Saturday, December 25, 2004

The best gift ever

The notion of a "merry" Christmas may seem ridiculous or even cruel to a person who is hurting. All over the world tonight people are silently suffering - people who have recently lost loved ones, or whose loved ones cannot be with them, or who for whatever reason have hearts and spirits that are broken.

But today is about commemorating the best gift ever, God's gift of His Son. For me, Christmas carols do not come close to doing justice to the magnificence of this awesome gift. This simple song, found on the CD "The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Live...Again", does.

Smile, make them think you're happy
Lie, and say that things are fine.
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don't ever show it, just keep your heart concealed.

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams.

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you'll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes.

Jesus, He meets you where you are.
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you're longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart.

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
and peace, beyond the reaches of your soul,
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole.

Once like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where could you turn?
You spoke the words of a prayer
And you found Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes.

Jesus, He meets you where you are.
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you're longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart.

("Friend of a Wounded Heart" Lyrics by Wayne Watson)

Accept this gift from God, and your heart can be healed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I don't feel the way I look

There is something in our brains that distorts what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror. At over 300 pounds, I have no illusions that I appear to the world as a thin, healthy-looking woman. But when I look in the mirror, I still see something different than what a camera sees.

I got a new PC camera last week and have been playing around taking pictures and video clips. Tonight I bought a new hat, and looking in the rear view mirror in the car on the way home I saw myself as cute and sassy...I liked it. But in front of the camera now it is another story. It's just a hat on top of a very large round face.

 Posted by Hello

The "me" that is seen by the world (the same me that is captured in photos) is not the me I see. The people who know me probably see what I see for the most part. The ones who don't may choose not to get to know me because what they see is undesirable. This may have happened recently when I was introduced to the brother of a friend who thought we know...want to go out. He seemed nice, and I let him know I was interested, but I haven't heard from him. I'm not sure it is because he was turned off by my weight, but that's what I suspect.

This may sound conceited, but I feel sorry for that guy if indeed he wrote me off because of my looks. He missed out on knowing me. Funny thing is, he weighs almost as much as I do and I was willing to give him a chance.

Because the way I look does not reflect the real me. And that's probably true for most people, regardless of their size.

Here's something that doesn't happen every day

Yesterday at lunchtime I decided to get my car washed, since the prediction for the rest of the week was drastically falling temperatures.

I waited in the line for the automatic wash for about 15 minutes. Once I got in, I couldn't get out! The moving bar that shoots the water, soap, wax, etc. never got past my front end. It kept starting and stopping and the lighted board kept saying "back up slowly" then "pull foward slowly". It seems I was never in quite the right position.

After five or six times, I tried pulling all the way up, but the front door would not open. I finally pulled all the way back and asked the guy in line behind me to call for help. (I had left both my cell phones on my desk at the office.)

After I was freed, I went to the cashier and asked for my money back. Bless his heart, the guy felt really bad...but he made me a totally ridiculous offer. "Would you like a free car wash?" Um, where - in the chamber of soapy death I just escaped?

I got my $6 back, and drove to the office with soap on my hood and the rest of my car still dirty. But I was glad to be free!

Sunday, December 19, 2004


A web friend of mine lost her mother to cancer a couple of weeks ago. She's going through a lot of the same feelings and experiences I had when I lost my husband. She recently wrote about a dream she had, in which her mother was so real she actually felt her when they hugged in the dream.

I had many similar dreams in the months after Daniel's death. But there was one dream that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

In this dream, Daniel and I were standing side-by-side at the back of what I can only describe as an outdoor church, with trees and flowers everywhere, birds singing, and soft music playing. I was looking up at him, with my left hand threaded under and resting on his offered right arm. He was glowing! He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen - tall and slim, with wavy golden hair and crystal blue eyes. He was in golden attire. At some point I realized I was also beautifully golden - slim, with long gold curls, and wearing a golden gown and a crown of flowers in my hair. We were about to get married, again. I spoke the only words of the dream:

"Isn't it wonderful? Not every man gets a second chance at life."

My first thought upon waking was that this might be what heaven is like. Maybe when you meet your loved ones in heaven, they will appear as their essense - beautiful and full of love. And their love for you will be tangible, something you can feel down to your bones.

For those few sleeping moments, Daniel was alive for me. My friend is feeling her mother's love in her dreams. The love is real, but the dreams can be scary. And they are bittersweet because we wake up, and our loved one is "gone" again.

But they are not completely gone, are they? Not as long as we love them.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Real Live Preacher

Reading is one of my passions, especially reading about real people.

I've been reading a blog called Real Live Preacher for a long time now, and thought you too would enjoy a two-part essay about his grandfather, a real Texas oilman.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Oh, my darlin'...

STOP THE PRESSES!! NEWS FLASH!! Aunt Judie ate some fruit. Real fruit. A couple of Clementines, those small oranges that are everywhere right now. My hands smell wonderful! And no seeds...sweeeeeeet!

A short trip to Never-land

The other day for a short time I found myself in Never-land...not the imaginary Peter Pan place, but my own private, dark Never-land. In this place I use the word "never" in a sorry, self-pitying way:

"I'll never lose this weight."
"I'll never be married again."
"They will never promote me."

I think the word "never" should be used sparingly, maybe only in sentences like "I would never rob a bank" or, "thank you, but I never eat head cheese".

When you misuse the word "never" in projecting the future, you deny the endless possibilities of life. Words are important, especially the ones you use when talking to yourself!

I didn't stay long in fact, I consider it a sign of significant personal growth that I was able to get out of it so quickly. All I had to do was remind myself of some of the things I used to say, like "I'll never get married" and "I'll never weigh that much".

You cannot know what will or will not happen in the future. Never forget that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Small changes - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Three weeks ago I started an effort to change my life, one habit at a time. Since then my new habit of eating breakfast at home has taken solid hold. I have only missed doing this once or twice, but did not resort to the fast-food solution. I'm also still at just two cups of coffee at home in the morning, and am having none at work (which is "coffee breath" worries).

In the meantime, another change happened quite by accident. As most of you know, I am a serious junk food junkie, with a love for McDonald's that goes back to my first Quarter Pounder with Cheese in the early 1970's. And the fries! Incomparable! If the saying "you are what you eat" were literal, your Aunt Judie would be a potato.

Until a few weeks ago I had no intention of watching the movie "Super Size Me". This horrible man was trying to insult my good friend Ronald, and blame him for my weight problem. But on the recommendation of my friend W, I added it to my Netflix queue. When it came I thought I would go get a McD's meal and eat it while I watched the movie just to spite the film maker. It's a good thing I didn't.

The guy ate McD's every day, three times a day, for a month. He bought the Super Size meal if it was offered to him. He got sick in a number of ways, and actually vomited from eating so much on day two or three. But once his system got used to the higher volume, he was able to keep it down. (Our bodies are designed to the good and the bad.)

Now, in all the years I have eaten at McD's, I have maybe once or twice had it three times in one day. But I had never regularly eaten the quantity this guy put in his body. And I am a firm believer in personal responsibility. Nobody forced me to eat this stuff. I liked it!

But something about this movie just changed me. I have not gone near a McDonald's in over two weeks, which must be a personal record. I cannot get the picture of him throwing up out of my mind. That, plus one of the deleted scenes which revealed that the fries do not decompose. He had a batch on his desk in a glass jar for 10 weeks, and they never mold, no spoilage. I imagine there is a fry or two under the seat of the first car I owned, sitting in a junk yard somewhere, still looking fresh 25 years later. This is just wrong!

I'm not saying I will never eat at McD's again, but it sure doesn't appeal to me at the moment. I'm cooking more now, bringing my lunch to work once in a while, and even eating an occasional real vegetable. I'm saving money too, by not eating out all the time. The benefits of change seem to multiply.

My next conscious effort to make a change started yesterday. My apartment complex has community mailboxes scattered throughout the neighborhood. Instead of driving up to my mailbox a couple times a week, I am going to walk there every day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

My vacation in another world

It has taken me days to get back in sync with my home planet. My week-long visit with my cousin and his family truly felt like being in another world.

And I loved it.

For a short time I was completely immersed in an alternative universe. I was transported from my singleton life of drinking from the milk carton and peeing with the door open into to being one member in a household of six. Except for the fact that (my cousin) Dad S was off work several days because of the holiday, I believe I witnessed the regular routine of a stay-at-home mom household.

