Tuesday, May 27, 2014

NYR 5-27-14

Promoted to Adult 3!!!  (Sorry you have to look at this sideways!) 

NYR 5-24-14 to 5-26-14

We were invited to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to spend the holiday weekend with Jimmy's college friend and his family.  The weather was beyond exceptional, the company entertaining as always, and the time most relaxing.

Saturday we attended the Chestertown Tea Party Festival (centered around the original tea party and not Sarah Palin and her bunch of hooligans). Think parade, festival food, artisans, etc. in an adorable small town. 

Sunday was tennis, a boat ride, fishing and kayaking.

Monday was a boat ride to a river beach before we headed back to DC.

Great weekend with great friends, and for that I'm truly thankful!

NYR 5-23-14

Today I went back to the bike shop to pick up our bikes.  Despite my rear view looking like this:
I made it home without incident and the trunk didn't fall off the back of my little car with all that extra weight.

It wasn't enough that we have the bikes.  The boys wanted to go on a ride this evening.  A bike ride for me means the equivalent of a stroll through the neighborhood to look at houses and yards.  It means something different to Jimmy and Mac.  

Jimmy estimates that we rode those bikes for 13-15 miles.


I thought we might go 13-15 blocks, not miles.

I was utterly exhausted, my legs hurt, my backside was in pain from that little seat, and only in hindsight can I tell you that I was able to get out of the bed the next day.  

For breaking in the new (used) bike, I am thankful. 

NYR 5-22-14

After being back here for over 9 months, we finally picked out bikes tonight.  This is the first bike in my 43 years that came from a bike shop and not a Wal-Mart. Pretty exciting stuff.  I'm hoping since we paid more than $60 per bike, they'll practically ride themselves.

Thankful to have these new exercise instruments.  Yay for more exercise instruments. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NYR 5-21-14

Today I had writing class.  There are only 5 students in the class, and I am the youngest.  I have been trying to determine the ages of the other people based on conversations and their essays.  I figured out last week that one lady must be in her 80s.  Today I figured out that one of the men is at least mid-70s because he went to his 50th high school class reunion in 2006.  The teacher also mentioned attending his 50th class reunion, and another guy is retiring from his college professor job this year.  There is one other woman in the class who has a junior in high school as well as a younger child, so she must be at least mid-40s.  

Anyway, if you take out the two youngsters in the class, you're left with 60-80 year-olds who have come out to take an Adult Ed writing class.  I think that's so cool.  

I want to be like that when I'm 85, still searching out things to do to occupy my brain and time.

For inspiration in my Adult Ed class, I'm so thankful.

NYR 5-20-14

Today, my friends, I had a breakthrough at ice skating.  Oh boy.  I think I looked like a real ice skater.  Or at least in my head I looked like a real ice skater.  The teacher even said that she thinks we might be passed to Adult 3 NEXT WEEK!

In case you're interested, I learned how to chasse.  (There's supposed to be an accent mark over that "e" but I can't figure out how to do it).  Anyway, it's pretty awesome when you learn how to do something that sounds French.  If you're interested in what I now can do, you may see it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcIphpKo9Q8

I think I need a cool ice skating costume to go with my new chasse.

For breakthroughs on the ice, I am so thankful!

NYR 5-19-14

Jimmy flew down to South Carolina so he could speak at our high school's academic awards banquet.  Not to sound bitter or anything, but I graduated with higher grades than he did in high school (even though he says he graduated ahead of me) but have given up my career and any greatness that might have come from my work to support his.  Nobody asks me to come and speak at the banquet.

So I pouted and decided that Mac and I would have a fun evening with Dad gone.  When Mac got home from school, we went to the movies to see Million Dollar Arm.  It's a little slow in parts, or maybe I was tired in parts, but it's such a great (true) story, especially if you like baseball.

Since we were being decadent, we then ordered pizza before we left the theater, picked it up en route home and devoured it once we got back.

For a great evening that felt like we were playing hooky from real life, I am truly thankful.

NYR 5-18-14

We came, we ran, we conquered.
(and I survived, for which I am truly thankful!)

The Color Run, Washington's National Harbor

 The Dye Hard Rainbow Runners team!

 of course Mac felt the need to pick the statue's nose in the photo

The Story Family after the run

NYR 5-17-14

The one benefit to our living for 2 months in the State Department ghetto apartment building when we first moved here is that I met a great gal named Jill who has become a very dear friend to me.  Jill's been a patient sounding board as we commiserate over boy parenting, an amazing source of humor and fun, and a neverending fountain of positive energy.

