Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Fosters (aka My daughters family)

Here is the first of the Holiday family photos. This is my oldest daughter Heather, her husband Mike, Talia (6)(Heathers step-daughter who is loved by all as one of our own) and Little Lucas (18 months).

Happy New Years!!

It is finally the last day of 2008. It has now been eight full years since the turn of the century, and I STILL find myself trying to start the year with a "19".
Today is the day I find myself thinking about those New Years Resolutions. You notice, I said I THINK about them. I almost never actually get to the stage of vowing on them. I know I will never keep any resolution I make, so in reality, what is the point? Maybe if I make ones like, lets see.... I resolve to gain 15 pounds by spring, or I resolve to try any new fast food product (this also includes new pizza's!). Yeah, I think I can make those ones stick!

Actually, I really, really, REALLY want to loose some weight. My parents and grandparents are (were) very large people. My brother and I have picked up the genetics, too, and we have both passed them on to at least one of our kids. Both Krystle (mine) and Angie (John's daughter) are "big boned" girls. I have been fighting with my weight for all my life... well, since high school which was SOooo many years ago. Right before, during and after my divorce I was in a great exercise schedule and was keeping my weight at a very nice and steady 125-135 range. Then the Rheumatoid Arthritis began setting in and what was once a very fulfilling 30-40 minute 3 mile run became a painful one mile walk. That was 10 years ago. I am now sitting (on my very large butt) at 225! WhooWhee! Yep... 100 pounds in 10 years! I really need to get much of the excess fat off, but whenever I do any type of exercise I end up nearly bed ridden the next day.

Now, before anyone wonders why I am not on a medicinal routine to help the RA, here is my dilemma: I am allergic to all NSAIDS, which includes Aspirin, Naproxin Sodium (Alieve), Toradol, and many more. As of last year, all the RA medicines were based on one or more NSAID medicines. My last regimen was Hydroxichloriquine. It is a quinine based medicine, that did help, but taking quinine for an extended period of time can lead to other problems, most notably blindness (on the plus side... I had no risk of contracting Malaria, should there have been an outbreak here in Montana!!) I had to end that because my doc would not prescribe it unless I showed him proof from my optometrist that I had been examined every three months. That became too expensive to keep up. I haven't been able to really go to the doc in the past two years to check on any newer drugs because I don't have any medical insurance. New drugs mean they are EXPENSIVE! I do listen to the TV ads, though, and many of the new meds state in their small print ( or fast talk disclaimers) that if you have allergies to aspirin not to take so-n-so product. As a result, I am stuck with killing my giblets with Tylenol, or resorting to opiates (Codeine, HydroCodone, etc). I don't like being "Fuzzy" so I usually just try and "Deal with it". Unfortunately, that is how I can get to the point where I find it nearly impossible to get out of bed some days. NOW, back to our regularly scheduled Blog post:

I am going to try to exercise more this coming year. No, I don't mean get out to a gym and work out until I am dog tired. I own an elliptical trainer and have just recently moved it into Joe's house since I am in Great Falls more evenings than I am in Helena. My plan is to use the trainer for 10 minutes before work, then another 10 or 15 after work. If that taxes my body too much, I will cut down until I am at a good starting level. I will work up my time as I feel I am able. Yeah, this may not seem like much, but anything has GOT to be better than doing nothing. My goal in all of this? First off, feel better. Second, be able to hike more in Glacier Park.

I am going to have some help in my efforts, too. Joe is deciding to begin 2009 in a much healthier way. We are going to opt for healthier lunches and dinners, no donuts in the mornings, and NO SOFT DRINKS! I am downing one of my very last Mountain Dew's right at this moment.

SO, Happy New Year to all of my readers, may you have great luck, health, and happiness in the coming year! (Oh Yeah--Wish me luck on my own healthy endeavors.!!)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Joe's Photos of Our Christmas Eagle

Joe took these photos of our special Christmas Day visitor. This Bald Eagle was pearched on top of mom and dad's power pole. As you can tell, the sky was overcast, so the background is as white as snow. It would have been super-cool if the skies had been clear Montana Blue, but this was still SOooo Awesome!. He hung around the area for most of the morning. I think the extreme cold temperatures may have killed a rabbit nearby and the slightly warmer temperatures on Christmas Day allowed the eagle to smell his supper.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Week of Christmas (I'm Glad It Is OVER!)

Life has taken me for a bit of a joy ride these past few weeks. I have been so busy with work, then with family, that I haven't really had the time to keep up here. For a quick run down... Our little shop was busy with repair work and sales of used cell phones for Christmas gifts. Joe and I were really running!
I did finally get into the Christmas spirit, mostly out of necessity. I had to get my house in order because I was having family coming in to visit. The tree went up (I opted for the fake one because I didn't think Krystle would remember to water it when I was gone for work), some holiday decor was scattered throughout the house, and I did some holiday baking.
Then, it REALLY got hectic! My brother, his wife, and their two kids (14 and 9) drove up from Denver; arriving on Monday evening. The roads and weather were bad so they pulled into mom's house about 7:30pm, while I arrived home to Helena from Great Falls at about 8:30pm. I went over to mom's and she had some chicken soup on, and homemade muffins, too. I visited everyone until about midnight, then walked back home. I had not seen my brother or his family for over 5 years so we had a bit of catching up to do. After driving in the snow for two days, they didn't get moving until late, then lounged around until about 2. My brother came to my house and made friends with my dog, then about three we all went into town for some last minute shopping. I made some enchiladas for supper and mom made some chili verde to go with them. I ended up staying over there until somewhere around 12:30 or 1:00 am!
Wednesday, Christmas Eve, I headed into town to pick up one last gift. I may live in "small town Montana", but the traffic was as if I was back living in Illinois! Gridlock at many of the lights, cars backed up for at least a mile. This is unheard of in Helena, Montana! My one errand should have taken me a total of 45 minutes to one hour, and that includes the travel time into town and back home. On this day, It took me TWO HOURS! I was ecstatic to finally get to the Interstate on-ramp and be heading back to the house.
Dinner was once again at mom's house, and I supplied the Spaghetti sauce from my freezer while mom had meat balls in hers. It was an easy dinner since we knew the next day would be filled with lots of cooking. Joe showed up after driving down from Great Falls and joined us for dinner after FINALLY meeting my brother. I have known Joe for 10 years, but it always worked out that my brother would come to Montana when Joe had to take a trip to his hometown in Pennsylvania. Joe was also "Back home" when I took the girls to Denver for Heathers 16th birthday. Joe was making jokes for years that My brother was really just a figment of my imagination and he really didn't exist! Well, now Joe has met my imaginary brother-- that makes him just as crazy as me! Brraaahhh Haaaaa Haaaaa!
Heather, her husband Mike, and kids (6 years old and 18 months old) showed up about 9:30pm. They drove down from Kalispell after Heather got off of work. After all the snow Montana has been hit with, Mike said the drive was surprisingly clear. Heather and her family were to stay at my house, taking over the living room during the night time hours. My tiny little living room barely had the room to fit the full size air-bed, but we did it! After visiting with all the family at mom's house, we all trooped through the snow for bed. It was "only" 11pm! For my family, that is early, especially on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day came early for Joe and I. We managed to get out of the house (large dog, too!) without waking Heather, Mike, or the two little ones. It was about 7am, and we had promised to visit our other early waking friends Vicki and Diana before the Christmas Insanity began. We exchanged simple gifts, chatted for about an hour, then headed back to my house.
Back home, everyone was up and just moving about... Including Krystle, that mistress of the night daughter that I almost never see anymore!
The next hour was a riot of ripping paper and joyous noises as we opened our gifts... mostly the ones to Lucas (18 months) and Talia (6 years). I was delighted to receive a new, larger crock pot and a toaster oven (which I haven't had in many years). Most of the adults gifts were saved to be opened at mom's house with the rest of the family.
At 10am, everyone (except me and Joe) headed over to mom's. Joe and I prepared the turkey and stuffing, popped it into the oven, and headed over ourselves. Actually, the half hour of silence was heavenly! Once at mom's, it was coffee, juice and sweet rolls... then more presents being opened. We decided to have the Santa Stockings there, too. In our tradition, the stockings are filled with interesting little candies from other countries, and John (my brother) had found some awesome items that he brought up from Denver.
After the packages were opened, and the kids off and playing with their new toys, it was time to head back into the kitchen. I put in a ham at mom's, prepared the sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, Au Gratin potatoes, gravy, and a corn bread stuffing (different from the stuffing I already had in the turkey); then got the cranberry sauce, pickles, and olives plated. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of help I received from the rest of my family members.

