Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moving Chronicles: The Post About Nothing

(With apologies to Jerry Seinfeld)

And so, Gentle Readers, while Mr. Logical has been entertaining you with witty narrative and fascinating photos from the Far East, I'm still here, holding down the fort in suburbia.  I don't have a single entertaining photograph or even an amusing anecdote to share, since I've spent the last week or so recovering from gum graft surgery.  And yes, I am back among the living now, after 4 days' worth of scuttling around upstairs, hiding my disfigured face in the shadows like something out of Phantom of the Opera.   I have no idea why I didn't realize that I'd be down and out for more than an afternoon;  I even went so far as to plan on going shopping the day after surgery, which, in hindsight, was pretty stupid.  I am clearly either an incurable optimist or (more likely) I simply didn't pay attention to the surgeon when he was talking about how long I'd need to recuperate. The procedure wasn't nearly as  painful as I'd feared, but the whole process of recovery has been annoying, mostly because I can't eat anything interesting.  Had my thoughtful neighbor not brought me a container of homemade soup, I probably just would have starved to death out of sheer boredom.

The worst side effect I 've experienced is the fact that it hurts to talk - even after 6 days.  Since I am a teacher, and my job is to talk, it's made things a bit difficult, especially since I teach German, which is a language that, by its nature, requires a great deal of robust and precise oral articulation.  (I've found the 'ö' particularly challenging due to the placement of the grafts, for those who are interested in details.) English, you can mumble.  Not so easy in German.  Fortunately for me, this is state testing week in our district, which means that the students spend every morning of the week either reviewing for, or taking, high-stakes standardized tests.  Of course, by the time they get to me in the afternoon, they are stunned into apathy and can no longer absorb new information.  As a result, we've been doing a lot of  review, and, since I don't have to explain any new concepts, work can proceed without too much input from me beyond brief statements, preferably those not containing the letter ö.

In other news, the boys continue to be unnaturally helpful and cooperative, and  I continue to take full advantage of it.

Oh.  And I still have my dog.

Life is good.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

From the Land of the Morning Calm: Goin' Shoppin'!

I signed up for the hotel shuttle ride over to E-Mart and Costco. I tagged along with Alan and Betsy (another couple who are in the process of moving over here with my company), since they have been here a while and seem to have some of the tricks down...

We opted to go just to E-Mart today, since we are just in temporary housing at the moment, and don't have a lot of need to buy in the typical Costco-size quantities.

E-Mart is pretty similar to Walmart or Target back in the US. Everything from appliances and electronics to clothes and housewares to food and beverages, all under one roof. In this case, it is in the basement of a large high-rise.

The shopping carts require you to deposit a 100 won coin (about a dime in US) to unlock it. The first thing that you notice is that all 4 wheels are free to pivot, not just the front two, like on US carts. This makes it very easy to navigate through the crowds and aisles. One has to wonder why that hasn't taken off in the US, since it makes a lot more sense.

Shopping was pretty amusing, since you don't really know what you are buying half the time. You can kind of guess at what things are based on other things in the same area, but sometimes you just have to guess by the pictures or surrounding items.

I picked up some basic staples.. laundry detergent, beer, fruit, beer, chips, spaghetti, beer, ramen, eggs, soju, bread, coffee, juice, burgers, wine, and beer. As the cart loaded up and got heavier, I realized that I had to pack all this stuff back to the shuttle, so I put back one of the 6-packs of beer.

A couple amusing observations:

1. Packaging: Does it seem odd to package Soju (Korean liquor) in a "juice box" type container? "Little Johnny always seems to have problems focusing on his schoolwork after lunch...."

2. Two-fers: Buy a 6-pack of Hite beer, get 2 cans of tuna included in the box. Buy a 4-pack of Singha beer, get a free coffee cup. I can't say that I understand the connections of these products and why they are "bundled" together. This must be appealing to the universal marketing truth that everybody loves a bargain, regardless of whether the items share a common theme or not..

3. Seafood: Lots of great seafood, from the fresh sushi to the live stone crabs to the pickled seafood kimchee. I'm not quite sure what to do with the dried fish tied together.. Maybe these are the Korean equivalent of the dried chili pepper ropes that we have in the southwest, and they can be used for an attractive wall hanging...

With some help from Alan and Betsy, I schlepped the shopping bags back to the shuttle and up to my room. I should be good for a while..

