Monday, April 26, 2010


When one of my best friends from college, Jess, went with her dream and moved to Nashville, we were all pretty proud of her. There’s a group of us that hope to someday live in Nashville, Jess was just the first one to take a risk! She lives in between downtown Nashville and Franklin- in a lovely apartment off of Franklin Pike road.

In November, Sam and I started picking weekends to go visit Jess. We decided to knock two birds with one stone and go the weekend of the marathon! So, since November, I have been proudly saving my money for this trip. I only make $100 a month doing this year of volunteer service, so things were tight. I gave up going out to eat and going to the movies, and only purchased things when absolutely necessary. I was still counting pennies and budgeting up until the very moment I left for Nashville. I even turned in my piggy bank- and got $65 back! Anyways, you want to know about the trip.

I was running around like a mad woman at school on Thursday getting ready to leave. As I was walking out the door, a group of students stopped me and begged me to stay. Even though I told them I was only going to be gone a couple of days, they all know I love Nashville, and were concerned I wasn’t coming back…and, since I am in charge of feeding the kids breakfast and lunch every day, one girl’s parting words to me were “WAIT! Who’s going to feed us???”. I left school and ran home to change and grab my last minute things. My neighbor showed up with a package in her hand, and in it was…MELINDA'S BOOK! EEE! I was so ecstatic I wanted to sit down and read it right then…but I already had a late start, so I stuffed it in my purse and was on my way. To get to Sam’s, I have to drive through Kalamazoo…my old college town. I have to say, for as much as I hate college, I found myself a little emotional. I don’t think it’s because I miss it, but it’s because Kalamazoo represents so much. The changes and the growth that I have made, the bad decisions I’ve made, friendships come and gone, boyfriends, sorority, jobs, etc. Those four years were such a rollercoaster and just being back in that town brought on all kinds of anxiety? I drove by my sorority house to find that a frat had moved in, which also made me sad. Goodbye, Delta Gamma.

Anyways…enough nostalgia. I made it to Sam’s, and after a long day of work and driving was pretty tired. We sat and watched some old season 7 episodes of Idol, chatted, and got everything ready to leave. By 10:30, we were both out cold. We planned on leaving by 6 am, but ended up on the road a little closer to 6:30. The trip down there FLEW by. We made it to Nashville by 12:30 their time, which was pretty much perfect. I really enjoyed our trip- we had a little bit of rain, but for the most part it was the easiest trip we’ve ever had. No car problems, no traffic, and, best of all, NO GETTING LOST! We pulled into Jess’ excited and ready to take on Nashville.

Jess gave us a tour of her apartment and then took us down the road to a new local bbq place. I’m not even a big fan of bbq, but my pulled pork sandwich was delicious! We sat out on the patio and caught up for a while, learned all about Jess’ life in Nashville and her goals. By this point, Sam and I were ready to see Nashville, so Jess took us on a driving tour. We saw Martina McBride’s house, Green Hills, Belmont, etc. I think our only comments the entire tour were “it’s so beautiful here” and “when we move here…” and “…is that a tour bus?” I had fallen in love with Nashville all over again within 10 minutes of our tour! By the time we were finished driving around, we had to get back to take showers and get ready to see the backups!

We met Holly, Des, Maria, Lexi and her family at Cantina Laredo. You may recognize it as “the place Melinda gets her apple pie she is always tweeting about”. There is even a picture of it in her book! The restaurant was delicious. Sam and I were big fans of the guacamole, which they made right in front of us at the table! MMM. I had an avocado enchilada. De-lic-ous. It was so good to see everyone and catch up! We talked about Idol a little bit, shared a few stories, and just enjoyed each other’s company. (And yes, Ape, Maria did perform surgery on her food!). Also, I’m sure you are all already aware of this, but Lexi is the most mature 16 year old you will ever come in contact with. She handles every situation with grace, and she’s such a sweetheart!

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Speaking of sweet

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…When it came time for desert, I just had to order apple pie. You guys, Melinda was not kidding. It was incredible apple pie topped with cinnamon ice cream and Carmel sauce. I forced Jess and Sam to eat a few bites of mine, and when I couldn’t eat anymore, I handed my plate on over to Lexi.

