Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm leaving on a jet plane.....

.....and will be landing in Hawaii! Woo! Hoo! I'll be gone for a week snorkeling, sunning, snoozing, and socializing.

And then when I get back, I'll leave for Missouri to work for 2 1/2 weeks. I'll be doing some training of new employees and bragging about my tan. I'm not sure when I'll be able to post pics and stories of Hawaii here. I'll try to do so in between my training, but no promises.

Dovizhdane! Ciao! Adios! Adieu! Auf Wiedersehen! So long, farewell, goodbye! Aloha!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Keep your health sharp!

We had a health fair today at work. Check out your blood pressure, glucose, HDL, cholesterol, weight, and get a flu shot all provided by my place of employment. And they had yummy, healthy snacks!

I absolutely hate getting shots. Actually, anything to do with a needle. In fact, the Blood Mobile (yes, they call it that) asked me to stop donating blood because of my adverse reaction to needles--I swooned each time. Don't you like that word, swoon? It sounds so much better than faint, or pass out, or fall down and bust your bum. Anyway, I don't like needles.

Of course, the first thing they do is give me a flu shot. This nurse was good at her job--she distracted me from my childish fear of a little, bitty, sharp thing that hurts less than a paper cut.

Then they take my blood pressure. Hah! Normally, I have very good blood pressure. At my physical each year, either the doctor or nurse will comment on my excellent BP numbers (I think it's to find something positive after they check my weight). Obviously, they've never introduced me to a needle at my yearly physical. Because today, my blood pressure was VERY high. They took it 3 times--twice with the automatic cuff and once with the manual cuff.

I'm not worried about it since I normally do have good numbers, but I had to sign something that said they warned me of the danger of high blood pressure and advised me to seek medical attention. What do they know? My cure for high blood pressure is relaxing on a beach with the sound of the waves. Someplace like Hawaii would be an expensive cure for hypertension. What a coincidence--I'm going to Hawaii this Saturday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Medical Humor

I read medical records all day long. Ok, not all day, but a good part of the day. That means that I understand medical terms and use them quite frequently. One of those is when someone has heart bypass surgery. The medical term is Corornary Artery Bypass Graft--or CABG, pronounced cabbage, for short.

Once upon a time, when my mom had to go into the hospital, I had to fill out the medical forms for her. Did you know that you have to complete the same forms no matter how soon you filled them out? She was in the same hospital about 2 weeks before where I had to complete the forms, and I was told that they had to be completed again. You'd think they would have record of it since it was the same hospital!

Anyway, I got to the section about previous care and surgeries. I knew my mom's medical history pretty good (after all I just completed the form 2 weeks previously!), but couldn't remember when she had her CABG. So, I turned to mom lying on the gurney (she was conscious and aware, thank you) and asked, "Mom, do you remember when you had your CABG?" She thought for a moment and said, "Honey, I think your dad and I had sauerkraut last Thursday." Since I was the only one that really understood medical terms, she and dad couldn't figure out why I was laughing so hard that I was crying.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why me??

So, you saw what I had to come home to the other day. Some green, wriggly thing. I got up this morning and behold, what did I see? Another bug! This time a wasp somehow got into my house and was crawling on my floor.

Seriously, buy stock in Raid, because my use of it is surely driving up the stock prices. That boost on Wall Street the other day had nothing to do the bailout from the government. Nope, Raid Company, has had a huge increase in consumer demand.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Language of Love

I love to hear my dad talk. He has lived in this country well over 50 years. But he still speaks with a thick accent. When he is excited or angry, the accent gets thicker. I've already shared a couple of examples of his word usage.

Here's a quick dictionary to help you understand him if you speak with him:

Pilla = pillow OR medicinal pills
Bolla = bottle
Maffew = Matthew
Watta = water
DVD = DVD or CD or anything recorded
Alfa Alfa = alfalfa
Oprah = Oprah or okra
Prawly = probably

I'll have to add more later because (the scary part) I don't hear the mistakes anymore. They sound natural....hmmm....I wonder if I sleep on my pilla??

Eww, eww, ewwwww!

I came home to this yesterday. Have no idea what it is and from whence it came. I used my Raid on it and then "picked" it up with 2 pieces of junk mail. (shudder) I hate, hate, hate creepy, crawlin', flyin', things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bossy Beef

I recently had a good friend be hospitalized for a very serious heart attack. We had some leftovers of Hurricane Ike on Sunday and as a result, my place of employment had no electricity. So I got a free day off yesterday. Then I found out that my friend was in the hospital and not doing well.

