Monthly Archives: June 2013

I wrote my first guest post on another blog, The Traveling Tomato foodie site

traveling tomato website is a traveling restaurant guide

My sister-in-law Elyse started a new website this summer with the help of my niece Abby, who is making a summer job of helping get the site populated. The site is a travel guide to finding restaurants that have menus friendly to vegetarians, vegans, folks avoiding gluten, paleo enthusiasts, those keeping kosher or people who just like food! I’m betting you fall into at least ONE of those categories, so check out The Traveling Tomato.

And in case you are wondering what paleo enthusiast means, I had to look it up so I’ll share: paleo eating refers to a diet that mimics the diets of our caveman ancestors and includes meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and nuts.

The Traveling Tomato has several ways to search for a place to eat using its interactive map. In addition to listing restaurants, they eventually would like to provide reviews of restaurants for readers and advertising opportunities for restaurants. You can help them build the database by suggesting restaurants to be added, and you can also write a guest post about one of your favorites.

That’s what I did last week. I wrote about my favorite place on earth to eat pizza and the fact that it has a gluten-free crust option. You can read my post here. It’s the first time I’ve written a guest post on another blog and it’s about two of my favorite things: Columbia, Missouri, and Shakespeare’s Pizza!

traveling tomato blog post

Posted in Family, travel

Trip pix: Favorite images from international trips

I recently found an online group called Kansas Women Bloggers. In case it’s not obvious, it’s a gathering place for women … in Kansas … who blog :)

As a new blogger, I’m looking forward to getting to know the other bloggers in our state and hoping at least a couple will enjoy reading my blog.

One of the features on the KWB site is Wordless Wednesday, and I try to participate as often as I remember to look for the week’s theme ahead of time. This week the theme was Get Your Passport — we were asked to share favorite images from international trips. I took a liberal definition and considered any trip that allowed me to travel across the U.S. border or overseas (therefore I included Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). I travel a lot and there are a lot of truly international destinations I’d love to visit. Because I didn’t travel much as a kid, though, there are so many places within North America that many of my trips are here or in the Caribbean because it’s fairly easy to reach and affordable.

I’m carrying over the KWB’s theme here and sharing some of my favorites from trips to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (2002); Belize (2006); Hawaii (2007); Alberta, Canada (2009); Cayman Islands (2011); Puerto Rico (2011); St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands (2011); Exumas, Bahamas (2012); Nassau, Bahamas (2012); and Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2013). To keep it under control, I limited myself to no more than two photos per location.

Hope you enjoy!

cat in lighthouse Puerto Vallarta Mexico

Saw this cat inside the base of a lighthouse in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in 2002 while we were waiting to take a whale watching boat out from the Pacific Ocean’s Bahía de Banderas.

 

A tree growing out of a truck on a jungle hike while traveling in Belize

A tree growing out of a truck on a jungle hike while traveling in Belize in 2006.

 

cabana in Belize

Our favorite spot to take a nap or read a book was the hammock under this cabana, just off the beach where we stayed in Belize in 2006. It was near Placencia Caye in the southern part of this Central American country.

 

Purple flower after a rain shower while at a luau on the island of Kauai in Hawaii

Purple flower (yes, that’s my scientific description) after a rain shower while at a luau on the island of Kauai in Hawaii in 2007.

 

flower Kauai Hawaii

This is one of my all-time favorite photos so I’m using both Hawaii spots to show different views of this flower after a rain shower while at a luau on the island of Kauai in Hawaii in 2007.

 

Consolation Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada

Consolation Lake in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, 2009.

 

Lake Louise from Plain of 6 Glaciers hike in Alberta, Canada

View of Lake Louise from Plain of Six Glaciers hike in Alberta, Canada, 2009.

 

Baby green turtle at Cayman Turtle Farm, Cayman Islands

Baby green turtle at Cayman Turtle Farm, Cayman Islands, 2011.

