Books, Bowling & Finding Family in the Most Unexpected Places

It was a very full weekend!

Friday evening found me curled up in my favorite recliner with a book I couldn’t put down. It was Sarah’s Key by Tatiana DeRosnay and I picked it up based on a coworker’s recommendation. The story revolves around Sarah Starzynski, a young French Jewish girl who, in 1942, was arrested along with her parents and thousands of other Jewish families who were held in inhumane conditions for several days at the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris before being transferred to Auschwitz. Before Sarah could be taken from her home, she hid her four-year old brother in a secret cupboard in her bedroom wall and locked him in so the police would not find him. She was sure she would be back home by the end of the day to set him free again. The story surrounds Sarah’s fight to get back to her brother as she realizes the police have no intention of letting any of the Jewish families return to their homes.

The story was riveting and heart-wrenching, and as I said, I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. I highly, highly recommend this book!

Saturday night we returned to our couples’ bowling league after having had a break for the holidays and missing a week due to Kacey’s out-of-town volleyball tournament. It was fun to see everyone again, and I bowled well, surpassing my average pretty substantially all three games. (We still lost, however, as our partners were absent this week and we had no substitutes to take their places.) One of the other couples, Dan and Bonnie, asked if we wanted to join in their poker game. I see people playing cards while bowling all the time, but this was a first for me. There were seven of us playing, a dollar per game per person in the pot. Dan explained that as soon as you bowled your first strike or spare, you could pick up your hand and draw a card. Then for each subsequent strike or spare, you got to draw a new card and discard one. The winner of each game would win the pot. And in spite of having a full house and a straight, I wasn’t able to win the pot either time. But the bigger surprise, as I found out when I picked up my very first hand, is that we were playing with porn cards! Soooo, I was slightly shocked but amused, none the less. I kept my hand safely tucked in my back pocket so as not to offend anyone who might see. One of the guys was studying the cards and adding commentary. “That looks like it hurts… THAT looks interesting!… This one? Maybe not…”

Sunday morning came too soon and we were off to one of Kacey’s volleyball tournaments. We didn’t have to go far, just across the border to Hudson, Wisconsin. But it was an early start as the girls had to be there at 7:15.

As soon as we found our way into the building, I ran into Terrie, the wife of one of my cousins, Johnny, neither of whom I  see often enough. We were totally surprised to see one another. Neither of us had any idea the other’s daughter was involved in this level of volleyball. Terrie was on the board of the group that was running the tournament, so she was busy keeping things running smooth all day long. We stopped to talk several times during the day and when I saw her daughter, Jessica, who I was sure wouldn’t remember me (she didn’t) I introduced myself and explained how we were related. Jessica was sweet and told me her dad had been at the tournament but had left. But, he was going to be back again later. I told her to be sure to tell him his cousin wanted to see him if he had a chance. When he returned, Johnny came and found us and we enjoyed a nice talk during some down time between games.

But the best part of the day was the fact that our girls finally pulled off a win and came home with some medals! They had to fight hard for it and that made their victory so much sweeter. Of course, this was the one time I didn’t bring my camera along, so the best I could do was a couple of camera-phone snap shots of the winners!

It had been an exciting and fun day, but a long one, and we were glad to get back home.

Life is Good – January 29, 2009

The past week has been good. No, I mean really good! I feel like I’ve been given a kick-start after weeks of dragging myself through each day.

It was last week, Wednesday when I began to realize that something had to change. I felt a headache coming on that day. It grew in intensity throughout the day. My headaches always come up the back of my neck. I took some Tylenol a few times, but the headache just got worse. I paid a visit to the chiropractor that evening. Usually, an adjustment makes me feel good, but that evening there was no relief. I went to the gym and tried to run. That was pointless. I finally went to bed and slept until the next morning. That is what it took to shake the headache. The next day I realized that I have felt sluggish for too long and suffered headaches too often lately. But it was more than that. My mood was in the tank and had been for weeks on end. I didn’t even realize how bad I was getting. Being sulky and sluggish was my new norm. The winter always has a slightly depressing impact on me, but this was bad. I needed to do something different.

