Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My momma told me...

Of all the things I fought with my mom over when I was young (cleaning my room, doing my chores...) writing thank-you notes was always the most painful. Oh the wars we had over thank-you notes! I'd let it drag on weeks after Christmas just out of spite for being told I HAD to send a thank-you note.

Now that I'm older, I still struggle with doing them. But I have to tell you, now that I'm actually old enough to be receiving them for gifts that I give, I've decided you can never underestimate the power of the thank-you.

OK, so I kinda suck as a friend sometimes. I just take for granted that one of my bestest friends in the whole world, africankelli, is always coming up with ways that normal folk can help save the world a little. One of those is CAOK. Calculated Acts of Kindness. I think she made that up? I don't know, but basically its a pay-it-forward type deal that coincides with Lent. I don't know if you celebrate (practice?) that, but that's besides the point.

I see all these wonderful comments that people leave. People who only know her through the Internet who are excited to participate in something that isn't about posting every day to be held accountable, its just about doing nice stuff. So why don't I just do it? Even a little bit? Dunno. I'm the picture of laziness I guess.

So back to the thank-you notes. I think I'm going to do a little CAOK'ing myself. I definitely owe my grandma a thank-you note or twenty, and I know how much she loves getting letters from me. But I forget. And I think some day I'll wish I sent her more letters. So tonight, Grandma's getting a big Thank You for being so good to me.

In other news: My mom is back in the hospital for more chemo. I swear she's the toughest. Can you imagine having to go through it again and again? And not once does she ever complain. I just don't think I could be as strong as she is. She takes every day of this and makes light of it. She can find a joke in almost everything and never loses her spirit. What more can I say?

The people in my mom's life have showed more of that pay-it-forward spirit then I ever imagined was out there. Remember the Thousand Cranes? And there's my mom's friend who walked Shadow (their dog) every day my mom's been in the hospital previously, and who now walks with my mom and Shadow to get them both out of the house. And the people from my mom's church who sent her 25 days worth of Christmas gifts and the Youth Group who made her Valentines? Then there's the countless cards and phone calls and visits. Its just overwhelming....

But then again, my mom is the perfect example of someone who paid it forward and had goodness come right around back to them.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I am an Idiot

I just got a bonus at work, so I treated myself (a rare thing) to something I really wanted: a new flash. I've wanted one forever, and I waited all afternoon for that thing to show up today. 7pm. No show. So I looked online and it swears to me that the package was delivered to my porch.

Back up two hours. I'm home alone and the doorbell rings. I stupidly answer it (I just feel bad not answering. Its rude). There's this shady looking guy standing there in a dress shirt and tie.

"Are you mumble mumble the house?"
Am I alone in the house?! Is that what he just asked?

"Um, I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Are you the lady of the house? 'Cause you look so young. I promise I'm not selling

"Are you selling magazines?"


"Bye then"

Cut back to 7pm. See: me running from house to house in the neighborhood asking
if anyone bought magazines from that man because I needed to track him down. He stole my flash. My faith is restored as my neighbors also haven't bought from the scary man, but now I have no lead on my thief. So I called UPS.

"Miss, I see the package was delivered this afternoon to 1009 S. 92nd st."

DOH! My old address. Amazon kept my old address! If I ever wanted to see my many hundreds of dollars worth of flash, I'd have to face the miscreants who ruined my old house. The people whose house we flooded before they even moved in. I didn't think they'd be happy to see me.

Luckily they're the type of people who DON'T open the door to strange people. So I rang twice, listened to them shushing their dogs, then I took the package off the
doorstep and ran.

Hello new flash!

(Note: for all my camera and accessory choices, I start with Ken Rockwell. He's great for camera techniques too!)

