We Made It to Portland!!

We made it! 33 total hours driven over three days through just about every type of weather, from clear, sunny skies to snowy and foggy mountains. We hit gas stations, rest stops, fast food, and crashed a couple of hotels to end up in balmy Portland....which is soon to turn rainy we hear. :o) Here's the rundown:

Day 1: South Bend to Chicago to Omaha

IMG_3545.jpg

 

Sunday morning I led worship at Clay Church in South Bend, Indiana. My friend Lindsey spent the morning on airplanes to Chicago where I picked her up after her bag was flown on a different flight and finally made its way to her. We drove to the western side of Omaha, crossing the Nebraska border before stopping for the night.

Day 2: Omaha to Wyoming to Layton, Utah

The long driving day! It rained most of the day and when I took the wheel in Wyoming, the rain turned to snow and the temperature dropped to the low 30s. The fog added to the awesomeness and I drove white knuckled until dinnertime when the fog lifted, the rain stopped, and we had a beautiful view of the Wyoming mountains with fields of antelope along the way. Then it started raining again as we passed into Utah. We drove 84 West until I couldn't see the lines in the road anymore...and then we stayed in a beautiful Comfort Inn with friendly staff and a hot tub....amazing!

Day 3: Layton to Portland

We woke up to sunshine in Layton...still thankful. We pushed the last 11 hours of the trip as the landscape changed from Utah rocks to the rivers and mountains of Oregon. We pulled into Portland antsy, hangry, and ready to settle. Dinner at Chipotle led us to running into our first familiar face at General Conference, Steven. 

IMG_3567.jpg

Our evening was spent catching up with my longtime friends Sheri and Rob. Baby Seneca was already asleep so we swapped our road stories for their latest news and talked about the old camp days. I am grateful for friends like these, that welcome us in and love on us.

What's Next

We are spending the next couple of days at General Conference here in Portland, the international gathering of the United Methodist Church which happens every 4 years. We are here to see, to hear, to pray and to bear witness. Lord, in your mercy.

And So It Begins

The past couple of weeks have been such a whirlwind of details....prepping for worship at Restoration while I'm gone, coordinating places to stay and play on the road, learning how to screen print (which will definitely have its own post!), that when I got to this past Tuesday night.....I realized I hadn't even pulled out my suitcase yet. :o) It feels grand to be on the road again....well, it didn't feel all that grand yesterday morning when I had to pack the car in the rain, and then drive through Western Maryland with foggy mountains. I pulled my guitar, uke, and bag out of the car and into the Landry's house only moments before a crazy thunderstorm hit that took out a tree across the street. I rolled around on the floor with Zechariah before he headed off to bed and had a little while with Candace and Matt to catch up before our adult bedtime.

 

The midwest looks as I remembered; flat and wide open, the sky and fields endless until they meet on the horizon. Luckily the sun came out in Ohio and I found myself saying more than once, "Ohio is beautiful"....Perspective, am I right?? There's a first time for everything!!!

So on to the next few days of house concerting and catching up with friends before making the big and somewhat quick trek to the Northwest. We are in a different era of life now, the text messages of well wishes I received the last couple of days remind me that I have a beautiful community that is more than willing to let me wander a bit, I can't wait to bring them back a few new stories.

The 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll

My sister Becky has entered the White House Easter Egg Roll lottery for the past seven years in hopes of taking my nephew Nate with no luck. I entered this year to give them another chance....and won. #firsttimesacharm

IMG_0156.jpg

So yesterday we drove into DC, had a brief moment of nail biting driving to find a parking garage, and landed in line at the recommended 45 minutes prior to our scheduled session. If you have seen any of the cynical posts about the Egg Roll, you'll read that the event isn't even worth it due to the endless lines and short time on the White House lawn.

But this is the WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL. A free pass to hang out with 35,000 other kids and parents on the south lawn with the Washington Monument in one backdrop and the White House in another. A presidential tradition in its 138th year. Of course there are lines. But we decided our adventure was in the experience itself and left our expectations wide open for the day. And we found everyone around us to also be excited and we instantly made friends with a family from California who flew in the day before and were doing the typical DC touristy things.

