Monday, March 28, 2011

Sisterly Bonding (or how I managed to actually relax for a weekend)

It's extremely rare that my sister and I get time to spend alone together.  She lives in Orlando and I'm in Pittsburgh.  She's a busy teacher and masters student, I'm a mom of about 75 kids (it feels like) and working part time while preparing to go to seminary on top of it all.  Usually when we're together it's in the whirlwind of a holiday or wedding or funeral.  Mom always said that one day we'd realize how important we were and stop fighting and no as adults, we understand this and really miss each other.  ALOT.

So. . . for my graduation present from Mom and Sarah (my sister), they bought me plane tickets to Orlando to go visit my baby sister.  All.  By.  Myself. This was a really nice chance to just hang out with noone else to answer to but ourselves.  It was an interesting and contemplative weekend for me.  The weekend was full of things that made me think about family and how it's woven together.

The trip was a little disorienting to prepare for.  Usually, my travel involves small children or dozens of teenagers.  I'm not used to only having to prepare for what I might need.  I was up all night a few nights before the trip worrying about what purse to take.  I think my subconscious thought it unnatural to not have something to worry about or prepare for, so it picked something asinine to obsess over. Anyway, Thursday morning I left Pittsburgh all by my lonesome with only a carry on suitcase and a purse to keep track of.  The flights were uneventful and I got there safe and sound.

Family needs "nothing" time together. Some of the best bonding time is time spent with nothing planned ahead of time.  You know what I'm talking about. . . those evenings where you just sit around watching TV and joking with each other. Thursday night, we spent a quiet evening just hanging out and relaxing at Sarah's house with her hubby, Dan and their German exchange student Robin. They introduced me to Top Gear.  We laughed our butts off.  It was totally mundane and completely wonderful!  I can't remember the last time my sister and I got to just sit around watching TV together.

Family needs "extraordinary" time together. We don't just need the ordinary, we need the out of the ordinary stuff that really burns into our memories.  There was no shortage of that this weekend.  We went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure on Friday, just Sarah and I.  We rode roller coasters and other silly theme rides (which I hadn't done in about a decade), shopped the gift shops, had lunch with a beautiful view and just all around enjoyed the day.  We laughed and screamed and appreciated each other's company in a way only sisters can do.  We also agreed that it's an OK thing that we're both turning into our mother.

Family has their own special language. A while back, I read an article about married couples develop their own language based on their shared experiences together.  You know, like how my husband or myself will exclaim while driving through a new place, "Look! They have Methodists here!"  And the other will crack up while everyone else in the area looks at us like we've lost it.  Right, that's an inside joke.  You probably don't get it.  Read the article.  Anyway, that idea extends to more than just couples.  Siblings and other family relationships have that too.  Many times over the weekend, my sister or I would say something (or we'd simultaneously say the same thing) and we'd both get the giggles while everyone else in the party would just roll their eyes.

We also added a new phrase to our personal sister-vocabulary.  At the beginning of our day at Universal on Friday, Sarah showed me what she assured me was a sure-fire way to keep from losing your sunglasses on a roller coaster.  She promised that if you tuck them into the collar of your T-shirt with the lenses inside the shirt and only one ear piece on the outside, they are far more secure than clipping them to your shirt the normal way around.  "I've never lost a pair." She announced while demonstrating.  And she seemed to be right.  After lunch, we'd been on several rides and coasters throughout the day and her sunglasses were still safely attached and ready for use.

We walked around a bit after lunch to let the food settle, then decided to try out the Incredible Hulk coaster.  The wait seemed to be mostly shaded and indoors, so I left my shades in the locker with my purse and camera, while Sarah kept hers with her.  At the end of the ride (it was a good one), we were smoothing our hair and waiting for the safety bars to lift when I heard from beside me, "Aaaaaaaawwww!  Where'd my sunglasses go?"  We searched the seats (which was really difficult for me as I was doubled over in laughter while doing so) to no avail.  The sunglasses had clearly been flung from the coaster to the ground below.

On our way to the sunglasses cart just outside the exit to the ride (incredibly clever placement of said cart) to purchase new sunglasses for Sarah, we noticed there was a net below one of the more drastic corkscrews in the roller coaster.  It very, very high up, but we thought we could see a couple pairs of glasses in it.
It was hard to tell, but that's what zoom lenses are for.
Sure enough, those were her sunglasses. . . Needless to say, we laughed ourselves silly about it and the running gag for the rest of the weekend was the warning to "hold on to your sunglasses" any time we went on a ride-even the 1 mph Dr. Suess train, got in the car, stepped up on a curb, used public restrooms, etc.  I haven't laughed until I cried in a while, but I surely did over that.

Family cheer one another on. On Saturday morning, Sarah, her husband Dan and I ran a 10K.  Dan and I have run together before and he's one of my favorite race-buddies.  He's egged on by me- I think because he's a good 6+ inches taller than me and can't let my short legs outrun him and I find his energy and humor while running to be contagious in a good way.  We're also really closely paced.  We were both shooting for 54 minutes for the race and Sarah was shooting to hit about an hour.

