Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - Reflections of a Year Gone By

Where did 2011 go? I cannot believe there are only a few days left! When the cashier at Publix told me on my 16th birthday that my life would fly from that point on, she wasn't kidding! That was 1986...suddenly I find myself nearing the end of 2011 (and the end of the world, if you believe the Mayans - lucky for me, that is one thing I do NOT worry about.) Anyway, 2011 was an interesting year. I got to experience a lot of new things and, as usual, I learned a lot. Here are a few of my personal highlights of 2011:

"Photo of the Year"
  • My "baby" turned 12. On the day I write this post, he is exactly one month away from becoming a teenager! That will mean two teenagers in the house (Lord, help me). In all seriousness, though, I love my kids and am so proud of both of them! 
  • Went to FETC in Orlando with Spirit and Bob. Visited Cafe Tu Tu Tango for the first time. (When Bob first told me that he knew of a great tapas restaurant in Orlando, I promptly informed him that I wasn't into that sort of thing (thought he said "topLESS"). I discovered I really like tapas AND sangria. The company was great too!
Me & my siblings on Easter
  • I learned that the third time isn't always a charm. If you REALLY know me, you get it. If you don' don't need to know. Let's just leave it at that.
  •  Had my family all together for Easter! :)
My hidey-hole in Orlando
  • Back to Orlando with Spirit and Bob. Another visit to Cafe Tu Tu Tango. I vaguely remember crawling into a hedge to see if I could fit.
  • Rob and I celebrated 19 years of marriage.
  • Learned that octopi are venomous and don't like to be held. 

  • Visited the Jersey shore for the first time (in spite of the fact that I'm FROM New Jersey). Had an awesome time in beautiful Stone Harbor with the "U Crew." It was great to see where Rob spent his childhood summers. We also visited THE Shore Store and met Danny - the Jersey Shore crew's boss, who was a surprisingly nice, friendly guy.
  • Danny - "The Boss"
  • Visited Philadelphia for the first time, while attending ISTE. I was surprised to see what a cool city it is. I was completely floored by the architecture. 
    • While at the show, I met an amazing Australian teacher named Karin who has "posted" me a couple of surprise packages from Down Under containing fun platypus-themed gifts, because I told her that I love platypi. Gotta love Aussies! :)
    • Rode in a cab (in the U.S.) for the first time with Bob and my boss, John. I cracked up throughout the entire ride (after drinking two Coors Lights on an empty stomach), while trying to hold in the "Cabs Are Here!" that wanted so badly to escape my lips.
    • Tried an authentic Philly cheesesteak in Philly and discovered that I much prefer Flanigan's version, which I can get right here at home.
  • John Taylor responded to my "tweet"! (Mind you, I rarely "tweet")...the first sign of things to come?
  • Got "props" on Facebook from Oceanside Glasstile for loving their products.
Me & the Sweetest of the Peas
  • My daughter turned 15 and got her learner's permit. She is now DRIVING (and very good at it too). She is hoping to get my car when she turns 16 next year. Unless I get a huge raise or win the lottery (both probably have about the same odds), she may be driving a scooter instead. 
  • Our family made the decision to start fostering Golden Retrievers through Golden Rescue South Florida. Our first foster dog Sweet Pea, completely lived up to her name. It was so amazing to see how much love these dogs can bring to our household and how wonderful it is to see them go to good homes with people who adore them.
  • Won Meet & Greet passes and tickets to see Duran Duran! My teenage dream come true. Learned the valuable lesson that fantasy is often much better than reality, but am so thankful for the experience and for reconnecting with my college friend, Tonya! :)
  • Visited New York City for the first time (attending NYSRA) AND got to experience Autumn in the northeast for the first time since I was six years old!
  • Started my blog! (Thank you for reading!)
  • Returned to New Jersey for NJEA. LOVED seeing Autumn in western NJ - so beautiful. Learned many lessons in Atlantic City.
  • Turned 41 - UGH! Getting older really isn't fun - blog post to come in 2012.
  • Welcomed our second foster dog, Marley, a 150-lb SWEET yellow lab, sparking the Dilemma.
  • Alana and I enjoyed a long weekend with my sister and her family up in Southern Georgia and I made some observations about country living.
Marley Bear
  • Watched two potential foster families for Marley come and go before meeting his perfect new mama - Stephanie, thus ending  the Dilemma. (Also got a visit from him in late December! :D )
  • Received a Christmas wish from a woman in India whom I became friends with through my last job. We have never met in person, have barely spoken over the phone, she's on the other side of the world (and Muslim) and she still took the time to wish me and my family a Merry Christmas. I was deeply touched by this gesture of kindness. :)
  • Enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my family (though I missed my sister a lot). I was especially proud of my kids who graciously accepted what few gifts they got. Made me feel like Rob and I are doing something right after all.
  • Learned that I am WAY more productive at work when it is slow and my boss is on vacation (how ironic is that?) I got so much done these last couple of weeks. It feels GOOD! I can finally take some of the virtual Post-It notes off of my computer desktop!
Throughout 2011, I've met a lot of new friends, reconnected with many old friends (thanks to Facebook), learned many lessons (some valuable, some ironic, and some just plain strange), and most importantly smiled and laughed A LOT!

