Sunday, February 27, 2011

Proud Parental Units

This is the most recent copy of the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle is Florida Gulf Coast University's quarterly magazine.

I enjoy reading them when they come in the mail. I couldn't wait for this one to arrive in particular. Why you ask? Well, a couple of weeks ago Yam phoned us and with excitement said, "Hey, guess what? One of my pictures is going to be published in the next issue of the Pinnacle!"

Great news! We couldn't wait to see Yam's photograph in print. When the magazine arrived The Colonel and I went directly to the end of the Pinnacle where Yam's photograph was. There was no savoring the anticipation by reading each and every article first, then turning each page in order, until finally reaching the page with Yam's photograph. Nope, had to go directly to the photograph first thing.

Beautiful, nice composition. It was great seeing Yam's name in print beneath the picture. A proud moment.

Something else arrived in the mail a week or two before the Pinnacle did, something that made us even more proud than we were seeing Yam's beautiful photograph in print.

It was a letter addressed to Yam from the Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. I called Yam to ask her if she wanted me to open it and read it or send it onto her.

"I got a letter from the Dean's Office?" said Yam.

She was a bit nervous, thinking that this letter was a portent of bad news.

It was the polar opposite of bad news.

Yam made The Dean's List for her academic achievement in the Fall 2010. The Dean's List is comprised of students with a 3.5 GPA or better. A great accomplishment!

Congratulations Yam! Congratulations on making The Dean's List and having one of your photographs published in Florida Gulf Coast University's quarterly magazine.

Keep making us proud!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Testing Uncle Sam's Letter Carriers

Darling Sister-In-Law's house is coming along swimmingly.

The Certificate of Occupancy should be issued in a couple of months and when it is, The Colonel's parents will live in and care for the house until Darling Sister-In-Law retires in five years and moves in.

It has been 20-plus years since The Colonel's parents have had to deal with all it takes to move a household. Moving has a lot of moving parts to it and one of these parts is the change-of-address cards that must be filled out (The Colonel and I filled out cards 10 or 11 times during our 20 years with the Air Force).

The Colonel found a used mailbox, cleaned it up, painted it a bright blue and then we both set it up in the yard of the new house under construction (this is a temporary mailbox, The Colonel's father wants to build a permanent one out of concrete block once they move in).

We had hoped The Colonel's parents could have their mail sent to this mailbox, thus only having to fill out one change-of-address card before moving into the house upon its completion. No such luck. When my In-Laws called their post office they were told since no one lives in the house yet, no mail can be delivered there. Their mail will come to our house first, so they will have to fill out two change-of-address cards before moving into the new house.

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I did not believe what the post office said. We were certain that mail could be delivered as long as a mailbox was on site; it didn't matter if the house wasn't lived in yet.

So Darling Sister-In-Law performed a little test for Uncle Sam's letter carriers. She sent a postcard to the little blue mailbox.

The postcard arrived a couple of days ago. The Colonel and I just had to laugh when we read the postcard. It was classic Darling Sister-In-Law.

There was one hiccup to the delivery...

There was Postage Due of two cents.

Isn't just like the U.S. Post Office...always wanting more money to carry our mail.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ahhh...Cleaner Floors

As promised...the story of the rectangle of dirt left within the parking pad and what happened to it.

Weeks prior to the pouring of the concrete parking pad, The Colonel and I had decided on how we wanted the space to look. We wanted it a certain size and shape and we wanted a little rectangular area at the base of the steps to be made from a different material and not concrete. We purchased a few pavers then to see if they would be what we would want in that area when the time came to put something there.

At 11:00 AM, two weeks following the concrete pour, we took those few pavers and with the help of DSIL and Spud, decided on a pattern for the paver layout.

We all agreed that the above pattern would be best. We calculated how many pavers, bags of base material and sand we would need to complete the project. It would take us four trips to the local home improvement store to gather all of our materials.

We prepared the base for the pavers. First we had to rake and level the dirt. We needed to make sure that we had a gentle slope for water run off. Next we put down the base material and tamped it down to make sure we had a good solid base before moving on to the next step.

The next step was putting down some leveling sand.

Once some sand was in place The Colonel started laying some pavers down.

I took over the paver placement after The Colonel had completed four rows. The Colonel used his circular saw to cut the pavers that needed to be resized in order to fit along side the wall. As I was placing pavers, DSIL and Spud or The Colonel would make the trips to The Home Depot for the supplies (our truck could only hold so much weight per trip).

