The journey continues...

I realize that it's been several days since we posted, but internet is hard to come by in small Bavarian towns! And, have I mentioned yet, that the keyboards are different over here? Some of the letters and symbols are switched around, so I end up writing "love zou" or searching for the quotation marks (which I just did, bz the waz, and thez are over the number 2!)

We left Munich early Saturday morning after we started eating breakfast before it was open. I mean, how were we supposed to know that it was bank holiday? The guy was a little peeved and made us feel really bad, so we ate super fast and left!!! We traveled with all of Munich on a tiny little train into a fairy tale land. As we went further south, the mountains seem to rise up out of nowhere. Mind you, these are not the rolling hills of Appalchia, but the mighty Alps with their jagged and snowcovered crags. (Speaking of crags, anyone remember the name of that TV show where the kids climbed Crag Mountain at the end?? We racked our brains and for the life of us cannot remember the name!!!)

Ok, back to the mountains. (Becca, I feel a little like you sometimes! We must think alike!) The mountains people. These things are for real. Not even the Rockies compare. They were glowing in the morning sunlight. It was stunning! We arrived in Fussen, dropped off our bags at the hostel, and headed on the bus towards Tegelberg. We were hoping to ride the sommerrodelbahn (luge) on the side of the mountain. Except in this case, "sommer" really means that it is only open in the summer. We opted for the gondola to the top instead, and we definitely got the better in the deal. I might have taken an entire roll of film at the top. Maybe. :-) We hiked a little into the Alps and saw the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. And let's talk just for a second about the skiers. They climbed the mountain on their little skies and zigzagged their way back down. I would have died, considering it was probably a 70 degree slope near the top.

Sunday was castle day. I have been looking forward to seeing Neuschwanstein since I was little, and it was just as exciting as walking down Main Street and seeing Cinderalla's castle. Except that you can actually go inside Neuschwanstein. And it's bigger. And there's snow. Disclaimer: I'm not into princesses and all that mushy stuff. Bring on the knights and castles and storming the gates!!! We toured Hohenschwangau and then hiked up the hill to the big money. Crazy Ludwig tore down a 700 year old castle to build his and then outfitted it with all the modern conveniences. The castle is barely 160-something years old, but the interior is decorated in the middle-age style. I wish that we knew more about Wagner's operas because the entire castle is dedicated to his works.

The path to Mary's Bridge was closed, but we pretended like we didn't know what the signs said (Caution, Achtung, Death Is Imminent!) and marched right along. The path was covered in snow and ice, but the view was worth it!

Then we hiked from the castle to the town at the foot of the mountain. Rick Steve's had mentioned this place called Kristall-Therme. Since we weren't visiting the baths in Baden-Baden, we decided to give this place a try. We had a blast! I thought of Caroline the whole time because she always says to do stuff with the locals. You couldn't get more local than this! We spent 2 hours relaxing in the mineral baths. My favorite was the outdoor pool where you could sit in the pool in a bubbly lounge chair thingy and gaze up at the castles all lit up for the evening!!

We had dinner that night at a tiny little Italian place. There were no tables available, and a couple that had just sat down offered to share their's with us. We had a wonderful evening sharing travel stories and getting to know each other. To me, that it the best way to eat a meal!

We're now deep in the Scharzwald in Triberg. We hiked up the mountain to get to our hostel, and when we told the guy at the front desk, he got a really good laugh!!! So I rewarded myself with a big piece of Black Forest cake at dinner and then a taxi back up the hill.

Thanks for hanging in for the long update! You might not hear from us til we get back since the internet is sketchy and expensive here, so until then, tschüs!!!


Frohe Weihnachten!

Merry Christmas from Munich! We had the most wonderful day yesterday meeting our German family members! Eva has been so welcoming, and we seem to fit right in. It makes being away from home so much easier when you are celebrating with new family! We enjoyed a yummy Raclette dinner (google it...super fun!) and then opened presents around the tree. Charlie and I went to midnight mass with Eva and Werner. It was the most beautiful church we've seen in Germany...and also the coldest!!! No heat last night, but it was a lovely service. It's amazing to celebrate the birth of our Savior in so many different ways. I have loved learning the differences in American and German celebrations of Christmas. And Mom, I found someone who knows about the pickle present!!!

This is our last day in Munich. We are headed back to Eva's this afternoon for Christmas dinner and to meet more family. Tomorrow we will take the train deep into Bavaria to see my childhood "dream castle," Neuschwanstein.

We wish you all a very Frohe Weihnachten and send our love. We'll be home for Christmas if only in our dreams!!!


Changing shoes...

