What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

29 June 2010

It's okay to stop watching. Now.

So, the World Cup is going on, in case you missed it.

Which means once again, we must endure the yammering from sportswriters who are of the American football-and-basketball persuasion. I grow weary of hearing the same complaints every four years about how boring soccer is to Americans and what a waste of ESPN broadcasting it is.

And then the other side gets annoyed and comes back with smug comments about the stupidity of people who don't understand what football is all about.

So, as is my custom, I think truth probably resides in the middle. So, if you enjoy the World Cup, great. I'll be at your house on Saturday to watch. If you don't, fine. Change the channel.

The reason the whole argument annoys me is this: It once again shows that human beings, and especially, it seems, the ones who live here, feel threatened by an opposing viewpoint. So, we have to come out swinging instead of acknowledging that other people feel differently about something.

There are so many sports available to choose. In this country, you can probably find people who enjoy the same thing that you do in most places. I know for sure in Lubbock that we have people who play cricket, lacrosse, field hockey, plus the whole spectrum of "normal" sports. In a place with this much diversity in lifestyle, interests and hobbies, and an argument like "Your sport is boring!" "No it isn't!" has no place. It's not like you don't have another option.

So, I shall enjoy the World Cup. And Wimbledon, and the Tour de France, plus any other soccer, tennis or cycling I can find on TV. And sooner or later, American football will return to the sports channels, and I'll do what I always do.

I'll change the channel.

27 June 2010

Still sad, but not too disappointed...

Wow, my blog got a mention and a link on the Bible class email. Guess I better say something profound, like... um... Family Builders rock!!

Well, they do, as it happens, but I'm trying to put some normal stuff between my sappy posts. So, I'll put that one off for a few days. Besides, the SpyPros do get top billing, so Family Builders will have to wait. No one actually said that this blog was interesting.

Yeah. So, the US is out of the World Cup. Which is a real bummer, because two of our three games in the group stage were fantastic and I was hoping for more of the same in the knockout stage. Sigh.

But, my hopes were only to get out of the group stage, so I guess next time I'll set my sights higher.

Watching the final game of the group stage was fun; I had it on the computer next to mine (with permission!) and was watching while working. As the game progressed and I knew we needed to win in order to advance, I was getting more and more tense. So when we finally scored, in minute 92, for goodness' sake, I jumped up & down like I'd done it myself, although I did remember that I was in a doctor's office and that screaming of any sort was a bad plan. My coworkers assured me that my face went all red (nothing new for me) and that I had one very large grin on my face.

The US v Ghana game was less pleasing, of course. Toward the end, when we once again needed a goal to stay alive, one chance after another brought "Oh"s of disappointment and one high-pitched shriek (me) from the crowd gathered at Market Street.

Chad was not sympathetic to the loss, but fortunately we do have soccer- and World Cup-loving friends who shared my mourning.

And then England lost today, which helps ease the pain considerably, since I am a member of Team Anybody But England.

So, I'm going to be like everyone else and default to Brasil as the team I want to win (since Mexico has likewise passed into the night). And change the paint on my face to St. Andrew's cross, in support of Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

26 June 2010

Why yes, I did race in June, thanks for asking!

Alert (and OCD) readers will note that I have not yet posted about a June race. And there is a good reason for that: Not my finest hour.

Not my finest hour+, actually; it is my favourite race distance and I sure did set a new PR-- for my slowest time ever. I knew I was moving slowly; didn't know how slowly until I saw the clock at the end. Yikes!

Anyway... the June race is held in the aptly-named Levelland, and it begins & ends on the campus of my former college. (Go, ... um ... forgotten mascot!) I've been really lax about my running as of late, so much so that on Friday before the race, I kept forgetting the race distance. ("What am I running tomorrow? A five mile, maybe... no, could it be a 10 mile? No, wait! 10K, that's it, 10K!")

So it was hot, because we reach the 100+ days early in this part of the country, and the 8 AM start does not do much for making it cooler. And the wind was blowing; unfortunately, the direction meant we were against the wind on the way back instead of the way out. Ugh, not good.

