"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Season of Firsts

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" Ecclesiastes 3:1

Over the past year, I have experienced many "firsts", too many to detail in one writing. But this last weekend, I became very aware how important the little "firsts" really are. Spending time with four of the Fab 5 will do that!  However old they are, from 5 to 11 years, they are all just bursting at the seams with trying new things.  More on their firsts in a few....

As for me, I bought a new bathing suit a few weeks ago, in preparation for another first. Even though I know I don't look great, the change from what I looked like last year in a suit was dramatic! It has been a long time when I absolutely didn't dread looking in the mirror and knowing that I wouldn't have the "beached whale" look at the pool.  WOW.....what a confidence booster!  To quote Julia Child in the movie "Julie and Julia", I looked "...good....but not great!"  I'll take it, nonetheless.

The second of my "firsts" was going to Hilton Head Island, a new adventure!  My daughter Paige and her family are there for the week and invited Ed and me to come spend a few days with them.  I fell in love with the island and wanted more than just the 2 days we were there.  Add to my "firsts" the amount of time I was in the water, either at the beach or in the condo pool.  I haven't had that much water activity in years and years!  Which brings me to the Fab 5 minus 1.....

What a blast we had with Erin, Olivia, Walker and Cale! (Sorry, Carson, but I promise we will get you to the beach before much longer.) We had more fun than a human being should be allowed to have. They crammed so many "firsts" in, it was unbelievable and I am not sure I can include them all.  Here's the rundown:

Walker's "Firsts" included standing on DaDa's shoulders in the pool!  And he won at pool chicken fighting! (if you don't know what "chicken fighting" at the pool is, see photo below)  He was so proud of himself!  He showed more confidence than I have ever seen.

He also learned that you can't push a little brother's head underwater and hold it.  Don't ask........  He loved the ocean and wasn't scared at all.  Way to go, Walker!

Olivia, who is very scared of the water, had her own moments of "firsts".  She swam above water for the first time using her arms and hands, not just dog paddling.  She swam from one side of the pool to the other without stopping! And to top it all off, she sat on DaDa's shoulders in the pool, participated in pool chicken fighting,  jumped from the side of the pool in water over her head, went further out into the ocean than in past years, and found a hermit crab, named appropriately "Hermie".  I am so proud of you, Olivia!

Erin's "firsts" were fun to watch.  She, too, did the chicken fighting. She is a great swimmer already, so she learned things she can do in the pool, like stand on DaDa's shoulders and have him walk all the way to the deepest end of pool.  DaDa taught her how to do "The Watermelon" (you stand on the edge of the pool, grab the edge with your hands, squat and flip over into the water), "The Twist" (you propel yourself into the pool as you are turning round and round, a corkscrew motion feet first into the water) and "The Helicopter", a version of "The Twister", arms extended like the propellers.  It was worth it just to see Ed demonstrate these manuevers! She dove into the pool for the first time, too.  Erin, you were up for just about any and everything! Great fun!

And then there was Cale.....What didn't Cale learn to do for his "firsts"? Let's see, he learned how to jump off the side of the pool.  This is quite daunting to a 5 year old. By the time we left, he had become quite the expert, even running and jumping in.  He has always been in the pool in a flotation swimsuit, but this weekend it was evident that he was ready to progress to a regular pair of swimtrunks and to learn how to swim. I got into the water with him, talked to him about the things he needed to remember to be able to swim without sinking. In his words, "Okay, okay, PamPam, I know how" and off he took swimming on his own with no assistance from me.  All I could do was laugh! He was so ready!   He stood on DaDa's shoulders, did the chicken fighting, jumped off into the deep end, and did "The Watermelon", too. Cale, what fun we had and you should be so very proud!

Friday, June 18, 2010

There Are No Coincidences

Have you ever had a situation happen that had to be more than just coincidence? That there had to be more than just being at the right time and place or that it was just blind luck?  My sister says those are "God-incidences", not coincidences. You can call it Divine intervention, cosmic fate, whatever.  I have had more than my fair share of these God-incidences.  Some were very subtle, but some so strikingly obvious that it amazed me.  Today was one of those days.

