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Monday, August 18, 2014

Blue Dog - The Tail of a Boy's Best Friend

At my baby shower for my firstborn son, Derek, I received a very cute stuffed blue dog as a gift. I cannot even recall at this point who it was that gave it to us, but ironically, I had given the same dog to a girlfriend of mine a few weeks earlier for her first baby shower.

I began showing Derek the dog and laying it beside him as we played on the floor very early on, and it wasn't long before he was playing with the dog a lot. We gave him the name Blue Dog (I know, very original! LOL) some time later on when Derek was old enough to associate a person or thing with a name.



He became attached to Blue Dog very quickly, and it wasn't long before Blue Dog was offered a coveted spot in Derek's crib. He began to sleep with him nightly, and it wasn't long before he started coming downstairs with Derek in the morning as well. 


It was always a challenge every night before bed to find Blue Dog because we knew that Derek wouldn't sleep if he didn't have his loyal companion by his side. However, we never knew where we would find the little mischievous dog - behind a piece of furniture, in an empty box, or even the garbage can.  And there was many a night when we searched the house to the point of exhaustion and still couldn't find him.  Luckily those nights didn't happen too often, until we went to CA for 8 weeks and lived in a hotel room....

Of course one of the first things we packed for Derek for this extended stay in a southern CA hotel was his favorite companion.  He kept the dog by his side daily, until one day near the end of our stay, we could not find him - anywhere!  Of course, the first night was difficult without his best friend, but we were confident that by the next day we would locate him in some crazy place like the closet or the bathroom garbage can, or even behind the beds in the secondary room he was sleeping in at the hotel.  But alas, we could not find him. After a couple of days we asked the staff at the front desk of the hotel to keep an eye out for him, in case he mysteriously showed up outside of our room and was taken to the hotel's lost and found.  A few days later we were told that a member of the carpet cleaning company that was on site that week remembered seeing a little blue stuffed animal near the elevators.  YAY!  But then we were also told that the person said they left the animal there thinking someone might come for it later....BOO!  We never found Blue Dog, and a week or so later we returned home to FL - sad and dog less.

As soon as we returned home, I began to search the internet for another dog just like Blue Dog so that we could "surprise" Derek with the return of his beloved pet.  Unfortunately, the dog appeared to be out of stock and no longer in production.  I even went as far as to call my friend whom I had given the same dog to a couple of weeks before I got Derek's, but she said she didn't know where her son's dog was either.  So, as a court of last resort, I scanned ebay, and low and behold - I found the exact same dog with one small modification - the price tag!  This "gently used" version looked to be in great shape, but was over twice the amount that I knew this dog had cost new, but what was I, as the mother of a very distraught toddler, to do? I did what most other mom's would do in the same situation - I sighed heavily, and clicked on the "buy it now" button.  :)

I have to say that the dog arrived in great shape, though getting him in the mail was a bit of a fiasco as we were in the process of moving at the time, and the dog got sent to several places before FINALLY making it into our hands.  However, the look on Derek's face when we handed him his Blue Dog was well worth the outrageous price we spent to get Blue Dog's twin brother.


Since that time, over two years ago, we have lost and found, lost and found, that #*($&!! dog more times than I can count.  Sometimes it has been hours or days, and once, more than a week before the little buggar was found (in Randy's and my bathroom linen closet of all places!), but when we do know his whereabouts, it's always on top of Derek's big boy bed where he waits patiently for his best friend to return each night. Blue Dog is getting rather dirty and scraggly looking, and he's lost a lot of his fluffiness, but that's okay with us. We have never told him that this is a different dog, and to this day he still doesn't know that it's not his original companion.  We figure some day when he asks, or reads this blog post, he'll know, but until then we can just be happy in the knowledge that we made our little boy very, very happy.  :)

Nemo Has A New Home

It's been awhile since I actually wrote a puzzle related post for this "puzzle" blog, so I figured I'd better get back to the main reason why I started this in the first place - my Life puzzle!  In my Flickr Big Jigsaw Puzzle group, one of the members always takes photographs of his completed puzzles with a little rubber chicken named Evelene.  Now, I don't know the story behind how Evelene came to be, but I have always thought it cute that he had a puzzle mascot of sorts.  Then, another member started using a stuffed Eeyore as his mascot, and a trend was born.  Another puzzler, our speedy Australian, recently revealed her new mascot, a Koala Bear named Colin.  So, I figured it was about time that I, too, got on board with the puzzle mascot movement.

