New Year...New Focus

Happy New Year to everyone! I'm making a few changes, as is appropriate for the ringing in of a new year and a new decade. 

Change number one:

In an effort to support under-marketed and underrepresented artists, I will use this particular blog space to present the works of some fabulous artists I've become acquainted with. I plan to try and feature a different artist from several different genres (not just jewelry) every week. The first one I have lined up is an extremely talented silversmith from across the pond...I think you'll like him.

Change number two:

I am opening a new shop with a new name, a new image and a new line of jewelry. The shop will be called JoiaBela, which is Portuguese for Beautiful Jewel. As many of you know, I was lucky enough to live in Brazil for a while and love everything related to that country to this day: the people, the food, the music, the atmosphere. So my new line will have a little taste of samba, a little feijoada and a little South American soul. The website is still under construction, but watch for a grand opening announcement soon. I will also be posting a second blog featuring my own jewelry where I can post new item alerts, sale announcements and specials just for blog subscribers. I'm considering a third blog where I can just ramble on about what's on my mind (sort of like I've done here for the past year and a half), but that's still undecided (feel free to weigh in on that).

Change number three:

m.o.d. custom jewelry, aka "missouri ocean," will be a venue where I feature only a few pieces of jewelry for sale, the proceeds of which will be donated to my favorite charity, Reef.org.

Soapbox Alert...woop, woop, woop...Soapbox Alert...

It disgusts me that I live in a country that spends 18.7 billion dollars a year exploring space and less than one tenth of that exploring our oceans.

Oceans cover 71% of the surface of the Earth. 97% of the Earth's water is in the ocean. One-sixth of the jobs in the U.S. are marine-related and one-third of the United States' GNP originates from coastal areas. Yet those same oceans which support 50% of all species on the planet are 95% unexplored!

I truly believe that the answers to many of our planet's biggest problems are to be found in our seas. The cure for cancer, the remedy for world hunger and the solution to global warming are most likely all right there, just waiting to be discovered. But we're not under there looking for them. Instead, we're blowing holes in the Moon to see if there was water there 100 million years ago.

(Steps down from soapbox)

Technically, I am not sure if the new decade begins tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. I remember that debate in 2000 about when the actual new millenium began. I'll leave those debates to more intelligent beings than I. Meanwhile, I want to thank all my customers, friends and family for your support and love over the past year. I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010!


176 Nights

I've been cleaning up my studio/office. It's well past time, I've let it pile up pretty badly this year. I came across an alarming number of room card-keys for hotels I stayed in this year. I usually don't turn them in at the end of a stay and I've been throwing them in a basket.

I was curious, looking at this stack of 40 or 50 room keys, about exactly how many nights I spent in a hotel in 2009, so I went back through my schedule.

As closely as I can tell, I spent at least 176 nights in a hotel in 2009 (probably more). Most of them were spent in Hilton properties (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites), about 30 or so were Marriott, a few Omni, some Renaissance. Hilton was my brand of choice due to the fact that you can "double dip" there: earning both frequent flier miles and hotel points.

People who don't travel much always think it's glamorous and fun. I admit that I do like to travel, but it's rarely glamorous and the travel itself is seldom fun. Being somewhere I've never been is fun, or seeing family and friends is fun, but the travel itself--not so much.

So the points you get, the miles, the little perks and bennies of being a frequent flier or frequent guest or whatever, become like a little game you play. How can I best maximize my points? If I have to do a three-leg trip tomorrow, how can I get the best benefit with the fewest hassles? (Hint to anyone: avoiding Chicago O'Hare Airport is always a good call).

I've seen the ads for the new George Clooney movie, Up In the Air. I suspect that I'll find a little of myself in his character.


Customer Service is Not Dead...(somebody should clue American Airlines in)

This is not about how bad American Airline's customer service is.

I will not go into a long dissertation about how badly I was treated recently in a situation with American Airlines. I won't go into how much their representative, whose initials are Yolanda Fernandez (Yolanda Fernandez/Corporate Insurance Risk Management/817-967-1289 / yolanda.fernandez@aa.com) yelled at me and told me it was my fault that one of their employees stole my property...not that the property wasn't stolen...just that it was my fault.

But I don't want to go into that. I've put it behind me. I'm over it.

No, this is about a company who really does know what customer service is all about. It's not a long story, so stay with me.

Back in March, I bought 3 new pieces of luggage from Lands End. Two big rolling duffels and a rollaboard. I used the rollaboard on every trip from March to September, which was about 30 round-trips or about 120 flight segments. Most of the time I checked it through to my destination. So in 6 months, it got more use than any luggage I've ever owned and it is still going strong. Yes, it has a few scrapes and bruises and isn't as new looking as it was, but then I'm not exactly shiny and new anymore myself.

The two big duffels stayed unused until September, when we loaded them up with dive gear and headed to Bonaire for three weeks. One of the duffels made the trip intact, but the telescoping handle on the 2nd one broke off. I procrastinated and never got around to returning it...I meant to, but just didn't get to it.

Fast forward to today. I had to haul some extra stuff with me on this trip, so I brought the rolling duffle with the handle that still worked. Well, when I got to my destination, the handle was broken off in exactly the same manner as the first one.

Well, I'm not a rocket surgeon, but I sense a pattern here.

