Entries 325 - 301

ENTRY # 325
DATE:  01/04/08 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Another Friendly Reminder...

     I'm at work right now... and I'm bored! I thought I'd sign on real quick to remind you all of a couple of things:

1.  If you happen to find any typos anywhere on this site, please email them to me so I can correct them.

2.  If you happen to come across any dead links on this site, please let me know so I can fix them and/or get rid of them.

3.  If you have any comments/questions regarding any of these blog entries, please put the "Entry number" in the subject line of your email (or something similar) so I don't delete you by mistake. I get so much "spam" it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the real mail from the junk.


ENTRY # 324
DATE:  01/01/08 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  2008!!!

Please don't drink and drive!!!
You might hit a bump in the road
and spill your drink!

ENTRY # 323
DATE:  12/27/07 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  The Vacation Entry --- FINALLY!!!

     OK, OK, OK.... I know I've been promising for SIX MONTHS to write about my summer vacation when Ana came up from Mexico to visit for a week. Up until now, I just haven't had the time to sit at this computer for HOURS typing the whole story. Since 2007 is now winding down, I figured it was now or never -- so I just made the time. Without further delay, here it is...

What We Did During Our Summer Vacation!
June 30th thru July 7th, 2007

     Saturday, June 30th, was the Big Day! Ana’s arrival! After emailing with her on the Internet and talking to her over the phone for the last seven years we were finally gonna meet... face to face! It was pretty exciting!!!
     Her flight was due to land at JFK at 12:50pm that afternoon. Since I had no idea what the traffic was going to be like heading into New York I left my house at 9:30am. Plus, I’ve never driven to JFK so I wanted to make sure I allowed myself some “getting lost” time. But, of course, the directions I received were perfect... and there was no traffic at all. I was at the airport by 10:30am, faced with two and a half hours to kill.
     The flight came in earlier than expected... her plane touched down at 12:30pm so that was cool! Although, it took her two hours to get through Customs. Honestly, I think that was the longest two hours of my life! At 2:30, when she finally walked through the doors officially allowing her onto US soil, I spotted her immediately! I yelled, “Ana!” and she came running!
     We loaded all her luggage into the trunk and back seat and headed “home.” We were in my car no longer than two minutes and, I kid you not, she was taking photographs already!
     We made it back to my apartment by 5:00pm and after a quick tour of my place, I got on the phone with Jennifer. Jen and I had already planned Saturday evening, Ana’s first night here. Jen knew that I was kind’a frazzled about driving into New York so, bless her heart, she volunteered to make us dinner that night so I wouldn’t have to worry about that too. Plus, we both agreed a “home cooked meal” would be a nice way to introduce Ana to “American food.”
     The next phone call on the agenda was to Adrienne. I had to fill her in about the trip to the airport and what it was like to finally meet Ana after all this time. We also had to firm up our plans for Monday, our trip into New York to show Ana all the tourist attractions -- but I’ll get to that later.
     Once I was off the phone, Ana jumped onto my computer so she could send a quick email home to inform her Mom and sisters that she made it here in one piece and was safe and sound in Connecticut!
     At 7:00pm we headed up to Naugatuck where Jen, Mark and Zachary live. The dinner that Jen planned was terrific. It was nothing extravagant but it sure tasted good. She made one of her famous “cream-of-chicken” recipes along with pasta, string-beans and a potato casserole dish that is to die for. She also made brownies and a chocolate cake! And, of course, we topped it all off with a fresh pot of hot coffee.
     So, needless to say, Ana’s first evening here was a huge success. She loved meeting the three of them and they loved her as well. In fact, Zachary - who is now seven - was so taken with her, after dinner he immediately got on the floor with his crayons and colored three pictures for her to bring home. Since he’s usually kind’a shy when it comes to meeting strangers his drawings were a definite display of “acceptance.” Well... that AND the fact that he crawled right up into her lap in order to present them to her!
     Once we got back to my apartment that night and were able to relax, we stayed up chatting about everything under the sun until three in the morning!
     Sunday, July 1st, after only five hours of sleep, we were up at 8:00am. Our first stop was Starbucks for coffee and pastries for breakfast then we drove off to meet the 11:40 train that took us into New York City. This was our first trip that week into the city so it was just Ana and I. (The second trip is when Adrienne joined us.) This trip was dubbed “Lion King Day.”
     We had reserved our theater tickets back in April. We ordered them off the Internet, directly from Broadway’s website. In doing so, we were able to see the seating chart for the Minskoff Theater. We chose two seats in the “Orchestra” section so we already knew ahead of time our seats were good. However, when we arrived at the theater, we were both shocked at exactly how good the seats turned out to be. We were in the FRONT ROW, right on the aisle! I couldn’t believe it!!!
     The show was incredible! My God. The costumes, the music, their voices, the dancing, the African language, the set decorations.... amazing! When all the “animals” marched through the audience towards the stage - since we had aisle seats - I was able to reach out and touch the elephant as he went by.
     Five minutes into it, I was so overwhelmed by the whole thing, I actually started to cry. That was a completely unexpected reaction. It’s not like I’ve never been to Broadway before. I’ve seen "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," "Stomp," and "Bring In da Noiz; Bring In da Funk." They were all breath-taking performances. I don’t know why "The Lion King" had such an impact on me. I just got “swept up” into it, I guess. Now that I think of it, though, lack of sleep the night before might have had something to do with it too...
     “Scar,” the bad lion, was my favorite character. The actor, Patrick Page, was perfect for the part. He did an exceptional job bringing that character to life. Although, he has a bad habit of spitting when he sings. Since we had front row seats, we learned that little tid-bit of information first hand, LOL!
     Regardless, spit and all, the show was excellent. We had a great time! Definitely money well spent!!! When it was over, we hit the gift shop for souvenirs. We both left with Lion King key-chains, T-shirts, play books, and tote bags.
     We caught the 7:05 train back to Connecticut and chose El Torero’s for dinner. A Mexican restaurant. I wanted to see what Ana thought of our Mexican food. She liked it but, later on, informed me that most of the items on the menu she had never heard of before. Oh well. So much for American Mexican food. Or, um, "Texican" rather.
     On the way home from dinner we stopped at my shop so I could give her a tour of where I work. She was really impressed with the place. She took tons of photos of all the equipment I use and even recorded a short video of me demonstrating how the cutter works.
     We made it home shortly after midnight.... then, after gabbing for a couple of hours, we hit the hay around 2:00am.
     A mere four hours later is when the alarm clock started blaring. We picked up Adrienne at 7:30am and headed back to the train station for another BIG day in New York City.