I created a new topic on our discussion board to elicit responses from other members on what they felt might be the best puzzle mascot for me.  I wanted something cute, fun, and that represented my personality at least a little bit.  Ironically, as I was writing the question to upload to the discussion area, a very appropriate mascot came to mind.  I didn't want to influence anyone else's response so I did not reveal the one I had thought of, but figured I would after I got some other opinions.

As it turned out, the people in the group who responded all came up with the same idea that I had thought of while writing....Nemo!  Of course, it was the obvious answer!  My Life puzzle is chock full of clownfish in every color imaginable.  What other character would make a better mascot for me than cute little Nemo?  So, a couple of days after I posted the discussion topic and had received several Nemo suggestions, I went ahead and ordered my new little buddy.
Nemo is ready for his close up.
I couldn't be happier with this choice - he's a perfect companion, and I wasted no time in getting him acclimated to his new surroundings.  He appears to be enjoying himself immensely.  Of course he wanted to start working on the fish area of the puzzle...so that's where we started.  Here's what we've accomplished in our short time together.

Nemo seems to feel right at home working on the fish.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It Feels Like We've Lost a Good Friend

For most of my life I have not been too bothered by celebrity deaths.  With few exceptions, most of the people who passed were really old celebrities who were famous way before my time so there was no real emotional connection for me.

The first celebrity death which I remember being very saddened by was John Candy.  He died in 1994, two years after I graduated high school, and I just remember feeling it was a big loss for Hollywood as he was such a great actor, and so funny.  Even in the years following Candy's death, I still felt a disconnect with most actors and singers who died - it was just the name of a person who I vaguely remembered, if at all.

Then in June, 2009, Michael Jackson died, and suddenly, celebrity deaths were not just actors and musicians I'd never seen or heard of before.  Now those deaths meant something - it meant the loss of an actor, singer, performer, etc. that I not only had heard of, but admired, loved, respected, or watched / listened to as a kid.  Someone I felt like I knew.

I can recall to this day, over 5 years later, the where's, the when's, and the how's of Michael's death.  I was still working at the IT Helpdesk for AHS Information Services when I got a breaking news alert email stating there were reports that Michael Jackson had just gone into cardiac arrest.  I don't know what it was, but just from that one little sentence in an email, I knew he wouldn't make it.  I immediately started instant messaging with my co-workers that Michael Jackson had gone into cardiac arrest, and I was pretty sure he would not make it.  It was more than 15 minutes later before the news broke on CNN, and not too long after that they reported he had died.  I was so profoundly saddened by his death.  I loved Michael Jackson's music throughout my childhood and teenage years.  He went on to release music I wasn't crazy about, but I never doubted that he was a musical genius, and I would still listen to his older music on occasion.  I knew he was a very troubled soul, had a lot of mental issues, and was probably miserable much of his life, but I never doubted for a minute that he was a good person.  I never bought into all the rumors and allegations of child molestation, etc that plagued him in the later years.  He was more like a child himself than anything.  He just didn't get that he was sometimes crossing boundaries he should not have crossed as an adult.  I think in his own mind, he was still trying to be a kid - something he never got to experience when he was a child due to his meteoric rise to fame at such a young age.   

For several weeks after his death, I would listen to his greatest hits in the car, and I could often feel tears coming to my eyes because I felt the world had been robbed of his genius far too soon.  Of course, I was also pregnant and very hormonal at the time so I am sure that played a part in my emotional state, but I just couldn't believe he was gone.  It took me about a month to move past his death...

And now, flash forward to this last Monday, August 11th, 2014.  Randy and I had just finished eating dinner, we happened to have the news on, and our jaws literally fall open as the news anchor reports that actor / comedian Robin Williams has been found dead in his northern California home.

No, this just cannot be....there has to be some kind of mistake...a sick joke that will be cleared up in a matter of minutes!  I run to the computer to pull up CNN and see what they say because...well, they know everything...and, it wasn't there!  Whew!   Okay, yes, it must be some kind of outrageous, false report. Then, minutes later, I check again, and my heart sinks.....it's true.  Robin Williams has been found dead in his home from an apparent suicide.

For the last week, Randy and I have been reeling from the news of his death.  It has affected us more than any other celebrity death that I can think of - even Michael Jackson.  Not only were we huge fans of his movies and his comedy, but we very much admired the amazingly kind and generous person he was. Celebrity after celebrity have made statements about how shocked and saddened they were to hear of his untimely death, but it seems the manner and circumstances surrounding his death are what has been the hardest to accept.  Suicide.  Robin Williams, so very brilliant and talented in making millions laugh, could not make the most important person in his life happy - himself.  

As has been revealed in the days since his passing, he suffered for many, many years with severe depression, had multiple bouts with substance abuse, and had just recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. What a heavy burden he was carrying around with him on a daily basis - one that most people, even some of his closer friends, did not realize was becoming such an unbearable pain that he felt he had no other option than to take his own life.