In case you don't know, I have an Ebay addiction.  I like to bid on certain items (I seldom win) and I like to place items on Ebay.  There is nothing like the rush I get when one of my auctions is in the last 2 minutes and I am watching to see how much it will finally sell for.  Because of my weight loss, I recently placed some of my gently worn outfits up for bids and made a bit of pocket change for myself.  Got to love it!  At this point, some of you are asking, "What does Ebay have to do with coincidences?" Bear with me and it will be revealed.
If you are familiar with Ebay, you know that once the items are shipped and arrive at their new owners' home, the buyer will give you either positive or negative feedback.  I always try to follow-up and check via email that the items are safely in the hands of the buyer.  Which leads me to what happened this week.
After I sent one of my buyers my "thank you for your business" email, she sent me an email asking about an additional item that had not been included in her items.  I answered her questions, revealing that I had lost 95 pounds and that was why I was selling the clothes.  What happens next is today's God-incidence.  In a heartfelt cry of admission in a reply email, my customer bared her soul to me.  She is overweight, not in the best of  health, considering a gastric by-pass but is scared of the death rate.  She needs knee replacement, doesn't drive anymore, is stared and laughed at in public, so she rarely goes out.  She is just a couple of years older than I, 2 inches shorter, which only exacerbates her weight issues and  she can't get a handle on the weight or the depression that she feels so deeply.  Her story is MY STORY.  It was as if God had put us on a collision course to make contact.  All over a 3 piece outfit Ebay listing, that she had misread, bid on and won, and then realized she wanted the 4th piece that I had purposely left off the auction description.  She could have bid on thousands of Quacker Factory items on Ebay.  I could have chosen a different time to auction my clothes, or given them away.  But she didn't and I didn't.

As I told my weight loss story to a complete stranger via email, I knew that this journey I have been on for the past years has a purpose, and that includes the part of the journey up to the weight loss. Only those that have been at the bottom can know the pure joy at the summit.  The main reason I did this was for my own health and well-being.  But I can't tell you how many people at work, and friends, acquaintances,  and yes, even total strangers, have come to me and told me that my story has motivated them to lose weight, exercise, eat healthy, make a lifestyle change, do something for themselves, make a commitment to a goal. And that motivates me even more.

Today I was going to write something on a completely different subject.  But an Ebay customer changed all that. Thanks to her I know I am where I am on this journey for a reason.  Are you on your own journey?  Are you where you are for a reason?  Share with us your God-incidences. Remember, there are NO coincidences.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Lost Art of Catching Fireflies

Summer....the stuff kids dream of.   Do you remember the day after school ended and the prospect of no school for three months was so sweet you had to almost pinch yourself that first morning?  Days stretched out before us with no end in sight, at least for the immediate future. Days of no homework, no getting up early - unless you wanted to.  No tests, no grades, no teachers.  The responsibilites of school slid off our shoulders like rain down an umbrella. Summer days filled with sun and playing outdoors all day.  Popsicles and swimming pools, sprinklers and baseball, bikes and swings, camping and picnics, July Fourth and fireworks, watermelons and ice cream, reading under a shade tree, lunches of bologna sandwiches, drinking from the hose pipe to cool off.
And then there were the summer nights when the heat from the day began to melt away and colors ran together to form a velvety black mixed with dark greens and blues. Was there anything more fun than a game of hide and seek at night or sitting under the stars taking in the vast Universe above?
There are some things that are timeless, that kids just normally instinctively know.  Or so I thought.  Early last summer,  Ed and I were sitting on our backyard patio with 2 of the Fab 5, as well as their mom, just as twilight began to set in.  It was at that moment I saw it....the magic of the first flicker of a firefly. With that flash summer had come!  As I pointed out the blinking lights to the grandchildren, I was amazed to discover that they had never caught a lightening bug, put it in a jar and watched its flashing signal.
I went inside, coming back with 2 canning jars.  They watched as I jabbed holes in the lids so the fireflies could breathe.  And off we went......
Oh, the art of catching fireflies!  Look for the flash, follow the path, open the lid, get the fireflly into the jar and quickly close the lid.  Neither would catch the bugs with their hands, but very quickly found their method.  If you want to believe in innocence, watch a child's face as they discover the magic of a summer evening and the hypnotic rhythm of a firefly's torch. And so they ran around our backyard catching some, missing some, but entranced at this ancient childhood ritual.
Now it is summer once again and the fireflies have returned. And so just last week, we found new jars to use, punched the air holes in the lids and off the 2 of them went to the edge of the woods on a summer evening, chasing and catching those elusive flickers of light.  Only this year, they are brave enough to catch with their bare hands and laugh as the fireflies try to climb out of loosely formed fists.  They have perfected the hunt and capture, placing them in the jars just so. 
But most of all, the two Grands have mastered one of the traditions of childhood summer, the lost art of catching fireflies. Are there "lost arts" from your summer days of long ago that you can share? Don't let them get lost in "the world of grown-up"! Please share with us in the comments below.  And don't forget to recapture your lost wonders of summer, whatever they may be!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crazy in Love with the FAB FIVE

