This truly has been the best Christmas I've ever had.  Cliff says it's been his best Christmas also, but I think he's just trying to make me feel better because I easily won the Worst Wife of the Year award on Christmas morning.

We started the seasonal festivities with Cliff's immediate family.  We had a delicious steak dinner, received lovely gifts (Cliff got a really nice jack for his new shop!), gave fun gifts, played board games, and danced our keisters off in competition with each other.

On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with my immediate family.  We ate a delicious brunch, decorated the tree (which I hope you saw on facebook), watched our traditional "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation", and again received wonderful gifts (Cliff got a huge toolbox and floor paint/sealer for his shop!) and had fun giving gifts, too.

That evening, we got all gussied up for Christmas Eve Mass, had snacks and drinks at my Grandma's and then ended the night with snacks and drinks at Cliff's grandparents' house.

Christmas morning was upon us, and we didn't have any obligations until 2pm!  We had agreed not to get gifts for each other, so we were going to have the entire morning and early afternoon to enjoy breakfast together, lounge around, and completely relax.  I slept in until 9:00!  When I awoke, Cliff was next to me, fully dressed, and filled with excitement.  He told me he had already done chores, and we should get up and see what was in my stocking.  WHAT?!  MY STOCKING?  I imagined my stocking bursting at the seams while Cliff's hung there empty and dilapidated.  (Our stockings are only a year old, but that's how I imagined it.)  I immediately felt awful.  The things I would have normally put in his stocking, I had just bought while he was with me in the last couple of months, under the assumption that they weren't needed for Christmas morning.  I didn't even want to leave the bedroom.  I was worried that if Cliff had surprised me with some stocking stuffers, he would surely think I had done the same.  But I hadn't!  I immediately fessed up.  I told him I hadn't gotten him a thing.  He assured me it was no big deal and finally convinced me to go to the living room.

He took down my stocking and handed it to me.  Okay, not bulging at the seams.  This might be okay.  I reached in and pulled out the hidden item.  A really nice pair of leggings.  I was thrilled.  Not only because I loved them, but also because I hadn't been completely bamboozled.  He hadn't gone over the top.  This was just fine.

Then he told me to hang on.  He knew we weren't supposed to get each other gifts, but he had a card for me and it would explain everything.  At this point, I thought it was just the leggings and a card and a very thoughtful husband.  Cliff brought in his homemade card.  I started reading it--there was something about me being selfless, something about our relationship, something about things I would never buy for was hard to read through my tears.  That's right: at this point I had started crying.  Not only because everything dripped with sweetness, but because I could see this was more than just a pair of leggings, a card, and a very thoughtful husband.

Cliff carried in six more gifts.  I opened each one and every single gift was perfect.

Then I started asking how he got all of this done without me knowing.  This is truly the only time in my life that I can remember being completely and utterly surprised.  Turns out, that day that I was upset with him for "playing fantasy football online instead of working" was when he was ordering everything.  Turns out, those boxes that I carried in from my parents' front porch were my gifts that he had shipped to them.  Turns out, that afternoon that I sent him all over the tri-county area--in freezing rain--to get a teaspoon of almond extract for the cookies I was baking, was the day he wrapped everything at my parents' house in record time.  And turns out, while he was out "doing chores" on Christmas morning (while I slept peacefully) he was really carrying everything in from the trunk of his car.

And that's when I realized not only had I hit the jackpot--and not just the scratcher ticket jackpot, but like the biggest ever Powerball jackpot--in the category of husbands, but that there was also no way I was ever going to top this.  Ever.

We went on to two more celebrations that day, and have one more this weekend.  I've been constantly trying to think of a way to at least equal what he did.  No worthwhile ideas so far, so until then I guess I'll keep my Worst Wife of the Year award on the shelf.  Right behind Cliff's Best Husband of a Lifetime award.
My little brother has been on a house hunt lately.  He should could just start paying us rent since he spends about 75% of his time at our house, but for some reason, he wants to eventually grow up and have his own place to, well, basically just sleep.  And drink.  Because in the long run, he hopes my mom or me will continue to cook, clean and do laundry for him.  Anyway, the house hunt has meant that we are all on the look-out for new real estate listings or auctions.  We've been through a few houses, but nothing seems "just right" yet.  Last week, we went through a house that was scheduled to auction today.  Jake decided it was "just right"...if the price was "just right."  He talked to the bank, planned out what he would have to do to the place if he bought it, and figured up his maximum bid.  This wasn't just any old bachelor's pad.  This was a five bedroom, three bath house with two workshops/buildings, a pond and two acres of land.  I was sure he was going to need my support at the auction.
I remember going to a few auctions as a kid, but my memories just consist of drinking hot chocolate and exploring the place with the auctioneer's kids while the adults did their thing.  So, I was pretty excited about this new adventure as an adult.  And I was even more excited to decorate my brother's new house  that my brother might be the owner of his own place at twelve noon.
I helped mentally prepare by reviewing the sale bill the night before and making a list of the items I wanted to bid on.  Then I went into a slight panic realizing that I had never actually bid on anything before.  (ebay doesn't count, people.) I was just envisioning all of those comedy skits where the guy scratching his eyebrow accidentally buys Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat for millions, or the episode of The Cosby Show where Cliff Huxtable loses his will power and gets in a bidding war with his own wife and pays way too much for a piece of artwork.  So, I made a plan with Jacob that I would tell him everything I wanted, along with my top bid, and he could bid on it for me, but then give them my buyer's number.  It was settled.  I was excited again.
Then I woke up this morning and it was 22 degrees outside.  And forecast to just get colder throughout the day.  So, I showered and dressed in layers.  I don't mean cute snow bunny layers (wait, I guess snow bunnies wear the opposite of layers, right?), so...I guess I don't mean cute layers like I could pose for the cover of the Patagonia catalog.  I mean, two pairs of socks--one of which were thick, wool, mens' hunting socks, leggings, then jeans, then a tank top, a long sleeved shirt, a short sleeved shirt, a hoodie, my husband's Wick outerwear overalls, and my big puffy Gap down coat, followed up with my Muck Chore boots, a scarf, gloves, and a stocking hat.  As I mentioned, the Wick outwear was my husband's and since they were made for a man, they were quite slim in the hips.  Everything else about them fit fine, but it was a squeeze through the hips.    So much so that I couldn't tell that I had my seatbelt on when I got to the auction and tried to get out while still strapped in.  These layers also meant that there was no way I was going to be able to pee until I got home and stripped down.  Those childhood memories of auction hot chocolate were laid to rest.
I was just about ready to run (somewhat like a gingerbread man might run) out of the house and pick up my brother when I realized I probably shouldn't bring my whole purse to this event.  But what does a woman bring to an auction?  Especially when she can't carry a purse?  That's when I found a large Velcro pocket on the front of the mens' bib overalls I was wearing.  Somewhat of a murse, I guess.  But there was no way all the contents of my purse were going to fit in there.  So, I narrowed it down to: a checkbook (a must, especially because everyone around here actually prefers a check to a debit card); some cash; my ID, and an ink pen (Cliff suggested this so I could write down bids live--this did not happen).  I forgot: CHAPSTICK.  But I survived.
I stopped by and got Jacob and we headed to the auction site.  Cliff met us there, but had to leave early for court.  Everyone was gathered around a long table full of items.  Everything was selling quick!  The first item that was held up that caught my interest was an antique Nabisco Saltine crackers tin.  I tapped Cliff and he bid.  We got it.  FOR TWO DOLLARS!  This was fun!  A few minutes later, I saw Cliff bid again, but I had been daydreaming and had no idea what he was buying.  He got it.  Then I saw it.  A huge box chock full of coasters and trivets.  I have no idea why we bid on it, but at least my white elephant gift is taken care of for this Christmas.  And the whole box was only ONE DOLLAR!  Not long after that, something the auctioneer said caught my attention again and I leaned in toward the table to see what he was selling.  I slightly bumped Cliff when I did this and he thought it was my sign for him to bid.  He threw his hand up and we ended up with two antique burlap feed sacks.  That sale was completely accidental, but they actually are really neat and they only cost us THREE DOLLARS!
Then it hit high noon and it was time for the real estate to sell.  Everyone cleared out of the way and my brother took center stage.  Then a cute young girl moved up to the front edge of the crowd.  The auctioneer started chanting and the GIRL bid!  Jake bid.  She bid.  Jake bid.  She bid.  Jake bid.  She bid.  Jake thought for a long time and bid again.  The girl thought for a long time and bid again.  Jake thought for a long time and bid again.  He was at the top of what he wanted to spend.  The auctioneer stopped chanting, said they were going to take a two minute break and come back.  My heart was already racing and I was about to pass out.  Nothing like making it more suspenseful.  The crew came back and asked the girl if she wanted to up her bid.  She went up $500.  Jake thought for what seemed like an eternity, then bid again.  The girl thought for what seemed like even longer, and then upped it another $500.  Jake thought again, and then shook his head no.   The girl got it.  I was so heartbroken for him.  But later, we learned of some major water damage, flooding and sewer problems, so I think it was all a blessing in the end.
Cliff left for court.  The auction moved inside.  I bought a chest of drawers for FIVE DOLLARS!  And I bid on it MYSELF!  We moved upstairs and I bought an antique mahogany library table in excellent condition for  THIRTY DOLLARS!  And I bid on it MYSELF!  I was loving this!  I couldn't wait to bid on the items Cliff wanted.  An hour later, Cliff texted and said if I was cold I should go home and not wait for the items he wanted.   I responded that I was staying and he would need to bring a truck when he came back.
We moved to the workshops to bid on Cliff's stuff.  I was ready.  But then, I realized the auctioning of shop goods--tools, machines, motors, and the like, was like Black Friday shopping for some women.  These men were ruthless once we were in their domain.  They pushed me out of the way, stood in front of me, and acted as though I shouldn't be there.  And most of them weren't even bidding on anything!  Sadly, I ended up missing out on the couple of things Cliff wanted.
Auctions like this are one of those great small town things.  I'm addicted.  I can't wait to start scoping out sale bills.  (Like I'll have time for that!)
And just for the record: I spent five hours in the frigid outdoors and never got cold.