I used to be very diligent about making balanced meals for the family. Fast food was a rarity. Things started going downhill when I started working outside the home. And it got worse when I went to work full time on this ten-hour a day schedule. There are too many days when we are just scrounging around for anything to fill our stomachs. We eat fast food way too often. My kids often don’t even eat breakfast. Over the past few years, I’ve given up on trying to maintain a balanced diet at all. After the last headache, I knew I had to try harder. I knew better than to get too ambitious. I’ll never be a truly healthy eater. But I realized (again) that I had to make smarter food choices. Enough with the cheese popcorn dinners when I’m home alone. Enough sneaking a Diet Coke when the work day is dragging. I went to the grocery store the day after the headache and bought fruit. Lots of it. I bought bottled fruit smoothies and yogurt and frozen fruits to make home-made smoothies. I bought veggies and whole grain bread and ingredients for balanced meals. Of course, I didn’t want to throw the kids into sugar withdrawals. I bought one box of Hostess cupcakes and one box of Twinkies for them.

I almost always bring my lunch to work, but now instead of a frozen meal, I’m bringing fresh salads and yogurt or leftovers from dinner the night before. I’m snacking on fruit or cheese and crackers instead of chocolate.

I thought the kids would balk at the lack of sugar and fat in our food supply, but what I quickly found out is that if I chopped up fresh veggies and offer some dill dip, they’ll eat that instead of Cheetos. If I slice an apple, they’ll eat it. They won’t eat one whole, but they’ll eat slices. And a home-made yogurt smoothie is almost as good as a bowl of ice cream!

Dinner was another story. I leave the house for work shortly after 6:00 a.m. and don’t return until 5:30, except for Thursdays when I’m off. The kids are often gone to work or volleyball practice even before I get home. I solved the dilemma of how to make sure they had a hot meal when I wasn’t even home by making good use of the crock pot as often as possible. We may not be able to eat together, but I can still make my kids a hot meal. I can put some meat in the crock pot before I leave, then just call home later and ask someone to make potatoes or bread and a vegetable. It’s not ideal, but better than fast food, pizza … or cheese popcorn. When I’m not using the crock pot, I shoot for a one-dish meal or something that can be prepared ahead of time.

And then there was the issue of exercise. I run every week, but I had no schedule to speak of. I’d go two days in a row, then it would be four (or more) days before I found my way back to the gym. It’s so hard to stay on track. Life gets in the way. But I decided to try really hard not to go more than two days between gym visits. I’ve been there four out of the last seven days.

Within the past week, I’ve noticed a major difference in the way I felt, both physically and emotionally. I woke up last Saturday and already felt so full of energy and had a noticeably positive attitude. It made me realize the truly negative impact my bad habits can have on my well-being. There have been many times in the past I’ve decided to make healthier choices, but this is the first time I’ve seen direct and positive results. I think I stand half a chance of sticking with it this time.

And besides, as it turns out, my family actually likes my cooking! Go figure!

Reasons why I'm impressed with myself

First, I bowled a 195 last night! 195! Can you believe that? That’s my highest score ever! The pins; they just kept on falling! Of course, we were bowling just for fun. Do you think I can pull off a score like that in leagues? Probably not. I have this habit of showing up for leagues and forgetting what I did right.

Also, I had the grocery shopping done by 9:00 and dinner made before noon. It’s 11:40 a.m. and I have dinner made. A real dinner. With vegetables and everything! It’s a broccoli-chicken casserole kind of thing with slivered almonds. It just needs to go in the oven later on.

I don’t know what’s going on with me, but I like it!

Actually, I kind of know what’s going on with me. I’ve been working hard at eating better, avoiding junk food and exercising more consistently. And we all know I have that “plenty of sleep” thing pretty well covered. It’s amazing what these improved habits are doing for my motivation and productivity!

I have to go now. My arm hurts from patting myself on the back.

Strikin' and Splittin' and Slippin' and Scratchin'

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a true update on the Ball Busters. So if you’ve been desperately wondering how they are doing lately, today is your lucky day! I have an update.

