travel


Minneapolis

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At some point, coming or going, where a trip to Iowa is concerned, Minneapolis looms large and essentially unavoidable. A metropolitan area that all but defines the term “urban sprawl”, we found ourselves once again attempting to circumnavigate it with as much expediency as possible on our return trip to Canada last week.

Coming up I-35 and entering the interstate labyrinth from the southern edge, it can easily take well over an hour to break free. Compounding this was Rob’s quest for another two bar stools for our new kitchen breakfast nook. The pricing on everything under the sun hovering just below insanely cheap in the States, we’d found two chairs at the Pier 1 in Dubuque and determined that another two could be secured in another store in Michelle Bachmann territory.

Dee is an extraordinarily intrepid traveler for her age. Broken to the backseat during her 5th year and first in Canada by the vast expanse that is Alberta specifically but Canada generally, she can ride six to seven hours with nary an “are we there yet?” But a week of intense spoiling by her grandmother softened her a bit and the endless city of Minneapolis quickly mushroomed into a Groundhog’s Day experience.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“Minneapolis,” Rob said.

30 minutes later her attention wandered back to the seemingly unchanged landscape.

“Where are we now?”

“Minneapolis,” I told her.

And 30 minutes after that?

“Are we still in Minneapolis?”

“Yes, we are,” Rob said.

“Well, I don’t know why they call it Minneapolis,” she announced a little while later. “There is nothing ‘mini’ about it.”

“Minne is a native word,” Rob said.

“It probably doesn’t mean small,” I added.

“Probably not,” Dee agreed.


Photo taken in the Yellowstone area.

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Just saying. If you venture into Yellowstone National Park, be prepared to yield often and everywhere to the bison and those who worship them. Just like cows and monkeys roam with impunity in India, leaving jammed traffic and havoc in their wake, so go the Yellowstone bison.

Aided and abetted by park rangers, bison bring traffic to regular snarled standstills. The not quite 15 minute drive from the park’s west entrance to the turn off to Old Faithful took us nearly two hours thanks to a bison taking up a militant position on the only road. The situation was made more frustrating by the rubbernecking city folk who either stopped mid-road for extended photo-ops or  were too terrified to just drive around the beast.

Granted, living minutes literally from a national park stocked full of bison, I am a bit underwhelmed by the site of them now, but the thrill of Yellowstone was definitely dampened by the tourists acting like … tourists. I lost count of the number of times we were held up by the bison paparazzi, but I am sure the park ranger stuck with bison road patrol didn’t.  Same guy at nearly every pile-up.  At our first encounter, Rob rolled down the window to query about the cause of the hold up and the ranger was too deeply resigned to even roll his eyes when he said,

“Bison.”

But his body language clearly radiated a deep shuddering heavy sigh.  By the end of the day, we felt his pain.

We spent just a day circumnavigating Yellowstone. In some ways it is majestic but in others, it’s just protected area in the mountains. Call me spoiled.  Go ahead, really, because I am, but I have seen mountains and valleys.  I have seen bison and bear (and know better than to pull over and get out of the vehicle).  Rivers and peaks are part of my holiday experience much of the time.

What clearly stuck out were the bubbling pools of sulfuric water that steamed and fouled the air like the hallway outside a high school chemistry class on a late spring day.

Old Faithful was the last stop of our day. Rob reasoned, correctly, that most of the masses headed there first thing, so we circled the loop from the opposite direction, taking in the mountain views and waterfalls first. The traffic was lighter and less inclined to stop and take pictures.* That leg of the day was notable for a couple of things: the insanity at the food/camp & gift store areas** at lunch – the bus tour people were probably the worst but the young family that allowed their toddler and preschooler to chase after ground squirrels with hotdog bits made me feel so much better about my own parenting decisions when Dee was that age that I am sorry now I wondered aloud if the kids would need shots when they got bit (seriously, the signs about not feeding anything even if it looks hungry and cute are ignored at your own peril).

