Fan Appreciation Contest: Win A Flip Video Camera!

I love she really is in it for the SAVINGS! I love going shopping and paying a small fraction of what I would normally have paid if I didn't read her emails every day. Thanks Kitty!

Now here she is, giving away a free Flip Video Camera, isn't she sweet? Our niece and her husband got one for Christmas and I was blown away by the picture quality! So now I want one... but you should enter the contest, too!

Fan Appreciation Contest: Win A Flip Video Camera!

Happy New Year!

Auld Lang Syne! (I don't even know what that means...)

As another year closes, we start to focus on what we’re going to do better next year.  Have you made any New Year’s resolutions this year?  I never used to make them, but this year it’s been on my mind.  Of course, my main resolution is the same one I have on a daily basis: lose weight!  And then the day actually starts and my resolve flies right out the window.  Curse you, sweet tooth and laziness!

Another resolution I have made in previous years and still haven’t conquered is my “coke addiction”.  Technically, it’s DIET coke and no, I don’t snort it... I guzzle it!  I know what’s in it and how bad it is for me yet I still reach for it every day.  The aspartame could very well be the cause of my migraine-like headaches, and I know the phosphoric acid is most likely leeching the calcium from my bones. I’m also aware of the various studies and rumors about potassium benzoate, so maybe this year I’ll finally say ENOUGH OF BEING STUPID and successfully quit the stuff?

I think I’m also going to make a resolution to be The Most Awesomest Grandma Ever!  But since my first grandchild won’t even be born until April, I guess we’ll have to wait to see how I make out on that one...

So what resolutions are you considering this year?  Please leave comments and tell us how you’re going to do better in 2011!

I Knew What I Was Doing, Right Up Until You Asked Me.

How can one person be both a loud, opinionated know-it-all AND an insecure people-pleaser at the same time?  How is it that I am both a knowledgeable employee to whom people go when they have a question about anything at the office AND a flutter-brain who can’t seem to perform her day-to-day tasks the same way twice?  How do I manage to retain so much information in my head yet become so easily overwhelmed when asked a question or presented with a project?
And while I’m at it, why do I waver between feeling under-appreciated and feeling like someday they’re all going to figure out that I’m basically a useless imposter and there are zillions of more qualified people who would like my job?  Why do some people like me and others hate me?

I suppose everyone has similar insecurities.  Anyone will tell you that they do, but I still find myself doubting it.  I look at other people and think, “They seem like they know who they are and they’re confident in their abilities… AND in their shortcomings.”  Wait, confident in their shortcomings?  I guess I mean they know their limitations and their aptitudes and the definite line between the two.  “I can do this and I can’t do that.”  I seem to question my ability to do even the stuff I can do.  Am I alone in this?  Am I even making any sense?

I wish that for one day, I could step outside of myself and see me the way other people see me.  Then again, that’s a scary thought... what if I don’t like what I see?  Maybe I better just stay inside my own head where it’s safe.  I just need to come to terms with my flaws and keep telling myself that everyone else has theirs, too.  Even if they do all seem more comfortable in their own skin. What do YOU think? Am I alone in this or is it normal?

Does IT really stand for Irritability Target, or is it just me?

I don’t have a degree in any type of computer science or programming, or anything closely related to the field. I have, however, always sought to learn the basics of how computers work: a little on the hardware side, a little on the software side... a little knowledge really is a dangerous thing, especially since it has invariably landed me in the position of “go-to” person for anything computer-related just about anywhere I’ve ever worked. The main problems with this are:

1. I am not a computer EXPERT. I may or may not be able to solve your problem.
2. You came to me for help with your computer problem and I didn’t know the fix, and now the problem has become MINE to deal with.
3. The combination of my people-pleaser tendencies and my rampant insecurities make me completely unable to NOT take on your computer problem as my responsibility.
4. A while back, my boss actually made it official that ALL computer-related issues go to me and I deal with the various help desks and IT consultants alone. Because I “know something about computers”. Ugh.

I’ve had conversations about this with a few of my friends who happen to be IT people, two who are consultants and therefore deal with numerous different clients and one who manages the IT department for an entire hospital. They all say the same basic things. I need to get out! No, they don’t actually say that, but that’s what I infer from all the things they do tell me...

Well, never mind. I’ll leave it up to all the poor souls out there who have to deal with the job day in and day out to “fill in the blanks” with their war stories. But I’d like to end with a few of my favorite quotes concerning computers and their users. Enjoy!

"I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone." - Bjarne Stroustrup

“The trouble with programmers is that you can never tell what a programmer is doing until it’s too late.” - Seymour Cray

"If at first you don't succeed; call it version 1.0"

"Failure is not an option -- it comes bundled with Windows."

