Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrating the Return of Fall!


With the kids finally in bed, it’s time for me to relax and unwind. It’s the first evening of fall, so tonight I am totally celebrating it. Tonight I am trading in my electronic summer scents for real life candles in “Pumpkin Spice” and “Autumn Wreath,” while snacking on Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts and watching football. So take THAT, summer!
I am so ready and excited to fully embrace and celebrate this season. While most people (including myself) make summer bucket lists, this year I’m making a fall one. I’ve got some serious thinking to do, but it already includes:

  • Sample some of those seasonal beers I always hear about, especially the pumpkin ones
  • Make a pie from scratch
  • Carve pumpkins (instead of being lazy and just sitting them on the porch for decoration
  • Toast pumpkin seeds
  • Play in the leaves with the kids
  • Take a drive to look at the fall leaves
  • Buy and actually wearing a seasonal scarf
  • Try several new fall-type recipes
  • A trip to Red Barn Farm
  • A trip to to Carolyn’s Pumpkin Patch
  • A trip to a pumpkin patch in Nebraska City with the cousins
  • A trip to Jamesport
  • To be continued…
I’m sure I’ll be begging summer to return in a few short months, when it’s too cold to stay long outside, or when I’m stuck at home because I’m too afraid to drive in the snow. But until then, I’m going to have fun playing in the leaves with the kids, wearing sweatshirts and fuzzy socks, eating chili, and doing all of the things I end up putting on our fall bucket list.






Thursday, September 19, 2013

Feeling Refreshed and Looking Forward...

I’ve sat down to write several times over the last couple of weeks, but as soon as I do, the words leave me. I've been debating whether or not I should be putting all of this out there, but in the end, this is my blog, and writing is a great release and relief for me. That's one of the reasons I do it.  Tonight a sudden burst of energy, which helped me to empty the dishwasher, restock it, fold the pile of towels that have sat in our living room since this weekend, and wipe down the bathroom, have left me with more energy to write tonight. And it’s about time! I need to fill the void since my July 28th rambling about the New Kids on the Block concert.

My energy level has been up the last week, as has my mood, and that’s a very good thing. For a long time now I haven’t felt 100% and I didn’t know why. I was always exhausted, and I’m sure a lot of that was because I forced myself to stay up way past my bedtime just because I hated the idea of having to get up in the morning and go to work. When I was at work, I wanted to be anywhere but. I was overwhelmed and unable to fully concentrate, I was easily annoyed by people and tasks I found boring or too involved. When I was home I was easily frustrated with the kids, prone to yelling at the smallest thing, and while I have all these ideas in my head of things I want to do more of (writing, photography, and other artistic expressions), I was so tired and unable to focus that I couldn’t do much more than watch TV, laptop on my lap, checking out Facebook, Twitter and any other mindless internet searching I could do. I never thought anything of it other than maybe I just need more sleep, maybe I just needed to eat better…I never considered ADHD.

That’s right. At the age of 38, I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (clinically ADD doesn't exist, it's either ADHD with or without hyperactivity -- I'm not sure which I am).

I never even considered it at all in relation to myself, until recently. Watching my wonderful girl maneuver through grade school, there seems to be a running theme both in school and at home. My girl is a bit spacey. She tends to drift when her attention isn’t being satisfied by something of interest to her. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s wonderful, but she’s also a daydreamer. Easily distracted by any external stimuli, whether she wants to be or not. In the last year or so, I’ve been watching her. For that reason, along with being very chatty, overly emotional at the little things, easily overwhelmed and frustrated and her rocking, I started to wonder if it was more than just being a typical kid. “ADHD” began to run through my head.

But at the same time, I often smiled and would tell myself and others, “Man, she’s just like her mama!” I think back to myself in school. I spent so much time daydreaming. Like…constantly! I can honestly tell you, I doubt I heard half of what most of my teachers said in most of my classes. They would talk, my mind would wander. Sometimes I’d write notes, or draw, or write song lyrics, but most of the time I would just space out.

So I started to wonder…I keep thinking she might have ADHD, but I also keep saying she’s just like me…what if I had ADHD? So I had to investigate, a/k/a Google.

I know it’s not always a good idea to try to self-diagnose, but I’m a Google addict, so of course I looked it up. I took several online quizzes and scored high enough to warrant a doctor’s visit, according to those quizzes. So I checked out a book from the library, “Delivered from Distraction” and started reading. There were so many times reading that book where I got tears in my eyes; so many things that suddenly made ME make sense. The tendency to daydream and drift off, even when I wanted to pay attention; all the ideas and things in my head that overwhelmed me so that I sometimes felt paralyzed and unable to do any of it; the frustration of feeling so overwhelmed by such small things; and so many other things that have made life feel like such a struggle recently. (Things I’ve always had, but have been amplified in recent months, I assume due to stress) I didn’t even get half way through the book and I knew it was me. I made an appointment to speak to a counselor, who was unable to actually diagnose me but believed there was something there. In order to get diagnosed, I went to a psychiatrist and poured out my heart about my struggles, my frustrations, all dating back to when I was a kid. By the end of the appointment, she had confirmed my self-diagnoses and gave me a prescription to help me with my most overwhelming symptoms – those listed above.

I felt the effects almost immediately. I was still me, but different? More aware, more in charge, focused, happier, energetic, motivated, less distracted, less overwhelmed, able to organize and handle my work… In many way, a better me!

