Wednesday, August 19, 2009

We're Up for Family of the Year (and lots of pictures)

Our precious son Alex recently asked if we could have a small family cookout to celebrate his leaving for college. In a weak moment, we agreed. He said it would just be the grandparents, local aunts and uncles and his cousins, along with some of his friends. No big deal.

Upon looking at the calendar and using some common sense, we came up with a date. He leaves this Friday, so we did not want it the night before, as it will be absolutely crazy around here, I'm sure. In fact, we didn't want it on a weeknight at all. Sunday really wasn't going to be an option because chances are people would stay late and Ted likes to have very quiet, peaceful Sunday evenings. That left this past Saturday.

That worked out fine for everyone...except for one little minor detail. Alex was leaving Friday afternoon to go to a concert event with his aunt, uncle, and a friend, and would be meeting his cousin Holly there. Afterwards, they would go to Holly's (near Cleveland) and spend the night. They'd get back sometime Saturday afternoon, just about when Alex's "cookout/party" would be starting.

So, in other words, he would not be around to help late Friday afternoon or evening OR Saturday morning.

Then we found out that other people were invited, via word of mouth. The more the merrier, but it would just be nice to have an idea of numbers for food, drink, etc.

Joe was a HUGE help. He worked like crazy around here. Of course he also said that he never wants to have another function here again, but he still helped a LOT. Ted, when he was home and not at work, was a help too.

I spent Friday doing as much cooking and prepping as possible, so things would be easier on Saturday. That went pretty well, until late Friday afternoon when, after scrubbing and cubing 10 lbs of potatoes, my hands and knuckles began throbbing from arthritis. I have arthritis in my knees, and in the past couple of years it's also ventured to my hands. Although it doesn't flare up that often, when it does, it can be more than a little uncomfortable.

Anyway, we were planning on eating around 6:00 pm, but people could come anytime after 2:00 to use the pool.

Alex got home close to 2:00, then took a shower, so he could be "fresh" when he received guests.

(All I'm gonna say is that just ONCE I'd like to show up at a party given for me and have everything already done and totally under control. There. I said it. Now I feel better.)

I think everyone had a great time!

Pepina even got in on things. She laid in the bedroom window and supervised the pool activities.

Eventually I got some pictures of Alex and a few of his friends. I even got them to form the famous O-H-I-O. If you're not from Ohio, you may not understand, but in Buckeye country, it's a big deal.

There was plenty of pool, sun, food, and drink!

Alex has been whining about how I've been taking pictures of different things, but I think that deep down inside, he's glad.

So, we should be awarded the "Family of the Year" prize for getting everything ready for HIS cookout/party while HE wasn't even around.

Somehow, I doubt that'll happen, but I think he appreciated it. At least he told us he did.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Postage Update and More

As far as my last post about postage is concerned, we have been purchasing the Forever stamps for a while, but had these stamps. I thought that perhaps they were Forever stamps, but just didn't say FOREVER on them because we all know how the postal system doesn't think like the rest of us.

I have NOT received any of the things I mailed back. I know for a fact that the invitations I sent out did NOT arrive postage due. As far as the other things, I have no idea. No one has contacted me about it, if they did. I had a return address label on everything I sent out, so things could have been easily returned.

I still think that the situation shows that the USPS is, at the very least, incompetent.

My calendar shows that today is Monday, August 17.

This is not at all possible, as it has only recently become hot and humid. Additionally, I still have the list of books I want to read this summer and it is not yet completed. I also have an even L O N G E R list of things to accomplish around the house this summer. That, too, is not started finished.

Rumor has it that our younger son is leaving for college in four days and his things are not only still not packed, BUT still not completely purchased.

Have I ever mentioned that August is my absolutely favorite month???


Maybe that's because it's NOT.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And They Wonder Why They're Losing Money

Over the past week and a half I've had to mail a bunch of things. Ted takes care of the bills, so I don't pay a lot of attention to return address labels or stamps. I know where they are (in a small basket on one of the counters) and use them when I need them.

