Ahhhhh Puerto Rico, I’ve missed you so! It seems like both 2 and 20 years ago I first landed on your enchanted island, when in fact it was merely 6. Yet this time around, I only thought I was fully prepared for the journey. Same cities, same lodging, similar travel plans, but with a different travel partner and a few more years under my belt. Lucky me, I also came home with more than a suntan and great memories…

Yes- it’s true. Not only did Broc finally propose, he proposed with THIS!

But I’m getting ahead of myself…The vacation was pretty amazing as well. I documented the trip with my iPhone as best I could and put together a little video of our week. You’re welcome for skipping the 60 page book of details like last time. ;)

Puerto Rico Vacation from megan knight on Vimeo.

I also want to give credit to some of our favorite places & spaces that I continue to feel are a “must do”when visiting Puerto Rico. And a few warnings as well.

Day 1: Old San Juan

Old San Juan is still one of my favorite cities ever. We stayed (again) at Da House, this super eclectic hotel in the heart of the city. It’s very affordable ($112 total/night) and super fun in that you get to pick your room based on how close it is “to the party”. That would be the street, which is literally a party outside the window all hours of the night, every night. Since Broc and I aren’t really partiers anymore (besides the occasional holiday, wedding or snow day), we’ll probably stay somewhere different on our next trip to the city. However, I still highly recommend it for the location and experience.

Note: you do not want to rent a car if you’re staying in Old San Juan. We landed in San Juan late and had already reserved one for the week, but I didn’t think about the parking situation, or lack there of. We tried to get directions to one of the parking garages but it’s not easy navigating the tiny streets by foot in the day, much less at night in a car. We thought we found a safe place near a serious looking building but, as it turned out the next morning, that seriousness was a post office and the parking spot came with a $75 ticket. Best bet is to take a cab to and from the city, then use the car to travel the rest of the island.

Day 2/3: Palmas Del Mar

It’s hard to describe this little jewel on the southeast corner of the island, except for what it is: a gated resort community on steroids. I also wouldn’t call it a vacation destination of the island, but Broc had a good friend who’d recently moved there with his family and thus, a free place to stay. It’s absolutely beau.ti.ful and very un-Puerto Rican, compared to other parts of the island, but if you’re looking for 360 degree views of ocean, golf courses, palm trees, yachts and ultra-luxiousious homes & condos- Palmas is your dream come true. The people are all American too, and as rich in ideas & innovation as wealth, so it’s a pretty nice place to visit- or live…

Day 4/5: Vieques

I have not been to Europe yet, but I have been to Hawaii & every other beach-front city in the US, and nothing compares to the beauty of Vieques. It’s simply gorgeous, raw, and as close to heaven as I can imagine. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about this tiny speck of undeveloped land in the middle of the Atlantic (except maybe The W, we wouldn’t know), but that’s what I love about it the most. And the horses! Did I mention I’m in love with wild horses???

Note: the first time I came we had not problem catching the ferry to Vieques, but I’d read online that times had changed, and that was no lie. We arrived 2 hours before departature and stood in the sweltering heat for tickets for a good 90 mins before we realized they’d sold out. Thankful for iPhones and our friends from Palmas’s advice, we raced to a tiny airport in Ceiba
(about 30 mins from the Fajarado ferry) and paid $32/person/way for a 10 min plane ride across the ocean to Viequs. And it was SO. WORTH. IT. I will never do the ferry again.

We stayed at a very plainly stated home from AirBnB and rented the owner’s, Paul – a Kansan- beater blazer to get around. And it was perfect. This island is a back-roaders paradise- all you need is a pair of wheels, some Medalla (local beer), a bathing suit and a beach towell. Snorkeling gear optional (and not really needed, at least we didn’t see much this time of year). Paul’s place provided all of that, a comfortable king bed & bathroom and was centrally located between the only two towns in town; you go left to get to the beach bars & hidden beaches or right to the city-center and mile-long pier. I think the bio-bay was literally across the road and through a few patches of palm trees. (You can’t go to Vieques without kayaking in the biobay, and I again recommend Abe’s!)

All the food is great (although some, better than others) and all the beaches are gorgeous. The weather is perfect (even if it says it’s going to rain- it suppodisly does every day but we only saw 1 shower and that was in the rain forrest) and the people so warm & friendly. I couldn’t recommend this place more than anywhere else on earth. And it’s a US territory- so no passport and basic Spanish optional.

