Friday, December 17, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Memory... Circa 1981

Today at work some of my coworkers and I were talking about our favorite Christmas memories and it made me want to share mine with you.

My first Christmas at 4 months old. I still have that stocking... somewhere.

I love Christmas. I love the Christmas season and everything about it. I have always wanted to be a part of a huge family with lots of kids that get up on Christmas morning and race to the tree to see if Santa filled their stockings.

This was my favorite Christmas gift of all time - a tractor just like the one my grandfather drove. It was my "chair" for the rest of our Christmas visit. Well, mine and my new stuffed pet kitty's.

Since we don't have children that's not something I get to be a part of. But I love throwing Christmas parties and eggnog and putting up the tree and Christmas music.

God bless her, my grandmother gave me a doll for every freaking year. And I fake smiled and said "thank you" every freaking year. And then hated them - I was never much of a doll fan. Shrug.
I love mistletoe and picking out just the right gift and Christmas specials on TV. There's a lot to love about Christmas and I have a lot of wonderful Christmas memories, but there's one special memory that I want to share with everyone.

It was my ninth Christmas and my whole family had gathered at my grandparents' house in Kentucky as we did every year. It was bedtime (around 8:30 or so) on Christmas Eve and the meteorologist on the local news station claimed that Santa was getting pretty close. I'd been getting a little suspicious about the whole Santa thing over the last year, and was resisting going to bed. Extended family members had been visiting all day and all evening, the kitchen and living room were full of Christmas candy and cookies, and everybody was still having so much fun - it wasn't fair that I had to go to bed for "Santa" to come.

So I was in bed, but I wasn't asleep - and I was pretty vocal about my displeasure and being told to go to bed. Suddenly, Mom comes in and asks me if I hear bells... from outside. I listened and I heard them - are those... jingle bells? When I looked out the bedroom window and up toward the roof, I saw a red glow off the edge of the roof! OMG - Rudolph was peaking in my window to see if I was asleep! HOLY COW!!! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!!! SANTA IS HERE!

(This part will probably shock you - but I was a pretty loud and bossy kid, so their plan kind of backfired on them.) To Mom and Aunt Anita's surprise I hopped right out of bed and ran into the living room screaming "Santa's here! Everybody in bed! Santa's here! You have to go to bed! Rudolph just looked in my window! He can't leave me presents if you're still up! GO TO BED!" They tried to convice me that it was okay for adults to be up - but I wasn't buying it for one hot second. Everybody knows Santa only comes in if everyone's in bed. Duh. So I forced my entire family - grandparents, parents, aunt - to get into the pajamas and go to bed. At 8:30 on Christmas Eve. If I recall correctly we still had company visiting and I effectively kicked them out as well. Everybody made a big show of rushing into their pajamas and climbing into bed.

In all my excitement, what I didn't notice is that Dad was missing... poor guy was up on the roof with bells and a red light!

I don't know how long I lay in bed after that with my eyes squeezed shut as tightly as possible, adrenaline pumping through my little veins, desperately trying to fall asleep as fast as possible. But I finally did. I woke up Christmas morning to a stocking full of presents from Santa, half the cookies and milk I'd left out was gone and he'd left me a note. (I always left Santa a note and he always wrote one back.)

I don't remember what I received that year, but I do remember how special that memory makes me feel. My grandparents aren't with us anymore, but I remember how much they enjoyed that Christmas as well. We don't all gather in Kentucky for Christmas anymore and those traditions are gone, replaced with new and different traditions. But one thing that hasn't changed is that I have an amazing family that loves me very much.

Me, Mom, Dad and Anita on Christmas morning - the morning after Santa and Rudolph's special visit! (Shut up - pink footie pajamas were totally in style that year. If you wanna laugh at something check out Dad's sideburns!)

Especially my dad, who climbed up on the roof and froze his jingle bells off just to convince me that Santa was real for just one more year...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Day Snowmen!

So when we got up Sunday morning and saw that we had a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground, we thought it was beautiful. We had a full day of errands and kids' bday parties and Broad Family Hannukah ahead of us so Jeremy started wrapping presents while I bundled up to go run some errands.