I always joked about having ADHD, but I can’t believe that it took me 38 years to realize that it wasn’t just a joke – it was true. I have to say, I am very excited about it. I’m excited to see what I can do and accomplish now that I feel like I’m seeing things more clearly. I don’t feel like I’m walking around in a haze, I feel like I can finally take control and turn those daydreams into reality!

I know some people like to keep this kind of stuff private and may wonder why I'm putting it all out there.  I've always been a bit of an open book, but I also feel like its a great way to create conversation and possibly help someone else -- and myself -- in the process. I know that I like to know I'm not alone with thinbgs like this.

I’m sure that I will talk a lot about ADHD on this blog now, as I work to find ways to better organize my life and to handle this diagnosis. While I am grateful for the effect the medicine is having on me, I am also searching for ways to make life easier and more manageable without the use of medicine.  If you are reading this and you have been diagnosed with ADHD, I love to hear from you about ways that you’ve found make things easier for you.

I look forward to what lies ahead…and to more clearly seeing and appreciating love and the little things!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Kids on the Block "The Package" Tour - Funnest! Night! Ever!


Last Sunday night was supposed to be just a fun night, and it most definitely was, but it was also one of strange emotions -- all courtesy of the New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and 98°.

I had been looking forward to July 21st for what seemed like FOR-EVER! Four not-so-cheap but oh-so-worth it tickets were purchased months ago for myself, my mom, and two really good friends. The original “Package Tour” schedule did not include Kansas City and totally broke my heart. I was THIS close to purchasing tickets for the St. Louis show when I hear the big announcement on the radio. I literally screamed for several consecutive minutes while driving to work when the radio announced they were coming to KC, and tried unsuccessfully to contact both my mom and my friends to tell them the great news!

We spent more than we normally do for concert tickets, but my mom and I wanted to upgrade our typical New Kids experience. For me, this was my sixth New Kids on the Block concert – three of them were back in the day (Nebraska State Fair with Tiffany in Lincoln, in Omaha with Dino and the Cover Girls, and the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Missouri) and three tours since they reunited in 2008. For my mom, it was her fifth. (We’ve also seen Boyz II Men three times, once way back when, then last year at the Lied Center in Lincoln, and then Sunday night. It was a first for 90°, though.)

When we walked into the Sprint Center got to our seats, we paused for a moment, looked around, re-checked our tickets, and swore we had to be in the wrong seats. Lower section, sixth row, and with perfect view of the main stage which happened to be in the middle of the floor. Probably the best seats any of us have ever had for any concert. We were psyched!
Jeannie, me, my mom Linda, and Michelle
The show was scheduled to start at 7:30, and it was pretty much right on time. Boyz II Men opened the show (which seems weird, I would have put my 98° first personally), dressed in white from head to toe. Their set was short and almost seemed more like a preview to entice people to come to their Vegas shows, but they were awesome. Their voices were as flawless as they have always been, and their interaction with the crowd made the whole set a lot of fun. It was short, with only a handful of songs and most of them slow (of course), but the crowd went crazy – of course so did we – when they closed their set with “Motownphilly.” I would have been perfectly happy with more songs from Boys II Men, but their short set definitely made me happy that we went to the show in Lincoln last year.
Boyz II Men sounding and looking as smooth as ever!
With no intermission in between, Boyz II Men was off and 98° appeared. I have to admit, I’ve liked some 98° songs, but have never been crazy about them. But since we were all there, why not just sit back and enjoy it!?!? It may have lacked the style and finesse of Boyz II Men, but I gave them a bit of a pass because of all three groups, they were the ones who had truly gotten back together for this tour, and I’m sure they were all a little rusty. So we danced, clapped, and sang along with the songs we knew, and I was happy knowing my mom (who was obviously the only true 98° fan between the four of us) was enjoying herself.
98° -- Or as we liked to call it, the Nick Lachey Show
Once 98° was finished there was a short intermission, allowing for a much needed bathroom break. Then the excitement really began to build. I had read a lot of people on Twitter talking about how it was the best show, so I had high expectations!

I’m sure the “critics” have probably panned the New Kids and this concert just like they always have, but don’t say anything negative to the thousand of women screaming along with me Sunday night. I admit, for me, they can do no wrong.

When I think of the News Kids, I have such fond and happy memories. I was an obsessed, card carrying fan club member with posters literally plastered all over my walls. I was a monthly purchaser of Bop and Big Bopper magazines mostly to collect New Kids the articles and posters, and owned as much merchandise as I possibly could – dolls, trading cards, swimming towels, even a telephone, among many other things. I knew every word of every song, and pretty much every move from their concert.

I can actually tell you exactly where I was the first time I heard Joey McIntyre sing “Please Don’t Go Girl.” I frequently spent the night at my grandparents, and usually had the radio on when I was falling asleep. I remember laying there when the song started playing, and loving them ever since.

I’m about to admit something that sounds kind of sad and pathetic now, but growing up, I was always a daydreamer (and I guess I still am) and in my imagination, I often toured with them as their opening act and of course I was usually Joe’s girlfriend. To be completely honest, back then, it was my refuge. When I felt lonely, or sad, or insecure – which unfortunately was often – I put on the music and the videos, and dreamed about what I was going to do and be when I grew up. I was going to be a singer, there was no doubt about it, and I believe all of that pulled me through what I almost believe now was mild depression (if there is such a thing).