Please, just go.

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Finally got to do what I’ve always wanted to do before Christmas- pick out and cut down our own real Christmas Tree! I was so excited, I decided to film the experience and make a little video about it! Hope you enjoy!

Oh Christmas Tree! from megan knight on Vimeo.

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These days…

This time in my life is so lovely right now.

It doesn’t always feel that way in the moments- I work all the time and sometimes feel the exact opposite of lovely- but overall I love what I’m doing and who I’ve become. I’m finally at as much peace as I believe my type-A brain will allow me to be, and I wouldn’t change these days for any others in the world.

Loving what I do, who I work for, the greater cause I’m helping promote; the family I adore; the man who completes me and gives me all the confidence in the world- especially when I’m lacking it the most; the best group of friends, both new and old- who each bring their own special blessings; my sweet dogs that are growing old right along with me…

I take a little more care of the things I have, a little more time with the things I chose to spend my precious free time on. My life is literally bursting with deadlines and never-ending to do lists, but I’m so proud of it because it’s 100% mine and I created every piece of it.

I feel properly prioritized, strong (even though I’ve totally thrown working-out out the window- it just didn’t make the cut), and know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this very moment. I cherish these days. I’ve finally come to terms with who I am and I love her.

Sometimes life just makes sense, and no pictures are needed to document it. It’s etched in my heart forever.

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We’ve all heard the warnings and horror stories of purchasing vehicles online, but I always believed this only happened to naive people who didn’t read the fine print or stumbled upon some obscure email or auction. I honestly wasn’t afraid to purchase through eBay, because, well, it’s eBay, right? They can’t screw their buyers! However, my recent experience has left me with the knowledge of not only an unbelievable loophole (if that’s even the word), but also an apparent company policy of seller protection and complete buyer deceit.

The (not too exciting) Scenario:

I’ve been in the market for an SUV to cart my boatload of photo booth equipment for a while now. But unfortunately, Arkansas is not the premier state for vehicle trading- there are better deals elsewhere. So I turned to the reputable eBay, and found a seller with a pristine 100% positive feedback and what looked to be the deal of a lifetime- a loaded, low mileage, Audi Q5 Premium Plus for under $28k. After months of research, I knew a good deal when I saw one and immediately clicked the “Buy it Now” agreement and made my $500 deposit via Paypal’s / Bill Me Later “no interest for 1 year” credit agency. August 2nd, 2014. (of course this is a ‘what sounds too good to be true’ lesson if i’ve ever learned one… ) Shame. on. me.

To make a very long story short (as possible):

After several hours and attempts at communication with the “dealer” (ZoomAutoUSA), i was informed that the vehicle was actually not in their possession but already sold. However they did have several other vehicles, blah blah blah… Of course they had nothing even close to the car I purchased- especially not at that price.

At this point, I know I am “that naive person”, and I’m publicly admitting it here…

I was obviously quite unhappy but accepted the hard truth that I’d been scammed into a transaction with them just to talk me into buying something else and requested an immediate refund of my deposit. I then proceeded to leave Zoom Auto a negative feedback saying “they sold me a car they didn’t actually have”. After FIVE days, and numerous attempts at communication, I received this email on August 7th from the general manager, Allen Solts:

Your paypal deposit will be refunded in full ASAP. Ebay advised me to work on resolving the negative feedback first. If I send you a feedback revision request are you open to changing it?

I do sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. We work very hard to maintain 100% feedback and keeping it as such is important for our current and future business. One negative feedback (and even a neutral) is looked upon very poorly and hurts us tremendously. Truthfully we have never had a single instance of someone clicking “BUY NOW” without calling or at least emailing us first to confirm the condition, options, pricing, and ultimately the availability of the vehicle.

As far as the deposit you left for transportation, I will be more than happy to contact whom ever is necessary to make sure you are made whole and all monies are returned to you.

Again, let me know if you would like me to send you the feedback revision request.

