"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Getting to Texas Via Camera Phone

Once again, our annual Texas treck was upon us.  This has been a blur of a summer because it has been jam packed with house guests, projects, day trips, school work (tons for me) and the typical stuff summer entails on a normal basis.  I haven't had time to catch my breath.

My dad (aka The Gov) flew in very late on Tuesday night.  After visiting and finally getting to bed about 1:00 a.m. the next day came early with loads of preparations for our trip.  Even though I started packing at 9:00 that morning, I wasnt completely finished until 10:00 that night.  I can't explain how much brain power goes into packing for six people to make a two week trip 1,300 miles from home. 

Ready to load into the van the night before.  This isn't everything- some stuff was already in the van and luggage carrier. 

We hit the road at 8:00 on the dot.  When making these trips, I am a stickler for staying on schedule!!!

We stopped for lunch in Cortez, Colorado.  We grabbed food from Sonic and took it to the little city park.  Normally we eat at a sit down restaurant when we stop for lunch, but we went this route instead and it was wonderful to let the kids run around and use some of their pent up energy!

Stopping for cold drinks in Gallup, NM.

Nasty truck stop bathrooms!!
We finally pulled into our hotel in Albuquerque around 8:45.  I ordered pizza and took the kids down to swim while Dad waited in the room for the pizza to come.  Then we headed back to eat and the kids were finally asleep sometime around 11:15.  Looooong day. 

Missing Daddy back home.
After breakfast in the hotel, we were back on the road at 9:00. 

Each time we pass this sign on I-40, my heart expands.  I know it's still seven hours to home, but it feels so close!

About five miles west of Amarillo, right off the freeway, we always pass these crazy looking cars sticking out of the dirt.  It's called Cadillac Ranch and this year I suggested we pull off and check it out.  Gov had never stopped there either, and he was interested in it.  The air was hot, dry, and horribly windy.  In fact, we were only there for maybe twenty minutes, but I got a bad wind burn in that little amount of time.  There were a million cans of half used spray paint and people go in and paint the cars.  It was a cool little place an we can now say that after all these trips, we finally stopped at Cadillac Ranch.  Then it was onto Amarillo and our traditional lunch stop at Fazoli's.

Nasty wind almost blew us away!!

David Bowie is that way?  Don't mind if I do!
Two days in the car does this to people.

Pulling into Fort Worth and seeing the skyline always makes my heart swell.  It's home.

The Gov had undoubtedly just told me a very dirty joke here, thus the look on his face!

Hailey's crazy hair at the end of the trip.
We got to Granana and the Gov's a little before 9:00.  We stopped to pick up chicken, okra, hush puppies, and mashed taters on the way to the house and it was like seeing Mecca pulling into the drive off of the highway.  This place is home to me.  Uncle Philip and Granana were there waiting for us and the party ensued the second we walked in the door, and didn't stop until late into the night.  Getting kids to go to sleep on the first night is always a challenge, but it's worth it.  I love these trips.  I love the two full days I have my Pop to myself.  With the exception of a very heated discussion about religion (sometime around Shiprock NM that resulted in my dropping some really filthy words his way) Gov's and my time in the car was great.  I love that guy and I cherish our trips together. He is never at a loss of a dirty joke or inappropriate story and I am in stitches with laughter for 1,300 miles.  Being a McCorkle means being crass and and loud and irreverent and laughing...and I love it.  It's who I am. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Another Week With Paul- Part III

Late on Wednesday night Cody, Paul, and I were downstairs watching a movie (we introduced him to Bill and Ted).  Paul got a message from one of the guys in his caravan saying they were coming back a day early and they would collect him the next day, so he needed to meet them.  He came in an told us and all three of our hearts sank.  At first we thought we had him until Saturday, then Friday, and now he would be going back on Thursday.  When we all went to bed, Cody and I laid there and were filled with disappointment.

Thursday morning was sobering.  I made him a traditional (I think?) Irish breakfast of fried potato bread with a runny fried egg.  I gag at runny eggs, so it really was a labor of love for me to do that.  His mom had included different breads in the care package and he was excited to have potato bread. 
Runny egg.  Eeeeeeew.
After breakfast I got the kids ready to make our journey down to central Utah.  I got them in their Gort na Mona attire and took these pictures.  I cherish them. 

As soon as I was done taking pictures, the kids started piling on Paul.  He took that kind of abuse every day he was with us!

