Monday, December 15, 2008

two company Christmas parties…

Thursday was the TASS party – a company that Jerome worked for when he first arrived in the US; actually, this was the company that brought him over to the US. He hasn’t worked for them for nearly 5 years, but he’s invited to the party every year. It surprises most people I tell because, I mean, have I been invited to an MSX party, an Innovative Solutions party, an EDAG party or any type of Chrysler party since I’ve moved on? No. Actually, I’m not sure that those company parties exist anymore.

Thursday’s party was a bit different than what they usually present. This time it was in their office building. They had the hors d'oeuvres catered and must have purchased a bunch of wine and pop and set up a little bar area in the lobby/hallway with a bartender. It worked. They also set up a Wii in one of the offices which was a big hit.
It was nice to visit with everyone; old and new.

Saturday was my companies Holiday party. It was held at the Troy Hilton. We had a family style sit down dinner and the classic “fountain of chocolate” dessert (plus plenty of other sweety things). Afterward, they set up several tables to pretend gamble with buckets of chips. Dance floor and open bar.

It started at 6pm, but for some reason I had it in my head that it started at 7:30pm, so we arrived fashionably late for a 7:30 time slot…so, really 2 hours late! The guys had been saving us a couple of seats at their table, but being that we were so late, they ended up forfeiting a seat to another person. We ended up sharing a table that was meant for 10, with just one other couple; George S. and his wife.

Nearly as soon as we sat down, dinner was served. I think that this is probably the best time to have come. We did however miss the hors d’oeuvres in the hallway, but from what I heard about how jammed it was, I don’t think we missed much.

This was the same room that held the MS Society “Care-giver of the Year” awards last year, where my mother won care-giver of the year.

After gambling, we stayed to dance one dance and left. That was around 11:30pm.

Apparently, my company is faring pretty well during this economic downturn – and we were told that we would be receiving a bonus. That was very unexpected and quite nice.
One funny story about the night was told to me by one of my co-workers, Tony. It was right after the great speech from our President telling us how well the company is doing and that we would be receiving a bonus. Tony was standing by the bar near the President of the company and two of his underlings. Another colleague, Daniel was standing with them, uncomfortably trying to keep up with the conversation. The subject of “Joe the Plumber” came up and Daniel said something like “speaking of plumbing, the plumbing at BR2 really stinks”…the jovialness of the conversation dropped and the President said something like “does that mean you have to flush twice?” The colleague, knowing that he made an error in judgment tried to grab onto anything that would keep him afloat. He looked around and found Tony's face in the crowd and said “isn’t that right Tony????” Tony totally denied him. – Maybe you’d have to be there or at least know the guys, but it was really quite funny.

another anniversary...

We celebrated another anniversary over the weekend - the actual purchase of our house. We signed on the dotted line 4 years ago.

This is what we were doing yesterday - working on the fireplace.

We have the cement board up, the corner pieces and Jerome taped the seams this morning before heading to work. We hope to have the first layer of tile up by the time our primetime shows begin this evening.

This project began in April of 2006 and we've been teased about not having it done for the last couple of years.

Justin called last night and I told him we were in the middle of "doing the fireplace" - he said that the last time he was home (over 3 years ago) we were in the middle of a project. I told him, we've not stopped working on projects the whole time. It's true!

Getting there...but not quite - this is going to be a long project
Close up of the glass tile - it's called Noche
Back in 2006 when we first started:

We had found a bunch of papers, photos and other items behind the mantle when we pulled it off. Even a check from Detroit Edison.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

have you ever had one of those days...

...that you seemed to be spinning your wheels? Things just don’t seem to work out the way you planned?

Well, yesterday was one of those days.

After a long day at work, where everything was fine – I headed to Main Street Salon to get my hair cut and colored and eyebrows waxed. I had practiced what I was going to say to my girl (Julia) as far as not to style my hair because I prefer it flat to my head and possibly just the wet look. The whole process of getting your hair colored and cut takes a long time. When it came time to tell her not to style my hair – she agreed and then started styling with the big round brush and the hair dryer. Afterward she said “you can’t tell a hairstylist NOT to style your hair – it’s impossible”. So, I ended up with way puffy hair. Oh well, I can always jump in the shower and take care of that – but it probably cost me a little too. The final cost for all of this was $125 + tip. I never know what to tip – is it supposed to be 10%, 15%? I think I’ll google it.

Anyway, got home and Jerome was just getting back from the errands I sent him on (or he sent himself on…never know). He had to go to Home Depot to return the slate tiles and natural stone mini tiles that we decided against for the fireplace. We had purchased them within the last two years and they’ve been sitting there, next to the fireplace waiting for us to have time and interest in continuing that project. For the first time, we could not find the receipt, but it doesn’t matter – you just take the items back and if they have the items in their system, you get a store credit. It’s so nice and easy. Only problem was that the huge slate tiles were a discontinued item, so they wouldn’t take them back.

Then he was off to The Tile Shop to return the samples and place the order. We decided on a dark brown glass tile for the fireplace face (after watching something on HGTV over the weekend) and then a travertine stone for the hearth. Should be a nice combo.

Our order for new office chairs came in and were delivered to Jerome’s work. He brought them home last night and after the hair appointment, we went downstairs to put one together. As we were taking the different parts out of the (partially damaged) box, we were becoming more and more hesitant that we had made a good purchase. The parts were wrapped in some sort of Huggie’s diaper material – really – it had Mickey Mouse and Huggie’s written all over it and also Chinese newspaper. The welds seemed really poor quality and as the chair was taking shape, it just looked like crap. The final “straw” were the scratches on the “real wood” arm rests. So, we are going to return them. We had to disassemble it and rewrap it with the diaper material, etc. Jerome could not remove the hydraulic stand from its resting place so we will have to send it back in a larger box. Incredible.

So, after we got all of that done, we decided that we’d start printing out our Christmas cards. The printer was giving us so much trouble – we could only get a couple dozen finished.

Then we looked over The Tile Shop receipt and noticed that the guy that Jerome ordered the tiles from ordered the wrong ones completely! Now Jerome will have to call the store and reorder the items. Sometimes I think he really has a handicap in this country because of his accent. People just don’t understand him – and then there’s the fact that he has some trouble hearing, so I think that works against him too.

The last thing we did was print out our investment information for our meeting tonight with our financial advisor. Hopefully today will NOT be one of those days.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

some good news...

Got a late call from my son last night. He called to tell me that he got sworn in yesterday. Yep, he joined the Army and will be a Light Wheel Vehicle Mechanic.

This was a long time coming; the process seemed to go on forever. The first time (this year) he called me to tell me that he was joining was the beginning of July. Now it’s December and finally, as of yesterday, he’s in.

He had a few hurdles to jump – weight and a criminal record seemed to be the biggest stumbling blocks. But he, his recruiter and Shelly (the parent of a friend of his) persevered and here we are.

He “ships out” to Basic Training on Tuesday, January 20, 2009.

Here’s a very nice note that Shelly wrote to Justin (I was cc’d):

“The time has come for us all to rejoice and celebrate Justin moving up in life. He’s come far these past few months, with a few bumps along the way, but he’s done it.

Justin,
I am saying this to you. Big A, the girls and I are proud of your accomplishments these past several months. You have stuck it out (with a little PUSHING here and there…LOL) but you did it. This is time for you to stand proud and take this new road as a life changing experience and become a wonderful young man with much ahead of him. The road will get tough at times, I’m sure you know that, but look back over the past few years and look at yourself in a new light. You have overcome many odds that were against you. You can succeed, you just have to put your mind to it.

