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21 posts from September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Keyboard has a Mind of its Own
By Sarah Vaughn

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Yesterday, my daughter, Sarah, asked me to please proofread her blog for "The Pink Life."  She has been having some trouble with her keyboard, and I thought her blog was funny.  I love reading Sarah's ramblings.   I have encouraged her to write and to express herself - that was part of her homeschooling experience, and the fact that she loves to read, write, play the piano, draw, paint, and focus on her studies has made me extremely proud of her to say the least.  Sarah has a great sense of humor, and I am finding that her humor is starting to come through in her blog posts.  So, I thought I would share Sarah's latest post with my readers.  You'll definitely get a kick out of how my 14 year old daughter thinks.

My Keyboard Has a Mind of its Own
By: Sarah Vaughn Sept. 29, 2008
The Pink Life

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Fur Flyin' Love Fest

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Oh, how I love my dogs.  They are so entertaining.  Who needs television and all that bad news if you can watch the fur fly when a German Shepherd and a Malti-tzu puppy play. 

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Peek-a-BOO Furball

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Here I sit on the sofa this weekend while Adolf was napping at my feet, Bob was off snoring somewhere, Alison was napping too and the boys were off playing with their friend, Alex.  Sarah was watching television.  It was a rainy kind-of day.  One of the boys walked in our back door and Sarah glanced over her shoulder just in time for me to pick up my camera which is usually at my side, and snap this picture of Hannah peeking at me while lying with Sarah in our big recliner.   Hey, when you've got a Big Bear like I do, you've got to have a recliner in the family room.  Oops, I almost forgot - we've got two.  That's because we have a big family and a lot of lazy butts.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Avaya - Your LACK of Corporate Integrity Exceeds You

As of September 15th, my husband, Bob, was laid off from his position as Director of Business Development for the Financial Vertical which included Banking, Capital Markets, and Insurance, within Avaya, a global leader in communication systems, applications, and services. He had worked for Avaya for almost 2 years.   And, even though he had not had that many years with Avaya, he had a solid history of meeting and exceeding the established quota for the financial vertical.  In the almost two years that Bob worked for Avaya, he exceeded his plan by 121% in FY07 and was tracking at 109% of plan through 1HFY08.  And, the final numbers for 2HFY08, although they have not been published yet as of this writing, have a projection based on the $44M quota assigned to him.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blonde and Blue Road Trip Day 4 - The Final Leg of this Journey

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By day 4, Alison and I had just about had enough of this trip.  The sights were beautiful along the way, but we're getting too old for this crap and it was time to take a nap - for about 3 days after our heads hit the pillow.  My butt was numb, my back hurt, I had a stiff neck, and my knuckles were cramped from having a death grip on the steering wheel. 


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Still, of all the beautiful landscape we had seen along the way, no landscape took my breath away like the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.


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I just don't know how anyone could not look at this and be in awe of the grandeur of this part of the country.


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As pretty as the west is, it just ain't North Carolina.  This is home. 


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This makes my heart skip a beat.


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And be thankful for the beautiful landscape that surrounds me so near to home.


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We passed through Asheville on our way to Charlotte.  Isn't it magnificent?


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Asheville is a beautiful city and so close to the mountains that they are your closest neighbor.

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Along with the largest home in America - the Biltmore Estate.


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Of course, pulling into Charlotte made me realize that I was 20 minutes from home.  My front door.


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Isn't Charlotte gorgeous at night?


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We headed down Providence Road towards home.  5 more minutes and we'll be at our front door.  Not in Highgate though.  Darn.  If I make a right I'll be in Highgate, an exclusive community of the most gorgeous homes.  Instead, we made a left and in 3 miles we'd be home.  Personally, I love our community of Lake Providence, and our home too.


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Weddington has country roads, beautiful mature trees, and fresh country air.


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We have horse farms (this one is just around the corner from our home)


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And history, and it is located in Union County - and we like the lower taxes.


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Yes, Alison and I had a long journey across this country.  Four days of magnificent views and time for reflection and friendship.

But you know something? -  As we turned the last corners towards home, I couldn't help but think....


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How wonderful it felt to be home - a landscaping mess and all, and how badly we both wanted to take these 5 pets out of this car, peel our butts out of our seats, walk crooked into the house, and pass out on clean, cool sheets.  Oh, and there's one more thing...

I now need help with alternative cuss words.  I made a promise I would never curse again if God just got us home in one piece - safe,  healthy, no accidents, alive.

He did.  I made a promise.  I gotta keep it.  But only after I say this:  "That was one hell of a trip and my ass is killing me.  I've seen quite enough of this country thank you very much.  Now, I just want to hybernate - oh, and hug my kids and my Big Bear! We're Home!"

Thank God.


