Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks, Donna!

A few days before leaving for Oklahoma, I started checking the extended weather forecast. After not seeing a flake of snow yet this season, I was somewhat alarmed to see a snowflake symbol on Saturday's forecast. The chance of snow? 100%.  I try not to worry about things I can't control, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. On Saturday morning, the three of us went to a holiday parade and then went home and had lunch. My plan had been to leave at around 2:00 but in light of the weather forecast, we left earlier. My daughter and I had a flight to catch at 5:35 and the airport was two hours away.

So, we loaded up the car, said good-bye to daddy/husband, and then hit the road. We saw flakes as we got closer to the airport but a quick check of our flight status showed that it was still scheduled to depart on time.  We parked in the long-term parking lot and then caught the shuttle to the terminal. We then rolled our suitcases to the baggage check-in.  This is when things started to go downhill.

First, I noticed that all of the United Airlines employees were dead behind the eyes, signaling a long day filled with crabby travelers. I started hearing rumblings of problems in Chicago. Apparently, Chicago (where we needed to go in order to catch our connection to Oklahoma City) had been slammed with a foot of snow. Flights in and out of Chicago had been canceled or diverted. When we finally got to the desk to check-in, the United Airlines employee informed me that our 5:35 flight was now scheduled for midnight. She looked at her screen and said, "It shows wheels-up at 12:01 a.m. which means that it will probably be canceled." She checked us in anyway and the kid and I went to the gate to wait.

The flight listings were still showing that our flight was on time so I kept hoping that maybe we'd be one of the lucky ones. My daughter was starting to worry about things like sleeping at an airport, but I assured here that I am the grown-up and therefore will assume all of the worry-related responsibilities.

As late as 5:15, the flight information screen at the gate was still showing as on time. I couldn't help but notice that there was no, um, airplane at the gate, though. I checked the flight again on my phone. It now showed a departure of 7;45. This would have been fine, except that we would obviously miss our connection (which was the last one of the day). I saw a line forming at the desk so I joined it, waiting for my opportunity to speak to the apathetic gentleman about what options were available to us. After a few minutes, he told me that he had re-booked us for the next morning. We would connect through Denver and then land in Oklahoma City at 4:45. At that point, I was just relieved to have a firm plan.

The kid and I headed back to the main check-in area to retrieve our suitcases. I also asked for a hotel voucher that would get us a discount at a hotel across the street. At this point, our luck started to change a bit. I called the hotel and asked about availability. The friendly guy on the phone (who, unlike the United employees, had apparently not lost the will to live), told me that he had rooms available and that he would send a shuttle right over. "Just go to Door 4 by the baggage claim," he said.

We walked to Door 4 and within two minutes, the shuttle was there. We checked in to a room (using the "distressed traveler" rate) and got settled in. Since our car was still in the remote parking lot, we didn't have a lot of options for dinner. So, we headed to the hotel's restaurant. This is where we met Donna. She was an energetic blonde lady - in her 50s, I'd guess. "Sorry for the wait!" she exclaimed. "I thought I was getting off early tonight but wow! Everyone came in at once!" I told her how a lot of flights were canceled, which might account for the unexpected influx of hungry people.

She took our order. I ordered a pasta dish and the kid ordered a quesadilla. I also ordered a glass of merlot - my reward for a long, sucky day. Donna winked and said, "I'd order one of those, too!" She laughed as though I had ordered something naughty. She brought us our drinks and also dropped off a salad and a basket of bread. "The bread isn't really supposed to come with your meal," she whispered, "But I brought it anyway."

The salad had some ranch dressing on the side. I didn't really want the salad (and obviously couldn't eat the ranch) so I figured I'd just let my daughter pick at it. Donna leaned down to tell us another secret. She looked at my daughter.

"Dip the bread in the ranch," she said. "When I tell people that, they say, 'You're crazy, Donna!' but just try it and you'll be addicted!"  She nodded knowingly.

After Donna left the table, my daughter did indeed dip thick slices of bread in the ranch. I drank my merlot and looked away. A few minutes later, Donna came back to the table with our entrees. "What did you think?" she asked my daughter. The kid gave her a thumbs-up.  "See! I told you!"