This is the edge of my awesome library table, piled with my day's attire.
I love to cook.  I love to bake.  And I love to eat.  I've always kind of prided myself on my cooking and baking skills.  I love showing up at someone's house with a "just out of the oven" appetizer, or filling tins with Christmas cookies and giving them away over the holidays.  Therefore, I've always been interested in having the best of the best when it comes to kitchen utensils.  It's also why my Christmas and birthday wish lists always consist of some specialty can opener or garlic press or basting brush, among other kitchen-friendly gadgets.  (Except those tear-free onion glasses.  I just can't get on board with those.)  Unlike my mother, who is still using the wooden spoons (among several other things) that she and my dad received as a wedding gift...just shy of FORTY YEARS AGO.  A concept I could never understand.  Why not spend ten bucks on a just-released cheese grater?
When the weather turns cold, I really get in the mood to cook and bake.  So, yesterday morning I woke up, brushed my teeth, and went straight to the kitchen.  I started on a big batch of taco soup, then made a lasagna, then a breakfast casserole, and topped it all off with a big batch of peanut butter cookies.
As I was standing over the second skillet of browning hamburger, chopping it up with my bamboo spatula, I realized I had forgotten to add the Pampered Chef Mix n' Chop to my 2013 wish list.  Then, in an instance, I realized I had immediately thought to myself:  I don't need a fancy hamburger smasher--my bamboo spatula is doing just the trick. 
WHAT?!  Did I really just decide to pass on a new and improved kitchen tool?
Oh no, it's true.  I really am turning into my mother.  (Although, that's not such a bad thing, overall.)
Still, I won't reject the Mix n' Chop (or any other kitchen goodies), if anyone does gift them to me this Christmas.

Last week was horribly busy.  This week is much better.  We are looking forward to getting really caught up around the house and office.  So much so, that Cliff even made a "farm to-do list".
When it started, it had about six tasks listed.  We easily marked off half of those in the first evening.
Saturday morning, I woke up and walked into the kitchen to see the list had grown.  I secretly groaned.  Then I realized that Cliff wasn't the person that added to the list.  It was my cousin Shane who had spent the night with us after exhausting all opportunities with any girls.  Or guys.  Or animals.  Or plants.
The list really made us laugh.
But Sunday night, after my brother left our house (after exhausting all opportunities with any other friends.  Or family.  Or animals.  Or plants.), I saw the list had grown even longer.  Before I groaned, I recognized Jacob's handwriting.
The long to-do list turned out to be my favorite to-do list ever.

We closed the office for a week before our wedding, so we didn't want to close it another couple of weeks afterward for a honeymoon.  Instead, we planned a trip for this Fall and decided to take some "mini-moons" during the summer months.  One of those mini-moons included a train trip to Chicago.  Sounds great, right?

Add in four other men, only 24 hours in the city, and three hours of sleep the night before and it isn't so romantic anymore.

That's right, we took our first mini-moon with four other men.  How does one get herself in that situation?  Well, I got all wrapped up in the idea of riding the train, walking through Chi-Town, and cheering on the Cubs at Wrigley Field.  I didn't take into account the following:

Pete--Pete is one of our dearest friends.  However, he's 68 years old, lives in a garage, has been married four times, has 60 coon hounds, just throws away his clothes instead of doing laundry, once lost one lens of his eyeglasses in the urinal at the bar, and claims his family lost the Civil War for the South.  BUT...he's one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet, wouldn't harm a fly, and would bend over backward to help you in any way possible.  Plus, we have the same political views, which is a bonus.  As you can guess, Pete was extremely laid back on the trip, but had trouble walking much more than a block at a time.

George--George is Cliff's younger brother.  He's 26 years old, has traveled the world but never packed a single item, believes the IRS will call him when they want him to pay taxes, keeps a random array of items stashed four feet deep in his car, and loves wearing Hawaiian leisure shirts.  BUT...he's another one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet, can be super sweet, loves to read and listens to good music.  Plus, we have the same political views, which is a bonus.  As you can guess, George is an extremely laid back travel partner also.  What I didn't expect, is that the night before we left George picked me up and dumped me in a swimming pool with all of my clothes on and my cell phone in my pocket.  So, there was a little tension between us for the trip.

Dennis--Dennis is Pete's brother.  We hadn't spent as much time with him in the past.  But when we had, he brought watermelon, danced a lot, was funny, and seemed sweet as pie.  What we didn't know is that he is a travel dictator.  

Jerry--We had never met Jerry.  We were expecting Dennis's friend Russel (who we love) to come along, but when we arrived at the train station, Dennis had Jerry with him.  Jerry couldn't hear and was embarrassingly rude to everyone we met.