Kind Regards,
Allen Solts
General Sales Manager
cell: 732-822-4556

(view actual)

No one has ever clicked “Buy it Now?” Then what is a description, photos and carfax for? But more importantly, eBay advised him to work on resolving the negative feedback??? I didn’t realize that was something to resolve

I informed Allen I would not remove the feedback unless he delivered the car he falsely advertised to me, and again requested he refund my deposit. I then called eBay and was advised to open a dispute against the seller. I followed instructions like the good girl I am, and was placed in the hands of an outside company called “Auction Insurance Agency”. I was put in touch with Clay, who assured me I would get my refund and not to worry. Within 2 hours, I received a notification that an “unpaid item” case was opened against me by ZoomAuto. (August 7th)

What?

I called eBay (again) and was told not to worry- that my case was being worked within the appropriate channels. At this point, the only thing I could take action on with the “unpaid item” case was to pay now or contact the seller, which had BOTH already been done. I added a note that the item had been paid, but that it didn’t exist, and attached my Paypal receipt just in case they (eBay) couldn’t see it… Then I just waited. A few days went by and I learned from Clay that Allen/Zoom Auto had agreed to send me a check for my refund, instead of clicking “refund” via Paypal and ending it all right away. I wasn’t really clear why they would offer this, but thought it sounded a bit fishy. Another few days or so went by with no contact, but when my boyfriend asked me if I’d received the refund yet, I started to get concerned. I again called eBay and Clay and was assured I’d done exactly as I was supposed to do and no further action was needed- my refund was on its way.

At exactly day 5 after the fake “unpaid item” case against me, I received a notification from eBay saying a mark had been put on my account for not paying and the case was closed. (August 13th)

What did that even mean?

Well, apparently it meant that eBay looked at me as not ever paying ZoomAuto- even though they clearly could see that I had (I had a documented, approved case against Zoom Auto with their third party collection agency!)- and because the case expired, my negative feedback was just DELETED. After literally HOURS on the phone with eBay- trying to understand what had just happened- I realized this insane loophole exists for the seller that allows them to get negative feedback removed, just by clicking a buyer didn’t pay button! Somehow, eBay’s “system” doesn’t talk to each other. It simply couldn’t see that I actually had paid, or that I had a dispute opened against the seller. So because “no action” had been taken with this case against ME, the feedback was removed and could not be reinstated. Even after every department at eBay acknowledged that yes, they actually could see that I had paid, there was just nothing they could do.

At this point, it really was more about the justice than the money. A buyer has to have the right to leave feedback on a seller- it’s what makes eBay legit. But the fact is: any eBay seller can stall a refund, file a false “unpaid item” case against a legit buyer, let it expire and get negative feedback automatically removed. And there’s NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

So then I had to call paypal, and to their credit, they actually tried to help. I explained my case to John, who agreed it was “dispute worthy” and actually called Allen via three-way with me on the phone! Allen was the typical sleazy salesman, saying I was crazy and impatient and that he’d issued a check for my deposit and it should be on it’s way. John informed Allen that providing me with a refund via Paypal was a very simple and immediate action and that he should cancel the check (at Paypal’s expense!) and just issue my refund electronically. Allen said he needed to consult with his eBay “representative” before he did that, and that John could call him back later to get his answer. Does Allen actually have a representative that works at eBay who is advising him not to issue me a refund via Paypal? But more importantly, why does eBay have this policy that an actual electronic refund will show a buyer paid (and thus a feedback can be left), but a refund via check shows they didn’t pay, and it’s as if it never happened?

Click to hear PaypalVoiceMail

So it’s now 15 days later and obviously I have no check- if there even is a check- and I’m having to go through the very lengthy process (30-90 days) of faxing an actual claim through Bill Me Later (i.e. PayPal credit, i.e. eBay) to get a reimbursement of my deposit. It is shocking that so much work has to be done on the part of an innocent buyer who only trusted a well-respected internet giant to be honest and completely transparent with their customer’s transactions. While they have only made a couple hundred dollars off me over the years, I can’t even imagine how much they currently make off super sellers like Zoom Auto – and I suppose that’s why it all makes sense… I still believe that I will get my money back eventually- but I’ll NEVER believe a feedback review on eBay again.

Update:

Clay with Auto Auction Insurance company called me today and said the seller will cancel the check and they (AA) will refund me a check. Then ZoomAuto will pay AA back in return. I am to fill out a reimbursement form and a check will be sent as soon as possible. Still can’t leave feedback- but at least I am getting my money back. It’s a total injustice and I pray eBay will review this case and agree I have been totally extorted and reinstate my feedback on this seller.