Part of the reason I chose Lands End is because they guarantee your satisfaction with their products for life. Now I'm not one of those who will return a sweater I've had for 14 years and say I'm no longer satisfied with it, but I expected $239 (each) bags to hold up for more than 2 or 3 trips. So I called Lands End's customer service number.

Shock Number One: A person answered the phone on the first ring. Let me rephrase that: A. Person. Answered. The. Phone. I was absolutely gobstopped. I haven't had a person (let alone an English-speaking person) answer a customer service line since Reagan was president.

Shock Number Two: This person (I wish I could remember her name) didn't bat an eye about my problem. She apologized and asked me if I wanted my luggage replaced or refunded. She actually said, "Whatever you need to make you happy." I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

So tomorrow (yes tomorrow!) I will be receiving an overnight delivery with a replacement bag.

Shock Number Three: Did I mention I'm not at home? When I told her I was on a trip with a bag that won't roll she offered to ship me one overnight to my hotel and the other to my home.

Am I a satisfied customer? You betcha! Will I buy from Lands End again? You betcha!

See? Customer service is NOT dead.

Except at American Airlines.

Bitter much? Who me?


The Blaaaahg

I know everyone's been checking daily for an update. Just waiting for me to do or say something exciting. I know you are. Admit it.

Sorry to break it to you, but I have the "just before Winter blues." I don't think they existed until I just invented them, but trust me...I've got 'em.

The trees are all nekked and dead looking. It gets dark way too early. Between the economy and my lack of time to do anything, my jewelry business is not doing well this year. My husband's been sick. My dogs have been sick. I ain't getting any younger and there isn't enough money in the world to fight what gravity is doing to me.

So if you're waiting for grand revelations, deep philosophical wisdom and witty repartee from me this week, sorry to ruin your day!

Better luck next week.


When It Rains, It Sucks

Well, this has turned out to be one of the crappiest weeks on record for me!

Rosie had splenic torsion last week and had to have an emergency splenectomy (her spleen twisted and had to be removed), so she's recovering from very major surgery.

Yesterday, Jeff started acting funny (not in a ha-ha way) and I thought he was having a heart attack. As he's not one to joke around about stuff like that, I took it seriously and immediately called for an ambulance. Very long story short, he had a TIA or "mini-stroke." We have no idea why. They have him in the hospital, running every test known to man. He should be home tomorrow, but it scared the crap out of us both.

Then today, I found out my "baby," Ruby, is pregnant. For those who don't know, Ruby is my 16 month old Swissy. She is nonstandard, and therefore not one we ever want to breed. Unfortunately, while we were on vacation and she was at the breeder's, she went into heat for the first time (we like to wait until they've had one heat cycle before spaying). As soon as the breeder realized she was in heat, which was at most a few days, she separated her from her intact male. Apparently not quickly enough though, as the little tramp got knocked up. So she'll be going in Monday for a full hysterectomy and gastropexy (stomach tacking) and she'll have a large healing incision for a few weeks like her big sister.

So I'm going to have one knocked up, one laid up and one laid out all at the same time.

Oh the joy that is my life right now!

Hope your world is a little brighter...


Hookers, Pot and Chocolate

The Dutch are far superior to the rest of us and I'm surprised they don't rule the world. If it was up to me, they would.

I know what you're thinking, that this one is from way out in left field, even for me. But stick with me for a minute while I explain. I think you'll see that I'm 100% correct.

Is it because they are so socially progressive?

No. While I think it's great that they are, that's not why they should rule the world.

Is it because they are generally so open-minded and accepting of other cultures, races, religions and points of view?

No. Again, it's great that they are and I wish we Americans were more accepting of others too, but that isn't reason enough to rule the world.

Is it because marijuana and prostitution are legal in the Netherlands?

First of all, I have to stress that I don't smoke pot or participate in prostitution (I do, after all work for the government), nor do I necessarily condone either one. I do think, however, that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes. As for the oldest profession, it is always going to be here, we might as well acknowledge it. So I think both marijuana and prostitution should be legal, regulated, monitored and taxed. This would protect all involved: customers, providers and workers and, as a bonus, the government could get their cut of this previously untapped (pun intended) revenue stream.

But I digress, that isn't it either.

Is it because about 99% of the Dutch population are tall, well-educated and gorgeous (and the other 1% apparently aren't allowed to get a passport)?

While that's a great reason, it's not the one I'm talking about.

It's very simple. The Dutch eat chocolate paste on their toast in the morning. Okay, well, maybe not ALL of them do, but they could and that's what matters.

How is it that I've gone this many years without this? Without even an inkling of its existence? I'm convinced that somewhere in the deepest, darkest bowels of the offices of the Republican National Committee is a group of grumpy smelly old chocolate-hating right wingers staffed by a bunch of government day weenies who don't want us to actually enjoy our breakfasts. It's a plot, I tell you, a plot!

What about Nutella, you may ask? You mean that mysteriously overpriced grayish paste in the supermarket on the bottom shelf with an inch of dust on top of the jar? That's just a decoy…no one actually eats that stuff (hence the dust). The Republicans let that one slip through the cracks because it's expensive, it's made of hazelnuts and, alas, it just doesn't taste that good. They knew that if we ever did get brave enough to spend half a paycheck to try it, it would turn us off from buying breakfast paste again. But they figure if we'd get to eat chocolate for breakfast every day, we might look forward to getting up early, we might be late for work, we might start actually enjoying mornings. It could somehow negatively affect our GDP.

