lindabjohnson

Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective.

Madeline Meets the President at the White House

Day 13

Scottsdale, AZ – Anaheim, CA

Distance: 366.01 Miles

“Wow! This had to be one of our most favorite and inspiring interviews yet!” Thank you Chef Bruno, for sharing your time, your passions, your beliefs and your amazing children with us.

Chef Bruno

Chef Bruno Serato is the owner of the Anaheim White House and he was Madeline’s CNN hero of 2011. Chef doesn’t just talk about feeding the children in America, he’s actually doing it. Chef Bruno is also the founder of Caterina’s Club and he feeds 300 “motel children” seven nights a week at the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim. To learn more about Caterina’s Club, check out http://www.thecaterinasclub.org

Our Plan in Action

After learning about Chef Bruno on CNN Student News last year, we respectfully requested an interview with the Chef through his assistant Megan. Our goal was to meet interesting and inspiring people during our cross-country adventure and see what they all have in common. Also, Madeline secretly wanted to help feed the children but we suspected we would not have that opportunity.

Pre Interview

Thursday afternoon, Madeline went back and forth emailing with Megan confirming our appointment and the restaurant dress code. On Friday morning when we crossed the Eastern California border from New Mexico; here is how Megan responded to Madeline: “WooHoo! Welcome to California! We are SO excited to have you :)” We truly felt wanted and welcome.

The Interview

At 4pm when we arrived at the impressive yet inviting Anaheim White House and it was closed; there were workmen drilling and diligently working away in the opulent dining room. At first Madeline did not recognize him when Chef Bruno came down the staircase. As he directed us to a table in one of the dining rooms, he asked what she would like to talk about. We were prepared for a 30 minute interview and thirty minutes turned into, (photographs, dream come true–feeding the kids, dinner, a face book opportunity and meeting the President) a 4-hour evening of a lifetime.

Madeline was amazing and I have never been more proud of her and how she conducted herself during the interview; asking her questions, listening and responding to Chefs replies. Throughout the interview Chef answered each and every one of Madeline’s questions, dropping many pearls of wisdom as he did so, and he spoke in a way that allowed us to really identify with him. He is so inspiring.

Madeline and Chef Bruno bonded over the death of a loved one and Madeline shared comments from a current favorite book she is reading. He shared his story of how he came to American with just $200 in his pocket. We discussed how impressed Madeline is with the John Lassiter story as early on he was terminated from Disney (after wanting to work there his entire childhood) and by never giving up on himself went on to create Pixar.

We asked Chef if we could purchase two of his books, one for Madeline and one as a thank you for our friend Terri but Chef wouldn’t hear of it; he insisted they would be our gifts from him. While we were touring the restaurant we noticed that all of the chandeliers in the banquet room were exactly the same as the chandelier in the Princess room in Terri’s home. Chef said “Terri has good taste.” Funny, Terri said the same about Chef.

During our interview Chef mentioned that the next evening he was hosting his biggest fundraiser of the year where he was going to donate $100k to the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim– and here he was spending his time with us? I believe this interview is going to be one of those memorable moments in Madeline’s childhood that helps shape her future

You will have to wait until our trip is over and we compile all of our notes for our final “report” to learn all that was shared.

Invitation to Help Feed the Children

We were about to wrap up the interview when Chef invited Madeline into the kitchen to take some photos and then with sparkling eyes he invited Madeline to join him as he went over to feed the kids. Madeline was over the moon (I thought Madeline was going to fall off of the chair).

Chef in OUR Car!

Chef actually drove with us (a good thing we’d just washed the car that afternoon because after 2-weeks of practically living in the car, well, yuck; you get the picture…stinky) As we were driving over to the club, Chef asked me if we were going to Disneyland while we were in Anaheim and I replied, “No, we drove 3-thousand miles to meet you!” and he just shook his head and smiled. He also mentioned that he would have to leave us when we got back to the restaurant because he was having dinner with someone very important.

Feeding the Kids

At first Madeline admitted to feeling a little shy with the children. As the children spotted him, they jumped for joy (just like Madeline saw in the CNN video) and thanked him for bringing them dinner. He placed his hands on Madeline’s shoulders and introduced her as his “friend” and she helped serve the children. Many of the children were excited to take photos with Madeline.

As we were leaving to get back to the restaurant (Friday night dinner crowd and all…) Chef noticed a little girl behind the building was crying; immediately he stopped to understand why she was crying; her food had spilled and she was hungry; he went back to the kitchen to get her another plate and make her smile!

