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The Glamour of Pass Travel

I’m in Hawaii!!  I’ll post about the adventures we’re having in the days to come, but I wanted to get a quick post out about how I got out here.  Literally, not philosophically.

One of the employment benefits of working for an airline is what is known as Pass Travel.  This little post is about what that stand-by experience can be like.  Good and bad.

Son #2 is at the conclusion of an internship on the island of Maui.  He’s doing a bird recovery/reforestation project.   Son #1 and I, both students, found ourselves with a window of opportunity to visit Sam over the holidays.  Both girlies are working, Glenda in Vegas and Amy in Utah, so Ben and I are the lucky ones who get to do the trip.

There in an internal employee website that gives information about the “loads” on any particular flight, so that we nonrevs (non-revenue) fliers can make choices about the best time for travel.  This site lists the flights, how many seats are on the airplane, how many of those seats have been sold, and how many remain for us freeloaders to use.  (Technically, pass travel is not free – there are minimal charges that are attached to each flight, based on mileage.)

The holidays are never a good time to attempt pass travel, but if you are strategic, choose your flights well, and are flexible, sometimes it works.

Ben lives in Denver and it was his plan to fly from Denver to Salt Lake City to LA, and then on to Maui.  I would start from Nashville, fly to Atlanta, then LA, then meet up with Ben for the flight into Maui.  The flights online looked tight, but doable.

From years of pass travel, we’ve learned to check your main bag (with items you won’t grieve losing), put some overnight stuff in your small carry-on (toothbrush, clean undies), dress comfortably and in layers (Denver in Dec vs Maui in Dec), and prepare your attitude.  When the children were little, we developed a family motto specifically around pass travel:  Life Is An Adventure.  If you’ve ever tried to keep 4 preschoolers happy in the Memphis terminal for 36 hours, you will understand.

Off we go.  I leave my home in Murfreesboro at 11am on Saturday, Ben leaves his home in Fort Collins at 3pm.  Getting from Nashville to Atlanta didn’t present a problem.  It was in Atlanta that the plan began to deteriorate.  My honey was at home with the employee website pulled up, guiding me on the phone.  LA had become out of the question.  The first 3 flights I watched push back were oversold and 35 standbys were left standing at the gate.  I began to seek other options (keep in mind it’s December 28th) it was clear that Atlanta (Delta’s main hub) was overwhelmed, and I couldn’t find a way ANYWHERE.  Every flight out of Atlanta to any city was overbooked.  I saw a sliver of opportunity in a flight to Seattle (by now it’s about 9pm), and sure enough, I got the last standby seat.

Last seat, last row
Last seat, last row

In the meantime, Ben was having the same experience in Salt Lake City.   He hadn’t had a problem leaving Denver, but SLC (another Delta hub) was a clusterf*&k.  His squeeze was doing the same as mine, and guided him to grabbing the last seat on the last flight to San Francisco.

So instead of meeting in LA on Saturday night, I’m in Seattle, and Ben’s in San Fran.  We had good chances in the morning for both of us to get to LA, and that was the plan.  In true pass travel fashion, we both find a nice, comfy, slice of carpeted floor in our respective terminals.  Here’s a pic of mine from my viewpoint:

backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket
backpack as a pillow, and scarf as a blanket

And in a turn of fortune typical to pass travel, I got a first-class seat on the early flight from Seattle to LA.  This is the breakfast they wanted me to eat:

another post for another time, and I'm an ungrateful brat
another post for another time, and I’m an ungrateful brat

Ben was having the same experience on his flight out of San Francisco to LA, and he got there a few minutes before I did.  After our joyful reunion (around 9:30am), we decided to spend the 8 hours waiting for our flight somewhere besides the LA terminal.  In true Jordan-adventure fashion, Sam had previously scoped out the terminal-proximity-food-and-shade scene, and he was able to tell us the direction to head out.

I'm never happier than this.
I’m never happier than times like this.

We ended up grabbing a six-pack from the grocery, 2 animal-style, protein-style double doubles from In N Out, sitting in a park under the glide path.

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One more trip to the grocery for the remaining 2 hours’ entertainment:

If you're stuck in LA, call me for the down low.
If you’re stuck in LA, call me for the down low.

Then, finally, at the gate in LA, waiting for those elusive seats, listening, listening for:  “Passengers, Jordan, party of 2” to be called over that loudspeaker.

