Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving... Maxine style

Thanksgiving is this week, and lest we forget to be truly reflective upon the many blessings in our lives, let's hear what Maxine has to say on the subject...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Relay for Life

My family and I recently participated in our first Relay for Life, an event about which I'd had very limited knowledge. I knew it was held to raise money for the American Cancer Society as we'd previously sponsored friends and family when they'd participated. Relay for Life has an interesting history, as I've come to know, and I wanted to share a little of it with you, along with photos and commentary regarding my own experience.

"Relay For Life is the main volunteer-driven cancer fundraising event of the American Cancer Society. While it originated in the United States, the Relay For Life event is currently held in 21 countries worldwide. Although the main objective of Relay is to raise money for cancer research and cancer patients, the event is held to spread cancer awareness, celebrate the lives of survivors, remember those who lost their lives to cancer, and unite a community in the fight against cancer." ~ Wikipedia

"In the mid-1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society office. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed—running marathons.

In May 1985, Dr. Klatt spent a grueling 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for more than 83 miles. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him. He raised $27,000 to fight cancer. That first year, nearly 300 of Dr. Klatt's friends, family, and patients watched as he ran and walked the course.

...Months later he pulled together a small committee to plan the first team relay event known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer. In 1986, 19 teams took part in the first team relay event on the track at the colorful, historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. An indescribable spirit prevailed at the track and in the tents that dotted the infield." ~ American Cancer Society

There's your Relay for Life history lesson for the day. That might have been more than you ever really wanted to know about Relay for Life, but I'm all about learning something new every day, and of course, what's the point in learning about new stuff if you can't share it with someone else, right?

Our little military base here at Naval Station Rota in Spain held its second annual Relay for Life event just a little over a week ago and we were there. I got recruited to join a team of friends with whom I rubber stamp and scrapbook, and in turn, I recruited my family. Since we'd joined the team late in the game, there wasn't a lot of time to raise funds. We sent out emails via the American Cancer Society website asking for donations, and we participated in a team bake sale fundraiser.

I guess I should explain why I even considered participating in Relay for Life from the get-go. Cancer is very prevalent in my family. All three of my now-deceased grandparents had cancer, two of their deaths a direct result of the disease. Two uncles passed away from cancer-related reasons. My dad also lost his battle with cancer just two and a half years ago. There are many more family members and friends who have fought cancer, some winners against this terrible disease, and others who weren't so fortunate.

Here are a few snapshots of Relay for Life 2009 at Naval Station Rota, Spain... The event started with a lap walked by cancer survivors.

The name of our team was "Mary's Benevolent Crew II" and this was the site where we sold slices of pie the night of the event. The theme of Relay for Life was "Happy Birthday," thus the fiesta decor you see here.

My hubby and youngest son put up our tent. Yes, we camped out! The boys slept a little, my hubby got maybe an hour's worth of shut-eye, but I got no sleep. It was a bit noisy for me, even with earplugs. Sleep wound definitely come much later though.

Once it got dark outside, there was a special luminaria ceremony to remember loved ones whose lives were lost due to cancer. These are the luminarias we decorated and lit in remembrance of our family members.

Photos of loved ones were attached to some luminarias, while there were displays of artwork on others. I wrote words that described our loved ones on each luminaria.

My oldest son helped his Boy Scout troop light the luminarias, which lined the center of the track.

Each team represented a different type of cancer, and ours was liver cancer. Here's our informative poster, created by yours truly with a lot of help from the American Cancer Society.

For 12 hours teams walked around the track. A member of each team had to be on the track at all times, therefore our team took turns, one or two people walking for 30 minutes until being relieved. Here's my hubby taking his turn. One guy, a marine no less, walked the entire time, never taking a rest.

Banners and signs such as this one were posted all around the track.

I really liked this banner using handprints to spell out "Relay for Life" and depicting the bull's head inside the ribbon... very Spanish!

There were lots of competitive events going on throughout the night... a best-looking cake contest followed by a cake walk, most team spirit, a one-mile race, etc. My hubby and I represented our team in the Amazing Race and came in second. Here one of our male team members dressed up as a woman and represented our team in "Mr. Relay." Participants walked around the track with a purse collecting donations and the "woman" with the most money at the end won.

Our team entered a hovercraft in the "Race for Cure." Each team had to make a vehicle of some kind in which to race one lap around the track, all the while holding an egg on a spoon. The first team to the finish line without dropping the egg won.

It was cold enough to don winter coats and sit by the fire pit, which is exactly what M did.

Our team sold breakfast burritos at around 5am. The lady in the purple jacket was our team leader.

