Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"What makes you different makes you beautiful"

Walking through Madison Square Park, I was drawn to watch as a rather large group of pigeons grazed on what appeared to be pollen clumps from the surrounding trees. There must have been 30 or 40 dark gray pigeons scrounging around in the grass, but I couldn't help but focus my attention on the different bird of the group. With feathers as white as snow, the bird just seemed to possess a different aura than the others.

As I watched the white bird pecking around, I had to wonder if the bird knew it looked different from the rest of the group, and if that was the reason it was positioned a little off to the side by itself, not getting right in the middle to compete for a snack. The white bird looked so beautiful and serene, and I was reminded of a quote I had clipped out of a magazine and pinned to my bulletin board when I was in middle school that read, "What makes you different makes you beautiful."

The quote stuck with me (and on my bulletin board) for years because I remember knowing I looked different from most everyone else - taller than all my classmates and one of the only people with red hair - and I desperately wished those differences would make me beautiful. (If you didn't know me circa 1993, let me just tell you "beautiful" is not the first description that would come to mind. Tall, skinny and awkward would be a little more accurate.) I guess I thought maybe if I read the quote enough, someday it would come true.

At my Grandma Maudie's 90th birthday party in 1994, it was the summer before my freshman year of high school, and I remember talking with a little old lady for awhile about how excited I was to start high school and be a majorette in the band. Lately I had been thinking it must not be so bad that I was so tall or that I had "orange" hair to match our black and orange majorette uniforms. I kind of thought I was maybe even becoming beautiful like my quote promised. That is until the little old lady tells me out of the blue, "One day you're going to be glad you're so tall and have that red hair." What? Although it was true, I hadn't mentioned to her that I wasn't happy as a lark with my height and hair. And "one day" - what was that supposed to mean? She might as well have said, "You poor thing, even though now you are abnormally tall and your red hair just makes you stand out even more, one day you'll be glad for these freakish attributes." I remember just looking at her with no response other than a half-puzzled, half-offended expression.

But her words stuck with me like the printed words clipped from the magazine had, and in my mind hung right beside that quote on my bulletin board. Well, if "what makes you different makes you beautiful," then hopefully "one day - one day - one day I'll be glad I'm so tall and have red hair."

She was right - I'm not sure when, but that day arrived, and I wouldn't trade my tall height and red hair for anything.

Friday, April 25, 2008

NYC blows Chicago away

I always thought I should visit Chicago just to check it out before I made the plunge and moved to New York. More than a few people had told me they like Chicago more than New York, so I did have a nagging thought of what if I, too, would like Chicago more? Maybe a whole new world awaited discovery in Chicago, and I just didn't know it because I had never visited.

Thus, a trip to Chicago was planned for June 2007 with Katherine, Ansley and Jackie, and I could finally see for myself what the fuss was about Chicago and be able to make a clear decision of which city girl I was. No sooner were the plane tickets bought than I got the opportunity to move to New York, and my research trip blew out the window.

As luck - or fate - would have it, my first friend upon moving to New York was Lauren, a girl from Chicago. Both new to the city, and both being the same age, having the same education and work background, sharing the same goofy personality and insatiable hollow legs, we became fast friends. Identifying so much with a girl born and raised in Chicago made me really think, "hmm, I just might be a Chicago girl after all!"

So it was Lauren's April wedding that finally presented the perfect opportunity for me to visit the Windy City. Ansley was the only taker on my offer to the original travel group for a re-do of our trip that never happened last summer. The two of us met up in Chicago, and we spent the Friday before the wedding really doing Chicago right: we had deep dish pizza, we walked Magnificent Mile, we visited Navy Pier and Millennium Park, we ate Chicago-style hot dogs, we visited Wrigley Field and did a drive-by of Soldier "da Bears" Field - heck, we even took a double decker bus tour of the city!

I agreed with the Chicagoans, "Yes, this city sure is clean" and "uh-huh, it is pretty", but all I could think was, "where are all the people?" and "where is the energy, the one-of-a-kind feeling of 'I'm somewhere special'?" Needless to say, while I appreciated Chicago, I felt no connection to it, no "love at first visit" like I had during my first visit to New York.

So, I'm sorry Windy City, but New York blows you away.

Navy Pier - just come to New York and visit South Street Seaport instead.

