New Year's Resolutions...Making Them Is The EASY Part!

Since the New Year is right upon us, I asked Robby the other day if he would be making some New Year's resolutions (knowing full well that he wouldn't...).  He sort of chuckled as he slipped a glance my way and that's when I said, "That's OK...I will go ahead and make a few for you, while I'm making my own!"  Now THAT got his attention as I heard a full out laugh come from deep within his throat!

I will admit that usually I only make "quiet New Year's resolutions"; these work best for me.  You know, they are the ones you only make to yourself, so if you end up breaking them, no one knows but you.  A couple of years ago, I made the resolution not to eat red meat and since I didn't have much of a problem keeping that one, I decided last year to go vegetarian...well, not totally vegetarian; I still eat fish occasionally.  So, I began to think of what I could challenge myself to do this year and have come up with a partial list of things I would like to accomplish or finish this year. goes!

1.  Do the MS Bike Ride.  They have these rides all over the country.  I was actually planning on doing one last May, but it fell on Ryan's graduation day, so I was unable to.  The ride is a two day event and covers about 180 miles.  Yea, I know that sounds like a lot, but it is not a race, so I think that I can do it.  Besides, Robby and I bought these awesome road bikes a few years back and this past year they did not get used as much as I would have liked to seen them used.  This is also a resolution that I have made for Robby...he can do it with me!

2.  Finish painting my Doxie Calendar.  I watercolor...and I must say that this past year found me far too busy to paint as much as I would have liked to.  Although I have a studio upstairs, I leased a spot one day a week at a local gallery to paint.  You may ask why...well, it forces you to get out and do what you say you are going to do.  If I stay around the house, I will only find things that need to be done and then get distracted from my painting.  Therefore, it is my goal to complete this calendar and have it printed this year.  Hey, I already have 5 months done!

3.  Learn to speak Italian.  OK...we are back to that Rosetta Stone thing again.  I STILL have it sitting on my counter top (well, I actually moved it to ANOTHER counter top...) and I am just not going to make any progress if I don't open that box up and get started.  You see, the problem with this little project is the fact that it includes doing two things that I am not very good at...reading instructions and setting something up on the computer.  So, I do not believe that actually learning to "speak" the language will be the hardest part of this project.  The most difficult part lies in the preparation.

4. Complete the children's book I am writing and find an illustrator for it.  This book has been rolling around in my head literally for YEARS.  It is a picture book (that is merely the official name; it does have words too...) and I have actually begun the writing part.  I have also spoken to someone who is a wonderful illustrator and hope to get some sort of rough draft out soon.  Oh...and did I mention that I have also talked with a couple of publishers?  I know that this is a pretty big project, but I would LOVE to see my story in print one day.

I am sure that there are other "resolutions" that I will think of as time goes on, but THESE are the top priorities on my list right now.  I truly hope that next year this time, you will hear a fabulous "New Year's Resolution Up-Date" from a very fit, Italian speaking American, who has a newly printed whimsical calendar and fresh off the press children's book!  Well, a girl can dream, can't she?  And after is about to be a NEW YEAR and that means a time for NEW BEGINNINGS!

Who KNEW "The Game Of Life" Would Be Just Like REAL Life!

OK...I know I said that if we ever asked you to play a game with our family NOT to.  So, why did I do that, you may be asking yourself.  Well, I suppose I just got caught up in the holiday spirit and quite simply LOST MY MIND!

Caitlin and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping one day and she said, "Hey, can I go over and look at the board games?  Let's get a new one to play over the holidays."  I must admit that I just went along with it because I was pretty worn out from all the Christmas hubbub; you know, sort of like the mom of a kid who keeps asking..."Mama, can I?...Huh, huh, huh?  PLEASE Mama...can I?"  Finally, you are just worn out and numb and wearily say, "OK."  Well, I thought...what harm could a little game cause?  Perhaps I was suffering from a temporary case of amnesia.  Whatever the case, Caitlin came back around the corner carrying "The Game of Life".  She said she had fond memories of playing that game as a child...she loved getting the little cars and filling them up with babies.  Hmmm...OK, so I also remembered playing that game many years ago myself.  I told her to throw it in the shopping cart.  And this is where the event becomes a cautionary tale.  Our memories of certain events tend to only allow us to remember the things that are either very pleasant or very unpleasant...not most of the "in-between" stuff.

All I can say is that I am thankful that only Ryan, Caitlin, Robby and I actually played "The Game of Life"...because I am not sure if I could have survived the entire family participating.  First, let me say that I do NOT remember there being so many rules in that game!  Me...I don't really have the time or inclination to read the rules...everyone else???  Oh, they read them all right...ALL THROUGH THE ENTIRE PLAYING OF THE GAME!  So, as I sat down to play this game, I saw immediately that things were going to be EXACTLY like they were in Monopoly.  First, Ryan HAD to be the "Banker".  Standing up the entire game (as though he were at a teller window), he managed the money, loan notes and all other cards that instructed the players what to do.  Robby was just an aggressive, ambitious player, who was out to WIN the game at all cost.  Caitlin, who remember wanted to play this game because she "liked to fill her car up with babies", ended up having NO babies in her car at the end of the game and disappointingly stated that she did not want to play it again.  Me?...Well, I drew two career cards to choose from.  Guess what one of them've got it!  A teacher.  I rolled on one turn and ended up married and then before I even made the curve, I had four kids!  I also landed on additional spots to have two  more kids, but had no more room in my car, so couldn't take them.  See...I TOLD you this game was like "REAL LIFE'; or at least like "OUR" real lives.

The Game of Life was pretty stressful to play, I must say.  What with all the rule reading and money passing hands and people shouting, "I got a raise on this payday...give me my money!"  And, of course me...I just wanted to MOVE MY OWN CAR!  Hey, part of the way through the game, I shouted, "LET ME MOVE MY OWN CAR...I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT COLOR I AM!"  Not to mention that the two doxies insisted on sitting on my lap the entire game...which would not have been much of a problem if I hadn't been sitting at the bar on a bar stool.  Try balancing 2 weenie dogs on your legs for over an hour and see how easy you think it is!,here is how the game ended up.  As I said, Caitlin got married, but had no kids.  However, she was an attorney and finished the game second only to Robby.  I told you he was the ambitious one.  He was a doctor who ended up winning the entire game, because there was no salary cap on his profession...actually he nor Caitin had salary caps, thus continuing to get raises throughout the entire game.  Ryan finished third.  He started out the game being a mechanic, living in a mobile home and then changed careers and became a pro athlete...with no salary cap.  Me?...well, I did NOT choose to be the teacher (like I was in real life); I chose to be the computer programmer.  Neither of my choices set me up to win the game, for both had salary caps...which I met quite quickly.  Then, I turned around and had to turn my modest home in for a mansion!  What with the four kids and all...and after paying the bank back all of my loans...quite simply put; I was broke!

Well, they say that art imitates life...or is it life imitates art?  Hmmm...I don't really know.  However, I DO know one thing..."The Game of Life" imitates "REAL LIFE" way too much to play it very often!

'Twas The Night Before Christmas...Another Christmas Tradition

Traditions are very important to our family and especially at this time of year.  As long as I can remember, Robby and I have taken our children to our church's annual Christmas Eve Service.  This is such a wonderful way for us to reflect upon the real reason for Christmas and a tradition that we all thoroughly enjoy and expect to participate in each year.

I suppose one of the most difficult parts of being a parent, is when your own children grow up and begin having families of their own.  Oh, actually having families of their own isn't a "bad" thing; don't get me wrong.  It's just that things become "different".  This year, we will get to enjoy Parker Ann at her first Christmas Eve Service.  Right now, I'm not sure if David and Codi will be able to make it to the service because they will be spending some time with her family.  And I DO understand that...and that is why we have decided to attend the later service this year.  They will do their best to make it there. 

I'm not sure why it took us Protestants so long to catch on to what our Catholic friends have been doing for many years.  When I was growing up, we did not have Christmas Eve services...and I never understood this.  Because, after all, isn't the birth of Jesus the reason we, as Christians, celebrate this holiday?  Well, whenever Robby and I began having children, we found this wonderful church to begin attending.  And we were happy to discover that they did offer a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service...2 on the same evening, actually.  We quickly added this to our annual Christmas traditions.  When the children were younger, we used to attend the earlier one, so we could head out to one of the grandparents houses (we alternated yearly) directly afterwards.  Now that our children are all grown, Christmas Eve is more of a relaxed day.  The presents are all generally bought and wrapped by then, I'm usually watching the 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" and there may be some sort of family game playing going on somewhere in the house.  If we're REALLY lucky, the weather is cold and we have a fire blazing and hot chocolate on the stove.  Christmas Eve is just a very nice, low-key sort of day.

So, this evening we will head to church, where upon entering, the organ will be swelling with strains of Christmas carols and the entire sanctuary and foyer will be decked out in traditional red and green; garland, bows and a towering tree.  As everyone scrambles to find a seat, laughter and conversation fills the room as old acquaintances are renewed and old and young alike await the annual service that pays homage to a Baby...a King.  We join in song together, participate in the reading of the Christmas story and then the lighting of the tree begins.  There are 2 wooden structures in the shape of trees that hold hundreds of candles on them.  As the music continues to play, families file out to light a candle together on one of the trees.  Our tradition is to allow a different person each year to light the candle for our family.  I will admit that this made me a little nervous when the boys were know, handing them fire and all.  I could always envision the headlines in the local newspaper..."Local Family Burns Down Area Church While Lighting Candle in Christmas Eve Service"...I'm sure that it made the ministers a bit nervous too; knowing some of the previous antics of my mischievous little boys!  Thankfully, that never happened.  And this has become a tradition that has become a very important part of our Christmas. 

So, as Christmas Eve service comes and goes again this year, we will reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  The birth of a baby...the most precious gift of all time...given to us from God.  I hope that all of you have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

On The First Day Of Winter Mother Nature Gave To Me...

On the first day of winter Mother Nature gave to me...some pretty CRAZY southern weather.  I've always heard that if you didn't like the weather in the south today, not to be dismayed....for it would change by tomorrow.  And sure enough that has ALWAYS been the case!

