What Does Christmas Mean to You?


When the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, everyone views this time from different windows.

Some are angry, some sad, some happy, some joyous, some frazzled, some are mean to others, and some just want it to all be over so “real life” can carry on.

There are in-laws, outlaws, family dynamics that are complicated, some families not so complicated, and some just are.

There are precious children waiting with bated breath for Christmas morning and all the fun and excitement and presents that Santa (dad/mom/family) will bring.

There are children whose only wish is food. Or shoes. Or a loving family that will care for them and love them.

There are people living through the happiest days of their lives, there are folks in transition, and some have just experienced a great tragedy or are fighting for someone or something, and Christmas, while on their mind, isn’t about material possessions and the trappings of a holiday commercial…it’s about the real meaning of Christmas.

So. What IS the real meaning of Christmas?

If you asked 100 people, you would get 100 different answers. The child inside of each of us would agree those 100 different answers probably mean the same thing.

Here’s What Christmas Means to Me:

  • The Christ Child’s Greatest Gift
  • Life’s Big Picture
  • Happy children’s faces
  • Beautiful music
  • Love
  • Magic
  • Fun
  • Time
  • Hope
  • Prayer
  • The smile on your pet
  • Kindness
  • Divine miracles
  • Remembering those who need help
  • And so much more.


For those who’ve made certain choices in life and reside in a prison or correctional facility, Christmas may be a time of reflection, regret, and isolation.

Unless we personally know someone in this situation during the holidays, we don’t see those faces staring at us through the glass on a phone or sitting across from us at a table for a brief period of time.

They have the stark reminder that Christmas is about sharing your life with others and having community and fellowship with those you love.

They have brief moments of hope they cling to so they can get through another day, and focus on reentering society someday – a society they know may or may not welcome them.

For this reason, the organization called Puppies Behind Bars was founded:

An inmate applies to raise a Service Dog. If approved, they are with the dog 24/7. They train them, care for them, feed them, sleep with them, and teach their Service Dogs to help those on the outside to have better lives–typically our military service members, the elderly, the handicapped, and children who suffer from permanent and sometimes fatal diseases.

Once the dog is fully trained, the inmate must release the dog to its (new) owner. Imagine the heartbreak of that inmate who’s embraced a dog for a year or more of its life, only to know there will be a day they will have to say say goodbye.

These profound people contribute to our society in a quiet way, yet they also are taught the lesson of unconditional love–something many of them have never, ever felt in their lives. Ever. They then have the pride in knowing they’ve helped another human being have a great life – – no matter what they have done in their own lives.

It’s a powerful concept. One we should embrace. To learn more, please go to their website at http://www.PuppiesBehindBars.com and watch their videos and learn more about them.

What’s the true meaning of Christmas?

I can’t think of a better example than this:


Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I wish you health, happiness, and joy in 2015.


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Inconvenient Truths by an Outmanned Mommy


kids next to and in suitcase

The joys of packing with children (this is the 7th attempt)
Photo: Mary Widdicks, All Rights Reserved


I first met Mary Widdicks through her blog titled: “OutmannedMommy.” Other than the clever name of her blog, her byline was: “When fart jokes and belching contests just aren’t enough.” Hilarious! It made me laugh out loud. Some of us may not want to admit it to the general public, but we’ve all lived it, whether we tell anyone or not.  I admire Mary’s frankness and her great sense of humor. I’m guessing you will, too. Enjoy! Deborah

By Mary Widdicks

When traveling, everyone has to go to the bathroom. Sometimes at the MOST inopportune times.

When traveling with small children, however, it’s an unavoidable, unpleasant, inconvenient, and sometimes quite spectacular reality! To them, it resembles more of a pyrotechnic show than a bodily function. The best you can hope for is damage control.

Every parent who’s traveled with a child has stories that would curl your toes and make your hair stand up on end. They’re like notches on our belt. We show off our battle scars and compare them with other parents. We revel in our membership cards in the Mile High Parenting Club. At the end of the day, you just have to laugh so you don’t cry.