"If you give someone a program, you will frustrate them for a day; if you teach them how to program, you will frustrate them for a lifetime."

"My software never has bugs. It just develops random features."

"The only problem with troubleshooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back."

Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, but 12 Steps and a Concrete Floor Will DEFINITELY Do the Trick!

One morning at work nine years ago, I left my second floor office to head downstairs.  About two or three steps down, I slipped and fell the rest of the flight, breaking my ankle, toe and shoulder and tearing my rotator cuff.  What had started as a typical day at work became a life-changing event.  I don’t mean to say it has changed my life in a physical way; my doctors expected a full recovery and other than some minor limitations, I'm back to normal.  But spiritually, I learned so many lessons that I most certainly did not come out the other end of this experience the same person I went in as. 

Only photo I could find from that year.
I remember that the first thing I felt as I slipped was regret.  To this day, I don’t know what I was regretting, maybe the poor choice of foot placement?  I mention this because it was such an odd emotion to have as you are tumbling down a flight of stairs.  I would have assumed fear would be natural, but regret?  Of course, once I got to the bottom, the pain took over as my entire right side felt like it was on fire. 

Once I was secured into the ambulance and on my way to the hospital, I started praying and focusing on my prayers in order to endure the pain.  I actually got a little annoyed with the paramedic who kept asking me questions while I was repeating the Lord’s Prayer so that I had to keep starting over.  I was praying out loud, didn’t he realize he was interrupting?  Once I was at the hospital and diagnosed, x-rayed, drugged, and everything else they did to me, I was taken to surgery to put my ankle back together with screws.  This scared me most of all.  Broken bones were supposed to be put into casts, not operated on; this was not on my To Do List for the day!  But little did I know that I was on my way to learning what I thought I already knew.  I guess I did already know these lessons, I just hadn’t had to put them into practice yet and God knew that I needed some hands-on training.  It’s one thing to be able to list the responsibilities, expectations, and aspects of being a Christian; it’s something else entirely to live them on a daily basis. 

My first realization of what God was teaching me came a few nights later.  I had been moved to a rehabilitation hospital, where I would spend the next few weeks.  As I was writing a letter to my brother, I suddenly saw what God wanted me to understand.  I had just been baptized two months earlier, I was only a baby Christian.  I had been studying the Bible on my own, searching for something for quite a while, and then started studying with a local preacher.  During this time, I had learned that part of being a member of Christ’s church is service.  But as of yet, I hadn’t really helped anyone.  Sure, I had done some baking for events, things like that, but what had I actually done?  What was there that needed to be done?  If someone had asked me that question, I'm not sure I could have come up with an answer. 

So God showed me an answer: Do whatever needs doing.  Within hours of my accident, my new brothers and sisters in Christ came to my aid in every way imaginable, and many ways I never would have imagined.  Of course, I received tons of get-well cards, phone calls, and visits.  But they were also taking turns driving my daughter to and from school, taking my car to the garage, doing my laundry, inviting me to come stay with them once I was released from the hospital, bringing me items that I hadn’t asked for but they knew I would need.  It was so overwhelming!  While I sat there that night, writing to my brother, it hit me that God wanted me to receive all this love, support, and kindness, so that I would know what to do later for someone else!  Prior to this, I would have thought sending a card was all I could do for someone who is ill or injured.  But Jesus didn’t send cards.  He did for others whatever needed done.  By the time I finished writing that letter, I was sobbing.  What I didn’t know then was how many more lessons God was teaching me through this.  But over the next few weeks, my eyes kept opening wider and wider to His plan. 

The next lesson I learned was probably the hardest, and one I still struggle with: humility.  I was an independent person.  At the time, I was a single mother with a career, and no one to turn to when it was time to pay the bills or make important decisions.  And I liked it that way.  I just didn’t realize how prideful that attitude is until I was forced to give it up.  It’s hard to humble yourself in any situation, but I was in a situation where I simply didn’t have a choice.  If I didn’t let these wonderful people do things for me, nothing was going to get done.  My child wouldn’t get to school, my laundry wouldn’t get washed, and I wouldn’t have a ride to my doctor’s appointments.  It was time to get over myself.  Seeing my new family doing these things for me also humbled me in another way: it showed me how much I had to grow as a Christian.  They weren’t even hesitating; they were just jumping in with both feet to get the work done.  That’s pretty humbling to see how self-involved I had been; things had to fit into my schedule in order for me to do them. 

