Monday, September 26, 2011

The Follow-Through: Sky Diving

The Resolution
On July 1st I made Half Year Resolutions.  This included 5 things that I have always wanted to do but have either put off for a while or have never been proactive about. One of the biggest things on the list? GO SKYDIVING! Well, I blogged it, therefore I was committed to do it.

Here comes the follow-through on my blog promise.  I finally found someone just crazy enough to go skydiving with me - my sister Allison. 

The History
Our grandfather was drafted into WW2 when he was a teenager.  He always said “If Uncle Sam is going to make me be in the war, I’m at least going to keep it interesting.” So he did. He volunteered to be a paratrooper.  In fact, he was with the very first troop that entered Japan during the war. Before this weekend, pretty much all of my sky diving knowledge came from him. I know that parachuting in a war zone and sky diving for fun are completely different, but I’m glad to finally know what he was talking about when he would describe how it feels to jump out of a plane!


The Jump
Allison has a friend who skydove with this particular company about 20 times, so we took the recommendation and went to Skydive Smoky Mountains just outside of Knoxville. (All weekend we kept trying to figure out the past tense of “skydive”. I’m not so sure “skydove” is correct, but it gets the point across.) 

I’m glad that this place was recommended to us, because if I had just shown up at this random hay field with a makeshift gazebo/barn and tiny airplane that likely doubles as a crop duster during the week, I would have been a little hesitant. I expected an airport. But then again, I’ve never seen anyone sky diving at an airport, so I don’t know why I thought that.

 Tiny Plane, Random Barn

So we signed our life away and walked through everything with the sky dive instructor for about 10 minutes.  This included an on-the-ground charade of belly flopping, back-arching, and jumping.  Plus our instructor was this awesomely goofy, more-than-a-little-bit crazy dude with an “I’m here. Let’s party.” t-shirt. He made interesting… and fun!

I'm Here. Let's Party.

Allison and I both jumped tandem with this instructor. (Before you can ever jump by yourself, you are required to jump with a trained instructor a certain number of times and go through special training.)  There was only one instructor working, so we had to go up one at a time. Which was more than fine. The plane was tiny and we could photograph each other from the ground.

Because I am the one who talked us into this adventure, I volunteered to go first. I thought that I would be sooo nervous. I mean, I get nervous before my exercise classes. I can be that ridiculous. But for some reason, I was so strangely confident about this. Not a twinge of fear. Maybe because it never seemed real. I still can’t believe that I did it.

The instructor got strapped in to a harness and had a backpack with the parachute. I just had a regular harness. 

We piled into the tiny plane and closed the top-hinged door. There was just one seat where the pilot sat. The instructor and I sat on the floor facing each other in an area that couldn’t have been much more than 5 square inches

Little Plane

Make a mental note of the little metal stair under the door.

We took off down the runway... aka a path mowed in the field. I shall call it "Pathway". 

Take Off Down the Pathway

We flew around in circles for about 20 minutes until we had ascended to 12,000 feet. Gorgeous view of The Smokies. At this point, I crawled over to the instructor, sat in front of him, and he strapped me into his harness. I wasn’t nervous on the plane ride, so I thought it would hit when the door opened and I had a better view of the ground.  I put on my goggles and we both scooted forward towards the now open door. The next part all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to worry. Outside the plane there is a little metal stair.  I had to stand on the stair while the instructor got situated behind me.  He counted down and we leaped off.  AHHHHH! It felt so awesome! When you jump, you basically do a belly-flop, not an actual dive. I thought it would feel like one of those roller coasters that takes you straight up and then drops you (which I do happen to love), but it doesn’t at all! There is so much wind resistance when you fall because you are descending at speeds between 90-120 mph! In fact, if my eyes had been closed, I’d imagine it would feel like I was being pushed up instead of falling down.  I would liken it to sticking your head out of a car window while driving really fast.  Even though you are driving forward, the wind makes it feel like you are being pushed backwards. (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend sticking your head out of a car window while driving really fast. My mom rolled up my head in a window once while parked. Why was it out the window? I don’t know. But I got a Sonic Peanut Butter Fudge milkshake out of the ordeal so I’d say it was worth the trouble).  The freefall lasted about 45 seconds. I thought I would be panicking about whether the parachute was going to open, but I was so consumed with how cool it all was that it never crossed my mind. Until… wham. We stopped falling. At least it felt like we did. The instructor had pulled our chute, which felt like slamming on the brakes. I was having so much fun falling that I had somehow forgotten that we even had a chute. I know, crazy. Since the harness was around my shoulders, stomach, and thighs for an ideal standing jump, I had to stand on my instructor’s feet and slide the harness down almost to my knees so that I could get resituated to sit and enjoy the ride (and prepare for landing).  Then he handed me the reigns. Another thing I didn’t know – you can steer the chute! It was hard to pull, but if you pull either left or right for a while you will spin around in circles. Fun!

