Showing posts from June, 2011

This and That

This lovely letter is from my new pen pal, Joel, who is 4 1/2 years old and lives in an orphanage in Bolivia. We exchange letters and photos by e-mail, and I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy his comments and drawings. (Let me know if you're interested in having a young pen pal of your own at the orphanage, and I'll give you the contact information. This being a small world filled with coincidences, the contact woman in Bolivia was actually born and raised in Omaha.)

I know I'm starting to sound like an Omaha flooding infomercial, but I have a great link my cousin sent to share with you. Professional photographer Rick Anderson put together a great file of photos. [Update--Okay, my link doesn't work, and I can't find those particular photos online. E-mail me at if you want to see the PDF.] (He also has some drool-worthy photography at Rick Anderson Gallery.) When we travel to my hometown in Iowa to visit my sister and her children,…

This and That

"This used to be your blanket and pillow? Mine now!"

Muffin's looking a little scruffy in this photo, but I love the pose. She gets groomed on Friday, so I'll have to post a sleeker photo next week.

Anyone in the U.S. have special plans for the Fourth of July weekend? I'm taking a four-day weekend since my sister and her family from New Mexico are planning to be in Lincoln on Friday. We're also having a get-together to share fireworks and a potluck with some of our neighbors on Saturday. I think the actual Fourth might be a little quiet. I'm really excited about the four-day weekend, though.

I hope I get to enjoy the weekend because I have an emergency appointment with the dentist tomorrow morning. I have the absolute worst luck with my teeth. My mom and I brush and floss more than anyone I know, and we have so many problems with our teeth. I'm blaming genetics--and hoping Maya has Herb's teeth. The latest is a broken lower back tooth, and …

Maya's Pierced Ears--June 25, 2011

Maya and I went to get her ears pierced at Claire's in a local mall on Saturday. She's so excited to have pierced ears.

This is Maya right after choosing the biggest, blingiest earrings for her piercing.

This is right as the woman is readying the "gun" to pierce her first ear.

Immediate reaction after having the first ear pierced. A couple of people in the mall walkway just outside the store dead-stopped at my not-quiet daughter's reaction.

Yes, it was worth the pain!

Barnes & Noble Story & Craft Time

[Full disclosure: I have zero affiliation with Barnes & Noble. I'm just a customer. :)]

One of our local Barnes & Noble locations has a Story & Craft Time on Saturday mornings; our other local Barnes & Noble location has them on, I believe, Friday mornings. Although the sessions are held year-round, Maya and I are really making them a part of our summer Saturday routine.

The sessions always have a theme, like fathers on Father's Day weekend, Fancy Nancy, and animal safari. The storyteller, who is excellent here, reads two or three books before having craft time. The sessions usually last 30 to 45 minutes, depending in large part on how complicated the craft happens to be.

If a child under the age of 13 is part of your life, you might also be interested in joining the free Barnes & Noble Kids' Club. Members receive $5 rewards certificates by e-mail for every $100 spent on kids' products, either online or in-store, up to $20 in certificates per yea…

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

[Full disclosure: I read a copy of this book obtained from the Nebraska Library Commission's book club kit collection.]

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (2002) is the June selection for my book club at work.

From the vantage point of adulthood, Kate looks back at the way her family's life altered forever when she was seven. Her parents died in a car accident, and her oldest brother, Luke, gave up his scholarship for college--and the chance to leave their rural Canadian (Ontario) lifestyle--to raise Kate and eighteen-month-old Bo, along with the help of seventeen-year-old Matt.

Even though you might expect the story to revolve around tragedy and grief, I see this more as a story about relationships (among family and also the members of the community who step forward to help the four siblings) and the role of expectations in our lives. A central part of the story is the relationship between Kate and Matt, and how her hero worship shatters when she thinks he "wastes" his life.


Moncy3 on Etsy

My friend and pen pal Claudia, easily one of the nicest people I have the good fortune to be a part of my life, has a fun blog and a wonderful Etsy shop, Moncy3.

If you like to write letters and cards, take a look at my lovely purchases from Claudia's shop. (And my mom would tell you that *everyone* needs some cards on hand to send a quick, thoughtful note. You really can make a difference by reaching out to someone with kind words.)

This is the beautiful wrapped package I found in my mail delivery. It felt like my birthday.

This is the content. Maya received the princess stationery for her birthday, and I've already used the camoflauge stationery with my soldier pen pals letters.

Claudia also holds a monthly drawing from shoppers at her site, with the lucky winner receiving the item of his/her choice, and we won for May! I say "we" because Maya is also pen pals with Claudia's daughter, who did the drawing, and Maya and I are convinced the pen pal friendship vib…

Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire

[Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy borrowed from my local public library.]

Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy by Carlos Eire (2010) is the story of one family's experience as part of Operation Pedro (or Peter) Pan in 1962, when 14,000 children left Cuba alone to resettle in the United States.

Expecting to be reunited with their mother soon, eleven-year-old Carlos and his older brother instead embarked on a life-changing experience. As their mother struggles to leave Cuba to reunite with them, always expecting to leave their father to guard the family home and art collection, the boys live through culture shock, the horror of sadistic foster parents, and a serious drop in class status/standard of living.

I appreciated reading this book because (a) I knew nothing about Operation Peter Pan and (b) I like reading first-hand accounts of the immigration experience. I didn't particularly care for the way the author moves between time periods, almost …

Do You Exchange Mail with Someone in Canada?

When Maya and I stopped at our local post office this morning, a friendly woman I've never seen before happened to be working at the counter. She said, "I don't know whether you send mail to Canada [yes, I do], but I wanted to warn you that they notified us they aren't sending or accepting any mail as of Monday [June 20] until further notice."

I missed this report from CNN regarding the lockout of workers as of Wednesday, citing the loss of $100 million from twelve days of rolling strikes.

I'm not taking a stand on the strike and resulting lockout due to lack of personal knowledge about the situation, though I definitely lean in favor of the rights of the workers in most situations. Cutting health and pension benefits when the system is generating a profit seems, well, odd.

And, to my Canadian friends who are as into snail mail as I am, I wish you the best of luck with your mail withdrawal symptoms. I feel your pain.

This and That

All 4 Alabama continues to host some fantastic auctions. As of Wednesday, they reported raising $6500 for tornado disaster relief.

I feel like I'm Miss Neglectful of Everything (blogging, reading, and writing letters) right now. I'm working on finding a different job with no luck, so please let me know if you know of anything. I'm also experiencing the joys of exploring options for refinancing our home loan. Lots of time and effort for both pursuits, and they're discouraging in different ways.

Postings coming to this blog next week (promise):

--Gushing over my friend Claudia'scool Etsy site, Moncy3

--My reviews of Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy by Carlos Eire and the June selection for my work book club, Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

--Barnes & Noble Story & Craft Time

Hope you have the very best of weekends!

Maya's Birthday Party--June 15, 2011

Maya declared this her "best party ever," and I can't disagree. Having the party on a weeknight meant she had the only birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese at the time, plus having the lowest number of people playing at CEC that I've ever seen. Perfect!

All of the girls.

Playing with Chuck E. Cheese and the hostess.

Singing Happy Birthday.

Waiting for ticket blaster to start.

The ticket blaster--and Maya--in action.

Herb's "game face."

Happy Birthday, Maya!

Maya is seven today. I know I say this every year, but how can she be seven already???

We had a rough start to her birthday. Maya is very fashion-oriented, with her own personal style, something I'm told is pretty common in the Gemini world. She chooses her own outfits, and any objections on my part usually involve when the clothing doesn't fit the projected weather for the day. Well, of course, today is the day she decided to wear her (very cute) rabbit pony tail holders as ankle bracelets. Creative, yes, though too tight, so I vetoed the plan. I should have filmed the waterworks and resulting march up the block on a mission to walk to Grandma's house to live with her.

Sigh. I hope the rest of her day is going better! Mine certainly is.

We're celebrating with a couple of her friends tonight, so expect some photos tomorrow.

More on Flooding in the Area

If you know the Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa, area, this is the point where I-680 and I-29 meet, as seen on June 12, 2011. My first cousin sent me this photo, and I don't know who the photographer happens to be.

In response to StephanieD's comment on my earlier posting, what I've heard up to this point is one death, a man working on the levee, and my deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones. People with homes and businesses impacted, including the entire town of Hamburg, Iowa, (population 1100) had notice enough to leave.

On a slightly lighter note, a young woman who called into one of the Omaha radio stations while I was listening said she spent a weekend helping her parents load a U-Haul with their personal belongings and remove hay from their barn. Her comment to them after finishing (slightly paraphrased), "You need to get rid of some of this stuff before next time, or we're just going to have to light a fire and burn it all instead of moving it.&q…

Red Heat by Nina Bruhns

Overview from author Nina Bruhns' site about Red Heat (2011), the first book in the Men in Uniform series:

CIA analyst Julie Severin hates anything to do with Russia—the country that killed her cold war spy father. She also has a phobia about large bodies of water. Needless to say, she is horrified when she is ordered at the last minute to join an international team of scientists going deep under the frigid waters of the Arctic on an ancient Russian rust bucket of a submarine. Her mission: to recover a tiny data card hidden somewhere on the sub by a murdered CIA mole…and while she’s at it, acquire the sub’s arrogant but annoyingly attractive commander as the asset’s replacement.

