Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Five Days in the ATL

Before I get started on the trip, I have to mention the part that I'm sure none of you care about: the conference. My colleagues (my principal, our social worker, and our academic interventionist) and I attended the College Board's A Dream Deferred and Preparate conferences.

I have attended these conferences for the past three years now, and I would have to say that this was the best year yet. The keynote speakers (including John QuiƱones and Soledad O'Brien) were amazing, and I learned something new at each breakout session. Best of all, however, was that I have so many ideas rolling around in my head -- and on paper, don't worry -- as to what we can bring back to our school for next year and years to come.

Again, I am so thankful to my school district for supporting diversity and educational equity -- and for allowing me the opportunity to attend this conference to better myself (and hopefully my school).

Now, let's chat about the stuff that might interest y'all a bit more. :)

We left school at 1:00 on Tuesday and headed straight to the airport. When we got seated on the tiny little airplane, I of course had to take a selfie:

Looking super fly after a day of work and running around an airport.

Both flights out there were just fine: I was pleasantly surprised at how little turbulence there was based on the size of the aircraft.

I never cease to be amazed at how airplanes work. Seriously, I feel like a little kid based on my intrigue. My colleagues totally judged me (rightly so) as I took a bazillion pictures of clouds, verbalized everything that popped into my head ("That looks like heaven!" "I feel like there should be Care Bears out there!" "I'm pretty sure airplanes are magical!"), and was, basically, just being myself.

When we landed, we headed straight to our hotel:

Does it look familiar to y'all? This is where The Hunger games was filmed. It was 47 stories of awesomeness.

We quickly threw all of our stuff into our rooms and headed out for a bite to eat:

We stumbled upon Max Lager's as we were paging through the packet of restaurants that the concierge gave us, and it sounded like a decent place.

First, we received a compliments-of-the-chef appetizer: fried jalapenos and onion rings. (Before I go any further, let me clarify that Whole30 was non-existent during this trip.) The jalapenos were amazing.

Each of us ordered one of the four things that our server recommended: the Creole BBQ Shrimp, the Southern Fried Chicken, the ribs (on the other side of the menu), and the pork chop (also on the other side of the menu).

The boys ordered beer (it was a brewery, after all), and Emily and I ordered Haymakers. It was a super delicious drink, but it was way too sweet after not having consumed sugar, so I only had about half of it before calling it good.

We also split the best dessert ever: fried cheesecake.

Back at the hotel, we turned in fairly early so that we could get up for the morning sessions.

After the conference on Wednesday, three of us headed out for a run. We saw that Centennial Olympic Park wasn't too far from the hotel (0.4 miles, to be exact), so we headed there.

I've said it a million times (and I'll probably say it another three zillion), but exploring a city by running it is one of my absolute favorite things.

The fountains were very much appreciated after a hot, sweaty run.

I really loved the park -- so much so that I headed there a few times before hitching the plane back to Des Moines.

Yes, I was absolutely thrilled to see flowers after the winter we've had.

After running around the park a few times (it's actually fairly small), we headed back in the direction of the hotel. Instead of going straight "home," though, we wandered past the hotel toward a different area of town -- just to explore.

The churches were just gorgeous -- as was the artwork outside of them:

I'm pretty sure I could've wandered the whole city by foot (taking pictures of everything, of course) given the opportunity.

After our workout, we showered and headed down to the hotel bar where we had a couple of drinks and waited for the rest of our crew to get ready.

This is where I should also mention that I had such a good self-esteem trip. I don't know where it came from, but I got such a boost of confidence and flirted with several very attractive men -- and they flirted right back. As silly as it sounds, it was just what I needed.

For dinner, the four of us headed to Ray's, a seafood joint near our hotel. We started with some sushi for an appetizer, and then I gorged myself on crab cakes and some praline dessert -- and yes, more cocktails.

A couple of us stayed up a bit later when we got to the hotel, mingling with new friends in the hotel bar.

On Thursday, we attended the conference and then went for another run through Centennial Olympic Park:

We had to then head back to Max Lager's because I -- being the genius that I am -- forgot to grab the itemized receipt, a definite must for the district.

So, we went into the restaurant looking like hot messes. We were so gross, in fact, that not one but three people asked us if we wanted a glass of water, and one of the servers stuck washcloths in our hands so that we could dry off.

Hot Mess Express

We then headed back, took a quick swim in the pool, and headed to the cocktail reception that the conference threw for us.

I got a bit tipsy after enjoying three free glasses of wine (each of which was quite large), and then we headed to Gladys Knight's restaurant for dinner:

I chugged two huge glasses of sweet tea (my favorite beverage on the face of the Earth) and had a few bites of chicken and waffles before passing on the rest. (My tummy was full of wine and cheese and crackers from the reception.)

It was okay, but it definitely wasn't the best meal of the trip.

I ended up giving three quarters of the waffle and all but one piece of chicken to a homeless man on our way back to the hotel.

After I felt a bit better, a few of us headed out for a night on the town. I wish I would've taken pictures, but we looked hot.

We went to a karaoke bar down the road and people-watched until quite late. We met some interesting characters: undercover cops from New York who were busting up arms deals in the South, for instance. After, we headed back to the hotel for yet another night at Pulse, the hotel bar.

On Friday, the conference ended mid-afternoon, so Emily and I hit up the hotel pool:

Let me tell you how glorious it was to be able to lay down in a bikini and soak up the sun. I can't wait for summer.

We took quick showers and then once again got ready for another night out.

Em & Em

First, we went back again to Max Lager's for dinner. If you ever go to Atlanta, I highly recommend that place: and get the fried chicken. Trust me.

Then, we figured out the MARTA system as we took the train -- and then the shuttle (after walking through the underground mall) -- to the Braves game.

This photo cracks me up: clearly the boys were over selfies. Whatever.

This is the second time I have been to a Major League Baseball game while attending a conference, and I think I'd like to make it a tradition. Even if the game isn't good, it's great people-watching.

And I always love a good ballpark.

And, of course, the company:

We are such nerds.

Since when is the Tomahawk Chop still an acceptable thing, though? Seriously.

After the game, we navigated MARTA back to our hotel (barely) before hunkering down at, you guessed it, the hotel bar. There was some really interesting people-watching happening there, but Emily and I decided to head back to the karaoke bar for some singing and dancing. We sang so much that my voice was hoarse the next day, and we danced so hard that my muscles felt like they had run eight miles.

And it was awesome.

The next morning, we woke up fairly early and headed back to Des Moines.

Another airplane was racing us. We won.

It was an absolutely wonderful trip, and I am so glad that I was able to experience it with the people that I did. One of the best things about conferences is getting to know your colleagues in a different way.

I am so thankful.

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