Airing Dirty Laundry

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Waiting for Santa December 15, 2007

Filed under: holidaze,meow! — airingdirtylaundry @ 2:06 pm

I left the house at 8:00 this morning to take care of the few remaining Christmas gifts and some miscellaneous errands.  Note to self:  steer clear of the grocery store when the weather forecast calls for a snow storm.  Even if you actually NEED milk and bread and aren’t just in a state of snow-panic. 

Mike went to the Pitt basketball game (Pitt’s up by 14 at the beginning of the second BTW) with a friend, so I have the house to myself.  I made cookies for our neighborhood cookie exchange tomorrow (which is during the Steelers game–I should have checked the schedule before I agreed to do it).

I have instrumental Celtic Christmas music blaring on the stereo and have been cleaning and just enjoying the time alone.  I have all of our shopping finished, just a few gifts to wrap, I’m ready to travel to see my family next weekend, and looking forward to Christmas day.  We’re having dinner at our house for Mike’s family and our niece and nephew are staying with us from Christmas day through the following Saturday.  And I’m ready.  I’m not stressed.  There are things that aren’t done yet and I’m not tearing my hair out trying to figure out how I’m going to get everything done in addition to putting in extra time at work (gotta meet those year-end numbers!). 

The past few years I’ve dreaded Christmas.  The shopping, the crowds, the wrapping, the last minute-ness of EVERYTHING.  This year I’m ready.  I’m relaxed, I’m happy, and I’m looking forward to spending time with all of our family.  Which is what Christmas is really about anyhow. 

And Giz?  She’s ready too.  Ready for Santa to come.

giz under the tree

Ignore the mess on the floor–this picture was taken pre-cleaning spree!

 

American Cancer Society award December 7, 2007

Filed under: benefit — airingdirtylaundry @ 11:01 am

So maybe not everyone can be a winner, but we are!

award

Last Wednesday, Mike and I were invited to attend the American Cancer Society’s volunteer recognition dinner.  We’ve been hosting an annual benefit for the American Cancer Society for the past six years, but this was the first time we were invited to attend this dinner.

There were a lot of reasons for not going that could have persuaded us to stay home–it’s on the other side of town on a Wednesday, there would be a lot of rushing around after work to get there on time, we wouldn’t know anyone, Mike would have to (gasp!) wear a dress shirt and a tie.  But we went–more out of curiosity than anything.

The director of the Pittsburgh ACS unit, Leslie, was actually the one to greet us at the door, and she immediately took us aside and talked to us for awhile.  She was so appreciative of what we do and the money we raise, and seriously we could have left right after we talked to her and we would have been on cloud 9 the rest of the night.

She explained to us that we’re what they consider to be a third-party fundraiser.  The ACS has limited involvement and more or less just sits there waiting on our cash to roll in.  We knew that much. The thing that shocked us is that the typical third-party fundraiser for our region averages $1100 and in a lot of cases it’s a one-time only event.  We’ve been doing this every year for six years and have raised a total of around $30,000.  In the grand scheme of things, we know that $30,000 isn’t a lot when you’re talking about cancer research and treatment.  But all of a sudden it SEEMED like a lot.

She had a lot of other people to talk to, so she excused herself and we drifted towards the bar.  We didn’t know anyone else there, and with the exception of one other couple seemed to be the youngest people in the room.  Leslie came over to us and told us that she’d like for us to sit with her at dinner and pointed out her table.  We made our way over there and introduced ourselves to the others that were already seated.

There were a few quick speeches, then dinner, a motivational speaker who was a cancer survivor, and then an awards ceremony.  Mike and I had talked about the possibility of us winning some kind of award, but didn’t really expect to.  As the awards went on, all of the winners were people who were involved with ACS-established events and programs–Relay for Life, Road to Recovery, Daffodil Days, Look Good Feel Better.  At that point Mike and I realized that we were out of our league.  These people were the ones who organized events and services for thousands of people.  We just throw a big party at a bar and send a check to the ACS.  At one point I looked around and felt like we didn’t belong; that we were invited by mistake.

When they announced our names for an award, I was stunned.  A very nice speech was made about our benefit and how much money we’ve raised over the years.  We shuffled up onto the stage, accepted our award, shook hands all around, and made our way back to our seats.  Leslie smiled at us and leaned over to congratulate us.  That moment was one of the proudest in my life.  Mike and I put a lot of time and effort into the benefit each year, and to be recognized for it in front of a room full of people who have an appreciation of what we do and why we do it was the biggest compliment that we could ever receive.

That picture above?  That’s of the 2006-2007 American Cancer Society Greater Pittsburgh Unit’s Income Development Merit Award winners.  And we’re damn proud of it!

 

Winners, whiners, and a long-ago cross country team December 6, 2007

Filed under: life lessons — airingdirtylaundry @ 3:48 pm

I just read OMSH’s post about her daughter’s Turkey Trot, and commented that I was glad the coach didn’t give the “everybody’s a winner” speech.  Because really, you can’t win all the time.  And you need to learn that early on in life or else you become a whiney spoiled brat and EXPECT to win.  And then the disappointment when you DON’T is just unbearable (for those around you, especially!).

