Archives for posts with tag: journal

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Today a co-worker of mine sat with me to go over a few last minute items before she “left town” for the holidays. As we were wrapping things up, I casually asked where she was going. Her answer?

“I’ll be gone for six weeks.” She then rattled off a triad of envy-inducing destinations that left me wondering, how the hell is that possible for a working woman? I mean, the last time I had six weeks off I was unemployed…and there was no money for travelin’ at that time my friends.

But man, that must be nice.

I envy anyone who gets to travel – for business or for pleasure – it’s just so cool to be able to go somewhere new; to explore a new city or a part of the country you’ve never been to; and then come back home to all that is familiar.

Even something as simple as a road trip has always excited me. I drove by myself down to Florida once to visit my sister. Another time I drove to Mississippi to visit a boyfriend who was in the Air Force. Both trips were absolutely thrilling for me.

My dad would check out my car, and set me up with a AAA triptik map. As I drove down the road I’d look forward to flipping each new page of my map, and I could stop and do anything I wanted at any time. Cool water tower? I’d stop and take a photo. I remember stopping in Atlanta just to see the infamous Peachtree Street.

With the exception of my week long summer vacation each year, I almost never get to travel. The last time I was on a plane was when my dad was in a car crash back in 1999, and I had to fly out to Colorado. Other than that my family and I stick to car travel, mainly because it’s economical.

There are times I think of exploring my state of Virginia, but then I remember that my car has over 250,000 miles on it, and settle for something local…and familiar.

Sigh.

I hope one day I am able to get out there and explore again. Even driving down a road I’ve never travelled on before holds a bit of excitement for me. Where will it lead to? What will I find a long the way?

I can’t wait to find out.

 

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This post is in response to the Prompt  Pick Your Gadget – where the question is asked, “Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?”

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This one wasn’t even tough for me, because the possibilities of a time machine are endless and infinitely more rewarding.

The other two options? Here’s why they hold little interest for me…
Anywhere Door: So I guess it might be nice to walk through a door and instantly be on Martha’s Vineyard, or in front of a White Castle in New Jersey. But say I jettisoned myself to Paris – I still have no car, no hotel, and in my case, no money when I get there.

Invisibility Helmet: I find this notion freakishly voyeuristic. I fail to see the use of being invisible unless you have a knife wielding lunatic in your house. I mean, yeah, you can walk right into a Springsteen concert and stand in the front row, but isn’t being part of the crowd half the fun?

But with a time machine you can revisit the best parts of your life. If I could go back, I would…

Eat My Mom’s Cooking – I would love to sit at our gianormous kitchen table, with it’s funky blue boomerang linoleum, and inhale bowl after bowl of her soup, a pile of her pot roast, and a tub of her beefaroni. And then I’d hug her for 10 minutes straight and do the dishes for her while she drank a cup of Sanka in the living room.

Attend a Hody – This was an all night party in late September attended by every self-respecting Slovak in Northern New Jersey. It took place at Sokol Hall in Guttenberg, NJ and it was the fall highlight of my youth. It was a night filled with soda and chips and dogs with kraut and running in and out of couples doing polkas on the dance floor. Every year the band would play the Alley Cat, which was my favorite part of the night. And when the party broke up at 1 or 2 am, we would go to a diner and get pancakes.

Go Visiting With my Dad – Almost every Monday night I would go with my dad to the bank, and then visit one of my many Aunts, Uncles or cousins. I don’t know why I liked this so much. My night usually involved sitting at a kitchen table sipping tea with milk and sugar and eating delicious Slovak cookies or pastries. My Aunts always had some sort of baked goods on hand. My dad and them would mostly speak in Slovak, trading news from the homeland and discussing the family.

I’d eventually wander off looking at all the chachkies; My Aunt Steffie had a bunch of antique cars that I used to love playing with, and a Mr. Peanut statue that turned peanuts into peanut butter. And Aunt Margaret had a cuckoo-clock that not only had a little bird pop out of a door every 15 minutes, but also had dancers that would polka around a little platform on the hour.

