Tag Archives: travel

give. shop. fashionable’s birthday sale.

October is coming to a close all too quickly. While many are adding cobwebs to their décor, I’m dusting off the virtual ones here to share something important.

After watching The Impossible last fall, I wasn’t sure I would recover. The tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 might as well have happened that day and in my back yard. To say it was difficult to watch… well, it’s just too little to say. My every muscle was taut with the terror and pain. My every thought was of this story. And, as it gripped me for weeks, I continually came back to a single moment.

Maria has against all odds survived and found her oldest son. She is injured, barely putting one torn leg in front of the other. It is too much to bear, but by some miracle of body, mind, and spirit, they find themselves in the company of some other native survivors. The current and debris left their bodies tattered and torn, just like the little clothing they had left. Then, a single gesture of grace and compassion gives dignity and ushers in hope. Maria is wrapped in a shirt. There is no strength left and she falls into the arms of strangers with gratitude far greater than her whispered words: thank you.

I felt it then – relief in gift of dignity.

It may seem silly to you at first for me to liken this moment, based on a true story, to another in a completely different world, but bear with me.

He turned to go.

“Come Dobby. I said, come.”

But Dobby didn’t move. He was holding up Harry’s disgusting, slimy sock, and looking at it as though it were a priceless treasure.

“Master has given a sock,” said the elf in wonderment. “Master gave it to Dobby.”

“What’s that?” spat Mr. Malfoy. “What did you say?”

“Got a sock,” said Dobby in disbelief. “Master threw it, and Dobby caught it, and Dobby – Dobby is free.

“Harry Potter freed Dobby!” said the elf shrilly, gazing up at Harry, moonlight from the nearest window reflected in his orb-like eyes. “Harry Potter set Dobby free!”

“Least I could do, Dobby,” said Harry, grinning. “Just promise never to try and save my life again.”

The elf’s ugly brown face split suddenly into a wide, toothy smile.

At the conclusion of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, this house elf, a bottom-rung creature forced for years to do the bidding of any master that happened to own him, was set free by a piece of clothing.

And I felt it then – joy in the gift of dignity.

That same joy is visible on the faces of the women who work weaving scarves at fashionable.  You may remember I visited them last summer. The sweet smiles I saw and shared face-to-face told yet another story of how a piece of clothing gives dignity. In this case, it’s not the wearing that brings relief or the receiving that brings the joy. It is the employment, the contribution, and the provision that add worth to their day and shout into the lives of these women that they are worth so much more than they believed.

Take two minutes to watch this.

FashionABLE is celebrating its 3rd birthday this week! For 3 days (2 more) everything is 30% off! By purchasing a scarf or other accessory from them, you are helping to sustain this company and the life-altering, hope-giving opportunities it provides. Give your friends and family gifts from fashionABLE and you’ll be giving dignity.

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Spread the word. Share the video. Pick your favorite social media platform or hit them all. Just keep telling people about the gift of dignity.

Click here to start shopping and giving. 


visit. manhattan in 8 hours.

You cannot take 150 high school students from Alabama to New York City and not take them to Manhattan. Immediately following the service at Brooklyn Tabernacle, we boarded our buses and rode to the center of the city.

Here were the parameters:
> Stay with your assigned group – obviously.
> Drop off (at 12:15pm) and pick up (at 8pm) in the theater district near Times Square.
> Eat both lunch and dinner in that time.
> Meet at New Amsterdam Theater at 2pm for the matinée performance of Mary Poppins.

So what would you do in the given time with four girls? It seems a mission impossible, and did I mention it was a bit rainy? Whether the best plan or not, I ran them through a loop of midtown passing as many landmarks as possible along the way. And we had a blast.

Here was our path:

We unloaded buses just off Broadway in Times Square. (A/H above)  Our hungry group and a few others made our way directly to Ellen’s Stardust Diner (B) for lunch and pre-show entertainment. The excitement on the students’ faces was totally worth the short wait in the drizzling rain. We finished eating just in time to head straight back to New Amsterdam (C) and find our seats for Mary Poppins.  Bows were taken, applause given, and we walked at a city pace for the next 2 hours.

From the theater, we walked through Bryant Park, stood on the steps of the Public Library, ducked in at Grand Central Station (D), converged on the fountain of Rockefeller Center (E). After a quick break inside, we continued on, taking pictures at the entrance to NBC studios and purchasing a Magnolia Bakery (F) cupcake. We waved at Radio City Music Hall before returning to Times Square. There we sat and ate our cupcakes. We had just enough time to do a little souvenir shopping, grab the quickest burger to go possible (G), and meet the bus.

