Omaha’s Oasis

One of the best ways to spend a refreshing day while on vacation is to take advantage of the serenity of a botanical garden. A place to escape the hustle, bustle of a jammed packed vacation schedule in a quiet, peaceful setting often in the middle of an urban area.


That’s exactly what we encountered at the Laurentiza Botanical Garden in Omaha. Afternoons and evenings spent cheering double plays and home runs were broken up by time spend wandering through the well kept gardens.


In addition to the flowers and paths, an area was set aside for birds. A variety of birdhouses encouraged birds to take up residence, and we even saw as one ground turkey.


A Model Railroad Garden as well as a Children’s Garden provide entertainment for guests of all ages.


And while “Nature is the Art of God”, Lauritzen knows a little mman made art doesn’t hurt.


Relaxing in an urban oasis like the one we found in Omaha is a great way to recharge before.




Don’t Be a Distracted Hiker


While hiking down the trail from Multanoah Falls in Oregon, a young woman walking behind me fell forward landing on her knees. This was not a steep trail. It was paved. And only four tenths of a mile from the parking lot.

Despite being an easy trail, this twenty something fell. And while I can’t say for certain why this happened, I immediately noticed three problems.


First, she was wearing the wrong shoes. No hiking boots. No sneakers. Instead she had on sandals. Yes, they were more heavy duty than those you might wear to the beach, but without a back on the shoe, they left plenty of room for her foot to slip.

Second, instead of watching her step or enjoying the scenery, she was looking at her phone. Maybe texting. Maybe checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Maybe posting on one of those sites. Whatever the reason, she was not in the moment and distracted.


Finally, because she was holding her phone, her hands were not available so she could catch herself. She fell on her knees while saving the phone.

The result of her fall: one bruised ego, two scraped knees and a limp which probably made it difficult if not impossible to take any more hikes for the day.

Too bad to ruin the day before noon.

I know you’ll want to use your phone on a hike. My phone serves as my trusty camera, but it’s important to be smart about its use. Pull it out when you stop walking. Secure it during the hike so you don’t worry about dropping or losing it. Can you keep it in a zipped pocket or a backpack? Better to miss a shot than take a trip to the ER.

Going for a hike? Enjoy your surroundings and don’t be a distracted hiker.


50 Fun Summer Activities Checklist


Now that we’re a week into summer it seems like a good time to start planning for a little summer fun. I posted this list of 50 Fun Summer Activities last year, but thought it serves as a good reminder to get out and have some fun in the sun! (Don’t forget your sunscreen.)


A couple of years ago I registered on the Real Simple website for about a dozen of their emails with tips, recipes, and DIY projects. I’ve unsubscribed to most of them because I really don’t need to have my inbox flooded with additional email, however, I still receive a weekly email called Easy Ideas to Help Organize Your Life. This week’s edition included a checklist with 50 fun summer activities. It’s designed so it can be saved and items can be checked off as completed.

I’m not sure how this organizes my life, but there are many fun ideas so I thought I’d share. Get your own list at Real Simple or sign up for some of their newsletters.

Good news! There are still 52 days until the autumnal equinox on September 22 so there’s time to complete the list. (Those is italicized print are the ones I’ve completed!)


  • See a movie at the drive-in (We’ve tried, but it’s always raining!)
  • Walk on the boardwalk and listen to the boards creak under your feet
  • Blow bubbles
  • Play tag, hopscotch, or one of your favorite childhood games
  • Ride a roller coaster
  • Play miniature golf
  • Win a prize at the fair
  • Catch fireflies at night (Didn’t catch any, but saw some in Sanibel in June.)
  • Build a sandcastle at the beach

Eat and Drink

  • Eat a whole lobster with your hands
  • Pick berries and peaches at a farm
  • Buy a Creamsicle from the neighborhood ice cream truck
  • Roast marshmallows over a fire and make s’mores
  • Make lemonade from scratch
  • Eat corn on the cob
  • Sip a sweating glass of iced tea
  • Eat a slice of watermelon
  • Buy fresh produce at the farmers’ market
  • Mix up a pitcher of sangria
  • Eat a soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles
  • Dig your own clams
  • Have a barbecue


  • Nap in a hammock
  • Have a picnic in the park
  • Sit on a porch swing
  • Stargaze while lying in the grass
  • Watch the sun set from a beach
  • Dangle your feet off a dock
  • Bring a blanket and lie on the grass at an outdoor concert 

The Great Outdoors

  • Pick wildflowers
  • Swim in a lake
  • Rent a bike (Bought a bike!)
  • Go fishing
  • Go camping
  • Play tennis
  • Go for a hike
  • Go kayaking or canoeing
  • Toss a Frisbee

Just Because

  • Collect seashells at the beach
  • Take a last-minute road trip
  • See a summer blockbuster
  • Read a trashy novel
  • Walk barefoot in the grass
  • Get caught in a summer rainstorm (Every day!)
  • Sleep with the windows open
  • Make a summer playlist
  • Smell freshly-cut grass
  • Feel the sun on your back
  • Go to a baseball game

I thought making homemade ice cream and visiting a national or state park should be included on the list. What would you add?