Get thee behind me, peanut butter! Begone thy demon concord grape jelly!

Bring me chocolate paste for breakfast and the Dutch can rule the world!


La Gran Aventura de Jeff & Gini, Parte Dos

Bright and early in the morning, we were met by the American owner of Holbox Whaleshark Tours, Rodd. Rodd, aka "Roddrigo," aka "Whale Shark Daddy," has lived on the island for several years and is dedicated to bringing people to see the amazing whale shark ethically and responsibly. We chatted about his life on the island during our 5-minute commute to "Whale Shark Central" in "downtown" Holbox.

Once there, we watched a short video, which outlined the rules of the road: don't touch the whalesharks, stay 2 meters away from them, swim in groups of
no more than two and always with the licensed guide, etc. After a hot cup of coffee with cookies, a short verbal briefing and an introduction to our boat crew (captain and guide) we were on our way!

The four of us opted for the VIP package. This meant we had the entire
boat and crew to ourselves. The other 14 boats we saw had anywhere from 8-10 passengers plus crew aboard. The VIP option was definitely worth the extra money. Additionally, our boat and crew would stay out with us and let us swim with the sharks as long as we could stand while the regular boat passengers were restricted to one to two swims apiece. Split four ways, this wasn't a bad deal at all.

After being served some yummy breakfast empanadas by Captain David
and our guide CheChe, our boat launched out toward the open sea. There was a long string of boats headed in the same direction. This is a very long trip, approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, depending on where they find thefish. The sea was virtually flat, however, so it was a nice smooth ride. Along the way we saw several sea turtles and huge schools of golden rays. Our crew was willing to stop and look at whatever we wanted.

We arrived at the first whale shark and were among 14 boats total. In spite of this large of a crowd, all of the boat captains were very courteous and organized, each taking its turn lining up and dropping off one set of swimmers (two guests and a guide per set) just in front of the whaleshark. As that group of swimmers wore out, the next captain was dropping off their guests. In a very orderly manner, everyone got to swim with the shark at least twice. The boat captains communicate by radio and they know exactly where and when to drop the swimmers so no one is left out and everyone gets a great view.

We then left the large group of boats to look for manta rays. We found one and slipped into the water as quietly as possible with it, but it dove deep so we couldn't photograph it. We dove with manta rays in Hawai'i, but the ones in the Caribbean appeared to be larger and darker in color.

We eventually joined another group of about 7 boats to swim with another whaleshark. This one turned out to be the biggest one of the day, probably around 30 feet. After each of us swam twice we took a break and joined another group of maybe 4 boats around another whaleshark. With each group we joined, there were fewer and fewer boats there, as the large group boats all had a set time they had to be back. Our final shark swim was just us and the whaleshark. We got some fantastic photos and were worn out from all the swimming.

If you've ever seen a 747 get ready to land, or a cruise ship under way, you know how slow they appear to be going. They're not really, but the optical illusion caused by their enormous size makes them appear slow. Whalesharks are a lot like that. They hardly move their giant tail fin and it propels them through the water at a pretty good clip. All four of us are excellent swimmers, but swimming full out for just a few minutes at a time wore us out!

Our crew then took us near the shore of a part of Isla Holbox that's a restricted bird sanctuary. There are thousands of nesting pelicans,
flamingos and frigates there. No humans are allowed to set foot on that part of the island, but we waded around in the bath-warm water and tossed sardines to the seagulls. We had a lunch of sandwiches, fresh fruit, and cold drinks.

Finally, we reluctantly agreed to go back to the island and call it a day. We got back to the hotel, cleaned up and walked downtown for a nice dinner and drinks. After dinner we went back out to the beach to enjoy a
gorgeous sunset and dream about the next time we could come back to this gorgeous place.

This was a fantastic trip. We decided to go on the spur of the moment and I'm so glad we did. I feel so lucky to be able to have seen some the things I have and even luckier to have been able to see them with people I love. Our friends Anna and Scott have been with us on some of our best trips and we've checked off
many of our "bucket list" items together. It's great to have good friends with whom to share these wonderful memories.

Please click on the blog title or any colored links in this entry for links to the Holbox Whale Shark Tours website and our other photos from this trip and others we've taken. Or click on any of my links in the left hand menu to see Jeff's photos (which are much better than mine) or the rest of our photos.

Our next adventure will be three weeks in Bonaire and a few days in Aruba in September, so stay tuned for that!


La Gran Aventura de Jeff & Gini, Parte Uno

This week we took a quick trip to Mexico. Jeff and I spent one night in Cancun at the Hilton and the next morning met our best friends, Anna and Scott, for our trip to Isla Holbox.
Lest you think that Mexico is all either tourist-trappy or dumpy, let me assure you, there are still phenomenally gorgeous, unsullied places to be seen there. And Isla Holbox is one of those places.

But it's not easy to get to, and I hope for the sake of the natural beauty of the place, it stays that way.

A two-hour van ride, much of it over dirt roads, leads you to the tiny Mexican town of Chiquilá. You then board a ferry that takes you another 45 minutes over to the island.