Instead of advice, I offer you comradery. Take comfort in the fact that I’ve been through the worst of it, come out the other side, and lived to travel again. Most of all, have a laugh at my expense. Trust me, it’ll make you feel better.

passport pictures
Necessities (no, I don’t mean the passports)

Photo: Mary Widdicks, All Rights Reserved

When my oldest son was six months old, we bravely took him on an international flight from the UK to the US. It was going to mean nine hours in the air. I’m still not sure what we were thinking. In a desperate attempt to feel prepared for the almost certain disaster on which we were about to embark, I asked everyone I knew for advice on flying with infants. One piece of advice that came up several times was:

Avoid the airport bathroom changing tables

It made sense to me.

This was my first flight since my son was born and I was very conscious of being seen as a good mom. I wanted to be cool, calm and collected: the three C’s of successful parenting.I didn’t yet have years of tantrums, food fights, explosive poops, bruises, and various diseases to teach me that parenting is more about survival than perfection.  I still washed my hands every time I went to the restroom.

When the flight attendants called for advanced boarding, I quickly whipped out my changing mat. This was as good a place as any to change a diaper. The gate wasn’t too crowded. There were plenty of empty seats to serve as changing tables. So I laid my baby on one of the seats with his head toward the back of the seat and his legs sticking out toward me. The other passengers noted my clever display of child-traveling savvy with mild interest.

As if he knew everyone was watching, the second I released the tabs on his diaper my adorable little baby let out a thundering fart and turned bright red. Anyone who has spent much time with a baby knows that this can mean only one thing: Code Brown (or Yellow).

kid runing with medal - kid wins 1 mommy 0
Heh, heh, heh…I WIN!

Photo: Mary Widdicks, All Rights Reserved

I turned, just for a second, to dig the wipes out of my diaper bag. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pair of chubby legs kicking wildly as my baby began to slide backwards, and headfirst through the gap in the back of the seat. Horrors! Time stood still. I could hear the collective “GASP!” from everyone around me as I grabbed him by one of his legs and pulled him unceremoniously back through the opening millimeters before his head hit the floor.

To add insult to injury, the contents from the now loosely-fitting diaper had spread across his little back.  As I pulled him back onto the seat, I realized it was now smeared all over the back of the chair! Absolutely mortified,  I looked up at the crowd. The shock had worn off and most of them were now pretending not to have noticed.

But I could feel the back of their heads judging me. I was no longer any of the C’s.

Fair enough.


Great family photo outmanned mommy


I can’t promise that reading this story will improve your experiences of traveling with children. But no matter what befalls you, remember that it could always be worse and someday it will make for a great story! (And remember to wipe down those airplane waiting area seats…)

I’m a 30-year-old mother of two boys, two dogs, and an ever-changing number of gender-indiscriminate fish. My husband calls me Honey, the three year old calls me Mommy, the baby calls me Milk, the dogs call me their Indentured Servant, and I’m pretty sure the fish have no idea who I am at all. I’m definitely outmanned. Coincidentally, I’m also the writer of the humorous parenting blog:

Outmanned Mommy (LINK: www.outmannedmommy.com)

Stop by and drop me a note!

[Unless otherwise noted, the text and pictures in this blog post are the intellectual property of Mary Widdicks and/or Outmanned Mommy. Please contact her directly for questions at www.OutmannedMommy.com.  Thanks!]

Plane Liberace

Liberace, Pensacola Airport, Circa 1960s FRANK HARDY PHOTO

Liberace, Pensacola Airport, Circa 1950s


Nothing was “plain” about Liberace!

Today we have the honor of an article written about Liberace along with archived airplane photos from Frank Hardy, our guest author, and owner of the blog titled Frank Hardy Made My Photographs Two: CLICK HERE*

Frank has some great airport and airplane history through his father’s black and white photos.  Please make an effort to stop by his website and say “hi.” AirportsMadeSimple would like to shout out a hearty “THANK YOU!!!” to Frank for putting this together. Cheers, D

Liberace with young lady FRANK HARDY PHOTO

Liberace with young lady, Circa 1950s

Hi! My name is Frank Hardy, and I hope you enjoy my father’s archived photos of Liberace taken at the Pensacola International Airport (formerly Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport).

