Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This Is Madness! No, This Is Sparta!

In early 1942, a magazine called Illinois High School Athlete was published to inform its readers about the annual high school basketball tournament. Inside that particular issue, educator, member of the Illinois High School Association, and editor of the magazine, Henry Van Arsdale Porter had a poem published, which he entitled "Basketball Ides of March." In this poem, Porter described the insanity of the Illinois high school basketball tournament that included over 900 schools, all playing for one championship. The last few lines of this poem contain the beginnings of a very famous phrase we hear at this time every year.

Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.

As one can see, Porter is credited with originating the phrase "March Madness." Through the years (and a lawsuit brought by the IHSA), the term has come to refer to the Division I college basketball tournament held every March. 

While a 900-team tournament sounds like the epitome of madness, Mr. Porter never saw lunacy like what happened in the Gilpin family during the third month of 2011. To say that the past month has been eventful would be something of a gross understatement. Then, to say that it was all done with an infant in tow would exhaust anyone. Years from now, I have a feeling, I will remember this month as the true "Madness of March."

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The first event wasn't experienced by Kellee, Brody, or me, but it is mentioned here, because it contributed to the Madness. My brother, Kirk, found out earlier in the year that he had been hired by the Norfolk Southern Company. We were, and are, so excited for him. He had been looking for a job for over a year, and this was a welcomed sight. He went to Atlanta to interview for a management position, then waited for several weeks before receiving the call welcoming him to the team. 

Continuing a small theme of understatements, I will say that he was excited. The madness ensued when he was told some of the places he would be training: Norfolk, Virginia for a few weeks, then a trip to Atlanta for a while. This wasn't to mention the places he may have to travel to "just because" they need him there. He was told that after a year he would be living and working in St. Louis, MO. For him, it appears the Madness is only beginning.

The Place That Launched A Thousand Ships
Earlier this year, my grandmother called to tell me that she, my grandfather, and my 5 year old cousin, Abby, would be going to "The Cabin." This cabin is located in Helen, GA, and is one that they own and rent to those wanting to visit the Bavarian-themed Alpine Village. When it isn't being rented (or really, whenever they want to) they will travel from their home in Gulf Shores, AL, and stay for a few days. It is great, and convenient, that Helen is only a couple of hours away from our home, in Cleveland, TN.

We traveled to Helen and made it just in time for dinner, which was Gulf shrimp chowder, green bean casserole, and grape salad. (The menu items aren't important, but they did serve as a reprieve from the Madness.) The next day we all went to downtown Helen: a quaint town with lots of small shops, beautiful architecture, and the Chattahoochee River (of Alan Jackson fame) running right through it.

We had a great time, spending a few days with my grandparents (Brody's great-grandparents) and my cousin, who took every opportunity to inform Brody that he was now the baby of the family. Just keeping up with her was Madness, in its own right. She would dance around the room, try on several different changes of clothes, show Brody how to crawl, and nudge her way in between my grandmother and Brody. While doing this last one, the following conversation occurred.

Abby: [hitting her Gammy with her elbow]
Gammy: Abby, you are hurting my arm!
Abby: It's not your arm, it's God's!

Touche, Abigail. Well played.

No Sign Of Marc Cohn, Anywhere
Just a few days after getting back from Helen, we loaded up the van, once again. This time we were headed to Memphis, by way of Northport, AL. The reason we were going was to attend the annual lectureship at the Memphis School of Preaching, the place where we lived for the first two years of our married life. It is always good to go to the lectureship, not just because of the spiritual boost you get, but because of all of the friends you get to see, again (some you haven't seen since last year's edition of the lectureship).

This was, obviously, Brody's first lectureship, and I wanted to make the most of it. We introduced him to a lot of great people, and we also started his preacher file. We took pictures of him with several great preachers. My hope is that, years from now, he will be so thankful he had been associated with some of these men, even if he won't remember it. Perhaps in the coming years, we can add updated pictures to the file. Among those with whom Brody appears are Curtis Cates, Garland Elkins, and Tom Holland. 

Growth and Development
It was at the end of this week (April 2) that Brody became 6 months old. He has seen so much in only 6 months, and we have seen even more out of him.

He rolls over whenever he can. Then, not being satisfied with where he is, he will roll over again. Gone are the days of being able to change him without having to use one of your hands to hold him still.

A few weeks ago, Kellee noticed what she thought was a tooth coming in. After a little more investigation, she found that he was, in fact, getting his first tooth! Now, he has both of his front bottom teeth breaking through. I know they hurt him, but he is doing so well with the whole process.