Congrats PVT Justin Daniel Bruce”

Monday, December 8, 2008

let the christmas festivities begin…

Took my mom to the Holiday Tea at the Henry Ford Estate this past Saturday. It was quite nice. I love that place. The menu was an assortment of finger sandwiches and some mini desserts and of course we had tea! Holiday Spice for me – I think mom had some Pomegranate. After lunch, we were offered a tour around the Estate that was narrated by a Clara Ford impersonator. It was really nice and I was forcefully volunteered to dance the “some long named dance” with her in front of the whole lunch crowd.

Dropped off mom and raced back to Romeo because we had the Romeo Historical Society Christmas Home Tour at 6:30pm. It started at the Congregational Church on Main and we visited 5 homes in Romeo. I love this event and hope to do it every year. Had to miss last year because my company’s holiday party landed on the same night. The homes are usually older; some from the 1800’s. The owners have them decorated to the max. Trees in nearly every room. Some homes have the older feel to them with older looking styles and wallpaper, etc. Others have a more modern look, but keeping with the old, they throw in a few antiques here and there. Much more my style. My favorites were the first and the last homes. One was a Craftsman Bungalow, early 20th Century (Arts and Crafts) and the other was a Greek Revival, mid 19th Century. I believe the younger the people that own the homes, the more I share their tastes. I would have loved to take pictures, but my camera really doesn’t do a nice job when it’s dark, so I left it at home.

We have a lot more holiday fun to look forward to the rest of this month. Full details will be in later posts.

Monday, December 1, 2008

getting ready for christmas...

The weekend was dedicated to putting up Christmas; lights, tree and decorations. I decided that I would only use the silver and blue ornaments this year - so it would be different. Jerome didn't seem too sure about it at first thought, but once it was done, he seemed to be OK with it. It just means that all the Hallmark ornaments that I've acquired over the past 25 years are not being used. Next year, only Hallmark ornaments!
...
Last year we wanted to buy a real tree – not a real “cut” tree, but a real one with a root ball that we could plant in the spring. We were trying to be "green".

At the nursery, a forklift had to put it in our car.

12 9 2007 : I look happy now...it took us an hour to remove this living tree from the back of our car. It weighs about 500lbs! Jerome says I'm exaggerating but that whole root ball is a block of ice. We used several methods including tying a rope around it and trying to pull it out of the Golf with our MINI. All we could think of was being in the 2007 Darwin Awards.


12 16 2007 : We haven't brought the living Christmas tree into the house yet...so it's enjoying the new fallen snow. Actually, they say that you shouldn't have one in your house for longer than a week. It will come out of dormancy and then get shocked when you take it outside.


12 18 2007 : Yes, it's inside - but not without a lot of pain. Do you see, it doesn't even fit inside the box that Jerome made last year...and that box is BIG! The weight of the tree actually is breaking the box at the seams. And the tree is crooked. You can't tell because it's not crooked from this side. We thought that getting a living tree rather than purchasing a dead tree for nearly the same amount of money would be a great idea. It's not worth it. We will be buying a fake tree with integrated lights after the season!!! Oh, and we gouged big scratches in our floor! And it's not the end...we have to get it out of the house before we go on vacation and then in the spring, if it is still living, we have to plant it!



We planted the tree in the spring and did everything that you are supposed to do…and after all that struggle it still wound up dead. Here's a picture of it from earlier this summer...today it's totally brown.

After Christmas last year, we went out and bought a fake tree from KMart. It’s very nice. Picture perfect.

the detroit three...

As you probably have heard, the auto industry is taking a beating during this economic downturn. This affects nearly every aspect of my life from mine and my husbands’ jobs, our friends, my parents and my brothers and their families.

Anyhow, everyone at Chrysler, if they were direct, got offered a package last month. They had up until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to sign on the dotted line. The packages differed depending on how much time you had with the company and what your job was, but it seemed that most packages offered a lump sum of money (I heard anywhere between $25,000 - $75,000) and a ($25,000) voucher for a new car.

Cerberus, the privately held company that currently owns the majority of Chrysler, wanted 25% of the people to take the package. Up until the last moment people were vacillating on whether they would take it or not. But I’m pretty sure, from what I’ve heard as far as people I know that have taken the package, they must have reached their goal, if not surpassed it.

So, my “connections” are pretty much gone. Two Friday’s ago, I was having lunch with the guys from work at Buddy’s. The place was packed. At the table next to us was a group from Chrysler. I recognized two of the people at the table. Both were CATIA V5 experts and also had a lot of understanding of VPM (the database I work with). Rob, one of the guys that I recognized, came over to my table to tell me that it was his last day with Chrysler. It was the whole tables last day. I really feel that if Chrysler wants to survive, they are really doing themselves a disservice by letting these “experts” go. It’s a bit crushing, but I wish them well – and as for Rob, I’ve been friends with him and his wife (outside of work) since 1993.

This past Wednesday was the day that those that signed, were to leave. There were several on our project (Chrysler side) that took the package and so today Chrysler is operating with a skeleton crew. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Funny SNL Skit – Auto Industry Bailout

thanksgiving...

For Thanksgiving we went to my brother and sister-in-laws house in Wixom for the traditional turkey dinner. Played games and watched some home movies.
video
Then the next day was spent at my other brother and sister-in-laws house in St. Clair (near Port Huron). It was my nephews 12th birthday. Both days were nice - good to see my nieces and nephews. I find that I'm better with older kids. It's hard for us to "connect" until they are hitting their tweens. Then, they LOVE me. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

sticky & sweet...


Last night, we went to see Madonna in her Sticky & Sweet Tour. It was at the Ford Field in Detroit. I was looking forward to it because this was my first time seeing her in concert and I think that she is one of the most famous pop singers of my time. Anyway, I think this is the only time that I would have been able to afford the tickets – Jerome said that I bought these ones. Pretty expensive.

For dinner we decided that we would try this newer restaurant / martini bar that is on the corner of Woodward and Adams – the biggest reason was for the “dining for miles” points. It is called (proof). Nice looking place, rather dark – kinda trendy and a bit cold. I had a gourmet grilled cheese and a cheesecake martini, Jerome had a portabella mushroom sandwich and some fruity martini – at least that is what he thought, but it turned out to be very strong and not so fruity.

Madonna is a gay magnet. Not that I have a problem with that; it’s just an observation. Plenty of couples at the martini bar – I said to Jerome, women and gay men love martini bars. It seemed that everyone at (proof) was going to the concert.

Short walk to Ford Field…and then we saw it…the LINE!!! Yes, we all had our tickets purchased; I’m talking about the 30,000 people that were standing in line to get in to Ford Field. I had never seen anything like it. I think we stood there for nearly an hour. It was cold outside and we just couldn’t understand how this could happen. If you went to a concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills (which we have basically boycotted), you would walk in to a large lobby area and then hand your tickets to the ticket takers. You were in the building the whole time and NOT COLD! How could Ford Field allow this? Ridiculous. I supposed it could be worse – it could have been raining.

