Thursday, May 31, 2012

Operation Cookie Bake: Mom Saves the Day

Ever get busted by one of the world’s strongest men? I did along with some friends! We had made a promise to one of our favorite cyclists Jens Voigt a few months ago and he didn’t forget. I think the best way to explain the situation is for you to read Mary Topping’s blog, she explains   Operation Cookie Bake with a great video at the end.

Jens Voigt is one of cycling’s biggest names. He is the first pro-rider I became a fan of in 2009 during the Tour De France. I have followed his career from team to team the last several years and enjoy watching him ride. I’ve written more about that here

So the story in brief is, we promised Jens cookies to wish his biggest fan Melissa a Happy birthday in December. A bunch of us on Twitter promised cookies to him the next time he raced in America and also Angi inLuxembourg promised cookies when he races there. Conner had made cookies for our tweeps and also a bag for Jens. I chased him all over on Thursday and could never get him over to give him the cookies. Mary had cookies too and couldn’t get close enough.

So when I woke up on Friday morning and saw these tweets from Jens,  my heart sank! I couldn’t believe he remembered and I had been so close.

Hi everybody, maybe some of you remember how i tweeted something to somebody birthday a long time ago??! And i got cookies promised for that

Got the cookies promised next time i would race in the US, and oh man- this free cookies where a big part in my decision making to continue!

So yeah, 50% of my reason to resign another year was the free cookies-hahaha and they have'nt shown up yet. Hahaha

Wow. You can imagine our panic. You don’t want to make the Jensie mad! So Operation Cookie Bake went into emergency management. Mary was the first to deliver and she has a great video on her blog, so be sure to check it out. I hadn’t planned on going to the southern California stages, so I did the next best thing……….called Mom!

My Mom has worked for Disney for years and she is always game for fun stuff. She recently started following cycling and getting more into it to keep up with Conner and I. So she agreed to take cookies to the Beverly Hills start on Sunday. We were set to make delivery number two, Mary and Mom saved the day.

Then a little butterfly mentioned where the team buses were parking on Saturday morning and what time they would be there. I made a call to mom and told her they would be only a thirty minute drive away. Ontario was so much closer than Beverly Hills and easier than the traffic nightmare being warned about on Sunday. Then another friend told me that cyclists can’t eat homemade things during a race because of contamination risk and that he might not eat them. I told my mom to go buy him Circus Animal Cookies by Mothers, these are a California tradition and great cookies. So she ran to the store got a bag and hopped in the car armed with a picture of Jens.

She found the buses easily but RSNT wasn’t there yet. She waited at a empty spot and asked woman standing next to her if she knew where the Radio Shack bus would be. The woman replied, “ I think here, I am waiting for them too because Chris Horner is my brother.” Then the bus didn’t come and she helped my mom find where the bus actually was which was next to my Mom’s car!

She waited by the door of the bus. She said the door opened, Jens came out and looked right at her and smiled. He stopped to sign a jersey for a little boy next to her, she said the little boy asked him about the bee he chewed up the other day and it was cute.

She held the cookies out and said, “These are from MomCycfan on Twitter and some other twitter people in the note.” She said that Jens smiled really big and said, “Thank you, she saved my life” or “She made my life” she wasn’t sure because of his accent. Either way, he was happy and she had delivered his cookies for us.

Her first time being at a race and meeting a cyclist, she meets one of the most famous of all time and a true legend. We all love Jens because he is a hard worker, loyal, funny and a wonderful family man. This is truly a well respected man and a huge legend. So fun to have a small part in this fun story!

* This blog is delayed because I had to wait until Mom could send her pictures. After two weeks of waiting, she finally sent them today. She got a lot of great shots of the Ontario start but none of Jens with the cookies! I must say she did a great job of getting this done and I am grateful.

Jens saw Mom first but stopped to sign for this little boy. The little boy asked Jens about the bee

Jens taking the cookies

#cookiepower sent Jens into the break that day

"Jens was thinking hard while waiting for the stage to start" was my mom's quote on this picture.
Where are the cookies Jens?

