Jul 31, 2016

Summer Time

For the wider world this summer has been traumatic. Multiple terrorist attacks here in America and abroad, police shootings, police shot, a grim and disheartening presidential campaign, flooding in West Virginia.  The tragedies seemed to come so fast it was hard to keep up with them all. It seems callous to claim it was a good summer, when for so many this has been the very worst summer of their lives.  But for our little corner of the world, the summer was peaceful, uneventful, and memorable in a good way.  I'm grateful for that.

When we were kids summer seemed to last three years instead of three months.  Now it feels more like a month and change after you finally finish the interminable end of year "check out" tasks and before you're called back in on the 1st of August to start gearing up for the new school year.

This summer felt a little longer than usual--perhaps because we did so many different things--and I've identified three distinct parts of the 2016 summer season:

Summer at Home
Our school year ended for the first time before Memorial Day.  As a result even though it took longer than the allotted post week for Babs and I to finish our end-of-year tasks, I still felt like we had some significant time at home this summer. The weeks of early summer seemed to go by quickly at the time, though they feel longer now looking back.  This was the first summer since we moved to Ohio that both Babs and I were "home" for the summer.  In the early years, Barbara worked through the summer at the Stepping Stones preschool, while I was home with Elijah during the summer.  I was also working on my masters degree.  When I finished my masters degree, and Barbara shifted to being at home with our boys, I  began working at Kroger during the summers to shore up our income.  Finally, this year, with both of us working full-time as teachers we were both "free" for the summer.  You can imagine the let-down when I realized that there would be no real vacation with two energetic boys in the house.

So, much of the early summer was focused on keeping the boys occupied.  I was not as successful as I would have liked in keeping their screen time to a minimum.  It was oh so tempting to let them blow the day watching hours of cartoons on Netflix so I could get things done.  But I tried not to give in to that too often.  We might go to the park if it wasn't too hot or to the pool if it wasn't too cool.  I took them grocery shopping (which always resulting in me spending way too  much money, especially when I put Elijah in charge of planning the morning and afternoon snacks) or on other errands.  The day would go by so quickly. Any kind of running of errands would shoot the morning.  Afternoons would be quiet time, followed by a swim at the pool and then baths, supper and the day was winding up already!

One of our goals for this summer was to de-clutter our house.  We've been inspired by Marie Kondo's best-seller, the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It was a gargantuan task, even in our little apartment, but we made some real progress. And at least so far Kondo's philosophy holds true.  Once you've decluttered an area it tends to stay that way.  The key seems to be to get rid of a lot of stuff, rather than just organizing it more neatly. In our house, a lot of clutter comes from having things we don't know what to do with.  By being more intentional and only holding on to things that we actually use and/or that "spark joy", tidying up becomes a snap.  Particularly remarkable is the boys room which has always been a disaster area of random pieces of plastic, orphaned puzzle pieces, and cheap toys.  Now that the room is de-cluttered, I can clean up even the biggest messes in their room in 5 or 10 minutes because I (and they) know where everything goes.
So that we could get some actual work done and be kid-free for a bit,  Barbara and I designated one day for each of us as an "away "day.  This was ostensibly a work day to focus on long-term planning and big picture strategy for the next school year.  I also hoped to use the time to start working on a book about  my experiences as a student missionary in Chuuk. I didn't do near as much work as I would have liked.  I did spend a lot of time toiling over an as-yet-unpublished blog on guns--my way of trying to understand the early summer tragedy in Orlando.  I spent hours researching, changing my position in the light of new data, researching some more. There will be a finished post forthcoming from those efforts.

On a morning walk early int the summer we came across a water main leak near our house.  Playing in the mud and splashing puddles = simple, classic summer fun.  It's funny  how these simple activities are what I remember most warmly.  Walking down to the leasing office to pick up a package, going down to the pool for a 20 minute swim before supper.  It didn't need to be a big event to be memorable. 

Dad's birthday is now a day for melancholy remembrance, rather than celebration.  Jenny came over from South Carolina for the weekend and we spent some time with Dad on his birthday.  It was our first time to see the headstone, which was put in this past spring.  I was so proud of Elijah for occupying his little brother on a nearby bench (see below)

Adrenaline junkies, Elijah (above) and Ezra (below) at the playground near the Leen house in Springboro.  We spent several long weekends with Gogah (the boys name for their grandmother).  Barbara did a lot of work going through our belongings that have collected in her mother's basement over the past 19 years--things we left there when we moved to Saipan, things we stored there when we came back from Saipan, and things from her childhood and youth.

