Friday, December 28, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Agree or disagree with the war in Iraq, one thing is for certain: the men and women of the US military are the best in the business. They’re the best-trained, best-equipped and bravest team in the world. Whatever your opinions are on the conflict in the Middle East, our troops are the one thing we all support. In March of this year, Cpl. Dustin Lee was killed in an attack on Fallujah. Along with the Quitman, Miss.-native’s family and friends, his eight-year-old bomb-sniffing Marine dog was in attendance. With shrapnel still in his body, Lex didn’t want to leave his fallen master and had to be dragged away from Dustin and the scene of the attack. He recovered from his battle wounds and reported back for duty in Albany, Georgia, where he was first trained by his best friend.
A veteran himself, Lex has served two tours in Iraq, and still was eligible for two more years of service. After months of much lobbying and persuasion, the Marines decided that Lex will be going home with Dustin’s family to Quitman. This morning, the courageous canine will join his new family after what was no doubt a meaningful ceremony in Georgia. Though the Lees will miss Dustin this Christmas, I am sure Lex will help them feel closer to their own fallen soldier.
On a lighter note (and another canine connection), former Mississippi State Diamond Dawg-turned Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, recently told the Hattiesburg American that his bulldog Boss ate the ball from the final out of this year’s World Series. OK, Paps, this raises more than a few questions: 1) Since when are bulldogs able to jump on a counter? 2) Why exactly was this most valuable of souvenirs on your counter and not in a case somewhere? Evidently the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has Paps’ glove in their safe possession but weren’t interested in the ball itself. Watching the news this morning, the broadcasters reporting and commenting on the story were surprised by this. Come on, any real Bulldog fan knows better. We’ve seen that wild look in Paps’ eye too many times on the pitcher’s mound. Why should we assume his dog would be any different?
Friday, December 14, 2007
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I typically have an aversion to the gift bag despite its convenience and even quite often, its cuteness. I don’t dislike receiving gifts in bags, I just prefer to give a box with wrapping paper and bow because I love to wrap presents. However, this year, due to the odd conglomeration of your gifts, Yaya and Claire, yours will be in bags. It is no reflection upon our friendship. Scout’s honor.
2. Tree--Real or Artificial? I’m not fanatical either way – real trees provide the great smell while helping local farmers and the environment, but artificial trees are convenient and cost-effective. We have a real tree currently in our apartment since Kell has certain holiday demands. Plus, it’s probably safer for the twins to eat real tree branches as opposed to artificial. My energy goes into the lights.
3. When do you put Christmas tree up? I grew up with an artificial tree, and we used to put it up the day after Thanksgiving. However, Kell’s demand for a real tree prevented us from being able to do that. We actually just got our tree decorated this week.
4. When do you take the tree down? As soon as possible after Christmas. I think the tree loses its luster on December 26th.
5. Like egg nog? Nope. And I’m over it. I do however like a little bit of hot chocolate with my marshmallows.
6. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, I do. Not sure where it is right now, but I have one.
7. Favorite gift received as a child? I can remember getting a set of Legos every year even into my teens. I kind of wish I still got them. But, the twins might think they are treats.
8. Hardest person to buy for? KELL. No question.
9. Easiest person to buy for? Harris, Yaya, Olive and Charlie.
10. Worst Christmas gift? I can’t personally recall a terrible gift I’ve gotten, but Harris got a doozie a couple of years ago – a pink nightlight with a picture of a cat on it that said “Princess Kitty.” And, yes, I did say a couple of years ago. Not 15.
11. Mail or email a Christmas Card? Mail for sure. I love to get mail.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? The (original) Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Vacation, Elf, Polar Express.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? This year, I began early on accident when I came across something I found to be Christmas gift-worthy; I bought the very first one in July. My goal was to be finished by December 1, but I failed miserably - I purchased the last one this week.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. In fact, I’m doing it this year. It’s a part of a grander gift scheme, but re-gifted nonetheless. And I’ll never tell.
15. Favorite food to eat on Christmas? My family usually eats breakfast for dinner on Christmas Eve, and I LOVE it. I did have the worst heartburn of my life on Christmas morning after a smoked sausage binge the night before. I limit my intake now to 3-5 smokies.
16. Clear or colored tree lights? You know, I used to be really passionate about the white lights, but I must say the colored ones are growing on me. When I grow up, I plan on having 2 trees, one for each. Colored or clear, there just has to be enough. Kell asked me last year if I was planning on having an airplane land in our living room.