YESSSSSS!!!!
YESSSSSS!!!!

Sweet Sammy met us at the airport with leis, fresh pineapple, chocolate-covered macadamias, and Hawaiian beer.  Stay tuned for more blogging about the Maui adventures.

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So, pass travel.  Is it worth it?  Yes, absolutely, 100% no doubt.  Among my children’s friends, I often encourage them, if they are unsure of what direction to go in life, to consider working for an airline purely because of the benefit of pass travel.  But pass travel requires a mentality, a combination of a sense of adventure, flexibility, patience, a letting go of control, patience and flexibility on the part of your eventual host, and maybe even a little diplomacy thrown in for gate agents and fellow pass riders/passengers.

Life Is An Adventure!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

800 miles in a car with a cat.

This will be a quick recap, since it’s after midnight, and we’ve got another long day tomorrow.

Today’s states were Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.  I think it was about 800 miles!

Here are the highlight pics:

How NOT to smuggle in a kitty
How NOT to smuggle in a kitty
This is a real restaurant in Arkansas
This is a real restaurant in Arkansas
...and in the parking lot of the Chair Crushers restaurant was the Feed The Children trailer.
…and in the parking lot of the Chair Crushers restaurant was the Feed The Children trailer.
Our feline passenger today
Our feline passenger today

A better recap tomorrow, I promise!  Looks like about 575 more miles to Sin City.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

AHS, Day 2

Another information-packed, nutrient-rich day at the Ancestral Health Symposium.

The first session of the day was titled: Parasites are Paleo:  The Hidden Cost of Modern Hygiene.  This one was a test of our skepticism and critical thinking I’m always talking about.  The universe of micro-organisms that populate our bodies inside and out are a delicate balance, and when we cropdust internally or externally we kill indiscriminately, and that’s not good.  Some of these guys aid our health through digestion or skin health.  Our children are growing up in the Purell environment and we don’t yet know what the results of that are going to be.  Statistics are showing that when our children are exposed to dirt and mud they have a lesser incident of allergies and asthma.  (Please know that this is way oversimplified, and I’m linking to the lecturer’s website/book because much of this is new enough to me I can’t speak authoritatively.)

Don't bust me on this - I have no idea what this bacteria is...isn't it a cool graphic?
Don’t bust me on this – I have no idea what this bacteria is…isn’t it a cool graphic?

I attended another session called Survival Panel, mostly out of interest for son Sam, and his interest in survival skills.  This was a panel looking at the hunting/gathering activities that our ancestors would have engaged in compared to the movement/stressors/nutrition we have modernly.  Guess what?  We are pretty far removed from those skills.  One of the questions after the session asked the inevitable question about eating insects, which of course is a big topic in this group.  As broadminded as I pride myself in being, I’ve got a huge ick-factor about this I’m struggling with.

Nature is red in tooth and claw
Nature is red in tooth and claw

Next was a really interesting lecture about the Rise of Monotheistic Religions as a Cultural Adaptation to Infectious Disease.  Many religious edicts relate to cleanliness with regard to burial, ritual for food preparation, sexual rules, etc that may have helped religions keep a stronghold through this hygiene code through religious authority.  The lecturer for this, John Durant has appeared on the Colbert Report talking about the health of hunter/gatherers.

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Lunch break at a Paleo conference was:  water buffalo meatloaf, potatoes, squash and zucchini in olive oil, salad, and kombucha to drink (yeah, the potatoes were a surprise to me too – more on that later).  The meatloaf was wonderful, and provided by one of the vendors.  I’m still amazed at how beautiful everyone here is, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching people interact during the meal.  I have no idea why I have no picture of this – too hungry, I guess.

Then we had that poster session I mentioned.  Folks were invited to present their research (on a poster, duh) informally in a mix-and-mingle area where they could chat and explain their research.  There were several N=1 posters – folks who have applied paleolithic nutritional science to themselves for a period of time (mostly about one year), and did extensive data gathering.  Weight loss, lowered blood pressure, more energy – all of the typical health markers improved for these experimenters.

After lunch we went into a panel discussion about the Ketogenic Diet and Athletic Competition.  The rock stars on this panel were Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson.  Mark came in 4th in the Hawaii Ironman on a ketogenic diet (a fat-burning rather than glucose (sugar)-burning diet).  We hung on every word of this one.  It appears that one may lose the top, highest performance (top speed) but endurance increases dramatically.  This makes sense in light of the evidence that our muscles can only retain so much glucose (enough for about 30-45 minutes), but our fat stores, even on a lean person, are massive.  Son Sam and I are doing an Ironman together next year (looking at Chattanooga in September 2014), and it’s my intention to train on a cyclical ketogenic plan.