During that time, two boys invited Madeline to play billiards (Madeline was thrilled) and Chef again waited until Madeline was through “having fun.” before we left.

Be My Guest

As we were driving back to the White House, Chef invited us to be his guests for dinner. When we arrived he gave our car keys to the Valet and asked him to “Take good care of our car.” Madeline was oh so impressed.

We were treated like royalty; all of the staff came over to our table and couldn’t have given us more attention through out our dinner. As the restaurant filled, we enjoyed our 5-star fare –only the most magnificent meal ever (good thing we practiced our proper dining etiquette while staying with Terri – hee hee). One of the questions Madeline has asked the Chef when he invited us to dinner was “What is your favorite meal?’ and he replied “Spaghetti with oil and garlic (Aglio Et Olio), because when he was growing up as a poor child that was all they could afford.” And even though it was not on the dinner menu, Madeline asked if she could have the Chefs favorite! And she did. Dessert was indescribable!

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Madeline was so moved when Chef Bruno came over during dinner and asked me to “Please use my phone to take picture of Madeline and me.” Right then and there, he posted it to his Facebook account. Madeline almost cried when she read what he wrote about her.

President Disney,

During our entré our waiter told us that Chef wanted us to meet the President of Disneyland in a private room. So after dessert the waiter brought us to the room and, as we entered, everyone stood up to greet us. Chef invited Madeline to ask the President of Disneyland one question and Madeline asked: “What is it like to be President of Disney?” He replied “It is AWESOME!” Madeline replied, “That’s my kind of answer.” Her second question was: “No offence but, do you know John Lasseter?” I always tell her “I like how you think!”

Madeline felt very privileged to be in his presence and able to get his business card (with a picture of Mickey Mouse on the backside), a photo and the memory of meeting the President of Disneyland.

I should add that Disneyland’s president, George Kalogridis, makes sure that Anaheim’s kids are well taken care of also.

What an evening! Our time with Chef Bruno was truly an opportunity of a lifetime! The most remarkable thing about him is his personality and the way he treats people. Our lives have changed having been able to spend time with him.

After we left; as we often do when we encounter something awesome and we just can’t contain ourselves, we rolled up the car windows and screamed with joy after we pulled out of the parking lot. I took many photos of Madeline and the Chef together and hope to get them up online next week.

Ciao and happy travels from Linda and Madeline

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Our Last Day in Arizona

Day 13

Scottsdale, AZ

Distance:  No Significant Miles

Today is our last day in Arizona so our little adventure here is winding down.  Once again, Madeline began and ended the day in the pool with her new friends and in between; the day was packed—Madeline says: “Literally, we are getting an early start tomorrow so this afternoon we packed the car.”

Our hotel is right at Fashion Square Mall which to the north is the newer Scottsdale and just south is old Scottsdale, today we had lunch (burritos and fresh tortillas) in old Scottsdale.  More than one quarter of the land in Arizona belongs to Native Americans and we had fun exploring some of the older Native American shops and of course the Gelato.  Madeline loves all of the southwestern bright colors and the beautiful desert landscape, huge red rock mountains and especially the prickly pear cactuses.

Since Madeline is so interested in Frank Lloyd Wright designs, after lunch I decided to take her to the extraordinary Biltmore hotel over in Phoenix.  The hotel is known as the Jewel of the Dessert and for good reason.  We both agreed it was the highlight of the day.  Art and Architecture!  As soon as I take the time to figure out how to post photos into this blog you will know exactly why we loved this place.  It’s not really trying to figure out how to post them; I’ve figured out that it’s a little upgrade to my I Pad…

Anyway, in the morning we are heading west.  Our next stop is the Anaheim White House in Anaheim, California to meet with Chef Bruno.   Chef Bruno was Madeline’s CNN Student News Hero for 2011.  She loves him because he started a foundation to feed the “Motel Children”.   Madeline has been looking forward to this day for months.   She confirmed our appointment via email yesterday, so we are set to GO!  http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/03/24/cnnheroes.serato.motel.kids/index.html

After our afternoon with the Chef, we will be with loved ones; we’re zipping (well not really zipping, you don’t really “zip” anywhere in Los Angeles) up to LAX (Los Angeles Airport) to pick-up Daddy and Grandma for a long and fun weekend!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Happy travels from Linda and Madeline

 

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No Significant Miles Today

Day 12

Scottsdale, AZ

Distance:  no significant miles

Oh it is good to drive on familiar roads again.  As Madeline says “It feels  good to be in the car with no place to get to”.  This afternoon we visited the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wrights dramatic Taliesin West.  Oh it is an absolutely amazing place.  I’d forgotten how much we used to love it up there and now Madeline appreciates the architecture and beauty as well.  This afternoon we drove by the old neighborhood and visited some of our favorite grocery stores.   We are staying right in Scottsdale, just across from the Fashion Square Mall and just a quick trip to downtown old Scottsdale.  Our room overlooks the pool and condominiums; Madeline swears the condos are FLW design so, before we leave we are going to take a walk over and check it out.

