Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Secret Trip to Texas (pt. 1)

The fam, outside my paren'ts house in Houston.
R-L: Me, my mom, my sister Michelle, my niece Brittany, my dad, and my twin Megan

I snuck down to Texas for a surprise visit to my family this past weekend. It was quite a trip - and it got off to a pretty rocky start - which involved the unfortunate loss of a life and a chance encounter with a former Branch Davidian.

It's all kind of complicated, so I'll start at the beginning. Several months ago, Chad and I made plans to visit his parents in Louisiana for one week in August. Tickets were purchased, plans were made, and dates were set. Since my parents, older sister and niece only live about 4 hours away from Chad's parents, the plan was for them to drive over to Louisiana and spend the first weekend in August with us. I hoped that my twin sister Megan, who lives in Dallas, would be able to come visit us as well. Fast forward to about two months ago. I received a call from my mom and she said that Megan would be moving to L.A. on July 31st (the day we arrive in Louisiana) and that they were going to be helping her move...so they wouldn't be able to come see us in Louisiana. I was pretty upset...we only get to see our families a few times each year, and I hated the fact that I was going to be missing them by one day - the day we are going to arrive is the day they are going to leave.

So...my mom and I hatched a plan for me to secretly fly down to Houston the weekend before we we would arrive in Alexandria to surprise Megan. Megan was planning on being home that weekend to drop off her belongings that she didn't want to move with and to celebrate my niece's 10th birthday. We were able to keep this trip a surprise up until the 11th hour - even though there were several times throughout the past few months where my mom and I thought for sure that our cover was blown.

So on Thursday evening I set my alarm for 3:30am, got packed, and went to bed early. I woke up at 3:28 on Friday, turned off my alarm, got ready, gave sleeping Chad and snoozing Emma kisses and hit the road at 4:30am to Louisville. The Louisville airport is about an hour and a half from Lexington and I planned to arrive at the airport at 6:00am for my 7:10am flight. I made pretty good time on the road and was poised to arrive at my scheduled time. I followed my directions and exited onto the Watterson Expressway...and this is where things took a turn for the worse.

Almost immediately after getting on the Watterson Expressway, traffic came to a grinding halt...across all 6 lanes. I was the third car back in a row of vehicles that had come to a dead stop. A few cars were parked across a couple of lanes, blocking traffic. I could see people getting out of their cars and pointing to something. A minute later, cop cars and ambulances were zooming past me and making their way onto the scene. A cop walked by my car and I asked him if they were going to be opening up any of the lanes any time soon and he said, "No - you're going to be here for a while." And then he said, "Don't get out of your car - I don't want you stepping in any of this." It was about 6:20am at this point and I knew that I wasn't going to make my flight. I called my mom and I was like "I knew it! I knew something was going to happen at the last minute!"

I still wasn't really sure what was going on up ahead. There was a large 18-wheeler stopped in front of me and the police didn't want me getting out of my car...so I just assumed there was a chemical spill. My mom looked on the American Airlines website for other flights leaving that morning to Dallas. There was a flight leaving at 10:50am, so I called AA and was put on standby for that flight. I wouldn't be able to land in Houston until 4:00...so we decided that the plan now would be for me to call Megan that morning and (surprise!) ask her to pick me up from DFW airport in Dallas and then we could ride home to Houston together.

About 6:40am another cop walked by and was spray painting around a large dark streak of something next to my car. I asked him if it was a chemical spill and he looked at me and said slowly..."Um, no. Ma'm...this is blood." Ahh - so that's what it was. I looked at the car in front of me and noticed a cop spray painting a large circle around a lone tennis shoe next to the car's driver side door. I put two and two together and realized that there must be a pretty gruesome accident up ahead.

I had been sitting in my car the whole time thinking - "If I had left one minute earlier I would have missed this whole mess" or "If I hadn't stopped to go to the bathroom back in Shelbyville..." or "If had taken a different route to get to 64..." and on and on. But I began to realize that even though I was going to miss my flight, I had been spared from seeing and/or being involved in a terrible accident. I looked at the Louisville newspaper's website on Friday evening and learned that a 24 year old guy had been riding his motorcycle, without a helmet, at a high rate of speed when he struck the back of a Ford Taurus and was thrown from his bike onto the freeway. Horrific.

At about 6:50am they opened the shoulder on the left side of the Expressway to get traffic moving. I made my way over to the lane and then started booking it to the airport - with a tiny glimmer of hope that I might still be able to make my flight. I got to the airport, parked, grabbed my bag and started sprinting - up two flights of stairs, back down one to ask where the AA counter was, and then back up again and arrived at the AA desk panting and begging to be let on the flight, only to be greeted by two women who where both shaking their head 'no'. Son of a gun, I had missed the flight by two minutes! They changed my tickets and put me on standby for the 10:50am flight to Dallas. I told the women at the counter that at this point, I wouldn't need to get on the connecting flight to Houston. They gave me a boarding pass for the flight to Dallas, assured me that everything would remain the same for my return flight on Sunday, and sent me on my way.

