Apr 28, 2007

Postcards From the Edge Aren't Always Pretty

Earlier this week, as I was talking to my friend Eric, he jokingly commented about how I never mention my "really cool friend Eric" on my blog. I promptly apologized for being so remiss, and that I'd talk about him sooner than later.

Sorry Eric, today is not your day.

This morning's post is a somber one, one that I've been trying to get my arms around writing for a day now. I finally caught up with my friend Kimberly on Saturday evening. Of all of the people that I went to high school with, Kim is the only one that I really still talk to on a regular basis (i.e. more than just Christmas and Thanksgiving). I was a little irked at Kim earlier this week. I had been IMing her routinely, trying to talk to her about how great things are here, between my new job and all of the life changes that I've been through. Little did I know that Kim was stuck in a personal hell.

Kim has always been one of those people who gives unselfishly of herself, and always has. She's the kind of person who, even though she might not know how to make something better, will do everything she can think of to try. She's smart, funny, caring, and dependable. It is a combination of these traits that make teaching a great profession for her.

After graduation Kim went to college to become a history teacher, and upon receiving her Masters and Teaching Certificate, returned to Leicester High School to take a position. Kim took the place of Mr. Chase, an old favorite at LHS and teaches, among other things, a Civics class that I can remember slogging my way through beside her as Seniors. Every time I talk to Kim, her voice lights up when she talks about her job, and especially her students.

Kim lost one of those students this week in a horrible car crash.

Everyone has been so caught up in the Virginia Tech shootings (as they probably should be), that things like this slip under the radar. An article about this accident was actually posted on cnn.com, a site that I read daily...and I missed it. When I asked my mom about it, she told me she had forgotten about it.

A car full of teenagers, two from Leicester, three from surrounding towns crashed last weekend on River Street in Leicester. Four of those teenagers were killed, one still remains in a coma. One of the deceased was a student in Kim's class. A sibling of the other teenager from Leicester killed is also in one of Kim's classes. All four that were killed were wearing their seat belts. Drugs and alcohol were not factors. The teenagers had gone out to dinner, and were racing home to try to beat curfew. When I talked to Kim, the teen that was in a coma still didn't know her friends were dead.

If only they had slowed down. I've driven the road where they were killed, most times at a rate of speed way beyond safe, usually with a car full of friends, often including Kim, trying to get everyone home for curfew.

Kim is one of those teachers that looks at her students as HER kids. She often refers to them in that manner, saying "you wouldn't believe what my kids did this week." Usually she goes into bragging about their intelligence and drive. She has hope for the future, and wants to pass it on. This accident, and the loss of one of her "kids" has hurt her badly. Yet, she is once again a pillar of strength, standing tall for those who need her, who feel like they've been left behind.

I can only hope that I have the strength that Kim has when faced with something like this.

Please, if you have a moment, say a prayer for Nathan (the boy who was killed), his friends, his mother, and his family - and include Kim too.

Apr 26, 2007

Workin' 9-5, what a way to make a living...

Or maybe it's 8-4, or I'm not really sure WHAT time I need to show up at work...

But, the important thing is:


Yes people, I've rejoined the ranks of the employed, having accepted a position as a Vessel Supervisor with one of the major shipping lines here that uses Charleston as one of their cargo ports. So I'm sure you're asking (and even if you aren't, I'm going to tell you anyway), what exactly does a Vessel Supervisor do?

One of the coolest things about this job? I get to wear jeans to work. Granted, I have to wear steel-toed boots and a hardhat too, and possibly coveralls (if I have to go onboard the ships and talk to the chief mate about stowage and stuff), but I DON'T have to wear a skirt and heels...and I'm extremely excited about that.

I'm going to be "that guy (person?)" in charge of loading containers onto those behemoth container ships that you see transiting in and out of port. I'll have 40-60 workers operating two or three of those giant cranes you see in container ports working for me at a time. I have to make sure that the containers headed for Shanghai in two months don't get stacked on top of the ones that are destined for Tampa in two days, and that the heavy stuff gets loaded on the bottom, and the containers for different ports get separated, and...well you get the idea. I'm kind of like an industrial size supermarket grocery bagger, making sure the canned goods don't squish the eggs and bread.

But yes, I have a job, and I start Tuesday.

Thank God, because I'm getting about as stir crazy as it gets. Even the dog doesn't want to be around me. I caught myself TALKING to the dog yesterday (not that I expected an answer or anything, but just the sheer action of doing it kind of freaked me out) like he was comprehending what I was saying.

