Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shattered dreams

My sweet friend Dore called tonight to tell me her husband Bob died of a massive heart attack last night. Unreal.

One minute they were getting ready for their side jobs at a catering business. The next minute Bob was complaining of pain and was being whisked away by an ambulance. He died at the hospital. My heart broke as I listened to Dore tell of their plans and shattered dreams. They had sold their Knoxville home and purchased a home in Florida. They planned on retiring at the end of the school year. Just yesterday afternoon, they were talking about tile for their new house. Now, Dore is making plans for a Saturday memorial service for Bob.

Life is so hard sometimes. God, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

This afternoon, I went to the memorial service of a friend Terry who died of cancer on Tuesday. It's strange to be mourning the death of another friend so soon.

I met Bob and Dore in 2003, my first year in Knoxville. They had just opened Market Square Booksellers downtown and my assignment for the News Sentinel was to write a story about this new business on the square. I walked in and immediately fell in love with the place. Bob, who was wearing a kilt, greeted me as I entered. It was there that I met my friend Rebecca (who made and sold jewelry) and discovered the works of Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, primarily.) The store had unique touches: a reclaimed old church pew; wood floors repurposed from a school gym; the oddest assortment of greeting cards.

Bob, Dore, Rebecca and I became fast friends and shared life together over meals and other meet-ups.

Bob and Dore closed the store after a few years and moved on to other ventures. Rebecca eventually got married and moved to Washington D.C. Bob became a buyer for a book distributor for a while and Dore went on to work as a librarian in a Sevier County middle school. In between, they would set up a tent and sell homemade crafts and purses during the summer at the Market Square Farmers Market.

I last saw Bob and Dore at a wedding I attended last year. After hugs, chatter and more hugs, we promised to get together again soon. Turns out my soon has been a little too late with Bob.

My heart hurts for Dore and Terry's families and friends.

The song, "Our God is in Control," by Steven Curtis Chapman comes to mind tonight.

This is not how it should be, This is not how it could be
This is how it is, Our God is in control...

This is not where we planned to be, When we started this journey
This is where we are, And Our God is in control...

Saying goodbye to Terry Morrow

I said goodbye today to Terry Morrow, a former News Sentinel colleague and friend who died Tuesday from complications due to pancreatic cancer.

Death is a strange thing. It's happened enough to friends and relatives of mine now that sometimes I think it shouldn't take me aback. But it still jolts me each time it comes to the people I care about, whether young or old. Terry was 52.

On this beautiful sunny Sunday, it was a gift to celebrate Terry's life with his family and friends during a memorial service at West Hills Baptist Church. Terry enjoyed life and it showed -- from his antics and his work as a TV critic to the way he cared for children and adults and talked to them.

Terry also loved comics books and had about 20,000 of them. He'd been collecting them since he was 7. At the conclusion of  this afternoon's service, Terry's mom and sisters sat on the steps of the church altar and invited the children in the audience to come forward. They then gave each child some of Terry's comic books and one of his action figures.

Terry would have loved that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CrossFit Diaries: Class #4 -- Circuit training madness

One of the CrossFit kettlebells. Hehe.
Just when I thought I was finally getting a handle on this CrossFit stuff, today happened.

Today, my friends, was High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), or like the instructor called it, "Super Human Interval Training," aka S#&% training. :)

As I walked into our 6 a.m. class, I wondered why there were large tractor tires as tall as me outside the doors. I soon found out. I entered the building and saw about 15 different stations with myriad torture, er, exercise tools. Ok, then.

After warm ups, we started the real work. A sampling of what we did today:

Side planks with kettlebell lifts. Cling and overhead press with bar. Cone jumps. Burpees with pull ups. Bear crawls. Burpees with sandbags. Tractor tire flips (my personal favorite). Tire run (carry a car tire and run with it).

Since I started my CrossFit experiment on Friday, I have been sore after. every. class. This makes me happy. It means I'm pushing my body. Or maybe I'm just killing myself.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old people friends

When my 90-year-old paternal grandmother died in January, I decided it was time to reconnect with my old people friends** in person. I often speak to them on the phone but nothing beats face time.

Since I was heading to Seattle to visit my friend Sara during spring break last month, it made sense to skip over to Brewster, Washington, to see Bob and Audrey. After a three and a half-hour drive through the spectacular Cascade Mountains, I found myself in their Eastern Washington driveway.

Bob in his yard in Brewster.

I met Bob in Alaska in 2005 while I was a volunteer camp counselor at Kako Retreat Center near Russian Mission. That summer, Bob helped build cabins and fix machinery and I hung out with Yupik Eskimo teen girls in a remote corner of Western Alaska off the Yukon Peninsular. Bob and I hit it off over the five or so weeks we were there. The following year, I visited Bob and his wife Audrey in Washington State and I've been going ever since. (An aside: they've been married 54 years and they're still all lovey dovey, holding hands and such. That tickles me!)

