Monday, September 28, 2009

Flying the Un-Friendly Skies

It’s time for a business travel rant. My target today is American Airlines. My company seems to love them because their fares are cheap. I can’t stand them because to a customer, it’s the little things that matter, And American just can’t seem to do any of the little things right. Or the big things, for that matter.

  • American charges for every single piece of checked luggage. Fifteen dollars for a bag containing my gym stuff, a change of clothes, and toiletries over 3 ounces.

  • These people cannot load a plane with any degree of efficiency to save their lives. Note to the gate agents: making announcements 10-15 minutes before you start boarding so non-veteran travelers know where to be will help you immensely.

  • On a related note, thanks for making me sprint through the Dallas airport, with no food or bathroom break after a 4 hour flight, so I can BARELY make my connection to a puddle-jumper with virtually no overhead bin space. All because you can't load a plane and get off the runway in Burbank on time.

  • How is a chocolate chip cookie $3? And $3 for one of those crappy vending machine cheese and cracker things? COME ON! I expect them start to charging me for my ginger ale here soon.

  • Not a single American employee I've interacted with today has been the slightest degree of pleasant. These people must hate coming in to work. If they ever travelled their own airline, I can see why.

  • They promoted their new in-flight Wi-Fi service the minute we got off the ground, but didn’t mention that it’s not free. It’s $7.95. Yet another nickel-and-dime tactic flying in the face of good customer service!

So in closing, thank you American Airlines for making a long day of travel more arduous than it needed to be, and for ensuring I would arrive at my hotel after room service cut off, having eaten nothing since breakfast. I'm sending you my Papa John's delivery bill.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Frozen Fury XII

Frozen Fury is my absolutely favorite moment of the pre-season, since it means REAL hockey is only a week away. So after surviving the long drive, gettting settled at Tammy's, and changing clothes, I headed over to the MGM Grand to get the party started!

First stop, the KingsCast party at Diego's Restaurant, where I hooked up with my girl Chelsea for some POTENT margariats. Chris and Keith, the KingsCast guys, were giving out free stuff, so I had to get my goodie bag. And those dudes know how to party, so catching up with them was a great time.

Margarita buzz? Check. Free stuff? Check. Sounds like time to see some hockey! One the way out of the restaurant, Chelsea and I found Jen and Brianna Wells, who always manage to look the part of best dressed Kings fans. They certainly did Vegas right with the oversized beads and the tiaras!

Jen and Bri were sitting on the opposite side of the arena, so we headed to our respective seats. Pretty happy with the view from mine!

Especially since I saw THIS GUY right away!

I also had the pleasure of enjoying the game with two awesome Kings fans, my friend Shawna and her hubby. Always more fun sitting with people who scream as loud as you!

The game was up and down, typical of pre-season play with some rookies still trying to earn a spot on the team. I think the guys were all probably a little hung over from the party at Luc Robitaille's poker tournament the night before as well. But I got the moment I wanted...Drew scored a goal! And the Drew-cam operator nailed the video, so enjoy....although I apologize for the jumpiness at the end. I was a LITTLE excited.

In the end, the Kings won 5-3 and a GREAT time was had by all. But we weren't done by any means...

After a quick wardrobe change in Jen and Bri's room, we headed out to the Irish pub at the New York New York casino for a round of Newcastles and a lot of hockey gossip. Chelsea had some great stories from the poker tourney the night before...and no, I'm not sharing any of them! We're keeping it just between us girls.

Overall, a pretty epic day and night in Vegas. And the best part? Only 364 days until we get to do it again!!

The Kings home opener is Saturday, October 3. Can't hardly wait!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Viva Las Vegas!...I Just Gotta Get There....

I was up early this morning to hit the road for Las Vegas, because today is the Kings big annual pre-season game in the desert - FROZEN FURY XII!