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Monday, September 22, 2008

Blonde and Blue Road Trip Day 2 & 3

We woke up in Oklahoma City refreshed and ready for another long day on the road.  Little did I know, though, that Alison and I would end up showing our teeth to each other before the sun went down - all because I have this terrible fear of riding in a passenger's seat going 80 mph down the highway in a cramped car.  There is something about having twisted metal and glass around me after an accident that makes me a little crazy.  There was also something eerie about waking up in Oklahoma City, where just 13 years prior, in 1995, this country faced a horrific terror attack in this very city just 2 months before my daughter, Kimberly, was to undergo her 4th open-heart surgery at the Oklahoma City Children's Hospital.  The hospital was damaged from the explosion, and we were all concerned that her surgery may have to be postponed.  But it all worked out and she had a successful surgery.  She had just turned 15 years old. 

Do you remember this photo:


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It was the image of firefighter Chris Fields holding baby Baylee Almon, a young infant who was dying from the blast.  If you recall, it was at 9:02 am on April 19, 1995, that Gulf War Vet, Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 lbs of fertilizer and fuel oil. The blast destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and took 168 lives.  The bombing was the largest act of domestic terrorism in the United States.  Without doubt, this act of terrorism destroyed this country's innocence prior to 9/11.

As the fires raged, rescue workers and bystanders rushed to pull victims out of the twisted wreckage.  Sifting through the rubble police officer, Sgt. John Avera, found a small half buried body. Shouting. “I have a critical infant! I have a critical infant!”  he thrust the, 1-year-old, Baylee Almon, into the arms of a nearby firefighter - Oklahoma City Fire Capt. Chris Fields.

This was the resulting image.  Taken by Charles Porter, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1996 for the image.  Lest we never forget.  Baylee would have been starting high school now.  She was the same age as my daughter Sarah, who just started 9th grade.


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So, as we began this road trip through Oklahoma City, I couldn't help but think of Baylee and the 168 other souls who lost their lives 13 years ago.


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The landscape was beautiful, and the memories are still fresh on my mind, not only from that day in April, 1995, but from my daughter's open-heart surgery in June, 1995, just down the road from where the blast occurred.  We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for a week and then drove Kimberly home to recover that summer with us in Maryland.  But that is a story for another time.  It was quiet in the car and I was thinking.  Soon we were in Arkansas.

END OKLAHOMA, BEGIN ARKANSAS...


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Welcome to Arkansas, home of former President Bill Clinton.  I don't know much else about Arkansas, sorry about that.  If you have any tidbits you'd like to share - have at it.


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The landscape was also beautiful.  It was greener and a bit more yellow.


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I thought it was downright pretty.


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Although it too, looked a lot like Oklahoma along the roadway, with pastures as large and as wide as your eye could see.


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By this time, the cats were no longer throwing up and Maggie Mae was actually enjoying the trip.  She is such a cutie-pie.


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Mee Mee and Boo Boo curled up together and comforted each other.  Mee Mee enjoyed the scenery as much as we did.


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I would glance over at the Garmin (you really can't do without one of these things if you ever go on a trip - a Garmin is a must-have) and appreciated not having to think about getting lost.  Not that we would get lost going on a straight shot down I-40 East, but there were detours along the way and I was grateful for this little device.


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Isn't Arkansas - golden?  I love a golden landscape.


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I don't care much for a road filled with 18-wheelers and...


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Deadly trucker tread along the side of the road.  I had a piece about this size fly over my head and just miss me one time when I was riding my Harley down interstate 95.  No thanks.  That could have taken off my neck.  Doesn't do much for your paint either if it comes flying up and hits the hood of your car.


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There were farms


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And hordes of birds flying South for the winter, and luckily, none of them crapped on our windshield.  I had enough bug guts, though that made it difficult to see out the windshield.


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Are we there yet?


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I think this guy is driving with his elbows.  That's a new trick.  He does, however, have on his seatbelt. 


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It was by this time that I felt like I was going to be sick.  My stomach was in knots and I had to find a bathroom - fast.  So we stopped and gassed up. 


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and I drove - all the way home.  But not today.

END ARKANSAS, BEGIN TENNESSEE...


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Welcome to Tennessee.  It was a dreary day.  Overcast.  It looked like rain - over Memphis.  Hello Elvis!  Wherever you are.  We called it a day - almost 500 miles - and before it got too dark, we found a Quality Inn in Memphis.  It wasn't quality though.  There were bugs in the shower.  The room was as hot as a sauna.  The WiFi didn't work so I kept my computer packed.  It wasn't a good night.  And besides, I had a diet of Immodium AD to keep me going.  I was in the bathroom every few hours.  This was not good.


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The following day was looking better already after we got thru the city.


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Or so I thought.


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Here we were in Nashville.  Home of the Grand Ole Opry. 


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And I really wished we had the time and the money to stop and look around, but we were anxious to get home.  You know how you can get on road trips.   We wanted to enjoy the trip, but we also wanted to get home  more.


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But then a traffic jam ensued.  I took this picture because I thought for sure that my boy, Matthew, would get a kick out of this truck.


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It was dark and gloomy outside.  When you see truckers standing outside their cabs, you know you are in for a long wait.


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And a long wait it was.  It took over 2 hours for us to move 6 miles.


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There had been a terrible accident.  Three people lost their lives when the passenger car in which they were riding down I-40 West crossed the grassy area median and had a head-on with a semi.  It was horrible. 