We were met by a golf-cart taxi (painted yellow, complete with illuminated "taxi" sign) which took us to our lodging.

The trip to the Casa Iguana took about 5 minutes (the island is only about 3km wide) and all the island's roads are sand.

It wasn't fancy or big (only had 9 rooms), but it was clean and had a hot shower and enough air conditioning to keep the room tolerable.

Anna and I immediately went to the beach (about a 50 yard walk) and got in the water.

Let me digress: I am a beach connoisseur. I've been to green beaches, pink beaches, white, tan, gray, black and salt-and-pepper beaches. But I have never seen a nicer, cleaner beach than the ones that surround Holbox. Nor have I ever truly seen "sugary white sand" like they have there. It is so incredibly soft and white, almost impossibly powdery. Prior to this trip, 7-mile beach on Grand Cayman came the closest, but the Holbox beaches blew them all out of the water (pun intended).

Anyway, so while we were basking in the gin-clear 90-ish degree water, our husbands had walked down the beach another 50 yards to a bar. Actually it was a tarp thrown over four poles with a tiny screened tent kitchen next to it. They had two brands of ice-cold beer (XX and Sol) for 20 pesos each (about $1.50) and a small menu of Mexican appetizers.

Let me summarize the trip for you so far:

best beach ever
white powdery sand
ice cold cheap beer
clear clean warm water
sun-filled blue skies
great friends to share it with

So far, so good.

We eventually dragged ourselves "downtown" to find a restaurant. The one we found was just okay, but we really didn't look very hard.

We walked back to our little inn and hit the sack early, in anticipation of a very early wakeup and long day ahead.
Stay tuned for parte dos!

Most of the photos above were taken by Jeff. You can see all of our photos of the trip by clicking on the title of the blog entry.

The aerial photo of Holbox and the photo of the taxi were taken by Scott Mitchell...the rest of his photos of the trip can be found by clicking on his name.



I am becoming quite the insomniac lately. I've always had a problem of not wanting to go to bed early and wanting to sleep all day, but it's getting worse.

As I write this, it's 2:32 in the morning. Jeff and the girls have all been asleep for hours, but I can't bring myself to go to bed. I know if I force myself to go, I won't be able to shut my mind off.

This has been happening more and more often. One night this week, I was up until 4:30 a.m.

I've heard sleep study experts say that, even if you don't think it adversely affects you, your reflexes and brain function slows down if you get fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night. I don't know if I believe that, but I know that for the last year or so, I actually feel better if I only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep. When I sleep for more than about 7 hours, I wake up sluggish and dazed.

I just re-read what I wrote above and I've made a discovery:

The cure for insomnia is reading this blog...it's putting me right to sleep!

Good night!


Aloha Nui Loa from Honolulu

I had the unfortunate task of "having" to come to Hawai'i to teach a class. I know, I know, it's tough duty. No really, don't feel sorry for me. I just want to ramble about it a little...

I got in last night after the 8-hour flight from Dallas, tired and jet-lagged. Rented my car and headed to Waikiki to the hotel. Without traffic that would be about a 15 minute drive. Unfortunately, it was rush hour so it was more like a 45 minute drive. I skipped the freeway for the slower Nimitz Highway route, which gave me lots of gawking time to see what had changed in the 10 years and 1 month since I left.

First thing I noticed was the plethora of high rises that have gone up since we left. It's almost sad, you can hardly see the Ko'Olau's (mountains) from Waikiki anymore. I mean the buildings are beautiful, but the mountains were prettier. One bright spot was the double rainbow shining over the mountains just for me. Almost as if it was welcoming me home.

And I do feel like I'm home. Of course, home when I lived here was definitely not an oceanfront suite in the Ali'i Tower of the Hilton. It was more like a tiny house on a tiny plot of land in the 'burbs, but it was still here on this same rock.

Traveling as much as I do has certainly paid off in spades for this trip. I'm a diamond member of Hilton, so they upgraded my room. I'm in the Ali'i Tower, which is the "VIP" tower here, on the 13th floor right on the beach. The Ali'i Tower has it's own pool and a private lounge with breakfast, snacks and drinks and all kinds of other treats not available to the other 5 or so high-rise towers full of guests (I think there are something like 3500 rooms here).

Hopefully I'll get a card reader today when I go out so I can post some of the photos of and from my room. It is almost a waste for just one person, but I'm not complaining!

I walked over to the Hale Koa, which is the next resort down the beach. It's a very nice two-tower hotel and resort exclusively for military members and their families. They have a fantastic bar there, called the Barefoot Bar, which is right on the beach and has the cheapest drink prices in Waikiki.

When Jeff and I first moved here, the Hale Koa only had one tower and it was always full (damned retirees...like us...booked up all the rooms a year in advance and active duty folks couldn't get a room). So we stayed down the road at the Alana and walked to the Barefoot Bar almost every night for cocktails before (or after...or, well, sometimes for) dinner.

So anyway, I walked over there to watch the sunset and have my own little welcome party. I sat at the bar and was waited on by the best mai-tai maker in the universe, Virgil.

Virgil was the bartender there when we moved to Hawai'i in 1995. He makes a killer mai-tai and as far as I know has been at the Hale Koa since it was built. Hell, he may have been there longer than that for all I know. The weird thing is that he looks exactly like he did 14 years ago when we moved here. I think he may have sold his soul to the devil or something.