IMG_0169.jpg

The best advice we heard: Don't try to do everything. Pick a couple of activities (of which there are many, many options from the egg rolling, characters to take pictures with, cooking demos, sports, crafts, music, etc.) and then add as time allows. We took the advice of another blogger and saved the Egg Roll till the end as the line tends to start out really long and shortens as the session goes on.

IMG_0197.jpg

We boiled our expectations down to simply: Take a picture with the storm troopers and Darth Vader... because priorities.

 

After that we listened to Robin Roberts read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", made a glider craft, listened to music, and lastly rolled an egg. Then we were shuffled out through a gauntlet of free, healthy samples... (We secretly hoped the hard boiled eggs on sticks were actually cake pops :o) before Nate received a commemorative egg and we landed back out on the street with several thousand of our now closet friends feeling disoriented, but content with arms full of yogurt, zollidrops, juice pouches, and egg shaped sidewalk chalk.

IMG_0213.jpg

 

We spent last night looking over the social media posts from the day and laughing about ALL the celebrities we didn't see. You know, like Beyonce in asee through top, the cast of Blackish, Christian Bale, Michelle Obama, Shaq, etc. We could hear Idina Menzel sing Let it Go while we stood in line right outside the entrance, but by the time we got to the music stage she wished everyone a Happy Easter and walked off... :o( When we were line for the Egg Roll, Becky caught a glimpse of Obama as he walked out one door of the White House and back through another....Nate and I were too slow to catch on. Then another man of similar stature, build, and skin tone came out of the White House and everyone around us went crazy.....until they realized that the man was not the President. :o) I affectionately like to think of him as the Obama Decoy.

IMG_0201.jpg

 

We did see one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta in line for the Egg Roll behind us...so there's that.

:o)

IMG_0176.jpg

Plans for a May House Concert Tour!

This is new! I'm so EXCITED to announce that I am planning my first house concert tour since moving to Reston, VA over a year ago. My friend Lindsey has already agreed to jump in the car and we plan on going where the wind takes us...... or where YOU my friends open up your living rooms! No place is off limits. If I can drive there...it's a possibility! We're planning for the month of May, and are hoping to make it all the way to Oregon and Washington...Pacific Northwest here we come! Would you be willing to host a house concert? Do you have a living room and 20 friends to invite over for an evening of music and stories? Send me an email at amy@amycoxmusic.com and start a conversation to talk about what a night in your community could look like. There's no upfront cost to you as a host and I can promise you there is nothing I love or endorse more than these evenings in a cozy, relaxed environment of a home like yours.

I have some new material to share along with stories that are beautiful, heart wrenching, and at times humorous and awkward.  From the time I spent in Arizona in 2014 to my most recent adventures of speed dating and making friends...there is quite a plethora of stories to pull from. :o) Thank you for being a part of this community that supports me and this musical/artistic pursuit of expressing all that God has done and is doing through our stories. As an independent artist, I can do what I do because of you. So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

Want to know more about house concerts? Check out this blog post I recently updated or email me with any questions at amy@amycoxmusic.com. Can't wait to talk with you.

Bronchitis and a House Concert

"I'm going to take your blood pressure again. It looks a little high." I laughed, coughed, and told her it was because I was so nervous.....since I never go to the doctor. But my first ever case of bronchitis landed me in the after hours clinic last Tuesday night as I finally. admitted. I was sick. After waiting more than an hour on that crinkly, disposable paper covered, only slightly comfortable table, I walked out of there with antibiotics, my first ever inhaler, and some drowsy cough suppressants.

Sleep that night was beautiful.

I am over being sick. It seems my first year back in the public schools has given my body a plethora of germs and illnesses to choose from. Not sure how I made it to year 32 without a case of flem filled bronchial lungs, but surely this was unnecessary. Or maybe I just thought if I actually got a flu shot for once.....maybe, just maybe.....it would give me superhero power to fight ALL illness. EVERYwhere.