After dinner we said our goodbyes and parted ways. Jess continued our driving tour by showing us music row, which was probably a bad idea since Sam and I both practically leaped out of the moving car. It was so cool seeing all the record labels and studios! We saw a guy carrying a guitar and I just shouted “FOLLOW HIM!” We also saw Vanderbilt’s campus, and my dream place of employment, the Vanderbilt Children’s hospital. At one point Jess said “I think that’s a frat house or something…” and as we turned the corner, there was a huge group of college girls dancing on a beer pong table. I think her assumption was correct.

We got back to Jess and although we were tired from traveling and sightseeing, we decided to go out to downtown Nashville. Jess and her roommate took us to their favorite Irish pub downtown. Walking to the pub, though, we passed all the country bars. They were PACKED full and live music was coming from every single one! We made it to our destination and sat on the patio of Bailey’s Irish Pub.

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We had a few drinks; chatted, and headed home around 11- we were TIRED! I think we all fell asleep as soon as we walked in. Woke up around 7 and got ready to go cheer!
I was really nervous about finding the cheering spot, because all I could remember was the 08 marathon when the “cool car” was lost and lost! This year, though, I had Jess, who dropped me off in the perfect spot with absolutely no trouble! I found Holly and Lexi’s family and joined them in cheering on the runners.

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You know, there is something so special about supporting people who are doing something you know is very difficult. Each person that passed us and smiled, let out a WOOO or said “thank you” just touched my heart, because I know that they have a story, and they are running this marathon for a reason. I also have to say that Holly is the BEST cheering companion ever! She really kept me motivated and energized- even through the icky weather. I really don’t think I could have been as cheerful without her. ..and you know, all the cute boys walking by helped too. There was a band right next to our cheering spot who were singing some of my favorite songs! I nearly screamed when they sang “Run To You” by Lady Antebellum.

Lexi came running toward us, and I was so happy to be there to give her a big hug. I love that sweet girl, and her determination and dedication has truly inspired me. She didn’t stop for long, but enough to give hugs and snap a few pictures. After Lexi came by the skies started getting a little darker, but that didn’t stop Holly and I! We screamed for everyone that went by. Even though I didn’t have the banana this year, it was still fun.

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Sam and Jess came back JUST IN TIME for Maria and Des. Maria came walking up to us and I practically jumped on her. She waited for Des, who had gone to the bathroom, and as Des came up to us she immediately sat on the curb- the weather was making her hands and feet swell up :( We took a few pictures of them and encouraged them before they were off for the 2nd half.

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Jess, Sam, and I headed to the car, and as soon as we did, the storm started. We all crawled onto different couches in Jess’ apartment and took naps.
We woke up around 12:30 and decided to get ready and “screw that rain right back”. We went downtown and walked the main strip to see all the shops…and by the way, not ONLY are the bars packed at night, but also in the middle of the afternoon! How awesome. Downtown was fun…we took lots of touristy pictures.

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AND…” DANNY GOKEY BABIES” has become my new go to frustration phrase when it’s not appropriate to cuss, so I had been saying it a lot lately..And we ran into his poster on the streets!

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After downtown, I asked Jess to take us to the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve always wanted to see it…it’s gorgeous!

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Then, Jess had really wanted to go to the Franklin festival…so we made our way to Franklin…only to find that the festival had been closed due to the rain. I was glad to see downtown Franklin though, it’s such a cute area! Nashville is just full of surprises. From downtown to the outskirts, there’s so much cool stuff! As we were walking, I looked to my right and see a collage of pictures in the window of a cupcake store. I was all “hey, that girl looks like Jordin!” so I walk closer…and next to Jordin is Melinda! ::laugh:: It was the cupcakes they used for the Dove awards.