Once inside, the amount of people didn’t decrease very quickly. We were shoulder to shoulder all the way to our section. But funny thing, out of all these people that came to the concert, we ended up walking behind and knocking into my cousin Jaqlyn! Amazing! This must have been girl’s night out for her – she just had a baby a couple of months ago. She was also surprised and greeted us fittingly – then she told me she may not be working for Chrysler much longer; she may take the buyout. She mentioned that she is still on maternity leave and was going to be returning part time and so that is making the “package” not that enticing. Eh, but anything is better than nothing in my opinion.

We found our seats and settled in. People watched…and grew increasingly annoyed. After the horribly long wait in the cold and struggling to get to our seats, we still had to wait until 9:15pm before the show actually started! The tickets stated 7:30pm, and how ever happy I was that it didn’t start “on time” because we would have missed a good portion of it, I still felt that it was really unnecessary to keep us waiting for an additional hour or more after all that commotion.

But, as I told Jerome, once the show started, no one would remember the inconvenience – especially if it’s a good show.

The bass made our pants vibrate…

The best descriptions of the concert were those that were told by the reporters; so I will just link their stories to this post:

The Detroit News
The Free Press

Oh and by the way, she is in fabulous shape; very muscular – and 50!

We had a good time and got home a little after midnight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the greatest show on earth...



The circus is in town.

Apparently every year around this time the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to the Palace of Auburn Hills. They come by train; isn't that the way a circus is supposed to come? The train tracks are about a mile and a half from the Palace, so the elephants, horses and shetland ponies get let off near the GM plant and then they walk the rest of the way to the Palace. Bill from the MINI club informed me of this last year. He works Rousch which is located on Giddings Road, where the elephants walk right by. Last year, right around this time, I began working at FEV, Inc. on Brown Road and it's just a short walk to Giddings Road. I got to take a few minutes around 10:30 AM today and go see the elephants!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

we have been doing a lot of “Fall” things lately – cuz it’s Fall...

This has been an extremely nice year - all year it's been mild; sunny enough and rainy enough. I bought our pumpkin and a corn stalk to decorate the front yard. Put up some of the Halloween décor earlier this month.

We’ve done the obligatory apple picking at the apple orchard (Westview Apple Orchard). We went with Roberto, Agata & Francesca, Pratap, Deepa & Calvin. Even went to the Apple Orchard Inn for an early dinner. Some ordered the hot cider which all seemed to have crud floating around in the glass – I think it was from the cinnamon stick.

We’ve done the Haunted Hayride. We were supposed to go to Slaughtered at Sundown, but you would not have believed how crowded it was, so we had to quickly decide on another one. We went to the Blake’s Apple Orchard (Nighttime Spooky Hayride) and only stood in line for around 45 minutes. Even though I believe I’ve done this particular hayride 3 times in the past, it was still scary, with people jumping out from the corn fields, the weather was nice and clear, the donuts and apple cider were delivered to the wagons by witches! Bill, Denise, Fernando, Jen and her boyfriend joined us. We went out to dinner first at the Golden Buddha in Romeo. That was not the greatest experience – VERY SLOW service. My food tasted good, but didn’t like me very much starting around 2AM that morning. I’m still feeling a little ill.

Jerome did the Cedar Point “Halloweekends” last Sunday. He went on nearly every roller coaster. I was planning on going too, in fact, drove all the way there. But with the whole Thai food thing happening and having to stop 7 times in 3 hours – I decided to drop him off so that he could enjoy it with some MINI friends. Chad, Tori, Ed and his girlfriend, Kristee and her friend Colette, Paul and Molly and Chris. They had a great time and Jerome arrived back home just before 2AM on Monday morning. He was sick for the next 2 days...unrelated.

This weekend is our MINI clubs Fall Color Tour (Blurrr). We will be driving nearly 100 miles. We’ll start in Ann Arbor and drive a nice scenic drive – first stop Hell, MI. Maybe we’ll be able to see the haunted house in Hell…I’ll have to mention that to Rick. The final stop will of course be a restaurant; Creekside Inn. Right now it looks like the weather will be on our side. Sunny and 62 degrees. Very nice.

Other than that – we have the 1st Romeo Haunted Tour on the 26th and then Halloween and Tillson Street on the 31st.

Also, planting 100's of tulip bulbs that we aquired on Mackinac Island from our B&B. According to the proprietors, every spring the hotels on Mackinac Island plant thousands of tulip bulbs, and when they are done flowering, they dig them up and dump them. The owners of our B&B rescue hundreds of them and put them in potato bags. We were fortunate enough to be given one of those bags with at least 100 bulbs. I can't wait to see if they really bloom!

Yep, this Fall has been totally jam-packed with fun-filled Autumny stuff to do.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON????

I have a long time to wait for my money in the stock market to come back around, but it still upsets me incredibly how it is tumbling. Freefall.

We watch it all day long; on and off. One co-worker will announce “it’s down 200 points”, then a little while later someone else will say “it’s down 350”!

Today it dropped 680 points for another record breaking fall.

This has to do with that really bad idea of the presidents’ (ooohdéjà vu) – the bank bailout plan. I’m not pretending to know anything about how Washington and Wall Street work, but I had a gut feeling* that this was not a good idea. In fact, when I thought it was to bail out individuals that got themselves into trouble because they purchased a house that they couldn’t afford, it pissed me off even more.

Why should the American people that take care of their bills and have good credit be held responsible for the others debts?

Back when Jerome and I were purchasing our house, we were told by our mortgage rep that together, we could afford a house that was three times more than the one that we ended up purchasing. Our thinking was that if for some really bad reason, one of us would lose our jobs, then the other would still be able to afford the house. We've all learned now who is the more likely to lose their job. We didn’t want to get in a situation where we could lose it. Yes, it’s a smaller house than some of our friends have, but it is WAY sufficient. Another thing that we did was put 20% down on the house. This is something that used to be standard, but the U.S. has gotten away from that way of thinking lately…but I believe it should once again become the norm. If you haven’t saved money in order to put down on a house, then maybe you shouldn’t buy one.

Owning a home is a privilege, not a right.

*Other "bad" gut feelings:
  • in 1999, I felt that the market was getting way too large and that something had to happen to make it come “crashing” down.
  • do not get into a war in Iraq.
  • end of last year felt that I needed to stop putting so much of a percentage into my 401K – we needed liquid assets, so I started putting money in a Money Market account that had a very nice interest rate.
  • something fundamentally wrong with the “interest only” loans and the “no money down loans” and the “we’ll give a loan to anyone, no matter their credit”.
  • all the building that has been going on for the past couple of years – mostly for environmental purposes, but also economic.
  • all the bankruptcies.
  • people feeling like they need to purchase or build the huge McMansions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

jerome day...

Have you ever heard of Jerome Day? Well, it's today.

Have you ever heard that every day of the year has a name attached to it and you celebrate this day...almost like a birthday? At least, people will wish you a "Happy Jerome Day"...or whatever your name may be - on your name day.

Well, this is a "tradition" that they do in France.

I have Googled this, but I get nothing. I think I've even Googled it in French, but I still get nothing. At least I think I get nothing, but I guess you'd have to know French in order to really know if you got anything.

I have been married to Jerome for 5 years now and have known him for 8 and a half. I have yet to wish him a Happy Jerome Day.

BUT this is the YEAR!

I don't know what we are going to do on this auspicious new holiday, but I think I know what he'd like me to do.