 

cayman islands beach chair

We stayed on the Rum Pointe side of Cayman Islands in 2011, where we had excellent snorkeling and beach after beach to ourselves.

 

Inside Fort San Felipe del Morro while traveling in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2011

Inside Fort San Felipe del Morro while traveling in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2011. We went to PR to watch the Wichita State Shockers play in a holiday tournament, then spent a few days in the U.S. Virgin Islands after the tourney.

 

ouring Fort San Felipe del Morro while traveling in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Touring Fort San Felipe del Morro while traveling in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2011.

 

Sailboat while traveling on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands

View of sailboat while traveling on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2011.

 

beach while traveling on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands

One of our favorite beach views – Salt Pond Bay – on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2011.

 

Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas

Spent the day on Stocking Island, part of the Exumas in the Bahamas in 2012.

 

One of 365 cays and islands that make up the Exumas in the Bahamas.

One of 365 cays and islands that make up the Exumas in the Bahamas in 2012.

 

The classic view of Atlantis on Nassau, Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

The classic view of Atlantis on Nassau, Paradise Island in the Bahamas in 2012. We stayed a few days to watch the Missouri Tigers play in a holiday basketball tournament.

 

CN Tower reflection downtown Toronto

Caught this reflection of the iconic CN Tower while walking in downton Toronto, Alberta, Canada, 2013.

 

Toronto Islands kayak CN Tower

My favorite spot in Toronto: kayaking on Lake Ontario among the Toronto Islands, looking back at the city skyline in 2013.

Posted in Photography, travel

I have issues: running out of gas

mizzou gas can

The custom-made Mizzou gas container my Uncle Skip made for me after he drove 2 hours to help me when I ran out of gas.

Confession: I have run out of gas in every vehicle I’ve ever owned. Ever’one.

Pathetic, right? I’m not proud of it but I’m sharing it here because apparently this blog’s part-time job is to provide a forum for me to embarrass myself or my husband, or both of us.

Now you might have picked up on this factoid about me if you read the he said-she said posts that we wrote when we took a wrong turn deep in the heart of Texas and nearly ran out of gas. So I figured I’d spill the full details.

The time in the Skylark

It all started with the 1976 Buick Skylark that became my first car in the summer of 1987. I ran out of gas in it several times while my teenage self was driving around my hometown of Columbia, Mo., including on a busy street/highway on my way to work my part-time job at Kmart.

The time in the Nova

Next up was the 1986 Chevy Nova that I owned the last couple years of college. It brought me to Wichita for my summer internship at the Wichita Eagle before my senior year at the University of Missouri, and it again made the trip with me when I moved to Kansas in late 1994, a year after I’d graduated from Mizzou. That next spring (1995) I was covering a big track meet for the Eagle at Wichita State University’s Cessna Stadium. After helping the newspaper’s team with stats and filing my articles from the press box, I left late that Saturday night. I got about a block away when – you guessed it – I ran out of gas.

It wasn’t a block in a good direction, either. It was not the best place to be by myself on a Saturday night in a city I didn’t know very well. This was before cell phones, or even pagers. I was right by a fast food restaurant and there was a pay phone in the parking lot, so I dialed the only local phone number I knew at the time: it was this guy I’d met at the newspaper and had hung out with a few times. His name was Lee and lucky for me, he was at home playing video games on a Saturday night. He rescued me. I returned the favor by marrying him four years later and bringing eternal sunshine into his life :D

The time in the Cavalier

Not long after, I bought a Chevy Cavalier – my first new car! Surely, I would NEVER run out of gas in a NEW car. Well, I’m here to tell ya that 1995 models run out of gas the same way 1976 models do. Same.exact.way.

This time it happened when I was about an hour west of Columbia on my way to Wichita after a visit with family. I swear the gas gauge didn’t work. I swear to this day that I had looked at the gauge and felt like I had enough gas to get me to the stop I planned to make. So when the car sputtered to a stop, I called my Uncle Skip on my new fangled cell phone to tell him something was wrong with the car. No, it wasn’t out of gas, I assured him, something mechanical was wrong. He headed out to come help me.

