Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Benefits Orientation & Enrollment

Remember the funny stories from last year? Well, it is that time again. Time for Benefits Enrollment. But, this year, there are some drastic changes going on in our medical plans, so yesterday we had visitors from the national Benefits department who were with us all day....and I mean all day! I woke up at 3 a.m. to make it into the office before 4 a.m. to set up food for the Benefits Orientation sessions, print out some presentations, arrange the conference room, and complete various other tasks before the first meeting started (for 3rd shift) at 5 a.m. It wouldn't have been so bad except that I had to be in very early the previous day to prepare for other out-of-town guests. Already, by Wednesday afternoon, I have worked almost 40 hours this week. Thankfully, that allows a very light schedule for tomorrow, and I am taking a vacation day for Friday. YIPPPEEE! But, enrollment begins soon, so I'll be working altered hours again next week. I think my head might be spinning and I'll need various machines and people to keep me straight on what day and time it is, but I know it is worth it. Healthcare is important - especially to the many employees we have who have seriously ill children and long-term conditions. So, I want to do everything I can to help them make educated decisions for 2008. If some funny stories come up through these processes like they did last year, I'll be sure to post them... but change any identifying information to protect the innocent.

To those of you who are going through Benefits Enrollment in the upcoming weeks, my thoughts are with you. It is a very important process, but it can be a very nerve-racking process.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Big 6 - 0 Party

Saturday afternoon, we held an open house in Canton to celebrate Dad's birthday, and I think everyone had a great time. Most of the decorations were black and white which surrounded the theme of music. We had one table where everyone could sign small notes for Dad that will be placed in a scrapbook, and Mom did a great job of greeting everyone. Another table featured black and white photos of Dad through the ages - along with little known trivia facts about his life. Aaron worked on a "soundtrack" for the party that included great jazz music from Dad's repertoire. Ketra and her Mom worked very hard to keep the party going by supplying cake and punch to everyone. It was such a nice occasion to catch up with family and friends and to participate in Dad's special day. And, it would not have happened without the efforts of our cousins Steve and Chris - who reserved the church building for us - and numerous others who pitched in to clean and pack at the end of the party.

Photos below: The picture and trivia table, before anyone arrived, Aaron and Uncle Roger, Tina and Ketra, Mom and Dad with a group of Mom's high school classmates, Aunt Norma and Uncle Dick, Great Aunt Libby, Dad's first cousins Carol and Ron, Aunt Billie and Uncle Dick, Cousin David, helpful hostess cousin Lauren, hardworking cousin Stephen...

This is a very special picture of Dad and his siblings... Roger, Richard, Dennis and Norma.
Happy, happy birthday, Dad. We know we were a little early in celebrating, but we hope you have a very special day Tuesday. We are so very thankful for you, and we think you're a treat - not a trick!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Eleventh Hour

I've been looking for opportunities that would help me keep my finances balanced. For two months, I had been diligently looking, but I had found only part-time opportunities that would interfere with my current job. That wouldn't do. It was a frustrating search... one that, many times, led to me speaking to someone on the phone for an "interview" who was trying to persuade me to pay money for some reason this or some reason that. By the middle of last week, I felt I had hit my limit in gimmicks and aggravations, and I prayed and prayed I would finally find something that would help my situation.

The following day, I saw an ad and dropped by the business to complete an application. The next day, I was interviewed. The following day, I was offered the job. The very next evening, I began my new part-time position.

While I've been fairly warned about the hazards and pitfalls, I've joined the ranks of jsarber and our mutual myspace friend, Eric. That's right, folks. I am now a weekend night auditor for a local hotel.

Right away, I knew taking this position would cause great sacrifices - namely, time with family and friends and at church meetings - not to mention, sleep and freedom and time to recuperate from the regular work week. I know I will have little flexibility in the coming months, and this saddens me. Because of the hours (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and the needed rest after each shift, I know it will cause me to be even more isolated than I already am. However, it is what I must do for now in covering my bills and some repairs needed on my home.

The hotel owners are a very kind family and are also from central Illinois. Dad has even tuned their piano a few times. They have been willing to go to great lengths to train me, work around my father's birthday party this weekend, and work around our church meeting the following weekend. I am thankful for their offer of weekend employment and their kindness thus far, and I pray I do a good job for them.

