Category Archives: Mike and Bekah

Wham, Bam, Franklin Graham

IMG_1275Aaron waves a flag.

Wednesday was an especially fun day for the Johnson Family as we loaded everyone up into Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s SUV and took a road trip down to Lincoln to see Franklin Graham on the Capitol steps. Franklin Graham, son of revered evangelist Billy Graham, is visiting every U.S. capitol as a part of his Decision America tour to encourage Christians in all fifty states to pray, vote, and run for office. We arrived an hour early and saved a spot for all of us to sit. Then Vivian and I took our kids inside to tour the capitol with them for the first time, which included a trip up to the very top to look down at the crowd below. Vivian and I had visited the capitol twice before in our dating years and again for our sixth anniversary, and it felt special to share the experience with our own kids now.

Back outside, the crowd grew to over 3,200 people as everyone began to wave flags and sing along with the praise team up on the steps. Rev. Graham took the stage shortly after noon to speak to the crowd and led everyone in prayer for the nation’s elected officials, as well as personal forgiveness for the nation and its people. Graham didn’t endorse any specific candidates of course, but he was insistent that everyone get out and vote, even if it means “holding your nose” to vote for the lesser of two candidates. I could only imagine who he might have meant by that.

IMG_1326We saw a couple friends in the crowd once everyone started to disperse, including our old friends Mike and Bekah, who have one more kid since we last saw them over three years ago. We also bumped into Sarah Redfield, who we hadn’t seen since her 80s party back in 2008. She’s now married, lives in Lincoln, and has two kids.

The kids got to stretch their legs a bit as the grandparents went into the Capitol to meet a state senator or two, and then we all went out to eat at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s. We made a serious dent in two giant combo pizzas and then took the scenic route home via Highway 34. (For those interested, Rev. Graham went to eat at the Hog Wild BBQ Pit. I’ll have to try them next time.)

Photo of Aaron at the top comes courtesy of Franklin Graham’s Twitter Team.

Keeping busy in Lincoln

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On Wednesday, I had some business that took me to Lincoln, and I decided to take the family with me to make a day of it. We took a trip up to James Arthur Vineyard since we had Living Social coupon that was about to expire. We used it to sample a couple wines and have some bread, cheese, and sausage together. It was a nice, quiet place in the middle of the day, and I made a note to look into coming back sometime in the summer, when the combination of live music and wine makes for a fun evening.

Before leaving town, we dropped by to visit our old friend Bekah at the Duewling dwelling. Mike was out of town, but we did get to introduce Hannah to Bekah and her four kids (soon to be five). It’s always a thrill to see Hannah interact with other kids close to her own age, and especially nice to let her run around another childproof house with the grown ups catch up over chai tea.

Swinging kids and overdue reunions

Spring is almost here, and it couldn’t have come too soon! The snow is rapidly melting away and turning into slush, and even though winter had one last gasp of a blizzard this week, I can feel the warm sunny days of spring right around the corner.

P1010384.JPGLast Thursday, I dropped by the Apple Store for my weekly Final Cut Express training only to discover the store had been evacuated. The power had gone out, and somebody smelled smoke, so they called the fire department. Three trucks and two ambulances came to rescue, and the store was closed for the rest of the day. It was amusing to see a giant cluster of Apple Store employees taking photos of the scene with their iPhones, and I was able to make a couple jokes about FireWire before heading back to the office.

P1010429.JPGOn Thursday, our mutual friend “Ms. Kouba” invited us and bunch of our jitterbug friends down to Plattsmouth to help put on a swing dance for her students at Plattsmouth Middle School. They’d seen the film “Swing Kids” and wanted to learn how to dance, so Vivian and Eric showed them a few basic steps in East Coast swing. Of course, we also had to show them such things as the donkey kick, and I think Olin got a few of them doing butt spins before the night was over. We danced to “traditional” swing music as well as some hip-hopping club music, which was just as fun. There’s nothing quite as mind-boggling as seeing Dan Wondra doing the Lindy Hop to some hard core techno.

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On Saturday, we stopped by Jolene’s house to help celebrate her birthday with her husband Randy and a bunch of our friends from GAMe. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and we had a lot of catching up to do. For instance, Randy and Jolene are now expecting their first child, so we got to see their first baby pictures in the form of ultrasound images hanging on the fridge. They also have an adorable chinchilla that looked absolutely terrified of all the new people hanging around.

