Time Out For Digging Out Newsletter

Dreaming Big

September 2008

I’m too old for rock concerts, I thought to myself as I led the way through the crowded corridor of the Allstate Arena for the 2008 American Idols Live concert.

I’m also too cheap, I added after seeing the prices for snacks and souvenirs.

The only thing worse than paying twenty-five dollars for a program—which I didn’t—was sitting through a three-hour scream-fest as David Archuleta, Kristy Lee Cook and the rest of the Top Ten finalists took the stage.

Why do I put myself through this? I asked as I leaned away from the earsplitting squeals coming from the tween girls on my left and glanced at Bill to find that he, too, was wondering what he had gotten himself into.

It was a question I'd been asking myself for years. The first time I remember answering it, the girls and I were tagging along with Bill on a business trip to New York City. Katie was six, Hollie was four, and I had two tired daughters when we arrived at our hotel. A missed flight out of Omaha, a two-hour weather delay on the runway after changing planes at the Minneapolis airport, and late-night construction in the Holland Tunnel left us harried and hungry as we entered the lobby at 1:30 a.m.

“You’re in luck,” the front desk clerk announced. “I have one room left.”

“We have a guaranteed reservation,” I replied, naively thinking that this meant we were guaranteed a room.

“Hotels overbook on busy nights because we know that some people will cancel,” she explained.

After making a mental note to never arrive at a hotel after midnight, I followed the bellman to the room we would be staying in for the next five days.

“This is it,” the employee announced as he stopped pushing the luggage cart and waited for Bill to use his key.

My husband inserted the card and opened the door just enough . . . to find that it was locked from the inside.

“How can the chain lock be in use?” I asked.

“The people who were staying in this room must not have checked out like they were supposed to,” the bellman guessed.

“Now what?”

“We can’t make someone leave once they’re in a room.”

“But we have a reservation,” I pleaded.

The bellman said nothing as he turned and led the way back to the elevator.

“Their room was occupied,” he announced after we reappeared in the lobby.

The front desk clerk looked mortified as she wondered what to do with this family from Nebraska who had no place to sleep.

Bill and I comforted the girls as the desk clerks on duty tried to find us a place to stay. They looked silly with a receiver held up to each ear but I was in no mood to laugh when they stopped making calls at 3 a.m. to announce that every hotel in downtown Manhattan was full.

“You can’t leave us in your lobby,” I said.

“What if we find a hotel in midtown and have a taxi take you?”

Although I didn't like the thought of Bill having to get up after just a few hours of sleep to drive back downtown for work, and me having to follow with the girls and our luggage later that afternoon, with no other options I reluctantly agreed.

To the typical traveler, being served warm cookies and milk at a Four Seasons hotel room that overlooked Central Park sounds like a good thing. To our family (who was too tired to enjoy the view) it was a weak substitute for having to miss dinner the night before. Knowing that the downtown hotel was picking up our $400 room charge was little consolation as we crawled into bed at 4:30 a.m. and went to sleep.

A Video For You

Select the following link to listen to the farewell lecture that Randy Pausch gave at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Last Lecture

A Time Management Tip Or Two

After Randy Pausch was diagnosed with cancer, he became an expert on what to do with limited time. Select the link below to hear Pausch share his expertise with students at the University of Virginia.

Randy Pausch on Time Management

Added To The Archives

For those who can't imagine anything else going wrong in one family vacation, click on the link below to read about what happened on our flight home from New York City.

A Key Mistake

A Verse To Heed

“A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul”

 (Proverbs 13:9a)

A Book To Read

This book is a very easy read that inspires parents to share a little bit of who they are with their children.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Click on the image above to view a description of this book.


Bill was gone when I awoke to find the sun shining through our window. Before I had a chance to feel sorry for him, my youngest woke up with a fever and the sudden urge to throw up. What I didn't know as I held Hollie over the sink was that changes in air pressure while flying the day before had brought on an ear infection. That information would come two days later during a New York City emergency room. For now, I could only address her symptoms as I left our luggage in the hotel’s baggage claim area and loaded the girls into the stroller for a trip to a local pharmacy.

“Will that be everything?” the cashier asked after I placed a box of Motrin on the counter.


“I need to see your driver’s license,” he announced when I handed him a credit card.

“Visa and Mastercard require that cards be treated like cash,” I informed him. “I work for a merchant processor and you could lose your ability to accept both if you continue to ask for an ID.”

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” the cashier spewed. “Not you. Not a credit card company. Not anyone.”

Flabbergasted and a little frightened by the man’s reaction, I said the only thing that came to mind.

“What about God?”

“I'm not afraid of anybody, especially God,” he replied with a defiant look that dared me to say more.

Feeling like an alien in a strange land, I gave Hollie a dose of the ibuprofen and headed for the door. It was too early to head downtown so I decided to make the most of where we were by pushing the girls toward the Toys R Us on Times Square. The world's largest toy store was exactly what we needed as we checked out the animated T-Rex and rode the giant ferris wheel. We were having so much fun that I didn’t notice the rain until it was time to retrieve our luggage and meet Bill downtown.

Now what am I going to do? I wondered after learning that taxis are hard to flag down on a normal day and impossible to field when it’s pouring.

