Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Help! I have about 3, 4 hours tops, before I have to remember where my car is parked at the airport back home. My nogin isn't working right now so I may wind up walking around 6 floors of the parking garage pressing my panic button!

On the plus side - I'm going home!!!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011


So, there has been some reason that God has made my life totally, chaotically crazy as of late…. Late being about the past year. I’m just gone so much and finding balance between work which, even if I’m not actively in an account or doing office work, I’m “at work” as I’m on the road and when you’re gone from home for work, any time you’re away its total work. I can’t go grocery shopping, take the dog for a walk, pick up my dry cleaning, spend time with family or friends. I miss being able to reach out more with church and community projects like Love Inc and Inside Out. I’m just too wiped out by the time I do get home and if I do have a free evening, I’ve become the proverbial loser as I feel guilty going out or doing anything else besides being at home – and, okay, I’m just plain old tired.

This was my morning – the beginning of another long week (that at least I will be able to conclude with two days in the home region). I had an 8 a.m. flight to San Antonio so Cal stayed at my sister, Pat’s, house as I knew I had to be out the door by about 6:30 in order to make my flight. I set my alarm for 5:30 in order to get ready and finish packing – I double checked the alarm about 5 times to make sure it was set – and even with that, I must have turned the thing off in my sleep in the morning as I woke up on my own – at 6 a.m. Great! I actually jumped in the shower and got ready in about 30 minutes and then had to finish some things before I left so I didn’t get out the door until 6:45 a.m. I sped off to the airport and actually got there at about 7:25, parked and got in to and through security by 7:40. I even took some time to stop in at Jamba Juice and start my day off with a healthy smoothie. I got down to the gate in time to be handed an upgrade ticket to first class (yea!), even though it was a tiny plane, at least I got a little bit bigger seat. I even had some time to sit and try to make a reservation for an evening bikram yoga class in San Antonio (that is one of the benefits of travelling – I get to hook into cool bikram classes and great running trails in other locations!). And now I’m on my way to a crazy week of commuting. I have to drive about 2 hours to an account tomorrow and then work there and then come back to San An and pick up another rental car as I need to drive 5 hours to Dallas and drop the car off and pick up another car in order to work in a Dallas suburb on Wednesday. It seriously took me about 3 hours to figure out my travel plans for two days! I had to find the best flights, the best way to juggle getting from San An to Dallas and then for getting home in time to work an account in Chicago. I kind of love having to be creative like this, but it can be time consuming when you have so much else to do.

So – with all the craziness in the past year, I’m finally to the place where this is my life and I’m settled into it enough to figure how to – well, settle into it and still function as a human. I think God has been bringing me to a place where I’m needing to balance my life, my outreach and, most of all, my relationship with Him. I know that He’s given me so many opportunities as of late to share my life with others and give through His love. I’ve been a little distant in my relationship with Him lately, I think mostly because I didn’t even know where I was and I was so tired. I’m finding my tired balance and finding, there’s just no excuse to not do what I need to do. I’ve been coming back to this song that is on Kutless (a Christian group) album called “Hungry”. I love the words because it kind of consumes me.
Hungry I come to you for I know you satisfy
I am empty but I know your love does not run dry
So I wait for you – so I wait for you
I’m falling on my knees, offering all of me, Jesus you’re all this heart is living for
Broken I run to you for your arms are open wide I am weary but I know your touch restores my life
So I wait for you – so I wait for you
I’m falling on my knees, offering all of me, Jesus you’re all this heart is living for

I think what I’ve found over the past year that, a lot of times, if you go seeking for God because you feel you should, it can be an illusive search, but when you just kind of wait and are still, your heart just moves and you – you get it. It usually happens that way with me. Maybe it’s the “workaholic – do-aholic” thing that I may have a problem with. Its realizing that my relationship with Him isn’t a “do” think – it’s a wait thing. Its His timing and His way and He does it – I don’t. It really is amazing to me that I never know what happened to spark something in me or move me someplace in my relationship with Him, because I didn’t do it. I love that about God. He creates this passion in me for Him and I can’t do it. I guess that’s what passion is about – you can’t always explain a passion for something but it consumes you and makes you revolve your life around it. It can be a good thing.

