28 November 2007

That's How The Cookie(s) Crumble(s), Will Ferrell and David Sedaris on Who Santa Claus REALLY Is...

Now, I'm sure you'll order a box of cookies from the "Band of Parents", as they devotedly raise funds for Dr. Cheung's promising new monoclonal antibody vaccine, because I'm sure everyone who reads this blog has a heart of gold, and most of you have kids, and can grasp how paramount it is that this vaccine comes into fruition. I know this because my readers are good, generous and loving folks (most of you, anyway), but in the spirit of the holidays I have another site to share and this one is for pure fun.

My lovely, blogging cousin, Shane, sent me an e-mail this morning and I had to laugh for two reasons: First of all, I couldn't imagine why she would send me anything that would involve baking or any sort of kitchen activity (other than painting). Let's face it, I'm not exactly Martha Stewart OR Betty Crocker. The second reason being that after perusing the list, I do believe it contains every conceivable cookie known to mankind and it looks so appealing that I may just have to try a couple of these out.

If you click on whatever cookie piques your interest and makes your mouth water, the recipe for that cookie will pop up! It's pretty amazing and way, way cool! Who took the time to compile this list, I have no idea, but he or she must be dripping in domesticity and probably owns several aprons - the ones that say something weird like, "Kiss the Cook!". I had to share the list with you.

I have a feeling people won't say I'm too skinny after this season of cookies and joy. I'll just have to double up on the caffeine and burn it off the best way I know how.

Click on the name of the cookie, the recipe will pop up and then head out for the store of your choice and gather the ingredients. Before you leave the house for the store, it might be a good idea to go ahead and pay for that gym membership you've been considering because I have a feeling none of these are fat-free and why should they be? It's Christmas and it's the time of year when you need to eat really gooey, rich, high-caloric confections so go for it, I say. Life is short.

So, that is how the cookie crumbles. I'm not in any way, shape or form responsible for what your bathroom scales report as a direct or indirect result of "experimenting" with this list. Don't write to me complaining about how your jeans are shrinking or how that little black dress needs to be let out just a skooch. It's not my problem and why don't you just forget about it until, say, January. January is much better suited for obsessing about things like weight and your expanding waistline. The days are dark and winter is already feeling like it will last forever so just delay your worries and fears as to how you're going to fit into your swimsuit until January. There's no time for that now. It's December, the holidays are fast upon us. It's the season of hope. Just "hope" you don't have too many pounds to shed in January and get on with your life.

Before you click on your favorite recipe, click on the video below and enjoy watching and listening to Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel sing, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (from the movie "Elf") and then start printing those recipes!

If watching Will Ferrell sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" doesn't get you in the holiday spirit, perhaps a holiday reading by David Sedaris will. Katie and I were talking about this yesterday and we both laughed hysterically (seriously!) at the vision conjured by this essay - it's a family favorite. That is, it's a "Parker" family favorite, so you know it's totally screwed up, but we love David Sedaris and his way with words. Enjoy! Christmas in the Netherlands. I promise, you will laugh. Oh and, for the record, Katie and I are certain that Santa is not the former Bishop of Turkey and we're positive he doesn't live in Spain. I don't know how such rumors get started and what is up with the Dutch?

Happy Holidays!


Just click on the name of the cookie and bam the recipe is there.

1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies < /B>Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookie s Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar< /FONT>
Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cak e Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin B ars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread< /B> Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles< /SPAN> Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms

24 November 2007

Band of Parents...A Cookie Cutter Approach on How To Save A Life...

Last weekend when I was in Manhattan, after having a great lunch with my daughter at the "Moonstruck Cafe", near where she works on the Upper East Side, I found myself with a couple of hours waiting for her to get off work before heading over to her apartment. I decided to walk over and check out a place I've been aware of for years, and I know several people who know it much more intimately because their children have been treated there as they've battled neuroblastoma. Of course, I'm speaking of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

I walked through the doors, checked in with the guard and took the escalator up to the lobby. I saw the waiting area, where people sit until they're name is called to be admitted. You could see the fear etched on so many faces. It was impossible not to feel it. I remember being struck by two simultaneous thoughts: "This is a place where no one in their worst imaginings would ever want to find themselves" and, at the very same time, "Thank God this institution exists!". It was such an odd, comingling of impressions.