Pulled out onto Upper Bottom Road and decided the "beautiful blanket of snow" wasn't so beautiful. The road hadn't been touched.
 At least once I got to the highway, the road had been cleared - not that it mattered. There was patchy black ice underneath all that snow. Guess the guy in the green truck facing the wrong way against the median found that out the hard way...
 Saw an accident on Highway 70 west bound...
 Saw an accident at Page Extension and Upper Bottom...
 But the good news is - I got my Venti, no fat, no foam, no whip Gingerbread Latte! Was it worth it? Well, no doi it was worth it. Have you met me????
 Anyway - by the time I got home I told Jeremy I didn't think it was a good idea to get out on the roads and head out to Wentzville. We hated to miss the beautiful Miss Avah's Second birthday party, but we have to be at Jeremy's dad's for Channukah at 4 and it was just to iffy to drive out toWentzville and back and then into Chesterfield and back. So I suddenly had a free afternoon - and that NEVER happens.

So I decided to devote my day to Graduate Finance and the pursuit of higher learning. Now let's discuss Value at Risk and the effect it may or may not have had in the failure of the subprime market in 2007-2008. Dennis Weathestone, the former CEO of ... HA! Yeah right.

So I REALLY decided to spend the afternoon doing something fun for a change! I don't take the title of "Best Aunt on Earth" lightly, you know, so I made snowmen for the kids. We're still going to try to make it to Jay's tonight for the Hannukah gift exchange, so the kids will get an extra treat.

These snowmen are SUPER easy to make the kids just love them. They'd be fun to make with little ones as well. All you need are mini powdered donuts, candy corn, mini chocolate chips, popsicle sticks, toothpicks and black construction paper.

I made little pedastals to put them on with some white textured wrapping paper scraps I had left over from a wedding gift I'd wrapped. I just covered a square of cardboard,
 and then poked a hole in the center, put a little glue on a popsicle stick and put it in the hole.
 Stack three powdered donuts on your stick... (see Miss Gingerbread Latte in the back ground? I love her.)
 My snowman assembly line.
 Cut a length of yard to wrap around the neck as a scarf and push a piece of candy corn into the top donut for your snowman nose...
 Up close...
 Now use one of your popsicle sticks to poke little holes for the eyes and buttons - it makes exactly the right size hole for the mini chocolate chips. Then put the mini chips in pointed end first.
 To make the hats I just used black construction paper. I tried several edible options, but nothing looked quite right (which  means I have chocolate mallowcookies, chocolate wafers and black dots to eat... poor me). So I just cut 1 inch rounds, 2 in rounds and long strips to create the hats.
 Glue it all in place... had to find small weights to hold them together while the glue dries.
 Then poke a hole in the bottom of your had and pop it on top. Use a couple of toothpicks as arms and you're good to go!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Piece of my (Broad) Heart

You really only have yourselves to blame. An awful lot of you asked me to blog about our new heart healthy journey. At first I was just too overwhelmed trying to get my mind around it to even thinkg about writing about how we were handling it all. But writing about it helps - so I AM going to blog about this journey after all. I've shut down "Ad Hoc at Heather's Home" - my heart's just not in it anymore (pun intended, heehee), but I will be adapting some of the recipes in there, it's still an amazing cookbook!

But here we go! A Piece of my (Broad) Heart

Monday, August 16, 2010

Jeremy's Heart... and Mine.

It all really started a couple of weeks ago. I'd been nagging at Jeremy to build the firepit we wanted in the backyard for almost two years. We had the pavers and the paver gravel for drainage - just needed to dig the hole and do the work. So on the HOTTEST day of the year, after working in 102 degree heat, he came home and said "Let's get started".

We walked down to the creek where the pavers stacked and waiting and discussed how we wanted to build the firepit. Then Jeremy grabbed a shovel and dug out the perimeter of what we wanted. It was HOT and he was pouring with sweat. I told him we should wait until in the morning when it's cooler, and he agreed that he was awfully hungry. So we went inside and I fixed dinner.

