Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday silliness

Perhaps if you are looking for a Christmas present for me next year, perhaps you should invest in my new "wing suit!"

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Friday night date with Tony

So Matt went to our marriage enrichment class tonight with another woman because I am not feeling well, whose husband is out of town. Nothing like having a spare wife laying around....just kidding!

We have a secret.

NOT only do I live with Matty, the Boy, the male dog, the two male (Smoke, and the other one formally known as the girl Athena) cats, but there is another prominent male figure in the family.

You haven't seen him at my dinner table. He hasn't been to church with us, nor is he going on the family trip. He doesn't do parent/teacher conferences or is found in our family Christmas card. He is too busy, driving around in circles nine months of the year to hang out with us. But we know where he is most Sundays, and we know what he usually is feeling about his job that particular day.

The mystery man is this fuzzy fella--Tony Stewart, a NASCAR driver. He has been an unofficial member of the family for two years. There are more pictures of him in our home than any other faces on the planet. For Heaven's sake, our cat is named for Tony's nickname --Smoke. Aubrey adores him.

Let me illustrate how powerful he really is. For the first time in our lives, we are watching QVC right this minute. A show called For Race Fans Only. We are watching Tony on TV talking about tiny, expensive model cars and his change to the shade of red for the car. Aubrey got off the computer on her own just to watch. Now that is power. She looks like she is almost ready to cry because he has a Burger King "Crown Card" which there are only 50 in the world. The last one to get one is P Diddy, over a year ago.

Follow him this year. He is quite a character. Seems like he is a good fit to the family.

Err, these two didn't make the cut

These two shirts will not be making the trip. :)
The blue is my real shirt andthe pink under the red is Aubrey's real shirt.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good thing we aren't meeting the Queen

Preparing for the trip to Great Britain has begun. Passport forms are on the table, multiple SD photo cards have been purchased, and today we began our quest for the wardrobe we will be taking. A whole new "crappy" one as the Girl said today.

When I went to China, I learned from others that when you are under weight restrictions and bag number, it was best to take old clothes and ditch them throughout your trip. I will be gone for 23 days, and that will be a lot of dirty clothes to haul around. So I won't. I took all thrift clothes with me to both Asia and Europe, and left them after I was done with them, nicely folded on the hotel beds when we checked out. I had plenty of souvenir room by the time I was done. This trip will be no different. No worries. I bring home my under ware and socks....socks are too valuable to ditch.

We have figured out most of the itinerary. We will be going to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and dip into England to see the wall the Romans built. I will stay on to go to Birmingham for my Rotary work, and the family will return home. Since we are traveling so much in that first two weeks, I felt it was best to drag along a lot of clothes so that we don't have to worry about laundry. So I hauled the kids to the thrift store today, and boy, did we find some winners. :)

These top three are for Seth to wear in their respective countries. I liked the Pedro shirt because apparently if I vote for him, ALL my wildest
dreams will come true. That will be a great day!

I am sure that the Queen would rip this RIGHT off of the Girl and
keep it for herself if she saw this. I think she liked this shirt because we have
warm fuzzy memories of flying bread that we shared with Snarky Belle
on a road trip some years back. Matt will be thrilled the day she wears this, I am sure.
This tickeled us since we are Alaska girls. I moose you, too!

Apparently the Girl has decided that this shirt will not be left for some maid in Scotland. She was so excited about this that she said it might be too good to make the trip.
Tuesday gratitude: won ton soup
Wednesday gratitude: chocolate covered strawberries
Thursday gratitude: a good thrifty vibe

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bob the Builder Award: Super Strong Hayley Rinehart

Hayley is one of four daughters born to some terrible parents named Danial and Linda Rinehart. Not only did these four daughters live most of their lives in a camp trailer, traveling place to place to avoid detection of their terrible parenting, but Daniel has molested one daughter since the age of 13 who has born 4 of his own grandchildren. Mother Linda helped deliver them. Three have died, and the living son, age 3, has lived his entire life hidden in the camp trailer parked on a family homestead.

Until now.

Hayley ran away a few days ago and when she arrived at the Wal-Mart in Harrisonville, MO the first thing she did was called the police and told them their sisterly story.

Danial and Linda are now in custody, and the girls have been safely put in safe environments/safe houses. Even though the father said he would kill anyone who told their story, Hayley said she could no longer watch what was happening to her sister. There is a scripture that says there is one that stays closer than a brother. It is true. It is a sister. Named Hayley.

And the winner is...


Last night brought some sweet rewards for the girls with pink pine wood derby cars. I naturally wore my pinkest socks and sweater so that if by chance I beat boys, they would have to always think..."I lost to a girl in a pink sweater."

