Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Stats 'n' Stuff

This week, in honor of Memorial Day, we thought we'd present to you some little known facts about our Armed Forces and the heroic actions of its members past and present. Enjoy!

US Army
"This we'll defend"
  • Nation's oldest and largest military service established as the Continental Army June 14, 1775 to fight the Revolutionary War with George Washington in command.
  • While ten companies of riflemen were established by the Continental Congress in 1775, the oldest Regular Army infantry regiment, the 3rd Infantry Regiment, was constituted June 3, 1784, as the First American Regiment.
  • Private 1st Class, Stephen C. Sanford, U.S. Army received a citation for the following: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with the 2d Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172d Stryker Brigade Combat Team, on 19 November 2005, during combat operations against an armed enemy of the United States, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Private Sanford displayed extraordinary courage during the evacuation of casualties from a home in Mosul, Iraq, while under intense enemy fire. Although shot through the leg during his squad’s initial assault attempt, he accompanied his squad during their second assault. Once inside the house, he provided a heavy volume of suppressive fire while the casualties were evacuated. He continued to engage the enemy while escorting the wounded Soldiers from the house. He returned to the house a second time to provide vital covering fire and security for the final withdrawal of the casualties. When the last Soldier leaving the house was shot in the neck, Private Sanford, with complete disregard for his own safety, moved to the Soldier and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. While attempting to revive the other Soldier, he was shot twice more in the back. Protecting the fallen Soldier, Private Sanford returned fire and killed an insurgent while receiving two more potentially fatal gunshot wounds. He continued to return devastating fire on the enemy while helping his wounded comrade until he was incapacitated by his own loss of blood. Private Sanford’s gallant deed was truly above and beyond the call of duty and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service, reflecting great credit upon himself, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, the United States Army, and the United States of America."
  • Famous soldiers include Mel Brooks, Art Carney, Julia Child, Tony Randall, Jackie Robinson, Rocky Marciano, Henry Kissinger and Elvis Presley.

US Marines
"Semper Fidelis"
  • Formed as two battalions by Captain Samuel Nicholas on November 10, 1775 in Philadelphia as naval infantry.
  • Conducted America's first amphibious assault landing during the Revolutionary War gaining control of a British ammunition depot and naval port in New Providence, Bahamas.
  • Developed helicopter insertion doctrine and were the first branch to widely adopt maneuver-warfare principles emphasizing low-level initiative and flexible execution.
  • Vietnam was the longest war for Marines with 13,091 being killed in action, 51,392 wounded, and 57 Medals of Honor awarded. Due to policies concerning rotation, more Marines were deployed for service during Vietnam than World War II.
  • Famous Marines include Don Adams, Glen Bell (Taco Bell founder), Drew Carey, David Dinkins, "Nate Dogg", Steve McQueen, Felix Rigau Carrera (1st Puerto Rican pilot and 1st Hispanic fighter pilot in the U.S.M.C), and Shaggy.

US Coast Guard
"Semper Paratus"
  • Established August 4, 1790 by US Congress as the Revenue Cutter Service and is the nation's oldest seagoing service.
  • Has been involved in every American military conflict since the War of 1812
  • Revenue Service Cutter, the Harriet Lane, fired the first naval shot of the Civil War
  • The US Coast Guard Women's Reserve, or SPARS, was created on November 23, 1942 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to free Coast Guardsmen from stateside service in order to fight overseas. Coast Guard cutter Spar (WLB-206) is named in honor of these women and one of the new Legend class ships, the USCGC Stratton in honor of first director Capt. Dorothy C. Stratton, is forthcoming.
  • Douglas Albert Munro is the only Coastie to recieve the Medal of Honor "For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy's fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country."
  • Famous Coasties include Jeff Bridges, Nathan Bruckenthal (first Coastie KIA since Vietnam), Marlene Dietrich, Blake Edwards, Alex Haley, Bruce Melnick (first Coastie Astronaut), Cesar Romero, Mel Torme, Rudy Vallee, Victor Mature and Gig Young.