Soon after I made the call, a passerby stopped and asked if he could help. I told him it wasn’t a gas issue – I was sure of it – and that my uncle would be there any minute. The guy said, “Well, I ran out of gas just yesterday so I have a little left in this gas can. Why don’t we just try it?”

Son-of-a-biscuit-eater, it was out of gas. Damn gas gauge ;-o

My cell phone was dead and I didn’t have a phone charger or my uncle didn’t have a cell phone – there was some reason I couldn’t call him back to cancel his trip. So I drove to the nearest gas station, filled up and waited for my uncle to show up, feeling terrible that I’d wasted his time.

I never left Columbia again without my Uncle Skip asking, “Do you need gas money?” with a huge grin on his face. I deserved it, along with the Christmas present he gave me one year – a custom-made Mizzou-themed gas can. Wish I could say I never needed that damn thing.

mizzou gas can

I keep this in my vehicle all the time now, hoping that because I have it with me I will never need it!

The time in the Accord

I had an accident that totaled the Cavalier – and my neck – so my next automobile was a used 1997 Honda Accord. It was the most comfortable car I’ve ever owned, and it came pimped out with dark tinted windows and a gold detail package. However, I was not stylin’ and profilin’ as I walked across I-35 to a gas station that was within sight of where I’d run out of gas between Emporia and Kansas City on this cold day while driving to Columbia for Thanksgiving.

The time in the Altima

Possibly the stupidest time I ever ran out of gas was in the same parking lot as a gas station. Oh, and no, I didn’t have the Mizzou gas can with me, it was at home in my garage. Oh, and it gets better: Lee was with me this time. In fact, this was the only time I’ve ever had someone else in the car with me while doing the deed.

At this time I was driving a Nissan Altima and we drove from our house to our usual grocery store for some shopping. We also get gas at the gas station operated by the grocery store. I told Lee I needed gas and wondered aloud if I should get it before or after we shop. He suggested after. {Yeah, I kinda want to blame him too, but c’mon that’s not fair. Is it?}

We shop, we load the car up. I get behind the wheel and turn the key. Nothing. No sputter, no nothin’. Same with Lee – no sputter, no nothin’. He didn’t move. By his look, I knew I was on my own for this one. I walked across the parking lot and bought a stupid red container of gasoline. I walked back to the car, poured it in and drove to the freakin’ gas pump and filled up. At least our frozen foods were still fine by the time we got home.

This is approximately where I ran out of gas in the grocery store parking lot. See how close the freakin’ gas station is!

The time in the x3

So this leads me to my current vehicle, my BMW x3. My new BMW x3. Nicest car I’ve owned to date. Surely, I would NEVER run out of gas in a NEW vehicle. {broken record}

Within months of owning this car, not only did I run out of gas … I ran out of gas on Kellogg. At 5 p.m.

For those of you not in Wichita, let me put it this way: I’m an idiot. Seriously.

Kellogg is the main highway that runs east-west through our mid-size metropolis. Massive amounts of traffic. Driving on it sucks any time of day, but it’s crazy at rush hour.

So who came to my rescue? That guy who helped me out the first time I ran out of gas in Wichita, nearly 14 years earlier. I’m hoping I still have his number the next time it happens. Yeah, there’s gonna be a next time.

 

This post is part of a series I like to call “I have issues.” Read the one about my email issues here.

Posted in Family, Lee, Weird shit that happens

A parent’s day post – say what you need to say

photo of my stepbrother, me and my dad

My stepbrother Greg, me and my dad around 1980ish.

I wrote a version of this post in May for Mother’s Day and didn’t publish it on my blog because I worried it might be too sad or depress those of you who are fortunate to get to celebrate the day with your moms. I’m bringing it out and revising it for Father’s Day because I just watched a video that made me realize this is a message everyone needs to hear about relationships with either or both parents.