     I was so glad Adrienne came with us. She knows New York like the back of her hand. There was LOTS of stuff I wanted Ana to see but only a day to see it all. I probably could’ve managed without Adrienne but I’m sure we would’ve wasted a lot of time walking in unnecessary circles. Adrienne knows exactly where everything is and all the short cuts to get there... and I’m positive she saved our feet from miles of walking.
     We hit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Disney Store, Trump Tower, Tiffany & Co., the FAO Schwarz toy store, Central Park, the New York City Public Library, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall.
     By the time we hoofed it all the way down Fifth Avenue to the Empire State Building it was already 2:00pm and we were running out of day. The line for the elevators to the Observation Deck was approximately two blocks long. The three of us stood there debating if we wanted to waste time in line, or if we should head down to Battery Park instead to catch the ferry for the Statue of Liberty tour.
     Adrienne and I had already “done” the Empire State Building numerous times so we voted for Liberty Island. Ana said the Empire State Building was “just a building.” She didn’t care either way if we went to the top of it or not. Just standing in front of it was good enough for her... so that decided it. Lady Liberty it was!
     The three of us crammed into the back of a cab and literally flew down to Battery Park. I still, to this day, can’t believe we survived the trip. The cab driver was a lunatic. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought we were gonna crash into the other vehicles on the road. He was weaving in and out of traffic, constantly changing lanes, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, all at 60 miles an hour. On city streets, mind you, NOT the expressway. It was awful. I was holding on for dear life! After awhile I gave up watching. I rode out the remainder of the trip with my eyes closed.
     When the Cab of Death finally deposited us at Battery Park, I jumped out of that taxi as if it was on fire! I was about ready to kneel and kiss the ground but was distracted when Adrienne said, “Is that the line for the ferry?” Good Lord, there must’ve been four thousand people lining the sidewalks. And, yup, it was the line for the ferry. Thankfully the boats hold a lot of people so the line moved fairly quick. We had our tickets and were onboard the Circle Line ferry in less than an hour.
     The tour we chose stopped at both islands, Ellis and Liberty. Neither one of us had any interest in Ellis Island so we stayed on the boat during that stop. When we hit Liberty Island, though, the three of us were among the first folks off.
     I’ve never been to Liberty Island before so, as you can imagine, I was pretty amazed when I saw the true size of the statue. I’ve flown over her and I’ve viewed her from boats cruising up and down the Sound. I always knew she was “pretty big” but, damn, when you stand directly underneath her it’s a whole new perspective! She’s gigantic!!!
     We stayed there for a couple of hours walking all around the island taking hundreds of photographs. We made sure to hit that gift shop too. The three of us loaded up on T-shirts, post cards, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, and key chains.
     At that point, it was 5:30 and we hadn’t eaten all day. We were all starving so we made a mad dash back to the dock to catch the next ferry.
     We had one more stop to make before we could eat. Ana wanted to visit the B&H Camera Company so she could buy a new digital camera. She’s a photographer (in her spare time) and she wanted a better camera for the photography class she’s taking. The store was only open until 7:00pm so we had to stop there before finding food. We hailed another taxi, a sane driver that time, and headed for B&H.
     By the time we left the camera shop, Adrienne and I were a little cranky. Actually, at that point, we were beyond cranky. We were downright evil. After walking around all day long, our feet were sore, our calves were sore, our backs were sore, and our necks were sore from lugging our purses around for eight hours. We were tired and we both had headaches from not eating all day.
     Choosing a place to eat was not an option. We had to eat, and we had to eat NOW!!! The Skylight Diner was right around the corner from the camera place so, without any discussion at all, we headed straight for it.
     After the diner, with full tummies and rested feet, we headed to Grand Central and caught the 8:11 train back to Fairfield, CT... where Adrienne’s car was waiting for us!
     At 10:00pm we arrived at Adrienne’s house where we were met by the Welcoming Committee. Adrienne’s Mom, Dad, and sister were waiting for us to return from NY so they could all meet Ana. After visiting with them for a couple hours Ana and I decided it was time to head home. It was a long day and “tomorrow” was gonna be even longer. We needed to get some sleep.
     Unfortunately, though, once we got back to my apartment we were both wide awake. Instead of going to bed like we should have we were up half the night - again - exchanging gifts. She brought me some souvenirs from Mexico and I had a box of stuff for her too. It took us about three hours to go through it all, explaining to each other where the stuff was purchased, when the stuff the purchased, and any other stories that related to each particular item. We finally crawled off to bed around four in the morning.
     The alarm clock was set for 6:00am the next morning (Tuesday) but I was so tired I slept right through it... which still amazes me. Ana was sleeping on the couch all week, an entire room away from my bedroom, and it managed to wake her up. The clock is a foot from my bed but it didn’t budge me a bit! Ana was forced to wake me up herself -- after listening to the alarm go off for over an hour.
     So... after only three hours of sleep we hit the road and headed up to my Mom’s house. Ana was blown away by all the scenery during the trip. She kept commenting on how “green” everything is here. She lives in Mexico City and, apparently, that area is so congested they don’t have many trees. They don’t have fields of grass, acres of corn, open pastures for grazing, or rolling hills like we do. Once we hit Route 143, and were surrounded by nothing but woodland, she was speechless! She was so fascinated with all the greenery she kept aiming the camera out the window to take pictures of leaves!
     Anyway, we got to the house around 11:30... and were met by another Welcoming Committee. My Mom, Dad, and both the dogs were all waiting for us. After the “meet & greet” and a quick tour of the house, my Mom sent us outside for the extended tour of the property. We walked over to the barn to see Nuggett and the cats... then we walked out into the woods. Ana gave up taking pictures and started recording videos instead. Videos of trees. Videos of leaves. Videos of fallen trees. Videos of fallen leaves. It was a riot to watch her work that camera.... and to hear her narrating in Spanish so her family would understand everything once she got back home. The whole thing was kind’a comical. After living in New England my entire life, I don’t come across many people who actually get excited about trees and leaves.
     When we made it back to the house my Mom informed us we were having BLTs for lunch. Ana had no idea what a BLT was so we explained it was a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Again, she looked a little puzzled. She wasn’t familiar with the word bacon either but, once we said, “Y’know, those long, thin, squiggly pieces of pig you usually fry up for breakfast,” she knew exactly what we were talking about, LOL.
     We didn’t stay too long after lunch. We had a lot more traveling to do that day so we left around 2:00pm.
