Thursday, January 31, 2008

New York City - the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Standing at the edge of the park looking down 7th Avenue - this is where we stayed:

A close-up view of Carnegie Hall, where the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra would play later that night:

I have to admit that I was disappointed when we first saw Carnegie Hall. After being spoiled by the beauty and elegance of Fort Worth's Bass Hall, Carnegie Hall seemed like nothing more than a utilitarian brick building. The inside was different, though. Elegant, richly decorated, and warm, it made a lovely backdrop for our beloved orchestra.

Before we went to our hotel room to freshen up and change for the concert, we stopped for a hot dog to tide us over until dinner. I asked the vendor if he minded if we took a photo. He kindly obliged, even inviting me behind his cart and posing with me. Our experience will New Yorkers was that they were all very helpful, friendly, wanted to know where we were from, etc. (And yes, Martha, that was one of the best dawgs I've ever had! lol)

Darren had chosen seats for us that looked directly down on the stage. I was thrilled! Around these parts, it's no secret that I'm MADLY IN LOVE with Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the music director for the FWSO. Oh MY how I'm in love with him. You would be, too, if you got to watch him get all sweaty on stage every month, passionately moving to the beat of his music, and speaking in that beautifully thick Peruvian accent have mercy I'm breaking a sweat as I type this. Whew. Darren thinks I buy him season tickets every year because I love him so much. Naw. He knows. I buy 'em 'cause I'm in love with Miguel. ;)

I've never seen him from this vantage point, though. I loved watching him. He seemed so very encouraging - nodding and smiling broadly at each section as they swelled and softened under his direction. He conducted the last piece, Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, without a score. I don't know that I noticed the musicians during that piece. It's amazing to me the way Miguel so intimately knows the music, the way he FEELS the music, and the way he pulls that music from his orchestra in a way that makes me feel it, too. And I don't even consider myself a classical music fan.

The orchestra played SO BEAUTIFULLY that night. I was really proud to be from Fort Worth! The NYC audience gave us two standing ovations, and demanded an encore. (Read the New York Times' review here!) I was near tears, I was so proud of my hometown orchestra!

Afterward, as we walked down the stairs (me hobbling, of course), we heard someone say, "Barbara, blah blah blah". Then The Voice, replying, "Oh thank you. I appreciate that." It was BARBARA WALTERS!! Walking down the steps RIGHT. BESIDE. ME. I made eye contact with her and we smiled, but I didn't say anything. Darren scurried ahead to try to get a photo of us. I had other things on my mind. I headed instead for the opposite side of the staircase, making my way to where I thought Miguel might come out and mingle with the crowd. So I missed a photo op with Barbara WaWa. (I wouldn't have asked her for a photo - after all, she was just trying to enjoy the symphony too. And I didn't realize that Darren was trying to get one, though if I had, I probably would've indulged him.) But my mind was on seeing Miguel, and possibly meeting him finally. I TOLD you I have a crush on our director. A Big One. (In case you missed my post where I explained that the FWSO was the main reason we chose New York for this year's anniversary, click here.)

After the concert, we ate a real dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, and then stopped to mug with my other Texas Crush on the way home:

New York City - Central Park

After lunch, we stopped and bought Darren a hat from a street vendor so he wouldn't suffer brain freeze again. The week before we left, Dani and I went shopping with the $80 she'd given me for Christmas. (She wanted me to spend it on a new outfit for our anniversary.) I tried on several things that I didn't like enough to buy, and then we saw this coat. I've never owned a nice winter coat (living in Texas, it's not something I've ever thought I needed to spend a lot of money on, ya know?). The coat was black leather (I've always loved black leather coats), and was on sale for 50% off. What a bargain! THEN, at the register, the clerk talked me into applying for the store credit card and receiving an extra 30% off. I ended up walking out of there with a $250 coat, having only spent $75. Woo Hoo!!!

That coat kept me warm all weekend. Even when Darren could feel the wind cutting through HIS coat, I didn't feel a thing through mine. :) I love that this is something I'll keep and wear for years. When Dani has kids of her own someday, who knows.... she may say, "Hey, look. That's the coat I bought Mom when I was 16 and she went to NYC with Dad!"


Central Park. Ahhhhhhh. It was so incredible in the dead of winter that I can't WAIT to experience it someday when everything's in bloom.