If you ever travel to Europe for longer than three days (which you definitely should) I highly recommend bringing TWO pairs of shoes, no matter what the travel guides say!!! After four days of walking, on average 9.2 miles in the same pair of shoes, your poor feetsies will cry for mercy! Which is why, my friends, I toured Munich in slippers today. Ok, they are technically down bootie camp shoes (huge thanks to Mark and Lolli for fulfilling my Christmas wish last year!), but any lay person might have confused them for slippers. But quitely frankly, I didn't care, because my feet were happy. Plus, these Munich girls walk around in crazy boots, tights, and short skirts. I just don't know how they stay warm!

An update from yesterday...we toured Dachau concentration camp on our way in from Munich. It's really difficult to describe the bleakness of such a place. It was cold, and the ground was covered in snow, and I thought of how many times the prisoners had to stand in their threadbare clothes for roll call. Walking on the grounds and seeing where so many innocent people died is quite shocking, even though there's nothing left but buildings. It's a hollow and empty place.

We spent today being tourists in Munich. I loved every minute of it. The city is so old, and beuatiful, and did I mention old?!? Darn you, Sherman, for burning down Atlanta! We started off at the Residenz and Treasury, and then headed over to the Marienplatz to see the Glockenspeil do its thing at noon. Worth seeing once, but the coolest part was how quiet everyone was when the bells began to chime. The whole square was quiet and then erupted into cheers when the jousting began!

We climbed to the top of the New Town Hall and then the more impressive St. Peter's Church. It's 306 old rickety wooden stairs to the top. There are signs everywhere for "no smoking"...as if anyone could climb 306 stairs while smoking. Seriously?! Their lungs would have given out about 115. Whew! But the views of the city from the top...simply breathtaking!

We made three different trips into Saturn (like a Best Buy) and one trip to Conrad to try and find what we needed for our converter to work. Not an incredibly big deal to not dry my hair, except when it's f-f-f-freezing outside!! I haven't tried this new part we bought, so I'll let you know how it goes.

We walked around the city this afternoon visiting the farmer's market area and discovering the Christmas carousel. We also finished up our Christmas shopping in the market. So far, my favorite, and cheapest, souviners have been the gluhwein mugs from the Christmas markets in Rothenburg and Munich.

Tonight, we had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. It's the oldest/biggest/loudest beerhall in Germany. (I think I got all those facts correct!) The had a real live oompa band complete with lederhosen and the little feather hats. I had white sausage with a pretzel and sweet mustard. Yum!! Charlie had the brat with saurkraut and a ginormo beer. We called this our "Varsity" meal for Germany!

We are so excited about meeting new family tomorrow! We will be spending Christmas Eve with Eva and two of her daughters and a hodgepodge of other people. It has been great meeting new folks! We have run into more Australians by far! I mentioned something about Jim Craig and the Man From Snowy River to one of the girls, and she had never seen it!!! The horrors!

So in other news, Britney Spears is currently blasting over the speakers in the hostel internet room/bar. I just can't seem to get away from her when I travel!! Our Ireland gang will remember that we heard one of her songs in every pub we went to!

I can now technically wish you a Merry Christmas Eve! Frohe Weihnachten! Love to you all.


A little misadventure in every journey...

Hi all!

Charlie and I are learning first hand that indeed the only thing you can control in every situation is your attitude! We have had a wonderful trip thus far, but we have had a few incidents that could have easily dampened, ney, crushed our spirits! Shortly after our last update, we hiked up to the center of Rothenburg to do the Nightwatchman's Tour. Long story short, gloves and snow made for a slippery camera handoff. The digital camera took a tumble onto centuries-old cobblestone...and the cobblestone had the upper hand. So camera 1 is not working at the moment. We're hoping to find a place in Munich that can work camera miracles. In the meantime, we've been snapping away with Caroline's camera, that she so graciously let us take. And by snapping away, I mean we're on our 8th roll of film!!! Definitely not what we planned, but we're taking it in stride. So don't plan on seeing any pictures before we get home, unfortunately.

I woke up early Monday morning and decided to plug in my hair dryer...and the converter doesn't work. Good thing I checked it BEFORE I showered!!! Hoping to fix this as well.

Left Rothenburg this morning in the rain. Can't wait to tell you all about Britta and her wonderfulness. Ran into a couple at the train station from Australia. They are in month 1 of their 3 month European escapade. Toured Dachau this afternoon. Now we are in Munich! Lots to do here. We are going to find something to eat and then go ice skating tonight, then tour the Marianplatz and Christmas market tomorrow.

P.S. Mom, our hostel does have webcams, but I don't know if I'll be able to use skype. I'll have to ask at the front desk. For now, send facebook msgs and we'll try to work out a chat.

Love to all!!!


Greetings from Rothenburg!