But back to Sunday night…when they hit the stage, I actually got tears in my eyes. Even though I had already seen them twice in the last five years, this time felt different. Maybe it’s because I just attended my 20 year high school reunion earlier this month and had already been in state of nostalgia, and maybe it’s because I suddenly started feeling my age. Reflecting back to my childhood, I had such big plans. And while a lot of what I had planned for my life didn't materialize, God obviously had something else planned for me and blessed with a wonderful, supportive husband, my wonderful kids, my friends, my amazing family, my health…I know I’m very lucky and blessed. However, sometimes I feel that little pain somewhere deep in my heart, where I feel like I would have done things differently had I known then what I know now. I often feel like there is more out there for me, for my family, and I now want to make it my goal to figure out what that is. I guess it’s kind of strange that a pop concert would have me thinking so deep, but these were honestly the kinds of things that we running through my mind throughout the show.

But back to the show, here are a few cell phone shots:


Slowing it down a little.

Yes, it's blurry, but they are Boston Strong!
 For those two hours, standing there screaming, fist pumping, clapping and dancing, I was just happy. Plain and simple, happy. I didn’t want it to end, and the actual thought of the end of the show is when those feelings would creep in.

Even after it was over, I still felt full of adrenaline and ready for the next New Kids tour. I told myself that next time, no matter what it cost, I was getting meet and greets and once and for all meeting Joey, Donnie, Jordan, Jonathan and Danny.

That night was definitely one of the best nights of my life and one of the best concerts I've ever been to, but man, even thinking about it now kind of makes me sad. So until the next tour...

The set list:

"We Own Tonight"
"Block Party"
"Summertime"
"You Got It (The Right Stuff)"
"The Whisper"
"Survive You"
"Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"/"Valentine Girl"/"If You Go Away"/"Please Don't Go Girl"
"Remix (I Like The)"
"Single"
"Baby, I Believe In You"/"I’ll Be There”/"Tender Love"/"Click Click Click"
"Faith" (George Michael)/"Kiss" (Prince)/"Hot In Herre" (Nelly)
"Dirty Dancing"
"Step By Step"
"Cover Girl"
"Games"
"Tonight"
"I'll Be Loving You (Forever)"
"Hangin' Tough"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Facebook Hiatus -- One Week Down!

This is not going to be a fancy post by any means, but I feel the need to report. It's now been one week and two days since I went on Facebook hiatus and I am still breathing! Actually, it's been a LOT easier than I thought it would be. There have been some moments where I wonder if I'm missing anything exciting, although I'm pretty sure I'm not.  It was hard Sunday night, while my friends were checking in and posting pictures of the New Kids on the Block concert. I missed not being able to share in that, to see what people were posting, to see if anyone else I knew was at the concert...but at the same time, it was kind of nice being able to just enjoy the show. Of course, I did take pictures and sent a couple "This is so cool!" texts to friends, but I felt like maybe I experienced more than I would have if I had been accessing Facebook (and I know I would have been accessing Facebook).

I've heard a couple of times, people saying that sometimes we spend so much time documenting a moment on social media, that we don't really experience it or live the moment. Stepping back from some social media a little bit, I'm kind of finding that to be true. Now, if I could cut back a little bit on Twitter, that would be something...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Facebook: The Good and Bad According to Me!

Yes, today I am breaking the one rule I made when I decided to blog, the one that says "Always include photographs," because frankly, I don't have any pictures fitting for my random posting tonight. Tonight I just feel like talking.

Facebook. A true battle of good and evil. I really love getting online, seeing what's going on in the lives of my family and friends, sharing what's going on in mine, being inspired by the photographers and writers who's pages I follow, and seeing the latest headlines from local news and of course, my favorite news outlet -- TMZ. But I have a confession to make.

There are some people currently on my friends list who's status updates I hide. (Eek!)

And it's not because I don't like these people, it's just that I get tired of people who are constantly complaining, and constantly whining, and who never have anything positive to say. And I can only stand so much talk about politics and political issues, regardless of what "side" they are on. I like to think of myself as a generally positive person, and so much negative talk brings me down. So I hide their statuses. But it's usually not forever. I will generally visit those pages every couple of weeks, to see what's going on and see what's new. And I've been known to "unhide" people when I've noticed that their attitude has changed and their posts are more...happy. 

However,with that said, I will say that I have never hid anyone for view for posting too much. I have a few friends who post several times every day, most of them being relatively entertaining or thought provoking. I'm okay with that. It doesn't usually bother me. But I know that there are plenty of people that it does bother. I know there are plenty of people who hide people from their Facebook because they feel like they post too much. And I have a suspicion I might be one of those people that some of my friends "hide" from their Facebook feeds. And honestly, the thought of it makes me sad.

I know I should have thicker skin and not take it so personally either, especially when I have no proof that such activity is taking place. However, as someone who still has an overwhelming, and probably unhealthy desire to have people like me, I can't help but feel hurt by the thought.

That's why I've made a decision!

Sometimes, drastic times call for drastic measure. So sometime in the next couple of weeks, I am going to suspend my Facebook account and go "offline" (as far as Facebook is concerned) for a bit. The reason I don't have a set date yet is because my 20 year high school reunion is this weekend, and I don't want to miss pictures that get posted, etc., but this is definitely something I am going to do.