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Dr. Georgia Ede presented a session about Nutrition and Mental Health that blew me away.  Because carbohydrates create inflammation in the body, her research is centered on studying whether or not this inflammation, that eventually may lead to diabetes or some kind of autoimmune disorder, may also have an effect on mental health.  She was very cautious about even inferring connections, but her research is so promising in connecting diet to some of these diseases (ADHD in particular), and fits with the statistics of what our children are eating.

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Then we attended a very sobering session about Malnutrition and Starvation in the World, and about how we, the global human community, can help to feed the world.  The conventional wisdom is to produce more grains.  Dr Alyssa Rhoden spoke about how to reclaim some parts of the world from the desertification that comes from growing corn and return it to grazeland, and to grow more diverse organic vegetation.  This topic is political and ethical as well as economic, and I’m including this link and this link if you are interested in more information.

No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra
No monocrops, no grain subsidies, no big agra

The last session of the day for us was an introduction to Pasture and Grassland Ecology.  I am particularly interested in this, since my little slice of paradise in Tennessee includes 8 acres and all the animals whose pictures I’m always posting on Facebook.  I already have my little garden, and the chickens provide beautiful eggs, but even if I never eat another animal off the land there, I would like to restore the topsoil and care for the groundwater as much as I can.  Our lecturer for this has a blog:  grassbasedhealth.  His topic included the question:  Is An Ancestral Diet Sustainable?

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So that has been day 2.  Just a side note:  we’re not just attenders of this conference, we are also working here as the Investigators for Code of Conduct Violations.  While all of that is super top secret, I can say that we have not been very busy.  Correlation does not imply causation, as we know, and it has been nice being able to attend the lectures.

Today is Eliott’s birthday, so our dinner tonight will not be Paleo.  Don’t be hatin.

Thanks for reading!

Ancestral Health Symposium

So here’s where I am this weekend:

The Ancestral Health Symposium

This is the third year of the symposium, but it’s my first time to go.

The premise is that when we can use an evolutionary prospective, we can develop solutions to our contemporary health challenges.  The title Paleo as it applies to nutrition is too vague and is really kind of an inaccurate word, but it’s still a word that gets thrown around and is accepted shorthand within the movement.

Couldn't play it straight.
Couldn’t play it straight.

So first: the demographic of attendees.  There are about 600 people here.  At any time in a store, or on a street, or at a conference, or on a campus, the folks you see reflect the statistics of America’s population:  35% obese, 69% overweight (including obesity).  Not in this room.  These are fit people.  Fit does not mean slender – these people look strong and healthy.  It is a younger group – Eliott and I are in the older 20%, easily – but even the older folks look this way.  It’s a refreshing view; I didn’t realize how “normal” it is to see those statistics every day in real life until I was in this conference room.

A stock image, but you get the drift.
A stock image, but you get the drift.

Most of the speakers are MD’s and PhDs.  Check out this detailed schedule.  I don’t have a science background, and a few of the presenters today were a smidge over my head.  The topics today were:

The Paleolithic Prescription

This was presented by the two MD’s who are considered the “grandfathers” of the modern Paleo movement, who have been researching the hunter-gatherer diet for their entire professional careers.  This one was a little sciency, but I hung on the best I could, and took notes on their suggestions for more papers and books to read.

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

I loved this one.  Dr. Gad Saad examined our modern consumer instinct that has gone awry, and what it reveals about our primal nature.  It gives context at least to how we’ve gotten where we are, even if it’s unsettling.

Your ovaries know what I'm talking about.
Your ovaries know what I’m talking about.

Sexual Fitness and Women’s Fertility Cycles

Another great session.  This examined sexual selection from an evolutionary standpoint, and how we’re massively altering this with our reliance on synthetic hormones, both for men and women.  I’m particularly interested in this because of my 4 young-adult children and their long-term health.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup Litigation Status

Fascinating session by the plaintiff’s attorney in the lawsuit filed in New York against the HFCS manufacturers on behalf of a teenage girl w/type 2 diabetes, claiming that HFCS is the cause of her developing the disease.  I had an instant flashback to my first year of law school and Torts and Strict Liability/Failure To Warn.