Be that as it may, he still whips up the best of the best in liquid refreshment and I sat at the bar sipping mine throughout the sunset and the Friday night fireworks. It was heavenly.

I spoke to a very nice young soldier stationed in Tokyo. He said he comes to Honolulu a few times a year for training and that he never has trouble getting a room at the Hale Koa. Apparently the Hale Koa is really hurting in this economy and can't keep its rooms full like it used to. That's sad to hear, but I can certainly see why military families and retirees can't afford to take vacations in Hawaii.

Today I've been lazing around the room, trying to get my internal clock reset. I went down to breakfast (after waking up at 4 am...which was 9 to me) and watched the sunrise over Diamond Head.

In a bit I'm leaving for Waianae to visit my friend Mary. Mary's husband Willie is a controller I worked with at Honolulu and they lived in the same neighborhood we did. They've now built a new house on a hill overlooking the ocean. All of her kids, who were about 11, 14 and 16 when we were here, are grown up and she's got a grandchild now.

I was wondering if coming here would dispel my illusions of this being where my heart wanted me to live. You know how sometimes you go to a place that you loved once and it's not the same? Well, Honolulu is not the same, that's for sure. But the island and the ocean and the mountains are. And it's still where my heart wants to be.

My heart is home.



It's so nice to be honored and recognized by fellow artists. I've recently been honored by fellow artisans on Etsy:


Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy! Please check it out.


Chain on a Plane

If I have a flight of over about 2 1/2 hours, I love to carry chainmaille making supplies with me and work on making chains.

I've given away more business cards in airports and on airplanes than almost anywhere else.

Everyone wants to know what you're making...I keep a little bag of chain weave "starters" with me to show them the types of things I make.

I've had flight attendants later become customers.

Plus it helps pass otherwise useless nonproductive time.

TSA rules state that your pliers can't exceed 7" in overall length, so keep that in mind. I also carry a small velour pad to use as a working surface so my rings don't slide all over in turbulence. You'd be surprised how good the overhead reading light is too!

So next time you're stuck on an airplane, make yourself useful and you might just expand your customer base at the same time!


Back Where I Belong

Today I got to spend the entire day doing something I love:

Making jewelry!

It's been so long since I just spent the day in the studio...too long. I feel like I'm finally home.

I made two thumb rings. Simple pretty things, just to get the soldering torch back in shape and work on my skills a little before tackling some bigger things.

They'll be for sale in my Etsy shop shortly, as soon as they get out of the spa (i.e., the tumbler) and get photographed and listed.

I still have some stuff that needs to be put away and organized, but I'm about 85% back together.

It feels good to be "home."


The Great Time Suck

Just when I thought it wasn't possible for anything to distract me further from things I need to do, along came Facebook.

I signed up for FB a few years ago, at the prompting of my stepdaugher, Maegan. But I noticed pretty quickly that being on Facebook gave me the same feeling I've gotten each time I've gone into a dance club in the last 10 years or so: everyone was young and hip and I was old and, well, not.

Then, slowly, the demographics began to change. I noticed a lot more people my age, and even older, joining up. I connected with people I haven't seen, heard from, or thought about in 30 years. I even read an article in a newspaper somewhere (yes, I still occasionally drag myself away from my laptop to read those) that college-aged kids are getting pissed at Facebook for letting us old farts in.


Why should all the best timesucks be reserved only for those under the age of 30? Don't the rest of us deserve to know what it's like to sit around and chat with everyone we've ever met?

Don't get me wrong, it's really cool to see how some of my high-school friends turned out. I'm sure they all get a kick out of the fact that the skinniest girl in school is now a fatty. I know that I was pleasantly surprised that one of the "unpopular" girls whom the cheerleaders and jocks picked on turned out to be a successful business owner and is pretty, healthy and happily married. Aging well truly is the best revenge...not that I'd know!

I know I should be doing something productive instead of hanging out on Facebook, but it's worth it if I tick off even one college student by doing it!



I was probably seven or eight.

My parents got us up before sunrise, earlier than we had to get up for school, and loaded us into the car without explanation.  We were confused and worried.   What had we done?  Had we been bad?  Had we recently done something so egregious that they were fulfilling one of their oft-threatened promises to drive us into the wilderness and abandon us like the wild animals we were?  We all silently wracked our brains for undiscovered sins of the past.  Had one of us forgotten to feed the horse?  Did Mom find my secret stash of candy under the floorboard in my closet?  Had my sister been caught smoking?  Had one of them heard us complaining about our life of indentured servitude?  Whatever it was, this couldn't be good!

But something was weird about this.  Weirder than the fact that we had never done this before.  Our parents were....happy.  That can't be right.  Finally we got the story:  we're going on a family road trip.

Somewhere in their deluded minds, they thought that they could put three girls who barely tolerated* each other on 15 minute rides into the back seat of a car and drive several hundred miles to the Connecticut coast.  *By "barely tolerated," what I should say is that, as far as I can remember, none of us had ever had to be hospitalized after our battles.

"She's touching me."  "She's looking at me."  "She's breathing!"

Oh yeah, this was a great idea.

