Friday, December 23, 2016

My Favorite Christmas Memory As An Adult

My favorite Christmas memory is from a time when we had very, very little money.  We were planning on building a house on our 5 acre property and had moved out of our home that we were selling.  In the interim, we moved into my husband's Grandmother's house, who graciously opened her home to us during our "in between" time.

Ben had taken a new job so we could pay our bills after his previous employer had cut his salary by nearly 1/3 due to removing his on-call pay.  The new job was with a company that lacked training and organizational structure and he was let go near the end of his probationary status.  This was in October.  While he looked relentlessly for a new job, his loss was during a time of many cutbacks and a job was hard to find.  Our in between time turned into a longer period than we originally expected.  By the generosity of his Grandmother and my parents, we were able to make it through, bit by bit.

December came fast and our financial situation did not allow for a frivolous Christmas.  Fortunately, little one's list was limited.  She wanted Bernie and Pinky (two unicorns I had included in my stories that I told several nights before bed), pajamas and soap (yes, you read that right).  We collected pine cones from the yard and painted them to make Christmas trees for her dollhouse.  Then we painted more pine cones to decorate the tree with.  I bought a large bucket of plaster of paris and we made change holders molded from apples for Christmas gifts.  We also got some gifts for Grandmom and put them in a stocking (we found out Grandmom had never gotten a stocking).

On Christmas morning, we went downstairs and prepared to open our gifts.  We got Grandmom up (she was a late sleeper) and the look on her face when she saw her stocking was priceless.  She went through it ever so patiently, enjoying each item.  Little one opened her gifts, of which were few.  The last one she opened had the unicorns and the foam soap in it.  She went nuts!  She was over the moon about having foam soap.

My heart was fullest on that day and I often reflect on the generosity, love, patience, perseverance and kindness that really shined through during this time.  One of my coworkers gave us a gift card to IHOP.  At that time, I couldn't even remember the last time we had food from anywhere outside of our kitchen.  Another coworker encouraged me to apply for a job I had been looking for when I was nervous about making a change while Ben was out of work (I got the job).  Good things happen even in hard times, we just have to be open to seeing them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fun Moments in Travel - Episode 9

Oh mercy, do I have another story for you about fun moments in travel!  On our weekend trip to D.C. (see Episode 6), we parked in a parking garage as suggested by the hotel where we were staying and left the car there for the weekend.  We planned to head out Monday morning to avoid the influx of traffic sure to be heading in on Memorial Day.  We headed to our car to leave around 9:30 a.m.  When we drove to the exit, there was a car directly in front of us next to an empty booth where someone was supposed to be collecting money.  The mechanical arm granting our freedom was in the down position.

We both got out of our cars and spoke to a couple that was sitting nearby, also apparently waiting to get out of the garage.  They had been there an hour and tried calling the parking garage company, speaking with the hotel staff and even the building manager that was on site but no one would/could open the gate.  They even called the police to no avail.  Fortunately, the other family called the police and managed to explain the situation in such a way that they came out and spoke to him in person which followed with a dispatch to the fire department (not sure if he used my term, "false imprisonment," but in my head, that's what made this ball start rolling).

To my surprise, the fire department was apparently located just around the corner and within 5 minutes, firefighters were literally walking into the parking garage with axes.  I was internally freaking out because, for some reason, when people show up carrying axes, it is then that I realize something is wrong.  They looked over the mechanical arm to figure out if dismantling it was an option.  If not, I am assuming, they would have axed it, literally.  While the firefighters were doing this, the building manager that had been so incredibly unhelpful an hour prior was suddenly agreeable to calling the parking garage company and getting the matter resolved that way.  The police officer took the man aside and seemed to explain to him that he had already missed that opportunity and instructed the firefighters to move forward with dismantling the arm.  This was delightful to witness because this guy was smug the first time he spoke with the police officer.  Seeing him not get his way and hearing the tone of voice the officer was a treat for me.

Within 5 minutes, we were free to go.  No one took our information.  I thought sure we would receive a bill from the parking garage in a week or two.

As predicted, a few weeks later, Ben and I received a letter in the mail from Washington, D.C.  Walking back to the house from the mailbox I thought, here it is.  When I opened it and found a $100 speeding ticket, you can imagine my surprise!  Upon researching online, we found out there is a specific six lane road (three lanes on each side) on the way in to D.C. that slows down to 35 for no reason other than a speed trap (this single one reportedly brought in $5 MILLION + within a single fiscal year).  Ben wrote a letter requesting the charges to be dropped for several reasons and, to my surprise, they dropped it (thank you internet)!

While the beginning of our trapped adventure had me on edge (there was no way anyone at work would believe me if I told them I couldn't make it to work on Tuesday because I was stuck in a parking garage in Washington, D.C. all day Monday), I rode away with a laugh and a smile because, like my job, you can't make this stuff up.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fun Moments in Travel - Episode 8

Time shares are amazing!  Seriously, I love them.  Time shares, home away and VRBO have been super good to us over the years.  On one of our trips to Disney, we stayed at a time share with one of our friends.  We had been there for a good three or four days and all of us were pleasantly sleeping upstairs except for Ben, who was having trouble sleeping and decided to go downstairs to watch tv and drift off to sleep.  At an early hour of the morning, he was awoken by a loud knock at the door.

When he approached the door, he looked through the viewer and saw a police officer.  He said through the door, "I am opening the door. I have children sleeping upstairs."  Apparently, the officer had been called by the management company with a report of squatters in our condo.  Ben spoke with the officer and they went over to the management office to discuss the matter.  It was cleared up without further incident while the rest us slept through the entire situation.

While I am always concerned when Ben sleeps away from the bed (because it means he doesn't feel good), I can't explain how thankful I was that he was downstairs on that night.  The thought of a police officer coming upstairs and walking into a bedroom, possibly waking up the sleeping girls or any of us is not something I think about often because of the worry that comes with it.  I suppose this wouldn't be reflected on as a "fun moment" in travel but then when you realize that we were potentially squatters, you've got to find the laugh in there somewhere.