Our hotel was on 7th Street, across from Carnegie Hall and only 2 blocks from the south end of the park. We made friends with a European couple (from Spain, maybe?) and took each others' photos at the ice rink in the park. All of the ponds were frozen over. It was about 34 degrees that day, but with all the walking we did, and all bundled up like we were, it actually was quite comfortable.

See the gold oval shape near the center of the map? That's about as far as we walked before we turned around and headed back towards the hotel. (To Belvedere Castle and the theater just beyond it.) Even so, with all the trails up and down and in and out of the woods and around the ponds, we walked about 4 miles that afternoon. It was so incredibly amazing to me that in the center of one of the world's most bustling cities is a place that takes you away. In the middle of those trees, at the top of the hill, we couldn't hear traffic, or horns, or anything. We sat and listened to the birds and squirrels, and marveled at the peacefulness of it all - right in the middle of Manhattan. Simply amazing. And more amazing still is that we only saw roughly half of the park!!

I love sculpture, and was thrilled to be able to see so many wonderful pieces on our walk - from the literary figures along the mall to Romeo and Juliet to Hans Christian Anderson to Christopher Columbus to the Falconer - all equally wonderful. And even in the dead of winter, the park was beautiful. Our favorites were the bridges. This is the Bow Bridge:

This is beneath the Bethesda Terrace, which overlooks the Angel fountain (which was turned off for the season). I love the way the three arches were framed in this shot.

Beneath the Terrace, directly behind Darren, is the most beautiful artwork. The ceiling is tiled, and the walls are covered with trompe l'oeil paintings. Our destination was the Belvedere Castle, in the middle of the park. The Castle sits at the highest point of the park, just beyond "the bramble", which is thick, forested, rugged terrain. From its balconies, you can see over the trees and remember that, "Oh yah, we're in the middle of New York City."

Darren and I always take a cheesy kissing photo on our anniversary trip. I thought the Castle would make a good backdrop. This time, instead of asking strangers to take the embarrassing photo, we set up the tripod and did it ourselves. lol

As we strolled along, making our way back toward the hotel, I was watching all the joggers passing by (looking for Ben Affleck, to tell you the truth, cause word has it that he and Jennifer live near the south end of the park)... and I was gazing up at the buildings (this one, to be exact)...

...and I was thinking to myself how "Heck, yah, I could live in this city. I mean, look at me. All fat and out of shape, and I'M DOING IT, Y'ALL. I'M WALKING MY HOOVES OFF AND I'M NOT EVEN FEELING TIRED!!!! And I look good doin' it, too, with my new snazzy coat."
And then, splat. Face plant. Right smack in the middle of the sidewalk. I stepped on a sewer grate that wasn't flush with the ground, and my ankle rolled, sending me flying. My knees hit the ground, then my hands. My butt was up in the air for all to see. Some joggers stopped and asked in horror, "Are you okay??" I waved them off, and said, "I tripped over that stupid thang sticking up in the road." And yes, I'm quite sure I pronounced THANG with every shred of Texas Hick I have in me. Ugh. I was so incredibly mad at myself. I hobbled the rest of the way home, but I determined that a sprained ankle was NOT gonna stop me! Dang it all.

New York City - Carnegie Deli

Saturday morning, we slept in and then stopped for lunch a half block from our hotel - at the famous Carnegie Deli! We shared a sandwich, a bowl of cole slaw, a cannoli and two Cokes, and it still cost us $40!! Would you look at the size of the sandwich??

We had salami. I wish we'd have had the corned beef, though. After hearing me say I'd never eaten corned beef, the guy sitting next to us (by the way, by "next to us", I mean elbow to elbow to us, even though we were at separate tables) handed me a forkful of his corned beef and said, "You have to try it." Oh my. DEEEELICIOUS! Turns out, he and his wife were visiting from San Francisco. The people on the other side of us were from Portland. The people who sat down next were German or something. I don't think native New Yorkers eat at Carnegie Deli. LOL

So, back to the sandwich.... we each took off well over half the meat on our sandwiches and doggy bagged it. We thought we'd eat it later as a snack, but we never did. What a waste!

New York City - Top of the Rock

We arrived in the city about 4:30 on Friday afternoon. After settling into the hotel and showering, we hit the ground running toward Rockefeller Center, stopping to gaze up at Trump Tower, stepping inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, and admiring the windows in the 5th Avenue shops along the way. I begged Darren to skate, but he thought it would be a bad idea to start off our vacation with a couple of broken legs. LOL!