17. Favorite Christmas Song? Please see previous post.
18. Travel during Christmas or Stay home? I’ve always traveled on Christmas, and one day I’d like to be home. But, I can’t imagine not being with family on Christmas Day. Maybe they can all come to me. I can serve smokies and marshmallows.
19. Can you name Santa's reindeer? “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen…But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!” There’s also Olive the Other Reindeer. I think Santa’s original Elite 8 reindeer team is underrated. One foggy night and they lose credit for hundreds of years of successful Christmas runs. Now they live in the shadow of an illuminate red nose.
20. Angel or Star on tree top? Either way. I have a star on my tree.
21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Why can’t we do both? It only comes around once a year, so savor the season while you can. I remember one year my mom letting Harris and me open one gift before Christmas Eve. It was a Michael Bolton tape.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I agree with Yaya: America has lost sight of what the world’s most celebrated holiday is all about, and I’m just as guilty as the next person. It’s too easy to concern ourselves with what we’re getting for him, how much we’re spending on her and how we’ll pay for it once it’s all over with. Sure there are non-biblical things that have become Christmas commonplace, but the Greatest Gift of all was born in a manger thousands of years ago. He received three gifts from three Wise Men and became the King of Kings. Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
For me, it’s the music. Last night I began putting together an all-inclusive Christmas CD for a friend, and through the beauty and magic of iTunes, a new galaxy of holiday hits opened the compilation to songs old and new, secular and religious, unique and repetitive. However, I found myself still gravitating toward the songs I’d always loved. My own personal catalog has evolved over time but essentially hasn’t changed much. Here’s my abridged list along with my favorite versions:
“Carol of the Bells” – my all-time favorite. I was very influential in Mrs. Moore’s choosing this one for our performance in high school chorus. I love the idea of voices sounding like bells and that everyone knows the tune, but not the words. I can teach them to you if you’d like. Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition is the best I’ve heard, but I also love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s electric guitar version.
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – my favorite secular Christmas song. From James Taylor to Coldplay to Old Blue Eyes, I’ve never found a version that I don’t like. I love its message of enjoying time together with the ones you love and keeping your troubles “out of sight.” It’s a little mournful, but there’s nothing I’d rather hear.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Again, a little mournful. I like to imagine a young man working really hard at his office and writing this song as a letter home to his mom. If I were Michael Buble’s mom, I would think he really was coming home for Christmas.
“Ave Maria” – The Charles Gounod version. I love it so much I made it a part of my May wedding. But, if you can’t get Janie Diaz to perform it for you personally, believe it or not, Jewel does a great job with this one.
“Step into Christmas” – Sir Elton John’s Christmas song makes me dance every time I hear it. It’s kind of flamboyant…just like him.
“Little Drummer Boy” (a.k.a. Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum) – My dad’s favorite has now become mine as well. This endearing song embodies so much that is Christianity and is a musical reminder to always humble ourselves before God. Everyone’s gift is valuable, and we should use them always to His glory. Plus, I like that the ox and lamb keep time – I imagine them wagging their tails with the beat of the drum. Jars of Clay has a great interpretation of this one.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Only one version of this song will do for me. Though the silver screen adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic is good, the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is superlative. There’s a reason it’s been around for over 40 years. How can you argue with a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce?
“The Christmas Song” – Does it get any more “classic” Christmas than this? Have you ever seen a Christmas movie that doesn’t weave it in at some point? Almost every phrase is a dedication to the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t think I need to say that Nat King Cole owns this song, but Stevie Wonder and India.Arie also put a jazzy spin on it.
“Breath of Heaven” – Amy Grant
“Must Have Been Old Santa Claus” – Harry Connick, Jr.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” – Otis Redding
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Jackson 5
“O Holy Night” – Martina McBride
If you’re not familiar with the songs on my list, give them a try. You won’t be disappointed, and you may find a new favorite of your own. Did I leave off your favorite? Please share…
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Here’s to the good life! Woof!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I wonder if he'd prefer a different title. I think "Illustrator in Chief" has a nice ring to it.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Kell assured me (and anyone else who would listen) that State would win the always-tumultuous Egg Bowl, but I wish I could say I held complete faith in the Bulldogs the entire game. In fact, we toughed out three grueling quarters of the Rebel-led contest only to wander out to a friend’s tailgate to finish watching the game on a tiny TV complete with rabbit ear reception. I don’t understand the infamous, questionable 4th quarter call that created the perfect storm, I probably never will, and it really doesn’t matter. When the tides began to turn the way of the Dawg, we ran back into the stadium and squeezed our way into some empty space near the goal line. The next thing I know, the game is tied, there’s 18 seconds left in the game, and I’ve completely forgotten how cold I am. Adam Carlson, who has to be dying for some last-second field goal redemption, places a kick that seemed to just inch through the air in slow motion, and the eyes of all 51,727 attendees were glued to the pigskin as it sailed right down the middle of the uprights. Even watching the replay of the game today, I still don't believe it.
