Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Horseradish Pot Roast

This is one of my favorite winter meals. I highly recommend using a creamier horse radish. In all the times I've made it, the creamy horseradish made it tender and perfect. Enjoy and stay warm!

Horseradish Pot Roast

1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 lb)
1 lb baby cut carrots
6 small red potatoes, cut in half
2 bay leaves (this is optional, in my opinion)
5 oz horseradish
1 envelope (1 oz) onion soup mix
1 can condensed golden mushroom soup

If roast comes in netting or is tied, remove ties. Place potatoes, carrots and bay leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker. Rub horseradish over beef and then place on vegetables. Sprinkle with dry onion soup mix. Pour mushroom soup over all. 

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. 

Optional: when finished, remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker. Stir in 1/2 cup of sour cream in cooking juices. Pour over beef and vegetables. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

This is definitely, hands down one of my favorite crock pot recipes. It's so simple, healthy and full of flavor. You can make it spicy if you like or let the garlic and chicken broth flavor the dish on it's own. Even my kids love it so you know that makes anything a real winner.

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

4 cans (16 oz each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (14 oz) smoked turkey sausage, sliced (I used kielbasa and it was delightful as well)
1 cup chicken broth
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flaked (optional)

In a slow cooker, combine the first 11 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until vegetables are tender. Stir and serve over rice.

Easy Peasy. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

An Open Letter Pleading We Remember Who We Are

"My soul recognizes your soul, I honor the light, love, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me, in sharing these things there is no distance and no difference between us, we are the same, we are one." 

This was going to be a long Facebook status. Then it resembled a novel. Then I went back and added the introductory note stating that I know it's long. Then I decided to post it here because people scroll past long posts.

My heart is heavy. I love people and I love this world with every fiber of my flawed and open self and the current status of my immediate surroundings is too toxic for me to not say anything.

 I've never liked politics for many reasons you could probably guess. I've only been able to vote in 2 elections. One I skipped because I truly believed my vote did not make any difference. Once I voted Republican. Once I would have voted Democrat if I was of age to vote. I like to think I keep my ideas open enough that the infamous "party line" is blurred and I only focus on issues. I didn't anticipate being involved in this election until the man I truly believed in was robbed and my only options for a president were one resembling destruction and one resembling corruption.

It sounds like politics, doesn't it? It sounds like the politics I rolled my eyes at and made fun of. But I care this time because the issues presented this election go so far beyond politics. Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault and victim shaming have spewed from a nominee. And to my horror, people defend it. People I respected share it and scream their applause. Even worse, they find Biblical scripture to defend it. And now we're to a point where Christians are using abortion as the best reason to support someone who says things so heinous and very un Christ like.

I am so disgusted by politics that I won't discuss it anymore. What I will not keep quiet about is the rock bottom we are at. Glennon called it what it is very well, Trump is America's rock bottom. He is the quiet, festering illness we have to face that we've been suffering from for decades (at least). This last week I have been angry, depressed and broken hearted that it's been made so clear that the people around me have revealed a much darker side to themselves than I could imagine. That's not to say disagreement is unacceptable. Disagreement is expected and often times a good thing. Disagreement is not dark.

To see people over and over defend the vile words of someone so repugnant in every way is devastating.  Some people would shrug and say, "This is the state of humanity and the world is terrible so I'm not surprised,' but I wholeheartedly disagree. This is the lowest I've seen humanity, but I have not lost faith in it. My faith in the good of people is the one thing I have always had and it's hard to see now but I know it's there. The goodness in us is quieter than the loud, nasty words of the other side.



History will remember this time and will remember the words of many. I will work until I can't and fight until I'm weary and speak until I'm hoarse for the rights and dignity of the human race I truly believe in. Women deserve to be treated as an equal human. Children deserve to be treated as an equal human. Every religious person deserves to be respected as an equal human. Every ethnicity deserves to be treated as an equal human. When a victim steps up pointing out inequality and asking for help, god damnit we listen and step up.

We step up now.

