Common Ground

As a child my family had gone on various vacations. It had probably been twenty-five years or more, since I had taken a trip with either of my parents. Several years ago when my Dad was in his late 70’s we went on a father daughter trip to Utah to enjoy some time together. It was just the two of us; he was going to hunt and I to hike, horseback ride and tour the surrounding area.   

We had researched various locations for many years but could never find a place that was acceptable to both of us. We finally found a location in Utah. When we arrived at Broad Mouth Canyon, we met another father and daughter duo, she was 13 and he in is his late 40’s.  A memory flashed before me, it was around the start of my teen age years, when I turned in my hip boots and pellet gun and my interests turned from outdoor sports to boys. I began to pull away from my father and his hobbies during those years.  At the time of our trip, I was in my 40’s looking to reconnect and find common ground with my dad. It was a precious opportunity and I intended to make the best of it.

We had adjoining cabins in the woods away from the main lodge. He would get up early in the morning and head out with his guide to hunt. I would get up later, take in the mountains, and go for my horseback ride.  We met back for lunch and dinner. He would tell me about his adventures during the day and I would talk about mine and my horseback ride through the canyon. There was something so special about those conversations with my dad they just delighted me. It was the exchange of our stories and the passion we both shared for our hobbies. We would reunite after dinner, play cards together and turn in for the night. I savored every moment with my dad.

My Father taught me many things in life, one of them being a love of nature, and I have a keen appreciation for it to this day. At night in the cabin, I would listen to the sounds of the elk bugling and other creatures stirring and hunting their prey. Dad went out early most days and came back later than the other hunters most nights. A group of us were already at dinner, when my dad and his guide Jaden finally arrived. I watched out for him, stashed a piece of dessert when I saw it might run out, and picked up a paper for him in the morning when I went for a drive. I wanted to protect him, watch his back while he was away from the lodge.

One of the last nights, I looked up at the mountains surrounding our cabin and I could barely make out the peak it was so grand. I realized then, that if I could measure my love for my Father, it would be as high as the mountain top. He is my hero, the strongest man I have ever known and no one other than my God can fill his shoes. I was so proud to be with him, proud to be his daughter. I could only hope that he was proud of me too. All I wanted from our vacation was to reconnect with my Dad and share some common ground.  It was a gift and I have treasured the memories for a lifetime.

You never know how long your parents will be with you, but I know this, I will always cherish the memories of our time together.  As we celebrate Father’s Day, remember those special times with your Dad or create new memories it’s never too late start again.  Happy Father’s Day!



T’was The Night Before Christmas

T’was The Night Before Christmas

By: Jodi Cross

T‘was the night before Christmas last year and I was at my Niece Tammy’s house. Her two young son’s Jacob and Joshua were a buzz with delight in anticipation of Santa Clause. Jacob is 5 and Joshua 3, they were told that when my husband and I got there they could open one present. Needless to say, they were delighted to see us and they ran to the pile and pulled out a gift.


Suddenly, Jacob remembered that he had to feed the rain deer. We prepared some snacks including carrots that he found in the back of the refrigerator and put them in the back yard. Jacob and I talked about what he was expecting and if he was good this year and he proudly protested, “I’ve been really good”! I could just feel his excitement and imagination running wild. What a delight it was for me at that moment as I flashed back to the many childhood Christmas’s I had. Bikes mysteriously assembled under the tree on Christmas morning, stockings hung with care stuffed the to brim with goodies. Jacob’s energy was intoxicating. It reminded me that Christmas is all about maintaining that childhood feeling of wonder and pure joy. You remember don’t you? The kind you had before life got complicated and you grew up.


I must confess…I still get a stocking on Christmas morning when I am at my parents’ house. It isn’t one of those new fancy stockings it is an old red felt stocking with an angel and my name on it. All my siblings make fun of me but I think they are just jealous. Each year my mother protests and tries to send the stocking packing in my luggage to Florida but I manage to tuck it back into the Christmas box for another year. As I wake up on Christmas morning I recapture that childhood feeling of anticipation and know it will be waiting for me right by the fire place.

Happy Holiday’s and my all of you embrace your inner child this holiday season!

 

Read More →

Savvy Shopping for Holiday’s and Celebrations

 Savvy Shopping for Holiday’s and Celebrations

By: Jodi Cross

The average family spends over $800 on holiday purchases each year. Last year that added up to $579 billion in spending according to the National Retail Federation. We work hard all year but should we be spending such a big chunk of our earnings on holiday shopping? The majority of American’s use savings or earnings to pay for holiday shopping but nearly one-quarter of us use credit cards or go into debt.


