Thursday, February 20, 2014


What to do when you have a mental breakdown? Take a vacation from your problems! Right, Dr. Leo Marvin? My shrink suggested I get away for some time, as a sort of "rehab," and knowing that Adam would be out of town for the weekend, I called my Aunt Jill and asked if the kids and I could come for a visit. She, of course, was happy to have us—bless her!—so we made our way down to Maryland before the big snow storm hit. It was my first time packing up all the stuff and kids for a trip, and I never could have done it without my friend, Emily's help. Yes, the friend who's daughter has cancer. She helped me. But she's pretty much a saint, so that should come as no surprise. We made it to my aunt's house without a hitch, but I later discovered that I had forgotten my toiletry bag, which not only included all the toothbrushes but also my newly acquired meds, both the anti-depressants and the sleeping aid. So, I didn't sleep that night. That was fun. But the next day, my aunt and I slogged through the snow to the supermarket, bought five toothbrushes and some melatonin and I slept fine after that. Hooray!

Besides watching a glut of British awesomeness (like the newly released Austenland) with my aunt, we also celebrated Valentine's Day by decorating heart sugar cookies and going on a special treasure hunt. 

Enjoying the loot at the end of the hunt.

At the last minute, Adam's plans fell through, so he took a Greyhound down and joined us for the last few days of our stay. He came just in time to dig a cave in this giant pile of snow in their front yard.

The mountain of snow eventually got stairs and a slide.
 The day before we left, we decided to take the kids into DC to the Natural History Museum, AKA the Dinosaur Bone Museum. The last time we were in Maryland, we took them to the Air and Space Museum and it didn't go too terribly, so we were optimistic about this trip. And it went pretty well. (We only lost track of one of the kids once!) 

The kids loved the dinosaurs.

Elizabeth was so fun to watch. She made a check list before we left of things she wanted to see, then kept adding to it at the museum.

The Future Scientist

 Everyone was pretty impressed with all of God's creatures.

Eddie learns one of the attributes of the class mammalia.

We're still alive! And smiling!
The museum has a live butterfly exhibit that we've been to before, when Elizabeth was just a baby. We thought the kids would get a kick out of it so we splurged on tickets. And we were right.

Hooray for impromptu vacations! It really was wonderful to get away for a bit and be with family. I'm so glad my aunt and uncle were willing to let us come at such short notice. They are a tremendous blessing in our lives. Now to face life after "rehab."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Thrill of Victory

This is the story of how I won New York City.  

Back in November, I met up with my friend Lindsay and her family at The Cloisters, a museum in Inwood (the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan.) It took me forever to find a place to park, even though it's one of the few places I've been to in the city that actually has designated parking spots. But I finally saw someone pull out and took their spot, parallel parking on a side lane, along with a lot of other cars. I joined my friend, her three boys, her husband, and her mom who was in town, to see some pretty awesome medieval art, including this tapestry straight from every humanities textbook ever, and a sound installation of a gregorian choir that moved me to tears. (Okay, so that's not so hard.) A fun time was had by all, until I was walking back to my car with my friend's mom and saw the dreaded Orange Envelope under my windshield wiper. These carrot-colored devils are so ubiquitous to life in NYC that there's even a collectible plate patterned after them. So I knew what it was the moment I saw it, and I was crushed. I couldn't even keep it together in front of my friend's mom. I cried the whole way home. Did I mention the ticket was for $115? 

I thought about ignoring it but was told that if I did, the next time I drove to the city, I'd be arrested and dragged before a judge and then locked up in Attica. Okay, so I watch too much Law and Order, but that was the gist of it. So ignoring it wasn't an option. But paying it?! It was so unfair! There were a ton of other people parked just like me. And there were no signs indicating that parking wasn't allowed, so how was I to know it was illegal!? No. I was going to fight this, dadgum. 

First I had to call the city to get them to send me a copy of the ticket that I could actually read. Then I had to look it up in their online system. And then call back when it didn't show up forever. All of this took a few weeks' time and Adam kept nagging me to pay the ticket. But I wouldn't give up! I figured out how to do an appeal by mail. I gathered my evidence:

Exhibit A: A screen shot from Google Maps of the lane where I parked. 
The only No Parking sign is for the other street, a point I made in my letter.

As you can see, this image indicates where the lane is located (The Cloisters), and that there are no No Parking signs posted along the lane.

Exhibit B: The exact spot I parked, next to the trash can. Note the complete absence of No Parking signs. (But try to ignore that on the day this picture was taking, there also weren't any other cars parked along the side of the street, only in the clearly-marked actual parking spots. *Ahem*)

I even included a letter that I typed up for my friend's mom to sign, in which she testified "that [my] vehicle was parked on the north side of the north branch of Margaret Corbin Drive in New York, New York, on the aforementioned date at approximately 4 PM." Yes, I wrote that all myself. So I'd established that I had, indeed, parked where I said I parked and that there were, in fact, no signs stating that I could not park there. The original violation stated that I'd parked "in a lane intended for the free movement of vehicles" so I also stated in my letter that there was ample room for cars to pass, as it was a one-way street. I even went so far to include that there was, in fact, a No Parking sign further down the street, that indicated there was no parking after 10 PM. (And I had my witness testify that I'd parked at 4 PM, remember?) I read it through a hundred times, read the violation language itself, and concluded, meh? What have I got to lose? 

Fast forward to yesterday. I've had one of the hardest and darkest weeks of my life—a time of crisis. Though I'd like to write about the things I've been struggling with, I think it will take me a long time to process it all and be able to look at it with any objectivity. In a word, it's been hellish. But then, yesterday, I get a letter in the mail from the New York City Department of Finance. I opened it with a sinking heart. And then I read the Decision and Order stating that the "Respondent's claim is supported by persuasive documentary evidence." Disposition: Not Guilty.

I seriously did the Hallelujah Two Step for ten minutes. It looked something like this:

Adam gave me a high five. Then I called Lindsay. Then I ran next door to tell my friend Emily. I couldn't think of anyone else I could tell, so I decided to blog about it.

And that, my friends, is how I beat New York City.