Category Archives: Travel

Don’t Be Goofy… The Breakdown of flight 848

I know, I know. It’s been months. I actually wrote a few blogs longhand but never got around to typing them up. I’ve been a woman in transition emotionally, working through some identity issues, and, not surprisingly, it is difficult to write when you’re not sure who you are exactly, much less what you want to say.

I’d love to tell you that my first endeavor at writing a blog since Spring is something substantial or meaningful, but alas, it’s just a story that was too long to put as a Facebook status, so it’s going here.  Also, I had to get this incident off of my chest.

Have you ever met someone who, within mere moments of your first encounter, invades both your personal and emotional space ?

Let me tell you about my seat mate on yesterday’s flight. She reminded me a lot of these old “Goofy How-To” videos…

You know, how Goofy is completely and totally self-absorbed and inconsiderate? That.
Yesterday my husband and I flew home from Hawaii. We were in the “extra legroom” seats, which in retrospect wasn’t worth the upgrade. We hadn’t purchased the seats for the legroom, we upgraded because the flight was full and we didn’t have assigned seats together. Both Jeff and I have short enough legs, so while the extra legroom was nice, it didn’t solve the real issue, which  is how narrow the seats and the aisles are.

Our plane had 3 seats on each side where it should have had two, and an aisle so narrow a stick figure would have to go down sideways. No wonder the airlines all got in trouble for only hiring thin flight attendants. No one with even half a curve can fit. It was merely practicality on their part.

Jeff was on the aisle and I was in the middle. Shortly after we sat down, a woman came up and gestured that she was in the window seat.

She seemed pleasant enough, although slightly flustered. She set her water bottle on the floor and then immediately knocked it over on to me with her foot.

We were in the early boarding group, and the boarding process on Alaska seems much slower than, say, Southwest, where there’s a cattle stampede, they tell everybody to sit down and shut up, and the next thing you know, the plane is taking off.

The woman, we’ll call her, uh, “Goofy” for the purpose of this story, got on her cell phone and called what sounded like either a shuttle service or a car rental office. She spoke with them for a bit and then turned to me.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“Do you know what time in Seattle our plane is supposed to arrive?”

“I think about 9pm.”

“Okay, thank you,” she said, and then I realized, she was still on the phone because she was relaying that information to the person on the other end.

A few minutes later, she got my attention again.

“Can I ask you another question?”

“Sure.”

“Do you happen to know what our flight number is?”

“848.”

“Okay, thank you.”

“No problem.”

Then she began speaking again to the person on the phone.

As we started to back away from the gate, I put my headphones on for my takeoff ritual. I’m okay with flying, (unless there’s turbulence) once we hit the 10,000 foot level and the pilot dings the bell. Until then, I’m a bit of a wreck, with my fingernails puncturing the palm of my husband’s hand. Other than imbibing a double of something at the airport bar, I also jam a Sees butterscotch lollipop in my mouth and put on soothing music. I knew my ipod was low on battery, but unfortunately it was lower than i had realized, and cut out right in the middle of Donny Hathaway crooning and right in the middle of the tarmac.

I quickly switched to my phone, which only has a few random songs on it, most of which is Christmas music for some inexplicable  reason. I did manage to find a song I could live with until we were fully airborne.

Since I already had my phone in my hand, I started playing Candy Crush.

I felt a tap on my arm.

“Are we allowed to use phones on airplanes now?”

“You can use your phone as long as it’s on airplane mode. I use it to play games.”

The flight attendants came by three times. The first was to  rent movie players. Goofy waited until they had already passed us to nudge me to get the attendant’s attention so she could rent one.

They next came by for drink orders. She had her headphones in and didn’t hear the request, so I had to get her attention. She ordered red wine.

When they came by for trash, Jeff and I handed all of our trash over. Once they had passed by, Goofy THEN started pulling out her trash and handed it to me to give to the FA. Jeff had to once again get their attention.

A  little while later the flight attendants (FA) announced they were going to be serving food  for payment. They said the only hot meal  was the hula chicken bowl, or something like that.

Goofy pulled out her menu. she then tapped me on the arm.

“I need to use the bathroom. If they come by, tell them I want this,” and pointed to the  picture of the miso chicken.

Besides the fact that you cannot order hot food without paying for it, leaving me in the awkward position of either telling the FA what she wanted, and that they would have to collect from her later, or paying for it myself.

“Um, that’s actually on the flights TO Hawaii. FROM Hawaii the only hot meal is THIS,” i explained, pointing to the hula chicken bowl.

“Oh,” She frowned.

“They have the Beecher’s cheese platter, and then any of these snack packs.”

She looked for a minute and then said, “If they come before I’m back I want THIS,” pointing to the Mediterranean snack pack.

I didn’t bring up the “how am I supposed to deal with payment” part of the issue. Jeff got up into the aisle and let her pass.  When he sat down he said, “One more question and you should be getting paid for your services.”

Thankfully she got back before the cart reached us.

She did offer her snack olives to me which I thought was nice. Jeff and I continued to watch our movie.

As the cart came back around for trash,  once again, she waited until AFTER the FA had passed by to start digging around, and handed me her trash. I held it for a moment, bewildered, as I had no place to put it. She took it back from me, and then called out to the attendant who was passing by to see to another passenger.

When the next drink service came around, she ordered another wine, and then said, ” I don’t suppose I could have another piece of chocolate.”

The FA looked at her questioningly and said, “Pardon?”

Goofy said, ” Well I had a chocolate in my snack pack. I want another piece, but i don’t want to buy another snack pack.”

The attendant pulled out a drawer. “White chocolate or milk chocolate?”

“I just want chocolate. Regular chocolate.”

The FA said, “All we have is white. ” And tossed it on her tray.

A while later she got up to use the bathroom again. Jeff said, “The drink cart is coming. How much you want to bet she will come right after they pass by and then be annoyed that she doesn’t have a drink?”

She did manage to make it back, though, just in time.

When the third drink service reached us, she said, “Do you have any pineapple juice?”

The FA said, “No I’m sorry. We only have POG. Passion orange guava.”

“Do you have any herbal tea?”

“We have orange tea and black tea.”

“You don’t have any peppermint?”

“No, ma’am. Orange and black tea.”

Sigh.

“I guess I’ll have orange.”

She got her tea, pulled out the in-flight magazine and began reading. At this point, our movie had finished, and I was reading my Kindle. We were 4 hours in to a 5 hour and 15 minute flight.

I heard a sniffle.

“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “She must have a cold, that’s why she’s drinking tea.”

Sniff sniff.

I tried to ignore it, but the sniffles kept coming.

And then I heard what sounded like a cat’s mewl.

I glanced over.

She was curled up facing the wall and she was crying. Not a silent cry. Not a tear or two gently wiped away sort of cry. A body-shaking simpering whimpering cry.

I looked at Jeff who was listening to music with headphones. His eyes were closed. I nudged him. He looked at me questioningly.

“She’s crying,” I mouthed.

“What?”

“She’s crying,” I mouthed again, this time with more enunciation.

He pulled his earbud out and leaned in.

“She’s crying,” i whispered through gritted teeth.

He glanced over my head. “Why?”

I whispered in his ear. “I have no idea. One minute she was drinking her tea reading the magazine, the next she was shaking and crying.”

He shrugged his shoulders and put his ear bud back in.

That left me, who was pretending to read, but was really trying to determine what my responsibility was to this woman, to deal with it. Should I pretend I don’t notice to give her privacy? Should I ask her what’s wrong, knowing that question may drag me into spending the next hour of the flight trying to emotionally stabilize a complete stranger?

Before I had to make a decision, she blew her nose, faced forward, pulled up the sweatshirt that had been draped across her lap, folded it, placed it on the arm rest between us, and spread her entire self out like she was in a lazyboy. My eyes grew big as I felt her elbow not only breach my side of the armrest,but breach the side of my body, digging in hard.

I contorted away from it, pushing into Jeff, who was already nursing wounds from every person who had tried to maneuver down the aisle, not to mention the multiple times the cart had passed by. He pushed back a little.

I made eye contact with him and he removed his ear bud. “Her elbow is digging in to my side. ”

“Say something.”

“I can’t. She just stopped crying.”

“Push back.”

I grimaced at him and adjusted my position so that I was facing straight ahead. She leaned towards me, her elbow further in. I leaned forward, bent over, trying to pretend that it wasn’t the most unnatural position. I looked down at her feet, which were splayed  wide and also encroached far into my personal space.

My already smallish amount of empathy for whatever had led her to have an emotional breakdown began to dissipate rapidly.

The attendants announced that we would soon begin our initial descent and that it was time to prepare for landing, including tray tables, trash collection, seat backs, and tablet collection.

Goofy of course missed both the trash collection and the tablet collection, causing me to have to flag the FA down.

We heard the bell ding and felt the plane start to nose downward. At that exact moment, Goofy chose to lay her seat all the way back.

I gasped. The rule follower in me just about lost it.

After our plane landed, I had determined to pretend Goofy didn’t exist. I didn’t want to engage her in any way.

We exited the aircraft, and I sensed her behind me. We got to the inter-concourse train station and suddenly I realized she was standing right next to me.

When the train arrived, I followed Jeff in and faced him. I knew she had gotten on and was behind me.

We got to baggage claim, where there was some confusion about which carousel, and as I saw her coming towards me, I braced myself for her to ask for my assistance.

I may very well be a cold, heartless person, insensitive to the needs of an obviously troubled woman. This time, for some reason, I think I can live with that.

You see, I’m the kind of person who tends to take on responsibility for the problems of other people. I’m a fixer. My therapist has a more technical term for it, but that’s a whole other story. My point is that while my attitude and responses may put out a “whatever ” vibe, inside I’m a wreck, trying to solve the problem of someone I don’t even know. Those 5 plus hours with her actually took an emotional toll on me, and it’s kind of unfair to do that to a stranger. Perhaps she didn’t realize the effect she was having on me, but I got the sense from this one interaction with her, that there are probably many people in her life who feel exactly as I felt whenever she’s around.

