Sunday, November 23, 2014

Engagement Photos - Arlington VA

Mike and I went up to DC last weekend for Taylor and Brandon's engagement party. Before the festivities, Taylor set aside some time to snap a few proper engagement photos. These are my favorites.

You can view all of the photos here:


Friday, November 14, 2014

A Backyard Engagement!

Back in September, my sorority sister, Taylor, and her boyfriend, Brandon, came to stay with us. I'd won a "VIP Party" at a bar nearby and needed them to come down so I could meet the minimum head count to take advantage of the VIP perks. That turned out to be a bust (I didn't read the fine print about getting to the bar before off...thanks for nothing TAPPS!) but the weekend was still a success.

Earlier in the month Brandon messaged me about his proposal idea for Taylor. He wanted to surprise her and knew the weekend they were visiting would be perfect, so we got to work planning the whole thing out. Mike and I put together some decorations for our back deck so Brandon just had to remember to pack the ring.

He'd made sure Taylor believed the ring wouldn't be ready until closer to December (she was well aware the proposal was imminent, she just didn't know when).

Saturday the 27th was the Florida State vs. NC State game. Mike and Brandon spent most of the day smoking meat while Taylor and I drank away the afternoon in front of the TV. After dinner, I lured Taylor out of the house by asking her to come make-up shopping with me. That didn't quite waste the amount of time the boys needed to get everything set up back at the house, so Mike put in a fake request for me to pick up deodorant on my way home. I spent several minutes sniffing all the deodorant options and I think Taylor may have started to get suspicious.

On the way home, I missed our exit and had to turn around. This gave Mike and Brandon an extra 15 minutes or so, and they had plenty of time to get everything together.

When Taylor and I pulled into the driveway, all the lights in the house were off. The front door was open, but the glass storm door was shut. Through the door, Taylor noticed the trail of tea light candles making a path through the living room. I told her she could go on inside while I got my bag out of the car. At this point, I'm pretty sure she knew.

I ran around the back of the house to grab my camera (which ended up not having a memory card in it...). By the time I got back to the deck, Brandon was getting up off his knee and Taylor had buried her face in his chest. I assume he said something romantic.

Mike and I had built a wall and filled it with pictures of Taylor and Brandon's relationship.

I had hoped to get better pictures of the whole thing but time was working against me and I just couldn't quite get it right.

Regardless, I was so happy Brandon chose to propose at our house. I am very lucky to have a friend like Taylor and still feel honored to have been a part of this special memory.

After the proposal, we all went to the bar (without VIP Perks) to celebrate. We ended up not staying long due to a combination of exhaustion and inebriation, so we caught an Uber back home and sat around the fire for a while.

This week, Mike and I are heading up to DC to officially celebrate with friends at Taylor and Brandon's engagement party. CHEERS!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why you should use a local florist and not 1-800-FLOWERS

Today is my mom's birthday. Because of what happened on 9/11, her birthday will always be a little bit overshadowed by a national tragedy. That's not necessarily a bad thing - 9/11 is a day for reflection, appreciation, and patriotism, so in a way I'm sure she is proud to share the date with Patriots Day.

I wanted to surprise her with flowers delivered to her office - I've never actually sent her flowers before and I thought it would be nice. I'm not familiar with the Washington DC area and didn't want to end up choosing an unreliable florist, so I decided to order her a nice plant through 1-800-FLOWERS. I knew they were large and reputable and had a big selection, so I went with them.

I picked out this really adorable plant - it was a Gerbera Daisy in a white tin planter with a Lady Bug design. Lady Bugs are known as signs of good luck and are also one of my sorority's mascots, so we both like them. I entered her delivery address at the Department of Veterans Affairs downtown and paid $25 for shipping to make sure it would arrive on her birthday.

I got an email confirmation and a tracking number for UPS, so on Thursday morning I started checking to make sure the plant was on the truck for delivery. All was going well and it was scheduled to be delivered before 3:00 PM. Around lunch time I got a delivery confirmation email, so I went on the UPS website to double check.

The flowers had indeed been an address in MARYLAND. At first I thought it may have been a typo - someone had signed for the flowers and Maryland is pretty close to DC geographically...and I mean who would sign for flowers that weren't addressed to them?

I called UPS just to make sure. The guy on the other end was sympathetic and said he would call the number provided for the recipient and try to figure it out. He put me on hold and I was disconnected.

I called back and got a lady on the phone. She had a thick Asian accent and I immediately began to stereotype her. I had to explain everything all over again and give her the tracking number. She put me on hold for 15 minutes.

When she came back on the line, she said she didn't know why it was delivered to an address in Maryland. The delivery address was clearly Vermont Avenue in DC. They would have to send the driver back out tomorrow to speak with the person who signed for the package and then UPS would launch an investigation. She told me I should expect to hear something within 8 days.

