Category Archives: Lincoln

Wham, Bam, Franklin Graham

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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 swing 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.

Pizza in Lincoln, Circus in Council Bluffs

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The weather has been steadily getting warmer here in Nebraska, making for several days where we can get some quality time outdoors without so much as a coat. On Wednesday last week, the Johnson Family took a road trip to Lincoln for a day nearly identical to the one we had in mid-March last year. I got to do a morning’s worth of freelance work for my old employer at Land and Sky, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun in South Lincoln where they had a ball bouncing around and shooting hoops. Afterward, we all went out to lunch at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th Street. The weather was so nice, we drove up the street for a little play time at Pentzer Park up the street to wear the kids out a bit before heading home.

In other news, Jack and Donna got to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary with us over at the Crab Shack, we all got our fill of seafood before stuffing ourselves even further across the street at the Cheesecake Factory.

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A few days later, the Shrine Circus was in town, so Vivian and Grammy took the kids down to the Mid-America Center to see them. It was Aaron’s first trip to the circus, so I had to be sure to get a picture of him with one of the terrifying clowns. They had tigers jumping through flaming hoops and a dog and pony show, just like our visit a few years ago. They also had some new acrobats, Mr. Springs and Tulga, and a whole team of “jumping people” AKA The Chicago Boyz, who Hannah seemed to like the best. I was able to take a break from work to join the family for a bit during the day, which was nice. Of course, the kids also had to get their own souvenir light sabers from the show, and we had to struggle to keep Aaron from whacking his sister on the head with his.

Holy Name and Homemade Pizza

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It’s been a busy week here in Omaha, with lots of fun involving food (of course). On Monday last week, with temperatures pushing their way into the 90s, the whole family took a trip down to Lincoln. I had some freelance work to attend to, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun for an afternoon of bouncing around. Hannah had been there when she was just one year old, but now she was old enough to visit more exhibits than just the ball put, such as the big ceiling-projected video game in the “dark room.”

For dinner, we drove up to Big Sal’s and gave Hannah and Aaron her first taste of mom and dad’s favorite pizza place in Nebraska. Yes, Aaron got to nibble on bits of black olive and pizza crust, and Hannah managed to finish a whole piece by herself.

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The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, so we got to imbibe in our annual tradition of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and red potatoes. Every store was selling out of corned beef up until March 17, and then the price plummeted to less than $1/pound, so we picked up some that on sale to have a couple reubens down the road (which were, in fact, invented in Omaha. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

No green beer or Bailey’s, however — I’ve given it all up for lent.

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On Friday, we had our second Fish Fry of the year, heading up to Holy Name in north Omaha with a cluster of our fabulous friends. I’d heard about this fish fry from our mutual friend Lisa, primarily being one of the first and biggest fish fries in the area. It was also notorious for having one of the longest lines, which was quite ironic, because when we arrived, there was absolutely no line at all. Seriously, we were able to walk right in, but we stood in the hallway for some time just to get the whole standing-in-line experience. (A crowd outside was hanging around for the same reason, I expect.)

The cafeteria was packed pretty tight, however, steaming hot and filled with the smell of fried fish that stuck to your clothes. The fish itself was hands-down the best I’d had at any fish fry before. We had freshly-battered chunks of pollock that were steaming and delicious the moment they were put on your plate. I washed it down with a can or two of Cheerwine that I smuggled in from outside and a fun night of goofiness fueled by deep-fried goodness.

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Then on Saturday, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday down at my parent’s house. Jonathan had been wanting to relive his childhood, so my dad put out the lawn flamingos and spent the afternoon playing Intellivision and eating homemade pizza for dinner (literally the way mom used to make). Vivian also brought along one of her legendary chocolate cheesecakes.

We brought the kids along, too, of course. They got some time being cute with grandma and grandpa, which included learning the joys of chasing a red dot from a laser pointer all over the house.

Anniversary in Lincoln

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It’s been a relatively quiet couple of weeks for the Johnson Family. Our little boy Aaron turned one month old and seemed to be growing up so fast. Uncle Jonny came down for a brief visit, and Vivian got a snapshot of three generations of Johnson men to mark the occasion. We also had a lovely visit from the Polar Vortex, which sent the temperatures in Omaha down to a lovely 70 degrees for an entire week, giving us the chance to visit the park with Hannah multiple times before it left.

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This last weekend was also our sixth wedding Anniversary, so Vivian and I decided to celebrate with a trip to Lincoln (with the kids — thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) I’d lived in Lincoln for six years but never really got out and saw much of the attractions around town while I was there. Our first trip was to the state capitol, where we rode to the top for some picturesque views and a few obligatory selfies underneath the dome. The Senate wasn’t in session, but we were able to pick out pictures of our State Senator from the gallery down below. (I also tried making off with some marble tile from the courtyard as a souvenir but decided against it.)

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We had a brief lunch at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th Street, and then headed on to the UNL State Museum at Morrill Hall. One of my Comic Genesis friends told me months ago that the Titanoboa was paying the museum a visit, so I made sure to get plenty of photos of myself with that horrifying model snake. There were also plenty of old bones and glowing rocks to check out, and we even dropped into the Planetarium to see a show on the Google Lunar XPRIZE (narrated by Tim “to Infinity and Beyond” Allen).

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After our visit, we dropped by the Sunken Gardens to check out the many flowers in bloom before heading back to Omaha, where we had dinner reservations waiting for us at the 801 Chophouse. We’d had steak there plenty of times before, but this time around we split a lobster in honor of our honeymoon in Maine (which is an anniversary tradition now). Throw in some souffle for dessert, and we were stuffed for the night (not counting Vivian’s special truffles when we got home).

