My first-place photos

It’s quite the challenge coming up with the right words.

Honored. Excited. Relieved.

Those are just a few.

But the most important feeling — humbled.

At the Hoosier State Press Association Newsroom Seminar and Better Newspaper Contest awards luncheon today in Indianapolis, I had four photographs receive awards; three earned first place and one was second place. One of my first-place photos was selected as the Division 3 (Dailies with circulation less than 6,000) representative for photo of the year. While I did not receive that honor, it is still pretty darn cool to come away with three first-place awards and even be considered a finalist.

After winning best feature story last year, I was shut out this year as a writer. Honestly, though, that doesn’t matter.

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Dubai 2012: Eye-opener

(This is the sixth post in a series detailing my work trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)

Aside from the excitement and how surreal it is that I am actually in Dubai, if there is one other word that describes how I feel about being over here it is simple. Humble.

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Houston 2012: Day Two

(this is the fourth post in a series detailing my work trip to Houston.)

Calm before the storm.

Had a long day today and this was just the tip of the iceberg. We were at the store today from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. getting prepared to meet the staff tomorrow and go through their first day of training. Some of the procedures were a little confusing at first, but I finally caught on to how things were going to take place.

Getting the kitchen set up is going to be a hassle because it is a small area and all the equipment isn’t working yet or hasn’t arrived. The fryers are not getting any gas, the stand up freezer for the fry station is backwards, we don’t have a bread rack yet and the plates are too high for me to reach. Korrey (the other broil trainer), Vince (fry trainer), Christina (pantry trainer) and I are going to have to put our collective minds together to figure out some procedural things as to how to complete tasks. We definitely still have our work cut out for us.

As with the trainers, now that we’re all here (Tito and Tommy got here three days early) we are all getting along well. We’re not really butting heads (yet — knock on wood) and we are very helpful to one another and respectful of one another. I thought about it today that I felt like a cast member of “The Real World” when we all came together, like “so these are the people I will be spending all day every day with for the next 11 days (some aren’t staying as long as I am.) but, so far so good in that regard.

I ate lunch today at Potbelly Sandwich Shop which was delicious. Tito, Korrey, Tommy and I all went out to Pollo Bravo for dinner and I had some of the best quesadillas I have ever had in my life. I feel I will probably be eating like a king while I’m down here, which means I will probably put back on that 30 pounds I lost earlier this year. Good thing I brought my running shoes, right?

The boys mentioned above and I all we tout tonight after the trainers had another meeting about training and strolled around town looking for a decent bar to get a few drinks. Let me tell you, the language barrier down here is a bitch. I wish I knew more Spanish because not many people we have encountered outside of our restaurant speak English. I mean, I had a idea I’d come across the occasional Latino, but little did I know I would run into more Spanish-speaking people than I would those who are fluent In English.

So we found a bar (Uncle Joe’s Club) to grab a drink, and boy did it make me feel like I was really in Texas. There was country music on the jukebox, four elderly people sitting at the bar, and a few stragglers at the bar as well, but it was definitely the kind of place I was looking for; a Texas bar with country music and country people. The bartender took her time with when she asked for our IDs, which I expected, but I was surprised to know that although she was of allowed to serve alcohol to people with non-Texas IDs she served us anyway.

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It was after this that we really started to walk around. But after a while of walking and not finding anywhere to go, Tito and I decided to head back tithe hotel so he could go to sleep and I wanted to do more preparation for tomorrow, because after all I am a little nervous about the entire day. when I got back to the hotel, I was perturbed when I found out I left my note packet with the agenda on it at the restaurant because it wasn’t in my folder and someone had moved all of our stuff. Ohh well, looks like I get to cram in the morning.

Keep checking back for updates throughout my travels while I’m down in Texas. I am going to try and post every day.

Until next time …

Houston 2012: Day One

(this is the third post in a series detailing my work trip to Houston.)

Day one is over.

My flight went without a hitch. I love flying and I am absolutely fascinated by airplanes, so everything pertaining to my travel today was grand.

