The Miracle Comes Quietly and When We Least Expect It

We’ve all heard the expression, “it’s darkest just before dawn,” or some variation of it. I didn’t realize until today that it’s actually a proverb, first committed to print by the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller in his religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, 1650, citing this view:”It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”

It can be viewed as an annoying cliche’ or bromide that people use to offer comfort and hope to someone who is going through a tough time, or as a truism that really should offer us hope. For me, it’s a little of both and it’s right up there “it is what it is,” “everything happens for a reason,” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I’ve come to believe that there’s something else that happens just before the metaphorical “dawn.” We become quiet and still and our needs are met in unexpected and often-times wonderful ways. We tend to think about how being still and asking for help apply only when it comes to major things happening in our life, but miracles small and large are happening all around us every day.

A few months ago I was traveling for business.  Normally I make my own travel arrangements, but in this case the company I was visiting took care of the planning and booking of airline tickets, limo transportation and the hotel. My area airport of choice is in Philadelphia, but because I was traveling the weekend the Pope was leaving NYC and headed to Philly, I flew out of Newark to avoid the crowds and potential travel delays. I made it to the airport without getting lost, boarded on time,
General Boarding

had a smooth flight, a ride in a limo and stayed in a beautiful hotel. The following day was filled with productive back to back meetings and conversations. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my  much needed break was interrupted by news that my return flight to Newark had been cancelled but new arrangements had been made.

The updated travel plans meant cutting my day shorter than planned but it also meant I’d be home before midnight (or so I thought).

I said my farewells and was whisked away in the limo,


rode in style to the airport and zipped through security with my TSA pre-check boarding passes in hand. Half-way through the first flight to Chicago I decided to check the boarding pass for my connecting flight into Newark.

Much to my dismay and borderline horror, my next flight was headed to JFK in New York City, not to Newark, New Jersey. How could this happen you ask? So did I! It never dawned on me to look at the flight details other than the times – after all why would someone book a return flight into a different city than the originating flight?

My best guess is that one of two things happened – one theory is that whoever made the original reservations said Newark really fast and the person who made the revised arrangements either heard New York or they’ve never heard of Newark. The other theory is that they looked and found that Newark is “only” thirty miles from JFK and it would be easy to get from one airport to the other.

My heart pounded against my chest and I wouldn’t want to know what my blood pressure was in that moment.

One thing I knew was clear, I had no choice but to board the plane in Chicago and figure things out from there.

In addition to highlights of the Pope’s visit to NYC, the news was also filled with updates about modified train schedules and street closings throughout the city so I knew my options could be limited. The first thought I wrote in my journal was, “If I can get a cab for less than $100, I’m going for it.”

The nice young man sitting next to me tried to help by pulling out his app with the NYC subway schedules, “You could take the X line to the Y line and then hop on the Z line and maybe make it to Penn Station before the last train leaves. Of course I don’t know for sure if they’re running on schedule because of the Pope’s visit.”

Thoughtful as he was trying to be, his assistance only conjured up images of myself spending the night at Penn Station with a colorful cast of characters from NYC nightlife.

I asked the flight attendants about cab fare. “You’re looking at a minimum of a $200 cab fare; your better option is to take the airport bus from JFK to Newark, it’ll cost you about $30.”


A $30 bus ride was totally reasonable and sounded like an easy solution to my dilemma. For the rest of the flight, my heart was still and the worries were put aside.

As explained, the booth to buy tickets for the bus between airports was at the bottom of the escalator. The sign said it closed at 10:30 pm, I looked at my watch – it was 10:32 pm. Not one to give up, I approached the man at the booth and asked if I could still buy a ticket to Newark.

“We can hold the bus for 5 more minutes, so you’ll have to decide fast.”

I pulled out my wallet to pay and asked, “Does the bus go directly from here to Newark?”

“No, normally you get on this bus and it goes to the Port Authority parking lot where you would get on another bus, but since the Pope is in town, that area is blocked off and so you’ll need to walk 12 blocks to meet up with the connecting bus that will take you to Newark.”

Schlepping my suitcase for 12 city blocks alone, at night, in NYC did not seem like a very appealing idea.

