Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring Time at Tamarac

Ode to spring.

While perhaps not always a fan of warm weather, sometimes even I appreciate stepping outside and feeling the sun on my skin.

Yes, indeedy, once again our lively planet is tipping toward the sun. I'll probably be cranky and overheated come July, but, for now, I feel quite pleased listening to the ducks in the morning and watching the trees bud.

I'm excited to plant some flowers in some pots that I don't have yet for the balcony. I've helped my mom with her planters and Grandma's planters in the past, but I've never had my own (I've never had any reason to!). I'm going to have such a good time picking out bright, colorful flowers!

I'm hoping to take my mom out to Lowe's Mother's Day weekend. She and I can both go nuts, and we can plant together (preferably at her house so she can have the mess ;-) ).

Attached to this post is a picture of the courtyard below my balcony. It's where I take Bailey to pee every day. As a matter of fact, I snapped this exact picture when she stopped to do her doody. The cherry trees are so pretty! Check out the geese, too. We're fortunate to have lots of geese and even more (typically dozens) of ducks!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I can see the finish line

Today, I ran the Cherry Creek Sneak 5k with my mom. Portapotties were nowhere to be found, and the bathroom line at Safeway wrapped around the produce aisle. Twelve minutes to start time, and I would certainly pee my pants before the finish line if I didn't go. So I went in the men's room. It didn't smell as nice as women's washrooms, but it did the job. We were off!

My mom and I got separated within 100 yards from the starting line. I decided not to worry too much about it and pressed on. I loved running by the creek, and after about a half mile, I finally passed most of the people who ran at a slower pace than me. I got in sync with a mob of people that ran at a pace I was comfortable with.

I passed the mile mark, and I thought I could certainly keep going. A volunteer at the mile marker announced that we were at 11 minutes 18 seconds, and I felt so proud because I knew it had taken me about a minute to reach the start line. That meant I was doing 10-minute miles! After a mile and a half or so, I thought about taking a walk break. I heard a woman near me tell her daughter, "We're at the half way point." I decided, hell, I could keep going!

Then came the two mile point. We were at 22 minutes! Insane. I was pretty much keeping pace. I blew past the 2-mile marker, and I knew that that was officially the furthest I'd ever run without taking a walk break. With that accomplished, I thought about walking. Then I thought, "Wouldn't it be amazing if I could run the whole thing?"

All around me, people started to walk. After almost 2 and a half miles, my knees started to hurt so, so bad. That's when I knew I *could* use a walk break, but I thought I could keep pressing it. I figured, the faster I go, the sooner it'll be over. I wanted to run the whole thing.

At one sharp bend, I was psyching myself up to running the last section. I knew I'd feel so good if I could run the whole 5k, and I kept telling myself, "Andrew will be so proud." Then some volunteer announced we had half a mile to go. I think he thought that was a good thing, but I could have punched him. I thought about walking, but decided to ignore the half mile in front of me and keep pace.

I turned another bend, and way down the street, I could see the Finish Line. I could do this! I started to cry, actually, because I was so happy I could do it. I think I even said it out loud, "You can do this." I pushed and pushed. My pace definitely slowed because people started to pass me. I kept at it. Kept running. When there was about 50 yards left, I started to pick up my heavy feet and tried to sprint. I crossed the finish when the time read almost exactly 35 minutes. 35 minutes!

Andrew and my dad were standing off to the left. My smile couldn't have been bigger. I knew my timing chip would put me in more like 34 minutes. I ran a 34-minute 5k! I ran 11-minute miles the entire time.

I hugged Andrew and my dad, I pet Bailey, and I was still teary. I don't think they quite understood the accomplishment. I'd decided on the way to the Sneak that there'd be no way I could hit the 40-minute mark, because that would involve keeping up with 13 minute miles. Here I was with a 34 minute finish time!

When I finally found my mom (who finished in 41 minutes; not bad for our first 5k of the season!) a half hour later, she understood what my time meant to me. I got a big hug from her. It felt so good to make her so proud.

At that point, my dad and Andrew were watching people trot in at 50 minutes and even an hour and more. I think they started to realize that my 34 minute 5k was very, very good for a beginner. I got a great hug from Andrew, and, later, a knee rub.

I think I'll be walking funny the next couple of days. But it's worth it. It's so worth it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday Run

Today, I did 1.5 miles on the treadmill. I feel really good, because I know I could have definitely gone longer. My mom bought me these really nice new running shoes that seem to help my knees. However, I definitely need to break them in. At about the one mile mark, my two big toes started going numb, so I think the shoes might be just slightly too narrow. I'll run in them a mile at a time for a while to get them broken in a bit more.

