Thursday, December 14, 2006

Life Rolls On - They Will Surf Again

So I've been learning a lot lately. Most recently and probably the heaviest on my heart has been the lesson of being selfless, putting others first and giving my life away. This last weekend I really saw people joining together to help others and it was incredibly inspiring.

There is an organization called Life Rolls On (you may have seen it featured on Extreme Home Makeover this past Sunday). One of the most popular programs with Life Rolls On is They Will Surf Again . This program gives wheelchair bound men and women the chance to surf again with help from a specially designed board.

In order to make sure that all of the surfers are safe in the water, it requires many, many volunteers. The people in my life group from church have kind of adopted these volunteers. If they are willing to give their time to help someone surf, we will give our time and feed them a hot breakfast to show our appreciation. We cooked everyone pancakes & sausage and provided them with hot coffee (it was freezing!). Here was our little set up and some of people from our group:

It had rained pretty hard on Saturday night so we weren't sure if the surfers were going to get a chance to go out. After eating breakfast & hanging out on the beach for awhile they decided to give it a try. This gentlemen was the first one up:
Here is a shot of some of the the volunteers:
Even with the wetsuits on these guys and girls had to be cold!

Blogger is being a pain and not letting me post more photos ... but there were a few good ones that we got of the guys surfing in. I'll try to put 'em up later....

When the guys rode the waves all the way in they were greeted by everyone on the beach clapping & cheering for them. It was heart warming to see these people who press on and don't let anything hold them back. I think that we could all learn a bit from them...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas In So Cal

If you find yourself around the Naples Island area be sure to walk along the canals to see all of the amazing home decorated for Christmas. Here is a snap shot of one of the most creative houses on the row:

And this one captures the So Cal Christmas mentality the best - Santa in a hammock between 2 palm trees. Does it get any better than this?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Lights & New Hope Academy

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like you are going non-stop at 100 mph? Well, take that and stretch it out to a three week span and you will get a glimpse into my reality.

Thursday night was our "free night" from sales conference. So I called up my girl Carol and we dined at Calypso Cafe (hands down my favorite restaurant in the Nashville area). While we were eating, Carol pointed out that Kenny Chesney had walked in. It's funny but I think that I saw more famous people this weekend than I had in my entire 9 years of living in Nashville. After dinner, I met up with Jeremy N. and we went to see a home that single handedly lights up the neighborhood. The story, in a nutshell, is that each year this mans son "BJ" wanted his dad to hang more Christmas lights. When BJ passed away of cancer in 1993 the father lit up his house like the 4th of July in honor of his son. Check it out: Friday was an incredible day. The company that I work for has adopted a theme of giving our Christmas away. Instead of spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts or party for the employees, they pool the money and donate it all to a charitable organization. In 2003 & 2004 each employee got to choose angels for the Angel Tree program. In 2005 we partnered with Sweet Sleep - an organization in Maldova to buy winter coats, mittens and thermals for over 1,000 orphans. This year we donated a gross amount of money to a private school in Franklin, TN called New Hope Academy. Here's a quick description of the school:

New Hope Academy is a Christ-centered community school with an economically, racially, and culturally diverse student body. It exists to serve low-income families by establishing a solid Biblical world view, instilling vision, confirming hope and preparing each young person for a life of service.

Each employee was able to donate an item to the school from a wish list that teachers from New Hope created. The items ranged from a rug for the pre-K classroom, to books, hula hoops, instruments, gym equipment, etc. After each employee picked an item to donate we all boarded the busses to head down to the school.

When we arrived, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. We joined the kids for their devotions, worship and birthday dedications. Then the CEO of our company presented them with all our donations. Not only did we get all of the items on their wish list but we were able to donate all new music instruments, new uniforms and money to contribute to Christmas day meals for the underprivileged kids. One by one you could see all of the teachers tearing up; which then led all of the women (including myself) to start crying. Needless to say, I was blown away.

