Monday, May 20, 2013

Because They're Safe

There is a special brand of terror experienced by parents when their children might be in harm's way. Yesterday I felt it.

I've been having some medical issues since Miss P was born, and I finally decided yesterday that it might be worth a trip to the ER to get some things checked out (I'm fine--just have to have some follow-up appointments). In order to do so, we took the girl out to visit with her Grandma and Papa at their house.

From the time we left her at the Farm and I got taken back to a room in the ER, Norman came under a tornado warning. We were moved from the room they originally put us in to a more interior room. We got to hear announcements for a Code Black. We watched the storm chasers on TV work their way from west to east across Norman. The storm moved past us without dropping a tornado on Norman proper. After that, we watched as the storm moved east, thinking it would head north of the Farm.

But it kept going east. With the meteorologists saying it was going to drop a tornado any moment. Headed straight for the lake. Headed straight for our family.

I began a slow, steady panic.

We had taken her out to the Farm because I needed something. If anything happened to her, I felt like it would be my fault. I didn't keep her safe. Not to mention the fear for the rest of our family.

As Mike Morgan kept saying that a tornado was right on top of them, I got taken back for a CT scan. Alec kept trying in vain to call out and check on them, but the calls wouldn't go through. The cell towers were either overloaded or down. When I came back, he still hadn't heard from them. We began calling other people who might have heard from them. Nothing.

Finally, we got word that they were fine. Lots of downed trees, some blocking their long driveway. But everyone was safe.

We wrapped up at the ER and headed out to get our girl and help clean up. After stopping to pick up some food for everyone and changing from flip-flops to real shoes, we began the drive out to the Farm. On the route we took, everything looked normal. Until we were right at the driveway.

The storm's path was about 100 yards north of the house. I cried.

The closest houses around had some pretty good damage. They were still standing, but would need a lot of work. Trees were down everywhere, including one old-growth tree that was uprooted and laying across the road. The driveway to their house was completely blocked. The clean-up process had already begun, with chainsaws, tractors, and a bulldozer. Thank goodness for country living and access to such equipment!

Grandma, Cousin M, and Miss P rode the storm out in Grandma's closet. Their house was fine, but had no power or water, as the well relies on electricity to run. Miss P was being fed out on the porch when we walked up. I finished feeding her and then didn't put her down for about two hours.

I have no doubt that God took care of my family yesterday. The storm damage around them was not catastrophic. Help arrived quickly to move the debris. And everyone was safe.

Any weird feelings I had about being a mother are completely gone. It's not weird anymore. It's life. It is who I am. It's going to be a wild ride.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Because It's My Day

Today I turn 32. Yesterday I got to sit in church as a family of three for the first time. Tomorrow I will do my best to finish the issue of The Chronicles that I nearly finished on Friday (somehow all my work disappeared from the file-darned remote access).

Basically, life moves on. I generally love my birthday, and today is no exception. But it is amazing how much different it is when you spend the day that is supposed to be all about you taking care of someone else. In fact, it makes that birthday seem that much more worthwhile.

Such a good day, including all the spit up :-)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On the Day You Were Born

Dear Miss P,

On the day you were born, your Daddy and I went to the hospital at midnight. Mama was having contractions four minutes apart, but not progressing, so we went back home. Then, at 4:30 am, Mama's water broke, so we knew that sometime that day we would get to meet you, the person for whom we'd been waiting since that day in August when we found out you existed.

We got back to the hospital at about 5 am, both very sleepy because, upon the suggestion of the nurse, we'd taken some Benadryl when we got home the first time. Your Daddy almost fell asleep standing up! The super nice nurses got Mama ready to spend the day getting ready for you. At 7:30 am Mama got her epidural, which made waiting for you that much easier. As the day went on your Gram and Grandad, Grandma and Papa, aunt and uncles, cousin, and so many others came to see Mama and Daddy and wait to see you. After many hours, lots of ice chips, and just a little bit of pain, you arrived at 6:38 pm. You were 9lbs, 6oz, 20.5 inches long. Everyone was surprised at how big you were! You'd stayed inside long enough to get cute and chubby. Your Mama held you for a few minutes and then your Daddy took you while Mama did some recovering. They sent you off for your bath, and Mama sent Daddy to take pictures since she couldn't watch herself. You had quite an audience through the nursery window!

When things calmed back down, you were brought to Mama. And she was so happy to see you! People were standing in line to hold you and tell Mama and Daddy just how beautiful you are. After your adoring public left, you, Mama, and Daddy got ready to spend our first night as a family.

On the day you were born, you changed our lives. You made us parents. You added a sweet presence to our small family, and to our larger families as well. As I told your Aunt Jo when I texted her late that night, "Dude, I'm someone's Mom." Not a deeply profound statement, but life-altering nonetheless. Thank you for changing our lives in ways we can't even imagine yet. We're ready for the adventure that is you!

