So I FINALLY went on a vacation. A real, honest-to-God, vacation. Somewhere that I wanted to go. I wasn't in a wedding, throwing a shower, going to visit someone out of necessity. (Not that any of those things aren't fun.) For those of you that know me, it's often pointed out that I'm often so busy doing things for other people that I forget to do things for myself. So, this trip was two-fold. It was first, a surprise for my baby sister, Sissy. She's the BIGGEST Dallas Cowboys fan that I know, save myself. Now, please don't stop reading my blog if you hate the Cowboys. I promise that I will refrain from singing their praises in the future, unless they do the unthinkable and go to the Super Bowl.
I surprised Sissy with a trip to Canton, Ohio to the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement to see Emmitt Smith, her favorite player of all time, be inducted into the Hall. The icing on the cake was that the Cowboys happened to be selected to play in the Hall of Fame game. So, off we flew to Columbus, Ohio, to spend some time with out aunt & uncle, and then rented a car and drove 2 hours northeast to Canton.
The weekend began with a delicious meal at the Surly Girl Saloon. This was at the recommendation of a co-worker who hales from Columbus, and the great Ohio State University. The rec was spot on. The food was great, the beer and drink selections amazing, and the cupcakes, oh my lord. Best. Cupcake. Ever. I'm a Southern woman. To say that a yankee produced the best red velvet cupcake of my life is a bit of a slap in the face of both of my grandmothers, may they rest in peace. Needless to say, it's true. If you are from Columbus, please run and have one of these cupcakes.
After the meal, we headed up to campus to check out OSU. My aunt has been a professor there for over 30 years. She's a die-hard Buckeye, and made us swear we'd check out the Horseshoe. As a love of all things college football, I couldn't wait to see the legendary place. Many National Championship hopes have been dashed on this field, and it was a bit surreal to see all 105,000 seats empty. I could imagine the roar of the crowd in three weeks when OSU kicks off my favorite time of the year.
After seeing the campus, we headed over to Shore North to check out all the trendy boutiques, and have some ice cream at Jeni's, which has been featured on the Food Network. Par for the course, best ice cream of all time. The Salted Caramel melted in my mouth and enveloped my taste buds with salty meets sweet and cold, delicious creaminess. The Wildberry Lavender is something out of dreams. I may just have to break down and have some shipped to Texas to beat this debilitating heat.
We dropped off our aunt at her tre' fab downtown loft, and headed toward Canton. We collapsed into our bed and prepared for an eventful Saturday. We woke up and pilfered through piles of Cowboys t-shirts, hats, jerseys, and the like to select our gear for the trek. As we pulled up to the museum, we both let out squeals of joy at the large white tents full of merchandise and football legends. You might have thought we'd arrived at the world's largest outlet mall, but no, the J sisters love a good football game as much as an amazing deal on a pair of Stuart Weitzman's. We are well-rounded Southern women. Football is a religion, and one that our father baptized us into as a VERY early age. Sissy jokingly told our father that she wanted to attend Dallas Cowboys University when she was barely six years old. Dad had to explain that unfortunately, the Cowboys didn't have a school, and she would have to settle for a SEC or Southwest Conference school. We should have known that she was destined to be a Cowboys fanatic.
As we scurried out of the shoe-polished rental car, covered in phrases such as Dallas Divas, We love Emmitt, and Go Cowboys, the reality set in that we were finally here. After nine months of planning, we had made it to the football Mecca. When we approached the Hall, there were men decked out in jerseys and hats, as far as the eye could see. It was quite a welcome change to have a line for the men's restroom and be able to waltz right into the ladies' room without hindrance. We finally entered the Hall and were blown away by the shear mass of memorabilia, photos, trophies, jerseys, helmets, playbooks, and autographed items. Interactive touch screens, Programmed speeches that played as you passed by, and attire that adorned coaching legends of decades past. As we approached the rotunda that houses the busts, the lights grew dim. We were entering hallowed ground. The inaugural class was elected in 1963. Then 47 marble panels wrap around the room, each housing four to seven busts, representing each election year. The months long process of making each of the true-to-size busts is full of pictures, in person meetings, measurements, and molds. To see all of these football legends, many of whom have left this earth, enshrined in bronze forever, was quite moving. Sammy Baugh, Bob Lilly, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Roger Staubach, Tom Landry, Johnny Unitas, John Elway, Steve Young, Barry Sanders, John Madden, Bob Hayes, Joe Gibbs, Mike Singletary, and all the greats. And for Sissy and I, the hallowed three, Aikman, Irvin, and finally now, Smith, together again at last. These were the men that I grew up hearing about from my father. These men shaped the game of professional football forever. As we wrapped through all the rooms, taking in all of the sights, we grew more excited about the ceremony slated for that evening. We perused the gift shop, stocking up on even more paraphernalia, and listening to all the other fans clammer on about their team, and their love story with football.
