Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: A Year in Review

During a conversation with one of the bankers on my team, I heard about a traditional Jewish holiday in which the individual spends the day praying. It wasn't anything ground breaking, most religions have some type of holiday devoted to inner reflection and asking for help from a higher power, but I remember this conversation because of a belief he mentioned. The day's purpose was to prove worthiness and the activities of that day would supposedly determine how the next year went for the person. I am sorry that I don't remember more details of which holiday, but I pay attention to the holidays of other religions as much as I pay to the holidays of the religion I was raised on. After describing the day, he mentioned that he isn't sure if he believes that the day actually determines how his year goes, or if it is psychological, meaning he chooses to see the year as positive or negative overall. It is similar to an optimist or pessimist looking at the same scenario and determining how full the glass is.

In reflecting on 2007, I cannot determine if this was a good year or a bad year. If I read this site as of late, I'd say it was a terrible year. But my natural instinct is to review the entire year as a good one. That could just be the optimist in me (I've been accused of always seeing the bright side), but I am starting to understand that in whole, the year wasn't that bad. In fact, there were some awesome moments to hold onto and cherish.

Before I jump too much into my "Year in Review," I do have to mention one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Coca~Cola, my lifelong addiction, understands the draw of its consumers to need it's product at all times. So, to help Jews get their fix during Passover, there is a version of Coca~Cola released that is made from pure cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup. I guess there are varying levels of kosher and during Passover, HFCS does not pass. Which means, besides the cocaine, it is the closest version of the original Coca~Cola made. I am going to find some of this during Passover because I have to try it!

A semi-tradition, DM and I started 2007 together at Perkins, playing a game we have deemed, "Ask the iPod." It is a silly game, but it entertains us. The game consists of my iPod, filled with 3,000+ song titles, and whatever silly question we can ask about the future. We have turned my portable music collection into a Magic 8 Ball or fortune teller. The funny part is the meanings we make up when the iPod gives an answer such as, "Drift Away," for the question, "What will happen in August of next year?" Knowing us, it would create an image of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn raft slowly floating down the Mighty Mississippi and we'd imagine that the song title implies we'll end up in New Orleans by December.

I say it is a silly game because the "predictions" have yet to come true. The iPod is a wonderful device, but fortune teller it is not. Yet, we still laugh, and in the hopes of gaining blogging material, we write down all the responses. We'll spend two hours doing this, until the battery is completely drained and the shuffle feature no longer produces funny answers. But it helps us start the year with laughter and friends. As for starting 2008, I have no idea if the iPod will be used to make predictions. Instead, I know I will be at James's house, celebrating the calendar change with friends and semi-strangers. DM may be there, I hope she is, but that depends on how she feels. I hope that she is feeling good enough to go out for a night, because tonight will be a fun night, a special night. And it is always better to ring in the new year with great friends.

With that said, I would like to review 2007, exploring the events of the year to see how I've changed, where I've grown, and what I've experienced. The year started with strong feelings of love. In January, I was still on top of the world, excited by correspondence with Andriy, that one that got away so many years before. I recognize now how futile those hopes are, but what can one do? When you love someone, it is hard to ignore how happy you can be with a simple hello, a brief message of kindness. It is a recurring pattern in my life, that at this point I can say with plausible deniablity, that wouldn't recur if I opened an email to find a note from him. I should know better, but it doesn't help. When the year started, I had received a recent note from him, which throws all the doors to memories open in my mind. There is a saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Absence views memories with rose-colored glasses, ignoring the not-so-perfect parts. I'm not saying that Andriy's visit, back in 1998, was filled with not-so-perfect parts, but that when I hear from him, my heart does grow fonder, longing for him in my life. I still love him, I always will in some way, but absence makes the pain dull. Without correspondence, I can gently shut the doors to memories, leaving them stored for the next time I need to remember. The hardest door to shut is always the one to the memory of his departure. I always remember being at the airport, wearing sunglasses inside because my eyes kept tearing up. The image of him, waiting for the last possible moment to board the plane, standing there, freshly shaven, leaning over and taking my face in his hands, moving his thumb over my jaw line as he gently kissed my cheek, saying goodbye, and boarding the plane, walking down the hallway to the plane, getting to the L in the walkway and turning back, for one last look, and waving with a sad smile and tears in his eyes, just about kills me every time. I don't know how I didn't fall to the ground, screaming, but somehow I managed to make it to the window and watched as his plane taxied to the runway. Silent tears flowing down my cheeks, understanding, but not wanting to believe, that this would most likely be the last time I ever saw him. In January, that is the memory that kept coming back, almost as a regret that I didn't do more to keep him nearby. As the days passed and no new correspondence arrived, I was able to shut some doors back up, but that final one stays open, just a crack.

