Monday, March 30, 2009

Philadephia Freedom: Reflections on our recent trip

One year when I was three or four years old, my parents took my sister, my Uncle Bill and me on a tour the great cities of the east. We went to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. If we went other places, I don't remember them. Below is a picture of me (being held by my Uncle Bill) and my mom (holding my sister) in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA.

I wish I could tell you that I have great memories of this trip, but I don't. I DO remember the Liberty Bell. I can only imagine that my mom made a big deal of it because it is so ingrained in my memory. When I returned to Independence Hall 35 years later, I asked one of the park rangers if the Liberty Bell was ever outside (it is now housed in a nice indoor facility). He assured me that my 4 year old memory had been correct; until quite recently, the Bell was outside.
Two weeks ago, I was with Dean and Bradley at Independence Hall. It was my 39th birthday, and I can't think of a better way to spend the day. I have always been patriotic. A lot of that has to do with my parents. A lot of it has to do with my Kindergarten program in 1976. I learned every patriotic song that a Kindergartner could learn, and I've never forgotten those feelings I had in the 70s.
When I was 18, I caught Potomac fever on a trip to D.C. I decided to study political science and pursue a career of public service in state government. While I have temporarily left my ambitions of public service, I have never lost my passion for my freedom and my government that enables that freedom.
The feeling at Independence Hall was overwhelming. To stand in the halls where the founding fathers worked out the details of the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence and the US can you not be moved? I was so amazed to be standing in the same room where Washington, Franklin, John Hancock...and so many others stood. I was honored to see the chair where General Washington presided over what I consider to be sacred events.
Next time I'm in Philadelphia, I plan on spending time at the Constitution Center.

Here are a few pics of our day.

Wendy and Dean at the Liberty Bell

The outside of Independence Hall (compare to 35 years ago, photo above)
The back entrance of Independence Hall.
This is one of my favorite pictures...from inside the Pennsylvania Statehouse.

Is is "the place" where the AofC, DofI and US Constitution were all created and signed.

The chair behind the desk in the background was the one that was George Washington's chair.

What a place!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Going Amish in Lancaster, PA

On our recent trip to Pennsylvania Dean, Bradley and I spent a day in Lancaster, PA learning about the Amish. It was quite the educational experience. I highly recommend a visit if you ever get anywhere near there.

This is us at the visitor's center.

Bradley and Dean with a Buggy. Yes, they really do drive them, and yes, they are everywhere. The cost of a brand new buggy (tricked out) is about $5,000-7,000.

Amish School. The children are "complete" with school when they are done with the 8th Grade. All of the Amish schools in the county are one room school houses.
This is Bradley in a replica of an Amish school...we didn't bust in on a class and demand to take pictures. In fact, our tour driver was very respectful of the children and didn't stop at the school if children were present outside.
This is a "typical" Amish farmhouse. The propane tank (because they don't use electricity), the clothes on the line (because they don't use propane dryers, apparently), and the houses which have add-ons (additions to accommodate multiple generations in the same household) are all indicative of a typical farmhouse.
The farmers were out in force plowing their fields the day we were there. In my whole life, I've never seen a horse-drawn plow (except on TV). This seems like such a hard way to do it. Get a John Deere for the love....

One thing which we don't have a picture of is our lunch. We ate at a true "family style diner" called Good and Plenty. The name says it all. Family style means that you are seated at a table made for 12 with whomever else comes into the restaurant and needs a seat. We had a lovely time and met some great people from New York and York, PA. I'm still dreaming (and paying for) those buttered noodles and that fried chicken! YUM!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Not for the faint of heart...disclaimer....Bradley's surgery photos

About 6 months ago, I noticed a skin abnormality on Mariah's neck turned a dark color. I took her to the doctor and insisted that he biopsy it. He didn't want to. After a cursory examination, my doctor (who I love, by the way) claimed that the abnormality was simply vascular in nature and that I had nothing to worry about. I pushed.

The biopsy results showed cancerous cells. We went back in and had a larger section removed from Mariah's neck.

This got Bradley worried because he has similar skin abnormalities. We took him to a dermatologist, and a biopsy of his spots also proved to have cancerous cells. You guessed it. We went back in for a minor surgery to remove the affected area.

The surgery was fascinating in the execution and accuracy. The dermatologist is a skilled professional, and there will be minimal scaring.

The message here.....WEAR SUNSCREEN! These kiddos are 15 and 17, respectively. They are fair skinned, red-headed kids who love to have a tan. Unfortunately, their pigmentation does not lend itself well to tanning. Burning, yes. Tanning, no. They think they are invincible, but we've really tried to impress upon them how serious skin cancers are. I have no idea if the message is sticking, but I hope it does.
This first pic is what it looks like after the numbing agent is doing its job. The red dots are needle marks. The other dots are enlarged pores from the lytocane.
This picture is the initial incision.
It was truly alarming to see how deep the incision was. The doctor told me that I could watch as long as I wasn't going to pass out (and he was serious).
This site almost did me in. It's about 1/4 of an inch deep. The dermis layer was much thicker than I thought it was. The slightly yellowish layer at the bottom is actually fat.

The next few pictures are the stitches.

All done!

He gets his stitches out on Monday, March 30th!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dr. Maya Angelou inspires me!

Today at our users conference in Philadelphia, Dr. Maya Angelou was our keynote speaker at our introductory session. She was fabulous. I went with no expectations, and I left uplifted and inspired to be a better person.

I'm in wonder of her personal history and enamoured by her colorful stories. Her easy manner invited me to peer into her life in a unique way. She sang, read poetry, made us laugh, made us cry, told stories, told jokes and touched many hearts today.

She talked about being a rainbow in the cloud. She sang: "When it looked like the sun wasn't going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds."

She used life stories to expound upon "a rainbow in the clouds." Essentially, the rainbow represents hope, and she spoke of the rainbows in her life who encouraged her, taught her and loved her. She talked about her Uncle Willie and his far-reaching influence in the lives of those who he did not know because he cared enough to believe in one young boy.

I wish I could be more like her.

I am going to try harder to be a rainbow in the lives of others and not the thunderstorm, the lightening bolt or the impeding cloud of darkness.

I'm a better person today because listened to her.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bradley, the Little Leprechaun, Turns 17 on March 17th

It's been several years since Bradley has had a proper birthday party, so this year we all had a "somewhat of a surprise" dinner gathering. I wouldn't really call it a party. His requests were simple: Chicken caserole (done), cookie dough ice cream (Ben and Jerry's, done), and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (I made a tower of cookies to form a "cookie cake" (done).

What is a party without some balloons?

The "cookie cake."

The requisite "blowing out the candles."

A fun shot of Toli.

Mariah in her St. Paddy's Day garb.

Friday, March 6, 2009

More Images from Sedona

Dean and Wendy at Chicken Point

Our "Trail"

The beautiful views

Monday, March 2, 2009

Images from Sedona, Arizona

Dean and I are in Sedona, Arizona for a company event, and it's a magical place. Here are a few images.

Wendy and Dean at the Enchantment Resort

I took this off of the balcony of our room (casita)...yes...we're quite blessed and grateful!

This is my favorite shot from the day

The Teapot

The site of "The Vortex"