Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mommy Vacation '07 Part 1 - Fly the Friendly Skies - If You Can

Mommy Vacation ’07 began on a Thursday night in the Dallas metroplex with wonderful Kelly Matlock. Kelly is one of my close friends from college. She is the type friend who, even after months of no contact, I never feel awkward around. We are never at a loss for words. Most times we stay up till single digit hours of the morning talking, something I don’t do easily post-college days. However, with Kelly, time flies, just like those days in the college dorm when we sat in the hallway, taking turns massaging the other’s back, talking (usually about boys), and pretending to read. We of course slept in on Friday, and upon waking resumed talking while enjoying non-fat vanilla lattes from Starbucks.

Being ever conscious to be on time wherever I go, I asked Kelly to drop me off at the airport two hours before my flight time. It took all of five minutes to check my bags and maybe another two to get through security. So, I had ample time to wander through the new American terminal at DFW, scope out all the restaurants, and settle on a pretzel and soda from Auntie Anne’s. Armed with pretzel, drink, and novel, I found a chair and began to enjoy my freedom from responsibility.

I kept an eye on my watch so I could be sure to go to the restroom before boarding began. At the appropriate time, I gathered my belongings and headed across the hall. I returned to the same seat and got a few more pages read before boarding the plane. Once onboard, I painstakingly arranged my belongings for maximum foot room and reachability. I settled into my seat with my book and read until I was joined by the lady sitting next to me. We chatted a little while the other passengers boarded.

I soon noticed that it had been a few minutes since anyone had walked down the aisle, but the plane was far from full. Then, the captain’s voice came over the sound system. Now, I have flown a time or two or ninety in my life. I know that the captain does not usually address the passengers until the plane is cruising at a comfortable altitude. So, I perked my ears and listened (unlike when the flight attendant goes through the safety procedures). He calmly stated that there was a hole in the cargo bay door and instructed all to gather their belongings and get off the plane. He further explained that it should only take an hour to locate another plane. No big deal, I say to myself. I’m on vacation.

I returned to my seat (yes, the exact same one, after all, it and I had grown accustomed to one another) at the gate with some newly acquired fudge and re-immersed myself into my book. At the appropriate time, I trekked across the hall to the bathroom once again, this time noting that a draw back to traveling alone is that one must gather all her belongings, schlep them into the bathroom, try to find a somewhat clean place in the stall to place said belongings while taking care of business, re-gather them, schlep them to the sink, try to find a dry place to put them so one can wash her hands, and then schlep them back to one’s seat.

A new plane was at the gate and ready for boarding in nearly the time they had promised. I re-boarded, re-found my seat, re-painstakingly arranged my belongings, and resettled into my seat. I re-met the lady sitting next to me and began easily chatting with her. Once all passengers were onboard, the flight attendant stopped by to offer a refreshing beverage. (Did I mention I was flying first class? One of the disadvantages of waiting too long to reserve my plane ticket with Advantage Miles. I can’t say that minded much. I really enjoy flying first class.) Making the most of my first class status, I ordered a Chardonnay.

About halfway through my plastic tumbler, I heard the Captain’s voice, “Folks, I am so sorry. I just cannot tell you how sorry I am.” At this point, my higher level reasoning skills kick in and I know that what is to follow is not going to be good. “There is a hole in the cargo bay door. We are going to have to disembark and find a third plane.”

I heard grumblings of “is this some sort of conspiracy?” as I downed the rest of my wine. I shared a laugh with the lady next to me, re-gathered my belongings, and re-walked back up the gangway telling myself, Hey, what does it matter? I am on vacation. I can sit and read my book anywhere.

At this point, I realized that I had yet to eat anything of substance and if I wanted to continue enjoying the perks of flying first class, I needed to find some real food. So, with a rumbling in my belly, I went in search of food for the third time, this time for something a little more substantial. Thus, armed with a big burrito from Blue Mesa, I headed back to my trusty old seat at the gate. However, I began to notice that the now familiar faces from my flight had begun a mass exodus. A little panicked, I asked around and found that they our flight had changed gates and terminals. I joined the migration, walking as quickly as I could, not knowing how long I had to get to the next gate, until I noticed that the entire flight crew, including the captain, was just ahead of me. I relaxed knowing that the plane was going nowhere without el capitan.

I have to admit, though I had been tempted to lose patience, at this point the whole thing had an aura of humor about it. I was actually recognizing the people sitting around me. I talked to a group of college kids who were on their way home from Rome. I talked to the business man who sat across the aisle from me on the previous two planes. I don’t usually interact with strangers. I am shy. (Something I am working on.) This was a new, wonderful, and humorous experience.

Soon we all, now bonded through bad air travel luck (or disguised blessing from God – what if they hadn’t found the holes in the previous two planes?), boarded a third plane.