After about forty minutes and a few bites of dinner, he started telling me didn't feel good. He said he was having chest pain - he got up and laid down on the floor. Then he said he felt nauseous - I gave him some Mylanta and it took care of the nausea. But his chest still hurt and he started rubbing his arm. He was scaring me to death. I kept asking him if he was having a heart attack or if we should head to the emergency room. He said no, he thought he was going to be okay - we really thought it was severe dehydration. I had him sip on water all night and have a few saltines. He started feeling better and we went to bed. By Sunday he felt more or less back to normal.

Fortunately, he had his annual physical scheduled for the following Thursday. He'd been having issues with fatigue for a little over year, so I told him to make sure he discussed that with her, and I added his chest pain to the list of things he needed to tell her about. Our PCP, Dr. Maureen Stoffa (who is now my hero), does an EKG at every physical. So at his visit she told him that his EKG was abnormal and since he was talking about chest pain - they needed to look into this a little further. So they did an echocardiogram that day as well. It was normal, but Dr. Stoffa wasn't satisfied. She wanted to schedule him for a stress test the next week.

We were both certain that it would be normal as well and that since this was his first EKG, they'd probably discovered a normal deviation in his heart (I have one). But we were okay with Dr. Stoffa wanting to be on the safe side. Jeremy's stress test was scheduled to start at 8 AM on Wednesday, August 11. He was still in bed when I left for work that morning, enjoying the opportunity to sleep in, and I told him to call me and let me know how the stress test went. My phone finally rang a little before 11 and it was Jeremy. I answered and he said "Hey babe". I asked about the stress test, but he didn't answer me. I thought maybe we had a bad connection so I got up and moved to a different spot in the office, "Can you hear me?" Still no answer. But I could hear him now and he was crying. Adrenaline shot through my body immediately. "Honey, what's going on - you're scaring me." I could hear him try to answer me, but he couldn't. "Where are you? I'm coming to you." I didn't even know where he was having the stress test and now I was shaking like a leaf - adrenaline was pumping and I was freaking out.

I heard shuffling on the other end and faintly I heard Jeremy say, "Can you?" Then there was a woman on the other end of the phone and the first thing she said was "Jeremy's okay."(Um, hello lady - obviously he's not okay. He's crying.) She told me that they'd found something in his stress test and they thought he might have a blockage. (A blockage? Are you freaking kidding me? He's 36 for God's sake!) She said they were sending him to Missouri Baptist Hospital to the Cardiac Cath Lab for an angiogram. (An angiogram! What's that? Isn't that the balloon thing? That sounds serious and for old people.) She said if they found a blockage in the angiogram, they'd probably insert a stent. (A stent?!? Now that's definately an old people thing. This is scary as hell.) I asked her to tell me where they were and to tell me how to get there, and to tell Jeremy I was on my way. She put Jeremy on the phone. He'd calmed down a little and said he could make it to the hospital on his own and he'd just meet me there. We cried together on the phone and said lots of "I love you"s. Finally I hung up and went into the office of my friend and former boss. I needed to tell someone I was leaving work and didn't know when I'd be back.

As soon as I walked in his office and shut the door I started sobbing. And I mean the ugly, slobbery, hyperventilating, shaking kind of sobbing. That's nice, huh? Of course everything the nurse had explained to me had immediately left my head and I did a very piss poor job of explaining to Mark what was going on and that I had to leave. He said he'd take care of letting myVP and the rest of my team know I had to leave and would possibly be out for a while. Luckily it was lunch time so there weren't many folks around when I went to my desk to shut down my laptop and grab my purse. So I managed to leave the office without giving explanations to anyone else.

I called Mom and she said she was on her way. Thank God. The drive from my office to Missouri Baptist Hospital was probably the longest drive I've ever made. And every other car on the road had a moron behind the wheel that was clearly trying to get in my way. God and I had a long chat during that drive. I did most of the talking. Lots of "please God" and exposition that I'm sure He was already well aware of. I explained to Him that Jeremy's the center of my existence, he's my everything, I have nothing to live for if You take him, he has to be okay, etc.