The first day of winter was this week.  People everywhere were enjoying (or maybe not so much in some places...) the colder temperatures and even snowy weather.  Not so for us here in the south, where winter was met with a balmy 83 degrees!  Yes, you heard me right.  Not only would we NOT be "dreaming of a white Christmas", there would be no snowman building or sleigh rides here.  Oh, perhaps a little fishing, some boat rides down the river...and if one wanted to don a swimsuit and catch a few rays, that might even be possible.  But attempting to finish Christmas shopping or listening to Christmas music just didn't feel the same in these sort of temperatures.  I thought of perhaps turning the air conditioning on (well...actually did that) and then turning on the fireplace (didn't do that) to get in that holiday mood.  However, regardless of the weather, the shopping had to continue... so on with the shorts again and off I went to complete the daunting task ahead of me!

Each day as I came home after long hours of sultry shopping in this humid southern weather, I would head straight to my computer to check the weather forecast for the next 10 days.  SURELY there must be some relief out there in sight...and Santa would be riding in on the cool north winds of the jet stream instead of a heat wave.  Well, I DID discover that indeed things would be cooling off a bit...and just in time for the old fat man in the red suit.  Hallelujah and pass the gumbo!  Oh, we would have to suffer through a little rain ( but what's a little wet stuff to us here in the south?) before it came, but those cooler temperature would be here by Christmas morning...and that's all that counted.  Because, after all...we can only DREAM of a white Christmas here in the land of cotton and sugar cane. 

Rogenmoser Cookie Cook-Off 2010!

Most traditions are just passed down from generation to generation and we don't really know how or when they actually began.  Not so with "The Rogenmoser Cookie Cook-Off".  That is because this particular tradition is a young one; only 4 years old to be exact.  However, it is one that I hope continues for many years  and through many generations of Rogenmosers to come.

Four years ago, Robby and I found our "nest" absolutely empty for the first time in a very long time.  Caitlin had gone off to college, Ryan was already there, David was living in Pennsylvania that year and Justin had just gotten married and was living out of town.  I knew that everyone would be coming in eventually for the holidays, but I woke up that Saturday morning feeling sort of let down.  Sensing this, Robby decided (as he always does...) he needed to remedy this situation.  And voila'...a new tradition was born!  Being from a long line of cooks, Robby thinks (and actually after all these years of living with him I agree...) that cooking can make everybody feel better...I wonder if that is what is meant by"comfort food"?  Just a thought...Anyway, he had this great idea that he and I should spend the entire day baking Christmas cookies.  So, after looking up various recipes on the computer, we headed off to town to purchase our ingredients.  And WOW!  Did we ever get some ingredients.  One would have thought that we were personally cooking for a soup kitchen with the HUGE bags of flour and sugar and tons of butter that we purchased in bulk from Sam's.  That day, after beginning the baking process, we did not leave the house again...actually didn't even get finished baking all of those cookies until late into the evening.  Then looking over our cookie-filled counter tops at the hundreds of cookies, we wondered what in the world we would ever do with all of them.  In the end, we decided to package them up and give them away as small Christmas gifts to friends around town.  When the next year rolled around, Robby mentioned how much fun we had the previous year baking cookies and that perhaps we should ask the kids to join us in another round of cookie baking...thus, The Rogenmoser Cookie Cook-Off tradition was born!

That year, we asked everyone to pair up with someone, find a recipe (or two) and bring any special ingredients they may need...we would provide the rest.  Let me just tell you this...there was flour and sugar flying from various mixers as everyone was fighting to get theirs started first.  My little doxies were in heaven!  Generally they roam around the kitchen floor while we are cooking, just waiting for a morsel to drop; today they had hit a gold mine!  I must say that, that year, some of the BEST cookies ever were produced at the Cookie Cook-Off.  We had even MORE cookies than the year before, so LOTS more people in town got surprise cookie packages.  Year 3, we added in a little competition (everyone KNOWS how this crew LOVES a good competition...) by asking someone to sample each cookie made and declare a winning cookie.  The winner?  Well, the cooks were Ryan and Caitlin.  The winning cookie was 2 sugar cookies that were cut into Christmas shapes, sandwiched together with a chocolate filling, covered with chocolate icing and topped with crushed peppermint!  I told you they take competitions seriously around here...

This year, the tradition continued.  We had to work around schedules a little more; medical school rotations, dental school, college, jobs, a new know how it is when your own kids begin to start families and lives of their own.  However, I hope that this will be a family tradition that continues through all of that.  That perhaps every year in December, all of my kids and grand kids will make the trek home to bake cookies as one of our family traditions that marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday season.

It Really IS More Blessed To GIVE Than Receive...(Part 2)

We made plans to drive out and meet the family we were playing Santa to this Christmas season for Sunday evening.  David and Codi had gone out of town for the day with her family and Justin and Sarah now lived about an hour away, however, everyone agreed to be back for our 7 p.m. delivery of the presents. 

Robby and I had wrapped packages all afternoon.  I sat down long enough afterwards to reflect upon the season before heading out and as I did, I began to think about what these "gifts" meant not only to our "special family", but to my own family as well.  Christmas has always been my favorite holiday; filled with food, family and festivities.  Even in our earlier years as a young family, we always tried to make Christmas special for all who spent it with us.  And part of that included celebrating the real reason for the season.  Taking our children to the Christmas Eve service at our church each year taught them about the "Perfect Gift" that God sent down to us and what our true purpose on this earth was; to share the gift of Christ with others.  THAT is what we were going to be doing this evening as we traveled out to deliver presents to this precious single mother and her children who were struggling.  Christ's love teaches us to give freely to those we see in need.

As we drove out to the neighboring town, we all agreed to meet in the parking lot of a local business.  We then caravaned out to our "special family's" residence.  The ride there became quite nostalgic for Robby and me, because it was in a rural area very near to where I grew up as a young girl and also where Robby and I raised our children.  As we wound around curves and over railroad tracks, I wondered at where the time had gone; it seemed like only yesterday, our children were young and awaiting Santa's arrival on Christmas Day.  Now, we were grandparents, watching one of our own children play Santa.  Finally reaching our destination, we pulled into a very well kept trailer park.  This also brought back memories, for Robby and I had once lived in a trailer, ourselves.  As everyone began to get out of their respective vehicles, I instructed them to stay where they were until we walked to the door to meet the mother.  On the way out there, it occurred to me that the only gift we had been unable to wrap was the bicycle and she might perhaps want to hide it until Christmas morning for her child. Robby and I introduced ourselves and presented her with hugs and handshakes.  She indeed did want to hide the bicycle and sent her children to their rooms long enough for David to wheel it in and put it in her bedroom closet for her.  Then, we all began bringing in Christmas presents and placing them beneath her tree.  And as we did, she and her children looked on with tears and awe in their eyes.  Standing there, she said, "My children have never had this many presents under the Christmas tree in their entire lives."  And then she asked us all to sit down and they gave each of us a gift.  She told us that she didn't have much money, but she wanted to make each of us a gift...even Parker Ann.  We were all so touched by the kindness of her home made gifts.  And I, as a mother, was so proud of my children and the manner in which they received these gifts; with a truly thankful heart.

As we were preparing to leave, the youngest child, peeking from behind his mother's back, said, "Mama, miracles really DO happen."  She said, "Yes, they do."  YOU TOO can be someone's miracle.  There are people all around who need help and not just at Christmastime.  Look around.  You don't have to give a lot; maybe you don't even think you have much to give.  How about your time?  To assist the elderly...or perhaps to baby-sit for a single mom?  Maybe there is someone who might just enjoy a good, hot, home-cooked meal.  There are opportunities all around you, if you just take the time to notice.  And you may be surprised, because in the might just be YOU who receives the "Blessing".

It Really IS More Blessed To GIVE Than Receive...(Part 1)

Each year during the Christmas season, our family finds someone in need and plays Santa to them.  It is sort of a tradition that we started years ago to celebrate the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.  This year is no different, except for the fact that the entire family will be here to enjoy the experience of the "Blessing".

Sometimes, a family just presents themselves to us or someone has a suggestion; this year, our church took names of families who were struggling.  Robby went to the church to see about getting one of these families for our family to send a Christmas blessing to.  He returned home with a letter written by a single mother that simply touched our hearts.  And I mean all of our hearts, for as each person read the letter, it became more evident that the blessing would be the one WE received from giving to this family. 

This year would be different in several way.  First, we had a letter in our hand with names of real people and their wish lists.  The other thing that would be different would be the fact that Robby called all of the children and requested that we ALL have a shopping and gift wrapping day together to buy for this family.  And finally, we have never really met the people we have given to before; it has always been anonymous.  The plan was to contact the mother, tell her we had her letter and Christmas Wish List and then set up a time to take her the presents.  Oh...and that was the other part; we would ALL (as a family) travel to this family's home to deliver the packages.

Upon reading the letter and list, one could not help but be touched.  The mother was very concerned about putting food on her table, instead of making a wish list for herself.  However, she followed the instructions given to her by the church and made a small list for herself and had her children do the same.  Robby handed the list over to me and I could sense that he was observing me read it.  Looking up and into his eyes, he knew..."We're getting them everything on their lists, aren't we?", he asked.  "Absolutely", I said.  Next, we had to contact the mother and set up a time to give her the presents.  Robby called and before I knew it, he was saying, "Here, talk to my wife."  As I reached over to take the phone from him, I noticed that he had tears in his eyes.  The lady was very overwhelmed and so overcome with joy, that she had begun to cry; thus causing the chain reaction on our end of the line.  I set up a time to meet with her and told her that WE were the ones who were privileged to be able to do this for them.  This year's project was already becoming a BLESSING.

My kids were coming in for the holidays from every different direction; Natchitoches, Texas, New Orleans and Mississippi.  I knew they were all weary from work and school, however, upon hearing about our plans, EVERYONE was "In"!  The plan was to all meet at our house on Saturday morning early, since we had a big day ahead of us.  Well, that plan didn't work very well (remember, we are dealing with 9 people here...), so we ended up meeting at Target; THAT is where our "shopping adventure" began.

