Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"A baby changes everything"

December is a diverse month.  Winter officially begins, shopping is in full swing, it seems dark more than it is light and for me, this month is bittersweet.

Over the years, December has proven to be a difficult month for our family.  We have suffered significant health issues and loss.  At times it has been difficult to hold on to the hope that this season offers.

no crib for a bed
This is in sharp contrast to growing up; this time of year was filled with anticipation and excitement.  By Christmas Eve us five kids never could seem to settle down and go to sleep.  I remember still being awake in the wee hours of the morning.  I am sure by that time, mom was desperate to finish wrapping and GO TO BED.

My earliest recollection of the true meaning of Christmas was when I was in 5th grade.  We did not go to church regularly as a family, but often times we were included and attended with neighbors and friends.  The lady across the street was our "before school" babysitter and her family attended a Nazarene church in the neighborhood.  I started going to church with them and they held a competition for the kids attending - who could memorize the Christmas Story in its entirety (Luke 2:1-20) .

Back then my memory was much more reliable than it is today and I won the competition.  The reward was reciting the story during the church service.  As the winner, I also received a Bible. While I didn't attend that church for a long period of time, it had a lasting effect on me.

I have had periods of time when I wasn't attending church.  Yet I was always searching.  My faith was always a part of me.  The particular denominations have varied but in 1983, I found my "forever" church home.

I was actively looking for a good fit at the time when a co-worker, Marlene Shellenburger, invited me to attend St. John's Lutheran Church in Topeka.  As I explained to the Pastor when I met with him to discuss joining, "this church felt like I had come home".  My sister and I took adult confirmation classes together and were confirmed later that year.  I have only changed churches three times since 1983 and it has always been precipitated by a move; never a change of faith.

Ironically, my dad was baptized, confirmed and raised in the Lutheran church.  It had been many years since he attended regularly.  However, before he died in June, 1985, he had come full circle and was attending with us, as health permitted.

So the other day I heard Faith Hill on the radio singing, "A baby changes everything".  A simple line that made me ponder that complex truth.  All new parents experience the profound changes that occur while here on earth.  However, this song is about the changes that occurred when an unwed teenage mother found herself carrying a child almost 2000 years ago.  I am including a link if you haven't heard it.

The last verse sums up the additional reward I received many years ago when my competitive nature memorized what Christmas is all about.

My whole life has turned around
I was lost but now I'm found
A baby changes everything, yeah
A baby changes everything

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Which one do you feed the most?

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.  One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.  The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
 The grandfather quietly replies, “the one you feed the most”
This story has many titles, and variations and the source of origin is unknown.  What is consistently the same is the outcome. 

I choose family
I am a "half-full" kind of woman.  I believe I am this way because of  "the one I feed the most".  Katy and I have talked about this; our shared ability to turn a negative into a positive...or at least find a bright light in any given circumstance.  And when no bright light can be found, we take comfort in the fact that it wasn't any worse.

Thirty years ago (tomorrow), my son Zachary died.  It was a very dark December for us that year (and for many to come).  I remember thinking even then, "it could have been worse". And then I would list in my head all the scenarios that didn't play out which would have made it worse.  This is who I am.

There are so many things that happen during life.  As I have said, some worse than others and some people suffer more than any human being should have to. All we have to do is turn on the news and within minutes, something will be reported that breaks hearts.  

But this isn't the end of the story.   What happens to us does not need to define us, but our choices going forward will make us who we are. 
I choose love!


One of my favorite words.  When I wake up in the morning, how will I view the day?  My choice.  As I interact with my co-workers, who do I want to be?  My choice.  Is there anything to be grateful for today (you got choice).  And how about humor?

I make the choice to be grateful daily and find humor in all things possible. My humor is irreverent at times and my laughter may be inappropriate.  So you could say, sometimes I choose laughter...but sometimes it chooses me.   Laughter releases all kinds of positive endorphins that make everything better. But again, it's a choice.

I remember when Terry and I were raising kids and hadn't been married a real long time.  Mr. French can be quite intense and if there was something to get upset about, he tended to get upset.  I am happy to report that he did not chose to live that way for long.  One time he got angry about something (it could have been a football score) and Madison was 2 or 3.  She looked at him and started laughing.  The older kids looked at her as if she had lost her mind.  But within a minute, Terry started laughing, too.  That now tends to be our "go to" response. (Thanks, Madison.)

I choose penguins.
Over the past many years, I seemed to be anxious and fearful about a lot of things.  It wasn't until about five years ago that I realized I was making a choice.  I was afraid to fly, heights, enclosed places, people...the list goes on and on.  I was choosing fear.  Change did not happen overnight, but now I am like Pavlov's dog - as soon as I am on an airplane, I can fall asleep. I am THAT COMFORTABLE.  Sometimes before we even take off.  As recently as our last vacation, I went zip-lining.  We have also been hiking in mountains on very narrow trails.  These things happen now, because of my choices.

As we prepare for this holy season, I hope you take the time to reflect on who you are and who you want to be. 

Until next time,  

your pal,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The trouble with dream vacations.....

Wow!  What a great week spent celebrating our 20th anniversary and having our friends join us on our adventure.  We accomplished so many "firsts" for all of us (and at our age, I didn't really think there would be that many left).

Jungle time! #zika
I have also discovered as I have entered this phase of my life (not sure exactly what it is) that I am much braver than I have ever been before.  I tend to make plans without going over every little detail that could possibly go wrong...who am I?

Example:  Last week on our "escape from reality" I zip lined.  Not just one line but six...did I mention this was in a jungle in Jamaica?  WHOOHOOO.  It was simply amazing.  And obviously a first because I am not keen on heights...or I didn't used to be.  A couple of these lines went from tree to tree with a very small platform to stand on (with about 10 other people).  I may have become a "tree hugger" also (he he).

