Today one of my 8th graders and former advisee gave his “this I believe” speech, modeled off of NPR’s speech series focusing on ethics and life lessons:
“There are many things in the world that should be appreciated for the good that they present us, for example the simple beauty of a rose. In order to take full advantage of the good things in life, such as our family and friends, we need to set aside our stress and our work. If we only look at the future we will never fully appreciate the good things happening in the present. This is why I believe living in the moment and noticing the many good things in life is very important.
Every year my mom and I take a road trip up to our family lake house in Michigan for two weeks. The lake is small enough not to have any motor boats on it. It is a quiet, peaceful and a very natural environment. I always have fun at my lake house; whether I am fishing, swimming, or just sleeping in. Three summers ago we were on the annual trip when I learned that living in the present was very important. The two weeks sped by and the whole time I was thinking about the camp that I would be going to in a couple of days. Before I knew it, we were packing up to leave. The two weeks of relaxing fun had gone by like that and there were many things I didn’t get to do. As we were leaving I was sad, I realized I had been looking forward to camp so much I forgot to take full advantage of my lake house stay. I was upset because it was a whole year before I could go back. But time spent was time spent and I couldn’t have my two weeks back. My mom told me that for next year I should try appreciating the stay more. The following summer we made the ten hour trip again. This time was different than before. I enjoyed every moment of the stay. I tried new things, which included taking my rowboat out and taking a look at a little island on the lake where I found a heron’s nest. I had a much better experience that year. Now when I leave for camp I feel satisfied with my vacation. From my stays in Michigan I learned that if you don’t live in the present and take advantage of opportunities, you live in regret, wishing you had done what you didn’t do.
We are fortunate in many ways. We go to a great school, have loving parents and have good health. It is important to live in the moment and be grateful for what we have now. On Monday mornings I’m sure many of us are already looking forward to the next weekend. When the weekend comes, we probably look forward to the next special event, when that event passes, we look forward to our next break from school, but it is better to be living in the present instead of always looking forward to the future. When something great happens, take advantage of it and enjoy the full experience. When you are stressed, stop yourself and remember to take in all the good things that are happening to you. The virtue of living in the present is best said by the Dalai Lama. When he was asked what surprised him most about humanity he said, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not live in the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future, he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies never really having lived.” We have many things to be thankful for and we need to make the most of them. If we do this, we will have a newfound appreciation for life as it is in the present. I believe that it is important to control your stress and realize the incredible things happening in your daily life. You should take advantage of the moment and not over worry the little things. So I leave you with something a great teacher once told me, ‘Remember to always take time to stop, and smell the roses.’ This I believe.”
His last line particularly caught my attention. “Wait,” I thought, “is he talking about me?” As goosebumps creeped along my arms, I knew my instincts were right and I was so excited.
I teach my students the concept of taking time to “stop and smell the roses” when I teach them about meditation. On these class days, I make 13-15 middle school boys sit silently in a room to clear their mind and exist in the present. Most of my boys can’t sit still in any normal scenario for longer than 30 seconds, let alone be silent, but they absolutely love meditating. Despite their initial, ill-informed perceptions, they came to crave the break from the pace of the daily grind. They relish in the challenge of thinking of nothing, and they share the images and journeys of their minds with excitement.
As a teacher, I have academic goals and life goals. As much as I want my boys to be fluent in Chinese, I want them to leave my classroom with an expanded worldview, a stronger sense of self, and a commitment to being a good person. These are lofty goals perhaps, but it’s moments like listening to my student’s speech today that motivate me to keep trying, to push them beyond their normal and stretch their comfort zones.
I was so proud of my student today. I am proud that he is someone who at 14, has internalized what it means to make the most of life. We can all benefit from getting a reminder to smell the roses because I don’t think any of us want to be the one on our death bed who wonders “where did all the time go?”
I love everything old. Whether it is vintage styles or antique objects, I am enthralled by all things historical. When I find myself lucky enough to be in the company of an octogenarian or older, I often find myself grilling them for memories and stories that bring color to the generations long before mine. It’s easy in the buzz of time, the glitz and glamour of 2012 to forget that there are still people who remember when gas was 15 cents a gallon, whose childhood was defined by the financial stress of the Great Depression, and whose young adulthood was shaped by the tumult of World War II.