Hi folks! After a loooong flight with a baby and a very talkative Marine, we arrived in Stuttgart and were finally able to meet Jenny and Felix! They were such gracious hosts. We toured the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart (Jenny's first time, even though she works for Mercedes!), and then had a wonderful albeit FREEZING evening at the Weihnachtsmarkt in Esslingen. The Christmas market was exactly what I thought it would be, with an added bonus of a medieval theme. We sampled Glühwein (hot red wine) and Schöpfnüdeln (potato pasta with cheese and sauerkraut--Schwäbish-traditionale). We ended the evening with Felix's homemade French pizza. (Mom, you would have loved it!) We cannot thank them enough for allowing us to visit, and we are so thankful to have met family here!

We got an amazing 12 hours of sleep last night and are ready to tackle Rothenburg.

(Not my picture. I borrowed it from the internet...however, this is pretty much what it looks like right now!)

We have figured out the trains and had no mishaps on the way here. Did I mention there was snow? We stepped off the train in Rothenburg and were greeted with what would qualify as a blizzard in my "live in the South and never see snow" world. It is beautiful. Rothenburg is the oldest walled city in Germany, and we can't wait to walk along the wall tomorrow morning. For now, we are off to St. Jakob's church to hear an organ concert, then dinner and the Nightwatchman's tour of the city. I already have my eye on the cuckoo clocks!!!

Love to all. Alles Liebe.


First official trip blog!!!

I know, I know, you all (all 7 of you!) have been waiting with bated breath to read our first official trip blog! Hi to the new folks who may or may not be following along on our journey. I would give Oma and Petra a German greeting, but seeing as how Lauren spricht kein Deutsch and Charlie is at work, that will have to wait. (And if you are wondering how some German spontaneously appeared, its cause I copied it off the card Charlie put in my wallet in case he loses me. As if I, with the superior sense of direction, could get lost. How sweet.)

The weather is rainy in Atlanta, and they have already announced that Hartsfield is "experiencing some delays." In addition, our flight is "oversold" and they are looking for "volunteers who would receive compensation in exchange for their seats." You could not offer me enough money in the world to give up my seat on this plane, so they better look elsewhere. Hopefu
lly this is not a foreshadowing of a dreary day!

Our bags are all packed, and I am extremely proud of myself. Caroline told me no less than 18 times to PACK LIGHTLY, LAUREN!!! For those of you that know me, and my mother, those two words simply do not exist in my vocabulary. But I was determined to turn over a new leaf. Lo and behold, I am all packed with room to spare! I firmly adhered to Rick Steve's packing list, and even resisted Charlie's adament request that I take a sleeping bag "because I had the space." But I stood firm and resisted the evils of overpacking, and I think both my feet and my back with thank me later.

I did remember our essential paperwork....

And necessary goodies for the plane. I simply cannot go to Germany without Gummi Bears!

Finally, I took Rick Steve's advice and tore apart his travel guide to make our own little mini personalized guides to the areas we will be visiting...

To all of our family and friends, we love you dearly and will miss being with you at Christmas. Thank you for sharing in our journey! We are excited to be exploring our great world, but we know there's no place like home. Love.


The 12 Days of Christmas

I love the 12 days of Christmas. I always get confused about when it starts, though. Do you start on December 13th at day 1 or day 12? That's completely besides the point for this post. Those who know me also know that I LOVE a good musical, dancing, and Glee. So when I came across this video the other day, I about died! I must confess, I almost have the whole thing memorized. Apparently this is what happens when a bunch of show kids get bored...if only I could dance like that! And those splits!!! Wowza! Enjoy!


The excitement is growing!

Charlie and I are getting so excited as we prepare for our trip in just 13 days! I survived my first semester of classes in PT school and am gearing up for five days of finals. It's amazing how high B's move from being "close to an A" to " a long way from a C!" B's mean degrees, baby! I have learned how to be in control and not let stress overwhelm me. It's a liberating feeling. After leaving Idlewood, I realized how "dead" I had become. There is not amount of money worth being miserable, and now I also see how there's no grade worth stressing over (unless it's a C, but we're not going there. Then I'd have to get into all the complicated PT GPA calculations and...well, nevermind).

I'm feeling especially in the Christmas spirit this morning, as I'm blogging from bed by the early pseudo-sunlight and the twinkle of the lights on the Christmas tree in our bedroom. Whew...I admitted it! Yes, there is a Christmas tree in the bedroom. And two in the living room. Dinah says the house looks like a "winter wonderland." I'll take it.

Back to the Christmas spirit...webcams are amazing. I look everyday at the webcam for Neuschwanstein castle to see the snow status. Because, let's be honest, if it doesn't snow while I'm in Germany I'll be pretty disappointed. And today...snow! I decided to start webcam trolling and see what else I could find. I've found webcams for most of the places that we know we are visiting. Check these out, and make sure to find the HUGE Christmas trees!

Neuschwantstein Castle

Marienplatz in Munich

Town Square in Rothenberg ob er Tauber

Waterfall in Triberg


The only difficult thing about viewing webcams in Germany is the time difference. There is a very small window to actually see the sights in daylight because they are 6 hours ahead of us, and the sun sets around, oh, you know, 4:30 p.m.! I try to sneak a peek before I leave for school, because, as it is currently 8:27 a.m. here, the sun is already starting to set in Rothenberg. Happy viewing!