When Julie’s life is suddenly threatened by an enemy agent hunting the same hidden microcard, she must turn to her nemesis for help. But the killer handsome Russian captain is hiding his own shocking secrets…

There's a lot happening in this book, and I'd call this one more of suspense with a dash of …

Missouri River, June 7, 2011

The Missouri River from the 40th Floor of First National Bank Tower, Omaha, Nebraska, on June 7, 2011. My mom's first cousin sent her these photos, and she shared them with me.

Random Recent Photos

Just some recent photos I like that I haven't shared with you yet.

Maya in her cousin Liz's graduation hat.

Maya's response after I asked, "You do know you have to give the hat back, right?"

The bear Maya brought home from Nebraska Wildlife Safari Park. Photo taken by Maya.

Peonies in bloom in our back yard.

Roses in bloom in our front yard.

This and That

I always feel really weird when I go four or five days without posting. I wasn't as bothered this time, though, because I had a nasty round with either the flu or food poisoning. I felt so terrible that I couldn't even read or write letters (!), and I'm so glad that's over now. Kind of ironic to have chills and need a blanket on Monday when we hit 102 degrees Fahrenheit with the accompanying terrible humidity.

Maya's keeping busy this summer. For daycare, she swims on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, has a Great Stories reading time on Friday afternoons, and takes a field trip on Wednesday afternoons to various places, including a local park, the bowling alley, and the farm implement store. [I tease you not when I say the farm implement store tour is a major highlight for my city kid.] She also has swimming lessons after daycare four days a week. We also have our Saturday morning routine, including Barnes & Noble Story and Craft time and lunch at Granite …

Darkness Dawns by Dianne Duvall

Even if you're a fan who feels the paranormal romance subgenre is saturated at this point, I hope you give Darkness Dawns (2011), the first book in the Immortal Guardians series from Dianne Duvall, a try. If you enjoy strong female characters and dialogue with wit, you should appreciate this book.

Sarah knows nothing about immortals or vampires (yep, the vamps are the bad guys in this one) until she saves a stranger in the woods near her North Carolina home who is staked and being tortured. For his part, Roland is an emotionally-scarred, 937-year-old loner, one definitely not looking for a relationship, even with an attractive human who saved his life.

An excerpt from page 60, before Sarah knows anything about immortals, vampires, and their war, with immortals doing their best to protect humans from vampires:

She [Sarah] swallowed. "You think they're going to come back."

He [Roland] nodded. "And since you're the only person nearby, they'll draw the obviou…

Random Facts about Me

1. Herb and I are celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary today. We're having dinner somewhere to celebrate while Maya stays with my mom. If I could just think of somewhere really nice that we'll both enjoy. . . .

2. I used to think I was a romantic, but that either wasn't ever true or time/life changed me. When reading the "our anniversary" cards in a store the other day, I wanted to gag over each one. They all seemed to be along the lines of "my life would be nothing without you." Um, no. Where is the "we have our ups and downs, but thanks for being a big part of my life" section?

3. Maya dinged my heart this morning. This girl is extremely cuddly and loving, always wanting hugs and kisses good-bye and hello--in public or not, and I guess I started taking that for granted. When I left her at day three of summer daycare today, she moved away and said "you can go now" when I tried to hug her good-bye. Sigh.

Any rando…

More Cards for Gordon

A couple more cards to report for Gordon's birthday:

5. Ana Micaela, someone in Portugal I met through the luck of the draw on Postcrossing. She sent a fun card with messages in Portugese and English for Gordon, along with a letter for me.

6. Karen, a new blogger at I am Rushmore. You should check out her fantastic artwork on her blog. She graciously shared her talents with Gordon and me, too, and I wish I could do what she does!!

I think Gordon's really going to appreciate the cards and notes from everyone. Thank you!

Nebraska Wildlife Safari Park, Part 2

Nebraska Wildlife Safari Park is run by the renowned Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, and I can't rave enough about how much we enjoyed visiting.

My one complaint? We didn't get to the gift shop until 10 minutes before closing, and I came home with too few postcards. An excuse to visit again soon, right?

Another photo of the fairly substantial elk herd at the park.

Herd of bison.

Can you spot the wolf in this photo? Pretty good blending with the rocks in Wolf Canyon. [The wolf is right in the center, and you can sort of see the pointy ears.]

My favorite photo from our visit; the pelicans right beside our car, again close enough to reach out and touch.

Maya by part of the bison sculpture at the front of the park.