viva las vegas

Also titled: What I learned About Myself in Vegas. And What I learned About Vegas in Vegas.

Subtitled: Don’t Eat at Sketchy Buffets

>>First: I am a diva.

While I grew up with a family that tent camped and pop-up camped our way around the country, I found that my heart is really in the penthouse, luxury suites or other similarly outfitted high-end hotel rooms.

I had an inkling about my diva ways on a few previous trips with Frank.

***Trip One: The Econo-Lodge somewhere between Chicago and Atlanta.

Scene: Hotel room had been freshened up with a coat of paint. This same coat of paint was applied without consideration to everything in the room: door frames, moldings, walls, vanities and ceiling, making the experience of being in the room akin to being a stick figure drawn on a piece of paper.  The bedspread was from circa 1974 and, likely, that was also the last time it was washed.  I pointed to something on the floor that looked like a blood stain and decided that I didn’t want to ask “Is that a blood stain?” out loud.  Sometimes, you just don’t want to know the answer.

Experience: Horrific.  Even though Frank had stayed at some pretty nast-tay hotel rooms in his time with a regional airline, this one was pretty epic.  He dreamt the entire night of bugs coming out of his eyes, ears and mouth.  Yes, this one got to him.  Needless to say, we did not inquire about a continental breakfast as we ran out of the hotel bright and early in the morning.

Famous Last Words: “Babe, can you believe I got this room for only $35 a night?”  Yes, sweetheart, I can.


***Trip Two: A Hotel with a Guitar Shaped Pool in Nashville.

Scene: Similar to the Econo-Lodge, the mosaic of stains on the carpet and the very dated bedspread were not the welcome you would hope for anywhere. Especially disconcerting were the eight missing ceiling tiles over the shower, revealing the hotel’s plumbing and the sound of our neighbor brushing his teeth.  It’s like having someone else in your room… without having someone else in your room.

Experience: Thank goodness we only stayed there for one night.  I was barely able to zip my suitcase as I ran for the door in the morning.

Famous Last Words: “But babe, it has a guitar-shaped pool!”

It’s important to have those two hotel experiences as a backdrop for this trip.  My sweet, thrifty Bohemian husband loves himself a good deal.  So when he said he was booking a hotel for the trip to Las Vegas, I carefully asked, “So, uh, you didn’t get any… deals for the room, did you?”

Knowing the hotel experiences he’s put me through in the past, Frank enthusiastically said, “NO! No deals.”  I knew then that this would be a good trip.

When we walked into the hotel room at Vdara in City Center, I was not disappointed. A suite, this room had a full kitchen, a family room, a bedroom and a very large bathroom.  Frank, the connoisseur of mid-range hotel rooms was dually impressed and quite pleased with himself.

AH, Vdara!

AH, Vdara!

This refrigerator is bigger than our refrigerator at home!!

This refrigerator is bigger than our refrigerator at home!!

The view of the Bellagio Fountains at night from our room.

The view of the Bellagio Fountains at night from our room.

Daytime view of the fountains and the strip.

Daytime view of the fountains and the strip.

In addition to a gorgeous room, we had a gorgeous view of the Bellagio fountains, the new Ferris Wheel and the strip.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better!

>>Second: When Vegas is Good, it is SO GOOD.

Upon arriving at the hotel, marveling at its splendor and checking out the free cable, Frank announced that we had reservations at swanky Sage in the Aria Hotel.  I had read a few reviews of the restaurant online before we traveled and heard good things.  I was excited!

The ambiance of the restaurant is lovely. Intimate and private, we were seated at a table tucked in the corner of the restaurant.  And the lighting was great: my skin looked awesome. Boom.

The waiter took our drink order – a mocktail for me and the real deal for Frank – and hurried off to leave us with our menus. After much discussion and deliberation, we decided on creamy chestnut soup for starters.  Frank had the Braised Veal Cheeks and I ordered the Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin.  Because you know – bacon makes everything better. (full fall menu for Sage)

After we ordered, the most magical thing happened: a wonderful young man arrived at our table with a tray of bread.

“Tonight I have for you a bacon roll and a French baguette,” he said, showing us the still-warm bread in his tray. “May I suggest that you take one of each?” Yes, yes you can suggest that. And yes, I will take both pleaseandthankyou.

The warm rolls were served with whipped butter and sea salt. The bacon roll was the perfect ratio of buttery, fluffy bread and savory, salty bacon.  I should’ve asked for two of each.  I am pregnant, you know.

After eating the bacon roll, I was concerned that I couldn’t love the baguette nearly as much. But much like you always love your second child as much as your first, I couldn’t imagine my life without the baguette. The French would’ve been proud.

Then there was the spoon.

Our waiter brought out two soup bowls and nestled inside was a spoon containing the perfect bite of … something. I will never know fully what it was that I ate at that moment – except that the flavor explosions went on forever. Fresh, vibrant, colorful – it was as though I had never truly eaten before. There was also a unicorn in the restaurant and it was also magnificent.

After the spoon came the bowl of creamy chestnut soup. Featuring some sort of pork happiness, currants and mushrooms and topped with the most lusciously creamy soup, every bite was an adventure in and of itself.

I think Frank was also at this same dinner with me.  I can’t be too sure at this point.

Our main course came out with not as much fanfare as it deserved. Beautifully presented, the portions were very un-American. But the flavor? The flavor and texture was big and bold and very, very American. That bacon wrapped pork loin was likely the most delicious piece of meat I have ever eaten. Ever. Amen.

