Meeting Kim

I am so lucky. For the second time this month, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a blog friend in person!

I first “met” Kim in my early days of blogging and we became fast friends. I liked Kim immediately for her positive attitude and ability to see the silver lining in any situation. In fact, she is the one who inspired me to write those weekly “Life is Good” posts, which I no longer write, which is not a reflection whatsoever on the state of my life. It is merely a reflection on my inability to stick with any kind of writing routine.

Kim writes the blog Worn Out Woman. She writes there rather infrequently these days, but who could blame her since she’s actually become a published author? Yep, you heard me right. Kim wrote a whole book! An amazing book! I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Kylie which is now on its way to becoming a Hallmark movie! You should totally get yourself a copy and read it. (Shameless plug for my friend’s book, I know.)

I have communicated with Kim online for years now. We’ve texted one another, kept up on Facebook, and have talked on the phone. But this was the first we’ve had a chance to meet. It was all very spur-of-the-moment, but we made it work! Kim was in town on business and when we figured out her hotel was a mere 20 minutes from me, we decided to get together.

Obligatory fuzzy cell-phone picture taken by our very bubbly waitress

I picked up Kim at her hotel and we made a quick drive over to the Mall of America where we found a place to eat. I couldn’t tell you the name of the restaurant. All I can tell you is that Kim and I took turns talking non-stop for the entire time we were together. We realized how much we have in common and it was so comfortable spending time with her, it was if I’d known her forever!

After dinner, we walked around the mall a bit, picked up a gift of Legos for her little guy at home, and proceeded to get lost while trying to find our way back out of the mall. Don’t worry. We weren’t lost for too long before things began to look familiar and we found our way to the place we’d first entered. Too soon, I was dropping Kim back at her hotel and we were saying goodbye. I feel like there wasn’t nearly enough time. I have so much more to tell her and there’s so much more I want to know about her. So I guess we’re just going to have to make this happen again!

How I Embarrassed Myself at the Bowling Alley and Still Managed to Have Fun

So last night was bowling night, right? Which means I was in a pretty good mood because we all know how much I love bowling. This summer league that I’m in is a challenging league because we are bowling on oil patterns that change every single week. (It’s the Team USA Experience league, if you really want to know.) There’s no getting familiar with a particular oil pattern because next week there will be a different one.

Side note for those who are less bowling-enthused than I am. A bowling lane always has a layer of oil on it. In a normal bowling league, or when you’re just bowling for fun, you bowl on a “house shot.” With a house shot, the oil is always applied the same way. In my summer league, we are bowling on a “sport shot” which means that there’s not a standard pattern. The oil is applied in varying patterns. To make things even more challenging, the patterns grow longer every week ranging from 33 feet to 47 feet. The longer the oil pattern, the less likely your ball is to go where you would normally expect it to go. So you have to figure out how to compensate for the oil by changing lines or using different wrist positions.

… or something like that.

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah… So I’m not a spectacular bowler on a good night on the house shot, much less on a sport shot. But that’s not the point. We all know by now that I do this because I just love the game. I arrived last night early enough to bowl a warm up game and found that for whatever reason, I was doing pretty well on the new oil pattern. I was way excited to get the official games underway. So when we were given the go-ahead to start bowling, I was one of the first, if not the first person to approach my lane and start throwing.

I lined myself up, balanced my ball, and began my approach.

Another piece of information any non-bowling geeks will need to know is that the shoes you wear for bowling have sliding pads on the bottom of them. As you approach the lane and start throwing your ball, you should slide forward slightly on your front foot while releasing your ball. That is, of course, you should slide forward unless something happens to prevent your foot from sliding. Something like stepping in some spilled droplets of water will stop you from sliding. And I mean, your foot will come to a dead halt. Which isn’t good when you’re trying to put some momentum behind a fourteen pound bowling ball.

How do I know this? I know this because I learned something new about bowling last night. I learned that when you step in the droplets of water, which fell from Dave’s tall beer (Substitute Dave, not Preacher Dave who was unable to join us last night due to having to coach his daughter’s soccer team) and then you do your normal thing and try to slide your foot forward as you’re releasing your fourteen pound ball, not only does your ball fly into the lane, but so will you!