I would appreciate your prayers about this endeavor... for good health, safety while carrying out my duties, and encouragement to stick to it when I'm sure to often be tired. And, if you're ever visiting Edwardsville or the Greater St. Louis area and you're needing a place to stay, give me a call. You can either stay at my house... or I know a business that can set you up with a really nice room. Even a jacuzzi, if you'd like! :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Big 6 - 0!

This next week, my dad (a.k.a. Piano Man) will be celebrating a big birthday. His 60th, in fact, on Tuesday, October 30th.

However, this weekend, my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and I are hosting an open house for him in our hometown of Canton, IL. It is being held at the church home of my uncle, aunt, and several cousins. Everyone is invited to attend, and this is one of the ads that ran in the local newspaper. Up until the ad ran in the paper about ten days ago, it was a complete surprise to Dad. Now, as we continue our preparations, he still doesn't know what to expect.

Since some of you blog friends live far away, you may want to send a note. Feel free to contact me by email at if you would like to have my parents' address. I know my Dad would appreciate a funny card or your best wishes. We look forward to celebrating this special occasion with friends and family, and we hope the day is filled with wonderful memories for Dad.

Hey Hay (Rack) Ride

This past weekend, our church returned to Mills Apple Farm (just outside of Marine, IL) for our October church social. It is a great spot for our group, and we have a fun time singing and joking around during the long ride before the wiener roast. We laughed and laughed and laughed most of Friday night - while trying to keep the fire stoked, shooing away the cat, finding our food in the dark, and attempting to remain warm and dry. Here are some photos from the evening.
Despite yelling "Out! Out!" several times, Abi seemed to enjoy the ride. So did Sister Barb, Sister Sandy and Tressa.

We don't know what was more scary to Rian... the bumpy ride, the bright flash or our singing. Jeff and Lydia were sitting on the back of the rack, along with Tracy, Rian and Brother Dale.

Isaac is posing by our smoky wood. Thankfully, after a little work, it became less smoke and more fire. It was wonderful to have Tasha home from college for the weekend.

Sister Barb was so kind to "shed a little light on the subject." Subject = our food. We wouldn't have been able to find it without her direction. And, don't ask! We suggested SEVERAL times that Brother Chris extend the roasting stick, but he wouldn't. Guess he was enjoying the heat.

Brother Dale made friends with the apple farm dog while Kayla and Kayla had to constantly tell the farm cat to go away because it was being too friendly! (Friendly means begging for food.)

Abi and Tressa loved their hot dogs and sitting by the fire.
This was our '2nd Annual Wiener Roast', and I think we're already planning for next year. Now to the very important question: Do you say HAY RIDE or HAY RACK RIDE? Have you been on one lately?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Art East 2007

Last year, I wrote about wanting to attend Art East for the very first time and even joked about showing off some of my creations in 2007. (I was kidding!) However, this year, it turned out that I was an actual participant... but doing something that I never would have imagined last year. The needleworking group I joined in the spring, Violet Threads, was asked to participate, and we were one of the many exhibitors in Eden Church. Art East is a showcase of fascinating artwork - everything from photography, paintings, and sculpture to quilting, fabric weaving and dyeing, and jewelry making. Here is a small assortment of talented exhibitors and artwork from this past weekend. The first few photos highlight the Art East poster and tour map (featuring artwork from last year), our needlework table (this far away shot does not do them justice!), my fun and crazy club friends Chelle and Linda (thank you for your continued encouragement), and me taking advantage of a bright light while working on a TEENY TINY project. This doesn't even begin to show the beauty of everything I saw in Edwardsville over the weekend, and I hope many of my local friends will mark their calendar for 2008.

Friday, October 19, 2007

After The Storm

The storms have been swirling around in the Midwest, and it is difficult to determine what to wear or what the weather will be each day. The sky changes in color and pattern every hour or so. After a particularly bad storm and pitch black skies yesterday afternoon, the sun peeked through the clouds, and our world snapped back into color. These photos don't come close to the rainbow of vivid colors that were seen up above. Of course, there was a rainbow... and then there was a rainbow of colors IN THE CLOUDS! Pink, blue, purple, orange, yellow, grey and even a little (scary) green. Wish I could have captured their vibrancy for you. It was breathtaking. I also saw a snail for the first time in years. Hope everyone has a glorious weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Visiting Family and Friends

It was a great time to go to Canton for a stressless visit with people I love very much and be in some places in which I feel at home. I needed to get away from here for a little while, and while it was hectic, my trip home was the perfect remedy. I know this post will be absolutely boring (like many others) to anyone outside my family and circle of hometown friends, but these are some of the things I did during my whirlwind weekend trip.