With that being said, our sermon series for the next 6 weeks is on “Love”. Its not a light, frilly, trite love, but a deep one that is life changing. Pr Farish used the example of the Perrier springs in France last week and how the sparkling water just came and filled bottle after bottle. He preached about how that, if we’ve experienced God’s love, that’s what its like for us. That His love for Himself, His Son and us should just bubble up out of us continually. I’ve been struggling with that one lately too. Once again, I’m so consumed that I find myself looking at people with animosity or resenting people I don’t even know because they’re in my way or whatever. And then I feel this guilt and I know that I’m wrong. I suppose I should clarify that’s it’s a good guilt. Its this feeling that I shouldn’t be feeling that way because its not me – it shouldn’t be me. I’ve been praying that God’s love would bubble up more in just my inward feelings. Actions can be easy sometimes, but feelings are the deep, real stuff that really indicate my relationship with God. The places that no one sees except God. I want my inward feelings and my actions to match – theres the struggle.

I guess work in progress continues! We’ll see where I get this week. Sorry for the sermonette :) Its just something that I’m finding is becoming big in my life and I’m praying that it continues to grow in spite of me!

With that being said – Remember the Alamo!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lots Of Mountains - Three Friends - One State

Update on last week...

So Tuesday found me driving to the airport, parking in remote, shuttling to the terminal and boarding a morning flight for Denver. Yea - I was on United (as they've just bought or merged or something with Continental and I've gotten on too many of those flights lately - they're not my favorite) as Denver is one of United's hubs. As I was on a United flight I got bumped up to first and actually got to relax and do a little work in comfort on the way in. It always makes my day when they bump me, I feel like I've earned it :)

Once I landed in Denver, I once again hopped on another shuttle and this time headed for the car rental lot where I threw my bag into a rather large SUV with all wheel drive and headed out over the hills to Aspen. I had actually reserved a little midsize car but then was told by my rep that Aspen was expecting snow and I needed to make sure I had a good car just in case. It turned out that it wasn't that bad with snow, but on the way up, the wind almost blew my SUV off the road several times. It was horrible!

Heading out of Denver, it was a beautiful sunny, but windy, day and it was about 60 or so degrees. Just too wonderful for words! I had on my short sleeved shirt and I had the window partially open and was enjoying the lovely drive up into the moutains.

Unfortunately, the higher I climbed, the more I saw the outdoor temperature reading on my dashboard dip downward until it was below 30. All of a sudden, I reached the peaks and there was a snowstorm that I had to wade through for about 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, though, back to beautiful on the other side! I passed through Breckenridge and saw the sun, snow and skiers....

Vail was beautiful as well and I envied all the happy families as they swooshed down the hill. I could see their rosy, delighted faces as I passed the slopes and I gritted my teeth as I trudged on to our evening client dinner.

I got into Carbondale, CO, just below Aspen, around 5:30, just in time to meet up with four others at a little place called Russets. There were two "co-workers" and then two customers from the hospital we were working at the next day. I was really exhausted and so the chatter was a little much. I just sat there smiling and nodding and taking all kinds of ribbing over the fact that I wasn't also drinking red wine or gin and tonic or whatever and had her refilling my coke and coffee glasses/cups. I knew I had to drive about 30 mintues to my hotel and I was exhausted to begin with so I stuck with my caffinated drinks. I find it very amusing that, if you don't drink when everyone else is, they all have to "gang up" on you and tease you and torment you over the fact that you aren't drinking. They guesstimated on everything from the fact that I was a goody goody (those are my words, their insinuations) to the possiblity that I was pregnant. Crazy ... never mind the fact that I HAD TO DRIVE after dinner. Funny - they did too but it didn't seem to stop them :)
Anyways - my 30 minute drive back was fine and dandy and I fell into bed about 11:30 and then had to get up again the next day around 6 to make it up the mountain to Aspen for our 7:30 appt. We got in and did some work for a while and then took a little break. We popped into the cafeteria for a coffee and I grabbed a yogurt but started to freak a little as I though the yogurt might be bad - and then I realized that the reason the top of the yogurt was puffed up so much was because of our elevation!.... duh!

