I love being a woman.

I’m a woman who has experience being a wife, a mom, a student, a teacher, and a degreed business professional. I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. and have been to Europe, too, but am greatly fond of western Michigan and its beaches, and the entire Midwest region. My journey is relative to my time, of course. I’m a straight-laced conservative when it comes to education and career, yet a child of the 60’s; a hippie you might say, when it comes to enjoying life. It’s been quite a ride!

My favorite things are my grown children, Ashlee and Krystal, my Colonel hubby, Scott (retired from the military after nearly 30 years but continues to work a civilian job), my mother, Kathy (a pioneer for women who worked in the factory at General Motors from the early 60’s until retirement 27 years later – but who is first and foremost a gentle woman with a strong soul and my forever role model), my pets (Japanese Chin dogs Jake and Lucy, and my kitties, Bliss and Salem), beaches, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and other nature. I might seem complicated at times but truly love the simple things.

My little place in the world, that’s my blog. I’ll be sharing my thoughts about my life, my family, my pets, my job, and how I view the world. I hope you enjoy my stories, my sense of humor, and my insight. This is a chance for us to share that cup of coffee or tea in the morning or afternoon, and reach across the miles that might separate us, and gather close together to catch our breath and a laugh or two. Life is busy. And so are we! So let’s dive in together. And smell the roses, too.

Thanks for dropping by.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

Happy February 29!

But do we really need an extra day in February? Wouldn't an extra summer or fall day be more appealing to everyone; say June 31 or September 31?

Let's please remember this when we're updating the Gregorian calendar.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, a year that doesn't contain this extra day is referred to as a "common year," and if Hallmark gets wind of this information, I'll bet we'll start having Leap Year cards to celebrate the uncommon year, and maybe even Leap Year dinners, dances, and other festivities.

Let's see, we could do a Leap Year dance, and decorate with frogs a leaping, green cakes, and green punch for the green frog color. But would that be too much green so close to St. Paddy's Day? What other color could Leap Year Day be?

Maybe we have Look Before You Leap Activities, and for some odd reason, a Court Jester comes to mind as a Leap Year Mascot: So we could blindfold the Leap Year fool (each game participant would take a turn at this), and let them stumble through an obstacle course. Or just leave the blindfold off, and let them throw the dice to see how many paces they have to take before they "leap," and this could be off a box into jello or maybe into a swimming pool; you know, something "safe." Okay, too goofy.

One fun and safe activity would be to calculate how many Leap Year days you've actually lived through; just divide your age this year by four.

And doesn't it seem ironic that the year we have the extra day is called the Leap Year, when we actually don't jump over a day, but add one? Shouldn't we call it Extra Day Year?

Well, it's just an extra day; don't blink or you'll miss it. Happy Birthday to all those Leap Year babies who rarely get a birthday. And if you don't have a Leap Year birthday, be grateful, and happy day to you, too.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chinese cuisine cooking class

Yesterday evening Scott and I headed south to Orleans to the lovely farmhouse where we have taken cooking classes in the past, and had a lesson in Chinese cuisine scheduled.

Orleans is about an hour and a half south of Spencer, and although the weather threatened snow and gloomy skies in the morning, by noon it had cleared to a sunny, yet chilly day. So we headed to the farmhouse for what hoped to be a pleasant experience.

We really enjoy Chinese cuisine, and have attempted to cook it at home on several occasions. My quick stir fry, using bottled sauces, canned vegetables, and cooked chicken is good in a pinch. Although a decent fast dish for a career woman to make when on the run, it's not worthy of being called cuisine, and Scott turned his note up at it when I first made it for him. And after living with him for a while and finding out what a good chef he is, I can see why. He has given me an appreciation for delicious home cooked food. And although his attempts at Chinese cooking are fair, they lack the richness of the flavor that we have enjoyed in restaurants.

One of my Asian students gave me a recipe for Mapo Tofu (the student said it was his favorite dish), and we've made it at home, but since we didn't have access to the "real" ingredients, for example, we substituted chili sauce for chili paste because it wasn't available at our local grocer, the dish turned out lackluster. There are Asian grocery stores in Bloomington, and I plan on seeking out that chili paste one of these days.

We arrived at the farmhouse early for our 4:30pm lesson. The farmhouse is scenic no matter what the season, and we brought our camera to photograph the patchwork barn (there's actually a sign on it with this name), and the lovely old oak tree with the antique bicycle leaning against it. (On one of our autumn visits, we were delighted to see two Amish children playing near the barn. We were later told that there were neighbor children paid to do some barn chores.)

The porch of the house is filled with signs with cute sayings and lots of antiques that are always fun to see. There are so many things around the farmhouse inside and out, that no matter how many times we go, we are bound to notice something new.

Once inside, we found out that our hostess, Judy, who owns the home was going to stay upstairs since she was recovering from the flu. Our class instructor, Jackie, introduced herself and her assistant, her daughter, Tara.