And they are surely thinking that today. The Monk Mobile got it done. Our happy buddah (which many kids didn't know what a buddah was so it was my opportunity to educate--hooray for world peace and understanding!)was a gracious winner. I did lose twice by a hair--to the same 9 year old girl. :)

I have waited four years to beat Jack, which with his hammer head car, I surprisingly did. Tom's new car was a disappointment (maybe you should bring the championship Camaro out of retirement), and Dave's Shark was too light. I beat nameless other cub boys, and none of them asked for a rematch. Too much pink in their diet last night, I guess.

You ladies are welcome. Me and the monk were happy to do it. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And in the left lane representing ALL of Womandom...

Today is the day. The day that comes around every year at this time....the annual Cub Scout Pine Weed Derby race. No, I am not a cub scout, but I am a mother of a former cub scout so it still counts now. In 2006, when the Boy was still cubbing, I heard rumor that no mother had ever entered the "Open Class" race time in our congration. I don't know if that is true, but it has been for the last couple years. Open Class seems to be for the fathers who are still trying to get that win they missed when they were boys. When I saw all the energy and smack talking that came along, I felt it a shame that half the Earth's population did not have an entry.

So I joined in...with my own self-restrictive requirements. Number One: I would leave the pine wood in the shape in came in the box. Retangular and unsanded. Two: Had to have a theme. Three: It had to be something that you would never generally see on a Pine Wood Derby Car. Four: The Girlier the better. :) Five: The most important piece....Beat one man, hopefully Tom and his car. At least once.

For those who are reading this that have female parts, these are your representatives:

The First Entry: 2006 Olympic Luging Chicken.
Pink underbelly. Beat Tom's Camaro. True, it (the camaro) only had three wheels (it lost one somewhere along the way that night) but I still beat him.
2007: Miss Pinewood Derby Float
Pink, Pink and more pink. I had a year to think about it and this was my creation. Glitter, pink fur, pink lips, sequins and a sash. She lost most of her races to the Tom mobile, but she did win one. She had struggles when she would get to the end of the track because she would smash her head into the sign at the end of the run.
2008: Star Wars Double Decker Love Van
This was made in honor of Tom and his new tattoos of Star Wars. It is two pine wood derby blocks together, with 1960's glittery girly stickers ALL over it. I was out of town when it ran, but I heard the race over the cell phone. It did beat Tom one time so Matt told me.
Notice who is driving....Princesses Amidala and Leia.

2009: (Official Unveiling) The Monk Mobile
In honor of Chinese New Year and Matt's great Mary Kay 1956/1957 pink Cadillac ceramic find at the thrift store. Pink base, pink glittery tires, and a girly hood ornament. The words on the each side are the Four Noble Truths of Buddahism. The back has "Jesus is my co-pilot" (of course) and a Buddah driving. He has a storm trooper body guard because you need protection in these troubled times.
We run tonight. I will let you know how we do. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year--Year of the Ox

Saturday-- a great day with loved ones
Sunday--scouting wake up call
Monday--the vet got more mauled by the cats than we do

June 2006 Essay

I wrote this essay when I was flying home from Denmark/Sweden in 2006. I have never shown it finished to anyone. Until now.
The tennis shoes I am wearing to travel to Scandinavia are not comfortable. They never have been. They pinch the top of my feet to the point of a numbing sensation and the bottom insoles feel like they have been broken in by someone else. My chiropractor/spiritual medium woman would be very disappointed in my footwear choice. I have worn bowling shoes more comfortable then these stinkin’ shoes I have owned forever.

You would think I would have bought a new pair for this trip since I am so good at buying shoes. 787 pairs to date, in fact, in two years. That is a lot of shoes…1,574 for those mathematicians I know. Honestly, that tends to take up a lot of space in our sub-basement (Midwest term for “tornado shelter”). They are stored with a mountain of Star Wars figures, a year’s supply of food, last year’s swimming gear, and 120,000 baseball cards. Fortunately for us, the shoes were already delivered when the last tornado hit. That is a good thing because we required a little extra room. When you believe you might be blown away at any moment, my eight year old son is of the opinion that his basket of dirty laundry should hide with us. So, as you can see, we needed the space.

There are two reasons I didn’t keep a single one of those hundreds of pairs of shoes. First, they weren’t for me, so they weren’t my size. They were for 787 children, orphans to be exact, that I will never meet.

