Never again will I roll my eyes when I see commercials for those online dating services. I have a new found hopefulness for those friends searching for Mr. (or Ms.) Right on sites like match.com and eHarmony.com because last week at this time, I was spending up one of the best weekends of my life with 13 women I'd only ever corresponded with online at My Sketch World.
Truthfully, I had as much trepidation as excitement about meeting everyone. What if they were annoying? Worse yet, what if they found ME annoying? Either one could make for one long and unpleasant weekend.
It's very much like what someone told me about having money - that it doesn't change you as much as it allows you to be more of who you really are deep down. I haven't had the opportunity to test that theory for myself IRL, but I was thrilled, delighted and a tad bit relieved to discover that these 13 women were the same IRL as they are on the boards at MSW, only more so.
What was even more evident was the sweetness, thoughtfulness, talent and hilarity that has always made MSW a great place to hang out.
After our rather loud and joyful meeting in the airport (you've seen the video), Lucy, Nicole and I eventually stopped jumping up and down and took seats to await our flight. A woman across from us asked us where we were going to be in while in Houston, possibly to make sure she went somewhere else. Stating the obvious, we shared that we'd only just met for the first time. Several fellow passengers chimed "We know!" while looking at us as though we were poop-laden infants destined for the airplane seat next to them.And that pretty much set the tone for the entire weekend, as we proceeded to talk up a storm on the flight, pausing only to laugh until we snorted.
Somewhere on You Tube is another video - a very Blair Witch Project-ish video - taken when the three of us stepped out of the limo at the hotel to greet everyone else. Mostly you see blurry images of feet and shrubbery and mostly you hear ear-splitting screaming.
The ear-splitting screaming continued once we got inside, at which point we realized the hotel lobby was not designed for 14 women creating happy havoc. The hotel staff needed to be able to hear telephone conversations and check in other (unlucky) guests and conduct hotel business.
That's when we fled for our rooms, hoping our floor-mates weren't hoping for a break from their nervous disorders or anything.
Kristin (who is an actual Texas girl) and Kim (who is an actual artist at scrapbooking) and I took off in search of a liquor store so I could freeze up some rooster tails for paryting later. Unfortunately, Kristin's GPS took us to a liquor store that I think was actually somewhere in Arkansas and by the time we got back to the hotel, there was a huge Hummer limo parked out front, surrounded by - what else?- screaming women.
We made our limo driver take pictures with a gazillion cameras then piled inside for a trip to Papacitas, home of what turned out to be the best Mexican food I've ever tasted. You can imagine the stir we made pulling up in a Hummer limo. We also made something of a stir inside while waiting on our table. Kristin tackled the balloon lady for me, though, and I got a balloon hat.
Saturday we descended upon the Archivers Store in Katy, Texas. If you've never been to an Archivers before, I have a bit of advice: leave the credit cards at home and take only cash with you. Oh - and leave your children at home because this store has EVERYTHING that's scrappily delightful and you WILL be tempted to trade your cute kid for bling when your cash runs out.
(I'd never been to an Archivers before and found it to be like a roomier Scrap Happy - my favorite LSS ever located in my hometown of Tiffin, Ohio. If you're ever out that way, you really need to put this store on your itinerary. Scrap Happy's inventory is just as extensive as Archivers, which means my husband thinks it should be put in its own no fly zone.)
The next 12 hours were quite entertaining. Little did I know that I'd be sitting next to Sue the Encroacher. Online, she seemed so. . .so sweet. And she was sweet IRL, but pretty soon her stacks of stuff on my side of the table left me no alternative but to use painters tape to delineate her portion of the table. After that, let 's just say there was a suggestion that I was territorial and then retaping ensued. And somewhere there's video.
Neat-o Kim suggested that Kristin might want to clean up her space. Kristin decided she was fine - she'd just work on smaller and smaller projects as the day wore on proving once again that scrappers are quite adaptable.
Nataliah and Bev brought so much stuff with them I think Archivers was asking them for hard-to-find items before the night was out. But sitting next to Nataliah was great because not only did she bring her entire scraproom with her, she SHARED. (And never once encroached like some people we know.) (I'm just saying. . . )
We also found Sweater Girl. She was an Archiver regular working at the tables in the adjoining crop room. We dubbed her Sweater Girl because even though it was 1500 degrees outside AND raining, she had on a long-sleeved black sweater with a scarf wrapped around her neck. She kept coming over to our room to use the punches, which was fine but she was wearing yoga pants so low they showed her crack. I started throwing peanuts at her backside whenever she showed up. She never figured this out, though, because I am not known for having any LeBron James-like skills whatsoever. However, if you ever scrap with us, please remember that if I see your crack in public, I will try to toss something into it whether you're a plumber or not.