Burly security guards stood between the fans and their desire to celebrate with the team on Scott Field, and game operations had the goal posts down before anyone could think about it. It’s just as well since I’m sure I would have gotten trampled and left by my husband, who was almost comatose with excitement. Maroon-wearers everywhere seemed to be in a state of euphoria mixed with shock, and I think I heard “Can you believe that game?” over 100 times between then and right now. It took seeing the Starkville Daily News front page and reading articles on the internet for it to really sink in. Pretty silly emotions for just a game, right? Maybe. But not silly to Coach Croom, his staff or his players. And not silly to the thousands of Bulldogs that are still pinching themselves. Hey, good thing Ole Miss isn’t able to get fired up to play in Starkville. If they had been, that loss might have been painful.
On another, but equally exciting, note, The Twins are 1 year old today! Exactly 365 days ago, the world became a wilder, albeit cuter, place. O and C enjoyed a cake/sandwich of wheat bread, turkey and peanut butter decoration. They were careful not to mess up their maroon and white. Happy Birthday, Olive and Charlie!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
It's November, and Thanksgiving is on its way. I'm still in Canada, and it's alone time like this that conjures up warm and fuzzy feelings about home. God has been so good to my family and me, and I could go on for days about all the gifts He's given us. With all the hype, uber-commercialism and all-around craziness of Christmas, my favorite holiday is often overlooked. It's easy to get consumed with purchasing gifts for family and friends and forget about things that we already have that we're thankful for. But, here are just a few things (in absolutely no particular order), both intangible and material, that I'm grateful I’ve been given:
God’s unconditional love
a loving husband
being an American
DVR, the poor man's TiVo
good friends, old and new
hair on my head
a fun sister
great work friends
wise and wonderful grandparents
Emily Post's Etiquette
laughter (courtesy of The Office among other things)
What are YOU thankful for?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Go to h*** ALABAMA! (can I say that? my apologies...I'm just excited)
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
As Americans, we should take every opportunity to speak through the electronic voting machines (with thanks to Kell and his staff) by selecting the candidates who will best serve our great state. That's not to say that the best man wins each time, but this is what a democracy is all about. It's what the extraordinary men and women of our military are giving their lives for in Iraq. It's about being able to speak your mind in print, on the air, across the internet and over the radio waves. It's about sending your kids to whichever school you choose. It's about worshipping in your church, or choosing not to. And it's something so many of us take for granted. So, get out there and VOTE today! Kell would be proud.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Ellen DeGeneres evidently shares this affinity for the cold nose and warm heart of a pound puppy. If you've turned on the TV in the past two weeks you've seen the story of Ellen and her debacle with the Mutts and Moms organization about the adoption (and consequent re-gifting) of Iggy, a 4-month-old Brussels Griffon mix (who, by the way, is housetrained). Ellen's tear-stained on-air apology is now a YouTube classic, and Iggygate is all over the news. I actually found her to be sincere, contrary to so many who labeled her October 17 cry-fest no more than a pathetic display of crocodile tears. Who are we to judge someone's sincerity? I may not have reacted in the same way, but that doesn't mean her reaction was anything less than genuine. But I digress...
As with most news involving celebrities, the story hit every to-the-minute website, maintained status for several days and cooled down a bit. I had actually gotten over it. I knew with all the rigamarole surrounding the situation, whomever ended up with custody of the pup would bend over backwards to provide him with a great home. But, I headed to the grocery store yesterday and came across People magazine. I immediately snatched a copy, and this is why...
Could it be that Iggy (R) is Olive's brotha from anotha motha? I showed the picture to her last night, and she exhibited no signs of surfacing separation anxiety. Perhaps she was trying to hide her sadness at the thought of her brother being exploited. And then she stole Charlie's toy in an effort to take her mind off her long-lost's plight.
On another note (but in continuance with the canine theme), Happy Halloween to you all!
Monday, October 29, 2007
And, we've found ourselves a quarterback! True freshman Wes Carroll, with wisdom and poise beyond his years, directed the Dawgs to a convincing win Saturday over then-ranked No. 14 Kentucky. And with Christian Ducre and Anthony Dixon, State kept complete control of the game and helped dash Andre Woodson's Heisman hopes. No one can say Kentucky just "slipped up" - they just lost (so did the Rebs).
