Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In The Minority At Roscoe's

I'm getting used to these quiet weekends.  It was really hot again, and so it was impossible to think about doing much outdoors in the heat.  I had a hair appointment Saturday morning paired with a pedicure.  Somewhere something got goofed up in the appointment book and what should have taken about 2 1/2 hours got moved and shuffled around until I was there almost 4 hours.  I'd told them that I didn't have anything planned and it didn't matter...so good thing that it didn't.  All I cared about was getting fresh polish painted on after a foot massage, and getting new color slapped on my gray roots.  2 hours, 4 hours - I don't care.  I just want it done.  And it was done very well, so we're all happy now.
By the time I got back home I was starving and so was L.  We didn't have any groceries and we were too hungry to go shopping.  It was too hot to cook anyway so we headed down to the beach and our favorite Mexican restaurant.  After we ate, the temperature was so nice down there that we headed more down to the water in Corona Del Mar to walk our bellies back down to a reasonable size. We started our walk a little further back from the bluff above the beach, as it was pretty crowded nearer the water.  We started walking the avenues on Goldenrod, then Heliotrope, then Iris, then Jasmine.  We'd never walked back from the water that far, and we had fun looking at how beautiful the homes were, whether they were cottages or Mediterranean mansions.  And then we discovered something we'd never seen before: a footbridge going over what used to be a gulch back in the day.

It connected the two halves of Goldenrod and it was built in 1928.  There were bright pink geraniums hanging down on each side of it, and they looked stunning as you walked across.

Here is my husband walking across, carrying my purse and sweater.  Love that man!

You can see how pretty the flowers look hanging down above the little park and the street below.  There is a staircase that leads down from the upper street to the park below.

It was one of those small discoveries that become sort of one of your favorites.  We were surprised that we'd never noticed the bridge and it's flowers as we'd driven under it on the street below.  Funny how that is.  The weather was so cool and refreshing as we walked through the streets, across the bridge, and back again.  Here's a view of one of the houses as you first walk over the bridge:

Anyway, this is not maybe something that everyone would like to do, but we enjoy our evening strolls just as we love to look at beautiful houses and dream about what it would be like to live in one of them.  Perhaps one day we, too, will own a house at the beach.  That's the goal, anyway.  And whether the house is grand or humble, I think I could think of some way to make it mine.  Even this one:

This little hot tamale is one of our kitchy favorites.  It sits high above the bay on a bluff - a spectacular piece of property were it not for the fact that this Pepto Bismol pink thing with the twirly shrubs was built on it.  It's surrounded by amazing homes on all sides, and I'm sure the neighbors have considered hiring someone to torch it.  But what I wouldn't give to own the land it sits on!  One day.... one day we will own our beach property.  Until then, we will continue to dream and save.

And speaking of dreaming and saving -
After church we realized we still did not have any groceries, and so L asked what I'd like to eat.  Lately (don't ask me why) I've been dreaming about trying fried chicken and waffles.  I must have seen it on the Food Channel or something.  It's certainly not anything you'd find in my neck of the woods.  We Googled it, and found Roscoe's Fried Chicken and Waffles in Long Beach - that was the closest one.  So we jumped in the car, and off we went on our dining adventure.  The part of Long Beach where it was located was pretty old.  And very ethnic.  L and I were definitely the minority faces here.  It's an interesting feeling when it's YOU that's the minority, instead of the other way around.  But we figured we could either eat at the same old places we always eat, or we could do something interesting and different, so into Roscoe's we went.  
It was big and noisy and had pink neon lights running all around the dining room.  We were two of probably only 3 or four white people in the whole place.  The rest were either black or Latino.  But the smells coming out of that kitchen were delicious.  Our waiter was Raymond.  Raymond was huge - about 6'5" and built for football.  I didn't ask him if he played.  He was really friendly though and we each ordered chicken and waffles.  I told Raymond it smelled wonderful in there and he smiled really big.  
The place started filling up for dinner about the time our food got to the table.  The chicken.  Oh.My.  The CHICKEN.  It was THE BEST fried chicken I've ever had.  And I'm here to tell you that pairing fried chicken and waffles is the most genius combination I've had in  awhile.  There something about the crunch of the juicy chicken eaten with the sweetness of the syrupy waffles that is just heaven.  If you live in the South, maybe this is something you're used to.  So you know.  You're in the club.  But for the rest of you - seriously.  You must try this before you die.  It should be on everyone's bucket list.  It's comfort food.  SERIOUS comfort food.  You wouldn't want to eat this way every day.  I wouldn't suggest eating this way even once a week.  But once in awhile I highly recommend it.  Roscoe's rocks.  But I imagine you have your own version of Roscoe's wherever you live.  Seek it out.  Soon.
And that was my weekend.  Today is my friend Marion's birthday.  I just got off the phone with her from our annual birthday chat.  Marion lives in Olympia, Washington.

