Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thankful Thursday!

Today I'm thankful for a lot of things, which I will share with you. Here's the short list:

* I woke up this morning and nothing hurt (I can't remember the last time that happened). Pool therapy with Mark must be doing the trick.

* Mark is making steady progress (although he doesn't see it!). He will be off of work until September or October. That means he gets to travel with me to West Virginia next week for a speaking engagement!

* We take nightly walks together, hand in hand, which is a blessing. We haven't done that for many years (too busy!). Umm...something that cancer taught me about and I had to re-learn the lesson via Mark's accident.

* An editor wrote me last week and said, "You make my job so much easier; I wish all my submissions were this wonderful." That made up for the agent who never got back to me (smile!).

* I'm actually working on my next book (finally!). The publisher of my first book has decided not to do business with and so my little book started to plummet in numbers, but it can still be found at my website, Borders, and Barnes & Noble. Phew!

* Mark and I had a picnic at our favorite place...Conestoga Gardens. We rested, we listened, we talked, and we ate. I'll post some pics for your viewing pleasure.

* We are camping with friends this weekend and I'm in charge of making the s'mores. Yippee!

* My house was cleaned yesterday by "Angel Maids" (what a gift...I'm SO THANKFUL for the anonymous giver who has made my life so much easier and allowed me to concentrate on taking care of Mark and healing my shoulder). Umm...maybe that's why I didn't wake up with any aches and pains.

* Mark had some bad days this week (I call them mini-meltdowns!). But I reminded him once again how thankful we are that he is being paid during this time of recuperation (short-term disability), and that this is a "little patch" in the road to recovery. We'll get through this like we have so many other "bad patches" in the bumpy road of life!

These are just a few of my "thankful" things. My list is much longer, but I'll let you share...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dollar Tree Deals

Have you noticed what’s happening to the Dollar Tree stores near you? They are barely able to keep things in stock, and when you find something you want…grab it! Because I guarantee it won’t be there tomorrow.

Last week, I found some great buys: “Got to be Sexy” hair care products (yes, I use them!). Not because I want to be sexy, it’s just that they actually work on my hair. So I bought ONE of everything.Yesterday, I went to the same store, located the same aisle for “said” products, and glared at the empty shelf-space.

“Where’s did they go?” I asked the manager.

“You have to be quick…those went in one day,” he responded.

Yesterday, I saw something else I absolutely love—cheesecake(the itsy bitsy ones!). They’re only 100 calories (Mrs. Smith's Singles). And when you pair them up with fruit, they're simply divine.

It was my consolation prize for missing the $6.99 hair care products for only ONE DOLLAR!

My motto: A dollar saved is a dollar earned.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Now Wear This!

In less than three months, I will be in San Diego for my brother’s wedding, and I don’t have a thing to wear.


Any excuse to go shopping at “Now Wear This” is okay with me!

I just watched” 27 Dresses” on DVD, and prayed that I wouldn’t need to try that many on. So just in case, I gave myself a budget, a time limit, and the exact number of dresses that were allowed in the dressing room with me!

My first and only stop: “Now Wear This” (my favorite consignment store). In less than 20 minutes I was done (shoes and two dresses).

This is my secret: I select a total of six items to try on (in my favorite colors: black, pink and green). It sounds horrible, but it works for me. Then I pick out the shoes that go with all of the above.

I put everything on hangers in the order that I will try them on and make my two choices. The timer starts the moment I enter the dressing room.

Why all the fuss you ask?

I have a hard time making decisions…especially when it comes to clothes. If I don’t set “boundaries” then I will allow myself to wander aimlessly in the aisles for hours, choosing things that I don’t need or want.

But what I didn’t expect were the newly renovated dressing rooms. Above the floor-length mirror was a sign that read: “Dress the body you’ve got, not the one you wish you had!”

Great advice.

“Now Wear This" makes it so easy: They have exactly six hooks in the dressing room which are neatly labeled:


My decision was simple: I had one “Gotta Have It” and one “Now Wear This!” I walked out in record time (20 minuutes) with two dresses that I can wear forever—one in black with lime green accents (love it!), and the other is a little black dress with hot pink accents. And both go with the black strappy sandals.

Total cost: zero dollars.


Since it’s a consignment shop, I have a “revolving account,” which means I bring things in (Shop ‘n Drop) and pay with the money in my account.

Now you know my secret to “Now Wear This!”


