Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mrs. Teacher

Getting married has been the best thing ever. I love my husband, I love the security I feel in his love when I look into his eyes, and I love my new name. It's amazing, however, how much hassle this new name has caused me. Changing my ID's, my CC's, and numerous other accounts over the summer is one thing, but I didn't anticipate the school year well enough. I thought, "I'll go to the district office, do the paperwork (which turned out to be 8 separate forms...), and that will be that."

Yeah, right. I had forgotten my affinity for putting my name on absolutely everything I do. I put a heading on all of my assignments which includes the class name, my name, and the assignment name. Before I print and copy anything, I must go over it with a keen eye, making sure I don't print it with my old name. (Old name, former name, maiden name, I experiment with each of these terms, rolling them around in my mouth like different tastes: bitter, sour, sweet.) Changing signs in my classroom, changing registrations in software I use. Introducing myself to new staff members with my new name. (A term with which I am at ease.)

It's easier, I think, because I really do enjoy my name. I love attention, which you know if you've ever spent a tick of time with me. And when people hear my married name, they inevitably say, "Really? Like 'your royal'?" To which I respond, "Yes, but spelled differently." It is received with many a smile and often an additional witty comment. I love the attention it brings. I'm sure the novelty will wear off soon, as my in-laws assure me it will.

But still, when I email people, they don't know who I am now. I have to tell them. I have to re-establish myself. This will only get worse when the speech season starts. And I have a new mailbox. Not that this is a huge transition, but it's just another one of the things that is different. I've jumped fifteen letters in the alphabet, and I have to remember that when I look at lists.

Small adjustments that accompany one large one.

(Ironically, I am posting more frequently now that I've threatened myself and my readers that I would stumble slowly off the blogging mountain. We'll see if it lasts :-))

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day Two, Year Five

My license expiring next June reminds me that this is indeed my fifth year of licensed teaching. Wowza. I'm amazed at how quickly time flies. I remember all of my fears and hopes of my first year, during this first week. I remember the spasm of my muscles of the first day. The panic that came each year, planning new lessons for new classes. Now, in my third year at one school, I am finally teaching a semester full of material I've already taught. Last year, I was assigned a new class that I had absolutely no experience in. And although I am indeed teaching a class I've never taught before this year, it isn't until second semester and it's very similar to the ones I'm teaching now. Making workshop week so very pleasant. (Except, of course, the absence of my partner in crime, Molly.) I am finally beginnging to feel confident and comfortable in my abilities. I am a little surprised sometimes at how others are born with the confidence. Maybe they know more than I do. Maybe they have better self-esteem. But I am still very much a rookie. I learn new things each and every day from both my students and my fellow staff members. And although I am happy to give advice, help, etc. when asked for it (and sometimes when not asked), I am still far too green to be considered any sort of expert. The coordinator of mentoring asked me to be a mentor for second year teachers. The responsibilities are nil, it's more of a social contact than anything, but the idea of being someone's mentor in any capacity freaks me out this early in my career. The person assigned as my first year mentor at this school had been teaching as long as I had, two years at the time. But because I was new to the district, I got a mentor. Which is fine. The meetings were more social than anything and it's a great system, but it seems there could be a better name than "mentor". Especially when there was observation involved. It felt like, "We've been teaching the exact same amount of time...who are you to tell me what to do?" Oh, well.

My classroom is ready to go, save for deciding how to rearrange the desks to accomodate the two new student table desks (2 students per table, for now...). My largest class size is 35, larger than any class I've ever taught at any school before. I think of Molly, however, and her classes of 40+ at her new school, and I don't feel quite as bad. For me, the worst part is the discrepancies in numbers. I am teaching the same class five times a day. In one class, I have 35, in another, only 21. This might be okay in other classes, but since this is speech class, it adds an entire 2 days to speech presentations. What will my class of 21 do for those extra days? Watch a movie. Is this educationally sound? No. But to move them along in the curriculum not only makes my job more difficult, but also seems like a punishment to those students who just happen to be in the small class. There are so many problems with scheduling, of course, and I understand everyone has their own preferences, requests, etc. To have them all fulfilled is pie-in-the-sky optimism that would truly be impossible.