     Our next stop was Greenland, NH to visit my father. We got to his place around 5:30... and by six we were heading over to Bugaboo Creek Steak House in Portsmouth for dinner. Whenever I visit my Dad, we always try to eat there. It’s one of our favorite places. The food, as always, was fabulous. Ana and I both ordered the “Moose-Breath Burger” and my Dad chose the salmon steak. Good stuff!!!
     After dinner we relaxed over coffee back at his apartment. Ana then treated us to an Online Tour of Mexico. She found a website that displayed aerial views of the entire country... and she showed us all the hot spots to visit. It was interesting ‘cause she also told us a lot about Mexico’s history.
     I always hated History when I was in school. There’s no way I could’ve told her about how the United States came to be. Hell, I hardly “got it” when I was in school studying it. The little bits and pieces I do remember wouldn’t be worth explaining even if I tried. I was really impressed with her knowledge. She knows her stuff!!!
     At 10 o’clock we hit the road to come home. My Dad was worried about me driving after hardly any sleep the night before so he told Ana to talk to me - a lot - on the way home to help keep me awake. Good grief. That poor girl ran her mouth for three solid hours. From his driveway to mine, she talked... non-stop. It worked though. She DID manage to keep me awake.
     That night we were so worn out by the time we made it back to my apartment we went straight to bed. Finally, some sleep! Wooohooooooooo!!!
     Wednesday, the Fourth of July, we traveled up to Mystic, CT to visit the big Aquarium and Olde Mystick Village. Adrienne came with us that day too. We spent the majority of the day browsing through all the little shops in the Village. Ana loved every second of it. She spent a TON of money on souvenirs for her family and friends. By the time we made it over to the Aquarium they were only open for another hour so we didn’t get to spend much time there. However, the cashier validated our tickets for Thursday too, just in case we wanted to come back again. That was cool ‘cause it meant we wouldn’t have to pay the admittance fee a second time.
     On the way home we stopped at a place called “You Must Be Beading.” Adrienne makes jewelry so she loaded up on a whole bunch of jewelry supplies... beads, wire, clasps, pendants -- you name it, she bought it! Ana and I were kind’a bored so when Adrienne was shopping the two of us were out in the parking lot taking photographs of all the flowers surrounding the building. We managed to get some beautiful close-up shots of most of them!
     After the bead store we decided to spend the rest of the evening enjoying dinner and a movie. We chose the restaurant “99” for dinner where we gorged ourselves full of burgers and fries... then we headed to the local theater for the 10:00pm show - “Ratatouille” - the animated movie about the little rat who wanted to be a famous Chef in Paris. It was a really cute movie. We all enjoyed it... even though the main character was a rat!
     Thursday morning the four of us headed back to Mystic for the day to take advantage of our validated tickets. This time Adrienne’s sister, Kimberly, came with us too. We made sure to hit the Aquarium first then the Village shops. Ultimately, we were all disappointed with the Aquarium. They’ve recently built a huge IMAX Theater on the property and, because of that, a lot of the aquarium’s features are now gone. There’s no more dolphin show, no more seals, no more penguins... and the shark tank, one of the aquarium’s largest attractions, is barely worth mentioning now. Considering they charge a whopping $22.50 per person to get in, we were really glad we had those validated tickets! It’s definitely not worth the money...
     The second trip back to the Village for more shopping made us feel better. We hit the “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe” for some much-needed caffeine. And this is where I introduced Ana to chocolate covered coffee beans! I LOVE chocolate covered coffee beans and, when Ana said she had never heard of them before, that prompted me to buy TWO pounds of them, one for me and one for her to bring home to Mexico. At first, she was a little worried that I bought two pounds. She said, “But what if I don’t like them?” Well, of course, I said, “That’s not a problem. All the more for me then!”
     As it turned out, those coffee beans were a major hit in Mexico. She loved them... and so did everyone else when she actually allowed them to sample one. I think I’ve created a monster. It’s six months later now and she still talks about them! The next time I visit the Village, I’ve been instructed to load up on coffee beans to ship over the border.
     On the way home we stopped at my shop again so I could pick up my paycheck. Ana enjoyed that too, even though she had already seen the place earlier in the week. When we stopped the first time it was “after hours” so nobody was there. This time, it was early enough in the day, the shop was still open so she was able to meet everyone I work with. Granted, it was only two people - the boss and the graphic designer; the pressman wasn’t in at the time - but she got a kick out of it anyway.
     And they both loved her! Once my boss handed me my check, POOF, just like that, I became invisible. It was all about Ana after that. They wanted to hear all about her visit here so far, what she thought of New York City... they asked her all about her life in Mexico.... where she lives, where she works, about her family... I could’ve waited out in the car and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. She ate it up too! When we got back into my car to head home she said, “Wow! I was, how you say, in the spotlight?” So, yup... she enjoyed it. Big time!
     When we finally got home we crashed in front of the television for the rest of the evening. We’re both Barbra Streisand fans so we watched my DVD of Yentl. Well, I should say we attempted to watch Yentl. We managed to get through the first half of it... but the week finally caught up to us and we both ended up falling asleep in the living room, LOL.
     Friday, her last full day here, we devoted mostly to relaxation. We slept in... had brunch... watched some TV... she organized and packed up all her stuff... I actually took a nap when she was doing that. We browsed around for a while at Barnes & Noble looking for Streisand books and movies for her to bring home. We shot a few games of pool... then we headed over to Adrienne’s house for pizza. After we ate, Adrienne dug out all her jewelry-making equipment and made us both matching necklaces. They have our names on them and the four states Ana got to visit when she was here, CT, NY, MA and NH. Ana was thrilled. She said that necklace was the best souvenir of all.
     And, Saturday - July 7th - it was back to JFK to catch a 5:00pm flight. We left here at 11:00am and pulled into the airport parking lot at 1:00pm. We checked-in her baggage and then had some lunch. I hung out at the airport with her ‘til it was time for her to get into the Customs line. At that check-point I wasn’t allowed to go any farther since I wasn’t a ticket-holder so we said our goodbyes and I headed home.
     It was THE BEST vacation I’ve had in years. Great company, great food, great sites, and lots of laughs. I spent way too much money but, in the end, it was worth every cent.
     Sunday, the day after she left, I sat down in front of my computer and started sorting through all the photographs we took. Good Lord!!! There was almost two thousand of them between both our cameras. It took me three weeks to root out all the duplicates and to pick the ones I wanted to keep. I now have a fantastic photo-album that contains over 700 vacation photos... 225 of mine, 508 of hers.
     And that’s “What I Did During My Summer Vacation!”
     The end.