3F8 Antibody Treatment
Targeted High-Tech Therapy Meets "Grass Roots", Parentally-Steered Fund-Raising

MSKCC is a huge place and a great deal of cutting-edge research takes place there. So many families with kids of all ages have battled a particularly ferocious and insidious variety of cancer with treatments that are horrendously painful, difficult and not always successful. However, in the world of Neuroblastoma, Sloan-Kettering is known as a beacon of hope. They are currently on the cusp of a new phase of monoclonal antibody treatment and many kids of all ages, and the famlies who love them, are looking at it as a talisman of hope. It's a new antibody treatment and the only place it will be available is at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

I know money is tight for many of us this year, but most of us aren't facing a possible last Christmas with the kids we love with every fiber of our being. There are some Moms and Dads, sisters and brothers however, who are facing this prospect and I can't imagine how they function, but they do and with a grace, style and steely determination that blows my mind and elicits my highest admiration and deepest respect.

You can meet some of these young adults and kids by clicking here: Heroes and, if you want to see a beautiful angel, check out Nathan's site. Nathan was also treated at MSKCC and, unfortunately, the hoped for biomedical breath-throughs will be too late for him and his sweet family, but Nathan and the kids who will be celebrating the holidays in heaven this season most certainly won't be forgotten. Through their endurance and desire to forward medical science they, too, have paved the way for research with inestimable and very personal contributions and sacrifice. You may read other online journals about kids like Erik, Nick, Sidney, Emily, Anna, Dylan and Toby, just to name a few, who's lives may still be changed by the money you spend to buy a dozen cookies.

These parents have banded together and, in fact, call themselves "Band of Parents" because they are raising money in order to enable head researcher, Dr. Cheung, and the Neuroblastoma Team at MSKCC, to move forward with this antibody trial that may mean that these families get to spend another holiday season with their children who suffer from this most nasty and evil cancer.

There is an online flyer that the "BoP's" have created explaining in more detail about who they are, the science behind the new antibody treatment, and what they need from the rest of us. I think it's the very epitome of a "grass roots" campaign and rather than allowing themselves to feel defeated and at the end of their road and ropes, they have literally forged ahead to raise the money necessary for this new trial to begin and possibly save the lives of their kids. Who among us wouldn't be right in there doing the same if we had kids fighting neuroblastoma? You bet we would. It's what parents do.

All they are asking from the rest of us is to buy cookies. It's a pretty simple request and it doesn't require very much of us. Not only are they in the midst of battling it out with this disease on the front lines by tending to and supporting their desperately ill children, but they also have to use that most precious resource of all, their time, to fund-raise for a possible therapy which may literally mean the difference between life and death.

If you get the chance, please check out their site and, if you can spare $30, know that every cent you pay for the cookies will go toward research in trying to eradicate Neuroblastoma. As I've mentioned, I've spoke with a few of these parents and I know this is not only a legitimate fund-raising effort, and I also know that if I had a child sitting in one of those seats in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, I would appreciate it from the bottom of my heart if others could help me save my child and I'd knock down anything or anyone who stood in the way. I'm betting you would as well.

I was lucky last Friday evening as I waited for my daughter to get off work. We walked around town, ordered a hot drink at Starbucks and we hung out at her apartment that evening with no more pressing plans than deciding which movie we would see the next day and where we might choose to have dinner. Pretty carefree stuff. It's incumbant for those of us with healthy kids to remember that many families aren't afforded the luxuries the rest of us take for granted. Their days are filled with what amounts to, literally, life and death decisions when considering treatment options.

I hope you'll do a little investigating yourself and read their pamphlet and find it in your own heart to say a special prayer of thanksgiving for the children in your life who are healthy and living their lives, even if they make you want to pull your hair out form time to time, and send a few bucks to families with children who aren't afforded the ease with which the rest of us go about our day-to-day lives.

It's worth noting that any of us could, at any time, find ourselves members in a group like "Band of Parents". I'm sure there was a time when these families never thought something like Neuroblastoma could possibly touch their lives. Unfortunately one day they discovered that it could and they were thrust into a situation that is the epitome of a nightmare for the uninitiated among us.

