Friday, June 17, 2011

Tampa, FL (it's a really LONG post)

On June 10th, I drove to Birmingham after work and boarded at flight to Tampa, FL. Waiting for me at the airport would be my friend Pam. I met Pam last August in Nashville, TN at the Chonda Turbo retreat. Pam had been the year before and already knew some people. Kaylynn was one of those people. I immediately LOVED Pam. She was fun, energetic, and sold Premier jewelry. I just had a feeling we could be great friends. While I was upstairs helping with a situation, Pam gets a phone call that her daughter and her son-in-law (they had been married 3 weeks) were in a terrible car accident. Her son-in-law didn't survive and her daughter was being transferred to a trauma unit. Pam had driven the 12 hrs from Tampa to Nashville. As she was gathering stuff, Chonda offered to fly her and me to Tampa. She offered to let me drive her and then fly me back the next day. She said no. And I honestly believe that my heart went with her. We stayed in touch throughout the weekend with updates on her and her daughter. Over the past few months, we have gotten closer. Chonda was coming to Pam's church in February and I looked into going. I was excited about getting to see Pam again and knew we would have fun. However, that was the same weekend of the Biggest Loser tryouts in Nashville. And I decided that I needed to walk the journey of open call for Biggest Loser instead of going to Tampa. I love Mandisa's music a lot and looking at attending Mandisa and Anita Renfroe's Girls Night Out concert. All the ones close to me where either sold out or I didn't have enough time to take off work to attend. But, low and behold there would be a show in Clearwater, FL on June 11th. I googled how far away from Tampa that was and asked Pam if she wanted to go. After a very quick yes, my Tampa trip was settled.
The closer that the date came, the more nervous I got. We had only met for a few hours one weekend 10 months ago. What ifs ran my mind crazy. Y'all know the ones! When I got to baggage claim, Pam was outside waiting. It was like we had been friends forever. And we will be! So much fun! We stopped to eat at the BBQ place where her oldest daughter Tiffany works. I had my comfy clothes and no makeup on. That's one way to make an impression. Good thing they weren't looking for one. We got to her house and the introductions began. Her daughters, Eryn, Lillian, and Lucille were at home as well as her oldest son Phillip-he was working though. Her other son Nathaniel wasn't there. So, yep, she has 6 children and they are all a delight. Her father-in-law had brought over his RV and hooked it up so that I could stay in it. Pam called him and he came over to show me the quirks. About 45 minutes later, I knew everything about the RV, including the powered windshield shade and moving cameras on the outside. Road trip. Honestly, he is a sweet man and made me smile and laugh. I now wish I had taken a picture of the RV. Next time I will.

On Friday night, we got dolled up and went downtown Tampa to experience some night life. I haven't laughed so hard in such a long time. I got to sleep in on Saturday. It was 9:30am, which is 8:30 my time. I had told Pam to just knock on the door when she went to Chick-Fil-A to get her morning sweet tea. YES, she goes every morning to get a sweet tea at Chick-Fil-A. I decided that since we were just running through the drive through, that I would get dressed when we got back. Ha! Should've known that I would have been gone for 5 hrs just to get a sweet tea. We ended up doing a few things for her daughter and I wanted to stop be Cato, just to see what they had. On Saturday night, we had tickets to see Mandisa and Anita Renfoe's Girls Night Out Tour. Tiffany and Eryn went with us. Honestly, I loved watching this trio interact. We stopped at Olive Garden to eat. We got to the venue a few minutes late but got good seats thanks to the VIP tickets we had. The place was passing out flyers and on the back was Chonda's tour that is coming to that area in October. Umm, anyone know what I'm thinking? I had never seen Anita before. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Seriously, sometime I just need to get away and laugh about things. Then Mandisa came on stage and I honestly had a blast listening to her. Pam and I acted a little crazy probably (according to Tiffany and Eryn anyway). It was so much fun. Women need nights like that in their lives. Afterwards, we met Anita and Mandisa. So fun to see other people who love them as much as I do.
At Hot Rods BBQ 
Night Out  
Just a guy.... 
Absolutely love this picture of us! 
Eryn, Pam, and Tiffany
I'm telling you, these women are so much fun 
Promoting Chonda!! 
Anita and I 
Mandisa and I 
Pam, Tiffany, Mandisa, and Eryn 
Bernard (Mandisa's bass player and I)

On Sunday, we started our day with a drive to McDonald's for sweet tea and then headed to the beach. We layed in the sun on the sand and it was very peaceful and quite nice. There's just something about the water and sand that speaks calmness into my spirit. We left at lunch and headed to a local spot. Very yummy food there. Jametra wanted me to bring her a TShirt from Tampa. I decided to look into the shops at the beach. We went in one and immediately, I wanted a henna tattoo. I am wanting a real tattoo, but it's too permanent for me. So, I enjoy getting henna's because they will go away. I talked Pam into one as well. After that we decided to see a movie. On our way back to her house, we stopped at the go cart track. And they were OPEN! So of course, we had to make a few loops around. We then went to change and went out to dinner. Some of my most favorite memories from this weekend was sharing parts of my story with a great friend who "got me". I didn't feel pressured by any means. She let me ask questions and didn't sugar coat answers. I have read a few book about this type of friendship, yet I never saw it in my life. Now I have. A friendship full of laughter, honesty, and life. I can't wait to see Pam and her sweet family again.
Beach bum 
Getting inked up 
Finished product 
Be very still 
Yep, she's cooler than me 
Riding go carts 
at the track 
David, Pam's husband, and Pam 
Me and Lucille 
Me and Lillian 
After dinner. Our last night

Monday at 5:00am came all too soon. It was time to go home. First stop- airport. And inside there, Starbucks. We waited until the very last possible minute for Pam to leave. One word to describe this weekend for me- renewed. And I will be forever grateful for Pam.
Pam peeled my tattoo at the airport 
Saw this while waiting to get off the plane. Wondered what bird was going to see this in the sky and go to

All in all, I absolutely loved seeing Pam and her family. I enjoyed my time so much that I can't wait to go back. Pam is such a great wife, mom, and friend. I'm so grateful to know her. God truly does care about all the little details when allowing friendships to form.

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