Thursday, August 23, 2007

rain is an excellent crowd thinner

Last Saturday I went to Six Flags Great America with friends from my small group. We kept a wary eye on the weather forecast all week long, and groaned a bit as the chance of rain went from 30% to 60% to "you're definitely gonna get wet." And rain it did, from a light drizzle most of the morning (including the 2 hours we waited in line to ride Superman) to several episodes of complete downpour in the afternoon. Jenn, in a move of brilliant forethought, packed colorful ponchos for all of us, so while we spent much of the day chilled and damp from the knees down, we managed to stay fairly dry, and more than once our roaming poncho posse drew covetous glances from others who were not so lucky, and rather more wet. Sticking it out through the rain while the crowds thinned meant that by about 6pm we could walk up to just about any ride and have our butts in the seat in 10 minutes or less. Pretty rad. We rode a few coasters twice in a row, including Batman, which is cooler than I remembered (especially from the front row) and the Demon, which hurts just as much as I remembered. Also, in a Great America first for me, I took on the "Dare Devil Dive" with Melissa, which is where they put you in a harness (kind of like wrapping you up in a rug) , pull you up really high, and then drop you so that you swing back and forth with a great view of the park. Super fun.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Food for Thought

"Choosing joy over bitterness doesn't mean slapping a silly grin on your face. And it's not about being bubbly, perky or giggly. Let's face it, sometimes happy people can be a bit annoying. Joy goes much deeper than any facial expression. And it's more intense and real than fleeting happiness. In his play Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare understands this solemn quality of joy, writing, 'Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.' How perfectestly said.

"Author and teacher Gary Thomas raises the question that perhaps God is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness. That the real purpose of the Christian life is to make us holy — not happy. The first time I heard this concept I was actually a little relieved. Personally, I'd rather not measure my life by its moments of happiness, but by knowing that the Lord will never give up on trying to make me holy. For I know that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it."

- Kara Schwab, in "Choose Joy"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Travel Album

I've been home for a week now, and think my body has finally adjusted. Though I've had some really good conversations with friends that have helped me debrief some of my experiences, I feel like my head and my heart still have some processing to do. Talk is good, but there's something about putting it down in words that really makes me size up what I've experienced. August has rapidly become a very busy month and I haven't found (or better, made) the time yet to do a lot of reflection or reporting on my trip in writing. However, last night I did spend an unintentional four hours going through my photos and putting them online (when I got to my original stopping point around hour 2, there was a storm raging outside so I decided to stay and keep working until it let up). Here's a sampling:

The full set can be viewed on my flickr site. I ended up with quite a few pics that I'm really happy with - some for their sentimental value, some for their artistic value. Enjoy!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Harry vs. Jet Lag

The past three nights I have struggled to keep my eyes open as I've driven home from various locations. I arrived back in Chicago on Monday afternoon, forced myself to stay up until 9:00 (which was 5am Romanian time), and then climbed gratefully into my own bed and succumbed to the weariness of travel and over a week of hot days, short nights, and constant activity. 12 hours later I awoke, refreshed, glad to be home, and feeling like maybe that one marathon snooze had licked the time difference. Not so. I was fine until I got behind the wheel Tuesday night to drive home from Chicago. I had the radio cranked and was pinching myself and biting my cheeks the whole way in an effort to make it home before my heavy eyelids declared victory over my will to stay alert. Wednesday was the same - I felt fine all throughout the day, then when it was time to drive home after my stint at B&N fatigue hit and once again I pinched and prayed my way home. I thought that surely by yesterday my body would have adjusted, but again last night on my way home from church, getting behind the wheel triggered sleepiness and I fought to stay alert. When I got home at 10:30 common sense told me to go to bed, my body ached to go to bed, but my brain? My brain was determined to stay awake long enough to make it through the last 100 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I had found a copy of the British edition in a bookstore in Romania the day it was released around the world, and decided that would be my souvenir. I started reading it on the flight from Milan to Chicago, bonding with the college kid sitting next to me, who was fighting his own fatigue from a week-long soccer tour in an effort to finish book number 5 before we reached the States. As he read the climactic clash at the book's end, I smiled as he sat hunched over the book, quietly laughing and gasping in turn as the scene unfolded, occasionally turning to me to ask questions or discuss the significance of something that had just happened.

I made it about half-way through HP7 before we touched down at O'Hare, and continued to fill most spare moments of wakefulness with reading over the past few days. I read on and on, wanting to know how it all ends and yet not wanting it all to end. And then last night (or more accurately, early this morning), buoyed by some Diet Coke and more than a little adrenalin, I reached the satisfying conclusion. Well done, J.K. Rowling. Well done, Harry.

As I closed the book, my mind still whirring with how it all turned out, I found myself wanting to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again, to catch and savor some of the elements I'm sure I missed or rushed through in my eagerness for the story to unfold. I will, however, save the rereading for a later time, because also released while I was out of the country was First Amongst Sequels, book number 5 in Jasper's Fforde's Thursday Next series, that I have been eagerly anticipating for quite some time. So, from an England full of wizards and spells I turn to an England full of literary detectives and narrative mayhem. Hurrah!