Go to the Dalton Diner with John – There was a diner in the town next to us called The Golden Eagle, but somehow it got the nickname of The Dalton Diner. My best friend John and I would spend hours and hours there eating burgers and fries and drinking milk shakes. I think I ate a hundred or so Dalton Swiss burgers in my teens while John and I made fun of the very blonde hostess…I think we dubbed her Secretariat because she used to stride through the diner like a prize racehorse.

Spend a Week in my Old House – I’d need a week. I’d explore my backyard, make a fire in our fireplace, use the griddle on our ancient stove, and sleep in my old bedroom.

Other time destinations would include summer vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, trips to Great Adventure with John, and any weekend I spent at Seaside Heights.

That’s why going back is so perfect, because you can visit the things you loved as a kid, but you can still come home and hug your kids.

FU Phone

Last month my husband forced me to hand in my flip phone, and upgrade to a smart phone. I say “forced” because after occasionally using my husband’s smart phone, I realized that I don’t particularly care for them. Therefore I was reluctant to make the switch from my little flip phone with it’s wonderfully responsive little buttons.

Yes, using the internet anywhere you want is great, and taking a photo on the spot and posting it to Facebook or Instagram is fun, but not when your phone doesn’t respond to you.

Smart phones don’t like me. You know how you have to swipe to get your phone to unlock or to answer a call? I can swipe and swipe and swipe and 9 times out of ten nothing happens. I kept missing calls because the phone won’t respond to my touch. Finally I set it up so it answers when I push the power key…but that only solved that one problem.

With my old phone, the beautiful one with the buttons, I could call my husband or my daughter with 3 easy pushes of a button. With my new phone? It practically requires and act of Congress to make a call, and that’s after setting up shortcuts!

Here’s my current process for making a call to my husband.

  1. Hit the power button
  2. Swipe to unlock the phone
  3. Swipe to unlock the phone
  4. Swipe to unlock the phone

Phone turns off – start process over

  1. Hit the power button
  2. Swipe to unlock the phone
  3. Hit icon for my husband’s phone
  4. Hit icon for my husband’s phone
  5. Hit the phone icon to actually make the call
  6. Hit the phone icon to actually make the call
  7. Put the phone to ear without hitting any of the buttons on the sides of the phone or you will shut your phone off and end the call. Which I am almost never able to do.

Phone turns off – start process over

And this is with a shortcut. Trying to make a call to someone on my contacts list is twice the work because then I have to swipe and scroll and hit and swipe and scroll and hit and swipe, which is near to impossible to do one-handed.

Now I know why folks drive off the road…they’re not texting…they’re trying to answer the fucking phone! I can barely turn my phone on without swerving into oncoming traffic.

This phone might actually be the death of me.

So hear me now friends and family. If you try to call me and I don’t answer, it might very well be because I am in my car finding it impossible to drive and swipe and poke at the same time. It’s easier (and safer) to just let it ring.

Because I was forced into getting a smart phone. But I’ll be fair, I hated my old phone too, and complained about that one as much as I’m complaining about this one. But that one was manageable with one hand. This phone requires two hands, all ten fingers and the entirety of my patience.

This post is in response to today’s daily prompt; Sorry, I’m Busy telling about a time when you should have helped someone…but didn’t

angel in the snow.

A few years back we had a super bad snowstorm that came on hard and fast right at rush hour. After attempting to make it home for over 3 hours, but finding every route to my development blocked by accidents, I lucked into a hotel room about 20 minutes from my house.

The next morning I faced the task of digging out my car and attempting to drive home. While eating the free breakfast, I was talking with an older woman who had spent the night in the lobby. She was horribly worried about her dogs, which had not been walked or fed since the afternoon before.

