Thanksgivings

This was last year’s Thanksgiving. On the top of a “mountain” in Kentucky with my family and Ben (minus Anthony), peeling off layers because it was warm. (But not warm enough to take off my hat, apparently.)

This is Thanksgiving in Minnesota in 2006. All my cousins (and their kids) were there and it was warm enough for a short-sleeved backyard soccer game.
This year, I’m in Iowa (sorry no pictures yet) and it’s cold. We outran (kindof) the freezing rain/snow/sleet mess leaving the Twin Cities yesterday and got here to a layer of water covering everything and 34 degree temps. Today the high was maybe 20 with some seriously cool windchills. I was glad I had flannel lined jeans, a warm coat, and a giant scarf. Luckily it’s supposed to warm up tomorrow and I think we vetoed the 3am waiting-in-line-for-stores-to-open move. I sure hope we did. I have some turkey to sleep off.
Happy Thanksgiving to you Americans and I hope the rest of you had a good Thursday (it’s almost the weekend.)

Minnesota Winter

It may still feel like fall (or summer!) in some parts of the country, but in Minnesota, it’s winter. We’ve had a good 8 inch snowfall (which I missed and is mostly melted) and last night got a good dose of freezing rain. I’m pretty sure that I need to ramp up from my dinky skater gloves and fall coat to something more substantial, but that would mean admitting it’s winter.
Granted, I love winter. This is a picture I took of downtown St. Paul the weekend I visited grad school. I think it snowed 10 inches. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I grew up with snow, and so if snow (and winter) don’t negatively impact me, I love them. But when I’m not dressed warmly enough, or my bus is an hour late, or I can’t walk on the sidewalk, I get a little bitter. I love the glow of the light on the snow and I’d much rather have snow than rain. Now if only the snow would stick…I guess we’ll see what this week’s storm brings 🙂

Mail

Recently, my friends Reid and Erin moved to the East Coast. Reid got himself a real job, which also meant he wasn’t on a grad school salary anymore. This means that he had fun mailing me some random packages. Officially they were for Ben, but I wasn’t about to carry the second one home after the first arrived.

See the paper? He sent one box just full of paper. (That was the one I carted home on the bus, after carrying it for 15 minutes across campus.) Then I got this box. I opened it. In it was paper…

a tent fly, tent fly stakes, and a ziploc bag containing the top portion of a dried out cow femur. Just want I needed that Friday.
Ben refuses to accept the femur, because he “gave” it to Reid, telling him of his expectations that it would be displayed anytime we visited. Therefore I guess the femur is mine. Thanks Reid?

Homecoming Day 2

I was at the college starting at 7:30am today. I got home around 6:20 and spent most of the day with people. Except my walk back from campus when I called Ben, whose birthday is today. Yay for Ben! He is in the snowy northland and the high here today was 70. :/

Anyways, I have exciting things to say and pictures to post. BUT Julie Stewart has most of the pictures and my brain went to sleep 3 hours ago, so I will just say that the Health Insurance debacle of 2010 was resolved. At least they told my insurance company to reinstate my insurance and it should be back by Tuesday night. YAY!
I plan to be back in full force tomorrow.

Homecoming Day 1

We think hard when we’re back at college…

Today

Today I don’t want to write anything. It is kindof like the day this picture was taken. It was 2004, I was on my first full day of travelling around Germany. I hadn’t gotten my railpass stamped in advance because I didn’t know that the train station would be closed until 9am. So I bought a ticket to station 1 (of 4 for the day). They couldn’t validate either. They tried to sell me a ticket to Berlin, but I wanted to go in the opposite direction, so I bought a ticket from the machine to get me all the way to station 4. Then at station 2 I had to wait outside for 1 hour in 40 degree temps with lots of wind (note my bangs). That wouldn’t be so bad if I had more than just a windbreaker to protect me. But there I sat. Waiting for my train, thinking how much the countryside looked like I imagined East Germany would look, for I was in East Germany. At the end of the day, though, I had a smile on my face as I curled up in my down duvet. I made it to the King’s Singers concert with 3 minutes to spare and had a comp ticket waiting for me. Win-win.
Today, not so much on the wins. Both my parents get gold stars for dealing well with a migrainey, teary daughter. Blogging lesson learned: I should really pre-write some blog posts so that I can just press send and not have to write anything on days like today…

