Friday, July 31, 2009

A little taste of England...

I went out to get the mail this morning and found a package from ENGLAND waiting for me...

I recognized (aka recognised) the handwriting on the box immediately to be that of my dear childhood friend Claire. Is it strange that I can still identify her handwriting instantly even though I haven't lived in the same country as her for almost 14 years and haven't seen her in at least 5?

* Note, I realized (aka realised) later that I could have just looked on the side of the box to see who sent it to me and what was in it. Ha!

Anyhoo, I opened it up and found THIS!

Okay, so it was wrapped a lot better than that - but I tore into it fast because I was so excited!

Essentially, it was a box filled with English candy (aka sweets.) AMAZING!

To top it all off Claire had found the perfect birthday card... covered in sweets...

I sat on my porch and cried. Yup, I'm a little emotional these days! I was just so overwhelmed by her thinking of me, especially with everything that's been going on in my life lately.

It got me thinking about how many people I've been able to reconnect with, or connect more with through this blog. I can share a little insight into my life - good and bad - with friends all over the world. That's really pretty amazing! Claire and I have always done a generally decent job of keeping in touch, considering it's been 14 years since we lived and went to school together, and that we were just 12 or 13 when I left and moved to the States, but we've done such a better job through Facebook and this blog. It's so great!

So thank you Claire, and all of those of you that touch my life daily through this blog. Happy Friday!

(I searched for a half hour to find a photo of Claire and I. I was looking for something really old school when we had really old school bangs (aka fringes) and wore sassy vests (aka waistcoats) and leggings (WAIT! Isn't that back in style?!) but all of my old, old pictures are at my parents house. This photo was taken when my brother and I went to England for a visit after I graduated college in 2004 - I think??)

PS) Claire - seriously, when did Opal Fruits become Starburst?! They have always been Starburst here, but the flavors weren't the same. Thank goodness the English Starburst still have the English flavors. YUM!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kitty Update

I'm trying not to let this blog become all about the kittens - but since so many of you have been asking about them, I figured I'd give you a video update. Enjoy!

PS) I've even contemplated starting an entire new blog - just for the kittens - but I figured that might be a little overboard! : )

PPS) I've added a little kitty ticker at the very bottom of my blog. Scroll all the way down to see!

Adventures in my own back yard

Well, not literally my back yard. But pretty darn close!

You see, we walk Bella to the dog park relatively often. It's about 1.2 miles from our house. Especially now that it's summertime, walking there and letting Bella run around for a half hour and then walking back is just the right amount of exercise to wear her out. And as they say, a good dog is a tired dog!

Yesterday Heather, Lily and I took Bella for a walk down to the dog park. The park is situated right next to a little school that I always knew was there but had never paid much attention to. Heather was curious as to what school it was, so we veered left on our way out to take a look.

As soon as we walked that little bit to the left we made an AMAZING discovery. A huge community garden that I had no idea even existed!

After reading the signage, we discovered we were allowed to walk the trails around the plots as long as we didn't enter actual pots. We had a great time oohing and aahing at all of the wonderful, delicious looking produce that was being grown.

Some plots were very well organized, while others were a little overgrown!

We chatted with this gardener for a few minutes.... he was picking collard greens...

He said that for one huge plot (seriously, they were huge!) for a season it was just $50 to rent, which included access to a water supply. Amazing right? Heather and I mused how great it would be to split a plot and get her kids involved in taking care of it. This coming from me, who can barely keep her six tomato plants + hanging baskets alive... : )

The produce was really amazing. There were a few flowers in there, too...

It was so neat! Not far off the road, it felt miles away from civilization. It was truly magical to stroll around and see all of that locally grown garden-goodness.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend Fun at Taste of Grand Rapids

I was pretty needy this weekend. Thank goodness for the Bylsma's who came over on Friday, and the Hill's who - well - they spent pretty much the entire weekend with us! : )

I needed to stay busy and keep my mind off things - so we headed down to our city zoo on Saturday for an event called "Taste of Grand Rapids."

