These Teens Will Never be the Same

Two days ago, I was invited to cover one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center along with Cydi Laupers’s True Colors hosted a behind the scenes day for Nashville’s Oasis Center. It was so inspiring and touching to watch this event, the kids and the professionals who made it happen, but before I tell you all the amazing details, I should give you some quick cliff-notes on the organizations involved so you truly understand the impact of the day.

true colors

True Colors is the organization that put this whole shindig together. This organization was founded by THE Cyndi Lauper, and its mission is “to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which young people can be their true selves”. I chatted with their Community Organizer Intern, Cassie, and learned that this is all put together by their “Raise You Up” program, which involves Kinky Boots with a community organization. She also informed me that 40% of homeless youth is from the LGBT community (mostly due to family rejection), which is clearly unacceptable and why True Colors is so dedicated to helping these kids.

oasis

Then, there is the heart of this whole operation, the Oasis Center. This local organization is HUGE. It serves about 4,000 local youths a year, and it’s mission is to “provide safety and support to  the most vulnerable and disconnected youth…it seeks to provide resources that allow them to transform their situations and prepare them for productive fulfilling lives”. That’s perhaps the most important mission ever, to encourage the future, our youth. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pam, the program director, who taught me lots about the Oasis Center. Their were a limited number of teens/ youth that could attend this special event, so Oasis brought a group of LGBT kids as well as some that have a strong interest in theater. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the kids who were on the list to go, showed up, on time and ready to learn. That’s some kind of miracle, because as all us teachers know, students are never ever all present, on time and ready to learn. These particular kids knew they were in for something special.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I entered the main lobby of the theater yesterday. I did not know the age of the kids, how they would behave, how interesting the tour would, or would not, be and very little about either organization. I met up with the group of teenagers right before they entered the largest theater to watch the cast of Kinky Boots rehearse. Oh my, the look on their faces as the cast began singing and dancing was priceless. That one moment was worth my drive to TPAC.

in theatre

There was one boy in particular, a talented young dancer, who was so lit up when the dancing began. You could see the wheels turning as he watched the insane choreography being rehearsed on stage. Like, he all of a sudden realized, “Oh, I can do this, this could be my future.” As the number ended, the small group of teens erupted in applause, even though they were told not to make a peep. They couldn’t help themselves, and the cast certainly didn’t mind the appreciation.

We were all then taken backstage for a little behind the scenes tour. The kids got to see what a dressing room looks like, where costumes are kept, how the cast enters and exits and lots of other cool ins and outs of the backstage world. I think everyone’s favorite part was seeing the thigh-high high-heeled sparkling boots in everyone’s dressing room.

We ended in a conference room, where the kids had the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions to part of the Kinky Boots crew and several staff members from TPAC. You may think this sounds boring, but I promise you it was far from it! I learned so much myself that I’m ready to put in my application! These teens got to learn about the coolest jobs in the theater business that most of us either don’t think about, or didn’t even know existed. The staff told them their background (some theater, some not), their experience (EVERYONE lived in NYC at one point or another), how they got their job (work hard! do what you love! learn! be scrappy!) and some funny personal experiences (one involving a Barney suit). The, they were able to ask whatever questions they wanted! Once again, you could see their eyes light up, the wheels turning and the excitement, excitement about their own dreams and ambitions.

meeting

I was so impressed with these young people. They were genuinely interested in everything they were being presented. They were polite, respectful, enthusiastic and asked some really great questions. (My favorite was, what was the best/worst play you ever worked?) This wasn’t even the end of the day. Yes, there was more.

Once the speakers finished, the kids got to eat dinner (pizza and soda) before going to see the entire musical themselves! THEN, after the show, they got to stay for a Q&A with the cast! Who gets an opportunity like this? I grew up in a nice area, went to great schools and never got to do anything this cool. Teenage Hilarie is super envious of them. These at-risk teens got an experience of a life-time. They were exposed to talents, jobs, art, culture and career options that they otherwise would have likely never known existed. That is amazing.

HUGE thank you to the True Colors Fund for selecting Nashville as your second city to participate in this program! Also, if any of you are interested in donating, volunteering or somehow getting involved with the Oasis Center please visit this link. TPAC, as always, you rock.