By this point, the weather was very…iffy. It would be sunny one minute and pouring the next…so we decided to grab dinner and then head home for the night. Well, as we’re driving, we see this HUGE bridge coming up ahead…

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So we start having a conversation about how big it is and how it looks like it’s not even made for cars. Jess says “Yeah, I think it’s famous or something…hey, why is my GPS taking us up this huge hill?” we laugh and keep talking about how the GPS is taking us to the mountains…when suddenly, we see the bridge. “Um..we’re going on the bridge”. This is what happened next:

WHEW! We made it! As soon as we were off, Jess says “someone could so easily die off that thing!”. You guys probably can’t tell, but this bridge had practically no barricade.

Anyways, we made it to our dinner location, which was Loveless, a famous tourist spot known for its biscuits and southern cookin. MMM, it was delicious, but way too much food. I’m not used to southern food! We left and headed home. We had anticipated going out again, to a bar on music row, but we were all so exhausted from the long day that we fell asleep by 11:00.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 6:30 am and did NOT fall back asleep. I had a very emotionally draining dream and just wanted to talk to Sam about it, but she was still sleeping, so I just kept going over and over it in my mind. When she woke up, we went and sat on Jess’ patio and enjoyed the sunshine for the first time all weekend. When Jess woke up she joined us and then we got ready for breakfast with Melinda and the backups!

When we arrived at J. Christopher’s, we stood outside to wait for the rest of our party. We chatted with Lexi and her family for a bit and then saw Kelley, Maria, and Des. Holly showed up a few minutes later. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen Kelley, so I was ecstatic. We all chatted about how our weekends were going and Kelley said that Melinda was running late for the first time in her life. So we just stood outside and waited for our table to be ready and for Melinda to arrive. I turned around at one point and saw Melinda walking toward us. She waved all excited and skipped over to hug us. As soon as she got there, our table was ready. I think she planned that. :rofl

I ended up sitting directly across from Melinda, which I am very grateful for since I have not seen her in a year. I looked up from the menu and she was waving at me. :rofl I don’t know how long she had been doing it, but I just said “HI!” and we talked about how long it’s been, and a little about how my year is going (but that conversation could take days, so I just summed it up by telling her I was loving life). In order to try and remember everything that she and I talked about during breakfast, I’ll use bullet points..because I don’t remember what order everything was in.

-She had just done an event for a corporate office, and said that those are the hardest shows to do. They had taken a tour bus there and back, Melinda slept through the storms.

-Kelley had “For Once In My Life” stuck in her head so Melinda asked me to sing a new song, but it couldn’t be one that she had ever sung before. Before I could open my mouth she gave Kelley the cue for a Ting Tings song.

-She ate at Paula Deen’s restaurant and LOVED it! She just kept naming all the food she had... “AND THE GREEN BEANS!”

-She gave out little cards for everyone, even Sam and Jess. She passed all of them out and then looked up at me with this look of pure horror and then started frantically looking around the table. I knew what she was thinking, so I assured her “you got everyone!” She breathed a huge sigh of relief and said “thank you! I’m like...who did I forget…then realized it was Kelley!” Lexi’s great grandma overheard this and tried to give Kelley her card. Melinda was like “no, she doesn’t need one!” It was cute!

-The phone call for Gem is coming soon. I gave them some tips on a “good” time to call her. :lolsign

-I gave her a letter that my student had written her. She took it to keep, so I can’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something like “Miss Carolin told me she knew you and I screamed! I don’t watch American Idol anymore because you were voted off. You seem so sweet and inspirational. Please write back!”. So Melinda signed a mini picture for her.

-The manager of the restaurant kept coming over to make conversation…which yeah, was nice the first time, but after the 4th of 5th it just got annoying. Kelley was pretty funny with her under the breath comments.

-Melinda asked me if I wore the banana, and when I said no, she seemed relieved. I think I embarrassed her the first year. I told her that it would have been bad anyways because of the rain, and we had a little joke about that. Don’t think I forgot that, Mama.

-When we were waiting for our food (which was delicious, by the way), Melinda would say “hungee!” It was so cute…then her food came and she looked like a kid in a candy store, clapping her hands and saying “OOOH!” Adorable.

-After breakfast, we went outside to take pictures and for Melinda to sign our books. We took turns taking individual pictures with her and then a few group shots.

