an ode to my swedish brother

I was deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of my high school English teacher, Mr. Morris.

To say I was academically spoiled in high school would be a gross understatement. With the exception of 2-3 over the course of 4 years, I had some of the most incredible teachers, and Mr. Morris was one of those.

I first had him in 10th grade for Honors English. He had a very different teaching style from what I was used to; looking back he was more akin to a college professor than a high school teacher. He was very engaging and almost every class had us pulling our desks around into a giant circle for discussion. He respected our thoughts and opinions and I feel like he did an incredible job of treating his students as equals.  

We read some incredible books that year, some that are still on my favorites list.  He showed us the importance of buying your own copy of the book so you could underline passages and make notes in the margins. (Something I no longer practice, as I read 99% e-books, but a habit I still admire.)

If it wasn’t the 1st day of class, it was shortly after, when we discussed our shared Scandinavian heritage and from that moment forward, I was his Swedish sister. He would call me that in class, in the halls, and even mark up my papers that way. My friend Megan, who shared his last name, was simply “Sister.” A few other girls who also had “-son” names were his African sisters; although, I’m not entirely sure they were as enamored with their monikers as I was with mine.
Although I don’t believe even Mr. Morris had the power to make grammar interesting, the reading and the ensuing discussions were what made his class. Always a voracious reader, he did not instill in me a love of reading, but he nurtured it. He slowed me down, made me think about the choices authors made, whether it be of the language chosen or the plot device used or the overall meaning of the story, which allowed me to appreciate the authors and not just the stories.

I enjoyed 10th grade English so much, I made sure to sign up for his elective “Great Books” in 11th grade, which to this day remains one of my favorite classes I have ever taken. The name basically explains it all. He chose (great) books, we read (great) books, and we discussed (great) books. If you can believe it, it was not a wildly popular elective, so there were only 4-5 of us in my class which was perfect. A class small enough to allow time to fully explore the stories with enough people to have a variety of opinions made for great discussions. If there were tests or essays, I don’t remember them. I just remember reading. 

In 12th grade, I was back in his classroom for AP Literature and Composition. As almost all of us had been in his class in 10th grade and many of us had also taken his elective, it made for a very comfortable and close-knit group with a man we all greatly respected. 

He would often digress into anecdotes about his life including his time spent with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia including one shocking bit about how he had to kill chickens by hand complete with a demonstration.

He had kind words for all and he reminded me a bit of my dad, if my dad had been college educated, religious, and (mostly) bald. 

One of my favorite memories is only tangentially related to him, but it wouldn’t have happened without him. For some reason, Senior year, there was a volleyball tournament for our grade (maybe the school? who knows.) and the teams were English classes. So we, the AP kids, formed “The Morris Machines” and like the other classes, made shirts. Except ours, instead of using our names and numbers on them, we used the names of our favorite writers and punctuation. I was cummings “!”, of course. No idea how we did in the tournament, but we had a blast, and I wish I still had that shirt.

My absolute favorite memory involving his class was when we had a unit on love and were tasked with writing a memoir. This was, hands down, my favorite writing assignment in all my years of high school. (Actually probably my favorite up until I wrote an Anthropology paper on online dating in one of my later years of college.) I can’t remember the parameters, but I wrote about a date that I had gone on with a guy I had met at a concert the previous summer. 

This was possibly one of the only truly creative writing assignments we ever had, or at least the one with the least restrictions, and while my story was rooted in fact, I did take a little bit of creative license and fudged some details. 

I was incredibly proud of the story in which I told of the date that including the guy trying to kiss me and me turning away. (Still slightly embarrassing to recount.)

I don’t remember the grade, but I remember it was something I was truly proud of, I believe it was the first time I found my voice. Needless to say, I was much more of an over-sharer back then and posted the story to my live journal. 

Which just so happened to be linked in my AIM profile, and the fella in question still had me on his buddy list and read the whole thing. (Oh man, lj, aim, buddy list..takes me back.)

Talk about embarrassing. I believe I apologized and then promptly blocked him. I did use his real (first) name in the story, but do you know how many Matts are out there, Matt?

But back to the topic at hand, Mr. Morris was incredibly kind, incredibly smart and I believe he saw great things for all of us, so he pushed us. But he pushed us with a kind word, and a smile. And probably a Dylan song on his radio. 

Every summer, he would invite his newly graduated seniors on a walking tour of Pittsburgh. I remember getting the handwritten invitation in the mail, but was unable to go, as we were going to Hellfest in Nee Jersey for a sort of “senior trip.” As I have exactly zero fond memories of that trip, I wish I would have gone on the walk instead. 
Rest in peace, Mr. Morris. You were one of the shining stars of my academic career and I won’t soon forget the life* lessons you taught. 

