Friday, June 30, 2006

Papa and his sibs

Wednesday night we went to say "good-bye" to Aunt Sharon. It was the first time in a long time that Papa and all his brothers and sisters were together at the same time. Even though we didn't feel like smiling, we took advantage of being together and got a lovely photograph of the siblings.

Left to right: Tony, Papa (Fred), Theresa, Jim, Mary Ann and Bill.

A good lookin' family, don'tcha think?

Lots of love to all of you from Beggar 4-1-1.

Ohio Pix

I have been remiss in posting images to the blog, so I decided that I'd just bang out a bunch this morning and be done with it. Here are some photographs from the Ohio trip.

I do believe I am the palest person in this photograph.
Thanks to the Winkler Family for making me look like a ghost.
Haven't you people heard of sun block?

Someone thought it would be funny if Zoe dunked.
Apparently she's really good at it.
Nike is signing her to endorse a new line: Air Zozo.

Ah, good ol' Mushroom and Carrot.
Mushroom's alcohol content level is sky-high by this point.

Further evidence of Mushroom's intoxication.

Wow, so this is what they teach at the World's Finest School of Journalism.
Hey Cabbage, are aces high or low?
And thanks for finally updating your blog, buddy!

Who says drunks can't be productive?
This Beeramid was proudly assembled, beer by beer,
to the tune of the Olympic Anthem,
follwed by a tribute to the World Cup, "Goooooooooal!"

"Ya'all drink a bunch of beer, and you put me in the play pen?!"

When we're all packed in the car, this is the view I get when I turn around in the front seat.
How lucky am I?!

Judging by the look on Zoe's face, I'd guess Bob just tooted.

Zozo and Daddy, in front of the carousel she wasn't allowed to ride because she didn't have socks or shoes. Hmmm, future volleyball star or a five-minute carousel ride...
We'll go with volleyball. More scholarship potential that way.

I have many more images, but I figured this will hold you over for now. I'll try to post more later. Maybe. If I feel like it.

Disclaimer: No computer program was used to determine the images used in this blog post. I just picked the ones I liked. So there.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I have many, many pet peeves. I'm a rather impatient person (I know you all are flabbergasted to read that), and so I have very little patience with stupid people, people who cannot communicate, lazy people, mean people, people who lie, cheat or steal, etc. Shoot 'em all and be done with it, I always say.

In my job I have the unenviable task of receiving all the general inquiries that come in off our Web site. I must review each one and then determine the proper person to field the inquiry, sending it off to be handled.

I've seen all kinds of requests. Someone wrote in once at midnight, wanting to cancel her 8 a.m. appointment (we open at 8) and saying that she shouldn't be charged the late cancellation fee because she was giving us notice. Yes, because we have someone here at the spa at midnight, monitoring e-mails to make sure we can field your request.

Sometimes I get folks writing in that they received a gift certificate 15 years ago and they lost it and just now found it and could we please still honor it even though it clearly says that it expired 14 years ago.

This afternoon, I received the type of message that just gets me all steamed. A woman who works at a local law firm sent this message (I'm not correcting typos or anything...just straight cutting and pasting so you get the full effect, but I am changing the color to red because I want to be clear that this is not something I wrote):

I'm wanting to know do you have something for a group of girl three are four....... Like some kind of package deal,,,, You would a spa party......

WTF? What is that? Do you want a spa party for a group of three or four girls, or girls who are three or four years old? Or, according to how she typed it, a group of one girl, singular. Three is not four, no matter how you slice it, and it's not proper grammar to say "three are four" anyway. It should be three is four. Which is idiotic because, as I stated before, three is not, and can never be, four. And what exactly does "You would a spa party......." mean, anyway?

Maybe I can hire one of the lawyers at her firm to sue her for wasting my time with her inane stupidity. That was her entire e-mail, as well. No salutation, no idea of timing, no way to contact her except to hit "reply," which virtually guarantees a flurry of illiterate mumblings coming from her instead of a single telephone call to answer her questions and make arrangements if she so chooses.

I was a good marketing doobie, though, and forwarded her message on to the appropriate person, our events coordinator, for response.

But I really wanted to reply, "I'm sorry, but our spa is reserved entirely for those people who can actually communicate. Please feel free to try one of other spas in our community who won't be annoyed by your illegible requests."

It's a fine, fine day in Aimville.


Sometimes, every once in awhile, little things happen that remind you just how good your life is, even when things seem a little rough.

Tonight Papa, Beans, M and I drove to Rolla for Aunt Sharon's funeral. My heart broke for Uncle Bill, because I could see his heartbreak in his eyes. He and Aunt Sharon have been married for 44 years. 44 years. Wow. I haven't even been alive that long. Steffi called and I told her, "They've been married 44 years. I can't imagine how he's feeling right now." And Stef replied, "Yeah, but think of how cool it is that they got 44 years together." Snap. Just like that, my mindset changed. Even though I still felt sadness and anguish for Uncle Bill, I also knew how incredibly lucky he's been to spend 44 years with his love. Some people never find the love of their life, and he not only found her, he got 44 years with her.

While visiting with everyone, Aunt Theresa mentioned that she was sending Pheobe out to buy a disposable camera to get a photo of the siblings. I said, "Don't do that! I have my digital right here!" We rounded them all up: Bill, Jim, Papa, Mary Ann, Theresa and Tony and took them outside. Found a nice background, lined them up, and made a few images. Snap. Literally and figuratively. There were the brothers and sisters, normally scattered all about, pulled together in a time of crisis when one of them needed support. You could almost see the love radiating between them, and you could definitely feel it. We agreed that Grandma was looking down from heaven, clapping her hands in delight that they were all together, even though it was under tragic circumstances.

Beano checked in regularly with Shawn on Mom's status, as she underwent back surgery today and he was her personal driver and Gran's companion for most of the day. The surgery center ended up keeping Mom overnight, which I tend to think is for the best. At one point, when Shawn was going back to pick up Gran and take her home for the evening, he told Katie, "I'm gonna see what's up...maybe they'll release her and she can go home tonight. It's really expensive there. If she needs fluids, I can push fluids!" (Shawn is an EMT, so he really can push fluids, whatever "pushing fluids" means.) Snap. Right there, it hit me. That was my future brother-in-law, stepping in when needed, no questions asked, no griping, taking care of my mother (and, in turn, taking care of my sister), worrying about her having to pay too much and offering to personally care for her. How wonderful is it that Beano and Shawn found each other?! They are like two peas in a pod, and I'm so, so thankful that they have each other and are getting married in February. (Thank you, Shawn, for everything you did today. You went above and beyond the call of duty and I love you for it!)

We went to see Mom after getting back in town around 10:30 p.m. She's in a lovely new surgery center, and the two evening nurses were just wonderful. We had to call to find the place (did you realize the Junior League is no longer where the Junior League was? Or if they are still there, that part of their building is now the Frontenac Surgery Center? Yeah, neither did we.), and the nurse who spoke with M and gave him specific directions actually met us at the door. The other one got us each a big cup of ice water. Snap. I left knowing that my mom was in extremely capable and caring hands tonight.

Zozo is spending the night at her Grandma Z's tonight, as we got back so late and didn't want to keep Grandma up waiting for us or disturb Zo's slumber. Thank you to Grandma for watching her all night for us, so we could be with Papa and the rest of our family.

So, it's been a long day, and night. M is already sound asleep, and I'm ready for bed, too. Wanted to post something tonight, though, because I know if I don't I'll get a call from Beano at 8 a.m. when she gets Mom home, "When are you updating your blog?" Yeah, sometimes I'd like to snap her! That's what sisters are for, eh? Love you Beano! Bing Bong!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thanks for the memories...

Ahhhh...a "normal" night, finally. We came home, picked up Zo, made some dinner and hung out in the library. Listening to the Cards lose yet again. They could still come back...we're only halfway through the game at this point, but judging how we've been playing...yeesh. Played some blocks, some Leapfrog globe, some Fisher Price stacker thingy. M and I were climbed on by our little monkey, both of us trying hard not to laugh so much that we'd shake her off.

She's had her nite-nite ba-ba and is down now, sleeping peacefully, and most certainly not in the same position we laid her.

So. I'm tired and too lazy to dump the images from the weekend, format and post. I'll simply do my thank you list.

1. Thanks to the OH Z Fam for hosting us this weekend.
2. Thanks to Grandma Z for being on-the-road nanny to Zozo.
3. Thanks to Aunt Shelly for the awesome barbecue sauce.
4. Thanks to Uncle Jim for the fantastic pizza at La Rosa's Sunday after King's Island.
5. Thanks to Rob for the Steak 'n Shake Monday on the way home.
6. Thanks to Aunt Shelly and Grandma Z for the sunblock after we forgot our swim bag.
7. Thanks to Dad and Judy for watching the kitties while we were gone.
8. Thanks to Grammy and Beans for keeping us in the loop about Aunt Sharon.
9. Thanks to Aunt Chris and Uncle Mark for the beautiful baptism gifts for Zoe.
10. Thanks to Steffi for calling me at midnight to commiserate on the Cards sucky playing.