I haven't revised my syllabus, written lesson plans for week one, or any other teaching type responsibility in the past two days of workshop. Instead, during the small amounts of time between meetings, I have first organized my room in order to feel more prepared spatially. It will help me to concentrate, I believe, not having piles of randomness throughout my space. Tomorrow, after more meetings, and then again Thursday, after more meetings, I will begin to form the schedule and activities for this fifth year. I'm both reluctant and excited. I miss sleeping until 10 already, but I enjoy the prospects of the year to come as well.

Despite my "easy" teaching schedule, I worry I will lose my sanity this fall, as I am finally finishing my Master's Degree as well. Between a Monday night class and the writing of my alternate plan paper, I have a lot of outside work to be doing. I have asked my husband to help me stay focused. He adorably responded, "" I told him just to remind me to be productive, check in with me about my homework, and when he sees me watching Sex and the City reruns on Wednesday night instead of researching, tell me to get off my ass and get to work. "Okay, I think I can do that," he said, and we kissed. I really do love being married.

It's odd how I feel like there are hundreds of other things I should chronicle as I begin this year, but I know I will begin to bore myself quickly. In general, in case anyone asks, I'm feeling positive, hopeful, and more worried about stress than actually stressed as I begin this school year. I leave you with the quotation I put on my "Staff Yearbook" form under "yearbook quotation" (lame, I know, but I participate in all things lame, usually): Always say please and thank you.

I think it's good advice, and never gets you into trouble.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Three topics, One post

(This is my laziness of posting...instead of writing three posts, I'm writing about three separate things within one post. Bah. Who cares ? :-))

Though planned for about ten days beforehand, I was unable to share my plans of a vacation to Arkansas with you, dear blog readers, because the point of the trip was to surprise my sister. Mission accomplished. The hardest part of surprising my sister was not telling her myself. The plan was to drive down with her best friend, Bonnie. Bonnie told Les her own sister would be accompanying her, so Les wouldn't be suspicious about Bonnie's decision to drive instead of fly (tix were expensive, but she was still planning on it until I told her I would come too). So for many days of phone conversations and Gmail chats, I had to pretend I was jealous of everyone going to visit Leslie this month. I had fun with it from time to time, giving her hints that wouldn't be at all obvious until she looked back at them later. But despite my acting abilities, I came very close to slipping up and mentioning it in passing. I didn't, however, and the look on everyone's faces was totally worth it.

When we were about halfway there, I almost gave in and told her when she called. About five hours from Littel Rock, Bonnie's phone rang. We both assumed she was calling to see if we were almost there. Bon and I got giggly and I was all quiet, not wanting to ruin it. But as Bonnie began listening to Les, I knew this was not an ordinary phone call. Les was calling to tell Bonnie that their dog had just died. This was not the news we were expecting. Les and Jonathon's darling Saint Bernard, Josephine (AKA Josie), suffered bloat while they were out and about, and by the time they were home, there was nothing that could be done. (FYI: If you are a dog owner, and do not know what bloat is, look it up now and learn, because if it happens and is caught quickly, the dog's life can be saved.) This is especially sad and unfair for Josie, because she had all sorts of health problems including Lyme disease, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and allergies. Les and Jonathon took very good care of her, doing for her everything her special circumstances required. They are the most responsible and loving pet owners ever. It was just a tragic thing that happens sometimes. When Bonnie relayed the message to me, I wanted to yell through the phone, "I'll be there soon, sister! I love you!" But we decided it would still be a nice surprise, even though it would be shadowed.

Bonnie and I stopped at a store on our way to buy a plant for Les to plant Jo's ashes under. Bonnie picked out a beautiful azalea named Autumn Sweetheart, because they adopted Josie two years ago (in the autumn) and she was the biggest (literally:-)) sweetheart there was. When we pulled up to their house then, Bonnie led the way to the front door and I walked with the plant in front of my face. Jonathon answered the door when we knocked, and Bons walked in and I walked in behind her, still keeping my face hidden in case Les was right there. I glanced sideways at Jonathon and he smiled really big and said really loudly, "What!?!" I hushed him and asked in a whisper where Les was. He pointed down toward the sunken living room. Bonnie again walked in first, then I pulled the plant down and yelled suprise. Les just stopped in her tracks and stared at me for a few seconds. No smile, no nothing. Then she walked up to me and hugged me, and we both started crying. So did Bonnie and Jen. Jen had driven over from Dallas the night before, so she was also surprised to see me. Having the people who love her the most around her on this very difficult day was special, I know. She was pretty impressed we managed to pull off the surprise, too, as she is a very smart girl.

