Friday, October 31, 2014

We Rode a Train! (Part 2)

Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry to cause angst by using the horrible To be continued conclusion yesterday. I agree--I HATE cliffhanger blog posts, because they're lazy and manipulative, and while I am definitely the former I do try to not be the latter. But re-entry chaos excuses date night more excuses too rushed to write a short post even more excuses blah blah blah.

When we left off I was discussing my fascination with train travel, which was formed of equal parts 1950s movie musicals and Harry Potter. (I very much hoped we would be taking off from Platform 9 3/4 but we did not.) So imagine my surprise when we had schlepped our (three) suitcases up the tiny winding staircase to Roomette #8 in the upper deck of the sleeping car and found...this.

I shot the photo above from the hallway of the sleeper car. That shiny bar in the lower left corner is the door jamb. I then removed my knitting bag and purse from the recliner and sat down to photographically document the opposite side of the roomette.(Also, is "roomette" the worst made-up word you've ever read? Yes, I thought so.)

This is the interior view of the roomette:
That little floweredy patch at the bottom? Those are my knees, which demonstrates how close the recliners are.

People, this was not a roomette. This was a roometiny. Want to know how not-big it was? Call your significant other into your dining room. That significant other should be at least adult sized. Now climb up on one end of your dining room table, and have your adult significant other climb up on the other end of the table. Be sure your legs are fully inside the boundaries of the table. Now, assuming that your name is not Crawley and that you do not live in Downton Abbey, you are beginning to appreciate how small a roomette actually is.

It is miniscule. And in our case, it was hot, because Chicago had just experienced its first cold day of the year and although the day had warmed up nicely the furnaces were working fine and could not be persuaded to just STOP THAT ALREADY.

So there we were, Husband and I, on my dream trip and already being subjected to things I hate with purple passion--too much small and too much heat. But because I have already made this post way too long and more blah blah excuses for not writing more concisely, I will skip to the end and tell you (spoiler alert):

I loved it. Loved. It.

It was one of my favorite trips I've ever taken, and I've logged a few miles. Rather than make you read any more today, though, I'll just say to come back Monday to find out what was so very cool about this very hot train. And I will leave you with the dreaded

To be continued.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We Rode a Train! (Part 1)

When the last of the Boys flew the nest Husband and I realized we had entered a new stage of our lives--a stage in which vacations were not planned around school calendars or campus visits, one in which taking time off wasn't geared toward researching how many persons a hotel would allow in a single room and whether a swimming pool was available for working off excess car energy times four.

"So, what would your dream vacation be?" Husband asked me. "A cruise? Europe?"

What popped out of my mouth surprised even me.

"I want to take a train ride to Seattle," I told him.

My imaginary life is populated by my voracious reading and viewing habits, which means that the word "train" conjures up thoughts of Ma Ingalls packing a lunch of fried chicken for Mary to eat as she clickety-clacked her way back to school, or (as I got older) Rock Hudson and Doris Day bouncing all madcap and delightful between sleeper cars. I see train accommodations behind my eyelids and they look something like this:
(Dang it, I cannot figure out how to embed a clip from a YouTube video. Please fast-forward to the 1:00 mark to see what I had anticipated our train car would be.)

So when Husband suggested we take a train to North Carolina to visit Boy#2, I was practically giddy with excitement. Never mind that passenger trains barely come through Kansas, much less through Small Town, so we had to fly to Chicago to catch the Amtrak. Never mind that it would take us 30 hours from Chicago to our destination, which was still an hour-long car ride from Two's apartment. Forget that we would spend the lion's share of the rail time in the dark, which pretty much negates the advantage of being able to watch scenery without worrying about traffic. And disregard the ominous e-mail Amtrak sent us days before our departure warning that heavy freight traffic was delaying arrivals by hours and hours and hey, we hope you don't miss your connecting train!

As we followed the attendant down the Chicago platform to our sleeper car to start our vacation I was grinning like a jack-o-lantern and I turned to share the moment with Husband.

"I'm so excited!" I burbled. "We're going on a TRAIN!"

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A New Me

Allow me to introduce the smiling woman in the photo above who should have tucked her shirt in better as she leaned groggily against a handsome man.

That woman is MomQueenBee 1.1.  This version has just returned from an 11-day vacation that included planes, trains, and automobiles. The vacation also included Husband and Boy#2, and astoundingly beautiful scenery and unscheduled days.