Every time she came by our table, she told my daughter, "I love those quesadillas! I have two of them in the back!" By the end of our meal, I started to wonder about food safety issues related to Donna not eating her quesadillas in a timely manner.

Finally, dinner was over and we were ready to head back to our room. "I wish I could go swimming," said my daughter. "But I didn't bring a swimsuit."

"Good news, Goober. I packed two swimsuits for you." Her eyes lit up in gratitude and for about two seconds I think she forgot about how her mean old mother wrongs her at every turn.

Donna came back to give us our bill. I handed her my debit card. She opened up the little black padfolio she uses to take orders and showed me two photos that were taped to the bottom. "These are my boys," she whispered. Both young men are in the Navy and are currently deployed. "I'm not really supposed to be over here right now, but I wanted to show you my boys."

"They're very handsome," I said. "You must be very proud."  I couldn't help but wonder if hotel management actually cared if she showed off photos of her sons?

We bid Donna a fond farewell and spent the next hour or so at the pool. "She was nice," my daughter said.

"She sure was," I agreed. Donna really did make a terrible day a lot less terrible.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and the hotel's shuttle took us back across the street to the airport.  This time, everything went exactly as planned. Our flight took off on time. Because we were booked on these new flights at the last minute, the airline had given us the only seats available, which were in different rows. I asked a young woman if she would mind switching with us and she was more than happy to do that. As a matter of fact, because of the switch she was seated next to a young guy who appeared to be her age. They chatted for the whole flight and even walked together on the jetway. If they make babies together, I'm taking credit.

We connected in Denver, where we had several hours to kill. It's a really nice airport, so we didn't mind too much. Our flight to Oklahoma City took off on time, too. We landed on time, picked up our rental car, and headed to my mom's house. We were finally on vacation - woot!

As I was typing the blog entry, though, I just realized that my daughter's swimsuit and cover-up are still on the back of the door at the hotel. Crud. I guess they are probably dry now?

I wonder if this guy on the plane knew that I could see him.

Friday, November 20, 2015

New Niece

I have a new niece! Usually, when one of my sisters gives birth, the person who comes out has a penis. But not this time!

She didn't want to come out voluntarily, so she had to be evicted. The little lass was born on Wednesday, November 18th and weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces. This probably seems big to a lot of people, but her birth weight was actually lower than my middle sister's three other kids.

I won't get to pinch her cheeks in person until February, when I travel to DC for a visit.

Isn't she perfect? Squeeeee! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thanks for nothing, lungs

I haven't written a new blog entry for a while because I now spend all of my spare time coughing. I caught a cold about a week ago. The cold did not pass Go and did not collect $200. It went straight to my lungs, triggering an epic asthma resurgence. I hadn't had an asthma attack in quite a while so I didn't even have an inhaler (dangerous and stupid, I know). I coughed for about five days and did all I could do to get better - went to bed early, stayed hydrated with lots of water, etc. Finally, on Thursday, I went to the doctor. I tried to get in to see my asthma doctor but couldn't get an appointment. So, I headed to urgent care. I only had to sit in the waiting room for about 20 minutes before a nurse called me in. She took a brief history and then the doctor came in. The doctor, as far as I could tell, was about 14. This is how you know you are getting old.* Seriously, though, I don't think any bartender on the planet would sell her a beer.

I think she was in the exam room for all of 90 seconds. And honestly, that was fine. If she was my regular doctor, I'd be annoyed, but she gave me exactly what I knew I needed, which was a course of steroids (prednisone) and an inhaler. I'm pretty sure that since I didn't come in asking for percocet for my imaginary back injury, my visit didn't send up any red flags. Nobody wants prednisone unless it's absolutely necessary. Ultimately, I was sort of glad that I bypassed my regular asthma doctor because he would have given me quite the lecture on managing my condition better and would have sent me home with an action plan (you know, just doing his job an all).

It's been a few days on the meds and I'm still in rough shape, but I think I'll be back to normal (or something close to it) within a few days. If I had to get sick, I guess it's better that it happened when it did. My daughter and I are boarding a flight to Oklahoma on Saturday. If you think people hate it when other people cough in their vicinity, try coughing on a plane. They'll have you brought up on charges.

