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Suddreth Vacation – London

For the second part of our vacation we took a short flight over to London (if you missed the first part of our vacation, Paris, you can catch up here).

We arrived at Heathrow in the mid-afternoon and hopped on the Heathrow Express which took us straight into Paddington Station. We grabbed a cab from the taxi queue and headed off to our hotel in South Kensington – The Kensington.

Our hotel was beautiful and was just a quick five minute walk from the tube station. Always full of surprises, the husband really outdid himself in London. When we walked into our room, I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t a room at all, but a suite! And sitting on the windowsill were a bouquet of my favorite flowers, alstromeria. Shortly after our arrival there was a knock on our door and there was a waiter with a tray of chocolate and strawberries and an anniversary card from the hotel.

kensington

After we got settled in to our suite and freshened up, we went out to explore the city. We decided to head towards the Thames and walk around the neighborhoods down there. We admired Westminster Abbey, Parliament, The Queen’s Tower and Big Ben, and the Central Methodist Hall. We even got to see the London Eye, though it was from across the river.

Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

As we were walking through the neighborhoods we came across a little pub called Prince Albert’s and popped in for a pint and some chips. It was right after working hours so the place was jumping with locals and it was so neat to watch everyone just enjoying their lives!

Later that night we met up with a friend at the White Stallion for some dinner and drinks and really just had a great time. It was so nice to talk with someone who lives there and could suggest fun touristy things to do that wouldn’t make us look like ultra-tourists.

The next day we went down to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard. I really didn’t know what to expect but when we arrived there were about ten thousand people there! No joke. The pomp and circumstance is truly remarkable. The guards taking over march down the street and in to the courtyard of the palace while the band plays. The mounted guard walks down the streets around the palace clearing the street of pedestrians. It is really an amazing show of force and tradition.

Two Royal Guards.

Two Royal Guards.

 

Just being near the palace was incredible. It is gorgeous and it just seems so crazy to me that you can just walk down the footpath and boom – there’s a palace. In the middle of the city!

After that we went up to King’s Cross to take a glimpse at Platform 9 and 3/4 (of course). They really have a pretty good setup there. You stand in a queue and two Potter people take your picture as you run into the wall. FOR FREE! There is a souvenir shop if you’re brave enough to enter – it was a mad house when we were there. I opted not to enter. The next time we go back to London though, I definitely want to take a Potter tour!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon on Downing Street and in the Churchill War Room Museum, which is incredible. The artifacts on display are impressive but what was so interesting to me is that you actually get to walk through the actual place where Churchill watched the war progress. The maps he and his team used to track progress are still on the wall and you can even see the pinholes from where they were showing troop movements. There is a section of the ceiling that has been removed so you can see the six inches of concrete that Churchill had poured above the rooms because he found out that they weren’t very secure. If the building had been directly hit the building would have collapsed on them. The concrete was a little bit of a cushion. This museum is one of the best I’ve been to and the interaction you get to participate in really immerses you into the story.

 

The War Room

The War Room

 

 

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That night we went to this wine bar called Gordon’s on the recommendation of our friend. The bar is below street level and is built inside of what looks like a cave. They only serve wine, but you can cheese boards, meats, and breads to go along with your wine. The place is really tiny and filled up quickly, but we were able to procure two spots to sit inside – they have outdoor seating as well. After our leisurely wine and cheese experience we walked to our restaurant, Simpson’s On-The-Strand, to enjoy our actual dinner. This place is incredible. We each order a beef wellington, because London. They had a piano player, and beautiful decor, and the service was outstanding.

We went back to our hotel and enjoyed some champagne and snacks by the fireplace in the lobby area and enjoyed some really fantastic people watching.

Cheers to year one!

Cheers to year one!

 

On the morning of our final day, I was a little frantic. We had packed the night before and everything was ready to go, but we had one more thing to do before we went to the airport. On our first night in London, in a moment of trying to be super helpful, I offered to buy our passes into Buckingham Palace. There are only six weeks out of the entire year that the palace is opened for tourists and we happened to be there during part of those six weeks! I want to go inside a palace! I’m a princess, afterall!!! So I bought the tickets and thought everything was good to go – until I received my email confirmation and realized that I bought tickets for the wrong day! I read the terms and conditions and it stated clearly, no refunds, no exchanges, sorry not sorry. I was crushed. I was trying to be so helpful and the one thing in London that I absolutely wanted to do, I messed up in a big way! After we watched the changing of the guard we actually walked over to ticketing area and explained the situation – I purchased tickets for the wrong day; we were leaving the day the tickets were for and was there anything at all they would be able to do for us. We tried to get in to see the palace that day during the last time slot, but it was full. They absolutely would not refund my money, but what they could do was put us in the very first time slot for the day we were leaving. We accepted their offer and went about the rest of our day, although I was still pretty bummed out because the first time slot of the day was 9:30 and our flight was at noon. I didn’t think there was any possible way we would be able to go through the palace and make our flight.