I walked the first .05 miles and the last .05 miles today at a minute a piece. So, although I did 1.5 miles in 18.5 minutes, I ran 1.4 miles at 16.5 minutes... I'm under the 12 minute mile mark!

Hurray for the accomplishment there. I'm thinking I might be able to hit my highest goal of 40 minutes at the Cherry Creek Sneak. That would be awesome!

Less than a week away!

P.S. Macy's still sucks ;-)

Macy's Sucks.

I'm going to be straight with you. I'm writing this blog to (hopefully) convince you not to waste your money with Macy's. This week, I had the most horrendous problems/customer service with them, and it's left me upset, frustrated, and embarressed.

My sister's birthday is Sunday, April 27. On Thursday, April 17, I decided to order her birthday gifts so that way it would definitely get to Omaha in time for her big day.

First, I went to Williams-Sonoma, and I ordered her some Sprinkles cupcake mix (because it's so tasty). On Target.com, I found a cupcake decorating kit and a book on how to decorate cupcakes into puppies and other cute things. I thought she'd love it.

Then, on Macys.com, I found the same cupcake carrying case that I have. I thought it'd be good for the gift because it came with cupcake pans (for large and small cupcakes!). I went as far to think it would be good for her because she could bring cupcakes with her to school in the case. It seemed like a great gift.

The next day (Friday), as I was glancing through my confirmation emails, I realized that the cupcake carrying case had an expected shipping date of June 1 on it. I was mad at myself for not seeing that when I ordered it. Then I remembered I had checked the info on the cupcake case. I remember worrying when I ordered it because it said it ships in 3 business days and can take up to 5 business days after that to arrive. I remember thinking, "Crap, maybe she won't get it on time." Just to be sure, I went back on to Macys.com to look at the item, and, sure enough, plain as day, it said it is in stock and ships out on average of 3 days. It still said that on the website (they hadn't updated it).

I decided to shoot them an email to ask why it was expected to ship on June 1. I told them my sister's birthday is April 27. I thought, by giving them this information, they'd look into it and maybe get it to her ontime. Or, if that didn't work, I thought maybe they wouldn't charge me the $10 shipping fees.

This morning, I finally got to my email again. There, in my inbox, was a response from Macy's. You won't believe what it said.

They told me that the item is backordered from their vendor (which is fine. Crap happens. But, still, maybe they'd give me free shipping, or a shipping coupon to use at a later date. something. anything. but no.). They then started quoting this law to me. They said that when an item's shipping date is rescheduled, they tell the purchaser. If the purchaser does not respond within 30 days, they can legally cancel the order.

They then said because I did not repond within 30 days, they have cancelled my order.


I made the purchase less than a week ago. I made it on THURSDAY. It hasn't been 30 days. I never received any email explaining it was backstocked. All I'd gotten until that point was a confirmation email from my order saying the expected ship date was June 1. That's it. How can they cancel my order?

I'm not even making this up. Seriously, check out their email to me:

Dear Rebecca Shattuck,

Thank you for your recent e-mail regarding order # 446******.

Recently, we had sent you a notification regarding the following merchandise: CC/CAKE CARRIER 5PC SET These items were backordered with the vendor.

Federal Trade Commission guideline requires that we obtain an acceptance of this new shipment date within 30 calendar days from notifying the purchaser. If we do not receive contact from the purchaser within the 30-day timeframe to accept the new shipping date, the order is required to be canceled. As we did not receive this contact within the 30-day timeframe, we consequently canceled your order for the merchandise in question. Please note that this merchandise has not been charged. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause you.

30 days my butt! They didn't notify me about any backstock until this same email in which they told me my order was cancelled. And there definitely wasn't any 30 day notice. What the hell!

Do me a favor, spend your money somewhere where they don't screw you over. I'm pretty sure Target's getting Julie's birthday present to her on time. I'm going to order a similar case from Target, but not before making sure everyone knows how crappy Macy's is.

Macy's sucks.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tree by Tree

Andrew and Aminta joined me yesterday in planting trees at Expo Park in Aurora in honor of Arbor Day and Earth Day. The goal was 90 trees by noon, but the volunteers rocked it up, and we finished with 90 trees by 10am. I learned that two hours of manual labor is more than enough. We dug holes, cracked through clay, rolled trees into their holes, and carried big buckets of mulch to spread around the new trees. Afterwards, Andrew learned that one of his good buddies goes to Expo Park regularly to play disc golf. It's nice that we know someone who'll enjoy the fruits of our labor.

