Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) Vol. 2 - My First Time Out of the Country

The first time I stepped foot out of the country

The year was 1992.  I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston was the number one song in the land.  The Bodyguard, Aladdin, Home Alone 2, and A Few Good Men were in the theaters.  Neon windbreakers, Zubaz (those crazy colored, zebra pattern pants), overalls (with one strap down, of course), and the grunge look were all the rage in fashion.  That December, I completed my first semester of my freshman year at Marshall University.  Later that month, after Christmas, my dad and stepmother took my stepbrother and me to Niagara Falls, Canada.  That was the first time I ever stepped foot out of the country.
A postcard I picked up in 1992.
Thinking about it now, I admit that I have forgotten many of the details of the experience.  But, in my defense, that was over 20 years ago (over half my life) and I've had thousands of experiences since then, so I think it's ok if the details are a little... fuzzy.  

Looking back at the few pictures I took from that trip, in hopes of jogging my memory, I do remember it being incredibly easy to cross the border.  It was nothing like what I experienced crossing the border this summer when I visited Canada.  You must remember, my first trip out of the country was almost a decade before 9/11 - passports were not required and no questions were asked.  I remember that I did bring a copy of my birth certificate with me, just in case.  
The American Falls (left) and the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls (right)
The most vivid thing I recall about the experience was the biting cold.  I'm not sure what we were thinking going to Niagara Falls in winter!  It was incredibly pretty though.  The constant mist generated from the both the American Falls and the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls drifts across the Niagara River to the Canadian side.  In the winter, as it did when I was there, it freezes immediately on whatever it lands on - sidewalks, handrails, buildings, trees...  While incredibly treacherous, for it made walking around quite a challenge, it was beautiful because everything had a shimmery, magical look to it.  With the recent snowfall still on the ground, it really looked like a Winter Wonderland.

Evidence that the mist freezes on everything...

The American Falls at night
To the best of my recollections, I don't remember ever feeling like, "Wow!  I'm in another country!"  I guess I felt this way because I was right across the river from New York and the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario looked like it could've been any tourist destination in the U.S.  The Clifton Hill area, with its Ripley's Believe it or Not and other tourist attractions, looked a lot like downtown Gatlinburg (Tennessee).  And, there was nothing really foreign about it - the people I encountered spoke English and sounded similar to New Yorkers I had met; Canadians drive on the same side of the road as we do here in the states; the food offered in restaurants was pretty much the same; and they even accepted U.S. dollars.  The only "foreignness" I encountered was seeing the speed limits posted in kilometers and dealing with the exchange rate.  That was it.

Even though it wasn't the most foreign of  destinations to serve as my first foreign country experience (like Mexico, England, or Japan would have), I'm so glad for the experience.  To see the falls in winter, with all the ice and snow, is something that many Americans, especially those of us who live further south, never get to see.  I'm also glad that my father shared with experience with me.  I've not traveled much with my dad, I've taken by far and away more trips with my mom, but he gets the bragging rights on having taken me out of the country for the very first time.
My stepbrother, my dad, and me on the deck of the observation tower, the American Falls in the background.

What was your first foreign country that you visited?  What was the experience like? Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one!

Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 
and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Simply Me (Vol. 2) "Firsts" & 10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week (Vol. 10)

Happy Black Friday! Hoping that this finds you having had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday yesterday (if you live in the U.S.). If you don't live in the U.S., I hope that this finds you having had a great week.  If you are out and about on this Black Friday - best wishes to you!  May your discounts be deep and may your check-out lines be swift.  LOL!  Most of all, be careful.  Black Friday can bring out the worst kind of crazy in some people.

Today my blog entry is pulling double duty. First, I am linking up with Liz @ Sundays with Sophie for her monthly installment of Simply Me.  Second, I am linking up with Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird and Lindsay @ The Flynnigans for their weekly installment of 10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week.

The prompt for November's Simply Me is "firsts."

