Friday, October 28, 2011

Enjoy your coffee!

We'll be moving our business starting today and all weekend. So I don't have much time to write.

I barely have time for my cup of coffee this morning. I never liked coffee until just a couple of years ago. I couldn't even stand the smell of it. It reminded me of the coffee and cigarettes I used to smell first thing every morning growing up. Yuck!

Interestingly enough.... I now get up first thing and go on my walk and then come home to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and read my devotional sitting in my chair overlooking the garden in the front of my house. It has become the most pleasurable time of my day as it is just for me. It's quiet and it's simple.

Saw this video clip and thought it was worth posting..... It's just a short clip so get yourself a cup of coffee and sit back to watch it. A reminder that coffee is best enjoyed plain and simple with a good friend or loved one.

                  Have a wonderful weekend. Enjoy your parties and time with loved ones.
                            Think of me while you are enjoying yours and I'll think of you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Traveling in groups

My family is getting tired of having their life aired on my blog so I’ll give them a break for a little while.
I’ve been busy lately working on trip planning. I wish the trips were for me but being a travel agent I get to plan other people’s trips. I like to plan trips for groups. It’s a little more stressful coordinating everyone’s schedules but I think it’s more fun to travel in a pack.
A couple of years ago, I booked a group of 27 of us on a 3 day Mexico cruise. We only stopped in Ensenada but truthfully we had more fun just hanging out together.  It was a first cruise for many in the group and it does get you hooked. I like to always have people with me that have never been there or had that experience before. I guess I like to relive that "first time" feeling before you have "been there" and feel the need to compare experiences. Things that might annoy someone traveling delayed flights or cancelled hotel rooms....actually become funny memories (ok so sometimes it takes a while before its funny) when shared with others.'s what our group looked like....
                         Blaine trying out his bunk bed! He was a first time cruiser.
                      Exploring the ship. Always lots to see and do.

Fooling around at the piano bar. Love his face!
                Playing Titanic....looking around for Leonardo DiCaprio to appear. He didn't.

                         Incredible food.... I think that's what his face is saying?

                      Working off the food with a ping pong game.

                                         Quiet time with dad!

Beth and Gary..... enjoying their private table.

Just time alone to stare at the horizon.
                       Line dancing class. My "Sponge Bob" niece was rocking the boat!

A chance for a formal family husband's family. (Only a small part actually)

Our three days together went too fast.

So.... I've got another group cruise booked for next year. Want to join us? Send me a message for more info.

And now an unashamed plug for my business....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Our barn raising

I’m glad to be back at work this week. Home improvement projects make me tired.
I may have told you about the house that we purchased that need lots of work to get it the way we want.  One of the things it needed was a garage as the original one was turned into a family room (in our case our older daughter’s bedroom). Now some people can get away with not having a garage but as I’ve told you before….I’m married to a packrat. He finds all kinds of treasures to bring home. Now I believe he forgets about them but he swears he knows he has such and such and he knows just where it is. So for the last almost 4 years we’ve lived here, we’ve had those large canopy garage-y things in our yard. When one got too crowded….we got two…and so on. Now it looked ok at first until the canopy part started tearing and he feared “our stuff” (read junk) would get ruined.  Funny thing is the last couple of weeks we’ve even heard helicopters fly low overhead at night. Now why is that funny? We live in a rural area in California the place where medical marijuana is legal and we think they may be looking for signs of heat lamps as evidence that we may be growing things for medicinal purposes. I’d like to assure my friends at the DEA that they are welcome to come take a peek and to please grab a souvenir “treasure” (again read junk) on their way out.
So….we bought this metal building that he can use as a garage. We were going to have a barn raising party but I guess our friends caught on that it didn’t sound so fun so they managed to be out of town.  My daughter and I were given the job of emptying out one canopy garage to put the stuff in another. Sounded like busy work to me but he insisted it was important work. He neglected to mention that we would be transporting it all up a slight incline. Now that was fun! The men folk got busy with the task of raising the barn.
Now that's a lot of parts and they did it with no directions. Real men!

Two guys to put it together and one to stand by and watch?

 It took 2 days and 3 guys (Thanks to Blaine and Grant - our daughter’s boyfriend and his friend….we couldn’t have done it without you both!) but it’s a finished garage now.
                               Everything but the kitchen sink.....oops...I take that back.....
                                there is a kitchen sink in there!
                      Did you think I was kidding when I said useless treasures?
                         Are you looking at the size of the tool box?

                             Girls have way more fun when they have a job to get done.

I almost forgot (ok I did forget to add this pic)....the finished product.....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My friend Linda

I want to take today’s post to tell you about a friend of mine. I love hearing and meeting women with a purpose and Linda is one such person. I met her through a friend and neighbor. She invited me to watch a viewing of the movie, “The White Rainbow”, and to hear Linda speak about her non-profit organization. I was moved by the story.
It began with a reading assignment that her 13 year old son was given.