“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation,” said the man who had arrived at the booth a few minutes before me. “I’m in the same situation, if I can find us a cab would you want to split the fare with my daughter and me?”

He didn’t need to ask me twice.

This kind stranger negotiated a fare that cost me $80 plus tip.

When we are facing a problem, sometimes a peace and quiet comes over us because we think the problem has been solved and we know what the solution is. Other times we become quiet and still because we “give up” and make a conscious choice to quit trying to chase after the solution and control the outcome.

In those moments of  quiet and letting go, miracles happen.

The Miracle Comes Quietly

A Case of Mistaken Identity

A few years ago I splurged and bought myself a new suitcase. At the time I bought it, I thought it was the most brilliant purchase I’d ever made. It’s purple, one of my favorite colors, and also a color I figured would stand out from the typical dark green and black bags we all see swirling around the baggage claim carrier.

In the store I loved the fact that it has four wheels and is as tall as my kitchen table. I thought to myself, “This is going to be awesome! Finally a suitcase that will hold everything I need and will be easy to roll through the airport.” I’m not exactly famous for packing light. 🙂

giant purple suitcase

I continued to think it was brilliant right up until I packed it for it’s maiden voyage and had to figure out a way to get the darn thing down the stairs without killing myself. I managed to slide it down without too much trouble, problem solved and the suitcase’s “brilliant” status had only been slightly tarnished.

Each leg of the trip it became more and more obvious that the purchase was not brilliant at all. I couldn’t get the bag into the trunk by myself, the shuttle bus driver could barely hoist it onto the bus, and it weighed in at just under 50 pounds. If that wasn’t enough, the raised eyebrows and out-loud-laughter from friends and family confirmed that I had actually purchased one of the most ridiculous suitcases on the planet.

The only thing that’s turned out to be good about the bag is that I never have any trouble identifying my suitcase in baggage claim, until recently that is.

The night before my annual trip to Big Sand Lake, I first packed the essentials: walking shoes, ink pens, a drawing tablet, and my hair dryer and then I threw in my clothes. (you can see why I first thought this bag was brilliant, right?)

packing for the lakeAfter 7 hours of travel, including the trip to the airport at 4 a.m., I was more than thrilled when I saw my giant purple bag was the second suitcase off the plane and onto the carousel. I retrieved it and rolled it outside to wait for my parents to pick me up. (I have to admit that the one thing I do still love about the bag is how easy it is to roll around the airport.)

We spent the afternoon in Fargo, and after a leisurely lunch with my aunt and uncle and a short visit with my cousin and his beautiful wife and cute, cute babies we started our 1 hour drive to the lake. About 15 miles into the drive my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize so of course I didn’t answer it, they left a voicemail.

“Hi Beth, this is the supervisor here from United Airlines calling. We have a big purple bag here at the Fargo airport with your name on it so it looks like you picked up the wrong bag from the baggage claim area this morning when you landed. There’s a passenger here who is missing a bag that matches the same description, so we think you have hers.”


Thirty minutes later I confirmed that there was indeed at least one other person in the world who must have initially thought this suitcase was awesome – they were identical.

We made the swap and I learned that the bag I mistook for mine belonged to a group that was originally traveling through Chicago, but had been re-routed through Minneapolis due to a cancelled flight. Unfortunately for both of us, their giant purple suitcase caught the first flight out of Chicago which put it on the same flight as me. What are the odds of that?

All’s well that ends well. I just hope they’re laughing about it as much as we are.

Weekend Shenanigans and Celebrating Friendship

Seven years ago, I stumbled across an online community for wannabe triathletes as well as triathlon veterans, not a place I’d ever  have imagined myself fitting in. Much to my surprise, through online fitness challenges, mentoring forums, and individual training blogs I’ve “met” and formed friendships with people across the U.S. and in other parts of the world.

Over the past seven years, many of us have also become friends on Facebook, but the connection on BT ( remains a special one. People check in on each other weekly, if not daily.

We’ve “watched” each other’s children grow up, celebrated personal victories, and mourned together over the loss of friends and parents. We’ve sent virtual hugs and cried real tears during times of personal hardship and have kicked up our heels with joy for the good and happy times. We’re cheerleaders and confidants.