I think I'm the only scrapper out there who's never been to a crop before. You learn so much about people when you sit and scrap with them. We couldn't get over the adorable baby pictures Teresa turned into layouts. Kim was an even more amazing scrapper in person. Suzann - bless her heart - toted boxes of punches and her sewing machine and photo printer into Archivers for us to use. Ginni could make friends with anyone in the world, all while scrapping away. Lisa made pages as lovely as she was - and saved paper like no one I've ever met. Toni is as creative as she is huggable, and that's saying something. Bev is the undisputed Digistamp Queen and Packer of All Things Scrappy. Kristin is cute as a button, and only has to look at me and I start to giggle. She also never met a lawn sprinkler she didn't like. Sherri had the best Texas drawl ya'll'd ever want to hear which is why I kept asking her to tell me about her layouts. Nataliah's boys will have one amazing set of scrapbooks when they're older. Sue's kids are adorable, and her scrapping does them proud. I'm convinced Lucy could turn toilet paper and a gum wrapper into something amazing - the layout she made with her husband's black and white photo was stunning. Nicole knows every song ever turned into muzak, and can boogie down while putting together beautiful, creative pages.
And we got to meet one of MSW's newest members - Carla - who came to join us. She didn't say much at first (probably couldn't find a second where one of us wasn't already yapping) but eventually opened up. Later, she proved she was one of us when she gleefully zinged me good when I suffered a momentary bout of memory card confusion.
As you can imagine, the longer the day went on, the goofier we got. At one point, the entire room was laughing helplessly at Kristin who was helpless with laughter herself. . . . and no one knew why we were all laughing.
It was that kind of day.
Sunday we had another limo pick us up for our tour of Houston and NASA. Our driver this time was a man who never met a curb he didn't like. I don't think we passed a single curb that he didn't run over or park on top of. He also ignored Suzann's instructions about where to take us on our tour deciding for himself to do things like make wrong turns, ignore instructions and oh - run into curbs.
Finally, we asked to stop at a gas station so we could buy some drinks and snacks, during which time he sat waiting for us at a gas pump with the limo running. I think he was pouting because this Valero station had no curbs.
We were only on the road for another half hour after that before guess what? He stopped at another Valero TO BUY GAS.
We seriously thought about staging a mutiny at this point.
But he got us to NASA, which was an amazing place. I was so looking forward to pushing some buttons or flying something, but no dice. Maybe Sweater Girl has connections at NASA. I did get to touch a real moon rock, though. And through the miracle of modern photography, was able to touch the top of a rocket, too.
I call this picture My Moment of Statuesque-ness.
After NASA, we got to visit Suzann's house to see her husband, Bob.
Bob's had some pretty serious health issues this year, so we took him a picture of us so he'd know how much we love him. While there, of course, we got to see Suzann's scrap room which is really an Archivers' Mini Me. We also got to meet Bob's son, Dan, beautiful granddaughter, , and Patsy who is the angel who takes care of Bob (and Suzann).
We spent Sunday night much the same as we spent Saturday night: scrapping and drinking rooster tails. Oh - and laughing. At this point, you'd have thought we'd run out of things to say or stuff to laugh at but no - much to the chagrin of hotel management, we scrappers are a hardy bunch.
The Texas girls among us headed to their homes Sunday night amidst much hugging and lots of tears. That was pretty much the theme for Monday morning, too.
I had decided Sunday night/Monday morning to pack before I hopped into bed. I figured this would save me time because I wanted to be downstairs by 6:30 to say goodbye to Lucy and Nicole, who alas were returning home through Newark and not Cleveland. So I set my Blackberry alarm for 5:45AM. When it went off, I couldn't believe how tired I was. But I dragged myself into the shower, got around and repacked my bag.
That's when I flipped on the TV and discovered it was only 5:15AM.
My stupid Blackberry had not adjusted itself for the one hour time difference and I'd really gotten up at 4:45AM.
By this time, I was afraid to go back to sleep so I brewed six cups of extra strong coffee and set about uploading pictures until time to head downstairs.
Five of us were left to catch the last limo to the airport at 7AM.
Once we got there, Sue and Toni headed to another terminal.
This left just Lisa, Ginni and I. Once we checked our bags and got inside, though, I discovered that my flight was out of a different terminal so I had had to say goodbye to the last of my pals.
I thought about getting one last picture at this point, but there was something in my eye. We hugged like crazy and then I headed out to Timbuktu where my gate was.
Returning from a good vacation is always a let down. But going back home - no matter how much I wanted to see Ken and DaBoys and talk to the kids - was tough. Two years ago, I answered a design team call that led to making friends that feel like family. To get to meet some of them in real life was a privilege, and some of the best fun I've ever had.
After two years online with these ladies, they get me. Which may or may not say something about their character. . .
Back in Cleveland, I grabbed my bag and headed for the shuttle to my car. I decided I'd spend the rest of the afternoon showing DaBoys all my pictures until Ken got home from work.
And then Lisa posted her last picture from the trip. It was taken at the airport, and made me wish all over again that I'd been there when she took it.
Because if we'd all seen this guy together, you just know we'd have laughed until we needed Depends.