Archive for April, 2007

Thoughts From Friends

Greetings from my home in Blacksburg, Virginia.  It took roughly 26 hours, involved a cold night on the Dulles floor, a reroute to Greensboro and lost luggage, but we finally made it home.  Special thanks goes out to Bill C who, on short notice, picked us up in Greensboro and took us back to Roanoke to retrieve our luggage.  Bill and I left Roanoke Airport shortly before Airforce One arrived and we got to watch a group of six helicopters pass over on I-81 on their way to Blacksburg.  

I’m tired and sad and have little urge to write publicly at the moment.  Below are links to blog posts some of my friends, classmates and past roommates have composed on the Virginia Tech Tragedy:

Stacy M, former roommate and VT Alum

Chris S, former roommate and VT Alum

Mike N, hiking/skiing buddy and VT Alum

Brian V, former coworker and VT Alum

Christina G, friend of 17 years writing from Germany

Jason C, former coworker and VT Alum

Love to All,

April 17, 2007 at 4:50 pm 1 comment

Surprise Slumber Party

Greetings from Dulles Airport.  As soon as I finish  my post I will be laying down on the floor of Gate A6 and catching a few hours sleep.  Mechanical problems caused our flight from Denver to be delayed for four hours so we missed our final leg to Roanoke.

I would like to think our three seats went to some family members or loved ones who were anxiously trying to get to Blacksburg.  Can you imagine flying standby in that situation?  It would be excruciating.  Thinking our seats went to a good use makes it very easy to sleep on an airport floor. 

Speaking of which, I best stake out my dark corner before it gets snatched away.

Good night

April 17, 2007 at 12:58 am 3 comments

Thoughts From the Plane: Virginia Tech Shooting

Larry, Lindsay and I heard the news this morning from Missoula, Montana.  We got the bulk of the details from text messages and monitors in the airport bar.  I wrote a bit about it on the first plane.  Here are some quick excerpts (Not proofread!) before I board my next plane.  It was written the confirmed dead was listed as 29:

My heart breaks in many directions.  I contemplate what it’s like for the parents who sent their bright children off to study to have them killed so callously.  I can’t imagine the difficulty the survivors and just the overall student population will have returning to class.  And I mourn for the perception of our beautiful town.

No one will remember the beauty of our green mountains and trees and our stoic stone buidlings.  No one will remember the beautiful sunsets over the nearby Appalachian Mountains.  Perhaps even Virginia Tech will no longer be synomonous with “Michael Vick”

Rather, when one hears “Virginia Tech” their mind will race to recall the events of this day.

“The Deadliest On-Campus Shooting in U.S. History”

Larry, Lindsay, Ted, Jennifer and I were glued to the television in the airport bar.   Silent and somber, interrupted with the beeping of our cell phones, bearing details from home that hadn’t quite made it to CNN yet.

Larry watching news in an airport bar

Watching news from Missoula Airport.  I always wear Virginia Tech clothing when I travel.

The news doesn’t make me reluctant to return.  Rather I wish I was already home– so I can embrace Sean, pet the dogs and feel as sad as I want in the privacy of my own home.

It’s been very surreal watching the details trickle in 2000 miles away.  At moments, it can feel so real.  Other moments, it feels so distant.

There has been an advantage of being so far away.  I’ve got to witness the reaction of the country.  CNN had uninterrupted coverage.  President Bush offered his prayers to the families.  But the image that will remain with me is at the gate in Missoula Airport.  I tore my eyes away from the television briefly to look at my surroundings.  There were a number of people at the gate who also had their eyes affixed to the television.

Two men even walked up, stood underneath the television so as to hear better.

There were strangers.  These aren’t people from Virginia.  These aren’t people who attended our university.  Some of these people may not have even heard of Virginia Tech because it doesn’t have a competitive ice hockey team.  But 2300 miles away, they are sadly watching the reports.

They share our heartache, they share our disbelief, they share our pain.

Blacksburg, Virginia is not alone today.  Montana is with us.

I have to go and catch another flight.  My heart still goes out to all the affected families and to all the students and faculty who’ll have trouble resting tonight.  I wish I knew what else there was so say.  I think a sad face sums it up the best.