Saturday, April 23, 2011

From the Land of the Morning Calm: Walkabout

Had my first good day wandering around Insadong (the area where my "serviced apartment" is located). I went out in the morning to try and learn my way around. It is amazing how much there is to see just wandering around. Insadong is on the northeast side of the heart of downtown, near a number of historic landmarks ("Master Min Yeong-Hwan's suicide committed site") and notable buildings (Jongno Tower, aka the Transformer building, aka Megatron).

The crowd was pretty light in the morning, but lots of good people watching. I walked around the block, and snapped a few pictures. I stopped in a small cafe and had a coffee and a bagel. I'm going to have to get used to the fact that they don't have a lot of coffee "fixin's" like I'm accustomed to.. No half-n-half, no nutrasweet.. Seems like they have brown sugar and sweet syrup as the typically available coffee supplements. Another anomaly seems to be that they don't usually give you a napkin with your meal. There is usually a small container with some very small, thin napkins (about 4"x4") available, but they almost seem like an afterthought.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I stopped by a bakery to grab a desert to bring to the Italian Pot Luck dinner that our HR guy is hosting at our "serviced apartment" building. I ended up buying a pound-cake, since there was nothing obviously Italian. I think it'll do... After swinging back by the apartment to drop off the cake, I headed back out to get some walking exercise.

When I went back out, things had definitely picked up a bit. Lots of people were out, with groups of Chinese and Japanese tourists, street vendors, and people out enjoying the weather.

Saw a street vendor drawing a crowd by making these origami grasshoppers out of palm fronds while everybody watched.

It's pretty amusing to see the various not-so-accurately translated signs and slogans on the stores and advertisements. I'm sure we'll be freqenting this place once MsCarolyne gets here..

And of course, one has to wonder if the Koreans really think Westerners have big heads...

There is a large building constructed over the road that runs along the east border of Insadong that is full of musical instrument stores. It is pretty amazing, with hundreds of small shops and stalls, selling all kinds of instruments and musical equipment. The "Hello Kitty" Ukelele was pretty amusing..

At the end of the walk, I at least felt like I have a little better handle on navigating this part of town.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moving Chronicles: Holding Down The Fort

Mr. Logical's been in Seoul for almost a week now;  he's mastered the use of the light switches, gotten 'integrated' at his office, eaten out a lot, and memorized the bus route to and from work (an accomplishment, since he can't read Korean yet and must navigate via landmarks.  According to him, you know it's time to get off when you pass the building that looks like a Transformer. No comment on which Transformer, but I like to imagine it's Optimus Prime.)

While my role is admittedly less glamorous, I think we can all agree that it's equally important, and for this reason, my post today is all about Holding Down the Fort.  In our 19 years of marriage, I have done this on more than one occasion, due either to Mr. Logical's business traveling or else an interstate move.  When the boys were smaller, this was a fairly daunting task, but it's somewhat easier now that they're both teenagers.

Lest I be accused of Whining about our international separation, let me state up front:  I am not whining.  In fact, compared to some of our previous moving arrangements, this situation is really hardly worth mentioning. If we're going to talk about being entitled to whine, I could talk all day about our last move.  In the last move, Mr. Logical was required to be on-site at  a project in a place we'll  call 'State #2', flying back every couple of weeks to spend a few days with us back in State #1.  In the meantime, I was overseeing the showing and selling of our house, 2 elementary-school children, packing up, moving, and finding a new house in State #3, where Mr. Logical's actual office would eventually be.

Mr. Logical  took enough time off to accompany us on the move to State #3, where we he put together the bed frames, hooked up the cable and internet, and then jetted off back to State #2, confident that I had matters well in hand.  (and I did, too, except for the power outage and the squirrel infestation, but really, it all turned out just fine.)  We kept this arrangement up for about 6 months, until the project was finished and Mr. Logical could join  us in State #3.  So if you want to talk about whining, there's a topic for you.