This weekend, I traveled with my 83-year-old grandmother to visit my newly 90-year-old great aunt in San Antonio, for a belated birthday celebration and some good old “girl time”. We had talked for a long time about making the visit, but actually committing to buying tickets and making it happen is another story. I’ve learned through life and loss that we don’t always get a say in how long people are around in our lives, and I knew I wanted to make it happen. Thankfully, Grandma rallied to join me and in return I ran the show, taking care of all the arrangements and relying on smart-phone technology to keep everyone stress-free. I came into this weekend knowing that I’d want to soak in every minute and remember every story, ever detail, knowing they were chock full of lessons and perspectives I could benefit from.
I am already someone who is fascinated by learning about the stories and experiences that mold a person, so hearing the real-life accounts of a bygone era captivates my curiosity. Add that to their reflections and lessons learned from an entire lifetime of challenges, triumphs and tragedies, I am consumed, hyperaware of the value of their words, and the fact that this is something I will only get to experience for a relatively short time.
The stories flowed this weekend. Aunt Tecky recalled words she had trouble pronouncing in grammar school like it happened last week. I couldn’t help but wonder how she could possibly speak so clearly about the 1920’s, but her mind is sharp. She remembers jumping from grammar school to grammar school as her family moved to accommodate her father’s losses from the Depression, and then securing her first job with a $5 a week salary. She fondly recalled many nights sitting on a porch swing with her older sister and younger brother (my grandfather), her “favorites” as she remembers them, keeping each other company on many evenings in New Orleans.
As for my grandma, her voice lit up as she recalled the memory of her father, a joyful man “full of fun” in her words, who would sing louder than the rest despite his sub-par singing voice. He’d roll back the carpets calling everyone to dance while her aunt played on the piano. “She could play any tune by ear,” she recalled, honing her skill playing the piano for the silent movies. She remembers the beauty in her parent’s marriage, and the parties that dotted her childhood. Their stories painted a picture of life in the 20’s and 30’s that brought life to an antique era that would be seemingly inaccessible to our generation.
What I admire most is that both women have defined their lives through hardships and challenges while maintaining a positive outlook on life, even in their old age. Aunt Tecky lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, starting over at 84 in San Antonio, and my grandma lost her husband of 59 years, redefining herself as an independent woman at 81. Despite it all, they are both thriving. They are as comfortable discussing the concept of dying as they are the daily news and embrace each moment that brings them joy. Each one has an innate resolve to find the diamond in the coal, to never let life get one down, to see that despite everything, there is beauty in the world. It is for these stories, these memories, these lessons, that I am incredibly grateful, and regardless of the number of years they have left, they will live on well beyond their time in the lives of those who cherish them.
The faculty at my school have had opportunities to address the middle school with ethics speeches, and last Monday was my turn. I chose to give them a snippet of my life when I was their age and some lessons I had garnered along the way.
When I was a kid, my mom always asked me “do you want to be one of the many or one of the few?”
It sounded good to be one of the few, but being one of the “few” while also trying to fit in at school seemed like an impossible task. The time I spent trying to fit in at school has helped me relate to many of you, but I hope none of you spend the kind of time and emotional energy I did to achieve such a worthless goal. Believe it or not, many of the things I’m proud of now were once things that I was teased or criticized for.
I was teased for getting good grades. I was teased because of my curly hair, and my glasses. A lot of times, kids were mean to me just because I was an easy target. Eventually, I was teased for going to Harvard. When I started playing rugby, I was teased for being unfeminine. When I decided to go to Africa after college, I was told it was pointless.
The reason I was able to follow my gut, overcome the teasing and stick to the big decisions I mentioned is because I learned to find strength in myself, but this wasn’t always easy, especially when I was younger.
My parents divorced when I was eight. In rural Pennsylvania in the early 90’s, this was not “normal.” I felt tagged as “that girl with the divorced parents,” uncomfortable with feeling different. My younger brother, Ryan, faced it with me, but I still carried the burden of that identity, switching houses every Monday when everyone else lived in one.