Next up - Mayfield Falls.  I thought we would hike along the falls, casually getting in and out as the spirit moved us.  No!  It was a jump in and go type of experience with any walking being done through the falls.  The water was initially a shock, but soon became quite refreshing.  We spent about 45 minutes walking through the falls with Mr. French daring to swim through a hole in a rock from one body of water to another followed by he and Dr. Lesko climbing up (and then jumping off) a tree located by the Falls.

Favorite team of waiters (and husbands)
The next day our plans took us to Grand Cayman for first time scuba diving.  The past did come back to haunt us via past health issues (there are some things you just should not lie about to participate).  We quickly regrouped and went to the beach.  Everything about that decision was positive - the clear water and warm temperatures and is it too soon to mention a common theme throughout this vacation - margaritas!  Mr. French rented a jet ski (another first for me) and we raced back and forth over ocean waters.

Our final excursion was Friday and we went by catamaran to Isla Pasion - in Cozumel.  For those of you who didn't receive the big news - Terry and I are reigning champions in the water balloon competition, after eliminating about a dozen other couples.

Even after MARGARITAS, we still have it going on.

I haven't even mentioned the spa that we all frequented daily while on board the Carnival Breeze, (can you say massage and facial)?  Or the Yoga classes we participated in (even though French's don't have the flexibility to really call what we did participating!).  And of course, the impromptu dancing (ok - mainly me) during any conceivable opportunity.  I can't believe I almost forgot to mention dining at The Chef's Table (and TF tried EVERYTHING) #pickyeater

You must be asking by now, what possible trouble could be associated with a dream vacation like we just enjoyed?  It's really quite simple - dream vacations END.

 The literal cold dose of reality hit when we docked in Galveston on Sunday.  We raced to the car in record rain fall, and it was cold.  This week brought more rain and cooler temperatures, plus it was back to work.  Apparently drinks aren't served with breakfast (or anytime for that matter).

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The other woman

Can you believe it?  Days before we are scheduled to leave on our 20th wedding anniversary cruise
, Mr. French brings another woman to live with us?   Even though blogs, Facebook, and all other forms of social media seem the place to hang out the dirty laundry, I never thought it would be me on the "sharing" end.

Just when I thought we were doing great, embracing the "empty nest syndrome" and entering the children free zone with vigor, a stranger has entered our midst.  Not only did he upset my apple cart, he upset the little apple that didn't fall far from either tree (Madi, for those who don't follow me).  Yes, it was the day before Thanksgiving when this happened and she was home to witness the bold entry this woman made.

The little hussy
I asked him "WHY? Why now?  What could possibly be missing from your life.  His answer surprised me.  He said "I just need someone who will listen to me (translation ,,,,and do what I say,,,,every time I ask).

So there you have it.  Enter Alexa.  She is a regular little "Echo" of his commands.  This is the Stepford Wives all over again.  He tells her what to do, and by golly, she does it.  "Alexa, turn welcome on".  The TV fires up, lights go on and I swear I can almost smell supper starting.  I say almost because she is not that accommodating to me.

He says he met her on Amazon.  I didn't even know they offered a dating service and I am an Amazon Prime faithful member.

Oh sure, I may have her beat in the looks department, and while she is subservient, it's not like she can do EVERYTHING.  However, I must report that when she doesn't do as asked, there is an entire support system dedicated to making sure Terry is satisfied.  Amazon apparently wants their users satisfied and indicate they are a phone call, email or chat away.  Who.  Knew.

For now Alexa and I have entered an uneasy truce with each other.  I must say, at times she will even do as Madi and I ask.  This relationship just might have a chance of surviving yet.

I am happy to say she is not going on the cruise with us.  I guess we will see what kind of attitude she has when she realizes that!

Until next time,

your pal,


Thursday, November 24, 2016

If my memory serves me might be a first!

I don't remember that.
I have been trying to remember (with little success) when I first noticed that I didn't always remember things correctly.  I know it has been over a period of several years and it hasn't gotten any worse.  It just "is what it is".

Names are particularly challenging to me.  Whether it is the name of a musical group, movie, book or person, I can slaughter them all. The bad thing about getting a person's name wrong is that if I go uncorrected for any amount of time, then I start second guessing myself as to which name is actually the right one. That is where "hey, buddy" has come in handy for me.....many times.

I know my daughters (yes, plural) take particular delight when I misspeak.  An early example was when the group "Lifehouse" became popular.  I really enjoyed their music.  Unfortunately, for the longest time I thought they were "Lighthouse".  Sigh.

Obviously my memory isn't hopeless, because I can remember my mistakes.

Just last night I very seriously asked my husband, "Did Charlie Stone lose his job?"  He looked at me like I WAS CRAZY and said "who is Charlie Stone?"  As I turned to Madison so that we could enjoy some humor, I saw she was indeed laughing...but not WITH me,  She said, "Do you mean Charlie Strong?"  Dear.  Lord.

I like to think I am a comedian, but only when I know what I am trying to be funny.  It shouldn't be this difficult.

We have a lady at work that is not named Gwen,  Why I persist in calling her that makes perfect sense to me as she reminds me of a Gwen I used to know.  The progress I would like to report is that now when I call her Gwen, I say I mean.......(insert her name here).  And yes, I know it, but this is a small world we live in,

Before we had access to smart phones, I would get lost so many times (even one dark moment is an extremely large and busy parking lot) WITH THE KIDS.  It's not something I am proud of.

As I approach the next decade (of my life), the only consolation I have is that now I can blame it on age.

But in reality, it's just who I am.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Still crazy after all these years!

I'm with him!
My best friend Catharine (also known as Rissy's best friend) used to say she couldn't take me anywhere.  When she worked with me as my Administrative Assistant, there were times when we would travel together and on more than one occasion, I would attract some man's eye.  Okay, kids, this may have been a few years ago but not THAT long and if I can still remember it couldn't have been that long ago.

