Thursday, September 19, 2019

Disney On Ice Partners with Atlanta Dream!

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Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures and Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream are hosting a “Read Like a Pro” event on Wednesday, September 25, at State Farm Arena.

Kids from the Renee Montgomery Foundation – a nonprofit established to make a positive impact on the lives of both young and old through sports – will enjoy storybook reading from Montgomery and Disney On Ice performers as they learn the importance of education and reading.  There will also be special guest appearances from Disney characters and the Atlanta Dream mascot, Star.  In addition, the guests attending the event will be treated to tickets to Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures that evening!

Read Like a Pro

Hosted by Disney On Ice presents Road Trip Adventures and Atlanta Dream’s Renee Montgomery   
Wednesday, September 25

5:30 p.m.
State Farm Arena - 
Suite Level event space (Formerly “Center Club”)
1 State Farm Drive
Atlanta, GA 30303

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The VOID Comes to the ATL!

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As Disney fanatics, bloggers, and travel agents, we are super excited to bring this new press release to you!

The VOID virtual reality experience is coming to Atlanta!  ...AND, it will have the two Disney VR experiences!  We couldn't be more stoked!  If you go, let us know what you think!

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Critically acclaimed global leader in immersive virtual reality will open a location at The Battery Atlanta, the South’s preeminent lifestyle destination.

The VOID, the critically acclaimed global leader of immersive virtual experiences, celebrates the opening of their location at The Battery Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday, September 12th, 2019.
By combining state-of-the art VR technology, physical stages, and multi-sensory effects, including touch and smell, The VOID invites guests to embark on journeys to fully-immersive worlds with friends and family that, until now, have only lived in the imagination.
The Battery Atlanta location will feature Star WarsTM: Secrets of the Empire, the award-winning experience by ILMxLAB and Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm, and Ralph Breaks VR by ILMxLAB created in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios, with more experiences to come including original content by The VOID.
ImageLocals will have a chance to step into The VOID’s newest location and experience  Star WarsTM: Secrets of the Empire and Ralph Breaks VR, following the grand opening on Thursday, September 12, 2019.  For tickets and availability, please visit our location or

Open to the public:

Sunday – Thursday: 10:00am – 10:30pm
Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 12:00am
ImageThe VOID800 Battery Ave. #120Atlanta, GA 30339
Located next to the Coca-Cola Roxy and across the street from Live! at The Battery Atlanta in Atlanta, GA.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are hard.  So very hard.

Today we had to say goodbye to our sweet spirited Lily girl.  I know, I know...

...facebook and social media is filled with posts from family and friends saying goodbyes to their furry family members.

But I didn't feel this was right for Lily.  I stammered all day between keeping our day private or sharing it with the world.  So maybe a blog post is better - or even best.

My blog posts don't get nearly the attention or likes, views, WHATEVER that a facebook post does - so maybe I can get my thoughts out and also not share it with oh so many people - you know...the WORLD.

Lily was a special dog.  She belonged to my Mom, and my Mom passed in February of this year.  My Mom had Parkinson's, and when she got to a point in her life when she had to leave her home and move into an Assisted Living Home, she asked us to take good care of Lily.

We did.

If you know anything about myself, my kids, or my family, you know one thing - we rescue any and all animals.  (At present [and we are low "inventory" right now], we have two rescue dogs, one rescue kitty, one rescue red-eared slider turtle, and one rescued Conure.)  So taking Lily into our family was a no brainer.  At the time, we probably had five or six cats (all rescues) and two rescued Golden Retrievers.

Lily came to live with us in 2012, and she quickly settled into her new surroundings and routines.  We discovered she loved walks (Mom was never able to take her walking or hiking), chasing squirrels, and being within eyeshot of her pack.

As the years progressed and dogs and cats came and went, our pack shifted to the most recent combination of two American Staffordshire mixed-breed dogs and Lily.  Lily quickly rose to Alpha dog.  It was amazing to watch how this one 50-pound terrier mix ruled the roost over two large pitty-breed dogs.  She spoke, stood her territory, and they did what she said (or DIDN'T do what she said not to do).