Satan's urine
Satan’s urine

Find Your Why

Highlight of the day.  This young man, Kyle Maynard, was born with a congenital amputation who has become a motivational speaker, and is a proponent of the Paleo lifestyle.  He recently became the first person to “bear crawl” up Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It took 13 days and his presentation today was about that challenge.  Please click through to his page and read about this spectacular young person.

Awesome.  What's your Why?
Awesome. What’s your Why?

The hall of vendors has been wonderful – sources of grass-fed beef, home-gardening aids, and the newest buzz-product Kombucha (kind of a fermented tea that adds beneficial gut flora).  Tomorrow also includes a posters’ session, which are like mini-breakout sessions, I think.  In between speakers, we have these little 3-minute movement sessions by Adonis- and Venus-like trainers.

About 3 months ago, Eliott and I did this Whole30 experiment.  It’s 30 days of absolute clean eating:  local and organic grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, local and organic vegetables and some fruits, and healthy fats.  No sugar, no grains, no alcohol.  It also include other paleo-lifestlyle pieces regarding sleep, timing of meals, and movement.  It was both a lot of fun and a real challenge.  It was pricey, of course, to buy all that fresh, local food (and lots of time to prepare and cook it), and it was a new skill, but we LOVED it.  We felt fabulous, had huge energy, no physical symptoms of our ages (!).  It’s extremely difficult to do while traveling, but we’ve continued to do a modified version at home (like I’m not going to have cocktails at sunset).  The authors of the Whole 30 book are here for a presentation and panel tomorrow.

From my personal food porn file
From my personal food porn file

So anyway, that’s what I’m doing til Sunday.  My brain’s on overload but I’m lovin it.  To my Murfreesboro crowd – I’ll be home in time for Glenda’s moving-to-Vegas-and-selling-her-art party on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Back home. *sigh*

My own bed.  My own yard.  My dogs, my cows, my chickens.  I love being back home.

But what a trip.  What a delicious pile of memories and pictures to go over and over to remember those precious few days.

I got home around 8:30 this morning, after the redeye last night from Salt Lake City.  Glenda’s back in Knoxville, Ben’s back in Loveland, Sam’s still in Salida, and Amy’s still relocating to Orcas Island.

After our adventure in Black Canyon, Amy and I stayed in Grand Junction, Colorado.  We had dinner and delightful conversation at a little Italian restaurant right across from our hotel, and a lazy morning the next day.

You knew I'd put this in somewhere.
You knew I’d put this in somewhere.

We headed out toward Dinosaur National Monument, which is located in both Colorado and Utah.  I couldn’t find statistics on annual visitors to this park, but I rather expect it’s one of the least-visited, simply because it’s in the middle of Nowhere, Utah, and it takes a big effort to get to it.  However, it is by a huge exponent worth the trip.

Friendly little fellow welcoming us to the park.
Friendly little fellow welcoming us to the park.

I can’t resist posting both of these shots – there was an entire wall of drawings of dinosaurs made by visitors to the park of the child variety.  So cute.

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In the park, the main display is the Quarry itself – a mass concentration of dinosaur fossils formed when the animals’ remains were washed into the area and covered with sediment, which then shifted in mountain-building movements in the Uintas chain about 150 million years ago.  The fossils were discovered by a paleontologist, Earl Douglass, in 1909.  His thought to have the main dig preserved, covered, and offered for citizens to visit and discover was brilliant.

Here are a couple of pics in the Quarry:

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Here’s the big Allosaurus skeleton on the bottom level of the Quarry:

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The Quarry building was built in 1957.  I visited the park as a teenager with my family in 1977-ish, and I remember being astonished with how many fossils were in one condensed area.  The building itself suffered structural problems and was closed in 2006.  In 2009, as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, the building was shored up and repaired and opened again in 2011.

We ventured off on a hike loop where we found fossils on our own.

We guessed femur of camarasaurus, because it's the right size, and that's the most common species whose fossils are here.
We guessed femur of camarasaurus, because it’s the right size, and that’s the most common species whose fossils are here.
A fellow sightseer
A fellow sightseer
So many formations like this, with deep, rich colors and textures
So many formations like this, with deep, rich colors and textures

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Amy and I had a delightful time in this park.  She and I travel well together, and we enjoy one another’s company.  But the plan was always to go as far as Salt Lake City with her, then head back home to study, while she kept going til she reached the ocean, then go one island farther.

