Friday, September 28, 2007

Thank You Holy Baseball Gods

Thank you Holy Baseball Gods.

The Chicago Cubs clinched the National League Central Division moments ago thanks to the sorrowful playing of the Milwaukee Brewers losing tonight and their previous two games AND a fantastic outing by Big Z and Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs.

I will sleep well tonight, but let's keep this in perspective. Winning the National League Central Division is NOT the final destination. The ultimate goal is to win the World Series. We still have 3 more series to play.

So again, I ask you to please let us continue winning throughout October.

In Harry Carey's name, Amen.

A Visit from Grandma & Grandpa

Last night I had a dream. Well, not so much a dream, but a visit. My grandparents - Grandma & Grandpa Gardner - came to visit me last night. The thing is, though, they're both dead. I don't think it was a dream because in my dreams, I don't have conversations with people. I can't smell or taste things. Dreams for me are very one-dimensional. Sometimes they feel real, but they are still one-dimensional for me.

In the visit I had with my grandparents last night, they were both excited to see me and they were both completely healthy. Grandpa could walk using his legs, not prosthetics. Grandma wasn't on oxygen. They were living in their home on Sanibel Island. And I was my current self - a 36 year old single woman.

They never really knew me as an adult, having both been really ill from the time I was 21 until their deaths when I was in my mid-20s. In our conversation last night though, they both clearly knew me. They knew my hopes and dreams and even my most secret fears. They knew about the times I'd fallen short, but told me that's part of life and what's important is that we get up and dust ourselves off. They told me how proud they were of me and that they both loved me more than I ever knew. Truthfully, we had a great visit. We had a couple of drinks, Grandma enjoyed a few cigarettes, and we laughed. I don't ever remember laughing with Grandma Gardner when she was alive. In this visit, Grandma was almost a different person than she'd ever been with me. It was nice.

What made this dream or visit significant is that I've had it before. 11 1/2 years ago, the night before Grandma died, Grandpa visited me (he'd died a 18 months earlier). Knowing that Grandma and I had always had a rocky relationship, Grandpa told me that Grandma loved me and was proud of me. I think he came to me that night because he knew I was having a difficult time reconciling my feelings about her impending death. When I woke up the morning after Grandpa's visit, I was calmer and more peaceful than I'd been in days. And when Grandma died later that afternoon, I cried and was sad, but knew that she loved me the best she could. She just didn't really know how.

Grandma and Grandpa told me one more thing. They told me about my Nana's love for me and how proud she is of me. They told me that even though she couldn't say it herself anymore, I should never let go of that knowledge. They told me that I don't need to worry about letting her down because I could never do that. They knew I have been having diffuclty letting Nana go and have been balancing on eggshells the last few weeks as her physical and mental health have deteriorated. They told me that death isn't bad at all. That the after-life is a glorious place without sickness or other hardships of this world.

I wish I could say I woke up this morning feeling more peaceful and less emotional, but I didn't. In fact, the opposite is true. I know the end is near for Nana and I have to let her go, but I simply don't want to.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dear Holy Baseball Gods

Dear Holy Baseball Gods,

I come to you tonight, not for myself, but for all Cubs fans since 1908. You are probably aware that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series in 99 years. 99 years. I don't know exactly what happened in 1909 or at whatever point in the future, whether it was really the Billy Goat, Steve Bartman, or something else, but obviously there is something going on.

Cubs fans have always stuck by their team. We're there during the snowy April games and we continue to sell-out Wrigley all season long, even when the Cubs are losing. We don't run for the hills when the going gets tough. Sure, we may boo a pitcher when he thanks us for his new $91 million contract by going 0-for-August, but lesser fans would have run him out of town. We have suffered through 1945, 1969, 1984, 1989, 1998, and 2003. Haven't we repented enough for whatever transgression occurred low those many years ago?

The bottom line is that we have 3 games left in the season and our magic number is two. (Thank you for letting Milwaukee lose tonight. That really helped our cause.) Despite having three players in the 20 homerun club this season and top-notch pitching, we managed to get swept by the Marlins over the last three days.

So please, please let the Cubbies get it back together and win the Division and ultimately the World Series. Please let Zambrano stop cramping. Please keep our power hitters, Soriano, Rameriez, and Lee healthy and hitting.

In Harry Carey's name I pray.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Music That Speaks To My Soul

Music moves me in a way nothing else ever has. I can feel it in my bones and deep into my soul.