We have a choice every day to be either a blessing or a curse to someone. I’ll admit, I was no blessing to her. She sure as heck was no blessing to me either, so we’re even, right?

My therapist is gonna have a field day with this.

 

 

 

 

Getting Lost In The Moment

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Have you ever seen the Saturday Night Live skit “The Californians”? (see video link above) For those unfamiliar with Southern Cal, it may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but having lived there for a quarter of my life, and just returning from a weekend there, I can assure you it’s more accurate than you might suspect.

Friday night I was making my way back from LA to my hotel in Orange County on the 405 South when I came upon signs that indicated the freeway ahead was closed and all lanes consolidated before being forced to exit at the 605 North.

Although I lived only 15 minutes south just 6 years ago, this was an area with which I was not too familiar. When I lived there, I made every effort possible to avoid the labyrinth of the SoCal freeway system. Even those with limited sense of direction can probably understand that when you’re headed south and then suddenly find yourself on a northbound freeway, you’re going the wrong way.

Earlier in the day I had already had the experience of getting on the 405 north when I had intended to go south leaving the airport, so while I wasn’t thrilled, it was not an unfamiliar feeling. Some people I know would find this situation completely unnerving. For me, though, I’ve always had this deep sense that no matter how many wrong turns I take I will ultimately find my way.

Eventually I did find my way to my hotel. I’d be lying if I said that after passing through several unfamiliar intersections and not recognizing any of the roads, and a gut feeling that I was indeed still headed the wrong direction, I pulled out my phone and entered my hotel into Google maps.

The first word out of male Siri’s ( I replaced the female because I thought she was a bit condescending) “mouth”were:

“Make a u-turn if possible.”

I’m pretty sure that 99% of the directions he has given me include that phrase.

Saturday morning I checked out of my hotel and headed to my sister Colleen’s house in Irvine to pick her up for our weekend in Palm Springs.

I entered the destination for the resort into my GPS. My sister, who has lived in the area for several years said, “I don’t understand why it’s taking us this way. Somehow this doesn’t seem right.”

However, I continued to follow the directions given to me by the man in my phone (Let’s call him Fritz). Sometimes he didn’t give me very much warning before telling me where to turn, and I would miss it. When that occurred he would do one of two things: readjust the course or utter the frequent and all-too-familiar, “Make a u-turn if possible.”

Soon we discovered that the route he had chosen required getting on to a toll road. Since I was driving a rental car with no transponder, the resulting fine would have been exorbitant.

We got off at the next available exit and made our way onto I-5 north, then onto the 55 , then the 91 east, to the I-215 to the 60 to the 10.

See? I told you “The Californians” wasn’t an exaggeration.

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Somewhere after we got onto the 91, we ran into a large traffic jam. Saturday traffic jams in SoCal are not unusual, but are typically inexplicable. The back-up was likely the reason my GPS had tried to divert us onto a toll road. Either that, or because the toll roads are actually the most direct routes. Direct routes are only for the wealthy, apparently.

We sat in traffic, but neither of us minded because we had great conversation. I’m not even sure how long it took us to reach our actual destination, but that was the beauty of this trip; we had  planned to have no plans. Our only goal was to connect, spend time together and take each moment as it came.

Taking each moment as it comes and not trying to control my vacations is a new experience for me and not something at which I typically excel. I’m a work in progress.

After checking in  at the resort, we spent the afternoon poolside. The forecast predicted a rainy sunday, so we decided to take advantage of the sun while we had it.

Dinner was an easy choice; We both love Mexican food. I yelped Mexican restaurants in the vicinity and found one not too far away named Huerta’s on Jackson St that had a 4 1/2 star rating.

Once again I turned to “Fritz” for guidance. The area of Palm Springs/Palm Desert/Indio is a lot more sparse and spread out than one might think, and a lot of the roads are not well-lit at night.

I followed the directions given me by Fritz, and having visited the area a few years prior, I had a general understanding of where I was. Turn right on Hwy 111. Turn left onto Jackson. We passed a sign that welcomed us to Indian Wells.

Fritz said something about turning left that I couldn’t quite hear. Then he named a different road on which to turn left , as if he’d  changed his mind. I turned left at the next light and Fritz gave another street name on which to turn left, but I couldn’t see the street he named, and it certainly didn’t look like an area where a restaurant might be.

Colleen picked up my phone and said, “It says we just passed the turn.”

We were once again directed to take a left at the next light. After turning I said, “Why do I have the feeling we are going in one giant circle?”

My sister responded, “I believe we may be.”

Sure enough, we got to the next intersection and I noticed on my left was the giant sign for Indian Wells that we had passed earlier. We were back at Jackson Street. Fritz had indeed taken us in one giant circle.

Colleen looked at my phone again and said, “It looks like we are headed right for it. It’s on this street. Oh wait. It says we just passed it again.”

I looked to my left  and saw nothing but a dark residential neighborhood. There weren’t even street lights.

“I’m starting to think Huerta’s is really just someone’s house where they make a good chile relleno and someone thought it would be funny to put them on yelp just to make tourists go insane trying to find it.”

I drove in the darkness for a bit and finally made my way to a gas station so I could pull in and find another restaurant.

My sister said, “Why don’t we ask someone where we can find good Mexican food?”

I looked over at the monster truck that had pulled into the parking space next to me,  and at the man who leered at me as he got out.

“Uh. You’re welcome to. I think I’ll take my chances with Yelp.”

We looked over the other restaurants and realized a couple of the higher rated ones were listed as being on the road we had been approaching before pulling in to the station.

I said, “What about this El Mexicali Café?”

She said, “I was just looking at that. It says there are two of them, so they must be good.”

“It also says people prefer the one by the railroad tracks.”

(Possibly the only time I have uttered those words.)

We pulled back onto the road and kept our eyes peeled for a building showing some signs of life.

And then it appeared, like a literal oasis in the desert. An oasis near the railroad tracks that serves margaritas.

There were people outside but I couldn’t tell if they were waiting or just hanging around. Inside it was pretty small, and as we walked in we witnessed a scene that could only be described as festive. There were two mariachis (mariachi?) playing guitar and singing under a flatscreen  TV that was showing a basketball game. There was a small bar with stools where two older couples were laughing and eating. Every table and booth was filled with lively conversation except one small table for two that sat empty. Two men and three women were waiting in the entrance, and three waitresses were moving quickly between the kitchen, the bar, and the various tables and booths.

One of them, an older woman, came rushing up to us and asked in a heavily accented voice, “How many?”

We told her there were two of us, and she began scanning the restaurant. She went over to one of the waiting men and said, “You wait, yes? I give the ladies this table.”

The men seemed to grudgingly agree, but after waving us over to the not-yet wiped down table, another of the waitresses started yelling at her in Spanish from across the noisy room. My one year of high school Spanish told me that the plan had been to push the table with a table for 4 to seat the party waiting.

Our waitress hurried over to the other one, and there was much debate, complete with gestures and waving hands. Our waitress came back and said, “Sorry. Sorry. You wait a bit more.”

We got up and moved back to the entry and she said, “You want margarita. What kind? Strawberry? Mango?”

We ordered Cadillac margaritas, which she brought over to us while we waited. We people-watched and listened to the music. Neither of us was annoyed by the wait, because the room was electric and interesting. Occasionally the whole place would rumble as the train passed by. When we were finally seated we ended up at our original table, as the larger party had been put in the back once another group had left.

Our waitress returned and shouted at me, “You want peppers!” and pointed on the menu at a picture of what appeared to be some sort of stuffed peppers. My recent obsession with jalapeno poppers led me to agree. She rushed off before I realized the peppers were stuffed with shrimp, which I don’t eat, but I was able to flag her down and cancel the order.

It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere in this restaurant. The employees somehow managed to make every customer feel like a part of one big extended family. When the mariachis (mariachi) began playing “la Bamba” the whole place broke out into song. One of the waitresses would randomly grab a diner from their seat into the only open space and begin salsa dancing with them. Those who were waiting danced in place and clapped along. When certain songs came on, the entire staff would start trilling.

Besides the food being seriously delicious, that may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

During dinner we mused about getting lost and yet somehow finding our way to this amazing, unexpected place and experience. We ended up exactly where we were supposed to be, even though we hadn’t meant to go there.

And here, finally, is my point in telling you all of this:

Life can be that way a lot of the time. We have agendas and expectations, and yet still we sometimes get lost.

Sometimes we get detoured.

Sometimes those we trust or allow to guide us take us in the wrong direction.

Being lost can be terrifying, unnerving. It can make you question everything you think you know.

But sometimes we discover that in the midst of being lost, we find something remarkable;

We find extra time to connect that we wouldn’t have had if we’d gone the direct route.

We find treasures or experiences we would have missed out on had we ended up where we intended.

We learn more about ourselves while lost and searching than we ever do when we stay on the path.

I’ve felt a little lost lately. As I said earlier, typically when I find myself lost while driving I feel certain that I’ll eventually arrive at my destination.

However when I feel spiritually or emotionally lost, I don’t always have that same confidence.

It’s so important in those moments to cling to what we are sure of, and to take inventory of who and what we truly value. Many times it’s not the destination that matters, but who we take along for the journey, and being fully present with them in those moments.

Someone recently told me that whenever I feel anxious, unsure, disconnected, or simply trying to control a moment instead of experiencing it, often it takes only to stop and get my bearings through the use of the 5 senses.

What do I smell?

What do I hear?

What do I feel?

What do I taste?

And what do I see right in front of me?

