Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is This Any Way to End a Year?

"Snowy day from dispatch", originally uploaded by mouseski58.
Oh well, on a good note we can say that it's the last snow of 2009, right? Right?

Everyone have a safe and happy New Year's Eve with best wishes for a fantastic 2010 no matter how you pronounce it ... Twenty- Ten or Two Thousand Ten!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In The News - A Mother Challenges the Veterans Administration

I was reading through some news stories on Yahoo yesterday evening when I came across one that caught my interest entitled "Mom fights to be buried with soldier son".  Basically, the gist of the news story is that Denise Anderson wants to be buried with her son, Army Specialist Corey Shea who was killed in Iraq in November of 2008, at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne but the Veterans Administration denied her waiver as, under their policy, she has to die first in order to get the waiver.  Mrs. Anderson doesn't understand why her request can't be granted now so she is challenging the VA's burial policy with support from her congressman, Representative Barney Frank, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

I have mixed feelings about this whole thing as, to be honest, I feel that our National Cemeteries weren't designed for entire families to be buried at but were reserved for those who served our country either as a member of the Armed Services, the spouse of a Service Member, or the one of the other eligible categories as outlined by the VA.   Knowing that my Mom dedicated a major portion of her life to the Air Force right alongside my father, I feel that it would only be right that she be allowed to be buried right alongside him had he chosen to be buried in a National Cemetery rather than a private one.  She earned that honor as have so many other spouses of Service members who have supported them and our country.  When my father retired from the Air Force after his 20+ years of service he was given a certificate of appreciation for his service and so was my mother as the country felt that her support of him was just as important as his service.  Military spouses are awesome people who are just as vital to this country as the men or women they are married to.

That's not to say that parents don't support their children when they join the military but a spouse or minor dependent is something entirely different  - at least in my mind.  I understand that Mrs. Anderson misses her son and that she loved him dearly but I also feel that if she had wanted to be buried next to him, knowing the rules of the VA and the National Cemeteries, that perhaps she should have buried him in a private cemetery and assured herself that she had a place next to him after she passes on.

Mrs. Anderson raised Corey as a single mother for his first 8 years of life, according to the article, and she said that losing him was "like losing a twin".  The article also quotes Mrs. Anderson as saying, "I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to take 'no' for an answer.  I shouldn't have to ask to be buried with my son."  Well, perhaps not but again, if she knew the rules of the cemetery where she was burying her son ahead of time then Mrs. Anderson would have realized that she didn't qualify for burial with her son.  She says that she's "embarrassed about having to challenge the VA for a chance to maintain, in death, the bond she and her son enjoyed in life" but I just have to wonder why she didn't think of this beforehand when making his burial arrangements.

 In the news article Senator John Kerry stated that "No mothers or fathers of a fallen soldier should have to worry about their child being buried alone" and I have to take exception to that.  Those fallen soldiers aren't buried alone - they are buried alongside others who have served their country and they are most certainly not alone.  Interment in a National Cemetery, the final resting place of those who served this country, is an honor as well as one of the benefits afforded to those who sacrificed in the defense of our nation.  National Cemeteries are not just burial grounds, they are shrines to the memories of those who served and commemorate their service to our country. 

I'm not unsympathetic to Mrs. Anderson and I am very, very sorry for her loss but I also am not unsympathetic to the many other Veterans or Active Duty Members of the Armed Forces who may someday wish to be interred at one of our National Cemeteries - cemeteries that do not have unlimited space and which should be reserved for those who served or their direct dependents.  At least that's my opinion.  What's yours?

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Moment in Time

In spite of a nice Christmas, I've been missing Jamie being home and reflecting a bit on this past summer when she was last here.  While doing so, I came across some of the pictures that she took when we stopped by the Long Island Sound near New Haven, Connecticut on our way home from Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York.  I thought I'd share one of my favorites with you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

T'Was The Day After Christmas ...

Here's hoping everyone had a very Merry Christmas and that you found whatever your heart's desire was underneath - or very close! - to your Christmas tree.

Christmas Day was a pretty long one for Amanda and I with visits to my son's house, my mother's house, and then wrapping up the evening at the Annual Family Get-Together at my aunt's house. By the time 8:00 rolled around I was ready to crawl into bed for a long winter's nap and did just that shortly after getting home!

