Thursday, December 29, 2011

Never, never, never, never give up!

The title of this post is actually a paraphrase of Winston Churchill's message in a speech to a graduating class in the 1940s.  Paraphrase or not, rather good advice in most cases, I believe.

I really have to come to dislike the idea of New Year resolutions; just like diets, somehow when I know I am restricted to doing something or more importantly, NOT doing something, I want nothing more than to rebel immediately if not sooner.  So, no resolutions for me.  Just a desire to wear out a pair of shoes.

I retired my first pair of running shoes this morning in favor of a shiny new pair.  It has once again been several days since I ran.  The plan to work out every day of Winter Break fell apart almost immediately as I got a stomach bug the first weekend that did linger on.  By the time I felt better, heck I was on vacation...who wants to exercise then? 

But with every glass of wine I have enjoyed and every sugar cookie I savored, something kept nagging at me...probably those 30 extra pounds I have been whining about for awhile now.  I even gave in and bought jeans I don't have to hold my breath to get into and sweaters that feel more comfortable on my chubby arms. 

BUT, that does NOT mean I have given up!  No, no! 

In fact, it is amazing how much more comfortable a run is in shoes that haven't completely broken down, and I have to say that though my old shoes were worn for more than just running, it felt pretty good to know that I have worn them out for workout purposes.  That suggests that over the last year I have done more productive things than sit on my couch. 

The new shoes will be just for running, and I look forward to seeing just how fast I can wear them out, actually.  My workout log tells me that since October of last year, I have run 128 miles in 89 workouts. 

And I have saved the old jeans.  I will be slithering back into those some day soon.  Oh yes, I will!

I will miss the Jiggle Butt Run this's next weekend and I am in no shape to tackle it right now.  But I think the Cowtown is in February.  Brian and I could run that one together. 

In any case, I shall be taking a cue from old Sir Winston.  Here goes nothing....

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cooking Bacon and Breaking the Rules

I am a rule follower by nature.  I teach middle school.  I married a cop.  I am early everywhere I go. 

Last night Brian and I had pancakes and bacon for dinner.   Brian took the pancake duty and I took the bacon.  He was trying out the new griddle he got for Christmas. 

Now, as Southerners we know that bacon strips are usually laid out in the pan one at a time, almost reverently.  But I have a friend who cooks her bacon just a little differently.  But then, Arlene does a lot of things differently. 

Arlene is originally from Baltimore and is a Jewish mother.  She loves shiny, sparkly earrings, the bigger the better and leopard print anything.  She loves you like her own, and makes sure you have plenty to eat at all times.  She loves to laugh and finds pleasure in life's little things.

And that brings me back to the bacon.  As a born again Southerner, she understands, despite her religion, that bacon is a staple in our diets.  Never one to be pressured by the rules, she even cooks her bacon with reckless abandon.

I first saw Arlene cook bacon for a house full of women one weekend at her lake house.  She dumped 4 lbs of it in a skillet, turned on the heat, and ootched it around with a spatula until it was perfectly cooked.  Who knew?  We all stood around the cook top mystified by this new way to perfect bacon. 

All my life I had watched it be laid out in single strips in the pan and lovingly tended to until done.  Now I see this rebel friend of mine throw the rules out the window and still create something wonderful.

So, as I stood there at the stove last night, I had a conflict.  Do I follow the rules and lay out the strips one by one, or do I just select the number of strips I want and toss them into the pan and see what happens? 

I took the road less traveled.  I took six strips and tossed them in the pan and ootched them around with my spatula until perfectly done.  And I took the strangest satisfaction from cooking my bacon "out of the box."

I couldn't help but smile to myself and look forward to the next time I can play with my food.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

This is my favorite time of year, period. 

Everything and everyone is sparkly and shiny...houses are lit up brightly, Christmas trees peek from front windows.  I personally believe that if you use clear lights, it is permissible to leave them on the house all year long.  So happy and festive, don't you think?  Brian sensibly pointed out that the lights on the bushes would hinder trimming and what not, but really--how often do you have to trim bushes?

The music is happier and fortunately for me a local radio station starts playing it in Novemember, though I noticed that they started around Thanksgiving this time instead of mid-Novemember.  Might have been a deejay revolt.  All Christmas all the time for almost two months might be tough to take, no matter what they are paid.  I drove my students a little crazy with my Pandora Holiday, but at least I didn't start until December 1st.  They have already asked hopefully if I will be leaving up the Christmas lights I put up around the room past Christmas.  Uh, yeah!

I have decided that next year I am definitely wrapping some faux presents for under the tree.  The way the tree looks on Christmas morning with no wrapped gifts under it is a bit depressing.  Brian just laughs and shakes his head.  I started doing stockings for the fur-babies and Brian and me this year.  Next year, I may just add an Elf on the Shelf for us.  We may not have kids yet, but no reason why we can't have as much Christmas magic as possible around here.

Speaking of Christmas magic, despite the fact that both Brian and I were under the weather for the days leading up to Christmas, I did manage to make and decorate Christmas cookies this year, one goal I had this some baking.  I would still like to put a muffin basket together for the neighbors.  Maybe a New Year's gift.

I still didn't get to look at Christmas lights this year, though I am sure that not many people will have already taken theirs down if we went tonight.  That was something I loved as a child; my parents would take us out on Christmas Eve...probably to get us sleepy early so Santa could come. 

The only child I am really around now for Christmas (except for a fleeting few hours a week ago) is my nephew, Zachary.  On Christmas Eve we unwrap our gifts to each other.  His unrestrained joy at each gift was a sight to behold.  As he ripped the paper from each gift and he realized what was beneath the paper, he would yell, "I've always wanted this!"  He's five, remember.  Always is a long time, hee hee.   But it makes the gift giver feel pretty good to have his undying devotion because you have such excellent taste in toys.

I am becoming a whiz at hooking up new electronics.  Hooked up 3 dvd players yesterday and a new stereo.  Today I will be working on the surround sound.  The trick is to stay calm and not overthink it, I believe.

So now as Brian heads out to work, I must try to put the house back in order.  Place all the amazing gifts we received this year and clean since I finally feel well enough. 
I hope your Christmases were as wonderful as ours.  And think about what I said about clear lights. If we all band together, we could really start something...just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Great Puppy Caper

My brother felt this one would make the blog...and he was right--just took me a few extra days than usual.

David, my little brother and I decided to present our parents with a puppy for Christmas.  They had two shelties until this spring...Sammy, only 7 years old, passed away unexpectedly.  So Libby has been the only fur-baby at their house for several months now...except when my brother's beagle visits.  Maggie is a Super Beagle.  She flies around the house and up and down furniture with the determination and agility rarely seen in a dog. She also loves to cuddle, and my mom has really loved that as her shadow is no longer here with her.  She threatened to steal Maggie from David, and David and I decided to present Mom with her own Super Beagle. 

Our dad wasn't keen on the idea, but as Mom said, If it's done, what can he do?  I'm not sure she believed we were actually serious when we posed the possibility to her, but she should know better by now.  Libby was her 30th wedding anniversary gift. 

David found a breeder in Forney, TX with the most photogenic pups I have ever seen and the price was right.  We found time on Saturday to fetch the dog for our parents. 

We had a small window of time.  We had to meet the man in Hillsboro (long side story, not important) and get back for a Christmas party at my house. We made it to Hillsboro without incident, though I was not feeling particularly well.  We contacted the breeder again to discover that he could not leave Forney until 3 pm.  It was 1:30 pm and we did have that party to get back to.  We could get to Forney from Hillsboro before he would even be leaving.

So we jumped in the truck and headed to Forney.  Meanwhile, I started feeling even worse...achy, hot flashes, waves of nausea.  And Brian was at home, minding the turkey I planned to serve as the main course at the party. 

In Forney, we met the man at the Wal-Mart.  As we waited we observed a few similar puppy transactions happening.  Tis the season.  When he took the sleepy little guy from the carrier in the back seat of his truck, I was sold immediately.  He was beautfiul.  Just nine weeks old.  David paid the man and away we went, Puppy wrapped in a blanket in my lap.

I was really struggling now.  I had eaten breakfast, but the knot in my stomach told me that eating anything else was not a good plan.  It was only about 40 minutes back to  my house, thankfully.

David gave me the puppy to keep until that night when we could present him to my parents.  I jumped out the truck, puppy in one hand, purse in the other.  As soon as I hit the ground, I knew I had about 30 seconds to get to the bathroom. 

I burst through the door, made it past my own curious dogs in a flash, slammed the bathroom door behind me so I could toss the beagle on the floor and fall in front of the toilet...nick of time. 

After I felt a little better, I took him in to show Brian who approved wholeheartedly. The dog is exquisite.

I laid in bed, wishing for death, for the next few hours until my parents arrived.  My mother's expression was worth the entire trip.  And my dad came around about 12 hours later.  Now he is my dad's best buddy and my mother's pride and joy.

Money and an afternoon well spent.

P.S.  They tried on several names (Nick, Boudreaux,) but settled on Beau.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Confession

Ok, so I cleaned the house yesterday...a usual weekend chore.  Looks pretty spiffy.  Finally got a mirror for the mantel so the funky "modern art" of the tv mount is gone and the holes it left are covered up...a year after we move in to this house.  Better late than never, right?

And as I started thinking about the next two weeks, I decided when I woke up this morning that today is as good a time as any to decorate for Christmas.  All right, all right.  Don't judge!  Next week my schedule is crazy, and I know perfectly well my mother will want help with her house.  I have three parties scheduled at my house the first weekend in December. 