Friday, July 18, 2008

Mamma Mia!

Today was “Mamma Mia” day…not only did we see the film (loved it!), but we had the “Angel Team” clean our home. It was a gift from an anonymous source (which will remain so!). But let me say for the record, it was the best gift I have ever received. Better than a cruise (almost!).

While the “Angel Maids” went to work, Mark and I treated ourselves to a film. Our first date since the accident. We held hands for two hours (a first in a long time), cried together (I wiped my tears on his shirt; he wiped his on mine), and we laughed until we were doubled over. Had it not been for the sold- out crowd, we probably would have danced in the aisles (literally!).

Pierce Brosnan was definitely not the lead singer, but Meryl Streep’s performance was unforgettable. My son, Jon, reminded me via cell phone on the way to the theater that the film only received 54% on “Rotten Tomatoes,” but I told him that’s because he’s 20-something and I’m 50-something, and there are some films that need to be appreciated for the value they bring to the soul: laughter mingled with tears.

When we returned home, the “angels” had left. I never had a “cleaning lady” before, but now I’m totally spoiled rotten. And to think I actually thought I was a good housekeeper. Silly me! The toilet paper was folded into a “V” shape; the windows sparkled so brightly they hurt my eyes, and the floors...well, let’s just say I could see my reflection in them.


Jon arrived home first, so there was already a “paper” trail of shoes, laptop, tennis racquet, New York Times and Newsweek scattered across the floor leading to the dining room table!

For a brief moment in time, I felt as if I was in someone else’s home (only the pictures on the wall gave me a clue as to whose house it actually belonged to). I turned to my hubby and said, “Mamma Mia,” can you believe this squeaky clean house?”

To the anonymous giver of the “Angel Maids” we say, “Thank you...thank you…thank you! You go into the ‘Caregiver’s Hall of Fame.’”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Today was picnic day at Conestoga Gardens…our secret garden (actually, it’s everyone’s "secret" now). It’s been written up in magazines, like "Better Homes and Gardens," and various newspapers and periodicals. So what started as our secret garden eight years ago is now a mecca for those who long to have a green thumb and a garden like the Conestoga.

We packed a light lunch and picnicked by the pool, took in the rose garden, the water lilies and roamed the expansive mansion at our leisure. The Conestoga Gardens is owned by the Steinman Sisters who are the heirs to the Lancaster Newspaper, but their philanthropy extends beyond just the newspaper. They open their home—to the public once a week so that others can enjoy the grandeur of this tropical paradise.

I snapped photos of roses, children playing in the animal topiaries, and water lilies.

Taking photographs is one of my passions; I feel like a new person when I return I have been on an extended vacation.

If you’re ever in Lancaster County, I’d love to take you to our secret garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boxes, Boxes, and more Boxes!

My friend came over this morning to borrow a book from my “lending” library (I don’t know why they call it that because somehow they never make it back where they came from). I really think it should be called the “forgotten” library!

“Mary” (not her real name) looked around my office and said, “I thought you weren’t moving until next year.”

I calmly replied,“I’m not moving; I’m cleaning out folders from my filing cabinet and putting them in storage boxes.”

“Who in their right mind has that many folders?” she asked.

Can you see my face turning red?

First of all I want to explain something: Yes, I do have “that” many folders because I’m afraid if I throw something away, I’ll need it the next day. So I have a large storage space in the basement for “said” folders.

The problem: I can’t move them (shoulder injury) and Mark can’t carry them (broken hip). So here they lay in “neat” little piles all over my office.

Last night, I had a great thought (it happens occasionally). I ran (hobbled) into the office to write it down before I forgot it, and tripped over not one, but TWO boxes. I kicked the third!

This afternoon the boxes are taking a hike…I don’t care where they land, they’re just going. Jon comes home tomorrow from house sitting (only because “it” has a pool). And when he gets all dried off, I’m grabbing him to do some box work.

Yesterday, the neighbors put in a new deck and fence (actually, it’s been ongoing for three weeks). Pound, pound, pound...saw, saw, saw…buzz, buzz, buzz! This morning I looked out the window and guess what? More boxes. They left all the boxes from the new fence in “our” yard.

I’m running away from home today, not because I want to BUT because I have to. I have deadlines and I’m tired of staying up until 2:00 AM to get them done!

When the boxes find a new home, I’ll come back and live happily ever after. Maybe!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Fireworks!