You know the vacuous saying that someone is too blessed to be stressed? At the risk of ruining my Pollyanna cred, let me tell you that this is a pile of hooey. I am the most blessed woman in the world, but I still was on the edge of brittle before we left for North Carolina. It had been a very long time since I had a vacation that did not involve moving a son into or out of an apartment, or scrubbing a nasty bathroom in (usually fruitless) hope of a returned cleaning deposit.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was getting just a tetch cranky, as evidenced by the past few posts which were one rant after another.

MomQueenBee 1.0 was worn out, as Husband can attest to by the fact that the words "I'm so tiiiiiiired" have etched permanent scars on his auditory passages. (You have to imagine those words repeated ad infinitum in a grating whine in order to appreciate their corrosive power.)

MomQueenBee 1.0 was sanded down by everyone and everything, to the point that she was waking up in the week hours of the night with gritted teeth having shouted in her dreams at clients who were irritating the bejesus out of her by making reasonable requests.

After a full week and a half of wonderful nothingness except sleep and pampering by Husband and Two, this version of me feels rested for the first time in recent memory. And I came back with stories to tell.

We rode a train! We ate grits! We avoided the Small Town electioneering that has set our teeth on edge!

And the cherry on the top of this sundae of wonderful nothingness has been baseball in October. Take the crown, Royals!

I could get to like MomQueenBee 1.1.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Words Words Words, But Not Here

Look! Cute kids in Halloween costumes!

Are you distracted from the radio silence that has been this blog in the past couple of weeks? Amused by the mad bunny? Tickled by the angelic smile on the bee to the left?

I hope so, because I am chagrined that I have not been fulfilling my blog-ly duties. A wild and wacky couple of weeks have been followed by an adrenaline crash and subsequent multi-day drooling stupor that left me with no words for this space. No words at all.

That does not mean I have not had any words, because in the past two days I have been visited by not one, not two, but THREE of my favorite past students and we have gabbed and cackled like chickens. Then today I have caught up with not one but TWO of my favorite past colleagues and we have talked so quickly and intensely that my tonsils are tired.

Before that I was spending time with one of my dearest friends from childhood, who is experiencing that exquisitely painful moment of transition when an ailing and suffering parent concludes this part of life. Tomorrow I will be thinking of that mom, who helped raise me, trying to find the words that comfort her daughter.

I love words, and I'm glad I've had them for my friends and dear ones, but do please come back when I have a few left over for this space.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

Happy Friday, everyone!

I'm assuming you all want to see what $613 sunglasses look like. Surprisingly, pretty much like the ones on the $11.95 clearance rack at WalMart, although in fairness, they do see better than the WalMart version. I really was hoping I'd look a lot more like this...
...but I guess even for $613 you don't get everything.

So, MomQueenBee, what is the creepiest thing you've seen this week? I'm glad you asked! It's this:

Ah, for the days when $5 in a thrift store was all that was necessary for a kick-butt costume.

But wash your eyes out with this, which is an absolutely wonderful idea from Attic 24.  
Husband is pretty sure my yarn stash is out of control and this week, as I searched through boxes in three different rooms to find black worsted ("I know I have some in here somewhere...") I was afraid he might be correct. But no! I will corral this addiction through organization!

Blurb of the Week
Remember a couple of weeks  months ago when I was extolling the virtues of Scribd? It's a subscription e-book service that gives unlimited access to its offering. I loved it through a 90-day free trial and have been paying for it since, but in my never-ending quest to be the cheapest person in the world (more money left for yarn!) I signed up for a 30-day trial of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. I will let you Google that for yourself because when I do the link goes directly to my account and I don't want everyone buying books on my One-Click.

Anyway, so far, not so impressed. The selection is not what I had hoped it would be, given that Amazon sells every book in the universe, and the HUGE SELECTION OF AUDIOBOOKS that was the tie-breaker has been a no-show. So I'll be cancelling after my free trial, and sticking with Scribd. If your experience has been different, let me know what I'm doing wrong. 

Let's be safe out there, everyone! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Spelling Makes Everything Better

You will not believe me when I say that sometimes I censor what I write in this spot. I know! The person who has written about pantyhose and her eyebrows so many times they show up in Google searches leaves something unpublished?

Yes. Once in a great while I look at what I've just written and say to myself, "Hey, how about you hold off for just a second and think about this? Is that really the tone of voice you want to use, Missy?"

