Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy 96th Birthday Grandpa!

My Grandpa is one of the most awesome people I know. He's smart, funny and caring. His views on the world are based out of logic, doing what is right and a firm stand in equality. He usually has several books going at once and though he may not be able to do his daily swimming anymore, he still goes to the Y several times a week to walk laps in the pool. He loves silly songs and sweets, and I want to be just like him when I grow up.

My Grandpa turned 96 years old yesterday. We threw him a little "luau" at my house, with all three of his children, and many of his grand- and great-grandkids in attendance.

We made my Grandpa a sign of "96 Wonderful Things" about got me thinking about all the things that have happened during his ninety-six years- not just in our family, but in the world, and I decided to write a few down.

So, just a very few of the major events (mostly from the US point of view) that have happened in my Grandpa's lifetime:

US enters WWI
First commercial radio broadcast aired
League of Nations established
Women gain the right to vote
Insulin discovered
Talking movies invented
First Winter Olympics
The Scopes Trial (teacher tried for teaching evolution)
Winnie the Pooh published
Lindbergh Flies Solo Across the Atlantic
First televisions sold
Penicillin discovered
Stock market crash
Amelia Earhart First Woman to Fly Solo Across the Atlantic
Scientists Split the Atom
The Dust Bowl
The Hindenberg
Helicopter Invented
First computer
First atomic bombs
Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier
The Korean War
First organ transplant
Polio Vaccine Created
DNA discovered
End of segregation
Rosa Parks
Soviet Satellite Sputnik Launches Space Age
First men in space
The Berlin Wall is built
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Civil Rights Act passed
The Vietnam War
First men on the moon
First test tube baby
AIDS identified
First personal computers
First woman in space
Berlin wall falls

Makes me wonder what D. will see in his lifetime.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen

I was baking for a get together this weekend and on the list was a must- my favorite cookie, the chocolate crinkle. I have been making these cookies since I was young enough that I had to stand on a stool to stir the chocolate in the top of my improvised double boiler. My mom didn't ever actively try to teach me to cook, but she made her cookbooks available and would get me what I needed if I wanted to make something. I never really liked making dinner type stuff (that was my sister's specialty- she could take all those mysterious "ingredients" and make something yummy, without so much as a recipe), but I would bake and make fudge now and then.

The things that I did cook when I was young are the things that have stayed with me as favorites. The chocolate crinkle recipe was used so much it fell out of the cook book and I had to tape it to a recipe card and, eventually, scan it so as not to lose it. The fudge I learned to make in Junior High I still make every Christmas. And I still love the bean tacos, which were one of the first "meals" I learned to make.

I want D. to have those early cooking memories- the tastes that bring back the warm fuzzies and a happy memory or two. I also want him to have at least basic cooking skills before he flies the coop (I was amazed at the number of guys I knew in college who couldn't even read a recipe, much less follow one). I have had D in and out of the kitchen since he was a toddler, but now I am trying to be a little more organized about it.

Every week or two, I am having D pick out something he really likes to eat and having him do most of the prep, cooking, etc, with me acting as advisor/sous chef. The first week he chose Mac & Cheese with hot dogs and a side of green beans. The next week he got a little fancier and made Potato Soup. This week he wants to make homemade meatballs for some meatball sandwiches. He seems to be enjoying his time in the kitchen and he is definitely very proud when he serves his family dinner. Memories in the making. :-)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You want a piece o' me?!

I have never been afraid of a haircut. Actually, changing hairstyles became a habit- no more than 6 months in a given style. When D. was young, though, I decided to bite the bullet that is the growing out process and try out a longer style. When it started approaching mid-back, though, the familiar itch for something new returned. Having just seen a classmate of D. (1st grade at the time, I think) donate her long, beautiful locks, I figured that was the perfect way to liven things up and do some good at the same time. Off came the hair, into an envelope and on it's way to Pantene's beautiful lengths program (they make wigs for cancer patients). Fast forward a few years and I found myself right back where I was before...with long hair and a need to lighten things up.

So, yesterday I toodled my way over to see Jeanne (best hairstylist I have ever had) and she ponytailed me up (lots of them to maximize length, since my hair wasn't quite as long as last time and the Pantene program requires 8 inches of hair).