And, of course, I'm thankful for the great weather, reliable transportation, loving family, good accomodations, delicious food, well-behaved child, time off from my awesome job, and everything else that conspired to give us a wonderful weekend away from home.

Tomorrow will be another short day as far as posting to the blog. We're day-tripping to Rolla for Aunt Sharon's funeral. (Thanks in advance to Grandma Z for watching Zozo.) Keep those prayers coming, and tack on another one for my mama, as she's undergoing outpatient (!) back surgery tomorrow. I fail to see how any back surgery can be outpatient, but they'll do just about anything to keep you from staying the night any more.

Quote of the Day:
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
-Abraham Lincoln

Cleaning House

Back to work today, and it feels good to have some "normalness" return. Lots going on at the spa, which I love, because it means we're busy and more clients are coming and going and that's typically pretty good for business.

I'd always much rather be busy at work than slow. When you're slow, the day seems to just drag out forever. But when you're busy, it's over in no time, and you feel productive. I'm happiest when I'm productive.

On the home front, I'm about to "get productive" on all our junk. Usually about once a quarter, I get fed up with the stuff we've accumulated and decided that much of it simply has to go. I do a major clean-up, and throw out (or donate, actually) a ton of stuff. We then feel pared down, lean and mean, organized and simplified. I haven't gotten to do my "crap purge" in awhile, what with the pregnancy and preparing for Zozo's arrival, then actually becoming a parent, and you can see it in our house. We have way too much stuff!

When we were walking around King's Island on Sunday, I saw another parent pushing a tot in a stroller. There was an adorable stuffed monkey hanging on the stroller with "Paramount's King's Island" printed on its belly. Very cute. My immediate thought was, "Oh, Zozo needs one of those for her stroller!" I checked in with M and we decided to take a few minutes to walk through one of the gift shops in the park and see if we could find something. A few minutes later, having not even made it into a shop yet, we looked at each other and said, "We don't really need anything, do we? Let's not." Instead, all we brought home was some great memories and a few images on the digicam. These things take up much less room than a toy that Zozo will probably never play with and will end up being donated to Salvation Army in 20 years, after having been shuffled around our house collecting dust.

We've gotten pretty good at not purchasing things just to purchase them. Typically, we purchase only consumables (food, bathroom supplies, etc.) on a regular basis. I've learned that the only reason to bring something home is if you really, really, love it, will use it regularly, and if you'd regret not purchasing it for the rest of your life. So, the non-consumables we buy tend to be art, music, photography gear (me) and Christmas decs (M). We wrap our memories around images and experiential items (art and music), not roller coaster coasters.

But, right now, I've got well over a year's worth of crap that's built up in my house. It's time to simplify, simplify, simplify. Now, if I could only find a spare day or two...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Well, we're finally back to the humble abode after what felt like three and a half days of go go go.

Friday night I had my event at our OF spa, and it went extremely well. I should say it went extremely well on our part. The spa shone, the staff was awesome, and we had a blast. Unfortunately, the BJC folks had a horrible no-show rate for guests. I recommended they double-book for next year. I'd rather deal with a crowd than too few people.

Despite the low turn-out, the event got started late, which meant it ended late, which put me on the road home late, which made our start for OH late. We didn't leave the house until 9:15 p.m., and it was pedal-to-the-metal all the way. Only three brief stops: one for some Taco Bell for my dinner, one to switch drivers so M could get some rest, and the last one to switch back. Those last two were literally made on the shoulder of the highway...we weren't foolin' around!

Just past the Wabash River, just before Terre Haute, the ZoMobile turned 100,000 miles. I was behind the wheel at the time, and watched the odometer blip up. I patted her dashboard and thanked her for being so good and reliable and comfortable, and she responded by just humming along with her cruise set at 78 mph. My car is awesome.

Even with the good time we made, we rolled into Blue Ash (outside of Cincy) at around 3:45 a.m. their time. Checked in, got Zozo situated, and passed out.

Saturday we hung out with the family, and by noon had managed to check off one of the big must-do's on my list: lunch at Skyline Chili. Mmmmm. If you haven't had Skyline Chili, well, you're missing quite a treat. It's different than traditional chili, or Steak 'n Shake chili, or O.T. Hodge's chili, all of which I love. I can't explain'll just have to drive to Ohio and try it yourself! That afternoon it was back to the hotel for a brief nap for Zozo (and yours truly), while M went to mass with the fam, then back again to the OH Z house for some more hangin' out and a few rounds of corn hole. Corn hole is the Cincy version of washers. You have a rectangle of plywood with a round hole cut in it, sitting at an angle, and you try to toss bean bags into the hole. One point for landing on the wood (and staying there), and three points for making the hole. Loads of fun, and I must say I play better when I'm slightly intoxicated.

That night was Cousin Angie's graduation party at "her" pool in Wyoming, OH (she's the pool manager). Congratulations, Angie! We're so proud of you for working your tushie off and getting your degree! Oh yeah, and good luck getting your new pool!

The evening was quite interesting, as Grandma Z took care of Zozo while her parents drank some beer. Then some more beer. Then a little more. We weren't alone in our endeavors, though. It was a family effort and the 2006 beeramid was formed. I have photographs, of course, but am too tired to download, format and post tonight. Will hopefully get to them tomorrow night. A few words from the evening: mushroom... mushroom... mushroom... rhubarb! Who's up for a round of cannonball?! Hey, are aces high or low?

Oh, and one last note about that night: while I seem to get better at throwing the bean bags in corn hole while slightly inebriated, I am much slower in dodging them. This is bad when someone else (Mushroom!) gets horribly bad aim after drinking a few beers and lobs a beanbag in my direction. My bicep still hurts, you drunken vegetable!

Sunday was the trip to King's Island, which was a blast as usual. I rode almost every ride that everyone else did, with the exception of The Vortex, and only because that one came on the heels of the phone call that the St. Louis family was pulling Aunt Sharon off life support and that made me feel a little queasy. Oh, and I didn't ride Son of Beast when just a few of us did, simply because I've ridden it before and didn't feel like getting the tar beat out of me again. That ride is just horrible. I also skipped Delirium, but had ridden that one before too, and didn't feel the need to give myself the willies again. I did get to ride The Italian Job twice, though, which is an awesome little ride where the cars look just like little Mini Coopers. Very cool, especially given my fascination with Minis.

We had a perfect day at KI (second time in a row!), with beautiful weather and hardly any lines. Near the end we went to put Zoe on the carousel, but the Ride Nazi said she couldn't get on with no shoes or socks. We had left her socks at the hotel (it was freakin' 90 degrees!) and she doesn't wear shoes, so it was no rides for Zozo. Well, except for the Great Stroller Coaster, which carted her cute little butt around all day.

Zoe was a champ the entire weekend. She rarely fussed, and went with the flow for food and bottles. She slept soundly at the pool the night of Angie's party (in her pack 'n play in Ang's office), and at the hotel all three nights. She's a rockin' baby, and yes, we know we are so fortunate and blessed that she's so good. We like to take some credit for it, being her parents and all.

Today was the drive home, which would've gone considerably faster without an hour and a half delay outside of Terre Haute for some resurfacing on the highway. Other than that, things went rather smoothly and we were home by 6.

I have a list of thank you's a mile long, and probably tons more things to share, but I'm tired as heck and ready to hit the sack. M's just turned in, and I'm right behind him.

It'll be good to get back to the grind tomorrow!

One last note: thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers for Aunt Sharon. She passed away on Sunday afternoon after a long fight. Keep praying for my family, please, and especially for Uncle Bill. Thank you.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Everything but the kitchen sink. On second thought, let's take that, too.

Why is it that packing for a trip is such a pain in the patootie that it almost outweighs the value of actually going on the trip?

I made my packing list, being the anal-retentive person I am, and so we went down the list last night and again this morning, checking everything off as we went. So, it wasn't stressful (except for our daily fight about stepping on kitty litter all the time), but still, there are far better things I'd rather be doing (like vacuuming to avoid the daily fight about stepping on kitty litter all the time).

So, we have our various bags. Our shoes bag, our "things that could leak and mess up everything else" bag, our pool towels bag, our clothes bag, our toiletries bag, the camera bag, Zozo's bag. My work tote is now pulling second shift as the "all things rechargeable" bag, and contains chargers for two digital cameras, a cell phone and the iPod. It's a mess o' wires in there, and I'm not looking forward to having to pull something out. I could go through and tie them up all neatly with rubberbands, but I'd rather post something to the blog.

We're all staged and ready to go, with the biggies stacked neatly by the garage door, and the furrables stacked neatly in our bedroom. Furrables are those luggage pieces that our kitties find irresistable to lay upon, thereby depositing more fur than they keep on their bodies. We keep furrables away from the furry creatures as much as possible, and have tape rollers stashed everywhere to combat those times they sneak through.

