Well, we are pretty much having a blast in Prague. I had five minutes of worry just before Lance arrived that 10 days with just about anyone could be tricky. But here we are at day 5 and still laughing.
Instead of daydreaming about marrying a rich guy someday, how about you make a goal that some day, you'll check into a hotel somewhere in Germany and they will say, "welcome Miss Clifford, we have an upgrade for you and here's your access to the Executive Lounge," and the boy you are with traveling with will be so impressed. I promise that feeling is way, way awesome.
Munich is beautiful. We are having so much fun. Tomorrow we leave for Prague. Hard to believe this is all real.
In what was maybe the perfect ending to two weeks spent trying to keep kids from doing dumb things, I jumped off a pile luggage tonight, split open my lip, sprained my wrist and got my pride injured just a little bit when three of our hockey boy who witnessed it told the other kids about my "scorpion dive".
January 20. Fifteen days since I got on the plane in Colorado Springs. As is often the case when you work an event, I have lost all track of time. Something that happened yesterday feels like it was a month ago, my short term memory is shot and getting up at this point feels like some kind of evil torture tactic.
So yeah I'm tired. And I am a little weary of getting wanded every time I go to dinner or come into the village. I haven't worn anything that isn't dri-fit in two weeks and I've chosen sleep over working out every single day.
But oh my am I have a good time! At a normal Olympics you usually have very narrow access. Even in Salt Lake where I could anywhere my little heart desired in my own venue, I couldn't go waltzing into the coaches box at the Halfpipe. Which we totally did in Kuhtai last week. I wouldn't be sitting in the second row of the Lindsey Vonn Q & A with our ecstatic little Alpine Skier who got to meet Lindsey afterward. I don't think I would know the names of all the athletes at a real Olympics and I'm sure I wouldn't have met as many of their moms and I have this time. I've been to hockey, short track, cross country, halfpipe, curling and medals ceremonies.
Things are starting to wind down and competition has ended for many of the sports which means 57 teenagers are starting to get a little antsy. I had to bust a snowball fight with the Brits last night when the main office called and told me to "control my kids". I felt like sort of a grinch having to tell them to cut it out when I still remember that a spontaneous coed snowball/food/water fight is the kind of thing you live for at 16. I've turned a blind eye to my share of late night convos on the stairs and boys lingering in door jams for longer than they probably ought to. I have discovered that if you give them a little bit of freedom, they seem to respond better when you do actually have to say "cut it out guys".
Austria is beautiful, I've managed to sneak out for a few touristy adventures, done my fair share of flirting (this job will get at least 35% less fun should I ever get married), gotten to drive up a mountain pass in a zippy little euro car. It's been more of a true Games experience than I've had other times. Next month marks the 10 year anniversary of the Salt Lake Games and there is something very sweet about being roommates with some figure skaters and some short trackers while I look back on what was such a life-changing moment.
And I guess that's why I do love these events so much. The last five months have been absolutely exhausting and if I think too much about the next six I can work myself up into a tizzy-but I've stretched and I've grown and I've tried to figure out what I'd like to do next since I'm coming to the conclusion this isn't what I want to do forever...but for now, I'll go to the medals ceremony for our snowboard team, who just won their fourth and fifth medals of the Games and are some of my favorite kids (I might think that about all of them though).
I've worked a ton of events at this point in my life. I am pretty comfortable running an operation, I'm pretty good at solving issues and actually really enjoy the feeling of being able to put fires out left and right. Any event of this scale is going to have hiccups and I love the process of making the right contacts and figuring out how to get what I need as painlessly as possible.
What I DON'T know how to fix, and what caught me so by surprise, is a kid who got injured in a training run and wasn't allowed to go to compete, nor attend Opening Ceremonies, sobbing in my arms while we tried to track down her parents.
I'm in a weird position in my life. Plenty plenty old enough to be a mom and as an oldest child and a female, all the instincts are there. But oh gosh, as I'm trying to figure out how to console this girl there are a million questions in my head about the right thing to say, and that her mom is 4000 miles away and getting a "there's been an accident" call, and I should know how to do this, and what if I never get to do this myself?
These kids have been so much more fun than I was even expecting. They are smart and they are funny and they are polite (and they are messy). It's fun watching them flirt with each other, make friends across different sports and countries, deal with disappoint, get excited about victories. I know to them, I'm the nice lady in the office who helps them fix issues and gives them passes to bring their moms into the Village. Not really realizing that in some ways, my life is more like theirs than it is like their mom's. I still feel like I'm figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and trying to be alone with boys. I snuck into my room at 12:30 last night after staying out later than I should have given my long days and early wake-up calls and couldn't help but laugh at the fact that all my teenage roommates were fast asleep. I don't feel 20 years older than they are, I don't feel old enough to almost be their mom but it's impossible not to wonder if I've done this all wrong.