I love you,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Because I Need to Make a Quick Update

Well, since I seem to have trouble getting through posts about our trip to Europe, I'll go back to some regular posting for a while with special appearances from various European cities. I will eventually finish talking about that trip!*

So, what else has happened in the past oh, 8 months or so? Well, I was promoted to director of publications and editor of scholarly journal of the historical society. Basically I'm taking over the world one history article at a time. School continues and is going well. I realized about a week ago that, after this semester, I have one summer class and two semesters left in my classwork. In 15 hours of classwork, I will be eligible to take my comprehensive exams. I'm still letting that sink in.

Oh yeah, and we're having a baby in about 6 weeks. It's kind of a big deal :-) Baby Girl will be here mid-April. We've had one shower so far and anticipate another lovely afternoon with family and friends this upcoming weekend. Our family and friends are generous beyond measure. BG's room is almost complete, which makes it the perfect time to fill it with all kinds of baby accoutrement.

I think that covers the major things for now. Now that I've taken the pressure of finishing trip blogging off my shoulders, I anticipate more regular posts. I mean, who wants an irregular post?

*Not really, it was so awesome that I'll probably talk about it for the rest of my life. I apologize in advance for repeating the stories until they lose their fabulosity :-)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Because the Doge Said So

We awoke the next day fired up for some awesome sightseeing. Our intention had been to go over to Saint Mark's, then the Doge's Palace, and then see what time it was when we were done to assess our next move. Unfortunately, we didn't get up in time to get in line at Saint Mark's before the cruise ship crowd, so we switched up the plan and went next door to the Doge's Palace, then set our eyes toward the lagoon and the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
The Doge's Palace, adjacent to Saint Mark's Basilica (which had once been the private chapel of the Doge), was just as opulent as you might imagine for a person who ruled one of the wealthiest trading cities in the world. Huge, gothic on the outside, baroque on the inside, and beautiful. Complete with the largest globe I think I've ever seen inside a building. Pretty sure it was at least an Elizabeth and a half, possibly two Elizabeths tall.
These steps are the Giant's Staircase, guarded by statues of Mars and Neptune.

Attached to the palace is the prison, as trials were carried out in the palace. To get to the prison, you must cross the Bridge of Sighs, so named because this is the last view criminals would get of Venice until they were released. *sigh*

After wandering about in the Doge's Palace, tagging along on a few tours, and seeing lots and lots of different swords and other armaments, we headed to the vaporetto stop to make our way out into the lagoon. First stop: Murano. Murano is the home of Venetian glassmaking. Glass used to be made in Venice proper, but the fires of the ovens were deemed too dangerous for the densely populated area, so glassmaking was moved to the islands of the lagoon, particularly Murano. Beautiful glass artwork is on display in the middle of the pedestrian-filled streets (well, sidewalks). Tons of shops sell glassware produced on the island (and sometimes not produced on the island). You can see artisans crafting intricate glass animals or beautiful colored vases. You know those beads for your Pandora or other glass charm bracelet? They make them in Murano. And you can buy them pretty cheaply there. We had fun shopping for Mr. B's mother and sister.

 Next stop, Burano. We walked down the streets, looked at the colorful buildings, and ate some gelato (I know, you're shocked), and then walked by a tower that looked like it was about to fall any second. While Murano is known for glass, Burano's claim to fame is amazing lace. It was very popular in the 16th century, but fell out of favor by the 1800s. Queen Margherita established a lacemaking school in the latter part of the 1800s to revive the art. We stopped at the Lace Museum to see the process. A group of ladies were upstairs, speaking rapid Italian while making lace. It was wonderful to see.

Then, of course, we went shopping. This lovely lady wa working in her shop and indulged yet another annoying tourist who wanted a photo with her while she worked.

When then hopped back onto the vaporetto to head over to Torcello, either the first or one of the first islands in the lagoon to be inhabited. It has the oldest church in the lagoon, which we were too late to tour inside, but enjoyed walking around the outside.

Torcello is also home to a colony of cats. They manage the rodent population on the island. And have fun houses.

We were practically alone on Torcello, walking along the canal, past the cats, to the cathedral. We saw two other people the whole time we were there. A little creepy, but extremely peaceful.
The vaporetto took us back to Venice proper, and we took a nice long ride along the Grand Canal, occasionally stopping to take a photo or look at an interesting building. Then it was time for dinner, more gelato, and sleep.
In our next installment: Will Elizabeth get busted for taking photos in Saint Mark's? Will they get their moonlit gondola ride? Will they make it through the Venetian maze to get their bags and get to the train station in time? Tune in!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Because It Never Dried

And the answer to the final question from last vacation blog post is: No, the laundry never dried.
We finally gave up and opted to just pack our still-damp clothes in our suitcases, take one more spin around town to see if we could find the laundromat, and head down to breakfast at our favorite cafe. While at our favorite cafe, Mr. B found a laundromat just across the canal from the train station in Venice on Google Maps. Hopefully this one wouldn't be hidden!
We had pretty much all morning before we had to climb the hill to the train station, so we relaxed with some cappuccino, I spent some time writing in the travel journal while he found a laundromat, and we took some photos of the clear morning. The weather was beautiful.