*(Sorry, most of the grammatical lessons have long since vacated my brain, if you couldn’t tell by reading this.)

And indeed there will be time 

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” 

Time to turn back and descend the stair, 

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 

(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) 

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, 

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin— 

(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) 

Do I dare 

Disturb the universe? 

In a minute there is time 

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

 T.S. Elliot – The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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#goodbyewashpa

  

  
Today is my last day at my job. At the time of posting, I have made my last AM rush hour drive to Washington and will be prepping for my last PM rush hour drive home. I’m having lots of feelings about this. 

At the start, the job was such an amazing change from my prior position. I was busy all the time! I felt important! I got to interact with so many different departments!

But I was driving 48 miles each way and spending 2-3 hours in the car. Every. Single. Day. (I listened to a lot of podcasts.)

When I took the job, I knew the commute was going to be killer, but I told myself I would give it a year and then reasses. 

Well, a year in was just about the time we got Loki. Daisy was very self-sufficient and didn’t seem to care how long she was home alone. Loki’s got some separation anxiety and on the nights Keith couldn’t leave work on time, the poor dog was suffering. Couple that will the fact that I was suffering, and it was time. 

The field I have worked in for the past 6.5 years is rough. Lots of people can’t handle it, and the people that can are some of the most impressive people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. 

But I was outside of that. I was in the wings. And of course, as they have told me time and again, they couldn’t do their part without me, I just no longer cared. 

Not that I stopped caring about the people on a personal level, I just no longer had any buy in, so I decided to leave. 

I looked for a while, I had a few interviews, some that were very exciting, a few that were okay, and one that was flat out horrible, and then I was offered one of the exciting ones. And even outside of how I feel about the opportunity, it is 3.9 miles from my house. I was concentrating my search to a 20 minute radius, I never thought in a million years I would come within a 4 mile radius. (The horrible interview was actually 3 miles away but even that wouldn’t have swayed me.)

So, they offered, I negotiated some things, I accepted. I put in my two weeks notice and actually cried. Weird. Today is my last day and I will miss a lot about the job and the place and the people, but the time has come. Peace out, Washpa. 

for what it’s worth – it doesn’t hurt – don’t cry

About a month ago, I was at work and noticed that my eye kept watering. I’m no stranger to the random eye twitch or dry eyes so I thought little of it and went on with my day. Two days later, it was still going and was starting to become very annoying. Everyone kept asking why I was crying and I kept having to repeat that I wasn’t crying, my eye was just leaking for no apparent reason. 

“Is it your makeup? Allergies?”

Except it was only one eye and no itching, pain or discomfort of any kind. 

I posted a plea to Facebook and a friend of mine from highschool who is an optician suggested I try some allergy drop for a few days and if that didn’t help, make an appointment with the eye doctor. A few days later, no improvement so off to the eye doctor I went.

As the eye doctor came in the room, I explained my constant tearing and she said “Oh! It’s doing it now! It’s like a lake!” 

Which was so great because just like when you make a hair appointment and your hair starts to look great, typically by the time I get into a doctor the malady has cleared up. It was nice to have some justification for being there. 

She examined and poked and prodded and took a tiny pair of forceps and “removed a membrane” (?!) from my tear duct. It really hurt. I asked what would cause that and she stated that she had no idea but if that didn’t fix it, let her know and she would refer me to an eyelid surgeon.

By the next morning, the tears were already flowing again so I called for the referral. It took two weeks but I got in to an optimologist who did much of the same poking and prodding and also flushed out my tear duct. Which he did not warn me he was doing or what it would feel like so I had my head tilted back, he’s messing with my eye and all the sudden there is liquid dripping down my throat. I seriously thought he severed something for a second there. It was the most bizarre feeling I have ever felt in my life. 

He said nothing about a membrane ( I am skeptical about this “membrane”) but said that my tear duct was swollen so much it was barely open and it was also surrounded by scar tissue. 

When I asked what would cause something like that (maybe an eye doctor ripping off an imaginary membrane?) he asked if I ever had pink eye. I did, once, over a year ago. He said it could be due to that or that sometimes it just happens and they’re not sure why. I was given prescription drops to take down the swelling and I go back on Friday to follow up. 

I can’t tell if the drops have helped with the river of tears or if I have just gotten so used to constantly crying out of my right eye that I don’t even notice it anymore. Every time I think “Oh, it hasn’t filled up enough to spill over!” It goes and does again. 