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The accident had happened at 2pm and we got stuck in traffic at 4pm.  I took pictures of our I-40 East neighbors.


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And we struck up a conversation.  "So!  Whereya headed?"


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"Would you like some chips? Yogurt?  A spoon?  A soda?  I've got a cooler full here in my car."  Aren't Tennessee people nice?


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I felt sad and heavy-hearted for the people who lost their lives and I just wanted to get home - more than ever.

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But we weren't moving.  This sign on the back of this truck seemed appropriate.  And the answer?  We're not getting very far, obviously.


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Traffic started moving, but it was getting dark and we had moved - uh - 6 miles?


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The road opened up, and it was then that I knew why I loved living in the east.  This.  This is why I love the east.


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"Are we there yet? Meow"


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No, but we're gettin' closer.  I can smell it.  Fresh air, cut grass, blue mountains and green.  Lots of green.


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I love you too.  (see that sign in the distance?).  I don't like these dang bugs, though.  I think we will stop for gas, maybe a bite to eat, and we are making this day a short one.  We are exhausted, and it looks as though we are going to stay in Tennessee again for the night and not push this trip. 


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We have only 280 miles to go to home and the twists and turns of the mountainous highway were making me dizzy and tired.  We came up on another traffic accident - another fatal one.  It was time to stop.  So, we stayed in a Motel 6.  It wasn't bad.  The only thing that was bothering me was my stomach.  I had another night in the bathroom and couldn't wait to get home.  I was almost out of Immodium AD.  Isn't this a  pleasant trip?

 




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Palin and Hillary

Of course, this has nothing to do with a road trip, but my goodness, this sure was funny.  I just wanted to share.  If you haven't seen this video clip, you must be under a rock.  Or maybe you just don't have your television on much.  Oh well, here you go...



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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Blonde and Blue Road Trip Day 1

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We began this journey on Wednesday, and I had no idea what the week held for us.  I only knew that we had a long trip in front of us and I hoped we were still friends when it was all over.  What I feared the most was being in a car accident.  That terrified me more than anything.  I had never been on a trip like this and this jaunt across the country was going to be not only the first car trip of its sort for me, but the last one.  You can be sure of that.  Of course, there are not too many people in this life I would do this for, however, Alison is one of those people in my life that I would set aside my comfort zone to help her find a new and better life in North Carolina.  So here we go.  Enjoy the New Mexico landscape as we drive down I-40 East.


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The kitties on this trip are MeeMee, BooBoo, and Binky.  The Chihuahua is Maggie Mae (and she is the sweetest Chihuahua I have ever known.  She is yawning in this picture.  She looks pretty feisty though doesn't she?), and we also had a one-eyed Gecko named Pinky who was the most relaxed thru the trip.  I think.  She molted and ate her skin.  Maybe she really was stressed now that I think about it.


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At this point in the trip, Alison is driving and I was shooting the pictures.  It was a beautiful day.  Thank God.


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The more 18-wheelers I saw, the more stressed I got.  And we hadn't even gotten out of New Mexico.


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New Mexico is beautiful in its own way, but honestly, I'm not a Western kind-of gal.  I prefer the east, and as we get closer you may see why.


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Don't get me wrong.  This has been a real life-changing experience for me, and seeing this country like I have never seen it before opened my eyes.


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But for me, there was something desolate and lonely about New Mexico. 


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The mountains are beautiful, but they are lonely.  Deserted.  Sad.


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Of course, this little brush with flowers in the landscape on the side of the road was a breath of fresh air.


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There were interesting and lonely structures on the side of the road.


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They made me wonder what family had lived there at one time.


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New Mexico had its beautiful moments.


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And we enjoyed the scenery.

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There were also truckers who were too dang close to my right arm.


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There were a lot of bikers enjoying the ride, and their's was certainly shorter than ours.

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Alison was driving


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And Maggie Mae, in my lap, was in need of oxygen.   Then again, maybe she was saying "Ah Chakita, Where the hell are you taking me?"


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We're taking you to North Carolina, Maggie Mae.  New Life.  New Friends.  Bigger Dogs (aka Adolf our German Shepherd) and Greener Pastures.


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A heck of a lot greener and happier.


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Goodbye New Mexico.  I ain't comin' back.  Alison has to fly back to meet the movers when they pick up her furnishings, but then she flies back.  NO MORE NEW MEXICO ROAD TRIPS! 

END NEW MEXICO, BEGIN TEXAS...

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Hello Texas


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Your landscape looks very much like New Mexico's only, maybe, a little bit happier.


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Your mountains are interesting too.

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And your landscape is also beautiful in its Texas way.


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I enjoy the Texas windmills along the landscape


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Then there were times I thought I was going west, not east.


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Yes, Lord, please get us home - alive and well.


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Yes, Texas is beautiful.


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And why aren't there more of these across this great nation?  They use the wind to generate energy - and lots of it. 

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Of course, this had me wondering.  Did Texas want their own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?


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I mean really now, what went wrong folks?


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Goodbye Texas.  As beautiful as you are, I really want to get home - bad.