This past weekend I got lost more times than I could count. Our drive back from the desert included a 15 mile jaunt in the wrong direction of the 215 freeway (10 to the 60 to the 215, to the 91 to the 55 to the 5 to the 405). Fritz’s tone sounded a bit  offended when I finally gave in and pulled him up on my phone. I had thought I could figure it out on my own. He directed me off the southbound and back onto the northbound 215. I guess there are times when you’re lost that you have to be willing to take advice and guidance.

In all of my “lost-ness” though, I had a fantastic weekend of being in the moment with my sister; maybe not in spite of being lost, but because of it.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

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Do you hear that? No?

That’s because there’s no sound. Not a peep. Not a whine. Not a fuss.

Everyone has gone back to school and I hear nothing but the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.

It’s blissful.

Yesterday after all the kids were safely in their classes, a group of moms met at someone’s house to have brunch, pineapple mimosas and vodka lemonade. “Brunch” went from 930am until after noon.

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I laughed until I nearly cried as one mom told of how she had realized the night before that her son, who attends private school, had missed the first day of school when she received an email talking about how nice it was to see all the smiling faces back in the classroom. She didn’t tell him when she took him on the second day that he had missed the first day, and pantomimed to his teacher “He thinks today is the first day of school.”

Today I met another 3 moms for a fun, leisurely lunch. Life is good.

It’s been a bit since I last wrote, but I know you’ll forgive me once you hear of the craziness of the past few weeks.

First, a quick update.

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For those of you who have been following along, my husband lost his wallet following a late-night trip to the Dairy Queen on July 26. After his initial attempts to locate it came up empty, he eventually ordered a new ID and credit cards. Over the past 6 weeks he has occasionally asked, “Find my wallet yet?” as if I might have come across it and failed to mention it to him.

Last night, while he was out on a motorcycle ride around the block, I went into the garage to get down the hotdog buns from the top of the refrigerator for dinner. As I pulled the bag towards me, a small brown item appeared at the edge. I reached my hand up and grabbed it. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

As I held the wallet in my hand (and was disappointed to discover there was no cash inside) I began to formulate all the ways I could reveal this discovery to him.

I walked back into the house and held it out to show Zoe. I went into the living room where Parker and Nathan were inexplicably rolling around on the floor and silently held it up.

I said, “No one tells him I found this. You’ve got to give me a chance to mess with him first.”

I heard the rumble of the bike as he drove it up the driveway and into the garage. I was giddy with excitement and anticipation, and, knowing my terrible poker face, wondered how long I could keep a straight expression.

He walked into the kitchen and before I could say a word, Parker runs in and yells, “I know where your wallet is!”

My eyes got wide and I said, “Parker!”

Did that stop him? Nope.

“I found your wallet!” He said excitedly.

“Where?” Jeff asked casually. (Casually!)

“Parker! What are you doing?!”

“I found it on top of the fridge.”

I stood there, knife in hand (I was chopping fruit), mouth agape.

“I can’t believe you just did that.”

He giggled and ran out of the room.

Jeff walked over and I handed him the wallet.

“There’s no cash in it.”

“There wasn’t.”

“Sure.”

“I can’t believe he just ruined that. What a twerp. I was going to mess with you. Why do you seem so blasé about me finding this after all this time?”

“Eh. I always lose stuff, so I’m always finding stuff. It’s not that uncommon for me to find things months later.”

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Also, to update his sleeping issues, they have determined that he does have a slight case of sleep apnea which they feel is best treated by him using what he refuses to stop  calling a “C-pap smear” in spite of my repeated corrections.

 

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Summer ended with a trip for Zoe and Parker with two of their cousins and their Grandma Toni to Yellowstone. We haven’t been since we lived in Utah about 12 years ago, and Zoe and Parker have never been.

They left early on a Monday morning and I didn’t hear from them until around 8 that evening. My mother-in-law texted me, “Made it safe and sound. Got a warning about bears and don’t leave food out at night when we checked in. Then Zoe said THERE’S A BEAR! and now Parker is terrified. All is well.”

My response:

“Oh Zoe!! Poor guy. Spray water on him and tell him it’s bear repellant.”

I didn’t hear from them again until Friday, when I received a few photos in my email. I know a lot of parents might worry that, for example, their child might have actually been eaten by a bear, but when my kids are with their grandma I know she’s likely taking better care of them than I do.

I opened the picture attachment in the email and could see it was a photo of all of them riding horses. I zoomed in to the photo and began scanning from right to left. When I got to Parker on the far left side of the photo, I nearly choked on my own spit.

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If you zoom in on the picture, you can see that he has a bandana covering the majority of his face. I was unsure if he was going for the outlaw look or ninja. My money is on the very likely possibility that he was envisioning himself on a “WANTED” poster.

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After they got home from their trip they regaled us with stories of animals and thunderstorms, their trip to Silverwood and river rafting.

This morning I opened the envelope of rafting photos and was thoroughly entertained.

Here’s a fun little game- “Where’s Parker?” Sort of like “Where’s Waldo?” only Waldo always has the same bland expression on his face, while Parker does not.

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In this photo, Parker is peeking out from behind his cousin. image

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This expression in particular is one of my favorites

Then suddenly…

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Whoa. Check out the rafting guide. How did I not notice HIM earlier in the series of pictures?!

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I had envisioned the time the younger two were out of town in grand fashion; Lunch dates, masses, facials, mani-pedis, date night out. Oh, and writing a blog or two.

Unfortunately that plan got derailed by the carnival coming into town.

Technically, it wasn’t just the carnival coming into town, but the opening of the State Fair.

My husband owns a marketing company, and one of the things we do is provide registration kiosks for large local events. We not only provide the equipment, we set up, tear down and staff the event from start to finish.

I knew he was super stressed about the fair opening because, as with any and all events, particularly those with any ties to governmental regulations and bureaucracy, things don’t always go quite as planned, nor do they go at the expected and desired pace. We were down to the wire for opening day and a lot of things still needed to happen.

One of the things I admire about my husband is his ability to handle stress, and usually by the time I notice he’s under any, it’s at the levels that would make an average person buckle.

I sensed he was getting to that point, and I knew I had two choices: go about my week as if he weren’t under extreme duress or give up my pampered child-free time for the greater good of our business and my husband’s sanity. I chose the latter. It’s difficult to enjoy that stuff knowing you could be helping out your spouse.

I spent quite a bit of time helping with the setup before the event. The morning the fair was to open, we were up at 6am because the head honcho  had informed us the carnival was unhappy with the location of our front gate kiosks, and we had to move everything- canopy, tables,10 touchscreen computers, wires, cables- about 15 feet closer to the entrance.

After moving the registration booth, employees began to show up, many of whom had never worked for us before and had been brought in just to work this event. Jeff had said, “We’ll only stay for an hour or so, and then we will go.”

We didn’t get out of there until after 5pm.

We bought 2 dozen raspberry scones for the morning shift. We walked the entire length of the fair, moving from one gate to our booth to the back gate multiple times.

At about 1 we decided to take a break and eat some of the fair food that had been tempting us every time we passed by. I went for the Walla Walla onion burger and Jeff chose the BBQ beef sandwich. Halfway through we both looked at each other with regret.

That regret was not enough to prevent me from leaving that evening with an elephant ear. (From previous blogs you know I have a fondness for those.)

The good news is that I got all of the desire to eat fair food out of my system by the second day, when 10 minutes after the opening bell I consumed a peach cobbler from the scone stand and immediately spilled peach syrup and whipped cream down the front of my shirt.

The fair is by far the best place in the world to people watch. At one point I passed by a woman in a full dashiki and a moment later a man in head-to-toe studded motorcycle leathers.  I saw odd couples, the American obesity epidemic in full display, cowgirls, women in leopard dresses and heels, and rednecks in full camouflage (I was able to spot them because the fabric wasn’t made of overpriced unwinnable carnie games or giant Rasta bananas)

Speaking of giant Rasta bananas, I was able to navigate Parker through the fair this year without leaving with a replacement for the one he won last year that “mysteriously” disappeared.

We did, however, come home with yet another carnival goldfish, because, apparently, I have a sadistic streak.

( See http://kbjackson.com/the-carnival-goldfish-has-a-case-of-the-dropsies/)

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Part of my back-to-school ritual is to try and get my house organized following a summer of chaos.

I started cleaning out my refrigerator and, after wiping down all the surfaces, cleaning out the produce drawers (gross) and reorganizing what wasn’t expired, I made a discovery.

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I have an unreasonable amount of horseradish.

I have no idea why I have 3 jars of horseradish.

The only thing I ever consume with horseradish is prime rib, which I typically serve no more than 2-3 times a year.

It reminded me of the time I unpacked my canned foods following our move to Southern California when I came across a can of bean with bacon soup. I had no idea why I would have bean with bacon soup, seeing as how I couldn’t remember ever buying bean with bacon soup, much less eating it.

It was at that moment that I spotted the expiration date…

1994.

I wish I was joking.

That can of soup had survived 6 moves in 11 years.

It was the same age as my eldest daughter.

It almost seemed a travesty to throw it away, seeing as how it had been with us for longer than most people’s family pets. Almost.

So summer is gone; it feels like it passed quickly. Backpacks were filled and hanging by the front door Tuesday night, similar to stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve. The first day of school often feels like Christmas morning to  parents.

I found myself waking up yesterday morning with a desire to tell from the rooftops, “we made it!”

 

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I’m sure you can sense how cooperative Parker was in these photos.

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Nathan’s first day of school photo this year is very similar to his first day of school photo as last year. 645 is really early.