These folks are our neighbors, and the woman has actually organized Relay for Life here at Rota for the last two years, something she feels very strongly about as she and her husband lost their son to cancer a few years ago. Their involvement in this event has been inspirational for many people.

The thing is, cancer has touched us all in one way or another and I felt the need to do something positive in response. I wanted to do something that would be meaningful and possibly make a difference in someone's life. Relay for Life provided me the opportunity to do just that and I feel blessed to have been a participant.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Techno challenged individual = ME!

I'm technogically challenged. I know that. I accept that. That has been established. My problem is that my computer monitor currently has a blue hue and I don't know how to make it go away. No doubt I'm responsible for pressing some button I shouldn't have, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to make my screen a "normal" color again. Why do these stupid things have to happen when my husband is away on a trip?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming up for air

Has it really been a week since I last posted? Looking back over the last few days, I'm wondering what I've done with my time. Do I have ANYTHING to show for the time that has passed? Let's see...

The hubby got back from his trip just in time for a Cub Scout bake sale that we stayed up very late baking for, only to discover the following morning that it had been cancelled. That's always a great way to start any Saturday morning, don't you think? I don't want to talk about that anymore. Let's move on, shall we?

Both boys had their last soccer games of the season and one team met afterward for a pizza party to celebrate. They were undefeated in that they won every game except one, which resulted in a tie. My other son's team was equally consistent, just in the opposite way... they lost every stinkin' game.

Saturday afternoon we attended the base-wide Michael Jackson "This Is It" premiere. We were there to support our Relay for Life team, which was having a BAKE SALE. Yes, friends, here in Mayberry we have multiple events every weekend. Unfortunately there wasn't a very good crowd for the event, thus our team didn't exactly make a fortune. I had so many cookies and brownies left over. I proceeded to eat them, all of them, one after another, until I came to my senses and took them to my husband's office.

Tuesday I went to an OCSC meeting/bingo. I actually won something, which is such a surprise because I normally walk away empty-handed at these things. I won a set of two crystal wine glasses, which I needed every bit as much as I need a hole in my head. Do you have any idea how many wine glasses we own? Let's just say we have a few.

Tuesday afternoon we had a meeting with our Relay for Life team, where we got the scoop on the many various activities that will take place during the relay. I'm now officially overwhelmed.

Later Tuesday night I went to a friend's scrapbooking party. She's a consultant and I love the product line her company sells. That was a lot of fun, but I was tired and PMSing (Sorry, I know that's probably TMI, but that's the reality of the situation).

I've also had to turn my attention to some Christmas details. My stateside family has been asking for wishlists for our foursome here in Spain. Is it really that time of year already? Seriously? So I carved out some time to do that. I also uploaded photos online and made calendars to send to family for Christmas.

This week has been dedicated to preparing for the Relay for Life event, which starts tomorrow afternoon. I made an informative poster about liver cancer, the type of cancer our team represents. I wasn't aware that each cancer is assigned a specific color, and I'd nearly finished my poster when my hubby asks the question, "Hey, isn't there a certain color you're supposed to use?" I thought about having a temper tantrum (Remember, I'm PMSing and tantrums are to be expected right now), but instead I sucked it up, and re-did the whole doggone thing.

I've also made a cake to enter in some kind of team competition, as well as a pie since our team will be selling slices to raise money. I may never bake again after this week is over.

Our entire family is participating in Relay for Life and we're camping out all night at the event, something I can honestly say I'm not 100% excited about. It's getting cold and I haven't been sleeping well and did I mention I'm PMSing? My reasons for participating in the relay are varied, and I'm committed, but I'm also tired and we're not even there yet.

Oh yeah, in the midst of all that has been going on this week, we managed to take a family photo to send out at Christmas. That was a challenge as we had to wait for the sun to be in the right place in the sky so we could get a good view of the water from our backyard. I can't begin to tell you how ecstatic I am that this is a done deal. The photo has been uploaded to Snapfish and our holiday photo cards have been ordered, something new for us as we usually send out traditional Christmas cards. Next we have to get crackin' on the annual family newsletter. Sigh...

Tomorrow morning we have parent/teacher conferences with both of our boys' teachers. Later we have to pack up everything but the kitchen sink to take to the football field for Relay for Life, set up camp and let the games begin. Oh yeah, we also have a farewell dinner to attend on Saturday night too. I hope we don't fall asleep in our soup.

We have church services, followed by a chapel council meeting for me on Sunday. Monday I'm planning on making lunch for my hubby's office staff. And by the way, the hubby leaves again on Tuesday, returning on Friday afternoon, just in time for the Scout camporee, which lasts all weekend.

Okay, you're all caught up on what's happening with me. What's happening with you? Are you busy and running with your tongue hanging out too? Come on, fill me in. Gotta run... laundry is calling, as usual.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happiness is...

