Thursday, December 28, 2006

THE Gift

Once in a lifetime, if we're lucky, there may be a material gift given to us that takes our breath away, leaves us speechless, and brings everyone in the room to tears. I happened to be the most fortunate recipient of such a gift this past Saturday when I opened this book from Amy, my daughter. Later I found out that Donica had been in on it, as had Dennis.

When I first opened it, there was a mailing holder from Shutterfly and I immediately thought, "Oh, yes! Amy has given me a wonderfully framed photo of Nicholas or of her and Dennis." That's what Shutterfly does, of course--process our personal photos for us. But when I opened it and saw that it was this book on the castles of Scotland, with the Eilean Donan on the cover, I said, "OHHHHH! I've SEEN this castle! It's the most romantic and most photographed castle of Scotland!"

Amy just smiled and said, "I know!"

After reading her most lovely inscription on the inside front cover, I then started flipping through the 96-page book (12 x 12 inches), oohing and ahhing over all the castles I had seen with my own eyes. How special that Amy had found such a lovely book to remind me!

Finally Amy said, "NO, Mom! You need to go back to the first page!"

So I did. And when I saw that page, I finally got it! I lost my breath; I was speechless; I cried. We all cried. (If you can't see the words, please click on it to enlarge.)

Page after page, photo after photo (approximately 250 of them), I saw the castles of Scotland again for the first time. My photos, all of them, in a coffee table art-book format! I sure hope this doesn't sound like I'm tooting my own horn because that's definitely not my intention. But I STILL cannot believe Amy took the time and effort and had two willing cohorts in on the action.

I wonder if you have ever received such a gift that blew you away like this? If so, please share your story in a comment. I have a feeling we'd all like to hear it!


With that, I bid you adieu as we finish packing for our long New Year's weekend at the family cottage in Michigan. Amy, Mark, Donica and I, plus Dennis, who flew in from LA yesterday, fly tomorrow and return on the 1st (in time for the Rose Bowl game on TV!). We will NOT have Internet access (we don't think), so this will be my last post for a few days.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Family Snapshot

L to R: Mark (31), moi, Amy (34), Nicholas (6-1/2), and Donica

This doesn't happen very often so grab it while you have it! Someone on my photoblog site requested that I post a family pic after our mini-family Christmas celebration on Saturday. They'll get it tomorrow; you'll get it first today! :)

Anyway, most of you already know us by now (my 2 children, grandson and domestic partner). Oh yes, don't forget the camera, which took the pic and is very much a part of our family! I'll have to come up with a good name for her, I see.

We have 2 days now to get ready for our flight from Atlanta to Michigan for a few days at the Hart Family Cottage. All of us, including Dennis (Amy's beau) will fly together on Thursday (except for Nicholas, who will be with his dad). Dennis flies in today from LA.

But I'll say Good-Bye on Thursday before we leave.... :)

In the meantime, I hope you're all recuperating from the Christmas hubbub.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn king!"

Many of us are already in the Christmas weekend countdown, so I want to send out these greetings now and hope I'm not too late for you.

Tomorrow my kids, Mark and Amy, with Nicholas, come to our house for an all-day Christmas celebration. On Sunday, Christmas Eve, Donica and I will celebrate alone. Then on Christmas Day, we will join Donica's extended family in south Atlanta.

Donica, BTW, is gaining strength and energy with every passing day. She's now taking pain meds only twice a day, down from 6 times right after surgery. I do all the driving but we go out-n-about, catching up on the holiday movies. Yesterday we even took Nicholas to the Georgia Aquarium so as to make use of the annual pass that was expiring. Next Wednesday she'll get her stitches out and will get the once-over from the doctor, who will hopefully give her his thumbs up. More on that then.

[The above sculpture is from the Niki de Saint Phalle exhibition in our Atlanta Botanical Garden when we visited last May. It was the photo I used for our Christmas card this year.]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wonder and Joy

I'm guessing there's not one thing I need to say about this other than this is the "rabbit hole" Nicholas found on Sunday when we were in the woods. He says he saw a bat inside, which he wanted me to see, but I just took his word for it. :) I was having too much fun taking his pics.

Let's all of us keep our Childlike wonder and joy this Christmas and throughout the new year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Strings That are Left

You're gonna get a kick outta this because it's Nicholas' reaction to Donica's surgery. But first of all, he and I had another gorgeous, balmy day in our woods this morning, after he and Mommy (Amy) spent an overnight with us last night. This time he decided having his "picnic" in the tree would be just splendid. And it was!