She was a gentle spirit, and although we all say that our passing dog was unlike any other - she really was.

She was not the prettiest show dog at the pound 14 years ago, but when my Mom saw her in a dog shelter in Pensacola, FL, she immediately chose her.  Lily was an odd combination of dog.  Definitely Terrier, and we aren't sure what else.

Her fur was rough like the terrier breeds; her ears were pointed and stood up all the time: she had whiskers and eyebrows for days (the groomers always wanted to lay hands on her...); her legs were tall, thin, and nimble; and eyes were as black as coal.

She was always passed over at the shelter as people came and went to choose a new family member.  When she finally found her forever home, people asked my Mom constantly, "Why did you pick HER?"  My Mom's answer was always the same, "Because I knew no one else would, and I think she's pretty and I love her."

As my Mom moved from Georgia to Florida to Alabama to live with my brother for a while, Lily grew up into a dog with an attachment to her pack.  She was incredibly fast in her young years, and my brother chased her all over the yard trying to catch her as she darted back and forth out of his grip.

When Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, Lily proved to be Mom's helpmate in ways we could never imagine.  When Mom needed a reason to get up in the morning, Lily was there waiting for her.  When Mom couldn't stand up from the couch or chair by herself anymore, Lily placed herself horizontally in front of Mom's knees at the couch, so that Mom could brace herself on Lily, putting her hands on Lily's back to steady herself and stand up.  Lily never faltered or moved an inch.

When Mom could no longer take Lily outside to potty and we tried to do it for her, Lily refused to leave my Mother.  No tugging on a leash or coaxing with treats would do.  She could hold her bladder for a day if necessary waiting to a time when Mom could muster her strength to take Lily outside to relieve herself.  

I always admired that about Lily.  How she knew who needed her most.

...and that is why when last Friday rolled around, I knew we had to repay her for all the years of service and devotion she gave US.

Last Friday, Lily had what we believe was a stroke.  Lily must have been 14 by now (we never really knew her age), and she had been getting those lumps old dogs get, her rib cage had become expanded and slightly distorted, and she obviously had arthritis in those nimble back legs of hers.

When I saw her on her blanket in front of the TV, I immediately recognized distress.  Her eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was in another world.  My heart sank.  This was the beginning of the end.  She didn't seem to hear my words of comfort or know I was there.  

I looked at my 22-year old son and said, "Tony, I think you need to say your goodbyes to Lily.  I don't think she will make it through the night."  I said my goodbyes, settled her in, and went to bed.

Saturday morning, we woke up expecting to find her passed in the night, but there she was.  Sitting up - eyes wide-eyed and looking at us like, "Where have you been and why am I here instead of with you?"  I thought I had just witnessed some type of miracle.

This old girl had always been tough.  Let's not forget she ran the roost in our home - keeping two bully breeds in line.  She had come through whatever spell she had Friday night.

...and then my heart broke.  As she tried to stand, I realized that she couldn't.  Those nimble back legs of her no longer worked.  Her tail no longer wagged.  She wimpered and looked at me with those coal black eyes.  My heart sunk.

It was Labor Day weekend, and I knew all the vet offices were closed.  I knew the next few days would be both labor intensive with her as well as comforting, loving, and special.  

We carried her everywhere - from room to room (she could not STAND it if we were out of eyeshot and cried loudly until we were in her line of sight again) to outside to relieve herself.  She refused to eat; she would only drink water and eat small treats we had.  Our hearts continued to sink.  It was time to make decisions.

I refused to think about it.  Should I get her one of those doggie carts for paralyzed dogs?  Should I hand feed her?  Should I carry her outside?  What should I do?

It wasn't fair to let her live this way.  She was miserable. She was tired.  And she had been so good to us.  She deserved more.  Family members told me it was time.  She was a shelter dog that had gotten lucky and lived an amazingly good life.  I needed to let her go.

