Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - A Year in Review

Each year I like to look back and reflect over all that has happened. It's a great way for me to see how I've grown as a person and all the wonderful things I experienced...and the trials. Life experiences are always growing experiences whether they are good or bad. So, let's get started with the recap...

January - I traveled to Alabama to visit my friends Paige and Steve...mainly Paige while Steve was away at a conference, but I did get to see him at the end of my visit. In my attempt to escape winter weather, I brought an ice storm with me to the south. Nice.

February - We had a major snowstorm in Louisville along with tornadoes too. In the midst of the snowstorm, my car died, foreshadowing it's impending death. On the bright side, I was able to make an 8-year-old very happy by getting him tickets to his first college basketball game ever to see the Louisville Cardinals.

March - My friend, Jan, surprised me with tickets to see Michael Buble' in concert. Definitely a memory-making event as we got upgraded from nose bleed to floor seats. March also welcomed to the world Leah Mae and Jane Adair. As Jane entered the world almost a year to the day of her big sister, Emma, little did we know then that Jane would be a big sister herself come June 2009. You gotta love those baby-making Barretts!

April - Brock Matthew Blackwell was born and greeted by a welcoming committee that filled the waiting room, hospital room and everywhere else they could be. It wouldn't be a Blackwell birth without a grand hoop-la. The little man is cute and crawling. I also launched my "Musings of the Week" posts for those times when I just need to spew forth on multiple topics but nothing in particular.

May - I experienced what a real sewer backup is like when my sewer exploded like a baby elephant with a diaper blowout in May. Thankfully I have a Dad who is the greatest man on the planet and tile flooring where this nasty mishap overflowed. Be thankful for the small things.

June - If there was a word for 2008, it would be "new." I bought a new computer in June, ditching the old dinosaur. I'm happy to report that I love the new computer, even if it is Vista. It should come in handy to help me with some of the resolutions I'm thinking about for 2009. Stay tuned.

July - To continue the "new" theme, I bought a new car in July (technically June 30) and put my other car to rest. After 3 breakdowns in a year, it was time. I feel somewhat responsible for the Big 3 automakers failing as I bought, for the first time ever, a non-GM or Ford vehicle and opted for a Honda.

August - Coming in threes, a new fridge was purchased in August. My other one died and thankfully this was the last big ticket item that had to be replaced in 2008. I also made my annual trip to Adel, Georgia, to visit my great friends, Chad and Tracy. Little did we know that during our visit, Tracy discovered via a home pregnancy test that they were expecting. I didn't get the news until about 12 weeks later. Baby Toddette is due to make her grand appearance in April.

September - We experienced more weather oddities in September as a major wind storm hit the area. With power outages in many places for a week or more, I was thankful to be spared and only out for about 24 hours. An interesting perk from the storm...I went to lunch with a group of friends that Sunday afternoon after church when the storm hit. We didn't know it was quite that violent at the time, but realized later on our way home that it was. Lunch that day was free for anyone using a credit or debit card...which included me! None of us ever got billed or charged for our meals. Small blessings amidst swirling winds.

October - I traveled to San Francisco for a business trip and had a blast. I love my job, even with all its stresses. In these days, I'm very thankful to have a job I love and be able to work with some really cool people.

November - Speaking of my job, one of my co-workers found a sweet potato patch hidden away in the landscaping of downtown Louisville. Along with the growing vegetable, she also found a $100 bill a few days later. Real-life fairy tales like that make me smile.

December - This has been a great month! I got to make a memory with some of my closest friends by seeing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and to chronicle the event, I used my new digital camera. I'd like to point out this was yet another "new" purchase, but bought with Christmas money. Merry Christmas to me!

May all of my faithful blog readers have a happy and prosperous new year. I'm praying 2009 will be better than all we can imagine....

Monday, December 22, 2008

When the Line Between TV and Real Life Blurs

I love The Office. You either "get" that show or you don't. There aren't any fair-weather fans. For those who've never watched it and live under a rock, here's the premise...a branch office of the paper company, Dunder-Mifflin, is being documented by a filming crew who meander through the lives and cubicles of the cast/office workers. Michael Scott, played by the hilariously funny Steve Carell, is the non-PC boss who thinks everyone loves him. Every cube dweller has their own personality and quirk that add spice to the show. Outlining them all would take a full blog post. But, to understand the scene I'm about to describe, remember the point that Michael Scott is non-PC.

