Thursday, April 30, 2015

#185 He is City Lovin'

Weekend I’d Forget

I can cram the events of this past weekend into three acronyms: NYC, AC, SONJ

And for the first time ever, the highlight of the weekend wasn't the food!

Blasphemy, I know!

We started with a 'work dinner’, but dinner with Hubby's coworkers is never a traditional 'work dinner’ it is too much fun to be considered that. We ate at “Blue Water Grill” in Union Square. Part of me was wishing I had come three hours earlier to walk around the area and soak it all in—I love Union Square!

I ordered the scallops and naturally, they were fabulous. However, as I said, the food really wasn’t the highlight. We were seated in the restaurant’s Jazz Dining Room and were only feet away from live entertainment that played everything from classic jazz hits to pop hits with a twist.

Hubby and I were eyeing up the Shellfish Tower that several tables ordered. It was three tiers of the best seafood around. Perhaps next time…

As we headed to our hotel after a little wandering around town, I saw what appeared to be flames. I could only imagine it was a contained, controlled fire and wasn’t worried until we walked closer and there was no one there containing or controlling.

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By the time we were across the street from it, we realized a huge garbage container was ablaze and growing by the second. A bouncer at a club across the street stood in the middle of the road shouting the license plate numbers of the car behind and in front of the fire to the hostess in case it was one of their patrons’. We were more concerned with calling the fire department. It certainly appeared as though this wasn’t a regular occurrence on West 36th street because every passerby stopped what they were doing to stare at the flames. Some people ran past then stopped, gauging just how far away they felt was safe enough to stop and stare in awe. One daredevil stood about two feet from the flames videotaping the fire.

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Not exactly the choice I would have made. We stayed to watch the fireman come all while gazing back and forth between the fire and the line of traffic backed up on the street, and then realized our hotel was in spitting distance from the fire. We went up thinking that we would sit and stare down below and then realized we were in the only level of the hotel with angled windows. They were perfect for a dreamy city view, but not perfect for spying down below.

Here is a bit of common sense. While staying in a hotel, if you want to sleep in, you should close the curtains.

In spite of knowing that the blinding sun would wake me up, I couldn’t. I wanted to go to sleep gazing out at the city and wake up to the city.

And I did.

At 5:00 am.

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But the view was so worth it.

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For breakfast, we headed uptown, way uptown, to Absolute Bagels which you might remember from our short Valentine’s Day trip to the city. We were greeted with a long line and a very, very, cranky man in front of us.

It was also worth it.

Being the foodies we are, we needed good coffee, so we headed to a French pastry shop. Two lattes and a French donut later, we were headed to Central Park to enjoy our goodies.

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This was a REAL French donut, folks. Remember the French donut of Le Pain Quotidien that we discovered in Chicago? Let’s just say I referred to the present pastry as a French donut and the authentic Frenchman behind the counter said, “Well, yeah, you could call it that.”

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As if spending the night in the city, seeing our first street fire, and walking around west Central Park wasn’t enough, from NYC we headed straight to Atlantic City to meet up again with Hubby’s work buddies. We weren’t just there to gamble, though of course, we did.

Hubby’s coworker, Jason, plays hockey and his team was having their championship games all weekend. I have only been to one hockey game in my life, and I loved every minute of it. So I was a little over eager to go to the game.

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I did, however, forget that even though it is starting to feel like summer in New Jersey, it will always feel like winter in a skating rink. I was the smart one who wore flip flops that day.

Go ahead and laugh. I deserve it.

Here’s where you’re going to think we are absolutely wild and crazy. We drove home somewhere around 12:30 am from Atlantic City to hop in bed and wake up five hours later to go to Gloucester County, NJ for Jonathan’s last Special Olympics swim meet before the Summer Games.

I’ve always been a night owl, but it has been a while since I pulled two days of nonstop activity paired with two nights of five hours or less sleep.

But New York City, work friends, Atlantic City, and Jonathan are all worth it.

This is somewhere around the four hundred and ninety bazillionth swim meet I have attended. I sometimes go with my old hat face on. We’re going to watch Jon swim, we’re going to be excited for him, we’re going to go out to eat and celebrate no matter what.

In his first race he swam his little heart out and legitimately earned his gold medal. I say legitimately because there have been times he was only competing against himself. In that case, earning a gold medal merely means that he swam. This time it meant he pushed past the other two competitors in his division.

