Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Students Teaching - surely not?

You know, it's funny how life gets busy and then it gets slow and then it gets crazy and then it gets dull for a while. I think we're in a bit of a slow spot, but I could be wrong. Let me think about what I can tell you about life in south Austin at the Coppinger residence...

Cynthia started her student teaching last week. I think it couldn't have started better. She has an awesome, veteran teacher as her "sponsor teacher" or whatever they call them, 2nd grade kids are a lot of fun (she reports), and the school she's at is super cool (great principal, too). For anyone who cares, she's at Williams Elementary, not to be confused with Williams High School in Plano, where yours truly went (almost 15 years ago). Darn, now I feel old. Anyhoo, I get to take her most days and I've been riding my bike to work from there, or taking the bus like I did today. I have driven my car once in the past 2 weeks, and that was only cus school was out for MLK day. OK, enough about work/school.

I'm still training for the AT&T Half Marathon in a month. The cold weather hasn't stopped me yet. It's gonna be fun, or it'll kill me. Either way, I'll be a person who's run 13.1 miles further because of it. After that, I've been thinking about other running events, or even triathlons. I just need to find a pool to relearn how to swim.

We got to go to Giddings to celebrate Cynthia's Dad's birthday. That whole branch of the Parker family tree got to come out. We had burgers, fun, a cake, and I didn't even get close to his new motorcycle. You may find that last statement strange, but it turns out that me, empty parking lots, poles, motorcycles and front brake levers that are on the right handlebar don't mix well.

I think that may bring us up to date. "Surely you can't be serious" "I am serious; and stop calling be Shirley" I feel compelled to end my posts with an obscure Airplane quote for Andy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I have been amazed at what God is doing in my life over the past couple of weeks. I have felt, at times, that I couldn't keep my head above water. And at those times I have seen God in all of His glory, strength, power, and grace reach down and tell me that I can make it. He will see me through... just depend on Him.

It seems that over the past few years of marriage God has been telling me the same thing, and now I am finally getting it. I am getting that when He says He will never leave me or forsake me, that is what He means. As many of you know the day we got married seemed to be our last day of normalcy. From that day forward God began a new work in our lives. One we didn't know even existed. My health went from somewhat normal to sick all of the time. From a constant upset stomach, to seizures, to depression. We changed seizure medications. We went to hospital time after time trying to figure out why I couldn't stop throwing up, or why I continued to have seizures. And it seemed at those moments, when we were the most desperate, God reached down and said "I've got this one".

I realized over the past few weeks that God is once again saying "Cynthia, I ve got this one. I am bigger than your anxieties, I am bigger than your relationships, I am BIGGER". In the midst of all of the circumstances these past weeks, I have had to sit down and say to God "I Surrender ALL"! And really surrender it. As some of you know the hard part is leaving it there once you have surrendered it. The easy part is saying that you are going to do it.

But this week I realized if I get up everyday and say "I Surrender ALLL"! I am more likely to leave it at His feet. And when Satan comes in and says "I think you might need to help out", if I go back to the truths I know about God I will leave it there and tell Satan to get lost. This week I have been tempted (after only moments of surrendering something) to intervene, and then I have realized how much more content I am when I trust in the faithfulness of God.

So I pray for all of you that when life gets hard you will be able to surrender it to God, and through those moments you will remember WHO HE IS!

God is Good!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Assault of Casa Grande

As anyone who has been to The Basin knows, Casa Grande is probably the most distinguishable landmark in the area. The top towers 2000 feet over the Basin Lodge and Ranger Station. The cliff walls seem somewhat impossible to scale. What red-blooded Texan wouldn't want to climb it? There is a fairly well marked trail. It's not in the guide books anymore, though it is mentioned in the circa 1970 edition of the trail guide. Several sources confirmed the location of said trail. Armed with that knowledge, walking sticks (trekking poles, if you want to get snooty), water, lunch and our wits, the assault began.

