Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time to Jingle!

It's that time of year again!! Time for the annual Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis. This will only be my second year participating, and I am very excited :)

I last walked in 2009, just 8 weeks after I had my second hip replacement surgery. My doctors and therapists said that I would have no problem walking a 5K in that amount of time post-op. But considering the fact that when I had my first hip replaced in 2011, I was using a walker for a good two and half months, I was skeptical!

It was great incentive to work really hard in physical therapy, though.

I walked with a cane decorated like a candy cane, it started to snow less than half way through, and I came in second to last. But I didn't care - it was an amazing experience. My friends came out to support me (some of whom I hadn't seen in years, and some who had to drive an hour in the snowy weather!), I raised a pretty good amount of money for the Arthritis Foundation, and... I MADE IT!

This year, I expect the walk will garner some of the same emotions -- friendship, good will, accomplishment, help and hope. But, I hope I can at least finish 3rd to last this time! ;)

Please visit my fundraising page to donate to this great cause!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago.

Ten years. I can hardly believe that it has been ten years. That day is so firmly entrenched in memory, in excruciating detail, that it's almost impossible to think that a decade has passed.

It's hard for me to think about today's anniversary. Every year is difficult, but the "10 Years" label has been especially poignant. Part of it is the realization that my children will never know the innocence of the pre-9/11 world. Part of it is knowing that there are still those out there that wish to harm our country. Most of it is inexplicable. The anniversary brings out its usual swirl of emotions; they are all just particularly sharp today.

I haven't watched any of the documentaries or specials about the anniversary of the attacks. I haven't wanted to. I can't. But today, as part of my reflection and my healing process, I plan to watch one with my children. Up until now, I have never spoken to them about it. I know it's an important historical event, but I have wanted to shield them from it. I never wanted them to come away from a conversation about it feeling unsafe. But I think it's time.

I think it's time for them to hear about the heroes in the New York Police Department and Fire Department. It's time for them to learn about the brave men and women on Flight 93, who probably saved their mother's life. It's time for them to learn about the feeling our country had in the days and weeks following the attacks - a time of togetherness, cooperation, and spirit that I never thought I'd see.

I hope that passing along my memory of September 11, 2001 to my children will bring about some understanding for them, and a degree of closure for me. I want this day to not only be about mourning lives lost. Today is a day to celebrate heroism and be proud to be an American.

For my account of the events that took place on that Tuesday, click here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Today, with a draw at Ewood Road (the home of Blackburn Rovers), Manchester United secured enough points to claim the title of Premier League Champions! We have topped the league a record-breaking NINETEEN times, toppling the previous record of 18 titles, held by Liverpool. Although the trophy won't officially be bestowed on the boys until next weekend at Old Trafford, today definitely saw some celebrations! Here are some of my favorite pictures:

Thanks to Daniel Burdett for these firsthand photos:

From Nani's Twitter:
Nani's photo: We are the champions!!!! and we love it!!!!

...and Rio Ferdinand's Twitter:

And of course, my most favorite photo (perhaps of all-time, among those not of my own kids):


Thursday, May 12, 2011

A little something recently posted on my Facebook Young Stroke Survivors group. I wish I had this six years ago! An amazing piece that really breaks it down after a life-changing event like a stroke...

I'm glad to see that you are awake! This is your brain talking. I had to find some way to communicate with you. I feel like I barely survived WWIII and am still not quite all in one piece. That's why I need you. I need you to take care of me.

As time passes and you and I feel better and better, people, even doctors, will tell you that we are fine, "it's time to get on with life." That sounds good to me and probably even better to you. But before you go rushing back out into that big wide world, I need you to listen to me, really listen. Don't shut me out. Don't tune me out. When I'm getting into trouble I'll need your help more than I ever have before.

I know that you want to believe that we are going to be the same. I'll do my best to make that happen. The problem is that too many people in our situation get impatient and try to rush the healing process; or when their brains can't fully recover they deny it and, instead of adapting, they force their brains to function in ways they are no longer able too. Some people even push their brains until they seize, and worse... I'm scared. I'm afraid that you will do that to me. If you don't accept me I am lost. We both will be lost.

How can I tell you how much I need you now? I need you to accept me as I am today... not for what I used to be, or what I might be in the future. So many people are so busy looking at what their brains used to do, as if past accomplishments were a magical yardstick to measure present success or failures, that they fail to see how far their brains have come. It's as if here is shame, or guilt, in being injured. Silly, huh?