I have to run to Sam's today to get things for our event tonight, then I have to go unload the Sam's stuff, and set up for the event, and get all hot and stinky. Then I change my clothes, try to tone down the stinkiness, and meet 'n greet for a couple of hours, throwing in a bit of public speaking (hate that, but am getting better at it the more I do it. I hate it when M is right.). Then I get to clean everything up, hop in my car, and zoom home, so we can load it all up and drive for five hours. Needless to say, it's going to be a looooong day. Probably won't get a chance to post any more after this today, so many apologies in advance. Our hotel supposedly has wireless internet, so hopefully I'll get a chance to put a little something out now and then over the weekend.

Pet peeve of the day: receiving e-mails from "professionals" who can't spell tomorrow. She consistently types "tommarrow." Not even close. Seriously, what do you think the little red squiggly line under "tommarrow" means? Spell check is indeed a wonderful thing...if only she would use it.

How to tell you're a mommy.

I kept having trouble finding things in my bag today. Important things like keys, sunglasses, cell phone. So finally I took everything out to see what I could see. Along with the essential items listed above, I also found a ring of brightly colored plastic keys (not mine, but I'll give you one guess as to who owns them), one of M's ties, multiple kleenexes (some used, some not, but all wadded), the iTrip for the iPod (but no iPod), and the small photo album of Zoe pix that I like to cart around to show off, but is woefully out of date now and desperately needs new images.

My bag is not that large, but apparently, it's large enough to hold all sorts of items I don't need on a daily basis.

So I'm thinking I have achieved ultimate mommyhood: the overloaded handbag.

Here are two images from this morning. It's a late night, and all I could do. Although I did go all artsy fartsy on this one, just for the heck of it. The one above just made me chuckle. Shortly after it was made I got tiny fingerprints on the filter in front of my lens. This is precisely why God created filters.

Zoe Grace holds her Gerber Daisy from Grandma's funeral.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Zozo loves peas...but not that much!

Busy morning, but good. I got Zozo all to myself because M had to be at work early for some training, and Mom Z had to deliver Dad Z to Meramac this morning for a meeting before he departs on a business trip. I told her that she didn't have to be back until around 8, so Zozo and I played in the library for a bit before I took her over. I made some pictures of her holding her Gerber daisy from Grandma's funeral and think I got some good ones. I probably won't have time to dump them, format them, and publish them tonight, but will as soon as I get the chance.

She did great with the flower until the very end, when I heard a bunch of the petals being pulled off as I was checking images on the camera. The daisy went back in its water (what was left of it), the dismembered petals went in the trash, and Zozo's hands went under the faucet. It was so fun to just hang out with my little girl and not have to share her with anyone. I was a selfish mommy!

Went by the bank on the way in to deposit some checks, then to Shop 'n Save where I irritated a checker by making her scan $28.24 worth of little jars of baby food. There wasn't a single other person checking out in any of the lanes, so I just ignored her glare and went to bag my peas, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and other assorted meals. She had asked, "Are these all the same?" and then huffed when I told her no. I should have explained that I don't feel it's healthy to feed my child only peas.

Off to some meetings...I'll try to write more later!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Repeating the Repetitive Repetition

Nothing much new to report tonight, and no new images to post. We actually had a very nice, relaxing evening. Well, except for that part where M ran around cutting the yard. It looks great out there; he's done a wonderful job getting the lawn to look good despite the efforts of local kids to keep it torn up with their cars.

One of my most favorite "church songs" was played at Grandma's funeral yesterday. It's called "Shepherd Me O God" and it's by Marty Haugen. I tried to find a good link to post here so you could listen to it yourself, but instead I found an entire section of the Catholic population devoted to an anti-Marty Haugen movement. Wow. I was surprised. I like some of his stuff, and dislike some of it (mainly due to a certain self-righteous liturgical dancer at our old parish), but I never thought to start a Web site about it. Apparently there are those members of the Catholic Church who feel that Mr. Haugen's music is too contemporary, and that the Church needs to stick with the music from its heritage. Like the Church doesn't have more important things to worry about (Dan Brown's works of fiction, for instance).

If you would like to find a snippet of that song, you can try googling it yourself and see what you come up with. I found bits here and there, but nothing to write home about. You can hear a little on iTunes, if you so choose.

Zozo has added a new sound to her repertoire. She clicks now. She does that child thing where she finds something new and then does it over and over because it's new and she likes the sound. Apparently she has a few years before she grows out of that, because while on the phone with Beano last night Joey was yelling from his bath, "I'm gonna miss Shrek because I'm in the bath in the bath in the bath in the bath in the bath!"

Hmmm. I don't think I have anything else, really. It's almost 9:30, and I think I'll just get ready for bed and work on a crossword puzzle. Falling asleep by 10 sounds just divine.

No news on Aunt Sharon. Just keep prayin'.

Cookies. Yum.

Well, well, well. My "don't F with me" mood has produced some interesting results, mostly pretty good.

The nastygram this morning got the attention of some muckity-mucks at the recipient's company, and things are being fixed, including the rescheduling of an event from next Wednesday night to three weeks from today, giving me some much-needed breathing room.

Have also found out that my nemesis at the spa (can you have a nemesis at a day spa?! probably not, but I like to be dramatic) is under the microscope by management. That makes me giggle. Hee hee. But I only giggle to myself, because I'm now part of management and it's unseemly for management to giggle at someone else's misfortune. Even if she did bring it on herself.

I have finished my Caesar salad lunch, and it was quite good, but I think I could kill someone with my breath. I'd go brush my teeth, but I'm awaiting the delivery of half a chocolate chip cookie, nuked of course, to simulate that "fresh baked" smell and taste. Mmmm. Chocolate.

Speaking of cookies...we had ourselves a mystery here at the spa this morning. Our events coordinator set out a tray of cookies in our meeting room for a corporate retreat taking place in there today. They were wrapped in cello and were clearly there for an event. Well, apparently not so clearly, as there were enough missing this morning that she had to make an emergency run to the store to replenish the tray. We have two employees caught on video (they all know we have a video surveillance system, so how can they be so stupid?) going into an arranged meeting room and coming out munching. That makes me laugh, too.

Still no word on Aunt Sharon, so I'm going to assume that means she's still fightin'. You go, girl. You always were one tough cookie.

Put a fork in me; I'm done.

So dawns another day, and hopefully things will get better. Because we can't take much more of them getting worse!

Aunt Sharon held her own through the night, which is a miracle. She's in sort of a limbo state, I guess you could say. If she survives, she'll be on dialysis (they had to remove a "dead" kidney) and something else...I can't remember the name.

Aunt Sharon and Uncle Bill have been together since she was 15, and she's now in her early-mid sixties. Basically, she's been around a loooong time, and is very loved. I can't imagine how those closer to her are coping with this.

Can't get into my Yahoo mail account, so if any of ya'all have e-mailed me, sorry for not responding. Hopefully Yahoo will fix it soon so I can check.

Back at work, which is a refreshing change of pace from the wake and funeral, but stressful in that I have a couple-two-three key events going on in the next week. And we're supposed to relax this weekend. Not sure when I'm gonna pack, but I guess I'll fit it in sometime. Who needs sleep, anyway?!

Grammy and Papa are exhausted, M is beat, Beans is drained, and I'm runnin' on fumes. When it rains, it pours, and baby, it's a torrential downpour right now.

There are some bright spots:
1. Zozo. 'Nuf said.
2. My events at work are all planned; all I have to do is execute.
3. I am surrounded by family and friends who love and support me.
4. Came in today to a fax addressed to me but mutilating my last name. It happens all the time, and the variations always crack me up.
5. I got to write and send a nastygram to an external person this morning, AND copy her boss on it. Yeah! Don't {insert f-bomb here} with me today.

That's all I got for this morning. I have a management meeting over lunch (Caesar salad...yummy!) so I won't be blogging again until tonight. Perhaps I should pack instead of blog...hmmmmm.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

God Bless Grandma G

We laid Grandma G to rest today. She had a lovely mass at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Chapel, with a very cool priest who I think is Father Rosy, who is listed as the pastor on the archdiocese Web site, so I'm assuming that was him. He wore cowboy boots, and was able to very nicely relate Grandma's life to that of Jesus, with a little humor sprinkled here and there. I liked him very much, and wish I knew his name for sure so I can give the correct priest credit where credit is due. Sometimes cool priests seem few and far in between in the Catholic Church, so when I find one, I like to give him a shout-out. Many thanks to Aunt Teresa for making all the arrangements for the wake, funeral and mass. I know it was incredibly tough for her to do, given how close she was to Grandma.

Uncle Jim wrote and read an amazing eulogy. I requested that he e-mail it to me, and by golly he already has. I will post it here, after a few images. He says more in a few lines than any of us has said all weekend, and I'm so grateful I have something to post here that so aptly describes what a wonderful woman Grandma was.