The other event involved an RV with Pennsylvania plates and a Steelers logo on the back that veered from center line to nearly non-existent shoulder with such speed that I kept the camera trained on them for several miles just in case they toppled over. It would have made excellent viral YouTube.

Rob’s visited Old Faithful before and noted the commercial build-up right away. It’s a tourist mecca. A boardwalk with benches semi-rings this steaming hole and as the witching hour approaches, they fill up quickly. And disperse just as fast. The geyser erupts about every hour and 15 minutes for a grand total of 4 minutes and 20ish seconds. It begins with a couple of sputters before climbing slowly, maintaining its “erection” for a half-minute and then subsiding in nearly the same manner as it ascended. By the time it reverted back to its smoldering state, nearly everyone was gone. It was kind of sad, and I wondered what it had been like back in the day. You know,  of yore, when being a tourist entailed some effort and discomfort.

My advice for Yellowstone is get there early or late. If you can get into the park by 7 or 8 in the morning, the traffic is lighter and the flip-flop crowd is still back at the KOA. Go around dinnertime and you will encounter the skeeter bitten paparazzi as they are heading back to the hotels and campgrounds, sunburned, stuffed with junk food and laden with cheap Chinese knickknacks.  Either way, you win.  If you travel with the pack, be prepared to stop often and ford the hordes at every destination.

*We ran across a huge group lining the road up and down and peering anxiously into a valley that appeared to be empty.

**There were two age groups of employees at these venues. So young that their relatively slow mental processes strained one’s patience and so freakishly old that I become concerned anew about the state of Social Security.


Home Improvement (TV series)

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Because we don’t experience enough reno, Rob and I spent some evening sofa time (a sofa being something else we don’t experience these days) watching television, specifically home buying/selling and renovating shows on HGTV. There were shows about reno disasters put right. Lemon homes made right. Virgin home buyers. Jaded home buyers. Greedy, whiny home buyers and sellers. Decorating. Deck pimping. A smorgasbord of wood, plaster and tool-belts with nary an ass crack in sight.

One of Rob’s favorites is Mike Holmes, who is a contractor out east somewhere who’s built a home improvement empire. His show, Holmes Inspection, solicits home owners with issues that need correcting and these issues? Nightmarish and potentially hazardous to the unsuspecting who’ve entreated his guidance. If nothing else, this show should make even the most savvy home owner/buyer suspicious to her marrow of contractors and realtors. One poor couple called Holmes with a sewer back up problem in the basement that turned out to be termites that had eaten away the entire foundation of the side of their just purchased home. AND there was asbestos. Shudder.

Another program is all about the building of one’s dream deck because – apparently – we all lust for THE deck of decks and a London park manicured back yard in the bargain.

My favorites are the home buying shows. There is Love It or List It, which pits a renovator against a realtor. One tries to upgrade the existing home to coerce the owners to stay put while the other shows them listings in an attempt to get them to list and move away. Another show trots increasingly larger homes in front of couples looking to buy a new home, shining a white-hot spotlight on the true cause of the current housing debacle in the U.S. – greed. I watched dumbfounded as a couple argued that a 2000 sq foot home was not large enough for them and their toddler daughters. They eventually opted for a nearly 3000 sq foot home that they could barely afford and had no extra money to furnish or pony up for a lawn.

It’s all about the square footage. Two people – often – living in caverns. And everyone wants the largest master bedroom they can find. But to my mind, unless your sex life includes gymnastics and Tantric yoga, the space is wasted. Do people hold dinner parties in their bedrooms? No, they sleep. They don’t even have sex off the bed, which renders the master baths with separate showers and swimming pool like tubs a waste as well.

We are entering month six of the kitchen/living room reno. Rob simply doesn’t have time enough to progress any faster than he has, and between work, family and a winter of the child bringing home every disease under the sky, progress at times has been snail-like in movement.