It was essentially a huge fair of food. All kinds of food booths from local restaurants with samples and food for sale. We bought food and beverage tickets at the door and went to town!

Delish! Thanks for the fun, Hill's! : )

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Introducing Our New House Guests...

There have been many tears shed over the past three days. I've gone through emotional ups and downs and sat in the grey area in between the two.

And then everything changed. Sort of.

As Travis was walking Bella yesterday morning, he heard crying coming from the side of our house, where the bushes, weeds, and brush is all piled up in between our house and the neighbor's.

He called me and I came outside to see. We carefully walked back into the bushes to discover a little pile of kittens. Yes, kittens.

And when I say kitten I mean - really - kitten. These little ones had their eyes closed and were squirming around on top of each other.

We had no idea what to do.

Leave them? What would happen to them? Was the mother coming back? When?

So maybe we should bring them inside. But then what? Where would we put them? What should they eat? How do we care for them? What if the mommy came back and her babies were gone?

We called several animal shelters which were all closed. We called the vet who referred us to the animal shelter. We were stuck.

But not so much. You see, our neighbor and her girlfriend work for Carol's Feral's. A non-profit that does trap, spay/neuter and release work with feral cats. They also rehab cats and place them into homes if/when appropriate.

We called them and left a message.

Thinking we could cause more harm than good moving them at this point, we headed out to meet the Hill's (more on that later...)

Carol called us a couple of hours later - and by the time we got home they had retrieved the cats and were beginning to feed them. They explained that their organization and many others are 100% full of cats and kittens right now, and running out of room, foster parents, and homes. I already knew I was going to foster them.

How could I not?

I figured, hey - I'm out of work, I will have all the time in the world. Carol's Feral's provides their food, medicine, and later on their shots and spay/neuter surgery, so it wouldn't cost me anything.

Maybe I'm crazy - but it all felt like a SIGN. A sign to stop moping around and move on already.

And so the madness began. I feed them every 2-3 hours, around the clock. I'm constantly replacing heating bottles and wandering upstairs just to make sure they are still breathing.

After all, the ladies informed us that it is NOT expected that they live. They are about a week old, and very vulnerable. They were cold when we found them, and one even still had its umbilical cord attached. They said we should be prepared to lose one, or all of them.

The grief I was feeling about my job left me the minute these babies entered my home. Sure, I'm still sad, and I'm still processing, and I really have no idea what's in store for me, but just taking care of these kittens is giving me a new sense of focus, something to take my mind off of me and my situation, and a whole lot of perspective.

After all, if these babies can survive THEIR adversity, I can sure as hell survive what I am going through.

So without further ado, here they are:

We'll foster them for the next six-seven weeks at least, and then we'll work together with Carol's Feral's to find them homes. They will get all their shots and get fixed before they go to their new homes.

It's likely at this point that we'll keep one - how could we not? And it sounds like my Dad is wanting one as well. Assuming they all do okay, then that will leave two more to place in homes. I'll keep you posted - and if you think you have room in your home for an extra kitty family member, just say the word : )

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Irony and Loss

When I was a teenager I was hugely into Alanis Morisette. I knew every lyric to every song and clung to them with teenage angst as if I could relate to every word - which of course I couldn't. I had little to no grasp on life at that point and no idea what was in store for me - positive and negative.

I've been at my job for the past year, a little longer that I've been blogging, and the fact that I chose to share my desk and workspace with you on Thursday has one part irony and one part comedic value.

On Friday I was informed that I am losing my job. Being laid off due to the economy.

This news coupled with my last blog post? I couldn't help but think of Alanis.

"An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
And isn't it ironic... don't you think"

I'm not an idiot. I know what the economy is like. I'm a fundraiser for heavens sake, I know how hard it is for non-profits out there. I've seen friends lose their jobs all over the place. But it was still a huge shock when it happened to me.

I was told it wasn't my fault. I did everything right. I was the right fit for the organization. I did so much good for our mission and our kids. Yadda yadda yadda.