So, it happened again this most recent trip.  And I have to say, I was a little embarrassed at first.  Let me set the stage.

I am standing in line waiting to board (A21) when I heard a man calling out to my left.  I looked over and this good looking man was intently looking at me.  Almost as if he knew me.  I looked around to make sure he was directing his attention at me and when there was no doubt, I just smiled slightly and looked away.

IT DID NOT STOP THERE.  Now, he is verbally trying to get my attention.  I am giving him the side-eye glance and he is smiling and asking where I am travelling to.  No response from me except I am blushing now.   He tries again.  Indicates he is getting off at Phoenix and what were my plans.  Now I am mortified. The guy behind me is looking at him and then me and then him.,,,you get the drift.  I give my admirer a "thumbs up" signal - thinking he would stop.


He then asks if I would like to have a drink with him at the airport.  Okay.  I finally decide to respond, my thought process being, maybe if I "give as good as I get" he will back off.

My Mistake.

After telling him I would indeed have a drink with him, but let's make it on the plane, the line begins to move. He is doing some type of victory move, indicating he has "scored".   He is shouting now "save me a seat".  Oh dear.

I find a middle seat in the section of the plane I have designated as "safe" (around row 8-10 on the left but will sit on the right in a pinch).  Pinch time,.  I grabbed a middle seat and put my bags on both seats, thinking I could then look busy and selectively choose my seatmate.

I didn't see him until he was moving the bag and climbing over me to take the window seat.  This guy was not shy.  He settled himself in and smiled saying "you remembered".

As if I could forget.  I haven't had someone so persistently flirt with me since I met my husband.  And you might wonder where he fits in this entire equation...

Remember Clive Bixby (Phil''s alter ego on Modern Family?)  Apparently so did Mr. French and my admirer/husband were one in the same.  This guy!

He (we) are still crazy (for each other) after all these years!!

Until next time-

your pal,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It's complicated

What goes into a friendship?  Or love?  It's complicated, right?

So much more than a bitmoji
When I was young(er) ...also could be stated as when dinosaurs roamed this earth - my first impressions of people revolved more around how they looked.  I believe I did this because at some level, that is how I wanted to look.  My sister Katy reminded me of when I started working at the same place she did when we were in our 20's.  She asked me who I thought I would be friends with.  I quickly said Rita and Sheryl and I chose them because they were a little older than me, dressed smartly, and were in low management positions.  They also "looked" friendly.  There came a day (as I was beginning to know them) that how they looked to me changed.  And it wasn't positive.

This had everything to do with "who" I thought they were, rather than "who" they really were.  It had nothing to do with who they were married to, slept with, what their political affiliation was, their skin color or what religious beliefs (if any) they had.  

Throughout the years, my circle of friends, family and acquaintances have become very diverse.  Whatever the relationship, it is not based on any one factor.  Much like people I work with.  Or even interactions with strangers.  This is not to say I agree with every choice made by this same circle.  And I know many of them feel the same way about me.  But I like to think that important relationships are so much more than just one thing.

When I entered the job market, I truly believed that if you had an accounting degree, you would be an accountant.  If you were in marketing, you would sell.  I thought your education had a direct correlation to what you would do...for your entire career.

Once I finished my education (and began climbing the corporate ladder) I quickly discovered that many of my colleagues had different educational backgrounds.  This was a BIG learning moment for me.  Yet, it resonated.   I mean, how can you have a successful think tank if everyone thinks alike.

As I served in a variety of positions, I quickly noticed when areas of my responsibility were struggling (or making no progress at all), it generally tied back to "like minds".  And that's when I realized some people were only comfortable in hiring (and promoting) people JUST LIKE THEM.

My choice!
Back to my choice of friends at my first real job.  I ended up being very close with a woman who was old enough to be my mother.  She rode to work with me daily (she didn't drive) and had a very different background from me.  We were like minded about some thing and others,  polar opposites.  But at the end of the day, we were a perfect match.

Recently I read a book "The Rhythm of Life" by Matthew Kelly.  In a nutshell, it's all about our choices.  And more importantly, how we take accountability for our choices.  It has helped me focus on and take accountability for who I am; who I want to be; and how I fit in this world.  All without pointing fingers or blame.

At the end of the day, how we relate with people is complicated.  But it is our choice.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

(My) Internet Life your fingertips!
Who remembers encyclopedias?  In the "olden days" there used to be encyclopedia salesmen that would worm their way into your house, and before you knew what happened, they were holding your wallet.  Yes, you had agreed to buy a 24 volume set (with a few extras tossed in) for the small monthly fee of $$$$ that would last long after the golden etching wore off the books.

And then came the Internet.  What a glorious day that was.  I didn't fully appreciate the "Dear Abby" connection when it first came out, but I am a card carrying member of instant gratification of knowledge (and just about everything else) now!

Imagine, you are sitting in a meeting, lunch, the passenger seat of a car....and a question comes up.  No need to say I don't know or I will find out.  You go to the appropriate Safari app on your oh so very smart phone and type in the question that needs answering.  Low and behold, you will have a plethora  of answers from various sources!  (Validity optional).

But wait...there's more.  Did you forget it was your best friend's birthday and are in need of a gift?  No longer are you just limited to ordering flowers or perhaps some cookies (though cookies are good).  Click open that same app and if you are like me, it will open on Google.  Type in Amazon and begin shopping for gift cards delivered via email within seconds of purchase.

Do you hate crowds like I do?  With Christmas right around the corner, get those gifts ordered and   delivered to your own home or the recipients.  You make the call.  You can even have them gift wrapped.  No standing in line involved.