Cheers!

A Basic Girl’s Guide to Comic Con

I like to think I’m a one-of-a-kind girl in this world, and I suppose I am, but on many levels I’m just you’re average girl next door. Can I still say that? Maybe I’m too old to call myself a “girl”? I don’t know… in any case, I drink Starbucks, shop at Sephora, eat lots of chocolate and peanut butter, know all the words to Taylor Swift songs, wear printed leggings, watch reality TV, read young adult trilogies, stalk people on Facebook, love yoga, babies, tacos, zulily and Justin Timberlake and I’m certain all of those things make me an average girl. I’m also certain that the average girl might need a survival guide when attending Comic Con.

guide

I love Disney, Harry Potter, Hunger Games and few superhero movies. I also love dressing up, people watching, excitement and traveling. All of these are found at Comic Con, but there’s a hell of a lot more stuff that doesn’t exactly scream “Hilarie”. My first Comic Con experience taught me how to navigate the crowds, find the good stuff, stay fueled, avoid the crazies and all with a baby no less. If you’re planning on attending Comic Con (or any large convention/festival/exp/black Friday) you may want to read on and then save this survival list for future references.

Hunger Games tank from Lexi's Loft on Etsy!
Hunger Games tank from Lexi’s Loft on Etsy!

1. Dress the part. I LOVE looking at everyone in their cosplay outfits at Comic Con. From the incredible super-expensive realistic costumes to the train wreck obviously-made-the-night-before outfits, it is FANTASTIC. I may be impressed or disgusted, either way I am entertained and I love love LOVE people watching and trying to find costumes that I actually recognize. I am not quite brave or fanatical enough to don a full-on costume, but I had fun wearing some themed accessories and shirts. I had Mary Poppins, Harry Potter and Hunger Games themed days. (All of which will have reviews and giveaways soon!)

Aren't these incredible?! From Hogwarts Unlimited on Etsy.
Aren’t these incredible?! From Hogwarts Unlimited on Etsy.

2. Pack healthy snacks and water. Comic Con sells mostly junk, mostly disgusting junk. I waited in line for about 7 years to get chinese vegetables with tofu and rice that was definitely the most disgusting chinese food I have ever had. There were a couple of smoothie stands that were decent, but also wildly overpriced. I highly recommend packing granola, nuts, fruit and lots of water!

I think this picture is perfect. It says so much about my Comic Con experience.
I think this picture is perfect. It says so much about my Comic Con experience.

3. Learn the layout. There are not maps given out a Comic Con and the map on the app is useless and impossible to read. The best thing to do is to get there early, walk around, learn the layout and don’t be afraid to ask the employees for directions. Locate the bathrooms in the furthest locations (those will be the cleanest and least crowded), find the rooms for the panels you plan to attend, locate the Starbucks inside and outside (it is probably faster to leave and walk to the nearest Starbucks than it is to wait in the mile-long line inside) and take advantage of the press room if you’re lucky enough to score a press pass.

comic con

4. Don’t be shy. People at Comic Con will run you over and never look back if you let them. Speak up, say excuse me, make your way through the crowd, ask directions, talk to people who have similar interests, take peoples’ photos, share tips, move fast and don’t worry…everyone looks crazy.

action comics

5. Arrive early. On opening day the line to get in is insane. We were fortunate enough to have a press pass and able to use a separate entrance. Otherwise, we never would have made it to the Disney panel in time. At the Disney panel we won tickets to see an early viewing of Big Hero 6, but missed it because they ran out of seats and we didn’t get their early enough to get any. When The Walking Dead had a panel we tried to line up over an hour before it started and were still too late. If there is something you REALLY want to see, arrive EARLY.

game of thrones

6. Make a plan. Comic Con has an app that enables you to view and select any panels, autograph signings and events you like. The ones you select are saved in your profile and sends it reminders to your phone all day so that you don’t miss anything. It’s pretty handy. There is so so much to see and do that it’s beyond necessary to plan in advance. Even with planning, I still missed out on a few things I would have like to seen.

OMG, these little things were so cool!
OMG, these little Dodo cases were so cool!

7. Bring chargers. Between snapping photos, updating your status, tweeting the latest news and using Google maps your phone is going to die fast. Bring your charger and even something to power your charger if you can.