Not only do I hope it will do something for my bruised ego, but I also believe it will free up a lot of time that I currently spend checking status updates and "liking" pictures. I wish I could just back away from it. Set a one or two check a day limit. Remove the app from my phone.  But I know me. I'm a Facebook addict and if it's there, I will check it. I have no will power and no control. I just need to go cold turkey. So that is my plan.

Maybe I'll read more, or maybe I'll write more! I have two photography courses that I bought off of CreativeLIVE.com -- Tamara Lackey's "Children's Portrait Photograph" and John Greengo's "Fundamentals of Digital Photography." There is five days worth of learning in the John Greengo workshop and truly has so much information in it that I could treat it as my own photography school. The best part is it cost me a LOT less than I'd pay for a "real" class, and probably teaches me a LOT more, all in the privacy of my own home. However, I think in order to truly do it and get the most out of it, I have to schedule it much like I'd schedule for a real college course.

What does all of this have to do with Facebook? Really nothing, except now I'm kind of excited about all of the time that I might GAIN by giving up Facebook for awhile. But can I do it? For someone who literally will check for status updates every few minutes when available, it's going to be difficult.  But I'm also looking forward to maybe having some real interactions! Phone calls instead of messaging, actual birthday cards in the mail instead of Wall posts (although I'm going to be lost without my daily birthday reminders).

So to any of my Facebook friends who may be reading this and actually do care about the things I normally say on FB, fear not. I'm also hoping it will give me more time and more reasons to keep this blog more up-to-date! And never fear, unless I discover the true secret to happiness, I WILL be back to Facebook, once I catch my breath! I also plan to keep using my Twitter (www.twitter.com/nkrone) and Instagram (NKrone), if you still want to keep track of my day-to-day.

If nothing else, I'm hoping my time away from Facebook will give me a little perspective, a lot more free time, and a little more peace so that I can take in what's left of summer, cross more items off my summer bucket list, and spend a little more time loving the little things.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Random Saturday Thoughts...

For some reason, in order to be a good blog post, I seem to feel like I need to have a lot to say, or it needs to be some life lesson, or it needs to be about something big we did, or it needs to have lots of pictures. Maybe that's because the few blogs that I follow regularly seem to have a lot of that stuff, and I feel somewhat inadequate if I don't follow suit. I mean, they have thousands of followers, lots of sponsors, and I love them, so shouldn't I strive to be that?

Truth is, they all started somewhere. I'm learning its more important to have regular content then for me to just wait around for some big thing to inspire me and make me write a novel. Let's face it, stuff like the big post about my trip to NYC may seem entertaining to me, but I wonder how many of the page views I currently have actually read through the whole thing? The truth is that I wrote it mainly for me...as a way to remember that life-changing experience. If someone else enjoyed reading about it - bonus!

I have to stop comparing myself to those bloggers that I love, and just be real. Be Nikki! I'm a random person. It's possible I have a little bit of ADD. So I just need to write like I think. And I need to blog like I think. So I want to do more of that. 

What I have also decided is that I spend way too much time in my own head. I spend so much time thinking about what I want, what I want to do, who I want to be...but then I don't actually DO anything. I think I'm afraid that the reality is not going to be as easy as the dream, but the things in life that are really worth while are never easy. Like being a parent, for example. I just need to put on my big girl pants and turn my thoughts and dreams into action and JUST DO IT!

I want to be a writer. I want to be a photographer. So I need to write more, I need to read more, and I need to work more on becoming a photographer -- not just shooting pictures. I need to stop planning so much and just do it.
_____
I have pretty much spent all of the morning sitting outside on the deck. It is by far my FAVORITE way to spend a morning! The breeze has been a bit cool and the beautiful blue sky has been replaced by a blanket of clouds, but there is no rain. Of this I'm thankful.

I've decided I want to read a lot more this summer, so I started that today by getting back to reading "The Happiness Project" and adding the novel "Can I Get An Amen" to the Kindle. While I've been enjoying the reading, I've also found myself easily distracted by my thoughts, my phone, and my kids. I decided to set my phone timer in five minute increments. In those five minutes I think of nothing but what I'm reading, I don't respond to text messages, and I resist the urge to check Instagram or Facebook. Its worked. 

Then I went inside to check on the kids, and what started as a way to fulfill a request from the youngest who wanted to see his freckles...



  ...turned into a mini living room photo session with Brendan.

"Mommy, take a picture of my feet!"

"Take a picture of my silly face!"
 

  Love his nose!

Monday, May 27, 2013

I [Heart] NYC!

*Side note: I realize this is a very long blog post, but I wanted to write it all down so I would always remember the details of our amazing trip to New York City. But I hope you might take a few minutes to read it...and I've thrown a lot of photographs in here too.
___________________________________

A couple of years ago, while cruising the internet and idling on Facebook, I received a private message that went something like, “Woohoo Denny Hamlin!” It was a simple message from a Brit living in New York City, who just happened to love NASCAR. At that moment he wanted to celebrate a victory by his favorite driver and had no one else but me to express his joy to. At the time we were both writing for Frontstretch.com (a NASCAR website) and while we had little to no interaction before that moment, little did I know at the time that it would be the beginning of a very important friendship to me.


