Category Archives: Vivian

Pig Pig and the Phantom

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Over the weekend, we had a special guest at the Johnson house — a stuffed toy pig named Pig Pig from Hannah’s preschool. Every student at Hannah’s preschool gets a turn bringing Pig Pig home and then telling the class what Pig Pig got to do. On Thursday, Pig Pig went with Hannah and Aaron to their friend August’s house to celebrate his second birthday party.

Then on Saturday, Pig Pig came with us for an afternoon at Mahoney State Park. We got to visit the top of an observation tower, have a picnic lunch, and then have some quality play-time on the playground, where Hannah rode a merry-go-round for the first time. On Sunday, Pig Pig came with us to church and then got to have dinner with us at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house that evening (in-between thunderstorms). It was a fun weekend, and Hannah even got to share the pictures daddy took with her class when she gave her oral report.

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I spent Monday evening at Bible Study Fellowship at First Covenant Church, where I’ve been studying Revelation every week for the past year. We had a barbecue to celebrate the end of the year, and I even brought my dad along to meet some of my bible study friends.

Then On Tuesday night, Vivian and I had a long-expected date night in downtown Omaha. We had dinner together at the Panda House, and then we walked down to the Orpheum to see the Phantom of the Opera, a show I’d wanted to see for years (which Vivian got to see 20 years ago in Quebec with her high school choir). I’d gotten the tickets way back in December, so we’ve been looking forward to this for a while. The show was terrific, as I’d expected, but next time I’ll try to spring for seats on the main floor — the upper levels of the Orpheum were built back in a time when people must have been much, much shorter.

The big yellow one’s the sun

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On Friday night, Vivian and I had an impromptu date night as I snagged tickets to see Brian Regan down at the Holland Center. Vivian’s been a fan of his since before I even knew her, so it was a treat to see him live (and with all-new material, of course). Yes, that blurry photo above is actually Brian Regan taking the stage — I actually chose to snap just one blurry photo with my cell phone and actually enjoy the evening with Vivian rather than worry about documenting it. Imagine that!

Before the show, Grammy and Pop-Pop stopped by to dress Hannah up in color colorful springtime attire. Then they made us all pork chops for dinner, letting Hannah help and learn the magic of shake-and-bake. Then on Saturday, Vivian and I had something of an extended date-day together. The West girls from church were spending the day watching Hannah and Aaron so Vivian and I could clean house and then have lunch at the Pizza Shoppe for something of a late lunch.

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In other news, Aaron turned ten months old last week, which we celebrated with some adorable pictures in front of our tulips out front. Springtime seems to be exploding in every directions, with trees at the park and in our yard in full blossom. Hannah got to play with a pile of fallen blossoms on one of our walk-walks, and on another she got to discover the joy of running through a sprinkler. We’ve also been spending extra quality time at the park, giving the kids swing time and cupcakes whenever they’re available. Such are the joys of the season, at least before the scorching heat and humidity of the summer descend upon us.

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Our friend Mark also turned 107 or something, which gave me a great excuse to join him and Phil and Jen at Pana 88 to have Ramen Noodles (not the Instant Noodles you’re thinking of, but something much more edible). It was the perfect place to laugh it up as a perpetual drizzle made the rest of the world cold and gray outside, a precursor to a dumpling party this weekend.

Swine Dining

IMG_0972_2The weather in Nebraska is hardly consistent or predictable, but while parts of the south are struggling to deal with an inch or two of snow, we in Nebraska have been enjoying what little snow we got this season before it vaporizes. On Thursday last week, we finally got Hannah into her snow pants so she could try throwing her first snowball, and we even rolled up a snowman with her to place on the front lawn. We were fresh out of coal and had to make do with some cherry tomatoes and a grape (which Hannah ate). It was good to let her experience some of the joy of snow before spring comes on too quickly.IMG_1028

That evening, Grammy and Papa babysat Hannah as Vivian and I went off to enjoy some Valentine’s Eve together. We dropped by the Claim House in midtown Omaha, where I’d brought a Groupon I had hoped to use for a noontime date with Vivian. Then they stopped serving lunch, so we were left to have a proper date night together. We both ordered the meatloaf, which was what we had for dinner on our first Valentine’s Day seven years earlier. It seemed appropriate.

