Looking Back: A Conversation with a WWII POW

On this day four years ago, I was sitting under the hot sun at Omaha Beach in Normandy listening to President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande speak about the importance of liberty and friendship.

Who would have thought I would ever write that sentence—not me!

In 2014, less than a month after I graduated with my Bachelors, I traveled to France with a group of fellow journalism students from Central Connecticut State University to cover the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Looking back, I realized then that it was a tremendous opportunity. Now, four years later, I there is nothing I wouldn’t do to relive those moments.

All of my classmates had their goals for the trip. For one who is deeply connected to history, I knew that my biggest goal was to meet someone who fought 70 years ago on those beaches and share their story.

The first three days of our trip were filled with heavy emotions. I remember standing on a silent Omaha Beach letting the wind whip through my hair as I looked out into the vast ocean. We walked along the innumerable rows of white crosses at the American Cemetery, reading the names and paying our respects to the nearly 10,000 soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

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We visited Pointe du Hoc, the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach.  I walked inside the bunkers, originally under German occupancy before American troops captured the area while scaling the cliffs. I remember looking out into the water from one of the edges of the point and taking in the scenery, wondering how a place so beautiful could host such dark and scary moments in history.

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After the commemoration on June 5, our group stood outside waiting for the buses to bring us back from the beach to our designated location. It was an excruciatingly hot day, and my friends and I went to the shade. We then met Bernie Rader and his grandson, Brad, and we talked while waiting for the bus. We casually asked where they were from, and the grandson replied that he was from Connecticut. A town, in fact, not too far from us.

I could not explain the amount of excitement we felt. I remember my classmates and I immediately went into “journalist” mode and started to ask Bernie questions. As soon as we started the interview, his bus came. Heartbroken, we watched the bus drive away. Throughout the rest of the day, I ached to learn more about Bernie and his experience. His kind face and eagerness to share his story stayed in my mind, and I made it my mission to find the Raders and share Bernie’s story.

Long story short, I found him, and later that summer, I met up with Bernie in Connecticut and we had lunch. It was then that I heard his story and wrote my article for the class.

Please read Bernie’s story and remember those who gave up so much so we could be free today. Also, please read and check out all of the other awesome work my class did that summer!

 

 

 

Reflection: Themes for 2018

Hi all! We are halfway through the new year, and I thought it might be fun to check in and see where I am so far with my “themes” for 2018.

Back in January, I shared my two themes for 2018: Perform and Travel. I noticed that these were two lifestyles that I wanted to incorporate into my life. I spent my entire childhood performing, but I stopped when I got to college. After seeing a beautiful production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” I realized that I wanted to be back on the stage again! Back in August 2017, my husband and I traveled to Montreal, and we realized that we wanted to see more of the world. So, we made it our goal to travel more! Reflecting on my year thus far, I am super proud that I have been making progress in reaching my goals.

When you make goals, it’s a great exercise to reflect and see how far you are coming to reaching them. If you notice that you have a long way to go, you could always modify your goals, or set smaller actionable steps that you can take to get to your predetermined finish line! It’s also a rewarding reflection process: If you are close to reaching your goals, or if you already met them, celebrate! You are awesome and moving in a positive direction!

Let’s go back.

In the start of the new year, I set two goals for “Perform:”

  1. Try out and perform in a public setting for a local community theater
  2. Practice my guitar/singing twice a week and share progress through videos

In April, I auditioned for and landed a solo in a local community theater’s spring cabaret! Not only did I encounter the nerves of auditioning in front of strangers, but I also had the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. It was an exhilarating experience; even though I listened to the recording and had plenty of remarks and criticisms, I had to recognize that it was a big step to get up and do it—and I had so much fun!

And now, I have joined a community theater! A few weeks ago, I tried out to be cast in the theater’s fall production, “Young Frankenstein. ” and I am thrilled to say that I will be a part of it.

So, the second goal: I am still working on that one! For those who do not know, I also go to graduate school. This past semester was incredible because I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant and help teach a 17th-century British literature course! With a full-time job, three classes, and a cabaret to rehearse for, I found myself with little time for leisure! Now that it’s summer, I will be able to focus on practicing guitar. I plan on writing down practice time in my planner and sticking to it so I can meet my goal this year.

I did, however, have some time to play guitar at my sister’s birthday party and even posted a video on my Facebook page! Progress!

Now, let’s turn to my goals for “Travel:”

  1. Travel outside of the country at least once and write about my experiences
  2. Take more spontaneous trips and explore the state and area that I live in and write about my experiences

When I made these goals back in January, I admittedly knew that I would meet one of them right away. In March, Ian and I traveled all around Ireland. We originally planned to do this for our honeymoon but decided to wait another year. Boy, was it worth the wait! If you follow my blog regularly, I’m sure you read about our experiences!

We are working on scheduling smaller trips this summer, and I cannot wait to share our adventures with you! In fact, we just took a road trip to Burlington, Vermont this past weekend. Take a look!

