Monday, October 19, 2009

I Need Your Help... For The Troops

Would you like to tell the troops thanks?

I'm involved in a book project with Change Unlimited Ltd. It was formed more than sixteen years ago for the purposes of helping and honoring individuals, and for donating or giving financially to other. It continues that goal today.

We create books whose sole purposes are to let people know they’re important as individuals, and that they have love and support surrounding them. Whether it’s a friendship book or a book for people going through trying times, the recipient of our book is given hope, love and understanding.
Here’s how the book works.

I, one of the creators of Change Unlimited Ltd, gather stories, artwork, tips and advice to share with our service men and women. Some of this I gather from books, the internet and other places. Some of the most poignant contributions are the life stories I gather from people who have already experienced a deployment or a combat situation. (We always get the rights to use everything in our books, and if you contribute, you will get to approve your contribution before we print a word!) I compile the book, and then Change Unlimited gets it designed, printed and distributed.

This book is purchased and individualized by a friend or family member, then given to a service man or woman.

There are several chapters in the book:
Chapter 1 contains a dedication to someone who has undergone similar challenges.

Chapter 2 embodies plastic photograph sleeves that will hold letters, artwork, photos or other personal items the recipient would appreciate and the family or friend would gather and insert.

Chapter 3 shares insights provided by those who are willing sharing their story. Would you like to thank a service member but never had the chance? You can write a letter or a story outlining your gratitude. You may wish to include a quote, poem, piece of art, or photograph. Have you been affected by a deployment? What sort of advice or words of wisdom could you provide to the recipient?

Chapter 4 contains coupons that family members and friends give to the recipient. It could include a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, or baby sitting, or photography sessions or anything else that would be helpful.

Chapter 5 is a journal that has space for the recipient to jot a few lines of memorable events, thoughts, triumphs or setbacks. Each journal page contains a saying, reminder or quip that keeps keep life in perspective, makes the recipient laugh, or contributes to the process.

I would love to include your story or thank you letter for contribution. There is really no size limitation and write whatever you feel.

This book is really important to me and I am very excited to be able to help our brothers and sisters overseas.

Our goal is to have every deployed member of the military receive one.
Please let me know if you'd like to be a part of this wonderful project, and I can email you with more details.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lofty Ideals

Taken at the State Capitol in Madison from the observation deck

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration, Democracy, and Demi-Gods

The Declaration of Independence is a remarkable document. Have you read it? It's amazing. (Text) Jefferson really knew what he was talking about- he knew how to write in a manner that conveyed the sentiments of the Congress and (most) inhabitants in the Colonies.

And then I think about the men who put it all together... they were just men. They had their flaws, they were imperfect. But they have been elevated and put on this pedestal (and rightfully so in my opinion). They are demi-gods of American History. Their words, actions and audacity have sparked inspiration enough for men and women to fight countless wars. Even after 233 years, their words resonate with our nation and inspire democracy. It really boggles my mind that a few men put this document together- it is so inspired.

courtesy of Wikipedia

Some of my favorite quotes from the Declaration of Independence:
  • That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (yes!! Democracy at it's finest!!!)
  • But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security
  • Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren... We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
  • And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Mutually pledge to each other our Lives... WOW! That is huge statement, and haunting. It makes me feel connected to something bigger and greater. We really should be proud to be Americans.

Did you know?
  • Congress voted on and declared Independence on July 2
  • Both John Adams (second president) and Thomas Jefferson (third president) died on July 4, 1826-- the fiftieth anniversary
  • James Monroe (fifth president) died on July 4, 1831 (five years after Adams and Jefferson)
  • The last person to sign the Declaration was on January 1777
  • July 4th was not declared a national holiday until 1941
  • George Washington was about 6'2 (average height in the late eighteenth century was 5'7)

Maybe I will watch the Patriot tonight. (I love that movie).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Remember These?

When I was in high school, my mom gave me her Vietnam POW memorial bracelet. (Or did I take it from her jewelry chest?) I used to wear it all the time. The black engraved letters eventually wore down and I remember taking a sharpie and filling them in. I looked up the name on the bracelet back then and couldn't find any information on him- just that he was MIA.

After six years of not thinking of the bracelet, for some reason it just hit me. I could remember the name on the bracelet so clearly- Lieutenant Colonel Peter J. Frederick. So I asked my mom if the name "Peter J. Frederick" meant anything to her. Her response- "Yes. That was the name on my bracelet!" Even after several decades, she too remembers his name.

So I decided to Google Lt. Col. Frederick to see if I could find anymore updated information.
Lt. Col. Frederick of the United States Air Force went missing on March 15, 1967 (the date on the bracelet). He had a wife and an infant daughter.