The next day was her birthday, and we celebrated in small ways, remaining subdued from the day before. Their house is beautiful and they finally have friends (not to say they're not awesome people, but it's hard meeting new people in a new town). The week was spent mostly chatting, drinking, swimming in their magnificent pool (it is VERY hot in AR), shopping, and having a good time. Girls spending time together doing girly things. Oh, and Jonathon was there, too :-). It was a great vacation, and I'm glad I got to see my sister. I will see her again in October, when my mom and I fly down over MEA break. This living nearly 900 miles apart is taking some getting used to, but it forces us to appreciate the time we do have together.
Miss you already, Les!

"Minnesota, Minnesota, we are south of Manitoba, we are east of North Dakota, we've got something truly rare. It's fulfilling, entertaining, it's true culture you'll be gaining. Accept no immitations, it's the fair!"

This is a song. If you've never heard it sung to its adorable little jingle, ask me to sing it for you the next time you see me. I believe every word to be true. I love the fair. It is a once-a-year indulgence into a day of foregoing diets and wandering aimlessly over 310 acres of "stuff". Our niece joined us this year for her very first fair experience. Back in June, she told me Colbie Callait was going to be opening for someone, and she wanted to go. I looked it up, and she was opening for Lifehouse and Goo Goo Dolls, so we bought tickets. She asked, "What do you do at the fair?" I answered, "Eat and look at stuff." And that's exactly what we did. Items consumed: fresh-squeezed lemonade, pronto pups, cheese curds, french fries, Sweet Martha's Cookies, and funnel cake. Stuff seen: piglets being born, lots of other livestock (we enjoy walking through all the barns), tractors, The Eco-Experience (stopping to harass Pat's co-workers, as Pat himself opted out of working their booth this year), the art show, tractors, wood-cutters, family (Brian and family just happened to be there as well), the fair from above (we rode the Sky Glider), tractors, Canadian Royal Mounted police (I don't know why they were there, but the horses as well as the mounties were worth looking at), seats for the new Twins Stadium, a Great Dane that could be Jersey's dad (I love the Pet Center), and a concert followed by fireworks that made the day complete. It was a beautiful 75 degree day, a wonderful relief coming from the excruciating Arkansas heat.

Conclusions: 1. Eating fried foods is naughty, but quite enjoyable. 2. I love my husband, but the lead singer of Lifehouse is hot.

I found while cleaning today an old notebook that had very few used pages, less than twenty, I'd say. So, I decided to purge it and use it for my fall grad class which starts tomorrow evening. Before ripping out pages willy-nilly, I read them, and I found something I wrote over two years ago. It's a reaction to the book The Kite Runner I wrote while on vacation in Colorado with Pat and his family. Have you ever forgotten you've written something, come across it later, and thought, "Huh. That's not bad"? I guess that's pretty much the case here, so I decided to chronicle it by typing it here, verbatim, my scribbled reactions written immediately after finishing this book:

"Few things compare to the feelings that run through me upon completing a truly good piece of literature. Nevermind that the cover proclaims "#1 NYT Bestseller". Forget what Diane Sawyer and The San Francisco Chronicle have to say. A book that can cause me to weep so frequently at not only atrocities of humanity, but also at its wonders can only be thought of as great literature.

Such is the case in Khaled Hasseini's The Kite Runner. Hasseini has given his readers the gifts of a gripping and emotional plot, dazzling verbage and imagery, and staggering reality. As I read the story of Amir and Hassan, I wished only that it were indeed a story. And though it is a tale of heritage, family, and the ties that bind, it is set in a background that is all too real. The episodes in the book that cause us to gasp in horror are the portions that are not fictionalized.

The brutal force with which Hasseini describes the state of Kabul and other Afghani cities shows no mercy. It is nothing but painful to know that the things in this book are not things of the past. Here, in the saftey of an SUV traversing US Highway 83, I struggle to comprehend any of it. How could I possibly? Overwhelming feelings of guilt, pity, shame, sadness, and anger encircle my heart. But what good does that do? I know I will do nothing differently. I can try my damnedest to at least remember the plight of others while enjoying my vacation, but nothing will come of it. Ignorance, even when feigned, is bliss. I am a lower-middle-class American. Always have been and most likely always will be. Is it my job to try and atone for the sins of others by simply acknowledging that they exist? This, I don't know. All I can do is thank God daily for the gifts He has given me, right? No. Of course, there is more I can and should do. But what? Send money--to whom? Protest--how? Deny my own happiness to try and "even things out" a bit--? It's all too much to ponder."

