Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day: Instant Classic.

Labyrinth Ceremony at school

Yesterday, in celebration of Earth Day, Cameron's school had Community Day, where parents, students, and teachers spent the afternoon planting, mulching, and beautifying the school. It's such a lovely campus filled with color and design, from begonias to mosaics to tea-cup roses, and the grounds are part of the reason I fell in love with it.

Before heading outside to work, they had a ceremony where each class sang a song or read a poem in honor of Earth Day. Cameron's class sang "Dirt Made my Lunch", which apparently is a favorite of Ms. Kathleen's, the director of the school.

Since Ms. Kathleen loves this song, Cameron's teacher asked him if he would dedicate the song to her, and since he loves Ms. Jennifer more than just about anything, he of course agreed.

After everyone was in place, he stepped up to the microphone, then proudly and boldly proclaimed that "This song is defecated to Ms. Kathleen."

And in an instant, a classic story.

In other news, Happy Earth Day Birthday to Katie, pictured at left below in Boston at Eastern Standard with AK. More on that to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Prepare to Qualify.

This coming Monday, Denise's husband Scott is running the 115th Boston Marathon, in hopes of qualifying for the 116th Boston Marathon, 2012. That's the kind of animal we're dealing with.

Though I loved the Atlanta marathon, the field was-how should I put this-not quite as hardcore as New York and certainly not as hardcore as Boston. When we went to the expo, folks were hanging out in cotton t-shirts and shorts, looking casual. I didn't feel the least bit intimidated. As a matter of fact, I felt like I wanted to hang out at the expo and eat all of the food that Publix, the sponsor, was offering in the makeshift grocery store they had set up. Though I'm sure some of my anxiety was lessened by the fact that this was not my first marathon, I didn't feel my heart beating out of my chest, or starstruck, or even nervous. I felt excited. And hungry.

By no means do I mean to diminish the power of that marathon, or any marathon. It's a marathon and thus demands respect, no matter the destination. A local marathon, however, is vastly different from an international one, and though Atlanta is a formidable city, the marathon itself only drew about 3000 runners.

Nothing quite compares to the Boston Marathon, the Holy Grail of Marathons, the ultimate goal for so many runners. And this afternoon The Ambassador will be heading to Boston to hit the expo and then to run her first ever Boston Marathon.

Katie, Shannon and I are heading out tomorrow morning and will land in Boston around 1:45. By that point AK will have gone on a nice easy run with Bart Yasso, will have visited the expo with all the other hardcore elites, and basically will be counting down the minutes until she will proudly don her Fred's Team jersey, for whom she raised $6884.00, and run the race she worked so hard to gain entry in to.

We'll be there cheering; she'll be there making us proud.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Joyful Noise.

This past Sunday in church, the children's choir sang two songs. I always, always cry when kids sing, and Sunday was no exception. The songs weren't particularly sad or emotional (or in tune), but I always get overwhelmed with the earnestness and tenacity with which the children approach the performance. Sometimes it looks like their jaw is dislocated, like their mouths are just not big enough to contain the sound that's forcing its way out. The younger ones in particular are unselfconscious, making joyful (loud) noises, letting their song ring out with wild abandon. Most of them have yet to suffer public humiliation, and they stand and sing with unbridled confidence. It's wonderful.

Davis and his sister Grace are both in the choir, and though Grace, a 5th grader, was on the back row and was a bit more reserved, Davis stood on that middle row in the midst of all the other kids and sang his heart out, his little puffy cheeks filling up and then exhaling the most beautiful of sounds.

My heart tightened when I saw him. He was completely at ease, comfortable with his role of virtuoso, but I couldn't help but think about the card that he's been dealt, and the race that he now finds himself running. He's just trying to live the normal life of a 1st grader, singing, playing, laughing, but when your normal involves steroids, vincristine, and methotrexate, just to name a few, I daresay it can get tough.

The title of Sunday's sermon was "The problem is"...if you wait until you have enough money to have children, you'll never have children; if you demand perfect neighbors, you'll find yourself moving a lot; if you wait to tithe until it doesn't sting your bank account a little to do so, you'd never tithe. Ultimately, our minister claimed that we must take the first step, no matter how imperfect the situation.

As adults, we make choices every day, sometimes weighing our options carefully, sometimes acting on instinct, sometimes acting out of fear. In the case of Davis' fight against cancer, he's found himself in the middle of an imperfect situation, one that he will find his way out of with the help of his doctors, his mom, his family, his friends, and prayer.

He has no choice but to fight for his life, and he'll do so because he doesn't know any different, because he's working towards a new normal. He continues to run the race to beat this beast, and it's good to know he can sometimes make a joyful noise while he's doing it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Instant Classic.