She is 58 today, and I will be 58 in a little over a week.  We are losing our waistlines.  We are going gray.  We have our health issues.  But we are beautiful.  I happen to think she is more beautiful than me, but that is my opinion.  She has had a great sadness this year that she is recovering from.  She is doing it with great dignity and beauty, and I am taking notes.  She's always been such an example of class and beauty to me.  I hope this next year will be better and happier for her because she deserves it.  I hope I can learn to be as nice a person as she is.  I try, but then I seem to get this naughty streak and things go south.  But I'll keep trying in my 58th year.  And now, dear blogging world, I have a mighty thirst, and I am going to stop now and guzzle a Diet Coke.  Because it's hot.  Because I'm almost 58 and it scares the bejeebers out of me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cook Needs A Foot Rub

The workload this week has been hectic, to say the least.  Of course, much of it is self-imposed.  I enter registrations for medical programs and I like to get all of the ones submitted each day entered that same day. It's kind of an anal thing with me - I just don't like to open up the program in the morning and see a bunch that were submitted the day before that I have to get done before I can even start on the current day.  I'm a little strict with myself that way.  They keep asking me if I'm feeling overwhelmed, and I'm just stubborn enough to say no, no - I've got it, no problem.  And then I cry a little bit and pound down a Diet Coke.
Today was a little bit better, so I thought that I would cook a dinner that was a little more involved tonight. It's a recipe from Williams Sonoma: Savory Skillet Pie.  You can get the recipe right off of their website.

This is not my quiche - this is Williams Sonoma's... the crust should look like this.  
But mine was just as tasty and almost as pretty

 I'd made it once before, and I remembered that it was a little bit involved.  A lot of chopping.  A lot of steps.  But I'd forgotten that when I made it before, my husband was home and was being my sous chef.  Tonight I was on my own.  L had texted me that he would be about an hour late - that means he was going to have a 2 hour commute because of bad traffic.  So I thought I had plenty of time.
I mixed up the cornmeal pastry dough and chilled it.  While that was happening, I diced an onion, and sliced a red pepper.  My daughter called so I had a little chat with her.  She is doing really well with her little children's necklace business.  I will have a couple of her necklaces soon for a giveaway - I'm just trying to decide on which ones.  So all of you with little girls or little granddaughters, start to get very excited because these are really REALLY cute.  But I digress.
When I'd made the pastry dough, I remembered that last time there was not quite enough because my cast iron skillet is kind of big.  So I made about a recipe and a half.  Everything seemed fine.  It rolled out easily and I had plenty.  I was even able to crimp the edges like in the picture.  I was so proud.  So cocky.  I pricked the sides and bottom and put it in to bake.
When I checked on it after about 5 minutes I was horrified.  Apparently I'd put in too much butter ( I admit I am not a great pastry chef) and my lovely crimping had collapsed and was kind of melting down the side of the pan.  I pulled it out of the oven and tried to use a wooden spoon to push it back up.  So not pretty anymore.  But it was working, even if it wasn't beautiful.
While that finished baking, I cut the kernels off of two ears of corn.  Oh - and before that I fried up some bacon.  The crust finished baking, and while that was cooling, I sauteed the onions, pepper strips and corn in the bacon fat.  It was supposed to be in 1 T of bacon fat, but I got a little bit lazy and didn't exactly measure.  I think there was too much bacon fat because it was a little bit liquidish.  Oh well...  Added some string beans and sauteed some more.  Pour all of that in a bowl.  Husband called in the middle of all of that and I answered and kind of yelled "What?  I'm a little busy here!"  (Phone calls are the devil when you're in the middle of cooking hell)
Grab the chard out of the fridge.  Dang - I'd forgotten to wash it, so I started running water over it.  No time to dry it.  Cut it quickly into strips and threw it in the pan to wilt it.  Done.  Throw it in with the other veggies.
Beat 3 eggs with 1 1/4 C half and half.  Ran out of half and half and had to use some heavy cream instead.  Don't be like me.  Salt and pepper.  Crumble bacon into it.  Add 1 C shredded cheddar cheese.  Maybe a little bit more - I am a slothful measure-er.  Stir into veggie mixture.  Dump everything into the crust and bake for 35 minutes.
And this is when my husband walked in the door.  The kitchen looked like I'd been cooking non stop for days, and there was a fine film of flour in the air.  More than a fine film on my black yoga pants, and a mild dusting on my face.  I looked hot, I tell you.  You may kiss the cook.
And after baking for 35 minutes...Hmmm... still watery.  Bake for 10 more minutes.  Long story short, it ended up baking an extra 25 minutes - probably because of the water clinging to the chard and the extra bacon fat I hadn't measured.  But no harm done in the end.  The cornmeal crust was crunchy and the filling was savory and cheesy and creamy.  So. Good.  Now that it's all over and the kitchen (which was a total train wreck I might add) is cleaned up, I can feel warm and fuzzy about this recipe again.  Plus, we are only two people and it will feed 8.  And quiche is like lasagna - it only gets better the second/third time around.  Good thing too, because I don't know if I'll be up to making something new tomorrow night.  Cook needs a night off.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Relaxing Weekend To Offset The Weekly Fray