The days began early for Mom K, as her four-year-old J regulary wakes up at six no matter how much (or how little) sleep she has had. They quietly go downstairs and go about their morning routine while the rest of the house continues to sleep. Two-year-old A wakes up later and happily sings in her crib for a while until she decides she wants to get up and "pages" Mom through the monitor.

After a day that could include any combination of pre-school, play dates, shopping, errands, time-outs, reading, singing, drawing, playing games, cooking, doing dishes and laundry, Mom K gets a little time for herself before retiring for the night. Dad S makes the most of his time with the little ones in the evening after the family dinner, and helps put them to bed.

This was a fascinating experience for me; completely foreign compared to my growing up years. S and K have made a wonderful life for their family.

Now I'm back home, back to work, back to peeing with the door open (at home, not at work). I miss the home cooked family dinners, the dog with the slimy toy in her mouth begging for attention, the afternoon naps (which I took every day at the same time as the little ones), the adult conversations, and the happy energy of their world.

But I especially miss J, with her bright eyes and curious mind, and A, and her totally sincere declarations of love a hundred times a day.

I need a hug.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Thanksgiving to remember

I am sitting in the kitchen of my cousin's home, everyone still in their jammies, drinking coffee, smelling the peacan pie baking, the kids reading their new books, the dog walking around with a toy in her mouth.

Later we will be off to the biggest Thanksgiving gathering I have attended outside of a church dinner - 25 adults and 10 children. Maybe they will sit me at the kid's table...that would be fun!

What a very, very nice morning. I am surrounded by love, with so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Small changes - Part II

Read Part I

So it's been almost a week now since I embarked on my first "small changes". It's amazing...I really did start to feel differently the very first day. Probably the combination of more fiber and less fat and caffiene accounted for most the difference. And in that time I lost two pounds, even though the only changes I made were at breakfast.

And then today something rare and wonderful happened - so rare that I am still trying to get over the shock...I cooked.

I actually enjoy cooking, but it is such a challenge for just one person, so I usually only do it when I am having company. The thought of cooking actually entered my mind earlier in the week so I did get some groceries. Today as I was doing laundry and reading the Sunday paper, I decided to give it a try and cook for dinner instead of going out or microwaving something from the freezer. I looked around for ingredients to experiment with, and ended up with a whole-wheat pasta, spinach and parmesan cheese thing that came out pretty tasty. The only change I'll make next time is to add a little garlic.

With Thanksgiving this week, which I will be spending with my cousin and his family in Boston, I've decided to wait to add the next small change. But I'm packing my cereal and my walking shoes and hoping for the best.

In the meantime, I have some pots and pans to scrub. Anybody know how many calories dishwashing burns?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

He never leaves, even when we do not feel Him

Today's Our Daily Bread is about God's promise to always be with us.

How often do we actually feel that God is there? I would say that most of the time we don't think about it at all. In bad times we might doubt it severely.

But our faith tells us He is always there, because He made that promise.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Small changes

Last week I was in a bookstore looking for a gift. I walked out having spent $26 on yet another weight loss book for myself. Oy, what a waste of money!

I have struggled with my weight for almost 30 years now, and in that time have read hundreds of books and countless magazine articles on the subject. Those of you who have never had a weight problem are probably mystified at the rate of obesity in this country. What is so hard about losing weight? You eat less and exercise more...isn't it that simple? Yes, it is. But it is the psychological and emotional reasons for overeating that somebody who has not been there just cannot comprehend.

One magazine I have kept for quite a while has the story of a woman who lost 185 pounds. No pills, no liquid diet, no surgery. She ate less and exercised more. But the key to her success was making one small change in her routine at a time.

I'm giving that a try. Instead of trying to change everything about my eating all at once, I am starting with breakfast. Yesterday instead of the usual fast food breakfast eaten quickly in my car on the way to the office, I ate cereal with skim milk, plus made my own coffee at home and took my vitamin (which I forget most days). I also made sure to drink plenty of water instead of more coffee or diet pop at the office. I still ate badly at lunch and dinner, but I sure felt better in the morning not having that lump of greasy food in my stomach.

Today is day two. I've had my good breakfast and am off to work now.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #6

Giving Helpful Hints is part of my calling here at Aunt Judie's Guide to Life. I offer them because I care...because it is my hope that you can avoid the mistakes I have made. These hints come from true experiences. You may not think so when you read this one, but really...who could make this stuff up?

Remember I was out of town last week. So Monday morning I did my makeup as I unpacked my travel bag. Part of my ritual is blending my eyeshadow with a small brush. As I swiped the brush along my left eyelid, it felt funny against my skin. I looked at the brush and found a substance known in scientific language as "goop". Something had obviously leaked in my travel bag. I wiped it off with my fingers and didn't think much of it.

Later in the day I figured out what the mystery substance must have been - anti-perspirant. My eyelid was dry and odor-free. Ha ha ha! Never let 'em see your eyelids sweat! It was not so funny the next day when I had a rash there. You see, the anti-perspirant did it's just did it in the wrong place.

Anyway, my eyelid is still a little dried out, but it will be OK in a day or two. So I guess my advice is this:

1. Keep your makeup brushes in a plastic bag when traveling.
2. Keep your anti-perspirant (and any other stuff that can leak) in a different plastic bag.
3. If you ever accidentally put an unknown substance on your skin, don't shrug it off...wash it off!

Have a helpful hint to share? Write me at auntjudie-at-comcast-dot-net.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I'm gonna be an Aunt-in-Law!

At a family gathering on Sunday, my oldest nephew B announced his engagement to his lovely girlfriend L! They will marry in about two years after he finishes school and settles into his teaching career.

My reaction came in stages:

1. Tearful joy.
2. Woo-hoo! We're havin' a wedding!
3. Got two years to find a date.
4. I'm going on a diet tomorrow.
5. Ha sister the mother-in-law!

As I sipped my champagne in a quiet moment later, I teared up again thinking of the first time I saw B - when I tiptoed into his room and gazed at that small bundle in the middle of the huge crib. I remembered the years I lived upstairs from them, and how he would plop up the steps on Saturday mornings in his footie PJs and announce that breakfast was ready. I remembered him in a tiny tuxedo and Snoopy sunglasses at his uncle's wedding. Snapshots of his life filled my mind.

It's a cliche, but it's true. It all seems like just yesterday.

And now he's getting married. Starting a new life with the woman he loves. Building a home and a family. Boy, does Aunt Judie have a lot of advice for them!

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Election reflections

So the election is finally over.

This was the eighth time I have voted in a presidential election, and the first time I voted absentee. I knew I would be out of town on election day, so two weeks ago I drove to the county board of elections and got it done. When I told a friend at work that I had already voted, she asked me what I would do if something big happened or was revealed about one of the candidates before the election. Would I regret voting early? Not at all.

Neither candidate shared 100% of my core values. But one was far ahead of the other on that score, and that is how I voted. When you know what you believe and you take a stand for it, decisions like who to vote for are usually simple. Nothing could have happened in the ten days between casting my vote and the election that would have swayed my opinion.

You may think it is over now, but the next presidential campaign has already begun. The spin doctors are busy analyzing what went right and what went wrong. The movers and shakers are already looking at possible candidates for 2008. The political process is never-ending. That is our system. It's not perfect; it's not even pretty most of the time. But it is the best system in the world.

The increased voter turnout we saw this year was a wonderful thing, no matter what the result. If your guy lost, don't get discouraged and give up on politics. If your guy won, don't gloat or take things for granted.

And keep in mind this thought from the surprisingly gracious concession speech of the candidate that lost:

But in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans. And that -- that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.

God Bless America.

My favorite hotel in the world

I just now got back from a week at my favorite "hotel" in the world...M & C's house in Michigan. I am so blessed to have the ability to visit every couple of months, staying with Daniel's brother and his family while working from my old office. A week of conversation, laughs, hugs and home cookin' always leaves me smiling! Thank you, friends.

Not having a TV myself, I was very glad to be where there was one (actually six or seven) for the big Election night festivities. I'll post more about that later tonight. Right now, I have laundry to do and a week of mail to sort through.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Now it is somebody else's dream

We moved in on a cold, rainy October day in 1995. From that first day, it felt like home. Daniel had always dreamed of living on the water. I always dreamed of living in a house, having grown up in a rental apartment. So moving day was a dream come true for both of us.

That dream ended today. I had signed the papers in advance so I would not have to travel 300 miles to attend the closing. My name alone was on the documents. When I got word in the afternoon that the transaction was finally finished, I burst out crying.