At the end of January, my workload changed significantly. This helped keep my mind off of Andriy, and helped me enter February with a new purpose. A new program was going to be tried, and I spent the end of January, all of February, and the beginning of March training a new employee on an individual basis. This took me away from my team 20 hours a week, which was hard, but also helped by providing one of the best employees I've ever had. The effort involved was completely worth it and I'm thrilled with this employee. She is truly great, in all areas, for the team. Besides wonderful performance, she is an integral part of our team, driving others to greatness, always recognizing her peers, and promoting a team work atmosphere in a job that can easily be seen as individualistic. While it was time-consuming at the beginning, it has had an amazing payoff.

Also in February, I had concerns with family life. My mom had a hip-replacement surgery in February caused by severe arthritis in her right hip. There was worry during the surgery, relief after she made it through the operation, and then visiting her in the nursing home that she spent a week after the surgery. For Mom, this was the low point of her year. It was hard to see her in the nursing home, recovering. She was able to return home after a week, and spent the next six weeks at home, mostly in bed. I would visit on Mondays and we'd play Trivial Pursuit and watching television. The good thing is that the replacement surgery went well, she is up and walking around now, able to do more activities than before the surgery and without pain. It also started me going to her house every Monday, which allows me a wonderfully home cooked meal, time spent with the pets, and being able to connect with my mom. Our relationship is stronger than it ever has been and I'm grateful of the time I get to spend with her. It is absolutely wonderful.

In March, I kept going to my dad's on Sundays, my mom's on Mondays, and karaoke was still the activity of the week. DM turned 40 this past March, which was celebrated by going to the opera, eating a meal at Manny's, and having her mother visit. We had a great weekend of scrapbooking, pictures were taken, and we were able to enjoy a typical Sunday night at karaoke. Well, typical in the fact that we were at the Chalet, singing and laughing. But there were some extra special moments of birthday celebration for DM, including presents.

April and May were both fairly uneventful. Patterns of my week were set, and I spent a lot of my time dealing with a couple of employees that made trips to HR's office frequent. The good news is that I'm not dealing with that anymore, but it was stressful. To de-stress, a manager's meeting was called at Manny's by Liz. Adding James into the mix, the three of us went to have a good meal and talk manager talk. It is helpful to have friends who are managers in different fields because we can swap stories and tactics. It just works well.

In June, I did something I've never done before. Since DM ditched me this past year for vacation to go to Wisconsin with Keem, I decided to take a trip by myself. It was a simple trip, exploring Minnesota. I spent a lot of time in my car alone, driving and thinking about life. I also went on my first tour of a cave, saw the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and almost died in a hail storm on Lake Itasca. Okay, I didn't even get hurt, but being surrounded by noisy, irritating children, having the boat pummelled by grape-sized hail, and accepting a ride in a stranger's car were all life-or-death situations. But it all turned out well. Plus, I got to play with my new camera and loved the results.

July was uneventful, mostly dealing with work and going to karaoke. If I had realized at the beginning of July that our Sunday karaoke days were coming to an end, I might have appreciated them more. But with weird Scottish Craig trying to sit on top of me each week, I guess the memories are tainted. Now that karaoke doesn't happen on Sundays, the nights are filled with occasional scrapbooking, occasional going out with Liz and James, or sometimes a meal at Perkins. But even the nights at Perkins are infrequent on Sundays, for fear of running into Craig or his friend, another oddity called John. July did also allow another trip to Manny's to celebrate Liz's birthday. I do look forward to our different birthdays!