On more than one occasion I’ve taken a train, plane, or automobile to travel hundreds of miles meet one of my virtual friends in real life. What may shock some, will seem cool to others – not only did I travel to meet them, they welcomed me with open arms, amazing hospitality, and a place to rest my head for a night or two, even longer if needed.

The majority of my trips have been related to participating in a race. There’s nothing better than having a safe and welcoming place to stay the night before an event. It’s also awesome to share the early morning pre-race ritual and jitters with someone who is experiencing the same feelings.

Being connected on more than one social platform has its advantages. You always know when one of your friends is planning a party and can casually take them up on their “open invitation” to come visit. It’s simply a matter of keeping an eye open for pictures of large shipments of Mardi Gras beads to posted on Facebook and inviting oneself in a comment.

inviting myself to the party on facebook mardi gras beads

The response was almost immediate and I was DARED to attend.

the dare to attend

I made some noise about accepting the DARE, asked for some details and started to seriously consider making the trip from Philadelphia to Lake Lure, North Carolina to attend the party.

the details

The party was scheduled for February 28th, so the weather forecast played a role in the final decision. As it turns out, I threaded the needle and made the 12 hour drive (each way) in between winter storms.

The weekend shenanigans kicked off on Friday night in Roanoke, VA. I made it to my halfway point just in time to see the lights in the hotel restaurant go dark. Fortunately the Holiday Inn that Hotwire selected for me offered complimentary shuttle service to and from any of the local eating establishments.

I chose TGI Fridays because it was close, I had a coupon, and figured it would be laid back and quiet since it was fairly late. My expectations were more than a little off; there was only one seat left at the bar and a ten minute wait for a table. I opted for the bar.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place where everyone gets carded, the females are on the prowl, and the males are primed for the hunt. I also don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much bling, leather, and leopard print in a single room. Too bad the fashion police weren’t there to call out the woman in the skin tight body suit –  embellished with tiny imprints of the “hang loose”surfer hand symbol (can’t even describe how bad it was).

Who knew that I’d picked one of the local hot spots for singles to hang out? So much more I could write about the evening, but it’s time to move on to the main event.

I arrived in Lake Lure on time and not in the least bit frazzled. Between Google Maps and my friend’s most excellent directions there was no way I could make a wrong turn or miss my destination.

We had just enough time for a hug, a walk around the property, a glass of wine, and a bit of gabbing before the co-hosts and guests began to arrive. The house looked spectacular, every inch of the main floor was covered in beads and sparkles.


Of course, no Mardi Gras party would be complete without costumes and masks. After much laughter and exchanging of hats, we concluded that Robin’s outfit called for the Jester’s hat and the 1920’s circa feathers worked best for me.

mardi gras party

We looked cute, but I’m fairly certain the cape won the prize for best costume.

the cape

The food was incredible.

Amazing food

Once the party started, the dining room was the most popular room at the party, well maybe with the exception the other side of the house where the Tarot card reader was burning incense and tapping into the future.

Each guest picked a number when they arrived and when their “number was up” it was time for their reading. Somehow or another, my number was 3, not saying it was rigged in any way – just saying I’m lucky. 🙂

The night was filled with toasts to newly wedded couples, explanations of why I was there, wine bottle opening demonstrations, roulette for high stakes prizes, and most likely some neighborhood gossip which went over my head. It was a wonderful evening, but there seemed to be too few hours between putting my head on the pillow and the knock on my door in the morning.

A sinfully delicious breakfast was followed by a long, long nap, and a delightful dinner. What could be a better way to spend a day?

Sadly the party is over (for this year). The beads and masks have been gathered, the dog and kitty cats are once again free to roam the house, and I am safely back in PA.

the party is over

The story is far from over though. I look forward to future shenanigans and an ongoing friendship.

What’s Your “Real” Name? | A Little Election Day Humor

Japanese Maple

My given name is Beth, not Elizabeth. Throughout my school years teachers constantly asked me this: “Are you sure your real name isn’t Elizabeth?”

“Yes, my name is Beth. Just Beth, Beth Lee.”