Back to Donica's surgery. Amy invited herself over specifically to take care of both of us by cooking a scumptuous dinner for us last evening. No arguments from either of us! Besides, we all wanted Nicholas to be around a convalescing "patient" after surgery, just for the education of it.

Donica showed him the big bandage covering her incision and explained that the doctor had to take out 2 nerves because they were making her hurt. He wanted to know what nerves were, of course, so she explained that they were like strings that helped make her feel things. But these particular "strings" weren't working right.

Nicholas immediately went into a response of "It's not good to take things out of us." No, of course not but we told him these 2 strings were okay to be gone.

Then he said, "Now that the 2 strings are gone, you'll have 3 left and that's good!"

We have no idea where he got the number 3 for what's left, but we all agreed that 3 left is very good. And with each added day (the magic number 3, since her surgery), what's left is getting better and better. She and I even went to a movie this afternoon! Getting in and out, up and down, is the worst part of the day, with lots of pain still, but other than that, she's getting around, and that's good.

We'll all eat to that!

Friday, December 15, 2006

It's DONE!

It was a total of 8 hours from beginning to end, from when we arrived at the hospital (10:15a) and then left (6:15p) yesterday.

First we waited for 2 hours before they even called her name. But Mom made it in time to see Donica beforehand, which was nice. The actual surgery DID happen at 1:30, after all. And at 3p, we had the doctor's consultation while Donica was in recovery (where this pic was taken later). Even though there was a lot of waiting, it all went like clockwork.

Besides all that we already knew (the 2 nerves would be cut out), the doctor said he DID find a small hernia about 3/4 inch in diameter, snuggled in next to the nerves. He definitely feels that was part of the culprit but said her symptoms were more nerve-related. The hernia would have grown over time, of course, so the good news is that it, too, is now gone. A plastic mesh is now there to support the muscle walls. So, all in all, we are very happy!

She's in lots of pain, as you'd imagine (the incision is like that for an appendectomy), BUT she was able to walk upstairs to bed last night and downstairs this morning. Don't worry. I will NOT let her overdo it. I want a clean bill of health for her checkup and removal of stitches on the 27th, the day before we all fly to Michigan. I thoroughly enjoy playing nursemaid and know how to keep her in line. HA! Lots of ice on the bandage for the first 24 hours; a pain pill every 4 hours.

This bouquet of flowers was sitting on our front porch when we arrived home last evening, a reminder that we have been cared for by everyone in the WWW! Do you know what that feels like??!! THANK YOU!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Down to the Wire

Yup, today was pre-op. All 2-1/2 hours of it! Besides the usual blood work and urinalysis, there was an EKG and a chest xray. Paperwork, of course. And waiting. We found out the surgery is at 12:50p tomorrow, not at 1:30 as we had been told. So we need to be there at 10:45a. Donica's mom will come join me at some point along the way (from 70 miles away).

Donica is expecting me to drive her home after recovery but she has the option to spend the night at the hospital. If so, I'll spend the night with her in her room. We'll both go prepared, just in case.

We both have felt your presence and prayers with us, which is why we both go into this with peace and calmness of spirit. Thank you, again and again! And yes, I'll catch you all up as soon as possible.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Strome Hetch

Some of you will remember this ginormous pyramid carousel from last year when we were at Hannover's Christmas market. We had hoped to see it again, now, but last year's photos and memories will have to do. It's the photo I plan to use on my photoblog tomorrow.

Knowing that Donica's surgery is this week, after which she'll be a bit out of commission for a few days, we've been talking about what we need to get done before Thursday!

The good news is that the Christmas cards are mailed and the 2 trees are trimmed. Even all the gifts are purchased. What remains is the wrapping! So, today through Wednesday is gift-wrapping, together and/or separately.

I plan to write more after pre-op on Wednesday and definitely again after the surgery. But for right now, we're in the home stretch "strome hetch" before our Christmas celebration with each other and the kids.

I sure hope you love this time of year as much as we do. Kids at heart!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tell Them They Lie

A hundred thoughts swirl in my head right now that hopefully will end up related. Not too convoluted.

First of all, this is just a pic to show that Donica and I have both taken up walking on our new treadmill. I walk 3x per week, 20 minutes each time at 3.5 mph and a 6% incline. I work up a good sweat. But since my doctor says it'll only lower my cholesterol by 10-15% (and I'll have to take my meds the rest of my life), I'm doing it for my heart. And the euphoria.

