The race was on, and this time the better man lost. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the race started in the fall of 1986, and apparently I was the tortoise, but unlike the fable, I was the tortoise that lost. Shoot, I didn’t even realize it was a race until about four years ago when Alexandra enrolled in Evangel University. Then I knew that I must finish the degree that I started in 1986, and I must finish before she did. However, I underestimated her drive and determination. Despite losing a semester to UAA, despite having to dissect a pig on the back deck in the middle of summer, and despite working several jobs, acting, dancing, traveling to Africa, around the states and more, despite all of it she still finished and she finished way ahead of me. Alas, I will finish, and I will finish strong, but I will not finish before my daughter and I could not be prouder to lose this race. If I had half the drive and determination of my daughter, I would’ve finished my four-year degree in two years circa 1988, with a 3.8 GPA. Instead, exactly like my actual physical running, I am a plodder, one foot painfully and slowly in front of the other, sweat pouring down my face, pain shooting through my well used knee joints and degenerative lower back. It is not pleasurable, but it is doable, unless calculus is involved.
We had the privilege of witnessing her cross the finish line, the first grandchild to do so. The trip was a collage of memories as Alli attended the same university that Tracy and I met at, Evangel. Except when we attended it was a sprawling college, with classrooms scattered throughout old military barracks. The last one in class had to sit by the 1950 steel radiator heater, boiling as Mrs. Fletcher explained the difference between a debit and credit and espoused the beauty of accounting. It is much different now. There are no barracks, there are only beautiful new buildings, all climate controlled. I hear there is even a state-of-the-art library. Rumor was there was a library when I attended, but I am unable to verify such details, perhaps an indicator as to why I am still racing. The dorms remain the same. In fact I think they have the same carpet from when we attended, unless someone else spilled some RC Cola between the fake plant and glass panel of the main entry just outside the Mrs. Pac Man game table.
While back at the inception of the Godfrey 10, we took time to visit our very first home, the one we purchased for $43,500 soon after we married, while Tracy finished her race, long ahead of me. The house looked older, smaller, and perhaps it was now part of the “hood”. I don’t remember it that way. I wished we could’ve peeked inside to see if the marble tiles and white Berber carpet still styled the living room.
Throughout the trip, the memories kept smacking us across the face; the Old CD store where you could buy and sell CDs, and not the financial kind. The very first Subway sandwich shop I ever ate at, the lake, Steak and Shake, Sonic, my old employer Bass Pro Shops and the ever-growing Battlefield Mall. It was all so old, and there was so much more than I remember. It was impossible to not flash back to those late night Taco Bell runs, and $1 movie nights with my then girlfriend. We were young, carefree and ready to take on the world. We just did not know what that meant. I am glad that the Lord guided our paths, even when we thought we were driving. I guarantee this, in the late 1980s I never imagined our journey would involve eight kids, but I also guarantee that I would not want to have it any other way.
It is fitting that Alli finished her first race, where Tracy and I began ours together. One cannot ever imagine where they will be thirty years later. I can only pray that her next race is as exciting and awesome as ours has been. And with her drive, ambition, smarts and thirst for life, I have a feeling she will not lack for excitement. I will always pray that no matter what she does, she does it in God’s will, and with God’s wisdom, help and guidance, for outside of that the race gets very difficult, and it’s already difficult enough. Although I did not finish that part of my race in 1990 like I was supposed to, I will promise you this, I WILL finish my degree before my first grandchild finishes their degree, if we ever get one. If I don’t, meet me at Steak n Shake in Springfield Missouri, on their graduation day, and dinner is on me!
Two generation of Chapel attenders, errr at least 1 and 1/2 attenders. Someone missed a few chapels.
Thirteen fast weeks after Jeremy left, we went to find him at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Word was that he had finished his thirteen weeks of vacation and we would get to meet up with him, intending to make this a little mini vacation of our own. After all Jeremy got to enjoy thirteen weeks of all expenses paid vacation, with free workouts, free guided hikes, free obstacle courses, free ammunition to shoot, new outfits, unlimited food and water, and no charge wake-ups all hours of the night. Knowing all the fun he was having, we decided it was only fair for us to join in the fun before we picked him up.