I don't remember a lot about it.  I know we all somehow must have lived through the trip.   I remember we went to the Maritime Museum in Mystic Connecticut.  I remember a plastic lobster bib and butter dripping down my chin as we ate fresh lobster in a restaurant.  I remember walking on the rough sand of a Rhode Island beach.  I remember some strange man walking up behind me, picking me up and pretending he was going to throw me into the icy Atlantic.  (When I think back on that, I think of how now if that happened that man would have been arrested, but back then we all just laughed).

That was my first "long" trip.  That was my first taste of travel.  That was my first sight of the ocean.  

That was the genesis of my wanderlust.

Follow-up:  I got an email from my sister Mary Jo, who remembers this much better than I do.  She said she was 18 and I was 13, so my memory must really be crappy to have so little memory of the trip.  She said that our parents wanted to do a family trip before she left home and that it was the best time.
I was 18. So you were 13. I remember it well.

Here's another little tidbit she remembers, that really illustrates a lot about my Dad and his personality.  He'll have to be the topic of a separate blog someday...he's a character!

Mary Jo said: 
"I remember Dad leaning out the car window and yelling "HI Charlie" and Mom saying "JOHN, stop that" and him saying "But I work with him" ... typical Daddy stuff, but yes he did know him as we met up with the guy somewhere in Mystic and they chatted."



I'd like to meet the person who.....

thought it was a good idea to show "Marley and Me" on an airplane.


I made it through about half of it before I started to tear up.

Then by about 3/4 of the way through, I was weeping and bawling so loudly I embarrassed not only myself, but the poor woman next to me.  Until I explained why I was crying.  Then she started crying too.

I finally yanked my headset jack out of the socket 'cause I was crying louder than the jet engines and the screaming kid behind me...in fact he may have been screaming because I scared him.

C'mon, really...why wouldn't you just show happy cheerful movies on airplanes?


Random Ramblings...

I'm gonna catch up a bit.  No major drama going on (for once).  

I spent the week before last in Minneapolis.  Home of Mall of America.  At one time it was the largest mall in the United States...now it isn't, but it's the biggest one I've ever been to.  I have no desire to see one bigger.

It's got a full-sized amusement park in the middle of it, complete with a ferris wheel and a couple of roller coasters.  Plus it's got every single store you've ever seen in a mall anywhere in it...sometimes they duplicate (I saw at least 3 Victoria's Secrets, for example).  I used my pedometer to track my steps and walked the first, second and third floors one time around.  Grand total: over 14,000 steps (about 6 1/2 miles).

I just don't like shopping that much, but whatever floats your boat.

I spent last week in Tulsa, OK.  Took Jeff along with me, hoping he could play some golf.  He only got to play one day 'cause of the weather.  It's a pretty nice city, from what I saw of it.  We went to a casino one evening.  I was surprised that it was at least as big as some of the casinos in Vegas.  It was sort of like Vegas with ugly cocktail waitresses.  That was mean, I know, but true!

I work the mid tonight and leave in the morning for Las Vegas.  Just a few days there...all business, of course...and then I'm home for the rest of the week.

Wish Rosie and Ruby could travel with me...they would be so entertaining on an airplane!  Plus they'd probably be better seatmates than some of the people I end up sitting next to.

Hope everyone has a great week.


Does anyone know any home remedies for leg cramps?

Two weeks ago I was walking across the street in Kansas City and my left calf muscle cramped up. I don't mean a little cramp, one of those you dance around and work out. I mean a knot the size of a baseball that made it impossible to walk without a limp for about an hour. Then the muscle was sore for another week like I had been doing calf lifts for hours at a time.

Okay, so that was a bit annoying.

Today while walking through Denver airport...walking. slowly. leisurely...my calf (same one) cramped up so hard that I crumpled to the floor in tears. It cramped so hard I actually heard it pop! I laid on the floor in a ball in excruciating pain for about 5 minutes (during which time NOT ONE person stopped to ask if I was dying...but I digress).

I then limped, in horrific pain, got my bag, went to the hotel, dropped off my crap and took a cab to the nearest Doc in a Box. The doctor I saw was very concerned that I may have had a deep vein thrombosis...a potentially deadly blood clot...so he sent me to the hospital for a sonogram.

Luckily, the sonogram was clear. So his tentative diagnosis was that I had a Baker's cyst rupture. That's a cyst usually associated with knee issues that, when it bursts, can inject liquid into the muscle and cause severe pain. But it's usually associated with knee issues (of which I have none) so I have to have an MRI of the area once I get home to know for sure. I don't know if that's what it is, and it really doesn't matter because there's apparently nothing they can do for it.

So why am I posting this? I'm hoping that I can gather some home remedies for muscle cramps to possibly prevent this from happening again. You might be wondering why I'm making such a big deal about a leg cramp. But here's the thing...saying this was just a leg cramp is like saying a Lamborghini is just a car, like a pair of Manolo Blahnik's is just a pair of shoes, like a Stradivarius is just a fiddle....get the picture?

I've heard that kidney stones are worse than giving birth. I've never given birth, but I've had kidney stones (and I believe if childbirth was that painful the human species would have died out, but I digress) Up until today, that was the worst pain I've ever felt. I'd put my little old "leg cramp" up against kidney stones any day on the pain meter. It was that bad.

I'll drink tons of fluids and electrolytes. I'll eat bananas every day. I'll take an aspirin every day. I'll take magnesium supplements. I'll eat tofu. I'll learn to speak Romanian. I'll do almost anything to never have to go through that pain again.