We had planned on eating dinner at the rinkside cafe, but it was closed for a private event (HMPF!) so we hunted down another restaurant, then headed up to Top of the Rock (the top of Rockefeller Center) for a 360 view of the city.

It was 24 degrees at street level, and the wind was CRAZY strong up on top. It was so cold that Darren was getting brain freeze - the same feeling you get when you eat ice cream too fast. The view was amazing, but the wind made it impossible to get a clear photo. Even the tripod that the photographers use (you know, they take your photo and then try to charge you $22 for a copy of it) was shaking, so the photo of Darren and me was all blurry. (Good excuse not to buy it, at least!) This photo was taken with the camera sitting ON the top of the building. The shake is from the building itself. It's the clearest one we were able to get.
So, why did we need a shower upon arrival, you ask? It goes like this:
On Thursday night, we spent the night at my friend Sheri's house, 'cause she lives right outside of DFW airport, and with the forecasted winter storm, we thought it would be a good idea not to have to face rush hour the next morning on ice. When we woke up, Darren got online to check our gate info, and to make sure our flight wasn't delayed. He couldn't even FIND our flight. That's because it wasn't at DFW. Turns out, we were flying out of Love Field. So he ran upstairs, said, "Get up. We're in a huge hurry. We have to leave NOW." So we brushed our teeth and threw on clothes and ran out the door. Made it to Dallas and caught our flight, even through rush hour traffic. There was no ice, thank goodness! Just drizzle. So... we were all kinds of funky when we finally arrived at the hotel. LOL!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

10 Things I Learned Last Weekend

1. Double check your itinerary and make sure you know which airport you're flying out of.
2. New Yorkers are friendly, helpful, and excited that you're visiting their city.
3. Whoever honks first has the right of way.
4. Two quick honks in succession means "Don't you dare try it; I'm not slowing down for you."
5. If you fall on your face in Central Park, there will always be SOMEONE to see you do it.
6. You can spend all day on the lookout for celebrities, and then find yourself walking down a staircase with Barbara Walters when you least expect it.
7. If you ask for tea in a nice restaurant, they'll ask you, "Chamomile? Earl Grey?" When you answer, "Iced", they say, "At least you don't want it sweet", and walk away with a snarl on their face.
8. Huey Lewis was right: New york, New York, is everything they say, And no place that I'd rather be. Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm the next line of the song: Where else can you do a half a million things All at a quarter to three... because I was in bed before midnight each night!
9. I CAN walk my fat arse all over Manhattan. And ENJOY walking, even. Who knew?!
10. Some of New York City's best offerings are completely free: strolling through Central Park, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan, window shopping on 5th Avenue, Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, lunch with friends in their happy home....

Pictures to come. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Darren and I subscribe to the school of thought that says - if you put your marriage first, you're better parents. We try to get out alone together at least once a month, to remember why we fell in love to begin with, and to keep that spark going. I think it DOES make us better parents, honestly. We're more able to give of ourselves completely to the kids when we're not frustrated with each other.

We don't have a lot of money. We have enough, that's for sure. But we have to pick and choose what we do with it. We don't have fancy cars (in fact, we've been sharing one car for almost a year), we don't have new electronics (our stereo is actually just the computer speakers). But we like to travel. Even in our most dirt-poor days, we saved pennies to go camping in the mountains. GOING places has always been one of our priorities. (And let me tell you - we have the art of vacationing CHEAP down to an art form! You wouldn't believe the FREE things you can do and see when you get creative enough!)

Nine years ago, Darren started a tradition: he planned a getaway weekend for us without my knowledge! It was the first time we'd gone away to celebrate our wedding anniversary. That year, we spent one night in a B&B in a quaint little Texas town, and then we spent the next day rummaging through antique shops. I think we only spent about $12 in those shops, though. We wuz po'!

The next year, our 9th, I planned. I scored tickets to our beloved Dallas Stars on eBay - my first eBay purchase! Darren was thrilled, and so surprised!

For our 10th, I jokingly said I wanted to go to Paris. So Darren made it happen. We took a day trip to Paris, Texas! Then we swung through the town where we'd met and married, and took photos at the chapel and other places where we'd stood 10 years before.

For our 11th, Darren took the reins again, so I was doubly surprised. After all, it was supposed to be MY year to plan! While filling out the hospital paperwork for Ian, who was only hours old, Darren brought another form and said, "Here. You have to fill this one out, too." It was a passport application. I thought, "Hmm. Life in Post-9/11 is getting weird. They want passport apps for NEWBORNS now??" Imagine my shock and delight when he announced we were going to Paris again! This time, the REAL one! (Flights were CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP then because everyone was scared to fly.)

