Category Archives: Missouri

Layer by layer

It’s been awhile. It’s been quiet here.

I’ve been quiet. My mind has been quiet. My body has been still. Finally. Still, in the sense of not moving. No vibrations, no fluttering. No undulations or perturbations. Just still.

A layer of me, my peace and calm sensibilities, peeled off a few weekends ago when I was waiting in the airport in St Louis, trying to get out of dodge to visit my boyfriend. Trying; I say that, as if I were going to be the one flying the plane.  One thing I’ve learned is that nothing is in my control when it comes to traveling by air, especially when living in the land of tornados and flash floods. I was scared as I hid in the bathroom at the airport, not knowing that indeed, the tornado had just wrecked havoc on the main terminal. Needless to say, the 2011 Tornado of St Louis ruined my weekend plans, but I am thankful that it was only marginal damage and that no one was seriously hurt. Walking outside that night, taking a taxi home instead of the airplane to Houghton, just felt odd. There were trees uprooted and thrown across the highways, there were vehicles dangling off parking structure roofs. Windows were blown out of cars and bus stops, and it was strangely, eerily, calm.

Yet, even after experiencing that, I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for those who experienced the tornado that just ripped through Joplin, Missouri, yesterday afternoon.

Things like that, things like freak storms and mile-wide tornados; stuff like that is hard to grasp. Those who see the damage in real life say that it’s not something you can ever imagine. It’s not real, until you see it. And it’s not real, at least not for me or for you, really- because our lives go on without more than a flinch or a twinge of sadness after looking at the photos and videos online. Our houses are still standing and our lights are still working. Our beds are comfortable and dry and covered by a ceiling, surrounded by four walls. Our neighbor is still sheltered with a roof over his head and the trees are still planted firmly in our yards. But for the people of Joplin, their families and their loved ones, it’s all very real. The giant that came out of the sky, that stomped their neighborhood down to a sheet of paper, they saw it. It arrived at their doorstep and they didn’t have a choice, they couldn’t turn it away or pretend like they weren’t home. It came through their neighborhoods, without invitation and without warning, and it ruined their weekend plans. For many, it ruined their lives. For many, it took their lives.

Courtesy of CBSnews.com

It’s difficult to imagine what something like this – something so natural yet so devastating, something that causes an entire city to be torn apart, layer by layer – is. Something that leaves you raw, exposed, completely vulnerable. Yet at the same time, knowing that it is over – watching as the sun comes out, yet again – brings a sense of calm and quiet. It’s an unwelcome quiet for some.

At first, it looks like something from Resident Evil, or some other apocalyptic zombie-type movie.  But it’s not the movies, not for the people of Joplin. It’s real, raw, all the layers are gone and the emotions are just primal. Instinctual.

Below is one of my favorite photos from today’s images online. A couple’s joy as they find their beloved pet, amidst the rubble and debris. The smiles, the tears, and hugs. The relief. The layers are off and it’s like they are drunk with happiness.

Courtesy of CBSnews.com

I know not everyone in Joplin could experience this same sense of peace at finding the ones they love. Over 100 people are dead, and many of those who survived do not have homes to call their own any longer. It’s hard enough being alone, but being homeless too? All of a sudden, literally, in as much time as it takes to snap your fingers, your life can be changed forever.

Please check out the Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery Facebook page for information on ways to help those in Joplin.  Askinosie Chocolate is donating 15% from its retail sales to the Joplin rescue and recovery needs, and the United Way of Missouri is taking donations and registering volunteers.

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It's race season!

This weekend, I enjoyed one of my favorite things: racing. I soaked it up in nearly all its forms. I raced, I spectated, I sherpa’d. I had a few firsts, too- my first ever road bike race (well, two, actually…) and a first place finish.

Saturday was a perfect day, both weather-wise and prep-wise. I could not stop reminding myself how much of a good idea it was to do the time trial and the crit at the Tour of Hermann. My friend, Annie, and I showed up about an hour before the TT was to begin, and as I pulled out my race wheels, I realized that I hadn’t swapped cassettes. So, I either had to go race-wheel-less or find someone with a chain whip. Luckily, I was able to get the bike assembled, race wheels and all, with the help of Annie and a nearby racer who had a bunch of tools. As I arrived at the start corral, I realized that my rear tire was a little low. A man in a leopard-print robe and oxford shoes recognized that I was clueless, probably because of the look of panic on my face and the fact that my race number was upside down. He offered to fix my number, and asked if I needed anything else- realizing that the first group of TT starters would be delayed, I asked him if he knew if there was a bike pump around. He scurried off, and came back shortly with a pump from the guys from Mesa Bikes. He pumped up my tire, and soon thereafter it was time to line up. I thanked him, and felt relaxed- calm- and was excited to get going.

I was nervous to do the clipped-in start. I thought for sure I could handle it, but I chickened out in the end. I started, clipped in, and hurried off to chase down the others in front of me.