April 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm 2 comments

Blue Mountain/Poo Mountain Recreation Area

Yesterday, Montana once again had better weather than Virginia.  It was beautiful and sunny and in the upper sixties.  I got to rollerblade in my 17th U.S. State (took the Bitterroot Trail System from McCormick Park to Southgate Mall).  Later in the afternoon Larry, Lindsay, Jennifer and I went for a quick “hike” in Blue Mountain Recreation Area.  We are also joined by the two dogs (Juna and Jasper) and a young woman named Rose who possess a radiant complexion, a beautiful smile and a very, very loud laugh.   The park is extremely dog-friendly.  As such, it has earned a nickname from the locals – “Poo Mountain”.

Well, I didn’t see any dog poo on our journey but I did get to see a lot of great views.  Some pictures from our outing:

Our crew hiking


Lindsay and Larry

Vivid Bark

All my pictures from our Blue Mountain Recreation Area hike are available on my Flickr site.

April 16, 2007 at 2:36 am 2 comments

Happy Birthday, Jimmie Dog

Today I greet you 2300 miles away from home and I would like extend a remote birthday wish to my dog, Jimmie.  He’s ten today– though if you watched him on a hike you probably couldn’t tell.  Most people peg Henry the Beagle as the older of the two.

It is a challenge for me to accurately express the magnitude of emotion I have towards Jimmie.  I have had many dogs in my past and I expect to always have a dog by my side and I will love them all.  But for a few years now, I have recognized that none of those dogs will have the opportunity to impact my life the way Jimmie has.

This is not a reflection of the dogs of my past or even the ones that lie ahead.  Timing is Jimmie’s key advantage.  I graduated from college and two weeks later I started my very first grown up job.  It was three months after that, I adopted a thirteen pound puppy from the Montgomery County Humane Society.  So here were the two of us, fresh faced and naive in our new worlds, discovering it together.  As the puppy learned about cat claws and cold snow and details like where to poo, I was navigating my way to becoming an adult and just laying the foundations for my future career.   Together, we picked up my very first brand new car.  And together, we solidified my love of exercise and the outdoors. 

Sean, Baby Jimmie and a Blonder Me

Baby Jimmie with Carolyn (already showing her preference for cats!) and Barnabus

When Jimmie was little, I often rollerbladed a five mile round trip to campus with him by my side.  When he was older and had a strong urge to chase rabbits, I sought a more stable form of exercise– jogging.  I hated jogging, but I did it anyway because I wanted to make sure the dog was getting exercise.  Before I knew it, I actually enjoyed my afternoon jogs and it became a steady stress reliever for me.  And finally, some of my very first solo hikes were done solely as a nice outing to share with the dog. 

I started doing all these things for the dog, but now here I am– rollerblading and geocaching in different states as I travel for business, jogging to free myself from frustrations and hiking as frequently I can.  There were other catalysts involved, but Jimmie was key to unlocking those passions.  I will always be in debt for that. 

People often tell me they hesitate to get a puppy because they don’t know if they would take it outside enough.  For me, it was the puppy that was the motivation to be outside.  Getting a puppy turned out to be one of the healthiest decisions of my life!

Jimmie has also proved to be my most dependable companion.  Even when my human friends abandoned all activities except frequenting smokey bars, I had Jimmie.  Jimmie would come with me on errands.  We camped together.  We paddle boated together.  We explored Smith Mountain Lake on a speed boat together.  We walked together.  We hiked together.  We traveled to Nova together.  He doesn’t complain.  He’s just happy to be with me.  He is my “Adventure Dog”.  He’s my “Canine Soulmate”.

Hiking Buzzard Rock in George Washington National Forest

Camping – Jimmie stole the sleeping bag

On dock at Smith Mountain Lake

With a short-haired, brunette me and Henry on the way to Tinker Cliffs

Paddleboating on Gatewood Lake

The next generation of canines won’t be “my dogs.”  They will be “our kids’ dogs”.   And that’s fine.  I will love those dogs and they will love me.  Together we’ll tackle the challenges of family life and embrace a new special set of memories.

But through all that lies ahead, I still know in my heart of hearts:   There will always be something special about Jimmie.

April 16, 2007 at 2:15 am 6 comments

The Dirty Car

In our 8 days here, our rental car has managed to get quite dirty:

Dirty car– you can’t even see the license plate!

View from inside the car

Apparently our car has provided much amusement to passersby.  Friday morning, Larry and I woke up to some messages written on the back windshield.  The first one was very typical of dirty cars:

Wash Me 😦

The other one was “Fuck You”, which Larry erased.  BUT, his technique could use some improvement.  He only wiped out the middle of the letters.  After three hours of driving, we realized the message was still fully legible.  We took some corrective action.

