Looking Back on Summer Vacation

It the last evening of “summer” vacation for me. I have to pick out my good clothes, pack my lunch, and get a good night’s sleep because in the morning I’ll return to work, this time as part of the Cultural Affairs team in Tbilisi, Georgia. I was excited that the job was available, even more excited when I was hired for it, and am thrilled to begin – while still mourning the end of a really pleasant three-month break.

So, since it is obvious I did not spend my time writing blog posts, what did I accomplish the past three months?

1. Hagoghutyun Yerevan!
Once we wrapped up our jobs and sent our belongings hither and yon in the most complicated set of shipments, we got on our various planes back to the United States. Everybody but me had complicated work arrangements; I got the longest vacation of all.

2. The Bride Wore Blue Shoes!
We got the entire family assembled to celebrate the marriage of our very own adorable college-sweethearts, Claire and Steven. Their down-to-earth love and devotion shone over the entire day while their quirks were on full display from the Dr. Who color theme to the Star Trek processional. And after the obligatory formal stuff everyone enjoyed the All-ages Dance Party of All Time!



3. You Have a Quirky Race? We’re In!!!
You don’t have to be fast to agree that racing is the best part of running, so I had my eye out for the most unusual local races my family and I could participate in. Though every race was fun, in retrospect, I think the best part of all was how eagerly my parents joined in! We celebrated the Veg Fest by running the “Largest Tofurkey Trot in the United States,” raised money for awareness of heat injuries by running a 7km Soaker Run during which we were squirted by supersoakers and sprayed with firehoses, and wrapped up the season by joining 30,000 others in a colored cornstarch extravaganza at The Color Run. Along with fitness, we gained a new appreciation for our home city as we ran through parks, city streets, and neighborhoods that we had either never visited or had forgotten about.

Tofurkey Trot!


Tofurkey Trot, Soaker 7, and Color Run!

Tofurkey Trot, Soaker 7, and Color Run!

4. Left Coast Here We Come!
For years, I’ve been The One That Was Always Somewhere Else. My loyal family has visited in me “on location” but I had never returned the favor for my sister. Given that I had nothing but time on my hands, this was the summer for a trip to Seattle. We spent three days cramming in: Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, a pilgrimage to the Seattle Public Library, a Mariner’s Game, Port Townsend, hunting for agates on the beach, eating doughnuts as big as our heads at Sluy’s Bakery in Poulsbo before spending a day paddleboarding and swimming (dodging a bazillion jellyfish) in Liberty Bay. We left knowing that there would be a place for us when the day finally comes to spend some time in one place.

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Seattle (I'm finally here! And as long as I am, I think I'll make sure the Space Needle is bolted in securely)!

Seattle (I’m finally here! And as long as I am, I think I’ll make sure the Space Needle is bolted in securely)!

5. Buffalove!
So when did my hometown get all cool?! From the Taste of Buffalo (one of the country’s largest two day food festivals) to the Jack of All Trades Festival at Larkinville (I’m pretty sure there was no such place when I still lived in Buffalo!), from Buffalo Lighthouse park to the Botanical Gardens, from Bisons Baseball to the Thursday night concerts at Canalside, from Elmwood Village to Allentown, we enjoyed a city that felt youthful and energetic and offered us as much food, entertainment, and cultural opportunities as we could cram in.

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Larkinville, Coffeeshops, Record Stores (in which I went all fangirl over The Smiths, Botanical Garden, Waterfront, Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer's Market, Science Museum (Mummies!), and MOBY!!

Larkinville, Coffeeshops, Record Stores, Botanical Gardens, Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers' Market, Science Museum & Mummies, and MOBY!!!

Larkinville, Coffeeshops, Record Stores, Botanical Gardens, Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market, Science Museum & Mummies, and MOBY at Canalside!!!

6. Lobstah, Sun, and Sand!
Because hanging out, running races, and visiting interesting places was so strenuous, Sal and I had to take a break to the beach at the end of summer. We joined my parents on the southern Maine coast for two weeks of art museums, lobster dinners, days spent laying on towels reading books, and swimming in the ocean. It was awesome – I suggest it to anyone! But that wasn’t enough for us, so we then repaired to Gloucester where we added a couple of nephews and some more time spent soaking in salt water and sun.

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Lobstah Dinnahs, Ogunquit Museum of American Art, and Glosta!

Lobstah Dinnahs, Ogunquit Museum of American Art, and Glosta!

7. Off to School!
Finally, it was time to face facts – it was time for college to start. So my sister-in-law graciously drove a nervous mother and daughter into Boston so Sal could be installed in her dorm-room. Cue the usual excitement and anxiety: this is AWESOME! This room is so SMALL! I’m going to MISS YOU! I can’t wait to START!!! Walking away from each other for months and months goes down as one of the hardest things in an admittedly very blessed life, but sometimes great things call for you to do the hard thing and I am so proud of and happy for her.

8. Gamarjoba Tbilisi!
The adventure begins again! Though we thought we’d be moving to Moscow, recent events changed our plans to a move within the Caucasus. It was our shortest move ever and we were disappointed to think it would be not as much of a change as we have gotten used to, we were very happily surprised to see how much difference there could be in a mere 160 miles. I’ve been here such a short time that I’m only gathering impressions at this point, but there seems to be more openness, more variety, and more progressive energy here. Things are bound to feel different personally since this is our first home as empty-nesters and the first time we’ve had a downtown apartment. So far we’ve gone out of our way to take advantage of our surroundings, enjoying coffee in different cafes, buying our veg from different greengrocers, and not eating one single dinner at home as I spent 15 hours a day unpacking our household goods this week.

