Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Trip, The Aftermath, The Fallout

(Not the usual humor, this is serious, be prepared!)

It has taken me a while to come up with just how I want to put my thoughts down about what has happened in the last month.  Since the 15th of September, I have accompanied my spouse to an award ceremony, come home to a shit storm, done a lot of soul searching and fallen into and pulled myself out of (hopefully) a blue funk, deep depression, the umps, whatever you want to call it.  I have felt like I have been on the mountain top and the deepest valley and all points in between.......let me take you thru a tour of my fevered mind (buckle up, it's not a pretty sight, my head looks like my house, in need of a good clean out).

I started out with a certain unease about going to Omaha with Joe.  I was afraid that I would embarrass him, that I wouldn't look good enough, might talk to much, say something not acceptable....things I have been accused of doing most of my life, so why should I think this adventure would be any different.  Let me start with our trip to Omaha:

First of all,  I have always been paranoid about how I look. My mother, God rest her soul, (when I look back I think she thought she might be sparing me but little did she realize how much damage she did) always told me that I had better learn to cook or do something spectacular because I would never get anywhere on my looks. This has always sat in the back of my mind, and I always dress down (tshirt, sweats, sneakers, no make up) as I never wanted to bring attention to my looks or lack there of.  Here I had to dress up for this dinner, and to tell the truth, I was horrified that I would pop out in all the wrong places, paint my face like a clown and generally be a laughing stock and bring shame to my husband on a day when he should be the star.  I had this  so bad the night of the banquet that I sent Joe down to the lobby to wait 'while I put on my makeup' and had a complete bawl, beating the bed, crying jag before washing my face and putting on the make up, the facade, the smile, and heading downstairs.

Secondly, I talk, and talk, and talk.  When I get nervous, or feel insignificant, or think someone is looking at me critically (see #1) I usually talk faster, louder, and sometimes say things that shouldn't be said.  When we were first picked up, we went by the main headquarters of Joe's company to meet all the people he works for/with.  We go into a large office where the work stations are divided into cubicles....and I have a flash back to the mid-80's when I worked at Prudential doing medicare and medicare supplemental insurance.....I was good at it.  I had an office, a briefcase, a name plate....I was someone who made a difference.....in Omaha, here I was looking in from the outside to people who were the same age as I was when I did that, and I realized that I could be doing something like that, I should be doing something like that.....and I felt like I had been left in the dust, an afterthought.  In the years since, when I have attempted to get back into the workforce doing something similar, I don't get a nibble......while all this is going on in the back of my head, we are talking, talking, talking and I pray my prattling doesn't adversely impact their view of him, or in lieu of that, that they don't take pity on him for the ball and chain he has with him.

Thirdly, my husband decides to play with my head.  Let me go back to the very beginning with Joe.  I love my husband, I love him with all the breath I have in my body and I would do anything for him.  With that said, I have always been paranoid (again with that word) that it has always been a dream, a figment of my imagination that he loves me in return.  I have actually said to him, 'you could have done better' or'why are you still here with me'....and he brushes it off.  Now, I am going to say something that may be a surprise to some, a confirmation to others, and a 'I knew it all along so why are you bringing it up now' to a few more.  I dropped out of college with 12 credits short of a bachelors of social work to marry Joe.  I was pregnant at the time.  Although he said he never felt trapped, I always have had it in the back of my head that I trapped him into marrying me as he is an honorable man and did what was expected of him.  It has been almost 30 years since then, but still that thought lingers.  If any of you who read this have found yourself in the same situation, particularly if you are male, please PLEASE reinforce to the other party that you married them for love and not out of 'obligation'.  I wish he had reassured me more, but that is water under the bridge. 30 years and three additional children later he decides that on the night of the banquet he will dedicate his award to ME, he tells me that he loves me.  I wanted to fall apart.  I didn't know what to think, as in the back of my mind (those voices again) I was hearing 'now that he sees how much he is appreciated, and how valued he is he may realize what a drain you are on him'. So yet again, I put on the false front and made like I was mad at him for trying to make me cry and ruin the makeup it took so long for me to put on.

Finally, on this trip, I had to face my shortcomings as a mother.  We were escorted around by Joe's contract manager (see the earlier posts), a young man who is, literally, the same age as my oldest son.  We joked with him that he is my 'fifth child' or that I was going to trade my eldest for him, but inside it wasn't a joke.....it killed me to see him with his children and wife being a responsible young man and me having the thoughts that I would kill to have a child like that, then I felt overwhelming guilt for not having that type of relationship with my own son and for gauging one against the other.

We get home and I find that the dishes I left on Tuesday to be done were still in the sink on Saturday morning, the two kids still at home are at each other's throats (20 and 17, think they could co-exist, right?). I get home and find a message that my grandbabies' mom and her fiance have a bad virus and they want to know if I want the two boys overnight Saturday into Sunday.  The little one wets my bed, the bigger on is whiney and clingy.  I go to bed for three days afterwards........

I can't process everything.  I write my blog giving a blow by blow description, using the humor that has gotten me thru most all things in life.  To those in the know, we have had a rocky relationship with Joey since he got out of the Navy.  He gets wild, settles down for a while and appears to have his head on, starts raising a family, after a divorce, with a fiance and has two little boys, then 'needs to find himself' and does a runner.  His father and I do not condone his new chosen lifestyle, and he blames us for all his 'issues' and told me 'he will call the shots and will bring whatever girl he happens to be with into my home whenever' I told him no, my house my rules, and I haven't spoken with him since.  This has been two years at least (except for one time he stopped by, but I refused to do what he asked and he blew out again).  Please know that I love my son, I will always love my son.  I cannot and will not condone his behaviors tho.  After the guiltstorm I felt after our trip, I go to the place my son 'supposedly' works.  I ask after him, and I get the message that 'his current girlfriend has said he is to have no contact with me and I am to 'go to hell'.  Again, I go to bed.  I am not doing housework, I am not cooking, I shower if I remember, I just can't think straight......

