Saturday, November 21, 2009

Unfriend me...

So the New Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2009 is unfriend. That is hysterically funny to me. One year ago I had heard of Facebook but I didn't really get the point of it. Sue me, I'm old. "What do you do on it?" I kept asking. But my friend Saba's husband works for FB and it kep coming up. Then, a friend from back in IL (thx Julie) strongly urged us to get on FB so we could communicate more easily. I did. Judy did. The rest is...uh-oh, cliche coming...history. (I couldn't help myself!)

Today I spend an embarrassing-to-admit-amount of time of FB. No one has 'unfriended' me yet...I hope. If they have, I haven't noticed, so we must not have been close. lol Meanwhile, I think that FB and Skype are the happy technological advances in staying close and connected with friends and family who may be far away geographically and re-connecting with friends from the distant past. Ironic really, when technology and internet usage create two bubbles in my living room as my twin and I sit next to each other with our laptops on We often can go an evening without speaking, plugged into the world wide web as we are. FB is probably to blame for my greatly decreased blogging as well--although really the broken arms thing didn't help. I'd think about this phenomenon a little more, but I have food to serve in Cafe World and I think my fish need feeding in Fishville...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unemployment in Color

I found this excellent animation of the increasing unemployment rates at Pundit & Pundette. If it wasn't highlighting such a terrible problem it would be cool. Watch the country go from employed to unemployed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Northview Marching Knights Rock!

My niece Allison has been a member of the Northview Marching Knights for the past four years. Today they won the state championship for the second year in a row--a wonderful finish to her band career in her senior year. Congratulations, Ali! Love ya, Babe.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kisses on a Postcard

I am a regular reader of a blog called, Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover. It is written by an erudite and witty woman named Elaine. She writes an eclectic array of posts but her focus is on book reviews. She is an avid reader. One happy benefit of reading her blog, besides enjoying her writing and getting leads on some great books; is that she sometimes holds drawings with books as prizes. I am the lucky winner of one such drawing for Kisses on a Postcard by Terence Frisby. As I recall the conditions for winning were that you needed to read the book, love it, and post about it. No problem. I read it. I loved it. Here is my post about it.

Kisses is one of those rare books that takes you back to childhood and yet by the strangeness of the childhood you experience it in a whole new way. As the subtitle of the book tells us, it is "A Tale of Wartime Childhood" being Terence Frisby's memories of his evacuation from London to Cornwall during World War II. To me the book had the wonderful tone reminiscent of the movie "How Green Was My Valley". (I'm wishing that I had read that book now, by the way.) Terence went on to a career as a playwright and actor/director/producer which completely explains the gifted way he was able to evoke the era, describe the scenery, and present the unique characters of Cornwall. The music of their speech echoed in my head and I was able to visualize the time and place even though I have never been there. It was a multi-sensory experience. Words fail me, as I try to describe how well he was able to take me (a forty-nine year old Midwesterner) and drop me in rural England during the war.

The story is this: Terry and his older brother Jack are sent into the countryside of England at the start of World War II, along with thousands of other children of that time. Because their parents have no idea where they will end up or with whom, Mrs. Frisby invents a kisses code for the postcard they will send when they get to wherever they end up. One kiss if it's bad, two if it's okay, three kisses if it's good. If it's bad, she promised to come and get them right away. After ending up in Cornwall, chosen by Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack, (who works for the railroad just like their dad) Jack and Terry send the postcard back to their mother with kisses all around the card. They were motivated by their happiness in their placement with Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack and a unusually thoughtful streak for boys of that age (7 and 11), they wanted to ease the minds of their mother and father back in London.

What follows is a engaging recollection of the three years that Terence Frisby spent in Doublebois, Cornwall. It is about War from the perspective of a child, as well as, his interactions with an array of the village inhabitants--complete with their flaws, inner sadnesses and their kindnesses. I'm not fond of crying while reading--but I have to say when the lump started in my throat and the tears filled by eyes, it was worth it. I was fascinated that the Terry who made sure there were kisses around the postcard, still groused about having to write a weekly letter to his mother, and was the tender-hearted boy who tries to arrange with his brother Jack that one of them should stay behind to live with Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack after it became time to return to live with their parents in London. Neither boy wanted to see Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack left alone, you see.