The most important thing is that my family has been SO attentive while I've been ill. Every time I turn around, it's "What can we do to help you?" and "Can we get you anything?" and "You just rest."  Ha ha! I'll be here all week! Tip your waitress!

Other than the coughing, things have been pretty quiet. For the past few weeks I've been cleaning out our basement. We have all kinds of stuff down there: our own junk, stuff we got when my in-laws passed (such as tools we don't know how to use), and stuff that belongs to the rescue. I just didn't want it to turn into a Hoarders situation. My stepdad sells a lot of memorabilia-type stuff so I checked with him on a couple things I found.

Me: "Hey, I found an old Instamatic Camera in the original box."

Him: "Yeah, everyone had one in the 70's."  He rattled off the names of everyone he knew who had one. It reminded me of that scene from Wayne's World where Wayne notes that "Frampton Comes Alive" was issued to every person in America.

Me: "Hey, I found a box of Yahtzee scorecards from 1956."  (These came with the house, oddly enough.)

Him: "Yeah, you should just use those to play Yahtzee."

So, I didn't find any hidden treasure in my basement, but it is looking a bit less cluttered down there.  I went through some of my mother-in-law's old things (she's been gone ten years now).  We have her wallet, her jewelry, some photos albums, and other odds and ends. As I was poking through the box, I found an envelope that was addressed in my handwriting. When P and I were dating, a couple of times I sent her photos (of our trip to Harper's Ferry, our trip to Virginia Beach, etc.) and sent along letters with the photos. I didn't even remember writing them, but I find it so touching that she kept them. She really was a sweet lady. As for the jewelry, I think I'm going to let the kid go through it and see if she wants any of her grandma's things.

From my father-in-law, we mostly have tools.  We also inherited two drills from him (which I actually forced myself to learn to use earlier this year). Oh, and we also have my father-in-law himself. He's in an urn and we have never known what to do with it. He didn't have a great relationship with his siblings or even his children, so people weren't exactly lining up to take him home. So, he stays with us for now. He and I did not get along, if I'm being honest, but I also don't want to disrespect his memory. I always try to remember that when I first moved here, he was the first to greet me and give me a hug.

So, that's all the news for now. I'm plugging away at my Christmas shopping. I've switched to a new email address, which is a bigger job than one might think. I also need to start packing for the trip to Oklahoma. I will also need to pack the kid's stuff. I could let her pack her own gear, but I don't really want a repeat of last weekend's "I didn't bring a jacket and I'm wearing flip-flops even though it's 38 degrees" scenario.

*Another sign of this aging thing? I've had a splinter in my hand since Monday and can't see it well enough to perform surgery on myself.

The three of us went to a hockey game last night. This was taken right before she spilled an entire 7-Up on the floor before even taking a sip. Most of it landed on the floor by her dad's feet. As a matter of fact, he's still at the arena. His feet were stuck to the floor so he lives there now.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mother-Daughter Weekend

My daughter and I joined another mother-daughter pair for a fun weekend. We stayed at a resort about 65 miles from home. Because my daughter is 10 1/2, I challenged her to pack her own gear for the trip. (I know, but I like to live dangerously!)  Shortly before we needed to leave on Saturday morning, I noticed she was wearing flip-flops. "It's 38 degrees outside. Put some shoes on," I told her. She stomped back to her bedroom to exchange her shoes. Is it just me or is this one of those common sense kind of things?

We loaded the car and then drove to my friend's house to pick up the other half of our foursome. Then we headed to a craft fair. I go to this craft fair every year even though it is crowded beyond all belief. You just never know when you might stumble upon some amazing Christmas gift that you couldn't have gotten anywhere else. As we walked towards the building, a chilly gust of wind slapped me in the side of the head. "Hey, where's your jacket?" I asked my daughter.

"Oh, I didn't bring one." She shrugged like this was a dumb question. Seriously? I was scared to ask her if she was wearing underwear.

I did pick up a couple of little gifts at the craft fair, so it was worth the extra trouble to find parking and plow through the massive crowd.  Then we headed out of town.