I spoke with Jeremy and let him know I was almost there, he said he'd meet me in the lobby. I finally got there (thank goodness they have free valet parking for panic-stricken people) because I just parked in front of the door and ran inside. Jeremy was standing there waiting for me and I already felt a little relieved just seeing him. It was like dying of thirst in the middle of the dessert, and seeing Jeremy was my first big gulp of water. We held each other and just stood there for a long while. Obviously the valet guys are used to this kind of thing, because they didn't even ask which car was mine or anything - they just handed me a tag and took my keys.

Jeremy and I went up to the Outpatient Cardiac Cath Lab and told the lady there who we were. She said they were expecting him and to just take a seat, it wouldn't be long. We were the only ones there. They gave us an information sheet on having an angiogram and asked if we had any questions. Jeremy said, "Just everything." She said they'd take him back to prep him and then once he was prepped I could come back and sit with him until they took him in for the angiogram. I called his brother, his dad and his mom to let them all know what was going on. Jay (his Dad) decided to take off the rest of the day and come be there with us. Poor Cathy (his Mom) lives near Phoenix, so I'm sure she felt incredibly helpless so far away. I told her I'd update her as we had anything to update. Cathy is the only woman on earth that loves my husband as much as I do - so I can only imagine how she must have felt.

They took Jeremy in to prep him and after he left, a nurse came out to calm me down. I was freaking out a little. She said that more likely than not he'd walk out with a clean bill of health. And even if there is a blockage it'll be repaired right away. She told me that the other tests he'd had done weren't 100% accurate, but the angio is. So we'll know what's going on very soon - and it's probably nothing. He's so young...

Finally they let me go back to sit with him. Mom got there right after I went back so she came in, too. Dr. Hess (the cardiologist) came in. He walked us through the procedure and said that he'd be going in through an incision in Jeremy's wrist. They'd thread the catheter up into his heart and take a look at what's going on with a camera. Jeremy would be awake for the whole thing. If they find anything, they're going to leave the catheter in, bring him back out and discuss it - then go back in a put a stent in. He told Jeremy they'd be giving something for anxiety - Jeremy interupted with an emphatic "Good!" - and taking him back soon. Jay came in shortly after than and then they were ready for the angiogram. Mom, Jay and I went back out to the waiting room and chatted. About gun safes. Of course.

When they called us back in - and it was only about 45 minutes later - Jeremy wasn't in the room yet, but Dr. Hess brought in an extra chair so that everyone could sit. That's when I knew we weren't getting to good news and we weren't going home. They brought Jeremy back in and he was a little loopy. :) Dr. Hess explained that they'd found a blockage. His left anterior descending artery was completely blocked. The rest of them looked okay. While tears start streaming down my face, Jeremy interupts with "No more bacon cheeseburgers, huh?" God bless good drugs. I wondered if I could have some, too... Dr. Hess told us that this is exactly what kills 50 year old men while they're shoveling the driveway - they don't have any symptoms before the blockage "ruptures" (breaks loose) and kills them with a massive heart attack.

Dr. Hess told us that he'd be going back in and putting a stent in place. The balloon would push the plaque up against the artery wall and the stent would hold the artery open. Mom asked about anticoagulants. (Huh?) Dr. Hess said he had been trying to decide how to address that before talking to us. He explained (for those of us that aren't Mom) that he could put in a drug coated stent, but if he did that then Jeremy would have to be on Plavix (an anticoagulant) for the rest of his life. This means that bumping his head could mean bleeding out, or cutting his hand on an exhaust would be a big problem, etc. Or he could put in a bare metal stent. A bare metal stent has a 10-12% bigger risk of more scaring around the stent - which would mean another blockage. But it would mean he'd only have to be on Plavix for a few months. If it did create too much scarring, though, they'd have to go back in and put a drug coated stent in. So we opted for the bare metal stent.