AND my house concert Friday night loomed above my coughing lungs.  I quickly put pinterest and google into action and read up on what to do in an emergency vocal situation. And then I did all the things. All of them I could get my hands on. Like:

Drink GALLONS of water.....so much so that you wonder if it's what water boarding feels like (irrational I know). Order all sorts of fun things off of Amazon that can arrive same day....like Alkalol for sinus rinses, essential oils for essential oil type of things, a portable steamer to inhale essential oils, vicks to rub on soles of feet, and tiger balm to ease throat muscles. Sleep with a humidifier. Take the occasional shower to remind yourself that you are human and might run into the amazon delivery guy as you check your mailbox one more time. Alternate the gallons of water with tea, juices, vitamin drinks and other appealing liquids. And no talking. Which is infinitely hard when your cat is staring you down all day wondering why you haven't said a word to him.

And somehow I defied the odds and was sing ready by Friday night.....for the most part. :o) And to the group that gathered in a cozy living room on the other side of town, it was a beautiful night of community, stories, and songs. I am grateful for the continued opportunity to share what God has done and is doing.... and to throw a little Bob Ford in the mix.

4G3A1881.jpeg

Leading Worship In a Gold Dress

When I thought about a new blog post this week, I thought about how seemingly obvious and cliche it would be to share about Snowzilla 2016, the blizzard that Mitch and I binged watch movies through this past weekend. But after talking about it, looking at it, walking through it and digging my car out from under it, I'm over it. So here's all you get:

(well, this was supposed to be a picture of Mitch in a window with mountains of snow outside, but I forgot to load the pictures in....so until I do, just google snow pictures. :o)

But a few weeks before Snowzilla....

Restoration turned one.

10580746_1709348019276810_7700409522509727520_o.jpg

 

Translation: not only has Restoration made a beautiful start within the Reston community, but I HAVE MADE IT A WHOLE YEAR. And with no plans of moving, that's quite a big step for this wanderer. And so to celebrate we chose an Oscars themed Sunday complete with red carpet, mini oscars, a birthday cake, photo booth, and the worship team and our pastor wore fancy clothes.

12402084_1709347812610164_8258063475036906770_o.jpg

Now before you think I have a closet full of glittery dresses (if only!)...I somehow scored this gem the day after Christmas at a Macy's One Day Sale. And it was perfect. AND highly marked down.

12418976_1709347809276831_1716872454852667547_o.jpg
12402180_1709349382610007_7167591097612100502_o.jpg

So much of the morning was about surprises...photos everywhere from the past year, to fading in Oscar speech cut off music during announcements....which somehow didn't faze Tim a bit. :o)

10623508_1709347855943493_8026107840133635084_o.jpg

We also shared this montage I put together from all the videos of the past year. I am thankful that I stumbled into this new love of videography this past year and had a plethora of pictures and video footage to choose from. I love this church. We talk about Jesus and loving people and pray together and then we throw an awesome birthday party and play games and laugh with one another. These folks are keepers.

And I may be working every upcoming party around a gold theme.... gotta get my money's worth out of that dress!

I Went Speed Dating

This past Saturday.... I went speed dating. Speed dating. Having quick, four minute conversations with a multitude of men, in hopes that there may be a "spark" with one or two that leads to.....finding Mr. Right??!?! I don't know about that. What I do know, is that I love talking to strangers. And here is an evening of strangers that ALL SIGNED UP to talk to each other. Oh glorious day. Speed dating has been on my bucket list for oh so long, especially since we now live in the age of match.com and tinder....these are not pictures, but real, breathing humans sitting down to have a nice chat. And when I found a living social deal that knocked the normal $30 price down to $13 AND it was happening at a restaurant IN Reston, well.....

So Saturday night found me walking into a bar/restaurant in nearby Lake Anne Plaza. After checking in, I had about 15 minutes of waiting/mingle time before the event kicked off. As there were a couple of open spots at the bar, I walked over to claim one. The bar stools were white leather chairs that were a bit too tall, a bit too slippery, and all my thoughts of an elegant and graceful perch turned quickly into a shuffled and shifted awkward but final landing. I shrugged it off and proudly stuck the nametag with my name and my assigned three numbers on. The woman sitting next to me turned and said, "I haven't put mine on yet." She pointed at the name tag next to her wallet on the bar. We quickly introduced ourselves and spent the next few minutes talking. Nicole works for the state department, has lived all over the world, and has tried speed dating a time or two before.  We joked that even if the night was a dud in the dating department at least we made a new friend. :o)

For the speed dating portion, we were placed at long tables, the ladies all on one side with the men sitting across from us. The men rotated from seat to seat so that everyone met everyone. There were about four less men than women which allowed the gals random, four minute breaks throughout the night. Although, with the next "date" happening in two chairs only inches away, it was difficult not to listen in on the guy who was about to be your next conversation.

