Never Give Up

30Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

On April 11, when The Real Housewives of Dallas premieres on BravoTV, I’m going to have the thrill of witnessing a friend’s dream come true.

I first met Tiffany Hendra almost ten years ago, when she was working as a costume manager for Muse of Fire and my nervous self went out to Hollywood to appear in it. It was definitely a dream-come-true to appear in this documentary based on Operation Homecoming — my first time being nationally published. These are projects I will always, always be grateful to have been a part of. Not only was it hugely meaningful from a military wife’s perspective to share our story, it opened doors for me that wouldn’t have opened otherwise. And it created multiple friendships that have endured.

You couldn’t exactly call Tiffany and me BFFs, and people probably wonder why I’m gushing over her new show as if she’s a close relative or something. I’m not even sure I can fully explain it, but there’s just a kindred-spirit-ness there. I can resonate with this quote on her site: “Sometimes when we’re running from our past, we run smack into our purpose.”

We’ve had some meaningful conversations and discovered that we have a lot in common regarding struggles in our teenage and young adult years, as well as our individual pursuits of God and commitment to faith. Her and husband, Aaron Hendra’s involvement with war orphans in South Sudan was one of the things that first opened my eyes and heart to the needs of children in East Africa. Without divulging personal information, there have just been a lot of warm little God-connections through the years. We even share a birthday.

As she tweeted today, “PINCH ME! So wild to be heading back to my old hood LA for the biggest moment of my career. This is why ya NEVER GIVE UP! #GodRocks #RHOD.”

It’s refreshing to see humility, and feels so fantastic to see her light shine to a wider audience worldwide. She has worked so hard for everything she’s achieved and call me sappy, but it’s incredibly encouraging to see what a strong woman and God can accomplish together!

While she’s been actively climbing the career ladder the past ten years, I’ve been mostly on the mommy track. I’ve needed to work part-time from home, and it’s been a slow, anti-climactic journey following that high in 2006-2007. God has been gracious and given me a six-year run as a newspaper columnist, and after that ended in 2012, various freelancing gigs. This time last year, I was working both for a friend’s web design firm and another friend’s content company. It was good, steady work and I enjoyed it.

But then, within a month of each other, both of these friends made major career moves. All of a sudden, my work was gone.

A memory surfaced on Facebook yesterday. I should just post the screen shot of it here:

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Now, let’s fast-forward one year (one incredibly stressful, difficult year that if given the choice, I WOULD have fast-forwarded through!) to this picture:

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That’s me, standing outside Cox Media, after a business meeting last week that marked the beginning of my newest gig as a family and parenting web content creator for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After ten long, jobless months, it’s a blessing to be working again. And during that meeting, it was a simple pleasure to “adult” again. With other adults…and no kids in sight!

In light of my new job, I posted yesterday this response to that memory from a year ago:

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I hadn’t seen Tiffany’s post yet, but once again our thoughts fell on the same page. Just don’t give up. No matter how long the darkness lasts, no nighttime lasts forever. Keep pushing until you get there.

Never, ever, ever give up.

I know that there is still a lot in me, more things I want to accomplish, more things I need to achieve. I feel it inside me, like women often know intuitively about a new pregnancy before the test even comes back positive. A former pastor of mine used to say that when you’re going to birth something new, it makes its presence known.

I can pretty much guarantee that whatever awaits around the curves in my road, it won’t include a major role as a Bravo Housewife! But Tiffany’s success makes me realize this truth anew:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

-1 Corinthians 2:9

Into the Woods at the Aurora Theater

27Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I felt really dumb after seeing Into the Woods at Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theater recently.

I didn’t realize that it was a major play or movie or anything until after we saw it.

I was thinking throughout the show, “Wow–these local theater groups sure do write and perform some really elaborate stories!”

Ha! Maybe if we hadn’t skated in about sixty seconds before the lights dimmed, I might’ve taken a glance at my program and seen the name “Stephen Sondheim” printed there. Oh well. Later on, I got to laugh at my utter cluelessness!

Into the Woods is indeed a major Broadway play and it is also a movie, and is a delightful (at times, delightfully dark) story about a couple who encounters various fairy tale characters while trying to reverse a curse placed upon them by an evil witch. The Aurora Theater is a fun place to experience this musical, as it’s a small, intimate venue that draws the audience straight into the excitement. All of the performers were top-notch, and well-suited for each of their roles.

My and my son’s favorite characters were the hilariously arrogant princes, crooning ever so eloquently about their combined “Agony”. Here is a clip from the movie, so you can hear this funny song:

(But we both agreed — the actors in the Aurora Theater’s production were much funnier than these guys!)

I’m kind of glad that my daughter didn’t see this one. She was born in Uganda and isn’t overly familiar with the fairy tales that provide the main story lines, so I think it might’ve been a bit confusing for her to follow along. Indeed, no matter your age or where you’re from, if you only have a vague recollection of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk or Red Riding Hood, you might want to brush up on these tales before seeing the play.

Also, even though this is based on fairy tales, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly suitable for children. I would personally be comfortable taking kids aged 13 or older.

I always love stories that offer a peek into life beyond the “happily ever after”. I mean, have you ever entertained the thought that perhaps Cinderella wasn’t really madly in love with Prince Charming? I know I hadn’t!

