Monday, August 31, 2015

An Evening With Sandi

Last winter, I received a card from the Indiana United Methodist Children's Home, announcing the 100th Anniversary Gala, to be held in August. The IUMCH, in Lebanon, Indiana, would be celebrating 100 years of ministry to the children of Indiana. And the entertainment for the evening? Sandi Patty! Of course, my groupies and I would need to be there. :)

The reservations were made, and on a beautiful August evening, we arrived at the Lucas Estate for a very special night of song and celebration.
The valet took this photo of Jim, me, Ruthann, Daryl, Janet, and Steve. (Rich and Becky were a few minutes behind us, arriving from the opposite direction.)
We enjoyed cocktails on the terrace at the VIP reception. Nice pool house, don't you think?
Janet found her twin. :)

And, of course, we found Sandi. She was so happy to see us, and not at all worried that we might be stalkers. We're friendly stalkers, after all. :)

We were guided to the pavilion for dinner and the program. We watched a short film, which included some history of the IUMCH, as well as testimonials from individuals whose lives were changed by their experience as a resident of the Home. Many staff members and some former residents were in attendance for the celebration. It was interesting to learn of the past success, and the plan for the future.

We had a table for eight, which included Rich and Becky,
Janet and Steve,
Ruthann and Daryl,
and Jim and me.
The Bishop was there.
And Julia Moffett, the master of ceremonies.
And look who else I found!
Finally, it was time for Sandi.
She was awesome, as usual.
As she likes to do, she included son Jonathan in the program. He is an amazing singer, and she's (of course) a proud mama.
They sang 'The Prayer' to close the program.
A perfect ending...
to a very special evening. Amen and amen!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pearls of Wisdom

Five years ago, six friends from the class of '78 gathered for a little reunion to celebrate the year of our 50th birthdays. It took five posts to document all the fun we had back then. (Here, here, here, here, and here, in case you are interested.)

That first year, I had necklaces for all of us with a tag that says 'Celebrate' along with a small disc with '50' on it. When I ordered them from my (now) friend Laura, on Etsy, she suggested we also add a pearl, as in 'pearls of wisdom.' We have added a pearl each year that we've met since then, along with special charms from Jan. We now call ourselves the 'Pearls', which is a better choice than 'POWs', which had some folks questioning exactly what we were doing on our little outings. :)

Laughing mostly. That's what we were doing. And talking. And laughing. And talking some more. So much fun to catch up and reminisce with friends we have known for practically forever. That's a long time.
Everyone brought a little trinket to share… a wine stopper from Mary, Sun Valley Mustard from Amy, a male drink marker and a magnet (not pictured) from Ann, a flip flop charm from Jan, sunglasses that I 'pearled', and an awesome tiara from Debbie (more on that later).
In case you are wondering what a 'male drink marker' is, Ann brought a six-pack of these guys, each with a name, and ready to hang on the edge of our drinks so we would know whose was whose. They brought a lot of fun to the party, and turned up in all sorts of interesting places. :)
After all had arrived on Saturday, we hopped aboard the pontoon for a little jaunt around the lake. Deb brought fancy gift bags on the boat which had real tiaras inside. So exciting! You see, the first time the Pearls gathered at Sweetwater, there was another group of ladies who motored past our dock wearing tiaras. What a great idea! Deb found them shortly thereafter, and has been waiting to present them to us so that we could make our way around the lake as the royalty we are. Ha!
We got a quick photo of each of us wearing our crowns.
Even the Captain Queen (who, by the way, successfully docked that big ol' boat two times without a touch).
And it is here that the story takes a bit of a sad twist. As we were approaching the south cove, navigating our way through the boats, and being enthusiastically greeted by the non-tiara-wearing boaters, Jan raised her hand to wave, and…knocked…her…tiara…into…the…water! Yes, sadly, it was tiara overboard! We were heartbroken, and we circled back to the spot, looked down into the 25-foot-deep water, and had a moment of silence for the lost crown. A tiara tragedy.

Of course, we have learned in our 55 years accumulating those pearls of wisdom, that a lost tiara is not, in fact, a tragedy. The treasure of friends, the time together, and the sharing of our stories is far more important than a sunken tiara, and of far greater value. (They weren't real diamonds, were they, Deb?)

Later that evening, we sat around the table with our crowns securely on our heads.
Our little drink marker guys even made some cameo appearances...
on the crowns...
on our (we all need them now) glasses...
and even in our card game. :)
We kayaked...
we laughed...
we talked...
we floated...
we laughed...
and talked some more.
Because laughing…
and talking...
with friends who have known you the longest…
and know you the best...

is good for the soul.
So thankful for my Pearls. Love you all!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Hey Hey Hey Hey!