Afterward, we took a drive up to Ted & Wally’s for ice cream before returning home.

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Vivian and I both had some surprised rolled up our sleeves for V-Day 2014. I kicked it off in the morning by whipping up some heart-shaped red velvet pancakes for a Valentine’s breakfast for us. Hannah especially seemed to like them. Then at lunchtime, I drove all the way home so I could drop off some special Valentine gift baskets for my two special ladies. I had also grabbed some lunch for us, but Vivian had actually driven all the way to my office to surprise me there at the exact same time! We eventually met up at my office, where we got to have a nice lunch at my desk as Hannah watched Winnie the Pooh.

That evening, we all went out to Swine Dining in Bellevue, which is an amazing barbecue “joint,” and though not the most romantic place to eat certainly had some delicious smoke ribs (which Hannah seemed to like as well).

Hannah got to romp in the snow a bit more before it all melted away. On Sunday afternoon, I took her down to the park in her snow pants, and she decided splashing in puddles was better than stomping about in the white stuff. We had some more fun on Monday over lunch as we went to Rockbrook Park to take Hannah sledding for the very first time.

Seven years of good luck

Seven years ago, Vivian and I went out to have sushi with a couple of our friends at Sakura Bana one Friday night in January. I had asked Vivian a week earlier if she wanted to be my girlfriend, and on this particular Friday after dinner, she asked me, “So… you want to make it official?” A year and a day later, I got down on one knee and asked her the same question on bended knee.

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Every year since that fateful night, we’ve been celebrating January 26 as our Sushi Anniversary, having some form of sushi even if it meant going to the seafood buffet at the Rio in Las Vegas. This year, we braved 60 mile-per-hour winds to eat at Matsu Sushi in downtown Omaha, having some delicious bento boxes with sushi and vegetable tempura together. Vivian’s parents were nice enough to watch Hannah for the night, so we spent a little time after dinner being adventurous, trekking out into the long-forgotten corners of Omaha in search of First Street, which turns out was tucked away on a lonely dirt road behind the Zoo. Who knew? We also discovered that the Gene Leahy Mall, always the location of choice for Lindy in the Park, appeared to be all finished with its reconstruction. Maybe once it warms up we’ll be dancing there once again.

In other news, Hannah got some portraits done at JCPenney, so we can now share her cuteness at a professional level. My parents also sold their house in North Carolina and are planning to move back to Omaha in about a month, which is amazing news. That means we’ll have both sets of grandparents living nearby to provide free babysitting visit anytime, which is certainly exciting.

Roaring fires and seven first dates

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T’was the week before Christmas, and the Yule-Tide celebrations continue. We’ve been having annual get-togethers with Jenny and our cluster of mutual friends for a couple years now, and this time around someone had the bright idea of hosting this year’s Christmas party at our house. This worked out great for Vivian and me, because we were able to put Hannah down for bed before anyone arrived and didn’t have to worry about arranging a babysitter before spending a good, long evening with our fun friends.

We had plenty of food and drink on hand for everyone, and we had a White Elephant gift exchange that included such inexplicable gifts as a 1981 dish towel calendar, 90s music CDs, A Christmas Story wristwatch, pregnancy magazines, and a ceramic hippopotamus. We got a lovely fire roaring in the basement downstairs afterward, which made things perfectly cozy for roasting marshmallows and then playing Taboo and a couple hilarious rounds of Telestrations. Vivian won the evening by coming up with a lovely illustration of “Scapula.”

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On Sunday, Vivian and our church’s ensemble Christmas Choir got to perform a medley of songs in front of the church during offertory, which was quite lovely.