I took some photographs today to document Grandma's house, because I don't know when/if I'll be back before it is sold. I'll post one of those, and one I got of some of the family. Aunt Teresa and Aunt Mary Ann graciously let me select two of Grandma's paintings for our home. I'm so thankful, and look forward to hanging them, probably in our library. I took a couple snaps of them to post here, but please keep in mind that I cannot do them justice as a.) I am not technically proficient to photograph fine art justly and b.) my eyes are hurting from crying so I'm not sure how focused these are. I will title them as art museums title works they display, because I think they are just beautiful and worthy of proper catalog.

Update on Aunt Sharon: after many valiant attempts by her doctors and nurses, the excruciatingly difficult decision was made by her immediate family this evening to let her go. They are at the hospital now, waiting for the end, which should come in a matter of hours. God bless them all. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers...please keep them coming for this entire family.

Grandma's House, at 25 S. S. Ave.
This is where Grandma lived most of her life,
and where Papa and his siblings grew up,
so it's a very special place indeed.

Some of our family after Grandma's funeral.
From left, and relationship to Grandma:
Daughter Teresa, Daughter-in-Law Pheobe, Son Tony,
Daughter Mary Ann, Son Fred, Daughter-in-Law Sandy, Great Grandson Joey

M. S. Z. G., American, 1920-2006
16x20 in.
oil on canvas

M. S. Z. G., American, 1920-2006
Mountain Beauty
16x20 in.
oil on canvas

Uncle Jim's Eulogy to Grandma
Delivered Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Grandma* was born on a Friday and left us on a Friday after 85 years, seven months and four days as daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend to a very large number of people. She touched many lives. She was friend to all.

If she knew you for even a short time, she knew your birthday - and she would remember it for the rest of her life. She carries with her from this life a great database of birthdays and stories about their owners. She was what is called a "people person." If she had pursued a career instead of a family, I wonder what she might have become. I can easily visualize her as a nurse. She was certainly my nurse - on many occasions - and for five others as well.

My earliest memories of her are when I was three or four years old. I remember the smell of her breath as she whistled while combing my hair. She would often whistle while doing housework. I could never recognize it; I think she was improvising, whistling her own song.

Born in 1920, she was six years old when she heard about Lucky Lindy crossing the Atlantic Ocean in his "Spirit of St. Louis." Two weeks (to the day) before her ninth birthday, the stock market crashed, making her a child of the Great Depression. She and her brother Joe had to stay home in her third grade because there was nothing to take along for lunch. They would share lunch with whatever would be prepared for the family at home.

She learned the wisdom of not spending a dime when a nickel would do, a budgetary philosophy that she carried throughout her life. Though she was a child of the Great Depression, she lived a rich life.

After living in the south part of Ferguson in her early years, the family moved to the east edge of Ferguson. She lived her teenage years in the house her father built and nearly THREE-QUARTERS OF A CENTURY in the house right next door, built by her new husband Bill and by her brother Jack. On that acre of land and in those two houses she knew her own grandparents and received visits from her own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In those houses, numbered 23 and 25, she was nurtured by Ben and Margaret Z. and, in turn, nurtured her five younger brothers (Joe, Bernie, Jack, Jerry and Rich) - and then nurtured myself and my five brothers and sisters - and countless assorted dogs, cats, parakeets and turtles. (Did I forget the hamster?)

I believe that her happiest years were those with a house full of kids - and animals - and neighborhood kids. She also nurtured a garden full of vegetables, an arbor of grapes and an orchard of apples, apricots, cherries, pears and plums - all planted by her father, a lesson learned in that economic depression.

Her first son (Bill) was born before World War Two, her second son (Jim, myself) during the war and her third son (Fred) after the war.

That period after the war from the late 1940s through the 50s and 60s was a GOLDEN AGE for America and she experienced it in the prime years of her life. Her two daughters (Mary Ann and Teresa) were born in the 1950s and her youngest son Tony in 1961. Those were years of the greatest memories of daily life that I have.

After all of her children departed home, she still had her friends. I think she made more friends in a year than I made in a lifetime. She has outlived nearly all of them. But they are here in spirit - and there is STANDING ROOM ONLY.

After the age of 60, she took on the task of caring for our father in his declining years. It was a difficult time physically and emotionally and she was up to the task. He left us in September 1983 and she continued on with grit and with grace.

The greatest joys in her latest years must have come from her great-grandchildren. She would have loved to live nearer to them, to see them daily, ever the nurturing mother. I believe that she dearly would have loved to whistle as she combed their hair.

*Grandma's full name removed to protect her privacy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sixth Sense (or, "I see dead people.")

When I was a kid, it used to bother me when people at wakes would say, "She looks so peaceful!" or "He looks just like he's sleeping!" I used to look at the people in the casket and think to myself, "Nope. Just looks dead."

I don't know if it's because I'm older now and I see things differently, or if it's because people in the funeral business have gotten that much better at doin' up the deceased, but I found myself saying those very things tonight at Grandma's wake, and meaning them.

She looked wonderful. Really. She was wearing a lovely pale pink dress, and her fingernails were painted, and her hair was done just like she wore it. She looked just like Grandma, which was quite nice, and much easier to say good-bye to than a stranger who my brain tells me is Grandma, but who my eyes say, "No way."

The funeral home put together a CD slide show of Grandma's life from photographs that Aunt Teresa (I think she was the one who pulled them all together) gave them. I had never seen many of the images, and it was so cool to sit there and see the whole life of someone I love. It's times like this that I realize, again, that people are so much more than just how I see them. I got to see Grandma as a baby daughter, a sister, bride. I got to see her as a new mother, a friend, an aunt, and finally as the grandmother as I knew her.

Tomorrow is her funeral mass, and M and Uncle Shawn are pallbearers. I'm glad. And I'm so proud of both of them for helping our family.

Thank you to Papa for being so strong, Mama for being there for Papa, and Beans for keeping me in the loop and just for being an awesome sister in general. Thank you to M's family for coming to pay their respects, and especially to Grandma Frank, who, when I thanked her for coming, put her arm around me and said, "I didn't know your grandma very well, but I know you." Grandma Frank always knows just the right thing to say.

Keep praying for Aunt Sharon...she still needs it.

M's favorite phrase of mine: I don't have anything to wear!

What to wear to a funeral?

Really, in the case of women, anyway, it's an age-old question that is considered and reconsidered every time someone dies, or gets married, or what have you. Men have it easy, as they throw on a suit, or dress pants and a tie, and bam, they are done. They can have just one suit and it'll last forever and they can wear it over and over and no one thinks anything of it.

But women...not so much.

Wait, I recant that statement to make a modification:

But women who don't wear dresses...not so much.

Dress-wearing women have it pretty easy, too. They have a couple of dresses they can use for funerals and weddings, and more casual ones for showers and reunions.

Pants-wearing women, such as myself, have the added burden of finding a blouse. A blouse can make or break an outfit. It can be dressy or casual, and there is a fine line there. I have to mentally picture myself standing next to M while he's wearing a suit, and try to determine how my outfit measures up. He's a fine looking chap in a suit, I have to tell you. He's got that black hair that complements a sharp black suit, with an intense blue button-down with a gold tie. Put his sunglasses on and out. He's definitely a hottie. Sorry. I get distracted just thinking about my husband in a suit.

So why don't I just get some dresses, you ask? Well, see, there's the issue that I just don't have a dress-wearin' body. My torso is too short, and my wobbly bits are too...well...wobbly. So, unless I can find something that visually elongates my torso, it looks like my ta-tas are resting on my hips, and that, my friend, is just not pleasant.

This means that I stick with pants (which are also quite useful in situations where you're balancing a jiggly baby, a diaper bag, a purse, and a few toys, and when you drop something - hopefully not the baby - you have to unceremoniously squat down to pick it up without dropping something else). Sticking with pants brings me back to my original quandry of finding a blouse.

Don't get me wrong. I've got a few blouses I can wear. But they're old. And as any woman can confirm to all the men scratching their heads in bewilderment, asking, "So? It still looks okay," it's just not appropriate to wear something old. Men will wear shoes until the soles have disintigrated and their big toe is poking out. Women will not wear shoes that are "so last Tuesday."

So here I sit, at work, going through my closet in my head, flipping through the hangers: "Nope, nope, nope. Good Lord, I need to get rid of that hasn't fit in ages. Nope. Nope. Maybe, but probably not. Could I get by with sleeveless? Is that too festive for a funeral? Where is that cardigan set?"

And you know what, in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn't matter. As my Beano so eloquently put it, "Grandma doesn't care." And you know what? She's right.

Everyone who is reading this, please pray for my Daddy's family. His sister-in-law, Sharon, is undergoing surgery right now and the outcome isn't looking good. This family is going through an awful lot of pain and prayers would sure help.

Monday. Blah.

Monday. The start of another work week. Which is normally fine, but this week sorta sucks.

You see, this week I am going to a funeral and am finishing preparations for a rather large event at our O'F spa, and sometime in there figuring out what to pack and then actually packing for our road trip.

