Bye! Have fun! Are you still here?

Mark and Brad are off on a salmon fishing trip on Lake Michigan for the weekend! They were invited by the neighbor, Bill and were joined by Justin,  Joe and Joe’s dad, Paul.

Honestly, they couldn’t leave soon enough. Mark woke up tired and crabby tense. Isn’t a fishing trip supposed to be fun? What’s there to be tense about? Maybe the fact that no one packed a bag until this morning? Maybe the fact that I got roped into going to Sam’s Club and Target this morning to buy food and necessities for the “boys’ trip” when there’s absolutely no reason these things couldn’t have been done yesterday?

Now that they are on the road, I hope Mark can relax and enjoy himself. He promised he’d call and check in a few times. I told him not to call too often. I’ll be busy this weekend, hanging around yet another softball tournament. Since Mark won’t be around, I’m going to carpool with my favorite softball mom, Lisa who keeps me laughing at all times.

(You remember Lisa, don’t you? She’s the one who was lamenting the fact that she has no friends that might possibly give her rug burns. At one of last week’s games, we were keeping an eye on a guy who was flying a remote control airplane directly over the field where the girls were playing ball. I told Lisa to check out the “wife beater” he was wearing to accentuate his beer belly. She responded, “Hubba-hubba. Is it any wonder I’m still single? I’m seriously starting to consider dating girls.” Another mom reminded her that if she starts dating girls, there will be one major element missing from the relationship. Without skipping a beat, Lisa replied, “There are toys for that. You don’t have to tell them how great they were and you can just tuck them in the drawer when you’re done. Girls are sensitive, and afterwards, we can go shopping!” *)

Anyway, I hope the “boys” have a great time, catch a load of salmon, and come home completely de-stressed.

* She was totally kidding. And tell me that wouldn’t make you laugh too! And yes, the dads were far enough away that the moms could have this converstation.

So you want to be an organ donor (?)

Yes!

I think so.

Maybe.

I might be getting a little nervous.

Those who are aware of my plans to donate a kidney to my dad keep asking me if I’m nervous. I have consistently and confidently replied that I’m not. I have felt very comfortable with this decision from the beginning.

But now… I’m getting a little nervous. And it’s not even the surgery that scares me. Cut me open. Stick needles in me. I don’t care, as long as I’m out like a light.

What’s making me nervous is that I read through my Donor Handbook this afternoon. I have an appointment next Tuesday to have my donor evaluation done and it’s making me a little uncomfortable.

First, I have to bring in a 24-hour urine collection. It’s a good thing that I’m being allowed to start this on Sunday. I have a hard enough time using the restrooms at work without having to be in there collecting…. things. In a cup. And collecting it in a clean bottle. (Because I’d even consider collecting it in an unwashed milk bottle, or what? Sheesh.)

On the day of the appointment, I’ll get to talk with the surgeon to discuss the details and risks, I suppose. That’s no big deal. I can handle that. Then there will be some lab tests where I’m sure they’ll be drawing blood. I’m sort of ok with that too as long as I don’t look while it’s happening. (Hard to believe I gave birth three times, isn’t it?) Next comes the chest x-ray. Not exactly the thrill of my life, but I can deal with it.

After the chest x-ray comes the physical exam including girly stuff. All I can say is it’s a good thing this evaluation coincides with the timing of my annual physical, because if I had already gone to my own doctor and then had to have a repeat of the dreaded annual event, I’d be pissed.

So what’s so bad about this evaluation? Have I mentioned the Renal CT Angiogram? No? Let me just say this freaks me out just a little bit. Ok… a lot. For Renal CTA, a contrast is given by placing an IV in your arm and injecting the contrast rapidly into the veins. THEY’RE GOING TO INJECT A FOREIGN SUBSTANCE INTO MY VEINS! And then I have to lie back on the comfortable padded table on my back. The comfortable padded table will move in and out of the gantry as necessary and I’ll be asked to hold my breath so that the pictures are motion free.