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The Special Olympics motto is, “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

I wish all competitors could adopt this motto. It has become a mantra for me along with Habit Four of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Think Win/Win, Everyone Can Win”.

This was put into action as Jonathan’s 50-meter relay, the dead last heat of the day, took place. I used to feel bad for the people that had to stick out the swim meets until the last event and here we were, sticking it out. Surprisingly, there were still several fans there. Jonathan swam first and was lagging a little behind, but the next two swimmers caught his team up. When the final swimmer, who couldn’t have been more than ten, went to swim, he swam one length of the pool and stopped.

“Go back!!” was screamed from the stands.

We watched as this little guy stopped at the edge of the pool, turned and then swam a few feet. He stopped, swam to the ropes and waited. He slowly pushed himself a little further, then stopped and clung to the ropes again, contemplating the water, looking as though he might not finish the race at all.

This is often the point where the winners’ families all turn away and leave, and the coaches and volunteers for the finished teams start to walk toward the area that medals are given. The families of the lagging team are left standing alone in the stands.

But not this day.

No one moved from the stands. Everyone was already standing from cheering for their teams, and now they all cheered with one common goal—to get this little guy to the finish. The coaches and volunteers crowded around the end of his lane, and just about everyone in the room cheered and clapped for the athlete and the team that would take last place.

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a famous quote of UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell "Red" Sanders. 

My guess is that Mr. Sanders never saw a Special Olympics competition where winning isn’t the focus, but the people behind the sport are what is most important.

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Winning should be secondary. People are primary. This weekend, I knew that to be true.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#184 He is Peaceful

This past weekend was nonstop activity for me. It was all good things, but nonstop—I’m only now getting acclimated to my regular sleep schedule.

As much as I was ready to post all about my weekend, I just can’t. Not right now.

It doesn't seem right.

It doesn't seem right to post about travels and food or family and sports events when parts of the world are aching.

I’m far from knowing the right words to say.

I’m far from being learned on the entire situation and circumstances.

I’m far from ever knowing what it is like to serve in any police department or be an African American in a society that brags of racial freedom while it whispers of inequality.

I am, however, close to where this took place. Only months ago, I drove down the streets that today are lined with black ash from fires. I first saw the footage of the riots in Baltimore as I lay in the dentist’s office getting two cavities filled. It seemed so impossible that I closed my eyes, let the drilling continue, and ignored it.

It couldn't be. It couldn't happen there.

Hours later the reality of what was happening hit me and my heart broke for Baltimore and America.

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The words I string together will only be an echo of what many have already said and what many will continue to say as the days pass. There is not much more that I can do but sit here and ponder what I’m sure many are already thinking.

How can hurting the innocent solve a problem?

Great, you pelted a few rocks at police officers and destroyed their cars.

What does that do but give those officers paid time to recuperate causing taxes to go up not only to pay for resting police officers but also to replace the government vehicles that were damaged?

What’s that? You got a little carried away and decided to make a bigger point for how upset you are by looting, then setting fire to anything flammable?

So now those who are just like you, those who are fed up with the behavior of certain dirty cops across our nation, must suffer at the hands of your justice?

couldn't believe the loyalty of so many Baltimore residents who today were pictured sweeping the streets and picking up the remaining debris.

Why is it that the innocent have to pick up the pieces of the guilty?

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My history teacher in high school instilled in us his definition of history. If you went through his class, it was certain you would at least learn that History is the consequences of man’s choices. Tagged along was always this warning: Those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it.

I’m fairly certain riots have never solved problems. But I do know that peaceful protests have led to wrongs being righted. They chipped away at the problem. They didn't make a difference overnight but each brave moment spent standing silent and strong led to change in America.

Will we ever be a perfectly equal society?

No, I think as long as we are human we will never succeed.

Yet that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  

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Monday, April 13, 2015

#183 He Likes Me For Me

10 Things About Me

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I don't ordinarily go on and on about myself. I usually get bored telling the same story again and agin and/or figure that people aren't really listening and therefore why waste my breath?* But due to a recent Facebook/Instagram tagging trend I figured I'd transform what is a long winded social media post into a more in depth post here.