In that way that God has of doing things for a reason, I was already back home in Chicago when Daniel died. The house was already on the market. Of course God knew I would not want to live alone in our dream house on the lake. Why things turned out like they did - why I ended up owning the house for three more long years - I don't know.

The past week was stressful. A lot could have gone wrong, and despite knowing that it was all in God's hands I lost sleep over it. But when I woke up this morning I was flooded with memories of our time there - mostly good, a few not so good. But overall it was a lovely six years that I am very grateful for. In a way, it will always be our house.

But soon, maybe tomorrow, a new family will move in. I haven't met them, but I am told it was their dream to live on a lake.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

In one week

I have learned the hard way to live my life one day at a time. But right now I'm finding it hard not to look ahead one week.

In one week, God willing, we will know who won the Presidential Election. I sincerely hope that whoever wins, it will be by such a decisive margin that we will not have a repeat of 2000. Of course I want my guy to win. But even more I want our country not to suffer again through weeks of uncertainty, lawsuits, hyperbole, rhetoric, and outright lies - and then four more years of the losing side whining that the election was stolen.

In one week, God willing, I will no longer be a homeowner. The house I shared with Daniel has been rented for a couple of years and is finally sold. The closing is set for Friday, but there is still uncertainty surrounding a few issues and it might not happen. The relief of not making another mortgage payment on a house I have not lived in for over three years will be sweet indeed!

In one week the baseball season will be over. I don't know whose side God is on, but I'm rooting for the Red Sox!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A musical baseball riddle

Q: What do you get when you call your cousins in Boston right before game six of the American League Championship Series which is do-or-die for the Red Sox?

A: Serenaded.

My call caught Mom in the middle of videotaping little J and A singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". So I got my own private performance, one from each of them.

You ladies are very good singers! You already know the secret to a great performance...sing to the rafters and enjoy yourself!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Love lives on

Theirs was a long marriage. He loved the Lord and dedicated his life to serving Him and His church. She loved him, and dedicated her life to him and his ministry.

After a lifetime of work they had only a short retirement together. The last months were spent in a hospital, alternating between hope and despair.

He is with his Lord now, but a part of him lives on in his fine sons, his devoted daughters-in-law, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And he lives on in the heart of the woman he loved.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(I Corinthians 13:13, NIV)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Two very special thank yous

First, to the person at work who came to the office directly from the doctor who diagnosed contagious strep throat.

Then, to the person(s) responsible for the apparently (please, God) unused condom laying on the ground between my car and the office door.

I feel sick.

Thanks alot!

Still here and on a roll

Sorry for not posting in a while. I hope you did not think I had been transferred to Siberia after my big mistake at work. I wasn't fired or reprimanded, but I am being much more careful.

Actually, since my last post I have been super-busy, not only at work but with church stuff as well. Once in a while I get this wave of energy. It's during these times that I volunteer for a lot of stuff, finish long-neglected projects, and really clean my apartment (including hands-and-knees floor scrubbing). I'm riding one of those waves now.

I wish I could identify what causes these high-octane bursts, because they would come in handy more often. But alas, I'll have to be content with making the most of them when they show up.

Gotta go write some cards, finish vacuuming and dusting, take a shower and get dressed, take out the trash, go to the bank and the post office - all in the two hours before I have to be at work.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mistakes and consequences

When I was in grade school, I belonged to a dance group called the Continentals. It was a fun extension of gym glass. Our performance costumes were wide skirts made of felt (mine was light blue) and white blouses. The boys wore black slacks and a white shirt. (Yeah, we were stylin'.)

In eighth grade, our final performance at the school was shortly before a we were going to perform at a festival in downtown Chicago. For some reason, I was under the impression that our group's attendance at the festival was dependent on our doing very well at our own school. So when I made a big blunder I was devastated. When the dance was finished I ran to the bathroom and cried hysterically. I thought I had blown it for the entire group. I was mistaken, of course. Our group was always going to go to the festival. The real consequences of my mistake were minor, but my reaction - based on a false understanding of the consequences - was so dramatic I remember it all these years later.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I made a mistake at work that had actual serious consequences. Two clicks of the mouse and a project plan that belonged to a group in another part of the company was erased. Deleted. That's right...GONE. Forever.

When I made that blunder at the dance performance, it was in front of hundreds of people. My error yesterday was completely anonymous (if you don't count the barrage of self-directed profanity that unfortunately was verbalized and not just in my head). After I calmed down (and a coworker told me to watch my language) I called the head of the group whose project I had erased and confessed immediately.

It was simply the right thing to do. And I knew that the faster I dealt with the situation, the better it would be for everyone. Those people in the group whose file I had deleted were going to suffer the consequences whether I confessed or not. But they could start dealing with it sooner and maybe minimize the damage. The elapsed time from that devastating mouse click to having the right person on the phone was about two minutes.

I used to think that once I was "grown up" I wouldn't make stupid mistakes, but I was mistaken. What happens as we grow up is we learn from our mistakes. We learn to assess the damage and take appropriate action. And we learn to accept the consequences.

I haven't heard the last of yesterday's blunder, but I know I will live through it and do better next time. If they let me back in the system, that is.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Some GOOD news from Iraq

Not having a TV, I get most of my news from the radio and internet. And the only news stories that seem to make it to me from Iraq are the bad ones. And what all the politicians say in an election year has to be taken with a grain of salt - because they need each need to slant what they say to fit their own agenda.

But here's one source of good news about Iraq - Operation Iraqi Children.

This organization, founded by actor Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump) and author Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit: An American Legend), developed a program to send school supplies to Iraqi children. Look at these faces!

(from the Operation Iraqi Children web site) Posted by Hello

What is so touching to me about this picture is knowing that girls were not allowed to go to school just a short time ago.

This is a good cause that deserves our support.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Fired up

Yesterday we started Sunday School at our church. For the first time in a couple of decades I am teaching. Not teaching, exactly, but leading. The high school and above age group has decided they want to do some serious studying of the Bible, specifically, how it is relevant to their daily lives.

We are going to take a topic, study it thoroughly, and move onto the next topic when we feel we have exhausted the subject. Our first topic is money - which we decided on based on yesterday's Lesson and Gospel readings.

What does the world say about money, and how does it differ from what the Bible says about money? There are several Bible passages on this subject that have always confused me.

I am really looking forward to this!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Introducing Mr. Wonderful

Wow, have I been busy since I got back from my last business trip? No, just distracted. But I promised you an introduction to my new special friend, so here he is...

...Mr. Wonderful!

Here is W helping me pack. Posted by Hello

Before we went to the hotel, we stopped at the lake to visit friends and have a Labor Day cold one. Posted by Hello

Of course he slept on the know we're not married!  Posted by Hello

On this trip I found out that a love of coffee is one of the things we have in common! Posted by Hello

Here is W troubleshooting some problems with my computer. Posted by Hello

W loves sports...especially a good "pickup" game. Here he is after somebody picked him up and dunked him. Posted by Hello

Mr. Wonderful does say a lot of the things women love to hear. Now only if he would say "Honey, my new job pays 250 grand a year so you won't have to work", I might fall in love!

Just kidding...I'm not that materialistic. One hundred grand will do.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

On the road again...but not alone

I'm traveling again for business, but this trip is different because I have a companion. His name is Mr. Wonderful.

Not this one. This one.

I'll post some photos of our trip when I get home.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

In addition to the deaths of my husband and my father, the serious illness of my father-in-law and the employment problems, 2001 also brought the death of Daniel's beloved Aunt Anne (two days after his), the death of our cat Stanley (a week after my Dad) and a health issue of my own (brought on by the stress of all of the above). And oh, we all had September 11th.

If I were writing this story for television and included all that happened in 2001, it would never make it to the screen. The producer would dismiss it as being too over-the-top to be believable. I must say there were more dramatic twists packed into those months than you would find on two entire seasons of of Dynasty.

2001 was a horrible year, but things slowly got better. My father-in-law experienced waves of progress and setbacks, but today is back to being his unique self and enjoying life. I stayed in Chicago and basically just showed up to claim the job I wanted in my company. My work is fun and challenging, and so are the people I work with. The house in Michigan has been leased for two years and the sale will finally close next month. My family is healthy. My nieces and nephews keep growing and learning and it's fascinating to watch. I'm active in my church, and am even taking the plunge this year and teaching Sunday School (which I have not done for over twenty years).

In May of 2002 I flew to Buffalo, New York for a church bowling tournament; not to bowl myself, but just to be with a large group of our friends on what would have been Daniel's 41st birthday. I was missing him more acutely that weekend because this event was one of his favorites. At the end of mass on Sunday morning, the woman sitting next to me - a total stranger - leaned over and told me that she felt compelled to tell me something. She said that God wanted me to know that He loved me and everything was going to be alright. She was right.