Only I had a hard time catching those in front of me. Turns out, in road racing, time trialists that are spread out by 30sec are hard to catch. And, top that with the fact that there were quite a bit of Cat1-2-3 racers in the time trial at the Tour of Hermann, and I soon realized that I was not really the one to be chasing. I was passed within the first few miles by a few speedy guys, but I just kept my head down and my feet pedaling fast. I tried to climb the hills with a lot of power, telling myself that I didn’t really have to do the crit if my legs felt too tired afterward…

I hammered away, and rocketed down the hills. Finally, I saw a girl who had started 1min in front of me. Interestingly enough, on the uphills, I’d gain ground on her, but in the downhills she’d lengthen our gap. But, she was on a road bike, and I had my Plasma. The laws of physics were against me. My bike was heavier, more aero, and had bigger gears. Whatever.

The TT was 14mi, and I was glad when I was nearing the finish. My legs were burning, but it felt good, and I felt good. I felt strong. I felt redlined. I had no idea where I finished after I crossed the line- Annie and I disassembled our bikes and headed onward to the Crit.

Crits are insane. This crit was especially insane. The course was 1.2mi, and finished in a very steep uphill. It was not what I expected, but I didn’t really know what to expect. The Women’s Cat 3-4 were the first group to go, and we were in for 7laps. There weren’t many of us, but we were all tough.

After a few laps, the groups spread out. I did a bit of riding on my own. I tried to work with other women. I would yell “Let’s go get ’em” or “Come on, stay on my wheel!” as I’d go by. I was absolutely digging the opportunities to pass and get passed. I would pull up to a girl and try to get her to go with me. Because the field was so small, I think there was little room for attacking. The one large pack (of only 4-5 women) that pulled away at the beginning fell apart by lap 5. I started to gain on the women one by one. Every time I’d finish a lap, the announcer would say my name and tell everyone that I was his darkhorse and that this weekend’s races were my first road races ever. He then announced, to everyone, that I had won the time trial. The announcer, turns out, was the leopard-printed dude that helped me before the TT. In the end, I came across the line in 4th, having pulled away from the pack but not quite catching the third place woman. But, for my first crit against some really tough women, I was stoked.

And I had to make sure the announcer was right.

Had I really won the TT?

Heck yeah! For women’s Cat 3-4, I was 1st. And, my time was the 3rd fastest on the day for women across categories, only parts of a second out of 2nd. That was cool.

Road racing is hard. There’s strategy, and there’s grit. All in all, I think I am hooked. The crit was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, but it was a lot more tough. Oofta!

After the race, Annie and I had a german-fare lunch and tasted some wine at the Stone Hill Winery (which is where the crit took place). We watched some of the mens races and part of the Women1-2-3 crit, and then took off for home. My friend Kenny G was to be coming to town to race the Go! St Louis half marathon the next day. I met up with him and his friends at the WashU track meet, and we then had a delicious pre-race dinner of spaghetti at my apartment.

The next day, I dropped Kenny G off at the race and then grabbed a cup of coffee to prep myself as the world’s best spectator. It was hot, and I felt bad for the racers. I also felt relieved to not be racing that day.

After Kenny finished (he was 44th overall!), we sat on a bench under a tree for a bit while we waited for his friends to finish the full marathon. The day got more miserable, as temps rose and the breeze never really picked up. Apparently, marathoners were asked to turn around at the half marathon turnaround if they weren’t there by a certain time, and quite a few runners went to the med tent.

I’m super-stoked that Kenny and his friends could come down to race. It was great to be a spectator, and I am really excited about living in a bigger city where races are more frequent and I have more opportunity to watch and cheer and volunteer. Spectating is tiring, though- I had to take a nap after standing around all day!

Mizzou Rule #1: Never leave home without an umbrella

Update: My student loan check came through, so I am no longer desperately scraping for pennies to pay for my groceries. Woohoo! Thanks everyone for your thoughts and wishes.

If anyone finds this red hat, let me know!

My first day of work was not too outrageous. On the way in, I decided to walk to the Skinker Forest Park Ave Metrolink, which is a little more than a mile from my apartment, instead of taking the bus there. Somewhere between the Link and the Central West End, I lost my beloved hat. This would prove less than beneficial as the day’s events progressed. As an aside, I absolutely LOVE the Metrolink and am really excited about Saint Louis’s public transportation system, especially since employees of BJC and WashU get free passes.

I was about thirty minutes early to my form signing appointment, so I loitered in front and in the lobby of the bank. Eventually, the stack of papers was set in front of me in a specific order and all the things I’d need to know about being a post doc research scientist at WashU were in place. That is, except most things went over my head. I need a UPass, not a Metropass? I need a WUSTL key with a new password every five minutes? But I can’t get that for 24hrs to 30 days after I start? Oh, no wait, the UPass can take up to 30days, but the WUSTL key can take how long? Why is my email different than my computer log-in ID? Whatever, I’ll figure it out eventually.

It started to rain during the meeting, and the walk back to the medical school was dreary. I got situated at my desk, couldn’t log in to my computer, and started reading. The grumbly stomach started and I realized I hadn’t eaten since 6am (it was now 2pm), so I headed out into the blusteryness for some soup at Pickles Deli. And it was good (try their black bean and steak soup if they have it next time!). The soup was great, and I headed back to the office for some more reading.