This time, things are a little more orderly.  The children are older and relatively self-sufficient, and  Son #1 can drive, which is a huge help in getting Son #2 to all his before- and after-school activities.  Of course, I'm  back at work these days, which just adds to the generally  zany atmosphere.  But overall (sorry, Mr. Logical) we are managing just fine.  Now, naturally, there have been a few bumps along the way in the first week, but I am nothing if not resourceful, and I like to think that, if I can handle this week, I can probably make it through the next six.  I give you just a few highlights:

Going to 'An Evening With Strings' to watch Son #2 and his middle-school orchestra (along with 4 other middle schools, 3 high schools, and 8 elementary schools) perform a concert.  As with all things in Texas, this gathering was enormous, crowded, and took place in a sporting venue, since that was the only place big enough to contain everyone.    However, with just over a thousand musicians (and, by default, their thousands of parents, relatives, and friends) the traffic to and from is a nightmare, parking is madness, and the bleachers (where we all sit to watch the musicians) are uncomfortable and hard.  Of course, we're extremely proud of Son #2 and his prowess on the cello, and love to hear him play.  But I have to admit that we have dreaded this particular performance each year since he started playing.  Let me hasten to say that I am not at all suggesting that Mr. Logical timed his move to Seoul just to get out of going to this performance.  But you have to admit it is suspicious.

An hour before performance time.
Discovering two days after Mr. Logical leaves, that the brakes in my car are making a noise like a dying walrus.  I will leave to your imagination my attempts to describe this noise via Skype and Mr. Logical's attempts to diagnose the problem long-distance.  Suffice it to say I'll be taking it to the shop next week.

Of course, this means I've been driving Mr. Logical's car, which is, admittedly, cooler than mine, but since it's a standard and I have been driving an automatic for a number of years,there's been a certain amount of  what I'll call, "reacclimatization."  I'm pleased to report that, after 3 days, I now remember to put it in gear when I park it, so it doesn't roll away.

Not being very helpful at all with Son #2's required demonstration of  'The Respiratory System' for his science class.  Fortunately, Mr. Logical had helped him put together a very nice pair of lungs comprised of two Ziplocs and some rubber tubing before he left, and these, installed beneath an excellent drawing on a plain white t-shirt, achieved the desired affect.  I was not very helpful because I can't draw and and am really better at book reports.  I did, however, provide the t-shirt and a Sharpie for drawing the lungs, which - I feel - are really extremely well done, even if the trachea is slightly enlarged.

Having gum graft surgery yesterday with my 17-year-old son attending me as the 'responsible adult'.   This situation lends itself to so much amusing commentary I really need to save it for a post of its own.  However, the upshot is that I have been putting off this surgery for 6 years, and only the fear of possibly having to get it done while in Korea was enough to galvanize me into action and take the plunge.   For those of you contemplating a similar surgery, let me say that the pain is really minimal, but the swelling around my top lip and nose has made me look very much like one of Dr. Seuss' Whos.  I've been told I may also experience some bruising, and there is already the beginning of a 'bruise mustache' on my top lip.  All in all, an excellent time for Mr. Logical to be overseas.

One week down, six to go.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From the Land of the Morning Calm: About that beer...

I guess it is my turn to chime in here, as the jetlag starts to wear off..

I'm settled in at the "Serviced Apartment", and yes, the lights do work.. (although it sure would have been handy for the bellhop to show me that master switch by the door...). The apartment is very comfortable, and the convenience of having free breakfast and a shuttle to the office is definitely a plus. It's pretty plush with just me here in a 2-bedroom unit, since it gives me a place to store luggage, laundry waiting to be ironed, etc., but it would get crowded quickly with the rest of the family here. I'll definitely look to get a larger unit in June.

While i haven't had a chance to tour around yet, I've seen enough to be excited about all the things that Seoul has to offer. The architecture is amazing, and the city is bustling at all hours. It's a neat mix of modern and traditional in everything from the people to the stores to the buildings. I've had a few meals out, and have not been disappointed yet.

Monday night, I went across the street to the 7-Eleven (not kidding) and bought a few cans of the local brew, "Cass". The tagline on the can is "Sound of Vitality" and "Ultimate refreshment with fizzy and crisp taste", so I was intrigued.. I have to say, I was somewhat underwhelmed. It's kind of like slighly sour Pabst, very forgetable. I did discover last night that if you drop a shot of Soju (Sweet-Potato based liquor) in it, it is much better.

I'll be shopping for real beer this weekend (or a bottle of Soju to cut the Cass). Life is too short to drink bad beer..


Mr Logical

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Moving Chronicles: Settling In

You'll all be relieved to know that Mr. Logical arrived safely in Seoul, has been duly installed in his temporary accommodations and seems to be adjusting nicely.  I was treated to a Skype tour of his serviced apartment, which seems to be very comfortable, although apparently the light switches take some getting used to.   (The fact that Mr. Logical, with his engineering degree, was struggling to understand the light switches, does not bode well for me, but I trust that he'll have them sorted out by the time we get there.)