ENTRY # 322
DATE:  12/25/07 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to You & Yours!

ENTRY # 321
DATE:  12/22/07 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Wrapping Is All Done Too!!!

     WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO again, LOL. I just finished wrapping all the Christmas gifts I bought for everyone. It took me all day long but at least it's out of the way. I'm ready for Christmas now. Bring it on!!!
     My living room is a mess. It'll take half the night to clean it up, I imagine. There's ribbons, bows, rolls of wrapping paper, candy canes, empty boxes, Scotch tape, scissors, price tags, shopping bags, tissue paper, name tags and piles of gifts all over the place. It looks like Santa's Workshop exploded.... but, hey, the worst is over. :-)
     I'm heading to New Hampshire tomorrow morning to spend the holiday with my Dad. Monday, Christmas Eve, we'll be at his girlfriend's daughter's house just like last year for a buffet-type feast. And on Tuesday, Christmas day, I'll be traveling home sometime in the afternoon.
     I'm not sure when I'll be able to write again but I'll be back eventually...
     Ciao for now!

ENTRY # 320
DATE:  12/15/07 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Christmas Shopping Is All Done!!!

     WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I finished all my Christmas shopping this afternoon! What a relief!!!
     Out of curiosity, I gathered together all the receipts for everything I bought and added them up to see what the "Grand Total" damage is... and I'm actually kind'a surprised. Everything came to $903.80. That's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I think this is the first year, ever, I was able to keep it under a thousand, LOL.
     Now all I have to do is wrap it all......
     Goody, goody.

ENTRY # 319
DATE:  12/13/07 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  First Snow Storm of the Season...

     Well, we got hit with about three inches of snow today. I admit that three inches isn't all that much but it was still enough to cause all kinds of hell on the roads. By noon I-95 was a disaster. Traffic backed up for miles. In fact, it was so bad, my boss called at 1:00pm and said that he wasn't coming to work. That pissed me off. It would've been nice if he had called me at home this morning to tell me that then... instead of making me drive to work in it. He told me that he'd leave the decision to close the shop up to me. He said I could leave whenever I wanted. Gee, thanks a lot, asshole!
     When the Septage Sucker came back from lunch I sent him home. Then, once I finished the copy job I was working on, I bailed out too. I closed up at 3:00pm... and by that time it wasn't just snow, it was freezing rain! Super! It took me almost an hour to get home. Good grief.
     Oh - and one more thing - the snow storm reminded me of something that I wanted to mention.... it's December 13th and I haven't turned my heat on yet. Pretty cool, huh?

ENTRY # 318
DATE:  12/10/07 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  A Birthday Shout-Out...

     Hola!!! Just wanted to sign on really quick to give Ana, my sister in Mexico, a birthday shout-out. She's 29 years young today!

Happy Birthday, Girl!!!

     Try not to party too hard tonight, OK? Ya gotta get up early in the morning to go to work!  ;-)

ENTRY # 317
DATE:  12/09/07 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Juanita's Obituary...

From the Concord Monitor, online edition...

PITTSFIELD - Juanita (Abraham) Smith, 75, of 152 Clough Road, died peacefully at home on Friday, December 7, 2007.
     She was born January 29, 1932, in Louisville, KY, the eldest daughter of the late Harry and Geneva (Jacob) Abraham. Juanita was raised and lived in Louisville, where she married her husband, Chester Smith Sr., then a member of the US Army. In 1960, she came to Pittsfield, her home for the next 47 years.
     Juanita enjoyed gardening, was an avid dog lover, and most of all, loved spending time and caring for her family and home.
     In addition to her husband of 49 years, Juanita was predeceased by a brother, Jacob Abraham of Louisville, KY.
     Juanita is survived by four sons, Chester Smith Jr. and his wife, Tammy, of Pittsfield, David Smith and his wife, Paula, of Epsom, William Smith of Northwood, and Kirk Smith of Pittsfield; six grandchildren, Darrel Elliot of Concord, Cassandra Smith of Lynn, MA, Amanda Smith of Epsom, Eric Smith, Matthew Smith, and Juanita Smith, all of Pittsfield; a brother, Norman Abraham of Louisville, KY; and six sisters, Mary Patterson of New Orleans, LA, Martha Heil of Coconut Creek, FL, Janice Manguilla of Houston, TX, Helen David of Angleton, TX, Ann Meisel of Louisville, KY, and Shirley Mattingly of Louisville, KY.
     Calling hours will not be held.
     Memorial Services will be held Saturday at 10am in the Perkins & Polland Memorial Home, 60 Main Steet, Pittsfield.
     The Rev. Charles Morgan will officiate.
     Spring burial will be at Floral Park Cemetery in Pittsfield.
     In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, 130 Washington Street, Penacook 03303.