We left the park, headed west, got to visit with Amy’s boyfriend’s sister Laura in Midway, Utah for dinner, then back in the car for the SLC airport.  I don’t have to describe the feeling of watching that child drive away for her solo adventure, but it’s a familiar feeling for the mother of 4 Supertramps, and I would not have it any other way.  (Thursday night — she just texted me that she’s outside of Teton National Park, sleeping in her car, excited for sunrise so she can see the mountains at first light.)

What a wonderful 6 days with the children.  I am so grateful when I get to hang out with them, hearing them laugh, listening to them rant, watching their eyes sparkle as they interact with each other.  I am simply never happier than when I’m with them.

IMG_0592Thanks for reading!

Days # I-have-no-idea

I’m going to try to sort this out.  I swear I blogged the day before yesterday, but so much happens, I’m not completely sure.

When we last left our lovely posse, we had arrived in Salida and reunioned with our boys.  On day 2 in Salida, we started with, what else:  breakfast, including copious amounts of coffee and talk.

This is River's Edge, our breakfast place all 3 mornings.  We sat on this big comfy, sunny couch and talked politics, adventure, money, love, family, and kayaking.
This is River’s Edge, our breakfast place all 3 mornings. We sat on this big comfy, sunny couch and talked politics, adventure, money, love, family, and kayaking.

This day included time on the river with River:

River on the Arkansas
River on the Arkansas

a picnic in the park

Ark river in the background
Ark river in the background

watching the boys in the playhole (gotta love that river rat term)

 

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Ben
Ben
Also Ben
Also Ben
Sam
Sam
Also Sam
Also Sam

and viewing from the Boathouse.

Ben's beautiful girlfriend Kirsten and beautiful sister Amy
 Kirsten and Amy

Tuesday morning brought sad goodbyes as we all headed off in different directions:

No words.
No words.

Ben and Kirsten headed back with their canines to Loveland for school and work.  El and Glenda headed to Denver to go back to Murfreesboro and Knoxville.  Sam went back to work as an Arkansas River Ranger.  Amy and I headed west and north to get Amy ultimately to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington State.

So we now pick up mine and Amy’s adventure through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Best-kept secret in the world of National Parks.
Best-kept secret in the world of National Parks.
Gorgeous.
Gorgeous.
Panorama setting on my iPhone
Panorama setting on my iPhone
One of these cliffs is over 2200 feet high (taller than the Empire State Building).
One of these cliffs is over 2200 feet high (taller than the Empire State Building).
Did I mention this park is off the beaten path?
Did I mention this park is off the beaten path?
As in any canyon, the ubiquitous Balancing Rock.
As in any canyon, the ubiquitous Balancing Rock.

Rolled into Grand Junction, Colorado, to a charming little hotel and Italian restaurant.  I will go as far as Salt Lake City with Amy tomorrow (via Dinosaur National Monument), and send her off the rest of the way on her own.

Hooooooge shoutout to my house and dogsitters Katie and Elliot.  And cow/donkey/chicken sitters.  You two rock!

One more day of adventure, then back to Employment Discrimination and Legal Research.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you just get lucky

I’m at the American Atheists convention and I have a blog queue that is about to bubble over.  There have been great speakers, big laughs, a costume party, old friends, and I have every intention of posting about all those things.

However, something happened last night that bumped all that down the list.  I met Earl Smith.

This American Atheist convention is the 50th anniversary of its founding, and it’s being held in Austin, Texas, where Madalyn Murray O’Hare began the organization in 1963, after the landmark ruling of removing prayer in public schools.  It’s 4 days of activism, socializing, speakers – all the usual that go along with conventions.  We’re meeting and staying at the Hyatt in Austin, which is one of the subjects I want to post on.  I have been astounded at the job they have done in accommodating us is so far beyond what is usually expected.  I have tried to express my gratitude to the waiters, check-in staff, and security as the opportunity presents.

Earl Smith is the director of security at the Hyatt hotel in Austin, Texas.  He’s a tall, snowy-haired, good-natured African American, and we (Eliott and I) warmed to him immediately.  Last night, he shared the following story with us.