Joe, Krystle, and Heather's family were all hanging out at my house while I was preparing dinner and chatting with my brother and sister-in-law. Krystle called me to tell me to look outside at the power pole. I found a window with an unobstructed view and was treated to an awesome sight. There was a Bald Eagle perched on the top of the pole. Joe was out taking photos, but since I was inside (and without my 35mm with the awesome lenses) I didn't go out the door. I didn't want to frighten it away. Joe did get some great photos, and I plan to get one from him to post here.
Dinner was great... for the first time in 13 years the entire family was together. It was Mom and dad; John, Mariah, Sean (14), and Angie (9); Heather, Mike, Talia (6), and Lucas (18 months), Krystle and her boyfriend Dylan, Me and Joe. No fights, no arguments, no food disasters!

Since everyone was together, I wanted a family portrait taken. Joe is a professional photographer so I asked him to set it up. They came out awesome, and I will post one here when I download a digital version onto my laptop.

Christmas was finalized with servings of various pies (Pecan, Apple, Lemon Meringue, and coconut cream). It was off to bed early for Joe and I since we had an early start, and Joe was heading back to Great Falls to work. It was awesome of Joe to allow me to have Tuesday to Sunday off so I could visit with my family, while he worked the store alone. I felt a bit guilty... but only a little bit... LOL. (Thanks SO much, Joe!)
Friday, John and his family were off to visit the wife's side of the family in Butte. They packed up and headed out about 2 pm. Heather's family went into town to visit some friends so I was left home ALL ALONE! Whew! Brooke (my dog) and I relaxed in the quiet... I took a very long hot shower.... I read some of my newest book (T is For Trespass by Sue Grafton).... cleaned a little... did some laundry... relaxed a bit more in the quiet (sigh!). The kids decided to grab their dinner in town, so I headed over to mom and dad's for some leftovers. It was just the three of us, and I could tell they were glad to have order restored back into their home.

Saturday was spent hanging out with Heather and her family, with Joe arriving back in Helena about 5pm. We all went out to Chile's for dinner. Sunday Heather and her brood headed back north with a stop in Ronan to see Mike's family before heading to their home in Kalispell.
Now, here it is finally Monday! I am back to work, and life is pretty much normal again.
Sorry this was SO long, but I had to write it down for posterity before I forgot the details.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Too Cold! Had to bake to keep warm!

I know, I know... Its been a few days! The weather here has been terrible. Once the cold front hit the state, we have been setting new record low temperatures at many places. Yep, it has been really, really, REALLY cold! It actually got above zero (barely) yesterday, and today the high is supposed to get all the way up to 14! Tomorrow we are supposed to get more snow and a tropical high of 17. Then another cold snap is expected to hit dropping us back into below zero temps for the weekend, as well as more snow.
On a good note, even with the temperatures dipping down to -27 last weekend, my little Rav-4 started for me. It doesn't even have an engine block heater installed! I was impressed.
Since it was SO cold, I stayed at home all weekend, leaving only for a few hours each day. Krystle didn't want to drive to work so I was a nice, caring mother and drove her into town both mornings. It wasn't all good-heartedness, I admit. I did have to go to the grocery store on Saturday and Joe and I usually meet up for brunch on Sundays. It wasn't like I was going out of my way to be nice.... Shhh, don't tell her that! These days, I hardly ever see her so it was nice getting to spend that little bit of quality time with her.
When the weather turns this cold, I really like to bake. It warms the house, not to mention the awesome smells! I had only planned on baking some bread. Not in a machine, but the REAL way... mixing, hand kneading, rising, shaping, rising, then baking. Now, there is a strangeness in my house that a full loaf of bread will turn green before it gets eaten. I didn't want that to happen with all my hard work, so instead of making two regular size loaves, I made six small ones. One went to mom's while it was still hot, one was devoured by me and Joe. Krystle started into another one when she got home from work. The rest are in the freezer. I don't expect them to be around very long!
Once I got myself into the baking mood, I just kept on going. I made zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, date nut bread, Noel pound cake (cake with red and green Maraschino cherries) and gum-drop cookies. I do plan on making more Christmas cookies this Saturday. The oven was on all day and kept the house toasty warm.
On Sunday, I decided to put up my tree. I usually opt for a real one, but with no one home most of the time I am sure it would have been neglected and become a fire hazard. The fake one is pretty nice, and as a plus, it already has lights on it. I always add one more strand with a flasher just to make it prettier (IMHO). I decorated it differently than the normal multi-colored ornaments I have always opted for. This year the tree is decorated with a multitude of crystal icicles, crystal ornaments, and gold balls, and colored lights. It turned out very nice. Now that the tree is up and I have been able to do some shopping and cooking I am finally in a Christmasy mood. I even wore a holiday sweatshirt yesterday! I am going to finish my shopping this weekend, probably on Sunday. Then I will be all ready for the Holiday... I hope!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I finally did some Christmas shopping!

It is almost 3pm and the snow hasn't started yet, but the sky has been filled with those really low, dark grey clouds all day. It looks like early evening out there. It also looks cold. I know it isn't cold (yet) because I stepped out to grab some treats from the bakery outlet store not too long ago. Yeah, treats... comfort food... sugar! Nothing like Twinkies and peanut butter filled cheddar crackers to fatten up for the winter! LOL I actually went to the shop to see if they sold plastic silverware (how can that be right? It's either plastic OR silver... Hmmm-- Maybe I mean plasticware?) I bought some applesauce last night at Wally-World, but didn't think about how I was going to eat it here at work! Anyway, with no plastic spoons but tons of sugar later, here I am. Don't mind the ADHD type of posting today! I'm surfing on a sugar high right about now.

My post today wasn't going to be about the weather or sweet treats. So lets get back on track. I wanted to tell the world, or at least the few people in the world that show up here, that I think I am finally starting to get rid of the Bah Humbugs. Joe and I went shopping last night. I was ONLY going to get green maraschino cherries and fabric softener. I left with Christmas presents for my daughter Krystle (19), my niece Angie (9), and my step-granddaughter Talia (6). Just being in the toy isles with all the happy kids reminded me of when my kids were smaller. All the happy faces and kids asking their parents if Santa might have this toy or that toy... it was actually tons of fun! I think some of their cheer rubbed off onto my soul because I left the store in a great mood. Not something that happens very often when I leave Wal-Mart. By the way, those green maraschino cherries-- no one seems to carry them anymore. I'm going to check out all the grocery stores in Helena. Wish me luck!
This weekend it is supposed to get cold... really, really, REALLY cold. Something like -20 (that is 20 below zero for those of you in the warmer climates). Since I will be staying indoors, I have plans to decorate the living room for the holidays. For me, that also involves a bit of deep cleaning. I have my work cut out for me there.

One thing I have been noticing more and more these days is the epidemic of people who are leaving the house in their pajamas to go shopping, or even to the movies. I ranted about it on my other blog (the one I get paid to write on). Here is the link:

Speaking of getting paid to write... I just received my very first $5.oo in to my PayPal account! I know, not much, but it is a start. Kind of like an "I did it! I did it!" warm fuzzy feeling. It may not be the Pulitzer, but to me it is awesome.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Good News for OHN, Libby still in trouble

I have been following a fellow blogger named OHN for a few months now. Her blog is very touching and human. All I can say is if anyone close to me gets seriously ill, with the possibility of having cancer, I hope I can face life with the same strength and occasional humor she showed. Her writing made me laugh and cry... sometimes in the same post. Hats off to you, OHN.

Her husband had worked in a place where he had been exposed to asbestos, and her blog describes the turns her life took from the day the Dr told them about the mass in BigD's lung, through the fears of possible Mesothemioma (spelling could be wrong here) or other cancers, and finally the negative diagnosis. Her blog really got me thinking about all the families who have lived in, or still live in Libby, Montana.
When I lived in Kalispell, I had some good friends who had lived in, or even grew up in, Libby and nearby Troy, MT. Troy is only a few miles away from Libby and unfortunately has much of the same contaminants in the soil. We aren't just talking about the mine sites, but yards and playgrounds, too. We haven't been hearing much about the area in the past few years, but OHN's blog brought the memories of the heated town meetings that were broadcast on the Kalispell TV news. Also, the stories of the victims. A few years ago, victim stories were everywhere since it was the "News Of The Moment". Now it has been put back under the rug from where it had been pulled out of for awhile.