Eventually we had to make our way to MCRD, or the weekend spa as we understood it to be, to retrieve Jerms from his vacation. Surprisingly, he was very excited to see us. Further, he was very very hungry for “real food”, or pizza as it is known.
The ceremony was pretty impressive, but a little long for a family from Alaska waiting to get their Marine. Jeremy did great, but I can’t lie, it was a little difficult to pick him out of the battalion. After all, it was filled with tanned, short haired thin guys in blue and brown uniforms. I think I saw him marching a couple times though.
After some shopping, beach time, and lots and lots of pizza, we decided to hit the world famous San Diego zoo. We won’t bore you with the millions of animal pictures we took, but we will bore you with some of the animal pictures we took, and some of the family pictures we took.
We packed a lot of stuff into the 5-day trip, and gained a lot of new experiences. But the most important thing we gained is a new Marine that got to come back to Alaska for a few weeks before he ships of to new and adventurous locations. However, for some reason he seems a little skeptical when they keep promising these all expense paid trips to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria………
If you have time, and if you remember, please keep Jeremy in your prayers as he begins a brand new phase of his life. We couldn’t be prouder, more excited, and even a little nervous.
I heard you were back, is a phrase not uncommon. It is usually followed immediately by “What brought you back?” Well, the short story is Jo. The long story is God. As difficult as it is for me to believe, as difficult as it is to accept, I believe we are supposed to be right here right now. It was not in my plans, nor was it in Tracy’s plans. But it was time and we knew it. We knew the minute we got the phone call. It did not take long to once again throw our life into turmoil. High School #3 for Liv & Jeremy. A new job for dad, and probably a new house for all of us. The good news is we would have our friends, and we would have our family. Now we just had to find somewhere to live.
What amazed me was how fast doors opened for us. Not only did they open, the red carpet was rolled out leading us to the doors. For instance, prior to leaving Georgia, after one phone call I had a good job lined up in a good company. Unfortunately it was in Anchorage and we needed to be in Soldotna, but we were thankful to have it and we were determined to make it work. Within two days another, better job opened up in the Kenai area. Within days of arriving in AK I was fully employed and thoroughly enjoying my new career…… for two weeks. At that time I was told that my job was being absorbed by Tesoro, the company we contracted to. So much for the red carpet. However, I was encouraged to apply, and apply I did. I got the job, once again a better, exponentially better career. Not that the last one was bad. However, since I have been in my new position I have had many people approach me to say “Man the stars sure lined up for you!” ” Someone is looking out for you. Jobs like this don’t just happen.” I smile and know that God must be directing our paths, and I pray that I can be a witness to that.
Now we just needed somewhere to live. We still had our house, the one we had tried to sell for the last two year, the one that currently had long term renters in it. Well the renters wanted to buy. However the deal fell through, just days before we signed a lease on another rental. We decided that it would be best to move back in until we got settled, however the lease went through October. That was still 5 months away. Guess what, the renters found another house and moved out early. In the meantime, a long lost friend with a giant house on a lake, whose kids had left the nest said “stay with me.” We did. It was like summer vacation home. It was awesome, especially with the record heat we had this summer. We water skied, we swam, we fished, we loved it. Another red carpet. And they just kept lining up. Maybe not as quick as we wanted, or in the fashion we desired, but they were there and they were certainly better than manna and water.
There is only one piece of puzzle still missing, one side of the Rubick’s cube to align. But it is the most important piece, the main reason we are back in AK and that is Jo. Perhaps our house not selling, way under market value, being the house that she grew up in was just an inconvenience. Perhaps my good friend leaving a great job for his dream job at the exact moment that I needed the job he vacated in the town I needed to be was just coincidence. Perhaps another friend needing someone to house-sit his huge house on the lake while he traveled and work, was just coincidence. And just perhaps the dozens of small unmentioned blessings & miracles that occurred to make it possible for a family of nine to move nearly 6000 miles were just an accident. Or perhaps, the most likely scenario is this is all part of God’s plan, and perhaps we are just too stubborn to follow it unless he lays out the red carpet. Perhaps we are to be witnesses to his grace, to his mercy, and to his omnipotence. However it all unfolds I pray that we never take for granted all that has brought us to this place and time, and all that is yet to follow. And instead of the yellow brick road, I just want to keep finding those red carpets.