So there I was, sprawled on all fours in the middle of my lane. I could feel the oil on my hands (ick!) but more importantly, I could feel my face turning scarlet. I crawled/turned my body around so that I was facing away from the lane. I sat on my knees trying desperately not to see how many people might be gawking at me. I looked up at Substitute Dave from my position on the floor and asked, “How did I do?”

“Pretty good,” he said. “Turn around and look!”

So I did. A strike! Not only had I thrown my own body down the lane, but I’d managed to bowl a strike while doing so. Not that it mattered because throwing yourself into the lane is called a “foul” and that means your throw didn’t count.

Fudge. Only I didn’t say “fudge.” I said the F blank blank blank word. Preacher Dave really wanted our team name this year to be “Eff” in honor of the frequent spewing of that word and/or any of it’s derivatives, but that’s a story for another day.

Oh, well. It wasn’t the most promising start to an evening of bowling competition, but I picked myself up, sanded and powdered the bottom of my shoe to make sure that I wouldn’t be spending any more time on all fours in the lane. Dan found a bar rag and a dry cloth and cleaned up the floor in our area. I found some napkins to place under Substitute Dave’s drippy beer glass and it was back to business as usual.

Did I mention Dee? Dee is the woman who was bowling on the opposing team and had, interestingly enough, discovered a single drop of water near our table prior to my first throw and cautioned us all to steer clear. Dee had graciously wiped up the water with a napkin. Little did any of us know that I had mopped up the rest of the water with my foot.

You had no idea that a few drops of water could be so dangerous, did you? I took a little crap from some of the other bowlers who had seen my little escapade, but it was all just good natured ribbing.

Anyway, that humiliating start to the evening had no impact on the rest of the night. I bowled like a rock star, if I do say so myself. (125, 168, 160 and 155 were my scores for the night!) And it was a blast bowling against Dee and her team. Dee is married to Tee and they are a very colorful duo. Dee and Tee are both very friendly… and loud… and Dee likes to stir up the competition. She kept telling Tee, who was bowling opposite me, “Terri’s kickin’ your butt,” or “Terri’s comin’ after ya!”

Tee would just respond, “You still owe me money, Dee. I don’t wanna hear it!” (Apparently they were betting against each other.) Then if Tee and I were approaching our lanes at the same time, he’d say, “I’m comin’ after ya, Terri. Look out!”

I love bowling with people who play to have fun too, not solely for the competition.

Dee cracked me up. She kept her blue tooth in her ear the whole time she was bowling. She told me about her gastric bypass surgery in 2008 when she was 270 pounds at five foot five and how she got down to a size four, but that was too small for her liking, so now she’s an eight. She blamed her bad throws on a gas bubble in her stomach. “Ah cain’t bowl,” she’d shout to all of us. “Ah gotta gas bubble in mah stomach!”

“Don’t let it out around me,” her partner, Tim shot back.

And Dee had a ball she calls “Michael Jordan.” Apparently Michael Jordan is Dee’s secret weapon. And she didn’t actually pronounce it “Michael” Jordan. It was more like, “Mahk – uhl Jordan.” She warned us, “I’m bringin’ out Mahk – uhl Jordan. Look out. Mahk – uhl Jordan gonna help me kick some ass!”

And he did. When Dee bowled with Michael Jordan, she kicked some ass. I turned to Dan and said, “I think my bowling balls need cool names too. What other famous bald guys can you think of?”

“Bruce Willis,” he suggested. “And Mr. Clean.”

So it was settled. My main ball is now Mr. Clean and my spare ball is Bruce Willis. We’re gonna kick some ass.

And I’m going to be extra careful of water on the floor in the future.

And I think I’m going to get Dee to be a sub for my winter league, ’cause she’s just damn fun.

I love bowling.

Melissa’s Gift

Melissa is one of our neighbors. She is 13 years old, which makes her five years younger than Kacey. When Melissa was much younger, maybe five or six years old, she would play with two other neighbor kids who were her age, Caitlin and Josh. Many times, especially when Josh wasn’t around, Melissa and Caitlin would come ring our doorbell and ask if Kacey could come out to play. Kacey was five years older than the little girls, but she was still of an age where she was willing to play with them if she had nothing better to do. I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was cute that the little kids wanted Kacey to play and I thought it was generous of Kacey to humor them the way she did.

