Monday, May 31, 2010

Making the Rounds

Photobucket

In this last month before the move
Curtis and I have plans to make the rounds around the Midwest, visiting all of those people that we have come to love in these last several years. This three day weekend found me in a minivan for a ten hour ride down to rural North Carolina. The destination? Yet another newborn, the new son of one of our best friends from college.

I traveled down with our friends from Michigan (aunt and uncle to the newborn lad), their seven year old daughter and twin four year old son and daughter. As chaotic as riding for that many hours in a confined space can be with children, it is also refreshing. Details of life that would be missed or taken for granted are front and center with four year olds, who feel the need to remind you to take the "wrapper" off the base of your ice cream cone if you plan on eating the whole thing, and find so much pleasure in gathering around anyone willing to read them a book.

The weekend was complete with swimming (children in tow) around a lake, many hours passing around the new baby, and topped off when lightning bugs climbed out of one of the twins' pockets during an evening movie. "I didn't have a bug jah to put them in" he explained, seeing plenty of logic in his decision to store them in his pocket.

What does tomorrow bring? The return to three more days of school, packing up a classroom that has housed many meaningful experiences over the last four years, and more 80 degree days to weather in the third floor of an old building with no air conditioning.

Yes, summer has arrived.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Final Countdown, or Savoring Memories Past and Present

Photobucket
Curtis looking out at Chicago from atop the Hancock building

Do you remember final exams? It was that dreaded time at the end of each semester when all teachers expected you to review and remember four and a half months worth of information.

“What’s the definition of alliteration? I don’t remember what I had for dinner last night,” they muse.

But sometimes it is good to look back and remember, to look out on that vast amount of information that has been discussed and committed to memory, to consider the details that are most important in the midst of a lot of bits that can be laid to rest.

That is what finals are really about.

Even as I write exam and review sheets I am in the “finals” era of my stay in the Midwest. I find myself committing so many things to memory:

The smell of the stairwell in our apartment
The sound of the birds in the morning
The fall of the tree branches on my favorite running route
The feel of the warm breeze in the evening

We have already said so many goodbyes, and will continue the gauntlet as the departure date draws nearer. The tears have flowed freely, accompanied by smiles and joy grown in great memories that will be savored long after we have set down new roots elsewhere.

Yes, there is something wearing about gathering and studying all that has been important these last eight years.

But resting in the bounty of rich experiences that we are taking with us abroad is gratifying, indeed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Things I (Already) Lost in the Move

Photobucket

Other things that will be lost? Lebron James...who may not be in Ohio that much longer anyway.


Sometime between the track meet on Friday night and packing up my entire existence, I lost my voice.

Add that to a long list of things that I now have no idea where they are.

While Curtis and I did our best to label and organize in the midst of our packing, there inevitably ends up being a few (or several) miscellaneous boxes that include a mixture of hangers and candles, taxes and perfume, toiletries and duffel bags. Sometimes the box just isn’t full when you run out of items “in that category”, and then you just start tossing stuff in.

This morning I nearly had a melt down when I went to pack my bag for today’s track meet. While the high school championship was last week (in cold, gray rain) today is the middle school championship—and we’re building to 85 and sunny. So what was the impetus of this meltdown? I couldn’t find my watch. What self-respecting coach doesn’t have a timepiece to measure results? That’s like losing the ball you’re planning on playing with.

It just doesn’t work.

I found it next to my shampoo, buried in my travel case, and felt a sigh of relief.

Also necessary for coaching? A voice.

Now where might I find that…

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pure Chaos

Photobucket
Good thing I don't need a voice to pack, seeing how I lost it at the track at about 8pm last night...

A late night at a track meet transitioned into a busy morning at home. T minus 48 hours until shipping our belongings up North provides all the motivation needed to pack and toss and tape like a pro.

Ever want to crash in a bittersweet symphony of nostalgia and excess?
Just pack up and move.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We Came, We Conquered

Photobucket

Curtis, in his ridiculously wonderful attire...

This past Saturday bordered on perfection.

I woke up to a sunshine filled room, and even though I was exhausted from yet another late night playing cards until all hours of the night with Curtis's brothers, my mind cleared quickly: today is the day he graduates.

We joined his family for breakfast at 7:30, and headed up to the hall for graduation within the hour. The doors opened at 9 (for a 10am ceremony) and you would have thought we were waiting for seats to a rock concert with how aggressive people were in staking out and claiming seats.

Apparently medical school graduations are a big deal.

We followed the ceremony with a large lunch with most attendees, after we found a place that could accommodate a party of twenty. The poor waitress labored endlessly to get our attention for every task she attempted: drinks? food? more salad? more bread? We were so engrossed in catching up amongst ourselves we hardly noticed her frazzled attempts to keep our cups filled to the brim.

Nearly three hours later, well into the afternoon, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. An hour later I had to head to the local ballroom for Prom, because yes, I do still attend high school dances.