We have been immersing ourselves in everything Robin Williams that has come on TV over the last week, and it has been so hard to see him on stage performing, or hamming it up on Mork & Mindy, or to not break down in tears while listening to his character come to life in Aladdin.  We are immensely saddened and heartbroken - it feels like we've lost a good friend.  


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Is It Just Me, or Do You Miss the 80's Too?

It does not seem possible that 1980 was 34 years ago!  I don't know if it's because that would mean I'm getting old, or if it's because the 80s are still such a fond memory for so many people that it doesn't feel like so much time has passed, but either way, I truly believe it was one of the most influential decades in American history...a decade of indulgence - a decade of silliness - a decade I often long to relive....
 I come home in the mornin' light
My mother says, "When you gonna live your life right"
"Oh Mommy dear, we're not the fortunate ones
And girls, they wanna have fun
Woah girls, just wanna have fun"

Read more: Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you
Read more: Madonna - Like A Virgin Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Ahhh, the music of the 80s...


I cannot even begin to tell you the number of hours I spent in my room in the 80s pretending to be a  pop megastar just like Madonna and Cindi Lauper - rocking out in front a mirror and singing into my "closed fist" microphone.  In my mind, I was the greatest of all pop stars, had millions of groupies and guys falling over themselves to be near me, and I basically felt like I did rule the world!

The 80s were such a defining decade in rock n' roll history.  Some of the biggest names in music came into their own in the 80s....Madonna, Michael Jackson, Pat Benetar, Journey, Prince, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, and U2 just to name a few.  Even to this day, the 80s is still my favorite decade in music.  There were very few songs released during these revolutionary years that I didn't absolutely LOVE.  I still have most of my car radio stations set to stations that play 80s music - despite the fact that it is now considered classic rock!  :o)

Not only did the 80s define and change music forever, it also gave us some of the most interesting, bizarre, and awesome hairstyles and fashions we have ever known.


I guess because the 80s were some of my most formidable years (I was 5 in 1980, so you can imagine how much of an influence the mid 80s would have had on a 10-year-old girl.), I still love some of the clothes and hairstyles of this generation.  Though I was never a huge fan of the mullet, I did think a few guys could pull it off back then...like Billy Ray Cyrus (Yes, I was a FAN! -- Hanging head in shame!!!)

I also loved the big poufy hair that I and all my friends sported, as well as the big sloppy shirts worn over tight leggings, and you can't forget the ginormous belt that hung down over the hips.

A bottle of hairspray and a teasing comb were never far from my hand, either.  For.Sure.  ;)

The 80s were also defined by some amazing TV shows -- well, at least in my own opinion they were amazing -- ones that were important enough to me to warrant begging my parents to let me stay up "just a little later".  I think my absolute favorite 80's show was The Greatest American Hero.  The show didn't last more than a few seasons, but I loved every minute of it.  My dad used to watch it with me, and it was one of the few areas where we could bond, so we watched Greatest American Hero, The Dukes of Hazard, The Fall Guy, and TJ Hooker together.  They all still hold a soft soft in my heart even after all these years.  Of course, being the early bloomer I was, there was always one guy in each show that I was totally in love with!  In GAH it was Ralph Hinkley of course...in Dukes of Hazzard my heart pounded for Bo Duke....I loved Howie in the Fall Guy (no idea why, now)....and I was smitten with Romano in TJ Hooker.  

Of course there were many other awesome shows from the 80s that I loved like Family Ties, The Cosby Show, Soap, and the list could go on and on.  They don't make good quality shows like they did back then. Nowadays you're almost afraid to even start watching a new show as it will most likely get cancelled within the first season.  Back then shows lasted at least a few seasons before a decision was made to yank it if the ratings were low.

I have so many fond memories of  the TV shows, musicians, and fashions of the 80s.  This decade is also where I developed my love for reading, and the books that got me started was a series called Sweet Valley High.  I had a ton of these books, and I could never wait to get my hands on the next one and the next one and....  They were awesome books for teenage girls.  All of my friends loved them too, and we would trade back and forth to make sure we had read them all.  I could never decide whether I wanted to be Jessica or Elizabeth.

And last, but certainly not least was the movies of the 80s.  Who could argue that some of the greatest and most influential movies of all time came out in the 80s?  Where would be today without having E.T., Star Wars, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Sixteen Candles, Indiana Jones, Risky Business, The Terminator, Top Gun, Back to the Future, Rambo, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Beverly Hills Cop...just to, literally, name a few!

Ahhh, the 80s....how I miss you!