It’s an interesting thing to have a short first and last name, especially when they fit so well with each other and could very well be a single name. Maybe it was influence of Petticoat Junction and the characters Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Billie Jo that made people ask me for my last name after I introduced myself as Beth Lee – or maybe they just thought I was from the South because of my ability to imitate a southern drawl.

Fast forward a decade or two and wouldn’t you know it, I unwittingly perpetuated the “what is your real name” conundrum. Twenty-some years ago it was fashionable for a woman to create a new last name by hyphenating her maiden name with her husband’s last name when she got married.

I was an independent woman with personal dreams and career aspirations, I wanted to retain my identity before marriage, and also Lee-Browning had a really nice ring to it so I legally changed my name from Beth Lee to Beth Lee-Browning. What I didn’t realize is that personal records are most often filed by last name and a hyphenated last name was subject to interpretation which meant that I never knew if was filed under “L” for Lee and other times under “B” for Browning.

Ok, so about the election. It was funny on multiple fronts.

By avoiding eye contact I managed to weave my way through the line of awkward teenagers passing out campaign literature with only one unwanted flyer in my hand. I can only hope that the trash can full of crumpled campaign promises made it’s way to a recycle bin.

There was no signage indicating which one of the two tables set up in the Middle School gym would have the book with my name in it, so I flipped a mental coin and chose the closest one. After a few minutes of pre-voting chit chat with others in line it was my turn to sign in.

The volunteers manning the table didn’t find my under the letter L or B, and it sparked a mini-debate about whether or not I was registered at all. Finally one of them looked at my driver’s license and asked, “Which side of Arborlea are you on?”

“When I look out my front door it’s on the opposite side of the street,” I replied.

“Well then! You’re at the other table, if you’re even registered at all.”

Clearly in her mind I should have known which of the unmarked tables was for voters that live on my side of the dividing line. I walked 25 ft to the next table and waited patiently to explain that they might have to look in both books to find record of the fact that I am registered to vote.

I sized up the volunteers at the table and determined that the woman with the Lucille Ball red hair would need to put rocks in her pockets on a windy day or she’d be blown away in a wind gust. And based on the thoughtful nods and the serious demeanor it was clear that the grey-haired gentleman beside her took his role in the election process very seriously.

I approached the table and said, “I’m not sure which book you’ll find me in, I might be filed under L or I might be under B.”

Who knew such a loud sigh could come out of such a tiny woman?

“You mean we have to try and look you up in both books?”

“I’m afraid so,” I said. “What can I say? I’m a complicated woman.”

A response that didn’t even trigger the slightest of grins. They were both too busy trying to locate my name in the election sign-in books.

“I found you! But I have a question for you,” said the silver-haired gentleman.

“Sure, what’s the question?”

“So, your name is Beth Lee Browning. Is Lee your middle name or part of your last name?”

I think it was his way of asking if I knew what my real name is. All I could do was laugh. I also voted. 🙂

What’s Missing in Today’s Corporate Culture? A Lighthearted Walk Down Memory Lane

Lancer Label Group Picture

I started my career at a family owned business in Omaha Nebraska over 25 years ago (yikes!). I actually worked in retail and sold life insurance before that, but consider my job at Lancer Label to be my first “real” job.

This group picture was taken sometime in the late 1980’s, my guess is 1986 or maybe 1987. I can’t say that I’m sorry the days of big hair and shoulder pads are behind me.

Lancer Label Group Picture
Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s hard to believe that when I started there people could smoke at their desks. Smoking was eventually limited to the break-room and then banned completely, but back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to see the owner of the company walking throughout the offices and press room with cigar in hand. He once started a dumpster on fire with an unfortunate flick of hot ash.

Harry Riley, the owner and founder of Lancer Label, was a man who recognized his own strengths and limitations, saw the best in others, and cared deeply about his employees.

Lancer Label_Harry Riley
Harry Riley – Photo by Bud Phillips

John O’Brien was the president of the company while I worked there. I know I’m not alone in saying he’s the best business mentor I’ve ever had. He was tough but fair and had a talent for giving a person feedback that was constructive, sincere, and spot on.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that he knew everyone by name; he managed the company by walking around. He took the time to stop and talk to people no matter what their position was; sometimes to tell a joke and other times he would just listen.