This is where you come in...leave me comments with your home remedy. If it's legal and not disgusting (i.e., I won't eat bugs), I'll try it. And if anything works really well, I'll post an entry about it, singing your praises to the skies.

For the record, I am sitting in the hotel with my leg on an ice bag. The doc subscribed an NSID for inflammation and pain pills for pain. I still can't walk without a seriously fake-looking limp.


Boston Bound

I'm headed to Boston tomorrow for an international conference on fatigue in aviation.


Seriously.  I'm a little excited.  I haven't been to the Boston area since I was about 15 or 16.  My first "real" boyfriend, Neal Normandin, was from Framingham and we went out to visit his family.  It happened to be the year they had a HUGE snowstorm...like 5 feet overnight or some crap, and we got snowed in.  It was fun though, he had a huge loud family and we had a good time.

I won't really get to do much other than the conference, but I'm still looking forward to it.


On the road again

I wish I had something interesting to talk about, but I'm too exhausted.  Here was where I was during the last week:

Sunday: Tried to leave Las Vegas, got on the plane, but the plane broke down.
Monday: Finally got out of Las Vegas, through Dallas to Springfield, MO.
Tuesday: Left for Los Angeles (via SGF to Dallas) at oh-dark-thirty
Wednesday: Did a briefing in LA and then flew to San Francisco, where I got on a train to Oakland.
Thursday:  Did the Oakland briefings.  Very contentious, as the management there apparently cares much more about their little power trips than they do safety.
Friday: Flew back to Springfield via Oakland to Seattle to Saint Louis to SGF (about a 17 hour day altogether)
Saturday: slept all day.

The recap:

Las Vegas, Dallas, Springfield, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Saint Louis, Springfield.

I warned you that I didn't have anything interesting to say.  If you want interesting, go to my niece's blog, "Lost With Lamb."  (link to the left)...In fact, I suggest you subscribe to it.  She is spending a year in Norway and has a very refreshing and fun view of life!



I'm Too Old for Facebook

I keep meeting up with people I haven't seen in years.  Thanks to the internet and, in this case, Facebook, I found a girl that I had roomed with in the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City 20 years ago.  I hadn't spoken to her in about 17 or 18 years.

When we met:

She was a soon-to-be divorced mother of 3.

I strove to be a childless old maid.  

She was from a huge close-knit Southern family in Louisville, KY.

I was from a sprawled-out Yankee family.

She took the Management route.  

I took the Union route.

She got remarried.

I got married.

She had another kid.

I got another dog. 

She once taught me to properly pronounce Louisville  ("say it like your mouth's full of marbles").

I probably didn't teach her anything, and if I did she probably wouldn't want to admit it in polite company.

Anyway, we have been corresponding just a little on Facebook ('cause just a little is all the Facebook I can understand) and I happened to mention that I was coming to Waco Texas for a few days.  She said she was going to Waco too.  We met up, we had dinner, we talked like we hadn't seen each other in 20 days, not 20 years.

I could probably hate her for still being young and cute, but she's just too young and cute to hate!

It was great to see you, Becky...let's not wait so long next time!


Random Rantings Ruefully Relayed

I've been on the road a lot lately, so I've seen a lot of things that made me want to rant:

Dear Lady from O'Hare Airport:  If you enter a large restroom with 15 stalls, only one of which is occupied, please don't go into one of the ones right next to one that's already occupied to do your business.  I'm happy to be able to report to the world that your system is working (oh boy is it working), but there are some sights, sounds and (God help us) smells, that need not be shared!  I have four words for you:  One Stall Stink Barrier.

Dear Other Lady from Terminal A in Dallas Airport:  Don't go into the restroom to do your business while you're having a lovey-dovey conversation on the phone with your boyfriend/fiance/lover/husband/significant other!  Even if you hadn't been in there depositing a 10-pound steaming plopper while repeating, "no I love youuuuu more," the flushing noises of the 12 toilets near you would have given you away!  That's not romantic, that's sick!  I have four words for you:  Hang Up, Then Poop.

Dear Lady in the Row In Front of Me on American Flight 688 between Houston and Dallas:  It's 6 o'clock in the freaking morning...how many bloody Marys do you really need?  And I almost fell out of my (tiny uncomfortable) seat when you asked how drunk you'd have to get to get cut off!  It was an hour and 15-minute flight, for crying out loud, you were a little long in the tooth to be drinking like a frat rat at that time of the day.  I have two words for you:   Try Rehab  

Dear Man in the Car in Back of Me Yesterday in Grand Rapids, MI:  Do you see that this little box-o'metal I'm driving has an Alamo rental sticker on it?  Do you see that I'm leaving the airport?  How in the Hell am I supposed to know that in Michigan a blinking red light at a left turn lane means you can go?  Try visiting another state once in a while and you'd know that traffic signals that you have here may not be the same as everywhere else and I was a bit confused.  Beeping at me, flipping me off and then cutting me off was not productive or funny.  It just pissed me off and made me fantasize about rear-ending your piece-of-shit Ford Explorer.  I have two words for you:  Road Rage.