END TEXAS, BEGIN OKLAHOMA...


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This trip was getting longer than anything I had ever experienced, and my back was hurting, my neck was hurting, my butt was numb, and I was thinking "We need to clean all the dead bugs off the windshield and I hope those pipes don't fall off that truck as I drive by." 


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Oklahoma was beautiful as the sun was going down. 


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This is horse country


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And cowboy country, and we enjoyed waving to the horses as we drove by.


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There were lots of big buses on the road and more dead bugs on the windshield.


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Kitties had to go potty in the kitty litter at Alison's feet, and Maggie Mae was squished - under a cat.


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The road seemed to go on forever.


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I could see why this is tornado alley too.


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Alison was catching some zzzz's while I drove and snapped pictures with my camera.  snap-snap-snap.  Don't you just love digital cameras?


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Alison had driven for the first 100 miles and I drove for the next 400.  Not because she didn't want to drive, but because I was freakin' out when she got close to a car or truck in front of us at 80 mph. 


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But, by now, it was getting dark and the truckers were everywhere, and there was a full moon.

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My eyesight was getting blurry, which meant plainly that it was time to stop for the night.

So, Alison and I decided to stop in Oklahoma City at a Comfort Inn for the night.  Thank God for Comfort Inn.  It was comfortable and we were both out in a flash.  We got up when we got up.  No hurry. 

END OKLAHOMA, BEGIN ARKANSAS - Day 2 to continue....

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No, I'm not Lost

But I feel completely out of my skin at the moment.  So bear with me while I get my life back in order, because for the past 4 days I have felt my life pass before my eyes.  I'll update later about the road trip that made me a little crazy.

Susan

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Mexico - We're Almost Out of Here!

Tuesday's flight was very nice and Alison pulled up to the curb in her bright red Roadster. 


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That's one hot car.  Of course, trying to cram me, my carry on, and my small luggage bag into the car was a bit of an experience.


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So we had to make a few adjustments.


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Of course, we had to ask for help.  We're 2 crazy women.  We don't know how to cram all this crap into a Roadster.  This nice gentleman was a big help, though.  Thank you kind sir.


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And so our journey began, and the first thought that went thru my mind was "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"  The thought of driving 1700 miles across the country back home gave me indigestion.  But I was going to do this dang-nammit.  I was going to face my fears and stick my butt on this horse - or in a PT Cruiser - and head out Interstate 40 with a smile - after a good night's sleep, of course.


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The landscape in New Mexico is interesting.  Different from what I am used to seeing.  Not a lot of green, but the mountains are beautiful and so is the sky.


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Check out that ominous cloud hovering over Sandia Mountain.  Pretty cool isn't it?

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And as we drove by it, I thought "Dang it sure looks desolate out here."  But then again, what do I know, I'm a homebody from the East Coast.


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And the closest I've come to seeing mountains like these are in movies and pictures.  This was a totally new experience for me and I was soaking it all in.


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Of course, my feet hurt and my knees were crammed up to my chest, but heck, Are We Having Fun Yet?!!!


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And Alison was lookin' pretty snazzy with her sunglasses on in this hot Roadster.


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We pulled up to her house and I got my first glimpse of zero-scaping.  No grass, just landscaping for the desert climate.  Interesting.  The plants are beautiful.


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If anyone wants to buy or lease this house in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, here's your sign.


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I met Maggie Mae.  She's a cutie-tootie of a dog.  And sweet as sugar.


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I enjoyed looking at Alison's artwork.  She is also an artist, and a daggone good one too!  She had this piece hanging by her baby grand piano.


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She had this piece hanging over her sofa.


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On the road again!  Just can't wait to get on the road again.  With my ? and my friends, just can't wait to get on the road again.  Not.  Willy Nelson really needs to sing another song.


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We were on our way to Walmart.  Every place on earth has a Walmart.  I really like this car in front of us.  Nice hat too, Mister.

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Alison decided to cash in her change at the Walmart Coinstar.  They charge almost 10% of your total in coins just to count your money.  Everything is so expensive.  I do things the hard way.  I count and wrap my own coins and take them to the bank.  But this was fun.

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I especially thought this native New Mexico child was as cute as could be. 


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I really wanted to see how many different expressions I could snap out of this adorable little girl. 


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Don't you just want to pinch her cheeks?


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Of course, we also met the resident crow.  He could care less who was walking near him.


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And as I piled back into the car, so did our purses.


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I still can't get over this view - and that ominous cloud just hovering overhead like it is trying to tell us something.  Such as: "Get the hell out of New Mexico, like this cloud, a dark one will follow you everywhere."


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Early evening on Tuesday, we hopped in the car to go grab a bite to eat, and Alison drove me around to see the area.  I was interested in the wild flowers on the side of the road and got some pretty cool shots.


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I love these wild flowers. 

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This too was really beautiful.

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And naturally, no trip to New Mexico would be complete without a picture of a very black horse on the side of the road just strolling along.


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We popped on into the Olive Garden. 


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And Alison had to rub her feet on the grass, since you rarely see grass in New Mexico.

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Alison doesn't know what to do with me.  I travel everywhere with my camera.