The Year of the Cicada

It seems that each year brings encounters with an animal that makes it memorable. Last year, it was swimming with manatee. One year it was watching sea turtles lay eggs and another it was watching the sea turtles emerge from their shells.

In other years, black bears, grizzly bears, killer whales and moose have made the year memorable. This year, we didn’t make any animal related plans so we were quite surprised when we exited our car at Platte River State Park in Nebraska to the racket of a cicada brood.

The pulsating buzz of the insects that emerged after spending 17 years underground earlier this month has created a lot of excitement for etymologists since the last time this species appeared was in 1998.

The trees were loaded with cicadas. The noise created was unbelievable. Apparently the “song” of the male cicadas comes from vibrating abdomens of the insects in hopes of attracting a female.

What a stroke of luck! We witnessed the Brood IV cicadas…ones that won’t be seen again until 2032.

Yes, 2015, is the year of the cicada.

TBT Lesson #56

How adorable! Young children look so cute in sunglasses. These heart shaped, crooked, too big sunglasses bring a smile to my face.

Trips to the beach or lake were always an excuse to buy not only buckets, shovels, and floats, but also sunglasses. And while these plastic ones don’t provide much, if any, protection from the sun, they teach a lesson about protecting your eyes from the rays of the sun.

IMG_7531TBT Lesson #56: You’re never too young to start the sunglasses habit.

History Happens Here!

History Happens Here!

That’s the slogan for the College World Series, and the history we were most interested in on our trip to Omaha was baseball history, but we also squeezed in a trip to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge where we walked from Nebraska across the Missouri River to Iowa.

We even managed to find time to go to the North Platte State Park, the Lauritzen Gardens Botanical Center, and the old Rosenblatt Stadium where the College World Series was originally played in Omaha.

Instead of posting pictures, here’s a Flipagram created by John, a quick and easy slideshow maker.

Did you notice that four of the teams on the shirt from 2004 also played in this year’s series? Arkansas, Miami, Cal State Fullerton, and LSU

I Wanted to Get to Omaha in the Worst Way

As I boarded the plane to Omaha last week, I was reminded of former Utah Senator, Mo Udall’s opening line of a speech given at Western Carolina University in 1977. He started by saying that he wanted to come to Cullowhee in the worst way…so he flew Piedmont.  Piedmont was a regional airline serving Western North Carolina and the butt of many jokes.

However, after flying Allegiant Airlines, I think Mo would have considered Piedmont a luxury airline.

We flew Allegiant because the flight was half the price of one of the major airlines. It was a good way to make a quick trip for a relatively low price. However, upon reserving our tickets, I found Allegiant charges for EVERYTHING.


Paying for checked luggage was no surprise, but there is also an $18 fee for carry on bags (that’s $18 each way).
There’s a charge for priority boarding and another for selecting a seat on the plane, and not just a seat with perks like extra leg room but any seat…with the warning that seats will be assigned without regard to those traveling together. (I decided to take my chance on this one.)
Failure to check in prior to arrival at the airport would result in another $5 fee if a boarding pass needed to be printed at the airport kiosk.
All food and beverages incur charges, including water.

It even cost extra to pay for the tickets using a credit card. Another excuse for a $10 fee.

Upon boarding I wondered if we were required to pay for air conditioning since the plane was extremely warm and stuffy.

Of course, the lack of leg room was expected. After all, we were on a plane, but the noise not only surprised me, but frightened me. I can only compare the sound in the plane to that of the roar heard inside the cockpit of bombers seen in movies. You know, the ones where the crew is forced to shout at one another to be heard. I’ve never noticed hearing the sound of engines accelerating and decelerating will in flight and the noises heard when preparing to land was quite unexpected. I wondered if the low fares were really worth it.

I can honestly say that the pilot and crew were wonderful on the way to Omaha. They helped inspire confidence in a plane that left a lot to be desired. I even thought I could look for future Allegiant deals.

IMG_9370However, the return trip made me rethink that decision. Starting with an early morning wake up call about a delayed flight, an apology about the delay that involved a story about the need to replace the crew due to FAA required rest times, and then interacting with a surly flight attendant whose response to questions always involved the words, you can pay for that and do you want to see the company policy?

When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, "That'll be $30 each!"  Hope we don't experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!
When asked if we could move across the aisle to the emergency exit row, the flight attendant said, “That’ll be $30 each!”
Hope we don’t experience a problem in which she needs our help opening the door, because there will be a charge for that!

Finally when I returned home, I received a message from Emily letting me know she was so glad we were still alive and included this news report:

I’ll think long and hard about another Allegiant flight, but at least I know what to do if I want to get somewhere in the worst way!