Luna Lovegood! Definitely one of my favorite costumes!
Luna Lovegood! Definitely one of my favorite costumes!

8. Expect assholes. They’re everywhere, unfortunately. Do your best to ignore them. When that fails, drink more coffee. Or, maybe be extra nice to other people…which brings me to my next and final tip.

Wreck-It-Ralph!
Wreck-It-Ralph!

9. Don’t be an asshole. It will be very attempting to join them. You will want to run over everyone’s toes with your stroller, throw some elbows and shout “are you kidding me!?!?”Don’t give into temptation. Do the opposite to counteract their behavior. Let someone get in front of you. Help someone up, pick up the pamphlet that person dropped, show patience, kindness and compassion. I promise it feels better than joining the other team.

Harry Potter baby
Harry Potter baby

That’s it. Now you just gotta find some nerdy convention to sing up for, or maybe a local festival to attend! Either way, you should probably start planning your outfit.

Cheers!

Baby vs. The City

pros and cons

We have traveled a lot with Luna, but this was by far the most difficult trip. Difficult because we flew and we were not staying with family. I had to pack carefully, plan ahead, do some research and prepare for any and everything. The trip was awesome. We had a few bumps in the road, sure, but bumps are expected anytime we travel. Luna was a trooper and I learned a bit about life in the city with a baby. Which, in case you’re wondering, is much different then life in the city without a baby. Much different.

stroller vs. baby wearing: I am most often a stroller Mom. Luna isn’t a huge fan of being worn, but we pull it off occasionally. I decided to bring both to NYC. The stroller was used the most. In case, you haven’t noticed, Luna is a not a tiny baby. In fact, she’s a little chunk. We walked and walked all day everyday and I am so glad I had the stroller. I held her a lot, but it was a relief to be able to put her in the stroller. She slept in it, enjoyed the rides and we were able to store all of our crap in it. We used the ergo carrier too, but she never lasted long. You should know though, NY is NOT stroller friendly. Many subway stations have only stairs (no elevators or escalators) the sidewalks are treacherous, no one looks where they’re walking and the stores and restaurants are uber crowded. Be prepared to fold it up and carry it at a a moments notice. Also, be prepared for complete strangers to be awesome and heroic. I had several people help me carry the stroller with Luna in it up and down the stairs. They were my saviors!

stroller

Enjoying the lights in Time Square while riding in the Ergo Carrier.
Enjoying the lights in Time Square while riding in the Ergo Carrier.

disposable vs. cloth: I cloth diaper Luna at home, but not, absolutely not, on vacation. Why? Because toting around heavy dirty diapers all day and washing them at night is not a vacation at all. I have to admit, it was super nice to use disposables for a while. Actually, I’m still using them because we had quite a few left over. Yay for extended vacation!

train vs. taxi: My little city baby had her first ride in a taxi and on the subway. I promised myself we would only take a taxi to and from the airport since we wouldn’t have a carseat. I wanted to be as safe as possible, but when you are running late and have been carrying a baby, a stroller and a diaper bag ALL DAY LONG, a taxi ride home is very appealing and all of a sudden seems like much safer option. The trains are awesome because they’re fast and they rock Luna to sleep, but holy hell, it is awful to get on an off the train with a baby and a stroller.

Baby's first taxi ride.
Baby’s first taxi ride.
Baby's first train ride.
Baby’s first train ride.

homemade vs. store bought: I make virtually all of Luna’s food, but like with the cloth diapers, I figure I could use a little vacation from this too. Besides, lots of healthy and organic baby food is available these days. She’s also at the age where I can mash up some of my own food and share with her. It was nice to not have to worry about preparing her food ahead of time, but I am glad she eats so fresh and healthy at home.

inside vs. outside: There is so much super cool stuff for babies and kids to do in the city, inside and outside. I’ll have to write a post about our favorites. We had a mixture of weather during our long weekend, so we got to take advantage of the parks and the museums. We went to Central Park, hungout on a rooftop, shopped at Bergdorf’s, played in the Children’s Museum and at FAO Schwarz. Fall is such a great time to enjoy the city. I think we got the best of both worlds during our trip.