The past couple of years, I've flown in and stayed at the MGM Grand, where the game is held. This year, I have the advantage of a friend with a house not too far from the strip (thank you Tammy!), so I drove to take advantage of the free lodging. Four hours in the car is not my idea of fun, and it's an especially boring drive when you're doing it alone, so I ended up talking to myself after I lost reception for decent radio. I thought you might enjoy some of the random thoughts I shared with myself during the journey across the Mojave Desert.

  • I feel for the poor people in Devore, CA. It's 9 am, and already 99 degrees... they're going to melt by the end of the day.

  • I know I'm headed to Vegas, radio programmers...but I think hearing Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas" 3 times in the last hour is a little much, don't you?

  • Trucks should have their own ^%$^ roads! I would be IN Vegas by now but for all these freakin' trucks!


  • To the idiot in the burgundy Ford have an entire campsite attached to the roof of your gas guzzler, and your flapping tarp is slowing you down. GET OUT OF THE LEFT LANE!

  • Damn, I could use another Starbucks right about now....

  • Taking photos of the mileage signs en route seemed like a good idea, but it's kinda hard to get an iPhone camera to focus at 90 I have no reception to upload them to Facebook anyone. Another perfectly good idea shot to hell!
And of course, the classic line my mother so enjoyed hearing from me as a kid....ARE WE THERE YET?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Big Day for a Great Friend

Finding another person to share your life with is a beautiful thing, and even more special when it happens to a friend. So I was excited that after a week of long meetings, I was able to extend my stay in Phoenix and attend my friend Yulanda Gilliam’s wedding.

Yulanda is a trainer in our Phoenix Claims University group, and we’ve become friends during the course of me assisting with some of her property damage classes. My friend and co-worker Tammy Good was also attending, so we split the room and rental car, which worked out great for everyone involved.

Yulanda is originally from New York City, and relocated to Phoenix a number of years ago. She has worked her way up the ladder at Progressive while supporting her son, Darius, as a working single mother, which hasn't always been easy. I suspected she must be a fantastic mom just from the time I've spent with her, and that theory was validated watching the two of them on this very special day.

Darius has been the only man his mom's life for a long time, so it was a very special moment watching him walk Yulanda down the aisle to her fiance James.

She was crying the whole way, but Darius is a great son and he was ready. When they got to the end of the aisle, he wiped away her tears with a Kleenex, which of course had everyone in the church (especially me) crying too. And then James reached over to him and gave him a hug and kiss on the head. It was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever seen in a wedding.

Later, during the reception, Darius gave a short speech, and I remember him saying that if he had to give his mother to anyone, he was glad it was James. And the tears started again!

You can tell watching them together Yulanda and James are made for each other. They both have a wonderful sense of humor, and smiles that light up a room. And they we're even polite to each other when it was time to cut the cake.

And they both LOVE to dance, so James got the "Love Train" going and had everyone out of their seats.

If their big day was any indication, Yulanda and James are destined for a life full of love and happiness. I was honored to be a small part of it.

Best wishes for an amazing future, girl! You've earned it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let's Go Racing!

Twice a year we have a big meeting with our entire training group. In addition to planning for the upcoming months and discussing what’s going on in our business, we always have some kind of group outing. In the corporate world, this is referred to as a “Team-Building Activity.” In other jobs, I’ve suffered through these things, albeit with a degree of “put on a smile and act like you’re having fun because our bosses want us to like each other.” I am blessed to work with a bunch of really amazing people, so we actually look forward to these kind of events.

After a long day of meetings, our final activity was breaking into groups for the evenings festivities. We found out we were headed to F1 Race Factory to run go-karts, and that there would also be a team competition activity. After being divided into 4 person teams, our task was to create a name and logo for our race team. We quickly decided on the “Flo-Riders” in honor of Progressive’s current advertising icon.

First, we had to check in and sign a waiver so we could race. Then we were directed to our very own party room, complete with food, beverages, pool tables, foosball, and racing themed d├ęcor.

After a bite to eat, everyone who planned to race went to a driver’s meeting so we could learn the rules for operating on the track. Once we knew the rules, we were able to race any time we wanted because we had our own group track for an entire hour.