The next surgery was really quick as well. Jay and Mom went out to the Cardiac Cath waiting room. They let me walk next to Jeremy as they wheeled him to surgery. When they stopped by the waiting room, I bent down and kissed him. Then stopped and told him to look at me and really kiss me. I was scared and I didn't want to tell him, but the were operating on his heart, there are risks and I was scared. And I needed us both to be present and looking one another in the eye for that last kiss. There was a lot of love in that kiss, but a certain amount of desperation for both of us. The surgery only took about 20 minutes - but it was about an hour before Dr. Hess came back out to talk to me. This time he was all smiles - and I felt a hundred pounds lighter immediately. Of course I cried, and so did Mom... and Jay. He said the surgery was a complete success and full blood flow had been restored. He walked us to the recovery room and said Jeremy would be in shortly.

I can't explain how wonderful it was to see Jeremy when he was wheeled into recovery. He was still loopy from the drugs, but he told us all about the surgery. He'd been awake for the whole thing, and he didn't even realize they'd started when they told him it was over! He said he was up for visitors - as a matter of fact, he really wanted visitors. So I told his brother, Jonas, to come up and bring his family. And I told our best friends, Mike and Mary Beth, to come up as well.

Soon Jonas got there with his wife, Shaina, and two and a half year old son, Hunter. Shaina was pregnant at the time (she had the baby three days later - I'm an aunt again!), and Hunter knew that she'd be going to the hospital to have the baby soon. So Hunter thought they were going to the hospital to see Jeremy's baby! He asked Uncle Jeremy about his booboo, and charmed the nurses out of some juice - he was a welcome amusement for all of us. Mike and Mary Beth arrived shortly after that and we had a full house. God bless her, Mary Beth went WAY out of her way to grab a few things from the house for us (phone charger and sweats - it's COLD in the hospital). Which was wonderful.
The top pic is before the stent - the arrow is pointing to the blockage. The bottom picture is after the stent, the arrow is pointing to the same spot and I've circled the stent. Like I said... 100% blockage.

A couple of hours later, they put us in his hospital room and told us the doctors would be in to see us the next morning. They gave Jeremy Vicodin and he finally felt a little sleepy. I felt like I should stay the night in the hospital with him, but he thought I should go home. Nothing else was going to happen, but sleeping and constantly annoying vitals, etc. So I headed home - thankfully, Mom offered to stay the night with me and go back to the hospital with me in the morning. I wanted her to be there when we spoke to the doctors. So the next morning, Dr. Stoffa, Dr. Lite (the cardiologist that did his stress test and found the blockage) and Dr. Hess came in to talk to us. We thanked them all profusely. Dr. Stoffa really saved Jeremy's life - she pushed until she got to the bottom of his chest pain - and that's what saved his life. If she hadn't done an EKG, if that wasn't part of her normal physical procedure, we wouldn't have known about the blockage.

Dr. Hess, Dr. Stoffa and Dr. Lite all told us that Jeremy was practically a miracle - it's so rarely caught this early... I can't tell you how many nurses came in to say the same thing. Yes, he's young - seriously, 36 is way to young to have to go through this, but it could have been SO much worse. It's just amazing that we caught it. Dr. Hess told us that he'd send a nutritionist in to talk to us if we'd like. He went over Jeremy's blood work with us - his HDL is too low, his LDL is too high and his cholesterol is too high. They're all just a little high or low, borderline, none of them are really, really bad. One thing we did like - Dr. Hess told us that one of teh best ways to raise his HDL is to have a glass or two of red wine every night!

The nutritionist came in and gave us a lot of great information. We need to keep his cholesterol intake under 200 every day; his sodium under 2,000; and his fat intake low - and avoid transfats and saturated fat. Nothing we didn't already know... but had always ignored as something we'd worry about when we got older. Between Jeremy running a business, my going to grad school full time and working full time... we just didn't eat as well as we should. He had fast food for lunch every day, and other than that it was all meat and dairy products - exactly the wrong diet for a healthy heart. But the time has come for all of that to change.