And who can deal with the wind?! It about knocked us over, and don't even get me started on what it did to my hair!

Oprah Schmoprah - unless you're in the audience for the Favorite Things show, what's the biggie?

I don't like baseball anyway.

A highlight of Chicago - the Redhead Piano Bar!

Surprisingly, I'm a fan of Chicago-style hotdogs, but if you're comparing, I could just as happily get fat eating New York-style pizza.

The best part about Chicago? It's where Lauren and Jake are from...but New York even has them now, too!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Patience for the Pontiff

I gave it a good try to see the Pope during his visit to New York. On Friday morning I stood along 1st Avenue in front of the United Nations to catch a glimpse before his address to the UN. The most I saw after an hour of waiting was his helicopter landing nearby. Saturday morning I made it up to 5th Avenue and 60th Street by 10:00 AM, in time for his advertised parade up 5th Avenue from St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was a beautiful morning, so I didn't mind a bit of a wait. An hour later at 11:00 AM, I asked a police officer when I could expect him to pass by. His response sent me packing - 1:30 or 2:00 PM.

Since seeing the Pope wasn't going to happen, I would have settled for and been pleased with a sighting of the Popemobile, but all I got was a huge procession of junior Pope's heading from St. Patrick's to the Waldorf-Astoria! It didn't give me the calmness then elation that so many people reported after seeing the Pope in person, but it was exciting nonetheless!

A procession of Pope-looking people!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring in Sight

I look forward to the warm, sunny days of spring almost year round, and when those days arrive, I try my best to soak in every fleeting second of blossoming trees and sprouting flowers. Is it because these days are rare and short-lived that I love them so? Like birthdays, football games, vacations, time with a far-away friend, Girl Scout cookies - would these be loved as much if they could be enjoyed every day of the year? Or is it the anticipation, and then the need to savor the moment knowing the joy will soon be over?

Spring beauty at Stuyvesant Square Park as I walked home along 2nd Avenue from Lauren's new apartment.

Blossoming trees full of chirping birds at Stuyvesant Square Park.

The view along Central Park South is always beautiful, but it's particularly breathtaking when in bloom!

Tulips near Central Park...almost as perfect as the tulips in Holland.

A sidewalk tree box in the Upper East Side overflowing with flowers!

Park Avenue paradise.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Ever since I received two much-needed messages via the license plates on cars, I have loved to spot an interesting assortment of letters on a car's rear bumper. When I was first out of college and interviewing for jobs, I received a great offer for a job I wasn't too sure I wanted. Driving home after turning it down, I was second-guessing my decision and feeling lots of anxiety about still not having a job. A car cut in front of me, and as I started to get angry at the abrupt swerve, I noticed the license plate:


It was as if God Himself had swept down and flashed the message in front of me. Immediately I was overcome with gladness that I had not accepted the job and felt confident there was something better planned for me.

Several weeks later, again I was freaking out over a job - this time eagerly waiting to hear back from RealtySouth - and again I was driving around as my thoughts swirled. I remember thinking, "I really, really want this job! It's meant for me! What will I do if I don't get it?!" And just as suddenly as before, a car jumped into my lane and the message on the license plate made me lose my breath:


Again, calmness swept over me and confidence in God's plan took control. Stop being so anxious and just trust, Rebecca!

Since then I have seen countless license plate messages that have made me stop and think or brought a smile to my face, but none have been quite as timely or memorable as BE GLAD and TRST HYM. Now being in New York City where there seldom is a car other than a taxi, it's hard to find any messages on license plates, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of messages floating around to be seen at just the right time.

As I consider new job opportunities and think about the future, I was feeling particularly anxious on this past Tuesday. A message stuck low on the base of an indiscreet light post stopped me mid-(brisk-New-York-City)-pace and led me to back up to read it again:

"Believe Then Do It" on the base of a street light on 3rd Avenue and 29th Street.

Later in the day I received another message:

"Become Your Dream" on a bicycle cab near Central Park.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, still feeling a bit lost, another message popped into view:

"Have Faith" on a pipe on East Houston Street.

With each message I smirked to myself and knew I was receiving just the words I needed at just the right time. On Thursday morning when I rushed out of the train onto the subway platform, I did a double take and jerked my head back to read a sticker that had been slapped onto the back of a sign, practically hidden unless you're looking up while exiting the train doors, and at a spot I have exited many, many times before. It said, "Big City Dreamer" - just what I was feeling at the time! (Sorry no picture - I would have been pinched in the closing doors if I had stopped!)