Kacey has a way with younger kids, and even back then, she was good with them. Melissa and Caitlin loved it when Kacey would agree to play with them. They played in the pool in our yard, or played school or dolls at Melissa’s house. They rode scooters together and drew chalk pictures on the driveways. But there came a day when Kacey became a teenager, and soon she was busy with friends her own age. I can remember Melissa ringing the doorbell at that time, and when I told her Kacey was busy, her shoulders drooped and she stated forlornly, “Kacey is always too busy to play with us these days.”

I felt bad for Melissa, but I knew it was just the way things were. I took her presence in those days for granted, as one of those people who comes and goes in life; the kind that becomes a brief but happy memory in my mind years down the road. So the years passed by since Melissa stopped ringing our doorbell, and though we still see her around the neighborhood, our contact is mostly limited to waving hello to her has we cross paths. She is 13 years old now and  no longer comes to our door looking for Kacey. Melissa has made friends her own age, plays sports of her own, spends a lot of time on FaceBook and I’m sure she now understands how it was for Kacey when she was that age.

Last week, Mark was doing some shopping at Target and he ran into Melissa and her mom, Kim. Mark and Kim must have been talking about Kacey’s upcoming graduation party, because Melissa told Mark to be sure to tell me that she was out of school for the summer and available to help with the party if I wanted some assistance. I smiled when Mark relayed the message, but really thought Melissa was just being funny. I didn’t really think a 13 year-old would want to hang out and do chores with me, rather than relax and enjoy the summer. I had no intention of actually calling on her for help.

Then the day before the party, I was on FaceBook when a chat message from Kim popped up on the screen. It said, “I’m supposed to remind you that if you need any help getting ready for the party, you can call Melissa. She is sooo bored already.”

“Alright,” I replied. “If she’s truly bored and sincerely wants to help, she is more than welcome. I will call her in the morning.”

And I did. I called Melissa the morning of the party and she told me she’d be right over. For the first time in years, Melissa was hanging out at our house again. She was stuck like glue to Kacey and did everything and anything I asked her to do. She was a godsend and I loved having her here. She left our house only long enough to go home and change clothes for the party and came back with her parents to help us celebrate Kacey’s graduation.

But Melissa did so much more than help us get ready for a big party. She gave Kacey one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever seen. It was a gift truly from the heart and one that shows maturity beyond Melissa’s thirteen years of age. She gave Kacey a hand-made graduation card, and inside, she wrote the story of her friendship with Kacey. I don’t think Kacey will mind at all if I share Melissa’s words. They made us all cry…

Kacey -

Basically this card is of memories that I’ve had with you.

First off, the thing I remember most is what you would call me. Little. I’m not little anymore, but I probably still am in your dictionary, considering the fact that I am ‘littler’ than you still. Just be waiting for that day when I call you little!

I also remember what you would call me and Josh. Love birds. I just want you to know that we never were, and never will be ‘love birds.’

I don’t know how you dealed playing with dolls. You were like twelve and we would play daycare with my dolls. You must’ve really loved me! (You still do, right?)

I also remember the time when we went to your softball game at Skyview. The ice cream truck came by, and your dad (I call him Mr. Mark) bought me ice cream! Every time I had a softball game or practice after that I would look for the ice cream truck. Of course it never came, but when you’re seven you have weird hopes and dreams.

I remember after softball games we would be taken to Dairy Queen by our dads and when we got home we would brag to each other.

We had amazing memories like the Scooter Club, swimming in your pool, jumping on your trampoline, lemonade stands, staying out late, doll house, babies, our fort (in Josh’s garage), etc.

Then one day, you were 13. You became busy with softball and homework and left me and Caitlin and Josh. The next time I saw you was literally 4. years. later.

Now you’re going off to college. I don’t know when I’ll see you next. Probably summer 2012. I’ll definitely miss you like crazy. But I’ll invite you to my wedding so you won’t miss me too much.

