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...

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future...

On the afternoon of February 25th, 2001, there was a small earthquake here in No. CA. I was sitting at the computer, checking my e-mail. B. was outside, mowing the lawn I think. I remember thinking "An earthquake- maybe that'll get this kid moving." "This kid" was D. He was a week overdue and seemed perfectly happy to stay where he was, doing headstands on Mommy's internal organs and seeing if he could push his little feet right through my lungs.

A few minutes later, the muscles across my belly rippled and tightened. I didn't get too excited, as I had been having contractions for about a week- they'd start, then stop an hour or so later. I didn't even mention them to B., as I didn't feel like crying wolf again.

A couple of hours later, the tightening (still didn't hurt much at that point) was keeping pretty steady, so I had B. start timing. At about 7:30 or 8 p.m., we headed for the hospital. I was sure they were going to send me home, as it didn't hurt as much as I thought it should.

Nope, they said "We don't send home people that are almost 4 cm." And so commenced the longest 12 hours of my life. D. was having some trouble (apparently my water had broken and I had missed it), so there were many machines strapped to me in various ways, all beeping away. When the beeps would go awry, my sweet B. would hurry to the nurses station to make sure they were on top of it. My sister, K., sat quietly in the corner, keeping an eye on us. I think she was offering to get things, etc, for B., but I can't really remember anything past the edge of my hospital bed.

Many hours passed. D. continued to have a hard time, and his heart rate was continuing to go dangerously low (about 1/2 of normal and not coming back up after contractions), so at 7:32 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26th, 2001, the Drs. went in and got him. He was so stuck that they had to pry him back out the other way (leading to his very first black eye), and his many hours of entrapment had led to a conehead big enough to rival those on SNL. Amazingly, both issues resolved themselves by the next day (I didn't even know it was possible to heal a black eye in 24 hours...babies are amazing). D. weighed in at a lean 9 lbs, 9 oz, had a healthy cry, loved being swaddled up and was the best thing that ever happened to me & B.

I can't believe it has been 10 years since my sweet boy was first laid in my arms. He may be a big kid now, but (much to his chagrin) he will always be my baby.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This isn't a typical Wednesday, as D. is home from school this week, but it's still a Wednesday. I love Wednesdays.

For those who don't keep track of the Fowler Family Calendar (that's anyone who's not me), I work in the office MTThF, during D.'s school hours. This allows me to drop D. off and pick him up from school everyday- a huge blessing in my book. It also lets me work at his school on Wednesdays (his school is parent participation- few hours in the class once a week, drive on 3 field trips a year and have a school job- I am the assistant treasurer, but have also been a field trip coordinator and ran or co-ran the huge school auction for a couple of years).

Though I love my son dearly and am glad I can do all that, the best part about Wednesdays is that I get a couple of hours to do things on my own. It's not anything especially exciting, usually. Typically it's drop off D. and the treasurer's bag at the school, run 3-5 miles with a few friends, get cleaned up and run an errand or two before heading back for my classroom and recess shifts. But for those couple of hours, I am just Emily. Not Mom, not Mrs. B, Not Engineer, just Emily.

Today I was Mom most of the day, but a happy Mom. D. decided to run with me- he ran 2 miles! I got another 2 in, then we played many games of Uno and Clue (tied on Clue games, he stomped me, as usual, at Uno), did some chores/homework, baked some muffins, did a little CSA work, hit the library, had gelato with friends (early b-day celebration for D.), made dinner and then I got a little Emily time at boot camp (I know running and boot camp on the same day is crazy, but there's a big freezing cold storm coming in tomorrow and I didn't want to miss out on my bootie kicking!).

So, busy day...tired, but happy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Boot(ie Kicking) Camp

Back at the end of December, through a fudge-induced haze, I read an ad for a 10 week boot camp being offered in January.  It was quite a deal- 10 Saturday morning sessions for the bargain price of a $20 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley.  It's a good deal for the boot camp company, of course, in that they can tap into all of us New Year's resolution makers and maybe get some permanent clients for their regular boot camps.

I talked a couple of friends into joining me and headed out that first Saturday, unsure of what we'd find.  We ended up doing an extended version of their "warm up."  I hurt for 2 days.  My friends were equally bedraggled after that first day.  And yet, I was hooked.

