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Fly and be free, like a little bird.

 

April 9

 

Love is in the air!

Spring is in the air!

Goodness something is in the air because I feel awesome!

Why? I don't know! I don't care!

I just know that the smell of spring makes me happy and giddy.

I remember when I was in grammar school how excited I would get when spring finally arrived.

My mother was very strict and I wasn't allowed to hang out anywhere after school. The only freedom I had was walking the three blocks home from school and taking our dog Violeta for a walk.

It must have taken me half an hour to walk those three blocks because I wanted to savor every scent, ray of sunshine and touch of the breeze.

I would examine the flower buds and check out the leaves on the bushes. All of them!

I would listen to the birds chirping and the wind passing through the trees.

Every day as soon as I got home I would get the same lecture about being late!

Late for what, being locked down in hell? After she was done yelling at me, I would take the dog out so she could do her duty.

There was an old abandoned lot that used to be a playground across the street from our house. I would walk the dog over there, so that my mother could see me from the window!

There was still an old swing set left over from the lot's better days.

The lot was enclosed so I would sit and swing back and forth while our dog walked around doing her business.

When I was on my swing, because I felt it was my own, I was free or rather I would feel free!

I would be a bird flying high up and far away, going off to see faraway lands in places where my unhappy life with my mother couldn't find me.

Some days I would be a famous trapeze artist and I would go through my routine hanging upside down from the old swing.

When I did this I would get screamed at from my mother to stop, because I was dragging my hair on the dirty ground!

Had she never heard of shampoo before?

Depending on what mood she was in I would be able to stretch these outings for between fifteen minutes to sometimes if lucky half an hour. Eventually she would call me in and I was in lock down until it was time to go to school the next morning.

Weekends were the worse. She would get me up early in the morning to do chores.

 

If I didn't wake up right away I would get the cold water in the face with the mattress flipped over for good measure.

 

And they wondered why going through the police academy or being in the Massachusetts guard was a piece of cake for me!

The cleaning, the scrubbing, the yelling! This would go on until my sister came over to go shopping in Central Square. Freedom!

 

We would walk around all the stores, get something to eat then go back home. That would be the end of it for me.

 

Saturday nights usually involved her getting drunk with her boyfriend or having these outrageous parties. It was strange; these same young "ladies" would show up with a different guy each week (translation hookers).

 

I would just lock myself in my room and try to watch TV through the loud music. Once in a while one of the young girls, because they were barely in their late teens, looking back on it now, would come into my room and talk to me.

Here I was, barely twelve years old, bonding with a girl who was barely four, five years older than me.

We would talk about school, make up and boys. I always wondered what life events would force a woman into these circumstances.

Years later as a police officer I found out. Eventually the young lady would go back to her "date" and I would be left alone again with my dog.

The epitome of hypocrisy was that the next day I would have to get up at eight in the morning to go to church, by myself most of the times.

 

The sad thing is that for a while there I thought that this was normal! I thought everyone had hookers at their parties, got drunk and made their kids' lives a living hell.

But then at church I would see families together, Mom, sometimes a Dad, and kids worshipping, helping out.

There I discovered that something was seriously wrong at home. The nuns and the priest showed more of a caring, loving interest in me than my own so called family.

Walking home from church again I would stretch the walk as long as I could. I knew once I reached the front door of my house I would have to return to the despair of loneliness and desolation.

Looking back on all this, having gone through those experiences it has helped me have a deeper appreciation for the freedom I now have.

 

It also made me realize how fortunate I was to live in this country that affords me those freedoms. In some parts of the world, women never break away from that type of oppression. I am not going to lie, it took a few years of counseling and countless self help books to overcome some of the damage done during those years, but all in all I came out better on the other side.

 

Luckily I never lost that sense of joy over the seasons!

To this day silly giddiness surges through me when the weather turns balmier. I also make the effort to never let those experiences take away my zest for living; if I did then they would have won!

Oh, a blue jay in my window! Yeah I know I have a short attention span!

But it's so beautiful, the Blue jay I mean, not my short attention span!

Enough of this! Buddie, time to go find a swing set, dude!

Gee, I hope the parents don't call the cops because some weird lady is hanging upside down from the swings!


Answered prayers.

 

April 4

 

Oh my goodness! I came home today and noticed that the most beautiful tulips had popped out and bloomed literally overnight!

