Thursday, March 27, 2014

Here's to Nostalgia

I spent the past weekend in Dallas with my family. While I was there we got some exciting news, SMU's natatorium is going to be torn down and a new pool is finally going to be built. I'm sure that seems trivial to most of you all or at the very least you're confused about why in the world this is such a big deal to the Pappas household. Let me explain.

Both of my parents are SMU alumni. They grew up in Oklahoma, my father in Stillwater, my mother in OKC, and they both participated in swimming and diving programs at their respective schools. My mom was such a bad ass in high school that she was the only girl who dove, meaning she dove against the boys. My dad was a swimmer and claims to have watched my mom when their school were competing at meets. He claims that he told his high school friend he would marry her one day. This may be an exaggeration, but it makes for a great story so I'm gonna run with it. In a twist of karma, both of them went to college at SMU where my father continued to swim and my mother continued to dive.

Now, even though my dad claims to have watched my mom dive in high school, she will readily say she had no idea who he was. Fast forward to college, both of them are involved in SMU's aquatic program. They know of each other on the peripheral. They have mutual friends, they run in the same circles and, apparently, my mom finally got to know my dad's name. While they knew of each other, both were dating other people. It wasn't until grad school that my parents started dating. It was a match made in chlorinated heaven. 

They both stayed in Dallas and are still incredibly involved in the swimming and diving community. My father is involved with the Dallas Aquatic Masters program, swimming is still his favorite way to exercise. My mother is a diving coach, working for a handful of private schools in North Dallas, she is also employed as a coach at a Dallas club team, Mustangs in the Sun. 

To say that I was raised at the SMU natatorium would be an accurate statement. I grew up in a family where you learned to swim before you learned to walk. It sounds like I'm exaggerating but I don't think I am. When you have babies around a pool, you teach them to swim as soon as possible. I remember running around the indoor pool, dragging mats over to the pool lip and using them as slides. Katy Stillson and I were little terrorists, wiggling into diving lines so we could do something silly off the boards, daring each other to finally take the plunge off 10 meter. One summer we threw water balloons at the passing cheer camp from the tower. In the natatorium I would beg Jim to rig me up in the belt above the trampoline. Right as I would spring up he would pull the rope sending me higher than I would ever jump on my own. 

I remember summers where I was spent a majority of my time darting in and out of the Swimming and Diving offices, begging for change from Eddie or Greg or Jim or any other available staff member to get a soda. Every year I was dragged to the Dallas Morning News Classic, both men and women. For a long time it was boring, until I realized the amazingness that was college boys in speedos. Needless to say, I was much more enthusiastic about that meet from there on out. I would sneak back into this meeting space to the left and rummage through the framed team pictures until I could find the years my dad and uncle Bob were on the team. My favorite thing was the bring friends along with me so I could show them my mother's portrait hanging in the front of the building. She was a nationally ranked diver who competed in the 1980 Olympic trials. Once I even had a lifeguard coworker at SMU say, "You're mom was really hot when she was in school." A few portraits down I see familiar faces like Cheryl Santini, another amazing diver who was always nice to me when I was on deck, had a family that would pay attention to me at meets, and even babysat a couple of times. I took my first swim lessons in that pool, swam club in that pool, even took a stab at diving (that phase didn't last very long) there.

I went on to play basketball for Parish and than attend college at Rhodes, even then I still found myself at the SMU natatorium. My first real summer job, one where I got taxes taken out of my check, was as a lifeguard at the pool. Let me tell you, lifeguarding is not glamorous, but it was always nice to know most of the coaches on deck. Getting a bear hug from Eddie Sinnot is a great way to start a hot summer day. I may be a lynx cat, I still say Pony Up with confidence.

Renovating the pool is needed. It's an old pool and updating it will be a big boost to the program, but that doesn't mean I won't miss it. If there's one place I know on SMU Blvd, it is the Perkins Natatorium. It is kind of crazy how a building can hold so many memories. So this post is for nostalgia and excitement about what the future holds for a program that has touched my life in so many ways. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mardi Gras Picture Post Pt. II

Here's the second round of Mardi Gras pictures. This covers the rest of Mardi Gras. It's an awesome celebration that I will actually blog about sometime in the near future. Until than, here are some pictures to enjoy.

