I feel like it was just early November a second ago, and then I blinked. Bam! It's February. What happened?
The holidays. Taxes. Life.
But just before the days took off at warp speed, My Knight and I traveled to Roanoke, Virginia for our anniversary and to visit our brother and sister-in-law.
On a relaxing, lazy, chilly morning, my brother-in-law took us to charming downtown Roanoke to visit the Roanoke Pinball Museum. I had no idea such a thing even existed. I've later discovered there are many such locations throughout the U.S., all paying homage to an almost obsolete favorite pastime.
At the Roanoke Pinball Museum, you pay one entry fee and then you can play unlimited pinball for the day. Holy Cow! Gone are the days of digging through pockets and car consoles for quarters just to play one more game.
I don't remember the first time I played pinball, but I played it most often during my college years.
Being in the pinball museum surrounded by the flashing lights and old familiar sounds transported me back in time in many ways.
I could clearly remember the rush of releasing the plunger on the first ball. The exhilaration of hitting multi-ball and watching the board go crazy. The panic of trying to coax a ball away from the side alleys. The sinking feeling when the ball comes straight down the middle and into the abyss out of the flippers' reach.
As My Knight and I traveled from machine to machine, rediscovering old favorites and finding delight in those we'd never seen before, it was amazing how much it all came flooding back.
We'd only been there a few minutes when an old familiar sound popped above the constant din of bells and sirens. A loud crack that sounds almost as though the ball has struck the glass. Hearing the sound immediately gave me a little thrill, a little burst of excitement.
"What was that?" My Knight asked, and though it had been probably over 25 years since I heard it, I immediately knew.
"Someone just won a replay," I answered with a grin. Each machine had a threshold of points that would award a replay if you passed it. Back in the day, it was an accomplishment to be proud of. A goal to achieve. A way to enusre you could play again even when you were out of quarters.
It was funny how my body and my mind reacted to the sound and carried me back to the way it felt to hear it years ago. The same thing happened when our game ended and we breathlessly waited to see if we got a "match."
If the last two numbers of your score matched the randomly chosen number at the end of the game, you got to play again without needing a quarter. Watching the match numbers spin still filled me with hope and anticipation, even though we'd paid for the day pass and didn't need to "win" a free game to keep playing.
We even found my favorite all-time machine---The Fun House. I squealed like a kid on Christmas. I couldn't wait to show My Knight my mad skills at making the balls ride the rails and locking in for multi-ball. Unfortunately, the mouth on the Fun House no longer opened and closed, which I am positive contributed to my astounding loss.
In addition to playing on a variety of machines--many so old they didn't have digital numbers and eventually rolled to all zeroes if you scored high enough--we learned quite a bit about the pinball industry through the displays, photos, and video slideshow.
I never knew pinball was outlawed from the 40s to the 70s, and only got reinstated in New York City as late as 1976. Because it was seen as a game of chance and not luck, it was branded as a form of gambling.
Pinball didn't disappear during those years, but it was relocated to speakeasy and seedy bars and largely became associated with mafia activity. The police would often raid the establishment and destroy the pinball machines.
In fact, even after it was legalized, pinball was still seen by many as a corruptor of youth, which explains why so many movies, songs, and TV shows often portrayed the pinball wizard as someone on the margins of society.
Who knew I was being a rebel all those years ago, standing in a convenience store in my tiny hometown, cramming in quarters and craving the distinctive pop of a replay?
I'm beginning to think smartphones may be making us dumber.
My Knight and I made an impromptu decision to head over to the beach to see the Blood Moon rise, and thanks to our smartphones, we were able to Google the predicted times for the moon's rise, the beginning of the eclipse, the moment the eclipse would be at its fullest, and when it would be over.
We also used our smartphones to stay in communication with friends who were meeting us there, to find them once we were all at the beach, and to check out the menu and operating hours of a nearby pizza place.