Jill's husband passed his Bulgarian test, which means she's leaving me.  Sigh.

Tonight Jill and her family came over for a last meal with us.  Double sigh.

For great friends that I know we'll see again, I am truly thankful!

NYR 5-16-14

Mac attended a dance birthday party tonight to which you had to go as your favorite entertainer. In what I thought was a sophisticated move, he chose Jimmy Fallon. I tried to convince him that Adam Sandler would be easier and more comfortable, but he was deadset on Fallon. I just dropped him off and heard one friend say, "Mac's a playa." At our house, we think Fallon's a playa so I'm checking the box on this one.

Of course, when we picked him up, his jacket and tie were on the grass and he was covered in mud and grass stains.  Even Jimmy Fallon needs to play mud soccer at a birthday party, I guess.

NYR 5-15-14

Today I took Mac and a teammate to baseball practice in the late afternoon.  There was a forecast of strong storms, but the coach said they'd practice until there was thunder or lightning.  Only 7 kids showed up, but those who were there had so much fun.  They played baseball for an hour and 15 minutes, sometimes in the driving rain.  For kids being kids, I am truly thankful.

NYR 5-14-14

Today I am thankful to be sharing with you one of my edited assignments for my writing class.

The Goat Train

When we were nearly 20 years younger, many dollars poorer and not nearly married, Jimmy and I backpacked across Peru during his grad school summer break when he worked for the Peruvian government to determine the sustainability of the country’s fisheries.  We'd spent time in Lima and Cusco, seen the magnificent Incan wonder that is Machu Picchu, and passed several, idyllically lazy days in the charming town of Arequipa, but oddly enough, the only proof I’d seen of these fish he was trying to sustain was in the delicious ceviche I’d consumed at every opportunity. 

The final leg of our two-week journey was a train trip across the arid, sky-high Altiplano to go from Cusco to Puno, where we'd visit the floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.  To this day, Jimmy and I dispute the train ticket class we purchased for this 12-hour trip. I am sure that we got the cheapest seats available.  He says it was first class.  If that was first class, I can't even imagine how awful third class must have been.

Our train seats were as comfortable as we could've expected in this pseudo first class arrangement.  Each car had clusters of four non-reclining seats: two seats facing the other two seats, separated by a small table.  There was some padding on the seats, but certainly not enough for 12 hours of comfort.  For the first part of our journey we shared our cluster with no one.  We spread our books and postcards on the table with no concern for sharing the space except with each other. 

As the train made more stops in small pueblitos along the way, the train filled up with more passengers and roving salespeople who stopped at our seat frequently to peddle their wares which ran the gamut from edible to ornamental.  Our seating pod was soon filled with two Quechua Indian women who were taking rounds of homemade cheese to market in the bigger city of Puno.  Their Spanish seemed nearly as nonexistent as mine, and since Jimmy nor I spoke the first word of Quechua, our conversation was limited to the universal smile and a nod.

Their age was indeterminate: they could have been 20 or they might have been 50.  The harsh Andean sun baked everyone the same, and their faces were dark and lined.  They wore the colorful dresses, long braids, and the little woolen bowler hats that was unique to their people. 

To me, there was an imaginary line on our shared table that neither side should cross.  The line extended to below the table as well, and obviously those women didn't understand that they were invading my space. Their cheese rounds, which were very rustic and had the odd long black hairs stuck to them, were thunked down all over the table, and they spread their legs across the divide into "our side" under the table.  Clearly they'd never ridden in a station wagon middle seat with two other siblings whose mother constantly warned about keeping all of your body parts on your side of "the line".

I was tired and grumpy, and the unhygienic-looking cheese plus one too many panhandlers playing Simon and Garfunkel’s "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail" on their pan flutes in our ears, trying to gain a few pesos from the gringos, were pushing me over the edge.  I decided to take back my side of "the line". I pushed the cheese over, spread my book out and kicked my broken-in, dusty hiking boots just to where I was sure the imaginary wall under the table would be.