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Is that Opera I hear?

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"Oh God.  Susan, would you please stop taking my picture?"


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"I mean really, there is only so much I can take of this on an empty stomach."

"Okay, Alison.  I'll let you enjoy your dinner and promise not to take anymore pictures." (at least not of you picking your nose or scratching your boob or something like that.  That wouldn't be very nice of me.)


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I will, however, ask you to stop along the side of the road again on the way home from our nice dinner so I can take another shot of all those wildflowers on the side of the road.

Isn't Alison a good friend?  I mean, she does put up with my photography fetish and all.




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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wanna Take a Plane Ride?

Yesterday's weather was perfect for flying across the country.  Once I got on the plane and we took off it was smooth sailing from Charlotte to Phoenix.  I had a window seat and the sights were magnificent.  Would you like to take a flight with me?  Here you go...

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I sat right in front of the wing.

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Once we got above the rain clouds in Charlotte, the sky was beautiful.


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Look at that storm cloud in the distance.


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Looks like a little bit of heaven.


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I love these pictures of flying above the clouds.


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Want to see Tennessee?


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Of course, US Airways ruins the moment by charging me $2 for a Coke and $7 for a sandwich.  Is that what they call Airway robbery?


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I think I'll look out the window again.


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Now they want to charge $5 for earphones to listen to this movie.  Not.


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I brought my video iPod instead and enjoyed the movie "One Fine Day" with George Clooney and Michelle Pheiffer.  Love that movie.


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Flying right along here, I noticed all these perfect circles in the landscape over middle America.  What is this?  Looks like something out of that movie "Signs."

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Beautiful mountains.  We live in such a magnificent country.


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Isn't that something to admire?


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I mean really now, could this flight get any better?

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I have never flown across the country, so this is all new to me.  My nose is glued to the window.


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I've never seen such beautiful countryside.


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Isn't this a nice trip?


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I thought you would enjoy it.


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The flight attendants were very nice.


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We're getting close to Phoenix. 

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Comin' in for a landing. 


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Gettin' closer.  Can I close my eyes now?


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Almost there.  Wheels are down.  Thank God they work.


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Smooth....smooth


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Touchdown!  Score!  Yay!  Woohoo!  Cheers!  Kudos!  Hallelujahs!  Glory to God!

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Phoenix.

More later! 

Susan


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Monday, September 15, 2008

Panic - is that Normal?

I am beginning to panic.  My heart is skipping beats and I am feeling anxious.  I don't fly and I hate long road trips of any kind.  I prefer to stay home - always.  On one hand I am looking forward to this trip.  On the other hand I value my life and want to see my children again.  (choking up here).  Lord, just get us home.  In one piece.  Safely.  Happily.  Please.  Pretty please?  I promise (to the best of my human ability) I will never say another cuss word for the rest of my life.  Just please get me home so I can be a fine example of clean-alternative cuss-words when frustration kicks in. 

Help.

Pray.

Please?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Planes, Panic, and Long Road Trips

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Man-oh-Man-oh-Man.  I must be crazy.  Yep, I'm crazy alright.  But, it's for a good cause.  Actually, it's for a good friend.  Awww, more than that, I want to get the heck out of here for about 4-5 days and pretend I'm 18 again.  Yeah Man, that's the ticket.  I want to pretend I'm a crazy teenager again - with Alison.  So, on Tuesday, I'm flying to New Mexico (a-riva a-riva - whatever) and that, in and of itself, is going to be the trip from hell.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Date Night - A Rare Occasion

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It was time.  We hadn't been out for a fun evening - just Big Bear and me - since I can't remember when.  So, when our neighbor, who is also a singer in a band, invited us to the local country club (we're not members) where he was going to be playing, we jumped at the opportunity.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WE WILL NOT FORGET - in 100 LIFETIMES

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How do we reconcile the tragedy of September 11th in our brain?  In our lives?  In our hearts?  We don't .  I don't think we ever should, really.  This is not going to be a fact driven post - you've read it all a thousand times.  This is not going to be a post that even mentions the names or shows the images of the demons that perpetrated this horrific death on innocent human lives.  It is just going to be a memory.  My memory - and story too, as I would like to share how blessed I am that my husband is alive today and not a statistic of that impossible day. 


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And, this is a tribute, to the men and women who lost their lives, who almost lost their lives, who lost a loved one, who lost a child, who lost a friend, who were a friend,


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who counseled the grief stricken, and who lived this tragedy with ever-present strength.


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It was a beautiful morning in Maryland as it was in New York, that Tuesday morning in September.  The night before, Bob (aka Big Bear) had packed his bags as he usually did the night before a business trip.  He worked for Compaq at the time and he traveled often.  The week before, he had traveled to NYC and called me from the foot of the World Trade Center and said:


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Bob:  "Susan, I have really got to bring you here, honey.  You won't believe how tall the WTC is.  I'm standing at the foot of it right now and when I look up I can't even see the top.  It is incredible."

Me: "Sounds like fun sweetie.  Take pictures if you can and show me what you see.  Be safe."