In 2004, after 37 years, he was finally brought home and laid to rest.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finding Some Sanity

Things have been pretty crazy in my little world the past few days. I finally got interns at work. YES!! The mail and filing had been piling up and my office was a little hectic. But I have been training them, and they seem to be a good bunch. Competence, accuracy, and good social skills are the qualities I require in my interns. Do good work- but also be outgoing and be able to carry a conversation with me throughout the day.

Pathway to the Duck Pond

The weather was nice for a while here (though lately it has turned to overcast and in the 60s). The other weekend I took my dog for a walk to the DUCK POND. This was a childhood favorite place of mine. But sadly, when I went there again, it seemed different. When I was little- it seemed so big and wondrous, with many ducks, different flowers and even otters. But when I went there it just seemed sad. Only two ducks were there, the pond seemed small, and it didn't have that magic to it.

Two lonely ducks

Is that when we are children the world seems so much bigger and magical because we are so little? Is it because we are untainted and ignorant?

What was your favorite childhood place to visit? Do you think it would be as magical if you went back there now? Would it have changed?

In any case- spending time with family and friends helps keep me sane. The other weekend, it was my friend's birthday. (The one I surprised at the airport). Her birthday is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I think this is because us friends get together to eat, share stories and pick up as if we haven't spent a day apart. Her parents make the yummiest food, we have wine, and just laugh. Food, wine, and good company- could you really ask for anything more??

Delicious spreads and a homemade cake

Monday, May 25, 2009

IN MEMORIUM ... rest in peace...

Today is Memorial Day.

In my youth, it used to mean the beginning of summer. It was a day off from work or school. It was the day the pool opened. It was an extra day where I could do nothing but enjoy having a day to do nothing.

But that all changed three months ago when someone close to me died in Afghanistan. (Three months ago?? it seems like yesterday...) He had his whole life in front of him, and at 24, was way too young to die. This year, Memorial Day means something more that it ever could- it touched me and my life personally. When the ONLY person you know fighting overseas is killed, it really hits you hard. You hear stories of families and friends of the brave men and women who gave their lives in foreign and distant wars- but it is just that---- foreign and distant. It doesn't affect you. But until it really does affect you, you can't possibly appreciate or understand the holiday.

Yesterday, on my way to church, there was a memorial to all Americans who fell in battle in during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. As yesterday was exactly three months since Dan had died, it hurt so much to see the memorial. Along a busy road next to the cemetery, the Veterans for Peace placed a grave marker for each American who gave their life, and a state flag on the marker for each Wisconsin soldier. Needless to say I was a mess at mass and I was compelled to get out and take a few photos of the very moving site.

Today I went to a Memorial Day ceremony honoring all the war dead, especially those who died in the past year. How do you keep a dry eye when someone special and close to you was being honored?

I don't know how you are supposed to get over something like this. People say you never really do. But how do you cope? How do you get on with your life? I guess all you can do is to remember that person and never let their memory die. Every day I think about Dan, and every day is a struggle.

I ask you to please say a prayer for Dan, his family, and me- and please say a prayer for all those who have given their life for us. Even if you don't believe in the war, believe in those who are fighting for you.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peace Officer's Memorial

This week is National Peace Officer's Memorial Week to commemorate those who have given their lives in the line of duty. Thankfully, no officers died this past year in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, the ceremony was very moving.

The Governor issued an Executive Order for the flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of all those who have fallen.

Flags are flown half-staff today at the State Capitol (Madison, WI)

If any of you know police officers, you know that they could come across anything anytime. Most of us go to work, sit at a desk, and have a routine where nothing too unexpected can happen. But these men and women are out on the streets, highways, risking their lives to protect us. Even a routine traffic stop is full of uncertainty. It's important to just take a moment and reflect on what they do and pause to remember those who have died in the line of duty.

Two more tulip pictures I took today. Most of the tulips are gone, as the squirrels have eaten them! Only stalks are left.

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend. I am going to head to the farmer's market tomorrow (if the weather is nice)(Hopefully I can avoid the crazy traffic because it's graduation weekend.. ugh....)

Do you go to the local farmer's market? What are your favorite items to buy? Who are are favorite vendors?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thundershowers, Tulips, and Surprises!

Holy Canoli, it's raining buckets right now.

I love a spring/summer thunderstorm. I've never been scared of thunder or lightening, even as a little girl. In fact, falling asleep to a thunderstorm for me is very calming. I don't know why, but I love a good thunderstorm (WOW! Thunder so loud it just shook the walls). I think I like spring showers because they bring in the May flowers. (cliche? yes... I know...)