The boys and I managed to make it through the rest of the weekend without major incident, and, apparently, their father's final admonition made a significant impression, since they've both been unusually helpful in the 48 or so hours since he's been gone.  I'm not really sure what to make of it:  I have a sneaking suspicion that they both feel that the trauma of being parted from their father has rendered me so unstable as to snap at any moment.  I'm not saying that won't happen at some point, but I feel like I should be given a little credit when we're only 2 days into the thing.

I got up a bit early this morning and met Mr. Logical for coffee via Skype.  Of course, it was 8:30pm for him, so, while I was full of the zest and energy that only a good cup of coffee can provide, Mr. Logical was clearly fading.  Not that I can fault him for that.  He had been at work all day, gone out to dinner, and was obviously ready for bed, while I was just getting started.  I imagine this is what couples who are mismatched in their circadian rhythms feel like all the time.  I had been a little apprehensive about using Skype ( the ever-so-slight delay between your partner's mouth movement and his words gives the whole thing a touch of  'foreign film,' which is disconcerting) but felt that, overall, it worked really well.

Those of you who know Mr. Logical personally will not be surprised that he had located a convenience store across the street and was planning to go investigate their beer.  I would say that, after the last few days he's had, it sounds like an excellent idea.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Moving Chronicles: In which Mr. Logical Departs (but the dog stays)

So Mr. Logical left this morning for Seoul.  He'll be there until early June, when he'll be back to attend Son #1s high school graduation, after which we'll accompany him back to the Land of the Morning Calm.

For the next 7 weeks, however, the boys and I will just have to bumble along, bereft of Mr. Logical's unique skill set and quirky sense of humor.  (Honesty compels me to admit that, while I will miss the sense of humor, I'll still be able to get the benefit of that on Skype.  On the other hand, who will adjust the damn automatic sprinkler system?)

For those of you who are wondering how I'm holding up, I'm just fine, thanks, mostly due to the fact that I still have my dog.   I simply couldn't face the thought of jettisoning Mr. Logical and the dog both on the same day, so the dog will be with us a few weeks longer and will fly, instead of drive, to Calgary.  As much as I know driving would be less stressful for him than flying, the unfortunate truth is that having to give him up two months before our departure was too stressful for me.   I realize that this is selfish, but a woman can only take so much.  The next 7 weeks will be full of their own fun and games as I cope on my own with all the moving-related chaos as well as wrapping up the instructional year at my own job and preparing for Son #1's graduation. Don't begrudge me my dog.

I did much better at the airport than I'd expected, due to the fact that I was distracted.   This was primarily because the boys (teenagers, remember) had both literally rolled out of bed to accompany us and looked like vagrants.  I was slightly concerned that, if they lingered too long in any one spot, someone in authority might try to remove them from the premises.  This itinerant look was accentuated by the fact that we were walking through the airport carrying a variety of rejected items from Mr. Logical's suitcases. (Mr. Logical had overpacked and was told that, in order to avoid  astronomical overweight surcharges, he would have to reduce each bag's weight by 2.3 lbs.  You'll be happy to know that he was able to do it successfully.  However, the clothing had to go somewhere, which is where the boys and I come in.) You try walking through the airport carrying armfuls of loose clothing and shoes sometime and you'll see what I mean.  Needless to say, with all that on my mind, I wasn't able to fully appreciate the enormity of what was about to transpire, and was able to say my goodbyes without making a scene.  I know this came as a huge relief to both Mr. Logical and the boys.

Not to say there weren't some tender moments.  Right before we got to security, Mr. Logical took it upon himself  to impart some final fatherly wisdom to his sons.  His statement was (and I quote):  "Help your Mama.  Remember, her level of sanity will be inversely proportional to the amount of stuff you leave lying around."

Truer words were never spoken.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Off-topic: tl;dr

(Note:  for those of you who are reading my blog just to keep up with our moving status:  this post has nothing to do with our move to Korea, so feel free to skip it.  Either that, or you can scroll to the bottom and read the tl;dr.  However, if you want to know what tl;dr means, you'll have to read the post. Love, Ms.Caroline)

While I'm not a professional writer, I've done my share of writing for a wider audience than just my English Composition teachers.  I worked as a freelance copy editor for a few years while the boys were small;  I've written a few articles for newsletters and the like, and of course, there was all that writing in  grad school.  So you'd think that, after all this time, I'd be able to accept criticism graciously.  And I do, for the most part.  However, since starting to blog, I've encountered an unexpected source of criticism - my offspring.