What was the first car I ever drove?  When I was around 13-14 years old, my dad began teaching me to drive.  I know what you're thinking - 13 years old!?!  By that time, he had already moved to Ohio (6 hours away) so we only saw each other once or twice a month.  I guess he thought that since he wouldn't be around for daily or weekly driving lessons, that we should start early.  It also gave us quiet time to talk and bond.  I learned to drive in his 1987 or '88 Chevy Cavalier Z24.  It looked exactly like this:  
Am I still driving it now? No...  Neither is he.

The first dance I went to was: Technically, the first dance I ever went to was the Junior/Senior Prom at the high school where my mother taught in 1978...  
I was the flower girl!  LOL!  I remember nothing about it, though.  The first dance I remember attending as an active participant (or semi-active participant considering that I sat on the bleachers the entire time) was probably an end of the year dance in the 8th grade.

My first job was:  Mowing grass.  Between the ages of 13 and 20, I bet I mowed a million miles worth of grass or so it seemed...

The first phone I had:  The corded kind, you know a landline phone.  LOL!  It looked similar to this: 

The first (chapter) book I read was:  I honestly do not remember, but a safe guess would be that it was a Hardy Boys book.  I LOVED the Hardy Boys.


Here are 10 things that made me happy this week:

1. A 2-day work week!  Yee Ha!
2. A phone conversation with my 82 year old grandmother.
3. A little Snoopy and Woodstock humor.
4. Talking to my mom on Wednesday and wishing her a Happy Birthday.
5. When I gave Siri (iPhone) the command "Directions to Happy Dance Quilting" (a quilting company here in Louisville that makes t-shirt quilts), this is the response I got:

Even though Siri wasn't helping me in terms of getting to this place and I had to pull over and search for the physical address, I couldn't help but chuckle. I guess Siri is a Wham! fan...  LOL!

6. Check out the t-shirt quilt I had made for my husband, whose birthday is Saturday. I am so pleased it turned out so well because I was very nervous handing over my husband's cherished Kentucky t-shirts, some that go back to 1996.  If you live around Louisville and are looking for someone to turn your cherished old t-shirts into a quilt, I would highly recommend Happy Dance Quilting.

7. Sleeping sans alarm several days this week. It was heavenly.

8. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watching it on tv is nothing like watching it in person (something I did in 2010), but it still makes me happy none-the-less.
9. Watching the National Dog show on tv after the parade.
10. Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family. My husband is 1 of 7 kids, so when the whole family is together, it's loud and boisterous and, to be honest, sometimes completely overwhelming. But, they are good people and I enjoy spending time with them.
11. BONUS! This... LOL!

12. BONUS! And this...

Thanks for stopping by! Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving in New York: A Photographic Retrospective

Four years ago today, I woke up at 4:30am, dressed in layers, and set out to brave the darkness and late November temperatures in New York City in search of a coveted spot on the sidewalk.  With luck, I found a spot directly across the street from my hotel.  I plopped myself down on a mat and began my vigil.  I was there, like thousands of others, to witness the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in person.

Seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade had been a bucket list item of mine for nearly as long as I could remember.  I've always been a fan and avid watcher of the parade.  A year or so before I found myself enduring the cold on that frigid NYC morning, my mom and I sat in her kitchen in West Virginia and watched the parade as we had countless times before.  After some time, one of us said, "We should do that one day."  A few months later, my mom and I, along with my aunt, booked our hotel and airfare for the following Thanksgiving.

It was, without a doubt, one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had.

Giant holiday lights 

My favorite pizze in the whole wide world - Giordano's in Brooklyn

Sunset as seen from the Top of the Rock

Miss Lady Liberty herself

Imagine mosaic, Strawberry Fields, Central Park

The start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade featuring Snoopy

Another scene from the parade

The big man himself bringing up the end of the parade

Whatever you may be doing this Thanksgiving day, may you be blessed and have a wonderful day.  Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People (Real or Fictional) I Would Love to Join Me for Thanksgiving Dinner

Today I am linking up with The Broke and the Bookish and participating in their weekly Top Ten Tuesday feature post. (To learn more about TTT, click here.) This week's theme is:

So, I have chosen:


While creating my guest list, I kept this in mind - I would want to sit down to a meal, especially a meal of thanksgiving, with people who were fun, intelligent, appreciative, and who had interesting things to talk about.  