Once the other three people arrived (this was a very small class), Jackie got started. We all took a chair at the oak dining table, and watched as Jackie prepared chicken pepper stir fry, sesame garlic flank steak, Hong Kong fried rice cakes, and stir fried spinach with garlic.

As soon as Jackie cut into the fresh ginger root, we realized what ingredient has been missing from our own home prepared recipes; the smell was tantalizing and made our mouths water in anticipation. Jackie showed us how to cut up a variety of vegetables for the peppered chicken dish, cutting cucumbers on an angle and carrots "rolled and diagonal" cuts. I had always just grabbed a veggie and cut it. I didn't know there were so many different ways to cut vegetables. And cucumbers in stir fry? Who would imagine! And she said to get the "long English cucumbers, since there are less seeds." And I'm thinking to myself, "You mean there are different kinds of cucumbers?" So yes, there are more things to to learn at these classes besides new recipes.

And when the food was done and ready, the best part was the EATING! We enjoyed our Chinese buffet, and meeting the instructors, and the local residents, Kelly, Gina, and Lee who had showed up for the class, too. Gina and I were the novices, proclaiming that we are not worthy to be called cooks. But Kelly, Lee, and of course my husband Scott, all have done quite well with cooking.

Kelly made comments that the evening was so much fun that we should all get together again in the summer for a "pitch-in." I laughed when I realized that by "pitch-in," she meant a potluck! Oh the things you learn at a cooking class! 

We swapped emails and ate the peppered chicken, and talked about what we'd through in it at home since the basic recipe is so versatile; Lee and I mentioned baby corn and mushrooms, and Gina and Kelly thought that sounded good and mentioned peapods. Scott liked the thought of peapods. The steak was Scott's and my favorite of the night. Kelly especially enjoyed the spinach, and said what a healthy way to enjoy fresh spinach this was.

The Hong Kong fried rice cakes were disappointing though, and after finding out you start with a pre-packaged mix like Rica-Roni to make them, we knew we wouldn't be making that one at home.

We weren't expecting dessert, but Tara brought us a tray of vanilla "bisquits" which were cookies with chocolate cream in the center. Then, when we figured that was dessert, she brought us each a bowl of Mango Sherbert. I've never had this treat but will certainly enjoy it again sometime. Everyone at the table agreed it was REALLY TASTY! And Jackie mentioned it was Kroger brand; who would have figured?

After a nice afternoon of "learning" and EATING, it was time to say good night. Full and happy and with recipes in tow, Scott and I bid farewell to everyone and headed back home.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Friends: Dixie and Sammy

So I invited a couple over for dinner last night because the husband is retired Army, like Scott, and I figured the guys would have lots in common.

Well, the husband is MSgt. Sammy Davis, congressional medal of honor recipient whose heroics in Vietnam were depicted in movie, "Forrest Gump," as he single-handedly saved many in his platoon during battle while he was wounded.

Sammy said, "Remember the scene where Forrest brings them to the river bank and leaves them, as he goes back for yet another soldier?"

And I said, "yes," and Sammy said, "I swam each of them across the river to safety." This was a goosebumps moment for me, speaking to this courageous gentleman. Sammy told us about meeting LBJ, and how they used footage of him in the movie receiving his congressional medal of honor, but superimposed Tom Hanks' photo over him. I asked if he really showed the president his battle scars, as Forrest did when he pulled down his uniform pants in the movie. Sammy said, "No, but I would've if the president has asked to see it."

Sammy told us about his stint in Vietnam, and how it rained and rained for days, and his platoon of 40 was in the wetlands, and he was in a foxhole. It was November 1967, and he turned 21 holed up in that foxhole. He said, "You know how you look forward to your 21st birthday, and dream of all the things you're going to do on that special day," and there Sammy was, wet, cold, and smack dab in a hole in Vietnam.

And when enemy forces, 1500 strong forged towards Sammy's platoon, the men did not cower. The platoon held as best they could, and one man -- Sammy -- ended up saving several of his comrades, just as depicted in the film.

Sammy brought over his congressional medal of honor to show us. Also in the little worn blue box were several other mementos, precious to the sweet war hero; one I'll especially remember was an amulet given to him by Mother Teresa, which I held in my hand, and felt I was holding something once touched by an angel.

Sammy's wife, Dixie, was no shrinking violet. Lovely and animated, Dixie spoke of the many celebrity friends they had made over the years, including favorites of mine, Gary Sinise and Ann Margret. I couldn't get over the Ann Margret mention, and told of how I saw the movie, "Bye Bye Birdie" as a five year old, and have always loved Ann. Dixie mentioned they would probably be seeing her this week at the Ronald Reagan library. Dixie says the celebrities they meet are all very nice, and most become friends.