I'd be lying if I told you I thought for sure we'd beat the Wildcats, but that doesn't make me any less excited. Perhaps more so, in fact. This weekend's check in the "W" column puts the Bulldogs one away from the golden number 6, making the turnaround team BCS bowl-eligible, a sporty status symbol that has eluded State for years. How many? Don't know, don't care, doesn't matter. What's past has passed; it's 2007 now.
Hey fair-weather fans, it's time to bring back out your maroon. It may be stuck behind some LSU or Florida gear in the back of your closet. Dust it off and don it in two weeks for the Alabama game. And for those of us that never took ours off, we'll be there with (cow)bells on.
Like last week, I’ll start you off with the answer to number 1. Ok, “No one wins or loses”…Thailand! Get it? Tie-land?
1. No one wins or loses?
2. Sick of ladies’ undergarments?
3. Where the dead live?
4. Land of carry-outs?
5. Where you can hold your head up?
6. It’s not easy being here?
7. It’s the word?
8. “e,” but without the “L”?
9. Home of Alfalfa?
10. Al’s not Down Under?
11. A great place to hang?
12. With or without the Sun God?
13. We are the Third Power?
14. Three Strikes?
15. Sheep, laughs, and mothers?
I’ll post the answers on Friday again – another reason to look forward to the end of the week. I hope the suspense doesn’t do you all in.
Oh, and by the way, I promise this won’t be the only thing I ever post.
Friday, October 26, 2007
1) lbs. of laundry? Washington
2) pirate of know return? Arkansas (Arrr! said the pirate + band Kansas who recorded “Point of Know Return”)
3) Ritter’s posterior? Texas (Tex Ritter’s posterior would be his… well, you know.)
4) OILLIS? Illinois (ILL inside the letters OIS)
5) no more mining? Oregon (no more mining if all the ore is gon)
6) Harry, for 3/4 yr. Indiana (yep, Prince Harry was in Diana for nine months)
7) graphite in the blood? Pennsylvania (graphite pencil, in your blood or vein-ya)
8) dirty player’s need? New Jersey (a dirty player would need a new jersey)
9) Flash’s plea? Wyoming (Flash Gordon might plea Why, O Ming?)
10) put to bed by Barb’s beau? Kentucky (Barbie’s Ken + putting you to bed, tucky)
11) remember it? Maine (Remember… the Alamo? No, the Maine)
12) a shade about nothing? Colorado (shade = color, plus Much Ado About Nothing)
And there you have it. Thanks to everyone who played!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Is there a great mind in our midst? Below is a Genius Challenge from a website I love: mentalfloss.com. The premise is simple – guess to which state each clue refers. For example, the first one, “lbs. of laundry” would be Washington – as in “washing” a “ton.” Get it?
1) lbs. of laundry?
2) Pirate of no return?
3) Ritter’s posterior?
5) No more mining?
6) Harry, for 3/4 year.
7) Graphite in blood.
8) Dirty player’s need?
9) Flash’s plea?
10) Put to bed by Barb’s beau?
11) Remember it?
12) A shade about nothing?
I’ll post the answers later. Let’s keep our minds sharp! No cheating! (Yaya, I expect great things from you.)
Friday, October 19, 2007
Mississippi recently hosted a small group of journalists from Europe – Tom and Dave from England, Alastair from Scotland and Valerie from Ireland. Along with UK escorts Jennie and Heather, we embarked on a culinary journey like no other. Think of it as eating your way across the state or Feasting on Asphalt: Mississippi Edition, only minus Alton Brown. Our mission: to show the group what the Magnolia State is all about through music, culture and (last and most certainly not least) food. Our vehicle: an 11-passenger Dodge Van – a favorite of prisons and kidnappers across the world. Which, compared to my Honda Accord, might as well have been a Greyhound bus. And yes, I was driving.
Traveling with members of the media is an experience like no other. They are more well-traveled than I could ever hope to be, have impeccable grammar and no matter how much you think you know, they can weave an intricate question that will stump you any day of the week and twice on Sundays. So, needless to say, my personal goal was to make the best impression possible and just not screw up.