“You know,” Rob said as we were watching the Deck Pimp, “maybe we could write in and get him to come and build us a deck.”

But if we are going whore our lives out (more than I do blogging anyway), I think we should think bigger and send a plea to Mr.Holmes.

I know what you are thinking though. They spent their holiday watching television?

We got to the Villa late Sunday because Dee came home from school the Friday before with a raging fever. It’s still going around up here and you luck out with a 24hr virus or one that lingers for a week. She was right as rain by Sunday morning, but the late start and the cold weather kept us indoors mostly Sunday evening and Monday. Rob brought his computer along because he had to check his work e-mail. No, really. He had to and I can’t say much more. And though I brought my netbook, I can’t say I really cared if I logged on or not. In fact, I was off-line until about Thursday and even then, I had no enthusiasm, barely checking the blogs.

So, it was television. And tv is awful. How do you people stand it? Reality and terrible drama and sometimes both at once.

There is a channel that’s devoted to hooking up, staying hooked, hooking. One centered on a matchmaker in NYC who actually schools ordinary folk in the art of landing millionaires. It’s like some awful Marilyn Monroe movie on Botox and pretension.

Anymore I am as bad as Dee, staring at flat screens as though I have never in my life seen one or didn’t spend most of my childhood glued to the tube.

But we always came back to the home based reality shows. I don’t know what that says about us. Boring things, no doubt. A sofa, a snuggle and a roaring fire is more holiday for us than you know and a little television a couple of times a year is less a brain rot than most people inflict on themselves.


Downtown Dubuque

It changes superficially but it’s essence remains unaltered by time. Solid working class semi-ultra Christian river town that forms a Bermuda Triangle of modern culture with its stunted twin city across the Mississippi in Illinois and the small town countryside of Wisconsin to the near northeast.

Technically I’ve spent more of my life living away from the north corner of Iowa than I did being incubated there. I left for college right after high school and moved to Des Moines directly from college. It left its mark nevertheless in the way that everyone’s childhood home does.

Our Lady of Angels, Dubuque. Today is home to a site of perpetual adoration but was a convent and a the home for unwed mothers that both DNOS and my birth mother stayed in the mid-1960's

When I was growing up, there was no minority population and personally knowing someone outside the Catholic faith wasn’t a common experience. There was one family in our neighborhood who wasn’t Catholic. When their seven-year old daughter was run down by a teen who took his parents car without permission one afternoon shortly before school let out for the summer in 1973, they buried her in Linwood Cemetery which is on the north side overlooking the river. I’d never been inside the gates. It’s where non-Catholics were buried. Not exactly unconsecrated ground but when I afterward pondered the idea of burial there myself (I was always a morbid child), my mother about had a cow.

“We don’t bury our people there,” she said.

Our people. Those people. That’s my hometown.

Tuesday was dubious.

N2 and the neighbor boys were having trouble incorporating Dee into their play. She was so looking forward to seeing her cousin, N2, but at eight, and being a boy, there is just enough difference between them now that it takes time for them to adjust to each other when we visit. It would be late Wednesday before they were on mostly the same page, so by supper time, Dee was in tears and lamenting the fact that she has no girl cousins and that Grandma’s neighbors are all boys. Auntie saved the day by sitting on the driveway with her and drawing with chalk while the boys played football the yard over.

As I watched, I could see why Dee was put off. The smallest of them was still an inch or more taller than she is and they outweighed her by anywhere from 12 to 60 pounds. She’d have been a stain on the greening grass.

N2 and Rob during our visit to the Mines of Spain State Park which is south of the city along the Mississippi River

The weather was stellar before I forget. Freak warm spell with sun and temps approaching 30C. Green of varying hues all around topped with budding flora. First time ever that we’ve traveled in the spring and it’s been beautiful.

And then there were family “issues”.