ENTRY # 316
DATE:  12/07/07 (Friday) 11:00pm
SUBJECT:  Juanita Smith...

     I just received word from my Dad that we lost a dear friend of the family today. He received a brief email from her son, Kirk, informing us of her sudden passing earlier this morning. Her name is Juanita Smtih and I've known her my entire life. After hearing the news, I now find myself dealing with mixed emotions. I'm sad, obviously, but it's mostly guilt I'm feeling. It's been almost seven years since I've seen her... and now it's too late to change that.
     Her husband, Chet, was my best friend. He died in January of 2001. In May, four months after his death, we finally had the memorial/burial service for him. Y'see, the thing is, since they live in New Hampshire, we couldn't bury him when he died because the ground was frozen. We had to wait 'til Spring. And that's the last time I saw Juanita, the day we all gathered at the cemetery to put her husband to rest.
     Ever since that day in May, I've thought about visiting... I've thought about calling... literally thousands of times. But I never did. I wasn't able to. I just couldn't imagine being at their house without Chet, or dialing their number knowing that Chet wouldn't be the one answering the phone. I guess I've never really gotten over the fact that Chet's gone. Just the thought of driving up their dirt road towards their house is enough to bring tears to my eyes...
     Instead of facing it, instead of being there for Juanita during her time of need, I avoided the whole situation because of my own selfishness... because of my own fears of breaking down. I was scared of facing the pain head on so I stayed away. And then, as the years went by, the guilt started to creep in. I kept thinking, "Well, I can't call now, it's been too long."
     Plus, the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder about what my presence would do to Juanita and the family. They all know how close Chet and I were... and a part of me felt that it might be too painful, or too awkward, for them to be around me. I didn't want to remind them of Chet's passing. I didn't want to drudge up any new feelings of loss. Whether that would actually happen, or if that was just another excuse I was using to avoid facing it, I'll never know now. But, at the time, I saw it as the best decision for all involved.
     Now that Juanita is gone too, the old feelings of guilt have resurfaced... but they've brought with them a new level of guilt as well. I regret the years I lost with her. I'll never be able to say I'm sorry for not being there, for not sticking around, for not staying in touch. I basically disappeared from her life right after Chet died, and now I feel like a complete asshole. I can't escape the thought that I made her feel as if she didn't matter to me, that Chet was the only one I considered a friend. That was definitely NOT the case but, unfortunately, I'm sure that's how my actions made her feel. That sucks.
     When I got off the phone with my Dad, I signed on looking for the email from Kirk. As soon as I read it I hit the REPLY button to respond... and I sat there for twenty minutes staring at the blank email screen. I have no idea what to say to him. It's been seven years since I've had any contact with him at all. Out of everything I wanted to say, or felt I should say, none of it sounded sincere enough to send. It just doesn't seem right to say "I'll miss her," or "I loved her," or "I'm so sorry for your loss" after all this time. Granted, all those things are true... but after seven years of no contact, I can't imagine Kirk interpreting my words as genuine.
     I clicked on the "X" to close the email without saying anything at all. Again, I'm avoiding the issue. Again with the guilt. I know I have to email him some kind of a response. A person can't just ignore an email like that.... but, as of right now, I'm at a loss for words. I know that after reading everything I just wrote here, a person wouldn't normally think I can't come up with something to say. But, I gotta tell ya, it's easy for me to write stuff here 'cause I'm not writing to anyone in particular. It's like I'm sending my words out into a "black hole." It might get read, it might not. It doesn't matter what I say here. The Internet is a world of strangers and, honestly, I don't care what you people think of me. I can say anything here without a care in the world. If only it was that easy when it comes to writing to Kirk...
     I'll pick up, and mail, a Sympathy card tomorrow... it'll take a couple of days for it to reach him. Hopefully, by then, I'll be able to respond to his email.

ENTRY # 315
DATE:  12/07/07 (Friday) 7:00pm
SUBJECT:  Surgery Update...

     Just got off the phone with my Mom. My step-father had his surgery today (to remove the blockage in his carotid artery). The procedure went well. No problems at all!!! They're keeping him overnight for observation... and, most likely, he'll be back home tomorrow afternoon.
     Thank God! That's one less thing I have to worry about. Although, he will have to take it easy for a couple of weeks -- no heavy lifting, no plowing snow, no stacking wood for the furnace, no climbing around on the roof to clean the chimney.... which means my Mom will be doing everything herself. I'm not crazy about that but, unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it. They've gotten so much snow there's no way my little car will make it up their road. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that nothing will happen to her while she's taking care of him.
     They've got great neighbors though so I'm not worried too much. I'm sure they'll all pitch in to give my Mom a hand with stuff if she needs it.

ENTRY # 314
DATE:  12/06/07 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Nabbed Two More!!!

     Ayuh, the stale bait was definitely the problem. Now that the traps have been suited up with fresh crackers, the pungent peanut butter aroma is attracting them to the drawer just like bears to a honey pot.... metal to a magnet... flies to a pile of horse shit.... LOL, whatever... THEY'RE WORKING.
     I found Mouse #11 this morning while I was feeding Sweety Face her breakfast. And then, when I got home from work tonight, I discovered Mouse #12. Cool!!!
     I gotta tell ya... after a year and a half, I still think these mouse traps are awesome! They were expensive as hell but they sure get the job done! They're worth every penny I spent on them!

ENTRY # 313
DATE:  12/05/07 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Mouse #10...

