Monday, April 7, 2014

NYC Writers Workshop

Had someone told me that going to NYC and working with the Writers Guild would change my way of thinking, I would have told them they were crazy. However, it was one of the most amazing experiences on so many levels. When I attended the first part of the Writers Workshop last September, I left unsure of my writing capabilities and of myself. I am not sure why I felt as I did, I just did. When I left this last week, I left with confidence in my writing and ready to take on the world...ready to share my story in this life journey.

The workshop was beyond amazing. It was life changing. I was able to look deep inside of myself and touch a place I have closed off. I was able to pick up my pen this time and write on pretty much every topic we touched on. I had doubts in fiction that were proved wrong...more than once. I was able to put into words things that I hold close at heart, but not able to read those words because of the emotions that ran through me. Within time, I will share those words here.

I had three of the most wonderful and selfless mentors that taught us more than I can repay. They helped me reach new heights and allowed me to find myself in writing again. This trip was so needed.

Thank you Wounded Warrior Project for such an amazing experience!

Aside from the workshop, we were able to see NYC and all that the city has to offer. In September, I was able to see a lot and stayed out real late. This time it was different. I was still able to do and see, but I wasn't feeling the whole "out all night" part. Instead, I decided to head back to my room before between 8-midnight every night. I know, that sounds lame to many.

Upon arriving, I checked into my hotel room at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square. FABULOUS!!! I spent a little time checking in with our WWP, then dropped my bags off in my room, followed by some time in and out of stores. I think I was the first to arrive, a little after 1130 Friday morning, so I had some downtime.

Last time I was in NYC, my room faced Times Square and the chaos it brings. This time, I was very thankful to have a room facing the river.

Around 2:00pm, I met up with some other ladies and we headed to the 9/11 Memorial together. Together, four of us were able to take in what our husbands so selflessly fought for. We were overcome with emotions that we have been holding onto for years. Seeing the Memorial took me back to 2001 when our lives were all forever changed. It was a day that none of us will forget. Everything flashed through me...I thought about that tragic day, my husband reactions, his enlistment, almost 10 years in the Army, our 10 years in the Army life together with our  kids... I thought about his injuries. The injuries that will always be a part of our lifestyle now, that have changed the way each of us view life.

As I stood looking at the Memorial and in a moment of gratitude for all that has been given, I wished I had Kevin by my side. This is something I have always wanted to share with him. With him not being there, I could not have asked for more amazing and courageous women than what I had at my side.

Me, Gail, and Mallory
Freedom Tower

After the Memorial, we rode the subway back to Times Square. We met with all the ladies, moms and wives (caregivers) of Wounded Warriors for dinner at the hotel. It was wonderful to see the beautiful faces and catch up. After dinner, a group of us headed to check out Toys R' Us and the Disney Store. We had more fun at these two stores than we probably should have! Y'all, Toys R' Us is THREE stories!!! And, it has a human size Barbie House in it! How cool is that?

Oh, and we did ride the Ferris Wheel!!!

Is this not the freakiest Elmo ever?

The Toys R' Us Ferris Wheel!!!
The Peeps Department on the 2nd floor...this was seen while we rode the Ferris Wheel
On the Ferris Wheel
Heather on the Ferris Wheel
The 2nd Floor Wonka cool!

After the toy stores, five of us decided to take some time and relax while having a drink at The View bar. This is the bar at the very top of our hotel...the 48th floor I think. It spins, overlooking NYC and is fabulous! We spent a little over an hour or two laughing and just catching up.

On Saturday, we all woke up and spent the day at the Guild writing, which was wonderful! After that, we ate dinner at the hotel and then broke into our groups to explore the city a bit more. The weather was not the best for sight seeing with all the rain pouring down and crazy wind. 

Together, Anna, Heather, Sharon and I took on the city and walked more than 10 blocks to Penn Station so we could ride the subway over to Hoboken, NJ. Yes, you read right! We all had to check out Carlos Bakery...or as most know it, Cake Boss! During the trip over, I faced a major fear...I rode the subway UNDER WATER!!! If you know me, you know I absolutely detest bridges and tunnels, so to ride under the Hudson River is a HUGE thing for me! Of course, this did not dawn on me until after we were under.