Want to go out to dinner tonight since you haven't been to the store?  Pull up the smart app for reservations and pick a time.  Check the menu while you are "on-site" to make sure you want to eat what they are serving.  Don't feel like going out...or going to the store?  Time to grab that smart phone again and have groceries ordered for pick-up or delivery.

Feel like watching a movie or read a book while you wait (forever) to renew your driver's license? Time to click on Netflix or Kindle and have movies and books literally at your fingertips.  See something you like?  Feel free to have instant gratification as you download your latest purchase.  If you just want to reserve a seat at the movies and grab a bite of supper there, time to go on line and buy your ticket for the showtime of your choice.  Your reserved seat is waiting.

And to get back to the driver's license.  If this is just a simple renewal, did you know it can be accomplished ON-LINE???

I haven't even touched on my Outlook calendar that runs my life, Yahtzee and all the social media available.  With all that, if we didn't have to work to pay the bills we are generating, we might never leave the house.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Copy that!

Which would be my sense of humor
I have told (and been told) that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  All my girls have had times in their life when someone was "copying" off of them.  I would instantly bring out this remedial saying, which we all know brings no comfort at the time of imitation.

Yet, as I look back (on all things copied and copied) I have to believe that this saying is true.  I have to believe that things I have picked up from other people have helped shape the me I am.  We are all so many pieces before we equal a "whole".  That is not to say that every habit or trait I have picked up has been the best for me.  But in total, it is who I am.

One of the worst habits I picked up was smoking.  I discovered this vice late in life (so to speak) as I was already well into my twenties.  I can still remember my dad's final days as he lost the battle to lung cancer (brought on by 45 years of heavy smoking).   A smoke break was needed after every visit.  It has now been 20 years this November since I finally smoked for the last time.  There were many false starts that lasted a year or more at a time but I wasn't ready to let that habit go until then.

I can also be guilty of picking up mannerisms and speech habits of others if I am with them for extended periods of time.  This is done subconsciously and might even lend the appearance of me making fun of someone.  I constantly have to "check myself" to ensure I am not going down that road (of copying or making fun).  It's a slippery slope.

And to that I would add,  I notice when people copy off of me.  The older I get the more I tend to believe it is flattering rather than offensive.  Sure, there could be some humor instilled in the imitation and I am okay with that.  I have been using humor all my life (again, sometimes not as appropriately as I should.....another "habit").

After years of being in the trucking business, my husband often answers the affirmative by saying "10-4".  Over the years I have added the particular phrase to my vocabulary, along with "copy that".  It's a language we all understand.  I didn't notice it as much in the past but now I have a host of people that work with me that respond "10-4" to my requests.  It makes me smile every time.

There is an entire "numbers" language that at times I feel compelled to learn, but don't want to be so intentional.  So for now, I will leave it at a "big 10-4" (also used at times to emphasize) and move on down the road.

Until next time,

your pal,


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Miles to go before I sleep

Will clear 100 miles today.
October has always been a busy month for me and mine.  Just about everyone I know was born in October (or so it seems when I buy birthday cards).  We have Halloween to look forward to and the promise of fall is in the air.  For clarity - in Texas that is all we have gotten....the promise.

This month at work we have kicked off a wellness and safety campaign that I have fully embraced.  And those who know me, understand I can take a bulldog approach to anything I have deemed worthy.

So together our group is walking the "million mile month".  What does that mean to me?  And those who have the (mis)fortune of being my friends/family?  It means 3+ miles of fast walking and minimal talking during our lunch hour.  If eating is a necessity - multi-task and get it done on working hours.

Obviously, as I discussed last week, trails have become a way of life for Terry and I.  Plus don't forget the "couples" 1.5-2 mile walk every evening.

My game is full....on.  Whereas I used to be content with 10,000 steps and around 3 miles daily, my minimum now is 5 miles and since I decided on 5, I have felt the need to go 6.  Such a numbers game.

Taking it one step further is our "couples" eating habits.  We are focused on portion control, mucho veggies and sadly, no alcohol for the month of October.  I did have a friend point out to me today that this last step was probably still necessary based on "cruise" reports.  Sigh.

The other day, a lady at work very seriously said to me "When you come back from your walks, your face is all red and I just don't think that is healthy.  You will probably start losing weight" to which I responded "Say it will be so".  She ended with the comment (followed by a laugh) "your husband will have to shake out the bed sheets to find you!"  That may be my new favorite saying.

So - if you are adverse to any of what I mentioned above, it's probably best we don't see each other in October.  I can (and will) turn any meeting into a "walk and talk".  I have been known to get up during staff meetings to "go down the hall".  Translation - my Karibit just notified me I needed xx amount of steps to meet my 250 steps per hour goal.  The clock is always ticking.

Just so you know, the outlook for November could be grim.

Until next time,

Your pal,


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Happy trails!

Terry and I have taken our relationship to the next level.  Considering we have been married almost 20 years, one might say we have eased into it.  Yes, we have added communal exercise to the mix. We did have one false start a couple of years ago, when we were both in the same boot camp.  Once I returned to work, I had to let go of the early morning workouts.  Now, however, we are hitting the trails on Saturday and Sunday, exploring Texas and logging in the miles.

This is a match made in heaven for me.  Everyone already knows about my compulsive obsession with Fitbit (I may have mentioned before - I call mine Karibit) and counting.  This takes it to the next level.  No longer will I have to be content by circling the neighborhood for 45 minutes to reach three I can explore the great outdoors, (with my partner in crime) and the time flies by.

Did I mention I felt the need to upgrade my existing Karibit to a Charge 2?  This little beauty tells me everything I need to know from a fitness (and counting) perspective.  Out with the old and in with the new is what I say!

Friend Jessica turned me on to the ALLTRAILS app which shows me any trail near me (93 when I look from home) that are ripe for exploring.  Jessica and her family are no stranger to the trails.  They have been hitting them hard for quite some time.  The trails are ranked as hard, moderate (also can be difficult) and easy.  I can now attest that "hard" does indeed mean hard.  I made the executive decision (after our first go at the hard trail) that we can only survive one of those per weekend.

