Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Miki Mimi Milcha

Check me out. This is me and my grandmother in her backyard in Park Ridge, Illinois, circa 1964? I am rocking some red shoes, even then!

My grandmother is truly the best person I know. She turned 93 this past July, and honestly, doesn't look a day over 80. (if that!) She still lives in her own apartment at the Catholic Retirement Home in St. Louis. She gets her hair "done" every Thursday, just as she has all her life. Her apartment is on the same floor as the chapel, and I guarantee she goes to mass regularly.

But, this isn't what makes her the special lady that she is.

Her father, mother and siblings (five?) immigrated from Poland. They came through Ellis Island, and then settled in the Chicago area. She was born after they moved here, and being the great American that she is, she was born on the 4th of July! We would celebrate her birthday every year with chicken and fireworks!

She met my grandfather as she hopped a bus one day. He was the driver, and he would tell the story of how she would hike her skirt up above her knee when she climbed the bus steps, and he caught sight of those gams. Oh Grandpa! They were married for over sixty years when he passed away in 1998.

Grandma had a stroke in 1994. She has aphasia now, and has difficulty speaking when in large groups. And, as she has aged, she doesn't read anymore. Yet, she hasn't missed a birthday or holiday card for any in our family. (Including grandkids and great grandkids!) She may sign her name, or Grandma, but she lets us know we are on her mind. (with a bit of help from my brother, Jeff. Thanks Jeff!)

She is the only one remaining. By this, I mean, all her sisters and brothers have died. She lost her husband. Her only child, my mother, died in 1995, and her only son in law in 2001. She has survived all this heartache. I don't think I've ever heard her complain.

She never goes out without being fully "made up." She was an excellent bridge player, and still will play for nickels. She cleaned constantly, made killer fudge, and the BEST CHEX PARTY MIX in the world. She loved to travel, entertain, and spend time with her family. She quilted, sewed, kept an immaculate home and a beautiful garden. She loved Seinfeld and Days of Our Lives. If we traveled to Atlanta to visit her, she would wait up until we arrived (no matter what the time) and would wave goodbye until our car was out of sight.

And, as special as all of this is, this is not why I consider her my angel on earth.

Grandma has loved me unconditionally for (almost) 46 years. All she has ever wanted for me is my happiness. She accepts me the way I am, and the many ways I've been over the years. (HERE'S WHY SHE'S SO DARN SPECIAL---) And, she is this way this with everyone. She is love incarnate.

Thank you Grandma. For everything. I love you.

Amelia Marie "Miki" "Mimi" "Milcha" Cottingham and Taylor


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Always Something

I fully intended to blog about my grandmother this evening. I have had a few ideas in my head just rolling around and ready to be put down in cyberspace.

But then I walked into work this morning and discovered that the roof on our building had been stolen.

I kid you not.

Up until this past weekend (we're guessing) we had copper molding that surrounded the top portion of our building. We have a flat roof, with two air conditioner units on it. Now? We have NO copper and a good bit of the roof is missing. At some point over the weekend, someone scaled a two story building and removed the copper and portions of the roof with it.

Now, this was no easy job. It would have taken hours to do this. So, not only did our thief/thieves have the biggest kahunas ever, but they were very dedicated to this job!!

Here's the best part of the story: Our office is about 50 yards from the Charleston County Sheriff's Department.

Sorry Grandma, I figured you'd understand if I had to wait another day. Stolen roofs just don't happen every day!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

They say it much better than I ever could

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings. ~Franklin Thomas

The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color. ~Author Unknown

And finally:

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One Wave of my Wand

This week has been a bit of a challenge for me. Going back to work after vacation is always an adventure, so I expected that. There was stress around the house, kid stress, work stress, animal stress, dirty house stress, study stress, etc!

But, this stress is nothing compared to what some folks are experiencing. I have a few friends who are going through a bit of a rough patch. One friend is very sad. Another was to get married today, but that didn't happen. Sometimes I just wish I had a magic wand that I could wave and make the hurt go away.
And then after I made them all better, I'd make myself taller and a size 2.

Monday, September 21, 2009

100th Post, + 6

Okay, so I've been told that on your 100th post, you are to post 100 things about yourself. Well, I was in Portugal for number 100, so I'm a tad bit late. Don't worry, I won't add six extra! So, here goes!