So, my goal today over lunch is to start on my packing list. I usually do a packing list before trips, but this one is the first one that includes things for a third person in our family. Here is the key: how much "stuff" she requires is inversely proportional to her size. We have the car loaded just for a day at Grammy and Papa's, so I can't imagine how packed it will be for this trip. The good news is that we'll be packing a car with a brand spankin' new alternator.

Feeling a little rough today because Stef is flying back home to AA. I didn't get a chance to call her over the weekend after seeing her Saturday morning, which I feel slightly guilty about, but am telling myself was for the better so she could devote all her attention to her parents, one of whom is the actual reason she flew in for the weekend. Still, it made me feel good just to know she was here in town instead of waaaay up north.

Am not particularly cheerful or witty this morning...sorry. Tried to convince M to stop at a coffee place on the way, but he was his usual practical self (thank God, because if he wasn't we'd be blowing tons of cash at Starbucks and be living in a cardboard box in the parking lot) and negotiated for Starbucks tomorrow morning, on the way to the funeral. So it's green tea today, and polishing off the last little bit of the "old" honey from A2, before starting on the fresh new jar that Steffi brought me Saturday morning (thank you Stef!).

Hopefully I'll snap out of my blue mood by lunch and will be able to post something a little more entertaining.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dads Rock! (My Father's Day Tribute)

Today is Father's Day, and I'm one of those incredibly lucky people to be surrounded by fantastic fathers. The fathers in my life defy the odds of how many cool fathers can exist in one person's sphere. I can't speak highly enough of them, so I'll just try to pick out a few things that make each one special to me.

For Michael, the father of my child: You are incredible and amazing, and every day you continue to surprise me with the depth of your love for your daughter. She doesn't know it yet, but she's so blessed that you are her Daddy. She'll realize it someday, I'll make sure of that, although I'm pretty sure she's inherited your brilliance and will figure it out on her own. I've read stories of men freaking out when they become fathers, but you didn't. You took it in stride, and I must say that fatherhood fits you like a glove. I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life parenting with you, and I love you now more than ever simply because of the father you are to Zoe.

For Daddy, also known now as "Papa": I owe much of who I am today to you, and I thank you for everything you taught me and the love you continue to show me. From the basics of learning to tie my shoes and ride my bike, to the biggies of integrity, honesty, and standing up for what I believe, you have been there to guide me and to show by example how to be a good person. Oh yeah, and don't forget the rules of newspaper games: you must always use a pen to do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, and that there are certain tricks that guarantee solving the Cryptoquip every time. Elephant Rocks, Paul Muny, Madagascar Monkey Mucus Membranes, Breakfast Club, and watching Mir cross the night sky in the wee hours of the morning (just the two of us, and then spending hours talking about the awesomeness of space) are just a few of the wonderful memories I have from my childhood with you. ee-ya-eee!

For my Dad, my "support system": I can't even begin to thank you for the amazing love and support you've shown me over the years. You were always there when I just needed someone to talk to (even while under the influence of alcohol!). Your door was always open to me, and I always knew I could turn to you for help. I'll never forget doing somersaults over the rollbars of your Jeeps, or warning you about the cop that pulled up next to us (with his window down, no less!), or getting to sleep all night with the stereo on, or learning that Dr. Pepper is indeed the nectar of the gods. And I love how the teetsy flies you amused me with as a child now make your granddaughter laugh. Your support has only increased during my adult life, helping me first with books and tuition at school, and untimely car repairs, then working by my side to help us renovate our home. I love you so much, and I hope you know you'll always be tops on my SCMODS list.

For Dad Z, my father-in-law: As I've gotten to know you better and better over the last 13+ years, my love and respect for you has only grown. The love and concern you show for your family is awe inspiring. I have learned from you to cherish each and every day on this earth, and to love family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even total strangers without bounds or inhibitions. Well, except for Mr. D. We don't love him at all. But you know what I mean. I never knew what "the sparkle in his/her eyes" meant until I met you, but I see it all the time in yours and I think it's the coolest thing. Even if I never had the chance to meet you, I would be able to tell that you're a great father, because I could look at your two sons and see you in them. They are great men because of you, and the role you played in raising them. I am forever indebted to you for giving me your son as my wonderful husband.

So, here's to the dads in my life on Father's Day. You all are my heroes and I love you.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Happy Early Father's Day to Papa!

Today was a much better day than yesterday.

First of all, we all woke up in a good mood. Normally one of us (always Mommy or Daddy, as Zozo is always in a good mood when she wakes up) gets up on the wrong side of the bed. But today, I guess we were both determined to make this day better than yesterday.

M ran up to our favorite bakery and bought us some moon doughnuts, a strudel/cheesecake type thingy, and some other assorted doughnuts. He got there and saw a sign that said, "No charges under $10." Not knowing whether he'd be purchasing $10 worth of baked goods, he checked his wallet and found too little cash. Planning to run up to the bank, he walked back out to the car, holding a car door open for a woman juggling her own box of doughnuts and a stollen along the way. He's like that...always stopping to help others. The woman's husband, sitting in the driver's seat, called out, "Sir, are you a little short on cash?" M said, "Excuse me?" The gentleman said, "I saw you checking your wallet and then leave the bakery without buying anything and I thought you might be a little short on cash. I'd like to offer you a little friendly neighborhood 'loan.'"

M thanked this kind stranger and assured him that he was fine. Isn't that just the coolest thing? Stuff like that totally reaffirms my faith in humanity.

After I graduated from The World's Finest School of Journalism, M and I drove a U-Haul truck full of my furniture to Oklahoma for him to use. Mom had made signs for the back of the truck stating that I had just graduated and that we were newly engaged, which were very cool. I completely forgot about the signs shortly after leaving Columbia. We picked up M's car at the Oklahoma City airport and he was following me (I drove the truck) to Duncan. There are quite a few toll highways between Ok City and Duncan, and tolls are, of course, heavier on large vehicles like moving trucks.

I pulled up to a toll booth behind a sedan and waited for my turn. The sedan had whipped around me pulling up to the toll, and I thought I understood why. Those U-Haul trucks take awhile to get back up to speed and I hate to be stuck behind one when it's accelerating from a dead stop, too. When I pulled up to pay, the attendant told me that the people in the sedan had paid my toll, and said to tell me, "Congratulations!"

There are people like this scattered throughout the world, and I'm so glad there are. I wish I was more like them. To all those good, kind people out there, thank you. You make up for the rest of us idiots.

So anyway, M came home from the bakery and we hung out with Zoe for a bit before Stef and her parents, Lee and Ellie, came by. Stef had just flown in and they came straight from the airport. We had a blast just hanging out and chatting, and playing with Zozo. Stef had dared me to bring up Hot Girl, her current crush and softball team pitcher, in front of Ellie, and you know I can't turn down a dare. I believe it took me approximately five minutes to work it into the conversation, thank you very much. Next time I'm gonna make it a bet and collect on it. Anyway, many thanks to Lee and Ellie for sharing their already too-short weekend with their daughter with me.

After they left we loaded up the car and headed to Drewe's to pick up dessert for today at Grammy and Papa's. We celebrated Father's Day today with Papa, and had a nice time. Grammy made an awesome dinner of baked mostaccioli (pronounced "musk-a-cho-lee" in our house) and a Rich 'n Charlie's salad, complete with garlic bread. It rocked. Papa, in between fanatically skimming the pool for some mysterious white fluffy thingys, helped Joey and Zoe swim, and then quickly cleared everyone from the pool when a storm rolled in. I think it was a lovely day, despite the sad news from yesterday.

Zozo started getting a bit fussy, so we re-packed the car (traveling with a small child takes amazing trunk packing skills, at which M excels, thankfully) and left, going to the dealer to pick up my mom-mobile, which now has a new alternator, an oil change, and a wash, and for less money than originally quoted!

Back home, where we played with Zoe some more, and let the baby oil work its magic on her cradle cap before her bath. She splashed all over the place again, and tried hard to drown her two rubber duckies, and generally had a great time. Then it was time for her nite-nite ba-ba, and tons of kisses from Mommy and Daddy before bedtime.

Now M is hanging out in the library and I'm blogging away, and all is right in the world again. It's getting late, and I know my 20 lb. alarm clock isn't planning on letting me sleep in tomorrow, so I'll be signing off. Besides, I have to dump some images from today into the Mac, get them formatted, and post them here before retiring. Y'all are lucky I really like this blogging business.

Here is a photograph of Papa, Joey and Grandma G taken last Christmas. I'm having trouble getting my hands on digital images of Grandma, but Beans came through and sent me this one. (Thank you, Beano!)

We miss you Grandma. Thank you for all your love, kindness and generosity.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In Memorium

Today my grandmother died. One of my six grandmothers. Grandma G, Daddy's mother, passed away this afternoon. Daddy = Fred for those of you who are trying to keep track of my family tree. I didn't get to see Grandma G very much, but I always knew she was there, and that she loved me unconditionally. She accepted me as Daddy accepted me, as one of her own even though she didn't meet me until I was around three or four. She's been in my life as long as I can remember, and she loved me and I loved her, and in my book that makes her my grandma.