Earl was drafted in 1966, and served with the 173rd Airborne brigade.  That unit sustained losses of over 10,000 American lives, and Earl returned home weary and lost at 22 years old.  He struggled to find his way, and was sent to prison a year later for a 5-year sentence for robbery.  He was given clemency in 1977, and when he was released, he set about rebuilding his life at age 25, with a war, a prison term, a broken marriage, and the racism of the south in his past.

Earl started with the Marriott in Chicago, and began working his way through the hospitality industry, finally taking the job as the head of hotel security at the Hyatt hotel in Austin in 1998.  In 2008, as you may remember, the final debate of the Democratic primary was held at UT Austin.  In a stroke of logistic hilarity, or maybe staff ineptitude, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their respective debate teams stayed at the Hyatt in Austin.  When Earl was telling this story, he couldn’t stop chuckling relating the efforts the hotel staff went through to keep distance and peace between the groups in the hotel.

Earl found himself on an elevator with then-senator Obama.  In Earl’s pocket was his military patch from the 173rd Airborne, which he had carried in that pocket for 40 years.  Earl asked Mr. Obama if he could give him something, and of course Mr. Obama said he could.  Earl handed him the worn, frayed patch, and told him that he wanted to offer it to him on behalf of the American people.  When Earl told me this part of the story, using hand gestures that spoke even more than his words, he said, “I just felt so relieved to give it to him”.

The story now has to take a leap through time, to January of 2013.  One morning, when Earl arrived at his office, his staff was all atwitter about a phone call he had received – from the White House!  President Obama’s assistant chatted with Earl on the phone and via email over the next few days and arranged for him to come to Washington DC for the inauguration.  Earl was delighted, and set about arranging his budget and time schedule in order to go.  Earl’s employer, surprise surprise!, arranged for him to have a room in the packed and expensive Hyatt Hotel within walking distance of the Washington Mall.  When his tickets to the inauguration were delivered to his room, they came with a little more news:  President Obama wanted Earl to visit him at the White House the following day.  The question was also asked:  What else did Earl want to do while he was in our nation’s capitol?

Here was Earl’s list:  he wanted to go to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the brand new Dr. King Memorial.   On a cold January day, Earl Smith attended the second inauguration of the first black president.  He said he loved every freezing minute of it.  Then the former Army private visited the memorials.  In telling this story full of emotional highs, at this point Earl became emotional, describing the feeling he experienced walking that sloping sidewalk, along that cold, reflecting granite, far too full of names.  40 years vanished, he said, and those names and faces came right back to him, reminding him of where he had come from, why he was where he was, who he had lost.  When Earl then visited the Dr. King memorial, he said moments from the past – JFK’s assassination, the war, the civil rights struggle – all came to him as he stood there, taking in the monument.  But there was still one more highlight.

It was time to go the White House.  Earl found himself sitting in a chair in a hallway, not really sure what was in store for him.  He said after he returned from a nervous trip to the bathroom, his escort was nowhere to be seen, so he just took a seat in the chair, and just then, walking down the hall, was a tall, thin, African American man extending his hand saying, “I’m so glad to see you again, Earl.”  Then, at the end of that hall, Earl walked in to the Oval Office, that iconic rug on the floor, the desk, all of it.  Earl and his President chatted for a bit, 20 minutes in fact, and Earl repeated to him the purpose of the patch; that he wanted the president to have it on behalf of the American people.

Please take the time to visit the link and watch the video.  What an honor and privilege it was to have met Earl and hear his story.  He’s a lovely, kind, gentle man, and if you are ever in Austin, go out of your way, even if you don’t stay here, to visit the Hyatt and ask to meet Earl.

I'm so proud of this picture!
My friend, Earl Smith

Thanks for reading!

Edit 4.1.13

Awesome level:  Maximum
Awesome level: Maximum

Where have you been?

Where have you been?!  I’ve been waiting and waiting!

From the The-best-defense-is-a-good-offense files…

When I logged in to write today’s post, I was astounded to see I haven’t posted since November!  Where did the time go?  Maybe the kids coming for Thanksgiving or my best girl and her wife visiting for a few days or taking my finals for the end of my second year of law school or going to Amy’s graduation or moving her to a new apartment or Glenda coming home for the semester break or my parents coming for Christmas or going to Las Vegas for my studybuddy’s 40th birthday or driving nonstop with Son2 from Colorado to Tennessee to reposition a vehicle or starting my third year of law school?  Still no excuse, I know.