Really quick, the portraits went pretty well at the Mardi Gras party. I had a borrowed flash, which had at one point in its life been dropped, and I got so frustrated with it I gave up and used the crappy on-camera flash. My new 18-200 lens makes a nasty shadow with that thing if I'm not careful. Not to mention that bad flash shadow you get behind people using your camera flash. Anyway, everyone had fun doing the pictures, they even got into wearing the provided props, and that's what counts. Especially when the pictures were free! But here's one of my favorites (I don't know
these people):

The event was a total success. They raised all kinds of money for a worthy charity, there were drunk people dancing all over the place, and over 500 people showed. Very nice. My dates for the evening: my in-laws! I had a lot of fun with them. Although..... my father-in-law bid on a fertility statue in the silent auction (hint hint). :-) He won, so I imagine we'll be seeing that soon. They're anxious for little ones! Ryan wasn't there, so it was a rare opportunity for me to have them all to myself. No dancing for my mother-in-law! She's got a giant purple cast on her foot. But in true form, she totally matched her jewelry to the cast!

That's all for today. Thanks for stopping by. I see a lot of returning type people stopping in here. If you haven't left me a message, please do so I can visit you right back. Happy Monday!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Missing my man

This week and last are the beginning of some rough times for Ryan and me. I'm plenty used to having lots of alone time because of his schedule, but starting last week Ryan's even more scarce.

In addition to Ryan's regular every-other-day 24-hr shifts, he's been taking classes to bolster his resume on his days off. So where we had been used to having gym time together every other day, and making dinner together after, now even on his days off he's not home until dinner is ready. Luckily this is only a few more weeks, but then he's going to be teaching the fire academy (which is a great privilege!), meaning he'll
be off his regular shift entirely and working 12 hour days 5 days a week. And this weekend he had to be out of town, so I haven't seen him since Wednesday. *sigh*

I'm blessed to have a husband that I actually want to spend time with. That's the silver lining, and I know it. And the other silver lining is that the time we actually do get together is so important that we never waste a minute of it.

It helps to keep myself busy. So the other silver lining is that I've learned to be super independent and not to just sit around on my duff when I've got some free time. This morning the dogs woke me up early. We took a long run in the crisp morning, did some yard work, had some breakfast, and now I'm off to the Highland Games with
my brother and parents. Tonight Miss African Kelli was generous enough to give us tickets to her charity's wild annual Mardi Gras fundraiser. Its insane fun. And I'm doing the portraits for people! Wooo! Then tomorrow it looks like I'm cleaning the house and maybe I'll go solo to a movie for the first time ever.

But I do miss Ryan....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do you give?

My mother has given 43 pints of blood to others. Can you imagine? She has given every chance she got, and loves to tell the story of when she was working in downtown Phoenix down the street from a blood donation place and would go donate whenever she was having a bad day. "It was great. Everyone was so nice and appreciative. And afterwards you got a cookie." She loved the feeling that she'd helped someone, and it made her day.

I don't think it ever crossed her mind that some day she's actually need that blood herself.

In the last 3 months my mother has needed countless transfusions of platelets and whole blood to fill the void that the chemo created. Her blood counts are so low that she's dependent on others' kindness to keep her immune system up enough to fight even the smallest germ.

But 3 weeks ago my mother went to the hospital for her scheduled transfusion and when she got to the front of the line, they were out of blood.

I have O negative blood. I got it from my mother and it makes me a universal blood donor. I've always felt sort of special because of that. But even if I didn't have O negative blood, I would still donate as often as I could. They need every type of blood. I was brought up to believe that it was just something you do. Its a small thing you can do to help someone in need and it costs you nothing but your time.

I am constantly amazed by the fact that people don't donate blood. I'm super squimish and have passed out twice giving blood, but its so important that I still do it. I tell them up front to lean my chair back and then I'm just fine. And although the cookie afterwards is nice, I spend the rest of the day feeling good that I helped some nameless person.

But now I have someone in my life who needs the blood, and its not there. So I wonder about people who don't give. Really, it doesn't take that long, and you feel so good afterwards for doing something good for others. Donating is something that doesn't cost money and it directly helps other people.

So, do you give?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Well as it turns out....