After visiting Glacier National Park and passing by scenic Flathead Lake, Larry and I returned to Missoula, picked up Lindsay and ran the car through a car wash near the hotel.  The “Ultimate” option we selected did a fairly good job…with the exception of the back of the vehicle.  Most of the mud was gone, but a stubborn film of dirt remained.  Even with the marked improvement, the windshield continued to attract attention.  After supper last night, we discovered another message was added to the vehicle:

I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty

When I just went out to take a picture of this “new” message, I discovered an even newer response had been composed:

I Wish My Wife Was This Dirty | She Is

I suspect the mystery responder is Larry because there was also a response to the “Wash Me :(” that was still visible in the mud film:

Response to “Wash Me :(” –  I already did

I’m not sure that much more can be added to the vehicle.  If anything happens to surface, I’ll be sure let you know.  As it stands now, the employees at Enterprise will have some amusing reading material when we return the car.

April 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm 1 comment

Glacier National Park

With our work obligations over, Larry and I got to resume exploring Montana.  Yesterday we ate lunch in Whitefish, Montana.  We got yelled at for jaywalking, but our experience was still very positive thanks to some delicious pies from Loula’s Cafe.  After that, we hit Glacier National Park.  This is the third National Park I’ve gotten to visit in the past year (Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Smokey Mountain National Park were the other two)!

Me at my third National Park in a year. 

Spring plowing of the park typically begins at the beginning of April and it can take two months or more to plow the Going-To-The-Sun Road.  Sometimes they are plowing through snowdrifts that are 60-70 feet deep!  It is typically late May or early June before the road is fully open.   Yesterday, they did have a ten mile stretch open to the public, so Larry and I took advantage of that.  We got to see a lot of great views, particularly of Lake McDonald. 

Me at Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald from near the Apgar Visitor Center

Lake McDonald, traveling southwest on Going-To-The-Sun Road.

I was disappointed when the park ranger told me that I would not see any sheep or goats because “they are higher up and snowed in”, but we did get to see some deer.

A deer in Glacier National Park

Afterwards, we visited a high quality gift shop (filled with wonderful crafts and artwork) near the Apgar Visitor Center and purchased a few souvenirs.  I have successfully secured Mother’s Day cards and gifts for both my mother and Sean’s mother this trip!

On the way back to Missoula, we passed by the gorgeous Flathead Lake and snapped some shots there as well:

Beautiful Flathead Lake

We definitely had a scenic day!  All my uploaded pictures from Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake (I have tons more on my laptop) are available on my Flickr site.

April 14, 2007 at 1:16 pm 2 comments

K’naan in D.C. – May 8th!!!

Sweet!  Just found out that K’naan will be playing in D.C. May 8th at the 9:30 Club.  He’s touring with Stephen Marley’s North American Mind Control Tour.  I’m stoked.

If you haven’t heard of K’naan, you should.  This young man, originally from Somalia, is amazingly talented and has equally amazing stories to tell.   He is wise well beyond his years and I have found myself contemplating his lyrics frequently.  I do not think you have to be a fan of hip hop or rap to appreciate K’naan’s work.  There are no genre prerequesites to enjoying K’naan.  Of course, I’m heavily biased– I think this man is brilliant!  🙂

Anyway, I’m going to try my darnest to attend this show.  If you are going to be in the D.C. area and would like to attend– let me know!

Related Links
K’naan’s web site (Tour Dates)
Stephen Marley’s web site
Other Posts of Mine that refer to K’naan

April 14, 2007 at 1:19 am 1 comment

So It Goes

I’m in a hotel room in a town so sparse it only gets two radio stations (and both border between crap and total crap). I’m 1800 miles away from my journals which house all my favorite quotes and the thoughts those quotes inspired.  It is certainly not where I expected to be when my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, passed away.  I also did not to expect to hear the news via text message at 6:23 AM as I blow dried my hair.

That said, Vonnegut’s death is not that much a surprise to me.  It is a scenario I have spent years bracing for.  In fact, here’s a tidbit.  Circa 1998, well aware that the author I adored was…well… up there in age, I panicked and wondered what I would read when there were no more Kurt Vonnegut novels to count on.  I heard of another author whose voice was very similiar, so I started reading his books.  Alas, Douglas Adams had to go and die in 2001.  Jerk.  My “replacement Vonnegut” died before the original!