What every grandparent knows is that the offspring of their offspring are the most talented, most special little people that have ever walked the face of the earth.  My Fab 5 are no exception. I would never have believed that I would be this crazy over five kids under the age of 12, but there you have it.  I have often said that I was enchanted by and head over heels in love with each of my daughters the very first time I laid eyes on them. That hasn't changed to this day. What I didn't know was that these feelings would be multiplied times infinity about my grandkids!
The firstborn, Erin, is such a combo of Paige and Matt, but yet very much her own person. She is at the present time a Tween.  Gifted in dance, she is breathtaking to behold on stage and will render you speechless and to tears at her ballet finesse. Erin is limber and agile as a cat, and where she gets THAT is a mystery to us all!  She is smart, witty, and headstrong. Competitive to the bone, Erin LOVES to play games, any game and she really likes to win!  She takes her family and sisterly responsibilities seriously. Erin has inherited our family's, shall we say strange sense of humor.  What fun we have when she and I are together, laughing at things only we think are funny.  Oh, to be Erin and know what you want and how to get there at such a young age.......
Then there is Olivia.  The lyrics from the song in Sound of Music - "How do you hold a wave upon the sand?....How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?" could have been written for Olivia. She will turn 10 this summer and like her cousin, has talents that most of us can only wish for.  By the time she was 2 and could hold a pencil or crayon in her hand, it was evident that Olivia could draw. Her daddy, James, was a wonderful artist and Gabriel showed her own talent in her high school and college art classes, so Olivia comes by it naturally.  What is so endearing about Olivia is that she has such a quick wit and can make you laugh at the drop of a dime! She wants to be famous someday! Wise beyond her years and bubbly and vivacious, Olivia captures your heart with just a funny line and her own special charm and laughter. One day she will have her own art studio!
Ok, so the first two granchildren were girls. I am one of 5 girls in my family. I raised 3 daughters.  Girls I know, girls I can handle. But then, SURPRISE! Along came 3 grandsons!  And they are animals of a different sort..... literally.

Carson is next in line. He has so much of his Daddy in him.  I know that James would be so proud of Carson, as well as Olivia.  Carson is a jokester and makes us laugh with guffaw!  He tells terrible, but funny, knock-knock jokes that are made up on the spot.  He plays a mean game of soccer and is getting better at the sport each season.  And like his sister, he is quick-witted. He is eager to please, gets his feelings hurt easily, and at age 7, still loves his Thomas Trains, Cars and likes to read, watch movies and cartoons.  He detests meat unless it is a hamburger, hotdog, chicken nuggets or pepperoni on pizza, but loves salads and vegetables. Go figure.  He loves to wrestle and tease his grandfather. And like most boys, he is a clown and a disaster waiting to happen! One thing is for sure, he loves his family!