These are two photos I took of the gorgeous tulips outside the capitol two weeks ago. I framed these photos and gave them to my mom for mother's day.

Now I'm curling up on the couch, with a glass of wine, making some naan (and by making, I mean putting the Trader Joe's brand into the oven for 10 minutes... I know, I am so domestic), and watching the Brewers.

Gotta stay up late tonight. I am surprising my friend by picking her up at the airport! My friend has been volunteering in California for about a year and she's coming home for a long weekend. She has no idea that I'm am going to be at the airport to pick her up when her flight comes in after midnight. Wish me luck... hopefully I can stay awake til then :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Elton John and Billy Joel

***UPDATED: Pictures and Videos!!**** 5/12/09

Last night I went to the Elton John/Billy Joel Face 2 Face concert. IT WAS AMAZING. The real surprise for me was Billy Joel. He was cracking jokes, dancing like crazy, and just being a great entertainer. I would have thought that Elton would have been the hit of the night, but he proved to be kind of boring. Joel's band was rocking out and everyone was dancing all over the stage. It was just a great experience to see two of the greatest performers play and sing their hits, together. "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" and "Bennie and the Jets" were my favorites of the night. Also a spectacular rendition of "Piano Man" complete with harmonica.

The Piano Man

The Rocket Man

Elton played "Daniel"- a very emotional song for many people. I think the great thing about this song is that it holds a special and different meaning for people. For me, it reminds me of my grandfather, Daniel, who died in the Korean War. He died just two months after my Dad was born- they never met. And now it has a new meaning for me. It also reminds me of my good friend, Dan, who died in Afghanistan a little over two months ago. I can't help but cry whenever I hear this song because, for me, it is so personal.

The lyrics are ambiguous enough that it can have it's own special meaning.

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

They say Spain is pretty though I've never been
Well Daniel says it's the best place that he's ever seen
Oh and he should know, he's been there enough
Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much

Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won't heal
Your eyes have died but you see more than I
Daniel you're a star in the face of the sky

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
Oh God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Enjoy these videos!!

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"- Billy Joel

"Moving Out"- Billy Joel

"Your Song"- Elton John and Billy Joel

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pet Therapy

I have been involved in a program called "Pet Pals" through the UW Vet School in conjunction with the Children's Hospital. My dog Maddie and I go to the Children's hospital twice a month and visit with the kids. At first, I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle seeing the sick children and was a little wary... but it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!

All the dogs in Pet Pals have to go through an intensive screening process. Their behavior, demeanor, and interaction with children are all tested. Fortunately for me, Maddie passed with flying colors and was accepted into the program in 2007.

Maddie, almost 7, is our sweet Golden Retriever we rescued in 2005.

Last week, one of the patient's parents was telling me that their son had two dogs at home who slept on his bed. Being in the hospital was difficult for him because he was used to having his pups with him. After our visit, I heard his dad ask him, "See? Do you feel better? Aren't you glad you came?" You could see the change on the boy's face- he looked happy and was smiling.

Sometimes Maddie will lay down on the floor and kids will lay with her. They will put their arms around her, hug her, and just close their eyes, maybe even take a little nap with her.

It's the small things like this that can really make a difference.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I gave up alcohol and sweets for Lent. It has been VERY challenging, and at first, I wasn't entirely sure I could do it. I had given up sweets in the past, so I knew that was not going to be a problem, so I really wanted to challenge myself. And out of all the Lents, this was the worst one to pick giving up alcohol.

Someone very close to me died exactly forty days ago today (on Fat Tuesday). He gave the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE- he died a hero for our country in Afghanistan. Let me tell you, it has been the hardest forty days of my life and not a day has gone by that I don't think about him. While I was dealing with his death, my friend Jill shared this photo and quote with me. I think it is so very relevant today and especially so at this time of year.

Only two men have offered to give their lives for you... Jesus and the American Soldier

My mom reminded me that I can drink at midnight tonight (officially the end of Lent). And to be honest, I am quite reluctant to do so. I feel really good about not drinking for forty days. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an alcoholic or anything, but it's empowering to know that even though I have been surrounded by it, I have been able to resist the temptation. And believe me have I been surrounded by it. Dinners, going out, happy hour after work, everyone trying to pressure me in having a drink... It really made me see how much alcohol can be part of your life, and I can understand why it would be hard for alcoholics to quite when they are constantly reminded and surrounded by it.

These last forty days have also given me insight into who my friends are. When someone is going through a hard time, you really find out who is there for you, and who really means it. I have been surprised to learn that the people who care about me most, are not the friends that I see on a regular basis and those who I have known for a long time, but rather, those whom I have just recently met and those who are away.

