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Machete at 9 o’clock, High Fiving the Pope and Easter with Queen Elizabeth

It is two days before Thanksgiving when families are gathering together to celebrate the holiday. Instead of my regularly scheduled post I decided to do something completely different and share some 12 personal insights about myself that you would never know or be able to find online.

All of these stories are true. No animals were hurt in the making of this post. Do not try this at home.

My mother’s kitchen is bigger than my penthouse condo that does not have a bed.

kitchencondoI own a penthouse condo in the Virginia Highland’s area of Atlanta. I say that tongue in cheek because my penthouse condo is smaller than my mother’s kitchen. It is only 400 sq. ft. It is so small that I do not have a bed. Actually I do have a sofa sleeper. I just sleep on top of the sofa in a sleeping bag. My penthouse is on the top floor which is the 3rd floor. It is a walk up so I have to lug everything up and down the stairs. It is a great way to get exercise.

Machete at 9 o’clock is the most humorist comment I have ever uttered while traveling

In 1996 I was working in Nara, Japan as an English Teacher on the JET program. During the year my mother and sister came to visit. We were able to visit Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. When we were visiting Bali, Indonesia we decided to climb to the top of a dormant volcano which was the highest point on the island. We drove to the base of the volcano, got out of the car and started hiking toward the volcano. Eventually we found a path and started hiking. We had not seen another person after 2 hours of hiking. I was leading and suddenly I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.

Easter service with Queen Elizabeth and the royal family

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne year my family was on holiday in England. We read in the paper that the Royal Family would be celebrating Easter service at Windsor Castle in two day hence. My family made an impromptu decision to join them. We put on our Sunday finest clothes and drove out to Windsor Castle early Easter morning. The Royal Guards were there in force aligning the walkway up to entrance at St. George’s Cathedral. They had roped off part of the walk way to keep the tourists away from the Royal Family as they entered and exited St. George’s. We identified someone standing on the other side of the roped off area that looked to be in authority. My younger sister’s 15 year old daughter walked up to the man and said that we were supposed to be inside. He looked at our group all dressed up in our Sunday finest dresses, lifted the rope and allowed us to pass. Walking up to the entrance of St. George’s Cathedral was a surreal experience because the huge crowd of people started to take photographs of us because they assumed we were somebody special. When we go inside we realized that EVERY SEAT in the Cathedral was reserved for different royalty and invited guests. In other words there was no place for us to sit down. So we sat at the rear of the church and I am pretty sure I ended up sitting on a centuries old sarcophagus. It was an amazing experience to hear the singers and watch the service in that amazing chapel. The best part was walking out past the crowd after the service was over and being first to our car and beating the crowd.

I high-fived Pope John Paul II

popemobileMy family and I had secured reserved seating tickets for Easter Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Rome, Italy. It would be the last Mass that Pope John Paul II ever conducted. It is an amazing experience to be part of only 3,000 people that had reserve seating and then looking behind you and seeing a sea of over 150,000 people crowding the street leading up to St. Paul’s. After the Easter service mass, Pope John Paul II got into this Pope mobile and then he was driven down the front steps of the Vatican and circled the 3,000 people sitting at the front. As he made his way to the far side where our family was sitting, we rushed over to the barricade to get an up close and personal glimpse of the Pope as he drove by. Just out of instinct, I reached out my hand toward the Pope as he drove by. He reached down and touched my hand. What an amazing experience to get to High Five the Pope. (Plus: I attended a private mass conducted by Pope John Paul II the Wednesday before that Easter Sunday).

My senior year of high school cost more than my freshman year of college

DarlingtonI am very fortunate to say I have had16 years of private education including 12 years of elementary, middle and high school and 4 years at University. I attended the highly selective Darlington Academy in Rome, GA for 12 years. Darlington has the most amazingly beautiful campus and movie studios have shot multiple moves at the school for this reason. Darlington has students from 22 countries and it is not usual for tuition to run over $50k per year for boarding students. Admission to Darlington is based strictly on your performance on their annual entrance exam. Every year if they have say 10 openings one year then they will accept the top 10 highest scorers on the entrance exam. (NOTE: the year I applied I scored the second highest score ever on the entrance exam in the history of Darlington.) My senior year at Darlington cost more than my freshman year at Furman University where I earned my undergraduate degree.

