Friday, July 31, 2009

It's Friday and...

I have things I have to do today.
I need to hop in the shower, dry my hair, get ready for the day....
I need to either go to the next town over to see my husband's new office, or
go to the school and get my room somewhat arranged for the new year....

which means arranging desks,
hanging posters,
making my room inviting....

And here at home,
I need to sweep and mop the floors,
put things away,
dust the furniture,
and get my house smelling all fresh and clean again....

I need to tackle the laundry,
wash my fave chino capris,
iron a few things,
and get ready for a trip to the beach....

I don't have time to blog,
or visit other blogs,
or leave comments,
or even say hello....

But I can tell you that a few of us bloggers will be posting a reflection on our words,

We're waiting until tomorrow because we've been busy doing things called living....
And even though some months seem to take forever to end
(as in months with five weeks between paychecks),
the end of the month still slips up on us....

So have a great Friday
and know that I'd like to be visiting you
to see what you're up to
and what you're thinking about
and what your plans are for the weekend.

P.S. I'll probably sneak back later just to see who's around!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's Up Wednesday....

I don't usually have specific days for specific posts, but I found a "What's Up" post over at Jeanne's Life or Something Like It and decided to create my own version of a What's Up list. I added a little alliteration, renaming it "What's Up Wednesday...." and turned it into a quick summary of what's been going on in my life. So, just so you know...

1. I've seen several movies lately... Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Public Enemies, and Pelham 1-2-3. All of them were good; of course, I had been waiting for Harry Potter to come along since last November when the movie was first scheduled to be released. Johnny Depp was in Public Enemies, and John Travolta was in Pelham 1-2-3. Enough said!

2. Since May, I've had three cases of poison ivy, and I don't even garden! Go figure. I think one my dogs must be rolling around in it, and she must have the plant's oil on her when I pet her. (I'm thinking it's mischievous Maggie's fault.... I've never had it until now, and she's the newest addition to the family.)

3. I realized the importance of wearing good exercise clothes last week. I have a fondness for tennis skirts and have been wearing the skirts while walking. Underneath, I wear fitted shorts that come down on my thighs. One day, I wore a pair of shorts that had ripped in the inseam. Chaffing began to occur when I was still more than a mile from home. I couldn't walk or jog for several days. For that matter, I could barely walk at all!

4. I'm better now, thank you. I logged four miles Monday morning and another 1.5 miles with Maggie Monday evening. On Tuesday, I only did 1.5 miles... more on that later.

5. I'm having an extra long summer this year. Our school district pushed our start date to mid-August. Now our governor has asked us to stay home three more days (without pay) to help with budget issues. Although I prefer getting paid for all 190 days of my contract, there's a bright side.... I get to take Hannah to her first day of school for the first time in five years, and I have an extra day of Christmas break to look forward to.

6. It's easier to walk four miles than to walk the 1.5 miles around my block. When I get to the bottom of one long, steep hill and am facing the climb up the other side, I start looking up for a helicopter to come lower a rope to me. I even daydream about telling my underage daughter to carefully, carefully, drive the car to get me.

7. Maggie, our mixed-breed dog, may be part human. Yesterday, she was on her back legs with her front paws on the kitchen island. She "cruised" from one end to the other just like babies do when they're learning to walk.

8. My dining room is still full of boxes, folders, papers, and books from my classroom. I've organized one of our new units into a binder. What in the world am I going to do with all the other stuff? Load it back into my car and take it back to school in a few weeks? Without even going through it? "I pledge to never bring home tons of work to go through during my summer break ever again." And I mean that.

9. I have two painting projects to take care of within the next couple of weeks.... Our back stairway doesn't match the newly-painted kitchen, and it's supposed to. Hannah wants her bathroom painted. I know it will be worth it in the end.... It's just that whole procrastination thing....

10. Even though we're being furloughed for a couple of days at the beginning of the school year, I'll probably go in one day to arrange my room. i love getting it organized and ready for that first day. I would have done that anyway....

So, what's up with you these days?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Running Route

Up until about four years ago, I was much more active... playing tennis and running. After a year of trying to juggle that with my new career as a teacher and as a parent and (well, you get the picture), I stopped doing the things that I should do to stay healthy.

I can't really call this my "running" route. It's more of a walking route. Four miles with a few hills and smaller inclines thrown in. About an hour's worth of exercise on a good day. Seven years ago, it was just part of my running route.... maybe one day I can call it that again. Until then, I'll keep walking. At least at this slower pace I can stop and smell the flowers along the way!