Seeing all the messages made me wonder how many words of encouragement I pass every day because I'm too busy to notice what's around me. But it's nice to know the messages are there whether I see them or not, and I firmly believe however many times they pass unnoticed, they do surface at just the right time!

And one more spot just for fun! Either Daddy was thinking about me or I was thinking about him, because I'm pretty sure there aren't hundreds of "Gary" stickers just floating around NYC!

"Gary" for my dad on a street sign in Soho.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"I Am"sterdam

While the main star of this trip to Amsterdam was the tulips, I did again enjoy the uniqueness of the centuries old city and the beauty of the quaint countryside. I can't help but be enchanted by the slanted buildings, the curved bridges over still canals, the ring of bicycles whizzing by...something about the foreign air feels more authentic, and it's nice to breathe it in.

House boats and trees line most every canal.

I think the "I am"sterdam campaign is so clever! In Museumplien behind the Riksmuseum.

And even more clever..."r" for Rebecca and "d" for Damion!

The towers of the Westerkerk - or the West Church - so beautiful on a spring day. Even more beautiful are the sounds of the church bells ringing into the sky.

What a wonderful place to eat outside! Restaurant In de Waag, the old weigh station turned fantastic restaurant.

Castle-seeing in Dieren: in front of Kasteel Biljoen, complete with a moat and "princess" turrets!

Relaxing canal-side in Amsterdam.

Enjoying a dutch house party - they have 'em just like we Americans do!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Het mooiste lentepark ter wereld!

My love of tulips didn't necessarily begin while I was a student at the University of Alabama, but it definitely blossomed. Every April I was convinced Heaven must be right there in Tuscaloosa with all the cheerful, vibrant color smiling at me from the tulip beds popping up all around campus - the Quad, the lawn of the President's Mansion, the beds in front of Rose Administration, the planters around the dorms and classroom buildings.

But I think my tulip love began a bit earlier than college years, with my fascination for a song I learned in elementary school. I can't recite all the words now, (Elizabeth - help me remember!) but I do remember the hand motions and the tune:

"Look, there, in the gar-den bed,
Some-thing beau-ti-ful is grow-ing,

TULIPS open to the sun!"

Sometime along the way I decided someday I just had to see fields of tulips blooming in their native Holland - windmills twirling in the distance optional. So you can imagine my thrill when my plane landed in Holland today, and I stepped into a whole world of tulips! Even the airport restrooms were in the spirit - larger than life 3-D tulips hung from the walls!

Damion met me the airport, and we headed directly to the Keukenhof Festival, the national tulip festival, known as het mooiste lentepark ter wereld or the most beautiful spring garden in the world!

The colors, variety and quality of the tulips and flower beds at the festival were more beautiful than I could have dreamed, and I often ran my finger along a silky blossom to feel its beauty and make sure it was real.

My dream came true with tulips and a windmill!

From the deck of the windmill - the grounds of Keukenhof extend far beyond what's visible in the picture!

Couldn't resist the clog!

One of the hundreds of pictures I took of the tulips! And not one picture looks alike! I love them all, but I especially love this one - "Three Sisters" as I call it.

These tulips are called "Manhattan" - how appropriate! It became a game of looking at the names and finding ones with special meaning to us.

Another favorite picture - these tulips are called "Inspiration".

The white of the tree was so pretty against the blue of the sky, and the green of the grass was so pretty against the white of the tree...and this picture is one of the funnier memories from our day at Keukenhof.

I love love love the long rows!

Hahaha! It's harder than it looks to walk over the top!

Oh my goodness! Doesn't it just take your breath away?! I wish I'd gotten more of the white tree blossoms in the picture, but you can see the "powdered sugar" on the ground as evidence of what's above!

Amazing that God can make so much beauty for us to enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I'll be loving you forever

I mentioned in the New Kids post from Friday that those of us in the crowd who were perfect strangers at 7 AM were kindred spirits by 9:30 AM! Well, the girl next to me sent these pictures that her husband captured. (Oh, and if you can find the clip of me screaming, "Jordan, I love you!", you can see her next to me absolutely freaking out as Jordan approaches!)

Too good not to share!

Jordan hand is the black glove!