What's on tap for 2012? Chase becomes a teenager in January, a possible first-time trip to Austin in February, possible first-time trips to Boston and Chicago in the spring, Rob and I celebrate our 20th Anniversary in May, a possible trip to San Diego (one of my favorite cities on Earth) in June, Alana celebrates her Sweet 16 in August and a maybe, just maybe, a man resembling my husband gets elected President in November (LOL!). But, let's face it, only God knows for sure!

Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Memories of Christmases (Long) Past

I have always loved Christmas. That special time of year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ; when houses and stores are decorated with lights and bows and Christmas trees; when everyone is most people are just a little nicer to one another. Rob used to give me a hard time for singing Christmas carols too early. I've toned it down a bit in recent years (but I still love to sing them, though nobody would enjoy listening to me sing them).

I was going through old photos and came across quite a few from Christmases when I was growing up. This is one of the reasons that I think taking pictures is so important. I do remember a few of these years, but most of these memories would be lost forever without the photos. 

I was born in New Jersey and lived there until I was six years old. I think we had a few white Christmases when I lived up there. I remember being so confused my first Christmas in Florida. We moved in July. I didn't understand why the leaves never changed colors and didn't fall off the trees in autumn, why it never got very cold, and most of all, why it didn't snow around Christmastime. We didn't have a chimney in our Florida house, so I wondered if Santa would even bring any presents. But, he found me. Santa Claus was always very good to me growing up - I must have been on the "Nice" list. ;) 

To this day, every year, I wish for a white (or at least a cold) Christmas. Needless to say, I haven't seen a white Christmas since I was little. Sometimes I get my wish for cold weather, but most years I don't. This year, the forecast is for a high of 80 on Christmas day. :/ Oh well, like my former neighbor Judy always told me, "Jesus was born under palm trees, Nancy, not in a snow bank." 

Anyway, I'd like to share some visions of Christmases from my childhood with you. If you are a child of the 70s, I'll bet you'll recognize some of the toys! :) Enjoy...

The New Jersey Years
Santa and Me 1972
I had just turned 2. Either it was a warm Christmas in NJ or 
I was very cold when we went outside. 
That was one BIG Santa!
Big Mouth Singers! :D
One of my favorite toys!
Santa and Me 1973
I look a little bit like an elf
and Santa looks like he's had a long day.

I got a Sit N Spin and a ginormous wrist watch!
Wonder if I could tell time?

My first car.
And it was a convertible!
Sweet! :)

Santa and Me 1974
I LOVED that dress with the mouse on it, though I'm surprised that I'm wearing blue leotards.
My white ones must have had a hole in them.
This Santa looks a little creepy.

Too cool! Me and my big sister, Melanie (who looks so much like my Alana!)
playing with my McDonald's play set.
The cash register dinged (it was a bell - no electronics back then) and it had a drive-thru!
Observe the Army tanks in the parking lot.
That would be the work of my brother, Harvey.

And guess who drew this beautiful picture on my new chalk board.
Yup, same big brother.
Would you like to see him?

1974 Family Photo (minus my sister, who was taking it).
That's my big brother on the right.
Explains a lot, doesn't it?
(Sorry Harv, I had to share it.)
Note to my co-workers, I come by my footwear choices honestly.
(Comfort and warmth over fashion.)
Santa and Me 1975.
There are my white leotards!
Me (looking like a boy) with the gumdrop tree.
I loved the gumdrop tree. Once we moved to Florida, we
couldn't use it anymore because the gumdrops would melt off.