I remember in December 1999, a guy friend of mine called me up from Florida and told me he had something for me to hear. The next thing I knew, he was playing the guitar and singing Southern Cross to me. He had learned it simply by listening to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, a live CD by Jimmy Buffett that I'd bought him for his birthday. Knowing it was my favorite song (and I have a strong preference for the Buffett cover over the original by Crosby, Stills, & Nash), he listened to the CD over and over until he'd mastered it. I was so moved, I cried. That was the first time I realized I was in love with him. Things didn't work out, but to this day, I still think of him everytime I hear Southern Cross - either version.

Many other songs move me the same way. They are tied to events or specific times of my life or friends.

What speaks to my soul the most? Here's my favorite iPod playlist:

Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
Hands by Jewel
Life Uncommon by Jewel

Time Of My Life by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
All Fired Up by Pat Benatar
Born to Fly by Sara Evans
Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel
Circle of Life by Elton John

Don't Stop by Fleetwood Mac
Hero by Enrique Iglesias
Hooked On A Feeling by Vonda Shepard
I Could Not Ask For More by Sara Evans
I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
It's My Life by Bon Jovi
Standing Outside the Fire by Garth Brooks
Strong Enough by Des'ree
That's The Way It Is by Celine Dion
The Best by Tina Turner
The Greatest by Kenny Rogers
The River by Garth Brooks
These Are The Days by 10,000 Maniacs
This Year by Chantal Kreviazuk
Unanswered Prayers by Garth Brooks
When You Know by Shawn Colvin
Ready to Run by Dixie Chicks
Landslide by Dixie Chicks
Wide Open Spaces by Dixie Chicks
Man! I Feel Like A Woman by Shania Twain
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
Fame by Irene Cara
Flashdance What A Feeling by Irene Cara
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Searchin' My Soul by Vonda Shepard

Testify to Love by Wynonna
In My Daughter's Eyes by Martina McBride
This One's For The Girls by Martina McBride

Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw
What a Beautiful Day by Chris Cagle

Amazing Grace by Elvis Presley

Hallelujah by Bon Jovi

O Holy Nightby Celine Dion
Anyway by Martina McBride
(Women Should Be) A Priority by Sweet Honey In The Rock

Life Is A Highway by Rascal Flatts

Updated 12/23/2007: I can't believe I forgot this song! It's really on my "Music that Speaks to My Soul" iPod playlist! Karen introduced me to Des'ree when we were both still at Hogan. I still remember how she was so insistent that I hear this song and one night when we worked until the wee hours of the morning, we snuck into the parking garage probably about 10:00ish and cranked this on her car CD player. Then we were able to get through the next few hours at work. She was right. You Gotta Be is one of the greatest songs ever!

You Gotta Be by Des'ree

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ratings - Updated

Now that my little old blog has been around nearly 3 months, I decided it was time to check on my rating and see if anything had changed since my original PG and PG-13 ratings.

Boy was I in for a shock!

Because of 8 mentions of "poop," 6 mentions of "death," 4 uses of "pooped," "crap" 3 times, "sexy" twice, and 1 use of the va-jay-jay synomym, I NOW have a rating of NC-17! I had no idea I was writing such smut!

What Neo-Con runs this rating website?


Monday, September 17, 2007

Life Lessons

Shortly after Dave's birthday, when I was probably 9, my mom hid the extra birthday cake in some Tupperware in the oven, where she knew no one would find it. The hiding spot was so good that even Mom forgot about it and when she and I went to pre-heat the oven to bake cookies, it started a fire that destroyed not only the birthday cake and Tupperware, but also the oven.

Fast forward almost 22 years . . .

This afternoon the phone rang and a client asked if she could come over about 15 minutes later. To say I wasn't prepared for company was an understatement. Clean clothes sat in a chair waiting to be folded, piles of dirty clothes on the floor waiting to be washed, a clean and full dishwasher, and a few dishes in the sink waiting to be washed. I only had time to hide the mess, as opposed to actually clean it up. So I grabbed the dirty laundry and tossed it in the pantry, threw the clean laundry on my bed and closed the door, and put all the dirty dishes in the oven inside a Tupperware bowl and said to myself "Do not forget to take the dishes out of the oven before making dinner."