Here is Libby's story, the Readers Digest Condensed (Wiki) version:

Vermiculite, an ore found in the area in 1881, had been mined in the area since 1919. In 1919, E.N. Alley bought the Rainy Creek claims and started the Zonolite Company. Zonolite is a branded trademark product made from vermiculite. W. R. Grace and Company bought the Zonolite mine in 1963, prior to this logging was the leading employer in Libby. After W. R. Grace & Company closed the Zonolite mine in 1990, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Department of Health and Environment sampled local soil and air and found no asbestos contamination. Further examination with improved equipment found that the samples had traces of fibrous tremolite, which is suspected in the scores of asbestos related ailments affecting area residents. The EPA has spent $120 million in Superfund money on cleanup. A documentary film by the name Libby, Montana was made regarding the asbestos exposure. W.R. Grace knew since 1956 that the dust was toxic and causing asbestosis, but did not release this information to the public, nor the workforce. They also knew that the people had died from the mine, were dying, and would die. Additionally, an estimated 35 million homes in the U.S. contain Zonolite insulation. has even more information. Here is how their web page starts:

Tiny Libby, Mont., depended for years on the jobs at a vermiculite mine. But the mine is closed now, and a P-I investigation shows the town is paying a tragic price for those jobs. Hundreds of former miners, their wives and children, and other townspeople have either died or been diagnosed with fatal illness from asbestos the mine released into the air. No one stepped in to stop the dying. Now the town wonders when it will end, and if the town's children are still at risk.

I am very happy OHN and her husband, BigD are on the road to recovery!
Tomorrow...I'll try to post something a bit "lighter" in subject.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Spring Cleaning a few months early!

Not much is going on around here, so I haven't had much to write about. I am still suffering from the "Bah Humbugs", but not as badly as I was a few weeks ago. Since I am almost never home I asked Krystle if she wanted a real tree (that she would have to remember to water) or if she just wanted me to put up the fake tree. She looked at me in that way that only a teenager can manage. I'm sure many of you adults have been flashed that look, too. You know the one... a mixture of angst, irritation, and bewilderment. Then she just shrugged and told me she didn't even care if we had one up or not. Wow! I may not be a huge traditionalist, but I have never gone a year without a Christmas tree. At 40 years old, I am not about to start. I guess that could be because if I think I can get away without dealing with the trappings of the holidays, I will. How depressing is that? SOooo, I decided I would put up the fake tree this coming weekend. Anyone who has been in my tiny home knows that finding a place in my living room for a tree is a major feat! I have been mentally preparing for the furniture rearrangement and the deep cleaning that always comes with it by starting a bit smaller. OK, so I thought I was starting smaller! Here is what happened:
Two weekends ago I decided to clean out my bedroom closet. This chore had not been done in about 10 years! My small walk-in closet was pretty much a reach-way-in closet because the entire floor was covered in boxes, bags, backpacks, craft projects, and other stuff. Krystle had gone through her clothes and her closet so I had two large boxes of clothes going to charity. I wanted to make only one trip to the donation box, so I decided it was time to clean out my stuff. Three large boxes of clothes and other usable misc. crap later, I found the closet floor. I can now hang things up without the use of a crowbar, and I can walk into my walk-in closet. What a concept! I do have one laundry basket full of bed sheets that I no longer use, but I thought I would let Heather go through those before I sent them on to charity. This closet project took me about SIX HOURS! Now, if you think that is bad, read on!
Last weekend, I decided to keep the cleaning momentum going. My bedroom is the "catch all" for everything that I never took the time to find a place for. My dresser is the largest flat place, so it accumulated all the "important papers" like pay stubs, bank statements, photographs, letters, and 401K paperwork. With the closet now cleaned out, I can get to my lock box, so that was the first thing I took care of. Then it was getting rid of all the garbage like old receipts, old makeup, non-matching socks, and even some outdated computer software. We are talking Windows 5.1 and some books on DOS that were just as old. I didn't realize how much garbage I was hording. I took two boxes and one large garbage bag of trash out of there. I cleaned off the antique sewing machine cabinet, my dresser, under the bed, and the top of another chest of drawers that I use to store my linens in. My house does not have a linen closet, or anything that could substitute, so that is the only place I could find to put them. I worked on my bedroom for 8 straight hours! Guess what? I'm not even finished! I did get about 3/4 of the way through the room, but the last wall is occupied by a large bookshelf and a small bookshelf sitting on top of two bedside tables. I am an avid reader so the bookshelves are packed with books of all types. The smaller shelf holds my (soon to be outdated) TV/DVD player and my Nintendo 64. This is how I amuse myself when Krystle and her friends take over the living room. It is also where I put all of my Montana related books, magazines, and maps. The small book shelf sits on the two bedside tables in order to raise the TV to an acceptable height. Those hold smaller craft projects, and all types of other misc errata. The large bookcase is packed with novels of all types, but one shelf is dedicated to various memorabilia from my life. Things like tiny stuffed toys that my kids or other important people gave me, a jewelry box, a shadow box that displays some miniature mementos, and a couple of photographs in frames of the girls when they were newborns. Cleaning up these shelves, arranging the books into proper rows, and cleaning the dust from all the other stuff is my project for this coming Saturday. Once my bedroom is free from the weight of grime, all shiny and clean, I will tackle the living room. It is not even one-tenth of a chore that my bedroom turned into. I will deep clean the kitchen last, since Krystle uses it all the time, but she is not the cleanest cook! I want it to be clean, deep cleaned for my sanity, when the Christmas visitors show up. Granted, the only visitors I am expecting are all family, so I don't think anyone will care if the pots and pans cupboard is in disarray! It's just the mood I am in right now, and if I am in a cleaning mood, I better take advantage of it. I'm not the OCD type (stop laughing Joe!) so I don't know when the cleaning bug will hit me again.
I am hoping to put the Christmas tree up on Sunday. Once the tree is up, and my house cleaned, I will start making some homemade gifts. I have found a few recipes I would like to try, and a few "Gifts in a Jar". I won't go into details here, just in case people in my gift giving circle actually read my page!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Joe's photo of the Christmas Stroll

We went to the Great Falls Christmas Stroll last night. It was nice, but not as festive as Helena's or East Helena's festivities. I'll post more about it later, but you can read about it on my other blog if you want to hear about it Right Now.
Joe posted a photo of the Great Falls Civic Center and official city tree on his blog-- You can check it out here:

Heading home to Helena... more on Monday!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Help make me some money-- Please?

Just thought I would tell everyone to look over there to the right hand column and notice that little new link.... ----->
Yeah, right over there! Go and make a comment, stupid or smart... funny or crass.... I don't care. I guess if enough people go there I get more than the $1.00 a day for my postings. If I make enough, I'll send each of you a candy cane-- hahaha
Ok, so maybe not, but at least I'll know someone cares.
Yeah... do whatever.... just thought I would try the guilt trip on you. (Did it work?)
Whatever you do, have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Got It!

Hey Everyone! I just wanted to share my excitement about some good news I just received. But first, let me tell you what I have been doing to get to this point. I decided to try and make a little extra cash while improving my writing skills. I did some research and found a few freelance writing sites where you bid for jobs. Of course, the more jobs you win, the higher your ranking on these sites... the higher your ranking, the easier it is to "score" a job... so it can be hard for a beginner to win jobs. A little more research and I found out the way to break into the elite job market is to bid VERY low until you have completed a few assignments, then start to raise rates as your ranking raises. Seems logical. It took some time to find a few jobs I knew I could do, placed my bids. Yeah, I was turned down for most of them, but... BUT (yep, here's the good part) I did get a few bites!
I was chosen to be part of a book reviewer team, part of another five person team to re-write articles (more on that later), and I was chosen to be a paid blogger (and here I have been doing it for FREE!).
The book reviewer job consists of reading a PDF file of a book then placing reviews of the book onto five different consumer sites, like Amazon. I will be paid $5 for each review (good or bad!) so that is a pretty easy $30 a month! I read all the time, I may as well get something out of it.
The blogging site is a new one, and they are paying good bloggers to write, which will bring others to their site through search engines. I will start that one today and post a shameless self promotion here. I will be paid $1.00 for each day I post (another $30 a month!) and even more if I get traffic and comments!
The re-write job is going to be the most difficult, but I think it will be the one that actually "breaks" me into the market. The lady I am working for hired a five person team (out of 87 bidders!) to rewrite many of her articles. She is an OK writer, but her articles really lack depth. She wants us to improve her ideas. Yeah, she will get the credit, as we will kinda be her ghostwriters. That is OK for me, at this point in my writing career. The articles will be from 500 to 1000 words (one to two MS word pages). Now the only bad part... like I said, low bids win. I had initially bid her low range price of $2.00 a rewrite. When she contacted me and told me I was a "finalist", but she had to see an example of my writing style, I told her I really would like to win this project and I was willing to work for $1.00 an article. Well, she liked my style and told me that I was going to be on her team. She will send me the first 5 articles on Monday, and daily after that, with more if I request them. I will get paid 48 hours after she approves each rewrite (to PayPal). SOoooo, if I do five a day M-F, I will earn $25 a week.
It looks like I may start out with something like $160 a month with these three jobs. That is nothing to sneeze at, really.
SO, I am off to try and earn some of that right now----