Photo Radar:  There are cameras everywhere, remember; I am not a speeder but YIKES!  When we left 5-years ago they were just beginning to place cameras on the highway 101 and that was a big controversy and now they are everywhere.  I remember I used to take Madeline to preschool and pass three schools along the way and EVERYONE would slow to the 25 mph speed limit. I was always so impressed with Scottsdale drivers.  NOW, the school speed limits are 15mph and EVERYONE slows to that speed.  Everywhere we drive the GPS was dinging “Camera, Camera, Camera,”  I never even knew I had that feature until we were in Washington D.C. and I heard something dinging.  The interesting thing is every time it dings, people are speeding past me.

What’s with the gas prices?  We’ve been paying $3.84 in every state we’ve been in since we left.  I thought that was the national average.   I thought Texas would be less expensive.  They seem to be rising since we left.  Ugh, we are traveling west to California on Friday.

Now I remember why they call this the Sunshine state, Arizona “enjoys” about 300 days of sunshine a year. That makes it the sunniest city in the United States.   It is only 75 degrees but the sun is oppressive.  Madeline loves the all of the colors and desertxxxxx

We are hoping to get up to Four Corners Monument where it is possible to stand in four different states at the same time but we are not sure we are going to make it this trip.  Do you know what the states are?  We will tell you at the end of this update.

This morning Madeline had an early morning swim and Jacuzzi with her new friend J who is visiting from OK and they rendezvoused in the pool again until late this evening.

This evening we enjoyed a long and lovely poolside visit with Madeline’s pre-K teacher, Bronwyn; Madeline is still glowing over it.  That woman is amazing!  WOW.  One of the things I love most about Bronwyn is that she is so clear and focused and committed to what she does; she gave Madeline a wonderful  Pre-K foundation.   Back in November when Madeline was writing letters to people in her life who she is grateful for, Bronwyn was one of her first letters.  When Bronwyn received it, she was impressed (but not surprised) with Madeline’s beautiful letter.  

Time to call it a day—we are still catching up on our sleep.

Happy travels from Linda and Madeline

Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico all meet at the Four Corners Monument.

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Greetings From the Sunshine State

Day 11

Van Horn, TX – Scottsdale, AZ

Distance: 553 Miles

Traveling northwest today, we drove from Van Horn, TX towards New Mexico and further north up to Scottsdale, AZ. We were bummed we didn’t make it to El Paso last night but then; everything happens for a reason…. This morning we were greeted with Starry Skies: we wanted to get an early start so we left before dawn and we were treated to THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STARS and BIG SKY we’d ever seen, then the sun rose behind us and we discovered the mountain tops were full with snow. The big blue sky and the snow covered mountains were absolutely spectacular. We’d hoped to use our Night Sky App but it was 29 degrees outside and we were freezing. I don’t know if we’d mentioned that pretty much from Georgia to this point its been in the high 80’s.

We entered New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment from the south through Las Cruces. Las Cruces is New Mexico’s second-largest city and is near one of the most productive chili pepper farms in the world. We didn’t do any sampling, too HOT. We are hoping to make it up to Taos later in our trip. Tao is a little Native American village and some of the buildings are more than 900 years old.

Madeline has been having fun texting back and forth with her friends and Daddy. At one point this afternoon, I thought I had a pile of kids in the backseat, between the R’s voice texts, videos on Madeline’s camera of singing Chicken Wings.. and J sing some afro circus song…they were all having a good time.

We are listening to Rich Kid, Smart Kid by Robert Kiyosaki on audio CD, which sparks some interesting conversations about, learning and school, business, life and of course, finance.

We were prepared for yet another time change as we entered Arizona from the southeast on highway 10, Madeline’s first thought was “Yea, 2 lunches!”. Arizona became a state in 1912 and everywhere we look there were signs everywhere celebrating their Centennial –100-years!