So why not today?  Brian grumbled a little bit about getting the decorations out of the attic...something about taking one holiday at a time.  And believe me, I hate that Thanksgiving seems to get shortchanged these days, but I try to see it this way...Thanksgiving is the warm up for Christmas.  Family time and being together in a beautifully decorated house is important!  And the house looks very festive...or is beginning to.  I need to pick up a few more things to really get it in shape, but that's just one more reason to get everything out before the parties start...I need time to get the rest of my decorations.  (Not that Brian knows that yet...)

And I am giving Brian a reprieve from the outside lights until next weekend.  He seemed satisfied with that.  So while he watched the Military Channel, I decorated around him.  By 11 am, we were in full Tis-the-Season-mode.  And yes, I felt a little like that crazy blonde on the Target commercial...

It was bittersweet this year as I decorated.  This is our first Christmas without my grandparents.  With such a large family, no time of year meant more than this.  We savored our time together each year with my grandparents overseeing the festivities, even when they could no longer host or plan them. 

One of the things I received from their house was the handmade felt ornaments I made for their Christmas tree a few years ago.  There are about twenty of them, and I cried as I put them on our tree.  If their loss was not real to me yet, it certainly is now.  The ornaments comfort me in a way; my grandmother loved them.  I moved their picture into the living room so they could see the tree.  Weird? Maybe, but not even Brian's cancer affected me the way losing my grandparents has. 

And as much as I love this time of year (you should have seen how excited I was Friday night when I discovered that 103.7 had FINALLY started their Christmas music!), it is forever changed and I feel like I am still finding the way to make the most of it.  That's what Nonnie and Grandpa would want, I know. 

So, maybe I started the season a little early.  I just needed to find the love and peace of this time of year as soon as possible.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Catching Up

Brian worked the NASCAR race this past weekend, and rather than spend the weekend by myself at home, I made plans to meet up with a dear friend in New Braunfels. 

Susan and I go back to our college days when my brother introduced us.  We lived together for several years, until I got too cranky to be a good roommate. I take responsibility for our "break up."  I was immature and difficult to get along with.  I had a lot of growing up to do. 

Fortunately, like all my dearest friends, she eventually found it in her heart to forgive my many...uh, quirks... and reconnect. 

That's what Saturday was all about.  We met in New Braunfels and headed into Gruene for the day.  We have a special affinity for Gruene, having seen Pat Green at Gruene Hall on St. Patrick's Day about 11 or so years ago.  Great times.  She still has the tee shirt.  I often wonder what happened to mine.  Sigh.

Lunch at the Grist Mill...their homemade wine coolers are delish.  Then a bit of shopping.  Finally, just sitting under a big ol' tree, sipping wine and watching the world go by.  It was the weekend of the Tour De Gruene, a bike race, so the tiny town was brimming over with cyclists.  Parking was quite the adventure.  The people watching was even better than usual though.  We found a new favorite wine from Dripping Springs to add to our list at the little wine store. 

We talked about her new relationship since her divorce.  We talked about getting older and weight gain and the disturbing little aches and pains we experience now when we get out of bed each morning.  We talked about our illnesses and recent procedures.  We reveled in being fellow liberals.  We filled in all the gaps since we had last been close.

It was a truly great day.  After a short siesta, we went to dinner at McAdoo's (where they had my favorite wine New Age) and then had pumpkin bread pudding with brandy sauce at a bakery called Two Tarts with the best cup of coffee I have had in...maybe my whole life. 

On my way home, I pondered the rekindled friendship and how worth the 3 hour drive it was.  I pondered how lucky I am to have my friend back when she might have stayed lost to me. 

In a month when we consider carefully for what we are thankful, I can say without hesitation that Susan is high on my list.  Friends who have known you through the good, bad, and ugly are too precious a gift to waste.  I am so grateful that my friend has returned to my life.  We don't often get do overs and I don't intend to waste my opportunity.


So, after the MRI, I reported to an orthopedic doctor.  He said he believed it would be best for me to go to physical therapy for a bit to speed up the healing in my calf.  Evidently the tear in my muscle is not severe, but weeks of rest at the minimum is the only way to reverse the damage I have done now.  And rest plus therapy means I am back on the treadmill that much faster.

And as I honestly miss the luxury of running out my stress, I am willing to put in the work.  I reported to therapy last week early on a Wednesday morning.  My therapist is little, blonde, adorable.  Conveniently she forgets to count my reps on exercises, so often if I am not counting for us, I do more than she prescribes.  Though something tells me that she would not consider that a bad thing. 

I am building the heck out of my right leg, so at times I will do the exercises on the left as well.  I certainly don't want to have my right leg to look and feel awesome and be lopsided on the left because I was too lazy to work it, too. 

In addition to the deep stretches and heel raises, I also get an ultrasound treatment and an ice massage.  The ultrasound is no biggie.  The jelly is a little cold, but it actually feels pretty good.  The ice massage...that's different.  They have frozen water in a styrofoam cup and the therapist holds the cup so that the ice is on the affected body part and rubs the ice all over.  You go through several stages...severe cold (and I mean COLD, people), burning from the cold and numbness.  It takes about 6 minutes to get to numb.  And it's a long six minutes, I can tell you.  But you feel as though you have accomplished something by hanging in for that long. 

Then comes the kineseotape.  It doesn't hurt or anything, but I find that my leg doesn't dig stuff being stuck to it.  The tape keeps coming up long before it's supposed to.  Sigh. 

So, I have at least another week and a half before I bid adieu to my new friends at therapy.  If it weren't for the traffic and construction, I believe I would want to continue to go to therapy long after my prescribed sessions are over.  But as it adds to my already full plate pretty significantly, I am eager for the day I am back on the treadmill in the mornings instead of preparing myself for my ice massage. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Next Adventure

So...confession time.  I have gained 30 pounds since Brian and I got married.  And while I am happily married, I am miserable in my own skin.  I have never weighed this much..even CLOSE to this much in my life.  My metabolism hasn't just slowed has SHUT down the flippin' factory completely...or so it seems. 

Brian lovingly calls me his own personal linebacker.  Oh no he didn't!!  I knew he was kidding, but it kinda hurt anyway. 

I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day..unless you count the glass of wine I have while making dinner...

I take my lunch every day and usually make a salad and eat yogurt.  EVERY day. 

I stopped making the Southern dinners I was brought up to make and cut out the red meat. 

My running was improving as never before until a month ago when I severely...let's say strained until I get the MRI results... my right calf muscle.  It's painful just sittting here, forget running or even walking for exercise. 

So that is definitely not helping.  What the heck, man?  And though I thought I was eating pretty day's entry on the Weight Watchers website told me the real story.  I am still not doing enough. 

My cholesterol is much higher than I would like...part heredity, part my choices.

To top it all's Halloween time and there is candy galore out there tempting me at every turn.  And if it's Halloween, that means that Thanksgiving and Christmas are not far behind.  We do some good cookin' round here for the holidays. 

I know there are women out there who would kill to be this size, but what really matters is how I feel about myself.  I know I will never be a size six again.  That's ok.  I get it...I'm on the back side of my 30s.  I just want to be a size that I am comfortable with again.  Perfect 10, perhaps? 

I am going to do whatever it takes to get this weight off...within reason, of course.  My goal is to look great for the Pat Green concert in December.  Two months to get a good start on looking fine again?  I can do it! 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Carving Pumpkins

Our family has many holiday traditions.  Our Halloween tradition began about 6 or 7 years ago.  We get together on a weekend before Halloween and carve pumpkins. 

My brother, Brian and I go to a pumpkin patch and carefully select the perfect pumpkins.  Mom and Dad get dinner together while we are out.  Mom finds the patterns from last year, and just in case they are in a safe place she can't remember, I always buy one or two more books with the carving utensils. 

My nephew is five now, but his first pumpkin was carved when he was about 6 months old.  That Halloween, he was dressed in his brand new Halloween pjs and we sat him on the table.  We put his hands in the goo and seeds from the inside of the pumpkins.  The look on his face was one of joy and confusion as he squished the slime between his little fingers. 

Brian looks so cute as he concentrates on getting the pattern just right.  You can almost see his tongue sticking out a little to one side as he focuses on the task.  I usually just get to pick the pattern and he takes over from there.  I wouldn't mind doing a little of the carving and each year I think I should just get one for each of us, but I never do.  I suppose I secretly enjoy the zeal with which he attacks the project, even if I don't really get to help much.  Besides, if the knife slips and he cuts something important off, I get to blame him for the oops.  Hee hee.

This year, we went together to the Farmer's Market to select our canvases.  I love the fall and everything that goes with it, so I couldn't resist some of the smaller gourds and dried corn for an arrangement on the mantle. I  love the different textures on the surfaces of the squashes and the colors--greens, golds, and oranges.  Zachary wanted a little pumpkin too, selecting an orange and white one.  He insisted that this one would not be carved, however.

It was difficult, but we got Zachary to eat a bit of dinner before we started our project.  We spread an old shower curtain on Mom and Dad's table and set out the bowls, spoons and knives.  Zachary and I had already selected the patterns we wanted to use this year.  A bat for me, a goofily grinning jack-o-lantern for Z-man.  David went out on his own and drew a "T" for the Texas Rangers baseball team.  An added addition to the family tradition this year was watching the Rangers clinch the right to play in the World Series for the second year in a row. 