Lawnmower Man called around the time we were cleaning up from supper. Grilled a smorgasbord. Tasty. Baby had collapsed. Should he take her to the hospital?

“I don’t want her dying here in my house,” he told Mom.

Baby is forty-one. She’s been with Lawnmower Man for the last six years. He’s the father of the first child she had out-of-wedlock when she was a junior in high school. That girl would be twenty-four today and the last photo I saw of her as a six or seven-year old showed a verging on too chubby cherub who looked exactly like her mother.

Mom told Lawnmower Man to take Baby to the ER at the new hospital in the nearest town, but he called back within the half hour to inform us that Baby didn’t want to go despite the fact that she couldn’t move her arms and her hands were numb.

“Put her on the phone,” I told him.

“I can’t afford to go to the hospital,” she wailed.

And she can’t. She works in the laundry at a home in Dubuque that’s run by the state. After seven years and a compressed disc, she earns a whopping $11.86 per hour, works in excess of 35 hours a week but is classified as part-time so they don’t have to give her benefits. No health care for the working poor is the American way.

“Well, you might have nothing serious or you could be dying,” I said. “So, you can stay home and chance it or go to the hospital and find out for sure. You will definitely avoid the dying thing more easily by going to the hospital though.”

I am that helpful.

And I am always fairly heartless. Baby is a drama queen. The last time we’d gotten a call (and I was home visiting then too – Baby ALWAYS has some crisis or other when I am home or for some reason the focus is on me) it was Lawnmower Man. He had collapsed in their kitchen and couldn’t get up.

“I think he’s having a stroke,” Baby said at the time.

It was sciatica.

An hour goes by and Mom is teetering. In situations like this, she can’t decide whether to worry or fume, so she alternates. Meanwhile I’d brought Rob up to speed.

“This is why I don’t like wasting vacation on family,” was all he said.

Okay, that wasn’t all. To quickly paraphrase, he reminded me that my youngest sibling never missed an opportunity to steal my thunder whether I was just visiting, getting married (both times), having a baby or being widowed. Baby has to be the center of attention. No one puts her in a corner, I believe is how it goes.

Phone rings and no one makes a move. I have become the official go to once again.

“Well,” Lawnmower Man says, “She might have had a stroke.”

I should have known once the word “stroke” was uttered that I was about to lose a precious chunk of holiday, but I wasn’t so callous as to think that yet.

“She’s having more tests,” he continued. “I’ll call when we know more.”

“Do you want someone to come up?” I asked, not eagerly but I thought the gesture was necessary.

“Nope,” he slurred. “I’ll call.”

“What did he say?” Mom pounced.

I told her and she got on the phone, calling him and informing him that DNOS and I would be coming up.

“He’s drunk,” she said, disgusted.

“Was that ever a question?” I asked.

DNOS and I left for the hospital. It’s about 40 minutes from Mom’s house in Dubuque to the tiny college town in Wisconsin that is nearby Baby’s home. I left my silent and resigned but eternally patient husband with two kids to watch and my borderline hysterical mother to deal with.

“Next time I get married, I am screening the in-laws ahead of time,” he said.

On the way to the hospital DNOS, who is an oncology med tech at one of the Dubuque clinics, made a few calls, scouting the situation and seeing where she might pull strings. If Baby had had a stroke, Mom wanted her moved to the city.

“Yeah,” she informed her boss as we drove, “my little sister might have had a stroke and we’re heading up to P-ville to see. Can we move her to Mercy? Do they take indigent? Okay, good. No, I was watching Dancing with the Stars tonight. It’s first round. Are you watching Lost? I wanted my aunt to watch it for me, but she’s never seen it and wouldn’t know what is going on. Really? No, that Kate-bitch will probably stay because Buzz Aldrin was just terrible.”

Baby was alone in the ER. Lawnmower Man had left when he learned we were on our way. One of us alone is enough to make the man shit himself, no way he could face us both down as he recently gave Baby a blackened face from upper cheek bone to jaw. Not that we would hurt him – physically.