Frank claims that his veal cheeks were the most delicious and tender pieces of meat he’s ever enjoyed, but at this point in the dinner I’m still not sure he was there. I only had eyes for the pork.

When the waiter came back and inquired about whether we wanted dessert, we sheepishly said no. There was simply no way we possibly left room for dessert and we felt we would do the dessert a grave injustice if we attempted to eat more.

While we were waiting for the check, the waiter brought out two warm shot glasses with a hot white chocolate and peppermint drink. If you could drink happiness, that’s what it tasted like.

We left the restaurant content and sad. Content because of a fantastic meal. Sad because we knew that we were unlikely to find another meal in Vegas that would match Sage’s greatness that night. We just didn’t know how right we were.

>>Third: Not all Buffets are Created Equal

When Frank and I were first dating, we took in our fair share of buffets.  We enjoyed the Stadium Club buffet at the United Center, the Easter buffet at the McDonald’s Lodge, a birthday buffet for Frank’s mom at the Drake in Oak Brook.  These are all pretty classy buffets.

I sensed that my dear husband was not acquainted with anything other than the occasional Chinese Buffet and the lovely, fancy buffets that he enjoyed growing up.

Several times while we were dating, Frank mentioned wanting to go to Old Country Buffet (OCB).  I couldn’t understand – I had been to several similar buffets growing up and never really enjoyed them for anything more than their soft serve ice cream with sprinkles.  I’m a simple girl, really.

After hearing him talk about the magic that must be the OCB several times, I gave in and we went to an OCB.  Frank’s excitement was palpable as we walked up to the door – and I watched that excitement drain from his being as we checked into the restaurant and surveyed its offerings.

Fruit flies, overcooked chicken, fake mashed potatoes, limp looking vegetables… the scene was food devastation. Frank filled up a plate, refusing to acknowledge the food horrors in front of him.

He sat at the table and tenuously began eating the food on his plate.  He ate the nearly entire plate of lukewarm, tragic food – a noble skill that probably later saved him from giving me honest feedback on quite a few dishes I served to him during our courtship and early marriage (not to worry, I pretty much stopped cooking…). Then, he gave the buffet a sidelong glance, shook his head in the general direction of the food massacre, and said, “You know, this really isn’t as good as I hoped it would be.”

That sad disappointment still lingers on Frank’s face when we pass an OCB to this day. You can practically hear the strains of “What Might Have Been” faintly playing in the background as we cruise by.  “We can’t go back again… there’s no use giving in… and there’s no way to know, what might have been.” Godspeed, OCB. Godspeed.

I wasn’t thinking about OCB when we booked tickets to see Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah’s Casino.  Vegas buffets are legendary – I didn’t think you could go wrong.

Oh… But you can go wrong. So wrong.

Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas more closely resembles several football fields of bad man cave poker tables gone wrong than a Las Vegas Casino.  The casino feels like swimming through stale beer and a haze of old cigar smoke.  It feels like time marched on and trampled the casino underfoot.

As we approached the buffet entrance, I was haunted by this nagging voice in my head that said, “EMILY! It’s the OCB! Don’t do it!”

I ignored that voice. The buffet was free. It was included with our show tickets.

“Free is good!” I reasoned with the voice. “FREE IS GOOD!”

As we presented our tickets to the cashier, I cheerfully inquired, “So what is your favorite thing at the buffet?” Her response, while also cheery, should’ve served as a warning, “Oh, I say just start with the dessert sweetie!”

I should’ve heeded her warning.

As we waited to be let into the buffet, the greeter handed Frank and I oversized utensils.  I realized they were going to take pictures of us with these utensils. It had the ominous feeling of a “before” photo in the making. I held the fork, he held the spoon.  For the first picture, we smiled.  For the second picture, the greeter encouraged us to pretend to hit each other with our utensils.

If that isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is.

We walked the buffet, trying to figure out what looked delicious and determine our strategy for best navigating this buffet. I quickly found that nothing looked good.  After a few sad perusals, I was happy to see some Mexican food at one end, so I went over to sample that.  I figured, how can you mess up Mexican food?

You can.

After lifting the lids off of several pots, I decided to just have three corn tortillas, some cheese and a small smattering of a meat product.  I added mashed potatoes and some over-dried turkey to my plate and called that dinner.

As always, Frank returned from the buffet with a full plate. I nibbled the tortillas, dumping the questionable meat on the plate. I ate the mashed potatoes.  I couldn’t bring myself to approach the turkey.

I decided to take the cashier’s advice and hit up the dessert area, hoping for better results.  I had a small cupcake and cookie.

Meanwhile, Frank cleared most of his plate. “I mean, it’s not great,” he said, pushing his mostly empty plate away.

The punchline to this joke of a buffet?  Frank slept soundly while I sat on the floor of the bathroom in our hotel room puking. Frank 1. Emily -2.

>>Fourth: In Vegas Old is Old.

In sweet, quaint midwestern towns, old becomes quaint.  Grandmas in sweater sets and polyester pants are cute, even when they are stealing cookies at the buffet.  Grandpas wearing plaid pants and faded sport coats are sweet, even when they make strange remarks and wink at you.  I expected in Vegas that the older parts of the strip would be quaint in much the same way.  I hoped that it would feel like the ghosts of Sinatra or Bob Hope or other famous old dudes might still be hanging around, throwing dice at the Craps tables.  Alas, that was not the case.