Moving from store to store, I watched as our children got REALLY involved in searching for items on the "Wish Lists".  I was glad that Robby had invited everyone to participate in our Christmas giving tradition this year.  It was my hope and prayer that this experience would be a humbling one for everyone involved.  "Giving" to others also means "giving up".  How is that you may ask.  To "give" to others allows us to "give up" some of our selfishness.  In a world that is "all about me" is very important to lose some of that.  For it is NOT all about me; it is about what I can do for OTHERS. 

So, as I sit here, my children are just beginning to trickle in.  We are meeting again this evening to make the trip out together to deliver the packages to this precious family.  Stay tuned for "Part 2" of "It Really IS More Blessed To GIVE Than Receive..."  You will definitely want to find out about the "Blessing" that WE received from the "Gift" of this very special family God has provided for us this Christmas season.

REALLY...I Just Wanted My Bread!!!

You decide...SOME think that perhaps I had a "hormonal moment", but I say, "No!  I merely wanted my BREAD."  Some of you know me personally and other do not, so please read this objectively and decide for yourselves.  Oh...and IF you do know me, also keep in mind that Christmas is VERY near when you make your decision; you wouldn't want to forfeit good Christmas gifts by not seeing things clearly (my way...).

Here's how it all happened.  I awoke early that morning to head to the gym.  It would be my LONG day...30 minutes on the elliptical machine, followed by an hour of yoga and then another hour of Pilate's ( I TOLD you it was long...).  Upon finishing up there, I was meeting Caitlin in town for lunch and then some Christmas shopping.  Trying to get there was exhausting in and of itself.  One could tell the holiday season was upon us.  Not only had the traffic become more congested, but people were blowing their horns for no good reason.  Making it to the restaurant, I was happy to have the opportunity to sit down, visit with Caitlin and eat before my day became hectic fighting those holiday crowds.  So...I chose one of our favorite restaurants; one that begins the dining experience with bread.

Well, it all started out OK.  We got waited on fairly quickly, our waiter brought our drinks and we ordered our "usual".  Sitting chatting, we knew the bread would be coming out next...and let's face it, everybody knows that a good loaf of hot bread just makes everything better.  THAT'S when it happened.  Our waiter reappeared with our entrees and set them down in front of us.  Caitlin and I looked at our dishes and then at each other.  Wait a minute...the entree' NEVER comes out before the bread!  So, as our waiter prepared to walk away from the table, I said, "Are you going to bring us some bread?"  He replied, "Oh, it's still in the oven; I will bring it when it gets done."  WHAT?!  As he walked away, I looked at Caitlin again and said, "Then WHY would he even bring us our entrees if the bread isn't even out of the oven yet?"  Ugh!!!  Caitlin could tell where this situation was going and said, "Mom, just go ahead and start eating; it's not really his fault...he only serves the bread, he doesn't make it."  "Well, he should know better than to serve the meal without the bread..."  I went ahead and took a bite of my wasn't hot either.  OK, I REALLY could have overlooked the lukewarm food sitting in front of me IF I had some bread in my system ( I told you bread makes everything better), however, that was NOT the case.  Getting more agitated by the minute, I decided to go on a search and rescue mission for my missing bread.  I got up from the table and Caitlin's eyes became large and she was clearly worried when she inquired as to where I was going. "I'm going to find out where my bread is", I replied.  She asked me not to, but I was having none of it...I NEEDED THAT BREAD!  I got up from the table and was slowly walking around toward the kitchen (I know only the employees are supposed to be there, but was all about the bread) when I ran right into my waiter.  Surprised to see me there, he asked if I needed something...ummm...yea!  MY it ready yet?  He told me he would go check.  Sitting back down, I waited.  I was getting really hungry (that long work-out and all), but I didn't want to eat up all of my food without the bread.  Suddenly I saw this look on Caitlin's face.  And just as suddenly as it appeared, she quickly averted her eyes.  Glancing over my shoulder, I saw MY waiter, putting BREAD on the table of someone else...who did NOT have their food yet.  OK...THAT WAS IT!  I was done dealing with this guy about my bread; I headed to the hostess stand.  There I found the manager and began to explain my dilemma.  He assured me he would find out where my missing bread was and take care of the matter.  By the time I returned to the table, Caitlin was halfway finished with her lunch and informed me that I was the reason she could never work in the food service business; hmph...whatever!

The manager DID take care of my little bread issue ( and by the way...he said the bread should ALWAYS come out FIRST) and I FINALLY got it.  After a full day of Christmas shopping and returning home, I retired to my bathroom to take a long, hot bath.  As I was soaking away the day's tiredness, Robby came in.  He pulled the chair out from my changing table and said, "Tell me about your day...Caitlin said, you know Mama is in denial."  Tilting my head a bit with a questioning look, I waited for him to explain.  "She said, you really are starting to go through "M Word'...there was an issue concerning bread today?"  Well, GREAT!  I said, "Let me explain..."

I'll Just Think About That Tomorrow...

I'll just think about that of my favorite lines from my all time favorite movie, "Gone With the Wind".  Scarlett O'Hara is my idol...and surely most all southern gals as well.  I simply like her attitude   about most things and can definitely relate to her.  That's why ever since this "Lake House Remodel Project" has been going on, I have been saying, "I'll just think about that tomorrow."  Well, tomorrow

For 6 months now, we have been working on this project (we could have built a new house and moved in by now...) and I knew the time was drawing close to finishing because Robby was traveling there several days a week to complete little things.  Oh, there were a few glitches along the way too (as with any project); such as an entire granite bar being smashed...yea, NOW do you understand my "I'll think about that tomorrow" attitude?  If I didn't go up there often and just HEARD about the mishaps second hand...well, it was sort of like it hadn't happened and I didn't get all stressed out about it.  I had, however, gone up there a few times to check on the progress (that was BEFORE the smashed granite incident) and to say the place was a mess was being kind.  There was not only trash everywhere, but sheet rock dust covered pretty much every surface; all of that would eventually have to be cleaned (ugh...).  I suppose I thought if I didn't think about all that had to be didn't exist and I didn't have to deal with it (that's where the "thinking about it tomorrow" came in).  Well, THAT just wasn't so.

There were positive and negatives about the" finishing up phase" of this project.  The positive part was that our contractor had hired a cleaning company to come in and thoroughly clean the place from top to bottom.  The negative was that EVERYTHING had to be picked up and put back in cabinets and closets and all trash thrown away BEFORE they could do that...and they were coming TOMORROW.  And THAT is what I had been dreading; I NOW had to think about it!  The day before, the temperatures had been in the 70's, however this morning we awoke to about 40 degrees and extremely high winds, causing the wind chill to be about 30 degrees; that's COLD by any southerners standards!  Was this going to be a bad omen for the cleaning day ahead of me?  After attending church, we headed to Natchitoches.  Upon entering the house, I was quite overwhelmed.  The cleaning company was coming bright and early Monday morning so I KNEW that I had to stay until everything was put away...and who knew how long that could take (sigh...).  I will admit that as I tried to decided what to do first, I had a bit of "cleaning anxiety".  After talking to myself and complaining some, I finally got to work.  It wasn't long until Justin and Sarah and my in-laws also showed up to assist us in this daunting endeavor.

After dusting out shelves, rinsing off and putting away dishes, hanging ceiling fans and connecting television sets (only to name a FEW things), we were finally finished...and it had only taken about 6 hours!  As the rubble was cleared away and things began looking a little more put together again, through my filth and tiredness, I felt quite a sense of accomplishment.  The job I had dreaded and been putting off for so long was done!  And what that meant to me was that very soon we could begin to enjoy this house again...maybe even the week after Christmas.  Although I survived this little project, I'm sure that I will never change...whenever presented with a project that is just too big for my mind to handle at the moment, I will return to my patented response:  "I'll Just Think About That Tomorrow!"

The Silver Tree

As Christmas is upon us, I often times think back on my childhood.  Most of us have joyous memories of decorating the tree, wrapping presents and excitedly awaiting the arrival of the old guy in the red suit.  I will agree that mine are pretty much the same...except for the year we put up the silver tree.

The year was 1968 and I had just entered the first grade that fall.  My father had also passed away, after a lengthy illness the previous July.  As Christmas rolled around that year, it was evident that things were not the same...and most likely never would be. Although the 60's were a very defining era, some things had not begun to change.  Most, if not all, of my friends had fathers.  And most of the mothers did not work outside of the home.  I was sort of thrown into these changes earlier than most.  I was being raised by a single mom (before that term was coined), who was working as a lunchroom lady at my school, while attending night school.  My life had changed drastically.  As Christmas approached, I wondered how IT would be "different" also.

Traditionally, the holiday scene around my house consisted of all the "usuals"...baking, listening to Christmas music, watching Santa with his spy glass on TV and, of course, decorating the tree.  In previous years, we had purchased live trees.  This year, however, Mother decided to purchase an artificial, silver one.  I'm not sure what prompted her to do that.  Was it the fact that they were trendy that year? Or perhaps she didn't think she could manage getting a live one home from the lot with the assistance of a 6 year old?  Maybe, she also knew that things were never going to be the same again and subconsciously punctuated that fact with a visual reminder.  Whatever the case was, I shall never forget that tree.

It was a simple tree...with no lights...and Mother bought a couple of boxes of blue Christmas balls to hang on it.  Over to the side of the tree was an electronic color wheel, that when in motion made the silver tree appear to change colors.  As one might guess, it did not take long to decorated that tree.  However, I still insisted on putting our favorite "Christmas Decorating Record" on the console record player while decorating that sparse tree; Bing Crosby's, "White Christmas".  I now have that same recording on my i-pod and can sing every song word for word to this day.

Up until that year, we had purchased a live Christmas tree each year, that permeated the house with the scent of the woodsy outdoors.  Each night I would look at the silver tree and eventually it began to mesmerize me.  Beckoning me to approach its tinny branches, I would wander into the living room and lay near it on the hard, parquet floor with my head propped upon my chubby little crossed arms.  Watching the tree turn shades of red, green, blue and yellow, reflected off the color wheel, I would dream of the gifts Santa would leave me under that tree in just a very short time.  Things may have changed around my house, but the hope that only a child can find was also still found within my world.

