Friday, January 27, 2012

A Little Escape

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." 
That's exactly what I was thinking last night as I realized I was on the last chapter of the third book I've read this week. The book had started with a young girl, growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania in the early 20's. She was dreaming of opportunities...a chance to go to high school, an opportunity to be a teacher, and the dream of living in town. When tragedy strikes her family once and then twice, I wanted to cry with her over her lost opportunities. I mourned the loss of her childhood. When she made unconventional choices, I could relate. And when she found love, I rejoiced. For two days while I read "Queen of the Big Time" by Adriana Trigiani, I shared Nella's life. I grew up with her. For those two days, my own life faded away while I attended her wedding, the local fair, and dinners with her family. 

And isn't that the best part of a book...we can drift away to some far off place, in a different time, with people we come to know and love?

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."

Even the act of picking out a book can be a refuge, a peaceful endeavor. I'm going through a stressful time right now. Rob is recently unemployed (a long story that I don't want to go into right now). We're looking for a new house, more affordable. I've got a trip looming that I don't want to cancel but don't know how I'll afford.

Anyway, needless to say, I need some escape. Books have always been my escape. Some people turn to tv, the computer, or movies but they just don't engage me like a good book does. So last weekend, I remembered I have credit at the used bookstore and made a trip. I spent over an hour in the store browsing. I had no idea what I wanted to read or which author I'd choose. I perused the fiction, the historical fiction, the non-fiction, and the murder mystery section looking for the perfect refuge. I finally settled on two books by Adriana Trigiani, and a book by Lisa See. By the time I walked out of there, I was smiling, relaxed, and ready to snuggle in with a new friend and listen to her tell me her life story over a cup of hot tea.

I started with the book by Lisa See - "Shanghai Girls." I picked it because it was the shortest and I wanted to read it all in one day. This is my guilty little pleasure - scandalous I know! I had read See's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" and loved it so I was excited to start this one. I wasn't disappointed. The story of the two sisters somehow resonated with me. . . the youngest was the beautiful one, the oldest the smart one (this is how my sis and I have been described our whole lives). Similar to the Queen of the Big Time, it begins with the story of a charmed life that's changed by hardship and tragedy. I walked the streets of Shanghai with May, rode the boat to Angel Island with the sisters, and was in the room with her when she lost her baby. I rejoiced when in the end, there was triumph and happiness.

Hmm, I see a trend in my book choices this week. I know that the stress I'm feeling right now will pass. It's only temporary. And there's a part of me that relates to the strong characters in these books. Characters who persevere, who remain happy even while under tremendous stress. Characters who are strong, independent, and hopeful.

I have one more book to read before another trip to the library or bookstore is in order. What will I choose next time? An author unknown to me right now? A love story? A sad story? A piece of non-fiction that makes me think?

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. 
Any books you'd recommend?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Live from Klamath Falls - it's Saturday Night!

Three months of planning have all come down to this one night. It's make or break time. My checklist has been checked once, twice, three, four or more times.

Did the flowers arrive and do they provide the right "mood" for the show?
Has the limo arrived on time?
Did I make sure all the dignitaries have their tickets?
Will the four different caterers arrive as directed?
Did the creative team rehearse enough?
Will 250+ people purchase tickets?
Will our comedy make people laugh?
Will the award winners arrive?
Will the award presenters show up?
Is the lighting right?
Is my lipstick ok?
Are my shoes comfortable?

Yes, yes, and yes. Saturday was my big event at work...the 91st Annual Awards Gala. Here in my town, we do it like Hollywood. We roll out the red carpet. We book the theater. We hire the limo. We have a band. We have a creative team writing the script. We get the congressman to attend. It's awesome and if you don't mind me bragging just a little....I help bring it all to life!

I've decided I should quit because it was SO good, I have no idea how I'll compete next year.

We did a Saturday Night Live tribute this time. With some local humor and it turned out better than I'd imagined. If you'd like to see a clip of one of our skits...follow this link.

I can't even describe how wonderful it turned out. Here's a couple of photos from the night:
Me and Rob enjoying a drink before the event.
Me and Rachael ham it up at the social hour.
My friend Russ as Andy Kaufmann
Two Wild and Crazy Guys
The House Band plays Soul Man

It was a great night. Lots of laughs and fun.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nate the Great Turns 8!

January marks the first birthday celebration of the year! Nate the Great turned eight and he wanted an Army-themed birthday party. Thanks to some creative thinking (and my new addiction - Pinterest), he said he had "the best birthday ever!"