After my client left, I was on the phone with Tim and proceeded to start dinner which included pre-heating the oven. About 15 minutes later, I opened the oven door only to find the Tupperware bowl melted and a bit of smoke coming out. My life flashed before me and I was suddenly 9 again. The parade of four-letter words probably shocked poor Tim and I was forced to tell him what I'd done. Luckily, no harm was done except to the Tupperware bowl and we were able to laugh.

I've heard it said that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes until we actually learn the lessons we must learn. I SWEAR I've learned this lesson and am so grateful I didn't have to explain catching my kitchen on fire - AGAIN!

Life Lesson: Never store Tupperware in the oven, even temporarily.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Today I'm Grateful For . . .

Nana walked!

Four weeks ago yesterday, Nana was rushed to the hospital. She had been asleep for 24 hours and the assisted living facility was unable to wake her. Once arriving at the hospital, she was diagnosed with a severe urinary tract infection (this would be the second or third since May), an obstruction in her esophagus that prevented her from swallowing, and internal bleeding. The hospice people and her doctor told my mom that Nana had 2-6 weeks to live and that because of her weakened state, there really was nothing they could do for the internal bleeding. While in the hospital, she also developed pneumonia.

Most days when I would call, she had no idea who I was and could not even speak to me because the hospital kept her so drugged up. Each time I called, I would just sob and sob and sob. I hate seeing Nana in this state.

But Nana is a fighter and on Friday night, she was discharged and my mom moved her to a nursing home for rehab (hopefully). She will never be able to go back to the assisted living facility, but at least she'll be comfortable and well taken care of.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Nana will get well and will live another 10 years. She's 91 and has lost almost 30 pounds since May. She weighs a mere 80 pounds and is a shell of her former self. I know that we're at the end and every day I can tell her I love her and hear her sweet voice, even if she doesn't know who I am, is a gift and a miracle.

I just spoke to Nana and the nurse told me that the physical therapist helped her to walk for the first time today! The tears I cry today are tears of joy, not the tears of sadness I've been crying for the last four weeks. She'll probably never walk again on her own, but the fact that she's walking at all is more than I had allowed myself to hope for four weeks ago.

Nana walked today. And for that, I am grateful beyond words.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today I'm Grateful For . . .

Everyday I'm grateful for many things. But today especially, I'm most thankful for my Mom.

I don't know if she knows just how much she inspires me, but on a daily basis, when confronted with a challenge, I ask myself "how would Mom handle this?" She has had many obstacles in her life, but she has never given up. Like David, she has taken on many Goliaths and won. She has faced personal demons and fought to overcome them. And she does it all with a strength I've never seen before.

I believe that my mom's strength comes from helping others. She has always worked to help make the world a better place. Whether she was using her master's in remedial reading to teach kids to read, delivering food to home bound elderly with the National Guard during the Blizzard of '79, developing an anti-vandalism program ("Be Wise, Don't Vandalize") with the Arlington Heights Junior Woman's Club, working with disabled people to get the State of Illinois to provide them services in the least restrictive environment in accordance with the Olmsted Decision of 1999, or advocating on behalf of my grandmother with Verizon to provide assistance to blind people, my mom has worked selflessly to make the world a better place.

My mom has also been an incredible caregiver to my grandmother the last few years. And now we're down to the end with my grandmother and I know it's hard for my mom. She's dealt with doctors who simply think she's overreacting and a busybody, but no one has worked as hard as my mom has to ensure my grandmother is receiving the best care and is comfortable. She's also dealt with family members who like to arm-chair quarterback my mom's decisions and care-giving abilities, but have made no effort to help in my grandmother's care.

Mom makes me proud everyday. I hope she knows that.

Today's her birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! I love you. Thanks for being such a great mom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Thank You

Someone did something incredibly nice for me yesterday. He knows who he is and he knows what he did. I don't know if he knows how much it meant to me to be able to just escape all the stuff in my own life for a short time, but his act of kindness changed my whole day. He insisted it was nothing, but to me, it meant the world.

Thank you so much. I'm glad we're becoming friends. And I'm glad you enjoyed the applesauce muffins.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I'm Great!

"I'm great!" is the typical response I give to the question "How are you?" and it always seems to confuse some people. When I gave this response recently to a client that I don't know very well, she stopped dead in her tracks and then asked me how I can always answer that way. Life ISN'T always great she said to me.

The truth is that she's right. Life isn't always great. In fact, sometimes life just plain sucks. But I have a belief that says that most people don't want to hear about the crap in my life. And truthfully, I don't want to hear about the bad stuff in most people's lives. That's not to say that I live in a fantasy world where everything is always peachy and I expect everyone I come in contact with to live in that same world. I don't. I live in the real world where we all have difficulties.