Maybe it's because I work at home now, but I felt antsy all weekend.  Just couldn't wait to get out of the house.  Anywhere - let's go anywhere.  My poor husband makes the trek from our house to Torrance every single day.  For those of you unfamiliar with the geography, it should be about a 35 minute trip one way.  But with typical California overcrowding, and accidents, and what have you it turns into about an hour and a half to two hour commute.  One way.  Every.Single.Day.  So believe me, he's not that anxious to get back in the car and drive around some more.
However, I've been blessed with an understanding soul mate.  A best friend.  He understands the complexities and nuances of me.  And so he got in the car on Saturday and took me to the movies (The Help - excellent, excellent!  If you haven't seen it, you must!)  After the movie we drove home, and I was still hoping to do something else.  We walked upstairs and changed our clothes - because I'd spilled the top layer of buttered popcorn on myself in the dark movie, and I had to soak the top I had on to get out the oily stains.  AUGH - I hate when I do things like that!  Got the soaking going, and suggested that maybe we could take the Miata out, top down, and drive through Carbon Canyon.  It was such a beautiful afternoon, and I just needed to be out of the house.  L sighed, but off we went through the canyon.  We took the curves, looked for the place where the hot springs and the biker bar used to be back in our wasted youth, ( never having gone to either, you understand - our knowledge was all high school hearsay and innuendo) and wound up on the other side of the canyon in Chino Hills.  There's a sweet little Italian restaurant there that we wound up having dinner at.  We chatted through dinner like the old friends we are, and got in the car to drive home.  Now, driving in the daytime with the top down is nice, but top down in the evening air is amazing.  The air was cool, the stars were out, and I turned on the heat so our feet would stay warm.  There's something a little magical about zooming through a dark canyon, zipping by the totally funky little town that's there, and finally heading home on the city streets with the top down to the night sky.  It soothes and exhilarates me all at the same time.
No - this is not a picture of our Southern California night sky. We NEVER see stars like this - too many
people, too many city lights.  But driving top down through the canyon at night FELT like this.

Today was our typical Sunday of church.  We came home and decided to change and drive down Corona Del Mar and walk the streets all named for flowers for a little exercise.  It was the first time I realized that the streets were named in alpha order (Poppy, then Poinsettia, then Orchid, then Narcissus, and so on)  I love those beautiful little streets.  1940s original cottages set next to a double lot Mediterranean style home, next to a Leave It To Beaver pure Americana home.  I have my favorites, but honestly, I'd take any one of them if I had the chance.  Especially if the front door was a Dutch door - you know, where the top half can open while the bottom half can remain closed.    I love those.
And all of the houses - cottages or large homes - have the loveliest flowers in their yards.

We walked several blocks, admiring each home in turn.  I have an ankle that is suffering right now from an RA flareup so it started to get swollen and sore, and we had to stop for a bit.  (I hate turning into an old geezer...) We found a bench on one of the bluffs overlooking the ocean and sat there admiring the view for about an hour.
This is actually a picture taken by my daughter in Puerto Rico - I didn't take my camera today, so I'm cheating.

