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.


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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!

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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!      


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