If you work in an office, you have those "Office" moments when you can relate to the show because what just happened could have happened between Michael and Stanley....or Phyllis and Angela. We had just such a moment here last week...

Our President was heading back out to the West Coast and made his way throughout the office to say good-bye and wish everyone a happy holiday. As he entered into our editorial department, he said, "Merry Christmas....Happy Holidays.....Happy Kwanzaa!"....and immediately turned to the African American member of the team and said, "Is that how you say it?..."Happy Kwanzaa?" The team member shrugged his shoulders and our President was off to the airport. The rest of the employees who instantly realized the Office moment that just happened all gave blank looks into the imaginary camera just like Jim Halpert would on the show.


I love my job.

**For the record, my President is very PC....he was probably just having a lapse that day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Musings for the Week - Reading, Picture Taking and Being Blessed

1. Over the Thanksgiving long weekend, I had a burst of excitement for reading again. Maybe it's because I did away with my Christmas shopping lickety split by doing it online and had plenty of time for rest and reading. I just finished reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Beautiful story of the value of life and the tragedy of those that don't see that value. I've kept a tally of the books I've read this year - 8 so far, and hopefully more - to show me how much I am reading and it is sort of embarrassing. In thinking through my 2009 resolutions, one may need to involve a better discipline to read and expand my horizons. Stay tuned for a future post on my 2009 resolutions.

2. Each year my company works with an adopt a family organization for Christmas. We adopt two families in need and are divided up into teams to work together on shopping and wrapping the gifts. This is one of my favorite things about this time of year. For all the many years I've worked with this management team at this and other companies, we've always done this, and it's a real much to my heart as those families that receive the gifts. Our family this year is a single Dad with four children ranging in age from 12 down to two months. The Mom is in jail for drugs and Dad was called back from Iraq to care for the children. And, they heat their home with a wood stove. As we wrapped all the gifts yesterday and they piled up in the conference room for pickup today, we were so excited about the expectations of what the family would get. I'll be posting pictures on Facebook soon, so check them out there. If you aren't my friend on Facebook, add me!

3. Speaking of pictures, I finally stepped into the 21st century and bought my first digital camera....for $55! I'm cheap when it comes to non essentials and refused to pay more than $100 for a camera. I found a Kodak Easyshare 8.2 Megapixel camera (and it's pink!) on sale at Best Buy for $79. Deduct a $25 gift certificate I had from my laptop purchase and voila! $55. I've historically been a horrible paparazzi because I'm too engaged in activity or socializing to take pictures, along with the fact I dreaded getting them developed and putting them in an album. Now with the glory of technology, I no longer have to worry about heading to Walgreens or being a scrapbooker. A simple upload to Facebook or my favorite photo sharing site and I'm in business. So far, after a short stint of buyer's remorse, I'm very pleased with my purchase.

4. I saw the funniest road sign the other day on Interstate 71. There is a sign that says "Stay in Lane." Stay in lane? Like someone is driving down the road and thinks, "Hmm, about now, I'd like to drive on the median for a while and see how that goes." I realize there is construction going on so maybe lane driving is a challenge, but usually bright orange cones make me pay attention even more. I'd take a picture to post, but doing so would require stopping in the midst of construction on a busy highway and well....I need to "Stay in Lane."

5. I am enormously blessed beyond all I can imagine with the job I have. For those that have known me for a while, you're quite aware of the many jobs I've lost due to dot com busts, downsizing, mergers and relocations. At one time I felt like the poster child for the unemployed. In these troubled times, everyone is jittery about the future of their employment. I've heard of numerous folks losing their jobs, taking cuts, etc. I am wise enough to know that no one is immune, including me. But this week we had our annual company lunch to celebrate the holiday and discuss 2009 benefits. We canceled our Christmas Party a few weeks ago in an effort to save on costs and so 2009 benefits were a bit of an unknown. Our management team made a few reallocation of funds to help us keep the benefits of most importance in tact and reduced other areas in hopes that we can restart everything stronger in 2010. I love my job (with all its stresses and responsibilities)....I love my management (they do make wise choices)...and I certainly hope the year ahead will be great in spite of the media's dismal reports.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This year, my friends, Christie, Beth and Amy, decided, in lieu of gifts, we'd "make a memory" as our Christmas celebration. We all love the theater and after a failed attempt to get to the Derby Dinner Playhouse performance of White Christmas, we opted for a Saturday brunch and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. It just doesn't get much better than that.