Brian and David got to work cutting the tops off, so we could clean out the insides of the pumpkins.  Zachary jumped around in the background wearing his new Halloween outfit, a cowboy vest and chaps.  The pumpkins were very thick, so the boys had to work to get them cleaned out. 

When we started carving, the thickness of the pumpkins continued to prove challenging, and Zachary, despite my mother's best efforts, was bent on carving his pumpkin himself.  He sawed quickly but not so carefully at times, as his motor skills are developing.  In order to keep him from being upset, David and Brian got out the toothpicks and did a little reconstructive surgery to save the pumpkin. 

We had one more pumpkin to go, and Zachary wanted to help with that one as well.  The game was too good to miss, so my dad was reluctant to help him. No worries.  I can listen to the game and help carve, as Zachary suggested in the first place.  It's all about him, you know. 

Zachary did a pretty good job sawing on the pattern, but by then his interest had dwindled.  He was more interested in eating now that he was finally hungry and putting his costume back on. 

Unfortunately despite my best efforts, I broke off an important part of the last pumpkin, and though we did some reconstruction with toothpicks, I suspect that it won't last long. 

Ultimately, we had quality family time, and the Rangers are on their way to the World Series.  Now, that's a tradition worth keeping.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Losing the Iron Skillet

My beloved Horned Frogs are having a tough season.  They really seem to miss the seniors from last year that helped dominate every team they encountered. 

They lost yesterday to an old rival--SMU.  The schools trade custody of an iron skillet, the symbol of winning the game.  We didn't have to lose that game.  The boys had any number of opportunities to get the job done, but ultimately they couldn't do it. 

So, at home in our nice new stadium, we had to hand over the skillet.  Only the second time in 10 years.  And it was hard to see on Facebook...all my SMU friends celebrating, though if TCU can't be successful, at least SMU can be. 

But this morning as I poured my coffee, I remembered my favorite SMU fans.  My grandparents.  I miss them so much it's painful still sometimes, but this morning I had to smile.  They loved best of all.  And Grandpa loved his Ponies..even through the death penalty and regrowth years. They were thrilled get to June Jones from Hawaii; they had high hopes for what he could do for their program.

So this morning, my Frogs may be one step closer to the Poulan-Weedeater Independence Bowl instead of the Rose Bowl, but my grandparents are having quite the celebration in heaven, I have no doubt.  Heaven help my Horned Frogs...Nonnie and Grandpa--would you put in a word? 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Afternoon with the Blum Boys

Today as Brian is working the weekend, my brother, daddy, and nephew (the Blum Boys) invited me to the deer lease to have a look around.  I was flattered...the sacred hunting ground offered to me for the day!  How could I pass up this invitation?

The lease is just outside Graham, and they have a large piece of land for the two of them.  (Zachary isn't quite ready to hunt...but it won't be long, I'm sure.)  We rode out there together in my dad's truck..Zach and I sat in the backseat and he went through my purse until he found something he could play with.  We drew pictures together on my old grocery list. 

When we arrived there were many stern warnings for Zachary and me to stay close and not wander off.  There are snakes (which I have enough sense to avoid if I see them) and wild hogs (which I have no desire to see up close as they can be rather nasty customers.)  We were also to be quiet.  Not a problem for me.  It's a gorgeous early autumn afternoon and I am enjoying the breeze in my face that whispers hopefully it won't be long until I can fling open the windows in the house all day. 

Zachary being quiet on the other hand...well, that is another matter. 

There is no permanent structure on the lease...unless you count the two deer stands, one of which the boys moved to a more stragetic location.  So when I started the tinkle dance thanks to my coffee and water I had on the way out there, I didn't have a lot of options.  Of course I didn't take the opportunity in Jacksboro, half and hour before. 

Finally, I wasn't sure I could wait any longer.  I grabbed a couple of Kleenex from the truck and started off into the trees.  Zachary yelled from the truck, "Where's Toad goin'?"  Crazy, I muttered under my breath.  I took a good look around my selected...uh, area.  Here goes nothing.  I did my thing with my lily white hiney stuck out for the wildlife to be blinded by, the whole time praying that a snake or hog didn't sneak up behind me and take a bite. 

While one never wants to have to make this choice, I have to admit, I felt much better afterwards.  And I had successfully completed the mission without getting dirty.  I have a new talent, it seems. 

We finished up with the deer feeders and cameras and headed into Graham for lunch at Subway.  We were heavily scrutinized by the locals already enjoying their sandwiches.  I guess we just smelled of city folks.  Hope that's not why the deer don't seem to be coming around the feeders.  None of Dad's pictures showed any.  Just wily raccoons and the hogs.

Zachary wasn't interested in a nap on the way home; he was too busy being the Tickle Monster.  Never knew I was ticklish under my chin and on my throat...we dropped off David and Z-man at their house and headed home.

It was a rich, full day and though simple, was a day I will remember.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crayons in the Box

I rarely write about teaching.  This has been my escape from all reality, but I just have to tell you about today and this lesson.

We are having a Socratic Seminar on Diversity after reading an article about the soccer team in Georgia called The Fugees.  They are refugee boys who play together like brothers with a tough but caring woman coach. 

Each class has its own distinct personality every day.  They are like an enormous box of many colors, so many quirks.

My first class is gifted and talented and heavy on the boys.  My 3rd period is 12 pre-AP girls.  My 5th period is my largest, and they frequently test my patience with their chattiness.  The ones who usually have the most to say in an off task way are suddenly unable or unwilling to speak until they find just the right question to respond to. 

And today they have opened my eyes and each others' in ways that ordinarily don't come up in regular conversation. 

They all have had mature insights about what it's like to live in a very diverse neighborhood.  They have shared personal experiences that I might never otherwise hear about.  And whenever I have tried Socratic Seminar, they are the most respectful of each other than any other time.  They are at an age where being heard by their peers and adults is more valuable than anything else and I think that makes an enormous difference.  They realize they all have something valuable to contribute.  That is priceless learning.  And I am honored to have been a part of it. 

I have this warm, fuzzy feeling that I can't really describe.  I feel in awe of my students today.  And grateful that I have the kind of job that allows me to glimpse the people they really will eventually grow into, and I will go back to this moment tomorrow when they are testing my patience again. 

I hope you all are blessed with a job as cool as mine.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aussie Eats

In Sydney, eating and drinking is expensive, but it's a popular social activity.

There aren't many fast food places, not that we were there to sample them anyway.  There are cafes every 200 feet it seems...mostly little mom and pop places...some Aussie chains.  Outside, every cafe posts it's menu to tempt you to enter. 

Once you recover from the sticker was rare to find a meal for under $15, even at lunch, you choose what you are in the mood for.  There are lots of Lebanese, Italian and Greek places.  Cokes cost $4 at a restaurant, only $2 by the can at the convenience store.  There are no free refills.  Beers and glasses of wine are a minimum of $7 a piece.  And, brace yourself--if you want a cocktail, the cheapest I saw was $13.50.  The most expensive was $17. 

We went to two family "barbies" while we were there.  Probably the best meals we had.  The Aussie barbie is not unlike our own.  However, sausages figure prominently on the menu and steak.  We didn't have any prawns, but I think that was more family preference than anything.  One family we visited has Italian heritage, so we even had homemade ravioli at the dinner.

Chocolate is offered after dessert...little Cadbury minis.  Cadbury is the Aussie Hershey chocolate and they have similar varieties.  They even have a unique flavor of M& chocolate, though it is elusive.  I found them in only shop I visited...and I looked in many. 

Coffee is very important to the Aussies.  It's standard fare after lunch and dinner.  Instant coffee is served in the homes I visited, and it is surprisingly tasty.  In cafes, cappuncino is known as a flat white and is one of the popular choices.  I did see a Starbucks while I was there, but most coffee is found in these little cafes.  I was in coffee lover's heaven once I learned how to order what I wanted.  Our first hotel room even had a French press to make coffee.

We ate and drank well while were in the Land of Oz.  Just be sure your bank account can handle it when you go!

10 Years Later

Ten years ago I was a second year sixth grade English teacher.  It was an ordinary morning.  When the teacher next door came in to say what was happening in New York, I admit, I was a little flippant.  "Flying into the World Trade Center?  A little hard to miss it, isn't it?"  It wasn't until a little bit later that I realized it wasn't a terrible pilot error.  It was purposefully done.  And that seemed even more impossible than an accident.

I turned back to a classroom full of 11 year old faces...some fearful, some indignant, most confused and all afraid.  Our classroom was outside the building, so the first move by the principal was to get us inside.  I taught in the cafeteria the rest of that day.  One by one my students left with their parents.  So much was unknown and families wanted to be together.

My best friend and roommate called me, scared to death.  Her bosses were closing her office midday and she was headed home and she didn't want to be alone. I completely understood.  I wanted to be at home, with her, with my boyfriend, Brian.  But school went on, as normally as possible. I  remember I assigned a spelling lesson that day because it was low maintenance, but it was a chance for the kids and me to focus on something.

I called Brian who worked nights at the time with the Fort Worth Gang Unit.  I woke him with the news.  Very shortly after my call, his unit was called in to go to the airport to guard grounded planes.  For the next three days no planes flew and Brian patrolled the empty airport.  It was truly the first time that I was afraid and instead of being able to hold him tight and be less afraid, I had to stand on my own, to be strong so that he only had to worry about his job.  I hated that.