Since I don’t have any pictures of the actual bowling, I threw in this one of my best buddy, Gina and me. That’s Lou in the background. I was going to crop him out, but he makes for an interesting character so I left him in there. Lou is married to Mary, who bowls in our league. Mary is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and also has the biggest boobs I’ve ever encountered. Lou has a funky eye and I always have to work hard to focus on the good eye when he’s talking to me, which is often because ever since I bumped into Mary and Lou at my local Target store, Lou thinks we’re the best of friends. Lou is a nice guy too and gives me lots of bowling advice and plenty of encouragement when I throw a good frame.

Of course, the team was saddened by the departure of Shannon last week, but Pam, our sub, has stepped up to the challenge and is performing well in Shannon’s absence. And that’s no small feat because Shannon was a pretty consistent bowler with an average near 150.

I did pretty well myself, last week, if you don’t mind me saying so.  I bowled a 189 and a 146 and a… ahemcough…125. So, that 125 fell below my 135 average, but I think I more than made up for it with the 189 game. And that 189 landed me in last week’s top scores listing for scratch game and handicap game. (I don’t really know what either of those things means, just that I done good!)

This week started out, shall we say… interesting for the Ball Busters. While warming up, Alishea’s foot stuck and she fell into the lane. For those who may be unaware, those bowling lanes are covered in oil. Alishea had to crawl her way out of the lane as there is no way to maintain a standing position once you’re in the oil. That stuff is slickery! I’m sure there have been many a bruised butt-cheek for those whose feet were unfortunate enough to cross the foul line. After Alishea’s crawl back to safety, there was an oily trail of hand and footprints to clean up with some napkins once we determined that the only damage she suffered was to her dignity.

Things went well for us again Monday night. I bowled a 144, a 166 and … I forget. Maybe a 150-something. I think we won. I’m not sure. I was too busy having fun.

One of the guys in the men’s league bowling next to us had a t-shirt on that said, “Did you get your nookie today? I did.” It was an advertisement of some sort, but for what, I never figured out. It just made me laugh.

And the Ball Busters are in first place… for the time being!

WOOT! WOOT!

Cutie Patootie

My nephew, Ryan turned one year old this month. Kacey, Jake and I attended his birthday celebration on Sunday.

Ryan is SO adorable and he’s all boy! He has not only mastered the art of walking, but he’s got a pretty good grip on running. He looks quite comical racing across the living room with his fluffy little diaper butt filling up the back side of his little jeans.

Ryan looks amazingly like my Jake looked at one year, with his wispy blonde hair and huge blue eyes, not to mention a set of chubby, chubby cheeks just like Jake used to have.

Wasn’t Jake a cutie?

I’m such a sucker for babies. More than once, I reached out and snatched Ryan into my arms as he was running full force past where I was sitting. Then I’d talk baby nonsense to him and blow zerberts on his rosy little cheeks until he belly laughed with joy. He’d pretend to want to escape the mad-zerbert auntie, but then would not-so-subtly jam his chubby little cheek right back against my mouth, grabbing handfuls of my hair and throwing his head back in laughter .

Ryan’s gifts included bunches of the cutest clothing and lots of noisemaking toys. He really wasn’t interested in opening his gifts, though. He was content to pluck the bows off his packages, then examine them thoroughly and do his best to rip them apart. In the meantime, his 5-year-old sister, Ellie, made sure the presents were opened.

One is such a wondrous age. Spending time with Ryan made me miss those baby days with my own kids. Time flies… too quickly sometimes.

Important life skills?

I love the way Kacey shares snippets of her days with me. Sometimes it seems as if there is nothing in particular that has triggered her thoughts and some of her best stories simply come forth very randomly.

Saturday was a mellow day at our house. There were no volleyball tournaments to attend. No errands that absolutely had to be run. The kids helped with the weekly cleaning. Then while I chipped away at a mountain of laundry, they played the new Wii Sports Resort game.