Last summer Elijah received a pair of gift cards to Coldstone Creamery.  This summer we finally got around to using them.  Exploring the fountains near the Gahanna Coldstone was it's own little mini-adventure on two Sunday afternoons when we put those gift cards to use.

During one of our visits to Gogah's house I worked on cleaning the gutters.  Not the most pleasant work, but very rewarding when I was done.  Thought it is vacation, summer wouldn't be complete without some outdoor, manual labor.

Summer with Friends
Late June and early July was some really great friendship time.  We went out to Chicago and had a wonderful time with the Carlos family. On these visits, I would be happy to spend the whole time sitting on their couch shooting the breeze with J, and eating Evelyn's epic meals. But Barbara likes to get out and do, and this time I was game. Having just had an amazing trip to Chicago with my students there were some places and experiences I was eager to share with my family.  Our first day, we spent mostly hanging out at the Carlos home, but our second day we had a truly glorious time in downtown Chicago, visiting Maggie Daley Park, exploring Millenium Park, and then meeting up with my old friend from college Kim Juhl and her sons for supper at Lou Malnati's.

Our boys and one of J and Evelyn's boys on one of the giant slides at Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago, Thursday, June 23, 2016.

The splash fountains at Maggie Daley hit the spot after working up a sweat on the playground.

The oldest Maycock and Carlos boys. Hopefully they'll be friends for life just like their dads!
One of the massive slides at Maggie Daley Park.

"Two grown men in a huddle of kids" J and I's friendship, going all the way back to freshman year of high school always reminds me of the Rich Mullins song "What Susan Said."  When we were young men, student missionaries in Chuuk, I used to listen to the song and imagine the day when the second verse that describes the two friends as adults would come true.  Well now, we are in that second verse.  We're grown up now with kids of our own, "trying to help them to believe."  You can listen to the song here.
The Chicago skyline as seen from Maggie Daley Park

Crown Fountain at Millenium Park

The boys waiting for the face to "spit" at Crown Fountain

Our family with Kim and her boys after supper at Lou Malnati's.  I don't think we thought to take any pictures with the whole Carlos family.  We have pictures of our two boys and their two boys on Facebook, but the adults were neglected.  Even the picture earlier of J and I is thanks to Babs.  I'm terrible at remembering to take photos.

Back in Columbus we had a classic summer day by the pool with our new friends Jason and Veronica Francis and their kids.  On 4th of July weekend, we enjoyed Sabbath lunch with Ephraim and Bettina Laidley, and the Bailey family followed by a lovely hike in woods  near Slate Run Historical Farm.  The 4th of July the Francis family and the Ralph and Wayna Gray joined us for an evening of pie-making and haystacks and watching the fireworks.

Thursday, June 30, 2016. Elijah with his classmate, the daughter of Jason and Veronica Francis.  We invited the Francis family to go swimming at our complex's pool since we were unable to attend her birthday party earlier in the summer.  We ended up spending the whole afternoon there and became fast friends with the whole family!
Sabbath, July 2, 2016 at Slate Run Historical Farm.  Elijah and one of his long-time pals.  She'll be moving to New Jersey with her family at the end of the summer. 

I always have the most fascinating conversations with Ephraim Laidley. One of the smartest, most interesting people I know.

The Baileys.  We are going to miss this family so  much!
The Francis and Maycock kids having fun during the New Albany fireworks display, which we were able to watch from the parking lot of our apartment complex.  Monday, July 4, 2016

Summer with Family
The last third of our summer was devoted to family.  It was truly precious time.  We left Ohio on Thursday, July 7, spent the night in Greenville, South Carolina at Jenny's house before continuing on to Florida the next day. We planned to leave Florida, about two weeks later on Thursday, July 21, but as the time to leave approached, we decided to stay an extra day and leave on Friday.  Then the day before we were supposed to leave, we decided to stay an additional two days and leave on Sunday, July 24.  We ended up spending 17 days in Florida, including three weekends, and it was perfect.