In the days after, the eeriest thing I think I believe I have witnessed is a sky with no airplanes.  In the years that followed, flying on those planes became more restrictive...liquids banned, no more greeting passengers at the gates.  Ten years later, I still can't watch the recaps and the interviews without getting teary.  I avoid it if at possible.

That terrible day should never be forgotten and I don't think there is a danger of that.  I just can't relive it over and over.  Brian watches the footage unemotionally.  I suppose it's partly his training.  He's never really said how he felt that day...just how he reacted, just the facts. 

We have all been forever changed; fortunately we have emerged better for it as a nation, as people.  God bless all of us.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seeing a Few Sights in Sydney

On our second day (Saturday), we went off to the Featherdale Wildlife Park.  Darren said the Taronga Zoo is nice, but here at Featherdale we could actually pet the animals...including....KOALAS!  You can't hold them, but you can pet them and we even got to feed one a bit of eucalyptus.  They are more precious than I can tell you. They sleep most of a 24 hour period and the way they position themselves in the trees is comical and adorable.  There were also wallabys and kangaroos available to feed and pet as well.

Yesterday, we got up early and had a light breakfast at a Starbucks like place called Gloria Jean's.  Then it was off with the boys to the Harbor Patrol for a ride around the harbor.  That in itself is not unique.  Later this week we will take a ferry to the beaches and we will see the same sights.  The special part is that it was just for us and on a police boat.  No one gets to do that...not even most NSW police.  It was an absolutely perfect day--about 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. 

To look at these internationally recognizable landmarks like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and know that it was no longer a postcard or a screensaver was overwhelming.  You can't believe you are actually there.  The tour was a little shorter than the boys intended...the Patrol had to run go get the Commissioner of Police for a ride around...but it didn't matter.  It was just perfect.

Yesterday was Father's Day so all the boys had to spend time with family, and Brian and I were on our own.  We had reservations at a nice restaurant around the corner from the hotel, but we fell asleep and missed the reservation!!  Whoops!  So I'm definitely ready for some breakfast this morning. 

Later this morning we are headed to the Blue Mountains.  Looking forward to yet a new view of this beautiful land!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Journey Down Under

Greetings from my hotel room in Parramatta, NSW Australia!

We are here celebrating Brian's remission in style! 

Last night my parents dropped us off at the airport after a frenzied last minute did-we-take-care-of-everything rush.  Dogs at the parents, neighbors will water and bring in the mail, passports....check!

We boarded our flight to Brisbane...let me just say that if you are looking to eat well and often on a plane, Qantas is the way to go!  Dinner, snacks, and breakfast on that flight and on the short jaunt from Brisbane to Sydney, another breakfast!  Yum! So, I'm well fed thus far.

The seats were not spacious but the in flight entertainment was nice...lots of choices.  I watched The Wizard of Oz, Brian watched Dirty Harry.  I tried watching Bridesmaids but couldn't get into it. 

All that almost made up for the obnoxious woman in front of me.  And yes, my darling bestie, Elizabeth, if you are reading this, I did get up and walk around periodically.  Fortunately I had quite a walk to the ladies' room.  My knees were killing me and my ankles are swollen, so despite feeling my age for 15 hours, I am unscathed. 

We were picked up in Sydney after a short stop at customs by Brian's Aussie police friends.  They brought the work ride, so we were taken to our hotel in style...light bar and all.  Well, they had other places to be and there is some traffic in this city, y'all!!

Our hotel is lovely and the room is fantastic.  Already had my shower and trying to stay awake as I am 16 hours behind.  Ugh!  It's not quite lunch time here. 

Tonight is our first big dinner with friends.  Looking forward to it.  Talk to y'all later!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lucy Dance

Yesterday I participated in a yearly ritual...the stomping of the grapes at the winery where Brian and I were married.  Each year the owners invited their patrons to a big party to celebrate the harvest.  They also encourage you to dress as Lucy as she looked in the episode where she also stomps grapes.  If you are a brave enough man, you can be a Luc-hee. 

Last year, I went for the first time with several good girlfriends.  We were attempting to take my mind off of Brian's diagnosis and impending treatment.  It was the most fun I had had in a long time.  Perhaps since the day I got married at the winery. 

When you pay at the door, you get a wine glass specially made for the day.  You choose your table and take it all in.  There are Lucys and Luc-hees everywhere.  Two 5x5 plastic bins are in the center of the covered patio.  It's hot, but the large fans everywhere make it bearable.  The wine starts flowing as soon as the waitress takes your order.  The Irish band begins to play.  You drink.  You dance. 

Caris, the owner of the winery, picks three women from the crowd to start the stomp.  After the short ceremony, then all the patrons may get in line to stomp the grapes.  About 6 people can cram into one of the bins.  The band plays.  Everyone is laughing and having a marvelous time. 

To stomp, you dip your feet into a bucket of water, hike up your peasant skirt and step into the cold, squishy grapes.  Once your friends have joined you, you dance the best you can in the grapes to the music.  Pictures are taken to prove to others that you've done it and for you to remember this marvelous day.  When you have stomped for a few minutes, you get out of the tub as gracefully as you can.  (That is directly proportional to how much wine you've had before you got in.)  Perhaps one or more of your friends has dipped their hands in the grapes and slapped you on the backside or on your front.  You walk a few feet to the edge of the patio where an eager man waits to hose you off.  The grapes are very sticky.  He willingly sprays whatever you ask him to.  He assures you he is a professional. 

The band plays on and the wine flows.  At some point you enjoy a hamburger lunch.  Not a good idea to be hungry and dehydrated. 

When you have had all the fun you can stand (usually after at least one more stomp, maybe more), you go claim your prize for dressing as Lucy...a bottle of Texas Kiss wine, one of their most popular. 

The drive home is full of laughter and plans for next year.  It's a true bonding experience.  And I wouldn't miss it for the world.  It's a day full of smiles, hope and promise.  And it rejuvenates you in a way that it is difficult to come stomp with us next year!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking Back

Today was the first day of school.  Brand new 7th graders came to me today, all shiny and full of promise.

Last year on this day was a million miles from here.  I did not meet my 7th graders last year on the first day of school.  It was the day we found out for sure that Brian had non-Hodgkins lymphona...his biopsy day.  Instead of telling 7th graders about how our year would be, what we would study, etc.  I had to tell my shiny new husband when he woke up from the surgery that he did have cancer on this day a year ago.

Today Brian is arresting robbery suspects and he's 2 hours late so that he can keep working.  I was so looking forward to telling him about my first day and about my wonderful new kids, but somehow this is the most fitting way I can think of for him to be spending this day. I hope it's the sweetest overtime he's made in awhile.

In nine days, we will be on a plane bound for Australia.  It's our celebratory vacation.  Remission from cancer for 5 months now.  So, I will be away from my students once again at the beginning of the year, but for a much better reason.

So, I will continue to celebrate life...Brian's life, my life, our life.  It's a great day to be alive!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Got 30 minutes? I do!

This will be a short one...I just want to share one thing.

It's the first day of professional development for the new school year. It was a good, productive day, but I was exhausted at the end. I dragged myself home, completely zapped.

Brian came home just late enough that I convinced myself that I was too tired to go back to school for our family dinner. I felt guilty and we wouldn't be that late, but I was so tired.

I made a quick supper and settled in on the couch, but I was antsy. Perhaps it was missing the dinner, perhaps that Australia is within reach (only 16 days till we leave now), perhaps it was all the changes for the new school year looming. Perhaps a combination of all of that.

What I know is that even after a Blue Moon (or two), I decided that this Monday would not be my rest day from exercise after all. I changed into my running clothes and hit the treadmill.

I told myself that despite my recent 20 minute triumph (no stopping!) that tonight even 10 minutes without stopping would be great. After all, it's the end of the day and I had just eaten not long before and had a few adult beverages.

I turned my playlist on my iPod, specially chosen for this workout and away I went.

30 minutes later, I stopped running. That's right. Not only did I do more than 10 minutes that was my goal, I did more than the 20 the day before.

I cannot describe to you how flipping great it felt except to say that I felt invincible when I finished....sweating like a pig, scarlet faced, raccoon eyed from my sweat, but INVINCIBLE.

So, I jog on to my 5k goals. No more wagging for me, y'all. I am a runner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Looking Back

It's been a year now since Brian's diagnosis.  A year. 

He's been in remission for 5 months.  This year has been so full of stress, I can't believe it's only been 12 months.  It seems like an eternity in so many ways.

Brian feels great.  He even passed the city's physical fitness test for a bonus check.  And it's not for cupcakes.  I'm so proud of him.

We are leaving for Australia to celebrate in 2 1/2 weeks.  We can't wait.  It's going to be so wonderful.

I looked back on the first posts on this blog today.  We were so full of trepidation, everything was so unsure.  Now we are full of possibility once again. 

I had to laugh about the comments I had about Brian losing his hair.  That's what freaked me out the most last year.  Do you know that not only did he not look any different to me without his hair, I didn't realize his eyebrows had fallen out, too?  He was my Prince Charming like always.  It wasn't until he had to have his driver's license picture remade (with no hair) that I realized they were gone. 

Now when I see the few pictures we have where he has no hair, it startles me.  He really does look ill to me.  (Sorry, baby.)  At the time though, we were so focused on remission being the only option, I only saw Brian.  Not his hair or lack thereof.