  1. Alan Karlsson from The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared. In his 100 years, Alan did a a lot of living. He traveled far and wide, met many historical and famous people, and experienced so many interesting things. Having such a wealth of experiences to draw from, I think Alan would be a fun and articulate dinner guest. 
  2. Joe Pike from Robert Crais' Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series. Joe doesn't say much, but when he does, you know what he's saying is important. I think he's quiet demeanor would be an asset. 
  3. Jamie Fraser from Outlander. If you remember, Jamie also made the Halloween party list last month. What can I say? He's a charismatic Highlander with a great accent and he wears a kilt, of course I'm going to invite him. 
  4. Ranger from Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Ranger, in my opinion, is much like Joe Pike and would provide a good balance in contrast to those who might be overly talkative. And, I think it would be awesome to hear him to call me "Babe" just once... Babe, can you pass the rolls? LOL! 
  5. Ave Maria Mulligan from Big Stone Gap. Ave Maria is from a small town in Appalachia, like me. I just think it would be cool to have someone else at the table whose childhood and formative years were much like mine. 
  6. Grandma Mazur from Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I would want Grandma Mazur there simply for the funny comments I'm sure that would pour out of her mouth. She would ensure laughter and lightheartedness. 
  7. Mark Watney from The Martian. If ever there was a character who had something to be thankful for, it's Mark Watney. I think sharing a meal with him at a table of plenty is only fitting. Not only could he regale us with anecdotes from his time on Mars, but he presence would be a living reminder to be thankful for every day we are given.
What do you think about my dinner guests? How about you? Who would you invite to your Thanksgiving dinner? 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) - 3 Snapshots

This past summer, without the stress and commitments of work, I had an abundance of time to write and compose blog entries.  I've always enjoyed writing, predominately through journaling, and blogging gives me a creative outlet that I thoroughly enjoy.  Unfortunately, as I anticipated, when school started in August, the demands of my job seriously slashed my leisure time and as a result, reduced the time I have to compose pieces of substance.  Sure, I compose entries for various weekly link ups, but some of those don't really require much writing.  I miss writing and I regret that my job has interfered with it, but there isn't much I can do about it because I HAVE to least until I win the lottery one day!  (Fingers crossed! *wink, wink*)

I came across #FridayReflections on Friday, but, as explained earlier, I haven't had the time or energy to really compose something until today.  It is hosted by Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead.  It is a weekly link up that aims to "inspire creativity through reflective thoughts and writing."  Each week they supply several writing prompts to choose from and I thought this might be a good writing activity to participate in.  When my time is limited, it's easier for to write in response to a prompt than to come up with something creative on my own.  Thought I would give it a shot, so here I am.

This week, there were 4 prompts to choose from and this is the one I chose:
Choose 3 photos of yourself across your lifetime and write a post about how you feel looking at them, where you were, what you were doing, what you were like, etc.

If my memory is correct, this picture was taken on the last day of the 2011 Ocoee River white water rafting season (late October).  I do remember that the air temperature that morning was 32F because my husband I were joking while en route to the put-in site, that, upon returning home, we needed to have our heads examined! This was the first time my husband and I rafted the Middle Ocoee, which is located near Chattanooga, TN.  My husband and I are seated in the front of the raft.

Looking at this picture today, here are my thoughts:  I love white water rafting, I really do.  I grew up about an hour and a half from some of the best white water rafting on the east coast (the New and Gauley Rivers in WV), but never rafted until I was in my mid 30s.  I wish I hadn't waited so long to start.  I'm not an adrenaline junkie and do not wish to raft the most advanced, Class V rivers such as the Gauley, but I do enjoy rafting rivers that offer a mix of challenging rapids with leisurely, calm stretches of water in which you can simply drift along with the current and soak up the scenery.  I really think some of my happiest moments have been while I've been on a river.  This is a picture that I definitely want to be shown during my wake/visitation when I die, for how I was in this moment - active, adventurous, and happy - is how I wish to be remembered.

Take a look at me!  LOL!  What a blast from my past!  This picture was taken in 1978.  I was the flower girl at the Junior/Senior Prom at the high school where my mother taught.  I honestly don't remember this event, so everything I know about the context of this picture is secondary and came from my mother.  Apparently, my job was to throw petals down either before the prom court walked out or before the prom queen walked out (I don't remember which one) and I forgot to drop the petals.  LOL!  