There was an old sailboat out there that had a black sail like a pirate ship.  A couple of guys were out in a little raft fishing.  We saw a couple of seals.  We admired the seagulls that glided by - they hardly had to flap their wings at all.  The simply glided on the air currents for the longest time.  A little black pigeon limped nearby.  It's left birdie foot was all floppy and he was limping badly.  I could sympathize.  I wondered how it got hurt - maybe he had RA too -  but I was happy he could still fly.  Two older ladies asked if they could share our bench, and of course we said yes.  They lived in the area and were very well dressed in expensive looking casual clothes.  One lady was wearing a pair of yellow Toms.  I decided that I would like a pair of Toms, too.  They look really comfortable, and these days I'm all about comfort for my poor swollen foot.
L got hungry so we got up and walked/limped back to the car.  The sun was getting lower, and the ocean reflected it brightly.  "Sparkle light with yellow icing, just a mirror for the sun" - Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It wasn't a day that you would normally write about.  Nothing spectacular.  Nothing of note.  Just one of those good afternoons spent in the company of your best friend, yakking about anything and everything.  No pressures, no schedules to keep.  A relaxed agenda.  I know that tomorrow the work madness starts all over again.  But for a couple of days it was nice to have no demands on our time.  For a couple of days, time was ours to spend in any way we pleased.  And now, as the day winds down, I'm here blogging, and L is in the next room playing his guitar. A little Led Zeppelin, a little of this, a little of that.  It's a relaxing end to a very mellow weekend.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fond Goodbyes, In With The New

I've started my new job... or it's started on me.  With a vengeance.  I received my laptop last week, but do you think it would connect on my home internet?  Of course not.  I made a couple of trips in to the local Spinal sales office because I could work there and my laptop liked their internet wireless better than mine.  I could also visit my old coworker Teresa, who I miss like anything.  The last time I was there I had a heated session with the company IT department, who still wasn't able to figure out the problem.  They suggested I cry Uncle and connect with an ethernet cable.  It goes against the grain, but that's exactly what I did.  And it works like a charm.
I planted my backside in my work chair All. Day. Long.  I started wondering in my head about 4:30 this afternoon why I was feeling so sore and stiff, and then I remembered I hadn't gotten up out of the chair since this morning.  I was still not showered OR dressed.  I figured it was time, so I abandoned my post for a quick 30 minutes.  I am refreshed, and I smell so much better.  I figured I owed L that much, seeing as how I haven't set foot in the kitchen to even think about dinner.  I'm thinking it's an In 'n Out night.  My treat.
I can't believe what a learning curve I'm going through - especially since I did part of this job a little bit in my previous work life.  But there you go.  The brain turns to mush after 2 months off.  And, to be fair, things had piled up a bit, and there was a lot to plow through.  It's almost caught up, so I'm feeling a little more optimistic than I was this morning.
Have any of you ever worked with a computer program that is full of little glitches, and you swear sometimes it has an evil brain?  Either that, or you're going crazy.  Maybe both.  Well, that's this program.  It's like a shape shifter.  It will behave one way now, and in 5 minutes it will do something a little bit differently.  Really - it's like you're going nuts.  And the really nutty part is that you're so used to the dysfunctional relationship you have with it, that you think it's normal.  Until you start thinking about it too much - which I try not to do.  I try to have a little treat instead.  (But since this is ongoing dysfunction, I'm going to have to police those little treats or I won't be able to fit in my chair)

To move on to more pleasant conversation, my old work group gave me a little Goodbye/Send-Off party on Saturday night.  I had a hard time getting ready to go it for some reason.  I'd hoped to be about 40 pounds lighter, I wanted my hair to be more perfect - you know, because you want them to remember someone that really isn't you.  Someone who looks like the movie star that would play you in a movie.  I finally was able to blast off with L, and it turned out to be so much fun.  My old boss knows how to throw a party.  It was at the La Casa del Camino Hotel  in Laguna Beach that is old (like maybe about 80-90 years old?) and has a wonderful area on the rooftop where you can sit and look out at the ocean while you have drinks or eat.  View the sunset - it's a gorgeous spot.  We also had a room just off the rooftop terrace where we came in to have dinner.
It was so much fun to be with my old friends and coworkers again.  All of them weren't able to come, but I have to be honest and say, everyone that came was someone I really wanted to see.  A couple of girls I like weren't able to come, but for the most part all of my faves were there.  No one talked shop, and I loved every minute of it.  I got to talk to my old boss in a more relaxed setting, his wife was there too and I like her quite a bit.  We are both named Karen, and every once in awhile my boss would slip and call me "Honey."  Then he'd get embarrassed and mutter an excuse about too many Karens.  I used to love that.  It made him like a real person.
I had kind of gotten over my old team and moved on.  But for a couple of days after the party I felt a little melancholy and nostalgic - rather like how I've always felt after a high school reunion (which is why I don't like going to those).  I was going through the loss all over again.  (L is ready to drop kick me...) I'd really like to believe I'd keep in touch with all or most of these people, but I know I won't.  Everyone moves on, and that makes me a little sad.  There are four coworkers (John, Judy, Teresa, and Olga: I'm looking at you) that I most definitely want to keep doing things with.  John is that irresistible, harmless naughty boy who won't behave.  But he has a heart of gold, and he's so random he makes me laugh really hard.  L always loved my John stories.  Judy is absolutely the most unique person I've ever met: one part super nurse (I insist she's at my bedside to advocate for me if I'm ever in the hospital ) and another part earth mother who loves everyone, cares deeply about everything, third part surfer girl.  Lovely person.  Teresa and Olga are my Partners in Admin Crime.  We have had so many huge laughs together.  So many funny stories have passed between us, as well as tears.  I love these girlies like family.
So these four saw me through some rough days in the last nine years.  They always knew when I was having a bad day, and they've always come through for me in a way that made things all right again.  Like the two times I almost got creamed in my Miata.  Or when I lost my job.  And my boss, Carey.  There were times when I wanted to shake him, but I know he always meant well, and that he had my best interest at heart.  He always tried to do right by me, and I appreciate that.  It was hard for him to let his guard down, but every once in awhile he would, and we'd have some great chats.  Or he'd call me Honey.  I've lived through all my kids' weddings, sickness and sad times, and the births of my grandchildren with him as my boss, so he knows me pretty well.  Plus, I have to admit it: Carey is just so nice looking it was a treat to see him in the office.  Sorry.  But it's true.