The next year, our 12th, I took the reins again. I planned another pro-sporting event - this time scoring tickets to see the Mavericks. Floor seats, even.

For our 13th, in 2004, we road-tripped 10 hours to New Orleans. This one wasn't a surprise - we both planned it together. I'm so glad we got to experience New Orleans before Katrina changed it.

Our 14th anniversary was fun - we sent the KIDS away instead of us leaving. They went to Grandma's for the weekend, and Darren took me on a tour of all the places we'd lived in our marriage, from the run-down roach-infested apartment we had as newlyweds, to the dumpy duplexes we rented for years afterward. All of the locations were within a 90-mile radius, so it was easy to go see them all, and celebrate the blessing of having just bought our first home the prior year.

The 15th year started off with Darren being SLAMMED at work. He was working mandatory overtime, and was hardly home at all. We didn't even celebrate with a dinner out until mid-February. No get-aways that year.

Last year, our 16th, we decided we wanted to see Lake Tahoe, and we combined it with a visit with our friends Norm and Nancy, and Greg and Martha!

Which brings us to this year. It's Darren's year to plan. It's not entirely a surprise for me; we're going to New York City! Here's why. We're season ticket holders to the Fort Worth Symphony. (Darren's a HUGE classical music fan. I snore through the concerts. But, he loves them so much that every year for his birthday, I buy the season tickets. It provides that "free" date night once a month that I mentioned earlier!) This year, when the tickets arrived in the mail, there was a sticker on the back of the envelope that said, "See you at Carnegie Hall! January 26th, 2008". Hmmm. Our anniversary. Turns out, the FWSO is playing in NYC that night! We had to be there, don't you agree? WHAT exactly we're doing in NYC isn't clear to me. He's keeping that much a surprise. I'm so stinkin' excited!! It really started hitting me tonight that we're really going! I've never "done" NYC before. I. CANNOT. WAIT.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Did someone turn off Super Jedi Slam? - Darren
So let's just go get the Power Brick, please. - Ian
Come on Dad, press it. - Ian
Dad, follow me! You need to get in! - Aidan
Destroy his force field! -Ian

Um, the boys in our house are a little teensy bit addicted to Star Wars: the Complete Saga.
It's a whole language which I do not speak.


When Aidan was 4, Kristopher and Tristan (his best buds at Fortress) often challenged him to race. Aidan, with his short little legs, always lost. He cried EVERY SUNDAY because he so hated to lose.

My scrapbook room has windows that look out into the back yard and side yard. One day, I kept hearing the padpadpad of footsteps, so I looked out the window and saw Aidan sprinting up and down the driveway, back and forth, back and forth. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said, "I'm practicing my running so I can win." Before long, he was the fastest runner at church.

In December, he ran the Jingle Bell 1 mile Fun Run. Two weeks ago, Darren signed them both up for the 5k Run at the Cowtown Marathon, and he and Aidan developed a regular training schedule. Aidan runs with Darren and his coworkers on Sunday mornings, and with Darren on Wednesday afternoons. (Darren also runs his normal route on days he's not running with Aidan.) Today, Aidan did 2 miles for the first time. He has to take 3 steps for every 2 of Darren's to keep up. His time was 23 minutes and 50 seconds. He'll be ready for the Cowtown EASILY. I can't believe my 7-year old is a runner! I'm sooooo proud of him. (For the record, I can't believe my 38-year old is a runner, either. He clocked his first 9 minute mile last week. So proud of him, too!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

sweet Aidan

This morning, while the boys were eating breakfast, I said, "There are two boys in this world I really, really love. Their names are.... IAN..... and Tristan."

Ian fell into giggles. Aidan looked at me with his mouth all screwy and said, "Tristan?!"

I said, "What? Am I not allowed to love Tristan?"

Aidan replied, "Well, he *IS* a child of God."


Then I said, "There are two boys in this world I love more than ANYone. Their names are.... IAN.... and Daddy."

Again, Ian giggled. Aidan said, "Well, he *IS* your husband."

Then I grabbed Aidan up in my arms and smothered him in smooches.

I love that he understands my sense of humor and takes it so well!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the gift

You may remember this post from back in September. I can finally divulge what the gift was!