Please don't be embarrassed or feel guilt, or shame, because of me. We are okay. We have made it this far. If you work with me we can make it even further. I can't say how far. I won't make any false promises. I can only promise you this, that I will do my best.

What I need you to do is this: because neither of us knows how badly I've been hurt (things are still a little foggy for me), or how much I will recover, or how quickly, please go s-l-o-w-l-y when you start back trying to resume your life. If I give you a headache, or make you sick to your stomach, or make you unusually irritable, or confused, or disoriented, or afraid, or make you feel that you are overdoing it, I'm trying to get your attention in the only way I can. Stop and listen to me.

I get exhausted easily since being hurt, and cannot succeed when overworked. I want to succeed as much as you do. I want to be as well as I can be, but I need to do it at a different pace than I could before I got hurt. Help me to help us by paying attention and heeding the messages I send to you.

I will do my part to do my very best to get us back on our feet. I am a little worried though that if I am not exactly the same... you will reject me and may even want to kill us. Other people have wanted to kill their brains, and some people have succeeded. I don't want to die, and I don't want you to die.

I want us to live, and breath and be, even if being is not the same as it was. Different may be better. It may be harder too, but I don't want you to give up. Don't give up on me. Don't give up on yourself. Our time here isn't through yet. There are things that I want to do and I want to try, even if trying has to be done in a different way. It isn't easy. I have to work very hard, much harder, and I know that you do too. I see people scoff, and misunderstand. I don't care. What I do care about is that you understand how hard I am working and how much I want to be as good as I can be, but I need you to take good care of us, as well as you can do that.

Don't be ashamed of me. We are alive. We are still here. I want the chance to try to show you what we are made of. I want to show you the things that are really important in life. We have been given another chance to be better, to learn what is really important. When it is finally time for our final exit I would like to look back and feel good about what we made of us and out of everything that made up our life, including this injury. I cannot do it without you. I cannot do it if you hate me for the way being injured has affected me and our life together. Please try not to be bitter in grief. That would crush me.

Please don't reject me. There is little I can do without you, without your determination to not give up. Take good care of us and of yourself. I need you very much, especially now.

Your Wounded Brain

--Rosie Shread

Monday, May 2, 2011


"Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children."

Last night was a typical Sunday night for me. Ten o'clock rolled around and I headed upstairs to bed. And, as per usual, I checked my Twitter account one more time before I settled into sleep. I started reading tweets about President Obama addressing the nation about a 'national security issue' imminently. And it wasn't about Khadafi. My heart started to pound - I was nervous. But why?

I turned on Wolf Blitzer on CNN and watched as the various journalists discussed what the information to be shared could possibly be. They were very careful at first to preface their statements with the 'unconfirmed' label. But finally, John King stopped all the tapdancing around the subject: Osama bin Laden is dead.

As I sat in my bed, alone in a quiet house, I surprised myself. I wept. Uncontrollably. It was a shock to me how many emotions were swirling around in my head and heart. Here we are, almost ten years later and I'm significantly removed from my old life in Washington, DC - geographically and substantively; literally and figuratively. It was jarring how much it still affected me. I felt like I had had a weight on my chest for ten years that I didn't even know about. And it had finally been lifted.

The death of Osama bin Laden will never bring back the 3,000 Americans that perished on September 11, 2001 of course. But, I truly hope that their families will feel some small bit of justice and possibly closure due to this triumph. The United States military and our allies around the world have lost brave men and women in this fight, and although we will always mourn their loss, perhaps their families can take some comfort in the fact that their sacrifice was not in vain.

It's been a painful ten years. Sure, we've all moved on. We had to. We've gone about our lives; marrying, working, having children. We've tucked September 11th in the back of our mind and threw ourselves into the healing process. But, we have never forgotten. The news of the death of bin Laden conjures images of the most painful day in our national psyche. But it also brings with it the ability for us to close the chapter. Now, with a small measure of relief, and an indelible vigilance that was born on 9/11, we can start to look forward toward the future.

"Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Friday, April 22, 2011

They're Coming to America!

By now, everyone has heard that Manchester United will be doing a pre-season summer tour in the United States of America, July 13-30. Similarly, I'm sure everyone has heard by now my squeals of excitement and pure joy!