So, I have four grandmothers left now, which means Zozo has four great-grandmothers left, which is pretty lucky I guess. Although one of the grandmothers is a little out of reach due to an unfortunate family fissure. It still feels good to know she's out there.

What I suppose bothers me more than anything right now, is how my Daddy must be feeling. It hurts my heart to know that his heart is hurting, and that I can't do a damn thing about it. I felt this way a few years ago when my Grandma Goggie passed away. I sat there, and looked at my Dad, and tried to fathom the emptiness he must be feeling. These women were their mothers. Maybe because I am a mother now it hits just a little closer to home. I cannot imagine losing my mother, so I cannot imagine how they must feel. I can only see the hurt and pain in their eyes, and feel the helplessness of us all.

God bless Grandma G, Grandma Goggie, Grandpa Carl, Grandpa Frank, Gramps, Grandpa Russ and Grandpa G. And I thank God for Granny, Grandma Jo, Grandma Frank, and Grandma S.

So. There it is. Today was fine through lunch (see post below), but went into the shitter shortly after. First, I had a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realized that I have a major event at the spa next Friday evening that conflicts with other plans we've made. Crap. So I called M in a panic, which was stupid, because all I did was ruin the rest of his day. Basically, our plans are just delayed a couple of hours.

I had just gotten past that when I received the call from Beans about Grandma. Another round of tears upon hearing the story of Daddy trying to get to the hospital in time to say good-bye and not making it. I swear my heart broke right there for him.

Okay, breathe...breathe...regroup. Okay. We can deal with this. I finished up my work and headed out to stop by Sarah's going away happy hour. Started the car, and all the little lights on the dashboard lit up bright and shiny, and the car started whining. You've got to be kidding me. Quick phone call to the mechanic and my fears were confirmed: alternator going out. Instructions: bring it here right now or risk winding up stranded on the side of the road somewhere. "Um, yeah, this wasn't exactly part of the plan."

My car is now camped out at the dealer, awaiting a $450 alternator (so not in the budget right now). They're going to "try to squeeze it in." M picked me up and we came home. I ended up skipping Sarah's happy hour because of time and because I didn't want my Tammy Faye Baker eyes to be a total drag on her day. M ran around the yard like a madman to get the grass cut, because our jam-packed weekend dictated now or never. We ate a quick dinner and went to put Zozo in the carseat in his car to go to Shawn's birthday party.

Today was the first time in Zo's nine-plus months that she's been in M's car. His car is very small, and very cramped inside, especially in the back seat, and getting her in there meant practically turning into a contortionist. To top it off, the straps were adjusted for a newborn, which she most certainly is not any longer. Having never actually used the carseat, M was forced to figure out how the darn thing works on the fly, which is intensely frustrating to him. Zoe and I hung out in the back yard as expletives drifted from the garage.

She cried her eyes out all the way there, which pretty much mirrored exactly how I was feeling.

A little fussy while there (both of us, actually), but Grammy took charge of tending Zozo and they kept each other happy. After what felt like seconds, it was time for her ba-ba, and then time for us to leave.

M is hanging out in the library right now, and I'm sitting here wondering just how much more I can type. I'm thinking it's enough, and that this entire post is just a major bummer and that I probably shouldn't even bother to post it. There's nothing even remotely witty, which totally blows, but I'm just too damn exhausted at this point to try to be humorous.

So, I'll do what I always try to do when I'm feeling blue. I try to give thanks for all that I do have. Thank you, God, for Zoe and M, for my parents and his, for sisters and brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. For cars that break down the week before a big road trip and not during the big road trip. For friends who will understand why I missed a happy hour. For a best friend who listens to me cry in the middle of her insanely busy workday and never once sounds impatient with me. Thank you for the pain of a hurting heart, because that reassures me that I have a heart and that I'm lucky to love others so deeply. Thank you, God, for my life, with all it's hills and valleys, twists and curves, because I know that life is indeed a most precious thing and that I am blessed to be here at all.

Chef Boyardee and Billie Joe

Ahhh. Lunch on Friday. Good in so many ways. First of all, lunch on Friday means that there are only a few hours left for this work week. Second, today's lunch consists of 99% fat free Chef Boyardee ravioli in a can. Yep. I'm embarrassed to admit that I love it. It's sorta like my crush on Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day...I can't explain it, so I just go with it. It is what it is. Although I think the Billie Joe thing has something to do with his eyeliner, because when I was growing up I totally had a thing for the boys of Duran Duran, and they wore eyeliner too. Plus, he's a punker, and that's just cool.

This afternoon I'm bugging out a bit early to swing by my buddy's going-away happy hour at Hacienda. Majorly bummed that she's moving to CO, but very excited about her new adventure. From there it's home to pick up M and Zo, and then we're off to Aunt Katie's house to celebrate Shawn's birthday. Tomorrow Aunt Steffi comes by at around 9:30 for a visit (yay! She's coming to town!), and then the rest of the day is Father's Day at Grammy and Papa's. Sunday consists of going to mass, then lunch with Grandpa Ray and Judy, and then probably dinner or dessert with Grandma and Grandpa Z. Packed weekend, as usual!

Not as packed, however, as Aunt Steffi's life. Get this: yesterday she worked out in the morning, went to work, played volleyball over lunch, rode her bike after work, then played softball at 9 p.m. She pitched in the softball game, and honestly it was no surprise that her opponents scored 20 runs in the first three innings. Seriously. How much activity can one person have in her life? I was proud of my 20-minute walk with M and The Bug last night, but apparently I'm just a big loaf.

And on that note, since I have no desire to change my loaf-like ways, I'm going to publish this post and head up to the GM's office for a cookie (I finished off my can of lunch, so now it's time for something sweet, and since I'm sure Billie Joe is otherwise occupied...).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bad Sun! Bad!

This afternoon I got a facial. The first facial I've had in years. I vaguely remembered how wonderful they were, but holy cow, it was great. I highly recommend it. My skin is so soft it feels like butta.

Am learning that I already have way too much sun damage, even though I was never a tanner. I never liked to just "lay out," nor was I fond of tanning beds. Now doctors and estheticians recommend using a sunblock every single day, even under your makeup, because simply walking around outside is enough to cause major damage. Damage shows up in the form of wrinkles, lines, spots, uneven tone, and a host of other icky things that one doesn't really want to broadcast on one's face. So, even though I am a member of the "Pale & Proud" clan, it seems I will be even more vigilant in my quest to ward off UV rays.

I guess I look at tanning as something akin to smoking. You know it's bad for you, so why do it? I've heard the argument that it's better to have a "healthy glow" than to be pale. I disagree. I would much rather look at lovely, undamaged, blemish-free creamy skin than "glowing," ruddy, wrinkled and crinkled, spotty skin.

I can only hope to teach my little Zozo to be just as cautious in the sun, because her skin is beautiful and she doesn't need to damage it to look "pretty." 'Tis better to be healthy, in my book. Well, she's already been christened "Spa Baby," and I'm sure she'll grow up loving facials and body treatments and the like, so hopefully she'll be pale and proud like her mama.

Tonight we snarfled some dinner and took off shopping for Dad's Day presents. Isn't it great when you have no idea what you're looking for but wind up finding cool gifts anyway? Back home in time to strap The Zo into her stroller and go for a quick walk around the neighborhood.

I love our neighborhood. I love how we can walk through and point out people's homes that we know and like, instead of saying, "I wonder what crackhead lives there?" I love how everyone driving through waves and smiles. I love how there are kids playing out in the yards and gardens growing and people sitting on their patios just enjoying the evening. I love how at any time we might see our priest, Father P, the man who married us and baptized our child, riding by on his bicycle. It's a regular Mayberry here.

At our old subdivision, I was regularly flipped off by rude teenagers, angry at them for driving at excessively high rates of speed, or calling the police to report yet more vandalism at our house. The final straw was when the house five doors up was busted for drugs and stolen guns. As far as I know, no one in our neighborhood is trafficking guns, drugs, or any other illegal items. I think the current "scandal" we're dealing with is a tear-down at the corner of D and C. "Did you see how big it is? It's a two-story!" "I heard there isn't going to be any brick on won't fit in at all!" "She's pregnant, you know, and she wants the house done by August!" Seriously, if that's the biggest scandal here, I think we chose wisely when we purchased our home.

Well, M is making us peach and banana smoothies (mainly because our peaches and bananas are now overly ripe and bordering on mushy), and I have a fresh issue of Real Simple to dig into. Buenos noches! (which I believe means "good night" in Spanish, but don't quote me on it)

Junk Mail Rant

Junk mail is one of the largest wastes on our planet, I think. It wastes ink and paper. It wastes money on postage. It wastes mail carrier time to sort and deliver it. It costs more gas to haul it around while delivering it. It uses electricity when I have to shred the parts with our name and address on it. It wastes my time to stand at the shredder either every day for a minute or two, or once a week for 10 minutes. I despise junk mail.