He's still going every three months for his follow up chemo.  No side effects or anything.  Just trying to make sure this awful stuff never comes back.  His hair came back exactly the same color...just a little more wiry.  Ever so slightly wavy.  He was adamantly against it coming in curly.  It cooperated more or less and he has lovely eyebrows once again. 

So, just as I promised in the intro to this blog...despite everything that has happened in the last year, we have been true marshmallows...we refused to be squished.

I look forward to this new year with no illness (for either of us).  We have so much more that we want to do.  Stay tuned!

Dear Kim

Dear Kim,

I know it's been a very long time since we talked...even longer since we've taken a run together.  But I wanted to take a minute and thank you.  As one of my coaches, you helped me so much.  And I have not quit. 

The bleeding ulcer and resulting anemia derailed me for quite awhile.  My last 5k was in January.  But I still asked for and was given a treadmill for my birthday in April.  That just happens to be when I started feeling sick.

But, I refuse to give up.  You wouldn't give up on me those weeks we ran together.  And you helped me not give up on myself, no matter how long it took me to finish a "run."  Because let's face it, I was doing a whole lot more walking than running.  I still pretend you are right there beside me. 

This summer, now that I feel better, more normal, I have started running again.  Thank goodness for the treadmill.  I work up enough of a sweat as it is.  I can't imagine trying to run outside right now!

Badger doesn't trust the treadmill.  He barks at it; Bear trys to lay between me and his brother to protect me and Badger from himself.  He is so patient. 

Gradually I have added more time to my running.  Very little walking for me now.  Today I hit 20 minutes without stopping.  Me!  20 minutes of running!  I had a total of 23 minutes today.  I feel like Wonder Woman.  I am still slow, but as Julie reminded me today, I am WAY faster than my couch. 

I won't lie; the nagging anemia will zap my afternoon energy because I spent so much on the run, but it's not enough to stop me.  I love the feeling of succeeding at this...finally.

I refuse to give up and I know that when it's cool enough, I will be ready to RUN a 5k.  So thank you for making a runner out of me. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amazing Things

I woke up to rain this morning.  RAIN!  Brian has to work this morning, so I made coffee and sat on the back porch with the dogs taking it all in.  The creek behind the house is full least temporarily.  The birds were hopping about the branches of the trees.  Even a grasshopper didn't bother to hop to a dry place on the porch.  It was glorious. 

There is a commercial on television that asks, "What's the most amazing thing you've ever seen?"  It always makes me pause.  I'm not sure what I would count as THE most amazing thing I have ever seen, but this morning might count as one of them.  Too many days without rain and so much heat in a Texas summer will make a person think so.  It was almost disorienting. 

But another amazing thing this morning was my workout.  After sleeping through most of June (stupid anemia and ulcer), I am running again, and I am finally able to make it really count.  I am running better than I ever did.  It's hard for me to believe, but I was able to run for 15 minutes without stopping this morning.  Three days ago I was excited about 11 minutes without stopping.  I ran more than I walked today for the first time ever.  I'm not fast even when running, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter.  Fall and winter 5ks here I come!

One last amazing thing that I shall not be witnessing today, but am indirectly benefiting from is the opening of the In-N-Out Burger in Fort Worth.  Brian is directing traffic there this weekend from 7 am to 1 pm.  Now, I did call it amazing, but I mean it in the shaking my head kind of amazing.  In-N-Out Burger is paying the officers ridiculous amounts of money to keep traffic flowing as Fort Worth discovers this "new" fast food.  I have no doubt it's a tasty burger, but the frenzy over this seems a bit much.  Now, that hasn't stopped me from instructing Brian to bring home one of these magic burgers.  I refuse to wait for hours in a drive thru, but I probably should see what all the fuss is about.  He will already be there, after all. 

And I did burn all those calories on the treadmill already...

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Summer of Toad

So, I watched my nephew for most of the summer for my brother.  Free are welcome. 

It was quite an education for someone with no children and honestly, limited experience with small children.  I'm used to the 12 year old set.  That's my day to day audience at work.  Much different when they are 5, it turns out.  And 12 year olds who think they are 21, by the way.

My nephew, Zachary, quite simply is pretty awesome. 

1.  He loves music.  His favorite song is "Crazy Girl" by the Eli Young Band.  He knows every word.  And woe be to you if you change the station by accident when it comes on. 

2.  He loves animals.  He is particulary in love with our cat, Azalea, who does not return the feeling.  He tries so hard to make her love him.  Unfortunately, he has the opposite effect on her.  She runs for the hills as soon as she realizes he is in the house.

3.  He loves Looney Toons.  Some of my favorite memories are of watching Looney Toons with my dad on Saturday mornings.  To my chagrin, they no longer have them on Saturday morning cartoons, however, they are to be seen in abundance on the cartoon networks.  And Zachary is unique, as in all things...his favorite is the "Bird Runner"  probably known to you as the Roadrunner.  He will watch a whole hour of cartoons just hoping for one "Bird Runner" cartoon. 

4.  He entertains himself.  I haven't felt well this summer...still trying to get ahold of this anemia.  But that hasn't stopped the little man from finding ways to entertain himself when I was just too tired.  He stays close by and plays with his cars.  He is quite compassionate at age 5.

5. He loves cars.  All kind of cars.  He loves to play with Matchbox cars.  He has hundreds of them.  He critiques peoples' rides as we drive along.  His favorite brand of vehicle is the "JimandCee" .  You might know them as GMC.  That's the kind of truck his daddy has. 

I had a truly fun summer, though sometimes being a guardian of a 5 yr old with no real prior experience could really be trying. 

There are smudgy little finger prints all over the back of my car---windows, doors, you name it. 

He knows no strangers and offers up all kinds of information to them.  Example...telling the lady with the West Highland terrier at the vet the other day about when he was sick with an upset stomach and diarrhea.  Haha.  Kids.

He just busts out with unnecessary minute he's quiet and completely calm.  The next minute he's hissing and yowling like a cat with his tail on fire. 

He torments my dogs.  He calls it "playing with them." 

He is a bottomless pit already when it comes to eating.  I can only imagine what feeding the boy will be like as he grows up.  Chicken nuggets and Go Gurt are his current favorites.

He can't go to the store with you without begging for you to buy him something...preferably a new Matchbox car or two.  He also can't watch the commercials in between cartoons without begging for the crap that's advertised.  "Will you buy me that?"  was the chime that marked every quarter hour.

I almost hated the sound of "Toad" by the end of the summer, but he's so darn cute, you can't.  He will look up at you and smile and say, "I love you, Toad, " spontaneously.  Who wouldn't melt?  Well, I did...every time.  I don't know what that says about me as a potential parent..hopefully sooner rather than later. 

So, the summer is over.  And I already miss the little dude...unnecessary noises and all.  This summer spent with him was a rare gift...kind of like the rock he presented me with when he was 18 months old and we were exploring outside.  He doesn't remember it and never will, but I still have the rock. 

It may have been free daycare for my brother, but for me, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Friday, July 29, 2011


So after a very long day yesterday (my grandfather's memorial), Brian and I were trying to relax.  I looked at him about 8 pm and said, "It's hot in here!"  He reminded me that he has turned up the air to 77 during the day in an attempt to give the air unit a rest.  Oh yeah.  So, I continued to work on the latest blog. 

But the house seemed to get warmer.  Now granted, I was wearing rolled up jeans and a black shirt and it had been a stressful day, but it seemed a little toasty. 

Brian went to turn the thermostat down and realized it was 80 degrees in the house...and we aren't that frugal.  Dang it.  He checked all the vents.  Nothing seemed to be coming out of them.  Double dang it.

I called the Home Warranty and talked to a very nice man in Illinois who lives without air conditioning every day.  (?!?!!??)  Brian went to see about getting a new air filter, but Lowe's was closed.  (That trick usually bought us some time at the little house.)

I fought Brian's suggestion of going to his parents' house to sleep with our two dogs and even the cat.  I spent the night before at my grandparents' house and didn't sleep well.  I wanted to sleep in my own bed so much.  I couldn't bear to think of sleeping in yet another bed, not my own.

Brian and I verbally duked it out; adding a little more hot air to the situation.  Finally I realized that it was silly to sleep in the heat.  At almost 11 pm, we loaded everyone up and went to my in laws' house.  (They are currently in Lake Tahoe for the season.) 

We did sleep in more comfort and despite my worst fears, the cat didn't disappear under a sofa or a bed, never to be seen again despite Badger's best efforts to play with/torment her.  Now, in our haste to leave our home oven, we didn't take anything for the pets.  We had already fed them and we could get water where we were going. I suggested bringing litter, but we made it out without it. 

Azalea meowed most of the night and was back at it this morning, but as I said I was so pleased that she stayed close to us, that's all I was focused on. 

Brian brought Bear, Azalea and me back to our house this morning.  Within blocks of the house, Azalea could bear it no longer...and she peed all over me.  I couldn't believe it. 

No air, can't sleep in my bed and now my cat pees on me.  And y'all, she REALLY had to go.  Sigh.  She was really glad to see her litter box for the rest of her business...and so was I!

I'm still waiting for the air company to call and tell me when I shall be rescued from the triple digit heat though so far, it's not too bad here in the house.

  Tonight Brian and I were supposed to have our anniversary dinner at the winery where we got married.  I hope we make it, but I have a feeling that isn't going to happen either.

Dang it. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I Wanted to Say

Today was my grandfather's memorial.  I wanted to speak, but I knew that all anyone would hear was a blubbering mess.  And I know myself well enough to say that no matter how well I prepared, it would be that way. 