I dumped a couple of cups of water on my head, as is my usual practise, but I forgot to put a baggie over my iPod that morning. So, here is the procedure: Get cup, slow to a walk, switch hands, unclip iPod so that I'm holding it in my upwind hand, sip water, sip again, spit it out because I took too big of a sip, hold iPod waaaay out from my body, pour water over my head. Drop cup. Run a few steps while blinking sunscreen-logged water from my eyes. Decide it is safe to clip iPod back on, try it, change my mind. Run a few steps more, managing to transfer as much water from my previously-dry hand to the iPod as possible. Finally stop dripping and reclip iPod.

Yep. I did that twice.

So, I finished, no medal, had a laugh with a few friends, and assured some questioners that yes, we will be at the July race. And then drove home to watch USA v England.

Don't expect me to blog about that.

25 June 2010

Another "last" is in the books.

Let me tell you about it.

I mentioned before that there is never any telling which kids at church will like us & which will not. I guess this is true for any adults who get to be around kids a lot-- it's always a surprise which ones respond best to which adults. And of course, it's fun for us regardless-- but much easier when the kids like us enough to pay attention when we tell them things.

So, it was out of the question for us to have a gathering with all the South Plains kids, but there are a few Journeylanders who make it a point to stop & say hello to us when they see us, and two little sisters in particular seem to appreciate our presence. So, we invited them over for an evening.

We made and decorated (and ate! It's a good thing we're leaving-- their parents would never let them come over again!) two dozen cookies. We painted our nails. I put hair wraps on both of them (and these girls have some loooooong hair, so it took a while). We watched some Disney channel. Chad wound them up by stealing the remote control. :)

And at the end of the evening, they paid us the ultimate compliment by being reluctant to go.

We're going to miss these kiddos. (Cookie pics to come, once I get them off my camera.)

24 June 2010

"I can't believe you guys are leaving."

If I had a dollar for every time I'd heard that in the past couple of months, we wouldn't have to worry about jobs any time soon. Although a friend on Sunday put it as well as I've heard anyone do: "It isn't really real to me that you are leaving."

It isn't real to me, either. I've planned this, hoped for it and dreamed about it for years, but the knowledge that it shall come to pass in less than two weeks is giving me some trouble. Even packing up our stuff and sending more things to Goodwill hasn't done it for me. Cleaning out my desk at work today didn't really inscribe "reality" on my brain as expected. I'm beginning to think that I'll have to have all the boxes unpacked and be sitting at my desk with a stack of books in our new apartment before the reality that an era has indeed ended for us will set in.

Although, I did come a touch closer to it just a few minutes ago: I looked up driving directions from here to there online just for my own entertainment. The map directs us around the loop and down Highway 84 toward Post; I've done that trip dozens of times as an aim student, with Bible bowl, and most recently on our marathon trips to Austin. But while looking at the map just now and wondering about the best places to stop, I suddenly realised: We aren't coming back up that road.

Oh, we might come for a visit or two; perhaps a wedding or an aim event will bring us this way again. But we'll be visitors, not residents returning home. Never again will I see the lights of Lubbock ahead of me and think delightedly of my own bed awaiting me there.

Highway 84 won't be the road home for me any longer; it will be the first stage of the journey back.

These little bits of reality make the next 11 days seem very short indeed. I can't believe it, either.

22 June 2010

Saving the Planet

Apparently, trips to Indiana aren't that interesting. Fine, fine.

I had jury duty the Monday we were back, so I dutifully loaded myself into the Citibus for the trek downtown. Where I found out I wasn't needed. Cool. But I had already missed the next bus back to the office, so I had to content myself with hanging around the terminus for an hour. Ugh. I'm so glad I remembered my iPod.

And then, the fun part: I finally got to ride on one of the new hybrid buses! I was so excited when it pulled up; it looked so modern, so earth-friendly, so... exactly like every other Citibus. Except that it's actually a teensy bit smaller inside. But, I was still quite chuffed over finally getting to board that thing.

And then back to work, where there was a stack of questions waiting for me. And where reality seems to have set into my coworkers about my imminent departure. Oh, how I hate coming back after vacation.

21 June 2010

Is leaving town the only way to get any attention around here?

After the aforementioned slumber party, we've moved into the realm of having adults in our house.

(Okay, adults and their children. We haven't barred the door to teens, or anything.)

Chad says I'm trying to spend time with every person I know in Lubbock before we go, which is kind of silly; South Plains alone has something like 1000 members; we can't possibly have all of them in our house!