In Vegas, Grandmas don cocktail dresses and Naturalizers and it’s not a good scene.

We went to the old school Tropicana Hotel to see the Laugh Factory. The first thing to know about casinos in Vegas is that they allow smoking.  The second thing to know is that the newer casinos have much more effective air filtration systems. The older hotels smell and feel like the inside of an old bowling shoe: smokey, musty with a faint hint of Lysol.

If the ghosts of Sinatra or Hope or anyone else were hanging around in old Vegas casinos, I was not about to find out. I am a diva, after all, and I preferred the shiny new Vdara/Aria/Mandarin to the old strip.

>>Fifth: Sometimes Smaller is Better

Before the debacle at Harrah’s, Frank and I went on a mission to find a place to have delicious cocktails and appetizers prior to dinner.  Frank was pretty insistent on getting over to the Mandarin Oriental.

And this is why:

The view of the strip from the Mandarin Oriental.

The view of the strip from the Mandarin Oriental.

We enjoyed this front-row view to the twinkly lights of Vegas from a plush couch while sipping our drinks (tea for me, a cocktail for Frank) and noshing on calamari.  It was truly a highlight for both of us.


I didn’t love Vegas before we left on our trip.  I’m not a Vegas girl.  When presented with an opportunity to go on a trip, I suggested Vegas because I knew they had wonderful restaurants, a few good shows and I was hopeful we would find a hotel with a decent bed. With twins and work and being pregnant, sleep is a precious commodity!

I still don’t love Vegas after our trip.  But I did love spending time with Frank, eating great food, seeing entertaining shows, and wandering through overpriced designer stores and marveling at $5,000 red high heeled shoes. At that price range, the stores are more like museums displaying fine art than actual retail establishments, as far as I am concerned.

I spoke to a few local Vegasians. I asked them what they liked about their town. Universally, they loved the food and entertainment. Our cab driver from Sweden raved about the seafood at the buffets. But they all cautioned about gambling in a way that suggested that they knew people personally who had fallen into the gambling black hole, never to return again.

When I asked if they had ever been to Chicago, most of them had not.  “It’s cold there.”

Oh, how you’re missing out.

“Las Vegas is the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs.”
– Tom Wolfe

It’s good to be home.

from the history books: enchanted

Last night I watched Enchanted, one of my favorite movies to watch.  It’s one of those movies that when it’s on, I can’t help myself.  The movie reminds me a lot of Frank.  No, it’s not because Frank channels Patrick Dempsy with his dashing good looks and pragmatic approach to life.  Nor is it because Frank often introduces me the way Prince Edward introduces Giselle – “Giselle is my love, my heart’s one true desire!”

Enchanted reminds me of a truly K-Fam Thanksgiving experience.  Back in November 2007 Frank was a jet Captain on the Dornier at the now defunct Skyway Airlines.  As per usual, Frank was at the bottom of the seniority list, meaning that he was working holidays.  I decided that I would accompany him over Thanksgiving on his trips so that we could spend Thanksgiving together.  On Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, we went to Cleveland. Skyway actually put the pilots up in a somewhat decent hotel which was close to a very nice mall.

One of Frank’s favorite things to do is walk around a mall. This is surprising because he does NOT like to shop.  He enjoys stopping at stores that have nice smells or kitschy items with limited uses (ie. Brookstone, Spencers).  We walked around the mall for a while and then decided to go see the movie Enchanted. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  I remember walking out of the theater holding Frank’s hand, feeling light and free.  We had dinner at the Macaroni Grill and drew fun pictures on the paper table cloth and enjoyed being together.

The next day, Thanksgiving, we flew back to Milwaukee and then up to Appleton.  We stayed at the Raddison Paper Valley in downtown Appleton.  We arrived at the hotel at 2:30 in the afternoon and saw, to our amazement, a huge Thanksgiving buffet set out!  Victory!  We approached the hostess stand, all of our bags in tow, and asked the hostess for details on the buffet.  She told us they were taking it down.  Oh, the looks on our faces!  We pleaded with her – can we just go through once and get some Thanksgiving food – we are far from home and won’t get a real Thanksgiving!  Nope.  She wouldn’t budge.  As we walked by the buffet on the way to our room, we watched them throwing out entire cakes and pies.  Oh, how we wanted to weep right there!

Slightly disheartened, but determined to have a lovely Thanksgiving anyway, we went to the hotel bar, hoping that they may have some Thanksgiving fare.  No such luck.  I think Frank had a hamburger and I had a chicken sandwich.  Regardless of the lack of Thanksgiving themed food, we had a wonderful time watching football in the bar and talking with his First Officer.

Later that night, we decided that we wanted dessert, but room service didn’t have anything good, so we found a vending machine and shared a Three Muskateers bar and a Rice Krispy Treat.  Oh, it was bliss!  Almost like having French Silk Pie… but not quite…

It is one of my happiest memories of us.  We had such a nice time celebrating Thanksgiving together and I am so glad we did it!  Considering that Frank is back at the bottom of the seniority list again, perhaps we will try the adventure again this year, but maybe in a more exotic location, like LA or Puerto Rico!

before october is too distant of a memory…

Frank and I went downtown and took a self-guided Devil in the White City Tour.  The statue below is 1/3 the size of the original statue that greeted guests at the 1893 World’s Fair.  Interesting facts: The Museum of Science and Industry building is an exact replica of one of the many World’s Fair buildings (if you’ve been there, you know how huge it is), and the Ferris Wheel debuted at the World’s Fair in direct competition with the Eiffel Tower which had been unveiled at a previous World’s Fair.









