Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving and the Spirit of Giving

I know it's a day late, but I hope everyone that celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one!

On Tuesday my parents came in with their dog Nash, who happens to be Bauer's best friend.  We just spent the night hanging out and laughing at the dogs as they played.  Even though Thanksgiving was yesterday, we did our big meal on Wednesday.  Mike had a game Thursday night, but we still wanted Thanksgiving dinner (obviously) so Wednesday it was.

From the moment I woke up Wednesday, I was in the kitchen most of the day.  I love hosting, and despite it just being my family, I like to do everything myself when guests are over.  I turned down multiple offers of help, and got to work.

On the menu was: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and rolls.  You know, the classics.  Not shown was the pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream for dessert.  I made everything except the turkey, cranberry sauce, and desserts myself on Wednesday, although I did assist on the turkey.  You can't underestimate the power of seasoning on food, and that was my job.  My brother made it to town just in time to sit down at the table and have dinner with us.

Thursday was game day, so while Mike did his typical pre-game stuff, I entertained everyone.  Okay, I put football on the TV.  It also happened to be my Dad's birthday so we celebrated that yesterday as well.  I got to the rink early so I could take donations for Movember before the game started.  Then it was on to watching Mike get a 37 save win!  After the game the team set up an awesome meal for the guys' and their families where we got a second Thanksgiving feast.  Then we came home and had my Dad open his presents before we all fell asleep.

My parents and brother all left this morning.  I'm exhausted.  Of course, part of that comes fromm whatever that ridiculously loud beeping sound going on in the neighborhood was that went on from about 5 am until 8.  Bauer's passed out from playing with Nash non-stop for the last 3 days, and as soon as Mike hits the road to Syracuse for his game tonight, I'm going to be passed out too.

For any fans in Binghamton - The Movember donations can still be made at the game on Saturday if you didn't get a chance to make one last night.  A table will be set up on the concourse with pictures of all the guys and their mustaches!  For every $5 you donate you get a raffle ticket to put into the jar of whichever guy (or guys) you think has the best mustache.  Whichever player has the most votes (and makes the most money) will draw one name from his jar, and that person will win a meet in greet with the player along with an autographed action shot.  You also get a fake mustache to wear (or pass out to someone who will) for every $5 donation.  I hope to see lots of those mustaches being sported at the game on Saturday night!

On another note (and keeping in the spirit of giving) I've just discovered that the B-Sens girls raised way more than I expected for Love for Lokomotiv through our bracelet sales!  There are a few bracelets left, but barely, so if you are still interested in purchasing one, get in contact with the front office!  It's awesome that we had the kind of support from the community that we did, even after the flooding in the region.  We also haven't even collected the donations from the guys themselves yet, so the total amount donated will be even higher!

I also spent some time one afternoon this week with a couple of the other girls making wreaths that are going to be auctioned off for charity.  I don't have all the information on that yet, but when I get it I'll be sure to pass it along!  One wreath is a B-Sens themed wreath with all sorts of team goodies on it.  Another is a lotto themed wreath full of different lotto tickets and some gingerbread goodness as well.

And last, this upcoming Tuesday the B-Sens are doing their annual Toys for Tots Spaghetti Dinner.  Dinner will be served to you by the players, and you can also bid on an opportunity to eat dinner with your favorite player!  More info can be found here.

Also, the girls and I will be doing one more thing for the holidays.  When we get all the details worked out, I'll pass that info along as well.  I know that it's holiday time, and money gets spread thin, but every little bit helps, so if you have the means, please donate not just to the above mentioned charities, but any that you feel strongly about supporting.  And don't forget that charitable work doesn't only need to be done around the holidays, but the rest of the year as well.  Also, money isn't all that is needed.  Any free time you have can be spent volunteering, which can mean just as much to someone if not more as the money could.  Sorry if I'm preaching, it won't happen again!

What did all of you do for Thanksgiving?  Who braved the crowds to do some Black Friday shopping?  Not me!  If you went, you're a brave soul!  I wouldn't have the patience or the balls, haha.  Happy Holiday season everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Being the New Girl

For a girl who was painfully shy as a child, and only got slightly better through adolescence, having to meet dozens of new people once a year and being expected to socialize with them is a horrifying thought.  It was the one thing I didn't take into account when I made the decision to live with Mike and follow him wherever his career took him.  I knew I'd be spending countless hours in hockey rinks, that he wouldn't be home half the season, not every game played would go well, I'd be giving up the chance at a career for a few years at least, and so on.  I didn't take into consideration that I would always be the new girl walking into a room full of people who know each other.

