Friday, August 29, 2014

#140 He Loves Football

When Hubby and I were first dating I would endure football.  I would come over to his parent's house and sit with them to watch the Sunday football games with my best I'm-totally-interested-in-this face.  Once we had been together a few years, I slowly began to focus less of my attention on trying to understand the game, and more of it on watching the clock count down.

Pathetic, I know.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame was always on Hubby's list of places he wanted to go.  Like most of Ohio though, Canton, Ohio has pretty much nothing else of note.*  Since we were already driving ridiculously far away from our home through the most boring western Pennsylvanian expanse of land, we decided this was the best time to go there.

*Note: If you're into rock and roll, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is an hour away.  

Second Stop: Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Jonathan shares my sentiments towards football, though bless his heart, he always acts extremely interested for about 1.428798 minutes at the start of the game.

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The museum can be enjoyed in about three hours--depending if you're one who likes to mosey around reading all the information about every single display, like Hubby.  They also have a theater with Super Bowl highlights which we didn't watch.  The video there is about an hour long.

After only ten minutes, I was already getting these sort of looks from Jonathan...

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He had been warned though.  His attitude at the Football Museum would reflect the fun we had later that night.

Fortunately, the museum had a few interactive displays...

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and Jonathan perked right up.

There were even some displays that caught my interest.

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Of course we see football players with varied weights, but never such varied heights.  The shortest man to ever play professional football was Jack Shapiro at 5' 1/2".  The tallest man was Richard Sligh at 7'.

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I could tell Jonathan was reaching his max when he would look at me and say, "What's next?"

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For Hubby's sake, we pressed on.

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The Hall of Heads, as I like to call it, was awe inspiring.  Not really knowing who any of the heads were, I found myself more interested in the art and perfection of their busts than anything else.

This closeup of Dan Marino is for my mother and father-in-law:

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There was a glassed section after the hall of heads with displays of locker items of several retired football players.

This one was my favorite:

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Curtis Martin read this passage in the book of Deuteronomy before every game.

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How might this look painted on my foyer wall?

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It would certainly be a conversation piece.

As someone who is not a football fan, I will admit the Football Hall of Fame was not a painful experience.  However, if I was forced to stay much longer it might have been.

My absolute favorite part was the final room dedicated to the artwork of Ernie Barnes, a football player turned artist.  

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My favorite piece was titled "Sunday's Gladiators":

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If you plan a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, keep a few things in mind.

1. The location--I'm not kidding around when I say there isn't a whole lot to do in the area.  Of course, this comes from a woman with shopper's blood.  When I say there isn't anything to do, I mean the shopping is limited.  If you are into art there is the Canton Museum of Art.  If you are into history there is the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum.  And, William McKinley's tomb.

2. The cost--For Jonathan and myself, the $23 entry fee was ridiculous, that's why I made sure to pay for his out of my own pocket.  For someone who really loves football, I don't see it as a horrible price.  It all depends on the value that such sights hold for you.  

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#139 He Goes

We took a mini road trip with Jonathan a few weeks ago.  You might recall that Jonathan graduated this past June.  You also might recall that Hubby and I went to Niagara Falls two summers ago.

I promise, they relate.

As soon as we returned from our trip to Niagara, Jonathan began begging us to take him.

"I go Niagara Falls?" became a continuous question.

I'm not sure if it was the constant questioning, or a real desire to return, but Hubby and I gave in.  We told Jonathan that we would take him, not only to Niagara Falls, but also to the Lucy Desi Museum in Jamestown, NY as a graduation present.

We probably shouldn't have told him this a year in advance. 

Because we heard about it every other week for the next 52 weeks.

As plans were made, we added a few extra stops.  My next four posts will cover the stops we took on our mini road trip.

First Stop: Knoebels

Some of my favorite people in the world make an annual week long trip to Knoebels Amusement Park every August.  It was about two hours in the direction we were headed and seemed the perfect place to make our first stop.

Jessie and Jon
Jessie took Jon from the minute we got there on any ride he wanted to go on.

Knoebels is not your commercialized Great Adventure, so don't go there expecting that.

It's better.