To keep track of each date, we were given a piece of paper with columns to write the person's name, number, and any comments we could make to jog the memory later on. I tried to keep track of the main topics we talked about so my paper looked a lot like this:

103....... Dan........ Trader Joe's. Name tags.

And so the dates went. A man slipped into the chair across from me, we introduced ourselves, and found something to talk about until a bell was rung and the moderator called for the men to move once more. Jose sat down before the official time began, cheating the system a bit by beginning to ask me what sports teams I rooted for.....(in his defense, we were in a sports bar with the walls lined with tvs showing various games)....

There was charming, energetic Dan. Young, contractor Henry. Indian food loving Kumal. Conversations took on singular themes. Some never moving past, "What do you do?", "Where are you from?" and others straying into "What do you like to do in your free time?" or the REALLY random ones "If you were a tree, what would you be?" Mike, a bit older than the rest, quite possibly in his early fifties, sat down across from and audibly sighed, "You never know with these things," he said, "There were no age parameters on this event." I could only interpret that he had gauged my age well below my actual 30 years and that only put a wider gap in his mind than what he had hoped to find. I could only laugh as I told him I had signed up for the event knowing that there would be wide "age" range and that it was fun to have short conversations with so many different people....I then quickly asked him what were some of his favorite places and the topic turned safely to the Caribbean and cruises....

At the end of the evening, the moderator encouraged us to mingle more, enjoy the restaurant, and exchange numbers with anyone we wanted. My pre-speed date friend Nicole and I stood up and immediately found each other to compare our dates and observations. A phone number exchange, a promise to hang out soon, and a cold walk to the car in heels and the night was over.

The next day, we were sent a link in which to create a quick profile (throw in a pic and any info that might help a guy remember), and check off the guys we were interested in. If the guy checked off my name, we were a mutual match and allowed to message each other. Since no one caught my heart that night, I decided to "shotgun" it and check off everybody to see what hits I got.....and that's when old Mike came through as a match....ahhhh!!! I forget that real people are on the other side of the internet. :o) It's like Tinder all over again. Well, at least they were real people in my mind to start. A couple of other matches came through along with a dinner invitation....if anything pans out, maybe, just maybe I'll share. 

40 Years

40 years and two days.... that's how long my parents have been married. 40 years of raising kids, moving houses, working jobs, and loving each other through it all. It is more than enough reason to throw a party. So we did.

IMG_6883.jpg

And by "we", I mean I drove into town the afternoon before, swept a couple of floors and cleaned the downstairs bathroom....and my sister did all the rest. All the cooking of pastas, salad, and desserts galore!, along with the inviting and direction giving and keeping track of some 30-40 people who said that they were coming. She is quite an excellent party planner.

At least I took really pretty pictures. Especially of the food.

40food.jpg

 

 

And the people. All the lovely people.

people 1.jpg

 

People3.jpg

 

People2.jpg

 

There was a brief moment Saturday afternoon when I realized how many amazing people who have walked alongside our family were in one place. The deep rumble of my old pastor's voice floating down the hallway to the laughs of some of my mom's best friends, to the kids occasionally galloping through the room on their way to play hide and seek. When we gathered everyone to say thank you and to toast my parents, my dad summed it up when he said, "if you are here, then you are important to this family."

 

And my parents. Who have shown me what it means to love, to support, to be committed to one another. Who meant it when they said "I do" forty years ago and look ahead to the next decades with excitement and purpose. I wish for them all the happiness this next year can bring until we are celebrating year 41.

IMG_6928.jpg

Plus can we just talk about this?!?!?

IMG_6881.jpg

40 years adorable.