As we exited the Hall, we entered tent upon tent of even more souvenirs, and scanned the crowd for a glimpse of one of these football legends. As we were about to head out for lunch, we finally spotted a legend, not of the football variety, but of the sports world, no less. Chris Berman, anchor of Sports Center, and the recipient of this year's Rozell award and emcee of the Enshrinement arrived. I sprinted over to nab his autograph as he entered the Hall. I entered a mob of men wanting to shake his hand. I'm pretty sure most women would think that I was crazy, trying to meet a middle-aged man with a comb over, but this is the man that reports ALL of the ongoings in the sports world. He knows anyone who is anyone, and his voice has soothed me to sleep on many the occasion. It's on par with meeting Joel McHale of The Soup if reality TV is your drug of choice.
After the adrenaline rush of my brush with fame wore off, we headed off to grab some lunch, freshen up, and prep for the Enshrinement ceremony. We put on our jerseys, necklaces, grabbed our expertly crafted Emmitt/ESPN themed poster, and headed to the stadium. We arrived and found our seats. Must to our utter shock and dismay, there was zero beer available in the stadium. Apparently it doubles as a high school stadium in the fall, and they banned the sale long ago. Haling from Texas, we can't really imagine NFL football without a frosty brew. We settled for a couple of Diet Cokes nestled in our Cowboys' themed beverage holders, and started the look out for the celebs of the sporting world. I prepared the camera and nearly fainted when I saw my ULTIMATE sighting, Troy Aikman. I made my way over to the railing and round myself a mere 15 to 20 feet from my childhood sports hero, and favorite Dallas Cowboy of all time. I became the paparazzi, shooting pics of him, Michael Irvin, John Madden, and the massive crowd gathering outside the commentary booth. I ventured back to our seat, and proceeded to strike up a conversation with the fans around me. I was quite surprised to find that every Cowboys fan I met was from anywhere but Texas. We even met several Canadian fans. Apparently they really are America's Team.
The Enshrinement ceremony began and we were instantly immersed. John Randle, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, Ricky Jackson, Russ Grimm, Jerry Rice, and Emmitt Smith. For four hours, we listened to inspiring stories of why these legends played the game, and how they dared to dream. When Emmitt took the stage, my heart swelled with pride. I was so happy to see an athlete carry so much poise and humility. This accolade was well deserved. His tribute to Troy, Michael, and Moose moved me to tears. His dedication to his family, his faith, and his sport, was admirable and inspiring.
Walking out of the stadium, I felt shaken to my core. I felt like I could move mountains. I think that the trip with my sister, not only forever strengthened our bond, but it made me realize that God has granted me with talents that I absolutely do not deserve. He has also blessed me with a passion for life that most people long for every day. I embrace the good with the bad. I take each moment as a lesson to prepare me for things to come, and as a catalyst for my writing, and for sharing with others.
It's taken me quite a while to finish this piece, as my life has been quite hectic. In the time since I went on this trip, my first fashion pieces were published, I've met celebrities, watched my beloved baseball team, the Texas Rangers clinch the pennant, bonded with my father, gotten involved in the arts as a volunteer, and found much needed peace. I have not dedicated the kind of time that I would have liked to my blog, but I've made a new promise to myself that I will make more time to write for myself. It's the most therapeutic activity in my life, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with the few people who take the time to read about my crazy life.
For those of you that do read this lengthy post, and all of my writing, thank you. It's because of your encouragement that I continue to pursue my dreams.