Follow your brain instead of your heart

When I stopped at the Budget Rental Car desk, the clerk offered a choice of a Nissan Altima or a VW Beetle. The decision was easy, I took the Beetle. I love the Beetle.

I like the way they look. I like the way they handle. I like the roomy interior (at least in the front seat).


I know the Beetle well since I’ve had two of them. My first Beetle was a used car, and I enjoyed it so much that two years later, I bought a new one making us a two Beetle family…one for me and one for Emily when she turned 16.

However, what a mistake! Not long after the second Beetle was purchased, the repairs on the first started. Not big things, but everything had to be done by the dealer. Changing a battery or a headlight couldn’t be done by the owner. And don’t dare use a non-VW part. Nothing’s compatible.

Break downs on the Interstate. Towed vehicles. A headlight that fell out while driving down the road. AAA the best investment ever as an owner of a Beetle.

Nevertheless, I was immediately attracted to the “new” New Beetle. (The new beetle from the early 2000s is no longer in production…I wonder why?)

Since we’re in the market for a car, I looked up the reviews of this new and improved version of the car I love and found bad news…rated one of the worst cars in its class by Consumer Reports. I won’t make this mistake again. Car buying needs to be guided by research not by emotion. It’s time to get facts, read reviews, find a quality, reliable vehicle and then make a purchase based on what my brain tells me, not what my heart says.

Buying a car is a big purchase, follow your brain instead of your heart.



Happy Father’s Day!

On Father’s Day I’d like to say thank you to both my father and the father of my children. I’m lucky to have been raised by a father who put his family first and taught his children that he would always be there for them. The most important lesson learned: what type of man I should marry. Like my dad, John puts his family first and somehow manages to thrive in a house full of girls.IMG_1276

I thought it might be fun to look at their strengths in terms of some of my favorite dads from TV or the movies.

From Eric Camden 7th Heaven (the character, not the actor)

Nobody’s perfect. No family’s perfect. But your imperfect family loves imperfect you.

From Charles “Pa” Ingalls Little House on the Prairie

Hard work is not just for boys. Mary, Laura, and Cary pulled their weight just like Meghan, Emily, and Sarah (and Dee Ann and Carol Jean).

Steven Keaton Family Ties

Your dad will still love you even if your vote cancels his vote or your political views are completely wrong.

Andy Taylor Andy Griffith Show

Going fishing can make everything alright and what better time to get to know you a little better?

Ward Clever Leave it to Beaver

The perfect example of the dad who kicks your butt and saves your butt in the same day. Something good dads do everyday.

I think both my dad and John have a lot of George Banks in them. You remember Mr. Banks from Father of the Bride who hates to see his little girl grow up and get married to some strange guy. I can’t tell you how glad I am that my dad didn’t go all George Banks when he met John’s parents. I’m sure he was checking them out to make sure they were good enough for his daughter, but if he poked through the medicine cabinet or drawers at least he did so stealthily and to this day we’ve never heard about it. As for John, I think we were lucky he wasn’t caught in this situation. I feel certain he could have been cornered by protective dobermans while snooping on future in-laws.

But like George, they just wanted to make sure that their girls are happy. How can that be a bad thing?

Happy Father’s Day to two great dads!

Reposted from Father’s Day, 2013.


7 Down; 8 To Go

When John and I planned the list of 15 things we wanted to do in 2015, there were far more items on the list than 15. Nevertheless, we decided to only plan 14 of them, number 15 would be left open to allow for spontaneity. If a concert or festival or something came up that we just couldn’t resist, we could add it to the list of 15 in 15.

Well, without consulting the other half of my team, I decided that this was the year to attend the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. For years, we’ve said this is something we want to do, and when planning our 14 in 14 list we’d agreed that it would be a priority for June 2015. However, an opportunity for a trip to Seattle in June eliminated the College World Series trip…just not enough time to do both.


But as the season progressed, I felt this was the year to go. Not only could we enjoy the Omaha experience, it seemed like 2015 may also be the year we could cheer for the University of Miami Hurricanes team in baseball heaven. So, in mid-May, before the teams had been determined, I booked a flight and purchased tickets for five games, and crossed my fingers that John would think this was a great idea.

Good news! While surprised that I made the decision without getting his input, he was 100% on board with making a trip to Omaha and the CWS the fifteenth event on our list this year.


After flying from Orlando Sanford to Des Moines, we rented a car, drove a couple hours and were in our seats for the Miami v Arkansas game. The team didn’t let me down. They made it to the tournament, and we cheered them on as they won Game #5, our opening game experience.

We saw all eight teams compete, including two from Florida and two representing the ACC. We were two of 25,000+ spectators in the stadium each game. We watched fans celebrate the winning teams as they boarded the bus after the game. And of course there were hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, cotton candy, peanuts, an organist playing live music between innings, the batting of beach balls in the outfield, and the wave taking over the stadium.

And while, it would have been nice to see the Canes continue in the series, it was a great event. Turns out the College World Series was the perfect addition to round out the list of 15 in 15…7 Down; 8 To Go.