Sunday, May 30, 2010

Surprise! We're in Vermont!

Spontaneous travel is not really our thing, so it's kind of a big deal that I am blogging from a hotel room in Vermont.  Another thing I'm not usually very good at is pulling off surprises, so it's also a big deal that our trip had an ulterior motive AND we pulled it off without a hitch.

About two weeks ago, Alan and I were having one of, like, thirteen summer logistical planning conversations to date involving running plans, kids camps, my vacation time, tenting in Acadia, etc during which we decided to forgo our usual Memorial Day house-party  with "the gang" [thanks for understanding, guys: we hope you had a great weekend!] and instead drive to Vermont to:

a) visit my sister (Helen), brother-in-law (Rich), and niece/god-daughter (Samantha) who frequently come to Maine and often suggest we go see them and

2) surprise my friend/running mentor Emilie of onemominmaine by showing up to cheer for her at the Vermont City Marathon.

So...we carefully made our plans and giggled about them with several mutual friends.  We shot emails back and forth with Helen, got an awesome hotel rate thanks to her work, scoped out marathon info and running routes on GoogleEarth, packed a giant bag of road snacks, made more trips to WalMart in 3 days than we have in 3 months, and crafted "Go Emilie!" posters.

We got on the road Friday morning--later than we had planned, but we had also allowed more travel time than we really needed, so we still arrived in beautiful St. Albans, VT in time for dinner at Hoss' Dogg House, a tiny roadside stand with the BEST FRIES ON THE PLANET.  Then it was off to the hotel for reading aloud (we're working our way through Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series) and a good night's sleep.

 On Saturday, after an awesome hotel breakfast featuring waffles you make yourself with the flip-over waffle iron built right into the counter, we met up with Helen & Sam at the local Farmer's Market where Nancy had an orange tea cake that was heavenly. After that, Alan and Nancy went running but that's going to be a separate post, partly because we have to go back tomorrow to take pictures of where we ran, for posterity. Later, we had dinner at Helen's, then it was back to the hotel and early to bed.

Sunday (today), we got up early and drove to Burlington to see Emilie.  Here is the picture that sums up her reaction to seeing us at several points throughout the course, screaming her name insanely. She definitely did not expect to see us and this shot is totally "Wait, what?! Why are you here??"

Further explanation to follow in a future post.  After watching 3600 people run a marathon, I'm a little ashamed to say it, but I'm exhausted.  And everyone else is snoring, so that's all for tonight!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Frederick G. Jones: October 5, 1938-May 15, 2010

My post about Fred has been a long time coming--I've formulated several versions in my head over the last few weeks--but grief, I've learned, is truly a process, and I guess I needed to come out the other side before I could commit my feelings here.  Of course, doing so now is yet another part of my grieving process, so please bear with me if I wax overly poetic...

Fred Jones was an accomblished and beloved teacher, musician, scholar and so much more to so many people. I was fortunate enough to meet him when I was 11 years old. (read: young, impressionable, awkward, lacking confidence and direction). After my parents, he was the single strongest influence on my development as human being. He taught me to sing, understand, and truly appreciate choral music in the Anglican tradition. He also taught me about architecture, archaeology, spirituality, religious history and traditions, music theory, british history, and more. He taught me the value and true power of committment, hard work, love, patience, respect, integrity, knowledge and understanding. He provided a model example of how to live a worthy life.

I wrote him a letter for his 25th anniversary/retirement from St. John's and when I found a copy of it a few days after he died, I was deeply relieved to be reminded that I had actually put my feelings for him into words and that he had read and understood them fully. I am comforted by the thought that he knew I loved him and how much, even though we didn't talk about it much. I regret that we hadn't really talked recently. I wish I had had the chance to tell him about my new-found running hobby, which is really the latest stage of my development into a stronger, more passionate human being with a slightly better understanding of her place in the world. I have been thinking of him often while I run, and hope that he will check in every now and then to watch my progress.

I have all sorts of imaginings about where he is now and what he might be doing in his personal Valhalla. Pubs are involved, and a guided tour through ancient times to answer at long last the mysteries of the ancient Celts (by this time, he's the one giving the tours saying "it's just a short walk to Silbury Hill where..."). I also imagine him shaking hands with my high school English teacher, Nancy Gilles, who will say something dry and sarcastic about how much cancer stinks, and at least he didn't have to go through the long battle she did, and "Really? They haven't beaten that #*$%#* yet?!?"

Fred leaves a legacy of former Bapst students and former choristers and, of course, the choir itself.  Last Saturday, St. John's was overflowing with people and their love for Fred, for learning and for making music.  The choir was packed like sardines with an extra person in every row and two-apiece on the alter rail cushions.  Rehearsal the Thursday prior was also well-attended and despite the circumstances there was such a feeling of comeraderie and mutual affection that for a few moments it felt like "the old days" when the choir was in its hay-day and we all worked hard, but the music just flowed....  I took a certain pride in representing the continuum of Fred's 30 years at St. John's: there were two of us singing up there of the five original girls choir members.  It was really good to reconnect with Amy and so many others.