An open letter...

Normally, I wouldn't get so worked up about this, but I am. Here goes...

Dear Tiger,

I've been a Tiger-Tailer from the very beginning. I followed you through your first victories. I've cut articles and pictures out of newspapers and magazines. I pinned the picture of you looking over the hill at your putt with your hands cupped around your eyes and the title "The Eyes Have It" on my door. I've admired every single Sunday red you've worn over the years. I was sad for you when your daddy died. I cheered for you when you sank the final putt to win your first Master's. I got your autograph when you could still meet your fans after the tournaments (I confess that I later sold said autograph, but it was for a good cause). I followed you when, quite frankly, you sucked for a little while and didn't win. And then you were married and had cute little Tigers and you had to get a new caddy when Fluff just couldn't cut it.

See, Tiger? Your fans have invested a lot in you. We made you famous, because, honestly, who admires golfers? And, I'm a GIRL! C'mon! I love coming home from church and watching the Sunday rounds with daddy. I walked all over Augusta National just to catch a glimpse. I mean, you're good, but we really like you because you aren't flashy and arrogant. Not like Greg Norman. Ew.

So, Tiger, let's be clear. If all these infidelity rumors are true, you will be filed in the Athletes I No Longer Respect folder. You'll find company among Pete Rose, Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds (his folder is full of fiery flames and gnashing teeth). Oh, and Greg, because he refuses to sign autographs and breaks clubs when he is mad.

Say it ain't so.




Happy Thanksgiving to all! I will post pics later, but we are giving thanks at the beach this year. We have 14 people in the house, and we're letting go of all traditions. No turkey this year...it's a low country boil instead! Also, since Charlie and I will be in Germany for Christmas, I decided to make some of our family's favorite Christmas desserts. And no one will be participating in Black Friday festivities, seeing as we are about 100 miles from the nearest mall. :-)

I am reminded of a song we used to sing back in the overhead days of the church youth group. The chorus started out, "Count your blessings, name them one by one." What a great reminder to put a name on each blessing. It makes me realize how much I truly have to be thankful for. Name your blessings today, and bask in the goodness of our God.


P.S. We can now officially begin the Christmas countdown...29 days!!!


Sweet Memories

It's funny how simple tasks can trigger such wonderful memories. I'm in charge of all the baking for Thanksgiving this year. I have a long list of favorite desserts and new recipes that I am slowly checking off. As I stood in the kitchen making Derby pies, I thought of Papaw. I was breaking pecans into little pieces to go into the pie, and I remembered sitting at their glass kitchen table. Papaw is showing me how to break the pecans...first longways, then into little pieces. I also think of him whenever I cook country ham. Or hang a spoon from my nose.

And always at Christmas, when we read the Christmas story. He would settle into his chair, slide on his glasses, and open his well worn and loved Bible to Luke. We would all sit around in anticipation, listening about the angels, the journey, and the birth of our Savior. Sweet Papaw. Sweet memories.


On not studying

I am not a cheater. Not in the littlest sense. I play by the rules, and I mean, every one of them. (Ask Adam...I have the Settlers of Catan rulebook memorized.)

However, I'm not above a little copy and paste action, especially when it is relevant and I don't have time to conjure up the necessary cleverness to write a blog.

Hence, this evening's blog. If you haven't noticed (and by you, I mean the 7 wonderful peeps who follow my blog), I've been MIA recently. Most notably, it's due to the fact that I have 5 weeks of school left and 18 million things to do. No exaggeration, because I don't do that either. :-)

I'm in the process of studying for a huge anatomy test on Friday, and I went searching for a diagram of the brachial plexus. If you don't know what that is, don't worry. It's unimportant to the story here. What is important is that I found a wonderfully clever and well-written blog about studying anatomy. In fact, those exact words could have come right out of my own mouth. But they didn't. Some guy wrote a post a year ago and beat me to it. Enter copy and paste. I won't take credit for his words, but I will kinda pretend like they're my own. Cause after all, it's what I'm thinking anyways. So, CGHM, whoever you are, I give you full credit for the following words. Thanks for expressing my thoughts so I don't have to.

"Few ethical dilemmas are patently resolved. One such moral conundrum is the following: would it be unethical if, during an anatomy exam, you felt around your own body to determine the location of bony structures and muscle insertions? Taking this a step further, what if you incised your own skin to view the underlying muscles, vasculature, and nerves?

Granted, this would be a drastic action, and one that would more immediately conjure up the question of where to send someone who would do such a thing (the "crazy house" would probably be agreed upon). But one would have to feel some sort of emotion - not "respect," but something else - for the purported "cheater," even if just an acknowledgment of his ballsiness.