"It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures"

And I know, I KNOW it's not my fault. I know that this could be a blessing in disguise. I know we can financially make it through this. I know that I'm educated, intelligent, creative, and have good interview skills. I'm not worried about getting a new job.

But at the same time - how can I not worry? How can I not feel sad? How can I not feel like a failure? Like I'm expendable. Like I've been fired.

As I work through all of this - I go through ups and downs. At some points in the day I truly feel at peace. Comfortable that everything happens for a reason. Happy that I have the opportunity to pursue something different, to better myself, and to achieve more. At other points I feel like my life is in the shambles. Which it's not. I know that.

"Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
"Well isn't this nice..."
And isn't it ironic... don't you think"

Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so sad. I have a beautiful home, wonderful husband, lovely kitties and puppy, great friends and family. No one is ill (well, Bella has an ear infection, but that's certainly not life-threatening) or dying, no one is losing their home, nothing is going on that can't be fixed.

I just feel like I gave so much, and I'm bitter that I'm not valued enough to be fought for.

"It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures"

So it seems that my blog post about my office was some kind of crazy foreshadowing that I didn't even know about. And that is ironic for sure. But what is even crazier is how true Alanis' lyrics are now. Now that I have mid-twenties' angst instead of teen angst. How appropriate...

"Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything's okay and everything's going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything's gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face"

And so it's time to move on.

I can't believe how many people care about me, and this situation. I've had upwards of 40 phonecalls, e-mails, texts, facebook messages, etc. since this all went down. Everytime I get another nice message it makes me cry again. I am so loved. I am so lucky. I have so much.

"A traffic jam when you're already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn't it ironic...don't you think
A little too ironic...and, yeah, I really do think..."

"It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures"

So I go on with thanks. Thanks for those that love me and for those that have given me opportunity. And thanks to those who will continue to love me and those that will give me opportunity as I move forward in my career. And thanks to Alanis, because she's really quite profound. Isn't that ironic?

"Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Post coming soon...

... until then, please read THIS.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Come On In...

... to my office, that is!

Thursday's are always a little tough to get through for me because that sweet weekend is just around the corner. I work from home on Friday's so Thursday is my last weekday in the office.

I'm finishing up a few small projects today and since I'm the only one here (the three of us share a large office space) I figured I'd introduce you to my space!

Yes - it's a mess! I never used to be a messy person, but I'm getting worse and worse! At work I have a tendency to really spread out all over the place so my desk is never clear of clutter.

On my computer monitor hangs this little charm made from polymer clay in a kinder art class I taught at the Y years ago. It comes with me wherever I land work-wise.

And here's a little England shout out. I know, Mickey is American not English, but he's looking extra classy here with his English outfit and flag... : ) He sits by my window - keeping guard, you know.

I got this ball from a luncheon I went to earlier this evening - no prizes for guessing who sponsored the luncheon. The speaker was Kevin Carroll, author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life's Work. He is probably the best speaker I have ever seen - and an amazing guy. I keep the ball on my desk as a reminder of his message - and also to squeeze if I ever feel stressed - ha!

My boss bought these Simpson's stamps for the office... they crack me up!

And of course, I can't not be surrounded by the people I love. The photo on the far right was taken the summer of 2007 in South Haven - and it's still one of my all time favorite pictures of Travis and I. The photo on the left was taken on the night of my rehearsal dinner. It's me, my Mum, and some of my lovely bridesmaids. Love.

So there's a little peek into my world. My office world at least. Hope you're all having a wonderful Thursday! : )

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Morning Pick-Me-Up...

Caramel latte and a cranberry-almond scone... YUM!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beautiful Evening

Lovely zinnias blooming in pots on my patio...

Pretty puppy sitting on the grass...

Wonderful husband working the grill...

Gorgeous evening light...

Sitting in the back yard with a glass of wine and my knitting...