...whew! This is longer than I thought it would be...and I haven't even gotten to the actual trip yet! Part 2 and pictures to follow soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fears Revealed

(Warning: This post is kind of a serious one. I won't be talking about running or dogs...well, ok I will be talking about dogs, but I will be sharing with the blogosphere something that has really been on my heart and mind lately.)

So here goes...

I can't imagine having kids.

I know this is a pretty bold statement, but it is one that has been dancing around in my head for the past few years. I used to not like kids. And then a few weeks ago I thought that I may be pregnant. This was really, really terrifying to me. Turns out that I'm not pregnant and had just eaten too many Ramen Noodles.

When I was in high-school I always imagined that I would live out my days alone, yet surrounded by a few faithful canine companions. Luckily, I met the man of my dreams and married him in 2005 and I was able to push aside the thoughts of being alone in this world. But now we are wrestling with the idea of kids. And, I do like kids now. Several of our friends have kids...Athan, Morgan, Lucy, Azzy, Trey, Margot, Israel and the little buns in the oven of Hannah and Charis and my niece Brittany have truly helped me to see what a joy having children in your life can be.

But then I think the about this fallen world that we live in. Death, disease, hate, accidents and so much more...these things terrify me. I look upon my friends and family members who are mothers with great respect. It's a hard job...and I struggle all the time with whether I would be cut out for it. I know that Chad will be a wonderful father, so much so that it breaks my heart to think that because of my fear...he may never get the chance to be one.

And that is why I think I enjoy dogs so much. They are manageable and safe. To a certain extent, most dogs are completely reliant on their owners. Our mini-dachshund Emma looks to us for food, water, love, affection, discipline, exercise, etc. As she grows and the years pass, she will stay right by our side. We don't have to let her out into this world for her to explore on her own. While she would probably love the freedom of being able to chase with reckless abandon any squirrel, bunny or cat that comes across her path, she seems pretty content to stay with us.

While we are on vacation in Louisiana, our friends Justin and Charis are going to be staying at our house and watching Emma for us. Emma absolutely adores Justin and Charis. They are like her Uncle Jessie and Aunt Becky. Truth be told, Emma will probably be disappointed when we get back from vacation and Justin and Charis go back to their house. But I find myself gripped with fear at the thought of leaving her. It is an irrational fear for many reasons - one being that there is no one that we trust her more with than Justin and Charis.

About 90% of my anxiety comes from my own doing and my OCD tendencies...I follow the same routine with her everyday and know just how she reacts to different situations on walks, just how she likes the blankets in her crate to be folded, where she likes her back legs to be scratched, etc. I find comfort and almost pride in this - "knowing" her better than anyone else. I'm finding that it is sometimes hard to hand over something you cherish to people you love. I know I am making this a whole lot huger of an ordeal than it needs to be and this is a lot to put in a blog post, but writing this has allowed me to come to some realizations that I might not have come to with the thoughts just bouncing around in my head. When it comes time for us to leave for the airport, I'm going to take a deep breath, give Emma a kiss on the head (over towards her right ear, she really likes that), thank Justin and Charis profusely for watching her, and leave my worries in Kentucky as we head south.

So I don't know where this leaves me with the whole kids thing. I think that leaving Emma for 10 days will be an exercise in growing more and fearing less. More on this topic to come as I continue to flesh things out.

PS: Here are some pictures of Emma for everyone to enjoy.

Enjoying an al fresco dinner this summer.

Emma, being dramatic.

Begging for a belly rub.

On vacation in Alexandria last year. This is her favorite spot -
a wicker loveseat in The Brooks' sun room.

Emma and her mama (me) before the Jessamine County Humane Society 5k, May 2007

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Goodbye...The Exciter

Well, it looks like Chad is going to be getting rid of his old girl. Don't worry - it's not me. It's his motorcycle - a Yamaha SR250 - lovingly referred to by all who knew her as The Exciter.

Much to his chagrin (but to our respective mother's delights!) he listed the old girl on Craigslist. She hasn't been running for about a year and a half, and it would take too much work and $$ to get her going again.

I still remember the day that Chad called me to tell me he was going to buy it from Pavlos, one of his Greek international students at the Wesley Foundation. He was so excited and I was so terrified! He took to motorcycle riding like a fish takes to water. He loved it and rode it into work most days. I was pretty wary of it, even though one time I got a wild hair and secretly rode it, very slowly, around the land we lived on in North Louisiana while Chad was out of town on a mission trip to New Orleans. We tried riding on it together once but it was quite a squeeze, and we couldn't go more than like 25 mph. Plus, Chad was convinced that my erratic movements would be the death of us on Highway 563.