Looking at it now, nearly 40 years later, here are my thoughts.  First, I am surprised by how well I looked in yellow.  I avoid yellow, and have for many years, because it brings out every olive undertone in my skin and makes me look seasick.  Second, this picture is the epitome of the child my mother wanted - a cutesy girl, dressed in a ruffled dress looking angelic.  In reality, what my mother got was a tomboy who despised wearing dresses and who wasn't (and still isn't) girly at all.

This picture was taken in Crystal River, FL on my 40th birthday.  I financed the entire trip (airfare, hotel, rental car, admission to Discovery Cove in Orlando, and the manatee swim at Crystal River for my husband and I) with money I made selling my gently used and sometimes even new clothes that I never wore, shoes that I wore a few times and absolutely hated, and other items from my house, items that I normally would've just given to Goodwill, on eBay.

Instead of shunning the big 4-0, I chose to embrace it, to celebrate it, to mark the day doing something I had always wanted to do but hadn't for whatever reason - lack of time, lack of money, lack of opportunity.  Swimming with those gentle, curious creatures was absolutely incredible!  It was the most perfect birthday.  This, too, is a picture I want shown during my wake/visitation one day.  

Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one!

Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 
and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead.

Friday, November 20, 2015

10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week (Vol. 9)

It's Friday and you know what that means!  Here are 10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week:
  1. This amazing sunrise on Monday morning. I swear, it looked like the horizon line was on fire.  
  2. Abandoning a book that simply wasn't doing it for me and returning it to Audible for a full credit, no questions asked.
  3. This incredible sunrise Wednesday morning.
  4. Being able to wear jeans to work on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday in exchange for a $1 (per day) donation to the United Way.
  5. Reminiscing while backing up photos.
  6. Silencing the beast!  
    (An outdated wifi pod in my room at work that is no longer in use, but still plugged in, has been emitting a high frequency noise that apparently only I, 2 other adults, 6 of my students, and dogs can hear.  It drove me BONKERS!  They wanted me to fill out a work order to have it taken down, so I took matters into my own hands and did it myself.)
  7. Laughing with colleagues during lunch.
  8. Being able to wear jeans OR sweats to work today for a $1 United Way donation.
  9. Given that Thanksgiving is next week, this week several students asked for a blank sheet of paper so that they could trace their hand in order to make the outline of a turkey.  A friend of mine posted this on Facebook and it cracked me up:
  10. As did this cartoon: 
Happy Friday!  Have a great weekend!  Happy Thanksgiving next week!  Thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird and Lindsay @ The Flynnigans

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Humpday Confessions

I've never participated in Humpday Confessions, but I've seen several posts by fellow bloggers who have and it looks fun, so I'm giving it a whirl.  I'm linking up with Alanna @ Alanna and Company and Sarah @ Plucky in Love.

Confession: When I eat Klondike ice cream bars, I eat the chocolate coating first and then eat the ice cream.  

Confession:  I am SOOO looking forward to the 2 day work week next week.  I seriously need some time in my house to do some decluttering and to get ready for the holidays.

Confession: I like my bananas heavily speckled and very ripe.

Confession: I still drink chocolate milk.  Yep, I'm a forty-something and I still drink chocolate milk.   

Despite what Chandler may have thought, one is never too old for chocolate milk.

Confession: Mayonnaise is a food deal breaker for me.  Last month while on a cruise, I ordered a simple Hot Ham and Cheese sandwich from the deli.  I took one bite and I instantly detected the presence of unwanted and unsolicited mayonnaise, making a yuck face in the process.  
That was it for me!  I was done!  I mean, honestly...  I ordered a hot ham and cheese, not a hot ham and cheese with mayo!  I said NOTHING about mayo when I placed my order.  The fact that mayo is now considered a default condiment when it comes to sandwiches drives me absolutely bonkers!  

Confession: Because this is my first ever Humpday Confession post, I honestly feel like I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  LOL!