For those who don't know the story written by Barbara Robinson (you need to check that book out of the library and read it if you haven't), it's the story of a rowdy family named the Herdman's. A brood of uncontrollable bullies that all the children stay away from. Their only refuge from the Herdman's? Church...except when someone brags to a Herdman that they get treats in Sunday School and the next week the whole crew shows up...just in time for the announcement of casting for the Christmas Pageant.

What ensues is somewhat predictable, but tugs at your heart strings just the same. The Herdmans hear the story of Jesus' birth for the very first time and those that have heard it told year after year have a new appreciation for the true Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. The transformation is seen not only in the Herdmans, but all the people involved in the retelling of the greatest birth of all. As I sat there weepy-eyed as Luke 2 was read, I was reminded of the simple truths of that story. And, how Jesus came for the raggedy and unruly, not just for the prim and proper.

As we left the theater, I was happy to know I wasn't the only one who shed a few tears. I can always count on Amy being my softie partner in crime. But, I was quick to notice a Dad sitting in front of me quickly wiping his eyes as the lights came up. This was just the way we'd hoped to make a memory.

After our group picture to validate we were there, we headed to the elevator to get to our car. Surrounding us were tons of special needs children and adults along with their chaperones. The patient leader was trying to coordinate all the groups and make sure no one strayed away. My heart was touched again. These sweet, innocent and helpless people would never have experienced that show today without merciful and giving people willing to go the extra mile to plan and oversee this outing. These folks with Down's Syndrome or other mental issues may have grasped very little of the play they just experienced. And most of us would dismiss their need to go for that very reason. But like the Herdmans, raggedy, unruly and simply not like us, they soaked in the love of those that let them do something we all take for granted.

The Baby that was born, giving us the reason we celebrate this holiday, came for all the world.....even the least of these. I hear Linus whispering in my ear, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." ....quickly followed by Gladys Herdman proclaiming...."HEY....unto you a Child is Born.....He's in the barn...go see Him." I hope you spend some time at the manger this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Dasher, On Dancer...On Clicker

If I was a reindeer, I'd want my name to be "Clicker." Prancing isn't my thing, nor is dancing, although I enjoy my own groove. And being called Vixen could be damaging to my reputation. Clicker would work just fine. I find that I probably click my mouse about 10,000 times a day. I need a click-o-meter to determine that actual number. Ah, if only that would burn calories like true exercise...

This past Thanksgiving weekend I spent a lot of time clicking as I procured 90% of my Christmas gifts online. Shopping online is glorious and has to be the best feature of the Internet. Ok, e-mail, IM, Facebook....there are others, but for convenience and time-saving, there is no better way than to click "Add to Cart."

Since I have a small family and we're not big present-givers, I don't have a lot to purchase. Some of my friends have decided that in lieu of presents we spend the day together, which is my favorite gift....making a memory. I'm not a fan of shopping (which surprisingly hasn't snagged me a man yet) so getting this done early makes me a happy camper.

There is still time for you to participate in boosting the economy by doing some of your shopping online. To maximize your savings, be sure you search for promotional codes for the sites you'll be visiting. These are the cryptic codes that give you anything from free shipping to percentage discounts on your purchases. Current Codes is one of the sites I use. It's not the most user friendly site, but most codes work. RetailMeNot is another great site for promotional codes. You search by the store or domain of that store and your search results show codes and their success ratings. This site also allows users to submit codes they've found. If it's free shipping you desire, visit to search by store and get various codes to qualify you for free shipping depending on your purchase levels.

'Twas three weeks before Christmas and I was becoming St Nick
As all through the house you could hear the sound of my clicks....