Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Blue Perspective

For good and bad, life is ever changing… Sometimes I feel like my life (in particular) is moving at rapid speed and that I am left chasing from behind, just trying to catch-up. Other times I find peace and inspiration in the most hectic of schedules – the friendships, the laughter, and the dreams collected along the way make any amount of craziness worthwhile.

This weekend has been no different. I am currently sitting in a hotel room in Columbia, Maryland. I have not been home since Wednesday. I miss Mike and Addie terribly. I miss “The Box” and my comfortable bed, and I am in one of those whiney moods when just about anything could launch me into tears. But, thanks to a little blue bracelet on my right wrist, I am reminded of many blessings collected over the past six days...

The most recent bout of craziness started on Wednesday afternoon. I packed up my car and headed south. Approximately 186 miles and about 3 hours later I dropped Addie off at my grandmothers, picked up dinner to-go, and walked into the Junior League headquarters with 2 minutes to spare before our monthly Exec meeting.

By the time my head hit the pillow that night, a big part of me was already on the verge of exhaustion. A full day’s work, a long drive, a then a late night of meetings had left me cranky and tired. But in the midst of running myself ragged, I had also spent time with my grandmother, laughed and learned from some dear friends at Junior League, enjoyed a late-night conversation with my mom, and even caught-up on American Idol (thanks to Tivo). Wow, I am one lucky girl.

Thursday was an “office day” in Greensboro, but shortly after 6pm Addie and I jumped back in the car and headed west. We made it to Boone, NC a little after 8:00pm and within the hour I was enjoying dinner with my sister and her best friend, Lauren Bostian. As the pressures of exhaustion crept back to the forefront of my mind, so did the reminder that this was my first trip to App in over a year. I knew I had to mentally re-adjust. I owed my sister a Thursday night out in her college town… So one beer run, a frat party, and two bars later (note that I was carded at both bars and asked if I was the younger sister) Mal and I finally made it back to her apartment where a bed was in sight. I was ridiculously tired, I reeked of smoke, and it ended up taking me 30 minutes to find a grassy spot where Addie could pee. At the same time I had just shared a night full of memories with my sweet baby sister. Wow, I am one lucky girl!

Friday was filled with early morning conference calls and then back-to-back meetings of sorts. By late afternoon I had my driving call-list ready and Addie and I were back in the car (big surprise, right). This time we were headed east towards Chapel Hill.

(Quick aside to explain why we were in Chapel Hill)
Ten years ago Mike and a group of his friends decided to organize a philanthropic event at Carolina (modeled after something called Thon at Penn State). Their goal was to host a dance marathon, a sequence of events that would raise both awareness and money for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. The inaugural UNC Dance Marathon took place in 1999. It celebrated 60 dancers and a donation amount of $40,000.

In honor of the 10th Anniversary, we were invited back to the Marathon and Mike was asked to play a special role in some of the festivities. From wine socials to brunches, development meetings to speeches, and then (of-course) many, many hours on our feet standing alongside this year’s dancers, it was truly an unforgettable whirlwind of events… There were no breaks and no butts. Just 1,053 college students making an incredible display of solidarity by standing on their feet for 24 hours straight. Symbolically, they showed their support for families facing the daily atrocities of childhood diseases like cancer and cystic fibrosis. Financially, they raised over $321,000 (bringing the UNC Dance Marathon’s total donations to-date to more than $1.6 million).

Here is a link to the Marathon website and some pics and video from the weekend:
Anniversary Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV6_XWhrJNA
DTH Video: http://media.www.dailytarheel.com/media/storage/paper885/news/2008/02/25/Multimedia/Video.Dance.Marathon.Raises.Record.Amount-3231679.shtml
Hospital VIdeo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jVqiDCaxO8
DM Website: www.uncmarathon.org
(P.S. The blue bracelet referenced at the beginning of the entry came from DM.)

Sadly, Friday and Saturday flew by… Before I knew it the alarm was ringing, waking me to the reality of Sunday morning and the fact that I needed to get back in the car and head north. This time I was DC-bound.

My trip to DC was bitter-sweet. We were celebrating/memorializing a colleague from the Bradley campaign who was killed in an Afghan terrorist bombing. His name is Thor Hesla. He was not in the armed forces, but working as a consultant to bring infrastructure and change to a country in need. Thor was a brilliant politico and a born humanitarian. He will be deeply missed.

At Thor’s request, his sister planned a beautiful memorial paying tribute to his life. Friends read entries from his journals and gave away his mighty collection of books and t-shirts. I know Thor was smiling down on us throughout the day – he always loved a party and would have done back flips over the fact that we had all re-united in his honor. Thanks to Thor, this morning I woke and said a prayer for peace. I thanked God for reminding me that I am such a lucky girl. (http://www.rememberthor.com/)

Just after lunch I put my road warrior hat back on and headed north, again. After getting lost somewhere between New Hampshire Ave and I-295, I eventually arrived to a lonely hotel room in Columbia, MD.