When I was the age of many of you in this room, my isolation entrenched even further. Four days before Christmas when I was in seventh grade, my dad and brother were on their way to pick me up from basketball practice when they collided with another car about two minutes from our house. Ryan was killed instantly; my dad was permanently paralyzed from the chest down and will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
As I was in the hospital with my mom that cold winter night next to my brother, I didn’t know how to deal with what was in front of me. I hadn’t done anything, yet my entire life was changed. The next day, my dad’s car was prominent on the first page of our small town’s local newspaper. In the weeks ahead there were follow-up stories about my brother’s death and the effect on his elementary school. It was impossible for me to escape the truth and impossible for me to escape my new identity.
Back in school, people didn’t know how to act around me. Mostly, people just left me alone. However, some of the kids who had teased me before, started up again after a few months. I felt lost in middle school. I wanted to find friends, I wanted to connect to others, but I was hopeless. I thought, I’m a good person, why is it so hard to be included? In an effort to fit in, I went through different phases of denying my past and trying to move forward. My goal was to be considered normal and accepted by my peers. I sometimes told people I was an only child, even going so far as to lie about my brother’s identity in photos. For those who knew what had happened, I wanted them to think I was strong, not weird. I didn’t want to be associated with my dad’s accident. I didn’t want people’s pity because it kept me from being accepted like everyone else.
Over the years though, without trying, I realized how much my dad’s accident and my brother’s death were actually giving my life new direction. People started contacting me when they knew another girl who had lost a brother and I started mentoring. I had opportunities to meet and learn about people with disabilities like my dad’s and ended up exploring the disability community in the US, and in my travels to China, Madgascar and Senegal. I like social entrepreneurship and I started a website for people with paralysis. All these experiences that came from something that was only painful for me before, were actually what allowed me to find real value in my life. These experiences made me unique.
As I began to see some of the positive results that came out of my dad’s accident, I began to see all the opportunities that arose out of other challenges I had faced. Divorce gave me wonderful step-parents and amazing siblings adopted by my parents and their new spouses. Losing my brother motivated me to make the most of the life that he never had the chance to live. Ryan would have been 22 years old this year, and I still miss him every day. There are still times that it can be painful, but I know that in the end, I love my life, and will live it to the fullest, no matter what challenges lay ahead.
When the world comes crashing down and everything feels broken, as I’m sure has happened to many of you in different ways, remember that you can always pick up the pieces and rebuild them. It might not be what you expected, but you can make it your own. Don’t be shy about the things that make you unique, that make you…you. We’re told how things should be, how to follow the pack, but the reality is, there is no one way to live a life. Once I learned to accept myself, my interests, and the things that had happened to me, I was genuinely happy. I also began to have friends that appreciated me for who I am, rather than following those I assumed I should be friends with to be cool.
You can’t let others make the decisions for you. If you love something, do it, embrace it, and be you, because no one can ever tell you otherwise. It’s by no means easy, but it leads to great happiness.
As for me, I’m a farm girl at heart, a rugby player, a friend, a Chinese teacher, a sister, a coach, a daughter, a goofball, a traveler. I am unique. I am Brittany Martin. Who are you?
I got back from China last summer energized after a summer of writing only to find myself at the end the calendar year wondering just where the time has gone. I started my first year of teaching, inundated with the tasks, challenges, and surprises of my new job and then BAM! I’m on Christmas break. When I started blogging, I realized I developed eyes and ears that wrote stories as I observed or experienced things and I had no shortage of ideas to build upon. The last few months have been no different—full of stories and experiences that have shaped my year and affected me deeply. The only difference now that can explain my lack of writing is best described with the standard cliché: “There aren’t enough hours in the day”.
Now that I’ve closed my gradebook on the first semester, I feel like I’m really starting to feel the value and rewards of my work and the variety of experiences and challenges that keep me on my toes. Teaching Chinese is a new challenge, simply because it’s my first year and I’m setting my own pace and structure for the first time—a work in progress as I like to think of it. The rewards on that front are obvious and range from the excitement on a boy’s face when he says something correctly, to intensity of competition in our vocabulary games. It’s been so exciting to see them grow and make Chinese more real for them.