And then there is Walker.  Walker is our heart. At age 3, he was diagnosed with Autism. But don't let that label fool you.  Fortunately, Walker is not severly autistic, for which we are all grateful. Almost seven, he is smart as a whip, has a wicked sense of humor, the best laugh in the world, and he can be as stubborn as the day is long.  There is nothing better than to go to Paige's and Matt's and have Walker come bounding up to us so excited that we are there.  He loves watching funny movies, Star Wars figures and playing imaginary games with them. He LOVES vacations and never wants to go back home.  Walker is the hardest working little boy I know and his schedule would put most adults to bed.  He gets home from school about 1:30 and has ABA therapy from then until 6 in the evening. What strides he has made in two years! When I think about how much he has progressed and how hard he has worked, it brings tears to my eyes.  At his birth, Walker was very jaundiced and when he came home from the hospital, he was given light therapy. Under his blue glowing blanket he looked like a little turtle. He captured my heart and he will always be my "little turtle" boy. Walker is sweet and loving. Somewhere in Walker's future is a companion dog to help him.  Keep working, Walker!

(Side note and shameless pleading:  For Walker and all the others like him, please support Autism Speaks.  The numbers are frightening: one in every 95 boys are diagnosed with Autism or somewhere on the spectrum.  The numbers are almost as bad for little girls. Help us make everyone aware of this growing epidemic in our country.)

And last, but in NO ways least, there is Cale. Cale, Cale, Cale - I say that shaking my head and laughing.  What a hoot our Cale is!  He is part monkey and part tasmanian devil! At 5 years old, Cale has the makings of a comedian, a time management engineer, an actor, a stunt man, circus performer, or  lawyer.  He climbs, he rolls, he asks a million questions an hour.  He is dramatic and funny. When Art Linkletter said that kids say the darndest things, he had to have been talking about Cale. That boy comes out with the funniest, most hysterical words of philosophy and wisdom I have ever heard! He is obsessed with time and schedules.  He is a good brother ,and though he is the younger, he often takes on the role of big brother to Walker.  A whiz at wii games, he would play for hours and hours. Fortunately for Cale, he has a mom that makes him earn wii time or he would never stop!  He is a never-ending source of amusement and embarrassment for Paige! Cale, never, ever stop being you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are you a Geode?

Maybe you can look back to one of your science classes in elementary school and remember the lessons in rocks. B-O-R-I-N-G......If your eyes glazed over and still do at this subject, you are not alone. Unless it is a precious gem sitting in a lovely 18K gold setting, then I am not much interested.  Until, that is, I found out about geodes.

What is a geode?  It is a round or oval ugly brown or gray rock, not much to look at, some small, some big.  But I really want to own one.  If it is just plain and ugly, then why would I want to have one of my own?  Because it isn't what is on the outside that makes these rocks so intriguing.  When they are broken or cut in half, their mystery is revealed. Hollow in the center but with wonderful crystals around the inside shell, they become beautiful once opened.

Like the real geodes in nature, there are geodes among us of the human kind, people that you take for granted or seldom give a second thought.  There are those of us that come into this world, shining and lively; these are the ones that things come easy to, who are successful in everything they do, that make things look so easy to the naked eye.  Then there are people that are just diamonds in the rough; they just need to be cut and polished.  And then there are others that no matter how much you look at them, all you can see is gray and dull.  You know some of them, I am sure. But the funny thing is, we never know what these souls could offer us if only we could see them on the inside, just like a geode.

Susan Boyle is a geode. You remember Susan Boyle.  She walked on stage to audition for Britain's Got Talent and there she stood for all the world to see her in her dowdiness. According to Wikipedia, Susan Boyle "was the youngest of four brothers and six sisters. Born when her mother was 47,  Boyle was briefly deprived of oxygen during the difficult birth and was later diagnosed as having learning disabilities. Boyle says she was bullied as a child and was nicknamed "Susie Simple" at school. Boyle never married, and she dedicated herself to care for her aging mother until she died in 2007 at the age of 91. Boyle has a reputation for modesty and propriety, admitting during her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent that she had "never been married, never been kissed"."