The Assaulting Force: myself, my brother and my dad. The Opposing Force: rocks, lots of rocks, more rocks, and a giant mountain.

"Our orders came through. We ship out tomorrow. We're assaulting Casa Grande at 0900 hours. We're coming in from the north, under their radar."
"When will you be back?"
"I can't tell you that. It's classified"

The first move was a feint toward Lost Mine Peak. Parking at the Lost Mine trailhead, we climbed up to the Juniper Canyon overlook. Stealth was maintained until this point - we quickly turn off this super highway trail and started along the ridge toward Casa Grande. The climb started out easy enough, but the mountain quickly noticed our presence. Several steep sections of trail reduced us to all fours at times, but we kept plodding on.

The cliff walls waged continuous psychological warfare on us; always visible, seeming to taunt us with their verticality. The trail was mostly stable rock, though that would change soon enough. Realizing that steep inclines were not enough to repel us and that it was almost beaten, Casa switched tactics. The last major obstacle was unstable, shifty rock. A long stretch through softball sized rock chunks that in no way wanted to stay still for you to put your foot on.

The assault force faced it's darkest hour here on the rock slope. As point man, I found a decently passable technique for besting the slope. Standing vertically (not leaning over) and staying to the left seemed to work the best. My dad followed, with some difficulty. The mountain, now desperate, launched one last salvo. Doug, as last man up, got stuck on the start of the slope. Reduced to a prone position, he was trapped near the edge. Any movement resulted in downward sliding (not recommended at this point). Through sheer will and true grit (and helpful suggestions from Dad), Doug found a way to the easier segment of the rock slide.

The cliff walls were the last remaining obstacle in our way. Fate was on our side, it would seem. We discovered a chink in the armor of the beast, in the form of a slope between two of the cliff towers. Sensing defeat but out of weapons, Casa Grande yielded to us. At the top of the crevice we found grass, trees and a gentle bowl on the top of the mountain. We made it.

Having conquered the ascent, we explored the top for a while. We realized that the mountain had known all along we were on our way, as you could see the personnel carrier clearly below. There was evidence of previous battle on top - there were many scorched trees and a seashell. You're probably wondering how a seashell ended up on top, or how that signifies battle? Go with me, OK? We triumphantly found a spot to eat lunch and attempted to establish contact with our base camp in the Lodge. The mountain did beat us here, as we were too small and insignificant to be seen from below.

The victory was slightly bittersweet as we knew we had to go back down. Casa Grande knew it too and was ready with a few tricks of its own. Looking back, the mental game was much worse than the actual descent. We discovered a sliding, sort of skiing technique that carried us right over many of the steep slopes and sliding rocks that stood in our way below us. This almost backfired, as Dad was carried over the end of one of the rock slopes. I said almost! He caught himself and survived. At one point Casa sent attack deer against us, but they were cowards. Back to the psychological game, embarrassment and infighting were levied against us. The slope ripped the seat of my pants almost completely out and forced me to try to crush Doug's hand with a mini rock slide.

We reached the Juniper canyon overlook and arrived back on the Lost Mine Trail. Looking back, I half expected the mountain to grimace or salute us somehow for our victory. You know, implode or something. It didn't. It just stood there, as big and imposing as when we started, but you know what? We did it. We climbed it. We didn't die. We defeated elite attack deer. And the beer sure tasted good...

More pics

After we had recovered and reflected on the climb, we gave out a few ratings and medals:

For Bravery in the face of falling down a lot, Dad was awarded the Purple Butt.
For Extreme Valor while stuck on the rocks for a long time, Doug was awarded the Sliding Star.
For Intestinal Fortitude while missing clothing, I was awarded the Golden Thimble.

Most trails in the books are labeled as Easy, Moderate, Strenuous, or maybe extremely Strenuous. The Basin Loop would be an Easy trail, while the South Rim loop and/or Emory would be in the Strenuous category. In that light, we decided that Casa Grande should get a new category --> F@%king Ridiculous