Here’s my classroom when it was freshly decorated to begin the year:
Coaching has been an interesting challenge too. I started the fall season as the sole coach in charge of the intramural group—22 boys with every spectrum of athletic ability. Despite some rocky patches and assumptions that intramurals were a “joke”, we more or less turned our motley crew into a team, bringing legitimacy and respect to our ranks. As fall transitioned to winter, my coaching duties were reduced to a few days a week, and now I work with middle school strength and conditioning. Having more natural athletes in the group, the workouts are harder and the competition steeper, but I still make it a point to throw myself into the mix, selfishly wanting my own workout, but also inciting the competitive energy of the boys (they don’t like losing in sprints to their female teacher).
I’ve truly enjoyed my job also because I’ve found a way to bring a bit of what’s important to me into my routine. From required dance breaks with my 6th graders to karaoke competitions with my 7th graders to making sentences about Glee and Justin Bieber with my 8th graders, I’ve tried to balance academics with other outlets that keep the boys smiling. These activities, in addition to getting to know many of my students and others at the school in non-academic settings, has helped me connect with them and brought another layer of value to my day to day work. It’s an unexpected perk and keeps my days interesting.
Some of my 6th graders at their best:
Apart from work, I reconnected with another part of my life this fall that had long since been dormant: rugby. Despite feeling like I had hung up my cleats for good in 2008, it wasn’t long before the vibe and dynamics of my new team reminded me why I had committed my college years to the sport. Rugby was a wonderful outlet this fall, introducing me to remarkable women in my area who represent everything I respect about female independence and individuality. I learned a lot, and I also had a lot of fun. Being in a group with whom I felt comfortable let me reconnect with myself, and for the first time since I moved to this area, I found a group of people I genuinely enjoy being around.
As 2010 is racing towards the ribbon for its momentous finish, I feel incredibly grateful for the year and all the wonderful things it brought for me. Looking ahead to 2011, I am excited and ready to embrace the life in front of me. One of my new year’s resolutions will be to write more and I will try my best never to go on quite as long of a hiatus again. Best wishes to everyone for a happy new year!!
Finding myself a month since my last post has made me realize that somehow it’s already June 18th… where did the time go!?
This week, the first of my official “summer vacation”, has been a bit crazy, even by Brittany standards. Our last official faculty meetings finished on Monday. I then hightailed it to visit the family for a whirlwind visit before boarding a train for Richmond to attend an education conference. That conference ended this afternoon, and it wasn’t a few hours before I was back on a train (where I am right now) en route to New Hampshire. Why New Hampshire? I was lucky enough to be invited to (road trip) Katelyn’s sister’s wedding, and everyone knows I love a good wedding. Once the wedding festivities are over, I’ll be back on a train bound for Jersey in order to catch my flight to China on Monday. I’ve been told that sometimes the activities I fit into a length of time can make other people exhausted, but thankfully for me, I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m a light packer. So despite the fact that I’m hauling everything I need for a work conference, a wedding and 6 weeks in China to a variety of other states, I’m feeling pretty good.
My hotel reservations for this conference had been taken care of by my school and trusty google maps informed me that the Amtrak station was a mere 2.4 miles from my hotel. Yes, I had two bags. Yes, a cab was affordable. Yes, it was mid afternoon on a sweltering, sunny day in the south. But for some reason (and not just because I’m a frugal Franny), I was overcome by my desire to walk. In Madagascar and Senegal, where public transportation was either undecipherable, unreliable, or unavailable, I would always walk over taking a cab. In Madagascar, I could navigate myself on foot all over the city. In Senegal, I’d have to walk 45 minutes just to get internet. I couldn’t even begin to estimate the number of miles I must have walked while I was there, yet it’s something that has been more or less absent in my American existence.
Work obligations, social commitments and respite requirements fight for the precious hours of the day, often making walking an impossible option when pitted against the convenience of my own vehicle or the speed of the metro. To be honest, it wasn’t until considering my options to walk to my hotel in Richmond that I even realized how little I walk anymore. Perhaps it was my first time in months that I had found myself in that similar African scenario: in a new place, I knew where I would arrive and I knew where I want to go, but I had no idea how the public transportation worked or if it existed. That, plus the fact that I had no real time constraints for the first time in recent memory, made walking that much more appealing. I saw it as an adventure, maybe not of epic proportions, but an adventure nonetheless. So when I arrived in Richmond, I gathered up my bags and set out with my printed out map and directions and started walking.