**Side Note: A friend of mine found an English website regarding this: MyNameDay
So, what's your name day?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DAY 4 (Sunday, September 21):


Breakfast at the hotel. Vouchers from Rory. Motor in caravan to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Security Guard of parking structure has MINI. Park in that structure. First to arrive. We’ve got 3 hours. See more Elvis. I thought we did that trip last month…? Regroup with a much smaller group. Motor to Toledo. Eat at Tony Packo’s. Say our goodbyes. Head home. Good trip.

DAY 3 (Saturday, September 20):

Got to sleep in a little.

Woke up and had breakfast. Made plans to take a drive down to Niagara-on-the-Lake with the youngsters. Had to get our hotel bill taken care of first. Looks like Rory & Heather, Garth & April were overcharged and wanted to go over the bill with management. Jerome & I were going to be overcharged as well. Rory & Heather backed us up and after a half hour or more, the bill was re-adjusted. And so were others in our group. Really not the best hotel when it came to Customer Service, friendliness of staff and quality of food.

We still needed to get to the Floral Clock in order to pick up our flags and envelopes, so we had the group follow us. Then back to the Rainbow Bridge in order to cross into the US. Very easy, by the way. Much easier than if we had come through Sarnia. Met up with Jason (Xiek) on the other side and started driving to Cleveland. We needed to be at the Whirly Ball place by 5pm. We left Niagara at 1pm!

While driving, to take the road edge off, we did some MINI ballet. We had 7 MINIs in the caravan for about an hour. Tori and her friend Rachel continued on to NYC for vacation. The rest of us motored on to Cleveland. We got to Whirly Ball right on time. It took a little while before everyone showed up because 4 of the 6 remaining MINIs wanted to check in at the hotel before coming to Whirly Ball.

We had the northeast Ohio MINI Cooper Club (MININEO) join us at Whirlyball and for dinner afterward. And much to our surprise, two of our club members crashed our party in Cleveland; Dee & Lou Kramm (MYTMINI). It was really cool that they came to see us.

We played for 2 hours. Prior to playing, we all had to watch an informational video of the rules and then our first game that we played, we were so delicate with each other. Once Garth and Rory showed up, things got violent! We were crashing into each other and aggressively trying to grab the ball. It was a lot of fun.

At 7pm we were on our way to the Winking Lizard for a buffet style dinner of appetizers and pizza.

The rest of the evening was spent selling raffle tickets and doing auctions. We sold $315 worth of raffle tickets on Saturday evening. And raised a lot more with the auctions. The MININEO group purchased tickets too and won a lot.

One of the items up for raffle was the Hooter’s tank top that we had purchased for the road rally. Jerome modeled it for us. One of the MININEO members won it; Sam Poon. Jerome jumped from the front of the room to where Sam was and sat on his lap and behaved like he was a Hooter’s girl. It was hilarious!!! Sam was embarrassed.



Over the course of the trip and with donations, raffles, auctions, etc., we were able to raise $7555.10 for Make-A-Wish, ($6875.10 to MAW-MI & $680 to MAW-Canada).

After all was done at the restaurant, we all headed back to the hotel and after Jerome and I were done tallying up the money, we went to Rory and Heather’s suite and played Catch Phrase.

Then the threat of Yacht Rock…good night!

DAY 2 (Friday, September 19):

Woke up and had breakfast with some of the MINI peeps. Went to the gift shop to remind the lady that we would have people coming in to get the clue from the brochure holder. She gave me a bit of a problem sighting that other rallies would come in and have to purchase something.

On my way out of the gift shop, I notice the Red Bull MINI in the parking lot. Don (Big Daddy) had arranged for the girls to come again this year. They stayed for about an hour and handed out free Red Bull.

Tori and Rachel went to Subway and returned at the correct time (after we delivered them some cash). Jerome went around and took down every team’s odometer reading and gave out team numbers.
After a short briefing to let everyone know about the rules and what signs to look for, I told them “in order to start your vacation, you would need to take a look at some attractions in the area – so where would you find brochures with attractions?” And then they took off and so did we.

We left in a caravan; Miss MINI, Wicket and Jenna Jamison. We drove to the Aero Car first. Garth told us where he would like to sit and we got our sandwiches from him.
Then, still in a caravan, we pointed out Thompson Point as we drove by, so that Garth knew where April would need to be dropped off. Onwards to the Botanical Gardens, where Tori and Rachel decided that Jenna would stay with Rachel and she would pick up Tori after all was said and done. We walked Rachel to the wedding arbor and left her there with her books. She was very happy that we chose that place for her, it was very beautiful.
After leaving the Botanical Gardens, we drove on to the Floral Clock, dropped off the clues and the sign with the lady at the gift shop. We walked over to the phone book to make sure that it was still there and that we could find the phone number for Cooper S. Still driving on to Tori’s destination, we needed to make one more stop at the Brock’s Monument. We were told two weeks prior that there was going to be a wedding at the Laura Secord Monument on that day, so we needed to quickly come up with an alternative. We planned to use the only other thing we had taken a picture of during our recon trip; The Battle of Queenston Heights Walking Tour #5.

We put a lawn sign next to the plaque. We dropped off Tori at the Chapel on our way to Simcoe Park.
She seemed fine with the destination and was just going to sit inside the chapel and read her book while she waited. So, we motored on to Simcoe Park and started setting up the Minilympics.

We set everything up; crochet up a hill around a tree and back down the hill, where you then would need to sit on a chair, put a balloon on your lap and have your teammate try to pop the balloon by sitting on your lap. Next was the egg on a spoon, once again utilizing the hill and the trees. Then they found themselves at the picnic table where they needed to make a paper airplane and throw it as far as they could. And the final task was Hillbilly Golf. They needed to get all three golf balls on strings around the poles before the watch was stopped.

We still had at least an hour before our first team would arrive. We ate, Jerome inputted the odometer data into the spreadsheet, we read and just enjoyed the day.

Rory and Heather were the first team to arrive. They seemed a bit stressed. They said that they were cursing our names. But at least they figured out the puzzles and clues in order to get as far as they were. Rory ended up throwing the furthest airplane – very impressive.

In the middle of the first team doing their tasks, we got a cell phone call. It was Tori. Apparently, a man in a suit showed up at the chapel and was really upset that she was there. According to Tori, he stated that this was private property and that there was about to be a wedding there. He spoke harshly to her and wouldn’t move out of the way in order for her to pick up her book bag and other items that were still inside the chapel. She was worried that he was going to make more trouble with her so she told me that she would hide in the back and wait for the teams to arrive and if he gave her more trouble, she would need to be picked up.

I had a bad feeling that if we were going to have a problem today, this was going to be the place. Another example of not asking for permission...

I mentioned to Rory and Heather that they may need to look for Tori across the street from the destination because of the problem with the man in a suit.

Once they were done, we gave them their next clue and cookies that Champagne Bob had made and off they went.

Not long after they were gone, did Jason, Jessica and Dave arrive. They really seemed to be enjoying the rally, which made us feel like it was worth the work.

At the balloon bust, Jessica said that they just met but they were really getting friendly, and at the paper airplane, Jason mentioned that he had a paper airplane book when he was a child...now if he could only remember HOW to make one! As they ran back to their car, Jason yelled that we were maniacal fnckers!

Once they were gone, it was time for me to head off to the final destination; Caroline Cellars.