So, once we got to Chicago, Cliff and I parted ways with the rest of the group and did our own thing.  We went to Millennium Park, saw Cloud Gate, toured Shedd Aquarium, had lunch at the original Gino's, and then met up with everyone else at Wrigley Field for the game.  We cheered the Cubs on and cheered even more when they beat the Cardinals.  

Then, our plan to stay in the bars all night instead of getting a hotel fell through.  Almost all of the bars in Chicago closed at 2am.  Cliff and I thought we had a good plan to camp out at Union Station.  I'd had to sleep in airports before, so why not a train station?  Well, because Union Station closes from 1:30am - 5:30am.  So, at 1:30 in the morning, we were punted to the streets of Chicago.  

For the first thirty minutes, we sat on the front steps of Union Station and tried to sleep.  All I could think about was keeping an eye on our money, our backpack, and our bodies.  Then I would relax in knowing Cliff would take care of us.  Then I couldn't sleep, well, because we were sitting on the streets of Chicago in the middle of the night in front of Union Station!

I finally convinced Cliff to move up to a platform where we could lie down together.  I'm embarrassed to say, I actually got comfortable there and had thoughts of knowing I could survive if I had to be homeless.  Still, I was never happier when Dennis called us and said he had gotten a hotel room.  We crawled into that bed as fast as possible and luckily I was out before four grown men started snoring!

Later, on the train ride home, I told Cliff how glad I was that he was thinking of our safety while we were sleeping on the street.  Cliff's response: Money?  Backpack?  Our bodies?  Oh, I hadn't thought of any of that!  I was just wishing I had a pillow.

Two weeks (or a fortnight, as Cliff would prefer I say) ago, we made a trip to the local "farm and home" store and bought a pretty turquoise lead rope, a cute black, white, and purple blanket, and a black halter.  I don't think Cliff had ever gone to the "farm and home" store to pick out coordinating supplies before, but this time the supplies were for me, so everything had to match.  And be cute colors.

One of the things I have wanted since I moved back here last summer is a horse.  I had two when I was young, but hadn't really ridden since then (minus one attempt with my high school boyfriend which ended with both of us being bucked off in a creek full of snow and ice.)  So, Cliff has been looking for just the right horse for the past year.  

Turns out, we had one the whole time.  When Cliff was younger, he had a "blues" barn of horses:  Buddy, Coco, and Stevie named after Buddy Guy, Coco Taylor, and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  Buddy is still alive and well, but had been moved to our friend Adam's house for the past few years.  Adam decided he didn't want to feed Buddy through the winter, so it was perfect timing for him to make the move to a new home in our pasture!

Buddy is at least 20 years old and must be the most gentle horse ever.  He has such a sweet personality and soft demeanor.  I'm already in love with him.

The first night, we got him saddled up, I got up there and freaked out a little.  Buddy is all legs, so I was up much higher than I expected.  Because of his long legs, he also walks fast.  So, everything was moving much faster than I expected, too.  Cliff never let go of the lead rope that evening.  He just led us around in the pasture.

The second night, I was more comfortable.  Cliff still led us most of the time, but I did try to ride a little on my own.  However, Buddy knew I didn't know what I was doing, and although he was sweet and gentle, he didn't want to go where I wanted to go, so my independent riding didn't last long.

By the end of the week, I was riding on my own and Buddy and I are great friends.  (The sweet grain and apples I feed him after we ride probably contributed to most of that.)

Poor Cliff has gotten the short end of the stick though.  He's probably walked 15 miles with us, carried buckets of water for the first few days, and drove posts and put up fence to make a special pen for Buddy.  However, since Buddy loves to run, Cliff has gotten to ride him a bit too, since he's not afraid at all.

One of my first posts about the difference in my new rural life and my old city life introduced the concept of trivia night.  After many, many second place standings, we finally came in first last February.  I was smiling from ear to ear today when I opened an email from my Aunt Lisa announcing it is the official opening of Trivia Night Season.  For further motivation, she included a copy our fifteen minutes of fame in The Brunswicker newspaper.

I actually have a long list of blog posts just waiting to be written, but I have never felt busier than I have this summer.  However, I feel like I've completely neglected you at this point, so for fun, I'm re-posting another old submission from my previous blog.  This is one of my favorite memories, which I was reminded of earlier this week while renewing Cliff's car tags online.  A great thing about moving back to my small town: I know all of the mechanics at the inspection sites, so... well, I won't say exactly how easy it is to get an inspection, at the risk of some of them losing their licenses for the fourth or fifth time, but just trust me, it's a lot different that when I got my Jeep inspected in Kansas City which included making an actual appointment, requiring me to actually bring my vehicle to the mechanic's shop, having to test some things like the lights and horn, and thinking he had me down for the wrong type of appointment when he took my wheel off and looked at my brakes.  

I absolutely loved the first car I ever bought myself.  My black, four door, Oldsmobile Alero was my dream car.  It had everything.  So many things that you should not have on your first car because you will either have to borrow from your 401K to be able to upgrade with your next car, or you'll have to give in and take a cut in features. 

The Alero was the car I had my eye set on from day one of car shopping.  I looked and test drove and researched others, but I never strayed from my goal of getting that car.  And I wanted black with tan interior.  And I wanted a sun roof.  And I wanted a spoiler.  And I wanted the top of the line GLS model with the Sun & Sound Package, but thought I would settle for the mid-line GL version.  When I ended up being able to get the GLS with Sun & Sound, I thought I would never stop driving.

So, being so in love with my car, I took great care of it.  I cleaned, vacuumed and washed it at least once a week for the entire time I owned it.  I got the oil changed every 3,000 miles.  I did all the suggested maintenance at all the suggested times.  And, as with all my vehicles, I kept the tags current.

One year, when it came time for my tag renewal,  I went home to have the inspection completed.  Now, you know I'm from a small town, but you may not know exactly how all the small town stuff works.  Car inspections are a good example of the way things are in a town with less than 2,000 people.  Anything passes inspection.  You can tow your headlight-less, brake-less, horn-less automobile into the inspection station and they will probably pass it.  Or, you can do like my dad did for years and just call them (never even bringing your car to the actual inspection site) and they will pass it.  But, I followed the rules, and actually took my Alero into the shop for the inspection.

The inspection game was new to me, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  My brother went with me to help out.  We went into the shop and the mechanic followed us back out to the car to actually run a few tests.  I turned on my blinkers, stepped on the brakes, honked my horn, and that was the extent of it.

The three of us went back inside to complete the paperwork so Jake and I could be on our way.  As I was giving the mechanic my paperwork, he started telling us how he had actually been struck by lightning, and survived. 

Not once, but twice.

He went on to tell us how he seemed to be just fine physically, but since the second strike, he really had trouble with mixing up letters and numbers.  Now, if I had been struck by lightning twice with a side effect of mixing up numbers and letters, I would not try to talk and tell stories while I was copying down important information like names, addresses, and vehicle identification numbers.

Luckily, when I got to the DMV in Kansasy City, the lady actually believed my story about the lightning strikes and went ahead and gave me my new tags...even though my VIN on the mechanic's paperwork was mixed up and did not match the actual VIN of my car. 

And I'm probably the only person to ever say to a DMV employee, "I know you're probably not going to believe this, but the guy that did my inspection has been struck by lightning.  Twice..."
When I was in my early 20s, my favorite errand was going to the post office.  Then ten years of living in the city got to me and I despised going to the post office to stand in long lines, pay too much, and deal with extremely rude employees.  But, now that I'm back in the country, I absolutely love it again.  Everyone is so friendly, there's rarely a line (if you can even call one person in front of you a line), and I get to visit multiple small town offices (although the government is slowly closing them all down around here--maybe more on that later.)