So you do not think I am wallowing in the Slough of Despondency (hey literati, read the Pilgrim's Progress) I did this for almost a week straight.  Then I said to myself  "Self, get your ass out of bed and get a life".  I have friends online who are dealing with a lot more than I am, I have two friends from high school, one who is fighting cancer herself after losing her nephew/surrogate child to a brain tumor this summer and one who is dealing with the sudden death of her husband and having widowhood thrust upon her in her early 50's.  That they get up each day and go on is an inspiration to me.  I sit and think, and think and think.....I call my oldest and dearest friend from college and pour out my despair on her.  As someone who faced down death herself from breast cancer and came out on the other side, she said things to me that needed to be said.  Right now, I am a drain on Joe because I 'think I am a drain'.  I hate that I am not a contributing member of this family, and I am feeling unfulfilled as a human being as I am not 'making the difference' that I know I can.  So, I went and got my nails done again! Why? It made me feel better, human, pretty even.  Then I screwed up enough courage to talk about this with Joe.  On Sunday mornings we have 'our' time together.  We usually go to the local diner for breakfast, just us, no kids, no grandkids, just us.  I told him I want to be a contributor and not a taker anymore (he disagreed that I was a 'taker' stating I ran the house, etc., but I proceeded).  I stated that I had not completed my college degree and even tho it was only 12 credits short, I could not in all honesty state I was a college graduate and therefore ineligible for a job that I could do, but demanded proof of a college degree.  I wanted to go back to school.  Our eldest is 'out there', the oldest daughter is teaching in Arizona, the younger son is in college and the youngest girl is a junior in high school and looking at college....I want us to be able to afford to live the way we wanted to all along, I want to contribute not only to our income, but to society as a whole.  My background is in medicine/insurance so I will be looking at some form of medical administrative courses.....

I am going to quote the consummate Southern woman again, Scarlett O'Hara, when, after Rhett Butler left her and slammed the door in her face....she sat on the step, had a good cry, then picked herself up and said 'Tomorrow is another day'....so for me, tomorrow IS another day.  I will NOT feel guilty for loving on another young family as I still love my child and my door is always open to him, just that I refuse to be his, or anyone else's, doormat.  I will tell my daughters that they are smart, beautiful and the most wonderful human beings in the world, correcting what my mother started with them before she passed.  I will tell ALL of my children, real and 'adopted' that they can be and do anything their hearts desire if they put forth the effort and have the will to do it......I will be the best Gramma I can be.   I 'have' accomplished much in my first 50 years on this earth (there's a lot there when I look back) and there is so much more to do in the next 50.  I am lucky that I found my ideal spouse, not necessarily 'ideal' overall, but ideal for me.  He loves me, I love him more and more each day, he has my back, like I have his.  I have some wonderful people in my life.  I may not have any 'close' friends who are in close proximity, but the friends I have who are spread around the country (hey, I forgot Diane, she's in Russia and Sharon is in Ecuador, so around the world) more than make up for it.......Is my family messed up? Parts of it. But who doesn't have the drama associated with having people in your life.  It's time for me to pick myself up by my bootstraps, brastraps, underwear elastic, what have you and get on with life.  Now I gotta call the local college and see what they can offer an 'older' student and if anything from the Class of '83 will transfer.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Addendum to the THE Trip

Although I will be posting  a wrap-up (too many thoughts still swirling in my head), I did want to give you the links to everything.  After all the backslapping and glad-handing done last Thursday (9/27), they did a nice write up in their newsletter.  Here it is:


Also, I missed linking some of the places we visited/services we used, so here there are:
http://www.omahazoo.com/ The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
http://www.durhammuseum.org/ The Durham Western Heritage Museum
http://www.flyoma.com/ Epply Airfield
http://www.ohare.com/About/Midway/Default.aspx Chicago Midway Airport
http://www.phl.org/Pages/HomePage.aspx Philadelphia International Airport
http://www.septa.org/schedules/rail/index.html Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (septa), we used the Airport Line and the Trenton Line (Cornwell's Heights station)

If you happen to get out that way, stop by these places.  Tell them Ginny sent you.  If they say 'huh'? Tell them the woman who blew into their city, wanted to know where the closest ladies room was, and blew back out and they'll say 'oh, her.  Tell her 'HI'...." !!!!!!!!

Also, any of your Aureus people reading this.  please feel free to comment and plug yourself where you need a plug (like the pictures on facebook......just 'friend' me and you can see all the pictures you might not want to see), also, if you see any mistakes or missed any links, let me know.  I'm only human, ya know.........

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Trip - Day 3 The Final Day (sob)

Again we wake up on Pennsylvania time in Omaha, but this time not as early, I guess we're slowly starting to acclimate since it is time we return to Coopersburg and life as we knew it before this whirlwind of an adventure overtook us.  Joe goes to the coffee maker and finds out that when the little coffee pods were replaced, they gave us packets for a full-sized coffee pot.  He had to wait until the breakfast buffet opened downstairs to get his coffee.  As can be seen by the pictures, he was up, dressed and waiting at 5:30 by the elevators for them to turn on the lights....yes, people, he NEEDS his coffee THAT BAD.  He was starting to twitch when they let us in.  Blessed relief....he got his mega cup of coffee....he was slowly becoming human again.

While we were eating our breakfast, the other Employee of the Year, Amy, and her family came down for breakfast.  As we were eating, we discussed all sorts of things as Amy's mom worked as a med-tech at Hackettstown Hospital (in NJ) the same time I did the same at St. Luke's in Bethlehem, we discussed unruly patients and Amy and Joe compared war stories as well.  Their 'handler/chauffeur' Justin came in and joined in the conversation.  Hopefully no one else around us was listening in, as when medical professionals/staffers get together you can be sure the topic falls to blood, guts and gore.  Justin and I even got to compare our artificial parts stories (his leg, my arm).  In this conversation, I think Justin jinxed us, but more on that later.  We, again, remarked on how weird it was that we meet in Omaha, when we both are from eastern Pennsylvania, I asked Amy's boyfriend, John, where in Allentown he was from, and he said, 'oh, I just say Allentown, as people know where that is, I am really from Emmaus'.  Well, with that, the mouth drops open on this face, as anyone who knows where we live, I often joke that our address is schizophrenic....the mailman says Coopersburg, the tax man says Upper Saucon Township and the phone company...well, Verizon says we live in (tada) Emmaus.  The man asks if we've heard of it.....well, duh.  After having a good joke on this, we say good bye as they headed out to catch their planes, Amy and John back to Maui and her parents back to Pennsylvania via La Guardia in New York.  We end it by saying maybe we'll see each other Christmas shopping at the Crossings in Tannersville, PA an outlet center midway between both our backyards.