We drove around a little bit, too…








Frank looking for the next stop on our historic journey.  Or our journey of historic proportions.









We actually drove by President Obama’s house, but this is all you can see…










What a lovely city we live in:



















That is all. For now. 🙂


We interrupt our regularly scheduled emotional roller coaster for a brief recap of our adventures in Vegas.

Day 1:

My mom arrived at 6:15 a.m. to take me to the airport.  She’s a peach.  She watched me give myself my trigger shot and then helped me wipe off the dripping blood and gently confirmed that I gave myself the shot in the vein and “man, it’s already bruising!”  Awesome. Uneventful (blood-free) time at the airport.  Had a snack.  Got on the plane.  Mechanical issue.  Lovely. Had some soda (delish).  Arrived in Vegas.

First of all, Vegas wants your money.  If you didn’t know that about Vegas, they make it apparent the minute you step off of the plane.  “Emmmmily – oh, Emmmmmily!  Come play our slots!  Your bags are going to take a while – have  a seat, get out some quarters and let the good times roll!”

My will power was too much for them.  I walked past the slot machines with hardly a backward glance.  Hardly.

I picked up my bags at the carousel, called Frank and got on a shuttle to the Bellagio.  Arrived at the Bellagio, found husband, changed, went on a mission for food.  Emily was VERY hungry.  Mmmm.


Then we proceeded to walk most of the strip, all the way up to the Venetian.  This is one place where one block of walking equals 12 blocks.

We saw 10,234 slot machines on our little adventure.

The below picture is us being awesome at the Venetian.


The nice thing about the Venetian: indoors and air conditioned.  Dry heat is still heat, my friends.  Don’t give me crap about dry heat when it is 105 degrees outside.  Heat is heat.

I was glowing (or perspiring like a mo-fo).

After our sweaty trek, we went back to the hotel and got ready for dinner.  Because we are connoisseurs of the buffet, we were naturally looking forward to tables and tables of meat and cheese and other delightful confections.  First stop: the Wynn Buffet.


This picture is me trying not to be too obvious about how hungry I am.  This is at the atrium of the Wynn hotel.  It was my favorite hotel in Vegas, hands down.

And this picture, well, this is me preparing to eat my husband for dinner.  And I don’t mean it like that.  Well, maybe I do.  You tell me: is this a “come hither” look or is it a “I want my dinner” look?

Finally, after 45 minutes of hoping and dreaming and praying that we would one day be at the front of the line – we were!  Eureka!

Our delight over our first meal resulted in two of the only food photos of the trip, but I am not going to post those here.  I don’t want anyone to be jealous (and also, Frank didn’t upload them to our Flickr account – dirty!!)

Then we walked back from the Wynn and decided to try to take in a very scandelous free show outside of Treasure Island.  Lots of gyrating female and male dancers in skimpy clothing.  Good thing people brought their kids.  “Hey kids, look what you can be when you grow up!”  Awesome.

Anyway – here is me outside of the Wynn.  Love. It.


And ladies, don’t get jealous – he is all mine:

Then we stopped at the Bellagio to take in the famous fountain display. For a desert, that sure was a lot of water.


And then… bed time.  Cuz we party like rockstars, yo.

Day 2:

Got up, tried to go for a run.  While Vegas is a town that accepts only beautiful people (naturally attained or otherwise), they sure don’t want to do a lot to help you get beautiful.  Because when you are running on a treadmill, you can’t play the slots.  And if you are not drinking or gambling, they are not making money.

What I am trying to say is that the fine folks at the Bellagio wanted us to pay $50 for both of us to use their fine workout facilities.

No. Thanks.

Instead, I opted to sit at the pool and consider life. And read a saucy romance novel.


And here we are together, hanging out by the pool. Frank is trying not to angry about the lack of frosty beverages in his hand.

Once we were finished with being awesome poolside, we decided to enjoy yet another buffet. Mmmm.

And then we walked the strip.  In the Dry Heat.  Not so dry when you’re sweating through your socks, though.

Which leads us to Caesar’s Palace.  “Caesar, let’s go that way!” “No, Frank and Emily, let’s go THAT way!” Well, the Roman empire is no more, so I guess we all know how it turned out. Should have listened to us, Mr. Caesar.


Frank asked the Egyptian Santa for a flat screen TV for Christmas. We will see if Egyptian Santa delivers.   (I’m not betting on it – he looked a little shady)


And then, in the middle of the desert, we have the NYC skyline:

Later that night, after I showered (again), we went out to the Palms.  The Palms was very cool.  We went up to the Playboy Club (which was more tame (visually speaking) than any of the casino bars, by far) and had a cocktail.  Then we headed over to the other tower of the Palms and went up to the Ghostbar, which was Frank’s favorite bar of all.  He was giddy with excitement.  Giddy.  I’m not kidding.  Have you ever seen Frank giddy?  Well, I have.  This is what it looks like:


I know. I wish he’d just calm down.
And here are more pics of Vegas from that night:


Day 3
The Grandest Canyon of them all. And probably the best day of our trip. I loved, loved, loved it. Except for the part where I almost puked. And the part where we got stuck in the rain. But whatever – a small price to pay, in my opinion.  I’d do it all over again (but with an umbrella).

