30 Day Challenge – The Results

At the beginning of June, I shared that I was embarking on a challenge to try as many new things as I could over the next 30 days, in order to break out of routine and see what kinds of opportunities popped up. Well, now I’m back to share the results!

I have to admit that I was very gung-ho at the beginning of the month, changing up or trying all kinds of things – big and little. As June wore on, I focused on it less and less. I still think I reaped a lot of benefits, some of them rather suprising.

Here are a few of the highlights:

June 1: I had a training class in the morning but we got out early. Instead of going home or running errands, I decided to use my unexpected free time to get a pedicure. I haven’t had a “real” pedicure in years. I usually prefer to save the money and just paint my nails myself. But, this is about doing new things so, to the salon I went. It was actually really nice and very relaxing. I splurged to have her do the extra spa treatment with the hot stones, and to also paint a design. Turned out really cool and it was a nice respit in the middle of the afternoon.

June 3: Sundays in the summer mean going to the lake and playing volleyball. This particular Sunday there was a lot of traffic along our normal route, so we went a different way. This alternate route ended up taking us through the neighborhood CJ lived in when we started dating. The girls have never been there so as we drove through, we pointed out places and told them stories. We then drove around the lake from the opposite side that we normally do and they saw all the big beautiful lake homes. It was a really nice family drive.

When we got there, we picked out a spot on the beach to set up that was over further than our usual. It was secluded and kind of quiet, which was great. We had it all to ourselves until a church group came in and did a baptism in the lake! Had we sat where we normally do, we never would have seen that. A day full of surprises all around!

June 8: CJ and I had a date night on a river boat! It’s something we did when we were dating but hadn’t been on one in years. This particular cruise featured a Beatles cover band. It was hot but we had a lovely time crusing along the river, with spectacular views of downtown Omaha, while listening to some good music. We even ran in to a couple people we knew!

June 10: The girls came down in the morning and announced they were going to have a “Flavored Water Stand” outside and sell cups of water for $.50 each that people could add their own flavoring to. They got to work making signs and pulling everything together. I figured it was just a game and didn’t think much of it. But then after lunch, they wanted to go out and set it up! They asked me if they could and I thought of a million reasons to say no:

  • There wouldn’t be a good ROI (in other words no one would buy anything and then I’d have 2 sad girls on my hands)
  • There wasn’t enough time ( I would have to sit out with them and I had other things to do)
  • The conditions weren’t right (it was too hot to sit outside in the blazing sun)
  • They wouldn’t see it through and I’d end up doing all the work
  • The quality would be poor (and customers would be upset)

But then I looked at my girls who had put all this energy in to creating their water stand – they had signs to post around the neighborhood, colored cups ready, flavoring lined up, and a stand built to put it on. Even though I had reasons why it might not work, there was also a chance it would – and valuable lessons to learn either way. So I said yes.

The result? They stayed out there for 45 minutes and made $12! I asked my oldest what her goal was and she said $3. So she far exceeded her goal and learned a lot (lesson #1: don’t go in to business with your 5 year old sister who lasted 2 whole minutes before going back inside). In the end it was fun for them (and yes I’ll admit, fun for me), taught them some good lessons in business and they made a few bucks too. Glad I opened my mind to something new!

June 12 – 13: It was easy to find new things to do these 2 days because I was out of town for work. We went to Jersey City. The first night we got there we went in to Manhattan to see a show on Broadway. This in and of itself isn’t new for me as I saw a bunch of them back when I lived there. However, I was with a new group of gals who had never been themselves so experiencing it through their eyes was what made it fun. We ate Junior’s cheesecake then headed over to watch Denzel Washington perform in “The Iceman Cometh”. It was a good show, but a long one. We were all tired and got a little bored actually, but it was fun.

The next night we had drinks on a rooftop bar that looks out over the city, and then went to Grove Street for dinner, followed by karaoke. I won’t get in to all the details (what happens at O’Hara’s stays at O’Hara’s) but let’s just say when you combine lots of alcohol with karaoke, it gets pretty interesting.