Breakfast over, we go back upstairs to finish packing and hump all our bags and souvenirs down to the lobby to check out.  Phew! Thanks to 'behaving' and not drinking the $3 waters in the fridge or getting kinky with the 'in room movies' - we entertained ourselves, thank you -  (I just put this in to see if my kids are reading this.....if I hear 'ewwww, grosss, yuck' from the other room I know they read the blog) we escaped without any extra costs involved.  Joe thought I was being weird (when doesn't he) but I took a few more pictures of the hotel before we left.  This is something I want to remember....the experience, the place, and the feeling.  We may never pass this way again, and it is something I want to be able to recall in my dotage.

Jonathan was supposed to pick us up at 8:30, as we were to be going to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium that opens at 9:00 before we ended our time in Omaha.  At exactly 8:30 we see him zip up in his SUV and out he hops saying 'I have the "little man" with me'.  Getting in, we see, strapped into his carseat, one of the cutest little boys I've seen.  (Now I KNOW cute little boys, all you have to do is look at Lucas and Brennan.....) Mr. Gavin falls right into the Lucas and Brennan category, big expressive eyes and a shock of blonde hair and a smile that lights up the room.  Now, the Gramma in me kicks into overdrive.  I reach into my pocketbook and pull out the bag I have been carrying around for the three days we've been in town....a bag filled with hot wheels.  Two eyes widen, and I offer a car to Gavin....I think I have made a friend for life.  Jonathan explains that he and Gavin will be escorting us to the zoo and his wife, Valerie and the Princess will meet us there after the little one is done dining at Cafe Mom.

As you can see by our pictures, it is an experience to visit  a zoo with a small child.  It is one I would highly recommend to anyone.....you see so much and can appreciate it so much more when you see it thru the eyes of a small child.  Did you know that penguins are Gavin's favorite at the zoo? Maybe you did, but did you know why? When penguins stand up, they are the same size as him.  Now, would you have known that?  What would  you think of the the snakes when you walked up to the glass you were eye to eye with them? What would you think of a salamander that when you looked at it, you realized it could swallow you whole? As a 'big person' those things don't pass thru your mind while you are at the zoo.

When we come out of the Desert Dome, we find that Valerie and Princess Deklynn have arrived and we arranged to meet up with them.  Now, let me digress here, when Jonathan first told me that he and Valerie were going to have a little girl, I played twenty questions with him on their color scheme and how they were decorating for her....in my devious mind, I knew I had to surreptitiously  get this info so I could make at least a baby blanket for the little one.  So when I first got to Omaha, I packaged up the goodies I had made and gave them to Jonathan to take home and open at their leisure.  When we met up with the 'girls', Deklynn was wearing the little hat I had made and was covered with the blanket.  My heart melted.  I was so worried that my meager offering would be met with a simple 'oh thanks' and would be put aside and not used only to end up in a white elephant somewhere.  I did so want to do something for this little treasure who had such a struggle to get here, and her mommy made me feel like I did.  Then my goal of coming on this trip was met.....not only did I get to see this little miracle, but I got to hold her close and snuggle her tight.

I must tell you, people, I was mightily impressed when I met Valerie.  (You my kind readers, if you follow me on Facebook, know that I had asked for prayer for her during her pregnancy and delivery) After hearing of all she went thru while she was pregnant and how she was bouncing back, I expected to meet an Amazon-like being who kept Jonathan on the straight and narrow.  The person I met was a tiny little china doll who had the same smile I saw earlier on Gavin.  I couldn't imagine being so delicate and going thru all the machinations that she did and coming out the other side unscathed.  I'm not sure I could have done it......being pregnant and knowing that just being pregnant may kill me and continue on with the pregnancy (I'm not turning this into a debate on abortion, just stating a fact).  She did this to bring this little dumpling into the world.  I have had the good fortune to know only one other person who did this, and unfortunately, she did not win that battle.....she gave birth to a healthy baby, but lost her fight in doing so.  Valerie asked me if she could hug me for the present....honey, you can hug me, and if I hugged you back a little tight, that's because I was hugging you and Doreen at the same time.  Jonathan, you got a keeper on your hands in this one.

Okay, enough with the serious (sniff, sniff)....back to the journey.

After we finished viewing the monkeys at the zoo, Gavin was so tired he was really starting to drag.  It was decided that Gavin would go home with Mommy and Deklynn and have lunch and a nap (not before Gramma Ginny slipped the remaining hot wheels in Deklynn's stroller for later...do I know how to 'rotten up' a kid or what?) and Daddy would take us to lunch and then to the airport.  Hugs were shared with Valerie and Deklynn and I got to get in an extra squeeze on Gavin as he tried to escape over the backseat into the trunk of the SUV (who does this sound like, Alyssa?)...after a good couple of squeezes and a kiss or two stolen from the squiggling mass of boy child, he was buckled in the seat and bets were made whether or not he would even make it out of the parking lot never the less home before he was asleep.

Jonathan ended up taking us to the Upstream Brewery for lunch (http://www.upstreambrewing.com) where we were able to sit and unwind a bit after our zoo experience and before we had to amp up to get on the plane.  We talked about all sorts of things, family and life, and odds and ends in general......I even asked Jonathan if we could affect a trade, I'd trade Joey and all his drama for him. Lucas and Brennan would like another little boy to play with and lord knows, after all the boys, I would love to play 'gramma' to a little girl....but that is just wishful thinking.  Ending our meal, we head out to the Omaha airport and IOWA!

We get to the airport in plenty of time to get checked in.  We pass the ticket counter with no problems...then we hit security.  Remember when I said Justin jinxed us? Well, part of his stories included how, with his artificial parts, he was pulled by the TSA and checked when he went thru security...I told him so far so good for me...well, not on the return trip.  We strip off any metal, wallets, keys, belts, shoes, etc. and pass thru the scanner.  Joe had to take apart his CPAP, unlike Philly but we didn't think anything of it until my turn came up.  I go thru the scanner, they ask me to again...then they have me put my hands over my head 'in a diamond shape' and turn around....I felt like one of those ballerina hippos in Fantasia, then they pull me aside.  Urp.  I'm in deep doodoo now. I have to assume the position and get a good frisking (Joe said they didn't even buy me dinner and flowers first before they felt me up)....it wouldn't have been so bad if the nice looking young man running the scanner had done it (I bet HIS hands would have been warm), but it was a 65ish looking little woman with cold, bird claw hands saying 'you got anything here, or here, or here'.....I told them the only metal was in my arm, and it should have shown up on the scanner, but oh no, not today, that wasn't good enough.  That should have been our first warning on the return trip....it wasn't like the outgoing trip.