The kids rounded out our time in the auditorium by performing a music program. It was so cute! After that we all broke out and went to different classrooms (I chose a 4th grade class). I was picked by the cutest little 10 year old who presented me with a mug she made. It was a drawing of a pine branch, her favorite Bible verse and a Christmas greeting. In turn, she taught me how to draw the same pine branch and I got to make a bookmark for her. We had about a half an hour to spend with our kid and when it was time to go my little girl goes "no" and then gave me the biggest hug you could imagine. It just melted my heart....

We were able to see the gratitude in the faces, tears and smiles of the teaching staff and kids at New Hope Academy. At the end of the day I don't know who was more impacted by this event; the folks at NHA or us.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Week In Nashville...

I'll start off by saying it's cold in Nashville!

It's been a busy weekend ever since arriving late Friday night. This weekend (although it is sales conference week) is going to be fun....

Saturday was jam packed with friends...lunch with Jason, Jeremy & Scotty. A Christmas Parade in Franklin. Dinner at Mafiaoza's with Brian & Stephanie. Then it was off to the Predators vs. Blackhawks game. Thanks to Sara, we had amazing seats in the lower bowl of the GEC...

Sadly, the Preds lost to the Blackhawks in overtime but it was a close and very exciting game. The last stop of the night for me was over at Diane's Christmas Tree Trimming party. Good friends, games, food and not to mention a viewing of the National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. It was a long but great day...

Sunday was more relaxing - visiting my old church, a bit of shopping and resting up for the week to come. Later we broke out season one of Arrested Development (my new favorite show), pizza and much red wine.

Side Note: Whenever I stay at J & C's house something random always happens. Tonight it was C. trying to figure out which jacket was warmer. The new coat (black) or the trusted coat from last year (red). This "experiment" consisted of her putting on different coats and sitting on their deck - in the freezing cold. And the winner is? There is no winner. They were both warm.

Though you can't see it in these photos, she did bring out a glass of wine with her. And she calls me crazy....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Top of the Rock

I forgot to mention that during our trip we went up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and got some amazing views of the city. It was well worth the $20 fee.

Here's a view of Central Park:
And a shot of the Empire State Building:
It was pretty hazy/gross day so I flipped them into B&W. Here is another that I took of St. Patricks Cathedral:

NYC - Done.

Next up - Nashville, TN

Monday, November 27, 2006

In A New York Minute...

My trip to New York City has come and gone quicker than I ever imagined. I had a great opportunity to meet up with Jenny & Jamie in NYC. Jennys friends were out of town and asked her to house sit their apartment at the Trump World Tower. I am lucky enough to be her friend and got to stay in a premier location for free. Sweet!

I spent Tuesday, from sunrise to sunset, flying cross country. It normally wouldn't take so long but of course, the plane I was on had mechanical problems so we sat on the plane for nearly 2 hours before it got fixed and we were able to take off. Upon arrival in NYC I had just enough time to meet up with the girls, get cleaned up and head out for dinner at STK in the Meatpacking District. Great food but horrible service which seemed to be the theme of the week. After dinner we headed over to Hotel Gansevoort for cocktails in the O Bar. The dirty martinis were great but a word to the wise, if you haven't drank a lot of water or eaten anything that day, you might want to avoid them. Jenny & I learned that one the hard way...

On Wednesday, we went down to the Ground Zero. I had never seen the twin towers in person but all of the images that I saw on the news came flooding back to me. It's hard to believe that something like this could happen in the US. There is a great memorial dedicated to all of those that lost their lives on 9/11 that I was able to get a photo of:

They had the perimeter of the site blocked off by fences so it was hard to get a good shot of the site. The photos that I did get do not do it justice - the depth and sheer size of the area was astounding.

That night we headed over to Tao for dinner and cocktails. This place was probably my favorite of the night spots that we hit. Great music, awesome food, good sake...what more could you ask for? For desert we ordered the Tao Chocolate Buddahs just because we were curious. I kind of felt bad for biting the head off of someone's god...but it sure was good!

Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) I had planned on going down to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade but that didn't exactly happen. I woke up and saw how awful the weather was (cold & raining) so we staying in bed and watched it on TV. How awesome is that!? When we all finally go out of bed we headed out for lunch in Rockefeller Center and then went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. If you make it to NYC over the holidays, you should really check out this show. It's amazing how the Rockettes dance moves can be so precise. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was well worth the money.

Our next stop was back to the Trump for a bit of rest before dinner. On our way back into the apartment we noticed that Megu was open so we decided to make a stop in for cocktails.

A couple of things to note: the restaurant was completely dead with the three of us being the only customers in the place. Since we were only there for cocktails, the chef sent over what was the equivalent of a friend noodle with sea salt on it. When the waitress delivered in she said "Compliments of the chef. Though some people are allergic to this and could die. Enjoy". It was the strangest thing. So we gave up eating them and had swordfights, smoked or made walrus teeth of them.

The noodle was gross but we did discover the best martini ever called "Blessing" made with pomegranate juice...mmmm! We also discovered the electronic commode. Here is a quick description that I found of one:

"Plus, you can kiss your bidet goodbye. Neorest is outfitted with "Washlet" technology, a warm-water cleansing unit that includes oscillating spray massage, front- and back-aerated warm water spray, and a warm-air dryer. Of course, there's also a heated seat. " was C-R-A-Z-Y! It probably doesn't help that we found that after a few drinks...

After the excitement of the toilet, we headed over to SAPA for Thanksgiving dinner. Traditional turkey, stuffing, etc all done gourmet style. It certainly wasn't moms cooking but it was good - probably not worth the $100 but oh well.

Friday was the big shopping day. Jenny & Jane hit 5th Ave while Jamie and I headed to SoHo. Hands down the best store design I have ever seen was at the Prada store. You can check out a couple of the photos here.

That night we had dinner reservations at Butter. The DJ was playing some great music but much to our dismay, it was a very light night and they closed down at about 1.30. Though we did celebrate my birthday (again) and the DJ played happy birthday for me. Did I mention that it was another dirty martini night? Not smart...

Hotel QT was the next bar we hit but there wasn't much of a scene. We did, however, see a man wearing a speedo that had "I AM SPARTACUS" written across his bum. We got a photo but this thing isn't letting me upload it. Dang it!

Next stop was The Cellar Bar in Bryant Park. This place was dead! It had to be because it was the day after Thanksgiving and people were all tired or something. We managed to close down 2 bars in the city that never is that possible? I think we finally got home around 4am.

Saturday morning was not pretty for the three of us. Luckily all we had to do was get up and fly home. All in all it was an awesome trip and I can't wait to go back again....

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Miss Him...

Tonight I got an email from the couple that adopted Lincoln when I moved to California. They were kind enough to send me some photos which makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I'm happy to hear that he is doing well and is healthy. He has adjusted well and has even gotten a new little play buddy to hang out with during the day so he is not alone. Here is the current photo of him (I'm not sure why he looks a bit pissed):

Now here is the way that I remember him:

I'd always wanted a puppy and Lincoln was my first pet that I got as an adult (aside from Hamilton the Goldfish - R.I.P.) Lincoln was a find from and I fell in love with him immediately. For the next 15 months he became my best friend and the day I had to give him up I bawled like a baby. I knew that it was the best decision for him but it still doesn't make it any easier. I often think of him and it makes me realize how much I miss him. I miss our nightly walks around the block and us stopping to look at the stars at the end of the road. I miss him being so excited for me to come home and play with him. I miss taking him to the park. I miss how easy it is to meet people when you have a dog! I miss seeing him play with his toys - all 500 of them. I miss chasing him with the vacuum cleaner. And the list goes on...