But, as I’ve said before, my husband is incredibly thoughtful. He is also a problem-solver. So, we took our luggage with us and headed to the palace – and you know what? THEY HAVE A BAG CHECK ON SITE! Which meant that we would be able to leave our bags, explore the palace and still make our flight! Unfortunately, there is a pretty strict no photography rule inside the palace so I can’t show you any pictures, but I promise however beautiful, magnificent, and incredible I say it is, it’s even more than that. I couldn’t stop smiling and was just so blown away by the fact that people live there. LIVE. THERE. It is amazing. If you are thinking about going to London, go when you can get inside the palace because it is sooooo worth it. Plus, you get to view the Queen’s gallery, the carriage and mews, and the gardens.

 

Just hanging outside Queen Elizabeth's house. NBD.

Just hanging outside Queen Elizabeth’s house. NBD.

After we exited the palace grounds we hailed a taxi cab and went back to Paddington Station to take the Heathrow Express back to the airport. Thanks to some very kind people who let us jump to the front of the queue we were able to make our flight on time. When we got to the gate they hadn’t even started boarding so all of the anxiety I had that morning was for nothing!

We boarded our Aer Lingus plane and got ready to continue our journey in Dublin!

 

Dia duit, Éire!

Dia duit, Éire!

Stay tuned for the next bit of our journey….

Ringing in the positive

While at dinner with my father and sister and brother in-law last night my husband leaned over to me and very quietly said ‘I would like the next three sentences out of your mouth to be positive.’

Naturally, my immediate reaction was to go on the offense and my husband knew I would and told me ‘I know you’re trying to be funny. I don’t think you realize it’s negative. I was just making you aware.’

Funny thing is, he was right. (Don’t tell him I said that). I was trying to be funny and I didn’t realize I was being so negative.

And like it or not, I think this is something that I do often without even realizing it. Another example?

During a recent conversation about movies and actors I stated that I do not like Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone asked me why and I don’t really have a good reason. She just bugs me. But while I was having the same conversation with my best friend via text message, I said the reason I don’t like her is because everyone praises her for lashing out at the Hollywood bullies and ridiculousness of the industry name calling and the meanness of it all but she’s doing the same thing. She’s just attacking the the attackers. Just because you’re being mean to the meanies doesn’t mean you’re not being mean.

And then my best friend said ‘btw that’s you!’

Man. I suck.

I don’t want to be mean. And I don’t want to be negative. I’m the kid who tattooed the phrase ‘kindness can change the world’ on her wrist. The person who brought home an entire litter of flea infested puppies that were dumped on the road because I was afraid they were going to get run over. Or eaten by coyotes. I’m the nice person.

But recently I’ve been made aware that I’m not. I’m the mean person. And Humanity, I owe you a giant apology.

So, in 2014 I’m going to focus on the positive, pay more attention to my attitude, and make each day a reason to be thankful. Having just come off my favorite season, I think I need to do a better job at giving thanks all year instead of from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Here’s to 2014 and positivity!

OklaHOMEa

I was born in Philadelphia. I love Philadelphia. I love the city, the history, oh the sweet history, the people, the sports teams, the food. I have a ton of family there. I lived there for awhile. I refer to it as ‘home’ sometimes. But more and more often, I have found myself calling Oklahoma home.

I lived there longer than any other place in my whole life.Did I love it? Not really. I went from Philadelphia, a city of like a bajillion people, to what I thought was surely the smallest town on the face of the planet, population 2,500.

 

Downtown Jones

Don’t misunderstand me, it is a great little town. But my problem with it was that it’s a little town. Small town living just doesn’t suit me – I can’t farm. I can barely ride a horse, and if you asked me to saddle one I’d laugh at you and walk away. I can’t milk a cow. And I don’t like to drive very far. When you live in a small town you get accustomed to driving EVERYWHERE. If I can’t be there in about ten minutes, I probably don’t want to go.