I'm friends with his wife and him through her. He's younger than I am and almost lost his life several times. I spent the day at the hospital to give my friend a break so she could go home and rest.

As I sat in that hospital waiting room (I came prepared--I brought several different reading materials and Mountain Dew) I was reminded constantly of my mom and the difficulties and waiting I went through when she was so sick. I realized that as I sat there yesterday what a strange blessing it was to go through that hell. I was able to help my friend in a way I never would have before. I knew how exhausted she was--how much she needed to know someone was at the hospital while she left for a little while--how to help her think of what questions to ask the doctor--what to expect now that he is doing better and will live with some serious cardiac problems--how to offer compassion and understanding with practical advice.

It was a weird moment for me as those thoughts ran through my mind. I hated having to see my mom in that situation and deal with everything that went with it. But I remember thinking at that time, that I was grateful to know what kind of person I was. I react very well in a crisis--I handle the moment and then fall apart. I always thought I was the opposite--falling apart and then trying to deal with the crisis. Now, with my friend's situation, I realized I'm the same way when it comes to other people's crisis. So often I want to help, but honestly don't know what to do. This time, I knew what to do and I just did it--didn't ask her to help or make any suggestions. Just told her I was coming and that she can leave to rest.

I suppose I wouldn't be a good Mormon if I didn't find the learning moment in this experience. What I learned was that sometimes my bossy nature is a blessing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Manners challenged

I belong to a few online LDS forums. On one of them recently, a discussion ensued regarding wedding etiquette. And I discovered that I am manners challenged. You see, apparently it is in bad taste to mail those little cards that show where a couple is registered. I thought they were a great idea--get an invite to a barely known acquaintance and now you know what you can get them for a mere $10.00. Otherwise, I'll spend $25.00 on a gift card (I can't be that obvious in my cheapness). But, apparently, sending those in an announcement or invitation offends those who know manners.

They mentioned quite a few other issues where most people (i.e. me) lack manners. I had never worried about it before. But now I'm wondering if there is something to this.

Because, you see, I don't know what Ms. Manners would say about blog etiquette. When I visit a blog, am I required to leave a comment? What about those blogs that I visit by chance and just decide that I want to read the intimate thoughts of a complete and total stranger? Do they expect or want me to leave a comment?

And what about my blog? Do I send a thank you card to those who take the time to leave a comment? I appreciate the comments--I do! It's nice to think that someone actually took 3 min (5 min if you're a slow reader) to read my post and then actually take extra time to leave a comment. But, should I respond to that comment? If so, how? Should I make a comment myself? Do I send an email?

{big sigh} I just don't know the proper way of anything. So here's a great big thank you to anyone who takes the time to read or comment. My Target registration card is in the mail.

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's just protein

Did you ever have a friend who would eat anything? I do mean ANYTHING. When I was little, Ryan was the neighborhood kid who would eat dirt, leaves, twigs, bugs, anything. It was disgusting, but fascinating. The other kids would stand around him and dare him to eat the grossest thing we could think of, which was usually some kind of insect. And when he did, we couldn't look away, but would screw up our face into a contortion that our Moms would say would freeze. But we didn't look away--uh huh--he might not swallow.

When I was on my mission, I was convinced that my companion had a stomach lined with iron. She would eat my share of food that I simply could not eat. My companion and I met an old lady who loved for us to come see her. We taught her the discussions, but it soon became apparent that she wasn't interested in learning about the Gospel, but rather, she wanted to visit with the nice American girls. One of the last times we visited with her, she served us dinner consisting of bean soup and bread. As I was eating (I had consumed about half of the soup), I noticed that Sister B. was no longer eating. Oh she was subtle, that one. But, it was undeniable, she was not eating. When I asked her why, she simply used her spoon to point out something extra in her soup--a maggot. After I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat, I looked in my bowl and saw that I had my own extra protein.

I don't think I've ever come as close to hurling instantaneously as I did at that moment. She, the iron-lined stomach companion, also struggled to contain the contents of her stomach.

A few months later, another companion and I were at a home of some investigators. They had returned from a wedding they attended and shared some of the wedding cake with us. Bulgarian wedding cake is called a torte and is extremely sweet. I never liked eating torte but knew that if I didn't even attempt it, our hosts would be offended.

As I struggled to get down an acceptable amount, I noticed that I had a hair in my torte. I very subtly grasped the end of the hair and began to pull it out. However, it never stopped coming! This hair was about 12 inches long and in the middle of the hair was what looked like a hairball. No, I didn't finish the torte.