August brought a trip to Waupun, Wisconsin with DM. It was the second year we've made this trip, visiting with my mom, Scott, my aunt Cheryl, my uncle Tim, my cousin Ellen, my cousin Brad, and Brad's girlfriend Jackie. We had a great time, laughing with my family, sitting around a campfire, and playing games. It is a nice time and hopefully we'll get to do it again this year. It is just a weekend, but a fun weekend.

September was probably the best month of the year, and also the worst. On the work front, it noted the start of a difficult time. That difficult time is a large reason why my writing is so infrequent. There is a bit of fear in posting any details of the time and so, being wiser, I have not written anything. All I can say now is that the issue has minimized and I don't have to worry about it anymore. Which is good, because it was a bad time. But on a positive note, September was awesome. I went on a road trip with my mom. I was able to see places I've never seen before, and I was able to spend a wonderful week with my mom. I've written loads about that trip here, posting picture after picture. It was a week I'll never forget and we are already talking about our next trip. My mom said, at Christmas, "This has been quite the year. I spent the beginning of it in a nursing home and I was able to go drinking on Beale Street." We explored St. Louis, both of us mustering up enough courage to enter the Arch. Big, scary bridges were crossed back and forth across the Mississippi River, and we both cried at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. We have a shared story of the Sizemores, a couple we met while driving through the Ozark Mountains. We've both been to Graceland now and the memories are wonderful.

In September, I also went to my 10-year high school reunion. Besides the fact that I got to see Liese and Bruce, and the fact that James was kind enough to accompany me, I know I won't go to another reunion. Class reunions are interesting things - forcing people to talk with one another when besides the diploma, most have little to share in experiences. I'm not saying high school was a bad time for me, quite the opposite in fact, but I don't feel a need to relive it with a bunch of strangers. Oh well. It was just one night.

In October, I took another week off of work. During that week, I relaxed at home, went to Manny's with my mom, Scott, DM, and Liz to celebrate my 29th birthday, and DM came over for the weekend to scrapbook. It was a pleasant week, filled with friends and family. It has become my tradition to take a week off of work in October each year. I had hoped for a trip to South Dakota for the first part of that week, but with DM's diabetes claiming most of her vacation time in 2007, that has been postponed. It was still a wonderful week and the shining point of the month. Work was stressful and great, filled with ups and downs that I'll not visit here.

In November, I had a few scrapping weekends with DM, a visit to my grandparents house for Thanksgiving, and another Thanksgiving meal at Dad's. The second meal involved a garlic injected turkey (oh, yum!), my mom, my dad, Scott, and DM. After the meal, we sat at the table, sharing stories and laughing. There was happiness in the room and I found myself thankful for having parents that still get along even though the marriage didn't last. It is great to see my mom so happy with Scott and knowing that my dad is happy in his life.

December, as always, was a busy month. End of the year work was required for my job, including writing reviews, planning for 2008, and spending the last of the budget. Work got fun in December, with the problem from the previous months being moved away. In an attempt to use up more of my vacation time (I get six weeks a year and can carry over up to one week, so I had seven weeks of vacation time to take. I managed six and will carry over another week for 2008), I took yet another week off. During that week, I went to my mom's house three times to bake cookies and watch movies. I also did a little shopping, slept late, and managed to plan about 4 hours of activity every night. My mom, Scott, my dad, DM, and I all went to Benihana's one evening for dinner, which was good once we got past the fact the restaurant was freezing.

As the holiday approached, I did some last minute shopping. On Christmas Eve, I went to Mom's house again, this time to watch two holiday movies and stay up until midnight, talking with her. On Tuesday, Christmas Day, I headed back over to her place around 5 pm. Dad joined us and we ate a wonderful meal of Swedish pancakes (which are to die for). We opened gifts, everyone receiving something they loved. I got a new lens for my camera, which I can't wait to try out on vacation. My mom received her gifts, but reacted in a way I wasn't expecting to the book I made for her. She opened the package, finding the book, "Bridges of the Mississippi River," and noted that the person who went had that same light burnt out on the Memphis bridge as when we were there. Then she realized that it was a book that I had made and cried uncontrollably for 20 minutes! She loves the book and has looked through it over and over. I wasn't expecting that strong of a reaction, but it ended up pretty good. After presents, we all spoke for awhile, and then Dad went home. I stayed a little longer, playing a game with Mom and just talking. While I can't remember a Christmas that was bad, this was a wonderful day and I'm trying to remember it for always.