Some of the friends I would have expected to understand and help me with this, have not done so. I even told one friend about the situation and never heard back from her. On the other hand, my friends who live out in California have been so wonderful, and my newest friend Jill has been there every step of the way with me. She went to the funeral with me, even though she never new Dan. It just goes to show that one of your closest friends can be one of your newest friends.

I hope that we don't lose sight of what Lent and Easter is all about. It is easy to think that we are just giving up something for the sake of it, and then indulging on Easter. We can't forget the ultimate sacrifice- that Jesus gave his life for us so that we all may live again.

Rest in Peace and may God bless you SGT. Daniel Thompson

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Good Friday...

I remember going on a cruise ten years ago over spring break to South America. On Good Friday we visited Costa Rica, and just about everything was closed. From 12-3, stores restaurants were closed and the streets were deserted. It seemed the only people walking around were the pasty faced vacationers wandering the street. The one place I remember being open was a beautiful church.

Finally the weather is getting more spring like. It's mid April and it had been in the 30's!! I am ready for the sun.

Speaking of GOOD Friday- the Brewers won their home opener today! What a thriller. Talk about waiting til the end to pull it off. Any win against the Cubs is a great win, but for their home opener, it's like extra chocolate in the Easter basket!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Capitol Squirrels Will No Longer Go Nuts

The squirrels on the Capitol Lawn will no longer be able to indulge in their peanuts. DOA officials sent a letter asking the perp to stop spreading peanuts on the lawn. Why? Because state officials are concerned about visiting children who may have allergies to peanuts.

"Recently, someone...carpets the ground beneath the trees opposite 1 E. Main Street on the park grounds with peanuts. We are trying to get word to whoever, their concern for feeding the squirrels, is creating a much greater hazard to those visitors with allergies", the letter from director Ron Blair stated.

If true, I think it is hilarious that someone "carpets" the ground with peanuts. They must have a real affinity for squirrels to spread that many peanuts. Officials are worried that as the weather gets nicer, kids touring could be exposed. Are they more worried about the lawn looking nice or genuinely concerned that a child with allergies might just pick up a peanut under a tree?

Why don't officials work to make sure people walking their dogs don't leave their waste on the lawn? I think more people are "allergic" to that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jesus Christ Superstar

This past Saturday I went to "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Overture Center. When I as in fourth grade, I saw the show for the first time at the Civic Center. Ever since I was little my parents had taken me to musicals, plays, and ballets. So the arts have always been ingrained in me and I have a great appreciation for them. I can remember singing the songs for days after first seeing JCS, never having heard the music previously. Shortly after, my mom rented the original 1973 movie starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson. Watching that movie now, I'm sure would make me laugh because it involves hippies in bell bottoms dancing around in the desert.

Then Easter weekend in 2000 my mom and I were in Chicago and I was flipping through stations and came across a brand new version. This version was updated- new clothes, new set, and a whole new take. Once again, I couldn't get the songs out of my head! My favorite song from that version is "Simon Zealots" sung by Tony Vincent (swoon!) followed closely by "Garden of Gethsemane/I Only Want to Say".

Fast forward nearly 9 years and I find out the show is coming to Madison. I was excited! The night of the show I found out that the role of Jesus was being played by Ted Neeley- the ORIGINAL Jesus. I was thinking- what?? This guy has to be OLD! (he is 60 now). As soon as the overture started I really didn't care. Andrew Lloyd Webber is genious for making a rock opera about the last 7 days of the life of Jesus and for humanizing Judas. But I couldn't get over the fact that the title character, who is supposed to be 33, was being played by a 60 year old man.

If you've ever seen the show or heard the music, I'm sure you'd be surprised by this. The vocal range that the actor must possess is just enormous. Going into falsetto, he sings notes reaching a C2. Surprisngly, and with some effort, Neeley was able to hit these notes. Although his songs were sung at a slower tempo and somewhat behind the beat, you could look past it because, hey, he was the original. When he first entered the stage the crowd even began cheering and clapping. They were excited just to see him.

The crucifixion seen was a little difficult for me to stomach. Here is a 60 year old man in basically what looked like a diaper, half naked, hanging on the cross. It just seemed odd to me. But the scene was extremely emotional, and I think the fact that it made me uncomfortable served its purpose.

I wonder if the actor who plays Jesus (in any production of the show) feels a spiritual connection, or a strengthening in their faith. Is there any apprehension for an actor who is not religious or Christian?


Jesus Christ Superstar 2009 Tour