I believe Vonnegut’s impact on me is readily visible. My bookshelf downstairs houses almost all of his published work, including a first edition copy of Slapstick (thanks to Ryan Schutt) and an autographed copy of Bagombo Snuff Box (thanks to Ryan Somma).  When you first enter my home office upstairs you see a movie poster for Mother Night and right above my desk hangs an autographed photograph of Kurt Vonnegut.  My wedding ceremony featured readings from Slapstick and Timequake.  And there is one more story I can share that may demonstrate my affection for the author.

The Saga of Vonnegut Aaron
I went through a phase, I think I’ve outgrown it, where I wanted to name my first child “Vonnegut”.  To me that name invokes a passionate response.  It insinuates imagination, intelligence and great wit. 

At first I thought it would be a fitting name for a son.  Vonnegut Aaron (The Aaron was intended to be an hommage to Aaron Evans, another artist I’ve found to be inspiring).  At one point Stacy pointed out that name would most likely be shortened to “Vonne”.  We knew a Vaughn in our past and the connotations– negative.

So then I thought, well maybe that would be a good name for a daughter.  We’d call her Vonn-ah for short.  Change Aaron to Erin and voila– girl’s name.  Could work…teachers would mangle it for the duration of child’s academic career, but hey, it would be a unique name.

Well as it turns out, this whole concept was less than pleasing to my husband.  He always had and probably always will have objections to the concept.  Meanwhile, I realized I wouldn’t mind giving a son the middle name of “Lowell” after my father. 

Thinking I was being sly, one evening I made a proposal to Sean.

“I have an idea!” I said, “How about if we ever have a girl, I get to pick the first name and you can pick the middle name and if we ever have a boy, you can pick the first name and I’ll pick the middle name.”

My secret plan would enable me to secure Vonnegut as a first name for a daughter, yet still sneak in Lowell as a son’s middle name.

Sean was not fooled for a single second. He saw right through my plan.

“Okay,” he said, “Then I’m going to name our son ‘Shithead'”

“Shithead Lowell” didn’t quite have the ring I was looking for.  Still I was not deterred.  I was determined to name a child of mine “Vonnegut”

Then one day I was perusing a book store and knowing Vonnegut made a contribution, I picked up a Studs Terkel collection of essays.  I opened it up and in the very first paragraph of Vonnegut’s essay, I read this sentence:

Vonnegut is not a noble name.

So there we go.  My husband doesn’t like the name, my friends roll their eyes at the notion AND now even Kurt Vonnegut himself was critiquing the name.  With that, I was finally able to accept the name was not as grand of an idea as I had thought!  🙂

April 13, 2007 at 1:31 am 9 comments

The Environment – Hurting vs. Enjoying

The summer of 2005 thanks to the rapid decline of my Isuzu Rodeo, I found myself in the market for a new vehicle. I researched a number of vehicles that were more gas friendly, but I kept coming down to needing a vehicle that I could count on getting me to and from the mountains I hike. I’ve seen vehicles get stuck on the roads I travel. Most notably, Mike E’s car got stuck in a creek crossing during one of our Appalachian Trail outings. As a female who often hikes alone and has on occassion commuted alone at night to snowy ski resorts, a vehicle competent in tough roads and varied conditions is pretty handy. With a heavy heart but a practical mind, I invested in my Nissan XTerra.

“In order to enjoy the environment, I have to hurt the environment,” I concluded at the time.

This week I read the fascinating online diary of Martin Strel. Earlier this month he finished swimming the Amazon River from Peru to Brazil. He completed about 3,300 miles (that’s over 1000 miles longer than the Appalachian Trail!) in 66 days. It is an amazing journey Strel accomplished. However, it does look like his journey also provided an environmental trade off similiar to my XTerra purchase. In his final entry on April 8, he describes his motivation for his swim:

I also want to promote a message of clean rivers, clean water and friendship, because these rivers and water have to stay clean, otherwise the world will collapse. The Amazon river is still very clean, local people use it as a natural resource and I think the Amazon should stay clean forever.

In his March 30 entry, he answers some common questions about his swim including the very first question that popped into my head, “What do you do about the pirahnas?!?”

So I never swim close to the banks. I stay in the middle and I put some gasoline and cream on my wetsuit to stop the piranhas from smelling my body.

Catch that? In order to promote clean rivers, he’s plunging into one of the world’s most dramatic rivers with gasoline on his wet suit. 🙂

Ah well, it is easy for me and my gas hungry SUV to give him a pass. I’m certainly not in a position to throw stones and his motivation of not wanting to be devoured is one I can easily embrace.

Plus if he can swim 3300 miles in 66 days…. odds are he can kick my ass!

April 9, 2007 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

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