A float mocking Putin

US Navy band (Michael Delong, you better see this)

Memphis!

The best game in the world, Stump! It involves throwing a hammer 
in the air and trying to hit some nails.

So many floats!

I got to see Endymion from scaffolding, definitely the best way to watch the parade

1st crawfish of the season

Bacchus float, hunting frogs on the Atchafalya

"Is that a dinosaur?" 
"yes, of course."

Bacchus float up close

Proteus float featuring Zeus and his pet seal, because Zeus has pet seals

Even cooler Proteus float

Gandalf? Is that you?



Quentin Tarantino, King of Morpheus

Sunny Saturday for Endymion

Freezing rainy Mardi Gras day, there are people under that blanket

See what I mean? So cold and wet.


Zulu float

Emily got a coconut at Zulu

I'm afraid I've set the bar pretty high for future Mardi Gras celebrations, look at some of the awesome throws I got this year!

-Alex


Friday, February 28, 2014

Mid Celebration Pictures!

Here are some awesome pictures from the Mardi Gras celebrations so far:


Awesome peacock float, queen of Muses I think? 

Valentina and Colleen decked out from all of their catches at the Nyx parade

The front of a float from the Nyx parade on Wednesday night


Nyx parade swag

Hand warmers, probably the best investment I've made for this chilly weekend

Flambeauxs 

Decked out from the parades last night

Jess with one of the shoes she caught, thank you for making our night Catherine!

Another shoe thrown to Jess from Catherine, thanks for sharing Jess :)

Last but not least, this amazing purse I caught at the Nyx parade. One final thanks goes to Stephanie Veech for throwing this down to me on Wednesday!

-Alex

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mardi Gras Pt.I


'Tis the season ya'll! True to New Orleans, celebrating Mardi Gras is a two week long affair. Obviously the actual Mardi Gras is on this coming Tuesday, but the parades started two weeks ago. Above is a picture from the first parade of the season, Krewe du Vieux. This is one of the smaller parades, with floats drawn by smaller cars. The theme for Krewe du View was "Where the Vile Things Are" and pretty much anything was game to be made fun of. Bobby Jindhal? Check. Vladimir Putin? Check. BP Oil? Yup. This is a great, mostly political, satyrical parade that is NOT child friendly. I had a blast with my roommates, but seriously, don't take your kids to this parade.

Here's a blurry picture of one of the floats. 

Not only were there lots of parades to attend, the weather this weekend was phenomenal. Seriously. I finally got around to singing up for a gym membership and I have barely used it because I've been outside instead. Below are a couple of pictures I took while I was walking around uptown,


(no, I did not photoshop this in any way, I think someone living on this street got bored with the usual water meters and decided to spice things up)




On Friday Alexander came into town to join the festivities. Friday night there were two parades on St. Charles that we went to. Thanks to help from YAVA/friend (I really just consider her a friend, but she's also a YAVA) Valentina who is a pro at getting catches from the parades that come by. She claims it's all about eye contact, I suspect her bright red hair helps her stand out some as well…

While we had to rush around a bit on Friday to get down to the parades (had to wait for Alexander to get into town), Saturday we decided to set up early and hang out all afternoon. I would say the best way to describe Saturday was like tailgating minus the annoying freshman who don't know how to keep themselves together. We set up a bunch of folding chairs, had a cooler and watched the first round of parades at 1. Than just hung out and people watched until the second round started at 6. On Saturday Valentina and Alexander and I went with my mentor family, the Kates, and we all sat around and enjoyed the day. While we were out there we ran into my site supervisor, Layne, her husband Crawford and their puppy Justice. Justice loves to chew on things, she's at the age where pretty much anything is fair game.

Valentina's backpack? Definitely chewable.

We also happened to set up less than a block from Alexander's cousins. Here in New Orleans families with younger children own ladders with a little seat attached to it. This way the younger kids don't get trampled, instead they get to sit above the crowd. If you are an adorable child in a ladder you're more likely to get throws. An adult always stands up there with the kids to one, help with the ladder, two to make sure their kids don't get pelted in the face with beads. Because yes, that definitely happens.