Mr. B decided to take advantage of the lovely, public water fountain in the town square. I, being the skeptic that I am, let him drink it first. When drinking the water did not yield a result like choosing poorly in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, I decided to give it a shot. It was some pretty tasty stuff. And thus began the photo series "Water Fountains of Italy."

Enjoying our last lake cafe morning on a clear day. I count this as one of the more relaxing experiences of my life. Really, my entire life. I just wish Varenna was a little closer to Norman so that we could relax there more often :-)

After finishing our cappuccino and writing, we grabbed our bags and headed up the hill to the train station. We thought we had found the ticketing area the night before so that we could easily obtain our prepaid tickets, but as it turns out, the ticket booth at the train station is unused and closed. So, after some quick checking, Mr. B ran back down the hill a bit to the travel agent, who also dispensed the train tickets. While he ran down the hill, I spoke with a lovely Australian couple and learned more about their vacation system. They are guaranteed four weeks (I think) of leave each year. Which is why you see so many Australians traveling the world.

We had a lovely train ride back down to Milan and then transferred to a really, really nice train to Venice. Roomy seats, tables, time to do some homework, and a lovely Brazilian couple to chat with. Pretty sure this was my favorite train ride.

Once we arrived in Venice, we departed the train station and walked out into Disney World. It was unreal. It didn't look like a real city--it looked like a theme park. And what do you do first thing when you get to a theme park? Look for the laundromat! Oh, you mean not everyone does that? My bad.

We crossed a bridge over the Grand Canal, just past a vaporetto stop, and quickly found the laundromat on a side street. We proceeded to do our laundry again, for real, although we probably should have bought more than one box of detergent. After a couple of hours watching our clothes spin and chatting with a guy from New York and some more Australians, we repacked our bags and headed out to find our hotel.

We rode the vaporetto, or water bus, all over Venice. For our first trip we tried to get close to the rail so we could see as much of the city as possible. If you go to Venice, don't waste tons of money on water taxis or private boats--the vaporetto is convenient, cheap, and you can ride as much as you want. It was easy to use, just like most mass transit, and generally quick. Here we are, headed under the Rialto bridge for the first time.

Our hotel was just off Saint Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), so it was convenient for the most touristy part of the city. As we stepped onto the dock at the vaporetto station, we felt a huge sense of anticipation, for just around the corner from us was Saint Mark's Basilica. And the Doge's Palace. And Saint Mark's Square. And tons of pigeons and street vendors. A spectacle awaited us, so we forged ahead. We were not disappointed, as you can see on the face of the happy guy with the gelato.

We gawked for a while, one of us got teary-eyed (and surprisingly it wasn't me), and we were accosted by several vendors selling silly little toys that seemed horribly out of place in this setting. We tore ourselves away just long enough to walk down the alley to our hotel, check in, toss our bags in the room, and head back out. It was then that we found some delicious gelato, some delicious dinner, more delicious gelato, and spent the last part of the evening standing in the square under the moonlight listening to the musicians play at the cafes. Venice welcomed us with open arms full of food and music--what could be better?

This last photos is looking from Saint Mark's Square out toward the Grand Canal. The two pillars hold the symbols of Venice. The original patron saint of Venice was Saint Theodore, who slew a dragon, as represented by the dude with the spear standing over an alligator or crocodile on the right. The pillar on the left depicts the famed winged lion of Venice, representing its patron saint Saint Mark. After his body was stolen from Alexandria by merchants from Venice in the 800s, Venice adopted Saint Mark as their patron.

The sun went down, the moon came out, the music played, and then it was time to turn in for the evening, ready to jump into adventure in the morning.

In our next episode: How much glass and lace will I buy? Will we be left on Torcello at the mercy of the cats? Can I get away with taking photos in the Doge's Palace? Stay tuned!

Because the Music Tells the Story

"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
Translated from German by Theodore Baker
Tune: Es Ist Ein Ros

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse's lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.
Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind:
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God's love aright
She bore to men a Savior
When half-gone was the night.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load

I grew up in a church tradition that did not celebrate Advent. Advent was implied, but not emphasized. Mr. B and I now attend services at a church that celebrates the season of Advent and I enjoy the time of reflection not just on the arrival of the Christ Child, but the anticipation of the Christ Child and all his arrival brings. The lighting of the candles each week is a reminder of the light about to enter a darkened world. And I love that.

This advent carol, "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," combines the story of Christmas with the prophecies from the Old Testament book of Isaiah that foretold Christ's birth. The tune, dating at least as far back as the 1580s, is beautiful. Jesus is the light, dispelling the darkness of the world like the Advent candles that light the church sanctuary. The last line promising a lightened load for the year (and lifetime) inspires such hope in all who celebrate Jesus's birth, life, death, and resurrection.

I hope your holidays are blessed with fun, laughter, family, friends, and time to sit and ponder the wonder that is life. Merry (belated) Christmas!