As an introverted stay at home mom Facebook has been a much needed tool for me to stay connected to the world and the people I love. But it's toxic right now so I have to limit when I log on. I hate that because I rely on it for all of the hilarious pictures and adorable animals and clever gifs and moving quotes. Social media is a wonderful tool but in the next month it's not our tool anymore - it's the media's; it's the government's; it's the way to keep us collectively distracted. But the media knows we are devouring everything noxious they deliver so until next month it won't be letting up.

But I beg you, I plead with every one of you, do not lose sight of the light in your neighbor and the light in yourself. We are good. And we will come out of the other side of this better.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Crockpot Balsamic Beef

Crockpot Balsamic Beef

3lb boneless chuck roast 
pinch of salt
1 cup beef broth or stock
2/3 c balsamic vinegar
2 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)

Place roast in crockpot. Sprinkle roast with salt. 

In a small bowl, stir together broth, vinegar, brown sugar and liquid smoke. Pour around the roast.

Cover, cook for 8-10 hours. (The longer the better for a chuck roast!)

Shred beef and return to crockpot.

Continue cooking for an additional 30-60 minutes. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kielbasa & Roasted Veggies

This has become a staple in our house. It's so easy, healthy and filling. It's also wonderful because it's different everytime depending on the variety of vegetables you use. Tonight it's yellow squash, zucchini, carrots and potatoes. Last time it was green beans, sweet potatoes and zucchini. Delicious every time. It's also a fantastic way to use the random amounts of vegetables you're left over with sometimes. Just throw it in and bake!

Kielbasa & Roasted Veggies

1 large onion, cut into wedges
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed or chopped
3-4 large carrots or 2 cups baby carrots
2 sweet potatoes
3 medium potatoes
2-3 cups frozen green beans
3-4 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 12-16oz package of kielbasa, sliced in one inch pieces (I always double the meat here ((insert dirty joke if you like)) 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel and chop veggies

Toss all veggies, including onion and garlic, in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place all veggies in a 9x13" baking dish and top with sliced kielbasa.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Stir and flip everything. 

Bake for another 20 minutes until vegetables are tender and kielbasa is browned. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fireman's Chicken

This recipe belongs to my fabulous mother in law, Cheryl Griffin, who gave it to me in a collection of  other tried and true recipes as a wedding gift. I'll keep the original notecard forever but I wanted to share the recipe with the interwebs, with her permission, of course. When you're wanting a simple casserole that screams "mid west comfort food", here you go.

Fireman's Chicken

1 package elbow macaroni (roughly 12 oz or so) 
((That's how you know this is a real good recipe - when the measurements are rough estimates.))
2 - 4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can milk
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 can Rotel
1 can black olives, sliced

Cook macaroni and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine chicken, onion, soups, milk, Rotel and olives together in a pot and heat through on low-medium heat. Add cooked macaroni.

Pour into 9x13 baking dish. Add cheese and bake until cheese is melted - about 15 minutes.

Italian Sausage and Pasta

Italian Sausage & Pasta

1 package (16 oz) bowtie pasta
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (I add these later so that it's kid friendly)
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 cans (14.5 oz each) Italian stewed tomatoes, drained (and chopped if you'd like)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried basil
Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook the sausage, onion and pepper flakes over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Add garlic, cook 1 minute longer. Drain. 

Stir the tomatoes, cream, salt and basil. Brint to a boil over medium heat. Reduce hear; simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; toss with sausage mixture. Garnish with cheese

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Welcome, 30's

I will be in my 20's for one more month. 

Here is what I have learned.

If you want something, ask for it. 
If you need something, go get it. 

I have spent far too much of my life waiting for what I want to come to me falsely calling it destiny. I dreamed of a life full of music and art. Instead of painting, I settled on the fact that supplies are expensive. Instead of taking a class on watercolor or pottery, I fell on the fact that I couldn't afford a class. Instead of auditioning for musicals and showcases I fearfully decided I wasn't talented enough.
I have learned from my husband that failing is only failure when you pause and stop. To begin painting and never pick it up again. To turn down the opportunities to sing despite the need to. 
I have learned to ask to join someone in their music and to dive in and begin a project my heart is aching for instead of waiting for it to work out for me on its own. That mindset also carries further past art and into relationships and other ventures. If I need to connect with a friend, I need to ask. If I feel left out, I need to jump in. If I feel empty, I need to refill and recharge. Destiny does not come on the tides of laziness and self doubt. 