Now, I'm not complaining - much.  Frankly, I hadn't expected two teenage boys to take much interest at all in their mother's blogging.  So I suppose I should be grateful.  It's just a tiny bit jarring to have your writing criticized by individuals who still mix up 'your' and 'you're' and who believe that 'kthxbye' is an appropriate way to end a letter to their grandmother.  So when two of these conversations ensued within 24 hours of each other, yes, I'll admit it:  I was a bit miffed.  But I assure you I'm not holding any grudges, and will do my best to take the criticisms in the spirit in which they were given.  What follows is an actual transcript of one of these exchanges.

Son #1 is working on his laptop as I enter the room.

Me:  Did you see that I used some of your photos of the dog in my last blog post?
Son #1:  (absently, not looking up) Oh, yeah....I guess so.
Me: (persistently) So...what did you think? Of the post, I mean.
Son #1:  (tearing himself away from a page full of code and looking blankly at me):  Um... yeah.  It was ok. (pause)  Mom, do you know what tl;dr means?
Me: (interestedly) No.  What is it? A texting thing?
Son #1:  No, it's something you put at the end of a blog post.  It's for people who don't want to read your whole blog post.
Me:  (guardedly):  People who don't want to read my whole blog post?
Son #1: ( Warming to the topic ):  Well, when someone writes a blog post that's really long, they put a tl;dr at the end, because they know people don't want to read the whole thing.
Me:  (blankly)  TLDR?
Son #1: (as if to an imbecile)   Too Long, Didn't Read.  T-L-D-R.  It's  kind of like, a really short version of  the blog post, all in one or two sentences.
Me:  (with dignity and possibly a hint of sarcasm):  Oh.  I see.  Something like, what you might call a summary, perhaps?
Son # 1:  (relieved that I'm finally getting it):  Yeah.  A summary.  That's it.
Me:  (stiffly):  So, how would you suggest I 'summarize' the post about Shiner for people who don't want to read my entire, long, blog post?
Son #1   Umm..."tl;dr:  Moving to Korea.  Getting rid of dog."

Well.  Just think of all that time I could have saved.

tl;dr:  Everyone's a critic.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Moving Chronicles: Goodbye, yellow dog

We're still 2 months away from the move, and already, the good-byes are starting to wear on me.  (The menfolk seem to be taking it all in stride, which I find highly unfair.)  One of the hardest farewells will come early; this one, to our yellow Labrador retriever, Shiner, who is leaving us to go live in Alberta, Canada, with my gracious dog-whisperer Cousin S., and her husband, G.  

When we began making our initial plans for the move to Seoul, we'd simply planned to take the dog with us.   But after some research, we realized that  taking him with us wouldn't be the best choice, given the rental, recreational, and other facilities available (or not) for an 88-lb canine.    And so, the decision was made to leave him with Cousin S.  Not an easy decision.  However, I hadn't anticipated him going so soon;  in order for him to avoid a long and possibly very uncomfortable ride in the cargo hold of an airplane, he will be going next weekend,  2 months before our departure date and the same day that Mr. Logical leaves for Seoul. (No, no, I'm not putting saying goodbye to the dog in the same category with Mr. Logical.  I would never do that.  Never.  Really..)  

However, I promised myself - even though this parting was perfect fodder for a highly emotional blog post that appeals to what my mother refers to as my 'Irish melancholy' - that I would not write anything too sentimental about his coming departure.   If you have ever loved a pet, you will understand without me telling you, and if you have not, nothing I can say will be sufficient.   So, I give you:  Shiner, the yellow dog. 

This dog has been one in a series of our preferred breed, the Labrador Retriever (specifically, the yellow kind,) usually on the large side.  The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in America, right up there with his hairier relative, the Golden Retriever, and there's a reason for that.  This dog  -probably because they are bred to work closely with people -  loves every human being with boundless enthusiasm, is always happy to do whatever you suggest, is great with kids, and wants to be with you no matter what you're doing. It is for these reasons that we have, in the last 19 years, owned 3 labs, acquiring the first two well before Son #1 arrived on the scene.   In fact, when we realized we were going to have Son #1, we worried inordinately about how the dogs would 'take it.'  As it turned out, we needn't have.  Dogs and boy (and later, boys) shook down together just fine.