Me and Danny after church.
We chatted on Facebook a lot over the next few months, first about NASCAR, then about everything. Over the course of the next couple years, we also talked a lot about me coming to New York City for a visit. I had always dreamed of visiting New York, ever since I was a kid dreaming of being a pop star and traveling the world, and he thought it would be an amazing experience for me. With him living in NYC it was a perfect way for me to visit, to have someone to show me around, and also have a free place to stay. While I always said I would do it – someday – I’m not sure I ever really believed it would happen.

But several months ago, I discovered my time for free room and board was running out as Danny became engaged and planned to be married by the summer. If I wanted to go to NYC and have a free place to stay, it would need to be done soon. It suddenly got serious!

I talked to my mom into going with me and by February we had picked the date – May 9-12.; by mid-March we booked the tickets - $260 each, round trip, non-stop, Kansas City to LaGuardia; and at 11:40 on Thursday, May 9th, we sat on a Delta plane on the tarmac at KCI, looked at each other and said, “We are really going to New York City!”

It was my first flight since traveling to Charlotte for a race weekend in 2002 (where I also met up with friends I had met online but had never actually met in person), and my mom hadn’t flown in several years.

Our first real “New York Experience” (of which there were many), was of course the taxi ride from the airport to the city. I was all excited about it, having seen and heard about the craziness on TV for years. The ride was also pretty uneventful, which is good, but it is interesting to see first hand how they maneuver into the tiniest holes without running into other cars or people.


When we arrived at Danny’s doorstop in the West Village, I’ll admit I was nervous about finally meeting in person someone I’d talked to for a couple of years. You start to wonder if you will get along as well in person as you do through the words you type, or if they will spend some time with you and wonder if they’ve been talking to someone else the whole time. But it didn’t take long at all before it felt like we were just hanging out with an old friend, and I knew that it was going to be relaxed “be myself” kind of weekend.

With just 3 days to see it all, we had a pretty packed schedule. Because of his work and packing/moving schedule, we were pretty much on our own during the day, with plans to meet up for dinner in the evenings.

One of the first things I learned while visiting is that New York City LOVES their furbabies! I can’t even count the number of dogs we saw, or that Banana (their French Bulldog) stopped to talk to on our walk our first night there. The weather was perfect and made for the perfect night of people watching, as Danny showed us around his neighborhood. We passed by cozy little restaurants, matching brownstones that must cost a fortune, cute little bakeries, and stores so fancy the store associates walked around serving wine and champaign to customers. We strolled through Washington Square Park, dodging pigeons and Frisbees as we listened to the music and singing that filled the air.
Banana

Once our walk was complete and Banana had thoroughly sniffed the entire neighborhood, it was time to meet up with Stephanie for dinner. I hate to say it, but I don’t know the name of the restaurant that served us our first NYC meal, but it was cute, cozy, dimly lit, and the food was delicious. 

After dinner it was a short walk to our home away from home for the next three nights, and time to get some sleep so we could be well rested for our next adventure beginning in the morning. We climbed the roughly 66 steps to the fourth floor apartment that wasn’t much bigger than a dorm room and got ready for bed. With no AC in the apartment, we actually slept all three nights with the window open, no screen, and shockingly we never felt a bit nervous or scared, even with the fire escape at the window (and the only bug that got in was one fly). There was the sound of laughter from the restaurant down the street, some occasional yelling, sirens, honking, and what sounded like the nearby restaurant dumping all of their glass bottles from the day, but it was all strangely soothing and we fell and stayed asleep pretty easily.
Our view for the weekend, from Danny's fire escape. It's one of my favorite pictures from the weekend.
Friday morning (and every morning actually) we were woken up at 5:45 a.m. by some very happy and chatty birds perched on the fire escape. It wasn’t enough to keep us awake, but the sun was already shining and another beautiful spring New York day was in store. When we did finally wake up for the day, we quickly got ready to begin out adventure.

It started with a walk on High Line, a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. When they stopped using it years ago, it was overgrown with weeds and left unused and neglected until a group got together to save the High Line. What they created is a beautiful landscape of gardens, scenic views of the city and Hudson, and art pieces scattered throughout the 1.45 mile walking path. (To red and see more about it, go to http://www.thehighline.org/)


One of the beautiful flower gardens planted on the High Line.
View of the West Village from the High Line.
Some of the many condos located along the High Line. I love the architecture in NYC!


Another street view from the High Line.
We walked with Danny and Steph to right near Danny’s office, then Steph helped us find a bathroom (thank you Starbucks), some Tylenol, and put us in a cab headed for Rockefeller Center.

For some reason, Rockefeller Center always seemed bigger in my mind. When we walked up to the center of the plaza, which is most famous for hosting the skating rink in the winter but holds a cafĂ© and seating area in the summer, somehow I thought it would be…bigger. But it still left us in awe and repeating what would be a familiar phrase: “We are really at [insert name of famous NYC landmark here]!!” I took tons of pictures of flags, buildings and people, and then we ventured to the other side to get a better photo of the large, golden Promethius statue and infamous 30 Rockefeller Plaza building.


During the winter, it's the famous ice skating rink. In the summer, it's an outdoor cafe.
The home of NBC.
The GE Building, also known as 30 Rock, among other nicknames, is the headquarters
of the NBC television network. It's also the host to the Top of the Rock observation deck.
Mom and I in front of the Rockefeller Plaza and the Prometheus.