Brewster is in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. "Hitchhiking Permitted" signs were all along the highway. (Um, no thanks.) I did see one other black person and a number of people of Hispanic descent, so the town has some diversity. :)
Probably 80 percent of all apples in the U.S. come from tiny Brewster and several other towns surrounding it. Orchards stretch as far as the eye can see. Bob and Audrey's property is sandwiched by orchards on both sides. (And one across the street. And several more down the road.)

Bob and Audrey are fellow adventure seekers. So during the day, we would explore other little towns. One of my favorites was Winthrop, which has an Old West feel. At night after dinner, we would settle in for an hour of a "Matlock" rerun before bed. They usually go to bed at 9 p.m. but they stayed up until 10 p.m. for me.

Bob is super talented. He rebuilds Model T cars from the ground up and has done so for years. He can fix just about any piece of machinery out there. Audrey is a fantastic cook and I got some good eatin' while I was with them.

Before I left that last day, Bob and I spent the morning shooting on his property. Then after a tasty lunch and hearty hugs, I bid them farewell.

More pictures from my Brewster adventure:

Bob showing me his latest Model T project

Pearrygin Lake State Park in Winthrop

Bob and Audrey during our walk

Bob and me :)

I did this.
**Speaking of old people friends, I have others who are dear to my heart:
--Josephine, age 96.
-- My neighbors Robert and Juanita, ages 90 and 86.
-- Peter, age 88. Who knew my best guy friend would be a South African-born, British American octogenarian? Love it!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


View from the ferry as we leave Seattle for Bainbridge Island

Love me some Sara!!
I spent part of spring break last month in one of my favorite cities -- Seattle. My trip to see my friend Sara was the first of three legs of my spring break trek. It rains A LOT in Seattle but the weather was gorgeous most of my time there. (I guess they knew I was coming.)

I met Sara in 2010 when she came to work for Scripps, the company that owns my former employer, the Knoxville News Sentinel. She and I had many food adventures as we deepened our friendship. She moved to Seattle last year for a new job.

When I arrived in Seattle, we carried on our food adventure tradition, from a dinner out at an Afghan restaurant named Kabul to meals created at home after an outing to Pike Place Market. (Ever seen or heard of the scruffy guys who throw fish?) I also spent time with Sara's equally cool sisters Judy and Liz, which was pretty neat.

Sara is an amazing baker. For my birthday a couple of years ago, she made a chocolate ganache cake that I would gladly give an arm to eat. It remains one of my favorite desserts. Well, Sara surprised me with half a chocolate ganache cake when I got to Seattle. A half cake for my almost half birthday, she said. :)

Other pictures from my time in Seattle:

Heading back to Seattle after an afternoon on Bainbridge Island

Pike Place Market, one of my favorite places in the city

Some of the fish mongers at the World Famous Fish Market
A flower guy and his beautiful bouquets inside Pike Place Market

This being Seattle, I drank lots of coffee. Hand model is Llewyn, Sara's friend

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kindergarten art project gone wrong

Me, Megan and Bryce after the race
This is what my friends and I looked like when we finished the Color Me Rad 5K race this morning. What a fun run and a great way to spend a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. (Portions of the race's proceeds will benefit East Tennessee Children's Hospital. Bonus!)

A few weeks ago, I roped my friend Megan and her fiancé Bryce into signing up for the race. They were such good sports about it. We joined 9,000 other nutty people for the event.

During the race, volunteers and other participants throw colored cornstarch...just because. By the end of the race, we looked like a kindergarten art project gone wrong.
(I think Megan's teeth are still stained purple. Ha! Other parts of me, which I shall not mention, are still sporting a strange glow. It's amazing how well the cornstarch seeps through your clothing.)

Other pictures from today:

We're all nice and clean pre-race
Getting ready for the color bomb. Megan said I looked like a bank robber
About to run through the color bomb

Friday, April 5, 2013

CrossFit did not kill me.

Quivering legs aside, I feel great.**
I took my first CrossFit class at 6 a.m. today. Suffice it to say it was pretty intense but definitely awesome. An added bonus: the North Knoxville location is conveniently about a mile and a half from my house. For those of you wondering what CrossFit is, here's a description from the website:

"We have no mirrors, no machines, no tanning beds, no smoothie bar, and no excuses. There is only your hard work and results."

Hehe! And some more:

"Proven in everyday living, competitive sport, and even battlefield-tested, Hard-To-Kill's systematic approach to fitness will improve your physical performance, mental toughness, and quality of life."

I'd heard so much about CrossFit and wanted to try it. Then the other day, I found a groupon for it and tada! (It's still up if you Knox folks are interested.) I think one of the reasons I enjoyed CrossFit so much this morning was it caters to my primal exercise tendencies. No pain, no gain, baby!

**We'll see what tune I'm singing later today when full-body soreness sets in. If you find me curled up in a fetal position in my office, just pat me on the head and leave me be.