Ok… I’ll be honest. The thing that worries me most is that I’m supposed to have my most recent mammogram results sent to the transplant clinic. I.. ummmmmm  …. haven’t had a mammogram done yet. Ever. I know that’s really bad since I’m 41 and my mom’s a breast cancer survivor and I have no good excuse except I’m just too lazy to call and get scheduled. They’re going to yell at me about that.

I wonder if they’d schedule an “emergency” mammogram before next week.

Suddenly those blood draws and IVs aren’t sounding so bad.

Write this one down… for posterity

Throughout the blogs I read, there can be found all kinds of cute-kid stories. Babies are rolling over and smiling for the first time. Toddlers are displaying an amazing grasp of the world as they comprehend it. Preschoolers are having insightful conversations that make you wonder how in the world they became so entertaining and smart. They make you want to squish their chubby cheeks and hug them tight for all of their adorableness.

Me? I have teenagers. The conversations in the teenage years are either non-existent or consist of a few grunts while they pretend to hear you as they are busy text messaging on their cell phones.

Last night, while driving home from softball, there seemed to be a number of other drivers whose fingers seem to be preoccupied with their noses. It became somewhat of a joke as Mark began to observe every driver at every stoplight. Despite the lack of an intelligent topic, it DID spur some actual conversation in the car.

Mark would be sure to direct our attention to the offending driver each time he suspected a nose-picking in progress.

Mark: Look at that one! Is she picking her nose?

Me: No, Mark. She’s just got her hand over her mouth.

Mark: THERE! That one! SHE’S picking her nose.

Me: (Insert eyeroll here.) No, Mark. She’s just chewing her fingernail.

Kacey: Dad! Gross! I DON’T want to see anyone picking their nose!

Mark: Kace, everyone picks their nose.

Kacey: Not ME!

Mark: Kace! EVERYONE picks their nose!

Kacey: I DON’T!

Me: So, Kace, what do you do when you’ve got a dry booger in your nose that’s just driving you nuts and you’ve gotta get it out?

Kacey: I twist up a Kleenex and rub it around in there until I get it out.

Me: Ok. Then what do you do when you’ve got a “bat in the cave” and you feel like everyone’s staring and laughing at you?

Kacey: I just do a little fly-by with the palm of my hand until it’s gone!

Definitely one for the memory books! Sigh!

*For the record, a doctor treating one of the kids for impetigo years ago, explained that the condition is a result of bacteria from the nose getting into an open sore. How do you think the bacteria gets there? As she explained it, EVERYONE PICKS THEIR NOSE! It’s just that no one is willing to admit it.

I made someone's day!

My friend, Kiki graced me with this sweet award:

I love Kiki because she has a kind and generous heart.  She’s a deep thinker and someone who sees the good in everyone. She made me speechless when she described me as having “the heart of a writer.” It’s high praise and I’m not sure I deserve it, but I am honored that she thinks so.

One of the many things I love about Kiki’s blog is her regular Friday feature, “Fashionable Fridays.” Kiki makes her living as a manager at Gap and shares her knowlege and expertise with her readers. Fridays are always a day to look forward to at Kiki’s place! Look, Kiki… your advice paid off and I went to work today fully clothed in Gap apparel. What do you think?

I’m passing on this award to some of the many people who regularly make my day with their writing:

AbbyNormal who has a great sense of humor and finds the funny in geekiness and everyday life with a hubby and three boys.

Ajoojah who I recently discovered and had me so hooked on his blog I was reading through months of his archives. He’s head-over-heels in love with his wife, which he mentions quite regularly and often in great detail. On one particularly descriptive post, I commented that she must be an extremely forgiving woman!

Darrin at Dad’s Dish shares his love of food, life and the joys of parenting.

Blessed1 has become a true and close friend. Her Daily Blessings blog reminds me to focus on all the gifts in my life and she welcomed me as one of her co-writers at Real Women…Real Life, challenging me to grow in my faith while sharing it with those who care to read this blog. She’s a go-getter, full of energy, as evidenced by the fact that she also writes about her personal life on Worn Out Woman.

