Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It Figures

During the time I was student teaching, I never got sick. Well, there was a little stint at the beginning, but not anything to keep me home. And now, when I'm subbing and making money? I'm sick.

Monday I subbed in Linda's class, and yesterday I subbed in Matt's room. It was nice to be back in a school where everything was familiar, including the kids. Matt started coming down with a cold on Monday. He asked if I would sub for him the following day so he could stay home. I agreed and thought, I'm so lucky to be well. I hate being sick.

I should've known. We had five kids absent from our class on Monday. Everything from sore throats to stomach bugs, there were a lot of kids out. Linda told me that on Monday the school was at 23%. Oh yeah, there's a lot of stuff going around.

Mine started Monday night. You know, when your nose runs so much you don't know where it's all coming from? Then on Tuesday, I started getting the achy, hot one minute, cold the next feeling in my body. My eyes felt hot and my nose continued to run. I was like one of those kids on the Kleenex commercials with the red nose.

Luckily last night Stein suggested Sudafed which successfully dried me up. I was finally able to sleep for a few hours too. Today I'm still sneezing and blowing my nose, but not as bad as yesterday. I'm hoping that this is short-lived and I can sub tomorrow. I have a 1/2 day scheduled, so I think it will be okay.

Today it's all of 6 degrees outside, so I plan on taking advantage of inside time. Napping and TV watching, just what the doctor ordered.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Milwaukee via Chicago

This weekend we went to Milwaukee for a Marquette basketball game. We do this every year with Chris and Mike and our friends Sandy and Ryan who live in Appleton, WI. Sandy lived on my floor freshman year, and then was Chris' roommate senior year. Ryan also went to Marquette (where he met Sandy, of course) but I didn't get to know him until after college.

I love this trip because it means a lot of things: I get to see and catch up with old friends, I get to talk nostalgically about college, I get to see the campus, reminisce and see what's changed, and I get to see a Marquette game live.
Stein and I started our journey over Friday night after work. We were able to get out at a decent hour and had an uneventful trip most of the way. Wouldn't you know it, the part of the trip that we worry least about (in terms of weather) was the toughest? Just as we got over the Indiana border, the snow started. We didn't know it was supposed to snow. Stein navigated our way through the blowing stuff, and got us on the sky way. I breathed a sigh of relief as we got on the sky way knowing that we only had about a half hour to go. I realized I spoke too soon when I saw the brake lights in front of us. We spent over an hour on the sky way. Sometimes at a complete stop with the car in park.

We ended up meeting up with Rick for drinks (Stein and I had dinner) at 42 North Latitude. We had been there before with my family, and the food was really good. This time it didn't disappoint either. I had a crab cake sandwich, and Stein had a chicken pasta dish. We were both extremely tired, so we ended up calling it a night a short time later. We went back to Chris' and immediately went to bed.

Saturday morning, we headed north to Milwaukee. I suggested that we make a pit stop in Kenosha to go to Frank's Diner.
This diner was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network a few months ago. I thought it would be fun to check it out. They didn't disappoint either. The diner is a really small place, with a counter along one side, and booths along the other. People stand along the wall behind the customers at the counter to wait for a table. When we got in, the whole length of the diner was filled with people waiting! We were so glad when the opportunity came up for us to sit at the counter. We had front-row seats to the show that was going on behind the counter. This is where the 2 owners cook breakfast. What a scene that was!

Their specialty is the garbage plate which has hash browns, eggs, peppers, onions, jalapenos, eggs, and your choice of meat(s). The grill is constantly full with the makings for these garbage plates. And the 2 owners are really friendly. We had a good time chatting sporadically with them (after all, they were cooking!) Stein and I split a 1/2 garbage plate (which took up half of a dinner sized plate), and biscuits and gravy. We also split an order of french toast with Chris and Mike. Oh mama, was everything good. They make their own bread, so the toast and french toast is homemade. Yum. We all waddled out of there, ready for a nap! The only drawback to sitting at the counter? We reeked of grease when we got out of there. So much so, that I bought a bottle of Febreeze for all of us to use. We doused ourselves with it and the smell was a little more tolerable.