200 flagpoles line the Plaza. During US holidays, every pole carries the US Flag, but when we were there they
were decorated with the flags of the United Nationals countries.
 Across the street, next to the NBC News building, we noticed a small crowd gathering around the barricades, so we wandered over that direction to see what all the interest was about. Turns out, they were setting up to begin filming Access Hollywood Live (which I didn’t even know existed), and the show’s special guests would be Rod Stewart and tennis legend Jimmy Conners. So we stayed around, snapped pictures of the hosts Billy Bush and Kit Hoover, and eventually Conners and Stewart.
Billy Bush interviews Rod Stewart for "Access Hollywood Live." It was a nice surprise, to be able to stand in the Plaza and watch a live TV show taping.
Our next stop was a trip to the NBC store, where I had to pick up a few “F∙R∙I∙E∙N∙D∙S” items, before heading to the Top of the Rock to get a fabulous view of the entire city. We opted to go to the Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building, and we weren’t let down because the view was amazing.


Entrance to the NBC Studios and the Top of the Rock.
View of Central Park from the Top of the Rock.
Some buildings from the Top of the Rock.
Some more buildings from the Top of the Rock.
View of the Times Square Ball on display.
Some bridge...wish I knew what it was.
After taking lots and lots of pictures, we took the elevator ride down from the 67th floor, stopped by the souvenir store, and then decided to head up to Central Park.

Before we started our walk to Central Park, we stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is right across the street from Rockefeller Center. Although the outside was covered in scaffolding, and there was plenty on the inside too, it was amazingly beautiful!


The walk to Central Park was interesting, watching the people hurrying about their business, New Yorkers rushing to get to their homes or their jobs, or their happy hours, mixed with the tourists taking pictures and oohing and ahhing over their surroundings.

I’m not sure what I expected Central Park to be like, but like so many other places we saw, it just seemed different than it looks in movies or TV’s. We stopped for a bit to sit in the grass by the pond, eating the Lindt truffles we picked up on the way, then went off to tour more of the park and take more pictures. Again, the park was filled with people and dogs, tourist and locals…and like every other place we visited, it was great for people watching!  


Lounging by the pond on the south side of the park.



After spending an hour or so walking around Central Park, we decided it was time to walk to Times Square. On our way out, I noticed the subway entrance and we decided to head down, just to take a peak.


The entrance to the subway right outside of Central Park --
our first subway experience.





We were worried about taking the subway for the first time alone, but once we got down there, it didn’t seem as intimidating as we thought. Armed with the life-saving Hop Stop app on my phone and already feeling pretty good about what we had accomplished by ourselves so far, we decided to throw caution to the wind and take the subway. By ourselves!
 After receiving help getting our metro cards, we slid through the turnstiles and I almost couldn’t contain my excitement about actually riding a famous New York Subway! After consulting with some fellow tourists on whether or not we had the right train, the subway stopped, the doors opened, and we jumped on! It wasn’t as crowded as we feared it would be, and honestly, it was all a lot cleaner than I expected.
Look!  A real NYC subway!
I was actually surprised at how clean and not scary the subway was.
This guy, however, is kind of creeping me out now.
 We reached our stop, jumped off, and emerged from the tunnel below to see the beginning of the large electronic signs that signaled we had arrived at Times Square. I quickly consulted my map, and we headed off to the heart of Times Square. 









I couldn’t help but walk around in awe of my surroundings. Of all the amazing places contained within New York City, Times Square and Broadway were probably the two I had known about the longest, and the first thing I always thought of when I thought of NYC. We wandered the streets, taking pictures, more people watching, and decided after awhile we should head back to the apartment before it got too dark. And instead of the taxi, again we decided to take the subway.

After arriving at the apartment, freshening up and resting a little, we met up with Danny for dinner at a very good burger restaurant (and once again I can’t remember the name). I had a bison portabella burger, french fries, and the best ketchup ever! After a night of great food and great conversation, we returned to the restaurant to prepare for our trip the next day to the World Trade Center.

Originally, Danny and Steph were going to join us for our trip downtown, but a last minute change of moving plans meant we were on our own at the WTC Memorial. But first, we walked to the Union Square area of Greenwich Village and roamed the streets as Danny and Steph took their Soul Cycle class. We walked through Madison Square Park, took pictures of the Flat Iron Building (a NYC icon and one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen), stopped for a drink at a very large Barnes & Noble, and then strolled the Union Square farmers market while waiting to meet up with Danny.
The iconic Flat Iron Building, one of my favorite buildings in NYC.
Pop trivia: the building is depicted as the headquarters of the "Daily Bugle" for
Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movies, but is really a functioning office building.
One of the buildings we spotted during our walk through the Union Square District (I think it is). I just loved the colors of the buildings along with the architecture.
After their class, Danny hopped the subway with us and took us downtown to the courthouses and World Trade Center area to give us a brief tour.


The Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, home of the US Court of
Appeals for the 2nd District and the US District Court for the Southern District
of New York. It's also within walking distance to the Brooklyn Bridge and the
World Trade Center site.
I don't know what it is, but it's in downtown and it's beautiful.


Another building in downtown NYC that I don't know the name of, but loved the architecture.
 After the tour of the area, it was time for him to head back up north and time for us to get ready for our tour of the World Trade Center Memorial. We snaked through the long, slow security line with the other families and tour groups. There were several school groups as well. High school kids. Kids that couldn’t have been more than four or five years old at the time of the attacks. I wondered what the experience would be like for them. If they’d fully understand the experience.

