Monday, December 9, 2019

Iceland: Part I

So, Iceland. Let's start with this:

Yeah, I know. Every time I look back through all my photos of Iceland, this one takes my breath away. That green! Seriously beautiful, yes? And everyone who has thumbed through my photos always stops on this one to really drink in what they're looking at.

I really had no idea what the landscape would be like before we got to Iceland, so to be able to see this, walk across the black sands, feel the chill . . . it all was incredible. Such beauty in our world, and I will forever be grateful to have had the chance to experience it up close and personal with one of my most favorite people, Angel Baby.

I'm not sure Angel Baby knew exactly what he was getting into in agreeing to travel with me. I'm the type who just rolls with the flow. I don't book hotels beforehand. I get to where I'm going and hope to find a place, which is exactly what we did. When we arrived in Reykjavik I told Angel Baby we needed to find a hostel. He didn't blink. He just said okay, so I pulled out my phone for a quick search. A hostel popped up about a half mile from the bus station.

Once there, we inquired about a room. The young man asked if we had a reservation. I sort of smiled and replied, "No." He tapped the keyboard a few times then looked up and said, "Yes, we have a room." So started our adventure, and to this day I truly believe the hiking gods were watching over us every step of the way.

Day one of our actual hike started out great and continued to go smoothly until we were nearing the end of the 15 kilometers. This was where my legs were saying, "Ummmm, you do know you're 55 years old, right?" I told my legs to shut up and continued to trudge on. Then I looked up to see where the path was taking me. The side of a cliff. With steps that had been chiseled into the rock. Nearly vertical. With dismay, I took in what was in store, and my entire body screamed, "No f-ing way!" Angel Baby to this day claims I actually said, "Are you shitting me?" But I had to do it. There was no other way to get to the top of the climb. I made that climb with the help of my trekking poles. Had I not had them, I might very well still be on one of those carved-out steps, trying to get to the top of that cliffside.

When we made it to camp, we found a spot in the tenting area that seemed like it would be okay. We soon found out, though, we were no match for the wind. Every time we tried to stake our tent, the wind whipped it up, the stakes pulling out of the ground and the tent becoming a parachute. After several attempts, I walked to the warden's hut and asked if there were any spots left in the huts. The warden ran her finger down the page of her ledger then looked at me, saying, "There are two spots left." I nodded and said, "I'll take both" while sending a silent thank you up to the hiking gods.

That night, I slept between two strangers in one hut while Angel Baby slept between two strangers in another hut. It wasn't the best night's sleep, but it wasn't the worst, either. I was just glad we had a warm, dry, out of the whooping wind place to lay our heads.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Finding My Way Back to This Space

So, it's December. Four months since I last posted. Four months of good, bad, and ugly.

First, the good. Iceland. All I can say is it was fantastic. Angel Baby is the best travel buddy. We truly had a wonderful time. After the end of the semester, I'll write a longer post about our adventure. For now, just know that he and I couldn't have asked for a better trip.

Second, the bad. My husband is still insisting he and I are fine. We're not. It's been nearly three years since I looked at him and said, "I'm moving out." Still, he behaves as if all is just peachy. I finally blocked him on my phone. Now, I am close to blocking him through email. I've told him over and over that we are not "we" any longer. I'm not sure what it is going to take for him to accept that I do not want to reconcile and that I will never move back in with him.

And lastly, the ugly. On November 8, my sister called me to tell me my dad was ill. Cancer. I went over the following Wednesday and stayed a few days with him. I then returned home for the weekend to get some things in order at work and around the house. Monday, November 18, I drove back to Dad's to stay for the week and help with whatever was needed. In just the few days over the weekend when I had returned home, my dad's health declined significantly. That Monday when I walked back into his house, I couldn't believe the man I was looking at was my dad. Over the next few days, his decline could be seen on a minute by minute basis. On Saturday, November 23, my dad passed away. Thankfully, my sister, two of my brothers, and I were by his beside when he left this world.

Today, I am only five days past saying the final goodbye to Dad. We had his funeral Mass on Friday, November 29. It feels like the last three weeks were a lifetime.

Now . . . now I am trying to get everything connected to work caught up while still trying to process Dad's death. The last four days of his life were the toughest four days of my own life, and I know it will take some time for me to find a place to tuck away the memories of those four days.

For the time being, I'm finding comfort in cuddling with Ado, working on finishing up my manuscript, and walking. A lot of walking. Feeling the brisk air on my face. Seeing the squirrels scurrying up and down the trees. Watching a Cooper's hawk glide overhead. Crossing paths with a beautiful red fox. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A Little Nervous, A Little Scared, A Whole Lot Excited

And the countdown has started! T minus 4 days until we leave for Iceland!