With my muscles sore but my spirit high, I went to my parents' house to go for a jog with my mom. I didn't expect to get very far, but I was determined to go to get my training started. Surprisingly, it wasn't too bad. The weater was hot (75 degrees), and the trail was full of hills, but I managed to run almost the entire thing (1.5 miles worth). One and a half miles doesn't sound like that much of an accomplishment, but, seriously, the hills on that trail have been known to kick my butt in the past. I ran the entire way, except for on the last stretch when I had to walk up the last steep hill. I felt accomplished when I finished. Very proud. I also started to hope that Disney World isn't very hilly.

After our run, my parents and I played more Wii Golf, and then I headed outside to help my mom with the pond. I was thrilled to see another shovel after the tree planting adventure, but it didn't end up being too bad. I dug for an hour and headed home.
My day off might not have been a relaxing one, but I definitely felt proud for doing so much. Further more, I'm not as sore today as I would have thought. I feel my back and triceps, but everything else seems to be working smoothly. Maybe this training won't be so bad after all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh crap. What have I done?

Oh, crap. Crap, crap, and doubledy crap.

Sometimes, I get excited about things and just jump right in. I guess there's no turning back now.

I was wrong about the registration date for the Disney World half marathon in January. Turns out, it opened last September for 2009. I was so disappointed when I saw that it was full.

And then, a single sentence caught my eye: Please visit the groups and charities page for any remaining entries into the 2009 half marathon.

So, you're saying there's a chance!

I went to all the participating charities' websites. Most didn't contain any information on the half marathon at all. Some did, but you had to commit to raising various amounts to register with them ($1,200 for one, $2,000 for another). So I checked out the group registration at the travel agencies listed...

...and, well, now we're registered.

Ohmigod, I'm registered for a half marathon. What am I going to do? And now I have to tell my mom she's registered, too. I wonder how she'll take that news?

My dad said he'd go and cheer us on from the beer garden at Epcot. It'll be his birthday. What a guy!

Disney Half Marathon

There's a Walt Disney World half-marathon on January 10, and I want to run it! Participants run through all the parks (Epcot, Wild Animal Kingdom, MGM, Magic Kingdom), and, at the finish, runners get a Mickey Mouse medal.

It'll take a lot of training. I love to jog, but I only jog a mile or two unless I'm running in a 5k with my mom. I don't think I've ever run more than 2 miles at once without talking a walk break! Also, my knees tend to get really sore at the end of a 5k, so I'd probably have to do strength training as well to be able to run much further than that. Thankfully, the apartment complex has a gym. Its hours aren't ideal (9 to 5 during the week at 10 to 5 on Saturdays), but, hey, it's free!

In 2005, I walked a half marathon for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. I wish I could remember my time! I was one of the top few finishers, but that was because they served lunch, and I didn't stop long to eat. At the end of the half marathon, they drove us to camp. After sitting in the bus, I couldn't walk another step. My knees hurt a *lot*. That's something I'll have to watch during my training.

Runners have to average a 16 minute mile at the Disney half marathon, or else you're booted and transported to the finish line. That's a 3 hour 30 minute half marathon (gulp). They have a check point every mile. If a runner is not at the first mile marker at 16 minutes, the second one at 32 minutes, etc., they're booted.

I chose the Disney World half marathon in January over the Disneyland one in August because it gives me 9 months to train.

I decided to blog about this because it'll help hold me accountable. It'll be harder to chicken out if I have people watching my progress and people who know my ultimate goal! Registration opens September 1, and I want to be able to run 5 miles by then (that's a big goal for me!). If I'm at that point, I'm going to register for the half marathon. Then there'll be no going back!

Where I stand now:
Currently, I jog once a week, and I stop after about a mile or so. I'm going to have to start stepping it up! Today, I walked/ran 2.25 miles in 29 minutes. I did the math, and I averaged exactly a 12.8 minute mile.

Current goals:
Next Sunday (Julie's birthday!) is the Cherry Creek Sneak 5k. I setting a goal of 45 minutes, but I'll be really, really happy with myself if I can polish it off within 40.

Saturday, I'm going to jog with my mom, and on Tuesday, I'll time myself on the treadmill. I'll do the 3.1 miles and then stick to walking until the 5k on 27th.