During these weeks, another lesson kept coming back to me.  I had a strong faith in the Lord, but at no other time had I had to rely on that faith as often. I read the book of Job again and this time it meant so much more to me.  I was able to relate to Job in a way I hadn’t before.  It is so easy to stay faithful to God when His blessings are abundant and obvious, but what about when the rug gets pulled out from under us?  I had been basking is His glory, receiving His blessings and praising Him.  Now I was faced with that difficult question of WHY.  Why was I suffering in pain, unable to walk, go to work, or go anywhere for that matter?  I had to turn it over to Him, reminding myself that He is in control and that someday I may or may not be able to see His plan in all this, but that regardless, He had a plan, and I was just along for the ride.  Nothing I could do could possibly improve my situation, and if I forced my will I’d be sure to make things worse anyway. 

This leads me to the next lesson I was learning: patience.  I prayed several times a day, asking God to heal me and let me get back to my life and my responsibilities.  And I was always careful to add “Your will be done”.  I thought I was submitting myself to that until the day of my first follow-up with my surgeon.  I woke up that day full of hope and high expectations that the doctor would be dumbfounded by my rapid improvement and decrease his estimate of how long I’d be out of work by at least a week or two.  I started the day with an MRI to determine the amount of damage to my shoulder.  X-rays the day of the accident didn’t show any breaks, so we assumed we were dealing with the rotator cuff injury alone.  I wasn’t going to receive the results of that test until the next day, so I was off to the doctor.  There was no dumbfounded look, no accelerated recovery.  In fact, he moved it back another two weeks!  I was crushed; I had prayed so much!  Then the next day, the MRI results came in and I was told that not only was the rotator cuff torn, as we expected, but I had also broken my arm near the shoulder.  They immediately immobilized the arm by strapping it to my side.  I had just spent the previous week in rehab learning how to use crutches safely with a bad shoulder.  Now I was stuck in a wheelchair full-time.  I couldn’t stop crying; again I asked why.  And it hit me: patience.  Deep down, I was hoping and actually expecting that “His will” was really my will.  And it obviously wasn’t.  In His time, not mine.  Another reminder that I cannot be in control of my life and live the life God wants for me, and why would I want to?  His plan for me is so much better than anything I could come up with on my own!  Which leads to the fifth lesson I learned from this accident: appreciation. 

When you think of all the blessings you have received from the Lord, what is on your list?  Jesus, of course, and love, family, your job, food and so on.  But do we ever remember to thank Him for the ability to walk?  To cook a meal without assistance?  So many things we take for granted that never make that list of blessings, not because we don’t think of them as blessings, but simply because we don’t think of them at all.  It’s a blessing that I am able to drive myself to an appointment or to put my hair up with ease.  I suddenly found myself reliant on others to drive me everywhere, and I had to leave my hair down all the time because I couldn’t lift my right arm.  When you forget something in the other room, it’s a nuisance.  But when you're in a wheelchair and forget something in the other room, it’s an ordeal!  All these things are from the Lord, not us.  And He didn’t take away my blessings.  I feel completely blessed with so many other things I hadn’t thought about before, and I have a new blessing: that I am able to appreciate all the things I used to do and would someday do again.  I sat in the physical therapy gym at the hospital and watched other patients doing their exercises.  Many had had an arm or leg amputated.  They will never have them again; mine were only broken and would heal.  What an incredible blessing that is! 

The final lesson that comes to mind from my experience brings all of them together into one very important package: influence.  I’ve always asked God to use me in the lives of others, to bring them to Christ, but then I wonder what I would say to someone who asked me questions.  Would I freeze under pressure?  Say something stupid that discourages them?  If I felt they wanted to talk, but didn’t know how to ask, what would I say?  Then I received an email from a friend in New Jersey. 

Valerie and I had never met, but were internet pen pals.  We had met in a Christian chat room several months prior, while I was still searching for what I was missing.  Valerie’s husband is a Lutheran minister, and as a preacher’s wife, she was able to answer many of my endless questions about the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity with patience and understanding.  When I got out of the hospital, I emailed her to let her know what had happened and how everyone in the church was helping me so much. Valerie wrote back that she was truly inspired by my story.  She explained that as a wife, mother, and employee, she got caught up in her responsibilities and didn’t realize how much she had slipped out of serving others until she read my email.  Hearing how the church was coming to my aid, she resolved to get back into serving her congregation, really serving them.  She mentioned a woman whose mother had just died.  Valerie said she had hugged the woman and gave her condolences, but she now saw how much more she could have done.  She said she was going to see her the next day and do something, anything, for her.  Who would have guessed that a two-month-old Christian could have influenced a life-long believer and minister’s wife?  And all I had to do was share my story.  God is good! 