Ten little soldiers received their "draft notices" hand-delivered throughout the week. The official notice notified them they'd been drafted to the celebration in honor of Sgt. Nathan. We included hand made dog tags.

Then I set out to make a cake but not just any cake would do. We needed something big. Something grand. Something ...deadly? How about a tank?

Two rectangle cakes cut in the appropriate shapes.

Three containers of white frosting and tons of food coloring.

Tootsie rolls, oreo cookies, and pirouette cookies helped complete the cake.

The soldiers began to arrive promptly as all good soldiers would do. Early in the day, Rob had made a trip to the army surplus store and got each soldier their own helmet. Nate waited eagerly for his friends to arrive.

I love this boy! Let me count the ways:
1 - His smile is infectious. He lost six teeth and you can't help but smile when you see him.
2 - His imagination is like no other. He can play with his toys for hours. Sometimes it's army men, sometimes its legos but regardless, he's acting out some scene from his imagination.
3 - He's an entertainer! Leave it to Nate to dance around, tell a joke, or say something funny just to make you smile.
4 - He's independent and stubborn like a mule. I know sometimes this drives me crazy but it also means he's shaping up to be quite the leader.
5 - He's smart and he loves school. He's always so excited to bring home his A+ papers, he passes spelling with flying colors and he loves to write stories.
6 - He still likes to cuddle!
7 - He loves his family fiercely!
8 - He's Nate the Great and that pretty much sums it up!

The soldiers all played army games for hours. This army was equipped with blow dart guns

And they hid in a big fort (Rob turned the downstairs into a giant fort using camo netting and tents he picked up at the army surplus store):

And they played out in the dark, shooting eachother from the deck
Our weekend didn't stop there. Nate made it to the regional wrestling classic so we were headed to Redmond to watch him wrestle. It was a fun meet and excitingly, family met up with us. My nephew Liam was wrestling there too.

My sister Tara, cousin Corrie, and I waited in the stands to watch the little boys wrestle.

Marcus and Max alternated between watching and walking. They were pretty proud of themselves (they collected a few phone numbers from "girls who thought they were cute) and Marc taught Max to "cruise" - apparently, Max likes to walk fast and that's not conducive to collecting phone numbers.
Nate wrestled very well. It's fun to watch his progression. Believe it or not, it's starting to look like wrestling and not just rolling around on the mat. Of course, maybe it's because I'm learning more about the sport.

In this photo Nate is on the bottom, about to get pinned. What you don't see is that he actually escapes which is really a big deal in wrestling!

Here Liam watches Nate's match:

While we were in Redmond, we used the opportunity to visit some tourist attractions like Operation Santa Clause, a reindeer farm just outside of town.

We were surprised to find that reindeer are actually kind of small. Like a big goat.

We also went to the High Desert Museum which I highly recommend. The kids loved it. I did feel a little old when in the toy exhibit they had something I played with as a kid (that's an Atari for those of you born in the 90s):

They had really neat things to see. The creepiest of which was this "cooling bed" which at first glance appears to be something you might have sunbathed on. But you'd be wrong. It was used during VIctorian times to cool dead bodies to prepare them for embalming. ICK!!!!
They also had a typewriter that the boys could type on and then hang their letter up on the board. Do you remember these? It takes herculean strength to get the keys to strike. My mom had one. No wonder she could pinch as hard as she did...

It warmed my heart when I read what they typed...

Yep, that says "I love mom"

Awww....I love them too!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Year - A New List

For the past couple of years, I've created a list of things I want to do before my next birthday. First it was 34 things to do before I turn 34, then 35 things to do before I turn 35, and so on and so forth.

Last year, I created a list of 36 things to do before I turn 36. I failed! I completed 7 of my goals (see my original list):

I got my tattoo on my shoulders done. Sadly, I'll admit I don't love it as much as I thought I would. I think it's because I put it in a place that I can hide it when I need to but it's not where I can see it. Contemplating another very small one somewhere that I can see it. Hmmm...decisions decisions!

I found and purchased one dress that makes me feel beautiful, stunning and sexy. I wear it often! It's a pretty yellow and black number (not like a bumblebee) that I love to wear with boots.

Can't really see all the dress but here it is.