The week between Fred's death and his memorial service was a truly bizarre experience for me.  The telephone grapevine spread the news on Saturday night.  On Sunday, a brief service was held in the chapel for choir members before we warmed up to sing the regular 10am service.  It was heart-wrenching and re-opened the flood-gate of tears but did help us all pull it together a bit to do the work we needed to do.  We sang Call to Remembrance as an introit before processing and I felt better having offered that up to him.  The rest of the service contained music that was largely--blissfully--free of Fred connotations. Throughout the rest of the week, I spent more time on Facebook than ever before (which isn't saying much because I rarely get on fb).  Several groups had popped up where people shared (originally) ideas to help Fred and his family, and (later) memories and notes of sympathy.  I created an event to invite former choristers to come sing with us and share logistical info.  The most amazing thing about reading all these comments and replies was the list of reasons why people could not attend: new-born twins, a baby on the way, great distances such as Honolulu, West Africa, London, California, and jobs that could not be walked away from easily.  And many people came despite these things.  All this was truly a testament to Fred's far-reaching influence and the deep impressions he made on so many.  I'm calling the communications of that week "e-grieving" and they were strangely personal, frank and heartfelt, considering the media.

The memorial service was difficult, but it was also beautiful and I felt proud of how we honored Fred.  The program was filled with perfect quotes and readings and I will write more about those when I remember to bring the booklet home from my cubby at church.  I definitely need to read up on Fred's favorite authors, and also on Fred himself.  His book arrived in the mail last Friday and I've only browsed it thus far. During the service I felt like I was re-experiencing my whole life in waves: I was a child singing with my childhood friends, I was a young woman being married in the church, and I was a mother comforting her children.

There are so many more things that I've been feeling and thinking and just don't have the energy to write about just now.  It's been draining these last few weeks.  Meanwhile, here are links to the obituary, and a beautiful article in the BDN that Meg Haslett interviewed me for (or was that a therapy session?).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Animal Orphanage 5K

The weekend after the Healthy High, the Marks family decided to be spontaneous.  James and Madeline were really revved up to get involved in this whole fitness obsession and we really wanted to encourage that enthusiasm.  So, we skipped church (sorry, Mother Rita! sorry, choir!) and attended the Animal Orphanage walk/run in Old Town.  It was a great cause and a fun event that included participants of all shapes, sizes, and paces, canine as well as human.
Alan ran the course and shaved 16 seconds off his time from Tuesday. Yay Daddy!

I walked it with James and Madeline (Nana Mary went shopping and met us at the finish).   J and M were so jazzed up by the whole atmosphere and by having race bibs pinned to their shirts which made it really fun for me, too.  They both worked hard to walk at a good clip and we only stopped once early on to dump the water out of their bottles (too heavy and one was leaking).  They were getting tired about 3/4 of the way through, but Madeline, in particular, kept her chin up and spouted affirmations like "I can do this!" to keep herself motivated.  I was so proud of them and--even better--they were proud of themselves.  Here's an action shot:

And here's the four of us savoring the moment (Jeremy took the picture!):

Catching Up: Finally a Post About The Music Man

On April 9, 10 and 11, all three Marks children performed in The Music Man Junior at Next Generation Theatre.

They had a fantastic time going to rehearsals twice a week starting in January and hanging out, laughing, dancing, singing and acting with a great bunch of kids ranging from age 6 to about 14.  The directors and choreographer were in their late teens--vibrant, fun, talented and super-enthusiastic.  You just couldn't ask for better role models than these.  The kids made new friends and learned what it means to put up a real show from start to finish.  I think they really get that live theatre is something bigger than the sum of its parts.

Jeremy played one of the townspeople and a member of the boys band.  Per the actors, he was the darling of the cast,  and he had us in stitches with some wardrobe difficulties the first night (at least he had his underwear, though, which is more than we can say for the dress rehearsal!).

Madeline played Gracie Shinn, the mayor's youngest daughter.  She endured hot rollers for three days in a row and a giant pink bow in her hair.  She knew her lines, her songs, and her choreo cold from early on and just glowed on stage.

James played Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman bent on revealing Harold Hill's scam.  He worked hard to learn a couple very difficult speeches, while the Rock Island song at the opening of the show was apparently a piece of cake.  But the really big deal was getting fake-kissed by Marion!

They all did great and we truly enjoyed watching the shows.

The cast party at the end was a sea of red tee-shirts, sharpies and more cupcakes than I've ever seen in one room in my life.  They would wear those shirts every night and every day if we let them.