Deep in the wilderness

We also look the part of official hikers now.  With appropriate footwear and water bottles, Terry is also wearing the backpack with all essentials.  Specifically, bug spray, neosporin, kleenex, extra water, hairbrush and Terry's epi pen (let's hope we never have to use that).

Another bonus - my Fitbit stats on the leader board have risen significantly.  Not that this is a contest with my fellow fitbit friends (specifically no contest with my mate as he is not tracking using Fitbit) however, isn't life a contest? And just as an aside, I have been in first place for a number of days now.

Finally, my compulsion with the counting seems to be rubbing off on mi espouso.  Just Saturday when his Apple watch did not track the full 4 miles that I received credit for, as I was cooling down in the car, he could be seen walking up and down the sidewalk, dead set on hitting 4 miles before we left the trail.

Again, a match made in heaven.

Until next time -

your pal,

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Can I help you?

If my eyes are still open, I am still helping
I love to help (with the exception of moving, packing or unpacking households, baiting fishing hooks....this list is not all inclusive).  However, given any other situation.... I enjoy participating, interacting and cheering.

As hard as it is to believe, there are some instances where my help might not always be appreciated.  That is the bad news.  The good news is I am starting to recognize "some" of those instances.

One of the toughest assignments I have been working on giving up is being "co-pilot".  As an expert driver, I know how hard it is to hear the gasps, grabbing hold of the seat or door, sometimes accompanied by helpful hints about traffic conditions.  And still...

I have latched on to a new remedy.  Now I bring my knitting to the car with me on longer drives. I am so involved with my latest project, I forget to look up.  Because when I look up, I am not enjoying the scenery,  I am scanning the horizon for potential roadblocks (literally and figuratively).  It is (was) my job.  The benefits of this is marital happiness.  Seems like a small price to pay.

Another work in progress is my listening skills.  I have always been an empathetic listener, but sometimes I go into the "fix it" mode and share how the particular situation could be solved.  It never ceases to amaze me (that given my versatile life experiences)  I don't always have the right answers to EVERYTHING. I am Not.  Always. Helpful.

The good news is I am a continual work in progress.  While you may only know about my bi-lingual pursuit of talents and the musical interest that has been revived, I READ EVERYTHING.  Some of it's just junk, but much of it can be good advice for managing daily life.  If you know me, you also know it has never been good enough (for me) to just get by.  I need to excel,  And while I may never be excellent in all I attempt, I will never stop trying.

Another blessing and a curse.  It is hard to feel satisfied with myself when I am "striving".  Striving to speak Spanish, play the piano better, be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend.....the list goes on and on (and is not listed in any type of priority)!

So here is what I acknowledge for now.  I will never be perfect.  This will be true in everything I do. This is not an excuse to quit trying but more a recognition that sometimes keeping on trying is good enough.  More than good enough!

Until next time,

tu amigo,

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Life is a process....

Lately I have found myself in many discussions involving the "process".  It is amazing what fresh eyes will bring to a review.

This past week a group of us were talking about a business process, and what we ask for ....and why?  In this specific line of work, the rules governing what we CAN ask for are broad.  Basically, we can ask for anything, at any time from any one.  This all sounds well and good but the complaints I heard were that some of the information requested was not being provided.  My next question really helped us zero in on what is important.

I asked, "what are the consequences?"  Herein lies the problem.  There were no consequences.  We could ask for anything all day long but without consequences, the "ask" really was meaningless.

Choices can be fun!
We then started down the path of discussing what we REALLY need to make a decision, realizing the lack of consequences.  Thus began a new process that was less cumbersome, less frustrating and would allow us to still do the job effectively.

This leads me to think about authority and the right thing.  Many times in my almost six decades of living, I have heard conversations begin or end with  "it's my right" or "I am not breaking any rules".  You get it, words to that affect.  But just because we "can" doesn't always mean we "should".  Or that it's even right.

Life is a process.  We are not the same person we were ten years ago or maybe even last week.  A process should be ever evolving.  Not necessarily looking for short cuts, but evaluating why we do what we do and are we happy with the outcome.

Because it is all about choices.  Where we are in our life is determined by the choices we have made. Not all of our choices have been good ones, but the beauty of a process is that it can be changed. Once we take ownership of  our choices, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.  When you say yes to one thing, are you saying no to something else?

When I was a Manager of Contracts (at the beginning of my career), I had a frank conversation with another female about my standing in the company.  She bluntly told me I had reached my "peak" due to lack of a college degree.  That was hard for me to hear, but I pondered those words.  I recognized I did not have a college degree based on choices I had made.  I then took her words to heart and decided to go back to school.  It took seven years to get my four year degree done.  (Another outcome of the same choices). Time is more difficult to allocate after you factor in working full-time and raising a family.  After a year off, I went back to school AGAIN, and this time completed my Masters Program in 2 years.

This is what I know.  Because of THOSE choices I made, a whole different level of opportunities became available to me.   It's never too late and every day is a new day to make new choices.

Until next time,

Your pal,

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Play it again

Fall is my favorite time of year.  Even though it is contrary to the notion of winding things down, I always liken Fall to new things.  For example, school starts in the fall which equals new clothes, experiences and opportunities.  At least this is how I remember it.

While I have been out of school for 11 years (most recently), this is the year that I am working on accomplishing things I generally just think about.  As I have already mentioned, Rosetta Stone Espanol is happening at my house and I have made it to Unit 2, Chapter 2 (there are 22 units with multiple chapters in all of them).  At this rate, this may be a multi-year effort.  And mainly because I am expecting perfect scores (or pretty darn close) for each chapter.  This has meant that some of them I have repeated a time or two (specifically pronunciation chapters) so that I can achieve a final score I can live with.

