Monday, March 22, 2010

Papa turns ninety…

I was so excited when I found out I would be able to attend NASPA this year. Yes, in part to being able to attend the best conference of the year, but more importantly, because it would allow me to be home the weekend before my Papa’s ninetieth birthday.

I have never known my Papa when he was healthy. Just prior to my birth he had a stroke while getting open-heart surgery (there is a story to this, I am just fuzzy on the details – but it involves the doctors screwing up). I never believed I would be able to have 26 years with my grandfather (ok – 26 years in less than a week). So for us to be celebrating his 90th birthday as a family was VERY special. Mimi and Mom planned a beautiful dinner in the Dublin Retirement Village private room. Everything looked beautiful and the dinner was wonderful. There were 11 of us for dinner (Mimi, Papa, Mom, Dad, Sarah, Josh, Annie, Tess, Loretta, Mike and Augie), a perfect number for a family celebration (I guess however large your family is will determine the perfect number).

Papa was very happy and seemed to love every minute of the celebration. We each told stories of our favorite Papa memories and he kept saying “you are being too kind by not telling the bad stories.” I am not sure what stories he is referring to, but my stories were simple moments with Papa that meant something to me. Following dinner we ate Mimi’s homemade angel food cake with green icing – Papa’s favorite.

I know I have said this in several posts, but I really am lucky.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adults struck dumb…

It is amazing how grown adults can sit around a table and loose the ability to speak intelligently. This phenomena was experienced at my “fake birthday” celebration while I was home in the US. Since I would not be with my family for my birthday, they all decided to have a small birthday dinner before I left (this was a difficult task considering all the other planned events going on at the time). We gathered at Sarah’s and had a causal night with pizza – a perfect way to celebrate. All 7 adults in the room sat sitting and staring at Augie as he stuck out his toung and blew raspberries. We then started sticking out our toungs and blowing raspberries… for about an hour. It was the best hour ever! I am not even kidding you when I say, “this kid is cute.” I could stick out my toung and blow raspberries all day with him.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I love the windy city…

The main purpose for my trip to the US was the annual NASPA conference (student affairs conference) in Chicago. This was perfect for me because Chicago is one of my favorite cities and is home to some of my favorite people. My time in Chicago was FULL; full of work, full of friends, and full of fun.

My first night in the city I was picked up at the airport by Katie and Paul. For those of you who do not know Katie and Paul, they are one of the most amazing couples out there; they are generous, kind, and fun. We grabbed dinner and went to Second City! I love Second City! The show was “The Taming of the Flu,” and it was really funny. My favorite skit was the whole cast singing about winter in Chicago. As they sang about the bitter cold and crisp wind that stings you, I was thinking about the pleasant extended fall (I can’t even call it winter) that has just ended in Doha. While I am not looking forward to the quickly approaching inferno that is summer, I could not help but feel happy at not having just experienced winter in the windy city.

Another night later in the week I was able to meet up with Audra, Katie and Tessa. I miss girls’ nights. It was like the best parts of college without the classes or the drama. We stayed in, ordered dinner, and just talked. We are each at such different placed in our lives, but we still connect as easily today as we did in college. While I can make new friends in each city I live in, I am not sure if there will ever be a time when I have the same type of friendships that I have with the girls I lived with in college. That being said – I truly enjoy my friends in Doha.

In addition to meeting with college friends I was able to meet up with a friend from high school, Karen. A lunch together ended up being 4 hours. If I had not had to go to the airport, it could have lasted even longer. I wish I could have a profession where it was my job to just travel around the country (world) catching up with old friends. Does anyone know if that job exists, and who would pay you for it?

Now to the purpose of the Chicago visit: NASPA. First, conferences are so much more work than actual work. Second, it is not a good idea to spread a conference out over three different venues and only give 15 minutes between sessions (10 of those minutes are spent talking and figuring out where you are going next, leaving only 5 minutes to get there). Even with that all said; the conference was wonderful. My favorite speaker was Condoleezza Rice. She has this way of speaking that draws you in and makes you feel a part of the story she is telling and makes you feel like you can easily understand all of the information she is sharing. I know she will not run – but she should be our next president. We should all plan on writing her name in when we vote in 2012! Another great speaker was Ebu Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core. He spoke of the importance to recognize the whole student, and to do that you have to be able to recognize and engage with faith – all faiths. So many times faith is separated out from the educational experience, but all that ends up doing is creating an environment where students are not asked to engage with others of different faiths and where students feel like they have to suppress their faith identity. I love what he is calling for universities to do and I hope faith becomes a part of more conversations.

In addition to seeing some great speakers I was also able to facilitate a panel. I have presented at conferences before (smaller conferences), but I have always given lecture style information sessions. That is a thing of the past… I loved facilitating the panel. I know the audience benefited from the session because we were answering their questions. We were able to share a great deal of information about being female student affairs professionals working in the Middle East in an easy format. While I did prepare ahead of time, all my hard work was not needed. My pre-planned questions and copious notes on each panelist were not even used. There was never a lull in the participation from the audience and the panelists did an amazing job of jumping in and answering questions. While maybe not on the same topic, I do hope I can facilitate another panel next year.

Monday, March 15, 2010


The opportunity came up to head to the US early to help interview candidates for an open position. On Monday I learned that I would be approved to leave early, and decided to tack two extra days onto the trip so I could surprise Josh for his 30th Birthday. So on Monday I booked a ticket for Thursday night!

One of the hard parts of living abroad is missing the big events in your family (Augies’ birth and baptism, Thanksgiving, and other important days), so when I realized I would be in the US a few days after my brother’s birthday, it was a no brainer to leave earlier to surprise him for his birthday.

The trip home was rough – four flights with delays and cancelations. I eventually made it to Port Columbus very late Friday night and was happy to be home. I spent that night with my sister and the next day I got to hang out with Augie. Saturday night was Josh’s party which Tess and Sarah had spent months organizing. As they got the room ready they learned from one of Josh’s friends that Josh has known about the party for about a month… his friends can not keep a secret. Even with the surprise spoiled, when Josh entered the room he faked a good surprise. Then he turned and saw me. Very quickly the fake surprise turned to confusion and then genuine surprise. It was wonderful! I am so glad I could share his 30th birthday with him.

The party was a huge success at Schmidt’s, a genuine German restaurant in German Village. Josh and his friends love the German food and beer, and everyone enjoyed the company.

The next night we had a family celebration for him. I am continually reminded how blessed I am to have my amazing family. Sure, we are a little messed up and possibly a little crazy, but there was more love in that room than I could express in words. On top of having a loving family, I am blessed to have all four of my grandparents.