I do love being stimulated, but this has been a little over the top, even for me.

Starting with kid news:

#1 had better grades than me after fall semester, and I had good grades.  That was tough to take, but I’m so proud of him.  Ben is a political science major at CU Boulder, home of Ralphie the Buffalo (extra credit if you know the history of the mascot at this school).  Kirsten finished her master’s in architecture this year, and they’re trying to get used to NOT living in a resort town.

Ben and Aden
Ben and Aden

#2 is in his winter semester as the asst director of the outdoor program at Virginia Commonwealth U.  His group of students went on a ski trip to Breckenridge, which is why he ended up there with his Airstream B Van needing to bring it back east.  I volunteered, so 24 hours later, we arrived home, where Sam slept, then drove the rest of the way alone, visiting his sisters along the way.

Sam and the James River in Richmond
Sam and the James River in Richmond

#3 is in what may be her final semester at UT.   In a painful twist of irony, she’s having to defend a French class she took IN FRANCE in order to get credit to graduate.  The less said about that the better.

Glenda and darling Caroline
Glenda and darling Caroline

#4 graduated from East Tennessee State University in December.  She’s applied for a job with the parks department of Johnson City and is eagerly awaiting an answer.  She has a kickass plan B, so I’ll wait for that post until she hears the result of her interview.

Amy and darling Curtis
Amy and darling Curtis

As for me, I’m now past the halfway point in law school, the bar exam notwithstanding.  That’s an entity unto itself.  I have 23 more tuition payments, 23 more months of school.  If you’re keeping track, this year’s subjects are:  Evidence, Corporations and Business Organizations, Professional Responsibility, Legal Analysis and Writing, Legal Research, Employment Discrimination, and Cross Profession Ethics.  It is as much work as it appears to be.  Do not think, as I did, that law school is top-loaded.  I love the topics; the challenge is cramming the daily 12 hours of study into 4 or 6 hours.

In training news, son Sam has decided he wants us to do a triathlon together before one of us gets too old.  And of course by triathlon, I mean the big bad one.  We’ve decided on the window of Mar-Sept 2014, so we’re looking at races all over the world to find an iron distance we want to do.  That gives us the maximum time to train, and before I start my big push studying for the Bar.  Stay tuned for details.

I’d like to say here that I’ll do a better job of blogging more regularly, but we all know I’m kidding myself.  It’s not that I don’t have a lot to write about, but you already know that.  However, it is a nice refuge from the intensity of my academics, so here’s my empty promise to try to do better.

And, for no good reason, here’s a face:

How could you not love this face?
How could you not love this face?
We can destroy a hot dozen
We can destroy a hot dozen

 

Thanks for reading!

The Virginia Chronicles

From Thursday at noon til Sunday at noon.  In that time, my son and I:  rafted the James, explored the art mural scene in Richmond on bike, climbed at the VCU climbing wall (my first experience), cycled to Jamestown (45 miles), explored Jamestown, cycled back to Richmond, ate at the fabulous 821(twice) AND mamazu’s, prepared a meal for our host family, and ate a meal prepared by our host family.  Oh, and did I mention the hurricane?  Or getting to see, from the window of the gate where I had just landed, Air Force One land and its de-planing passengers?  No?

DISCLAIMER:  This is not another swag post about my kid.  He just happens to have been the coordinator for all we did, and I can’t relate the adventures without telling that.    This trip was to have been a visit with him, and a chance to see where he lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.  If the splendor of Sam comes through, I can’t help that.

Son #2 is the assistant director of the Outdoor Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Back in the day (’78-’82 for me), these outdoor programs had a couple of backpacks to rent, maybe a bike to check out, and one or two trips per semester to a nearby state park.  No more.  Here’s a picture of the Center at VCU:

 

In the Fall 2012 semester alone, the program has taken 75 trips, has bikes (road and mountain), kayaks, paddle boards, climbing wall, backpacks, wetsuits available to students, conducts a student leadership program, has a staff of 40 students, and has its sights set on VCU Qatar , its sister campus, for a recreational trip during the 2013 school year.

Sam began this job in the fall of 2012, and I’ve been trying to get up to see him since then.  Regular readers of this blog know with my online law school, and my retired Delta-pilot-father, I take advantage of the pass travel with vigor.  When a weekend became available, I leapt at the chance to get this visit in.  With the patience and generosity of my ever-devoted partner/boyfriend to watch my high-maintenance dogs for the weekend, off I went.