Our tour started out perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that I began to convince myself that I was quite possibly the best tour guide the state of Mississippi has ever had. We ate like kings and queens and learned something new at every stop. Our schedule was a little off, but an escort of my caliber had no need to fear. Everyone is getting along great, and we're really having a good time together. I’m whipping in and out of parking places and teeny spaces, all while reading directions and navigating the Dodge like a pro. We make a stop at Dockery Plantation, located on a gravel road between Ruleville and Cleveland – a historic cotton farm in essentially the middle of nowhere. The weather is great. I’ve got my A game. I am unstoppable. Until I put the van in reverse.
I don’t remember what I was talking about or if I was even talking. I do remember making a mental note of the nearby church parking lot – the perfect spot for a 3-point turnabout. What I clearly did not take note of was the ditch that separated the beaten path from said parking lot. I’m trying desperately to come up with a way to write the sound the van made when it plummeted to the bottom of the ditch, but nothing comes to mind. Just trust me; it was horrific. I try putting the van in drive, and the only result I get is the sight of airborne gravel and the smell of burned rubber. We all hop out of the van to survey the situation. Oh, and by the way, another thing about traveling with journalists: they take pictures of EVERYTHING.
Thoughts of my touring expertise disappear along with any hope of driving out of the ditch, and I keep a prayer for a miracle in my mind on repeat. We try to push the van from the front. We try to push the van from the back, trying to keep ourselves from being pummeled by the tiny rocks. We try putting sticks in front of the wheel; we try putting sticks behind the wheel. Absolutely nothing works, and I begin to think I’ll be staying behind, mortified, while the rest of my group enjoys their afternoon in Cleveland. Car after car drives by us. I resign to the idea of hanging out alone…in the heat…in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve heard people say, “God works in mysterious ways.” I’ve even said it myself many times about many situations. But, I have to say, I can’t recall a personal incident that illustrated this truth more than what happened that afternoon.
I never even saw the truck that saved the day pull into the parking lot. A gentleman rolled down the driver’s side window and politely informed me that he would pull the van out from the back. Without a word spoken, they removed a huge chain from their tool box, hooked it to the front of their truck and to the back of the van, threw the truck in reverse and pulled the van out in a matter of seconds. I stood there, in complete shock but completely cognizant that these men were angels unaware. And the tag on the front of their truck read, “We believe in miracles.”
After the infamous van incident, I figured I could handle anything on this journey. Not that I “handled” the incident at all, but I understood that things could only go up. Even when Heather’s rental van was totaled by a Clarksdale local, we survived. I dropped my new friends off at the Memphis airport and breathed a sigh of relief. Not because they were on their way home, but because anything embarrassing that happened to me from that point on would just happen to me.
So, that’s my job in a nutshell. Any questions?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
1) Nutella - an Italian hazlenut and chocolate spread. I'd seen it for quite a while in the grocery store, but since it lived next to the notoriously sickening Australian Vegemite, I just assumed it was just as vile. However, an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis changed my mind. If it's good enough for Giada, it's good enough for me (yaya and Feather, I think she looks like Kristen Fyke). My friend and fellow Giada girl-crusher Mary-Kathryn also sang the praises of this sweet treat. I finally broke down and purchased some today, and it is life-changing - heavenly and sinful at the same time. It's essentially the filling of a Rocher chocolate in a jar.
2) And the winner of the Make Ice Cream a Legitimate Breakfast Option is...Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon Bun ice cream. I am no stranger to B&J's as I've been a huge fan of the Phish Food flavor for years. But a desperate attempt to avoid County Line Road last night led to cruising the frozen treats aisle at, you guessed it, the grocery store again. I'm beginning to see a pattern here... Anywho, as strange as it may sound, it's simply delightful.
3) This last one is fat free, no cals and 0 Points - my new cell phone. Many of you are aware that my last one went AWOL in the Detroit airport while I was slowly but surely making my way home from a trip overseas. After a couple of days without it, I decided to take the plunge and get a cool phone - I even clearly told the sales guy that I wanted a cool phone, and nothing Zach Morris-style would do. So, I now have a Motorola SLVR, and I have to admit, I think I am cooler. I'll really be unstoppable once text messaging comes into the picture.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I’d like to state first off that I’ll definitely be watching The Office Season 4 Premiere a second time since Kell snored through the whole thing, and it was, as you would suppose, distracting to say the least. Not that the episode was boring by any means, just by the time we watched it, it was way past his bedtime.
** Special Note: At the request of my dear friend and star meteorologist Laura Mc, I will refrain from posting my thoughts on last night’s episode. But Laura, I have just 19 words for you: Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Branch Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.