So many people in my life asked me about my faith after my accident, and the biggest reason is that they could see that I was constantly surrounded by my brothers and sisters who were showing unending love.  If seeing that could be a positive influence on any of my coworkers, family members, or friends, then falling down those stairs was the best thing that ever happened!  How easy it is to feel sorry for ourselves and question why God let something happen.  But we must have faith in Him, patience to wait for His answers, appreciation for everything He has given us, and open ourselves to let Him do His work.  By serving others, we are serving the Lord, and He rewards us greatly, if we just open our eyes to see it.

Parlez Vous Statesmahn?

A long time ago in a land faraway... Well, how about 1989 in Canada?  Way before cell phones.  Waaaayy before Hubby.   It was a great opportunity: a drum corps competition in Quebec City.  Before this, our jaunts into Canada had been limited to Ontario, which really isn't much different from New York.  Well, except for Niagara Falls... that place is just weird.  But I'm getting off topic.   So, the Empire Statesmen had our first competition in a French-speaking city.  The entire show was announced in French.  We actually won both the all-over competition and many of the caption awards (colorguard, horn line, drum line, etc.) but since none of us were fluent in French-Canadian, we didn't have a clue what we were winning.  All we heard was "Blahblahblahblahblah, zee Em-pahre StatesMAHN!"   And we'd accept the trophy.  Then a bunch more "blahblahblahblah" followed by "zee Em-pahre StatesMAHN!"  And another trophy.  It was pretty funny; we'd just keep saluting, then quietly asking each other, "what'd we win?"  Nobody knew. 

So after the show, we headed out to the parking lot to load the buses.  Another corps in the show was from our hometown, Erie.  I used to march with them, as did my at-the-time-boyfriend.  Let's call him Melvin, because the name Melvin makes me giggle and that way he can't get angry at me for blogging about him.   Because I'm not; I'm blogging about Melvin.   Well, Melvin apparently wanted to visit with all our old friends from the other drum corps so instead of heading to OUR buses, he went to theirs first.  As we all got settled into our seats (Melvin and I had been sitting in the very back of the bus), I realized he wasn't there, so I started yelling up to the front that Melvin wasn't on board.  But one of the horn players, John, assured me  that Melvin was in the very front, talking with the bus driver.  I believed him and took advantage of having the seat to myself while we pulled away from the stadium. 

Meanwhile, the Erie corps' buses were also getting ready to pull out, so Melvin (I'm still giggling every time I type that name) said his goodbyes and headed back to where our buses had been parked.  And found NO buses.  He did find some policemen and asked them to help him get to the school where we were staying the night on the gym floor.  (If you're not familiar with drum corps, having a gym floor to crash on is considered a luxury.  Normally, we'd be sleeping on the bus)  Unfortunately, Melvin couldn't remember the name of the school.  Even more unfortunately, the policemen didn't speak English anyway.  For a while, he thought they did understand, as they had him get in the backseat of their cruiser and they headed out.  But soon reality hit as he spent the entire night in that backseat, repeatedly trying to communicate with two French-Canadian policemen who kept wanting to take him to the Y. 

When our buses pulled up to the school and we unloaded, I quickly realized that John didn't know what he was talking about... Melvin wasn't anywhere to be found.  I pushed my way through the mass of zombie-like performers who just wanted to find their sleeping bag and crash and sought out anyone and everyone who might be able to help me.  But all the powers-that-be assured me that if Melvin had been with the Erie corps, he certainly must have hitched a ride with them.  They didn't seem to care that while this would get him safely out of Canada, it would put him in Pennsylvania, and we lived in New York.  Then again, those powers- that-be were probably just as tired as everyone else and figured, "Eh, he's a big boy.  He can take care of himself."  Of course, I was the doting girlfriend with no one who was willing or able to take me back to the stadium to find my poor, lost boyfriend.  So I collapsed onto my sleeping bag  and fell asleep.  What else could I do?

And Melvin spent the entire night riding around Quebec City in the backseat of a police cruiser.  At dawn, he finally spotted the restaurant we had eaten dinner at the night before and knew they were close to the school.   He got them to stop when he recognized one of our drummers' car.  As we were groggily waking up and packing up our stuff, Melvin came into the gym.  I was so confused; I seriously figured he was on his way to Pennsylvania!   He wasn't confused; he was furious with me.  Somehow, his getting left behind and having to spend the night in the back of a cop car was MY FAULT.  He didn't believe my story that John had said he was sitting up front.  He didn't believe that I tried to get someone to go back for him.   He believed that I knowingly allowed the bus driver to leave without him, I didn't care where he was, and I apparently only wanted to get his prime spot on the gym floor.   Or something like that. 

