Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Law School Graduation

I’ve taken another blog hiatus, not intentionally but I had been working on an Ironman Florida DVD (which dad may have asked me about once or twice) and wanted to finish it before getting the family together in Austin. I finished while we were in Austin and I seriously feel like I just completed a final exam or a final paper for a class in college—a huge load has been lifted off my shoulders! I think it came out pretty well and it was fun to relive that week in Florida while we were together in Austin.

Jim, Lilly and I arrived in Austin on Thursday morning, around the same time as Mum and Dad. We had a great flight down, although it wasn’t as relaxing as our flights down to Austin used to be…before Lilly arrived. We planned the flight so that it was during her nap time, and figured that we’d get a good 2 hour nap out of her. Lilly, our little social butterfly, had other plans. She wanted to wave and talk to everyone. There was so much to look at and although she stayed in her car seat for the entire flight, she ended up sleeping for a grand total of 30 minutes. As the woman next to us said, “She’s such a good baby. She’s very verbal, isn’t she?” It’s basically the same thing as a teacher writing on a report card that a student is a “very active participant in class.” It was a nice way of saying that Lilly wasn’t the quietest person on the plane. She sat there singing and saying “mamamama” and “dadadada” often, at the top of her lungs. I can’t complain though. She was happy, she played and she didn’t cry. It could have been much worse. Edward picked us all up from the airport and so began our week of eating, drinking and being together in a place we all love.

This time, Scout, Lilly's talking green dog, joined us on our trip. These two videos represent our time in the hotel in Austin...Lilly parading around, playing with cell phones and dancing to Scout's "singing."


And then, everyone had to recover from Lilly's busy mornings. When Lilly had her nap, everyone had a nap.

This trip to Austin was planned to celebrate Joseph’s graduation from law school, and celebrate we did! The graduation ceremony itself was pretty amazing. The people who spoke at the graduation were not the reason it was memorable. None of them offered new and insightful advice to the graduates. They were the same generic speeches that you would expect to hear at a graduation; speeches in which the speaker spends the majority of time talking about himself speaking at the graduates instead of speaking to the graduates. It is a ceremony that I will remember, however, because I spent most of the time in amazement that I have a brother with a law degree.

As members of our family point out continually, Joseph and I are 17 and a half months apart in age (my two favorite pictures of Joseph and me when we were little are below). Often, this is brought up when Joseph tells us about an afternoon spent playing drinking games and mini golfing, or an evening of beer drinking and bowling, or when discussing relationships (I’m not going to begin to tackle any of those!) While we are close in age, Joseph and I live very different lives. Mine involves being married, having a baby and going to bed early. Joseph’s is much more interesting and hard to sum up in one sentence. If I had to try, I would say that his life involves training, studying, drinking, reading, training, working, watching baseball, training and reading. Throw in a couple of nights out on the town, a missed (international) flight or two, a one of a kind sense of humor and some good conversations and there, you have Joseph in a nutshell.

Joseph is very modest and is not one to boast of his accomplishments. In fact, if you just met him and had a conversation with him, he would say that he was in school but he most likely would not bring up the fact that he’d just completed his law degree at one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. He might mention that he trains for triathlons, but he would never say he has completed eight Ironmans and more half-Ironmans, sprint and Olympic distance races than I can begin to count. And not just completed them—annihilated them. He might mention a book that he has read or is currently reading but he wouldn’t tell you that he is the most well read person I know, second only to Dad. He knows about politics, sports, and world events. He can quote Steinbeck, Hemingway, Proust and Dickens. He is an amazing writer and great storyteller. His sense of humor rivals Ellie as the quickest, sharpest and most sarcastic that I have come in contact with. He keeps everyone on his or her toes and can make anyone laugh. He motivated me and gave me advice on a regular basis when I was training for the Ironman. He is someone whose opinion I respect and value. In addition to all of this, he can now add completing law school to his list of accomplishments.

Not a great picture, but the only one I have of Lilly in her Texas dress, ready to celebrate graduation!

Every night together consisted of another memorable family dinner, often with a couple of Joseph and Edward’s friends. We had nights where we all sat in our hotel room, drinking beer and wine, eating bread, cheese and pizza and the conversation flowed freely late into the night. Other times, we went out to enjoy our favorite Austin cuisine—barbeque and Tex-Mex.

Two dinners in particular stuck out for me. After Joseph’s graduation, we went to Cantina Laredo to celebrate. We enjoyed our Tex-Mex with margaritas and mojitos and had a fantastic evening of talking and laughing and toasting Joseph. Dinner ended only when Lilly was exhausted—around 9:30. It was a new record for her since she tends to go to bed around 6:30 (which would have been 5:30 in Austin!) But, as always, she loved being a part of the conversation, especially when everyone was looking at her and smiling. Being the center of attention is one of Lilly’s specialties. I have no idea who she gets that from! Mum and Dad took Lilly back to the hotel while Jim, Joseph, Edward and I headed out for the night and met up with Brogan and Meredith—2 of the boys’ friends. We went to a couple of bars and then a club called “The Ranch” where we all had a few too many beers (or frozen mojitos in my case). While the highlight of my night was the dinner (and frozen mojitos), the highlight (well, one of them anyway) of Jim and Edward’s night was witnessing a fight at this club. They were close enough to this fight to be hit by beer that the guys were throwing at each other. What is it about boys and fights?

The second dinner was at Uncle Billy’s, which has great barbeque. We always seem to end up here at the end of a hot day. Brogan and Meredith joined us, and the food and beer was free flowing. Eleven pitchers of beer later, after a ridiculous amount of ribs and pulled pork, we called it an evening. It was a night that ended only when the restaurant closed. A few topics of conversation, aided by the eleven pitchers of beer, included: training and races, work, books, facial hair, white speedos (don’t ask…), babies, relationships…actually, I’m going to stop there because the conversation got a little bit out of control and should not be documented, for everyone’s sake.

The last couple of days were spent at the pool, running on Town Lake and just enjoying the warm weather.

Watching Grandpa go for a run!

As our time in Austin drew to a close, there was definitely a feeling of sadness in the air. It’s always hard when we say goodbye at the end of a vacation, and we try to figure out the next time we’ll all get together so we have something to look forward to. We haven’t planned the next time yet, which made leaving that much harder. And while we all had fun together, a day did not go by without thinking and talking about Ellie who was in Guatemala and was missed greatly. Next time we get together, it has to be with everyone…no Stephens family members missing.


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