In other news, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, you’ve been hearing about the Viking Classic – a PGA event held right here in Mississippi at Annandale Golf Club. I attended (crashed) the first big party (snuck in with some Viking friends) Wednesday night, blissfully unaware that my past Viking world and my current MDA world would collide (Hey there, Kathy and Jackie!). I pretty much stayed in a state of confusion the entire night until we left and headed for PF Chang’s, which was really good but REALLY salty. I’m kind of over it.
Looking forward to this weekend – Kell, the twins and I are headed northwest to Greenville to spend a few days with his fam and Marley, their (shall I say) “spirited” Jack Russell terrier. She and the twins are a blur of black and white when they get together. And, it’s also been rumored that we’ll be visiting the world-famous Doe’s Eat Place for dinner one night on ghetto-fabulous Nelson Street. I also can’t wait to visit Libby Story & Co., a great, affordable clothing and accessories store there. (I tried to goodsearch.com the website, but all that came up were “stories” on Scooter “Libby”.)
Thursday, September 27, 2007
“Fun Run”: Special ONE HOUR Premiere
A freak accident causes Michael to feel the office is cursed. He explores the religious beliefs of his employees before deciding to hold a charity 5K fun run. Meanwhile, further developments in the romances of Pam and Jim, and Dwight and Angela are explored.
* Please check out Michael’s shorts and Bob Vance (Vance Refrigeration) in the background with Phyllis. How cute is Angela?
For nostalgia’s sake, I visited the message I posted the day after the finale to review the questions and conspiracy theories posed by Season 3’s finale. A brief synopsis of these questions:
- Who knew Jan was unstable?
- What has happened to Karen?
- Did Jim and Pam go on a REAL date?
- Did Ryan really get the job at corporate?
I can hardly contain my excitement. In fact, I’m so excited that I might even elect to watch the commercials instead of waiting until 8:00 zap them ala TiVo.
(Jim and Pam are standing next to each other!)
Monday, September 10, 2007
After an eventful week or journey, I feel a lot of pressure (be it self-induced or otherwise) to produce a good post. So, armed with Kell's laptop and a dream, I am going to try to add a little each day to be sure I cover everything and to release the post in a timely manner. Here goes nothin'...
Day 1 (and 2, kind of)
My dear husband dropped me off at the Jackson Airport for my 9 a.m. flight to Detroit (miss him already). I have a huge carry-on bag and a laptop bag in hopes that I will be able to connect to English-speakers while on my journey. The flight to Detroit was uneventful, and I disembark to navigate my way through the airport and find my flight.
After getting the stink eye from a Yankee Northwest employee, I decide to grab lunch before I depart. I haven't patronized the Golden Arches in quite a while, so I made my purchase and ate. Immediately after swallowing the last fry, I go to search my bag for the Pepto (taking NO chances on a 13-hour flight). Nowhere to be found. In a panic, I practially sprint to a mini-mart near my gate for the pink stuff and peace of mind.
And, we're boarding the biggest plane I've ever seen - it's 2 stories. I take my seat next to a young couple who I immediately assume are on their honeymoon. I always assume young couples wearing wedding rings and traveling on Sunday are on their honeymoon. On long flights, I try to sit at the window so I can lean against it to sleep. The only drawback is I am at the mercy of the others on my row for bathroom breaks. So, I go whenever they go. I'm sure they think I am losing my mind.
My interaction with the flight attendants is as follows: "No, thank you, I do not want any beef tips and rice"..."No, thank you, no green tea for me"..."No, I don't want any water"..."No, thank you, I don't want any water"..."No, I don't think I want any eggs"..."No, no water for me, thanks." I already told you I can't go to the bathroom whenever I want, so I have to drink wisely.
13 hours and 3 movies later, I practically leap off the plane and progress my way through immigration, baggage claim, customs and money change. Fortunately, almost all signage has English translations, so it's not as hard as I thought it would be. I just assume that the Americans in front of me know what they're doing, so I follow them and pretend to know what I'm doing. The last leg of my journey is the Limousine Bus to my hotel. Another 1.5 hours later, I'm in my hotel room, where the top of the bed is about at my knees, AND there's CNN on TV! It's not Fox News, but hey, it's in English. Finally, following a much-needed bath and some dinner, it's bedtime.
Day 2 (I guess)
I'm up at 6 a.m. wide awake, the 14-hour time difference taking its first hit on my biological clock. I eat one of the Fiber One bars I brought, finally figure out my calling card and get in touch with Kell. Hearing his voice does more for me than I ever expected, but it makes me realize how far I am from home. I'm going to get dressed and try to walk around a little bit before lunch.