Everyone’s heard of Liberace, the great musician.  One thing you may not know is that he regularly flew to Pensacola, Florida to purchase Louis XIV-style furniture from a lady named Ada Wilson.

Typically, during the 1950s and 1960s, the most frequent airlines at Pensacola International Airport were Eastern Air Lines and National Airlines. (Do you know the types of airplanes shown in these pictures?)

My father loved photography, and he also loved music.  I remember the background stories for these pictures like it was yesterday.

For instance, once, in the 1930s, my father watched Liberace play at a hotel in Chicago (the legendary Palmer House). You see, my father’s brother was getting married, and the night Liberace played in that hotel lobby was the same night of my brother’s rehearsal dinner in that hotel! Perfect timing. Liberace gave a stellar performance like only Liberace could–on the cusp of his superstardom.  It was a night my father never forgot.

Twenty years later, my father photographed Liberace at the Pensacola International Airport, and struck up a conversation with him about those early days in Chicago at the Palmer House. Liberace was thrilled! They spoke for over an hour about his music career, and how those early days really helped his career take off. 

Liberace and stewardess in background, Circa 1960s

Liberace and stewardess in background, Circa late 1950s-early 1960s

I hope you enjoy these photos.
Liberace was not a man to be forgotten.
And neither was my father.


Frank Hardy bio pic

About Frank Hardy:

Frank’s a second generation professional photographer living in Milton, Florida (across the bay from Pensacola).  He attended the University of West Florida and graduated on March 17, 1977–moving immediately into professional photography on March 18, 1977.

A quote: “I thought I would give it five years or so and then move onto something else, but 37 years later I’m still working in the business of photography…I went digital in 2002,  and I’ve really enjoyed working with the transition of the entire digital process.  I consider myself a portrait photographer (since I feel I’m a people person), but I’ve photographed anything and everything.”

Drop him a note at his website: CLICK HERE!

He’d love to hear from you.

*All photos and text written in this post are the intellectual property of Frank Hardy. Please contact him for further information by clicking HERE.

Airline Ticket Taxes: Where’s Your Money Going?

Cash, 2014
Above picture credit: Photo taken at home of author.
I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States.
The only thing is—I could be just as proud for half the money.
–Arthur Godfrey
When you buy an airline ticket, you pay surcharges (for fuel, etc…), fees (baggage fees, extra bag and heavy weighted bag fees, even ticket fees), but not much is said about the taxes you pay. 
Maybe we’re just used to it? 
In the United States, the published selling price and the actual selling price of an airline ticket are two very different things (The published selling price is the base fare + taxes = actual selling price.).
This is nothing new, but do you know where your money is going?

Airline ticket taxes passed along to you:

U.S. Transportation Taxes: At the time of this posting, this tax is a certain percentage of the base fares within the United States – typically about 7.5%. In 2014, the tax under § 4261(b)(1) on the amount paid for each domestic segment of taxable air transportation is $4.00, and the tax under § 4261(c)(1) on any amount paid (whether within or without the United States) for any international air transportation.

If the transportation begins or ends in the United States, generally it’s $17.50. Under § 4261(c)(3), however, a lower amount applies under § 4261(c)(1) to a domestic  segment beginning or ending in Alaska or Hawaii, and the tax applies only to departures. For calendar year 2014, the rate is approximately $8.70.

Passenger Facility Charges (“PFCs“): These charges are an additional tax the federal government allows a certain airport to charge passengers so that the airport can subsidize airport expansions and update airport facilities. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Segment Taxes: A segment tax is a federal tax that applies for a departure from the airport at the beginning of a flight segment. These taxes don’t apply to selected rural airports. The amount charged is approximately $3.40 and up.

U.S. Security Service Fees:  This fee was imposed on airline passengers in response to 9/11 to support higher security throughout airports, and support the TSA.  This fee used to be $2.50 per trip; however, recent articles have suggested that the government (with both Republican and Democratic support), will likely increase this fee to $5.60 per trip.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article from Bloomberg.


Happy Flying!