Okay, that's the background. When I walk, I listen to my tiny shuffle iPod that holds only 100 songs. Donica got it for free somewhere. It's the only time I listen to it, those 20 minutes.

A couple days ago, a song from Walela, one of my favorite groups, was "Tell Them They Lie." You can listen to it here under the Unbearable Love album. Though the lyrics are specific to Cherokee indians, the sentiment is universal. "What kind of world is this we are living in...." Hold that thought.

Last night we went to see Blood Diamond, Leo DiCaprio's new movie. It's the story of how many Africans are violently killed in the process of mining diamonds for those of us who see/buy them as a rare commodity. There is a lot of buzz today because of this movie, about making sure we buy "conflict-free" diamonds. I asked Donica, how do we know for sure?

Whatever we listen to, whatever we're told, whatever we see, are we able to distinguish the truth from the lie? Does this apply to our wars, our governments, our religious righteousness? And if/when we sense a lie, are we able to tell "them" that they lie?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

St. Nicholas Day

Since this is St. Nicholas Day in Germany and other parts of Europe, I would be totally remiss to not have a pic of my own St. Nicholas! Not to be sacreligious, of course.

Donica and I had an errand at our bank on Saturday morning and took Nicholas with us. While he waited, he read from his Barnum & Bailey circus book. So cute to watch him actually read the words now and not just the pictures!

Later this afternoon or evening, after we return from the doctor's appointment (at 3:30p), I'll update you on The Plan for Donica's pain. Let's hope she's been a good girl and everything nice so that St. Nick can shower her with good gifts. :)


DONICA UPDATE: The doctor's appointment was short, sweet and to the point. Surgery is scheduled for a week from tomorrow, Thursday, December 14, at 1:30p. He will not only remove the ilioinguinal nerve but the nearby "cousin," the iliohypogastric nerve, as well. And if he sees anything remotely resembling something that doesn't belong (like a tiny hernia too small to palpate or be seen on the CT scan), he'll fix it or cut it out as well. We really like this guy and totally trust him. We feel good that he tried everything else before surgery.

So, on the way home, we celebrated for supper by eating out. We both feel relieved by the thought that this will soon be over. As the nurse says, the pain from surgery shouldn't be any worse than what Donica's experiencing now. Then it will be gone (barring anything we still don't know about!).

Thanks again to each and every one of you for living through this with us. You have been superbly supportive. We love your care!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Full-Moon Craziness

Taken just before 7 pm on 10/6/06 in Vancouver

Okay, are you ready??? We'll start slow and go uphill from there.

USC (Dennis' school, remember?) lost to its arch rival, UCLA, this past Saturday. So they went from #2 in the national rankings to #5. Also, Florida won their conference playoff game and went from #4 to #2 nationally. So THEY are the ones who'll play Ohio State (#1) on January 8th for the national title. (Are you with me?)

In the meantime, Michigan (my school, remember?) stayed put as #3 and will play USC in the Rosebowl on January 1st. Wanna know what Dennis says about that? "Whoa Nelly! I am in a no lose situation as my team squares off against my adopted team! So, Hail to the Victors, Fight On and may the best team prevail!" He also said previously that Amy is in a win-win position! She'll be genuinely happy regardless of who wins. :)

2. DONICA and Hannover
First of all, she's not seeing her doctor today but late Wednesday afternoon. (Actually, her doctor wasn't available till Wednesday all along but the receptionist scheduled her today with another doctor in the same group. When the nurse found that out, she said, No No No!) Since she's living on pain meds every 4 hours, we're really hoping and praying he will be able to squeeze her in for surgery ASAP. The sooner the better. Get that dang nerve out!

In the meantime, both of our flights to Hannover have been cancelled. A big disappointment for me, once again, but there's nothing we can do about it till Donica gets this thing behind her. Hopefully that will be soon!

So, how has the Full Moon been treating YOU today! :)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Force

Since we'll be in Hannover the next two weeks, we made sure to have Nicholas (6-1/2) over last night for an overnight. I always think no age could possibly be better than now, but we must be aging well together, because we just can't get enough of him at any age.

After our obligatory Waffle House breakfast, followed by several errands (one of which was to buy him new winter pj's for G'ma's house!), he asked if we could go into the woods. YES, of course! We had awakened to 30°F but, by noon, it was already 60°F (15°C).