With a little planning and organization you can take control of your spending, avoid going into debt and remove some of the stress from the holiday season. Start with a list include; family, friends, co-workers and hostess gifts.  Create a budget to keep expenses under control. Many families draw names, purchase only gifts for the children or set an agreed upon spending limit for each person.  In my family, we actually share specific gift ideas which helps to avoid returns and re-gifting.  


Here are some tips for “savvy” shopping this holiday season.


  • Shop all year. When you see something you like, buy in multiples. Chances are if you like it your friends will too. In some      cases, buying in multiples can result in an additional bulk discount.  One of the benefits of buying all year is      that you avoid huge credit card bills in January.  My credit cards barely register a blip in      December or January.
  • Set-up a gift closet. The key to buying all year is organization. I keep a gift closet in the guest bedroom, but any cupboard or shelve      space will do.  Twice a year, take      everything out, log all the items including quantities on a clipboard then      reassemble all the items back into the closet. By having a system, you can      easily find items and you won’t forget what you purchased. In addition, keep your annual shopping list of family and friends along with the items      you gave them for up to three years.  Nothing is more embarrassing than giving      someone the same gift two years in a row.
  • Restock in January. It may be little late this year to establish a gift closet but you can shop in January and get some awesome deals. Don’t buy junk just because it is on sale. Be discerning and only buy      something you would appreciate. Items like wrapping paper, bows, holiday decorations and cards are half price in January.
  • Shop the sales. Everyone loves Black Friday. Personally you won’t catch me out at 4 AM waiting for the doors to open at a big box store. For those who like the adrenaline rush, you can absolutely get some      good values. Some of the best discounts are on electronics, video games,  toys and clothing. Go armed with cost comparison research and a “hit list”  in order to avoid impulse buying. 
  • Surf on-line. Cyber Monday rivals Black Friday, plus you beat the lines and get to sleep in. The deals are just as good and retailers often offer free shipping. Keep an eye out for discount codes that yield an      additional percentage off at check out. If you are into experiences or travel, sign-up for Groupon, Living Social and Travel Zoo. Last year, I bought my husband a racing school gift certificate for half the retail      price.
  • Create a theme. This summer we vacationed in Praque and Budapest. The Czech Republic is known for beautiful crystal. I bought      multiple items in both countries that will make perfect European themed holiday gifts for      family and friends. One year my theme was Nostalgic Christmas. I bundled copies of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” along with      boxes of popcorn and candy and gave those as holiday presents.
  • Craft personal gifts. Handmade presents can save you money if      you have the time. Thrift stores are a great source for supplies such as;      jars, baskets and antique jewelry. Baked items in nicely packaged tins      along with a recipe card make for sweet treats.  Create your items based on what supplies      you have on hand, your skill level and the time you can dedicate to the project.
  • Celebrate the children. The holidays are meant for kids. When buying children’s gifts make sure to get something age appropriate. Ask      for specific ideas to avoid buying the same toys they already have and attach a gift receipt for easy returns.

Keep in mind, the holidays are all about family and friends and enjoying the spirit of the season not about how much you spend on the gifts. Happy Holidays, wishing you good tidings and cheer!

Resources: National Retail Federation, Discover Financial Services, BIGinsight.com






Read More →

What Happened To Our Quiet Time?

What Happened to Our Quiet Time?

By: Jodi Cross

Computers, Smart Phones, PDA’s and tablets were all designed to make our life easier, and more entertaining, but frankly, sometimes a break from all the noise and instant access is quite refreshing. Henry David Thoreau once said, “He who enjoys true leisure has time to improve his soul’s estate.” Lately, my soul has been dragging a bit and sometimes I feel like I have been reduced to a “human doing”, instead of a human being.


Recently, I went on a trip and decided not to bring my “electronic gear”. When I got on the plane I felt liberated, like I didn’t actually have to do work. After arriving at my destination, my phone reception was so bad that it was in and out of service. Instead of being upset I was surprisingly ambivalent. One day, I actually went to a meeting and accidentally left my phone behind at the hotel. At first a feeling of being out of control came over me, what would I miss, what emergency would happen that I would not be aware of? The day ended up being quite relaxing and the world seemed to continue on without my input 24/7.


That evening I went for a walk, without a music device in my ear. On my walk birds were chirping , a hedgehog was rustling in the bush and flowers were growing wild by the road. All the sounds of nature had become muffled by the blaring, beeping and pinging in my head and suddenly they came alive again.