Perhaps the best sign of how enchanting this book was to me, I didn't want it to end. As Jack and Terry got on the train and waved goodbye to Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack, I wanted the story to continue. I wanted to learn how Jack and Terry would handle living once again with their parents after three years with foster parents who perhaps had different behavioral expectations. How did they handle being in suburban London after three years in the spacious outdoor cathedral that Terry described as Cornwall? How did Terry become an author? What career did Jack follow? Did Terry and Jack get to see Auntie Rose and Uncle Jack again? If Mr. Frisby writes the next part of his autobiography, I am so there. You should be too.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Where did it all go?

July 1st-I broke both my arms and there went my summer. It's weird really because ordinarily I would say that staying home for five or six weeks with nothing to do and no responsibilities was heaven on a stick. To my surprise, it was not. I was bored. Normally, I disdain boredom. It is for the unimaginative who do not have interests. I look down my nose at such people. The gifted (me) among us can always find something to do from the rotating list of things they enjoy. But there appears to be a qualitative difference between staying at home because you want to and staying at home because you have to. I have discovered that I find it frustrating to be in my home without having the ability to get up and clean and organize things. I do not enjoy leisure when laundry or dishes are nagging at my mind. Having two working arms seems to enhance my pleasure in reading because I can hold the book comfortably. I like watching TV because I can, not because there is nothing else that I am able to do. The day my arm braces were officially removed I did exactly the same things I had been doing with the arm braces on but I enjoyed it so much more. I am flabbergasted by the difference 'choice' makes in my attitude.

So July 1 to August 6th--dudsville. Stuck at home.

August 6th to August 18th...the clock counted down to my first day back at school. Aware that the sands were slipping through the hourglass, I kick started my reading and raced through eight or ten books. I started organizing the pantry and cleaning out my closets and drawers. I whizzed through the real estate shows saved on the DVR. Productivity my name is Robin!!

Now, the hour glass is nearly empty. We have a week of pre-service starting tomorrow. I will probably, in the contrary way of people, think with regret upon my six weeks of home confinement when I am rushing through the hectic days of school. For now though, I'm excited to be going back out into the world and I'm nervous about my ability to sleep normal hours since I've gotten into the habit of sleeping the 3 to 12 shift. I leave you with these thoughts.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

New Elliptical Trainer

Our Precor Elliptical Trainer was delivered yesterday by two very nice guys. Judy and I have both had our first workout session on it. I am so glad we purchased it. It is a perfect piece of exercise equipment and it's so quiet. I LOVE that. Now to get fit...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Power to the People

This is why customer service is really the most important element in a business.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cute as the dickens

Connor was a dee-light to have around the house for a week even after I broke my arms. I really enjoyed playing with him and watching him play. I also like photographing him. He reminds me of Andi so much as that age. Look at those ears!! Pure Andrea.

Broken Arms

So here's what I have learned about having two broken is very inconvenient and it could have been worse. With two broken arms you cannot scratch your ear or neck. It is difficult to eat because you can't get food to your mouth easily. You can't pick things up if they are the slightest bit heavy. You can't open packages or containers or doors. Having a cast makes you very hot too. On the plus side, I can walk. I like the casted arm better than the braced arm because the cast stops me from doing most things that might hurt while the brace lets me do it and regret it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Bad Luck

Well, as those who know me on Facebook are aware, I went to the zoo and fell getting off the rope bridge and broke both my arms. Yep. You read it correctly. I broke the radial head on the left arm and the radial neck on the right arm. Since being in two casts is unworkable, I am in a cast for the left arm and a range of motion brace for the right arm. I am also being waited on hand and foot by my sisters and niece. I am trying to look on the bright side but my abilities are pretty limited. Blogging will be light.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roll 'em out, Roll 'em in...

Here in Maryland, the capitol of destination vacations, we sent home our first summer visitors this morning. This sending off was not without its problems however. We left a leetle bit late for the airport and Karen and Allison ended up actually MISSING their flight! When Karen called me to tell me that--I was upset and mortified. This is why they say get to the airport an hour and a half before your flight leaves. Apparently, Karen and Ali got stuck in a long security line and that is all she wrote. They got a flight out later in the afternoon and ending up landing in Indianapolis at 5:40 p.m. Since we had planned Karen's return flight so that she would be able to have some time at home before returning to work tomorrow morning that was a complete flop. This is also the reason why one should always carry a book or other reading material with you when traveling. Five extra hours in an airport is a lot of time to fill. Judy and I did offer to go back and get them, but Karen wasn't willing to leave the safety of that side of the security check-in, lest lightning should strike twice.