Our second day in NYC started early at my insistence gentle urging that we be on the plaza at Rockefeller Center for the TODAY Show. Ruthann decided to sleep in to be rested and ready for the main event, Jimmy Fallon, later in the day! (Not sure why the hotel clock said August 13, as it was actually the 11th.)
It was raining when we stepped outside, and we were thankful for the hotel umbrellas. St. Patrick's Cathedral was beautiful in the early morning light. More on that later.
We got in a line near the studio, only to find out that it was actually the line for stand-by Tonight Show tickets, not the line for the TODAY Show. We quickly relocated - after all, we already HAD tickets for The Tonight Show. Starring Jimmy Fallon!
We made our way to the check-in area, and since we had made an online reservation, it only took a quick stop at the kiosk, and we were on our way to find a spot on the fence just outside the studio window. They even had sweet orange rain ponchos for us.
I had made Jamalyn a sign, which we took along, and used to attract the attention of the producers. :)
Before the show starts at 7, some of the producers come out to rev up audience enthusiasm by filming small groups of fans shouting out where they're from, what brings them to New York, etc. The main thing they are looking for is ENTHUSIASM! (Just my thing, you know, especially at 6:45 AM. Ha!) In the center of the photo below, with the orange umbrella, is Alex on the Plaza, an associate producer who visits with fans, sets up the clips, and gets folks excited about being out in the rain first thing in the morning.
Because of the rain, there was a relatively small crowd gathered, and we did get our turn to film a 'shout-out' to possibly air at 8:00. We said we were in town from Indiana, and Jamalyn said she was celebrating her 40th. Whooo-hoooo! We were pretty sure it wouldn't be selected. After that, we decided we had had enough of the rain, and went inside the concourse at 30 Rock to get some breakfast.
The rain let up just before 8, so we ventured back out onto the plaza just in time to see this on the monitor:
Within minutes, we were receiving texts from friends saying that they had seen us on TV!! So exciting! One of Jamalyn's friends sent this still shot from her DVR. And yes, you do see two Jamalyns since Jess packed her 'J on a stick' from the birthday celebration earlier this summer.

Al Roker came out, and took time to greet every fan around the fence. Such a nice (and small!) man! The rest of the anchors came out to do their segment, but hurried back in when they were done. It was raining, after all.
It was about that time that Alex on the Plaza came over and struck up a conversation with us. We turned on the charm (and by 'we' I mean 'Jamalyn'), and we were soon the darlings of the plaza, the fans of the day (in our opinion, at least). He even brought out TODAY Show mugs just for us, and interviewed us for Sirius Radio (which aired later that day, according to a text from one of Jamalyn's friends at home).
It was a fun morning, and I'm so glad we went, despite the rain. It makes it fun for me to watch the TODAY Show now, knowing what it's like to actually be there.
The rain finally did let up, and we spent some time walking around the city, including a stop at Carlo's Bake Shop, of Cake Boss fame. It's one of Jamalyn's favorites.
She even found Buddy inside the store.
And crumb cake! Dee-licious!
Back at the hotel, it was time for a little rest. Being superstars is exhausting!

We were soon dressed and ready to head back over to NBC Studios for the taping of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon! Before we lined up for the show, we spent some time in the NBC Experience Store, where I ran into my friend Matt Lauer.
Jess had a moment with Jimmy.
And she and Jamalyn posed with him together. I think Jess may have taken her Christmas card photo while we were there. :)
Once we got in line for the show, there were no more photos allowed. And they mean it. We got our tickets and our wristbands, went through security, and were taken to a lovely waiting room with huge screens all around showing photos of Jimmy and his guests. This is also the last chance to use the restroom since once you are in the studio there is no coming or going allowed. As we used to say at after-prom, once you're in you're in, and once you're out you're out. :)

We were taken up the elevator in groups, and seated in the studio to wait for JIMMY FALLON! It was so cool to see how things work, how they set up the stage for the guests (Kristen Stewart, Jim Belushi, and Yolanda Adams), hear the band, and just to be there in person.

Jessica brought along this photo of her with Jimmy taken when he was in Indy for the Super Bowl. She wrote a sweet note on the back, and planned to give it to him when he ran through the audience at the end of the show. While they were setting up the stage for Yolanda Adams (amazing gospel singer, by the way), Jimmy took questions from the audience. Jessica jumped up, held up the photo, and asked him what his shirt says. He ran right up to our seats (we were near the back), took the photo, asked where it was taken, and said the words on the shirt were from a Pink Floyd song. It was KILLING ME not to take a photo while he was right there by us, but I am not one for breaking the rules (or getting escorted out of the studio by security). She gave him the photo to keep, and he took it back to his desk, read the back, put it down on the table, and gave her a thumbs up! Day (month, year) made! So fun!
At the end of the show, as is his custom, he ran through the audience giving high fives. We had been told, due to his injured finger, not to try to hug him. Ruthann was able to give him a high five, and was seen on TV as well. Thank goodness for DVRs. Maybe I'll have to get one some day...
After the show, we couldn't contain our excitement, and grabbed a random stranger to take a photo of us in all our gushing glory. And those are umbrellas we are holding, not canes. Haha.
Our only physical souvenir from the show is our wristband. I think Jess is still wearing hers. :)
For our after-show dinner, we looked up Jimmy Fallon's favorite restaurant, and this one came up. Naturally, we made a reservation. Word is that he was at this restaurant earlier in the evening on the night he injured his finger. He did not come in while we were there. :(
We toasted to Jimmy, to a great trip...
to good friends…
and enjoyed one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

We spent our last morning in NYC touring St. Patrick's Cathedral and making a trip to the Top of the Rock. Both were awesome.
I am always in awe and wonder of cathedrals, especially how they were built at the time they were built. Amazing!
I lit a candle and spent some time in prayer.
I thought it was neat how they have integrated modern technology without taking away from the beauty of the building. See the TV screens?

So beautiful.
Next stop, Top of the Rock. Jamalyn bought a ticket that included a guidebook and a photo, so we have a super fun shot of us up on a beam! Hello NYC! (Ruthann was resting after our big day with Jimmy.)
It was a beautiful day, and the view is breathtaking.
The Empire State Building side.
And the panorama.

Central Park side.

Empire State Building and me. :)
Central Park and me. And it's windy up there!

Jamalyn, Jessica, and Susan, Empire State Building side...
and Central Park side. So cool!

Our last NYC event was the matinee showing of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We checked our bags with the nice young man at the coat check, since we would be heading to the airport immediately after the show. It was wonderful, with all the great familiar music written and performed by Carole King. A perfect ending to our three exciting days in NYC.

And just like that, we were leaving the city behind and heading to the airport.
Bye bye, NYC.
Thanks for the memories!