     The drawer in the kitchen where I do all my "Mouse Catching" has been pretty quiet lately. I haven't caught one since back in September. Considering this is the time of year when mice start searching for warm homes for the winter, I was starting to wonder about the lack of mouse visitation lately. Where are they? Is it possible I've relocated all the mice in town? Have they finally learned to avoid the "Drawer of No Return?" Hmmm...
     When I got home from work this evening, I decided it was probably time to change the bait in the traps. I've been using the same crackers for a couple of months now and I figured maybe the scent wasn't strong enough to lure them to the drawer. I dug out the traps, washed them out, threw away the stale bait, then loaded a fresh peanut-butter cracker into each one. Anticipating that this would do the trick, I also cleaned out the aquarium and set it back up with fresh bedding, water and food.
     At 10:30pm, while I was on the phone with my father, I heard a very prominent SNAP! out in the kitchen. As soon as I hung up with my Dad, I checked the drawer and, sure enough, Mouse #10 was captured. She's in the aquarium right now running laps in the exercise wheel.
     Mental Note To Self:  Keep FRESH bait in the traps at all times!!!  :-)

ENTRY # 312
DATE:  12/03/07 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  A Quick Shout-Out...

     I just got home from work a few minutes ago and I'm exhausted. After being on vacation last week, the eight hours I spent on my feet today kicked my ass. I'll be heading to bed early tonight, that's for sure! But, before I do that, I wanted to sign on real quick to mention one thing:  today is my Mom and step-father's wedding anniversary. They've been married since 1977 and I just wanted to say...

ENTRY # 311
DATE:  11/30/07 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  "Man In A Hot-Air Balloon"

     A man in a hot air balloon realized that he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted.
     "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
     The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 50 and 51 degrees north latitude and between 114 and 115 degrees west longitude."
     "You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
     "I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"
     "Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information. The fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."
     The woman below responded, "You must be in management."
     "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
     "Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, you've managed to make it my fault."

ENTRY # 310
DATE:  11/28/07 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Slosh, Slosh, Slosh...

     Surprise, surprise! The sloshing noise is back! DAMMIT!!! I had to make a quick trip out to 7-Eleven for a pack of cigarettes and milk this morning and, sure enough, that's when I heard it. AGAIN!!! This is getting ridiculous. And I haven't even driven the car since I got home from Kia on Monday. The car has just been sitting there for two days. How can the problem come back if the car is just sitting there??? I don't get it!
     I just got off the phone with Amanda, the Service Department Chick, and as soon as I told her my name she said, "Ohhh, nooooo. It came back?" After talking to her for about an hour, she came to the conclusion that they're going to have to consult with the manufacturer to find "a different procedure" to fix the problem. This means I will probably have to rent a car while they work it out 'cause they have NO IDEA how long it's gonna take. Wonderful.
     I can't afford to rent a car right now so it's just gonna have to wait. Amanda said they'd pay for the rental for me but, the thing is, in order to rent a car I need to put the deposit on my credit card... and there's no room on my credit card right now for a $250.00 deposit. She said that's fine. The problem isn't anything major. Since it's only air bubbles in the heating/cooling system, it's not actually causing any damage to the car. It's just annoying to listen to it.
     Fine. Whatever! So, sometime after the holidays - and once I manage to pay off all the Christmas debt I'm sure will accumulate - I'll deal with it then. I just hope she's right, that it won't cause any further damage. Although, at this point, there's nothing I can do about it if it does...

ENTRY # 309
DATE:  11/26/07 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Another Appointment at Kia...

     Well... I spent the first day of my vacation sitting at the Kia dealership again while they worked on my car. The damn "sloshing" noise came back. I noticed it the other day when I was driving to Massachusetts. As soon as I woke up this morning I called Kia to see when I could bring it in. Luckily, they had an opening at 9:00am so I was able to have it taken care of right away.
     It's 1:30pm and I just got home from the appointment. They worked on it for three and a half hours so, hopefully, it's fixed this time. When they brought the keys out to me they said the mechanic who worked on it would be out in a moment to talk to me. When I finally got to speak to him, he said he wanted us to drive around for a while to make sure the sloshing sound was gone. So, for the next half hour, I cruised all around Milford with the Greasy Mechanic Guy sitting next to me in the passenger seat. Neither one of us could hear it so - as of right now - I guess it's fixed. We'll see....
     Not the greatest start to my vacation but at least it's out of the way. And, again, thank God for the warranty 'cause paying for all the Labor costs would NOT have been fun.

ENTRY # 308
DATE:  11/24/07 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Thanksgiving Weekend at Mom's (Recap)...

