Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Date Night

I love my children desperately and I enjoy spending time with them, but once in a while my husband and I have found that we benefit from a brief interlude of childlessness.  One of these times occurred this past weekend when the kids went on a retreat with the church youth group.  With the kids safely occupied, we were able to enjoy our time as a couple.

Friday night was particularly fun.   We went out to dinner at Bliss, a new restaurant in town.  For all of my local friends, it is on Union Ave. just south of State St.  It just opened last week and is now our new special occasion restaurant.  The menu is northern Italian, which is our absolute favorite type of food.  For an appetizer, we shared the crisp polenta rounds with sausage and buffalo mozzarella in fresh marinara.  It was delicious!  The sauce was so good.  It was thick and balanced and not too acidic.  My husband said that it reminded him of the sauce that his Italian grandmother used to make.  The same sauce was on the cavitelli and meatballs that my husband ordered and I, naturally, sampled.  The pasta was homemade and perfectly al dente.  I had the chicken osso bucco, dark meat chicken served over creamy polenta with a tomato confit, which was rustic and included carrots, onions and celery that absorbed the wonderful flavors of the sauce.  Dinner was accompanied by warm, crusty bread that we could dip in olive oil that was swirled with a sweet balsamic vinegar.  Overall, it was a fabulous meal.  The only bad part was that we were too full to have dessert!  Oh well, there's always next time.

After we ate, we came home, had a glass of Sutter Home Muscato, and . . . played the new Lego Harry Potter game on the Wii.  We lead such exciting and glamorous lives, don't we?  :o)  Then again, it really didn't matter how we spent our time together; the joy of giving each other our undivided attention rejuvenated us and when the kids came back we were able to share that happiness with them.  That's what I call a great date!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My faith in mankind has been restored!

I know the title of this post is quite dramatic, and perhaps I should have qualified it by saying that I had really just lost my faith in contractors, but once you read my story, you will understand where I am coming from. 

We live in a 1930s house with lots of character, but also lots of old home issues.  So, it was no surprise when soon after we moved in nine years ago, we had to hire a roofer.  It did surprise us when they discovered that there had never been a tear-off and they had to remove 3 layers of shingles and the original shakes.  With all of the labor and materials, the roof cost us $10,000.  It was a huge bill, but we comforted ourselves with the fact that we wouldn't have to do it again for 20 to 25 years or so.

The next contractor we hired was a painter to paint the exterior of the house.  This experience was a nightmare and truly illustrated the principle of "t'ain't nothing easy".  (If this isn't familiar to you, please read my July 1st post.)  The people we hired took weeks to accomplish very little and made a huge mess.  I ended up having to take them to court to try to recover the deposit we had given them.  Even though I won in court, I have still never received any money from them.  

Fast forward 8 years and we are back to dealing with the roof...after having several shingles fall off, noting evidence of a water leak in the ceiling of our library, and some odd lifting of several areas of shingles, we found out that the roofer eight years ago did not put any ventilation in the roof and the resulting trapped humidity and heat caused some of the shingles to delaminate and the plywood to warp and pull the nails from the roof.  The nails themselves were just straight nails rather than screws or threaded nails, so they pulled out easily.  In addition, there was no water and ice guard (even though its installation was included in the quote we received) which led to the leak.  All of this resulted in us having to have the roof redone with a price tag of almost $10,000 for the second time in 8 years.

With this explanation, you can probably understand why I was more than a little gun shy about hiring another contractor.  We had been burned twice and I was afraid that it would happen again, but something had to be done, so I said a prayer and started doing research and making calls.  Ultimately, we took a leap of faith and began working with Anthony Roofing.  I am so glad we did! 