 

 

 

Humble Pie Doesn’t Taste Very Good

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Today’s lesson in humility and graciousness:
Jeff and I got up from our chairs to go cool off in the hotel pool. A few minutes later we noticed on each side of us umbrellas had gone up. Large umbrellas that now put our chairs completely in the shade.
This not only annoyed me to no end, it was completely unnecessary because the whole other side of the pool had umbrellas up and they could have sat down under those instead of sitting down next to us and putting up the umbrellas.
I got out of the pool and walked back to my chair. I pointed at it and said to the man under the umbrella “now my chair is completely in the shade. I left 5 minutes ago, and it was in the sun. There are tons of chairs over there with umbrellas.”
He seemed annoyed that I was annoyed and said, “I didn’t know you were there.” And then stared at me like I was a lunatic. He didn’t offer to move to another chair under an umbrella.
I picked my stuff up and huffed over to another area where I found two open seats in the sun. I came back and started to grab Jeff’s stuff, which was partially shaded by new people on the other side.
“You’re not gonna bitch at them too?”
“I think it’s inconsiderate of both of you,” I snapped as I walked away.
A few minutes later a waitress came over and said,”I hear you were upset about the umbrella. I apologize. I’m the one who put it up. I didn’t know you were sitting there. The gentleman would like to buy you whatever drink you’d like to make up for it.”
*cue sinking feeling of bad behavior*
“No that’s fine. Tell him I appreciate it very much, though.”
There are a lot of ways I could have handled that scenario better. I could have just moved without saying a word. It wasn’t the big deal I made it out to be, and in the end, the jerk of the situation was me, not the guy sitting under the umbrella trying to keep from getting skin cancer.

Jeff came out of the pool and came over to our new seats.
I said, “I see you stayed out of the fray and let me handle it.”
“Yeah I thought it best to wait until it calmed down over here. Want me to accidentally spill my water on him as I walk by?”
“No, he tried to buy me a drink to apologize. I’m the one who behaved badly.”
“Then maybe I should throw my water on you. I might get a standing ovation from everyone.”

What Have You Learned- Part Two

ThankYou

Well, this is it. Do you know what today is? It’s our anniversary! (Cue Tony Toni Tone)

One year ago today, I launched this blog. http://kbjackson.com/hello-world/ was my first official post and, terrifying as it was, I’m glad I did it. Looking back over what I’ve written, I’m proud of what I’ve done.

The next day I wrote http://kbjackson.com/what-have-you-learned/ and my husband began to get a little nervous.

“You can’t post something every day. You’ll run out of things to say.”

He can be hilarious some times.

I went back and re-read “What have you learned?” and thought that sounded like a really great birthday but because I am old and can’t remember anything, it’s like reading about someone else’s life. I had forgotten about the drunken karaoke serenade and the board games. I did remember the Aretha Franklin solo and coffee with my girl.

Over the past week I have contemplated what I would like to write about for my anniversary/birthday blog.

I thought about writing a scathing diatribe about Facebook’s new policies that limit my blog audience to almost nothing, and how that has taken the wind out of my sails more times than I can count.

I thought about mentioning my frustrations with WordPress, the fact that the only people who comment on my blog are my mother and autobots who leave me encouraging comments like “My membeг is just regular size in case you’re interested.
The issue with this isn’t simply because theу
do not fսnction the obliqսe’s simply because thеy
do, it is simply because you will find mucɦ better workouts…” You get the picture.

 

I thought about writing some heartfelt introspective post  where I try to determine if I have had any personal growth this year.

I even thought about writing a poem. (I have mad limerick skills. Terrible at the haiku though)

In the end, I decided I have written a lot of words this year. Probably too many, I think, as one of my greatest faults as a writer is lack of brevity and knowing the attention span of my audience.

So here, in no particular order, are the truths I have attempted to absorb this year, in pictures:

bdaypost5 Life is about celebration. Sometimes you’re not feeling it, but if you can tap into that place inside you where gratitude and joy reside, it can’t help but spill out.

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(4th of July)

bdaypost21My father’s 75th birthday

bdaypost25hawaii8IMG_640410175047_10152303957254089_1006229682_nI learned that surviving family vacations is a matter of perspective

bdaypost11The world can be a cold place, so you’ve gotta be prepared. (Parker playing goalie)

bdaypost14Life isn’t fair. We lost Shonda to cancer in July, but her legacy lives on in our sunshine group.

God is faithful and He is the giver of life. For every loss there is new beauty to take its place.

Since my last birthday we have welcomed into our extended family:

bdaypost28Jacob

bdaypost23bdaypost24Bennett

bdaypost29Ian

And any moment now Masai will be making his debut

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bdaypost18Filling your home with friends and family and the laughter of children is better than any gift you could buy in the store

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Friendship matters. http://kbjackson.com/you-gotta-have-friends/ was my tribute to Shonda and the beauty of friendship.

bdaypost26bdaypost20bdaypost19bdaypost13382516_10151679509649089_240970835_nbdaypost17 She’s my mom and my friend

 

 

bdaypost10Sometimes you have to meet life’s challenges with toughness

But usually the best way to handle the ups and downs of life is with silliness and laughter.

bdaypost4bdaypost12bdaypost2bdaypostbdaypost8bdaypost6jeffbdaypost7bdaypost3

 

Life is always changing. I’m not great with change but it certainly keeps life interesting.

I truly believe what it all boils down to are two things-I don’t ever  want to miss an opportunity to laugh and I never want to miss an opportunity to tell someone that I love them.

Thank you all for your support this year, for encouraging me and for reading my stuff. It means more than you can imagine.

Sometimes my own words are simply inadequate. I’d like to end with something written by one of my favorite all-time authors and life mentors, Erma Bombeck.

IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the “good” living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather rambling about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculped like a rose before it melted
in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television, and more
while watching life.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment, realising that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s” and more “I’m sorry’s”

. . . but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute . . .
look at it and really see it . . . and never give it back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Never Rains In California- Unless A Family From Seattle Is There For Spring Break (Northern Cal Pt 1)

 

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Napa Valley- one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Have you heard? They’ve been in a terrible drought. In the month of January they had .08 inches of rain and unseasonably warm weather.

The solution to a drought? Send a family from Seattle in desperate need of warmth and sunshine for a week’s vacation. The rain will follow.

Last year for spring break, we went to the Oregon coast. It looked like this all week:

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This year, following a pretty dreary winter here in Seattle that has led me to nearly overdosing on vitamin D supplements and buying myself a “happy lamp,” I decided that heading further south was the solution.

Funny thing-in the weeks before we arrived in Northern Cal it was warm. Two days after we left, the city of San Francisco, known for it’s foggy mornings and cooler temps, hit 80 degrees. The day we got there? High of 56 and raining. The highest temperature the entire week we were there? 60 degrees.

It’s a gift.

My kids didn’t really care though. There was a pool and a hot tub, so they were in it. Rain or shine. In fact, one morning they came back from the hot tub and I asked, “How was it?”

“Painful,” Parker answered.

“What do you mean?”

“The hail hitting me on the head hurt really bad.”

Jeff said, “At least you have hair to protect you.”

Plus- we are from Washington- we aren’t afraid of a little rain.

Thankfully our first full day was dry. The rain was supposed to come back the following day, so we decided to make the most of it by packing in a bunch of outdoor activities.

First up- California’s version of Old Faithful- the Calistoga Geyser.

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The nice thing about this geyser is that it goes off every 5 minutes, so there isn’t a lot of standing around waiting for it to happen. The bad thing about that is that after the second time, the fact that steaming hot water is being shot 60-100 feet into the air from deep inside the molten core of the earth begins to lose its impact.

Eh, there goes the geyser again.

We moved on.

This isn’t just a geyser, however, it is also a petting farm. I got pretty excited when I saw these signs. A guard llama? Fainting goats?! How exciting!

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Here is the guard llama:

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It appears to be guarding its spot under the tree.

How I imagined “fainting goats:”

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These goats won’t faint.

100_0695 Photo courtesy http://tanoryland.blogspot.com/2007/07/sonoma-day-7.html

The goats did like to fight, though. As they butted horns, Jeff started yelling “Kumate! Kumate!”

Every time I got near the fence, these two goats would go at it again.

Jeff said, “They’re fighting over you.”

I said, “Yeah, I have that effect on goats.”

One goat kicked a baby goat out of the feeding trough causing it to fall in spectacular style. I shouldn’t have enjoyed that as much as I did.

I told Parker what happened and pointed at the goat that did it. Zoe disagreed, telling me it wasn’t the same goat.

“Well all of them look the same.”

“That’s racist.”

“I can’t be racist against a GOAT!”

So after about an hour at the geyser/farm, including a picnic, we were done. We weren’t scheduled for our safari tour until 4, and it was only about 1. We decided to go to the petrified forest.

Me: We need to turn on Petrified Forest rd. Parker do you know what petrified forests are?
Parker: No
Me: It’s when old wood turns so hard it’s like rock.
Jeff: Like What Cialis does.

So we toured the petrified forest. That took about 45 minutes. We still had a lot of time to kill, so we drove back to the resort, spent 15 minutes playing ping pong and pinball. (Just call me the pinball wizard.)

We headed back up the hill to Safari West. http://www.safariwest.com/

I have to say, this was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.

While I’m not a pet person, I love seeing the exotic animals. Our guide was entertaining, and I think the kids really enjoyed the experience.

You take a giant old jeep reminiscent of Jurassic park to tour the grounds. There is one bench seat on the top as well.

Some of the animals come right up to vehicle.

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We saw wildebeests (“I’m so hungry, I just gotta have a wildebeest”), Water buffalo (“everybody’s got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow”), rhinos, antelopes of all sorts.

1965073_10152298275239089_74710390_n

1538638_10152322173749089_7200453269321392577_n1483401_10152298275599089_1019736696_n Zebra!

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Oh my it’s a giraffe!

If you’ll notice, in the background of the giraffe picture, there are cabins that can be rented for overnight stays. I can’t imagine how cool it would be to go to sleep with giraffes and zebras wandering around outside your door.

After the driving portion you go on a walking tour. There is a bird sanctuary area that is filled with some of the most colorful birds I have ever seen. One of the cranes thinks she’s a person, and likes to interact with you while on tour.