Secondly, these pinchy shoes have their own story to tell. Hummm, shoes with a story. Imagine if our shoes could talk—what would they say? Mine have been around so long that they have seen a thing or two. Their greatest adventures include carrying the Olympic Torch, climbing the Great Wall of China, and repainting Tom’s entire new “man pad” (and they have the paint spatters to prove it). They have walked Tivoli Square in Denmark, gone to a family reunion in the middle of nowhere Montana, and served as the PTA president. They have done countless hours of yard work, seen many things on school field trips, and attended several leadership academies. They have walked the dog, and ridden a roller coaster until I am sick. And they have been present when some of those 787 pairs of shoes have been brought home to wait for their time with the orphan kids.

As pinchy as these shoes are, they are family to me. We have shared memories, these shoes and I. It would feel wrong to leave them this trip, given their opportunity to take a walk around Hamlet’s Castle or stroll along a Swedish beach. I couldn’t leave them home. It would feel like it does when the dog watches us drive out of the driveway from his perch in the front window. As much as I dislike these shoes, I couldn’t leave them home. I couldn’t bear it.

One orphan shoe buying experience will always stick with me. As I checked out of a very rural, small town discount department store with a big pile of footwear there was a clerk that gave me some serious attitude. “What are these for?” she snidely asked. “These shoes are for orphans” I replied. Most times, that answer would satisfy the person’s curiosity. Not this lady. Then she said something that I will never forget. “Are you buying these shoes because it’s your job or because it is your heart?” It is a comment I will never forget.

I have thought over time that life seems to be divided by that we give away and that we gather. It is the giving away that is my favorite part.

Maybe that is why I have worked so hard these past years on the orphans’ shoes project. I want those children to have the opportunity to build their own memories with their own shoes. Even if their shoes pinch a little. :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The View from the Back Seat

We took a family day road trip yesterday from Kansas City to Omaha, Nebraska. I gave up the front seat of the car to Tom, because I have always given the front seat to the taller person...even if it is only an inch or two. It was about 350 miles round trip, making for a long but lovely day.The sunshine was out. The fields were resting quietly. I thought I would document our journey with some photographs so you too can feel like you took a wintery trip to Omaha with me in the back seat.

Even with three of us snuggled closely in the back, this is frost that was on the INSIDE of the car. Hello, Matty, could you turn on some heat? :)
This is a crowning ornament on the top of the religious building we worshipped in. For those of you who are not familiar with Mormonism, this is the Angel Moroni on top of what is called a temple. This temple is known as the Winter Quarters Temple, after the original LDS pioneers who wintered here in 1846.

Some of our car ride fun included "Watch Matt try to stay awake while he is driving," "Pass me the fudge stripe Keeblers--not the peanut buttery salmonella ones", and "Guess what song I picked for you on the IPOD." Here is lotion the Girl was slathering up with.

This was located in the booming metropolis of Hamburg...population was about 37. We wanted to see the "Stoner Drug"store in person and see what kind of treats were REALLY available. To our disappointment, it closed at 3 pm. Apparently traffic is quite a bugger there to maneuver (NOT!) and the owner wants to get home before dark. There were some really great buildings there I will say in all seriousness. Those Germans know their architecture.

I took about one million shots going at the rate of 75-80 mph. This is one I liked. One more game I forgot to mention is "Let's make fun of Val since she doesn't understand any of the words and makes up her own to every song." :) The Girl was REALLY good at this one.
Here is our sunset we got to be a part of last night.
You know, the view from the back seat isn't all that shabby. Hope your enjoyed your trip! :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A great shot from Tom

Tom took this picture on his car windshield the other morning


Thursday gratitude: Sharpie markers and direct conversation

Bob the Builder Award: Jenna and Barbara Bush

In keeping with tradition, President Bush left President Barack Obama a note in the White House – and now his daughters have offered their own advice, in the form of an open letter, to Sasha, 7, and Malia Obama, 10.

Published in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, Barbara and Jenna Bush reflect on their formative experiences in the White House – beginning as granddaughters to President George H.W. Bush.

"We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children," they write, acknowledging their then-7-year-old-perspective. From that point of view, the women offer the new first daughters tips what to expect as they prepare for their new lives in Washington, D.C. Here is some of their advice:
• "Surround yourself with loyal friends. They'll protect and calm you and join in on some of the fun, and appreciate the history."
• "Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn. Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play."
• "Go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, State Dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments. Just go. Four years goes by so fast, so absorb it all, enjoy it all!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another reason I love Missouri

There are lots of fun reasons I love living in the Heartland of America.

This store is one of them. We see it when we drive by on our way to the Boy's hockey events.

I always wanted to stop to say I got a treat at the Feed Store, so we did.

I got some 59 cent cinnamon bears. I'd say that was priced right.

This is my favorite part of the store. The Feed Aisle.

Just make sure that you pay before you load...and don't spill your bears while you are doing it. Cows don't like cinnamon in their hay. :)

Gratitude for Jan 21: I am not the one holding the cats while they get their medicine


Monday: a ride where and when I want
Tuesday: people seeming excited about the future

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What happens when you live?