We met up with Sandy and Ryan at Marquette's bookstore. I wanted to see what was new there, but felt a bit overwhelmed at all the stuff. Oh well, I didn't need to spend the money anyway!

We usually go to afternoon games, but this year we decided to go to a night game. It had a completely different feel this time. Before the game, we hung out at Buck Bradley's, a restaurant that is right across the street from the Bradley Center. We had a great time catching up. We luckily got there ahead of the crowd, so we were guaranteed a table (and a seat) until we left for the game. On the way out before the game, Stein asked the waitress to reserve the table we had for when we returned from the game. After giving her $10, she quickly agreed.
The game itself was a good one (we won - hooray!) but a nail biter at the beginning. Marquette was really cold and behind DePaul for a while until they got it together. I don't know how far they'll go this year if they don't continue to keep it together!

After the game, we went back to Buck Bradley's and lo and behold, our table was reserved! We all thanked Stein for his good thinking and settled into our table for some after-game drinks and food. As the night went on, everyone got more tired. After everyone ate, that was pretty much the end of the night. (I think we're getting old. And I don't mind admitting it, either!)
Unfortunately, the flash on my camera didn't go off, nor did I feel like futzing with it. Here are 3 (blurry) pictures from Buck Bradley's:
Ryan and Stein yuck it up
The girls (from right: Chris, Sandy, and me)
The cool, ginormous wood bar (this was a small section of it!)
Sunday morning we all went to Miss Katie's diner, which is near Marquette's campus. It was fun to be there to rehash the night before and catch up a bit more before we had to get on the road. Stein and I had a five-hour ride ahead of us, so it was good to have a full belly before hitting the highway.
I like that this trip has become a tradition for us. It at least guarantees that we see Ryan and Sandy once a year. It would be nice if it were more often, but I'm grateful we have the time together. What a fun time it is.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kids Will Be Kids

The past 2 days I subbed in a few different classrooms while the teachers went to meetings. Different in terms of grade levels, but kids being kids all the same.

Yesterday I subbed in a kindergarten class where sharing and counting to 70 are their biggest challenges, where tattling runs rampant, and where being honest about everything from what they like to how things are done is their way of life. I had a good time with them, in their innocent, naive world. I introduced them to "Quiet Coyote" which is a fictional character that you can make with your hand. (Mickey taught me this - you touch your middle and ring fingers to your thumb, and leave your pinkie and pointer fingers "perked" up). Quiet Coyote has his mouth closed and his ears perked up to listen, just like all good boys and girls should.

I then moved on to fourth grade later in the afternoon, where I was able to observe the whole scene. There was a student teacher on the class, so I was able to just do damage control while she taught the lesson. Sweet deal, I thought. What I did observe while I was there, was a whole lot of regressing in their behavior. When indoor recess came around, 5 girls crawled around the floor and acted like dogs. I'm not kidding, they were barking and whining like dogs. (I suddenly thought about the 4th graders in my student teaching class - they did some immature stuff, but would never do this!)

Today I was at the middle school. When the kids came in and assessed the situation, I could see it in their eyes: Sub here. Act up. So they tried. Fortunately, they still listen to authority figures, so when I needed their attention, I could get it. But there was a constant chatter when I wasn't teaching. So who did I call in for help? Quiet Coyote. Yep, he was helping me once again, this time in a more nostalgic way than anything. But I didn't care, the kids got quiet when I talked about him. I also pulled out the reserves when I had the kids do some body movements to tell me that they understood. At first I told them I was just kidding, but they actually wanted to continue. So there was a room full of 6th graders, with their hands on their heads. They all asked if they could sing the "goodbye friends" song when they left the class. Luckily, I left before the class let out.

Next week? Another 6th grade class, a 3rd grade class, and a special needs class. I have a feeling that Quiet Coyote may be pulled out once again. Doesn't matter what age or what level. Kids will be kids.

Happy Birthday to Shelly T. and Mike Z.!

Just wanted to give a shout-out (did I just say shout out?!) to Shelly, one of my roommates from college. Remember Shelly? I wrote about her here in the summer. Anyway, Happy Birthday Shelly! I hope you have a great day today that turns into a birthday weekend.

