There's something in here about the journey...

on 30 July 2010

I watch back episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations when I eat.  They're just perfect.  I get to see a different place, it lasts for 40 minutes tops, it's funny and a little wicked.  I can turn it off if I'm not amused and feel no compulsion to finish them.

I was taking a break from all the packing this week to watch the Malaysia episode.  It's a really good one.  Not for the food he eats and describes, but for the commentary.  He has this running theme throughout the episode, the idea of travel itself, of a journey and how it changes you.

I've been thinking a lot about our year here in Brunswick.  I've been making some rounds and spending time with my few but beloved friends.  I've been saying good-bye and it's been much harder than I had anticipated.

I came home from visiting my friend C and her adorable newborn G and the Boy's friend E, and I finished the Malaysia episode and Bourdain was asking if it was possible to feel enriched and hollowed out at the same time and I thought--YES.  That's how I feel right now.

Full to the brim with love for these amazing women, but also drained from the year that has been.  Full of impossible wishing that I could gather all my friends together in one central location and we could all live there and also gutted by the residency, by assorted trials and by exhaustion.

Bourdain went on to talk about the necessity of travel, how it's often hard and ugly and gut-wrenching and sometimes heartbreaking.  But it's supposed to be.  That's how it changes you.  You come away from it a different person, a better person and hopefully you leave something good behind you too.

I agree.  I couldn't say it any better.  Well, except to say that maybe LIFE is more than simply travel.  Life is often hard and ugly and gut-wrenching and sometimes heartbreaking.  It's also sometimes comical and golden and sweet.  But at the end of the day it's supposed to be all of those things--the good and the bad.  And it's in the living of life that we change.  We grow.  Hopefully, we become incrementally better every day.  And even more hopefully, we're leaving the places we've been, the people we know incrementally better too.

Today is moving day for us.  The day when we cease to belong to one place and for a period of time we are indefinite travelers, bound to no where in particular.  Tomorrow we will belong to North Carolina again.

Chimney Rock

on 28 July 2010

When Chris and I started talking about spending a week in the mountains we put together an impressive wish list of hikes that we wanted to take.  So impressive we had to whittle it down.

What survived the cuts and made it to the top of the list was Chimney Rock.  We'd seen the signs for years on our trips from Athens to Durham but never actually made it there.  We'd been watching the scenery go by from the vantage point of our futon on movie nights when Daniel Day-Lewis was the order of the evening.

(Incidentally, this scene is filmed on top of the waterfall we hiked to.  We were at the bottom of the falls, but it was beautiful nonetheless.)

Chris had bought a great child-backpack off of ebay and so we set off.

Now, you should probably understand a couple of things before we get started.  I love hiking.  I lurve it.  More than once I have considered just walking off the path and going native.  But...I haven't really been hiking since Chris and I got together.  Why?  Because my man doesn't really hike.  He doesn't particularly enjoy physical exercise of any kind.  It's important to know this at the start because he's going to say some things that are just funny in any language, but you have to know this little quirk about my favorite computer junkie--let's call him Christopher the Inert.

But in the spirit of marital harmony he agrees to hike with me so long as I periodically watch movies and vegetate with him.  And since I'm all about marital harmony, I agree.  At least I get my hiking.

We were handed a map of the trails at the entrance gate and Chris was thinking that a nice leisurely walk in the woods would be good.  I managed to talk him into the Hickory Nut Falls trail.  After all, it was nice and short and shouldn't be too difficult.  So we head down there.

And by down there I mean down down DOWN about 80 flights of stairs.  And I'm chattering away to distract Chris from the reality that eventually we'll have to climb back UP the stairs.  Maybe he just won't la LA.

We get down there and I confess, I am so happy that I'm all but those annoying yappy happy dogs that run circles around their people.  Poor Chris is schlepping the Boy, heretofore known as the 30 pound Wonder, on his back and here I am trotting and bouncing up and down the trail.

He really was a great sport though.

He has a very forbearing face, no? 

Want to see how happy I was?  It's a little nauseating...

Big, tough M scampering down the trial, annoying her husband by climbing OFF the trail and onto enormous piles of fallen rocks.