While I was packaging up some "thinking of you" items today to send off, I remember a time when I had a curse placed on me in Kansas City.  I found my old blog post about it and had a good laugh.  Since I had an allergic reaction to a wasp sting (which got me a bulky epi pen to carry from now on) and poison ivy all over my face and arms in the same day, I've taken to forming to the couch cushions, dosing up on steroids, and slathering on calamine lotion and just don't have the energy for an entirely new post.  So, I'm re-sharing this oldie, originally posted on June 4, 2009.

My trip to the post office today was the perfect example of the weird things that happen to me in public places.

The post office was once my favorite errand to run. But since every trip now seems to hold a price increase on stamps, longer lines, and slower employees, it is much less joyful. Luckily, I am done with work at 2:30 everyday, which happens to be an ideal time for all my USPS needs. The lunch rush is gone and the after work rush has not yet begun.

On today's postal jaunt, I needed postage for two small packages, six two-cent stamps, and a book of forever stamps. When I arrived on the scene, there was one person in line. I patiently waited while she added seventeen cents of postage to her letter. As the postal worker moved at a painfully slow speed, I noticed that a man had joined the line behind me.

I'm usually a very visually observant person, but I didn't have to see this guy to know he was there. I could smell him. As I slowly and discreetly tried to inch myself farther away from him, he crept his way closer to me. I couldn't pinpoint the smell. It wasn't the smell of frying something in grease, or sweaty body odor, or living with dirty pets. It was something I had never smelled before, but from looking at the man, I could only guess that it was just a general smell of filth.

Ordinarily, this would be a person that I would feel really sorry for and go out of my way to show some kindness to. I might make small talk and give him a big smile or an honest compliment. But this guy's stench sent any grain of altruism in my body right down the drain.

As the woman in front of me was fishing the last pennies out of her purse, The Stink tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Ma'am, do you have a lot to mail?" I answered, "Just these two packages." He retorted, "Oh...cause I just have this one would be nice if I could go ahead of you and get out of here..."

Right. You have one package and I only have two packages. So, if you're looking at the glass half empty, I have twice as much stuff to mail as you. But if you're looking at the glass half full, I only have one more package to mail than you. So sorry buddy, but you're gonna have to keep staring at my backside. I'd like to get out of here, too. In other words, I just kind of ignored his comment and didn't offer him the advanced spot in line.

As I approached the counter and paid for my postage, I could hear The Stink mumbling. I figured he was just grumbling about how "inconsiderate" I was, but as I turned to leave he yelled, "Stop!"

I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to face him, sure that he had gone postal (pun intended) and was pointing a firearm at me. He did have a weapon, but not a physical item. Instead, he had a weapon of words. He started mumbling again and then ended by clearly stating that he had put a curse on me!

I looked at the Postmaster who appeared more frightened than me. It was obvious that that wimp wasn't going to do anything about it, so I made an about face, hastily went out the door and jumped in my Jeep.

I actually forgot about the curse until I got home and noticed a pain in my right leg. Jumping to conclusions, I was sure that the curse was starting to work on me. This guy wouldn't just kill me off quickly by having a piano fall on me from a 20 story building or making my heart abruptly stop beating. He was going to make me suffer a dilatory and agonizing death.

Unless I've done something to "reverse the curse", I'll probably wake up tomorrow morning as a limp blob of body fat, unable to do anything but roll off the side of the bed, lie uncomfortably on the hardwood floor and replay the scenario over and over in my mind, wishing I had just let the man mail his package before me, while my insides slowly seep out through my pores.
I have a confession.

For those of you that are my age, you'll understand this comparison: I'm somewhat like Chandler on Friends in the episode, "The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs."  And that episode title kind of sums it up.

It's not exactly that I don't like dogs.  It's just that I don't like them in the house.  I don't like them touching or licking me.  I don't like them barking.  I don't like them slobbering or shedding.  I don't like them following me or nipping at my heels.  So basically, I love them if they're just sitting quietly, looking cute, and keeping to themselves.  And cats--well, I flat out just don't like them.  But you are truly are so shunned if you admit this--therefore, I realize that I will lose most of my readership here and probably log into facebook and instagram tomorrow to see zero friends and followers.

I learned in my teen years that my cousin Kelly was allergic to cats.  For the past eighteen years I've wished over and over that I would develop a small animal allergy, too, just so I would have a valid explanation for not oohing and aahing over everyone's house pets.  (Of course I don't really wish I had allergies, and by no means do I intend to belittle or joke about the suffering of those that do have real allergies.)

So, when Cliff came with lots of dogs, I was a little worried.  But, they all have their super beefed up dog resort outside, he does all the feeding, watering, and other caring, they never come in the house (minus that time my brother-in-law brought them in, let them sleep in the guest bed, and they they peed all over it) so it works out fine for me.  I just get to see their cute faces anytime I go outside, and I can't complain about that.

So, Cliff hunts his dogs quite a bit.  Sometimes, he'll even enter competition hunts; a few of which he has actually won.  And sometimes, these competition hunts will feature a swim race beforehand.

Cliff's current favorite hunting dog is named Smoke.  Cliff loves Smoke so much that it has become an inside joke for us.  For example, we'll have a conversation like this:
      Cliff: C'mon, I want to take my best girl for ice cream.
      Me:  Yes!  That sounds great.
      Cliff: Okay, can you get her leash?
And when we were getting ready for our wedding, we had constant jokes about him marrying Smoke instead of me.
So, when Cliff wanted to enter her into a competitive swim race a few weeks ago, I encouraged him to do so.  However, I didn't realize at the time just how serious he was about her winning.  (She won a swim race in Illinois this past winter and once he got a little taste of blue ribbon life, he was hooked.)

Two weeks before the race, Smoke started to get special food.  All protein.  Then a week and a half before the race, Cliff started working her out every night.  The first night Cliff and I walked her two miles.  After I went in, he secretly tried to run sprints with her, which I witnessed from the kitchen window.  After that, he roped my brother and his brother into helping out.  We ran her at a jogging pace about four miles that night.  We were exhausted, but Smoke wanted more.  Eventually, we had her up to six miles and she was running at a good clip.  I think she could have competed in the Iditarod and still wanted more.  The night before the race, he let her rest and prepare.

So, the big night rolled around.  We got the training team plus my mom loaded up to go and cheer.  It's a pretty neat event.

There's a large pond.
The dogs are released from that black box on the back side of the pond and swim toward the pole in the front right of the photo.  The first one to cross the water finish line gets points and the first one to get to the pole gets points.

The time came, Smoke left the start line and took off.

And within seconds, it was all over.  Smoke's on the left in the picture above.  She came in second (you can't really see the first place dog, but he's behind the weeds at the edge of the pond in the middle of the picture).  

It was a lot of work for little reward, but once the race was over, Smoke got to play in the water and swim to her little heart's content.  So, little reward for us was big reward for her.

And this is a relationship with dogs that I never thought I'd have.