Bob:  "Kiss the kids for me"

Me.  "Promise.  Have a great day and knock 'em off their feet up there!" 

Bob: "I will, the meeting is going well. I'm on my way to lunch."

Me:  "Enjoy your lunch.  Love you baby."

Bob: "Love you too."


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Bob's position with Compaq was that of Director and Managing Principle of the Network and Wireless Mobility Practice.  His team was presenting to the Port Authority on September 11th on the WTC 105th floor in the Cafe.  The presentation was going to be about a document management system that the Port Authority was looking to enable with mobile access.

Bob received a phone call at 10pm on Monday night by one of his colleagues who told him that he would cover the meeting in NYC if Bob would cover the meeting in DC with Nextel, in Roslyn, Virginia, near the Key Bridge.  And that is where Bob was that Tuesday morning when the attacks happened - Not in the WTC.  Not on the 105th floor.


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Bob and everyone in the meeting at Nextel left immediately after hearing the news.  It was chaotic at Nextel.  Everyone was thinking "Look over your shoulder, duck and cover" and there was no reliable information.  So his decision was to get everyone in their cars and to leave Virginia via Interstate 66 (a direct route out of DC from where they were to the Dulles access road).   By this time, the Pentagon had been hit.


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F-15s were flying overhead as there was information that another plane was headed to Dulles airport.  Bob and all those in the Nextel meeting headed out the Dulles greenway to get as far away from DC and the airport as possible.  Nobody even bothered to pay the tolls.  They just blew right through the toll booths, and headed towards Front Royal, Virginia.  Then when they were feeling a little better about distance they then turned back towards Frederick, Maryland and ate together at a small restaurant before coming home. 


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Bob literally lost track of some of his team members on that day that were in and around the WTC.   He had a colleague who was working on Wall Street in one of the buildings adjacent to the WTC plaza and they lost track of her for over 4 days.  They thought that she had been lost in the attack and that more of their colleagues who also worked on Wall Street were gone for good. 


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In some cases, some of Bob's colleagues walked out of the city for miles on foot because they couldn't get to their cars or a taxi.  Anything to get out of the city.  They just wanted to go home.


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When they finally got in contact with her, she explained how she saw the entire thing unfold.  She saw the first plane hit and stood at the window in her office and watched it all.  She said that the explosion from the first plane rattled her building.


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She said that everyone in the office stood in disbelief with the first plane explosion, but when she saw the 2nd plane approach she knew that they all needed to get the hell out of there.  And they did.  They had no phone contact as all the cell phones were impossible to use.  No communication with anyone in NY was possible.  Everyone was frantic.  She was grateful to be alive and home when she contacted Bob.


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The colleague who called Bob the night before?  I'm sure you are wondering about him.  Well, his is an interesting story too.  Bob's entire team was on the WTC 105th floor and had been preparing for the meeting with the Port Authority.  The guy who had called Bob the night before had been at the WTC in the Port Authority offices and was preparing the presentation in the Cafe since about 6am.  He wanted to make a good impression.  The presentation was scheduled to begin at 9am.  By 8:30, Bob's colleague realized that his dress shirt was now wrinkled and didn't look good for the presentation, so he told all the members of the Compaq team that he was going to run across the street quickly to have his shirt pressed and would be back in time for the presentation - he was the lead presenter. 


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It took him almost 10 minutes to get to the main level of the WTC.  He walked out onto the street, preparing to cross, when the first plane hit.  As he looked up he realized that the plane had hit the floors he just came from.  He called his team frantically and to no avail.  They were all dead.  So were all those from the Port Authority who were to be at the meeting in the WTC Cafe.  All lost.  Except for Bob's colleague (whose name I am intentionally not mentioning).  His wrinkled shirt saved his life.  He was the only survivor that day from Bob's team and from the members of the Port Authority who were waiting for the presentation.


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Bob lost his entire team that day, and a few other colleagues who were flying across the country to a Compaq convention in California from Boston. 


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They were on the 2nd plane to hit the World Trade Center.


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I couldn't believe that the Pentagon had been hit and that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania too.   I thought the world was ending.  I was on the phone as much as possible that day keeping in touch with my Big Bear.  He's my whole life.  He's my man. 


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He's my hunk-a-burnin' love.  He's my hubby.  He's my everything.  I'd die if I lost him.  We would all be lost without him.  All I did was hold my children ever so close to me.  Poor things, I thought the world was not going to survive this.  Their world was a scary place.  I just wanted all of this to be a bad dream.


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I had driven to Olney, Maryland (about 12 miles from our home in Woodbine and 30 miles from the Pentagon) to pick up some of Bob's dry cleaning when the tragedy began to unfold.  It was a beautiful morning and I recall listening to the music with the windows down in the car.  The children were comfortable at home with my mother.  All seemed so good that morning. 


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I never made it to Olney when I heard the news on the radio.  I raced home like a maniac and cried and screamed all the way home.  I think I even showed dramatic signs of road rage as I got behind some slow-poke on Rt. 97 in Brookeville.  "Get off the road!  I've got to get home to my children and call my husband you fool!!!!  Don't you know the world is ending!!!  I want to be with my children!!!  Get off the road if you are so damn slow!!!" 