I often joke that this sleepy little town is a geographical oddity – it is half an hour from everywhere. I’m only sort of kidding.

But, I lived there for a long time. I was there when I learned what domestic terrorism is and what it looks like. I learned how to read weather maps before I mastered multiplication (although, math has never been my strong suit so that might not be saying much). I learned how to tell apart different types of clouds and which ones to really keep an eye on before I was a teenager. I was there for the May 3rd tornado. And the May 8th tornado.

Now I live in Kansas. And I had to watch as the May 20th tornado tore through Moore. Again. I had to watch the streaming news feed from KFOR from my desk at work. While I was at work in Kansas, parents were frantically trying to get to their children.

I can’t even imagine the pain. I don’t have children of my own. But I know how I would feel if one of the children in those schools was one of my nieces or nephews. I would be sick to my stomach. I would be completely beside myself, distraught, and inconsolable. And I imagine it is not even a fraction of the pain a parent feels.

But, I do know what it feels like to be from Oklahoma. There is a resiliancy that is unmatched, unparalelled, unheard of. The Oklahoma Standard it’s called.

 

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Life throws all sorts of terrible things at everyone, but for some reason, Oklahomans get hit hard. Terrorists. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Fire.

And every single time Oklahomans come together, unite, help each other out, bring each other back, and the state just seems a little bit better.

I think Oklahomans are handed the hardest trials because whatever powers that be know that Oklahomans can handle it.

Too often Oklahoma is seen on a national level for bad politics, terrible natural disasters, or ‘controversial’ sports team moves. Too little is Oklahoma seen for what it truly is – an entire state of neighbors. Friendly, proud people that are literally willing to give you the shirt off their back in order to help you out.

Too little is Oklahoma thought of for anything other than Native Americans, cowboys, depressions, tornadoes, a bombing.

But, every year that passes, when I’m asked the question, ‘where are you from?’ I start to answer Oklahoma.

And I’m proud of that.

Oklahoma, you will come through this. Just like you have every time before this.

Because you’re amazing.

OklaHOMEa

Reconstructing the dream

By 2020 10 million skilled workers will be needed. This year alone nearly 1.8 million students will graduate according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. 78% of those graduates will either not find a job or will find a job that doesn’t utilize their degree. 52% of U.S. employers can’t find skilled workers to fill jobs.

There is a skills gap in America. And it is only going to get worse. But it doesn’t have to. There are things we can do now, together, to fix this growing problem and put an end to it.

For starters, we can reevaluate what the American dream is. What it looks like. How to attain it. We can look at how our society is changing, has changed, and will continue to change and adapt the dream.

70% of students at traditional universities are ‘non-traditional’ students. Meaning they are not an 18 year old fresh out of high school. These are the students who, for one reason or another, life got in the way.

But we continue to cater and develop curriculums for the 30% who fit the mold that society painted. We can no longer be silent. We must all make a stand and say ENOUGH!

We must demand better. From the government who enforces current policy. From the politicians who are making current policy. From universities, community colleges, and career colleges. We must demand that they all work together, with us, to come up with a better solution.

As an employee at PlattForm Advertising I see first hand the challenges and struggles schools are facing. The challenges and struggles students are facing.

I am honored to work for a company that so passionately believes in making education accessible ‘to the most people at the least cost’ that they have created a feature length documentary to shed light on the current problems taking place within the education sector today.

Over the next few months, you will begin seeing and hearing about PlattForm Films’ documentary Reconstructing the Dream. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone in to making this film, and it’s important that as many people as possible see it and hear its message.

That’s where you can help. By watching the trailer. By sharing the link to the website through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. By going to the Kickstarter page and making a donation to help distribute the film. By going to the website and making a tax deductible contribution to the film. By talking about it with friends and family.

It’s time America gets back on track to being number one in the world in education. We currently rank 17th. It is time to put solving problems by being solution focused at the forefront. It is time to take a hard look at ourselves and figure out what it is going to take to erase the skills gap. To make middle class a desirable goal to have.

It is time to reconstruct the dream.

Looking Ahead….

Every year for the past several years I’ve sat down with my computer and written reflections about the year behind me.  I wrap up the entire year in several paragraphs trying to convey the major events and milestones that took place in my life that year, but I realized I never take the time to write about the future.  I never stop to look ahead.