I believe in my heart this new research at MSKCC merits our attention and whatever we can afford to give. And also, when considering what to give this person or that, this holiday season, realize that most of the time it's forgotten before January is torn off the calendar. Not only would you be buying those on your gift list a yummy present, but you'd also be an active participant in possibly funding a new therapy to eradicate this disease and nailing down Neuroblastoma. It's a present that "gives" twice. One size fits all, no worries that it won't "fit" and tax deductible! Does it get any easier than this? You place an order and it's DONE. So place several and really be DONE!

When I walked out of Sloan-Kettering last Friday evening into the brightly-lit evening with cabs honking their horns and clutches of passersby making their way toward the subway, it wasn't lost on me that many people walk through those doors with heavy hearts - stepping out for a bite to eat with loved ones still in treatment or, worse still, returning to the outside world without a precious family member who will never, ever step outside of 1275 York Avenue again. Once again, I reiterate, any one of us could easily find ourselves in a similar position someday.

I really hope you'll check it out and order some cookies. I know some of these families and it's worth your money and five minutes of your time.

22 November 2007

Happy 21st Birthday Justin Ryan Parker...

"I love lilacs and avocados.

Ukeleles and fireworks,
Woody Allen and walking in the snow.
But you've got to know...

That you're the love of my life,
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life!
From the moment I first saw you.
The second that you were born.
I knew that you were the love of my life,
Quite simply, the love of my life..."
~ Carly Simon

It started in Amarillo, Texas, on a Wednesday Night, 19 November 1986. I'd just eaten a piece of pumpkin pie and as soon as I put the fork down, my back started aching and it didn't stop until, two days later, Justin made his way into this world. This baby wasn't due for a week, but I guess he just couldn't wait and he was so bent on being a Scorpio that he got in right at the last minute, on the cusp. Justin did it his way. Justin's always done it his way. Justin is my son through and through.

There are about 1600 miles that separate Amarillo, Texas and Wilmington, North Carolina. Twenty-one years ago we celebrated his arrival at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. Last night we sat down to dinner at Henry's Restaurant, and celebrated his turning twenty-one. I adore this young man of mine. Many miles have been traveled and a great deal of history has been lived in those twenty-one years. What a crazy, wild ride.

Justin is the only authentic, genuine born and bred Texan in our family. His father, sister, grandparents and I were born in West Virginia and he's rather proud that he wasn't. Just like the state that produced him, I've always found him to be larger than life in so many ways.

He and I used to sing "You Are the Love of My Life" together in Florida. We would dance around the living room and hold hands and be silly and no lyrics ever rang truer, from where I twirled. We're hauntingly alike. We're both headstrong, obstinate and sometimes we hide behind a veil of shyness, but we always manage to get our point across and we seldom move from our most deeply-held positions, even when it's to our detriment.

He's twenty-one now. He's an adult. There will be joys ahead to celebrate and sometimes, hard, painful lessons to be learned. But on this night, the anniversary of my son's birth, I felt extreme, profound gratitude. This was a night to rejoice. And so we did.

I think about all that lies ahead at the tender age of twenty one. Remember how much you thought you knew and all that you've discovered since? As I consider my son, I honestly believe he's far better equipped with a brand of durable wisdom and savvy that I never knew at his age. There are times that it still takes me forever to pick up on things that should be blatantly obvious. I don't think that will quite be the case for him but, should it be so, I just hope he has angels circling who will pick him up when the need arises, as they have done for me so many times, and send him in a better direction. Good angels do that.

"You can drive me crazy.
You can drive me anywhere.

Here are the keys,

Just do as you please.

It may not always be easy..."

We've butted heads more than a few times. We've sparred, retreated to our corners, slammed a few doors and sneered now and again. Typical mother/son stuff. But deep inside, I believe there's always been a deep affection and there are still times that I look in his eyes and he can reduce me to a puddle, even when I'm absolutely irritated with him beyond belief. He'll flash a smile, fix me with those deep, cerulean blue eyes of his and, every now and then, I will completely forget why I'm so upset with him. Smart kid that he is, he uses this to his best advantage. Of course he does. Sometimes, I still fall for it.

The one thing I do know is that he is so very loved. He is adored. He is cherished, as is his sister, Katie. There are times I look at them and I can't believe how offbeat and eccentric they have turned out to be. These are not "cookie-cutter, Gap Kids", the kind I figured I'd wind up with. No, no, no, my son and daughter can both usually be found connected to an iPod, but they listen to a different tune. They've both become the ultimate in non-conformists. I couldn't be more pleased. I'd be so horribly bored if they'd turned into typical suburban kids and I don't think for one-second they ever really wanted June Cleaver for a Mom.