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of death in the last several months. Our family knows many who have died in the last four months, some close and some not so much. My foster sister's mother died last week in Alaska as my parents were in Alaska at the same time for the death of their best friend. Death is in the news, death is in our house, death is in my mind.

What about those who who don't die, but actually live? Bear with me.

One of my best friends from high school, Becky, and I just connected two weeks ago from Facebook. I have enjoyed our email exchanges, hearing her humor in her words. A few days ago her mother was in a fender bender and as she and the other driver were examining the damage, a car drove out of control and hit them. Lynn, Becky's mother, is lying in a hospital bed as I write this, with multiple surgeries awaiting her. She has a pelvis that is broken in 12 places. She has had part of her leg amputated, and perhaps more. She has been sedated since it happened.

What happens when Lynn wakes up? Last thing she may remember is that she was talking to a stranger about some car damage and next thing she wakes up with her leg cut off. What would you do? What would you say if you lived to face that?

Another non-death I have spent a great deal of time pondering is that of best friend Tom. Diagnosed with terminal cancer two years and three months ago, he was given a year to 18 months to live. We planned accordingly. He gave much of his stuff away. He traveled. He achieved goals. We as his best friends have curtailed our own lives in a way to serve him, spend great times with him (which we would have anyway of course), and be on some sort of Defcon 5 level emotionally, sadly anticipating his passing. Funny thing about it is that he is really strong. So strong, in an "all natural" way in fact, that he has lived. And life has gone on. Taxes are due, kids need new clothes, and people have sort of "moved on" as he calls it. Tom feels it. We have come to call it the "what happens when you live" syndrome.

I have a close up view to watch what happens when you live and I think sometimes it is harder than it sounds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I have a couple dreams too

There is more than enough talk of the inauguration and all the festivities. I am just curious if we are in such hard economic times, why are there 11 balls being held in honor of one guy? Maybe it is just me. Seems a little excessive.
There is another thing I have heard a lot about lately: Martin Luther King's Dream.

I was thinking one has asked me about my dreams. No radio has played segments of my thoughts on their airwaves. I thought I would share some of my dreams here. Since you won't hear them on the radio.

Drumroll please: In Honor of MLK Day and reaching our dreams....

I dream of the day I stand with the Masaai in their village, them sporting my left over RYLA t-shirts I will bring from Missouri. I dream of the day my daughter can wash her own hair consistently (although I will miss our bonding talk time). I dream of the day the Boy will live without heat flashes, stomach stabbing, or vomit bowls by the bed or couch. I dream of the day that Matt actually gets all the recognition he deserves for his labor at Cerner. I dream of the day my brother has a little baby I can snuggle and send home. I dream of the day I grow my hair down to my waist (ok, that is a lie. I am just seeing who is paying attention). I dream of the day when I see people I miss. I dream of the day that Tallant makes up with his son and they drive their hot rods together in peace and harmony (albeit noisily). I dream of the day that Becky's mother is ok with the loss of her leg. I dream of the day that the oncologist says "It is a miracle, Tom. The cancer is gone." I dream of the day that Sheri is at peace with her hair. I dream of the day I can drive again. I dream of the day the children of Africa are no longer afraid. I dream of the day I win the Noble Peace Prize. I dream of the day that the Boy will actually pick all his junk up and I won't have to ask him ever again. I dream of the day I take a photograph that is so beautiful that it makes me cry. I dream of the day I find out where the Poppers come from in Bohemia. I dream of the day people like the nuns will have enough to run their food bank. I dream of the day I touch the Atlantic Ocean.

Bob the Builder Award: Dans in their blue windbreakers

I got this from a fantastic Rotarian this morning and loved it:

"Within everyday ordinary people, if you look closely, you can find some extraordinary things."

- Joseph Badaracco, Professor of Business Ethics
Harvard Business School

"The summer before his junior year in college my older brother Stan decided to run for the city council in our hometown of 40,000 residents. Enlisting family and friends, he ran a shoestring campaign and won the seat, barely defeating the incumbent who was also City Council President. Not everyone in our neighborhood seemed pleased with the results. The morning after election day, my brother's rust-studded yellow Fiat sported four flat tires.

That unlikely victory jump-started a career that included five terms on the city council and eight years as mayor. My parents, brothers and sisters learned the true meaning of the term "grassroots" - mostly, we were the roots.

With every campaign a corps of fresh and familiar faces called headquarters common ground. Family, high school and childhood friends, their fathers and mothers and others who knew some member of our family. Neighborhood organizers with a stake in the issues. Opportunists cultivating a post-election job or appointment. And committed volunteers whose enthusiasms and motives were not so readily pigeonholed.