As we entered the area where the two towers once stood, you couldn’t help but feel the emotion. Staring at the south pool, seeing the names of those who were lost, trying to imagine what it was like. How a place that at one moment was so full of pain, fear and desperation is now a place so calm and tranquil. I truly felt honored just to stand there and pay silent tribute to those we lost. We walked to where the shell of the museum stands, still under construction, peering in the window to see two of the trident’s from the original building standing in place, while lots of work remains to be done inside. We wandered over to the north pool, watching the water fall down the marble walls and sink into the smaller hole in the middle, the one that looked as if it went on forever. I silently prayed that those souls who may still be lost would soon find peace. Their loved ones, too.


The south reflecting pool at the 9/11 Memorial stands in the footprint of the WTC South Tower.


The names of all those who perished on 9/11/2001 along with those who died in
the 1993 bombing circle both the north and south reflecting pools.


The museum (bottom of the picture) and the new World Trade Center,
both still under construction, serve as a reminder of the New York spirit.
The steel beams, known as Tridents, were pulled from the wreckage of the
original WTC and sit inside the 9/11 Museum.
 We made our way through the courtyard, through the trees, until we came to one very special tree. The “Survivor Tree” stood in the middle of them all, secured by ropes, draped in flowers, and surrounded by a metal border to keep people from getting too close to this battle scared tree. The Survivor Tree was the one original tree from the World Trade Center complex that was found partially intact. Workers pulled the tree from the wreckage a few weeks after the attack, and it was taken to a nursery and, although wounded and damaged, still produced lush green leaves and today stands as a symbol of the resiliency of the city.





With the sky growing darker over head and some ominous clouds hovering over the New Jersey skyline, we decided it was probably time to head out in search of cover. With over 1,000 people and not a lot of cover, we didn’t want to be among those scrambling for shelter. We made our way out of the memorial and stopped at the gift shop, before heading for somewhere to eat. As we made our purchases, the thunder got louder and the crowd instead the store grew larger. We exited heading south towards the Hudson, a security guard at the store assuring us there was a restaurant a block away. We made it about halfway there before it all broke lose. We were in the perfect position to duck into a parking garage entrance when it hit. First a little wind, then a lot of wind, followed immediately by rain and hail, all within seconds. We watched as crates and trash cans rolled down the street in front of us, the driving rain backing us up against the garage doors. Fire trucks roared past us heading towards the Hudson.

With the rain lightning up, we decided to head down to the restaurant, but first, I let my curiosity take over and we headed a block past our stop to the edge of the island where the fire trucks had stopped. As we got closer, we noticed all of the firemen leaning over the side of the wall, looking into the water. At first I was afraid we’d witness a water rescue, and I soon realized they also had no idea what they were looking for. It wasn’t until we all looked to our right and saw a very large tree laying on its side against the building, that we realized why they had been called Not just because it had broken, but it had been completely uprooted and turned on its side, landing on a restaurant patio where, just moments before the storm, several people sat enjoying a Saturday afternoon lunch. Thankfully no one was injured, but the rain began picking up and we decided it was time to head for lunch. Unfortunately, we weren’t as lucky as the first time, and with no shelter in immediate sight, the sky dumped again and by the time we hit the restaurant, we were drenched!

We were shown to our seat, handed extra towels so we could try to dry off, and order some kind of house salad with tomatoes, pumpkin seeks and jicama. It was good, but not sure it was worth the $10 it cost. However, it was nice to have somewhere calm to sit and get away from the rain, as we hoped it would die down soon so we could continue our trek to the Staten Island Ferry.

Shortly after we had finished our food, the skies began to lighten and the rain had pushed away. We headed back to the end of the island and walked along the edge for as long as we could. We spotted several other large trees that had been uprooted and knocked over by this recent storm, and heard a doorman tell another tourist that the trees had been so weakened by Hurricane Sandy, the wind they got that afternoon was just enough to topple them over. We also saw some remnants of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, but enjoyed our quiet walk along the Hudson. We walked by Battery Park, but did go in because from our vantage point, the park was blocked off and unavailable during construction, and we had to get to the ferry and back to the subway before it got dark.

I’m not sure I really had a vision of what the Staten Island Ferry would be like. There is a VERY large building with two entrances to the ferrys. It departs every 30 minutes and takes people back and forth from the City to Staten Island. As the time grew near, everyone huddle in front of the large doors, waiting for them to open and the boarding to begin. When they do, it’s a mad dash. You can pretty much tell the regulars from the tourists. The tourists all rush and line up on the right side of the boat, pretty much right up against the window, all wanting a view and photograph of the Statue of Liberty. The regulars head to the middle or the lower level, put on their headphones or read their books, and wait out the 25 minute ride.


Waiting for the ferry.
The Staten Island Ferry.

We were one of the tourists. I must have snapped about 20 pictures of Lady Liberty on the way there, and just as many on the way back. When the ship docked on the other side, we made our exit and promptly joined the crowd waiting to get on. 25 minutes later, we were back on the City side and began our trek back through downtown in the direction of the memorial.