I actually sat through 2 interviews wiping away tears and I couldn’t decide if it was more awkward to mention it or more awkward to pretend it wasn’t happening (I pretended it wasn’t happening.) And I got a request for another interview and a job offer so it couldn’t have been that bad! Or I’m just so awesome that they could overlook the fact that the right half of my body was just really, really sad. 

If the drops haven’t improved anything by Friday, I will have to have a procedure in which they put a stent in my tear duct for 6 months. It sounds like a blast. 

Add this to the laundry list of strange ways that my body rebels against me. Thirty, man. 

Goodbye, Daisy. 

  

Daisy was having a rough weekend. coughing every time she moved and labored breathing even when she didn’t move. I took her to the emergency vet this morning and they found fluid on her lungs. So much fluid, it had significantly decreased her lung volume. She was in pain when excited/stressed and uncomfortable even when not. The only option we were given was to drain the fluid and reassess after that. But the options after that were not positive. Best case scenario: the fluid would stay away for a month or two before coming back and needing to be drained again. She also likely had a tumor which was pushing on her esophagus (causing the cough) but they couldn’t see it due to the fluid. Regardless of our decision, it would have to be an aggressive treatment. And Daisy was a senior dog.   

  

So today, Keith and I made the impossible decision and said goodbye. My heart is broken. My sweet Daisy girl only had 5 years with us. They were good years and they were spoiled years and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the universe, but they were only 5 years. 

  

Last night she didn’t wake me up which is very unusual, she had woken me up in the middle of the night, every night for the past 2 years to go outside. I woke up on my own around 2 a.m. and went downstairs to lay with her on the floor. Her breathing was loud and sounded uncomfortable and even though in recent months she has scrambled away every time we try to cuddle her, last night she let me. I eventually got up off the floor and went back to bed but now I wish I had stayed longer. I think I knew. 

  

Every person that had ever met Daisy remarked on how sweet she was, how ladylike. She didn’t bark, she didn’t chew, she didn’t beg or jump until we accidentally taught her. Up until the end, she was always full of kisses. 

  

She was the most incredible soul I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and loving and I am going to miss her so much. 

  

2015 Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event #PghGBE

Today’s post comes from Sean of Sean’s Ramblings, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on In Pursuit of Happiness, where I get a little deep on happiness and unhappiness. It’s a bit outside the realm of what I post on this blog so hooray for guest blogging! As always, a HUGE shoutout to Alex at everybodylovesyou.net for arranging this even every year and the countless other cool things he does throughout the year. Head on over to his blog for a list of all the other blogs participating today, there’s some great stuff coming your way! Now, take it away, Sean!

Inspired by Katrina’s recent honeymoon posts, I thought I would share a never written about story from my not-so-recent honeymoon. Unlike most normal people, we decided that we didn’t want to go to the beach for our honeymoon. That’s what happens when you get married in August after dealing with several months of hot and humid weather. Instead, we went north and west to Vancouver and on an Alaskan cruise. I won’t get into the entire 10-day trip, how I came to appreciate boxed wine or the fascination of going to a grocery store in Skagway, Alaska. Today, I’m going to share my story of a bike excursion in the town of Hoonah, Alaska.

In the summer of 2004, Hoonah and Royal Caribbean reached some type of partnership to allow Royal Caribbean cruise ships the exclusive right to stop in the town of less than 1,000 people. Hoonah was able to cash in on the growing tourist industry while Royal Caribbean found a place to call their own. Hoonah rolled out the red carpet for the tourists and offered dozens of excursions for the Royal Caribbean passengers. My wife and I signed up for a bike ride in and around the town. This sounds like fun except for one small problem…I don’t know how to ride a bike.

As a kid, I was Lance Armstrong (minus the drugs) on training wheels. However, I fell off the bike soon after the training wheels were removed and decided not to ride anymore. I went through childhood walking or getting rides to where I needed to go, and when I got a driver’s license, who needed a bike anyway?

Back to Hoonah (which works well in the chorus of OutKast’s Hey Ya!), you may wonder why I signed up for a bike excursion when I don’t ride. Well, there’s a common expression “it’s like riding a bike.” So even though I didn’t know how to ride a bike, I figured that it wouldn’t be too difficult for a 29 year old male in reasonable shape. I figured wrong. I was still unable to keep my balance and fell or almost fell multiple times. 

Eventually, I told my wife to go with the rest of the group as I stayed behind. This ended up being great as I got a 1-on-1 tour of Hoonah with one of the guides. I met the mayor and police chief as I pedaled on the pavement and walked the bike on gravel. I learned a lot about the town and the tour guide and her friend, both students at the University of Alaska. Meanwhile, my wife and the rest of the group encountered a brief downpour outside of town and came back soaked while there was no rain in “downtown” Hoonah. 10 years later, my wife and I have not biked together again (well, except for 1 spin class).

