Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bah, Humbug?

Here we are, all up in the 12 days of Christmas, and my house is not decorated (save for the wreath on the front door, which, up until Monday, was flanked by pumpkins and dead mums). Time has not been on my side this holiday season. That, and I'm just kinda tired.

It started with Thanksgiving--a time when I usually decorate as much as Christmas and really put on the dog. I love setting a festive table and having friends and family gathered 'round. Larry asked me about our Thanksgiving plans about a week before the big day. Jokingly, I laughed and said I was waiting for someone to invite us over. As the words came out of my mouth, I realized that was a really good idea, and I was going to hold out for an invite. Each day, Larry asked me again--did we want turkey? Pork loin? And yet, not a grocery shopping list in sight. I just wanted to get dressed and go somewhere else. And wouldn't you know, my dad came through! He called saying he had a ham in the freezer, and could make a green bean casserole and dressing. Instead of hauling all that food to my house, I suggested, how about we just go to their house? It was a plan! And we had a wonderful, relaxing, low pressure evening enjoying a great dinner and conversation. Perfect.

Now on to Christmas. Could it happen again?

Yep! My sister in Nashville decided that it would be fun to have everyone come up to their house. So that's what we're doing!

But once that decision was made, my desire to decorate diminished. Each day I think it might be THE day, but then writing deadlines and other work commitments get in the way. And it's been cooooold, which makes digging in the garage for Christmas decorations less than appealing.

And there are even more excuses...a five-day trip to New York last week...a couple of days of feeling under the weather...lack of discretionary's enough to make me feel a little Scrooge-like.

Yet, I've once again had the pleasure of enjoying other's holiday decorating efforts. Monday, I went to my neighborhood's garden club Christmas meeting at Betty Foster's house, which was decorated absolutely beautifully. We sipped on eggnog and wassail as we played dirty Santa with garden-themed gifts. That night, it was my book club's Christmas soiree at the home of Diane Lisenbe, who decked her halls with festive decorations. I just soaked it all in...then went home to my wreath.

Neighbors have commented that they've noticed my lack of decorations--I usually go a little over the top with lights, bows, garland and such. It was something I started years ago because I wanted to make our home feel like a special place for Larry--who was separated from his family in Venezuela and who works so hard during the holidays helping others celebrate the season. And I wanted to make our home feel special for our children, imprinting strong holiday memories in their brains.

When Nicole was in Methodist Rehab, she had an overnight pass for Christmas, so it was important to have our home decorated for her return, and for our annual Christmas Eve open house. So many people wanted to come see her, and rejoice in her miraculous recovery. But now she's in her own place, and as a part of moving her in and feathering her new nest, I put up her purple (of course!) Christmas tree, decorating it with all her special ornaments, as well as decorating her mantle, stringing colored lights on her front porch and hanging a wreath on her front door.

Joe spends most of his time at the home of his girlfriend, Emily. He's helped her parents decorated their home for Christmas, so he gets to enjoy that.

We still have a week left before heading to Music City for the holidays. Do I drag all the decorations out for Larry and I? We are forgoing the open house this year. We have busy schedules up until we leave. And if I decorate now, I'll just have to put it all up when we get back. (Sounds like I'm talking myself out of it, huh?)

So this year things will be a bit different. I believe I'm going to shift my focus to the real reason for the season, which often gets sidelined. Instead of spending hours decorating, I think I'll be still and read the Christmas story. One of history's most profound events was not surrounded with garland, lights and tinsel. Instead, it was in a humble stable, illuminated only by a star shining bright in the night sky.

Will I feel sad not having a decorated home for the holidays? I really don't think so. There are enough festive decorations all around to fill my need for the holidays. I will take that stress off myself, and focus more on family, friends and faith, and in doing so, my heart will be full.

Ten days left before Christmas...and I'm not feeling any pressure at all! Merry Christmas!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Travelogue: New York

The more I go there, the more I understand why Nicole was happiest when she lived in New York. We had a chance to return this past week--for the third time since her accident two and a half years ago. And for the third time, we stayed at the wonderful New York Hilton, located in midtown, on Avenue of the Americas. To give you some perspective, it is one block from Radio City Music Hall, a couple of blocks from Rockefeller Plaza, a couple of blocks from Fifth Avenue, and a couple of blocks from Times Square. Perfectly situated in the middle of the universe for about a bazillion people who all came to New York this past week to do business, shop, see shows and to just be in the middle of the most spectacular Christmas displays I've ever seen. The city was alive, and so were we!

The purpose of this trip was for Nicole to do a testimonial commercial for New York Presbyterian Hospital--the place where her life was saved more than once, and where she was literally put back together again. Former Mayor Ed Koch did a commercial for them that was very well received, so they decided to get a few more former high-profile or big-story patients to come in and do the same. Nicole made the list!

Megan Poole, who was one of Nicole's personal care assistants, went with us. She is currently in the same theatre program Nicole went through at the University of Southern Mississippi. She was able to work around exams to make the trip, and we met up at the Jackson airport last Saturday morning for a big adventure. The star-studded trip kicked off with our connecting flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia...when disco diva Patti LaBelle boarded our flight! Of course, Nicole connected with her right away and by the time we parted ways, Miz LaBelle was telling me that Nicole was a "trip" and that she was full of  "spunk." Well ring my bell and tell me something I don't know!