Seven hours to go and the new year will be upon us in the Central Time Zone. I've got to get to Mom's now for a Monday night dinner and then pick up DM (hopefully) for a party at James's house. My New Year's Resolution is to not let work bog me down and devote some more time to the blogosphere. I know I have over 200 posts to read, according to bloglines, and I plan on being around this week to read and to comment. Best wishes for a Happy New Year and I look forward to all the great stories of 2008. I guess 2007 was a pretty great year and I hope that 2008 brings more fun, laughter, and experiences to all.

Friday, December 14, 2007



  • Around
  • Not reading
  • Sometimes reading but not commenting
  • Feeling bad about my lack of participation
  • Feeling sorry for not visiting
  • Wanting to get back into blogging
  • Missing all my friends from the blogosphere
  • Dealing with personal issues that I can't discuss
  • Stressed out
  • Sleeping poorly
  • Having problems with my shoulder
  • Sick of being stressed

Sorry I haven't been around. I'd like to make promises, but I don't think I should. No one has been forgotten and I really do feel bad about not visiting. I am not going to go into any details about what is going on and I'd appreciate no specific mentions if you do know what is going on in the comments.

Maybe things will be better in the new year.

Miss you all.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Give DM the credit for this. I made a book. It is the first book that I've made and I guess it is a nice quality printer. It is a photobook, showing the bridges and sights along the Mississippi River that I saw on my trip in September with my mom. I ordered a couple for myself (one for me, one for Mom for Christmas).

If you're interested, it is available for purchase. I don't expect anyone to buy this book, but thought I should create the opportunity. I may make some more books. This was pretty easy and cool.

There is a link to the site in my sidebar.

A hardcover version is $39.95. This version has a dust jacket with additional information on the flaps.

A softcover version is $26.95.

The majority of the cost goes to the site that helped with the software and the marketing of the book. They also take a portion of any markup for their services.

I just thought I'd share.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


A few days ago, I awoke to the sound of hammering on the floor coming from the apartment above mine. I really hate my upstairs neighbor. It's this guy who seems to have a bad temper. I called the police one night when he was screaming at his girlfriend and heavy objects kept crashing to the floor.

But I hate him. Hate is a strong word, I know. But with that incident of domestic violence, a cat that leaps around causing extremely loud noises (in a building that doesn't allow cats), his demand to play movies at full volume at all hours of the night, and his weird compulsive habit of vaccuuming every night at 2 am (which involves him moving every bit of furniture in his apartment), I have come to dislike the man.

Well, a couple of days ago, right near the first of the month, I woke up to the hammering sounds. When I was at the computer, I saw things being hurled out the window above. Turns out it was carpeting.

Excitement built. Is he moving out? Am I lucky?

The question was answered today. No. I am not lucky, no he hasn't moved out.

How do I know? I was awakened by the sound of him screaming at someone over the phone, using the two words in his vocabulary repeatedly. Neither of those words are appropriate for children.

Dang it. I wish he'd move away.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Kind of Place

Traveling through the Ozarks, Mom and I stopped at Mystic Caverns. Here we were able to experience two, that's right two!, caves. I've become a bit of a cave junkie, having visited four now this year. Before 2007, I had not experienced a natural cave. There was a cave in the Northern portion of Minnesota that was formed from iron ore mining, but that was not a natural cave. I've been told I may have seen another one when I was very little, but I don't remember it so it doesn't count.

But back to the trip. I was excited to visit these caves. I like walking through a cave - the temperature is always the same, there is clean, crisp air, and I don't have to wear sunglasses. A young girl took us on the tour, her male co-worker watched the counter/gift shop as we headed down into the cave. Which was good because there was a creepy man hanging around and I think they did that so she wouldn't be left alone with that man. Smart kids.

It was after Labor Day and a weekday, so Mom and I had the tour to ourselves. I appreciate that. Then I can take tons of pictures! The first cave had been used to make moonshine during Prohibition and also ballroom dances were held there. It was unfortunate that the cave had that history because the damage is still evident. It takes millions of years for cave formations to grow and minutes to destroy them. But there were still cool sights to see!