We also exchanged our anniversary gifts. Year Six is the iron anniversary, so I gave Vivian a heart-shaped cake pan, and she gave me a lovely graffiti cocktail shaker .I had also done up a new anniversary comic to celebrate our sixth year — a tradition since our paper anniversary. Every year, I get to remind myself of all the fun things we’ve gotten to do throughout the year and all the milestones that have come and gone. I love you, Vivian! I can’t wait to see what Year Seven has in store for us.

Bonus: Hannah plays “baseball” with a flyswatter as the Blue Angels fly over our backyard.

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.

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.

Springtime birthdays

Spring is finally in the air as a long winter that made Narnia look downright tropical takes a backseat to warmer days. May is also a popular month for birthdays, it seems, as we had a number of them last night at Great Adventures batting around a piñata for Cinco de Mayo.

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I had quite a bit of fun with friends in Lincoln and Omaha over the weekend. On Friday, I went with Vivian to have gizzards for the first time at Popeye’s on Dodge. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them, but they were quite good with honey (and very sticky). At JNO, we had a special jam circle for the graduating class of 2008, so I got a chance to take with a few of the lady seniors in our circle.

Saturday, Vivian and I took a look at a few more apartments. For some reason, the apartments just south of Omaha in the suburb of La Vista all seem to be much nicer and much less expensive that the older apartment in midtown Omaha. We both really like Applewood Pointe, though I was also quite taken by Thomasville. They had some great amenites, including an heated indoor pool and a huge gym, but little things like the large collection of Beer bottles strewn about the property (and some telling reviews online) led me to believe I was in the middle of college party central.

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After our apartment hunting, Vivian and I dropped by the Spaghetti Works in the Old Market to say “happy birthday” to our friend Robin. A bunch of our mutual friends showed up, and we got to stuff ourselves with pasta, salad, and birthday cake while snapping random pictures of each other.

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To work off our carbohydrate binge, we took a nice long walk around Heartland of America park after lunch. Spring was definitely in the air, and we passed by a couple birds who were on the nest. A large male swan (a “cob,” I’ve since learned) was fiercely guarding his mate (a pen), who was sitting on her nest by a stairway in the park. He was hissing at us when we got near, so we had to tiptoe around him carefully. We stumbled upon a nest of Duck eggs on the other side of the pond was well. Trees all over downtown Omaha were in full blossom as well, turning these formerly overgrown twigs into giant allergy inducing wondered. They filled the air with the sweet smell of springtime.

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Back in Lincoln, I got to celebrate a second birthday with my other group of friends from Bible Study. Sarah was celebrating her 24th down at Lee’s Chicken in West Lincoln, so I got to eat even more fried chicken with them. (It was good, but I think I’m pretty much done with chicken and all fried foods in general at this point.) Robyn was busy taking pictures with me, and Sarah got to have cake and ice cream with a sparkler in the center to celebrate her turning another year.

On Sunday, I went out again with the bible study gang to Schlotzsky’s for some more less-than-healthful sandwiches after church. I spent the rest of the day getting a head-start on packing up things in my apartment for the big move I’ll be making before the end of the month. I worked with the windows open, and it felt great to let a little of that fragrant springtime air into my apartment.

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(If anybody would like to help with my big move to Omaha, I’m planning on making my exodus on Saturday, May 24. We’ll have pizza afterwards for anybody willing to lend a hand.)

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.

Weekend in Lincoln (for a change)

I happened to spend most this weekend in Lincoln, which is a change of pace for me, considering how I usually spend all of my available free time hanging out in much cooler cities such as, say, Omaha. I did drop by the Eagle’s Lodge to help set up for JNO on Friday Night. The Street Railway Band was playing, however, and since they were doing nothing but Charleston songs, we called it a night early.

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Saturday was a fun day. I took Nathan down to to Sarah’s Bridal Shop in Lincoln to get fitted for our tuxedos at my wedding this July. It felt good to get that out of the way and eligible for the early bird discount rate. Naturally, I brought my camera along so I could ham it up while Nathan experimented with campy, Batman-style close-ups.

IMG_7655.JPGOn Saturday night, Vivian and I had a double date with Tamra and Andy, two of her co-workers from the Friendship Program. They all drove down to Lincoln and the four of us went to The Green Gateau on 10th street. It was one of the classier places to visit in Lincoln, serving up such things as bisque and brie that made for a romantic, candlelit evening. We got to joke around with each other for around three hours, and we took turns drawing on each other before we finally had to go home.

IMG_7682.JPGOn Sunday, I got to make Vivian bacon and eggs for breakfast, and then the two of us went to church together. The weather was absolutely gorgeous outside, with temperatures around 55 or so, too nice not to go out and enjoy before it either turns bitterly cold with freezing rain once again. We took a nice, long walk along a park path along I-180, taking turns riding down a twisting slide on the playground, much to the amusement of the little boy who was waiting his turn, and “being friendly” by pushing us down ahead of him.

It was one of those nice, long weekends that just sort of drifts by until it’s done, and we didn’t even spend all that much time discussing the you-know-what in July.

Fondue and Swinging at the Pla-Mor

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Vivian and I have had a bunch of mid-week fun this past week. On Tuesday, Bob and Robyn Ireland, a couple old bible study friends of Vivian, hosted a fondue party for a bunch of us. They had a chocolate fondue, two cheese fondues, and a canola oil fondue for cooking beef and chicken on little skewers. It was great fun to dip marshmallows and fruit into chocolate, and my favorite was the white cheese fondue that Vivian made using parmesean cheese and garlic.

On Thursday, the Pla-Mor Ballroom was having its monthly swing dance, and even though it was already November, they were having their costume dance and gave out prizes for the best costumes there. Rob Meyers easily took first place when he showed up in his SpongeBob costume, dancing with as many pretty ladies present as possible throughout the night.