Today was spent doing a few little errands and then parking myself next to a roaring fire in the living room while enjoying the lights of the Christmas tree and various and assorted shows on the telly courtesy of BBC America.  All in all, a nice day after Christmas - how was yours?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Amanda

Have I mentioned that Amanda has been totally into Providence, Rhode Island's own master horror writer H.P. Lovecraft lately?  If not, she most definitely has and everything's been coming up Cthulu lately including her Christmas greetings: 

Sorry for the watermark - I lifted the image from her Deviant Art account where you can also check out her Snow Squid and second painting of H.P. Lovecraft himself - the one that now hangs in our dining room - if you're so inclined.

I'm off to work for 16 hours - everyone have a great Christmas Eve Day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chocolate Chip, Raspberry Jam, and Oatmeal Scotchies - Oh My!

Whew!  I can finally sit down for a few minutes after being on my feet all morning finishing up the cookie baking that I started around 8:00 last night.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute to finally get in the Christmas cookie mood for which I totally blame Lisa!  She'd been writing about all of the baking she'd been doing on Facebook and her blog and I guess it must have inspired me as I decided yesterday afternoon that I was going to make cookies when I got home from my short shift last night - and thank goodness it was short as I seemed to be suffeirng from a major case of Dispatcher Dyslexia!  I couldn't seem to say anything right on the radio! That's what I get for working on my day off after spending the whole day wrapping gifts!

Anyhow, at 8:00 I started the first batch of cookies - a slight twist on Peanut Butter Blossoms as I thought I had Hershey Kisses but turns out I had Nestle's Crunch Christmas Bells instead.  Oops!  For those of you who refer to Peanut Butter Blossoms as "nipple cookies", these are even more 'nipplish' I'm afraid but Amanda says that they taste good so I guess that's all that matters!  From there I moved on to Oatmeal Scotchies minus the coconut that I had used in the ones I made on Saturday.  They're Andrew's favorites and I wanted to make him some more as an additional thank you for plowing my driveway the other day.  With my bad back, I can't say thank you enough!

After that I made what were supposed to be Thumbprint Cookies with Raspberry Jam but Amanda said that I'd be lying if I didn't say that they were actually Index Finger Cookies as that's what I used to push the holes in the centers!  I drizzled them this morning with white chocolate that I had tried to tint a nice shade of Christmas green but the color ended up looking more like aged copper instead!  I just couldn't get the green right for nuthin'! So I guess you can call them Index Finger Cookies with Raspberry Jam & Verdis Drizzle!

Next up were drop sugar cookies with crushed peppermint and then a batch of chooclate chip cookies made with semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. At that point it was 1:00 a.m. so I finally called it a night and figured I'd finish up in the morning.

At 9:00 a.m. I was back at it with a batch of chocolate chip cookies with pecans and then another variation using pecans and coconut both.  I drizzled the sugar cookies with the verdis-colored white chocolate and then also dipped some mint chocolate Milano cookies and sprinkled them with crushed peppermint and then drizzled some milk chocolate Milanos.  I was going to dip some dark chocolate ones but when I went to get them out of the cupboard, they seemed to have disappeared!  Hmmm ... did Santa come early for cookies and milk??

Finally at 12:30 I was finished after I arranged the cookies on a platter to take into work with me today and bagged some up for Wayne and Kevin to have on Christmas Day as they're the ones who drew the short straw and will be working the holiday.  Plus, they won't be in either today or tomorrow when I plan on bringing cookies in and when I mentioned baking yesterday, Kevin's eyes lit up much akin to a child's on Christmas morning upon seeing that Santa arrived overnight!  How could I not set some aside for him??  I've also got a separate bag all made up for Andrew with a bit of every kind but mostly the Oatmeal Scotchies that he so loves.

There were plenty left over for Amanda so she's not going to feel left out when I take the big platter above into work with me in about half an hour - plus she helped out with the taste-testing.  As I told her last night, one of these days I'm going to have to teach her how to bake and not just eat but all she did was laugh when I said that.  I guess that means I won't be getting any homemade goodies from her anytime soon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Post From the Past

With only three days left until Christmas and work scheduled for all of them (today is supposed to be a day off but I'm going in later for about 4-1/2 hours), I am seriously running out of time to get my Christmas wrapping done - yo, yo! - so plan on spending as much time as possible this morning with tape, paper, scissors, and ribbon in an attempt to get the majority of it accomplished.  I know I said I was going to do it this past Saturday but ended up baking oatmeal scotchies and chocolate chip mint cookies instead and even though I am a "professional multi-tasker", I just couldn't seem to get it together to do both.  Ah well!