Complaining helps no one.

Social media is full to the brim of negative, guilt inducing hashtags and global crisis that not a one of us can find a way to remedy. There's a rapist being set free after a heinous act and little time served, people calling for a football player to show respect to his country and another group of people demanding we change the national anthem and a devastating flood in Louisiana and people being shot for being black and an earthquake in Italy and death tolls hanging high in the middle east daily and people dying of starvation and a Native American tribe fighting for the respect of their land and sanctity of their water and all of us desperately wanting to fight the political corruption and WE ARE ALL SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT IT AND DO SOMETHING IMMEDIATELY. Oh my gosh. My ability to even empathize is so low. I fear what this is doing is desensitizing everyone to humanity's needs and hurts. I am learning to lend my voice to where I can help. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sharing a cause or discussing a problem. But people stop listening when your megaphone is always on. 

DOING is what works.

I truly believe so many problems could be eradicated if we bound together to fix it. The potential for communities to help each other from within is astronomical. We can feed each other, house each other, care for each other, teach each other. The hungry and homeless population would be lowered immensely if we helped our neighbor. I am absolutely not trying to say I am a saint over here. What I am trying to say is we can easily fix this together. Look for how YOU can help and refer back to my first point and do it. 

You can learn something from everyone around you.

When I turned 18 and graduated high school, I was certain I was destined to do something different. I had a better grasp on the world and the people in it and I would do something with it. Every year after that that self certainty, which is a beautiful thing, turned into arrogance and ignorance. And an ignorant, arrogant idiot is the worst idiot of all. Okay, cutting myself some slack, I wasn't an idiot, just very immature. 

I was one of those teenagers who thought I knew better than any adult. And then I was a young adult who thought I knew better than anyone jaded by the world they've settled with. And then I was a Christian who desperately tried to be the best Christian and thought I knew better than any non-Christian. And then I was a first time parent who thought I knew better than any other parent who wasn't doing it right. And then I was trying to shed the old skin of the mean spirited Christianity I had learned but thought I knew better than other Christians. Then I turned 28 and was so exhausted from knowing so much I realized I knew nothing. 

What I really know is every single person's journey looks different than yours. 
Therefore, "everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - My favorite genius Bill Nye 

Be open to what the person next to you can teach you. My husband taught me something valuable about failure. I have learned true compassion, humility and bravery from the people I have met and opened myself up to. 

Embrace yourself.

I have struggled with healthy eating habits that led to eating disorders for most of my young to adult life. I was never happy with how I looked or who I was. The body positivity movement through almost every social media platform is a crucial and beautiful thing that our world needs. I will preach body positivity all day, son, and yet it just took me until, oh, a few months ago to truly accept and embrace myself. 

After 3 children, I was in an all out war with my body and the scale. I worked so hard and counted every calorie and deprived myself of so many things I loved to try to get to a place where I was happy. And guess what? It didn't work. It never has. I can't explain what really clicked but after my trip to India, I found I was reconnected with myself, my life and where I'm at and part of that was my body. I'm healthy. I have 3 healthy children. I'm in a really good relationship. I'm surrounded by incredible people. I'm ever growing and changing. The fact that my pants are a double digit DON'T FUCKING MATTER. I have never in my life been a confident person. In fact, I'm not sure I even know what it feels like to be truly confident. But if there were ONE thing I had to choose as something to take away from this whole piece, it's to not waste your time not learning to at least like yourself. If you don't like something about yourself, figure out why and a healthy way to change it.  If you can't, ask for help. (Therapy was a fantastic option for me, personally.) Ain't NOBODY got time to waste not loving yourself. 

It is what it is, folks, and I'm totally fine with that. Finally.

Hating America isn't cool. 

This is something I've been struggling with how to communicate. I don't want to come across as a "world traveled know it all" now that I've taken a life changing trip. I also don't want to make the mistake of being yet another version of my "thought I knew better" self I mentioned earlier. But this is something striking I brought back with me from my trip. 
I met people who lived in feces. I met children who played in garbage. I stayed in a country where I did not feel safe alone. Despite a world opposite of my own, I connected with children who had the sweetest smiles and big open arms. I was welcomed in by people who hold hospitality to a high standard. And while I was over there, the few times I had WiFi I could not spend it on Facebook because to go from seeing the slums and log on to see people whining about Barbie's and screen time, I could not handle it. 

Now I completely understand all of India is not dangerous or dirty and I understand not all of America is safe and clean. I also know that as a white person living in the suburbs, I have not seen the worst of it. But I live in a place with clean water and the ability to go for a run safely on well paved roads and enjoy a glass of artisan wine and fair trade chocolate and by God, so do most people on Facebook who hate our country. I think Nationalism is a dangerous thing but I came home happy that this is my home. I do not take my country for granted anymore. My heart for travel is sparked even brighter and I am constantly plotting future endeavors to aid people like the amazing ones I met. We are not the best country in the world but we are not the worst. This is when my earlier point about complaining plays a big part, in my opinion. 

Vegetables are good. 

If you don't like vegetables, you're doing them wrong. This is serious. And this is also when you know you're a real live grownup. 

That's a leek, guys. A LEEK. And it was GOOD.
Vegetables can be beautiful, too.

Patience leads to more. 

The fact that I've rediscovered true patience is brand new to me. I find it's helping me parent better. It leads to me being a better listener to those I disagree with. It helps me deal with mean people at the grocery store. I beat levels on Candy Crush faster (I think so, let's go with it). I can deal with other people's children better too. (That's a big one.) I had no idea I lacked patience until just recently and I think we could all, including myself, exercise more of it. 

Take a big dose of patience, Snow. 

Take the selfie. 

Something seemingly very trivial that I've discovered I have changed my mind about are selfies. I don't like taking selfies of myself looking nice. If I do, I want someone else in the picture. If I take one of myself I need to look silly. I felt sharing pictures of just myself was vain and juvenile.
But I was part of a special day and I happened to feel refreshed and comfortable in my skin - which made me feel more beautiful than I have in a long time. However, I didn't want to capture that for fear of being too much like my teenage self. But now I have no pictures to remember that day. And when I'm having a bad day in the future that would be nice to look back on. And there's something about looking back and finding no evidence of yourself that feels a little...empty.

I am in no way trying to communicate that a picture of yourself is the only way to capture a moment or feeling or experience. But my aversion to pictures, especially selfies, has changed and I think it's good. Take more pictures of yourself without hesitation. Don't be afraid to share them if you'd like. You deserve to feel beautiful, strong and brave in your own being and capturing that in a picture is something you deserve as well.

So next time I'm on a rooftop with a gorgeous view about to see my husband and friend's band play after witnessing a friend's engagement, I will take a real picture as well as one where I just make a dumb face.


Reconnect to the people around you. To what you love. To where you are. To who you're with. You will either love it or find you need to change something. It's then you can weed those things out. 6 months ago I was in a pit of depression and I chose to remove myself from my world and go to the Upside Down for perspective. (Joking, but for real.) Do that. It will lead you to greater things. 

20's. You were good. Not really good to me but good for me. You were full of discomfort, but therein lies growth. You held heartache but that's how you know you're living. Several new chapters opened and closed. I met my 3 babies and kissed their faces. I saw parts of the world I dreamed of. I learned that my oblivious lack of knowledge gives me more in common with Jon Snow than I ever realized. (I do have my birth parents and don't have a direwolf and haven't been resurrected from the dead yet but I have no idea what my 30's have in store.)

And with that, I welcome my 30's.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

India Journey: Part 2

When I opened the shade of the planes window, which had been closed for about 8 hours, I saw desert and found myself giddy. I had never seen desert other than the sand dunes of Colorado.

It was time to buckle in for landing and my giddiness melted into anxiety. 

My legs bobbed, I picked my nails, took long steady breaths and tried to calm myself. Why are you getting anxious now? This is the exciting part!
Because what if my emails never went through and I have no ride and I'm alone and my phone doesn't work and I'm stranded in another airport in another country. What if what if what if.
I found myself holding my breath involuntarily, which happens when I'm REALLY stressed. We're almost there. Embrace the adventure.

The seat belt sign is off and I get up and grab my belongings. My hands are shaking. (CALM DOWN!!)

I make my way off the plane and decide to forego the moving walkway because I have just got to do a lot of walking. Keep moving. It's then I realize I can't feel my toes. My anxiety is officially getting unmanageable.
I make my way out of the infinitely long exit corridor and round a corner to see a sign that says "Welcome to India" in English and Sanskrit. My anxiety is stifled a bit. I'm here. I move forward and Into a lobby with giant, gorgeous golden hands along the wall above everyone's heads making gestures that I don't understand but I recognize as beautifully Indian.

Down the escalator and I stop at a intricate flower shrine/display. I can even smell it. It's lovely!

I stop to see if I can access WiFi because I hadn't been able to on the plane so I had last texted Palmer roughly 14 hours before and really wanted him to know I made it. As I was messing around with it a girl said, "Excuse me, can you connect to WiFi?"

"No, I'm trying to figure it out though."

And somehow after talking for less than a minute we realized we're both volunteering with IVHQ in the same program. HALLE-CUSSIN-LUJAH.

I am so happy I hug her, which I could tell at first was a little awkward but she was also as relieved as I was. We introduce ourselves (her name is Paola) and we move on through the airport.

Through the process of leaving we found yet another couple of girls, sisters, who were also volunteering with IVHQ. We were so happy to have found each other! And my relief was immense - I could breathe normally!

One of the sister's bags were lost so we waited to get that situated for at least a half an hour and then moved on to get our ride and get a SIM card for our phones. I was banking on having access to WiFi and not needing the SIM card but I had gone that long without a working phone and realized how much that uncertainty contributed to my anxiety.

We exit customs and they see their names on a sign a man is holding waiting for us. I don't see mine on the list so my nervousness returns. We greet him and I explain my situation, that I'm supposed to be getting picked up as well but apparently there was a mix up. He calls someone and is on the phone for a few minutes and tells me it's fine. I'm relieved but guys, if I hadn't found those girls, I would have been stranded. Just that realization sent me reeling back into my "what if" panic.

I secretly hope that I can just stay with these girls and never have to leave their side again.
We make our way outside the airport and are greeted by a stray dog who is super sweet. One of the sisters gives him a muffin which he perks up at and then snubs off, which was comical because she spent at least 2 minutes opening the package for him.

We're riding in the car to our home stay and we ask the driver questions about the city, the driving and so on. Driving there is insane. People walk, ride bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, rickshaws (also called Tuktuks), cars and trucks and follow almost no traffic laws. No one stays in a lane, they go just about as fast as they want and I feel like I witnessed a dozen near accidents. 
At one point we drive by Delhi's "Cyber City" which I only knew because there was a large, flimsy sign hanging near the highway saying so. It looked eerie at that time of night. I couldn't tell if buildings were abandoned or if they were just closed for the night - everything looked run down. 

At one point I notice a car merge from one lane to the next, to the next, to the next and I wonder why they're driving off of the road. It's then the driver tells us we're at a point in the highway where there are SIXTEEN lanes. SIXTEEN lanes going one direction. 

There are cows, dogs, pigs and donkeys on the road at any time and somehow everyone steers clear of them. I love how the people and animals coexist here. The animals go where they want and people respect them.

Right off of the highway (and other small roadways) were tiny, dilapidated shacks that would either be a shop of some sort (it seemed like every one of them sold Lays chips and soda) or was some kind of restaurant. I guess it's a restaurant because there's a table with about 5 men at each location and they seem to be eating.  Each building had dirt floors, (actually nasty muddy ones due to rain) and a single lightbulb illuminating the establishment. Some of them had an additional light bulb hanging outside. There would also be tent like shelters made of cloth and tarp that I later realized people were living in. Not a single place had a front door or and only some had 4 walls.