Okay, I was admittedly quite crabby when I was typing my previous post. I'm feeling a little better now, but I'm still not 100% perky. I'm hoping that focusing on the things that make me happy will help bring me back to a truly joyful state of mind. Here goes...

Happiness (for me anyway) is...

1) feeling inspired

2) a clean house (especially when I'm not the one doing the cleaning!)

3) certain smells, such as cinnamon, fresh-baked bread, fresh-cut grass, my favorite Yankee candles, vanilla, baby powder, my husband's cologne.

4) a rare date night with my husband that doesn't include a couple hundred of our closest military friends. No offense to our military friends, but sometimes a girl just wants her hubby all to herself... no shop talk and no sitting across the table from one another making conversation impossible.

5) going to the movies. Popcorn is an added bonus and necessary to enjoy the whole movie experience.

6) online shopping. It's necessary here and I seriously don't know what I'd do without it.

7) gift giving. I love selecting the perfect gift for someone. I would much rather give than receive.

8) surprises. I love being surprised and even more, I love surprising others. It doesn't have to be a major thing either. The surprise can be a bouquet of flowers "just because" or something yummy made at home.

9) receiving mail, both snail mail (Cards, especially handmade ones, and handwritten notes are such wonderful pick-me-ups and are seemingly a dying art) and email (I prefer a personal email to a forwarded one).

10 when people take the time to "clean up" forwarded emails before sending them my way. I so appreciate that!

11) redneck jokes. What can I say? They're part of my heritage.

12) comfort food. I enjoy them a little too much, but sitting down to a good meal made up of my favorite foods is heavenly.

13) coffee with either one good friend or a group of girlfriends.

14) clothes that fit. This one's a huge challenge for me on many levels. Since I want to keep my happy vibe going, I'm not going to elaborate and risk losing it.

15) thoughtfulness.

16) inclusive people.

17) music of all kinds. I'm at my happiest when I'm listening to music that speaks to me.

18) motivation, followed by productivity.

19) creativity. I try to surround myself with creative folks so that I can steal their ideas. I do, however, always give credit where credit is due.

20) curling up with a good book.

21) decorating my house for different occasions. Just wish I had more time.

22) any time spent with people whose company I enjoy.

23) the kids having no homework on the weekends.

24) understanding my 7th grade son's algebra. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I feel like a million bucks.

25) feeling comfortable in my own skin. I'm not always there, but when I am, it's the greatest feeling!

26) when my kids say or do something incredibly thoughtful all on their own, with no prodding or suggestion from my hubby or me.

27) the privilege of being a parent.

28) the knowledge that God loves me, even when I'm a loser.

29) living my life with the men I love... even though I sometimes complain about moving, separations and trials. I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else or with anyone else.

30) knowing I have all I truly ever want or need, and then some. I'm very blessed.

I could go on with my list of things that make me happy, but 30 seemed like a good number at which to stop. Making this list was surprisingly quick and easy, and it was nice to focus on the positive, which isn't a great revelation for me, and probably not for you either. Everyone knows that focusing on the positive can change one's perspective and outlook. I sometimes forget that and need to be reminded. No worries... I'm in my happy place right now. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pet Peeves

Ever feel like you just want to set the world straight on a few things? I must be just plain irritable because everything gets on my nerves this week. Things that normally don't bother me very much are getting under my skin and making me a crabby old lady.

I looked up the definition of crabby, and this is what I found...

crab⋅by  /[krab-ee]
–adjective, -bi⋅er, -bi⋅est.
Informal. grouchy; ill-natured; irritable; peevish.

Yep, that's me alright.

My general crabbiness has caused me to sit down and actually take stock of the things that really tick me off. Instead of feeling guilty about my crabby mood, I'm embracing it today, as a form of self-help. Here's my list of pet peeves, in no particular order...

1) Leaving empty cartons, boxes, containers, etc., in the refrigerator or pantry. Is it REALLY that difficult to throw those things away?

2) Leaving dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is RIGHT THERE! Come on! Work with me people!

3) Leaving clothes in the floor. Are they clean or are they dirty? Figure it out and respond appropriately... hang or fold them and put them away or put them in the hamper.

4) ALWAYS choosing to put clothes in the hamper rather than hanging or folding them because it's easier. Yeah, easier for YOU because YOU aren't the one washing the clothes!

5) Leaving cabinets or drawers open, even if they're only slightly ajar. That makes me crazy. You think I have OCD? In this case, yes!

6) Tailgating is so rude. Go around or BACK OFF, impatient people, or would you rather me slam on my brakes so you can hit me? I'm going the speed limit here in Spain so I don't get ticketed. I'm not Spanish, therefore the rules actually apply to me.