I’m not telling…

I mentioned the other day that I’d gone on a trip before that I hadn’t told my parents about. Here is that story.
April 3o and May 1, 2008 there were two MAJOR concerts in England to celebrate the King’s Singers 40th anniversary. The first was to be in London, the second in Cambridge at King’s College. The year before, dad and I had planned to go. But this was when the dates were unknown and as soon as he found out when they were, he bailed. Teaching or some such nonsense 😉 But I had this idea in the back of my head. I had over 100,000 frequent flyer miles. I could go to England on my own!
Thus the scheming began.
Poster from King’s College Concert
I hemmed and hawed and finally decided that if I could buy tickets for the Cambridge concert, I would go. (I knew there were still London tickets available.) I called up Cambridge via Skype and they had tickets…good ones, so I started booking everything.
Then I thought it would be funny if I didn’t tell my parents that I was going. To understand this you have to understand two things about my relationship with my parents. First, I tell them almost everything. They know what I’m worried about, whether I went to the doctor this week, and who I had lunch with last Friday. That’s just who we are. Second, they are not worrywarts. In fact, when I was in Mexico for 3 weeks and our tour guide was getting death threats and Canadians were being held hostage (local to where we were), what was my mom most worried about? That I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt in the cab. Because it didn’t have seatbelts.
So I knew that my parents wouldn’t mind being left out of the loop. And I wanted to do this to see if I could hide something from them. It was HARD. But Simon and Ben got to hear all of my planning instead of my parents.

What I look like after a day of biking

I even went on a 30 mile bike ride through the Cotswolds on my own. Because I could. And because it started in Moreton-in-Marsh, home of Ian Kellam, whose music we often sing in choir.

I concocted a ruse about why I wouldn’t be calling my parents that week (which they bought) and let them know via email that they should call Ben if they needed to get in touch with me while my broken phone was being serviced.

I thought you should know my phone died… If you need to reach me you can email me, have Anthony IM me, or call Ben. I should have this all sorted out by the middle of next week…I hope 🙂
love,
Kate

Then I took off for England. On Thursday, May 1, I mailed them a postcard of the King’s Singers concert, confident it wouldn’t arrive til I was back on American soil on Tuesday, when they could call me. I got an email on Monday, May 5, entitled “so.”

Got a very mysterious card from England.
You sneak!
Love,
Dad

Since when did the British postal service work that fast? But nevermind! I called them from the Newark airport the next day and they were highly amused.

Homecoming

Next week I’m heading to Berea for Homecoming. It’s my fifth year reunion! Somehow I volunteered to give a talk and be on a panel, in addition to run/walking a 5K, singing in a choir, and hanging out with some seriously cool kids.
I haven’t been to Homecoming since I graduated and I’m looking forward to it. The above picture was taken at around midnight in the campus post office (CPO). We were discussing this event earlier this year at Rachel’s wedding. (She’s the middle layer on the left.) We all went to the CPO to deliver Rachel’s brother J’s Birthday gift – tickets to Norah Jones.
This is J. He let us do his hair in undergrad. The girl he took to the Norah Jones concert is now his wife. She rocks. So we forgive him for not taking us.

Next weekend won’t be anything like college, but it will be fun to relive some memories. I’m not planning to hang out on the CPO floor at midnight though… that’ll have to be another time. Who else is going to homecoming?

Traveling Companions

I was having a discussion earlier tonight with Simon (Simon, by the way, is female and is a nickname…) about travel and traveling companions. We were discussing, in particular, if we would be able to travel together. We met in England, live halfway across the country from each other, and keep planning fantasy trips to England and elsewhere. But we were discussing whether we’d get on each other’s nerves. We decided we wouldn’t, but not because we’re brilliant people or a perfect mesh of personalities. A big part of it has to do with what we’ve done before in our lives and where (and with whom) we’ve travelled. So I went through a bunch of pictures and will present them to you now along with some rules for travelling with others.

With Rachel on the top of Monte San Salvatore, overlooking Lugano, Switzerland and Lake Lugano. The secret to this travel arrangement is that Rach and I hadn’t seen each other for almost two years and were hanging out in a goat farm in Switzerland before heading to the more touristy areas of Florence and Rome. Also, we both like adventure, aren’t afraid of getting lost, and spoke random semi-useful languages. We discovered that part of the perfect travelling duo is making sure that at least one person likes seafood, for when you order what you think is Spaghetti with Meatballs, but it is in fact, Spaghetti with shellfish…

Ben and I haven’t travelled extensively together, but part of the key to the Alaska trip was keeping a good chunk of it low-key (i.e. staying in a cabin with no electricity or water in the middle of nowhere). When it rained, I could read and he could walk on the beach. Also, he’d planned 70% of the trip (I planned the part with my friends) so I didn’t have to stress about much and could focus on why my parents were so evil as to move me from Alaska to Kentucky. Just kidding. (Kindof. I did call them after we drove by the old house to tell them they ruined my life. I may have been sobbing. My cell phone signal may have then died…)

