Friday, August 28, 2009

what I left behind

We are in Kuwait. We traveled a total of twenty-nine hours to get here and only at one point - boarding the plane from Frankfurt to Kuwait - did I think What are we doing? We were boarding on the tarmac and I was walking up the steps with Claire in one arm and a bag flung over my shoulder and the woman in front of me wore an abaya. Not until that moment did I really absorb how totally foriegn this new culture would be to me. Neither Justin nor I had time this summer to get nervous or worry the thousand worries that tag along with any big change. But on the steps up that last plane to our new home, I thought Why didn't we just buy a house like everyone else?

I remember before we moved to Colombia, I looked at our friends and family buying their houses and I couldn't imagine wanting that. Not yet. Someday. But even then, it might be on the side of a mountain or dominoed in a townhouse. I looked at buying a house the same way a comfortable bachelor looks at marriage and kids: eh, nice, but not for me.

What I really thought was that a house would trap us. No getting out after you lay that downpayment down; no getting out after you sign up for a thirty year mortgage. (Not so. Since moving abroad, we've met several people who have sold or rent their houses while overseas).

But on those steps up, I almost wished Justin and I were back in some comfortable neighborhood happily accumulating stuff to box and label in our basement storage. I guess that sounds snarky. I don't mean it that way. Just that this time, going abroad was a tiring journey. When we were on our way to Colombia, I thought things like Finally and Free and Yea! On our way to Kuwait, I thought things like I hope she isn't poopy and If I fall asleep we'll be robbed blind (while Justin snored with his mouth hanging open, limbs sprawled over a plastic airport chair) and Still another two hours!?

But you know, we made it. We're putting out life here together. And even after just over a week in Kuwait, that house (and yard and closet full of shoes) isn't quite as vivid as that moment of doubt up the steps of our plane bound for Kuwait.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


On Thursday evening, my uncle Doug was killed in an automobile accident. He was forty-five. His friend Rich was driving and he was also killed. So these past couple of days have been sad.

Thursday evening I went to my grandparents' where family had gathered after leaving the hospital. I listened to my aunts Peg and Amy, my uncle Dan, my Mom, and my Grandma and Grandpa talk about Doug's obituary. I don't remember who said it first but the refrain for the evening and for now was He lived large. He lived life large. Because he did. And during the last couple of days we've been collecting Doug stories from people who knew him well or maybe not that well - but people remember Doug.

He worked at Kandu Industries. He rode a bike all over. He took many trips. In fact, when I realized I hadn't seen much of Doug this summer, I guessed he was probably off on another trip west or south or north or east.

Wednesday night Justin and I talked about Colombia, put together a slide show for our family. Doug and Rich were there. I had a camera. And I didn't take a picture. When you say goodbye you fully expect there to be another hello. Right now, I keep trying to hear Doug's laugh again.

Yesterday Amy was talking about Doug living life large. She said that most of us are stuck in boxes. Doug didn't have a box. He didn't have a box for what kind of people he could be friends with. He didn't have a box for how excited you should be about Christmas. He didn't have a box for games and hugs and laughs.

I didn't know Doug as well as I could have or maybe should have. He was always around at holidays and family dinners and camping trips. He was goofy with his nieces and nephews. He was just a lot of fun. I never felt ignored or hurt by him. I never felt uneasy or left out around him. Doug was just Doug. And I felt terrible that I hadn't gotten to know him better. Then Justin pointed out that just because I didn't have deep wandering conversations about life with my uncle - he was still my uncle. And I've learned from him, maybe more in these last couple of days when I've looked at his life and realized how blessed we each were to be around him.

So we are sad. But also amazed by how open, how wide and great his life was. Doug lived large. We thank God for giving him to us for a time. Even while we are sad that time was short.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yesterday I ran eleven miles and Mom biked along. It was great. But I kept thinking about how many styrofoam cups I was putting a match to with each wasteful exhale. That's because my brother posted this on his blog the other day. Check out the Freakonomics blog post he sited. It contains the phrase "According to Wikipedia" so you know it'll be good.

Shake it off and go for a good long run. Enjoy, enjoy.

But while you're on my brother's blog, poke around. He writes well. He makes me laugh and he also makes me stop and think. About more than whether or not my running is affecting global warming.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The other morning at the end of a shared bike ride and run, my Mom said that she heard biking four miles was equivalent to jogging one. I know nothing about this except that I think I'd still prefer my ten mile run to a forty mile ride (though I haven't been bitten by the bike bug like my husband). But after yesterday, I was wondering:

How many miles is painting rooms for eight (plus) hours worth?