When I arrived, I let Justine know that I was there and that I was going to set up the table for the teams. I put the table cloth on, put out the snacks, hung the Make-A-Wish banner, set out the road rally signs, and waited…

First team to arrive was Team #7, Jason, Jessica & Dave. They arrived at 3:10pm. We spent a little while talking about the adventures, then 4 minutes later, Team #6, Rory and Heather arrived. This time we had a very long wait for Team #1 to arrive (3:57pm); Kristee, Chad and Don. These were the three teams that arrived by doing all of the tasks. A fourth team (Team #2, Rick, Donna, Larry, Donna, (Team #3; Bob & Karen - who teamed up with Team #2)) were directed to come to the final destination even though they still had one more task to complete. Jerome thought that it may take them a while. The other 2 teams dropped out. One too many tasks, I guess.

One team dropped out (Team #5; James & Susan) because they didn’t have a cell phone and couldn’t complete the clue that asked them to text something. They were going to get help from another team, but the team took off without helping. I’ll have to get everyone’s story before I make my judgment.

Some of the older folks dropped out early, but (Team #4) Bob, Joann, Ron and Gretchen made it all the way to Simcoe Park and I think even the chapel, but when there was one more destination, they decided to head back to Niagara.

The ones that did make it to the final destination got to earn extra bonus-minus points by answering trivia questions about the DVD. After that they could enjoy a glass of wine on the patio and some snacks.

We all headed back to our hotel. Jerome, Garth and I went to the room to figure out points and prizes. Garth went through all the donated items and picked which ones he wanted to raffle and auction off tonight.

I think we made it down to the Apollo Grill by 7:15pm. We knew who won and we had a laundry basket of raffle items. All was good.

First place (Takata Golf gift bag & $50 gas card) went to Team #6; Rory and Heather. Second place (Takata Golf gift bag & $25 Target gift card) went to Team #7; Jason, Jessica & Dave. Third Place (Takata Golf gift bag & $15 Target gift card) went to Team #1; Kristee, Chad & Don. Booby (a spare tire) was given to the last team who didn’t quite complete, but at least they showed up at the end; Team #4; Rick & Donna and Larry & Donna (along with Team #3; Bob & Karen).

The rest of the evening was spent selling raffle tickets and doing auctions. We sold $220 worth of raffle tickets on Friday evening. And raised a lot more with the auctions.

Later on after dinner, we all went to Jason’s room and looked at pictures and watched some YouTube. Garth wanted us to watch Yacht Rock. There were 11 movies! It cleared the room.

DAY 1 (Thursday, September 18):


Most of us met at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. A few arrived before we did and were waiting on the street leading up to the ballpark. There were signs that said “15 minute parking”, so we needed to find another place to gather which would allow us at least an hour. We had thought about this earlier and figured that Cheli’s Chili Bar would be a good parking lot to sit for a while. Luckily the gate on the parking lot was open. According to one of our members (Larry - Zmini), there was a security guard that asked if we had made reservations to park there. I believe that Larry had played dumb, because the security guard left us alone. Note to self: ask permission. However, I don’t always have good luck with that, so I subscribe to the notion of it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Anyway, it worked this time…and another time later in the trip…

At Cheli’s, we had 13 MINIs with us, we were to meet the other two in Windsor and Niagara Falls. While we were there, the MAW ladies came to take some pictures and to give us all our “wish wands”. Supposedly our event will be posted on their website.

As we drove off, we were able to do a photo op in front of the Tiger at Comerica Park. Phil (Xanda) was on hand to take pictures of each MINI and its occupants. Some went on to Duty-Free and others missed it totally (because of bad instructions given by “yours truly”), and just crossed the border by way of the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel.

Once across, we all met up again at Dieppe Park, which has a nice backdrop of downtown Detroit. This is where Don (Big Daddy) took over the reigns. He led us up the 401 until we got to Port Stanley, where we stopped for a buffet lunch at the Roxy Diner, and then taking the more scenic roads all the way to Niagara Falls.

While most of the party continued on to the Niagara Parkway to see the Falls, Jerome & I, Garth & April and Tori & Rachel headed to the hotel. I quickly ran down what was supposed to happen the next day at the rally; Hooters, MiniMart, Aero Car, Thompson Point, Floral Clock, Botanical Gardens, Pillitteri Winery, Simcoe Park, Wayside Chapel, Brocks Monument and then the final destination of Caroline Cellars. We then took them to their destinations to show them where they would be located. Everyone seemed pretty psyched, so that was good. We stopped at Pillitteri to drop off the cups and to purchase some bottles of wine for them to fill the cups with, but they told us that they have no problem supplying the wine to taste – that’s what they do. So, we bought some Ice Wine for ourselves – YUM!

We drove all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake and stopped at Simcoe Park to make sure it all looked good and was not under construction since the last time we were there (May 24). We showed our group the gazebo at the end of the street that has a beautiful view of Toronto, then drove back to the hotel.

Jerome and I still needed to drop off clues and things at the MiniMart and Hooters, and afterward we met some of the group at TGIFriday’s. After dinner, we headed out to a grocery store to pick up eggs, whipped cream and some snacks for the final destination.
Then to bed.

mglc3; September 18-21…

So it is time to update my blog with the latest antics that Jbo and I have been up to.

We were on the planning committee for this years’ MINI’s Great Lakes Crossing. This is a charity event that tries to raise money and awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It typically lasts for 3-4 days (Thursday-Sunday) and involves our on-line car club.

So many of you have had to endure listening to us talk endlessly about our plans for a Road Rally that would be played during our trip. Some have even had to be a test case and try to figure out the puzzles not knowing the Niagara area or the people that we were going with.

Well, everything turned out great; the weather, the rally and the other events that were planned.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

mom in the hospital, the rental and the party...

When Dad is in the hospital, the only “inconvenience” is that you have to take time to go visit him regularly. When Mom is in the hospital, it’s a TOTALLY different story. Mom already had in place the aides to take care of the majority of Dad’s needs like washing, getting out of bed, breakfast, toilet, lunch and putting to bed. It was just the other things that needed to be taken care of like dinner and someone to spend the night. It’s not like he needs 24 hour supervision, but you do need to check in on him from time to time. Not to mention that it would be nice if you went to visit Mom in the hospital too.

**disclaimer** What I am about to say in the rest of this post sounds selfish and self centered. That being said...

Not to diminish anyone else’s busy life, but for me, this was not the best time for my mother to get sick. There was just too much going on this week. Some of the big things from this past week were my 5th wedding anniversary, our new renter was moving in and we were trying to get ready for our party.

Well, to make matters worse, issues arose to make the week even longer…and more expensive.

Mom went into the hospital on Tuesday. Prior to, she called me and my siblings in order to get everyone properly riled up. She makes unnecessary drama when all she really ever needs to do is just tell us what is needed and when it’s needed. We will take care of the rest…we always do. My sisters live out of state (one lives out of the country…but just so happened to be on this side of the ocean at this time dropping off her kids to their colleges in New England), and one of my brothers was going on vacation – it was Labor Day weekend and the last time that you can go on a four day vacation with the kids before they start school for the year. This left me and my brother Ray.

My brother Ray really stepped up on this one – he stayed at the house 3 out of the 4 nights – no problem. This was totally awesome for me, since I had so much on my plate. I only needed to make Dad dinner, put him to bed and spend the night one night.

So, to continue with MY busy life :)...
I had an appointment to get my hair cut on Tuesday evening – after a lot of stress and not knowing if Ray would be available – all went my way and I was able to keep my appointment.