US Navy
"Non sibi sed patriae"

  • After a brief stint as the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War and disbanded by Congress due to budget cuts, the US Navy was re-established in 1797.
  • The navy conducted the U.S. military's first ever large-scale amphibious joint operation during the Mexican-American War by successfully landing 12,000 Army troops with their equipment in one day at Veracruz, Mexico.
  • During the Civil War, both American Navies were the first in the world to use ironclad warships in combat. The Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, which pitted USS Monitor against CSS Virginia, became the first engagement between two steam-powered ironclads.
  • James Lawrence, captain of the frigate USS Chesapeake, is better known for his famous battle cry. While engaged the blockading Royal Navy frigate HMS Shannon in a fierce battle June 1, 1813, accurate gunfire from the British ship disabled the Chesapeake within the first few minutes. Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by small arms fire, ordered his officers to "Don't give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks!" as he was carried below. His crew, however, was overwhelmed by a British boarding party shortly afterwards and James Lawrence died of his wounds on 4 June 1813, while Chesapeake was being taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, by her captors.
  • Famous sailors include Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Jesse Ventura, Bob Barker, Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis, L. Ron Hubbard, Paul Newman, MC Hammer, Montel Williams and Regis Philbin.

US Air Force
"Above All"

  • Initially part of the United States Army, it was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 and is the youngest branch of the US military.
  • The Tuskegee Airmen, formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. By the end of WWII, they were credited with shooting down 112 Luftwaffe aircraft, sinking the German-operated Italian destroyer TA-23 by machine-gun fire, and the destruction of numerous fuel dumps, trucks, and trains. Their squadrons flew more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions and the unit received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission flown March 24, 1945, escorting B-17s to bomb the Daimler-Benz tank factory at Berlin, Germany.
  • The Airmen of Note is the jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force and one of the few remaining big bands touring the US. It was originally created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Major Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps dance band and has attracted 18 professional jazz musicians from across the United States.
  • Famous Airmen include Buzz Aldrin, Sunny Anderson, Charles Bronson, George Carlin, Dr. Seuss, Morgan Freeman, Clark Gable, Marvin Gaye, Charleton Heston, DeForest Kelley, and Chuck Norris.
So while you're enjoying the smell of juicy meat grilling beneath the hot sun in a bright blue sky, lounging on a raft with cool water lapping at your toes and an old song from way back when playing on the radio or you're at the mall hunting for the latest holiday bargains this weekend, just take a moment to remember those who have come before you to fight for the freedom you enjoy today and those who continue to do so. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Life

Apologies for missing another post but Paul and I have been on a bit of a roller coaster with this whole baby thing lately. Just when we officially started to slam the door on the idea of a natural conception, the good doctor sticks his foot in the way. It seems while all my tests have come back normal, Paul's has been a bit inconclusive. Not that this necessarily means anything but thanks to the fact the past two doctors we saw have been incompetent quacks, his tests weren't run correctly and the results are invalid. So he's been asked to do them again this week and we'll see what happens. Of course we hope he's perfectly fine, nobody wants to hear there might be something wrong with them but if the tests come back and say exactly that, well at least we have a definitive answer and possibly a chance to fix the problem. If however these tests do say he's fine, that will finally shut the door as we've exhausted every possibility.

We've also decided that if modern medicine concludes we're both perfectly healthy and they don't know why we aren't able to conceive that it would be a big mistake to throw money away on IVF or the IUI we've been trying to raise money for. The way we see it, if modern medicine says you're fine but Mother Nature is saying no, no you're not then any attempts to bypass her would just end badly. We've already dealt with an inexplicable Ectopic Pregnancy and have since dealt with inexplicable infertility, obviously there's something going on that today's doctors and scientists just haven't discovered yet.

So the next step will be adoption and while we would love a little baby, the only way to get one is through private and international adoption agencies which are just light years out of our budget. So for the past year we've been entertaining the idea of adopting a child or sibling group through the Department of Health and Human Services. The process is a bit invasive but not nearly as lengthy or expensive as it would be for a baby. We went to an information session where they explain about the adoption and foster care system (ideally they'd like all potential adopters to be foster parents as well but for people like us who would eventually transfer out of state which could mean having to return any child or children in our custody back over to the state, it just isn't an option). If you're still interested, you take home a large packet of forms which ask questions about you and your family, have you get a release from your doctor saying you're mentally and physically capable of having children in your home, ask for three references who they will contact later and gives you instructions about getting your fingerprints done for the required background check. This is pretty much the only expense in the process and costs (here in Maine) $55 for every person living under your roof over the age of 18.