On the way home from the hospital we stopped at Borders and I bought The New American Heart Association Cookbook, as well as two other heart healthy cookbooks. We went home and threw away half of the food in the house. Then we hit the grocery store and bought all new stuff! When we went to bed that night, it was the first time we'd been alone and not moving, going, doing, talking on the phone, etc since it had all started. And we just held one another. We told one another how we'd felt through the last two days and how we feel now.

So we've started a whole new chapter in our lives. A healthier chapter. Jeremy is going to start exercising with me. We are eating right. And we appreciate one another now more than ever before. As people have asked us if we need anything, or what they can do for us - the answer is the same every time. Come visit, come see us, this was an incredibly scary experience (and it's not over yet) and it makes you want to reconnect with the people you care about.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mel Gibson - A Vile and Disgusting Man

All I'll say is that I made the right decision almost four years ago.

And now recordings of his threatening calls to his girlfriend have been leaked to the public. As a result, he has been dropped by his talent agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

Mel Gibson clearly hates women, Jews, African-Americans and no telling who else. I find him repulsive. And I hope those of you who have hesitated or blew off his actions four years ago will now think again. Listen to the tape - it's eight minutes long, you can spare eight minutes. There's nothing he or anyone can ever say to explain what he says. It's so disgusting I'm not going to write it. There's no excuse of any kind. None.

My mind has not changed and my opinion about Gibson has not wavered in the last four years. An awful lot of people thought I was wrong/overreacting/unforgiving. I hope that now their minds have changed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Burgers and Fries for Father's Day... or are they?

Jeremy and I hosted Father's Day for our families this year and I decided to make a little something special for everyone... burgers and fries. What's so special about burgers and fries, you ask? Because they're for dessert!
Where are the fries? Yeah... uh, I forgot to take pics after I added the fries to the plates. So you'll just have to play along. And honestly, I can't take credit for these little creations - I got the idea from Bakerella, just had to wait until Father's Day to do it. And I needed to take something in to work the next Monday for a birthday celebration so I thought I'd just make some extra burgers!

They're really easy to make - just a little time consuming. Well, actually a lot time consuming. You start with a batch of fudgy brownies and yellow cupcakes.

The fries are made with sugar cookies. I rolled out a batch of sugar cookies, sprinkled liberally with sugar, and then used a pizza cutter to cut them into long strips to replicate french fries.
Cut the cupcakes in half to use as your buns, and using a 2" cookie cutter, cut "hamburger" rounds out of the brownies. Below is the last picture I took that included the "fries". After this picture (and while they were still warm) I cut them in half and tossed them all in even more sugar. They looked JUST LIKE french fries. Sorry there are no pics of the final result. :(

So back to the burgers. Place a brownie "burger" between the two cupcake "buns"...
Now that would be a burger I'd have ordered as a kid. Plain, plain, plain. No ketchup, no mustard, no icky stuff on it. However, now I like a little more yummy on my burgers! I took a batch of vanilla icing and divided it into thirds, adding yellow, red and green to each third. So first we do the mustard...
And then the ketchup...
And finally the lettuce and the sesame seeds on our bun. Ew, I know - but not really. You can't taste them at all and what looks more like sesame seeds than sesame seeds?
These were so much fun to make and quite a hit as well. Especially with the kids. My two year old nephew, Hunter, thought these were the best hamburgers he's ever had in his WHOLE life!

UPDATE: Here's a picture that includes the "fries". (Thanks Mom!).

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Wedding in Hawaii

My beautiful cousin Karmen got married on the beach on Oahu last week and Mom and I went down for the festivities. Jeremy wasn't able to leave work for an entire week, so Mom reluctantly (editor's note: sarcasm) agreed to go with me and be my plus-one. While I was disappointed Jeremy couldn't go, it was nice for Mom and I to have a girls' getaway. We stayed at Turtle Bay Resort (which is where they filmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall), but by the time we got there Tuesday night it was 11 and we were beat. So we quickly unpacked and passed out. But when we woke up the next morning and stepped out onto the lanai... So this is what we looked at every morning while sipping our coffee...