Fnally arrived at our final destination for the day, Scottsdale and after our long drive we treated ourselves to a BLD-c (breakfast, lunch and dinner -combined) Madeline had budget of $40 to spend and with food, tax and gratuity the total bill came to $39.14! Madeline really enjoyed discussing the service and the amount of tip we should leave. Great job staying within budget, Madeline! I love traveling with Madeline because she eats like me, she prefers to have a chemical free munch (Moring O’s, handful of almonds…Starbuck drive-thru) in the car then eat, what I call–Road Kill. It keeps up moving and also keeps costs down.

Then the Pièce de résistance (French pronunciation: [pjɛs də ʁezistɑ̃s]) is a French term (circa 1839), referring to the best part– Madeline’s friend J was coming to visit us! J walked in the door with her cute little face all smiles (Hiiiii! Hello….it’s so good to see you again…) and both girls never stopped talking, laughing and fooling around in and out of the pool! It was great. Glee (J’s mom) confided in me that she wasn’t sure if the girls would reconnect since we hadn’t seen them for 5-years and I admitted I had the same trepidations, but–they did! Glee and I had a wonderful time catching-up as well—never enough time.

For the past four nights, we are still reading the same chapter (over and over) again, Madeline keeps crashing mid-chapter. Solution: Tomorrow we are going to begin reading in the morning!

Happy travels from Linda and Madeline

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Still Recouping From the Weekend

Day 10

Dallas, TX, – Van Horn, TX

Distance 516 miles

We traveled west (Highways 30 to 20 to 10) through Dallas today.  When we passed through Abilene, we were hoping to see some Longhorn steer but mostly all we saw was heavy rain, clouds and lighting and major wind–through all that, we were able to spy three Longhorn steer.

Art Appreciation Day–Madeline created lots of silver (aluminum foil) and clay sculptures this afternoon –mostly animals..  And then my budding artists did lots of drawing and painting—it was a long drive day.  By the end of the trip we are going to have a “Mobile” Art Gallery.

 I was hoping to make it to El Paso but with all of the wind, clouds and weather, we agreed to call it a day early.

Happy travels from Linda and Madeline

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Downtown Dallas

Day Nine

Distance:  0 miles for me!

After a lovely Belgium Waffle with fresh fruit and whipped cream (with just a hint of almond) breakfast and a shower where Madeline described the water “like falling from angels” we were off to see the city sights of Dallas.  Terri’s list of things to do kept us busy all day:

  • Madeline played a shopping game at the Central market (put the local Whole Foods Market to shame)  I was shocked since Austin is the WFM HQ.
  • La Madeline Bistro for lunch
  • Drive through downtown Dallas (Museum of Art-Frank Lloyd Wright design, Theater Center, Neiman Marcus, Dallas Opera, through Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy was assassinated)
  • Dallas World Aquarium—Madeline caught a 3-toes sloth moving on video.  Extremely rare footage.
  • We drove by some of the Dallas Cowboys homes which are bigger than some hotels.

At the end of the day, Terri cringed when Madeline said all she wanted for dinner was pbj sandwich—but truly we just needed to relax and it was freshly ground organic peanut butter.  As Madeline puts it “I needed some comfort food.” 

Extreme fun!  So THAT, our friends, is why at the end of the day we collapsed yet once again. 

Happy travels from Linda and Madeline

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Time with dear friends, treated like royalty, made new memories…

Day Eight

Kemah, TX – Dallas, TX

Distance: 273 miles

We will be here in Texas for 4-days and as explore our second-largest state will not be writing as much each day.

Our adventure started in south east Texas by sailing on the Galveston Bay.  We were treated like royalty by my dear friend and colleague Captain Dave and his Sailing Angels organization.  Dave presented both Madeline and I with personalized Sailing Angels polo shirts before we boarded the Blue Marlin.  Madeline pulled her weight and did a great job of raising the main sail, me; I just became one with the bow enjoying the sunshine, watching the pelicans and the shiners jumping out of the water.  Maybe we will bring Sailing Angels to Long Island?

After our sail, I gave Madeline the choice of a lovely fresh fish lunch or one ride at the amusement park.  Guess what she chose—indeed, she chose the park and so we went on the Aviator.  The Aviator takes “swinging” to new heights, it was unlike any other swing we had ever been on and we soared high above the boardwalk with a spectacular view of the Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  We didn’t have time to see the Johnson Space Center while we were down there but it is high on our list of places to visit soon.

And then we zipped on up north to the capitol of Texas, Dallas.  We stayed with yet another dear friend Terri.  Before we arrived, I told Madeline; we do not argue with Terri, we just have fun getting even later.  You see, I knew in true Terrence style, she would spoil us, especially Madeline.  When we arrived, Terri had prepared a wonderful 3 course meal (warm and cold spinach salad, shrimp over pasta and hot from the oven peaches cobbler a la mode)—poolside, of course.  Terri told me about the amazing (surprise) day she had planned for Madeline on Sunday.