Our relationship with this particular dog began almost 6 years ago.  Our two previous yellow labs, having survived to the venerable ages of 13 and 14, had died not long before we moved to Texas, and we had been dog-less for almost 4 months before we found an acceptable breeder with yellow puppies.  As many of you know, having a new puppy is very similar to having a human baby, except they arrive at the toddler stage, so you don't get that honeymoon period where they look adorable but aren't yet mobile.  Although we had raised two previous lab puppies, let's just say that it had been a few years.  It took us a bit to get over the initial shock of realizing that raising a puppy in your 40s is completely differerent from raising a puppy in your 20s..  For one thing, we had no children back then.  All we had  then was time and energy, two commodities in short order in our household some 14  years later.  However, the children were thrilled, and the puppy was adorable, so we soldiered bravely on and hoped for the best.

Inevitably, the excitement of The New Puppy wore off.   The children returned to school, Mr. Logical returned to work, and it was just The Dog and I.   In those years when I was staying home with the boys, he was my constant companion.  The puppy years were not easy, and I spent most of them trying to civilize him. We took endless miles-long walks (often twice daily) to try and use up some of the 'young dog' energy; I struggled to get him to 'heel' and 'sit' and  'lie down;' and I worked desperately on the 'stay' command, trying to counteract some of the irrepressible labrador enthusiasm that caused him to charge at full speed toward every person or dog he met.  It was also during that time that I learned that this dog would eat anything.  ANYTHING.  He ate the corners off the baseboards.  He ate doorstops off the wall.  He chewed shoes, socks, hats, books, and television remotes. Combine this tendency with two pre-teen boys who left in their wakes trails of Lego, Spiderman, GameBoy cartridges, and Silly Putty, and you have a recipe for disaster.   At around 13 months, he gorged himself on some household detritus and ended up a very sick dog indeed.   While some people might have seen this as a just and fair Judgement of the Almighty and had  him "put down", we went ahead and had the items (a sock and a ski glove, if you must know) surgically removed at breathtaking cost.  Because, a year into the whole thing, he had somehow -despite all his bad habits - become Our Dog, and we couldn't bear to lose him.  He had woven himself into the fabric of our family's life.  He was part and parcel of us, a third child, a playmate for the boys, and my faithful shadow as I went about my day.

Looking at it logically, it certainly seems that his negatives outweigh his positives.   In fact, he is something of a byword among our friends and family, due to his proclivity for eating non-food items which either reappear in  dramatic fashion or else require surgical removal. (After his first surgery, our vet made a point of telling us, "You realize, he will not learn from this."  And he didn't.)   He has skin allergies, is astonishingly flatulent, and will eat virtually anything that is not nailed down. He can stealthily remove an entire steak off the edge of a kitchen counter, is startled by everything, including his own reflection, and  is cowardly to the extreme (he has been known to bark hysterically at a beetle, all the while maintaining a safe distance.)  He is also clumsy (he has fallen down the stairs on more than one occasion), and can clear a coffee table with his tail.   I should also mention that he has an inexplicable obsession with ice cubes.   

In short, he is probably the farthest thing from the Perfect Dog one could ever imagine, and that is precisely the reason we love him so.

See you soon, yellow dog.  You are a very good boy -  mostly -  and we'll miss you. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moving Chronicles: The Farewell Ride

Mr. Logical is leaving for Seoul in just under 2 weeks, and the farewell festivities are ramping up.

Yesterday he said goodbye to a group of friends who have been a highlight of our lives in Texas:  his cycling team. Yes, cycling like Lance Armstrong (well, not exactly like Lance, but you get the idea.).  Long distance, grueling, fast-paced cycling in a peloton (that's 'group of bike riders' to you and me). Cycling complete with detailed training regimens and statistical gadgets that measure every possible aspect of the ride:  elevation (Texas Hill Country, y'all), speed, heart rate, cadence, power, and probably our bank balance, too. (Logical Husband loves nothing more than a good piece of technical gear, but that's a post for another time..)  Lest you doubt  the truth of my words, feel free to observe and analyze the data from yesterday's ride:

Actually, the team is not exclusively for cyclists.  It's a local team for amateur competitive athletes (who also have those pesky day jobs).  His team includes not only road cyclists, but also runners, swimmers, mountain bikers, and triathletes, all of whom train and compete for the joy of it in their spare time (I know, I don't get it either.) Joining the team basically involves agreeing to race at least 5 times in a calendar year, which is nothing at all for this highly competitive, ultra-motivated group. Up until now, as far as I could see, the selling point for his joining the team was the high-end cycling kits (apparently, the pricier they are, the comfier they are...or so I've been told), discounted whey protein and electrolyte replacement powder, and a handy excuse to feed his gear addiction ("But honey, the carbon version would be much lighter...").  That, and the after-race beer.  So, for the most part, I viewed this team as a bunch of nice people that he rode with, and didn't give it too much thought except that I was glad he had a pastime he enjoyed and it wasn't a motorcycle or a hang glider.