This summer, United will be visiting Boston, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. We plan on seeing our beloved club in New York, where they will be taking on the MLS All-Stars, and we are taking the boys to the match in Washington, DC. The match in DC will truly be an experience of a lifetime for all of us. Manchester United will be taking on the famed football club from Spain - FC Barcelona.

Red Bull Arena, actually in New Jersey, is the aptly-named home of the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. My husband and I will be attending this match on our own. It's kind of a foregone conclusion that David Beckham will chosen as an MLS All-Star. It will be very interesting to see him playing against his boyhood and former team! (He didn't play for the All-Stars during last summer's tour due to an Achilles injury.) Like our trip to Manchester earlier this year, it will be an amazing trip for my husband and me. Doing what we love the most - watching United - together. The red of United is all the romance we need in this marriage!

Almost everything I've read about the United match versus Barcelona has used the adjective "mouth-watering." And it most certainly is. These two powerhouse football clubs are arguably the most famous and successful teams in the entire world. They have played each other before, sure, and will (hopefully) be meeting again in the final of the Champions League in Wembley. But we in America have never been witness to the meeting of two football giants such as this. For our sons, attending this match (even at such a young age) is something that they will always remember. An experience that will never be matched -- until they get to Old Trafford, that is.

Roll on, Summer 2011!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Get Well Soon, Stu!

Stuart Holden, midfielder for the United States Men's National Team and Bolton Wanderers sustained a pretty serious injury during the match Saturday with my Manchester United. Unfortunately, he will be unable to play football for six months after a tackle by United's Jonny Evans (who saw a red card and was ejected from the match.)

I am an enormous fan of Stu Holden, and he won't be able to contribute to the USMNT's campaign for the Gold Cup. I am gutted for Stu, but I know I speak for all of my fellow United supporters in wishing Stu the best, and the speediest possible recovery.

Love you, Stu!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Manchester is My Heaven Pt III: The Football Club We Love - City Derby

I didn't cry.

After months of build-up and years of yearning, I didn't cry. I really and truly expected the tears to begin flowing as I caught my first caught glimpse of the home of my beloved football club, Old Trafford. But, as we drove up to the ground, as excited as I was, my eyes stayed dry.

As we walked up to Old Trafford, it was all a bit surreal. Was I really here? After seeing these famous sights on television for so long, was I actually close enough to touch it? Emotions were running rampant through me - excitement, awe, amazement - but I still didn't cry.

We arrived to the ground early enough to walk around and soak in the atmosphere. We were taking the tour in a few days, but nothing compares to Old Trafford on match day - especially when our opponents are Manchester City. The energy and anticipation emanating from the fans give the ground a lifeblood that you can feel pulsing all around you. Vibrancy and passion is in the very air there, and I have never felt anything like it before.

We wandered around a bit with our friends and saw the famous hallmarks of Old Trafford...the Trinity Statue, the Munich clock and memorial. We perused the stalls outside and I bought a scarf. Finally, it was the moment I'd been waiting for ...waiting for what seemed like my entire life. It was time to go in. We went through the little doors, through the tunnel and out into heaven. And still, as I actually entered the Theatre of Dreams, I didn't cry.

We sat in our seats in the South Stand, drinking up every last drop of the spirit of our surroundings. We gaped at the fabled Stretford End, and we gazed at the player's tunnel that would soon see our beloved club enter the pitch. I sat imagining all that this place had seen, and the history that lived within the seats, the walls, the people. It's hard to really describe what I felt. I was overwhelmed, I was overjoyed, and I couldn't believe it was all happening. To me, I was the luckiest girl in the world.

The players began to emerge from the tunnel for warm-ups. First our keepers, then the rest of the team. To see them out there, nonchalantly stretching and preparing, I was hard-pressed not to squeal in excitement. I was here!!! They were here!!! I closed my eyes and tried to preserve every facet of this memory in my head - the sights, the smells, the sounds. The excited fans, red seats and green grass; the aroma of pies and the whiff of chill in the air; and the roar of the crowd every time a player waved or clapped to the stands. I was in a dream - a living, breathing, heart-pounding dream. I should have wept with enormity of it all. But I didn't.

Finally, it was match time. It couldn't come soon enough as I was ready to burst! The players started coming out of the tunnel, led by our Captain Nemanja Vidic. Then came Edwin Van der Sar, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea, Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher, Chris Smalling, Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Patrice Evra, and Nani. Our team for the battle against Manchester City. They assembled in front of the dugouts, and then the moment came. The moment when all of the emotions I had inside finally broke free and the tears began. The moment I saw him walk on to the pitch. The moment I saw Sir Alex Ferguson.

