Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just (Don't) Do It

(Cheryl, my bro Alan, and me)

So it's Memorial Day weekend and I am registered for the Gate-to-Gate Run on Eglin Air Force Base near Niceville, FL. I planned to walk it with my sister-in-law Cheryl, who is 29 weeks pregnant (due in August). In the frenzy of packing for the weekend and my usual forgetfulness, I forgot to bring my running shoes. This has happened before and I just borrowed a pair of old Nikes Cheryl keeps at my parents' house. They are a little snug, and a little crusty, but I was just going to be walking, so no problem. No problem until about a mile into the walk, as Cheryl and I were approaching the War Veterans' Memorial where all the race participants place a red carnation to honor the fallen. I felt something blow in my right shoe. I looked down and with every step I took, little flakes of styrofoam were trailing behind me. This was not good. Cheryl was laughing, but I could feel further disaster just a few steps away. As I walked, the entire sole of the shoe detached, and the little "gel pad" was hanging by a dry-rotted glue strand. I limped over to the conveniently located fire-truck medics, slightly embarassed, but overwhelmingly amused. Their concerned looks turned to, well, amused looks, and they gave me tape for my detached right shoe, and my left shoe which was headed in the same direction. They had no duct tape, which greatly diminished my confidence in the NWFL fire departments. Duct tape could have kept me going for the whole 8 kilometers. Medical tape lasted about 1/8 of a mile, and the blow out was complete. Cheryl and I left the racecourse, because she had to go to the bathroom anyway. You know I would have continued on my barefeet, shredded by asphalt, determined to finish the race. Like in a movie. But she had to go to the bathroom, and I couldn't abandon her. I thought I could just pretend I had finished but I got called out by an older lady at the port-o-potties, " hey, why aren't you sweating?" (this was about 30 minutes into the race, 100% humidity, pushing 90 degrees). So I told her I am Asian and I don't have many sweat glands. Then came the truth of how my pregnant sister-in-law made me borrow dry-rotted size 6 1/2 Nikes and I walked them to pieces.

relentless broom


Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!

Come, let us sweep the old streets-like a bride:
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our groom
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.

We'll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame-and in its place we'll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing.

-Aaron Kramer

This is a wonderful poem full of redemptive imagery and such hope- such hope! I love what reading this does to my soul. (The title means "a song in celebration of a marriage.") Come! Sweep out the shadows!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Check out my Slide Show!

Haircuts Part Deux

My children were getting a bit scruffy so it was time for a trip to a professional. I cut Mac's hair several months ago and sort of just hacked it down a little. Today my professional finally got the job done well, even though Mac was literally kicking and screaming. Ruthie was wonderful, the exact opposite of her brother. I think they both look great- but so grown up! Where have my babies gone?

There is Definitely no Kudzu in Montana

The trip to Montana came about because Jay's work was sending him there. Jay thought it would be a great opportunity to fly me up with him, especially since it was the week after our anniversary. It was really a wonderful trip, and the longest I've been away from the kids since they were both born. It was strange at first, and it took me a day or so to loosen up and sort of detox from mommy mode. Jay and I talked about how it was so strange to be by ourselves, together, for days. We really are rarely together at all, not to mention together by ourselves. Once the kids came along life shifted to family time. We do go on dates, but that's maybe a couple of hours a month, and time advances and you realize you haven't spent quality time together for a long time. So needless to say our six days was refreshing and just fun.

Where the heck we were: We flew in to Missoula, MT, and drove through mountain passes down to the tiny river town of Salmon, Idaho. We didn't do anything in Salmon besides Jay's work, and once that was done we drove up to Kalispell, Montana, which is about 30 minutes from Glacier National Park, our main destination.

Weather or not: It was cold in Montana. They were having the coldest spring in 11 years. It was in the 30s in the daytime our first days, then gradually warmed up to the 50s! It snowed on us several times, and there was significant snowpack up in the mountains. Glacier was mostly closed, which was a big disappointment, even though we figured it would be limited access when we researched the trip. The trails were several feet under snow, and the famous, historic "Going-to-the-Sun Road" was mostly closed to traffic. This road has spectacular views, and killer switchbacks- one lady we talked to had been to Denali and she said the views in Glacier are way more breathtaking. What we could see was amazing- I have missed the sight and smells of mountains. The limited access was really torture; it was sort of like being stuck in an airport in Italy, staring sadly out the windows, dreaming of Gondola rides and red wine. We just kept saying, "we've got to come back...we've got to come back." But I'm very glad I got to have even a small taste of Glacier.

Wildlife count: I wanted to see a marmot, which is my favorite furry woodland creature of the mountains, but alas, they were probably still hibernating. In Glacier we saw a baby chipmunk, various songbirds, fish in glacier-fed Lake McDonald, and a bald eagle. Later, on our drive back to Missoula we stopped at the National Bison Range and saw bison, antelope, white-tail deer (including a Bambi hiding in a thicket), meadowlarks, ducks, and various other birds. The Bison Range was really interesting- it is a big habitat that you drive through and see what you can see, including lots of bison poo. Sort of like Jurassic Park but less Parkey and without man-eating dinos or any dinos actually. I learned some really fun facts about bison. Like the fact that they're not buffalo. Nope. File that away Jeopardy hopefuls. And a bison's tail is his or her warning flag system. If his tail is down, he's a happy bison. If his tail is sort of peaking up a little, he's getting a little ticked off. If his tail is sticking straight up, he is about to rip you limb from limb so run, you idiot! Why are you standing outside your motor vehicle? Run!