There's a tooth in there!
He now can hold himself up on his hands and knees, like he is going to crawl. He rocks back and forth, wanting to go forward so badly. He then pushes with his hands and goes backwards.

For some time now he has been able to stand up, with some help in the balancing department from someone, of course. He will move his feet to walk, if he is steadied along the way.

It was during this week that he learned he could say "baa baa." He has not let anyone forget he knows how to say it since that time.

Unfortunately, and in a way, fortunately, he has arrived at the "I Don't Recognize You, Therefore I Am Leary Of You" stage. He will still let others hold him, but not as long as he previously would. Soon he's wanting Kellee or me to hold him.

The Sunshine State
The height of the month-long lunacy actually began in the first few days of April, but will be included, for obvious reasons. The three of us traveled to visit good friends in the southern part of the Sunshine State. When I say "southern part," I mean "the southern part." It's way down there!

In the 1880s, Kentucky US Senator, John Stuart Williams founded a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida. For the next few years, newspapers gave the town its present-day name when they began describing the abundant fishing and beautiful climate as "surpassing that of Naples, Italy." It took us about 130 years, but at the end of March, the three of us made our way to Naples, Florida.

Our first flight was out of Birmingham, AL on Friday, at 9:00 am. Kellee's mom took us to the airport, leaving at 7:30 am. On the way, the Madness reared its ugly head. There was a traffic accident on the interstate. Coupled with the early morning commute, this made us a little late. No worries, however, we made it to the airport at 8:34, plenty of time to board the plane. Unfortunately, the time to check baggage (we had one big bag to check) ended at 8:30! We were forced to change our flight plans, opting for a 3:00 pm flight which put us in Ft. Myers/Naples at 8:00 pm.

Brody had no problem with flying. We took four separate flights over the weekend and he went 4-for-4 in sleeping through the flights. Most of the time he took a bottle while we were taxiing to the runway and was asleep before we were in the air. Kellee and I may have seen all of the Madness, but he slept right through it.

The next morning (Saturday), we had breakfast we our friend, Bobby. He preaches for the church in Naples. We met him and his family while we were in school in Memphis. He showed us around Naples (super nice) and took us by the church builder (even nicer). We ate lunch with him and his family and went back to their house afterwards. Bobby and his wife, Renee, have four children: Sydney, Savannah, Salem, and Sutton. Not one of their children was old enough to remember us when we lived in Memphis, but they warmed up fairly quickly. To say they took to Brody is yet another understatement. "I think Brody is hungry," "Can I hold Brody?" "Does Brody play Wii?" "Brody wants to throw football with me."

The next day (Sunday) we worshipped in Naples. They even asked a visitor (me) to lead singing. We had a great time with everyone and look forward to the next time we can visit with the Neapolitans. In the afternoon we ate lunch with several members at Carrabba's. The chicken marsala was delicious, but little did I know it would be my last meal for 24 hours (more Madness)!

After lunch and Brody's nap, we had about 45 minutes to introduce our little boy to the beach. We hurried to the shore and took a few pictures of him in the sand and putting his feet in the surf.

He really liked the sand, and he always smiles when someone pulls out a camera. He especially liked his new swim trunks and surfing shirt.

He wasn't sure about the water, at first, but soon was enjoying it as much as we were enjoying watching him in it.

We had a wonderful time in Naples, visiting friends, seeing the famous Naples Pier, and getting pictures with Brody at the beach. The whole trip was definitely worth the Madness.

The next morning (Monday) our flight out of Ft. Myers was a 6:00 am, which meant getting up and leaving before 4:00 am. Surprisingly (or maybe it shouldn't be), Brody handled it better than anyone: happy from the hotel to the airport, then asleep from the time we walked onto the plane until we landed in Atlanta. 

H.V. Porter once wrote in Illinois High School Athlete, "When the March madness is on him, midnight jaunts of a hundred miles on successive nights make him even more alert the next day."As I sat in seat 34E holding a sleeping 6 month old, his mother sleeping (or at least trying) in the seat next to me, I started thinking about the Madness of March. While it had been quite a month, and it seems like all we did was rush, there wasn't a moment I would have changed. The "midnight jaunts" were adventures in and of themselves, only to leave us feeling ready for the next to come along. We saw so many people, so much of this country, and so much of each other, that it would be a shame to trade any of it for any thing.  Somewhere over Georgia, I watched the sun rise to meet another day. Another day of Madness. Another day of Meaning. Another day of Memories. Was all of this truly madness, or was this just life sharing itself with us? I, for one, would like to think it was the latter. Because from up here, the Madness is a beautiful thing. And the one enjoying the view is