We get on the plane and find out that the plane wasn't as empty as it had been going 'to' Omaha (was there a mass exodus? Maybe it was just normal Friday 'whoo hoo' get the hell outta town' sorta thing).  We ended sitting in a three seat row, the window seat already taken (no return pictures, sorry) and nothing of any consequense except for the pilot hitting every pothole between Omaha and Chicago.....it was one bumpy ride.  We get to Chicago by 5 and have an hour delay.  The boarding gate was empty at the time, but we had 'C's on our boarding passes, which did not bode well.  When they were ready to board passengers, the place was crawling, literally, with people.....There are 60 places for each alphabet, so that meant by the time they got to us, there already were 120 people on the 737.....we were 125 and 126.  The plane was packed when we got on, and I was not in a good mood.  I told Joe that how I felt on take off in Philly would be verbalized 'loudly' if we couldn't get a seat together. We get on and the only seats left are the middles of a couple of rows. Hearing that we wanted to sit together, a nice young man from Temple offered to move to another row and let us sit together.....again, thank God, as I didn't want to go all Diana Ross and risk getting tossed in Chicago.

Again, as in the trip out, we get a tailwind and make Philly 15 minutes earlier than the 8:55 arrival time.  This is good, as there are two trains leaving from the airport to center city Philly the rest of the evening, the first being 9:21 and the second 10:21.  I was afraid we would end up with the last train, meaning we would have a wait at 30th Street station for the Cornwells train, and Joe's dad would have to get us around midnight.  Our luggage came out of the shoot, we grabbed it and made a mad rush for the train platform. We called home and had Jill check the schedule for us when we were in Omaha and verified it while we in Chicago, so we hoped above hope that we would get the train.  Down the on the platform we see a sign that says 'this platform closed' and the train sitting on the next platform.....the time is 9:20.  The Keystone Cops couldn't have scripted what happened next any better.......two suitcases, a carry on bag, a pocketbook the size of Rhode Island, a CPAP bag, and a suit bag bumping beside two slightly round, very out of shape, lumps trying to get from one platform (up one elevator, across the hall, down another elevator) in one minute.  We hurtle toward the train, flop in a seat and whoosh, the door snaps closed.  We made it.

We get to 30th Street with only minutes to spare for the next train to Cornwells Heights.  If we get it, we can have Joe's dad pick us up by 10:30 and we will be an hour and a half ahead of schedule.  We were late getting to the platform, but again, our angels were helping us, as the train itself was late.  I wanted to whip out the camera and document the final leg of our adventure, but Joe wisely reminded me, it's late, it's Philly and you don't want to look like a tourist in a metropolitan city after dark....so no documentation there, either, boys and girls.  The train was 10 minutes late, we got on, and we were on our way.  Three stops before ours, we call Dad and tell him to come and get us.  Our train stops right as he is pulling in to the parking lot.  Sweet relief, we are back to Dad's, I get to visit the little girls room (the Imodium was very, very good to me this trip) and we load up our stuff in Joe's little Hyundai and off we head for home.

On the way, we go, 'oh crap, we didn't eat anything for dinner'.....we were running on pure adrenaline and fear...him on adrenaline and me the fear that if I ate anything after lunch or while we were in the midst of traveling, I would need the airline bathroom...and after almost mooning the friendly skies between Philadelphia and Chicago on the way out, that was an experience I did not want to revisit.  So after all the wining and dining we experienced in our last few days, we end up at the local convenience store near the house and Joe gets a hot dog and I get nachos......Nachos, you may ask, when all I have been doing is popping Imodium like Chiklits....well, when the 'cheese' is synthetic and non-dairy, it doesn't have the same effect....definitely not good for me, but it did what it had to do in a pinch.  Joe backs into the driveway at 11:55 p.m. on Friday night 9/28.  We completed the whole experience in three days.

Wednesday we were in Philadelphia, not knowing what we were in for.....late Friday, we were back in Philadelphia after having a life changing experience in Omaha, Nebraska.  Did I do everything I wanted? Looking back, I would have liked to have seen more, I would have liked to have seen Boy's Town, I wanted  to visit the Mercy Sisters facility that Jamie works through.....woulda, shoulda, coulda, I know.  But to quote another great Sou'thrn woman, Scarlett O'Hara, 'tomorrow is another day'...There is always next time, right?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

THE Trip - Day 2. The Banquet

Well, we woke up at our usual time.....Joe usually gets up at 4:50 to shower and then wakes me up to make coffee and his lunch.  We did on Thursday as well, only 4:50 Philly time is actually 3:50 Omaha time.  He wanders out to the living area and finds the coffee maker.  Ecstatic that there is a coffee maker, he opens the pods and makes both cups.....only to be disappointed that each makes only a 6 oz. cup....so poor thing, he only has 12 oz. of coffee and it's only 4:30 in the morning and the breakfast buffet put on my the hotel begins at 6 am.  THE HORROR!!!! Me, well, I say, it's 4:30 in the FREAKIN' MORNING.....go back to bed.  He eventually does, but keeps an eye on the clock...watching and waiting......by 5:30 he is up, dressed and heading for the elevator, with me in tow, to get that precious black liquid that makes his life complete.....the breakfast buffet smells lovely, but we are going to breakfast with Jonathan as soon as his meeting at the office is over, so it's just coffee and more coffee for us.  By 8 a.m. Joe is human again and we people watch in the lobby.

While waiting for Jonathan, we see his colleague, Justin, coming in to pick up the Radiology Division Employee of the Year.  She had flown in from Maui, but Justin told us that she came from Pennsylvania as well.  When we asked, we were told Bushkill Township and that she had attended Northampton Community College! Now Joe attended Lehigh Carbon Community, but we actually live closer to NCC!  To think, we go to Omaha from Coopersburg and she flies in from Maui only to find out that she is from no more than 40 miles from where we live.  After having an 'old home week' reunion, they leave to be on their way and Jonathan arrives and we're off......