*I truly wish I had better trust in humanity, unfortunately this is the flat truth of the matter. Perhaps this is why I blog. I figure if you actually want to hear what I have to say, you'll read it.

#1: I was more upset to find out that Jonathan was a boy than that he had Down syndrome. In fact, I took the news that I would never have a sister so bad that my parents took me out for a special 'only girl' shopping trip*. It may have been from that point on that receiving gifts became my love language. 

*Note: I wasn't overly spoiled that day. Nor was it one of those pout-to-get-something-you-want things. My parents took me to Toys "R" Us and let me pick one thing. Ironically, I chose a mother dog stuffed animal who had a velcro belly with puppies hidden inside.

#2: When I was growing up, I kept pillows pressed up against the bottom half of my bedroom windows for fear that people outside could see into my bedroom.*

*Please note: We lived in the country, across the street from corn fields, and my parents' bedroom was right next to mine.

#3: It is extremely difficult for me to lie about anything. 

#4: My first job was working at The Little Angel Preschool. When I started, I told my parents I wanted to save up to buy a Corvette. I banked every single check and only took out money to tithe. Despite doubts from many, two months after I turned seventeen I bought a 1986 Corvette completely on my own.

#5: My senior year of college, on my way back to school from spring break, Lance and I were in a car accident where my vehicle flipped over onto Lance's side. The police told him he should have hit his head on the ground and died. He didn't because he was reaching over to protect me.

me at wedding

#6: I completed my Bachelor's Degree in three years. While getting my Bachelor's (in Journalism and Writing Arts) I was simultaneously working on Associate's Degrees in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising. After working for a short time in fashion merchandising, I decided to take the alternate route to get my teacher's certification. 

#7: We pushed our wedding date to a week later because of the Special Olympics Summer Games. Right now that seems like nothing, but then it seemed like forever!

#8: Four days before my wedding, I interviewed in NYC for my first real-to-me job. (Previously I had worked at the preschool and American Eagle). While we were on our honeymoon, I received the call that I got the job.

#9: Lance is my high school sweetheart and the only man I have ever dated, kissed, etc. Sometimes the high school sweetheart part is super sappy to me, but the other part I cherish.

#10: I completed my first manuscript last year. It is not published, though I hope one day it might be. It will always be my most flawed, most loved piece of writing.

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Note: (#11, perhaps?) This post has made me realize I have very few pictures of only me. This is not exactly on purpose but also not completely unintentional. I feel extremely vain asking people to take my picture, posting/taking selfies, and posting pictures of me alone on social media.**

*The spell check for 'selfies' is selfless. Ironic?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#182 He Lets the City Speak to Him

I have a love/hate relationship with museums. They have become similar to water parks for me. Both grant a can’t-get-this-at-home thrill, yet both have grown in such high demand that it becomes difficult to truly immerse yourself in the experience when you are elbow to elbow with people who need serious lessons in manners.

The solution, for museums at least, is usually to go on obscure weekdays or sunshine filled days where most people will be found outside.

Or in my case, pick the cheap route and only go when you have a coupon.*

*This really isn't true. If I want to go somewhere, I’ll go. However, a coupon gives me a push incentive. It makes me want to make it happen immediately.

Thus was the case with our recent visit to MoMA in NYC. While we were in the city for Valentine’sweekend we put a museum visit on the if-we-need-something-to-do list.

Let’s be honest, in NYC you hardly ever find yourself searching for something to do. It usually shoves itself in your face and says, “Hey! I’m here! Choose me!” Whichever option screams the loudest wins.

At least, that is how it is for me. Maybe the city speaks to you differently.

In the end, we did not find our way over to the museum that weekend.

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This worked in our favor because a few weeks ago I was given two free NYC museum passes. Each pass was good for a family of five. It was perfect! Hubby and I would go together and then we would come back in the summer with a larger group. We planned to spend the morning and afternoon of Easter’s Eve in MoMA and then stroll over to Butter for dinner.*

*More about that over at the Orange Strainer. But yes, the restaurant was called Butter. And yes, it rocked my socks off.

While driving into the city, I pulled out my free museum pass, looked it over and froze.

“Maximum of 5 people with a minimum of 1 child age 17 or under” was written in tiny print under the massive bold print announcing the complimentary admission to the museum.