We have so many favorite trees, our Friends. New ones seem to pop up all the time (like in the first photo), after rainstorms. This tree (second photo) is one that Nicholas has basically grown up with. I used to hold his hand as he'd walk up and down it's graceful slant. Now he carefully walks it by himself, up and down. "Down is easier," he says.

Today, after coming down, he said, "I felt the force in me!"

I started thinking of everyone I know that is facing some kind of hardship right now, especially at this holiday time: illness, loss of job, death, divorce, aloneness, the unknown. I know it's not easy for any of us to climb that tree, but I pray to God that we'll all do it...

...and feel the Force in us!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chewing the Cud

Regurgitation is more like it, but I'll get to that in a minute!

On Monday I was driving home from an errand and did an about-face when I saw these 4 cows at the edge of the road (fenced in) around the corner, less than a mile, from our house.

This little fella would not give me the time of day. I stood still, I was quiet and then even cooed when he turned to look. But the next thing I knew, he started sauntering off to join his mates.

It was downhill the rest of the way! I was afraid I'd see someone pull out a shotgun since I'm guessing I was trespassing along the private drive. So I gave it up. Bye-bye, little doggies.

So now, back to regurgitation! Remember when you first heard the meaning of that word?! I think we all went EEEW! or YUCK! Wiki says,"Cattle are ruminants, meaning that they have a digestive system that allows them to utilize otherwise undigestible foods by repeatedly regurgitating and rechewing them as "cud." The cud is then reswallowed and further digested by specialized microorganisms that live in the rumen."

Okay then. Why am I telling you this? Guess what Donica is "regurgitating!" Yup. Her little ilioinguinal nerve acted up so badly the other day that she had to fly home from Europe yesterday, 2 days early!!! I guess the good news is that the Phenol injection on September 12, when I called all angels, lasted 2-1/2 months!

A doctor's appointment on Monday morning will hopefully schedule surgery for a couple weeks from now, after we return from Hannover. The surgery will remove the nerve once and for all (cross our fingers, hope to die). In the meantime, we both leave for Germany Monday afternoon on two different planes, Donica with a bottle of pain pills to tide her over any other bad-pain days.

Just when we thought this was totally digested...well, you get the point!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Dead Sea Scrolls Body Scrub

HA. You're really gonna learn something about me today and will either laugh out loud or shake your head.

Remember at the tail end of our Scandinavian cruise in June when we both got massages? Mine was my first-ever hot-stones massage (which I loved). When the therapist first came into the room and started chatting with me, she noticed my dry skin. I told her I didn't put on any lotion before coming because I knew I'd get plenty of it during the massage.

She then proceeded to tell me that putting lotion on dry skin really only masks a deeper problem: dead skin that needs to be exfoliated. I dutifully listened as she described all the benefits of the scrub the ship sells, knowing full well that I would NOT pay $60 for a little 4 .oz jar. Still, I paid attention. Exfoliation was not something I did other than on my face. So this was new for me.

Once I got home, I did my research and ended up buying this 7 lb. pail for $25 on eBay (a $280 value, they said). "I'm not dumb," I said to myself. I might as well get something that will last the rest of my life (and make up for 60 years of lost time). As I've often said, once I get something, I really get it!

You know what the clincher was for me (besides the almond oil, which is one of my favorite fragrances!)? That it's salts and minerals from the Dead Sea . I grew up on the Bible stories around the Dead Sea in the valley between Israel and Jordan. Remember Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt? Remember the Dead Sea Scrolls?

At any rate, now that colder weather is really making my skin dry again, I'm thinking of the Dead Sea. I love the ritual of this scrub and how it makes my skin feel afterwards. It's almost a spiritual experience, if that makes sense.

Maybe it connects me to history that's hard to understand, juxtaposing the past to the present in the Middle East. Maybe it makes me feel like a world citizen. And maybe, just maybe, some DNA from that nameless woman made it into my pail!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Going, Going, Gone

The long holiday weekend is now on its last leg! It will end for me late tonight when I pick Amy up at the airport from her time with Dennis and his family in LA. Thankfully, I'll have that ride back to her house to catch up on everything, even though it'll be late.

Donica and I drove the 65 miles to her mom's in south Atlanta on Thursday AND Friday in order to spend more time with her brother from Indianapolis. We also got great left-overs on Friday, the "second blessing" of Thanksgiving!