We go to a diner for breakfast.  Geez, I am totally in awe that Omahans, Omahians, oh hell, people from Omaha....aren't the size of small city-states by the size of their meals and portions!!! Jonathan gets something called a Trucker Omelet and Joe gets an Andouille sausage omelet.  Me, I'm still stuffed from that 'petite' steak the night before (and let's be honest, all the Imodium I have been ingesting) so I get a simple chicken salad platter.  Let's start with there was 'nothing' simple about that chicken salad....chicken and celery, a few spices and mayo we expect....but this had grapes, craisins, walnuts and a few various and sundry other items in it as well....and instead of the obligatory scoop of salad, there is is two, and guess what? I get a 'side salad' to go with it!!!!  I eat, well, attempt to eat, push a bit around the plate and eat a little bit more while we discuss what we will do the rest of the day.  The guys are done and we head back out to the SUV.....I eye it hesitantly as I think we may have to call a rollback to lift me back in the vehicle.  With me finally in and relieved to find out an extension is not needed for the seat-belt  we head to downtown Omaha to take the grand tour.  

After seeing the upswing the formerly downtrodden downtown area is taking, we end up at the Durham Western Heritage Museum.  This is housed in the former Union Pacific Railway Station.  For those who are train happy (and there are more than a few of you)....this is the railhead for the Union Pacific as it's headquarters were in Omaha.  Built similar in size and style to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, it is a huge edifice of marble and soaring ceilings and just entering it, you can see the ghosts of the millions of people whose lives intersected at this place at some wrinkle in time.  You felt if you closed your eyes, you could hear the whistles, hear the steam and chugging made by the multitudes of trains and feel the breezes made by men and women rushing to make their connections in another time. We pass thru the doors and enter a glass elevator that faces the once busy track area and you see the sister station across the expanse that housed the freight terminal.  Exiting the elevator, you see a map on the floor....all of Omaha is at your feet.....streets, highways, interstates, places of interest....it's all there..waiting for you.  The museum then beckons you.

We go thru a caboose, a pullman, and then inspect Engine #1234 of the Union Pacific.  Apparently the westward expansion began here and the railroad was primary in this.....there were displays of all the cars used by the Union Pacific, banners of all the railroads that ran thru this station and a layout that showed how the railroad affected daily life.  From there you saw Main Street America...a history of cabins, Native American homes (lodge, tipis, and hogans), one room school houses and general stores and the growth of Omaha.  Panoramas of the city from it's inception to the current time......really neat.  The most moving, however is an exhibit of the American Soldier....it traced the history of the American Soldier from the Civil War to the current time.  Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed or I would be snapping away...this was THAT moving.  There were some silly shots mixed in, to show the humanity of the soldiers, but mostly they showed the inhumanity of war.....babies, and I do mean babies, dressed up in their Union or Confederate uniforms then later shots showing the same babies laying in ditches, some in disarray, obviously dead.  The same youthful faces looked out from doughboys of the Great War then the same death stare.  I was moved to see the soldiers in Korea, and the description of just how cold it was there.  We joked to break the tension, saying we were so glad that our friend, Will, was not there to see them as he would hop in his plane and go get Christie (his daughter, currently stationed in Korea with the Army) for no other reason than to make sure she is warm.  I was moved to tears, almost, when we passed thru the Persian Gulf/Afghanistan/Iraq photos...thinking of the casualties, some not visible, of those who served there.

We had to shake it off and move on to the history of Omaha......sights and signs of the growth....wagons, hospital growth, bank histories, and the growth of department stores.....being human again, we ended our tour back in the gift shop where I HAD to get the grandbabies something (remember, this is WHY I was allowed to get on the pwane).  I had text messaged their mother and asked what they wanted....B wanted a 'bad guy' and Lucas wanted a 'gun'.  Since neither were going to get what they asked for.....we ended up getting them each a buffalo....I got our resident Civil War buff a set of playing cards with Union and Confederate generals and shot glasses for Josh and Alyssa.  From there we went to the 'old city' and ended up at the Visitors' Center.  Again, a shot from home, the gentleman at the desk wanted to ask us about Dorney Park! We saw a t-shirt that said 'Walk on Bob'.....intrigued, we asked what that meant and were told about the history of a government pork product...the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Walkway, a bridge connecting Omaha with Iowa.  It was decided, then and there, that was our next stop.  So, from the museum to the 'old city', past the rodeo that was in town, around the brand spanking new ballpark and then past the sewage treatment plant (why? why do major cities put tourist sites next to these things? We know we all need them but since when are they considered 'tour worthy'?) Finally we ended up walking up the ramp and standing in the middle of the span over the Missouri River.  We could look downriver and find the lights of the casinos and up river and see the damage from the floods of a year or so ago.  What was striking was standing there and looking at the skyline of Omaha, seeing the Woodsmen of the World tower, the Mutual of Omaha building and any number of large buildings in the forefront, then to turn and look at Iowa, and see....well, dirt.  With the exception of seeing a building in the distance that was indicated to be the casino, there was nothing else......just beach.  Looking down at the shore, there was a single pop-up tent.  Jonathan remarked that the area was not a designated recreational area so Joe remarks that since there is no other sign of life in Iowa, that must be the lone homeless person from that state.   With that, we look at the time and realized we have to be getting back, as the dinner/photo op/cocktail appointed time of 5 p.m. was fast approaching and we must be getting back.....running to avoid the fumes of the treatment plant we had to pass by to get back to the vehicle, our Day 2 touring was complete....now to the big magilla.

On the way to the hotel, I asked if we were going to pass a Target.  In my haste, I had packed the empty deodorant for Joe and I wanted to pick up a new one, and I also thought 'I'll give those nimrods another chance at those damnable cookies (remember in the Prelude I told you those cookies would come in play later).  Sure enough, there they sat.....a whole shelf of them (I did tell Target in another not so nice email, that I had to go to Omaha FREAKIN Nebraska to finally find them).  I pick up three packages, one for Jamie, one for Christie, and one for Gavin (Jonathan's little boy - I gotta grease the kid up if I'm gonna go all Gramma on him the next day, I wanna make a friend first!!!)  After this Jonathan drops us off to get ready and went home to smarten up himself and then, whoa, it was really sinking in....this was it.