A couple of years ago, I was sitting in my home group AA meeting. The meeting had just started and "The Promises" had just been read. It was a very special day for me - the second anniversary of my sobriety - and on that day, at that meeting, I would pick up my two-year blue chip. Five minutes into the meeting, the door opened and, quietly, in walked Katie and Justin. I will never, ever forget that moment. I couldn't have been more surprised. They took seats beside me. They took time out of their hectic young lives to see their Mom pick up her two-year AA chip. Tears rolled down my eyes for the remainder of that meeting and I didn't even try to hide it. My heart was overflowing.

Nothing quite says, "I love you", like supporting your Mom on the anniversary of her second year in a twelve-step program that basically saved her life. It meant the absolute world to me. After my sponsor presented me with my precious blue chip and medallion, both kids rose up and hugged me tightly. It was a miracle in so many more ways than one. It was that brand of support that has made my life far richer than I could have ever imagined on the night of 11 January 2004. I can't envision a purer, more vivid display of love from these two. Pretty special, if you ask me. Uncommon. Love beyond measure.

I've been so privileged to watch Justin grow up and, in many ways, he's watched me grow up as well. We've both seen each other make hideously, ill-advised errors in judgment. We've seen each other stumble. I've bandaged knee-abrasions, nursed him through fevers and sat in many steam-filled bathrooms to loosen more bouts of croup and bronchitis than I can count. I've paced the floor through torturous ear-aching, scream-filled nights and when he was 3 years old and fell off his play horse, I talked him through lidocaine injections and tried to make him smile as his eyebrow was stitched up, the result of being bucked off a misbehaving, unruly, plastic horse. He took it like a champ, didn't shed a tear. I cried for half an hour after it was over.

For his part, he's offered me hugs when I was at the lowest possible point in my life, fresh from hitting a painful bottom that was inevitable and essential to my own recovery. He drove me to pick up the personal items out of my car following a DUI a few years ago.

When it came time to check into the treatment center a few weeks later, I asked Justin to drop me off. I was so scared, but I knew he would make me laugh and I needed that so desperately. He never once took a cheap shot at me during the low, difficult times. He sensed when I was struggling and he promised me I was still a mother he was proud to have and hearing those things gave me the courage and inestimable strength to move forward on especially dark days.

Justin has a well-spring of compassion which is deep and wide. Beneath a quiet, sometimes stoic facade, lies one of the most incredibly sensitive hearts I've ever known. He dips from it frequently, with gentle hugs and steady embraces. He loves his family and we love him right back.

We've had our moments and it's my dearest hope that we have lots more of them. We both know they won't all be easy, and a few will be contentious and difficult, probably even gut-wrenching, but that's OK, too. We've been through things like that and we know instinctively, courtesy of our shared experiences, that the bad times really do pass. As my parents have so beautifully taught us time and again by their stellar example, within a solid framework of love, consideration and understanding, we can work through whatever comes our way.

When I was involved in a car wreck this past August, I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital beside my sweet Daddy, waiting to be called back, and within minutes after my Dad's arrival, I looked up to see Justin walking towards me with a large iced tea in one hand and an arm extended to embrace me with the other. I didn't even realize that he knew what had happened yet - I was still trying to wrap my mind around it - but he'd found out from my Mom and he and Stephanie took off in a flash to join me and sit with me in that waiting room. Being my son, he knew I needed a large iced tea, a smile and one of his hugs. He delivered brilliantly. Sitting there between my father and my son, I felt very blessed and dearly loved.

I've always found parenting to be more of an exchange than a unilateral transmission. Giving birth may place a baby in your hands, but it hardly confers instant knowledge and wisdom. I remember feeling so clueless and inept and blatantly confused on many occasions. I still do, sometimes. I've enjoyed raising my son and daughter so very much, but it's certainly not been a one-way street. They've been beside me through so many things and though I know I've made mistakes along the way, as all parents do, I can't help but believe I must have gotten a few things right because when I look at both Justin and Katie, I am blown away by the adults they have grown into.

