Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Architect

Fall 2004, Western Mountains of Maine

I learned this week that Michal Cicala, my 2004-05 Slovakian exchange student, graduated from college as an architect. Fantastic!

Michal studied for six years at his university in the Czech Republic. During summers, he worked out on the west coast of the United States managing a sales team of international students. He learned a lot from that experience, especially managing people.

Michal used his exchange in Rumford to the max. He had a slew of friends, joined sports and activities like soccer and ski racing, and left a lasting impression among many folks in Rumford.

Over the years, Michal has kept in touch via email, Facebook, and letters. I share email letters each month with his family. Michal's sister Tania did a yearlong exchange in Maine just after Michal, and now their little brother Martin is gearing up for his year abroad.

I look forward to the day that I'll visit Slovakia and meet Michal's wonderful, warm, and successful family.

Here's to Michal... Happy Graduation! Much success! I'm proud of you.



Life's simplicity

Really, life's as simple as this: you roll in poop, you get a bath.

We had our first run of 2013 at Black Mountain today. The cross-country trails are snow covered and firm perfect for running or for skiing (with Universal Klister as a kick wax).

On the highest point of the XC trail, Bailey discovered a ripe, wet poop. He rolled and rolled in the mess until I saw him and screamed. Then, he rolled some more.

I tried to clean him up with snow, but that did not work. I tried tossing a treat in a stream--he got the treat but the water didn't affect the mess. So, as always, off to the back deck with buckets of warm water and an oatmeal dog shampoo with a lemony scent. I know it looks like he's smiling in these pictures, but I'm thinking he got some soap in his eyes.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Saying goodbye, but knowing it's not...

Bar Harbor, c. 2009
My sister Barbara died last week. For 8 years she lived with ovarian cancer, undergoing a dozen clincial trials and more than several surgeries. When her tumors began to grow over the past 6 months, she and her husband Ken faced the decision of her undergoing tumor debulking surgery.

After the surgery, in her chemo-weakened state, Barbara's kidneys began failing. She endured dialysis, transfusions, and other procedures, but her body could not recover. We moved her into hospice on a Sunday, and she died peacefully on a Tuesday afternoon with her husband and me by her side.

Throughout the month and one day that followed her surgery, her kids, my brother Rob, Ken, and I held vigil in the hospital,  giving her foot massages and applying hot or cold packs to her forehead. Rob called it the "spa treatment." Each day during my stay, I wrote and sent email updates to the family about her condition and about her day like who visited, who sent notes, what she said, when she smiled. During the final few days I read notes from family, placed phone calls, and talked to her about the many people in her life that loved her. Neighbors, girlfriends, fellow cancer patients, her chemo nurses, and her doctors came to her bedside to say goodbye.

On Wednesday in Winchester--just outside of Boston--the family gathered with friends to celebrate Barbara's life and professional career. Her obituary from the Boston Globe is here. After the memorial and reception, we met at Tanya and Michael's home in Winchester. Small and large groups stood sharing stories about Aunt Barbie. Up until that gathering, I'd been pretty sad about losing my sister, one of the people in my life. But when I looked around the house at her 3 kids, 7 grandkids, her brothers, nieces, nephews, and friends, I had an overwhelming sense that she's still here in all of us.

As a family, we grew closer over these past few weeks, and really, over the past 8 years. We'll miss her--that smile, her fist pump and wink, her directives (after all, she did grow up with 4 brothers in a mill town), and her many gifts. We all agree that we feel blessed to have had her in our lives.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Winter Blues...

It happens every winter. Dark days mount up; unwanted snow keeps invading the radar screen; long, slushy drives back from Orono raise my angst; and the quirky characters on reruns of The West Wing seem like my closest friends. Last night during Season 5, Episode 4, I actually gave advice to Josh, the nimrod. (Who am I making fun of? The other day I took out my car key and pressed "Unlock" as I stood squarely in front of my office door at the university. I am a professor, after all.)

It is what it is.

But like a lot of people, if I get out and hike or run, my dampened spirits begin to melt away with the rising temperatures. That was the case today. I hiked up through the neighborhood, onto a logging road near the reservoir, and in 17 minutes hit the snow mobile trails. From there,  I run, jog, or slog along while Bailey investigates Every.Single.Smell. And 66 minutes later, I'm home--tired but rested and knowing Spring is nearly here.

Here are some pictures from the last few days.

Bailey on the back deck during snow flurries. 

One of the Three Sisters taken from my second floor. 

Again, one of the Three Sisters. 

Mr. Fournier's home with the Three Sisters in the background. 

Books, snow... books and snow.