I tried so hard to not take tomorrow for granted during the decade my mom struggled with early onset emphysema. I talked to her almost daily and visited her in Missouri fairly often. But there I was in the hospital’s ICU with her in 2006 STILL assuming I’d be able to talk to her tomorrow. I had things I wanted to tell her and questions I wanted to ask her, but I couldn’t work up the nerve and didn’t want her think I’d given up on her making a recovery. Then one night while I was sleeping after a long day visiting her at the hospital, she took a turn for the worse. When I got to the hospital the next morning the nurses had heavily sedated her and she wasn’t talking. She never would talk again.

We talked so much … but it still wasn’t enough. I feel like I don’t know – or don’t remember what she told me – about many things from my childhood and from her life.

As Lorena (a medevac helicopter pilot in Alaska who writes about mindful living on her blog Big State, Big Life) talks about in this TEDxAnchorage video, having these types of conversations makes us uncomfortable. I wish I’d gotten uncomfortable and asked her questions, even recorded audio or video so I could hear her voice and so I wouldn’t forget the answers!

 

My reporter instinct means I have pages of questions, but here are some of the biggies that I wish I could hear her answer:

In what ways do you think I’m like you?

Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?

Is there anything that you wish had been different between us — or that you would still like to change?

What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?

Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?

What was it about my father that made you choose to be with him?

What was the favorite place you ever visited?

What’s the most fun thing you ever did?

Is there a time of your life that you remember being your happiest time?

What has been your greatest accomplishment in life – so far?

And, what has been your biggest disappointment in life?

Is there anything you regret not having asked your mother, father or others before they died?

Then there are questions I wish I’d had the courage to ask her when I got to the hospital in September 2006 and realized the seriousness of her condition:

What are you thinking about now…about death?

Are there any special things you’d like anyone in particular to have?

What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?

What advice do you have for me?

So it’s too late for me and my mom or me and my Aunt Linda, but it’s not too late for me to talk to my dad and stepdad (my mom remarried when I was in second grade and had been married to my stepdad for about 27 years when she passed away). Honestly, the idea feels uncomfortable to me just as it did with my mom or my aunt, even more because I had a much deeper connection with the women in my family.

But Lorena’s video gave me this idea – I can use email to do this and make it less uncomfortable. I can write questions and they can write me questions, if they want, and it will be recorded electronically since my memory isn’t so great!

mother and daughter

Me and my mom in the mid-1990s. I think this was at a bbq the first time I brought Lee to Columbia.

Do you remember these “getting to know your friends” emails that were popular in the early-to-mid 2000s? I found this one in the emails that I’d kept from my mom. She completed this on Dec. 26, 2005, the last Christmas we had together. Lee and I were visiting family and friends in Columbia for Christmas and we always took her out for brunch on her birthday before driving back to Wichita.

1. Full name? Sandra Jean Frost

2. Were you named after anyone? No

3. Do you wish on stars? No

4. When did you last cry? Now, because MeLinda and Lee were leaving to go back to Kansas and they are so good to me.

5. What is your birth date? 12-26-39

6. Do you like reality t.v.? Some

7. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with yourself? Yes

8. Do you have a journal? No

9. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Some

10. What is your nickname? Mama Taco

11. Would you bungee jump? No, because I would not want to be that high to jump off anything.

12. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No, I wear slip-ons.

13. Do you think that you are strong? No

14. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Double strawberry

15. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? My belly

16. Who do you miss most? Roy because I loved him so much and cannot understand the things he must have been feeling.

17. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Maroon sweats and white sweatshirt.