While we sat talking on the beach and watching the clouds for any glimpse of a spectacular lunar event, we all used our smartphones to read up on the trending topic of the world's imminent demise and to post pictures on Facebook of our lackluster view.
We shot the breeze, enjoyed the breeze, played in the waves and tossed a frisbee until it got too dark to see.
Eventually, we all gave up on the moon and gave in to the clouds. My Knight and I were cruising back home, sunroof open and music blaring when his phone lit up in the console between us. We both glanced at the screen to see "Look at the moon."
Assuming it was our friends from the beach, we immediately began searching the skies. We couldn't see any peek of the moon, though. We looked out every window, and I even raised up out of the sunroof to get a 360 degree view. No moon.
Our excitement and frustration grew. We couldn't imagine how they would be seeing the moon when we were heading the same direction as them along the same timeline, and yet we couldn't see it.
So I picked up his phone to text and ask their exact location.
Which is when I discovered it wasn't from our friends after all. It wasn't even a text.
It was a reminder My Knight had set on the phone a couple of days before so he wouldn't forget to look at the lunar eclipse.
Pretty smart, huh?
Okay, so I'm NOT a morning person. My brain doesn't fire on all cylinders prior to 9am, and if you get me up before daylight, it's like waking the beast.
On a recent quest to find a great airfare deal for a family wedding in Connecticut, I booked a 7am flight. Which meant arriving to the airport around 5:30-5:45. Which meant leaving the house at 5-5:15. Which meant getting up while the clock was still in the 4's. Which is insanity.
We packed the car the night before to minimize the need for early morning brain activity. While I showered and dressed in zombie mode, My Loving Knight took care of the dogs and made breakfast for us. He even had my breakfast waiting in the car for me! We rolled onto airport property at 5:45am. Cutting it close, but enough time that early in the morning.
Somewhere in the fog swirling around my brain, I heard my Knight say, "Did you grab my wallet?"
I panicked in slow motion, staring at him wide-eyed and cursing myself for forgetting his wallet and throwing our whole trip in jeopardy. But then my brain slowly caught up and said, "Wait a minute......"
"Did you ask me to grab your wallet?" He hadn't, but in the early morning hours, he was clinging to a hope that I might have.
He screeched to a halt near the elevator in the garage and told me to go to the ticket desk and get us a later flight and while he returned home for his wallet.
I couldn't think. Couldn't process. Couldn't reason or problem solve. The world was soft-focus slow motion. I got out of the car like he told me to, still not sure what was happening.
The patient man at the JetBlue counter (who has to actually be at work and functioning BEFORE daylight!) explained the next flight to Hartford would be after 4 that afternoon. That wouldn't work. We would lose the entire day and miss out on visiting with our dear friends and my husband's aunt.
I asked if they could get me anywhere in the Tri-State area. Newark, White Plains, NYC. Anywhere within driving distance of our final destination for the day, which was in New York. We settled a 10:20 flight to Newark, which would put us to our friends' house early afternoon instead of late morning. Disappointing, but unavoidable.
My ticket was a simple $50 change fee. My Knight's had been booked with award points. Non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete.
I begged. I pleaded. I may have teared up. Mr. JetBlue made calls. He begged and pleaded. He got results. Another $50 and My Knight's flight was changed.
It still wasn't daylight.
I sat in a waiting area shell-shocked, half-asleep, and still in slow motion. As I rearranged our itinerary in my head, I remembered we had gotten a great deal for a rental car on Priceline. We pre-paid for pick-up in Connecticut. Which brought me to the next non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete obstacle.
No amount of begging and pleading could change the rental car reservation, so I figured we'd just have to eat that cost and book another rental in Newark. With the two $50 change fees and the $100 rental car loss, we were already $200 in the hole. And it WASN'T EVEN DAYLIGHT.
It was worse than I thought, though. The cheapest rental I could find for same-day pick-up, over a weekend, with a drop-off in a different state was $750. Now I was definitely awake.