And more birthday wishes go to my brother-n-law Mike (Mickey's husband) who shares this day with Shelly. I also hope you have a great day today and have fun tonight on your "date"!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Comfort

The temps continue to hang in the teens and single digits, so we've been craving comfort foods at every meal. This is one of my favorites, so I couldn't resist taking a picture of it. Grilled cheese by itself? Yum. But paired with a bowl of tomato soup (in this case, Trader Joe's tomato and roasted red pepper soup)? Oh mama.

I devoured this meal in about 5 minutes, cheese oozing as I pulled the sandwich apart and dunked it in the soup. Comforting, for sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Game Night

Linda (my cooperating teacher from student teaching) asked if I wanted to volunteer at the family math night tonight. I figured it was a good thing to do to see how it works, and also to see some familiar faces of students I haven't seen since December.

It was a really fun night. They had all kinds of games (mostly board games and puzzles) set up at the tables in the cafeteria. Kids and their families could play any of the games at the tables. There were also 2 raffles that were held where the families could win a board game.

I got to see a handful of kids from my class. It was so sweet to see their eyes light up and their arms reach out to give me hugs. I got to catch up with a few of them, hearing about a new baby sister, or a new puppy, or a new haircut. I'm glad that I got the chance to see them again. It's that hook, just pulling me in once again.

Linda and I always talked about the necessity of play in kids' lives. With video games being the norm in most houses, kids don't play board games anymore. And they should. Board games teach so much, including social skills (taking turns, losing gracefully). When I looked around and saw all the families playing games, working on puzzles, and having a good time, I said to Linda, "This is your dream." She laughed and agreed.

Growing up, we played games all the time. We were lucky enough to have a huge bookshelf full of board games to choose from. I loved these times spent with my family. There were Monopoly games that lasted into the wee hours of the night (10:00 pm!) or cut-throat games of the card game "spoons".

I can only hope that the kids tonight will ditch the video games every now and then to play some real games.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wait 5 Minutes

And the weather will change. Here in Michigan, as in other places, people like to joke about this. The weather does change pretty quickly, but today, it was so true.

I took the first picture because I wanted to capture the feeling of being in a snow globe. Not even an hour later, I snapped the second picture from the same spot. I was more than happy to take the second picture since the sun was out. I didn't even mind waiting more than 5 minutes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Three Voices Heard

In the past week I have received calls from three of my good friends (in addition to my Einstein's friends). I had been corresponding with each one of them via email, and each one of them decided to give me a call. I'm so glad they did.

There's something to be said about hearing someone's voice rather than reading their writing. You can hear the expression, smiles, and sincerity in their voice. You can quickly move back and forth between subjects, getting instant feedback. You instantly fall into the rhythm of their words, whether it be to join them or to listen. If you can't be with the person, this is the next best thing.

Karen, who is in France, or Sara who is in DC, or Sophie who is in California, are all obviously too far to chat in person. But I was glad this week to have the next best thing. I was so happy they called. It was so good to hear their voices and everything else that goes along with a phone call.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Random Day of Comfort, Clutter, and Creatures

The recipe in yesterday's post? One word: yummy. It had just enough spice to warrant a "Wow, this has some kick" comment, but wasn't unbearable. The heat was from the chipotle peppers in it, which also gave the dish a nice, smokey flavor.

To continue on the comfort/warm food for a cold weekend theme, we're having this beef stew tonight for dinner:

It's another recipe from Tyler Florence, so we're hoping it will be as good as the enchiladas last night. The prep may be daunting at first glance, but it's a lot easier when 2 people do the work.

This morning we were in search of some comfort for breakfast. We decided to try a diner that we've talked about trying since we first moved here. It's in a block next to a small hardware store, and from the looks of the place, it looks like a good greasy spoon. Walking in this morning, we saw the usual country-type knick knacks in the entrance foyer and thought, this is going to be good. We were a taken a little off guard when we looked at the menu. In addition to the usual breakfast and diner fare, there was a whole section devoted to Korean dishes. We should've known, it was apparent that a Korean family ran the place. So now we have to go back. In addition to a good breakfast place (the pancakes, omelets, and biscuits and gravy were delicious) we have Korean "diner food" we need to try.