Is my life perfect? Of course not...far from it. But I am surrounded by love, and I have that peace I wished for.

There is a passage in Romans that tells us that God takes everything that happens and makes it work for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes it is very hard to see what possible good could come of a tragic situation. As for Daniel, maybe he would have faced some serious suffering later in life, and his early death was God's mercy. We don't know, and we are not meant to.

All we can do is walk in faith, one step at a time, and know that God loves us even though He lets us suffer. Remember, He also lets us experience the good stuff - joy, happiness, love, prosperity and beauty. I had all those things with Daniel, and I have all those things now.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

Many of the details of those days between Friday the 31st and the day of the funeral on September 6th have faded, as memories do. During a time like that so much of what you are doing is forced by the necessity of decision making. As a professional-league procrastinator, it was a shock to my already-shocked system to have to make so many serious decisions in such a short time.

The morning after Daniel died, we went back to the house and picked out clothes for him. Fortunately, we had bought him a nice jacket for a wedding the previous autumn and it still fit (and it was in Chicago, not back in Michigan where the house was still on the market and still contained lots of our stuff). We picked out a pair of graves. We went to the funeral home and picked out everything else you have to pick out. I think we even picked out flowers that day, but that might have been another day.

I say "we" because in this whole process I never had to be alone. My two sisters helped with everything. And my brother would be my rock on the day of the funeral. Countless other friends and relatives contributed in a variety of ways. I cannot even imagine going through something like this alone, which some people are forced to do.

One of the many phone calls on Saturday the 1st was from the funeral home, who relayed the autopsy results: pulmonary embolism. A blood clot (several probably) had formed somewhere in his veins and traveled to his lungs, which was the cause of his shortness of breath. Part of the clot stopped his heart. (This is the same condition that would cause the death of NBC reporter David Bloom in Iraq in April of 2003.)

We'll never know exactly what caused the clots in the first place. Daniel never exhibited most of the many symptoms of blood clots. If he had pain in his legs or abdomen in the days before his breathing problems started, he never told me and he never told the emergency room doctors. Daniel was the kind of guy who shrugged off pain. Long before we were married he attempted to "walk off" a knee injury that ended up being a completely severed tendon.

I have not spent much time with "what ifs" in the sense that his death could have been prevented. My "what if" ponderings tended towards how it could have been worse. It could have happened in front of me. It could have happened in the hospital, where because they did not know what was wrong he would have died anyway. It could have happened while he was driving, putting other people in danger (most especially my nephew C, who drove with him on our last trip back from Michigan).

As it was, Daniel died alone. Maybe in his sleep, maybe not. I have been told by doctors that it would have been very fast. The last face he saw was mine (if you don't count the cat). Yes, I was hot and grouchy that morning, and I didn't kiss him goodbye. But he knew I loved him.

The night before he died as we sat together watching the lightning, we talked about all the things we had been through, and what we might be facing if his health did not improve. He asked me what I wished for. I told him that all I wanted was some peace...I wanted both of us to be well, for the house to finally sell, for my job situation to get have even one month without a major drama.

I would eventually get my wish for peace, but not the way I wanted it.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part II

Read Part I

You may be surprised to learn that the foremost thought in my head at that very moment was...

...I really have to pee.

I actually stood at that doorway and contemplated making my way to the bathroom with my eyes shut, and looking for Daniel afterwards. The thing is, if what I suspected had happened, it had happened hours ago and another minute was not going to make a difference. I didn't shut my eyes but did walk toward the bathroom. The sight of his feet at the end of the sofa bed drove all thoughts of the bathroom out of my mind. No time to pee...I was too busy screaming.

He was just lying there in his pajama bottoms. He looked fine, like he was sleeping. Except that he never slept on his back. I shook him several times, knowing the truth but of course not believing it. I called 911 and headed out the door and across the parking lot to the cemetery office, where I knew my friend T was working. I don't remember exactly what I said to T, but I screamed it. I walked back outside and called my little sister and screamed. I was finally catching my breath and returning to relative calm when the ambulance drove by.

The house is small, set back from the road and located in between two cemeteries and next to a church and very near the outer border of Chicago. The first thing the paramedic said to me (after he turned around and found the place) was "you're not in Chicago". Excuse me, I AM in Chicago and, oh yeah, MY HUSBAND IS DEAD.

Let me interject something here. Life is not like the TV show "ER". On ER, the doctors and paramedics are always rushing and yelling things like "stat" and "gunshot wound" and "MVA" and such. Our emergency room visit the day before and my experience with the paramedics was a whole different thing. All the doctors and nurses and EMTs in the real world are certainly as dedicated and heroic as the actors portray them. The difference is they are just a lot more calm. They have to be, for good of the patient and the loved ones and themselves. If they weren't, they would all die of anxiety before their student loans were paid off.

Anyway, the paramedic listened to my story as we walked into the house. He checked for a pulse and felt his skin temperature and confirmed my diagnosis. They did an EKG as required for the record. They asked me all kinds of questions and before long the police arrived, and they asked me all kinds of questions. Right after the police informed me that there would have to be an autopsy (no kidding), the shock wore off my bladder and I finally got to pee.

More people calls were made...some people left. (Later I would be briefly embarassed thinking about how many people saw the condition of the house - horribly messy with moving boxes everywhere, dirty laundry on the floor and such. Oh well, live like a slob...) I packed a bag. The funeral planning began. My friend L agreed to take our cat Stella for a while. Poor Stella had been hiding in the basement since the first scream.

Within an hour of his body being loaded into the paddy wagon I was on my way to live with my big sister.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part I

All you need to hear is "September 11th" and your mind is filled with the horrible images of that day and the days that followed. It's a little different for me - my life had already been changed forever by my own tragedy eleven days earlier.

As I prepared to leave for work that morning, I was tired and hot - too tired and hot and grouchy to kiss my husband Daniel goodbye as he laid on the sofa bed. He was smirking at me because he got to stay home that day while I had to work. But underneath his smirk and my grumbling we were both exhausted. And afraid.

So far 2001 had been one life-changing event after another. It started with Daniel losing his job in the auto design industry. He quickly found another job we expected would be temporary - stocking shelves at a grocery store - while he continued to look for a job in his field.

Spring brought us the next shocker. My father died suddenly of a heart attack. We traveled to the funeral in Chicago from our home in Michigan. It was that weekend we found out that the job of caretaker at the parish cemetery was open. We looked at each other and knew this was something we had to consider.

Of course working in a cemetery was sort of a strange idea. Daniel never set foot in one unless he was forced to. But he also loved the outdoors and had a knack for digging holes. I thought the caretaker job would be perfect for him, especially since we knew the prospects of him getting back into auto design were slim. The caretaker job paid better than the grocery store and it even came with a small house to rent. But there was another bonus...Daniel taking this job meant I would be back home in Chicago with my family. After much consideration we decided to make the move and put our house up for sale.

Then Daniel's father, who had enjoyed extremely good health most of his life, suddenly got sick. Daniel adored his father and agonized about the move we were making. But the wheels were in motion, and his father was in good hands (Daniel's brother and his wife took him in, God bless them). We continued with our plans.

By the beginning of June I had applied for a job transfer. As it turned out it was a bad time for the transfer because of other changes going on in my company. So Daniel moved before me. He worked at the cemetery during the week and drove home every weekend. After two months of this I decided to take my chances and make the move as well. I ended up working for another department part time, while still hoping for a full time position. I joined my husband in Chicago at the beginning of August.

The summer had been extremely hot. Working outside all day was a huge adjustment for Daniel after so many years in air-conditioned comfort. But he seemed to be doing well. The months stocking shelves at the grocery store had built him up after all those years behind a desk. He loved walking to work and tinkering with the machinery. There were only a few funerals that summer, so he spent most of his time cutting grass and doing other maintenance work.

About two weeks after I arrived he started complaining of being short of breath. We thought it might be a new allergy, or that maybe he was developing asthma. He had had pneumonia several years before so he was very sensitive to anything going on in his lungs. After a week of complaining he finally went to the doctor, who could not find a cause. This was Tuesday the 28th. The doctor scheduled a follow up visit for the next week to do some more tests if the condition did not improve. Daniel went back to work.

On Thursday he asked me to take him to the hospital. He knew something was seriously wrong. We spent the afternoon in the emergency room. They asked a million questions, took x-rays and did lots of other tests, but no cause revealed itself. They released him with instructions not to work and to visit his doctor the next week as scheduled.