I volunteered to paint my parents' living room, dining area, sunroom, and back hallway - and was much relieved when another friend stepped up to help. So yesterday Kristine and I plowed through most of the walls. And at the end of the day, my legs felt like they'd been on a loooong run. Justin shook them out - he just grabs the thigh or calve and shakes up and down the different muscle groups (it's glorious) - but I still woke with cramps.

So I am passing on this morning's run. We still have a few miles to go in the sunroom.

Friday, August 7, 2009

on wisconsin, on wisconsin!

This is my little sister Ellie. This summer she got a spacer for her palate - so her front teeth are creating a big gap so that her other teeth have a chance at coming in straight. That probably isn't what you noticed about her first though. She's goofy.
Ruth and I took a quiet day at the library. She sat with a stack of American Girl magazines (so prim and proper!)...
...while I enjoyed an hour of uninterrupted writing time.
Claire likes her Grandpa's whiskers!
Here we are at the county fair! Claire loved the sheep and cows and I think Grandpa enjoyed carrying her around. Gracie, a.k.a. the Baby Whisperer, was very attentive.
Okay. So the first carousel ride was fun but the thumb was more fun.
Claire's first tractor pull held her attention better. Wonder what that means.
Stair steps. Gracie, Ruth, Ellie, David and Daniel.
Little happy family. Our time in Wisconsin is flying now that we're less than two weeks from boarding our next plane!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

summer shots from the dells

Justin got his mowing fix this summer, helping his parents out at their home and at their place in the Dells. Claire looks excited to mow too.
Cousins on a quilt. Daughters of cousins. These cousins. The four guys got married within a year and a few months of one another and then their wives had baby girls (firsts for all but one couple) in the same year! Three of those little girls were born within a week of one another!
I like you.And here is Justin with Claire, his mother and grandmother. Family reunion fun.A rural run. Much enjoyed. Justin biked along. We've been trying to get a lot of just us time this summer while we have grandmas and little aunts who are willing to watch Claire. Once we're in Kuwait, I think a date will be hard to come by.
More later.

Monday, August 3, 2009

writing blog

I just created my writing blog:

A long address, I know. But feel free to hop over and check it out. The purpose of that blog will be to chronicle my writing process as I attempt (and succeed!) at writing my first book. I will be very open about what I learn about writing, particularly about tackling a big project. I'll also share other blogs I find interesting or helpful and both online and print resources I use. At times, the blog will likely delve into my own doubts and gigantic pity parties will be thrown to lament my never having any good ideas or time or discipline or whatever. But I am hoping for a great end: 31 July 2010 is my self-imposed deadline. One book.

Follow along if you like. Send the blog address to friends who might be interested. I'd like to find some good online writing friends.

Meanwhile, this blog will remain the same for friends and family. Writing thoughts will overlap at times.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

now we can say "tomorrow"

This morning Danny was crying. I thought he was crying because Justin told him not to hit David or poke David or something.

"No, I am crying because I miss Mom and Dad," he told me in a small voice.

"You know what, Danny? Tomorrow they will be home. Do you want a hug?" I said.

He shook his head no but brightened up.

"But you still need to apologize to David," I added.

* * *
We've been enjoying our time together. On Thursday we played Apples to Apples and teased each other about what our winning cards meant. According to the rounds we won:
Gracie is: slow, juicy, cute & large
Ruth is: cold & old
Ellie is: (besides being the winner of the game): light, yucky, sweet, sloppy, creepy ("Do I have to be?"), colorful, hairy & skinny
David is: mean, exciting, sharp (he really wanted that one!) & wonderful
Danny is: helpful
Rollene is: noisy, fast & boring
Justin is: Oh yeah, he was a party pooper and didn't play
And I am: dangerous, soft ("Claire thinks you're soft"), jolly & small
Yesterday I ran away to Madison to meet up with my friends Lisa and Karla for lunch. I managed a trip to Trader Joe's (chocolate covered macadamia nuts! dried white peaches!) and also impressed myself with my stick-to-the-list-edness at Penzeys Spices. When I returned, we ordered Chinese and McDonalds and sat around the dinner table talking. This morning we had Sugar Cereal Cartoon Morning, a rare treat for this Grape Nuts Cheerios Corn Flakes crew. My favorite quote is taken from the Milk or No Milk debate, the consensus being that if you poured milk on your Frosted Flakes, all you had at the end was sugar milk.