18. What are you listening to right now? The scanner. {She listened to a police scanner from the time I was in grade school! I used to joke that it was so she could hear when my brothers got in trouble before the police called her!}

19. Last thing you ate? Country omelet and grain and nut pancakes from Ihop that MeLinda and Lee took me out for lunch.

20. What is the furthest you have ever been from home? Canada

21. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Lavender

22. What is the weather like right now? Chilly

23. Last person you talked to on the phone? My stepmother Ann

24. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Smile and/or eyes

25. Favorite smells? Baking bread, vanilla, cinnamon rolls

26. Favorite sport? Baseball

27. Hair color? Brown

28. Do you wear contacts? no

29. Last movie you watched? Home on the Range

30. What is your favorite day of the year? Christmas, because all the family gets together.

31. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings

32. Summer or winter? Summer

33. Hugs or kisses? Hugs

34. What is your favorite dessert? Banana split

35. What books are you reading? No books, a magazine – Woman’s Day

As I was writing this post yesterday, I realized that I had saved one of these emails with different questions that my dad filled out in 2002. I pulled up the email and smiled as I read through the answers, wondering how many would be different if he filled it out today. The questions, like the ones above, are about pretty trivial things compared to the other questions I proposed earlier in the post, but still meaningful to me.

On Father’s Day this year, I’m planning to send some questions to my dad and my stepdad. I’m hoping it’ll be the start of connecting in a new way. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally learned to stop assuming there will be a tomorrow for any of us and instead of waiting for someday, I’ll have these conversations now.

 

photo with our parents and his sister and brother-in-law

Left to right at a reception in 1999: Lee’s parents, my mom & stepdad, Lee & me, Lee’s sister (carrying their first child) and her husband

Posted in Family

Happy one year {career break} anniversary to me!

This week marked one year ago that I decided to take a break from full-time employment. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I was at a good spot to stop for awhile and think about it.

It was a planned break and one that Lee and I discussed and agreed on – planned but not completely mapped out. It was hard to define the break because I had a lot of questions and I knew that as I started to find answers, those answers would steer me in the direction I needed to go.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year and I’ve gone in several different directions to see what the road looked like. I still have some of my original questions to answer and I even have new questions to answer, so I’m certainly not “there” yet.

At one time, I envisioned a full career break or what some call a sabbatical. I read this great book Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life By Taking a Break and even had the chance to meet and talk to one of the authors, Catherine Allen (who happens to be a Mizzou grad!). I think everyone who is working – happily or unhappily – should read it and consider regular breaks, short or long. 

I didn’t quite go the route of the full career break, although I did have several months late last summer and early fall when I only accepted a couple of small freelance projects and had the rest of the time to explore. This was my “reconnection stage” according to the book. I learned Pilates (for fitness and relaxation reasons), I learned to slow down a little, I got enough sleep, I went to the gym often and I took time to visit family and friends near and far. I also worked on saying no to opportunities that might have stroked my ego to be asked to do but didn’t really match up with what I want to spend my time doing.

This break is really all about giving myself the gift of time. To quote directly from the book: “the luxury of time to step back, relax, reassess and figure out where and what you really want to be or do.”

Somewhere in the fall I moved into the “exploration stage” and I’m happily still in this phase. Some of the highlights: I’ve learned how to use WordPress and I started blogging; I’ve spent time taking photographs, learning to use Photoshop better and started to organize my photo files; I’ve identified conferences to attend and attended several; I’ve started to research the travel and tourism industry, met travel bloggers and writers and worked on querying travel magazine editors.

I’ve also accepted more freelance writing and editing work, and I’ve really paid attention to what I like to write so that I can focus my efforts toward getting more of those assignments.

I’m very thankful that Lee and I have created a situation for ourselves where I am able to take this break in a non-pressure way – our electricity isn’t going to be shut off and we have health insurance through his employer. I’m also grateful for his support and understanding.

I consider this break to be taking a small risk, one that I believe will open up new writing opportunities and will eventually pay off for me and for us.

So, happy one year anniversary to me. I’m looking forward to another year full of possibilities.

Posted in Lee, travel, Work