Friday, April 30, 2010

So Long, Farewell!

Auf wiedersehen, goodbye!  I'm saying adieu to my car payment.  I wrote a check for the balance of my loan, and it feels fantastic!  Exactly 3 years ago today I purchased my Audi A4, and I've loved it ever since.  Jer calls it a girly car since it's red and sporty, but I prefer to think of it as a classy car.  While it wasn't the first car I ever purchased, it is the first car that I'll have ever paid off!  Three years is a record for me owning the same car.  LOL.  Let's see....I've been through a Mazda 929, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, a Ford Mustang, a Ford Escape, and now the Audi.  That's quite a few cars, considering I've only been driving for 10 years.  My previous personal time of ownership record was 2 years, so you can see why I never was able to pay anything off!  It's going to be pretty weird to not have a car payment for a few months, but I'm sure I can handle it.  :)

Our plan is to take the money we'd normally spend on my car payment and put it towards Jer's car.  That way, when we buy a new car in December, Jer's will be almost paid off and before long we'll be back down to just one car payment.  It'll also be sweet to trade in my car and actually get the full value of it as a down payment on the new one.  Not saying this happened to me or anything, but I heard about a girl who had to PAY to make up the difference between what she owed on her Escape and what it was worth at trade-in, upon purchasing an Audi.  Nothing like dropping $4K at closing, and having none of it go towards reducing the principal on the new loan.  That situation will never happen again (to that hypothetical girl....)

So, to my Audi A4, thanks for the last three years.  It's nice to finally own you outright.  I can boss you around all I want, and you're not allowed to back talk.  Hopefully you'll be good to me these last few months we share together.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Life Happens

Jer and I had to drive to Amarillo on Saturday to return his mom's truck that we borrowed a couple weeks ago for the Jeep journey.  A few days before that we had decided we'd just drive together in the truck there, and fly back on Sunday morning.  That sounded way better than driving an extra car down there separately on Saturday, just to have to make another 5.5 hour drive the next day.  So we're en route to Amarillo on Saturday afternoon when it dawns on me that we have no transportation arranged for Sunday.  We're flying into Love Field, and we didn't think to drop a car off there before we left, or ask anyone to pick us up.  Oops.  Sometimes things just slip your mind, ya know?  I got on the phone and asked my sister Jo if she could help.  She came through, like she always does, even at such short notice.  And did I mention the flight would arrive at 9:15am on a Sunday morning?  She's a trooper.

The Amarillo fam was nice enough to wait until 8pm to eat dinner with us on Saturday night.  We tried out Goody's and it lived up to the name.  Afterward, we headed over to Michal-ann and Cary's house to hang out for a while.  Jer and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce them to Four LOKO, or just LOKO for short.  Haha.  This drink has become a bit of a cult classic among my circle of friends back in Dallas.  It's like an alcoholic energy drink that comes in fruity flavors.  It's 12% alc/vol, so it doesn't take much before you start feeling it.  They are sold in 24oz. cans.  (We even got my mother-in-law to try it!)  Felicia and Cary weren't too impressed with it, but my brother-in-law Seth ended up taking it for the team and finishing it off.  Maybe we have a new member in our LOKO cult???  Haha.

We ended up staying up kinda late, or maybe it just felt late since our flight was at 8am the next morning!  Either way, it was great hanging out with the Amarillo crew, like old times.  My mother-in-law gets major props for getting us to the airport by 7:30am.  I don't know about some of you guys, but I've got it lucky because my MIL is the BEST!

So now for the serious stuff.  We landed on Sunday morning and immediately got a call that my Oma had fallen in her apartment.  She couldn't get to a phone, but luckily was wearing her life alert bracelet.  They responded and called paramedics, and my dad, who lives nearby.  Since she couldn't get up, the EMTs had to break down her door to get to her.  There was quite a bit of blood on the floor, so they were worried about the extent of her injuries.  They took her to a hospital, where it was discovered that she broke her nose, had other facial fractures, and had a small bleed in her brain.  At this point they thought she would probably need plastic surgery and possibly other surgery if the bleeding around her brain didn't stop.  She had to spend Sunday night in the hospital, and wait for the plastic surgeon and neurosurgeon to see her on Monday.  Since my boss is amazing, he completely understood that I wanted to be with her on Monday if these procedures were going to take place.  Not exactly the Monday I was expecting to have, but life happens. 