To that end, I am pulling a post from three years ago today for your reading enjoyment.  It appears that I was just as cold back then as I am now! 

Best wishes for a great Tuesday no matter what you may be up to!

“May you have warmth in your igloo, oil in your lamp, and peace in your heart” ~ Eskimo Proverb
It's beginning to feel like winter has finally descended upon us here in New England (though the uncharacteristically warm December has been a blessing to my fuel costs!) and, as such, I decided last night that it was time to break out the flannel sheets and put them on my bed.

I have no idea who the genius was that came up with the idea of making sheets out of flannel but I am forever grateful to whomever it was and couldn't sing his/her praises loud enough! As much as I like the 300-thread count sheets, there is nothing like crawling in between warm, cozy, flannel on a cold winter's night - especially when one sleeps alone like I do.

Growing up, I remember that my mother always had a sweater on and seemed to be cold and it appears that I have inherited that from her as I'm always chilly no matter what temperature I have the thermostat set for. We have two-zone heating in the house but for some unknown reason, the upstairs never seems to work so it gets pretty chilly in the bedrooms at night - especially considering I have the downstairs thermostat set to drop down to 56 degrees after 9:00 p.m. Were it not for flannel sheets I would probably be piling a half-dozen blankets and comforters on top of the bed just to maintain some sort of warmth!

The only drawback that I have found to flannel sheets is that you can't really wear flannel pajamas at the same time as it makes it hard to roll over but that's a small price to pay for NO cold spots when you stretch your feet out!

Now if I could just figure out a way to keep the bathroom floor warm for when I stumble across it in the morning, life would be almost perfect!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow & Babies & Stuff

As was well broadcast yesterday, we were hit with a pretty major amount of snow here in Connecticut and other parts of the Northeast when Winter Storm Albert blew up the coast.   Because it was a coastal storm, places like Norwich got hit worse than the places in Connecticut that usually get dumped on like Litchfield and northern Windham counties.

Naturally, the snow wasn't nice enough to arrive when I had a day off and wouldn't have to worry about getting to work in the morning so I got up yesterday morning at a little after 5:00 and looked outside to see that there was a lot of white stuff out there covering the ground - including the street I live on which had yet to be plowed.  Swell.

As I live in town, getting a ride into work isn't a problem so I knew I wasn't going to have to drive in the stuff but I was still going to have to be able to get out the door as the snow was up and over the bottom of the door.  Grabbing the snow shovel - which I had been smart enough to bring into the house with me the night before - I ventured out and dug a path from the front door to what I figured to be the road.  Fortunately the snow was of the light and fluffy variety and it didn't take me long but no sooner had I finished and was starting back in the house but a plow finally came down the street and - sure as shooting - filled in the path I had just made to the roadway!  Sigh ...

Work itself was way too busy for my liking - especially considering I was flying solo as my partner lives considerably further away and she didn't relish the idea of driving in a semi-blizzard.  The first 911 call was a lady in labor with her first child and the second emergency call was for a paramedic intercept for yet another lady in labor in a neighboring town with her third child.

The little fella decided that he wasn't going to wait to get to the hospital to make his entrance into the world and was born in the back of a neighbor's car who was trying to drive the expectant parents to the hospital.  You can read the full story here at along with another picture of the proud parents and their brand-new son, Peter Ronald Clippinger, who was born at at 8:34 a.m weighing in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.  In addition to the on-duty paramedic that I sent from American, one of our other off-duty paramedics was there as a member of the Franklin Volunteer Fire Department and she helped deliver Peter into the world.  (The photo to the left is credited to Khoi Ton of the Norwich Bulletin Staff.)

The rest of the day was pretty crazy and I was pretty happy to see my partner arrive around 2:00 so I could finally take a little bit of a break!  I can't remember the last time I was so happy to see 11:00 p.m. roll around!

Today involved a lot of time with a shovel as I went outside to shovel the stairs for my elderly neighbor, Elizabeth, who lives in the apartment over the garage behind us as well as trying to dig my car out of the pile of snow that my other neighbors upstairs decided to throw on it when they dug theirs out.  Apparently the art of snow shoveling is not taught in Vietnam or they're just plain rude - I've not decided which yet.

As I stood there looking at all of that snow (this picture doesn't really do it justice as you can't tell exactly how deep it is and it's the front of the house, not the back where the driveway is), I felt an overwhelming sense of dismay and fatigue.  Normally my landlords have someone to plow but there has been some breakdown in communications or something and arrangements have yet to be made so that left me with trying to figure out what to do with all of that snow!