We finally got to the falls.  Lo, it was beautiful.

Ok, so you can't really see the falls here...what you can sort of see through the trees is the sheer rock face...

That's better.

We climbed over the fallen rocks to the pool that the water falls into.  We took a nice break with our boy, drank some water, chased some butterflies and then headed back out.

Now.  I'm not bragging or anything.  I'm pretty woefully out of shape as well, having not really exercised since the Spring, but I was feeling pretty good so I was totally up for climbing all the way to the ROCK.  Even after 4000 stairs back up.  At which point I started to wonder if Chris would ever go hiking with me again.

But Chris and the 30 pound Wonder nixed the hike up to the Rock in favor of taking the ELEVATOR up and then hiking back down.  Which is an example of a perfect compromise.

The views were AMAZING.

But I guess if you don't really want to hike you could just watch Last of the Mohicans instead.

The Rememberance of Things Past

on 26 July 2010

Proust had his madeleines.

And I suppose everyone has something.  That one thing that in a bite or a whiff, or a hum can ferry you back across the river of time to a place and a version of yourself long gone and perhaps partially forgotten.

Proust has his madeleines.  Proust is very French.  Very fancy and sophisticated.

I am neither French nor Fancy.  I have Brown Cows.

What's a Brown Cow?  Forsooth.  I am loathe to think how dark and miserable your childhoods were in the absence of Brown Cows.

A Brown Cow is, what my eloquent Grandmother would call, ice cream on a STICK.  It is a softish vanilla ice cream coated in chocolate.

(Of course, if I were being honest instead of nostalgic right now I would tell you that it's processed vanilla ice cream sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar and flavored with imitation vanilla and the chocolate isn't real chocolate per se but waxy chocolate often used to coat things of questionable nutritional value, like donuts, ice creams on a stick and most Hostess of Little Debbie products.  But I AM being nostalgic so you're going to over-look ALL of this and go back to reading my meditations on the Brown Cow.)

Mayfields, the makers of said Brown Cows, they operate out of Tennessee and don't have a very wide distribution area so their products aren't readily available, even in the South.  Durham, for example is too far east to find much Mayfields.  Brunswick?  Forget about it.  Doesn't exist down here.  But over in the mountains?  Yes.  Oh bless my little health conscious heart, they have Mayfields.  So, on our trip into town for groceries I picked up a box.  Just one box.  To share and savor with my Boy.

We dine with abandon in the mountains.  No thought whatsoever is given to nutritional content or what has been previously consumed throughout the day.  And so our meals are often strange but inevitably delicious as they're consumed in the open air and often with our hands.  After dinner comes dessert.  Even my young boy knows that...and his dessert is more often than not, enjoyed nearly naked (as his bath always immediately follows dessert).

And so, with him partially stripped we tore open a Brown cow and sat on the porch together, one fine summer evening.

One bite and he had this astonished look of childhood wonder on his face.  One bite and I was right there with him...but also not with him at all.

I was far away in that long ago time and that long forgotten version of myself.  I was in a small house at the edge of a dirt road surrounded by tobacco fields.  My Grandpa's house.  We would drive out to visit him and he would give us quarters to go to the Piggly-Wiggly to buy Brown Cows.  We would light out of the car, happy to be free, and dart into the house like two dragonflies, hop up into Grandpa's lap.  We'd give him hugs and he'd pay us off with quarters.

With that one bite I could smell the dirt road and his living room--cigarette smoke and peppermint.  I could see the wood floor and old fashioned television so clearly in my mind it was as if I could walk across the campground and into that very room.  I could see my Grandpa there, in that one bite of ice cream, with his wispy strawberry blond hair gone grey just at the edges and his face lined and wrinkled from working in the sun.

And in that one bite I could feel myself a child again, with no worries or concerns, very few fears and no responsibilities.

And that's when I realized, that it's that feeling that we work so hard to give our children.  Not big toys and grand vacations, not expensive clothes and fancy playthings.  I want the Boy to feel like feel free from tension and worry and concern and anxiety.  I want him to be fearless and happy--regardless of how much money we may or may not have, regardless of where we live and work and play.