But letting her go also meant losing the one last, living part of my Mom.  How could I do that?

I prayed a small prayer Monday night and when I woke up on Tuesday morning, I knew I couldn't leave her.  She was too frail and too dependent upon her pack for comfort.  I texted work and told them what had happened.  They told me to take the day off and tend to Lily.

I called the vet.  The appt.was set for 11:30.  The hours seems to drag by waiting for that appt. time to come...but it came and my son and I carried Lily gingerly to the car and drove to our vet.

I want to take a moment here and brag on our vet.  She was amazing.  I've been taking my little pack to The Pet Vet in Cumming, Georgia, since I moved her.  Many vets have come and gone through this practice, but most recently, we have been seeing Dr. Voci.

thumbnail_Pic - Monica Voci, DVM 2016Dr. Voci came in and began petting and talking softly to Lily.  She asked me all the usual questions, and then we both determined that, yes.  It was time.  Lily was too old for poking and proding, x-rays, and medical tests.  She was dehydrated and depressed, and as Dr. Voci examined Lily, she started to tear up and cry.
To this day and through all my pets, I've never had a vet cry over MY pet.  Dr. Voci looked up and said, "I'm so sorry," and wiped her tears away.  I wiped mine away and said, "It's okay; I understand.  It doesn't matter how many times we go through this, it's still hard."  Dr. Voci explained the procedure, although we all knew how it worked, and administered the anesthesia.  She gave her goodbyes to Lily and said she'd be back in ten minutes.

Those ten minutes were terribly hard - as they always are.  I have a strict rule.  I want MYSELF to be the last thing on earth my pet sees.  I want them to be with family and not with strangers - people they don't recognize or know - when they go to sleep, and I want them to know I am there for THEM like they have always been for ME.

I said my goodbyes.  My son said his goodbyes.  And when Dr. Voci returned to administer the second needle, she told us (like they always do), "She will take 2 or 3 deep breaths, and then she will pass.  It will be painless and she will never know."

She started the needle.  One tiny plunge and Lily took a deep breath and then a second one.  And then nothing.  Dr. Voci finished the medication and listened for Lily's heartbeat.  The room was so still and silent.  I tried not to make those awful crying sounds you make when you just want to BLUBBER outloud and fill up your tissue but it was HARD.  She was gone.

Our beautiful Lily - at last at peace and back where she should be - with my Mother in Heaven (yes, I do believe animals go to Heaven).  Dr. Voci smiled at us, told us she was so sorry again, and then gingerly leaned down to Lily and whispered in her ear, "You were tired, weren't you old girl?  You were gone before I even got my needle into you."  She stroked that rough fur a few more times and then said, "She was so tired.  She wanted to go.  She went SO quickly, before I could even finish administering the medicine.  She was ready.  You made the right decision."

God is good.  There is so much more to this story and today, but for now, my story is out.  Lily's story is out.  She WAS a good old gal.  I will miss those high-pitched barks at every little noise, and yes, I will miss yelling at her in the middle of the night to stop doing whatever it was she was doing and, "Go to sleep!"

All dogs are special, but Lily was one of a kind.  I will never forget the service, the love, and the devotion she gave my Mom as if to thank her for picking her from a shelter in Pensacola, Florida -- all because she knew no one else would and because she loved her.

God has a special place for dogs in Heaven and for those that rescue and love them.  May I pass on the traits of loving animals and animal rescue to my children that my Mother so preciously passed on to me.  We love you Lily.  I hope you are healthy and whole now and running freely with Mom.  She's been waiting on you...

Godspeed little Lily!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

New $31 Million Art Facility in Lawrenceville!