Finally I did the smartest thing I could think of and sent a text to my friend Andrew to ask if he was going to be in Norwich today.  Luckily he was going to be in Franklin and said he'd stop by a little after noon to clear the driveway for me with the plow on his truck.  Once he arrived it took him less than 10 minutes to push all of the snow out of the way and I thanked him with half a case of Winter Warmer (left over from the dispatch party) and a bag of Christmas cookies I had baked on Saturday.  The guy is truly a lifesaver in more ways than one!  Thank you, Andrew!  

Of course it's now time to get ready to go back to work for the afternoon!  I'm hoping to get some Christmas presents wrapped tonight when I get home as I didn't do them Saturday as I decided to bake cookies instead but we'll see how that goes as I'm sure all of the shoveling is going to catch up with me at some point and I'll be very, very tired.

Hope your Mondays are going well!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Norwich Lights Are Pretty Sights

On my way home from work the other night, I couldn't help but notice that the large rose made out of Christmas lights that has graced Chelsea Parade in the past was up and lit.  I don't remember it being there last year but that could be my Swiss-cheese brain not quite remembering things correctly, though I'm pretty sure if it had been up, I would have taken a picture or two.

Norwich being The Rose of New England, it seems rather appropriate that there be a huge rose gracing the middle of the city and, of course, upon seeing it up and lit my first thought was that I needed to get a picture of it at some point.  That first thought was immediately followed by a second thought - "but darn, it's been so cold!"  Knowing that it wasn't going to get any warmer, and with a forecast for close to a foot of snow being dumped on us overnight Saturday, I decided Saturday evening to take my Nikon and venture forth into the cold evening air while I had the chance to do so without having to wade through a foot of snow to get the right angle!

Bundling up warmly and borrowing Amanda's scarf "just in case", I took my tripod in hand, made sure the battery was charged in the Nikon, and set out a little after 5:00 into the cold and wind.  It wasn't snowing yet but felt like it certainly could at any moment so I wasted no time getting set up in the middle of Chelsea Parade and snapping a few pictures.  Night photography can be a bit tricky, especially when your fingers are frozen even in gloves, but I thought this shot came out pretty good -

As you can see, there are a few lights burned out here and there that the city needs to replace at some point but it's definitely a beautiful rose even with the backdrop of street lights and such.  Personally I think the city should leave it up all year but I'm sure the electricity to keep it lit isn't cheap and there's always the chance some yahoo is going to come along and vandalize it.

Before climbing back into the warmth of my car and heading home, I couldn't help but take a few more picture of one of the houses across from Chelsea Parade as the Christmas tree in the window was just too pretty to resist -

Hopefully no one looked out the windows and wondered why some strange frozen woman was taking pictures of their house but if they did, hopefully they know it was because their tree was so pretty and not because I was casing the joint for a future burglary!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Plans for Jamie

As many who are regular readers know, my youngest daughter lives with her father and step-mother in Florida. It's not a living arrangement that I like but to perfectly honest, Amanda and Jamie barely get along at best and fight like a couple of territorial cats at worst.  I have no idea why they can't get along but I do know that having the two of them together in the same house alone combined with my ridiculous work hours would probably result in my coming home to murder and mayhem one of these days. I kid you not, it's sad but true.

So ... Jamie lives in Florida and usually comes home to Connecticut for most of the summer and Christmas ... usually.  This Christmas is not going to be one of those "usuallys" and even though I like to think that I'm okay with it I seem to keep finding myself caught up in moments of extreme sadness about the whole situation.  The other day I got a Christmas card from my aunt with an invitation for our annual Christmas night family get-together at her house which was addressed to Amanda and I and read "I hope the two of you can make it".  The two of you ... not the three of you as is normally the case but the two of us.  This immediately brought tears to my eyes as has putting Jamie's ornaments on the tree, looking at her Christmas stocking, and knowing that I won't be having to make a trip to the airport anytime soon. 

Instead of coming home to be with her sister and I this Christmas, Jamie will be making preparations to attend the Florida Youth ChalleNGe Academy as a cadet for the next 5-1/2 months as part of her voluntary enrollment in a 17-1/2 month program that is geared towards "providing values, skills, education and self discipline to young people while incorporating the structure and espirit de corps found in the military model. The residential phase of the program (5-1/2 months) takes place in a highly disciplined and motivational environment promoting structure and academics along with leadership, health, community service, life skills, job skills, physical fitness and citizenship."  In other words, I guess she's heading off to Boot Camp of a sort in order to get her life onto some sort of track that she wants to be on.  Following the residential phase, she has a 12-month mentorship phase beginning immediately after graduation in her home community.