Jack has been our primary contact.  He came out and looked at the roof and suggested that we may have an insurance claim because of the water damage.  When the insurance adjuster came, Jack was here and went up on the roof with him to look at everything.  Thanks to his suggestion, we received several thousand dollars from our insurance company.  Before the work began, Jack came to our house and sat down with us to review all of the details of the job.  He stayed in constant contact with us as the work was going on and was at the house much of the time.  Plus, when they were just about finished, Jack walked around the house with us so that we could take a good look to see if anything didn't meet our expectations.  When I expressed a bit of concern about some shingles around one of the dormers that didn't look the same as the others, Jack had the issue corrected right away.  He even called the next day to see if we had noticed anything else that we weren't satisfied with.  He is truly concerned that we are 100% satisfied.  Tony, the owner of Anthony Roofing, has the motto, "I roof each house as if it were my own."  We truly felt like this was the case.

So, the title of this post, while overstated, is basically true.  Jack and the other employees of Anthony Roofing have helped us feel so much more confident that there are good people out there who will do good work.  I thank God for leading us to this company and, thereby, helping me to release some of the negativity that had remained in my heart and mind following our previous experiences!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God Bless America!

It has been a while since my last post.  My friends who work in higher education will understand why.  August and the beginning of September is our busiest time of year.  Between trainings, hall openings, new student orientation, Week of Welcome and all of the other events and activities that fill this six weeks or so, merely sitting still for a few minutes begins to feel like a luxury, but I couldn't let this important day go by without recording a thought or two.

The tenth anniversary of 9/11/2001 has brought with it opportunities to relive the tragedy of that day, but also chances to be reminded of the many heroes who put the urgent needs of others before even their own lives.  The stories of their bravery and selflessness are numerous...the valiant passengers of Flight 93, the fire fighters and police officers who rushed in to rescue people from the World Trade Center, the medical professionals who worked tirelessly to treat the wounded, the thousands of people who traveled to New York to help with the rescue and recovery efforts...and the list goes on.

We must never forget the sacrifices made by these courageous individuals.  Their examples should inspire us daily.  While we may never be called to give our lives to save another, we can make the lives of others better through our words and actions.  We must also remember that freedom isn't free, but comes at a cost that some are called to pay so that all of us can enjoy the benefits.  We must be grateful to our American heroes and thank God for His grace and love while we pray for peace in our country and around the world.

May God bless America!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call   a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."  - Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Juliet asks, "What's in a name?"  The answer is ... a lot.  Names are important.  Whether we like the name we were given or not, most people like to be called by name.

To my great dismay and frequent embarrassment,  I have a terrible memory for names.  I can be introduced to someone and not remember their name 15 minutes later.  Even worse, there are times when I can't remember the name of someone I have known for ages.  I'll see or think of someone and their name will stay stuck in my brain, floating just out of reach.  I don't know why I am so challenged by names.  My memory on the whole is not particularly poor and I really do want to consistently remember the names of people I meet.  After all, when you can call someone by name, it shows that you care about them.

I wish I were more like Kim, who works at my local McDonald's.  (Don't give me too much credit for remembering her name; she is wearing a name tag every time I see her.)  I go to McDonald's on my way to work almost every day and get a Diet Coke and Apple Dippers.  I also stop in every once in a while for lunch.  Kim is almost always there.  One day a couple of years ago, I had on my name tag from work.  Ever since that day, Kim has greeted me by my name every time she sees me.  I am so impressed by her!  She has the ability to brighten people's day just by saying their names.  How wonderful!

A person's name is a part of their identity and identity is closely connected to self-esteem.  When other people know our name and use it, it lets us know that we are important to them in some way.  So, in response to Juliet's query, a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it still won't thank you if you call it a dandelion.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home

To quote Bon Jovi, "Who says you can't go home?"  Well, not me, that's for sure.  After swinging past my parent's house in eastern Kentucky last week, I continued on my road trip over to my hometown...Louisville.  I love Louisville!  I was there for a training institute held at my alma mater,  University of Louisville.  Go Cards!

While I was in Louisville, I took advantage of lunch breaks and evenings to see some of my favorite things.  So, I thought I would share a photo tour of my visit.