.... yes, we were crazy to go skiing. We left at 4am on Saturday and drove straight to the resort. I felt sick the whole way up. Then the excitement of being there overtook my better judgement. I've been skiing only 4 times, and each of those times I've limited my skiing to the bunny slope and one green run. But this time all that new beautiful snow tempted me straight to the top. And I really wanted to be with Ryan and Rebecca and Matt. Even though the latter two are used to black diamonds. I got off the lift without incident. Then I hit the freshly groomed snow on the run. And it was hard. Very hard. And I don't know whether it was because of what happened to Ryan, or the pressure of not holding back the others, or the run I'd never been on, or my attitude, or the 5 hours sleep, but I froze. I couldn't move. I finally warmed up toward the bottom (even though I was still slow), but then I went up to the top again, and on the first steep part I fell pretty good, and that was it. I couldn't get it together the whole rest of the day. Bec and Matt went their own way, and Ryan went with me to the bottom and he refused to snowboard the rest of the day.

I was so embarrassed. I mean there were little kids flying past me, and there I am standing in one spot on that mountain. Trying to convince my brain to get back into my head so I could just DO something. And Ryan was so frustrated with me and I felt like I'd never be able to fix it. But he never was mean about it. But now he's saying he's done snowboarding. Between his accident and my fear of, well, everything, he says that's it. I can't tell you how much that kills me. I'm going to force us both to go again next year, and I'm starting where I'm comfortable and I'm not going any faster then I want. I know he really wants me to be able to keep up with him, but I just don't have a daring bone in my body. I don't know... I'm just so embarrassed...

So while Bec and Matt skied the rest of the day, Ryan and I had a (nasty) lunch at the resort, some 4 Peaks Kiltlifter beer (the best!), then decided to take the new Jeep out for its first adventure. But our innocent inaugural Jeep trip took a bad turn. We got into some sloppy mud, the kind you have to keep driving through or you'll get stuck. As soon as we got past it, we turned around to go back and Ryan drove a little up on the side of the road to get out of the mud. And we got high-centered on a rock. We dragged the rock a good 10 ft., then steam started pouring from the engine compartment (we think because of the water). It took a while but we finally got the Jeep off of the rock, but by the time we were free the outside and the inside of the Jeep were caked in mud. Our brand new shiny Jeep is now officially broken in.

One last thing: Remember Fred V2.0? That nasty Frankenstein lump on my neck? Well, I finally went to the doctor and it turns out I am allergic to stitches. How crazy is that? Which also explains why when I had the garden clipper disaster or 2002, my hand split right back open when they took out the stitches. So anyway, with my neck there's a bunch of internal disolvable stitches that my body is angry at. The doc says it might be a few months before I stop looking like a freak, and until then I get to drain that thing every day. Nasty, right?

OK, that's it for me. I'm going to go start dinner while listening to the awesome rain storm outside. We're having spicy meatball subs. Later!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Are we nuts?

Well, we're off to the mountains and snow. We're going skiing/snowboarding for the weekend. Are we nuts? Its a little scary, but we're both excited to go one last time. (Don't worry parental figures! We'll call you tomorrow from somewhere other than Showlow hospital!)

This week was full of me freaking out over my freakish neck. You know its just not right when your husband, who sees crazy medical stuff every day on the job, says "Um, its just that I haven't ever seen anything like that before....". Whatever. My doctor's not freaking out (even though he's never actually SEEN the lump and basically gave me the brush-off), so I'm gonna stick a bandage on it (to keep from scaring the regular folk) and call it good. I'll be shusshing down the slope by 9am tomorrow! Humpneck of Amandadame be damned!

Oh, and last night I looked up "Lump after surgery" on the Internet.... and if I was a cat who just got fixed? This would totally be normal.

Here's wishing you a safe weekend!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fred Version 2.0

First thing's first: a very happy Valentine's day to you. Whether you belive it comercialism or not, I hope you find love today, whether in the arms of your spouse/sig other, in the kind words of a friend, or a nice gesture from a stranger.

I have had the most wonderful day. Well, it actually started yesterday. I got home at 3:30 yesterday and spent from then until almost 9pm baking and cooking. I made chocolate covered cherry cupcakes with a chocolate glaze, from scratch fudge brownies (no box mix!), and french onion soup. The cupcakes and brownies went with Ryan and me to work today where it was gobbled up be happy coworkers. Here's
the cupcakes:

Yummy, huh? The glaze was so good when it was still hot last night. Seriously, loved these cupcakes.