Chris Horner. Mom met his sister while waiting.
New US Road Champ Timmy Duggan ( a week before his big win)

Here is the Thank you tweet from Jens that came about a week later.
@thejensie: To answer some left over question from @ATOC - hell yeah i enjoyed my cookies!! And i did get all the equipment for my sons Lacrosse !!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Crazy Autobiographical Memory

A few weeks ago, I saw a interview with Marilu Henner of Taxi fame on television. She was talking about her super memory which allows her to recall down to the date. I have seen other interviews with another woman who has this kind of memory. The actual name is a Autobiographical memory and I believe that this is the kind of memory I have.

For years I have known my memory is different. I can recall events in my life in vivid detail starting with a memory from the crib. My mind is a Rolodex of sorts, it is categorized by year,month and event. I can flip back to a year and remember certain events. The one thing that separates me from Marilu is that I cannot always remember that date of said event sometimes it is just the year. My mind is full of events and stories that are brought up by the simplest of things. It often is a constant running film in my head.

I've always been good with names which I attribute to being from a large family. When you have 14 cousins, you have to be good with names. My family members are also good with names and often we will remember each others friends names also. We do spend a lot of time talking about past events and recalling, so we might all have a touch of this kind of memory. We all love to play trivia and watch Jeopardy! for this reason, it suits our memories.

With my memory comes another skill, I have a built in GPS. When I was about four years old, I led my parents to their car in the LA county fair parking lot. Neither of them could remember where we parked but I could. I still to this day can go somewhere once and remember how to get there forever. I rarely get lost even when I try to get lost ( a game I would play for fun with my friend Jen in high school)

In fact, the other day I was live tweeting during the final stage of the AMGEN Tour of California and sharing the useless facts that I have stored up about that part of Los Angeles. I think people thought I had looked them up but was actually just citing them off the top my head. I have lots of useless information like that floating around. I would make a fabulous tour guide.

It's not something I often talk about and really have never thought I was any different until I was older. I will often remember people after meeting them once and when they don't remember me, I just pretend to not know them either. I recently freaked Andrea out by remember a outfit she wore when I went to work with her in 1990. I can also remember the outfit that I wore that day. It's nothing unusual, I can tell you about many days and events like that.

I am a reader, I love to read books. I very rarely re-read books because I can remember almost everything that I read. It's very boring for me to re-read books since I remember them almost verbatim.

Through a recent conversation with a scientist friend of mine Beth, I decided to open up and share this on my blog. One of the reasons behind this blog is a way for me to write the events down and get them out of my head. The blog has become my autobiography of sorts and a way for me to put a memory down for good and then de-clutter the running rolodex in my head. One habit that Marilu and the other people with super memory's have is the have written down events. I never did this until I started blogging and it wasn't a intentional reason behind me starting the blog. It just sort of morphed into having that purpose.

I am very fortunate, I am able to shut the memories off and really don't live in the past. It's just a cool party trick of sorts and something I didn't realize was unusual. The purpose of this blog is to share and maybe inform you of why I don't forget things. Warning, I rarely,rarely forget things just so you know the next time you tell me something. That said, my short term memory is horrible these days. I used to never need a grocery list or to write down appointments. Now my brain is overloaded with 50 million things between myself,Marty and the kids, I forget a lot of short term things.

Just thought I would share and explain one of the reasons I often blog about things in the past. I have found it really is a great benefit for sharpening your memory. So I am improving my already good memory while blogging about some great times in my life.

Friday, May 18, 2012

AMGEN 2012: The Race of Tweeps

As you well know, Conner and I have been into cycling since our first time going to the AMGEN Tour of California in 2009. Conner had been a fan since 2005 but I wasn't a fan until I met the cyclists in person. Each year we have gone to a stage and had so many wonderful experiences.