Angel Baby and I packed our gear this afternoon to see just how much weight each of us will be carrying. We divided the heavier items so neither one of us is stuck carrying all of those things. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how much room I still have in my pack and how light it is at this point. Granted, I still have to add the bladder full of water (which will likely be the heaviest item in my pack) and the food, but after walking the hill the last two weeks with odds and ends items inside my pack just to give me some weight, I know I'll be absolutely fine. I got this!

What makes me most happy right now is how excited Angel Baby is about this adventure. He has mentioned several times over the last two days how stoked he is. I suggested over dinner this evening that things might go badly, and his response was, "Yeah, but that's okay, too. We'll get out of it what we put into it. No negative mindsets allowed." Love this kid!

The next few days will be all about finishing up my online classes, cleaning the house before we leave, making sure the few electronics we're taking are charged, and giving Ado lots and lots of extra love. I'm going to miss him terribly. I really wish he could go with us; I know he'd love the weather in Iceland. He knows something is up--he made sure to be right in the thick of things while we were packing this afternoon.

I still need to practice how to say hello, goodbye, and thank you in Icelandic. I'd like to know a couple of words/phrases. So far, goodbye is my favorite, most likely because it's the easiest for me: bless bless. Yep, that one I can remember without any trouble.

Bless bless!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My First Music Festival . . . Well, At Least One Day of a Music Festival

Last weekend, Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I went to Louisville for the Forecastle music festival. What a time!

Back in 2012, when I did my first cross-country bike ride, LBD and the boys put together a care package and sent it so it would arrive on the same day that I rode into Haswell, CO. Inside the care package was LBD's mp3 player with a playlist of her favorite music. The Killers were a part of that playlist, and from that day on, I've always thought it'd be wonderful to see The Killers live.

Friday night last week, LBD and I stood smushed together, surrounded by other fans, and watched The Killers put on a wonderful show. I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face during the entire hour and a half show. At one point, LBD took my arm and with tears in her eyes told me thank you for making her dream of seeing The Killers live come true.

While I love so many of The Killers' songs, my favorite is a Brandon Flowers song he wrote and sang for the album Flamingo, "Only the Young." There's just something about it that speaks to me. I think it might be that I was in my tent one night, somewhere in Utah, and I had fallen asleep with my earbuds in, listening to the music LBD had sent to me. I sort of woke up, just enough, to "Only the Young" playing. It was in that in-between sleeping and waking state that the song sank deep into my being. When I hear this song, it's like my entire existence is enhanced. I have to just sit, close my eyes, and let the music do its magic.

Last Friday was definitely a summer highlight. How could it not be? I had a wonderful day with Lovely Beautiful Daughter, listened to music we both totally enjoy, laughed at the antics of those around us, and created a memory I'll be able to look back on with immense fondness. What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I Caved And I Don't Feel Good About It

This summer, I did something as a teacher that I've never done in my entire career. I gave a student an A because I got tired of the constant emails bashing me and how I grade incorrectly. Yeah, I'm not proud of how I caved and gave the student exactly what the student wanted, but I decided to do what I did because this student isn't worth my time.

The first email I received from this student expressed disappointment in the grade given for the first draft of the first paper. I replied, explaining what I was seeing and why I gave the grade I did (which was exactly what I said directly on the paper as well as in a long end comment the student can access when the paper is returned). Then the replies started coming in: I didn't grade correctly; everything I asked for was in the paper; all of the ideas were there, just "invisible like" (whatever the hell that means). It's one thing to get an email from a student; it's quite another to get an email, followed five minutes later by another email, followed five minutes later by another. I tried to be patient. I answered questions. I pointed to specific parts of the essay to support what I was saying.

Then more emails happened after the second essay. After the third. The fourth. It was the email in which the student accused me of not informing the class about me leaving comments directly on their papers that I said I'm done. I responded to this accusation by saying I, in fact, did inform the class by leaving an announcement about comments being left directly on the paper. That announcement went out June 21st. I suggested to this student the accusation was unfair. The response? A completely new email to inform me the student was going to send me a revised draft of a paper and wanted me to proofread it. The student never acknowledged I had informed the class about the comments left on the papers.

The completely new email I didn't respond to. I deleted it. The next email, the one with the attached revised essay the student wanted me to proofread, I didn't read. I deleted it. The work this student is turning in? I'm not reading any of it. I just give the 100% and move on.