Now I can throw the pages away. They were pretty sloppy anyway. I haven't yet read Hasseini's next book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I look forward to it affecting me in the same way.

Thanks for sticking it out for all three topics :-). It's back to school tomorrow for me, with the kids joining me next week. This summer has been the best of my life, as I've hopefully adequately recorded here. With finishing my Master's, teaching, and continuing to try and lose weight, blogging will more than likely take a backseat. Although I've only posted 18 times in the last 11 weeks, expect it to fall off even more in the coming months. It has become a form of expression and therapy, however, so perhaps I will find the time. Stay tuned to find out :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I (heart) TV

Judgment be damned, I am willing to admit it: I love the black plastic and convex glass box in the corner of my living room. I am angry when my cable fails. I am excited when my shows come on. I am on the edge of my seat in the bottom of the ninth. I am saddened when a show calls it quits. And I will be just as joyful as my husband when we buy an HDTV that will hang from the wall in our new basement hideaway (mere weeks away from completion :-)).

This does not make me a bad person. This does not make me a stupid person. This does not make me a person with "too much time on her hands" nor a person "who lacks the intellect for more important forms of entertainment". Pooh on the people who think that way. Despite the intimate parasocial relationships I have developed over the years with television personalities, both fictional and not, watching TV is a hobby, just like any other. Like my other hobbies (reading, knitting, cooking, baking, sketching, etc.), I do it because it's fun. Like reading a book, it allows me to escape the day, the thoughts of my own reality, and the all-too-familiar notion that I am boring. I can spend a funny evening in NY with my "Friends" if I am sad; I can enjoy the spoils of LA and celeb life with Kathy Griffin when I'm bored with myself; I can relish in the joy of serving others on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when I am in the mood to cry.

Now, I happen to have a couple of favorite shows that I know so intimately, fun is made of me inevitably every time I quote one of them. I find myself quoting them so often, even, that I feel the need to say "Oh, that's not my humor; it's from such and such". These two shows, so near and dear to my heart, are both now off the air, allowing me complete access via DVD whenever I please (like, um, right now, for example). They are, of course, Friends and Sex and the City. Perhaps I harbor a longing for an apartment in New York City, who knows, but I believe these shows appeal to me for the same reasons they appealed to millions of viewers in their collective 16 years (10 for Friends, 6 for SATC): although completely unrealistic (I haven't completely lost touch), the characters are entirely relatable to the average American. As a communications student and teacher, I could wax on for days about the social messages, the idealistic goals, the interpersonal dilemmas (always solved), etc. ad nauseum. I won't, however, because even though these themes run rampant through these shows (I use a couple of episodes of Friends in my classes at school and a friend of mine even wrote a graduate paper on SATC), they are not the reasons I watch them. I watch them because they're fun. They make me laugh. They speak to me personally. They introduce me to ideas and trends and quirks and food. I cried when they went off the air, and I am not ashamed.

So, whether or not you believe the rise in television viewership is in distinct correlation to the decline of American intellect (yes, we are, as a nation, getting dumber every year), dear reader, I am here to tell you that, critics be damned, television serves a purpose in the lives of many. In fact, if you don't watch TV in America, you, my friend, are the exception to the rule. At my lunch table, those that aren't anticipating who will get "voted off the island" next are the ones left out of the conversation.

Live from Minneapolis, it's Thursday evening.

(Although friends of mine who "judge" me for watching too much tv do read this blog, this post isn't directed at anyone. It's just a general message to the masses. And by masses I mean the approximately 15 people who read this blog :-). That, and of course, the running theme of this here blog...memory. I must remember not to torment my own children for watching too much telly. You know, when I actually have kids.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wedding so Beautiful; Lund's so Uncomfortable

In lieu of writing a post about Molly's wedding that rivals the post I keyed about my own, I will simply link you to her words, as they are better than mine. I will, however, say a few things that truly express the beauty of the day through my eyes.

