Monday, October 31, 2011

Family Tradition . . . With a Twist

Many of you already know that the carving of Halloween pumpkins is a tradition in my household.  Ryan says mine always look the same – every year I try to make mine different, but I guess I’m just not that creative with a carving knife in my hand.  When we’re finished, I put the pumpkins, Ryan, and Zoe in the kitchen to take pictures, because that’s the best nighttime lighting in the house.


Ryan thought it would be cute to try to assume Zoe’s pose.  Didn’t quite work.  So he decided to get creative . . .

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I got a kick out of Zoe’s “are you nuts?” look in the right photo.  But Ryan wasn’t done . . .


Look closely – you’ll notice that the bottom of Ryan’s pumpkin is now missing.  Yes, that’s where it’s going . . .

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I can’t even begin to imagine how that felt (or smelled).  But I have to admit it was fun.  Reminds me a bit of some of my wacky costumes at the Cincinnati convention.


So this is this year’s Family Pumpkin Carving Photo . . .

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And then our creations went out on the front rail to display.  Tonight, they’ll be lighted for the Trick or Treaters when they come up our street . . .

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Video Rainbow

I should have known better – I sent an e-mail out to our list yesterday and tried to include video for the first time.  Should have sent it to myself first to make sure it would work – when I got a copy later in the day, I got some warning about “Active X controls not working” or something like that, and no video.  Next time, I guess I’ll include a link as well.

So let’s try again . . .

A Sight I Saw Because of Your Orders!

I was on the way to the Centerville Post Office late Thursday afternoon with half a carload of orders to mail.  Just as I pulled into the parking lot, the most beautiful rainbow appeared.  I can't remember the last time I could see both ends of a rainbow so close together.  I tried to shoot a picture, but couldn't get all of it in one shot.  Then it hit me -- "I can shoot video on my cell phone."  So I did -- hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Catching Up . . .

Before I do anything else, I owe a very heartfelt Thank You! from my family to all of you who took the time to send responses to the blog piece about my mom that I wrote on Monday.  I printed every one of them and took them to her on Tuesday afternoon – she was simply overwhelmed by all of the prayers and good wishes from people all over the world that she has never met.  Dad read them too – I talked with him on the phone this morning and he quoted a couple of them.

Mom is doing great – still hasn’t had the first bit of nausea, the lump on her neck is already getting smaller, and she’s starting to get her energy back.  My mom’s “glass” is always half-full – she went to get her hair done this morning.  Today is Day Seven, and she was assured that her hair would start to surrender sometime between Days Ten and Fourteen – but a couple of you told her that you didn’t lose yours, and she has decided to enjoy hers for as long as she can.  We are truly thankful.

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We now return you to our regularly scheduled fun and frivolity . . .

I just cleared my phone of some pictures that I took during my travels over the past month.  I’ll just post them with a quick comment under each – some of these are really random . . .


This was on Saturday at the Anderson, SC show.  I just get a kick out of the husbands who can go to sleep anywhere.  If I had pulled back a little, you would see that he was surrounded by excited shoppers.


Yes, that is a refrigerator in the back of the truck – it is now beside the classroom in our store.  Peggy Gould brought it to Anderson – she and her husband donated it to us.  This shot was taken just before I surrounded it with boxes and boxes and boxes full of Tweety Jill books that I picked up from a fulfillment warehouse in Georgia after the Anderson show.

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We had a special guest during teardown after the Fort Wayne show.  Robin and Keia Arnold help us at several shows during the year – they live near Decatur (about half an hour away), and when Robin’s husband Phil came to help tear down the booth, he brought Kisha along with him.  She had a great time visiting with us while we worked – and she was much more patient than Zoe would have been in similar circumstances!


Awwwwwwwww …

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Within hours after I got home from Fort Wayne, I was on my way to Tims Ford State Park near Winchester, TN (about 90 minutes SE of Nashville) for three days of golf and fellowship.  This is the nicest of the courses we have played over the past few years – partly because the weather was absolutely perfect (no clouds, no wind, temps about 80).

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Yes, I shot these with my cell phone and no zoom lens – they were right next to the fairway and didn’t seem to be bothered by us at all.  Late each afternoon, hundreds of deer came out to feed all over the park – these shots were taken in some trees between two fairways.

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My birthday was on the Sunday of the York show.  This was only the third time that my mom hasn’t seen me on my birthday (all three because I was at shows).  But there are perks – Bev Parnell and Sue Bomboy brought goodies before the show started on Saturday (they were escorted to the booth by the promoter).  Bev brought a homemade cake, homemade treats for Zoe, and a card, and Sue brought homemade chocolates from the family candy company in Maryland.  All of this was seriously good stuff!

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The outside and inside of Bev’s birthday card.  Bev has never met Zoe, but she understands – when I read it, I had to wipe a tear from my eye.


After the show Saturday, I went to Walmart and bought some forks and plates.  Sunday morning, I shared Bev’s cake with my fellow vendors.  I even caught Steve from Toomuchfun sneaking back for seconds (so did I) . . .


This is Rebecca Parkes – she is the new National Sales Manager at Faber-Castell.  She wanted to experience a show for the first time, so when she told me she was coming to York, I offered her a seat at our demo table for part of Saturday.  If you were there, you might have noticed the “newbie light” flashing on her forehead . . .


This is Pam Rhinehart – she was the courier for my friend Judy Jackson, who couldn’t make it to the show.  Judy needed one of the wafer thin Sizzix plates, and e-mailed in early September to see if I would bring one to York and Pam would pick it up.  With the way my memory has been lately, I immediately took one out and put it on the seat of the truck.  I should have collected stickers for it like an old-time suitcase – by the time it was picked up, that plate had gone from Ohio to Kentucky to Tennessee to North Carolina to South Carolina to Georgia to Tennessee to Kentucky to Ohio to Indiana to Ohio to Indiana to Ohio to West Virginia and finally to Pennsylvania!  That “Ohio to Indiana to Ohio to Indiana to Ohio” was not a glitch – I came home on Friday evening before the Fort Wayne show to announce the local high school football game (it was homecoming).