I think it was while we were cooking dinner that one such random story made its way to the forefront of Kacey’s thoughts and she felt compelled to share with me. She was mixing up some green bean casserole to go along with our main dish of seasoned tilapia when the story began…

It was SO cold in Chemistry class on Friday.

Mmmm-hmmm…

Miss Hei let us light the bunsen burners to stay warm.

Really!

People kept asking if they could light stuff on fire. Someone asked if they could light a piece of paper on fire. I think it was Brandon V.  Miss Hei wouldn’t let him. Someone else asked if they could light a pen on fire, but she said no to that too.

What’s with these kids? Do they seriously think the teacher would let them light things on fire just for the heck of it?

Well, sometimes she does let us light things on fire, if we have a legitimate reason.

Such as?

Like if we wanted to know what would happen if you light a pencil eraser on fire. Sometimes she’ll let us do it so we can see the effect.

I don’t remember learning such things when I was in high school. The most fascinating thing I got to do was look at a cremated body through a thick, clear plastic bag in my Death and Dying class. (It was a required religion course. I went to a Catholic high school.) I remember seeing a zipper. I guess when they cremate you, they keep your clothes on! I’m not sure what value this knowledge holds in my day-to-day life, but it was intriguing at the time. And it leads me to wonder…

Is knowing what happens when a pencil eraser goes up in flames an important life skill for kids today?

Of rain, ice and temporarily misplacing one of the kids

Mark’s alarm clock went off at six o’clock this morning. He was due at work in one hour.

Mark’s morning routine is simple and quick. He doesn’t putz around the house the way I do before work. He just does his thing and goes. He got dressed and brushed his teeth, tossed on a jacket and headed out to the garage in his typical morning haze. He started up the truck and backed out. It was immediately clear to him that the previous day’s forecast of rain had been correct. It had most definitely rained, and in addition, the temperatures had dropped, transforming our driveway into a down-hill skating rink. A mild panic settled over Mark as the truck slid sideways down the icy driveway. The mild panic soon transformed into an intense panic as the truck slid past the spot where Jake’s car is normally parked. The car was not there.

I can only imagine what crossed Mark’s mind as the realization hit him that our son had not come home from work last night. It is not uncommon for Jake to work until 1:00 a.m. and we are usually sound asleep when he gets home. We’ve often joked about how we sleep like the dead and our kids could come in at any hour of the night and we’d be none the wiser. Even when they wake us to tell us they are home, I rarely remember it the next day. I’m sure the joke suddenly didn’t seem funny at all as Mark thought about the fact that Jake had never returned home the previous night and we had never even noticed. Where was Jake? Had he gone home with a coworker by chance and maybe fallen asleep? Was he lying in a ditch somewhere? (And why do the ditches always get blamed when someone doesn’t get home at night? How did ditches get such a bad reputation?)

Mark’s truck slid to a stop at the end of the driveway and he reached for his cell phone, dialing Jake’s phone as quickly as he could. After a few rings, Jake answered his phone, sounding groggy.

Hello?

Where are you???

In bed….Where are you?

In the driveway.

Oh. Why are you calling me?

I was worried because I thought you didn’t come home last night. Where is your car?

It was icy when I got off work. I couldn’t get the car up the driveway, so I drove it over to Nanna’s house. I parked in her driveway and walked home. (Nanna’s house is a block away.)

Oh. Okay. Go back to sleep.

Several hours later, I awoke lazily after a good night’s sleep, totally unaware of what had transpired in the early morning hours. The house was still quiet. Deciding to go to the gym first thing, I put on some workout clothes and tiptoed upstairs so as not to wake anyone. As I passed the living room, I heard the quiet sound of the television and noticed Jake sleeping soundly on the love seat in front of Saturday morning cartoons. Next, I noticed a series of Post-It notes stuck to the kitchen doorway (which has become the family message center as of late.) On the notes, in Jake’s writing, it said, “I tried and tried to get the car up the driveway, but I couldn’t. It was too icy. It’s parked in Nanna’s driveway.”

Clearly, Mark had never seen the note.