That night we ate leftovers for dinner and relaxed on the couch. There was a huge storm brewing, and being away from the city lights we enjoyed a spectacular show of lightning through the bay window in the living room. We speculated about what might be wrong with him, and talked about alternatives if it ended up he could not continue working outdoors. After everything we had been through that year, the thought of another major disruption in our lives was overwhelming.

So I left for work the next morning in a bad mood after a night of fitful sleep. I told Daniel to keep the cell phone nearby and I would call him at 10 so he could go back to sleep for a few hours. I called at 10 and got no answer. I didn't worry yet, thinking he was either in the bathroom or had felt better and took a walk without his phone. But I continued to get no answer when I called every 20 minutes. At Noon I decided to go home.

When I walked in the door I called for him, and was greeted by silence.



At rest in the loving arms of Jesus
August 31, 2001
 Posted by Hello

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Happy Birthday to...

...Senator John McCain, Michael Jackson, Carla Gugino, Rebecca DeMornay, Robin Leech, Sir Richard Attenborough and...


Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Moon and Venus

My first attempt at posting a picture. I took this with my digital camera last year. The dot located down and left of the moon is Venus. Click on the photo for a slightly sharper image. Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

When it's time to change...

...all you have to do is hit a button!

Do you like this new look? Since blue is my favorite color (except when my favorite is purple) and I have a special place in my heart for lighthouses, this was an easy choice.

My links have to be re-entered, so those will be back soon.

Next I'll try posting pictures!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Everyone needs to vote

I guess it's pretty clear from my writings what area of the political spectrum I inhabit, but please put that aside for the moment.

Everyone who is eligible to vote should do so. Don't believe people who say that your one vote does not count for anything. In this country of hundreds of millions of people, the last presidential election illustrated just how a small margin can make the difference.

There are many in this country who feel that only certain types of people should even be allowed to vote. One popular web columnist with whom I agree on many political positions completely floored me by his seemingly well-reasoned but disgustingly un-American position that only "intelligent" people should be allowed to vote. And who decides who is intelligent enough to vote, Mr. Columnist? You? Sorry, NO!

Politics can be really unpleasant. But your participation is as crucial to the preservation of our freedom as going to the dentist regularly is to the preservation of your teeth. Sure, you might get lucky. You could avoid the dentist your entire life and still end up with all your teeth. But how likely is that? And like our teeth, once our freedom is gone it is gone forever.

If you don't want to vote because you don't know who to vote for, you need to get informed. Read as much as you can, from as many sources as you can find. When I first voted, my sources of information were two newspapers and three TV networks (all of which pretty much said the same thing). We now have virtually unlimited sources, which makes it both better and worse. We have more information, no doubt. But how much of that information is truthful is hard to figure out.

Speaking of which, do you know how many political parties there are in the United States? If you said two, you are correct in a certain way. You mostly hear about Democrats and Republicans because our current system heavily favors just two parties. Here is a list of political parties in the United States. I do not care if you would vote Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party or whatever. Well, that is not entirely would greatly disturb me if somebody I love registered to vote as a Communist or a Nazi. However, I would forever defend their right to do so.

Time is running out to register. Here is a list of State Voter Registration Deadlines.

Get registered and become a regular voter. The health of your country depends on it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Charity begins with you and me

The older nieces and nephews on my Christmas list already know this. Last Christmas was the last Christmas for gifts from Aunt Judie.

Except for the two youngest, I will be giving to charity in the names of my nieces and nephews. It is up to them to decide what charity they want their gift to benefit. Last year some of us gave to The Smile Train...a wonderful organization that literally brings smiles to thousands of children a year.

Here's another good cause, brought to us through Michelle Malkin's blog. It's called Strengthen the Good.

If you know of a worthy charity, send the info to me in an email and I'll add it to my new "Good Causes" section (after checking it out, of course).

PS: I have added Michelle's blog to the "Blogs I Like" area. But be warned...she is a pit bull for her beliefs. She is smart as heck and knows her stuff. It can be inspiring or intimidating depending on your perspective.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Is it stealing or not?

When the first Spiderman movie had just opened in theaters, a young man dear to me mentioned that he and his girlfriend were going to watch home on a DVD. Knowing it wasn't out on DVD yet, I asked where he got it. He said he got it from a friend, but he didn't know if that friend was the original source. It was a copy created by somebody taking a digital movie camera into the theater and filming what was on the screen.

"Um, that's stealing" I said. He was shocked that I felt this way. To me it was simple, but the concept of this act being a theft seemed completely foreign to him. This is a man who would never contemplate for one fraction of a second stealing a packaged DVD from a store shelf or sneaking into a movie theater. Yet here he was watching something for free that he should have paid about $8 for at the time ($16 if you count the girlfriend).

This event led to several conversations with people about the subject of downloading music and movies from the Internet. The most interesting response was one girl who felt that the music companies were actually the ones stealing when they asked $16 for a CD, when it only costs about $1 to make. Granted, she had not yet had any education in economics, free markets or business. But no matter how I tried to explain the cost and risks of doing business, the concept of intellectual property and the workings of a free market economy, she just did not get it.

Another of this same girl's points was that if the music was not meant to be shared in this way, why was it so easy to do? Um, if you take a bag of ice from the outside freezer at a gas station without paying for it, is that not stealing just because it was easy?

I hadn't thought about this for a while until I read Dr. Kelly Hollowell's column about how the movie companies are worried about theft of their product. Dr. Kelly's point is that the movie companies have profited immensely by contributing to the decline of society's values, and that pirating is just one of the results. It's hard to argue with that.

You know my feelings about this. If you feel differently - that it is OK to download or copy music and movies that are not intended for distribution in this way - then tell me I'm wrong in an email. But don't just tell me I'm wrong; make your case and let's talk about it. I won't publish any email contents without your consent.

Friday, August 20, 2004

How long is ten years?

If you're looking back, doesn't seem too long. If you're looking forward, it is too unreal to comprehend.

I know exactly where I was ten years ago at this very minute (6:55 am Eastern time, Saturday, August 20, 1994) - at the beauty shop. What gets somebody to a beauty shop that early on a Saturday morning? A wedding, of course!

My wedding.

On the day of your wedding you're not thinking about where you will be in ten years. You're thinking about the clock on the wall (ticking away towards your appointment at the altar at high Noon), how to deal with the weather (it rained all day), how the heck you will get all the hair spray and bobbie pins out of your head later (lather/rinse/repeat, lather/rinse/repeat, lather/rinse/blow dry and find a few more pins), and all the little details of the day which you have been planning for a year and a half. You're reminding yourself that something will go wrong today, and that you just have to take it easy and go with the flow.

Every once in a while I meet somebody, usually a very young person, who has his or her entire life planned - from school to work to marriage to number of kids to retirement. None of those people picture their spouse losing several jobs, finding out they are unable to have children, discovering their spouse's dark secrets which will threaten their marriage, or being widowed suddenly at age 40. I sure didn't.

If on my wedding day I had given any thought to where I would be in ten years, my wildest imagination could not have pictured where I am today. If I had seen what was in store for me I might have run away screaming instead of walking down the aisle. But if I had run away, I would have missed all the good stuff that for the most part overshadowed the unemployment, secrets and infertility. I would have missed the love, the laughter, the second family, and the experience of marriage.

I thank God every day for the last ten years, that I had Daniel as long as I did, for my families, my job, my life. And whether He decides to give me another ten years or just another ten minutes, I will be grateful.

All I ask, God, is for just enough light to see the next step.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Love to travel but glad to be home

I'm baaaaaaaaack. The travel was good, the training was good, the evenings were not so good. Too much food, too much TV, not enough sleep. (No, I did not go out like I said I would in my last post, and didn't read a thing the whole trip except the training manual in class, the room service menu and my Tom Clancy novel on the plane).

A few observations:

The check-in process at O'Hare on Sunday took me approximately 35 minutes from getting in line to getting through security. This was very good, considering it was incredibly crowded and there seem to be several machine breakdowns. They efficiently move thousands of people through that place every hour, yet many people in line with me did nothing but complain about how long it was taking. These are probably the same people who will wait an hour to be seated for dinner in a popular restaurant on a Saturday night. Go figure.

There was an older guy in line with a little kitten in a carrier. I did not have the nerve to ask him where he was going and why he was taking the cat, but I was really curious to know.