I was calling from my office and trying very hard to contain my frustration. Nobody could explain why a package got delivered in the wrong state or what would be done to remedy the situation.

I asked to speak to her supervisor. She put me on hold for a few minutes. When she got back on the line, she explained again what they were going to do - send the driver back out, do an investigation. Her redundancy annoyed me even more and I asked to speak to a supervisor again. She said the supervisor was on another call but in the mean time she wanted to get some information for the investigation.  She needed my mom's number. I didn't want to provide my mom's information because the flowers were supposed to be a surprise. She insisted. She then put me on hold for 30 minutes. I'm not exaggerating. She called my mom and also called 1-800-FLOWERS to alert them of the situation. 30 minutes later when she came back on the line, she told me she had been in touch with 1-800-FLOWERS and that someone there would contact me about my order. I asked her to provide their name so that I could speak with them. UPS is not authorized to give out third party information (although I'm sure they can sell my address and phone number if they want). She said I would hear from UPS in 8 days. I never got to speak to a supervisor.

When I hung up with UPS I immediately called 1-800-FLOWERS to try to get some sort of answer regarding what was going to happen to my order. I did not want my mom receiving flowers that had been in a box for 8 days while UPS tried to get their act together.

I spoke to someone named Marnie or Carnie or Pokie or something like that. She tried to pull up my account but could not access any information because another representative was already "working on it" and I would be hearing from them.

That was not a satisfying answer. The fact that some is "working on it" does not tell me anything. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She put me on hold. When she came back, she reiterated that someone was working on it and I would be getting an email or a phone call. I asked if she could transfer me to the magical person in the sky who was working on my account. She said no. I guess the computer tells them everything except the name of the representative working on an account.

I asked to speak to Pokie's manager again. She transferred me. I don't remember the supervisor's name, I think it may have been Sanjay Gupta, but she essentially told me the same thing as Pokie. Thanks for calling, there's nothing we can do. Someone is "WORKING ON IT."

I thanked her for her time and effort and hung up right as she was asking if there was anything else she could do for me today besides jumping off a cliff and taking Pokie with her.

At this point in time I would like to point out that the subject line for the shipping email confirmation I received from 1-800-FLOWERS literally said "your order has been shipped...get ready for smiles!!" On their website, the Smile Guarantee section reads, "If you or the the person who received the gift calls with any sort of issue, it's a big deal to us. All of us. And we'll jump to make it matter what, no questions asked."

Nobody at 1-800-FLOWERS was jumping to make this right.

I was able to locate the phone number to their corporate office in New York so I gave that a call.  A lady named Barbara answered and I immediately felt better. She spoke with no accent (except maybe that of a native New Yorker) and sounded genuinely upset about what happened. She said she would transfer me to the "Priority Line." She put me on hold for a second and then the phone started ringing. After five or six rings, the line went silent.

I called Barbara back and she didn't answer.

I called Barbara back again and she answered. I said, "Hi Barbara, I think we just spoke. You transferred me but it didn't go through."

She asked, "Are you calling about the job?"

I was ready to scream but said, "No, I'm the one whose flowers were delivered to the wrong state."

She apologized and transferred me again. This time a lady named Lona answered. Before she spoke, I heard a cat meow in the background. I knew I was in good hands. Lona was downright pleasant and made it feel like I was having a conversation with a long lost relative.

I explained (for the 75th time) what had happened. I ordered flowers. Paid extra to have them delivered on time AND TO THE RIGHT PLACE. They got delivered to the wrong place. Nobody at UPS or 1-800-FLOWERS had any answers. Please help me.

Of all the people I spoke with she seemed to be the most authentically apologetic. She wanted to make things right. She said she was the person UPS spoke to. She had already requested for a free replacement to be delivered next week, but in the mean time she would try to order something from a local flower shop to make up for it. I told her that would be perfect. I told her I paid $25, an atrocious fee, for prompt delivery, and that since UPS couldn't seem to handle that request, I ought to get my shipping fee returned. She agreed.

So as of right now, I have not gotten the confirmation email Lona promised to send once the free replacement and local flowers were ordered. Hopefully she got busy playing with her cat or something. It will also probably take 5 years and 1000 phone calls to get my shipping fee refunded. But at least I made some headway.

When I got home, I took to Twitter and tweeted a passive aggressive message to 1-800-FLOWERS and UPS. UPS was quick to respond. I'm not even sure the social media guy read my tweet.

Shortly thereafter, I got a tweet from 1-800-FLOWERS. It said, "How disappointing. Pls follow & DM the details so I can see what happened. Thanks. --PJ"

Have to make sure they get that extra follower before they can help me.