Last week I noticed the following random post-Christmas "scene" on our dining room table which made me laugh:

So while all of the other Christmas stuff has been put away for another year, there were a few remnants left. (I didn't arrange these things, by the way. They just happened to fall into an organized mess). The red tablecloth which desperately needs to be washed and put away. My Grinch pin. The head (the orange blob) of one of our Dr. Seuss ornaments which needs to be glued back on. 2 Sharpie markers which need to join their (24!) other friends in the Sharpie bin. The poinsettia which isn't dead yet, and which I have a hard time just throwing away. A button and safety pin, just 'cause. A candle which needs to go up to my desk.

One last crazy sighting today. While I was helping Stein in the kitchen today, I saw something fly onto the fence in the backyard. I looked up and saw a HUGE bird sitting on our fence. I immediately told Stein to come to the window to see this creature. I thought it may be an owl or something. I had no idea what is was. Stein told me it was a falcon. I know you may not believe us, because it flew away before pictures could be taken (sounds like a Bigfoot sighting to me). But really, it was pretty cool. I don't think I've seen a bird this large (aside from wild turkeys) this up close out in the "wild", so it was a first for me. I don't know where it may live, but it seemed very out of place in our backyard. We only see sparrows, hummingbirds, cardinals, robins, and blue jays, but never falcons. How lucky that we were at the right place at the right time.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Welcome Sight

Because of the single-digit temps we're experiencing this weekend (with windchill temps into the negatives!) we are so glad to see the sun. We have far too many grey days in the winter here in Michigan, so when Mr. Sun pays a visit, he is very welcome. We plan on hunkering down today.

Stein is going to make this recipe for enchiladas:,1977,FOOD_9936_11056,00.html
I think it will be just the spice we need to warm us up. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What If?

It was weird. I got 2 phone calls last week from former Einstein's colleagues, both on the same day, one right after the other. Usually if this happens, there's some Einstein's gossip or happening that is just waiting to be shared. But last week, there was no gossip. It was purely coincidence.

When I worked for Einstein's, I was mainly by myself out on the road. While out on the road, though, I would usually talk to at least one of my colleagues during the day. It was time to exchange information, commiserate, and chat. Despite not being in an office setting and not seeing people on a regular basis, I made some really good friends. The 2 guys I talked to last week were my on-the-road family, especially when we would actually have the opportunity to be together. We joked at the time that the one could be my brother and the other could be our dad. We took on our familial roles accordingly.

I am grateful that I still talk to these friends. But these 2 phone calls also set my mind thinking in the past week about old friends, particularly those whom I no longer talk to. I started getting philosophical when the question "What If?" came to mind. What if in the sense of what if I still talked to _____, or what if I never moved to Michigan and never met _____, or what if I never went to Marquette. I sort of daydream this way, imagining what life would be like with or without people that are/have been in my life.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have any regrets for friendships that have gone to the wayside. I like to think that I have no regrets in life. It is what it is, and we have to be at peace that what happens is what is supposed to happen. "Everything happens for a reason". I think that a lot of the people in one's life come in and out at appropriate times. There are also some that stay for a long time, and can endure the changes and distances and time. I treasure those friends tremendously.

Okay, enough with the philosophy of it all. I should've taken my own advice that I wrote about before. I should leave all philosophy work up to Rick.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mailman Mike, I'm Sorry

It first started with the holiday catalogs. As hundreds of catalogs were delivered to our door, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Mike, our poor mailman. I pictured him trudging to our door, his back breaking from the heaviness of the load, thankful for the sight of our mailbox. He got about a two-week reprieve after the holidays. Now that's over. Now it's magazine time.

It all started when I had some airline miles for 2 different airlines that were about to expire. I didn't have enough on either of them to get a free ticket, so I looked for other ways to cash them in. The first airline, which I won't name, didn't offer anything that I was interested in. Actually, they really didn't offer anything at all. I was able to donate the miles to charity which was the feel-good choice. The other airline, which I also won't name, really didn't offer much more, but they did offer magazine subscriptions. I was in.