So, just four more days of golfing, working on my tan, and relaxing...and I am going to make the best of it, starting now. Too bad it's cloudy outside...

Apr 19, 2007

And I'm spent...

I keep telling Ben that next week I'm going to take some time to just relax. I have come to the conclusion however, that my saying that is something akin to the "Free Beer Tomorrow" signs that hang in the windows of the bars down on Folly Beach. It just seems like it's never going to happen. It seems like there's just always something else that HAS to be done.

This last week has been exceptionally busy.

First off, Ben and I went out and bought a couch. Not just ANY couch, but a leather couch. It was necessary, and a decision that had been made long before I changed any addresses. He hated my wonderful, lovely, comfortable green couch (something about it being too short to actually lay down on, and too fluffy). I couldn't stand his awful, scratchy, ugly, and a little TOO broken in couch (that he bought used anyway). So...we compromised. I sold Katelyn my couch, and we gave Ben's couch to the Salvation Army...as well as his armchair (that matched the couch), his old TV, his kitchen table (that I'm not quite convinced has EVER been assembled), and a couple of other small Ikea chairs he had.

On Friday, the movers came and unleashed the torrent of my stuff on this apartment. I never realized I STILL had so much stuff (even after giving away most of it!). As they brought things up the three flights to our apartment, I worked like the Tasmanian Devil to get them out of the boxes so that I wouldn't be left with a mountain of cardboard and a lot of empty promises that they would come back and get it (I'm not dumb...I've been through this three times now). It was nice to see my things again...my kitchen table, my desk, my computer. However, it would also have been nice to see my headboard (which is rumored to exist now somewhere in Ohio).

So four days of busting my butt to unpack and find a new home for everything (including most of Ben's stuff that was already here), and two job interviews later (which I will post about when I have a job lined up...which will probably be VERY soon), I present our home:Welcome to our kitchen. You would never know it, but there are enough coffee mugs to serve a battalion, two sets of silverware, two sets of pots and pans, and enough kitchen gadgets to make Rachel Ray jealous hidden in here. Not to mention a washer and dryer in the pantry (which isn't visible in this picture...it's a tiny cubby hole next to the refrigerator) and enough food to feed a small army (provided that they like chicken...we went a little crazy at Costco).Our dining area/living room is a little cramped to say the least. But, it is clean and cozy. As you can see, I didn't get rid of ALL of Ben's stuff. We still have his end tables flanking the couch (for now...we both want to get rid of those), and his TV and TV stand (yet another piece of furniture we ALSO want to replace sooner than later). I did however add my kitchen table, LA-Z-Boy (which Ben originally protested, but has now decided that he really likes it), and bookshelf.
It's a really good thing that the Master Bedroom in this apartment is large. It's also a really good thing that I got rid of a LOT of stuff and only had my dresser and some other small furniture to move in there. All of our stuff fits, even if it doesn't match (but that's really not all that important anyway). The closet isn't even that full...
And then there's the master bath, complete with a "Finding Nemo"-ish shower curtain (which, for the record, I did not buy).
My office is the only part of the apartment that is still a mess. I'm still trying to figure out some of the paperwork I have in here, and find homes for some of the leftover stuff. but I got our "we love us" walls hung (you know, the ones we all have with diplomas, plaques, and awards), the bed made, and most importantly the computer up and running.

And so, that is what I've been doing (mostly) for the last four or five days (like I said, there was some job interviewing thrown in there, as well as some getting my car fixed). Hopefully this afternoon I'll get some good news, and then I can move on to the important stuff...relaxing.

Oh yeah, by the way, check out this view from my living room. I keep telling my mom about it. Isn't it pretty?

Apr 12, 2007

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes...

Day four of waking up in a new apartment that is all mine (well, partially mine) in a new place.

Not that these circumstances are any different from the changes that I seem to make every two years anyway (when I was rotating to a new duty station on time), but this time it is infinitely different.

Of course, the first and most important difference - Ben is here. That means watching Braves games in the evenings, someone to go grocery shopping with, and knowing that under no circumstances will there ever be any seafood in my refrigerator. One thing that has remained constant though, he freaks out every morning when the alarm clock goes off (almost as badly as I do) so whether I want to wake up at 0530, I do.

Important difference number two - the people here. I can't get over how nice the people in Folly Beach and the Charleston area have been. Between our landlord, who has got to be one of the most laid back people in the universe, and the strangers I just meet on the street that say hello whether they need to or not, it is a total culture shock from living in California.