About halfway through the drive I also realize I had only seen two women out and easily over 100 men. I had been warned that it was not safe for women to be out at night and I kept it in mind but for the most part dismissed it. The realization that really no women were out sprung the fear up that they were right. 

I am overwhelmed with how different everything is. Even as I was taking it in I was trying to think of how I would put it into words.

On our way there the driver mentions I would be dropped off at a different home because I was only staying a week and the other girls were staying for 2 so they were partaking in orientation this week. (I had wanted to do that but it was an extra $200 and an extra week.)
I internally begin to panic. I kick myself for it because this is exactly what I went into the trip expecting, but finding myself in a small group of people with the same amount of experience and expectation was so comforting. And having that taken away just as quick was very disappointing. 

The drive from the airport to my home stay is over an hour. It's 11:20 when he pulls up to the house. Again, because of the dark of the night and the strikingly different architecture I have no idea if I'm in a good neighborhood or not. So my anxiety kicks it up another couple notches.
We're standing in the dark street and he's calling the owner of the house and I am truly starting to wonder if I was being stupid doing this whole thing. Luckily he gets through and the owner comes hustling down the stairs. I realize it's like an apartment building so he comes down the stairs, which I can see through a sheer panel, and he unlocks the big double front doors.

I begin by saying hello and then profusely apologizing for waking him up. He is very kind and directs me where to go. I'm also relieved because his English is very easy to understand.

I make my way up the stairs and take my shoes off as I see a line of everyone else's shoes at the door. He comes up and shows me where the clean water is to drink, the bedroom and washroom. I am talking and moving my bags in when I realize there are two other girls in the room staring blinded at the door. I immediately feel awful for waking them up but another sense of relief that I am not alone here.

I close the door and I'm in a humid, pitch dark room. I lay down on the bed which is terrible but MUCH better than the airplane seat and airport floor so I revel in its comfort.
It's midnight at that point and I have no light to change, brush my teeth or wash my face (and really no easy access to water to do so) so I lay down on the bed, in the clothes I've worn for 2 days now and try to sleep.

In the quiet darkness I am left with my thoughts which are not good at that time. And then I sink into grief. 

I miss my babies. I haven't talked to Palmer in so long and I miss him terribly. I think I wish I were home. And I hate myself for feeling that the night I get there. After all this, I get there and wish I were home. Maybe it was total exhaustion or fear that crept in by being introduced to new world in the bleak and dark night, I don't know.

 I close my eyes and toss and turn and toss and turn. I finally fall asleep when I wake up to one of my roommates talking in her sleep. She's speaking loud gibberish with an English accent. It's funny until I realize I had just fallen asleep! I check the time thinking at least I killed some had only been an hour. SHOOT. I think at some point I slept for a couple of hours but in the time I spent trying to sleep I found my anxiety was giving me chest pains. I can't remember the last time I had been this anxious and uneasy.

The blue pitcher had filtered water which was safe for us to drink. 

I spend the next few hours getting up to go to the bathroom, wandering around with my phone's flashlight trying to find an outlet and listening to Amy Poehler's audiobook. I laid in bed watching the grate above the window and I realize it's a little brighter. The sun is finally coming up!

It's been an hour and 19 minutes since then (when I wrote this) and I'm listening to the city wake up. First birds, then a couple dogs, a man loudly singing something in Hindi and lastly cars beginning to honk.

I find myself more at ease now that the sun is up and I know the day's uncertainties are about to be known. I hope and pray I find more (much more) peace and comfort in the journey ahead but already I know there is some amount of growth to come from this experience thus far.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

India Journey: Part 1

Namaste. Meera naam Amanda hai. 

I've been working on my Hindi since leaving Kansas City 24 hours ago. I only remember that and thank I don't I forgot that one. Dangit. 
Anyway, in that 24 hours I've only made it to New Jersey.

I had a window seat leaving KC and I was so happy. Myself and the children on the plane were the only ones fixated to the plastic window. I just can't think that watching the world from that high up could ever get tiring!