Meanwhile, today was spent refitting the "ship" for the next set of visitors. I did loads of laundry (towels mostly) and general straightening up. Andrea, Jeri, and Connor will be arriving here on Tuesday morning. We have tentatively planned activities which we think will be fun for a four year old. I have suggested going to the Please Touch Me Museum and Hershey Park. On Friday we are driving into D.C. to stay in a hotel through Sunday so that we can celebrate the Fourth of July there. Hopefully we'll have a view of the fireworks over the National Mall/Capitol from our hotel room.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ford's Theater and D.C.

Karen had only a couple of specific requests for her latest vacation visit with us. She wanted to see President Lincoln's Cottage, Ford's Theater and Peterson House, and walk the perimeter of the White House and get pictures. Last year we visited the White House and took the tour, but they don't allow you to take anything in with you. Not a purse or a camera or a cell phone---just car keys and a wallet for id and money. As a result, we have no pictures of the White House exterior. Karen wanted to correct that lack and so did I. It does requires some planning though because the distances to the White House, in terms of walking are great. None of the Metro stations nearby are that close, either.

As for fulfilling Karen's requests--we saw President Lincoln's Cottage on Wednesday. We discovered then that Ford's Theater was closed for a seven day maintenance cycle. It was planning to re-open for the weekend, however, so we headed to D.C. early this morning. Well, early for US, anyway. We rarely leave the house for our sightseeing expeditions before 9:00 am...well, we've NEVER left earlier than 9 before. Usually it's more like 10 or 11. Today we managed to get out of the house by 8:30 am. WOW!

We determined to try our luck with parking somewhere downtown for a change. (Usually we park at Arlington and use the metro.) I had the addresses of a couple of parking garages but our Garmin GPS did not seem to recognize the addresses. Frankly, D. C. streets are so bizarro with the same streets in different quadrants that I'm amazed anybody figures out anything with regard to traffic/driving/navigating. As luck would have it, we went to F street and parked in a great parking garage right next to Ford's Theater. I mean, RIGHT next to it. And it was only $10 for the whole day. That is unbelievably cheap for in the city.

The line for the 10 o'clock ranger tour at Ford's Theatre was down the block and around the corner. We got in line, but we couldn't get tickets for entry until the 11:00 o'clock show. We chilled in line. It was cool and the breeze was pleasant and we were in the shade. The time passed quickly. They seat everyone in the auditorium for the ranger talk which does take a bit of time. The ranger, Arthur Doyle (middle name: Luke) did a very interesting talk about this pivotal moment in American history---the assassination of President Lincoln. You are allow to take all the pictures that you want to take which was really nice. To really have great background knowledge and context for the tour, I recommend the books, Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer about John Wilkes Booth; The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln , and Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They are highly readable and reliable.

After the presentation we went across to Peterson House, which is the house where Lincoln actually died the next morning. I had imagined a completely different physical set up based on my reading and photographs. I thought they took him to the second floor, but it was actually on the first floor. I also imagined that the bed upon which they laid him, was across the room--in actuality, the bed was right beside the door.

After a quick visit to the gift shop, (I had to get a magnet for the Wall of Fame) we walked around the corner to look in the alley behind the theater where Booth had a horse waiting, and from which he was seen exiting. It doesn't appear to still have an opening into it from the back of the theater.

We then walked down to the White House with a stop at the Spy Museum restaurant for a snack. The thing to always remember about D.C. The blocks are LONG and the pavement is HOT. The heat just bounces off the white pavement and the glare of the reflected light makes any journey seem to last forever. The blocks really are extra long, I think.

We arrived at the White House and headed down along E street to get photos of the back of the White House. I was moving a bit faster than the others and I arrived sooner than they did. As I finally got to a spot where I could see the back of the White House, a metro police officer started loudly telling everyone to keep walking and to stop taking pictures. The rumor was that either A) the Obama children were coming out to play and the area had to be secured; or B) Obama was coming in by helicopter and the area needed to be secured. Those were just rumors that the crowd made up. We later found out that there were some protests occurring in the front of the White House and some security concerns developed and that was why they cleared out the area. The result of all this hullabaloo was that I got one photograph of the back of the White House and it was fuzzy because my camera focused on the fence not the house.
Judy and I were pretty wiped by this time. So while Karen was still gung-ho and wanted to head for the front of the White House; we headed for the air conditioning of the White House Visitor Center. Ali went with Karen in support. I shopped while Judy read the exhibits. Eventually Karen and Ali came back with photos and stories about protesters and the area being cleared three times total for security concerns.