OK, now on to why this post is about the recently deceased Fred the Lymphnode. First, I should say all the lab results were good. There's nothing to be scared of from Fred. Poor guy! He could have stayed afterall! Anyway... Had the stitches out on Monday and they mentioned that one side of the thing was, um, oozing. Gross, huh? Not so much for me since I can't see it. Wanna see my tough girl scar?

Normal, right? But that night I noticed that I had a nasty bump all of a sudden. Then it got bigger. Its kinda hard and I'm looking a little like Frankenstein. You think I'm kidding? It looks like a weird-shaped bone trying to poke through my skin. Prepare yourself...

What do you think? Is it hard to tell from the picture? Anyway, its grossing my shit out. I hope I get to go see the doc tomorrow. I'd really like to just stop thinking about my neck.

OK, let's end this post on a good note. I forgot to tell you why I had a really good Valentine's day (besides all the baking). Ryan was working today, so instead of sitting home pouting over my aloneness, I drove myself down to the station and made dinner for the boys! It was so fun, and I ended up with 4 Valentine guys for the day! I made (with Ryan's help) Thai crab puffs and Thai pasta with spicy peanut sauce, chicken and veggies. It was DELICIOUS. I can't imagine a more awesome Valentine's Day.

Well, except the one 7 years ago when Ryan asked me to marry him. Most amazing day of my life...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Just thinking

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I haven't lost it. I read once that a person's general stress level is based on big events or changes in their life, so I went hunting and found this: Its a life stress test. Basically for every one of those events you add a certain number to your score.

Now truthfully, I added 44*3 for family member illness. I don't know if you're supposed to do that or not, but I figure with my dad in the hospital, my mom in the hospital, and my husband's accident, that seems right. And I only gave myself one illness for this surgery. I figured root canals were run-of-the-mill, so I ignored that. New house in the last year. New job in the last year. New car payment. Vacation (again, only gave myself that one once, even though I took three big vacations last year, four if you count Mexico). Who knew vacation ADDED to your stress level? Maybe I should stop taking them.

Point being, I'm at 370 points. Anything over 300 is high risk for a stress-related illness. But really? I don't feel stressed at all.

All through my mom's chemo I've waited for myself to breakdown or something. And I could tell people in my life were waiting for it too. Ryan especially. Sometimes I'd catch him looking at me, like he was looking really hard so he could see how close I was to the edge. But I feel fine.

If anything else I feel stronger. I'm a more duck-with-the-water-rolling-off-my-back type person then I ever was. Its just life, right? And shit happens.

But am I really dealing, or am I suppressing? Don't know I guess. But I feel OK, I really do. Mostly it helps to be worried about someone else instead of myself. You know?

Early morning ramblings becaue I just woke up from a really weird dream and was thinking about it...


On a different note, even though the car loan on that jeep added a whopping 24 points to my stress level, it is the most freaking fun ever! I swear I've never had so much fun driving a vehicle. That thing has three pieces to the roof, so its really easy just to take off the two front pieces to have like a huge sun roof. AWESOME. It helps that the weather is like 77 degrees here too. My head is gonna be super blonde in no time from that thing. Anyone wanna go for a ride?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tylenol with Codeine? Yes please!

This surgery has been a pain in the neck. Get it? Ok, fine, so I'm not that original, or funny when I'm trying hard to keep my head on top of my aching neck. My head weighs so much today. Did I tell you I got 5 whole stitches? That's a tough girl scar, right?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Drop Dead Fred

Well, I had a very full day today. It started with me waking up and having Ryan drive me over to the hospital. Today was the day that Fred had to die. Sorry Fred! So I had my little reactive lymphnode removed, and I feel like I handled it like a champ. I didn't cry once (although almost) and I handled the general anethesia like a pro. Seriously, when they pulled the thing out of my mouth/throat and said my name to wake me up, I woke right up and was wide awake.

The freakest part of the whole thing was when we were in the prep room with about 7 other patients in varying degrees of readiness, I looked over Ryan's head into the room and noticed something strange. There was this brown-haired nurse who seemed to be everywhere. Then all of a sudden there were TWO of her doing IVs on two different men. OK, for real I didn't think I was drugged at that point, so I thought I was going nuts. Then I figured it out. Identical twins. Identical nurses. Identical scrubs. It was the weirdest thing, and hardly fair to us poor drugged-up patients.