My Aunt Janis wrote a beautiful speech, and just as when my grandmother died a little over a year ago, she made it through it well.  I hope to have that fortitude one day.  She says that many years from now, the expectation is that I speak for her.  Yikes. I'll have to start preparing now.

But I wanted to speak about Grandpa.  I wanted to tell everyone there how I felt about him.  So I will tell you now. 

Our family is extraordinary and it is my grandparents' most important legacy.  They would have it no other way.  They had four lovely children who married lovely people (and stayed married to them).  Each couple had two children (a girl and a boy).  And now, in December the youngest of those children will be 21.  Most of those grandchildren are married.  And all of the married grandchildren (but me) have their own children. Nine great grandchildren.

We joke that for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter we will have to start renting the Wise County Convention Center to accommodate everyone comfortably.  But that's only my "immediate" family.  That doesn't count my cousins from Arkansas and my great aunt's family who we are so close to that we don't make picky distinctions like "first cousin", "second cousin", etc.  We are just  My husband, from a relatively small family, wants a score card to keep up at the larger gatherings...and we have been a couple for almost 15 years.

That is my grandparents' legacy.  And I am so grateful for each person.

My grandfather is known as Groucho to most people, a nickname bestowed on him by my uncles when they were still in school...long before there were grandchildren.  I have never called him that.  He's always been Grandpa to me.  But the rest of the family and many others around Bridgeport called him Groucho. 

He was a patriot, a member of the Greatest Generation, a proud Marine.  He served his nation in World War II in the South Pacific.  He never talked about it a lot, but he was so grateful to have been able to give his service to his country and he enjoyed spending time with other veterans.

He was strict and it was devastating to think of disappointing him or my grandmother.  My brother and I both agree that was the best discipline possible.  "Will this disappoint my grandparents?"  If so, then it wasn't worth it. 

He didn't have little pet names for each one of us.  No, not "Groucho."  He called us all "good for nuthin'."  But you knew when he said it just by the tone of voice and the chuck you usually got under the chin that you were far from good for nothing.  You were everything

He smoked a pipe and chawed tobacco my whole life and I'm sure many years before.  The tobacco grossed me out; I won't lie.  But the smell of that pipe comforted me like no other smell.  The holes in all his jackets and shirts as we went through his clothes this week gave me a giggle.  The embers from his pipe were always escaping.

I only remember dancing with my grandfather once.  We were at a family reunion about 8 years ago now.  I have a great picture of the two of us laughing as we tried to be graceful together.  It is one of my most precious memories and possessions.

Our family is a symbol of love.  We aren't finished growing and though they can no longer be with us, my grandparents are so glad to be together again, to watch us all.  And while I miss them more than I can ever explain to you, I am so grateful for that.

I couldn't say all this out loud, but my family has made me who I am; my family--my grandfather is amazing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Death in a Small Southern Town

My grandpa died yesterday.

He and my grandmother lived for about 70 years in the small town of Bridgeport, Texas.  He and my grandmother raised their four children there.  Their two sons remained there and raised their children there.  A long tradition of Meyers family values has been established there.

When the news about my grandpa reached the town yesterday, friends went home from church and started baking and cooking.

My mother and I went out today to help with the funeral decisions, answering the phone, receiving people at the house.  Most of my family had the same thoughts...and I think just to be near one another.  The visitation and funeral isn't for another few days.

But the food and visitors are already rolling in.  We are trying to keep a meticulous account for the thank you notes to be written in the days to come.  A chocolate chip pound cake, a ham, chicken, enchilada casserole, iced tea (sweet and unsweet), potato salad, cinnamon rolls, even a huge bucket of ice.

We have done all we can to suggest donations to the church instead of flowers, but my grandpa was famous for his beautiful yard and green thumb and I have no doubt that the church will overflow with beautiful arrangements. 

Such strong roots in a small community means that both he and my grandmother touched many lives.  And these people aren't shy about wanting to condole with us.  I only regret not knowing who most of them are!  Being an outsider from "the big city" as I am, I do not know them and they do not know me.

The small town folks are chattier and warmer, that's certain.  Even now as we order flowers for the church or arrange the service, they want to take some time and talk with you.  I am constantly amazed at the steady stream of people in and out of the house, some just coming to check on all of us...some bringing that delicious food I mentioned.  I am grateful for them.  Glad my grandparents had them.  Glad my Bridgeport family will have them in the days to come.

And on Wednesday we will have the visitation with hundreds of people, if it's like my grandmother's.  It's a little exhausting thinking about it, especially since I won't know many of them, but I am so proud of how well loved Grandpa is. 

And finally Thursday, the memorial service.  Many more people, more food.  And by then, I wonder, Will I even be able to taste it?

This has been precious time with my family, cousins I only see about twice a year now.  I know we need to do better; we don't live very far apart.  Seems so incongruous, but we had such fun looking at pictures today from when we were kids. We really need to spend more time together regularly.

So though I have nothing to compare it to, I have to think that Southerners know how to make the death of a loved one a bit easier to manage.  And I do hope it's not restricted to Southerners. Everyone needs to feel the loving arms of a community like this in times of matter what part of the country you hail from.

A New Kind of Writing

I am a writer and though it's been awhile since I've checked in here, I think it's time I found my voice.

I am a writer and today, I wrote my grandfather's obituary. 

We write so many things in our lives...daily even.  Lists for the grocery, checks for bills, Christmas cards, reminder notes.

And as many things as I have written already in my life, I truly wasn't expecting to be writing this.  A few years ago, I wrote a history of our grandparents so that someday all of our cousins and our children would know them.  As invincible as they have always seemed, I knew we could not keep them forever. 

Today, that history helped me write what everyone would read about him, his life.  It seemed so stark, so matter of fact to have his remarkable life summarized on a single sheet of paper like that.  I'm not sure how I feel about it still, but we had a deadline staring us in the face, and my mom, aunts, and uncles approved it. 

So, now I have accomplished one more piece of writing. I wish I could say it will be the last obit I write, but I'm sure it won't be.  I just hope it will be many years until the next one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Badger and Bear's No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Day

Badger: Mom's little nephew came over again today. Man, that kid scares me!  He's so loud!  I never know how to act around him.  Am I supposed to chase him?  Bite him?  Ignore him?  I'm so confused.  I just don't know! 

Bear:  No doubt, my friend.  He's a little tornado, for sure.  You just have to stay still.  That's the key.

Badger:  That's so boring. 

Bear:  Maybe.  But he's not blowing in my face all the time or chasing me around the living room or yelling BOO at me!  Just you, dude.

Badger:  Oh and what about that hoop thing he had today?  That was a whole new nightmare. 

Bear:  You are such a scaredy cat, dude.  At least I walked through it when Mom showed me how.  And while we are on the subject of what scares you--what's up with bicycles and scooters?  That gets a little old...all the barking every time a kid rides by on one of those. 

Badger:  I'm just being vigilant and consistent.  You can't let your guard down, man. 

Bear:  Yeah, uh huh.

Badger:  So, as if a morning with the kid wasn't bad enough, Mom decides a BATH would be a good idea?  I didn't stink...that badly. 

Bear:  What do you have to complain about?  What was that like your second bath in your whole life?  You are such a baby; you won't even let her brush you.  That's why you got a bath, doofus. 

Badger:  It was still traumatizing.  Dad would have never let her do it.

Bear:  You wanna bet?

Badger:  Honestly, I'm too tired to argue about it now.  I need a nap.  What about you?

Bear: Man, baths have worn me out since I was a puppy.  Let's grab the couch as soon as Mom bails. 

Badger:  Excellent idea, my brother.  Can't wait till Dad gets home.

Bear:  Maybe I'll be ready for my walk by then.

Summer Camp

For the last 12 years, I have spent one week each summer at Lake Texoma with 30 teenagers from all over the world as their counselor.  It's probably the coolest summer job...ever.

The Lions Club International brings these teens together each summer to promote peace and understanding among the nations of the world.  And my brother provides the ski boat; I make sure there is plenty of aloe vera after the days in the sun and Benadryl for the inevitable mysterious allergic reactions. 

David and I have a routine that we follow, arriving early before the campers to establish our rooms and theirs.  We pick their roommates, you see.  I find it's one more way to force them to mingle.  We all stay in one building, but the boys are required to sleep on their designated floor and the girls on theirs.  (They always think we are so provincial...all of our rules.  No drinking, no hanky panky with the other campers.)

David and I are charged with their safety and happiness.  This year was particularly successful, despite the trip to emergency on the 4th of July.  Tubing mishap.  All is well, however. 

The kids give presentations about their countries; we've come a long way now that we have power point.  Much more entertaining and easy to put together. 

We taught the kids to two step and Cotton Eyed Joe.  We even did the Chicken Dance. 

We watch movies, play Twister, stay up late and eat junk food.  We put together a "talent show" for the families at the end of the week.

And by the end of the week, teenagers who were complete strangers when they arrived cannot do without each other.  If that happens, we have done our jobs.  This year was such a success, we probably should have gotten a bonus.  (Just kidding.)  The bonus is seeing their faces when they are together.

As I watched them learn to ski, seeing the pure joy on their faces was payment enough honestly.  Spending the week of the 4th, the week of our nation's independence is even more meaningful to me.  Nineteen nations coming together, creating relationships---some that will last a lifetime.  The hope is that some day, when they have the opportunity to make a difference in the world they will remember this brief time in Texas with these friends. 