The Carlos Bakery experience was fantastic! The only bad part...No Buddy! We were told he was on his way to Las Vegas for a bakery he is opening there. We were all very sad and would have loved the opportunity to meet him. We did leave with a few of our own treats though! Very yummy!!!

Anna, Heather, and Me (Love these ladies!!!)

 After our visit, we made our way back to the subway and NYC. With feet that ached like never before, I was quick, along with the others, to head to my hotel room after our walk back from Penn Station. I pulled my boots off to find bruises on both feet and decided a shower would make it all better. With wet hair, I sent Heather a message to tell her about my bruised feet and then told her I was heading to Aero for shoes. Yes, Aero was still open...until 2am!!! I found a cute pair of shoes to wear on Sunday because I knew there was no way I was putting boots back on. Thankfully, she decided to walk across the street with me.

On Sunday, we spent the day at the Guild again. I seriously could not have asked for better mentors and a better group! All aspects of it was simply amazing. After our workshop time and dinner, Heather and I walked around Times Square for a bit before deciding to retreat back to our 9pm. It was nice to end the trip relaxing in my room and just enjoying some downtime. It gave me the opportunity to take it all in, to watch the NYC traffic and just think.

Looking back, I will always be grateful for this trip as well as the one in September. Words cannot express my gratitude for WWP taking the time and funding to support those of us that have a passion and desire when it comes to writing. They took the time to allow each of us to meet with people in this field that have made something of themselves. Time was dedicated to each of us by these amazing men and women.

I was surrounded by some of the most courageous and inspiring women that are caregiver of wounded warriors, but most importantly, that are wives and mothers loving their veteran with a love that runs so deep words can never describe. Our stores are all different, yet so much alike. We do this because of the love we have and share with our men. I could not have asked for better women. I am blessed to have shared this opportunity with these women and will forever hold them in my heart.

Thank you WWP for allowing us this opportunity, for funding it, and for being there every step of the way as we find ourselves on an unexpected journey. Every time I try to find the right words to show my appreciation to WWP for not only this trip, but the one in Tampa last year, I struggle because works never seem sufficient enough. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He's Got the Moves.... No, not really

Anyone that knows us, knows that our house is never calm! Okay, I lied, it is calm when the kids are all at school! When they are home, it is full of chaos - from laughter, craziness, shaking our heads and having to just walk off, to kids fighting, and even little parental spats.

The other night, we told the girls to do the dishes and Nic to sweep the kitchen floor. Of course, being that Kevin and I have music playing for every thing we do, our monsters have adapted to our lifestyle quiet well and also have to have music playing. A few nights ago, we had a mix of Brantley Gilbert, Miranda Lambert, and Jason Aldean playing. It doesn't get much better than those three!

During this, Brantley's new song "Bottoms Up" came on and this is what we caught Nic doing...

If you are viewing this via an email, you may need to go to to watch the videos.

Y'all, this child keeps everyone in our house and everyone he meets in fits of laughter! There is no telling what he will say, do, or the expressions he will make.  Sadly, these videos show that dancing is simply not his thing, then again none of us can really dance in this house. lol. But, he sure has fun doing it - and that, my friends, is all that matters!!!

I love these videos and I love the way he brings so much laughter into our lives!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

American Girl Experience

When the girls were little, we always thought Breanna would be our little Miss Priss and that Caitlin would be the one we would have to pry out of the dirt and find every way possibly to keep clean. Oh, we were so wrong on that one! Breanna is our athletic, tomboy and Caitlin is so prissy and girlie. When we mention dolls or real girlie things around Bre, she will cringe and let us know quickly how dolls are simply not her thing. Yet, as the teenage years have quickly snuck up on us, she is quick to add a touch of make up and stylish clothes before leaving the house.

Caitlin, on the other hand, is in love with dolls of all types and sizes and still has such a sincere innocence about her. One that I adore and pray she keeps. It amazes me to watch her as she is still a child and not growing up too quickly, nor is she trying to be something that she isn't ready to be.

With both girls, we let them be who they are in life. Of course, with limitations if needed.

For Caitlin's Birthday, she asked all of our family and friends that were attending her birthday for money or American Girl gift cards. She told us all that she would love to purchase an American Girl Doll at the American Girl store in Alpharetta, GA.