The first week in Florida, Barbara was working on a class and was gone for most of each day.  I enjoyed hanging out with my sister and my mom, while the cousins played.  We cooked up some delicious international favorites, Korean food one night, Indian food another night.  We went swimming, went to the library, watched movies together.  I took Dawn out for lunch at an Indian restaurant (she had never been to Indian restaurant and I felt that needed to be fixed!), I enjoyed talking about science with Vince, watched a superhero flick with brother-in-law, Jim, and went shopping with Mom.  One of my favorite memories, is all of us sitting on the patio for sundown worship on our last Sabbath evening in Florida.  That feeling of family warmth and togetherness could never be captured in a photograph but is vivid in my minds eye.

 It was in Florida that I finally fully relaxed. I took several unplanned naps the last few days I was there, a sure sign that I had finally reached a point where my schedule was light and unhurried enough that I felt I could indulge in a little shut-eye without guilt or regret.
The older cousins

The younger cousins

Clowning around at Friday evening worship

Joy Lacorte is practically family.  We've known her for most of her life, since we moved to Saipan way back in 1998 when she was just 5 years old.  Since then she's been with us (and there for us) at some the highest and lowest moments of our lives.  She's a full-on adult now, working at Florida Hospital as a cardiac intensive care  nurse, and we were thrilled to have her come and spend some time with my family on Friday evening, July 12 and Sabbath July 13.

Sabbath, July 13, 2016. Babs and I with Joy and our dear friends from Saipan, Carol Paez and her daughter Keisha.  We hadn't seen Carol, who is one of Barbara's closest friends in two years, since she was last in Florida visiting her parents who live about an hour and half away from my family.  We last saw Keisha in 2012, the last time we visited the Paez family at their home in Oregon.  She's an officer in the Marine Corps, stationed in South Carolina and drove down to Florida for the weekend.  The Paez Tribe have long been family to us (Carol is godmother to our boys after all).  In addition my uncles and aunts and my youngest cousin also joined us for lunch that day.  My only regret is that, with so many people there, I didn't get to talk to Carol and Keisha more.

I could easily spend my entire time in Florida catching up with the many friends from high school who still live there.  But since I only see my mom and siblings once or twice a year (Christmas every other year), the priority is family.  I always make time to see my friends Paul Wood and Greg Wedel, and this summer it was an blast to also touch base with one of my favorite people, Heather Rice.  She and her three boys tagged along with us, Mom, Vince, Dawn and her kids on a day trip to New Symrna Beach.  Heather is awesome-- straight-up real talk and a big, open heart.  We'll have to do it again next summer, Heather!

Ezra got a hold of my phone during our last Friday evening meal with my family and took this pretty good photo.  Not bad for a three year old  

There aren't many pictures of my mom and me. I myself forgot to take any.  Fortunately my wife caught a couple snaps of us during our first weekend in Florida.  One of my favorite memories of our time this summer was sitting on the couch looking at houses on Zillow.  That was on the last Sabbath we were there, so this was another time we shared together though I can't remember what we were looking at on my phone.  There are no pictures of me with Vince or Dawn, which is a terrible oversight. I almost feel like flying back down to Florida some weekend just to take those photos!

Despite our extended time, it was hard to leave and I still feel a little melancholy.  I miss them.

I took this photo as we were pulling out of the driveway, on our way back home. It's one of my favorite photos despite the lack of clarity and windshield glare.  It makes me happy and sad at the same time every time I look at it. Happy, because of the wonderful time we shared together this summer, and sad because we are apart now and are reliant on our weekly  Sabbath afternoon Skype sessions until we can get together again.
We left Florida on Sunday morning, July 24, one week ago.  Again we stopped off at Jenny's house and had a pleasant evening with Jenny and Matt before continuing on to Ohio on Monday.  We went to Dayton and spent the night there.  Then on Tuesday, Babs and I went down to Cincinnati for a little overnight to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.  That was a vacation of an entirely different sort--free from the kids for a little while and nothing pressing on our schedule.  It was wonderful to have nothing but time together.  We purposely planned little and were fully able to enjoy just being together.

Wednesday night, July 27, we drove home to Columbus, and our wonderful summer came to an end.  Even though I don't report to work until tomorrow, and Barbara isn't due back until August 8, it feels like the summer has officially ended.

I imagine that when we get to heaven, it will be like a summer that never ends. I can't wait for that day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best time ever!!! Great blog post :)

Aunti Dawn