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Winter Warm-Up

It seems winter has tried to miss us here in Montana this year. I have watched the news reports about winter storms causing problems in the Mid-west and the Eastern part of the US while we were enjoying temps anywhere from 40-70 degrees here. Not anymore! We had a winter storm pass through the state yesterday covering most of the state with a very Christmas like blanket of snow and dropping the mercury into the single digits. It is supposed to be a very chilly 9 degrees Ferinheit tonight. In order to warm the insides up tonight I am going out for hot wings and beer after work with Joe and our friend Doug. YUM! We go to a local restaurant/bar called The Sting. They serve the best wings around here. These aren't those puny little things many of the places serve around here. You know what I am talking about. Yeah, those pre-breaded greasy things that don't seem to have any actual meat on them. The Sting's wings are the WHOLE wing, and they are HUGE! They even have a variety of sauces to choose from. Being a regulars to the place, Joe and I have decided our favorite flavor is the regular BBQ on the wings, served with a side of the original hot sauce. We pour the hot flavor over the BBQ'd wings for a spicy BBQ flavor.
OK, some of you are appalled at even the thought of eating something as messy as a saucy hot wing in a public place. I can appreciate that, but when over half of the patrons are eating the same messy entree as you, licking sauce from thier fingers and enjoying their cold beers, just like you, the feelings of self conscientiousness fade. But, if you just can't make yourself eat anything with your fingers, might I suggest the boneless "wing" selection from the menu!

Now, a little update. I did put out a few Christmasy things this past weekend. I am still not sure how much I will decorate, but I think I will get more into the spirit as the holiday gets closer. Maybe when I put up the tree? Speaking of that, I think I will put up the fake tree this year. I don't know how good Krystle will be at keeping a live tree watered. The fake tree is also easier to clean up and put away after the holidays, too! I am still leaning towards home made gifts for the majority of my friends and family. Of course, I will go shopping for all the little kids. I think I am looking forward to seeing their happy, giggling faces more than anything this season. Christmas is so magical for the young ones. At times I wish I could go back to those simpler years. You know, before all the cycnicism set in.

OK... Now it is time to sign off and go get messy! Mmmmmmm......

Friday, November 28, 2008

Can we just skip the holiday's this year?

OK, I am not usually the Bah Humbug type, but this year I think I am falling into that role. I usually turn giddy at the first Christmas lights that show up on my drive home from work and excitedly pull out the Christmas music CD's and play them over and over, singing out loud to myself. This would be the weekend that I would put out my own lights, and begin the decorating process. Placing the plush, poinsettia embroidered, burgundy and cream bath towels in the baths; Santa and snowman kitchen decor; candles of red, green, gold, silver, and candy-cane striped placed all over the house.... you get the idea. This year, I just don't feel it. Maybe because some people actually put up their holiday lights the day after Halloween, or maybe because the retail stores have had Christmas isles since Columbus Day. There used to be an unspoken creed that there should be nothing Christmas related out until Thanksgiving week (or later). It made a special kind of excitement, signaled the start of the "Holiday Season". Not any more. It may as well be Flag Day or Hug a Pirate Day.
This year, I am just not in the holly-jolly mood. I am going home tonight, throw in some laundry, then try and put out some holiday decor. Maybe I am in this mood because I no longer have the kids excitement to help fuel my fire? There is no one to decorate for, and I am almost never home to appreciate the decor anyway. Krystle and her boyfriend, and sometimes some of her other friends... and Joe, that is all that will see any efforts I put out until Dec 20th when my brother and his family come for a visit from Denver. I will play the part... I will decorate (maybe not as much as usual) and I will bake and make some homemade gift baskets. Maybe my mood will change as I do all of this, or maybe not. I hope so. I usually love this season.....
I'll keep ya posted.

The sales weren't THAT good!

I knew there was a reason I didn't want to get up at 4am to try and get in on those "Super-Duper Once A Year Prices!!!". I got the local newspaper and looked through the ads for anything I thought I couldn't pass up, and guess what? There was nothing, Nada, zilch. Absolutely no deals that were so awesome that I HAD to be at some store or another at 4am, 5am, or even the less shocking 6am. There were a few great deals, but nothing earth shattering so I decided to keep to my normal routine and got up just in time to be at work by 10am.
The ex-husband was the first to call me this morning to tell me that in New York state a man who worked at the local Wal-Mart there was trampled to death and a mother-to-be was trampled enough to be sent to the hospital (she and baby are ok, news reports are saying). The mob of 200 shoppers tore the doors right off of the hinges, and didn't even stop entering the store so the paramedics could help the injured. Later, I hear a 60 year old man punched a 14 year old girl in the face at one of our local stores over an MP3 player. Now I just read an incident near LA in which shots were fired and two people died in a Toys-R-Us store. What the Hell??!! Come on people... is someones life less important than saving ten dollars on some electronic gadget, or even a few hundred on a new computer system?
I think I was more shocked at the local punching than the other two events. Here in Montana, we are generally pretty laid back. Sure, many of my neighbors left their warm homes to stand in line at the shop of their choice, but if the item they were after happened to be snatched up before they were able to get to it, that's the way it goes. They would shrug and go on to the next item on their lists. I know for many local folks, if they run into a long lost friend they would choose to go have coffee and catch up, opting to go shopping on another day.
So, here I sit... shaking my head at all the nonsense this "Black Friday" has created. I think next year the media should dub the day after Thanksgiving "Black and Blue Friday". Chances are, I will not be out shopping next year, either.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes, I've been a slacker!

Yeah, I know! It has been awhile since I posted last, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. Quite the contrary, actually.
We haven't been travelling any, so no really cool photos, but the weekends at home have been put to good use cooking and cleaning.
Two weekends ago, I tried to tackle some major cleaning projects but really only succeeded in defrosting my deep freeze. Joe and I did squeeze in a little time to catch up on finding some Helena Geocaches that had been hidden over the past few months.
Last weekend I did a "Once A Month" cooking marathon session. "What's that?" you ask? It is where I cook a large set of meals all at once, then place them in the freezer to be used as needed. Yeah, it is tons of work, especially for someone who has Rheumatoid Arthritis like me, but it helps out in the long run. I find one or two days of recovery is worth the ability to just open the freezer everyday and have healthy meals ready to heat and serve.
I always start out the morning by putting together a pot of spaghetti sauce, then letting it simmer on the back burner all day. Then I make a double or triple batch of meatloaf. I separate this into single serving loaves, wrap and freeze. If I am by myself, I cook only one. If any kids happen to be home for supper... and usually a friend has tagged along... I cook as many as I need for that meal. I then prepare a large batch of taco seasoned ground beef, cooked, and stored in 1 cup measures in zip-lock bags. Krystle loves this one... she is my nacho queen. I usually end up with 6-10 cups of taco meat in the freezer, and use it as a base for many other dishes. Of course, I use it for tacos, nachos, or a quick add-in to a can of chili.
After those basic tasks are finished, I make anywhere from 5 to 15 other "dishes", but always split them up into "two serving" sizes. That way I have left overs, or I can share if someone else is at the house.
Before starting anything (except for the spaghetti sauce), I get all the ingredients together on the counter... spices, canned goods, things like that.... so I don't have to search for anything. This also helps in making double sure I have everything I will need throughout the day. Many times, I do this the night before, and take out the measuring cups, spoons, bowls, freezer containers, and zip-locks. I also make a rough count of how much chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, chopped chives, etc for all the items I am making. I do ALL the chopping, slicing, and cutting at one time. This saves TONS of time. I do use a food processor for most of it, so I can have it all finished in less than an hour. Yep, all the prep work for one months of meals done in 60 minutes or less! After that, I pick a meat group (chicken, ground beef, steak, etc) and make all the meals in my plan with that group, clean up, go to the next group, clean...etc, until I am finished. I usually finish with anything that requires spaghetti sauce (lasagna, manicotti, etc. ) Everything is labeled with cooking instructions and put into the freezer. Pretty much every dish I make will be a dinner for at least two, and up to 4 different nights since I freeze them in two-serving size amounts. This way, if I make 5 different dishes, plus the meatloaves, taco meat, and sauce, I can have a variety of seven different meals for at least two, but usually 3 weeks. I normally make 8-10 different dishes, so that gives me nearly ready-made meals for about 2 months!
I'll post tomorrow on what I made this time. It is time to leave work now... we are heading out to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking Back