So, we had a few people over last week. And a few more this week. And one final round next week. Just to be sure everyone knows that we appreciate them before we go, because after all, there is no guarantee of when or where (or if!) we will see them again, something I learned all too well when I left Glasgow. And, as it happens, people are more willing to make time for you when the time you have to spend together is short. (Geez, I make it sound like we're dying.)

Plus, having people over means I can make all my favourite foods that are generally too much fuss to make for two people. Result!

20 June 2010

This trip? Not for the faint of heart.

So, after an exciting day and late night, we had to pack up, load up, and say good-bye on Friday.

It's a long drive from Indianapolis to Lubbock. A long drive. I'm really happy we're not going to be doing it again.

Playing with the kittens. It was their first time outside. I had itty bitty scratches on my arms afer this.

Playing with the dog. He's not the smartest dog on the street, but the upside is that he will play with anything that moves.

Yeah, that's me, stuck in a tree. I did manage to get down again.

So did Chad.

Passing through St. Louis. Chad took the wrong off-ramp because I was busy taking pictures.

So, we passed this truck which was carrying this race car, and I asked Chad to slow down so that I could take a picture. I'm sure the driver experiences that multiple times a day.

This is a rest area-- couldn't really tell you what town it's near, but it's right on a canyon and has a great display about wind power inside, as well as being aesthetically pleasing in other ways. And it is a severe weather shelter as well. Clearly it was designed by someone with lots of imagination and a large budget.

The canyon.

This would be the "large budget" thing.

And a leaning water tower. Nice.

This trip was probably the happiest I've ever been to see Lubbock. The sight of one's own bed is absolutely fabulous.

19 June 2010

Holiday World, Part 3

After the log flume, we were already wet, so we headed for the waterpark, where we found a sunscreen station. Wow, Holiday World; you rock. I put on so much of that stuff that I was even whiter than usual. I also layered it pretty thickly on Chad & Becca (everyone else was unwilling to let the crazed sunscreen wielder near them) as well.

I have never been a fan of waterparks; I expected to hit a couple of slides, get bored, and head back to the "real" rides. After getting agreement from my brother that we need not escort the children round the park personally, Chad & I headed to the nearest slide. One trip down-- and I was hooked. (Pics are taken from the Holiday World website; since I'm raving about how great it was, I doubt they will mind the free advertising.)

So, we moved on to the next set of slides. The first time, we had gone individually; for the remaining slides, we got those tandem inner tubes & went down together. It got more fun as we went along, and I knew I wouldn't be ready to go until we had tried them all.

We met up with the rest of the gang after a couple of hours, and decided to go as a group to the remaining slides-- the first one we went to was the Wildebeest, which is new this year and is billed as the world's longest water coaster. We started to get in line with everyone else, but Chris noticed that there was a shorter line on one side, so we went there instead. Jennie & I wondered why 1) there was a shortcut line at all, and 2) more people weren't in it. Mystery was solved when a young man got in line behind us & we asked him; we were in the single riders line. Oops.

Turns out it worked fine; we all rode separately with strangers, but it was a much shorter wait. And totally fun, although the water was fre-e-e-e-ezing. That was the coldest water I was in all day.

The rest of the slides had inner tubes for four people, so we split into boys' team and girls' team for the descents. On the final one, I was riding backwards, and knew that there was quite a drop at the very end before entering the giant funnel. And I also knew that we were coming up on it, because Becca looked ahead and shouted, "Oh, no!" And I yelled back, "Don't say 'oh no'--aaaaaah!" Yeah, we went down the drop right then.

So, after getting wet (and cool-- it was really hot that day) and having sore feet from walking around on hot concrete with no shoes on, we finally had to leave the water behind and go see the rest of the rides. Chad, Jennie and the boys went to the final roller coaster-- The Voyage-- while the rest of us went back to the swings and the Scrambler.

Amanda also wanted to try the vertical drop, but I was unwilling. I wanted to ride the Spider and the giant spinny thing that doesn't require much safety equipment because the centrifugal force keeps you in place, but Amanda & Becca were unwilling.

So, we puttered around until the return of the brave Voyagers, all of whom wanted to try the vertical drop, so they & Amanda went that way. The rest of the rides were shutting down, so the only thing left was the spinny thing. Becca & I tried that.