You ever had general anethesia before? You mostly just feel out of it for hours, so I went home with the intention of passing out. Ryan poured me into bed, tucked my blanket around me, and snugged a Karma pup right up against myside. Then I was off to la-la land. BUT... Murphy's law: on the day you most need to chill, your Jeep you've been waiting 12 weeks for will come in! So the phone rang about every 10 minutes at our house today. *sigh* No rest for the weary.

So, it was a good thing, but I'm so pooped tonight. It was 7-10:30 of surgery, 11:30-1 of talking on the phone to insurance, credit union, dealership etc, and 2-5 of painful paperwork at the car dealership. But at the end of the day: Fred is Dead, and we're busy learning the appropriate Jeep owner to Jeep owner wave out the open roof:

(photo credit to Min!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Haunting

Do you watch the show The Medium? I just started watching and I kinda love it. I've also started watching Ghost Whisperer. (Thanks DVR!) Oh yeah, and Ryan and I both love Ghost Hunters. See a theme here? There's something about this kind of thing that really interests me. In general I'm the kind of person who needs to see something to believe it, but there's just something about this idea of ghosts. Like on that show Ghost Hunters they use actual scientific methods to try to disprove hauntings, but sometimes they just can't disprove it. And have you ever been in a room alone and just felt like there was someone in there with you watching? Or how about you're home alone and your dogs are looking at something that isn't there in a corner, or they're acting spooked but you can't pinpoint why.

I just don't know, but it is interesting to read about people who truly believe they can see things. Did you know that The Medium is based on a real person? Her name in real life is Allison DuBois, just like in the show, and she's from Arizona. She claims that she's been in contact with ghosts since she was little, and that she's open to other things as well, like reading minds. The reason I'm thinking about this today is because when that Broadway show The Spelling Bee (ok, its ACTUALLY The 25th Aunnual Putnam County Spelling Bee) travels, they enlist local celebrities in each town to be a part of the show. The local celeb when we saw it this last week was none other than Allison DuBois. It took me halfway through the show to figure out who she was though. Then suddenly it hit me, so I leaned over and told Ryan who it was and he was thrilled! He's so into that stuff.

So today I looked her up to see what I could find. What I found was LOTS of controversy. Go ahead, Google her. There's a lot of people out there who have dedicated blog posts, forums, and even whole websites to saying what a fraud she is. So I read a few, and I read some about the scientific studies they've done on her, and I have two thoughts: 1) If there are mediums out there, she seems to be a good candidate for actually being one and 2) I would never want to be a medium.

I mean really, can you imagine? What a burden that would be! I mean if its true, those people just can't ever turn it off. And they also can't turn off the living who pester them to try to contact their dead Uncle Albert about the hidden jewelry and stuff.

So what do you think? Are you a believer? Is it possible that our energy can get stuck here for some reason and that there are people who can actually see the dead?

Unrelated: see africankelli's post about the Bond party. I was too busy consuming libations to break out the camera, so go check out her pics. Slinky red dress, as promised. Very fun!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bond, Amanda Bond

I spent a good chunk of my work day today (inappropriately) thinking up Bond girl names for myself. Tomorrow is one of my best girlfriend's husband's big THREE OH, and she's throwing him a Bond-themed party. The current plan is to wear a slinky red dress, bright red lipstick (channeling Christina Aguilera), and to drink huge amounts of alcohol to cover up my self-consciousness of being in said slinky red dress. I've got a few good names picked out. I've got a couple for Ryan too. How about Max E. Pad. No? Don't think he'll like it? How about Michael Toris? Go ahead, say it out loud. I dare you. ;-)

This weekend was made for enjoying the gorgeous Arizona weather. While I do feel bad for my poor friends in other states dealing with 8 degree temps, I can't help but feel downright giddy about living where I do this time of year. High of 75? Yes please! Tomorrow is all about using Ryan's badge to get in free to the FBR Open (shameless, I know). I don't like golf much (or golfers, natch), but I DO like beer, food, and people-watching. And let me tell you, this is one people-watcher's paradise! All those beautiful Scottsdale people with their fake noses and fake other parts, wearing high-heels that will inevitably sink into the mud from all the rain this week... *sigh* Then on Sunday the plan is to either get a good, long hike in to earn Super Bowl party food, or to visit the
Boyce Thompson Arboretum. If you haven't visited, its definitely worth the drive out there. It is just gorgeous out there, and big enough to get a good hike in while learning about our native plants. And dogs are allowed! Then its off to two Super Bowl parties. One for the people I work with, and the other is people Ryan works with. There couldn't be two sets of more different people...