The girls' father and I don't talk all that often but most of the news I get from him out of Florida in regards to Jamie is oftentimes rather disconcerting and disturbing as Jamie - who has always been impulsive and impetuous - always seems to manage to get herself into some sort of trouble or other when she isn't supervised.  A lot of her problem is boys and getting tangled up with the wrong ones - which are the ones that she is attracted to - and the school that she's been attending seems to give her just enough rope to hang herself.  As much as I'd like to have her up here with me, she'd be unsupervised a lot here, too, and I'm afraid that the trouble that always seems to follow her would be as much of a problem - if not more when you add on the tension between Jamie and her sister.

Jamie tries hard to "toe the line" but temptations are what they are and so when her father found the Florida Youth ChalleNGe Academy, she agreed that it sounded like a good way to get her life on track and find some direction and meaning.  The program is run by the National Guard as directed by the Joint Armed Services Committee and is funded by the Department of Defense and the State of Florida.  Because Jamie meets the qualifications for this program, it's not going to cost hardly anything for her to attend except for a small amount up front and whatever basic supplies and clothing she needs to start out.

Jamie and I have spoken about her attending the Academy and she's actually looking forward to it as well as to her life once she graduates.  We've been discussing the possibility of her enlisting in the US Air Force and following the tradition that my father began and which I followed (though I wasn't smart enough to make a career of it!).  We've spoken about the opportunities that are available to her through enlistment which include career training, the chance to further her education, and also the ability to visit places that she might not see otherwise.  I know that the military isn't for everyone but considering Jamie's personality and her ability to get herself into trouble without structure, it would probably be the ideal place for her.  Add on the fact that Basic Training would be a walk in the park after the 5-1/2 month program she's going to go through and it seems like an ideal situation. 

I've got my fingers crossed that Jamie finds what she's looking for in life while she attends the Academy and that she learns the discipline that will keep her out of the trouble that she seems to want to find.  She's a good kid but she's always been my "wild child" and I sure don't want to see her dropping out of school or hooking up with the wrong guy and finding herself in the kind of trouble that could totally mess up her whole life.  I think that this Academy is a good opportunity for her so even though I am going to miss her like nobody's business this Christmas, I'm hoping that it's for a very good reason and that this will be the break she needs in life to become the success that I know she can be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Anyone Sick ...

... of looking at my Christmas decorations yet? I hope not as I thought for today I'd post a few more pictures of what's displayed on the tree and what's on the fireplace mantle. Through the joy of the collage function on Picasa, I'm able to group them all together rather than post each one individually - which makes for a lot less work and a definitely shorter post! First off, more favorites hanging on the tree -

Next up, my collection of angels who look quite nice arranged on a bed of angel's hair on the mantel. These are the girls individually -

... and this is the chorus of angels watching over my living room -

I figure with that many angels watching over the place, we should be pretty well protected from the tree drying out, falling ornaments, and a Grinch trying to slide down the chimney to come in and steal our last can of Who Hash!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Tuesday Tidbit

Quick post before the day's activities begin!  Seems like I've got things to do, things to do, things to do on each and every one of my days off until Christmas but that's okay because being busy always reminds me of the Christmas song Silver Bells - "... and above all this bustle you'll hear, Silver Bells, Silver Bells ..."   No doubt there will be plenty of time to relax in January when pretty much nothing happens.  Well, except for our annual employee party at work!

Anyhow, that said, today's activities include lunch with my old friend Rhonda who is actually going to be coming to mi casa today for some nice chicken and broccoli quiche and whatever else I manage to find while rummaging through the cupboards.  I was going to make chicken and dumplings but got lazy at the last minute!

After that I've got gifts to wrap and cards to finish (almost done with those!) and I might even fit in a little shopping later on in the evening being that I still need to get gifts for the grandsons and a few other assorted goodies.  After that I'm going to sit down with a nice hot cup of tea, a piece of homemade New York style cheesecake, and just relax.  Least ways that's the plan!  What do you all have planned for today?

Timing By the Bay

Long, long ago in what seems like another lifetime I lived in California in an area not too far from San Francisco which, I'm sorry to say, I didn't get the chance to visit often enough.  I do recall one time, though, when a trip to the City By the Bay turned into a potential Disaster By the Bay when my friend Scott had some problems with his Honda Accord.   For the most part it was a reliable little car and got him pretty much everywhere he needed to go but alas, this time it was the timing belt that decided to go!  You would think that a timing belt would have better timing!  Sorry, small bit of automotive humor there - very small bit!