And then the match began.

If I could only use one word to describe watching a match in person at Old Trafford it would be breathtaking. The cheers and chants from the Stretford End (and elsewhere, too, but they always started there!), the beautiful game being played on the pitch, the pure exhilaration of it all. It was everything I'd imagined it to be and so much more. We cheered and groaned alongside our 60,000 closest friends and I felt an incredible sense of belonging to Manchester United.

I include the word 'groan' but I should also add 'sigh with relief' to that. Manchester City created quite a few dangerous chances in the beginning part of the match and I found myself holding my breath many times. This was certainly not the City of earlier in the season that never attacked, only defended their goal from us like their very honor was housed there! But that didn't matter. Just before the half, it was Nani's left foot that made Old Trafford erupt into exuberant cheers and cries of joy! To be that close to it, to actually watch from only yards away was a moment of pure elation. I will never forget it.

Halftime came and went and the boys were back again. Everyone was jubilant, and the atmosphere was definitely one of celebration. We were ahead and playing to win. Unfortunately, City newbie Edin Dzeko, by way of Silva's back, leveled in the 68th minute. I think it was a shock to the boys in red. It was unexpected, and actually quite flattering to the game City had been playing. All that was running through my mind was that, if we lost, none of my friends would let me come back to Manchester again!

But then it came. THAT goal. It came from very humble beginnings, really. It was the 78th minute, and time was running out. As United marched down the field toward City's goal, it seemed our boys would be frustrated again as a cross from Nani hit a City player, Zabeleta, and sailed high, seemingly aimless, in to the box. The next few seconds were in slow motion for me. As I was watching the opposite goal from the South Stand, I saw Rooney's overhead kick by the millisecond. Tick, tick, tick - SMASH!!!! I stood, open-mouthed and in shock until I was swept up in the celebration by my husband and the fans seated around me. That image of Rooney (my son's hero, of course) has been burned into my brain so vividly that I can close my eyes and see it like it was two minutes ago. It was without a doubt the greatest goal Wayne Rooney has ever scored, and we were there to witness it.

As United went on to win the match 2-1, I already knew we had seen something special. On top of the pure bliss of just being at this sacred place, we had seen history in the making. And Manchester United had made sure that day was unforgettable, not just for us, but for the whole world.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Manchester Is My Heaven Pt II: People We Met

This visit to England had plenty of 'new' aspects to area visited, first time visit to Old Trafford; we even flew into a new airport! But one of the things that had made this trip 'new,' was also largely what made it so special. Our friends.

Through Twitter, I have been lucky enough to 'meet' supporters of Manchester United from around the world. My Twitter friends hail from India, Singapore, Portugal, Australia, Indonsesia, Ireland (and of course, England), just to name a few! After talking with some of them for almost a year, I was finally going to get to see the real, live them. It's a bit difficult to describe how significant and unique this is. When you to talk to someone so much, almost every single day, you can't help but feel incredibly connected to them. Even if it's only via computer. For me, it's still a little startling (in a good way!) how close I am to my friends who are thousands of miles away.

As I describe my friends, I'll use their Twitter handles - to protect the innocent, of course! ;)

After we completely destroyed City (ahem), we made our way to the Trinity Statue in front of Old Trafford to meet some of our amazing Twitter friends. After some initial hugging and "I can't believe it's!!" we made our way to Sam Platts' Pub. I have to admit, it felt a little silly introducing myself as 'Red Mama!' But as I matched up user names with real names and Twit-personalities with faces, all the sheepish grins and awkwardness disappeared. I hugged every one of my darling 'tweeps' with the wholehearted joy of embracing a long lost friend.

There was RATompkins, one of my favorites on Twitter. He's always the first one to say good morning, never shies away from his own opinion, and has a wicked sense of humor. And did I mention he loves Star Wars and Harry Potter, too? I could kick myself for not spending more time with him, but I am very happy that I at least got a hug from my favorite chef.