I admire the way they handle life, rather than allowing life to handle them. They're both fiercely independent, opinionated, intelligent and funny individuals. I love how easily they find the humor in the most difficult and challenging of situations. They seem to have indomitable spirits and a keen sense of right and wrong. They are champions of those less fortunate - of the human, feline and canine variety and I adore that, too. Goodness knows, there was never any shortage of animals in our house as they've grown up and along with the ever-present influence of their doting grandparents, Pops and Granny, I know the seeds of love and kindness were borne from a strong, sturdy sense of family and love for all creatures great and small, even the ones that shed from time to time and have accidents on the carpet. Life is messy. It's really supposed to be.

"But you are the love of my life,

My heart is riding on a runaway train.
You are the love of my life,
Through all the pleasure and pain.

From the moment I first saw you, I knew.
I knew it right away,

I knew that you were the love of my life,

Simply the love of my life.

You are the love,
The great love
Of my life..."

So Justin, on this, the first day of your twenty-second year, I just want you to know that I am so ecstatically proud to be your mother, so thrilled to have you in my life and I'm solidly optimistic about your future, because I have been a close witness to your past. I know parents always say, "You can do whatever you set your mind to" and we all mean it when we utter those words, but honestly, I'd stake my life on it.

Ultimately, the choices will be yours to make, but knowing what I do of who you are, I have every faith that you will be a force to be reckoned with wherever your dreams beckon you to follow. Some will work out and a few won't, but you'll learn a lot more from the ones that don't than those times in your life when things flow flawlessly. Thank you, my dear son, for allowing me to know the essential you, and for continuing to allow us, your family, to share in your life.

You and Katie truly are, and always will be, the love of my life. Happy, happy birthday, my love.

18 November 2007

New York City - Fast and on the FLY!

You can click on all this link:

and see all of the photos from this weekend.

The 411: New York City by Way of Iraq...

This is how it went down:

This past Thursday Night, at around 8:30 PM, I logged onto Yahoo Chat to see how my friend Mike was doing in Iraq. I hadn't "talked" to him for a few days and I was wondering what he was up to, how much coffee he'd been consuming and, most of all, when he might be arriving in the US. He's due to come home in about three weeks. I had worked all day, chaired my AA meeting and came home exhausted. I felt cold, a little down and a whole lot tired.

Once Upon a Gypsy JERK...

After chatting a few minutes and catching up with each other, Mike suggested I take a trip to NYC to visit with Katie. After all, I hadn't seen my daughter since the first part of July when she was in Raleigh and then, only for a few hours. It wasn't really a "visit" because Captain Maniacal Mike hovered over us the entire time. We didn't have any time to just be alone. It was more of a tease than anything else. We couldn't seem to find anywhere to visit without Hurley horning his way in and it was frustrating beyond belief. I found it odd at how intrusive he was during the visit. Katie just plain found it, and him, repulsive and she wasn't terribly shy about her feelings. I got the distinct feeling he intruded on our conversations because he suspected we might be discussing him and, of course, he would have been correct. The conversation would have probably played out something like this, I imagine:

Me: "So, Katie, honestly, what do you think of him?"
Katie: "Have you lost your mind?"
Me: "Just give him a chance - he's really not as weird as he appears.." (spoken in a tone that was unconvincing at best...).
Katie: "Mom, he's a fruit cake. A freak. Wake-up. Are you getting enough caffeine?"
Me: long, audible sigh...(knowing somewhere deep inside that she was absolutely right. Her radar is seldom off, but still trying to put the best spin on the top).

Of course, he wouldn't have permitted that conversation to take place in his muted and dull law library of an apartment. I guess, in retrospect, it makes sense that he would be hovering around us and monitoring every syllable of our verbal exchanges, but her eyes spoke volumes even if she didn't. I believe he truly thought he was winning her over. I knew without a doubt he wasn't even scoring positive numbers on her assessment scale.

So fast-forward to this past Thursday Night and my friend (the nice) Mike, suggested a trip. Sure, it sounded like just the thing except for one small glitch. M-O-N-E-Y. I told him it would be near to impossible to get a decently priced ticket 12 hours before a flight took off from Wilmington for La Guardia.

Nonsense, he said. He told me to "hold on just a sec". I held on and, in the meantime, Katie called to see how things were going and just to check in. I casually asked her if she had plans this weekend. No, nothing solid. I told her to hold on. So as I was holding on for Mike, Katie was holding on for me, but she didn't really know what she was actually holding on for. She just held tight.