I'll be sure to keep you updated with my progress!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do I Need to Call...

...the wambulance?

Tonight was the three thousandth time Andrew has asked me that question. I am now declaring that I'm never telling him one more thing again, ever.

As kids, when we'd fall and experience the normal childhood bumps and bruises, my mom would declare:

Do I need to call the wambulance?

At that age, we didn't really realize she was teasing us. We actually *liked* it when the wambulance was called. My mom would start singing, "Dooodoooo, doodoooo, dooodooo," mimicing an ambulance's siren. Then she'd pick us up and run us around the house singing the siren's song. It seemed to make our bumps all better.

In a stupid moment of nestalga, I told Andrew the wambulance story. Now, I will never live it down.

Any time I wack my hand or tell him a story that involves me getting minorly injured, he gets all excited and asks if he can call the WAMBULANCE. Only he adds in the especially long "Wahhhhh."

A few moments ago, he gave my rump a hard pat. It was unexpected, and I yelped. "Did it hurt?" Yes. "Sorry. Does it still hurt?" No. He didn't miss a beat. "Do I need to call the wambulance?!"

Thanks a lot.

Excuse me while I call the wambulance :(

From Bogey to Eagle and Back

Bath & Body Works hosted a free Spa Event today. It's the third or fourth year in a row I've gone. I just can't pass up free giveaways. Sad, but true.

Aminta and I got up early and met at Starbucks for a quick breakfast. After I polished off my blueberry scone and double soy latte, we headed off for our freebies. Our first station was the makeover station. An older woman was already seated, and the makeup artist was painting away. We stood in line for two, five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes for our turn. The line next to us was moving at about 4 times the speed. I figured, it's OK, it's free! And I'm going to get quite the free makeover!

Nope. After the woman ahead of us was finally made up right, a boss lady came by and lectured our makeup artist for taking too long. "Vanessa" turned to me and said, "Sorry, but I'm going to have to rush through yours." I got a coat of mascara, some blue eyeshadow, and I was off to the next station.

Aminta met the same fate. She, too, was told, "Sorry, but I have a line. I'm going to have to rush through your makeover." Aminta got some brown eyeshadow and a coat of mascara and was told she was done, too.

OK, so the makeover station was not so fun. The hand station more than made up for it! I have hand problems because I do dishes all day long. When I'm not doing dishes, I'm working with the customers and making drinks and dipping my hands in sanitized water to grab sanitized towels to wipe up from said drink making. As a result, my hands are chapped, and they crack and bleed. Cuts take weeks to heal. It's a bit painful. Hand station lady made my day. She gave me all sorts of lotions and waxes to rub on my hands. In minutes, they felt pain free and felt like butter. Hurray for paraffin lotion! She sent me away with a handful of samples, too. It rocked. As a matter of fact, I was so stoked, I went back and decided to take her up on her "two for $10" deal and got the paraffin lotion and a hand scrub. I'm so excited for my hands!

After we finished our morning of beauty, Aminta, me and our eyeshadows went to Sushi Basho to visit Phuong for lunch. Her brothers were there, so we sat with them and colored a bit with Barbie markers. It was more fun than I care to admit. We filled ourselves with cucumber sushi and sweet potato rolls and polished it all off with some chocolate tempura ice cream. Aminta embarressed herself in front of the customers by accidently shouting out something inappropriate about vibrations, and then, thoroughly humiliated, we left.

Back in the car and in fits of hysteria, I realized I was late for meeting my parents. There house is 20 minutes away from Sushi Basho, and I was already 30 minutes late. I quick called them, and they told me Andrew was already there with Bailey. Ooops.

I said goodbye to Aminta and got to my parents' house an hour late. They were talking and watching Tiger Woods play in the Master's, so I figured it hadn't been too bad of an hour for any of them. Andrew later informed me that "he had so little sleep, he was practically delirious, and that the golf show was the most entertaining thing ever." Good for him...

I sat and watched Tiger work his way up to number 5 in the tournament (tomorrow we'll see if he can widdle away the rest of the leaders). My mom made me some decaf, and we talked and laughed and learned about golf. Good stuff. When Andrew had to leave to see his parents, Tiger finished for the day, and my parents and I decided to play some Wii Golf.

Wii Golf is quite the event at Mom and Dad's. We're ranked by our "pro points" which we earn by finishing under par or landing on the green within a certain amount of strokes. My parents are getting so good, that unless they finish 5-under on a 9-hole course, they lose their precious pro points.

