Friday, January 23, 2009

Sweet Carolina

We're roadtripping to Charlotte, North Carolina today with Melissa and Keith for Jeff and Kelli's wedding tomorrow. I've known Jeff for maybe seven years when we met at a volleyball clinic. The class was made up of who I dubbed "young people" (those under 20) and "old people" (those over 30), so I organized the +30s to work together and because we were better volleyball players too. Jeff's still laughs about me "flashing" him on the court - I was wearing a sports bra under my t-shirt and I didn't even lift my shirt all the way up. He thought it was funny and we've been friends ever since. I introduced him to the Jaycees (he became President a couple of years ago) and brought him along to another volleyball league (our team won a couple of seasons ago). He was single when I met him, then he met Kelli (through the Internet), and now they're tying the knot.

I'm looking forward to the trip and to finally seeing him get married. We've been bugging him for a while about when he was going to propose and he finally did only a few months ago. After honeymooning in St. John, they're going to settle in separate places for a while until they figure out where they're going to live. Jeff's job may tip the scales towards here. Kelli has lots of family and friends in NC so this will be a difficult choice. I wish the best for both of them. I better go finish packing so we can hit the road!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Eve

Big, fat, fluffy flakes started falling this morning around 8:30am, turning everything into a winter wonderland. This is our first real snow of the winter season and since today is a holiday, I could stay home to enjoy it. I did have lots of things to do and errands to run and I headed out around 9:45. My first stop was the library, then I pumped some iron at the gym, and then to the mall to buy a wedding gift for a friend. The slumping economy was certainly evident at the mall and I was only there to get a gift and look for some cheap shoes for the wedding - no shopping spree for me.

As I was walking down the long hallways of the somewhat unfamiliar mall, I stopped in my tracks when I heard the thundering oratory of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on a nearby television. I wasn't the only one to stop and soon a small crowd gathered around to watch and listen on this historic day, as we prepare to swear in the first bi-racial U.S. President tomorrow. I'd never heard the entire speech, but I've heard pieces of it and heard it quoted. In its entirety, it's moving and amazing. I kept thinking of tomorrow's swearing in and how MLK Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 46 years ago and now Barack Obama will be a straight shot up the National Mall tomorrow at the U.S. Capitol being sworn in as President. How things have changed since 1963. MLK would be proud.

After the mall, I came home and played in the snow with Riley. He "helped" me shovel our driveway and I threw his favorite toy, an empty plastic water bottle. I also took him for a walk, since this is the first time in a while that it hasn't been freezing cold outside. 32 degrees feel so much warmer than 7 degrees, I can tell you that. Riley enjoyed his romp in the snow and we saw some neighborhood kids out playing with their dad. I love snow days!

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Travel

Just as soon as I got back from vacation, I jumped back on a plane and headed back down south. This time I headed to Fayetteville, NC for a kickoff meeting with our proposal team. It was one of those trips where everything that could go wrong, practically did. For starters, the trip was hastily arranged during New Year's week when everyone was on vacation so I didn't get a clear idea of the agenda or exactly when the rest of the team was traveling. Someone else made my travel arrangements since I don't have a corporate credit card. I first heard that I would be leaving on Monday and coming back on Friday, so Monday is what stuck in my head. However, when I tried to check in at the airport on Monday they said I wasn't booked on that flight. Yep, my itinerary said Tuesday! After making a few phone calls, I went home. Luckily I had gone to my Columbia office so I hadn't driven from far away to get Baltimore. Plus, I was a little relieved because I just wanted to be home another night.

On Tuesday they were predicting ice and dangerous conditions. Luckily, it never got that bad here and I headed back to the airport. However, across the country flights were diverted or cancelled. (Anyone traveling to Philly that night was out of luck). We boarded the plane on time only to sit on the runway for about 40 minutes. Ugh.  We sat there so long that the lady next to me who had fallen fast asleep woke up confused and disoriented, "Where are we? Did we land or did we ever leave?" She looked bummed when I said we hadn't even left yet!

We arrived in Charlotte and I rushed to catch my next flight but then we sat on that runway for at least an hour. Ugh again and the flight turned out to be about 35 minutes so we sat on the runway longer than the flight itself. I was annoyed and it was 10pm when we arrived. Since we were at a military installation, there were a lot of military personnel on my plane. I love GIs. I think they're awesome fighting for our country and all that, but they hogged up all the room on the plane! Yep, half the plane's luggage got bumped for their equipment (who knows what was in those big, locked heavy-duty plastic footlocker thingies?). 