The body is a cheat sheet no man can take away. In my estimation, the man who would slice himself for this should be institutionalized, but not before he is given an honorary doctorate for doing all he can to further the pursuit of knowledge, even at his own expense.

It's just a grade, people...not worth losing blood over. Don't get any ideas."

Oh, and in case you are wondering, here's the brachial plexus.


Ode to MARTA

So, today we were hurrying down the escalator to catch the MARTA train, and I see a bunch of textbooks strewn all over the platform. I think to myself, "Self, who would strew their textbooks all over the platform?" Any guesses? Well, I found out pretty quickly. Clearly, I'm not thinking about anything except getting on the train that's flashing DORAVILLE in bright yellow letters because I don't want to wait at the 5 points station any longer than I have to. In my hurry to get to the train, I almost get punched in the face but they guy who's textbooks are strewn all over the platform. Someone insulted his girl, or his momma, or his hair, and he throws a punch RIGHT AS WE ARE WALKING BETWEEN THEM. Thank goodness I have catlike reflexes. I almost pulled out my pink pepper spray to give him a piece of my mind, but I got on the train instead (see previous statement about hanging out at 5 Points). The end.



Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts
So it's fairly simple to cut right through the mess
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess

And we are so fragile
And our cracking bones make noise
And we are just breakable
Breakable, breakable girls and boys

This song by Ingrid Michaelson is hauntingly beautiful. As I listened to the lyrics a few moments ago, I thought about what it meant to be fragile. It could mean that you are weak, or incapable, or vulnerable. All of those have such negative connotations. We are fragile, but I think that fragility allows us to be vulnerable in a good way, vulnerable to love. Think of all the references to a hardened heart. What type of image does that incur? To me, a hardened heart is one that cannot break. A heart that cannot break cannot truly love. To truly love, you must be vulnerable. You must open yourself to another. Love makes us hurt. Love makes us grieve. Love helps put us back together. If we can never be broken, we can never experience the goodness of the mending, for "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." And for that, I will hold my fragile heart in outstretched arms to love.


This Christmas

I know, I know...some of you are looking at the title of this post and yelling because you think it's entirely too early to be writing a post about Christmas. Keep in mind though, the official Christmas music season (according to Miriam and myself) kicks off in exactly 19 days. Yes, you heard correctly! On October 1st, I will play an assortment of my Christmas favorites, just because I can. But that's totally not what this post is about!

Anyone who knows me knows that
I.love.Christmas. Last year, I bought the very first Christmas tree from Lowes. In fact, it didn't have the price tag on it, and they were still unloading half of the shipment from the truck. If you look in our spare closet and wonder what could possibly be in the 6 blue rubbermaid tubs, I'll give you one guess! Yep, they're full of Christmas decorations! 6 tubs, huh? And we live in a 1100 square foot apartment. I love walking through stores and hotel lobbies and houses decorated for the season. There's just something magical and wonderful about Christmas. But my favorite part has always been the Christmas Eve church service. I love walking through the cold into a warm church to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This year, I am especially excited about Christmas because Charlie and I will be spending it in GERMANY! This has been a dream for Charlie and I to visit. His mom's family is from Germany, so he has always wanted to visit the "vaterland." I, of course, am drawn to the castles, cuckoo clocks, chocolate cake, and Christmas decorations!!!!
(Wow...I just noticed my incredible use of alliteration in that last sentence!) It is so exciting for us to finally be able to travel to a place that we have yearned to see for so long, and at Christmas, nonetheless. Does it really get any better than that?!?

I thought I would give you a little taste of some of the must-see-because-I-have-dreamed-about-this-for-years sights:

Neuschwanstein Castle, which will hopefully be covered in snow!

The largest cuckoo clock in the world in Triberg

The Kristkindlmarkt in Munich

My mom is the greatest. I told her last week that we would be gone over Christmas, and she was so excited for us, even though we wouldn't be with the family. When Charlie and I went to their house last weekend, we had an early Christmas present waiting for us. Mom had bought me a German Christmas carousel after Christmas last year, and she was intending to give it to me for Christmas this year. I brought it home and decided that I would keep it out until we left for our adventure! I couldn't get a very good picture of mine, but it looks something like this:

This is a traditional German Christmas decoration that is powered from the heat of the candles. Just like cuckoo clocks, they can be simple or VERY elaborate:

We are also planning on doing a little passport stamping by doing a quick drive through Austria, Italy, Liechenstein, Switzerland, and France. I am furiously devouring Rick Steve's travel guide as we plan and plot our adventure. I still can't believe that we're actually going! So now that I've rambled long enough, gute Nacht!