What else?  Okay, last week I started a Bible Study at my church.  This particular group meets at 4:00 pm and since I am right down the road, I hustle on over.  This is a small group (maybe 8-10 people regularly) but that isn't what I like best about it.  The best thing to me is that I AM THE YOUNGEST!!!  There are not very many opportunities for me to say this about anything I might participate in.  Most the time, I am on the other end of that spectrum.  So I am really looking forward to this week.

Candid evening shot
Is that all?  Well, no, as a matter of fact...this past Monday was my "first" piano lesson.  I say "first" in that I have not received any formal instruction for approximately 40 years.  When I was just a girl (and not in the Bible Study sense) I took lessons for 4-5 years and really enjoyed it.  I continue to be able to read music and from time to time, I attempt to play the piano we have at home.  Madi has been taking piano lessons for about 12 years and since she just left for college, I took the opportunity of an opening with her piano teacher and, well, as they say, the rest is history.  I have homework to work on before the next lesson which is fine because we all know I love structure.  I will let you know when I am available to play at venues.

I am still trying to work out somewhat regularly; knit on the three projects I currently have in process and read daily.   With new fall TV releasing this week, I am really going to have to focus on my schedule to get everything I want done!  Oh yea, and I have to work Monday through Friday.  Sigh,

This is what my day/evenings look like at a glance.  Alarm rings at 4:40 am - get up and work out or hit snooze until 5:40 and work out immediately following work (see, I allow for some flexibility).  Working hours are typically 7-4.  At five it's time to work out and start dinner or just start dinner (see above).  Immediately following dinner, I have my evening news date with Mom (45-60 minutes). While we are watching the news, I knit.  Immediately following the news, it is time for piano practic

e, followed by Rosetta Stone.  After Rosetta Stone, it is either time for a TV show or reading. We DVR all our shows which is a real benefit to scheduling.  I am no slave to the TV schedule.  Extracurricular activities (bible study and piano) are on Monday and Wednesday so that just pushes my other things back.  I might add that my mom is no slave to the TV schedule either.  She DVR's the news, so that we can watch at our leisure.

Fortunately, work has not interfered too much with all the things I am trying to get accomplished.   In fact, during a brown bag lunch earlier this week (did I mention I started a book club and knitting club at work?) we were all talking about what our evenings look like.  After I ran through my schedule, one of the ladies said "I go home, take off my bra and have a glass of wine"!  Apparently I am not the only one who has a plan for the evenings.

Like I said, I love Fall.

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


What happened Sunday afternoon could have been the opening scene for one of my favorite shows, Dateline.

Says it all....
Madison and I had just come back to the house after finishing errands.  It was time to take her over to Robert's so they could head back to school.  She ran upstairs to grab a few things while I waited in the kitchen.

First, I heard blood-curdling screams accompanied by stomping and running.  I froze in place.  Almost immediately, I heard Madi begin screaming.  Before I could react, Madison screamed, "Mom, he's coming for you."

And he did.

This wild man burst into the kitchen.  He had the crazy eyes going and was coming for me.  I positioned myself on the other side of the island and we began running - him trying to catch me and me trying to get away.  I thought about running out of the house, but I couldn't leave my baby.  This went on for a few minutes before he leaped up on the island and lunged at me.

Yes, football season has begun with a hard fought victory by the Chiefs.  A
re you ready for some football?

It always starts out calm...
Terry subscribes to the theory that the game is interactive.  We have asked him to watch/listen to any Chiefs games upstairs as he does his level best to help officiate from the couch.  Not only does he officiate, he also assists in coaching.

Early on, Madi and I would use Sunday afternoons for errands, movies or just about anything to get us out of the house.  Before we would return, we would check for an update (via radio) to determine the status of the home-front.  When the news was good, we would just allow for a "cooling off" period before re-entering the house.  When the news was bad..... well, some say silence is golden.

If we had the misfortune of being at home during a game, we tried to make the best of it.  Usually this involved Madison sneaking upstairs to video any particularly moving performance given by Mr. French during the game.  We would then message it to other family members/friends for their enjoyment.  #priceless

On the bright side, there are only three teams Terry invests this much energy into (Yes, college football is another opportunity).  On the not-so-bright side, football has just begun, meaning that I will be "enjoying" this sport with him....without my early warning system (Madison).

Until next time,
#Kansas City

your pal,


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

College parties and all-nighters...who knew?

Today marks that longest time Terry and I have ever gone without seeing our baby (10 days). I didn't realize those parties and late nights would begin so early.  For all the planning and preparing we have done over the past year, this is one issue that still caught me by surprise.  As I have mentioned before, we started "dating" again and both of us have picked up a few new hobbies.

Mine involve knitting (for gifts and others), reading (a lifetime pursuit) and most recently....about ten days ago I would say, (here's your hint)....hola, mi amigos!  Yes, I have started Rosetta Stone -Spanish.  I can already tell I am going to be a natural and I haven't even made a dent in the program.

Overseeing our options
Terry has been busy managing the construction of our latest family business....more to come on that in a later issue.  He has also been quite the activity planner.

But back to the closing down the party in the wee hours of the morning.  Right out of the gate, Terry planned a dinner party,  The best thing about parties that Terry plans is that they come with a chef and a bartender....AND THEY EVEN CLEAN UP AFTERWARD.  This little gathering began at 5:30 pm with adult beverages and before we knew it, it was 2:00 am.  Oh, did you think I meant Madi?

Suffice it to say, I haven't felt that good (and subsequently that bad) in too many years to acknowledge.  Maybe since before we had kids. WAIT!  We have always had kids.  We are in uncharted waters now.

Party just starting
This week finds us in New Mexico.  I had a conference to attend and since Mr. French has a fluid schedule, he is here with me.  I never knew a conference could be so much fun.