The students were self-conscious and coy, and I watched absently as my mind wondered to other times and places. Has it really been so long since I lingered around the edges of high school socials?

Time passes so quickly, and yet another chapter has come to a close. Twenty years from now I may not remember all the details of this piece of life, but graduations--like so many celebrations--are a perfect occasion to pause for a moment and take in what has been accomplished.

And so from here we press onward, to new people and places and challenges. May this chapter be just as satisfying.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

40 Days

Photobucket

One graduation
Two trips out of town
Three days away from work
Twenty visitors in town to be a part of the celebration

Equals

One very exhausted girl

Five days of track practices and meets
Seven days to pack the moving van
Thirteen days to the end of school
Thirty-nine days until the move North

Day 40: Sleep

I am burning the proverbial candle at both ends.
Here's to hoping the wax lasts long enough.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just Enough

Photobucket
Wrigley Field, on Wednesday afternoon

When we arrived at Wrigley Field on Wednesday morning
, I didn't realize that we were getting there two hours early. Curtis and his brother, despite all their measured maturity and education, were practically giddy while they posed by the statue of Harry Carrey and gazed up at the rustic sign hanging over the entrance.

Once we were situation in the bleachers, Curtis stood next to railing and watched the players warm up, not daring depart from viewing for a trip to the bathroom or to cash in on the 25% off concessions discount given to all the die hard fans that show up over an hour early.

It is funny to sometimes have these brief glimpses of childhood, getting lost for a moment in the imagination of play and the hopes of present and future. Our lives can be so serious, making decisions that involve money and work and being responsible people. Organizing productive details to create a complete product becomes everyday life, and lost in the midst of it can be dream and imagination, two individuals that were such close friends of mine in years past.

On this trip I enjoyed several runs on a well worn train along Lake Michigan in silence: no podcast, no music, just the birds and the trees and the wind crashing over the water...and my wandering mind.

It was a welcome break:
Just enough to rejuvenate me for three more weeks of work
Just enough to recharge me for a cross country move
Just enough to deprive me of sleep, because of the overflowing company

Sometimes trips to Wrigley field are just what we need.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Out on the Town

Photobucket
Taken on a ferry near Seattle in October, when we skipped town with Curtis’s family for a cousin’s wedding. Taking pictures with "hair blowing in the wind" turned out to be a lot less glamorous in real life...

I am thoroughly enjoying being away from the chaos of everyday life with Curtis’s family these days. A lot of walking and sightseeing coupled with early runs and lazy mornings drinking coffee on the porch have left me feeing rested, relaxed and full of enjoyment for family.

Making plans for this summer when we all live close together again?
Even better.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

Photobucket
Seedlings growing last spring...

In the last month my world seems to have exploded with color and fragrance. Driving down my street one day left me feeling like I had stumbled into a Dr. Seuss story: I was flanked on every side by lavender and mauve billowing branches that drooped and swayed in the wind under the weight of their magnificence.

The grass and trees and flowers all proclaim the arrival of spring, and nowhere in my body am I more aware of this symphony as in my congested sinuses and itchy throat.

I have been a lifelong sufferer of seasonal allergies. From the sour pink syrup I ingested as a child to ease my swollen itchy eyes, to the prescription drugs (that are now over the counter) that I carried with me to high school practices, there is no question that my body does not get along well with fresh pollen.

And yet I love it.

I am glad I have no choice in the arrival of spring. While some systems in my body would cry out to skip the aggravating mess of pollen, my eyes (when not itchy) couldn’t bear to miss the show of brilliance.

--

Last night we went out to celebrate Curtis’s dad’s birthday at a local ice cream parlor. Much like spring, there is something strangely satisfying about homemade ice cream on a warm evening. When the waitress came to take our order, we had our sundae selections ready—until it was determined that the pre-selected sundae ice cream flavors could be changed. All of the sudden our planned orders were unsatisfactory. Why have vanilla when you can have sour cherry sherbet or caramel nut toffee?

The waitress feigned patience while ice cream flavors were selected, and then recanted, and then selected and then…well, you get the picture.

By the time she left, several of us (including my sister who has waitressing experience in her repertoire) were questioning whether having so many ice cream flavor choices was actually a good thing. Could we even be satisfied? Or would be endlessly question whether we had made the right decision?

--

This past school year has been a time of choices and options and realizing I have so many good things I can hardly absorb all of them. Choosing one inevitably means the consequences of losing or missing another. I have been blessed with so many options, and so many choices.

I hope that as I continue forward that I will be satisfied with the choices that have been made. I want to appreciate all the joys of the choices made, not question, or wonder what would have been if another path had been chosen. I want to enjoy and appreciate all the blooms of spring, even I do so through swollen eyes.

And while sour cherry sherbet did not make the cut yesterday night, despite our indecision we all went home satisfied.