There is no admission fee.  NO admission fee.  Hello parents, grandparents, and wimpos like me!  I usually avoid amusement parks because I don't want to pay an astronomical price to only ride two rides.  (I have serious issues with roller coasters--don't worry, I'm seeking therapy).  

At Knoebels, you don't need to worry about that.  You can come, enjoy the food, your family, and not have to pay for being yet another body on the benches watching everyone's cellphones, bags, hats, etc.  They offer all-day ride wristbands or you can purchase individual tickets to go on rides.  We got Jonathan the wristband because we knew he would want to go on everything and anything he could.  Hubby bought a pack of tickets for himself and I avoided rides like the plague.


The look on Jonathan's face in the above picture.


I just can't handle the adorableness.

Knoebels-girls and jon
Rebekah, Traci, and Jon
He's such a ladies man.

We were with some of not only my favorite people in the whole world, but the absolute best people in the whole world.  They're made from the good stuff.  There was a point where Jonathan left me for an hour to go on rides with Jessie and Rebekah, both sixteen-years-old.

Let me reiterate: sixteen-years-old.

I don't know many sixteen-year-olds willing to to hang out with a 22-year-old boy with Down syndrome.  No, not just hang out, more like cater to and involve that boy in everything they are doing.

And then, their sisters, Hannah, Emily, and Grace (ages 12-14) went on rides with him and walked around the park holding his hand or linked arm in arm.


My girl, Ree, and I had to pause to take a selfie after we'd been there maybe 4.23898 minutes.


Traci and Tom spoiled us all with the different delicious offerings the park has.  Jonathan ate a piece of taco pizza...


and hoagie pizza.  He wasn't too sure how to eat the hoagie pizza, but after a minute he cleverly folded it in half and ate it like a sandwich.

Some of the other yummies we enjoyed included sweet tea slushies, bison burgers, kettle corn, and tacos in a bag--if you've never heard of this, you need to make it a part of your life immediately.  

Perhaps an Orange Strainer on that to follow?  You certainly hope so.


If we hadn't been company to such a great group of people, Knoebels still would have been awesome.  Fortunately, I can brag of the gift of friendship with people who not only treat everyone with equal doses of love and respect, but they also look past disabilities and into the heart of the person.  They treated Jonathan the way I treat him.  They loved him the way family loves him.

Could you imagine what the world would be like if everyone was like this?  To not only the disabled, but to everyone they meet?

What a beautiful place it might be.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#138 He Doesn't Instagram

I'm going to point it out right away, this post is going to be full of hypocrisy.  I have an Instagram account and I love it.  I love the filters that perfect and hipster-up almost any picture I choose to post.  I love seeing other people's pictures of family, food, travels, and happiness.


But I have to stand on my soap box for a moment.  As much as I love the leaps and bounds technology has made--I mean, I've actually lived long enough to be able to say, "They didn't have THAT when I was growing up"--I feel like we have lost our morals when it comes to what I call 'Instagram-less moments".


The addiction that social media creates for us to post every inch of our lives, I feel, has caused us to forget that certain intimate moments in our lives should not be shared with others.  Not because the material is of an inappropriate, cover-your-eyes-and-don't-look quality, but simply because they are Instagram-less moments.  They are moments that the minute you post them on social media, you lessen their value just a hair.


What did we do, after all, ten years ago when all this nonsense was not in existence?  What did we do when we actually were forced to enjoy a moment organically--without pulling out our phones to document it?  How did we survive not being able to instantly tell the world, "Look!  I did this!"?


I do it too, that's why I have already placed the disclaimer that this is a hypocritical post.  But I challenge you, as I challenge myself continually to consider deeply the purpose of each and every picture you expose to the world.  Allow yourself the permission to keep some of your Instagram-less moments between you, your camera, and those connected emotionally to that picture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#137 He Works Hard

We recently repaired our front porch.  I say 'we' but by 'we' I don't mean me at all but more so Justin's friend Damian, with Hubby and Justin there as support.  I wanted to have our back porch fixed first, because if you can believe it, both the front and back of our house were equally a mess.  As we entered and exited our home each day, I realized the front porch steps were bouncing up and down with us at we stepped on them.  It wasn't until the railing of the steps was completely separated from the balusters* holding it up that I gave in to the realization that the front porch needed to be our priority.