So when we looked at this person on stage, we were all unbelievers, hoping this poor woman wouldn't embarrass herself too badly.  Ah, but then she opened her mouth and began to sing and in that instance, before all the world, the geode was cracked open, the true beauty was revealed and Susan Boyle's life was forever changed.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY

"In Britain, Susan's debut album was recognized as the fastest selling UK debut album of all time selling 411,820 copies I Dreamed a Dream also outsold the rest of the top 5 albums combined in its first week. In the U.S., the album sold 701,000 copies in its first week, the best opening week for a debut artist in over a decade.. It topped the Billboard chart for six straight weeks and.... it narrowly failed to become the best-selling album of 2009, with sales of 3,104,00". Wikipedia

Most of us are geodes in some sense or another.  And just like Susan Boyle, what hidden talents are you hiding?  What jewels are inside of you?  Can you take the hammer and break the outer shell for yourself? Is there someone you know that is a geode just waiting for someone to see their inner beauty?

So there you have it.  Go grab the figurative hammer, be it a paintbrush or pen, microphone, camera or kitchen utensil.  Break the geode and let the world see who you truly are.

Monday, June 7, 2010

In Honor of Hazel

My Aunt Hazel, my mother's sister, was one of the funniest people I have ever known.  She was maybe all of 5' tall, if that, and could knock me out with laughter just answering a simple question.  The way she would throw herself back in a chair with a "Well, I'll be!", eyes wide, arms and hands flung to the side, would convey how funny she thought something was. She had a wonderful way of snorting when she laughed!
When she died at 90 plus years a few years back, my cousin, Phyllis (whom, by the way, is equally as funny and entertaining) gave me a pink pig Beanie Baby that my aunt had. To my surprise, my aunt had seen it in a store in her later years and had to buy it because it reminded her of yours truly.  Seems that when I was a toddler, younger than I can remember, when I got into trouble I would tell my parents that it wasn't me who had done the mischief.  It was my imaginary Little Pink Pig that was the culprit!  Now that same pink Beanie Baby porker is draped across the top of my computer screen at work.  When something goes amiss, as it has been known to do during the Legislative Session, all I have to do is point to it and announce, "Don't blame it on me; it's the Little Pink Pig's fault!"
Aunt Hazel was going to be called Grandma B.by her grandkids, the B. being short for her last name of Burroughs, until the day she fell accidentally in front of her first grandson. As she lay on the floor stunned but laughing, he said in his toddler's wonderment, "Well, BeeBee!", which she thought was even funnier and it stuck.  So from that day forward she was known to her grands and great grands as "BeeBee".
So, since no one took me up on suggesting any names for my grand party lady in the picture above, I will dub her as "BeeBee" in honor of my Aunt Hazel.  I think she would get a big kick out of that and would be flinging herself back in her chair, snorting!
Thanks for the memories, Aunt Hazel, and for showing me that laughter can be found even in adversity and challenging times!  Love you!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Lushness of June

"This is June, the month of grass and leaves . . . already the aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me. "  - Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 6, 1857

June, on the cusp of spring and summer, straddled between the two seasons as if  nature is trying to decide to stay forever adolescent or cross over into young adulthood.   As May, with its freshness of buds and blossoms, awakening lawns, lovely mornings and warming afternoons, slides ever so quickly into June, there is a greening taking place in the world outside my picture window, in the woods that are behind my home. 

Is there anything more glorious as the lushness of June?  It heralds the beginning of summer, giving false promise that the season will last indefinitely, before we count off the days of summer like pearls dropping off a broken necklace, one by one until there are no more summer days to count.  The lushness of June is rich and full and soul-soothing, before the heat of July begins to dull the splendor of the canopy of green, that by August will take on a dusty, drier aura, and by September is just a memory.

June is not made to take in behind glass; it must be experienced first hand outdoors - whether that may be a walk in the woods or sitting under the shade tree in a comfortable lawn chair.  June lends itself for taking time to breathe it in and restore your soul. 

So today, take a few moments (or a few hours) to go revel in the lushness, like a guilty pleasure, and let me know what you enjoy about June.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Pain-in-the-Ass Buddy

My Pain-in-the-Ass Buddy is always, and I do mean ALWAYS, with me. It never goes away; I am shackled to it. There are times I forget it is with me, sometimes days, sometimes just hours. My Pain-in-the-Ass Buddy (PB for short) is sometimes very quiet, but at any given time can scream like a banshee just to remind me that "Hello, I haven't gone anywhere."  For the past 6 years, probably more, PB has been a part of my life and there are times we have a God-awful relationship.  In the past it has demanded so much of me that I could hardly concentrate on anything else.  I wouldn't wish my PB on anyone. Being the selfish bastard it is,  it has been known to suck the pleasure of living from me and make me question my existence.