Happy Humpday to you!  Just think - only 2 more days until the weekend.  ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Quotes I Loved From Books I've Read In The Past Year Or So

Today I am linking up with The Broke and the Bookish and participating in their weekly Top Ten Tuesday feature post. (To learn more about TTT, click here.) This week's theme is: 


  • "Anyway, my ribs hurt like hell, my vision is still blurry from acceleration sickness, I’m really hungry, it’ll be another 211 days until I am back on Earth, and, apparently, I smell like a skunk took a shit on some sweat socks. This is the happiest day of my life." – The Martian by Andy Weir
  • "Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or the, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know." - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  • "One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes from the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead." - A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • "God gives us ugliness so we don’t take the beautiful things in life for granted." - Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover 
  • "Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers. You could find your way around in the dark if you had to." - I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Yoon
  • "There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs." - Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan
  • "I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant… I am haunted by humans." - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • "It’s okay to not be okay, you know." - The Initiate by Veronica Roth
  • "Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you." - Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • "Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference." - Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • "You’re a romantic, searching for a Coney Island minus the drug dealers and the gum wrappers and an innocent California where real cowboys and fake cowboys traded stories over tin cups of coffee they called joe. You want to go places you can’t go." - YOU by Caroline Kepnes
  • “But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.” – What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • “You're different. And I'm different too. Different is good. But different is hard. Believe me, I know.” – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
  • It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life.  If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself and the dreams will come to you. - The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Yes, yes...  I know I included 14 quotes, but it was really hard to narrow my list down to just 10.  

How about you?  What are some of your favorite quotes from books you've read recently?  As always, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 13, 2015

10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week (Vol. 8)

Happy Friday the 13th and Happy Odd Day!  Most everyone is familiar to some degree with Friday the 13th, a day that's considered unlucky in Western superstition, but chances are that you're not as familiar with Odd Day.  

Odd Day occurs when the numbers of the date appear in three sequential odd numbers such as January 3, 2005 (1.3.5) and today November 13, 2015 (11.13.15).  We better celebrate this day because today is the sixth and final time this will happen this century!

Without further ado, here are 10 things that made me happy this week:

  1. Honestly, I'm not a fan of Jason or Friday the 13th (movie), but I think this is funny.
  2. A fun evening with work colleagues at a good old fashioned pig roast hosted by one of guys from work.
  3. Making not one but two pans of corn pudding to take to the pig roast.  Why is this such a big deal, you ask?  Because I don't cook.  Seriously, my cooking skills are VERY limited.  This is pretty monumental for me!  LOL!
  4. This meme.  Hehe!
  5. I've been working with a student for about 9 months on the correct usage of conjunctions.  He has already grasped the concept and usage of and, but, or, before, after, and because.  However, he is struggling to wrap his mind around although.  On Wednesday - and during my observation, no less - while attempting to construct the sentence "Because the musician stayed up late, he was tired." my student constructed this sentence instead:
    I will admit, it was a tricky sentence, but he knew that it simply didn't make sense and wasn't right. Finally, after several failed attempts to correct it, he came back to this original sentence and then said, "You know, Mrs. B., if we could change because to although, the sentence would make more sense."  YES!  If he can make that kind of analysis, especially when I hadn't planned it and it just happened that way, then I think he is well on his way to grasping the concept and usage of the conjunction although.  YES!  That moment absolutely made my day!   Moments like that are why I became a speech therapist.
  6. A 25% Off Your Entire Purchase coupon at Michaels (craft store).
  7. This hot air balloon greeted me one evening on my commute home.  I would love to take a ride in a hot air balloon one day.
  8. A blogger acquaintance of mine and fellow transplanted Louisvillian, Kristen @ See You in a Porridge, posted an awesome blog entry on Wednesday about our fair city and some cool things to do if you ever find yourself in The Ville.  Be sure to check it out!
  9. A coworker and good friend of mine was in a bad car accident last week.  She returned to work Thursday.  It was good to see her.
  10. AND...  Yesterday I heard the news and saw the trailer for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2!  I seriously doubt it will be as great as the first, but I am looking forward to it just the same!  To watch the trailer, click here

Happy Friday the 13th to you!  Have a great weekend!  Thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird and Lindsay @ The Flynnigans

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