My Descent

Then when we got close to the ground, the instructor took the reigns again and directed us straight towards the field where we started.  To land, I basically just had to pull my legs up straight in front of me and sit down on the ground. 

 My Smooth Landing

 My Instructor insisted that I wear his sweatshirt. Icky.

Post Jump, Wind Blown      
Just don’t dig your heels in when you land or you will flip and roll around on the ground, which is really awkward when strapped to someone else. Ahem… Allison…

Allison - Post Digging in Heels and Rolling Around in Dirt with Instructor

While I loved the dive, I was ready to sit down for a few minutes and get reoriented. Oh yeah, and try to make my ears pop again. That was a quick pressure change! I must say that I liked freefalling better than parachuting. I really loved it! I would do it again today if I could. I may have found a new hobby.

Allison loved it too. Her pictures are my favorite. I love the before and after.



Our dives were chronicled on videos that the company is currently editing.  We should get them in the next few weeks. Of course I will post it for all of you to see just because the skin flapping around on my face during the freefall will make you giggle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Because It's Fall

Today is one my favorite days out of the whole year. Just because it’s the beloved first day of Fall. In fact, sitting at my desk this afternoon at work, I was so anxious for 5 o'clock. It felt like the much anticipated half day before Christmas break in grade school. Or the night right before you leave for the beach when the packing is done and all that's left is to go to bed, knowing that in the morning it will be vacation time.

I was that excited just because…

Just because the cool crisp air of fall reminds me of campouts with my youth group, school group, and sisters filled with capture the flag, french braids, flag football, and day hikes. 

Sisters (I am on the far right), Backpacking in Stone Door, 2002ish

Just because the pumpkins remind me of trick or treating on Halloween night. We lived on a highway, so instead of going door-to-door in a neighborhood, we would drive around town and visit family friends and all of the elderly people at our church. That really is the smart way to do it. If you are one of about five trick-or-treaters that someone is expecting, you get homemade goody bags with brownies, popcorn balls and nail polish. For most of the years that I can remember, I alternated between my Pocahontas costume and my pumpkin costume. This continued even in college. True story.

The great pumpkin costume lives on.  Freshman year of college.
Just because the leaves in Tennessee are so gorgeous that I will do just about anything to be outside. This is pretty rare for me. I am predominantly an Inside Girl. I never appreciated the leaves much until I went to college in Oklahoma. The state is pretty much known for being flat, windy, and having lots of tornadoes. I completely loved Oklahoma Christian University, but I definitely missed the Tennessee scenery while I was there.  Plus the smell of tobacco burning in the barn? Love. It's a good reason to cruise through the country with your windows down.

My nephew "raking" leaves. 

Just because I am obsessed with bonfires. I love a good hot dog roasted over the fire. And some how they taste even better when eaten on a hay bale. Because my parent's live on a farm, we have bon fires fairly regularly - just because. Just because the weather is nice. Just because we have some extra wood. Just because hot dogs were on sale. Just because some family is in town. 

 Hot Dogs and Hay Bales

Campfire Cupcakes

"Do you want a bite of my cupcake, Aunt Em?"
"Umm... no thanks, baby."
(Ever notice that kids always eat cupcakes from the top down? Interesting technique.)


I love the Fall. Just because.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Little Things

Last week I talked to one of my best guy friends for his birthday.

Senior Prom Photo. We’ve been friends since first grade.