I've wanted to ride this ride since I was little & they brought it to the fair, but at the time I was too small, and by the time I was no longer too small, the carnival company had left the old-school spinny thing behind for the Gravitron.

The centrifugal force required to keep grown humans in place on a ride that starts up horizontal and ends up vertical is pretty strong, as it happens, so this thing spun around fast. I could feel my roller-coaster panic rising, but a couple of deep breaths later & it was all good. I think I'll try that the next time I'm on a roller coaster. I could feel my head bobbing as we went round and round. Altogether, it was a fun, fun ride, and I intend to try it again when next I have the chance.

The aftermath.

We headed to the cars, discovered that the nearest food available was about 40 miles away (some entrepreneur who decides to open any fast-food restaurant in Santa Clause, Indiana, will make some serious money), so we headed for the Tell City Taco Bell.

I was exhausted, but still had to drive home, so I loaded up on all the caffeine I could find. We got back in the car (Denise & I had the kids with us) and I told the kids they could talk until we got to the interstate, and then they had to be quiet for half an hour to see if they could sleep. They all assured me that they were not tired at all and couldn't possibly fall asleep. (No prizes for guessing how long that lasted!)

I told Denise it was her job to keep me awake. She did not do this job well. Apparently I was swerving enough to scare Chad & Amanda in the car behind me, and I was certainly swerving enough to scare myself (particularly when I could feel myself starting to doze while passing an 18-wheeler). I told Denise to consult her navigator & find out where the nearest Starbucks was; 12 miles, she said, and it's already past midnight so they might not be open. So, Denise directed me to a gas station instead, where I purchased a nasty Red Bull and did a considerable amount of jumping up & down and running laps around the car to wake up.

It worked, really well, and we all arrived at home safely and then I delivered Chris to his house. He woke up long enough to get himself inside, then (reportedly) collapsed into bed where he stayed until noon the next day.

I, on the other hand, was wide awake due to the taking of Red Bull at midnight. Dang.

Stop the Madness!

Just ran across this quote while researching moving suggestions on Unclutterer:

The Self Storage Association notes that, with more than seven square feet for every man, woman and child, it’s now "physically possible that every American could stand — all at the same time — under the total canopy of self-storage roofing."
Oh, my goodness. When I was in Indiana last November, my nephew pointed out some storage units we passed, and I seized the
opportunity to pass on a little life lesson by explaining why they should never use storage as a long-term option (I'm pretty sure the saying "more money than sense" came up here) and that it should be used for short-term circumstances only. They both nodded in agreement, but of course there is no telling how much they took in.

Chad & I have decided to take the "rip off the band-aid" approach to moving-- we aren't getting a storage unit, not even for a little while; everything is going on the moving truck in Lubbock, then coming straight off again in Austin. This serves many purposes, not the least of which is that we have to keep our possessions to a minimum.

Sigh. I wish that the US could break free from our collective consumer-driven, "need-need-need-want-want-want" lifestyle. The storage companies might go out of business, but we would all have a lot fewer stuff-induced headaches.

Also on Unclutter is this great purchasing guide flowchart, for the prefer-less-stuff-minded among us. (Click the link & scroll down the page a bit to find it; this pic does not enlarge.)

18 June 2010

Holiday World, Part 2

So. We went for another drink, because it was hot out and also because free soft drinks (including water & Gatorade, thank goodness) were included in our ticket prices and by gum, I was going to get every cent out of it that I could. THEN it was time to introduce my niece and nephew to the Scrambler.

It has always been one of my favourite fair rides, and I'm pretty sure they keep it at amusement parks for people like me who don't really have a great love of roller coasters but do possess some nostalgia. Becca wanted to get round to all the adults she doesn't often see, apparently, because after claiming Amanda for The Raven she wanted to be with me on the Scrambler.

I thought Denise might join us on this one, but no, she stayed outside to wave at us as we went by. And once the ride got going (and we had already had a good laugh at the safety drawing inside) I amused myself, and my sweet little niece, by panicking at every direction change: "Oh, no, we're going to crash into the fence!" Oh, no, we're going to crash into the fire extinguisher!" "Oh, no, we're going to crash into Neesee!"