We talked about the 1960's, and what a time it was. We discussed how the music was so poignant, and how you can't explain any of this to the younger generations; how you had to "be there," to understand it all. Even though I remember it as a child, and Scott barely remembers much, since he was born in the early 60's. We talked about how the music then was about peace, love, and understanding, all in the midst of the Vietnam war time. And how many today are concerned with putting healthy food in their bodies, yet the music of today is generally not so healthy. Music is food for the mind. We pondered what the effect will be over time . . . to be continued.

We ate and made merry. We all enjoyed a delicious beef bourguignon that took Scott hours to prepare, along with Asiago cheese bread, and a Marie Callender berry pie for dessert. Dixie and I were equally excited that we were serving Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream with the pie, so that made up for the fact that the pie was store-bought.

"Next time, we'll make one of our special homemade apple pies," I said, apologizing for the store-made one. Dixie said next time we're going to their house. and Scott and I look forward to it.

We felt like we had known these people for years. So nice to make new friends. And always nice to meet a hero; even I know this is something you just don't find around the corner (yes, I'm quoting Forrest Gump here). Sammy and Dixie brought us a jar of their homemade salsa. And we swapped recipes, too. Sammy and Dixie are really nice, and Scott and I enjoyed having them over, along with two of my colleagues from IU. It was a great night; it's always nice to make new friends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Therapeutic

Last Friday evening I gave a presentation to a group of Asian students on tips for the interview, and as I demonstrated how to "watch your posture and sit up straight," and swung my arms around and up to chest level to emphasize to "bring your energy level up!" they wiggled in their chairs and sat straight up in unison and when I discussed hand placement, to my delight, they mimicked me also.
I love the IU Kelley School of Business students! They are like sponges; they listen attentively and heed advice. They are outstanding students who go above and beyond. They are a joy to work with and a joy to know. 
And they appreciate the time and advice I give them as Career Coach. This is evident in the many thank you emails I receive almost daily. But if only they knew how much they give back to me. I learn from them, too. Many times, they make my day!
After a one-on-one coaching session and on his way out the door, one student said, "I'm going to pay your social security." I chuckled and said, "So you're going to save the system, huh?  and he replied with a smile, "Yes." So we talked a few minutes more about that. That student was so full of knowledge, motivation, and drive, and by golly, he convinced me if that if it can be done, he would be the person to do it.
Another student, during a mock interview when I mentioned that he had a charming personality, replied, "Thanks; you do, too." This made me smile.
I have yet another student who graduates in May and will only take a job in California or someplace "warm." She and actually took herself on vacation to check out different areas -- solo -- over the Christmas holiday break. She has no contacts out there. Yes, a very brave student. 
KSB students come from around the world, with diverse backgrounds and interests, yet they share a quest for knowledge.
Students so fresh, so hopeful, that they make me feel hopeful, too.  No matter what my day is looking like, KSB students are a bright spot.
Note: The Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, is considered to be one of the top business schools in the U.S. and in the top 50 throughout the world.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Just Peachy

"Did I ever tell you that I invented the peach strip on the maxi pad?" I mentioned to my friend Margaret the other day, as we carpooled to work.

"Did you invent the post-it notes too?" Margaret joked.

"No, I saw that movie though. And it was pretty funny, but I really did invent the Always pad peach strip," I told Margaret.

Margaret seemed amused as I told her that the feminine hygiene company had brought a focus group to Holy Spirit School way back in the 1980's, and as a young parent, I took part in trying out many products from the company, and providing feedback.

Ironically, the week I was testing the feminine hygiene products, I was in the Meijer grocery store on Alpine Avenue, and waiting in line at the courtesy desk. Why I was waiting there, I can't recall, but what happened next changed my life.

It was summer time, and a few feet in front of me was a rather large women in cotton white slacks and a sleeveless white blouse. This I recall most vividly, because wedged underneath her very thin cotton slacks, to my horror, was a BRIGHT BLUE strip maxi-pad, for all the world to see!

At that moment, I couldn't believe my eyes -- or my luck -- since I was doing the focus group on that very product! And as I stood there, I couldn't really shout over to her, "Hey lady, your blue strip is showing!" or "Excuse me, ma'am, we need to talk," well, you just can't say that stuff to strangers. But there was something I could do . . .

So, in the interest of every menstruating woman in America and beyond, it was at that very moment that I had the great idea for the nude or peach color strip, and brought that information to the focus group at Holy Spirit School on Lake Michigan Drive in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Now you might be thinking, gee, did Marie receive a patent for that, or perhaps great financial gain? Well, not exactly. Besides the satisfaction that I helped improve the product, my reward from the company was a 3-month supply of the newly developed product with the peach strip. And, I do have this fun little story to tell for the rest of my life.

Yeah, the money would've been nice. 