     I was on the road at 7:00am Thursday morning heading to Massachusetts. By 8:30am - still on the road - I was in tears 'cause I couldn't stop thinking about Max and the fact that he wouldn't be there with Zoey to welcome me.
     The thing is, when my Mom knows I'm coming for a visit she starts priming the dogs by telling them, "Dove's coming! Where's Dove? Is Dove here? Dove's coming! Go find Dove!" ...and then both dogs go nuts trying to find me. They race through the house searching all the rooms looking for me... and they run from one window to the next looking outside for my car. She usually starts a couple days before I'm due to show up so by the time I get there, the dogs are raving lunatics because they're so excited to finally see me...
     Since they put Max down only two days before, I had this horrible thought in my mind that the priming had already begun while he was still alive... and that he was all excited and waiting for me to arrive. This really bothered me 'cause I kept picturing the last few moments of his life. I kept seeing his face, looking at my Mom with those big, brown, sad eyes and I couldn't shake the idea that the last thought to go through his mind was "I thought you said Dove was coming," and then he slipped away without ever seeing me again. I didn't come. I didn't make it in time. I didn't get to say goodbye. He didn't get to say goodbye. I felt like I let him down... I felt like we lied to him. That I got his hopes up, then crushed them by not showing up. I really felt like shit. It actually took me about twenty minutes to force that image out of my head so I could calm down and stop crying.
     And, of course, as soon as I pulled into their driveway I saw my step-father right away, before I was even out of the car. He was in the garage all by himself, looking across the yard to where Max is now buried. He was just standing there. In the cold. Alone. Crying.
     What do you say at a time like that? How do you comfort someone who just lost a pet? A member of the family? What can you say? How can you offer words of sympathy to someone else, when you're suffering from the same loss yourself? The pain from the loss of an animal is so intense there is nothing you can say that offers any true comfort. Nothing makes you feel better. The only thing that makes it all better is time. And even then, even after weeks, months, years, it's never really better. It gets easier, sure, but not better.
     When I got out of the car I didn't even want to look at him. I didn't want to interrupt the sadness... his private moment of grief. I felt like if I looked at him, I'd be catching him in the act. I didn't want him to feel embarrassed that I had caught him crying. And I didn't want to start crying again either. I figured if I started, I'd never be able to stop. But, it's not like I could get out of the car and not acknowledge his presence. I couldn't just walk directly into the house as if he wasn't standing there. I had to look at him. I had to say hello. I had to say something... something that would tell him I understand exactly what he's going through. Something that would say, "I know because I feel it too."
     I knew this weekend was gonna be tough! I was barely out of the car and it was kind'a sucky already.
     I glanced over at the mound of freshly-dug earth. I spotted the tiny vase of flowers my Mom had placed over the grave and that's all I could take. Just a glance. I had to look away. When I turned around I looked at my step-father, nodded and said, "Having a moment?" He nodded back and said, "Yeah" with a pained grin as he wiped his face with both hands. We hugged hello and I told him that Max was a good boy... and that I loved him too. It was hard not to cry but I managed... somehow.
     As soon as we got inside, Zoey went nuts. She was jumping up and down, whining, and wagging her tail running around in circles. It took her forever to relax. During Zoey's enthusiastic greeting, my Mom was also trying to say hello to me. By the time we managed to hug a greeting, she had already seen the looks on our faces so she started to get choked up over Max too.
     About an hour later, my Mom left to pick up Grandma so she could join us that afternoon for Thanksgiving dinner. Twenty minutes into her visit with us, the emotions were slinging around the room all over again. Grandma made some kind of a remark about a friend of the family which pissed off my step-father royally. I don't remember exactly what was said but it led to him yelling at her about how he "doesn't need her shit. On top of being cut open in two weeks, and his dead dog, he doesn't need to listen to her bullshit too! She needs to learn how to keep her mouth shut" and yadda, yadda, yadda. It then escalated to him charging down the hallway into the living room where he proceeds to yell at my Mom about what an asshole his mother is. In the meantime, I'm alone with Grandma in the kitchen. He was so loud, I heard everything he said as clear as a bell. I just about choked on my coffee when I heard him call his own mother an "asshole." I don't know if Grandma heard him or not but, if she did, she showed no reaction to it at all.
     Happy Thanksgiving, my ass.
     Good grief.
     Anyway, after apologies were offered and tempers cooled, we gathered around the table to eat. The meal was fantastic. Instead of turkey, my Mom made a Spiral ham and a bunch of vegetables... string beans, mashed potatoes, squash, creamed onions, and olives. And, as always, there were way too many desserts considering there was only four of us, LOL.
     After dinner, and after my Mom took Grandma back home, we celebrated Christmas. Since the weather is so unpredictable in December I don't travel to Massachusetts for Christmas. I don't dare make the trip. It would be just my luck to get stuck in a blizzard. So, instead of tempting fate, we have our Christmas "gift exchange" during the Thanksgiving holiday. They decided to save the gifts I brought for them until Christmas day... but I opened all my gifts that evening. I got some pretty cool stuff....

a pair of black, slip-on loafers
the Original Bedazzler
a bottle of TGI Friday's Non-Alcoholic Mudslide Mix
a set of sheets for my bed (400 thread count!!! WOOHOOOO!)
a Sudoku tile game
a Sudoku puzzle book
a Patriots T-shirt
some cat toys for Sweety Face
a coffee mug that says "I Don't Do Perky" (Perfect sentiments, thank you very much!) LOL!
the "Pet Nap" kitten
some clothes for work
a Red Sox Rubik's cube
a huge box of groceries from Stop n' Shop

     And a Christmas stocking full of stuff too!!! Candy, knee-highs, AA batteries for my camera, more Red Sox stuff, and some lint rollers. LOTS n' LOTS of stuff.
     The whole time I was opening everything all I kept thinking was, "Oh boy, this is gonna be fun lugging all this up three flights of stairs!" LOL. Thankfully I'm on vacation this week so I don't have to empty out the car all at once. I can spread it out over the next couple of days so I won't have a heart attack!  ;-)
     Early Friday morning I had a few moments alone. Mom was out in the barn cleaning the stalls and Dad was down in the basement tending the furnace. I got dressed and "bundled up" nice and warm so I could walk around for awhile outside with the camera. I got a few shots of the house with all the Christmas decorations up, a couple of the horses, and a few of the cats. Although, it was so cold out, the cats weren't around for long. They decided to retreat back to the barn where it was a little bit warmer. Once my fingers stiffened up from the cold I gave up taking pictures. Instead, I made my way over to where Max is buried so I could say goodbye. I told him he was a real good boy and that I loved him. I told him that I'd miss him and that I'd never forget him. And then, in my head, I heard a little voice saying, "I thought you said Dove was coming," and that's when I fell apart. I told him I was sorry that I didn't make it there in time and that I hoped he would forgive me. Just because I wasn't there doesn't mean I didn't love him. I told him that, in my heart, I know I'll see him again someday -- and, whenever that may be, we can play the Slap-My-Face game all day long if he wants.
     I devoted the rest of Friday morning/afternoon to getting my laundry done. Once that was out of the way, I spent some more time outside with the horses and playing with Zoey.
     Poor Zoey. She's totally lost without Max. Every morning, and every time she comes in from outside, she races down the hallway into the living room looking to pounce on him. Things are a lot different now for her. You can tell she's not used to being an only child yet. It's obvious she misses him terribly. Hopefully it won't take her too long to get adjusted.
     Early this afternoon I loaded up the car... and when I say loaded, I mean LOADED. My car was packed with stuff! Between all the Christmas gifts, two bins of laundry, a ton of Thanksgiving left-overs, my suitcase, the camera bag and my purse, it's amazing there was still room enough for me! Good grief!
     I left around 1:30 to head home and made it back to my apartment by 3:45. Since it's Saturday I missed all the holiday traffic that's bound to clog the highways tomorrow. Good. Who needs that?
     I'm really glad to be home. It's a relief. I'm glad I went to my Mom's for Thanksgiving and got to see them again - especially since it'll be the last time I see my step-father before his surgery... It's always great to spend time with them no matter what the reason. But this visit just wasn't the same. It was emotionally draining. Not having Max around was huge! Every time I turned around one of us was crying. And, obviously, the up-coming surgery factored in. We didn't talk about it much, but the added weight of it was definitely there looming over all of us. As it is, that's all I was able to think about during the drive home. My mind started to race... and all I kept thinking was, "What the hell is my Mom gonna do if something happens to him?" Jesus.....
     But... I'm home now and Sweety Face is thrilled. Unloading the car can wait 'til tomorrow! I'm gonna get into my pajamas and hit the couch. I need a nap!