 

1965015_10152298275459089_1048692922_n Parker wasn’t so sure what to think of this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx4CT9dLfFU

This bird was not a fan of mine:

1897880_10152298291814089_1316944513_n“Whatchu lookin at?!?”

And then proceeded to do some sort of mating dance/fight sort of thing.

As the tour came to an end, we noticed that people were streaming in to the courtyard from the cabins. Apparently they do a nightly barbeque for those who are staying on site. We were hungry, and not allowed in, so we headed into Windsor to look for something to eat.

We ended up at Johnny Garlic’s, one of the restaurants owned by local celebrity chef Guy Fieri. The other option was his BBQ/sushi fusion restaurant. We figured this to be a safer bet.

When the kids menu arrived, I found it pretty amusing that all of the activities were Guy-centered: color in the picture of guy, see if you can answer these questions about Guy, draw your own face on an outline of Guy’s head.

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The food was okay- interesting for sure. They were out of fries, though, which seemed weird for someplace that serves fries with nearly every meal. I got something called “volcano chicken” which had some sort of spicy sauce. We had ordered appetizers of deep fried artichoke hearts and mozzarella sticks with pepperoni inside of them, so by the time my food came, I was feeling a little gross.

One of Guy’s kids attends the same school as Jeff’s niece, and we hear that the Guy on TV is the Guy you’d meet on the streets of Santa Rosa. Love him or not, at least he’s genuine to who he appears to be.

We had a pretty full day for our first official day in Northern Cal. The rain was coming back, though, so the plans for the next day were going to have to be indoors…

In the next blog- Parker takes on the streets of San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Managed To NOT Crash The Family Truckster. This Time.

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I meant to write this yesterday, I really did. However, yesterday I was a walking zombie. I had about 45 minutes around 1230 where the caffeine kicked in and I was able to function, but in general, I was pretty useless.

Today I’m still in recovery mode, but I have high hopes for getting things done.

We got back late Saturday night from a 9 day trip to Northern California. Notice my use of the word “trip” and not the word “vacation.” Vacation is what I call what I will be doing next month when my hubby and I head to Vegas for 6 days of eating and lounging by the pool in the warm sun with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. THIS was a trip.

In the coming days I hope to get my thoughts together enough to recap the entirety of our trip, but for today I will tell the tale of the car rides; 30 plus hours of driving with three kids in the back. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that supposed to be a 12 hour drive each way? You would be correct.

We took two days to drive down to California. Our initial plan was to leave Friday morning, get to Ashland, Oregon by the afternoon, and have a nice relaxing evening. Instead, we found out that Zoe’s crush’s last day of school was Friday, and Nathan had some sort of presentation due. (Honestly, what teacher schedules a presentation for the Friday before spring break?)

We decided to leave after the kids got out of school. Leaving at 130 on a Friday afternoon sounded reasonable. We envisioned missing Seattle traffic, perhaps dealing with a bit of Portland traffic, but still getting to Ashland by about 9 or 10.

Hah.

We hit traffic north of Seattle, and it didn’t let up until we got south of Olympia. What had taken me 75 minutes the weekend before to drive to Zoe’s soccer tournament, took over 3 hours. The rain was relentless. The drivers were skittish. We didn’t get to Portland until 7 PM.

Because Jeff has a team that works events in Portland, and it’s part of his market, he knows the area pretty well. He often stays just off the Jantzen Beach exit, which is right past the Columbia river (the river is the demarcation of the boundary between Washington and Oregon.)

The following is an excerpt from our conversation about where to stop and eat:

Me: Can you think of a place in Portland to eat?
Him: Hooters
Me: They don’t have good food do they? I mean if you ignore the boob factor is the food any good?
Him: I can’t ignore the boob factor.
Me: You have to. I need to know if the food is worth it if you take out the boobs.
Him: I tried to take out the boobs. They don’t like that.

I made an executive decision NOT to take the children to Hooters for dinner. We ended up at BJ’s instead.

You can only imagine the amount of innuendo in that conversation.

We didn’t get to Ashland until nearly 1 AM. We had waited 25 minutes for a table at BJ’s, and then had a leisurely meal. Halfway through, we both realized we had made a colossal mistake. My realization came when I googled how many miles it is between Portland (the northernmost city on the I5 corridor  in Oregon) and Ashland (the southernmost) and calculated the number of hours it would likely take to get there.

You might be asking, well, why didn’t you just stop earlier? That would be a reasonable question, however, I had already booked and paid for our stay at a hotel in Ashland the week before.

The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast, wandered the town a bit (It’s a very cute town, I recommend visiting) hit a Starbucks and hit the road. We got a late start again, but we weren’t in any hurry.

Saturday’s drive was pretty uneventful, until we got to the area where you get off of I5 and get onto HWY 20 headed to Clearlake. At first it was scenic. And then it was torturous. That was one of the most winding mountainous roads I have ever been on. There is no shoulder at all. There is either hillside or cliff edge. I had to roll my window down because I was starting to feel car sick. The next day when we were discussing sights to see, I made a firm stand that anything we went to do would not include going back on that road. We talked with friends who live in the area about the road, and they say they will usually take the longer more southern route to I5 to avoid traveling that road.

So when the day came to finally leave and head back home, I was thankful that I was taking Jeff to Sacramento, thus avoiding the road from hell. He was flying out of Sacramento to head to a conference in Vegas, and I was driving the rest of the way home with the kids.

We left the resort at about 930, and spent the next hour trying to find a Starbucks that wasn’t inside a Target or a grocery store. Preferably one with a drive thru and easy on/easy off access. In our area, that’s nearly every exit. Turns out the wine country isn’t that way. I was becoming desperate, knowing that my caffeine addiction has rendered me a slave to a morning cup of coffee. I know that if I don’t have caffeine by 11, I likely will develop a headache that will last all day. With a long drive ahead of me alone with the kids, I was starting to panic.

minion

We finally found one, and all was right with the world again.

By the time we hit Sacramento, we were ahead of schedule, and I was still contemplating ambushing the kids with a trip to Sutter’s mill.

Jeff had entered the info for the airport into my Nav, and we saw the signs to the airport. We were close. And then the directions told us to get off at J street, which I thought was a bit strange, because that was the exit I had taken to go to downtown Sacramento for a conference several years ago.

“Don’t you think it’s strange that it’s taking us into this residential area?”

“Yeah, sort of. But I put it in, so it has to be right.”

I looked at the destination that was entered. It said, “Sacramento air… Quality management.”

He had started typing Sacramento airport, and the only thing that came up was this place. He didn’t look closely. It was taking us to a building in the middle of downtown.

We pulled over and he looked at his phone map. He about flipped his lid.

“It says we are an hour away.”

“That’s not possible. It’s the Sacramento airport. How can the Sacramento airport be an hour away from Sacramento?”

Turned out his phone still thought we were in Napa.

After we got back onto the freeway heading north, I remembered that I used to see the airport all the time when I would drive from Southern Cal to Washington every year. He didn’t think that information was helpful at that point.

We dropped him off with plenty of time for his flight, but as I looked at the directions to Sutter’s Mill (south on 5 for 9 miles and then east for another 30) I decided to scrap the gold mine and see how far north we could get.

Within about an hour, we passed through the spot where I rolled my car 5 years ago on our move back to Washington. I had been driving, as Jeff had already gone ahead of us to Seattle, and I had all 4 kids with me. We walked away with barely a scratch. This was the first time I had driven through since it happened and I felt my anxiety level rise in my chest.

caraccidentJan 2009

The accident had happened at night, and we were driving on a beautiful sunny day. It was difficult to exactly pinpoint where it had happened, because during the day it looked so very different.

The weather on Saturday was so nice, the first really nice day of the trip. It was perfect driving weather, and I had my music going, singing at the top of my lungs all the old classics.

We made a couple quick stops, but we were making great time. At our second stop, I calculated how long to get to Portland and the idea started formulating in my mind that we could make it the whole way. I brought it up to the kids, and they were all for it, particularly Parker, who was thrilled at the prospect of having a whole day at home before having to go to school on Monday.

We stopped off for dinner in Salem, Oregon at about 730. I could have made it to Portland (barely) with the gas in my tank, but Zoe had to use the bathroom, and it seemed like an easy place to stop. After getting food, I drove across the street to the gas station. Nathan got out to get something from the mini mart. I hopped out, swiped my card, and suddenly heard a voice behind me saying, “How are you doing tonight?”

My first thought was, “I’m being approached by some creepy guy begging for money or preying on women.”

Then I turned around and saw that it was the gas station attendant.

“Oh my gosh! I forgot I’m in Oregon!” I yelled. He looked quite startled. “I forgot. I forgot I’m not supposed to do my own gas. I’m sorry!”

He said, “It’s ok, you can do that part.”

I looked at the screen and said, “I don’t know what to do now.”

He stared at me like he was unsure if he was dealing with a lunatic.

“How much gas do you want?”

“I need it filled up.”

“Ok.”

I got back in my car. The attendant walked over to another car.

Zoe said, “He looks like Chris Brown. And he just checked you out.”

“He doesn’t look like Chris Brown. And he did not.”

“Yes he did. You were looking down at your phone and he looked over here at you.”

“He was probably afraid I was going to jump out again and start messing with the nozzle.”

After the gas was done pumping I drove over to pick Nathan up in front of the store.

I said, “I forgot we are in Oregon. You’re not allowed to pump your own gas in Oregon. I think I freaked the attendant out.”

Zoe said, “And he LIKED it!”

I laughed, “He did not.”

Zoe said, “He did too, And he looked like Chris Brown.”

“He did not. I think he might have even been Hispanic.”

Parker chimed in, “He’s Chris Brown because his name is Chris and his skin is BROWN!” And then burst into a fit of giggles.

Nathan said, “That’s racist. What’s wrong with you people?”

Parker whispered loudly, “You have a date with Chris Brown at 7! Don’t be late!” Everyone started laughing.