That evening, we attended a couples dinner event in the basement of 1314 Jones street. It was held both married and dating couples involved with Great Adventures, so we got to eat and play a few hilarious rounds of charades before the night was over.

P1010591.JPGOn Sunday, Vivian and I had a long overdue reunion with our old friends Mike and Bekah and their kids. I’ve written about them on this blog before, but I hadn’t seen them since my wedding, where Mike had been a groomsman. They’d had a third child since then named Eden, so we got to meet her and show them some of the photos from our honeymoon and anniversary trip before calling it a night.

Goodbye, Lincoln

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It’s been a exhausting weekend for both Vivian and me, as we both moved out of our apartments completely this weekend and now have a two-bedroom home bursting at the seams with all of our accumulated stuff. It had for both of us to say goodbye to our old apartments. I’ve lived at Fountain Glen for six years now, which apparently is an eternity for an apartment. I’ve had a whole lot of memories of that little place, but hopefully many more in my new home in Omaha.

In the process of moving, I discovered the easiest way in the world to give away large pieces of furniture: forget about Goodwill and post the item on Craig’s List. Goodwill refused to pick up my bed frame because the drawer fronts were coming off, and Vivian couldn’t get them to pick up a perfectly good computer desk in Omaha on a Saturday. I thought both of our things would be headed for the dumpster when I tried Craig’s list. Within minutes of placing an ad for my free bed, I had a dozen or more people calling me wanting to pick up it. It was gone by that afternoon. I did the same with Vivian—I placed an ad close to midnight on Friday, and fifteen minutes later, a guy calls wanting to pick up the desk. Where charity fails, Craig’s List prevails.

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Before moving out, I had to stop by and say goodbye properly to Mike and Bekah, two close friends of mine since about the time I moved here in 2002. I’ve been able to watch their two kids Drew and Alexa growing up, and now they have a third one on the way. We used to see each other all the time, but now it’s going to be a rare occasion as I’ll be living fifty miles away. We spent the evening having dinner, then playing “airplane” on an old car seat outside and drawing with chalk on the driveway.

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On Saturday night, we attended Becky and Gabe’s reception at Chez Hay in downtown Lincoln. Becky’s been an estranged Jitterbug for sometime, and it has been fairly convenient for Vivian to drive down to see both me and her at times for a bridal shower or Mardi Gras party. We’ll hopefully be able to see her again soon, perhaps on a swing night at the Pla-Mor ballroom.

’twas the week before Christmas

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The Christmas season is here in full swing this week, and Vivian and I have had some extra time to catch up with friends and family. On Wednesday, I went out to Old Chicago with Mike and Bekah, friends of mine since I first moved to Lincoln, and we got to eat pizza and watch their cute kids Drew and Alexa clowning around while we waited for our food.

On Friday, Jenny and Hugh, and Sarah and Ben joined us for Chinese Food at King Fong’s, allegedly the oldest Chinese restaurant in Omaha and located in a fairly stylish old building on 16th street. Their decor looks much the same as it did back in the 1920s, though they didn’t take either checks or credit cards, which made it necessary for me to make an emergency hike down to the ATM.

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On Friday night, the Omaha Jitterbugs had their big Christmas dance down at the Eagle’s Lodge. We got live music courtesy of the Prairie Cats, and they called audience members up on stage to help with the percussion a few times. Vivian, Micah, and Sarah got to play some little egg shakers as “Big Daddy K” Jeff Koterba (who you may also know as the editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald) lead the band in some swinging tunes for the rest of us to dance.

Toward the end of the night, we had a spontaneous jam circle, and I got to perform in the middle of it with “Little Debbie.” We did an aerial that we had learned at cowtown, and I was so nervous rushing into the middle of it that I almost didn’t get her over my shoulder. The whole crowd let our a spontaneous “ooooh” as it looked like she might not make it, but I got her up there and marched out of the circle with no need to call an ambulance.

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On Saturday, we had our last Lindy in the Mall of 2007. I did a little extra Christmas shopping in the morning, heading over to the Disney Store at Oak View to get Vivian a plush Tigger. She’d been wanting one all year. We had a late start, giving me a chance to buy Vivian’s roommate Jenny a pocket bible for her purse. Then, we danced a couple hours together. I had the chance to show Debbie’s grandparents the arial I showed everyone at the Eagle’s Lodge on Friday. Afterwards, Vivian and I did a little last-minute Christmas shopping before heading on.