Awhile back I posted about the necessity of making your own entertainment living here in rural Missouri.  Our bowling adventures are more of a winter sport.  In the summer, we like water sports.  And they also become an adventure.
Two years ago, I was home for several days in the summer and my brother and his friends asked me to go floating.  I. Love. Float Trips.  Apparently those are somewhat of a country thing, too.  Since I heart canoeing down the river so much, I happily obliged.
We loaded up in the truck and there was no canoe.  We had tractor tire inner tubes.  I hadn't used a tractor tire inner tube since my childhood days at the lake (which were really old coal strip pits) and one Grotewiel float trip that landed me 8 miles down river and caused me to vow never to camp in a tent again.
So, I agreed to give it a try anyway.  We floated a small river near our house.  It was a blast.  Tons of wildlife, lots of fun twists and turns.  Sun, water, drinks, music, laughter.  It was a great time.  We ended up tube floating at least twice a week the whole summer.  Each time we floated we got a little more adventurous.  After an extremely competitive game of race-up-the-steep-mudslide-to-grab-the-beer-can-first, I came back to Kansas City with legs that were shredded from all the slips and tumbles down the mud chute.  It was rough, but it was such a blast.
Last summer was very similar.
This summer, Cliff and I decided to upgrade.  We went and bought a brand new canoe!
(I had to imbed that from instagram because my brand new phone was ruined just before we went to Chicago...more on that later.)

So, the first three days we owned it, we were out on different lakes every day.  We would paddle around, soak up the sun, fish, and then when I got tired of fishing, Cliff would continue to fish and I would lay back, relax, and read a book.  It was so perfect. 

By that weekend, we had planned our first float trip.  Until this point, we had floated the East Fork and Chariton Rivers around here, but Cliff had aspirations to float the Grand River.  Since it was on his bucket list, and he knows much more about anything outdoorsy than I do, and I love floating, I just agreed and packed my dry bag and the cooler the day of the float without any questions.  We stopped to pick up my brother on the way, and just out of curiosity, pulled out a Missouri map.  Here's what we saw:
So, we planned to put in at point A (Bosworth) and float to point B (Brunswick).  Both spots had boat ramps, so it looked like a piece of cake.  We were so amped up and energized that we all agreed that if we got to Brunswick too quickly, we would go on and float to the Missouri (the big river in the bottom right corner of the map) and take out further down in a small town called Glasgow.  
Cliff set a minnow trap at the Bosworth Access, we all jumped in the canoe and shoved off.  The sun was shining, the water was beautiful, we were seeing tons of wildlife, I was smiling.

Then, it started to feel like we had floated at least ten miles with no end in sight.

Then, I felt a drop of rain, the sun went behind a big cloud and the wind started blowing.

At this point, Jacob and Cliff had almost emptied the cooler, Jacob was passed out with his head in the bottom of the canoe and his feet in the air, and I was getting a little nervous.

The sky opened up and it poured rain, the temperature dropped, the wind came in huge gusts, and I was no longer smiling.  I was scared to death.  We'd never floated this river,  Jacob nor Cliff can swim very well and I wasn't sure I could save both of them, and I kept having visions of our shiny, new canoe sinking to the bottom of the channel.

Then I started crying and put on my life vest.

In about ten minutes the storm was over, but I was pretty much done with the trip.  Little did I know, we had about four more hours of floating until we reached our destination.

Before we finally made it to Brunswick, Jacob had come to, eaten an entire bag of pretzels alone, tipped the canoe and taken on water doing a "beer stunt", not to mention we thought we had been sucked back in time to the 1920s (long story), and had a long discussion about whether or not we were even on the correct river.

After eight hours of solid floating, we finally saw the boat ramp.    I don't know how far we actually floated, but we're guessing it was at least fifteen miles.  Then Jacob and Cliff ridiculed me for days about saving myself by putting on a life vest and having no concern for them.  I wasn't sure I ever wanted to see Jacob or Cliff or a canoe or water again.

So, what do I do?  Two weeks later I plan a Grotewiel Cousins Float Trip for three days and fifteen people in South Missouri.  I'll never learn.
So, we had another one of those big Grotewiel weddings this past weekend.  I overshot the runway a little with the cousins pre-party around the pool.  The next morning, as the family slowly gathered in the hotel lobby, I realized I hadn't taken a single picture.  That's partly the fault of my getting down like a flat tire and partly the fault of the few days prior to the wedding.

Cliff and I left at 3am Thursday morning to take the train to Chicago, ended up with only 6 hours of sleep total from Wednesday through Friday, and then had to "bring it" for the Grotewiel reception.  More to come on our Chicago trip in a later post.

But for now, and this is where ANYONE THAT IS NOT AN ADULT WOMAN SHOULD STOP READING, I am posting a couple of pictures from my uterine fibroid surgery back in March.  Posting these has been in the back of mind for two reasons. One, until last week, my surgery was the last time I had set an alarm for 3am and, two, we went for my follow-up appointment several days ago.  Everything looked great.  No new fibroids.  And...yes, we got the go ahead for babies.

So, just like the post describing the events leading up to the surgery--men, those with a weak stomach, fragile children, anyone that doesn't like the words vagina or uterus or scalpel or blood should stop reading now.

They photos didn't bother me until I looked at them just now.  Realizing that that is actually my body cut open kind of freaked me out and made me lightheaded.  So, these may truly be too much for everyone.  I may lose all of my blog following.  And I maybe shouldn't be posting these at all.  But I'm going to anyway, just because I know a few people really did want to see them.

Final warning...

And here it is.

The fibroid that was filling my uterus:

Isn't that absolutely disgusting?

And my uterus after it was stitched back up layer by layer:

I plan to do a wedding post but am waiting on some more photos to include with it.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime...

Cliff and I hadn't been on our library date for a few weeks, so we made time for it last night.  When we got ready to check out, I couldn't help but laugh again.

My books:

His books:

As I was going through my to-read list and typing them into the library catalog search bar, another patron commented on how fast my fingers were moving.  This actually happens to me a lot, although I've never really taken notice of being a fast typist, until...

When I first moved here last summer and started helping Cliff with the law office, we were in the same room typing on our individual laptops quite often.  Apparently Cliff believed that he was a fast typist because he kept offering to type things for me.  I enjoy typing and would always decline his offers.  Finally, I asked why he kept offering.  He told me that he just thought that he could type faster than me.  I just laughed.  He continued to comment on typing faster than me throughout the summer.  Finally, when I realized he was actually serious, not just teasing me, I challenged him to a typing test.

We pulled up because what typing test can be more valid than when it's right there in the URL?  I went first.  When I finished with results that I had expected, I showed them to Cliff.

He was shocked.  He hadn't realized the challenge he had accepted.  He started out, but fumbled around and finally gave up before the test was over on the premise that he had made too many errors.

Since then, I haven't heard a peep from him when it comes to typing.

Just for fun, I asked him to complete the typing test again last night.  Being the good sport that he is, he attempted it again.  Turns out, he is an above-average typist, so there was some legitimacy behind his beliefs.

I'll tell you what he can beat me at though--blogging!  His wedding post has had more views than any of my other previous posts!  Maybe I should seriously consider just turning this whole operation over to him.
I don't want to take away from Cliff's sweet offer to guest blog about the wedding, so with little introduction, here it is:

Tying the knot.  Observations from a guest blogger. 

