Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in San Antonio

The Hiltons gathered in San Antonio to celebrate Christmas 2009! We enjoyed shopping, cooking, walking along the river, movies and attending Christmas parties. One of the highlights of the week was volunteering for HEB's Feast of Sharing. They fed about 17,000 people from 10am-5pm.

Mom and Pat helped serve the food while Jo and I served as greeters at the door. At first I thought it was a little weird to have two rows of people at the front door just clapping and cheering for people as they entered but after seeing how happy it made them, I was all for it! One particular man came in with a somber expression but when he heard the applause, his face lit up like a Christmas tree! As he passed by me I heard him say, "thanks. I needed that." It made me cry - and I had no problem clapping and cheering for as long as they needed us. It's amazing how little it actually takes to brighten someones day.

Dad entertained the masses by playing his mini-trumpet on the sidewalk outside the Feast of Sharing. If nothing else, I'm sure it made people smile!
It was a fabulous week in San Antonio - which was even extended a few days thanks to snow in the KC area. I am very grateful for a family that not only enjoys being together but can have a good time doing just about anything!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in KC

It seems to me that the Hilton family gets a little crazier with each passing year. My beloved sister has had a head of pink hair for a while now so Mom, Dad and I decided to welcome her to Kansas City in style by dying our hair to match. Dad didn't have enough hair to color so we had to utilize one of grandma's wigs that I've been hanging on to for just such an occasion. It was a riot!! We got a lot of stares and laughs from people passing us as we waited at the airport (which didn't bother Mom and I because we knew who they were laughing at!) but we were completely surprised when Jo & Scott got off the plane and there was NO pink in her hair at all! Oops!

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Ragland Road - the Irish Pub down at the Power & Light District - before tripping the light fantastic at PBR Big Sky.
I love being part of a family that loves to dance!

My sister was even brave enough to ride the bull - and she did a fantastic job.
Thanksgiving in Kansas City is not complete without the festivities on the Country Club Plaza. There is nothing like joining thousands of other in a countdown to the moment the Plaza lights are switched on making Kansas City one of the most beautiful places in the world! As most people made their way back to their cars, we made our way closer to the stage to enjoy the Christmas caroling that follows the lighting. It always gets me in the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Carpinteria - home of the Avocado festival

Following the NYWC in L.A., I headed to Carpinteria, California to spend the last few days of my study leave at my friend's apartment on the beach. I thought it would be a perfect place for reading, planning and studying but the sandy beaches proved to be too much of a distraction.
I thoroughly enjoyed our long walks on the beach! There is something so rejuvenating about the feel of sand beneath your feet and the massive ocean waves lapping at your feet.

Diana and I manage to have fun regardless of where we are or what we are doing. I think that's why we are such great friends! We both enjoy the little things and we love to laugh! It' really is refreshing to have a friend that knows absolutely everything about you - and likes you anyway!

Carpinteria was celebrating the annual Avocado Festival while I was there and we spent time checking out all the vendors. Unfortunately, my suitcase was full so I couldn't buy the adorable penguin pillows that we found. We did take advantage of the various food items made with avocados, though. We tried avocado ice cream and a BLT with avocado. Yum!

For our last evening, Diana borrowed a bike for me and we biked around town. We stopped off for a wine tasting at a local wine store. It was a beautiful evening and I really enjoyed exploring Carpinteria. It's a great small town community and I'm so glad that Diana is there.
We decided to enjoy our morning coffee while we took one last stroll down the beach before I caught the airbus back to LAX. I turned my back for one second to have my picture taken and a giant wave decided I should take the ocean home with me! I know, I know - you NEVER turn your back on the ocean! When will I learn?

Monday, September 28, 2009

National Youth Workers Convention

Jennifer and I attended the National Youth Workers Convention in Los Angeles. They really do a magnificent job of putting together excellent workshops and amazing worship experiences! We listened to amazing speakers and enjoyed the musical talents of the Daraja Choir - a wonderful children's choir from Kenya called .
One of the highlights for me was getting to meet Lisa Anderson. I was well aware of her talent as an actress through Madea's Family Reunion but I was blown away by her portrayal of a woman whose life was changed through Compassion International. She is an amazing person!

Thanks to facebook, I reconnected with a friend I haven't seen since she left Marshall in 6th grade. Kristin contacted me a few weeks earlier and when I told her I was going to be in LA, we decided to meet for lunch. She and her husband were kind enough to drive into LA to meet us since we didn't have any transportation. It was a wonderful time of catching up and walking down memory lane.