According to Google maps, the walking alone would have taken an hour. Add in time for photos, bathroom breaks, and shopping, and I think our group managed pretty well. Yes it was touristy, and I realize there are countless iconic Manhattan scenes we missed, but what can you do with so little time? I just hope it was enough to whet the appetite of these girls and inspire a return trip.

Next time you have only 2.5 unscheduled hours in Manhattan, what will you do?

visit. brooklyn.

One of the things I loved about my recent week or so in New York was that I spent most of my time in Brooklyn. I’m sure you could spend a lifetime getting to know any one of the five New York City boroughs, but a week was a nice introduction. So here are my recommendations for a summer visit to Brooklyn, aka how to let “Brooklyn, Brooklyn take [you] in.”

Eat a Square and Ice at L&B’s Spumoni Gardens.

Did you know that spumoni is an ice cream dessert made of layers, usually with different colors? Yeah, me either. Had I known, I would certainly have ordered the restaurant’s eponymous dessert. Next time, perhaps. I do, however, heartily recommend the Sicilian square pizza (it is different, but good) featured on Man vs. Food and the Italian Ice much like Doodle’s here in Birmingham.

Walk, run, or play along the East River.

We spent days working, in cooperation with Shore Road Parks Conservancy and the city parks department to make Shore Road Park more inviting. Go enjoy it!

Enjoy the fun at Coney Island.

Ride The Cyclone and other great rides. Eat a hot dog at Nathan’s. Walk the boardwalk and the shore.

Root for the home team…

at the Brooklyn Cyclones game. Whether you can’t take your eyes off the field or just enjoy the excitement of the stands, make sure you attend a game. This one took me back to good ol’ days complete with ice cream served in those little plastic helmets.

Have cheesecake for breakfast at Junior’s.

You can eat the cheesecake anytime. We proved that as we finished off our breakfast with a slice. Juniors (where we took high school Seniors) opened in the 1950s, and the revolving door may in fact be a time machine. If Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit had walked in behind me to bet on cheesecake vs. strudel, I wouldn’t have batted an eye or missed a bite. Oh, wait; that was Lindy’s (the competition). Sorry guys. I don’t know about Lindy’s, but Junior’s is totally worth the time and calories.

Attend a Service at Brooklyn Tabernacle.

The congregation is diverse. The music is inspiring. (The choir has been honored with multiple Dove Awards and Grammys.)  My friend Paula recommends reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire which contains the story of this church’s growth over the past couple of decades.

It was an absolute pleasure to serve the community of Bay Ridge with over 200 high school students and families from our church. I must thank City Uprising, Cornerstone Church at Bay Ridge, and Shore Road Parks Conservancy for making it such a memorable and purposeful week. To all the New Wind students and the choir’s leadership with whom I have spent months and years, I am so very proud of you and thankful for you.

Take in a sunset from a rooftop.

As a bonus, I had the opportunity to stick around in the city a little longer. During that time, I was invited by friends to a gathering on a rooftop in Park Slope. I wouldn’t trade this sunset for fireworks…ever.

learn. the british monarchy.

No, I’m not invited to go. I’m not even a citizen. And I don’t know anyone involved. Yet, I cannot resist the hype and the anticipation of the Royal Wedding. Thankfully, I have been invited to watch… we all have.

With every news segment, article, and hour long special on the House of Windsor, I find myself reminiscing about my time inLondon. So here is what I remember of my “encounter” with the Queen.

“When is Lizzy’s birthday?”

My friend Katy was student teaching during our semester in London and hoping for a glimpse of the Queen, live and in person, while we were there. After all, we don’t fully comprehend the idea of a monarch or a royal family or really even pomp and circumstance on this side of the pond. So, Katy asked the teacher with whom she was working if there would be an opportunity.

Carole in turn asked her coworker, “When is Lizzy’s birthday?” thinking that might be our chance.

At the retelling of this conversation, I was taken aback yet completely amused knowing that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth could be referred to with such familiarity. It was a learning moment, an insight into the British perspective of the Royal Family. Of course, on some level I could relate. More than enough Americans were referring to the President as “W” (“Dub-yuh”) at the time, and if that isn’t a dilution of a name, I don’t know what is. Lessons aside, the most important discovery from Katy and Carole’s discussion was that our best chance of seeing the Queen was the State Opening of Parliament that November.