  • My middle name is Ann.
  • I have two older brothers.
  • I have four cats and a dog.
  • I sleep on the left side of the bed. (as you are lying in the bed)
  • My favorite flowers are tulips.
  • I was born in Peoria, Illinois.
  • I'm afraid of running out of gas, so never go below 1/4 tank of gas.
  • I didn't see the ocean until I was 25.
  • My thumbs and fingers are double jointed.
  • I played the flute and piccolo during school.
  • My left eye is much more nearsighted than my right eye.
  • I do not like milk. (I choked it down when I was pregnant)
  • I am twice divorced.
  • I sang in a band in high school. (The Young Bucks Band!)
  • I had to sing, "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer, and it made me very uncomfortable.
  • I won front row tickets to see Frank Sinatra.
  • I've never seen an episode of CSI.
  • My degree is in elementary education.
  • I love to do crossword puzzles while taking a bath.
  • I sang at my mom, dad and grandparent's funerals. That sucked.
  • I feel guilty when things go well for me.
  • I don't like chocolate ice cream.
  • I wish my eyebrows had more hair.
  • I prefer blue ink to black ink.
  • I moved before my sophomore and senior years in high school.
  • I played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz my sophomore year.
  • My first dog, Pepper, was run over by a friend of our parents.
  • I remember the day Judy Garland died.
  • I look awful in hats, but love to wear them.
  • I have a big scar on the inside of my left ankle.
  • My dad used to take me to school in the mornings.
  • I had front row tickets to see Hall & Oates.
  • I've seen DMB 20 times.
  • I've met Dave twice.
  • I can't stand cashews, pecans or walnuts.
  • But I love almonds and pistachios.
  • I do NOT like scallops.
  • My grandmother is 93.
  • I have two children, a boy and a girl.
  • The Bruce Springsteen song, "One Step Up" makes me cry every time I hear it.
  • When salt spills, I throw it over my left shoulder.
  • I believe in God.
  • I'm afraid to "broil" in the oven.
  • I feel like my friends always leave. (move away)
  • I changed majors and colleges three times.
  • I had a 4.0 my senior year of college.
  • My current favorite perfume is "Fantasy" by Britney Spears. Yep, you read that right.
  • I love mayonnaise, but it has to be Hellman's.
  • I am a real softy.
  • I loved the Carol Burnett show.
  • People tell me I look like Vicki Lawrence.
  • I used to listen to Casey Kasem's Top 40 on Sunday afternoons.
  • I've never had a speeding ticket.
  • I'm very allergic to mosquitoes.
  • I love diet coke, but can't stand diet pepsi.
  • I don't like to drink carbonated drinks with meals.
  • I'm not a very good shaver.
  • My dad was a football coach, so we moved a lot.
  • My brother is a baseball coach, and has only coached at two colleges.
  • The only time I've been to the hospital is when I had my two kids.
  • I broke my right arm playing softball.
  • I'm afraid of heights.
  • I don't do rollercoasters.
  • I'm always hot.
  • I love autumn.
  • I was a Girl Scout.
  • My first job was at Marshall's.
  • I currently work as the Office Manager at a law firm.
  • My desk faces the wall.
  • We saw Willem Defoe in the Newark airport.
  • I have one dimple.
  • I use way too many exclamation marks!!
  • I use a soft toothbrush.
  • We have a red Toyota Venza, and I love it.
  • I'm not a fan of the mustache.
  • I love to play board games, especially Scrabble.
  • I wear size 8 1/2 shoe.
  • I love women's hair in ponytails.
  • And pigtails.
  • I use Close Up toothpaste.
  • I have a bit of a watch fetish.
  • When I was younger, I wanted to be a Broadway star.
  • Sometimes, I feel like I'm waiting for the bottom to drop out.
  • I went through a Linda Ronstadt phase.
  • I kind of feel like crying as I write this.
  • I don't drink coffee.
  • Racism makes me sick to my stomach.
  • My dreams and nightmares can make or break my day.
  • I'm afraid of running out of toilet paper.
  • MSG and me do not get along.
  • I stress if I end a sentence in a preposition.
  • I have four nephews.
  • Holidays are difficult for me.
  • Colin Mockery and Ryan Stiles make me laugh.
  • I enjoy stand up comedy.
  • The song, "Major Tom" by David Bowie, scares me.
  • I love my Blackberry.
  • I love sports of all kinds, but don't have an athletic bone in my body.
  • I can't draw a straight line.
  • I love to read.