There aren't too many of our favorite riders that we haven't met! Not too many people can say that and not had to travel far to do it. Last year I started a Twitter account to meet other cycling fans. Our family and friends were tired of hearing about it. I met a lovely lady Anita who introduced me to so many wonderful people in the cycling fan community.

This year two of our "tweeps" Jen and Heidi came to stay with us for two days. The race was going to be north of our home one day and south of our home the next day. We traveled to Clovis for the stage 4 finish which was a first for us. We waited all day by the podium in hopes to see one of our favorite riders on the podium. Then a man from the ATOC came up to the lady next to us and whispered to her, she suddenly moved. She came back to tell us he told her not to tell us but the riders wouldn't be right there. So we followed her to where they would be and waited. We couldn't believe that guy did that and were confused as to why?

We still were able to see the riders whizz by the finish and meet Peter Sagan, Seb Salas. The best part of the day was the local news interviewing Heidi and Jen for the 10 PM news. The reporter was amazed they were traveling to follow the race and that we had all met on Twitter none the less.

Then one of our favorite Twitter buddies Mary R. came to hug Conner and I. It was so wonderful to meet her since she was one of our first friends on Twitter. Then we met up with Mary T. from Colorado over by anti-doping. While with her we saw Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan again. I got a great picture of Vincenzo

Vincenzo Nibali aka "Nibbles"
Peter Sagan

Yesterday morning we drove south to Bakersfield. It was the Individual Time Trial stage, yet another first for us. We found a prime spot by the start house and waited to see the riders take off. While waiting I went to the team buses to find (stalk) riders while Conner talked to mechanics. He wants to be a bike mechanic someday and his assignment was to find out info from mechanics. I tried to meet Ted King from Liqigas but may have scared him off with my tweet " I am outside your bus", I was a little over zealous.

I ended up having a dream come true instead, I met Christophe Riblon my favorite French rider from AG2R. This was the first time they came to the ATOC and my first chance to meet him. He was so shocked to see hear me call him by name and I told him in french that he was my favorite. They told me to walk up to him and kiss him if I wanted. I settled for a picture right next to him instead. It was AMAZING!

Conner and I were able to meet up with Sean from BMC who I tweet with often. We had been trying to find each other unsuccessfully. It was great to meet him and give him cookies. We baked cookies for our favorite tweeps and also for Jens. A few months ago, we had promised Jens cookies in California if he wished our twitter friend Melissa Happy birthday. He did and several of us were supposed to bring him cookies.

Conner and I seperately saw Jens riding down the road. He waved and smiled but couldn't stop. Later after the race we saw him walk by to the podium and he waved and smiled. I had a mission to get him cookies we promised him on Twitter in exchange for wishing our tweep Melissa happy birthday. 

Jens waving to us again!

I saw Mary T and she told me to run over to the podium. So I ran over to the podium and stood on the side. Jens had placed third and so I was able to see him on the podium for the last time in California ( in person at least) and he turned to wave and smile at me again. It was great to see our fellow Californian Dave Zabriskie take the yellow jersey and win the time trial. Also seeing the great young rider Tejay on the podium from Conner's favorite team BMC.

Jens, Dave and Tejay on the podium

As we walked back to the car in the heat, a man stopped Heidi and Jen because he recognized them from the news the night before. We laughed so hard about that! It was hilarious! We said our goodbyes and helped them find the freeway. The kids and I met Mary R at her hotel for a short visit before we headed home. It was fun to chat with her in the air conditioning after a long day in the sun.

It was the hottest couple of days we have had in the valley. It wasn't fun standing baking in the sun but the experience was that of a lifetime. The best part of the race was meeting up with our cycling friends for the first time and enjoying the race together. Meeting some of our favorite riders and being able to cheer for them was fun as always.

This morning, I woke up to see that Jens tweeted about his cookies not being delivered. We were shocked he remembered and now are scrambling to get him his cookies. A bunch of people are trying to get him cookies including me. I will keep you updated and hopefully have a picture of him with the cookies. My Mom is taking them to Beverly Hills for me Sunday morning!