It is two days after Election Day. The world is still spinning, all the major players are still alive, and the aliens haven't descended from far stars to take over our brains... So much for conspiracy theory's!
Life is settling back into the normalcy that marks the days between our major elections. As an added plus, the radio is no longer choked with political ads.... Just in time for the Christmas ads to begin. Having worked in the back rooms of a very popular Helena radio station network, I can say this time of year was the most challenging and stressful time of the year. Not just every four years, but every political "season". I was listening to my past employer last week and I can say that my replacement DID NOT do her homework on who was running for what office. On many occasions I heard two ads back to back of opponents running for the same position. I wanted to call and let the station manager know, but then I thought"Hey, this isn't my problem anymore!" I took much pride in my job during the years I was there, but received very little thanks or recognition. Now, I am not someone who needs to be told they are doing a good job, nor do I need a constant pat on the back, but once or twice a year a heartfelt thank you, or a "good job" would have been nice. Hell, I rarely even got a "Hello". I really miss the job, many of my fellow co-workers, but not the work environment. I lasted longer than anyone else that had previously held my position, but after years of being treated like crap, I knew it was time to move on. That was two years ago this week. At the time, walking out of the managers office after telling him off then cleaning out my desk was the scariest, yet most empowering thing I had ever done in my life. Hours later, I began to re-think this decision... what had I done? How would I pay my bills? What Now?!!
Flash forward to present day--- Here I sit at my current job. Leaving the radio station really wasn't as life shattering as I thought it would be. I now know I can survive for a few weeks without a paycheck, can find employment if I need to, and, most of all, can walk out of something I feel is not working well for me. There is no reason to be chained to a job where you feel unappreciated or unwelcome at. Yeah, I know, basic stuff, but at 38 the concept of leaving the security of my employment was very scary! I am much more relaxed now, not as stressed out, and really enjoy my present job... even if it doesn't have the options of health insurance and 401k's.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dentist or Car Repair... THAT is the question!

Happy Halloween!
Today must be a dentists nightmare with all the sweets given out to all these cute kids in costumes! That being said, it was a sandwich from Subway that broke one of my teeth this afternoon, not a jaw breaker or other hard candy. Unfortunately, I am one of the millions of Americans that do not have dental insurance... Hell, I don't even have regular health insurance! Now, I don't blame the sandwich for the broken tooth, or anything in it. It was actually quite good. This particular tooth had been cracked already, and that was after a filling fell out of it, so it was only a matter of time before it cracked again.
Now, I am like many adults and don't really like to go to the dentist, but then again, I don't fear them either. I just can't afford to go. SO, here I sit, dealing with some tooth pain, thinking that if I was to break a tooth, today had to be the best day to do it. "Why?" you ask? Easy! Tonight is one of the only nights I go out to the bars and drink. Is there a better way to deal with mouth pain than to numb and cauterize the wound with some good, high quality antiseptic (aka alcoholic drinks)?
I'll have to see how the pain plays out on whether I do head to the dentist or not. I know, I know, I really should be heading there right this minute... but I also just got a leak in my Rav4's cooling system that needs to get fixed. To me, that is more important since that is my only vehicle... and I need it to get back and forth to work, so I can pay the repair man, and eventually the dentist. Sometimes I really hate being one of the working poor in this country!

p.s. Yes, I am dressing up... a cave woman. If it turns out good I will post a photo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How 'bout being a windmill for Halloween?

Here we are, Halloween is tomorrow, so that means election day is fast approaching. Many people I have talked to have already cast their ballots. I haven't, but I will have to vote early. Monday, to be exact. I don't think I want to drive to Helena on Monday night just so I can vote on Tuesday, when I can save a round trip and just do it before I leave Helena on Monday morning. This political season has been a long one and I am glad it is almost over.

On a whole 'nuther thing, I just read a news story of a study on the health affects of Daylight savings time. It seems that there are less heart attacks on the Monday after "falling back" then on any other normal Monday, but just to even things out in the grand scheme of things, there are more heart attacks on the Monday after "springing forward". The scientists are crediting (or blaming, depending on the season) the hour change in sleeping patterns. I keep telling "morning-person-Joe" I need my beauty sleep, now I can cite proof! Yeah, any excuse to be able to sleep in!

In keeping with the pseudo-political theme here, I just placed a widget (Hey! I don't name them!) here for the Pickens Plan. If you don't know what that is, check it out. If you do, and agree to it, then by all means, sign on! I have long thought we should not be dependent on fossil fuels, and although Mr. Pickens wants to change more cars to Natural Gas, which is a fossil fuel, I think he is heading in the right direction with his wind power. I think the potential of wind energy is in its infancy. With more attention being made to the benefits of wind power I foresee there will be alot of research into better, more efficient, or quieter turbines. I have been to the Judith Gap wind farm and it is amazing to stand there among the giant windmills. I have read some reports from some who are against the wind farms, citing they block the natural view, kill birds, and the constant whoosh-whoosh sound is enough to drive a person crazy. Now, I haven't done any research on this, but I would think the turbines don't kill as many birds as cars and trucks do, they don't block as much of the view as a cloud of smog (and don't smell as bad, neither), and I am sure a person gets used to the sound just as people in the city get used to sirens, people by the railroad tracks get used to trains, and people on the ranches get used to cows mooing. I, for one, would much rather stand in the middle of a wind farm, then drive over Great Falls' 9th street bridge and smell the sulphur and other stomach turning scents belching from the refinery.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More photos of Glacier Park

Looking down into the McDonald Creek Valley. The Going To The Sun Highway follows the river through the valley before climbing to Logan Pass.

Clouds cresting Logan Pass from the east. In a matter of minutes the clouds had surrounded the base of the peaks surrounding the pass.....Mount Oberlin peaking above the clouds.

Me trying to be artistic! It was a very bright afternoon and many of my photos turned out with a washed- out look. These photos, by the way, were taken with a camera that I am not used to using. Joe upgraded his digital camera and gave me his old one since the one I had decided to die on me. This is along the shores of Lake McDonald in Glacier Park.

Fall in Glacier National Park. Taken along the Going To The Sun Highway.

Last Weekend, Part 2

Lets see... where was I? Oh yeah, lunch time at Nickle Charlies.....
During our meal, we tried to contact all our contacts in the Kalispell area. Mom and Dad had gone up the day before, but they weren't answering at their motel; Heather wasn't home; and no answer from our friends Stacy and Trudy. We were really looking forward to seeing them because Stacy had been in a very serious motorcycle accident in July and we wanted to see how he was doing.
Since no one was around, and with the advent of Voice Mail so everyone knew we were in town, we decided to go find a few more of the Kalispell area geocaches. There was one in particular I really wanted to check out. It was called "Fairy Steps". Apparently the founder of the city, Charles E. Conrad, is buried in a mausoleum in the city cemetery. Yeah, that is the ordinary part. This cemetery is on a pretty big hill, and his plot is in a prominent place at the rear. Behind this, is a narrow staircase that had been carved out of the bedrock into the steepest part of the hill. Who did this, or why I don't know. My kids had been there, but I had never seen it. It was my kids who told me the place is haunted, and the fairy steps are a magical place. It seems that if you count the steps down, you will not get the same number going back up. I was trying not to fall down the steep, narrow, moss and pine needle covered steps so I did not count going down, but got 99 on the way back up (afterwards, I read on the cache page that some counted 101, 100, or even 105.. but never did get matching numbers for down and up... crazy, huh?).
At the bottom of the steps you find yourself in a whole different place. We found the cache, then explored a little. There is a trail that we followed for a bit. This is what it looked like:

Remember, this is in the middle of Kalispell! Wal Mart is nearby, Highway 2 is close (one of the busiest highways in Montana) and houses are so close, but hidden, to the left that you can hear the people. To the right is the hill with the cemetery on its top. I don't know if this is part of the original cemetery land, but it is a really neat piece of nature hidden away. It was even cooler looking about 30 seconds before I snapped the photo. The sun was shining through the trees lighting up the dust motes and making the yellow leaves almost glow. Very magical looking! The sun would not be coming out from behind the clouds again for quite a while, so I took what I could get.
It was about this time that our friends called and invited us over to their lovely home.
We visited Stacy and Trudy for a few hours, catching them up on the happenings of Rockin' the Rivers and our lives, while they caught us up with Stacy's rehabilitation. When we last saw him, he was in a wheel chair after breaking his ankle (surgery to put it back together), and the opposite leg. This time he was up and about with the use of crutches and occasionally a walker while in the house. At the time of his accident they were in the middle of a remodel of their upstairs. They have been living in the ground floor, apartment style, for over a year now. I'm sure they will be glad once the house is finished, and once Stacy is back to 100% mobility. The answer to everyones question "will he ever ride again?" is "Of Course!". He already has a brand new motorcycle, and it is a beauty!

The evening concluded with my mothers 65th birthday dinner at Capers Restaurant. We all met at Heather's house, and after playing with Lucas and Talia a bit, we headed to eat. Capers is a VERY nice place, the food was excellent, and the wait staff very good. The only downfall was it is not a place to take a 6 year old, and a 1 1/2 year old. They did good, considering. Talia was a bit bored, but really enjoyed her dinner of marinara with penne pasta. She had never had fresh snap pea pods and she ate them by breaking them open and eating the peas from the shells. She thought they were the coolest food she had ever had. Lucas was, well, one and a half! Banging anything he could reach on the table, crying if said noise maker was taken out of his reach, and doing his best to show his mama what she was headed for when he reaches the "terrible twos". His best performance of the evening was reaching for, then spilling a full glass of soda and ice all over Heather not more than 10 minutes after we sat. She was cold, wet, and sticky for the rest of the evening, but hid her discomfort well.
Mom had a good time, and really enjoyed her dinner of gourmet steak and potatoes. Joe had the same, dad ordered scallops, Mike (my son in law) chose buffalo sausage lasagna, while Heather and I shared a meal of Dungoness crab stuffed trout. Dessert for mom, Heather, and me was a very rich brownie served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream with a raspberry liquor sauce that was lit at the table. SO COOL! It was awesome! Dad had a creme brule', Talia a scoop of ice cream with caramel sauce, while Joe an Mike passed on dessert. All the adults had coffee to end the meal. It was not normal restaurant coffee, either. It was, like everything else, very good, and served with a pitcher of real cream.
I didn't realize until later that no one took a single photo of the evening.

Sunday morning broke with clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Joe and I were itching to go to Glacier Park, if even for only a little while. We met my ex-husband, Harry, for breakfast at a place "where the locals eat" named Cislo's. They have really good, but cheap, breakfasts there. My ex and I get along these days. We caught up a bit, shared some funny stories of our past with Joe and before we knew it, an hour had passed. There was only one more thing to do before we dropped Harry off at his place.... he had to help us grab a geocache! We had "found" it the afternoon before, but neither Joe or I are nimble enough to climb trees, and that is exactly where this cache was. Harry had fun pretending to be 14 instead of 41, and got some first hand knowledge of what Geocaching is all about.

Leaving Harry at his place, we crossed town to say good-bye to Heather and her family. By the time we left there, it was after 1:00pm. We were finally done with the visiting and able to do our own thing.... GLACIER! Yippie!
Before even heading into the park we took a side trip back to the Old Belton Bridge. It was sunny, so a little nicer for photos. I took this one right outside of the truck door:

Then I crossed the bridge and took this one (below). Right around the far bend of the river is the town of West Glacier and the new bridge where you enter the park.

Now, all this time we were thinking the park service had closed most of the road that goes through the park. That road is commonly known as Going To The Sun Highway. At the check-in station the ranger told us that the road was open all the way to the top of Logan Pass. Oh Joy! We hadn't expected that! This was to be the last day the road would be open that far, with the winter closings to be in affect Monday. Our original plans were to find a quiet place along Lake McDonald to relax while taking in the beautiful scenery and clean, cedar scented mountain air. With just a look at each other, plans changed and we headed to the pass. We did pass McDonald Lake on the way, so we stopped and took a few fall photos. Here is one of my favorites:
I will post other photos of this trip. They are too gorgeous not to share. The drive was beautiful, but relatively uneventful. We always enjoy any time in the park, no matter where we are. The views change with the weather and the seasons. I have taken photos of the same mountain peaks many times and each time they have a different character.
The skies were still bright and sunny, with little popcorn clouds gathering on the peaks. After the rain the day before, the air was clear and visibility was at least 10 miles. As we neared Logan Pass, a low cloud was cresting the saddle from the East. It was pretty cool to watch as it first backed up against the mountains, then overflowed over the pass's low point. At one point, the peak of Mount Oberlin was above the clouds. Quite striking, and I had never seen it quite this way before. When we got to the top we were in this low cloud (now fog-- LOL) and it was quite obvious that this cloud was much colder than all the air surrounding it. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees from what it was only an eighth of a mile down the road. It had moved in fast, but there was no wind. In the clouds wake, it left a strange fairy land like landscape. All the trees, plants, light poles, etc were decorated with hoar frost on their eastern-facing side. Here is a flower stalk in the visitors center's garden covered with it:

All the crystals point to the east, while there are no crystals on the western facing side. Isn't mother nature neat?
We spent more time in Glacier Park than we intended, and ended up driving to Helena in the dark along the Seeley-Swan highway. At least the deer weren't out in force that evening. We got to my house at about 11:30pm. Quickly crashed and left the house early to be back to the daily grind of employment in Great Falls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's WHERE?! (Busy weekend pt.1)

The Old Belton Bridge; West Glacier, MT

This past weekend, I got to do just about all my favorite things. I went geocaching, went to Glacier Park, visited with our friends Stacy and Trudy, saw my daughter and her family, and had a wonderful dinner with my parents, Heather, her husband Mike, my grandson Lucas, step-granddaughter Talia, and my best friend Joe. All this was packed into just a normal two-day weekend! *whew!*

I normally get to take Saturdays off, but Joe has to work 10-3. Usually our fun part of the weekend starts after he drives from Great Falls to Helena to my house. I use Saturday mornings to 1) sleep in, and 2) laundry. Anyone who knows me, knows I DO NOT do mornings very well at all. Some would say that is an understatement...! Keep that in mind for later.

My mother's 65th birthday was on Friday. One of the things she wanted was for the family to get together for a nice dinner at a nice restaurant. She knows Heather, Mike, and their young family cannot afford to travel to Helena so she and dad took a road trip to Kalispell. Mom also asked if Joe and I could head north, too. Krystle was the only one who couldn't take the time off from work (she is a manager at a local pizza place). Joe received clearance to close the shop for a day, so the plans were finalized.

I stayed in Great Falls on Friday night so Joe and I could get an early start. Too Early! 6AM early! The only consolation to me was we had plans to try and find some of the newer geocaches that had been placed along our way. The small town of Valier seems to always have at least one cache hidden, but we have always been on such a time schedule that we have not been able to stop. On Saturday we arrived in Valier just as the sun was rising. The cache was an easy find and we were back on the road not more than 10 minutes later. The day broke with quite a few clouds, but not much wind and the temps were awesome for mid-October. Our next stop was in East Glacier. This was another easy cache to find, but we were distracted by this cute little friendly dog who came to play in the park with us. He was SO adorable! I was petting and talking to him while Joe found the cache... signed the log, re-hid it, and moved on about a mile down the road. Right outside of East Glacier is a sculpture of two Indians sitting on their horses made out of automobile parts. Yeah, sounds tacky and trashy, but it is actually pretty cool. This particular geocache has just been placed, but had not been found yet. Joe was looking in one area while I looked in another. I ran my hand into a hidden area and there it was! In goecaching "speak" I was the "FTF" of this cache. That means First to Find. Some cachers strive to be the FTF-ers of all the new hides in an area while others don't really care but get a smile if it happens. I fall into the later group, said "Yeah! First to Find!" and then we went on our way to the next.