I cannot remember us ever using that silver tree again, but memories of it have remained etched in my mind forever.  Thinking back, it wasn't a bad tree; just a different one.  And it taught me a few lessons along the way.  Over the years, the silver tree has become symbolic to me.  It was not a "live" tree, thus causing me to reflect upon the loss that I had experienced in my life; a time of pausing to try to figure out what would happen next.  Although this was to be a new life journey for my mother and me, I had no choice but to continue along the path to the future.  My world may have slowed down in preparation for the adjustments that were to ultimately come, but it did not stop.  The world kept right on spinning and one was required to figure out quickly how to pen the next chapter.  My life, although a roller coaster at times, has been full and meaningful.  The green trees returned to our home in all of the following Christmases and with them, the assurance that life WOULD continue on, if only a little differently now.  For God KNEW the plans He had (and has) for me...plans to prosper me and not to harm me; new chapters would unfold daily and I was prepared to embrace each of them...just like I had embraced that silver tree so many years ago.

I Saw A DINOSAUR At The Eye Doctor's Office Today!

I broke down and finally made an appointment to see my eye doctor.  I HATE going to doctors of any kind...but I do LOVE new glasses!  So, you see, I was sort of forced to go see the eye doctor if I was going to spend money on some SUPER CUTE new glasses.

Driving into the parking lot, I could barely find an empty spot...ugh!  I did not look forward to the prospect of having to sit and wait.  However, when I entered the building, I did not see many people in the waiting room.  Either they were all in the back being seen or people from the neighboring offices were using their parking places.  That was a good sign.  I walked to the desk to check in...and that's when I noticed it...that DINOSAUR!  It was a TYPEWRITER...yea; who remembers what one of those looks like?  You see, I heard this familiar sound of years ago...tap, tap, tap...and low and behold, there it was!  I had not seen one in so long, that I just stood there and watched the girl type the labels and then peel them off to stick them on folders for a minute.  I was curious now to know if they even had any computers in the office.  Glancing across the room, I was relieved to find that they indeed did have two.  I took my seat in the waiting room and thinking about that old dinosaur tapping away, I gazed around the room and suddenly noticed that the typewriter wasn't the only antiquated object in the office. 

I'm sure that upon starting a practice, physicians are pretty strapped for cash, due to piled up student loans, thus they design their offices for efficiency...not necessarily aesthetics.  It was obvious that the chairs in the waiting room must have been well made for their era, since they were still in pretty good condition, considering their age.  The style and color of them indicated that they were several decades old.  As I was called to the back for my appointment, I also took note of other tell-tell signs that dated this office.  Things that perhaps other less observant people would not notice.  Items such as light fixtures, art work and window coverings.  This office was still living in the late 60's or early 70's.  Oh well...I suppose that really didn't matter as long as the quality of care was up to date.

As I was led to the examination room, I became aware of the girl walking me there with the chart in her hand.  She was wearing was every other person in the office...AND they were all wearing the same color.  This was a new trend in the medical profession that I noticed had emerged in the past few years.  I supposed it would be easy to get up in the mornings and just know what you were going to wear that day, however, I really like cute clothes; they define my individuality ( I KNOW...I'm also a product of the 60's) so, I'm not sure how much I would like wearing the SAME thing to work EVERY day.  Oh well, on a positive is better than that awful institutional white that used to be worn by all health care providers.  OK, so the girl sat me down in the chair and began to do all of the usual little tests before the doctor made his entrance into the room.  "Which one is better?...Number 1 or Number 2?"  After all of the tests she was required to do were complete, she left and I sat and waited for the a room lit only by a bulb the size of a night light.  Why did it have to remain so dark in there?  Was it a rule that the overhead lights must be turned off?  Hmmm...I guess their utility bill doesn't run much.  About the time I was beginning to check the room (and all of the equipment) out, in popped the doctor.

He's a really nice guy, who actually used to live two doors down from me.  His kids and my kids also went to the same school and were friends.  So, as he entered the room, he shook my hand and asked how everyone was. As the examination began, I noticed this "code talk" going on between him and his assistant.  You know what I'm talking about...abbreviations and numbers; things we lay people have no idea what they are talking about!  Everything was going fine and he was agreeing to give me a new prescription for those SUPER CUTE new glasses I wanted.  That is UNTIL...he ruined it!  OK...let me stop right here, because I think that there is some sort of conspiracy going on; well, at least among MEN physicians...or MEN in general, for that matter.  He stated that since the weather was getting cooler, my eyes might begin to experience some dryness.  I shook my head...there was nothing I disagreed with or opposed to there.  It was what he said NEXT that just BLEW MY MIND!  Glancing over toward his assistant again, he asked her to get me a sample of some new drops they had, "Balance".  Then, making eye contact with me he said, "You know, you're getting to that age..."  WHAT?!  OH MY GOSH!!!  Not again!  Ummm..."NO!, WHAT AGE WOULD THAT BE?!", I wanted to say, as he gave the wink, wink, nod to that perky little assistant! Hmph!  Well, she gave me a free sample (1st free sample I ever really didn't want to take) and took that new prescription with me to check out.

Standing in line to check out, I could still hear the tap, tap, tap of that old dinosaur in the office.  Pondering about what had just taken place in that dark cave of a room, I was suddenly struck with a thought.  He thinks I AM A DINOSAUR...(sigh...).  When WILL these MEN realize that I mean it when I say I am NOT going to do the "M" WORD?!  Apparently never.  Well, as I always say, "Age is JUST a number...and MINE isn't up yet, guys!"

A Missing Baby...

Well, I did it.  It may have taken an entire week with MANY distractions, but the house is finally completely decorated.  There is no more yellow and orange to be found anywhere.  In its place is red and green...and LOTS of other Christmas things!

I admit that it was quite a struggle to get my home looking like the North Pole this year.  What with Justin and Sarah moving into their new home and then back in with us for a few days...not to mention Caitlin's whole 21st birthday celebration weekend...oh, and let's not forget the sharing of my washer and dryer, causing a tremendous back up of laundry.  Nevertheless, it is done and now that the weather has turned cooler, I can get up in the mornings, light a fire, turn the Christmas tree lights on and savor this holiday season while sipping the day's first cup of coffee.  Decorations can be found strategically placed on most surfaces around here and as I look upon those knick knacks, some ancient and others new, I can't help but recall the memories most invoke.

On one counter top sits framed photos of Christmases past.  Photos of my children.  As I look at their precious little chubby faces, I cannot help but remember the twinkle in their eyes and excitement in the air as they anticipated Santa's arrival.  From Christmas books to vintage elves and peppermint candles, the house has a festive air about it.  But the one thing that captures one's eye and my heart, is the simple nativity scene that sits upon an antique desk in my den.

As carefully as I try to put this nativity scene away each year, it ended up with a little crack on the bottom of one of the pieces.  That small imperfection did not keep me from placing it where I could view it each day of this blessed season; allowing it to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas.  Several years ago (during one of our moves, I'm sure), I began unwrapping this set only to find that Baby Jesus was missing!  How could that be and how could I even think of displaying it with the most important person in the scene missing?  Try as I might, I just could not ever locate him that year.  I decided to display it anyway.  Every day, I would glance toward that nativity and think about the missing baby and wonder where he was.  That made me wonder something else in the process; what IS Christmas without the baby?  For Christians everywhere, the miraculous birth of the Christ Child is the "center" of Christmas.  So, as I looked at the wise men and shepherds and angels each day, I thought about that missing baby and what my life (and the lives of other believers) would be like without the Christ child.  It would be just like my nativity...empty, bare, missing a vital part.  I would be continually searching for something very important that SHOULD be there and wasn't;  just like that missing baby. 

At the end of the holiday season that year, I made my trek back up to the attic to get the boxes to pack all of my decorations up for another year.  While up there, I came upon a box of forgotten decorations that had gotten shoved to the back of the attic.  As I opened the lid and began to dig through the box, I came upon the missing Baby Jesus.  There he was looking up at me.  He had been there all along.  Apparently, in my haste to put things away the previous year, I had moved him.  Relieved at this discovery, I quickly picked him up and took him downstairs to the nativity scene that had been noticeably void of the most important part all season long.  As I continued to pack all of the other Christmas items away, I allowed him to be reunited with his wise men and shepherds and angels.  Then, at last, I carefully took each piece of that nativity set off of my desk, wrapped them individually and placed them all within the same box.  The next year, I would have no problem displaying a COMPLETE nativity scene.  For, although this set was merely a "decoration" of the season, missing the Christ Child made me realize the importance of his entrance into this world for his many followers and how empty our lives would be without him.

21 Snaps For Caitlin...Who Is "LEGALLY" Blonde Today!, I must have been a child bride.  How else could my youngest child be 21 years old today?!  Well, I'm not sure where all of the time went, but one thing is for FLEW!

Girls, in and of themselves, are a totally different breed and as Caitlin's 21st birthday snuck upon us, she began dropping hints that made it quite evident that this was a "Landmark Birthday" and she expected some sort of "Landmark Celebration".  Hmmm...what to do, what to do.  Birthdays around here are pretty special anyway and are always celebrated, but she was looking for something with a little more punch.  Then, I knew exactly what we would wouldn't just be a "Birth-Day", but a "Birthday Weekend"!  When I began my planning, I initially thought we would be in the Lake House by then...those hopes were quickly dashed, so I started working on "Plan B".

Caitlin would drive in from school on Thursday evening and she along with her father and I would plan on attending the first Christmas party of the season; this would be sure to put us all in a festive mood.  I FINALLY got finished with all of that Christmas decorating too, so the house would have that warm, toasty, holiday feel.  After we returned home from the party, the first "surprise" would be set into motion.  I hired a company to come out after dark and decorate our entire lawn!  The "theme" would be "Legally Blonde", since that has been Caitlin's favorite movie forever...and we DO all call her Elle.  There would be princess crowns placed strategically all over the yard, with a big sign that said. "21 Snaps For Caitlin Who Is LEGALLY Blonde Today".  Cute, huh?  The lady and I worked on this project via e-mail while I was en route to Houston at the beginning of the week.  THIS would really surprise her and put a BIG smile on her face to start her "Birthday Weekend" off right.