Man, that was hard to do. I'm not looking forward to 200!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fine Folks

Our trip to Portugal was a group trip; meaning there were about 50 people traveling and doing the same things we did. The trip was a "thank you" from a television station to their clients.

It's really pretty amazing that you can throw fifty unique personalities together and have such a nice time. After a few days, we were able to do some filtering and met the folks we enjoyed the most. The neat part, to me, is that all in our circle were different from the other. None of us live in the same city, and our backgrounds aren't similar. But, we all had a great time in Portugal. Here's to you folks!
Our trip was put together by a travel agency out of Tampa. The two women on the outside of this picture were with the agency. (Actually, the lady on the right side is the owner) They were wonderful, so personable and nice. And, ORGANIZED. The lady in the middle is our tour guide, Angela, and I fell in love with her accent. She certainly knows her history! Thanks to all three of them for organizing and making our trip so successful.

Josh and Steve were just our types. They weren't overly rich, like everyone else on the trip, and they enjoyed relaxing and having a beer and a giggle. They both live in Georgia.

Debbie and Maurice met while they both worked at Sears. They were unlucky enough to have us crash their table at mealtimes. They live in Ocala, Florida.

And, this is Israel and Lisa, father and daughter. Of course, on the first night, I asked about them being husband and wife. Despite putting my foot in my mouth, they were both very gracious and kind. They live in New York City.

Meeting nice people is always a good thing. But, meeting these people, in beautiful Portugal, was a blessing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Man and His Two Dogs

I am a dog lover. When we travel, I miss my animals like crazy. So, whenever we see other animals, it's always a treat for both Steven and myself.

While in Porto, we were sitting at an outdoor cafe and caught sight of this gentleman and his two dogs. One dog was a big old hairy thing who loved the water. His master would throw sticks in the water for him over and over. He would jump in the water and swim for the stick each time. He wouldn't always find the stick, but he sure made an effort. There was also a smaller caramel colored dog who didn't care for the water very much. Oh, he'd get right to the edge and threaten to jump in, but always chickened out. Master would gently toss him in and fish him out if he seemed to struggle. Oh, how we enjoyed watching this.

But, then it got better. Master, big dog and little dog sat out in the sun to dry off. Big dog flopped down on the cement and rolled over and over. Little dog flopped on the bench next to Master and rolled over and over. Never once did they attempt to walk away from Master. They didn't bark at passers by. (of which there were many)

Well, being the responsible blogger that I am, (ha!), I felt I had to get closer to these little fellas. We strolled through a few shops and then came upon them. They were once again chasing sticks in the water, Master had to keep the little guy in check. These dogs gave me some good chuckles that day in Porto. I hope they bring a smile to your day!

(and, hey, Master wasn't so bad on the eyes either!!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lady Marmalade

To most of you, this may look like a run-of-the-mill Oprah Magazine cover. (and apparently, a blurry one) To me, it is a slice of heaven.

One of my favorite things to do is to look at random blogs. I'll hit the NEXT button and read until one interests me.

A few months back, I stumbled across a woman named Pam, who seemed to be struggling with life. I read her very first post and decided to follow her. Over the months, I've watched her take hold of her life and her happiness and growth. I've learned that Pam wasn't her real name. She inspires me with her writings and helps me look at life with a positive, intelligent spin. She quotes songs I love, and shares her innermost soul.

Shortly before we left for our trip, I saw that she worked near Newark. Our flights would go through Newark, and we would have a layover there. We arranged to meet over our return layover. However, our flight was over three hours late in departing Porto. I knew this would greatly hinder our chance of meeting, as it would mean that she would have to wait. And, wait at the airport. For 3 hours. Sheesh. Only an angel would do that.

Well, this angel waited. She waited and found me. And, seeing her smiling face and getting that hug from her took away all the travel stress, the travel grunge, sweat and ick. It made the overnight layover in Newark truly tolerable. Meeting someone you respect and admire is always exciting, but this meeting just warmed me to the cockles of my heart.

And, my blogging friend brought me this magazine. What great gifts I received; a magazine from my meeting with my soul sister.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some Pix From Porto

The internet connection here isn't the best, so it takes a very long time to upload pictures. While it uploads, I have time to shower, shave my legs, dry my hair, read a short book, and solve all the world's problems. Having said that, enjoy the pics!

I love the bell on the top of this building.

If you have to pick it up, at least there's this cute little box to get the bag.

There are many dogs on the street. This little fella captured my heart.

