Finally Friday: Recap from Halloween Week

What a blur this week has been.  I’m starting a “week recap” posting that will take place every Friday.  So to christen things, here is a recap of this week’s events:

Monday: To celebrate the October birthdays, we painted pumpkins.  Some in the office get REALLY into this event.   As stated in my posting Monday afternoon, I am not one of those people.  Nevertheless, it was fun activity we could all do together that could take our mind off work for a while.

Tuesday:   This day consisted of a flu shot in the morning and then an outing with a colleague to visit AAA in Oklahoma City.  We left a little early so we could take an excursion to the outlet shops to purchase a lab coat for one of our Halloween costumes.  After that, we made our way toward AAA but stopped at BJ’s for lunch first.  So we would have enough energy and not fall asleep, we made a Starbucks run before finally arriving at our meeting.  The two representatives were nice enough to give us a tour and then we moved to a conference room to watch some videos and visit about recruiting strategies.  As a treat for us, they had brought cupcakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes.  Oh my gosh, yummy.  Mine was red velvet and was delish!!  We really enjoyed not only being able to escape the office for a bit but also get to know the company better and learn of opportunities for our students.

Wednesday: This was a fairly normal day.  I had a student appointment in the morning and then taught a Gateway class in afternoon.  It’s always nice to get in front of freshmen and get their take on college life.  Oh, to be that young again….

Thursday: Ahh, staff meeting days….our office tends to sign every time Thursday rolls around.  We never know how long our meetings will last.  As usual, this one got off on random tangents and what should take 5 minutes to discuss ends up going way past that time allotment.  Thursday evening, I could be found at one of my favorite places on campus: Lloyd Noble Center.  Anyone who knows me well knows that basketball is my sport.   The women’s basketball team was holding a scrimmage and was free to the public.  I sat next to a fellow softball fan so we chatted while cheering on the team.  Coach Coale was gracious enough to recognize certain individuals and acknowledge her appreciation of the crowd and fans.

Friday: That would be today…Halloween.  So this is the second year that our office has dressed up for Halloween.  I’m really not into this sort of thing but thanks to my co-worker/friend Erin, we came up with a crafty idea.  Seeing as how we are the Assistant Directors for Arts & Sciences students, we chose to dress up as just that-part Sciences, part Arts.  I borrowed a clapboard from a Film & Media professor, brought reading glasses, a credential badge and an old bound textbook to act as my script.  Erin dressed up as a mad scientist and looked awesome.

Halloween 2014

Happy Halloween!

Pseudo Movie Director in Norman

Pumpkin Decorating at Work

Are you one of those people who is not creative at all?  Like when you’re invited to some sort of decorating party, you start to have a panic attack and find some reason to not make it?  Well, I’m not that bad, but pretty darn close.  I have little to no creative bone in my body.  My mother, God love her, is known for one artistic talent: drawing palm trees…well, and she can do some awesome stick figures.  My Dad is the artist in the family and has drawn some amazing pictures.  The details he incorporates are fantastic.  I’m more of a photography girl…give me a camera and I will start snapping away.  So where did all this come from you wonder?  Well, for the October birthdays in our office, we once again did pumpkin decorating.  Naturally, all the women in the office were on Pinterest to get ideas.  As soon as I was armed with a cup of coffee, I was on Pinterest looking for ideas.  I finally found something that looked somewhat easy and that I liked.  At my table sat my friend and co-worker had a cute idea of a football and hers came out great (oh, and being a mom helps….really, that’s just an unfair advantage) and my other co-worker (who shares my thinking which is scary in and of itself) was also sort of struggling.  It didn’t take Rick and I long to both say, “Um, I think I’ll be taking mine out of the voting.”  The original idea I had was this:


argyle pumpkin

I started off fine, painting my pumpkin all white and then let it begin drying.  Then it was the waiting game…..I hate waiting.  I’m not a very patient person (I get that from my Dad, but clearly not his artistic abilities).  When I felt the pumpkin was dry enough, I thought I’d “attempt” my design.  I didn’t want to use orange and black because that reminded me of Oklahoma State’s colors.  Erin, the aforementioned mom/friend/co-worker suggested our school colors red and white or crimson and cream.  I chose blue and green because I love those two colors together and they reminded me of the argyle style. I started painting the diamond shapes, stopped and cringed.  I wanted to scream “Does that look like a diamond, you idiot?”  But that would probably warrant being sent home from work.  I continued painting as if my irregular shaped design was exactly what I had planned all along.  As I came toward the meeting of the two sides, I found a gap that would result in the next diamond being the same color as previous…peachy!  So I decided to just put the letters R L for Ralph Lauren in that space.  The dash marks were next and as I began those, I again gave myself too much credit as those turned out to be disaster too.  So I repainted those white.  Then the smearing appeared….sheesh, when will the nightmare end.  I kept thinking, “Hmm, is it too late to start over?  Would they notice if I trashed mine and then disappeared?  Whose silly idea was this anyway?”  I decided the “diamonds” which were really just fat circles looked ridiculous.  I picked up my brush and filled in the green and blue all the way down so it became a green and blue striped pumpkin.  Where was I going with this….wow, blue and green stripes, what an earth-shattering concept?  I know you’re dying to know the end result, so here we go:

my pumpkin

                                                                                                                                                       They almost look identical, don’t they?  NOT!

I like being a team player and all….but ugh, I’m glad this little bonding moment is over.  I’m more of a “let’s gather around the table and eat” type of person.  I’m much better at that.  However, Halloween is a few days away and this was a fun way of getting our minds off work and bringing out our creative sides (present company excluded….and not offended).

Here are the final masterpieces.  Notice the basketball and doughnut (top row, last one and front row, middle)…those are my favorites.  I applaud those people …simple, yet cute.  Note to self: sit next to those people next year and copy them.

                                                                                                                                           Here’s everyone’s masterpiece:

  groupHappy Halloween!

Creatively challenged in Norman

Being open to God’s surprises

I will admit that I am pretty set in my ways (change is not always my favorite word) and tend to be more interested in surprising other people rather than be the one who is receiving surprise.  However, I have learned to sit back and be content, no, more than content…be open to life’s curve balls.  Sometimes it is more fun to “let the chips fall” and not know what’s around the bend.  In Sunday’s homily, a guest priest started off mass by asking us if we would be open to God’s surprises.  I am confident enough in my faith that I would be able to handle not knowing every detail of his plan for me.  In fact, I find it exciting thinking about the endless possibilities.  What people does God want me to meet?  Who will come into my life for a reason/season/lifetime?  Whose lives will I able to impact in a positive way?  Things happen for a reason, I firmly believe that.  We may not understand the reason at the very moment we’d like, but there is an underlying reason.  Just this past weekend, I was able to do a favor for a lady attending the OU football game.  She made what sounded like a simple request.  It ended up more complicated than it should have been (due to circumstances out of my control) but it was worth it to see the smile on her face and genuine gratification.

Later that day,  I met up with a gentleman, graduate of OU, who had temporarily lost his wallet.  Thanks to getting email on his phone, he was able to call my mobile, and we were able to connect so I could return the wallet.  He was from out-of-town and had played in the alumni band at halftime.  He would be traveling for work soon and was afraid he’d have to cancel his credit cards.  Thankfully, that didn’t have to happen.

I love full circle moments.   I was open to God’s surprises and because of that, I was able to make someone’s day and then be able to pay it forward and connect with a fellow Sooner (that was just a bonus, of course).  The lesson I learned, and continue to learn is this: Put your faith in God and trust him.  He has your back.

Escaping the Office

I’ve always thought it would be fun to be one of those people who parked themselves at a coffee shop to work. Well, today I was one of those folks. Due to a last-minute addition to our on-campus interview schedule, I elected to vacate my office for a few hours this morning. After I was released from helping check in recruiters, I grabbed my purse and iPad and headed for a beloved spot on Campus Corner, Cafe Plaid. I walked in, found a booth I liked and then set my bag down. I went to the counter and ordered a vanilla latte and headed back to my booth. When the server brought over my drink, I couldn’t help but smile thinking, “I could get used to this.”


In the background, there is chatter of two ladies catching up two booths down. In the booth next to me look like two professors doing research. They’ll occasionally look up from their laptops   to chat but for the most part are engrossed in whatever is on their screens. Music plays in the distance, probably to get the staff energized for the looming lunch crowd. Even though there are many empty tables and chairs, this is still a great place to people watch.

One of my “dream jobs” (you know those “Oh wouldn’t that be cool but not 100% realistic) is to be a writer….whether I write for a newspaper or possibly a non-fiction book. I could easily see myself coming armed with a charged computer, grabbing a large coffee and settling in to get work done.