On the firefighting front, Ryan is so well-thought of in his department that he's been asked to one of the 3 teachers for the upcoming fire academy. He's so nervous! Wanna know what I'm nervous about? Right now his schedule has him working 24 hrs in a row on the days he's on, but the days he's off I get him all to myself. With the academy he'll be working like a regular person! He'll work from 6am-6pm, and be home for dinner every night. I've always secretly felt like I might be a smidge happier if Ryan had a regular job with regular hours, so imagine my surprise when I felt devastated that our life was going to be so disrupted. No more afternoons together at the gym! No more Ryan taking me out to lunch during the week! No more grocery shopping after work together! I just couldn't believe I felt SO sad about it.

I know its only 11 weeks, but its going to be so hard to change so drastically how our life is structured. It took me a long time to get used to being on my own so much, but I think I just discovered that I actually kind of love our life. Sure it sucks sometimes when I want a date to a party and he's not around, or when I need a hug after work and the dogs are the only ones at home, but somewhere along the way we became an actual firefighter family, and we like it.

Sure am going to like having him available for dates on the weekends though! :-)

A very happy, safe weekend to you all. My computer is in the computer hospital, so I'll be MIA until its all patched up. Or until we bite the bullet and buy a new one... Later!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Laptop from Hell

It wasn't for laziness that I haven't been blogging this week. My laptop is broken AGAIN. I swear that thing is a nightmare and a half. And its the only computer we have now, so we're pretty useless at our house this week.

I took some pictures of my mom and her paper cranes yesterday, but my mom couldn't keep her eyes open (chemo side-effect), so I have a picture of just the cranes for you today.

Another chemo side-effect is lowered blood counts. Her white blood cell count is so super low that they're discouraging her from being out in public without a face mask, and really, who wants to do that? So, my parents are unable to use their theater tickets for tomorrow night. Ryan and I will be going to see The Spelling Bee.

I've been obsessed with Broadway musicals since I was little. I can remeber watching old movies with my parents on TV more then we watched regular TV. An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, Guys and Dolls... And no matter how tight money was, my parents always thought it was important to make the theater available to us. I can remember as a kid seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat (I've seen it 3 times now), Phantom, Cats, Les Mis, Bye Bye Birdie, and tons more. We had season tickets every year, and while my little brother took the opportunity to catch up on sleep, I let myself get so caught up in the drama on stage that I felt disoriented when we left the theater.

I remember standing in the living room of my parents house playing Phantom over and over again until I memorized every word. I'd stand with a copy of T.S. Elliot's Book of Practical Cats and marvel over the music that someone made out of it. I followed the Bible verse by verse amazed that someone made such a fun stage show out of the story of Joseph. And when I was old enough, my mom signed me up every summer for years for a Musical Theater Workshop where I learned songs from plays I'd never heard of then got to perform them to a packed audience at the end of the summer. (Its a curse now because inevitably when we see a new show I know at least one number by heart and Ryan has to pinch my arm to remind me not to sing along) And even now, when I'm alone in my car, I almost always flip my Sirius to channel 77 and sing musical numbers at the top of my lungs.

Now that I'm older, I'm still blessed to have ample opportunity to go to the theater, and for the most part its still my parents who make that possible. And I'm also blessed with a husband who, while he doesn't like to share with the firefighters that he likes it, will go and sit with me, will leave the theater babbling about the music and the acting and the costumes. Our favorites in recent years have been Aida, Chicago (saw it in NYC), Wicked and Rent.

This love of music and the theater was such a gift from my parents. I swear I feel like it paved the way for my relationship with my musician husband. And while Jazz and Broadway are sometimes worlds apart, I'm so glad he's happy to meet me halfway!

about me

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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