Hello all.  As you may have already heard, Jennifer and I became husband and wife on June 1st.  In no particular order (either importance, chronological, or otherwise) are some observations of the evening:
·         First of all, man did Jennifer mess up!  I can’t believe she actually married me.  After she agreed initially to the idea, I kept trying to move the date up.   I was sweating up until the completion of the vows.  Even during the ceremony when Reverend Howell paused (I’m sure longer than usual but shorter than his conscience should have dictated) during the ceremony for any objections, I thought “surely she is going to come to her senses.”       But she never did, and I am so thankful she didn’t!  It can’t be easy living with a child (or his coonhounds).    She is honestly the most caring, sincere person that I know.     As long as I can keep her away from Louis Mendoza, I am going to stay the happiest guy around!
·         Cowboy Bart and His Imaginary Band performed an evening of music, which was enjoyed by all. Bart really dressed for the occasion in his overalls and necktie.
·         We were all glad to see Uncle Steve-O attend the wedding.  I never did get a picture with him, however he did leave a bombshell in our powder room. 
·         All in attendance witnessed my law school friend Craig Emig attempt to back-up his father’s camper.  Anytime one is having difficulty backing a trailer it seems there are several experts around.  Advice is given, irrelevant if advice was solicited.    After several failed attempts, Jennifer called our Famed Huntsville Fire Department Chief, who got everything squared away (those dents may buff out, Craig).
·         Many guests were not in attendance, although they had been invited.  I guess Jennifer should have listened to me about sending wedding stationary certified.  One guest had a pass though, as Bobby Hayward was jailed earlier that evening due to a skirmish outside McTag’s Bar & Grill.
·         My dear Great Aunt Lu and Jenn’s dear Aunt Vicki had a stern disagreement.  Emotions ran high and the tension built in the kitchen leading up to the Wedding Dinner.  Luckily, pugilistic advances were avoided and a great meal was served.
·         During the ceremony, going to very few weddings, and following no rehearsal, I promptly grabbed Jenn’s hand during the walking-up-part of the ceremony.  This may have embarrassed the bride.  Almost as much as the ring bearers (my brother George and her brother Jacob) standing on the incorrect side of their respective station.
·         Our good friend Reverend Earl Howell performed the ceremony.   He did an awesome job, although he didn’t get much cooperation from the crowd.  For example, Jim Grotewiel was not sure Jennifer was his to give away. …
·         Another good friend and fellow local attorney Robert Wheeler was in attendance of the wedding dinner and party, and he communicated that he saw a rainbow on his way to the event.  He explained that this was a very auspicious sign.  It also rained briefly, but only for about five minutes during the ceremony.  So I guess the good omen/bad omen score was even.   Doug Jaeqcues said the over/under on the marriage was 5, but I’m not a stat guy.
·         All who know good horseshoe gamesmanship witnessed Papa Warner Gordon beat all at the historical Johnson Horseshoe Pit, est. 1973.  Needless to say, he came through on several guarantees.
·         Neighbor Lucas Galland stopped by and drank lots of wedding beer with the groom and ring-bearers, but he came the night before.  He did not make it to the wedding.
·         The Kenny Chesney award (lamest of the party—this award excludes Shane Grotewiel as he is the Kenny Chesney Award Winner Emeritus), was very close at this event, with two of the bride’s immediate family leading the race.  Jacob was by far the first to pass out for the evening; however he gets a pass (however slight) for getting intoxicated that morning and having a hangover during the wedding.   The bride’s sister, Ashley actually won this one going away.  She had an “illness” and left early but was later found at the local tavern.  She is still on the prayer list at church. 
·         Emily Thornburg had a romantic ride home in a full size van.   It was rumored she had to throw in for gas, as his tank was on empty.  Clint just had enough money for a couple quarts of transmission fluid. 
·         Pete Berry had a nice campout at the Vacation Lodge (George’s giant tent).  He had a nice tumble later, but he never did go on the disabled list.
·         The party lasted until 6:00 a.m.   Unfortunately, Jennifer and I could not stay out that late.  We were constantly harassed about “consummating” our marriage until I gave in.  According to our guests, we must have been wed under some archaic feudal dark-age law in which consummation is of utmost importance.  I don’t know much Latin, and the chanting got old, so I just agreed.   I woke up with glow necklaces around my neck. 
·         Jennifer had a lovely wedding dress.  I didn’t even know Goodwill had such a large selection (I kid, I kid).  But I asked her if she wanted to change out of it on at least one occasion.  She refused and by the end of the night it was extremely muddy.   Unless Doug is right, she won’t need it again anyway.
·         We were forced to have a dollar dance.  I had one person buy a dance with me.  Jaime Emig (she was from out of town and had never witnessed my wrath on the dance floor).  By the way, isn’t it rude to ask for a refund?
·         Our local sawmill gang showed up.  Ferg and Gump both graced us with their presence.  Both had passed out at various times in the night.  
·         We even had some uninvited guests in the form of deputy sheriffs.  I never got to thank them for securing our gravel road.
·         Gillis and Marilyn Leonard (Gillis being another local attorney and dear friend) made it out to our party.  We enjoyed and appreciated all of our guests.   I would say more, however Jennifer posted on his column in a previous blog.
·         Chris Shoemaker, if you are reading this, I would like to inform you that you left your Boone Hospital whiskey drinking jug.  
·         My first cousin (once removed) Luke Thornburg, ate approximately twenty pumpkin pies. These were very cute small personalized baked items, but his gluttonous actions were admired by all that he met.  

·         This isn’t a news blog, but Chris Weimer has changed his first name to Catfish.  I don’t know if he is planning on becoming a baseball player, an extra on one of those movies that would cast him, tax evasion, or if he just needed a new beginning, but I commend bold actions.  Please tell his roommates.  
I know, I know.  I keep promising to blog more, and then it just doesn't happen.  Up there somewhere in my empty head space, I do keep thinking I am going to get more frequent with the posts.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
My crazed fans have been asking for a blog about this...
Cliff and I had some excitement on June 1st!  About a month earlier, we sent out these little gems:

And then June 1st rolled around and we jumped the broom under a handmade, rustic arch in our backyard with our immediate families there.  Then we had a beautiful and delicious dinner under our giant old tree in the backyard, then many more friends and family arrived and we danced the night away under the stars.  

More details to come, but for now, we'll share this:  Our good friend and well-known local attorney writes a weekly newspaper column and included us last week.  

My dad is one of nine children, which means I have twenty-four cousins (including spouses and significant others), nine second cousins (I actually think it's first cousins, once-removed, but I'm not going to look it up right now) three foreign exchange students that seemed like cousins when they were here, and probably some other stray relations here or there.  So, when there's an event on that side of the family, it's big and it's fun.
About a month ago, we had one of those events.  (I started this post just after, and am just now getting around to finishing it...)  My aunt Lisa, the youngest of my dad's siblings got married!  And if there's one big event that my family does well, it's wedding receptions.
I don't think the live band had ever seen a group the likes of us.  We danced from the first beat of the first song until the last beat of the last song.  And when I say "we" I mean everyone from my 84 year old grandmother down to my 2 year old cousin.  All that dancing goes will with a lot of drinking, too...from my 84 year old grandmother down to...well, no need to have DFS called right now.  Some of my favorite memories are from our family wedding receptions, and they always end with our clapping circle or lane for each individual to show off their moves one last time before the music ends.
We are extremely busy around our house, but I hope to be back to posting more soon.  Until then, here's a bit of evidence of a great time.

 Or, maybe DFS will be called after all...

I know, I know.  I've been MIA again.  We took off for a few days to a cabin in the lake, which meant playing catch up when we got back, then Cliff had to have a tooth pulled, meanwhile we're tearing down our old garage and building a new one, while we're also in the middle of a complete yard makeover, plus I'm a bridesmaid in my aunt's wedding this weekend which means I'm nose-to-the-grindstone editing a rehearsal dinner video of the couple this week among many other things, and on top of it all, we're trying to plan a big backyard party for June!  We are past 10 on the insane-o-meter.  And I'm about to lose my mind.