 

We had been living in Billerica for two years and recently found a house for lease with the option to buy in Lowell.

I wasn't too crazy about moving back to Lowell just because our old Lowell neighborhood left a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, I know, I can't blame the whole city because of one bad street or rather one bad rooming house!

 

Realistically though we were always in Lowell because our kids still went to school there and played sports there, basically did everything there!

 

So we knew that our time in Billerica was going to be short. Mel and I prayed about when the time would be right to look to move and where to go.

 

Well I guess when they say in God's time not ours, they weren't kidding!

Remember in an earlier entry how I said I wanted a house in the country?

Well living in Billerica felt like that. It was woodsy and the river ran behind our home. The street was a private dead end with lots of space for the boys to run around and we had the best neighbors ever!

The challenge was the house was too small for our family and too far away, from well, everything we needed to go to.

 

Some nights I would literally be in the car for four hours picking kids up and dropping them off at the various school or sports activities.

After much prayer and pondering I felt the time had come to start looking.

Now I know some people aren't going to believe what happened next but then again some of you will!

Even though we pray as a family, we found out we also pray as individuals; duh, no brainer, right? And in doing so we might ask for different things at different times. This isn't a big deal if you are praying for something for one person, but when you are praying for something for a whole family well it can get pretty interesting!

 

It wasn't until we had found our current home in Lowell that we discovered why it took us and to an extent God two years to locate this particular house!

 

By mere fluke I picked up the local paper randomly looking for nothing in particular when I saw an ad for a house for lease.

I nagged poor Mel to call to check it out. Mind you at this point we still have three months left on our current lease and hadn't really prepared to move yet or prepared to have the amount required for deposits, etc.

Mel leaves a message. While we are in Lowell picking up our daughter from a soccer game the owner calls back and tells us he can show us the house. Now!

The house happens to be less than three blocks from our kids' school! (Yeah I know!)

 

Once we walked into the front foyer my hubby knows he was in deep do-do because our daughter and I were instantly in love!

The next few weeks were just one big gift from God.

Somehow we got the house, got the money, and got moved in all before Christmas.

 

Now this is when we figured out why it took so long!

I wanted a nice backyard with lilacs. Check. Jess wanted a room where she could actually open her closet door while she was in it! Check.

Chris wanted a big game room. Check.

Alexi wanted to be able to walk to school with his friends. Check!

Mel wanted something in a nice neighborhood without the neighbors being right on top of us. Check.

I wanted hardwood floors. Check.

I also wanted stained glass windows. Check.

We wanted our own office space. Check.

And the cherry on top, a fire place, a real fireplace. No wonder it took him so long to find it for us!

Our old house in Lowell had a decorative fireplace when you came into the foyer. I had decorated it with a log and a real fire screen, poke, etc.

The kids would make fun of me when Christmas came and reminded me not to put the decorations too close as they might burn! Smarty-pants!

 

Now, I had a real fireplace in the living room! Ironically every little detail we individually wanted, this house had!

Crazy thing was the year before we had been waiting for our daughter to return from a school activity and decided to take a walk in the neighborhood surrounding their school.

 

We actually walked right by the house. I remember Mel saying how much he would love to live in a house like that. All I remembered was commenting on how beautiful the cherry blossom tree and the child's playhouse in the front were. The thought went out and was forgotten. Yet, I now know that Heavenly Father did not forget!

He needed to make sure that the people who lived there at the time were taken care of before the house was available for us.

The key thing I learned was we didn't envy them, or wish them harm because they had something we admired! As a habit Mel and I whenever we admire someone's property we say a small prayer that God will preserve their belongings.

I guess because of this the Lord had seen fit to bless us with things we never thought we would ever get.

Every morning I thank the Lord for the beautiful home he has blessed us with!

As if the things he has given us weren't enough, I get the sweet surprise of beautiful tulips in the front lawn!

It goes to show that to God we are all truly important to him. Down to the smallest detail, tulips and all!

What we take for granted is that sometimes what we ask for takes a while.

God has the whole picture we only have a few pieces of the puzzle. We just need to be patient and have faith to receive it!

It is amazing to me that the greatest joys are in the small details!

Hmm, those flowers smell so good! What do you say Buddie, boy, want to go check out the neighborhood?


Laughter, life’s greatest joy.