Jeez, you never know how great a person in your life is until you don’t see them anymore. (This is referring to both of us! I miss you, and you better miss me!)

Well, there’s basically no room left, so I’m gonna go. But, you know where I live. Come see me sometime.

Melissa F. < – – – – Save this. You’ll need it when I’m famous!

P.S. You can find the money in my parents’ card!

(I love how Melissa made us all laugh with her parting comment, even while we were all crying over the sentiment expressed earlier in her letter!)

I had no idea that my daughter had made such an impact on Melissa’s life. Of course, I think Kacey is wonderful, but I’m slightly biased. Reading Melissa’s words made me cry. Not many people are lucky enough to receive words from the heart the way Kacey did from Melissa. I saw Melissa the next day at another neighbor’s graduation party and I made sure to give her a big hug and tell her how amazing she was. I told her that her words were beautiful and precious and that I wanted to put her letter in a frame for Kacey and hang it on a wall where she could always see it and remember what a special friend she had in Melissa.

Melissa smiled and looked embarrassed. I don’t think she has any idea what a beautiful and heartfelt thing she did for Kacey. One thing is for sure. I will never take Melissa for granted again. I will make every effort to keep her a part of our lives. People like Melissa are a rare and precious gift and Kacey is very fortunate to know her. I hope that years down the road, the difference in their ages ceases to matter and they truly become lifelong friends.

A Successful Grad Party and Back to Life as Usual

Well, we made it through Kacey’s graduation party! Everything seemed to fall into place to make for a very successful celebration. Too successful maybe. There were two roasters full of meat, one with roast beef au jus, and one with shredded turkey. The party was planned to go from 5:00 until 9:00 p.m. We ran out of the meats around 7:30. I was horrified! Never in a million years had I imagined we’d run out of food! I’ve prepared all of these foods before, for Brad’s graduation party. And I made more this time around! I wasn’t sure what to do until a friend offered to leave the party and go pick up something to offer in place of the meats. I didn’t want to ask one of our guests to leave, so Brad and Heather offered to run out to buy deli meats so we could offer sandwiches to anyone else still wanting to eat. The kitchen got quiet as soon as they left and I thought I’d sent them on a needless errand, but it’s a good thing I did. We filled a big platter with deli meats when they returned. Another wave of people came through to eat and those too eventually ran out. Almost all of the bars and cake were eaten. Most of the cole slaw and three-quarters of the potato salad were consumed as well. The only thing we had plenty of leftovers of was the fruit!

Even though I was embarrassed to have run out of food, I found out later that the reason wasn’t necessarily because I’d underestimated how much we would need. It turns out people were eating a lot! One neighbor told me it was the best food she’d ever eaten at a graduation party. Brad, who was busy in the kitchen with Heather keeping all of the foods replenished, said that quite a few people came back for second and third helpings and were taking two sandwiches at a time. I guess I can be glad that the food was well received!

It turned out to be a beautiful evening. It was warm and sunny and the rain held off.  There were people everywhere, in the front yard, in the house and out on the deck. The back yard was filled with Kacey’s high school friends. We were lucky we had chosen Friday evening for our party. It started raining Saturday morning and didn’t stop all day.

We had such a good time seeing all of our friends and relatives. I never did have a chance to eat anything as I was too busy talking, then checking on food supplies, and then talking some more. I had the best of intentions for taking pictures of the big event, but not surprisingly, I got caught up in entertaining and socializing and only managed to get a few photos.

The Cake

Andi, Kacey and Haley - best friends!

Kacey with two of her favorite softball coaches, Kristin and Steve

Kacey with her 14-year-old cousin, Zach and Jake. She's pouting because she's the short one now.

Me with some of my favorite coworkers

My brother and Connor goofing off with Brad

Kacey and her friends had a bonfire in the back yard after the majority of our guests had gone. Several of our own friends stayed late and had a few beers with Mark and me, and the last of them left just after midnight. The party went off so much better than I could have hoped for and we all fell into bed exhausted when it was over.