Crime Blotter

Fridays at school are my earliest mornings. I have anatomy lab at 7:30 a.m., so I'm on my way about 6:15. Nonetheless, it's pretty quiet on the PT Penthouse (that's the 7th floor of Kell, for those of you none-DPT people). Yesterday morning, I arrived exceptionally early and found myself in the lounge with the GSU paper. I was flipping through and happened upon the CrimeBlotter. It chronicled the incidents from the week of August 21st. Mind you, it's a whole page of various incidents for just ONE week. As I read, I discovered 2 recuring themes. People are stupid. And people are mean.

Here's a quick recount of this week's events/incidences/violations of moral standards:

2 cases of students noticing various items were missing from their wallets.

2 criminal trespassing charges (apparently you can't be in GSU buildings if you're not a student).

3 cases of students locking their bikes and returning to find them missing.

1 girl left her cell phone unattended for 2 hours and was surprised to find it missing when she returned.

1 girl dropped her Crackberry over a rail and it was gone when she went down to get it. I don't know how it survived the fall.

1 man arrested for sleeping in a car that wasn't his. He broke the window to get in.

1 girl reported that someone entered the bathroom and took a picture of her in the stall.

1 idiot left his backpack and books unattended in the library. They too disappeared while he was gone.

1 well-intending individual had his wallet snatched when he took it out to give money to a panhandler.

And the icing on the cake (I must quote this one)
A non-Georgia State individual was charged with Theft. The individual placed a laptop computer in his pants and left the University Bookstore. Officers apprehended the man after a brief foot chase ensued [because everyone knows you can't run very well with a computer in your pants].

For the sake of brevity, I left out the individuals impeding traffic, selling alcohol to minors, dealing drugs, possessing drugs, harrasing students, and vandalizing cars, which accounted for a total of 13 incidents. :-)

And that, my friends, is why you don't leave your stuff lying around, carry pink pepper spray, walk with friends, and don't buy drugs. Duh. Be smart. The end.


On sorrow

The end is often closer than we realize. Sometimes it is unexpected. Sometimes we are waiting for the inevitable. We can be thankful for the small things. Holding a child for the first and last time. Relief that the suffering is over. Ushering in the end with a peace that surpasses understanding. Knowing that the Father's arms are waiting on the other side.

The hardest part is for all the others left behind.


A celebration of life

This weekend, I was able to share in such a special celebration of life. I am blessed to have a group of friends with whom I am celebrating 20 years of friendship, life, heartache, and joy. On Thursday, Rachel gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Miriam and I were able to share in Eve's homecoming this weekend. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have shared with these girls kindergarten, the ugly middle school years, high school graduation, all three of our weddings, and now the birth of a child. Holding Eve for the first time made me so grateful that, despite our different personalities and faults, these girls have loved and supported me. As I watched Rachel as she held Eve (which wasn't much, between me, Miriam, and Hugh passing her around!), I understood what it looks like to see the bond between a mother and her child. It was amazing to be able to rejoice with Rachel in her new bundle of joy!

Yet, my heart continues to be burdened for little Samuel. I find myself checking Bryan and Kathryn's blog hourly to see if there are any updates. While I rejoice with those who are rejoicing, I find myself mourning with those who are mourning. Bryan blogged last week that he is continually praying that their family would be on our hearts, and I am reminded of that every time Samuel comes to mind. One family who is rejoicing and celebrating their new life, and one family is handing their sweet baby to Jesus. Yet we can celebrate both lives, for each has such a special purpose, though we may be unable to see it right now. The Lord is the giver of joy, peace, sorrow, comfort. I struggled this weekend trying to reconcile my joy and my sorrow. As I held Eve, my heart ached for Kathryn, who hasn't held her child in four weeks.

As I think about life and death, I am drawn once again to one of Mattie's poems. It is amazing to read the thoughts of a child, especially on such a difficult subject. His poem may seem lighthearted, but to me, it's a picture of a child facing the reality of death with courage and hope.

Heavenly Greeting
Dear God,
For a long time,
I have wondered about
How you will meet me
When I die and come to
Live with You in Heaven.
I know you reach out
Your hand to welcome
Your people into Your home,
But I never knew if You
Reached out Your right hand,
Or if You
Reached out Your left hand.
But now I don't have to
Wonder about that anymore.
I asked my mommy and
She told me that You
Reach out both of Your hands,
And welcome us with
A great big giant hug.
I can't wait for my hug, God.
Thank you,
And Amen.

What a sweet picture to see our Savior reaching out His arms for His children. I pray for an earthly miracle for Samuel. But I am so thankful for the eternal miracle that one day he...I...you...will be welcomed into the Savior's arms with a great big giant hug.

Let us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.


Samuel and Mattie

My heart has been burdened for a little boy I've never met. His name is Samuel, and he's a miracle. His parents were teachers at my high school, and have two adorable, healthy little boys. And then, there's Samuel. Not only is he a miracle, but he's a medical mystery. The doctors are having trouble diagnosing and treating his conditions. I keep up with Samuel's progress through Bryan and Kathryn's blog, and each day, I'm hoping to read good news. Some days are good, and some days aren't. What amazes me most is the strength that Brian and Kathryn have shown through the whole ordeal. It is a strength that surpasses understanding. They have a unique compassion and yearning not only for the healing of their own son, but for the other children in ICU.