The evening ended too soon, and L and I were on our way home with an armful of loot.  The group gave me a lovely parting gift (as usual, way way generous: $250 gift certificate to South Coast Plaza.  Christmas came early this year...) and I straggled back to the car bearing my gift and lots of flowers - even a lei to wear for the evening!  None of my work friends read this, but I wish I could properly tell each one of them how much they've meant to me over the years, but there aren't words deep enough to describe it.  So a regular thank you note will have to do, and that won't half do it justice.  But in business, there's only so much mushy huggy stuff you can convey before you sound suspect.  Pity.  This work family could be a little dysfunctional (*fixing John with a stink eye*) but when the chips were down I couldn't have asked for a more loyal bunch.  I have loved and fought with them all - but mostly I've loved them.  Thanks, guys - for the growth, for the friendship, for the best 9 years ever.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Liebster (Sweetheart) Blog Award

I was a little late getting to the party, but when I finally checked my blog this afternoon I found out that I'd been gifted with a little blog award:

Given to me by Sush at First Do No Harm, the Liebster Award (I am told Liebster is German for "sweetheart") is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers.  I definitely fall into that category, and was thrilled to receive it from Sush.  I encourage everyone to check out her blog.  She's a southern gal, and gives the most delicious descriptions of her doings in a gracious, southernly way.  I'm addicted.
In addition, as part of receiving the award, we are also to pass it on to our own favorite blogs that we frequent (again, those with under 200 followers).  I read so many great blogs it was hard to choose, but of the ones that meet the criteria, here are some of my very favorites:

Life From The Bleachers - she's an involved mom, whose children are fast getting ready to fly the coop. I can relate to this lady, plus she describes her life in a way that makes me alternately laugh and cry - which automatically hooks me.  You'll love it, I promise.

Spots and Wrinkles - she had me at the title.  Grown kids spread out everywhere, a LOC (loveable old coot) by her side at home.  I relate to her love of home and love of family.  I relate to the problems of aging, and the wanting to come to the aid of needy family at the same time as wanting to be home taking care of your roses.  I relate to always being a wife and mother, as well as an individual.  A tricky act at best.  It's a satisfying, good-for-your-soul read.

Whispering Pines and Starkey Hollow - I'm cheating a bit here, and giving you a twofer.  I came across both of these blogs at virtually the same time.  They both live in Ohio, work at the same hospital, and are friends.  I like these blogs because: 1. They live in one of the most gorgeous areas of the country you could imagine and their blogs are full of pictures  2. I love reading about their family gatherings, and things they do that are different from my life  3. Nurses, and the knowledge they have, and the work they do, fascinates me.  They are sweet, down to earth ladies, and their blogs are full of weather and seasons and raging creeks that my world in Southern California doesn't contain.  It's a view into something different and quite beautiful.

Knees and Paws - I've just recently started reading this one, but it's an inspiration.  She is organizing a class to teach at the Y - a writer/illustrator class for home schooled children.  She describes a love of family and has her eye on what's important in life.  Reading her posts make me want to do good, or do more good.  Give this one a try.

Sweet Tea -  She writes about everyday observations and musings.  Things we all might notice or think about, but somehow take for granted.  I enjoy her posts, because they help me appreciate all of the little things that make a day wonderful.  She puts me in a good mood, starting with the title picture that tops her blog.