His teacher assigned the book Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan about the widows of India and Linda who is married to Dharan, a native of India, knew she had to help. She and her husband owned Dharlin Entertainment and they produced the movie “The White Rainbow”. I understand you can rent it on Netflix or you can purchase on her website. If you’ve never seen it, it truly is an eye-opener. Living in the United States where much of life is plentiful for so many, we are not aware of so much that goes on elsewhere. I had never heard of what happens to some women when they become widows in India. Here is the way Linda describes it on her website:
In India, widows are considered to be unlucky and there are many demoralizing customs associated with widowhood.
Many are stripped of all color and allowed to only wear white. Their hair is shaved and they are told to give up all adornment such as jewelry or makeup. They are expected to give up spicy food and sweets.  Worst of all, many are abandoned and shunned by their families because it is believed it was the woman's "bad karma" that caused the death of her husband.
Because of this poor treatment, many widows either flock to or are abandoned in the ancient holy cities of Vrindavan and Varanasi where they are told that Lord Krishna will take care of them. Since there are so many widows in Vrindavan, it has come to be known as the City of Widows. Once there, the unfortunate widows are exploited by the town which profits off the various activities revolving around it being a place of pilgrimage. Each day thousands of people come to worship in the over 4000 temples in the city. Widows can survive by chanting in the ashrams 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening. They literally "sing for their supper". 
The widows lives revolve around chanting all day, seeking shelter, and waiting to die, praying that their next life will be better. "No joy, no color, like white rainbows." But if you look at it in reverse all the colors of the rainbow actually come from white light as it passes through a prism. That is why White Rainbow - we want to shift their perspective, from despair to joy, because we believe that they are not  unlucky or unworthy, but that they should be loved and cherished.
After the movie came out, Linda launched a non-profit organization called “The White Rainbow Project” in order to not only raise awareness but also funds for the widows. She takes groups over to India several times per year to meet the widows and they work to make their lives better. This year a group of college students went with her to spend time cleaning the widows’ rooms. What love is shown when we are willing to serve others with no payback in mind. They have been instrumental in helping to get housing for the widows and they are working on projects to help the widows learn skills such as beaded necklaces and sewing skills to make beautiful tunics that WRP sells over here in the states.  
I went to a “Friend Raiser” dinner the other night for the White Rainbow Project and I was amazed at all the good works that Linda, her friend Jon and many others have done to build this organization and to help the “City of Widows”. When you get a minute please check out their website at: (or shop their online store)

Or read her blog:
Or friend them on Facebook, or watch their video and learn about Linda Mandrayer, my friend, and a real woman of purpose.
May God bless them for all their good works.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's a great day to be alive!

There are song lyrics that go:

 “It’s a great day to be alive,
 I know the sun is still shining when I close my eyes.
 There’s some hard times in the neighborhood
 but why can’t every day be just this good."

I’m having one of those days…..A day when I’m glad to be alive.