Now we were all tired. We stopped for drinks. We stopped to buy a purse from a vendor. Then we hit the car and collapsed. After an interesting tour of some never before seen neighborhoods in D. C. (the word "lost" was bandied about) we eventually made our way out of the city via 295 and then home.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Putt Putt Gold

On one of our trips to Best Buy this week, we discovered a Wii Putt Putt Golf game. We have enjoyed it tremendously, which has caused us to stay up way too late on several occasions. Today we decided to see if all our practice on the Wii had helped at all in real life. Speaking for myself. Not so much.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lincoln's Cottage and the Unexpected

Today's vacation sightseeing plan was to go to President Lincoln's Cottage, also known as, The Soldier's Home in northwest D.C. We had wanted to go last year but ran out of sightseeing gas. This year we made sure to do it early, and bought actual tickets online in advance, thus, double securing our intentions. We were going to follow the Cottage up with a visit to Ford's Theatre and the Peterson House. This is the Lincoln vacation after all. Unfortunately, when I went online to do some basic research about Ford's Theatre (as the advance man) I discovered that the Theatre is closed down for five days this -week for facility cleaning etc. What bad luck. It just re-opened relatively recently after its big remodel! Quel domage!
Back to Lincoln's Cottage--Lincoln spent 25% of his presidency at this summer home. It has been recently restored to its state during the Lincoln Presidency. It is an nontraditional restoration because the interior is virtually empty of furniture. Instead of highlighting the furnishings, the tour uses multimedia and informative talks by tour guides to talk about how his time at the cottage impacted his presidency by shaping his experiences. The visitor's center attached to the cottage has a small but wonderful museum attached with more multimedia historical displays. There's also a gift shop and a very clean restroom (and we know how important that is right?!). We really enjoyed our time there. After the tour we got some wonderful pictures of the exterior of the house with its truly magnificent magnolia tree and a statue of Lincoln next to a horse.
So after having a great tour at Lincoln's Cottage, we were a little under-planned for what to do next. We couldn't just leave D.C--it was only mid-day. (Our timed entry had been 11:00 o'clock at L.C.) Karen has wanted to get some good photos of the front of the White House and to see Blair House ever since our White House tour last summer. They don't let you take anything in to the W.H. and there is no place to store your stuff so we don't have any good close ups of the W.H. exterior. We optimistically headed in that direction hoping to find parking. HAH! Some hope.

Eventually we ended up crossing the Potomac behind Lincoln's Memorial and passing behind Arlington Cemetery. That's when serendipity struck. We passed the Marine Corp War Memorial of the Iwo Jim Sculpture. I didn't even realize that was there! We stopped and spent some time at this stunning memorial honoring all the marines who have served our country in armed conflicts since 1775.

Since we were right beside the George Washington Parkway, we then decided to continue the theme and see if we could figure out how to get to the newish Air Force Memorial. We could (with the help of the nice man at the security gate who pointed out the obvious to everyone but us parking lot for visitors to the Air Force Memorial which was across the street. We then spent some time at that truly stunning memorial. The view over D.C. is great---even with the heavy foliage.

Since it turned out we were up the hill from the Pentagon Memorial (to the victims of the 9-11 attacks) we made that memorial our next stop. Or we tried to, anyway. Unfortunately after circling the largest parking lot known to man, we left because all the parking was restricted. The Pentagon Memorial is very tourist unfriendly as near as we could see. Or maybe it is not set up for those of us who are "where to go and park" challenged. Judy was pretty tired from battling the heavy traffic and we were all getting pretty hot by then so we resolved to visit the Pentagon Memorial on Friday after doing some research about where to park.

In the end, I consider it a good day of sightseeing when we go to new places and I have a magnet to put on the refrigerator's "Places We Have Been" display.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I tell Judy this alll the time...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Gettysburg Photos

Allison displays a fine understanding of the Union fishhook shaped troop deployment while we have a snack in the visitor center.

John Buford's memorial statue. Buford, (played by Sam Elliott in the movie "Gettysburg") went up into the tower of the Seminary to get a look at the lay of the land. He set the pickets that saw the Confederates coming and one of them fired the first shot in the battle. One of our favorite phrases, "This is good ground." gets repeated a lot when we are at Gettysburg. (Along with a lot of moaning about wanting to see Hancock one more time.)

David Wills House--a Lincoln stayed here moment.

Allison at the monument to the High Water Mark and at the marker for the Angle.

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