One beautiful evening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up: Walking, Wizards and Weather

I have mixed feelings about the weather this past weekend. It was unseasonably cool. In fact, I don't think it hit 70 degrees until late Sunday afternoon when the sun finally came out. Crazy!

On one hand, it was great sleeping and snuggling weather. Perfect for curling up on the couch with a blanket and napping -- which I did do, by the way!

It was the first weekend in a long time that Trav and I didn't have anything going on. We didn't have big travel plans (other than our super fun drive out to Lansing Friday night to see Alison and Noah!) or any real agenda for the weekend. This made it ideal for sitting on the couch and doing not much at all!

On the other hand - living in Michigan and all - we have PLENTY of these cool days come late fall and of course into our long, drawn-out winters. Since it IS July - we really should appreciate and enjoy the summer weather that we're supposed to be having.

Regardless of how I feel about the weather - there's certainly nothing I can do about it - and we had a great weekend nonetheless.

On Saturday we walked (Bella, too!) to our local farmers market which is just over a mile from our home. We came back with a bounty of delicious locally grown veggies...

Now if those don't get me motivated to cook - I don't know what will! : )

I couldn't resist these BEAUTIFUL gladiolus! So amazing! Usually flowers are a bit of an issue in our house because the cats knock them over, but this big green vase I scored at a "going out of business" sale awhile back is heavy enough with water in it that they can't mess with it. Yay!

(Yes, that's a cat sleeping in a bed stop the fireplace in the background...)

Saturday evening we went to see Harry Potter! Yup, we're nerds. We've both read all of the books - and make a point of seeing the films in the theatre.

We're not regular movie goers by any means (we spent most of the drive there and back trying to remember the last time we went to the movies!) and I tell you - we were blown away by the movie prices. $9.25 a ticket! Since we don't go often, we splurged on popcorn, a soda, and some sour patch kids (for me - I love gummi stuff!) and I'm a little embarassed to think about the total $$$ we spent there!

Anyhow - the movie was phenomenal. I went right home and busted out book no. 7 again. It's been so long since I've read it, I've definitely forgotten some of the details, and the movie of book 6 got me all geared up about Harry's future! Go Harry!

Sunday was a relaxing day. We grocery shopped, walked the dog, and just hung out.

People are generally surprised to find out that Travis is the cook in this relationship. He makes 90% of our dinners... no joke! On Sunday night he whipped up a yummy chicken parm. Fabulous comfort food - and the perfect close to the weekend!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's Friday night and I'm feelin' alright...

Last night we drove over to Lansing to meet up with our wonderful friends Alison and Noah. Remember them? They were just married a few months ago.

Alison and I met right after I graduated college and moved home with the 'rents for awhile. We both worked at Bath & Body Works at the good ol' Adrian Mall (with Kellie, too - yeah!) and have been great friends ever since.

Alison and I live just shy of an hour away from each other - which really isn't far - but don't get to see each other too often. Maybe we should work on that!

Anyhow, we drove out to see them last night and met at their house for some drinks. Alison made some yummy cocktails for her and I... Jamaican martinis maybe? It had OJ and maybe some coconut rum? I don't know... maybe she will share the recipe...

Then we headed out for some dinner. This restaurant was making some big claims...

I mean, for those of you that have had Deep Dish Chicago Pizza - that's a genre of its own. Claiming to have something as good here in Lansing? Well... we'd just have to see.

So we had some drinks...

And split an appetizer of garlic bread with cheese. It was so good! The marinara and bruschetta were both amazing...

After much discussion, we ordered three small pizzas to split. Alison and I chose a chicken BBQ...

Noah chose the House Special which had mushrooms, green peppers, and a sesame crust...

And Travis chose the deep dish pepperoni... but I don't have a photo of that. It was all yummy! So with full bellies and leftovers we headed on to a bar for drinks. Look how happy we are!

Alison and I ordered these delicious martinis chock full of raspberries (that had been soaked in liquor I think...) and they were so fun. A little messy, but fun all the same!

It was a great way to unwind from the week and start the weekend right. We love you guys, thanks for having us out!