Unfortunately, the rain decided to fall harder and in larger drops during early afternoon, and it just so happened that I needed to head home early to get my occupancy permit. I also didn’t have a hat, or a rain coat, or an umbrella. Instead of buying one at the bookstore (read my last post if you are curious why I wouldn’t do such a thing), I braved the weather. Of course, the MetroLink was dry. But the bus stop, not so much. While waiting for the #16 bus, a nice, young Chinese student offered to let me stand beneath his umbrella and we chatted while we waited. Hopefully I will run into him again and can share some chocolate under better weather conditions.

By the time the #16 bus came, I looked like a drowned rat, and I had to change my pants, shoes, and coat before heading out to City Hall to get my permit. But, now that the permit is taken care of, my list of “must-do’s” is dwindling even smaller, and I am feeling a little better about things every day.

I also learned my lesson: Never leave home without an umbrella. Actually, since I am still on the cheap for the next few months, I plan to just carry my rain jacket in my bag wherever I go. Even if its sunny and blue skies. I just don’t trust the weather in this state quite yet…

Starting the newest chapter

In the last year, I have come to appreciate so many things that I might otherwise take for granted. Sometimes I am embarrassed about the little brat I have been in the past- when I’ve been too demanding of others. Sitting here, alone in my apartment, I am now- for the first time in my life- living completely on my own. I don’t have roommates, and it’s not just a short-lived thing, where my roommates are gone for a few weeks. I’m really, seriously living by myself. Now. At the age of 27.

It’s not that I really want to live by myself. It’s not that I crave that independence, or that I hate living with people, or that I am grumpy and antisocial. No, I have a feeling I will be reaching out to others as soon as the dust settles. But it’s going to be weird to not have someone there to talk to on my way home from work, to cook dinner with, to push me out the door for fun adventure. Oh, woe is me, right? Here I am, sitting by myself in my huge, new kitchen without anything simmering on the stove, in a new city with no friends, and I’m complaining. And that’s not what I want to do. I’m doing this all wrong.

I am happy. I am grateful. I am so ever thankful. I really, truly am.

I’m thankful for the safe drive, albeit stressful, that Baberaham and I had on our way to St Louis from the Upper Peninsula.  And I’m especially thankful for Baberaham for taking the reigns of the UHaul truck and navigating it through white-out conditions, rain, and winds for 800 miles.

The first 100 miles of our drive

I’m especially thankful for Baberaham- his time, his patience, and his help has been amazing in so many more ways than I can describe here. I can honestly say that without him, I wouldn’t be here, starting this new chapter of my life. He has done a phenomenal job of getting me unpacked, helping me settle into my new place, and most importantly, making me laugh.

Kid tested, but moms would not approve

I’m thankful for my new home, for arriving to this new and unknown city and having a roof over my head. I’m thankful that my new apartment is on the second floor, so that the first night I was in this new city, I wasn’t panicked about the flash flood warnings that were going off. I’m thankful for my landlord who is trusting and my neighborhood which seems safe.

Flash flood warnings the first night

I’m thankful for my parents who are worried about me even though I’m 27 years old; parents that would do anything they could to make sure their daughter is safe and happy. I’m thankful for their enthusiasm, their excitement, their concern. I’m thankful for their care packages that had just about anything I would really, truly need to get by, including instant mashed potatoes and soap. It’s the little things, really.

I think the only thing that wasn't in this box was a gallon of milk

I’m thankful for having friends and family that are truly the best this world can offer, who will stand beside me and help me through any hurdle I might have. Generic? Probably. But I am truly blessed. I am absolutely, positively, 100% grateful for the wonderful, thoughtful, and truly selfless people that are in my life.  I have friends that will go for a run with me as my “farewell party”- friends that will house me and feed me and not care that I’m just passing through. This move has been one of the most forthright in underlining the relationships I’ve established and the importance of the people in my life.

Being so far away now doesn’t mean that I don’t have those people in my life anymore. It’s like a rainbow where I can’t see the other side- just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t be there. And the amazing thing about rainbows is that they often show up before the rain has stopped, to bring a smile and a sense of peace. I hear too often that it’s hard to find genuine people, which surprises me because I feel like I’ve been surrounded by truly genuine, honest, caring people for the last three and a half years. I have friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and loyalties that I will hold for years to come. I have no doubt that the relationships I’ve made in the most recent chapter of my life will continue, and get stronger, throughout the rest of my book.

And I have no doubt that I’ll see a rainbow in the sky every day that I am here in this new place. Does that seem overly optimistic? I don’t think so. I have so much to look forward to, to be thankful for. I am experiencing something in my life that most people don’t have the opportunity to have. I am pursuing my dreams, I’m nervous and scared and afraid but most importantly, I’m excited. And I think I am ready. What will this next chapter bring? I can only imagine, but I know it will be more and more and more of the wonderful and exciting. More of the love and the thanks and the challenges and the triumphs. I am ready.

I know where the other side of this rainbow is...