While I finished getting myself ready, I was in the bathroom doing my hair and trying to control tears.  I felt like we had ripped the bandaid off, and now I was doing it again.  When Paul said he wanted to come back to stay during the week, I had conflicting feelings.  On one hand I wanted him to come back because we adored him so much.  On the other hand, I knew that the more time we spent with him, the harder it would be to let him go again.  And I was right.  All week I tried to prepare myself for it, but I wasn't very successful.  My dad happened to call me while I was crying and I talked to him about it and he said it must be a blessing and a curse to feel things so passionately in life.  His emotions are very middle of the road.  He doesn't have low lows, but he doesn't have high highs either.  He said sometimes he wished that he felt things as strongly as I do, and I assured him that it felt like a curse most of the time.  We had a bit of a philosophical discussion about how the universe connects us to each other and how our random meetings of people aren't random at all.  I felt a little better as I hung up with him.

But then I recounted a conversation I'd had the day before at Seven Peaks with a stranger.  While Paul took the kids to rent tubes, I was digging through my bag for something when a woman camped next to us said "I hope you don't mind me asking, but is that young man with you a foreign exchange student?"  I kind of laughed and explained our situation to her.  She was intrigued, and told me that her family had been contemplating taking in an exchange student at some point.  She asked me if it was something we would do again.

I told her no, it was not.

She first thought our experience must have been a negative one, but I assured her it had been a wonderful experience, but that we had no idea how hard it would be to send our new family member back home, half way across the globe.  I told her what it felt like for me right then, and she said she had never considered that aspect of it.

Paul finished packing everything up and we left the house.  We needed to be to Green River by 4:00 to meet his group passing back through.  Cody asked that we stop by his office on the way out of town so he could say goodbye.  When he came out to meet us, I was taken aback by his tee shirt and jeans, but then I remembered that it was his "Friday" because the office would be closed on the 4th!  We took some photos and we left.

We grabbed fast food on the way out of town and hit the freeway.  I had made that drive at least a thousand times on the way to and from Texas, but never with my buddy sitting next to me.  I could talk to that kid for hours, and I hoped he didn't mind.  I loved that we had three hours to visit on the way down there, but with each passing mile, the pit in my stomach grew.  At one point he said he didn't want to be a baby and cry, and I asked him if he'd seen how puffy and red my face was that morning.  He chuckled and said he knew, but I promised not to get emotional on him.  Paul's ideas about life seem well beyond his eighteen years.  I don't know if it's that European kids mature that much faster than Americans, but he really is a special young man.  We talked about how sometimes we run into people in life who we feel some kind of familiarity with, as if it's not the first time we've met.  It's almost a feeling of dejavu, and I told him how we felt like that with him from the first day.  And then I thought of what my dad had said, and I thought maybe he was right.

Those three hours went quickly for me.  We pulled into the desolate town of Green River and found our meeting place.  As we approached it, Paul said "I have a really bad feeling that these guys won't be here."  Sure enough, their car was nowhere to be seen.  We got out of the car and I took the kids in to use the bathroom and stretch their legs.  Paul had been trying to call one of the guy's cell phones since we left Salt Lake, but it always went straight to voicemail.  He kept wanting to make sure we were on the same page with them and would be meeting them at the right time.  In Green River, he finally got through to someone, only to be told that they were nowhere near Green River, or Utah for that matter.  They were in between Vegas and the Grand Canyon!  They had decided they  couldn't go to the USA with out seeing the giant hole in the earth.

Paul about came unhinged.  He was furious.  After about half an hour of talking to them and trying to make heads or tails of what to do, we loaded back into the van and made our way back to Salt Lake.  His caravan was at least eight hours from Green River, and there was no way he was staying there in the middle of nowhere to wait on them, only to be picked up in the middle of the night by a group of overly tired drivers.

I wasn't mad, but I was annoyed with the rest of the group for the lack of communication.  we now had a van full of very tired, cranky, hungry kids and another three hour drive ahead of us.  Before we knew Paul would be leaving a day early, we had made plans to go see the huge firework show at the local gold course that night.  But we would be getting back into town way too late to get there in time to find parking.  So now what?
The good news is that we got to keep this guy for another night.  None of us could complain about that!  On the way back from Green River, we were in and out of contact with the caravan trying to decide what they should do.  Because I am very familiar with the area and the distances between places, I did the math and told them the best thing they could do was drive up to our place, stay the night, then hop on I-80 the next morning and get to Denver by way of Wyoming.  It would be adding an hour and a half to their entire trip, but it would keep them from driving through the night and they would have a place to crash.  For some reason (still unknown to me) the guys in the cars were certain that the Grand Canyon was only six hours from Denver.  I laughed and screamed our of frustration!!  Finally Paul convinced them to come to Salt Lake for the night, and they agreed.  So we started making plans to have ten extra people at our house for the night.  Air mattress and sleeping bags would be spread everywhere.