It struck me tonight that in some small way Lincoln represents the final stage of me letting go of my life in Nashville. I miss so many things about it but the thing I miss most was the feeling of having a HOME. Not just a house with flowers but a home. Do you know the difference? It's a funny feeling that I can't quite explain when you realize that you don't have that anymore. My house that was always full of friends and laughter has now become an apartment that I barely see. Hotel rooms, airports and highways have replaced my house, my neighborhood and my dog. My family & closest friends are all over 2000 miles away and I miss them like crazy. They say that 'home is where your heart is' and if that is the case then I guess mine is in my suitcase traveling around the United States.

All this to say, if you truly have a HOME to go to this Thanksgiving, don't take it for granted. Soak it up. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Take the extra minute to call your grandmother in the nursing home when you think of it. A gesture so small to you could mean the world to them...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Damien Rice 9

Go buy this today - you will not be disappointed.

Side note: The artwork on this CD is really cool so I would suggest buying it at retail vs. downloading it online. :)

Not So Much...

Yeah, I don't really think that I look like these people. Do you?!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration

I'm counting down the days until this little jem arrives in theatres.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Break Out The Vino

This post is coming a bit late but here are some fun photos from Wine Down Main Street in Franklin, TN. It's always a blast walking around with friends, perusing shops, and sipping on various wines.
We were all enjoying our wine until we discovered this lady and her table full of liquor. Then it all went downhill. I think this might have been the hot apple pie shot, an amarula shot (so, so good) and of course my glass of wine:

They say a photo is worth a thousand words and I'd have to agree:
The night ended with us all going back to the house, smoking cigars and singing karaoke. A fun night was had by all. Next up? Feile Franklin in March. I think that should give us all enough time to recover....

Halloween Snap Shots

Halloween was a success again this are some more photos:

The second party I went to was John & Carol's annual Halloween throwdown. Here are the highlights:

We drank - a lot. (mmm..pumpkin shots!)
We smoked cigars: We sang metal karaoke: We covered our heads with newspaper for The Rocky Horror Picture Show: And this is one of my favorite shots. The morning after - all of the liquor bottles on one side of the stove and the aspirin bottle on the opposite side. Then on Halloween night I headed to East Nashville to celebrate with another group of friends:

Smurfette & the Green Lantern:
The Pirate and the Mime:

I must admit, the Smurfette costume was a success. However, if one more person starts singing the theme song to me or asks me how Papa Smurf is in bed - I'm gonna punch'em. One other thing, I was told by several men that Smurfette was their first crush - I never would have guess that one.

Next year I vow to come up with a costume that does not require paint. It was fun while it lasted but I'm over it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Two Halloween Parties down - one to go!

Party #1 - Dead Bride
Party #2: Smurfette

Judging from these photos - I would say that blondes have more fun!

More photos to come soon...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hawaii - The Rest of the Story (short version)

In an effort to save time, I'm going to give you the bullet points on the rest of the Hawaii trip.

Jenny and I tried to act as if we were both fine and healthy - even going out for dinner & drinks at Tiki's on Waikiki. A Jamaican lady selling jewelry did a photo shoot for us (no lie) with the Tiki statue.

And we were given the standard Orchids to decorate our hair....

That night (along with all the others) I was in bed by 9pm only to wake at 1.30 with the realization that I could not fly to Maui the next day due to pressure in my head/ears. I called my boss and cried. It was embarrassing and after he realized that I was not in jail he was sympathetic. Though I'm sure I'm going to be teased forever about getting "sick" in Hawaii...

Jenny was also feeling ill so first thing on Wednesday morning we made a trip to 'Doctors On Call'. This is me checking in:

Jenny had bad serious sinus problems (dang VOG!) and I was apparently worse off. They gave me a shot and over $100 worth of prescriptions. I spent the next couple of days trying to rest but it obviously did not work. When it came time for me to fly home I felt as though my head was going to explode then I spent all weekend in bed.

But alas, we survived everything (including almost drowning from laughing so hard when we crashed jumping into the swimming pool) and we made it home safe and sound. We made some great memories and managed to have an amazing time despite everything that happened.