Wednesday was my 5th wedding anniversary, and this was my day to spend the night at Dad’s. Jerome and I drove from work and stopped at Olive Garden, bought a couple of dinners to go and went to Dad’s and had dinner with him. We had a few things to take care of at the “rental” house and then I came back to put Dad to bed…and then went back to the rental to pick up Jerome. Spent the night that night and Jerome borrowed Mom’s car to go to work and I went to the “rental”. I had taken the day off so that I could be there when the Clinton Township inspector came, the Cort Furniture delivery guys came to pick up the rental “staging” furniture and when the guy came to do the tree removal estimate ($1200 to remove two dead Ash trees + stumps).

I was concerned about the inspector since we had done all the work ourselves but it turned out to be just fine. Some back story on that…in February I received a letter from Clinton Township stating that they had just passed a new ordinance (357), that all probable rental properties in Clinton Township needed to be inspected in order to get a license to rent. This is for the sake of bringing in some revenue to the township since there isn’t much building going on (just my opinion). I had sent them a letter at that time letting them know that I was not renting and that I hadn’t been renting for over a year.

Last week I sent in my $100 and asked them if they could come out to inspect on Thursday and they could – all set!

Anyway, all went as smoothly as it could. Then afterward I was going to go see my dad and then visit my mom. As I was driving near the entrance of their condo complex, I noticed a crane in the entry - so there was no way I could get in the complex to see my Dad. They are working on Cass Ave. in Clinton Township and just so happened to be working right at my parents as I was going by. So, I went to visit with my mom and then later went back to check up on my dad.

Got home and continued with the preparations for the party…oh, and the Road Rally that is happening in a couple of weeks. Jerome had purchased some boneless pork loins from Kroger (20 lbs.) and started preparing it for the party. When he opened the first package, the smell filled the house. It was really bad! He washed it and continued to prepare it and cook it.

It looked like Friday was going to be my day to spend the night again – so, in order to finish the prep-work for the party, I took the day off from work on Friday too. I worked all day getting the house together…but the thought of that pork was nagging at me. I googled “raw pork smell” and everything I read told me that the pork was bad; don’t eat it. So, I googled USDA hotline and gave them a call. The lady that answered my call told me that I should file a report. So, I called my husband and told him that I was going to return the pork and buy some fresh. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until I was headed home that he had purchased the pork when it was on sale and when I returned it, they gave me the sale price and then when I purchased the new pork, it was at the full price…well, Jerome had to take care of that later – and was able to get the sale price for the pork – YIPPEE!

So, Friday meant that he was cooking again…but we avoided a possible disaster! The pork he made was awesome!!! Very tasty and didn’t kill anyone!

Ray stayed with Dad on Friday night too, so that was great – I could continue working toward the party goal.

Later that evening we get a phone call from our renter saying that when she tried to put a load of bleach water through the washing machine, the water was coming up the pipe in the floor!!! OMG! EGADS! Not MORE water issues!!!!

She said she would wait until the next day and try again…she called back on Saturday and now she couldn’t flush the toilet, the water was coming up into the bathtub, etc. DOOM!

I called Don, my plumber (Don's Plumbing). He had just been out to the house on June 14 to snake the pipes because the same thing had happened after we had a little party at the house. After he was done snaking; from the roof to the ejector pump, EVERYTHING was working so much better – better than it had ever worked.

Well, Don went out to the house and I called my brother Ray to see if he would be willing to go over there and help Don out. He did! I remembered that back in June, Jerome helped Don a lot, so I figured he could use the help. Ray also picked up mom today from the hospital and brought folding chairs for the party!!! Sometimes it's good to have bros!

Don ran a snake and then a scope. The prognosis: there is a 4 foot piece of pipe between the house and the ejector pump that has roots growing into it and there is a hole in the top of the pipe. It will need to be dug up (with a bobcat) and replaced…$1800! He needs to call Ms. Dig and then afterward he can start working. We will also have to reimburse our renter the rent that she already paid for the week that she will be out of the house in order for this problem to be taken care of…and her kids start school TODAY!!! What a pain!

The party went awesomely! We had 77 people show up. The weather was perfect. The food was terrific. It was really great to see everyone, although it is hard to have so many and spend enough time with each. But I have a theory as to why we have this large party every year; we are too busy all year to be able to see everyone individually, so in order to keep up with everyone and make sure they know we’re thinking of them, we throw this party. It’s a celebration of friendships, new and old.

Seemed like everyone had a good time, especially the kids who had a water balloon fight that turned into a water bottle fight!!!

Anyway, clean up is done and in the meantime, we’ve been back to the rental house 2 times over the weekend to take care of the wet carpet in the closet of the purple room.

I swear…we should just sell it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

today I celebrate two anniversaries...

My 5 year wedding anniversary and my 17th year working on a Chrysler program anniversary (prior to August 2006, the anniversary was celebrated as my “years with Chrysler”).

So, as the Mirena commercial says; a lot can happen in 5 years. Actually, all I can currently remember from that commercial is: buy a house, learn French and move to Memphis. I’ll have to really listen the next time it’s on. Well, in the past 5 years many things have happened, we bought a house and moved to Romeo (18 miles west of Memphis, MI) and I haven’t really learned to speak French (although, I know one person who wishes that I had).

Marriage is a hard thing to make successful. Mundane everyday issues, sensitivities, stubbornness and pride get in the way of complete happiness. You really DO have to work on it – both people do. Some days it’s as easy as pie – other days you’d like to cut up the other person like a pie :)

We have now and have had in the past a lot of things going on since we’ve been together (officially November 2000). It seems we are always so busy, never a dull moment. If it isn’t social events, it’s work around the house. I’m sure we're not the only people who experience this.

We are celebrating our anniversary the same way we do every year; by throwing a big party at the house. We will have it this coming Saturday, August 30. We currently have 88 people that say they will come. Close to the same amount we had last year. We are ramping up the preparations as we speak.

All in all, marriage is a good thing and there are a lot of memorable things to reminisce about.

Regarding my other anniversary; I’ve changed jobs three times in the past 5 years.

Just a mere one week prior to getting married, I was laid off from a job I had with Chrysler working in the Chassis department for Jeep. Within a few minutes of getting my 2 week notice, I was able to use my networking abilities (by then I had been with Chrysler for 12 years), and landed myself a job with my old department; Truck Interior. I stayed with them for 2 years but was looking for someplace to pay me more money. Chrysler had stopped handing out raises to people who were contracted. I found a job with a Chrysler supplier EDAG, Inc. working on the Minivan Body-In-White and Exterior Systems department (more on that at a later date). That job lasted just over a year. One of the four vehicles I was working on was cancelled, so they laid me off. Within two weeks, I was able to find this job at FEV, Inc. Again, I am working for a supplier to Chrysler, this time on engines for FWD Powertrain.

For all of these positions, my title has been VPM Coordinator. VPM is an acronym for Virtual Product Modeler. This is a database that was created by Dassault Systems and handcrafted to meet Chryslers CAD file management needs.

When I was working in the Truck Interior group, I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of work that I had managing their CAD data. Never in two years did I have “down time”. Since I’ve moved on, I can’t say that I’m an expert any longer. I have not been given nearly as much work. I’ve been stripped of my powerful roles and have been told that I cannot do the things that I used to do. It’s very frustrating since I was the “go-to” person for Product Data Management for Interiors. In fact, the last job I had (Minivan BIW & Ext Sys), they were starting to finally get the idea that I really could be useful to them…then bam! LAY OFF! That one I still fail to understand, but how can you question the judgment of management?