1. It was adorable watching Molly "rehearse" her wedding. I say it in this way because she was unable to have a real rehearsal, as her officiate couldn't make it. So, we all stood down by the river at the ceremony site listening to Molly ramble through the program, quickly introducing (having us raise our hands) us to the person with whom we'd walk down the aisle. She made it her own by saying things like "boogie down the aisle" and then "she'll announce our getting hitched". Then, we went up to the Barbados Ballroom (who knew it was so close?) to enjoy a feast.
2. Never again will I get to see Molly sitting patiently as a woman curls every strand of her extremely long and thick hair. Then, later, something I don't need a picture of, as it is in my mind forever: Molly, in sweatshirt and cords, hair done up fancy for the wedding, perched on her couch looking out the window at the rain with a pout on her face. She looked about four years old. Joy then, as the clouds parted right after the bouquets arrived, and she danced around the room. And really, it was just a blessing, because right after the reception began (and we were back indoors after hours of heat) thunder and hail pounded down from above.
3. I cried harder than I have at any wedding, standing in front of people nonetheless, when Molly's dad sang a song he wrote for the occasion. Although it was a beautiful song with personal touches, yet universal meaning, I cried because the relationship Molly has with her dad is so sweet, so affectionate, like mine with my father was. My father was also a musician, and although he more than likely would not have written a song for the occasion of my (or my sister's) wedding, it would've meant the world to me for him to be there. I hope everyone who had the pleasure of having a father to walk them down aisle at their weddings appreciates it.
4. The cake was delicious. (I'm lightening the mood:-).)
5. Molly's friends are very fun, as you may have read in my post about her shower and bachelorette party. Although I am lucky enough to have a husband who loves to dance with me at weddings, it was fun to dance with her friends as well. The storm raging outside only made it more exciting.
6. Molly and Ryan were both so happy, all day, from the moment they saw each other. Witnessing love like theirs makes everything so much sweeter.

It really was a very fun weekend. I'm so lucky to have been a part of it. Oh, and they already sent their thank-you cards. I got mine in the mail today. And I thought I was pretty good by getting them out within the month. Efficiency. Wednesday they head to Alaska for a week on a ship. Enjoy every minute, kids, it goes by quickly.

The second half of this post contains the rest of the weekend. When we got home from the wedding, I laid down for a nice little nap before doing the things I needed to do. Four hours quickly slipped by. When I woke up, it was already 5:30, and I had to go to the gym yet (I have started working with a personal trainer, and I am very committed to going the same three days a week every week to stay consistent). I was going to pick up dinner on my way home from the gym.

Now, there are two grocery stores about equidistant from my home. To the north, a Rainbow foods that is notorious for understaffing, long lines, and crabby people (not to stereotype, but it is on Lake Street). To the southeast, a Lund's that is notorious for being more expensive, of course. Well, the gym is south, so I was already halfway there. Because I was just going to pick up the makings of dinner, I didn't really care about the extra dollar or so it would cost me. But when I got there, I found myself in the mood to grocery shop. This feeling is rare and fleeting, so I jumped at the shot and bought groceries for the next two weeks. I shopped the deals (they had some really good two-for-ones) and just didn't find myself caring too much that it would cost a little extra. When I got to the checkout and didn't have to wait even a minute, I knew it was worth it, considering the checkout line is usually the longest part of a trip to Rainbow. What I had forgotten, however, because I have ever only bought a few items at Lund's, was that they don't let you take carts to the parking lot. They offer "complimentary carry out service", meaning a nice young man loads up your groceries into a special little cart, then follows you to your car and then loads them into your car. How nice, right? Except, that it wasn't nice; it was weird. I felt like I should talk to him during the walk to the car (which was long, as I'm trying to be better to myself by taking a far away spot at shops), help unload the groceries into the car ("Sokay, sokay" he said as I tried to help), or at least give him a tip (not allowed).

It's such a nice service, yet it really was just weird. Ultimately, I decided I should be happy with the fact that my new comfort in the lower middle class hasn't ruined my sensibilities. And that I probably would never shop at Lund's again. At least not for more than I can carry.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Right on...

We should be getting a thank-you card any day now. Few people, I believe, have ever spent as much money in one weekend at Target as my husband and I did these past three days. With two coupons for 10% off our entire purchase, we filled two shopping carts easily on Friday night. One coupon was for our registry, specifically. Our "wedding gift" from Target was 10% off anything remaining on our list. Of this we took great advantage. That was one cart. The other cart was everything else, as I have a Target Visa, and had my 10% off reward coupon. Then, on Saturday, we realized there were some things we had forgotten, so we went back. From dinner to new sheets (600 thread count on sale for $18.88 a piece, baby!) to two microwave carts to dishes and silverware to towels, we cleaned that place out. Not a single aisle remained unturned.