I DM'd good ol' PJ and explained the whole situation, complimenting Barbara and Lona for their help. PJ was more concerned with making sure 1-800-FLOWERS wasn't directly to blame.
If I ever order flowers again, I will NOT use 1-800-FLOWERS. If I ever have anything shipped in the future, I will NOT use UPS.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Visiting Norfolk: Nauticus and the Battleship Wisonsin

On Sunday Mike and I met my Dad to explore the Nauticus Museum and Battleship Wisconsin.  The Battleship is berthed in downtown Norfolk.  We explored the massive ship and also the maritime and naval museums in the adjacent building.  Going anywhere with my Dad is like having a free tour guide - he knows a lot about warships from his deployments with the Navy and is also a walking encyclopedia when it comes to historical facts, so we don't even have to pay attention to the exhibits when he's around.

We also took a two-hour cruise around the Elizabeth River and down past the Norfolk Naval Station where there are several destroyers and carriers docked.  The ships are massive and so expensive it's hard to comprehend.
It was a beautiful day - low 80s with a warm breeze, perfect for touristing outside with AC available when it got too hot.  Being on the ferry really made Mike and I want to get a boat, though.  I need to start playing the lottery.


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Time Passes

Do you remember that sweet little baby from this post and this post?  She came to visit us last weekend with her new baby sister.  It's so strange to see her now as a real person - this inquisitive little girl with thoughts and feelings and the ability to speak full sentences.

She renamed Moose and Buffalo to Sprinkles 1 and Sprinkles 2.  She jumped off our back deck over and over with more enthusiasm each time.  She wanted to play Candy Land by her own rules.  She squealed with a mixture of terror and happiness when Boomer chased her around the yard.  She organized all of the dog toys into tidy stacks and then curled up exhausted on her mommy's lap after a week of vacation caught up to her.

Thanks for visiting, Peyton!


Monday, August 04, 2014

1 Year Old

Boomer turns 1 on August 21st.  When I look at him I still see the tiny puppy we brought home in October.  He is my sweet boy and much of his personality remains unchanged, but now he weighs 80lbs and barks with a deep confidence. He is a great dog and brings so much joy and laughter (and frustration) to our home.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Virginia Beach Wedding

Mike and I  met Jess at Joenee's wedding in New York.  We became friends on Facebook, but aside from that one night, we never really spoke or hung out.  Of course like the creepy sap I am, I followed Jess on Facebook and quietly shared in the joy of her engagement to Nick early this spring.  In April, Jess reached out and asked if I'd be willing to take photos at their small ceremony in Virginia Beach.  I was hesitant because photographing a wedding is such a huge responsibility for a novice photographer.  I ultimately decided to say yes, and on May 31, Mike and I were there to celebrate the day with Jess, Nick, and their families.

You can view all of the photos here:


Friday, May 16, 2014

First Wedding of the Season

My mother-in-law got married last weekend.  Mike and I drove down for the ceremony.  It was an intimate affair at her house.  They said their vows, we prayed, we celebrated, we ate.  It was wonderful.  John is a nice man and Barbara is clearly very happy.

John and Barbara are big into the ballroom dance scene - John is actually an instructor.  Despite his best efforts, I still do not know how to dance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Yellow Lab and the Water

We got Boomer when the weather was starting to turn cold, so we never had any time with him as a puppy to go swimming.  Bella has always loved the water - I don't remember any transitional phase.  It's not like she learned to like it.  If there's water around, whether it's a lake or a mud puddle, she wants to be in it.

The first time we took Boomer to the water it was cold and gloomy out.  I didn't even want to dip my fingers in.  Bella didn't care - she galloped into the shallows and waded around to her heart's content.  Boomer waited at the shore line and whined for his friend.

Then we took them to the beach when we moved up here to Virginia.  The water was freezing.  Even Bella was hesitant to get in too deep.  Boomer finally got used to his paws being wet, but never intentionally got in the surf.

A few weeks ago I took them for a walk after a rain storm and he dodged the puddles like they were made of acid.  I began to wonder if he might be broken...he is a lab after all.

But then we took him to nearby Lone Star Lakes Park and let him and Bella explore at one of the boat ramps.  Bella was wading around in the chest-deep water and Boomer finally got up the nerve to walk in past his ankles.  He bit at each splash like the water was a living thing, puzzled by its rapid disappearing act.  He walked with his feet far out in front of him baffled by his inability to stand on this glassy surface.  It was really funny to watch.  He began running back and forth, chasing the splashes.

He likes the water now.  He doesn't love it yet, but he's getting there.  Good thing we have a long summer to look forward to.

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