Thursday, August 30, 2012

Best Summer Ever

School starts for my kids the day after Labor Day this year.  They are going into fifth, third, and K5, which means for the first time all of them will be in school until 2:20 each day.  Full day school for all three kids.  Part of me is feeling sort of shocked and sad that all of my babies are now for sure definitely not babies anymore and haven't been for a long time.  But the other part of me is all in a happy dance about how bright and fun and independent they are and that they will all be in FULL DAY SCHOOL!  It's like a having a wish granted by the Time Fairy.

Anyway, I asked the kids what they wanted to do with their last weekend of summer vacation.  Was there anything we hadn't done that they had hoped to do?  They thought about it, and decided they had done it all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not Interested in Dying

We got an email from my dad last night.  My dad doesn't email very often.  He used to write us a great deal, most often on post it notes that accompanied packets of articles he'd hand selected for us.  Sometimes there was a lot crammed onto the post it notes, but usually they were brief.  My favorite was one that read: "Dear Kory, This is more than I wrote to your brother, Love Dad."  His emails are brief as well, seldom more than a half dozen lines at best, but always both poignant and funny.

Last night's email was particularly powerful.  He reminded us that we had reached the one year anniversary of a doctor telling my mom in the hospital that my dad may not make it through the night.  But he did.  And he's still around a year later having settled back in at home, vacationed with us at the cottage, and seen his grandchildren all grow that much taller and more interesting.  If his cancer returns there is nothing left to be done about it, and things are still complicated (particularly from my mom's end), but he's home and getting around under his own power, doing what interests him, and mostly just being my dad.  When I think about the nightmarish hospital stays from last year it's hard not to marvel at the difference today.

Dad also mentioned a recent obituary in the Times that said the deceased "had no interest in dying" and he probably didn't either.  I'm glad that's nowhere on my dad's to do list.  Because I need my dad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Amazing Milwaukee Race on Bikes!

Back in April I 'ran' with my friend Linda in The Amazing Milwaukee Race.  This past weekend my husband and I participated in the biking version of that race, and it wore me out but we had a great time.

There were two courses; the A-course was 40 miles, and the B-course was supposed to be 20 miles but turned out to be 25.  Of the 72 teams that participated only 23 finished, and of the 14 B-course teams we came in tenth.  Not bad for a team called "The Slow Spokes."  The whole thing was a lot more grueling than anticipated, but it was the kind of event where the enjoyment of it comes down to the company.  There were several moments when I was cold and wet and sore that I realized if I were with someone else I would have been miserable, but because I was with Ian it was fun.

Ian ready to ride!
Me briefly enjoying dry clothes

Here's a rundown of the whole adventure (including address locations for locals interested in the path we traveled) and some more photos:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My legs are tired!!!!

Just finished The Amazing Milwaukee Race On Bikes!

Ian didn't have to do an Army thing this weekend after all, so we were able to sign up at the last minute to join the race.  There were two courses; one was 40 miles, and one was 20 miles.  Ian suggested we stick to the shorter course, and as usual he was right.  I am worn out!

We did finish.  Apparently many people didn't.  We won't find out our scores until tomorrow.   But when we checked in the volunteers seemed surprised that we finished the entire course and had all our clues.  I'm not sure how we could have gone much faster than we did.  We didn't waste time anywhere and we kept moving at a good clip on our bikes despite the rain (so much rain), but we still made it back late.  The race began at noon and was supposed to be wrapped up by 5:00, and we didn't check in at the finish line until about 5:15, so whoever won deserves a lot of praise!  I have no idea how people did the 40 mile course in that amount of time.

It was so much fun!  Despite getting caught in two thunderstorms.  Although it was one of those events where the company is everything.  Just like doing the race on foot back in April was fun because I was with my friend, Linda, I was glad I did this race with my husband.  We're a good team because he knows how to get everywhere, and I'm good at figuring things out.  There were several moments when I was just cold and wet and sore that I realized the only reason it was fun and not torture was because I was with Ian.  He makes life good anywhere.