A few weeks later (depending on where you are and how busy they are) you'll hear that it's time for the home study and should make an appointment for the visit. They don't just ambush you one day for a surprise inspection, contrary to popular belief, and it's not a white glove thing. They're basically checking to see that you have adequate space for the child or children, that it meets safety and fire regulations and isn't roach or rodent infested (if you live like the people in that show Hoarders, I wouldn't bother applying). It also gives them the chance to go over your application, ask questions and get a better understanding of you and your family. It is illegal in the United States to reject any applicant based on religion, race or orientation so if you feel the the visit is turning or has turned in that direction, immediately contact the office and file a complaint. There have been times unfortunately when an uber Christian rep will get indignant while interviewing an openly gay or non-Christian couple or a rep will vehemently try to steer a couple away from the idea of adopting a child or children of another race but in all cases the home office is extremely apologetic (and appalled in most cases) and usually the Department head will come out to meet with you again themselves. I understand that in a majority of these cases the offender is either removed from that department or fired altogether but you have to speak up!

Anyway, once you're finally approved it's just a matter of choosing the child(ren) you wish to adopt and developing a repor with them. Some time during this process you and your significant other (you don't necessarily have to be married any more but you do have to show strong evidence of a lasting and solid relationship) will be required to take parenting classes. While raising children in general can be very taxing at times, there are extra hurdles when it comes to adopting children and these classes aim to help you deal with them. You've got emotional and psychological hurdles (many children have anger and abandonment issues due to events from their past and some may even hate you in the beginning and blame you for not being able to go home and see mom and dad again even if they were removed years before), you have to learn disciplinary actions (many agencies have you sign a form refusing to use physical discipline especially because of the child(ren)'s possible past history with domestic violence) and how to adapt your life now that this new person (or people) is in it. During the home study, if like me you indicated you grew up with physical discipline (ie your parents beat your ass when you set fire to the living room rug at age 7) they'll want to go a little more in-depth with you about it and ensure you're open to other methods of discipline.

As Paul and I know little to nothing about raising children and would most likely end up becoming a family of 4 or 5 overnight, we eagerly welcome the classes! This will be the most challenging adventure we've ever had to date and our paperwork is ready to send however, for the moment we've put the process on hold. Due to Paul's saga with his shoulder (long story short, he injured it badly during a deployment two years ago and reinjured it a few months ago but doctors are unwilling to do more surgery and have adopted a wait and see approach. You'd think after 6 months of minimal results from injections and therapy the time sit on your ass would end but apparently not. He's seeing a new doctor in the firm this week but if he ums and ahs the same way, we're switching him out to an orthopedic specialist who actually knows what the hell he's doing) we're unsure about our immediate future. Will the Coast Guard get so upset that Paul is taking so long to heal that they'll discharge him? Will they decide to transfer in a replacement and transfer us out again once he's back on the active list? Will we stay in the region long enough to be able to buy a house and therefore have a much more stable lifestyle to raise these poor kids in? We hope to have all these questions answered within the next six weeks at which time we'll look at the adoption question again.

So, thank you for riding the roller coaster that is our life. We hope you enjoyed the trip and will come back again soon! As it will be Memorial Day weekend, I'll probably post something very patriotic next week:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


With the official start to summer only weeks away and thoughts turning towards vacation and travel, Paul and I have been thinking about our more interesting travels and the two that stick out most are when we traveled across the United States, twice! As you can imagine, travelling over 3000 miles in 4 days means having plenty of interesting encounters.

Our first trip occurred in November 2003 when the US Coast Guard issued orders from Portsmouth, VA to Seattle, WA. Our intent was to load up our gold (erm, excuse me, champagne) Chrysler LHS and drive to my parents' house in New Jersey for Thanksgiving and shoot across 80 to avoid most of the snow and higher elevations that Route 90 would've led us through. However, 6 hours later our huffing, wheezing and shuddering car told us it was time to make alternate arrangements. Since childhood I've been in love with old movies that showed the good ole days of train travel which seemed much more elegant and comfortable than it is today but it was an experience we both wanted to try. So we said goodbye to my parents at NY Penn Station and embarked on the first leg of our journey to Chicago. Money was a bit tight so we ended up riding Coach which was a HUGE mistake! If you've never ridden Amtrak, when you ride Coach on a long trip such as this you have the option of paying $30 per person extra to eat in the dining car or, if you're like us and riding on a limited budget, you're stuck with rubber burgers and slimy turkey but you do have access to beer and wine to forget your troubles:-p A word to the wise, whenever you're riding Coach on Amtrak do yourself a favor and pack some sandwiches, you WON'T be sorry! Another problem was the train stopped several times in the night and every time those doors opened the cabin was blasted with ice cold air! 18 hours later we pulled into Chicago shivering, exhausted, hungry and our backs full of knots:(