She was hoping that her daughter would be able to come and get her, but she was having trouble digging out herself. Where I live in Virginia, a storm like this cripples the region because crews are not accustomed to dealing with feet of snow. Things can practically shut down with just a few inches.

This woman lived just outside my development, and I thought to offer her a ride home. I thought to offer.

But I didn’t.

Because I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it home myself, let alone chauffeur a stranger to her house. I was taking a route home that I knew had few hills along roads that were widely travelled. But looking out into the parking lot and the hotel access road, I was skeptical if I would make it home at all.

The night before I had seen dozens of cars fly off the road – I was still worried about that happening to me. It would suck ten fold if I managed to do that with an old woman in the car. I’d feel like I was responsible for her safety.

So I wished her good luck and headed out to dig out my car. Getting out of the hotel lot was no picnic, but once I was on the main road, it was easy going.

It was easy. And I left that woman sitting there worrying about her dogs. It still bums me out that I didn’t help her.

 

Clear strategy and leadership solutions

In the spring I set a goal for myself…I wanted to walk 1,000 miles by December 30th. Well, after some calculating, it seems as if that goal will not be reached.

I’d have to walk 136 miles before New Year’s Eve, and I’m fairly certain that ain’t gonna happen. I know that because I walked 100 miles in April and it meant never skipping a day and going out for 4 walks a day towards the end.

December is a super busy month, and although I will probably walk every day, I doubt I can do the required 4.53 miles per day to make my goal. Too bad I can’t measure all the steps I’ll take to do my Christmas shopping. That just might send me over…

But you know, I’m not giving up. Knowing I won’t acheive this goal could make it easy for me to sleep late in the mornings rather than bundling up and heading out in the dark at 6:10 am to put in a mile or two.

But I still get up at 5:00 am, and still bundle up at 6:00 because I want to see how close I can get. Plus, the walking is really good for my blood pressure, and at least I’m out doing something physical almost every day. I may not eat right all the time, but dammit I have the exercise thing down pat.

I’m at 867.5 miles so far in 2015…that’s more than double of what I walked all last year. I’ll be curious to see what I can do in 2016.

 

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It’s been pretty cold the past few days, but I haven’t minded at all. You see, cool to cold weather is my favorite climate to walk in. Here’s why…

  1. Being hot sucks. Unless you are at the beach with a cooler full of beer, being hot just plain sucks.
  2. I always have pockets. When I walk in the warmer weather, I don’t always wear clothing that has pockets. This means I have to hold my phone and my iPod while walking 3 miles…not fun. Or worse yet, I have to shove them in my sports bra, which I’ve heard can be hazardous to your health.
  3. Disrobing is an option. If for some reason while walking I begin to feel warm, I can take my jacket off and tie it around my waist. Let’s face it…in the summer whipping off my T-shirt isn’t a viable option.
  4. It’s Refreshing! There’s something about feeling that chilled air on my cheeks that is truly invigorating! Plus, taking a deep breath is so cleansing…unlike when it’s hot and muggy.

I’ll admit, walking in the cold isn’t all moonlight and magnolias. If you head out ill prepared, it can really suck. For example, the other morning I started my walk before the sun came up, and it was cold. I had gloves on, but they weren’t the greatest. My poor fingers were frozen a mile in…even shucking them up my sleeves didn’t help.

So even it means bundling up like Nanook of the North, as long as it’s below 55°, I’ll be out there pounding the pavement.

 

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A few years back my girls and I were heading into a Walmart in Richmond, Va when I spotted what looked like a boy’s wallet in the parking lot. The reason why I figured it was a boy’s wallet was because it had a giant Dallas Cowboys logo on it, and come on…what self respecting grown man would have that kind of wallet?

I picked it up and looked inside and was flabbergasted to see it jam-packed with money. After quick look, I figured there was at least $400 in there. Wow…if I had lost a wallet with that much money, I’d want to blow my brains out. Lucky for this dude, I was the one who found it.