P.S. Mary didn't host Mosaic Monday last week, but I went ahead and created one anyway. If you like air and space, vintage newspapers and the original moonwalk, take a peep here! And for this week's Mosaic Mondays, visit Mary at Little Red House, where her beautiful beach mosaic will have you pining away for windswept clouds and ocean waves.... She also has Mr. Linky directing traffic to other Mosaic Mondays!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blowing Bubbles....

During the school year, I kept a pretty tight circle of blog friends.... Not so much because of some underlying anti-social personality disorder but simply because it takes time to visit and read and chat....

But during the summer months, I get to spend a little more time drifting about and have discovered some fun and quirky, colorful and comforting, artful and beautiful blogs. Today, I called my daughter over to look at Katie Sokoler's Color Me Katie site, where we were quick to find inspiration. Particularly when we found this post.

As soon as my daughter saw Katie's creation, she said she wanted to create a bubble picture of her own. So, she got busy locating round objects, gathering paper, pencil, paints, and scissors.... And began making her own bubbles....

Then we looked for just the right place to take the picture. Living room? No... It was too big. Sunroom? No... It was too small. Hannah's room? Yes... It was just right! Even though It took a little rearranging of furniture to make it happen....

Katie has many more inspiring works.... In fact, we're thinking about doing this in a nearby shopping district before school starts back.

Ahhh. Summer blogging.... It's more than a pasttime, it's inspirational fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breakfast... for moi?

Hannah's self-portrait....

My daughter made my breakfast today. A toasted and buttered English muffin stacked with a poached egg and a slice of cheese with a little seasoning sprinkled on top.

I make these for breakfast quite often, but hers tasted so much better. A buttery-delicious welcome to a new day....

And for those of you with smaller children still running around, your time will come. They call these the teen years. I call them wonderful... at least most of the time!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Medley of Song

Have you ever noticed how noisy nature is?

I decided to sit on my deck to blog this morning. And it hit me. The loud song of the cicada. The tall trees that tower around me seem to be nature's own speakers as the concerto blasts through the air. At times, the symphony can seem deafening as the song rises into a crescendo. Afterwards, it begins to fall into a summertime lull until the next crescendo takes over.

If I need a few facts to back up my claim, consider this: the song of a singing cicada can actually register at over 100 decibels. But, get this... male cicadas are not loners. Instead, hundreds and thousands of the males gather together to sing, fly, and ultimately land on sunny branches as they court females through song.

The cicada songs aren't the only sounds of summer. As day turns into evening, frogs join in the medley, and owls make guest appearances swooping from the trees with their lonesome "woos" seeming to echo in the distance.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mosaic Monday: The Original Moonwalk

Photograph of Buzz Aldrin from NASA Web site. The newspaper photographs are my originals.

I was only seven years old when U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin took their historic first steps on the moon. I don't remember watching the coverage on television, but my older sister remembers. She said we were at our grandparents' house and that my Papa didn't believe any of it was true. "I remember him saying that they were in Russia, not on the moon," she said.

As a former journalist and a space enthusiast, imagine my excitement when I unpacked old newspapers that my husband's grandmother had kept over the years. These newspapers (which I photographed and used in my mosaic) were published between July 15 and July 22, 1969... when NASA launched Apollo 11 and Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon! I'm thrilled to own these historic documents!

Since today is Mosaic Monday, I also went into the NASA archives and used some of their photographs to create another mosaic. Information about each photograph is included below.

1) Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins take a break during training. 2) Apollo 11 blasts off! 3) A serious mood dominates Mission Command during the lunar landing. 4) Earthrise from the moon 5) This is one of the first photographs Armstrong took after landing on the moon. 6) (center shot) Armstrong also took this photograph of Aldrin. When you enlarge or zoom in on the photograph, you can see Armstrong in the reflection on Aldrin's visor. 7) Aldrin salutes the American flag. 8) astronaut's footprints on the moon 9) This photo was taken after Armstrong returned to the module after his moon walk. 10) Mission Control cheers a successful mission. 11) The astronauts await their pick-up after splash down. 12) While in the quarantine van, the astronauts can only wave to their wives. 13) President Nixon congratulates the crew.

One thing I noticed as I looked through the photos actually taken on the moon was that Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was not in many of them. Hmmm. I'm guessing Armstrong was like a lot of us bloggers. He was usually the person behind the lens instead of in front of it!

Wishing you blue skies and joy on this Mosaic Monday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Being a Friend

The two girls slowly made their way into the surf. My daughter, Hannah, who is usually adventurous and confident, was not eager to get into the gulf waters. She held back, shaking her head and turning away as if to walk back to where I sat under the brightly-colored beach umbrella. Her friend was standing in waist-deep water urging her to come on....