“You know,” I told DNOS on the drive, “if Dad had just told CB ‘yes’ all those years ago, it would have saved us a trip tonight.”

Lawnmower Man is my age which makes him five years older than Baby. She was sixteen when he knocked her up. We should have known he was bad news when our lovable dog nearly took his left leg off with one swipe the first time he came by the house to pick Baby up.

Naturally he took off for pregnant underage girlfriendless parts once the news of his impending fatherhood was revealed. About a year after Sarah was born, CB ran across Lawnmower Man out in the Bay area of California. CB and a few Mexicans he’d met during a month long incarceration were hanging out in a bar when he spotted Lawnmower Man, who had spotted CB too and was rightly concerned for his well-being.

CB explained the situation to his amigos who offered, as prison buddies are wont to do, to correct Lawnmower Man – kinda permanently and with no small amount of prejudice. CB called Dad. Dad asked CB to let it alone. Dad was a good Catholic.

And many years later, we are still paying for letting a good opportunity slide by.

It took about 15 minutes or less for DNOS and I to ascertain that whatever had happened, Baby was not stroking out. She was having a panic attack and thank god for Ativan is all I can say.

All told, we languished for another hour plus waiting for the doctor to finish expending valuable time and resources on a non-issue before Baby was released to our care with a lecture on healthy living and script for Vicodin that we had no intention of filling for her.

At one point a nurse approached DNOS and said,

“Your sister,” she began and hesitated. DNOS, knowing exactly where she was going waited patiently. “She’s slow, isn’t she?”

“Yep.”

And there is the inescapable bottom line where our little sister is concerned and why none of us can just write her off as a dumb-ass with issues.

It was nearly midnight when we got Baby back to Mom’s and put her whiny ass to bed with ice packs and otc migraine meds. Our shopping trip for the next day was scrubbed. Baby would have to be coerced out of bed and somehow carted home – I got stuck with that and it’s another long story for another day. Short version, Baby tried like hell to pick a fight with me to the point where she even said,

“Your husband hasn’t said a word to me. He doesn’t even care that I am sick!!”

Which I couldn’t have argued with if I wanted to, so I changed the subject.

Mom worried that Rob would never want to visit again, but I pointed out this wasn’t even the biggest blow-up he’d witnessed and that I didn’t have anything to do with his sisters either.

“Besides,” I said, “he’s taking me to a family reunion this summer that will be more than payback.”

Not that it’s a quid pro quo. Rob’s in-laws are nice people. The only thing is that where my family adores Rob, his late wife’s family is only nice to me, which is neither good nor bad. I am a constant reminder of a reality they prefer not to deal with and have the luxury of not dealing with most of the time.

That evening Rob, DNOS, BIL and I sat around on their deck while Mom babysat the kids at her house and we swapped dysfunctional family tales. It’s all good in the end, but Baby and Lawnmower Man have had their stroke apiece now and I, for one, am not running to their aid again.


Of all the things I don’t especially care for when we venture Stateside, one of the top five is cemeteries.

We haven’t been to Will’s grave since July of ’08. It wasn’t the highlight of that depressingly horrendous trip, but it will do as a touchstone.

Dad, from where I was standing, was clearly dying that summer. Death hangs about people, telegraphs its intentions and smothers soul and reason. The air was so thick with it that I should have known better, watched my words and actions with more care. Hindsight must be an invention of the Catholic church because it’s such an effective guilt inducing tool.

Burying Will is a regret. I knew that I wasn’t staying in Des Moines. Knew it from the moment I was told he was dying that the reason that brought me to Central Iowa in the first place would soon be gone.

There have been many moments in my life where something outside me has guided me on my path. In the spring of 1987, Jerry Wadden, the English Supervisor for the Des Moines Public Schools, interviewed me for a job that he knew didn’t exist – yet. He told me plainly that he had no job for me, but he thought he would by August. Could I wait that long? Not commit to another district before I talked with him again?