The Saturday before Caitlin's birthday, we held her party at our house. We kept it small so that Kevin could handle it, yet sadly, none of Caitlin's friends showed up after they told her they would. It broke my heart to see the tears flow when she realized none were coming. It is something I will never understand about this area and something that hurts me more than words can say. Both girls have now experienced this and it breaks my heart. Thankfully, our family was amazing and helped make sure Caitlin enjoyed her day.

Leave it to Paw Paw to give all ones...
After lunch, Caitlin requested she opened her gifts first, so of course without any questions we let her. She was so excited to see that everyone gave her money and gift cards and it would allow her to pick the AG doll of her choice.

Caitlin was one happy little girl at the end of her party and so thankful for everyone that attended and all that they did to make her wish come true!

Caitlin's special day out ended up being the Saturday after her actual birthday. The two of us left our house a little before 9 in the morning and headed to Kennesaw to pick up Terri (Grannie) so she could spend the day with us. The three of us headed to North Point Mall in Alpharetta to shop at the American Girl Store. As we arrived, Caitlin began scanning the mall, in search of the red and white American Girl logo. As soon as she found it, her tone went up a few octaves and pure excitement kicked in! The mall was already becoming crowded and she restless I as searched for a parking spot. She was in awe as she looked at the mall and saw American Girl on the lower level  and a carousel on the upper level.

When we stepped out of my car and bundled up, I made Caitlin face me so I could capture her excitement with the American Girl store behind her. I personally think all of the photos of her day turned out very cute and showcased her happy she was.

Walked into the store, she could hardly contain the excitement that had built up inside and could not pick where to start looking! She was in amazement of all the dolls, the clothing, and accessories. Then could not believe her eyes when she discovered there was a hair salon for the dolls, as well as a place for their ears to be pierced. The cafe was a bit crowded, which was good because I could not see paying as much as they were asking for the little amount of food they were preparing per person. Thankfully, Caitlin was perfectly content with not eating there. Which, who can blame her - she was on a mission to find the perfect doll.

After searching and searching, Caitlin found the one that she wanted. It wasn't the one we originally set in for, but when she saw the Just Like You dolls, she knew without a doubt, she had to have one that was like her. The only problem we had was finding one with freckles, blue eyes, and hair like hers. The one she picked has bangs and her eye color is a little different. Other than that, she was able to find one with close to the same color hair and the same length, which made her one pleased little girl.

After picking her doll, Caitlin found a cute outfit to also purchase as well as a hair accessory kit. The kit includes curlers, a brush, spray bottle, and a few other things. It is perfect for her to maintain Elizabeth's hair. She decided on Elizabeth for her doll since Elizabeth is her middle name.
Caitlin showing the doll she picked out.

 After spending an ample amount of time in the store, we walked around some other stores, browsing through their displays before deciding on having lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. What an awesome choice that was! The food was delicious, but so filling that we all left with leftovers. A few of the servers came over and sang Happy Birthday to Caitlin and gave her a sundae, which I thought was super nice of them. Caitlin also decided to order an Oreo Milkshake, which was also very tasty. I ordered an Oreo Cheesecake slice to take home with me. It was HUGE! So much so, that when we finally made it home that night I only had a couple bites. The next day Kevin and I split what was rest, enjoying it all. It was by far the best cheesecake I think I have ever tasted!

 After lunch, we took our time, but made our way back to the car. We took Terri back to Kennesaw, then decided to spend a little time with my mom, Russell, and Ashton. I am sure glad we did because it was good to see each of them. Before heading home, Caitlin's money was burning a hole in her pocket, so we stopped off at Target. There, she decided to buy one of their Our Generation Dolls, which is the same size as her American Girl Doll. She also picked out some outfits, rubberbands, and hair clips.

We finally made it home after 11pm that night. It was a very exciting, but tiring day!

Me and Caitlin
Caitlin with her Grannie (Terri, Kev's mom)

And yes, she spent her birthday money on her doll and accessories, which made me very proud. Thank you to our family and friends for helping her get the one thing that she has wanted for quite awhile now. I also firmly believe that she will take better care of her doll, knowing how much everything cost. American Girl dolls are expensive and now she has gained a better understanding of it all.

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