The next dialogue on the YAHOO Chat screen was something along the lines that I could be booked on the flight leaving Wilmington THE NEXT MORNING (Friday) and return on Sunday leaving La Guardia at 6:29 PM. Would that be enough time, he queried?

I read the screen and I laughed. Literally. Out loud. I just laughed and thought to myself, "what are they putting in your coffee over there?"

Sure - but how much? Booking a flight on such short notice out of Wilmington would have to be exorbitant and impossible. He told me to hold on just a little longer. I waited. I advised Katie to wait as well but again, she had no idea what she was waiting on and I really wasn't sure myself.

The next thing I saw was an e-mail pop up that informed me I had been booked on the 10:15 AM flight out of ILM and would be arriving in NYC by N-O-O-N. "Hey," said Mike, "you and Katie can have lunch!".

Again, I said, "how much?". It seemed a reasonable thing to ask. I was told that it had been "taken care of". Period. It was done. It had been reserved. It was now a moot point. Oh and, "Susie, you need to pack. You're leaving in about 12 hours."

I was STUNNED. No, I was beyond stunned. So then I decided to stun Katie by telling her I was coming to NYC the next morning, even though I really didn't believe it myself. She became stunned and excited, and then stunned some more. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a joke, right? I'm thinking, we're all playing into this and it's funny, but it's not real and it's a just a joke.

More e-mails followed from Hotwire booking with my flight information. According to Hotwire, I had a seat with my name on it. This was happening! By now it was about 9:00 PM and in about 12 hours, I would be at the airport, packed and on my way to NYC. Holy heck! Just like that. This amazing man gave me the greatest gift imaginable. He sent me to see my daughter. He arranged for it to be possible to meet with my friend Glen (if he would be free that weekend) and he gave me Christmas about 6 weeks early. I didn't know what to say, what to type, what to think or what to really do by this point. He again advised, well, more along the lines of ordered me to get packed and ready because I had better not miss that flight.

I'm pretty sure he's a "fairy god-soldier" and, at 6'5", he's a formidable one. That's like a foot more formidable than me.

The next morning, I was still in a state of shock. I logged onto Yahoo and Mike asked me if I was ready? No, my clothes were being washed. I still hadn't taken my shower. He wrote back - "Go get ready! NOW!" And I did just that. But still, I had it in the back of my mind that I would get to the airport and the ruse would be up. I wasn't really going to New York City. This was a "playet", a scene from a funny movie, or maybe just a late April Fool's farce. I didn't completely buy into it at all. It was just too fast. Too surreal. Too "out there" and beyond my scope of comprehension.

But what the heck, I thought. I can play along. I called my friend Glen and asked if he would be free over the weekend for lunch or dinner so he could kick my ass for not having my outline, three chapters and formal proposal ready. He couldn't resist the chance to kick my ass into gear (with witnesses), so he said he'd find a way to meet us. A few minutes later, he called me back and told me to be sure and bring a coat.

This was a very big weekend for Glen. He became a father. The family adopted a red, miniature poodle who is now known as "Sunny". In the time I've known Glen (a little over a year), he's moved away from Manhattan to the SUBURBS, visited Disney World, became a home owner in the 'burbs, and now commutes back into Manhattan. Talk about a year of transformations for this wonderful man. But domesticity hasn't changed him a bit - he's still the best nut EVER and how sweet it was to see him and collect a hug. He's actually taking off this week to settle the new family member in (8 week old puppy) so his official excuse for not being able to do anything this week will be..."I have a new dog. Deal with it.". I respect that. I'm just glad he could fit me into his calendar and drive into the City on a day he didn't have to be there. Thank you, Glen.

Glen treated Katie, John and me to an amazing lunch at Arte Cafe on 73rd Street right off Columbus Avenue. It was scrumptious. He demanded I eat dessert as well. It was fabulous. And then he said, "When will I see you again...you know, with your WORK ready to be submitted." Everyone looked at me for a response People at neighboring tables probably chuckled to themselves.... I came up with one. By the final week of January, I am to return to NYC with three chapters, an outline and formal proposal in hand to pass over to Glen's hands. Then, we shook hands on it. Katie and John served as witnesses. I have my work cut out for me. Now I'm REALLY stunned. But I am pleased and I've got no place to run. There were witnesses. Tough, New York witnesses. I'm a demure (smile) southerner. I don't stand a chance should I not produce.