’87 was an abysmal year for new teachers. The only jobs were down south and only for those who were graduating in the upper reaches of their class. I turned down two offers waiting on Des Moines. Houston, where I most certainly would have met people my age and probably have been far less lonely than I was during the first ten years I was in Des Moines, and a border straddling town in Arizona.

I waited, not because Jerry was so persuasive or that I was moved by his conviction that I was the teacher he wanted to hire that summer – he actually ended up forcing the district to hire me without having a job for me. I waited because something was telling me I needed to be in Des Moines. There were tasks awaiting me. And this impulse? would not leave me alone.

I don’t pretend to be spiritual. I am uncertain anymore about what directs the universe, but I do know enough to listen – mostly. So I waited and ended up staying in Des Moines – teaching, marrying eventually, having a child, burying a husband – before unseen forces guided me to where I am now.

Burying Will was something I did because he wanted me to do it. There was so little I could do for him, I felt guilty not giving him this one final thing. Even though it cost money I barely had established an anchor to a place I felt in the deepest part of my gut I wasn’t meant to be much longer.

On our last trip down, there wasn’t time enough to make the trek to the little country cemetery where his urn rests. Do urns rest? Really?

This time, Dee needs to be made aware that we will be coming within about 45 minutes of it and given the option to visit. I really want to break her of the notion that Will’s grave is a symbol of him. It’s a big rock in front of a shallow hole that contains a metal box with ash and bone in it. He, according to her, is the guardian angel of a baby born last summer. Before that, again according to her, he dropped in on us often. Now he can only come in when he has time off. It’s an interesting concept for a seven-year old to have come up with on her own, but since we haven’t schooled her much in the afterlife, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, she thinks everyone goes to heaven.

She and I watched a movie called Oliver and Company. Cheesy bad animations from forever ago that twists the Dickens tale into a bizarre cautionary quasi-friendship themed fare for wee ones. The bad guys die.

“That was a good movie,” she told Rob. “And the bad guys died and went to heaven.”

Of course they died. We haven’t mentioned hell to her. She has no idea it “exists” in the whole death mythology. Everyone goes to heaven. Punishment is death itself and then there is heaven.

I dread the cemetery. My earliest memories of cemeteries are pleasant. Strolling with Dad’s mother as she introduced me to relatives and told wonderful tales that I was too young to know I should have been memorizing.

When cemeteries became somber, I had forty years of wonderful memories to overcome and have found that difficult. Hence the other part of my conflict. I want Dee to think of cemeteries as place where history and family are and not as sad obligations.

I have already told her that she doesn’t have to visit her grandfather’s grave. She knew him so much better than she did Will that her sadness is often more profound over Dad’s death than it is for Will.

It’s not helping me gear up for the journey knowing that life is in flux in the States right now either. No one seems quite as grounded or sane as I remember. Crossing the border, never pleasant, menaces. I fear something awful is about to happen and I would rather be here, in Canada, when it does.

And I am allergic. Oh, I am always allergic, but this week has seen a resurgence of vicious, sudden attacks. Eyes swelling to almost shut. Sinuses burn as if I have inhaled acid. It’s something in industrial strength cleaning solvents that causes it. That’s what happened to me when we took our trip to Victoria last fall and I encountered something at Dee’s dance school the other night which has set me off for most of this week. It tires me and is a little bit scary.

My kindly old Chinese doctor didn’t help when I saw him either. I needed refills on allergy meds, and he cheerfully recounted how two of his patients died trying to inject themselves with their epi pens. Sigh. Socialized medicine does not improve bedside manner.

Must pack and begin girding my loins.


I’ve mentioned before that there was a possibility we’d be heading overseas to live for a while. Rob was pursuing a position on a project that would have taken us to the UK and then Saudi Arabia. It would have been a 4 or 5 year gig that would have allowed us to move on to the retirement/second career thing in the mountains a bit sooner than later.