Anyway, now I'm home and dry and literally covered with kids which is making typing hard, so I will share the details of the race later.

More soon!  With a photo or two!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Midwestern Moments

The Midwest is beautiful.  My home state of Michigan was a wonderful place to grow up, and I'm glad when I get to go back and visit my parents in Detroit or spend time at the cottage we have there on the western side of the state.  People wax poetic about the grandeur of the West and lushness of the South, the colors of the desert and the interweaving of loveliness and history that runs along the East Coast, but I seldom read about the Midwest.  That's too bad, because there is much to love here.

Calder in the Art Museum, evening event
It's like a secret.  No one visits Milwaukee just to see it the way they would places like New York or San Francisco.  People visit Milwaukee because they have a specific reason to go, usually because they know someone here.  And when they come they are stunned by how pretty and vibrant it is.  There is an abundance of talent and activity and things to do and see, and it's for the people who live here rather than for tourists.  People who live elsewhere are surprised that my family seldom gets down to Chicago since it's so close, but the truth is we never run out of things to do in Milwaukee.  Often there is too much to choose from any given weekend.  It's an endlessly interesting place and I feel fortunate to be raising my kids in such a nice city.

Deer outside my window at the cottage
In the area north of Grand Rapids where we spent our vacation this year we had time to really appreciate the beauty Michigan has to offer.  There is something about the woods and the scale of things that feels knowable.  I'm lucky enough to have traveled a little bit in my lifetime, and I have been thrilled by many amazing sights.  There is beauty and wonder everywhere, but for me only the Midwest feels like home.  I find mountains somewhat intimidating, the desert alien, and the tropics overwhelming.  But when I'm in the woods in Michigan I always have the sense that with the right guidebooks or some walks with an informed friend or relative I would be able to name all the trees and the birds and the tracks on the ground.

When we visit the cottage we usually take the kids up the road to a ranch where for $5 they can be led around in circles a few times on a horse.  This year Aden was finally old enough that we had the option to go out on a real trail.  My sister-in-law kindly treated my daughter and me to a two hour trail ride and it was lovely.  My thighs are still a little sore, but it was a wonderful experience.  Aden loved it.  She rode a horse named Comet who was trained as a therapy horse for people with physical disabilities, so she was a nice, calm, starter horse for Aden.
Aden on Comet
View of Aden on the trail from my horse

Being on a horse was interesting.  The last time I was on a horse was over 20 years ago and I got thrown off and passed out.  Before that all of my experience was at day camps or birthday parties, and whatever horse I was on usually took advantage of my lack of confidence and ignored me to eat flowers or leaves.  I always feel awkward trying to order a horse around since it seems only a matter of time before the animal realizes the power imbalance and decides it doesn't want me on its back.  Watching people who know what to do with horses always impresses me.  One of the guides on our trail ride was only eleven!  She had perfect control of her horse, and her horse adored her.

In any case, seeing the woods from horseback was wonderful.  I had no interest in moving any faster than a walk, but the trail guides would split up the group periodically and let me go off ahead with one of them, and then the rest would catch up at a trot.  The look of delight on Aden's face as her horse picked up speed is one I hope to never forget.

Leaves illuminated from behind by sunshine is one of the most beautiful things I know of. 
The woods in that area are mostly quaking aspens and spindly looking oaks that never seem to get beyond a certain size.  Then interspersed here and there are patches of neatly planted pine forests with the trees all in rows and I'm reminded that the area was not always wild.  The landscape of the community where the cottage was built was artificially constructed in I believe the 1960s and 70s, and the look of it has weathered and changed in a good way from when I was a kid.  Nature has had time to fill in the spaces with ferns and sumac and Queen Anne's lace.  I love how it's grown. 

