Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meet Luke

Luke Daniel, our nephew and godson, born on Friday:

This one's the killer:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Country Mouse

I hate to come back glum from a two-week blogging hiatus, and I promise to make it up to you tomorrow with at least one picture of a newborn baby, but the discontent that's growing inside me again needs some leg room.

I think I've said before, and I will very likely say again, that I'm glad we live in the city for now. It's brought us closer to friends and family and entertainment and great food. For me, since I tend to fear anything I haven't done before, it's also killed off a whole bundle of fears. But the last two years have also made it clear that I really belong somewhere else.

Lately, "somewhere else" is a place where my peace and conscience aren't disturbed, respectively, by footsteps above and the awareness of another life below. Where the house next door is not so close that I can hear the humming of their air conditioner and my own lights are reflected brilliantly off their white siding. Where strangers don't stand a few feet from my open windows and smoke. And we can bring home nice things and not have to even think about whether they'll be clearly visible from outside the building, and if they are, whether someone will try to steal them. Where we don't have to close the windows next to the couch when we watch TV, to mute the sound of traffic. And I don't have to think about what day of the week it is before deciding where to park the car outside my own home. Where on Tuesday mornings I can do the laundry and shake the bathroom rugs on the back step without worrying about running into a neighbor while unwashed, pajamaed, and braless.

Right now my perfect somewhere else, the somewhere else where I belong, is a place where sometimes I can feel alone.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Better than an Apple on my Desk

Today I picked up the books for a reading class I'll be teaching this fall so we can stash more money to pay for the wedding, and there were some papers in my mailbox along with the books. Just now, while Eric ran to Blockbuster to pick up the next disc of Lost so we can stop scratching at our necks and having seizures and hallucinating dead babies on the ceiling, I casually looked through the stuff. The last thing I opened was a large envelope marked "Confidential," but with no other clues to its contents. The papers inside weren't clearly labeled either, so it took me a few seconds to realize that what I was looking at were the results of the student course evaluations they never mailed to me after the last class I taught at that school. After seven months, I wasn't expecting to ever see them. But I'm so glad I did.

Except for one or two outliers, they loved me, man. And reading their written comments made me remember that I liked them, too. I hadn't been sure how I felt about teaching again, but now I'm pretty sure I feel confident and even a little excited.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Don't Drink the Water

Last night Eric's youngest brother called--jubilant and exhilarated--to tell us that he and his wife had just--ten minutes earlier--found out she's pregnant. And I'm so excited for them, because they've been wanting this for a while, but I'm also fascinated by the rate at which his family has been reproducing lately. In my family, someone has a baby once every eleven years. Exactly. So I can have a baby in 2013. Until then, I'll have to wear a bird flu-style face mask when we visit any of Eric's siblings, because in the twelve months between this past March and next March, they will have produced four--four!--new babies. And how certain are we, really, that pregnancy isn't contagious?

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Musical Crack

While fighting hard against the wedding planning infection in my brain in the interest of actually getting three seconds worth of work done today, I pulled up some vintage Madonna on iTunes. (Nothing after 1989. That's the rule.) And suddenly I'm relaxed and happy and writing almost fluently. Embarrassing but true.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vacation, Part 3: Fun with Landscapes

On Thursday night we said goodbye to Mesa Verde with appetizers and drinks at the rooftop lounge and went to bed early.

Friday morning started in the dark, at 4:30. We packed our things, drank our coffee (Eric) and tea (me) on our private balcony while the sun rose, and were seen off by four mule deer that surprised us by bounding out, all at once, from behind a large bush, and then spent a long time grazing just a few yards away.

This was our longest day of driving, so we scheduled a break about halfway through, at a place Eric wanted badly to visit anyway: the tasting room at the Fort Collins Brewery. If you're a beer fan, I very much recommend trying to locate some of Fort Collins' stuff. Their brews fall all over the flavor spectrum, and everything I've tried has been excellent. The brewery made a great rest stop, too, since the atmosphere was laid back and the people were nice. And don't worry: we drank in moderation and hung around afterward for long enough to shake the buzz before we got back in the car.

We spent most of the remainder of the day driving straight up the eastern side of Wyoming, which is gorgeous in a grassy, windswept, lonely way. We pulled into a drive-in restaurant in Lusk for cheeseburgers and fries before continuing into South Dakota, where we got to watch the sun set in rich, steely pastels over the Black Hills. After that, the drive quickly became less pleasant, since Eric had to drive for hours through deer country in the dark, and despite my promise to help him scan the sides of the road for reflective eyeballs, I completely failed to stay awake. Happily, we made it to our motel without hitting anything. Except a suicidal bunny. But we try not to think about that.

If you ever have a chance to go to Wall, South Dakota, please don't. Especially don't stay at the Motel 6. (Sorry Motel 6, but it's the way it is.) We arrived close to midnight to find that we'd been given another unsolicited free room upgrade, to this huge room directly over the motel office that had a door in it marked "Employees Only" and a very large chlorinated hot tub. But no bedside tables. A couple of young French guys were staying in the room next to ours, and they turned out to be the housekeepers. The room wasn't so bad as long as we were asleep, so we just tried not to spend much time there while we were awake.

On Saturday morning our quest for pancakes took us to a restaurant across the street from Wall Drug, and after breakfast we wandered over to see what the hundreds of miles of signs were all about. And it was at least as bad as we expected. It's kind of like the world's largest crappy souvenir shop, with smatterings of legitimate crafts like Minnetonka moccasins and Black Hills gold.

Our only reason for being in Wall was to spend the day at nearby Badlands National Park, but since the average visitor to the park only spends something like an hour and a half there, we didn't expect to be able to fill the whole day with it. Turns out, though, that aside from Wall Drug and the Badlands, there is quite literally nothing to do in Wall. So after sitting in our motel room for an hour or so, picking up neighboring hotels' wireless signals on Eric's iPod and feeling the life slowly drain out of us, we decided to head for the Badlands. And you know what? We managed to spend the whole day there.

I don't have much to say about the Badlands, except that it's this entirely unlikely area of rock formations in the middle of what is otherwise flat grassland. When you walk or climb on those formations, they turn out to be made of such soft rock that its surface is really just parched dirt, dusty and cracked and crumbly. We spent hours driving around, stopping frequently for little hikes and to admire the formations, the prairie dogs, and finally the sunset. So it was a good day after all.

Sunday was our shortest drive of the trip and uneventful except for a huge, yummy small-town breakfast along the way. And, oh, also: the sweetness of home.

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