Alexander took over for Ryan for a bit and helped with the girls, he obviously enjoyed himself.



All in all it was a great weekend! I was told those parades are jet a warm up for the big ones happening this weekend (well really they start on Wednesday, so tomorrow). I had a great time. And the cherry on top was Alexander getting this wig from one of the floats and being called Bob Marley by one of the street car passengers on our way home from the parade.






-Alex

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Project Homecoming's 1st Annual Gala

So, I know this is not the norm, but you all get two posts in one week! Yay!

So, when I'm not cross-stitching, I have been helping plan Project Homecoming's Gala. It's the first year we have had a gala and let me tell you, it was quite the undertaking. Seriously. I can say that the past two weeks we have been in serious crunch mode over at the ProHome office. For anyone who has helped plan a big fundraiser, you know what I'm talking about. I imagine I looked like a zombie all last week, mostly because pretty much all my housemates looked mildly concerned for me throughout the week.

Below are a million pictures. The lighting was kind of weird, but just look! So much fun!

Karin, on the left and Kelly, my awesome supervisor and party planner 
extraordinaire, in the sequined jacket

Karin and JP, one of our work-site managers, both of these people were huge supports leading up to and at the event.

First NBC bank in the central business district, also known as 
our venue for the evening. Amazing, right?

Some of the silent auction items at the event.

Devin and Evan (a YAVA who stayed in Nola and is an Americorp at Project Homecoming)

Kevin, Director of Operations, doing a short presentation to kick the night off.

Anna Leigh and the Backstrom's, her host family in New Orleans this year.

Rachel, an Americorp Work site manager, Kelly and friends.

Marid Gras indians were a part of Cha Wa, the band for the evening.

Project Homecoming photo op.

Some guests dancing the night away.

Phil, one of the important people who does the construction things (I believe the appropriate title is worksite manager) and his lovely wife, Lauren (also a YAVA, she worked at Project Homecoming during her YAV year, where she met Phil!)

Anna Leigh, Phil and Quint look supah fine.


And guess what, the gala was a hit! Seriously, what a successful evening. This year Project Homecoming has been restoring Professor Longhair's home (he's a big deal in New Orleans music, but also in music in general, go check him out on youtube), the professor passed away in 1980, but his  daughter Pat still lives in the house, so one of the exciting parts about the gala was celebrating the (almost) completion of the 'Fess house. There is currently a living New Orleans music legend, Dr. John, who worked with Professor Longhair. Again, someone who is really big in New Orleans, and is also very well known in smart music circles. Also, he was featured as a quick fire judge on Top Chef: New Orleans about half way through the season. Not only did Dr. John make an appearance, he played a few songs! Talk about a successful night.


Dr. John on the piano

Some guests with Dr. John. Nice hate amirght?



Some thank yous are in order.

Thanks to everyone who showed up. Seriously, without all the lovely ticket buyers, there would be no gala.

Thanks Project Homecoming people who got roped into helping with everything from making decorations to calling up business for silent auction donations to moving tables to ironing table clothes to helping during the event to just being supportive of me and Kelly the last couple of weeks.

Thanks to the band (Cha Wa) and to our chefs (Jessie and Sarah). Seriously, way to take a baby event and run with it and help make it big. Also, thanks to the bar tenders and Jim for taking care of that.

Thanks to the Nola YAVs, the whole house came and had a blast and were so supportive. Special shout out to Colleen for pouring beer and helping sort the auction items.

Thanks Laura, you don't even work for Project Homecoming and you helped out so much. Way to give me and Kelly some direction and a place to start from and just everything all along the way.

Finally, Kelly, you are a rock star. Not only did you pull this event off, you have always had my back. I feel blessed to work with such a motivated, strong woman. Seriously, I couldn't ask for a better supervisor. Now, go treat yourself to a massage. Really. You've earned it and then some.

Here's one final picture. I was pretty busy I think this was actually the 
only picture of me from the evening. Next year I will just have to come back as a guest :)


-Alex