I went into the store and asked for the manager. I wanted to leave the wallet there because I figured that would be the first place the frantic wallet owner would call, hoping that some good samaritan, me, had turned it in.

But I have to be honest…I didn’t like the looks of the gal who approached me saying she was the manager. She looked kind of shifty, and I had visions of her pocketing the money on the sly.

How in the world was I ever going to know if this wallet was returned to it’s rightful owner? The only thing I could think to do before handing the wallet over to this less-than-reputable-looking manager, was to take a photo of the driver’s license in the wallet. And in the weeks that followed I tried to call this person, but they had a block on their phone that did not allow unknown numbers to go through.

Dope.

I also tried to find him via social networks, but again I came up with a series of dead ends. So I never knew if he got his wallet and his money back. That was a bummer.

So I’ll put it out there now…all the info I remember on this guy. If you lost a cash-filled Dallas Cowboys wallet in the parking lot of the Walmart at Short Pump in Richmond, and you live in Manakin Sabot, your wallet was returned with every red cent still in there.

 

Wedding

Blogger’s Note: photos shown are ones my brother took while visiting Czechoslovakia the ’70s, but they reflect the same customs of the wedding I attended.

Back in the early summer of 1984 I spent 3 weeks visiting my relatives in what was then Czechoslovakia. The trip was a scary one for me because I was there alone…I had no father to translate, no sisters to commiserate and joke with…it was just me and a very large language barrier.

During that three weeks I had the priveledge of attending a wedding with my cousin Jozef. Having been to a bunch of weddings in the states, I thought I knew what to expect.

How do you say “Puhleeez!” in Slovak? I would discover over the course of the unfolding hours, that a Slovak wedding is almost nothing like an American wedding.

First off, the day of the wedding was unseasonably cold for late June. It was overcast, damp, and chilly, and I had nothing fancy that would fit the bill for a wedding that was also warm. Figuring our time spent outside would be limited, I ignored the elements and wore a light knee-length dress, with short sleeves and my best pair of pumps.

I was expecting to start our wedding adventure at the church, but instead we walked to the groom’s house where we waited around with the gathering crowd until he was ready. Then, with 2/3 of the village and an oompah-pah band in tow, we marched to the bride’s house.

Wedding 3

Wedding 4

By now I’m not really cold, because we are doing so much walking…but my feet are beginning to hurt just a little having walked a mile or more in pumps. Oh well, I can sit at the reception. On we go!

Side note…If you’ve ever seen the Godfather, this was very reminiscent of Michael’s wedding scene in Italy.

Wedding 2

Once at the bride’s house we then marched to what I figured would be the church. Wrong again! We had to keep on truckin’!

Wedding 6

At this point we march to the town hall which is where they did the civil ceremony, which I think had something to do with the fact that it was still a communist country when I was there. By this time I had been on my feet for at least 90 minutes and I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to sit down.

Wedding 5

Once the civil ceremony was completed, it was off to the the church ceremony. I was blissfully thankful to be sitting in a pew, but I have to tell you, that church was cold and damp. I was sitting, but I was freezing! I was looking forward to the reception, some hot soup and a shot of booze!

The reception took place in the village’s community center where rows and rows of tables and chairs were set up. I was poured wine and served a dish of hot soup, both of which I devoured within minutes (*burp*). The band started to play, and after another shot, Jozef and I danced to a polka.

When I returned to my seat, I was served a plate of pork roast, cabbage and potatoes. Yeeyum! Having downed that plate of food after the bowl of soup, I was feeling fine. My belly was full and my feet were starting to recover. More wine, a few more polkas….this wedding was awesome!

Then came the plate of Keilbasa. What the hell? How much am I expected to eat? I figured I’d pick at it…I needed to keep a full stomach to help me from getting too tipsy.