The train trip across the Andean Altiplano seemed interminable.  Jimmy and I passed the time by reading, snacking on our smuggled food, chatting about everything from life to the trip to our Quechua seatmates, and watching the Andean mountains pass by, but twelve hours is a long time to sit on a train seat without much movement.  I was antsy to get to our destination, but would have settled for getting off the train in the middle of the Peruvian version of Nowhere.  Then the goat man got on the train.  

The Quechua Indian woman called the goat man over to our tight seating pod.  They swiftly moved their hairy cheeses to the edge of the table, and after speaking some unintelligible-to-me words, the goat man dropped his brown butcher paper-wrapped merchandise onto our table. I was dumbfounded but recovered sufficiently to remove my personal effects from the table. 

I could not tell you then or now what the goat man looked like.  Was he Quechua or of Spanish descent?  Did he wear a hat?  Was his skin sun- and windburned?  Was he old or young?  I have no idea.  I was so taken aback by this dead, roasted animal that had been thwacked down mere inches from my face on our small table that I may not have remembered my own name. 

I watched as he withdrew a large butcher’s knife from a rusty coffee can that had been fashioned into a carry-all with a cord knotted through two holes in the top like a young girl might make a homemade purse at a craft table.  He wore the coffee can purse slung across his torso like the young current-day bike-riding delivery service people wear their messenger bags as they cycle across New York City to make deliveries.  With that butcher’s knife, the goat man started hacking off bits and pieces of meat for his most recent sale to the Quechua women.  It was ugly and quick work as bits of meat, bone and gristle flew around with each violent downstroke of the knife.  The goat man then tore off two pieces of the brown paper that constituted his goat-carrying package and used the papers to grab two portions of the goat meat.  He then asked the women something in the language they understood, and they must have answered in the affirmative because he then took that butcher’s knife, dipped it back inside the rusted coffee can and withdrew a bile green sauce, which he smeared all over their goat meat.
The goat man handed the packages of goat to the women, who quickly paid and began to make short work of devouring their purchases. I can only imagine the look of horror and disgust on my face as these hungry women tore into that goat.  They ate the meat.  They ate whatever fat there was on that lean animal.  They cracked bones and sucked out the marrow.  They ate gristle.  As a cultural experience, it was nothing short of living a National Geographic special.  As a literal experience when all my senses were already on overload from the close confines of the long train ride, it was nearly more than I could stand.

Jimmy always says that I can smell a rotten grape inside a closed refrigerator from 50 yards away.  Normally I take this as a compliment to my very keen olfactory sense, but on this train ride, I wish I could have shut down my nose.  I felt that horrible feeling of near-vomit as the fresh smells of the goat mingled with the lingering earthy smells of the hairy cheese, the stale trapped air inside our car, and the not-so-fresh body odor all around us. 

I got hot and flushed, and my mouth began watering in a way that can only be a precursor to vomit.  There was zero air circulation in the train car which only got me hotter and more flushed. 

The windows on the train were similar to those on a Bluebird school bus.  You had to pinch the latches to release the locks so that the window could drop down.  But while a school bus’s windows open at least a half-foot, the windows in our compartment of this train only opened an inch or two. 

While Jimmy and the Quechua woman were laughing at my obvious discomfort, I quickly opened the window only to realize with disappointment that it didn’t open enough to generate any significant air flow which might cool and calm me down.  I then tried to stick my nose and mouth up near the window to catch the fresh air, only to find that I was trapped by that ridiculously small table that separated me from the goat-eating lunatics across the way.  Finally, in most unladylike fashion, I climbed on my seat and was able to push my nose and mouth up to the window to drink in the cool mountain air. 

Once I settled down and felt my salivary glands return to normal, I sat back down to stare harshly at the women who now had committed crimes against my humanity.  The meat was consumed and the few inedible cracked bones were piled on the greasy brown paper like little monuments to the dead goat.  I breathed an audible sigh or two of relief to know that this culinary ordeal was over and that surely the ladies were full and would not need to partake of any more meat on this trip.

I had just settled comfortably back into seat and taken a few deep steadying breaths when I noticed the women pulling on their long tight braids of black hair.  They each pulled one strand of hair from the braid, which they proceeded to use as dental floss to clean their teeth of any remaining goat detritus.  I knew at that point that I had seen everything.