It was so fantastic seeing my Katie, visiting with John, catching up with Glen, hanging in NYC with Katie all day on Saturday, catching a movie with her at the Paris Theatre, and just being in her space. Precious time. It was the best ever. It was so sweet to see Glen again and have him with us at lunch and he's so animated and hyper and the man doesn't even drink caffeine - I can't imagine how he would operate on stimulants! It was the best lunch ever. I'm going to keep my promise and honor my commitment and come through. I gave my word. I meant it. Plus, they will kill me if I don't.

But I just have to say, that Mike Skierski is one heckuva man. Mike, you will never know what this weekend did for me on so many levels. You gave me family time, friend time, professional time and "walking in NY time" with people I love so much. Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. You had better find the time to let me show you around my corner of the coast when you get out of Iraq in a few weeks. I owe you a huge hug and a big kiss. You rock, Mike. You are amazing and generous and every other positive adjective I could possibly think of and then, it wouldn't be enough to express how much this entire weekend colored my world. I just love your heart. You're simply incredible.

So, that's what I've been up to these past few days. It was a whirlwind trip and you can see the photos if you click this hyperlink: Flickr. I'm just so very grateful for all of it. I loved spending time with John and Katie in their beautiful Upper West Side apartment. I was treated like a queen.

Ok, maybe not exactly like a "queen". It is, after all, Katie we're talking about here. Katie wouldn't treat "The Queen" like a queen so I may have embellished just a bit on that point. But, on a positive note, she didn't slap me around or beat me up, and I believe that says a lot and I was pretty impressed. Actually, she was so oddly domestic that I barely recognized that facet of her, but as much as it pains me to say it, NYC obviously agrees with her. She was shining and happy and it showed and that speaks volumes. She was my Katie and she was just as I'd expect. I adore her. She's a tough nut, but in a good way. She may well have even mellowed just a bit.

Big Yellow Taxi...How to Hail a Cab NY-Style, By Way of the South

One incident that stands out from this trip involves her hailing a cab for me when I was ready to leave for the airport on Sunday. This is when it was confirmed for me that she truly was a genuine New Yorker. She stepped out onto the street where she lives and within about two minutes, a cab slowed down and she stepped over and opened the door. I was standing back (as instructed) and sipping the last of my ginger peach iced tea. I am, it should be noted, very southern and a couple of days in New York can't change that. So the cab driver sees the suitcase and before Katie could say anything, he indelicately "shared" that he wasn't going to the airport. She fixed him with "a look" and said, "Then get out of here. We need a cab that will go where we need it to go. Go on! Get!", and she waved her hand away with a flourish.

I just stood back and watched and laughed so hard! It was such a "Seinfeld" encounter and so very "Katie". She was basically saying, "So don't waste my time you idiot. Get off my street! What? You're still here? Be gone with you!". It was classic. Where this child gets it, I have no clue. But I laughed. The cab driver, not so much. I don't think he laughed.

After that, she announced we would walk a few steps to the corner and stand on Columbus where there would be better prospects. She found one instantly, but before she hailed that one, she said, "Let me hug you now. They don't like to wait and so let me tell you goodbye before one stops.". We hugged and it was just so wonderful and no, I didn't cry. I smiled. I kissed her on the cheek and I felt so much pride at that moment for this young lady who I have admired and have been intrigued by since she burst into this world on August 26, 1983. She fascinates me. There are moments still, twenty-four years and some change after the fact, that I still can't believe I am her mother, but I am just so pleased to say that I am. It is a most proud admission I make.

In a couple of minutes, she had found another cab and this one didn't give her any flak and I was relieved for him and for me! We hugged again, but this time, very fast. I climbed in the yellow taxi and she closed the door and she waited until he drove away. I watched her walk back down the street where she lives, and I was so grateful that I had been afforded the privilege and gift of spending two wonderful days with her in "her" town because it was then I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Manhattan truly was "her town".

Not Quite Random, But An Act of Gentle Kindness...

And then, there is Mike in Iraq who made it all impossibly possible.