Sarah talked to her; I talked to her, but Hannah still didn't want to commit herself to the ocean's waves. She had seen a clear strip of dots and was worried that jelly fish were nearby. The clear water was cool and inviting, yet still she lingered near shore.

I watched as Sarah walked back to her... their heads bending together in conversation. Finally, Sarah took Hannah's hand and the two of them made their way into deeper water. Side-by-side, one step at a time.

Watching them made me think about friendship. How sometimes we need a friend to encourage us from a distance, giving us advice and supporting our decisions. And how, at other times, we need a friend to help us through rough waters, holding our hand every step of the way.

It seems that friendship is on a few of our minds lately. Peggy also wrote on this topic in her recent post at Middle Age Ramblings.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Shades of Summer

Oh, the shades of summer.... from the beach to the backyard, summer is a time to enjoy special moments in time! For me, summer means trips to the beach and time to read those novels I've put off all year. This year, it's also meant lacing up those shoes and going for long walks through the neighborhood.

For today's mosaic, I tried to go for a softer look by altering the saturation a bit. The colors were more vivid on my originals. I still didn't quite get there on the "soft" look.

For more Mosaic Mondays, visit Mary at Little Red House! After looking at the beautiful flowers she is sharing in her mosaic today, you can scroll down and find even more Mosaic Mondays to visit.

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friendship.... in Charlotte's Words

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship. [adapted Ralph Waldo Emerson]

My husband's family understands the value of friendships. My mother- and father-in-law, who are now in their 80s, have maintained friendships with people for 60 years or more. My husband and his brother also have strong friendships with people they have known since childhood. My lovely sister-in-law, Charlotte, is no different. She has friends literally across the globe. I can't begin to imagine how many gigabytes her e-mail address book takes up! It's a given that this family knows the importance of friendships and how to make them, nurture them, and enjoy them.

Today is Charlotte's birthday. Before she began celebrating, she sent this e-mail to her friends. It's a message we should all remember, so I thought I would share it with you!

"My dear friends,

Today is my birthday and I am having a luncheon, ladies only. Now this may not seem like a big deal to you…and you know, 5 years ago it wouldn’t have been a big deal to me either. But for me today…it is a HUGE accomplishment! You see, I have lived in Portugal for 3 years and I am just beginning the 4th year…and this is the first time of living here, I have GIRLFRIENDS.

I just want to say, please don’t take your friendships for granted. I know you probably say that you don’t, I said that too, before I moved here…how could I ever take a friend for granted??? My friends are too special to me…but I did in fact take my friendships for granted, you were always there, and I knew I would always have friends, so why would living here be any different? Well, it took living in a foreign country, not knowing the language to make the shortest of conversations and not having a job to meet people that I might have something in common with, that I realized how much I had in fact taken my friendships for granted.

Thank goodness for emails and for telephone with free long distance calls because I was able to stay in touch with you in many ways, but each year that ticked by, I missed that special bond I have always had with my girlfriends…going shopping, meeting in each other’s homes, talking about shoes, weight, cooking, well, all those things we “take for granted” with our friends. All of a sudden I didn’t have any of that kind of relationship here. Of course I had Mario to talk to, and often I told him he was my only friend…but somehow it was not the same, if you know what I mean. There was a huge void in my life, it was MY FRIENDS…I simply had no friends here. No one to call up and chat on the phone with, no one to tell me “that dress looks good on you”, or “No, Charlotte that is not your color”...again, you know what I mean.

The point of this message is that I now have some friends and the hole inside of me is beginning to fill up once again. It is the most incredible feeling in the world, to experience that emptiness ‘fill up’ again…so that is why I say to you…don’t take your friendships for granted. Treasure them, nourish them, and love them.

My mother taught me how to be a friend at a young age…it was nothing that she did or said, I just watched her with her friends and learned from those interactions. Thank you Mama…it is the best gift you have ever given me.

I have always said that my friends were my lifeline to happiness. You have been with me through thick and thin…and there is nothing in this world that I would ever do to lose you or what we have shared together. It is a remarkable bond that I cherish. Now I can send this to at least 5 women today here in Portugal…they are a part of my heart now, just as all of you are, and always will be.

The best gift that I have is the blessing of your friendship. It is worth more than anything money could buy.

Thank you very much.

Love, Charlotte xxx"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Harry, Ron, Hermoine... I'm Glad to See You Back!