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I remember vividly sitting right on top of my steering wheel with my foot to the floorboard racing down the 2-lane back country roads to home and praying I didn't hit a damn deer in the process.  Deer are everywhere in Maryland.  They're even in bank lobbies and fast-food restaurants.  I've had a number of run-ins with deer in Maryland and this was not going to be one of those days.  Come hell or high water, I was determined to get home to my children and hide in a closet until my honey got home.  "God, please bring Bob home safely." 


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Bob made it home hours later.  It was the longest few hours of my life.  I couldn't stop hugging my children.  I think I left permanent arm and hand prints on their faces and bodies from hugging them so tight.  Our tears  and our fear made a river that day.  We were all to be forever changed.


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A few days after the attacks, members of Bob's team went into several of the condemned buildings that were still burning in an attempt to recover vital systems for the financial markets.  And, one case in point was the bond markets. 


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Some of the systems were very old and antiquated and had no replacement systems on standby.  They managed to salvage some of the systems in the financial district in the buildings that surrounded the World Trade Center.  They were rummaging thru the garbage and debris to recover as much as they could to get the bond market up and running. Wearing hazmat outfits to protect themselves, they worked every daylight hour to salvage what they could find.   It was back up and running in 2 weeks.  Amazing work from those guys.


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Bob's colleague who saw the attacks unfold from her window in the Wall Street building quit Compaq and decided to be a stay-at-home mom.  I congratulate her on that decision.


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Bob's colleague who had the wrinkled shirt was unable to return to work at Compaq for 6 months.  Compaq took care of him too.  Why isn't corporate America like that now?  His job was waiting for him when he returned.


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Two months after the attacks, my brother, Mike, sent me a silver band with the name "Kevin James Hannaford" inscribed on it.  I had to know who he was and send condolences to his family.  This is what I learned: Kevin was a commodities broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, also on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center.  His wife, Eileen, who was expecting their 2nd child in January, got up that early morning to hug Kevin goodbye.  This was unusual as Eileen usually stayed in bed when Kevin left for work.  "We hugged each other and told each other how much we loved each other.  He touched the baby and said 'I love you, baby.'  I'm just so grateful I got up and hugged him that morning."  Eileen said.


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I  not only got to know Eileen Hannaford, Kevin's beautiful wife, but I got to know their son Patrick too.  Eileen was 5 months pregnant on September 11th with their son, Kevin James Hannaford, Jr.  and on January 9, 2002, their son Kevin, Jr was born. 


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Bob had meetings in New York City on January 10th, and so his limo driver took me to the hospital where I was able to meet Eileen, Patrick, and gorgeous baby Kevin for the first time.  With gifts in hand, I offered to also give Eileen the bracelet that bore her husband's name.  She said "No.  I'd rather you keep it and remember him, Susan."  And so I did just that.  I still have that bracelet and cherish it.


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Eileen has survived this horrific experience with grace and dignity.  Her boys are so handsome and smart.  I think Patrick looks a lot like his Daddy, and Kevin, Jr. looks like his Mommy.  We have kept in touch all these years and I am honored to call her "friend."  She has a picnic every year in May in celebration of Kevin's life and she has created a charity, the Kevin James Hannaford Foundation,  which is a non-profit, charitable organization contributing to the educational needs of children who have lost a parent to death.  You can visit her website at: Kevin James Hannaford  Sr. Inc.


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Bob is home.  He is my everything.  His life was spared by a phone call just 10 hours before the attacks.  I don't ask God why.  I only know that I am grateful, and blessed beyond measure.  I know how precious life and love really is. 


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I am only grateful for the people in my life and I cherish them all - friend and family alike.


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A year later I created an oil painting for a Remembrance exhibition in Greensboro, North Carolina at the Marshall Gallery.  My painting depicted the men of the USS Theodore Roosevelt preparing to be the first ship to leave the US to fight the war on terrorism one week after September 11th.  They are lowering the flag just before leaving Norfolk, Virginia.  My painting has won numerous awards, but none that are as important as the reason for my painting - to remember.  To remember the sacrifice.  To remember the lives that have been lost, to remember that on that tragic day and every day after as we fight overseas, we need to remember and be grateful for our blessings, and for our freedom, and for those service men and women who are fighting for our continued freedom and the freedom of others around the world. 


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I feel a little better being able to share.  I think I'll go hug my Big Bear one more time today, and again - and again - and again.  He may just be hugged skinny today. 

Still...


Susan

Note: I have been receiving some beautiful emails and incredible stories.  Please share your memory and your 9/11 story with me.  I would like to post your story on Raisin Toast.  Please include pictures if you can.  If not, that is okay too.  You are  in my prayers today.  (susan@redeasel.com)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Adding Some Action in Photoshop

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I've been busy lately, and that has nothing to do with housework either, unfortunately.  Especially for anyone who wants clean underwear.  Instead of doing what I should be doing, I've been playing with Photoshop more and more lately and I can't decide whether I am having more fun with my Nikon and Photoshop or in my art studio painting.  It's a toss up. So, while I am here at my computer (which seems to be a lot lately), I am going to share with you some of the fun things I have been doing in Photoshop.

