St. Louis DoD Cyber Crime Conference, more

Last Monday and Tuesday was spent picking up my Mom to dogsit, then going to Mom2's house so that Bluejacket could pack up what they bought in Dad's workshop. They surprisingly got it all done by noon on Tuesday. I also had a couple of other people who were buying the saws, etc, stop by to pick those up, so it was pretty busy. My Mom visited with Mom2, which was good. I knew this would be an emotional time for Mom2.

On Tuesday afternoon, Bluejacket came to my house to pack up what they wanted from Chris' workshop, then one of the other buyers came buy to pick up several pieces of woodworking equipment. The workshop is almost empty downstairs now and I can get my contractor friend in to help design my office down there. I also got the treadmill the way I wanted so that I can use it (and I have been!).

Wednesday morning, the car service picked me up for my flights to St. Louis. There was a delay in O'Hare, my connecting flight, but United upgrade me to first class. Remember the hassle they gave me refunding the ticket I couldn't use the week Chris died? I guess they have my name flagged to treat me better. Good.

First class was hilarious. It was a small jet, with only four seats in first. Instead of a hot meal, we were given a box "lunch" - basically a bunch of snacks, which you would have to pay $5 in coach to eat. What a joke. I expected at least a hot meal. Oh well.

Got picked up at the St. Louis airport by a guy named Joe who is with the DoD Cyber Crime Defense Center. We had a good talk on the way to the hotel, which was fab. I got a nice room with a king-sized bed. My only complaint - it was next to the elevators. Thank goodness I brought my earplugs with me.

I had dinner with Jay and his wife, Dawn. Jay is with Technology Forums, who book me for the military events. We ate in the hotel restaurant, which was wonderful and caught up with things.

I got up early the next morning to be picked up at 6:15 am to appear on the KSDK Morning News. I was on for a whopping two minutes. Got back to my room, changed into my workout clothes, then hit the health club for the treadmill. This older man who had to be in his 70s was next to me. When he was done, he went to the bicycles in front of me and chose the one not in front of a TV, but in front of the mirror and proceeded to watch me the entire time. When I got off the treadmill, he started talking to me and asked how long I'd been on the machine. I told him and politely excused myself - I had to do a radio interview in my room. Old men picking me up! This is the third time in the past couple of weeks. Weird.

Did an interview with CBS Radio (nationwide), which was cool. Then I showered, changed and waited for a friend to pick me up for lunch. Steve was in the Marines with Chris and they were good friends. He looks the same, albeit older, and acts the same - goofy as always and made me laugh. He got to meet the folks at the conference and they took a photo of us:

I can tell I've lost weight in this photo. It's almost 30 pounds now. All my clothes are loose, which is good. But the "grief diet" is not recommended for everyone.

We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, talked forever, he showed me photos of his gorgeous wife of three years, then I bought some souvenirs for my niece and nephew. We went back to the hotel to sit in Starbucks. Steve is a CPA and he is going to help me invest my money so that I can safely retire in 15 years (if not earlier). I am math-deficient (it was my worst subject in school), but he walked me through recommended investments, then showed me the best, medium and worst scenarios over the next 15 years. Even the worst (and he admitted he was being very conservative) was not bad at all. I was really relieved.

We talked for another couple of hours in the lobby. He couldn't get Friday off, so he had to drive back to Chicago (four hours). What a sweetie. I can't believe it's been 15 years since I'd last seen him.

I stayed in my room, did room service and packed. In the morning I took all my luggage to the speaker room, then went to my lecture room to set up. It was the last day of the conference and unfortunately most people had gone home. I had about 100 people, which I was told later was pretty much everyone who had stayed - the other speakers who had talks the same time as me had very few people in them. I had two FBI guys, a St. Louis cop and a CIA guy come up to tell me they all learned something - and these were forensics guys. I was pleased as punch. Sold a few books (the conference bookstore closed the day before, so I had to sell them for them).

Hugged everyone and went to the airport. My flight left on time, but in O'Hare, flights were delayed again. I was there for three hours. I ended up meeting three great people in the airport bar - Tiffany, who could be Reese Witherspoon's twin, Joel "Les" Paul, who manages a Guitar Center store and River Hwang. We hung out, then Joel and River had to get on their flights. Tiffany and I bonded immediately and she asked me how long I'd been married, noticing my wedding rings.

I've come to the realization that it's time to stop wearing them. It's very uncomfortable when I travel and the "how long have you been married" question comes up. I can either make believe Chris is alive and lie, or say he died and get the pity looks. So I'm going to wear my wedding band on my right hand, put my engagement ring in a velvet pouch with Chris' wedding ring (the funeral home director had given it back to me at the funeral) and wear the diamond/emerald band on my left hand. It looks casual enough to not be mistaken for a wedding ring.

I finally got home at 1:30 in the morning. My Mom was so relieved to see me home, as were the dogs. Got up the next morning (Saturday) to go shopping for a present for Vivi, my friend. Her brother was having a surprise party for her that day. Mom and I had lunch, shopped, then got home to wrap the presents. We headed to Viv's at 3:15 and pretended we stopped by so that my Mom could say goodbye to Vivi before taking her home. When she and Mom went outside to smoke, Ron told me the other guests were late. I said let's go to the car to get my presents anyway and when we did - there were the other guests! We came in the house and Vivi was in the bathroom. The look on her face when we yelled Happy Birthday as she walked into the kitchen was priceless.

We had a great dinner, good music and Vivi loved all her presents, especially the Banana Bunker I bought her (in orange). I put a banana in it and it was the hit of the party.

Got home, collapsed in bed, slept, then took my Mom to Concord the next day to meet my sister and niece for brunch. On the way back stopped at Mom2's to take her shopping, then went home and collapsed in bed for a much needed nap. I have to be careful or I am going to fall apart.

Monday morning did a live Fox Morning News Show in Portland, Maine for 10 minutes. The studio was down a one lane dirt road, with no lights on when I got there. Very weird, but the two hosts were nice and want me back on. Hooray!

Did a radio interview, headed to Mom2's to let a buyer pick up equipment he bought, went home and took a nap, then Vivi came over and brought dinner - steak, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. We talked, drank some wine, then she left so that I could watch "24."

Yesterday the same guy came to my house to pick up things here and take some old shelves to the dump for me. He brought his 6-year-old daughter, a cutie. I gave her a stuffed rabbit that I'd given Chris. His name is Herman and I told her to take good care of him.

Took a long bubble bath after going on the treadmill and watched some shows I'd taped, then hit the sack. I'm still tired, but have a doctor's appointment this am, then lunch with a friend. Maybe I'll take a nap.


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