The Thinker statue that sits on the steps of Grawemeyer Hall is the first full-size bronze cast of the work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rodin personally supervised the casting on Dec. 25, 1903.
The Red Barn!  I spent so many weekends at the Barn dancing to awesome bands or running lights while sitting on a pipe at the top of a ladder.  Looking back, I can't believe I did that! 

Threlkeld Hall...my home for two years.  I have awesome memories of the lobby lizards playing spades, all night study sessions (that may have also included some time spent at the Tetris machine), and the awesome Threlkeld Athletic Club (intramural champions on numerous occasions!)
Delta with a D, with a D-E-L, with a D-E-L-T-A!
Zeta with a Z, with a Z-E-T, with a Z-E-T-A.  DZ, Hey!

 The famous twin spires of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.  Like many native Louisvillians, I went to Derby parties and cookouts rather than to Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but I love the Great Steamboat Race, the Pegasus Parade, and all of the other events that lead up to the Run for the Roses.

The painted horses weren't around while I was growing up, but I saw at least a dozen of them while I was driving around town.  They are all unique and so cool!  The top one here was in the parking lot of a little flower shop near Churchill Downs and the bottom one lives in the U of L School of Business building.
For Southenders like me, Iroquois Park is a great place to play Frisbee golf, attend a musical at the Iroquois Amphitheater, or just cruise around and see and be seen.

While I was in town, I took a culinary trip down memory lane and visited a few of my favorite places to eat.  It definitely wasn't the healthiest way to eat for a week, but it was the most delicious!

I was driving down 7th Street toward Shively and my van turned right in to the Krispy Kreme.  When the Hot sign is flashing, I just can't resist.  Krispy Kreme doughnut runs were a part of life at Butler High School.  I know they aren't unique to Louisville, but there isn't a Krispy Kreme near me, so a hot original glazed is still a huge treat.

Ollie's Trolley on the corner of 3rd and Kentucky, so awesome!  I love the spices they put on their fries and the Ollie sauce and mozzarella cheese on the burgers.  Close to downtown and U of L, but unfortunately only open for lunch on weekdays.  There is an Ollie's Trolley in Washington D.C., but this is the original.

Another Louisville original.  Dizzy Whizz has been operating on West St. Catherine since the 1940s and they still have actual curb service where the server comes out to your car and takes your order and then brings your food on a tray that hangs on your car. The Whizzburger with its secret sauce is definitely the thing to get.

 While in town, I also got to eat at a few of my other favorites: Mark's Feed Store (pulled pork, potato salad and buttermilk pie - Yum!), Tumbleweed (gotta be a chimichanga), Skyline Chili (because you can't get Cincinnati chili in my neck of the woods), and Hubers Family Farm and Restaurant in Starlight, Indiana.

I also found a new favorite when I met my friends, Tod and Teresa, for dinner at Ditto's on Bardstown Rd.  The Thai salmon was fabulous, but the time spent catching up with these wonderful friends that I haven't seen since my wedding 19 years ago was what made this meal unforgettable.

All of this, a great professional experience at the training institute and time with my super fun family...there really is no place like home!  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hittin' the Road

Sorry that I haven't had a chance to post in a while, friends.  I went back to work and life got in the way (nothing bad, just busy).  For one thing, I traveled down to my parents' house in Kentucky.  It was a really enjoyable trip!  When you don't have to hurry, the traffic is light and the weather is good, a road trip can be a fabulous thing.

Sometimes when you hit the road you have a choice of which route to take.  This is the case when I drive from northeast Ohio to my parents' house in Kentucky.  The first half of the trip is all on Interstate 77, but when I get to the Ohio/West Virginia border I can choose to stay on 77 until I get to Charleston and then take 64 West.  The other possibility is to get off the highway and take Route 7, a smaller road that runs near and sometimes right beside the Ohio River.  Unless weather conditions are too poor, I always choose the much more interesting Route 7 option. 