So, I have an admission. I've been up a lot of mountains before - really high ones. I've done all kinds of physical activity at all kinds of heights and have never had any problems. So much, in fact, that people marvel at me being midwest and they can't believe I'm not have problems with the altitude. This time, however, I found myself in the morning yawning continually to get deep breaths in. I couldn't believe that I was actually struggling to breath a little. Ahhh! I know that my schedule has kept me from running as much, but it scared me that I might be getting all wimpy so, now I'm determined to kick my butt in gear and start ramping up those lungs again so I can go back out and not feel anything in that high altitudes. I'll keep you posted if I go back what my lungs are like.... :)
Incidentally - this was the view in the hospital parking lot. Beautiful!

This is on the way out of town - yes, I said way out.... We worked in the Aspen account for about 2 or 3 hours and then got back on the road to go back down to Glenwood Springs. When I got back to Denver and when people asked where I had been and I said Aspen, they were all ready with their comments of envy. However, I must point out, I was in Aspen, yes -- I was at the hospital. I never went downtown Aspen. I never hit the slopes. I never ate a meal there. I never did anything during this trip except work. SO -- if you ever feel the need to tell me that I'm "lucky" for getting to go somewhere --- consider the very likely possiblity that I went there, but I never did anything except work.
Anyways - on the way out of town we passed the Aspen airport. The lot went on for quite a while and had all these coverings where 100s of private jets were lined up along the side of the road just sitting there waiting for someone to take them off to some other glorious location. So hoitey toitey. But - I did meet a very nice lady in the hospital who was an "Aspen-ite" and she was perfectly lovely. Actually, everyone that I met who lived in Aspen was very nice. Wealthy, but very nice.

There are all kinds of hot springs in the mountains. This is the most famous one in Glenwood Springs. This is actually the pool the feeds over to the major pool in the next picture.

The hotel and the hot springs pool at the Glenwood Spring Hotel -- fed from the pool above.

Driving back down to Denver. Its crazy to be driving on a road that running above tree line - that means you're dog gone high up!

If you can zoom in on this picture - do it. The hill going down is like a 7% grade for about 5 or 6 miles. There are all these signs telling truckers to gear down and all. They're all those road signs that are put the by the state - all professional and all... and then they have this one.... In case you can't read it, it says "Truckers - don't be fooled!" and then proceeds to say how they're not down the hill yet. I just love the "don't be fooled!"

I got back down to Denver Tuesday night. As I was boarding my plane for Denver, one of my past youth group girls who had just gotten married, texted me to me that her husband had just gotten back from overseas and they were just moved to Colorado Springs. How funny - I told her I was just boarding a flight for Denver and we immediately planned to meet for dinner on Wednesday night.
Sonya was actually in Kazakhstan with me and she was one of the girls that I loved in youth group. We used to hang out and then her family actually moved to Ohio so I hardly ever got to see her anymore. It was such a treat to be able to get together!

This is Sonya and her husband Johnathan.

After dinner, I headed out to Fort Collins to stay with a friend of mine, Laura. She's actually a friend from college and if you look at the toolbar on the side of my blog, you'll see a picture of her and me at the Taj Mahal. She and her family are missionaries in India and are home for a year sabbatical. I had gotten to see her one other time at the end of last year when they had first come so it was another great treat to spend a whole night at their house and then do breakfast with her.
This shot was a run that I took up into the foothills by Laura's place. I had gotten up in the morning and just was going to run in the neighborhood but then I saw the foothills and just started running for them until I found a path up. It was acutally a mountain bike trail but it served my purposes as well.