I have to admit, I have a bit of an obsession with magazines. Stein will agree. I think I like magazines for the shiny pages, the colorful pictures, and the short articles. When I traveled, reading a magazine on the plane ride home was always my reward for a grueling trip. While I was in school, I didn't have time to read magazines. I was busy reading textbooks. It was the same while I was student teaching, only then I was reading teacher's manuals. Now I have time to read magazines. And now I have magazines to read. Maybe too many to read.

You see, there's this anxiety I get when I don't read a magazine by the end of the month, and then the next month's issue comes along. This sentiment is shared by my sister Mickey. We sometimes just bag up our old, unread magazines and give them away to the other person, just so we can reduce the anxiety. I finally had to remind her and myself that it doesn't matter if they're read or not, the magazine police won't be standing at the recycle bin ready to write a ticket for anything unread. ("Tell me what the recipe was on page 115 in Real Simple last month!" would be something that the police officer would say to test me.)

So now, in addition to Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens, Golf Digest, and Runner's World, we also get Self, Domino, Smithsonian, and Best Life. I am probably most excited about Smithsonian, because I have always liked it but never wanted to pay the hefty subscription price. The others are just fluff. Perfect for those times when I want to read something, but don't have the attention span for a book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Has it Come Down to This?

With the Hollywood writer's strike going on, I've heard that a lot of the networks are going to be creating/starting/airing their reality shows because they don't obviously require writing. Ever since I've read this, I've been aware of all the commercials for new or returning shows.

Stein and I regularly roll our eyes and moan when a commercial comes on for the newest reality show. From chef shows, to dating shows, to dancing shows, we always say the same thing, "What next?!"

I also fall into the camp that I have enough TV that I watch and I don't need another show on my TiVo plate. I have one exception, though. I watch the Real World. I feel like this is okay because a.) It was one of the first reality shows b.) I've watched it from the beginning c.) I am instantly sucked into "the true story... of seven strangers... picked to live in a house... work together, and have their lives taped... to find out what happens when people stop being polite... and start getting real" no matter what city they're in or the characters that are picked.

I have a confession to make. I watched another reality show today. And I liked it.

My friend Alissa kept telling me to watch the Amazing Race. I always resisted, mainly because of my hatred for those kind of shows, and also because it resembled Survivor. I obviously never got into that show, and knew I wouldn't get into anything that was similar to it. But when I was telling her that the end of the Real World Sydney was happening last week, she told me to TiVo Amazing Race. So I did.

I happened to TiVo the second to last episode, so it's where things got really exciting. Like the Real World, I was instantly sucked into the lives of these partner pairs as they raced to get to the finish line. I found my muscles getting tense as I thought that the pair I didn't like was going to win. My muscles loosened when I saw that they lost and were eliminated. When the credits rolled, I realized why I felt this way. The Executive Producer is Jerry Bruckheimer (of Top Gun, Black Hawk Down, National Treasure, etc. fame). This too, is a high-energy show.

So until the writer's strike is over, there will be reruns and reality shows. I really hope the strike doesn't last much longer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Commercials Didn't Prepare Me

Stein and I saw 2 movies this week, and each one of them made me cry. Only I didn't expect to cry at either of them.

The first one was Juno, a great movie that I highly recommend. You may know the storyline already, but if you don't, it's about a 16 year-old girl who gets pregnant and the decisions she must make in her situation. The commercials all showed the funny scenes from the movie, which the movie mostly contained, but not any of the touching ones. Those were the ones were I cried. A couple times.

Today we saw The Bucket List, which is a movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Again, a great movie about 2 men who have cancer and have received their "death dates". In this time they want to do things on their Bucket List which are things that they want to do before they kick the bucket. And again, all the commercials only show the funny scenes, not any of the touching scenes. At one point in the movie, I was bawling.