Thank you to all of my followers for reading and keeping it “kassual.” What are your goals for this year or overall life goals? Feel free to share them in the comments!

 

A weekend getaway|Burlington, VT

This weekend, we took a road trip with our friends to one of our favorite spots, Burlington, Vermont. We always seem to visit Burlington when it rains or when it is cold, but it is still a fun town with lots to do and see (and eat!). We had a great day!

Ian and I first visited Burlington in November of 2015. We had a great weekend exploring the city, eating comfort food and trying out craft beers. Though we did find some sunshine on a bike ride, this was my usual look:

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This time, it was a lot warmer and we were able to stick to a couple of layers and be a little more comfortable. I wanted to share a few photos of our day!

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We walked up and down Church Street exploring the shops and stopping at a few places for some snacks: Champlain Chocolatier for some fudge and hot cocoa is definitely a must! This street is filled with character: musicians, kiosks, and all types of restaurants from a quick bite to a sit-down meal.

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We stopped into one of my favorite bookstores: Crow Bookshop. It’s filled with new and used books.

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And of course, we made sure to walk down to the waterfront and enjoy the beauty of Lake Champlain.

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I hope you enjoyed a small glimpse into my weekend. Have you been to Burlington? What are some of your favorite spots?

Check-In to Airbnb

Here is a guest blog post by my husband, Ian, about our experience with Airbnb!

We have now used Airbnb for two trips which officially qualifies us to have an opinion. We have received many questions about this service. While we were a bit hesitant at first and were still hesitant after just an OK, first-time experience, we have grown to love it!

We encourage each of you to consider it for your next trip! Even better, go on there without a trip in mind and see what you discover!

These are the 3 most common questions we receive about Airbnb:

Q: Why would you use an Airbnb?

A: There is one fantastic reason to use Airbnb: price. For the same price as a motel where you might catch something viral, you can stay in a two-bedroom in a trendy new Boston suburb next to a cafe bistro that was featured on the Food Network. While camping is probably the ultimate option for cheap travel, I prefer to do my camping indoors….with soap….and without the fear of bears.

Just as a reference, our trip to Ireland cost less than $700 in lodging for 8 nights.

Q: Do your hosts talk to you?

A: Yes. And that is okay! A big part of Airbnb is the communication between the host and guest. In fact, you are both rated on it.

As for in-person communication, that depends entirely on your stay. The reality is that if you are using Airbnb, then you and your host share a yin for this type of social interaction. We have stayed in four places. Once we never met our host, once we met a friend who showed us in, and twice we met and conversed daily with our hosts. Each experience worked for us.

At our Airbnb in Kenmare, we met Flor, a multi-generational dairy farmer in Ireland. In Fanore, we met John, a widower who found a new purpose in life providing rental opportunities to people to see his corner of the world. We have been empowered through our experiences to see and hear about a new part of the world. The stories of our hosts truly enhanced our visit.

Take time to read the guest book of each Airbnb. You never know who stayed before you, their stories, or where they are from! It’s a cosmic experience.

Q: Is it clean?

A: I have yet to see an Airbnb as spotless as a hotel, but an Airbnb feels lived in. It is cozier and personal than a hotel so don’t let a few dusty corners deter you. Also, most come with a cleaning fee which is just proof for the nonbeliever that the homes are in fact cleaned.

Look around your house right now. Not every nook is spotless, yet you feel comfortable and at home. For reference, I walked around with no socks on at 3 of our 4 Airbnbs and I am usually in my crocs or socks in my own home! If I felt comfortable to go barefoot, then you can go for it and experience a new home away from home!

 

A few last tips:

  1. When you do your search, be specific with your filter. For us, every search starts with “Free parking on premises” (unless we are not driving) and “Wi-fi” because even in 2018 you’d be surprised who doesn’t offer Wi-fi.
  2. Read the reviews. Pictures can be deceiving, so make sure you read why people did or did not enjoy their stay. Try your best to be objective too. Just because SCIFIGUY78 thinks the breakfast place next door made runny eggs doesn’t mean you should look elsewhere…but if he says the bed is uncomfortable and that’s the third time you’ve seen that then maybe it’s a review worth respecting.
  3. Be exotic. Airbnb has opened our minds to new places and opportunities. We found a place in the XVI Arrondissement in Paris for less than $100 a night. Now we are planning a trip around it! Hotels cost at least twice that. You never know where your next destination might take you.
  4. Trust in humanity. The people who rent an Airbnb are nice and mean well. It is their business to give you an enjoyable home. Enjoy your stay and take advantage of their knowledge of the area. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn.

 

Bonus Material: I am into the NPR podcast How I Built This and one episode is about Airbnb. Listen to host Joe Gebbia talk about his entrepreneurship: https://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=497820565:497945288

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 Note: The image for this blog post is from one of our Airbnbs in Kenmare, Ireland. Look at that view!