After getting settled into the Hilton and eating dinner at a brew pub around the corner, Nicole and Megan took off in a cab to go to a birthday party for one of Nicole's friends in New York.

Sunday we slept in a bit...then got a special visit from Annalisa Meyer, a young woman who was a patient at NYP the same time Nicole was. The last time I saw her, she was in a coma, sick with a rare form of encephelitis. Today she is a bright, beautiful college student at Columbia in NY. What a joy it was to see her doing so well.

After a lazy morning, we ate our fill for lunch in Whole Foods at Columbus Circle.

Then we loaded up for a trip to Chinatown, where we spent all afternoon walking and visting the many stalls filled with scarves, wraps, hats, sunglasses, and all manner of enticing items. We bargained and haggled our way through blocks and blocks of shops before calling it a day. (Nicole was on her feet, walking the streets of Chinatown, for a good three hours...a miracle, considering she is not even two and a half years out from her accident!)

Monday morning a car picked us up at the hotel at 6:30, and off we went to Silvercup Studios, where Nic's commercial was shot. She got true star treatment, doted on by a wardrobe stylist, hair and makeup, and just general pampering and coddling. We all enjoyed the wonderful craft services area with made-to-order omelets and waffles!
It didn't take long for Megan and Nicole to figure out that one of their favorite shows, 30 Rock, is also filmed at Silvercup.
After seeing Tina Fey at the 30 Rock craft services table while they were making a restroom run, Nic and Meg giggled and laughed like school girls. As it turns out, Nic's makeup artist, Dierdre, knew the set designer for the show and she arranged for the girls to go on the set and meet Tina. THAT was fun...and Tina Fey could not have been nicer!
Monday night we met up with several of Nicole's friends who are living in NY...her former roomie and apprentice at Actor's Theater, Raffie, and USM friends Zdenko, Emily and Jake. We all went to eat some good NY pizza at an old school place called Angelo's. Afterwards, I headed to bed, while everyone visited in Nic and Meg's room.

Tuesday we had another early morning...we were in a car on our way to the ABC studios at Times Square at 6:30am. We had VIP passes to Good Morning America, thanks to my friend Stuart Kellogg at WAPT in Jackson. We were guests of one of the producers, and we were whisked up the Green Room to wait for the show to begin. Lucky for us, they had breakfast there, and we helped ourselves to bagels and coffee. When we were finished, we were escorted to the studio where we watched Robin Roberts and crew do the news and weather. I got to meet Bob Woodruff (the journalist who suffered a brain injury in a blast in Iraq), and we also met Steve Harvey, who was amazed by Nicole's story.

The big excitement of the morning, however, was watching the STING concert in the studio downstairs...we rode the elevator down with Robin Roberts (who I worked with 25 years ago at WDAM in Hattiesburg!) and the sweet stage manager positioned Nicole and Megan right in front of the stage! Here's the interview Robin did prior to Sting's performance (sorry, you have to watch the commercial first...):

After the show, a car picked us up and off we went to New York Presbyterian for a visit with nurses and doctors. It was a great visit...we got to see our beloved Mary Grace Savage, who Nicole really bonded with while she was a patient there. We also spoke with Dr. Stephan Mayer, who wants Nicole to come speak at a medical conference next year in Toronto, and Dr. Lee, who stopped his very important rounds to give Nicole a big hug. It was great seeing them all again, and so good for them to see how far Nicole has come since her days on a ventilator.

We left the hospital and headed for Fifth Avenue, where we soaked in the incredibly creative and detailed store windows for blocks and blocks. We went in stores like Juicy Couture and H&M, where the girls went nuts. So much fun, and it was great being in all that hustle and bustle with people Christmas shopping.
What recession???

And after all that walking up and down Fifth Avenue...we WALKED back to the hotel! Hallelujah!!!

That night we had a chilling ride from the hotel to the theatre where we had tickets to see The Addams Family. We met another of Nicole's friends from USM, Kermit, in the hotel bar for a quick cocktail before heading to the show. When we went outside around 6:30 to get a cab, the line was forever long, and the traffic was in gridlock. Not a good situation for us, considering the show started at 7pm. A guy on a little rickshaw bike said he could get us to the theatre faster than any cab, so we hopped in and hung on for dear life as he swerved in and out of traffic. But he was true to his word...he got us there in one piece and earned a big tip for doing so!

Seeing Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia was a huge treat, and the show was even better than I thought it would be. We had first row mezzanine seats (thanks, NYP!) and it was like they were singing directly to us! We loved it.

Wednesday, we had to pack up and head home. It was a wonderful, magical, exciting, memorable trip. Megan is a wonderful travel companion and she was such a huge help to Nicole and I. It was a great experience for her as well, so good times all around!

As soon as the commercial is complete, I'll share the link so you can all see it. Until then, be sure to watch the story the CBS Early Show did on her last spring (if you haven't already). Feel free to share the link with your's an amazing story!

Blessings to all who read this!