Lancer Label_John OBrien
John O’Brien – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry created and nurtured a culture of respect, quality, continuous learning, and fun. To this day, some of the best training opportunities I ever had were during the time I worked for Lancer Label. They spent money investing in people and providing resources to help us all succeed together.

It wasn’t unusual for them to initiate a company-wide training initiative and then celebrate the successes that came from what we learned.

Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room - Copy
Lancer Label Company celebration in the lunch room – Photo by Bud Phillips

They believed in recognizing people for their contributions and every year at the annual holiday party awards were presented to a few individuals for their outstanding performance.

Lancer Label Holiday Party_ employee recognition
Lancer Label Holiday Party Employee Recognition – Photo by Bud Phillips

John and Harry also believed in putting family first and having a good time. The annual company picnic was held in a different place every year and always included activities that were fun for both kids and adults.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The picnics weren’t elaborate but they sure were fun.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The leadership team never missed an event and participated in the activities with enthusiasm and delight.

Lancer Label Company Picnic - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Company Picnic – Photo by Bud Phillips

The highlight of the year (at least for me) was the holiday party. My favorite memory is the year we put on a “concert” that featured a few of our favorite rock stars.

ZZ Top treated us to “Hot Legs

Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Topp – Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party  ZZ Top Hot Legs - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party ZZ Top Hot Legs – Photo by Bud Phillips

Ike and Tina brought down the house with “Rolling on the River

Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party , Ike and Tina Turner – Photo by Bud Phillips

The night wouldn’t have been complete without the Pointer Sisters and “I’m So Excited

Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party the Pointer Sisters – Photo by Bud Phillips

And of course the ladies went wild when Elvis entered the building. His body guard had to work hard to keep them from storming the stage.

Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis - Photo by Bud Phillips
Lancer Label Holiday Party Elvis – Photo by Bud Phillips

It’s no wonder that the company was awarded with the “Best Managed Company” in our industry niche multiple years in a row. They invested in and cared about their employees and it was returned to them tenfold.

I will always feel fortunate for the experience and for the people who touched my life while I was there. There is no better example of how a business should be run than depicted in this walk down memory lane.

Photo Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Bud Phillips for posting these wonderful pictures on Facebook and giving me permission to use them in a blog post.

Be Kind to Yourself…YOU Deserve it!

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

One of the things I’ve been working to change in my life over the past few years is to end the negative self talk. We all do it and we shouldn’t. One night last week I found myself slipping down that path and decided to address it head on and through art.

While writing in my journal, the phrase, “be kind to yourself, you deserve it” started running through my head like a broken record and inspired me to grab a watercolor tablet and an assortment of my ink pens.

Be Kind to Yourself In black ink

The funny thing is that the very first version had a “writo” and I misspelled yourself . 🙂

The Y reminded me of a tree trunk and trees are a symbols for knowledge and life which seemed appropriate.  The “B” lent itself to a rainbow.

Be Kind to Yourself with a tree and a rainbow

The tree needed some additional color and life. At this point I was torn and wondering if I should have left it in black and white. In the end I think the color makes the tree “pop.”

Be Kind to YourselfWhile I was looking for inspiration for the butterfly one thing led to another and I stumbled onto one of my own posts while searching for pictures of butterflies.

A couple of years ago I tried my hand at colored pencils and drew an interpretation of Snapdragons and butterflies. It was a piece inspired by my grandmother’s gardens and my favorite flower. This became the inspiration for the butterfly.

white butterfly set free

The butterfly took on a completely unique and somewhat abstract look.

Be Kind to yourself

I decided to do the background in watercolor, which is a first for me. I’ve used watercolor pencils before, but not watercolor paint. I learned a few lessons here about how ink and watercolors do (or don’t play nicely together). In other words, it’s a good idea to do to the background first so the ink doesn’t bleed. It’s also wise to place a piece of paper between your hand and the lettering while working on the lettering to prevent smudging.

In spite of some smudges and ink bleeds I carried on and brought the piece to near completion. I’m more than a little in love with how the butterfly turned out.

Be Kind to yourself with color background

The smudging and bleeding got worse before it got better and my beautiful piece of artwork became an experiment in working with the imperfections created by my inexperience. I have to admit that I came close to tossing it out.