I arrived at Newark airport with a 7 hour layover so I was prepared to kill that much time messing around on my phone, reading and watching Netflix. Unfortunately for me, this airport does not offer free wifi so I am quite limited on what I can actually do on my phone. That includes updating my friends and family, which was unexpected and frustrating. And let's be real, I KNOW there's good Pokéstops here and I can't even access them or hatch any Poké eggs with all this walking. 

Time creeps on and on and it's raining and dreary here in New Jersey. At least 2 flights ended up cancelled so there were hundreds of misplaced people scrambling for a way out of here. Poor suckers. 

This airport, I told Palmer, is like a mall that happens to have airplanes come by. (update, the more I traveled the more I found that is actually normal. I had only really seen MCI over the years and I see now how sad it is compared to the other "fancy" airports around the world!) Fancy restaurants and high end looking shops are up and down every corridor. 

Fancy places like this:

Selling stuff like this:

That is a LOT of booze.

I spent time in the book store writing down titles of books I planned to see if I could get via e-reader or Audiobook, had a beer and just wandered. Eventually I had 2 hours left and nothing else to do but read. Reading made me sleepy and I couldn't sleep in the airport well so I tried to keep getting things on my phone to work. An Indian family was waiting next to me. I noticed the little boy playing Pokémon Go and opened it up to see if mine would work. It barely did and I was jealous that this boy had 100 times better wifi than me. Who does he think he is. And he doesn't even know how good he has it. I did get it to work and I excitedly leaned over to him. "Did you get the Tauros?!"

"Yeah! With a regular Pokéball!"

"What?! I had to use a raspberry and a super Pokéball! Good job!"

Then I talked to his parents for a while about Pokemon and traveling. They were taking their two kids to India to see their grandparents who they hadn't seen in 5 years. They're from San Francisco. The little boy kept interjecting comments about Pokemon and scolding his dad for talking too loud and messing up his Pokéball toss (which is not a thing, little boy, calm down). 
I told them where I was going and what I was doing. Each time I tell people they are so kind about it. I still feel like what I'm doing is selfish in some ways. I can't explain it, I guess I know I'm doing this for me and that feels selfish. But people are always encouraging and complimentary which is really nice. 
In explaining what I'm doing I also realize each time that I really don't know what I'm doing. I like that and that really makes no sense. It's what makes me know I'm in it for the experience, I suppose. 

We can finally board, an hour and a half later than expected because of weather. I'm seated next to a man in the exit row. I welcomed the leg room but also kind of panicked because we were asked twice whether we could handle the responsibility of opening the emergency exit door in case of an unlikely event. Can I?! I don't know! When sh*ts going down can I be trusted? Yeah because I want this legroom. 

It takes a long time to get going. We begin the safety video which, my word, was awful. It was bad actors reenacting something combining The Hunger Games and the Olympics. 

"Make sure you put your carry on under the seat!" as a soccer player rolls his ball under the seat.

"Put your oxygen mask on and then help your neighbor!" as one basketball player helps himself and then helps his teammate who is too busy spinning basketballs on his fingers Globetrotter style to save his own life.

Track runners take off running and a hand drawn cloud of dust is left. "*Cough* *cough* *smile* Smoking is not permitted! And don't tamper with the smoke detectors in the bathrooms!"

It was ridiculous guys. And we were forced to watch it. 

Almost an hour later 4 people come scrambling onto the plane. The director of the plane's intercom (I forgot his actual title but that's literally all he did) came on and said something like, "You may have noticed some extra passengers joining us. Due to federal regulations it's required all passengers watch the safety video so we have to play that again."

....he wasn't joking. And also, how embarrassing to be those guys. 

An hour goes by and the director of the intercom comes on telling us there is a problem with the fuel sensor and they've been unable to fix it. Maintenance is coming out to take a look.

The man next to me and I begin chatting about where we're going, why, where we're from and so on. 
He's from the mountains of North Carolina and he teaches people how to write patents. He flies out to India pretty often and knows the ropes. Before I can really talk to him more about what to expect, a flight attendant came huffing back to the backwards facing seat reserved for attendants and plopped down. He looks at us and says, "Well, airport security is going to have to arrest somebody." He mumbles and grumbles and says something about someone smoking in the bathroom. Then he pulls out his phone and shows us a picture of charred paper towels in the airplane's trash can. 
"Oh my gosh, that could have been a fire!"

