Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NBA All-Star Weekend 2014 - New Orleans

Recently I was lucky enough to head to The Big Easy for NBA All-Star weekend. With this being my third All-Star trip, I was prepared for the organized chaos that would ensue over the course of 4 long days in New Orleans. Between appearances, Foundation events, meetings, and walk-throughs, the whole trip is always a whirlwind, but a good one. It's one of those "pinch me" experiences that I still can't believe I am lucky enough to have.

What started out as another promising, productive trip got off to an unfortunate start when I landed in NOLA to some sad news. My grandma had passed away. When I left California, I knew she had a post-surgery infection, but never in my wildest dreams did it even occur to me that it was life-threatening. When I got that call from my family, I was in my room at the Windsor Court Hotel overlooking the buzzing city of New Orleans, and I fell to the ground in complete shock. How could this be possible? I didn't even get a chance to tell her good bye. I miss her sweet voice more than anything, but I still haven't really come to terms that she's gone. Luckily, I was surrounded by wonderful people on this trip who took good care of me and made sure I was ok at all times. I appreciated their support more than they know. 

So in between work commitments, we did make a little bit of time to see the city including sunrise runs through the French Quarter and nightly dessert on one of the top floors of our beautiful hotel. New Orleans is an awesome city and I got to experience a lot of the culture and eat a lot of the food, which was all amazing!
The entrance to my hotel, morning in the French Quarter & candle-lit dessert with a view. 
The view from my hotel room at the Windsor Court Hotel
Sunrise run along the river.
Every year, in every All-Star City, LeBron and his Foundation completely renovates a local Boys & Girls Club, and the Westbank Unit in New Orleans was one of our best ones yet. After briefing LeBron on the event and all of his to-do's, we executed an amazing reveal for the kids that was covered on the NBA's All-Star broadcast on TNT, which was a major score. Overall, it was another successful LJFF event. 
Images courtesy of my friends at the LeBron James Family Foundation. 
After a busy day, we headed over to a local art museum to help set up and manage LeBron's GQ Magazine cover launch party. It was a lot of work managing the outrageous guest list and incoming media requests, but it was all worth it when I got to walk LeBron on the red carpet. Just another one of those moments I will be telling my grandkids about someday!
Caught in a picture on the red carpet. 
Despite the rocky start, overall it was an awesome weekend full of experiences I am more than thankful for. But no matter where in the world I go and what adventures my job takes me on, nothing is better than coming home to Corey & miss Ruby. Corey was waiting for me with flowers since we were both gone for Valentines day, and Ruby was full of happy kisses. Coming home is always the best part.
xoxo Steph

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pixie's Perfect Proposal

A few weekends ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of an extremely special day for my baby sister. It was a beautiful moment with the most beautiful background - but it's also sort of a funny story…
The scene: The Beach Retreat in Lake Tahoe. 

It all began with a text message from Pixie's boyfriend, Silvio, who casually mentioned he may need my help with something this weekend. Thinking it had something to do with moving furniture or keeping preggo Pixie happy, I quickly responded "No problem!" I had no idea what he was asking would change my sister's life forever. I called him that afternoon to get the details and it turns out, he was planning a surprise proposal in Lake Tahoe and he wanted me there to capture the whole thing on film. Sort of a big deal! So we met for lunch where I was given the details (including maps and diagrams - see below), and I proceeded to round up the troops (aka my other sisters/partners in crime). 
Exhibit A: Where we should enter from. 
Saturday around noon, we headed up the hill. As we do with most family road trips, we made a pit stop at Taco Bell to discuss the specifics of our covert mission. With less than two hours before show time, we started to get nervous - if she randomly sees us on the street or on a beach in Tahoe before the big moment, the whole thing would be ruined. We needed to execute this plan perfectly. No pressure. 

P.S. How random are the Taco Bell sauce packs we picked up at Taco Bell? It was a sign...
"Will you marry me?" and "You have chosen wisely"

After lunch, it was go time. With our hair hidden under hats and beanies, we did our best James Bond-type super secret mission impressions, but for some reason, as soon as we put on our shades and played the under cover part, we turned all white girl ghetto. I think it was because our quiet, reserved big sister started blasting DMX "Party Up" on her phone. This was the scene while we were waiting for Pixie and Silvio to arrive:
Man, I wish had video of this part. It was hilarious. 
Back to the story… so after what felt like hours of waiting (it was really only 20 minutes or so), we got the text from Silvio: "Here." It was go time. We knew our biggest challenge was going to be getting all the way out to the end of the pier without Pixie spotting us. And sure enough, every time we moved an inch, she would turn and look around, almost as if she heard us. Holding our breaths, we creeped towards the Pier, hiding behind anything physically large enough to hide us, but it was a struggle. Pixie kept turning around and taking selfies of the sunset, giving us a heart attack each time she turned her head. At one point, we thought it might be impossible to get all the way out there without her seeing us, so we tested the zoom lens on our cameras - we could get it, but it would not be the money shot we drove all this way for. Just as we started to panic, a young couple wearing large black puff jackets passed by us, and we saw our opening. After very quietly and awkwardly explaining that we needed to hide behind them as they walked down the pier, they agreed to give us a hand. As we scurried down the pier in a single file line, we continued to hold our breath and pause every time Pixie started to look around. This was the most stressful 10 minutes of my life! Once we got to the point of no return, we left it to Silvio to keep her facing the right way, and to get down to business. 

It was only a couple seconds before Silvio was down on his knee… thank goodness he stayed down there a while because the super zoom lens on the fancy camera I was using was too tight of a shot and I couldn't get both of them in the frame. After nearly backing off the deck and into the ice cold lake, I got the money shot:
Mission accomplished! Pixie was so happy and so in the moment that it took her a good 5 minutes to realize we were all standing right behind her. Once she finally noticed we were there, she started crying even more:
It was such a cool moment, and we were so happy to be a part of it. And now we have the most beautiful pictures and videos to always remember it. 
We are so happy for our sister and so thankful for Silvio. He is such a great guy and we are so happy to have him as the latest addition to our family. Love you both!
XO Steph

The End.
Well, I guess the official end was when Nellie's glasses got smashed into a million pieces by an oncoming car on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, but that's another story...