The hotel I stayed at - a Doubletree property - gives you a fresh, hot chocolate chip cookie when you check in (their own recipe with nuts and cinnamon...mmmm).

They do not sell alcohol in stores in Georgia on Sundays (saw a sign in the grocery store where I was buying bottled water, crackers and fruit).

The office building where the class was held was stunningly beautiful...soaring blue glass towers, marble lobbies, fountains, a lake, flowers and trees. The building I work in is OK, but this was gorgeous!

The food court at the Atlanta airport has a Houlihan's restaurant with live piano music. The guy was pretty good.

No matter how many times I see it, the view of downtown Chicago from an airplane still fills me with awe and pride. I always find myself thinking "that's my town". I hope to move back to the city someday when the time is right.

Finally, a helpful travel hint. If you do not want the people around you to know how crazy in lust you and your wife are, don't open your laptop PC and read the explicit emails you send back and forth if the font is an inch high!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Wasting time

Without a TV in my apartment, I tend to watch way too much when I'm out of town on business. I arrived in Atlanta yesterday (I'm here for a training class). I was going to drive around town a little, but there was a storm. So here's a sample of what I flipped through about a hundred times in a few hours last night:

What I Like About You, World Series of Poker, Austin Powers International Man of Mystery, The Olympics, America's Funniest Home Videos, Evil Knievel, Steve Harvey's Big Time, Rambo III, Monk, Simpsons, Charmed, Six Feet Under, A Night at the Roxbury, Who's the Boss, Rambo III, and the first two minutes of Seabiscuit. That's when I finally nodded off.

To write the above list, I had to look up most of these shows in the TV Guide, because today I only remembered World Series of Poker and Seabiscuit.

Of course the TV is on as I'm writing this (Seinfeld). But I'm turning it off now. I'm going to dinner, then will read some of my book by the pool.

If it doesn't rain.

Monday, August 09, 2004

We can be restored

When I logged into my computer at the office this morning, things appeared normal for a few seconds, then I got some kind of blue screen and the computer went into a reboot loop. After some investigation, it was found that one of the program updates that run automatically on the weekends was corrupted.

The solution was to "restore" my computer...the techs were able to bring my computer back to the state it was in before the weekend. This restoration isolates whatever changes were made in the programming in the last few days and "un-does" them.

God kinda works like that. Not in the sense that He turns back time. (Although if He did, would we know? Hmmm.) He doesn't erase the bad things that happen to us, and He doesn't give us a giant "undo" button for our lives. But with His unconditional love He can restore us - spiritually, emotionally, physically, even financially.

I was lucky with the computer today. If the corruption had been a malicious virus that destroys hard drives, there would have been absolutely nothing they could do to give me my dead computer back. There would be no way to undo the damage.

But as long as we are alive, God can restore us.

Unfortunately, too many people think that their lives are beyond repair, and they don't give God a chance to restore them. Here is the story of one of those people.

Friday, August 06, 2004

A sight nobody wants to see

While driving at lunch today, I was behind a car that had FIVE dashboard dogs with the bobbling heads staring out the back window. They were so cute! As the car made a left turn, some of the dogs looked like they were shaking their heads "no".

Perhaps they had caught a glance of the next sight I saw...a young woman on the back of a motorcycle wearing low ride jeans and a short shirt. Girls, it's bad enough when you subject those around you to the sight of your rear cleavage. It's even worse when everyone who sees it has a pretty good idea what time of the month it is for you.

I don't care what kind of shape you are in...these low riders are awful! I absolutely guarantee you will look back in a few years and shake your head "no" (as in "what was I thinking???") like those dashboard dogs.

I know it is difficult to find modest clothes, but it's not impossible. Check this out.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Some thoughts on Convo 2004

So it took me longer to catch up on my sleep than I thought it would! Actually, I ended up with a little bug of some sort and I even missed a day of work this week. But I'm feeling better now.

As I write this, I'm listening to my new Broken Yoke CD that I bought after their concert on the first night of Convo. Hard rock will never be my favorite kind of music, but at least on the CD I can understand the words. It helps to not have the bass pounding in my chest.

The theme for the week was "SOS - Seek/Obey/Serve". When you think about it, we are all seekers. We look for different things at different times in our lives. But the message I got from the Convo can be summed up in that song: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His rightousness. And all these will be added unto you." When you seek the Lord, every other thing you are seeking comes to you - IF it is God's will. Seeking something that is NOT God's will for your life is a waste of time. So all you need to seek is the Lord. He takes care of the rest.

And when you seek the Lord, you will find that you want to obey Him. "Obedience" is one of those concepts that used to puzzle me. God gave us the commandments, but He also gave us free will. We can do anything we want, right? Yes, but the way I see it, following God's commandments is a choice I want to make, because those laws were designed to give us the best life possible.

Serving is a tough one. Sometimes we don't serve enough, sometimes we are serving so much that we don't leave enough time for our families. God designed each of us for a certain way of serving Him. Go back to "seek" His will for your life and the answer to "how do I serve" will be clear.

SOS - Seek, Obey and Serve. An excellent theme and an excellent Convo. That Convo committee will be a tough act to follow (it's my group's turn to host the next one in 2006).

Oh, if you haven't had a chance to listen to the Convo 2004 CD, take some time this weekend to do so. It's a very nice collection of testimony and music.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Grape spitting for the glory of God

I'm back! The suitcase is emptied, the laundry is started and the sleepy time train is approaching the station. This was one of the most awesome weeks of my life. God was working big time in the hearts of all the Convo participants - youth and adults alike. I'm exhausted, but wanted to whet your appetite for the full report by giving you just one highlight.

The Wednesday night talent show ended with our own Father Mark breaking the Guiness Book record for grape spitting. Fortunately (especially for those of us near the front) it was a distance record as opposed to a quantity record. He topped the record by a couple of feet. The paperwork and evidence will be on its way to Guiness next week. As soon as I hear any more about this I'll pass it along.

I have so much to say about the Convo, but I want to do it right. Meaning I must first make up for the lack of sleep by crawling into my own bed and staying there as long as I possibly can. Actually, don't expect another entry until Sunday night (got something to do tomorrow).

Nighty night, my friends. And a special goodnight to my buds Eric, Steve, Alex, Chelsea, Alissa, Adam, Nick, Stephen, Katie and Lauren. Discussion Group #3 RULES!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Out of touch

So just as I'm getting back into blogging regularly, I'm going out of town. I doubt I will have internet access, but if I do I will try to report every day. I will be chaperoning our Youth Convention. That's always a fun time, except for the sleep deprivation. There's nothing like hanging out with a bunch of young people to make you feel young again, and yet old at the same time.

Bye for now.

Do what you love

The other day as I was driving to work I saw something most people don't see every day. A horse! An absolutely beautiful honey-colored horse with a cropped mane. The horse was ridden by a woman decked out in riding apparel - helmet, breeches, boots...the works. Both the woman and the horse looked quite happy.

Last week one of my co-workers was on vacation pursuing his passion for sailing. He drove 1800 miles (one way) to race his 17-foot Hobie catamaran in Monterey Bay, California. He told me recently that he "works to sail, but would rather sail to work". 

While it's possible that the woman riding the horse was working (maybe horse walking is her job), it's more likely that, like my co-worker, she has incorporated her passion into her life even if she cannot make a living at it.

If you can find a way to make a living doing what you love, that's great. But don't give up what you love even if you can only do it part time. That's some advice I should take myself.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Two goodbyes and one hello

Goodbye to Marzano's Miami Bowl, which is closing next month after almost 50 years.  I spent several years bowling at Miami on Monday nights. It was a church-related league, and the bowling alley was about 25 miles away. Most Mondays I got home around midnight after hours of fun with my friends - three games and a late dinner at the Red Barrell (now also gone).  I came home with a smile on my face, a burger in my tummy and smelling like (second-hand) cigarette smoke. It was on Lane 43 (or so) that I bowled my all-time high score of 197.  

Miami Bowl was 80 lanes of good times!

Goodbye to Pat, my friend and co-worker, who retired yesterday and is moving with her husband to her dream house in southern Illinois. Pat has given me some sage advice about life, men and work over the years. I'll miss seeing her smiling face every day. But we will still see each other once in a while. She has invited me to visit her new home once they get settled in. She's also always on the lookout for a good man for me (the one she got was not the last one, I hope).

Hello to the brand-spankin'-new Super mile away and 218,000+ square feet of everything from books to underwear to Dom Perignon Champagne ($127 a bottle) . The bakery sells yummies from Krispy Kreme and The Cheesecake Factory. There's also a Starbucks Coffee, so you don't have to bring it in from the Starbucks store right across the parking lot.