We also had an run in with some Jersey cops. We weren’t sure where to go at one point. I saw a group of police officers standing on a corner so I walked over and asked for directions. They were very nice and eager to help. They even took a selfie with us! Another fun first!

June 22: played in a volleyball tournament that went for almost 5 hours. I haven’t done a tournament in years because they’re on the weekends and I don’t like to have that much weekend time away from the girls. But this one was Thursday night, during when we normally play. We played well and made it to the final game. In the end, we lost and took 2nd place but it was a fun night, great workout, and awesome new experience.

June 24: the girls and I went to the beach by ourselves because CJ was sick. We ventured over to a side of the beach we don’t usually go to and had all kinds of fun. Then on the way home, instead of going straight there, we made a detour to stop at a playground. Isabella had to borrow my shirt because she didn’t want to be out in just her swimsuit. Fortunately I had a sleeveless dress that I was using as a cover up so I wore that. She told me I looked naked because my shoulders were bare. After playing, we ran to the drive thru and apparently I did look naked because the high school kid in the drive thru was all stutters and then called a friend over and they were both ogling me. They even forgot to give me my drink! I just laughed about it.

June 30: I spent the last week of the month sick with a bad cold. However, on the last day of the month, we made it over to Council Bluffs for the annual Pride Parade. We have marched in the parade before, 2 years ago. The girls were super excited and they decorated the little car Cora was going to ride in. They also made litte notes to hand out that said, “Happy Pride Parade Day!”

Cora handed out the notes, along with candy, as we marched in the parade and Isabella pushed her. They were so proud and everyone thought the notes were very sweet.

We had a lot of fun and it was a great chance to introduce the girls to something that’s full of love and teaches acceptance. They are already talking about doing it again next year!

And that was the end of the month! Looking back, it was a very full and busy month, with lots of new experiences. Some big, some small, but all valuable in their own way. While you can’t always travel to mix things up, you can find simple things to do every day. The results may surprise you!!

Up up and away

I love to travel. I also love to people watch. Flying gives me the opportunity to do both.

I’ve never been one to sleep on planes. I can’t relax enough. I get too keyed in to the noise around me….people talking and moving around in their seats, papers shuffling, rifling through bags, coughing, etc. Plus I get paranoid about people watching me or doing things to me. Hey, don’t judge.

Since I don’t sleep, I’ll usually read. Most of the time that’s enough to fill the time.

That wasn’t the case on my most recent flight though. I was on a flight from Omaha to Newark and it was about 3 hours. Not terribly long, but long enough. I read for about an hour. Closed my eyes for a few minutes but to no avail. A girl’s gotta try. So, that’s when the people watching kicks in. I watch and observe and put together stories in my mind as to what their lives are like.

First there was my seat mate. Here are the deets:

  • Early 30’s and married
  • Dress is casual but hip – dark wash jeans, salmon colored button up
  • Thin build with a shaved head.
  • He is reading a book on how to grow and stretch yourself on the job.
  • Old Timex watch
  • Unfriendly – never said a word to me the whole flight
  • Germaphobe. At one point, he bumped me with his elbow while getting his book out and immediately recoiled and wiped his elbow. A bit later, when handing the stewardess some trash, his arm grazed mine twice and he visibly shifted in his chair, wiped his arm, and I think he might have shuddered.
  • But, he has B.O.

Here’s the story I made up in my head about him.

His name is Ethan. He’s married to Alisha and they have 2 little kids. He has a job where he has to travel a lot, probably a consultant of some kind, and he’s trying to climb his way up the ladder. He wife buys his clothes because she wants him to be trendy and look good at work. He’s gotten used to it. The job requires him to interact with people to get sales. That doesn’t come naturally to him. He is introverted but forces himself to be extroverted at work. All that “show” is exhausting so he only does it when he has to. He doesn’t like all the travel but it’s necessary. Airplanes are full of germs. Hotels are full of germs. At least he gets a lot of Hyatt points. Also, flying makes him nervous… and a 3 hour flight? Deodorant failure waiting to happen. He senses that he’s a little ripe so he physically moves away from me on the plane. He’s embarrassed by it. Appearance and impressions are everything. Besides, what could he have in common with a tatted up chick? It’s best to keep reading until the flight is over.