My first experience being the new girl was Mike's first year pro in Vegas in the ECHL.  I was finishing school so I was the out of town girlfriend.  Being the out of town girlfriend isn't very fun, because when you can't visit often, you don't really get to know the girls that well.  At least for me, when that happens, you tend to do a lot of standing around, nodding and smiling without any sort of clue what most of their discussions are about. That year I was visiting over New Year's and the guys were on the road in Salt Lake City for 3 games that weekend.  Some of the girls wanted to go and Mike's car was the only one we could take, so they relied on me to get them there.  We were stuck in a car for 6 hours together, so while I spent most of the time listening to the talk, I was forced to answer questions as well.  I still felt strange through the entire 3 week visit, like I was an intruder in a circle of friends.

The following season Mike was back in Vegas and I was spending my first year as the in town girlfriend.  Two of the girls from the season before that I'd met were back, so it was a little less awkward that year.  I didn't know them well, but they weren't strangers either.  It also helped that we all lived in the same apartment complex so we were together all the time.  It also helped that one of the couples were literally our next door neighbors in the complex, so there was someone I could get to know pretty easily.  It took about a month before I really felt comfortable there, but by the end of the year I never wanted to leave.

The season after that we thought we'd be returning to Vegas, but a week after getting there Mike signed with Portland in the AHL.  While I was excited about the opportunity, I was upset about leaving the girls I had gotten to know so well.  I didn't get to town until a month into the season after even the new girls had all met and formed friendships.  I spent the rest of the year feeling like an outsider because I'd missed that key part of the season when girls really bond.  While all the girls there were nothing but nice, I could feel my shyness overtaking me, and I basically became a hermit.  I wasn't myself that year, and I have no one to blame but me.  I ran scared from the friendships I'd seen that had already formed by the time I'd gotten there and never tried to form my own.  I even found myself making excuses not to hang out or to leave early when I did because I just never felt right.

The year after that it was on to another new team in Norfolk.  I was determined not to let what had happened the year before happen to me again.  Before games even started I sent Mike into the locker room on a mission to collect the phone numbers and email addresses of all the girls that would be in town so we'd all have each other's contact info.  There were a lot of new girls that year so it was the same situation for just about everyone.  Right off the bat one wife had the girls over to watch all the road games and I forced myself to go even when I wasn't in the mood so that I wouldn't miss out on any of the bonding.  I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and forced myself to interact and make an effort.  I'm glad I did, because that was one of the most fun years we've had.

When Mike got called up to Tampa that year, we knew there was a pretty good chance he could be finishing the rest of the season there.  Yet another new group of girls to get to know who had more than half a season to spend together, and for most of them, a few seasons.  Thankfully one of the girls I'd spent the most time with was there and she made the introductions for me.  I was too overwhelmed, and too busy crying, with Mike's first shut out in just his second start to be nervous when meeting everyone.  I'd always been super nervous about walking into an NHL family room, because it just seems like it's this huge deal.  It wasn't at all.  Each wife and girlfriend was super sweet and many of us got together every road game to hang out, watch the game, drink some wine, and have dinner.  It certainly helped already having a friend there to rely on, but I never felt out of place, or like I didn't belong.  That whole year and experience really helped me knock down some of those shyness walls.

The next year was another new team and another new group of girls.  I attended my first weekend of games and sat alone, too nervous to walk into the group and introduce myself, even after the previous season's progress.  It took until the team Halloween party before I really met the girls.  There's not much in the way of talking and getting to know each other in a loud and crowded bar, but the introductions were made.  That team had some very outgoing girls who weren't afraid to sit down and talk to anyone, and I find those types of people very easy to talk to because they always find something to discuss, and they're so outgoing that they somehow find a way to pull things out of me.

We returned there for the following season and it was my first time truly not being a new girl.  Of course that wouldn't last long as we are now on another new team.  I wasn't afraid coming to town this time.  Maybe it's all my experience being the new girl, maybe it's the fact that with my age has come an understanding that smiling and saying hello to a stranger isn't the end of the world.  You come up with a set of standard questions to ask every girl you meet.  The "Where are you from?", "How long have you been together?", and "How did you meet?" questions that break the ice and can lead to more topics to talk about.  While Mike and I didn't know a single person on this team when we came, we've been in hockey long enough to have a ton of mutual friends with many of the other couples.  That in itself is another kind of ice breaker.

It will always be difficult the first time I walk into a new rink.  It's still instinct to hunker down in my seat and sit by myself hoping that one of the other girls will recognize that I'm a wife and just let them come to me.  It's so much easier to let that happen than force myself to walk up to a group that obviously knows each other.   The fear of putting myself out there will never go away, but it does get easier.  Maybe by the time hockey ends I'll no longer be shy, but I wouldn't count on that.