Did I mention I love fireworks as part of my summer fun?

Tonight our neighbor lit off some leftover Fourth of July fireworks. We laid on the front lawn and watched the sky light on fire.

I used my flash setting designed specifically for fireworks (I never knew I had such a thing!).

Do you think we can start all over again (Fourth of July in August?).

I guess not.

Oh well, here they are, let me know which ones you like best--okay?

This is not what I'm supposed to be doing this evening...back to work!

Summer Fun!

Summer is my favorite season! I’m a summer child born in August; my sons were also born in summer (June and August) so it’s ONE BIG birthday party from June to August. But more than that, I realize it’s a season that passes by too quickly because I’m busy writing and getting ready for speaking in the fall. But I take a “breather” every once in a while and make myself go outside, workout at the pool (LA Fitness), and watch Jon’s baseball games.

This morning, I realized this is Jon’s last summer with us before he goes out into the BIG BAD WORLD of living on his own (and trying to figure out how to pay for school loans if he isn’t accepted into law school). Yikes!

Last week, we watched his baseball game with threatening thunderstorms.
I kept an eye on the ball and on the sky, wondering when it would break loose (but it didn’t…just got windy and dark).
Sitting on the bleachers in front of me was a precious gift: two little girls playing “slap.” The wind was furious, so they used rocks to hold down their miniature playing cards (it didn’t work too well!). I remember playing the same game with my sister when I was their age. I was so absorbed in their card game (and who was winning); I almost missed Jon’s homerun!
See what I mean…so many things to see and do!

Yesterday a church contacted me for a speaking engagement in the fall and wrote back: “We didn’t find anything about your family on your Web sites. Could you tell us more; we’d like to include it in our brochure!”

Isn’t that awful…my summer “babies” have all grown up and I guess the saying is true: “out of sight, out of mind.” But the truth is, I love my family, my boys and their girlfriends, and we do spend a lot of time with each other. So it threw me off a little bit when it appears that I don’t talk about them…so here’s an update:

Jer is dating Danielle (she is a school psychologist). Jer is finishing up his Masters this summer and will graduate in the fall. He teaches high school World Cultures (which only makes sense because he was raised in Sicily and had to grow up too fast). As with all firstborns, he was our “experiment” and we think he turned out quite nicely (considering we made ALL our mistakes on him!).

Jon is dating Kim (she’s going to York Penn State), and will graduate a year behind Jon. Kim is an equestrian and LOVES horses and LIFE. She and Jon have been dating for over a year now, and when Jon graduates in the spring of 2009 I will be expecting an announcement of some kind (come on guys…I need some grandchildren, but PLEASE get married first!). Jon recently got to hold Kim’s niece that was born last month and I laughed when Jon said, “I held ‘it’!” I’m sure he won’t be referring to his children as “it” (smile!).

Mark is improving daily…his physical therapy is a test of the wills. When the therapist says 10 reps; he does 20. I had the same physical therapist with my shoulder, so they are used to the “Pombo” determination. But more is not necessarily better; in fact, I realized yesterday after doing my pool therapy that I pushed myself too hard and today my ice bag is my constant companion.

Summer fun will soon give way to travel in the fall: I will fight the airport traffic, the delays, and learn to travel lighter (I bought a new stock of 3-ounce bottles). But until then…more baseball games, dinner “al fresco,” barbecues, and summer walks with my hubby!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Soldiers like Dave!

Do you know a soldier who returned from the war in Iraq?

We do…he’s our next-door neighbor!

A soldier who enlisted at the age of 18, Dave is now just 23 years old. But he has seen more in his short life than any of us can possibly imagine.

When he first moved in, the neighbors “talked”—as neighbors sometimes do! Dave was quiet, kept to himself, rarely talked, and only spoke when getting the mail or tending to his garden. He was recovering from severe leg injuries that almost required amputation of his left leg. And while at Walter Reed Naval Hospital when the news was given that he would most surely lose his leg, his young wife left him. She didn’t want to be married to a “cripple.”

Dave was devastated. Not only had he served two tours of duty in Iraq, saw too many of his fellow soldiers die in combat, but now he was fighting for his own life, and—yet—his wife still wanted a divorce.