I can hardly wait to see what happens on our trip back to Hawaii in March...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hawaii - The first 12 hours

So I'm sitting on my flight from The OC to Honolulu and I hear this announcement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We've just been informed that there has been a 6.8 magnitude earthquake off the island of Kona. At this point, we are going to continue on with the flight but be advised that some of the aftershocks have affected the island of Oahu. We'll keep you posted as we get more information."

This is how my trip to Hawaii started out last Sunday. My friend Jenny and I were so excited about our trip. I was going to work during the day and then we were going to hang out at night. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the "best worst" trip ever!

My flight landed in Honolulu at noon and we were informed that the entire island of Oahu was without power. That's right - the ENTIRE island. Have you ever been in an airport that didn't have electricity? It was kind of odd. Luckily we were one of the first flights in and we were able to get the stairs so that we could get off the plane quickly. Next was the walk across the tarmac and into the dark and hot terminal. It was the strangest feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world. We were in the midst of a major disaster and had no means of connecting to the news. When I finally made it down to the baggage claim area it was chaos. The airline employees had to carry our bags in one at a time and line them up in a row for us to claim. It took forever but luckily everyone was patient. Here is what the baggage claim area looked like:

Next task was to pick up the rental car. With the computer systems down the attendants had to write out everything on carbon copy paper. No problems and I headed out to the hotel. It was almost surreal driving down the streets and seeing everything closed down. Since there wasn't electricity, the stoplights weren't working. It's amazing how reckless people can drive and how many people don't treat intersections as a 4 way stop when the lights are out.

Luckily when I got to the hotel I was able to check in. Room 856...the infamous 856! The room was awful and its safe to say that we will not be staying there again. The computers & elevators were working on a backup generator but there was no power in the rooms so I got a GLOWSTICK. Yup, the bright green kind that kids walk around with on Halloween. Exciting, huh?

Jenny finally arrived around 5 but all remaining flights into and out of Honolulu had been cancelled. While I was circling the airport to get her the power had come back on and people were clapping, whistling and cheering. She was lucky enough to get her bag from the carousel and didn't have to go through the same ordeal that I had been through.

So we headed back to the hotel and on the way I got screamed at by a traffic cop. This is what happened - he was waving the people in the left turn lane to go and dropped his arm down to his side and it looked like he was waving me forward. No so. I realized my error and stopped but it was too late. The dude flipped out and came charging towards the car. When I rolled down my window he started shouting at me and I couldn't even get a word out. Instead we just had to sit there listening to him chew me out and then when he was finished he made us sit and wait at the intersection for 5 minutes. No lie - he was a total ass.

So Jenny & I get back to the hotel and we decide that we needed to find some food for dinner. The only restaurant in Waikiki that was open had a 2 & 1/2 hour wait for a salad bar. Not willing to wait around for that long we decided to head out to see what else we could find. We hit up a couple of other places with no luck and then we found Harry's Market. The place was sold out of food but we were able to pick up some water & candles and our new friend Harry hooked us up with pop cans for candle holders. Then we found a gift store where they were letting people in one at a time to buy supplies. The stores were lit by employees carrying flashlights and everything was bought on a cash only basis. We were able to get some crackers, cheese (that was on ice), wine, sunchips and pop tarts. It was the most random snack crap that you could imagine but it was better than nothing. I had a great photo of the candlelight/glowstick dinner but for some reason it won't let me load it...

By this point it was after 10pm and much to our surprise the power came on. Everyone was on their balconies and we all clapped, cheered, whistled, etc for the power. It makes you realize how much you take it for granted when you don't have it. It also makes you realize that there is absolutely nothing to do on Oahu when you have no power...

I later found out from one of my accounts that this was the worst power outage in the history of Oahu. Why does that not surprise me? I've now made history...

Well, that's the first day - I have so much more to tell but must get some rest before an early morning flight tomorrow. More coming soon....