Our airplane:

The Hoover Dam (ha ha):

A view from the ground:

“Emily, look off into the distance at the other side of the Grand Canyon, really feel it. Work it. Noice.”

We were RIGHT. THERE. We were here, and the Grand Canyon was right THERE. Whoa.

Oh, and then it rained.

But the storms made for some cool views on the way back.



Tired, mostly dry (but a little wet), we made our way back to our hotel.

Because seeing one of the most magnificient wonders of God’s creation wasn’t enough for one day, we also went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “O”. “O” is the phonetic speaking of the french word “Eau” which means “water.” (Not sure why I used all the quotes, but really – if you stayed with me this long, you probably don’t care. You probably just want me to end this torturous play-by-play of our vacation and put you out of your misery. Quotes are the least of your problems if you made it this far.) Anyway, the point being, the stage was water. Or, more accurately, it was a pool with an adjustable floor that went up and down depending on the scene.

“O” reminded me of two things: 1) I am not flexible. The most daring feat I accomplish is touching my toes. Touching my toes while balancing on the forehead of a woman who is balancing all of her weight on her big toe, which is securely placed on a trapeze – well, that’s why they made the Darwin Awards. 2) I am a spoiled brat. After the first two amazing sequences where people were swinging through the air, attached to another human being by only the friction created by their leg hair and their abnormally strong big toes, I started to be less impressed with, say, diving off of a several story platform, into a pool of water. I can barely bring myself to jump into a pool from the side, much less a diving board SEVERAL stories in the air.

My own personal guilt aside, it was a beautiful show. I really enjoyed it.

Day 4:

Went home.


And I’m spent.  Thanks for reading about our Vegas adventure!

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oh yeah…

one of the musician-types I sat next to on the way home played in a band called the blood arm.  Interestingly, she recently was injured in a freak candle holder accident that cut through her quad through to the bone and had to have surgery to repair her muscle, etc.  She showed me a picture.  It was gruesome.  So the blood arm band girl was more of a bloody leg.  Sweet.


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sweet home, chicago

Well, we are back from our Vegas extravaganza.  We came out ahead of the casinos (by about $50 – hey, better than in the hole $50!) and had a delightful time together.

I will write up a detailed, day-by-day report as soon as I get pics back from Frank.  Some things just can’t be explained with mere words.

General thoughts:

  • I would definitely go back to the Grand Canyon.  The pictures do not do justice to what it feels to be a tiny human standing at the edge of this natural phenomenon.
  • The Bellagio is lovely, but over-rated.  More on that later.  Suffice to say: Frank and I did not think that it was worth $100 to pay to work out.  Seriously, the gym was not included as part of the stay.
  • Buffets are awesome.
  • O (Cirque du Soleil) was amazing.  The imagery, colors, stunts, choreography, athleticism, music and overall experience were mind bending.  I have been practicing touching my toes and hopes that I might be able to stand still with the same grace and poise (unlikely, but worth the effort).
  • Grand Canyon – awesome.
  • Flight to the Grand Canyon – not as awesome.   Small Plane + Hot + Bumpy + Thunderstorms = Not happy times. I did not puke, I will have you know.  The girl in front of me was not so lucky.
  • Learned, during our Grand Canyon aviation experience that when Frank says, “Are you sick?” and I say, “Yes,” and he says, “Do you need a sick sack?” and I say, “No,” that we are miscommunicating.  Sick to me means feeling nauseated and having a head ache and the world is spinning.  Sick to Frank means “I am going to vomit.”
  • In sort of a experiential cliche, I sat next to two musicians/wannabe musicians on the way home from LAX.  Dude.
  • Grand Canyon – still awesome.  If you haven’t seen it, go see it.  Stop reading this post and start driving/flying to it.
  • I’m serious.  Grand Canyon.   It is both Grand and Canyon-y.
  • I always smile when I end a trip without exposing my dirty underwear at the baggage claim.  It stems from a childhood incident wherein my family’s luggage ripped apart en-route home from Orlando.  Our bag rounded the corner of the carousel, underwear laid out for the world to see.  At first we chuckled, not realizing it was our bag.   And then, horror of horrors, we realized that those panties hanging out were OUR panties.  NO!  Dad yanked the bag off of the carousel and tried to remedy the situation by taking off his belt and wrapping it around the suitcase.  Too small.  I don’t know what he eventually did.  I just know the car ride home was silent as we were all stricken by the experience.  So to say that I managed to end yet another vacation without sharing my blue and white polka dot undies with the fine folks at ORD, that is a big deal.

It’s good to be back home.  Thanks to Andy for the ride home tonight.  You’re  a fabulous brother.  (who I convinced to go on a 2 mile run with me at 9:30 am Saturday).

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running & frank is home

Ok, so I did NOT get my 2 mile run in this morning.  I opted, instead, to sleep in.  I feel that it was a wise decision.

And I am psyched for my 2 mile run this evening, with FK.  I am really going to push myself to run faster than I have, since this is now becoming a “short” distance for me.

Did I mention that FK is home?  Only for 24 hours, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!

And next week, Vegas!  YES!