I’d never been to Terri’s humble abode in Dallas before and it was every bit an extension of Terri’s personality—every detail was unique.   Madeline never wanted to leave the Princess Suite.  Me, I stayed in the honeymoon suite and had the best night sleep since we left home.  aaaaahh

Some things never change, Terri could always hold her own with Martha Stewart.

 

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A Big Howdy from the Lone Star State, Texas

Day Seven
Montgomery, AL – Kemah, TX
Distance 629 miles
We were sad to leave Alabama this morning, we’d wished we had time to stop in Orange Beach, AL because Andy Andrews (one of our current favorite authors) lives there and he sometimes writes a bit about his little community into his books and we would have loved to visit some of the places we read about. When did contact his office before we left to request an appointment to interview Andy and we discovered several things:
· The folks in his office are lovely.
· He is not in town this week.
· They offered to send us our favorite AA books (personalized) upon his return.
I thanked then and told them “not to be greedy but that would be difficult because we love them all for different reasons.” Well, just the other day, David called me and told me that a great big box arrived AND; you probably guessed it, it was from Andy Andrews!
We passed through several state lines today and although we didn’t necessarily notice the flowers or trees change but we did notice that some of the roads changed and that opened the discussion about how each states laws and tax rates are usually different and some states don’t even have state taxes….
We kept ourselves busy today by playing several games:
We played “21” in Alabama, and Madeline earned a buck. We each looked for license plates that add up to 21. Alabama plates are really difficult because they have 5 numbers mixed in with 2 letters and when you are flying by at 80 mph (miles per hour) it is not always easy to remember the numbers. And then adding, multiplying, subtracting…all in our heads.
We also counted bumper stickers for the first hour of each new state but we only counted two in Alamama and three in xxx, we gave up after that. We were surprised though,we thought we would see more—I’m sure Madeline was hoping.
All too many 20 Question games…
We arrived at our destination The Palace INN at the Kemah Boardwalk at 10pm. It was 87 degrees, the town was happening, and we were NOT—pooped again.
Happy Travels from Linda and Madeline
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What would you do if….. you got pulled over by a police officer?

Day Four—continued

We have a great little book at home entitled “What would you do if….” It asks questions like: Is it wrong to sneak into the movies if your big brother says it’s okay? If “everybody” is cheating on the math test, shouldn’t you, too?

Well on Wednesday morning, Madeline almost had an opportunity to learn a lesson first hand; what I would do if….. We were coming out of a Starbucks parking lot when I noticed a motorcycle police officer across the street; he looked at me then closed up his radar gun, and proceeded to put his helmet on… Yep, you guessed it; about a minute later he swung around and zipped up right close behind us. That’s when I decided it might be a good time for me to have a “quick” little chat with my daughter “My darling, in a bit we may be getting pulled over by a police officer ” I said calmly, “and this is what WE will do if…”

Which sparked the following conversation:

We will: be respectful and polite.

The officer will: come to my window and ask for my driving license and car registration; which then sparked a discussion about what exactly is a driving license and car registration.

Then the officer would: run my driving license number (a unique number to me) through the system and look to see if I have any outstanding…. If I did have an outstanding… then…. If I didn’t… I’d probably just get a ticket.

If I did get a ticket…. sparked a conversation about the expression: You can’t fight City Hall.   Well I said: if you believe you are RIGHT—by all means, you MUST go ahead and fight City Hall. I have and won! (For the record, I am not a speeder.)

After two or three blocks (which seemed to go on forever) he then pulled up next us…and I was thinking, “Oh great, now Madeline is going to experience first-hand…” then finally, he flashed his lights, zipped in front of us and proceed to pull over the car in front of us. Phew, my lungs started working again! And our conversation continued…

Kids, your parents are going to have to fill in the …for you, we’re pooped again.

Happy Travels,

Linda and Madeline

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Just like Friday’s on CNN Student News…our CNN tour was AWESOME!

Day Six

Alpharetta, GA – Montgomery, AL

Distance :  188 miles

Madeline’s10-second, quick notes:

  • Hung-out with Z at the Lego store
  • Found 4-leaf clover (got a discount)
  • Toured CNN and just like Friday’s on CNN Student News, it was AWESOME!
  • And some surprises too! (Linda says, we are not at liberty to write about them.  I am so proud of my daughter.)

We will write more after we get some much needed rest.

Happy Travels!

Linda and Madeline

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