A fellow ScrapShare member (Tiffany) invited me to come to the 2nd annual Michigan scrapbooking retreat, all expenses paid. At first, I said no way. I just couldn't accept a gift like that, especially from someone I barely knew. But she really preached to me that day about allowing her to share a recent windfall, and how if I declined, I'd be denying her the opportunity to bless others. She said that she wanted to bless me, and that she wanted to bless the other retreaters by surprising them with an unexpected visitor. I finally accepted her offer, but felt so weird about it. I am totally unworthy of such a gift, and for 3 months, I worried that when I arrived, people would say, "Uh, ok. Big whoop."

The only caveat was that I had to keep it a secret, OR ELSE! I wasn't allowed to tell any fellow retreaters that I was coming, and I wasn't allowed to tell anyone who might slip and tell any fellow retreaters, either. I told Ginger, Elaine, Denise (and of course, my local friends) ('cause a girl has to have SOMEONE to share her joy with!!). They kept the secret. (Thanks, friends!) It was so hard at my annual ScrapShare Texas retreat in November, saying goodbye to the ones I knew I'd be seeing again in Michigan, and not being able to tell them. And when I got Sue's Christmas card, where she'd written "I hope your 2008 is the best and most blessed ever - and it will be if we meet up again!", I wanted to call her and say, "HEY! We are! We are!"

So I went. All expenses paid. All I did in return was create a mini-album make-n-take for everyone, and give a brief hand-lettering demonstration/lesson.

I'd wanted to meet Weezie for YEARS. She's one of the first friends I made online 9 years ago, and I've loved her forever. When I realized that I'd only be a couple of hours from her, I called Tiffany and said, "I know this is a secret. But you have to understand. Weezie and I have tried to meet up, and it didn't work out. I can't be that close to her and have her not be here. And I know she'll be devestated, too, if we miss each other." So Tiffany filled Weezie in, and she was there. So she knew the secret too, and didn't tell anyone.

My fears about the group being underwhelmed were unfounded. Tiffany had dreamed up this elaborate entrance where I'd come dancing my way into the room. (I'm sorta known for my booty-dancin' ways at ScrapShare retreats. GAH. I have no shame!) She told me to wear my pink wig and to be ready to make my grand entrance when I heard Pink's "Get This Party Started" song start playing.

I was sweating bullets out in the hallway, fearful of a less-than-enthusiastic reaction, and worried that people would think, "Uh. Who does she think SHE is, making a big entrance like that?" But no. They made me feel like a ROCK STAR! I simply can't explain how it felt to be recognized immediately by people who'd never met me and had no idea I was coming. And to see the shock on the faces of the people who DID know me - oh, THAT was classic! Wanna see the big intro? Weezie filmed it, unbeknownst to me. That's her you hear giggling all the way through the video. She's quite embarrassed now, and keeps saying, "I broke the number one rule of videography: don't let yourself be heard." LOL!! I love Weezie. SO SO SO glad we've finally met face to face!

Hey Mom, turn up your volume and click VIDEO HERE.
Several of the retreaters hadn't yet arrived when I came dancing in, so I got to surprise people over and over. My favorite reaction was Michelle's. She gasped, walked over to me, and began to cry! I've always pictured her as a really tender-hearted, sweet sweet person. And she is. :)

Meeting so many women that I've only known online and never thought I'd GET the chance to meet - oh, what a gift. I feel so rejuventated. So completely blessed. So incredibly lucky to be a part of this family. So overwhelmingly grateful to Tiffany for her generosity, her genuine servant heart, and her crazy antics that rocked the weekend. The Michigan and Ontario gals are an AMAZING group of talented, fun, crazy, loving women. I can't imagine a better way to have kicked off the new year. In them, I've found a whole new crop of real-life friends. It was an amazing weekend, and they made me feel so completely loved and welcomed.
And Tiffany. Word to the Mommas! As Lee would say, "We're like sistahs from anothah mothah!" And as Lee's daughter would say, "No, they're like sisters from another mister!" Whatever the case, we're like sisters. We had lots of opportunity to talk in the car between Detroit and East Lansing, and deeeeeep into the night in our hotel room. Tiffany is just like me in that she's a little wild and crazy, a lot crass, really loud when she's having fun, up for anything, not afraid of much, and still totally and completely in love with God. LOVE LOVE LOVE that about her! And guess what?? She's coming to Fort Worth in May! For a WEEK!! WHEEEEEEE!!

Here we are. I love you, Tiff! Thanks for the gift of a lifetime. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to pay it forward. :D