Jeni at Down River Drivel has probably already received this award, but I can’t resist letting her know that she makes my day every day. Jeni tells the most fun stories about her adorable grandchildren, Maya and Kurtis and often posts pictures of them as well as the many animals that make themselves at home at her house.

Joe at Harmless Ranting keeps me entertained with tales of his kids, and his adventures with his lovely fiance, K. He’s written some real nail biters involving events in which his ex-wife and K had the chance to talk with each other while he was otherwise occupied coaching a soccer game, while he nervously watched out of the corner of his eye wondering what secrets the two women might be exchanging. (Don’t worry, all seems well as K is still obviously committed to going through with the impending nuptials.)

Hidden Mahala should go on the road as a stand-up comic. She could make a living with her stories about her annoying coworker, Bubbles and her annoying gum-snapping, flirtatious encouters with PG (I think it stands for “Purchasing Guy,”) and her Bubba-Hubby.

I Eat Snowman Poop has gone from tough chick to devoted mommy (still managing to maintain her tough chick attitude) and has the cutest baby EVER!

Reggie at I’m Always Mentally on Vacation won’t do this meme, but I’m letting him know he makes my day anyway, because he’s a professional vacationer and one of these days I’m going to the Island of St. Croix with him and the lovely Gigi.

Ali at Idiosyncracies of a Gemini Mind also has the cutest baby EVER and she’s the other pea in my pod. I love her silly sense of humor and the way she experiences every emotion to the max, just like me.

More than an Electrician at N*ked on the Roof tries to pretend he’s a tough guy, but his love for his family and pride in his work shows through, even though he’s constantly pretending that the wife makes him sleep on the couch.

Irene at Our Little Piece of the World juggles being a stay-at-home-mom to three adorable little girls and takes some of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. I’m constantly stopping by to see what new photography tricks she’s discovered and taking my cues from her knowledge.

These are just a few of the bloggers that make my day, every day. You all make it hard for me to stay away from blogland for any length of time!

Pass this award on, if you’re so inclined, but if not that’s o.k. too. The original rules ask that you tag ten bloggers, but as usual, I’ve bent the rules just a little!

I love Rick

I do. I love him. And I have for a very long time. (Oh, don’t worry. The hubby’s ok with this. We have an understanding about Rick.)

But it’s an unrequited love. He’s spending the evening with another woman.

You’re breaking my heart, Rick!

I thought I was over it, but when I got a phone call from a close friend tonight, telling me she would be going to see Rick this evening, I was filled with jealousy. How could she? How could HE? Did he forget the last time we saw each other? It was four long years ago. We spent such an exciting night together. It was incredible. We were both sweating and exhausted when it was over. Yes, Rick is THAT good. I have pictures to prove it.

Damn! He still looks SO good, doesn’t he?

Look at those cute dimples!

He was singing to me. I know he was.

See? I told you. SWEATY!

Yep. We had a great time that night. Sadly, Rick ditched me right after the show. I did, however, end up riding in an elevator with a couple of his band members. One of them, the drummer…. ummmm….. farted. In the elevator. It was nasty. But it didn’t diminish my feelings for Rick. In fact, I love him so much that I just want him to be happy. So I hope my friend has a GREAT time tonight and I hope she remembers to say hi for me when she gets to GO BACKSTAGE and MEET Rick in person!

And Rick? Maybe you could think about heading back to Minnesota some time soon? Really, I’ll forgive you for spending time with another woman.

Nostalgia

I’ve always longed to be more familiar with my family heritage. Unfortunately, my parents and grandparents weren’t “talkers.” My siblings and I weren’t often privy to fond memories woven into tales of the days gone by. But once in a while, if the right question were asked, my dad or my grandma would offer a small glimpse into our family history.

My dad’s stories were usually tales of mischief. I asked him once if he went trick-or-treating when he was young. I felt sorry for him when he said that he didn’t, but he didn’t seem to feel he was deprived. It seems that soaping windows and trolley tracks were equally as fun as collecting pillow cases full of candy.