My fabulous friend, Melissa, drove in to spend the day with us. We took the Topless bus tour around the city spending a very brief time exploring Hollywood Blvd and enjoying all the famous footprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
We ended up running to catch our bus before it left us stranded on the other side of town! We decided to get off in China Town and walk back to the hotel which was a hefty walk. I'm sure we went through parts of town that a local would have warned us against but sometimes it's better not to know.
As soon as the conference ended, Jennifer and I hailed a cab to Paramount Studios to have lunch with my friend (former youth) Ben. Ben works for the Dr. Phil Show and he gave us our own personal tour. We even caught the filming of an episode of ???. It was funny to watch them film a scene with snow and winter clothing on a relatively warm day. Nothing brings me more joy than to see my "kids" pursuing their dreams - and I enjoy living vicariously through their adventures!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Mackinac Island

My first day in Michigan, Gretchen and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and spend the day on Mackinac Island.
Despite the sun, the ferry to the island was a bit chilly but it was a spectacular view of Mackinac Bridge which connects the Upper Peninsula to the rest of Michigan. Interestingly enough, the folks that live in the UP are called "Yoopers" and those who live south of the bridge are called "trolls." Doesn't seem quite fair but that's how it is. :)

Once on the island, we walked down the street to the Fort of Mackinac where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the tea room with a spectacular view of the straits of Mackinac.

There are no "horse-less" carriages (a.k.a. cars) allowed on the island so you either walk, ride a bicycle or take a carriage ride. We debated the bicycle option but decided we weren't quite capable of handling that mode of transportation.
After walking quite a bit, we decided we should take a tour of the island via horse and carriage. It's not a fast mode of transportation but it is a good way to see a larger portion of the island. Our driver/guide was entertaining as well as informational and we learned a lot as we rode.

Needless to say, the ride home on the ferry was even chillier without the morning sun but we were better prepared! It was a fabulous day and I'm so glad I got to experience Mackinac Island!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Diamond Lake

On my way to Wisconsin, I drove through Stillwater, MN and discovered I was about 2 miles from the home of my friend, Torr, and his family. I decided it was time to pay them a visit! :) I did call first and was very happy to find out they were home and not busy. It was fun to see them in their natural habitat. The last time we were together was in 2001 so the kids have grown a LOT (like at least triple) since then. We sat on the deck and chatted for about an hour before I had to get back on the road. It was such a blessing to see them!

I also managed to track down my friend, Bobby, who we also use to run around with when we would come to Cable in high school. He lives in Cable and keeps busy with his many jobs. He's one of the sweetest guys I have ever known and it was wonderful to see him again.
I don't know of any place I would rather be than the beautiful cabin on Diamond Lake in Cable, Wisconsin. I have been going there since I was a kid and it holds very special memories. The sights...smells...sounds bring joy to my soul. I love to sit on the dock and read, kayak around the lake, take a picnic lunch out on the pontoon boat, browse around the Firefly or the shops in town, have lunch at the Brick House, help Virgil with a puzzle, enjoy a cup of coffee (or lemon cello blanco - YUM!) with Nancy on the dock, and listen to the loons. I know I am so very blessed to have such wonderful friends!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Indianola Balloon Festival

Riding in a hot air balloon is something I have always wanted to do - but was too afraid to do anything about it! This year I decided that it was time to push myself beyond my comfort zone and take some risks. What did I really have to lose anyway?

Through my photography meetup group, I heard about a balloon festival in Indianola, Iowa so I got online and did some research. I knew this was my opportunity so I booked myself on the evening ride for July 31. Then I waited...
Finally!! The day came and I headed to Iowa. My friend, Kate, who lives in Des Moines decided to join me on this little adventure so she met me there and we checked in for our ride. I was more than a little nervous but I was also quite determined.
The hardest part came when they introduced the pilots and ours looked like he was 12! Oh dear Lord...

But not to worry - he was fabulous! His name was Taylor and despite his attempts to terrify us once we were in the air, he was a fantastic pilot! I was asking him questions about his experience and from about 2000 feet in the air, he said I was about 8 minutes late on those questions. Touche.
Being squeezed into a basket with one friend and 13 strangers is a very unique experience. It didn't take long before we bonded - passing cameras and shuffling our buns to share the view from the edge.
As the balloon rose, I was amazed at how little fear I actually felt. It was quiet (except when the fire was on) and I felt very much at peace.
You could hear so many sounds - people talking from the ground, cows, cars, horns, etc. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

There were three balloons carrying passengers and our highest point was just over 4000 feet.
It was so awesome to look down and see one of the balloons flying below us.