Happily, we were able to afford to travel the next leg of the trip in the Sleep Car as I was NOT about to spend the next 3 days in absolute misery! When we disembarked we gimped over to customer service to discover our bags would be moved on to the next train for us so we wouldn't have to be stuck lugging them around for the next four hours between trains. So since neither of us had ever been to Chicago or anywhere in the Midwest before, we figured we'd take a little tour of the city. Of course as soon as we stepped foot out of the terminal we discovered WHY Chicago was known as the Windy City! We were instantly hit with a blast that felt as if someone had smacked us in the face with an icy washcloth but after sitting on that train for almost a day we had to stretch our legs and decided to hold out as long as we could. I have to say at this point if you've been to one city in America you've just about been to all of them. The few blocks we wandered could've been in Philadelphia or lower Manhattan. We did get to see Route 66 and the Sears Tower (as it was known then) and we were hoping to find Oprah's studio but hot food and drink started to sound real good about then so we headed back to the terminal.

Paul had his old reliable burger and fries while I went Asian after being accosted by the lady behind the counter of virtually every Asian food place in any food court in the country screaming at me "YUMMY YUMMY BOURBON CHICKEN!" Thanks to our accommodations, after lunch we were able to hang out in the First Class lounge with free Wi-fi, big leather chairs and complimentary bar where I discovered hot chocolate went very nicely with a rum and coke chaser;)

We settled into our roomette on the train which at the moment consisted of a flip down table and two armchairs and was far more comfortable. As the train rolled on, our attendant gave us a quick rundown of the amenities of our cabin and asked when we'd like to have dinner. Shortly after, as we got comfortable I managed to blow out yet another outlet by plugging in a little fan for some air but this time I only took out that one fuse and not the whole train;) Being the foodie that I am, I fully enjoyed the dining experience during our trip. You're sat with two other people, which takes getting used to, and order anything from roast chicken to steak which comes with salad, beverage and dessert for dinner. Afterwards we had drinks in the observation car where the night sky above exploded with stars! In the meantime our attendant was preparing our room for the night which involved pulling the armchairs together to form a twin bed, pulling open an overhead cabin to reveal another twin bed with a safety net so you don't fall out and mints on the pillows! We sped through the Rockies around midnight and I looked out to see snowcaps and dizzyingly deep crevices bathed in moonlight.

The next morning as we enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast our room was made up again. In Montana we were given the chance to get off the train for an extended period while they changed engines and crew. Finally at about 10am on the third day we got our first glimpse of the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Rainier and our new home for the next three years, Seattle!
As we were unable to post last week, I'll be continuing the second cross country journey in a second post. As we ended up driving this journey in the 3rd tiniest car in creation, it was a much MUCH more eventful ride in which we thought at least once a day we were going to die! Stay tuned:)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

They're coming to take me away hee hee ha ha

As with anything involving the government, doesn't matter what country you're talking about, the immigration process to get Paul into the US was a colossal headache! First I had to file the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiance(e) which would allow Paul to file the K1 Non-immigrant Visa for Fiance(e). These were accompanied by about 12 other forms each outlining everything from our backgrounds, to finances to not just our criminal histories but histories of everyone in our immediate families! We also submitted supporting documentation as evidence of our relationship which manifested into an 8inch 5pound box of photos, gift receipts, airline ticket stubs and a phone record so large dad nearly had a heart attack when it arrived thinking it was last month's bill! Finally, after seven months of scrambling, arguments and 3 nervous breakdowns, Paul received word that he had an interview with the US consulate in London for a final determination about the visa.