So, once that little diversion got old (didn't take long, as it happened), Becca discovered that the ride was more fun if she raised her hands in the air, so of course, I had to do it, too.

After a go on the scrambler, Chad, Billy & I headed for the swings with Chris & Jakob. Once the swings are up in the air, they tilt, which surprised Chad & Billy. I thought their reaction was funny, mostly because I didn't even notice the tilt.

Then, they boys wanted to move on to the next roller coaster: The Legend. Amanda, Becca & I were not interested, so the rest of the gang headed on while we helped Denise hold the bags.

After The Legend had sufficiently shaken up everyone but the boys (of course!), we headed for a log flume, which we got to have a few turns at, because no one else was in line. I closed my eyes on the drop the first time round, but since it was a short drop, I managed to keep them open the second time.

Much, much later in the day, we passed near the log flume again & Amanda noticed the man who was checking the boats at the top to be sure they were spaced adequately far apart to avoid crashes.

Amanda: There's a guy at the top of the log flume.
Me: Yeah.
Amanda: Was he there when we went down?
Me: Yeah.
Amanda: Are you sure?
Me: Yeah. Both times.
Amanda: I guess I wasn't paying attention.
Me: You were very busy pointing out the "Do not duck" sign.
Amanda: Oh, yeah.

Yep. We have the same genes.

Guess this story will have a part 3.

17 June 2010

Holiday World, Part 1

I first broached the idea of an amusement park several months ago. At the beginning, the choice was between Indiana Beach & King's Island. Back and forth, back and forth... we finally settled on King's Island, only to change our minds on graduation day to a option not previously discussed: Holiday World.

So, we got up on Thursday morning to pouring rain. We got ourselves up, got the kids up, then Denise scrambled to check the weather in the various cities we could go to. Meanwhile, I dashed out the door to collect the only member of our trek who couldn't drive himself to Grandma's house.

Once we got everyone all together, we decided to brave the 50% chance of rain forecast in Santa Clause and stick to the Holiday World plan. We loaded up & headed out, with me leading & Chad following. Note: When on a trip, it is important that I not be driving the lead car. I went through a lot of yellow lights, the result of which was that Chad went the wrong way in Shelbyville. (Never mind that he had three adults in his car, all of whom live in Indiana; this managed to be my fault.)

While waiting in a parking lot for Chad to catch up, I taught the kids one important life skill: the Chinese Fire Drill. I wish it had a better name; sorry.

We carried on & then I ended up going the wrong way; yeah, never mind the drive. Suffice to say, we arrived at Holiday World eventually, ate our sandwiches & headed in.

The two boys were anxious to try The Raven, the original HW roller coaster, so that's where we headed first. Well, second. First, we headed to get the first of our free drinks of the day. Then, we got in line for The Raven.

Oddly enough, I wasn't nervous while standing in line for this roller coaster. That's a bit of a departure for me, who has been known to stand in line for over an hour only to chicken out at the last minute. The two boys wanted to ride in the very front, so that's the direction they went; no surprises that they had the longest wait. Billy & Jennie headed to a corral with a short line, and Amanda & Becca went in beside them, so we followed Amanda & Becca. (Denise, who is not a fan of anything that goes up, down, around, or at speeds exceeding what she can do on her own feet, stayed outside to hold the bags and take pictures.)

The look on my sister-in-law's face when she got off the coaster was not encouraging. Apparently Becca spotted it, too, because she was getting pretty nervous as she got fastened in. We assured her that even if she was scared, it would be a short ride and in any case she could hang on to Amanda. (Who, by the way, was a real trooper for taking on a nervous kid she doesn't know well.)

Their turn over, we were up next! We climbed in, got all fastened down, and that's when I told Chad, "I really, really hate roller coasters." He was all, "What??" But it was a little too late to be bothering about that when the ride was already moving.

Here's my problem with coasters: the first hill. I have to close my eyes & hold my breath. I've tried not doing that, with no success. If I ever go on a coaster that's too high, I'll probably suffocate. Once we got past that first bit, it was all good. Except, of course, that I was a bit of a nut loose inside a shell in the seat & ended up getting banged up a bit by bouncing from side to side every time we went round a corner.

We got off & had to wait for the boys, who still had a few people in front of them in line before they could go. Chad was still trying to work out why I do the eyes-closed-hold-breath routine while hurtling down a narrow wooden track in a plastic car, Becca was exuberant about how it was fun but scary, and I just wanted to ride something calmer. Like, say, my feet.