Although I have written about it before, it is such an experience for a large family that it deserves another post: Travel, specifically air travel.
Almost everyone hates travel, it is tedious, it is lengthy and expensive. There are very few endearing aspects of the journey, despite the parable advising us to enjoy it. I would submit that the intensity of which one hates travel intensifies in proportion to the amount of people in the traveling party. Hence I have a healthy disdain for family travel. Further, this last trip was a semi-emergency move adding another factor of speed into the mix, ergo doubling the hatred once again. Why such disdain you ask? Let me explain.
1. Booking the trip: Most airlines and travel sites max out passengers at 6. Therefore I am looking at a minimum of 2 reservations per trip. A slight pain and an extended amount of frustrating hours on the computer.
2. Most “special fares” have limited seats. I have found that limit to be around 5 seats. So imagine finding a great fare, trying to book 6 seats, because that is the max, finding that when you go from 5-6 the seat price doubles. This in turn leads to more hours on the computer.
3. Now-a-days you pay $25-$40 per checked in bag, this adds up, especially when you are moving.
4. Getting checked in with a large family, with lots of bags, in a crowded airline counter line is hectic at best and certainly not fun.
5. Going through security with a large family, with lots of carry-ons, in a crowded Disney like line makes you long for the airline counter line.
6. Finding seats together for a family of 7-9, on a short-notice trip, is like finding a clean car during break-up in Alaska.
Needless to say our most recent trip, of 4700 miles, was quite the pleasant adventure, full of middle seats, multiple airlines and two separate travel parties arriving at two different times. All this after two days of travel research in which I came to the conclusion that; renting a car, driving to 2.5 hours to Orlando, me and Ben flying Jetblue and Tra with the rest of the clan flying American, both parties meeting in Seattle where we would gather our truckload of bags, layover for 20 hours, before continuing on to Anchorage was our best course of action. It turns out I was right.
I wasn’t right because of the travel, I was right because of the layover. We made the most of our time in Seattle spending the day in outright tourist mode. The layover was truly amazing.
We started with a great train-ride downtown to Pike’s Market, a must see in Seattle. There was food, flowers, gifts, handmade wares, food, activities, music, clothes, food coffee and more food. It smelled like a fair, it sounded like a busting train station with talented musicians at every turn and it was very enjoyable. There was so much to see and so much to eat. We did our best, with Piroshky Piroshky being our favorite food venue. It is a must try when you hit the market. Whether you crave sweet or savory, the piping hot soft filled dough will melt your hearts and melt in you mouth. This was not the most amazing part of our trip.
The market lead us to the wall of gum, another must see for those who enjoy the color and smells of old gum. It is actually a pretty incredible sight. I would venture to say there are millions of pieces of old gum stuck to an old brick wall of every shape, size, smell and color. It looks as if a million colorful candles melted into the wall, and smells of mint, fruit and bubble gum. If you concentrate not on how nasty it is, it is quite beautiful. This was not the most amazing part of our trip.
We then rode the monorail over to the Space Needle, where we dropped an large amount of coin to go to the top. The view was pretty awesome and breath takingly windy. It was 360 degrees at 604 feet up in the air. We could see everything and everywhere. Pictures do not do it justice. This was not the most amazing part of our trip.
The most amazing part of our trip came as we were riding the train to downtown Seattle. The trains leave every 10 minutes from the airport. We ate breakfast and hit the next train, no agenda, no time frame, just out to explore. As we traveled we enjoyed the sparsely filled car spinning our heads back and forth to see the scenes. Then, 3/4 of the way through our ride, the train stops, and one person joins the ride. Tracy and I both looked at each other and were amazed to see it was my cousin Amos. Amos doesn’t normally ride the train, and specifically not that train. He forgot his keys that day and just happened to have to take the train. So in a city of 620,000 people, our paths crossed, briefly on one of the over hundred trains that day. No plan, no inkling, just a random path cross during our 20-hour layover. His jaw dropped when he saw us when he figured out who we were so far out of context. The more I think about it, the more mind-boggling it was to me. It was pretty amazing.