On the flight home, I sat next to a lady who wanted to talk but was socially awkward. I tried to be nice and chat some but also give her hints that I wanted some space and not to be bothered. She did not get the hints.

  • Late 40s or early 50s, married with 2 older kids (she told me this)
  • Long blonde hair, partially pulled back. It’s starting to come loose though
  • She’s wearing peach pants and a matching cardigan, with a flowered shirt underneath
  • She has a half empty cup of ice in the seat pocket, a long with a big black binder and file folder
  • She’s looking at her phone but is turned so that she is leaning against the wall and holding the phone toward me me…almost like she is filming me with it
  • She squirms a lot

Here is her story:

Her name is Ellen. She works for a transportation company doing research. She travels around the country meeting with buyers. Her husband is an accountant and works a lot…all the travel has made them estranged. Her oldest is off to college and her youngest is starting high school. She has ADHD. It’s hard for her to sit still and concentrate, especially on a long flight. She tries to do some work but gets bored. She looks to see what I’m doing (which is reading) and turns so that she can read it too. She’s also very nosy. She’s curious about me so she starts asking random questions….how long have I been married? Do I have kids? Why am I traveling? Where do I work? When I turn back to my book, she shifts in her seat and tries to sleep. She’s tired from the week away but can’t quiet her mind. She thinks about home and her family. Her son will be working or out with friends when she gets home. Her daughter probably locked in her room watching TV. Her husband will be in his home office working. No one will even notice when she returns home. She’s lonely. She thinks about next week and how she’ll be traveling again. She needs a break. She turns to me and smiles a sad, tired smile and says she is glad to be home. It sounds forced and she knows it.

I wonder what stories people make up about me? Do they think I travel a lot? Do they wonder if I’m a badass because I have a tattoo on my wrist? Do they observe me reading and not talking and assume I am quiet and introverted? Do I look like a wife and mom? Do I look like someone in technology or in management?

I guess we never know what impressions we give off to others and how accurate their assumptions are. We’ll probably never know. And how easy it is to change those impressions by simply changing what you wear, what you do, what you eat, or how you act.

Who do you want to be on your next flight?

Long Holiday Weekends

I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come!

Er, or went.

I mentioned in my wrap up of May goals that we had snuck away for a 3 day vacay to Kansas City over the Memorial Day weekend. I love holiday weekends, particularly when I can stretch it out even longer by taking a couple extra days off!

It was a much different trip than the one we took around this time last year, when we drove to Michigan to visit family and then made an extended road trip out of it.

It’s amazing to me how much less stuff Isabella needed than she did only a year ago. She’s sleeping in a big girl bed so we didn’t need a Pack-n-play. She can eat out of a high chair or booster seat so no travel seat necessary. We broke her of the pacifier habit so there was no time spent frantically searching for dropped oobies. She needs less stuff in general so we could get by with a smaller diaper bag and stroller, instead of the honking massive one we used before, and we didn’t need to dedicate a whole suitcase to “entertainment items”. We simply packed our travel DVD player, some new movies and few new coloring books.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It was nice to NOT have a car this full…


…and instead we had only about 1/3 of that amount of stuff. Helps with gas mileage too!

We hit the road at 9 a.m. Thursday morning (after dropping Samson off at my parent’s house) and arrived in KC around 12:45 p.m. (with only one stop for potty breaks and snacks). We drove straight to Country Club Plaza where we wandered around until we found a good lunch spot.

Along our wanders we found this boar statue.


Legend has it that rubbing its nose is good luck so Isabella was all over that. We also found this other fountain.


Finally we decided on a lunch spot – Classic Cup Sidewalk Café. It wasn’t exactly kid friendly – as in no kids menu – though they did at least have high chairs so I guess that’s something.


I ordered the mac n’cheese (like, duh) and CJ got a bison burger. We split these with Isabella. All the food was great and after chilling for a bit, we headed out again to explore. However, it was a very hot day and Isabella was refusing to ride in the stroller, yet she was obviously tired. Anyone who has kids can do the math on that one.