I chuckled, “God help me if I was single and you people were trying to help me find a date.”

About 15 minutes later, it started to rain. Up until this point it had rained maybe a total of 5 minutes all day. Within seconds it went from nothing to a complete and total downpour. I was driving in the far left lane, and suddenly I had zero visibility. Zero. That is not an exaggeration. I had my windshield wipers on the highest setting, and still I could see nothing. I began to panic, because, well, I couldn’t see the road ahead of me, and there were cars behind me. I slowly made my way over to the far right lane. There was a huge amount of water already pooling on the roadway. I figured anyone who wanted to go fast in this was welcome to, but I was not that girl.

I started to notice that part of the problem was that my windshield wipers were smearing. While the rain was heavy enough to require the highest setting, I actually had more visibility at the second highest setting because it wasn’t smearing the whole time. That was not my favorite time to figure out that I need new windshield wipers.

After about 10 minutes of white knuckle driving,

whiteknuckle

the rain eased up and I could start to breathe again.

As we traveled through Portland, however, we had another very close call when a car, going way too fast, tried to cut over without enough room, nearly hitting a car and the FedEx truck in front of us. Zoe, Nathan and I all shouted at the same time. “WHOA!”

That could have been very bad for all of us, especially considering that part of the freeway is a very high overpass.

I held my breath as we crossed the bridge back into Washington. I hate crossing bridges. Once we were on the other side, I felt like I was going to cry. I had made it through that scary rain squall, survived a near catastrophic collision and I was tired, but at least I was in the same state as my bed.

Unfortunately, that was not the last of the rain. That part of I5 is two lanes on each side with a median in between. As the rain picked up again, coming down in heavy sheets, I found myself in the spray zone of a giant oil tanker. Between the water coming down from the sky, the water coming up from the road and the spray coming off the rear wheels of this giant rig, my less than useless windshield wipers could not do a thing to help me. If I stayed behind the truck I was getting sprayed. If I stayed to the left of the truck, I was getting sprayed.

I attempted to move past him, and instead of helping me out and letting me pass, he sped up, so that I was completely getting covered in water. I tried again, same thing happened. I was terrified and frustrated and pissed off. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, on my third attempt to pass, I got through. The whole time I was praying “Jesus help me!”

I flipped the guy off as I went past. I know, Jesus isn’t happy about that part. But Jesus had a handle on the whole “making water do what he wanted it to do” thing.

Soon I was upon another truck, this time a two-trailer semi. Nightmare.

how I feel when passing a semi

I made several attempts to get past, and once again, the truck would speed up as I tried to get through. There were moments when I thought, “I’m not going to survive this.” I’m not exaggerating.

I’d like to take a moment and say, I appreciate truck drivers. They move stuff around so that I can have it. They drive in dangerous conditions, long hours, with little sleep. I get that. I do. But for the love of God, could you guys please remember that you are giant compared to our cars. Just because you drive in these conditions all the time, doesn’t mean we do. Driving fast through the snow and/or rain, kicking up water onto our windshields, and then not letting us pass, well, those are just dick moves. You don’t own the road. Since you’re the experienced drivers, perhaps you could make it safer on the road for the rest of us instead of more dangerous. Thanks.

Eventually another lane appeared, and I moved over. Having that lane separation made it possible to pass. I began to mutter, “I hate this f’ing rain. I hate it. I’m moving. I can’t live here anymore. I am so done. Done. D O N E. Done with the rain. Stupid state with your stupid rain.”

The rain began to ease around Tacoma, and then the rest of the drive was dry. By the time I got near my house, I had decided I deserved a treat for making it through that harrowing drive without dying or killing anyone. I stopped off at McDonald’s just after midnight and ordered a hot fudge sundae with nuts. When I got up to the window to pay, the kid working said, “Hey, so, we’re out of nuts.”

I stared at him, blinking, attempting to keep my eyes from tearing up.

“Of course you are. Fine. I’m sure I have nuts at my house I can use.”

I must have looked as much the disaster as I felt, because the look he gave me was similar to the gas station attendant, only a little more frightened.

So, 4 near-death experiences (5 if you include the almost-scuffle over the gas nozzle with the (not really) Chris Brown lookalike) in one day. Luckily, the sun is shining today. It’s pretty much the only thing preventing me from putting my house on the market and running away to anyplace where it is sunny most of the time. Rain is only romantic in the movies.

I guess I’m staying. For now. But I think I’m pretty close to hitting my limit. Pretty darn close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Left Foot-And-Mouth Disease Outbreak- An Irish Adventure

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Ah, St Patrick’s day, when everyone celebrates the Irish- my people. So my DNA results show I’m only 55.7% Irish. My aunt is less than 10% Ashkenazi Jew but she’s identified with Israel and our Jewish heritage since she was a little girl. For me, when people have asked, I’m Irish.

My mother’s got the Quinns on one side and the Dohertys on the other. My father proudly thought he was mostly Scottish until he received a family reunion invitation for the Ward family reunion- in Ireland. Turns out he’s still got Scottish, just not as much as he thought. Through my ancestry.com research I learned that the name Ward comes from the term “Mac an Bháird” which means “son of the bard.” Looks like writing truly is in the genes. Also, I found that he is descended from Niall. No, not that twerp from One Direction. Niall Noígíallach also known as Niall of the nine hostages. Niall was a conquering king of Ireland, who, according to accounts, was responsible for the kidnapping of several people off the coasts of Britain and France.

One of these people was a young boy named Patrick.

Most people don’t realize that Patrick was British and not Irish. Patrick was a slave in Ireland. He escaped and went back to England. After entering church ministry, he felt God lead him back to Ireland as a missionary to the very people who had enslaved him.

How this hero of the faith became an excuse for getting drunk, I have no idea. I guess because people are always looking for any reason to throw back a pint or two.

stpatricksday

Back in late 2000 my husband and I were at lunch when he casually dropped this into our conversation:

“Hey, so did I tell you that I am leading a group of timeshare owners through Ireland in a few months?

Me: (blank stare and long pause) Uh, no. Pretty sure I would have remembered that.

Him: Yeah, it’s a guided tour and they need a company rep to go along.

Me: Are you serious?

Him: Yeah, why?

I stared at him again.

Me: You. Who has no Irish heritage (turns out he has like 17%) get to go to Ireland. Where I have wanted to go my whole life. Because I’m like 90% Irish. (55.7)

Him: You have? I mean, I know you have the Irish temper…

Me: Are you kidding me? Have you listened to a word I have said over the course of the entire time you’ve known me? I’m Irish. Every year I make you choke down corned beef and cabbage. I decorate the table with shamrocks and gold coins and rainbows. I’m so Irish I pretended to be a leprechaun for 2 weeks when I was in junior high.

Him: Why would you pretend you were a leprechaun, and weren’t you a little old for that?

Me: Not the point.( “Moonlighting” had just done an episode about a leprechaun and her pot of gold.) The point is, I have always wanted to go to Ireland.

Him: Maybe you can go.

Me: When is it?

Him: I’ll have to look at exact dates. I know it ends with the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

Me: (Nearly hyperventilating) I have to go on this trip. You have to make this happen.

Well, for some reason, whoever was in charge of the trip insisted I couldn’t go on it. My husband, sensing the danger of what might happen to him if he didn’t take me to Ireland, suggested flying in a week early with me, having me fly out the day before the tour was set to arrive. They didn’t have an issue with that.

In hindsight, it might have been better to have me fly in after he had spent the week on a guided tour. Instead, we flew into Dublin with two nights hotel booked and no idea what we were doing or where we were going. We fancied ourselves explorers, and imagined happening upon charming bed and breakfasts along the way. No schedule of having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

We made plans to fly to Seattle for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary party, and then we were going to leave the kids with the grandparents. The day we were supposed to fly out, there was a massive earthquake in Seattle. We checked the flight times, and it showed on time. By the time we got checked in and to our gate, the flight was delayed. After 4 hours of sitting in the airport with 6 year old Sydney and 2 year old Nathan, they cancelled the flight. It turned out that the tower for air traffic control had been badly damaged and they couldn’t guarantee we would get a flight there in the next several days.

We got picked back up from the airport, packed up our car and started the 14 hour drive from Salt Lake City to Seattle. Through  the night. In a snow storm. But we made it. And a few days later we were on a plane headed for London. We spent a couple hours at Heathrow before the flight to Dublin. My dream was about to come true.

We managed to get from the airport to our hotel, but then had a really difficult time figuring out how to get TO the hotel. The streets are crazy there, and the hotel didn’t seem to have an entrance. We eventually figured out that we were supposed to park in the parking garage across the street and down half a block and then roll our luggage to the hotel. I had packed the world’s largest suitcase ever made in order to fit all the souvenirs I planned on bringing home. That was back when they didn’t have limits on luggage or charge overage fees. Truth be known, it was nearly big enough for me to sleep in, if the need arose. Without a plan, anything was a possibility.

Jet lag be damned, we were up in the morning for a day of adventure. I found out that even though I had gone to Brookstone to buy the variety pack of plug adapters, my American curling iron did NOT like Irish current. That thing popped, sparked and went dead as a doornail.

We made our way downstairs to the restaurant, and the waitress recommended the “full Irish breakfast.” That sounded exciting, and we gladly ordered it.

When it arrived, we were still enthusiastic.

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I poked at the circles on the left of the plate. They looked like sausage slices. There was already a slice of ham, bacon and link sausage, so I expected that’s what these were as well. I took a bite. Something was off, but I couldn’t understand what. When the waitress came to refill our coffees, I asked her what they were.

“Black pudding and white pudding.”

“Oh. They don’t look like pudding, and they certainly don’t taste like pudding.”

“Well they aren’t really pudding. They are sausages. ”

“What’s the difference?”

“The white pudding doesn’t have blood,”

Neither did my face at that moment, as I became quite pale. Almost green, I would guess.