Dan and I ran the last bit of the Pittsburgh Marathon together last year and I have to say that this 6 miles was far less painful than that!  And it was awesome!  Every mile marker clock we passed proclaimed that we were a good bit faster than our goal pace and we both still felt great, so we both kept up the faster pace.  When we crossed the finish line at a clock time of about 53:40, we were ecstatic!  For the non-racers out there, it's important to note that because of start-line logistics and getting through the initial mass of people at the starting mat that sets off your timing chip, the clock time is generally anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute longer than your chip time (actual time).  Clock time is the time it took you from when the gun went off, chip time is the time from when you actually hit the start line.  Not too terribly long after that, we got to see Sarah cross the finish line at just over an hour clock time!

All three of us set personal records Saturday!  Sarah's official chip time was 1:00:38, Dan's was 53:13 and mine was 53:19.  That was a great, joyful, exciting morning for all three of us.

Family encourage one another when one can't manage to move forward. Our plans for Saturday after the race were to go check out Megacon.  I had never before been to a comic or sci-fi convention and this was quite an experience.  I've often wondered what it feels like when you land on an alien planet that's full of strange creatures and cultures that you are totally unfamiliar with.  I think that Megacon must be sort of what that feels like.  To make it weirder, there were also two other conventions going on in the same building that day:  a Mary Kay conference and a cheerleading competition.  Sci-fi, comic and anime geeks in their full costumes, middle aged women in suits and giant hair and spoiled teenaged valley girls. . . all in one building.  I'm pretty certain I've officially been in the weirdest place in the country.

As we were walking in from the car, Sarah quoted, "Everyone remember where we parked." (From Star Trek IV, which we had watched the night before after our adventures at Universal- it's another family language joke that we used to say all the time.)

We were greeted by a platoon of Stormtroopers.

We met several stars from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Marina Sirtis was really sweet and funny.  And we found out that she's a big fan of Top Gear.  Counselor Troi was always my favorite TNG character, so I made sure to get an autographed photo.
We also met Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf), who reminded me of my dear friend Carol's husband in mannerisms and a little in looks too.  It was a bit disorienting.  Then we met the one that our dad is jealous about because he thinks he's really good looking, Jonathan Frakes (AKA: Commander Riker).  Because we knew Dad would be jealous, we made a point to have our picture taken with him.  Holy smokes, he's tall!
I think that perhaps the best part of the picture is Captain Picard glaring ominously over his shoulder from the poster on the wall.

I'm getting to the point about the encouraging one another, I promise.  See, there were other stars there as well, most of whom were really nice (Robin Curtis- really sweet and personable. Lou Ferrigno- grouchy and disappointing.) But the real thrill of the day was meeting Captain Kirk himself.  Yeah.  You read that right.  We met William Shatner.  We had been planning all the clever things we'd say to him.  Sarah was going to tell him she only paid $40 for the chance to get an autograph instead of the asking price of $65 because she'd gotten hers on  I had considered bringing him a birthday card.  We were going to tell him, "I loved you in Miss Congeniality."  We were going to be hilarious and awesome when we met ol' Bill.  Dan tried to play it cool, but he had been waiting for years to get an autograph on his Captain Kirk trading card from when he was a kid.  The air was crackling with excitement as we bought the autograph tickets (much to our dismay, we'd gotten there too late for photo op tickets) and we went behind the magic curtain gently carrying our photos and trading cards.  

There he was.  Just sitting there like people do.  Captain Kirk was wearing street clothes and talking to normal, run of the mill geeks like us!

Sarah froze in her tracks.  She looked like a deer in headlights.  Dan grinned like a little kid meeting Mickey Mouse on their first trip to Disney World.  My heart started beating at about 400 BPM.  I started to walk forward, but my sister was stopped in her tracks.

"I can't do this." she whispered, eyes big as saucers.

"You just paid a ton of money to do this." the ever practical sister replied. "You have to do this.  I'm right here."  

I took her arm and shoulder to shoulder, we made our way up to the table.  With shaking hands, she slid her picture toward James Tiberius Kirk and in a barely audible, trembling voice said, "Happy 80th birthday, sir."  Which, when it came down to it was far more clever than what I managed to squeak out.  All I could say to the poor man was, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." about 50,000 times before Dan nudged me out of the way to pass over his trading card.  Robin just said "Hi." and shook his head at us. 

Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day remembering all the clever things we were going to say and what starstruck numnums we became when we actually got there.  But at least we managed to get each other to keep walking through the line when we all turned into grinning idiots meeting a childhood hero. 
Family eats sushi together.  OK, not always, but that's what we did Saturday night and I'm trying to work it into the post somewhere.  Robin ate more sushi in one sitting than I thought was humanly possible.  Then we had gelatto at a little shop.  
Family is hard to be far away from. Before I boarded the first plane home yesterday, I already missed my baby sister.  I think if a genie popped out of a bottle or lamp or whatever and offered me three wishes, one of them would be that Sarah and Dan would move to Pittsburgh.  I know they like the warm weather and hate the hills, but all the hijinx that would result would be worth it.  

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend.  Best I've had in a long time.  It was fun, relaxing, occasionally ridiculous and flat out wonderful.  Maybe for her birthday, I'll have to fly my sister up here to run the Pittsburgh Great Race, go to Kennywood and introduce her to the joy of watching Doctor Who. I'll be hard pressed to top meeting William Shatner, but it'll still be a great time.


  1. Sarah (Baby Sis)5:41 PM

    For a moment there, I thought you were going to be a champ and leave out the sunglasses thing. I should have known better. :-p I love you!

  2. Yes, but I mentioned the bit about how you actually managed a coherent sentence when we met Shatner, while I just muttered "Thank you" about 4000 times. I made us both look silly, lol.