It came back by bits that week...with each subsequent Brown Cow I would remember different things.

My sisters--Sherry used to have this old orange VW beetle and it was of such questionable functionality that once she got it started she couldn't necessarily turn it OFF because there were no guarantees she'd get it going again.  Once she took me to the Post Office with her and left me in the beetle with strict instructions to keep my foot lightly on the gas and if it seemed like the beetle was gasping, I was to nudge the pedal just a bit.  I used to crawl into bed with Sherry when I'd have nightmares, so there's very little in this world I wouldn't do for her.

Our back patio was surrounded by honeysuckle and my brother and I used to strip off the blossoms and suck out the nectar when it bloomed.  We roamed our neighborhood like feral cats, barefooted and in everyone's yard.  I don't think we EVER used the sidewalks...we just strolled through their yards like we owned the place.

We used to go camping as a family over in Cades Cove.  It's beautiful and green.  My dad would warn us that there were bears in the area but I'm fairly certain that my brother and I just ran wild like the little heathens that we were.  Bears, schmears.  There were two of us after all and lots of adults seemed fairly frightened of us when they talked to our Mom.  As well they should be...

It's only the happy memories came back.  I had to sit and think about my childhood later on to remember the things that made me sad.  I wonder if that's a blessing of time or a willful choice to exile those memories to uninhabited corners of my mind.  Maybe we'll never know...I haven't yet found the something that brings back sad memories.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet

on 23 July 2010

You may not have read it, the Ground Beneath Her Feet, by Salman Rushdie.  It's a lovely book.  A retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Euridice.  It's one of the few books that I read it, I finished it, and then I immediately started it over again it was that good.

Anyway, I digress, I mostly just wanted to steal the title for today.  See...a long time a far away place someone advised me to find somewhere where the ground felt like goodness under my feet and put down roots THERE.  I've been a lot of places, out west, up north, overseas and places in between and I think I've found that place.  We're trying to worm our way into the root system over in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, but we've had no luck to speak of yet.  But still, we have hope.

In the meantime, we have vacations.

It's been such a year of monumental suckitude that Chris begged for a full week of mountain respite.  So on the 3rd of this month we headed North.  We drove up separately so as to leave his car at my parent's house and have it taken care for the forthcoming move.  We spent the 4th with my folks and on the 5th we packed up Boy and Cats and headed WEST.

Chris' family keeps a camper over in the mountains and they graciously let us stay there for the week.  We were all HAPPY.  We picked up some groceries and spent the evening lounging and talking about what we wanted to do with the week.

Tuesday was errand day.  And thus, very boring.  We went to the farmer's market and bought yummy yum yum veggies--tomatoes and cukes for sandwiches, gorgeous corn and a half bushel of peaches.  We stopped off at a yarn store so that I could pick up some cable needles and some sock yarn.  And yes, I am gettin' a bit ambitious with the needles.  Wanna make somethin' of it?

We headed back to the camper to talk about the next day...Chimney Rock DAY!

Updating by degrees

on 21 July 2010

We're back.

We're in a packing frenzy.  But I sat down today determined to write out some of these blog posts and upload pictures.  Chris wants to post them to Facebook and I asked him to waaaaaiiiiit until I could post them here.  So there you go.  You, privileged reader are the first to view our adventures of the past 2 weeks! 

My goal is to get back to regular posting once we get moved and unpacked.  I have a project on my knitting needles that I'd like to show you and a book that has thoroughly entertained really, that's my goal.  Posting all regular-like.

Wish me luck!

The Tales of the last two weeks will be staggered and scheduled to go up over the NEXT two weeks so check in and hopefully you will all find them as enjoyable as we did!

First up is the Boy's annual slide show.  I'm posting it for the 12th which was his birthday.  I like to celebrate by torturing myself with technology.  Also CAKE, in copious amounts.  Enjoy!

Goldilocks in Wonderland

on 18 July 2010


Have you missed me?

I've missed you. 