Many snips of the shears later, I have a short new do and a little piece of me is now winging it's way through the US Postal Service, on it's way to becoming a wig for someone going through chemo. I hope it offers them even a tiny bit of comfort.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Some days I just want to make something. I want to take parts that are just sort of blah on their own and mix them, mash them, change them and create something new. The "something" changes day to day and year to year.

I spent about four years scrapbooking- the "something" I made were pages of memories, all bound up in a book. I being able to go to my bookshelf and pull out an album, take a trip down memory lane. I haven't scrapped in a few years, though, as I tend to go all-in on an activity, which sometimes (often) leads to burn out after awhile. Now when I get the urge to take scissors and glue to paper, it's more likely to be a card or some such- something I can finish quickly, then move on.

On a less tangible level, I like creating with words too. It takes a lot to get me into writing mode, though (for anything longer than a blog entry, that it). I can't tell you the number of times I have stopped and started the same story. It just always seems so much better in my head...I don't know that I have the skills to make things come to life on the page the way they are in my imagination. But, it's still a fun way to exercise my brain, especially on cloudy days like today.

Knitting is another activity that pops in and out of my creative repertoire over the years. I have never advanced beyond basic shapes (scarves, hats, blankets). I added crocheting in there this winter, making a blanket for B. for Christmas. With the leftover yarn from that, I made 7 hats (plus one for D.) for Head Huggers (they give hats to cancer and burn patients). I like the repetitive motion of the knitting/crocheting. I listed to the TV (I can't watch- I'm not good enough to trust my hands without looking at them) and just watch the long line of yarn turn into something else. Knitting has the added benefit of keeping my hands busy and out of the candy jar. :-)

I think my favorite way to create is to bake. Bread, muffins, cookies, pies, bars, doesn't matter. Nothing smells better than a house filled with the smell of something warm out of the oven. Humble ingredients like a cup of oats become something mouthwatering and filling. As much as I love to eat the results myself (love a little too much, truth be told), my favorite thing is feed those bits of baked love to the people I love. There's just something special about feeling your friends and family- it makes me happy.

I am thrilled to see that my love of creating things has brushed off on D. He creates songs & dances, computer programs, toys, gadgets, stories and especially games. This weekend he created Monsteropoly, with board game, pieces, chance cards and all. It's just like Monopoly, only instead of jail, you go to the dungeon, instead of things like Park Place or Reading Railroad, you have Dark & Spooky Caves and Haunted Houses. The game pieces are vampires, ghosts and zombies, instead of the car, iron or shoe. I love his imagination!

Hope you get the chance to create something fun this week...I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Prize Winner, Part II

So, as I said before, I LOVE a good contest, and I was good at winning the smaller ones...

The one nut I had never been able to crack, though, was the contests they run to win a trip somewhere. It is usually tied to an artist promoting their tours and they make you work your way through a lot of levels for those...I usually never make it past the first level. Then, a couple of weeks ago I heard about a new contest they were doing (my ears perked up, of course)...a song writing contest. OK...Put Your Sweetheart in a Song and 5 folks will get concert tickets. Later, a grand prize winner would win a trip to Nashville to see a preview concert of Keith Urban. They had me at Tennessee. See, B has family out in TN- he had even spent a couple of summers on their farm as a boy. We got to go out and see them a few years ago, but that had been B's first time out there in about 25 years. With his Aunt in her 80s and with D growing up so fast, I really wanted to try to get us back out there for a visit. Now, a trip to TN was being waved in front of me like an oh so tempting treat.

A song writing contest, huh? Hmmm...I have been known to dabble in writing a poem here or there, so I decided to try. I wrote the lyrics to a song for B while driving to work one Friday morning. I sent it in and, lo and behold, was chosen as one of the 5 concert ticket winners- hooray! Except that, YIKES, now it meant I had to sing the song at the station and have it posted on the web for all the world to listen to and vote on!

I should like a leaf through the whole thing and couldn't be in the room when anybody listened to it (I would cringe at every flat note), but I did it! Now, I would love to be able to say that I was the best one out there, but I wasn't. There was a singer with a lovely voice, who could actually play piano and all too. I do, however, have wide circles of really supportive folks in my life (friends, family, work, D's school) who pulled out all the stops to make sure I got all the votes they could get me. More than that, they also were extraordinarily kind with their feedback and encouragement. All their efforts and e-mailing paid off- I won! From what I have gathered, it was VERY close...single digits kind of close.