If you build it they will come.

James Earl Jones-field of Dreams

 

April 1

 

Happy April's fools day! Isn't this a great world where even the fools have a special day just for them?

In our family we think it's just for us! The highlight of the day is who can get who first. We have dealt with the shaving cream on the pillow in the dark room. The shoes full of talcum powder precariously dangling over the half opened door.

Even the dead mouse in the lunch bag, totally not funny according to our oldest daughter Cristina; but the one that took the cake was the day our sons James and Alex decided they were going to scare my husband and me.

 

First to begin with scaring a retired state trooper and a current state trooper isn't the brightest thing to do, but they were determined! First they made sure we weren't packing heat, AKA, did not have our loaded service revolvers on us.

The other precaution was to make sure they were at least seven feet away so they wouldn't get tossed like rag dolls or dropped kicked and knocked out.

Mel and I were wallpapering part of our kitchen and because it was unseasonably warm we had the back door and windows open.

 

So in their genius minds they were going to sneak up on us and scare us through the open window with a scary rubber mask. Brilliant!

Well problem was my sons wear more cologne than The Macy's perfume counter and we could smell them a mile away as they were trying to creep outside the window.

 

We were ready for them!

As Alex came around the backyard, James crept around our parked truck. Alex was supposed to make a noise, baiting us to come to the window and check, while James was waiting to poke his head out and freak us out.

Mel and I divided and conquered!

When Alex made the backyard cat noise, Mel snuck out the front door and came around the corner where Alex was hiding.

Oh, did I mention he was carrying a nice big bucket of gooey, dirty, paste water from the wallpapering project?

 

Alex never knew what hit him!

Meanwhile back in the kitchen I picked up the other gooey bucket of nasty, paste water and tossed it out the window where alien boy, James in his mask, was waiting. Bull's eye!

I never laughed so hard in my life! They were soaked from head to toe, mask and all!

 

When Alex and James got a look at each other they couldn't help but crack up laughing at each other as well!

They were one big, gooey, sticky mess!

 

They still couldn't figure out how we knew they were there! I guess the gauntlet had been thrown down for next year!

I know it sounds foolish, (get it foolish? Okay so comedy isn't my forte!)

Anyway as I was saying, I just hope that no matter how old we get, we never outgrow our child-like side.

Notice the difference I said child-like, not childish.

Childish is when we only care about ourselves and no one else. Child-like is when we still know how to laugh at ourselves, laugh with others, not at them and mostly, when we can still get the most out of the little things in life!

I for one plan on being the biggest fool in my family for as long as I can!

Let the jokes begin!

Oh, baby I can't wait until next year!


Live and learn.

 

 

March 31

 

Okay I know spring is supposed to be here already! As a matter of fact it's been awesome for the last week. I actually was able to turn the heat down last night. I know, I know, my family has been roasted out for weeks because I am always cold.

 

It was actually like in the high sixties two days ago. So can someone explain to me why there is snow on the ground again this morning?

Softball and soccer start in two weeks. That would be for me, not the kids.

Yeah I know, remember, I am my hubby's other kid! I always wanted to play sports when I was young but I was not allowed by my mother.

So when I grew up and I say that term loosely, I really wanted to play.

 

My first husband wasn't too receptive and I had to give up playing soccer after only a few games. Buy my Mel is really awesome, so three years ago I found a women's soccer league. I have been around soccer my whole life. I know the rules, I had coached for years, even coached an under 12 team to the championship trophy. With all this I wanted to be the one to play.

So can you imagine a 42 year old woman, who by the way had not been able to work out for a while, who decided to start playing soccer for the first time?

I didn't tell anyone I was going to play. I just went off by myself and had a ball (no pun intended). I told the other players I was a beginner. They made me feel welcome! Needless to say I felt great at the end of the game when I got in my car for the long ride home.

 

The problem came when I tried to get out of my car to go inside my house. My mind was sending the signal but my legs were on strike! I literally had to crawl up the seven steps to my front door. My hubby got a chuckle out of the whole deal and I have been playing ever since. We even won a medal when our team came in second place in a tournament we entered.

Jess was laughing as she told my hubby that I would be sleeping with that medal around my neck that night! She was right!

 

Last year while I was working, as a security supervisor contractor, the company I was assigned to have their own softball league.