While in graduate school, my dear friend Chris introduced me to several important things: the multifaceted use of the word "genius" for all manner of descriptors, the benefits of watching late night TV, what it means for something to be "obsession-worthy", that it is possible to survive on Hot Pockets and Coke, and an introduction to a plethora of genius songs, stories, authors, poets, musicians, and movies, like Bottle Rocket and Kicking and Screaming.

Filmed in 1995, this movie follows the story of four friends who've just graduated from college and are in what I refer to as the Wasteland of Their Existence. They're too old to live at home, too young to really have a clue. They're the kids who have not decided to go to law school or med school or work for a consulting firm. They're a little bit lost, but they have a diploma, by darn, and a dilettante's knowledge of a lot of things that will get them somewhere. They're just not exactly sure where.

There's a scene between two of the lead roles that goes like this:

Max: I'm too nostalgic. I'll admit it.
Grover: We graduated four months ago. What can you possibly be nostalgic for?
Max: I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I've begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I'm reminiscing this right now. I can't go to the bar because I've already looked back on it in my memory...and I didn't have a good time.

I feel like this sometimes, like I have some strange preemptive nostalgia, especially with regards to my children. I'm sad about them going to kindergarten before they even go there, missing the days we spent together destroying the house with scissors, popsicle sticks and a hot glue gun. I look at photos of them as babies and it seems like decades ago, not a few years. Such are the tricks of the mind when it's dedicated to a never-ending job and doesn't get much sleep.

I don't get a ton of sleep because, for one, my two year old is terribly spoiled and prefers to sleep with me rather than alone. I also just got a new iPhone, and I can't seem to stop playing Words with Friends. Or checking my email. Or the weather.

When I finally joined the digital age and turned in my "soccer mom" LG (the Verizon guy's words, not mine), I didn't anticipate finding my new phone so "obsession worthy", to fall so totally in love with a piece of technology. But a few days after having said phone, I told Jay he may have to stage an intervention.

He laughed. I didn't.

With the exception of my recent aforementioned addiction to Words with Friends, I really haven't downloaded too many apps; I'm trying to keep myself in check. But I recently stumbled across Instagram after seeing photos taken with this application on The Pioneer Woman blog. This application allows you to take photos and then manipulate them in all manner of ways by changing the color, contrast, light, and texture. All by tapping a little icon.

Now. I know all of you real photographers out there see this as a complete sham, as totally lazy on my part. And it is. But the truth is, at this stage in my life, I'm probably not going to take the time to learn about aperture, f-stop, exposure , histogram, and whether or not a flash is necessary. I will, however, take a photograph with my phone and manipulate the heck out of it with the simple swipe of my finger. That I can do.

I also realize that these photographs are somewhat inauthentic, that they're manipulated to look a certain way, and thus, in a sense, lack truth. Roland Barth would have a field day with this kind of photography. But I like the images and I like the effects. And I like that when I take a picture of my kids and lighten or darken it, the image itself aligns with the emotion I feel when I look at it, and a kind of nostalgia and sentimentality spills out over the edges.
And in keeping with the theme of this blog, I've added a few photos from the Atlanta Marathon. The originals are here, if you'd like to compare.
The above photo actually wasn't anywhere on the blog before. It's a self-portrait of my hot-pink recovery socks that was too dark before I bamboozled it with the Instagram. It's still not great, but you get the idea.
When we finished the marathon in Atlanta and made our way through the food and water line, I heard the guy in front of us turn to his friend and say "Remember that hill at mile 18?" He had crossed the finish line moments before, and he was already reminiscing about the race, was already committing it to memory. It was in the past.

Photographs commemorate the past for us, allow us a glimpse into a tiny moment, allow us a visual of something we may otherwise forget. They do a lot of work for us, really, in terms of memory. Sometimes they're all we have left of a person or a place; they're flat and inanimate, but their power is vast.

The Instagram photos give images the effect of being an instant classic, of looking old even though they're new, of being darker even though they were originally light. They have an emotive quality, and much like the unreality of the oxymoron "instant classic", their unreality is part of our world now. Although the image itself is not authentic, or original, the subject itself is. And so is the baby sitting on my 96-year-old grandfather's lap, or watching the dogs walk up the street on his Mimi's front porch, or snuggling with his lovies in the early morning light. In an instant, it becomes classic, it becomes a memory.

Sometimes I rue technology and the way it seems to overwhelm our lives. But sometimes I'm grateful for its ability to capture a moment in time that I, ironically, in my iPhone induced insomnia, most likely would forget.