After I departed the plane I met up with Shawn, the Vice President of International Operations at Bennigan’s and waited for five other trainers to meet up with us and another guy Lucas. While Shawn went in to the baggage claim to get the other five, I kinda picked Lucas’s brain about what to expect and the about the brand too.

The group of trainers we have here is great. I feel we are all going to get along well. Other than me, there is Tommy from Lansing; Heather, Megan, Tito and Korrey (my roommate) from Appleton, Wisc.; Vince and Cecelia from Chicago; Yedid and Lucas from Tampa, Fla.; and Christina and Ashlie from Lake Worth, Texas.

We had a brief (and by brief I mean two hours) orientation at the store where we went over a few ice breakers and team building exercises. I have a feeling that I am going to learn a plethora of tricks and tips that I will be able to take back to Saginaw. The hours look daunting, but I know I’ll be able to handle it. All I see are dollar signs.

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The restaurant itself is nice. The dining area is about half the size as the restaurant in Saginaw, and I give the kitchen too much credit by saying it is small. It’s tiny. The broiler is probably a third the size of the the one we have in Saginaw, so it will be interesting to see how we can manage to cook using such small equipment. From what I understand, Houston had 18 Bennigan’s locations before corporate filed for bankruptcy and this the first store to open since.

After our orientation we went out to dinner as a group with the four managers and the owner, who was generous and paid for the entire meal of the 18 of us. We went to El Tiempo Cantina, an authentic Mexican restaurant, and the food was delicious. Apparently in Texas they have this dip simply called “green sauce” and boy, is it amazing. The two trainers from Texas didn’t know what was in it so I had to solicit a former Houstonian (not sure if correct vernacular) who told me what it is. Tasty stuff.

When we got back to the hotel after dinner, Tommy and I walked over to a small bar for a few drinks. What happened while we were there will stay between the two of us. What happens in Houston, stays in Houston.

Gotta be awake and in the lobby ready to go by 9:15 a.m., so I’m signing off.

Keep checking back for updates throughout my travels while I’m down in Texas. I am going to try and post every day.

Until next time …

Houston 2012: Travel Day One

(this is the second post in a series detailing my work trip to Houston.)

At the time of this writing, I am most likely somewhere over southern Illinois about 400 miles into the 1,000-mile flight.

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Everything thus far has gone without a hitch. As expected, I waited until almost the last possible minute to pack. Finished everything at about 1:30 a.m. Although I was still Wide awake, I watched a few episodes of Blue Mountain State before I finally went to bed.

I had a feeling I wasn’t going to sleep very well because how excited I was for this trip, but I actually managed to get some quality sleep.

My sister-in-law Katie drove me to the airport in Detroit, and she brought along Taylor to try to prep her for the 12-hour car ride they have in a few weeks. Taylor slept the entire way to the airport and was just waking up when we arrived. The drive itself wasn’t terrible. Traffic sucked at times and Katie’s GPS took us to some funny places, but I got to the airport with ample time.

Getting through security was a breeze with the exception of how many people were in line. It was my first experience with a body scanner too, which is harmless. I had to do a report on them in one of my marketing classes at CMU and how they are not only used in airports but for fashion as well. This was when they were just starting to be used in airports.

Once I boarded the plane, I was exited to see that I had the first row behind first class — and let me tell you — hello leg room!!! I have the window seat with plenty of leg room, no complaints here!!!

I’m not really sure what I have in store tonight when I get into Houston. I’m being picked up and then taken to the hotel, but I’m unsure if I have the night free. I know tomorrow I have to go through training orientation and meet the managers and stuff. I’m hoping I get tonight off to check out the city.

I brought some apparel to broadcast where I’m from. I’m traveling in my Tigers hat, I brought a Tigers shirt, a few Michigan State Shirts, a Central Michigan shirt an a Saginaw Spirit shirt as well. I’m proud of where I come from, and I’m looking forward to making it known I’m from the mitten. (I am going to make it a point to say “pop” instead of “soda” as often a possible too. I’m going to have a lot of fun and I can’t wait.

Keep checking back for updates throughout my travels while I’m down in Texas. I don’t think I’ll get many more opportunities like this.

Ohh, this heat is gonna suck!

Until next time …