My dad has tried to master the art of the pro-points by keeping tally on how often we land on the green in one shot or two shots, and how often it takes one putt or two putts to sink the ball. I think he's got the general idea of the formula down, and so they get frustrated when they land on "edge of green" as opposed to "on the green." It's really cute.

I played the 9 hole game with my parents. I was winning until the 7th hole, when my mom passed me by a stroke. To pass her for the win, I decided to take a risk on the last hole, but instead, I ended up with a +5 on the hole. My mom was victorious with my dad a stroke behind. I lost by a landslide.

No matter. After all, I was able to get to the store afterwards and buy the toilet paper we were running out of at the apartment. So, see, things are going my way.

I think I'll be back to their house later this week, though, to claim my victory at Wii Golf.

The match is on!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Date Night!

I work odd hours. Actually, that fact doesn't bother me so much. Sometimes, it's nice to have my day start and end early (who else finishes off an 8 hour day before 1pm?), while other days (such as today), it's nice to sleep in and start the day out slowly.

The odd hours of my job get difficult when it comes to making time for family and friends and Andrew. For example, today, I slept in while Andrew went to work. By the time I'm home from my shift, he'll be in bed, struggling to stay awake to say goodnight.

So, in an attempt at a solution, Andrew and I planned date night! I had the day off yesterday. After he got home from work, we went out to dinner at Village Inn. I was craving a salad and a baked potato. Yum. We then made our way over to the Tamarac theater to see Run, Fatboy, Run. It's a movie about a man who freaked out on his wedding day and left his fiance at the alter... pregnant. Years later, he still regrets making that mistake, but she's moved on and is dating another man. The main character gets it through his head that if he can only run a marathon, she'll give him another chance. It was a really cute movie. Andrew didn't like how the main character was constantly humiliated and one-upped, but I think he started to get into it midway through the film. At the end of the movie (I don't want to give away any details--it's worth seeing for yourself), I looked over, and Andrew was wiping tears from his eyes. He still insists it was from "yawning so hard." I'll let you be your own judge.

After our movie, we made hot chocolate and snuggled and talked until we couldn't stay awake any more. The evening was perfect, and I'm glad I took that time out to spend a fun evening with Andrew. It's important to hit the pause button of life on occassion.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My 1st Massage

Today, I used my Christmas gift certificate from Colleen, and we went to the spa to get pedicures and a "foot reflexology" massage. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the massage lady led me into a dim room with a small fountain. I listened to it trickle as she massaged my feet. Some spots were a bit painful, but, all told, it was uber relaxing and my feet have never felt better.

After the foot rub, we went to the next room for our pedicures. That, we did together. I got a salt scrub and parafin wax dip, and then she tripped my nails and painted them pink. All the while, the massaging chair gave me a back massage.

It was so, so relaxing. I don't think the massage was something I could rationalize spending money on a regular basis for, but, wow, am I glad I went! It's so nice not having all that foot pain :) I'm not looking forward to putting on my work shoes tomorrow, though...

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Today, Aminta and I made cupcakes!

Our day started at Williams-Sonoma. We came to the store, excited to take their "waffle class." As it turns out, the so-called waffle class was a quick discussion about the new Cuisinart waffle maker, followed by a bite-sized waffle sample. Aminta commented to me later, "We didn't even get dirty!"

OK, so maybe the class was a disappointment. It didn't mean I wouldn't have fun making waffles at home! So I decided to browse their mixes. I've been in the store before when they've offered fun flavors, like pumpkin, but today's selection was a bit disappointing. I could get Belgian waffle mix, chocolate chip waffle mix, or blueberry waffle mix. None of them seemed worth $10. Le sigh.

Waffles were out. Then I saw the Sprinkles cupcake mix Erin (Andy's fiance) had in Des Moines. It suddenly clicked in my head that I'd seen a whole program on Sprinkles cupcakes. Was it on Oprah? Perhaps a show on Food Network? No idea. But I remember seeing an interview with the founder of Sprinkles cupcakes, and I remember seeing how big they were (most people split one!) and heard people rave about their flavor. At that same moment, I remembered telling Toby at work that I would bake a cake for Bruce's birthday on Monday. Surely cupcakes would do. So I bought two types of cupcake mix: red velvet and double chocolate. Yum! I also bought a cute cupcake travel tupperware thing from Macy's. With that, I was set!