But hey, I was standing in the Austrian Alps today, watching three of our snowboarders win medals. These mountains are more beautiful than I know how to describe and I'm getting paid to do this right? I have such a good life.
Last night I was standing out in the cold with four young biathletes trying to get some equipment brought over from offsite storage so they could see with their own eyes that it arrived. I heard myself saying to one of the girls not to worry and that I had everything under control.
The fact of the matter is that I actually wasn't totally sure I did, in fact, have it all under control and I wasn't sure I could fix the issue they were having. But there is a look that a kid under 18 will give you are the grown up and they are the kid that says, "I totally trust you," that last night scared the crap out of me. Trust me? I want to solve this, I hope I can solve this but kid, I don't KNOW if I can solve this. And just for a second I felt 100% certain that being a parent must be the bravest thing on earth.
These kids are great, their energy is a lot of fun. The enormous weight of responsibility to make sure they are safe and out of trouble thousands of miles from their parents is not something I am used to at an event. It's not something I am used to in my life.
I'm still sorting out exactly how that makes me feel.
*My coworker Todd taking the long way from Munich so we could stop in a couple of the cities he trained in when he was in the Canadian Ski Team. Like driving into postcards. We drank hot chocolate by a fire in a ski town called Kaprun and I almost burst into "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things."
*Upgraded to a suite for the one night we spent in a hotel before moving into the athlete village-probably the last comfortable bed I'll be sleeping in until February.
*Finally meeting a bunch of the IOC people I've been emailing with for years. And the woman who does my job for Team Australia. And all other sorts of new faces and we're only three days in.
*The smell of a Village Welcome Center (no really, it has the scent of something awesome just about to happen).
We're already working 18 hour days and I think I slept about five hours last night with all the thinking and planning I was doing in my head. But it's new and it's exciting and I feel pretty darn lucky to be here.
Our delegation starts arriving tomorrow and I'm sure I'll have good stories coming RIGHT UP...
I read tonight that 2012 is the year of the Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac. I was born in a year of the Dragon. It's an even year. I turn 36 this year. There are lots of superstitious reasons to think this is going to be a great year.
The break was dreamy and it was harder than normal to leave on Sunday. I feel like I could move back to Utah and slide right back into a life there surrounded by people I love and a city that I miss way, way more than the 25 year old who jumped at the chance to get out of there in 2002 would have predicted.
But I have a good life in Colorado too and the long solo drive across Wyoming was a nice opportunity to do some serious thinking. And planning. And maybe just a little bit of stressing out over the first six weeks of 2012.
I leave tomorrow for Innsbruck for the Winter Youth Olympic Games. You have likely heard nothing about them and you probably won't but for the next three weeks I'll be with our team of 58 athletes aged 14-18 enjoying a small scale Games before the complete zoo that will be London 2012. Then I am off to a few days of scouting potential locations to process the 2014 team. It will be long and tiring but I'm excited to do something outside of my normal job description for a few weeks.
Then my friend Lance will meet me in Munich and we will spend a few days road tripping through Europe. Lance is an old pal from my Boston days and he's coming home from a deployment in Afghanistan so I imagine our conversations will be lively.
After we say goodbye in Amsterdam, I head to London for six days for meetings with the team leaders for all the summer sports and final venue walk-throughs with the sponsors I work with. Words like "final" make my stomach turn a little bit and the truth is, I've been somewhat freaked out this week worrying about getting everything done in the office, how much there is left to do for London, and how close on it's heels Sochi will be upon us.
Tonight as I'm pulling out all my warmest clothing and packing for what seem like an eternity, I feel some nerves about the unknown we take off into tomorrow morning but mostly I feel really gosh darned lucky to be living this life right now. Sometimes going to Utah can make me feel like I'm missing out on all the husband and kid stuff that honestly EVERY SINGLE HUMAN I KNOW is doing there. And there was some of that with this trip. I am not giving up on that dream-it's still something I definitely want. But there are worse things than seeing that glint of jealousy in the eyes of your lady friends when you talk about the hot 26 year old cyclist you made out with or the fun trips you've been on. I'd like to sing lullabies to sleepy babies one day but for now, I'll take playing den mother to a bunch of super stoked 16 year olds and crossing some countries off my TO DO list to kick off my year. I'm getting opportunities I never dreamed big enough to imagine and I'm thankful every single day for that.
Since I know I won't have much time to blog this summer I'm hoping to capture a little bit of what a Games really feels like. It might not be interesting to anyone else but I'd like to write about that part of my life. So hopefully I'll have a chance to update more often than I typically do when I'm dealing with thousands of pieces of apparel until all hours.
I'll leave you for now with a song from a band I'm somewhat obsessed with right now. They are called Pickwick, they are from Seattle, and this song is keeping me company tonight while I pack my face off.