Dan was one of these people. He showed up at headquarters in the early mornings, after work, on weekends and all day on election day. Dan did whatever needed to be done wearing his signature blue windbreaker, thick smudgy glasses and his good-to-be-around good nature.

No drama. No public "atta-boys" needed. Dan got it done, whatever "it" happened to be at the time.

One election day I was stationed for sign-holding with Dan near the polls at an elementary school. It was raining - the kind of biting, cats-and-dogs precipitation that New England likes to serve up in November. The ink bled on our signs. Dampness soaked the ground and seeped through our socks and gloves. Sharing the camaraderie of our miserable post, we paced and talked and tried not to lose the feeling in our fingers and toes.

With rain dripping off our noses and cars honking support as they passed us Dan talked about the campaign and why he volunteered. It was pretty simple in Dan's mind. He wasn't a speechmaker. He was an ordinary guy who loved his community. This was his way of making a difference.

Dan was ordinary and special, one-of-a-kind and and universal. Since my campaign days I've met dozens, hundreds of Dans.

Every community has them. Maybe they sit next to us in church. Maybe we run into them at the bank, met them once through a high school friend who knows their family or have kids or grandchildren who play soccer with their kids or grandchildren.

They put on their blue windbreakers and just get the job done because they love their communities and they want to make a difference. The Dans (and Danielles) in our communities have a lot in common with the members of our clubs.

Maybe it's time for us to put on our blue windbreakers and connect with a Dan or two.

No drama, no atta boys. Just a conversation between two people who love their community and want to make a difference. And the opportunity to make great things happen with a few more Dans in our midst.

Talked to a Dan lately?"

January 18th gratitude: a great atlas

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wanna come?

Because of a turn of events of not my own design, we are able to pull it together to go to Ireland for 11 days as a family in June. I want to believe that there are number of good reasons this has come to pass. Good chi coming our way, my Tibetian yard prayer flags are finally kicking in, or that maybe Heavenly Father is showing some tender mercies to us. It has been a long two years, and perhaps a little trip to meet the dreams of three of us (Matt didn't have a dream--except we actually found a country he HASN'T been to!)is just what the doctor ordered. Seth has always wanted to see a castle, Aubrey has always wanted to go to Europe, and I have wanted to visit an ancestrial homeland overseas...
and of course take pictures.
The tickets are bought so there is no turning back now.
Wanna come along? :)
January 17th gratitude: tax returns to help pay for a trip.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I can't help that I am a "trashy" girl

We have a mandatory recycling law here in Kansas City, so needless to say I try to do my best. I guess I should clarify. The policy is that we are allowed two less-than-40-pounds trash bags a week. If you go over the limit, you pay a $1 for each extra bag or they leave it on the street. They don't care if there is one person in the home, or 12. We are expected to recycle all #1-2 plastics, cans, aluminum cans, newpapers, paper (not shredded or they won't take it) get the point.

The theory is that if you recycle EVERYTHING you have been told to, you wouldn't make more than two bags of trash. Sometimes it works. However, the local marching bands have figured out that they should sell these gigantic yellow bags for a ton of money for fundraiers, so that people like us, even trying to recycle, have a safety net when we teeter on our more-than-two-bags-line. I think the marching bands have a secret deal with the city Public Works Dept. Every week it is like a meladrauma unfolding of "how much trash do the Andersons have...?" It is like the unearthing of Capone's tomb and I expect Geraldo Rivera to jump out of the trash can at any moment. When Snarky Belle moved away, she gave us some of her $1 trash stickers and I almost cried. It was the best gift ever! :) I am not kidding.

One time, Tom threw away three empty pizza boxes in the recyles. They were cardboard, and they were clean as a whistle. No grease, left over cheese bits or jalepenos. The recycle men refused them. He tried again next week. The recycle men refused them again. So the THIRD week (are you reading this really--three weeks to throw away clean cardboard boxes!) he showed them. He torn them up into small bits of cardboard (and frankly, I didn't help him...I was afraid the trash police would come and get me)and hid them at the bottom of the bin. He had to be careful though because too small, and they wouldn't take them. I know others who bury stuff at the bottom of their recycle bins but that is a secret that stays with me. :)

So, when Sheri came to visit a couple years ago, I was in the middle of my daily "trash dance" with the recycles. It is a pretty sad commentary when a kid doesn't know what to throw away and what they shouldn't . At least they get the trash to the "staging area." Sheri watched my scrutiny and tortured decision-making on the current trash items, and said something to the effect...."Val, what has your life become that your main work is sorting trash?" That is when I knew I had a problem.