7) Rubbernecking sssslllllooooowwwws (slows) down traffic. Stop being nosy, pay attention to the road and drive, for the love of God! The rest of us have places to be too.

8) Leaving price tags on gifts is TACKY. Seriously, why do I need to know the exact amount you spent on my gift? Is it really a gift or are there strings attached?

9) The incorrect usage of apostrophes makes my eye twitch, to quote a friend of mine. Picky? Yeah, it certainly is, but I really am unable to help myself overcome this major pet peeve of mine.

Apostrophes are used to either stand in place of missing letters whenever two words are joined together (Example: "don't" = "do not") or to show ownership (Example: "spouse's", which is singular, or "spouses'," which is plural).

Ownership is where most people have great difficulty. A word of advice here, if I may be so bold... First determine if the word requiring an apostrophe is singular or plural. Singular means the apostrophe goes BEFORE the "s" and plural means the apostrophe goes AFTER. Now go write it down before you forget it. Go on!

10) Mispronunciations of certain words can make me crazy too, but I'm going to refrain from listing any specific ones here since I'm in a foreign country and have my own issues with pronouncing words. Besides, there are too many to list.

11) The misspelling of words is another serious pet peeve of mine, however, I'm learning to let this one slide because the older I get, the dumber I seem to become, and my spelling is starting to sufer. See? I told you! Okay, I can't help myself. I have to mention just one word... definitely. It's spelled D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y. DEFINITELY! Now go write it down and practice spelling it. You can get this... I know you can!

12) The misuse of words such as "your" and "you're." Do I really need to explain this? Really? Okay... "Your" refers to ownership as in "your car" and "you're" means "you are" (See #9 above).

Other words fall into this category too...

a) they're, their and there (Don't even get me started!)

b) whose and who's (Ditto!)

c) threw and through (Do you OWN a dictionary?)

d) bury and berry (I know, can you believe it?)

e) bought and brought (Yes, there IS a difference!)

I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's move on instead, to round out my baker's dozen of pet peeves...

13) The stacking of kids' sports teams in what is supposed to be a fun league is shameful! What are you trying to prove? Please don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Admit it. It's obvious to everyone watching the games, so you're really not kidding anyone. Believe it or not, the kids on your team aren't benefiting all that much because they aren't learning new skills when they play against teams that they're able to crush game after game, nor are they learning what it's like to lose, which will eventually happen to them. Make it fair and fun for all. Who's the game for anyway, the kids or you?

There are my top pet peeves for the day. Whew! I feel better getting that off of my chest. Trust me, I could have listed more, but I don't want to totally go overboard and risk losing friendships. In my next post I'll list some of my favorite things, so look for a little more positive me. By the way, what are some of your biggest pet peeves? I've opened the door for you, so come on in and air your gripes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Credit Card Chaos

We use our credit card a great deal. In fact, we use it for nearly every purchase we make and then pay it off every month. I shop online, pay for groceries and gas, buy gifts, and use the credit card to pay for all of it. It's simple and normally works very well for us, except when someone tries to use our credit card, causing our financial institution to shut it down, cancel it and re-issue a new card, which is exactly what's happened, not once, but twice in the last 14 months.

My husband is currently on a business trip for a couple of weeks, and while he can use his government travel card for expenses related to the job, he cannot use it for personal reasons. He's in a location where he has access to some beautiful rugs he could purchase and bring back, only he doesn't have a personal credit card to pay for them.

I nearly embarrassed myself at the commissary when I went grocery shopping and realized at the checkout that I couldn't use the credit card. Luckily I had enough cash in my wallet to cover it. I have another credit card I can use, but I typically don't carry it with me because it's not widely accepted in Europe.

We'd placed an online order for some computer software, but it hadn't come in at the time that our credit card was cancelled. The company with which we placed the order doesn't bill the card until the item is shipped. Now the order can't go through because our financial institution can't and won't charge a credit card that has been cancelled. We'll have to start all over with the ordering process. And I wanted that software like yesterday.

It's great that our financial institution caught this scam in progress and were able to shut down our account before any real damage was done. I know there are people who have had to deal with stolen identity issues for years. I'm grateful we're not among those people.

I'm just hoping our new credit card comes soon as we've made some travel plans this month and really would like to have the ease and convenience of using the card rather than carrying large amounts of cash. As I said before, my personal credit card isn't widely accepted, so I'm not sure it would even be worth carrying along. This whole situation is so frustrating and inconvenient!

Why do people think it's okay to try to take what isn't theirs? The very people responsible for these credit card scams would probably be angry beyond belief if someone were to treat them in the same manner.