Tbilisi at night

Tbilisi at night

And now, farewell summer and hello to the excitement of a new job. I am assured that there is never a dull moment in Cultural Affairs and I look forward to fact that my job will make it inevitable that I will learn about this interesting place from the roots up.


Transitions: Home to House, Grumpy to Glad

When I woke up this morning (not that I’d done much sleeping), my house was still a home. I went off to a morning of meetings, by the time I returned around 11:30, it had reverted back to being just a house. It is the 13th time we’ve gone through the process and it is obvious I’m never going to grow to like it. Here are some reflections on the process and the day:

1. Drama leading up to the move does not improve the situation. Were going to Moscow; are moving to Tbilisi, Georgia. Spun our heads, kind of broke our hearts, definitely challenged the never-too-smooth wheels of bureaucracy.

2. After years of living in places with once-every-two-weeks trash pickup and restrictions on how much you put in your wheelie bin, you’ve got to appreciate the three-times a week garbage crew of Vahakni. Best of all? No guilt; if it’s marginally good but no longer useful to you, put it next to the bin and while you sleep, elves will whisk it away!

3. Anyone who knows more than a little knows that I have put those elves to the test.


4. Seeing my bed in the living room does very little to improve my mood.


5. Finding my accidentally-packed-away duvets made me feel in control of the situation. If there is one thing I’ve learned through the years it’s that some objects have the power to soothe. I lived with loaner sheets and blankets for months when we moved to Yerevan. Never again.

6. Nevertheless, the rest of the house feels like a bad vacation rental. I resent this. We spent three years laughing, crying, growing in our home; it can’t shouldn’t be just a house.

7. Once the mopes set in, the only answer is a run. (Fight/flight? Maybe). Truly, I slept very little and worked very hard today so I convinced myself that I’d just do a couple easy miles. I forgot how loose you can feel at the end of a busy day; before I knew it, I had five miles of sprints under my belt.

8. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s true that my favorite shoes make me run fast.


9. Running fast (this is admittedly a relative term) makes me happy. Being happy makes me whistle. Loudly. Loud whistling makes the Guy-I-Didn’t-Know-Was-Walking-His-Dog-Around-the-Corner laugh. Thus, running fast makes everyone happy.

10. Mark’s Lavender Wheat Beer and fajitas didn’t hurt either.


One more day and this phase will be over. My bags are packed and all that will be left is the fond farewells. I’ve done this before, I know the drill: my future holds some tears.


If You Had Told Me ________ Ago, I Never Would Have Believed It

If You Had Told Me a Week Ago….

… that I would be running in capris, a short-sleeved tech shirt, and my light running jacket on February 16th, I never would have believed it. Even more surprising, by the middle of my run I was so warm I really could have done without my jacket. Nevertheless, I was unwilling to remove it – something to do with my shirt. What could it be? It’s jazzy, I earned it in a terrific race, it fits and wears perfectly. See? Nice shirt, right?



Hmm, could it maybe have something to do with this?



Even in a country whose language uses a completely different alphabet, this is riskier than I’m willing to take on. There’s already enough hooting and honking when The Teenager and I are out running – no sense inviting it!

Anyway, the weather seems to have taken a turn for the warmer. Tomorrow to Tsaghkadzor before all the snow is gone!


If you had told me a month ago…

… that I would win third prize in a chili contest featuring four chilis made by Texans and one made by someone born and raised in Mexico, I would never have believed you. Worse yet, for a contest that started at 3:00pm, I got up at 10:30, pulled the meat out of the freezer and stuck it in the sink at 10:45, made some cookies, ran out of eggs so I didn’t make cornbread, and at 11:30 decided that it might be time to focus on the chili. I opened the fridge and discovered I had some pancetta (there is NEVER any bacon around this joint. You have to wonder about the person who does the shopping, don’t you?), opened the cupboard and discovered I had some Armenian chili pepper and we were off. The result? Third prize! And what was my Fabulous Prize, you ask?




Why, a Lifetime Supply of Kilikia! 


If you had told me three years ago…

…that this would be one of my favorite places to run, I never would have believed it.



Before moving to Armenia, I ran or walked through the forests at the edge Odenwald six days a week. Frankenstein castle loomed on the mountain to my west, and there were birds and fruit trees and streams. Before moving to Armenia, I ran or walked along a sandy beach on the coast of the Baltic Sea six days a week. I came home weighing an extra pound from all the sea-glass I picked up. Before moving to Armenia, I ran or walked through fields, hopped ditches, scrambled through hedges six days a week. I scared rabbits and pheasants, saw otters, petted cows. Now I run around my neighborhood, lap after two mile lap, six days a week. On winter weekends (or anytime of the week once the days are long enough) I can venture out into the greenspace near my neighborhood. It’s dusty and stony and it’s either up or down (flat’s boring anyway!) but it’s just so Armenia. The apartment blocks, the abandoned structures, and the dry, dry ground are all around me all the time. It takes a certain focus to see the beauty of it, but there is something about it that moves me. I guess it’s that if I’m going to spend my life moving all over the world, then the more it is different, the more worthwhile the experience seems. 

Also, sometimes this is view…



… and I LOVE running uphill. 

And other times, this is the view…Image

Enough said.