Although I have some office work I should be doing today, sweet Cliff insisted I stay home to continue video edits and then go for some hair help at the salon later.  (It didn't sound insulting when he insisted it, I swear.)  So, I'm glued to the computer blogging and facebooking in movie-making today, but wanted to let you know I am still here.

So, to keep you entertained, here's a very short and fun blog for the day:

Here's an obvious difference between men and women (besides the fact that I have no desire to put 96% of the things I come in contact with up to my private parts.)

Cliff found this on the laundry room floor:

And he asked, "What's this little collar for?"

I had a good laugh when I showed him that it belonged to this:

So, one of the things I forgot about growing up in a small town is that you spend a lot of time making up your own entertainment, like floating a local river with inflated tractor tire tubes and a cooler in the summer, or sledding on an old car hood pulled behind a truck in the winter.

A couple of weekends ago, Jacob, Cliff and I decided to go bowling on a Friday night.  Bowling wasn't enough entertainment, we had to liven it up some more.

After we agreed to bowl at our own risk...

We created a new challenge.  You had to walk like a chicken when you bowled.  I don't know why, but it's the funniest thing I'd ever seen in a bowling alley.

Here's Jacob:

And here's Cliff:

Luckily, when Cliff thought he was recording me, he actually wasn't, so I didn't get caught on film, which is really good since I completely lost my balance at the end, fell backwards, and did a sad version of a crab walk for a minute before getting up.  All in all, it may have been even more entertaining for the groups on the other lanes than it was for us.

And then this week they announced the bowling alley would be closing...  Which makes two bowling alleys that I've possibly had a part in closing down, but that's a story for another time.  


I think my favorite part of moving back to my small hometown is all the time we get to spend with my baby brother.
For example, last night at 9:30pm he said, "I need to go home.  I just stopped by to say 'hi.'"  He had shown up at noon.  And he still didn't end up leaving until midnight.  And this happens two to three times per week.  Our house turns into something that resembles more of a college dorm--I make a big pot of chili, cut up some summer sausage and cheese, basketball is on, we watch a movie later, they play a racing game on the Wii, we turn up the music, and before you know it my stomach hurts from laughing, there are dirty dishes everywhere, and the house looks like it's been ransacked.  And I love it.
Every Saturday morning we have a standing date to go to brunch and then run errands together.
Jacob is seven years younger than me...exactly...we were born on the same day.  I was not happy about it at the time, but now I love that we share the day.
I remember waking up on my seventh birthday and my mom was in labor.  My dad was timing contractions while trying to get me ready for school.  I was overly confused as to why dad was letting me "wear anything" I wanted, why mom was still in bed, and why dad was yelling out minutes between contractions.  Mom and I had worked hard the night before on my cookie monster cupcakes for my school party.  Afternoon came around and my cupcakes still hadn't shown up.  Finally, my dad arrived at the classroom door and pulled me out of class. He told me that I had a new baby brother.  I wanted to know where the cupcakes were.  He went on to tell me that he came out with his ear "bent over like a puppy dog."  I still wanted to know where the cupcakes were.  When I went back into class I didn't dare tell anyone about my new brother.  I thought he had a real beagle's big, floppy ear and I was so embarrassed.  Eventually, my dad came back with the cupcakes and I was satisfied.
I posted before from my high school daybook, and here's another entry, written by Jacob when he was about ten.
Jennifer + Jacob = mischief
Jacob, Jennifer. Twins, exactly 7 years apart.
It's always been fun to have my sister to share my birthday.
What We Have In Common
First of all are [sic] birthday that we will always have in common.  Second we both love Trevor and our family very much.  We both love fish even though mine are dead.  Presently she has a goldfish that my cousin feed [sic] and dumped the whole jar in, but he's still livin'.
I had two zebras and a small black shark.  But the zebra died and the other one died because he missed the other one.  The black shark got sucked up to the filter for a while.  Boy we didn't know if we had a dirty tank or what.  Her goldfish is still alive and "justa livin' well."
We both love music.  Boy that Alan Jackson is great.  He is the most talented musition [sic] ever.  Except me and Jenn.  But if him and George Strait, Lee Ann Ryans [sic] and Chumbawamba get together (in the 25 centery! [sic]) we will die.  (Those are our faverit [sic] artist.)  What about school.  Neither of us care if we have it.  If we do we make...
...a big deal out of it, but we don't care.  Look on the bright side, you get more days in the summer and you still have to go to equal those days.  The most important thing is we both love each other.  And we'll always always have that in common.  I hope.
Jacob Grotewiel

And that just sums it all up.

Sorry I've been MIA for the last few weeks.  Here's part of the reason why...

Turns out, packing for vacation can be really exciting while packing for a hospital stay...not so much.  I mean, maybe if you're going to give birth and you get to pack several teeny-tiny, sweet little outfits, that might be fun, but otherwise, still not so much.

So, now comes the reason that I was packing for a hospital stay.  If you're a guy--you may want to STOP READING HERE.  If the words "period" or "uterus" or anything remotely female bother you, don't go on.  Just catch the next post which will be much less medical.  Seriously, you'll be sorry if you keep reading.

So women (seriously guys, stop reading), here's the background--four years ago I complained to my OB/GYN that my periods were changing--heavier and more cramping.  I had an ultrasound, she saw a fibroid in my uterus, I had a sonogram (you might remember an old post about the pain associated with that...) and the fibroid was about the size of an egg.  Her solution was to put me on Seasonique birth control so that I only had four periods a year.  That would have been great, except instead of four periods a year, I was having like a month long period.  But it wasn't constant.  So, I may be in front of a class at school and just lose a huge blood clot.  Or I may be working out at the gym and start bleeding.  Or I may be walking two miles across the city of Chicago in 100 degree weather, all the while losing blood.  (All real situations.)  Tampons were a problem because of the pain and heaviness of the bleeding.  Wearing a pad 24/7 was no fun at all.  Twice I even ended up in the emergency room.  Eventually, I became anemic.  Still, my doctor wouldn't do anything.  I was begging her to take me off the Seasonique.  She insisted that wasn't the problem.  She kept telling me to hurry up and get pregnant so I could have a hysterectomy.  Obviously, she had no idea the chaos my life was in at that time!  And even when I told her, she still wanted me to get pregnant.  I was almost at the point of taking a medication to cause menopause and just have everything yanked out.  Adoption would be fine in the future.  But I came to my senses and just stopped the Seasonique myself.  And the intermittent bleeding actually stopped.  I didn't use birth control for over a year and things were mostly normal.  I  had a period every month.  It was heavy and I lost large clots and I had awful, horrible cramps, but at least I was no longer bleeding an average of four days a week.  I mean, I still wasn't confident enough to wear anything white on my lower half, but at least I didn't feel like I was wearing a diaper all the time.  I also switched doctors and the new OB/GYN prescribed a different birth control to take three months straight so I would be back to having a period only four times per year.  That worked fine.  Still four heavy, painful periods though.  I moved away from Kansas City and went back to my old doctor.  She did another ultrasound and was shocked.  The fibroid had grown to the size of a grapefruit!  She sent me immediately to a Reproductive Endocrinologist.  He did an ultrasound and about fell over.  We discussed options and decided it needed to be removed.  Not only was it filling my entire uterus, pushing on my bladder and bowels, causing the period troubles, and recently starting to cause pain in between periods, there was no way I was going to get pregnant if I tried.  Since I'm in a better place in my life now, and pregnancy is in sight for the future, it seemed like surgery was the best choice, albeit a scary one.