Then that evening, we celebrated the seven-year anniversary of my asking Vivian out on our first date. Grandma and Grandpa came to babysit Hannah and take her to church to rehearse for the Christmas Eve pageant, and Vivian and I dropped by Caniglia’s Venice Inn for dinner. We’d visited the lovely little Italian steakhouse (winner of Food Wars’ Omaha steak episode) several times in the past via the Friendship Program Christmas Party, which seems to be held there every year. I’m sad to say we didn’t have nearly enough room for the liver pate, toasted ravioli, mostaccioli, potatoes, and rib-eye steaks we ordered, but we ate just enough to have some nice leftovers for Monday’s lunch. After dinner, we took a trip downtown to get a couple anniversary snapshots on the festively-lit Gene Leahy Mall, and then we dropped by the Old Market Candy Shoppe to pick up a couple pounds of fudge. Our first date had been to the old French Cafe, and immediately afterward we dropped by the little candy store for fudge and have made an annual habit of it ever since.

It’s hard to believe that all took place seven years ago. My, how time flies!

Anniversary Road Trip

Author’s note: this entry is enhanced (along with many others) with “pop-up” photo links. Click any link to see a related photo without leaving this page!

Vivian and I have been married for one year now, so over the weekend we took a four-day anniversary road trip across Nebraska and South Dakota to celebrate!

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We headed off west on I-80 and stopped at Pioneer Village in Minden. For those of you who haven’t visited this attraction, it’s something of a personal museum created by the late Harold Warp, a somewhat eccentric collector and pack rat. His collection includes a genuine steam engine that you can climb up inside, dozens of antique cars, and historic buildings filled with various memorabilia. He even managed to buy the one-room schoolhouse he attended as a child in the early 20th century, leaving such things as the original schoolbooks intact on the shelf from the last day of classes in 1938. If you’re the sentimental type and have a few hours to kill while traveling on I-80, come down and check this out.

Vivian and I continued on our journey to the panhandle, avoiding congested traffic and construction on I-80 by taking the old Lincoln Highway. The scenery was much more interesting along the old road, and there were far fewer cars as we drove along through the tiny whistle stop towns running parallel to the railroad tracks.

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We passed through a brief rain shower in time to see beautiful Lake McConaughy. I never knew such a beautiful body of water existed in Nebraska. As we traveled into the panhandle, we started seeing more evidence against Nebraska being all boring, flat farmland. We spotted Courthouse Rock and Jailhouse Rock from a distance along Highway 26, and then drove up next to Chimney Rock for some photos at sunset. I was surprised at the lack of signs directing us to Chimney Rock. Considering what an iconic symbol it is (it’s on Nebraska’s state quarter after all), I expected there to be at least some kind of sign directing us to the best spot to take a picture. Instead, we followed a lonely dirt road with nobody around for miles to share in the moment. I felt almost sorry for the old monument.

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Vivian and I spent the evening in Scottsbluff and managed to get some more photographic evidence that Nebraska is not made entirely of perfectly flat cornfields. We headed up to Alliance to check out Carhenge, a Nebraska landmark I’d heard about ever since my family moved here in 1995, but we’d never actually made the trek out to the panhandle to check it out. We were surprised to find a number of other amusing pieces of automotive art, including a covered (station) wagon and a large fish.

We continued north across the border into South Dakota and stopped for lunch in Hot Springs. It was a picturesque little town with a beautiful little waterfront that included a waterfall and a fountain of fairly potable spring water.

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We finished off the day by visiting a couple of South Dakota’s most well-known monuments. First was Crazy Horse, which we learned is privately funded and has been under construction for half a century. The original sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski spent half his life just getting started on it, and they only just finished the face some ten years ago. They have Ziółkowski’s original model for the finished monument on display, but Vivian and I aren’t entirely sure it would be finished in our lifetime. It’s still quite an impressive piece of work, and Vivian and I were quite happy to see it under construction.