The next two were at the top of Marias Pass. One was really easy, and only a few feet from the truck door. The other one was at the top of a mountain. We had to hike up, huffing and puffing, along a pretty steep trail that was made worse by being very muddy. It had snowed the previous weekend, then warmed up just enough to melt. Some places the mud was thick and sticky enough to suck at the shoes--- YUCK! The joy of adding another cache find to our list kept us going. Joe made the find on that one. We sat on a nearby log, caught our breath and enjoyed the cool mountain air while sifting through the cache contents and signing the log. Nothing I couldn't live without (meaning no rubber duckies) so we put everything back, re-hid the cache, and headed back down the mountain to continue on to Kalispell.

Our next stop was in West Glacier. It was there that we looked for, but did not find, our only bum-cache of the weekend. I have to say that searching through wet, prickly juniper bushes is not my idea of a good time, so we only half-heartedly looked.

Since we were already off the highway, I asked Joe if he would mind taking a slight detour to the old Belton Bridge for a few photos. He likes scenic areas as much as I do, so off we went. I had only a few photos left on my film 35mm SLR camera, so decided to finish those off. As soon as we got out of the truck, it began to sprinkle. While we were snapping photos of the river, the old bridge, and fall foliage the rain really began to come down. I clicked off my last two photos and we headed back on our way.

We picked up a couple more geocaches along the Flathead river between Columbia Falls and Kalispell along the Columbia Falls Stage road. It had been quite a number of years since I had been on this particular road. I really enjoyed the change of scenery!

Once in Kalispell, we claimed our hotel room and headed to lunch. Yep, over 200 miles, and caching along the way...still made it to town at 12:30. Maybe there is something good to getting up early! Notice I said "Maybe".... LOL

Lunch was at Nickle Charlies. Very good sandwiches! While we were there, we caught part of the Montana Griz whooping the pants off of Sacramento State. All in all, a very good morning. Stay tuned... the afternoon and evening in my next post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween is coming!

I love this cartoon! Just mental enough to cause a pause in the brain matter.
I want to thank Dave from Greater Falls for stumbling on my little piece of the net and adding it to his list of local blogs. His blog, and the list of other area writers is at: . I spent most of the day yesterday checking them all out. We Montanans are an ecclectic bunch! A very warm welcome to anyone who ventures here from his site.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Will It Blend?

My brother just sent this link, and Joe just got an i-phone. Hmmm, it says "Don't try this at home". Does that mean I can do it at work? Anyone think Joe will get upset if I do? hee hee hee

I'm just kidding, Joe.

Feeling Mortal

I drive Montana's highways more than pretty much anyone else I know. With all the miles I put on, I have, of course, had my share of what I like to refer to as "Mortality Moments". These would be those instances when life passes before your eyes and adrenaline pumps into your bloodstream. Moments like just missing the deer, or the semi that cuts back into your lane too close, or the moment when the tires decide to loose their grip on the black ice over a bridge.

I had that experience yesterday morning while driving to Great Falls for work. I was driving Joe's pickup since Krystle is still using my Rav4 until her car is out of the shop. The Wolf Creek canyon was snow covered and a little icy since the sun doesn't shine for very long into the narrow passageway. I was my normal careful and wary self. Once out of the canyon though, the sun was shining bright and the roadway cleared. I sped up to the speed limit and settled back for a relaxing drive. I still had 50 miles to go and it was a beautiful morning. The leaves have been changing colors and the weekend snow and cold temperatures turned the more stubborn green trees to gold. The wind was blowing at a good clip, I am guessing at about 30mph, blowing the leaves around... as well as occasional gust that nudged the little Nissan truck I was driving a bit to the left. Yeah, a typical Montana fall morning. Passing the sleepy tiny town of Craig I could see a bit of fog clinging to the Missouri River and thought how pretty nature can be. Not even five miles later, I was thanking God and any other higher powers that I was still in one piece and still headed in the right direction down the highway.

There is a bridge that spans the Missouri River within spitting distance of Craig. This same bridge is not straight, but curved. Not a sharp curve, and with normal driving conditions it is not uncommon to see drivers taking it at the speed limit of 75mph or higher without even blinking an eye. I am an uncommonly cautious driver, and I could see the bridge deck looked wet. I slowed a bit, then drove onto the concrete..... when Whoops! That is NOT water but black ice!! First shot of adrenaline hit the system as experience and training took over all my muscles. I eased off the accelerator and about to think I was OK. In that moment, the tires break free of the pavement and the truck slides across the road into the passing lane of the interstate instead of following the curve to the right. When I think about it in retrospect, I think I may have been hit by a gust of wind that pushed me at just the wrong moment. Second shot of adrenaline! Oh shit! I ease the steering to try to control the slide and avoid a collision with the guard rail and a possible very cold dunk into the river. Even the tiny adjustment of the tires causes the front tires to go in the right direction, but the back end wants to fishtail I steer back to the left to regain a tiny bit of control... when the back end decides to kick out to the right.... I see the end of the bridge deck ahead and it is dry but I fear that I will hit it at an odd angle and possibly loose total control or worse, roll. At the same time, fine motor skills and experience are on autopilot keeping me in a fairly straight line even though the back end is doing its own thing. The only thing I remember going through my mind over and over is "don't over correct....don't wreck Joe's truck... s**t, f**k,... don't over correct". I do know that the rear end slid back and forth about 5 or 6 times and I managed to stay on the road, never kissed the guard rail and hit dry pavement going straight. WHEW!! All that was three very long seconds of my life, but at the time felt like about 15 minutes.
The rest of the drive was, thankfully, uneventful but I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that I was unable to enjoy it. It is the little things like this that remind me that I am just a human and life can be upended or even just ended in a few short seconds. Enjoy it while you can!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Burrrr! It's Cold Outside!

Snow along I-15 near Cascade
Hey! What happened to Fall? I went home Friday night with all the intentions of doing everything I said I was going to do. It seems 'ol Mom Nature decided differently. The wind kicked up in the late evening hours dropping the temperatures, and brought in the clouds. When I spoke to Joe on Saturday morning, he said it was snowing in Great Falls. I was trying to be optimistic and hope against all odds that the snow would stay in the north. Unfortunately, by the time Joe arrived in Helena early Saturday evening the snow flurries had begun... and the wind was still blowing hard and cold. We decided to brave the wind chill and see if we could at least remove the starter from Krystle's car. Of course, as these things tend to do, the starter went bad right out side of her job and of course, she HAD to park over a huge puddle. To make a long story shorter, we towed the car to a nearby parking lot, jacked it up, crawled under (yes, got dirt in the eyes), and said..."oh shit!" There is NO way we can work on this stupid, bleeping, starter without a vehicle lift. (The car is now sitting outside of our favorite mechanics garage. There is a point in your life when you decide some things just aren't worth the effort and call in the pros!)
As we were playing on the ground under said car, the snow began. By the time we grabbed a bite to eat and made it back to my place (9 miles out of town) the ground was turning white. I said a mental prayer, then sent a TXT to Krystle to drive MY Rav4 very carefully home from work (She has been using it ever since hers broke down).
Now, if you read my previous post, Joe and I were going to help some friends move to Deer Lodge, but when we got up at 7am on Sunday morning, there was a few inches of snow and more falling fast. We decided to head over to Barb and Jeff's to see what they thought, and after looking at the road reports and Highway Cams we all decided to postpone the move to another weekend. Jeff made us one of his signature breakfasts (YUM) and we all sat around the kitchen table killing time while watching it snow like a bat out of Hell.
Now that all our plans and good intentions were thrown out the window, Joe and I went back to my place and did our best to be lazy. We haven't had a truly lazy Sunday in a LONG time so it was a special treat. Joe made me some of his mothers Potato Soup that he had been promising to make me for ten (yes, TEN) years. It was very good, and Krystle even graced us with an appearance from out of her room when she realized food was being cooked.
So, what was supposed to be a full Sunday turned into a relaxing day. It is now Monday, the snow is just about melted away, and the sun was shining bright all day. Of course, I had to be at work..... Figures!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just a few moments.....