No, really, I have.  Well, I miss my laptop, Ruby.  We left her at home in GA while we ramble.  Chris brought his laptop instead.  His laptop that died and then was resuscitated and is now in the death-throes again.

So, here's the quickie overview and when I get back to Brunswick-town, I shall fill you in with greater detail.  I have many charming, funny and eccentric stories to tell you but being charming, funny and eccentric myself, how could it be otherwise?

We left town on the 3rd.  We headed north to Savannah for family pictures.  We paused to spend the 4th with my folks, then we headed over to spend a week in the mountains.  Oh glorious, glorious.  We spent a week hiking and camping and eating our weight in s'mores, and then came back to my parents.  The plan was to spend 5 days searching for a new place to live and then head back to Brunswick.  It took longer than 5 days, but I'm happy to announce that for all intents and purposes we have a place to live.  It is not a big place, nor a small place, nor a fancy place, nor a slummy place.  It is not way far out of town, nor is it smack-dab in the middle of everything.  It is, in fact, in the same complex and the same building we moved out of this time last year.  But not on the 3rd floor.

So we're heading out to church in our old ward which is now our NEW ward today and then we'll drive back to Brunswick tomorrow to begin the great Pack Up and Move expedition '10. 

And yes, I am excited to be moving back.  We both are.  We ALL are. 

The Boy's Birthday

on 12 July 2010

We were celebrating with my parents for the Boy's Superb Second birthday so I didn't get a chance to post this as I would have liked.

Here is the Boy's slide show for this past year.  It's an oddly condensed version of our year in Brunswick as well.

I'm not one of those moms who write long flowery letters to their child and publish them on their blog.  My love for this kid is fierce and real, but it's also personal and private and only for the occasional public consumption--usually when I need my reality validated.  To say that he is my purest joy is redundant.  To say how grateful I am that he is a part of my life is impossible.

Hopefully these pictures will say it, because me and my languages are sadly lacking.

Happy Birthday, son.  I'm glad you're part of our family.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

The boy's second year from M on Vimeo.

Music: Us by Regina Spektor

John Adams

on 04 July 2010

I am a warrior, that my son may be a merchant--and his son may be a poet.

For all the warriors out there from the 18th century to our own, thank you.  Thank you for doing what you do so that we may be merchants and poets and doctors and teachers.  Fight the good fight, and come home.

A Revelation

on 01 July 2010

So, I've had a revelation of sorts.

I think I'm a WORSE mother for having a child who speaks.

Here's the thing.  Before the Boy started using actual words, his gestures were sort of comical but totally resistible when confronted with something that was less than good for him.

Now that he speaks, his words, combined with his intonation and gestures make for this irresistible combination of charm and humor and I find myself giving in, even when I know I probably shouldn't.

Exhibit A:

This morning for breakfast I made eggs and toast for me and my Boy.  Wheat toast.  Healthy toast.  So we happily munched away and I finished before him as usual and so I topped my remaining toast with a bit of homemade strawberry jam.  Reduced sugar, but still, you know--JAM.

The Boy sees the brilliant red sweetness and begins tapping his piece of toast and repeatedly bleating like a goat "jaaaaaaaaaam.  jaaaaaaaaaam.  jaaaaaaaaaam."  This doesn't capture the musicality of it because he's hitting 3 notes over the course of that long A.

Now, normally I would say, "Nu-uh.  You need to finish your eggies before you get Jam."  And I really did was so darn funny!  With the tapping and the drawn out jaaaaaaaaaam and the tone.  It wasn't whiny in the least, it wasn't loud or belligerent.  It was calm and charming and sweet.

So, as I was laughing at him, I happily schmeared his toast with a bit of jam, which he promptly devoured and thence refused to eat the rest of his eggs.

What am I to do?  This is like my kryptonite!  I have to find a way around it!  My child will be composed of nothing but cookies and jaaaaaaaaaam if I don't!

Super Cute Post Script (SCPS):  He's all about the long A words right now--in addition to jaaaaaaaaaam, he brings me Green Eggs and Ham and request "SAM!  Peese ree, SAM!"  And of course, I drop whatever I'm doing to read him SAM!