I don’t really make resolutions for the new year.  Not that I don’t have any resolve, I just don’t think I need to make promises to myself, especially when I usually don’t tell anyone what they are so there is no one to hold me accountable if I don’t keep my self-made promise.  I usually decide to continue to try to be a good person.  To be kind to others.  Help the less fortunate when able.  Be quick with a smile.  Those are things that I think we can all resolve to do on a daily basis and we don’t need a new year’s resolution to do them.  We should be doing them anyway.

That’s not really the point though, so back to my initial thought.  Looking ahead.  I wrote my 2012 wrap up a few days ago and while I certainly have a lot to be thankful for in 2012, I decided I should look to my future and see what 2013 holds for me.

To begin the year, I have a job that I truly enjoy with a company I couldn’t be prouder to work for.

Looking around me, I have the best family (even if they drive me nuts sometimes).  I find myself often thinking that people who don’t have siblings are missing out on one of the greatest gifts on Earth.  I’ve said more than once that I consider myself truly fortunate to be in a unique position with my siblings; I have the gift of being both a little sister and a big sister.  I’m a little sister to a sister, and big sister to two sisters and a brother.  How lucky am I that I get to be the sister to not only sisters but to a brother as well?  Sisters are some of the first friends you make (followed closely by your cousins).  Brothers are a strange beast to be sure.  They smell different than sisters do, and they do weird things that most sisters don’t do.  But I truly feel that I have been given one of life’s greatest treasures by having my sisters and brother in my life.

I also have the most amazing friends.  They are patient, funny, smart, and understanding.  Above all they are loyal and trustworthy.  I know that my friends are there for me when I need them, even when I’m being a complete flake.

Top that off with an engagement to the greatest guy. In eight months I will take one of the best walks of my life toward him with my Dad at my side.  After that walk we will party the night away with our family and friends around us and the next day we will take a wonderful week long trip to an island neither one of us has been to.  How blessed can one woman be?

I have a major birthday to look forward to as well.  One that has me excited and curious, but anxious as well.  I love birthdays, especially milestone birthdays, but as this is my first major milestone birthday in quite a while, I’m not sure what to expect.  Will I feel any different?  Will there be new expectations that come along with my new age?  Are there new health risks I should be worried about?  These are the things that I think about.

But, this year is full of many more blessings.  I am lucky to have a home that provides me with shelter, warmth, and safety.  I have a pantry and refrigerator full of food, and a vehicle that is nice and safe.

I ask again, how blessed can one woman be?

When I take everything listed above and combine it into a nice, neat, little package I can’t help but realize how wonderful 2013 is going to be.  With blessings like that how can my year be anything less than amazing?

If I were to make a resolution for 2013 it would be this: to continue to focus on the positive things in my life.  I realize not every day is going to be perfect, but there will be perfect moments in every day.  I hope I will always be able to see that moment, and that I will remember to look for it.  I hope that I don’t get so caught up in the mundane details life requires I miss the beauty in the smallest of things.  I hope that I always notice how beautiful the sun is when it sets.  That I always see the light at the end of the tunnel and most importantly, that I always remember no matter how rough of a day I might be having that I don’t have to bear the burden alone.  I have family and friends that are there for me to help, to listen, to offer advice when needed, to provide guidance when necessary, and to give hugs when there are no words required.

My hope for you this year is that you, too, will always remember to search for the bright spot in your life.  Even when times seem the darkest, reach for the light.  Hold onto it, and seek it always.

Life is a beautiful thing.  Don’t spend it surrounded by negativity and darkness.

Happy New Year

So 2012’s wrap up is a bit later than I had intended, but as today is Epiphany, and the Christmas season is officially over, today seems like the perfect day to complete this.

Each year, I go back and read the previous year’s reflections to see how the current year was different.  Reading through last year’s post I am smiling as I remember how truly blessed I am.

This year was a whirlwind of emotions and trials, ups and downs.  The impending ‘end of the world’ apocalypse that was supposed to happen obviously did not (thank goodness for that).  So, here are my reflections for 2012:

1) The year started off pretty uneventful, just like most other years.  But shortly after the first of the year, I lost my job.  It was devastating to me.  I didn’t know what we were going to do.  But, whenever one door closes another one opens, right?  It took longer than I wanted it to, but I am happy to say that I found a job.  One that I truly like going to each day.  I work for an incredible company and couldn’t be happier to be part of the team.