1:59 scale PT Cruiser (Matchbox-type dyecast car) from 2001

Yesterday was another big football Saturday (don't you dare roll your eyes!). We drove over to my son's apartment for the big GA vs. GA Tech game. When you have arch rivals meeting on the field, it really doesn't matter any more how they're ranked. In this case, GA Tech should have won because of their ranking, but GA won. So Mark was a very happy camper, and we with him.

But THE game we watched like a hawk was the evening game between USC and Notre Dame! If USC (Dennis' school) lost, it would clinch Michigan's #2 national ranking behind Ohio State. But USC won. Good for Dennis, bad for me. USC does still have one more game to play next Saturday (against UCLA, their arch rival!), so none of this is yet written in cement. But it appears that Michigan will now be ranked #3 nationally.

So, with the Thanksgiving holiday, Michigan, too, is Going, Going, Gone. I think. But as sister Ruth recently said, "The Rose Bowl ain't too shabby!" :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

See this itty-bitty Tallinn-Doorway icon? It's also on my sidebar now, thanks to Josie (who taught me the html), as an entryway to my Hart & Soul Shutterchance photoblog. There is a new photo there every day, thanks to the auto-publishing feature of pics I queue up. If/whenever you come to In Soul here and see nothing new published, feel free to click on this icon in my sidebar to see what's new on my photoblog. Like today, Thanksgiving, that's where you'll find my sentiments for the day. So click away.


And if, per chance, you'd like some virtual pumpkin pie for dessert, click here (thanks to my brother in Michigan). But if you missed this last year (over 30 million saw it!), here's the absolute best Thanksgiving card ever! :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Holiday Web

Outside apartment window in Hannover on 6/13/06, my birthday.

This is just a reminder, as we head into the hectic pace of the holidays: slow down, be still, live in the moment, breathe in and out deeply (several times a day!).

I once worked in a psychiatric hospital and watched as patients flooded in at this time of the year. Stressed out to the breaking point! I also worked in assisted living and saw loneliness and depression like no other time of the year.

Be alive. Be well. Be thankful. Be present in this one moment that we have (I preach to the choir!). Let's not get sucked into the tyranny of the Holiday Web.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Still #2!

This large poster sat on the platform floor of the train station in Hannover during the World Cup soccer games last June, where everyone had to walk over it while exiting down the stairs. True, they call soccer football, which isn't the same as our football. But you get the point.

After Michigan's slim loss to Ohio State on Saturday (see last post), I was dying to see what the BCS standing would be this week. We're still #2, just barely ahead of USC (Dennis' alma mater). But schools like USC still have one or two more games to play in their season, so they can move ahead of Michigan, who is done. It'll be most interesting to see how this all plays out in the next couple of weeks. Will Michigan and Ohio State play again for the National Championship on January 8th? Stay tuned!

Just a reminder that we aren't the only crazy football fanatics in the world! :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Nail-biter Day

I'm sorry, but I can't resist this, here or on my Hart & Soul photoblog!

My alma mater, the University of Michigan, is playing it's final football game of the season today against our arch rival, Ohio State. That may not mean a thing to the rest of the world but it's gonna be a nail-biter day for those of us who care.

Besides this being the final and most important rivalry of our football season each year, it will decide who's the national champion before the "real" national championship game is played a few weeks from now (which could be Michigan and Ohio State again?). It so happens that Ohio State is ranked #1 and Michigan is ranked #2 in our college football rankings, the only 2 NCAA top-25 teams in the country that have won all their games this year and the first year they've had the 1-2 ranking. Furthermore, it so happens that we're both in the same Big Ten conference, which makes the match-up as #1 and #2 that much more exciting.

Donica and I will be at Amy's house, along with Mark, for cards and lunch before the game starts at 3:30p. Both of my kids were raised in a U of M household because Bill and I met and graduated from there (back in 1967, can you believe!). During our 21 years of marriage, the kids had one favorite football team and that was U of M! Amy graduated from Flagler College in FL (which doesn't have a football team) and Mark is a graduate of Georgia (big football team but a different conference, thank God!). But today it will be all Michigan.

BTW, you may have heard that Bo Schembechler, our coach from 1969-1989, died yesterday while at a press conference about this game. The link will tell you more about that. Since the game is being played at Ohio State, I'm hoping the Michigan Wolverines will have extra impetus to win it for him.

I've already started holding my breath! Of course, I'll let you know later the final outcome, if you don't find out first.