Next, she would head to the airport to pick up Kevin, who was making a special trip in for the big event.  Then, 8 of us would head to Marksville, where I had made a reservation at a restaurant called, The Red River Grill.  Located in Cajun Country, this upscale restaurant touts some of the finest Louisiana cuisine around.  It is quite difficult to surprise Caitlin with her gifts, because she is constantly guessing what they are.  She had picked out a fabulous pair of boots a couple of months back, which she knew about and I had put away in my closet.  I did, however, get another little something for her as well, that she didn't know about.  She has a Chamillia charm bracelet and decided that she liked my idea of collecting Christmas beads to wear around the holiday season.  So, I purchased 2 new beads for that bracelet:  a Christmas elf and the holly berries.  Her dad always get her a little something special just from him; this year he surprised us all by getting her a CAR!  This was definitely a secret that was difficult for us to keep, but she would be surprised beyond measure!  After dinner, we would head just down the road to the casino.  Yep...for some reason, when these kids turn 21, that's where they want to go.  Making it home late, we would have to get a little shut eye...Saturday had its own festivities in store too!

The plans for Saturday were to get up early and head to Natchitoches for a full day of the annual Christmas Festival.  This quaint little town, paved with brick streets is home to a WONDERFUL Christmas Festival.  There are 2 parades on this opening weekend, along with a phenomenal fireworks display over the Cane River and thousands of lights are turned on and begin to twinkle all over the city.  There would be vendors set up down by the river with Natchitoches Meat Pies, funnel cakes and many other goodies...along with various live bands that one could tap their toe (or dance out right) to.  We would wander through the stores lining Front Street and eat dinner there also.  There are some perks to having a birthday around Christmas time!

Sunday, we would all head to church together again and in the afternoon, my mother and sister would come out for dessert and coffee...bearing more gifts for the "Birthday Girl".  Although David and Codi and Ryan could not make it in this weekend (Caitlin was sad about this...), it would STILL be a great weekend.  And once more I had been successful in separating Caitlin's birthday from Christmas.  Yes, I HAD included the Christmas spirit in there, but it had been a totally separate event...and THAT has always been an important thing to do, having a child with a December birthday.

I STILL cannot believe that my "baby" is 21.  How did time fly so quickly?  Where did it go?  I KNOW that I am not getting older (at least inside I don't feel like it).  I also know that I have been greatly blessed.  Blessed with a wonderful family.  There are no people on this earth that I would rather spend these special moments with.  And I am so glad that they still like to spend them with me.

What's Not To LOVE About A Fairy Tale?

I went to see "Tangled" with the family Friday night. That's what got me to thinking about fairy tales.  A beautiful princess, a handsome guy (usually on a white horse), throw in a wicked witch, animals in a forest and plenty of show tunes and...voila!  There's your fairy tale.  Often times I day dream (while watching those Disney movies) about what it would be like to actually LIVE in a fairy tale.

All of our guys were such great sports.  I knew that they might have like another movie better, but they knew that I had to have my "Disney Fix".  I'm sorry, but when a new animated Disney movie is released, I just can't miss it!  So, off we went to a theatre filled with plenty of children, accompanied by their parents (who truly had a valid excuse for seeing a Disney movie).  This movie did not disappoint me, either.  The beautiful Rapunzel trapped in her tower by the wicked witch, disguised as her mother...and of course, the handsome guy who, in the end falls in love with her...and they live "Happily Ever After".  I'm not sure what little boys see when they view these fairy tales, but I can sure tell you what little girls are thinking...romance, love and living happily ever after.  And THAT is what most likely causes many young girls to have, shall we say...unrealistic expectations about love, marriage and life in general.  But, hey...a girl can dream, can't she?!

So, what would life be like if I DID live in that animated life of a fairy tale?  Well, first, I would be living in some wonderful castle in a kingdom, where all of the people would adore me...I WOULD be a princess, after all.  And being a princess would have perks of its own.  Why, I would have that long, beautiful flowing hair...that not only never got messed up, but also stayed the same color forever without me having to keep going back to the hair salon to be colored.  My skin would be flawlessly unwrinkled and youthful (cause for that wicked witch to, of course, hate me), without ever requiring all of the moisturizers and beauty products I presently use daily.  The forest would not be a scary place, because all of the animals there would not be dangerous, but terribly friendly as their scurried out so that I could sing show tunes to them in my angelic voice.  Oh, don't get me wrong...danger would still lurk out there, but because I lived in a fairy tale, I could not be hurt.  No matter what potential harm lurked around the corner, there would be a prince charming or knight in shining armour just waiting to save the day, capture my heart in the process and then we would live happily ever after.  Ahhh...but alas, this IS merely a day dream and with the sudden ringing of the phone and barking of the dogs, I am shaken out of my trance.

The reality is NOT a fairy tale, but it IS what you make it.  "Why worry?", I often ask people.  Does worrying get anything accomplished?  Take life one day at a time and savor it!  It is a GIFT, so why let others spoil it for you?  LAUGH a little too loud!  JUMP up and down when you are excited!  LOVE deeply and fiercely!  EAT that ice cream cone!  Leave this life with others being able to say..."They lived life to the fullest and with no regrets!" the process, you may find that life really DOES resemble a fairy of your own making!

If You See That 8 Ball, Look Closely...Because I Am Directly BEHIND It!

No matter how hard I try to stay focused and on task, I ALWAYS end up behind the 8 Ball.  My sister says that is because I work better under pressure, however, I disagree...I just always seem to be there.  Although I had hoped that this week would be different, here I am finding myself behind usual.

After everyone left after the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought that perhaps I could have a "normal" week (whatever THAT is...), catch up on my Christmas decorating and wash, fold and put away the ENORMOUS amount of clothes that had piled up over the week.  Well, this was not to be.  Sunday, after everyone left, we prepared to hit the road again; this time to Houston.  Houston is a 4 hour road trip (one way) from where I live.  My father-in-law needed to see a doctor there and Robby and I decided to drive he and my mother-in-law there; we left at 5 p.m.  Arriving after 9 p.m., we were pretty tired, but glad we had made the trip that evening instead of waking very early Monday morning to head that way.  After the doctor visit and a bit of shopping, we headed the pouring rain.  Totally exhausted, I turned in around 9 p.m.  Monday was gone...I would have to play "catch up" for the rest of the week.

I usually work at our office here in town on Tuesdays, but this week I would adjust all of my plans a little (that's what we 8 Ball followers tend to do quite frequently).  After hitting the gym, I would come back home, finish putting all of the Christmas decorations up, get those clothes folded and NOT leave the house for ANY reason.  Well...THAT didn't work out as planned, either.  I decided to call Robby on my way home from the gym and he asked if I would like to go to Justin and Sarah's house with him.  It seems that their hot water heater was on the blink and he planned on fixing it.  Hmmm...I REALLY needed to get home, but asked him what HE wanted me to do (I KNEW he didn't want to drive there by himself).  He said we wouldn't be gone long and he would help me get those decorations done and all of the boxes put away.  It was a deal!  We hopped in the truck and headed off to Natchitoches (a 45 minute trip one way) to fix the hot water heater.  OK...honestly, the best laid plans often do not turn out the way you anticipate.  And this was one of those days.  The weather had turned very cold again and with the wind whipping at our coat tails, we (yes, I went up there too) climbed up those attic stairs.  Hey...I wanted to see what an attic looked like before one had a chance to junk it up!  Anyway, it took several HOURS before Robby thought he was about to get that water heater fixed.  As he was turning the last knob before trying it out, I remember incident that happened many years ago.  Robby was working in an attic on someone's furnace and it blew back in his face, causing it to be covered in black ash...THAT required a trip to the emergency room.  As I stood there, I asked, "This thing isn't going to blow back on it?"  He assured me that it wasn't.  I decided to head down those attic stairs anyway...and just as I reached the bottom...KABOOM!  And then I saw Robby FLYING across the attic!  I screamed his name but he did not answer and I did not see him getting up.  Panicking, I began to race back up the stairs and at that point, I saw him get up.  "Oh MY GOSH!!!  Are you OK?  Are you OK?", I asked.  He shook his head a bit, said yes and started down the stairs, himself.  Glancing just inside the house, one could see the evidence of his "little accident", in the form of a busted in ceiling and insulation floating down like snow!  Telephone the sheet rockers, telephone the plumber...and STILL no hot water.  It was now 6 p.m.  We headed back home, stopped for dinner and FINALLY made it find that the "Decoration/Laundry Fairy" had NOT come by and done all of my chores while I was out today.  Wednesday was my absolute final goal...I HAD to be finished with everything by Wednesday.  The Merry Maids were coming Thursday morning AND it was the 1st of December.  Those pumpkins on my front door steps needed to be put away!

I overslept Wednesday morning...hey, I was tired!  Today I had to stay focused...even if I had to stay up until midnight, I was going to finish EVERYTHING!  I began putting all of the empty boxes back upstairs and was down to only 2 things left to do:  put my Dicken's Village up and get that front door and stoop decorated.  The doorbell was Sarah.  She and Parker needed to wash clothes and get baths...remember, they still had no hot water.  What I didn't expect was the other 2 visitors she brought along with her...Charley and Mia...their 2 dogs.  OK, so now we had 4 dogs and a little baby..and LOTS of laundry.  I needed yoga.  And that's where I headed.  After my workout, I felt much more centered and relaxed.  Then I remembered something else...I had to get my flu shot today (ugh!...).  So, before I headed home I stopped to get my shot.  I'm not really that afraid of shots, but as I sat there waiting, I found my heart was racing and I was actually feeling a little sick to my stomach.  I suppose I was just hoping that this year, I would actually be able to move my arm after the injection.  I got the shot and it didn't even hurt this time!  Wow!  It was time to head home and finish that decorating.