View from our hotel window

Also, from our window. How gorgeous, eh?

Monday, September 14, 2009

What is Going On?

This is just a commercial break from Portugal postings...
What is going on? I leave the country for a few days and all hell breaks loose? Joe Wilson stands up and yells at the President. (yeah, so very proud to be from South Carolina...)

Serena loses her cool at the US Open?

And, now Kanye West is pissed because Beyonce didn't win and Taylor Swift did?

Did I miss something? Is this National DumbA** week???

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Days 2 and 3, or Man, I'm Beat!

There won't be any pictures in this blog tonight. I have a limited amount of time on the internet and just wanted to share some of our adventures. I have plenty of pictures to share, but will need more than 60 minutes at the price of 10 Euros. So, here's a condensed version of my last two days...

Found Irish Pub to watch English Soccer. While in Portugal.

Said Pub had my favorite cider on tap: Strongbow. Again, in the middle of Portugal, an English Cider in an Irish Pub.

Watched the football all day. Made friends with Luis and heard many funny stories.

Stayed way too long at the Irish Pub with the English Cider in the middle of Portugal.

All day adventure today in Lisbon. We saw a palace with small beds and loads of really ugly royals. (from many centuries ago) We ate lunch at a lovely restaurant next to the sea. (spinach soup anyone? BLECH) We went to visit the ruins of a Moorish Castle. LOTS OF WALKING.

Tonight, we went to the Sporting Lisbon soccer game. Great stadium, good fans, and I heard the loudest whistles ever. Also, saw some REAL bad cheerleaders.

Ordered my dinner, paid for it, picked it up with no clue what I was saying, or what they were saying. For the record, everything was correct.

And, now, time to sleeeeeep. We head to Porto tomorrow, many more adventures to come!!

And, BTW, this is my 100th post. Awwwwwwwwww.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Other than stinking, day one was great!

Ola! Oi! That's all I've got. That means hello and hi in Portuguese. I've also learned that I was saying thank you incorrectly most of the day. Well, I was saying it right, but you have to use a different version depending on the sex of the person you're saying it to. Sheesh. Stupid American.

Highlights so far:

Gorgeous hotel


Tons of statues
The roast beef at dinner. Oh, and the cheese, and the bread, and the butter. Good butter. (jan!!)

Sleeping for 12 hours

Day 2 starts now!

Here's a few pix to tide you over:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Day Checklist

Folks, we leave for Portugal in just two days. In 48 hours, our plane will be en route to Lisbon. (please, oh please, don't let us get seats stuck in the middle of the plane!) We are in the final countdown phase around these parts. I'm running out of time, and in order to accomplish all that I need to, I will now combine my final list of to do's/dones and blogging in one!!

I am one of those people who packs for weeks before the actual event. I really drag this sucker out. I start making lists, then refining the list, and putting things aside for the "real" packing. (By the way, all this really does is lead to mass confusion and more stress) Hopefully, THIS will be one of my last lists.

Passport? Check! It's out of its safe spot. Now I just need to remember to have it "on my person." Easier said than done. We've left home twice without proper identification in the past. Wow, does THAT ever shoot the old stress level through the roof!

Travel Size Items Purchased? Check! That is one of my favorite parts of traveling, heading to Target and buying miniature items to put into my train case. This trip's favorite item thus far: a miniature lint roller! (our animal hair tends to travel with us)

Animals de-flead? Check! We have five animals in our house, and therefore we are constantly giving flea medicine. Since we are having housesitter/petsitters, we thought it only polite to try to minimize the problem.

Clean house for housesitter/petsitter? Half Check? Will it ever be really clean? I did clean the gross thing near my sink that holds the sponge, scrub brush and Handi-Wipe. I figure that's the nicest thing I could have done.

Type out addresses for post cards? Check! This is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. So, if you want a postcard, send me your addy!

Help Taylor with her first college paper? Check! It's not really travel preparation, but it needed to be done.

Make sure all prescriptions are filled and will last until we get back? Check! Check! Check! Check! I am NOT having any "accidents" or "miracles." :-)

Count the number of days we'll be gone and pack bras and undies accordingly? NOT YET!

Purchased enough books for a winter hibernation and no way will I read them all in a week? Check!

Gathered up enough chargers, power cords, and small electronics to run a third world country? Check!

Wake up at 3am and start thinking about everything, feel excited and not be able to fall back to sleep? Check!

Look at animals over and over, then feel guilty about leaving them? Check!