But the job is off. I am not at liberty to go into details, but it had nothing to do with Rob’s suitability. He is, despite his ambivalence, a sought after commodity in his line of work. This was an employment case of “it’s not you, it’s us”. Literally.

So now that we know for sure we are staying put, things that have been on hold or plans that we discussed in only the vaguest of terms are suddenly wide open dreamscapes.

One of the most pressing issues is our home. Rob has been steadily renovating the house we live in for … ever. Or least as long as he’s lived here and that’s a decade plus of years.

And the house is not done. Not even close.

One might wonder that this has been a non-issue for me since moving here going on three years ago now. And it’s not that I am oblivious to my surroundings, though I come quite close to that sort of space blindness, it’s just that I am not a Better Homes and Gardens type. I have a serviceable kitchen, a comfy bed and a place to write. What else does a person need?

Rob thinks we need an addition. One that will attach a garage to the house, add a new master bedroom with en suite and provide us with a large kitchen area. This is not a small project that upends the house a room or so at a time. This is gutting the back yard, tearing out half of the back-end of the house and ripping up a deck that consumed the summer of 2008 and the cement sidewalks that consumed last summer.

On the plus side, an attached garage. I never had one until the last house I bought with Will. I’d lived in Des Moines for 15 years, parking vehicles on the street or driveway and dealing with the weather. The whole first year of Dee’s life was coping with baby carriers and rain or snow or bitter cold or blistering heat or whatever other plagues of Egypt came our way in terms of weather. I loved the attached garage. Somedays, especially after Will was nearly blind and precariously balanced, not having to load the two of them up after somehow getting them outside was the only thing I had to be thankful for all day.

A new master bedroom would give us three bedrooms upstairs and mean that Dee could have our old room, which is twice the size of her current room. We could ditch the playroom downstairs and contain all things child in her larger bedroom space. And she would have a walk-in closet. She would be in heaven although she would have serious en suite envy. She totally believes that she should have a bathroom of her own – attached to her room. Where does she get such ideas?

Aside from hearth and home, there is also employment to consider. Staying means looking for part-time work. I put working on hold for a variety of reasons, but one of them was not being sure we’d be around long enough for me to find and settle into a place before we’d pack up and be gone. Since I didn’t need a paycheck for our survival, it seemed unfair for me to take a job knowing I wasn’t going to be in it long.

My mother’s first words upon hearing we were staying was “Well, now you’ll be able to get a job.”

I start my yoga teacher training this weekend. My current instructor indicated that she would be agreeable to my teaching at her studio, once I am trained and that would be this summer, so yoga is a real possibility as part-time work. It is not a living by any means, but it’s somewhere to start. I want to someday have a studio, somewhere. Be a business owner. I think that is my upbringing. I love to write and blog, but they don’t feed my need for tangible employment. Probably seems silly to some, but I like the idea of going into work. Actually leaving the house kind of work.

We’ve talked about trading in the tent trailer for a holiday trailer, and using it for vacations. Rob wanted to travel the SouthWest U.S., but with the border as it is, I am less keen. And though Americans don’t seem to have any sense of impending doom, the news we get looks more and more dicey. In fact, this coming summer it seems it has never been a better time to stay out of the States.

I am only a tiny bit disappointed about not moving overseas. It could have been fun and interesting in a way that most people’s lives never get to be. But it would have been work and Dee would not have been as happy about it as we would have been. Our mothers were distraught, and the older girls, though they’ve put on brave faces, would have felt abandoned to varying degrees. It is not great for Rob. He gets to continue on as a workhorse and he deserves more. Everyone takes for granted that he will be there to fix things, give advice, loan money and generally make sure the trains run. I doubt that anyone but me really worries about his needs, or wants for him, when it comes to that. Having been in that thankless position, I know how long it can make a day seem.