Mystic Caverns 1
Mystic Caverns 2
You can see where pieces of the cave have been cut off here. The straight lines at the end show the damage.
Mystic Caverns 3
Mystic Caverns 4
Mystic Caverns 5
Mystic Caverns 6
Mystic Caverns 7

The main attraction of this cave was a formation called the Pipe Organ. It looks a bit like the pipes of a large instrument and I believed the story that if hit, the formation made loud, long sounds much like a pipe organ would. It was very large and impressive.
Pipe Organ

The soot on the cave walls shows the impact of running a moonshine operation inside this cave. I couldn't imagine being lowered on a rope through a small hole, dressed to the nines for a ballroom dance, and then partying in droves of black, sooty smoke. But to each their own.
Moonshiner Impact

This little fellow met us as we were leaving the first cave. Kind of cute, in a lizard sort of way.

The second cave was discovered much later and so it is much better preserved. This first picture shows the white flow stone in the cave that looks much like white mud. I was told that if someone stepped in the flow stone, a foot print would be left for ages, much like a footprint would show in a pile of snow (but of course the flow stone wouldn't melt away).

Mystic Caverns

This cave's major formation was a bell. It's very pretty. It also sparkles in the right light.

People see different things in the formations of a cave. This is supposed to be a dragon or a dinosaur. Do you see it?
Dragon or Dinosaur

I find this so pretty.
Mystic Caverns 2

Ripples in the flowstone.

A large column in the cave.

Cave bacon! There were formations considered to be pancakes and eggs too!

The bell one more time. This cave had a tall ceiling and so some of the formations on the ground were very flat. It's interesting to see how the velocity of the dripping water creates different formations. Each drop deposits a bit of calcite before it falls and as it hits the ground. It's very minute and that's why it takes so long for formations to be created. I am just fascinated by caves!
Bell 1

Outside the cave is serene and pretty. I noticed that we were in the Bible Belt of the country though as we traveled through. The question about this picture that has formed is, "Do you think they believe Jesus is actually buried there?"
Bible Belt

I think that is the end of the pictures I'm sharing from the trip. I've developed them now and I'm preparing my scrapbook layouts in my freetime (freetime? What is this freetime thing you speak of?) Maybe I'll complete the album before my next vacation, but that seems unlikely. I just had a week off last week (yeah!) and I have another week off in early December. I considered going to New Orleans to see where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico (which I considered on my trip with my mom and then Diana commented the same! That was pretty cool to see great minds thinking alike). I haven't decided quite yet since that involves flying and some extra costs. But 2007 could be the year of the Mississippi. Who knows?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rolling Hillsides

Let's see how this goes. I'd like to share some pictures from my trip again today. The images are from the drive Mom and I took through the Ozarks. If driving over big, scary bridges was not stressful enough, we now faced curvy, mountain roads that dropped out of view quite often.

Scary Road
Windy Road

And this just seems fitting proof as to being in the Ozarks. Yeah, we didn't stop to eat here. Wonder why?
Booger Hollow Chuck Wagon

Here is an old building that we passed on the road. I just really liked how this picture turned out.

Old Building

Living in a rather flat state (rivers and lakes are beautiful scenery, don't get me wrong, but we've got little for hills), I was fascinated by the mountains. Sure, it's not like we were in the Rockies or visiting after the leaves turned, but the colors were still pretty great. Rows and rows of shifting hues greeted us as we drove and stopped at different overlooks.

Ozarks 6
Ozarks 5
Ozarks 4
Purple Mt Majesty
Ozarks 3

This overlook was kind of cool. We met the Seizemores at it. This couple had driven up to the overlook to use their cellular phone. They live in the valley near the house with the red roof. (Which I couldn't find.) Reception was poor at home, so they made their way up the mountain a couple times each day. The husband told us their story on how they chose to live here. He was working, fixing all the lights in the Arkansas school districts, and he saw this view. He called home and said, "Honey, we're moving." They now found themselves building a house in the valley, hoping the roof would be done soon because the bear had destroyed their tent five times now. He let us know we were standing on top of a giant cave, probably where the bear lived.