I knew I'd be too nervous to sit by the phone and wait and as Paul's interview was scheduled two days before his college graduation, I immediately booked a flight and the next 8 weeks DRAGGED BY! There was a problem however during this time. We had a pretty good feeling that Paul would be granted the visa but I couldn't find affordable housing in a decent neighborhood. Mom and I pounded the pavement hitting as much as 3 roach infested, urine soaked apartments in skeevy neighborhoods a day until finally two weeks before I was to fly out, we came across a small one bedroom apartment in lower Bayonne. Unfortunately, the place was pretty filthy but mom and my sisters scrubbed the place from top to bottom while I was finishing the bureaucratic BS in London with Paul.

First, we arrived bright and early at the consulate, showed the desk person our appointment and went up to the 6th floor. There, another desk person had us wait 30 minutes until Paul was called up to yet another desk person. This desk person told Paul he would have to get a physical from an approved doctor a few blocks away and return for another appointment at 11am to finish up the process. So we went back out on to the street and queued up like good British people to wait for the office to open so the doctor could give him a full bill of health, do bloodwork and xrays and headed back to the consulate. By then the room was full of other people waiting for visas and paperwork but an hour or so later Paul was called again and the desk person had in her hands the massive box o' evidence we'd submitted. She'd told us #1 she was surprised to see me there as most of the time the other half doesn't make the appointment and #2 this was the most evidence she had ever seen in the 15 years she'd been doing the job. She then stamped Paul's passport and it was official, he had been granted permission to move to the United States so we could get married!

Two days later, on September 13th, I met up with my future mum-in-law and brother -in-law at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in High Wycombe to watch my future hubby walk down the aisle and receive his degree. We spent a final night with Paul's parents and flew back to America the next morning. One week later we were married, but that's a story for next time:)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Forget Springtime, I love Paris in the Summer!

Ah Paris, an experience all its own! During the visit described in last week's blog, Paul and I decided to take a side trip to Paris, France. Like my trip to England, Paris proved to be interesting but with Paul's help I managed not to cause any international incidents.

We anxiously waited in the behemoth that is Waterloo Station for the announcement to board the infamous Eurostar, a train that goes about 200mph, and I thought the trains in England were fast! Being the young American tourist, I took pictures of everything and anything that was interesting and different, including a machine I found in the bathroom that not only air dried your hands but shot a moisturizing liquid into them once your hands were dry! Of course, I took advantage of the few seconds the room was empty before snapping the pictures;) With the telltale flicking sounds of the old fashioned train station signs that I love and miss, it was announced that our train was now boarding! The Eurostar is the longest passenger train I've ever seen and sharply painted in white, yellow and navy blue with the sleek front that Acela passengers are now familiar with. The interior was remarkable to me then although now nearly every Amtrak train has followed by their example and was a far cry from the old fashioned trains Paul and I had jumped on and off during our commute to visit his family. Those trains still had thinly cushioned seats on wooden frames in individual compartments with their own doors that open and close to the outside. Though very uncomfortable, I love that I got to ride in them at least once before they were finally taken out of service a few years ago.

Anyway, back on the Eurostar, we chugged along coming to a stop as we approached the Chunnel (the Channel tunnel connecting England to France) and waited as customs came around to check everyone's passports and paperwork. Then, in a force I thought was reserved strictly for airplanes, the train started moving again, picking up speed as we zipped along so fast I was glad for the darkness outside to keep me from losing my lunch (rule #1 NEVER look out the window at any one given thing for too long while riding on a high speed train!). At the end of the 2 hour trip we pulled into Gard du Nord station and slipped into the funky filthy station that led to the Paris metro line. It was reminiscent of the NY subway system of the 80s complete with stench and graffiti but I was amazed at seeing a double decker subway train! We quickly climbed in and whisked off to the station closest to our Parisian hotel. As we wandered through to street level, we looked at each other and quickly sped past a large American man sporting a cowboy hat and bearing a remarkable likeness to Hank Hill loudly twanging at some poor customer service agent about finding a decent place to eat and "none of this frog leg, fru fru sheeyit"!

Once above ground I stopped and took a deep breath. One thing I noticed during my trips to Europe is the air is so much different than here in the US. I don't know if it's just because I'm always in vacation mode but the sky always seems crisper and the air feels cooler and clearer even in summer. It was about mid morning on a weekday so the streets were fairly empty as we made our way to the Best Western Derby Eiffel. I've never been a huge fan of Best Western hotels but this was one of those rare instances where I found a very elegant and impressive branch of the chain.