Recently, I went to my Dad's garden that he has with one of our cousins. At my cousin's house are a couple of large apple trees (do you see where this is going?). Dad picked up about a half a dozen apples for me to take home. While at work, I ate about 3 bites or so. On my next bite, a large chunk was removed and still in my teeth when something caught my eye. The apple in my hand had movable parts! A lovely, white and black worm was wiggling away. My stomach began to wiggle as I quickly spit out the bite in my mouth and threw the rest of the apple in the trash.

I'll save the story of the flying peach bug or the extra protein in rice for some other time. Excuse me while I go to the bathroom........

Friday, September 5, 2008

STOP teasing me!

I consider myself an intelligent woman. But I have moments that I wonder about that intelligence. Let me share one.

Remember my jokester friend? Once while we were at church, he began to feel unwell and needed a ride home. I offered to take him which entailed driving the backroads through a lot of cornfields. There were a lot of 4-way stops and being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I actually stopped at them. Well, J. informed me that at a 4-way stop, you didn't have to come to a complete stop if the stop sign had a white border and there were no other cars. I didn't believe him at first, but he convinced me he was serious.

We then come up to the next 4-way stop--and I blow through it. There were no cars and there was a white border on the stop sign. J. screams at me, asking me what I was doing and why I didn't even slow down. I calmly reminded him that the stop sign had a white border, so I didn't need to stop. He rolled his eyes and informed me that ALL stop signs have white borders. Huh, who knew?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sleep crushing??

Remember my love for Donny? Let me tell you how obsessed I can be.

I get together with some of my high school girlfriends once a month. There are 6 of us that meet together for food, fun, and fellowship. One time we decided to have a slumber party. Yeah, yeah, six 30 somethings having a sleep over sounds funny. Maybe that's why only 3 of us actually did it.

We went to D.'s house and K. claimed the couch. I took the floor and D. was a baby and actually slept in her own bed--in another room. Dork. Anyway, K. and I fell asleep with the TV on.

This was during the time that Donny had finished production of the DVD version of "Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat." Well, as we were sleeping, a commercial came on for the DVD. Out of a sound sleep, I raised up and exclaimed that I had to write down this number. K. woke up wondering what was going on.

The next morning, K. laughingly told the story to anyone who would listen. She couldn't believe that I would wake up from a sound sleep to write down a number for Donny. But, there on a piece of paper was the number written barely legible with Donny's name next to it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bye, Bye, Bulgaria

I always have mixed feelings going to Bulgaria. On the one hand, I love it. I miss the people, food, culture, language, etc. I loved my mission despite the difficulties that I had. I have family there that make me laugh. I have a heritage that I love learning about. However, I'm spoiled now. I like clean showers, toilets that can handle toilet paper, ice, air conditioning, washing machines, etc. And I like families members who don't drive me absolutely batty.

Let's start with a typical day in the life of the older Bulgarians.

Yep, those are goats coming home at night. Although the laws have changed, the ways of the people are slower to change. It is now illegal to have animals in the city limits (other than typical pets). Many people still rely on gardens and orchards and farm animals. My uncle has chickens, pig, sheep and goats to supplement their food supply. Each family takes turns taking the sheep/goats to the pasture to feed for the day. When they come home the animals know their own home. They automatically go to their pen.

Here is my uncle's neighbor. He has several beehives that he keeps and found this hive in his neighbor's tree. So, he's cutting down the branch to take home to add to his hives. He can then store honey and honeycomb and sell it.

This is a typical scene. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the man in a horse drawn cart talking on his cell phone. Technology has hit, but only so far.

Wanna see the bathroom that has given me nightmares? This is at my uncle's house. This bathroom is not accessible from the rest of the house. You have the shower, then the toilet area, then the pigpen, then the sheep/goat pen. The toilet area shares the wall with the pigs. See the red bucket? That holds water that you use to flush the toilet. But due to the system, the toilet never really flushes completely--there are always "floaties" left.

You can see a green trashcan next to the toilet. The sewer system in Bulgaria cannot accommodate anything other than human waste. So, trashcans are next to all the toilets to dispose of the toilet paper after you are done with it. Needless to say, due to the proximity of the animals and this waste filled can, there are tons of flies and other bugs. The shower is difficult to see, but there is mold on the floor. In order to take a shower, I have to wear shoes. I only took one shower this last time. I couldn't handle it. I would wash my hair and face in the outside sink which didn't have hot water.