Knowing there are people in this world who so generously extend a not-so-random act of kindness just blows me away. I don't know how to thank him adequately, but I'll figure something out. I know it sounds redundant but what can I say to a man who just up and orders a ticket like that? Thank you Mike.

More later - I'm exhausted! It was freezing in NYC. We saw snow this morning before setting out to meet up with Glen. I mean, it was bone-chilling frigid (to me). Katie had me walking all over that city and my feet are practically numb, but it was worth every single step.

01 November 2007

Hello November!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was only about an hour late picking my OLD friend Billie up at the airport this morning. I didn't think his plane arrived until 10:55 AM. I was WRONG! He was a good sport about it, but I think the Wilmington police probably thought he was a vagrant or something.

Billie has come in to help me paint my living room, foyer and hallway. However, it's not all work and no play. We had lunch at Bluewater and then headed to the South end of Wrightsville Beach for a long walk. There were surfers about (Rick, you should have been among them!), and the waves were starting to become impressive courtesy of what is now Hurricane Noel, presently situated over the Bahamas. Take it from me - it's better to be on the shore and observe these things than sail through them - I've done both this year and let me tell you, I was happy to be on the shore!

We ran into this wonderful woman named Sandy who, as it turns out, is a professional photographer and as we were taking photos, she asked if we wanted her to take one of both of us. Sure, how nice, I thought. Well, she took the camera and cut loose! You can see all of them on Flickr, but this woman KNEW what she was doing!

Sandy has her own website - Artistry by Sandy - and it's worth checking out. I definitely want to meet up with her again. She looked like an angel on the beach in her white shirt and free-flowing skirt. If I ever get married again (don't hold your breath on that one) this woman is handling the photography.

I then had to explain to her that Billie was JUST A FRIEND. He really is like the brother I never had but a better and more faithful friend would be hard to find. He's good people. In fact, he's salt of the earth. We're blessed to count him as part of the family.

After our beach walk and impromptu photo session, I had to drop something off at my attorney's office and then head home to change my clothes because, of course, I kind of got in the water while I was at the beach. In my jeans and Doc Martens. Hey, it was warm outside and the ocean wasn't all that cold. There were lots of people surfing and surf fishing and of course, I checked out several of them and their catches. All in all, it was a lovely day.

After I changed into dry clothes, we headed for my AA meeting which I am chairing on Thursdays for the month of November. Of course, I dragged Billie along for the fun. It was pretty amusing - he's never in his life taken a drink - so I'm sure it was quite an experience for him. I think he had a good time. We had a great meeting and a large crowd! They must have had no idea I was chairing...

We came home and my Mom had prepared a wonderful dinner. Good thing - tomorrow will find us painting and remember, my living room ceilings are 20 feet high - I can't wait to see how Billie plans to tackle the walls. But of course, I still plan on trying to get some fishing in this weekend. There should be even MORE impressive waves tomorrow as the tropical system moves north up the coast. We might have to take a break about mid-afternoon and head back for the beach.

Halloween was fun. Justin and Stephanie did a great job with their pumpkins. Mine didn't turn out so great. Oh well, in another life - as a homeroom Mom - I was known to turn out some pretty impressive pumpkin carving but this was not the year for it. Mine didn't turn out anything like the pattern I used.

I had plans to make it over to Wrightsville Beach to see a "legendary scarecrow" who lives on Harbor Island, but my parents got misplaced and I had to stay around until they turned up. I never got to see the scarecrow and I was deeply disappointed. I wonder if I can talk this "legend" into doing a special performance for me? I think he's susceptible to chocolate.

And never let it be said that Halloween is only for the young! Yesterday morning, my Dad knocked on my office door and I turned around to find Alice Cooper instead. I was a little surprised! My Dad was getting ready to go mow the grass, but apparently he had been channeling Alice Cooper and voila! You don't tend to see an 82 year old guy looking like this first thing in the morning!!!!

For a brief few minutes, I realized that I was the most "normal" person in this house and let me tell you, that doesn't happen often. Fortunately, he didn't mow the entire time like this - it got too hot and, to be honest, I think his "new look" frightened Cassie. She wasn't quite herself the rest of the day. The cats just fixed him with a puzzled look and went on about their business. It takes a lot to ruffle cats.

I hope everyone had a great Halloween. It was one freak show after another around here! I love this crazy family of mine.