I got into a good rhythm and began to lay a row of pavers down in a decent amount of time (at least for a DIY-er who had never done this before). With my novice "paver prowess" at the helm and the time it took for trips to The Home Depot (and Hungry Howie's for a pizza pickup), we were beginning to burn daylight. We made oaths to ourselves that we would finish the paver project that day, come what may.

I had laid a large portion of the pavers and I (or really my knees) had had enough, so I passed the rubber mallet onto Spud who laid a few pavers so that I could take a break. I took back the mallet, laid more pavers until there were about three rows left. My knees balked again, so The Colonel took over the final rows of pavers.

Daylight was fading so DSIL held a light for The Colonel to see by.

When The Colonel came to the last row of pavers he had to measure and cut them down for a proper fit. DSIL made a few cuts too for The Colonel.

The last paver was laid at 7:00 PM. A full day's work.

A new day dawned on our handiwork. We could see and appreciate all of our hard work by the light of the new day.

128 rectangle pavers
23 square pavers
19 bags of leveling sand
22 bags of base material
1 bucket of joint compound
Total cost in dollars, about 232

Being able to walk from the house to the car (or the car to the house), not get your shoes dirty and track it into the house.......Priceless!

Oh...see that stack of gray concrete block in the picture above? That is our next project. That will eventually become another retaining wall to match the others. I see lots of mortar, stucco, paint and concrete stain in my very near future.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Personal Parking Place

We have a crushed shell driveway and until a couple of weeks ago, we also had a crushed shell parking area.

The Colonel and I decided to have a concrete parking area put in. We are tired of the "unfinished" look of the crushed shell and tracking shell and dirt into the house. We hired the same man who poured our steps to work on the new parking area.

The first step in the process was to move some earth and grade the area. Pat, the man who owned and worked the machine, we found out, is one of our neighbors.

It didn't take long for Pat to grade the parking area.

The next day the concrete crew came to start their job.

It didn't take long for the crew to form up the parking area.

Next came the concrete truck.

I wondered how the broom coat texture was going to be applied. That is one heck of a broom handle!

The finished pour.

You may have noticed that there is a rectangular space of dirt that has not been poured with concrete at the lower right hand area of the pad...that will be the subject of the next blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Visit to the Frozen North

I have been a Floridian for 12 years now, and long ago donated any heavy winter coats and sweaters to Goodwill. So, when I received an e-mail from my little sister saying that she and the rest of my brothers and sisters in Indiana were throwing a surprise birthday party for our mother's 74th birthday, I decided to get an airline ticket so that I could be there to help celebrate (only my little sister knew I was coming). I began to worry about having enough layers of clothing to survive the single digit and barely double digit temperatures I would encounter while in Indiana.

I called my little sister and asked her to pack a winter coat, hat and gloves into her car, so that I would have something to wear as soon as I was out of the airport. She did, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Before I touched down in Indiana, I had to leave Florida first. It had been at least two years since I had last flown. I had almost forgotten what a flyer has to go through before they even get to their departure gate. I showed my I.D. and boarding pass and passed that hurdle. Next, I removed my shoes and jacket and put them, plus my purse and book into the plastic bins so that they could be X-rayed. I then walked through the metal detector and set it off (I had forgotten my belt with its huge silver buckle). I removed my belt and walked through the detector again with no problem.

I went to the conveyor belt where I waited for my personal effects to reappear after they were finished being showered with X-rays.

It was taking too long. One of the TSA workers told me that they needed to run my purse through again. No problem, I had plenty of time (I arrived at the airport two hours before my flight was scheduled to leave). They ran it through a third time. They didn't like the look of something in my purse, they couldn't make it out.

"Ma'am, we are going to have to go through your purse, please come this way", the TSA man said.

What the heck? The man began to unzip and empty all of the pockets of my backpack-like purse. I felt like a criminal. I felt guilty for no reason. The other passengers in line were eyeing me and the contents of my purse with suspicion.

Once the TSA man had my purse emptied, he wiped down my phone, camera and the entire inside of my purse with three disc shaped swabs (they looked like the ones used to scrub your face with when fighting acne). He then placed the swabs in a machine. I guess it was sniffing the swabs for drugs or explosives of some sort.