It was all very good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tall and Thin

Photobucket

These would be the two words I would use to describe this past weekend. The towering high-rise buildings of Pittsburgh appeared to almost sway against the passing clouds, seemingly unstable but deceivingly strong. The same could be said about so many of the runners, slight of build, but deceptively full of strength.

Though I like to participate in a good race now and then, I thoroughly enjoyed my role as spectator.

Sometimes there is nothing more refreshing than hitting the road.

Packing a bag,
Ditching a dusty house,
Planning for hours in the car

Nothing to fill them except

Conversation and
Books and
Quiet reflective
Silence

While Curtis quietly tried to still nerves about the approaching race, I watched the world pass in the form of small towns and big cities, entertained by decorated porches, outdated billboards and a sign reading “Far Wood” by a stack of scrappy lumber. (Which was waiting to be hauled to a fire, or a far location, depending on your spelling and pronunciation)

Next weekend brings more traveling around the Midwest, taking in the last of this side of the country before packing up.

How I will miss the freedom of car trips when we move North. While the secluded nature of Alaska has its benefits, sometimes the isolation is stifling.

After our series of travels over the next six weeks, I will probably be ready to settle down a while. Living out of suitcase will have lost its luster, the car will seem less and less comfortable, and eventually we all have to get out and truly participate in life, rather than watching it pass by.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Good Story

Photobucket

For a long time I have often looked at unplanned circumstances as the makings of a “good story”. I am a person that loves a plan, but often the most memorable experiences come from events I never would have expected.

This weekend I traveled to Pittsburgh with Curtis and his parents, who are have come to visit for his graduation. This marathon has been in the works for a while now, and though the training that Curtis intended to accomplish in preparation for this race fell far short of his expectations, he chose to continue the race as planned, hoping for the best.

The weather report for the weekend called for thunderstorms when we checked it a week in advance. Hopeful as we were that the prediction would change, the reports held steady, lightening only to “showers” and not “thunderstorms” the morning of the race.

The race went off as planned, with 16,000 runners and walkers out to attempt a marathon, half-marathon, or to participate as part of a relay. The sea of bright and fluorescent clothing was mesmerizing as they set off into the growing daylight, but all colors were muted when the rain started fifteen minutes later—and didn’t stop for hours.

I ran around with the Mr. and Mrs. for a couple hours from place to place on the course, growing increasingly wet and sweaty and tired, watching Curtis do the same.

When it came time for Curtis to finish, we planted ourselves under a conveniently located bridge, and watched the first few finishers trickle in. After about ten minutes an officer informed the spectators that we had to move down the road, out from under the bridge, to observe. Dismayed that the move meant more rain on our parade (literally) we reluctantly moved down the road, further from the finish.

A couple more finishers trickled by which were then followed by two cop cars, which went screaming by us in the other direction. Confused by their speed on the running course, we were further concerned when one car proceeded to block the course while the other proclaimed over the loud speaker that the finish was being rerouted.

Distressed about possibly missing Curtis’s triumphant run down the final stretches of the course, I ran down past the cruiser just in time to see his exhausted frame turn the corner. Mr., Mrs. and I made it down to the finish, helped Curtis don his warm-ups, snapped a few pictures, and then turned to hike the downtown streets back to our hotel.

As we walked up the road away from the finish, we were met with security personnel hastily assembling gates to block the road. When we tried the recommended alternate route, we were shut down again, each time amusing ourselves with Curtis’s ginger stride being forced to walk just a bit further.

Eventually we were routed up and over the bridge (which had previously offered short term shelter), only to be bombarded with an onslaught of livid half-marathon runners, who had also been rerouted.

At this point, our curiosity was piqued: why the rerouted course? Why the unfinished half-marathoners? Why the barricaded roads?

Our questions were all answered when we exited the bridge to find a large, clearly marked vehicle labeled BOMB SQUAD.

I guess that does excuse the chaos.

We lingered to watch the bomb-defusing robot seen above (which surely has a less descriptive and more official name), until it was determined that we should hurry back to the hotel to shower our rain and mud covered bodies before checkout, so we could journey back home as warm and clean individuals.

We reluctantly left, glad that we had not only been safe (despite our ignorance) but that Curtis’s race had been largely unaffected by the whole ordeal.

--

As I told this story to my eighth grade students this afternoon, and drew the diagram below, they laughed at my exaggerated frustration, and asked questions that I assured them would be answered by the end of the story. We discussed conflict, climax and resolution as necessary elements of story (as they are currently working on writing their own) and the reality that not all stories workout with happy endings.

There are not many times when I wish my life were “more lively” or “more exciting”. I feel like I pretty effectively fill it with duties and tasks that are fulfilling and meaningful, but also entertaining. But experiences like this remind me that so much of my life is out of my control, and that events can change without warning in an instant.

Though in the end this turned out to be nothing more than “a good story”, I am thankful for brief reminders of safety, of peace, and knowing that the best laid plans, while not always coming to fruition, can still turn out just fine.

Photobucket