Think about the last time you had quiet time, where you were just still, sat and pondered. The devices that were designed to make us more connected and efficient have become intrusions, robbing us of small peaceful joys like sitting on the porch swing, listening to the leaves rustle, or  taking a walk in nature.  


Today life has us connected instantaneously, but ask yourself, is all this connectivity robbing your soul?

Read More →

I Shop Alone

I Shop Alone

By: Jodi Cross

As the holiday’s approach you will likely have an occasion to do some shopping. I recommend going it alone. My husband likes to shop, or so he says, but not quite as much as I do. Recently, on a Sunday after church, he suggested we check out the book store. I quickly agreed to his invitation.  Generally my husband is a patient man except when it comes to shopping. Over the years, I have been able to handle  the situation with distractions like food, drinks or big screen televisions. When we are on vacation, a pub or a nice piazza along our route usually buys me some extra time for browsing.


On this day, we stepped into the book store fresh off of a message about love being the greatest gift of all and WHAM it all went down hill. Within five minutes of entering the store and just as a rounded the first row, I could feel his presence hovering like a shadow behind me.


I thought I must be misreading the signals, after all it was his idea to go shopping.  Soon came a huff and puff like a dragon snorting in my ear. Confused, I wondered what was going on as we had  just arrived at the store. Was this mission aborted? Next came the final clue my name pronounced repeatedly and in succession, “to which I snapped, ‘What, what.’ ” The look in his eyes told me he was ready to go.  


We took our hasty departure nearly trampling a couple in the second row. Once in the car, I could not hide my exasperation as he explained he had a project due for work and only intended to take a quick look to see if there was anything of interest in the book store. I was annoyed but tried to be understanding after all, we had just come from church and everyone knows you are suppose to practice the message for at least a few hours?


Later that afternoon, I ventured out to pick up a few things for Thanksgiving. While browsing the decorations aisle I overhead an elderly couple bickering. They were well into their 80’s, the man was closely following the women. I recognized the stalking pattern immediately. He appeared to be hounding her, another commonly used technique familiar to me.  Suddenly,  she spun on her heel shook her finger in the air and in a feisty voice whistled through clenched teeth, “Oh, no, don’t you start, what is your hurry?” “To which the husband replied, ‘Look at you, you are in your natural habitat here aren’t you?'” The dialogue continued as it obviously had for many years.


Amused by the bantering,  I realized that no matter how old you are or how many years of marriage you have under your belt, the battle of the sexes over shopping is a tale as old as time. I shuffling off to another aisle and resolved that from now on, I would shop alone.


Read More →

First Loves

First Loves

By: Jodi Cross

Your first love is like breathing oxygen when you emerge from the womb. Love can be intoxicating, all-consuming and scary. First you are uncertain, then you need it, crave it and can’t live without it.


Recently, I found some old love letters from my first love. The letters spanned over a period of five years from the time I was 13-18. My boyfriend Chip and I were inseparable, much to my parent’s chagrin.   Oh, how that boy loved me! He professed it in every letter, card and with artistic renderings. Once he even painted I love you in the road in front of my house with a big yellow heart and signed it, love Chip, in front of his house because he knew I drove to work that way in the morning.


I learned a great deal from that relationship and the letters reminded me of that all-consuming first love and took me back to those adolescent days. Love can be complicated and messy sometimes. I could tell from one of the letters that we hit a rough patch. Chip had quit school and was planning to move. I encouraged him to finish high school and pursue his passion for art. The letter outlined his plan, and how devoted he was to me then closed with his desire to make me his wife. He signed off with a little drawing of a diamond ring. My heart must have been all a flutter. There were periods over the five years that we broke up and I dated others. In fact, I recall falling out of love with Chip and feeling nothing but friendship for him for a long period of time. In one letter, he noted that I hadn’t told him I loved him in some time and that this would be the last letter that he would write telling me he loved me.


That New Year’s Eve, I was dating someone else but I missed Chip desperately. I left the party and my date in search of my first love, I ran into him at the local 7-Eleven, unfortunately so did the guy I was dating. A huge fight ensued, the two guys ended up bloodied and bruised. I ended up with my car in a snow bank with two broken windows resulting from the ordeal. That would be one of the messy moments. The fight continued back in my driveway until two in the morning. Sobbing, I woke my sister who came to my rescue in her pajamas and got rid of the two boyfriends by threatening to call the police.