(The view from my hotel room window)
Fortunately, most people speak some English here, so I was able to score a map of the area around my hotel and walk to the Ginza, the most famous shopping district in traditional upscale Tokyo. Since my internal compass has never worked, I didn't venture too far off the street that led to my hotel. I find a coffee shop and stop for a banana-chocolate muffin and orange juice. I'm also afraid of getting lost and not making it back for my lunch meeting, so I didn't stay out too long. I bought a little coin purse for all my loose yen, and set off on my way back home.
(The Ginza again)
(A Japanese Wendy's. NOW I feel at home.)
(Kids playing outside a local elementary school. Wait...do I see Heather?)
On the way, a young Japanese man approaches me and starts talking. I explained to him that I speak only English, but he did not give up. My beauty knows no boundaries. He says he is falling in love with me and follows me for a few yards until I tell him I am married and show him my ring. Thanks, Kell.
I head off to lunch with Chie, my new Japanese friend and colleague, who takes me to an Italian restaurant. Seriously, I'm in Tokyo and eating Italian? Wasn't my choice. After lunch, we hit the very upscale and trendy Roppongi Hills for a media marketplace. I've got some time before we meet, so I buy a book (great idea, KM) and some socks for Kell and head back up to our table. At around 5:00, I really start to drop - yawning, mind shutting down, etc. The language barrier is NOT helping, but I persevere.
Following the marketplace and reception, we're off to dinner with some friends from Oregon. Indian food this time, but no curry for yours truly. A taxi takes me home, and the first real day is finally over.
I'm really glad today that I don't have to be up and going until about 10:30 a.m. here (8:30 p.m. in Mississippi). Chie and I head over to our first sales call - a lifestyles/trends magazine. I'd like to take a moment and tell you about the taxis in Japan. The first thing I noticed is the automatic door - the driver presses a button in the cab, and the door opens for you. Secondly, the drivers all wear suits and white gloves. Thirdly, no one, and I mean NO ONE, honks. Even as the cabs whiz by within inches of each other, the roads are almost silent. Perhaps the cabbies in NYC could learn a few things from the ones here.
We meet Cheryl from Minnesota for lunch, and it's off to another sales call. And another. Finally, I'm back at my hotel, and I call my misplaced Mississippian buddy Spencer to meet up for dinner. First thing's first - it's time to deposit some yen into the Japanese retail economy. It's raining, so Harajuku's out, but Shibuya 109 is a tall building with stores on several floors. Wearing my iPod, I visit the establishments that dress and accessorize Tokyo's young and most fashion-forward crowd.
I meet Spencer and we head to a yakatori restaurant - chicken and veggies grilled on skewers. It's a local fave, so I'm feeling really authentic. We talk and laugh like loud Americans (not to mention Southerners) over Sapporo and bacon-wrapped asparagus. Of course, it's cash only, so I dole out the yen, and we're on our way. Spencer has a huge apartment by Tokyo standards, and he makes me take my shoes off at the door. He makes me try a kiwi-flavored Kit Kat (sick) before I hop in a cab and am on my way.
It's the first real day of JATA, and I'm going to Cheryl's hotel for breakfast. What a pleasant surprise to see actual fresh fruit - it's hard to find here. The symposiums at Tokyo Big Sight couldn't be more boring, but I try to listen even though over half of the Japanese audience is shamelessly sleeping through them. Lunch is Thai food (complete with traditional Thai dancers), and I quickly affirm that I definitely prefer the Americanized version - the best part is the guava juice box at each person's seat. The beauty of trying new food at luncheons like this is you get to try new things, but you don't have to pay for it. Free culture, essentially.
Thankfully, the afternoon session is a little better, and after it's over and I'm back in the room, I drop Spencer a line to enlist his tour guide/"babysitting" (as Kell calls it) services. Back to Shiubuya 109 (it's near his residence) for a meeting place and we make the trek to a ramen noodle restaurant. Now, I am no stranger to ramen noodles - I had my share in high school and college - but this is the REAL THING. I order mine with cheese, and we pick up where we left off - loudly.
(Spencer and me enjoying our ramen.)
It's not bedtime just yet, so we walk to the nearest Starbucks for coffee (they're everywhere here), hot chocolate and one of my favorite activities, people-watching. Although Japan is one of the safest places in the world, I ask about 100 times if we are okay walking around at dark. I am quickly told to chill out and quit asking so many questions. According to the always eloquent Spencer, this area is home to the largest concentration of "good lookin' women" in Tokyo. One of his work friends walks by and joins us for a visit before I head back to my temporary home.