The morale of the story: Not biking together leads to a happy marriage!


 

Hoonah Inlet by flicker user: slashvee 

two weeks!

dying. just added two winery stops to our itinerary. maui winery makes wine from pineapples. whatttttttttttt.

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(probably giving up on nablopomo soon. I’ve been pulling all kinds of overtime at work to make up for the fact that I only have 3 vacation days and our honeymoon is 12 work days long. yikes. the saddest thing is, I’ll only have about 2 days racked up by the time we leave. luckily 2 days are holidays so I’ll only have to take 5 unpaid days. still ugh. but leaving my house at 6:45am and getting home at 6:30pm doesn’t leave much time for blogging. or for bloggable events to occur. we’ll see.)

#toooldforundergrad update

I was going to blog but then I spent a combined 12 hours working on a lab report and I just finished and it is time for me to shower and go to bed.

I didn’t pick out clothes for the entire week and it’s incredible how much extra stress that has added for the week.

The good thing is I registered for classes and am applying for graduation on Friday. I’ll be taking Archaeological Theory (writing intensive) with a 400 year old professor…so that should be interesting. And then I have. 4 credit Independent Study for my GIS certificate (assuming I can swing a freaking C in this stupid class I’m in now). That should be fun. I’ll get to work on an actual GIS project which I feel woefully unprepared for, but I’m sure it will be fine. And I have the software and we have a dual monitor setup here so I can do all of my work at home.

And this time next year I won’t even remember what school is like. Except once a month when I am paying through the nose for my student loans. Sigh.

#mcwed video!

So what perfect timing! I posted my final photo-recap yesterday and my friend/videographer Jason sent me the link to the feature cut of our wedding video. It is 26 minutes long, so I don’t expect everyone to watch but it is so well done. It really captures the whole mood of the day, especially my fierce RBF in the beginning when I was so nervous about running over time.

I am SO GLAD I asked Jason do this video and even happier that he accepted. I KNEW he would do something incredible. While the photos are amazing and beautiful and incredible…it’s so wonderful to have a video to remember all that little stuff in between the camera snaps.

Once again, Jason is amazing and let me reiterate that this is his FIRST wedding video. He did such an amazing job on this, just imagine the next one! Or the one after! If you are getting married anytime in the near future in the PA/MD/DC area I strongly urge you to contact/hire Jason.

Keith + Katrina (feature cut) from Jason Martin on Vimeo.

#mcwed part 5

After we ate, we did our rounds talking to everyone and then it was time for cake! I didn’t even think about how awkwardly the cake table was placed, that’s where they had it on the layout…but it was kind of off in the back corner.

Wedding - Reception
Cake cutting is serious business.

Wedding - Reception
I fed Keith a small piece of cake and he tried to feed me this giant bite, hence my face. And his face. Just look at that mischievous grin.

Wedding - Reception

 

The cake was awesome, by the way. Lemony and delicious and I wish I had a piece right now.

 

wedding details

 

 

After that, it was time to dance. Keith and I danced to Adele – One and Only which is also the soundtrack to our wedding video trailer.

 

Keith actually picked the song. What a sweetie. I had picked something else, but he said it was too depressing. Haha.

Wedding - Reception

Wedding - Reception

Wedding - Reception

 

Then Keith and his mom danced to Pearl Jam – Future Days


Wedding - Reception

 

Wedding - Reception

 

Then my stepdad and I danced to Bellstop – Serenity

It took me a really long time to decide on a song…but then I had a stroke of genius to use a Bellstop song. Bellstop is composed of my cousin, Runar and his partner. Runar is my cousin on my dad’s side and lives in Iceland.  I thought it was a wonderful and subtle way to give a nod to my dad. There were lots of tears during this dance for sure.

 

Wedding - Reception

 

I had requested a photo of the entire wedding…so after our dances…they shut off the music to get everyone out on the floor for a photo.
Wedding - Reception

Love it. Most of my nearest and dearest. And then our DJ seamlessly went into “We are Family” and the partying began.

 

..to be continued…

All photos by Jonathan and Tiffany Cooper of hot metal studio.

 

wedding video trailer

My incredible friend Jason did our wedding videography and just sent me the trailer! I love it so much, I barely even have words. So incredibly happy. Probably going to watch it every day for the rest of my life. Jason, you are the best! If you are the in the MD/DC/PA area, hire Jason for everything. He is so talented!