So there you have it - my fab five (or six) - depending on how you look at it.  We're all in our blog infancy, and we could all use more friends (who couldn't?)  Each one of them has inspired me in some small way, and I like that about many of the blogs I read.  Life is tough enough - I need the things I  surround myself with to help inspire me to be better, to do better, to do more.  These little fledglings do just that for me.  See if you don't agree with me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Caught By The Ditz

My niece Sheri, and her relatively new husband Tom (they got married last year) have spent their first year of marriage in Taiwan teaching English. They're both lovers of travel and adventure, so what a way to start life together with a bang!  They've returned home to the Motherland, soon to move to Philadelphia where Sheri will start graduate school.  Long story short, they were at my brother's house last night, and the family gathered to have a visit.
Now, in my defense, (read on for the cautionary tale of the behavior I'm weakly defending) I'd had a long and confusing day yesterday, looking out the window every 5 minutes for the UPS or Fed-Ex truck to deliver my new laptop, which I'd BEEN TOLD had been sent the day before.  I got some calls and emails throughout the day asking me if it had been received.  I was starting to get nervous because it hadn't appeared.  I really would like to start working.  Earn my keep.  Make some dough.  Anyway... at 3:30 (5:30 Central) I was finally told that the aforementioned laptop had, in fact, not been sent as they needed my password to give it a final check.  Never mind that someone had all day to call me and ask me what my password was...  So all the window watching, scheduling my shower at noon because that was, strategically speaking, the most unlikely time for the Fed-Ex man to appear, the fast and furious emails back and forth - they were all for naught.  *hanging head* I was discouraged.  One more day with no income.
I'd also only seen Tom at their wedding waaay last year, when I'd brought my grandmother and aunt and was concerned with fussing over them, rather than focusing on the featured bridal couple.  I don't think I said more than "Nice to meet you." to the groom.  (The defense rests.)
See?  No pictures of Tom.  Just Sheri and my grandma.  No memories to go on...

However, I had a family thing to get to.  So I got out of my corporate outfit (yoga pants and a tank top) and spruced up, still mentally working overtime on what I needed to accomplish the second that laptop arrives on Thursday.  (Too bad that mentally working equal actually making any money...)
L got home, and off we went to my brother's house.  All of my nieces, nephews, their babies, my parents, etc. were there.  We meeted and greeted, I held baby Cash, gushed over his amazing eyelashes, said hello to my nephew's cute girlfriend.  I walked outside, and my dad was sitting next to a young man I didn't recognize.  I knew he'd recently gone to Utah for the funeral of one of his sisters.  It passed through my mind that he'd brought some random relative back with him?  This was someone's friend?  No clue.  Whatsoever.
Finally, said random stranger said, "Hi, I'm Tom."  Blank stare/polite smile from me.  My dad introduced me to the stranger - "This is my daughter, Karen."   I'm still clueless, so I said "And you are...?"  My mother rushed in to say "You met him at the reception last year!"  I'm thinking "WHAT reception?!?"  Because all I can remember was my son Scott's reception last June, and I certainly didn't remember this person in front of me.  (Sadly, at times, all roads lead to me...) So I actually said, "WHAT reception?!?"  At which time everyone looked at me like I was nuts, and I was certainly feeling that THEY were all nuts.  Tom, ever the gentleman, softly explained "I'm Sherri's husband."  As in the Guest Of Honor, The Entire Reason We Were There.  THAT Tom.
Yes, my friends, it took that much of a beating over my head to realize who this poor person was.  And I hung my head in shame.  I am not normally this ditzy - or at least I am usually better at covering for myself.  And I would be tempted to explain it away as old age setting in, and everyone would believe that because...well... old age IS kind of setting in.  But sadly, things like this have happened to me throughout my entire life.  And I don't know why.  I'm smart - yes, I really am.  I'm usually socially adept.  I'm not a hermit in a cave.  A hobo, yes, but not a hermit.  But I cannot deny that at certain points of my life (and usually very embarrassing ones) I cannot escape The Ditz.
This partially explains why, in school, 99% of the time I'd have the most correct, intelligent answer to a question that anyone could possibly come up with.  But I rarely raised my hand to give it up, because 1% of the time it would come out as a WAG (wild ass guess), and I could never see that 1% coming.  So I learned to sit back and be quiet.  Take no risk.
Now, that's the beautiful thing about getting older.  You can laugh these things off - throw caution to the winds.  And although I'm still mortified about last night, I know that Tom will just think of me fondly as Sheri's nice but dotty old aunt.    (I'm looking at you, Tom... please forgive me?)  And I'll redeem myself, hopefully, over the years.  But the bottom line is that as I've aged, I've gained the ability to put these momentary lapses into perspective.  They're the stuff that family stories are created from, and my idol - my grandmother - had a million of them that she was the star of.  And if I become as beloved as she was, I won't be doing half bad.  A mixture of good living, good loving, a healthy ability to laugh at myself, and a child's curiosity about everything - it would be a life well lived.  As long as I can always throw in that random pinch of silly.  And since that doesn't ever seem to be a problem for me, (emphasis on the random) I think I'm good.