Dear Adults who have Ever Taken Your Children Into a Restaurant:  I don't have children.  I have nothing against them, but if I wanted to hear them scream, watch them throw food, try to move out of their way as they're roaming from table-to-table or have stimulating conversation with a 4-year-old about their favorite cartoon character, I would have had my own children and stayed home with them.  I politely suggest that you either stay home with yours or teach them some freaking manners.  They act like animals because you let them act like animals.  It is not cute, amusing or funny.  At all.  To anyone.  I have two words for you:  Baby Sitter.

Dear People in Restaurants Who Talk on the Cell Phone While Eating:  This may be acceptable  in a fast-food restaurant (okay, not really, but I'm trying to not sound like a complete bitch).  But when you're in a sit-down restaurant with other people at the same table, it is extremely horribly rude and dismissive to your dinner companions for you to spend your time talking to someone else on your cell phone.  If you wanted to talk to that person, you should have taken him or her to dinner.  I have five words for you:  Stop Being an Inconsiderate Ass.

Dear People Using Cell Phones Anywhere In Public:  That's not 2 cans and a string you're talking on, it's a high-tech piece of equipment...you don't have to yell!  No one cares what a big-shot you are.  No one cares that you have a secretary named Tiffany who does everything for you because you're too incompetent to wipe your own butt without one.  No one wants to hear about your sales figures, your doctor's appointment or how many goals the product of your sperm donation scored in his/her latest soccer game.  I have four words for you:  Use Your Inside Voice.

Dear American Airlines Customer Service Agent at O'Hare:  Your sharp size 8 navy blue uniform jumper dress would look really cute on you if you didn't have a size 14 body jammed into it.  And cutting off the bottom six inches of it would look really cute on you if you didn't have cankles, back-of-the-knees cellulite and thunder thighs.  But the icing on your overstuffed cake was your choice of footwear.  Your clear-acrylic-5-and-a-half-inch-heeled-black-leather-with-corset-tie-ups-and-buckles boots would look really cute if you made your living dancing around a shiny silver pole in a g-string and got paid in dollar bills by drunken rednecks.  There's nothing wrong with being a full-figured gal.  Heck, I'm leaning that way myself.  But you demean yourself by wearing a dress that makes you look like ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag.  I'm really sad that you have no friends or loved ones.   If you had any true friends, they would never have let you leave your house looking like this.  I have three words for you:  Buy A Mirror.


Home at Last....well, sort of!

We moved back into the house on Thursday, January 29th and I have to say it's so nice to be home!

I'm writing this entry from my room at the Doubletree Hotel in Houston.

"WHWHWHWHATTT???  Did she just say she's writing from a hotel room?  In Houston?"

Um, yes, I said Houston.  You see, in a spectacular fit of bad timing, I started traveling around for the Union, training air traffic personnel about a new safety reporting system.

"Has she lost her mind?"

Quite possibly.  You see, I love my home and love my job, but I also love my work with the union dealing with safety issues.  The FAA and the Union are rolling out this really exciting non-punitive safety reporting system called "ATSAP" and I've been given the opportunity to help teach people about it.  Doing this combines three things I love: travel, teaching and safety, all in one package.

"But what about Jeff and the girls and the house?"

Of course I miss them.  I talk to them every day.  But I'm so fortunate to have a supportive husband who loves me and knows how committed I am to my job.  Most women aren't able to rely on their husbands to take care of things in their absence.  He knows that, as much as I missed him when he was in the military, I was also proud of him and his service to his country.  Now he is returning the favor.  I think he's proud of what I'm accomplishing as well.

Luckily, unlike when he was in the Army and was gone for months at a time, I'm able to at least be home a few days each week.  Plus, at least he knows I'm not off being shot at in some jungle, desert or cave!  And remember, when he was overseas, we didn't have the internet or daily phone calls like they do now!

I am also one of those people who tends to get bored doing one job for a long time.  I have been at Springfield now for almost 10 years...twice as long as I've ever worked anywhere.  It holds no big surprises for me and lately I've found myself wishing I was somewhere else.  I know that I don't need to consider moving this late in my career, so this little traveling roadshow is a more tenable alternative at this time.


Look! Up in the Sky!

It's a bird!

It's a plane!

Nope, it's Super Duane!

Meet Duane Sherman.  He owns a company in Willard, MO called Sundance Cabinets.  ServPro hired him for us, and I don't know if they have a clue how valuable this guy is to their business, but he absolutely ROCKS as far as the Briggs family is concerned.

You'd think he'd just do cabinets, but noooooo...he does cabinets, he does painting (via Dennis, the wonder-painter), he does the most amazing moulding work, he hangs doors, he lays tile, he comes up with some of the coolest ways to personalize your home, oh shoot, I could go on for days.

AND...if that wasn't enough, he does all this with a big old smile plastered across his face.  He's about the cheeriest person I've ever met.  And all of you who know me know that if you can stay cheerful around me, you're either a saint or you've got some pretty darned good pharmaceuticals on board!!!

My house is looking finer than frog hair, and I have to give credit for about 90% of that to Duane and his crew.  Thanks have to go to Dennis, Rick and Chad too...they're all Duane's peeps and they've been just too cool for the pool!  And crew supervisor Snoopy is there to keep everyone in line.

By the way, Duane also serves as a lieutenant in the Ebenezer volunteer fire department and he and his wife breed dogs, donkeys and rabbits.