Next up, of course, was Mount Rushmore. Vivian had never seen the four famous stone faces, and the last time I’d seen them was back in middle school. They’ve done some serious construction since then, and you can now walk up much closer to the mountain, and even follow a walkway underneath. It’s quite a site to look straight up George Washington’s nose.

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We spent the night in Rapid City at the Alex Johnson hotel, a historic old place with interesting Native American symbols used in their lobby decor (obviously predating the Third Reich by at least a couple years). The next morning, we headed off and spent some time at Wall Drug, a tourist attraction well-known for its free ice water widely-distributed billboards. We checked out an animatronic t-rex, rode a Jackalope, and took a couple goofy pictures, then bought some ice cream and souvenirs before hitting the road again.

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I had another surprise stop along I-90 for my wife: the tiny town of Vivian, South Dakota! I discovered this “census designated place” while hunting for attractions on Google Maps and knew we had to stop by. Little did we know Vivian had a town named after her with its own fire department, park, and Lutheran Church! If we were hungry, we could even have stayed for lunch at the Vivian Junction Lounge and Restaurant, but we had to hurry along and settle for sandwiches at Al’s Oasis in Chamberlain.

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Of course, no trip across South Dakota would be complete without a trip to the Mitchell Corn Palace, home of Cornelius the corn cob and a wide variety of corn-related memorabilia. The palace theme this year was “America’s Destinations,” and it was amazing to see what kind of art they could create using a mosaic of multi-colored corn cobs. Our friends know what big fans of corn Vivian and I are, so we had to grab a couple souvenirs before heading on our way.

We spent the evening in Sioux Falls, and celebrated the anniversary of our wedding night with a dinner at Red Lobster. It was the first time we’d had lobster since our New England honeymoon last year. I also gave Vivian the gift I’d made for our “paper anniversary” — a comic depicting events from our first year together!

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Of course, Vivian and I had to stop by Falls Park before leaving Sioux Falls the next day, strolling among the beautiful red rocks and roaring waterfalls before heading South for home. We drove into a series of rainshowers along the way, which made things a little wet and cut short our visit to Ponca State Park. We wrapped up our anniversary trip at Bob’s Bar in Martinsburg, a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a town of barely 100 famous for its giant burgers.

By the time we arrived home on Monday, we’d driven over 1400 miles across two states, but the time passed quickly because we found so much to see and do along the way. It was a great trip, and I never knew we’d have so much fun so close to home. I’ve had a wonderful year with my lovely bride and I’m looking forward to another year together here in Omaha!

Happy Anniversary, Vivian!


Anniversary Road Trip Video

Two years of making it official

IMG_9668.JPGIt’s been two years since Vivian and I became an “official” dating couple, so we decided to have a couple pretty special date nights over the weekend. On Saturday, we went to the Chanticleer theater in Council Bluffs to see a couple friends of ours performing in “Love, Sex, and the IRS.” Omaha Jitterbug board member Andy Meredith played a sneaky bachelor who listed his male roommate Leslie as his wife, and our bible study friend Jolene played Kate, his would-be fiance who is caught in a love triangle with Leslie. It was a very funny production, and it certainly helped to see a couple of our own friends caught up in the plot.
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Monday, January 26, was our Sushi Anniversary, marking two years since Vivian turned to me in the car and asked, “So, do you want to make it official?” after having a sushi dinner at Sakura Bana. This time around we ate at Blue Sushi, a fairly classy sushi restaurant in West Omaha, and we both picked out a variety of Japanese treats to enjoy, including some delicious squid salad. Afterward, we wandered by the 20 Grand theater, where the Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino was still playing. My dad and several other people had recommended the movie, so we thought it was a safe bet, and we weren’t disappointed.

I have to say, the last two years have been nothing short of miraculous. I still probably drive most of my single friends nuts when I act gushy and lovey-dovey with Vivian in public, but we keep growing closer in ways I can’t describe, and I’ve found that I love her more and more with every passing day. The more I get to know her, the more I know God had us both in mind when He created us some 30-or-so years ago. I love you, Vivian! Here’s to two blessed years and many, many more.