We completed pre-op appointments and pre-op instructions, and scheduled the surgery for March 13.  We had to be at the hospital at 5:30am, which meant we got up at 3:30 that morning to make the hour long drive there.  I got checked in, got into a gown (ugh!), put on those sexy compression stockings, had a nausea patch stuck behind my ear, talked with the surgeon, and they started the IV.   I kind of remember kissing Cliff goodbye, and I was out.  Next thing I knew, I heard someone screaming, "Randall, get back in your bed!"  I opened my eyes a little and I was in the ICU.  I was in and out of consciousness, opening my eyes a few times there whenever I heard the nurses trying to get "Randall" back in his bed.  I prayed that either Randall or I would get out of there soon so the yelling would stop.  Luckily, it was me that got to go first.  The next thing I remember is them making me move myself onto my private room bed.  I. Was. Sore.  Little by little, I made it into the new bed.  Cliff told me the surgeon was extremely happy with the results.  He had removed the fibroid easily, the stitches were beautiful, and everything went great.  He showed Cliff a picture of the fibroid and my stitched up uterus, which I will post later, if anyone might be interested. He also told Cliff that the fibroid was starting to die, which is why I was having new pain in between periods.  I remember Cliff's dad showing up and bringing beautiful flowers and the cutest, sweetest card.  Later, my parents arrived with more flowers.  Then Cliff's aunt, uncle and brother showed up with even more flowers.  I was out of it most of the day, pushing my morphine button and being fed ice chips.  I was extremely nauseous and slept most of the time.  My throat was sore from the tubes, which had pretty much taken away my voice.  Cliff says I would try to talk, but would fall asleep mid-sentence.  I had a catheter, and that evening they made me sit up and dangle my legs off the bed.  It sucked.  Bad.  At 9:30pm, my surgeon showed back up to check in with us.  He pulled a chair up to the bed and went over the results with us again.  He showed us the pictures again.  He was very satisfied.  I slept at most ten minutes at a time through the night, and poor, sweet Cliff, trying to get some shut-eye on the couch next to me, was awakened every ten minutes or so as well, when someone would come in to check something.  I heard him toss and turn all night.

Thursday I was still pretty out of it.  They came in early and removed the catheter, which I had been really nervous about but ended up being a breeze.  However, that meant I had to start getting up.  Oh, it hurt.  It hurt bad.  Every time I got up to use the bathroom, I would force myself to walk the halls though.  Everyone seemed extra concerned about blood clots in the legs--I was still wearing the compression hose, had those air compression things Velcro-ed around my legs, and was getting daily shots in the stomach.  Cliff's stepmom came to visit that day and I barely remember 30 seconds of talking to her before I was out.  Getting up not only hurt, but was a complete hassle.  Cliff would have to unhook the air compression leg things, wheel my IV around the bed, put socks on my feet, help me stand up, and then the whole bathroom process would just take a lot of time.  My mom came back that evening and helped me take a shower.  (No matter how old I get, I seem to still feel best if I have my mom around when I don't feel well.)  Bless her for washing my whole body for me and being so patient.  Just to add to the difficulties, as the doctor had wanted, I had started a period and was dealing with that, too.   Although we thought we would go home this day, I hadn't met the requirement to be released--I had to pass gas.  That's right, before I could leave, they needed me to pass gas so they knew my bowels were back in order.  I hadn't done that yet, so knowing we would be spending the night again, Cliff jumped in the shower.  Everything hurt so bad when my  mom and I were doubled over in laughter after my nurse walked in on a completely naked Cliff in the bathroom.  Again, little sleep that night, not to mention I got a fever, which meant even more interruptions through the night.

Friday, I was a little better.  I stopped pushing the morphine button, mainly just on principle.  Nurses were commenting on Cliff and me setting records for walking laps around the 5th floor tower.  I finally turned on the tv and could carry on a conversation.  But, I still couldn't pass gas.  Eventually, I came to tears.  Cliff was consoling, but I couldn't stop crying.  My mom was consoling, but still I cried.  And then, about 10:30pm, it finally happened.  We immediately told the nurse in the hopes that we could still go home that night, but she said I had to be passing gas regularly, eating solid foods (at that point I had only had ice chips, a couple spoons of chicken broth, and some jello) and tolerating oral pain meds.  So, we tried to sleep, which was nearly impossible.

Saturday morning, we begged and begged to leave.  My goal had been to "go home" and Cliff had found a marker and added "by 2:00pm CST on 3/16/13."  I made a case with the nurse that I hadn't used the morphine in two days and promised to eat two pieces of toast, even though I didn't want to.  The doctor showed up about 12:30 and understood how happy we were when he said the fibroid was benign and I was discharged.  As my tech wheeled me out, she said, "You have a very good husband.  He stayed with you the whole time."  Although I told her that I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world, I think Cliff would have paid for her to come home with us and keep saying that.  At 2:08pm, we were pulling out of the parking lot and headed home.  My parents and brother (who had been house and animal sitting) where waiting when we arrived.  My mom fed us, we both got a shower, and then settled on the couch.  I was so sore from laying on my back for four days, but it still hurt to turn on my side.  By leaning on the back of the couch, I was able to turn a little and get some relief.  Cliff still didn't falter on his duties, and although I insisted he get some good rest in bed, he stayed on the couch all night. 

Sunday, I was emotional.  Cliff went to get my pain meds filled, but I never used them.  I was crying because I was so grateful to him for being so supportive and just non-stop "there" through everything.  I was crying because we left the hospital with a big box full of flowers and cards and memories of visitors.  I was crying because visitors were still coming by the house.  I was crying because more plants and flowers were arriving.  I was crying because we had an endless supply of homemade meals delivered by people we love dearly.  And then I was crying because we missed our weekend.  I was crying because Cliff had spent the last five days glued to my side and I had been too out of it to even entertain him a tiny bit.  I was crying because my birthday was the next day and I wasn't going to be able to celebrate.  I was crying because I was still in pain.  I was crying because I was still slow moving and it still hurt to cough and laugh.  And I was crying because I knew I was going to have to go through this again with any babies we might have because I would have to have C-sections.  I was pretty much permanently attached to Cliff's shoulder for most of the day, until my parents and brother and Cliff's parents and youngest brother showed up.  With food.  And cake.  And lots of laughter.  It was such a good time.  A little party came right to our house and it was perfect.  I opened gifts and cards and didn't care that my incision hurt from laughing.  I also was able to support myself on my side that night and so we were able to sleep in bed, which was much, much better.

Each day this week things seem to improve.  We've finally gotten two full nights of sleep.  Each day I have less pain.  I finally feel mostly normal.  I'm still wearing a binder (like a girdle) to support my stomach muscles, which I still can't really move.  I have bruises from the stomach shots.  I still have some numbness.  And for some reason my stomach and back have broken out into a rash.  (Maybe from the night my mom showered me and I thought the binder went around my chest.  I kept telling her to make it tighter.  Then the doctor came in on Saturday and said it should be down around my thighs and lower abdomen, covering the incision.)  Today I actually went to school and led my group, although I still can't drive.  But, you guessed it, dear Cliff chauffeured me there and back without complaint.  It did wear me...okay, both of us...out and by the time we got home, we napped for four hours.  We got adventurous and went to my parents' house for dinner tonight.  And I finally got a chance to catch up on facebook, email, and now blogging.

Friday we go back for a follow-up, so I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, anyone that's had a C-section and has any advice on recovery or calming words so I'm not freaking out about that over the next year or so, speak up!