Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's [Not] a Twista!

On Sunday night, I hauled myself- books in tow- to the library to focus on my writing. I had been plugging along fairly well when a voice over the loudspeaker informed that all patrons must relocate in a quickly and orderly fashion to the first floor as a tornado warning had been issued. Initially, I thought it was only a drill, but packed up and obliged the voice, anyway. I lost my steam after sitting in the periodicals room for 20 minutes with 100+ rambunctious students, so I left.

Today brought more storms, "with potential for tornadic activities" the weather channel had advised. I spent part of my morning in Nashville and the weather remained on my mind for the duration of my trip back to the park. Heavy rains and a voice that popped up on the radio announcing the National Weather Service's advisory for tornado watches (and even some warnings) in the area. The varied grey clouds swirled in all sorts of directions as the storm couldn't decide what it wanted to do. At one point, the radio voice announced that the storm may touch down on the road I was traveling at that moment. I was so close to the park, I just kept going and prayed for the best.

Tornado warnings and watches used to be no big thing for me. After living through the [relatively minor] tornado that touched down on Good Friday of 2009, slight levels of panic rise up in me when I hear the piercing beeps of another weather announcement. After seeing what the tornado did, sporadically devastating areas around town and creating some major chaos for the days to follow, I expect the worst when I hear of a potential storm in an area. I love thunderstorms; I love listening to distant rumble, watching the light shows, and feeling the buzz in the air. But when I have been cautioned that the storm could evolve into the potentially deadly funnel, I can only suppress my anxieties so much.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome Home

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."-Lin Yutang

I still have sand particles on my scalp from being sand-blasted by the First Encounter Beach along the Massachusetts coastline. My suitcase has purged its contents onto my bedroom floor. I can hear my pillow beckoning my head to rest upon it.

I had a fantastic week. I plan on elaborating in a future post or two. A thought struck me on my drive from the park to my house. I experienced some amazing places this week. I saw seascapes and marinas and marshes and rainbows and autumn woods and lighthouses and fields and ocean, ocean, ocean. After I got back, as I drove away from the battlefield, the warmth of the changing trees hanging over the stacked rail fence contrasted the vibrant pinks and oranges and golds that streaked across the sky. The welcome home sky served as my cherry on top of an outstanding week.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I finished the race in 2 hours, 38 minutes, my speed averaging a little less than 12 minute miles. My next purchase: one of those 13.1 stickers for my car. I did it. Now to start planning my next race...

I am sore (I expected that). And proud. I did what I had set out to do. I made it from start to finish without stopping (well, I had to stop briefly as nature called about mile 9...). But I don't stop now. Tomorrow morning (like 4:30am morning!), I am flying to Cape Cod National Seashore for training. I have the best job in the world and plan on enjoying every minute of my trip. I may or may not have time (or access) to blog on my trip. So, peace out, cub scout.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Your Mark

In 10 hours (and 11 minutes, but who is counting???) the gun will go off to start the Murfreesboro Middle Half Marathon. I have been training for this since February. You could say that tomorrow will be the highlight of my year- and it hasn't even started, yet.

My running group just left my house; I hosted a "pasta party" so we could "carb up" before our big day. We've been training together since early March, running 3-4 times a week. We don't run fast, we don't run hard, but we run. It has been a positive experience to grow with the group. We used to dread our 2 mile runs. Now 2 miles are our "break" days. I use 2 miles as a pressure release after work. Tomorrow's half-marathon will be the first half-marathon for most of the group (myself included). Excitement tangled with anxiety has kept me wired most of the day. I think anxiety is starting to consume my excitement...

I don't know how I will feel when I finish the race. Happy. Tired. Overwhelmed. Sore. Excited. And I know myself- "now what?" will be the first question that pops into my head. Running a half-marathon is a huge goal to accomplish (for me, the non-athletic, math-olympiad, rather-spend-my-time-in-a-library kid). I think I am also nervous about finishing. I know I have doubts. "What happens if I have to walk it out? What if my back starts hurting again? What if I don't fuel myself correctly?" I know I will press on. Or, at least, I tell myself so. A good friend of mine flew in from New Orleans to run with me (it is her first half, too). She will push me and I will push her and we may have to drag each other across the finish line, but we will do it. I have got to do it.

P.S. I'm ready. My gear is neatly laid out by my bed. My Gatorade is in the fridge, chilling. My alarm is set. I've pinned my bib to my shirt (#724!). Bring it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Now I can sleep for 4 hours

I need to go to bed. But I have had a weird day and think "maybe if I write this out, I can get it off my chest, and will sleep better." Probably not. My roller coaster day rocked my world a little. Alas, I am tired enough that I am wired, too. This is no good. I have to be up in less than 5 hours, but whatever; I can sleep when I die.

I woke up this morning ready for the day to be over already. I am fully aware that is a horrible attitude to have and attempted to talk myself out of it. Pollyanna mind games only work so far when I feel moody. It did not help that I slept in and missed my running group (again!), tried to use lotion for toothpaste (ew), and spilled cranberry juice on my first uniformed shirt (forcing a quick change into an un-ironed shirt in order to roll out the door on time). And I got to work five minutes late. I worked the visitor center all day (only getting a ten-minute lunch and three different restroom breaks... it was a long day). I easily encountered over 100 people, giving directions, answering questions, and keeping a smile on my face all day. I love my job, even when I am cranky.

Then I had two visitors that left particular impressions upon me. The first visitor "shared" a number of his "views" (complained) about a series of things, but said he understood that a sweet girl like myself would not have anything to do with these things. I maintained my ranger smile and let him get whatever he wanted to say off of his chest. About an hour later, he came back into the visitor center to tell me that he had an official complaint: this park did not preserve any Confederate sites and we have no Confederate signage anywhere. I attempted to calm him down and at one point mentioned how, indeed, this was a Union victory and... He interrupted me to say "Darling, you clearly don't know your history."