She had a variety of tests run on Monday morning, and they determined that the bleed wasn't serious and her facial fractures could heal on their own.  This was great news because surgery can be very hard on anyone, let alone a 91 year old.  If you've ever spent time in a hospital, you know that it's scary to be there alone.  I decided to head up to the hospital even though she wasn't having surgery, just to be there with her until she was discharged.  When I got to her room, I could barely recognize her.  Her nose was swollen, along with the whole right side of her face.  It's extremely bruised all over.  I have no idea how she wasn't in excruciating pain, but she said she wasn't.  The neurosurgeon came by and cleared her, but we needed clearance from physical therapy before she could leave the hospital.  That consult didn't go as planned.  Oma had a hard time getting out of the bed, walking around the hospital wing, and sitting and standing.  The therapy nurse basically told me that she wasn't approving Oma's discharge yet, and when she did, she wouldn't approve her going back to her apartment.  She didn't feel it was safe for Oma to be alone.  Try telling that to a stubborn 91 year old Dutch woman who hates the idea of nursing homes or assisted living.  I thought I was just going up to the hospital for a couple hours while the discharge papers were prepared, but it turned into a really harrowing 6 hour experience. 

At first, Oma was very lucid and coherent and we talked about her fall and what had happened since then.  As the hours passed though, the situation changed drastically.  I had to constantly remind her that we were in a hospital.  I had to plead with her to not try to get up out of bed because she kept forgetting that she wasn't able.  I had to yell at her to stop when she accidentally started pulling her IV completely out of her arm.  I had to remind her that she was speaking to me in Dutch sometimes and I didn't understand her.  I had to explain to her that the imaginary food she was seeing on her tray wasn't really there and it was just an empty tray.  I had to listen to her tell me that a piece of cake was really an apple.  I had to listen to her tell me that the clock on the wall couldn't be trusted because sometimes it would move forward and then suddenly start going backwards.  When she was amazed that the door was already fixed, I had to remind her that we weren't at her apartment and she was looking at the hospital door, not her own.  She asked me whose TV was in the room, and I had to tell her it was the hospital's.  She asked me if I had any coffee and then said, "Oh, wait!  This isn't your apartment."  She asked the nurses that came in where they lived in her apartment complex.  When I would speak to the nurses about Oma's care, she would ask me where I knew them from.  After being told numerous times that she wouldn't be checking out today and would be going to a rehab place tomorrow, she kept asking when we'd be leaving that day and if she needed to change.  I can't tell you how many times my eyes started welling up with tears.  This isn't my Oma.  I hope, hope, hope that it's a combination of the medicine she's taking and the lack of sleep that's causing her delusions and memory loss.  I don't know, though.  She's 91 years old.  How long can we reasonably expect her to be cognizant and lucid? 

I hadn't eaten all day, so Jer and my Dad met me up there to get some food together.  We also stopped by her apartment to grab her a change of clothes for her transport to the rehab place tomorrow.  When we got back to the hospital, my Dad relieved me and sent me home.  After spending that time with her, it made me terrified for her to ever be alone.  I just can't trust that she won't do something further to injure herself.  It's a stressful situation, and I know my entire family is feeling it.  We took turns looking after her on Sunday and Monday, and hopefully the rehab place will help my Mom and Dad and Jill get a break.  They live the closest to her, so they've been carrying the weight of her care on their shoulders.  I don't know what the future holds for her after her 21 allowed days (per the insurance rules) at the rehab place.  I know she'll want to go back to living on her own, but she's had at least 3 falls in the past year.  I imagine there will be a fight or some sort of intervention in 21 days.          

Me and Oma (with a black eye from a previous fall!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Big Picture

If you're not regularly visiting the photo blog for the Boston Globe, then you're missing out.  It's one thing to provide a written account of a current event, but having high-quality, amazing images to help capture the true essence of a story is what makes this site so appealing.  Each topic has between 20 and 40 photographs, and new photos are posted each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  The magnitude 6.9 earthquake in China, the tragedy in Poland, and the protests in Thailand and Kyrgyzstan are just a few of the recent topics covered on the blog.  (Be sure to check the monthly archives if you're just learning about the site). The entries related to Haiti, and there are a few of them, were particularly moving to see.  Reading about the death and destruction there, and then seeing it in living color, was sometimes more than my brain could comprehend.  I personally think that photography is one of the most incredible processes ever.  I mean, capturing a moment in time?  Mind-blowing.