DoronSolomon came up to Manchester from London with yolkie_ and MrsYolkie. Poor Doron, on crutches from a recent surgery. (Although he might have considered himself lucky; I restrained myself from too much hugging because I didn't want to knock him over!) The Yolkies have recently gotten married in our mutual favorite place, Walt Disney World. The Mrs and I share a love of cupcakes and all things Disney. She loves America as much as I love England, so it might have happened that we were born in the wrong place! After our many wonderful chats, it was so good to finally meet her! She was as beautiful as she is nice. As for her husband, he is the founder of 7 Cantonas and False10 websites. Another one I didn't get to talk to as much as I would have liked, but he and my husband discussed football from one end to the other! I think they had a great time trading perspectives on the beautiful game.

There was another Orlando enthusiast in our crowd that evening, none other than PhilGatt. Loving, hard-working, down-to-earth husband, father, and United fan - I have truly enjoyed getting to know him through Twitter, and it was amazing to get to meet him in person. And, exactly as I had imagined, he had a wonderful, infectious smile. He had lost his voice shouting for United at the match, which just goes to show he works as hard at being a United fan as he does for everything else he does. :)

As I was chatting, a wonderful, exuberant blonde came up to me, "Hi! I'm Ellie!!" Known as 16Ellie on Twitter, this lady was full of energy and Manchester United enthusiasm. It was impossible not to be the same around her! She also introduced me to Almanuman, a tall, distinguished gentleman with a very welcoming manner. They both conveyed a great sense of belonging to this Yank girl.

And then there was HappyHero. Where can I begin with this guy? Only one way -- Winkbang! (sorry, little inside joke, there.) And that pretty much sums this one up. Anytime he and I are on Twitter at the same time, you can be sure I am laughing. His quick wit is a sure-fire way to make you LOL. ;) But behind this funny guy lurks a heart of gold. During my ticket fiasco, he offered me his, and his kindness is something I will never forget. Thankfully, I didn't have to rob him of seeing the spectacular Rooney bicycle kick, but I was incredibly touched no matter.

They always say "small world," or "6 degrees of separation," positing that we're all connected in some way. This was never more evident than when we met Manutdot. First of all, let me say, this guy was the only one who was nothing like I'd imagined!! For some reason, I had darker hair and not as tall in my head. But, he was definitely as nice in person as he is on Twitter. He actually contacted United to put our names in the match program(me) as first time visitors to Old Trafford from the States! What an incredible keepsake. After the match as we were talking, we came to find out that he not only works for the same company as my husband's best friend from university, but he actually knows him!! Small, small world! We went to college in the one of the smallest states in the Union, the University of Delaware. To travel all the way to England, happen to meet a friend from Twitter, who happens to work with our friend? Total shock. And to say we got along well with Darren is an understatement. I (and especially my husband) really enjoyed his company, and we hope to see him every time we visit Manchester, and of course, if he ever travels to the States.

Meeting TreacleTart99 and Moscow21508 was like opening a gift that you didn't know you were getting, and it turns out to be exactly what you wanted. I wasn't sure what their plans were, and hoped they'd make it to the 'tweetup.' She might be surprised to learn this, but after becoming her friend on Twitter, I was a bit in awe of Treacs. She was just so funny and confident - it sounds cheesy, but I thought she was really cool! And when I met her in person, she was exactly the same. And, of course, completely genuine and kind as well. Moscow was the same. Funnily enough, during the match they took a photograph of the stand we were sitting in. They had no idea where our seats were, but after working it out looking at my pictures, they have a shot of us in the stands! Another fantastic memento of our trip to Old Trafford. We were extremely grateful to have met them both and spent time with them. Laughing and getting to know the two of them was a highlight of our trip.

I don't even know where to begin with SparklyDevil and Luzhniki2008. Because of them, this trip felt less like a tourist's journey and more like coming home to visit family. We have become indescribably close during my time on Twitter, discussing everything and anything under the sun. Our likes and dislikes are so similar and we are so like-minded in our values and priorities - I really mean the word when I call them family. They made us feel that way, nothing less. From dinners, to playing chauffeur and tour guide, the experience of having these two share their city with us was nothing less than magnificent. I know I have used a lot of superlatives in this post, but I don't know of any to describe how authentic, generous and kind-hearted these two people are. My gratitude for having them in my life (now and always) knows no bounds.

And, of course, last but certainly not least, we met Mike and Damon. Mike is SomersetReds' dad, and he and Damon met us outside Old Trafford to give us tickets to the match. Not only were they bestowing on us something akin to a golden ticket, but they seemed genuinely happy to be helping us. After giving us the tickets, Mike gave me an incredibly sweet smooch on the cheek and said how nice it was to meet me. I loved him :)

Going to Manchester is intrinsically momentous for a Red. But going to Manchester and having the pleasure and honor of meeting these people made the whole experience that much more special. You all have become so much more than names on a computer screen. Thank you for making our trip one we will never forget.