It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s beautiful and I’m glad I completed it.

Be Kind to Yourself by Beth Browning

I’m going to set it aside for now and work on the next lesson in my Doodle Arts class but I’m fairly certain I will revisit this and create a new version.

In the meantime, this version is on the mantle of my fireplace as a daily reminder to “be kind to myself.”

That’s a Really Bad Place to Change a Flat Tire!

My phone’s ringtone was hardly necessary this morning; it was 3:30 am and I’d barely slept. I tapped the screen for snooze; ten more minutes in my warm bed was preferable to the chilly air outside the comforter.

Christian’s flight back to college was scheduled for 6:10 am this morning. Last night we backward calculated and decided that we could leave at 4:00 am, make it to the airport in plenty of time even if we stopped at WaWa to get coffee for me and doughnuts for him. We sailed along I95 at just the right speed to avoid getting pulled over and were on track to make it to the airport in plenty of time.

I hate driving on I95; the closer I get to Philly the more I hate it. The minefield of potholes gets progressively dangerous the deeper you drive into the construction zone.

I made the mistake of driving in the middle lane, which turned out to be the most treacherous of the three available lanes. I won’t prolong the suspense or try and find a clever way to describe what it felt like to connect dead center with the pothole that ate my tire and then spit my car back onto the highway with a jolt.

“What was that!?”

Christian said, “I think we just hit a pothole. I hope we didn’t get a flat.”

The car balance of the car shifted and leaned toward the right front passenger side; the sound of air leaving the tire confirmed we had a flat tire. I won’t repeat what I said as this is a family friendly blog. :). I pulled over to the side of the road next to a construction barricade.

It was 4:30 a.m.

In theory I know how to change a tire, in practice I’ve never done it. I had sense enough to turn my hazards on and retrieve the jack, the spare tire, and the lug-nut wrench out of the trunk.

Christian figured out how to jack up the car and then Googled “how to change a tire” while I paced back and fourth trying to remember the trick to getting access to the lug-nuts. The lug-nuts on my tires are covered by a nice decorative cover, which is great unless you need to change a tire and don’t know how to take them off.

It was a good thing that I wore my white winter jacket instead of my black one; a last minute decision that kept me from blending into the pre-sunrise sky while I stood behind my car making calls for help.

My first call was to my parents because that’s who I call when I’m having a disaster and I hoped that because my mom has a Volvo they could shed some light onto how to get to the lug-nuts. My second call was to a 24 x 7 emergency road side assistance service that was 1 1/2 hours from where we were stranded.

Six rings into my third call Christian said, “Someone’s stopping to help.”

I turned to see a tow truck and a stocky, bearded man walking toward us, “This is a terrible place to change a flat tire! Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?”

I just nodded, hoping he intended to help and didn’t stop just to tell me how dangerous my situation was.

He tugged up the back of his pants and squatted in front of the tire. After a few failed attempts at removing the lug-nut covers with the factory provided tool, he retrieved a screwdriver from his truck.

It took more than regular muscle strength to loosen the lug-nuts. For each one, he positioned the lug-nut tool as a platform of sorts and forced the it free through a series of jumps and grunts.

He gave me instructions to add air to the spare and not to drive over 50 mph. I have no idea what his name is or what his company is, but I’ll always be grateful for the unexpected and free roadside assistance. I’ll also always wonder what he thought of our improvisation and that we used suitcases to block the tires. (if only we’d known that there were blocks for that purpose in the trunk)

As for the rest of the story, Christian missed his flight and will be headed back to St. Louis tomorrow. All of the flights were booked today; the airlines are still playing catch  up from last week’s weather related cancellations and delays.

Christian took my tire in to have it fixed; turns out it’s not just a flat tire, I have a broken rim. It’s a bummer, but there are so many ways that it could have been much worse.

In case you’re wondering about the feature image; well I’d rather enjoy roses than think about flat tires. And  after this morning’s mishap it was especially nice to have this cheery bouquet in my den.

How Many Phone Transfers Does it Take?…

A couple of months ago I got a call from Comcast advising me that my modem was outdated and that I should trade it in for a new one so we could take advantage of the fastest internet connection available.