Thank you commercials, for the preparation. Next time I'll know to bring gobs of Kleenex, even if the commercials show only funny scenes. Even if it's a Disney cartoon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Timeless Truths

My dad sent the following list in an email to me. I've heard them before, but thought I'd post them here for a few laughs:

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.
2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.
4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food.
6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time.
8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandpa's lap.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I Blame the Pot

The clay pot, that is. I wrote in a previous post about the clay pot that Stein got for Christmas. Well, here it is, in the picture above. When he opened it up, we had no idea what it could be used for. My brother Bryan kept saying, "Tandoori Chicken." Yum, we thought, we love Indian food.

Then we were going to use the pot last weekend. But about an hour before we were going to use it, Stein looked at the little sticker on the side of the pot that said, "Submerge pot in water for at least 12 hours prior to using." I guess we weren't going to use it then.

We thought we were smart when we remembered to submerge the pot on Saturday night prior to using it on Sunday. The submerging part was easy. Finding a recipe was another story. We scoured the Internet for recipes for Tandoori Chicken in a clay pot. We found thousands of recipes for Tandoori Chicken, but none in the clay pot. I learned more than I ever thought I'd learn about Tandoori Chicken. I also learned that the pots that are used to cook Tandoori Chicken are big, and are usually buried partially in the ground outside. I soon discovered that we didn't have a Tandoori Chicken pot, we had something else.

Another search on "Chicken cooked in terra cotta pot" led me to a recipe for Tagine Chicken. Apparently this is a Northern African/Moroccan dish that is traditionally cooked in a vessel like ours. So our vessel is called a Tagine. Another bonus, was that the meat for Tagine Chicken didn't need to be marinated for at least 6 hours like the Tandoori Chicken. Perfect. Until we looked at the ingredients for the recipe:,,FOOD_9936_16461,00.html

What are "preserved lemons"? This led to another search. Preserved lemons are pickled lemons, that you can make at home. That is, if you have 4-6 weeks for them to sit in their pickling juices. We had 4-6 hours, not 4-6 weeks.

Stein suggested we go to an ethnic market. Luckily we live in a town that is diverse enough to warrant many ethnic markets. I looked on the Internet. Two were about a block away from each other: Aladdin's Market and Bombay Market. Surely we could find what we wanted at one of the two. And we did. When we walked into Aladdin's Market and inquired about the lemons, the kind man said, "Yes, we do." As he walked to the back of the store to show me, he added, "And you're like the 4th person who has asked for these this week. Is there a recipe out there or something?" I explained that we were making Tagine Chicken. Here's what the lemons look like if you have never seen them:

Stein and I did a quick lap around the store to see what other goodies we could buy. "We'll be back," Stein said, as we passed by the massive display of baklava, hummus, and Baba Ghanouj. It smelled wonderful in that store.

Then it was on to Bombay Market. The smells in this store were equally wonderful. They had different beans, rices and spices lining the shelves that reached to the ceiling. I wanted to see if they had any Naan, the bread that is usually served in Indian restaurants. They did. About 10 different kinds. So I grabbed a bag of Naan, grabbed a bag of fried cheese cubes (Paneer) and headed up to the counter. The cutest Indian girl was waiting for her mom to pay for their groceries. She was telling us that the snack that she was holding was "Sooooo good" and that she was "going to eat it ALL in the car." Too cute.

We were armed with our lemons and bread. We were ready. Until we were about to make dinner. I looked on a website on how to care for your tagine pot, and it said that it should be seasoned prior to use. Meaning it needed to be coated with olive oil, placed in the oven, and baked for an hour and 1/2 or 2 hours. Hmmm, I guess we'll be eating at 8:00 tonight.

We finally did eat at about 8:00, and it was delicious. It was quite an adventure to get to the final point, but it was worth it. The different spices all come together and make a wonderful looking and tasting dish:

The recipe prep actually wasn't too bad, either. We definitely will make this again. Especially now that the tagine pot is seasoned and all set to go. We're ready.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another Sign of the New Year

The Y is packed. Stein and I went this morning and found every machine in the place taken, with a backlog of people signed up after the first crew. We didn't think it was going to be that bad, especially since both of us didn't notice it too busy last week. We should have known this was a fluke. We should have remembered what happens every year.