We can't forget to mention Blissbubbley, Spursboy, and the artist formerly known as MsMozza. We didn't catch up with them this time around, but you can bet I'm making sure of it next time we're in Manchester!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Manchester Is My Heaven Pt I: Things We Saw

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I (in addition to LOTS of wedding planning!) were trying to decide where we wanted to venture for our honeymoon. His parents were springing for the trip as our wedding present, and basically let us pick (within reason) the destination of our choice. We both hemmed and hawed, each of us wanting to make sure the other one was happy with the decision. When my mother suggested the United Kingdom, our eyes lit up! He said, "I thought you wanted to go somewhere tropical!" and I said, "I thought YOU did!" An adventure overseas to see the famous sights versus just laying on the beach for a week? Well, we found another thing in common and another reason we were perfect for each other. We went to London for for the first time the day after our wedding, and our lives were never the same.

This trip to Manchester was our fifth trip to England. But it was our first trip to the north of England, so we were very much looking forward to exploring a new region of our adopted country.

Our first glimpse of Manchester.

Manchester itself is a cool city to visit. It's a very bustling, contemporary city with a lot of modern architecture...sleek clean lines, and chic glass and metal. For example, our hotel, the

Hilton DeansgateBut, then you would turn the corner and see buildings like this:

And you would remember you were definitely in England! London has the same mix of old and new, of course, but the contrast seemed sharper somehow in Manchester. I'm not sure if the locals feel this, but as an outsider looking in, it seemed a city with a great heritage, but that was bursting at the seams with new energy, fresh ideas, and inspired city identity. Not surprisingly, I loved it.

The City Centre of Manchester was full of fun shopping, cool restaurants, and lots to look at. We wandered around most of the afternoon on Friday, until it was time to meet some friends for dinner...more about the fabulous Luzhniki2008 and Sparkly_Devil1 in Part II of the series...

Saturday was the Manchester city derby...we saw Old Trafford. As I said, that in itself will be a whole different post. After the match, we met some amazing folks. Again, too much to say about that to include now...

Sunday was our trip to the city of York. Another new place to visit in England! And, being located just over an hour away from Manchester by train, it was an easy destination for a day trip. York was founded in the year 71 AD, and boasts a Roman, Saxon and Viking heritage. It is the kind of city we Americans think of when we think "British"... gorgeous, old architecture; castle walls and big, beautiful cathedrals. The Shambles is a beautiful, historic cobblestone street, voted "The Most Picturesque in Britain." We walked around, took in the sights, visited a few pubs. It was an amazing little town. By mid-afternoon, it was pouring down rain, though, so our visit didn't cover nearly enough for our liking. It's definitely a place we would love to visit again in the future.

Monday in Manchester: It was Valentine's Day. We got to spend our day in red, with our hearts filled with love. At Old Trafford, of course! After spending the majority of our Valentine's there, we had a lovely, romantic dinner at Wagamama's in the Manchester City Centre. A place we discovered in London in 2004 (our son's first trip across the pond!), we constantly wish this restaurant existed in the United States. (I believe there might be one in Massachusetts, but it's nowhere as ubiquitous as it is in the UK!) There is simply nothing comparable here. Someday, we will open a franchise here in the Mid-Atlantic USA!

Tuesday was our last full day in Manchester, so we spent it soaking up as much of the city as we could. The day began with our morning trip to Caffe Nero for our wake-up call...we visited this particular coffee place every day of our trip. The first day we visited we were surprised at how strong the coffee was! It was delicious, though. It wasn't until that last day that we read the sign: "All of our coffee is made with two shots of espresso. If you would like a milder version, please request your coffee with only one shot." Wow!! No wonder our hands were a little shaky the first few days!