2) Charity is important to us, so we try to attend as many events as possible throughout the year.  This year we once again attended Jazzoo which has become our favorite charity event.  The benefactors of the event this year were the Sumatran Tigers who received a new habitat to lounge around and explore.  We were also able to attend three 5Ks; Head for the Cure – a race that raises money and awareness for brain cancer; Free to Breath – a race that raises money and awareness for lung cancer; and our company hosted their first ever race benefitting the kids at Della Lamb.  We are truly fortunate to be able to participate in so many events.  My hope for 2013 is that we are able to continue to help others.

3) Last year I wrote that I was in school and was almost finished.  I am so happy to say that I GRADUATED!  In May I officially became an alumnae of The University of Central Oklahoma forever becoming a Broncho.  My family hosted a cook out for me at a lake in Oklahoma and Brett’s family hosted a cook out at a park in Kansas a couple of weeks later.  It is one of my proudest moments.

4) The summer was full of busy-ness as always.  Lots of trips to the lake.  Boat rides, cook outs, fireworks, bon fires and topped off with an October reunion to reminisce about the Mexico trip last October.  My favorite part about the summer is the amount of family time that is had.  We are truly fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family.

5) Since the world in general is cyclical, some sadness was bound to creep into the year.  In June our beloved Bogey died.  Even now there is still an emptiness and there are still little things that set me to tears, but I am happy knowing that Bogey is no longer living with whatever pain he was carrying.

6) After a three-year house hunt (please note that those were not three entirely active years), we found the most wonderful house and made an offer.  On my birthday we found out that our offer was accepted and that the wonderful house was going to be our wonderful home!  Talk about an awesome birthday present!!  We moved in July 6th and have settled in nicely to our new home.  We hosted our first joint family dinner at Thanksgiving and having our families together to celebrate my favorite holiday was a dream come true for me.  Having our first Christmas in our new home was just as wonderful.  I may have gone a bit overboard decorating the house, but it looked beautiful.  For the first time in six years, we had a live tree for Christmas.  It was amazing.  I can’t wait to spend more Christmases here.

7) And, as always, my very favorite part of this year is that it is one more that Brett and I spent together.  Number six.  But this was my favorite year together by far.  In August we celebrated our sixth year together.  We went to dinner and exchanged gifts like we always do and then for some fun we headed over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I’ve always loved art museums, but the Nelson has undoubtedly become my favorite one because it’s where Brett proposed!  After six wonderful years of dating, we are going to be taking a walk down the aisle.  Keep your eyes open for Save the Dates and invitations, and keep your August calendar open!  And if you’d like to follow the wedding preparations, you can head on over to our wedding site.

So, there’s my wrap up for 2012.  It was a pretty exciting year. There were some bumps in the road, but overall, 2012 was a pretty awesome year and will probably go down as my favorite year (so far – I have a feeling that 2013 is going to be my new favorite).

I hope that your 2012 was everything you hoped it would be, brought you everything you needed, most of the things you wanted, and above all, was spent with family, friends, laughter and love.  If it wasn’t everything you needed it to be, then I hope 2013 is a better year for you.

Happy New Year!

Bully: Just Don’t Be One

December 8th, 2001.  It started out as such an ordinary day.  Hanging out with the boyfriend.  Shopping.  Lunch.  The typical things that college freshman do.

It ended as a day forever etched in my mind.  And all because people can’t use nice words.  Because we are all too self important to take the feelings of others into consideration.

When I arrived home for the evening, I was informed that at the age of 15, my sister’s best friend ended her own life because the pain of being bullied was just too much to bear any longer.  She was a sophomore in high school.  She was beautiful.  She was funny.  She was a daughter.  A sister.  An aunt.  A granddaughter.  A friend.

But kids, they are so cruel.  They teased her.  Called her names.  Tried to fight her.  Did fight her.  Punched her.

She just couldn’t take anymore.

Suicide is never final.  For the family and friends left behind it’s a pain that doesn’t end.  There are so many questions with so few answers.  The lives of these people are forever changed.

If anything ‘positve’ can come from such a tragic event my hope is that it’s this:

Be mindful of the words you use towards others for their impact is far greater than you could ever imagine.  Kindness is always the answer. I believe that so strongly I tattooed the phrase ‘kindness can change the world’ on my wrist.  I look at that phrase every single minute of every single day.  It is a constant reminder that I possess the power to impact others.

I hope I wield that power well.

Peace be with you Emily.  You are gone, but not forgotten, Lady.  I hope you found the peace you were seeking and that as you look down upon your family and friends you see how loved you are.