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… and in just about a 24 hour time period…

I met up with Frank in ATL at about 7 pm last night. We changed out of our travelin’ clothes and went to the east side of ATL for some delish pizza (sausage + spinace + garlic + tomatoes) and some refreshing icecream.

We sat outside of a bar/restaurant called…. the Vickery, I think?? No bugs (how is that possible?) and delightful weather. Not too hot. Not too cold. Lovely.

Our dear friend Vimal joined us for a nice cold beer and some chatter about this and that. Which was mostly a deep discussion of the innerworkings of the pilot manual (“See now, if you do this check list before you taxi, you will ultimately FORGET to take off, which is a problem. We’ve written MANY emails to the Chief Pilot and he always responds with, ‘Good to know.’ It’s amazing how many flights are going from Atlanta to Orlando via the interstate highway…”) My contribution to the chatter? “So, uh, do you guys listen to ‘Highway to the Danger Zone’ when you take off? Does your captain ever call you Goose?”

We went back to the crash pad and watched “Chuck” – our new favorite show! Love it so much! The lovely folks at Crew Scheduling provided a truly wonderous wake up call at 10 a.m., letting Frank know that his amazing flying skillz were needed at 5pm. A full seven hours notice prior to a flight is always appreciated.

Frank is such a good pilot that they let him sit in the back with the passengers on his way up to Baltimore. So, he rode up to Baltimore and then will fly the plane back tomorrow morning. For kicks, they are sending him up to Flint, MI after that and then back down to Atlanta… and then he comes home!!! NO WAY!

Anyway, it was nice to have an uneventful trip back to MDW. I didn’t get on the 2:30 pm flight (way over-booked), but I got on the 4:45 pm flight AND was seated in business class. Hello, complimentary cookies/granola bars/beer & wine!


Well, FK is stuck in Atlanta for tonight. It’s ok for me because he wouldn’t have made it home until 1:30 am, anyway. But it is a big bummer for him because he has to go back to his crashpad and then come home early tomorrow.

Ah, the joys of aviation.

man plans…

and God knows better.

Thus was the theme for the entire weekend. But what is amazing is how God held both of us in His hands and kept us safe and provided before we even knew we needed provision. Here is how the weekend went:

I took a Summer Day on Friday. First things first, I zipped off to the doctor to have my follicles studied. I love my ultra sound technician. She is Egyptian and has the sweetest demeanor – very calm and pleasant. Unfortunately my follicles were too small to get the HCG shot (the shot basically causes my ovaries to eject the eggs). I was SO crushed because I had this grand plan that it would all work out just fine… and then it didn’t. I called Frank to update him and almost started crying. But then I realized that it probably worked out for the best because my next follicle study will be on Tuesday and Frank will be off of work. That helped cheer me up.

And it turns out I was extremely blessed that it worked out this way. More on this later.

So I went to get my hair cut (most of my hair cuts seem to coincide with disappointing doctor appointments – must be God looking out for me – “Well, that sucks, but here – feel better!”). I liked the guy who cut my hair and I think it turned out just fine. Then I headed down to Nordstroms in Oakbrook with Toni & Dorothy. I had my favorite salad, which also helped pick up my mood – but the real kick in the pants was the Diet Coke. De-Lish. Mmmm. Oh, and the new shoes on sale helped too. The day was looking pretty rosy.

I hurried down to Midway to catch the early flight and pick up Frank’s car so that we wouldn’t have to pick it up when Frank was scheduled to arrive at 10:30 pm. I stopped by Target and purchased some Crystal Light packets, water and Weight Watcher’s brownies. Again, feeling pretty sunny about life in general while I was eating brownies in the parking lot, watching the thunderstorm.

Ah, yes, the thunderstorm. See, sometimes I forget to put my aviation hat on. I love thunderstorms. I especially love when I am not caught walking outside in them. So I was playing Brick Breaker on my phone (dirty slut game – gr! I am addicted), drinking Cherry Pomegranite Crystal Light (amazing!) and eating Weight Watchers Brownies, just waiting for Frank to park his plane in ATL.

So at 9:30 pm Frank called to let me know that they had a ground stop (an official “No Go” from ATL airport). They would be in an hour late. Because of the storm. Dirty. Suddenly I didn’t like the storm so much.

I mosied on over to the Barnes and Noble thinking I might be able to kill a few minutes before the store closed at 10pm. The rain was coming down in sheets and I decided to just watch customers run to their cars, trying to dodge buckets of rain and getting completely sopping wet in the process. Remember, I’m the girl that thinks Bret Michaels falling is hilarious. The people who realized that resistence was futile were the best. They sort of waddled slowly to their cars because their jeans were stiff from the water. Ha.

At 10 pm, Frank called to say that the ground stop had been extended and his flight might even be canceled. Joke was on me because I didn’t have a key to his crash pad and would have to find a hotel.

At 10:30 I realized that I was getting increasingly cranky because I had only had Crystal Light and Weight Watchers Brownies since my salad at lunch. I spied with my little eye – a Wendy’s! After some mental negotiating, I determined that I could have, nay, deserved, a Single, regular fries and a Shot-oh-Frosty (Jr. Frosty for those of you who are not familiar). Apparently the rain makes Atlantans hungry because the line was several deep when I got to the drive thru. No matter – I had nothing but time.

Once I secured my dinner, I went back to Barnes and Noble. At this point the storm was starting to let up, but the lightening was still spectacular.