The guidebook said our first destination was "tucked into an unfashionable corner of town" - The Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives. As you enter, it has the look of a very small rowhome. But not only is there a large room with police motorcycles and a car, there is also a room showcasing vintage police uniforms and another that illustrated the typical detective's office in the 1950's. Everything was quite interesting, but as we turned to leave, one of the staff stopped us -- there was actually an entire police station once housed there! We got to see where criminals were booked, and even the cells that were used to hold prisoners. And upstairs was a courtroom. This museum exceeded our expectations by a far sight, and it's a really interesting place to visit.
Next, it was of to the Imperial War Museum North. We got on the Metrolink and rode it all the way out to the Media CityUK stop. This stop wasn't in any of the guidebooks, or on the tram map we had, so we figured it had to be new. What a great area! All of the big media outlets were in the process of building studios there, all on the waterfront. Along with the Lowry Hotel, the theatre and the War Museum, it was truly a beautiful area they are developing.

We had been to the War Museum in London a couple of times and really enjoyed it, so we were very much looking forward to visiting its Northern counterpart. It was just as amazing and enlightening. It was so interesting to peruse the exhibits and displays. Both my husband and I are fascinated in particular by World War II, and the way it affected British society. One feature the museum had that was especially compelling was the "Big Picture Show." On the hour, the entire museum goes dark, and large images are projected all around on the's a quite inspiring and moving feel you are right in the middle of things. It's a remarkable way to learn about history.

All too soon, it was Wednesday morning, and time to start our trek back to the States. Even though we have been to England many times before, this trip provided us with the opportunity to see parts of the country we hadn't seen before, and experience a whole new component to the nation we have come to love so much. Our journey to Manchester, in addition to the religious experience that is Old Trafford, and the making of lifelong friends, gave us a great perspective on what England means beyond just London.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Manchester Is My Heaven

I don't even know where to begin this post. We've been back from Manchester for almost a week now, and I am finally beginning to digest and process all that we saw and did while we were there. It's hard to find the right words to describe our trip...we experienced an abundance, and we felt so much. It was joy, pure and simple.

There is no way I can do our pilgrimage justice with only one post. There is so much to say, so many things to describe, so many emotions to put to words. There were innumerable facets to this experience - way beyond the typical first time trip to a new city. So, I'll be doing this in three parts: 1.) The Things We Saw, 2.) The People We Met, and last but certainly not least, 3.) The Football Club We Love.

If I did have to manage to squeeze all of the experiences and emotions from our adventure into a single word, it could only be one: special.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Never Forget.

Please visit:
The Faithful
Man United Devils Blog
The Republik of Mancunia

To read touching and inspiring tributes to our Busby Babes
and the special
Munich Remembered section of the Manchester United website.

Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years Later: Remembering the Space Shuttle Challenger

It was a beautiful, sunny morning. It was unusually cold that day...well, at least for Florida. But, as I got ready for another day at Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville, the sun was shining and the cold seemed to be giving way to another, ordinary pleasant day in the Sunshine State. But it was not an ordinary day. It was January 28, 1986.

At 11:45 am, I sat at lunch with my fellow sixth-graders and we were chatting and eating. No one really discussed the day's shuttle launch, because we had been to see a shuttle launch the previous fall for a field trip. We'd been there, done that - it was no big deal anymore. You know how 13 year olds are.

The assistant principal, who sat on the stage during lunch hour in our cafeteria/auditorium, hushed us all out of the blue. He never did that -- we were allowed a little free reign at lunchtime. He put a portable radio on, and held his microphone up to the speaker. The news was reporting that something terrible had happened at the Cape; the very place we'd gone to watch our space program in action only a few short months previously.

We all ran to look out the building windows. There it was - the fateful plume of smoke in the sky. The evidence that showed us what that what we were hearing on the radio was real, and not just a nightmare.

It was a sad day. For our space program, for our national spirit, for Americans...the whole world. I think we all lost a bit of innocence that day. It was a shocking event, especially in my young life. As a young person, you already have a certain sense of invincibility. And, as a young American especially, you are taught from practically birth that the world is yours to conquer. American exceptionalism, freedom, and indomitable spirit are part of your upbringing. To experience, for the first time, a chink in our national armor, exposed a vulnerability that I don't know if, at 13, I was quite ready for.

I mourned, with the rest of the country, the brave astronauts that we lost that day. We saluted them then, and we still remember today. I hope the 25th anniversary of this tragedy will remind all of us of the spirit of discovery that exists in humankind, and that our exploration of worlds and places beyond Earth will long the memory of the Challenger 7.

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.' "

President Ronald Reagan

January 28, 1986

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United
Our heroes, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez

You will never, ever find a more dramatic team to follow. Manchester United uniquely provides its fans with the lowest lows and the highest highs. Yesterday's match (coming back from a 2-nil deficit to win) was proof of that. There is nothing in the world like being a Manchester United supporter. Glory, glory Man United!