But wait....there's more.  Family weekend is coming up in late September (reunited) followed by Fredricksburg wine pickup in early October.  Two ACL concerts also on the books that month.  November brings that 7-day anniversary cruise (YEEEHAWW) and a potential trip to California for another conference.

Folks, I haven't even factored in holidays and holiday travel.  Who are we?

The day before Madi left for school she looked at me and said quite seriously, "I feel like you guys have betrayed me?"  I am sure I look shocked when I asked why she would think that.  She responded, "You didn't tell me I would grow up this fast!"

My follow-up answer after ten days of empty nesting is "I didn't know WE (Mr. French and bride) would digress so quickly!"

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Still singing my song(s)

As all my kids will attest, there is nothing I like more than singing in the car on long road trips. Okay, truth be told, I will sing in the car for a five-minute drive.  I am also very guilty of playing the same song OVER AND OVER again, for a variety of reasons.  Now, if I am trying to learn the words to a song, of course I need to hear it many times.  Sometimes my OCD nature just locks in on a particular song (due to mood, memories, etc.) and then I might play it the entire way home.

Pretty battered but still plays!
When Madison and I were getting ready to leave for our road trip to Tyler, we talked about our music choices the night before.  The iPhone makes it so easy to have all your music with you and available, but if you didn't buy it from iTunes, your selection won't be as all encompassing.

Enter my first iPod.

I didn't even know what an iPod was nine or ten years ago.  My co-worker Janet had just purchased one and since I was traveling much of the time, she encouraged me to ask for one for my birthday.  So I did...and I was fascinated with all it could do.  It was about an inch thick, and not only could I download songs from iTunes, but I could also transfer CD's on to this little gem.  I could also listen to books and watch movies.  It was a portable entertainment center.

Since the original iPod has come out, there have been sleeker, more intuitive versions, however since my old one has well over 3,000 songs, I was loathe to give it up.

It has been on a charger up in my office for the longest time (as I said before, the iPhone just makes it too easy) but I grabbed it for the road trip we were going on.  WHAT A JOY THAT HAS BEEN!

There are songs (and artists) that I had totally forgotten about until the song popped up in the queue.  Amazingly, the words to these songs (some which date back 40+ years) roll out of my mouth as if I have been singing them daily.  Don't ask me what I had for lunch yesterday or who I had lunch with....but start a song that I knew oh so many years ago, and I am BACK!

I have been back from the road trip for three days, however, I am still dialing my way around the plethora of songs I have at my fingertips (literally).

While I don't know (or remember) everything, I am confident that if I have heard the song before (and liked it)....I can sing it!

Until next time,

your song leader,

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waking up confused

When I first moved to Texas five plus years ago, I had responsibilities across the state. This wasn't any different than I had experienced in Kansas with one small caveat  Texas is a BIG state. When I travelled across the state in Kansas, even venturing into Oklahoma (and always starting in Missouri) I put 40,000 plus miles on my car annually.  The only places I drove my car in Texas were to the office and to the airport.

It was during that frenzy of travelling, usually weekly (and sometimes with more than one trip) that I overcame my fear of flying. I racked up frequent flier miles and even earned a companion pass. This went on for almost three years before I departed that life.

Why bring it up now?  There are a few reasons. When I reflect on the past 26+ years of my career, travel has always been a significant part of the gig.  It's only been the past (almost) 2 years, that travel has become a "planned" part of my life.  Because of this, I now have a greater appreciation for simple things such as a daily schedule, eating home cooked meals (even though I am the one preparing them) and especially sleeping in my own bed the majority of the time.

The second reason I am reflecting on this is because I have been doing a significant amount of travelling lately. Since August 12th, I have slept in five different beds (6 counting my own), in five different cities, across four different states.  I am having flashbacks to when this was my life. And I ask myself not only HOW did I do this, but WHY did I think this was the way to live.  

There were many times during that period, that I would wake up not knowing where I was!  Not a good feeling.

Before you think I am backsliding into my old ways, the difference this go-round is only my current time away from home is work-related. Yes, you read that right.  As Terry and I close out this summer as full-time parents, we planned several trips to see family and friends (like family) before we send Madison off to college on Friday.

For reference, add one more bed and one more city to the list above come Friday. 

So while I am responsible for the jetsetter schedule, I also got to bring my favorite travelling companions with me.

And a GREAT time was had by all.

Finally, since Madison will be starting college next week, I do plan on showing up for work the ENTIRE WEEK.  I will reacquaint myself with staff and responsibilities.

But not for long. After enjoying a three-day Labor day weekend, I will add one more bed, one more city and one more state to the list above.

All business this time!

Until next time,

Your pal,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The (mad) dog days of summer

The summer is winding down. August is now closer to ending than beginning.  But what a summer it has been.

I believe we have packed more activity into this summer than some years all rolled together. And it's not over yet.

This past weekend we flew from Austin to Kansas City, and then headed north to Iowa.  My mother-in-law and her family were all gathering for a family reunion.  Not only did we get to enjoy more time with Madison (we are on the final countdown) we enjoyed time with the other French kids and their spouse or significant other. Not to mention our youngest two grandsons. And quality time with Terry's four sisters and their families.  And of course,  Terry's mom!

Sunday found us heading back to Kansas City for Averie's birthday party (hello terrible two's) and time with the older grandsons.  By evening we were heading west to Topeka for time with Grandma Jones.  Back to KC on Monday night and then a great opportunity to eat lunch with four former KGS employees (they REALLY retired).

Back to Austin but only to check in, unpack, do some laundry and get our things together.  Our girls trip to Florida begins tomorrow through Monday. We will get together with one of my favorite mother daughter duos (KP and Gia) for a magical weekend of Disney wonders, beach time, and serious catching up.