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-After pictures, I asked her about her Idol favorites. This is what she had to say:
-She loves Lee and has a small crush on him. (Who doesn’t?)
-She really likes Crystal but feels as though Crystal is having her own party and Melinda isn’t invited.
-She thinks Big Mike has a gorgeous voice. (Maria, don’t you say anything.)
-Says Casey is good but reminds her so much of Bucky and she can’t get past that.
-Siobhan has an AMAZING voice but doesn’t know what to do with it, but if she did, she’d be beating Crystal into the ground.
-Aaron Kelley reminds her of David Archuleta. Sam did NOT like that, LOL. Melinda was like “No! I mean, David is light-years ahead of Aaron vocal wise, they are both just young and cute.” Kelley said “are you in love with David Archuleta” and Melinda totally called Sam out by saying “just a little. You should read her tweets!” LOL. One of the best parts of the weekend. It’s okay, Sam, Melinda has called me out, too. (Maria…shh).

-Melinda said she was having a staycation this week. Everyone kind of looked at her funny, but I knew exactly what that meant so I said “it means she’s staying in Nashville but not doing anything, so she gets a little vacation”. Melinda needs a break, and has a busy May coming up…so if you don’t see her on twitter very much, that’s why!

-She hugged every single one of us goodbye with her famous Melinda hugs. When she got to me, she told me “don’t let those kids wear you down, it sounds like they are giving you a run for your money”. I agreed and said it was draining, but that I loved it. She said “it sounds like it’s the parents, most of the time!”. So clearly, she’s been reading my tweets. She also said “you tell them if they are mean to you or wear you down I’m coming after them…no seriously, tell them. You tell them.”….and then she put her arm around me and said to the group “sometimes I worry about this girl because of the things she says about her kids!” I worry about myself, lol, but I seriously am loving life. I appreciate the support, though :)

Melinda left and then it was time to say goodbye to all the backups. I hate that part :(. It’s always so good to see them, but way too short. Maria, Des, and Holly have all been amazing friends to me and a wonderful support during the rough times. Lexi is one of my biggest inspirations…so it was very bittersweet leaving them, and not knowing when I’ll see them again. I love you guys so much and am blessed to have you in my life! Thank you for a wonderful weekend!

Sam and I said goodbye to Jess, which was also sad. I’m so proud of her for following her dreams and hope that I can be that brave when the time comes. We hopped in the car and started our journey home. Everything was fine until we hit Louisville, when the rain started….and didn’t stop. It made the trip much more difficult. I was extremely tired from the lack of sleep, plus just the anxiety and nerves from the weekend. We stopped in Indy and were able to see my brother and future sister in law, which was good. We spent the majority of the trip screaming to Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks songs, which, might I add, is rather difficult. By the time we got home I had no voice left...but we still had fun, despite the rain and exhaustion. I love road trips with my bff!

Oh, funny story. At one point, Melinda’s cover of “How Come You Don’t Call Me” came on…it was getting toward the end of the song when Melinda gets extra soulful and bluesy, and we were also coming up to a red light. Well, Sam got so into the song that she lets out this HUGE “GOOOOOOO MEEELINDAAA” with a little arm movement. Instead of reacting to her hilarious gesture, I just said “are you gonna stop?”. LOL.

Today I left Sam’s around 10:30 to head back to Detroit. I was tired, but actually had nice weather for the first time all weekend, so I enjoyed the ride home. I came home and crawled into bed for a few hours, and then caught up with all my roomies.

Overall, the weekend was amazing. The weather could have been a little better, but I had a great time and won’t forget some of the inside jokes with Sam and Jess, conversations with backups, cheering with Holly, and sitting across from Melinda. I came back from this trip feeling refreshed and motivated. I am READY to take on whatever is thrown at me during these last few months.

I wish you all could have been there, but trust me, you were there in spirit. I felt your presence! The backups bond is very strong!

Okay. I think I'm finished now...except that I forgot to add at one point I ate RED VELVET CAKE ICE CREAM. MMMMM. It made me think of Chikezie and Vegas, which made me think of Val. I love my twinnie!

Okay, NOW I'm done.

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