Wow...it was such a busy, crazy, exciting week...guess the best place to start is at the beginning. I dropped the girls off at my sister-in-law's house Wednesday morning and drove to Nashville to Kent's house. I was the last one to get there and they were all waiting for me. We loaded everyone's luggage into the 15-passenger van and Kent drove us to the airport. Check-in was easy...we had all printed our boarding passes and we just walked right through. I was really a nervous wreck about security. I know I'd heard people say over and over again that CIs don't set off the alarms but I just knew that I'd be the one to do it! Amazingly, I just walked on through and they never even looked at me. Karyn did have to show me how to pass my laptop through security BY ITSELF...I made the mistake the first time around of sending it through in a bag and they asked her to fix it for me (thank you dear!). Lesson learned! We had arrived WAAAAAAYYY early so we had plenty of time for lunch. Nashville's airport actually has a pretty nice food court so most of them grabbed something from there but I decided I was going to walk a bit farther down and get one of Whitt's Barbecue's huge baked potatoes. After lunch we secured a preboarding pass...since we were deaf they allowed us to board the plane first. We all sat together and that was nice...we had a couple of "hearies" in our group that were able to hear any announcements that I might miss. The plane ride was long and boring...and I was kinda cramped in and had a hard time not compromising any portion of adjacent seating (in other words, keeping my feet off Karyn). She and Shari worked on Sudoku puzzles on the way there...since that's too complicated for my hyper brain I did word finds. We had a stopover in Phoenix...it was so nice to have the hearing people to tell us to STAY ON THE PLANE and NOT GET OFF. A few of our group had taken the same flight a couple of days previously, and had not heard that the plane stopped in Phoenix. Thinking they were in Reno, they disembarked there and missed getting back on in time. I can TOTALLY see that happening to me...especially since I thought my flight was a non-stop one! You better believe I asked before getting on another plane from then on! When I got to Phoenix I turned my phone on and got a seething text from Abbie reporting that she was having some very bad luck with her first flight, indeed (she tells it better than I do...check it out). Oy!
Our plane arrived around 4:10 (a few minutes late, but after reading yet another scathing text from Abbie, I decided that in the grand scheme of things I was in great shape). When I came around the corner to baggage claim, there stood a beaming LAURIE! Let the hugging begin! I introduced her to the Nashville girls, although most of them had already met her, and we headed down to baggage claim. Found our luggage with no problem and headed out to wait for the shuttle. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the shuttle, and didn't arrive at the hotel until around 5. THEN the check in process seemed excessively long...I don't think we got up to our rooms until around 5:30. Several of the Nashville and Chattanooga folks had already arrived and they were down in the lobby waiting for us, so the wait was at least a fun one.
I had been invited to eat dinner with several of the Advanced Bionics folks so I had to rush upstairs, brush my hair and teeth, and head back downstairs. I saw Karyn on my mad dash through the lobby to the front door and slowed down long enough to say "see ya later" only to hear a resounding, "HEY!" from behind me. I turned around and there were two of my favorite people in the world...Wayne Roorda and Deb McClendon! I met Wayne at last year's convention and we have stayed in touch in the past year. I met Deb online two years ago....she was one of my biggest, most positive influences when I was researching implants. I had wanted to meet her for a very long time and it was awesome to give her a hug at last!
In the lobby, there were more familiar faces...Gloria Garner, Mike Royer, Gerry and Sheila Adams, Judy Wagner, Kim Brownen, and Nanci Linke-Ellis. I had met all of them previously either at the HLAA OKC convention or elsewhere. I also got to meet Tina Childress and Beth Anne McDonald for the first time. I had talked to Tina online a few times but had no idea what an absolutely adorable, precious person she was in real life...she has a new fan :). I had only met Beth Anne VERY briefly in a chat room one night and had gotten a couple of e-mails from her, and liked her right away. She has a warm, gentle, sweet personality...and tolerated my bouncing off the walls remarkably well...so it was all good :). We all loaded up in taxis and went to Rapscallion's, a local seafood place with DELICIOUS food. I had originally thought that we'd only be there an hour and a half or so but it was 9:00 before we got back to the hotel!
All through dinner Laurie and Abbie and I were texting trying to figure out when Abbie was going to get to the hotel and where she was going to eat and on and on and on. I kid you not...I logged over 100 text messages that day!! When we got back to the hotel Laurie texted that they were in Starbucks, so we RAN to Starbucks to meet Abbie, and spent the next TEN MINUTES standing in front of the WRONG DOOR looking for them!!!! (the first of many DUH moments!) When we finally did locate them there was all sorts of whooping and hollering and hugging as the two bionic belles met for the first time!! I totally did not feel like I was meeting a stranger...Abbie's family :). It took us a little while to get settled down...and we all stood around Starbucks for a few minutes before someone got the great idea to actually SIT at a TABLE so we did that for another hour or so. I had the privilege of photographing Abbie signing her first autograph!
When the crowd dispersed (we were tired) Abbie and I did a brief walking tour of the hotel. The bowling alley was open and I had to go to the bathroom and it had one so we detoured. Our eyes almost popped out when we saw that it was painted in some 60s orange and blue...whew! Photo op time! We finally headed up to bed and I tiptoed into the room to avoid waking Laurie up, which caused uproarious laughter from Abbie, who remembered much faster than I did that Laurie, like the two of us, is completely deaf when she sleeps. Funny how ya forget the whole "we sleep in silence too" bit so quickly sometimes ;).
I had had lots of Pepsi and a cup of coffee, and Abbie, having just arrived, was not in the mood for sleep, so the two of us stayed up until *cough* 3 AM talking!!! Our personalities fit together nicely...we're both outgoing and social, love to laugh, love meeting new people...and we just hit it off remarkably well. I am always amazed at how natural it feels meeting online friends for the first time...especially those of us that have been through thick and thin together...as I've said before...we are family!!
To be continued....I have GOT to get up and get some laundry going here!