*Please do not think I am fancy.  I originally called them dowels until I went to and discovered those rods are actually called balusters.


Justin's best friend, Damian, is an excellent carpenter.  Not only did he do an amazing job on our porch, but he did it after working ten-hour days on construction jobs.


Currently unemployed, I knew that once the porch was completed the job of painting it would fall into my lap.


Knowing how horrible I am at being neat while painting, I forced myself to make peace with this.  After all, Hubby had helped to fix the porch and he was working ten hour days himself.  There was no excuse I could offer to squirm my way out of painting.


The date I planned to paint the porch revolved around the weather and days that I knew no one would be coming over.  The paint needed at least 24 hours before it could be walked on, so I planned to start painting early in the morning so that it would be walk-able by the next day.

Only I'd forgotten that the sun rises facing my front porch and that it feels as if you are standing only inches away from the sun when you stand on my porch at 8 am.  

But my plans!  There was no way around painting at that time.  I'd made so many plans for the rest of my day.  My plans were organized.  I had written them down.  They were unchangeable.


Stubbornly, I prepared to paint.  It took me twenty minutes to sweep and prepare the porch for the painting.  After one side of railing took an hour, and all I was doing was painting over and over again the sides and fronts of the balusters, I was ready to curse the day I promised to paint the porch.  The right side of my face, I was sure, was reddened by the sun's pressing glare.

I wanted to quit, badly.  Only I could just see Hubby's reaction when he came home, expecting to find the entire porch painted, to find only one side of railing painted, and poorly at that.

I pressed on, starting with the other side of railing.  By the time I had finished all of the railings it was the time I had expected to be finished the entire porch.  

Even if I hadn't promised to take Jonathan to Gram's pool at that time, I would have found myself leaning towards quitting.  I had been working in the sun for five hours, monotonously painting balusters over and over.  Some part of me expected that Hubby would see the railings completed and understand all this.  Of course, as I was having my pity party I had forgotten just how many long hours of their own time the men had put in to fixing my porch.


I picked Jonathan up still in my paint attire, which was a scruffy mess that ordinarily I wouldn't be caught dead in.  It wasn't until I had Jonathan in the car that I realized I hadn't eaten anything that day and I could feel my hunger demons pressing within me for release.

I couldn't wait for Gram to offer her usual spread of meatballs, cheese steaks, pizza, eggs and bacon, steaks, etc.  I needed food immediately.  We swung by Taco Bell, I ordered the entire menu, and we headed to Gram's to eat.

Reminder: Gram lives alone and she's 81-years-old.    

Before I was out of my car, Gram was asking me questions while also telling me about everything important occurring in her life.  My head throbbed from the heat as it took in Gram's incessant chatter, the stickiness of paint left between some of my fingers, and the spicy warmth of ground beef in my waiting tacos.  I grunted to every question she asked.  I didn't make eye contact.  I headed for the table, wanting nothing more than to eat my food so I could be transformed back into something more like the normal version of me.

"What's the matter?" Gram finally asked as I began savagely ripping into my chalupa.  "You're not your usual happy peppy self."

"I was in the sun painting the porch all morning," I said dryly between bites.


"I painted the porch today," I said not looking up.

Jonathan sat near Gram, smiling as he bit into a burrito I had treated him to.  He giggled at her, talked happily, and offered her a bite.

"Jonathan you're always happy, always so pleasant and sweet," she smiled at him.

I ignored her and continued eating.  My stomach was slowly calming down, but my head still felt the press of the sun upon it.

"Jonathan never has a bad mood.  He's nice to everyone all the time," Gram continued.

Though I was aggravated as the words left her lips, they began to haunt me as the day continued.  I began to feel ashamed, not only for how I treated Gram but for my attitude towards people I don't like, those who have wronged me, or those who just plain get on my nerves.  Gram was right.  Jonathan has no enemies.  He loves everyone and approaches everyone with the same sweetness, regardless to how they may have treated him.  

I imagine that must be how it is for God.  He constantly has those who turn their back on him, those who sin against him, and those who do things that hurt him, but he, like Jonathan, remains loving towards them, willing to give them a second chance, willing to press through exhaustion and pain to show he still cares for them.