I asked if a beginner was welcomed and I was!

The fun part was that the guys and the other girl on my team were awesome. My hubby and several of my boys played with us and even though we had a rough season, it was so much fun!

The lesson I learned was that if I had let my insecurities win out I would have missed out on the fun, the challenge and most of all the friendships.

The other thing was that for once, my boys were the teachers and I was the student! They helped me learn how to bat and catch. Mel took me to the batting cages and my confidence grew.

Honestly I have a long way to go before the Olympic softball team comes knocking on my door. But that's okay because I feel so good about the fact that every new day is another chance to get better and learn more.

 

I plan on still playing soccer and softball into my nineties and beyond. I also plan on hitting a homerun someday real soon! So whoever the practical joker is upstairs dumping snow on my recess time cut it out!

Game of catch anyone?


Sweet sounds of love.

My site was nominated for The Blogitzer!

 

 

March 30

 

Today I was going though some old video tapes when I ran across one from a talent show Jess was in. I remember that she was a senior in high school and I was trying to sleep when I got awoken by the sound of angels singing! Okay they weren't really angels singing it was just our daughter Jess. She was rehearsing her song for the school talent show. As I laid there soaking in the sweet sound of her voice I was over taken by the deep sadness of the realization that she was leaving to go to college in a few months. Granted she would be back for vacations and during the summers. But it would never be the same again. She would be an official adult. I got misty eyed as well because I was getting hit hard that year.

My son Chris would also be going to college and our so called baby, Alexi, would be in high school that fall. I put the video in and images from the past came to life. In my mind I could see each and every one of them flash before me as tiny toddlers, energetic first graders and beyond. When I was doing laundry for nine kids I thought it would never end. Now when it only takes me a few loads to be done, I realize my role as a mother has quickly changed.

The other night at dinner time it was just my hubby, Alexi and me because everyone else was out and about. Alexi looked around the table and said, "Is this what next year is going to be like?" It was nice but quiet. No dinging, no loud laughter or joking. No "back up off my chicken!" It was just quiet and I was sad. I missed the chaos and the happy turmoil. It seemed like the whole experience just flew by and was over before I had the chance to savor the moment!

As I sat alone in my living room watching the video, I wished that there was some way that those toddlers, sticky fingers and all, could come back if only for a few minutes, to snuggle, to hug, to be able to read Winnie the Pooh with together again.

But they can't, so I do the next best thing, I break out a box of tissues and an assortment of old video tapes and picture albums. I cry not out of bitterness or regret but mostly out of longing, longing to have some of those precious moments back. On the other hand I cry out of joy and happiness at having been blessed to have been part of those wonderful, chaotic lives, bumps, bruises, tears and all. It was all so worth it. I put my head on my pillow and have a good cry as I savor the sweet memories of times gone by. As the last of my sweet Jess singing as Cinderella comes to end and I wipe away floods of tears, I also have a big smile on my face as I ponder the wonderful moments still to come today, tomorrow and beyond. Later that night as I drift off to sleep I can almost hear the soft lullabies of angels or maybe I just left the VCR running!

Baby can you pass me a tissue?


A hero’s farewell.

 

 

March 27

 

I just got back from PFC. John Frances Landry Junior's funeral. It was ironic how yesterday was cold and rainy for his wake, yet today the sun was out and the birds were chirping. I guess the weather is fitting since his family would prefer to have it be called a celebration of his life. I thought the wake was bad enough but the funeral was a hundred times more emotional. Even though I was there with Mel, Jess, and Chris, I somehow got separated from Mel in the procession. I wound up walking with Jess and Melissa, Jose's girlfriend. It was just heart wrenching!

The mass was in this tiny white church that looked like something out of a picture postcard. From the church we walked the mile and a half to the cemetery for the burial. The casket was on a funeral carriage pulled by a solitary black horse, draped with the American flag. Walking next to the carriage were four young men in their finest military dress uniforms.

As we walked, every student still attending Lowell Catholic High School, all 281 of them, stood on either side of the road on the sidewalk; with an American flag in one hand and their other hand draped over their heart. Further up along the processional route we walked by a public elementary school and sure enough every student in that school was out there doing the same.

The fire department had their ladder trucks out with the huge American flag across both trucks for the procession to walk under, as well as every firemen standing outside, saluting as the casket went by.