The caravan wouldn't be getting to our til the wee hours of the morning, so we decided to shoot off some fireworks in the front street with the kids before bed. 

We finally got kids in bed around midnight, then the three of us turned on Dumb and Dumber to watch while we waited on the group to get to our house.  Paul and I fell asleep.  Around 1:00 they called and said half the group decided to go on to Denver, but that half of them would be coming.  They got to our house right at 3:00 and everyone crashed right away.  Even though we hadn't slept much, Cody and I got up early to make a big breakfast for everyone. 
Coaches Kara from Wales, Jamie from Liverpool, Alister from Northern Ireland, Eric from Scotland, and Paul from Northern Ireland.  Yup, two Irish Pauls.

I made Paul one more special breakfast of potato bread and egg.  Then they finished packing everything up and loaded into cars to make the eight hour drive back to Denver.  It was a very short and sweet stop in from all those Europeans, but I'm glad some of them were smart enough to stop for the night.  I hugged Paul and told him to be safe.  I was right- saying goodbye a second time was harder than it had been two weeks before.  I've explained before what it's like, but those 24 hours were the hardest and slowest way to remove a band-aid. 

When I got back into the house, Seana had a message waiting for me on Facebook.  She asked how I was doing with him leaving, and I told her how much it stunk.  I said I felt like losing him was like losing all of them, and we had grown to adore each of them so much.  She said getting rid of a Ryan is like trying to get rid of a bad smell- you just can't.  I laughed.  

On Wednesday, Paul remembered that it was the three year anniversary of his Aunt Liz's death from cancer.  In the course of three weeks, I had learned so much about his family.  So much that I felt like I knew them.  Liz was his mother's sister, and like a second mother to Paul.  He told me all about what it was like for his family when she died, and my heart ached because I knew that pain firsthand.  This morning as Seana and I chatted, she said she didn't think it was a coincidence that Aunt Liz and Joseph died two years apart, almost to the day.  We concluded that something had taken place between those two souls in the life hereafter.  Maybe Joseph, being a seasoned spirit, was one of the people assigned to Liz when she crossed over.  And maybe they became fast friends, because it seemed like they were very similar.  Full of life, full of love, and full of spunk.  And maybe they got to talking about their families and the decided to connect them, and they helped to make it all happen- just like this.  Maybe it was to provide healing to two families hurt from tragedy.  So maybe it really was meant to happen like it did.  We don't think that Paul being placed with our family was an accident, or a random rotation of a spreadsheet.  For some reason, our families were supposed to meet.

Where we go from here is a mystery.  And as I've gone about the day with an emptiness in my heart, I'm trying to look at it like this- it's not the end of something, but the beginning of something fantastic.  We will see Paul again, and we will meet the rest of his family at some point.  I feel so blessed to have stumbled upon this amazing kid who has filled our lives with goodness.  And I'm grateful to his family for sending him across an ocean to have this experience, because it has enriched our little corner of the universe.  

I keep thinking about what my dad said about my passionate heart and it's ability to feel things so deeply.  A heart that loves easily, breaks easily too.  But I wouldn't want it any other way.

Until we meet again, Paul.  And until we meet the rest of you Ryans.  We look forward to a lifelong relationship with our new Irish family! 

Another Week With Paul- Part II

 I knew that Tuesday would be hard.  I don't know what it is about an anniversary, but they can evoke very strong emotions- conjure up all kinds of memories and feelings.  They can be good or bad, and this particular anniversary is always bad.  Joseph was killed at approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 1, 2009.  I dread that day every year, and this year was harder than any of them yet.  He's been gone for half a decade and it's a big milestone.  I stayed up very late on Monday reading old journal entries, looking at pictures and doing all kinds of "unhealthy" things to feed my emotions, like watching old videos of him.  And I did a lot of crying and fell asleep crying.  I didn't want to get out of bed on Tuesday and face the day.  But I finally got everyone up and ready and said "Let's go to brunch.  I'm not cooking."

Getting out of the house was just what the doctor ordered.  We went to Village Inn and we hit the trifecta.  #1- It was kids eat free day. #2- The World Cup was on the big TVs. #3- They had free wifi so Paul could sit there and chat with Chloe while we ate.  Perfect!  And Devin ate his first lemon and Paul caught it on video and it was pretty funny. 