The Big Picture       

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This is a Lovely Room of Death

This is me last night at Cabela's:

I had never been to that store before, so I had no idea how extensive their collection of "stuffed" animals was.  It started making me sick to my stomach.  I don't know if these animals were hunted, died of natural causes, died in captivity, etc, etc, but just the thought of any of them being killed simply so someone could put them on display in a retail store was rather disheartening.  I've got hunters in the family, but that doesn't mean I have to be thrilled when I see a stuffed dead elephant or baboon or lion or polar bear or moose or musk ox or brown bear (I could go on and on and on).  There had to have been hundreds of them.  Their photo gallery online shows some of what I'm talking about, here.   

It's hard to know exactly how I feel about that, because I do waver back and forth.  I mean, the killing of animals as a food source is a very routine part of our daily lives.  I know this.  I partake in the output of this.  But, the killing of animals for sport or so we can walk by them and say, "Oh cool!  Check that out!"....that doesn't sit as well with me.  I know it sounds hypocritical.  I'm not trying to deny that.  I'm just trying to say that the nauseating feeling I got in my stomach when walking in and seeing the "lovely room of death" was hard to ignore. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

McCall Wedding/Vegas Getaway

I was absent from the blogosphere these past couple of days because the hubby and I were in Vegas celebrating the nuptials of our friends, Pappy and Shawn.  We've made a habit of going to Vegas once or twice a year, so we were more than happy to make the trip on account of such a special occasion!  Pappy and Shawn had an awesome turnout of family and friends, including 3 other couples that we know, so it was quite a fun weekend.

Jer and I stayed at the Palazzo as usual.  We first stayed there back in 2008 right after it opened, and we've been hooked ever since.  I think this was our 4th stay with them, but I'm starting to lose count!  All the suites are beautiful, and we upgraded ours to one on the 32nd floor to get a nicer view.

When the sun came out on Friday, my sister Jo and I made a beeline for the pool.  I had been craving sun, and this was my first chance to lay out since the arrival of Spring.  The Palazzo has a few nice public pools, but when Jer and I had eaten lunch at Dos Caminos earlier that day, I saw some passes for free admission to the hotel's more private pool, Azure.  It's reserved for people over 21, is more secluded, and has much better waitress service!  I'm not sure what the admission price normally is, but free sounded good to me.

Azure pool - photo by Jacob Andrzejczak of IS Photography  

So Jo and I present our passes to the Azure hostess and she gives us our wristbands for access.  She also informs us that it's a $50 minimum per person.  Oopsie.  Our passes got us past the velvet rope for free, but that was it!  Oh well, it's Vegas, and we're on vacation, so we just rolled with it.  We found two open loungers in the area pictured above and got our sun-tanning under way.  The drinks were pretty expensive, so it didn't take long to reach our required minimum.  They also serve food, so next time we'll just plan to have lunch there and that'll take care of that minimum in no time.  At first I thought it was a bit of a rip-off, but having been to Vegas so many times, I've accepted the fact that EVERYTHING costs more.  Having a waitress that was dedicated to just a couple of patrons made it worthwhile too.  We never had to wait long for a drink.  Couple that with actually being able to find two open loungers next to each other and not having tons of other people around, and overall it was pretty nice.

Friday night was the ceremony for Pappy and Shawn at the Shalimar Wedding Chapel.  The couple said their vows underneath an outdoor gazebo and the temperature/weather could not have been more perfect at the time.  They actually had more guests than could be accommodated in the pews, which I thought was awesome!  These guys are very loved.  There was something about the way these two looked into each others eyes during the proceedings that got both my and Jer's attention.  We could see so much emotion and pure love being emitted and we both thought it was just one of the nicest things to witness.

After the ceremony, we all went to the Peppermill Fireside Lounge to celebrate.  That place had a really cool vibe, and its indoor "flaming pool" was impressive.  We enjoyed some drinks and grub, and mingled with the newlyweds and the other guests.  Shawn had everybody sign her dress, which I thought was a really neat idea.

Saturday was another opportunity to catch some rays, so six of us ladies headed to the GO pool at the Flamingo.  This is an over 21 European pool, aka women are allowed to go topless.  I figured this would give me a practice experience before we head to the French Riviera this summer.  I did not personally oblige this tradition, but a couple ladies at the pool did.  Not that I have a "preference," but why does it seem that the most overweight people are the most comfortable with being naked??  Just sayin'.