I peeked out the living room window, through the yards that separate my house from my parents’ house. Their driveway is just barely visible from my front window in the winter, when all the leaves have fallen from the tree in my front yard. There was Jake’s car, just where his note said it would be.

Assuming he had just had trouble falling asleep in his own room, as he often does, I left Jake in the living room and slipped out of the house, only learning of his temporary misplacement later, when Mark called and relayed the story to me.

I’ll bet Mark starts doing bedroom checks in the early morning hours before he leaves the house from now on!

Let your kids be just who they are

Shannon asked me for kid advice today. She sometimes does that, even though we both have three kids. Her oldest is thirteen. My youngest is sixteen. So I guess between the two of us, that makes me the more seasoned veteran.

I guess she was feeling a little uncertain about the way she deals with her thirteen year old daughter, Emily. One of our co-workers knows Shannon and her husband and kids on a more personal level, and has spent much time with them outside of the office. (This coworker happens to be the same one who likes to coach me on how I should dress.) She can be generous and means well most of the time, but has a habit of overstepping her bounds when it comes to giving advice.

Shannon is a GREAT mom. I admire her patient and loving approach with her kids. She didn’t really need me to tell her she’s a great mom, but I guess today she just needed some reassurance.

The coworker came to Shannon and wanted to know if Emily would be attending the upcoming middle-school dance. Shannon wasn’t even aware of the dance. Emily wasn’t planning to go. She has never been much for attending school social events. And Shannon doesn’t push her to. Why make her do something she doesn’t want to do?

The coworker made Shannon feel that if she knew what was best for her daughter, she would encourage her to attend the dance. She felt as if Shannon were doing Emily a great disservice by not forcing her to be more social with her peers and that down the road, Emily might lack very important social skills because she didn’t attend a middle school dance.

Shannon shares a lot of the same worries and frustrations, and questions her parenting at times in the same way I have been known to do with my Jake. Emily and Jake are both unique people, marching to the beat of their own drums at times. Great kids, but they keep their parents guessing!

The thing is, it always amazes me when Shannon seeks my parenting advice. Yes, my son struggles with academics and has never had the least bit of interest in anything school related. I’ve spent my share of time in teachers’ faces, in meetings with a case-worker, just trying to make sure my son graduated high school. And he did and I was SO proud of him! I’ve often wondered what goes through that head of his, and I’ve often worried if he’ll be okay in life. He will, I know. At eighteen, I am finally starting to see him break out of his shell and begin to embrace life. He’s going to be fine, but he’ll keep me worrying all along the way. I know it.

Emily is much like Jake in many ways and yet, she is amazing in completely different ways. Emily was born with Spina-Bifida. (Spina Bifida is a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord. There are two types of Spina Bifida, and from what I have read, I believe Emily has the most severe form.) I’ve met Emily on two occasions. The first time was at a friend’s son’s high school graduation party. Emily would have been about ten years old and the time and she and I clicked right away.  We talked and talked. It was chilly that evening and rainy. We sat out in the yard in an enclosed canopy with the rain falling steadily outside. Emily wore my jean jacket because she was cold. Shannon tells me Emily has always remembered that. I saw her again recently when Shannon brought all three of her kids to watch us bowl. Again, Emily and I talked with ease. She’s a great kid.

Emily does not have a normal life in the way that most of us know normalcy. She can walk, with braces on her legs, but it is difficult for her, especially when she’s trying to navigate a middle school hallway filled with throngs of teenagers racing from one place to the next. Emily has chosen to use a wheelchair at school and when the family goes on outings involving extensive walking. Many times, she has to enjoy life in a different way than her friends and siblings. Recently, Shannon fought with the city to allow Emily to have her wheelchair on a public ice skating rink. She wanted to enjoy the ice rink with her siblings. Shannon won that fight!

Emily has difficulties with her studies. She’s a homebody and is content to hang out at home with her parents and siblings, watching t.v. and playing video games. These are the similarities she shares with Jake.

