travel


Murphy’s Law says something about ‘whatever can go wrong,will’ and in our case, it all happens together.  I’m quite sure we’re off the “stress level” charts, but there’s something to be said about the numbness that comes with everything happening at once.
1. First, we lost Neal’s father on Feb.19.  He’d been in a care facility for a year and wasn’t “thriving”…had dementia, was losing appetite, and apparently was also suffering from some digestion blockage that eventually did him in.  When you’re 88 years old I guess it doesn’t have to be something hugely catastrophic…we are very sad to be without him.

7/22/26 (we loved him in the dash) 2/19/15

7/22/26 (we loved him in the dash) 2/19/15

2. Immediately after that, we moved out of our home that we’d built 11 years ago, into a much smaller rental  home.  This will ease the financial pressure caused by 10 years of 10 “budget cut” job losses.  The house and the owner are a blessing;  we feel very comfortable here and may end up owning it ourselves, once we figure out how to fit all our “stuff” inside! Among other amenities, we finally have a fenced yard for the dogs!


3.  A recruiter found me and I ended up with a new job.  I am Account Manager for Classic Stone, LLC, specializing in Cambria natural quartz.  I work directly with designers, builders and kitchen and bath dealers to assist them with countertops, fireplace surrounds, and other stone applications. It is very high-end and I’m loving being part of the design process.

Cambria, USA. Family owned, American made.

Cambria, USA. Family owned, American made.

4. After publishing the Lawrence community magazine for more than a year, we opted to give it back to Towne Post Media Group and Tom Britt.  I am very sad about it, after working so hard to build it and inject ourselves into the growth and development of the city of Lawrence.  Unfortunately Tom ended the magazine, as he could not find anyone else to take it on.
5. I went to Le Seuer, Minnesota for Cambria training.  It snowed 8.5″ as I arrived and I ended up having to scoop all that snow off my rental car with the plastic tray from my hotel room as for some reason rental car companies in Minnesota don’t give you a snow brush, nor does the hotel!  The trip was great, though, as I got to tour the company dairy farm, fabrication facilities,  and learn so much about the product.


6. One day after returning from Minnesota I put on my “Tour Director” hat and boarded a bus with 127 high schoolers and chaperones and drove to Orlando for a 4-day stay in Disney World.  The band marched in Epcot and the choir sang and they attended workshops where they got to play Disney music, then watch parts of the movie with their own music accompanying it.  Very wonderful experience for these kids;  some of them may never take such a trip again and for many it will be the highlight of their lives.  I’m honored to be part of it.  I guess that’s what gets me through the 20+ overnight drive on the bus there and back 🙂  And, the weather was absolutely perfect every day we were there.

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Yes, I vacationed in Disney…or did I? You decide…here are the details:

  • 60 hours on a bus with 62 marching band teenagers and 10 chaperones (yes, that includes 2 nights of ‘sleep’ in a bus seat).
  • 4 theme parks in 90+ temperatures
  • 3-4 days of torrential rains where we wore plastic rain ponchos all day
  • This, part of my job as “tour escort” for a travel company
Between rainstorms...

Between rainstorms on Main Street

Okay that’s the worst…but the best is this:

  • I had a nice break from the routines of home
  • I got to stay in a fabulous suite for a week (with clean sheets and no dog hair).
  • I ate a few nice restaurant meals (and lots of fast food)
  • I made some $$
  • I did go to Disney for a week!

The Wando HS Marching Band, that is…from Mt. Pleasant, SC. It was part of my new, occasional part-time job with Music-Travel Consultants. I was escorting the 243-member band to the Bands of America Grand Nationals in Indianapolis, where 92 high school marching bands from around the country compete throughout a weekend of grand-scale festivities. I expect to take similar trips 3-4 times a year, whenever I can steal away from my “real” job.

And what a spectacle! If you’ve never seen this event, you should. Remember, I worked for BOA for a season a few years ago AND I’ve been a “band mom” for 10+ years, so this was no surprise to me, but still a rare look into another world of high-level performance and skill. Band directors, band booster presidents, band parents…and the actual corps of band members all form a unique culture with its own hierarchies. Even the bus drivers (we had 5 buses) have their own pecking order! As travel consultant (okay “escort” is my real title), I merely take a backseat and ensure everything that relates to food and travel is in order. The rest of the decisions and chaperoning are on them…

These kids and the adults who support and teach them should all be commended. They work extremely hard with great focus;  we were all at breakfast by 6 a.m. and weren’t back to our hotel rooms until midnight or later for 3 consecutive nights! That is tiring, for sure, since these kids are playing intricate music, marching complicated routines, and performing with great focus for most of the day in rehearsals and performances. They really had NO “play time” more than 15 minutes here and there!

Performance-wise, the band did great. It was only their second time to this event, driving 16 hours just to get here (as opposed to some of their competition who clearly have the “home court advantage” of being able to go home and take a nap between rehearsals, etc.). As the final note resounded in Lucas Oil Stadium, Wando HS came away with 12th place out of 92 bands…..a very respectable finish! I know they were disappointed, but with the Broadway-type productions that you see at this level, they did just fine with their touching show about Icarus and his father Daedalus who warned him not to fly too close to the sun. I look forward to seeing the next show they dream up!  Meanwhile, here are a few observations:

  • 4 all-out panic attacks, 3 stress-induced asthma attacks, 1 sprained ankle, and a few barfers;  thankfully they travel with a pediatrician + 2 nurses(parents).
  • When 5 buses pull into a Golden Corral or rest stop, people RUN in terror!
  • Teenaged boys demand bacon for breakfast.
  • The hotel Starbucks pushed out more than 140 custom drinks each morning to our band.
  • South Carolina kids were very excited to see a dusting of snow in Indy upon arrival.
  • Marching band kids are generally a very mannerly and intelligent group of teenagers;  they were ‘high-fiving’ their competitors and wishing them luck prior to their own final performance!

Where words fail, music speaks.
–Hans Christian Andersen

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What a strange summer it is for our family!  Its the first summer with the in-laws living with us, for one. They’re enjoying the screened porch, the bird feeders, etc. but unfortunately are no help with weeding, mowing or other lawn work that we hate!

Middle child is off in Florida for the summer on an awesome adventure of a paid internship (read here).  Oldest is off to Mexico for a long weekend…and youngest heads to Germany on Saturday for a full month as an exchange student! Add to that my “surrogate daughter”…mentee…who is summering in hilly southern Indiana as a church-camp counselor…

I want to be my children when I grow up.

Daughter's baby, Bella, vigilantly watches the door, awaiting Mommy's return!