Word had spread throughout the wedding guests that I was the “visting American girl” and before long every Tomas, Dalek and Havel was asking me to dance. The next 2 hours was a constant whir of polkas, booze and endless plates of food. The food just never stopped coming…chicken, beefsteak, fish, more soup, pastries. This put the American wedding of “will you be having the chicken or fish?” to absolute shame.

I was monumentally thankful for every break the band took, because it meant I could relax for a few minutes. As the night was nearing what I thought HAD to be the end, I took my shoes off and rubbed my now swollen feet. I groaned as I saw the band head back to their places, ready to start a new set.

I don’t know if you’ve ever danced the Polka, dear reader. It’s a load of fun, but it’s taxing for a beginner with a full stomach. There’s lots of spinning, lots of footwork, and lots of twirling. In short, it’s exhausting, especially when you can’t even communicate with the dude you’re dancing with.

So when the father of the bride came up to Jozef and asked if I would dance with him, I jammed my puffy feet back into my now too-small pumps and danced two polkas with him. After that I smiled, put my hands up and said, “Thank you so much, but I need to sit down. My feet really hurt!”

What happened next occured so fast that I wasn’t sure it was really happening. A red-faced father of the bride was toe to toe screaming at my cousin Jozef and gesturing at me wildly. When Jozef came back I tried to ask him what was wrong, through the use of my Slovak/English dictionary, but he waved it off, took a last swig of beer and ushered me to the door.

We slowly walked home – me on very tender, very cold, bare feet. I could not get my size 9 shoes on at all because my feet were now size 101/2.

I didn’t know this until the next day, but apparently the father of the bride was highly insulted that I only danced 2 polkas with him as opposed to the entire set of 5 or 6. I guess it’s a huge honor to be asked for a dance by someone so important to the celebration.

On the one hand I was mortified…unbeknownst to me I’d acted poorly and made my relatives look bad. But on the other hand I was annoyed. Couldn’t this man see that I am obviously not aware of all their customs? Was he also blithely unaware that I had been dancing the entire night and was close to crippled when he asked me to dance?

My feet didn’t get back to normal for a few days after that. And I didn’t want to polka any time soon either. But I have to tell you, I could polka much better than I did before that wedding.

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Out of all of my siblings, I was the one, by far, who wound up in the hospital the most. I’m actually curious as to what the final tally of my trips to the ER were…so here goes. Let’s list ’em!

Losing My Two Front Teeth – an unfortunate accident on my tricycle resulted in my teeth hitting the pavement and breaking them both into pieces. I was rushed up the street to the dentist on the corner where what chunks were remaining were pulled. I spoke with a lisp until my teeth grew back in, and even then had to go to a speech therapist at school. This calls for a Brady Bunch reference; “Baby Talk, Baby Talk, it’s a wonder you can walk.”

Stuffing a Shell Up My Nose – One day when I was obviously very bored, I decided it would be fun to take a small shell, that had come from a broken bracelet, and shove it up my nose and blow it out again. I did this repeatedly until I shoved it up too far…no amount of blowing could get it out. I had to be taken to the ER where I kicked and screamed on the table while a doctor attempted to pluck it out with some sort of tweezer.

No clever Brady Bunch reference for that embarassing tale….

Cat Scratch Stitches – I’ve written about this incident before. I was afraid to tell my mother that I’d picked up a stray cat who then used my forehead as a springboard to make his escape. His back claws had left a few serious gashes by my scalp, but I lied and told her I’d fallen down. I needed stiches and had very swollen eyes for a few days.

The Broken Fingers – When our neighbors got a new refridgerator, we used the box in as many creative ways as possible. First it was a club house. Then we used it to climb inside and roll down the hill in their backyard. Once it really fell apart we opened it all the way up and used it as a slide. We’d run down the hill and slide on top of the box. But when I did this my hand got caught in one of the many tears along the side, so as my body was headed down the hill, my hand wasn’t.