Oh yeah - 1975 was a good year!
Who remembers the Pizza Hut oven?
Only 3 hours to cook a nasty bit of dough and tomato sauce with a lightbulb!
I also spy the Weebles Tree House (which had a secret door in the trunk), and
Perfection, which I didn't enjoy because I was such a Nervous Nellie.
To this day the ticking timer on VSC's Anagrams game drives me crazy!

The original Jaws game.
Note to readers: I didn't see Jaws at age 5 - but seeing it later did start my fear of the ocean.
Wonder what this would go for on eBay?

Santa and Me 1976.
I look like I have a candy cane growing out of my head.
Santa looks like he knows he's setting me up.
Ah, the Barbie Fashion Plaza.
This was definitely on my Christmas list.
It looked much better on TV, though.
Try to balance a Barbie by her feet on an string-driven escalator.

The Florida Years

My first Christmas in Florida - 1977
The giant barbie head was one of my
favorite Christmas gifts ever. 

This was the closest I ever got to being a ballerina.
You can dress a little girl with no coordination up,
but you can't make her graceful.

Christmas 1977
My dollhouse that I loved.
Notice the 70's beige with brown trim.
BTW, that black iron ice cream chair still sits in
the exact same spot in my parents' house today.

The Awkward Years
(still in Florida)
Christmas 1978 (?)
My first guess of 1980 can't be right because that's definitely
my 4th Grade bad haircut.
Check out my Ziggy bag and Merlin!
Oh, and the groovy 70's denim ensemble.
Christmas 1979 (?)
This photo is wrong on so many levels,
I don't even know where to begin.
I do remember stringing the popcorn on the tree myself.
I might have eaten a little too. :/
Photos from 1980-1983 were likely burned or destroyed by another means.
(Although I'm sure they'd be the most amusing!)

Christmas 1984 (?)
The Year of the Mullet
(Sadly, I'm sure I had a mullet on more than one Christmas.)
This was a toughie to date, but judging by the fact that
I don't have blonde John Taylor bangs, I'm thinking
1984 was correct.
Christmas 1987
My Senior year in high school.
Everything about me was big - from the hair that a comb
would never go through to the enormous zit on my cheek (no Photoshop).
Never mind the fact that I weighed more when this photo was
taken then I weighed when I gave birth to either of my children.
Things got better, though. The following month, I joined Weight Watchers AND got my first boyfriend!
Christmas wish granted! ;)
OK, maybe it was a Christmas miracle - I'll take it!

Thank you for joining me on this trip down Memory Lane. If you knew me during those years (or even if you didn't), I hope you laughed a little and were reminded of your own Christmases growing up. 

Love, family and friends have always meant a lot to me, but never more than now.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Peace and Joy for 2012.

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 ~ The Year of the Octopus

2011 was definitely an interesting year for me. I got to visit a lot of new places and experience a lot of new things. One new thing that I wouldn't have counted on landed me the distinction in my office of "Most Likely to Get Bitten by a Cephalopod." Ah yes, 2011 was indeed "The Year of the Octopus."

The octopus and his hideout
I LOVE the beach. I'd rather be at the beach than anywhere on earth. I love to look at the ocean and I respect the ocean, but the fact is, when it comes to swimming in the ocean, I am truly the "Chicken of the Sea." I do enjoy snorkeling for shells (in shallow water, very close to're never going to catch me out scuba diving...not gonna happen). What am I afraid of? Well, sharks for one. No, you don't hear about many shark attacks in our area, but I know there are sharks out there. Hillsboro Inlet, where we snorkel is teeming with barracuda (another fish I fear, even though they are just curious and rarely do more to humans that stare you down). What I wasn't afraid of (obviously) was a baby octopus.

Rob first spotted the baby octopus in about six feet of water in the inlet, right on the edge of where the sand drops of to what I like to call "the abyss." It's really just a few feet deeper, but way deeper than I would ever venture. We had never seen an octopus at the inlet, and honestly, I didn't know that they lived in the tropics. He convinced me that I wouldn't get attacked by a shark or a barracuda if I just went and checked out this cool baby octopus that was just hanging out on the sand. I tentatively swam out, looked at it, and immediately swam back to my "comfort zone." I told Rob to try and catch it for our saltwater fish tank. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "How?" I said, "Just pick it up!" He flat-out refused, so I let it go.

The next weekend, I was snorkeling in about two feet of water. There were tons of beautiful shells near the shoreline, and I was having a great time collecting them. I lifted up a piece of coral, and guess who was there? The baby octopus! I wasn't afraid of it at all...I knew that octopi have beaks, but I figured that it may just wrap it's tentacles around my hand or something. I tried to grab it, and it jetted away and inked. No octopus for our tank that weekend either.