I’m going to spare you the conversation that passed between Hubby and me at that moment because it isn't something I take pride in. I was a balloon who had been pricked and by the second was dropping from a mood of elation to one of ‘Whoa is me!”

My poor husband.

I planned out exactly what I was going to say to the admissions person at the museum. I was going to explain my situation, explain that I work at a school and therefore I should still receive free admission regardless of not having a child with me. Then, if all else failed I would cry.*

*No, I really wouldn't do that. That would have been pathetic.

I told the woman behind the counter my saga and handed her my coupon. Her eyebrows were already raised, and her eyes narrowed into a confused I’m-not-sure-what-to-do kind of manner. Not only did I feel like she wasn't going to let us in for free, but I felt like my coupon must have been written in Greek. She finally looked up at me and said, “This is for The Met. You’re at the Museum of Modern Art.”

Can you say, embarrassing?

I played it cool though.

“Oh, my, gosh! I cannot believe I did that!”

My volume level was pretty much near a concert spectator scream as I rolled my eyes to the ceiling.

“Don’t worry about it; people get us mixed up all the time. You aren't the only one to do it,” she said smiling at me.

That made me feel a little better, but now I was stuck. Should we go over to The Met and tell our sob story again hoping to get free admission there or should we just stay at MoMA? Though I might have gotten the two mixed up, I knew that MoMa had been the museum we had wanted to go to on Valentine’s Day.

We stood for several minutes trying to make up our minds, wasting this woman’s time as the line to get in continued to build. Even so, she didn’t show us any sign of impatience or that she was bothered by our (my) stupidity.

“How much time do you have?” she asked amidst our confused decision making.

“Four or five hours?” I asked instead of told her.

“That's a good amount of time for either,” she said.

“Which one is better though?” I asked, knowing most certainly what she would answer.

“Here,” she said immediately, but with a tone that convinced me she actually meant it.

My brain was malfunctioning as I was, believe it or not, still trying to get over the utter embarrassment of showing up at MoMA with a Met coupon, when another museum employee, Lindsay, came up from behind us. She had caught the tail end of our conversation and began telling us about both museums. Then she told the admissions employee to make us her guests for the day. Two seconds later we were holding a receipt and headed to the fourth and fifth floors at Lindsay’s suggestion.

I went from forlorn to embarrassed to elated in less than five minutes.

The Met is still on the list for another day trip to NYC, but I have a feeling MoMA will be seeing us again simply because of the kindness of Lindsay. She directed us to the best floors in the whole museum and for the first ten minutes I wasn't even concentrating on the art because I was so excited. I floated past Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the high of the treatment we had received.

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Having taught art appreciation in the past, it was now surreal to find myself face to face with pieces I had projected onto a boring white classroom wall for my students to see. Discovering that these brilliant masterpieces were right in my backyard made me ashamed it took me so long to see them in person.

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We’ll be heading to The Met sometime this summer, but I don’t think you’ll ever find a comparison of the two museums here. It would be too biased based upon this first experience at MoMA. I have the museum itself, the excellent staff, and the masterpieces within their walls to thank for that.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

#181 He Loves My Brothers

It's National Siblings Day! 

We have Claudia Evart to thank for this fairly new special day. Evart lost both of her siblings to separate accidents early on in life. She recognized the eternal bond of siblings. Realizing that we have special days for mothers and fathers, she decided there should also be a day for siblings.

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And I agree!

My siblings were my first friends ever. Even though now we are all grown, most with our own families and homes, there will always be an invisible line connecting us, drawing us together.

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As the only girl, though I wasn't the oldest, I took the command of my siblings. As we got older, I found myself trying to impart in them the wealth of knowledge I had acquired. I wanted to save them from mistakes. I wanted to direct them towards the right path. In reality, I wanted them to be just like me.

It took me a while but the older I've grown, the wiser I've become. Thank God. Also, thank God I've learned quickly that the things that are different about us can either be used to distance us or to make us grow stronger together. There is no in between. We either accept that we are different and embrace it, or else we remain blind causing tension and strife amongst those we love.

Justin

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Justin and I are the least alike. From day one we have had opposite viewpoints and emotions towards most aspects of life. Justin is laid back, docile, and forgiving. No one could dislike Justin. I am always raring to go, a little rough around the edges at times, and as bitter as Sicilians come. 