I've sent out a variety of things to different departments at the university Alex will be attending. I'm part of a group of people who meet for breakfast a couple of times each summer, and occasionally during the school year. Sunday night I sent out 9 invitations to breakfast. In addition to these things, I had to send a couple of payments for different things (I don't pay ALL my bills online, just some of them) and a few other miscellaneous items too.

This evening I was getting ready to send out some belated birthday cards (I've mentioned many times that I'm a severe procrastinator), I noticed that the stamp roll was getting low. I asked Ted if we had more stamps anywhere. He told me that he keeps all the stamps in a basket with the bills. I told him that the smaller basket had the stamps and return address labels. Then he said that those were OLD stamps and he had no idea what their value was, but they certainly weren't current. I told him he must be mistaken because I'd been using them. He said he was sure they were old.

So...I got online and finally found out that the stamps that I've been using for the past week and a half are only worth 39 cents. It now costs 44 cents to mail a letter.

I've not received a single mailed item back, and to the best of my knowledge, nothing arrived at its destination postage due. I know that the invitations were received because I had a few calls about them.

I did NOT purposely deceive the United States Postal System. However, is it not their responsibility to notice if the wrong postage has been attached? Everything had a return address label, so they could have returned everything to me. But they didn't.

Had the cost been printed on the stamps, I would have known their value. After a 10 minute search online, I discovered that I needed to look on the flagpole on the stamp. At the bottom of the flagpole "2007" is imprinted. Now I was just at the eye doctor's Saturday morning for an exam and my near vision is 20/20, HOWEVER, I was not able to see the "2007" without a magnifying glass.

Do I feel bad about this? Nope.

To me, this situation reinforces the ineptitude of the USPS. And they wonder why they're losing money.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Four Years

Today I reach the four year mark of a cancer diagnosis.


It was a challenging time for all of us. We had just broken ground on our new home about a month before. I was getting things ready to start the school year for me. Alex and I were back-to-school shopping for him. Joe was about to begin his first year of college.


Out of nowhere appears a five day horrendous stomachache, a trip to the ER, testing all night long, then being admitted, more testing, discovering a tumor in my colon, then surgery to remove it.

Then there was a hospital stay of almost a week, adjusting to a colostomy, relying on the visiting nurse to teach us how to change the colostomy appliance, then thanking GOD for such a fantastic husband.

After that I dealt with not being able to start the school year, seeing our oldest son start college at a local university branch, then a fall outside the orthodontist's office, in which I cracked a couple of ribs.

Throughout which time I had begun meeting with oncologists, and discussing chemo.

Yes, it was a busy time. I can remember saying, "I just wish I could fast forward a few years and have this all behind me."

Now it's definitely a few years later and things are going extremely well. I'm ready to start the countdown to the almighty five year mark.

No matter how old you are, please consider having a colonoscopy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dorm Room

Several times this summer I've told Alex that there will be two single beds, two desks, and two dressers all in a room the size of his bedroom when he's at school. He kept telling me that he understood, but I really don't think he did until he actually saw his dorm room.

At least he has a nice view out of his window.

Apparently the desks are fixed to the wall and attached to each other. I'm not crazy about that, but there's nothing I can do about it.

This "closet" is about 27" wide and the dresser is 24" wide. Hello??? Have they not seen what my son plans on bringing? (I have a strong suspicion that he'll be adjusting his list of items.)

The janitor told Alex and his dad that the boys can take the beds apart or keep them as bunks. It's up to them. I told Alex that it would be a great idea to be especially nice to the janitor, as she is in a position to be a BIG help at some point this year.

Alex and Danny (his roommate) have no idea what they're going to do with the room yet, but I'm not going to worry about it. This is no longer my concern. I've had to relinquish control of this situation because no matter what I do on "move in" day or suggest, they're going to do what they want in the end.