For now, I’ll enjoy the fact that I got to escape the office for a little bit…no office phone, no one popping in…just me, my iPad and coffee.

Lunch at our usual place

cracker barrel

Today I had lunch with a friend of mine (we’ll call her Terri).  When she picked me up outside my building, she asked “So where do you want to go?”  I shook my head and said, “Oh no…your choice.”  She replied “Well, we could go to our usual place.  You’re really the only one i go there with actually.”  I smiled because I knew exactly where she meant: Cracker Barrel.  Who doesn’t love that place?  I did have to laugh when we walked in because we were decades younger than most of the crowd.

Though we’ve been there so many times, Terri and I still flipped through the menu. For two people who are notoriously “creatures of habit” (aka ordering the same thing each time), we surprised ourselves by going outside our comfort zone.  She ordered catfish and her main dish and I ordered country ham.  Ours sides remained the same but we still considered it a small victory.

This is one of my favorite places to eat because the staff is always friendly and food delicious.  Not to mention the cute merchandise.  You can really do some damage in their gift shop…yes, I’m speaking from experience.  Admitting it is the first step, stop judging.

As always, lunch was enjoyable as the company is just so easy to be around.  We can have moments of silence and be perfectly fine.  We can also make each other laugh which I love.

After just gotten out of an almost 2 hour staff meeting, lunch with Terri was just what I needed.  God has definitely blessed with me with a great group of friends.

Thank you, Hallmark!

Imagine a show that combines romance, comedy, feisty comebacks and drama all into one.  Next, add a beautiful, critically-acclaimed and very talented movie star and pair her with a popular and handsome TV star.  What do you get?  The heart-warming series on Hallmark channel, Cedar Cove. Oh, and the aforementioned actors…none other than Andie MacDowell and Dylan Neal

If you have not heard of Cedar Cove, you are missing out on a great find.  Fans of Debbie Macomber’s writing such as myself were absolutely thrilled that one of her series was going to be made into a TV series and broadcast on the Hallmark channel.  I was happy to know there were other people out there like me who simply desired a good show with great characters that I could look forward to watching week after week.  I have read Debbie’s books for a number of years and each time I read a book of hers, I feel as if I am right there in that quaint little town, experiencing the heartache, drama and typical small-town life. CC1

In the summer of 2013, the viewers were introduced to almost every character or cast member.  The way the actors engulfed themselves fully into the characters made it easy to fall in love with each and every one of them.  I applaud Hallmark for saying yes to such a refreshing show.  Andie MacDowell has been quoted as saying she gets “agitated” when watching a dark movie or something disturbing on TV.  I am the same way.  I certainly enjoy a good, suspenseful movie but sometimes when we are not expecting a scene so dramatic, we are left on edge.  In my opinion, there is not enough quality options on television nowadays.  Last year, I did not have the Hallmark channel and would have to wait a few days before I could purchase each episode and watch it on Amazon (this was one of the reasons I switched to Direct TV). 

Fast forward to today and I now look forward to every Saturday night where I get to relax on the couch and settle in for another hour of great television.  What’s even better is that when their schedules allow, the whole cast is involved in “live tweeting” with their fans during the show.  So thanks to Twitter, we are able to interact with the stars of the show.  In a matter of a few seconds, we can send a message to our favorite character and make a comment about a scene that just happened.  In a world of terrorism, bickering in Washington D.C. and school shooting sprees, thankfully there is a place we can escape for one hour each week to “a small town with a big heart.” 


There’s No Place Like It

When I was growing up, our summers and winters revolved around skiing, boating, putt-putt and hanging out with cousins at our condo. Our parents relaxed by keeping one eye on the kids and visiting with our aunts and uncles. Their main priority, however, was us kids. Fast forward to now…at the age of 35, I am at the point where family trips become about the enjoyment of two groups: my niece and nephews and my parents. There is one place that makes my Mom’s shoulders relax and where my Dad constantly has a smile on his face. This place is Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Most people who are not from the Chicago area have never heard of Lake Geneva. This is just fine with our family because frankly, having a lot of people know about it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, we want to share what this town has to offer and why it is so special. But on the other hand, we want to wrap out arms around it and keep it a secret too. My sisters and I laughed during a recent visit, wondering what all “these people” were doing in our town.
We recently came back from about a 5-day getaway to our favorite vacation spot. My sisters, my parents and I all had July 17th circled on our calendars for about a year. After a hectic year at work, I was really looking forward to this time away. The day finally came where I was to fly out of Oklahoma City into Milwaukee to meet up with my older sister, a family friend’s daughter and my parents. Courtesy of the best airline out there, Southwest Airlines, I arrived in Milwaukee about an hour before the rest of the crew.