Now, let’s just talk about my dinner. I forgot that Wendy’s puts mayo on their Singles and while I was willing to take some liberties with ordering a hamburger and fries, I felt that it was going too far to have mayo with it. Using a fry, I scraped some mayo off, but after eating 2/3rds of the burger, I decided the burger wasn’t good enough to warrant such diet deviations. I started in on the fries, but they were soggy and metallic-tasting. I wish I could say I had a few fries and gave up the fight – but sadly – I held out hope that the next fry would be better than the last. Halfway through the fries I realized the futility of this thought process and gave up on the fries too. Instead of being mired in profound disappointment with one of my favorite QSR chains, I put all of my hope in my shot-oh-frosty – and I was NOT disappointed. Bliss and joy in a small cup with a large spoon. Happiness.

I felt MUCH better after I finished the shot-oh-frosty. Mmm.

Frank called and suggested I go to the cell phone lot at ATL and wait there. Tired of my current parking lot vista, I decided to take his suggestion.

Along my drive on Camp Creek Parkway (always a pleasure, especially in percipitous weather conditions), I realized that I had consumed about 40 oz of Crystal Light deliciousness and I needed to go. In sort of an epically bad way. The kind of bad where I actually wondered if there could be a positive outcome if my bladder actually ruptured. Every bump and stop was horrifically bad.

And that is why I was NOT happy when I got to the hourly parking lot (the cell phone lot was just a myth) and found that the folks at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport had decided to run a psychological experiment on Atlanta drivers. The lot was under construction and the traffic pattern had been radically modified, requiring drivers to cut across the exit path to continue to more parking and I found myself in a death loop traffic pattern: no freaking way out! I circled and circled and circled and finally drove around a gate and continued on to more parking.

Grabbing my book and some jeans (I was still in my traveling dress from that morning), I walked quickly into the airport (it was still wet and I was wearing my squishy flip flops that are not ideal for wet conditions. I figured if I fell, I’d probably pee myself and that was just something I didn’t feel like experiencing just then). I found a delightful restroom where I relieved my poor bladder and changed. Then I joined the rest of the tired, soaked Atlantans in the waiting area to read a book.

Frank’s plan FINALLY landed at 1 am. He texted me and told me he needed to find a gate. I told him to double park and let the passengers find their own way home. Good thing he’s the pilot and I’m not because he decided to wait for the gate.

At 1:15 am he told me he needed to check with operations to make sure he wasn’t needed. I waited at the top of the exit escalator, excited to finally see him after such a long wait. At 1:30 he texted and said he had bad news – they needed him to fly to Philadelphia. WTF!!!!!

Oh and did I mention that Delta was making announcements that said, “All of our affiliated hotels are out of rooms for the night.” Awesome. Did I mention that I didn’t have a key for his crashpad? Ok, good.

I texted him and asked him to bring me his keys for the crashpad. At 1:45ish, he came up the escalator, key in hand. I gave him a big hug and walked him partway back to security. Then I watched him walk the rest of the way down the long, white corridor to security. His long legs quickly put space between us and he was gone. I think the whole thing lasted about 90 seconds and I was alone in the airport again, holding the silver key to the crashpad. But I did not cry.

I went to the crashpad and parked the car. I lugged my bags to the do
or and met A, a flight attendant who lives at the house. I went upstairs and started to take off my shoes and get settled when Ashley knocked and let me know that I couldn’t park where I parked. Crap. So I went down and moved the car.

And then I realized that I left my phone on the seat of the car. So I went back out to the car and set off the car alarm. CRAP! But I did not cry.

I crawled into bed, slightly defeated, but very grateful that we were not missing the ovulation window. That would have put me over the edge.

At 4:15 am, Frank texted to say that he made it to Philadelphia and he would take the first flight he could take home. Ok. Good.

At 10 am, I called Frank to find out which flight he was going to be on. He let me know that crew scheduling required him to have more rest before he could get on a flight home since he would technically be on “duty.” AWESOME.

Next flight he could take home would get him in at… wait for it… 8:30pm.

I cried.

But I was determined that my trip would not be in vain. Now it was me versus Atlanta and even though I was down 1-0, I whipped out my annoying perseverance and decided that I was going to give Atlanta the a**-whooping that it needed.

I calmed down (this weekend was an exercise in self-discipline) and went for a long walk through the neighborhood near the crashpad. I felt better. I took a shower, made some lunch, watched some TV and read a book. My reserves were refilling. I talked to God for a while and thought about life and decided to leave the crashpad to get some gas. Filled up the tank, talked to my friend Erin and got impossibly lost (but not impossible for the GPS! you like that Atlanta? Even though your streets are curvey and nonsensical, you could not get that past me!) and then got found. I went to Barnes and Noble for a few hours and had a warm chocolate chip cookie (screw you, diet) and some Crystal Light (mmm). I wrote in my journal and started reading a book. Time flew by and I found that I appreciated the quiet time.

I headed back to the airport and called Frank. He let me know that again, his flight was delayed. I laughed out loud. You have to be freaking kidding me! So I went to McDonalds and had a snack wrap (grilled – healthy) and a light lemonade (love me some flavored water!). Frank let me know that there was no clear reason for this delay, but it was looking like 10:30pm. I told him to list me on the last flight out to Midway just in case and I’d call an audible from the airport.

Frank texted me to let me know that they were pushing from the gate and he was on his way – but they were 30 in line to take off.