Upon arriving home, I was greeted by 4 sets of barks....and of course, my sweet Parker.  I grabbed a bite to eat and then realized something...I could barely move my arm; well, GREAT!  Darn flu shot.  So, instead of getting right on with my work, I became distracted once've got it...I had to blog!  And now you can see WHY I am ALWAYS behind that 8 Ball!  Life is a ride that just happens! And me?... I tend to hang on and go with it.  After all, it's just "Another Day In The Life of a Mom"!

Sometimes You Just NEED A Cup Of Hot Chocolate...

We survived Thanksgiving...some of us better than others.  Nevertheless, the day was, just as I predicted, loud, festive and full of drama.  After washing dishes 3 times and FINALLY getting everything clean at the end of the day, those of us who were left, settled down for the first Christmas movie of the season..."Four Christmases".  The next day, I planned on doing as little as possible to recover from my "sensory overload".  I planned to have my house looking "A Lot Like Christmas" by the end of the day.  I had the boys take my Christmas tree out of the attic Thanksgiving evening, only to find that the stand was broken.  Traditionally, I decorate my tree on Thanksgiving evening, after all the dishes and food have been put away and the last guest is out the door.  I would have to purchase a new stand on Friday before that could be done now.  This should have been an omen to me...that things were not going to go as harmonious as I had hoped.

Temperatures were pretty sultry here in the south on Thanksgiving was in the 80's.  However, I knew a storm was on the way...I began to cough unceasingly that evening.  Before I went to bed, the rain had begun.  And true, we needed the rain, but with it was the prediction of temperatures in the 30's!  A 50 degree drop in temperatures overnight was never a good thing.  Robby and all of the boys headed out to the store at 5 a.m. to ready themselves for "Black Friday".  And I...well, there was NO WAY that I would be braving those crowds of people fighting for all of the best deals; that was just "Too much sugar for a dime", as my mama would say.  So, upon awaking, I fixed my first cup of coffee for the day, changed the thermostat from cool to heat and settled into my rocker to peruse the "Black Friday Internet Sales".  Hey...that is REALLY the way to go.  You can STILL shop and get some pretty good deals, while avoiding all of the crazy crowds...AND you can do this in your pajamas!  So, a- surfing I went and everything was going quite well UNTIL...let's just say there was a bit of "waking up on the wrong side of the bed".  THAT'S NEVER good!

Apparently the old north wind had not only blown in cooler temperatures, but also grouchiness.  While trying to figure out how to make the "grouchies", "happy" again, my sister called.  It seemed that she was not faring much better.  She had been fighting a migraine since early and didn't want to leave the warmth of her den either., we folks in the south just don't handle cold weather very well.  It is sort of like the entire universe is out of kilter when it gets cold (or worse yet snows) here. advice to my sister and everyone else who was having issues was..."Have a cup of hot chocolate...that will make you feel  better!"  I will admit that they all sort of laughed at me and looked at me strangely.  I don't care!...Sometime, you just need to sit back, relax, breathe deeply and refocus.  And I find that it is best to do that while drinking a nice, hot cup of chocolate.

Eventually, everyone left me home alone to begin my decorating. I put my Christmas CD's on and although my tree was still laying in the floor, with the broken stand attached to it (Caitlin would be bringing a new one home), I decided to climb into the attic, pull ALL of my Christmas boxes down and begin the lengthy process of decorating.  This decorating was NOT a job that could be could potentially take me a week to complete.  So, I started with the mantles first.  I removed all of the oranges and yellows of autumn and in their place went berry adorned garland, sparkling with white lights.  I love doing this all by myself, because there is no one around trying to direct or organize me.  I generally cannot stay focused on one task for very long; pulling different items out of the boxes, like a kid on Christmas morning.  And so...up went the nativity, then the LSU Santa and train...OH My Goodness, all of my Christmas books...and vintage elves!  Caitlin made it home with my tree stand and after Kevin stood the tree in it, I was ready to start on that too.  Those two (Caitlin and Kevin) took to the recliner and couch and immediately fell asleep.  And while they slept, I began the process of putting the ornaments on the tree.  This is one of my most favorite things to do.  I have saved ornaments from when Robby and I were first married.  There is an ornament for every child's first Christmas, along with various ones with all of our family members names on them.  Then there are the ones I purchased from every new place we visited on vacations and the ones that former students gave me (yes...I remember WHO gave me each of those ornaments too).  I call these my boxes of memories, because my tree tells a story.  Caitlin and Kevin woke up and OK...SOMEONE FINALLY took my advice...they made some hot chocolate!  And I'm telling works!  One just cannot help but smile and feel better while drinking it.  The phone rang and it was Robby.  He and the boys were on their way home and we would be going to a movie tonight.
As I readied myself for the movie, I was happy.  This was the Christmas FAVORITE time of the year!  Almost the entire family would be going to the theatre together.  I realized again just how blessed I was...AND decided that I would have MY hot chocolate while watching a movie with the folks that matter the most to me.

Turkey Day's A Comin'...Ready Or Not!

It seems as though Thanksgiving has just crept up on me this year and I'm beginning to feel the pressure a little bit.  I have about 20 people showing up at my house tomorrow...and I STILL have much to do!  Don't get me wrong, I love having big, loud holidays surrounded by family and friends.  However, in order to have an event like this, one must plan ahead of time.  And once again, I have procrastinated and piddled away my time, thus putting me in a crunch...OK, as usual.

Gazing around, I realize that I haven;t removed all of the remnants of Halloween yet.  Oh, I can still leave the fall colored decorations out, but some things MUST be changed out before our Thursday celebration.  Remember, the aesthetics that create the proper atmosphere are my forte''s not the food that I'm worried about, per se..  And that is because I am very good at delegating...especially when it involves putting a holiday meal together.  I CAN cook, but not THAT good.  And besides, you KNOW that everybody just loves preparing their favorite dishes for the holidays.  I say, why not take advantage of that. When they ask, "What can I bring?...TELL THEM!  Then, everybody ends up happy.

On Monday, it was 3 days and counting...but Monday was going to prove to be a very busy day for me.  I had to make an hour drive to our store and put more merchandise out for "Black Friday".  This would be the first holiday season for us in the retail business.  I had also come up with this wonderful idea that we should  hire a Santa for  Saturday, finding out that no one else in town would have one (ahhh...that second grade teacher coming out in me again).  So, not only did I have merchandising to do, I had now put MORE work on myself.  I had to order a backdrop for Santa, purchase a printer and photo folders (you cannot have a Santa without taking pictures with Santa...) and now I was still looking for a chair for him to sit in.  Robby's idea was to unwrap one of my nice new chairs presently on a trailer in my garage, waiting to be taken to the Lake House...Ummm..."NO!", I said.  "I'm sorry, but I cannot let strangers sit in my new furniture" ( was that germ-a-phobia kicking in again).  So, as of right now...I STILL haven't come up with an alternative seat for Santa.

Tuesday, it was 2 days and counting...I had to work at my office in town.  When I taught school, I hated getting up on Monday mornings to go to work.  So, when I quit teaching and began doing the payroll and books at my husband's office, I decided NOT to work on Mondays.  Tuesdays would be MY Mondays (well, with the exception of THIS week...)  I know, I's probably just a mental thing, but I like being in charge of my own work schedule.  The plan for Tuesday was to get up VERY early, get on Go To My PC at home, put all of my checks in, then make my trip to the gym (had to have those endorphins going this week...) and THEN stop at the office to print and mail everything.  Everything was going exactly as planned...until I walked into the office to find Robby still sitting at his desk.  "What are you doing here?", I inquired.  Do you remember me telling you earlier in the week that my oldest son, Justin, was building a new house?  Well, today was to be "move in day"...and we needed to help.  It wasn't that I minded helping, I actually wanted to.  But, this Thanksgiving thing was creeping up on me and I will admit that I was now becoming a little worried about the food.  You see, one of the persons that I had delegated to was Robby...and we hadn't even made a trip to the grocery store yet!  Although I mostly do delegating where food is concerned during the holiday, I had been to the grocery stores during that time...and I hoped that the shelves were not getting wiped out.  Needless to say, we drove 45 minutes away and stayed until late helping Justin and Sarah move into their new house.

1 day and counting.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  My plans for today?  Well, my focus will be on getting my extra table and chairs out.  Decorating the house for tomorrow's big event...and yes, the dreaded trip to the grocery store.  Although, I am still hopeful that Robby will decide to make that stop before he returns home.  People have been trickling in town since Monday and today the remainder will arrive.  Most divided between my in-law's house and mine, the atmosphere is about to become more alive.  Family plus friends with a LOT of fabulous food and conversation go a long way in making the holidays around here special...and packed with many memories to recall for years to come.  From our loud and crazy family to yours...HAPPY THANKSGIVING and  BLESSINGS TO ALL!

Click Those Red Heels And...You're Back In The Land Of Cotton!

We returned from New York Thursday and readied ourselves for a "Road Trip".  We had to be in New Orleans for a 1:30 ceremony on Friday.  This was a quick turn around, but Ryan, who is in dental school there had a pinning ceremony and I would never miss something like that.  So, although I knew I would awake with a "New York Hang Over", I was ready to "hit the road" again.

Arriving home around 9:00 pm and then getting up at the crack of dawn was not easy, however it was necessary...for 2 reasons.  Caitlin also arrived home Thursday, ready for a week off from school and a flight out of town for a few days, herself.  She would be flying to Kentucky to see her boyfriend EARLY,  so I KNEW that I would have to assist her in getting there on time and then it was off to New Orleans.  Ever since Katrina hit Louisiana, Baton Rouge has now become the largest city in our state.  Merely getting through there, can be quite stressful if not carefully planned.  So, it was our hope that we could miss the morning work traffic on our way down to the Big Easy.