Shannon expressed her frustration to me about the advice offered by our coworker. She said she could force Emily to attend school social events, or she could allow her to skip them if that were her choice. “In the end,” she said, “She’s going to be the person she’s going to be. I can force her to go to a dance and there will be cliques of kids each hanging out in their own corners. And the kids who feel like outcasts are still going to feel like outcasts. Why should I subject her to that?”

I agreed with her. She seemed to need that affirmation. I told her how Brad had a very tight circle of friends in his high school years, as well as a huge crowd of fringe friends. He was always going to someone’s house, to a dance, to a game. I then explained how Jake literally had two best friends during his high school years. He rarely attended dances or other social events and spent many evenings, content at home. Kacey, however, has several very good friends as well as a wide circle of friends, both at her own school and at another neighboring school. Rare is the evening when she stays home doing nothing. (At least not willingly.)

Three kids, raised in the same home, with the same parents and the same set of rules and the same encouragement all turned out so differently from one another. I assured Shannon that there were many times I worried that Jake was too much of a loner, but as the years passed by, I accepted that he was happy with the way things were. He wasn’t depressed, didn’t seem to feel excluded. It’s not that he didn’t get invited to parties or events. He’s just an introvert, content in his own company a lot of the time.

Shannon wanted to know if I worry more about Jake than I do about my other two kids. I admitted that I do, at times. I think because he was so much of an introvert, he was exposed to less during his high school years. He was never in a situation where other kids were making poor choices about drinking or drugs. He wasn’t exposed to situations where his peers might have had to face consequences for their bad decisions. I do worry that now that he’s spreading his wings, he’s going to come across stuff like this much later than most and I worry because I don’t know how he’ll handle it. Will he follow the crowd or think for himself? I can only continue to talk to him, and all my kids, and hope for the best. Everyone makes mistakes. I just hope that the ones my kids make aren’t life altering mistakes.

I think all parents worry about their kids in one way or another. No matter how much they grow up, no matter how many successes they realize, there will still be times that we as parents worry about our babies. In trying to assure Shannon that she was doing the right thing by allowing Emily to be who she is, I reminded myself that it’s okay that my own kids aren’t carbon copies of one another. They are each their own, unique, individual wonderful selves. Just like Emily. She doesn’t have to go to a school dance just because attending dances is somebody else’s idea of normal.

I don’t know for sure, but I have a strong suspicion that Shannon went home, and it was business as usual. Shannon makes a habit of telling all of her kids that they are special and wonderful people. And I know they are going to grow up to be amazing adults because their mom never lets them forget for a minute that they are a gift to her. They don’t have to fit into some “perfect kid” mold. They are perfect just as they are. Even if eleven year old Dylan had a bad day because he didn’t get to ask that special girl to be his girlfriend and some kid called him fat, I’m pretty sure his mom will make sure he falls asleep tonight knowing that he is just right the way he is.

All kids should be so lucky. Maybe the well-meaning coworker wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

Life is Good – January 21, 2010

Well, this week kind of slipped on by while I wasn’t looking!

The wheels are finally starting to turn again at work. I’ve been busy helping “clean house” as we pack away the remnants of our former business and begin to make room for a new venture which will go live in about three weeks. I’m looking forward to days in which I feel productive and useful again, and don’t feel like I’m watching the clock all day long. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that my employer managed to keep us all on over the last two years while we tried to figure out our direction, but it sure was hard to sit there some days with absolutely nothing to do. I prefer to stay busy and I’m so excited about being involved in this new phase.

The Ball Busters are doing well again. We’re back in second place after slipping down to fourth for a little while. (I bowled a 189 on Monday! That’s huge for me!) Shannon quit the team, which really sucks. She simply had one too many things going on in her life and she felt as if she wasn’t doing justice to her family, so bowling had to go. (It wasn’t a decision she made lightly. She cried when she broke the news to me! I told her not to feel bad and I completely understood.) One of our subs graciously stepped in to take over for Shannon on a permanent basis, so it worked out okay. But we’re going to miss Shannon on the team. Luckily, I still get to sit near her every day at work, so I can’t be too upset. She keeps me entertained all day long with stories such as how she embarrassed herself when she had to poop at work and the boss came in the ladies’ room right after Shannon finished. I love that she tells me stuff like that! Cracks me up.