“Does that mean the black pudding…”

“Another name for black pudding is blood pudding.”

Let’s just say that the next morning I chose to have the “half Irish breakfast.”

As we left the hotel to go check out Trinity college, Dublin Castle and St Stephen’s Green, we stepped out the door onto a giant, squishy, foam mat.

We walked down Grafton Street and noticed that nearly every doorway had one of these foamy, soapy mats.

At lunch we finally asked the waiter what they were all about. He stared at us in surprise.

“Why, it’s the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Didn’t you know?”

We didn’t know. And that was back before smart phones, so we couldn’t google it.

It turned out that England had had an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. While there was no indication that any of the contaminated cattle had ended up in Ireland, there were cases in Northern Ireland. We were told that if we crossed over into Northern Ireland, we wouldn’t be let back in.

We only gathered bits and pieces of info, we didn’t understand if this was something that affected people (it doesn’t), why we had to walk across foamy mats (the mats disinfect your shoes to prevent tromping the diseases hither and thither) and why people kept asking us if we’d been on a farm recently (armpit check).

Unfortunately, the fear of the outbreak spreading caused there to be many closures of public landmarks.

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Every where we went we came across signs like these:

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We weren’t sure how much of an issue this was going to be.

Thankfully we were able to get into Trinity to see the Book of Kells (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells) and most of the locations in Dublin remained open.

At one point our credit card stopped working, so Jeff called the bank to find out what was going on. Turns out that when charges start appearing out of the blue in a foreign country, the bank will CALL YOUR HOUSE to verify that it’s you. If you don’t answer, they shut off the card. Because of course if it IS you making charges in Dublin, you’re going to answer your home phone to say so. I’ll sit here for a moment while we all ponder that brilliant logic.

We toured around Dublin for a couple days, and then we decided it was time to hit the open road.

Jeff was doing pretty well trying to adjust to driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. I was not good as a passenger on the left, and kept trying to slam on fake brakes.

Funny thing about Ireland back in  2001- while the distance signs were in kilometers, the speed signs were in MPH. It took several days of driving before we realized that. Maybe that’s because no one pays any attention to speed limits.

We did a lot of driving- pastoral Ireland looks a lot like pastoral Western Washington. If we came across a landmark, usually a castle, we would stop. At the end of the first day, we landed at some motel. So much for the bed and breakfast idea.

I can’t remember all the details of our trip. I thought I kept a journal, but if I did, it’s buried deep in my garage in a box. I know we went to Galway, and we stood on a bridge overlooking the River Shannon. I know we went to Killarney, which was my favorite town.

We tried to go see the Cliffs of Moher.

“We are sorry, the cliffs are closed due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.”

My husband: “How do you close cliffs??”

After a few days we got tired of seeing castle after castle. Besides, there was only one I really wanted to see: Blarney Castle.

image

We had stayed in a hotel in Cork, which reminded me a lot of our local naval port town. It was less charming than some of the other places we had been. However, our accommodations got increasingly nicer every night.

Blarney Castle was teeming with tourists, as one might expect just a few days before St. Patrick’s day. We made our way through, and up the steps towards the infamous Blarney stone. I didn’t really know what to expect. I can tell you for absolute certain that I did not anticipate being hung upside down facing out off the top of a castle turret. And it wasn’t until my husband refused to do it with me, saying, “Gross, I wouldn’t put my lips on that slimy rock that has had millions of other lips on it. I might catch foot-and-mouth disease,” that it ever occurred to me that this truly was a disgusting thing to do.

There is a hole in the brick floor where two men hold your torso and then lower you through, where you find yourself literally hanging off the side of the castle. How in the world this became something to do is truly a mystery to me. It was terrifying.

blarney stone

Did it give me the “gift of blarney?” You tell me.

After Cork we went on to Waterford, where we took a tour of the Waterford crystal factory. We found an internet café (Remember those?!) and emailed our kids.

By the time we got back to Dublin, we decided that we were going to stay in the nicest hotel we had seen on Grafton Street. We never stayed in a single bed and breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, my full Irish breakfast that became my half Irish breakfast, soon became just an egg and a piece of toast. I found myself craving fresh fruit.

I wasn’t a fan of the food there, I must admit. They put onion soup mix in their ground beef. I was craving a real burger so badly I could hardly stand it.

Jeff said, “On our next big trip, let’s go someplace that’s known for its food. Like Italy.”

After I got back to Seattle, I got a call from Jeff.( His tour story is a whole other blog for another time. )

Me: How’s it going there?

Him: Well, ok, I guess. The people aren’t very happy because the parade has been cancelled.

Can you imagine? You save your money and go on a trip to Ireland culminating in the St Patrick’s day parade in Dublin, and it gets cancelled because of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

So much for the luck of the Irish. Maybe Irish luck is really just people drinking enough to not remember that things aren’t going well.

stpats2013Last year’s St Patrick’s day table

 

 

A Mongoose Isn’t A Bird- The Trip That Keeps On Giving (Hawaii Part 4)

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I have a confession to make. I’m getting senile. It’s only been a month since our trip to Hawaii and already many of the stories and events are fading. I wrote myself some notes and I found myself staring at them this morning trying to decipher what in the world I was talking about. Honestly, they look like the ramblings of a mad woman.

So, I will do my best today to remember what the heck it all means.

Way back in Zoe’s birthday post http://kbjackson.com/a-turtly-awesome-10th-birthday-hawaii-part-2/ I failed to mention something that happened at dinner that night.

We were seated at a long table, Zoe of course at the head. I was next to Zoe, and my brother and sister in-law were at the other end, so I often had to strain to hear the conversations going on. At one point Brooke, my sister-in-law, was telling a story about a mongoose.

Over Parker’s head I said to Jeff, “What’s she talking about?”

He said, “A mongoose.”

I said, “You know a mongoose is a bird, right?”

He gave me a strange look, but said nothing.

The next day the topic of the mongoose came up again. Jeff said, “You know a mongoose isn’t a bird.”

“Yes it is. I think it’s a white bird with a long neck.”

“No. It isn’t. A mongoose is a rodent.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Google it.”

And so I did.

This is a mongoose:

mongoose_3

I have no idea what I was thinking is a mongoose, but this wasn’t it.

Of course, because I am RARELY ever wrong about ANYTHING, this became great fodder for my family.

The day after we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center http://kbjackson.com/who-let-the-dogs-out-hawaii-part-3/ Jeff stayed back at the hotel with Parker and Nathan, while Toni, Sydney, Zoe and I went back up to Kualoa Ranch. http://www.kualoa.com/

Sydney was a big fan of “Lost” and one of her birthday requests while we were there was to do a “Lost” site tour.

It turns out that our tour guide wasn’t a big fan of “Lost” and therefore didn’t focus a lot on it. There are a ton of shows and movies that have been filmed on this property, and in fact the other day while I was in bed sick and catching up on “Hawaii 5-0” Zoe and I noticed that they were showing scenes filmed in the World War 2 bunkers we had gone into on the tour.

219Zoe in a bunker

sydneylostSydney gets “Lost” in the bunker (He looks pretty annoyed with her)

During the tour, our guide talked about the history of the ranch, its WW2 occupation by the Navy, and how it became a popular location site for filming.

She also brought up the mongoose. I could see Sydney smiling out of the corner of my eye as the guide told us how the mongoose came to be in Hawaii. I tried not to make eye contact.

Hawaii has a rat problem. Some time back some dude thought he would solve the rat problem by bringing in a predator- the mongoose. The trouble was, the rats come out at night and the mongoose (mongeese?) come out in the day time. And never the twain shall meet. Now Hawaii has a rat problem AND a mongoose problem. And now I know more about the mongoose than I ever hoped to know. At this point it’s in contention for my least favorite animal.

When we got back from the bus tour we noticed the hundred and one had arrived- but they were all going on the horseback riding tour. Trying to navigate that crowd was like a salmon swimming upstream.

We headed back down into Waikiki and made plans for dinner. We decided to take the trolley, which is pretty convenient and only $2/person. Unfortunately it was a busy night because 2 full trolleys came by before we were able to squeeze onto what would turn out to be the greatest bus ride any of us have ever taken. About 5 minutes into the ride, our driver said that he thought we needed a little spark to get us going. He turned up the volume and began playing “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. As we drove he would start and stop to make the trolley “dance.” At one point, he started calling out people who weren’t singing. Parker thought this was all terrifying, while Zoe thought it was the greatest thing ever.

Once “Celebration” was done, he moved on to “YMCA.” Most of the trolley was doing the hand motions. Even people on the street were doing it as we waited at a stop light. At one point, a woman on a bus next to us seemed to have some sort of breakdown because she was angrily pointing and yelling at us in Japanese.

There is video of this fun ride, however Sydney’s privacy settings on her Facebook account won’t allow me to show it. I attempted to screen shot the driver and although these pictures are hazy, you get the gist.

image Our driver clapping and dancing

image The light turned but he still managed to make the Y in YMCA

We rode the trolley several times during the course of the trip. Every other time the driver stayed silent except to announce stops. Which just goes to show- Your attitude about life can turn an ordinary bus ride into an event to remember.

The next day we drove out to Hanauma Bay to go snorkeling. All the pamphlets said “get there early,” but we had no idea that meant like 8am. We arrived around 930, only to be told we couldn’t even pull into the parking lot, it was full. They told us to come back and try again in 20 minutes. We headed down the highway another few minutes until we reached a lookout point. It was spectacular.

hanauma1 hanauma2 hanauma3

We headed back up to the entrance to the parking lot and were allowed in. I had been concerned we were never getting in.

They take people down in groups, following a short video that explains about the bay, what you will see there and how to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the bay. It’s a pretty long hike down, or you can pay to have a tram take you.

Even on a Wednesday in October that place was busy. We found a spot to settle in.