I feel like I’ve been out of the loop lately with my only focus being this graduation party. It was fun, but I’m glad it’s over. I’m ready to get back to routine and catch up with all of you again.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about a very special friend of Kacey’s and the wonderful way she honored their friendship on Kacey’s special day.

I think I’m ready…

Friday is here already. I’ve spent the entire week preparing for Kacey’s graduation party and I awoke this morning to what looks to be a beautiful day. For the past week, Johnny Raincloud (aka Mark) has insisted on reporting the likelihood of rain for the day. I would love for him to be proven wrong. (I just checked weather.com. The forecast calls for a high of 80 and isolated thunderstorms. Let’s hope those thunderstorms isolate themselves anywhere not over my house!)

I feel out of touch with everything else going on right now. My whole focus this week has been this party. The food is ready, as well it should be. I’ve probably spent more time in my kitchen this week than I do in a normal month! I’ve cooked six chuck roasts and four turkey breasts for shredded beef au jus and hot turkey sandwiches. Forty pounds of potatoes were made into potato salad. I had Heather and Kacey’s help with peeling and dicing potatoes. Heather says if she never sees another potato again, it will be too soon. After we were done putting it all together, I looked at the amount of potato salad and said to Mark, “I think I may have overdone it on the potato salad. “I think you might have underestimated,” he said. He loves my potato salad, but I think he’s forgetting that there will be more to eat than just potato salad.

The three-bean hot dish just needs to be mixed and heated in a crock pot. I hosted a fruit-cutting party last night. My mom, friend Megan, Heather and I cut up loads of strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe and watermelon. It was so good to have the help and the work seemed to go quickly as we talked and laughed together.

When I wasn’t preparing food this week, I washed all the windows in the house, cleaned carpets and did all of that spring cleaning kind of stuff. Kacey asked why I was washing window valances. “Who is going to be looking at the window valances???” I told her I wasn’t worried that guests would be assessing the cleanliness of our window valances. I just had to do all this stuff while the spirit was moving me.

Today, all that’s left to do is clean the bathrooms and kitchen and then set up for the party. Mark and Brad will be picking up orders of buns, cake, coleslaw, beer and the tables and chairs we rented. Our neighbor, Melissa who is 13 years old keeps reminding us she’s available to help. School is out and she’s bored already. Last night I was on FaceBook for a moment and a chat message popped up from Melissa’s mom saying, “I’m supposed to remind you that if you need any help tomorrow, Melissa is willing. She is sooo bored.”

I think I’ll take her up on the offer. It will be good for Melissa’s boredom and good for my sanity to have someone willing to do some of this stuff.

The only real glitch so far? A self-inflicted rash all over my body. I had a moment of vanity on Monday that I would later regret. As I left the shower, I noticed a bottle of self-tanning lotion sitting on the vanity. I had bought it for Kacey to use before prom and there was some left over. I’ve used self-tanning lotion in the past, but not this particular brand. I generously rubbed it all over my skin and all was well until I woke up the next morning covered in an itchy rash. It’s not horrendous. You probably wouldn’t really notice unless I pointed it out, but I know it’s there. I took some Benadryl before bed last night, hoping it would help. All it did was knock me out cold and I woke up too late to go work out at the gym this morning, which I was really hoping to do so that I could start my day stress-free. It has eased up some, but is still present today. Lovely. I should probably go see a doctor, but there’s no time.

So, the party goes on tonight. Rain or shine, we’ll be celebrating Kacey’s very successful completion of her high school career. Tomorrow, we can go back to life as usual.

Party Preparation

I was up early this morning, doing stuff in the kitchen. Brad got up for work about an hour later and wandered sleepily into the kitchen.

“Mommy,” he said, (Mommy?) “I tweaked my shoulder getting out of bed. Can you rub it a little bit?”

Makes me smile when the kids call me “Mommy.” Every once in a while, it slips out and I see a shadow of the former child inside of them. So I gave my 22 year-old burly boy a little shoulder rub and he felt better, then wrapped me up in a big bear hug. That’s another thing that makes me smile – getting a big hug from a kid who’s now much bigger than I am, but still so sweet inside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m off work this week, preparing for Kacey’s graduation party. I’m a seasoned veteran now, having thrown two of these shindigs for the boys in recent years. I remember my own graduation party, way back in the day. It was a warm, early summer day. There were Sloppy Joes and baked beans, some salads, I’m sure, and a small cake. There were a couple of picnic tables in the back yard and some lawn chairs and the guests consisted of the extended family, neighbors and a few friends from school. The festivities were wrapped up by early evening. It was a much simpler affair than the parties that go on these days.