Maryland marks the point in this story when my mind, body, and spirit gave way to self-pity. Every emotion I had experienced over the past six days came flooding in. Work seemed impossible. Mike and Addie felt incredibly far away. I had not been to the gym in days. Tears welled up in my eyes.

That is when I looked down and saw the blue Dance Marathon bracelet. It was a startling reminder that uncomfortable situations can lead to great things (try standing for 24 hours straight). It was also a reminder that I have absolutely nothing to sulk over. In six days I have amassed a list of unforgettable memories. Whether life takes me north, south, east or west I am one lucky girl.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just 3 Days

What a special weekend… First I got to spend a little time with my sweet angel, Caroline Perez. Since we moved to VA I haven't been able to see her as often - and boy is she growing up fast! Caroline is running around and talking up a storm. I know I'm not a kid specialist or anything but there were at least 3 things she did that absolutely amazed me…

First, there was a big stuffed animal lying in the floor and I called it a "bear." Little Caroline looked up at me as confident as she could be and said "no, bunny." Sure enough, when I picked the thing up I found two long bunny ears folded underneath its head.

Then we were in the hallway looking at some pictures Mollie just had framed of her and Tony’s parents when they were younger. I pointed to a picture of Mr. Herlocker (Mollie's dad) when he was 16-ish and asked Caroline if she knew who it was. Again just as confident as could be she says, "grandpa!" WHAT!! Sorry Mr. H, you are a good-looking man but you do look a little different than you did when you were a teenager. I could not believe she was able to recognize you.

Lastly - and then I will get off my Caroline addiction - I left my car in Mollie's garage while we were gone. When we got home on Sunday Tony said Caroline kept saying my name every time they walked past it. Honestly, she just learned how to say my name and already she is associating it with the white car in her garage??? I am telling you, this child is a 16 month-old genius!

Here is a pic of her dressed in adorable pink camo:

The next highlight of the weekend was a quick girls' trip to Lake Lure, NC. I got to spend time with Mols and Candice... I met several of their friends from college and Candice’s friends from work... We went horseback riding - which marked my first time "back in the saddle" since being thrown off a horse in Ecuador... We played games, went out to dinner, drank wine... It was just the type of thing every girl needs once in a while.

To top it all off, Mike and I celebrated our 1st Wedding Anniversary on Sunday. We had dinner at Fleming's, opened our 1-year bottle of wine, spent the night at Grandover, and (of course) ate some year-old wedding cake which was surprisingly good. I loved every minute of the day!!! One of my favorite parts was Mike’s gift... In honor of the Paper tradition he gave me three books; one to represent past (a collection of Shakespeare’s works), one to represent present (a picture book on India since I’m starting to plan a trip), and one to represent future (a collection of children’s fairytales with a note to our first child on the inside cover). I was almost in tears by the time the last book came out!

Sadly, I forgot to pull out my camera so I can’t share any Anniversary pics.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad idea girls...

A couple of my friends from Junior League recommended that I watch a show called John and Kate Plus 8. So it's on at The Box for the first time, and despite being less than 5 minutes in I might have officially scared my husband out of ever wanting to have kids! I think they are adorable, but her stomach in the intro - holy smokes. I didn't know it was humanly possible to stretch that much!

Pics from JJ's Surprise Party

Tagged Response

I've been tagged a couple times now so I thought I better respond... Here are my 7 random facts.

1. I have strange reading habits. I read magazines back to front and generally delve into more than one book at a given time (right now it’s Made to Stick and The Energy Bus).

2. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day but eggs and meat are never on the menu.

3. Mike and I want to name our first daughter Olivia Hope and our first son Michael Ryan (and call him Ryan). Not planning on having kids any time soon though…

4. Sunday is my first-year wedding anniversary.

5. Mike and I have lived in five different houses/apartments in the past twelve months (one in Greensboro, one in Raleigh, two different apartments in New York, and one in Charlottesville).

6. I am planning on taking a group of Dustin’s GreenHouse kids to India next summer.

7. I need to drive to DC for work so I better submit this entry and get going…

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Redeem Your "Benjamins"

Pay attention all you “rain check-ing” friends! I might have found another way to save/make you some dough.

Apparently Visa and MasterCard overcharged American travelers on all foreign exchange transactions that took place between 2/1/1996 and 11/8/2006. If you spent any money on a credit or ATM card (while outside the US) during this time frame, you can submit for a very simple refund. You don't have to itemize or show receipts! All they are asking for is the total number of days you spent abroad and a classification as to whether they were for business/leisure/etc.

Here is the website: http://www.ccfsettlement.com/
You can also call 800-945-9890 and they will mail you a form.

P.S. Just think of my little financial tid-bits as part of Bucy’s Baby Steps to a Billion... Maybe I'll write a book :)