About the 2nd week in January, the place is packed with ambitious people walking around in a daze, not sure what to do, not sure of the drill. When I mentioned the lack of people to another regular last week, she said, "Oh, the zombies will be here, just wait." I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because she then said, "Oh, you know, they come in here, with dazed looks on their faces, just going through the motions." Ah yes, I thought. The zombies.

I don't have a lot of patience for the zombies. They don't know the drill, don't bother to learn the rules, and don't want to be friendly with anyone. I guess there's a point to that, though. They won't be around for long. The zombies will stick it out for about 4 weeks, some as long as 6 weeks. Then, after their ambition is gone, the Y will be back to normal with all the regulars. The friendly ones who know the drill.

Thawing Out

The temperatures the past week have been in the teens and 20s. Today and tomorrow they're going to be in the 40s, then Monday possibly in the 50s. And all the beautiful snow? It will be gone. It's raining right now, and the mounds of snow that are piled on every corner are getting smaller and smaller as I type. Back to the grey and brown, I guess.

One good thing about this is that it gives us a chance to get a few things done around the house. We finished taking all the Christmas decorations down and some of them were outside. We also need to put plastic on some of the windows (they're as old as the house and are heat sieves). It's better to put it up when it's not freezing outside. So I guess at least today we have our work cut out for us.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Fresh Start

I always like New Year's, not because of all the festivities, but because of what it means. For me, it means a fresh start. For people who had bad years last year, there's a hope that this year will be better. There's a new chance to get things right. It's a time for new possibilities, new surprises, new beginnings.

I heard a story on NPR last week about a British journalist who was captured in Iraq and held hostage for a long time. While he was in captivity, he had time to reflect on his life. He truly thought that he was going to get killed. Each day that he woke up and saw the sun, he was thankful for another chance. When he was finally let free, he was appreciative of everything around him. I've been thinking a lot about this idea of appreciation, and how so often we forget, don't have time, or don't have it in us, to appreciate. As I took a walk today to marvel at the beautiful snow (the pictures below are from my walk), I thought about the journalist and thought about the New Year. In each instance, there is new hope, new chances, new possibilities. And looking back on the the previous year and all that we've done and experienced, we should have a sense of appreciation.

So as I look forward to 2008, I am going also going to look back to 2007 and appreciate. We have been blessed with so much, and I am hopeful that we may be blessed with more in the coming year. I never make New Year resolutions, rather I like to look ahead with excitement for the possibilities of the New Year. It's a clean slate, a fresh start.

May 2008 be full of:

  • Bright Blue Skies.
In every sense of the phrase. To look at, or to have as an attitude when you're feeling too much grey. Life is too short to pout, sulk, or be moody. Just like after a rain storm, a blue sky makes everything feel better. We were so lucky to have many blue skies in 2007. Some were here in Ann Arbor, up north with family and friends, in Arizona with family, in Las Vegas with friends, or in Chicago with family and friends.

  • Time to Rest.
We all need time to rest, be peaceful, or take care of ourselves. Too often in 2007, I put rest on the back burner and suffered because of it. I hope 2008 brings as many opportunities, and also brings me the knowledge to know when I need it.
  • Time Spent Together.
2007 blessed us with so many opportunities to spend with family and friends. Sometimes we took advantage of these opportunities. Other times we didn't. In 2008, may we have these opportunities, but may we also take advantage of them too. People enrich our lives in so many ways that we will never fully know.

  • Camaraderie.

Everything is better when done with a friend. In 2008, I hope that we have the privilege of having people around us to give us support when we need it, or in turn offer support to them. We lost some important people in 2007, but realized through these losses that what's really important in times of need is those around us.

  • Beautiful Things.

In 2008, I hope that we encounter many of the beautiful things that are part of our world. I also hope that we have the appreciation for all things beautiful, including the little things like smiles. In 2007 we were witness to so many beautiful things and experiences, including births and weddings.

  • Time to Play.

Just like rest, we also need play. As adults we think that we don't have time for play, or don't make the effort to make time for play. It's so important to recharge our batteries and our creativity. 2007 brought a lot of times to play. In 2008 I hope that we have more of these times and realize the importance of playing.