As I read about Samuel, I am reminded about another little miracle. His name was Mattie Stepanek. Mattie is another little boy I never met, but he is one of my heroes. He was born with an aggressive type of muscular dystrophy, as were his siblings. He coped with watching his brothers and sisters succumb to the disease by writing poems, or Heartsongs, as he calls them. Mattie's book, Journey Through Heartsongs, has become a source of comfort and encouragement. Despite having lost two siblings to the same disease that he was dying from, Mattie choose to look at his glass half-full, "because if you live life feeling like your glass is half empty, well, it might as well be empty all the way."

Mattie was very real about the pain he experienced. He never denied it, but he also didn't let it dictate how he would live. His life was full of hospitals and tests and doctors and disease. But it didn't beat him. As I read Mattie's writings, it reminds me of the strength Bryan and Kathryn show every day. My heart aches for them as they are navigating life with a sick child. But sweet Samuel is fighting. The doctors are fighting. Bryan and Kathryn are fighting. And we are fighting with them every day. I haven't seen Bryan and Kathryn in years, but little Samuel is in my heartsongs and prayers every day.

Mattie was just eight years old when he wrote the opening poem of his book. When I read it, I think of Samuel, and the miracle of his journey so far. I encourage you to join Samuel on his journey by praying for his healing.

Prayer for a Journey

Thank you, God,
Not just for life,
But for our journey through life.
Life is a miracle,
And a journey through life
Is full of so many more miracles
If we travel with our Heartsongs.
Thank you, God,
For blessing me with the
Gift of Heartsongs,
So that I can enjoy my miracles.

For Bryan, Kathryn, and Samuel...may you find strength and comfort for each day, knowing that you have a multitude praying for your little miracle.


Don't stop believing...

Pandora has become my new music obsession. I type in "Footloose", click a few thumbs ups, and BAM! I have a station full of 80's classics. Have you ever had "that song," the one you hear on the radio and it evokes that special memory or feeling? Now, it all fairness, I actually have a rotating jukebox of "those songs," but the current song of emotion-evoking is "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. One of my all time favorites. Also, it's in like 63 movies from the 80's. But whatever. They hit the chorus and I can't help but belt out those last lines! (What are street light people, anyways?) Most recently though, this song makes me excited for the GLEE premiere on Sept. 9th!!! (You'd think I was getting paid to promote this thing!) I must be releasing my inner show choir girl. But seriously, I'm admitting that I'm slightly obsessed. And I'm sure I'll need some good laughs this semester.

Check out the cast singing my favorite song of all time...

I'm here to audition for the role of kicker!


My 18th First Day of School

Charlie: Babe...you've gotta get up at 5:30! Why are you Facebooking?!?
Me: I'm not Facebooking. I'm blogging. A blogger can't go on vacation.

So technically, I'm not on vacation, but I did promise a first day of school blog. It's actually my (and I had to use my fingers to make sure I got it right) 18th first day of school. Since I'm in school for 9 consecutive semesters, I feel that it's safe to say that this is my last first day of school. I was planning on posting a first day pic from back in the day and then one from today, but in my rush to get out the door this morning, I neglected to document the momentous occasion. Plus, now I get to spare myself the embarrassment of digging out one of those old pictures!

Charlie: Lauren, it's 10:30.

So, in case you were wondering, nothing particularly exciting happened today. I spent the morning studying in the library (can you believe they give assignments before you've even started class?!?) and then had my anatomy lab. Dissection doesn't begin until Friday, so we reviewed bones of the lower extremities.

No drama until the ride home. Someone was robbed at the Five Points station and the police took off pseudo-running after him. And you know that guy from the Mad TV skit in the movie theater? The "the back a your head look ridikulus...can I have your number? Can I have your number?" Yeah, Darrell sat two rows back. And was drunk. I changed trains.

Tomorrow is get-mostly-naked-with-people-you-just-met day in functional anatomy. I'll let you know how that goes. :-) No pictures though!

Charlie: LAUREN!!! (Gotta go!!!)


Good intentions

The road to hell is paved with good intentions...

I "intended" to do a much better job blogging than I have actually done. In my head, I have written a post about the end of our trip to move Caroline up to Indiana, and a very witty and funny post about the bears we literally ran into on our hiking trip. But alas, I got distracted. Caroline moved into Briscoe Dorm at IU.