Food- we ate at some great little local places, any of which I recommend. Moose's Saloon in Kalispell is really great- it's a bar basically, sorry, a saloon with those swinging doors that you walk in and the tinkly piano stops, and everyone stares, and someone tips his hat and says "you're not from around here are ya?" The floors are covered in sawdust, and the walls are marked and carved by anyone and everyone, plus they serve great pizza, and a local beer, Moose Drool. It is a dark, malty beer that I'd give 2 stars on my new Merrill's Beer Rating Scale of America and Beyond (the cure for what ale's you). We also ate at a steak house that served spaghetti with their steaks. Weird. The steaks were good eats, but not so the spaghetti. The bacon in Montana is thick cut, by the way, in case you desire a BLT while there. It will break your jaw, so be careful. Jay's new obsession: Huckleberry pies and cobblers. His fave was a huckleberry-peach pie. They like huckleberries out there in Montana.

Things we should have done while there- visit LoLo Hot Springs. I just like to say LoLo. I've always wanted to go soak in a hot spring, but one that is out in the woods, not a pool that's sourced by a hot spring. So we opted out. We also should have eaten at Taco John's- apparently Montana's hottest taco fast food place.

Favorite new friend: Vicki, our friendly GPS lady in our rental car (we named her because we became so close). She really helped us out, but she did get a little pushy sometimes, even obsessive, asking us to "please return to the highlighted route" over and over again when we really did know where we were going. Jay and I thought it might help if she knew our names and if she cussed sometimes. Then we would have listened.

Road Tripping Fun: I already mentioned the National Bison Range, which was an unexpected treat, an unplanned stop on our road trippinness. Another place we visited that was unplanned and that I absolutely loved was the tiny town called Essex, Montana, home of the Isaak Walton Inn. This little town borders Glacier, and it is actually a railroad depot and a stop on the Amtrak line. The Inn was built in 1939, and has a wonderful cafe with delicious food, including Huckleberry Cobbler. I loved this place because of the history of the railroads, and the general quaintness of it all. They have several cabooses that they have turned into snug little cabins for guests, which is a clever use of the old train cars, I think. We also stopped at the Hungry Horse Dam, which is on the way up to Glacier. It was alot of dam fun. It was on a Saturday so everything was closed which was too dam bad. We couldn't get any dam souvenirs. Dam.

Wow, I said alot, but there was alot to be said. The trip was very good. I now declare Montana as a delightful place to visit if you ever get the chance. (For those of you don't habla, Montana is Spanish for Mountain.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

There is no Kudzu in Montana

Well, race fans, I am finally over my springtime maladies- the final healing came on a trip to Montana! Ahhh, Rocky Mountain high! And then surgery. Last Friday I had tubes put in both of my malfunctioning ears. I know what everyone is thinking. Tubes? How old is Merrill now? Don't 2 year olds get tubes? Yes. I was waiting to be wheeled in to surgery and there were two small children waiting on either side of me. Little Bobby, Little Timmy, their mommys, and me and my mommy. (Jay claims he couldn't take off work for my surgery. Or maybe he was trying to make me feel younger with my 30th birthday swiftly approaching.) We watched Diego: Animal Rescuer together. We sang the theme song together. At least we can all hear better now. But really, my problems since February have been from some unknown allergy (the tests for normal stuff came back negative), or so my ENT says. I have never experienced anything this long or miserable. Congestion, Coughing, Bronchitis, Hearing Loss, Torn Intercostal Muscle from Coughing, Three rounds of Antibiotics, Bottles and Bottles of Medicines, Steroid shots, X-Rays and Headaches. What a saga. I really went through some low, low days. In general I don't like taking medicine, and I have really taken for granted the fact that I have always had short illnesses and colds. A week, maybe, and I bounce back. This time there was no bouncing. Besides bouncing back to the doctor because I was worse. I come out of this so thankful for how God made our bodies to heal, and how he has given our generation great medical knowledge to fight things that need fighting. I am also thankful that my only symptom from antibiotic withdrawal was a rash, and it wasn't even itchy.

One thing that made me laugh during all this, and on the day when laughing was excruciating due to my torn muscle- you know all the warning labels and side-effect labels the pharmacy slaps on prescriptions? I was prescribed some steroids and Jay and I were joking about how it would make me really strong for a couple days-. We thought the sticker they could stick on there could say: "may cause super-human strength."

In other news, all those who eagerly read about the Cimarron Club closing its doors....the Cimarron was torn down a couple weeks ago. Bulldozed- and I got to see part of it in progress. I was as excited as my children, who are huge bulldozer fans. So I guess Old Shell and Cody is one step closer to a Walgreens or a Baptist church. They also tore down that seafood shop beside the Cimarron that had been overtaken by Kudzu approximately 4.5 years ago. Kudzu is sort of like denial, it just covers stuff up so you can ignore it without really getting rid of it.

There is no kudzu in Montana. (This is my segue to the trip to Montana, about which I will write in the days to follow.)