Jan 30, 2011

The Red Umbrella

I was looking through "photos of the week" online the other day and zipped by a picture of a lady standing in a snow covered Central Park. She was wearing a black winter coat and carrying a red umbrella. I don't know that the wintery scene itself was particularly photo-worthy, but something about that red umbrella against the white snow and leafless trees made it all simply stunning.
I instantly decided I wanted a really nice red umbrella so that I could be that splash of color in the drab winter pallet of black and gray.
My mind flashed to a recent day trip our family took to Metz, France. After we got out of the car and made our way to the entrance of the pedestrian area, we scanned each of the streets to decide which one we wanted to head down. Matt and I both instantly noticed that everyone was wearing black coats. Not a flash of color in a sea of hundreds of black pea coats. The absence of color striking. What if someone had on a red coat? Oh how the picture would change. The black clad shoppers would meld together as one and your eye would instantly focus on that person in red or some other bright color.
The red is so special because it is different, it changes the picture. The red is someone going against the norm of basic black umbrellas and sensible coats. It is someone willing to stand out in a crowd. It is that flicker of life when you look around and it seems everyone is doing the same thing and there is absolutely nothing spectacular about it.
This whole scenario made me think about who I am in a snapshot of life? Am I just another black-coated being moving with the crowd? Or am I a flash of color? What am I doing on a daily basis that brings color to a darkened world?

"For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness" Ephesians 5:8-11 (NLT)

Jan 23, 2011

Shipping to an APO

Quite frankly I think that all, and I do mean ALL, businesses, corporations, conglomerates, LLCs, NPOs, government organizations, and any other possible human currently located in the United States of America should be required, oh yeah I'm throwing off the gloves here, required to ship to an APO as long as the item being mailed meets the APO shipping requirements.

I'm on a soap box here people watch out.

Businesses operating in the mostly free-market society in the United States exist in part because of the freedoms gained by United States soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. And if a US soldier is stationed anywhere outside of the US and wants a damn HDMI cable to connect his Apple TV to his 42" big screen, a company should have to send it to an APO address. And if an Army brat wants to buy a Star Wars Poster for his room, I think someone should be able to drop it off at a post office and send it. And if a woman wants some coffee for her single serve coffee maker, she should be able to pay whatever someone wants to charge to mail it to her.
Perhaps, instead of listing that little section on their website that says "Unfortunately at this time we cannot ship to an APO/FPO Addresses" maybe it should say something like this "For all those requiring shipment to an APO/FPO address...thank you for your service" any maybe, now this is a stretch just maybe it can also say something like this "Free shipping for all orders with delivery to Iraq or Afghanistan...God speed and come home soon".
From this day forward I will write a letter to every single company that will not ship to an APO explaining the procedures for shipping to an APO/FPO and scolding them for not supporting the United States Military.

Jan 12, 2011

Madrid or Bust!

Bags are packed and we are ready to go to Madrid! This weekend is a four-day weekend honoring the late great junior MLK and conveniently enough for us it is also our anniversary weekend. 4 days off coinciding with our anniversary is a recipe for travel.
What is missing from this picture? Gabe and Eli's backpacks are loaded with 3 changes of clothes and an extra change of unders, my bag is mostly packed, we have reading material, chargers, converters, camera case, toiletries in a nice quart sized bag, print out of directions and telephone contacts for our apartment rental, maps, subway info, passports.....oh yeah airline tickets. Where are the tickets? BUST!
Yep. I packed us up, with the exception of Matt he has to do that on his own, and when I came downstairs to print out some boarding passes I realized (this is really a nicer, calmer word for what transpired) that I made a huge mistake when I booked our airline tickets to Madrid. I received a confirmation code from the booking but there was a little line that said "not confirmed until email received". Minor detail - Major problem. 12 hours later.....I find out that the very nice protective credit card company declined the transaction because they feared it was a fraudulent purchase. When the credit card was declined, the reservation was cancelled and I had no tickets. If I would have waited, watched and wondered about that confirmation email, I could have easily rebooked the tickets when that email didn't arrive, but I didn't. I filed away the confirmation code and print-out of our flights and didn't think about it again until I booked our apartment. Even when I booked the apartment I didn't notice the fine print about the booking not being confirmed yet. So, it wasn't until I was planning to print out the tickets that I figured all this out, just 2 days before we were supposed to be on a plane bound for warmth and sunshine.
What now? Well the bags are still packed, for what? I don't know. The reservation for the apartment is cancelled and in order to avoid $250 in charges we are rebooking the Madrid trip for April. We'll still go to Madrid. It will just cost us a few more bucks and we have to wait a few more months.
I must applaud Matt on being gracious and kind throughout the whole thing. He remained calm and is truly more disappointed for me that I don't get to go than he is about the trip being cancelled.
What is the moral of the story? Read the fine print. And if you do forget to read the fine print, be cool with the outcome. I wasn't cool. I was whiny and bratty and rude. We have had about 15 very successful weekend adventures, and a few week long trips as well and this is the first time we have encountered any snafoos with bookings. That is a good track record. When one thing doesn't go my way, it is easy for me to forget about the 100 other things that went just perfectly. I need to be grateful for all we have done, and let this one roll off.
So, we are doing what we do...learn from it and move on. We are going to "stay-cation" this weekend instead. Lucky for the kids, all their clothes are already set out for the next 3 days. Lucky for me, I have a few more months to practice my Espanol.

Jan 1, 2011


Tonight, Matt, the boys and I were entertaining ourselves with Rock Band when we came across the song "This One's For the Girls" by Martina Mcbride. I've heard it before, during my Tennessee country music years, so I rocked it. One phrase of the song caught my attention and stuck with me long after my pretend fans on the TV stopped cheering:

"This is for all you girls about forty-two
Tossing pennies into the Fountain of Youth
Every laugh, laugh line on your face
Made you who you are today"

I hope that when I'm 42 I have serious laugh lines. I hope that I smile so much throughout my life that joy is etched into my old flappy skin. I hope that I have those lines around my eyes too, the ones that you get from squinting. Those will be from all the days I spent outside in the sun, playing, discovering, traveling, watching my kids play the sport of the season. Achy back, knees, and shoulders would be OK too, as long as it is a reminder of the babies I carried, the hills I climbed and streets I travelled on, and the times that I bent down to get a little closer to my boys.

I hope the same for my boys: laugh lines and wrinkles.
I hope that they will get bruises and scrapes because they played so hard that they fell down. I hope that they have some scars with great stories to go with them. I hope that they get a runny nose and cough because they were outside playing in the snow. I hope that they get grass stains on their knees, and holes in their shoes. I hope they pick up their laundry, put the toilet seat down, and never whine again about what's for dinner - but that is a different country song.