For months Parker had talked about going snorkeling. He’s been snorkeling in our bathtub with a mask, practicing. So when the day finally came…

232 He was ready.

Until he put his face in the ocean.

He didn’t like the flippers, and the waves freaked him out. He ended up hanging right around the edge of the water, never going too far.

He missed out. Somewhere we have an underwater camera with undeveloped pictures that Zoe took. I have seemingly misplaced it. You’ll have to take my word for it- the fish were amazing.

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We spent an awful lot of time in the car on this trip. As a result there were a lot of random conversations. At one point Zoe decided we should start a family band. She put her father as lead singer, which made absolutely no sense, as he couldn’t hold a tune in a bucket. I think she assigned Parker the triangle.

Sydney said I should cover all of today’s hits and call it “Mom Bop.”

My taste in music was challenged at one point, so we ended up putting on the Disney Pandora station. This led to a whole conversation about the Little Mermaid, and her voice, and what kind of bargain it was to give up your voice to get the guy.

Jeff said, “It would be worth it.”

He just likes the idea of a pretty woman with no voice.

And I think he likes the idea of me with no voice.

My mother-in-law was trying to understand my family at one point. My dad has two children from his first marriage, my mom has two from hers. They got married, and had me.

“Oh, so you’re the only only?”

Well, did my husband have a field day with that comment. “Oh, she’s the only only all right. Between Zoe, who calls herself ‘the awesome’ and Miss ‘Only only’ over here, you can see what I’m dealing with.”

For the rest of the trip Zoe and I were referred to as “The awesome and the only only.”

Haters are gonna hate, what can I say?

We saw a lot of sites, went to a lot of events, but in the end the true memories were made on those car rides, in silly conversations and unplanned moments.

I promise I only have one more Hawaii post planned. It was Parker’s birthday and it was a day to remember. There was Mickey Mouse, a shirtless man throwing flaming swords and I got a tattoo. What more could an 8 year old ask for?

124He really just wanted me to get a picture of the woman behind him

 

 

 

Who Let The Dogs Out? (Hawaii Part 3)

 

hawaii8My husband captioned this photo, “Many levels of suspicion”

I’m back with another installment of our Hawaii trip. If you’re getting bored with these, don’t worry, there are only about 5 more to go. I could say I’m kidding, but I’m not. If I can survive the trip, you can survive these posts.

The day after Zoe’s birthday I suggested we head up the other side of the island to see the Polynesian Cultural Center. The kids had complained that Waikiki didn’t feel very “Hawaiian” so I thought this was a great opportunity to experience the culture.

The drive was amazing. Where the trip to Haleiwa had been sparse in vegetation, this side of the island was lush. As we drove along the coast, I spotted “Hat island.” Hat island isn’t really Hat island. The Hawaiian name is Mokoliʻi, which means “little lizard.” The belief was that in a great battle between the goddess Hiʻiaka and a dragon, the dragon’s tail was cut off and this is what remains:

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However, due to the fact that it resembles a traditional Asian hat many refer to the island as “Chinaman’s hat.” So much for being PC.

As we pulled into the parking lot to the beach area with the best view of the island, we also noticed a large site called “Kualoa Ranch.”

Sydney said, “These mountains look a lot like ‘Lost.'”

I said, “Well I know that ‘Lost’ was filmed somewhere on the island.”

I took her picture, as she pretended to be “Lost.”

sydney1 She’s even eating a banana like she would in the jungle.

I made the comment that the mountains reminded me of “Mighty Joe Young,” the movie about the giant gorilla starring my husband’s #2 favorite hottie Charlize Theron. (#1? Scarlett Johansson in case anyone is keeping track.) To which Nathan replied, “You’re a giant gorilla.”

One of us was right. The other was Nathan. Turns out Kualoa Ranch is the filming site of many movies and television shows, including “Mighty Joe Young.”

After a couple more pics in front of the island…

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We all piled back in our giant rental vehicle and headed north. We noticed that there were a lot of signs protesting expansion and development of the area. With as lovely as everything was over there, I can see why they would want to protect it.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot for the PCC we were relieved to see the parking lot was pretty empty, except for a few tour buses. There was a bit of a scuffle under the plumeria trees as we lathered the sunscreen on everyone.

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For those who don’t know, the Polynesian Cultural Center http://polynesianculturalcenter.com is a living museum/sort-of theme park owned and operated by the LDS (Mormon) church. The majority of employees are students of BYU-Hawaii and they work for scholarship money.

While there is mention of the purpose of the park, there are no overt “conversion” attempts, it really is simply a tribute to the various Polynesian cultures.

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The park is designed with each unique country having their own space to highlight their housing styles, traditions, music, clothing, etc. We didn’t know where to start, but Parker insisted on heading for the canoe rides. There is a river that flows through each “country” and a tour guide talks a bit about them as you pass by.

We got to the canoe area and there was a large group already there. An employee came over to us and said, “How many of you are there?”

We told him 7.

He said, “The wait is going to be a little bit. We had a hundred and one Chinese show up in a tour bus.”

He suggested we go see the Samoa presentation that was about to start, and come back after they had gotten the “hundred and one” through on the canoes.

For the entire rest of our trip the phrase “the hundred and one” became code for large groups of tourists. As in, “We’d better make a reservation, otherwise we may get stuck behind the hundred and one.” Or, “I didn’t want to wait in the bathroom line. The hundred and one were there.”

We headed over to Samoa, and were stopped by a man with no shirt, a grass skirt and calves that were mesmerizing. I’ve never seen calves that muscular. Neither had Zoe, who leaned over and started whispering, “Do you see his…” before I shushed her. They were in the process of raising the Samoan flag and singing their national anthem.

The show consisted of Mr. Amazing Calves husking and shucking a coconut, all the while making funny jokes about the tourists watching. He is multi-lingual, and spoke to people in their own languages throughout. He is no longer a student, he was a fine art major who now sells his paintings in the Samoa souvenir shop and spends his days doing coconut demonstrations. Oh, and he showed us how to make fire.

They have hands on demonstrations for people to try at each “village” including fire making, hula lessons, basket weaving, etc. The kids can get a stamp in their “passport” and at the end, if they have completed all the tasks, they get a prize from the gift shop at the front of the park. My kids were interested in the prize, but not enough to try all the activities.

After Samoa we went back to the canoe ride, where the top photo was taken. The hundred and one had already cleared out, so the wait was short.

When we’d finished the canoe ride, the natives started getting hungry. By natives I don’t mean the people working at the park, I mean my kids. We found a spot to settle in to watch the parade of islands on the river front while Sydney and I went off to find food to bring back. By the time we got back, Jeff and the kids were surrounded by the hundred and one.

Can I just say: yes, your skin is lovely, but is it really necessary to put up umbrellas to shield your face from the sun while those behind you are trying to see over and around you? A couple rays so that you don’t block everyone’s view isn’t that much of a sacrifice.

My husband was a little shocked that I actually patted one of the women on the shoulder asking her to take the sunbrella down. At least I was nice about it.

Each island had their own float, where they wore traditional costumes, and did their own traditional dances and songs. After watching them all, I’d have to say the Tongans are the ones I would want to party with. They definitely seemed to be the most fun of the bunch. The New Zealanders (Aoteroa) were the most subdued. I found myself thinking my pale freckled face may say “Irish” but my body says “Polynesian.” I love that the Polynesian women are curvy and not skinny- except Tahiti. Those girls were by far the thinnest. I loved their outfits and they certainly know how to shake their non-existent hips. I could never make it in Tahiti.

hawaii6The Tongans

We decided that we were up for one more show, so we headed to Tonga.

The Tongan show was a drum show, and after doing some demonstrations, they dragged 3 men down to participate. The first was a white guy from San Francisco. the second was a black man from Miami. The third was a man from Japan.

The show was quite entertaining. One by one they took each guy and had them mimic their drumming. The Tongan guy would drum, then the participant would follow, attempting to replicate it. The drumming would get more complicated each time, and then they added some yells in Tongan. When the guy from Miami got up there, he was keeping up pretty well. When he got to the last set, the Tongan guy did a complicated drum beat and then yelled a very long sentence in Tongan. The guy from Miami stopped, looked at him, drummed something totally different and shouted, “Who let the dogs out?!?”

The crowd roared with laughter.

At the end of the show, Jeff came over to where I was sitting with Zoe and said, “Parker wants to get his autograph.”

Confused, I said, “The performer?”

“No. The ‘Who let the dogs out’ guy.”

I laughed. “Of course he does. ”

After some prompting on Parker’s part, Jeff, totally mortified, walked over with Parker to ask for Miami’s autograph.

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Suddenly there was a huge eruption of laughter from everyone surrounding Parker.

By the time I got over there, Jeff’s face was beet red.

I said, “What happened?”

“Parker threw me under the bus, that’s what happened. We got over there and Parker said, ‘My dad wants your autograph.'”

I looked at Parker, who had a sheepish look on his face.

imageParker’s “Autograph”

Zoe decided she wanted an autograph also, but she went for the shirtless Tongan guy. Not a bad choice.

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We walked towards the exit and Parker said to me, “What does it mean that daddy wants to throw me off the bus?”

“Not OFF the bus. UNDER the bus. You threw daddy under the bus. It means that you talked daddy into going over there with you and then said he was the one who wanted the autograph.”

This phrase has been used by him many times since; Usually out of context and not worded correctly. But if you hear Parker talking about throwing people on, off or under the bus, you’ll know where it’s coming from.

Funny thing- the next day Jeff and Parker went to the hotel pool and who did they see?

You got it- Mr. Who let the dogs out guy.

Out of all the hotels on Oahu where he could have been staying- he was at ours.

I said, “Did you say anything to him?”

“No I was hoping he didn’t recognize us.”

Later that day they got in the elevator. Who was in it? You guessed it.

Parker had given Jeff a gift that just kept on giving.

Coming soon- The celebration bus, the mongoose, the awesome and the only only