His mild mannered temperament used to drive me up a wall. I couldn't imagine how someone could sit back and not attack each moment of life with the aggressive force untamed within me. Then I realized how calming it was to be around Justin. He has a way of making everything seem right with the world, even though reality may say its not.

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Joel

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Joel and I are the most alike, but even so there are so many qualities Joel possesses that turn my head and get my brain going.

Joel envisions life in a very different way from me. He loves new experiences, and immerses himself into different situations and opportunities whenever he can. He is excited about living life to the fullest. Not to mention, he has enough personality for five people. He will make someone he just met feel like they have been friends forever, but most importantly, he makes those he chats with feel like they are valued.

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Jonathan

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I am who I am because of Jonathan.

Jonathan has a passion for people. While I would rather duck my head and avoid conversation, Jonathan craves it. He longs to be with people, to interact with people, to love on people. One of his common questions when we are together is, "Gaga, I help you?" He wants to be useful. He wants to contribute to things that are happening around him.

Jonathan is also a hugger. He will turn the least touchy feely person into someone who demands a hug from him. And his hugs are sincere. They are packed with emotion, love, and joy. The perfect anecdote to anything that has got you down.

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If you have been so blessed to be born with siblings, don't allow your differences to separate you. Embrace what makes you different. Learn from what makes you different. Enjoy what makes you different. Don't take for granted what so many in this world wish they could have. Find your siblings, whether they be near or far, and love on them extra special today.

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"Sibling relationships -- and 80 percent of Americans have at least one -- outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust." 
Erica E. Goode

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#180 He Likes Extra Leg Room

I don't know how we managed it, but on our final day in the lovely city of Chicago we ate an amazingly satisfying hotel breakfast, grabbed some coffee, shopped an entire outlet mall, went to lunch, ate cupcakes, and drove to the airport.

It was one wild crazy day.

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Joel tried a few different methods of getting us to stay. 

This post, however, will not be dedicated to the perfect hamburgers we enjoyed for lunch or the outlet mall with the most efficient parking garage and interesting art within its walls. Among the eyebrow raisers was this guy hanging on the ceiling:

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Instead I'm going to educate you on my first ever experience with Frontier Airlines. At first, I thought it didn't warrant a full blog post. Then we went through baggage claim on our way home and I decided I would most certainly have to give a blow by blow of our experience with this airline.

First. A brief history of my airplane experiences:

The first flight I ever took in my life was when I was 17-years-old for my senior class missions trip to Mexico. My second flight was at 19-years-old to Paris with my grandmother. The third flight of my life was at 21-years-old for my honeymoon to St. Thomas. Since then, I have flown fewer times than I can count on one hand. Hubby, on the other hand, flies often for work. He is even accumulating miles (something my lack of flight could never comprehend) as well as several free hotel stays.

Perhaps the underlying reason for my limited flying is the simple understood matter for flying in general: It isn't cheap.

Yet the desire to travel, to go here, to go there, still persists within.

We did the road trip scene for a little, and we've learned that trips over 10 hours long aren't too much fun. At least, not on the drive back home.

When more than once I was told that there was an airport in my backyard (Trenton) and that I should be flying instead of driving for such lengthy 8-12 hour trips, I decided I needed to look into it.

Until you experience it yourself, you can only hope that the word of others is consistent with the value of the product being recommended. Flying, especially, is something with which you certainly don't want a negative experience because of someone’s lousy recommendation.

I’ve broken this analysis into four different categories which I think most travelers will agree are of the utmost importance:

Price

For this particular trip, tickets elsewhere were starting at $100 more than the tickets we ended up purchasing. We could have gotten our tickets for around $30 cheaper (each!) if we hadn’t opted for extra leg room. Five to seven inches of extra leg room, with seats at the front of the plane, starts at $15 more per seat. If I were you, I would opt for the extra leg room. I haven’t seen that option anywhere else…that is, unless you’re flying first class.

But if you’re flying first class, you probably aren’t worrying about price too much, are you?

Frontier is constantly offering deep discounted tickets running from $39 a flight. The only issue is that you are confined to their flight dates. We left on a Wednesday because that was the only date that Frontier was flying to Chicago.

Boarding Time

No need to arrive several hours before your flight takes off! As long as you are at the airport and parked an hour before your flight you should be fine! The parking lot is fairly large, but if you aren’t a need-to-have-a-close-spot searcher, you’ll be able to find any old spot rather quickly. The walk from the parking lot to the building took us no more than ten minutes.