But I finally did it- I won a trip! So, in June we will be headed out to visit B's family and experience something new in Nashville! I am so very excited, even though that's the extent of the details I know about the trip...because no matter what it is, it will be an adventure!

Oh, and for those who want to know, here is the song I wrote for B (judge kindly- there's a reason I am an engineer and not a singer/songwriter):

There are so many words
I could use to describe you
The man who hung the moon
But the words sit still
They can't move to reach you
'Cause I just can't find the tune.

Strong and wise,
Laughing and loving,
I find words to define what I see.
A friend and a brother,
A son and a father,
But where is the melody?

And I want to tell you
How much that I love you
But I can't find the rhythm to start
So hold me close,
Wrap your arms all around me
And I'll sing to the beat of our hearts.

I'll sing to the beat of our hearts.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Many years ago the book club I was in read a book called "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" by Terry Ryan. It's a memoir written about Terry's childhood, with the focus being on her mother. A stay-at-home mother to 10 kids and wife to an abusive drunk, Terry's mother had a knack for entering and winning contests, especially the very popular jingle contests of the time. I won't tell you the whole story (though I highly recommend the book, and the movie they made of it wasn't bad either), but I just remember thinking how much I wished I could enter all those contests.

Because I just LOVE a good contest.

OK, I even love bad contests. I love any and all contests. I am, I admit, a very competitive person.

I have basically made a hobby of the contests on the local radio station I listen to (KRTY- yes, I listen to country!). I know the song that they play if they're about to do a call in contest and I can dial fast. I can't win the ones where you have to be caller 12, but I can almost always make it in as caller 1 or 2 if they're looking for multiple callers. I have played just about every game they have and I have been lucky enough to win quite a bit over the last 12 years. ...event tickets (concerts, Harlem Globetrotters, demolition derby...D & B loved that one!), gift cards, amusement park tickets, etc, etc. My favorites, by far are the prizes where I get to do something I wouldn't have done otherwise (because, let's face it, I'm a penny pinche or things that are hard to get into...did you know I have a picture of me & B with Leanne Rimes?))- I think new experiences are more valuable than just about anything else.

People have asked me how I win so much and I think it's just because I am terribly stubborn and a creature of habit. The habit helps, because I have been listening to the same station for a dozen years and I know the times of the morning they usually hold contests, so I know when to listen. The stubborn helps, because if they're giving out a certain prize I want to win (and they usually give out the same thing for several days), I will dog that radio and phone until I make it through. Still doesn't mean I'll always win (some of the games they play are hit or miss on whether I'll get it), but the odds are way higher than if I just gave up, or didn't try at all!

All this persistence (and all the years of attending radio shows/events) has also led to the morning DJs knowing my some ways, slightly embarrassing (they must think I have no life at all), but that pays off too. There have been at least 3 different instances where I wasn't able to win what I had hoped for and they just gave me the tickets anyway (lunch/concert w/Terry Clark, Harlem Globetrotters and a show at the SJ improv). Yes, I am spoiled.

There was one elusive prey, though...the big one, the one that got away (or, in my case, the one I never even got close to)...the grand prize trips. What would it take to win the granddaddy of the radio prizes?

As this post is already waaay longer than I intended, to find out the answer, you'll have to stay tuned for the next exciting (?) chapter in "The Prize Winner Wannabe."


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Turn of Phrase

I am starting to see how writing a blog could be tricky for someone who second guesses things, who thinks "But what if...?" or who may stumble in finding the right words to express themselves (oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, I mean me).

See, I wrote yesterday about Wednesdays and my Emily time. Then I started to wonder- what if it's taken the wrong way? What if someone thinks I don't like all the other 'me's that I am? What if it sounded like I don't appreciate all that I have?

What I *should* tell myself is that the people who know me KNOW that I am over the moon to be D's mom, and I love being B's wife, that I am proud of being an engineer (though I wouldn't turn down a winning lottery ticket), and that having moments of being just Emily keeps it all in balance. And, yet, I had to write it down. Perfectionist that I am, I had to make sure that I "said what I meant and meant what I said."

So, you know and now I can turn off the nagging voice in my head and go catch some Zzzzzs. It's ok, just call me crazy...