This is another husband who “gets it” – he came in with his wife on Saturday morning, she just about ran to Sue Rothamel to grab a seat in front of her performance, and he settled in with a couple of magazines.  I think he was there for about two hours.


And this was my favorite fellow at the York show.  He was in a pretty long line waiting to get to my cash register.  I hadn’t seen him yet, but I heard him talking about a craft festival where his daughter and granddaughter had a booth that weekend.  What I heard most was “You wouldn’t believe this town – the population is no more than 3,000 but on this weekend every year they have more than 350,000 people on Main Street . . .”  At that point, I interrupted and finished his sentence – “. . . all because of sauerkraut.”  He gave me a bewildered “How did you know?” – and I responded, “Because I live there.”  It is truly a small world when I’m 450 miles from home and the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival is still a topic of conversation.

So now my phone camera is clear, and I’m caught up (I think) . . .

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Only Thing I Want for My Birthday … Next Year

I have been off the blogging grid for several weeks.  There were/are stories that I wanted to share . . . things going on during shows and in the store . . . but there was a story from my personal life that I wanted . . . needed . . . to share first.  And I couldn’t until the time was right – and until I got permission.


You might remember this picture – it was taken on my mom’s birthday on August 28, during a family outing to a Dayton Dragons’ game that was arranged by her sister, Nancy.  We had such a good time – it was a simply perfect day.

Three days later, I found out about the lump on Mom’s neck.

If I hadn’t had a sinus infection, Blake and I might not have known about it for some time (Mom is a very private person), but since we happened to be at the doctor’s office at the same time, a simple “What are you here for?” led to the news.  We weren’t terribly concerned at the outset – our doctor suspected it might just be a thyroid problem and ordered some tests, which unfortunately ruled that out.

At this point, I started to type a step-by-step narrative of what we (yes, “we” – Mom has done all of the work, but we have gone through this as a family) have done and seen and experienced since that point – but my high school English composition teacher would have written “wordy” all over it.  Suffice to say that we went to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist and an Oncologist, to at least two hospitals for tests and a cancer center for treatment.  Mom has had an ultrasound, a CAT Scan, a needle biopsy, minor surgery to take a “frozen section” of the lymph gland for further testing, a PET Scan to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else in her body, and an Echocardiogram to check the strength of her heart because one of the chemo drugs can stress it.

And somehow through all of this, I missed only one appointment in three weeks while traveling to shows in Anderson, SC, Fort Wayne, IN, and York, PA, and a golf trip in TN – Mom would never have allowed me to adjust my schedule.

The final results came last Wednesday – “Stage Two High Grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma” (along with another couple of words that I missed – the oncologist went through them pretty fast).  Stage Two is not as good as Stage One, but it’s not horrible – the cancer was in more than one lymph node but they are side-by-side.  High Grade is better than Low Grade because the cancer cells are fast-growing and that’s the type of cells that chemo is most effective on.  And Non-Hodgkins is better than Hodgkins because it can be cured.  The oncologist recommended that Mom start with three chemo treatments three weeks apart – a five drug combination they refer to as “R-CHOP” (the first letter of each drug).  Then he will evaluate the results and continue with three more chemo treatments, switch to radiation, or do a combination of the two.

A nurse came in and went through lots of sheets describing the treatments, side effects (nausea, fatigue, hair loss, etc.), diet, and such.  And they were ready to start as soon as we were, so we scheduled the first treatment for first thing in the morning this past Friday – it was supposed to last seven hours.

There is humor in almost any situation if you look for it – and my laugh came when we arrived at the cancer center on Friday morning.  Mom was the first patient to arrive, so when she walked into the treatment room, a nurse told her to choose any of the 14 easy chairs in the room.  It looked like a scene from “The Three Bears” as she went from chair to chair – one was too soft, one was too hard, one sat up too high, and finally one was just right.  And her first chemo treatment went so smoothly that she got finished an hour early.


I took this picture three hours after Mom got home on Friday – when I walked in, she was washing silverware because she had run the dishwasher and found a bug on one of the spoons as she was emptying it.  I am very happy to report that it is now three days later and Mom is doing great – she’s tired, but has had no nausea at all.  And she is preparing for her new look (Dad will probably '”help” her with that later this week since he cuts his own hair) – she has bought a couple of do-rags and a skull cap, and is giving some thought to a wig.

When we first started this process, Mom was not ready to “go public” until we knew what we were dealing with.  During the chemo treatment on Friday, I talked with her and she gave me permission to write this piece – I have shared a lot of our life over the past few years and so many have told me how much they enjoy it.  This isn’t nearly as enjoyable, but it is part of who we are.  And as the holidays approach, there will likely be pictures of our family gatherings and the inevitable questions will have already been answered.

The title of this piece has had nothing to do with anything I have written so far.  But my birthday came in the middle of this process a week ago Sunday while I was at a show in York, PA.  Ever since I moved out on my own, my phone has rung at 6:53 a.m. on my birthday (the time I was born) – when I answer the phone, Mom and Dad are on the other end singing “Happy Birthday.”  I thought it was a little hokey in the early days, but now I really look forward to it.  (My brother has never experienced this quite the same way, partly by his own choice – he was born at 1:52 a.m.)  And the four of us usually get together for lunch on my birthday when I’m in town.

The only thing I want for my birthday next year is that phone call – with two healthy voices singing on the other end.