Still, I'm getting emails from this student. Today, the student wanted to meet with me on campus to "talk about the end of the semester." WTF? It's an online class.

A colleague suggested this student's behavior is cyber-bullying. In reading through all of the emails one after the other, there is definitely an aggressive tone. The continued emails though the student is getting an A seems extremely odd. And the whole wanting to meet with me on campus though the student is getting an A (not to mention this is an online course) also speaks to someone who believes they can call the shots. Something weird is definitely going on.

With one last paper coming in later this week, I'm sure I haven't heard the last from this student. I have a hunch I'm going to receive an email with the last paper attached and a request to proofread it before it's submitted for grading. If I do, the answer to the request is going to be a hard no.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

First 50 Miler

Yesterday I rode my first 50 miler for the summer. I'd planned on doing at least 30, but once I got out and realized how good I was feeling, I just kept going. I ended up having to deal with a short detour, about three miles or so, because county workers were tarring and chipping a road I wanted to take. I was forced to hang a left, going further west than I'd planned. I thought all was just fine when I reached a road that went north, but I soon ran into a real gravel road. Sweetness and I don't do gravel. We tried that once. Things didn't go well.

But the only other choice was to backtrack, adding on more miles. I assured Sweetness this gravel road would be fine. We'd go slow, which we did. About a mile in, we found a paved road we could turn onto. From there, we were back on track. The rest of the ride went without a hitch. Well, unless you factor in the guy driving the convertible at the four-way stop, who didn't see me (that's what I'm going with), and started forward right when I was directly in front of him. And yes, I had stopped. It was my turn. I was wearing a bright pink top and a bright green helmet. I'm just pretty sure he didn't see me.

Anyways . . .

Today is a break day. I have some work I need to finish up, some reading to do, some writing to do, and some Spanish to learn. And rain is in the forecast, so no longer ride today.

Tomorrow, though, maybe 60.

Or 70.

Unless the wind says otherwise, which it very well could. Stupid wind.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Enjoying Summer One Day at a Time

The last few weeks I've been chillin'. Mostly just hanging around the house with Ado, enjoying being back in the space the kids and I called home when I decided to move out of my husband's place. The space with the living room windows overlooking the back yard and deck. The space where my three kids and I took a year to figure out where each of us was headed. Lovely Beautiful Daughter decided to go out on her own, and for the last nearly four weeks she's been in Taiwan on a teacher training exchange through the university. Funny Delightful Son moved to live on campus at the university he transferred to after finishing his community college courses. I miss them both, and when I moved back into this space, I could hear echos of them throughout the rooms. The first few days were kind of tough with them not being here, too.

But Angel Baby is here with me. He has the entire upstairs all to himself. Three nice-sized rooms, each serving a different purpose. One room is his computer room. Another is his bedroom. The third is his TV watching room. A week or so ago he had his buddies over to play D&D. They set up in the dining area, but eventually, all of them ended up in the living room because one of the young men loved sitting on the couch, looking out the windows to watch the birds at the feeders.

Now, we're settled back in, and it feels wonderful. I'm so glad I was able to move back into this space.

The cycling has picked up despite the weather being all over the board. One day we have 85 degrees. The next it's only 65 degrees. Lots of rain. And the wind has been incredibly annoying. In between these obstacles, I've been able to get out and go anywhere from 20 to 35 miles. I can feel my body getting stronger with each ride, which makes me want to get out even more. Yesterday, I was able to go 34 at 15.3 mph, making me a very happy cyclist. Today, winds of 22 mph kept me home, but I did get a solid yoga practice in, complete with a half headstand and a couple of crow poses. And beautiful tree poses! I worried I would fall out of tree since I've not done tree pose in a while, but I didn't. My body constantly surprises me with what it's capable of doing.

When we moved back over here, I took the opportunity to remove the TV from the living room. Actually from the entire downstairs. I gave it to Angel Baby for his TV watching room, but it's not even plugged in. It's just stashed in the corner, gathering dust. I decided it's time to follow through on my desire to watch less, read more. So I've stopped watching for the most part. If I do watch something on Netflix, I have to do it on my computer. I'm not particularly fond of sitting in front of the computer to watch, so I don't. Instead, I sit in my hammock swing and read. I'm into Game of Thrones right now, about halfway through.

Angel Baby and I are getting our Iceland plans in place. Passports--check. Tickets--check. Gear--some but not all. We're chipping away at the little things, now. We both are very excited for this trip, and maybe just a bit scared, too. We're really going outside our comfort zones, but it'll be totally worth it.

Generally speaking, life is good. Really good. And I am very thankful for all the good.