We finished the trip and went on to marry a couple years later.  We visited Peru together with our young son a year ago, some 18 years after the last visit.  Some things were the same:  Machu Picchu still has the power to drop jaws and Cusco has great restaurants.  Some things were different:  I didn't depend on Jimmy for translations and Cusco now has a Starbucks right on the main plaza.  I don't know if the goat train falls under the first or second category:  I made Jimmy promise me that there would be NO train trips, first class or otherwise, on this vacation!

NYR 5-12-14 to 5-13-14

5-12-14 - I really detest exercising.  Like it's probably the only thing in the whole world that I hate.  HATE.  I was taught as a child that we shouldn't "hate" anything.  Rather we should "strongly dislike".
I hate, hate, hate exercise.

Back in January, we signed up to run a 5K Color Run with friends.  Since the event was coming up, I thought I should go out for a practice run this morning.  It very nearly killed me (and since I'm writing this in hindsight, I will admit that I was really sore for days afterward).

For surviving this little burst of exercise energy, I am thankful.


5-13-14 - Tonight we met 2 couple friends out for dinner.  One of the guys was in Afghanistan with Jimmy, and the other couple was in Bogota with us.  The Bogota couple is going to Thailand next and the Afghanistan couple lived in Thailand before, so that seemed like a good enough connection to get everybody together.  The Bogota couple told another Bogota friend that we were meeting out, and he and a female friend also dropped by.  Turns out they had a connection with the Afghanistan couple.  It's such a small, small world.  Why can't we all just get along?

Thankful for frequent reminders of how small the world really is.

Friday, May 16, 2014

NYR 5-5-14 to 5-11-14

5-5-14 - love my Bible study friends.  They range in age from about 40 up to 102 (no exaggeration). There's such a wealth of life experiences and I love spending Monday mornings with them.

5-6-14 - I have advanced to Adult 2 in ice skating and it's really, really hard.  So much harder than Adult 1.  Seriously.  If my goal was to try things out of my comfort zone, I'm really doing it now and I guess that makes me thankful.  In a weird kind of jump-off-a-ledge sort of way.

5-7-14  to 5-10-14 - We had very good friends in Bogota who worked for the British Embassy.  They left a year before us so we've not seen them in almost 2 years.  Gordon has taken a new job that brought him to Washington, DC, and Lisa came with him.  She and I got to catch up over lunches and shopping.  It was so wonderful, and I appreciated every single second of it.

5-9-14 - Along with Lisa and Gordon, we attended a dress parade at the Marine Barrack in Washington, DC with other friends from Bogota.  It was a really impressive event that featured the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team and the Marine Band.  I love that there are so many surprises still out there in a city that we've lived in before.

5-10-14 - Tonight we hosted a small gathering of Bogota friends so everybody could see Lisa and Gordon.  Loved, loved, loved the reminiscing and all the laughing.

5-11-14 - From breakfast in bed of my favorite breakfast ever - waffles and bacon - to a delicious dinner of crabcakes with church and family baseball in between, I had a most wonderful Mother's Day.

Monday, May 5, 2014

NYR 5-2-14 to 5-4-14

This weekend I traveled with two girlfriends from Brasilia days to the Landsdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA for a girls' getaway.  It was a great weekend where we enjoyed a winery, shopping, shared meals with lots of catching up and encouragement, spa treatments, and the movies.

   a little of this
+ a little of that
+ great girlfriends
RECHARGED BATTERIES (and for that, I'm truly thankful!)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

NYR 5-1-14

Happiness is...

the day spa finally opening downstairs in your building.  You barely have to get dressed to get a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage, waxing, etc.

I love urban living!

NYR 4-30-14

Today was writing class day.  Otherwise known as the day of dread because my writing was going to get critiqued by the class.

Three people went ahead of me in getting their essays critiqued.  Let's just say I take the approach of being the nice judge on American Idol who always wants to find the positive in everything.  My classmates do not take the same approach.  They take the gloves off and take a swing or two.

I was terrified by the time my turn came around, but guess what?  They didn't crucify me!  They had lines they didn't like and made valid suggestions for improvement, but they had many lines they loved, they found the humor in it that I'd hoped they'd find and they weren't overly critical like they were with some of the essays.  Trust me when I say I can spot "overly critical" from a hundred yards away.

I sort of feel like Sally Field when she won her Oscar.  "You like me.  You really like me."

For a big sigh of relief and the feeling that I can continue writing for at least another week, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-29-14

If April showers bring May flowers, we should have A LOT of flowers next month.

Thankful for the seasons and the promise of flowers to come.