In the spring of this year, my husband walked over to Dave’s house and asked about some shrubs that he had just planted. It was the beginning of a growing friendship. Every day, Mark watched as Dave transformed the front and backyard of his home into “Paradise Lost.” He put in waterfalls, ponds, two decks, a fire pit, and totally transformed the corner lot. Then he set out to revitalize the neighborhood: he landscaped his neighbor’s yard, landscaped our front yard, the corner lot, and built another deck for a friend. Now when you turn the corner to our street, it looks like “Better Homes and Gardens.”

Dave grew up with gardening. His father owns one of the largest landscaping companies in the county. But when asked why he does what he does for free. He responds, “There’s something about seeing beauty come to life.”

Out of the ashes of his life—horrors unspeakable—this soldier stands as a proud beacon to our freedom. The “unknown soldier” is a welcome part of our neighborhood: the rumors have FINALLY stopped. Sure, there are still some folks who don’t accept Dave, but that’s their loss and our gain!

Dave was instrumental in my hubby’s recovery from his broken hip: Everyday he brought over his beloved lab, Sage, as a therapy dog; took Mark fishing in celebration of his “move” from the walker to the cane; invited us over for barbecues and most importantly, gave us a beautiful view out our front window—a reminder of what God can do in all of our lives…"trading ashes for roses."

On this Fourth of July, we will spend the afternoon in Dave’s tranquil backyard, grilling steaks, and then go to a nearby farm to have our own private fireworks display in celebration of the freedom we all enjoy because of soldiers like Dave!

Enjoy some beauty from our garden, thanks to Dave!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Guacamole and Fireworks!

“Mommy, what’s a ‘guacamole’?”

“It’s a type of dip for tortilla chips,” the mommy replied.

“Shhh…. You need to be quiet...we’re in a movie theater.”

“Why?” asked the tiny voice.

“Those are the rules—that’s why!”

“Why?” asked the preschooler for the second time.

“Because I am the mommy…that’s why!”

How many times did I say those same words while my boys were growing up?

I tried to stifle a giggle and then burst out laughing…until the ad for “silence your cell phones” flashed across the screen.

Yesterday, I took in a summer movie; I’ll let you guess which one? It was one of the free family films offered by theaters in our area, I tend to go where the kids go…. so I happened to be in the same theater with mommies and kiddos. I fit right in.

I was supposed to be writing a speech, but I took a break to take in life. So many of my examples come in places like Wal-Mart, theaters, and grocery stores (the best kind!), so I diligently “took notes.” The movie was hysterical, but the little voices of laughter, the tired mommies squelching inquisitive minds, and the giggles of preschoolers made me “stand up” and pay attention.

When did life become so serious? Did you realize that preschoolers laugh an average of 450 times a day, yet adults laugh just 15 times a day?

No wonder we’re dying of heart attacks…we need to loosen up! And that’s exactly why I frequently take in funny movies on Wednesday afternoons…to be with the little ones and experience their natural zest for the lighter side of life.

After the movie, I bought some guacamole dip and tortilla chips for our Fourth of July picnic. Yummy!

Happy Fourth everyone!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes!

Yesterday I had the perfect lunch that included tomatoes from our garden. I don’t have a green thumb and never did, but somehow these “Early Girl” tomatoes are bringing forth fruit (I’m sure it was the Miracle Grow!).

Every morning, I peak through the green leaves and yellow blossoms to scout out a fleck of red, and then pick it (actually, I twist it off the vine).

This morning, Mark beat me to the tomato patch and said, “Where did all the tomatoes go?”


I pointed to ONE itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie “grape” of a tomato and said, “Here’s one, honey!”

It was pitiful; the worm had taken the first "bite"!

“Sorrrrrry,” I said. “Maybe tomorrow, you’ll get lucky!”

So what do I do with all these tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes?

Let me share with you my version of “bruschetta” (pronounced: brus-que-tah!). In Italy, we brush the bread with a fresh garlic clove and toast the bread, then we place diced tomatoes on top, and generously drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and add a pinch of sea salt to taste. "Perfetto!"

But Concetta Pombo’s American version is a little different: Take one plain bagel and toast it. Place a slice of Provolone cheese on top, and then add freshly sliced tomatoes, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Oh, I almost forgot...add some fresh basil (that's the real secret!). Did I tell you I started an herb garden too?

Pop the bagel in the microwave for 10-15 seconds and ENJOY. Buon Appetito!

I’ll share more about my tomatoes later, but let’s just say I tried fried green tomatoes and I enjoyed the “movie” version a lot better!

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