Now everyone talks about how nasty and uncooperative Parisians are but as Paul alerted me and I discovered myself, if you make an attempt no matter how foolish you feel at speaking French rather than rattling off to them in English, a Parisian will usually stop you, smiling sheepishly at the assault on his ears, and start speaking to you in English. We were given our room key and headed upstairs. Imagine our surprise when we opened the door to find someone else's stuff inside! After checking three times to make sure we had the right room (despite the fact the key opened the door you still feel compelled to check that you didn't make a mistake) we went back to the reception desk where the staff apologized profusely for double booking the room. There wouldn't be another available vacancy ready for several hours but we were able to leave our luggage with them and wander around the city for a few hours until the room was ready so it wasn't a big deal.

Our first stop was Notre Dame Cathedral. I'm a big fan of Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame and stood there, looking up at this colossal building, just awestruck at the detail involved in a time before cranes and thinking about just how old the building really was. Seeing the place on the screen just doesn't compare to seeing it in real life! Inside, people spoke in hushed voices and sunlight poured in through the large stain glass windows and danced along the stone floor. There was a latin mass finishing up as we entered so we quietly wandered along near the walls looking at a kind of shadowbox exhibit of the Stations of the Cross.

We picked our way through the countless "starving artists" that set up shop on the streets and calling to us in every language they knew to get us to stop and buy something. Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower and we couldn't help but stand directly underneath it and look up (rule #2, make sure to do this in turns so you can catch each other when you start to fall over;). There were different admission prices for the three levels and a fourth if you wanted to eat at the restaurant on top but because of Paul's vertigo we only went as high as the second level. You could also walk up the stairs for free but well... no! You get on this strange little glass elevator that rides slanted up along the legs to your level and although we didn't go all the way to the top, the view on the second level was breathtaking! We wandered around the city and got to see the smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty that sits on a little island in the middle of the Seine, we ate the best chocolate eclairs I've ever had in life and which were about the size of your head and had a fairly forgettable lunch for tourists in a place located underneath a large stone bridge with very large pigeons walking around.

We went back to the hotel to rest and freshen up for dinner and discovered our luggage was already moved into our room which wasn't a room but a SUITE! There was no extra charge and the staff was apparently very happy we didn't explode at their snafu so the manager had us stay in the cute little suite with a giant clawfoot tub, big soft beds and french doors that opened up to a beautiful little cafe garden. Unlike lunch, dinner was very memorable. We wandered around and found a place called Le Royal Tour Brasserie. It was a warm night and we wanted to do the people watching thing so we sat at one of the tables outside. The menu was in French so I was at a total loss, however, Paul was able to translate somewhat and he ordered his usual steak and french fries while I went exotic, determined to try the local cuisine, and ordered a kind of pot pie with what I thought was beef in gravy with vegetables but Paul later informed me was probably horsemeat! The texture was softer and a bit stringier than regular beef but the whole thing tasted great so I didn't care and would probably order it again. This was also my first time ever trying Tiramisu. We wandered around a bit more, the city began waking up as the sun set a half hour before midnight, but we had an early train to catch so we headed back to the hotel.

We were only able to stay one night and only scratched the surface of places to go and things to see in Paris but we hope someday to return and hit everything next time!

Well, that's it for this week. Our next post will take you on the roller coaster ride that was dealing with US Immigration and the nervous breakdowns that ensued. Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Apologies for the delay but as they say good things come to those who wait! As promised, here is the tale of Miranda's first visit to the United Kingdom and meeting the in-laws...