Coming tomorrow: The Scrambler, the Swings, the Legend, and my new favourite water park.

Tuesday, Wednesday

Yep, still in Indiana.

So, in those two days...

We went to Mozzi's.
We went shopping. A lot of shopping.
Amanda & I walked to the nearest elementary school to play on the playground.
I went running on Pennsy Trail for the first time.
We saw Becca's softball game, where she got the final out.
I watched Roger Federer go crashing out of the French Open. Sigh.
Jennie hosted a Mary Kay party.
We went out to dinner at Cracker Barrel, which I have never done on purpose.
We bought, and drank, some Snapple.
Some other things probably happened, too.

16 June 2010

Memorial Day

The phrase "herding cats" came to mind many times on Memorial Day.

I thought it would be nice to go to a state park-- we have a couple of them in Indianapolis-- have a picnic, do some hiking, etc. I ran this idea past at least one representative of every family unit, and they all agreed, so I started researching which park would be easiest to get to & planning the menu with Grandma.

It took a few more rounds of phone calls to get everyone on the same page, but by the time we got everyone in agreement, Chad & Denise & I had bought all the necessary food and were headed back to Grandma's to get the cooler ready.

We chose Ft. Harrison Park by virtue of its being closer than Eagle Creek park. And then we took a wrong turn getting of the interstate, making the drive to Ft. Harrison even longer than the drive to Eagle Creek would have been (although there is no guarantee that we would have gone the correct direction getting to Eagle Creek, either).

Lots of laughs while getting the tablecloth out, but that's partly because five adults (I let go long enough to take a picture) were having a hard time between us working out which way it should go. It's impressive we all managed to live to adulthood, really.

So after a very enjoyable lunch (great potato salad & baked beans, Grandma!), we started looking for a trail to hike on. Now, there is one in the woods behind us in the above pic, but Billy didn't like that one. Yeah, I don't know. So, we drove to another trail head for our hike, and it turns out Billy chose a good one. Yep, I have a smart brother, even if I do make fun of him incessantly. (Hey, someone has to do it.)

We all had a go at the rope swing thing, although I did not have much luck with it.

Walking in the woods-- it still amazes me that we manage to tuck parks this size into cities. Good job, city planners.

I didn't take my bike. But I took pics of the shared-use path anyway.

Water. Muddy. Chad wanted to throw me in.

Taking a rest.

Yep, we went up those stairs. And down them. And a bunch more just like them.

Watching a birthday party, complete with piƱata.

Relaxing after a long day of hiking. Grandma doesn't do the "point at your nose" thing for which my sister is famous.

15 June 2010

Sunday Drivers

I'm up to Sunday, yes?

We got up bright & early (okay, bright & normal time) to make the trek to Bloomington for church. Yep, we really did turn this trip into the Wilcox world tour. In this instance, we went to see Kyle & Cheryl, some friends of Denise & I from our Spring Mill days (which are much closer for her than for me-- she's been a counselor in recent years, while I've only set foot on the grounds once since 1998).

We left with plenty to time to arrive in Bloomington, find the church, and then go find a coffee shop. The church we were visiting is just east of the Indiana University campus, and thanks to the navigator app on my sister's phone, we saw a great deal of it while looking for the nearest Starbucks. It turned out that if we had just gone left instead of right, we'd have found one more easily, but it was nice to have a little tour of IU. And the guy at the Starbucks was pretty fun-- Chad wasn't sure what he wanted, but our server was paying attention during the training about suggestive selling (at least, that's what we called it at Chick-fil-A). Chad ended up with a delightful chocolate drink that was much better than the minty herbal tea I got instead of the black tea I wanted.

So, back to the church we went, and inside the door was a woman who I thought looked familiar, but I had the wrong name in my head. So when she introduced herself as "Amber", I merely introduced myself & then moved on for Chad & Denise to likewise meet her. We got about three steps past her & Denise said, "Isn't that--?" Yeah, it was. We grew up with Amber; she was graduating when I was still in middle school, but her parents' house is about a mile up the road from my parents'. So we turned back & said hello for real. I'm so glad my sister is on top of things.