Important difference number three - the pace of life. It is slow. People don't rush anywhere...and it is a wonderful thing. There is no need to hurry, there is no stress of someone riding on your bumper just because they can. People just back off, wait their turn, and are courteous - provided that you do the same.

I really do think I'm going to like it here. I'm starting to unwind from the time that I spent in the Coast Guard. Even I can tell I'm becoming a totally different person; one who is more patient, nicer, and just happier overall. I can't tell you how excited I am about that.

Apr 11, 2007

Under the Weather (Part Two of the Adventure)

So, yeah. It's truly amazing what a little stomach virus can do...like lay you out on the couch for two days. I guess it really is true that Ben and I will start to share everything...including stomach bugs.

Sorry for the bit of "too much information"...back to our story already in progress.

Ben and I spent Thursday night at his parents' house in Canton, Illinois. Every time I go back there, I like it even more. It's a great little town where I just feel comfortable. It may also have something to do with the fact that I really like his parents and his family. Coda got to meet Azera (Ben's parents' dog), and did well relatively speaking. Azera is a puppy (just barely a year old), and Coda's getting to the point of being geriatric. Coda was able to keep up with Azera for a while, but starting getting stiff and sore eventually. I think he really enjoyed the interaction with another dog though.

While in Canton, we went out to dinner with Ben's parents, his sister Amy, brother-in-law Josh, and niece Emma. What a great time. I have no idea what the name of the restaurant was that we went to, but what I do know is that I had some of the best pizza I've had in a long time there...and I don't even LIKE pizza as a rule (although that rule keeps getting broken as I've known Ben longer). After that we went for ice cream, and then the Barnes and Noble. That place is dangerous for Ben and I. both of us would spend our life savings in there if you let us.

Overall, we had a great time in Canton. It is a very comfortable place to go. When I'm there, it's like it should be. I feel like I'm with family.From Canton, we headed home. Charleston was only sixteen hours away from Canton, and we had thrown the idea of driving all night to get there. However, that was something that we gave up pretty quickly. After a much needed stop in a small Ohio town, Ben and I had a great (and extremely necessary) new addition to the passenger seat - a massage pad. Both of us were having a hard time getting comfortable because our backs were sore. Alas, we soldiered on, and made it to Kentucky before running into a snowstorm.

About 150 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee Ben and I stopped for dinner at Denny's (our first mistake) because the snow was so thick I was having trouble driving (and I was hungry anyway). So, we went in, sat down for a while, and waited for the snow to lighten up. When we got back in the car, and Ben cranked the engine, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. Always a good time.

Rather than handle the situation in the traditional Emily fashion (freak out and find a mechanic RIGHT NOW because God only knows what's going to happen if we don't), we handled it in the Ben fashion (wait until we get to Charleston or there is something definitely wrong with the car). Ben drove on...until the next part of the snowstorm hit. By then we were in Lake City, Tennessee, and even HE couldn't see the road in front of us and was fed up. We pulled off the highway and took one of the last rooms at one of the hardest to find Super 8 motels I have ever had the luck to find, and decided to wait out the storm until morning.

When we got up, it was clear as a bell out...and colder than anything I had experienced in a long time. Even the dog didn't want to go outside. But, we soldiered on, and headed south. For 500 miles, I don't think a word was spoken (at least, nothing that required more than two syllables and grunt in response).

At approximately 3:30 pm (1530 for you military types), we arrived at our home - and promptly went inside to take a long, much deserved nap and to watch the Braves game.

It is so good to be home.

Apr 8, 2007

...and we're back (Part One of the Adventure)

Ummm...Hi. It's been a while, hasn't it. Yeah, we're in South Carolina now. So much for me "posting my way across the country," huh? Finding Wi-Fi was a challenge. Getting Ben's computer to boot up and connect, an even BIGGER challenge. So, adding that frustration on top of the frustration of driving for about 600 miles a day, uphill, both ways, through the snow (no, really, I'm not kidding about that) just wasn't happening.