Hot day + tired kid = crabby pants

She literally threw such a fit in one of the toy stores when I told her we had to change her poopy diaper that the clerk let us use the employee restroom in the very depths of the storeroom – far away from paying customers that might be bothered by screaming toddlers. Then again, if they’re in a toy store, they’re probably used to screaming kids.

Due to that, we didn’t wander around for very long. We decided to cut it short and just head to the hotel. Not before buying Munchkin this cute little yellow hat though, which she was totally working by the way.


We checked in to our hotel, the Drury Inn which we LOVE because they have an awesome free hot breakfast every morning AND free happy hour every evening, which includes hot food. We totally made that our dinner Thursday night. They had hot dogs, chicken tenders, nachos, soup, salad, and a baked potato bar. Done and done.

Isabella had a lot of fun pulling her own suitcase and pushing the elevator buttons. That became the fun game of the whole trip.



Our room was a suite which meant CJ and I had a bedroom that was separated from the living space, where we had Isabella sleep on the fold out couch. Worked beautifully!


Friday was LEGOland day! I had purchased our tickets ahead of time online (which I strongly encourage you to do should you ever decide to visit. They were nearly $10 cheaper per ticket and we were able to jump to the front of the line) and our scheduled entrance time was 11 a.m. We got there a bit early but they let us right in.

After being admitted, you wait in line as they send up groups of 10 or so at a time. While you wait there are these cool girl and boy statues made all out of LEGOS! Isabella thought they were pretty awesome.


The first area to visit is a room with 4 or 5 activities for the kids and everyone gets a free commemorative Lego piece. You exit there and head to the “Kingdom’s Quest” which is actually a ride during which you shoot LEGO zombies with laser guns!

Cool, right? We thought so. Isabella, not so much. To be honest, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to. We were just standing in this line, a girl told us to get in the next car and off we went! Munchkin covered her ears the whole time while CJ and I killed some zombies.

She was so traumatized that she whimpered the whole time we were in the miniatures room, which was super freakin’ awesome! They basically used LEGOs to build many of Kansas City’s cityscape and monuments, including downtown:


Arrowhead Stadium (which we’ve frequented a couple times!)


Kansas Speedway:


The Plaza:


And even scenes from the Wizard of Oz!




(all the scenes are lighted too and every 5 minutes or so they dim the lights so you can see the buildings all lit up!)

No need to worry about Isabella, the next stop on our tour was a big area dedicated to fun and playtime for kids – including these –


A pit of giant foamy LEGO blocks. Isabella got to work building a tower that was taller than she is!


She was mighty proud of it too, until some reckless little punk knocked it down and told her she shouldn’t build things so big. I was about to give him a piece of my mind when I realized that picking a fight with a 6 year old probably wasn’t in the spirit of LEGOland, so we moved on…


We stayed there for a while, making things and eating lunch, and then wandered to the cupcake building factory (there was also a race track area. Kid you not; it was filled with dads and their sons building cars while the moms/wives stood around looking bored).


After a few minutes there, we exited and did some shopping in the LEGO store.

Next stop: Sea Life Aquarium – which happened to be adjacent to LEGOland. Again, because we had purchased tix online, we walked right in, past the line of about 50 people. So long suckas!

Now, being as how we’re from Omaha, home to the *cough cough* #1 zoo in America *cough cough*, with an awesome aquarium, we weren’t expecting much. The Sea Life Aquarium is not as big as ours but it is nice and we enjoyed it. Definitely worth a visit. Isabella had a partial meltdown at the beginning but we were able to get her through it.

Seeing daddy in this bubble helped.


As did this tunnel.


And this one.


We had to leave in a hurry as she started screaming again when I reprimanded her for throwing sand out of a sandbox they had. We were free and clear until I realized we had left the stroller inside. CJ went in and found it all the way back at the bubble. At least we got it!

Isabella was asleep before we even pulled the car out of the spot.


She’ll thank me for that picture one day.

Once back at the hotel, CJ stayed in the car with her and snoozed while I went inside and crashed in the bed. After we all awoke, we snuggled up and watched “Despicable Me” which was on HBO. Turned out to be a really cute movie.

Then we ventured out for some good ole KC BBQ, which we found at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue.


