Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 18, 2010

Course changes

Most of us like to think we make plans for our future, whether for the day at hand or the next few years, and then do our best to execute them. Detours or roadblocks are often thought of as unwelcome events. That was my immediate reaction when husband Art threw up what I saw as a major detour this past May.

Our plan for this spring had included doing some long-deferred work on our home. But a major project at my work had pretty well consumed all my energy during the earlier months. So I figured I'd do some catching up as soon as the school term was over.

Then, on May 16, Art threw me that curve. He had watched me the past semester and had concluded that I didn't need another new project, but instead could do with a getaway. So without saying a word, he made all the arrangements for the two of us to spend a week in London. He told only a few people about the trip. He commented to his cousin, "When I spring this on her, Gloria will either be quite pleased or my life will be over."

When he told me, a 15-minute period of hyperventilating followed.

But then I thought, "In 10 years, will anyone remember what work I didn't get done because I went off to London?" I knew the answer and so, on May 20, we boarded the plane that would take us to England.

We were both thrown a curve the following Sunday when Art came down with the stomach bug I had wrestled with just prior to leaving. That meant that we spent the whole day in our London apartment.

Now this could have been seen as a major blow to some well-laid plan. But the older we get, the more we recognize that these unexpected course changes are to be expected - and can even be a blessing. We ended up not doing anything that day - a respite we almost never give ourselves at home. And while we were in London, we saw a drama and a musical, listened to two fine classical music presentations by world-class musicians, strolled through three parks, shopped at street markets and in famous stores and did a number of other things, only one of which had involved any prior planning.

We had barely returned home, when it was time to head to the Southwest with the Gold Orchestra - the youth string orchestra directed by K-State Professor David Littrell. That, too, involved plan changes. Youngest daughter Katie was to go along as a first violin, but her first love is singing. When she was accepted to participate in the Summer Choral Institute at K-State - which just happened to be scheduled for the same week - she had to make a choice. She chose the institute, while we headed to the Grand Canyon with the orchestra.

But those inevitable bumps in the road kept coming. When the folks arranging the tour for the orchestra failed to set up a promised performance venue at the Grand Canyon, a new course needed to be plotted. With the help of Dr. David Sager, another orchestra-member parent, a nearby Rotary group that was holding a fund raiser was located and they were thrilled to have the orchestra play for them. This was probably a more appreciative group than would have been pulled together from folks just walking by at the canyon.

In the end, we had a great time with the Gold Orchestra and Katie completely enjoyed her time at K-State.

In the grand scheme of things, these were all just small bumps that turned out well. But we've had major ones too. In 1971, Art was visiting friends here in Kansas. A wrong turn in Kansas City led to him meeting some folks who needed someone to begin a new program - an opportunity he accepted and has always felt fortunate to have had.

Attending parties thrown by various Latin American students at K-State when I was an undergraduate, led to my decision to join the Peace Corps after I graduated. A number of unforeseen events, each springing from that initial one, eventually led to me joining the K-State faculty in 1983. Now I'm the longest-serving faculty member in my department.

Of course, there have been major bumps in the road that were traumatic experiences. My first husband's death from a brain aneurysm when I was pregnant with oldest daughter Mariya is the most prominent example in my life.

But as a whole, many - perhaps most - of the unexpected course changes in my life have had a positive effect. The challenge for me has been in recognizing them as opportunities, rather than undesired diversions or brick walls.

And Art? Well, he's still breathing after the detour he threw me in mid-May, so I guess that one worked out for him too.

Left, street dancers we encountered just outside the Bond underground station in London. At first we saw them as an obstacle blocking our way to Carnaby Street, but soon discovered they were quite entertaining and stopped to watch their whole show. Right, Dr. David Littrell, center, conducts the Gold Orchestra at a picnic meeting of the Grand Canyon Rotary Club.

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