Saturday night Jer and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Morels French Steakhouse and Bistro at the Palazzo.  I had a Caesar Salad, Steak Frites, and Peanut & Gianduja Chocolate Dome for dessert.  Jer had the same, except he opted for Creme Brulee for dessert.  His came with three different flavors - vanilla, caramel, and pistachio.  Everything was delicious!  I would definitely recommend eating there when visiting Las Vegas.

Since Saturday night was our last night there, we hung out with the group again at the Flamingo.  The guys played craps, while I gave Let it Ride a shot.  You can go through some pretty bad dry spells in that game, but when you hit something good, it's a big payout (especially if you play the 3 card bonus bet and the 5 card bonus bet)!  I got trip 5's dealt to me at one point, and a full house in another hand, so I ended up walking away from the table with a lot more than I started with.  My dad would've been proud!  When Jer and I left the Flamingo, we went back to the Palazzo to finish off our last night with some slot play.  We didn't get to bed until after 4:30am, so I knew waking up the next morning at 8 was not going to be fun.

All in all, we are so glad we got to be a part of Pappy and Shawn's special day, and we had a wonderful weekend with good friends.  Since this group is pretty much our Supper Club Group (minus Erika & Brandon who didn't get to make it -sad face), we will be seeing them again soon!  And, since the Palazzo loves to send us comped room offers, we'll probably be seeing Vegas again soon too.  :)        

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Me and My BFF

My best friend Jenn and I have a funny history.  We were friends in 8th grade, kinda drifted apart in 9th and 10th, and then found our way back around in 11th and 12th.  We played doubles together on the school tennis team, and that's probably what helped our relationship develop.  I wouldn't say we were best friends for any of those years, though.  We had a small circle of friends that we hung out with, and we both happened to be in it.  After we graduated and went away to college, we lived in different cities.  We started keeping up with each other via email, and then would hang out whenever we both happened to be back in our hometowns.  It's funny because our friendship grew more after we moved further apart.  The emails became more frequent, and we made more concerted efforts to hang out when the opportunity arose.  When it came time for Jer and I to pick our wedding parties a few years ago, I knew Jenn needed to be a bridesmaid.  (I got to repay the honor to her this past year!)  When we made the decision to move to Dallas, I was very excited to move closer to her.  She gets me.  We have a lot in common, and we always have a fun time together.  Over the past couple of years, we started doing weekly dinner together.  Usually it's just the two of us, but sometimes we invite other friends too.  It's nice to catch up, gossip, vent, and share some laughs.  There are times when we just can't make it work with our schedules for a couple weeks in a row, but we always try to get back on track as soon as possible.  Last night was one of those dinners and it was just what I needed!  We ended up sitting at the restaurant long after the food had been cleared and the bill paid, but we just couldn't stop talking!  I love that girl and I'm so glad she's in my life.

 Way back in 2002

Standing by me on my wedding day

Running a Komen 5K

Honoring her mom, who beat breast cancer

Celebrating our birthdays together
Standing by her on her wedding day

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Birthday, Jeep, and Family Kind of Weekend

I would've recapped my weekend sooner, but going to bed at 7pm on Sunday night and not waking up until 7am on Monday morning prevented that!  My allergies have been raging hardcore, and lots of sleep was just what I  needed.

On Friday morning we packed up all the doggles and headed for Amarillo.  Once we arrived, we dropped them off at Mom's house and then went to Uhaul to pick up a trailer.  We'll call the worker there "Redneck Larry."  Man, Redneck Larry was a trip.  He was an older guy, who was better on the computer than I expected, but still appeared to be somewhat resistant to modernity.  As he entered our info into the system, he complained about how the company made him do all these extra things now that he didn't previously have to do.  "Used to, you could just sign your name and that was it!"  Well, things are a little different these days, Redneck Larry!  When the system asked for the license plate of the car doing the towing, he just entered in random digits and numbers (way too many, I might add). "Doesn't matter," he said.  Then when it asked him to enter the license plate of the car being towed, again just random numbers.  "Doesn't matter."  I bet the corporate office LOVES this guy.  LOL.  Redneck Larry asked us which location we wanted to return the trailer to, and we paused to think about it.  I guess we took too long, so he just said, "I'll mark down that you don't know."  Umm, okay!  I didn't realize that was an option, but thanks to him we can just return it wherever the heck we feel like it.  He asked us if we needed an extra day above and beyond the allotted time, and we said no.  "I'll give it to you for free."  Okay!  Apparently we drove a hard bargain with our original "no," so now we had an extra day for free.  We finished that process and he handed us two complimentary Uhaul pens.  He apologized for not being able to offer us a hat (like the stylish one he was wearing), but they didn't do that anymore.  He used to order tons of hats for his customers, but all he could do now was give us pens.  Whew.  It was a comical experience, to say the least.