LSU Dental School is actually in New Orleans, but Ryan lives about a 10 minute drive out, in Metarie.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  First, the rent in the city is very expensive and second, the crime rate is a lot higher there too.  So, I for one am very happy that he does not live in the city.  But, as I said, it is a very short commute.  Robby and I originally thought we would be able to stay overnight, however, another child across the state beckoned for us to return.  Did I mention that Justin and Sarah have been building a house?  Oh...and that Robby designed the house plan and I did all of the interior decorating?  Yea, just another little project, since I have all of this free time!  Well, nevertheless, the plans would now be to get to New Orleans, attend the pinning ceremony, take Ryan to dinner and then return home afterwards (a 3 hour trip one way).

Even the best laid plans did not help upon entering Baton Rouge...the traffic was horrific!  We finally made it though and easily found our way to the LSU School of Dentistry.  We had never actually been to the campus yet, so we were looking forward to Ryan possibly being able to give us a small tour of the facility.  Meeting him there, he ushered us upstairs to the auditorium where his ceremony would take place.  Everywhere I looked, there was purple and've gotta love that LSU spirit!  We took our seat as Ryan prepared to march in with his class.

As we sat down, I mentioned to Robby that the seats were so hard, that no one could possibly get comfortable enough to doze off.  I was wrong about that, because during the course of speeches, that "New York Hang Over" I had was beginning to affect me.  It was a nice ceremony that believe it or not ended with the "LSU Tigers Fight Song"!  When it was complete, Ryan gave us a tour of the facility.  We saw the locker room where his tools were stored and the lab where he was already beginning to created fillings on his artificial set of teeth.  And, of course, I pulled the old camera out and began to snap some pictures.  Robby and Ryan grimaced about that and Robby asked how long I was going to continue taking pictures.  I said, "Let's see...that would be FOREVER.  You know, I have 4 kids and now a grand baby...I will pretty much be living with my camera in my hand."  They laughed, shook their head and sighed.

I told Ryan that we would treat him to dinner before we headed back home and to just pick a place.  There are really no bad places to dine in New Orleans; I believe some of the best food in the world can be found there.  He chose "Drago's".  Drago's was featured on the Food Network because if the grilled oysters they prepare there.  I cannot eat shellfish, but they guys ordered this for an appetizer...they highly recommend them!  After dinner and hugs and a promise to see each other for Thanksgiving, we were off to Alexandria and Ryan was off to Baton Rouge for the LSU game the next day.

As we rolled out of town, I reflected on the day and life in general.  I told Robby, "I'm really proud of Ryan.  And for that matter, ALL of my children."  All of those years of paying for private schools and living from paycheck to paycheck for had paid off.  My theory had been correct...get an education; no one can ever take that away from you.  If you believe you can do it, you can.  Oh, it may not be easy...if it was, then EVERYBODY would be doing it.  If you have a dream...GO AFTER IT!  Hey...they listened to me about something.  And it is delightful to see the benefits they are all beginning to reap.

Body Scan or Pat Down...or MAYBE I Should Just Wear My Swimsuit Through Airport Security...

In preparing for our return trip home from New York, I was glued to the television.  The news all week long had focused heavily on "The Body Scan vs. The Pat Down" issue at airports.  Not truly paying close attention before, I was NOW wanting to know EVERYTHING about this issue.

Flying is always a rough day for me, so I searched deep within myself for some "positive" to keep me from sinking into my "Bad Attitude Flying Funk".  Hmmm...the only good thing I could manage to come up with was that we FINALLY had an afternoon flight booked, instead of a crack of dawn flight.  But, other than that, this "Body Scanning and Patting Down" issue had me a little worried...and for more than one reason.

First, after asking Robby to give me a quick run down of the body scanning (I knew he had been paying closer attention to the new than I...), I was aghast that people would be able to see me virtually NAKED on a screen!  And I certainly did not want to end up on the Internet, like so many stories I had heard of (I paid attention to THAT part!).  My only alternative would be, "The Pat Down".  And that alone brought its own problems...for a germ-a-phobe like me!

After listening to the individuals on television talk about their "Pat Down Experiences", I was definitely getting a bit worried.  Let me get this straight...a STRANGER...with blue gloves on...was going to be running their hands ALL OVER MY BODY?!  I had enough issues being required to take my shoes off at the security check point and placing my feet where MANY other feet had trod!  I could NOT see a good way out of this any way you looked at it.  Robby noticed my intense gaze upon the television set and along with the questions he had been fielding from me, decided to issue me a warning, "Don't cause any problems at the airport today!"  Hmph!  "AND...NO!  I will NOT take any pictures or videos of you if they have to pat you down!"  WELL!...I guess he was just going to allow those strange people to touch me in strange places...and do nothing about it.  In the end, I agreed not to cause a fuss...sort of.

Hopping out of our taxi at the airport terminal, we decided to check everything at the curb to cut down on any potential problems at security.  We rounded the corner inside and saw a line stretching around the corner...I KNEW it was going to be like this.  Entering the roped off line, like preparing to climb aboard a theme park ride, I didn't quite feel the same excitement.  I just stood there hoping they wouldn't choose me.  Before I ever made it to the front of the line, I had my boots off (I wore socks nasty germs on MY feet that day!), coat in one hand and driver's license and boarding pass in the other.  Keeping a low profile, I  very calmly placed my items in a bucket and proceeded through the metal detector holding my breath.  I didn't buzz!...Thank the Lord!  Very quickly I grabbed all of my items and took them to a chair far off (I didn't want the agents to change their minds) to get re-dressed.  However, sitting there, I watched as the TSA agents searched some very unlikely passengers; a toddler and an old man in a wheelchair.  I also witnessed quite a bit of verbal snapping at passengers from these same agents...This DID anger me.

Years ago, there was an airline commercial that sang a little jingle, "Fly the friendly skies".  I thought about that for a minute and decided that perhaps that should be changed to, "Fly the unfriendly skies"!  I'm NOT saying that screening should NOT take place, but I AM saying that a bit of "common sense" should be used in decision making policies regarding airline security screening.  Putting naked bodies on a screen or touching people in private areas...Hmmm...I don't think EITHER is a winning solution for the passenger.

Forget The Gun...Get The Cannoli!

The rain was gone in New York by Wednesday morning and in its place was a very cool north wind.  I donned my hat, gloves, boots and coat...I was on a mission.  Hoboken was our destination; home of Carlo's know, "The Cake Boss"!  I HAD to visit Buddy's bakery for more than one reason.  We love watching him bake all of his sweet artistic creations, but we also enjoy the wild and crazy antics that take place in the bakery as well.  THEIR loud family reminds me of OUR loud family.

We were off to jump on the subway again to head toward Hoboken, New Jersey.  It was only about a 5 minute ride and well worth it.  Hoboken is a quaint little town and Carlo's Bakery was not far from the subway station.  I got excited as the red and white awning of the bakery came into view.  Unfortunately, Buddy was not there that day; he was in Los Angeles filming the Jay Leno Show.  We bought a lobster tail and cannoli, along with a few other desserts and coffee...all I can say is, YUMMY!  After consuming these confections...and snapping a good many pictures, we were off again to hop another subway train to Coney Island.  However, on our way back, I stopped off at a little establishment that I had passed on my way to the bakery.  It was as bar/restaurant that had Louisiana in its name.  OK...being from Louisiana, I HAD to find out a little bit more about it.  So, as Robby and Doug were walking ahead of Sandra and me...I stopped and had her take my picture in front of the window.  Then, I slipped in the front door to see what was up with the name.  At that point, the men noticed that I was missing.  Turning around, Robby inquired as to where I was.  Sandra told him that I wanted to find out if the owner of the restaurant was perhaps from Louisiana.  His reply?..."I doubt it!"  Sandra asked, "Then WHY would he name his restaurant that?"  Very matter of factly, he answered a question by asking another one..."Do you think a bar named The Blue Moon is owned by someone from the moon?"  Hmph!  Well...I WAS RIGHT (and for once I had witnesses!).  The owner WAS from Louisiana!  After we asked a few questions and took some pictures, we continued on to the subway.

We did not take the express train to Coney Island, so it took us quite a while to get there.  At this time of year, none of the rides or activities were up and running, but these carnivores I was traveling with didn't care.  They had only one destination in mind..."Nathan's".  Nathan's is the place where the hot dog eating contest, featured on television, takes place yearly.  Doug had actually told us all the previous evening that his intentions were to eat 4 or 5 hot dogs there the next day!  I wanted to see that (or maybe not...).  Upon walking up to the restaurant, we spotted an ambulance parked in front, loading someone up...not a good sign!  I attempted once more to dissuade them from eating there, but was not successful.  You may be asking, what did the vegetarian eat at this particular place?  Luckily for me, they did have A VEGETABLE...corn on the cob!  And yes, that is what I had to eat for lunch.  They apparently LOVED their hot dogs...oh, and Doug only ate 2, by the way!  We were off again...back to 5th Avenue!

Our subway this time dropped us off right in front of another place I had been dying to visit before we left; The American Girl Store.  I had previously visited The American Girl Stores in Chicago, Dallas and New York.  Last year was Robby's first visit to the store and he was so impressed that he remembered exactly where it was located and led me dream about all the plans we had for Parker.  Let's just say...I did NOT leave there empty handed!  From there, it was time to get ready for the night's entertainment.

If one plans a trip to New York during the holiday season, it is a MUST to see the Rockettes.  If anything can put a person in the Christmas spirit, it is this show!  The entire lobby and auditorium of Radio City Music Hall is decorated with festive lights and there are 2 organists playing Christmas song selections while people continue to locate their seats and anxiously await the show.  And the show itself...MY, OH MY...What a treat!  High kick dancers dressed as Santa's reindeer and toy soldiers and even a visit from Santa Claus.  Ending the entire performance, live camels and donkeys cross the stage as part of the nativity scene that unfolds as a chorus sings out strains of Joy to the World.

As we left the show, it was quite chilly as we made our way to a little coffee shop, where the four of us drank coffee and hot chocolate and reminisced about the old days when our children were growing up together down the street from one another.  It was around midnight when we finally headed back to our hotel.  New York had been great, as usual.  Sadly, we had to pack for our trip home the next day.  But, visions of bright lights in the "Big Apple" would continue to dance in our memories...until next year when we all hoped to return.