And please don't anyone tell me "it's only a game!" :)


UPDATE, Sunday: As you probably know by now, we lost, 42-39, a field-goal's difference. BUT, it was the best of what I had realistically hoped for. To be #2, playing at Ohio State, and following the death of our most revered coach ever, I am very proud of coming out only 3 points behind. As I told everyone yesterday, "I am not unhappy!" (Even though that's a double negative, which means it's positive, it's not exactly saying "I am happy," if that makes sense :)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sharlene K

Not to bore you to death if you've already seen her on my Hart & Soul photoblog (3 consecutive days!), but I want to immortalize this fine young lady on In Soul here, all 3 pics on one page.

One of my commenters on Hart & Soul alerted me to the ship registry where we discovered Shalene K is a trawler from Canada, built in 1966 (when I was a junior at the University of Michigan * :). Because she sat day in and day out in the harbor outside our condo in Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, the first week in October, we saw her strut her stuff in different moods throughout the week. (Click on images to enlarge her name.)

What a photogenic young lady! Pick your mood: in sultry fog, in sunny bliss, or in "happy-sunset hour." I have a feeling she'll be whatever you want her to be.

And as a couple of you have said, we'll remember her name forever! Don't you wonder who she was named after?!

[* Just for the halibut, what were YOU doing in 1966? :)]

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Clay Magic

What you see here in this post is one of the most amazing art forms I have ever seen in my life! And we found it when we had our looooong lay-over in Salt Lake City back on October 1 on our way to Vancouver Island.

This little fella is approximately 4 x 2-1/2 inches (10 x 6.5 cm) and has the feel and weight of resin. But it's not. It's polymer clay which, as Wiki says, isn't really clay but polymer polyvinyl chloride, containing no clay minerals but sharing its plasticity. It's non-terrestrial clay!

Jon Anderson is the artist of this piece. See his signature on the bottom? He supposedly is "the foremost polymer clay artist in the world today," living on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

The labor process for these sculptures is so intensive, it makes even my Gemini mind dizzy, and that's saying something. Loaves of different-colored clay are stretched repeatedly and laid next to each other for the design, starting from the center and working outward. Then, there's lots of cutting into small canes that are sliced into intricate tiles using a surgical scalpel. No two sculptures are exactly alike, so what you get is a one-of-a-kind, highly-collectible piece.

This was a no-brainer for both Donica and me when we saw it. Her animal spirit is the Turtle and this one is possibly the most soulful one we've ever seen. Period. If you enlarge the pics, you'll see all other kinds of insects/creatures imbedded in the design.

If that's not magic, what is!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Best Day of My Life

Whenever you see a pic of Nicholas (6) like this, you can pretty safely assume that I just got filled up by him. Yup. Last night, while Donica was on her way to Amsterdam!

Amy was out of town for the weekend and Nicholas was at his daddy's, so I was the lucky one to go pick him up. But with new directions! Daddy and Mimi (step-mom) had just moved into a new house over the weekend, so I got the grand tour before leaving with Nicholas.

On the way home, we both decided we wanted Chinese for supper: won-ton soup and chicken fried-rice for the BLB (Big Little Boy). He said he was starved. Half-way through his 3 helpings, he stopped and said, "This is the best day of my life."

I was actually quite surprised, wondering if it was his daddy's new house. But not wanting to put the words in his mouth, I asked him, "How come?!"

Nicholas: "It just is."

G'ma: "Hmm. Is there any particular reason?"

Nicholas: "I don't know; it just is!"

G'ma (somewhat facetiously): "Is it becasue you're eating Chinese?!" (to which I expected an emphatic "No, G'ma!")

Nicholas: "Yes! And because I'm with you!"

Totally shocked G'ma: "Awww. That makes me feel so special."

Nicholas: "You ARE special!!!"

Then there was that silly-grin exchange. And all I could think of was, "Spoken like a man!" As soon as you put good food into his stomach, it's the best day of his life :)

Afterwards, he blew bubbles in the bathtub before going to bed. Then he read me Goodnight Moon all by himself.

And when I kissed him good night, all I could think was, THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


A couple weeks ago when we were in Hannover, Germany, and I had just stepped off the bus from having visited Christina in nearby Ronnenberg, I stopped and just stared at this building being demolished. It's across the street from the hauptbahnhof (train station) and used to house the Tourist Information office for the city. Many a person, I 'spect, walked through their doors over the years.

Today they are intentionally tearing it down to replace it with a parking ramp for the city center. As so often happens, it wasn't until later that I noticed the in-tact window in the midst of all the demolition. HOW did it not shatter?

Have you ever noticed how many people around us go through devastating experiences in their lives and, instead of shattering to smithereens, actually grow stronger!

Maybe YOU'RE one of those persons? Unshattered!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Besides the mid-term election this week, we also had our CMA extravaganza on Monday night. HA. Those of you who can't stand country music can leave now. The rest of you probably know that Mr. Kenny Chesney won the coveted Entertainer of the Year award.

We actually like country music and have seen Kenny in concert several times, the most recent this past August. From these pics, you can tell where we were sitting: BEHIND. But my little Canon 12x zoomed in on his behind quite nicely, I thought. (Did I say that?! :)

Take your pick from these different fun poses. He definitely has all the energy and charisma he needs to be the Entertainer of the Year.

And, oh yes. We were ALLOWED to have our cameras at this concert. Go figure!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Georgia-Peach Voter

Yup! I voted yesterday and that sticker proves it! But I must add that it may have been the first mid-term election ever when I cast my vote. Well, maybe the second. Not that my vote counted HERE in Georgia. But still, I did it.

For inquiring minds: the Dems DID take the House but the jury is still out on the Senate. The Iraqi war clearly did not sit well with the American people who voted yesterday.

You know what pleases me the most?

The Democratic victories positioned Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to become the first female speaker of the House. "Today, the American people voted for change, and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction — and that is exactly what we intend to do," Pelosi said at a raucous victory rally in Washington.

I think that is so cool (read more here)!

They say you should never talk about politics or religion when with a mixed group of people. So it's time to shut my happy mouth!


[ADDENDUM, 11/9/06: It appears that the Dems have also taken the Senate, assuming a 7,000-vote margin for the Democratic contender in Virginia stands. Also, Rumsfeld resigned yesterday!! That indicates he and President Bush took the election seriously. Good for them.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Cutting Corners

For most of you, this will be Ho-Hum because it doesn't pertain to you at all. You have your own health insurance and pay your premiums or you ride the shirttails of your spouse's. This is for the rest of us and if it helps anyone save money, GOOD!

When I retired in February of 2005, I lost my health insurance. Because Donica's company does not support domestic partners in their policy, I've been on my own to figure out how to be "insured." I did settle on something that isn't exactly an insurance company but does make deductions on all kinds of procedures, office visits and meds.

I found out, however, that a 3-month supply (90 pills) of my cholesterol med was $1 more at regular pharmacies, with my drug benefit, than that same med/amount at our BJ's wholesale club (like Costco and Sam's) without the benefit (which they don't accept). So, no savings there. BUT my BJ's pharmacist told me that if my doctor would change my 10mg/day pill for 20mg/day cut in half (45 pills), it would save me money. DUH! So, instead of paying $257 for 3 months, I pay $130 and cut the pills in half myself. I even love using that gadget (above).

Donica says you can't do this with all meds. But thank God, this one is okay. It's a no-brainer.

And guess what! Next July 2007, her company is adding domestic partners to their policy, at which time my meds will be cut in half again! Woo-hoo!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

No Pain, No Gain?

There have been so many conversations the last days, virtual and real, about how incredibly vibrant this autumn has been, everywhere! I took this pic today of the woods in front of our house. Even though their peak has passed, the trees are still amazing.

That got me thinking about why this autum has been so brilliant. I don't know about where you live but here in Atlanta we had an unusually early cold snap in September, followed by lots of rain. For some people, cold and rain in September/October are UGH days. But seriously, they're what gave us the autumn we're having.

Deep down we know that all kinds of UGH or painful situations bring the gain and growth we long for in our lives. On a somewhat petty level (in the big scheme of things), for instance, I'm experiencing some "painful" constructive criticism on my photoblog by putting myself into the arena of photographers much better than I. Don't get me wrong. I've asked for it because I really do want to get better. But do I want to get better badly enough to stay the course, in spite of my self-doubts? I hope so because of the expected gain.

I wonder how these trees feel, now that they're in the process of loss (after all their glory!). Are they able to relinguish themselves to the death-resurrection cycle they must now experience before the promise of Spring? And will we learn a lesson from them?

Hey. It's Sunday and a full moon. I can be as philosophical and emotional as I want right now!