I went back to the ticket counter, meek and humble, to ask if I could change my tickets AGAIN to the later Hartford flight so I could keep my original rental car. Mr. JetBlue was on break. The not-so-nice lady at the station next to his, (who seemed just as excited as I was to be up so early), called him in the break room and on the phone and cheerfully said, "She's back. She wants to change her tickets again." I could almost hear him groan.
Mine was no problem. Well, it was another $50 change fee on top of the one I'd already paid. My Knight's ticket? No can-do. You can only change a non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete ticket one time. He was flying into Newark no matter what.
I couldn't think. I needed a Diet Coke. And more sleep. Part of me wanted to be furious with My Knight, but I was very aware of the many times that man has shown me mercy, grace, and understanding when I've made stupid mistakes. Plus, there was a bit of a disparity in responsibilities that morning, which could have led to one partner forgetting his wallet while the other partner simply showered and got in the car to find her breakfast waiting for her. Ahem.
In hindsight and daylight, I should have flown to Connecticut on our original flight and picked up our original rental car to drive to wherever My Knight landed. It would have saved time, money, and stress. But I couldn't come up with such an elaborate plan when it was still dark out.
So we landed in Newark. Did a one-day one-way car rental and drove about two hours to Hartford, Connecticut. Picked up the original rental car. Dropped off the one-way rental car. Timing put us in rush hour traffic so getting out of Hartford took FOR-E-VAH. We would have made better time and a whole lot less travel, wear and tear if we'd taken the later Hartford flight to begin with. We probably would have liked each other a whole lot more at the end of the day as well.
We left home BEFORE DAYLIGHT and we reached our destination AFTER DAYLIGHT. Ten hours later than planned.
We got there. Safe and sound.
Forgetting the wallet wasn't fun. But as with all things in life, it's how you react to it. How you look at it. What you take away from it.
I learned that Connecticut is a beautiful state to drive through. When we finally did arrive, we had an incredible dinner with our friends -- good food, good company, lots of love. I got an unexpected view of the Manhattan skyline. Always a treat.
And My Knight and I shared a quaint little lunch together. In Yonkers. Accidental pasta in Yonkers. Life is good.
Today is a rainy, dreary Saturday, so I'm going to turn the clock back to last weekend for this week's Saturday Through My Lens at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa.
I learned about the farm from a flyer I got at the Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City. The olive lady gave it to me while she was convincing me to try her black olive salad, even though I detest black olives. (She challenged me to try it, and I must admit it was delish!)
The Sweetwater Organic Community Farm's Sunday Farmer's Market sounded like the perfect weekend outing for My Knight and me. They feature several area vendors with handmade crafts and yummy things like fresh baked bread and smoothies. And of course there is lots of fresh organic produce.
I've been making a lot of smoothies at home, incorporating different fruits and veggies. I really like adding kale to my smoothies, so we picked up a bunch at the market. One of the market vendors had a smoothie with kale, celery, cucumber, pineapple, honey and ginger. It was so refreshing! I never thought of adding celery before, but I will now.
In addition to the smoothies, we also tried a salt caramel popsicle (heavenly!). We got all adventurous and tried our first nut burger, which was actually very tasty. I've been looking for recipes to recreate one at home.
The farm has members who pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly share of fresh produce and herbs. They also agree to volunteer a minimum number of hours on the farm so that the work is shared among the community.
The weather was perfect for a farmer's market day. It was bright and cheerfully sunny with a bit of a breeze.
It got quite warm as the day wore on, but the majestic oak trees gave us plenty of cool shade for relaxing and listening to the live music from local bands and singers.
Even the sunflowers seemed to be seeking out shade to get a little break from the spring sun.
While other plants seem to be stretching with all their might to soak up as much sun as possible.
I am so thankful for the farmers who put in all the hard work so we can have fresh healthy food. Because Lord knows I do not have a green thumb on either hand!