Thursday night, I watched a basketball game with Asha and Isaiah, Laura's kids, and then I booked over to another set of friends from college back in Lakewood by Denver. I hung out with Jason and Naomi and their daughter for a few hours and laughed and shared and had some good times, and then I went over to the airport to stay the night and then fly out the next morning.
When I got up in the morning, I had to chuckle at all the tumbleweeds that had lodged themselves under and between cars.

Back home by late Friday afternoon and it felt good!
Next week -- its off to a whirlwind tour of Texas! Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review #3 - "We Die Alone"

Okay - this was an AMAZING book! It was one of those books that you literally can't put down. I would grab it to unwind after a long day and I wouldn't put it down for like 4 or 5 chapters until I absolutley had to go to bed or actually accomplish something else.

I had started reading another book before. Its a book that I had been looking forward to reading it, but sometimes, you start a book and just aren't in THAT mood at THAT point and so you have to put it down and go elsewhere. I think I got through about 4 chapters on the other book and then decided to come back to it later so you'll have to stay tuned for that book review!

Anyways, this was a great true story. Again, a topic that I hadn't really thought of before, but I decided to branch out. Its a story about Norway during the WWII Nazi occupation. A group of Norwegians who had left before the war and were actually living in England and were in the military there had been sent on an expedition to sail to Norway from England in a fishing boat and infiltrate the land in order to find Norwegians who were against the Nazis and train them to fight and rebel.

Unfortunately, in the first two days of their landing, 7 of the men on the boat had been killed and one was barely alive and was on foot trying to escape the Germans who were hunting him down.

His story of escape is unbelievable. It includes him going snow blind, suffering frostbite, having to amputate 9 of his own toes, being left strapped to a sled in a snow cave for over a month and a half while fellow Norwegians tried to formulate a plan to help him escape and so many other events that you honestly can't believe this guy actually lived!

At the end, it was the Lapps that took him across the Norwegian border into Sweden. It was interesting to learn some facts about the Lapps and their culture, etc. There was an interesting line that resurrected some memories for me of some facts that I learned in Hungary. In Hungary? you say.... What does Hungary have to do with Lapland. I'm glad you asked! :) I'll quote a line from the book to explain.... "The Lappish language is said to have no relation to any other language in the world except Hungarian, and there are very few people except the Lapps who understand it." We've been told that the Hungarian language has ties to the Lapp language and I know that some of the Hungarians we work with, when they speak English, they have almost a Nordic accent to their English. I just found that pretty insteresting.

So - pick up a copy of "We Die Alone" by David Howarth. It has a forward by Stephen Ambrose who does a lot of WWII writing. In fact, the year I took dad and the aunts and mom to see the WWII dedication, we saw a one man play by Stephen Ambrose that they did at the theatre at Arlington National Cemetary. This book is definitely worth a read and its an easy read to boot!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bed Of Pain AND Toilets In Excess

I'm back in Cleveland, OH -- well, actually Akron, OH this week. I don't know which is better....

And here is my week -- no sleep, exhausting and eternal. This bed gave me no respite. It is seriously the HARDEST, MOST HORRIBLE bed I've ever slept in -- in fact, I have to say that I've slept on cement floors that are softer. It was like sleeping on a plank.

Here's the think - this was not the week for a miserable nights sleep. We did this major implementation at a hospital system with 5 hospitals and so everyday, we had to be at the hospital by 7 a.m. and then we weren't out until about 5:30 pm. And then I was on my laptop until forever arranging more and more travel and then I had to climb into this torture rack. AHHH. So here's how horrible it was - I ended up taking the sofa sleeper mattress and putting it on top so it was a little more - well, a little more something.

HOORAY! Tonight is Thursday! Tomorrow is Friday and at 7:05 pm eastern time -- I'M OUTTA HERE!!!!!

I also have to add another, kind of sick, picture. Its a picture that I've found really represents what I've seen in Akron, OH.

We were working down in a store room where they keep their IVs and commodes and such and we're unpacking some boxes and I look over and see the largest commode that I've ever seen and it made me really sad.
I saw so many majorly overweight people while working in the hospitals around Akron. I'm talking like 400 lbs or more. I've never seen so many overweight people in one area.
Akron is this pretty middle America city. Its a little sad in some aspects as you could tell that it used to have some high life but its somewhat run down now and they're trying to build it back up.
The major business here is Goodyear and a few years ago they were actually going to pull out and move and Akron wined and dined them and "gave them the key to the city" and they decided to stay. I think this place would be a ghost town if Goodyear had pulled out completely.
Well - I'm off to my miserable bed to grab a few hours sleep before I'm back up at 5:30 a.m..... Yea for the weekend!
I'll catch up on next week later this week after I download some pictures.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Review II

Here's book number two of the year 2011.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann.

I don't often read about anywhere in Brazil or Africa or places like that, but this one looked very interesting and I decided to break outside of my mold.

This was the story that resulted from a long, lost search in the jungles of the Amazon by a man named Fawcett who was obssessed with the search for El Dorado or, what he called, The Lost City of Z.

It was a pretty sad story due to the fact that John Fawcett was so consumed with beating everyone else to finding this lost city to prove that he was right that he drove his family into bankruptcy, neglected his wife and children and even ended up presumably leading his oldest son and his son's best friend to their death.

David Grann is a journalist who began researching this story and ended up following the same quest himself almost 100 years after Fawcett. It was interesting the way he flashed around between Fawcett's story, other adventurers stories and his own.

It was a true story which made it even better and I always love when they throw some actual pictures in the center so while you're reading, you can flip to the middle of the book and see what the faces and places looked like so you can see it better in your mind. Oh, by the way - the author actually goes in search of finding what happend to John Fawcett who disappeared with his party back at the turn of the century -- but you'll have to read to find out what Mr Grann ended up finding!

So now - I'm anxiously trying to mentally choose what book I should pick from my "new book" pile once I get home! I actually have so many choices! We'll see where I go next!

Cliff Note

I left my chair at Starbucks in search of food and -- I found a very very happy place! I ordered my Chick Fil A and got to my hotel and became a very pleasant person within a few moments of entering my room.

I did get a little sad again when, after eating, I opened my suitcase to get my workout gear out to go down to the treadmill. I discovered that I had left my running clothes on the back of the door at the last hotel I was at :( So sad! It was my favorite running shirt ever and I was just so so sad. I called and I'm hoping that they didn't just throw my stuff so I can pick it up tomorrow when I head back to the airport. I'm trying to tell myself that its just clothes, but I do love them...

I also wanted to post this one picture that I took on my phone. Its a house in Salem, OH. Check out the chimneys as they're totally cool!

Well, I've done some room-work-out, gotten warmed up and finished the book I was reading. I think its almost time for bed. I just wanted everyone to know that I'm in a better place now -- oh -- and I think that maybe the guy that I wanted to take off the cliff with me -- he might have read my blog as when I got to my room, I brought up e-mail and he had written me an apology note. Hmmm.... I guess maybe I send off scary vibes via the internet waves! :)

Please Point Me To The Nearest Cliff....

I'm ready to jump off the proverbial cliff -- if only I could find one. Unfortunately, the downside of being in a rural midwestern area is that you can't seem to find a good cliff when you need one.

My week has gone from blech to B-L-E-C-H resulting in my frantic search for an impending precipice from which to dash myself. I've not located one of any significance so I'm resorting to verbally venting. Its maybe not as drastic, but probably a good deal safer for my own well being (but not for yours! :))

Long and short - everything that has been planned for the week and then replanned for each day has completely been sent down the river (oh, there's a river when you don't want one, but where are the cliffs when you do want one! Curses Mother Nature...!). I've been left with a daybook full of nothing and a gas tank on empty and a head full of hair that smells like a roasted coffee bean from spending full days wedged on an uncomfortable cafe chair at Starbucks. I've now been dealing, since noon, with a customer who wants us to fix a problem that we did not create and is so frustrated with the people who did create it that I feel sorry for him and have been busting my coffee chair butt to help him. I've been led around in circles by a guy who works for company who started manufacturing something for our competitors and so now they don't want to sell that product to me, but they won't directly tell me that so they decieve and, I will say it, lie to me in order to prevent me from getting what I want -- don't think I'm a blonde idiot, man who will remain nameless, but if you happen to get a hold of this blog address -- you know who you are. Let me tell you, Alison Behn is NOT an idiot and I will tell you that I am around a time when I WILL snap if you push me so you better tread carefully dear sir as I'm likely to take you over that cliff with me once I find it! I am on my last communication with him for the day and I'm getting more and more angry with each "oh, I have to go to a meeting now so I can't talk to you" that I get. I'm deciding to pray, talk myself down to a calm place, and walk away from the problem for the day. And then I'll start looking for that cliff again tomorrow! :)

Besides that, I had a very lovely day visiting with an extremely nice director of a department in Salem, OH. We chatted about product and then talked about cars and other things. Its kind of interesting to me that, for some, reason, I end up talking about cars a lot with guys - I don't really know that much about cars, I don't think. I don't even think I initiate the car conversations, but I've had some reps tell me that they like travelling with me because I can hold my own on the car conversation. Anyways - we chatted about the auto industry and future car purchases and had a very pleasant time doing so.

And then I got to go to lunch with my rep who I like very much. Tom and I have worked together for about, holy moley, about 13 years now. I've seen him go through so much of his life including the recent loss of his 32 year old daughter about 2 years ago - she died after a pretty short battle with cancer. It was so sad. Here's the thing I can't even imagine more than that. Its kind of funny, but this medical sales rep actually used to be in the morturary business. He like prepped the bodies and all. I CANNOT imagine going to a family member or friend's funeral when you knew what went on with their body before. But, I guess, maybe that is a good thing that he did know what happened and that she was gone. Crazy to think about.

The second account we worked we just had this really long useless meeting. But, again, nice people!

Here's the thing about this area of OH. Salem and Alliance, OH are in Ohio which is a midwest state. The people are very midwest and the atmosphere is very midwest and nice and relaxed. However, the houses and the landscape are really getting more east. Its much more Pittsburghy this way as it is quite hilly and some of the houses are pretty old and east coast looking. The gravestones that I pass are always dating back to the early 1800s, late 1700s, and not many midwest towns have that.

It was actually interesting today as I drove through some really backroads areas and I saw, what I believed to be, tons of oil drills. Those big arms that go into the ground and pump up and down. I took pictures, but they're on my camera so I need to wait to download them and then you can all give me your opinions - but they definitely look like the drills that are down all over Texas.

If you ever get the chance, Salem is actually a pretty adorable place! The majority of the houses are those HUGE massive old houses. And they're not dilapidated or falling down, they're all fixed up and painted and beautiful. The downtown area has tons of old buidlings with these great little stores and restaurants. Its kind of out of the way, but its cute!

Ok - I'm gettting a headache because I haven't eaten but a grape and a raisin today -- so I better go eat something instead of complaining. I'm losing all of my literary powers and am going to become unintelligable any moment here. Pray that I don't find a cliff on the way to food otherwise it will be a tough decision ... :)

Goodnight from Youngstown/Poland/Boardman, OH area!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Here's another little cutesey idea that I had that I will start implementation on immediately. I get to go to so many beautiful, exotic places that most average people don't have opportunity to visit, places like Omaha, Carson City, Nashua and - don't get too excited - Cleveland! It makes me so sad that many of my beloved friends and family members may never get the chance to be witness to the glory and splendor that is the backbone of America. I suppose I say this with a grin on my face, but actually, some of these places have their little redeeming qualities. Okay, not to say that if one of you were to ask "Alison, if you had one place to go on vacation -- where would it be?" that I would respond with a spark of excitment in my eye and a glimmer of glee and happiness in my voice "Portland -- Maine!" But, at least, if one has to be in Nashua, Omaha or Carson City, or Portland, ME I'd like to at least let you gleen a little bit of benefit from my vast travel experience - which happens to be in all of these lovely towns....

So - I commence with my "dig deep to find the fun" series in CLEVELAND! Ding ding ding ding!!!! We have a winner!

So here's my deal - I was supposed to come in to work with an implemantation at a 7 hospital system here in Cleveland. There were two of us "specialists" (as they like to call the people who know TONS of stuff about one little product) coming in to work on this trial and conversion. It was a package deal, so - I fly in yesterday and I find out that the other specialist who is coming in has a health scare with his wife and so he has to cancel this trip. Unfortunatley, the system we're working with wants that package deal - all of nothing. SO - we're now having to reschedule the whole thing. Thats the joy of my job.

There's another rep that I work with near the Cleveland area that is awesome and always has stuff going on so I gave him a call and he can dredge up a whole day of work for me, but on Thursday. Today is Wednesday.... Today I have to find my own work which I will get to sooner or later :) I have a whole day in Cleveland!

One of the new shows that I've been watching since I actually have access to a tv and cable television as of late is a little silly show on the Food channel called Diners, Drive Ins and Dives with this guy names - Guy. He goes to all these little hole in the wall places around the country based on peoples recommendations and the they have a certain topic that they follow on the show and they cover these places. Its actually kind of cool and you end up sitting there drooling most of the time.

There have a been a couple of places that I've seen as of late in Cleveland. I tried one out yesterday evening when I got in.

My first place was in Lakewood, OH which is a suburb of Cleveland, kind of like Evanston is of Chicago. Lakewood, I've actually frequented before as there was a space of time that I was in Cleveland for many weeks. Lakewood is a really nice town - more upscale definitely, but mixed with upper and middle class. It right on the Lake (Erie that is) and has tons of old houses and shops and just really quaint.

The place that I tried out is called Melt Bar and Grilled. The whole base of it is grilled cheese sandwiches - just wild and out of the ordinary. I've got the link here for the restaurant
and here's the DDD episode

I tried the Parmegeddon that they featured as, since my trip to Poland a few years ago, I must admit that I love the Peroggis! The Parmegeddon is this huge sandwich that has the obvious toasted bread (yum!) and then aged cheddar cheese. Now comes the interesting part - they take two potato and cheese peroggis, cook them and then put them in the sandwich with this vodka saurkraut (I'm not a saurkrat fan and it didn't sit well with me later) and then put them all together and make it into the grilled cheese. In retrospect, I probably would have gotten a different sandwich, but it was definitely good. I think if I did it over again, I'd create my own grilled cheese. The bread was excellent and the cheese as well. I think I'd go back and try it again - just not this time.

Ok - restaurant number two....

This one is called Luckys Cafe. This one is in the city proper (not directly downtown but its in the actual city limits). I put the address into GPS and I must admit that I did get a little frightened the closer I got to the place. It was not the best looking area. But then I drove about a half a mile past scared, and it was pretty normal looking. Its right in the middle of this neighborhood and the buidling is amazingly cute! They have an outdoor seating area that is just plain old fun. You walk in and the place is adorable! They've used they old diner chairs but have dressed them up. All the tables are different but its not a yucky, old or gross feeling place at all. Its just a friendly place that I wanted to stay at all day. The coffee was excellent and the orange juice was fresh squeezed. Here's the restaurant link.

It was a struggle with the menu as I had watch the DDD show (I'm putting that link as well) and they had two dishes that they featured that looked delish, but I had looked at the menu before and I was ready to eat everything. I ended up ordering something that I would never have dreamed I would eat in a million years. In fact, usually, the mere thought of it makes my stomach turn and my lip go up in disgust.

My brother in law would be in 7th heaven, though.... I ordered the biscuits and gravy. The only reason I did is because I saw them make it on the DDD show and I fell in love. These use these cheddar scallion biscuits and the sausage and "gravy" and all is homemade. It was AMAZING!!!!!! If all biscuits and gravy were like this, I'd eat it! Here's the DDD episode link where you can see those amazing biscuits and gravy being made.