Police officers, veterans, UPS delivery guys and retired veterans all did the same. The freedom riders were there in full force, over a hundred of them paying their respects.

The most amazing thing of all was that we were walking down a main street, in a big town and the only thing you heard was the clip clop of the horse's hoofs hitting the pavement.

The silent reverence was incredible!

The grave side ceremony at the cemetery was just as emotional. The 21 gun salute, the horse without a rider, and taps echoing throughout the early spring day was an emotional send off for a great kid, and a brave soldier.

For me, being part of the State Guard color and honor guard, the most emotional part was when a general took the flag from the two honor guards and knelt before John's mother to give her the flag that had accompanied his body home. He expressed his gratitude from this nation for John's sacrifice.

It was the one time in my life that the soldier in me got meshed up with the mother part and I thought my heart was going to break. As proud as I would have been for my son's bravery and service, his loss would have been more than I could have bared.

I looked at John's mom and dad and could only say a silent pray on their behalf that they would have the strength to endure this trial together as a family.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, I walked over to the grave site with Joe and said our final good-byes. Joe stepped back and saluted John one final time. As Joe and I walked towards the curve I stopped him for a moment.

I had a St. Michael's medal around my neck that had served me well for a long time as a police officer and a soldier. It had been a gift from my son Alex. I am a very sentimental person and loved this gift with all my heart, not only because it was from Alex, but because it was a constant reminder of his love and how important it was for me to stay safe and go home at the end of the day.

I had debated my decision for a long time, but now I looked Joe in the eyes.

"Joe". I said as I took the medal from around my neck, "This medal has kept me protected for a long time, and even though I am not Catholic, it was the good thoughts and prayers from the person that gave it to me that I felt did the trick. Now I want you to have it. It was given to me by Alex and just like he took you under his wing went you were a freshman, I now pray that God and his angels will take you under wing and keep you safe."

"Are you sure?" Joe asked becoming a little emotional.

"Absolutely", I replied as I placed the medal around his neck and tucked it inside his shirt along with his dog tags.

Joe looked at me for a moment and I just hugged him. I broke the hug and gave him the "oahhh", which simply meant you understand and he replied the same. He snapped to attention and gave me a totally out of regulation salute since I wasn't in uniform, but a greater sign of respect doesn't exist among soldiers.

I broke regulation by saluting back and with that we said good-bye.

I know that in theory a little piece of metal around someone's neck can't keep evil, injury or even death away. If it was that easy no one would ever suffer and events like these would never have to happen.

What I do believe is that the positive thoughts, wishes and prayers can't hurt. I also feel a little better knowing that there is a little bit of Alex's and my love and affection with Joe no matter where ever his call to duty might take him.

I once got an e mail from someone showing a funeral procession for a fallen soldier in Texas. The writer commented how totally patriotic Texans were, but the reality is that it's not Texans that are patriotic, its most Americans in general.

I have never been more proud of today's youth, my neighbors and my fellow Americans as I was today.

For all the negative talk in the news about the demise of our youth, I really feel that with fine young men like John and Joe, and the kids I interact with day in and day out, this country has nothing to worry about. As I had said before I feel it will be left in very good hands.

Go gently into the good night and fear not dear soldier for you have been called home after a great and noble effort.

Ooaaahhh and God bless.

 


A hero’s ultimate sacrifice

 

 

March 26

 

Once in a while an event will come along that will shake the core of our faith and bring us back down to the realization that we are truly fragile beings just passing through this earth. Today I went to the wake of a 19 year old young man who gave his young, precious life defending our freedom. He was on the football team with our sons Jose and Chris and it was a blow to our tiny school community.

We had been blessed up to this point because quite a few young men and women from our small school had gone on to serve in the armed forces. Some had served overseas in theater (military for in combat). All had come back safely, until now.

I remember when this young man came back from basic training a couple of years ago. He was so excited and pumped. He absolutely loved it! I still remember his contagious laughter booming as he shared stories from basic camp with his buddies. Some people didn't understand his stories or his passion.

I on the other hand, spoke the language. The old saying "It's an Army thing!" is very real, at times it just can't be explained.

You either get it or you don't! I got it.

I got him! The last time I saw him was when he came to watch the season opening football game at Lowell Catholic, still totally excited about serving and doing his duty.