One of the best people to take a nature walk with is my brother, Barrett.  Nothing like being with an entomologist to make everything in a ten foot radius seem like a wild adventure kingdom.  When you remember to include incredibly tiny animals in your searches you see animals everywhere, and Barrett's enthusiasm for the insect world is inspiring (no matter how squeamish about bugs you may think yourself to be initially).  My kids cannot wait until we get to go to the cottage and have him along.  (They asked his identical twin what every insect was as they came across it on our walks, but Arno just kept tossing up his hands and saying, "Ask them yourself!  I don't know!"  As a neuroscientist he could have helped identify brains if there had been any on the trail, but thankfully there were none.)

It's also fun to walk with my mom, because as both a lover of nature and an artist she notices things the rest of us would overlook.  She's spent most of her life in Michigan and incorporates many local elements into her work, and has never thought the Midwest lacked for interesting subject matter.

There are many places in the world I hope to see before I die.  I've never been to South America or Africa or Australia.  I'd like to take my kids to see India and Europe.  If I get to visit even half the landmarks on the flashcards my kids like to flip through when I'm teaching them about the world I would be happy.  But I'm also happy to call the Midwest my home base.  I'm glad it's the place I get to return to, wherever I choose to go. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Living Tribute

We just spent the last two weeks at the cottage.  It's still hard not to write "my grandma's cottage," but I'm getting closer to being able to say "our cottage."  It's finally starting to sink in after owning it for a year that it belongs to us now.

We signed the paperwork last summer on my grandmother's birthday, more than half a year after her death.  I think she probably pictured her summer cottage in the woods being shared by her children for a time rather than moving so soon into the hands of one of her grandchildren, but I think she'd just be pleased that it's stayed in the family.

When we are in Milwaukee living our busy lives and we get the bills from Michigan to maintain another house there, one with taxes and fees and things to fix, I wonder if it's worth the expense.  But when I'm there I know it is.  It's a home of my childhood that doesn't change.  When I'm at the cottage it's like being with my grandma again.  Like being with the family I grew up with while getting to share that with the family I have now.  It's magic.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Two Cents on Guns

During the recent theater shootings in Aurora I was blissfully unplugged from the news.  I was visiting my parents and we did not have the TV or radio on.  The newspapers delivered to the door kept us about a day behind the current events.  At one point I went online to check email and discovered the horrible story after the president had already addressed the nation and the usual unpleasant squabbling had begun in the wake of such gun related tragedy.  I closed my computer and turned my focus to the puppet show my kids were putting on, and sitting with my dad, and finding the kids' goggles before going to the pool.  The nightmare in Aurora would be there after my vacation and I didn't see the point of letting it in early.

Now the mass shooting of the moment in the news isn't across the country.  It's the next zip code over, and just miles down on the road that runs by our home.  A Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, just south of Milwaukee, was attacked by at least one gunman, and although at this moment there aren't too many details available, we know six innocent people are dead.  I don't have the luxury of turning away because now the nightmare is in my own community.  It's horrifying.

I've been trying to process some of the rhetoric that's been flying around in the aftermath of so much pointless suffering, and I feel like working through my thoughts on guns.  I have no legislative power and threaten anybody's rights on this issue, so these opinions are just that and nothing more.  If I push someone's buttons try not to take it personally.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Looking for opinions on part of my first novel

I mentioned in the post I wrote about the movie Brave that I might need to amend or rewrite part of my first novel to accommodate it.  I can't decide because I kind of like it the way it is, but it could seem like an obvious omission since the novel has yet to be published.  Or maybe I should leave it as a reflection on when it was written, rather than update it?

I could use some opinions if anyone is willing to take a few minutes and read an excerpt.

The name of my novel is The Real Mom, although I'm considering changing the title to Pink Ponies.  It's about Maddie, an artist who is married and is the stay at home mom of two young girls.  This excerpt is from the middle of chapter four after she's found out she's pregnant again, and she's taking care of her girls while making dinner and waiting for her husband to come home.  (I look forward to the day when anyone who is interested can read the whole thing.  Which could be soon as I am about at my limit with rejections from agents and may just self-publish and be done with it.  If anyone has advice on any of that I'd love to hear it too!)

The Real Mom, by Korinthia Klein, pages 79-84: