Surprise Awesomesauce!

There hasn’t been a whole lot of writing going on around here since school started last week, unless you count creating social studies note packets and PowerPoint presentations. In fact, other than stealing snippets of time to read Jane Eyre, nothing literary has seen the light of day in a good two weeks.

But I had a fun surprise when I opened my mailbox today.

To be honest, it wasn’t so much a surprise as something I’d forgotten would be arriving. You see, my fellow CNYRW member Christine Wenger celebrated the release of her first cozy mystery, Do or Diner, a few weeks ago. As part of the release awesomesauce, she held a contest in which one could win a copy of the new book. And I won.

When I found out, I almost replied with my usual, “I never win anything!” But if I look over the past few years, it seems to be more the case that I tend to win a lot of contests. Yes, usually they’re silly ones, like at my church’s Mardi Gras party a couple years ago when you won for, say, finding the most Mardi Gras beads. And I am the reigning champion of teachers for the “Show of Love” assembly at school, wherein you have to guess songs from TV shows and movies and general pop culture after hearing only a few seconds of the music. (They may have to invite me back for a cameo appearance this year.)

Anyway, in all the crazy/busy of studying the Common Core modules and prepping my classroom amid construction dust, I completely forgot about Christine’s book. So when I opened my mailbox today and saw the big, bulging envelope, I thought it was something my husband had ordered from Amazon.

I might have hopped and squealed a little when I saw who it was from. Luckily none of my neighbors were around.

And bonus, not only do I have a lovely, signed copy of Do or Diner, but my semi-surprise came with a real surprise!

Yes, that would be my Farberware knife block making a cameo appearance. I thought it was fitting.

Yes, that would be my Farberware knife block making a cameo appearance. I thought it was fitting.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a cookbook and a cozy mystery to read.

 

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I’m totally in love with my sixth graders. I couldn’t have hand-picked a better class to make the transition to middle school with.

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New Yorkers Unite for Our State Parks!

I don’t often get up on a soap box – at least I hope I don’t – unless I feel very strongly about something. Or if something really catches my interest and I just have to spread the word. That’s what’s happening today.

A couple years ago, when New York State was in the midst of a budget crisis (which is no surprise, really, we seem to have a budget crisis of some sort almost every year – maybe they we should elect a bunch of CPAs to the Legislature and Assembly), one of the ideas put forth to save money was to either severely reduce the operation of or enact the complete and immediate closure of most of our state parks and historic sites.

Fortunately the outcry against such action was resounding from just about every corner of the state, and volunteers emerged from all walks of life intent on saving our state parks.  And a good thing too – I don’t know the numbers off hand, but our state parks provide a lot of revenue for the local townships and are a major reason why tourists come here from other states and Canada.  New York State is lucky – we really have some beautiful areas, and a variety of parks and historic sites that can cater to people with just about every interest under the sun.  And I’m a big fan of state and national parks. Without even any dedicated consideration, I can think of at least twelve I’ve been to in the last two years.  And they were state and national parks I’d never been to before, for the most part!

Anyway, long story short, New York’s state parks and historic sites were saved. For the time being. Now, with the effects of the sequester starting to ripple down into the way airports and other nationally funded arenas are being run, it’s only a matter of time before the states have to tighten their belts again and consider what will be next on the chopping block in an effort to save money.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the state parks make it to the top of that list at some point soon.

So it’s up to us to keep our state parks and historic sites running, and tomorrow’s a great opportunity to show our support for our fantastic local attractions.  Tomorrow, May 4th, is “I Love My Park” Day here in New York State. It’s a day for New Yorkers to get up and go out to our local state parks and historic sites and help clean things up.  Pull some weeds. Paint some fences. Sweep some sidewalks.  For the seasonal sites, it might be a matter of getting things ship-shape for opening day. For year-round locations, it might involve cleaning up the damage from this winter.  Either way, it’s a great chance to do something, and send the message to the people in charge that we love our state parks, and want to keep them going.

I personally will be spending some time tomorrow at Fort Ontario. You can register to help out at your local state park or historic site – or just show up, ready and willing!

Dreaming of Warm Places

The past week has been pretty frozen here in the Northeast.  Since I live in one of the lake effect belts off Lake Ontario, I find the snow annoying but expected.  It’s the cold that gets me.  After a week of temperatures hovering around 0 degrees (the actual temperature, not the wind chill), I’m ready to think about some warmer places I’ve been:

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Disney World. Also the happiest place on Earth

The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Ah, Rome! 70+ degrees the whole time we were there! Plus ITALY!

 

Taormina, Sicily

Taormina, Sicily, viewed from the Castelmola (on top of a mountain – that was a hike!)

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, of course.

Sandals Regency Resort, St. Lucia
St. Lucia. Ahhhh St. Lucia!

 

And as for the places I’d like to go:

Las Vegas Strip

VEGAS! It’s in the middle of the Nevada Desert. I don’t think I’d want to go there in the middle of summer, but it’s quite pleasant in the spring, I hear…

 

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, Arizona. I’ll go when it’s warm. 🙂

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans French Quarter. Beautiful.

Hawaii

Aloha, Hawaii! I’ll get there someday.

 

 

My Prayer for Motherhood

Those of you who’ve read the archives, or followed for a while, have an inkling of some of the personal stuff going on in my life.  While I don’t usually hire out skywriters or anything like that to advertise, I also have made no secret of the fact that I struggle with infertility and have had to deal with the loss of a pregnancy.

Some of you may also have realized that, while I’m not exceptionally overt about my faith, it’s an important piece of my life and who I am.  If not for my faith, there were a lot of times in my life when I could have given up on everything.  My faith has kept me going.

This struggle with infertility has been a true test of my faith, believe me.  And I admit, there have been times in the past two and a half years when I was really close to losing my faith.  I’m not sure what kept it in place, what continues to keep it in place.

I am at a bit of a crossroads right now, and it feels a little bit like everybody’s got a bit of advice for me on what path I should take. Some of the comments, the attempts to help, are a little hurtful, even though they’re made with the best intentions.  A lot of people just don’t have a grasp of the etiquette of supporting a friend or family member dealing with infertility.

I have had to learn to let go of a lot of things, and to ignore a lot of what people say.  They aren’t in my shoes, they don’t know what discussions I’ve had with my husband, my doctor, myself, with God.  At the end of the day, I just need people to be supportive of the decisions I need to make, based on my beliefs and what’s right for my family.

Those decisions have been weighing on me a lot over the past couple weeks because, as I said, I’m at a crossroads.  Actually, not even a crossroads, because that would indicate there are three possible paths to take: keep going straight in the current path, or turn onto one of two other paths.  No, it’s more of a “this road has come to a T.”  After this month, I can’t go further on the path we’re on.

I don’t know what’s going to happen.  There are a lot of unknowns right now, except for the absolute fact that I want to be a mother. Actually, I am a mother.  Perhaps that’s part of why my faith has remained, despite everything that’s gone wrong – I have to believe that the baby I lost is in Heaven, and that someday we will be reunited.  I just have to believe that.

In the meantime, as I try to get all zen about what could possibly happen beyond this month, there’s going to be a whole lot of praying going on in this house.

 

My Prayer for Motherhood

Hey, America…. GO VOTE!

So it’s Election Day here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  I’m sure many of you, like me, are sick and tired of all the political ads on TV and the radio, the inundation of political posts from our friends on Facebook, and all the “Vote for Me!” signs that have been waving in people’s yards for the past three to six months.

In general, I don’t discuss politics – in person, online, anywhere.  I’ve had friends try to draw me into political debate on Facebook, and I just don’t play along.  I seem to manage to steer the comment-conversation toward, oh, I don’t know, cupcakes or something.

Politics is susceptible to cupcakes, did you know that?

I had this big long-winded message I thought about writing this morning to kind of clarify my position on the issues, but you all don’t need my input.  It’s not my job to tell you who to vote for.  It’s a personal decision, it should be based on your beliefs and values.  And regardless of party lines, you should vote for the person you think will do the best job.  Read up on the issues and look into where the candidates really stand.  Think about what they’ve said (and what’s been quoted in or out of context).  Look at the track record. And really, sometimes you have to take your gut instinct into account too.

Up until this morning, I honestly had no idea who to vote for.  To be honest, I’m still not 100% sure.  I have all day to think about it, since I won’t be able to go vote until after work.  I’m neither a Republican or a Democrat.  I’m an independent (with a lowercase I) voter.  If I have to define myself, I’d say I’m a liberal conservative.  Which basically means I’m on the fence, right in the middle, with an ever-so-slight lean toward the liberal side of things.

Who am I voting for?  Really, it’s not your business.  I just read a book to my second graders yesterday about elections, and it said right there, in that children’s book, that voting is “private” and “secret” in the United States.  Could I tell you?  Sure.  But I don’t want to.  But you can be certain it’ll be the person I think will do the best job.

But here’s what I feel very adamant about:  Voting is a precious right in our country.  Not a privilege, not something to earn. Every citizen of this country has the right to vote – and let’s face it, it’s taken literally centuries and loads of hardship to make it so EVERY CITIZEN of the United States can vote.  And while you certainly have the right to choose abstention from voting, I really think that if you don’t cast a ballot, you shouldn’t complain about the outcome of the election.

Let me clarify quickly.  I know that we’re all taxpayers, so everyone certainly has the right to complain about how our tax money gets spent.  But all our elected officials, from the President to Congress to our local and state governments, are just people.  And they have agendas and ideals and they often cling to party politics even if it isn’t in the best interests of the country.  So yeah, you can certainly complain about how those officials choose to spend America’s money, the policies put in place.  The funny thing is, people often say we live in a democracy, but that’s not entirely accurate.  We live in a democratic republic.  A true democracy would have all of us voting all the time on every bill and law and referendum.  We vote for our representatives, who in turn vote on those issues in our stead.  Because we won’t all fit in the Capitol Building at the same time.

But if you don’t cast a vote, don’t complain about the person in office.

And for God’s sake, show a little respect, regardless.  Whether you voted for him or not, the President is the President.  Whoever is elected today, whoever takes office in January, will be the person who wins the election.  And it’s really no use complaining about that in the end, because it means the democratic process works.

So my final piece of advice this morning?

Roses in bloom!

I’m admittedly not the best gardener in the world.  My thumb is but a light green.  But I’m really excited about my roses this year.

I have one rose bush that we transplanted to the south side of the house about four years ago.  It bloomed that first year, and then got some sort of weird rosebush illness that resulted in stalky stems, misshapen leaves, and no blooms.

But I must have somehow done something that worked some antibiotic botanical magic, because it bloomed today.

And they’re yellow, edged with pink.

We have a bit of a storm moving in, so hopefully it won’t knock all the petals off the blooms.  I tend to leave my roses on the bushes where they’ll last a little longer, but if these survive the storm, I’m going to clip them.  They’re even prettier than the red roses I got this summer. And red roses are my favorites.

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Can’t Keep Up

There are times I feel like this.