The service was great; Kyle led the singing, and after a couple of songs Chad leaned over to ask me if he conducts a choir or something along those lines. I told him, "Not that I know of-- he's always been this good," and of course that gave Chad & Kyle something to talk about at lunch.

We went to McAllisters, where neither Chad nor Denise have ever eaten, Denise because there isn't one in Greenfield, and Chad because the Lubbock version is near Tech, where we never go. We sat for about an hour and a half talking and watching the kids keep us entertained. It was nice to have such a long conversation with friends we haven't seen in ages, but all things must come to an end, and so it is with lunch. We hopped back in the car & still managed to miss race day traffic going back to Greenfield, thank goodness.

The kids were at Grandma's house; apparently they had been waiting for us all afternoon. Such patience from little ones! We played a few rounds of Old Maid & Upwords to make our day complete.

14 June 2010

She Graduated!

Yep, my little cousin-- who I held when she was less than a day old, who I learned Barney songs for, who inspired me to scour every gift shop in Scotland for a perfect school-age memento, who has blogged her teen ups and downs so well that I felt that I wasn't missing too much-- that cousin, she has graduated.

I will pause for you to ooh and aah over how gorgeous she is, even while taking a picture.

We got up on Saturday morning and found Grandma all dressed and ready to go at 8:30 for an event that didn't start until 10. I could probably learn something about punctuality from my grandmother-- but I won't. I was in desperate need for caffeine, but Grandma only stocks tea for me & I'm usually a decaf girl. So, a quick run to Starbucks (gotta love small towns, where everything is five minutes away) and a pickup of my mum later, and we got to the high school in time to see the seniors march in. Yep, we almost missed Pomp & Circumstance. Almost. I sang along as we climbed stairs to find a seat. And got all teared up, of course-- did you see the bit about how Amanda was a baby last week??

I don't think this is technically Amanda's gown. But this is what it looked like.

The speeches were enjoyable and the reading of the names was speedy-- I don't think I've ever been to a graduation where the list went by that fast. Or perhaps time is just on fast-forward now that I'm getting older.

Amanda's favourite teacher read out her name, which I think is pretty cool. And he read it sooooo slowly-- apparently he pronounces the silent "e" at the end of her last name as a general rule, and was worried lest he should do so at graduation. He did not. And that was it! Thirteen years of school for the two seconds it takes to cross a stage. For some reason, it felt longer when it was me.

At this point, Chad began to motion to ask me if we were leaving (we had some errands to run & didn't intend to stay for the entire thing). I signed back that we were waiting to see Paula & it only took five tries before the message was received. Or-- more likely-- he was feigning misunderstanding to see me repeat myself four times.

Paula. I've known of her existence pretty much since Amanda started school, although I think I first met her officially at our Grandpa's funeral, when some of Amanda's friends were kind enough to come to the viewing. She is a lovely young woman, and I think it would be hard to dislike her even if I didn't already like her for being Amanda's friend!

So, once we got Paula safely across the stage, we left as quietly as possible (heels + bleachers = bad) to get out of our dress clothes, buy graduation cards, and head to the open house. And what a party it was.

We took a couple of lookalike pics-- this isn't one of them, because in the lookalike pics I have my hair down & glasses off. But I think the resemblance is there, even if Amanda did get all the tall, pretty and non-pink genes. I frequently think that various family members are crazy for pointing out our similarities, but I can't deny it-- we have far too many mannerisms in common to be anything but relatives. Scary what genetics will do to you!

13 June 2010

The rest of the road

We got a very predictable late start on Friday morning, so we were late at our stop in Tulsa to see a friend. And then we stayed for a while to chat & catch up, so we left Tulsa late.

There is not a lot to look at between Tulsa and St. Louis. And I know this for sure, because I've looked at all that nothing a few times. We hit a traffic snarl outside St. Louis, so we got off the interstate and drove through the city. Chad was concerned about getting lost, so we drove toward the arch, since I-70 goes right past it & we thought-- correctly, as it turns out-- that we'd find some signs & an on-ramp.

There is nothing to look at again between St. Louis & Indianapolis, even if it hadn't been dark. We arrived in the wee hours, again, and my poor sister had stayed awake to let us in.

Thought this sign was fun.

We didn't try.


I really liked these buildings.