Aminta and I spent almost 3 hours baking cupcakes. She's a trooper! In the end, it was definitely worth it. The red velvet (which I remember hearing was their number one seller) wasn't a big hit with me (I attribute that to the fact that I don't like cream cheese), but the chocolate was so, so devilishly good. I "sampled" the ones that broke coming out of the pan, and, let me tell you, it makes me want to break all of them. Delicious. Of course, Aminta and I saved some good ones for ourselves, too. Her mom will get to try a couple, and there'll be a few for Andrew.

So, here's to a good Saturday night, spent baking with a good friend.

Happy weekend, ya'all!

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Yesterday, Andrew and I went out to dinner with Paul and Colleen (my favorite parents-in-law) for Paul's birthday. It's hilarious seeing Andrew with his dad; the two of them are so, so much alike. It'd be eerie if it wasn't so goddamned funny. I think my favorite thing to observe is that they're both extreme worry-worts, but they also get exasperated with each other... even though it's a quality they share. Good stuff.

Colleen and I are two very different people, but we get along so well and never run out of anything to talk about. I love that. I'm used to being surrounded by people who are just like me... quiet, casual, whatever. She's interested in fashion and medicine and the world; she's funny and eccentric, and I can listen to her talk for hours. She always seems to have energy to keep going, and it tends to rub off on me. Yesterday, we got talking, and I started to realize that, even though we might have different interests & personalities, we can definitely still relate to each other.

It seems the job she's always loved is turning into an environment she doesn't want to be in. She feels some of her coworkers are down right mean and nasty. I opened up to her about some of the problems I've been having with my new boss. Like one of the bosses in her office, he seems to thrive on making people squirm. He's hateful and unhappy. I know I need to be above it and not let it get me down, but that is *so* much easier said than done. I'm around him about 32 hours a week. Letting all his negativity slide isn't very simple. Staying above the line on the issues with him is absolutely exhausting. I come home every day and just want to rest, to relax and not have to deal with any more issues. That makes home life very unproductive. Thank god for Andrew!

Anyway, last night was very nice. It felt good to open up to Colleen and hear her thoughts on the subject and know that she truly understood what I was going through. Tomorrow, I'm using the spa gift certificate she gave me for Christmas; we're going to get pedicures and a "foot reflexology" foot massage. Hopefully, the procedure is not too invassive ;-) I think I'll make sure to wear shorts, because I don't want to get there only to find out I have to take my pants off. That won't be happening! Haha. I'll be sure to let you all know how it goes...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Grandma Jo

I think about Grandma Jo a lot. It's been almost four months, and I think it's really starting to sink in that she's not around me anymore. It hurts... a lot.

I've gone back to her condo a few times with my mom. I love it there, and I hate it at the same time. It feels so wrong to make coffee without her being there. It feels weird to take one of her mugs off her wall and know she's not around to have any with us. I hate it.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a memory blog I wrote a few weeks after she died. It felt nice to right down all my thoughts and memories of her so everyone else could know what a great woman she was. So... here it is:

I can remember the first time I was old enough to "meet" my grandma. I must have been three or four, and we were driving to Omaha to visit with my Aunt Bette and her family and my Grandma Jo. We pulled up to my Aunt Bette's house, and my twin cousins, Tara and Amanda, were standing in front of the garage door, jumping up and down, yelling, "Grammie's here, Grammie's here!"

I thought these two girls seemed like a lot of fun, and I couldn't wait to play. I also couldn't wait to meet this "Grammie" character. I met my grandma that day. Strangely enough, my strongest memory is of her little condo (apartment?). She had Fruity Pebbles for us. We never got cereal like Fruity Pebbles. It was the greatest thing ever.

My Grandma Jo moved to Cicero (near Chicago) with us to help take care of her mom, my Oma. I lived in the house with my parents, brother and sister, and my Grandma and Oma lived in the basement "apartment" down below. I have many, many memories of living with Grandma. I'd hang out downstairs with my mom, listening as they talked with each other, sipped on coffee, and ate blueberry Newtons and grasshopper cookies. I remember Grandma bringing home groceries. I remember asking her lots of questions, like what was her favorite color (green) and why (it reminds her of spring). I thought green was an icky color; it reminded me of my brother's dinosaur toys. I told Grandma that, and she talked about the blooms on the trees.

One day in Cicero, we had a tornado warning. I don't remember much of it, except that Gramms gave me a Klondike bar and told me that the sky was green. It didn't look very green to me, but I started to get scared. She explained to me that tornados sound like freight trains, but I didn't know what a freight train was. I didn't ask.