We hadn’t talked in a while so he asked me what had been going on in my life. There were a few big things to mention, but my mind was predominantly flooded with tons of little, relatively unimportant things that have been the fabric of my days recently. I didn't bore him with most of the little details that were drowning my thoughts, but I realized that sometimes it really is the little things that make up a big story of our lives. So here’s what’s been going on:

I started running again. I guess I can say started since I have gone four times in the last ten days. Almost a trend. I am a fair weather exerciser. Literally. Summer is too hot. Winter is too cold. Fall and spring? Perfect. Unless it is rainy, polleny or dark… y. My first night of running I ran to the end of my street and walked back. I was so proud. It was at least 0.7 miles. (Actually it was exactly 0.7 miles. I was so proud that I measured it in my car afterwards.) At work the next morning I shamelessly told everyone about my success (although I rounded it up and called it 1 mile)… including the man who just finished an iron man competition the week before.  Oh well. One co-worker delicately pointed out that it probably took me longer to pick out my outfit than it did to actually run. Boy was he wrong. For one thing, I run really slow so it took me much longer than he probably suspected. For another, I anticipated that I would go for a run so I picked out my clothes the night before. I decided a long time ago that day-before outfit picking time does not get factored into day-of getting ready time. I have run three times since then – a little farther each time.  Last night I ran to the end of the street and back. As I was pounding the pavement (I’m trying to sound tough here) I realized I was sweating a lot. Oh no wait. That’s not sweat. Yep, it’s raining. Just another little reminder from Mother Nature that I don’t belong in the Great Outdoors. Like I needed it.  

As I am cruising along I see that Metro Police have recently visited my neighborhood. Apparently there have been some speeders because at the bottom of the hill they set up one of those “Watch Your Speed” radars that flashes your mph on a giant screen to remind you to slow down. As I crest the hill, I cross over in front of the meter and dart straight towards it. I see a tiny red light blinking, as if it is thinking about whether or not I am fast enough to register. Thinking. Thinking. The flashes continue. I speed up, running as fast as I can (reminiscent of my buffalo run), hoping that it registers my Usain Bolt speeds. It’s still blinking. Calculating. Calculating. I am now just a few feet away. Two more seconds and I come to a screeching halt, face to face with the contraption. And... Nothing. Just a blank black screen staring back at me. Really Metro? I was at least putting out 5 mph. I have to be running over 30mph to be good enough for you? Sheesh. Don’t hate. 

I keep running despite my Metro-sized let down when a neighbor totally made my day. That’s right, emo guy in the hot pink converse hightops.  You made me smile. The fact that you came to Nashville to make it big and decided that Music City truly should be a City of Music was not lost on me. I can appreciate the amp that you set up in your front yard.  It took some time to run that orange extension cord all the way out to the street. And thanks for plugging in that electric guitar to said amp and playing all of your recent writes for us (all six of us neighborhood exercisers). But most of all, thanks for playing the guitar while riding a skateboard. That takes talent. Especially since your guitar is wired to the amp so you can only skate around in circles with a 10 ft. radius. I raise my nalgene to you, Music City Man. You keep us rocking in the hotel lounges and in the streets. Keep on singing. And skating.

Lamp Table
I have needed a floor lamp in my living room for at least 6 months. I am so indecisive about the smallest of things. Seriously. I picked out my condo in one weekend. A floor lamp? Months. And don’t even get me started on the couches. I finally found a lamp that I like at Walmart of all places. Nothing against Walmart, but I didn’t expect to find one there. It is Better Homes and Gardens which makes me feel better about the purchase. Plus it is a lamp and a table so it’s like a two for one deal.

And the table is perfect for my birthday present from my crafty sister. I call her Early Martha (Martha Stewart pre-prison time).  She takes nothing and turns it into something all the time. This time? A Hobby Lobby worthy piece of art with a quote from one of my favorite books, Crazy Love. The quote:  “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Love.

Daddy Date
My dad’s birthday was a month ago, but we finally had time to get together for dinner last week. Restaurant of choice? Red Lobster. We ate endless shrimp, clams, salmon, all of the good things. I decided that 5 cheddar bay biscuits would be excessive so I stopped at 4 (and took 3 home for dinner the next night). Love daddy dates.

In Gulf Shores, May 2011

Hawaii Dress
I am going to my college roommate’s wedding in Hawaii this January. While it will be chilly here in the continental US, Hawaii will be a nice, warm 80 degrees. This means two things. One:  Weddings require cute new dresses. Two:  I must buy said dress now or I will end up only being able to find sweater dresses and boots in stores.  I had looked for a few weekends and found nothing. Fall clothes have already taken over. I was worried that I had waited too late, but my fashion consultant (well, my coworker who always looks cute) told me to try Dillards. Of course, Dillards. You would never let a girl down when it comes to a special occasion outfit. I found the perfect dress there. One problem, it was my correct number size but the fit was way too small. Like, I couldn’t get it past my knees. That’s right. I had accidentally found a dress in the Junior Department. Apparently there are a few things that you need to know if you end up in the Junior Department.  1. Take your normal size and multiply by a factor of two. 2.  Cross your fingers and breathe in while zipping. 3.  Purchase item at a cash register in a different department to avoid looking like a high school girl going to prom. 4.  Before hanging in closet, remove all tags. Trust me. You’ll forget the size over time.