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December 23 is the one-year anniversary of our first date, so Vivian and I went to celebrate down at the restaurant we had first eaten at, the French Cafe. It’s a very classy place, and a couple waiters managed to get off the fire alarm with an elaborate demonstration of how to make Bananas Foster. Viv and I took a chilly walk around the Old Market and the Gene Leahy Mall, snacking on fudge from a little candy shop just as we did on that first date one year ago.

Something Beautiful!

I had just one more surprise for Vivian before the night was over. I had spent the last couple of months putting together a special present for her: a music video showcasing little video clips and highlights of our year together. She has been such a wonderful part of my life over the last year that I just had to put together a few of our best memories into a little video that showed how much she means to me.

(The song is Something Beautiful by the Newsboys.)

Labor Day Weekend

There’s nothing quite like a nice, long labor day weekend to make you appreciate just how much you hate going back to work on Tuesday.

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I saw one movie every day this weekend. On Friday night, I took Vivian out to see the Wizard of Oz at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. They had a big screen set up in their courtyard, complete with a live Jazz band before the show and picnic baskets to make it a cozy dinner-and-a-movie event.

On Saturday, we had a nice long breakfast at Perkins before spending much of the afternoon catching up on freelance work. I had planned to spend this Saturday at home, but thanks to my laptop and a wireless connection at Panera, I was able to get a great deal of work done right around the corner from Viv’s apartment. The evening was spent swimming, reading the bible together, and then driving down to the Dundee Theater for a midnight showing of The Princess Bride, one of Viv’s favorite movies and one I hadn’t seen in its entirety for years. I’d seen bits and pieces on TV at the gym, but hadn’t actually watched the movie from start to finish since I was in elementary school.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I went to church together and then joined the rest of our Jitterbug friends for Lindy in the Park. Somebody forgot to bring the water cooler, so I had to walk up to the Little King and bring back a couple bottles of Aquafina for the gang. After the dance (and a change of clothes), Vivian and I went to see the Transformers movie. It was quite impressive to see the robots in disguise on the big screen, and I was surprisingly happy with the remodeled designs of the characters, but the movie itself was very light on plot and character development and quite heavy on CGI battle scenes. After the movie, we went down to Eric’s place to play the Order of the Stick game until 1 AM. It wouldn’t have lasted so long if we’d spent our time trying to work our way down the dungeon instead of screwing each other throughout the game, but it was all fun nonetheless.

On Monday, I took Vivian to breakfast at Panera and then I spent the afternoon at her parents’ place working on a comic for Legostar and a Cortland comic for that day. After a romantic walk around the shady, tree-lined neighborhood, I headed back to Lincoln to watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my brother. It was easily one of my favorites in the series so far, and it was especially cool to see some of the intense wizard battle sequences at the end. It can hardly believe how much of the original cast is still putting together these movies after all these years. It’s almost endearing to watch Daniel Ratcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson all growing up.

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It’s a short workweek this week, but I’m hanging on tight until the weekend catching up on everything and then some at the office. On Wednesday, I got to have dinner at Mike and Bekah’s place, watching Drew dance around on the floor and Alexa suddenly able to walk and talk for the first time in her life. I also got to chat all about the joys of Inn-n-Out Burger with Mike and their new roomie Daniel, right before he started a drum solo on Drew’s plastic drum and then watched a couple episodes of The Office together.

I still can’t wait for the weekend. I’m missing you, Viv!

Making up for lost time

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Viv and I have been making up for lost time this week, and we’ve been doing things together every day since last Wednesday. We started things off on a date in the Old Market, getting some Mexican food and looking around some of the galleries in the Passageway. Afterwards, we went on a romantic carriage ride through the Old Market and I gave her an emerald I had been saving since the St. Louis Cookout. I was parched and stopped by a Cubby’s for something to drink, and Viv naturally found the cheese section and was immediately taken by such unusual varieties as Red Leicester that one wouldn’t normally find in a gas station / deli.

On Thursday, Viv came down to Lincoln to have dinner with Mike and Bekah, and we got to show them some swing dance moves on the nice, large wooden floor of their new house. They got to try a little east coast swing on their own, but weren’t quite ready for a boogie drop just yet.

Friday was our Jitterbugs’ Night Out, as usual, and we both took a role-reversal class where I got to follow and Viv got to lead, which was certainly interesting. This time, Viv could tell me what I’m doing wrong from a whole new perspective! On Saturday, I came back up for a dinner date to the Dundee Dell and then we caught the midnight showing of The Breakfast Club, which was a great movie from the 80s and especially enjoyable to see on the big screen.