Google does walking directions, but only in beta….ie. not every road they might put is “walkable”. I knew it was a gamble, but definitely do-able. It wasn’t long before I was chuckling at myself as high grass itched my legs and stop lights had no crosswalks. Despite the minor inconveniences, I enjoyed the quaint, residential beauty of Richmond and I enjoyed the solitude of my walk (a luxury I never got in Africa). Surely the majority of people zooming by in their cars thought I was insane, but no one bothered me.
I wondered as I left the Amtrak station parking lot if I would regret not flagging a taxi waiting patiently at the main door. I’ll admit that that thought re-entered my head in the last few tenths of a mile as my bags dug into my shoulders, but it never took root and I marched onwards. I was just a short distance from my hotel when I heard a car honk. I looked up as I saw a taxi. Just like Africa, I thought. Never could I walk the streets without having every passing taxi honk in hopes my obviously foreign self might crack and hail a cab. So close to my destination, I continued on, committed to reaching my hotel. I had made it so far.
A few minutes later, I looked up and saw a cab pulled over up ahead. A persistent one! I thought. I hadn’t expected that on this side of the Atlantic, and accustomed to rejecting thousands of cabs before, I shrugged and kept walking. However, as I passed the cab’s window, the driver offered me a free ride to my hotel. Despite my attempts to reject, Tipu from Bangladesh was insistent and I eventually accepted. Call me a sucker for Asian hospitality or a victim of slight heat stroke, I enjoyed an air conditioned cab for the .2 miles that remained. True to his word, Tipu rejected my attempt to give him a tip for his kindness, insisting he just wanted to help. Well Tipu, I wish you all the good karma in the world. Adding to the positivity of my afternoon, I realized that since I covered the first 2.2 miles on my own two feet, I still got the feeling of triumph for my afternoon’s adventure.
Now it’s time to get some rest on this overnight train and soak in my last few days of life in the USA before departing on my Asian adventure!
I’ve accumulated quite a few good ones in my day.
This past weekend in NYC visiting Katelyn, we were enjoying an evening in Manhattan, strolling around, chatting and people watching. Eventually we decided to go into Walgreen’s to get a drink. I walked through the door, and I unexpectedly registered recognition as I saw my friend Lucy from Harvard (who actually lives in Boston) standing at the register.
(a picture of Lucy and I from senior year)
After excited hugs and laughter, Lucy informed me that it was Harvard Alumni night at the bar around the corner, making this an even funnier coincidence. It sounded almost too comical to be real, but needless to say, Katelyn and I stopped by the bar and I saw some friends and some other familiar faces.
It’s always funny to look back and consider all the factors that led to the chance encounter at Walgreen’s. What if we turned right instead of left out of the subway? Or what if we spent a few extra minutes listening to the drumming group in the park? There are so many seemingly unimportant decisions whose consequences that piece together perfectly into a random, fun story.
In my first attempt at a blog when I first moved to Madagascar, I shared a small world story so that others could share that “wow” feeling that so often accompanies less-than-traditional coincidences and run-ins. I wrote this back on January 6, 2009: “this story is just a little crazy but worth writing about, but mainly for those from PA. i was on the main avenue of town around new years where there were carnival games and tons of people, but i was at a booth and i look to my left and i saw a springford sting sweatshirt, hailing from collegeville, pa written on the back. not only was i stunned to see collegeville, pa on a sweatshirt halfway around the world, but katie u., one of my friends from high school played for sting!! unfortunately my lack of french kept me from talking to the guy and my slow hands kept me from taking a picture, but i told katie that the shirt said ‘sarah’ and #21, apparently one of her old teammates ironically enough, so she emailed sarah, and sarah apparently left it at a goodwill at some point, so i will leave it up to all of you to decide how the heck it got to anatananarivo, madagascar on a guy standing next to me.”
How about this one?
While hiding away from the political revolution in Madagascar, there was another American named Sawyer who by chance had connected with our group and was staying with us to avoid the drama and violence downtown. I didn’t get to know him very well because it wasn’t long after he arrived that I left Madagascar.
(photo as I was walking out the door to leave Madagascar, Sawyer is the one on the right.)