Mia has inherited the silly - let's hope she escapes the Ditz...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Minnesota Lakes & Pontoons...Don't'cha Know

I'm back from Minnesota.  I had a hard time getting there.  My wished-for weather arrived in the form of lightning storms over Minneapolis... so our plane was diverted to Sioux Falls, SD because we didn't have enough gas to keep circling until the lightning stopped.   Sooo... we gassed up in SD and were on our way to Minneapolis again in about 45 minutes.  We arrived, but the lightning was still intermittent so the ground crews had all scurried away inside.  That meant we sat on the tarmac waiting for the lightning to go away for almost an hour.  I was sad that I'd wished for the lightning.  At last the ground crews crept outside again, and we were able to hurry off the plane before something else happened.
I had a car waiting for me, and the driver kept calling me to see where I was.  There was a luggage snafu and no one could figure out which carousel it was coming in on.  When we looked at the boards that post such things, our flight wasn't on there.  I guess they couldn't decide whether our flight had come from Orange County or from Sioux Falls.  In any case, neither was listed and so we wandered around lost and dejected until we had the bright idea to ask at the Delta service desk.  Finally: luggage located and I was off downstairs to meet the car and driver.
I was outside in the ground transportation area for less than 2 minutes and my hair was literally dripping sweat from the heat and extreme humidity.  I was literally a hot mess while trying to find my driver.  As quickly as I could I jumped in the car and asked him to crank up the air.  The heat and damp air were deadly - as bad as anything in Puerto Rico, but no nice sea breezes OR sea.  Yuck.
When I got to the hotel I was able to hose off and get comfortable before being picked up for dinner by one of my new coworkers.  She came with her husband and they were both so nice.  She was blonde and had beautiful blue eyes.  When we got to the restaurant, we happened to see some friends of theirs - also all blonde and all with beautiful blue eyes.  I suddenly realized I was completely surrounded by Swedes and Vikings, don't'cha know.  They are a good looking bunch, I have to say, but it was an odd feeling to be a minority of sorts.
The next day, this same coworker and another one picked me up for the trek north to the resort on Gull Lake.  It was a long, long trip - almost 3 hours in the car with people I barely knew.  At last we arrived at our destination.  And it was stinking hot and humid.  And our rooms weren't ready.  We got some lunch and waited.  And waited.  Before our rooms were ready, the others had all arrived, and everyone wanted to get the party started.  It started with a happy hour.  Lots of drinking.  There are only so many Diet Cokes or tonic waters I can drink.  I was bored, but everyone else was having a really good time drinking.  At dinner time (still hadn't been to the room because my luggage was held hostage in the car of one of the happy drinkers) everyone boarded a pontoon (they pronounce it "pan-tOOn") for a migratory trip around the lake - basically bar hopping and eating our way around it.  Yay.
The first bar also provided our appetizers: onion rings, deep fried chicken wings, deep fried coconut shrimp, deep fried jalepeno poppers, and tater tots (Really?? I flew 3 1/2 hours and drove another 3 for TATER TOTS?!?)  There were little flies buzzing around that kept biting my ankles.  It hurt.  We were finally able to leave that hell-hole and get on to the next watering hole - the very same place where we'd had bad pizza for lunch.  So - yay - we got to have more bad pizza.  And lots of drinks.  And apparently the staff was too overwhelmed to serve us our sodas and/or water: we had to get up and get our own.  At last we were on our way back on the pontoons to our own hotel for dessert.  Everyone thought it was hysterical to throw cherry tomatoes and raw veggies back and forth at the people on the other pontoons.  Our driver was racing with the others and water sloshed in and got us all wet.  Everyone thought that was hysterical too.  The fearless leader of our pontoon grabbed tongs (from the vegetable trays that had been baking on the boats all evening) and attempted to field the veggies flying our way.  He got his shoes very wet but made a valiant stand.
The sunset over Gull Lake during our vegetable fight

Finally - AT LAST - we got back and herded up to where the ice cream was.  We made our own sundaes, but what's this? - the staff had forgotten to provide spoons.  So while our ice cream melted they scurried around trying to find spoons.  There were hundreds of dragon flies buzzing all around us.  It was kind of cool - they are like bug fairies, and don't bother me.  I'd never seen so many all at once, but I'd never been to a lake in Minnesota either.  It was almost 9:00pm and still light outside.  I was told it doesn't get dark until almost 10 in the height of summer.  Crazy.