I had to go to a different mall to get “my size”, but the dress is just what I wanted. Coral. Bead work around the neck. Knee length. On Sale. Success.

I have never been to Hawaii before. I am going to the islands of Oahu and Kauai.  If you have any must-sees, must-dos, or must-eats, let me know!

I have always loved Francesca Batestelli. In fact, her song “Beautiful, Beautiful” was inspiration for this blog. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she paired with another favorite, Dave Barnes, for a great new song. Imagine my jaw dropping surprise when I found out that the song was called “Emily”. And it mentions our stories. Yeah, it’s perfect. I was destined to love it. Take a listen.

I joined Pinterest. Everyone is on that site now. If you haven’t joined, take a look. It’s basically like digital bulletin boards that you can pin different items on – recipes, hairstyles, craft projects, home ideas, etc. I love it because I see things on the internet all of the time that I want to remember or try or make and I always forget about it. When you are on Pinterest, you can organize all of that and see what your friends are pinning! There are so many things on my Craft To-Do list now! I hope Pinterest makes me a craftier, trendier, and a better cook!

Boo for grown-up, no-fun purchases. 

I finally got new tires for my car. They still have those little tire hairs on them and a marker spot on the side. That is my only glimmer of light.

Incredibly Boring Picture of a Tire

In my spare bedroom I have had a twin day bed for a long time. That’s because I needed a bed for the room and when I moved out of my parent’s house my mom decided to turn my former bedroom into a craft room. Now that these little guys are in Indiana and will need a bed when they come in town, the day bed is going back to where it belongs and is being replaced with a queen bed. I purchased a queen sized memory foam mattress that my dad offered to deliver for me in exchange for a Mexican dinner at El Chico. 

Incredibly Boring Picture of a Mattress

Well, guess what. I decided that I want the new mattress upstairs in my bedroom and my current mattress moved to the spare room downstairs. That is a lot of mattress moving. He got way more than he bargained for.

But I finally have a queen sized bed in my spare bedroom. I want to find inspiration for a headboard on Pinterest to make for this room. My current choice is to turn a door into a headboard.

Spare Bedroom 

I have had a spider in the same place on my ceiling for about a month. 

She lives by my sky light in the vaulted ceiling and can not be reached by neither a shoe nor a broom. I have even thrown a pair of socks at her. Unsuccessful. So she lives there. I’m starting to think that she may not even be alive. No webs. No movement. It may not be long before gravity gets the best of Charlotte. Here’s hoping I’m not walking under her when she drops.

So there you have it. That's what's been going on with me. Little things. But these little things make up my big days! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

Ever have one of those days when even spilling a little lunch on your shirt at work, getting caught in rainy day traffic, and cutting your fingernail with your razor in the shower (come on... we've all done it) can't even touch all of the other good stuff going on?  My Monday was a day of getting sweet, surprise texts from friends, completing a couple of long-term projects, making new friends, and a night of inspiration.

A Beautiful Storyteller 
Last night a friend gave me an extra ticket to attend the Maya Angelou Event at Belmont. I had read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in high school and loved her work. I remember my English teacher saying, "If you ever get a chance to hear Maya Angelou speak, you have to go." Well, at 5:15 when a coworker casually mentioned that she had an extra ticket to the event, I jumped on the chance. So glad I did. 

Maya Angelou was escorted (as she is now elderly and feeble) onto the stage to eruptions of applause. Her literature and poetry have truly been influential to our generation, and that has not gone unnoticed. 

Maya Angelou

She eloquently shared her beautiful story of overcoming tragedy and learning to use her voice to change the world. When she was very young she was raped by her mother's boyfriend.  After confessing this event to her family, the man was found dead a few days later.  Convinced that her words could kill people, she became a voluntary mute for 6 years. She would only speak to her brother since she felt he would always be safe with her.  For those six years she was tormented by others in the town accusing her of being "stupid" or "illiterate". However, she refused to speak in order to protect even the most cruel of people because she knew that her words were far too powerful. Little did those people know that she had spent those years memorizing poetry, reading the classics, and learning through listening.  Finally, a teacher who noticed her nose always in books of poetry convinced her that she could not truly love a poem until it rolled off of her lips. She presented a poem to her class and overcame her silence. She was right, her words do have power, but a bold, beautiful power that has influenced our culture through novels, poetry, and songs.  In fact, she was commissioned by the United Nations to write a poem about bringing peace to this world. At the end of the evening, Maya Angelou's charming alto voice recounted, "I am not beautiful because I am a bold, broad sky. I am beautiful because others have put rainbows in my clouds." 