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Ann-Carol Pence and Anthony Rodriguez (photo credit Casey Gardner)On Thursday, June 13 at 11 a.m., City of Lawrenceville Officials celebrated the groundbreaking of a $31 million arts facility in downtown which will be located directly across the street from the Gwinnett County Historic Courthouse.
Local officials from the City, County, and State were present to commemorate the start of construction for this new 56,000-square foot performing arts center, which will become the expanded home of Aurora Theatre.
Photo credit Martin Photography“Today’s ceremony marks another big step in Lawrenceville’s revitalization story,” said Judy Jordan Johnson, Mayor of the City of Lawrenceville.  “The City has been the hub of Gwinnett for almost 200 years and we are building on that foundation to create a new ‘sense of place’ that residents and visitors can enjoy.  This new facility only furthers that vision.”
The expanded space will house a 500-seat theater, Cabaret, indoor and outdoor civic space, and rooms for educational programming.  It will be managed by the second-largest professional theater company in Georgia and Gwinnett’s only professional theater, Aurora Theatre.
Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson (photo credit Martin Photography)Anthony Rodriguez, Producing Artistic Director of Aurora Theatre shared, “What an incredible day for Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, and Aurora Theatre….This is a legacy project [that will be] built from a million dreams held by our community for an arts home where all are welcome.”
The new center is poised to transform the downtown and attract more than 100,000 visitors, residents, artists, and students annually to the heart of Gwinnett County.
“I applaud Mayor Johnson and the city council for their continued investment in the vitality of downtown Lawrenceville, the Gwinnett County government seat,” said Charlotte Nash, Gwinnett County Commission Chairman.  “The new performing arts center, combined with the restaurants, shops, and public gathering spaces that are already here, will give folks even more reasons to visit.”
Aurora Theatre co-founders Ann_Carol Pence and Anthony Rodriguez (photo credit Casey Gardner)Photo credit Martin PhotographyAdam Hilderbrandt, Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville provided a benediction for worker safety followed by the official shovel ceremony to move the first piles of dirt on the site.  The facility will be occupied with operations by fall 2020 with full completion expected by the end of that same year.  For information on this and other news in Lawrenceville, please visit or follow the City on Facebook.

(photo credit Casey Gardner)

Viking River Cruise - End of Summer Sale!

Don't miss this chance to get your clients free international air to Europe & special cruise fares.

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Viking Logo

Hi Travelers!

Don't you love when the travel companies throw great sales out and help our families travel more economically?

Big thanks to Viking River Cruises who is holding their end-of-summer sale right now.  I really like this sale because they are bundling two sales (see below) with their infamous free air promo.

If you book a trip now through the end of August (which just happens to be a few days away at this point), you can take advantage of COMPLIMENTARY ROUNDTRIP AIRFARE on preferred Europe 2020 sailings.  (Yep, like I said above -- FREE RT airfare!)  It's not on all sailings, but I'm okay with that.

Airfare is a major factor in most vacations, and having to budget it into the total cost of your trip, can really throw a monkey wrench into your spending dollars.  I love that Viking is one of the few (if not only) travel vendors to throw it in for free.

I've had clients travel with Viking before, and honestly, I've yet to hear a bad comment.  All excursions included, great food, and seminars on each port are just a few of their perks and amenities.  The Viking name is synonymous with quality and value for your dollar.  Free air fare?  Stacking sales promos?  Where do I sign up?

Seems like a great time to take a river cruise...  
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Grand European Tour

Grand European Tour
15 Days | Amsterdam to Budapest
APR-AUG 2020 Departures 

View spectacular scenery and taste exquisite cuisine on this epic journey through the heart of Europe, calling on Cologne, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Vienna, and more.


Holland & Belgium

Holland & Belgium
10 Days | Amsterdam to Antwerp
MAR-AUG 2020 Departures

Sail through a vast network of canals and rivers, exploring Hoorn’s cobblestone streets, Rotterdam’s innovative architecture, and Antwerp’s historic quarter. Includes overnights in Amsterdam and Antwerp.

Thumb Cities of Light

Cities of Light
12 Days | Paris to Prague
APR-AUG 2020 Departures

This itinerary celebrates Europe’s most luminous ports. Taste Moselle Rieslings and view stunning castles on this journey that includes two nights each in cosmopolitan Paris and Prague.