I promise to get off the celebrity and movie kick immediately following this post. But I have to tell you, I'm a Harry Potter fan. A big Harry Potter fan. I adore the books; I love the movies. And while I understand that some people prefer not to read the books or share them with their children, I consider them pure fantasy... a delightful escape into a magical world of invisibility cloaks and flying hippogriffs, house elves and dear friends who stick by you no matter what.

Last year, many of us on the scrapblog site created digital scrapbooks featuring our favorite books. One of the two I created featured the Harry Potter series. To make my scrapblog a little more entertaining, I embedded a video clip of interviews conducted during the filming of the newest movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

The movie has already premiered in London and will hit U.S. theatres on the 15th. So, if you're looking for me next week, you'll find me sitting in a darkened theatre eagerly awaiting the return of Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I've missed those kids!

You can view the scrapblog below or (for a larger view) click on the "scrapblog" button at the bottom, click "full screen," then hit the arrow button to play the video.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An MJ Dilemma

Let me be up front with you before I get started with this post. I have mixed feelings about the whole Michael Jackson thing. Those allegations from the past are hard to ignore. The amount of money being spent on his memorial service is insane. Yet, as a child of the 70s, I can't seem to not mention him at least once on my blog. If you're absolutely, positively tired of hearing about him, move on now; you've been warned!

Part of me thinks I’m out of my mind for shedding a tear for Michael Jackson, a man who allegedly engaged in questionable (if not criminal) activities with children. Yet here I am with my television on watching his memorial service and feeling a sadness for what I'm not sure.

I watch as a spotlight shines on his gold coffin. Musicians and other celebrities take the stage and share their own memories and thoughts of the Michael they knew.

He’s been a controversial figure in the past. Evidence exists that makes you question his morality. His life has been turbulent and troubled to say the least. Yet his music, his dance, his sheer stardom are undeniable. He is a part of music history, of my history, my memories.

I remember Jackson 5 records being among the first of my collection. I remember how my cousin and I would take over the living room as we danced and sang to “ABC” and “I’ll Be There.” We were not much younger than he was at the time he recorded those songs. In later years, a friend and I sat in her car singing “We Are the World,” over and over and over again. Such a powerful message that song delivered.

As I sit here, I ponder the “why” of my tears. Perhaps I shed a tear for my own youth…. for a childhood where I would escape into books and an imaginary world of my own creation. I can understand wanting to have a worry-free childhood and how he tried to recreate that for himself. Perhaps I shed a tear for my own mortality… for the idea that if he can die, so can I. Perhaps I shed a tear for the sad ending to his life. A life spent searching for something – acceptance, love, happiness – something that eluded him regardless of the lavish lifestyle he lived.

Like many others probably, I try to deny the idea that he could truly hurt a child. I want to believe instead that he was reliving his own childhood that years earlier had gone awry. Yet the allegations and evidence speak loudly. They are hard to ignore.

Today as I watch the memorial, I am sad that no one was able to help him see the joy and promise of the life he had before him. I am sad that he may have put his selfish needs above others’. I am sad that instead of inviting the people who truly loved and cared about him into his closest circle of friends and family, he kept the “yes” men and women close by – people who sat idly by, or even took an active part, in his demise.

But we can’t blame others. We are all born with free will, and it was his will to engage in destructive behavior that may or may not have played a role in his death. It was his choice to put his reputation on the line. But still I watch the memorial and see the vibrant entertainer that he was. I imagine the excitement that would have emanated from the stage of his London tour.

In the end, however, it was his daughter who spoke through her own tears the words that matter most…. “Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine, and I just want to say I love him so much.”

I hope and pray that he was a good father, and that these three children who carry his name take from that memorial service special memories of not just a superstar but of a father who loved them.

But now it's time for the world to return its collective thoughts to other things. It's time for us to think about the U.S. soldiers who are helping the people of other countries. It's time to think about the many people all over the world who devote their time and energy to improve the lives of others. It's time to think about the amazing opportunities each of us are given and how we shouldn't squander them.

So, good-bye M.J. It's time to move on....

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mosaic Monday 4th of July

I decided to follow Caroline's lead at Whimsical Whispers and create a mosaic that captures the essence of my weekend. You can read about these photos of mine in the post immediately below this one. She also linked to The Little Red House, where you can find more mosaics to enJOY!

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It's Not Always About Winning...

I was able to watch the winners of the Peachtree Road Race early this morning as they zipped by our hotel on their way to the finish line.

These runners are fast. It took the winner of the men's race just over 27 minutes to finish, and the first female to cross the finish line, Lineth Chepkurui, ran the 6.2 mile (10K) race in 31:30, just one-tenth of a second ahead of the second-place finisher. To put that into perspective, they run twice as fast as I ever have... on a good day.