My dad grew up on the East Side of St. Paul, near Lake Phalen, in the vicinity of St. Casimir’s church, which was and still is to some extent, a largely Polish community. I’ve often heard it said that the Catholics distinguished themselves by the churches they attended. It’s true. It used to be the norm to be asked a question such as, “Do you know the Kowalskis?” To which you would respond, “Kowalskis? You mean the St. Casimir’s Kowalskis?”

As a young child, my grandma would take my sister and me to the Polish American Club in December to visit Santa Claus. After sitting on his lap, he would send us on our way with assurances that our Christmas wishes would come true, and with sacks filled with apples, oranges, peanuts and popcorn balls. That same club was host to hundreds of wedding receptions and celebrations over the years.

A few miles away was the massive Hamm’s Brewery where my grandpa and many of the people of the neighborhood earned their living.

(more history here)

The homes in the neighborhoods of the East Side were built extremely close together. You can almost imagine neighbors leaning out their kitchen windows to exchange a borrowed cup of sugar. Some of the homes are that close to each other. Most have front porches that have been enclosed since those early days. My dad once told me that many years ago, the porches were all open. Families would spend their evenings sitting on those porches, talking with other neighbors as they strolled up and down the street. These were the homes of the working class. Even as a child, I was jealous of what was obviously a more innocent time; a time when people weren’t in such a rush and family and friends were priority. It makes me sad to look at the homes now, most of them having been divided into duplexes by now. They are simply rental properties falling into decline.

The homes that surrounded Lake Phalen belonged to the more privileged families. The porches wrapped around the much larger homes. The yards were huge, with long winding driveways. Even today, they are beautiful and well cared for in striking contrast to the decay that has spread in the surrounding areas.

Growing up, there were countless visits to my grandparents’ house on Sherwood Avenue. The house was merely a few blocks from a park and from Lake Phalen. My siblings, cousins and I would venture down the street as often as we were allowed so that we might explore the park, run the baselines on the ballfields or walk barefoot on the beach. I never failed to imagine my dad in these very same places in his younger days.

On the same piece of land as the park sat, were several old, abandoned buildings. My dad had explained that years ago, these buildings comprised the Home for Crippled Children, later to become the Gillette Childrens’ Hospital. It was the place where children were treated for orthopedic diseases such as polio before the facilities were moved to a more state of the art location. I was fascinated by these old buildings and I would walk along them, trying to peek into the windows and imagine what life was like in a time when such a disease struck so much fear into people’s hearts.

(Click here for more history.)

Over the years, the park was renovated. A new rec center was constructed. The ball fields were relocated and a new hockey rink was installed. Most of the Gillette buildings were torn down, except for one. A senior living center replaced those that were demolished and this is where my grandma spent the last years of her life, just blocks away from where she had spent so many happy years, but still within walking distance of St. Casimir’s Catholic Church. Her new apartment overlooked the one remaining building of the Gillette Hospital. That building had been the Michael Dowling Memorial Hall, which was built in 1924 as a schoolhouse for the children at the hospital.

Last weekend, Kacey had a softball tournament at the very park where I used to play when visiting my grandparents. Driving back to the East Side, it saddened me to see so much decay in the old neighborhoods. But there is evidence of rejuvenation too. The homes surrounding the lake are a site to see. They are well kept and the landscaping is beautiful. The path that surrounds the lake was filled with walkers and runners, and people strolling with children. The most exciting thing for me to see was that the old school building is no longer vacant. It has since become the Minnesota Humanities Center. I took a walk to take a closer look at the building and was happy to see that much of the original architecture has been preserved.

This piece in particular, brought back memories. I used to stare at this as a child, with haunting thoughts of the disabled children who spent time at the hospital.

“Ne Cede Malis” means “Yield not to evils.” I find it so fitting that this piece was preserved as a testament that the old neighborhood will not succumb.