The next day we met my cousins at Kailua Bay Beach to just hang out at the beach and soak in the fact that we were finally in Hawaii! Karmen was the bride and she wanted to spend as much time as possible on the beach - and what the bride wants, the bride gets. It was so hard on us all. Here's Mom at the beach being forced to enjoy herself at the beach. Poor Mom...
Katy, the bride's sister had thoughtfully organized a few activities for those of us that wanted to add a few bruises and aching muscles to our vacation experience. First up was surfing lessons with Sunset Suzy. Yes - surfing lessons. Me. We started with lessons on dry land - this is where I really excelled. I'm the one in the middle here - please ignore the blinding white legs (I even spray tanned before I went - stupid genetics, thanks Mom, thanks Dad).
I did manage to stand up and it was a lot of fun. The surfing itself wasn't too hard - the paddling out was killer though! I mean seriously, the third time I paddled out I thought I was going to just drift out to sea and die because I didn't have the energy/strength to get back to Suzy - and I was okay with that because I was so freaking tired. My shoulders were so sore that just washing my hair was even a chore that evening.On my last wave, I was paddling with the wave and just as I started to get up to my knees I felt my wedding ring slip right off my hand. So stupid to wear it surfing, I honestly don't know what I was thinking. I was really upset about it, but Jeremy just laughed it off - thank goodness. Anway, I turned to grab it (yeah right - like there was a chance in hell - but it's instinct)... and of course you're not supposed to turn 90 degrees while getting up to your knees just as you get to the top of a wave... so I wiped out and the board hit me in the head. So I had a battle scar - I'm pretty cool, ya know. It was a teeny tiny bruise next to my right eye - but still, I was injuring while SURFING people. See?

Okay, so you can't really see it. But it was there. I could see it and I could feel it and my shoulders hurt. So I rock. Shutup. Here I am posing with the surfing board I the resort asked me to sign after my successful surfing lessons. It's signed by all of the Pipe Masters winners and is on display at Turtle Bay... Okay, maybe that's not true, but if they'd known about my bruise, they probably would have asked me to sign it. 
After we'd wrapped up the surfing lessons, one of our instructors took us out to see a beautiful hidden beach as a potential site for the wedding. The instructor, Bobby, had worked on the crew for Lost and the beach was next to the banyan tree that was used in so many Lost scenes. Charlie is strung up in the tree and Kate hid in it and it was a meeting place or something... I don't know - I didn't watch the show and I don't even know who tehse peoplea re, I'm just repeating what Bobby said. As you can see, they're building a set in the tree right now, it's going to be used in the filming of Pirates of the Carribean 4. So I have walked will Johnny Depp will soon be walking!

We had dinner that night at Haleiwa Joe's Seafood Grill and it was scrumptous. Umbrella drinks and ahi - mmmmm. They also had Spicy Edamame, which was kim chee flavored and served cold. I'd never had edamame served cold before, but it was addictive.

Friday Mom and I decided it was time for a little shopping, so we headed down to Waikiki Beach. The first time I went to Hawaii was in 1989 and the trip was a graduation gift from my Aunt Anita. Best graduation gift ever, by the way. There's a pic Anita took of me in front of the Royal Hawaiian during that trip, so Mom took the same pic this time. Isn't it amazing how little I've changed? Why - it's like the last twenty-one years never happened, right? RIGHT?

Too bad I don't still have the same "jams", huh? Like they'd fit...

This is a self-portrait of Mom and I at Waikiki Beach. We ate at Duke's and had sashimi, smoked marlin and poke. Delicous, of course. I couldn't get enough raw fish while I was there!

We did a little shopping and I bought myself a nice Hawaiian ring to wear in place of my wedding ring - it just feels to weird not to have a ring on there. And since I lost it in Hawaii it seemed appropriate. Crappy picture, but you get the idea.
And then it was back to the resort, in to the pool and a few umbrella drinks to calm our tired nerves. I'd gotten a little sun on my nose, so when Mom took a picture I suddenly looked like Karl Malden. So I made her retake it. Much better, huh?