So while it will be sad to say goodbye to the Exciter, the poor little gal who topped out at about 55 mph, I am excited about what the future may bring for Chad and his motorcycle ambitions. I know he is looking forward to riding his dad's Harley Sportster while we are in Alexandria in a few weeks and that one day he would love to have a Sportster of his own. As for me, I'd be content with one of these!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Destinations

Do you ever have those moments where you want to just rip your hair out and scream "I need a vacation!!!"

Well, I'm at that point. Luckily, Chad and I have a vacation scheduled at the end of this month. We will get to spend ten glorious days in Alexandria, Louisiana with Chad's family. I know that I am going to spend about 80% of our time there either in their pool, eating, running, or sleeping - and that makes me very happy. What more could you ask for in a relaxing vacation? Plus we will get to see some of our dear friends in Ruston, LA.

We've been talking with some of our good friends, Justin and Charis, about how we want to start saving up now so that we can take a fun vacation together at some point in the next few years. My ultimate dream vacation would have to be somewhere in Mexico - where I can sit on a beach, eat chips and salsa, drink margaritas and feel like I am in a Kenny Chesney video. I might have blogged about this before, but I'm pretty sure that this is my "happy place."

But, it will probably be a while before we can afford something like that - so we are looking at going somewhere stateside. Some place like Chicago, Portland, or Seattle. My vote is for Portland - especially after seeing this place featured on the Food Network. And I would love to drop by Roloff Farms to give sweet Rocky a pat on the head. On a related note, RIP Mike Detjen.

What about you - any big vacations planned (or already taken) this summer? Any vacation locations that you dream about visiting one day?

And I will put here that I am jealous of my parents, who are going to L.A. and Vegas this summer, and my sister Megan who is going to L.A. and Puerto Vallarta! Lucky ducks!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Review: Three Weeks with My Brother

I have to post a review of this book that I just read. Now, I will start by saying that I read the book - from cover to cover - in six days. When I was younger and read all of the time, that would have been no big feat. But for me to read a book so quickly nowadays means that it must really be a page turner.

I usually relegate my "reading time" to when I get in bed for the night. This usually equates to about 3 minutes of me chuckling through "Life in These United States" or pondering the "Quotable Quotes" in my latest issue of Reader's Digest...then Chad finding me two hours later in a deep sleep, clutching my Reader's Digest with my glasses askew.

However, Three Weeks With My Brother was a different story - both literally and figuratively. Three Weeks With My Brother is a memoir by Nicholas Sparks, and he seamlessly weaves together the stories of his childhood and the stories of a three week excursion around the world with his brother in 356 pages. This book is clever and heart-wrenching - like most of his works. I haven't been able to read one of his books with being racked by sobs at some point. Come on, The Notebook? A Walk to Remember? Message in a Bottle? Now you can't tell me that you were able to make it through those books (or those movies) without having to take a moment to regroup.

Reading about his childhood, and how he learned to become who he is today through his family, resounded within me. More so now than it might have at another time. Reading about his constant trips back and forth from the East coast to the West coast really hit home for me- my twin sister is moving to California at the end of July. We have never been this far apart geographically, and it was kind of surreal reading about how Spark's handled his relationships with his siblings from across the country.

He also discusses the death of two dogs, which I wasn't expecting. This really had me in a heap of tears as I was reading on our back porch. Now, I just can't handle reading sad stories about dogs. I have always wanted to read Marley and Me, but I just can't do it. If I am feeling brave in a bookstore, I might read a few pages - but then my eyes well up with tears and I have to put it down before I am unable to regain composure. Reading about his experience with the death of their 12 year old Doberman brought me back to a few years ago when my parents made the tough, but necessary, decision to have our 15 year old Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix , Scout, put to sleep. Grieving with my sisters made the experience easier, because they understood exactly what I was feeling.

I don't know how or when, but I hope that I am able to take a vacation with my sisters at some point in my life. Just the three of us - someplace fun and exotic, where we can put the cares of our worlds behind us for a few days. And I might just write a memoir about it.

...But for now, I will have to live vicariously through Sparks and his brother!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wilmore Running Club

I'd like to announce the launch of a new blog : Wilmore Running Club. This is the journey of five friends in Wilmore, KY as we train and prepare for the 2008 Columbus Marathon.

Contributors include:
...and yours truly

I'm also hoping that we can get our husbands to do some guest posts in a series I would like to call "Life with a Runner." I see the posts being titled something like this "Life With a Runner: My Wife's Unbridled Passion for Carbs," or "Life With a Runner: Where Did My Wife's Toenails Go?"
or even possibly "Life With a Runner: You Pee'd Where?"

If you get a chance, click on over and check us out!