Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A weekend where my cup truly runneth over…


And a good evening to you from seat 1 B on Flight 732 to London – Gatwick. Yep – I got the last upgrade! As I sit here, emotions an absolute roller coaster, I just thought I’d share with you guys the recap of an absolutely PERFECT weekend with my family and my city (and my Katie!). If my wife had been there as well, I think I can honestly say it would have been something akin to the peace I hope to find in Heaven.

This weekend was, simply put, one of the best weekends for the soul I’ve had in a long time. I knew that my wife going to have a great weekend in Manchester with Catharine (and I’m hoping she’ll do a little posting of her own for that one), and I knew that I had some quality time coming with my family. At no point did those 44 hours disappoint.

Friday night was wonderful. Mom showed up with my birthday presents (hey – I’m an only child – this is just how I roll), and then she took me for a GREAT meal at McCormick & Schmick’s (salmon stuffed with brie and lump crab…THAT’S RIGHT – KEEP THAT SPARE TIRE WELL FED, BABY!!!). We then went back to the room (thanks to Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz for hookin’ us up), where we promptly crashed at 11 PM.

We woke up at 9:30 the next morning, and it was the first time I could truly say I’ve felt refreshed in about a month. Puffin and I have been going SO HARD, and it was so nice to just have a lie in and know that the schedule for the day was not going to be BTTW (Chuck – that acronym’s just for you…and Jamie Pressley).

Dad and Pattie showed up at noon on the nose, and we promptly rolled to one of the MUST DO’s on my culinary tour of Charlotte – The Counter. We had some GREAT burgers, and dad was even able to celebrate the re-discovery of Blue Moon (apparently no longer on draft in TN due to the emergence – and conquest – of Fat Tire).

After that – it was time for the day’s main event – shopping at Target. Okay, so back story – shopping for things like lotion, shampoo, conditioner, and soap are a bit tricky in Britain. Usually, you have two options – the cheap brand or the expensive brand, neither of which provide you the life-changing experiences you glean from products like Vasoline Cocoa Butter lotion, Night of Olay face cream, or Gardinier Fructose Conditioner. Given that, I was on a mission to get Muffin Puffin every cream, gel, and spray her American heart desired (as well as some Ivory soap and razors for me).

Honestly, I looked like Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway when I rolled into Target. I had a list, but it suddenly occurred to me that I’d never shopped for ANY of these products. This posed several obstacles.

The Lash Blast Debacle – Okay, so thanks to Madeha, Jenny AND my mother are now ALL ABOUT this new mascara called “Lash Blast.” And while I love the fact that it’s cheap, the tricky part is figuring out which type to get. I mean, how do you choose from the following – a) black, b) very black, c) midnight black, d) brown black? What happened to “BLACK?” Maybe the Brits do have something figured out there…

Shopping for Target brand products – Okay, again, because we HATE spending money, we try to roll Target Brand whenever possible. Well, I spent a solid 15 minutes looking for Target Brand Night of Olay, but to NO avail. And when I didn’t find the sunscreen or face cream (SPF 15, of course!), I was really getting frustrated. Only then did I learn that Target has REBRANDED TO “UP AND UP.” Really? Really? You are selling Target brand in the Target store, and you feel the need to change the brand (and move the bullseye to the back under the packaging? How much did you spend on that advertising campaign – 160 million dollars?

However, I am pleased to report that EVERYTHING was located, and I am even now the proud owner of Gillette Fusion (Dad – if you’re lying to me, you owe me 20 bucks).

After that, we tried a new spot for me – Strike City. Okay, this place is AWESOME! TV’s everywhere, great sports bar atmosphere, and even TV’s in the front of the lanes. A little pricey? Yes – but worth EVERY penny. And check out the form – I AM THE WALRUS!!!!!

And in case anyone’s scoring – I won both games. That’s right – I roll on Shabbas.

After that, it was over to Wild Wings, where I had my 4th installment of wings for the week and we caught the Vols in action. I tried (and succeeded) in getting my fill of Fat Tire and LongHammer IPA, and we even made it over to Champions Bar and Grille for some more cheese fries and a Fat Tire night cap. Yeah, as you can imagine, I slept pretty good last night…

Today was wonderful – the morning started with Megan showing up at our room and chatting for a bit. She and mom hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so it was good to have a proper (even if quick) catch-up.

My last meal in the Queen City was an old staple – The Original Pancake House. I ordered Bacon and Eggs with an EXTRA side of Bacon (Onisick – this does NOT give you the right to call me fat again the next time you see me – otherwise I’m THROWING you in the river). It was SO GOOD.

After that, I held it together as I said goodbye to Dad and Pattie, and then Mom and I spent the next 4 hours rolling all over town (in Katie!!!), crossing off the rest of the to-do’s.

The oddest moment of the day was swinging by the Villages at Eastover, where I peeked in at mine and Jenny’s condo. Honestly, it’s weird knowing that’s your house and you can’t go in (and don’t even have a key for that matter). JT – the place looks great. Unfortunately, Kristie wasn’t home. However, I’m happy to report it still feels like home.

I spent my final “free” hour in Charlotte sitting in the Breezeway of Gateway Village, chatting about everything and nothing with mom, and loving every single second of it. After that, it was the final ride of Sam and Katie until December, where I drove to the airport and said by to mom (and mercifully managed to keep it together there as well). Mom – it was too rushed, and I wish we’d had more time to say goodbye. However, since I was on the verge of tears, maybe it was better I shuffled off quickly.

This trip to Charlotte and my weekend with the fam were both so amazing, and I feel so blessed to have had this time, both with my city and my family. As I alluded to earlier, expat life is truly an amazing experience, but it’s also a roller coaster of emotions. Every day moves so fast, and finding a way to take it all in, pinch yourself to realize this is your life, and try to burn the memories into your mind is a challenging proposition. I say with 100% certainly that I am absolutely having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t trade a second of this experience for anything. Folks hear me say it in the office almost daily, and I mean it every time when I say I’m “livin’ the dream.” Furthermore, I hope and pray that this magic carpet ride continues, as I love the expat life and fully intend to continue on this journey for as long as I can.

However, it is of great comfort and promise to me to know that, when mine and Jenny’s time abroad does come to a close, a host of loving friends and family will be back in the states waiting for us, ready to pick up where we left off with laughs, tears, and love.

Family – I love you guys SO MUCH. The miles might get longer, but the love only grows deeper.

Jenny – I love you more than anything and can’t WAIT to have you back in my arms again.

Followership – That’s all the news that’s fit to print. Chat tomorrow – time to get my game face back on.


Sam and (in a matter of hours and miles) Jenny

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