 Then we went over to Smiths Marketplace so I could grab a few things, and we each ended up with new sunglasses.  Paul bought these, but I ended up getting "normal" looking ones instead of these beauties. 
 While in Park City the day before, I told Paul we should pawn the kids off and go get massages and pedicures.  I was half kidding, but it really sounded awesome.  Paul mentioned it again and I said "yeah, I wish!"  When we got home from the store, the kids ran down to Paul's room and attacked him on the bed...and I let them.  I closed the door and let him entertain them while I got some housework.  I think he secretly loved it!  While he was down there with the kids I called my favorite day spa and made him an appointment for an hour long massage.  Yeah, I love him that much!!  When I told him he was pretty dang happy. 
We dropped him off at the spa at 5:15 and I ran some errands while he got worked on.  When I picked him up a little over an hour later, he seemed punch drunk.  Yup, that's what an hour long full body massage will do!  Then we hit our favorite burger place, Five Guys, for dinner.  A-mahz-ing. 

 That night we were all camped out on the couch watching the traditional Joseph video, the same one I made for his funeral.  It's always cathartic to watch and the kids love seeing pictures of themselves with him.  While we were watching the video, I heard Cody's car pull up outside.  Cody had driven halfway to Twin Falls right after work to meet his dad who was bringing Ethan back home.  Cody was beat from being up at 5:00 that morning, working a full day, and driving to Idaho and back.  Ethan didn't know Paul was at our house, so Paul came up the stairs and surprised him when he walked in the door.  I was a little disappointed by Ethan's reaction, because when he left a week earlier he had been VERY upset and even cried.  But he is sometimes very hard to read (just like his daddy) and even though he was super happy and surprised to see Paul, he acted like it was no big deal.  Stinker. 

On Wednesday, we wanted to go back to Seven Peaks Waterpark and stay for longer than we had been able to on his first visit.  I even made arrangement for Garrett to go to the hourly daycare near us, so we didn't have to take him and worry about him the whole time.  We left the house a little after lunch and dropped Garrett off (as he threw a massive tantrum of disappointment when he knew we were swimming and he wasn't) and we made our way to the waterpark.  When I pulled in to park, the attendant informed me that almost 90% of the rides were closed for maintenance.  WHAT??!!  I pulled over and we brainstormed what to do.  We decided to drive down to Provo to the other Seven Peaks that we had never been to.  I HATE Provo and avoid that part of Utah at all costs.  But I sucked it up and drove the 45 minutes down there. 

We ended up having a good time, although the park was crazy crowded.  Upon learning that so much of the park was closed, it seemed that everyone in Salt Lake had the same idea as us.  Everything was going fine until Hailey got stung by a bee in the lazy river and it ruined things for her.  She ended up sticking around our camp while the rest of us went on some rides together.  We left the park a little after 5:00 to make it home in time to pick Garrett up. 

 When he got home, Cody was there and said that some packages were waiting for me on our bed.  I was soooooooo excited because I knew Paul's family had sent us something in the mail, and I knew what it was.  Paul's mom had gotten all of our kids jerzies to match Paul's Gaelic team back him, Gort na Mona.  She had sent me a picture of the shirts after she got their names put on the backs of them, and I could hardly keep the surprise.  Paul had no idea about it, so it was a big surprise for him!  The FOUR parcels had all kinds of goodies in them and it was the biggest treat going through everything.  I'm pretty sure I had a goofy grin on my face the whole time.  Paul called his family back home to let them know we were opening the parcels, so he was on the phone with them at the kids opened everything.  It was so fun!

Ethan's classic face in most pictures these days.  He is really good at being ten years old!

Paul's dad back home, showing off the shirts when they got them done!
 The last thing we found in the box was something fragile and wrapped in brown paper.  I opened it up and saw this.  I smiled so big as I read it, and then when I saw Paul's name on there, I started crying.  It felt like someone had reached into my chest and squeezed my heart.  His sister made this for us and I cried and cried and even got to talk to her on the phone.  I just LOVE Seana and I hope to God I get to meet her one day!  I hope that about all of his family because at this point, they feel like they ARE family to us.  It's hard to imagine that three weeks ago we didn't know them, and now we are all connected in a way that distance and time can't undo.  I am so thankful for whatever forces in the universe brought us all together, because we love and cherish them.  It was a fantastic night!!