Friday, November 03, 2006

No One Rained On Her Parade!

I don't care what anyone else says or thinks about her, we felt very lucky to see Babs and hear her in concert last night here in Atlanta on her Streisand Tour 2006!

According to this link, "Barbra Streisand is the music industry's #1 best-selling female artist with 50 Gold, 30 Platinum and 13 Multi-Platinum albums to her credit. She is second in the all-time charts, ahead of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, exceeded only by Elvis. She continues to be the highest-selling female recording artist ever. Streisand remains the only artist to receive Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, and Peabody Awards, and the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award."

Donica and I both hoped there wouldn't be any "incident" after hearing of the political heckling in other cities. After all, Atlanta/Georgia is a Republican, Red state and while we tend to lean more toward her persuasion, we dreaded any potential soapbox shenanigans. We needn't have feared a bit. She was full of grace, charm, humor, class and selflessness. The President Bush parody was hysterical and the crowd was totally with her. (BTW, the guy who parodies Bush has been invited by Bush to the White House. At least he can take the joke!)

As if that weren't enough, Il Divo shared the stage! I first discovered them while watching Dancing With the Stars this past Wednesday night, where they were one of the featured artists. After hearing that they were with Barbra on tour, I said to Donica, "OMG! We're gonna hear both of them!"

From the same link above, "Il Divo has become the most successful International musical breakout story of the past few years, selling more than 12 million albums. Conquering the hearts of fans and the charts of nations all around the world, the group has garnered some 80 gold and platinum awards in 33 countries. Their first two albums, Il Divo and Ancora, achieved 26 #1 chart positions Internationally, including a #1 debut in the United States."

The way Streisand and Il Divo segued in and out of each other all evening, sometimes singing with each other, was brilliant. Their operatic style with her unique voice was absolutely astounding.

I died and went to heaven! Twice!!

Barbra Streisand image from onthescene
Il Divo image from mellenevents

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hart & Soul

Doorway in St. Catherine's Passage, Tallinn, Estonia

Many of you already know about this because I've sent you a preview, but today is my official announcement of my new photoblog at Shutterchance. It does not take the place of this In Soul blog, but hopefully enhances it.

I've had a "missing piece" for a long time but didn't know what it was until my sister, Ruth, found it for me. When she started her photoblog, to highlight favorite photos in a larger format, it was my own AHA! experience. The missing piece. She basically encouraged me to do the same thing with the favorite travel photos in particular that I've wanted to set apart (like the one above). If she could do it, maybe I could as well! Bigger photos, fewer words!

That started my journey to find the site that "spoke" to me and was user-friendly, since I'm not a web designer or HTML expert. It was on Wiki, under "photoblog" that I found Shutterchance (out of England and, for right now, totally free!). The rest is history.

Dennis' mom, Judy, is the one who came up with the title, Hart & Soul (a take-off on T' Pau's Heart and Soul lyrics). Don't you just love it?! She gets the shiny Gold Star :)

So anyway, there you have it. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't teach an old dog new tricks! And BTW, I have added my Hart & Soul link to my sidebar, just under Links. I'd be delighted if you come visit me there from time to time. It's a whole new world! Thanks :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mr. Death


Nicholas' lit jack-o'-lantern

Mr. Death is who Nicholas chose for his pumpkin pattern this year, but that's getting ahead of myself!

After his last soccer game of the season this past Saturday morning, we took Nicholas to the pumpkin patch. 'We' was Amy, Uncle Mark, Donica and me. As you'd guess, I took scads of pics (unphotoshopped) but this (above) was my favorite! He was so cute trying to pick up the pumpkin he picked out for himself (and gets extra points for bending his knees!)

Amy's garage was the "manufacturing plant." Mark was in his spot with his own pumpkin; Amy was in her spot with hers. Across from them was Nicholas, with Donica helping him figure it all out. Somewhere along the way, they both agreed that Nicholas' pumpkin would not quite work for the pattern he chose, so they switched with the 4th "extra" pumpkin, slimmer but taller.

Then they went at it! The slimy, slippery, messy seeds inside were carefully saved, every one! We all had anticipation for the roasted seeds to come, thanks to Amy's delicious recipe.

The tedious punching of holes on the pattern was all part of the suspense for Mr. Death. No one doubted for one second that he would be ferocious. And so he was/is! But as I said,


Even Nicholas would say, "It's just pretend!" It's all part of our lovely Halloween tradition, right?!