What is it about getting one's ego handed to them on a platter that makes them want to say "Thank you sir, may I have another?"  Whatever it is, I have come to love boot camp.  Just when you think you can't do something one more second, they've moved you on to the next thing, then a third, then backwards, then forwards.  It's always changing and you're all in it together.  Maybe it's the group aspect of it that's so appealing- misery does love company, after all.  Whatever it is, I feel like boot camp has been a significant addition to the running I had already been doing, and has even improved my running.  I ran my first 10K (6.2 miles) last weekend and it went much better than the 9+K (just under 6 miles) I ran last November.  So, the boot camp folks (, to give them a shout out) are getting what they had hoped from that free boot camp and I am signing up for their regular camp.  Their unlimited membership is way out of my budget, but they have a punch card that I will be using to continue with boot camp one day a week.  Between that, running 3 days a week (though I flaked and only ran once this week), riding our exercise bike once in awhile and just playing around, I'll have more exercise than I think I ever have had before!

I have also been working on eating healthier, both to lose the 10 lbs I gained last summer and to try to lower my cholesterol.  Slowly, but surely, I am getting there.  When I donated blood last week, my cholesterol was 181- the lowest I ever remember being tested at (it's been averaging about 230 for the last 3 years, with a low of 201 this past November).

Maybe this bookworm is finally getting fit!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quick- post something cute!

OK, enough shade for now- something sweet to make you smile...

This was D's Valentines Day present- it's like an ice cream cake, only I made it with a big ol' brownie, instead of cake.  Also, I had no idea how to frost an ice cream brownie, so I just covered the whole thing with Magic worked!  If I do it again, though, I would definitely increase the ice cream to brownie ratio (it was about 1:1...should have been 2:1 ice cream to brownie)- it was EXTREMELY rich and chocolaty...

The Elephant in the Room

Before I go forward with the day to day trivia that makes up my life and, therefore, probably this blog, I feel like I should acknowledge the elephant in the room...

It's name is Multiple Myeloma (MM for short) and it is a cancer of the plasma in bone this case, my husband's bone marrow.  B was diagnosed with MM in the summer of 2010 (he had gone to the Dr. with a lump in the Fall of 2009, but was misdiagnosed as having a lypoma- a fatty deposit under the skin).  The myeloma had destroyed much of one rib, blown out the side of one of B's clavicles and put holes in his legs, arms, shoulders, sternum, ribs and skull (if you ask, he'll show you the dent in his head...right next to the scar from the skin cancer he was diagnosed with a few months later).  B has been on chemo most of the time since July.  He is on his 9th round out of ???  Myeloma is not generally considered curable, though there have been HUGE advances in treatment in the last 5 years or so.  Previously, B's prognosis would have been on the order of 39-49 months.  Now, for low risk patients (like B), they can sometimes get 10-20 years or more.  We're going for "or more."

B has been amazing through this whole thing.  His first actions, after diagnosis, were aimed at making sure D & I would be ok, no matter what happened.  His next (and continuing) course was to attack the MM with everything he has.  B beat the MM back to minuscule levels in short order- the Drs were amazed at the speed of his progress.  He is in what they call a "VGPR" (or Very Good Partial Response...I didn't know "Very Good" was a technical term).  The goal now- to get the MM down to undetectable levels (a "CR" or Complete Response), or to at least keep the MM down in the depths where it is. 

To get there (or stay here, as the case may be), it means maintenance chemo.  At this point, that's indefinitely.  Honestly, that one is hard for me to wrap my mind around.  B is very stoic (his Dr's favorite description of him) and doesn't complain, but it's a fact that he has painful side effects.  I keep hoping that there will be a time when B can take a break from all the meds, can get some relief from the side effects and can just 'be' for a little while, but I understand that he doesn't want to risk letting the MM regain ground.

So, we move forward, living life as "normally" as possible, enjoying each other and finding the fun whenever we can.  We (mostly B) deal with the MM when we must and try not to let it cast too much shade in our lives.  And, every day, crossing fingers for a cure.

Allow me to introduce myself...

Likely, the only people who would ever actually read this blog already know me, but just in case...

My name is Emily.  I am a 37 year old mom of one son (D., 10 years old next week), married to my wonderful husband (B., celebrating our 12th anniversary in July).  I am a part time engineer and like to exercise the other half of my brain in creative endeavors when I can (hence, the blog).  I have a tendency to take on too much at once (really, a blog too?), so my house is eternally in need of a dusting. 

So, "In sunshine and in shade"...I read it in a Caroline Norton poem.  The poem is actually about two lifelong friends who have had an argument and one who is trying to reconcile.  I have just always been struck by that line, though- what a beautiful way to say "the good, the bad and the ugly."  And what an apt description of every life.  Who doesn't have their moments in sunshine and in shade?  Hopefully this blog will have more of the former and less of the later...