The following weekend, I was snorkeling for shells in the same area I was the week before. I spotted a large, broken conch shell. I decided to pick it up, because our fish like to have hiding places in the tank. When I picked up the conch, I realized that it was occupied by...the octopus! Woo-hoo! I captured the octopus!  I yelled to Rob to get a bucket of water to put the shell in while we finished swimming.
The moment of envenomation
As we were getting ready to leave, Rob told me that he didn't think bringing the octopus home was a good idea. It may crawl out of the tank and/or eat all of our fish. I was disappointed, but agreed that he had a point. I told him that I wanted to get a picture of it for the kids. I reached in the bucket and picked it up. As it was sitting in my palm, Rob was trying to take a picture with my phone. All of a sudden, I felt a little pinch and said, "It's biting me!" It wasn't overly painful. I'd been pinched by a hermit crab before and hurt much worse. All of a sudden, I felt warmth radiating up into my fingers and my body and mind went into panic mode. I said to Rob, "Oh my gosh, are octopi VENOMOUS??!!!" Rob said he didn't think so, but he'd Google it on the phone. Meanwhile, he's yelling at me telling me to throw the octopus overboard (WHY was I still holding it?), which I did. He got really quiet and said, "Uh, yes, all octopus are venomous...try sucking the poison out of your hand." So, I did. It was nasty and bitter and my heart was pounding. Then, I started hyperventilating. I was convinced that the venom was coursing through my system and I was going to die - all because I had stalked this poor baby octopus! 

Rob tried to calm me down, telling me that I was just having a panic attack, but there was NO calming me down. I was sure I was dying. A Broward Sheriff's office boat was anchored in the inlet, so I flagged him down. (Notice: I flagged him down, not Rob, who was no doubt more embarrassed than concerned that I may be dying.) I told the officer that I had been bitten by an octopus and I didn't know they were venomous and now I couldn't breathe and I was afraid I was dying... Naturally, he looked at me like I was insane and said, "I didn't know that octopus bite people." But, being a public servant, he humored me and called the paramedics, asking us to pull up to the docks just inside the inlet to meet them.

By the time we got to the docks, I had calmed down enough to realize that Rob was right - I was just having a panic attack. My hand was swollen and turning purple, but I could breathe a lot better. Mortified, I told the officer that I would be fine, and that he could tell the paramedics not to come. He told me that they were already on their way, so I should probably let them check out my hand. (In other words, give them something to talk about back at the station.) 

Let's give 'em something to talk about!
While we were waiting, the officer did a little research on his phone and told me that my body should metabolize the venom within a couple of hours. I told him that I guess the octopus didn't like being out of the water, to which he responded, "Yeah, he was octopissed!" (You've gotta love a cop with a sense of humor!). Then, the ambulance pulled up. At least FIVE paramedics climb out. (I can just imagine how Rob was feeling at this point.) What's the first thing they say to me? "You got bitten by an octopus? I didn't know those things bite!"  They took my vitals and determined that I was okay, but offered to take me to the hospital. (Can you IMAGINE?) They recommended that I clean the wound well and follow up with my doctor. 

I opted not to go to the doctor, and treated my bite wound myself. I read online that it could take up to six weeks for the wound to heal, so I wasn't really worried about it. The swelling had started to go down after a couple weeks, and other than itching like crazy sometimes, it wasn't too bad. About three weeks after I got bitten, we went on vacation and I tried paddleboarding. By the time we got back home, my hand was swollen again (looked like a giant man-hand), red and itchy, so I decided to call the doctor.

My nasty, irritated "man hand"
(The wound looks like an octopus eye, doesn't it?)
I adore my family doctor - he always makes me laugh, whether I am at his office for a well visit or a sick visit, or running into him in Publix. He's just an all-around great guy. So, I call his office and tell the receptionist why I need to make an appointment. She tells me that she'd like me to speak to the nurse. About 30 seconds later, my doctor gets on the phone and says, "Nancy, what are you doing getting bitten by an octopus?!" He told me to come in because I should be on antibiotics. As I was sitting in the waiting room, the door opened and he poked his head out and said, "Oh, not YOU! The octopus!" He thought the whole situation was pretty amusing. He explained to me why my hand felt the way it did (itchy and hard because of the web of scar tissue forming underneath the puncture wound) and why it had gotten all swollen again (I irritated it holding the paddle). He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and steroids (to take down the swelling) and sent me on my way. To this day, every time I see him, he refers to me as "Octopus Woman." :) 