Throughout the weekend we were able to spend time with the whole family and eat lots of yummy food.  Diets take a vacation when we're in Amarillo.  :)  For Jer's birthday lunch we ordered food from Coyote Bluff.  That place is the smallest cafe you've ever seen, and it's ridiculously busy at every moment they're open.  Since there's no way they could've handled 12 of us in-house, I called them as soon as they opened (11am) to see if I could go ahead and place our to-go order for pick-up at 1:15.  I figured the more notice we gave them, the better.  The lady's response? "No."  I wasn't expecting that one, so I fell silent.  She finally spoke again and said, "We're already cooking and we've got folks in here, so if you want it at 1:15, call back at 12:45."  She was rather abrupt, so I just said okay and hung up.  I wasn't feeling too great about our odds of actually getting all the food on time if we waited until 12:45 to order it over the phone, so Jer and I just decided to drive up there at 12:20 and place the order in person.  Once we got there, we had to stand outside for a few minutes because the place was too packed inside (and by packed, I mean that there were 30 patrons crammed into an area the size of a 2 car garage).  When we finally got inside, I pulled out my extensive order and started to speak to the waitress and she goes, "You've got to be kidding me."  I told her I tried to call her earlier and she was like, "Yeah, I remember."  Still not sure at this point what I should've done differently.  She starts taking down our order and makes snarky remarks the entire time. "Well, no one else in here is going to be getting any food while we're making your order."  "How do you want this one cooked?  Nevermind, they're going to need to all be cooked the same because this is too much."  To the other waitress - "You're going to have to handle all my tables because I have to devote all my attention to this huge to-go order."  Sweet jeez, lady!  I finally said, "Sorry, I'm just trying to give you business, you know."  Apparently I was inconveniencing her by trying to buy some of her products.  Jer and I moved to the side to wait for our order and recapped how fun of an experience we were having!  LOL.  After the chick realized our order really wasn't that bad, and they could easily manage it, (and it was time to present us with the check) her demeanor completely changed.  Bipolar much?  She was super sweet and helpful and asked us if we needed any condiments, etc, etc.  How convenient!  Despite our experience with her, we left a good tip in hopes it would make it to the cooks who did a great job on our order.

Overall it was a great weekend.  Besides our family dinner and birthday lunch, we got to spend some extra time with Felicia and the kiddos on Friday night, and Cary and Michal-ann and KC on Saturday night.  I can always count on those guys to help me fill my Rosa's fix.  We got the Jeep loaded up thanks to the help of Josh, Cary, and Felicia on Saturday afternoon.  (Note to self - engage the clutch before trying to push a Jeep up a ramp).  I also managed to steal a few more pictures of my adorable nephew, KC.  Enjoy!

Taking it all in!

Oma has the magic touch

A big yawn for Uncle Jeremiah

Daddy learns to multitask (for a few minutes at least....the cake ended up on the floor)

Love this picture!  KC ready for his trip home.

Noah manning the Jeep

The reason I now need a 3 car garage

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy birthday hubby!

So my hubby turns 28 today.  This is the 9th birthday that I'll be celebrating with him.  It's hard to believe how fast the time has flown!  I wouldn't say that 28 is a very eventful birthday, but I think Jer can look back on his years so far with satisfaction.  I know that I beam with pride every time I think about the life he leads and what he's accomplished so far.  I am very, very lucky to have found such an amazing man and I look forward to the next 70 birthdays with him.

To celebrate turning 28, Jer is getting a new Iphone and we're retrieving his 1975 CJ5 from his dad's house in Amarillo so he can start refurbishing it.  It was in working condition during college, and it was so fun to drive it around campus with the doors and top off on hot days.  Since then, though, it has sat in a field collecting dust and losing function since we weren't able to bring it to Dallas at the time we moved here.  I look forward to it running again!

  Happy birthday babe!