I had it in my head that I wanted to eat lunch at a particular pizza joint that offers a build-your-own-pizza option that include vegan cheese and vegan sausage. So, I was determined to go and my friend was willing, too.  Little did I know, we would stand in the tiny waiting area for a solid 55 minutes before getting a table. We were weak from hunger by the time we were finally seated. My pizza was pretty good - maybe a little overcooked. Vegan cheese doesn't melt as quickly as non-vegan cheese, so maybe they felt the need to scorch the pizza a bit. I was so hungry I would have eaten the table itself. My friend said her pizza was good. My kid ordered a grilled cheese from the kids' menu and ate two bites of it. I am not even exaggerating - she took one bite out of each half. Ah, that's money well spent, eh?

After lunch, we did a bit of shopping and picked up some stuff to have for dinner. The girls mostly chose to stay in the car. What was weird was that they didn't interact with each other all that much. They had headphones on. They are friends, though. Kids these days, I tell ya. We stopped at a candy store. I had to tease my friend because she bought those black licorice all-sorts thingies. Blech! I bought some blow-pops, which are much healthier, don't you think?

After our shopping excursion, we spent a quiet afternoon hanging out in our suite, watching TV. After dinner, my kid and I went swimming.  My friend claims not to own a swimsuit, so one of these days I might just have to dig around in her dresser drawers just to confirm. I think she's bluffing.

When I got to the pool and swam across, I realized I was winded. I don't claim to be any sort of athlete, but I log several hours a week on the elliptical at the gym (plus yoga classes) so splashing across the pool should not wear me out, in theory. I realized I was getting sick. Crud. I wasn't surprised, because just about everyone I know has been sick lately.

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out, watching TV, and eating things we wouldn't ordinarily eat.  We'd all gotten up early, so we didn't stay up too late. My daughter and I shared a bed and she didn't kick me as much as usual. Or maybe the margaritas I drank before bedtime made me notice it less?  The next morning, we cuddled in bed for a while, which we don't get to do very often. Isn't amazing how one little person makes your heart explode and also makes your head explode sometimes?

We went to the resort's continental breakfast on Sunday morning (I had brought along a protein bar and mandarin oranges from home) and then checked out of the resort. I was feeling cruddier by the second. In fact, I'm home sick now. I had every intention of making it through the work day but my lungs had other ideas.

Anyway, the weekend was a lot of fun and I'm hopeful we can do it again next year. Next Saturday, the kid and I are heading to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. I'm hopeful that my lungs will be back in working order by then.

What kind of mother lets her child buy candy cigarettes?!  Oh, wait . . .

Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween and Stuff

(I know Halloween was a week ago, but I've been busy, so hush.) 

Bad weather on Halloween seems like one of those Murphy's Law kind of things. As I'm sure most parents were, I was thrilled that Halloween fell on a Saturday this year. Much better than a Monday, that's for sure. There's nothing quite like telling your child, who has eaten 473 pieces of candy, that she must go to bed by 8 because it's a school night.

So anyway, yeah, it rained on Halloween. I took the kid trick-or-treating in the pouring rain. She was determined to go, though. There's candy in them thar hills! She dressed as a rock star and found it a bit challenging to juggle an umbrella and a plastic microphone. I took her around the neighborhood for an hour or so, and then brought her home to dry off a bit. She wanted to hand out candy to other trick-or-treaters, but her dad was not a fan of this plan because he was worried that she would give away the specific types of candy he wanted to keep. They finally worked out a compromise that seemed to involve him hiding some of the candy.  Later, the rain slowed down and the rock star went back out into the neighborhood with her dad. I am still not sure where he hid the candy that he didn't want the trick-or-treaters to have.

The real highlight of  the weekend was a visit from my friend Rachel. We've been friends since the sixth grade (34 years, in other words). I sent her a text a few weeks ago asking her if she might be able to come for a visit. We saw each other in Chincoteague (Virginia) back in July, but it was about 187 degrees that day and it was just a short visit. She booked a flight right away. Had I known it was that easy, I would have invited her much sooner!