It's been six months since my octopus encounter. My hand has gone pretty much back to normal, but you can still see where the little guy dug his beak into my palm. A guy at the dive shop told me that baby octopus have more venom than full-grown octopus. I guess it could have been worse. I definitely learned my lesson though. That'll teach me for trying to be brave! ;)

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just Call Me Wang


Sunrise from my balcony
If you're a Caddyshack fan, you get the reference. Wang (played by Tsung-I. Dow, who, ironically, was my professor at FAU for History of Chinese Art) was Rodney Dangerfield's Chinese assistant in the movie. He always had a camera around his neck and took photos constantly.

I love to take pictures. As I get older, my memory isn't what it used to be, so photos ARE my memory. I love to thumb through photo albums from when my kids were little, and find pictures that trigger a pleasant memory that had been tucked deep in the recesses of my mind, making me smile. You can always delete a picture, but you can't ever recapture a moment that wasn't captured in the first place. Once it's's gone.

One of my favorite pictures of
Rob and Chase
Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for photography. When I went to Philadelphia for the first time with my co-worker/friend Bob, I was so snap-happy from the time we landed at the airport, that by the time we got into Center City, Bob looked at me and said, "Nancy, if we were married, I'd have filed for divorce by now." We've traveled together a few times since then, and I think Bob finally "gets" (or, at least, tolerates) me. As I took my camera out recently at a New Jersey Wawa, I looked at him and said, "I know...I know - Wang, it's only a parking lot!" To which Bob responded, "Nancy, as long as you can laugh at yourself, you're alright!" ;)

Rob and the kids in
Pismo Beach, CA
In many ways, I AM like a little kid when it comes to seeing new places. My vacations growing up were limited to annual trips to the North Georgia mountains and the surrounding area, plus the occasional trip to New Jersey and one or two trips to theme parks like Disney. My parents, to this day, have never left the eastern United States. EVER. I met Rob when I was 18 and a sophomore in college and married him three weeks after I graduated. Rob had traveled extensively as a member of the U.S. Boardsailing team in the early 80's (B.N. as he likes to say) and really has little desire to travel now. I can get him to tropical/coastal locations, preferably by plane or boat. Since we've been together, we've been on several Caribbean cruises, taken two trips to Hawaii (where he has family), and three trips to California. I love all of those places (and have lots of photos of them ;) ), but I'd like to see more. Hence, my wanderlust and my desire to capture the times that I get to see new places on film!
My first plumeria blossoms

I also had something of an epiphany in my early 30s when I had a neck abscess that could very easily have killed me had I not gone to the doctor when I did. This experience taught me that there are no guarantees in life, so be the best person you can be and enjoy the time you are given. I try to do just that!

On my last two family trips, my kids were pretty much mortified by the fact that I took photos constantly. They very rarely allowed me to take pictures of them because they "didn't want them to end up on Facebook." I love my family and want to share photos of them with my friends, but it totally embarrasses my kids (which, I guess is part of a parent's job?). Being the overly-sensitive, heart-on-my-sleeve person that I am, this hurts me. I actually broke down in Cafe Tu Tu Tango - when Chase took a few candid photos and Alana immediately deleted them all because "nobody needs to see them." Yep, I felt pretty stupid, but the tears just started flowing and I couldn't stop them. I just don't get it. 

Me & my Mom
Busch Gardens
At theme parks, the beach, etc., anytime I see someone taking a photo of their loved ones, I always run up and offer to take the photo if they'd like to get in the shot. Not once has my offer been turned down. People LIKE to be photographed with the ones they love, don't they? Even as a teenager (and in my oh-so-awkward pre-teen years, as evidenced by the lovely unflattering photo to the left), I never refused to be photographed with my mom and dad. I know - they were different times. I honestly do not set out to humiliate my kids in any way. I love them both with all of my heart and soul and I just wish they could understand how precious this time is. 

My family in Hawaii
I think that part of the reason I got so upset over something so silly as deleted photos is because I know that the time for family vacations is getting shorter and shorter. In just two and a half years, Alana will be going off to college, with Chase just a few years behind her. I'd really like to make the most of this time and have some photographic memories to show for it.
With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy (a.k.a. Wang)