Last night, before going to bed, I stood at our kitchen counter and sorted the mail. We hadn't gone through it since Saturday, so we had a stack about six inches thick that had piled up on the kitchen counter. M wasn't quite ready for bed yet, and I already had Zozo's stuff ready to go for this morning, so I thought, "Well, I'll just bang out the mail and be done with it." I was amazed, as I usually am.

Out of the six inches of mail, we kept approximately five and a half sheets of paper and two relatively thin magazines that both stacked up to about a quarter of an inch. The rest went to the shredder or out to our paper recycle bin.

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. No, I don't want to change my mortgage to you, so I can pay through the nose for closing costs. No, I don't want your "hassle-free" credit card, so quit hassling me. No, I don't want to earn 25,000 frequent flier miles that I can only use in months that have 28 days and only if I fly between the days of Tuesday and Thursday during the fourth week of the month just by signing up for your $250/year card. No, I don't want to attend your "by invitation only" sales event because you ordered too many dang SUVs this spring. I don't want the weekly circular that would send me to eight different stores to save 26 cents on nine items (although we know someone who does do that!). I don't need your lawn services, nor do I require any new furniture, even if you are liquidating. And my asphalt driveway is beyond needing to be sealed...the stupid thing needs to be completely ripped up and replaced but we're not going to do that right now, thank you very much. When I'm ready, I'm gonna Google "St. Louis Missouri asphalt company" and see what comes up.

I read somewhere that you can "get back" at the credit card companies by shredding their documents, placing them back in the postage paid envelope, and sticking them back in the mail. That way they have to pay postage twice for nothing. It's a tempting thought, but I don't have the time, and judging by my past luck, an enterprising young intern at the credit card company would probably take it upon himself to piece back together the shred strips and issue me a new credit card.

M heard a story about a young man who received a credit card application, filled it out with a whole bunch of incorrect information, including crossing through his correct address and changing it to his folks' place, and mailed it back in. Within days a credit card was issued, in his name, to the incorrect address, no questions asked. Now that is some scary shit.

So, today's public service offering to you, dear readers, is a link to information on how to remove your name/address from tons of direct mail lists. The organization is the Direct Marketing Association, and they offer two options: using snail mail (ironic, huh?) for free, or completing their on-line form and paying a $5 processing fee.

I recommend the stamp option. After all, once the mail carrier drops off your 12 pounds of junk mail each day, what does she/he have to carry back to the post office?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pix From Easter (PB: Pre-Blogging)

Remember how in a previous post I referenced it being a pain in the patootie to dump images from the Nikonette to the Mac? Well, apparently, it's more of a pain than I even realized, because I dumped tonight and found photographs from the first game at the new Busch Stadium and Easter, along with several more recent ones. Hunh. Guess I should do that more often.

So, anyway, better late than never, and besides, I wasn't even blogging back then so it's not like I missed posting them at the time. Without further ado, here are some photographs of Zoe's first Easter.

Zoe inspects an egg.

The very first Easter stash. And yes, Mommy and Daddy ate all the candy. Mmmmm, candy.

My absurdly cute nephew, Joey.

I think he's ready for the cover of GQ.

Bob's Triumphant Return

Out to eat again this evening with Mom and Dad Z to celebrate their anniversary. We went to Bahama Breeze, and boy was it good. I got the portabella and veggie sandwich on Cuban flat bread with a side of fresh fruit, and I highly recommend it. The Bug was quite good, as usual, hanging out in her high chair and doing things like reading her plastic book (upside down of course), playing with the coasters on the table, and chewing on her little pink bunny like it was the best hasenfeffer in the world. She managed to get her grandpa going in a game of "I throw it down and you pick it up" for much of the evening.

Then home to feed Doodle, play for a bit and put her down for the night, clean up some cat barf, clean out the kitty boxes, and vacuum up the kitty litter. People say that cats are low-maintance pets. People are wrong.

Big news in the Z House: the new Bob arrived last night. Grandpa brought it over after dinner and we spent 10 minutes extricating him from his package so he'd be ready for Zozo this morning. She was quite pleased to see him, and to be tickled by his ribbon hair. Welcome back, were missed.

I'm trying to convince M that we should purchase another Bob, a spare Bob, a back-up Bob, so to speak, in case the unthinkable happens and we lose him again, because now he's discontinued and will be impossible to replace in the future. M thinks that is unnecessary. I think he just doesn't recognize the value of Bob.

One of my buddies from college has several spares of her daughter's favorite stuffed animal stashed away in a closet. She even washes them from time to time so they wear a bit, so when the current animal is lost, it's replaced with no one being the wiser. I'm learning that one requirement to be a parent is to learn to be sneaky.

Photo Printers and an Anniversary

Hidey ho good neighbor! Today is a bright day in The Lou. Why? Well, because the bully has been neutralized, I have no plans for this evening except for playing with my new photo printer, and I get a free fried chicken lunch because it's our GM's birthday today.

The photo printer arrived on our doorstep yesterday. We had a bit of time before we left to go out to eat for Mom and Dad Z's anniversary, so I started pulling it out of the box and reading the directions. I'm anal like that...I always read at least the quick-start directions before using something new. When we got home from dinner, the power was out, and I just thought it was highly ironic that the power was out just when I had the chance to plug in the photo printer and play around with it.

About an hour after returning home, though, power blipped back on and I was back in business. I posted to my blog, then sat in the library and played. The PictureMate is so freakin' cool. I popped the smart digital card out of the Nikonette and plugged it in, and within minutes I was printing beautiful glossy 4x6s. Messed around and got some wallets printed of Zozo, too. M, of course, being the good, frugal husband he is, after scrutinizing the results and pronouncing them "very cool," felt the need to remind me that at approximately 21 cents per print, I had just spent over a dollar. Some things never change. I think every night our Christmas lights are on, I should remind him how much it's costing to run the display. He probably will like that about as much as I liked hearing that I had spent a dollar on printing photographs last night.

Not a whole lot to report since last night, except to send anniversary greetings to Mom and Dad Z. Today is their wedding anniversary, so we hope they both have a wonderful day (even though they have to be apart) and an even more wonderful evening, when they actually get to be together. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Birthday Ferns for Shawn

Y'all almost didn't get a blog post tonight. We were without power until moments ago. And it's a good thing it came back on because yours truly was hyperventilating. " Shawn!"

It took me until mid-morning to realize that Zozo now has two uncles with birthdays on June 13. Today, her Uncle Shawn turned the big 3-0. Warm birthday wishes to Shawn...we hope you had a wonderful day and we can't wait to celebrate with you at your bash on Friday.

I would've posted at lunch, but I was runnin' almost from the moment I got in this morning, and didn't stop until after Zoe's appointment with her pediatric orthopaedist this afternoon. It's been three months since her last visit, and this was another check-up to make sure her hips are developing properly. For those of you not in the know, she has a mild form of hip dysplasia due to being breech. They knew to look for it before she was even born, so we've been monitoring it all along. She had to wear a little velcro harness for awhile that kept her legs in the proper position for development, and she was a little champ throughout the whole thing. Today's visit confirmed that everything is going along as planned, and they will see her again several months after she starts walking on her own.

This is very good news for us, as I've been worried for months now that she might need surgery later. It freaked me out to think of my little girl having to undergo surgery. I know parents all over the world deal with it every day, and my heart goes out to them and their children.

My mom told me once, a long time ago, that once you become a parent you learn what it feels like to walk around with your heart outside your body. I didn't know what she meant until I had Zoe, and had to go back to work. Every day I leave my heart with her at Grandma's, and I go about my day feeling a bit empty inside, until I come home, see her grin, and feel whole again. Hey Mom, thanks for giving up your heart for me and Beano. I love you!

Okay, well, M and I agreed that we have to go to bed at a decent hour tonight, so I'm ending this now in an effort to comply. I'm posting an old "nature" image of mine in honor of Shawn's birthday. He's a hunter, and loves being outdoors, so it's my little tribute to him. Happy birthday, buddy. I'm so glad you're a part of our family!

Shawn's Birthday Ferns

A bully, shower gunkies and a birthday

So, after much thought, and pondering, and wondering, and seeking of advice, I have come to this conclusion: the way to beat a bully is simply to refuse to play.

That's what I'm currently doing now. Refusing to play with a bully. I will have to do this all morning and part of the afternoon, while waiting for a meeting with the school principal.

Dodging people takes a lot of effort, more than you realize until you're actually doing the dodging. And it's not fun, because it's not like there is the James Bond soundtrack running in the background and you have cool electronic gadgets to use. Nope. It's pretty exhausting, and quite stressful, actually.