A Little Window Shopping, A Carriage Ride and a Visit to a Dear Friend...

Tuesday arrived with rain, however, that little thing would NOT deter our New York Adventure.  This day promised to be just as busy as the day before.  There wasn't quite the "bounding" out of bed as early as the day before, but we were still up and out pounding the pavement fairly early again.

Our first destination for the day was Central Park.  Most people do not realize how large and how many things there are to do in Central Park alone.  It is around 870 acres just plopped down right into the middle of the huge city of New York.  Once inside the park, one seems to forget about the city with all of its noise.  It is a very tranquil place, that I am sure many New Yorkers use for escape from the fast pace of the city.  Last year, when Robby and I visited here, we spent an entire day exploring Central Park.  We found nestled among the beauty of the colorful palate (in autumn, the trees are absolutely gorgeous), statues, a carousel, the checker and chess house, a zoo, ice skating rink, playgrounds, ball fields, restaurants and much more.  We walked all around taking in the beauty of the fall foliage.  Then, we found a horse drawn carriage to leisurely take us on a ride, eventually dropping us off at "The Boat House" restaurant, which is actually located inside Central remember "The Boat House", dont' you?  It was featured on the movie, "27 Dresses"!  We had a wonderful lunch there, overlooking the water just outside the restaurant.  Finally leaving Central Park, we decided to "window shop" for a while.

The word "window shopping" always makes me smile.  That is because, when the children were younger and we were on vacation, I overheard David explaining to his other siblings that we were "just window shopping".  Window shopping in New York is a whole other ballgame, altogether.  There is an absolute art to window decorating here.  From jewelry stores to the Sax and Macy's windows, they are all just a canvas of artistic beauty.  I must admit that I was a little disappointed to find that we were going to just be missing the opening of the Sax and Macy's Christmas windows.  One year, we were there for the opening and it was done with a fanfare that only New York can present.  You see, the windows are all animated and the theme that year was Sleeping Beauty, with each window depicting a different scene...I told you; only in New York!  Well, we did enjoy doing a little "window shopping" and merchants were beginning to dress their windows for the holidays, which was beautiful, as usual.  While walking down 5the Avenue, I remembered that I had not payed a visit to an old friend who lived in The Plaza Hotel.

Grabbing Robby by the arm, I insisted that we immediately head to The Plaza and Sandra asked why.  "WHY?!  For heaven's sake, because Eloise lives there!"  She looked at me a bit confused and asked, "Who is Eloise?"  "OH MY GOODNESS...YOU DON'T KNOW WHO ELOISE IS?!  Why she is the little girl who lives in The Plaza."  Well... not a REAL little girl, but a book character!  She had never heard of her (although she even has her own flag, along with the American flag, hanging from The Plaza Hotel), so I definitely needed to introduce her to Eloise.  Upon entering the hotel, I took everybody around corners and down stairs until we came upon an entire gift shop devoted entirely to Eloise!  Sandra grabbed a book and sat down to learn all about her, while I went from room to room playing with all of the Eloise stuff.  This was DEFINITELY a place Ya-Ya- would be bringing Parker to one day!  Robby and Doug were very good sports and sat on a pink couch waiting for us to finish in the "Eloise Boutique".  After we had finished at The Plaza, it was time to go back to our hotel and get ready for a Broadway show.

Tonight we had tickets to "Rock of Ages".  This Broadway show is a musical devoted to the tunes of the 80's.  Starring in it is Dee Snyder from "Twisted Sister" and the guitarists in the band were all members of Styx and Journey.  The storyline and music was fantastic...and the audience found themselves on their feet at the end of the show clapping and swaying to Journey's, "Don't Stop Believin'".  What a great end to a great day!

As we turned in for the night, I was excited anticipating the next day.  There would be some things on our agenda that I was just dying to things that I had never done before!  That's the wonderful thing about visiting New York over and over again...there are always new and exciting things to do every time you visit!

A LITTLE BIT Of Southern Charm Goes A LONG Way!

Monday morning was our "New York Must Do List" for first time visitors day.  Robby had created a little itinerary, so in order to get everything done, we needed to get up fairly early.  However, not quite as early as Robby tends to awake.

By 5 am, Robby had woke up...without an alarm clock!  This is not unusual for him; he tells me all the time that he has an "internal alarm clock".  Hmmm...that little part was left out when I was made.  So, he got up, got his shower and quietly came over to ask if I would like to sleep a little longer.  I threw the covers up over my head and grunted in the affirmative.  He told me he was going across the street to the drug store and would return shortly.  As soon as he left, I snuggled deeply under my covers and began to doze off...when SUDDENLY I heard, "A ringy ding ding ding dong...A ringy ding ding ding dong"! (The Geico commercial ring tone)  It was the alarm going off on Robby's cell phone...CRAP!  I jumped up out of the bed and ran to quickly turn it off, but couldn't find it.  After continuing to listen to that annoying ring, I FINALLY determined where it was coming from and turned it off.  After that whole ordeal, I decided I may as well just go ahead and get up.  After dressing, we all headed out to start our "Touristy New York Day".

After stopping at a nearby deli for a quick cup of coffee and a bagel (I just LOVE New York deli's!), we went to the subway station to purchase our Metro Cards for the day.  When visiting New York, we always ride the subways.  Thank goodness Robby has a GREAT sense of direction...AND is able to read a map, because I simply follow him around like a sheep.  Our first stop of the day would be Battery Park.  Here, we would get on the ferry that goes out to Ellis Island.  On our way there, we passed the Statue of Liberty, which is an impressive sight, no matter how many times one has seen her standing there in the harbor holding her torch.  Upon arriving at Ellis Island, we decided to take the audio tour.  It had been years since I had been there and agreed that, that would be a great way for all of us to learn more about all of the immigrants that had entered our country years ago.  My germ-a-phobia sort of kicked in for a minute there too, when Robby handed me my headphones.  I looked at them and asked Sandra, "Do you think they change out this foam on the ear pieces after each person uses them?"  Before she knew what she had said, she answered, "I doubt it."  THEN, she apparently saw the look in my eyes and quickly said, "Maybe they do."  I was still looking at those headphones (not putting them on my ears yet) when Robby walked by and I asked him..."Hey, do you think they change these out after each person uses them?"  He never stopped walking and without batting an eye said, "Yea, they wash them."  Hmmm...OK.  Well, in the end, I decided to go ahead and wear them.  The audio tour was just as wonderful as I had remembered and our friends loved it.  Our first stop on Robby's itinerary had been a good choice.  On to our next stop.

After taking the ferry back to Battery Park, we were hungry, so we set out for Little Italy.  We chose a little hole in the wall restaurant ( those are the BEST ones!) to eat lunch.  We had some great Italian food, a little wine...and used our southern charm to meet a couple of really nice and interesting men.  Everywhere we went, people smilingly HAD to ask..."Where are you from?"  WOW!  Can you believe we didn't just blend in?  It's that darn southern accent of ours...BUT apparently others find it quite charming.  THAT is how we met two men, John and Jack, at the Italian restaurant.  After also asking where we were from, they asked what we were doing that day.  Informing them that we were heading to the Brooklyn Bridge to walk over it, they offered to take us on a short cut.  While walking with those two men, we found that they were not only very friendly, but informative as well.  Telling us that Wall Street was originally given that name because, yes, there was a wall built there, but also WHY it was named that.  The wall was built to keep the pigs out of the city!  But, the story that Jack related to us, was the one that affected us most.  Jack, now an insurance salesman, was once a military special operations specialist in Viet Nam.   After leaving the military, he began selling the South Tower.  On 911, he was in the South Tower, when the North Tower was hit.  Standing there, watching the plane hit that North Tower, he turned to his boss and told him that he had a bad feeling.  He insisted on getting all of his employees out of the building.  As they were making their way down, the South Tower was hit...with them still in it.  The building had begun to burn, as he continued to rush his employees out.  Making it to the door, they were afraid to go out into the street because of all the rubble they saw falling; they feared being hit by it.  He convinced them that it would be more dangerous inside the building and personally led them out...just before the building collapsed.  What a story.  I looked at Sandra and said, "God had something else planned for spare his life like that."  We shook their hands and told them that it had been a pleasure to meet them as they left us at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.  After walking to the top of the bridge and taking lots of pictures, we decided to take the subway back to our hotel to rest for a while and dress for dinner.

Upon arriving back at the hotel, I looked at the time and decided I had time for a nice, hot bath.  As I laid there in the tub with my i-pod playing, I heard Robby calling my name.  It seems that he had gotten us a car for the evening to take us all to dinner and wherever else we chose to go .  THANK GOODNESS!  There was NO WAY I could have walked in my heels very far...and often times, it is difficult to catch a cab in New York at night.  Our driver arrived and whisked us off to a restaurant we had never eaten at before, but was recommended to us by another friend; The River Cafe'.  The River Cafe' sits under the Brooklyn Bridge and has a wall of glass windows that over looks the water.  Not only was is beautifully decorated, the atmosphere was warm and the food was great.  They even make a chocolate dessert that is in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge!...and yes, I insisted that someone get that dessert, so I could take a picture of it!  After finishing our meal and taking quite a few pictures, we headed to the Empire State Building.

I will admit that I have a fear of heights.  However, I had no idea that Doug also had that same fear...and apparently his fear was more intense than mine!  Wanting to back out, we would not let him.  We even got tickets to go to the 86th AND 102nd floor observatories.  At the 102 floor observatory, we could actually see that we were up in the clouds!  Doug survived, although barely.  We were looking around the gift shop and getting ready to leave when we couldn't find him.  Finally we noticed that he was standing almost comatose in front of a television set that was playing the video of "King Kong".  Gathering him up, we went back to the car and then on to our hotel was MIDNIGHT!  Well, one thing was for sure...we would all sleep well that night.

Our "New York Must Do" Day had been a success.  We had gotten an early start and had a late finish, but we had completed everything on Robby's itinerary for the day.  Tomorrow we would take another section of the city to tour.  There was so much to see and so little time to see it in...but we were going to give it a good try!