On November 17th, Katy and I secured our position on the walkway in view of Westminster Abbey and Parliament to watch the grand parade. A military band, a horse-drawn carriage for the symbols of the State, including the Crown, and finally a horse-drawn carriage for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh made their way fromBuckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament. We waved. I took a photo or two since I was conserving exposures on my compact 35mm film camera.

The Crown in Carriage

The Queen in Carriage

And that was my brush with Lizzy…excuse me, Her Majesty.

Perhaps my experience of the British pageantry then, the rarity of events so grandiose as a royal wedding, and the accessibility of the entire thing are the ingredients of my interest. Since the monarchy has really advanced with the times in the last decade or two, there is more than enough information available to answer your questions about the role of the Royals and their part in history. The official site for the British Monarchy is a great place to start, complete with a family tree, descriptions of residences and ceremonies, You Tube videos, and a link to the Royal Facebook page and twitter account (which of course follows no other accounts). I told you they had modernized a bit.

All this is helping inform my viewing party plans, so stay tuned.

watch. rescue from the mine.

At the end of 2005, I had the opportunity to join my parents in visiting my brother. He was living in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia working with locals in some of the small villages there, and our visit was his vacation. We spent most of our time enjoying each other’s company and being tourists in Peru and Bolivia. The cities of Lima, Cusco (where we welcomed 2006), and La Paz, the wonders Machu Piccu, Lake Titicaca, and the Ballestas Islands, and the beaches of Paracas all offered adventure and experience in the forms of dune buggy rides, boat tours, bus rides, meals, and market shopping. Our visit over the 12 Days of Christmas ended too quickly. We said goodbye in La Paz knowing it would only be another short year before we were reunited, and the three of us headed back to Lima for a 12 hour layover.

In those 12 hours, the real adventure began. We had left our translator behind and were now dependent on my dad’s (better than expected) memory of Spanish from high school. Unfortunately, some Spanish did not get us far, literally, when a taxi driver took full price for half a trip, dropping us off nowhere near our desired destination. It was the only time during our entire trip that I felt advantage had been taken of us, the inconvenience and dishonesty bothering me most. Thankfully, an honest driver carried us the rest of the way.

I was in desperate need of the familiar following our transportation mishap, and that is exactly what I found as we sat down at a restaurant for lunch. Language differences faded in the presence of convention, and my simple Sesame Street Spanish vocabulary seemed to communicate both my needs and my gratitude. “Esta bien” and “gracias” were the only words I could find, but I left feeling understood.  

I was reminded of that feeling and the ability to understand despite language differences yesterday as I watched many of the 33 Miners of the Chilean mine accident emerge from the ground. There were no subtitles, but the expressions and emotions told the story. And as rituals developed over the course of the rescues, I found myself forgetting Spanish was being spoken.

Here are some of the sights and sounds that told the story above ground.

  • sirens of the ambulance waiting to transport the miner to the triage center
  • preparation of the family members who would see their loved one very soon
  • shouts to the miner and his response, the reaction of all to hearing his voice
  • the last few feet filled with anticipation
  • cheers & applause from the crowd as “the Phoenix” emerged and the door to the capsule was opened
  • removal of the miner’s harness
  • prayers, hugs, kisses and tears, each moment as unique as the individual
  • expressions of gratitude, welcoming words from incredibly invested officials
  • swift exit from the scene to be triaged and received medical care

As I let the video stream in the background of my computer during the work day, I found myself drawn back every 45 minutes or so to watch the sweet moments of freedom and reunion, tearing up almost every time.

I realize that in the coming days many stories will emerge – positive and negative. I realize that these men’s lives are forever changed. I realize that there are other tragedies in the world, other people in need of rescue in so many ways. For now, though, I want to rest in the familiar expressions of gratitude and love. I want to acknowledge how resources, intelligence, determination, and unity worked in harmony with hope and faith. I want to say “esta bien” and “gracias Senor”

photo by Hugo Infante, Chilean government/ Associated Press

If you weren’t able to watch the rescues live, here is a taste as the final miner embraces the president and the crowd joins in a heartfelt singing of the Chilean national anthem.

(I’ve done a little digging and it seems that the t-shirts worn by many of the miners during their rescue – see photo above – were provided by Campus Crusade for Christ. This organization also sent “Jesus” (the audio version of the “The Jesus Film”) into the mine on 33 mp3 players via family members. The back of the t-shirt was printed with one of the miner’s favorite Bible verses.)

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