Central Park
Central Park
Playing at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.
Playing at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

-cat ears vs. cat hat: Seriously? It’s impossible to choose. I just have way too much fun dressing this cutie up!

cat ears cat hat

Cheers!

 

It’s Taken Over

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This last week has been oh-so busy. My sister and her family flew in from Texas to stay with us and meet Luna. My sis-in-law flew in from New York to meet Luna. Other friends flew in from NY to meet Luna. Different friends had a “last night” with us as they prepared to move away. Needless to say, there were lots of dinners out, cooking at home, cleaning and getting out of the house with me and Luna. It was GREAT to see people and do things, but unfortunately the “over-exerting” myself caused some damage and I’ve been put on bed rest.

Bed rest!? I didn’t know that was a possibility after pregnancy, but here I am…in bed. Boo. I should/could be using all this time in bed to write inspiring blogs, share funny stories from the week and edit photos, but nah. I’m sorry for myself and pissed that I’ve regressed a little so instead I have just snuggled Luna for hours and hours and watch approximately 357 episodes of How I Met Your Mother. 

But, I just put Luna down to sleep (without me) and was browsing Instagram (something else I’ve spent too much time doing) and came to the realization that in her short 25 days on Earth, Luna has already taken over my Instagram, Facebook and blog already. Every single photo is of her. I can’t help it though, she is really just too darn cute. So, today I’m sharing my fav Insta-baby photos. Enjoy… and you’re welcome.

Luna's early morning faces.
Luna’s early morning faces.

instagram

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Have a great week everyone! I plan on getting out of this bed and back to being Super Me very very soon.

Cheers!

 

Ice at Opryland!

ice

Alright, alright, it’s that time of year. That super busy time when it’s so hard to get everything done, and right now I am lacking in the writing and sharing area. Tonight, though, I finally have some time to share a review of our trip to Ice at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville! The very nice people who work for Gaylord were kind enough to have come and check out their show that we just love so much.

frosty

Years ago, when we first lived in the Nashville area we went to “Ice!” every year. The Opryland Hotel always puts up an amazing exhibit of Christmas themed scenes all made of ice. This year’s theme is Frosty the Snowman (awesome…one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies). They used over 2 million pounds of ice to create the very colorful and very large scenes! It took over 40 talented artisans from Harbin, China to create the show. It’s very impressive.

Look at Frosty go!
Look at Frosty go!

The master ice carvers actually travel all the way to Tennessee to create their sculptures. They work in 12 hour shifts in the 9-degree freezers to get the job done! The sculptures are then set-up and put together in large rooms for all of us to tour, but these rooms are also kept at 9 degrees. The guests are provided with long hooded warm parkas, but I’d say it is still VERY necessary to dress warm. I had a gloves, close-toed shoes and a scarf and still felt chilly.

fire

The scenes from Frosty were just adorable. The characters were flawless and dialogue from the movie played as you walked from room to room. Even before entering the exhibit we were entertained. The que was lined with big screens TV to entertain us while waiting. We were then ushered into a large room that gave the played a short film on the history of “Ice!” and ended with “snow” falling on us.

que

wait room

snow!

Besides the cute characters and scenes there is also 4 large slides made of ice to enjoy, but beware: lines are long. There are also tons of opportunities for cute photos around all the ice scenes.

slides train

When Frosty’s story ends there is a bonus NYC room this year! Because we are cheesy and sentimental we were especially excited about this section. We are really missing New York this time of year, and all of its holiday glitter and fun. It was nice to walk around a fake New York made of ice. It had all the iconic Christmas in New York attractions…Rockefeller Center’s ice skating rink and giant tree, Broadway, Time Square, 5th Avenue and the Statue of Liberty.

nyc

Can you find Husband on the big screen in "time square"?
Can you find Husband on the big screen in “time square”?

broadway

The final room in “Ice!” is the traditional and always beautiful Nativity made of ice. This room uses all clear glass (no color) and is always the grand finale.

nativity

Afterwards, we defrosted and let our hands regain feeling in the guest shop right outside of “Ice!”. They sell a bazillion souvenirs, hot chocolate, kettle corn and what-not. This year, there was also a special Gingy room. Gingy is a character from Shrek and they had an entire gingerbread house set up where kids can get their photo taken with Gingy, buy a stuffed Gingy and pay to create an entire Gingerbread house. It looked like fun…maybe when Luna is here and a toddler we can actually try this part out!

gingy toy gingy

If you are interested in seeing Frosty and his friends all carved from ice then head over to Opryland by January 1st!  Check their site for prices and times here.