I've always loved travelling and new experiences which is why I think my first visit to the UK at 21 years old, despite the more disasterous moments, is in my top 10 favorite experiences of all time. I was excited to embark on my first international flight and eagerly looked through the little plastic bag of goodies that was sitting on my seat after setting up my books, cd player and case for the 6 hour flight out of Newark. The flight wasn't very full and being in a center row I was happy to discover that I'd be able to stretch out my 5'11" frame across the other seats if I decided to sleep. It was the largest airplane I'd ever been on and loved feeling the power of the engines as they lifted us off the ground and into the darkening sky. After BBC News played on the little tv screen that we now take for granted on airlines today, the flight attendants started passing out everyone's food trays and I got to experience my first cultural faux pas. I looked down at little packages of crackers, cheese, creams, sugar and cookies surrounding my little chicken dinner. I got through dinner alright, having decided to ignore the little packages for the time being until they came around again with coffee and tea. Not being a tea person, I asked for coffee and my dinner was cleared away and once again I found myself staring at the little packages. Through some dissection I figured out what went with what until I found myself holding two packets of cream in two different types of tubes. I looked around trying to see what everyone else was doing and not wanting to discover the correct answer the hard way. Finally, as they came around again I called an attendant over and told her, look, I know it probably sounds stupid but what do I do with these? She just smiled, probably thinking stupid American girl, and informed me that the clotted cream was for spreading while the other was for coffee or tea. That was when I first discovered there are no stupid questions, only stupid people as I was getting ready to do it the other way around!

The rest of the flight was uneventful. I stretched out and slept until we flew over Ireland when I freshened up in the bathroom, contemplating the purpose of the hot towel the attendant handed to me but deciding not to ask. Although I assumed from the looks I got from the other passengers as I sat with it sprawled across my face that once again I wasn't doing it right, but who cares, we were about to land at Heathrow! I slipped into one of the empty seats by the window and looked out to get my first glimpse of London as we circled and my heart lept when I was able to pick out Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament! It was great seeing Paul again after a 3 month absence and strange to not be the one waiting at the gate this time. I won't tell you how in an effort to show off Paul managed to hit a pole while pulling out of the parking lot and burnt the clutch at our destination, oh wait, I just did he he

Being students, Paul got me a room at the Halls of Residence at his school in High Wycombe as a kind of headquarters as he whisked me around the country to meet my future in-laws. First up was a trip on the fastest train I'd ever been on in life, followed by a ride in my very first double decker bus (and of course I had to sit in the top level) zipping down a road so narrow I couldn't fathom how it could possibly be a two way street, especially when approaching and passing another double decker bus doing 70! Upon arriving in the sleepy little seaside town, we walked up what I "lovingly" nicknamed The Hill of Death that thankfully had a bench halfway up to sit and catch your breath. I have to say, and not because there's a chance of any of my in-laws reading this, but I like Paul's parents. His mum is a sweet lady who dotes on her family and who at one point I think went into Mama Bear mode when during one conversation we had I'd mentioned buying and sending Paul several pairs of pants during our years as friends before our engagement. I was of course talking about the multiple pairs of Levis I'd picked up and mailed for him as at the time they weren't available in the UK without costing a mint. However, my future husband neglected to tell me that in the UK pants refers to underwear and I should've been calling them trousers! So while she was in the kitchen making tea, I asked Paul why she was looking at me like I had 15 heads and when we discovered the issue, Paul quickly explained away the second cultural faux pas of my trip. Paul's father is just awesome. Upon first meeting him, he immediately reminded me of Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances. Very down to earth and no frills and at times more than made up for my uncle during Paul's first trip to NY!
During that trip I also got to meet Paul's sweet little Irish granny who was ecstatic that he was "marrying a good Catholic girl," and all his siblings. Our first meeting, I think, went very well however the second meeting involved the biggest, most embarrassing faux pas to date!

It was a few days before my flight home so we were invited to my sister in law's home for dinner. Everything was going well until the Chinese food came which consisted of several takeout containers that here in the US would contain a personal meal (meat, rice, veggie). So I sat down opened the container and was prepared to eat when I noticed a silence... an uncomfortable, awkward, BAD silence. I look up and quickly discovered the custom was for everyone to order something and then pass all the dishes around so that everyone could partake. Needless to say I immediately wished with every power of my being that the earth would just open up and swallow me!

My visit wasn't all horror and embarrassment though. I got to see the sights (somehow I always thought Big Ben would be taller) my favorite is still The London Dungeon, discovered my favorite pub food is a toss up between steak and kidney pie (which I misunderstood to mean steak and kidney beans) and fish and chips (I'm still sad that they've recently done away with serving fries, excuse me chips, in a newspaper), and learned that when you ask for lemonade you're gonna wind up drinking Sprite. Oh yeah, and most importantly, I discovered even if you come prepared with a power converter it's not a good idea to leave it plugged in and attached to an American oscillating fan. That little mistake ended up blowing out power to the entire dorm and I quickly buried the evidence DEEP inside a garbage can (whistles innocently and walks away). We also decided to take a side trip to Paris which we'll talk about next time.