This is probably the best picture I got of the arch, but it also captures some of the city, so I'm pretty happy with it.

12 June 2010

And the very next day...

After finishing up Journeyland, we took off the next day for our annual pilgrimage to Indiana.

We don't go to Indiana in May on purpose, but for some reason, that's the only time of year that my family can graduate, turn 50, get married, or check into the hospital. This particular trek was to celebrate the graduation of my youngest cousin on my mum's side of the family.

Plane tickets were extortionate this time around, so we rented a car & decided to stop & see people along the way. As soon as Chad got the last child home on the last day of school, we collected & loaded up the car and were on our way to Wichita Falls, where we had dinner with the Stambaughs. We haven't seen them since they moved away two years ago, and the couple of hours we spent with them were entirely too short.

And then we carried on to Oklahoma City, where a blessedly comfortable bed awaited us, even though we arrived in the very small hours.

11 June 2010

Journey(land)'s End... Forever

This place is getting so soppy, I'm about to give myself a cavity. I do hope to find a slightly more upbeat tone once I'm back in the land of learning and surrounded by even nuttier people than I currently hang about with.

But until then... the end of May saw us at the end of Journeyland. Forever. (You know, unless we find a church in Austin that does Journeyland; then I'll feel pretty silly for posting this at all.) For our final rotation, we made socks:

And also key chains, but I don't have any pics of those.

We think Journeyland is a fantastic program, and if I remember to take my camera to SP this Sunday, I'll post more about it later. The biggest reason it is so wonderful, IMO, is not what it has done for the children; it's what it has done for the adults. Each rotation requires 16 teachers and 16 Journeymen, in addition to the faithful volunteers who keep the Journeyman's room stocked, get the kids checked in, and patrol the hallways (probably while very bored) during class to help lost children or teachers who urgently need something. Forty different adults, every rotation, for the entire school year, and I'm pretty sure we all love it.

Thanks for the memories.

10 June 2010

In the Merry Merry Month of May

Let's see.... birthday, check. Race, check. Youth weekend, check.

Oh, yeah. Slumber party.

Chad & I began doing stuff in the children's ministry at South Plains within a year of our arrival there 8 1/2 years ago. More accurately, I said, "Hey, I'm going to work with Bible bowl," and he came along for the ride. Since then, we've done a few rounds of Bible bowl, several quarters of Sunday school, and most recently, we've Journeylanded for a few rotations.

All told, we've met-- in some form or fashion-- almost every kid at South Plains between six and 19 years old. We love the South Plains kids. Some of them like us in return (and we're still surprised at the ones who like us the most!).

So, before skipping town I wanted to have some of the girls over for a slumber party. It took some doing to choose a weekend when most of us were in town and not running in a race, because today's youth are ridiculously over-scheduled (although that may be a topic for another post).

We played Concentration. We played Skip-Bo (I think). We played "Let's all go outside & flag down Mrs. Parrish because she can't find my apartment." I did a bunch of hair wraps (no word on how long any of them stayed in). We played Mad Gab. We played "Take pictures of Ruth because she's the first one asleep." We watched a couple of movies with the same actress-- I cannot remember which actress nor the names of her movies. (Told you I'm not a movie person.) We had popcorn & stopped all movie-watching long enough to make no-bake cookies at 1 AM (which Ruth managed to sleep through).

I'm told Anna Beth & Annie stayed up until 4:30 AM. I know for sure that everyone woke up when Gabby had to leave for work at 9. We had no-bakes and pancakes for breakfast, played some more Mad Gab, and one by one, they all went home. And they didn't completely wreck my apartment. Nor, as far as I know, did we keep the neighbours up too late.

I was sad for the night to end, because it's another sign that this era in our lives in coming to a close. Soon, so very soon, this
apartment that was filled with giggling girls will be filled with packed boxes. And then it will be emptied... and we'll be gone. The church that we have loved has not agreed to move with us to Austin en masse. Someone else will host the slumber parties and do the hair wraps. Someone else will make Saturday morning pancakes for other people's children.

Someone else will stay up to make cookies at 1 AM. I hope that one day it's these same girls, paying it forward in the same way I pay it forward now. I hope that it's at least a little bit due to our example.

And I know for sure there are girls in Austin who will want to stay up late, make hair wraps and eat cookies. I look forward to meeting them.