Cheers!

Let the Babymoon Begin!

*Written at 8am yesterday.

Today is the first day of our last big hurrah before Baby Z’s arrival. Our original plan was to travel internationally…(we take at least one international trip every year), but things did not line up accordingly so this year we are being less adventurous than normal, but still excited to visit two of our most favorite places: NYC and Disneyworld.

I am sitting on a plane headed for New York as I type. We will spend 5 glorious days soaking up one of our favorite home away from homes. Then, we are flying back to Nashville for a very special ceremony for out Aunt. The very next day we are driving to Orlando for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, EPCOT’s Food and Wine festival and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights! And maybe, just maybe, we’ll stop by a nice warm beach for a minute or so. Woohoo!

View of the Upper East Side from Roosevelt Island.
View of the Upper East Side from Roosevelt Island.
Food and Wine Festival 2012
Food and Wine Festival 2012

We love traveling more than pretty much anything else…hope this baby is okay with going overseas for her first birthday. I don’t know if we will be able to wait much longer before another big trip. Once we got the itch to travel the world, it just hasn’t gone away.

I’ll do my best to keep you posted on our babymoon adventures over the next two weeks, but no promises!

I hope each of you are getting some sort of fall break. Don’t we all deserve a little getaway?

Cheers!

What I DON’T Miss About NYC

The view from Brooklyn Bridge
The view from Brooklyn Bridge

After my last Top Ten, “What I Miss About NYC“, I think it’s only fair that I write another…..”What I Don’t Miss About NYC”. So, let’s get down to it.

1. My smoking neighbors. I think everyone in my “non-smoking” building smoked weed and cigarettes. Since our walls were thin and a billion years old (give or take a few) we had a constant whiff of smoke seeping into our apartment. Eww.

2. The extra expenses. EVERYTHING in NY is soooo expensive. Groceries, toiletries and restaurants are two or three times as expensive as anywhere else. Don’t even get me started on the fashion…

3. Winter. Way too cold and way too long. Brrrrrr rabbit.

4. Rude waiters and sales clerks. I am typically on New York’s side when I hear that “people in NY are rude.” I defended New Yorkers by saying “People just keep to themselves,” “people are in a hurry,” or, “they are just as nice as people anywhere, you just don’t know them!” The majority of waiters and sales clerks do not get my defense though. They are just plain rude. New York has the worst customer service I have ever experienced.

5. The radiator. The radiator in our apartment sounded like someone was beating metal poles with a baseball bat ALL NIGHT LONG. It also made our tiny apartment exactly 250 degrees, even when we turned it off.

6. The laundromat. I don’t really think this needs explanation, but in case you are one of those lucky people who have always had a washer and dryer in your home I’ll help you understand. The next time you need to do laundry, preferably when the hamper is over-flowing, grab your hamper, detergent and bag of quarters and walk 2 or 3 block to the nearest laundomat. Now spend a couple of hours doing laundry, throw it all back in the hamper and walk back to your 4th floor walk-up apartment. Then, let me know how much fun you had.

7. No bathtub and no dishwasher. We missed both of these very important amenities in both Albania and NYC. I will never again take these simple things for granted!

8. The stairs. Our house has stairs, which I love, but they are nothing compared to living in a 4-floor walk up. Carrying groceries, shopping bags and luggage home always sucked. But the worst…the absolute worst…is when I’d leave for work with just enough time, get to the bottom floor and realize I left either my keys, my purse, an umbrella, my shoes or my lunch upstairs.

9. Tiny space. Our NY apartment was less than 400 square feet. It was cozy and just right for a short time in the city, but only  a short time. I LOVE how much space and how many closets we have now! It’s glorious!

10. Dog poop. I hated picking up Belle’s poop when I walked her. I hated constantly looking out for other’s dog poop that was not picked up even more.

There it is…sorry New York, but you aren’t perfect.

(I still miss you though.)

Cheers!