I am like that mother on TV who obsesses over some roll over cell minutes and freaks out when the kids throw them away. When I was in China I picked up so much trash I should have billed the government. I guess I learned it from my father and the Soldotna Jr. High school. They used to bus the ENTIRE student body out to different parts of the roads around town to pick up trash (think about the liability attached to that idea). If we did a good job, we got an ice cream sandwich when we got back to school. I guess that is why I do it now....I am waiting for my ice cream sandwiches....and man, do I have pile of them coming to me.

This picture of this bag is my "Mr. Holland's Opus." My best trash work and I wanted to share it with you. I love this picture. The symmetry, the shine of the black is even better than the four copies of the family photo my mother has (which is a great story to be shared soon!).
This summer, at the leadership academy I direct, we take about 130 people (plus the three rented bus drivers) to a low-risk ropes course for the day. We feed them a box lunch during the event. That could generate a lot of trash. We are at an ENVIRONMENTAL education site, so we have always tried to recycle the plastic because that is what they do there. However, this summer it was a lucky find that they also recyle cardbord....(insert "box" lunch here).
I was hooked.
I appointed myself the "trash lady" and I was off and running. This bag is NOT the recycled stuff...that stuff made it to cardboard box storage. This bag is the total trash made by all 133 people. That was it. Because we could recycle most everything else we used, lunch for 133 only created this one lonely bag of trash. :)
It is true, some kids got hurt who tried throw their two-bites-out-of-the-apple away in my plastic bottle box, but they eventually learned. :) Speaking of wasted fruit, I was appalled how much food was wasted that day....but that is a soapbox for another day! :) Gratitude yesterday includes a chinese presentation that my boy was thrilled about.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Frosty Ice Feathers

Rumor is that some people don't always appreciate all the pictures I like to post. Slows down the computer etc... I read a quote about writing what you want to say, not what you think others want. Since I started this blog to record some ramblings in my brain and to share my photographs, I guess they will have to suffer through. And I mean that in the sweetest Val voice.
Today was a gift. Me and my chauffeur, Tom, were flinging some wood (well, I was reading a chick magazine and Tom was flinging the wood) for Popperville and one the way home, we spied this pond on the side of the road. It just looked white to me.

Tom said it looked sparkly, which I didn't really catch because I was miserably failing at the Nano IPOD song changer, so I asked him to turn around. He was kind enough to do it(I am sure it was some sort of self-preservation so I didn't complain about it the rest of the day). He pulled along side, and of course I had to GET OUT in the 9* weather (anything for my art, right--doesn't that sound like a Van Gogh type of ear chopping here) and took these shots. I wasn't feeling it too deeply. Lovely Kansas City suburb photo. Not much more.

Then Tom suggested I get closer (which of course is an easy suggestion for the one sitting in the car! :)) because the ice looked "bumpy." So I did. Wow. I have never seen ice like it. It is called Ice or Frost Feathers.

A type of hoarfrost formed on the windward side of terrestrial objects and on aircraft flying from cold to warm air layers. Also known as frost feathers. (a real definition)

It is a shame that you were not standing there, hands moving into a hypothermic state to see it for yourself. It apparently doens't happen very often. This pond is flat as a pancake, and it looks like a pillow full of feathers was dumped out all over it.

Every "feather" had a solid sort of base like you see at the bottom of it here. All the feathers were diamond or squared shaped. They look like fern palms.
I hope you enjoyed the nature/science lesson about hoarfrost. :) By the way, just for the record I am thankful for public school.

Bob the Builder Award: Mariska Hargitay

In case Mariska is laying in her hospital bed, googling herself on the net, I just want her to know that I had decided to give her a Bob the Builder Award last week before it was released that she had a collasped lung. I don't want her to think this is a charity case award. :)

My family and our abnormally strong attachment to "Law and Order" is a blog for another day. But let it suffice to say that we LOVE it. This is Mariska Hargitay, daughter of Jayne Mansfield. She is the highest paid TV actress of $400,000 per episode as Detective Olivia Benson, one who investigates sexual crimes. She is part of Law and Order: SVU. She is one tough broad on the show, which I connect to (note to males--I am allowed to use the term "broad" because I am, however, should not. What is a girl to is the way with double standards). :)

When is the last time you felt so profoundly impacted by your day job that you did something above and beyond about it? I don't mean jobs where you protect endangered birds or education young minds about the environmental protection of the Earth....those passions are a given. Apparently Mariska felt something and is willing to put her money where her mouth is.

Mariska is the founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation. She originally trained "as a rape-crisis counselor as research for her role but then started the foundation." It funds all -expense-paid-wellness retreats for survivors of sexual assult and domestic violence.

Go get 'em Mariska and get well soon.