ENTRY # 307
DATE:  11/22/07 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Thanksgiving!

May your stuffing be tasty,
may your turkey be plump,
may your potatoes and gravy
have never a lump!
May your yams be delicious,
and your pies take the prize...
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
stay off of your thighs!

"Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!"

ENTRY # 306
DATE:  11/21/07 (Wednesday)

     It's official. As of 5:31pm this evening I am ON VACATION. I don't go back to work until Monday, December third! How cool is that?!?!? Because of Thursday being a holiday and my shop being closed on Friday, I have eleven days off... all in a row! ELEVEN!!!! Wooooohooooooooooooo!!! I don't know what on earth I am going to do with myself during all this free time. But, whatever it is, it's gonna take ELEVEN DAYS to do it!
     Tomorrow morning I'm waking up early to head to my Mom's for Thanksgiving. I usually look forward to spending this holiday at their house.... but unfortunately, this year, it's a little different. I just don't know what to expect. I mean, don't get me wrong - I know the food will be awesome - it always is!!! But... between losing Max the other day and my step-father's up-coming surgery, I have a feeling the next couple of days are gonna be rough. I dunno...
     I'll be coming home Saturday afternoon. If I'm not still stuffed from over-eating (LOL!) I'll try to post a "Weekend Recap" for y'all...

ENTRY # 305
DATE:  11/20/07 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Max: A Good Boy, Gone...

     This is extremely hard to write about so I'm not gonna say much. My Mom just called... with more bad news. She had to have Max, our beloved German Shepherd, put to sleep today. He was ten years old and loved by all who knew him.
     I feel a little strange saying "our" German Shepherd 'cause he wasn't technically MY dog. I never actually lived with him since my Mom and step-father live in Massachusetts and I live here, in Connecticut. But the fact that we lived apart doesn't matter. I loved him as if he was mine. And, more importantly, he loved me too...

September, 2005 -- Max and Dove -- "The Big Lick"

     He was a good boy... and a good friend. We shared lots of fun times together out in the yard chasing the basketball around, going for walks up the dirt road, splashing in the kiddie-pool, lounging on the lawn in the sunshine, and playing the Slap-My-Face game. I'll miss him. A lot.
     I love you, Max.

ENTRY # 304
DATE:  11/17/07 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  My Appointment at Kia...

     Good news and bad news...
     The good news is that it was a cheap fix afterall. The problem was covered under the warranty so it didn't cost me a dime. COOL!!!!
     The bad news is that it wasn't as simple as a leaf caught in the AC drain. It was "air bubbles trapped in the heating/cooling system." I was stuck at Kia for THREE HOURS this morning waiting for them to "bleed the system" to get all the air out. What a pain in the ass!
     So, yeah, it was cheap, yet inconvenient as hell.
     But... *shrug* ...it was a free fix so I guess I won't bitch too loud.  :-)

ENTRY # 303
DATE:  11/14/07 (Wednesday) 7:00pm
SUBJECT:  The Surgery Date...

     Just heard from my Mom. My step-father had the MRI today on his carotid artery. Like I said before, we already know there's a 75% blockage. The MRI was performed just so the surgeon will have a clearer picture (literally) of what has to be removed.
     His surgery is scheduled for December 7th... at Baystate Medical. It's not as soon as we would have liked but it'll have to do.

ENTRY # 302
DATE:  11/14/07 (Wednesday) 3:00pm
SUBJECT:  Splish, Splash...

     Well, there's something wrong with my car. LOL, since I bought another Kia, I knew it was just a matter of time. Although, it sounds like it might not be a major problem. I don't know yet. I just got off the phone with Kia after making an appointment for Saturday morning to have it checked out.
     For the last couple of weeks, I've been listening to what I call a "sloshing" noise. It sounds like water, or fluid of some kind, splashing around directly behind the dashboard. I have no idea what could be causing it but - whatever it is - it seems to be getting worse.
     After describing the sound to Amanda, the Service Department chick at Kia, she seems to think that the AC drain is clogged and needs to be flushed out. Since it's Autumn, she said, it's probably just a leaf that worked its way down from the windshield and lodged itself in the drain. That "leaf clog" is what's causing fluid (i.e. rain water, windshield-wiper wash, etc.) to back up in the frame somewhere. I have NEVER heard of this before but she says it's a very common thing. More importantly, she also said it's a "quick and easy" (i.e. CHEAP) fix.
     A cheap fix??? Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it.

ENTRY # 301
DATE:  11/08/07 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  "Young Frankenstein"

     Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein: The Musical (starring Megan Mullally as Elizabeth) opened on Broadway today! WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
     Although, since I'm still recovering financially from my vacation last July, it doesn't look like I'll be seeing this production anytime soon -- especially with Christmas right around the bend. I just can't afford to spend extra money on theater tickets knowing that Christmas shopping is going to set me back even farther. In fact, I'm so broke right now, I haven't even checked ticket prices yet. LOL, why bother, y'know what I mean?
     Hopefully, once I recuperate from the Shopping Debt Virus - which will probably be around the middle of summer at this point - Megan will still be performing in it. I don't have any idea how long she's committed herself to this play -- it could be months, it could be years. It all depends on how popular the play becomes. With my luck, by the time I can afford to go, the play will either be over or she will have moved on by then. Who knows. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed, I guess. Wish me luck!

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