I picked her up at the airport last Thursday.  As soon as we left the airport, we had to head straight to
an animal control facility to pick up a female Boxer whose stray hold was up. I had been told that the dog was 11 but judging from her exuberance, she's probably a little younger. You've never seen a dog so happy to get out of a shelter. My job was just to transport her to a vet clinic for boarding until another volunteer (foster home) could pick her up. I am leaving the rescue next month but it felt good to do one last shelter pick-up. The poor skinny girl (named Stella by her foster mom) barked for two solid hours in the car. She had a touch of kennel cough, so the more she barked, the more she sounded like a pack-a-day smoker. I kept thinking of that lady from Beetlejuice who had smoke coming out of her neck.

We delivered Stella to the clinic as promised and then drove across town to pick up my kid from after-school care. We ate a quick dinner and then we had to accompany Her Highness to a Halloween-themed school dance. Rachel and I sat in the cafe-gym-atorium while costumed children ran around like wild beasts. Thank goodness she was there. Last year I sat there by myself for two hours, staring at my phone.

Now, if you've ever had the privilege of knowing a tween, you know that they get embarrassed easily.  For days before the dance, I had been threatening to do the Robot on the dance floor. "Rachel's been practicing, too!" I told her.  Much eye-rolling ensued. Towards the end of the dance, I saw my kid on the dance floor with one of her friends. I wanted to let her know that it was just about time to go. I know her friend pretty well and know that she has a great sense of humor. "Hey, look what I can do!" I shouted above the music. I extended my right arm straight out to the side and let it drop at the elbow, swinging the lower part of my arm back and forth a la The Robot. Then I flattened my hands, bent my arms stiffly at the elbow, and slowly moved them up and down. I saw the look of horror on my daughter's face.

"MOM!" she yelled.

I wasn't done, though. I found her principal on the other side of the room. I knew he would know who my daughter is (she's been at the school since 4K). "Hey, when you see my daughter, you should tell her, 'Hey, your mom can really do the robot.'"  He nodded and laughed.  I figured he'd see her in the halls a few days later or something.

A few minutes later, we were heading to the car when I noticed my daughter was stomping across the parking lot looking quite peeved. "Why are you in such a hurry, Goober?"

"Really, Mom?! Mr. M just said to me, 'Hey, your mom can really do the robot!'"

Ladies and gentlemen, I have reached Parenting Level: Awesome.

The rest of Rachel's visit went well despite the rain on Saturday. On Friday evening, we went to an improv comedy show with a couple of my other friends. It was a lot of fun. I am so fortunate to have so many good friends. Truly. My daughter didn't have school on Friday and I had to work, so Rachel kept an eye on her for the day. She brought her some craft projects and stuff to work on.

On Sunday, I returned my friend to the airport and sent her back home. I already have some fun stuff in mind for her next visit. As for my daughter, I don't have anything specifically embarrassing planned but I have a feeling that before too long . . . just breathing oxygen in her presence will be embarrassment enough.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

20 Years Ago

20 years ago this week, I left my hometown, my extended family, my job, my friends, and everything I knew. I took a chance and moved 1,000 miles away from my home in Northern Virginia. It was just a few days before Halloween, in 1995. My boyfriend and I packed up everything in our apartment, including our two kitties, and hit the road. Why did we move? Well, my boyfriend (who later became my husband, of course) was a Midwestern boy. After he left the Marine Corps, he wanted to move back home. He asked me if I wanted to come, too. There were many good reasons why it all made sense: lower cost of living, decent job market, and affordable real estate. Also, I had finished college and now it was his turn to go. He had the GI Bill waiting for him. Plus, we knew that we planned to get married and buy a house. With even the skinniest townhouses selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars in Virginia, we could spend a lot less and get a lot more. And so, we packed up and moved.

The transition, at least for me, was hard. Really, really hard. I was terribly homesick for the first year or so. P had flown out ahead of time and found us an apartment. When I saw it, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn't cry, though, because my (future) father-in-law was there, hugging me and welcoming me. I cried later. It was a one-bedroom apartment, which was fine, but it looked like it had been built sometime between the two World Wars. Old, dingy, ugly carpeting, ugly tile in the kitchen. Waaaah!

It took me a couple weeks to find a job.  I hated that first job I landed after the move (I was a project assistant for a manufacturing company), but I stuck it out for six months before finding a job with an Information Technology company.