Grandma Jo went with us on most of our family vacations. Our first, to Disney World, I remember fairly well (I was four). She took me on Space Mountain after telling me it was her favorite ride there. Now, I wonder, when had she been to Disney World before? She was also excited about Epcot, which wasn't built yet. I remember a few years later, she went back to Disney World to see it. She told me she went to China there, and I was so confused. I love how my grandma was never, ever afraid to do things by herself.

Right after I turned six, we left Cicero and moved to Chicago Ridge. Oma was very sick and sometimes got violent, so she went to a nursing home. Grandma bought a condo in Oak Lawn, one town over from us. Some of my most memorable Grandma Jo memories took place in her condo.

Grandma was there for all of our birthdays and all of the holidays. On New Year's, my mom and my grandma would buy poppers and funky hats and sparkling juice. We also ate a lot of easy cheese (from the can) on crackers. Of course, Grandma always had her "Grandma Jo crackers," which I later learned were Cheese-Its. I remember watching Michael Jackson performing on one New Year's on the TV. I didn't believe Grandma (or my brother) that it wasn't a girl dancing. We'd jump on the trampoline, and Grandma would let us be as loud as we wanted. Sometimes, her brother, my Uncle Henry, would be there. Sometimes, my Aunt Bridget (her aunt? Not her blood relative...), who also lived in those condos, would be there, too. It was a party every year. I spent almost every single New Year's ever with my grandma. I think I only spent two without her; one, in 2000, when my friends had a party, and another, last year, when Grandma was sick in the hospice. In later years, when we had Bailey and Homer, she would shoot the poppers in their direction. Grandma!

The other holiday that will always and forever remind me of my grandma is Easter. Grandma would put candy and money in plastic Easter eggs and hide them in the courtyard between all of the condo buildings. My brother, sister, and I would have so, so much fun running around, trying to get the most eggs. I can still see my grandma standing there, with her hands on her hips, watching us and pointing. I miss her so much. She'd get me excited about so many things, even the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the Easter parade on TV. I remember her teaching me the song, "I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet..." Grandma dyed Easter eggs every year, by herself. She also decorated a tree every year, even though she lived by herself. It didn't matter that there wasn't someone there to see it all the time. She did it anyway. Grandma went on vacations by herself, too. Once, she went to the Bahamas and brought me back maracas. Another time, she went to Germany (with my aunt), and brought me back Gummi Baren and German chocolate, which was quite dark. I loved my maraca, and I was very upset when the handle broke off right before our move to Colorado.

I remember learning how to open a can of pop at Grandma's. She also taught me things about Germany. She'd discuss family traditions, like passing the boot along for all to drink from. I loved her impressions of her kids, "I fell in the crick (creek) again!" or "Mommy, get me organized!" She'd also sit and listen to me talk, and she'd usually answer with "Uh huh" or "That's neat." Haha.

Grandma Jo was my mom's mom, and they talked so much together. I think of our house in Cicero or my Grandma's condo in Oak Lawn, and I picture the two of them sitting together over coffee, talking. However, my dad always called her "Ma," and they got along famously. My favorite story he told me was of his honeymoon in Vegas with my mom. My grandma was there (she came for the ceremony at Circus, Circus), but she hung around throughout the wedding night in the hotel room, chit-chatting with my mom as my dad was trying to call it a night. Good stuff. My Grandma could be so wonderfully oblivious.

I'll always remember my grandma as a very active woman, too. Grandma was on my bowling team. My brother and my dad were on a team in a league, and so my mom, my sister, my grandma and I formed a team. We played every Sunday at Arena Lanes. Gramms also would take me and my siblings to Magic Waters, a water park. She'd even ride on the slides with us! I didn't realize when I was little how extraordinary that was, but I knew she was a fun lady. In later years, after we moved to Colorado, Grandma took tap dancing classes. I think that is so special, so neat, because she always talked about tap dancing. I remember her teaching me "shuffle, ball, change," in the kitchen of our home in Chicago Ridge. I would practice, practice, practice, even though I really didn't understand what I was doing, until my mom would get mad at me for leaving scuff marks all over the floor.