I am so grateful for this gift each year.  Each camp is so special and this one has been magical so far. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's a....Buh...buh...buh...BEAR!

On Wednesday the boys went fishing on Lake Tahoe.  They caught their limit on trout and came proudly home with their catch.

We debated on taking to the restaurant in town that offered to cook their catch or just cooking it ourselves at our campsite.  Cooking it ourselves won, but not by a large margin...Brian was particularly skeptical.  I even tried to get online and research it but the wifi wasn't cooperating.  My mother-in-law assured Brian that she knew what to do.  He remained unconvinced, I think, but she forged ahead. 

Everyone was peacefully settled around the campsite.  My niece and nephew were playing washers.  Brian was cooking the trout on the grill.  My mother-in-law was supervising.  My father-in-law wasn't home from work yet.  My brother-in-law was lounging in a chair under the canopy by the trailer and I was in the trailer with the dogs making a salad for dinner.

Now, I'm sure you know by now my dogs are named Badger...and BEAR.  And in a place where it's possible for one to see an actual bear, having a dog with the same name can be inconvenient.

Like Wednesday evening.  As I said, we were all peacefully doing our thing when suddenly I heard my brother-in-law, Eric saying, "Bear, Bear, Bear!" Each time with more volume and fervor.  Well, I knew my dog was with me in the kitchen. So he wasn't talking to him or about him.  There could be only one other explanation. 

An actual BEAR.  I went running out the door.  And sure 'nough.  There was a young bear, maybe 2 years old ambling through the camp.  He was moving pretty fast and we were all so surprised, pleased, and enchanted that we didn't have time to grab a camera and get pictures of him. Mr. Bear didn't stop for chitchat or photo ops.  Just kept moving.  We watched him for about 3-5 minutes before he was gone. 

It was by far the coolest thing that has happened in a long time in my camping experience.  Poor Eric finally recovered, a little indignant that no one realized that he was NOT talking about the dog.  I assured him that I knew the entire time. 

We disinfected the picnic table, etc and got rid of all the trout evidence to make sure we didn't have a repeat performance from Mr.Bear since Eric and my nephew Riley were sleeping in a tent.  Even so, Eric said it was a bit of tense night for the first few hours until he was just too tired to care anymore. 

And I was sure I was bear-repellent...well, reinforces for me that I shall not be tent camping any time soon...

Go West

Last Friday Brian and I set out for Lake Tahoe, CA.

His parents spend every summer there.  It's not quite as glamorous as it sounds.  For about 7 or 8 years now, they have worked their buns off at a campground across the road from Lake Tahoe.  Brian's mom is the manager and his dad is the maintenance man.  And believe me, that is grossly simplifying their duties. 

But, you can't beat the scenery any time of day when they actually have a second to look around and they love working with the campers...even if most of them are native Californians...quirky folks, many of them.

We have taken to spending our vacations up there because except for Christmas, it's about the only time we see his parents anymore.  Oh please punish me...send me to Lake Tahoe...the mountains...the lake...the cool air...the woods...oh no!  Not that!!!  Plus seeing my sweet in-laws isn't bad either...

Last year, we spent our first wedding anniversary in Lake Tahoe.  I can think of worse places.  At home it was 100 degrees in the shade.  The lakes are so cold in Tahoe year round, I can't bring myself to do much more than to run in and run out again.  Brian climbed Mt. Tallac.  It was a nice vacation.  Only when we got home did we know something was terribly wrong. 

Just last year, almost a year ago now, we found out Brian was sick.  So,when we left on this vacation last week it seemed a little surreal.  We had come so far...done so much in just under a year.

As we headed out, our little family...Brian, Bear, Badger, and me, I couldn't help but think about what this trip meant.  There was a time when Brian wondered if he would ever be healthy enough to travel again.  I've been so exhausted lately from the anemia and ulcer, everything has been an effort for me. 

One of the books I love to read my students is called Hooray for Rodney Rat.  He is a little rodent who has a speech impediment who turns it into strength when a bully takes over the classroom.  Rodney is picked to lead Simon Says.  He gets rid of the bully by saying, "Wodney says 'Go West.'" The bully misunderstands and leaves forever.  His classmates understands he means to REST. 

As we headed WEST, I couldn't help but heave a huge sigh and think about RESTING.  We were going WEST and I fully intended to REST.  I had  a great week with the family and I did manage to lounge about.  I'm still gathering strength and not 100 % from the stupid ulcer.  Frustrating.  But I'm getting there. 

Brian fully enjoyed his time at the lake though he was terribly disappointed to learn that he couldn't do a repeat hike up Mt. Tallac this year...due to all the SNOW.  Maybe next year, baby.  LOL.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

And the Winner is....

An ulcer.

I survived the Sunday prep and the Monday procedure.  Can't get rid of me that easily.  Hehehehe.

After I "adjusted" to the no-food regimen of Sunday, and managed to drink the prep stuff (brief shudder), I can honestly say that as long as you have a good book, it's not that bad.  The prep stuff goes down easily at first (it almost tastes like grape) and if I had been able to channel the "college me" and chug it a little faster, it might have been even more palatable. 

It does liquify your insides; I'm not going to lie to you.  But it's not as uncomfortable as you might imagine.  But, like I sure to have a good book.  And very soft TP.  Because after awhile (please excuse this image, those of you with more gentle constitutions...) it becomes more like sandpaper...

So, that's really the hard part.  Really.

The morning of the procedure all you have to do is cooperate with the nurse.  The most painful thing that happened yesterday was getting stuck for my IV.  And the nurse was so nice, I didn't even mind.  And I was so hungry and wanted a drink of water so badly, I forgot to be scared at all.  Plus, I was finally going to get to SLEEP.

Oh, and that was sneaky!  The anesthesiologist wheeled me into the procedure room, hooked me up to the machines, the doctor's assistant moved me over on to my side and stuck oxygen tubes in my nose and that is the LAST thing I remember until I was looking into Brian's beautiful blue eyes and it was all over.  No counting backwards, nothing!  Just nighty night!  My best friend Liz and her little boy were there too when I woke up.  All in all, a pretty nice way to come back to the world. 

And my doctor breezed in again. I don't think that guy has a slow gear.  He declared with his reassuring smile that it is in fact an ULCER.  Not great news, but hey...meds will fix that.  Gracias, senor. 

Brian loaded me up and we headed home.  Liz and Mason tried to reward me with cupcakes but our favorite place was closed for the day.  I think Mason was more disappointed than me.  Poor guy.  They are great cupcakes.

Then came trying to get my meds.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that getting my meds for my ulcer could give a person an ulcer.  Brian tried 4 pharmacies before he finally found one that had the medicine.  Then, because it was Target and not Walgreen's, I had to call the doctor back this morning to ask them to call it in again to a new pharmacy.  Sheesh.

Picking it up was another adventure.  Because it had a very long time since I had used that pharmacy, the tech didn't know how to process my insurance. stomach was starting to churn a bit though I confess I had never really been able to feel the ulcer before. 

Fortunately, quick as a flash, another tech recognized the card and with just a $10 charge, I finally had my miracle drug.  Let the healing begin, people!  Let's celebrate with a new lip gloss and a cute pair of capris I found on the way to the check out....

I should be all healed up in a few weeks though Excedrin and I will never be friends again.  And I won't have to have a colonoscopy for another 14 years (with luck). 

In all seriousness I have to tell you that if you are 50 or older and haven't done this yet, you need to.  If I can get through it with a sense of humor, so can you!  And after the year I've had with the people I love, I can tell you--you just never pick a good book and make that appointment! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Liquid Diet

So, tomorrow is D-Day.  So, today I'm on a liquid diet.  Yay! (please note sarcasm.)

It's not 10 past 8 am and I already miss food.  Silly, I know, but I think it's the knowing I CAN'T have any.  ALL day. I'm reminded of a character in one of the novels I read with my students.  In The Lightning Thief, Grover, the satyr, always moans/calls out "Fooood!" when he's been traumatized. 

 I plan to be pretty scarce when Brian is eating.  He won't mean to taunt me, I know.  Well, I wouldn't blame him if he teased me a little.  And all I can say is, I'm glad I won't see my brother today.  He would probably take great delight in eating in front me.  'Cause I love him, but he's got a little mean streak like that.  Hee hee.

Of course he is the one who kindly reminded me that I should be skinnier after this little experience today! 

I can drink just about anything I want.  In fact, I'm enjoying a cup of chicory coffee with a little sugar right now.  Mighty tasty.  But it would be ever so much more tasty with a bagel and a schmear.

Now, I won't bore you with the details yet to come, but my day will get more...uh, interesting later on...heaven help me.

So, we have two possible outcomes for tomorrow.  An NSAID ulcer or Celiac disease.  Neither particularly fun, but the ulcer is easier to fix.  Celiac disease would mean a complete and total life change.  Gluten free.  Yikes. 

I'm just anxious to have energy and be AWAKE again for significant periods of time.  The smallest things exhaust me.  It's getting pretty pititful, really.  I may need a nap after this.  (Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but not much.)

So, it's going to be a loooong day, I have a feeling.  I'm really looking forward to the answers tomorrow will provide, no matter how unpleasant it is to get there. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peace of Mind?

I went to the doctor today.  I was surprisingly calm, considering the way I had been feeling leading up today.  Perhaps it's all the support my dear sister friends have extended.  Perhaps it was having Brian there with me.  Brian who has looked some scary stuff in the eye and said, "BOO!"  Perhaps all of it combined.