Since only two flights go out at a time, checking in and checking your luggage are super quick, too. They have machines to check-in with, however, they weren’t working. We stood in line for probably fifteen minutes, checked in, checked our bags, and had less than an hour to wait to board.

*HOWEVER* There were several people in line who played their chances too close to the edge and were too late to check-in for their flight. There are signs everywhere saying that if you are not checked in 45 minutes before your flight takes off they will not board you!

Space on the Plane

Hubby and I only brought book bags onto the plane. We really didn’t want to mess will all that carry-on nonsense of fighting for space. However, it seemed as though there was plenty of space in our overhead area.

Again, the seating was ama-a-a-a-a-zing! The extra leg space spoiled me, and now I’m convinced I will never be able to fly without the same amount of leg room. On our flight to Chicago the plane wasn’t full, so I was also fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to me. The flight back, sadly, I had to share our row with a gentleman who had just had his left forearm tattooed.*

*Note: I was sitting to his left.

This was an even greater testament to their space because I managed to endure the entire flight without bumping up against the man or his loosely bandaged ink.

Customer Service

The flight attendants were all cheery and helpful. They seem more at ease and relaxed than other flight attendants I have been in contact with. The captain of our flight out added a little humor to his announcements, especially when he told us the fine for smoking on a plane was something like $2,000. To which he added, “And let’s be serious, folks, if you had $2,000 lying around you would be flying United today”.

However, our flight home could have used a little better communication from Frontier to its passengers. Hubby and I arrived at the airport extra early since this was a regular airport and not the wonderland that I now consider Trenton-Mercer Airport. We wandered the airport for the hour or so that we had to kill and then found a spot to wait near our gate. The time to board came and passed without any notification that the flight was delayed. The time for the flight to take off came and passed without any notification that the flight was delayed. People began to get antsy. Grown men were walking back and forth in front of the gate, continually asking an off duty Frontier employee sitting near me what he knew about the plane’s tardiness.

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This is what confused boredom in an airport looks like.

Then finally, about a half hour after our flight should have taken off, employees for this flight started to show up. It wasn’t until we were on the plane that we learned the flight had been delayed due to the weather of the area the plane had just come from.

Finally,

Baggage claim at the Trenton-Mercer Airport made me feel like I was living in the 1970s…or some kind universe where we have lost all our technological advances. After getting off the plane (By the way, I forgot to mention, you load and unload the plane outside! Like this is Air Force One or something!), you go into this large garage like building and wait. Then the luggage is tossed onto the ‘belt’ by men outside the garage.

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I was convinced this was the way the first airports ever handled baggage claim.

Overall, I’ll definitely fly Frontier again. The tickets are cheap, the seating was amazing, and any negatives were easy enough to endure for savings and comfort.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

#179 He Has Been Found


The Bible provides us three clear lost and found stories in Luke 15. A shepherd loses a sheep. He searches for it, finds it, and then calls everyone together to celebrate. A woman has ten gold coins. She loses one, searches for it, finds it, and then gathers her friends to celebrate. Finally, the story of the prodigal son; a son leaves home, squanders his inheritance, reaches the lowest of lows, and then shamefully returns home. He is met by a father who embraces him, and throws a party at his return.

The Bible tells us that in the same way as these three rejoiced, heaven rejoices when one sinner repents and comes to Christ.

When I consider these three stories, I do what I always do. I take their stories further. I consider the future of these characters. Did the woman who lost her coin continue to express her joy over finding it? Did the shepherd who lost his sheep now value that sheep even more? Did the father’s relationship with his son blossom to greater depths now that he had returned?

I wonder at the past of their stories, too. Had the woman who lost her coin been careless? Had the shepherd not valued the one sheep because he had 99 others? Had the father neglected his son, leading his son to want to explore what the world had to offer him?

I’ve lived my own similar lost and found story. When I reached the ‘found’ part of the story I felt like these characters. I wanted to shout my joy from the mountaintops. I wanted to send out notifications to the world that what had been lost was now found. Something that had been broken was now restored. It was all I could think about. For weeks, I would go to sleep giddy with joy, and awake thinking it had all been a dream.