Into the Woods runs at Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theater through April 17th. Many of the performances are already sold out, so don’t wait too long to secure your seat at this highly entertaining show.

Pirate Adventure Island Open at Legoland

23Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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It’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I’ve got some Lego-lovin’ boys in this house.

They’re always excited to visit Legoland Discovery Center in Atlanta, but especially when there’s something totally new to check out.

We’ve seen on previous visits that something new was being built, but we had no clue what Pirate Adventure Island would be like.

As six-year-old Jonah declared, “IT. IS. AWESOME!”

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There is a water feature!

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And not just a water feature, but a super-cool one where you can build a Lego ship and then race yours against your friends’ boats!

And…there’s a super-giant climbing structure shaped like a pirate ship!

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Granted, my 14-year-old Lego-lover wasn’t interested in climbing (and was probably too big anyway), but my also-14 daughter surprised me by building something with me while we waited on the boys to do their thing.

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(Note Eli’s wet shirt from the boat races)

I’m not sure what I built. It kinda reminded me of a meditation garden I saw on HGTV once. I left it atop the bin. Maybe some kid found it the next morning and turned it into something really cool?

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Probably not. She or he would’ve been FAR too busy reveling in all the new pirate-y goodness!

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Skål to IKEA’s Easter Smorgasbord!

20Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

As promised, I’m back to share my review of my family’s journey to IKEA Atlanta, to partake of their Easter Paskbord.

All five of us tried some new foods and gave the experience two thumbs up!

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Everything was decorated festively for spring. There were little bunnies, eggs and flowers everywhere.

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Starters included salads, pickles, assorted Swedish cheeses, deviled eggs topped with shrimp and mayonnaise, and salmon prepared in a variety of ways. I could hardly believe my husband tried the raw marinated salmon–and liked it! I also tried pickled herring for the first time ever, and it was actually quite tasty. If you enjoy the flavor of pickled things, and the texture of sushi, you’ll enjoy herring, too.

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Entrees and desserts were served in the usual IKEA cafeteria line. The servers dished up huge portions–I don’t think any of us were able to clean our plates, and only the boys had room to go back for seconds, making the $16.99 price a remarkable bargain, in my opinion.

Here is everything I ended up trying:

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The entree plate is on the left and included mashed potatoes with gravy, prinskorv (sausages that reminded me of hot dogs), potato pancakes, meatballs and Jansson’s Temptation, a gratin-style potato casserole flavored with salted fish (which I didn’t bother mentioning to anyone at my table until after they tried and it and loved it!). The appetizer plate on the right contains a huge portion of cold poached salmon topped with a seasoned mayo-type sauce, brown bread, pickled herring, a shrimp-topped egg, cold Swedish ham and crispbread.

I’m bummed that I forgot to get some of the cucumber salad, but at that moment, Jonah had a near-accident with his tray and distracted me!

I’m not sure what any of the items on the dessert plate were called, but the tall chocolate candy was filled with marshmallow creme, the coconut truffle had a coffee-flavored center, and the green one reminded me of the pistachio-citrus-cherry flavor of spumoni.

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My kids are often picky eaters, in different ways, but all of them found several foods to enjoy. As you can see, Eli’s plate is all-beige, but that’s because he doesn’t like fish and isn’t a big fan of ground beef, either. Even so, he went back for a second helping of Jansson’s Temptation, despite it containing fish!

The only disappointment of the evening is that we couldn’t find any of the promised Paskmust to sample. Eli, especially, was looking forward to trying this soda purported to taste like a cross between root beer and Dr. Pepper. Maybe next time.

All in all, it was a really tasty dinner, at a good price, and I highly recommend that you try it out next Easter! I am quite certain we’ll be back.

#AllYouCanEatATL

IKEA Swedish Easter Paskbord

5Mar2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

I enjoy blogging about fun things to do around Atlanta, especially events that allow families to celebrate other cultures.

On Friday, March 18th, 2016, we’ll be going to IKEA Atlanta to celebrate Spring with an authentic Easter Påskbord.

This annual Swedish Easter Buffet will be open from 6 to 8 p.m. Continuing IKEA’s reputation for value, this all-you-can-eat event is just $16.99 for adults and $4.99 for kids aged 12 & under. IKEA FAMILY Members enjoy a discount of $4 off adult admission and $2 off kids’ tickets. It’s recommended that you purchase tickets ahead of time because seating will be limited. Also, the normal restaurant menu will not be available during this event.

So, what does one eat at a Swedish Påskbord, you ask? Check out the menu!

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Not being Swedish, I had to Google a couple of things, such as Jansson’s Temptation (gratin-style potatoes) and Prinskorv (Swedish sausages). I have never tried herring, but my dear Swedish friend Marie insists it’s delicious, so I’m going to give it a go. There will also be a unique drink to try, called Paskmust, a spiced cola-type beverage that I’ve heard described as a cross between Dr. Pepper and root beer.

(I love Dr. Pepper but hate root beer, so it’ll be interesting to see what I think it tastes like!)

Come back after to hear my review of this celebration. I’m really looking forward to it, and hope you will join us there!

#AllYouCanEatATL