Finally - the real reason I am here - the tradeshow part of JATA. Today, I'm promoting the Mississippi River Country to the Japanese. Of course, I am less inclined to discuss Iowa tourism than my own state, but that's the benefit of ME actually being there. Our booth is located right across from Hawai'i, so the entire day is filled with hula music, leis and ukeleles. Miss Hawai'i 2007 is there and hulas on stage for us as well. I have to escape for a moment, and I find Greece's booth!
(Miss Hawai'i getting her hula on.)
(What is a stuffed armadillo doing in the Tokyo airport? Harris, this one's for you.)
Following the show, there's a reception for the show attendees (I've learned that the Japanese love a reception). Since it's hosted by Discover America, there's Oregon wine and what is supposed to pass for a hot dog. Now, I consider myself to be a lover of the hot dog, but this one imparticular is a strange color, so I pass it up. Back at the hotel, I decide to try one of the Imperial restaurants. Teppanyaki sounds good, so I take the elevator to the top floor (should have been my first clue) and check out the menu outside the door. Dinner STARTS at 15,000 yen (rough translation - $150), so turn around and act like I know exactly what I'm doing.
Plan B: head out to the Ginza again. It's about 9:30 p.m., so the odds of finding something open are slim. Convincing myself that I am safe and wearing my iPod, I try to blend in with the locals and search for my supper. Isn't it great how music you love is such a comfort? I stumble upon Cafe La Boheme (not really - I had directions), the menu looks reasonable (again, by Tokyo standards), and it's...Italian! I have a seat, order and read on my Greg Iles book. The server brings me my caprese salad with the BEST tomatoes I've ever had. And, my pizza with shrimp, bacon and green peppers (restaurant special) is awesome, too. I only wish there were a microfridge in my room. Walking back, I actually feel like a world traveler.
Today is the consumer day of the show. Meaning, locals pay a small fee to come visit the booths and research their next vacation. It's pleasantly surprising and makes me proud to hear of all the people who have been to the South, specifically Mississippi, and want to come back. Growing up and living here, we often take for granted what others really value - fans of Elvis and blues music run rampant here. I am actually asked by a Japanese man if I am well-educated and proud of my state. I of course answer with pride, convinced that I am a victim of his practicing English.
6:00 rolls around, and I'm free! One last trip on the train, one last cab ride and one last night in Tokyo. Since I really enjoyed last night's dinner, I walk around the Ginza a little more but stop at Cafe La Boheme again. It's still strange to me that an Italian restaurant took its name from a French opera. Dinner tonight is bruschetta and mushroom risotto - both outstanding. After a little more wandering, it's off to my room to pack my things and get ready for tomorrow's trip.
In the words of Kristen, it's "go-home day!" Even though this has been a blast and even more fun than I ever thought, go-home day is always a blessing. I buy a bus ticket and hop on. The ride is still an easy 1.5 hours, but it passes by really fast since this time it's light out when I'm riding and I get to see the sights. Plus, I'm at the window. I progress through security, check-in, security again (the Japanese don't play around) immigration, customs and I'm through. I find my gate and then explore the airport a bit. My carry-on stuff is heavy, so I don't get very far.
In broken English, I hear the typhoon in China has delayed my flight. Great. After being denied by one agent, I somehow get through to the next that I HAVE to make my connection in Detroit. She offers me a seat in the center section, and before she can finish talking, I've claimed it. This puts me cutting it close in Detroit, but it's go-home day. Again, no barbecue or eggs for me on the flight, and finally I'm on U.S. soil. I get through customs, and there's no sign of my luggage. Evidently, it's on the flight I was originally supposed to be on. I must be making a scene at baggage claim because a stranger approaches me and asks if I'm okay.
After missing my flight, I stand in the L-O-N-G line for re-booking. Thankfully, there's a flight to Jackson in 3 hours. Unfortunately, I'm already exhausted, my carry-ons haven't lost any weight AND my phone is dead. I find a pay phone (which I haven't used in years) and let Kell know when I'll be getting home. The 2-hour flight to Jackson is short compared to the one I was just on, and I'm home in no time! Kell's waiting for me and we go eat before heading home to the twins.
It's amazing how a trip like this really opens your eyes. Growing up in small town, Mississippi, you start to think that the world sort of revolves around you and the people you know. But there I was for a week in another country with a strange language and strange people, all with their own story - probably totally different and exactly the same as my own. And, if there's a next time for me in Japan, I think I'll enjoy it even more.
Arigato gozaimas and sayonara.