Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Busy with Busyness (AKA the world's second-longest blog)

Have you ever heard that song (they used it for telephone directories when I was a kid, but it had been around forever before that) "I've Been Everywhere?" Click on the link to get the Australian version of the song, as it was originally written. It's been recorded by a TON of people, most notably Johnny Cash. Anyway it could totally explain my life the last couple weeks.
When last I left you...

I was headed for the State Track Meet in Des Moines. Little sister ran spectacularly well, garnering a couple of personal records, and ended up 5th in the Distance Medley for 3A schools, and 9th in the 4x400 relay. She had a great, great day, and I am soooo proud of her.

Also, LS had just gotten (some) of her senior pictures taken. Here's a few of the results:

This last one is my favorite. It looks fierce in black and white. She had the pictures taken because she wanted a couple with her long hair. That's right, little sister followed big sister's lead and recently donated 12+ inches of hair to Lock of Love. Proud of her for that one too. The rest of the pics are scheduled for sometime in September, and I'll put up a couple of those too, when I get an opportunity.

Another awesome part of hanging in Des Moines for the STM was the opportunity to meet up with one particularly funny friend, of whom I see far too little. Mrs. Wipperburger, I'm talking to you! We hooked up for dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill (I'd never been there before - it was her choice. My comment about the whole thing: "How does one grill macaroni? Does it stick?). :) As luck would have it, I reached the predetermined meeting place before my friend, was escorted to a table, and proceeded to tell our waitress (a very lovely young lady named Shana) that we would be celebrating Mrs. Wipperburger's birthday. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Wipperburger, that is. You see, the actual date of Mrs. Wipperburger's birthday is in November, but as I was unable to attend the birthday celebrations the last couple years, I decided to make up for my appalling behavior by substituting it for MORE appalling behavior. So the evening progresses, MW shows up, food is ordered and appreciated, vino is imbibed, stories are told, laughs are had, and all of the sudden Shana the waitress shows up with the biggest piece of chocolate cake I've ever seen in my life. I wish to GOD I would have had a camera with me so I could have posted for the world to see the look on MW's face. It was priceless, along with the ensuing bright red flush that rose up her neck, past her cheeks, and straight to the tops of her ears. LMAO. MW was completely mortified, but to her credit, she played along absolutely wonderfully.

Back in WI, I started the new job last Monday. I met up with my new boss (who used to be my old boss - that's a story that gets a little complicated) on Sunday night and she got me some materials to give me plenty to do Monday and Tuesday, while she was out of state working with a client. I've been reviewing keynote speakers' promotional materials and creating a database for CHR to work from (for future association conferences, which CHR helps organize), reviewing competitive marketing materials and drafting a marketing strategy for a small phone company in the Phoenix, AZ area, and writing a policy manual for the same company. Plus, getting all the little things associated with working from home figured out - new printer, phone line, paperwork, etc. Wednesday morning I leave for Las Vegas, to help staff the annual meeting of an organization CHR manages. I'll be out there until Friday, and then it's back to WI. I'll try and blog from there - that is, if my laptop is here by then. Otherwise, y'all'll have to wait.

Friday the Boss let me off early. I was a little worried when she said, "Don't worry about being a few hours short this week...I'll get them out of you at the conference next week..." and then she gave me this horror-movie mwah-ha-ha kind of laugh. Ummm, yeah.

So what did I do with my Friday afternoon? Instead of getting my own stuff done at home (it's nearly midnight on Monday night now, and I'm still not exactly sure what I'm wearing to LV) I volunteered a little of my time, blood, sweat, and muscular fortitude and, as the Step-Monster puts it, "gave a haircut to a bunch of dead people." Or, in vernacular for regular folks, I mowed our local country cemetery.

A couple of words about the cemetery. The Sunset Cemetery is located on land that my great-grandfather owned, and subsequently passed down to my grandfather and father. So, in essence, my family owns a cemetery. Iiiif you want to call it that. My grandmother is the secretary for the cemetery foundation, and is therefore in charge of getting young people lined up to mow the grass and trim around the headstones. Because, bloggers, these things don't just happen on their own. Usually the Step-Monster, Dad and the Little Bothers do the mowing when the grass starts getting longish and the dandelions get out of control. But with the Memorial Day weekend, things get pushed up a little. I knew that there was a lot to do, so I went down, picked up the weed whip and the push mower from grandma, pistol whipped the elder Bother until he finally agreed to do the riding, and headed down to trim things up a bit.

Mowing a cemetery is a tedious process. First of all, mowing is NOT one of my favorite things to do. Secondly, you have to think of it not as a lawn, but more like a turf management obstacle course. The site is a couple acres, about 200 headstones, plus a bunch of trees and shrubs, and things can get a little hairy with the mowing. You really don't want to run over or hit someone's headstone with a mower - there's just something BAD about that - and some of the headstones are almost 200 years old and are getting brittle. Thus, proper care must be taken. So you push mow around the headstones (think 200+ little tiny squares, turning left constantly, and concerted, diligent attempts to miss the flowers, solar lights, and all the other crap people leave by gravestones). But, on the flip side, it does give you the nice glowing feeling of accomplishment when you get done, especially considering it's one of the only things you can still do to show your appreciation and respect for those interred there.

Memorial Day in small towns like mine means that the local American Legion Post (composed of gentlemen whom, despite their collective honor of and respect for country, should probably NOT be shooting guns - blanks or not - and walking without supportive devices across the bumpy ground of a country cemetery) comes out and does an honor guard salute at all of the little cemeteries in the area that house the remains of veterans. Usually a couple of kids from the local high school band blow "Taps" at the end, and the inevitable parade of blue-haired ladies from the Auxiliary follow the guard to the next cemetery, where the whole process is repeated again. Well, many, many moons ago, yours truly participated in a Memorial Day "concert tour" of sorts. I was asked by the local Lutheran pastor to accompany the parade to four different cemeteries, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at each one, while the honor guard and "Taps" blowers did their things. I accepted, and found myself at Akers, West Akers (creating naming, huh? Typical Norwegians for ya...) Sunset, and Evergreen Cemeteries. Well, my grandparents (grandpa was alive back then) have never been so proud, and when I stopped by my grandma's house this morning, her request was that I repeat the performance today. So, I complied. Mostly because I know that this Memorial Day was a hard one for her, but also because it was a rather difficult one for our whole family, considering the losses of my grandfather and great-uncle over the course of the last year.

Which brings me to the last thing for today's post. Here is a link to the Wiki for "The Star-Spangled Banner." How many of you knew there were four verses? Take the time to read the Wiki, and consider the verses. And since I've given you that homework assignment, take another moment to read - out loud is the best - this poem about WWI, from which the American Legion and other veteran's organizations take the inspiration for the small paper poppies they use to raise money and awareness for veterans' causes:

In Flanders Fields - John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

I know I've blogged about this before, but take the time to be thankful for the privileges we enjoy in this country, and the men and women who have sacrificed so much so that we can live the lives we do, in the manner we do. Because, as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek said, "We live in the present, we dream of the future, and we learn eternal truths from the past."

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