I have climbed 4 of the 7 Summits

The 7 Summits is the term given to the highest mountain on each of the 7 continents. I have climbed the highest mountain on 4 of these continents. I have climbed the following:

  • Mt. Kilimanjaro – highest mountain in Africa
  • Mt. Kosciusko – highest mountain in Australia
  • Mt. Elbrus – highest mountain in Europe
  • Mt. Aconcagua – highest mountain in South America

I have yet to climb Mt. Denali (North America), Vinson Massif (Antarctica) and Mt. Everest (Asia).

I have been to 66 countries

map of travelsOne of the items on my bucket list is to join the Traveler’s Century Club whose membership is open to anyone that has visited at least 100 countries. My great Aunt Marguerite was the first person to join. This was quite amazing since she was a single female that was born in the 19th century. My mother joined when she reached her 100th country during out trip to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. Right now I am sitting at 66 countries. It is just a matter of time before I join because I love to travel.

I grew up in a political family

When I was very young my father was appointed as a Congressman to file a vacant seat. The next year he won re-election to the seat. For the bi-centennial anniversary of the United States my mother was appointed Ambassador of Goodwill to Great Britain. When my sisters and I were young my parents stressed the importance of us being aware of who our elected officials were and to always vote in every election. As a result I have voted via absentee ballet when living in Japan, when on vacation in England, California and Germany. I do not think I have ever missed voting in any election since graduating from University.

I collect toy soldiers

britains toy soldiersMore specifically I collect Britains toy Soldiers. I have every Limited Edition set that Britains has ever produced. In total I have more than 5,000 toy soldier pieces. After Winston Churchill step down as Prime Minister of England, governments, corporations and individuals from around the world sent him toy soldiers since he said he collected them as a child. His entire collection is on display at Blenheim Palace. I am proud to say that my collection of toy soldiers is bigger than Winston Churchill’s collection.

I attended my Mother’s college graduation

Very few people get to say they attended their mother’s college graduation but I am proud to say that I did. I graduated from University in 1985. My younger sister graduated in 1986. My mother graduated in 1987. There were 4 generations of my family that attended her graduation.

I have worked or lived on 3 different continents

When I was in high school I lived in Germany as an exchange student for 3 months. In 1996 I lived in Japan while teaching English on the JET program. Plus I have live and work in North America. The only continent out of the 7 that I have not visited is Antarctica.

My biggest fear is fire

When I was very young there were two events that happened within a few days of each other that have left me deathly afraid of fire. The first event was that I saw the movie “The Towering Inferno.” If you haven’t seen this movie, it is about a high-rise building catching fire on the upper floors and people die from the fire. A few days after seeing this movie I was playing in the first yard of our neighbor’s house across the street. The mother managed to catch her shirt tail on fire while cooking. She screamed and came running out of the house straight toward the three of us playing in the yard with her entire body on fire from the waist up. It scared the dickens out of me. To this day I will not start a fire in the fireplace or even burn candles in my house. My fear has even morphed into even greater distortion to where I use my microwave only about 2 times a year.

Where ever you are located, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving holiday. Remember to give thanks for what you have in your life.

Feel free to share some interesting “tidbits” about yourself in the comments below.


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by Jennifer Bland

I am an Entrepreneur. Mountain Climber. Neil Diamond fanatic. World traveler. MBA grad. Soon to be permanently retired from the ratrace.My website is a diary of strategies that I have used to make money online. I share what I have learned to help others.

8 comments… add one
  1. Great share! Love the microwave phobia.

    One of my personal stories is that Clint Eastwood asked me out (years ago). I saw him at a local restaurant, and he walked up to me outside afterward, hugged me, told me I smelled good, and asked me to go for a drink…but, I was so young and awestruck, I declined. (Did not make his day.)


  2. Kimberly,

    That is amazing that he asked you out. Imagine what his life would be like today if you were by his side. Closest I ever came to him was eating at his restaurant in California.


  3. Those are some fantastic experiences. I used to have nightmares after I watched an episode of The Waltons where they house went up in flames. Couldn’t sleep for weeks so I get it about fire.

    Thank you for sharing your stories and Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Victoria,

      I am glad I never saw that episode of the Waltons because it would have scared me to death.


  4. That is a very cool post! I enjoyed your stories, thank you for that. Perhaps one day, I can come up with 12 insights of my own. :-)

    1. Bianca,

      Thanks for the feedback. I bet you already have 12 great insights from your life that you can share.


  5. Jennifer,

    I loved your post. I enjoy learning more about fellow LYLers. It also inspired me to maybe share some insights about me on my posts.

    With gratitude,

    1. Keeley,

      I am glad I joined the challenge at LYL. It is a great group of people to be around. Let me know when you make that post.



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