Fast forward to Senegal about 2 months later. I was visiting a Peace Corps volunteer for the first time in her home village on the coast to explore more of the country. Our plan for my only night in the area was to meet some other Americans for dinner who worked with her on environmental projects. When she mentioned what organization they came from, I recognized the name. I casually mentioned that I knew someone who worked for that organization in Madagascar (Yes, Sawyer). My friend then proceeded to inform me that the guy she was referring to was originally stationed in Madagascar. I guess you can imagine where this is going, but basically, it turned out to be the same person. He still had no idea I had figured this out, so I decided to surprise him. When he finally arrived at the restaurant and saw me sitting at the table, I laughed as I watched his eyes twitch with recognition then light up with laughter looking at me from across the restaurant. Needless to say it was fun to reminisce and marvel over the fact that we went from hiding in the same house from a coup in Madagascar to a small village in eastern Senegal without ever communicating in between or really even knowing what happened to each other after Madagascar.
Now am I a magnet of coincidence or am I a victim/beneficiary of the artistry of fate? I doubt I’ll ever know, nor do I need to, because I always enjoy my small world stories.
I feel like many of us cafe WiFi users get in situations where you’re zoned in your own little world plugging away on your laptop, until you come across something hilarious. Then you laugh unintentionally, but perhaps a bit obnoxiously, drawing the eyes of the cafe to you, as you try in vain to dissolve back to an anonymous quiet patron.
Have any of you been in that situation? Because that was me today in Barnes & Noble. I received a link to the photo below early afternoon, but hadn’t had a chance to open it. As I was working on other things online, I vaguely remembered the link and clicked it only to break the serene cafe murmur with a loud, unexpected crack of laughter.
Maybe I was just overly-excited for the unexpected diversion from my work, or perhaps it’s the crooked jaw or excessively long ear hairs. Either way, I was a fan of this gem of a photo.
I kept the tab open (among the 10+ other tabs open on my browser at any given time) just so that I could flip back to it when I wanted to giggle at something completely ridiculous. In terms of procrastination, rather than Facebook stalking or dedicating precious minutes (or hours…) to YouTube browsing, all you really need is a picture like this on one of your tabs and you’re set.
“Laughter is the best medicine” is maybe a bit cliche, but I don’t know, it definitely has some truth behind it. Hilarious YouTube videos and other online comedy outlets are the ones that spread virally so quickly. I really just think that there’s an entrenched human desire for humor in our lives, and thanks to the internet, a good laugh is never more than a click away.
Just last week marked the year anniversary of the passing of my beloved grandpa. As his only granddaughter, I loved the unique bond we shared. I was accustomed to him addressing his emails to “MFGD” (My Favorite GrandDaughter), and I relished in being Grandpa’s princess.
In high school, I had to write a report on someone who had lived through World War II. I interviewed my grandpa to hear about his experiences as a radar man on a coast guard vessel in the Pacific. It wasn’t until after I wrote the report that I realized I barely knew the man behind the stories. Having lost other grandparents in the years prior, I was troubled by the inescapable reality that the elderly gems in my life weren’t going to be around forever.
This revelation sparked a new interest in me to get to know my grandpa, and I started meeting him halfway between our two houses for lunch whenever I could. I grilled him for war stories, love stories, childhood stories, and everything in between. From the excitement and anxiety he felt climbing the rope ladder to board the USS Howze to start his military service to falling in love with my grandmother when she sang “My Man” at a bar in New Orleans, I was always enthralled. I often sat in my car after our lunches to jot down the details of stories I swore I could never allow myself to forget. I painted pictures of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s through the eyes of my grandfather, and always felt lucky to have access to living history. In addition to his memories, I found that my grandpa’s amazing mind and seemingly boundless intelligence had countless points for discussion from the actual size of the universe to the debate between science and God. Our mutual intellectual curiosity sparked numerous discussions that left us both wondering, comparing his lifetime of knowledge with my perspective as a member of the young generation. As my grandfather got older over the years, I began driving the full two hours to his house. I became chauffeur to our self-proclaimed tradition of eating at the local New Orleans Restaurant, a taste of his hometown. We spent the next few years dining there at every opportunity, walking arm in arm to our seats, me ordering the shrimp etouffe and him, a double order of oysters bienville.