Finally it was wedding day. Karmen decided the wedding would be at the remote little beach Bobby'd shown us a couple of days earlier. It was beautiful and the sun was just starting to set.

Jared, the groom, and his best man as they walk through the banyan trees toward the beach.

The bride, Karmen, getting some last minute adjustments from her sister, Katy, and her mom, Karen.

And here are the ladies of the bridal party. Katy (bride's sister and matron of honor), Karmen (bride - duh), Angela (groom's sister) and Cagney (bride's cousin).

The guys had cleared an aisle on the beach and one of Karmen's friends had strewn flowers on it.

The wedding ceremony itself was officiated by Matt, Karmen's dad. There were only about twenty of us there, so we all stood in a circle and were a part of the ceremony. Jared and Karmen went around the circle during the ceremony to thank everyone individually for being there - and of course hug. It was one of the most touching weddings I've been a part of. I was really honored to be there and be a part of the day.

Katy is a little over three months pregnant with their first child, so I told her she's going to have to go back when she can have sushi and umbrella drinks!

Another self portrait of Mom and I right after the wedding.

They'd rented a placed called The Plantation Estates - it was beautiful! So of course that's where we all went for the reception afterwards. Pizza and sweet corn buffet!

Here I am with my Bennett cousins - Katy, Karmen and Matty.

How cute are the cake toppers?!?

So the next morning, we were back in adventure mode. Katy, Jeff and I went on a four hour (SIX MILE) ocean kayak trip with Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks. They took us from Kailua out to the Mokulua Islands - did I mention that we were in kayaks and my arms were sore from surfing three days earlier? And it was "much windier than I've ever seen it out here"... And we made it. I'm a rock star - just sayin. 

This is a self portrait from Moku Nui with Moku Iki in the background over my right shoulder (on your left). These two islands are Hawaii State bird sanctuaries and have lots of very cool tidepools on them.

Here is one of the tidepools. (That's Jeff in the background and Katy in the foreground.) One of our guides was a marine biologist major and this is his summer job and he was really excited to teach us all about the animals in the tidepools. For example, did you know that there are small fish called blennies (paoo) that range in size from just under 2 inches to about 7 inches and they can jump as far as eight feet? They jump from tide pool to tide pool once they've eaten all the food out of it. They can hold droplets of water on their gills so that they can live for up to three minutes out of the water and hop as far as 100 feet to the next tidepool! Cool, huh? The ones we saw were so dark that I just couldn't get a picture of them.

After we left Mokulua Islands, we KAYAKED back to Lanikai Beach and had sandwiches and did a little snorkeling. Then we headed back to die. Okay, not really - but it felt that way. Did I mention that I'm a rock star? And also - this was while I was doing Week 2 of Couch to 5K so I was also running every morning before all this hard work having fun.

Mom spent that day with Matt and Karen and Marilyn (Matt's mom) hiking Waimea Falls. So they were ready for nice big dinner, too. We all met at Jameson's by the Sea for dinner. Mom and I had been there previously and ordered the exact same thing - it was too good not to! We had sashimi, salmon pate and seafood chowder.

Sigh... and that was our last night in Hawaii. The next day we were headed home. No more drinks on the beach at sunset. No more coffee on the lanai watching surfers and paddle-boards. No more paradise. However - we were in for a pleasant surprise on our flight home. I had cashed in all of my frequent flier miles to upgrade us to first class for this trip. The flights from StL to LAX and from LAX to Hawaii were nice. But on the way home we were going through Chicago and we were on a 767-300, which means we were on a much bigger plane. Which means first class was MUCH nicer. There was so much space between the seats that my feet barely reached the divider in front of me.

The seats reclined almost all the way to a flat position and was totally adjustable - you can see the controls there in front of my glass of champagne. So while we weren't happy to be leaving paradise - the flight home certainly wasn't bad.

So now we're back and my freckles and starting to fade and my bruises are gone. But we had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed being there with Mom. The wedding was wonderful and I'm extremely grateful that we were able to be there. What a wonderful way to start a marriage!