Night To Shine

Last night I attended my first Night To Shine event.  This wonderful event is put on by the Tim Tebow foundation.  This event gives special needs teenagers and adults the opportunity to have a prom night experience that’s all about them.  Fortunately, I was able to register as a buddy before they closed registration.  I could not have signed up for a more amazing night.

As a buddy, it is our job to escort the attendee through their magical night.  From check-in until check out, our job is to make sure they have the time of their lives.  As this was my first time, I was a little nervous for the evening.   My nervousness dissipated quickly when I got to the church.  I quickly found my co-workers and took a seat in the sanctuary to wait for our guests to start arriving.

For the first time in three years, they had more than enough buddies, so I was able to pair up with my friend WL for the evening.  Our buddy arrived and it was clear from the beginning that we were a perfect match.  J, our buddy, was the life of the party and the Mayor of the event.  She knew absolutely everyone! Moreover, she had an infectious energy and happiness about her that was immediately apparent.

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We made our way into check-in, where they struggled to find her registration.  The Church’s, St. Paul Lutheran Church, event team and volunteer staff hopped into action immediately.  Within minutes, the snafu was fixed and J and I were ready to head to hair and makeup.  Her dress was resplendent and ethereal. She looked like a Disney princess.  It is no wonder she was the star of the prom.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was triumphantly walking the red carpet with her.  She freaking owned the carpet and the moment.  J is a star!  When we got into the prom, we headed to get her prom photo taken.  She was an absolute natural in front of the camera.  We left the photo area and entered the prom. Since we were both hungry, we made a beeline over to the food table.  Chic Fil-A donated all of the food for the event.  Chicken nuggets and mac and cheese never tasted so good.

We had barely sat down when J tired of eating and seemed overwhelmed.  Fortunately, I was able to keep her calm.  I quickly suggested hitting the dance floor, which put a huge smile on her face.  Not only could J work the camera, she could out dance most people I know.  We quickly figured out that we both loved Romeo Santos and Daddy Yankee.  As we danced, she was greeting everyone on the floor. She knew everyone!!!

WL was finally able to join us when it was determined they had enough buddies, so we had to double up.  Once WL joined us, the energy was out of this world and J was slaying it on the dance floor.  As we danced, she would hold our hand and thank us for being her friend.  We absolutely adored our buddy!  I could write all night about how we danced the night away, but there wouldn’t be enough words to describe how amazing it was for us.

One of the cool parts of the evening, was getting to know her parents during hair and makeup and the latter part of the dance.  They were incredible people.  Their daughter was one of the sweetest, kindest, most fun and generous people WL and I had ever met.   Her parents, much like her, were sweet, kind and fun.  We spent quite a bit of time talking after the event, which was nice.  While they thanked us for showing her a great time, we both felt that we should thank them for allowing us to be her buddy.

It was such an incredible experience to share the evening with J and her family.  When Tim Tebow came on the screen, the crowd when absolutely berserk.  To say they loved him, would be a gross understatement.  His message of love, faith, inclusion and celebration of special needs individuals was incredible.  As he closed out the message, we went into the countdown after which all of the guests were crowned either King or Queen of the prom.  The look on J’s face as we put the tiara on her head is one I will never forget.

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At the end of the night, I couldn’t help but feel that the night was just as much about us as it was the guests.  As I left the church, my heart was full, not just because I volunteered, but because of all the love, fun and memories we created with J.  Undoubtedly, it felt good to serve others, but she gave us and taught so much that I left with so much gratitude in my heart.  In fact, we’ve made plans to be therenext year to be her buddy again.  We’ve made plans to go shopping and get pedicures.  Meanwhile, her mom and I are planning on going to see Romeo Santos when he comes to town.

Its amazing how in volunteer to help others, those that you are helping teach you more about life and yourself than you could ever imagine.  Being a buddy or volunteer at Night to Shine was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It was an incredible event, which I will insist upon attending next year.  I am forever grateful to CS for the invitation.  Lastly, I’m forever grateful to J and WL for being my partners in crime last night.  Couldn’t have asked for a better buddy or partner than these two! #squadgoals

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If you’d like to know more about Tim Tebow’s Night To Shine, click here.

Tonight’s song, one of the last one played last night, performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes is “Time of My Life.”   Last night, we killed it on the dance floor dancing to this song.  P.S.  WL I totally would have caught you.

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Sense of Wonder

Sense of Wonder

As we get older, we lose our sense of wonder as we get caught up in the craziness of life.   We become slaves to the daily grind.  Instead of enjoying life, we just go exist.   We have allowed our lives to become a Bill Murray movie in many respects.  Many of us our living Ground Hogs day and for no good reason.  Although it seems silly, why is it that we let life get in the way of enjoying life?  How is that as we get older, we stop appreciating the beautiful sky, the flowers, each other, etc.?  How do we reclaim our sense of wonder?  It’s time for us to reclaim the wonder.