I have confidants with whom I share the all of life's ups and downs and they share their entire lives with me. And I am beyond grateful to have those people in my life. They are my touchstones. They are the ones I know I can call at 3:00 in the morning when life is falling apart. And they can call me then too.

I also believe that I have a choice in how I live my life each day. I can look for the beauty in everyday and be grateful for it or I can focus on all the stuff that goes wrong and the tragedies that surround us. I choose to find the beauty and the everyday miracles. And that makes my life great, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I'm STARTING To Believe

As any diehard Cubs fan knows, September typically means nothing to us. The Cubs are usually so far out of playoff contention that none of the games matter. They haven't won the World Series since 1908, when they were the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles. We know all about the Curse of The Billy Goat and, of course, we still physically feel pain anytime Steve Bartman is mentioned.

Each spring we talk about "you just gotta believe" that this will be THE year. Every fall we tell ourselves "wait 'til next year" as we lick our wounds from our current and latest disappointment.

This year, the Cubs have had their ups and downs. But the great moments have outweighed the bad ones: Winning the Crosstown Classic against the White Sox 5 games to 1 game and beating the hated St. Louis Cardinals so far this season 7 games to 4 games with five games left to play.

But today is September 2nd and the Cubs are solidly in first place of the National League Central Division. Ok, I'll admit that they're in first place in the weakest division in Major League Baseball, but first place is first place. And I know there is still a month left in the season and a lot can go wrong. And then we still have to get through the playoffs.

But they are on a roll. Just the other night, they had a lead of 2 runs over Milwaukee in the 9th inning. For some dumb reason they let the bases get loaded by intentionally walking a batter. And then Milwaukee scored when the next batter walked too. But the Cubs pulled it out. That was great baseball. A nailbiter to the end. Today, they were down 5-1 against the Astros, and then Derrek Lee knocked a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to give the Cubs a 6-5 lead that the Cubs held on to.

And now I'm starting to believe. Because heck, if the Red Sox and White Sox can overcome their curses, why not the Cubs?

Check out the YouTube video below for a great version of Steve Goodman's "Go Cubs Go!"

UPDATED 11/1/07: Who knew? Steve Goodman went to Lake Forest College, class of 1969. Just like me (except class of 1993). Small world.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I've Become Izzie Stevens

If you watch Grey's Anatomy, you know that whenever Izzie Stevens is stressed, she cooks and cooks and cooks.

Given all that's going on with Nana right now, to say I'm stressed out is an understatement. I have almost no appetite, I am not sleeping very well and I start sobbing at the drop of a hat. But I have managed to compartmentalize pretty well. I've had one of the best months at work that I've had in a long time, which is saying a lot since I was out of town for almost two weeks.

So I've started cooking. And cooking. And cooking.

Yesterday, I made a shrimp curry over brown rice. Today I took a bunch of tomatoes from my garden and created a pasta sauce like no other I've ever made. And now I'm moving onto applesauce muffins. I rarely cook from recipes, so the shrimp curry and pasta sauce are my own creations, but the muffins came from Epicurious, one of my favorite websites.

I'm going to make meatloaf next, but I'm going to have to find someone to share it with. My freezer is full.

Pasta Sauce

1 extra large Vidalia Onion, chopped as large or small as you like
Cloves of garlic, minced (do not use the already minced stuff you can buy in a jar or garlic powder)
3 medium to large Carrots, chopped into very small pieces
4 stalks Celery, choped into small pieces
1 large Green Pepper
Olive Oil
Oregano, to taste
Basil, to taste
Italian Seasoning, to taste
Black Pepper, freshly ground, to taste
Tomatoes, chopped (I think I used about 10 with a combination of beefsteak and plum)
2 T Tomato Paste (approximately - to thicken)
Ground beef or turkey, about 1 pound (optional)

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. I think I used about 10-12 cloves of garlic because I like garlic, but it's not necessary to use that much. Put aside.

2. In a separate skillet, brown the meat. When done, drain off the fat and rinse in cold water to remove the rest. Set aside.

3. Saute carrots, celery, and green pepper with spices in olive oil. When done, add sauteed onions and garlic and tomatoes and water and tomato paste. Finally, stir in meat. Add additional spices and water if needed. Cook for about 20 minutes.

Makes one very large dutch oven full of pasta sauce.