My three middle fingers swelled up at an amazing rate…all I had to do was race in the back door, show my mom, and she was grabbing her car keys and her insurance card. I had a cast on my right hand for more than a month, and had to learn how to sort of write left-handed in order to do homework.

Stitches on my Knee – while playing Eeyore in a improv production, I donkey-kicked my legs in the air and my knee came down on a nail that was sticking out of the stage. My pale grey pants were soon turning red, so I improv-ed my exit stage left. I got four stitches and very painful tetanus shot.

Apendix – I was a 7th grader on my first real date – we went to carnival up in Fort Lee, NJ and what do I do? I get sick on a ride. After throwing up all over myself, and collapsing behind the goldfish toss tent, my date and my friends called over the paramedics who loaded me into an ambulance. By that evening I was sans my appendix, but had upped my stuffed animal collection considerably.

Complications Follwing Appendectomy – Something went wrong a few days after I got home from the hospital. I had horrible stomach cramps and a fever, so back to the hospital I went.After a thoroughly embarassing rectal exam, they determined my intestines weren’t functioning properly. So they had to snake a tube up my nose and down my throat to pump out all the rotting food in my stomach that wasn’t going anywhere. I was stuck in the hospital for at least a week, and couldn’t go home until I took a proper shit.

Ovarian Cyst – I was diagnosed as having an ovarian cyst when I was a sophomore in high school. The cyst, which was the size of a grapefruit with hair, was removed, but thankfully I was able to keep my ovary. It left me with a horizontal scar from hip bone to hip bone, but thankfully fell right below the bikini line. Cause you know, I could still wear a bikini in those days.

That concludes my list of childhood maladies resulting in trips to the hospital. While it might not be impressive to some, this list far outweighs anything my siblings went through combined, although I have to say, my sister Judy had a few major accidents of her own.

And I wasn’t even a dare-devil. I was just a normal kid doing normal things, and somehow it resulted in 8 trips to the hospital. I don’t know how my mom did it. My kids are 20 and 13 and once my oldest daughter needed stitches. That’s it.

Wow…I guess I should consider myself lucky!

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Million-Dollar Question” which asked, “Why do you blog?”

Back in January of 2010, I was forced by my former boss to come up with my annual set of goals for the year. I always hated this particular task, mainly because it was the same crap every year. So I decided to get creative. I made starting a blog my main goal for 2010.

And here I am six years later.

What gave me the idea to blog was actually my mom. She died back in 1994, and as I thought back about her, I realized that there was very little I knew about her life. I only knew her as my mom…cooking, sewing, working at the school. But I never knew who her first boyfriend was, or if she had any dreams about what she wanted to be. I don’t think I knew what her favorite subject was in school, or where she went on vacation in the summer.

I might have asked her these questions when I was a kid, but if I did, I surely don’t remember the answers.

All of this made me sort of sad…I mean, with the exception of my memories of her as my mom, it’s like her life has been forgotten. There’s no journals or letters. I barely have any photos of her before she married my dad. It sucks.

And I realized I didn’t want that for my girls. So I began to write about things that happened to me growing up; the house I lived in, the places we went, and my many misadventures that are so typical of Tracy. I also journal things we do as a family, so they can look back at that as well.

All of this may hold zero interest to the average reader, but hell, the stories aren’t really for them, are they? Yet folks seem to like it. I have over 500 followers, which to some may seem laughable, but I’m pretty proud of it.

And these stories will be here forever. I love that. I love that after I’m gone my girls can read about how I got lost in Bratislava or how I fell during a high school track meet, or how I think Scrapple is disgusting. Even more, I love that some random person trolling the internet can read about how I used to love watching Shirley Temple movies on Saturday mornings, or about how I used to go to a nude beach (which, by the way, is by FAR my most popular blog post).

This is my biography, online and open to the world. To date I’ve written 430 Typical Tracy blog posts; this will be 431. And I’ve still got tons of stories to tell.