"I'm surprised you didn't smell it."

"No I'm thankful I don't. Which bathroom was it?"

He points to the bathroom caddy corner from me, 4 seats away. I'm surprised I didn't notice but I had been listening to Anna Faris interview Chelsea Handler on very, very little sleep so I wasn't paying a lot of attention to anything. 

"Will she just be escorted off or arrested?" I ask the man next to me. He tells me she'll probably be arrested because it's a federal offense. He told me about a plane that crashed in Indiana in the early 80's because someone was smoking and caused a fire. It makes me glad they take that seriously because I don't have time to die today. 

Very shortly after that the director of the intercom says unfortunately they cannot fix the problem and the flight is officially cancelled. He also says to stay in our seats because law enforcement are coming on board to arrest someone.

Oh snap. Glad it's not me because I also don't have time to go to jail today.

So we all begrudgingly pack up our things and file off the plane. We are directed to customer service where I stand in this line for ANOTHER HOUR so I can get a new boarding pass and meal vouchers. (Remember those poor suckers I referenced earlier? Karma.)

The waiting line to Hell.

 We discover that:
 1) we've been automatically rebooked for the next flight. Which is at 5:40PM THE NEXT DAY (technically that day). That's 14 hours later, folks. 
2) They will not pay for a hotel because 
3) there ARE NO hotels. None that are open or close.
4) They WILL pay up to $200 for a taxi which would get you to New York but you have to pay for your trip back. 
5) They will provide a meal voucher but only for $30 (I was initially told $60 by another passenger so $30 pissed me off). 

I was relieved when I heard they were providing those though because it was $30 for a sandwich and a beer. I was not about to eat another meal there. I had chocolate popcorn for sustenance.

$30 and it was just okay. 

I get through the line and wander around looking for a place to sleep. I propped myself into a chair with my neck pillow and a complimentary paper blanket (it's not that bad but not good either) and tried to fall asleep. There was a television blaring CNN news above me and my legs were going to sleep from the angle they had to rest at. I put my earplugs in. CNN started talking about babies born with Zika and I snapped out of the chair and beelined my way somewhere else. 

I found a couple who had moved rows of chairs to create a barricade and decided those seats might be better because my feet could reach the opposite seats. 
Wrong. My legs either locked or my lower back was unsupported so  sleep wasn't happening. I plopped my backpack on the floor as a pillow and laid on the floor. It smelled like pee and it was cold but I just didn't care anymore. 

I woke up and was so pleased I killed some time. It had only been an hour and a half! I was a zombie and saw new people around me so I packed up and with eyes glazed over wandered to a new spot. 

I was back at the gate where I had spent hours and hours earlier and under the telephone booth was clean and had a shaded spot where my eyes would be covered from the light. I power walked back to customer service where they were giving out blankets and pillows (I had opted out earlier because I took a blanket from the plane). The plastic wrapping that held all of the bedding was all that was left. However, there were extra disposable pillow cases. I walked past everyone in line, grabbed those, noticed everyone looking at me peculiarly and just wanted to flip them off because I was so exhausted. 
"No offense, but *middle finger*. Happy travels."
I didn't say that. I power walked back to my chosen spot, laid the pillow cases down, put in ear plugs to drown out the electronic reminder to not accept bags from strangers and tried to sleep. 

Sweet dreams.

I slept on and off for 4 hours. I woke up to strangers sitting in chairs like normal people and I picked up my trash bed and wandered aimlessly trying to find coffee and a bathroom. I found a place to use 2/3 of my voucher and the food wasn't good but I had access to a charger so I called and talked to Palmer. 

So far, I haven't left the country yet and my trip is quite adventurous. I'm functioning on roughly 7 hours of sleep over the past almost 48, but I'm really not complaining about that. I'm truly happy to be here. And also I have a 13 hour flight I can sleep on. Hopefully.