When I boarded my flight in Atlanta for Richmond, an announcement was made that due to the arrival of the President in Richmond for a campaign event, there was a possibility that we might be delayed.  We arrived 7 minutes before the arrival of Air Force One, so I was able to see that occur from a great vantage point:

I missed seeing him in a hallway in a casino in Las Vegas in 2008 by seconds, so I was delighted to be seeing him, even at this distance!  Minutes later, I saw my precious boy just past the security point and off to our adventures we went.

First stop:  Sam’s “office”, the Outdoor Adventure Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.  We had time to grab a quick bite at the 821, a funky little cafe 2 blocks from work.

In my defense, we shared this monstrosity

Then it was back to the office to pack up and head out for an afternoon rafting adventure on the James.  The water was way down, which bummed out the kayakers, but suited me fine as Sam and I tackled it R2ing (riverspeak for 2 in a raft).  It was so unusual to be whitewater rafting with a city skyline as the backdrop.  I’ve got no pics, since I don’t have a waterproof case for my phone – Sam took some, and I’ll try to go back and edit after he posts those shots.

After getting the obligatory drenching (he’s still my son, after all) we changed into dry clothes and met up with Sam’s boss, and roommate couple, and dear friends Joey and Lauren for a dinner at mammazu’s, a high-funk, fabulous, Italian eatery.  We feasted upon vegetable lasagna, eggplant parmesan, rockfish, crab, bread, and wine.  The food and the conversation were delightful and memorable.

This is it. Srsly.

Moving into Friday morning, Sam and I hopped the bikes to his local coffee shop where we had our java and java talk, one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.  From there we headed back to the center where we set out for a day of sightseeing Hollywood cemetery and Richmond’s street mural art scene.

One of two US Presidents buried here. Also, one CSA President. You’ll have to Google to find out. Ever the teacher.

Then it was back to the climbing wall where there was a combination climbing contest/halloween party.  You can be sure that the group associated with outdoor adventure is going to come through with the costumes.  I went as a cyclist (which was convenient since that’s what I had on…).

Sushi!

Sam went as a banjo player from Tennessee

I knew it was coming.  A test of the commitment Pledge.  When my kids were little, before they reached adolescence and I lost all credibility with them, I promised that whatever they would let me participate in with them, I would, and the Pledge raised its head again this night.  I had avoided the climbing piece for a long time, not being particularly enamored of heights, and not being overly strong in my upper body, and my weight being up a little because I haven’t been training.  No allowances, however, so up I went.  I at least had on climbing shoes, and of course my own boy at the other end of my harness.  I’m not sure where the fear comes from, because my rational mind was aware that I was secure from falling.  Maybe because I didn’t want to disappoint my son?  Maybe because I didn’t want to wimp out because I wasn’t strong enough to do it?  Ultimately it didn’t matter, because I did make it straight to the top, and what a rush that was!

Then it was home to a feast prepared by the lovely Lauren, and fashion modeling by darling Mercks.

Saturday morning saw us up early, gearing up with the 10 students who joined in for the bike ride to Chickahominy Riverfront park, near Jamestown, VA.  We had a slight mechanical situation along the way…

freaky tire tumor

…but resolved that and then headed into historic Jamestown for a very quick tour.

Sam and Pocahontas
Captain Smith. He was too high for me to be obscene with…sorry to disappoint.

After a campground cookout, we hit the tent for a night of sleep hearing Sandy’s first rainfall on the nylon.  After a campground breakfast of bacon and eggs, we set out back for Richmond, pinched between the system coming from the southwest and Sandy bearing down from the southeast.  We made it back to Richmond without getting too wet, and were glad to get off the bikes and head to Little Mexico for a little cerveza and chips before dinner.

Back home, after the lovely meal Lauren made for us, Sam and I pitched in and made salad, vegetable soup, and cornbread for our family dinner.

Then, just like that, it was Monday, and time to head back home.  Out of Richmond.  In the middle of Sandy the hurricane.  Usually there are 10 or so flights between Richmond and Atlanta; on this day, at least 6 of them were cancelled.  All the remaining were oversold.  When this happens, there’s nothing to do but try or wait it out.  We opted to try, and through some series of fortunate events, I made it to Atlanta, then on home to Nashville.

So, 96 hours with Sammy, and as always, I’m richer for it.

Thanks for reading!

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