It'll be a very interesting year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


If you're not a pet lover, then just skip this post and check back in a couple of days.

If you ARE a pet lover, you'll totally understand this.

The other day I was cleaning out the refrigerator. When I opened up the drawer where we keep deli items Marina just about went crazy. See, she likes turkey breast. I mean she REALLY LIKES turkey breast. She will sit on the tile floor in front of the refrigerator, waiting for someone to open the door, hoping that they will toss a small piece of turkey her way. Afterall, she's withering away to nothing, as you can plainly see. She jumped up on the counter across from the fridge and leaned toward it so much I thought she was going to fall off. (Yes, I gave her a little piece of turkey.)

After her little belly was satisfied, she jumped up on the other counter, then on top of the fridge, then on top of the cabinets to her perch. When she gets up there, she likes to watch what's going on around the house, and she can do so without being bothered. We wouldn't bother her if she weren't so darn cute and cuddly though. That's what she gets for being adorable and loving.

While I was cleaning out the fridge, I noticed that we had some Pillsbury Crescent rolls that were about to expire, so I decided to add them to the evening menu.

I fixed dinner at the normal time, but Ted was working late. Alex and I were ready to eat, so I began to get things out on the table. After I put the crescent rolls out (you can see just how fancy we truly are here...I baked them on a foil covered cookie sheet and didn't even bother to put them in a bread basket) I turned to take the chicken out of the oven. When I turned back around, a little head popped up in Ted's seat. Now the cats had already eaten, but Marina just likes to be socialable. No, she did NOT get a crescent roll and was moved to the floor after I took the picture.

As Alex and I finished eating, Mimi (Marina's nickname) decided that she wanted to eat with us. I hadn't finished my risotto and just moved my plate aside as Alex and I were talking. Mimi must have really liked how it smelled because she was ready to climb into my plate. I put a little bit down on the table and she went to town with it. Somehow I was able to get a shot of her as her tongue was sticking out.

(**disclaimer** Our table and countertops are washed off several times throughout the day as we prefer NOT to have cat hair in our food. We use kitchen cleaner spray, along with soap and water, and as soon as Mimi was done with the risotto, I thoroughly cleaned off the entire table, especially the area where she was licking.)

Is she not just the cutest thing?

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

But you know how I am, and I just can't let it go. I have to "say something."

Last Friday Alex went to his college to see his dorm room and meet his roommate. They set aside a special day for that and I think it's a great idea.

I was going to go, but I had gotten pretty sick the day before and after a discussion it was determined that I would be a detriment rather than an asset, so I stayed home. However, I was able to give explicit instructions as to what I wanted pictures of (the dorm room from all angles and a shot of the view outside the window) and various measurements.

When they got home I uploaded the pictures and really studied each and every one. Then this one came up and I had to catch my breath.

My little boy has grown up.

He's in that picture all alone, with no parents to guide him. We just have to hope that we've done all we can to develop a strong sense of values and morals.

His dorm is right behind him, the place where he will be living for the next four years. Have we prepared him to live without our daily reminders of various things? I sure hope so.

Deep down, I know he'll be fine. But he's the baby, and I reserve the right to worry about him.

Another thing that went through my mind when I saw this picture...."Alex! Stand up straight! And get a hair cut!"

Yep, he'll be fine.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Don't Get Out Much

A week ago my mother and I attended a bridal shower, about an hour or so away. One of my cousins is marrying a wonderful woman, and his aunts hosted a shower for her. The aunts happen to also be my cousins.

JoMarie and Patty, my "classy" cousins

Confused yet?

If you're not, then you must be italian. That's all I can say. We use the term "cousin" to refer to first cousin, second cousin, third cousin, once removed, twice removed, hundred times removed. We're pretty much ALL just family.

The "aunts," aka my cousins Patty and JoMarie, are classy ladies. They don't do anything half-way. When I received the invitation for the shower, I knew it wasn't going to just be a gathering at someone's house where we have sandwiches, chips, and cake. They like to do things with grace and style, and believe me, they did.