Dr. Houston was running late, and though they were very apologetic, I wasn't the least bit upset. He was doing a procedure for a patient and it was taking longer than expected.  I would want him to take his time with me, so no worries here.

I was so tired this morning as well.  I slept last night.  But I put away the laundry this morning before we left and it took about all the energy I had.  Pathetic, isn't it?

Dr. Houston breezed in, a small ball of energy, still feeling the rush from his successful procedure this morning, no doubt.  He asked me some general questions, did a little cursory exam, you know--normal stuff.

Then, he told us what he'd like to do.  Haha.  He'd like to do an endoscopy.  And that will probably confirm I have an NSAID induced ulcer.  NSAIDs, I'm sure you know are pain relievers that are not Tylenol.  I take a lot of Excedrin.  I won't lie. So, that makes sense.  He said that the misconception is that when you have ulcers that you always have symptoms.  But, he said, there is that possibility that the endoscopy won't tell him everything he needs to know.  So, for insurance purposes and for everyone's benefit (!!!), he wants to do the colonoscopy, too. 

Can you feel me clenching?  He assures me that I will be knocked out with some very good drugs and that  I will hardly know anything happened.  Crap.  LOL.

I'm REALLY not looking forward to this experience, but this is the next step.  So, while I get this experience about 14 years earlier than I'm supposed to, as Dr. Houston reminds IS peace of mind.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Life As I Know It

So, I experienced a little cruise interruptus this week.

I went for a blood draw last Friday to make sure that my iron levels were coming up as a result of taking the iron.  And then I blithely skipped off to the Caribbean with my friends.

I didn't think too much about it; I knew Monday the offices would be closed for Memorial Day.  I was busy buying jewelry in St. Thomas.  Hee hee. 

So I figured it would be Tuesday or Wednesday before there were any results to be had based on the tests before. The doctor was supposed to call Brian.  I emailed Brian on Wednesday and prepared to explore Aruba on Thursday. 

I checked my email on Thursday and never expected to see a reply from Brian begging me to call home (it's 7.95 a minute!!) because the doctor has been frantically trying to get in touch with me.  (They had finally seen the note in the file to call Brian.)

His email said my iron levels had continued to drop despite taking the iron every day and that indicated internal bleeding somewhere.  I have to see a gastrointerologist first thing Monday. 

I sat at the computer on the ship, crying in the middle of paradise.  This is a mistake, right?  I took some deep breaths and wiped my face. 

I went to guest relations to ask how you call home.  The young man at the counter looked at me like I was a little crazy.  "It's 7.95 a minute!" he whispered in his South American accent.  He started to explain to me how to call from my room, and then seeing that I was crying, he asked, "Is it an...emergency?" 

I wasn't exactly sure how to answer that.  Emergency in that I needed medical attention right then?  Well, no.  Emergency in that I physically have something wrong with me and I don't know what it is and my husband is frantic to speak with me?  Yes!!  I explained it that way.  He motioned me to move down the counter with him as he reached for the tissues.

"What's the number?"  he asked.  He was going to let me call for free!!  Soon I heard Brian's relieved voice on the other end of the phone.  He repeated what his email told me and just confirmed that for now I was all right. 

Trick question, right?

After I called Brian, I ordered a drink and sat and looked at the ocean for awhile.  Cried a little more.  Then I had to go tell my mom what I knew.

Suddenly I didn't feel so guilty for buying jewelry...

My appointment with the specialist is tomorrow morning first thing.  I am pretty scared.  Not going to lie.  No matter what, life will be different when I enter that office.

Can't catch a break this year, I guess.

The Suitcase

My mother and I just returned from a cruise with our friends from school.  We toured the Southern Caribbean for 7 days.  It was my mother's first cruise.  She hadn't even flown since before 9/11, I don't think.

You may recall she's just recently had surgery, so we weren't sure she was going to get to go.  But she got the all clear the week we were to leave.  She dragged her feet on the packing a little bit (even after I went to The Container Store and got her these awesome packing tools).  I knew, inevitably, that I would be packing that suitcase.

But my energy levels haven't exactly been soaring (see about two entries back) and I was trying to close out the school year.  We actually left on the last duty day for teachers. 

And as it turns out, I did have to pack the suitcase.  Now, I knew it was old when I packed it.  The woman bought the thing when my now 33 year old brother went to England with his high school choir when he was SIXTEEN.  (I'll wait a sec while you do that math....)  Yeah, so you putting together that my mama doesn't travel a WHOLE lot, right?

Unfortunately, I didn't grasp the true severity of the situation with the ancient suitcase as I packed.  I mean, this thing should either be burned or be in a museum somewhere.  I still can't decide which. I just knew I needed to get my mom's packing underway so I could go home and finish my own.

Skip to the day we leave. 

Now I want you to picture this suitcase.  It is a large cloth, tapestery suitcase that does roll, but only when you pull it on a little leash.  It does not have a sturdy metal handle that you can pull out to help you roll.

Mom tried to roll it into the airport when we were leaving, but it was a little unweildy and I didn't want her wrestling with it and her carry on. So suddenly I was wrestling her suitcase, mine and my backpack.

Then we arrived in San Juan, I had to schlep it out of the airport and up to the hotel room (we arrived the night before the cruise).  And so on...I have never been more glad to be on a cruise ship in my life and that first vodka tonic went down very easily, I must say.

Fortunately, on the way home, it was a little easier.  We had more help. 

And you can be absolutely sure that Mom will be receiving new luggage at the earliest possible convenience...whether she ever travels again or not. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Remote

My daddy is my first hero.  He can do almost anything. 

He can build things.  He can hunt, fish, and grow things in the garden.  His lawn and flowers are to be envied.  His orchard produces lovely fruit that he then makes into delicious jellies.

He and my mother have been married almost forty years.  They raised two successful, happy, and may I say attractive children.  He is an expert in his field. He was an amazing baseball player. 

He is a quiet observer, but he always has good advice when you need it.  He would give you the shirt off his back if you  needed it.

But there is one thing I don't think I'll be asking my sweet daddy to help with...EVER.  Hooking up electronics. 

Brian and I gave my parents a tv for their bedroom a month or so ago.  It's a little smaller than the one they had before, but it's a flat screen instead of the big dinosaur they had in there before.  The problem arose when they switched out the tvs.  The new tv wasn't in sync with that satellite box and remote, so they need one remote to turn on the tv and one to work the satellite box. 

My precious father has on more than one occasion accidentally pushed a button on the TV remote that renders the TV unwatchable.  Now, he is a problem solver.  In his line of work, he has to be. So he continues to punch buttons, trying to get the picture to come on.  Eventually in frustration he gives up and my mother calls me.  I try to solve the problem over the phone, but we so many remotes at our house that I can't remember what he needs to push.

Good thing that we only live 5 minutes away.  Usually the call comes about the time I have just put my pajamas on or am about to.  I change again quickly, and Brian and I drive over and fix it.

Daddy's getting savvier though; last time we were half way there when my mom called and said he had figured it out.  So, we pulled in to the Sonic for a smoothie and a sundae instead.

Confession...I'm Tired...

You may have noticed my entries have dropped off drastically.  I didn't feel I had anything witty enough to contribute.  I was/am so tired I can hardly make it through the day.  I get home from work and collapse on the couch.  Frequently, I fall asleep and then a few hours later Brian will wake me up and tuck me into bed. 

I don't want to go anywhere when I get home. I don't want to talk to anyone.  I don't want to do anything.  I don't want to run anymore.  I don't even want to take Bear for a walk...and that's part of his prescription from his vet for his health, too...

My body hurts.  I have a headache (though not always a migraine) as often as not. 

I honestly was reluctant to try to do anything about how I felt.  What do you make an appointment for? "I don't feel good?"  Well, I didn't, but that seemed silly to me.  I didn't know if I was just super stressed (YES!); after all, my mother had just had a major surgery for a stage one cancer (remission now, no worries).  My grandfather is still healing six months later in a hospital from a staph infection he contracted at Christmas.  This blog exists because of what Brian and I went through with his cancer.  Just a little stress.

Well, I felt silly making a doctor appointment for stress.  Buck up, Buttercup.  Geez.  You are not the only person with problems.  So you are tired.  So is everyone else.  But y'all.  Seriously, I could barely function.  I really hurt. 

So, finally I couldn't stand it anymore.  And rather than say I didn't "feel good" when I made the appointment, I said my headaches had increased.  That wasn't a lie.  It was just only part of it.

My doctor listened patiently as I verbally vomited everything that had happened recently.  I got a little emotional. She sweetly gave me a tissue.  She reassured me that I could have made the appointment for "not feeling good."  That's allowed.  Who knew?  "How do you diagnose that?"  I asked.  "We start with lab work," she said.  It had been years since blood work had been done on me.

I waited for a few days and yesterday the call came with a few answers.  No thyroid problem. Crap. The weight gain is my fault.  Cholestorol is a little high.  Crap.  And pretty anemic.  We just don't know why yet. So, a prescription iron pill.  Crap (or not for those of you who know what taking iron does to a girl.)  And Vitamin D to add a little extra pep. 

I have to go back next Friday for more bloodwork to make sure the iron is working.  To make sure the anemia isn't a symptom of something else.  I'm hoping NOT obviously, but while they are working on those results I'll be in the Caribbean on a cruise so I'll try not to dwell on it and get my Vitamin D the old-fashioned way.