  • Fruitful Opportunities.
Or fruitful outcomes that come unexpectedly. Or sweet fruit to enjoy all year. Or the sweet smell of blossoms in spring. Hopes and dreams that come to fruition. 2007 was a sweet year for us. May 2008 be just as sweet, with all of our new (or old) hopes and dreams coming to fruition.

  • Roads That Lead to Good Places.

In 2008 I hope that there are roads that lead to new places, new experiences, and new friends. 2007 gave us many roads to travel. Some rocky, some smooth as glass, some unexpected turns here and there. A lot of the roads led to family and friends. Those were the best roads of all.

We're Back

We had a great time the past few days at Jane and Shark's house. Just as we had planned, we got to catch up and hang out for most of the time. Their house is gorgeous, and just perfect for hanging out with friends.

We got to have a nice American dinner at a Mexican restaurant on New Year's Eve. Yeah, we were a little confused ourselves when we got up to the buffet there. Prime rib, shrimp, oysters, clams, baked chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, etc. were all there. We all looked at each other, shrugged, and dug in. It was really good. Later that night, the four of us sat around the bar in their kitchen waiting for midnight. We first had to change into more comfortable clothes than our dress-up clothes we had on for dinner. It was so relaxing and fun to just talk, joke, and laugh. When midnight struck, we all wished each other a Happy New Year, yawned, and went to bed. Yes, we're getting old. And we don't care.

The next morning, Stein went outside to assess the snowfall that happened the night before. I decided to stay in bed for a while longer, but that didn't happen. I jumped up at the sound of a snowball hitting the window. I laughed, and thought to myself, how funny, and rolled over. Then another one came. At that point, I jumped out of bed, stomped to the window, and peered out the window. There was Stein, on the sidewalk, wearing only a long sleeved shirt and a vest (and jeans, don't worry), pointing at the front door. He was locked out. I ran down the stairs, opened the door and let him in. I didn't even let him explain. I just went back to the warm bed.

A lot of people came over on New Year's Day to hang out, watch football, and eat. Our friends Steve and Kathryn and their four kids came over. We had never met the new twins, Ali and Luke, who are now 3 months old. They are adorable, as are their other 2 kids, Ryan and Josh. Our friend Linda came with her daughter Sarah, and it was so good to see both of them. Our friends Patty and Paul also stopped by as did Sharon and Marie. It was so great to catch up with everyone, and hear post-Christmas stories, and New Year's resolutions. When everyone left, Shark, Jane, Stein and I all slumped onto the couch. We were exhausted!

We didn't sit for long, though. More of our friends came over. Meg and Tim and their four boys stopped by. Their kids are 7, 5, 3, and 1, and are so cute. Stein and I had so much fun hanging out with their kids and playing. We played a mean game of ping pong baseball and racquetball in the basement. (Both games required the use of the ping pong rackets and balls, but not the table.)

That evening, the four of us sat on the couch and barely talked. We were tired from a long day of hanging out, if that makes any sense.

Yesterday, Stein and I drove home and took a different route. We thought there may be some lake-effect snow on our usual route, so we took another one. We only ran into a short burst of treacherous weather, but besides that, the trip was gorgeous. Snow covered all the trees and fields that we rode by. It looked like someone dripped marshmallow all over. Every branch of every tree and bush was covered with a thick layer of snow, that many times weighed the branches down to the ground. It was so beautiful.

When we got home, we were greeted with a driveway and sidewalks to shovel. We both shared the work, so it didn't take long. I took some pictures before we shoveled, so I'll upload those soon.

I now have a different perspective on snow. Stein will be glad to know this. I think snow serves the wonderful purpose of giving us color in the winter. I know, snow is white, but it provides a break and contrast from the brown trees, bushes and grass. It also provides a contrast to the grey skies that seem to dominate winter in Michigan. Don't get me wrong - I am still a summer girl, but I'm beginning to tolerate winter and actually embrace snow. I still don't like driving in it, but it sure is pretty to look at.