Last night was a fine evening of playing with the Zo and just hanging out. I started reading Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad," but quickly realized that it's one of those books I actually have to pay attention to while reading, and not one that can be read easily while also keeping one eye on the now very-mobile Bug. It's been awhile since I've read any Mark Twain, so I'm looking forward to it.

M came home from walleyball and played with Zozo a bit before we fed her and put her down for the night. He tested our shower, and decided to use the hall bathroom's shower, because ours has been experiencing a bit of a clog issue. We've put stuff down it the last couple of days, hoping to clear it up, but near as we can tell, we dislodged enough gunk to completely stop up what little hole was left. Result: major backflow in the shower.

Next step was to try the good ol' plunger. Ugh. It's absolutely disgusting what black stuff you can pull out of the shower drain. I mean black. And not light black, either. Dark black. Photo black. (see previous post on the differences of black) We're not sure exactly what it is, nor do we really want to know. This morning M got a little snake/gripper thingy from Grandpa and we're gonna try manually pulling out whatever is in there. Ewwwwww. We could be talking a substance fit for biological warfare here. Blech.

Have to leave work early this afternoon (after the meeting with the principal), to take Zoe to the ortho. Hoping and praying that her hips check out okay and that we'll just have to bring her back for a quick check-up after she's walking. The mother in me gets pretty worked up just thinking about the alternatives (surgery, therapy), so I'm going to not write anything about that right now and we'll just see how the appointment goes.

Dinner out tonight for Mom & Dad Z's anniversary, courtesy of Grandma S. She chose Rich & Charlie's, because, in her words, "That's one of Mike's favorite places to eat." We called Dad for confirmation, but all we got was, "No comment." 'Nuf said.

A great big giant Happy Birthday to Uncle Steve!!!! We hope your day is filled with lots of laughter and cheer and good company. "Happy birthday to you...happy birthday to you...happy birthday Uncle Steeeeeeve, happy birthday to youuuuuu!" That's in lieu of our actually singing, which is a birthday present in and of itself, because trust me, we ain't the next American Idols. We'll be bringing your gift to Cinci in a few weeks, and that's when you'll get your birthday hugs and kisses, too. We miss you and love you!

Must get to work, and outline my thoughts about my meeting with the school principal later. They don't still use paddles, do they?!

Monday, June 12, 2006

What high school did you go to?

I hate feeling like I am in high school all over again. High school was not a particularly pleasant experience for me. Yeah, I had good times and I have some great memories, and it's where I discovered my passion for photography. But for the most part, it really, really sucked.

It's hard when you're not part of the "in" crowd, especially when you're not quite sure who you are yet. And pretty much no one knows who they are yet in high school. There's some days I still don't know who the hell I am.

I overcame a lot in high school, I think, and my experience made me a stronger person today.

But some days, some situations, take me right back there. "Why are they mean to me? Do they not like me? Do they not think I'm good enough?" That's what my heart says. My brain, meanwhile, is desperately trying to kick the crap out of my heart for being such a weenie. "%$#@ them! They are worthless pieces of #$%& who don't deserve to have a conversation with you, much less make you feel bad about yourself. Get a spine and stand up for yourself, you big pansy!"

So, today, I am struggling with how to do exactly that. How does one stand up for oneself and not be a beyotch in the process, or make enemies, or come across as an overly-emotional basket case who reads way too much into things?

Just thinking about doing this, confronting someone (or in this case, someones), makes my mouth go dry and my palms start to sweat. My voice gets all wavery and I get nervous and jittery. It's not a pleasant feeling, and there's that nagging fear that I will irreversibly damage what semblance of a disfunctional relationship there is. To top it all off, these persons I must face have a certain knack of twisting things around to be entirely my fault. Well, one does. The other one is spineless like me and lets the first one do whatever, but backs her up, and then it's two to one and no one likes those odds. Except maybe MacGyver. But since I can't neutralize them with a paperclip, I have to find other methods.

Bottom line, it must be done. Or things will continue as they are, and that's not good either. Sigh. Why can't we all just grow up and quit playing petty high school games?

Monday morning update on nothing at all

It's a dreary day here in the Lou, low cloud ceiling, a bit of a chill in the air (and yet, still disgustingly humid)...not your typical June day.

I'm battling a headache this a.m. I've discovered that as I grow older, my body becomes more and more finely attuned to the weather. Why is that? Atmospheric pressure changes bring on headaches pretty quick. Since when did my head become a barometer?

You know, when we're kids, we feel nothing bad. We could play in the snow, or the summer heat, for hours, only coming in when it was getting dark and we had to. I don't remember feeling much pain as a kid, which I suppose is a good thing. Now it hurts just to get out of bed sometimes. Getting older stinks physically, but I sure do cherish the memories of my past years, and the wisdom that comes with each birthday. I guess my goal should be to try to keep my body in the best physical shape I can, which would help with those daily aches and pains, but I gotta admit, eating brownies is much more fun!

I've got a slow work week, which is welcome after the craziness of last week leading up to Friday night's event. The spa has settled back down to its calm, relaxing atmosphere for me again. I'll get my mug of green tea, clean off my desk, and settle into my weekly tasks.

Am considering joining Toastmasters to get over my fear of public speaking. Anyone know anything about it? I actually did okay in front of our two groups of 50+ women Friday night, so maybe I'm getting the hang of it. M says if I do it enough, I'll get over it. Easy for him to say, he's excellent at presenting and actually enjoys it. I do not enjoy feeling hot, turning red, shaking like a leaf, and stumbling over my words. I do not enjoy that at all.

Quote of the Day: Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

An angel, a demon and an Irish priest walk into a bar...

It's late Sunday, and I've been remiss in updating the blog, but I was finishing "Angels and Demons," and if any of you have ever read it, you'll know why I was reading that rather than typing here. It is riveting, and quite unpredictable, and overall good brain candy. The plot is action-packed, with lots of people dashing this way and that, and bolting here or there and racing about. The entire book takes place in the span of about 24 hours, which is highly unrealistic but makes for a good read.

Today we attended 11 a.m. mass instead of our usual 9 a.m. Today was Father Steve's last day at our church. A very sad day, indeed. Father Steve is pretty unique, and I guess the best way to describe him is to say that if there were only more priests like him, the Catholic Church would be in a much better place. His homilies are real, and I always left his masses feeling better, and feeling like I had a new way of looking at my trials and tribulations, and had new tools for dealing with the absurdities of life. I wish, when people look at me with the question in their eyes, "You chose to become Catholic?" I wish those people could talk to Father Steve. I know he could explain it so much better than I ever could. Heck, if they could only hear one or two of his homilies, they'd understand. Is it sacreligious to say he's a kick-ass priest? And he's Irish to boot! Gotta love that!

Father Steve came to the hospital when Zoe was born (see image at left), stopping in to visit with us, and to offer a prayer. He held Zoe, and I will never forget the joy in his eyes when did, and how he said, "Ahhh, Zoe! Zoe means life! Vitality!" A beautiful, holy man, and we are blessed to know him.

Now a whole new bunch of folks out in Dardenne Prairie are the lucky ones. God bless you, Father Steve, and may you always be surrounded by shamrocks and Scoobies.

We took a photo of Father Steve holding Zoe today with the Nikonette (that's our little point 'n shoot Nikon, lil' bro to the big dog D100), but it's a pain in the rear to hook up to the Mac and download, so I don't do it all the time. Maybe tomorrow while M is off playing walleyball...

Tonight we dropped the mattress in Zoe's crib down to the bottom setting. It only took a special tool, a half-hour of cursing, and an act of congress to do it, but it's done. Many thanks to Daddy for handling that idiotic task! Anyway, we had to drop the mattress because The Bug has become quite mobile in the last week, and has figured out that she now has the means to get to whatever it is she wants. I realized when I put her down for her nap this afternoon, and spied on her through the cracked door, and watched her sit up, put one hand on the top rail of the crib while curiously looking over her room, that it was time to drop the mattress. We kept the bumper pads off, because I'm not sure they would look right sitting so far down in the crib, and as a result, our darling daughter looks like she's sleeping in an infant jail. She seems happy in there, though, but it's probably only a matter of time before she starts sliding her cup along the bars to protest, or using a hand mirror to look outside her "cell." She's creative like that.

Okay, it's late, and tomorrow starts another work week, so I better get some sleep. I'll brush my face and wash my teeth, as Papa used to instruct, peek in one more time at my little Zozo, and hit the hay.

One last note of thanks, to a few people:
1. Thanks to Aunt Katie, Uncle Shawn, Grammy and Papa for watching Zozo Saturday night so we could attend a lovely wedding reception at Union Station.
2. Thanks to Mom and Dad Z for being our designated drivers Saturday night.
3. Thanks to Kate and Gerry for the invitation to your beautiful wedding and lovely reception...and congratulations!
4. Thanks to Steffi for going by the Farmer's Market and enduring the Honey Nazi to get my A2 honey. Now that's proof of friendship!

I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of other people for whom I'm grateful, but it's late and I'm tired. I'll get around to thanking y'all some day! G'night!