As we finally left the ground, I rejoiced in God. Though I have flown many times before, I appreciated the view this time. I wondered at the stinky Trinity River flowing through the Dallas Metroplex. I marveled at the clouds floating above and below. I awed that God would allow his people-creations to learn to become airborne.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fireworks and the Gray Whale

To celebrate the Fourth of July in true Carr Family tradition, we piled in the Gray Whale and headed to my grandmother’s farm. Now, the Gray Whale is the fifteen passenger van belonging to my dad’s office. “We” included my parents (now called Pop and Granny), my brother Jeff, his wife Cynthia, their children Noah (7), Micah (4 next month), and Amelia (21 months), my cousin Brian, his girlfriend Anne, Adam, Luke, and me. If you’re counting, we had seatbelts for three more people, but then there wouldn’t have been room for the cooler containing lunch. After an hour and forty-five minutes of lively conversation amongst adults, a very competitive showing of the quiet game between Micah and Noah, and Brian and Adam cheering on their favorite and antagonizing the opponent which resulted in waking the babies who napped maybe 30 minutes, we arrived at Grandmother Carr’s.

The boys (small and large) were all very excited, because thanks to this low pressure weather system hanging out over Texas, Grandmother who cannot remember a time in her life when her land has received so much rain, gave the okay to set off fireworks for the first time in more years than my generation can remember. So, after lunch, we trundled to the front yard during the break in the clouds and exploded fireworks. Yes, they would have been more spectacular after dark, but all the kids would have been asleep by then.

By five o’clock all were exhausted, so we piled back into the Gray Whale to head home. Ten minutes down the road, the babies were out cold, as was Micah who succumbed to sleep during another highly charged round of the quiet game, and the adults were once again chatting. Chat morphed into discussion as Anne, an elementary school teacher, reported on her recent trip to Washington DC where she attended a conference on model schools. Each of the “model” schools they looked at used a great deal of technology. Anne began explaining how what our local schools are missing is the technology element.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that my dad owns a software company at which my mother, brother, and cousin work. So, my family jumped on the conversation, enthusiastically cheering the incorporation of technology in the classroom and bemoaning the lack of said technology in our local schools. I sat nodding along until I heard:

“We need to spend much less time making our kids read things like Don Quixote and teach them things that are relevant to the world today.”

Now, if you know me, you are probably thinking that I pounced on that one like a two-year-old on a cookie. But, I am ashamed to say, I sat there too shocked to speak. My horror grew as my family continued to chew over how seventy-five percent of what kids learn in school is useless information, after all, do you really remember and use all that stuff? Who needs Shakespeare? What kids really need these days is technology, technology, technology.

I must admit, I agree technology should be in our schools. I just think it should be a classroom tool rather than the substance of a lesson. Most third graders are far more advanced in technology than I am already. As I see it, kids today don’t need a lesson in how to get the most out of their cell phones. They learn that stuff on their own. I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach our kids how to use the latest technology. I just don’t think that should be the entire substance of education. Newspapers are useful, but they don’t replace literature, something else that was proposed in the belly of the Gray Whale.

We do learn through great works of literature. We learn a higher level of thinking. I acknowledge that in most high school English classrooms, teachers are probably questioning the whats of Romeo and Juliet rather than the whys, but that doesn’t mean that literature is a waste of time. It means we need to better educate our teachers.

This morning as I was getting dressed it hit me how ironic it is that the work that started the discussion in the van was Don Quixote. I hated reading Don Quixote. The uselessness of Don Quixote’s quest irritated my drive to reach people where they are in reality. There he is, so unwilling to move forward with society, so unwilling to let go of the chivalric values that he holds so dear, that he hurts those closest to him for the sake of something that his culture left bleeding in the dust of progress.

Now I sit wondering am I Don Quixote? Do I cling to the educational methods of yesterday because they are what I know and love? Should we move to educate the next generation in what is coming rather than what has been? Where is the balance? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Three Wonderful Years

Today marks three years of marriage for Adam and me. The last three years have been more than I ever could have dreamed up for myself. I have grown in ways I did not know I needed to grow. I have experienced more joy than I thought was possible with another person. I thank God daily for giving me Adam. He is perfect for me. He is not what my childish heart thought I wanted in a husband back when I was full of romanticism. He is better. He is what God knew I needed.

I remember thinking during our first year of marriage If this is the hardest year of marriage as they say, then we have it made. I thought our first year was easy, and as first marriage years go, it probably was. But now I look back and think that was a hard year. We have grown to know each other so much more. Though we may face more difficult challenges, our relationship has grown easier.

I thank God for the blessed institution of marriage. Godly marriage is more wonderful, more joyful, more surprising than the world would have one believe. It is the best gift a person could hope for. It is worth waiting for.

Adam, I love you. I look forward to the next fifty years and more by your side.