As we spoke with the couple, the man asked where we were from. When we replied, "Minnesota," he asked, "Ever been to Ponka?" The blank stares must have indicated our confusion. As it turns out, he has a friend in Ponka. It's about 20 miles from where we were and it is known for elk herds crossing.

It was a beautiful place to view the mountains.

Ozarks 2
Mom cringe
As I said, the drive was a little stressful. Mom is playing here, but this isn't too far from her expression behind the wheel.

A nicer picture of Mom. And yes! I got her to use a camera on the trip!
Beth at Ozarks
Mother and Daughter
Ozarks 1
Ozarks 10

And just a few more pictures of our time in the Ozarks. Because I'm not addicted to photography. (I guess I just like these pictures.)
Buffalo River Bridge
Ozarks 9
Ozarks 8
Ozarks 7

Also, while we were staying in the Ozarks, we decided to see a waterfall. Unfortunately, this plan didn't work too well. We had figured on going to a waterfall that was an easy, 1-mile hike. In speaking with people, we were directed to Lost Valley Trail. As it turned out, this trail was 3 miles one-way and a moderate hike. With Mom's hip replacement, this wasn't the best idea. We didn't make it to the waterfall, but I did get to see a few pretty butterflies.

Butterfly 2
Butterfly 1

And for Johnny, each did remind me of Uzi.

As far as trip photos go, I think I only have one more set that I'm going to share. Hopefully I'll get to them tonight. I'm going to try and jump start my blog back up and try to post daily in November. This also means I need to visit daily in November. Let's see how this goes. I used to love writing nightly, and there are things to write about. I'm off to work now. I have to give an interview tonight and it is Halloween, so let the madness ensue!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More of Memphis

I've shown you Graceland, Beale Street, and the Mighty Mississippi, but there is even more of Memphis left. On our trip, I found this city to be fascinating, inviting, and comforting. I am glad that we spent the longest amount of time in Memphis because the city is a great place to visit.

One of the days, we decided to visit the Civil Rights Museum. It took us some time to find it, following street signs pointing this way and that. But we did eventually find the site. This is where it gets to be a little disappointing. When we arrived, we walked up to the entrance, noting the scene and taking a couple of pictures I will share here, but we ended up not going into the museum. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside and with Mom's hip and my desire to not leave expensive cameras sitting in the car where people could watch us put them in there, we walked back to the car and left. That didn't stop us from taking a couple of pictures outside of the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. If I do go back to Memphis, I will take the tour of the museum, but I'll leave the camera behind.

Lorraine MotelCivil Rights MuseumLorraine Motel SignMLK Assassination Site

Our hotel room had a nice view of Downtown Memphis. There was a church next to our hotel and we heard the bells ringing a few times. Here are some pictures of downtown, as the sun set and the sky darkened.

Downtown MemphisEvening SkySky over Memphis

Besides seeing Graceland, the Arch, the river, and some mountains (still to come!), our trip had a focus on good food. The "Trifecta of Ribs" had a stop in Memphis. Southern style BBQ ribs were quite the draw and so we found ourselves going to Corky's. The food was very good, even with a full restaurant and a mishap that occurred right away. Mom ended up with sauce on her shirt before the food even arrived. Unfortunately, there was BBQ sauce on her menu and it did make her feel pretty sad. The server ended up comping our appetizers, BBQ pork nachoes and something else I can't remember for the life of me right now. Our meal consisted of a shared BBQ pulled pork sandwich, complete with the coleslaw right on the sandwich, a rack of dry ribs cooked to perfection, jalepeno hush puppies (which Mom loved!), and a side of spaghetti (ordered solely for the experience of having spaghetti as a side dish). Hush puppies are deep fried corn bread, for those like me who didn't know.

Corkys BBQ SignDry RubMom at CorkysJalapeno Hush PuppiesPig signCorkys Sign

Also in Memphis, we stopped by the Memphis visitor's center. Inside, there were large bronze statues of two of the biggest names to come from the area. The King of Rock 'n Roll and a blues legend stood tall inside and I had to take pictures (what else would I do?)


BB King
BB King Statue

I had a great time in Memphis.