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Have you ever watched a child explore a new park or a new place?  The curiosity and look of amazement never leaves them.  Children bound with excitement as they explore new spaces.  A child can find a crumb size piece of something new and be fascinated for hours.  Its an amazing thing to watch and see.  I loved watching my children explore their world.  It is a magical thing to watch.  Sadly, we seem to lose it as we get older.

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One of my most cherished memories from our trip to Norway this summer was sharing it with my Grandma.  My Grandma is one, who has never lost her sense of wonderment.   At 87 years old, she is quite unique.  She walks several miles daily even in Minnesota’s crazy winters.  In fact, we had to send Jake after her a couple of times.   The first time,  when she started climbing on the rocks in Romskog. Also  when she was climbing near some rushing rivers.   Consequently, once Grandma finished climbing the rocks, she told me about a park in Northern Minnesota where I had to bring the boys.  She loves to go their a climb the rocks.  Simply put, she is a rock star.

Unequivocally, one of my favorite pictures from Norway is of my Grandma standing at the base of a path at the Borgund Stave Church.  This path leads to the Sverristegen and Vindhellavegen portion of the Kongsvegen.  As she stood at the base, there were sheep off to her left in the pasture, the stave church behind her, and tree filled hills to her right and ahead of her.  At 87 years, she looked at the scenery with a childlike wonderment.  She looked at it as if it was the first time she had seen anything like it.  It was a moment of pure magic.

For as long as  I live, that picture will be etched in my mind.  After she had a moment to soak it in, Grandma T hiked up the Sverristegen with the kids, myself, my brothers and their wives.  The hike wasn’t easy either.  The trail was uphill with rocks interspersed between the grass and sheep bombs.  My Grandma was a freaking rock star on that hike.

While our everyday landscape may not be as dramatic as the backdrop of the Borgund Stave church and the Sverristegen,  we can choose to find the wonder in our daily life. Beauty abounds on this planet and in our lives, it comes in the form of nature and the beautiful  people in our lives, recognize it, savor it and enjoy it.  Make life count!  

Irma Approaches

Irma Approaches

As Irma approaches the Florida peninsula, our preparations are completed.  The caramel rolls have come out of the oven and the champagne is chilling.  We’ll be kicking this storm off with a mimosa brunch. Life is too short to panic, to be bored and not enjoy it.  So enjoy it we will!

If there’s anything that’s awesome about impending hurricane doom, it is hurricane shutters.  Our house is so dark that we all slept until 9:00 am.  It was simply amazing!  I don’t think I want to take them down ever.  We leapt out of bed once we realized how late we had slept.

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We hurriedly rushed into the car and headed to Gulfstream Beach.  Not surprisingly the beach was closed to the public, so we headed south to Delray.  Delray Beach is public and impossible to close completely.  We found a parking spot on the north side of the beach and made our way towards the water.

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The roar of the water and wind was deafening.  Between the wind and the waves, it sounded like there was a jet engine constantly running.  As the waves crashed, they left behind a brownish white foam.  Beach erosion will definitely be a problem with this storm.  The water had a markedly brownish tint as the waves retreated back into the sea.  You could see how the waves from Irma would soon overcome the beach.

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As the waves crashed upon the beach, the onshore winds peppered with us a sand.  The palm trees’ fronds were blowing westerly in the wind.  As the  howled, the air was thick and hazy.  It was so humid and so hazy that my canon t6i couldn’t focus on anything. The pictures I was able to capture with my cell phone don’t capture the haziness of the air.

After the beach, we headed home so I could finish up preparation for brunch.  There’s no better way to prepare for a hurricane than a mimosa filled brunch.  I baked my caramel rolls that I usually reserve for the holidays.  My boys, who beg me to make them all the time, were thrilled to hear I was making them.  They’re pretty easy to make, but they’re time intensive.  I started them off last night and then finished them as soon as I got home.

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Soon after they came out of the oven, my bro and his crew arrived.  We had several mimosa with several different sparkling wines: peach champagne, asti (my favorite) and champagne.  That last minute trip to Publix clearly paid off.  Everyone enjoyed the rolls and the mimosas, which were followed up by board games.  The boys started off with the game Klask, which is sort of like table hockey with magnets.  it will be a great way to pass time during the storm.

Once they finished the rousing game of Klask, we played a frightening game of Cards Against Humanity.  Goalielocks nearly won the game, which is scary since he’s 13.  They may be a little too knowledgeable for our tastes.  Nevertheless, we played a game full of laughter and good times.  Meanwhile, all four of the puppies enjoyed the extra company and attention.  Alas, our good times had to come to an end since Palm Beach County is under a 3:00 pm curfew.  We snuck in a group picture before the crew headed back to South to Boca.