Monday, August 25, 2008

renting again...

Well, after nearly 2 years of unsuccessfully trying to sell our house in Clinton Township, we have accepted another renter.

She seems very nice and her children and dog seem very well behaved. We are hoping this will be a positive experience for all.

The selling process turned out to be much more difficult than what I had expected it to be. I figured our very cute house would be snatched up quickly. All the work had been done on it and there was really nothing more for someone to do other than move in.

But when we first put it on the market, the market started to go on a downturn for housing. It has a lot to do with those loans that were being advertised for the past 5 or so years; 0% down, only interest loans, 4 year ARMS. People who couldn’t normally afford to buy a house started buying houses and quickly went into foreclosure. Other people who thought that they could only afford a small house, after visiting a mortgage lender would be misinformed about what they could afford and would try for the McMansions, only later to realize that not only do they have to pay the high mortgage, but all the utilities to heat/cool that size of a house and continue to afford the lifestyle in which they were accustomed, like a cottage up North, 2 SUVs, a boat, some off road vehicles and snowmobiles, etc.

The other thing that wasn’t working for us was that, when it comes to jobs in Michigan and more specifically the Detroit area, everything touches on the auto industry. When the market is down for automobiles, this area is hit hard. When gas prices rise, and the auto companies are still only manufacturing SUV-type vehicles that get about 8 miles to the gallon, this area is highly affected.

So a lot of people not only lost their jobs, but then lost their homes.

We started asking $164,900 for our place at the end of 2006. It was clear early on that we were overpriced, but we were in competition with other homes in the area that were selling at nearly the same price. We came down several times, but it always seemed like we were playing catch-up – in which we never caught up. In April, we came down to $129,900, which was less than what the house was estimated for back in 2003. This estimate was prior to adding the deck, the privacy fence, fixing the bathroom and replacing the entire kitchen. But we are now competing with bank-owned homes.

We had 21 seperate showings of the house over the course of the year and a half that it was on the market with a real estate company. We had one offer that was a low-ball offer which we countered and obviously scared them away.

Reasons given as to why someone wouldn't purchase the house; no basement and small rooms.

Since our last renter moved out in January 2007, we have had to maintain the house, the cost of two mortgages, the utilities to keep the house going and anything else that might come up. Fortunately we have been able to do this and still live the way we are accustomed to.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

so the visiting is over...

My sister and family flew out yesterday and Jerome’s sister, brother and families fly out tonight. Now it will be time to get everything settled and back to normal; straightening the house & figuring out our bills. Sparky will be able to move about the house freely and come in and out at his leisure. He won’t know what to do.

All in all, it was a good visit – a lot of time spent around the dining room or picnic tables. The recycle guys must think we’re winos, because the whole bin was filled with wine bottles when I took it to the curb last night. We even had to set more bottles around the bin because there was no more room in the bin.

I’m wondering how much money Jerome’s family spent – they sure did buy a lot of stuff. It was remarkable how generous they are with their kids. I know I have never and would not ever have purchased as much stuff for Justin on any sort of vacation or trip. Not that I think that not buying him gifts is a good thing. I guess I'm just cheap. Seems like the kids really enjoyed and will continue to remember their trip partially due to what was purchased.

My sister and I were only able to spend a little time together amongst the ciaos. We only had about an hour at the end to have some time to talk, just the two of us. That’s too bad, but hopefully she’ll be moving back to the states shortly and potentially I will be able to see her more often.

Well, time to go meet Jerome and the Frenchies at Jerome’s work and to take them to the airport.

Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DAY 8 (Saturday, August 9):

The next day we took our time waking up and leaving. It was our last day and we would be home that evening. Luckily we had a pool at the hotel and some took advantage of that. Before heading home, we stopped at Sam’s Club and Best Buy in order to purchase Laurence a new camera. We drove all the way home and got home at 5:30pm…not long after taking our last "RA" picture of the big bull in Almont, MI.

We were greeted by Bill, Terry, Nick and Erin. The house looked welcoming and the garden looked taken care of. Terry (and family) had spent the day cleaning the house, Bill had made lasagna for us. We spent the rest of the night talking and drinking and resting.

Thank you Terry (and family) for taking care of Sparky & Smokey, the house and the garden while we were gone. It’s very much appreciated!

DAY 7 (Friday, August 8):

Today was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tour which included the Hall of Fame Museum and a bus ride and tour of the race track itself. It was a nice, small museum with a lot of old race cars. The weather was perfect and allowed us a pleasant visit of the race track. The temperature was very mild and welcomed by everyone that had to deal with the heavy humidity in the south.

After the race track we decided that we would return to the Children’s Museum. We passed (by accident) Mr. Bendo the Muffler Man – Pascal got a quick pic. We ate at the museum and toured for a couple of hours. We were nearly done, maybe 15 minutes left before they closed their doors when Anthony ran by and said that his father lost his camera. Apparently, Laurence had handed the camera to Laurent and he promptly lost it. Over a thousand pictures – gone! Pictures of Beale Street, Elvis & Graceland, the paddle boat ride, the motorcycles, Mud Island & of course the Children’s Museum…all gone. Laurence was devastated. She cried. She thought of all the worst case scenarios.

We drove downtown to walk around, but it wasn’t the humidity that was heavy now, it was the tension in the air. She no longer had a camera to hold and to take the many pictures that she does. It was a bad night. She couldn’t eat. She was not enjoying anything anymore.

But we trudged on. We walked around the city – and those that could take pictures, did. We stopped at Starbucks to let some in our group go to the bathroom, lost Pascal and Sabine for a time and ate at Qdoba.

We got in the car and started making the long drive home. We rejected 2 hotels before stopping at a third in Fort Wayne, IN.

DAY 6 (Thursday, August 7):

Started our day driving to see the Statue of Liberty Holding a Cross and then headed out to Indianapolis, IN. This was going to be a long drive and I started out by sleeping for a couple of hours.

We wanted to get to Indy before 8pm because The Children’s Museum had free admission from 5-8pm on Thursdays. We got there around 7:45pm - too late. We found the three dinosaurs that are breaking out of the museum and took some pictures. Turns out the biggest one is named “Yvonne”.

We had dinner at Denny’s that evening and afterward they wanted to drive to see downtown Indy, but I asked to stay back at the hotel – I was tired.

DAY 5 (Wednesday, August 6):

The BIG DAY; ELVIS and Graceland!!!
We got there just as it opened, we could choose our parking spot – so we parked under a tree where it would be cooler. Memphis is so hot and humid!

The house was not nearly what everyone was thinking. It was a nice house, a typical large colonial. Walk through the front door and you are met with the staircase going up to the second floor, with a living room off to the right and a dining room off to the left. Behind the staircase is the entrance to the kitchen to the left and a guest bedroom to the right. At the rear of the house, the den (jungle room). The décor is 70’s, but not too God awful. However, the den did have that olive green shag carpeting on the floor and the ceiling. There was a running waterfall on the left den wall.

The basement rec room was decorated in Blue, Yellow and White. It had 3 TVs and mirrors on the ceiling. He had a nice pool table in another room.

The property was large and he had horses, a built in pool, a family cemetery and some out-buildings.