I made it to the gym a couple of nights this week. On Wednesday, I left work with a raging headache. Later in the evening, it was still hanging on, but I thought if I got my muscles working, maybe it would ease up. Bad idea. It didn’t. I ended up walking instead of running. The only cure for the headache was to sleep it off. I went back to the gym again tonight and was able to put in a good run on the treadmill. My gym has televisions hanging from the ceiling and you can tune your mp3 to the that station so you can watch and listen while you run, or stair climb or pedal or whatever. One night I watched Law and Order while I ran. Sure makes the time pass faster when my mind is preoccupied like that instead of watching the timer on the treadmill.

We started exploring options for our kitchen cabinets this week. I really wanted to just refinish or reface them. I don’t want to sink a huge chunk of change into this project. But Mark had other ideas and called a cabinet-maker. This morning Scott came over to take some measurements and discuss possibilities. Of course he made it all sound very exciting. He had some great ideas for making the space in the kitchen so much more usable. And let me just say that he had me right there, because my kitchen sucks. And I’d really love to have more usable space, but what I also realized during the consultation was this. I’m going to need a new floor. I’m going to need a new sink and faucet. And not because I might get new cabinets, but just because it’s time, I also will need a new stove and refrigerator. All of a sudden, my little kitchen remodel is turning into a major, major project. It’s stressing me out already. I guess I can’t worry too much until the estimate comes in, and then we’ll see.

This week has been a whirlwind. I’m looking forward to a mellow weekend and getting caught up again.

No wins, but we had fun anyway

It was another frustrating tournament for the volleyball girls. They played well today, but just couldn’t pull off a win no matter how hard they tried. They won a couple of matches, but getting an entire game under their belts was not to be.

I was proud of Kacey today. She loves volleyball. She likes to play hard and she wants to win. She could have allowed all of the losses to dampen her spirits, but she dug deep and kept a positive attitude. It went a long way in motivating the other girls too. Even when it was all said and done and it was time to go home without anything to show for their efforts, they looked tired, but not defeated. Good girls. They’ll get it together soon enough and their efforts will pay off.

Sharing some encouragement before the game

Having fun and showing off those beautiful smiles

Goofing off between games

“Head Bump!”

The hotel, as I mentioned before, had some history. Our room had a brochure that told all about it. I was wrong when I said that the hotel used to be a hospital. It has always been a hotel. But when it first opened, the third floor was a medical facility with an operating room and patient rooms. And it was on the third floor that we stayed.  The bathroom was the most obvious sign of our room’s previous purpose – a typical hospital bathroom if I ever saw one.

I found this feature in our bathroom particularly intriguing. It clearly hasn’t been used for years. I peeked inside and all I could see was dust and dirt.

One of the many hallways on our floor had a hospital feel to it as well… Maybe it was those wheelchairs?

Does anyone else find this reminiscent of The Shining?

The pool was located on the 11th floor and was only accessible by taking the elevator to the 10th floor and then walking up a flight of stairs (in a stairwell that had a very disturbing smell, I might add. The girls insisted it was haunted and smelled like old ladies. I’m not sure what old ladies smell like. To me it smelled like burnt pizza.) I was stupid and didn’t think to bring my camera along when we visited the pool. It was beautiful, enclosed in a dome that allowed the night sky to be seen from below, and surrounded with windows that provided a spectacular view of downtown.

I love being in places where you can literally feel the ghosts of the past all around you. That’s how I felt at the Kahler Grand Hotel.

One of several restaurants in the hotel.

The wig shop located just above the main lobby. The girls were creeped-out by the mannequins. It occurred to me that this shop is probably very successful considering what is located across the street from the hotel:

And yes, we could have stayed in any number of the “usual” hotels. There was a Days Inn and a Holiday Inn, both within sight of The Kahler, but I’d be willing to bet that those hotels couldn’t boast of playing host to famous guests like the Kahler did.

And my kid has never felt compelled to play in the closets at those other hotels either.

Ahhh, but it’s good to be home again.