I’ve started thinking of this month as graduation season. We’ve been invited to 17 parties and Kacey will attend many more than that, being the social butterfly that she is. The kids invite everyone to their graduation celebrations via FaceBook these days, and they tend to travel in bunches going from one friend’s party to the next. Mark and I have attended a few parties already ourselves and it’s fun to see what everyone does with food and decorating. Most everyone puts together some sort of display with photos of the guest of honor spanning from birth to graduation, and showcasing various awards for academic or athletic achievements. But I can’t help but think what a production a graduation party has become! Many people have their parties catered and go all out. Personally, I’m making myself a little nuts wondering if I’ll have enough food. I’m making most of it myself – shredded beef and turkey for sandwiches, potato salad and three-bean hot dish. Several people have offered to make bars for the occasion. I’ll be cutting up lots of fruit, buying cole slaw from Mark’s favorite restaurant and buying a cake from a local bakery.

These parties have become such big events! As I talk with others whose kids are graduating this year, I know that we’re all stressing out trying to put on a great party. Personally, I’ll worry about the house being clean, only to have people coming and going all day long and have it end up looking like a bomb went off inside anyway!

The grad party is a good excuse though to tackle home improvement projects that tend to get put off otherwise. With all the improvements we’ve done inside the house over the last few years, (i.e. kitchen remodel) we’ve really focused on the outside stuff the last couple of months. I’ve been wanting to buy a canopy for our deck and this party was my motivation to finally do it. We get so much sun there, and it gets so hot, that no one spends any time there. The deck ended up being my pet project this spring and I have to say I’m quite proud of how it turned out. It’s got a fresh coat of stain (thanks mostly to Mark, though we all took a turn with a paint brush) and the new canopy provides nice shade while still allowing an enjoyable amount of sunshine. Yesterday I planted some flowers in pots to put out there and then I strung white lights around the interior. It looks so cool after dark! I’ve named my little project “The Tiki Room.” I don’t know why. It was a joke, but once I started calling it that, the name  stuck. Brad, Kacey and I inaugurated the Tiki Room, eating our dinner out there last evening!

The Tiki Room

So this is what I’m doing with a week off. May not sound like much fun, but I’m enjoying being home, forgetting about work for a while, and being able to see the kids more as they come and go. By the end of this week, the party will happen, rain or shine, ready or not. It will be another busy weekend as we have two neighbors and a few other long-time friends throwing graduation parties this weekend as well. It will be fun to see everyone and celebrate together, and afterwards, we’ll be able to slow down a bit and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Until then, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the kitchen!

If you ever have the chance to meet a blog friend in person, DO IT!

I got to meet a blog friend! I got to meet de-I (which is short for de-Intimidator.) I also got to meet Mrs. de-I, who, funny enough, actually has a name! It’s hard to tell from de-I’s blog that Mrs. de-I actually has a name because when he writes, he refers to her as Wife.

It all started with an email from de-I containing a subject line stating, Dinner opportunity in the Twin Cities. This was immediately intriguing to me because I just so happen to live in the Twin Cities! de-I went on to explain that he and Mrs. de-I would be in Wisconsin for Mrs. de-I’s family reunion the week of June 6th and that it would be practical for them to stop by my place on June 10th to cook dinner for me and the family if I was interested. (I didn’t realize until much later that this “practical” stopping over meant a four-hour drive!)

You’re probably wondering why one of my blog friends whom I’ve never met in person would offer to drive four hours to cook dinner in my kitchen. Well, there’s a very good reason. de-I cooks. And I don’t mean that he cooks like I cook which mainly consists of the use of a crock-pot (on a good day) or frozen pizza (on a less good day.) de-I cooks really good stuff. Like gourmet stuff. Like really impressive looking stuff with mouth-watering descriptions. This talent for cooking is a staple of the de-I blog and these posts come with pictures of said food. I have a sort of standard comment that I leave whenever I read one of these cooking posts. It goes something like this: I’m hungry now. That looks SO good. If you ever happen to be in the same vicinity as me, you’d best plan on cooking something for me. 