Winners for each heat were determined by lap times, so we were really racing against the clock and not each other. Winners for each heat were determined by lap times, so we were really racing against the clock and not each other.

Although a few of my buddies didn’t think that way and bumped me trying to pass my car. But based on the race rules, bumping another car gets you red flagged and pulled over, so I felt a little vindicated. Of course, I was also one of the slowest cars in all of my races, so the track marshals always had the “Turtle Flag” waving in my direction. Seems my strategy of taking the turns really tight meant I had to slow down more and I couldn’t seem to get back in the gas fast enough.

I need some driving lessons before I’m ready for NASCAR, but at least I look the part.

After we raced, we moved to another section of the complex and found out what our team competition would be. We were going to do pit stops like a real pit crew! Jack her up and change the tires as fast as possible, but no gas because we were inside.

The Flo-Riders came up with a solid strategy, executed it flawlessly (ok, almost flawlessly) and went home with First Place trophies! Flo would be so proud!

With the racing complete and prizes awarded, the only thing left was a group shot for the memory books.

Thanks to all my Progressive buddies for a great time! Now back to the meetings…

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tour de Offerdahl - Peace and Quiet

It’s been such a terrific weekend here in Portland that I was more than a little sad getting up this morning and preparing to go home. At least my noon flight allowed Tanya and I one last meal together, so we headed over to Bread & Ink in southeast Portland for an incredible breakfast. I can highly recommend the vanilla waffles, topped with fresh berries that were out of this world! So sweet, the whole thing hardly needed any syrup.

At one point this weekend in the car, with one or the other of the girls crying or fussing, Tanya turned to me and said something to the effect that I must breathe a sigh of relief when I get on the plane to LA and head back to the peace and quiet of my regular life. I smiled an admitted I did. And because we know each other so well, she gave me a smile back.

It’s not a knock on her girls, because they’re great children. But raising kids in general is an exercise in the daily control of chaos, and I just know I’m not up to the task. Even when you are highly organized, efficient, caring, and patient (and Tanya is ALL of those things), parenting is hard. Watching her with the girls, I have so much respect and admiration for what she does. Listening to her quietly say “Addie, Momma can help you make good choices but you have to listen…” instead of doing what I would and yelling “PLEASE don’t do that!” Negotiating with Jerry to figure out who runs errands and who deals with Ava’s diaper, when they’re both in need of a nap and on the brink of exhaustion.

The thing I’ve come to understand is that parenting is a labor of love. I’ve known Tanya almost 12 years, and I can honestly say she’s never been more beautiful, never been happier. Watching her face light up when Ava smiles, or Addie learns to say a new word, I can see that in spite of the day-to-day struggles, she would rather be a mom than do anything else in the world.

Of course, she has a great mothering role model in Linda, who is so thoughtful she got me these beautiful embroidered hand towels as a housewarming gift. Being good at caring for people runs deep in the gene pool!

When I get bored with the peace and quiet of my life, I know where to come for the love. I miss my “Portland Family” already! Where is that other free pass for my next trip…?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tour de Offerdahl - Time to Relax!

After all the excitement of Ava's christening last night, everyone slept in this morning. Although for Tanya, sleeping in is relative since Ava is still up and down quite a bit during the night. But we woke up to the most wonderful surprise - Jerry making us breakfast!

Jerry has put together so many wonderful meals during my visits I think he could be a chef if he ever gets tired of flying planes for a living. And I can say with great authority that he is the undisputed champion of breakfast. Let's take a quick menu inventory...

BACON....mmmmmm bacon just makes every morning better. And the way he does it in the oven makes it crisp but still tender, just the way I like it.

And pancakes...pancakes so special they even have their own electric griddle!

The bubbly part is my favorite....

And Jerry is such a pro he can one-arm the spatula....(bowing down to the master)!