1. Don't call me "Darling." The ninjas in my pocket don't like it and will want to escape and attack you.
2. Darn-tootin' I know my history. You don't even know about my pocket sharks that will bite your head. Off.

We bantered a little bit more and just before I was about to say something I would have to write an apology letter for later, my supervisor walked out. He listened to the visitor and offered the visitor a comment card to fill out. The guy left and my supervisor put the card in my box for reply. Thanks.

Later in the morning, a visiting couple stopped through. I oriented them to the park and set them off on their way. The gentleman came back and asked to review our regimental list. In the meantime, we started talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder veterans experienced and how society's way of handling veterans changed with each war. He shared that he was a retired Marine and saw combat in Vietnam. He also revealed that he had no help upon his return and didn't fell "normal" for almost a full decade after his return. While sharing a story with me about some of his experiences in combat, he started to choke up as he fought back tears. I couldn't do anything for him but listen and empathize. How many decades ago did this happen and he still bears his invisible scars?

How is it that I get so hung up in my world that I forget that there are other people on this planet? People who experience hardships in ways I will never know? People who understand about life and death situations? Relativity tells me my struggles are no big thing and there can always be something worse. So bring on the cranberry juice spills and "darlings." I think I can take it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just passin' through

"Doyaknowwertherakinhozat?" As I reached across the counter to take my change, my eyebrows furrowed as I attempt to decipher what I just heard.

"DoyaknowertherakinhoZAT?" The voice asked with more emphasis. I turned slowly, as I did not want to startle the native and realized that Bubba Joe standing behind me was talking to the wizened gas station-owner who had handed my my change.

Slowly the old man drawled out, "Last I sa-aw, 'twas under the tree-ye, in the front yar-ard, where you put it la-yast. I didn't put it noway-er."

"Ah," I thought to myself, "he was asking about a raking hoe's location. Don't let the grammar bother you. Keep your straight face and you might just get out of here. Let's go little printer! Print that receipt!."

"Ma'am. This register here don't print. You cain wayit and I can pri-int from that one."

"Ah, no thanks. I'm good. Thanks!" I reply as I make my hurried escape. Man! Was that a scene from a movie? A set-up? A dream?

I visited West Tennessee last week to visit my sister and brother-in-law for the Chester County Bar-B-Que festival. It works out that sometimes I am reminded that even though I have lived in this state longer than any other (now at a solid three years and two months), I am still a stranger. Sites that may seem commonplace to locals capture my interest. I enjoy being a tourist in my backyard. I marvel at the number of churches along backroads and wonder how they each can keep functioning with the appearance of a rural and scattered population. Political signs boldly show the residents' party preference. Among many of the political banners stand posts that state "JESUS" in prominent letters, as if He were running for political office (I'd vote for Him). The littering of barns and other old buildings along the horizon spark questions within about the history contained on that land. And sites like a revival tent make me giggle. Maybe I shouldn't, but who doesn't love an end-times trailer with "Jesus Man" painted on the side?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I don't get this very often

I lead a lot of tours at the battlefield. And by "a lot," I mean hundreds since I started working there. I know how I feel about the tours from my perspective (and am continually reviewing ways to improve). I rarely get to hear what those touring with me feel about my tours.

I led a group of students from Cumberland University last week. Their professor keeps a blog and wrote about the trip here. Aw, thanks! It sounds like the group had a big time and that makes me happy. Unfortunately, I couldn't do anything about the canoodling couple who chose the Slaughter Pen to snuggle (like the professor said, their clothes stayed on the whole time); otherwise, I feel the tour was a success. So thank you Cumberland University Civil War class. You guys rock.

P.S. It appears that I present the battle in a relaxed manner, much like Vanna White would if she were to lead a tour. I don't know how I feel about that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

s'more-inspired revelations

Ahhh, camping. I love waking up to sun rays warming my tent, the smell of damp earth, the sizzle of bacon cooking, and raging hormones. Wait, what? I neglected to add "with 20+ teenagers" to my camping statement. I spent the last three days as a chaperone for a youth group camping trip. That explains my exhaustion, aches, pains, and tilted smile. Yes, middle- and high-schoolers demand a lot of energy. In fact, they demand a lot. More than once did one pipe up, "how come [fill-in-the-blank] isn't done?" and it took all within me to refrain from responding, "because your mom isn't here and you haven't done it, yet. Get busy, kiddo." But I didn't. Usually.

I am glad to do it. In fact, the trip proved fruitful for a number of reasons. I connected more with some of the kids and with other leaders. The near-freezing temperatures reminded me of why I need to get down on my knees every night and thank God for every blessing in my life (especially my warm, soft bed). I separated myself from my crazy-busy life for a few days. I always enjoy a quality campfire (and eating s'mores!). I also stumbled upon a revelation that had not fully sunk in before: I am my mother's daughter.

Now that I have stumbled upon this revelation, I am not sure how to respond. Mom, I know you are reading this and I don't think it is a bad thing that I share many mannerisms and personality traits with you. It just isn't the easiest thing to swallow. This morning I heard words coming out of my mouth that sounded (in tone, pace, and word choice) just like my mom. Ahh! All weekend I had been the center a variety of mom-jokes. One friend said that, "You are such a mom." After I gave him a stern look, he added, "in a good way!"

Now, as I sit amongst my smoke-flavored laundry and push myself to finish cleaning my room, I continue to ponder my other mom-like qualities. Now I just have to figure out how to use these newfound powers for good.

On a side note, I miss my mom (and dad) a heckofalot. I would rather see any mom-traits coming from my mom in person. C'est la vie.