The shower was held in a little place that does special events and catering. The setting was intimate, yet not too crowded. There were around 32 people there and we all fit just fine, with room to walk around the tables.

There were two bottles of wine on each table...a bottle of red and a bottle of white. Not being a wine connoisseur myself, I stuck with ice water. Besides, I was driving. My mom, however, enjoys a good glass of wine or two...or three. I didn't want to cut into her supply. (she's gonna yell at me for saying that)

The italian genes skipped me when it came to wine and spicy food. I've had a rough time dealing with the feeling of being overlooked, but with continued therapy, I may come to terms with it eventually, sigh.

So, back to the shower. This was no buffet, let me tell you. We were actually served each course. Before the salad was placed before us, we had huge cloth napkins in pewter napkin rings. Oh MY...very classy indeed. The salad had several varieties of lettuce, tomato, a cube of cheese, slivered almonds and cranberries, with italian dressing. I was amazed at the flavor the cranberries gave the salad! The rolls were fabulous too.

Then came the entrees...OH.MY.

We had a side of tortellini with a parmesan sauce, along with baked chicken breast with capers, and green beans. I'm not a huge capers fan, but each and every bite of everything else was absolutely delicious. I could go on and on about each thing, but it would only make you cry because you weren't there to share in the feast, so I'll be thoughtful and considerate and just leave the entree at that.

My mom, and her sister, my Aunt D, and if you look closely enough, you can see the crumbs of the wonderful food.

After eating, we watched Carrie open her gifts. She received so many nice things, and they were useful too. She didn't get things that will be shoved in the back of the closet, only to be seen when the closet gets cleaned out.

Carrie received really nice gifts!

As she was finishing up with the gifts, the dessert came out.

If you're hungry right now, you probably should just stop reading and check back another day, because it's about to get intense.

The cheesecake was honestly the BEST cheesecake I've ever had. It was light and fluffy and had such a wonderful flavor. In the middle of it was just a dot of raspberry something or other. (I also missed out on the "classy" gene and therefore, have no idea what it was, but it tasted like raspberry) AND on the side of the plate was the most delicate, juicy, robust chocolate covered strawberry! Honestly, the dessert was almost indescribable.

Assolutamente delizioso!

The nice thing about events like this (other than the obvious) is that generations of women get together and talk, getting caught up with each other, sharing laughs, and there were some real laughs going on that day.

Dinah is on the left. She's 91 years old! She used to have a restaurant and told me that every time we went there when I was little, all I wanted was chicken. And I distinctly remember that too. Chicken, and Salem potato chips. Patty, one of the "classy" hosts is in the center, along with another cousin Anna. Doesn't Anna have the prettiest smile?

My cousin Davene had just finished telling me about her upcoming trip to South America. She's been to Africa twice. I keep telling her that when I go on vacation, I want HOT and COLD running water, flush toilets, a shower, air conditioning, maid service, and restaurants. She insisted that they had all those things in Africa.

Yeah, right.

Here is Anna again, with Carrie, the bride-to-be, and Carrie's mom.

We really had a nice time at the shower and I'm so glad that I went.
I'll let you in on a little secret now...I usually avoid baby and bridal showers at all costs. They are definitely not my thing. However, when Patty and JoMarie are involved, count me in!

Those ladies know how to throw a great party! I think they should get into this line of work when they retire from their real jobs. Apparentlt, they especially do a great job at picking out wine. Of course it took quite a while to find just the right wines. They worked really hard at taste testing each and every flavor...multiple times. But being the perfectionists they are, they stuck with the task until they found something that met their expectations.

This was my "big" excursion for the summer, believe it or not. Keep in mind, that is by choice. I don't like to go places while I'm off work. I prefer to stay home, in my own little world, with everything else going on around me.

BUT, I'm so glad I went...I had a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone.

The wedding is in September, and it will be yet another opportunity to get together with all the cousins and have a wonderful time!