I called Comcast and requested the new modem and promised to return my old one to the nearest Comcast store. A few days later the new modem arrived, Christian plugged it in and we were good to go. I was not at all impressed with the “fast internet connection,” if anything it seemed slower than before.

It took me a few weeks to return the old one and after waiting for 30 minutes while the customer service rep tried to process the return, I learned that we hadn’t received the right modem. The one I got was not for the high speed access and it didn’t have a slot for the phone. (which explained why I had no dial tone and the land line hadn’t rung for some time)

For some reason, she couldn’t give me the right one and so I had to make another trip back to the store and return the one that had been sent to me. Yesterday I made the final exchange and figured we were only a few minutes away from having high speed internet access and a dial tone again.

The instructions said to connect the modem to a computer, which didn’t seem to make much sense since we’ve got a wireless network, so we figured they must mean the router. Christian hooked everything up and we had phone and cable almost instantly, but no internet. Hmmmmm

A few minutes later Christian checked for internet access from his phone and was redirected to an “activate services page.” The process looked straight forward and once again I thought I was seconds away from having internet access.

I signed in and clicked “activate”:

SOS We can’t connect to your modem, please call…”

I dialed the number and answered the minimum number of automated voice prompts before hitting “zero” to be connected with a customer service rep. A young and very pleasant female voice greeted me and asked how she could help.

After verifying my home phone, address, and the last four digits of my social security number she asked, “Is the modem plugged into your laptop?”

“No, it’s plugged into the router, why would I want to plug it into my laptop?”

She replied, “That’s where you need to start, plug the Ethernet cord into your laptop.”

I was puzzled but I followed her instructions. She tried pinging the modem, nothing. I realized that in my haste, I’d unplugged the Ethernet cord from the modem and now had my laptop connected to the router. Doh’! I corrected the connection, read her all of the tiny numbers from the back of the modem and still nothing.

“I think I may have simply missed a step or done something wrong in the set up. Can you just walk me through the steps?”

“Miss Beth, I think that it’s best if I transfer you to a specialist at this time, please hold”

One thing that I will never understand is why you have to verify customer information to each new person you talk to. I’m all for security and privacy, but it seems a little excessive.

I provided the next customer service rep my verification information, confirmed that the Ethernet cord was plugged into my laptop and listened to her provide a 5 minute overview of the advantages of the xfinity super customer service program.

“Miss Beth, since we are still unable to get your internet service working I need to transfer you to a technician. But before I do that, I need to activate the additional $10.99 per month charge for 24 x 7 access to the technical representatives.”

“What?! You’re telling me that you can’t help me troubleshoot this and connect to the internet unless I subscribe to this additional service?”

“Yes, it’s only $10.99 per month and the service will also help you troubleshoot your laptop, iPad, iPhone, and even your printer.”

“I don’t need all that, I just want to connect to the internet.”

“Well, there is another option for $5.99 per month that is internet only.”

At this point it looked like the only way I was going to resolve my internet dilemma was to sign up for this additional service so I did and made a mental note at the same time to call and get it removed as soon as possible.

I verified my account information and explained my situation for the third time.

“So the problem is that you aren’t able to activate your internet service?”


“Ma’am I’m really sorry to do this, but I’m going to need to transfer you to an activation specialist. This isn’t something I can help you with.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me, that’s where I started.”

“I wish I was kidding,” he replied.

“Ok, I know it’s not you’re fault, but I’m incredibly frustrated right now. See if you can do something for me. I don’t want to verify my account information for the 4th time.” (pretty sure I was growling at this point)

He returned after several moments and initiated the transfer.

“Welcome to Comcast, this call may be monitored or recorded for quality or training purposes. What is the 10 digit home phone number on your account?”

The fourth transfer put me right back in the land of automated voice prompt hell. I once again answered the minimum number of automated voice prompts before hitting “zero” to be connected with a customer service rep.

“Before we start I need to forewarn you that I will be doing my best to stay calm, but I’ve been transferred 4 times and the last time dropped me into the automated system and not to a real person.  I’m more than a little frustrated at this point in time.”

“I can certainly understand why, I’d feel the same way. Can you verify your home phone number, address, and social security number and then I can help you.”