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On Sunday, we went to church together and stopped by Lindy in the Park for another afternoon of dancing together. It was a much better crowd this time around as a countless number old friends seemed to show up, including Liya and multiple Sarahs. Afterward, Viv and I toured the Omaha Arts Festival and checked out some of the many paintings, sculptures, and other things being sold on the streets downtown. It was definitely a fun-filled week, and now I’ll just have one day to recover before heading back up to celebrate our five-month anniversary together!

Another busy weekend in Lincoln and Omaha

I’ve been having so much fun between Lincoln and Omaha these last couple of days that I must be wearing a permanent groove down a certain stretch of I-80. On Thursday, Eric and I had a guy’s night out in Omaha and went to the Dave & Buster’s in Omaha for dinner, and then enjoyed some embarrassing karaoke and arcade games. I had to take the opportunity to make a fool of myself singing Hungry like the Wolf. Eric sent Viv a snapshot of me via his cell phone, and she was able to guess instantly which song I was singing.

On Friday, Viv drove down to Lincoln to visit me at work, and then we hung out with my brother for the afternoon. We ate lunch together and watched The Incredibles, a movie Viv has surprisingly never seen before. Afterwards, she took some time to show Nathan how to swing dance. He was surprisingly very good at it from the start, much better than many of the other beginners I’ve observed at Jitterbugs’ Night Out (myself included). Afterwards, we took a drive in the country and Nathan got some video of Viv and me doing the Lindy Hop in a cow pasture.

Afterwards, we went by Mike and Bekah’s for a cookout on their driveway. We grilled up some hamburgers made with some fresh Nebraska beef and dressed with HP Sauce I brought back from England. I told them all about my trip to England and then showed them some of my pictures afterwards.

I drove Viv back up to Omaha so we could dance for an hour or so at Jitterbugs Night Out, and then we crashed at a Village Inn with some friends, enjoying pie and late night breakfast while looking at some of Dan Wondra’s hilarious caricatures.

The next day, Viv came down to spend the day in Lincoln. We had lunch together and then went by the mall for some clothes shopping. It was very cool to help each other pick out some new outfits to wear next week for Jitterbugs’ Night Out, and I also had some unexpected opportunities to do some “boyfriend” things. Viv found one of those “crane games,” where you pay 50 cents to try to grab a plush Care Bear or something from a large bin. I’d never had any luck with these things before, but when I took a shot at it, I was able to nab her a Wish Bear! We also came across a photo booth on our way out of the mall, so we absolutely had to stop by and get some pictures taken of the two of us in there. I’d always wanted to try out one of these things. We hurried on out of the mall afterwards so we could swing by an Arby’s for a couple Jamocha shakes and then drive up to a spot I’d picked out a few weeks ago to watch the sunset.

Saturday sunset

I spread out a blanket and watched the sunset together as the stars came out. I’d found this spot taking a walk weeks ago and wanted to share it with Viv ever since. It was a very romantic ending to the day! Of course, I had to take Viv over to a Scooters to make sure she had some caffeine before her long drive home.

Vivian visits Lincoln


On Saturday, Vivian drove down to spend the afternoon with me in Lincoln! After a quick lunch at the Green Gateau, I took her for a tour of the Capitol building, but it was unfortunately closed for the day. No wonder it was so easy to find parking. We did manage to get a good look at the statue of Honest Abe out front.

King of the mountain Viv plays Super Mario 3 on Nathan's laptop

On the drive back home, Viv wanted to see where I went to church, so I took her by North Star High School where we’re meeting until we can raise enough money for a more permanent building. The large parking lot had been plowed recently, leaving a few giant mountains of snow in the middle of the lot. I climbed up on one and got to play King of the Mountain for a few minutes.

I took Viv by my brother’s apartment so she could meet him for the first time. We broke out his MacBook and took turns playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on an emulator. All three of us had grown up playing that game, and it brought back some fond memories. It was funny to see how much we each remembered about that game, like where all the secret items were hidden and which levels contained a secret Tanooki Suit.

Vivian meets Mike & Bekah Matt, Viv, and Alexa on the couch

After we were done visiting with Nathan, Viv and I went to have dinner with my old friends Mike and Bekah and their children Drew and Alexa. I also let Drew take a couple pictures of Viv and me with his sister Alexa. Not bad photographic skill for a two-year-old!

In other news the snow from our weekly blizzard is melting, and the forecast calls for above-freezing temperatures all week, which is indeed a blessing. I’m really looking forward to spring.