All in all it was a very interesting experience, as is every trip I take to Europe, and over a decade later I find I'm still learning and making mistakes but hey, if you can't laugh at yourself when you screw up life just gets too damn serious!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

...And On the Third Day We Were Engaged!

Greetings all! I know last week we promised to tell the story of how we fell in love but we decided though it makes for a great memory it doesn't make for good writing:( So, in commemoration of the event 11 years ago, we'll fast forward to Paul's marriage proposal!

On a chilly day about mid-March I got a phone call from my favorite Brit with news that he'd be coming to visit Easter weekend, just two weeks away! It would be a short visit but as we hadn't seen each other for three months it was still a nice surprise. Mom and I were active in the church choir and that being Easter Week we were singing ourselves hoarse from Wednesday night on and the schedule was fairly hectic. So dad met Paul at the airport on Holy Thursday, which like it did this year fell on April 1st, and headed right to church while mom and I were at practice before mass started. Between the long mass, dinner with the family and the fact that the only room we had for him was on the living room couch, Paul and I didn't get a chance to talk alone until late that night after everyone had gone to bed. The lights were low and the tv off so we could talk quietly without disturbing the rest of the family in the little two bedroom apartment when the conversation suddenly went serious. Paul looked a little nervous as he started talking about how much he always loved me from the beginning. Being we were involved in a mostly long distance relationship I'd insisted on our taking things slowly so when he said "I love you" a mere three weeks after we'd started dating and then more recently when he'd started talking marriage and kids three months prior to this visit, I'd panicked on both occasions and we'd gotten into huge fights. It wasn't that I didn't care for or love Paul but at 18 and 19 years old I wasn't exactly family oriented and the intensity of Paul's feelings along with the sureness of our future scared the hell out of me. Yet as he sat there now seriously telling me about his feelings for me I started wonder that maybe I'd held him at arm's length too often and for too long and he was breaking up with me. I started to get angry at both him for not having patience and myself for being such a chicken while at the same time glad that at least he was man enough to do it in person rather than leaving it to a letter or doing it over the phone when I saw him go down on one knee. Confusion caused my brain to stop functioning as he pulled out a dark blue felt box, opened it and presented a little gold ring with seven small diamonds glittering in the dim light and the words floated up to me, "will you marry me?"

My mouth fell open, he wants to get married? Is he serious? But it's April Fools Day? Could I see myself spending the rest of my life with this man? Do I love him that much? I searched inside the way I usually do when it comes to major life decisions. The idea of being someone's wife made me nervous but the idea of marriage, kids, spending the rest of my life with Paul just felt right. I immediately thought back to that day we'd first met and the moment we'd said goodbye in the lobby of that hotel and suddenly realized what it was I'd felt that day. I did love Paul, always had, and there was absolutely no fear. I had my answer and it was yes... and if this was some kind of joke I was going to kill him!
That's it for this week kiddies. Next week will be the weird and wonderful story of when I visited the United Kingdom for the very first time, met the in-laws and got a crash course in culture shock all at the same time! Be sure not to miss it, if you thought Paul's meeting with my family was funny, this story will just kill you!

Meanwhile, don't forget to enter our giveaway! Right now every donation gets you entered in a live drawing April 25th (via Ustream, time TBD) for a Cappuccino Mug and Blueberry Pie candle set! You can't have pie without coffee and you just can't have coffee without pie:) The default flavors and scents are Cafe Latte and Blueberry but you can also get Mocha and Apple, Pumpkin, Strawberry, Lemon or Chocolate cream pie upon request. Or if you're sensitive or allergic to scented candles, they can also come unscented upon request.

So please, donate now and help us towards our goal of having a baby. Remember, proceeds not used by the procedure go to the March of Dimes and the National Adoption Center so you're helping three causes:) Also check out a site Paul and I created as part of our grieving process from our last pregnancy that gives information and guidance to those who've experienced the same problem and are having trouble dealing with it or knows of someone who does. Thanks and have a great week!