Grandma became my roommate for family trips when Aunt Jackie wasn't around. This was simply because I didn't mind her snoring. She shared my cabin with me in Yellowstone, and she shared the hotel room with me in many of our trips to Omaha, including the difficult time to attend my Aunt Bette's funeral. When I was younger, I didn't always appreciate staying with Grandma because I felt like I was missing out on time with my cousins. When I got a bit older, I loved it because Grandma was like me; she liked to do her own thing. That's certainly the trait I inherited from Gramms. I don't mind having people around, but in the end, I like being alone the best. I like doing my own thing and not always being around others and talking with others. Grandma and I would talk a bit, and then we'd read, or do puzzles, or whatever on our own. Once, Grandma took me on a trip to Omaha, just the two of us. I don't remember much of it, actually (all of our trips to Omaha kind of meld together), except for the car ride. Grandma always had lemon drops, and when we stopped at the gas station, I'd have to go see if they had more. She'd buy me Tootsie Rolls sometimes, too. I remember stopping at the Cracker Barrell with her. We had fun browsing the store, and she bought me a little puzzle to play with in the car.

Grandma once told me that she took a secretary test. She came in second in the entire country, and she thought her phone would be ringing off the hook with job opportunities. That didn't happen. In fact, it took a while for even one person to call. She realized it had to do with her age, and told me that would no longer be allowed in our times today. I think Grandma finally got a job doing secretarial work for Turtle Wax. I remember driving down Ridgeland Avenue with Grandma, and she pointed to the Turtle Wax building and said, "That's where I work!" For the longest time, I thought my grandma shined cars.

When I was about 12, Gramms told me that she always wanted to ride a donkey down the Grand Canyon. I didn't really know what the Grand Canyon even was. She explained to me that it's this big, beautiful crater in the earth, and it's so deep, you have to ride on a doneky to get to the bottom. I remember asking her, "Down the rocks?!" She said, "yes." I pictured riding on a donkey as it walked straight down the edge of a cliff. I didn't realize there were paths. This fascinated me. "Gramms, don't they fall?" And she said no, they're very sure footed. I ran to my mom and told her about this, and explained that Grandma really wanted to go. I pushed and pushed until my mom and dad planned a very incredible trip to the Grand Canyon. Gramms did everything with us that trip; she went white water rafting with us, and she rode on a donkey down the canyon with us. Hilarious!

Grandma Jo would stay with us on the rare occasion that my parents went somewhere together. I remember lots of "Murder, She Wrote" and "Matlock." I still like those shows (I'm probably the only twenty-something who does!).

To be honest, I have so many wonderful memories and fragmented memories of my Grandma, from the time I was very little, through only a few weeks ago. I really, really loved my Grandma. I feel so fortunate, so thankful, that I got to have her as my grandma. Gramms, who loved IHOP but got mad at the lady who was ignoring her, so she left her only a nickel for a tip. Gramms, who bought her Saturn to drive all around the country by herself to visit each of her nine kids. Gramms, who loved taco salads from Taco Bell but couldn't eat them after the doctor said her sodium and cholesterol levels were too high. Gramms, who supported me when I got my tattoo, and said she'd get one, too, if she was just a few years younger. Gramms, who always said, "Oh, hell..." or "I'll be damned." Gramms, who has always hated shopping, but one Halloween went out and bought me a glow-in-the-dark witch coffee mug. Gramms, who always wore her crossword puzzle T-Shirt. Gramms, who always called Bailey "pin head." Gramms, who would come over to our house when no one was home, would let the dogs out and make a pot of coffee, and leave after we got home. Gramms, who exclaimed at Yellowstone, that she's no longer turning her head to see anymore of those "damn mule deer." Gramms, who decided to take a cruise to Alaska all by herself. Gramms, who I once asked why she doesn't get married to have someone to be with, told me, "I'd much rather live alone." Gramms, who took us to see "Camp Nowhere" and "Don't Tell Mom the Baby-sitter's Dead."

I miss her so, so much. It hurts a lot because my Grandma has always been here. She's just always been here. Gramma has been there for all my Christmases, birthdays, New Years, Easters. I just don't see how things will be without her there to be in them. I feel like an important piece of the family is missing. I can't comprehend what life is going to be like without her.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool!

This is the best public April Fool's prank in a long time. Today, Google announced they're going to set up a colony in Mars:


All you have to do to apply is make a video and upload it to youtube.com explaining why you want to go! And then your video is available for all to see...

Check out people's videos explaining why they want to be selected to go to Mars:

Some people were serious, others were creative, and others came up with some funny reponses (like the one guy who begs Google to please take his dog).


Happy April Fool's Day!