Luckily the whole day wasn't ruined as we were fortunate enough to find a nice San Francisco auto repair shop in close proximity to where the timing belt decided its time had come (sorry, more bad automotive humor!).  Granted, it wasn't exactly the way we had planned to spend a portion of our money but I guess that in the long run, a timing belt was more important than more Ghiradhelli chocolates - though certainly not as tasty!   And it could have been worse, we could have been visiting Fresno!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Monday Movie Moment (Or Two)

Rather than taking the time to write a blog post today, the thought occurred to me that I really ought to think about getting my Christmas cards written out or perhaps wrap a gift or two but thus far I have been unable to muster up the motivation to do any of those things and sit here at the computer instead.  I'm beginning to think that - subconsciously - I enjoy the harried feeling of the season and therefore set myself up for not getting things done on time!  Well, either that or I'm just really bad with the whole time management aspect of life!  Ah well, not to worry - I've got a little less than two weeks to go and things will get done!  Meanwhile, back at the blog ...

One of the nice things about working a 16-hour shift on Sundays is that my partner and I have started a tradition we call "Chick Flick Sunday" - some of you may be familiar with it as I've mentioned it before.  Each Sunday we get three movies from NetFlix and in between 911 calls, regular scheduling calls, and other assorted duties we get to see movies that we'd probably never see otherwise as neither one of us are any good at actually going to see a movie at a theater.  This week our queue brought us the newly released Julie & Julia as well as My Sister's Keeper (the third movie was from 1994 and not very good so not worth mentioning!).  

We both really liked Julie & Julia except for two things - one it makes you rather hungry while you're watching it and you find yourself craving things like lots of butter on a crusty baguette and two, the ending was kind of a let-down.  I'm sure that the reason for that is that the movie is based on two true stories and, call me a pessimist, but it seems like sometimes the endings in real life are definitely let-downs.  Perhaps that's why we all like movies so much - they can have happy endings!  Regardless, though, good movie and Meryl Streep did a fantastic job playing Julia Childs!  Bon appetite!

As for My Sister's Keeper, if you're going to watch this one have tissues close at hand ... lots and lots and lots of tissues.  This movie could have been made by the producers of ABC's Extreme Home Makeover show as they went for every little tear-invoking moment that they could possibly find just like that show does.  Granted, it's a sad story anyway but it's a nonstop attack on your tear ducts and if you don't find yourself shedding at least a couple of tears while watching this movie, you're just not human.  It also brought up some very good questions about "donor babies" and the fairness of giving birth to one child in order to save another.  In my own humble opinion, a movie that can make you think as well as entertain is well worth seeing and this is one of those in spite of all the sniffling that was going on in the dispatch center!

I'm not sure what's in the queue for next Sunday, a holiday movie or two would be nice so I'll have to pop over to NetFlix and see what we've got lined up.   This isn't a paid endorsement or anything but I've just go to say that if you haven't tried NetFlix, I would highly recommend it as it is more than worth the monthly cost if you like to watch movies and maybe take a break from reality once in awhile.  Their selection is phenomenal and their service is even better.  I'm not sure how Jen and I survived 16-hour Sundays before NetFlix! 

Ah well, speaking of reality ... those Christmas cards are still staring at me ... !!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Still Believing in Santa Claus

While reading some of my favorite blogs last night, I came across a post from my friend Sarah - aka Mighty Mom - that I thought was more than worth sharing as soon as I read it as I feel like it sums up so much of what the Christmas season is supposed to be about.

I'd appreciate it if you'd click on over to her post and take a few moments to read a little story about believing in Santa Claus while still remembering the true reason for the season. These are the kind of stories I love to read at Christmastime! Feel free to tell her that I sent you over and wish her a Merry Christmas!

In The News ...

I was watching the news last night with my dispatch partner when they showed the what-seems-to-be-obligatory news story about how badly retailers are hurting again this Christmas season. I’m not totally unsympathetic to their plight, especially having worked retail myself a long time ago, but I’m not quite sure why they’re all panicking just yet. With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, I suspect that a lot of people will still be out and about trying to find that “perfect” gift be it something big like a Sony Flat Panel TV or even something smaller like an iPod Nano 16gb.