Why am I so happy today? Well thank you for asking!!  I told you a couple of weeks ago that I was coming up on eight years since having my aortic valve replaced….. the date was October 7, 2003. Today I feel great and I’m thankful for every year/day/second I get on this present valve.
I turned 40 that year and decided to go in for a long awaited physical exam. Like most of us, I put those off….thinking I feel great why go in, right? Well, that visit saved my life. Just in casual conversation with my doctor, I asked if I still had a heart murmur as I remembered my mother telling me I had as a child. No doctor has ever mentioned it to me again and just out of curiosity I asked. He listened and with a shocked look said yes and with a rating of 1 to 10, he rated it at about an 8. Now…. I always thought higher numbers meant good things… I always wanted to be a 10. Apparently not the case with heart troubles. He suggested we get an echocardiogram (ultrasound) done to check it out after asking if I’d have any symptoms. “Symptoms, such as…?” I asked. He replies, “Dizziness, black outs, heart attacks?” And so began about 3 months of tests, doctor visits and ultimately open heart surgery.
The echocardiogram results came in and I was sent to a cardiologist for consultation. I figured no big deal. My family history of heart disease meant I’d probably have to be put on medication for the rest of my life. Not great news but I can deal with that. I went alone to my appointment since I really didn’t think anything of this whole thing. Can you say “denial”? I figured since no symptoms….clearly they were mistaken. It’s an odd feeling when instead of being ushered into an exam room at the doctor’s office, you are instead ushered into his personal office. UH-OH! It felt like a scene out of a movie where they sit the husband and wife down to tell one of them they have a year to live. Except….I was alone…and felt great….and this was not a movie! He cut straight to the point…. Except that I didn’t hear most of it. Something about those same questions of symptoms again, blah, blah, blah, valve over 68 percent blocked, blah, blah, enlarged chamber, very good odds of survival/recovery from surgery. Valves can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years depending on the type you choose.  Back up a flipping moment ……surgery? How about drugs? Hasn’t someone come out with valve busting drugs? Let’s get on it people!!
I had more tests to reconfirm that yes this was indeed necessary since it was a birth defect and the valve was calcifying and needed to be replaced before more damage was done. Three months after my physical exam… I was in having my first open heart surgery. Now I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t scared. I had two teenage girls at home.  Jessica had just turned 16 just three days prior to surgery date, the same age that I had been when my mother died. Melissa was only 13. It all seemed kind of cruel to me.
Now…here’s where I could have curled up in a ball and taken a woe is me attitude and let the worry take over. But that’s not the person I had become. I decided that I was going to look for the good in all of this. The lesson to be learned and boy, were there lessons!! On the nights that I couldn’t sleep because of the racing thoughts, I would take out my Bible and open randomly and a message meant just for me would pop out of those pages. Awesome!
I began finding people that showed up in my life that could only have been sent by God. Like the day I went in for an angiogram, (where they go up through your main artery and shoot dye to see where the blood flows) and the nurse that would be assisting was an old friend from when my girls were in scouting. When I knew her, she was a stay at home mom and now she was nursing and I got to have a friend with me. Or the day that I got teary eyed in the doctor’s office and the nurse that came in the room looked just like my mother’s friend Alice who was a nurse and she gave me a big hug and comforting words. My dear friend, Eileen, had been a cardiac nurse for years and she had paved the way and made sure that her old colleagues were scheduled to work that day so she knew who would be watching over me. Isn’t that cool? I truly was in God’s hands!
It started getting comical all the messages I was receiving. Read my blog post about God speaking to me at Wal-Mart that I wrote earlier this year.
 Cards, flowers, encouraging words were coming in from all over.   I spent my last month pre-surgery doing the “getting my affairs in order” ….having a will written up (we’d been meaning to do that anyways), making sure carpools were lined up, having Aunt Marilyn lined up to come and care for the girls and cook for us (she was a huge blessing to us). The ladies at church were praying for me.  They met on Tuesday mornings and my surgery was scheduled for a Tuesday morning. Coincidence? I think not!
The last night before surgery, my phone was ringing off the hook with people calling to wish me well and many were teary-eyed conversations. Jessica finally looked at me and said “How are you doing all this, Mom? People are calling you and you end up comforting them.”  I shared with her how God had been leading me through this by putting the right people in my path and I wasn’t afraid of the final outcome.

You are reading my words so you know that surgery went off well. I was in the hospital for a week due to collapsed lungs, a complication we weren’t expecting. I had periods of hallucinations when the hospital had forgotten to keep giving me a prescription that I had been taking pre-surgery and the girls thought it was funny to see mom imagining mice running up the hospital room walls. But I came out very thankful to be here.

Today, I’m in great health. I power walk my hills daily near my house. I’m not on any medications and get my yearly check- ups so they can check the progress of the valve.  No one knows how long I get to keep this valve. And I’ll get to go back in and do it all again.
And every year on October 7th, my friend, Eileen and I celebrate life. Mine.
So friends… matter what you are going through….It’s a great day to be alive.
Learn the facts on heart disease so you can live to tell about it too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Pookie!! Part 2

To continue with last week’s post about Pookie’s birthday….. Today is the actual day! So be sure to wish my girl a Happy Birthday if you see her!!  If you missed why the name Pookie....go back and read part 1.
Now I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that Jess is too much of a girly-girl with all that Barbie, girly nail polish and pink stuff I talked about. On the contrary…..she’s got a whole other side to her.
One time, her cousin Patrick decided to tease her in front of a group of boy scouts and this is what she did to him….

Now I’ve always taught my girls to apologize if they’ve been a little tough on someone so that night she went to Pat’s baseball game to cheer him on and tell him that she loves him.

                                          He wasn’t so happy that his team got to see that.
She still loved dressing up as she got older but it didn’t necessarily have to be pink anymore.
                                            Saturday Night Live Party as Mary Catherine Gallagher

Who says superstars have to act like a lady when in a prom dress?

As I said before, she played sports….lots of them. not an action picture....but mom always loved this indulge me today.

Calling dad to tell him she got a goal? tell him she won the bet and he owes her $50!!

 Many years she played field hockey and got a taste of sports injuries…nothing major but it resulted in her love for medicine….

that led her to getting a bachelors degree in Kinesiology.....

                                         Which is leading to a Doctorate in Physical Therapy……
                                        This is the ceremony where she earned her white coat.
She will be finished with school in August 2012 at which time….she will have been in school for 20 years straight!!! You go, girl!!! Awesome accomplishment!!!

She loves her family (too many of you to show in pictures),

she loves her Ecuadorean heritage,

Vacationing in Ecuador with one foot on each side of the Equator!

                              she loves her (very spoiled) dog Lola, who apparently is not sharing

                            and she loves watching football with Dad and boyfriend, Blaine. 
                                             Obviously, the Chargers number one fans! got a glimpse of the girl that we know and love.                                            
                                                  I’d say that Pookie made some great choices!!!
                                                  We are proud of you Jessica. Happy Birthday!!!