I read 30 books. I'd suggest (I'm no book reviewer so don't judge me):
  • Water for Elephants - I have to admit I avoided this book because I was under the mistaken assumption that it was one of those socially-responsible books that are "popular" right now (like Three Cups of Tea). It's not that I'm against that type of book, it's just not what I want to read right now. I'm looking to get lost in a book, not be enlightened. Yes, perhaps I'm shallow. But I digress...the book was excellent. A little romance, a little conflict - a story of hope. Haven't seen the movie yet.
  • The Help - EXCELLENT book. Definitely one of my favorites lately. I love the way it was told from different people's points of view. Still haven't seen the movie.
  • Snowflower and the Secret Fan - This was definitely one of my more favorite books and it made me want to learn more about the history (which is something I like books to do...make me curious). I may be sheltered but I had no idea what foot binding was. I didn't realize it was a very painful reality way back when. I also loved the way the women created a way to communicate.
I was on a tv show. One of my good friends was chosen as a finalist for a reality tv show that was supposed to air on NBC. It didn't but I still count this as a completion since a pilot was actually developed.

I learned to love myself. I'm not perfect but I'm a good person. I like who I am. 'nuff said!

I visited Lithia Park. Just a little over an hour away, I've had this as a goal for seven years and I finally made it. It's a beautiful park in Ashland Oregon, the same town that features the Shakespeare Festival.

I had a fun-filled girls weekend away from home (fish on!!) I am sort of cheating on this one. We go on an annual fishing trip for girls each year and I did it again in 2011. We're all prepared for on!

Oh! I accomplished 8! I went on a date! Love him!

So I've been contemplating since my birthday whether or not I want to tackle another list. I hate failure but it's such a fun thing to try and do. So without further's my list for 2012:

37 Things to Do Before I Turn 37
  1. Try kayaking
  2. Try white water rafting
  3. Go on at least one camping trip
  4. Visit my dad
  5. Read 35 books
  6. Visit Cheya in San Francisco
  7. Go to a Shakespeare play in Ashland
  8. Revive passport nights with the kids
  9. Climb Hogsback
  10. Hunt for opals in Lakeview
  11. Hunt for sunstones in Lakeview
  12. Make sushi rolls from scratch
  13. Learn how to use some of the manual features on  my camera
  14. Put at least $25 in savings each month (and keep it there). I'm LOUSY at saving money!
  15. Take a watercolor class
  16. Visit the lavendar fields in Shasta
  17. Take Marc to a concert
  18. Work out at least once a week every single week of the year
  19. Take a dance class
  20. Fit in a day of crafting at least once a quarter
  21. Do a charity walk/hike
  22. Go for a ride on Rob's bike on a summer evening
  23. Learn to make pasta
  24. Take the kids to the amusement park in CA.
  25. Make tamales
  26. Be a better friend
  27. Watch two classic films
  28. Spend the night in a cabin
  29. Complete the photography challenge I started
  30. Buy a pair of red high heels
  31. Take Rob to Sumpter Days
  32. Begin my own sourdough starter and make some bread
  33. Write a hand-written letter with a card to one person each month (work thank you notes don't count!)
  34. Try five new vegetarian recipes
  35. Take the kids to the Oregon Caves
  36. Go somewhere romantic and fun with Rob without kids
  37. print and post this list as a constant reminder (score - first one done!!)
Well, that's it folks. Random, corny, and totally achievable. . . time to get started.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Holidays

Our holiday season started with one goal in mind….

More meaning!

I wanted a month of celebration packed with family, friends, and everything important. Mission accomplished! Here’s some of my favorite photos from the holiday season:

Cooking = Love! We baked, we cooked, we ate. . . all together!


Emily and I attended a Mele Kalikimaka Luau and watched the world’s champion fire dancer:


Big brothers spent time with little brother building legos, offering brotherly advice and other brotherly things:


And in turn, little brothers attacked big brothers:


Siblings spent time together:


I met new family (Rob’s mom on the left with Marcus):


And I invited new “family” – Rob’s ex father-in-law joined our celebration:


We enjoyed community (at left a photo from our annual Snowflake Parade and at right, the parade organizers – Courtney, me and Rachael)

 DSC00212 DSC00174\

We sang (Nate at his Christmas pageant and yes, he is awesome)


Little elves blessed us with holiday cheer:


I turned 36 and celebrated with a cake and wrestling match:


We travelled:


And cousins welcomed new cousins (Zach and Emily):


I laughed and enjoyed time with my family:


Rob learned why I love my family:


We celebrated some firsts (Zach and Emily riding their first horses)


DSC00466 DSC00481

Nate learned he’s a pretty darn good wrestler:


It was a good December and I spent lots of quality time with my boys and the people I love.


Happy new year!!