Good morning

Good morning friends from Missouri

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A good water picture day

Yep, it is true. We are in a deep freeze here in KC. If you saw the American Idol tryouts tonight on tv, you would know that cold weather is the least of our problems. We have some seriously dentally challenged friends here in the "Red Meat Capital of the World."
I like winter for the Koi Pond because I don't have to buy fish food for six months. I don't like it because while it is beautiful, it is hard to keep a hole in the ice for the fish. :)


a warm bed

A tag game

I don't know much about "tag" games in the blogging world, so I read this on Cheryl's and thought I would try it out. Just for fun.

This one, you first take the fourth picture from your fourth picture file. This is Tom, in his more healthier days. Ironic, but Cheryl's are of his insides, so now you get the full big picture. I guess you could print them off and put them together. :) By the way, this was taken at Popperville a few summers ago with his potato gun, Spudzooka. The tank top was a joke. He and Matt tried it on and all I can say is too bad the game doesn't call for another picture from the files. They were truly a site to behold. :)

The second part of the tag is to Google my name and the word needs after: "Val needs". I write the first ten phrases it returns to me. Here goes:

1. Val needs to get over whatever her problem is and have fun with Vic. It is true. Vic and I just don't get out much anymore. If I could just got over my problem with him.....

2. Val needs a little help for Ella. Stella! Stellllaaaa! Opps, I mean Ellllaaa!

3. Val needs modern commercial broilers. Who doesn't?

4. Val needs her fix. If I had modern commercial broilers, I think I would get my fix.

5. Val needs a retreat. To Ireland, perhaps?

6. Val needs immunity in broilers. Obviously, I have serious broiler issues. Perhaps I need an intervention.

7. Val needs a win. Nah, I play because the game is called "Let's Be Friends."

8. Val needs to redirect to dopage. Is dopage the same as the pot growing in your 10th grade English class? If so, maybe it isn't such a bad redirection. :)

9. Val needs to focus. Now this could be mostly true.

10. Val needs numbers. Yep, on green sheets of fiberous paper with presidential pictures of Ben Franklin....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Mayflower Anchor and other village stories--Ode to "Uncle" Denny

My dad's best friend, Denny, of about 45 years, died today. It was a shame he couldn't wait one more day since my dad called to tell me from the airport, en route, to say goodbye in person. Alaska is a long way from Missouri, and it sure can be damn inconvienent when you have to spend so much energy just getting somewhere. Better than not going at all, however.

Those are the kinds of friends my parents have and are to others. That is one thing I LOVED about growing up in a small town. I am not a Hillary Clinton fan, but I will say she was on to something when she talked about a village raising a child. That is what Soldotna, my hometown, is to me. The village that raised me--which of course could really explain a lot.

One of the villagers that had a hand in my upbringing was "Uncle" Denny. When you grow up with no blood family around, you become family with the people you are friends with. Uncle Denny is probably one, if not the first, person from my memory who wasn't my mom or dad. He has always been a part of our life.

He is the funniest man I have ever known personally. Man, could he tell a story. :) I smile just thinking about it. If you know him, you're smiling right now too.

The best story he ever got me on was when I was in the second grade. He and my dad convinced me that the Mayflower Anchor was in Denny's yard. In Soldotna. I was soooo excited that I shared the great news in second grade show and tell. Mrs. K corrected me in front of the whole class and I didn't believe her. No, Uncle Denny had it. I had seen it and he told me it was true. My other favorite story he told was when his car was warming up in the driveway at his house and it slipped into gear and crashed into the other cars in the driveway. You gotta have skills to wreck three cars at once, while driving none of them. :)
Here is to the Uncle Dennys in your life. We will miss you.

Jan 13 gratitude

My parents being loyal

Red Bandana Man

I am trying out how to write this without sounding like a stalker. However, since my writing skills aren't that great, I might not be successful. Rest assured, there is no restraining order against me. Yet.
Road construction began on the main road by our house 2 1/2 years ago. What should have taken perhaps a few months or a year has now stretched into this long melodrama of stupid detours and ridiculously slow improvement.
Alaskans know how to build roads. Since construction season is so small--8 weeks or whatever, they can build 500 miles of road in like 12 this ongoing no-improvement/ improvement plan is draining.
I am so sick of it that I wrote the Capital Improvements Director of the city a couple months ago. I was direct and to the point. It went something like this, "Dear Ralph Davis, I am sick of the road being torn up. What is the hold up? When will it be done? It is really inconvienent for me. Your pal, Val." Ralph wrote back his sincerest apologies, referenced some contractor dispute and gave me the direct cell of his assistant (too afraid to give me his apparently) and told me to call his buddy when I am feeling put out or have concerns. I wonder if the buddy could also give me a ride to the Bed, Bath and Beyond, too? I have a concern about that today. :)
One very fun activity that has come from the "Project That Has No End" is that I have made a friend. We have never spoken, and perhaps he has made friends with everyone who drives that way. Back when I was still driving, there was a flag man who always waved at me and smiled brightly. I always knew it was the same guy because he wears a red bandana under his hard hat everyday.
We have named him "Red Bandana Man." That is because we don't know his real name. I have my guesses though.
Red Bandana Man must have gotten a promotion or raise or something because he hasn't held the sign in over a year. Someone less wavey and smiley does it now. Red Bandana Man is moving junk around. I don't want to say I see him "working" because I wouldn't say that I see him ever doing that.