I tried moving from awning to awning but the rain was coming down too hard and the canopy on the stroller wasn’t large enough to cover both girls. In desperation, I paid a rickshaw driver to pedal me, my daughters, and our large stroller back to the hotel. I felt sorry for the man as he strained under the weight of his unusually heavy load. Not sorry enough to walk. Just sorry.

When the driver dropped us off at the Four Seasons, I handed my claim check to the employee on duty and waited for our luggage to appear. Thirty minutes later, I was still waiting.

“Are you sure you stayed here?” the attendant asked.

“I know it was a Four Seasons,” I assured him.

“Maybe you stayed at the old Four Seasons,” he guessed.

“There are two?”

“Yes, the Pierre is also owned by Four Seasons. It's two blocks west and four blocks north on 5th Avenue.”

In my haste to get Hollie’s medicine that morning, I neglected to pay attention to my surroundings; and because both hotels used similar baggage claim checks, it took a while to solve the problem. Thankfully, by then the rain had let up enough to allow us to walk to the correct hotel, retrieve our luggage, and flag down a taxi.

I said a prayer of thanks as I slid into the back seat. With time to think as the driver maneuvered through rush hour traffic, I reflected on all we’d been through and wondered if it was worth the effort.

I could have left the girls at home with friends, or had Bill go on the trip without us, I said to myself.

I could have—but I didn’t. I didn’t because all I could think about during my first trip to New York City the year before was how much I wanted to share it with my daughters. Katie has wanted to be behind the camera since age three and Hollie loves to perform in front of it. How could I pass up this opportunity to visit the theatre district and show them what they had the potential to become?

I was still asking myself this question the next morning when I loaded the girls into the stroller and set out to purchase discounted tickets for a Broadway show. After getting lost several times, I arrived at a half-price ticket stand and took my place in the line that had formed outside.

“I’m hot,” Katie complained.

“I know,” I admitted while trying to shield her face from the blazing sun.

Thirty minutes later, it was finally my turn to step up to the window.

“What show is okay for children to see?” I asked.

Wonderful Town is for all ages.”

“I’ll take four tickets to tonight’s performance,” I announced as I slid a credit card in his direction.

“We only accept cash and traveler’s checks,” the man in the booth explained.

“I don’t have enough of either,” I replied.

With time running out before tickets were gone, I had reached a dead end—or a brick wall as author Randy Pausch would have put it. In his book, The Last Lecture, the terminally ill college professor who inspired millions through his farewell lecture had this to say about obstacles: “Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”[i]

I wanted this for my daughters—enough to say a prayer, find an ATM, and learn how to use one of my credit cards as a debit card. Then, with dollars in hand and hungry girls in the stroller, I raced back to the ticket booth … to wait in line again.

“I don’t have four seats together,” the employee announced after I approached the window.

“What do you have?”

“I can sell you two sets of two.”

“I’ll take them.”

Six hours later, we taxied to the theatre district with tickets in hand. After a delicious meal to celebrate the girls’ first Broadway show (and my thirty-fifth birthday which was also that day), we walked the short distance to the theatre and found our seats.

Hollie sat with Bill near the stage and I sat farther back with Katie. This turned out to be a problem when Hollie began crying for me and Bill had to carry her out of the performance. Eventually, she calmed down enough for Bill to bring her to where I was sitting. In one quick motion, he scooped Katie up and plopped Hollie into the seat next to mine. It was stressful to make the switch but I was happy to have my youngest beside me when one of the lead actresses sang an amazing solo that prompted me to lean down and whisper: “That could be you one day.”

With those six words, all the work that it took to get there became worth it as Hollie straightened up in her chair and gave the woman on stage her full attention. I watched in awe as this little girl who barely met the minimum age requirement to attend a Broadway show, was picturing herself on stage.

Looking back on that moment, I have to wonder what the world would be like if all of us saw our potential and worked to achieve it. Would we find our own version of Broadway and inspire others to do the same?

David Cook found his version of Broadway when he became the next American Idol in may of 2008. His performance of "Dream Big" inspired millions during the season finale. I was hoping that David would perform this song when he took center stage at the Allstate Arena, and I put the zoom lens on my camera to capture the moment.

After snapping a few photos, I felt a spiritual nudge to hand Katie the camera. Although I was nervous about letting her use such an expensive piece of equipment, I set aside my fears to fuel her passion for being behind the lens.

Katie didn’t take the best photos as she zoomed in on the big screen rather than the American Idol himself, but I didn’t mind because I knew that she was becoming the best version of herself by trying. If Randy Pausch had been well enough to attend this performance, he would have agreed.

“There’s a lot of talk these days about giving children self-esteem.” Randy wrote on page 37 of The Last Lecture. “It’s not something you can give; it’s something they have to build … You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process.”

I want my daughters to have this kind of confidence. The kind that enables them to step outside their comfort zone and work to create a new one. If it requires stepping outside of mine to take them on a trip or to a concert, then I'll gladly make the effort. Only when we do, not what's easiest for us, but what's best for our children can we help them reach their God-given potential; and show that anything is possible—if you dream big.

Quotes to Grow On

“a lot of parents don’t realize the power of their words.”

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture, p. 198

“As I see it, a parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams.”

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture, pp. 197-198

[i] Randy Prausch, The Last Lecture, p. 79