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!

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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!

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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.

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Buffalo Girl

Several things were calling me back to my hometown of Buffalo this spring. Fortunately, all of them were foreseen and I’ve been planning for and looking forward to this trip for more than a year.

The first looked like this:

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That’s our first college graduate! There were fewer tears than I expected; I was just so happy for her. And proud, proud, proud. Several years as a Resident Assistant in college taught me that every freshman has their own story and their own hurdles which really helped me deal with a 3,000 mile transatlantic separation as Claire weathered her first year. It was a sort of crazy year anyway with Mark in Afghanistan and us preparing for our unforeseen (but really, how did we not anticipate this?!) move to Armenia. But Claire’s struggles to survive a grueling year as a Music Education / Trumpet major ended in a crash and a change of major. Totally traumatic – like happens so many times, she’d pretty much never failed at anything up to that point and coming to grips with failure is a process. Nevertheless, she worked her way back step by step and I believe the process finally allowed her to take charge of her own life. Not many classes transfer between Music Ed. and English Lit and it would be reasonable for her to still be in school catching up, but she took seven classes a semester for a year and a half plus a full load in the summer and graduated on time with a nearly perfect GPA in her major. AND (oh, this is major!) she had a legitimate job before graduation. Who says you can’t use an English major?

There was hardly a chance to catch our breath before we got to the second thing calling me home:

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Oh, yes it is. That is a wedding shower in a coffee shop. Later this summer that college graduate is going to make me cry for sure as she walks down the aisle. She’s so happy, Steve is so happy, so we are all so happy. I’m not sure if anyone ever thinks the day is going to come and it takes some mental gymnastics to get your mind around. My BABY!!! Who used to look like this!!!

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And you worry, and you fret, and you wonder why is it that no one ever suggests you sit and think about how great it is all going to be? What is it with motherhood that’s all about worry? You know – like this:

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Or is that just me? Could be just me. Anyway, it’s going to be an exciting summer!

Naturally, the first two events led to this:

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The little birdie found herself her own nest. For once I was around to help with her move and we spent a lovely (if exhausting) couple of days dragging around furniture, unpacking boxes, and making trips to Target for more things to feather that nest. She’s now the proud possessor of tub mats, toilet scrubbers, garbage cans, over-the-door hooks, silverware sorters, and a whole bunch of things that I cannot remember – perhaps because I am still dazed from the total… We worked in the dark (electricity not turned on yet), we worked through our meals, we worked so hard neither of us could find anything we wanted to buy in the whole ginormous Barnes and Noble we stopped by as a treat. (That is tired). Helping was all choice and I never would have missed the chance to spend these last few days together with Claire. I’m pretty sure we will both remember this special time for years and years. (Okay, now those tears are threatening).

The moments between events were just as much of why I couldn’t wait to be here. There was Sister Silliness:

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Nope, I don’t think I’m ever going to master the duck face…

And Niece/Nephew Silliness:

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And there was kissing! So much kissing! (They don’t call me Aunt Kissy for nothing).

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And hey, I even got one this time (you can always count on a brother)!

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And now I’m just waiting and growing anxious for the last reason I wanted to be in Buffalo in May:

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I’ve wanted to run this one for a couple of years. Hometown marathon, along the shore of Lake Erie? Family and friends around? Family running with me? How could I resist? Our schedule in the past two years made it impractical to fly back just for this race so I bided my time knowing I’d be in town for a graduation this year. I chose to focus on Vienna as a goal race for this spring and happily, all systems were go on the day. Alas, that was the last time they were. I suppose I should be happy that I it wasn’t a catastrophic injury that laid me up, nor was it exhaustion or burnout. I was ready to run, I wanted to run, but………. I had the world’s ugliest chronic blood blister on the ball of my left foot. Every single run either made it worse (at first) or brought it back (after I started taking rest days weeks). Rest weeks. With a half-marathon looming. And the sort of competitive nature that makes my skin crawl every time I think, Well, I could just run it. I could just not wear a watch…

Right.

Only, given the fact that the stupid thing did not really agree to heal until last weekend, I suspect I might not have a choice. I think this one is going to be about finishing. Maybe about taking the time to see some of the prettiest parts of the city (yes, there are plenty of them here) at a slow enough pace to actually observe them.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll go perfectly, or maybe I’ll be slow. No matter what, I want it to be fun. I waited two years after all!