If you want to see the full set of picture go here to my Flickr page to view them

Here is a few pictures of our Twitter meet ups and Also a great picture taken by Mary T on her Twitter ( click the link) of Heidi, Jen and I

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A True Memorial Day Tradition

25 years ago on a warm May night in Southern California, I sat on the floor of our apartment watching t.v. on our console television. I don't remember what I was watching, it was early evening the sky was still light but I remember the little yellow words that scrolled across the screen. Across the screen of the show I was watching the words "Frigate USS Stark bombed in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Iraq" crawled slowly across the screen.

"Mom, Mom, Jimmy's ship has been bombed" I yelled into the kitchen where Mom was cooking dinner. She came out and tried to tell me I was wrong. "No Mom, I am right. Jimmy is on the Stark. I know it" she ran to the phone to call my Gramie. I was only 10 years old, 4 months shy of my 11th birthday.

Of course, Gramie confirmed that I was correct and we waited. The next day word came, Jimmy was one of 37 sailors killed on the Stark. Jimmy was actually my Mom's cousin, son of her beloved Aunt Pat in Visalia. Aunt Pat was the sister of my Kankad ( Grandad) and the only living relative we had to my Grandad who had passed away several years earlier.

We often made the trip up the 99 north to Visalia to see Aunt Pat and her boys. She had five boys whom were more like brothers to my mom. In fact, their families had lived together when my grandparents moved out from Kansas in the 50's until my grandparents bought a house. They were a close knit family and I grew up close to the boys as well. We all referred to each other as "cuz" and just loved being together.

I remember my last visit in the winter, seeing Jimmy come down the hall wearing a sweater and his trademark smile. He had served one enlistment in the Navy and re-enlisted for a second. He had told my Gramie that he was going somewhere he really didn't want to go. In fact, a letter from Jimmy arrived just days before his death for my Gramie. He never failed to remember his "Aunt Mearle" by sending her cards, letters  and gifts. It was a ceramic Stark ashtray in Gramie's living room that was in my mind when I saw the little yellow words.
Bob Kumerow and James Stevens
1987 on board the USS Stark Courtesy Karen Stevens

Seeing the face you love in the newspaper in class at school listed as one of the dead is something you never get over. Seeing your aunt receiving a flag with your mom bawling in the background splashed across the front page of another paper. Things like that never leave you as much as remembering a beautiful smile and a great laugh. He was my uncle Greg's best friend and I can say that Greg never was the same after that day. Nobody was the same ever again...death has a way of leaving that mark.
2/8/60-5/17/87 Freedom isn't free

A year later, the Veterans in Visalia decided to start hanging casket flags in the cemetary on Memorial day and having service to remember. My Aunt Pat was one of the first to donate and Jimmy's is flag number 36 right as you walk in. In 1990, she asked me to attend with her and I remember her standing when they asked the gold star mom's to stand. It was held under a green funeral awning in a grassy area, maybe 60 people in attendance. She wanted me to take a picture with by Jimmy's flag together which I didn't know would start a tradition in years to come.

Aunt Pat and Julie May 1991

In the years following, I would grow closer to Aunt Pat. She was a huge part of my life and I eventually moved to be close to her. I got to spend two years living in the same town as her and enjoyed that special time together.

She passed away in 2001. I continue the tradition of going to the cemetery each memorial day for the service. It was grown to nearly a thousand in attendance with almost two thousand flags lining the streets of the cemetery. It is truly one of the most beautiful, moving sights to behold. Each year, I line my kids up in front of Jimmy's flag and make them take a picture. Next year, I hope to be able to attend the national memorial in Mayport,Florida to represent our family.