I know my grandmother wasn't trying to teach me a lesson in the words she said that day, but I'm glad I opened my ears to hear more than just a commentary on the niceness of Jonathan.  In it, I think I may have touched upon the heart of God.     

Note: The supports will eventually be painted white...once I get over the shock of painting the balusters.

Micah 7:18-19

18 Who is a God like you,
    who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
    of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
    but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
    you will tread our sins underfoot
    and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#136 He's Got a Dream

When I think about my ultimate life aspirations, the scene from the movie, "Tangled" immediately pops into my mind.  I am all of a sudden surrounded by ruffians and thugs singing about how they really don't want to be malicious and scary but would rather have professions as concert pianists, florists, and interior designers.

This past weekend I stayed in one of my top five favorite places: NYC! (Who am I kidding? It's really my number one, but I wanted to leave room for any other potential candidates that might like to try out for the position).  Back in May, Hubby pushed me to pursue my dream of writing for a living in a more committed way; translation: this would be an investment of our money and my time.  He forced me to register for the Writer's Digest Conference being held in NYC and to not just register for the conference, but also for the 'Pitch Slam'.  The Pitch Slam is an hour where writers are given the opportunity to pitch their book to agents and editors in hopes of obtaining business cards representing an invitation to contact that agent/editor with more information, and it also, as I'm sure you've guessed, is a further financial commitment.

At first, I tried to chicken out.  While of course spending the weekend in the city was appealing, I wasn't sure about this whole 'pitch slam' thing.  After all, was I really ready for that?

What you may not know, dear blog follower, is that I have been sitting on my completed manuscript for well over three months now.  I sent out a few feelers, but that was the extent of it.  Therefore, yes, I was really ready for it, I just lacked the confidence to pursue it.  

Though it was a fantastic opportunity, I think perhaps Hubby may have at one point or another slightly regretted forcing me to sign up for the Pitch Slam.  Because every free moment between the sessions I attended and my 1:30 pm Pitch Slam session on Saturday I forced him to listen again and again as I perfected my pitch.

My Pitch Slam Map.  I think I may have issues.
I came home with a five-pound Sunday edition of the NY Times, a signed copy of a self-published book written by a new friend I made, and streams of information written in my notebook and throbbing in my brain.  I also had four business cards.

The weekend was more than simply inspiring.  It was motivating, invigorating, and most importantly, eye-opening.  Several authors either were keynote speakers or spoke as part of various sessions I attended.  Hearing that they go through writer's block, have days where they feel like their writing is crap, and use things like laundry, grocery shopping, and research as excuses to procrastinate brought them down to earth, standing on the same level as me.

 Some of the best tips I scribbled down during the weekend, which I feel can also be applied to a lot of dreams outside of writing, are:

*Nothing is sacred
It's okay to delete your own work.  It doesn't have to be perfect, and more than likely won't be, the first time around.

*Do something!
When your story stalls you need to do something.  Romance writer, Cheryl St. John says, "Puke it out.  Clean it up later."  Your story isn't going to write itself.

*Don't sit around waiting for the muse
Despite what you may have heard about writers waiting for the muse to strike, almost every speaker at this conference spoke strongly against such an idea. 

My favorite speaker was Harlan Coben, a New York Times Bestselling Author of mystery novels.  He said many things that I loved, but I'll share two:
  • "Only bad writers think they're good.  We're all insecure".
Mind blowing.  For that to come from a bestselling author seems impossible.  I would think such a person would reach a point of pompous entitlement to the reader acceptance of anything they produce.  I'm glad to hear it isn't so.
  • "I don't like writing.  I like having written". 
This quote is fantastic because too often writers act as though the art of writing is what keeps them going.  And while that may be somewhat true, I can't imagine that being halfway through writing a novel is quite as satisfying as when it has been accepted by a publishing company and is going to print. 

Lastly, this quote wasn't said during the conference but is one whose sentiments were strongly felt in the overall tone of many of the speakers.  It is one of my favorites and is my mantra for whenever I get down about wanting to be a writer:

"Writers write.  If you want to be a writer, write".