I decided to wait around since the next plane was supposedly 30 minutes behind ours and a) I didn't know how far the hotel was or b) what time they would drop off the luggage. I had an early meeting the next day and my jeans and sneakers wouldn't cut it for a meeting with the General. I was prepared to find a mall if necessary, but I didn't want to spend money or time buying new clothes. The next plane was delayed and didn't arrive until after 11pm. By this time, I was groggy and annoyed at the whole travel experience. The plane landed and all the luggage came out, but not mine. As I stood there deciding whether to give up and go or just cry from frustration, the guy who took down my missing bag report asked what my suitcase looked like, then went in the back and grabbed it for me. I should have been a lot nicer to him. I did say "thanks" but it didn't come out like I really meant it. 

I arrived at my hotel just after midnight and managed to get to bed around 1am. I didn't sleep very well and I was getting up at 7am to meet some of my team for the first time downstairs in the hotel for breakfast. I woke up at 6am and could not get back to sleep. I worried about having bleary, bloodshot eyes, but I didn't look too horrible. I made it through the whole day with two cups of coffee and a lot of coke. 

The team was great and I really like our partner company - they are really nice retired Army guys and we all got along well. I have a much better understanding now of how the Army maintains and repairs certain types of equipment and I'm proud of work that my company does to support the soldier in the field.

I like to travel, but I'm glad to be home.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Christmas Part Dieux

Since we were in Texas for Christmas, we held a belated Christmas gathering at home with my family. I had asked Mom to let everyone know since the date and time since we were out of town and everyone was gathering at the hospital for Grandma E. She managed to tell everyone but Aunt Carol. In the end Carol and my cousin didn't come because they were sick or something, but we had a great time anyway. Aunt Anne, my parents, Michael & Shaunda, and Frank, Sophie, and little Gathien joined us for good eatings with a slight twist. My brother Michael came over early to set up the deep fryer so we could deep fry the turkey, but his thermometer wasn't working so I ran out to the store moments before everyone was due to arrive and picked up another one. He injected liquid Cajun spices and rubbed the bird down with more Cajun spies. I was really excited that we didn't set the house on fire! Mike was so tired of turkey and wasn't looking forward to eating at all, but he really liked the way it was prepared.

Michael brought his Rottie puppies, Gretchen and Gator over for some puppy playtime with Riley and it was quite the romper room around here. They all received a rawhide tug toy and Gretchen and Riley looked and sounded ferocious as they tugged away. Finally, Riley ripped the toy from Gretchen's mouth and as it went flying, little Gator picked it up and ran! They were all tuckered out by evening's end and Gator kept trying to curl up to sleep, but we wanted him good and tired so he'd sleep through the night (instead of waking Shaunda up at 2:30am to go out). Riley was exhausted and slept hard through the next day. We'll have to get the doggie cousins together again soon!

It was a marvelous day and we especially enjoyed all of the gifts we received and exchanged. Mike got lots of coffee and we both received Starbucks travel mugs (mine is appropriately green for my favorite color!). We love everything and are so thankful for great family!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

To celebrate the first day of 2009, we ran a 5km race this morning! The local Road Runner's Club put on the free race not far from our house, so we couldn't resist. On our way to the New Year's Eve party last night we drove over to look at the course, and it wasn't bad. The only downside to the race was the temps - it was 25 degrees at race time, which is what it was when I did the Jingle Bell run last month. I figure when I decide to do a 5k, the weather decides to make me suffer for it! We bundled up good this morning in preparation. Thankfully, registration was inside a local gym and all 300 runners were able to hang out there until just before race time. After we registered, we decided to head back to the car so we could leave our winter coats in the car because we don't run in them. It was cold for sure after that!

Even though we saw the race course last night, I still didn't exactly understand it because last night it looked too short to be 5k. I didn't understand that we were to run down Gaither, make a right and run over I-370 on the bridge, run down the hill to the court and loop around up the hill, continue back over the highway, make a right on Gaither again, run to the end of the road and loop back, and then make a left back on the road going over 370 - twice. Yep, we did the whole loop twice. The uphill part wasn't too bad the first time, but we both felt it on the second loop. I grabbed an ice cold cup of water on the second lap and held on to it partly up the hill, which helped. The guy in front of me was running so slow, I thought I was going to run into him! It was fun seeing the fast runners. I was heading into the first loop around 3 minutes after we started when I saw two guys racing for first. I couldn't believe how fast they were! I realized that they would probably finish well before I even started my second mile. I did wish I could run faster so I could finish faster and get out of the cold!
Mike didn't keep pace with me, but since the race looped around so many times we cheered each time we passed each other. We both did well today. Mike ran his personal best and blew his old time out of the water. I ran about a minute slower than the last race, but still not bad. After Mike finished, he came back to run to the finish line with me. When I saw him I smiled and did a little gig as I ran (seriously, I did!) because it meant a lot that he came back to push me across the finish line. He urged me to pick up my pace at the end and finish strong. I gave it my all, but boy was it tough!
So, what'd you do today? :-)