This was probably the only time we sort of got lost. I wouldn’t really say “lost”. We were heading the right way, we just couldn’t exactly find the right street to find the subway entrance. I used my map and the HopStop phone app (Love it!), but with a dying battery I started to worry we might have to just hail a taxi back. This was the only time I made a call to Danny informing him we MIGHT be lost, but just about that time, we received a sign! A real sign. The sign that said where the subway entrance was, just a block or two down. Of course, when we found the station, we discovered that the particular train we wanted – the E Train – wasn’t serving that station right now. Thankfully, there was someone in the booth who could tell us which train we needed to take, and while we missed our stop by one, with a little help from the app and the map, we made it back to the apartment safe and sound, and ready for our final dinner in NYC.

Dinner that night was special and definitely the perfect way to spend our last night in NYC.  Although they had spent most of the day moving boxes, Danny and Stephanie joined us for a late dinner at this cute, cozy little Mexican tapas restaurant in the West Village called La Bota, and I’m kicking myself for not taking any pictures of this place.  I guess by that time we got there I was just so tired of having a camera around my neck and constantly taking pictures, it didn’t even register. We started off with a pitcher of Sangria (so, so good!) and then proceeded to order about 16 separate items of the menu – some better than other, but all really, really good! I even tried my first anchovy – a good way to kick off a summer where I am determined to take chances and have new experiences! The food and the atmosphere were amazing, but not as much as the company and conversation. I truly think it may have been one of my favorite moments of the trip and one of the things I will remember the most fondly.

That night was bittersweet. I laid in bed still in awe of and inspired by all that we had done while in NYC, but knew that there wasn’t much left of this amazing trip, and I wanted to take it all in. Sunday morning we were supposed to meet Danny and Steph at 9:15 to head with them to church, so we got up and out a little bit early so that we could grab breakfast at Amy’s, a local bakery, and take a little morning stroll through the streets while they were still a bit quiet and peaceful. I could have stayed in that moment all day – the cool morning air, light breeze, beautiful buildings and the gorgeous morning sun. However, we had plans to meet up with Danny and Steph for church at Hillsong, so we hopped in a taxi and off we went to Irving Plaza near Union Square.

From the moment we pulled up to the club/church, I knew this wasn’t going to be anything like I was used to. Let me first say, I absolutely love my church and my amazing church family. Our church service is very traditional and in the past I haven’t been too fond of contemporary services. But this was felt different. The music, the atmosphere, the energy…it was hard to believe all of this was happening at 10:00 in the morning on a Sunday.

Hillsong Church started in Australia and has locations all over the world, but the church in NYC is the only one in the United States. They generally have six services with the day beginning at 10:00 am and ending at 11:00 pm. When the taxi pulled up, the first thing that caught my attention was the line of people waiting outside. It looked more like a concert than a church services, which was fitting since it was being held in a nightclub. We were fortunate enough to get to sit in the fourth row, which was awesome because it really allowed us to be right in the middle of it all and get the full experience. The service began with praise and worship, complete with a full band and Hillsong original songs, and including free pop tarts. The pastor came out like a rock star, complete with tattoos and shaved head, but also with an inspiring sermon that left me wanting more. I sang, I laughed, I smiled, I was moved and inspired, and I am so glad that we were able to experience it. It was another one of my favorite moments of the trip.

And with the end of church, it was also the end of our time with Danny. Work called him away to Indianapolis, so he had to go directly from church to the airport and we said our goodbyes with a couple pictures and some hugs.

With a few hours to kill before we had to head to the airport, and the absolutely most perfect weather to do it in, we began walking and looking for a place for lunch. With a plethora of options, we selected Patsy’s Pizzeria, a cute little pizza shop with seating in the windows that allowed for a sort of outdoor eating. We opted for caprese salad (my favorite summer meal) and pepperoni and mushroom pizza, and it was good!


Yum!
The rest of our trip was spent roaming the streets of Greenwich Village, looking at the buildings, the gardens, the parks, and enjoying the entertainment from street performers in Washington Square Park. We took pictures of the townhouse used as Will Smith’s character’s home in the movie “I Am Legend” and of one of probably the biggest tourist attractions in the West Village, the brownstone used as Carrie Bradshaw’s home in “Sex and the City.”
Will Smith's town home in "I Am Legend"


Carie Bradshaw's home in "Sex and the City"
And to conclude are NYC adventure, we decided to walk to the west edge of the island – just because we could, and just to say we did.


New Jersey


More New Jersey (I think it's Hoboken, but I wont swear by it)
Another view of the new World Trade Center tower and downtown NYC.
Then came the hardest part of the trip – going back to the apartment and packing. While I missed my kids like crazy and couldn’t wait to see them at the airport in their pj’s, there was still so much I wanted to see and do, I wasn’t quite ready to leave. But it was inevitable. We headed to the airport pretty early, we wanted to make sure we got there in plenty of time, and we did.

It seems weird to me that it’s been two weeks since we were in NYC. It was such an amazing experience, so inspiring, and I’m so proud of us for seeing so much of the city on our own – especially riding the subway and the ferry!

I know I will return, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring my kids with me the next time. It’s such an amazing place, so full of life, and art, and music, and inspiration…I am truly grateful to Danny for making this whole experience possible, and truly grateful to God for putting Danny in my life.

I find it amazing that you can meet someone online, talk to them on Facebook, and become life long friends before you’ve even met in person, only to finally meet in person and realize…you were right about them all along.


Random shots from the Greenwich Village