I want my kids to know that freedom comes at a cost. I want to carry on a mother's love and make sure her son isn't forgotten. To make sure that a memory lives on and the world doesn't forget. Jimmy never got to see 30, I have lived longer than he did now.  Life has gone on but the memories don't fade and I won't let that ever happen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The End of the AWANA Era

Today is the end of an era in our home, a true sign our children are growing up faster than we would like.  Tonight Elizabeth will receive her Timothy award one of the highest honors in AWANA. The AWANA program has been a part of our lives since our son Conner was four years old. Elizabeth was three years old when she started AWANA.

Elizabeth age three in her first year of AWANA

Through this program they have learned to study, plan, meet goals and memorize large portions of verse. They have done different service projects in each book, learned things like how to handle a American flag, joined quiz teams and played games on the game square. It has been a wonderful addition to our homeschooling. In some ways AWANA gave them a classroom/school experience and brought the “socialization” that many non-homeschoolers often mention.

Every Wednesday since 2002 our family has driven down the road to our church. Some Wednesdays for many years I stayed and worked in the store. We would serve snack and assist the kids in buying things with their earned chapel checks or stars. That is where we saw our friends Matt and Tammy for years, we loved those weekly meet ups. It was the first place we went after my Gramie died on Wednesday in 2003. It was the place we went and had people pray after Marty got the call from the doctor saying something was urgently wrong with him. It was the place my kids went the day their dad got the call for transplant. After we came home from transplant? The first place we went was AWANA to take our kids.

It was a place to see our friend’s mid-week standing outside or sitting in our cars waiting for the kids to come out. I loved meeting Alyce and Jerry in the breeze way to chat. Often a great place to ask someone to pray for you if you had a need. Even our dog Oscar looks forward to riding in the car to get his kids on Wednesday evenings.

We met Helen the first night of AWANA; she raised five boys in the mountains of the Philippines’. She took Conner’s hand and off he went. Elizabeth was taught by my dear friend Heather in cubbies, she’s a Kindergarten teacher and Elizabeth loved it. We met Scott who quickly became a huge part of Conner’s life, a real mentor for him. Elizabeth and Conner both loved Traci who directed Sparks for years. Traci truly helped Conner overcome some real struggles with learning. Of course, they both loved Del and Colleen who directed the program for years.

As you can tell, this was a huge part of my kid’s formative years. Tonight is the real end of their elementary school years. It will be weird when the next school year starts to not go to AWANA on Wednesday nights. We are so thankful for this program and the impact it has been had our children’s lives. We are truly sad to say goodbye forever.

Elizabeth on her last day of AWANA

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gramie's Dishes

When I was about 8 years old, I was sitting in the kitchen with my Gramie eating breakfast before school. She was probably smoking a cigarette while she waited. I mustered enough gumption and glanced over at her to ask my question.

"Gramie, when you die can I have your dishes?" she blinked hard at my question and said, "Sure you can. I will make sure they are yours." and that was that. There was something I loved about those simple green and white dishes with baby strawberries covering the center of the plate.  They weren't anything fancy; just simple everyday dishes that she served us breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner on. My Gramie was a good cook always making something tasty. It was her one true great skill in life and she used it well.

Gramie died nine years ago and my dishes never came. At first my uncle didn't allow anyone to take anything from the house. Then I guess they somehow made their way to my sister Kim for her to "borrow". Last week my mom asked me if I was ready for them? Um, I've been waiting almost thirty years for this day!

So today the dishes came to live with me. Things do always have a way of finding their rightful owner in the end.  I took each piece out of its wrapping and washed them as I put them away. Now they will be the dishes I serve my kids breakfast on in the mornings. Just knowing they are here now makes my heart happy.  I know Grams would be happy to know they finally are sitting in my cupboard and her promise to me was fufilled.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Check out my Guest post and contest

I am guest posting over at Hip Homeschool Mom's today. Sharing our journey with homeschooling and learning disabilities. Read the post here

Also there is still time to go read this post and enter my contest for Pamela Fagan Hutchins book Hot Flashes and Half Iron Mans you can enter that on this post here

Thanks for all the support and helping take Just Jules to a new level this year!