Mom and I haven’t travelled much without the rest of the family either. Here we’re hiking, but 3 days earlier, we’d been in Montreal hanging out at a Youth Hostel. I give LOADS of credit to my mom for going on this trip. It was crazy. Something like 9 days, 2500 miles? And in the end she fell out of a tree and broke her glasses and could barely sit in the car. BUT, she’s a good person to travel with. Especially once we realized our differences because I was getting grumpy. Namely, I like to take breaks. 100% sight seeing is not my idea of fun, so I’ll go out in the morning and evening, but I need a break for my brain and my feet. Taking breaks from hanging with your travel companion is highly recommended. It’s ok to not go to every museum, even if they do.

Kate, Keith, and I were part of a larger (9 person) trip to the American Choral Director’s Association annual convention in LA in 2005. Because we love to travel and can get around, we started rebelling against the provided bus service and took the subway from concert to concert. Not only was it faster and easier, but we got to see more awesome concerts that way. (And get Eric Whitacre’s autograph.) But a big part of that was the fact that we all thought, “subway? that sounds cool. let’s go” instead of “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Public Transportation!!!! SCARY!” If any of us had been like that it would not have been as fun to hang out.

I’ve been on a 90 person trip to Italy and Switzerland. It was fantastic. But, that said, at the time I barely knew most of the 89 other people. Cool thing about the trip? Getting to know some folks and hang out more. Convenient thing about having 89 other travelling companions? If you get annoyed with one or two, you can go hang out with others. However, this is probably not a likely scenario for most of you.

Finally, there is the option of travelling alone. I love it. I’ve been to England twice for visits on my own (after my semester abroad) and have travelled around the US and Canada alone as well. When I lived in England, I took my Easter holiday and wandered through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland before meeting up with a friend in France. (Why is there no picture of Liz here? Because I am a slacker, obviously.) My favorite thing about it is that I am in complete control (other than the weather, museum schedules, train time tables, etc.) So if I want to bike for a day, I can. If I was going to bike and wake up and decide I don’t want to do that, I could hang out at a library. It’s all up to me.
That said, if you are venturing out alone I have some suggestions. First, get a good guidebook. Not the one your aunt loves or that your grandma has sitting in the attic, but one you look at in a bookstore and like. One that reflects your tastes in restaurants and museums. Second, bring a journal. This serves two purposes, you can write in it AND writing in it can keep you occupied while you wait for meals. When I travel with someone I never keep a journal. When I travel alone, I write page after page. Third, get a sim card and a local mobile phone. It’s amazing how much less scary situations can be if you have a way to communicate. Finally, have a plan or keep in touch with people. The day I went bicycling around the Cotswolds (above) the guy from the rental shop knew where I was biking and had my phone number. I think Ben also knew what I was doing. My parents didn’t know I’d left the country, but that’s a story for another time.

Going back to old favorites

I regularly return to books and TV shows that are part of my past. There are familiar friends and faces. Books that I have memorized passages to, TV shows where I hear the dialogue and visualize every move the actors make. I sometimes feel silly returning to these, especially children’s books. I don’t tend to carry around Anne of Green Gables to read on the bus or at the doctor’s office. But recently I went back to several books I hadn’t read in over a decade.

Now some of you have probably never read the Anne of Green Gables series, and for that I feel sorry for you. I reread several of the books in the series every few years, but the first book was one I never particularly liked. Unlike millions around the world, the childish, rambling, daydreaming Anne was not as interesting to me as the Anne in book three. While Anne of the Island will forever be my favorite, it was nice to the back to the whole series; to read the books in context. Similarly I just read three of Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin books. these are books that I normally read one at a time spread throughout the year. I know every twist and turn, but watching the family grow up instead of reading the books individually makes a difference. if I had copies of all that the Betsy-Tacy books, I’m guessing I would be reading those too.

My TV series of choice is, of course, The West Wing. watching new shows is interesting and amusing and something I do often (perhaps too often), but most shows don’t have the gravitas of The West Wing. I started a self-imposed ban on West Wing marathons last November. A one-year ban. Partly to see if I could do it, and partly to stop myself from enduring the teasing from my non-West Wing obsessed boyfriend. I did it. But in the meantime I got addicted to several more new shows so I don’t know if that was a net gain.

Escape into the familiar past is nothing new, for me or most others. Recently, I’ve probably been delving in because the worlds in these books are so very different from my own, i.e. no one is working on a PhD in computer science in any of them. So, I’ve ‘fessed up to some weaknesses, what are yours?