The layover was worth the headache, worth the late nights yelling at my 27 inch glistening Mac screen as I watched ticket prices change in front of my face, and worth lugging our luggage for the one night and day spent in Seattle. It is a time we will soon not forget.
One thing on our pre-moving bucket list was to visit Savannah Georgia ( please insert your own slow southern drawl). After all we are only about an hour and a half away. So, even though time is tight right now, we put aside a day for Savannah. We wanted to see what all the ya’ll is about. Further more, we had an opportunity to hook up with some great old friends who have been featured in this blog several times. So north to Savannah we went.
Savannah oozes south. The buildings are old, the trees are huge, the roads tiny, the traffic patterns odd as if made for horse and carriages, and the tea is very sweet. The town was built around town squares, small blocks of park basically. One of these is where Forest Gump sat on his bench and told his story. Our story is the bench is now in a museum, so we could not give you the obligatory blue suit, candy on lap picture, although we tried. You know what they say, life is like a box of chocolates, you never………..
Sans the bench, there was still a lot more to Savannah. We enjoyed it thoroughly, even the torrential downpour we got caught in the biggest square in the town. Although we did have to head to the nearest Ross’s for some new shirts, pants and yes even underwear.
I could describe the uneven rock laden roads for you, the swaying weeping willows and magnolia trees, the aged brick buildings with white faded letters, missing brick, vine-covered stairs and moss embossed alleys, but I could not do it justice. So instead I will let the pictures do the talking, and give you the highlights.
We drove north to Savannah and landed at the tourist aimed River Street.
We watched massive container ships in the river.
We toured the wind billowing, tree filled, monument centered squares.
We got caught in a mega rain storm.
We bought new clothes.
We met up with some long-lost dear Alaskan friends ( HIGHLIGHT!)
We ate crab and shrimp.
We thoroughly enjoyed the day and appreciated the history and scenery.
Prologue. It was truly amazing seeing Ty, Niki, Nya and Elli. We have traveled similar paths and have come to similar conclusions. They encouraged us greatly. What are the odds that we would both move from the Kenai Peninsula, only to reconnect two years later in Savannah Georgia? I can’t wait to see where we connect with y’all next time yonder down the road.
In case you haven’t heard, the herd is on the move again. Yep it is true. Our fate was sealed with an ominous private message from a great friend at 4 am a few weeks ago. The moment I read the message, I had this deep gut feeling that we would once again be moving, and quickly. I cannot say I was excited. I feel as though we just got here. We are just learning the area, just learning the culture, just learning how to properly say ya’ll, how to eat crawdads and cook with extra butter. Summer is upon us, the temp is in the mid 80s, the birds are out daily, the pools are warming up and school is about to end. This was to be our time to explore, expand and relax a little. And just like that, life changes.
Ever since that message my head has been in dizzy haze. My to-do list has been spinning at 1000 RPMs through my brain. Sell this, store this, buy this, fix this. Moving is not fun, moving is stressful. Especially three moves in less than three years; three moves each over 3000 miles, and each to a different country. Oh yeah did I mention we were moving back north, back to Alaska? Come on, that is pretty much like moving to a different country.
So as I sit and type this, I constantly battle the thoughts and anxiety welling up in my head and heart. I am acutely aware of the pattering of my heart, my every evolving task list, all the what-ifs and what-could-bes. It makes it hard to breathe and hard to sleep. I feel as if I am on a playground merry-go-round. Slowly being pushed faster and faster. As the ride speeds up, I close my eyes, drop my knees down to the rusted steel plate, wrap my arms tightly around the yellow chipped paint bar, hold on for all I am worth and try not to throw up. And it is this position I find myself in now. Dropping to my knees, closing my eyes and praying. Praying for strength, praying for wisdom and guidance, and praying for all those on the ride with me. And as I do that, I remember that I was the one who got on the ride, I was the one screaming “faster, faster”, I was the one longing for that feeling of exhilaration. So perhaps I just need to hold on a little bit longer, open my eyes, smile and enjoy that sick feeling that comes with ride, knowing that it will not last forever, and accepting that when I open my eyes, the temperature will be a little cooler and the scenery a quite grander. It will smell familiar,it will look familiar, it will feel familiar, it will be home.