Back in the hotel room, showered and primped.....Joe suited up....Black on black, his pop of color was a gecko tie....he had Jonathan sweating it whether he was going to wear neon green bobos....he shouldn't have.  He was presentable.  Now it was my turn.  Black dress, black shoes, black jade earrings (thanks to Josh who bought them on ebay for me, like I would have thought of jewelry) now comes the horror....make up.  I used to be pretty good at it, but I haven't put on make-up in a good ten years and I had to go out and buy new, I was so horrified I would look like Mimi from the old Drew Carey show that I literally shook when I put it on.  I had to send Joe down to wait for Jonathan, I was that worried that I would mess it up totally and have to scrub my face and start over...then came the hair.  Spray and curling iron, although not as foreign as the make-up,it still give me agita. So, being fashionably late, I am finally done and go down in the elevator to meet my two exceedingly handsome escorts.  (I know some will say, where are the pictures of you?.....a set was taken for the formal occassion, but otherwise I avoided that side of the camera.  I may explain later, or not)

Entering in the hall, there are two bars, a 'mingle' area and the dining/presentation area. Besides Joe, each division of C & A Industries has their own Employee of the Year, so there were to be eight presentations in all.  His was the third of the night.  We go on to chat and laugh with all the people we only knew as 'names and voices' before and we had a really good time, we had the most fun with the young ladies in the office who were *intrigued* by the names of the towns in Pennsylvania Dutch country....all you would have to to set them off was tell them you go past Virginville into Blue Ball before you get to Intercourse. They were giggling in their drinks at the thought of this.  Finally, we get to sit down and have our dinner.......we had roast beef, 'rubber' chicken (as one of the other honoree's significant others called it), au gratin potatoes, vegetable orzo, and 'mustgovian' veggies (the kind where they opened the freezer and combined all that they found that had been previously opened).  Dinner over, the festivities began.

Two were called before Joe.  Then the video started for him.  I had been asked to provide pictures of his life and they compiled a video telling everyone what makes him so special.  (Like I didn't know this, I married the lug, ya know).  Jonathan is called upon to present Joe with his award and Joe has to speak.  I expected him to say 'I'd like to thank the Academy' or some other BS, at least to thank Jonathan and Bill....but no...who does he thank.  The Big Shit thanks ME!!! He tells them I have been there thru thick and thin (duh, that's what I signed on for, I'm nothing if not loyal) and he almost, ALMOST, made me cry..called me his 'blushing bride of 29 years'...(how sappy can you get).  Then I thought about how much agita I had over putting on that make up and said to myself...'hell, no, I'm not gonna cry...I'm gonna kick his ass....that's what I'm gonna do'.  Dude really knows how to throw a curve, I'm usually the cohort tho, not the victim of said curve.  To tell you the truth, I don't remember what else was said about the others, I was too 'moved' to pay much attention, that and plotting my revenge for mortifying me.....

The dinner was done, speeches over, and the room was being broken down by 9.  We stood in the lobby for another 30 minutes or so...Networking.  Jackie Smith...call me.  Your name came up in conversation more than once, were your ears burning last Thursday?  In the end, we ascended in the same glass elevator we made our grand entrance in, and back to the room we went.  Changing into something comfortable, we head back downstairs to the bar.  Feeling flush, we order something 'different'.  Joe says to me, you know, I've never had a Bloody Mary...I want a Bloody Mary.  Me, I get something called a Citrus Sunrise....citrus vodka, lemonade and club soda.....the kind of drink that you think is a girly drink, with no kick...until you stand up.  Our celebration over, everyone from C & A having gone home to their loved ones, we go out on the patio in front of the hotel, enjoy the breeze of the 60 degree weather, and wonder whether or not this night could get any better.

Content with our state, we call it a night and go up to bed.  We will need our rest for what the morrow brings...beside having to get all our belongings together we will have a full day of baby cuddling, kid chasing and otherwise saying good-bye to Omaha and all the people we have come to know and love.

Monday, October 1, 2012

THE Trip - Day 1

Woke up (ha, yeah right, didn't sleep much) on the day of the flight.  All the luggage was put in the trunk the night before and all we had to do was get dressed (and me take yet another Imodium).  Night before I get a message from the youngest grandson........he had packed a bag and tried to 'go to Gwamma's' and when his mommy said I was going away on a trip he yells 'Gwammma!!! Get offa da pwane'...so of course we thought we were jinxed.  Thank goodness, it was only a cry for 'bring me goodies, lots of goodies' and not a curse.

Our train was to leave Cornwells Heights train station at 5:59 a.m. We got to Joe's dad's at 5:25.  We had made arrangements for us to leave the car at his house and he would drop us at the train station in time for the train and then pick us up when we got back....saved us from either parking and leaving the car at the Lansdale train station near us or, heaven forbid, paying the astronomical fees at the Philly Airport to park for three days.  We got there in time to buy a ticket from the agent soon were chugging down the rails towards Philly.  We planned to go to Market East station, but the consensus of the commuters on the train with us said we would get to the airport sooner if we got off at 30th Street (Amtrak Station) instead, so we did. They were right.  According the original schedule, we would get to the airport at 7:58 a.m. and we were to be at the airport two hours before flight time (10 a.m.).  Instead, we got to 30th Street at 7:04 and had enough time to buy our tickets and for me to attempt to defrost (I was C-O-L-D, cold) and Joe to have one of his multiple cups of coffee that he needs to survive.  I go up to Dunkin Donuts in the train terminal and the poor girl behind the counter was having a 'really, really bad day'.  She had just dropped sugar on the floor and then dropped a 'shit' right in front of her supervisor, so she was frazzled.  She asked what I wanted....I told her my husband wanted a cup of coffee and she asked how I wanted it....I told her 'he likes his coffee the way he likes his women, hot, sweet and black, but all he got was white and cold, so could I get a medium cup'....she dropped her mouth, then started to laugh.  Glad I made her day. The $2 for a medium cup of coffee didn't do much for mine.

We catch the train from 30th Street and get to airport at least 20 minutes early. We get our tickets, check our bags and zip thru security all before the 7:58 the original train was scheduled to arrive.  We were ahead of schedule....whooo hooo.