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Somerset) Reds to the Rescue!

I. Got. TICKETS!!!!

All hail the power of Twitter! I have long extolled the virtues of this particular social network for the many good things it's brought me -- incredible friends, fantastic banter, and a global perspective on things and events, just to name a few.

But now, thanks to Twitter, I also have my dream back!

I follow the leader of group of Manchester United supporters from the Somerset area of England. I don't know him very well, and we've only recently begun following each other and chatting. When he heard of my ticket plight and my subsequent depression/desperation, he invited me to join his group, and offered to help me find tickets.

I don't know how he did it, as everyone wants to go to this match, but he worked some miracle and found us tickets!! Words cannot express my gratitude to this man. His response to my profuse indebtedness was simply "That's what it's all about - helping each other out." I feel like he's my fairy godfather, and I'm Cinderella finding out I am getting to go to the ball after all. (Credit to my friend Rory for that analogy!).

Needless to say, I am over the moon. I will never be able to repay my benefactor for his kindness, and I am overwhelmed by his altruism. If this is how he treats a complete stranger, I am pretty sure I'm not the only one!

Follow Somerset Reds on Twitter:
Join the Somerset Reds:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Theatre of Dreams...Deferred.

Sooooo...way back in September, my husband and I booked a trip to Manchester. If you've read this blog, you know that the two of us eat, breathe, sleep and live Manchester United. Actually going to Old Trafford, and seeing our beloved football team play at their home stadium is a trip of a lifetime, a pilgrimage...a dream come true.

When we first decided it was time for us to pay homage to Old Trafford, it was incredibly exciting. I couldn't believe I was actually going to experience this storied ground that I'd seen on television, that I'd heard so much about from friends in Manchester, and that I'd read and dreamed about. As exciting as it was, there were many pieces of the puzzle that had to fit together just perfectly in order for our dream to become a reality.

First off, we had to wait for the 2010/2011 fixtures list to come out. Obviously, we are going to see United play; it's our passion and our reason for making the trip. So we had to make sure they were going to have a match at Old Trafford during our visit!

Secondly, we had to decide what time of year to go, and what match we wanted to see. As parents, a childless, transatlantic trip just wasn't feasible for us in the fall. Our children have school starting, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. All things very important to our boys - not only the actual day of, but all of the fun events and activities leading up to it. So, we would go after the first of the year, we decided. Again, spring poses the same problems for parents as the fall does, (Spring sports, Easter, etc.) but luckily, the very important City derby was the weekend of February 11th. We found our match.

One hurdle was left. In order to obtain tickets for the match, you have to apply for tickets. Unfortunately, the ballot didn't begin accepting applications until December 31 for a February match. If we wanted to go, there was no way we could wait that long to book flights or a hotel without spending the boys' university fund in the process. So, we had to take a gamble, book the flights & hotel, and just hope for the best in the ticket draw.

As soon as applications began being accepted, I was right on the computer submitting ours. I crossed my fingers, said a prayer, and put our dream into the hands of the football gods. After waiting 21 long, agonizing days to hear something from the United ticket office, I got "the" e-mail this morning. The one I dreaded. The one that broke my heart the minute someone over there hit Send.

"As we were heavily over-subscribed, a ballot has taken place and unfortunately your application was unsuccessful on this occasion."

Devastated. Gutted. Heartbroken. Dejected. All of these words don't even begin to scratch the surface of what I feel. I get that most people won't understand this. 'It's only a soccer game.' Ha. If you truly follow United, you know it's a religion, a passion, an integral part of your life. And this trip was more than a vacation with a football match thrown in for fun. It's even more than a dream come true, as I've described it. Going to Old Trafford is something that I know will make me breathe a little quicker, and send chills down my spine the moment I walk in. It's something that a supporter from over 3,500 miles away can usually only imagine...

They took that away from me.

Thankfully, through Twitter, I've met some really fantastic people who are trying their best to help me (you know who you are, and I love you for it). There is also a second ballot in a couple of weeks, and a ticket exchange. I can't even begin to express how desperate I feel, and how much I am hoping against hope that some miracle happens for us.

For now, it's a waiting game...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank You, Dr. King

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. "
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you, Dr. King, for making our country a better place. For all of us.