How was I to know that de-I would take my comments to heart?

de-I and I share something a little deeper than my envy of his cooking talents though. We’re kidney donor buddies. You see, I “met” de-I when I started writing about the possibility of donating a kidney to my dad a few years ago. de-I had donated a kidney to his sister just a few months prior and he became my pal while the months went by until the kidney donation became a reality for me and my dad. Donating a kidney was one of the most profound events in my life. And de-I was there to encourage and support me. I had much love and support from friends and family during that time, but no one really knew all of the emotions I was feeling. de-I knew what I was going through. He’d been there before me and he understood. We’ve been friends ever since.

So when the proposal to meet came along, I knew immediately that I wanted to make it work. Of course, Mark wasn’t so immediately certain of his willingness to go along with this, but it didn’t take long for him to agree. He saw how important it was to me and so he got on board. de-I and Mrs. de-I later explained that Mrs. de-I felt the same sort of hesitation as Mark, but also agreed to go along with the plan. I am so grateful!

The get-together was planned for last Friday. I had taken the day off to clean house and prepare and as the hours passed, I found myself growing a little nervous. I’d periodically ask Mark, “Are you nervous?”

“No. Why?”

“I’m a little nervous,” I’d say.

But soon enough, de-I and Mrs. de-I arrived and my case of the nerves melted away! We all hugged hello and soon we were carrying groceries into the kitchen and de-I was explaining what was to transpire. Everyone had a hand in the meal and/or dessert, and believe me, it was all to die for!

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I was tasked with making a pound cake ahead of time, in preparation for the dessert. Other than that, all of the food was prepared after the de-Is arrived. (You’ll have to forgive me because I can’t remember the names of most of the dishes, maybe because I was too busy trying to keep from drooling over them.) Mark chopped fresh herbs, and then some bacon. I grated cheese and chopped onion and garlic. Mrs. de-I made a fresh peach topping and home-made whipped cream for dessert. de-I was a maniac at the stove, stirring, sauteing and boiling. He filled us in on the nuances of his cooking, and described various techniques. Brad was fascinated and kept a close eye on the cooking.

We all talked while the preparations were done and while de-I cooked at the stove. My kitchen is small, but we managed to maneuver around one another just fine. My cookware and utensils were lacking a bit, but we made do with what I had. Throughout all of this activity, we talked and got to know one another even better. It was especially fun to get to know Mrs. de-I. She makes cameo appearances on de-I’s blog, but that evening, we got to see the person de-I is in love with. And it’s no wonder. Mrs. de-I is soft-spoken, passionate about her family, and so very sweet!

As the evening progressed, I would periodically catch de-I’s eye and think to myself how incredible it was that we were actually together, in the same place, talking and looking one another in the eye, not just conversing across virtual space. I know there are some who might never agree to meeting an online friend this way. But I am so glad that we did. It was amazing.

Dinner was served in courses, and I have to admit, I’ve never eaten dinner in courses. What a great way to enjoy a meal! It was relaxing and we were able to really appreciate each dish separately. First we were served a shrimp dish with crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Mmmmm! Next came a mushroom stew with home-made croutons. Fabulous! Probably my favorite! Then the main dish – Spaghetti Carbonara. It was all so delicious! There were also two different kinds of wine, both of which I really enjoyed. I barely had room for Mrs. de-I’s dessert, but I’m glad I saved a little bit of room. It was phenomenal!

The evening passed way too quickly and soon it was time for the de-Is to leave. They were tired from a week of family reunioning and too many hours of driving. They needed to get some rest to begin the long journey home the next morning. We all hugged goodbye and the de-Is headed back to their hotel.

After they were gone, Mark, Brad and I talked about how very cool it was to have had the opportunity to spend time with the de-Is. Very cool. What a wonderful experience that was! So if ever you have the chance to meet your blog pals in person, DO IT!