While we were waiting, we were going to get something to eat...I know, I know, airport food is expensive, but you can't take ANYTHING past security and I didn't want to piss them off and get tossed before we even got to the airplane.  Went by a couple of food stands........now our mamas didn't raise no fools, we were not gonna pay $10 for a breakfast sandwich so we ended up at McDonalds (it's been a good  year since I ate fast food - Thank YOU Jesus for Imodium) and Joe got a cup of coffee with his sandwich so all was good.

We flew Southwest and they have a system of seating that places you in groups, then you sit where you want.  We were in the second group, #35 and #36.  We were able to sit in a three-group seat and he had the aisle and I had the window (no one in between).  Now, I am not a 'flying virgin'...but almost.  I have only flown two other times, once in 1982 to Orlando and back, and then to Chicago in 2002 for Joey's boot camp graduation.  I have no pictures from our take off since I was ripping Joe's hand off praying to Jesus not to let me die when the plane banked on take-off and I felt like I was gonna fall out the window (Insert Mitt Romney airplane joke of choice here).  Then when we hit the 'bump' when we went thru the clouds and lost sight of the ground I changed my prayer to 'oh lord, let the Imodium work'.......fortunately for us, it did.  AND we got a tail wind and made Chicago in record time, arriving 30 minutes early.

Thank goodness, we just had to go from one end of the terminal to the other in Chicago (no security checkpoints) and they did have moving walkways, so we just found our gate and waited.  Our gate was right near the bathrooms (yeah, God truly WAS my co-pilot that day)and the plane arrived early.  We were able to board and get situated and soon were on our way to Omaha!!!

We were scheduled to arrive at 1:55 in Omaha.  Yet again, we had a tail wind and made it about 15 minutes ahead of time.  Not only was our baggage waiting for us (no loses, no missed flights) but our 'chauffeur' was waiting for us by the baggage carousel.  Jonathan (remember him from the Prelude - he's the Contract Manager) was 'supposed' to pick us up, but he had a meeting to attend, so 'his' boss, Joe's original Contract Manager from when he first started, Bill Halloran, was there to pick us up.  Now Bill is nice man, and a good choice to send to meet someone in a crowd.  Tall dude, real tall with a big smile.  Soon we were on our way out of the airport and off to Aureus's offices.  Interesting bit of useless information.....we visited two states at this time.  The Omaha, NEBRASKA airport is actually in Council Bluffs, IOWA!!! So in 15 minutes, we went from Iowa to Omaha and then to C&A Industries (Aureus' parent company).   Jonathan met us at the doors and was taken short when he realized that when Joe told him earlier that he would be at the airport with 'bells on' he actually meant it, as I have a necklace made of sleigh bells from Christmas that Joe had on and jangled at him when he came out the door.   After regaining his composure he took us on the grand tour of the offices that all of Joe's contracts are sent from (when he remembers to hit the button and send it on as an attachment)......I had a flash back to when I worked for Prudential....all the cubicles, or gopher farm as it is often called,  filled with people on their phones doing what it is that they do.  Joe got to meet all the people to whom he has talked with over the years and finally got to torment them in person.  In fact, he had been receiving emails from a young lady named Melissa regarding the updating of his training...the last piece of this puzzle was his CPR card.  To the joy of all surrounding her, he goes up to her and whips out his wallet and pulls out the CPR card, hands it over and said 'here, I HAD to hand deliver this, flew out to Omaha JUST TO GIVE THIS TO YOU!!!'

After laughing and joking around a bit, it was decided that those who weren't 'lucky enough' to be the manager of the EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR had to get back to work plotting the overthrow, or at least revenge of the Nerf dart kind, of the manager of the current one (aka Jonathan). It was up to Jonathan to get us to the hotel and see that we were checked in.  Now we knew that we weren't going to be put up in the Motel 6, but we were not expecting what we got. We were put up in in the Embassy Suites adjacent to the convention center that the banquet was to be held in.  Let me describe this for you.....On one side is the Embassy Suites, on the opposite side is the Courtyard by Marriot and in the middle was the La Vista Conference Center (  http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/nebraska/embassy-suites-omaha-la-vista-hotel-and-conference-center-OMAESES/index.html)  all I could say is OH.......MY....GOD!!! A two room suite, with a king sized bed and a bathroom that I instantly fell in love with.  Now those of you who know me, KNOW how important the bathroom is to me.  Not only was it huge, but it had two doors, I could go from the living area OR the bedroom area, no detours!!!! So, what does one do when one gets in a room like this?  Joe, of course, as an homage to his mother, went looking for the Weather Channel.  That was the 'only' disappointment.  The channel was listed, but it had home shopping on it....oh well, Mom, we tried.  Me, on  the other hand, made a bee line for the shower.  Marbled shower big enough for two (no, this was my shower time, not sharing my warm water time, nope, not happening) and enough hot water to steam all the 'airport grime' off my hide and hair.  Everything cleaned and primed we went downstairs to the lobby and waited to be picked up for dinner.

The hotel had a 'manager's cocktail hour' between 5 and 7 every  night, but we didn't bother with that, as we were to be taken to one of the best steak houses in Omaha.  When the plans were made for us to go out to Omaha, Jonathan asked Joe what he wanted to do.  He told him 'eat meat'.  Since Omaha was known for it's steaks, Joe wanted the biggest steak in Omaha.  We ended up at The Drover (http://droverrestaurant.com/) and both of the guys ordered a 22 oz. whiskey marinaded steak and a potato...I ordered a 'petite'.....that was *only* 10 oz.  We enjoyed a nice, leisurely meal, good conversation and made plans for the next day.  I told Jonathan that the *only* thing I was concerned with was meeting his two little kids.......having heard so much about them, and what his wife went thru having the last little one, I HAD to love on those babies.  The grandbabies by birth were back in Pennsylvania, but the Gramma was on the prowl, so of course I needed some 'honorary' grandbabies to cuddle.  With plans made, we were returned to the hotel and I got up close and personal with that king sized bed. I was chilly and when I got under that fluffy comforter, I *think* the television was on....can't tell you for sure.  It was a Wednesday, so I put on SyFy, figuring I would watch some mindless TV (Ghost Hunters), but a haunting was not in store... unless you call Morpheus calling a 'haunting'.