Isabella was getting antsy while we waited for our food to come out, so in desperation I downloaded a free app to my phone called Doodle Buddy.

Best download I’ve ever made.

It’s an app that allows you to paint/draw on varied backgrounds or pictures. They have stamps too, which are silly and make sounds. That little app kept her entertained for quite a while (and still does).

We stayed in that night and watched “The Lion King”, which I had purchased for the trip and she loved it, and then hit the sack. We were all beat from a long day.

Saturday was our last day there and as such we checked out of the hotel and headed to the Powell Botanical Gardens for the “Fairy Houses and Forts” exhibition.

I have been to my fair share of Botanical Gardens. We have a decent one in Omaha, I spent many a day in the New York one when I lived there, and CJ and I visited the Missouri gardens in St. Louis many years ago. All are gorgeous. You really can’t go wrong with being outside surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Of those 3, New York takes the cake as it’s freakin’ huge and awesome.

But I think the Powell Gardens might be my new favorite. It was well laid out, with fun and surprising things around every corner, and the Fairy Houses and Forts were uber cool. I know those aren’t a permanent fixture but they sure made us happy!


It was a hot day so we kept our visit to about 2 hours. That was plenty of time to walk around and see each of the Fairy Houses and Forts.


They were all so different and unique.


Some were whimsical.


Some were adventurous.


Some were just plain cool.


After seeing them all, we headed inside to grab some lunch. The cafeteria there was really nice. It had simple food (burgers and sandwiches) but they were all prepared to order with fresh garden ingredients. Definitely hit the spot after a couple hours of walking and sweating!

From there we hit the road back home.

The best part about a 3 day trip at the beginning of a long holiday weekend? We still had 2 days left to relax once we got home!

Sunday was spent at the beach….


…and Memorial Day was spent chilling with family at our place.


What a great start to the summer! Here’s to many more adventures to come in the months ahead!

Random Thought Wednesday

Feels like it’s been forever since I wrote anything. I suppose it has been if forever is 5 days. A lot has happened since my last real life entry.

1. I went to Texas. I had never been to Texas before. It’s a pretty big state. You’d think I’d have crossed its borders at some point before last week, but you would be wrong. I was sent to Forth Worth for work. 

Leaving Omaha:




Arriving in DFW:


The flight out was fine but the cabbie I got to take me in to the office was a jackhole. He made me load my own bag, enter my the address in the GPS, applied deodorant while driving and then had me unload my own bags. Really dude?

My stay was decent. Generally, work trips involve working hard all day and drinking all night. Not this one. No one involved in the meetings wanted to go out so I had to make my own party. I called upon a co-worker who’s based out of FW and he shuttled me around, showing off the highlights (if by highlights you count a Mexican restaurant in Roanoke, a sports bar in one of the suburbs and a pub in downtown). But we had fun chatting, drinking and watching the Rangers kick some Tiger butt so it was all good.



Turns out Fort Worth isn’t all that different from Omaha. They’re both spread out, built around the slaughterhouses, and have a lot of construction going on. FW is just twice as big. And for the record, I didn’t see any cowboy hats – not one!

The drive back to the airport I was able to get a car service and that driver was awesome. In his spare time he works security for Cowboy Stadium so we had a LOT to talk about. He’s originally from Kansas City and is a huge Chiefs fan. CJ and I plan to go down to KC in November for the Chiefs/Steelers game so I told Willy we’d look him up. He invited us to his families tailgating party. I guess they do it up right with all kinds of BBQ and what not. Count me in Willy! Just don’t get mad when the Steelers kick some KC butt!

2. We finally got all our stuff from storage. For the record DO NOT EVER HIRE MAYFLOWER SELECT VAN AND STORAGE TO DO YOUR MOVE! They cheated and stole from us. So, we hired Two Men and a Truck to do the storage move. They showed up 5 hours late. Poor CJ was parked out at the storage place that whole time waiting for them. But at least they apologized and gave us a break on the cost. That was appreciated.