For the sake of convenience, we rented two cars-one that could easily accommodate my Dad and another for the rest of us. The drive from Milwaukee to Lake Geneva is a fairly simple one and allows you to see part of the farm areas. I drove my Mom and we couldn’t help but smile as we came upon the exit for Highway 50 with a sign that said Lake Geneva. We immediately started making comments about changes or reminisced about some event from years ago. As we made the curve onto Lake Shore Drive, I looked over at my Mom and immediately saw her relax and knew she was in total vacation mode.


Later that evening, my Mom and I had an early dinner at one of the Lake Geneva’s staples, Lake Aire restaurant. My middle sister, the one with 5 kids and the one you would think would want to sleep in, texted me the day after we arrived at 6:50 a.m. and asked if I wanted to meet up with her for a walk. This should clearly tell you how much we love this town the fact that we want to get up early and enjoy every day.

lake shore dr

The next few days became a whirlwind of visits from various cousins, aunts and friends of my parents. Some days it was mass chaos but looking back, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Saturday, my older sister rented a boat so my cousins and nephews could take part in some skiing, rafting and fun on the lake. Some made it up on the skis (albeit only for mere seconds) but they had fun and that was all that mattered.

One of my favorite moments was when my sister’s suite (which we deemed our “headquarters” since it was the biggest), was full of family members. The phone rang and I answered it. My Mom was on the other end, trying to talk while stifling a laugh.  She took a breath and said, “Well guess what, the Ryans are now coming.” I laughed and said, “Awesome…oh Mom, that’s great…the more, the merrier.” About 30 minutes later, I hugged MaryAnne and Pete Ryan (whom we have called Uncle Pete since we were little). He has been a really close friend of my Dad for close to 70 years. He is 86 years old and has the energy of a child-such a fun guy to be around.  They were accompanied by one of their sons, Tim. My sister and I made sure to grab her camera to capture their visit. Even if no one else visited the rest of our stay, my sisters and I were delighted that our parents’ friends made it up to see them.

The day before we left, I was finally able to get my Mom on her beloved Mailboat ride. I won’t go into great detail on this here but would encourage everyone to watch this video. The weather was perfect and I absolutely loved looking across the aisle at my Mom with a big smile on her face, seeing her enjoy every moment. One of the reasons she enjoys going on the boat ride year after year is to see her buddy Captain Neil Frame (who has been the captain for over 50 years)…and to make sure the young mail jumpers don’t leave out any details on the lake homes. I, however, enjoy going because I love boats and the water but also because of the beautiful homes that you see on the ride. They belong to or have at one time belong to millionaires like the Wrigley family, the Maytag family and a multitude of other wealthy Chicago families.

lake house 2 And this is their “summer home”…..

neil frame

Good ‘ole Captain Neil Frame

Our final day came all too soon. Since we didn’t leave until the evening, we decided to have lunch at The Abbey.


I could get used to having this as a backdrop while having lunch…

abbey2Mom and Dad after lunch

After that, we made a stop at The Cheese Box (we were in the cheese state, after all). At that point, we were just right on time but made sure we headed to the airport shortly afterwards. Despite missing our exit, we made it to the airport after gassing up the rental cars and proceeded to start the departure process. We shared one flight but then I went my separate way in St. Louis. My sister, her friend’s daughter and I waited for my parents after we departed the plane.  When i asked what time their flight was, Jean said, “Um, I’m not sure” but after looking at her boarding pass and then to her watch, she goes, “Oh yikes, we’re boarding now.”  After getting the okay to go back down the jet way, I kissed my parents goodbye before heading to my gate.

As I write this, one week has gone by since we were all together. Having friends who have lost their fathers too soon, I know I am beyond blessed to have had this trip with not only one parent, but both….especially my 84 year-old father (side note: he turned 84 while on this trip which was even more special). God willing, in two more years, we will all reconvene again in our favorite vacation spot. As the motto goes, “There’s no place like it.”