But over the years, PB and I have come to some sort of truce, an understanding, if you will.  Despite our adversarial relationship, PB has actually given me some gifts, unintentional, I am sure, but gifts still the same. A few of these include:

The gift of savoring the good times, the times that PB is quiet and at rest.

The gift of watching a husband, who had no understanding and no idea of how to handle having my PB insert itself into my marriage, making him a part of this never-ending dance, grow into the type of caring and loving mate he had the potential to be all along.  Without PB, he would have never walked this path with me and learned so much.

The gift of discovering that I can live with my PB and actually fundamentally change the way I live.

The gift of waking up to the reality that if I didn't make those lifestyle changes, PB, with my acquiescence, was pushing me toward a much earlier grave.  Because of this reality, despite the demands of my PB, I joined Weight Watchers, started exercising, lost 90 pounds, changed my attitude, as well as my appearance. I am not going easy, should PB have the final victory.

The gift of new experiences, new wisdom, new goals. The gift of gratitude - even for something that can be so debilitating. Or simple, like being able to walk, playing with my Fab 5 grands, a million little things that add up to a fulfilling, satisfied life.

By now, those of you who know and love me, realize I am speaking of my Rheumatoid Arthritis.

From the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS): "Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. It occurs when the immune system, which normally defends the body from invading organisms, turns its attack against the membrane lining the joints.
Scientists estimate that about 1.3 million people, or about 0.6 percent of the U.S. adult population, have rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in all races and ethnic groups. Although the disease often begins in middle age and occurs with increased frequency in older people, children and young adults also develop it. Like some other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis occurs much more frequently in women than in men. About two to three times as many women as men have the disease."

So there you have it. RA is my Pain-in-the-Ass Buddy.  It does not define me, but it has changed me. It presents challenges, that is for sure. But I figure it is how I meet those challenges that matter. And in the end, when all is said and done, it can be said of me, "Pam loved life and those around her. She made people laugh and feel good, and oh, by the way (as a side-note), did you know she had RA?"

Now go do something besides read BLOGS!  My PB and I are going to go play!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Something to aspire to.....

Just to clarify things for those that are uncertain and don't know me, the title picture isn't me even though some days I feel that old.  In my wildest imagination I wish I were that free-spirited and uninhibited. This little lady above perfectly embodies how I want to age and pass over to the other side: "I don't want to die quietly.  I want to slide into 'home base' with a martini in one hand, chocolate bar in the other, screaming 'YOOHOO!'"

And since I like to personalize the unknown, I'm having a contest!  Help me name my stellar example.  I am open for any suggestions.  Be creative, be silly, be whatever.  Just go for it and leave a comment at the end of this post.  Sorry to say there is no grand prize, except for the honor of being the first contest winner here on Late to the Party.  I suppose I need a deadline.....let's say Sunday, June 6th at 8:00 p.m. Check back here to see who won!  If no one enters, I will go to my default name I have picked out, which will remain a mystery till then.

Let's Get This Party Started!

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking.  "Another stinkin' blog." Go ahead.  It's all right. I'm right there with you! I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would do this.  But there are lots of things I have done lately that I couldn't imagine myself doing.  Blame it on the weight loss, my age, the zany workings of my mind - you pick because I have no logical explanation at all!

So, logically the next question is: what am I going to blog about?  Anything, everything, nothing.  Just random thoughts, things that intrigue and grab me, hobbies, crazy and funny things I find.  Who knows? I certainly don't! I'm not promising that you will be highly entertained or enlightened or educated.  Maybe you will get to know me a little better (that may scare the hell out of some of you) and maybe I will get to know myself a bit more, even though I have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I like and dislike.

I wear a bracelet now - a treat I gave myself at 75 pounds gone - that reads "Embrace the Journey".  All I know is that I am on this journey and I might as well capture some of it to share with the world.  Come share the journey with me!  Buckle up...it's going to be a fun ride!