Date Night with Improv 88

Since arriving back home from our trip to Kansas City, it’s been a fairly uneventful week for Vivian and me. Last Wednesday, I went to Lincoln to hang out with some of my former co-workers from Land and Sky. It was nice to hang out and have a burger while catching up on what’s happening back there now that I’ve moved to Omaha. Vivian and I dropped by Jitterbugs Night Out for about an hour on Friday and got to hang out a bit at Village in afterward with Lisa, Kevin, and Suzie. The weekend was fairly uneventful, outside of church, watching the Hulk on DVD, and doing a little grocery shopping.

88 ImprovThe highlight for this week was having a “date night” on Tuesday. Vivian and I went up to Benson after work to have tapas and paella at España, and then walked next door to see Improv 88 performing at the PS Collective inside the Pizza Shoppe. They put on a good show, as usual. I’d seen them just once before, back before Vivian and I were even officially dating, so it was nice to see the, again.

In other news, I’ve officially completed my Nanowrimo novel, passing the 50k word mark today during my lunch break. My little piece of literature will require much more editing before it’s fit to be read by the general public. I’m hoping to polish it up soon, however, and try putting together an actual bound-and-printed copy on Lulu.com or some such service. I’ll let you all know if and when it ever becomes available for purchase that way.

Signing the lease

IMG_9252.JPGVivian and I signed the lease on our new two-bedroom apartment last week, so now it’s official: I’m moving up to Omaha! It’s been an insanely busy week as I’ve been packing and digging through years of old stuff in my apartment. I’ve thrown out loads of old comics and magazines, I’ve donated dozens of books to our local library, and I’m still discovering more junk to dig through. It’s going to be a monumental challenge to cram all of this stuff into one new place, especially since we’ve discovered our new home’s utter lack of closet space. It’s all a part of marital bliss, I suppose.

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All this packing up means I’ve had to miss out on a couple fun things in Omaha, such as Eric’s first campfire party and an impromptu barbecue at Hugh’s. However, I couldn’t possibly miss the first Lindy in the Park of 2008! I drove up to the Gene Leahy Mall and enjoyed a couple hours of dancing with a nice big crowd. The weather was perfect for it, too.

Afterwards, Vivian and I dropped by Nebraska Furniture Mart to try out a Land and Sky latex bed. We dropped by the apartment afterwards to unpack a couple things and start filling out the “what’s wrong with this apartment” sheet for the landlords. It seems our previous tenants broke the garbage disposal by stuffing it with a number of foreign objects.

Barbecue on the farm and apartment hunting

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On Thursday this week, my Lincoln Bible Study had a cookout on a farm outside of Waverly where a couple of our members live. We ate hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos together before having a tour of the big place. Jeremy fired up the tractor and pulled us around the grounds, which hosts some kind of tractor and farm implement show every year or so. There was also an old church on the property that we got to look inside. It had been uprooted and hauled down here from Mead some time ago, and it was fun to check the place out and watch Ethan bang away on the old organ.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I toured a couple of apartments in Omaha. We weren’t sold on any of the properties we looked at, since we’re hoping to find a place within our price range that had a washer and dryer hookups and a good elliptical machine in the gym. We headed down to Lincoln afterwards, where Vivian got to attend Becky Moore’s bridal shower, and then I got to watch Rocky Balboa with her afterwards.

On Sunday, we went to church together and then went out to watch Expelled at the Lincoln Grand. I quite liked it, particularly the parts about how hard it can be just to discuss ideas like Intelligent Design in a classroom and keep your job afterwards. We had some lunch afterwards and then returned to my place to look through one of the photo albums my dad sent me last week. I’ll be using some of the pictures in a video for our wedding come July, and Vivian liked looking through my collection of baby pictures.