Secret Foodie Hot Spot: Guernsey, Channel Islands

St. Peter Port Harbour Photo courtesy of www.GuernseyImages.com

St. Peter Port Harbour
Image courtesy of www.VisitGuernsey.com

All images courtesy of VisitGuernsey. Please visit their website at www.visitguernsey.com

“Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers.” – George Carlin *****************


I didn’t know much about Guernsey until I read more about it and spoke with the Guest Author of this post.  To get there, CLICK HERE for information on flying to Guernsey. Here’s a quick overview of the area, according to Wikipedia:

Guernsey, officially the Bailiwick of Guernsey (French: Bailliage de Guernesey), is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. As a bailiwick, Guernsey embraces not only all ten parishes on the Island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Alderney and Sark – each with its own parliament – and the smaller islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou.

Although its defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the Bailiwick is not part of the United Kingdom but rather a possession of the British Crown. It lies within the Common Travel Area of the British Isles and is not a member of the European Union, but has a special relationship with it, being treated as part of the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods. Together, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey form the geographical grouping known as the Channel Islands.”

ENJOY!    -D


The island of Guernsey can be found under an hour’s flight away from London’s Gatwick Airport; however, it might as well be the other side of the world. Never mind the 27 different beaches, the luxury four and five star hotels, or the relaxed pace of life–the topic I want to discuss today is Guernsey’s wonderfully fresh seafood.

If you were to sail out due west from Guernsey you wouldn’t reach land until Newfoundland, Canada over 2,300 miles away, so, as an island surrounded by water you would be correct in thinking Guernsey deals in its fair share of seafood!

Locally caught fish include: bass, bream, brill, haddock, halibut, mackerel, monkfish, mullet, plaice, pollock, salmon, sole, tuna, turbot, and whiting. On top of this there’s also an abundance of shellfish including clams, king prawns, mussels, ormers, prawns, and scallops. Of course there are then the obligatory varieties of crab and lobster for which the island is so well loved.

However it’s not just being able to catch the produce locally that makes Guernsey so special; the island’s chefs still have to play their part superbly.

So what sort of dishes could you expect to find on a seafood menu in Guernsey? In the interest of fairness I felt I should head out for my evening meal to make sure for myself. I headed to Le Nautique, one of Guernsey’s premier seafood restaurants found in the island’s capital.

I was not let down. Delicious!

Seafood Photo courtesy of www.GuernseyImages.com

Image courtesy of www.VisitGuernsey.com

For my first course I had a delicious terrine of scallops, prawns and smoked salmon, accompanied by a refreshing herb yogurt dressing. The refreshing tang and coolness of the dressing played off wonderfully against the smoky, yet light, tastes of the seafood terrine. This was of course complemented with a crisp bottle of Sancerre in order to set my palette alight with the mingling flavours of white wine and seafood.

For my main course I moved onto a grilled fillet of Guernsey brill topped with a ragout of scampi, scallops and prawns in a light beurre blanc. Personally, I feel you will do very well to find better seafood anywhere at the same sort of price range; my main course cost me £16.50 and it was £6.50 for my starter. I agree that there are cheaper meals readily available, but consider the considerably larger price you would be paying for this in a big city restaurant, this is just another benefit of having our produce so closely available to us in Guernsey.

It doesn’t just start and end at Le Nautique though. There are approximately 20 island restaurants specializing in seafood, and pretty much every restaurant on the island offers some sort of seafood menu.

The Southern Cliffs Photo courtesy of www.GuernseyImages.com

The Southern Cliffs
Image courtesy of www.VisitGuernsey.com

Just like the sea air is in our lungs and the salt water is in our blood, life on Guernsey also means the sea’s bountiful foods are on our plates, and that is something we are indeed grateful for.


profilepic (2) Bio Jamie Hunts copyrightedABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jamie loves living in Guernsey and loves even more the idea of spreading the message about his wonderful island home.  Check out Visit Guernsey and Guernsey Images to learn more about a holiday to Guernsey.


Unless otherwise noted in this post, the text in this article is the intellectual property of Jamie Hunts.