In high school I ran on a very competitive cross-country team.  There were 50 girls, a lot of talent, and a lot of competition.  We had an awesome coach, a man named Tim Cook. 

Mr. Cook spent a lot of time with each of the “good” runners–those who could run a 20:00 or less 5k.  Those who could keep pace with a competitor and then “kick it in” at the most critical point and come out on top.  Those who could scale the portion of our home course that we called “the wall” as if they were running downhill instead of up.

But he always spent a lot of time with the “not-so-good” runners, of which I was a part.  We were the ones who were prone to injury, who struggled through the practices.  The ones whose “kick it in” was barely discernible from just plain running, and by that point in the race was sometimes SLOWER than usual.  The ones who sometimes had to take walk breaks.  Or couldn’t finish.

If I had been involved in more of a group sport–basketball, field hockey, etc.–I would have been cut from the team.  Or never had the guts to try out.  But cross-country took EVERYONE, so I never had to deal with the rejection of being cut.  And I was secure in the knowledge that while my performace wasn’t really helping the team, it wasn’t HURTING it, either.

I was not an athlete.  I was not a fierce competitor.  But I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of during those few years on the cross-country team, and Mr. Cook was the reason.  After each meet, he would go over the results and single out people who had improved their times, even if it was the last-place person who had improved their time by 30 seconds.  He realized that it only took five girls from a team to win a cross-country meet, and those five KNEW they did well.  He would of course recognize their achievements, but he would speak to the remaining 45 of us and tell us how important we were to the team.  He never stammered or had to struggle to come up with anything to say.  He spoke quietly, succintly, and from the heart.

After a race, if I did the best that I thought I could do, I was happy with my performance.  But if I didn’t do what I considered to be my best and talked myself into thinking that my time didn’t matter anyhow, I ended up feeling that I had let Mr. Cook down.  That I had let my team down.  It took me a long time to realize that I was also letting myself down. 

He never led us to believe that we would all be winners, because, well, we just wouldn’t.  But as long as each of us walked away from a race knowing that we did the best we possibly could, that’s all that really mattered.  At the time, as teenagers, we snickered and whispered to the girl next to us, “Whatever!  It’s WINNING that matters!”  It took me years to realize what an effect Mr. Cook’s coaching had on me.  Sometimes I think back to those days–more than 15 years ago now!–and wish I could remember more.  I wish that I had saved all of the booklets of statistics that he pain-stakingly put together for us.  For our banquet each year, he would write a paragraph about each girl and her achievements from the year.  Each girl.  FIFTY of us.  Some of us slower than molasses  and who couldn’t even call ourselves a “runner” with all the walk breaks we took.  But each of us was important to him and each of us had a strength that he was proud to showcase–even if that strength was to be a cheerleader for our teammates.

 Mr. Cook and his wife were killed in a car accident five years ago next week.  They were both 49.  The whole town was in shock  We all said that it wasn’t their time to go, but apparently God thought that it was.  The service had to be held at the high school because there was no venue in town that could accommodate the masses of people that showed up to grieve.  With Mr. Cook’s tragic passing, the town lost a role model, an athlete, a great teacher, and an excellent coach. 

After his death, I thought back to all of the times that I DIDN’T do my best during a cross country meet.  Of all of the excuses I came up with–it was cold; it was muddy; I’m tired; my Achilles hurts.  I started running again and signed up for a half marathon in Virginia Beach the summer of 2003.  During my training, I thought a lot about Mr. Cook, and in a way I felt that I was doing it for him.  My initial goal was just to finish–13.1 miles after years of not running consistently wouldn’t be easy for me and I knew it.  But as time went on, I had it in the back of my head that I could do it in under 3 hours. 

That day it was hot and humid, even early in the morning.  But I was excited and I was prepared.  The half-marathon itself–I don’t remember.  I was in a daze the whole time and was just thinking about each foot going in front of the other and getting across the finish line.  I did it in 2 hours and 57 minutes.  Sure, I’ll never set any kind of record with that time, but I finished.  And as much as I did it for Mr. Cook, I did it for me.  There may have been thousands of people crossing that line ahead of me, but I was a winner–thanks to Mr. Cook.

 

You want funny faces? Come on down! December 5, 2007

Filed under: blogging — airingdirtylaundry @ 9:42 am

So OMSH, it’s funny faces you want?  I used to joke that there are no good pictures of me, but I’m starting to realize that it’s no longer a joke, it’s reality.  Although, really, I can’t look that goofy ALL of the time, can I?  See for yourself . . .

First we have a somewhat over-exposed shot of my eyeballs rolling up into my head:

funny face

Then we have the happy face that just looks, well, scary:

scary face

And then we have the drunk, just-woke-up, dazed & confused look. But seriously, I walked around Las Vegas all day looking like this and thinking I was just fine.  Although I did kind of wonder why people around me were constantly discussing the plight of the homeless.

drunk

Word to the wise?  Don’t ever have a lollipop in your mouth when someone takes a picture of you.  Oh yeah, and don’t ever acquire a double chin.  Looks like hell in pictures.  Trust me.

lollipop

One more word of advice? Sing in the privacy of your own shower.  Hopefully there’s no one taking pictures there.

singing

And these were just from the last 6 weeks!  I have 33 more YEARS worth of these kinds of pictures!