3. I’m pretty sure our little child genius did subtraction the other night. It was time for bed and she told me she was going to bring 3 of her stuffed animals with her. When she got to the stairs and looked up she realized it might be challenging to climb up all those steps with her 3 friends in tow. So she handed me one and said, “Here mommy, you take one. That leaves me with 2.” I just stared at her for a minute while I did the math on my fingers and realized she was right.

4. Tonight we hung Halloween lights in the front windows – ghosts, bats, pumpkins and skulls. She was helping and when we were all done, I turned off the lights and when she saw them all lit up she said, “Wow! That’s perfect!” I love how in awe kids are of the little things. Things we take for granted.

5. I bought a boot camp package today – it’s a one month trial thing. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I need a challenge. All my workout gear is still packed up and so need something different to energize me. I think this just might do the trick. Plus it includes a pre and post fitness assessment. I’m really curious for my results!!!

6. My Fantasy Football team is totally tanking this year. Oddly, I’m not all that upset about it. We started bad and never got any better so I’ve accepted it and moved on.

Well, time to head down and chillax for a bit until bed. 5 am comes awfully fast!

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Trader Family Road Trip – Day 7: Capital M

Our day in Madison was the most low key of the trip, which was good since we were all tired and getting homesick. Our first stop was the Capitol building itself and then we were going to head out to Ella’s Deli before hitting the road to home.

Before I continue, let’s settle the heated debate once and for all over the difference between “capitol” and “capital”. I for one don’t know when to use which version! According to this source, “capitol” is a  U.S. state legislature building or the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. A “capital” is a city that serves as a seat of government. So….state capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the U.S. Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. There – clear as mud!

Now back to the show!

We got to the downtown area just fine but trying to find parking was a whole other matter. The capitol is in the center of the “wheel” and the streets come out from it both going around in a circle and as straight lines (like spokes). If you get on the circular streets, you literally just go around in a circle if you’re not careful because only the outside lanes can turn off. Yet, those lanes are reserved for buses. So you can see our predicament. Eventually I said “screw it”, veered over in to the bus lane and was able to turn off the merry go round we were on.

Once we parked, we hoofed it to the capitol. The building itself pretty typical of most capitols that we’ve seen.


As a general rule, capitol buildings tend to mimic the U.S. Capitol in D.C. The few exceptions have been Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa (this one’s my fav so far). But all are unique in the sense that they are designed to reflect their state and all that it represents.

We walked around the outside, seeing all the statues and sculptures, then ventured in.


Normally we try to take a guided tour, but this tour was an hour long and we knew Isabella wouldn’t last. So we walked around on our own.


You can take an elevator up and then climb some stairs out on to the roof, just under the dome, and get a nice view of the city.




As we were leaving, we ran in to a group of protestors in the main lobby area who were singing songs. Not sure what issue/person they were protesting but the song sounded nice.


By this time we were ready for lunch and decided to try an Irish Pub across the street. We sat outside and enjoyed some ale while waiting for our food. Gumby even joined in!


Isabella was in a feisty mood and did NOT want to sit still. After I finished eating, she and I went next door to a fancy chocolate shop called Candinas. When I walked in, I seriously thought it was an art gallery. The whole place was empty and stark except for one glass case that had chocolate boxes in it. The gal helping me offered us a sample and presented it to us on a fancy platter. We bought a box of 2 pieces and paid $5.

From there we walked through the Farmer’s Market to a building we had seen on the drive in. Turns out it was the Monona Terrace done in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright (who we love). It was very pretty and had great views of the Lake.


We didn’t linger long though because we were hot and tired. Once we found the car, we headed to Ella’s Deli for an ice cream sundae!

Ella’s is famous for all their animatronic figures. And they didn’t disappoint! The place was so chalked full of them, Isabella was in awe and couldn’t even take it all in!



They even had a working carousel out front that we rode! Isabella and CJ sat on a bench while I rode on a horse. I almost fell over trying to get off of it. The guy manning the ride got a kick out of that.


(Look! It’s CJ’s hand wave!)


(and mine too!)

Then it was time to head out of town and mosey toward home. The plan was to get as far as Cedar Rapids (so I could see some old peeps!) but we had to stop in Dubuque for gas and decided to just stay there for the night. More on that to come!

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