But now the end is near, and I'm realizing that this team has been more than just some people for him to ride with.  Yes, they've trained together, sweat together, egged each other on, talked trash with each other (the races up the last hill into the neighborhood are always all-out cutthroat attempts at the title of  "King of the Cul-deSac",) and socialized over a beer when it was all over.  But they've also done much more:  stood out in chilly rain to cheer on racing teammates at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning; encouraged each other when the going got tough; rejoiced with each other in triumph, commiserated in defeat, sympathized over injuries (there have been more than a few);  kept each other accountable with just the right mixture of encouragement and tough love; groaned over wipe-outs (and the resulting bike repair bills); and yes, grieved with each other over losses that had nothing at all to do with cycling.

Yesterday Mr.  Logical took what would probably be his last big group ride before leaving; when he got home, he was a bit subdued.   I know (even though men don't often say these things) that saying goodbye hadn't been easy for him.  That he was already aching to have to be leaving such a meaningful part of his life here.  That the friendships he'd made on this team would always be important to him.  But, as I said, men don't often say these things, so  he simply told me he'd had a great time and that, yes, he would miss them.

And I know he will.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Moving Chronicles: The Garage Sale

(With apologies to Jane Austen):  It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a suburbanite who is moving must be in want of a garage sale.

There’s nothing quite as quintessentially American as a garage sale.  It’s got all the right elements: Independence, Capitalism, a Pioneering Spirit, and a certain amount of Manifest Destiny.  You’re selling your own stuff from your own garage at your own prices.  There’s a subtle flip of the finger to the tax middleman, a zesty sense of entrepreneurship, and the thrill of getting a really good bargain as you unblinkingly negotiate a smokin’ deal for that pile of old VHS videos with the steely-eyed determination of Donald Trump. There's a bit of a festival atmosphere in the air as groups of people stroll from house to house, cars come and go, and enterprising kids take the opportunity of a captive audience to peddle their wares.   

Above all, there’s the hearty sense of community connection you feel as your neighbors stop by to cast an eye over your stuff and – if you’re lucky – bear it away to their own homes, where it will someday become fodder for their own garage sales. 

Actually, I hate garage sales.  They remind me a bit of going clubbing in your 20s.  You spend an inordinate amount of time trying to package your goods attractively, and then you wait, hoping someone will come along and be interested. 

All that to say:  we had a garage sale this morning to clear out a bit before our move to Korea.  It was modestly successful, as these things go.  We have less stuff and more money, although there’s a part of your mind that’s always wondering if you really should have stuck to your guns on the price for Grandma’s relish tray. 

We sat in our neighbors’ driveway, since we’d forgotten to apply for a permit of our own (so much for that ‘zesty independence’ or whatever I called it), drank coffee, and people-watched (I wish I'd had the presence of mind to get a photo of the elderly man in the 'I'm with the band" t-shirt.)  I let Mr. Logical deal with all of the negotiating, since I'm hopeless at it (I have been known to negotiate my own price down for the customer, so it's better if I just sit and drink coffee) and chatted with our good friends and neighbors, M & M. 

I had a few wistful moments of thinking that this would be our last Spring in Texas (at least for a while), not to mention the last year that #1 son (who graduates in June) would still be in the nest, but I managed to pull myself together before I got out of control and instead marveled at the extraordinary fashion sense of the typical garage sale shopper we were attracting.  (Why not the fuchsia Spandex jumpsuit with the Skechers shape-ups? Well, why not?) 

We sat out there for 3 hours or so, enjoying the misty Spring morning, the cool temperatures, and the company of our friends and neighbors. Mr. Logical leaves for Seoul in just two weeks, so on some level, this garage sale was another one of the many 'last times' we have ahead of us. We've done it before, but it doesn't ever get any easier; saying goodbye to our friends is always the hardest part of the move.