I headed over to the airport and had to decide between daily and hourly parking. I optimistically chose hourly (and because I knew how to beat the traffic pattern in the parking lot, I did not let Atlanta win on that account) and dragged all of my stuff to the ticket counter.

The 11:25pm flight was booked to 137 of 137 available positions, but 10 people had not checked in and I was the only crazy person on standby. Great.

Frank texted me to let me know that they were turning back to the gate. Apparently someone was having some medical issues and they needed to let the passenger off of the plane. Seriously – are you kidding me??

He texted me and said that he was reviewing the events of the past 30 hours and was struggling not to laugh maniacally out loud.

ETA for arriving in ATL: 11:30pm.

I sat at the gate for the plane to Chicago and read my book (I finished two books on my trip – yay!). I debated and prayed about whether or not I should get on the flight. I told God, “If you don’t want me to go, then don’t have a seat for me on the plane.” I was trying to get God to make the decision for me, but I think in the end, either route was fine with God and He made me make the decision on my own. I was standing at the jetway, ticket in hand (there was a seat), but I was filled with dread. The idea that I would be taking off at the same time that Frank would be landing just broke my heart. I couldn’t do it.

I turned around and walked off the jetway and went back to the gate agent. I handed her my ticket and told her I changed my mind. She looked at me like I lost my mind and I don’t think she would ever understand.

My heart was light and I felt great walking away from the gate. Frank landed and I met him in the terminal. I was so happy to see him, but I could see the weariness on his face. We hugged and walked quickly towards ops. He still needed to check in and make sure that he wasn’t flying anywhere else. I prayed as I waited for him to come back up from ops.

Well, I had pulled the goalie, so to speak, and my last ditch effort worked! Frank was done for the night and I got a last minute goal in at the buzzer. TAKE THAT ATLANTA!


Of course, as we headed into dreaded overtime with our battle against Atlanta, I was quickly sobered by the realization that I would have to catch the 8:25 am (EDT) flight out to Midway (since the 9:25am flight was oversold). That meant I had to be up at 6:15 am. By the time we returned to the crashpad, it was 12:30am. This did not give me a lot of time to sleep. But when I consider all of the times I went with less sleep for things that are a lower priority, just a few hours with Frank was well worth it.


I’m not going to lie: 6:15am HURT. I was in a fog. A giddy fog, but a fog nonetheless.

Frank dropped me off at the airport and I joined other foggy, tired passengers in line for security. Participating in the mandatory strip search extravaganza, I managed to not break an ankle juggling my bags and putting my shoes back on. The ride on the tram to the D concourse was uneventful. The flight was wide open and I had a row to myself.

Now, I will say this, the guy in front of me was either hung over or a girly man with major anxiety about flying. He was fidgeting a lot and his girlfriend was trying to soothe him. When I sit normally in my seat, my knees are EXACTLY to the seat in front of me. No room to move. (you can imagine how bad it is for Frank then) This gentleman didn’t push the seat back before take off, but he was pushing so hard on it, he was bumping my knees. I was annoyed. As soon as we acheived 10,000 feet, this guy put his seat back HARD into my knees. It actually hurt. I yelped and moved my knees and his caring girlfriend looked back and said, “Sorry.” And then she reclined her seat. Hrmph.

Because I had the row to myself, I was able to reposition myself so that I could stretch my legs out, but I was more annoyed in principle. I mean, c’mon, who just lays back in the seat so hard and so fast that I can’t even move out of the way? I wanted to brawl. And I would have brawled except for a few key factors: 1) I was non-revving and it would put Frank’s travel priveleges (and probably his job) in jeopardy and I figured that was a pretty uncool thing to do, 2) airlines and the FAA generally do not appreciate onboard brawls and 3) I’m not as scrappy of a fighter as I appear. I’m really more of a lover than a fighter.

Deciding against a bar-roomesque brawl, I opted for a snooze.

The thing about snoozing on planes is that you tend to wake with your mouth open and your ears popping. Today was no exception. Groggy, I deboarded the plane at Midway without incident. (Mr. Girly Man, I’ve got my eyes on you!) and hurried to catch the shuttle to the economy parking lot (ugh).

Home by 10ish, I checked my email, ate
some real breakfast and snoozed for an hour before I got ready for tea with the girls.

Our small group plus some additional girls went to tea in Long Grove at Seasons of Long Grove. It was delicious! I had the Mango Ceylon tea (what in the world is ceylon??) and some finger foods that were REALLY good. mmm. Then we toured Long Grove, stopping at the pre-requisite Long Grove Confectionary and the Apple House for some additional goodies. It was such a nice time! It was a nice time-out from my on-going battle with Atlanta.

While I was at tea, Frank texted and said he was called up for a trip to Houston. (Atlanta’s really playing a good offense, I have to admit) I hoped against all hope that it was an early trip to Houston, but alas, that would not align with how our weekend went. He was the last flight out of Houston back to Atlanta. That flight lands at 10:30. If anything happens, including (but not limited to) the skies opening up over Atlanta again, he will not make the 11:25 flight home. Regardless, he won’t technically be home until Monday.

I guess Atlanta wins in overtime on a technicality. Considering that Atlanta won in April, too (every flight on AirTran was booked from my desired departure date of Sunday through Tuesday because of weather related cancellations that corresponded with heavy spring break traffic), I am down in the series 2-0.

So, Atlanta, best of 7?