Here's the bathroom at Bogdon's house. This is in his home and is so much nicer. I actually looked forward to staying there and showering. Let me explain what you're looking at. The whole bathroom is the shower. I'm standing in the doorway and there are two small steps to go down into the bathroom. Immediately under the bottom step is the showerhead--you can barely see the pipes for it at the top of the picture. You could wash your feet while sitting on the toilet. Or shave at the mirror while rinsing your hair. Actually, I kinda like this (ok, maybe have the toilet in a separate room)--no shower walls to be confined or need to clean.

Let's step out of the bathroom now.

I don't know who this woman is...I saw her walking while I was in Drabishna (which means she's probably related to me somehow). So many of the older people are bent over like this (some even worse). After picking so many green beans at my dad's garden this past weekend, I believe it's due to the hard work they do in their gardens. Seriously. You see them in their homes or out in the fields, bent over for hours on end. My back hurt from an hour of picking green beans...I can't imagine being like that for a full day.

I saw this truck one day while walking back from the store. Doesn't it look like it's straight out of Schlinder's List or maybe Raiders of the Lost Ark? Then you have Francis there blocking traffic--ok, no traffic now, but there could be.

Notice this garbage truck? Notice the make? Yeah, it's a Mercedes. We get Mack trucks here and Bulgaria uses Mercedes for trash trucks. Crazy! But, check out the sign for this place. They speak English about as well as I speak Bulgarian.

Did I tell you that I fear Bulgarian police? No, I'm serious. When I was on my mission, the missionaries were persecuted by a lot of people, including the police. If a policeman saw us, he would make a point to harrass us. We had 2 officers come to our door once and try to get in to take us to jail. And one "officer" (he wasn't wearing a uniform and he refused to show us a badge when asked) threatened to take my passport or take me to jail. So, yeah, I'm a little nervous around Bulgarian police.

The day we left Ivailovgrad to spend our final week at the Black Sea, my cousin, Tanyou, came to say goodbye before he went to work.

Here he's hauling in my brother. My brother said this position brought flashbacks....hee, hee. While on our way to Kornobat (we stayed with my cousin Ivanka and her husband Ivan--see? common name), Tanyou and his partner passed us in their car. They had arrested someone and were taking that person to jail.

And finally, here's a bit of the Black Sea. We stayed near the coast in the town of Nessebar. My cousin, Ivan, (there's that name again) got us a hotel room for a couple of nights. It was actually a nice hotel room. We spent one day touring the Old City as it's called. My picture on my blog is taken at the Old City.

Here's a video of the Black Sea. It's called the Black Sea because when the clouds hit it, the shadows are very dark or black.

I have to let you know that I took this video with my photo camera--it was new to me and I had a doozie of a time figuring out how to do the video. Then, I forget I'm actually TAKING video, so that explains my mad narration skillz. And finally, I'm going on record to say I really don't like the sound of my speaking voice (does anyone?). I don't sound like that in my head.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Scenes from Bulgaria

Let's now take a look at some scenery from Bulgaria. Bulgaria is about the size of Tennessee. If I knew how to draw an arrow, I'd point out the area of Ivailvgrad, my dad's hometown. Since I can't, you can go to this map and make it larger. Towards the bottom right of the map, you'll see a town called "Svilengrad." That's about 5 miles from where dad lives--I walked the road there one day--ok I walked half-way there. Later, my cousin drove us there. In fact, here is a picture of me trying to go over the Greek border fence:

The sign says (not literally, but the idea), "Border lookout. You are forbidden to cross." Over my shoulder is a guard tower and the guards with binoculars and big guns were watching us.

Bulgaria is a lot like the Midwest--green in spring and summer, colorful in the fall, and cold/snowy in winter. One difference, though is Bulgaria has mountains--not like the Rocky Mountains but more like the Appalachian Mountains.

Here is a great picture of a typical neighborhood in Ivailovgrad (on the left). I need to explain that the bigger cities do not have a lot of homes.

In Sofia, the capital and where I served my mission, there were very few homes, but a lot of apartment buildings (like the one on the right).

Let's look at my dad's village, Drabishna. Each town has a village associated with it. Villages are typically a lot smaller and tend to be used more for gardening or farming purposes. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I didn't get any pictures of Dad's house where he was born. I think since I'd been there before, I didn't feel the need--dumb me...those pics are in paper form and not digital.

That's my brother getting water from a spring in our village. They used to have a lot of spigots throughout the village, but they shut down quite a few of them. We had to drive almost to the Greek border (about 3 miles) to get to this one. That water was delicious! So cold! Mmmm.