But I also know that the splendor of such an event has the tendency to wear away the older the joy becomes. The unbelievable that at one time was worth celebrating, soon becomes yesterday’s news.

What of these characters? How did their stories end? I know in my own life I no longer find myself continually giddy with joy. I don’t wake up wanting to shout my lost and found story from the mountaintops.

Although we cannot live only on past joy, there are pieces of our pasts that we must bring with us into every day lest we forget and once again lose what once caused us great joy over being found.


At Easter, you cannot avoid the image of Jesus on the cross. I find that it follows me everywhere I go during the months of March and April. When I consider the cross, and what Jesus did for me it shakes my entire being.

I was lost.

He found me!

The greatness of finding something that was lost is nothing compared to being the one that is found.

It is easy to be reminded of what Jesus did for me when it is right there in my face. I have a good cry during passion plays, my chest puffs with gratefulness when I read scripture, and my throat chokes up when I hear Amazing Grace. But then the seasons change, my lost and found story is filed away under ‘Feel Good Stories’ not to be read again until next year.

This Easter, do what you must to cling to what Jesus has done for you. Don’t allow your lost and found story to become a part of the past. Make it an ever present part of your story as it is being written…a story so great that even shouting from the mountaintops won’t do.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#178 He is German

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Our last full day in Chicago started with flowers.

Specifically, flowers at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.

The show was held at the Navy Pier, which was another want-to-see spot on our list.


Before I go any further; let's discuss my stance on flowers. Flowers are beautiful, yes, of course. But, my husband knows that flowers are never, ever the way to my heart. Why? Because flowers die, as was seen in a few of the exhibits at the flower show. I don't usually prefer flowers as a gift. I don't use flowers to decorate my home. This is all because of the simple fact that they are going to die, and until they do I have to use my valuable time trying to keep them alive.

My favorite parts of the show were not just the flowers themselves, but they ways they were incorporated with other materials to make them not only flowers, but works of art.


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My favorite table.
If you know the movie "ZuZu's Petals" comes from, I love you

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Here's a nice way to recycle beer or soda bottles.

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Mallory's favorite table

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This is a cake. The entire thing is edible. Mind = Blown.

At the end of the exhibit, we were greeted by a mass of vendors. Some people might run from this like the plague, but we enjoyed perusing through unique jewelry pieces, different cut and arranged flowers available for purchase, and, our favorite, a vendor offering samples of Wisconsin cheeses with flavors such as 'Pizza', 'Cranberry', and 'Bacon'.*

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At 3,000-feet long, the Navy Pier has a world within itself; offering shopping, indoor gardens, daily cruises, a movie theater, rides, The Children's Museum, and many other delights that come to life during the summer.

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Though I read the books and saw the first film, it wasn't until after our trip that I realized/remembered that Chicago was the setting for the Divergent book trilogy. Many scenes from the first book were set in the Navy Pier area, specifically at the famous Ferris wheel.

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For the  record, Hubby ad I cannot take a normal picture together. I don't want to point fingers, but I'll bet you can figure out who is the problem. (The person on the left!)

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Most of our morning was spent at the Navy Pier. Had the weather been a little warmer we could have easily spent the entire day there. I think a summer trip to Chicago is a necessity so we can capture the full extent of what the pier has to offer. 

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Our dinner plans led us to Lincoln Square. Not to be confused with Lincoln Park where we had been earlier in the week for shopping. Some of us were a little eager about this trip. This series of photos should sum up the energy Hubby was exerting:

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Oh yes, I forgot to mention, our dinner for that night was at the Chicago Brauhaus, an authentic German restaurant. In recent years, Hubby has felt a strong connection to his German roots. This led to him asking for me to research and cook him some authentic German meals (we have had Beer Simmered Brats and Wiener Schnitzel thus far).

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We had time to kill so we wandered in and around the area, peeking into some of their charming shops. Among our favorites were Timeless Toys, The Chopping Block, Gene's Sausage Shop & Delicatessen. We spent a lot of time in the sausage shop as Hubby picked out various landj√§gers he wanted to try. 

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The only negative about the area was that for a Friday evening, a lot of shops were closing or already closed. The area had enough to offer though that we were still able to occupy our time until dinner. Like the Navy Pier, this is another area that I would be eager to explore on a warm, sunny afternoon in summer.