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I feel like so much has happened in the past month that it would take 20 blog posts to try and describe. But since I have absolutely zero spare time to write about any of it, the highlights will have to suffice.

The beginning of my May 2014 was filled with both excitement and anxiety: excitement over a fabulous vacation in Mexico with all the people I love; and anxiety over a major career move I couldn’t make up my mind about until the very last second… Enjoying the beautiful beaches of Rivera Maya were a nice distraction, to say the least.

Needless to say, I did not come home relaxed and refreshed. I had only 1 week to formally resign from a position I loved and leave behind a group of people I’d come to call family. Ironically, my new home is called FamilyLife, and I, the new Brand Marketing Manager for the Weekend to Remember. As dramatic as it sounds, none of this was my doing. There’s a bigger Guy in the sky who’s calling the plays right now and I can’t tell you how at peace I am with it. (brochure needs updating- on my list of to-do’s)

(so much more to come on this later!)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

And how’s this amazing contribution for only the first week on the job?

While I realize I’m still a newbie, I can honestly say I’m in love with it! FamilyLife is where I’m supposed to be.

But let us not forget the other business I’ve tied myself to. Ah yes, the photo booth. My partner and I have been working our butts off and couldn’t be more thankful! We are booked (almost) solid until August and this month was no exception…

And just last weekend, there was this minor little thing of my only sister’s wedding… No big deal, right? I was the maid of honor and spent hours agonizing over my speech. My sweet baby sister- 11 years my junior, was married away to the love of her life and I could not be happier for her…

she's still 3 years old in my eyes...

I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.

details on all of the above to come!

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My weekend started out so lovely. Our work Christmas party was canceled due to weather in December and rescheduled for April, and I think that should be a new tradition. An outdoor garden party is so. much. nicer in the Spring than Winter… Then Broc and I spent Saturday in the SoMa district of Little Rock which is quickly becoming my favorite place to dine and shop. Sunday I hosted my little sister’s THIRD bridal “tea party” and it was beautiful and well attended. Overall, the weekend was just fabulous and I can’t wait to post all my pictures. However, Sunday night stole all the glory.

We knew the entire state was under risk for tornados but we’re pretty used to it, especially in April. Even though a terrible tornado ripped through my hometown of Vilonia 2 years ago and caused great damage, no one ever thinks that kind of thing happens twice- especially not in the same place.

Vilonia is a tiny town of less than 4,000 people- only 1 high school, maybe 5 restaurants and lots of family run farms and blue-collar businesses. It’s also the one of the safest, kindest, most humble little towns ever and I’m so lucky to have been raised there. Only 15 minutes from Conway and 45 from Little Rock, the town is close to everything but secluded enough to be it’s own thriving community as well. Everyone knows everyone, there’s very little crime, and more churches than stop-signs. But somehow, God chose that little town, again, to bear the wrath of one of the worst tornado’s in Arkansas’ history.

Between 7:30 and 8 pm Sunday night, the town was completely destroyed. 15 people lost their lives, 85% of businesses were wiped out, and countless homes completely leveled. The tornado took almost the same route it did two years ago, but this time causing much much greater damage.

There really are no words to describe the horror of the situation- the complete and utter devastation of an entire town is hard to process. The outpouring of support, donations & volunteers is amazing but not surprising. People in Arkansas are like one big family- when one town suffers the entire state feels it deeply. There’s so much to do right now, but no one is sitting around and waiting for orders. Thousands of people from around the state and even country are trying to get into the town to help in whatever way they can- bringing chainsaws, dump trucks, food, water, medical supplies, toys, clothing- the need is endless. And so is the sadness- the loss so unfathomable. I seriously doubt the town will ever be able to completely rebuild, and even if it does, it will for sure never be the same.

Please pray for the residents of my tiny hometown, and it’s neighboring town of Mayflower that was also hit. God is in control, it’s just sometimes not clear what he’s trying to tell us… Maybe it’s simply a reminder that life here is short, and nothing is certain.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Photo’s by Eric Gay & Karen E. Segrave, AP, and first posted on BuzzFeed.com

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