okay, the last two title references will be a bit more personal. For one, remember this. . .?

Well, last week -- almost two weeks ago -- Edison's braces came off. It's amazing how his smile has changed, and how he smiles more often. I remember that feeling. It was totally worth it. What a cutie!

Then, the last "Isn't She Lovely" has to be Caroline. I know it's been a while since I have posted a picture -- or even scrapped a page of her. (Let's just be clear here -- I haven't done any scrapbooking since I came back from my "trip" out to Sevierville. That makes me sad.)

Here are a few pics I took at the Cracker Barrel on Sunday, when we were waiting for the valet (Mark) to bring the car around.

And the others would be pictures of Caroline and Dr. Jennings, her wonderful cardiologist. We had an amazing visit with him the other day. What a great guy!

Oh. . I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Mark is doing some better after his surgery. Still not ready to go out and run a marathon, or anything. But, he's getting there.

AND. . . .I would be remiss if I didn't mention (and show you) what one of my beloved co-workers (and his wife) put on my desk while I was gone for Mark's surgery. You have to be a fan of The Office to really appreciate it.

Yes, that is jello. And yes, that is my stapler suspended inside the jello. I guess this makes me Dwight, eh? Sigh.

And the last thing?
How did this happen?
How did five years of the show "Monk" occur and I didn't catch on? I am now totally obsessed with Monk. I love it. Edison loves it. Mark is beginning to like it.

I'm not going to abandon my first-loves when it comes to television. . . Law & Order and Law & Order:CI. But still. . . .Adrian Monk, where have you been all my adult-TV-watching life? Holy cow, that show is funny.

I guess that's it. I hope I made you hum a little. . .laugh a little. . .smile a little.

"Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful?
Isn't she precious?
Less than one minute old. . . "
Believe it or not, I'm editing this -- I thought you should know that the muffins were a hit. The first batch (that's right, I made more than one batch) was out of a mix. But, the 2nd batch was homemade raisin bran muffins (yum!) and they turned out beautiful, as well.