With every one's hunger satisfied, Jerry once again rose to the occasion and agreed to watch the girls for the afternoon while Tanya and I had some private time. Tanya called and was able to book both of us much-needed massages at Rumi Simone, this adorable little spa over in Lake Oswego. Just what the doctor ordered! We followed our massages with a lovely trip to the steam room, then showered and had lunch at Five Spice restaurant. We were the total "Ladies Who Lunch," and even ordered a bottle of wine since they had a half price special. I love the girls, but having some girl time with Tanya was absolutely my favorite part of the weekend. Thank you Jerry!

After all that relaxing, it was time to get moving again, so we headed over to Mammie and Pappie's (Jerry's parents) house for some putt-putt golf and dinner. When Tanya mentioned golf, I was thinking little windmills and astroturf...I wasn't expecting a REAL putting course! Jerry and his dad are both pretty serious golfers, I'm pretty terrible, and Tanya was trying to take pictures and keep an eye on Addie. With all that going on, it's a wonder we sunk anything, but we all sure had a good time!

Especially Addie, who got shoulder rides from Daddy and Pappie!

Back at the house, we had a lovely steak dinner (with Jerry manning the grill and turning out perfection once again) and some fun visiting time. It was especially funny when Addie got hold of Mammie's glasses...

Unfortunately the fun had to end, with Little Ava giving everyone the signal it was time for some shut-eye...

I've had so much fun, I wish it didn't have to end tomorrow...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tour de Offerdahl - Ava's Big Day (Part 2)

With preparations at the house complete, it was time to get everyone ready to go to church. Both girls had a nap after lunch, and Addie in particular slept longer than usual. Tanya and I kept looking at the clock...still sleeping. But the trade off with more sleep was hopefully going to be less cranky kids later, so we let them sleep as long as possible. That meant by the time we needed to leave, no one but the adults was dressed for church! So we loaded kids and clothes in the car and headed to Our Lady of the Lakes in Lake Oswego.

Ava cried in the car the entire way there. Now, riding in the car is not really her favorite thing anyway, but Tanya and I were joking it was her baby-talk way of saying "I don't wanna be Catholic!" Poor Jerry just drove and shook his head.

She liked it better when the car stopped and we were able to take her out, but she stayed in the car seat as long as possible while we got Addie dressed in the parking lot.

Then it was time to get Ava baptism-ready. Aunt Jodi, who is also one of Ava's godparents, was a huge help on that front.

She cleans up pretty well! And the dress is the same one Addie wore at her christening, since it's made out of the lace from Grandma Linda's wedding dress.

Addie actually had a great time during the ceremony. With so many people there, she was running back and forth between both sets of grandparents, depending on who was the most interesting at the moment. Of course, no one cuddles quite like Momma!

But in the end, Addie is Daddy's girl all the way!

Then it was time for Ava's big moment. Unfortunately I wasn't in the best position for pictures of the actual baptism, but Tanya had loads of people armed with cameras and video sitting in different spots so the event got captured.

I did get some good photos of everyone after. This one is Ava with Tanya and Jerry and all the godparents.

And we can't forget the proud grandparents! Jerry and Sharon, Jerry's parents, are on the left, and Bob and Linda are on the right.

And Addie was a very good big sister on Ava's big day!

After church, we headed back to the house for a big party.

Tanya's best friends Ruth and Sharon had graciously gone back to the house ahead of us to help set everything up, and they did an amazing job. That also meant everyone could get some food sooner...and we were hungry!

It was also time to get Ava into some more comfy clothes to make it easier for everyone to hold her, which is her favorite thing in the world. One of her presents was a penguin suit for Halloween, because Mammie (grandma Offerdahl) LOVES penguins! I'm not so sure Ava is sold on them though...

She did like this ensemble her godmom Michelle put together a little better, which made Tanya laugh. No one can say she doesn't know how to accessorize!

A little later on, she was able to get really comfortable! That also involved a wardrobe change for Mommy...

Meanwhile, Addie was working the room getting hugs from everyone, include a special one from her cousin Taylor.

It was a long day, but a happy one, and everyone in Ava's extended circle of friends and family had a great time celebrating our beautiful little girl.

Congratulations Ava!