Isn't he cute?! This is when we were both holding his hand, mine underneath hers!

If the picture was just a little to the left...that's the corner of my face...Jordan and I meeting. :)

Can't think of a caption that's more descriptive than my expression!

Kimberly, the photographer, had this caption, "Yes, girl. It is not a dream!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Miss Fix It

I had eagerly awaited the first packages to my new apartment from Mama and Daddy. In preparing to send the bedspread and pillows I had requested from home, my dad began to round up the tool box and tools he had bought for me during and after college. When he discovered the tools had been "misplaced" over the years - I guess I didn't keep good track of the tools knowing Daddy, aka Mr. Fix It, was always just a short drive away for any needed handywork - he didn't get mad, he got even.

Since my small apartment cannot handle the size of the first tool box anyway (which is pretty much the only surviving piece of my first tool set), he bought a small tool box and filled it up with tools. I talked to Mama before the boxes arrived, and she said I would be able to get a second job as a tool girl with all the stuff Daddy was sending! I envisioned a monstrous amount of pliers, screwdrivers and clamps I wouldn't know how to use or have room to store. But what arrived was a cute little tool box filled with the necessities for around the house fix ups.

Thanks to Daddy for always providing me with the "tools" I need for success.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Living on Dreams and Spaghetti-o's"

I’ve always loved Martina McBride’s song This One’s for the Girls, especially the middle stanza:

This is for all you girls about twenty-five
In a little apartment, just trying to get by
Living on, on dreams and spaghetti-o’s
Wondering where your life is gonna go

This one’s for the girls
Who’ve ever had a broken heart
Who’ve wished upon a shooting star
You’re beautiful the way you are
This one’s for the girls
Who love without holding back
Who dream with everything they have
All around the world
This one’s for the girls

I was singing it to myself the other day as I unpacked and organized my new little bedroom and realized I don’t even have a microwave yet to be able to eat spaghetti-o’s!

I moved to a new apartment last weekend with Emily, a friend I met here in New York but who is also from Birmingham. I still live on the East side, just about 25 blocks south. I now have a 12-minute walk to work – no more daily subway! – and a FIVE-minute walk to Mercury Bar where the alumni group watches the Alabama football games. Now I’m not saying that’s why we loved the apartment (Emily is an Auburn graduate, after all), but it was a definite plus!

Emily and I both moved to the city with three suitcases each, so we were astonished at what we had accumulated in such a short time (10 months for me, one year for her), and exhausted after moving it all ourselves! I borrowed a friend’s car, and we made four million trips between my old apartment, her old apartment and our new apartment, hauling boxes, suitcases and the heaviest TV known to man up the two flights of stairs. We’re still barely settled in our bedrooms, so we haven’t even begun to think of decorating and furnishing the little living area and kitchen.

So, to answer the two most frequently asked questions about my living situation:

Q. Are you still sleeping on a couch?
A. For starters, I never did sleep on a couch! I had my own bed with a spectacular view, thank you very much! The answer is no, I have my very own bedroom now!

Q. How does it feel to have a door?
A. If feels kind of strange, actually! I’ve been leaving my door open and miss my old roomies being around! But, it is nice to shut my door and go to sleep.

A quick tour of the area - more pictures to come of the inside as we get it together!

My new apartment!

Saturday morning must be "wash the fire trucks day" at the fire station next door.

Beautiful blooms across the street.

A "panoramic" view from our corner - the Empire State Building is on the left and the Chrysler Building is the smaller pointed building on the right.

Friday, April 4, 2008

New Kids on the Block!!

Anyone who knows my little sister even casually knows that she has a secret obsession that is, well, not actually a secret. It probably should be, but it’s not.

She’s had the obsession for most of her life. Her two older sisters are to blame. We introduced her to it and reinforced it daily. At the impressionable young age of six, what was a girl to do but follow in her big sisters’ footsteps?

Over the last 20 years, Julie and I have kept an interest in the obsession while Elizabeth’s interest has grown to a – I’ll just say it – cultish level. And for the last two months or so, she has been working overtime to keep us up to date with news. We’ve received emails from her late at night or during work hours, we’ve gotten frantically excited phone calls as she finds out new information, and we’ve laughed as we join her enthusiasm and delve into memories and feelings we’ve suppressed with time and age.