Lots of pictures were taken – however, at the beginning, Laurent had to return the video camera to the car, because you are not allowed to video tape. I was singled out by the bus driver with my camera, since she recognized that it could be used as a video camera – but these days, all digital cameras can take movies – at some point they will have to change their policy along with all the new technology. I think I took 7 pictures. I didn’t want to upset the staff.

We spent a good long time visiting all the Elvis museums where he had his costumes, awards, movie posters, motor vehicles and planes.

We then jumped into the car and headed back downtown to take a ride on the Riverboat Queen. We bought our tickets and tried to find a quick restaurant to eat (Rio Loco) and then catch the boat. It was suffocatingly hot while we were in Memphis – so heavy. We took our tour of the Mississippi River and had a really interesting tour guide. He pointed out many things including Mud Island River Park where they have a ½ mile long model of the Mississippi River that you can walk thru from Cairo, IL, to New Orleans, LA.

Later that evening after swimming in the pool at the hotel, we went back down to Beale Street to get a glimpse of Harley Night with all the motorcycles lining up and down Beale Street. We shopped, took pictures and ate at a restaurant called Café 61. Nice interior; we sat on benches with tons of pillows which allowed the children to lie down and fall asleep. The waitress seemed a little clueless – our table was so unsteady and at one point the table tipped and beer was spilled all over me. I mentioned this to the waitress and she shrugged her shoulders! I was upset and said with a sarcastic voice "yeah, it’s really not all that big of a deal"…then she finally stepped to and tried half-heartedly to fix the table. She was continually saying she was new and she was so tired. We heard about how she has a baby at home who keeps her up all night and she’s worked for the last 13 hours…etc. Several minutes after ordering, she came to tell me that they were out of the fish that I had ordered. I just ended up with the soup.
Later, my husbands’ sister pointed out that our waitress was dancing on the floor above so he turned to look and she lifted her skirt and not knowingly showed the unsuspecting people below her panties! So, there was a good laugh and when she returned, she slipped (on the spilled beer) and fell into the seat next to me. Jerome said “oh, we almost saw your underwear…oh, wait, we DID see your underwear!”. We explained what we saw and she didn’t seem too upset, she was more worried that her boss would overhear. This was possibly Jerome’s favorite time on the trip.

DAY 4 (Tuesday, August 5):

Started making our way to Memphis. Made a “drive-thru” sort of stop in Nashville, TN, Music Row to find the “Naked Dancers” statue and the “Snowball Throwing Polar Bears” statue. We found the bears by accident – we followed the directions that are listed on "RA", but they had the wrong streets, so while we were trying to find our way back to Music Row, we drove right next to them. Ah-ha! Photo op.

Got into Memphis and dropped our luggage at the hotel, took a swim in the pool and then headed to downtown Memphis. When we parked, Laurence said that her good camera had fallen and that it was broken. This was a bummer, but she decided that she would use her sons camera for the rest of the trip. Went on Beale Street and wherever there was a picture of Elvis, Laurence wanted her picture taken with it.

That evening we went to Big Foot Lodge for dinner. We all wanted Camille to try the Sasquatch Burger, which is a 4 lbs. burger that if you eat the whole thing within 60 minutes, it’s free and you get your picture up on the Wall of Fame. Turned out that we split it between 6 of us; and we were stuffed!

DAY 3 (Monday, August 4):

The next day was canoeing day. There was no way that I could join on this trip because I had just started my period and I would have had to use the restroom every hour and this was a 4 hour canoe trip. I told them that today was my day to be a party-pooper. Prior to canoeing, they decided that they wanted to go for a little hike on some trails in the park. That was nice, although it was very hot and humid. We all sweat like crazy.

While walking on the trail, we came to an area that had a chill. This was the original entrance into one of the caves. It was blowing the cold air from the earth below. It was about 30 degrees cooler and it felt like we were under a fan blowing the AC. A little further down the path we saw a deer on the edge of a cliff eating some vegetation.

Later when they went on the river, I was commissioned to do the grocery shopping for that evenings BBQ. I was told by the lady at the Canoe rental place that there is a Walmart about 15 minutes down the main road, and if I wanted to do some Antiquing, there were several stores in Cave City. I decided that the first thing I wanted to do was check out the Wigwam Village Motel that was on the "RA" website. I drove over to it and went in the main Teepee. It had a sour smell; like very old and damp – they had a bunch of really kitschy items to buy. I asked if they would have any “rooms” available for that evening for 10, and she was sorry to tell me that they didn’t. I was not sorry, we were already in the cabins, but I just wanted to have a reason to go in to the office and check it out.

After that, I went into some Antique shops. The first one was in the garage of someone’s home. I felt a moment of doom when I walked into this very crowded garage and the man that owned the home came in after me. All I could think of was that this was probably not a smart thing to do on my own, when no one knows where I am. But everything turned out fine and I went to two other antique shops and then headed for Walmart.

I noticed that I missed a call from my sister Terry and tried to call her back. Couldn’t contact her so I called my parents. My mom was out of breath when she answered and told me the sad news that Bill and Erin had been in an accident with my MINI! I was told the damage was not bad and no one was hurt. Anyway, it was a bummer to hear that in the middle of your vacation.

I shopped till I dropped and got a bunch of fun things for the BBQ and beyond. I drove back to the cabins and unpacked. Went back to the Canoe place just in time to pick them up. Made BBQ in the complete darkness…very late. We seem to ALWAYS eat so late.

DAY 2 (Sunday, August 3):

We started our day by eating at the Waffle House.

For me personally, the best side stop was in Louisville, KY. I had listed many things that were supposed to be just down the street from each other; World’s Largest Baseball Bat, the World’s Largest Vampire Bat, a plaque commemorating the creation of the “Happy Birthday to You” song and a water tower that was in the shape of a large bottle of booze…etc.

While there, we saw this strangely decorated car. It had a bunch of metal objects all over it. We walked over to it and the choir of clicks from the cameras taking pictures was in the air. Jerome’s family is “picture happy” and over the course of the trip took over 5000 pictures!

This car was an “Art Car” and the artists name is Jim Shore. Apparently there was an art show over the weekend and he was one of maybe three cars that were the last to leave the area. I asked if I could purchase one of his art pieces which were license plates cut into fish shapes. I thought they were cool. Apparently the Frenchies found them interesting too because by the end, we had purchased 5 fish shaped license plates and he gave us a 6th for free. Then he told us about the hotel/restaurant across the street; Proof on Main. It is an art museum within a hotel/restaurant. VERY COOL. I highly recommend stopping on Louisville if you find yourself in this part of the country on a road trip.

On to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. We spent two days at the Woodland Cottages in the Mammoth Cave National Park. Our first day, we took a tour of one of the caves. Prior to going on our tour, we needed to eat and this was the first of a couple of stops at Pizza Hut. They really enjoyed the buffet and the price. We made it out in just enough time and were put on the bus to go to the entrance of one of the caves. We took the New Entrance Tour. As we were descending into the cave, Emmanuelle and Pascal decided that it was not for them, so they immediately turned around and went back up to the opening where they needed to wait for a bus to take them back to the visitor’s center. Later, when the rest of us got all the way to the bottom and were in this large spacious area, one in our group was crying. Laurence wanted to go back out. She was hyperventilating and making her children upset. Unfortunately for her, they were already too far into the cave to be able to walk back. They had to continue all the way through. She survived, but was very upset the whole time.

Later that evening we played Mini-Golf and stopped at the Subway in Cave City to have a sandwich. They also did some grocery shopping at the gas station for breakfast items for the morning.