He is pretty old (at least 57! :) ) with grey goatee. He used to lose weight in the summers and gain it back in the winters, but this summer he didn't lose much (probably because they only worked something like 7 days), so he is at his heaviest I have seen him. He has a new maroon sweatshirt for this winter, and doesn't seem as smiley as he used to be.
I have a curious nature about me. That is why I like genealogy. You can get answers. When the family asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year--it was one thing. You guessed it. I want to know Red Bandana Man's name. His real name.
My greatest fear is that one day they will just plain give up on the ripped up road and I will never know the truth. So if you are wandering by one day, stuck in traffic on North Oak, and see a red banadanad man, will you get his name? My family won't stop the car for me to ask. Go figure! :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12 gratitude

cheap dry cleaning

Hey Nuns, can I have a picture? :)

So this is two nuns that we hung out with today at their thrift store.
Sister Lillian, the nun in black, is a newbie. She was 48 years old when she became a nun after working in insurance for her occupation. Her priest said she had nunny skills, and so she began her full time ministry. Running the thrift store is her life. I asked her if she was the boss of other nuns, and she looked me in the eye and said, "Val, I am a peon just like you." Nice. Not every day one is dissed by a nun.
Sister Nun was from another order off Noland Road that wears brown. She stopped by with a non-nun guy in farmer overalls named Mike. They were picking up TONS of clothing that wasn't moving at the thrift store and paying to have it shipped to South Dakota to an indian reservation. She is almost 70. The reservation would like a 53' container shipped every month, but Sister Nun said they can only afford one a quarter.
Sister Lillian was super bossy, sort of ADD, used your name in every sentence she spoke to you and reminded me of a particular former truck driving girl from Alaska I know.

The Nuns Thrift Store

I wanted to see first hand the thrift store that can generate enough revenue (with a little golf tourney on the side) that would support feeding 2,500 families in a year, so Tom and I took a field trip ride to the Mission Thrift Store, sponsored by my new favorite 8 nuns.

This is the winter clothing side of the sort and storage room. There were 5 rows deep, 9 boxes tall and 10 rows of winter clothing donation that they have received. There was a summer clothing side that wasn't as big (for now), but still sizable.
The clothing sorter on site today was a sweet old lady whose name I have forgotten. She comes to donate her time once a week and has been doing so for 9 years. She was cheery.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bob the Builder Award: Benedictine Sisters of Kansas City

There are eight little nuns living in Kansas City North who are making a difference. These ladies run a volunteer-run thrift store, which they use their proceeds to help fund their food pantry. The food pantry has served the following number:
2005--699 families
2006--1146 families
2007--2497 families
2008--2484 families
They do not get any financing from the Catholic Church. One came to speak to us at Rotary on Friday. She is from Micronesia and kept saying how giving Americans really are. "Those who have share with those who do not have." I have never met EIGHT people who were able to feed 2484 families with so little. I think there is a work with those ladies waiting for me....:)

One more

One more. My favorite. I hope you enjoyed you photo trip to China this morning
Have a great Sunday. January 11th gratitude: cameras of any kind.

What I would have given to have a digital camera back then...

I've got it. And it is bad. I want to travel so bad that I feel like someone better staple my feet (size 9 1/2s with hairy toes) to the floor. I have always liked that line in "The Little Mermaid" when the crab says, "Somebody's got to nail that girl's flipper to the floor." That is me.
Between preparing for the China presentation at school, and the trip to the British Isles this summer, I can hardly wait for time to pass by. Here I am in the Forbidden City. And yes, for those who really know me, I do have a watch on. When I travel, it is the only time I wear one. This young man is standing on bamboo that has been strung together to create a boat. The grass underneath the stick is really floating with him on his "boat."

The chinese have no problem with conformity. Especially the older people.

These little girls were so precious. The chinese were the nicest people I have ever met.

The Fairy Mountains
The Great Wall
Val joins ranks with the TerraCotta Warriors at the factory
A kite on the city wall