But this week all rational bets were off. The three of us turned into shrieking, giddy and anxious 10 year olds. I haven’t felt this unabashedly wildly excited in quite a long time.

If you’ve been under a block -er, rock- and haven’t heard, let me be the first to tell you – the New Kids on the Block are back together!!

1988: The Mummert girls were New Kids central – every magazine with New Kids on the cover was begged for at the grocery store; every poster inside the magazine was ripped out, fought over and pinned on our bedroom walls; every book was read cover to cover multiple times; every doll and big round pin had a special place in our rooms; every New Kid birthdate, height/weight, favorite color, favorite food, etc. was memorized; every day we watched either Hangin’ Tough Live or Hangin’ Tough or one of the clips we'd recorded from TV interviews or appearances…it’s how we learned to use the VCR; and every wish in our little hearts was to one day meet the New Kids on the Block.

2008: Elizabeth’s investigative work confirmed a rumor she’d been reporting for the better part of two months – the New Kids are reuniting, and they are doing so in Rockefeller Plaza on the Today Show! I had been away from my computer for several hours Monday when Elizabeth discovered the news. I returned to find a long stream of emails between Julie and Elizabeth, and the last one from Elizabeth read, “Somebody call Rebecca. She must not be at her desk. I’m calling her.” Sure enough, I had a breathless message from Elizabeth to call her about something very exciting – too exciting to say over a message (insert the squelched excitement in her voice because she was at work and having to contain her emotions!)

I called her back immediately, and as we discussed that not only are the New Kids getting back together, but that I have the chance to see them, our voices rose in shrieks and laughter as I walked the New York City streets, sometimes stopping to jump up and down in excitement, trying all the while to let the hugeness of this news sink in.

My excitement was quickly replaced by anxiousness because I had the task of capturing the event for both of my sisters, and I couldn’t let them down. And I certainly couldn’t mess up the opportunity to fulfill the one wish we had all those years ago.

I woke up at 5:15 Friday morning, piled on layers of clothes, pulled on my red rain boots, grabbed my umbrella and carefully placed my camera – that had been charged and readied the night before – in my bag. I did take the time to put on make up and fix my hair, I mean, I was going to be in the presence of Jordan Knight. I was waiting for the subway by 6 AM, and marveled in slightly disgusted fashion at how many homeless people were napping in the train at that hour. I got off the train at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue and briskly made my way the few blocks to Rockefeller Center, mumbling more than a few times that I would only be up at this hour in this rain and in this cold for the New Kids on the Block. And for my sisters. And for the millions of girls back in 1988 who would have given their eye teeth to be seeing the New Kids in person.

I approached the Plaza at 6:30 AM – right at the time I had planned. My heart sunk when I saw the set lights and crowd fence with no crowd around. My worst fear – and I’m sure the New Kids’ worst fear – is that I would be the only excited fan eagerly waiting to see them. I felt like an idiot. I decided maybe I should just hang around the area until I see others coming and then start waiting around the fence.

But as I turned the corner into the Plaza area, my feelings quickly reversed – there was already a huge throng on either side of the fence, the empty area I had seen was just the far end behind where the action was to take place. As I entered the area, I saw the line stretched almost the whole way down the other block. I was NOT the first person here! Girls – excuse me, women – were dressed in their old New Kids t-shirts and jean jackets, donning neon green and hot pink hats and big button pins that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1990. Those who weren’t dressed in New Kids gear had signs and posters. Crap! The paraphanelia made these people look like way bigger fans than me, and suddenly I wished I had made my mother dig through boxes in the attic for my Jordan Knight t-shirt!

We grown up girls in the crowd became quick friends over excited chatter and giddy screaming as we anticipated the reveal of the New Kids. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story – see the Kodak link below – but just know a young girl’s wish came true today, and it was all she ever dreamed it would be!

But here are some of my favorites:

Mr. and Mrs. Jordan Knight. Can you believe this??

Donnie Wahlberg

Jonathan Knight

This moment is captured on the Today Show by the camera you can see to the right of the picture. I was oblivous to TV cameras, and only knew it had been televised when friends who I hadn't even told I was going to the show saw me on TV! You can't hear me, but you can read my mouth scream - "Jordan! I love you!"

Danny Wood

Joe McIntyre

She drove all night from upstate New York...I guess it was worth it though!

Here's a clip from the Today Show, but not one that I'm in!