I am writing this in the last 15 minutes before we close the shop. I'm the lucky one that gets Saturdays off, while Joe has to work. This does put a bit of a damper on weekend plans, but we manage. I use Saturday mornings to do laundry and house work... if I don't get side tracked with a mindless video game like Zuma or Bejeweled 2.
It looks like the road in front of the business may be open by the end of next week... if the weather holds. It was too cold today for them to do any work (pussies). It was 38 degrees today so they couldn't pour concrete, and that is where they are right now... curbs are done, they just have to do the entrance areas to the parking lots and alleys. It will be SO nice to have the road open again.
This weekend looks to be busy. We (Joe and I) are taking out the air conditioners then we may have to help Krystle change out a starter in her car. She doesn't seem to have any guy friends who know anything about basic car repairs. What happened to ALL guys knowing about car repairs? But, I digress... back to the weekend projects. On Sunday Joe and I will, once again, be helping Jeff and Barb with their move to Deer Lodge. It looks like this will be the final trip, hauling all the basic stuff they needed to live with before the move was final. Did I mention that I really hate moving-- so I have compassion for anyone who has to go through it.
Time is up... time to go! Weekend is starting......................!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Yep, I do read other people's blogs!

"I don't mind Christians individually. It's when two or more are gathered in His name that they start to worry me."--Marc Beaudin (on his Blog: CrowVoice Journal)

I was playing online, reading random blogs by random writers that matched the keyword "Montana". I found a few that held my interest enough to make me want to follow them, and I found this gem of a quote. Yes, I did e-mail him and ask if I could quote him here... just in case some of you are purists and wanted to take me down for plagiarism! OK, so I don't confuse those of you who really know me, Yes, I am still Christian (Krystle has not converted me to an agnostic yet) and yes, I do believe the wisdom behind these words. How many wars have been fought with "God's Blessing"? Sometimes each side has their own blessing from their own particular rendition of God. Many times, the will of God is determined by "the powers that be" and preached to us lemmings every Sunday morning by the leaders of whichever church we choose to belong to. I don't think that is what religion should amount to. Now, I do have to admit that my upbringing was a convoluted mess of churches and religions. My great-grandfather was a Methodist minister, my mother would attend Luthern services on Easter and Christmas Eve, my babysitters would take me to their Baptist church when I was in their care on Sundays, and my Dad pretty much didn't have a view one way or the other. As I grew, my best friend attended a Southern Baptist church, and that is what I attended throughout my grade school and adolescent years. On a few occasions though, I would go with another friend to a Catholic church if I happened to stay over on a Saturday night. In My Opinion, the Catholics are very cult-like with all the pomp and circumstance... incense... chanting.... I didn't like it at all. When we moved away from that church (from Illinois back to Montana) I was between my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school. Without a friend to go to church with, and parents who didn't go but twice a year, I pretty much ended my church-going era. As I matured into a grown-up, I began to think of God again, but in a purely Genesis "God created all" kind of way. I do my worship my own way, in God's nature. The mountains are my Cathedrals; the rainbow reflections from waterfall spray my stained glass; the sound of wind, birds, and animals are my choir; and the rain my baptismal. THIS is my religion, and how I choose to worship. AND, I live in America and I am free to have this as my choice!

OK, back to the subject that I intended this post to be about! I have found that I really enjoy reading other people's writing, even the mundane day to day stuff, because it makes me realize my life is pretty much like so many others out there... and in some cases much better. Although, there are the ones that I read just to live vicariously through because they live life on a larger, grander scale than I ever will. For example, I am reading a blog that belongs to a mountain climber. How cool is that?! Maybe if I lost about 100 lbs and got over my fear of falling from high, unstable places I could do that too! Uhhh.... no, I don't think so. I'll stick with my fairly easy to moderate hikes that do not require anything other than a water bottle, small first aid kit, pepper spray, and my cameras. If a rope is needed in any way then chances are I will not be on THAT hike! Then there is another writer I am following who is having some health issues with her husband. I read it because it is real. Her feelings are raw. I have laughed at some of her stories, and others I had a tear in my eye as I nodded in knowing agreement (she was talking about her kids going out on their own).
The things people write about... love, family, beliefs, grief, travel and home -- now this is life. Not the commercial life of reality TV, but REAL life documented by real people.
Thanks to everyone who writes so the rest of us can experience your life with you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Looking Forward To The Next Few Weeks

Sunset at Mineral Hill Wildlife Refuge
"Reflections" at Mineral Hill Wildlife Refuge.
The construction and regular fall allergies finally did me in and I stayed home from work to recoup. I feel much better today, better than I have in a few weeks. I have to say it is nice to be able to breathe normally again!
This past weekend Joe and I helped Jeff and Barb with their move... yeah, same as last weekend, but Deer Lodge does have its charm and there is much history to learn there. It looks like one more major trip with the truck and trailer and we will be done. We will do that trip in two weeks as this weekend we will be heading up into the mountains to see Albert.
Our last trip to see Albert was over the first weekend of September. The weather was nice, but a little rainy... then on Sept. 1st we woke up to about 5 inches of snow! It was pretty much gone by late afternoon when we headed back to civilization. Exactly one month later, and the weather this week has been in the low 80's and high 70's and will continue for the next few days...BUT Albert just e-mailed a warning that snow may be coming in. He is blaming us and I almost think he has a right to! If it does snow this Saturday, that will be the third time that Joe and I "brought" a snow storm in with us.
Albert's place is on the west side (barely) of the Continental Divide on an 1894 mining road. He lives "off the grid" meaning he is not connected to any power company. He is nearly self-sufficient, by producing his own electricity with a water generator and a wind generator. He utilizes a spring that flows year round for water, and cuts nearby trees for heat. His cabin is a cozy two story modern log home with a large sun room that encompasses the entire back side of the house. Even though he lives off the grid, he still enjoys many of the creature comforts many of us have come to take for granted. He has satellite TV to veg in front of, and satellite internet to stay in touch with all his friends and family. The wood stove keeps the entire house toasty while creating a relaxing, almost sleepy, atmosphere reminiscent of years gone by. At the other side of the cabin is a fully modern kitchen with a butcher block style two person bar. Zach (his dog) and Zoey (his cat) complete his tiny mountain family.
I am looking forward to spending a weekend hidden away in the mountains, coupled with the excellent company of very good friends, and a glass or two of distilled spirits. The conversation is always engaging and lively. The three of us (me, Albert, and Joe) all come from different backgrounds so there is always a new view on a subject, or a new story to share.
It looks like I will be able to head up to Kalispell in three weeks to see Heather and her family. I haven't seen Lucas since July and I don't want him to forget me! At a year and a half, I'm sure he will be a handful. Its a fun age, and I don't want to miss it. That weekend is also my mothers 65th birthday, and it is her wish for all of us to get together. It was her idea that we all meet for a birthday dinner in Kalispell. I only hope dad behaves himself with Harry (my ex-husband) and Joe behaves himself with Mike (Heathers husband). Ya' Gotta Love Family! hahaha

Friday, September 26, 2008

Allergic to construction?

How are we supposed to get customers when this is where they park?! 9th Street in front of Action Wireless, Sept. 2008.
Business has been slow these past few weeks, and from the look of the road in front of the store, will continue to be slow for a while longer. The city worker my co-worker Joe spoke to said "Mid-October, sometime." Nice! Now, being slow isn't the real problem because we do have things we can do, like cleaning the store, office, and work room; doing research on the newest cell phones; looking on e-bay for great bargains; re-furbishing some of the not-so-great-looking phones we do have.
The big problem is ever since the city began this project, my health has been on a steady decline. Do you think this unearthing of 40+ years of allergens may have something to do with me feeling like crap? Today, so far, is the worst. My head is stuffy and my nose runny... yeah, and oxymoron, but I'm telling ya how it is. Breathing is a chore with barely any oxygen able to pass the sinuses, and the heaviness in my lungs. I have become a "mouth breather" for the time being causing dry mouth and sore throat. My body is itchy all over, and a general feeling of malaise has fallen upon me. I feel a good shot of Royal Crown may help clear out the crap draining down my throat, but I am at work and partaking in that sort of thing is frowned upon -- although I don't think Joe would tell the boss man if I did. In Joe's defense, a good "belt" may improve my disposition, too! A few more and I may not even care that I don't feel well! Since the good cure of alcohol is out of the question, I have taken Sudafed for the congestion, an antihistamine for the runny nose and itchiness, and Tylenol for everything else. Now, I feel like a sick zombie. Maybe I'll pretend to be cleaning under my work bench, but in reality take a quick nap....