My grandfather, quiet and never one to talk about himself by nature, was flattered by my interest in his life, and in return, I shared with him the stories of my life from romantic interests to interesting classes. In college, my visits were less frequent, but were replaced with frequent phone calls. One of my most salient memories of my grandfather is the noticeable excitement in his voice when he would say “How ya doin’ darlin’!?” when he recognized my voice on the phone. The more I got to know him, the more I valued our relationship, feeling a closeness that we both cherished, but perhaps cannot be accurately conveyed in words. His lessons and advice are etched in my being, helping me along the way.
Grandpa always told me that he never feared death because he had lived such a full life. Aging to him was a beautiful process, he himself feeling lucky to have been able to experience it. He passed away while I was in Senegal last year. I flew home for the funeral, unable to miss out on my last goodbye to a man who had given me so much in the last few years when I could truly appreciate his knowledge and advice. My last meal at the New Orleans Restaurant was the lunch after his funeral. Ironically enough, not long after, the restaurant had new ownership and they completely changed the building and the menu. Better this way, I suppose, because that place was reserved for my grandpa and me.
Since I was already up in the northeast after dropping off Katelyn, I had the opportunity to visit one of my closest friends (Sarah) Cramer (from rugby at Harvard) who I hadn’t seen since November 2008. Rather than go for a traditional visit, I decided to spice things up and surprise her in her hometown of Granville, NY (it’s probably even smaller than Bucktown).
Cramer just opened her own used book store, but she wasn’t open the day I planned on arriving, so I had to get creative in order to execute my surprise. I decided to lure her to her store posed as someone interested in making a book donation with a gmail address I made up just for the surprise and this message:
I found this e-mail address on your site and I wanted to get in touch
with you about making a donation to your store. I’ve been helping my
cousin move out of the area and we’ve needed to get rid of a lot of
her things. She read about your store in the Sentinel and wanted to
see if it’d be possible to drop off some of her books at your store
tomorrow before we leave. I know you don’t have any hours Thursday,
but if I could meet you at 11am that would be perfect.
Let me know, I’ll be checking my e-mail throughout the day.
Within hours, Cramer had responded to my fake request:
Any books your cousin has would be wonderful. The reason I don’t have store hours on Thursdays is that I work as a substitute teacher at the schools. Though I am not currently scheduled to work tomorrow, they sometimes call me early in the morning they want me to work. If I’m not working, I can meet you at the store at 11 tomorrow. If I am working, I will try and get someone else to meet you at the same time. Do you know where the store is located?
I was a little nervous that Cramer might get called in to work that day, but I had to roll with it. So I sealed the deal and got up the next morning to drive to Granville, feeling pretty good that Cramer seemed to have fallen for my trick.
Once I got close to my destination, I decided to capture the entry to the little gem of Granville on my way to finding her bookstore.
I didn’t realize then that I needed to start paying attention sooner…
I wasn’t expecting to have to so many problems navigating Granville’s Main Street strip (that’s about .25 miles long…)
Shortly after I took that last video, I decided I had to try finding it on foot. I parked my car at the end of the strip and started walking, still rather confused. My mom called and I was explaining my plight to her, only to look across the street and see what I began to recognize as the store front that I had seen in pictures before. Once I looked through the glass, I could see Cramer standing in the window laughing and shaking her head at me as I hung up with my mom and dashed into her store. I didn’t have my camera rolling because I was kind of caught of guard trying to execute my own surprise, but she was still very happy to see me.
On a side note, I showed these videos to Cramer’s mom later that evening, only to have her point out in 3 of the videos where the bookstore was in the background… Maybe I should have done a little more research before I drove! Despite everything, I still consider the surprise a success and had a wonderful visit with the Cramer clan!
I thought it was about time to start my own blog. I was thinking last week about how much I wanted to share more about my travels and adventures and figured that this was the best place to do it. Over time, I want to upload my photos and stories from past travels as well, painting a picture of the world from my eyes. First up though, the FEMININE ADRENALINE RoadTrip 2010 is kicking off a week from today in full force with Katelyn and I charting our way from west to east having fun along the way. Both of us have our own blogs, so we’ll be keeping up with our adventures and taking videos. Enjoy!