Oh, people were still not done drinking, but thankfully, THANKFULLY I had roommates in our particular townhouse that were ready to go to bed, since it was 10pm and breakfast was at 7am.  We got in the car, luggage in tow, and drove to our rooms.  Where I promptly had a very bad night's sleep.  I guess I was expecting more of a 4 or 5 star resort.  You know - good pillows and good mattresses, nice bed linens.  This was nice and clean, but a little rustic.  Plus, I knew I had to get up early for the meeting and that automatically jinxed any good sleep I might have had.
Wednesday morning: Breakfast and a morning meeting.  Pretty standard, and I learned a lot about the team I'll be working with.  We had a working lunch and then - oh joy! - the team building activity: a scavenger hunt.  I hate to be negative, I really do.  But that was one of the lamest things I've ever done.  Grown men and women screaming at each other to run! RUN! in that hot humid heat to find, and take pictures of ridiculous things.  Now, if there's a prize at the end that I want, I'm as competitive as anyone. But I am NOT competitive just for the sake of competition.  These sales people are like Pavlov's dog when you dangle a contest in front of them.  It was just nuts.  And stupid.  I was thrilled when it was over and I could go back to the room all by myself for some quiet time.  The owner of the car had gone golfing and she very kindly let me use her car.  I really liked her.
At 3:15 it was time for my massage so off I went.  It was OK.  The girl who did it told me how tired she was, and that she'd done 6 massages before me and had one after me.  (Was I supposed to feel sorry for her?)  After she said that, I didn't expect much, and it was a good thing, because I didn't get much.  But I didn't really care because it killed time, and I didn't have to pay for it.  Plus, it was quiet and peaceful in there.
Back to the room to clean up for dinner as I had massage oil all through my hair.  Dinner was at an Italian restaurant on the premises that everyone raved about.  Seriously, Olive Garden is better than that restaurant was.  Maybe the wine was good - everyone was really enjoying that - but from my perspective the food was lacking.  Not a lot of flavor in anything except the flank steak strips with a wine reduction sauce.  I liked that, but no one else did as they didn't like rare meat.  *sigh*  Only one more day to go, however.
Thursday: Breakfast and morning meeting.  Results of the scavenger hunt.  My team won.  Oh, the chest beating and hilarity...  and the eye rolling from me.  Finally, it was over, and I was assigned to go to the airport with a couple of girls who had room for me and my large, giant suitcase.  I liked them.  They thought the scavenger hunt was stupid too.  And they thought the food was bad.  We came to the conclusion that we live in areas where there are A LOT of choices as far as eating out (they were from New York) and that maybe we were spoiled.  Probably quite right about that.  Not a lot of choices in that part of Minnesota, and they are pretty much a meat and potatoes crowd anyway.
Minnesotans are very proud of their lakes.  Rightfully so - they're beautiful.  I enjoyed seeing a portion of the country I'd never seen before.  It was green, and full of wildlife (one girl almost ran into a little deer family while out running one morning), and gorgeous flowers.  We heard loons on the lake.  There were spectacular sunsets.  I assume the sunrises were equally beautiful, but I was in the shower for those.
But I missed my home.  And my husband.  I felt like they could have done this meeting in one day in a hotel in Minneapolis and spared us the 2 days of travel to and from the remote resort.  It was hot and sticky and even though everyone was really nice to me, they already knew each other really well, so I felt like an outsider.  And I WAS an outsider, for heaven's sake - I don't live or work there!
So I was glad to fly home to my husband, my own house, my own bed.  Home is always a good place for me to be.  But I was glad to have experienced the grandeur of a Minnesota lake at sunset.  Even more glad that I'd captured it on my i-Phone.

Minnesotans say there are three good months in each year: the summer months.  It's when they go to the lakes, get out on the water in their boats and pontoons, go to their lakeside cabins.  They enjoy every minute that summer offers, because they know in a few short months the harsh winter will be upon them again.  And unless you just love to ice fish, the lake will be unavailable for awhile.  So I was glad to see this seasonal beauty accompanied by my new blonde, blue-eyed friends.  And for a little while, when we were on the water at sunset, I was glad I'd come.

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