Continue Reading in Photography...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bath Time Bravery

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Hannah, our little fluffy white fuzz ball puppy, managed to get herself into a lot of dirt over the weekend which resulted in her having to have a bath.  The problem with this is that it requires multiple family members to drop what they are doing, clean and scrub out the sink, get multiple towels, the doggy shampoo, the doggy brush, nail clippers, and smell-goody spray, to bathe our little white fur-ball.   It is always an event to remember around here - and a messy one too.

>> Keep Reading

   

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Road Trip

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Welcome to North Carolina folks.  I had my trusty Nikon D300 in hand the other evening and decided to take pictures out the window of our car just driving down the road to see what I wound up with at the end of the evening.  I'm fly by the seat of my pants like that.   So, if you would like to see the scenes of our 7 mile trek to the Americana Restaurant from Weddington to Matthews, you're in the right place.  (That's South Charlotte for anyone who is not familiar with Charlotte, North Carolina)

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Wanna Smile?

I am not much for watching Videos online, but now and then I come across something that makes me smile or laugh-out-loud.  So, to start your weekend off with a smile - I hope - I am posting my 3 favorite videos.  Videos that always manage to make me smile regardless of the frame of mind I might be in.

If you want to smile:


If you want to smile bigger:


And if you want to laugh out loud:



That was fun, don't you think? Sometimes I have to take a detour from the conversation to keep you on your toes.

Susan

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Well, Holy Guacamole!

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Thanks to Beth and her creative kitchen endeavors, she has provided us with a delightful dish that is sure to make your man smile while watching football.  And if you're like me, you don't really care if he is watching football, because if he is, then that means he ain't botherin' you, right?  So, Holy Guacamole!  Hand him a platter and a beer and go get your nails done.  He'll never miss ya and you'll enjoy some time to yourself that isn't filled with the sounds of "Honey, can you get me this?"  or "Mom, can I have that?"   Personally, as a non-cooker, I have found that easy ...

Continue Reading in What's Cookin ...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Long Nap or Was it Just a Glorious Weekend?

Okay, so why haven't I posted anything in 3 days?  Oh, it's because I have been on a cruise to the Bahamas and I left my laptop at home.  - Not. 

Or, wait a minute, it's because I took a long drive in the mountains and forgot to tell you about it.  - Not. 

How about this:  I took an exceptionally long and enjoyable nap in a comfy bed and a soft, cold, and fluffy pillow.  - Well, yeah, kinda.  A few times.

Actually, there have been several reasons which I would like to share.

First of all, Sarah prepared for her journey into high school.  We went shopping at the mall and bought her some really cool (is that a "hip" word still? - cool?) clothes for school.  I can't believe how much she has grown this summer.  Over 2 inches!  Then we went to Staples and bought her school supplies - lots of 'em.   Then I received an email from one of her teachers - for Algebra - and it included worksheets that her teacher wanted her to complete.  Worksheets that the class had been given the week before.  Her teacher told me that it was her way of determining at what level the class was at and what book she should teach from - Fundamentals of Algebra or Algebra 1.   She hasn't assigned a book yet for the students, and Sarah had about 10 worksheets that kept us busy over the weekend. 

To my surprise, Sarah whipped through them like cake batter and only had a few questions for me to refresh her Algebraic skills.  I was so proud of her.  I checked her work and it appeared to me that she had solved the equations perfectly.  We shall see.  So, yes, that kept us both busy this weekend too.

Of course, I cleaned, did some laundry, and spoiled myself with the purchase of an upgrade to Photoshop and a new camera - Nikon D300 - my dream camera since the sale of my first dream camera - the Nikon D100 that has been wonderful for about 7 years.  I've been saving for the D300 and finally ordered it this weekend.  Yippee Dee Doo Dah!  I ordered it from B&H - the best photo and video and the best prices (this is not an advertisement but it should be).  I know too, because I have been pricing my dream camera for months now.  I kept coming back to B&H and that is why I advertise for them too.  Because I think they are great - and so is the customer service.  Or, at least, this has been my personal experience.  I can't wait to get my camera.  It should arrive later in the week. 

Even though I was busy this weekend, Beth had sent me a wonderful recipe for Guacamole dip and I have been trying to adjust the images in Photoshop - to my chagrin.  Photoshop keeps hanging and I can't even get it to force quit.  Not only is Photoshop hanging, but it's making me hang too.  I'm hung up on Photoshop application difficulties and therefore can't post pretty pictures with my posts.  And the Guacamole dip must have pictures. 

I've been hung up on this Photoshop problem for the best part of this weekend and it is making me a bit irritated.  The only way to shut it down and start over is to shut down my entire computer.  That stinks. 

So bear with me folks.  The pretty pictures will be back to entice you and appeal to your visual right-brain just as soon as I can find what's causing the problem and fix it. 

Sorry Beth for not getting that recipe posted yet.  It sure looks good in your email! 

SusieQ


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