I didn't run the Peachtree Road Race this year. Instead my daughter and I were on the side of the road cheering for the runners who passed by us.

Including this guy....

who would be hard to spot if we didn't have our own system worked out. (After taking pictures at about 13 of his 20 Peachtree appearances, I'm getting pretty good at this!)

I did say "20" Peachtree appearances. Yep, since running in his first Peachtree Road Race in 1987, Craig has run the race 20 times. Besides counting t-shirts, we also use hands (anyone's will do) to keep track of the math. This year Tyler was our behind-the-scenes hands guy with Hannah looking on and giving encouragement!

Like I said yesterday, winning this race is not the point.

Unless you fly around the world entering races you probably won't be taking the medal and prize money home for this race. Instead, it's the experience that counts. Of standing at the starting line waiting on your turn to start running... of seeing historic buildings and churches along the route... of looking up at gleaming skyscrapers stretched toward a dazzling blue sky... of looking at the backs of thousands of runners as they begin the slow run up Cardiac Hill... of hearing uplifting cheers or music nearly every step of the way... of quickening your pace as you make that turn on 10th Street and begin the last half mile to the finish.

It's an Atlanta tradition dating back 40 years when only 110 runners showed up at the starting line. Today, 50,009 runners' footsteps pounded the pavement along Peachtree Street. Of those, only two walked away with the winning runners' top prize. Most of the others walked away with a cotton t-shirt and a winning feeling that only comes when you've accomplished something you've set out to do.

Cheers to everyone who began the race at the starting line and finished it next to Piedmont Park! You all won today!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's a Peachtree Kind of Day....

This weekend is BIG in America! It's the 4th of July, the holiday that celebrates our independence, our journey as a nation.

While you may not be celebrating at your house (depending on which continent you live), you're welcome to stay and celebrate with us. And while I can provide some photographs of our big day, the mouth-watering ribs and succulent corn-on-the-cob will have to be grilled and cooked over at your place!

If you decide to stay and celebrate with my family, you'll find yourself in the middle of 55,000 runners, 150,000 spectators, and 3,200 volunteers as we head to Atlanta for the 40th running of the Peachtree Road Race. This 10K race has been the mainstay of my summers since meeting my husband in 1989. No matter where we live, we try to get to Atlanta on that holiday.

Photo by National Geographic; Picnik Courtesy Me

One of the exciting things about this largest 10K on Earth is that people from all over the world descend on Atlanta to take part in this event, yet I've still randomly bumped into people I know and haven't seen in years!

Some people ask why the race is so important. If you're in the middle or back of the pack, you're definitely not vying for a fast finish. With so many feet pounding the pavement in front of, behind, and beside you, time is not a factor. Instead, you run it because you can! You are cheered on by thousands of spectators who line the route and by bands whose renditions of "Rocky" and other inspiring songs help you rise to the top of Cardiac Hill and make it one more mile to the finish line.

If you're there to watch, you have to get up early to cheer on those taking part in the wheelchair race. They begin at 6:55 a.m. sharp. Their strength and sheer willpower are amazing! Before you know it, the first men come racing by (and I do mean racing!), followed by the first female athletes. The fastest finishing time for a male is 27:04 and for a female 30:32. Ummm. Let me put this in perspective for you.... My fastest Peachtree time is about 54 minutes and that was while training for a marathon.

Here's a photo of Craig and me after that 2001 Peachtree Road Race:

Although running the Peachtree is definitely a fun experience, I still enjoy standing on the side with Hannah and cheering the runners on. Some of the people you see amaze you. There's usually a group of firefighters running in full gear. We're talking Atlanta humidity and heat. There's usually someone dressed up like the Statue of Liberty. And I'll never forget watching an older man several years in a row make his way slowly up the road with his number pinned to his shirt hours after the race was over, the barricades removed, and cars moving once again along the route. He never gave up!

While I have crossed the Peachtree finish line five times, my husband will be making this his 20th Peachtree Road Race. He's only missed three since his first race in 1987! (Go, Craig!) Here are all of his t-shirts from those 19 races!

We usually have friends join us from all over the country. When we do, we take time to "stoop" (or hang out on the front steps) after the race. This picture is from one of my non-race years when we brought Hannah with us. (Sorry about the poor photo quality. I snapped a quick picture of it this morning).

The day won't be over until we've lunched at Houston's and later taken a well-deserved nap.

I hope you've enjoyed a run-down of what's in store for our 4th of July! If you plan to be on Peachtree that day, let me know; I'd love to see you!