According to the news story, people were actually spending more this Christmas season than they were last year. I believe that sales were up 10% or so from last year but I guess the problem is that last year was such a dismal year that even what seems like a decent increase in sales to me isn’t all that great – at least not from a retailer’s point of view. I think perhaps where part of the problem lies is that, according to the report, sales were up for people who made over $100,000 a year while they were down for those who made $30,000 or less and I’ve got to think that there are a lot more people who make closer to the latter amount than they do the former.

I’m pretty sure that if I made $100,000 or more that I’d be spending more on gifts because I could and because I would certainly want to as there is definitely joy to be found in being able to find the right gift for a friend or loved one. You can’t put a price tag on the look on someone’s face when they open a gift that they know you took the time to pick out especially for them … it would probably be very much like the look one would see on my face were I ever to open a gift like, oh … say a Nikon D90 that I bought for me from me! Until I can find that elusive winning lottery ticket, though, I’m going to have spend less and choose wisely – which means I can still get some great gifts, it just requires a little more work on my part to find the best deals – no matter where they may be!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Saturday Short

Last night's Holiday Dispatch Party was - I believe - a success as everyone seemed to have a good time.  We had lots of really good eats, everyone brought their favorite beverage of choice, and I even managed to build a cozy fire for the very first time in the living room fireplace! 

I ran around like an idiot all day getting things done and was wiped out by the time I finished cleaning up last night but it was all worth it.  I really do enjoy having people over and should do it more often - something to keep in mind!

Today we're off to Rhode Island to meet up with my son and his wife to go do some Christmas shopping in Providence so chances are good I'll be wiped out again tonight but maybe not!  Hope everyone has a great Saturday!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Four Ornament Friday

Not much time for a post today but I've been such a bad blogger for this whole month so far that I wanted to take the time to at least post a couple more pictures of ornaments.  Not as another tease, mind you, but because I wanted to try something out!

I was doing some reading Wednesday night about techniques for taking better holiday pictures and decided to break out the tripod and try taking a few pictures after I got home from work last night to see if I had retained anything of what I'd read.  Not exactly having a mind like a steel trap these days, I forget a lot more quickly than I remember but I guess that's just one more of the joys of growing old!

These two little Santas here are obviously two more of the girls' ornaments that first found their way to our tree sometime in the mid-1990's.  I don't remember exactly when and they aren't dated but I know both girls were pretty young at the time.   When I took Jamie's out of its tissue paper wrapping I had to stop and wipe the tears from my eyes before putting it on the tree as Jamie won't be here for Christmas this year and I'm not exactly turning cartwheels about that.  This will be the first Christmas in 16 years that my baby won't be home and the sadness I feel about that is going to pretty much tinge the entire holiday season.  Still, her ornaments are here and on the tree and she'll be with me in my heart and thoughts.  Anyhow, moving on before I start crying again ...

A lot of my Christmas ornaments have come as presents from my cousin Amy and she's given me quite the assortment of Eeyores as well as a couple of ornaments containing this guy - Jiminy Cricket.

I used to call Amy my "conscience" back when we were younger so it became a running tradition for her to give me things with Jiminy on them.  I've got this bigger ornament to the left as well as this other little guy holding one of the world's tiniest umbrellas - this one also just happens to be the smallest ornament on my tree.

Truth be told the ornament was probably designed for one of those little miniature trees that they used to make but I figure that crickets - by nature - are generally pretty small so he's probably pretty close to scale and even though most people probably aren't going to notice him on the tree, I know he's there!

Now, as for the tree itself ... I'm still trying to figure out the whole lighting thing and failing miserably but I didn't want to keep you in the dark too much longer ... though this picture below is pretty dark!  I reallly have lousy lighting in my living room and even though I used a tripod, set the camera to a longer exposure time, and even used the self-timer to cut down on camera shake you can barely make out the tree.

Ah well, at least it sort of gives you a general idea of at least the size of the tree and the lighting.  I promise to keep trying until I get it right as it's good practice with the camera and also gives me a goal.  Of course, all of that is going to have to wait until after tonight's Dispatch Party but I'll work on it - honest!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Three Tree Teases

Still just a few more teases of the Christmas tree has I've yet to be able to take a decent picture of the whole thing due to what I'm going to claim to be lighting issues! These three ornaments are three of my favorites on the tree as they are the kids' First Christmas ornaments.

This little pair of booties for Michael I actually made by hand and date back to 1981 - the year he was born.  His name and all that good stuff are embroidered on the backs. They don't quite qualify for antique status yet but they're getting there!