Buy book of Portugese phrases that we'll probably never use? Check!

Ready for fun and adventure? CHECK!!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer 2009

One of the reasons I've always enjoyed Labor Day weekend, besides that automatic day off work, is that it signals the end of the long hot summer. While, I enjoy summertime, I'm always ready for the temperatures to cool off, and for life to get "back to normal." (whatever that is?)

This summer was busy, busy, busy! I felt like we were on the go, more often than not. Before the sunburn fades, and the wrinkles appear, let's re-visit some of the highlights!

Steven and I traveled to Oxford, Mississippi to watch the Missouri Tigers play in the NCAA Baseball Regional. Highlight: Dinner after game 2 with all the family, and our lovely self portraits.

Mike and Rose and Angela Jackson come to visit from St. Louis. Highlight: The whole visit!

Steven's birthday. Highlight: The High School Musical Cake.

Taylor's graduation. Highlight: Taylor graduated! Come on!!!

Vacation in Clearwater, Florida with the whole gang. Highlight: Well, too many to narrow it down to one, so I'll list: sunsets at 8:30, Domino's, that great tent that shaded us from the sun, jumping in the pool after the walk from the beach, Larry's sushi, crab legs, family dinner every night, giggling.

Taylor's birthday. Highlight: That guacamole at Taco Boy!

4th of July spent in the mountains with Johnny and Dusti. Highlight: Ohhhh, I can still feel the cool temperatures. We left 90+ degrees and high humidity and spent the weekend with lovely friends and cool temps. It was heavenly!

Larry's birthday. Highlight: PW Burgers and fun!

Will's wedding in Florence, where Steven took pictures. Highlight: This may have been the hottest wedding ever. (think outdoors in SC at the peak of summertime) Now, picture the ice cold beer I had just after the wedding ceremony. THAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT of the summer, I do believe...

Mike, Tracy and Aiden come visit for a long weekend. Highlight: The giggling!

Brother & Family visit to the beach. Highlight: What else? Margaritas and the Wii Bowling Tournament!

The Boys visit from England. Highlight: Seeing Steven's smile. Oh, and probably those crab legs.

And, now, here we are, we made it! We survived and lived another summer. When I look back on this, I realize why I take all the naps I do. I'm pooped people!

Thanks for living (and re-living!) it with me!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reality Check

Holy Moly. We leave for Portugal in four days.

I have no idea what to pack.

I know about three phrases thus far. (Hi! Thank you! Good night!)

My house is filthy, and needs major cleaning for the housesitter/dogsitter.

I still need some comfortable walking shoes.

I think I have my work cut out for me tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

W is for

Wednesday! Here we are folks mid week and all that jazz. Actually, it's Wednesday evening, so that means we're actually closer to the

WEEKEND! And by weekend, that means a nice long Labor Day weekend. We will be spending Saturday with Larry/Mary/Baby Griff just chilling, eating and playing Scrabble. The twins will join us, so it will be a nice group. I do love a three day weekend.

Taylor was talking about Wasabi mashed potatoes recently. She is so much more cultured at her age than I ever was at 17. (who am I kidding, more cultured than I am now!) I do enjoy the taste of Wasabi, and want to try these taters, but I'll be honest, I'm not even sure where to find it in the grocery store, or what it will look like! (other than being green??)

I do not, nor have I ever had a waist.

Even if I move to a very cold climate, I will never wear wool. It makes me too itchy. And, I don't like to feel itchy. Bitchy? Fine. Itchy? uh, NO.

I love wingtip shoes. I continue to buy shoes that mimic this style. I think I should have been a 1940's man or something.

I've never liked the Wiggles. They kinda give me the creeps.

Speaking of not liking things, I really really really do not like that game show with the WHAMMY. That little character makes me want to poke my eyes out. And, yes, I know that I just ended that sentence with a preposition, but that's how crazy he makes me.

Is there a pair of underwear that doesn't give one a wedgie? If you know of one, please share. It might just be my physical makeup, but I swear I've spent half my life picking my drawers out of my crack.

Why does sour cream get that watery bit floating on the top of it after you use a bit from the container?

(here's a totally random one) When I was in high school, I had a friend named Webster Wilson. He wrestled.

One of my favorite songs that DMB performs in concert is, "All Along the Watchtower." They'll usually do it as an encore. WOW.

Well, I'm going to wrap up this written work with words of wisdom:

Whistle While You Work!!