Of course, Briscoe triggered "Bristow", as in Bristow, Sydney. Arriving home, I find that Caroline has left seasons 1 and 2 on her desk (McKay wouldn't take them because the boxes are in Chinese!). What does a good sister do? Steal them, of course! Charlie and I are now racing through season one. TV shows on DVD's are glorious for two reasons. 1) No commercials. Just a 2 second blackout and we're picking up where we left off. 2) We don't have to wait a week while Sydney is falling down a hole on Mt. Anacongua to see what happens (BTW...her leg catches the bottom rung of the ladder and she miraculously climbs back up to save Dixon.) In fact, there have been several nights where Charlie tells me that we have time for "one more episode!" Music to my ears!

However, Alias too must go on a hiatus. I had my first day of orientation for PT school today, where they threatened my life if I show up late for class or don't pay my tuition on time. And, as a welcome to grad school, the profs have graciously posted our assignments that are due on the first day. So tonight, instead of Alias, I will be watching instructional videos on human anatomy dissection...which, honestly, is quite cool. I would hate to leave everyone else out, so if you want to join me, you can watch them here. However, the faint of heart can always check out Alias at blockbuster...


On the road again

I'm blogging from a hotel room in Indiana...not as exciting as blogging from Tahiti or Bora Bora, but it will have to do for now. Caroline is starting her master's program at the University of Indiana after swearing that she would NEVER go back to school. Isn't it always like that? So I decided to document our latest sisterly adventure...

Saying goodbye to Jake...

Starburst sandwich...

Briscoe Hall. Alias anyone?

She's super!

Check out my facebook album for lots more pictures. And congrats Jeanine! My fav from the beginning. Mark your calendars for September 9th...SYTYCD and GLEE!!! :-)


Who knew it could be that easy?!?

Thanks to Becca for recommending The Cutest Blog on the Block! Now my blog is far from boring! You can check out Becca's blog here. For quick and easy blog background, visit TCBOTB.

Two blogs in one day. I'm setting a record here!

Sheer bliss...

Sheer bliss...that's what I felt Monday morning. Why, you ask?

Yesterday marked the return of teachers all around metro Atlanta. Unless of course, you teach in Cherokee or Henry counties, which started school today. Or Gwinnett or Cobb, which mandated two furlough days to make up for the budget crisis. We become creatures of habit, so it was quite different not showing up at school for a week of pre-planning activities.

There were parts of teaching that I honestly loved...the thrill on a child's face when something "clicks," the hugs in the morning, arriving to school feeling exhausted and having a little girl say, "You look beautiful today, Mrs. Haws!" I loved my co-workers and the camaraderie we shared. But there was plenty to make me come home and cry at the end of the day...county politics, uncooperative parents, trying to figure out how to be a fair disciplinarian, not having enough resources for the kids, and spending my time in crowd control rather than teaching.

I am grateful for the time I spent teaching. It was the hardest task I've ever undertaken, and I know that I'm stronger for having been challenged and stretched. But no amount of growth is worth the stress that teaching put on me personally and my marriage. Not everyone has the same experience that I did, but the emotional drain was at times absolutely unbearable. Needless to say, the amount of relief I felt when I was done was refreshing. Charlie said it best: "I have my wife back."

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm about to embark on an even more difficult challenge in PT school. It's not going to be easy. In fact, they compare it to the first three years of med school. But to me, it's different. I have worked extremely hard this past year to even get into school, taking classes at night and all summer. I worked three jobs last summer to get in all my observation hours. I sacrificed weekend activities to complete homework and lesson plans. I feel like I have ownership of my education. And that makes all the difference.

So to all my teacher friends, whom I dare not list by name, lest I leave someone out...happy Tuesday! You are one day closer to the weekend!


Why Defying Gravity?

I've decided to venture out and start a blog. I really have no idea what I'm doing, nor why I think anyone would actually read what I write. I'm not particularly witty, funny, or insightful. Now that I've given three good reasons not to read my blog, I invite you on my little adventure!

Naming a blog is a difficult venture. It's like describing yourself in three words, or three pizza toppings, or by what you would take to a deserted island (a boy scout, a boat, and a GPS unit, by the way). Once you come up with a name, you most likely find that it's already taken, and you must start the process all over again. Endofthesidewalk? Not available. Wherethesidewalkends? Not available. Neither are any of the 67 variations I came up with. So much for a Shel Silverstein theme. But then I remembered the cover of his beloved poetry collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends.

I was always amazed at the little sliver of land that the kids held on to. And I always wondered what would happen if they took one more step. Which brings me to the name of my blog: Defying Gravity. The lyrics of the ever popular song from Wicked seem to describe my transitional state right now.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

A year ago, I realized I needed a change. I threw myself into taking classes and getting volunteer hours so I could apply to get my doctorate in physical therapy. I took a huge step of faith by quitting my full-time teaching job to go back for 9 semesters of school! Stepping off the edge of that sidewalk has been the best thing I could have done for myself. I was comfortable. Unhappy in my job. Ready for a change.

Will you close your eyes and leap with me?