We made him promise to stay safe. He said he would. I guess God needed a good soldier in Heaven because he didn't come home to us; he went home to his Heavenly Father.

We gathered at the school auditorium for a small memorial service before heading over to the wake as a school family. Someone had donated the use of two school buses and we all went together. I ran into some faces I hadn't seen in a long time. The youth, the hope, was all still there, but now tinged with the shadow of death. The realization of mortality had scarred their tender sweet faces. The thought that more of "my" boys, (because I am like that, I adopt everyone and want to bring them all home), were also wearing the uniform of protectors of freedom made my heart ache. One of them, Joe, brought back so many memories. As a young freshman he was taken under wing by my son Alex, who was a senior at the time (He's like that too!). I remember Joe sitting in our family room playing video games. I loved this kid, silly grin, funny sense of humor and could he talk! But he always made me laugh and brighten my day! Now, here, he stood as a handsome young man, standing a little taller, a little prouder because he was wearing his "Class A's", his military dress uniform. A knot tightened in my throat, but at the same time, tears of pride swelled in my eyes as well. We sat together on the bus, talking in a way that only military nuts can. We shared inside jokes, military lingo and silly things that only we thought funny. Yet at the same time I kept seeing my little freshman, like another son, trying to navigate his way through that jungle called "High school"! Joe is married now with a baby and navigating the jungle called "life", yet in my eyes the young freshman lingers.

We walked into the wake together, holding hands, which in a sense was our way of keeping it together. Soldiers don't cry in front of the family, at least we try not to; we try to be strong for them. So in our own way we were strong for each other. I wasn't in uniform. I wanted to, but instead decided on attending as me, the Mom, this way I wouldn't have to try to be strong, I could actually cry. I knew that there was no way I couldn't cry. While we walked up the stairs some veterans were standing outside, in the cold, drizzling rain, holding American flags, heads held high.

As the countless high school students filed by them silently, respectfully, one of them told his wife that his faith in the youth of this country had never been stronger. He was right! We hear about the "me" generation, the down fall of today's youth and their selfish ways. But what we don't hear about or see is the long lines of kids standing, shivering in the rain, for the chance to pay their respects to a young man. This young man for some of the kids, the only kinship to him was the school community we belonged to and his sacrifice for our country. Yet they mourned him just as deeply as if they had been blood relatives. This type of news isn't anything we'd see on CNN anytime soon simply because it doesn't make "good" news. After we were done paying our respects to John's body, we stood up. Instinctually I took a step back while Joe saluted him, Joe pivoted and I reached and grabbed his arm again. Had anyone noticed it might have appeared rehearsed, yet it was not, it was that unspoken military bearing. Though we were separated by decades in age, and we served our country in different capacities, we were comrades in arms for this sad experience.

When Joe was younger I brought guidance and strength to his young life and assisted him through his inexperience. Today, his quiet demeanor (something that I never thought we would associate with Joe!) was my guidance, my rock. No matter what side of the war issue we might be on, there is one thing we must never forget, that not one of these young men or women has died for a mistake.

When a police officer has died senselessly because a drunk driver ran her over, did she die for a mistake?

When a fireman dies trying to find someone in a burning building who has already gotten out, did he die for a mistake?

When a nurse dies from contracting a disease from someone she was treating, did she die for a mistake? The answer is no!

Anytime a person lays down their life trying to help mankind, it cannot possibly be a mistake! It's called altruism. It's what separates us from the other mammals on this earth.

If men could learn to settle their differences peacefully over a conference table then people like Joe and I would be serving our country in a different capacity. So until that time comes I pray every day for the countless, selfless men and women who choose to protect our freedoms, here and in lands far away. They fight even for the freedoms of those that will never understand the whole concept of selflessness, sacrifices or the whole Army "thing".

I hugged Joe extra hard, not just because it had been so long since I had seen him last, but because I was so proud of him and of all the young people like him. I know without a doubt that after I am gone this world will be in great hands with this future generation!

Oooaahhh, PFC. Landry.


Could use your assistance

Hey all, still hoping to get some help as my blog is stil in the running for an award, the dead line for voting is October 16th if any of you can help me by voting I would greatly appreciate it. You need to sign up but it only takes a minute here is the link that will take you right to my voting page, thanks gain for your help!

 

http://bloggerschoiceawards.com/blogs/show/42726