Madison (aka Madi, aka Mad dog-depending on circumstances) is T minus 9 days and counting before we take our last car trip for awhile, on the 26th.  And this time, Terry and I will be driving home without her.

I remember the first time she spent the night at a friend's house. Then "little Jamie" was having a few friends sleep over. We knew her parents well; her mom was actually the director at MT's daycare.   While we didn't spend the night with her, we DID send Marissa as her chaperone (Marissa was around 15 at the time).

Fondly I recall the first time Madison went to church camp. It was in Colorado; in the mountains. Again, we didn't stay AT the camp, however I did stay in Colorado Springs for the entire week....just in case she needed me.  And did I mention, Marissa was a counselor at the camp?

So now, we are expected to drop her off at college. Sharing space with girls we don't know. Terry said I cannot live in the town where she will be....just in case as she needs me. And as of this date, Marissa has made ZERO plans to be at college with her.  This is unacceptable.

When Madi was growing up, she sat in the backseat, in a car seat and then booster seat, until she met both height and weight requirements. The booster seat from an age perspective was up to 5 years old. She hit the height/weight when she was 7 plus. When she pointed out that other kids didn't have to sit in the booster seat anymore, it was then I had to tell her the truth (according to me)

Very sincerely I told her that it was sad but true that her mom and dad loved her more than ALL those other parents.

And we still do!

Until next time,
Your pal,

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Life's lesson plan

When I was growing up, I loved school.  Or at least the learning part. Before I finished sixth grade, I had attended five different grade schools. Yes, we moved around a lot. However, once we landed at my last elementary school, we lived in the same neighborhood through high school.

As much as I liked school, I loathed being the new kid in class.  Maybe that is why I have stayed at my "grown-up" jobs for so long.  I like to get to know people, and have them know me.

Being a non-traditional college student , I was reminded again of my enjoyment of formal education.  With young kids at home plus working full-time,  I attended what I call "real college" because I wanted the experience.  Granted, I never lived in a dorm, but I did get a taste of college life.

After completing my bachelor's, followed by my master's degree, I could easily been persuaded to go for my Ph.d, but that wasn't part of my life's lesson plan.

But I never stopped learning.

The "school of hard knocks" (aka life) has certainly provided me many learning lessons along the way.

When I was in sixth grade, my career choice was to be an FBI agent.  And while I have keen investigative skills, the acquisition of such skills did NOT come from bureau training.

I also always wanted to be a mom.  I have enjoyed this role many times over and all of the parenting skills learned have been fine-tuned (almost to an art) when raising our last girl.

My education has been focused on psychology and counseling. And although I have never pursued my license in this field, I use my education and skills associated with this degree, every day of my life.

Finally, I always thought I did not want to be a teacher; yet in looking back (and very recently) I have taught.  As the primary driver's ed teacher in our family, I taught all the kids to drive. I know my brother and sister would much rather have had "adult" Kari teach them, than the 18 year old screamer they experienced.

I don't recall having much confidence when I taught Sunday School at different times, but I have been told I am very calm and patient with my ladies at knitting class.  Patience - such a concept I never fully grasped before.

I don't know everything and I am so glad.  That means there is still so much more to learn.

Until next time,
#teacher's pet

Your pal,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It's my birthday...NOT!

Yesterday was Averie's birthday.  She is my favorite (only) granddaughter and she is now two years old.  My daughter is accommodating my travel schedule and only celebrated Averie's birthday with immediate family.  Her "party" will be later this month when I can be there.

I hope we aren't starting something.  You'll see why in a minute.
Birthday fun at school

Everyone celebrates birthday's differently.  When "us five kids" were growing up, there were enough of us already to constitute a small crowd so we didn't have friends over.  If a big present was received by one, it was a guarantee that we would all be receiving the same for our birthdays.  For example, my brother's birthday was in January and when he was around 11 or 12, HE RECEIVED A BIKE!  This was a big deal since none of us had one.  My nose was slightly out of joint since being the oldest, I thought he shouldn't have a bike before me.  Luckily, my birthday was next up on the calendar and my blue sting-ray nicely complimented his gold one.

When I had kids-plural (which wasn't until Megan was 7), I started the practice of giving the non-birthday child a small gift.  This soon became a tradition that carried on to my nieces as well.  As my list of recipients grew, I was spending like Christmas (almost).  And while Megan and Marissa might have both received gifts twice a year, I cut that expensive idea off by the time I had Madison.

As a grandma (Mimi) darned if I didn't start the same business all over again, once each family had more than one boy.  Heads up to Ethan and Nathan....that ship has sailed now that Averie is here.  It seems 3 is the magic number of how far I will go.

As a child, Megan loved her birthday.  In fact, she loved it so much that I shared a memory with her that few people know about.

Megan was three (already) and I was back to work.  One summer afternoon when I went to pick her up, I was surprised to see a full blown birthday celebration wrapping up.  Before I could ask whose birthday it was, the sitter started chastising me for not telling her it was Megan's birthday,  My smiling face froze as my little daughter came out with her gift bag, evidence of cake and frosting still on her face.  She smiled at me and said "it's my birthday".

At this point, there was only one thing to do.  After quickly determining that the only thing more humiliating for me would be to ADMIT  that it was INDEED NOT HER BIRTHDAY (after such a great effort had been made)  was for me to graciously thank everyone involved, and hustle that little schemer out to the car.

She's two!!!!!
Megan has conveniently forgot this episode, but I was scarred for life.  While I was very happy with the in-home day-care situation, I now knew the clock was ticking.  After all, Megan would REALLY have a birthday in about nine months and we needed to be gone by then.

I don't remember much more than that (about this particular incident) but I can't help but wonder....Were we having family birthday parties separate from friends parties, which made her think she could easily have two (once we stopped)?

Just wondering.

Until next time,

your pal,

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion! What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the...