The rest of the menu was just delicious as well. I may have to even come back before I leave to try one of the other items. I'm still sitting here enjoying cup after cup of coffee and I know that when I leave, I'm leaving with some their homemade granola. I'm not sure what else I'll have to take with me....

I ended up leaving the restaurant and just walking around the area as I started noticing other little shops. I began talking to one of the shopkeepers and saw a different aspect of the neighborhood. Turns out, its one of those rehab projects where a bunch of people come in and start taking over a "bad" neighborhood in order to change it around. Its about a 3 year old project turns out and there are some great little stores and cute places. The houses are great looking and there were some beautiful old churches. I have a few picts of one of the Lutheran churchs that I'll post later as they're on my camera. I LOVED the area and there were some other cute little restaurants in the area.... although, I think I'd have to come back to Luckys again.

If you're into the downtown scene, there are some great places that way as well. About 10-15 years ago, Cleveland did a revitalization along the river. They took tons of old warehouses and converted them into bars - because thats the smart thing to do when you have a river running through. Now the area is called The Flats and there are tons of trendy bars along either side of the river. They have had problems with people getting drunk, leaving a bar, seeing anothe bar across the river and deciding they can just swim across -- a lot of them usually don't make it. Genius - alcohol and a body of water. Hmmm. Right down the street a few blocks is another area called the Warehouse District that has a ton of upscale, trendy restaurants. BluePointe Grill is one of my favorites.

Here's a quick story from the past. I used to have a friend, we actually met on a flight from Chicago to Cleveland that was really rough and I wound up with nail marks in my hand from this woman I didn't even know. We ended up becoming friends and we hung out whenever I'd come to Cleveland. I lost track of her a few years back as she got really busy with a Homeland Security job. She was actually a prison warden for the supermax prison in Youngstown. I even get to tour the prison once -- creepy.... There were 4 different cell block wings and a surgery wing and all this stuff I got to go into. There was also this medium security "dorm" kind of building outside the supermax prison. She took me in there as well and I actually got to meet all these prisoners. The medium security place was basically open with these bunk beds and a caferia and a common area. My friend had started a program with these medium sec prisoners where they trained seeing eye dogs and so the dogs lived in the prison with them. I have to admit, those guys were pretty nice. Ok - not that I was looking for a boyfriend there or anything, I'm just saying, I think some of them, it was just "misfortune" that put them there. The one guy I remember was a guy who had been a freshman in college in Cleveland. He went down to The Flats with some friends over a Christmas break and he ended up getting drunk. There was a guy who started a fight with the freshman guy - long story short, the drunk freshman hit the other guy and killed him. When I met him in the medium security prison, he had been there for about 5 years and he was serving, I believe 30 years. He was honestly the nicest, most quiet guy, very polite. I guess sometimes you make mistakes in your youth that you end up ruining your life in payment.

Today I was going to hit a running trail by my hotel but got pretty preoccupied with this dumb old cross reference list I've been working on - it goes on forever and I feel like tearing my hair out. I actually hit the exercise room last night and was horrified. The exercise room was not even half the size of a hotel room and the ceiling was even lower than a normal room. I can be a little clausterphobic depending on the circumstances - if I'm stressed or really hot, its multiplied. Put me on a plane in mid summer and then get us out on the runway and put us on a delay and I've honestly had points where I had to close my eyes and talk myself out of running and tearing the door off. So, last night, put me in the tiny work out room and then add 4 guys who ended up drifting in while I was on the treadmill and I started a little panic attack so I ended up walking instead of running because I just couldn't breathe. So, I figured that I would run outside weather permitting. Sadly, it turned out to be about 25 degrees today and all I had was short with me. I went back to the exercise room in the a.m. and thank goodness there wasn't anyone there! Yea. I'll have to try the Parkway thats supposed to be really popular to run next time I'm in town.

Well, tomorrow I'm off for a crazy day in Younstown, Salem and other various small Ohio towns. Friday brings Pittsburgh and then a rush to get back to Cleveland for an evening flight. I think I'm making up for my non work today with tons on Thursday and Friday.