There is so much to see that just goes by in a blur on the highway.  In the summertime, the flowers and blooming trees add color to the trip.  Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace and Sweet Peas grow in abundance along the side of the road and as you travel south you begin to see flowers that aren't often found further north.  On this trip down Route 7, I saw a huge mimosa tree covered with beautiful, feathery flowers.  Even better, it was located on the corner of Honeysuckle Rd.  I also saw pale pink, leafless lilies called Naked Ladies, Crepe Myrtle with dark pink blooms, and Hibiscus the size of dinner plates.  Very cool.

Route 7 goes through several small towns (Marietta and Gallipolis) and a number of tiny ones like Tuppers Plains, Cheshire and Eureka.  Each of these towns offers something unique to see.  For example, the slower pace required while passing through allows you to see the historical markers.  On this trip, I learned that Gallipolis means "The City of the Gauls" and was settled in 1790 by French aristocrats fleeing France after Bastille Day and Marietta was established on April 7, 1788 as the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.

I also encountered roadside stands selling homegrown vegetables (where I got corn, cucumbers and tomatoes) and dilapidated barns with Mail Pouch Tobacco ads painted on the side. Plus, small towns provide signs that you just don't see in a city.  One I saw promoted Chester Shade Days in Chester, Ohio.  Among other things, this celebration includes a community picnic (be sure to bring your covered dish and lawn chair), a pretty baby contest, a dulcimer concert, a pie auction, and the Ohio State Harmonica Championship.  Further down the road, I passed Alligator Jack's Flea Market, which would make sense if it were in Florida or Louisiana, but not so much in Meigs County, Ohio. 

On occasion, what you see along the road is a little more bizarre.  Case in point is this "landmark" in Athalia, Ohio...

...which just goes to show that you can see and experience some strange and wonderful things on a road trip, but you only notice if are open to seeing where you are at the moment instead of worrying about where you are going.  Sounds like a great metaphor for life, huh?  

More to come from my Kentucky road trip in future posts!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Then sings my soul!

I had a really great day!  I went to church and sang today for the first time since my sinus surgery.  I am in no way the most fabulous singer, but I love to sing anyway, especially hymns.  With apologies to our outstanding preacher, I have to say that the song service is often the most moving part of worship for me.

At our church, like at many, most of the music we sing is contemporary, but we have at least one traditional hymn each service.  You can call me old-fashioned, it wouldn't be the first time, but I love the traditional hymns.  I enjoy lots of contemporary Christian artists and their music.  From Newsboys and Sonicflood to Twyla Paris and Amy Grant, there are many groups and singers who have contributed wonderful songs to the modern "hymnal", but for pure inspiration, I turn back to the hymns that have been with us for generations.

Think about it.  Is there anything more powerful than the voices of a congregation swelling together to sing,
Then sings my soul,
My Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
(Link to complete lyrics)
accompanied by only a piano, or even better, an organ?  How can your soul not sing in that moment?  The old hymns don't rely on complicated chord progressions.  The melodies are typically simple and accessible to everyone, accomplished vocalist or not.  It is the words that carry the task of inspiration.

Some of my favorites are the hymns that remind us of the glories of God's unending grace -  Old Rugged Cross, Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, and Love Lifted Me - to name a few.  Hymns like these provide us with the opportunity to sing our praises directly to God.  They are prayers set to music and, even though we are joining our voices with many others, we are communicating our love and devotion straight to Him.

The youth in churches today may not appreciate the classic hymns when they are first exposed to them, but I believe that these touches of tradition should remain in our church services to represent the simplicity and purity of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Dear Lord,  Thank you for giving us music as a way to express to You our joy, thankfulness, commitment and adoration!  May we always remember that it is the feelings we express through the words we sing, not how well we can sing them, that matters to You.  We will worship You with gladness and come before You with joyful songs!  In Jesus's name, Amen

Psalm 100
1  Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2  Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
3  Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
5  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.