The machine found nothing of course. Finally the TSA man said the X-ray machine operator didn't like the look of my phone or couldn't tell what it was. Granted, I don't have a fancy iPhone or Droid, it is just an old flip type phone that has no texting capabilities, but I shouldn't think it would be cause for alarm. Maybe they are not used to seeing such an outdated phone. The TSA man said he couldn't remember what pocket all of my things went back into, so I would have to repack it myself. No problem.

The whole time I am going through all of this, from I.D. check to purse re-pack, The Colonel is standing, watching and waiting, ready to wave goodbye with a look of "What the heck" on his face.

I hope this isn't a foreshadowing of what the rest of my trip will be like. It isn't.

The plane touches down and when I exit the plane and enter the gangway, the ice cold air hits me, I can see my breath and I think, why couldn't my mom have been born in a warmer month?

I spend the first night of my trip at my little sister's house. We have a delicious dinner when my brother-in-law gets home and catch up on things. I then spend all the next day at her house with specific instructions to not answer the phone while she and her husband are at work because it is still a surprise that I am in town.

Tara, my sister's Chocolate Lab mix keeps me company. She is a sweet, old girl. When my little sister and her husband came home from work we headed over to my parent's house for Mom's birthday dinner of chili, cupcakes and ice cream.

I got out of the car and carefully shuffled my way over the ice and snow to the door where my mom and other family members met me in total surprise.

It was good to see everyone and the chili sure hit the spot, especially since I was cold to the bone.

The next day I went out to lunch and did some shopping with one of my sisters, my mom and my cousin, Sara. I have never been a big shopper, but I had fun that day. Sara has always seemed more like a sister than a cousin to me.

That next day, Saturday, lunch out with three of my sisters and more shopping. We had a very delicious lunch at P.F. Chang's. I had fun shopping wasn't the shopping, it was being with my sisters that was the fun part.

That evening, my mom, two of my sisters, a brother-in-law, a nephew and his wife and I went to play some darts at a local tavern. Now that was fun. I won two games.

Sunday was the main reason I made the trip back and braved Indiana's winter cold. My brothers and sisters made reservations for a surprise birthday dinner for my mom (even though her birthday was a few days earlier) at Hollyhock Hill, a well-known and well-loved, family style restaurant. The Colonel and I had our rehearsal dinner there almost 25 years ago.

I like the birdhouse and birds on the matchbook.

Mom and Dad were surprised by the dinner. There were 21 of us altogether. The food was delicious and plentiful. The servers started us out with salad items. One of those items being homemade beets. I thought of The Colonel and wished he was with me. He loves beets (I don't...can't even abide the smell of them). The fried chicken and steak were tasty as well as all of the sides. You weren't leaving that table hungry.

I sat next to my niece, who my sister-in-law says looks like me. My niece and I talked about books and writing.

When everyone had their fill and the dinner was over, we all went back to my parent's house for cake and ice cream. More family members showed up to help celebrate: nieces, nephews and great-nephews. There was a full house.

It was good to see everyone and to meet some for the first time (like my nephew who had been born since my last visit two years ago).

The time sped by and with each day that passed the temperature got a bit warmer, but it was still too cold for me and I was ready to be back in the Sunshine State's warmth as well as be back home with The Colonel and Spud.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rated "R"

Warning: The following blog entry contains a graphic image which may be unsuitable for some readers. Those under seventeen must be accompanied by an adult.

The past few days have been quite ordinary.

I am feeling well, no coughing, sneezing or vomiting.

I have not done any heavy lifting or straining.

I have not excessively or roughly rubbed my eyes (that I can recall).

The other night as I was brushing my teeth before bedtime, I was looking in the mirror and noticed that the inner corner of my right eye looked different. The color was off; it was no longer white, but a light yellow-orange.

"Hmmm", said The Colonel when I showed him my eye. My thoughts exactly.

I was not having any eye pain and it was my bedtime, so I hit the sack, not giving my eye another thought.

I woke up the next morning to this...

A bit shocking and just a little scary. I called to The Colonel and when he saw my eye, "Ewww", was what he said. Again, my thoughts exactly.

I have never had this happen to me before. I made an appointment to see my doctor that morning. He told me it was a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage, or more commonly known as a broken blood vessel of the eye. This can happen when one coughs, sneezes, vomits, strains or rubs one's eye and sometimes it happens for no apparent reason. The doctor said there was nothing to worry about and no specific treatment was required. Good news.

The Conjunctiva (the clear surface of the eye) cannot absorb the bright red blood quickly, so in about 10-14 days my eye should be back to normal and not rated "R", for red.