It took a while, but she was very patient and walked me through the steps. As it turns out, there was never a need to plug the modem into my laptop because the goal was to activate the wireless service.

What I needed to do was plug in the modem, connect the cable and phone cords to the modem, click the “WPS” button on top of the modem, select the new wireless network from my network connections, and enter the serial number.

None of which was on the instruction card that I received when I picked up the modem.

comcast modem connection instructions

Can you say confusing?

I do have to say that normally I’m very happy with Comcast and have found their customer service to be very good. And while the experience was very frustrating, the reps were all very polite even when I got more than a little testy.

I’m thinking they should create a better list of instructions and that would make everyone’s life easier.

And in case you’re wondering, the internet connection speed is actually faster!

Trains and Markets, and Magic, Oh my

bike tire wheel window

Last weekend was without a doubt the best Memorial Day Weekend of my life.  A few weeks ago, the “big kids” surprised me and purchased their own plane tickets to come visit me in Pennsylvania.

We started something new during Christmas travels; we now depend on SEPTA and New Jersey Transit for train transportation to and from the airport. It’s awesome because instead of spending time on I95 or the New Jersey Turnpike, I can clean like a mad woman up until the very last moment. Katie texted me two stops early so there would be no risk that she’d have to wait in the rain at the train-stop.

Somehow I managed to stay awake long enough to pick Jeff and Justin up from Trenton Transit Station. I’d like to say it was an uneventful drive, but apparently my daughter and I have a different vocabulary when it comes to driving directions and we almost ended up headed to NYC instead of Philly.

Saturday was a kick back day, the kids went to the mall and played games while I prepared the meals that had been requested for the weekend menu.  As always enchiladas were at the top of the list.

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and I was happy to wait for a few minutes for the train and take some pictures on the platform. I always laugh when I look at pictures of my kids and me.  I’m so much shorter  than them and they’re so much fairer than me it’s sometimes hard to see the family resemblance.

wating for the train with my kids

I probably shouldn’t have let Katie sit on the edge of the platform with her feet resting on the tracks, but I couldn’t resist taking a picture. Maybe it was my way of making up for not letting her eat dirt when she was little. (that’s a funny story)

waiting for the train with feet on the tracks

Apparently my children are never too old to play complicated versions of Paddy Cake.  They  make me laugh out loud.

Grown people Playing Paddy Cake

Our first destination was Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens on South Street. It’s over 3,000 square feet of mosaic art and the walls are covered with shiny glass and mirrors from floor to ceiling, both inside and out.

Philadelphia Magic Garden outside wall

The second floor was a perfect place to check text messages and send funny pictures.

texting in the magic garden

I wonder what if the walls of the artist’s home are covered in tile and mirrors as well.

It was a great location for a mother and daughter picture.


The plan was to go to the Italian Market on South Street after the Magic Garden, the only problem was that I didn’t know the name of the market. The Italian Street  Market is lined with shops and stores of all kinds. It’s like taking a step back in time to the days before grocery stores and malls.

We’d been there a couple of Christmases ago on a walking tour, but the only thing any of us could remember was that it was on South Street. (I can’t believe I’ve never written about it the walking tour)

I made up my mind that it was called the South Street Market and so that’s what we set off to find. After a mile and change, we reached the South Street Supermarket on the corner of South Street and something. It was pretty obvious we were in the wrong place. Everyone whipped out their smart phones and fired up Google.

Within a few minutes we discovered that the Magic Gardens is two blocks away from where we had intended to go. We were limited on time (lasagna was waiting for us at home) so I suggested we take cabs to the Italian Market. I was instantly overruled and the kids voted to continue our impromptu tour of the city and head toward the Gelato shop.

It was Justin’s first trip to Philly and he wanted to make the trip complete with a Philly Cheese Steak. We’re not sure why, but Yelp led us to Di Bruno Bros and there were no Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. On the plus side, they did have the gourmet cheese spread that we’d hoped to buy at a shop in the Italian Market. Score!

A few blocks later we stumbled across an authentic Philly Cheese Steak shop and the day trip was complete. It was a day where nothing went according to plan, but everything turned out just right.