Monday, February 6, 2012


After a long and teary-eyed weekend spent snuggly and worrying over my boy, Jakie, and pouring over "Vet MD" articles online regarding kidney failure in young dogs, I talked to our vet this afternoon, who said she had good news. Jake's repeat bloodwork came back within normal limits of creatinine at 1.5! 

But, we must be cautious and will redo the tests in about a month. The vet has pondered why Jake would have a 2.2 the first time, and figured that, uh-hem, a high meat diet will cause a false high reading, and if you read the blog from two weeks ago where I had to bribe Jake to take medicine by giving him meat treats, well, that could explain it. Plus, she said Jake was probably dehydrated. So, we will hold our breath until early March, and repeat the test, and perhaps get Jake an ultrasound of his kidneys.

It took a few minutes for this relief to settle in, after thoughts of losing him, and the agony of imaging life without him . . . his quirky personality, his loveable charm; the way he sat on my lap at the vet's office on Saturday, and barked one strong, "WOOF!" at a huge black dog that got too close to Jake and me as Jake made it clear to the dog that, "Hey, this is my master and you're getting too close for comfort, Bub!" Even though he did it with a complete look of panic on his face, he mustered the courage to protect me, and that's special.

When I talk to Jake, he turns his head from side-to-side to try to understand what I am saying, and he is so cute doing this. He has huge buggy eyes, one appears to be a lazy eye, and he has a crooked little underbite. He is not perfect, and that makes him more appealing. He can sometimes be a bit slow to catch on to new stuff, while his "sister," Lucy, is smart as all get out, and catches on quickly, retrieves the ball before Jake realizes it's been tossed, etc. Compared to Lucy, Jake might be a fry short of a happy meal. But they go so well together. And I love them so much.

This past weekend was stressful, and I spent most of it dwelling on Jake and neglecting the other animals, besides his sibling, Lucy, I somewhat neglected the kitties, Bliss and Salem. And Salem had her own drama last week.

Salem was 13 in December, and spry as all get out, until last week when she tried to jump on the bed and landed on the floor, then crawled over to lie on the floor in the corner, which is so uncharacteristic of the bold little alpha cat. When she stopped using her back hind leg, I was worried that she was having heart issues, but then she was limping, so she hurt her foot. A chat with the vet revealed that if she had experienced a heart issue, that most likely, both hind legs would be affected, and she would be SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER!  So, Salem has just been babying her foot.

She just picked the wrong week to get my attention. But she has been snuggling on my belly, while Jake has been cuddling next to me with his head on my arm. Lucy doesn't care so much, since she prefers to lie on my feet, but Bliss, well, Bliss is tired of being ignored, and practically sat on my face this morning as she crowded in on me with loud purrs. I'm still pulling white fluff from my face and shirt.

And Jake is now convinced that I can't live without him, and he's probably right. I have planned on having that little cuddle bug around for many years to come, and pray this will come to pass. I have also learned not to give my dog fatty meats such as pork or beef. I mean this. I will vow to take better care of his sensitive little systems.

Well, I need to run; Salem wants me to lift her over the basement gate, and Jake wants to be petted, so see you next time.

Let's keep it a sunny day. Peace to you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rainy Day

Jake is my teddy bear dog; he loves to cuddle. And if I leave for any period of time, I come in the house to he and Lucy jumping up to greet me! And Jake even whines, because he has separation anxiety, and he loves me so much, and I love him back. And both dogs know what "dance" means, and "high five," and are so entertaining. The house would be so empty without both of them.

And Jake has seemed to be getting better, after being sick for a few weeks.

But the vet called last week, and asked me to bring Jake in to repeat his bloodwork. When I got there today, she said that Jake's creatinine level was elevated, which could mean that Jake's kidneys are failing.

Jake is just 2.5 years old, so this is truly heartbreaking news for me and my husband. I started to cry, but held Jake for the vet, so she could get blood samples from his legs this morning.

If Jake is in kidney failure, I asked how this could happen to such a young dog? The vet said that it could be congenital. She mentioned that there are treatments, and a special diet, and that if I wanted to, I could have a biopsy to find out what caused it (if it turns out to be the final diagnosis). I told her that no, I wouldn't do a biopsy; I wouldn't put my dog through that . . .

The vet said that although the creatinine level is above normal, it's odd that all other parts of the bloodwork came back normal. So we will hold our breath to see what these tests reveal.

It rained all day today.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Reports indicate that fat ole' groundhog saw his shadow this morning, and now 6 more weeks of winter are predicted.

So, does this mean "winter" in the traditional sense with lots of drifting snow and frigid temps, or the mild 50 and 60-degree temps with blue skies and sunshine we are currently experiencing in Indiana?

Ole' Mr. Groundhog, I hope you are wise enough to give us the latter. Or maybe we will put a cement block over your little groundhog hole to keep you down there till May next year.

Happy Groundhog's Day.