John Wayne’s Wings of Eagles


John Wayne Autograph Frank Hardy copyright

“Tomorrow hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday. “
–John Wayne

Photo: Pensacola Airport, 1950s
By: Frank Hardy Photo

Nothing says “American icon” more than actor, director, and producer John Wayne. His personal style, rugged bravado, and quiet strength made him loved by millions of people across the world.

Today’s article is by Frank Hardy.
Frank’s the author of the website: FrankHardyMadeMyPhotographsTwo.

 This is a tribute to John Wayne, along with some interesting history surrounding his fellow actors in the movie “The Wings of Eagles,” Dan Dailey and Maureen O’Hara, famous in their own right.

Enjoy! Deb

By Author and Photographer Frank Hardy

Back in the 1950s, John Wayne filmed a movie at the Pensacola Naval Air Station (also called “NAS Pensacola”) called “The Wings of Eagles.”  Only the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie were actually filmed at NAS, but it was an opportunity for my father to get some photos of John Wayne and his fellow actors. Unfortunately, the movie itself didn’t do too well at the box office, but the history surrounding the film, along with the richness of character of the actors, was something my father found fascinating.

Dailey and OHara Frank Hardy Copyright

Dan Dailey and Maureen O’Hara
Co-stars with Wayne in “Wings of Eagles”
Flying Southern Airways, Pensacola, 1950s
Photo: Frank Hardy Photo

Many of you might be too young to know Dan Dailey and Maureen O’Hara, so here’s a brief history of their captivating lives:

Dan Dailey:

  • Served in the United States Army during World War II as an Army officer
  • A frequent and favorite co-star of Betty Grable
  • Recorded four songs with the famous Andrews Sisters
  • Portrayed “Jughead” Carson in the movie Wings of Eagles with John Wayne
  • He was the first person to receive a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Musical or Comedy for his performance as the Governor in the TV sitcom “The Governor and J.J.” (1970s)
  • His sister was actress Irene Dailey, who starred in Another World

Maureen O’Hara:

  • Initially enrolled in business school to become a proficient bookkeeper and typist, which skills transferred into becoming John Ford‘s transcriber. (John Ford was a good friend of John Wayne.)
  • With her red hair and Irish roots, she was a bit of a spitfire, and spoke her truth, commenting once after a wild makeover for a movie set “If this is the movies, I want nothing to do with them!”
  • Her first major film was Jamaica Inn (1939) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  • She had a wonderful soprano voice, and did guest appearances with Perry Como, Andy Williams, Betty Grable, and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
  • Her third husband, Charles F. Blair, Jr. was a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former Brigadier General of the U.S. Air Force, and a former Chief Pilot at Pan Am.
  • When asked about John Wayne, she said:I was tough. I was tall. I was strong. I didn’t take any nonsense from anybody. He was tough, he was tall, he was strong and he didn’t take any nonsense from anybody. As a man and a human being, I adored him.”

John Wayne leaving plane Frank Hardy Copyright

“I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted,
and I won’t be laid a hand on.
I don’t do these things to other people,
and I require the same from them.”
– John Wayne quote from The Shootist (1976)

Photo: Frank Hardy Photo, Pensacola Airport, 1950s

Sometimes, the story behind the story of a movie, film, or work of art is actually more interesting than the production itself. My father thought so, and he always tried to capture the element of humanity that we, as non-celebrities, may forget about.

We’re all human, we all deserve to be treated with respect.

John Wayne was the epitome of a man who portrayed that type of individual.

All the best, Frank Hardy

Frank Hardy Behind Camera _ 5x5 _ RTP _BW _ SFW


Frank’s a second generation professional photographer living in Milton, Florida (across the bay from Pensacola).  He attended the University of West Florida and graduated on March 17, 1977–moving immediately into professional photography on March 18, 1977.

A quote: “I thought I would give it five years or so and then move onto something else, but 37 years later I’m still working in the business of photography…I went digital in 2002,  and I’ve really enjoyed working with the transition of the entire digital process.  I consider myself a portrait photographer (since I feel I’m a people person), but I’ve photographed anything and everything.”

Drop him a note at his website: CLICK HERE!

He’d love to hear from you.

[NOTE: All photos and text written in this post are the intellectual property of Frank Hardy. Please contact him for further information by clicking HERE.]