While the hello doesn't exactly make up for the goodbyes, I'll bet there are some good times ahead at the Super Target.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

LOTR Update

I borrowed The Return of the King from the library instead of listening on tapes. I enjoyed it, but was very pleasantly surprised to find myself finished 2/3 of the way through the book. The last 1/3 was filled with Appendices. All that is left is to see the last movie, which I expect to do this weekend.

Then I'll write my final post on the subject.

I've seen the Bean

Yesterday I worked in our downtown office, which is always a real treat for me. I LOVE downtown Chicago, and even lived there for a couple of years before I was married.

Downtown is a different world. I saw hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people throughout the day, just walking from the parking garage to the office, then out to lunch, then while I drove around after work looking at the sites. Of course driving is not the ideal way to see downtown Chicago. But it was rainy and very hot, so my plans for a walk after work were dashed.

When you drive downtown you have to be extra cautious. With all those people and cars it would be very easy to hit something or someone if you aren't paying attention. Then again walking can be kinda dangerous too. Right outside the office in the morning I stepped badly on the edge of a depression in the street caused by an ancient sewer cover, twisted my ankle and almost fell over. Luckily I recovered and the twist was one of those that you can "walk out" before it swells.

During my drive around in the evening I caught a glimpse of Chicago's newest attraction, Millennium Park. Finally opened years behind schedule and millions over budget (typical Chicago), the park is getting rave reviews. From the car I could see the bigger structures on the Michigan Avenue side, including the Cloud Gate sculpture which has already been nicknamed "the Bean". I'll have to visit the park someday soon, if for no other reason to get the full view of another sculpture which looked like some kind of aircraft wreckage. To me most modern art is like electricity - I don't understand it, but can certainly appreciate it.

Your next visit to downtown Chicago should include time for Millennium Park. And my next visit will be on foot (I'll be sure to watch where I'm walking).

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bumper sticker wisdom

Saw this one on my way to work yesterday:

We live in the land of the FREE
because of the BRAVE

Freedom is not free. It only comes at a very high cost - paid for by brave men and women in uniform, and by leaders who do the right thing even when it isn't the popular thing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Feels like home for a reason

I've written before about my second home. Well, I'm here for another visit and having a wonderful time.

Sunday was the annual church picnic which this year was especially enjoyable. The parish celebrated its 75th anniversary. We had a beautiful outdoor mass followed by a picnic complete with all the usual salads and side dishes, but this time headlined by roast pig on a spit stuffed with smoked Polish sausage. That was a new one for me! It was delicious! But the best part, as usual, was spending time with dear friends.

People come into your life with whom you bond in a special way. As you get older and go your separate ways, you may only see each other every couple of years. But the bond makes it seem like no time goes by in between visits. The only evidence that some of my friends and I have been apart is the growth of their kids, who are just about the age now that we were when we became friends (wow)! This place is full of such friends.

Every time I visit here, my mind wanders to the first time my friends from Chicago came here for a youth meeting or something and slept over at P's house. There were visiting kids all over that house, sleeping on floors and couches. I remember waking up early and looking around. I somehow knew then that these would be life-long friendships (although I had no way of knowing that I would one day marry P's cousin).

God bless those parents who suffered us kids invading their homes for sleepovers. And God bless those friends who still let me sleep over even though I'm in my forties!

How cool is that?

Friday, July 09, 2004

My kingdom for some decent slacks

I have a beef with somebody I whose name I do not know, who I have never met, and who might be a man or a woman. This person wrote a style book of some sort used by clothing stores, or at least one of the clothing store chains I frequent, that defines what is currently "in" and "out" in the world of fashion.

All I want is to buy some slacks for work. Some cotton blend, crisp, new slacks with pleats in the front. I've been looking in the usual stores for large women, and in the department stores which all now seem to carry large sizes (although, alas, not quite large enough for me when it comes to slacks).

Despite being overweight for a very long time, there remains in my mind a degree of hope (delusion?) that the right style of clothes will disguise my true bulk. Reality comes crashing in one minute after walking through the fitting room door. But there is still such a thing as comfort. Not just the physical comfort of clothes that fit. There is an emotional comfort of knowing that you look the best you can, despite your flaws. You know what it is like. It's that feeling you get when you are dressed up for the prom, or a wedding, or any other occasion when you are likely to get your picture taken.

All I want is to look decent and professional for work. But no! According to the style book at the clothing store, slacks with pleats are a "big no for large women". So said the gal I finally asked out of frustration at not finding what I wanted. Apparently what is a "big yes" is "flat panel" slacks in stretch material. Combine that with the fact that none of these stores is carrying long shirts either, and the look is akin to a stuffed sausage with every lump, bump and curve well defined for the world to see.

There is one thing I know for sure about the person who wrote that stupid style book. That person is NOT overweight.

Maybe it's time for me to go back to dresses for work. Which means pantyhose every day. No, wait. Hose are "out" as well. Don't even get me started on that one!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

THIS should be our National Anthem

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

Oh beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness!

Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!

Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Book Suggestion - Seabiscuit, An American Legend

"Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion. He was a rough-hewn, undersize horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way."

From all outward appearances, Seabiscuit just didn't have the right stuff. But there is a lot more to Thoroughbred horse racing than physical build. It is a sport of strategy, psychology and athleticism. A trainer's job is to know the horse's moods, its likes and dislikes, and the conditions that are best for the horse's success in a race. The jockey has a similar relationship with the horse. And a jockey is a world-class athlete:

"The extraordinary athleticism of the jockey is unparalleled: A study of the elements of athleticism conducted by Los Angeles exercise physiologists and physicians found that of all major sport competitors, jockeys may be, pound for pound, the best overall athletes. They have to be."

You need to read the book to understand how the combination of knowledge, hard work, and a desire to win made the Seabiscuit team one of the most winning in sports history.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Life isn't a love-in

I recently rented an old movie that I just love, "Yours, Mine and Ours". It's a funny but touching film about a widow and a widower who start dating before they know that together they have 18 children. Yes, they fall in love and end up married, despite the initial cold reception from each other's kids. And, as the title suggests, they end up expecting their own child.

But my favorite part is the night they head to the hospital for the birth. The oldest daughter is desperate for advice about the boy who is pressuring her to have sex. The boy has told her that she is ridiculous and old-fashioned, and that "all the girls are doing it".

The father's advice is right-on:

The same idiots were passing the same rumors when I was your age. But if all the girls did it how come I always ended up with the girls who didn't?

I've got a message for tell him THIS is what it's all about...THIS is the real happening. If you want to know what love is all about, take a look around you...take a good look at your mother. It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud.

Life isn't a love-in - it's the dishes, and the orthodontist, and the shoe repairman, and ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else - it isn't going to bed with a man that proves you're in love with him. It's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful, everyday world with him that counts.

And that's the truth.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Live and learn

Hello from sunny Orange County, California!

I'm here on a business trip. And I'm proud to say that I did the packing thing correctly this time, unlike my last trip - small bag with just the clothes and accessories I need, only two pairs of shoes (including the ones I wore on the plane). I even have enough room in that small bag to bring home any items I happen to buy at one of the fabulous malls in the area. My suitcase is actually lighter than my laptop bag!

The only thing I would change about what I brought on this trip is my shoes. I forgot that the airport inspectors are still paying very close attention to shoes. The inspector managing my line yesterday suggested since my shoes had heels I should probably take them off. Well, mine were lace-up boots so that was a challenge.

So next time I'll wear shoes that are easy to slip off and back on. Um, and socks that you cannot see my toes through.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hot Topic - Embryonic Stem Cell Research

You will hear a lot about "stem cell research" between now and the presidential election, because President Bush has refused to allow federal funds to pay for it.

As with many political hot topics, you have to read wide and deep to get beyond the spin to actual facts. Consider this - how often do you hear this topic referred to as "embryonic" stem cell research? Almost never. That's because its proponents want you to ignore the one fact that makes this such a hotly-debated issue - in order to obtain embryonic stem cells an unborn child must be destroyed.

Dr. Kelly Hollowell of Science Ministries makes some excellent points in her Commentary "The Exploitation of Nancy Reagan".

Friday, June 18, 2004

LOTR Update

Fifteen hours on cassette tape, listening in the car during every five minute commute to/from the office, plus the occasional longer trip. Took two weeks to finish.