On Sunday, after church Ben and I left Alameda. I went to church and said goodbye in my own way – by crying through communion. Then I went home (where Ben had packed the car for me while I was at church), stood in what used to be my kitchen with Katelyn, and cried some more. Needless to say, I had mascara all over my face by the time I left (but I didn’t figure that out until I got to the Carl’s Jr just north of Bakersfield and took off my sunglasses). Our original plan was to take the Pacific Coast Highway down to Ben’s Uncle Dick’s house. However, by the time we got on the road, I knew I just wanted to get there as soon as possible, so it was I-5 south yet again. Getting down to Long Beach was actually much less painful than I thought it was going to be. The hotel that Ben booked was very nice, and Coda was very comfortable there (as were we). Ben’s Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy were a lot of fun. I really enjoyed eating dinner with them. The more members of his family I meet, the more I like them. Uncle Dick and Aunt Judy took us out to the Yucatan Grill, which was quite conveniently right across the street from our hotel. Two orders of guacamole, two enchiladas, and a pitcher of margaritas later, we went out to their house so that they could give me the tour. What a beautiful home. Dick and Judy live in a quaint little gated community right on the ocean. After the tour of their home, we went and walked along the beach for a little while.

From Uncle Dick's house, we set out on Monday to our proposed stop of Flagstaff, Arizona so that we could visit the Grand Canyon the next day. Our trip brought us through Phoenix so that we could visit Ben's sister Lara. She works in the Arizona Cardinals’ front office. When we got there Lara showed us around the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Arizona Cardinals play. We got to see the different seating areas, the press box, the audio/video room (where the game tapes and all of the broadcasts are produced), the locker room area, the field, and the area where the field moves to when it is rolled into the building. It was so neat to get to walk out the tunnel that the players walk out of when they take the field. Lara really gave us an extensive tour, and then let us shop at the team store using her discount. Thanks Lara!

Of course, I managed to forget the camera in the car. That's okay though...I will definitely remember it when I go back for a football game later this year :).

After our tour of the stadium, Lara referred us to a lawn where we could let Coda out to run for a few minutes. Ten minutes of ball playing in the Phoenix heat later, Coda was showing us the way back to the car. From Phoenix, we headed north to Flagstaff to go visit my friend Sarah. Sarah was my roommate at the Coast Guard Academy for a year before she left. On our last trip through, Ben and I stopped there for lunch. This time we had dinner with Sarah at the Olive Garden, and headed on our way to Williams, Arizona. Williams is where one of the main roads to the Grand Canyon crosses the 40. It saved us about half an hour of driving the next day.

A really interesting part about Willams is that it is on the old Route 66. Of course, driving the Interstate 40 across the United States, we encountered a lot of things commemorating the old route, seeing as it parallels the 40. On Tuesday morning, Ben and I got up early and went to breakfast at the old diner across the street. What a neat place! It was decorated in 50's memorabilia, and the waitresses were all older ladies. Doris (our waitress) was so nice I swear I thought she was going to hug me as we left.The Grand Canyon was something that I never really appreciated, having only read about it and seen pictures. I always just thought of it as a giant hole in the ground. To actually see it though is positively amazing. As my friend Andy put it, you can be 100 feet away from a 5000 foot drop, and never know it. Then you come through the woods, and there one of the most beautiful sights you could ever want to see is spread out before you. To appreciate the canyon, you really do have to see it.From Arizona, things got a little boring. There are only so many miles of desert that you can look at. Even Coda got tired of looking out the window. We stayed in Tucumcari, New Mexico that night. Tucumcari is one of those towns that you see posted on highway signs, and expect to see at least a lume on the horizon at night when you look at it on the map. Nope. None of these things. I don't know where they could have possibly hid the town, but the only thing we found was a string of hotels...and a post office.Driving through Texas and Oklahoma after a night on a really uncomfortable mattress is something that I can imagine the sixth circle of Hell may be like. Ben and I left Tucumcari by about 0730 on Wednesday. We were both ready to just get going. While Ben napped that morning in the passenger seat, I drove into the sunrise. Apparently, I drove a little too fast into the sunrise, because before long I had the opportunity to speak with one of Texas's finest. Yeah, I was speeding...but the guy that passed me as a hit the brakes to fall in behind the cruiser was DEFINITELY going faster than me. Fortunately though, I was let off with a warning.

That night we stayed in St. Louis. We didn't go into the city at all (after all, we were both exhausted), but we did add that to the list of places that Ben wants me to see. Maybe we'll have to fly into St. Louis and catch a baseball game at Busch Stadium on the way to visit his parents next time (because I can guarantee you that we won't be driving).

After crossing the Mississippi River, we knew we were in the home stretch. Only three more days left, and a stop at Ben's parents' house that night...thank goodness...that I will talk about tomorrow...