P and I got engaged on New Year's Eve, 1995. We moved into a muuuuuch nicer apartment and then got married on May 24, 1997. A year later, we bought our first home. We are still in that home because, frankly, moving is a shit ton of work. I'd love to have walk-in closets but every time I think about packing up my kitchen . . . that thought is quickly followed by, "Nope! This is juuuuust fine."

I could probably write a whole essay on the differences between the East Coast and the Midwest. There are plenty of pros and cons for each, of course. I've had 20 years to get used to people calling a water fountain a "bubbler" so I can't really pretend to be a newcomer anymore. It's interesting to think back on my 25-year-old self. I had no idea of the joys and heartbreak that lie ahead. I didn't know that I'd get involved in dog rescue, miscarry four times, adopt a baby, lose my in-laws, change my religion, go vegan, and all the other crazy/wonderful/awful things that have happened.  I'm still hanging out with the same dude, so that's good.

Do I ever think about moving back?  Not really. I have gotten used to living in a town that doesn't really have a traffic report. I make less money but have more time. On the other hand, I miss being near my family. I miss the stores. I miss the Metro and the unlimited supply of fun things to do. I miss the diversity.

P and I have talked of moving to the Carolinas when we retire, but who knows. According to those reports I get from the Social Security Administration, it looks like I'll need to work until I'm about 107. So, that may put a damper on the retirement plans. If we do move, it will probably depend on where our daughter ends up. I don't want to be too far away from her. When she has kids of her own, I really need to be there so that I can watch them reject the food she has cooked for them. What comes around goes around, sister! 

It's all good, though. All good.

I hated this tile with a burning passion that will never die.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Boys Don't Listen

My husband is a good egg. He really is. He's a great dad. He works two jobs to provide for our family. Sure, he reads comic books and he has a metal container full of multi-sided dice (that I don't think I'm supposed to mention, so shhhhh), but I think he spends a lot more mental energy putting up with my quirks than I do with his.

He is not, however, a good listener. Tired of answering questions like "What are we doing this weekend?" I bought a magnetic monthly calendar and slapped it onto the refrigerator door. I make sure it's always up to date.  Of course, this doesn't stop him from asking questions like, "What time are you leaving for church?" (Answer: "The same time I've been leaving for church for nearly a decade now.")

It does get a wee bit frustrating at times. One day last week I needed to take my daughter to the orthodontist at 8:30 a.m. The night before, I told my dear husband that I had turned off the kid's alarm clock and that I would wake her up myself at around 7 a.m.  The next morning, at 6 a.m., he flung open the kid's bedroom door, turned on her light, and notified me that our daughter wasn't up yet. Grrrrr.

Do you know how many times I've announced, "I'm going to the gym!" only to return home to have him ask, "Where'dja go? The grocery store?"

When I need to tell him something really important, I usually require eye contact and then quiz him on what I've just said. My other beef relates to his information gathering skills. This is why I don't send the guy solo to parent-teacher conferences. He would surely come back with no information at all, outside of confirmation that our daughter is indeed in fifth grade and does, in fact, have a teacher.

I've had 23 1/2 years to get used to my husband's brain and how it works, so I usually don't get too bothered by the whole not-listening-and-not-asking-questions thing. However, I guess my sub-conscious is a little more upset about it.  I had this dream the other night:

I was in the hospital having some sort of surgery. My sleeping brain didn't tell me what kind of surgery it was, so I assume it an exploratory surgery or a relatively minor fix of some sort. When I got out of surgery, the nurse gave a post-op information sheet to my husband. We then went home. I asked him to let me see the document so he handed it over. The document diagnosed me thusly: "Terminilly Ill." 

"This says I have a terminal illness," I said. "Are you sure it's from the doctor? It seems weird that a doctor would misspell the word 'terminal.'"

"Yes, it's definitely from the doctor," he confirmed, nodding.

"Well, what kind of terminal illness do I have?" I asked. I was understandably upset.

"Oh, I don't know. I didn't ask." 

I'd like to think this scenario would not actually happen. But my unconscious mind, clearly, is not so sure.