Amanda's pink rocking horse was given to me as a gift shortly before her first Christmas but darned if I can remember who it was from!  I want to say my cousin Amy but that could be wrong, my memory appears to get more and more like Swiss cheese every day!

Finally this one is Jamie's first ornament and I remember ordering it from a catalog but again - darned if I can remember which one! Hers is from 1993 as she was born only 13 months after Amanda.

On a side note, yesterday's shopping trip with my mother went well though I have to say the time flew by and it went from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the blink of an eye!  I've still got some more to do and now there's that whole "wrapping" thing that needs to be undertaken, too!  As a rule, though, I like to wrap presents so I'm not stressing about that.

I'm hosting (hostessing?) a party for some of my co-workers this Friday evening and my house is nowhere near acceptable guest standards so guess what I'll be doing off and on for the next few days when I'm not at work??  Not that I think the folks I work with in dispatch are going to care if the house is spotless but as an overly critical, somewhat anal Virgo you can darned well bet that I will!  Now, where's that furniture polish and mop and ... ??

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Tiny Tuesday Tidbit

Believe it or not, there really is a Christmas tree fully decorated and standing in my living room - it's just that this is all you're going to see of it for a bit!  I do promise more pictures - I'm just not sure when, though!

With Christmas rapidly approaching almost as fast as one of those darned New England Central Railroad trains I've been trying to photograph down by the Yantic River, I figure it's high time I went and did some semi-serious Christmas shopping therefore I am going to be spending the majority of today with my Mom doing just that.  Hence I shall be away from the Blogosphere again for just a little bit.

Along with it being the most wonderful time of the year, it's also the busiest - especially for those of us who have misplaced any time management skills we may have once possessed!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Of Art and Pancakes

It had been my intention to get caught up on some blogging today but after getting up at 5:00 a.m. and then driving 124 miles to The Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts I am pretty wiped out. 

The college was holding an Open House today for prospective students and along with the Open House was a chance for a Portfolio Review which Amanda had signed up for.  Not having a lot of confidence in her own artwork, she was more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs until it was over but as it turned out, she got a glowing review by a member of the faculty. She was told that her artwork most definitely meets the requirements for acceptance into the college, now she just has to polish it up for Scholarship Review.  Considering that Montserrat has scholarships up to $10,000 for Portfolios, you can bet she'll be doing all the polishing she can before that next review if she hopes to have a chance to attend next Fall which she definitely hopes to do.

Following all of that - which made Amanda smile and relax quite a bit after some obligatory squeeing and texting of her friends -

we found the local iHop where I indulged in their Pecan Pie Holiday Hotcakes -

and Amanda had the Gingerbread Holiday Hotcakes -

They totally hit the spot before we made the 124-mile drive back in rain that turned to snow that turned to rain that turned to snow that ... well, you get the idea I'm sure!  Yep, it's December in New England!

Anyhow, all of that is just to say that I'm exhausted and going to bed early so that I can get up and go into work for 16-hours tomorrow therfore I won't be catching up on my blog reading tonight after all.  As long as I'm not too tired when I get home from work tomorrow night I'm going to try to make it around to at least some blog and pay a much overdue visit.  Until then, I hope everyone has a great Sunday and if you get the chance, maybe some great pancakes to boot!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"I'm Not Dead ... " ~ Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Having been away from the blog since Saturday, I just wanted to do a quick post to let those who might care know that I am still quite alive in spite of my absence from the Blogosphere.  In between working on a better attitude than I had this past weekend, I've actually been pretty busy but am hoping to find the time to get back into things full-swing in the next couple of days provided I can find the time in between Christmas decorating, work, taking Amanda up to the Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts for an open house on Saturday, work, and other assorted stuff.  'Tis the season to be busy, right?

Just to prove that I've done more than lounge on the couch and watch all of the episodes of House that I had stacked up on the DVR, here's a picture that I took yesterday morning after patiently waiting by the side of the railroad tracks for almost 2-1/2 hours ...

Did I mention that it was quite cold yesterday morning with frost all over the ground?  No?  Probably a good thing then as no doubt that would attest to my level of insanity while waiting for a train to come by and trying to get a good picture.  Unfortunately, because trains move fast, this was the best one I got of the engine so I guess I'll be going back to wait another day to try it again.  Next time I'm bringing a blanket, though, and maybe a thermos of hot chocolate!

Boxcars are so much easier to capture ... 

Ah well, gotta go to work now. Hopefully I'll be around to visit all of your blogs soon!