Thus closes the first day of Joe and Ginny's Excellent Adventure.  It began early in Coopersburg/Philadelphia and ended in LaVista, Nebraska.....Good night, peeps, Day 2, THE Award ceremony is coming up.

(drum roll please) THE Trip - the Prelude

Way back when, say the end of July-middle of August, the Hubster, as he is known on Facebook, otherwise known as Joe Tadrzynski, was talking to his Contract Manager who handles his employment with Aureus Medical.  This is not unusual as this transpires usually two to three times a week for an average of 45 minutes at a shot and covers many topics relating to and often having absolute jack to do with his work.  During this one conversation the topic of awards came up.  Jonathan, his manager, say 'oh, by the way, you were put up for our employee of the year'.  Joe, being Joe, said, 'yeah right, pull the other one'.  They laughed, they joked and left it at that. 

About a week later, when they are shooting the bull yet again, the topic comes up again.  This time, Joe is told, 'by the way, you won employee of the year for the therapy division'.  Now both Joe and Jonathan have a give and take relationship and so Joe, again, tells him to pull the other one'....Jonathan says 'no, I'm serious'......and get's an 'okay, buddy' in response. In our email account the next day, we find a letter from the CFO, Scott Thompson congratulating Joe on being named Aureus Medical (Therapy Division) Employee of the Year.  This shit just got real.  

Next telephone conversations entails 'now what'.  It is determined that not only has he been named Employee of the Year, but they will fly him and a plus one (ME! ME! ME!) to the company headquarters in Omaha, NE  and will put us up in a hotel and entertain us the day before, the day of and the day after the awards banquet.  (September 26-28, 2012)

Saddled with this information, we take a good hard look at each other.  The last suit Joe bought and had fitted to his frame was in 1977, when, in the Navy and in England, he gets a suit on Saville Row.  Lord knows what happened to that poor little sailor, but if we could find that suit a 30" waist line is long gone.  So, being the conscientious shopper, Joe reads all the ads and finds that Joseph A Banks has a sale on suits.  Buy one, get three free (note, he only needs ONE suit, but oh well, off to JAB we go).  We get said suits......fine looking suits....fitted to his frame.  Me, I whack my ankle on a clothing rack and rip it open (I'll be fine - NOT).  

In the interim, we send our eldest daughter teach in Arizona with AmeriCorps (whole 'nuther story for a whole 'nuther blog). While sending  her off, the aforementioned whacked ankle swells to massive proportions and I get a nice raging fever.  Going to the doctor, I find I have a staph infection, oh, and when it doesn't respond to antibiotics, they say 'oh, yeah, it is now MRSA'.....sob.  I go thru the gyrations that  now that I have a months worth of antibiotics, mega-antibiotics, vitamins and pills to make my normally screwed up tummy even less screwed up, I may not get medically cleared to go with him.  This kills me.  I suggest amputation.  The doctor laughs, I'm serious. 

To make a long story short.  The MRSA abates and now I need a dress.  I don't do dress up.  Used to.  Used to wear a suit and carry a briefcase when I worked in insurance in the '80's.  But it's not the 80's any more and like Joe and his English suit, if I HAD any of my fancy-schmancy clothes from the 80's they not only would be sadly out of style but breathing in them might prove difficult.  I look and find nothing.  NOTHING.  Joe says, 'let's go look at dresses'. First freakin' dress he looks at on me, he says 'buy it'.  I'm like, no, let's look, and he's like 'no, buy it'......so, since it was 50% off, we figure if we find something different, I can always take it back.  We didn't.  So it was the long black dress with silver trim, and then three pairs of shoes later (two to go back, one I wore) here it was the week before, and we hit the ground running to get the rest of the stuff ready.  This is starting to look like it is actually going to happen.  Starting to feel blessed.

The week before, Joe goes and gets a shave and a hair cut.  Now, to most guys, this is a natural thing, but for him, well, it's always an adventure.  The hair cut is no big deal, shorten the hair to controllable range (if left to it's own devices and humid weather, he would look like a poodle), but the beard always intimidates hairdressers/barbers.  With a lot of oversight (by me) and a few well placed snips by the young lady at Holiday Hair .....'Whoa, lookin' good, dude'..........while there, I ask what can be done to my skunk hair....you know, the kind with a white/gray streak in it.  She tells me there is a new color process of blending....makes the gray sort of blend in and not look so, so, so 'old'.  So next in line is me......Monday I get the hair dyed and cut.....the unibrow tamed and shaped down to two and then......on Tuesday, I do the unthinkable.  I get my nails done.  

Now, I have had my nails 'done' before.  Usually just a shape and paint deal.  This time it's for real...this time.....I get NAILS put on.  I have these big plasticine nails on the tips of my fingers and painted and decorated and smoothed and filed and......well, you get the picture.  At least Joe likes the fact that they are hard and stiff and I can really scratch his back where he can't reach....like that's a plus for me (can ya scratch over here, yaaaaa, right there).  

Tuesday is D-day....we gotta finish all the packing, and making lists and re-checking them before leaving on Wednesday.  I go to Target to pick up prescriptions and other odds and ends we need (panty hose, travel sized toiletries, etc.) and to check on one other thing.

That other thing? Well, Target has been advertising these new Oreos for Halloween.  Seems they are the 'exclusive' point of sale for Candy Corn Oreos.  The eldest daughter (remember her from four paragraphs up) 'LOVES" candy corn.   Darling Daddy, when told Target has these, tells his 'baby girl' ....."if you want them, WE'LL get them and mail them to you", so for the past week or two I attempted to find them in at least three different Targets.  While preparing to go to Omaha, I am also now on the elusive hunt for Candy Corn Oreos......no luck.  I send not one, but two scathing emails to Target telling them of my disdain that they do not have said Oreos that I wanted to buy and send to not only Darling Daughter but Darling 'Niece-type Person' (college roommate's daughter, stationed in the military in Korea) - lay on the guilt- but I probably won't shop there again since they practiced false advertising!!! Why am I digressing? Just keep this point in mind.....it will come in handy later.  

Back home, packed and showered.  We are finally ready to go.   Go to bed? Fugeddaboutit! Joe sleeps like a log, a snoring log, since his CPAP is packaged and ready to go....Me? Well, can someone get me another Immodium? 3:30 a.m. comes pretty early.