Yesterday was such a day. I wrote a page-long rant about elections, which actually was a page-long rant about the people who are making me CRAZY calling me about elections. I mean, normally I am a good citizen and want to do the good citizen-y thing by participating in all things election related. But this year? We are getting four to six calls EVERY NIGHT asking whether we plan to vote, and for whom we will be voting, and would you please listen to the following statement and say whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree? I know the pollsters have a job to do and are way underpaid to do it, but we do not continue to pay for a land line in the House on the Corner just so I can mess up the poll results because I get confused between 7 (somewhat strongly agree) and 2 (would never in a million years wear stretch pants).

I even had a picture of cranky Uncle Sam queued up and pointing directly at you, the voting reader, to indicate my displeasure with the hundreds of calls from pollsters and the mega-hundreds of robocalls from elected officials who are endorsing candidates, which in my opinion is a pretty poor way to solicit my vote since I think every current office-holder should be thrown out and we should re-start government with a clean slate. I mean, didn't they seem to do this better back when Washington was president?

Anyway, I'm not going to write about that. Instead I'm going to say that this morning I was pronouncer at the city spelling bee, and I pretty much love that job to an incoherent degree except that I spent two hours staring at the backsides of the winners' trophies while I pronounced words and I now want one desperately.

Are those not the cutest things you've ever seen in your life? They are Spelling Queen Bees!

Queen bees who spell, and who are either holding torches or making a rude gesture toward the i-before-e-except-after-c rule. I seriously thought about slipping one into my purse then looking around with big innocent eyes when the fourth-place winner wondered where his trophy had gone.

If I had one of these trophies I could not be irritated, not even when the eighth call from UNKNOWN NUMBER shows up as we're finishing dinner. No, I would stay calm and answer it, and say "Friend, we have a land line because the stucco walls of the House on the Corner make cell phone reception sketchy and I'm pretty sure someone I love is going to call, but you are not that someone. So unless you are calling to offer me a Spelling Queen Been trophy, good-bye."


Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Fix Flying

Well, hey, everyone! I'm back!

I thought of you often in the past week, as I was struck by the eccentricities and foibles of the traveling public and wished I had you buckled in right beside me so we could discuss those eccentricities and foibles. Six flights, only one of them delayed, meant I had an unusually fortuitous trip to Minneapolis (where everyone talks like they're right out of my favorite television series), but airline travel is not without it's whaaaaa...? moments, including the following:

1. Has everyone lost their senses in the boarding of the airplane process? What is up with the boarding first of everyone with seats in the FRONT OF THE PLANE? I know, I know, they're all members of the Super Duper Platinum Zirconium club, but that doesn't mean they know how to put a carry-on into the overhead bin wheels first, and that does mean all of us who are in seat 26F (oh, yes, I was) are stacked up in the jetway like dominoes waiting to fall and hoping we land in our seats. This is not pleasant, American Airlines.

2. Of course, wrestling carry-on luggage appears to be optional these days. Each of my flights was full so "courtesy checked luggage" was offered, nay, was URGED on us. I didn't take advantage of this on the way to my fancy meeting, where I would have been embarrassed to meet people wearing yesterday's underwear and no make-up had the airline misplaced my bag. On the way home, though, when the gate agent pleaded for us to let them stow our luggage for free, I was all heck-yeah. Later I congratulated myself endlessly for not having to wrestle that bag in the airport during a six-hour wait after that delayed first leg meant I missed my connection.

3. Is there anything better than wireless access in an airport? I will answer that question. No. There is nothing better than wireless access in an airport. After I had been rebooked into the final flight of the day out of the hub city, instead of fretting about the hour at which I would be arriving and how much sleep I would not be getting before trustees arrived at Small College the next day, I pulled out my iPad and spent those six hours watching Inspector Barnaby solve Midsomer Murders whilst I knit an entire sock. It's a combination that's better than Prozac. Also, an overdose of Inspector Barnaby makes me use words such as "whilst."

4. Finally, you may be wondering why I illustrate this post with a can of Bloody Mary Mix. That's because my sole flying superstition is that I drink Bloody Mary Mix on flights. Always. No vodka, just the spicy tomato juice that says "Hey! You're on an airplane! But you're not going to crash!" better than anything else. The very day I got home I ran across an internet article that explained why BMM is so delicious on planes. It had to do with increased cabin pressure and salt sensitivity and blah blah blah and now I cannot find it, in spite of Google's best efforts. But take my word for it--science.

So to summarize: If I were queen of the airlines, I would check everyone's bags, board travelers in a civilized and rational manner, and hand each person a can of Bloody Mary Mix right there on the jetway, where Midsomer Murders would be playing on a continuous loop.

Who says flying can't be fun?