From those purchases, we have continued to make our life together in this small bungalow we love so dearly. Cleaning, rearranging, and replacing the old with the new occupied the rest of the weekend. What a thrill to walk in to my bedroom and see matching sheets, bedspread, shams, and throw pillows. "It's like a real bed!" my husband exclaimed when he saw it. Towels that match the decor of both bathrooms, kitchen appliances that aren't harvest gold, silverware that wasn't forged in the 70's. So wonderful to have things that are "ours" instead of "his and hers". And what's best: we did it all together. And it was fun. Organizing and cleaning and laughing punctuated nightly with dinner and Netflixed movies and sex. (The niece is out of town, giving us the rare opportunity of a house to ourselves. She is having a different kind of fun altogether: a road-trip to Lollapalooza in Chicago with a friend. Ah, to be twenty again...)

Tomorrow holds the prospect of a very large trip to Goodwill. My car is already full, and tomorrow I will add even more, as I purge our clothes closets as well. The amount of things we are getting rid of seems crazy. Nothing wasted, however, as all of it is still in good enough condition for someone else to enjoy. The next generation of college students needing pots, pans, and dishes for their first apartments, no doubt. Tomorrow will also include, sadly, another trip to Target, because of course we need an oversized Tupperware container in which to store the dogfood.

Tonight, as we looked around at all we accomplished together, we realized that our blessings are great. How fortunate to be able to have all this and love, too. We also realized we had sore muscles from the scrubbing, lifting, and running up and down the stairs. So, before bed tonight (yes, I am up without sleep again), we drew a bubble bath. Candles, rubbing each other's feet, and conversing about family, friends, work, current events, and darn-near everything else. This weekend was marriage. No houseguests. No obligations to anyone but each other. No worries but where to put the new spice rack. In the wake of tragedy last week and a month of chaotic plans ahead of us, this weekend was truly wedded bliss. God blesses us daily with many gifts...and stuff from Target.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

August: Always so far away...

Here it is. Three weeks until school starts up again, and the time has gone by so quickly. Although getting married and going on a long honeymoon is nothing to sneeze at, sometimes I feel a little like I haven't done much. I'm pretty sure it has a bit to do with the fact that I sleep until 10 or later most days. But lately, I've been staying up very late (hence this post) with thoughts charging through my mind at speeds my heart cannot keep pace with.

Sometimes there are so many things flooding my mind all at once that it seems impossible to sort through each thought and make any sense. My husband has the ability to quiet his mind and drift easily off to sleep. Literally, "Good night, honey; I love you"...snoooooore. So jealous. When I'm so irritated with my inability to even get tired that I begin thrashing about in anger, I come upstairs to distance myself from the blissful sleep of my partner. So I sit on my couch, watching Friends, and typing. So little to say that makes sense, that would be coherent on the page (screen?). The jumbled thoughts of my attempting-sleep mind do not translate into words. So much that needs to be said aloud, therapeutic to speak things that have never been spoken, but it's too hard.

Writing is good. It doesn't necessarily matter if I'm writing about the things I'm thinking about, I suppose. It's the same as watching tv; it keeps the mind elsewhere.

August is the time of year when the heat is peaking, when the mercury will soon begin to fall. Days before school begins again, the same patterns repeat as they have many years before: banners hang in stores advertising "Back to School" and all variations, children count down the days with dread or excitement, teachers start stressing over another new year with new students and ideas and challenges, and ripples of sadness echo over everyday things as we tick down the days of summer. This year's August began with new sadness, a tragedy close to home that made a city stop. Hearing the news, knowing I was there hours before it happened, feeling morbidly closer to death than I ever have before. The beginning of the aftermath with cranes brought in to remove debris, names of the departed being released, taking a detour for the first time. Surreal has been the only word that seems to adequately describe all this happening. It will be days, maybe weeks, before the recovery effort stops. Months, maybe years, until a new bridge is in place. Probably never until things are "back to normal". We will never be quite the same here in the city of lakes, and never before have I understood so clearly what a statement like that can mean.

Prayers and hope; faith and love.