You can read more about her story on her website or in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings". 

Code Keith in Aisle Seven
At one point during the Taylor Swift concert last weekend she ran through the crowd to get on a small stage at the back of the floor. When she grabbed the mic she said “Wow. I love Nashville. I just passed a few neighbors and a bunch of people I went to high school with. I’ll probably see some of you at the grocery store tomorrow.”  Well, guess what? She was right. Now I didn’t see her at the grocery store, but I did see Keith Urban. Between work and the Maya Angelou event I stopped by Whole Foods in Green Hills to pick up a couple of things (brown rice syrup, unsweetened dried coconut, and almond butter… the essentials). I stepped out of the end of the aisle, surveying just how much my major purchase of three items would set me back.  I looked up and realized that I was walking straight towards by Keith and Nicole. I passed by and then realized that the little girl a few feet behind them that had gotten distracted by the case of Odwalla (who doesn’t love Mango Tango?!?) was Sunday. I had accidentally cut her off from her parents so I stepped back, said ‘Excuse me.’ in my high-pitched kid voice and moved along. Sunday is so cute! Just last month I was jamming at Keith’s concert.

Last night he was just another neighbor at the grocery store.

Disclaimer: I do realize that practically everyone in Nashville has seen Keith Urban around town and that 90% of those sightings have been at Whole Foods. I hear Keith stories all of the time. What I find interesting is that you are clearly a Nashvillian when you say, “I saw Keith Urban. Oh yeah, and Nicole was with him.”  You are clearly a transplant if you say, “I saw Nicole Kidman. Oh yeah, and Keith was with her.” I am a Nashvillian. Love him.

Turns out that rainy days and Mondays aren't always bad.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Girl's Night Out

Last night I had a Girl’s Night Out with one of my favorite gals.

We ate pizza at Mellow Mushroom, wandered around downtown,

Had a photo shoot in front of the Frist
 This girl knows how to work the camera...
 Even though it was a little difficult to get on top of the spheres.

And rocked it out at the Taylor Swift concert.

Taylor put on a really fun show.

Plus she flew in the air in this little balcony contraption and came right over us. We had front row seats for those 15 seconds.

And she had several surprise guests:
 Kenny Chesney

 Andy Grammer

Tim McGraw

Was the concert awesome? Well, of course! We were armed with all necessary “Awesome Concert” items:
 Glow Sticks

Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

 Cotton Candy

 Taylor Tee

And on the way home we cruised through downtown with our windows down, Taylor cd blaring, and  two excited girls screaming the songs at the top of our lungs.

There were smiles all around.

She was my paparazzi for the evening. I didn't upload the close-ups of my belt, boots, lips, hair, purse, etc. In this particular picture she said "I've gotta take a picture of you with all of the stuff you have been carrying around all night." Okay. Let's all notice that every item in my hands, with the exception of my purse, was in her hands in earlier photos. Kids come with lots of stuff.

I learned a few things last night. For example, when I was little we said “Step on a crack and you break your momma’s back” in reference to any crack or line in the sidewalk. Well, that game has been upgraded. They have added “Step on a line and you break your daddy’s spine.”. Cracks now refer to “squiggly” breaks in the concrete and Lines refer to the intentional “straight” breaks. We ran down the sidewalks trying to dodge all off the life altering squiggles and lines. I stepped on so many that I was relieved today to see both of my parents upright and in good health. I was worried. I don’t even remember what happens when you if you step on the black squares in the crosswalks but I remember it was bad. Lava or something. I stayed on the white squares. I didn’t want to find out.

Also, “Punch Buggy” is the new car game. If you see a Volkswagen beetle you have to be the first to yell “Punch Buggy Black” or whatever color it is. You get a point for each one. If you see a convertible with the top down you get two points. When I was young we played Padiddle. In our game if you saw a car with a head light out you would have to be the first to yell “Padiddle” and hit the ceiling of your car with your hand.   I don’t remember the details surrounding the point system, but I would imagine it is comparable to Punch Buggy. I do remember one thing. Watch for motorcycles. They are tricky!

Can't wait for round two with her little sister in few weeks!