Taylor managed to bring us in for a perfect landing. Our basket didn't even tip over and though we had prepared ourselves to be one big pile of humans in a hay field, we were quite proud of our pilot!
Upon our safe return to Earth, we were treated to a champagne toast to celebrate our flight and presented with a personalized first flight certificate that is suitable for framing.
Here's to bravery and a life full of adventure! It was a day I will never forget and one thing I can mark off my bucket list.
I wonder what's next????

Thursday, July 09, 2009

BBBS Bowl-a-thon

Last spring I was accepted to serve as a big sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Kansas City. One of the expectations of the "Bigs" is to form a team of six people to participate in their annual Bowl-a-thon.
I had no idea if anyone would be willing to do this but I figured it never hurts to ask - and the free beer and pizza certainly might help! Sure enough - I had five wonderful people who volunteered to bowl with me - and raise money! Andrea, Melissa, Paula, Joy and Brian made up a fabulous team! We not only had a great evening but we raised over $700 for BBBS thanks to our generous friends and family.

The icing on the cake came when I managed to bowl a strike my first five times up to bowl. I have only once in my life bowled a turkey and I can't remember EVER getting five strikes in a row. It was pretty darn close to a miracle! It really was a wonderful evening and it's really good to have friends who don't care how silly they look if they know it's for a good cause - or at least for free beer!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

College Mission Trip - New Orleans

I was so very proud of our college students when they approached me earlier this year about doing another mission trip to New Orleans. Several of them went on a mission trip in 2006 which was the summer after Hurricane Katrina devastated that area and they wanted to go back. We weren't able to work around everyone's schedule so not everyone was able to go with us but we also had some join us for their very first mission trip. It's never too late to catch the mission "bug."

We spent the night at Second Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, on the way down and had a fun time going out for Mexican food and watching a movie in their elaborate youth building.
Our first night in New Orleans we attended a Zephyr's baseball game. Ironically, it was too chilly for everyone but me that we left early. Mission work in New Orleans in May is definitely a better choice!
We reported for duty at Musician's Village. "Musicians' Village is a new neighborhood built around a music center where musicians can teach and perform. Musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis teamed up with Habitat for Humanity International and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity to create the village for New Orleans musicians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina."

We were assigned to work with site supervisors, Eric & Andrew on a home for our new friend, DD. We were given challenging jobs but Eric and Andrew were excellent supervisors. They were available if anyone needed help or to show us how to do things correctly but then they let us do the job. We hung soffett and siding, built the front porch, hung door frames and baseboards and more.

By the end of the week, we all felt like we had made a difference! We made several friends along the way which made the journey even richer.

On the way home from work, we stopped at a hole in the wall for a sno-ball. It must be the southern version of a sno-cone but it's basically the same thing with sweetened condensed milk poured over the top. yum!!

We did manage to get in a little play time. We spent an evening down at the French Quarter - and even walked down Bourbon Street. We had a contest to see who could collect the most beads and I beat them all by a long shot. However, we decided what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans.

It was a fabulous week with an amazing group of semi-young people!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Matt & Carla's 21st Birthday Party!

My friend, Matt, and I decided since our birthdays are only 2 days apart (well, 21 years and 2 days) that we should celebrate together! I won a happy hour at PBR Big Sky so we invited everyone we know to help us celebrate our milestone 21st birthdays - Matt's first and my second! It was an intergenerational event - my friend, Mark, came from Louisville (He was my polity professor in seminary and now one of my closest friends - and definitely wins the award for the most outgoing person alive!), two friends from church camp when we were in high school, college sorority sisters, former youth who are now over 21, new friends and old friends! It was so much fun! I don't think I've ever seen such a random group of people who almost immediately act like they have known eachother all their lives. It was fabulous!

The highlight of the evening was watching those brave enough tackle the mechanical bull. Lesa is our resident professional with the most experience but Joy, Lynate, Alex and C.J. also gave a great show in the arena! I haven't quite worked up the nerve for that kind of humiliation but I do enjoy watching my friends!
I still can't believe that I'm really 42! I do love that as I get older, age really doesn't mean much at all. I am very blessed to have best friends who are 20 years older and 20 years younger and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. Friendship is a priceless gift!