Here is the old church in Drabishna. My dad used to be an alter boy there. The state religion is Bulgarian Orthodox which is similar to Greek Orthodox which is sorta like Catholics (there are differences, but for those who don't know much about Orthodox, Catholicism is close).

Let's leave Drabishna now. Above is a picture of the hill/mountain in Ivailovgrad. It's difficult to see, but there are German bunkers on this mountain. During the 30's and 40's, the Germans built bunkers on the mountains. The bunkers were used to communicate--reminded me of Lord of the Rings when the fires were lit on the mountains. The same concept--lights were used as the bunkers were several miles away from each other. Anyway, a few years ago, a group of people decided that although the bunkers are history, they are part of a nasty period. So to try to change that image, they decided to put a cross on the bunkers. Thus, this picture is a cross that was built directly on top of the bunker. They didn't do it to all the bunkers, just this one.

Something that is wonderful about Bulgaria. Their major export is rose oil. And rose oil is used in nearly anything that has a fragrance. Even if the fragrance isn't rose, there is rose oil in it. Thus, roses are everywhere. This picture was a rose in my cousin's yard. I thought the two-tone look was very unusual. Up top is a rose tree. Yeah, we have rose bushes, but this bush grew so big that it looks like a tree. We estimated that the branches were about 3 inches thick.

Here are some pics that I took that I just like.

This last picture is a little "museum" Bogdon has at his house. He has collected a lot of stuff that are antique (or at least really old). Many things in there were made from his father or grandfathers. It's a nice little tribute that I really like (and Dad always threatens him that he's going to take some things from there).

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bulgarian family

One major reason to return to Bulgaria is family. My dad is from Bulgaria--born and raised there. He left when he was 13 and finally made it to America by age 18. He was the youngest of 3 brothers, but one brother died about 11 years ago. Here's a picture of Dad and his brother, Christo. I'm named after this uncle.

Although, my dad loves his family....they drive him batty. Well, let me clarify. This brother and his family drives Dad nuts. They argue incessantly. My brother, who does not speak Bulgarian, noticed immediately how annoying this family can be. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that I didn't take any other pictures of this part of the family. I think I was too busy running away from the arguing to notice I didn't take pics.

Here's a picture of my cousin, Bogdon, dad, and brother. Bogdon is my dad's deceased brother's son. By the way, my brother's name is William Boyd named after my dad's other brother, Bogdon. Yep, you guessed it, my brother's name in Bulgarian is Bogdon. Whenever my cousin and brother were near each other, I called them Bogdon Squared.

Here's a picture of Bogdon which clues you in to what type of personality he has.

This last picture is a picture of my dad, brother, cousin's husband, Nasco, my Chinka (aunt), my cousin, Mata (she is the sister of Bogdon and daughter of Chinka), and me. Notice the background. The large building to the left is a "bloc" or apartment building. It is more common for people to live in an apartment than it is to live in a home. Especially for people living in the larger cities. The town of Ivailovgrad has about 3,000 people.

This is my cousin--he works in the Bulgarian Navy much like our Seals. Much of his work is secret--not even his wife knows exactly where he is at any moment. There was a magazine that did an article on his troop and he was on the cover of this magazine. Cool, huh? And isn't he handsome?

I laughed when I look at this next picture. When Dad and I went back 10 years ago, there were 4 little girls who adored me. Seriously. They were about 6-10 years old at the time and I couldn't do anything without having them hold my hand, lean against me, or sit in my lap. I couldn't eat lunch because they would not get off me. These girls are now young women and were so excited to see me again. Although they didn't sit in my lap this time, they did hang out with me the whole time we were at their house. They monopolized my attention. So cute. Anyway, the man in the back with the white hair is my Dad's cousin that he grew up with. He is also the cousin that had planned to go with Dad when he was going to run away to America. Dad showed up at the appointed place/time, and Georgi didn't. The rest is history.....

I'll end on a slightly sad note. This is the gravestone of my cousin, Ivan (popular name, right?). He was very wealthy, even by American standards. Remember the story of the spit? He's that cousin. When he passed away, this is the gravestone his family chose. The stones in Bulgaria are not this elaborate. Even by American standards, this is pretty impressive. Ivan was larger in life when he was alive; it seems appropriate that his gravestone be loud as well.

By the way, the gravestone gives his name, birth date, death date, and the bottom says, "His life was stormy, but honest and peaceful." I think this is a Bulgarian cliche that essentially means that he lived hard, but full of honesty and good will.