Now, twenty-one years later, I find it pretty darn amusing.  And if you ask Melvin, he still thinks I did it on purpose.

NOTE:  In the picture above, I'm the one on the ground.  If I tried to hit that pose now, it would be followed by "I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP!"

Don't Try Anything You're About to See Us Do At Home

I'm totally addicted to Mythbusters lately... I get stuck on a particular program, so I'll watch all the available seasons of it on Netflix or DVD until I'm all caught up, then I get completely burned out and can't watch TV for weeks.  Then I'll sit down and seek out my next TV addiction.  In the past few years, I've done it with Charmed, Supernatural, Big Bang Theory, most recently Cake Boss, and now Mythbusters.  I rarely sit down to watch a show on it's given night; mostly because I don't remember to and anyway Hubby controls the TV viewing in our house.  Except for the rare occasions when both elements are in play: I want to watch TV AND Hubby is not already watching TV.  Sometimes I'll sit down and watch whatever he is watching, but I can't take too many televised sports or shows with names made up of a bunch of letters.  OK, as soon as I typed that I realized that ALL shows have names that are made up of a bunch of letters.  Well, except for 24.  And yeah, he used to watch that one, too.

One show that I do try to watch every week is Chuck, but I do intend, once this season is over, to go back and start watching it from season one again.  Those were the episodes when Hubby and I seemed to think the show's name was "Steve", not "Chuck".  Never did figure out why we both got that impression and couldn't seem to get it right.

I don't know why I enjoy watching entire series episode-by-episode better than just watching "whatever's on TV".  I'm sure my family gets annoyed with it:  "Oh, look... Mythbusters is on.  Again.  Yay."  Well, except for our oldest who does the same thing with her own preferred shows.  In fact, she's the one that got me stuck on Cake Boss.  I was so disappointed to find there were only two seasons of it so far!  I'm told there's another show like it but Netflix doesn't have it.  Sad face.  I think I need to get out more.

I'm Beginning to Think Sugar Might Be the Devil in Disguise

I've known for a long time that I needed to kick the sugar habit.  It's been my downfall in every attempt I've made to lose weight.  The cravings are insane when I try to quit eating it.  And if there was one thing I could rely on, it was that the sugar would pretend to be my friend to lure me back.  Until now.   I've been telling myself I needed to kick the sugar habit once again the past few months and even got a book about it a while back (apparently just owning the book doesn't help; supposedly I have to read it, too).  But before I took the time to try to once again get off sugar, sugar decided to stop pretending to be my friend and just showed its ugly face to me.  First there was the Butterfinger Bomb that went off in my car.  First lesson learned: if the Butterfingers are on sale, there's a REASON.  Like they're old or broken or potentially lethal.  But I found one in the display that felt solid and unbroken.  However, a few minutes later while driving down the road, I opened the wrapper and was immediately blasted by Butterfinger shrapnel everywhere.  It seriously was like a grenade went off while I was driving.  So I couldn't do anything about it but continue driving while covered in what used to be a Butterfinger but was now just a gory, chocolatey mess.  I had taken my gloves off to open it and later found bits of disintegrated candy waaay down in the tips of the fingers.  Ewww!  And Ow!  because tiny little pieces of Butterfinger shrapnel are SHARP! 
Well, since I ended up wearing that sugar-fix instead of eating it, I felt justified in eating a HUGE bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream later that night.  But the evil sugar was not done tormenting me.  I spent an hour on the floor of the bathroom, writhing in digestive pain and wishing I could take back that bowl of ice cream.  Like how someone who drank too much wishes they could take back the last four beers... as they're on the bathroom floor trying to strike a deal with God to just PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.   I told myself that was it: no more ice cream.  Until about a week later when I impulsively tried some at Coldstone Creamery.  After a few spoonfuls I could feel the uneasiness starting, so I called it quits.  I think that ice cream is now only a pleasant memory for me.  This makes me sad.  But better to be sad than be stuck in the bathroom in pain. 
I  still have all the OTHER sources of sugar to overcome, but I picked up that book that I had never gotten around to reading and I hope will help me in this.  It's called The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program.  It's seven steps.  I'm on step one.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?  Step one is eating breakfast with protein every single day, so I'm making a couple eggs every morning.  The premise behind the program is that sugar addiction is at least exacerbated, if not caused, by a combination of chemical imbalances that include low serotonin.  Protein is needed for the body to produce serotonin, hence step one.  Stayed tuned to see how this goes!