After I discovered I could come home Friday evening, I called Uncle Roger and invited him over to Mom and Dad's house for a game night. Thanks to bad traffic, I arrived two hours later than expected. But, I was able to enjoy some of Mom's delicious chili, and Mom, Dad and Uncle Roger waited on my arrival before starting with the game. I had heard about so many ladies meeting for parties to play Bunco. So, this last year, I bought the game for Mom. I had no idea how to play or what the game was. But, now I know. Honestly, I thought it would be a little more challenging and would consist of more than rolling four dice. Regardless, in usual fashion, we still had a hilarious time and were laughing at each other for most of the evening. We stayed up way too late. But, I hope we can do it again sometime really soon.

Dad always has some wacky, high-handed rolling follow through, and Uncle Roger always tries to count up the points before the roller.

It seems the scorekeeper usually wins, and with Mom, it was no exception.

After going on the Spoon River Drive on Saturday, we rushed home to attend a party at Aaron and Ketra's home. They were having a wiener roast to honor Ketra's Dad, Jeff. Here is the honoree! Jeff recently obtained a new job, and we were happy to help him celebrate this move to a fantastic new position in banking. The bonfire was helped with some "accelerator", and we enjoyed delicious hot dogs and S'mores. It's always fun visiting with Ketra's family.

After visiting with Uncle Dick and Aunt Norma on Sunday, I started my drive back to Edwardsville... but headed north instead of south. That's because I was taking a detour to visit my best friend from high school and her husband. Susan and Shannon just recently moved to El Paso, IL and purchased this gorgeous new home. Susan gave me the grand tour of town, and we enjoyed some Monical's pizza. It's not like CANTON Monical's pizza, but it was tasty. We had a good visit - reminiscing, sharing pictures, showing off projects and just enjoying the time together. It's difficult to live so far away from such good friends.

I then started my trip south but had three important stops to make. First, I stopped by the family farm outside of Wapella, IL. I was able to meet the kind renters and take pictures of the house and the newly painted machinery shed. This house looks quite different from when Grandad lived there, but the place is full of memories.

Next, I went to Clinton, IL. About 3 weeks ago, Great Uncle Donald had colon surgery. Since then, he's had some struggles in his recovery and has had a difficult time gaining his strength. While we were thrilled to know all tumors were removed and that his physical recovery is going fabulously, I knew Uncle Donald would appreciate a visitor. Uncle Donald has some wonderful neighbors who have been looking out for him and his home, and his geraniums are gorgeous.

And, here, Uncle Donald wanted me to show Mom and Aunt Sissy that he's lost 30 pounds, so he must wear some very fashionable suspenders. He's being funny and pulling his pants way up high. We pray that Uncle Donald will regain his strength and appetite and that we might better know what we can do to support him from far away. Uncle Donald has always been like an extra grandparent to us, and we love him so very much. Mom and I plan to visit him this next year to have him show us how to make his delicious and famous jelly. So, Uncle Donald and I talked about this appointment a little bit more, and he sent me off with two whole jars of the yummy stuff. Yiipppeee!

Then, I headed a little farther south to Decatur, IL to see my Grandma Emma. I fear her health is failing, and it is very likely she will have to begin dialysis soon. She will have to go through some surgeries in the upcoming weeks to install a new port and clear blockages in her legs and arms. I would very much appreciate your continued prayers for her. Despite her poor health, she continues to volunteer several times a week at the Salvation Army (which is her church). She looked fabulous, but I could tell she wasn't feeling as good as she usually does. I drove to her sister's home to see her, and each Sunday evening after worship services, Grandma Emma, her two sisters, and her daughter sit for hours and play 5 or 6 card games. I think they also do that on Tuesday nights. It was fun to watch them interact, and it was a special time to catch up and show Grandma some of the items I had made in recent weeks. Grandma Emma is a very talented lady - especially with crocheting and pottery. But, she dabbles in many types of crafts. Here is Grandma Emma (on the right) with her sisters Peggy (left) and Joyce (middle).

By the time I left Decatur, it was late, and I still had two more hours of driving. But, I was re-energized and so thankful to God for a fabulous weekend with my family and friends.