And where are we? Frodo and Sam in a boat, continuing their journey...which will take two more books! I have it on good authority that the ring is finally destroyed in the third book, so I was tempted to skip the second.

But no, I went to the library and got "The Two Towers" on tape. Only 12 tapes this time.

I'm not enthralled, just committed to finishing what I started.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tonight's insomnia is brought to you by...


I have a sleep mask for when I want to stay in bed past sunrise. But what I really need right now is a pair of earplugs.

It seems like they are right outside my window. And I'm on the second floor!

Wait...did it stop? Ahhhh.

Nitey nite.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Marriage advice from someone who made it

Over the past week I have heard former President Ronald Reagan described as everything from a saint who saved the world to a demon murderer from hell. Where does the truth lie? Where it does for all of us human beings - somewhere in between. I could give you my opinion on Reagan, but it would be biased because I am a conservative Republican who believes that the world would be a much different (and worse) place had Reagan not been elected president (there I go giving you my opinion...oops).

The opinion of Reagan as a politician may be diverse, but there was one thing about him that appeared to be universally accepted and even (by those of us who believe in marriage) admired. After 52 years of marriage, his wife was still thoroughly in love with and devoted to him.

What makes a marriage stand the test of time? Here's part of the answer. This is some of the advice Reagan gave to his son Michael on the occasion of his marriage (from the book "Reagan, A Life in Letters"):

"Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn't know won't hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three a.m., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears."

"Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn't take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear."

"There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps."

And there is no greater happiness for a woman than to be loved, honored and cherished by a such a man.

Poor Jennifer Lopez. She may have fame and beauty and riches, but she will never be one-tenth as happy as Nancy Reagan was (even if she does stay married for more than a year this time around).

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

LOTR Update

So I found the first book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on tape at the library. Fifteen tapes to be exact. I just started tape 9, which is amazing since I am only listening in the car. But I've had to make several longer car trips than usual in the last week.

To listen to a book on tape or CD may or may not be a pleasure. It has to be an interesting book, PLUS it has to be read by someone whose voice you enjoy. And yet there is something more. A couple months ago I listened to the latest Sean Hannity book ("Deliver Us From Evil"). The book was interesting, but I did not enjoy the tape. Sean is a radio host with a nice voice, but he's not an actor, and the reading seemed dull and almost monotone.

But the actor reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" is great. Very British, and he does all manner of voices (which he has to since there seem to be hundreds of characters in this book). So far I haven't been bored listening, except during the very long descriptions of the journey Frodo and his friends are taking. When they are not being chased by black riders, that is.

Frodo has just recovered from the attack where he was stabbed by the black rider, and he found his friends Gandolf and Bilbo again. And they have met the Elf queen. The black riders seem to have perished in the raging river, so they are safe for the moment.

Where do they go next?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Sorry, you stupid cat

It was too big to be a squirrel, too fast to be a possum, too orange to be anything but a cat. A fat orange cat, sort of like Garfield.

And it darted onto a busy street at twilight, at the exact moment and speed to make it half way across before it met my front tire (and my back tire a second later). I braked but couldn't stop in time.

I have been driving for 28 years, so it was bound to happen sometime. I thought I hit a little squirrel once, but I saw it running into the woods from my rear view mirror. That squirrel must have had the best timing ever.

Poor family will miss their cat. I wish I had. Stupid cat.

(A note to you new drivers out there. When this happens there is nothing to do but hit the brakes. If you swerve instead you might save the cat but lose control and hit a tree or another car or a person.)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Gotta Get the Led (Zeppelin) Out

Despite my depressing entry of yesterday, I did have quite a few laughs over the weekend.

I bought "School of Rock" on DVD, having never seen it. I usually don't purchase a movie unless I've seen it and know I will enjoy watching it multiple times. I learned that lesson the hard way when I bought "Dumb and Dumber" on VHS several years ago.

But I had heard nothing but good things about "School of Rock", and I wasn't disappointed. What a funny movie! Jack Black is a cross between John Belushi and Jack Nicholson. Jack Black proves that God has a special purpose for everyone. If a fat loser with body odor can make it to leading man status in Hollywood, there's hope for us all.

And even though I was never into hard rock, I am thinking of buying the soundtrack. Actually, I'm hoping that playing "Math is a Wonderful Thing" will finally get "Immigrant Song" out of my head.

Monday, May 31, 2004

So long, May!

They say April showers bring May flowers. May showers this year in the Midwest brought an almost daily deluge of rain, thunder, lightning and tornado sirens.

Even with normal spring weather May has never been my favorite month. It has always been far down on my list for one reason...Mother's Day. I haven't had a mother since she died nine years after walking out on her family. And at this point I'm pretty sure I will never be a mother myself.

Adding to the annual pain of May is Daniel's birthday, May 17th. He would have been 43 this year. Enough said there.

And this year May brought a bittersweet event...a 50th Wedding Anniversary. It was a wonderful celebration, and I love the couple dearly. But watching them gaze lovingly at each other while they danced overwhelmed me with feelings of loss.

May does bring some smiles - warm breezes rustling through new green leaves, and the birthdays of some of my favorite people in the world (you know who you are).

But this year it also brought lots of rain and too many tears. I'm glad to see it go.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Book Suggestion - POLAND

My first book suggestion is the novel "Poland" by James A. Michener.

Although a novel is considered fiction, this book is historical as well, blending real events and real people with some that are fictional. At the front of the book is a chaper-by-chapter guide to what is fiction versus what is historically accurate.

The nation of Poland has been overrun, partitioned and erased from the map multiple times. That Poland exists at all today is a testament to the pride and faith of its people. But as I learned reading this book, the pride and greed of some of the people (particularly the rich land owners or "magnates") was the primary reason Poland was too weak to defend itself against its many enemies for so long.

Too often we think of history as only what has happened in our own lifetimes. To understand a nation or a group of people you need to go back centuries. "Poland" answered a lot of questions for me about my ancestors' homeland.

Don't let the length (556 pages in hardcover) scare you. Take your time and enjoy.

Aunt Judie Book Suggestions

I thought I might do a book review section, since I am reading whenever I'm not working or watching a DVD movie or on the web. But books are very personal things and, like art, everyone reacts to them differently.

Take "The Lord of the Rings" books/movies. Biggest thing since sliced bread for the last few years. So I tried - I really, really tried - to read the first book. It put me to sleep. For some reason, I just could not get into the characters and care enough about them to keep turning the pages. So then I watched the first movie. I didn't fall asleep, but I found it long and boring and I was glad when it was over.

But so many people love Frodo and the gang that I feel I'm somehow missing something. So I'm going to borrow the "book on tape" version from the library and listen when I drive. Since I have a five minute commute to work, I figure it will take me about three and a half years to finish. So I'll get back to you on how that works out.

Anyway, instead of calling these "book reviews", I'll just make suggestions. If I read something I like, I'll tell you about it.

I read three novels last week, and will post a suggestion on one of them later today.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'm baaaaaaaaack

Due to popular demand (over three requests), here I am back at the blog.

When I first started writing this journal, I had so much to say. I woke up every morning and couldn't wait to get to the computer. I would read a newspaper or website or hear something on the radio and think "I gotta write about that". For the first few months I thought I would never run out of things to talk about.

Then...nothing. I suddenly had nothing to say. Or to put it more accurately - I felt like I had nothing to say. Well, I'm still sort of drawing a blank, but I think I know why.

Without going into several boring paragraphs of self-analysis, let me just say this - sometimes when I start to feel pain my emotions get their wires crossed and instead I feel nothing. I don't want to do anything, see anyone or communicate at all. I just want to sleep (too much) and eat (way too much). If I didn't have work and family and church obligations I would never leave my apartment. In that state of mind, what little desire I had to write was always defeated by the thought that it really didn't matter.

Writing about my own pain seemed to be a bad idea, because this blog was supposed to be a positive place. But pretending to be happy and cheerful all the time would be dishonest. So I either have to be honest with you or not write at all.

It is important to be honest, especially with the people you love. So I will write, no matter how I am feeling. I hope you will continue to read. I need you there to wake me up from this emotional hibernation.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Pain and gain

The saying "no pain, no gain" is very familiar to those of us who struggle with our weight. It means you have to suffer now (exercising, cutting calories) to reap rewards later.

Today's issue of Our Daily Bread talks about how God uses pain and struggle in our lives to encourage growth in our Christian walk.

The last few weeks have been painful for me, but it was difficult to see clearly what possible rewards would be realized at the end of these particular struggles. But that's where faith comes in. I don't just think, I know that God will take these struggles and use them for good.