As spring approached, my love for Chip blossomed a new. I remember thinking how just the other day I wanted to be friends, now I was head over heels again. That lesson proved to be very insightful later in life. After all, don’t all long-term relationships go through peaks and valleys? What a gift to realize that when you are in a valley, if you just persevere, you can reach the next peak.


Chip and I parted ways long ago when I left for college, but I will never forget him. As I celebrate my husband and I’s eighth anniversary this month, I am reminded of our vows. In today’s culture, we tend to be too disposable with our hearts. In Corinthians 13, it describes the gift of love as the most important gift of all. Love is patient, kind and never gives up, love always looks for the best, doesn’t keep score and cares more for others than for itself.


In fact, our vows said…for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, I often think people don’t realize that there will actually be a worse, sickness, and a poorer period in all relationships that are worth their salt!


Here’s to love and the messy, complicated, oh so worth it relationships we all have in our lives!

Read More →

Summers Here…Get Packing

Summers Here… Get Packing

By: Jodi Cross

Summer brings longer days, a slower pace and the opportunity to take a vacation. Last year, we never got a chance to get away and I felt gypped of the right of passage that Summer symbolizes. We work hard all year and by the time summer rolls around we all need a break!  Over Memorial Day, my husband and I visited Prague, Vienna and Budapest. As our trip approached my excitement grew. We toured gothic churches and palaces and walked from one end of the city to the other.

Some of the highlights included; Old Town in Prague, the Clock Tower, and a multitude of beer gardens and open markets. In Austria, we caught a Mozart concert at Schonbrunn Palace and watched the magnificent Lipizzaner Stallions practice their routine. Budapest was spectacular with the Danube dividing Buda and Pest. We visited the Royal Palace, soaked in the thermal baths and took in the art nouveau architecture. We sampled authentic cuisine, enjoyed savory goulash, fresh fish and local favorites like stuffed dumplings.  


Jodi’s Travel Tips

Travel is one of my passions in life and I take trips frequently for both business and pleasure. I have everything from packing to pre-planning down to a science.  For example, you must pack light in Europe if you are using trains and visiting multiple cities. We travel with one carryon roller bag each and a small back pack. We saw folks lugging jumbo bags along cobblestone streets and boarding the trains with bags that couldn’t fit down the aisle. My husband had to help countless people hoist  their burgeoning bags overhead into the stowaway compartments on the train.

Here are some other useful tips if you are planning to traveling here or abroad this summer;

  • Start with a detailed packing list broken down by day, always pack less bottoms and more tops. Work on a color theme so you can mix and match.  Limit your shoes to three pairs. Include; walking shoes-which need to be broken in prior to the start of your trip, dress shoes and sandals. Make sure to pack a couple of converters.  We used our phones as a camera and alarm clock, and noticed our battery depleted quickly.
  • Order a small amount of foreign currency from your bank before you go. On each envelope write the conversion numbers to help you with purchases and exchange rates. One couple we met on a train to Budapest had no currency. The cab driver took them for a ride that lasted 45 minutes and the equivalent to $100 which included a stop at an ATM because they only had Euros which are not accepted in Hungary. We arrived at the hotel in 10-minutes and it only cost us the equivalent of $25.
  • Make a copy of your passport and credit cards and place them in your luggage or room safe. If something gets stolen you will have the numbers to  cancel your cards immediately. Alert your bank, credit card company and phone service that you are traveling out of the country. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a card cut off for suspected fraud because I didn’t call in advance. For your phone, ask for a flat data package and be sure to turn off your roaming and location services so you don’t end up with whopping bill upon your return.
  • Plan on inclement weather. Bring layers, including rain gear and a small folding umbrella. It rained almost everyday on our trip. If I didn’t have a coat with a hood and an umbrella it would have ruined our vacation.
  • Pack airlock shrink bags. Stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond sell bags that you can use to seal and shrink your clothes down to half their size. I use these on my return for dirty laundry. This creates extra space for purchases you make along the way. Bring laundry detergent, there is no reason to pack extra socks and underwear when you can wash as you go. Print out a list  of key phrases in each language that you can use as cheat sheet. Being able to communicate in the native language bodes good will.
  • Use the hotel concierge- upon arrival we always inquire about the best transportation method and local restaurant recommendations.  In Budapest ,we found a bus that took you around the entire city and included a cruise. Not only did this help us get our bearings immediately, it was an excellent and inexpensive way to see all the attractions.

Wherever you go this summer…have fun, savor the adventure and embrace the local culture. Bon Voyage!      


Read More →

Page 5 of 5<12345