Although Rob doesn’t think much of the place, there are far worse little towns than The Fort to call home. It will not be home forever, I don’t think, but it is good enough for now.

Funny, I just read a blog piece about “good enough” and how that kind of settling is a bad thing. I didn’t really agree.


Seriously rethinking any future flights into the United States in the foreseeable future these days. The Speedo Bomber’s thwarted attempt to deliver a Christmas present to the American people in the form of mangled bodies and jetliner debris has caused the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to go above and beyond American expectations of reactionary backlash.

The latest word is that no one flying into the U.S. from Canada will be permitted carry-on luggage. There will be pat-downs at the security check-in as well as manual searches of briefcases, purses and diaper-bags, which will still be allowed, and these items will be searched again when passengers are molested again at the departure gate.

Because check-in’s were taking so long (7 hours on Boxing Day in Toronto for example), the RCMP was called in to provide assistance. That’s correct. They called in the Mounties, who have a troubling history of tasing people without cause.

It is no surprise to my dear readers that I hate to fly into the U.S. and that border crossing by air or land put me in a Fox Mulder frame of mind. I see grassy knolls. But the prospect of standing meekly (because they will be watching for anything un-sheeplike) in line for hours just to be treated like a criminal and then packed into an uncomfortable seat where it is very likely that all forms of distraction for me and, more importantly, for child will be forbidden just makes me wonder, what is so great about the U.S. that I couldn’t live without visiting for the next – say – five years.

Okay, family. But they can come here. Nothing prevents them but lack of passport and it’s still possible down there to easily obtain passports. But otherwise?

Empty laps. How does one manage an empty lap for several hours in such cramped quarters? I’ve read reports that babies and books were prohibited from obscuring perfect lap view. No books? Keeping America safe from what? Knowledge?

According to the current administration, it will be up to the pilot to determine what is or isn’t okay. So if the pilot is having a bad hair day or is just a prick normally, welcome to hell in the air? It’s already not that great. And what qualifies the pilot to make such decisions?

I should be more concerned about safety, you say? I am a bit jaded on the safety thing. Speedo Bomber shouldn’t have even made it on the first plane out of Nigeria let alone the second one out of Amsterdam. If I were inclined to get all conspiracy theory I’d say that the U.S. government let the guy through hoping he would lead them to a terrorist cell somewhere. His being in Detroit with a bomb in his undies wasn’t something they considered. They risked peoples’ lives on purpose. But that’s my cynical side talking.

Ben Franklin is often quoted in situations like these because he once said something about people who willingly trade freedom for safety deserve neither. The Founder Fathers, not exactly the greatest group of guys ever, would simply not understand the wimpy people who inhabit the free nation that they risked everything to create. We are like aristocrats bred out to a point that we are barely able to think or do for ourselves anymore.

Next up will be full body scanners. Rob tells me that the radiation they emit can disrupt DNA. Are you going to walk through it when the time comes? It is coming. Or will you opt for the wand, the rough handling and possibly missing your flight for being a troublemaker?

I think we should all just pick a day and designate it for flying naked. Or plane loads of people should refuse to put away iPods. What would happen to the draconian assault on passengers if Air Marshals were suddenly having to arrest every passenger on dozens of flights for refusing to give up blankets and pillows? The blanket thing is funny in light of recent stories about flight attendants coming unglued by breast-feeding mothers. That will be even more interesting in the future. And more ridiculous.

A high school friend on Facebook thinks there should be profiling, and he thinks I am too much of a liberal to agree with him. I don’t see anything wrong with targeting demographics for extra scrutiny except for one thing. It wouldn’t stay in airports. It wouldn’t be implemented in a thoughtful or courteous manner. And eventually, it would be turned back on the average person and we’d be right back where we are now.

Unless it’s the most dire of emergencies, we are done flying into the U.S. Land crossings have the potential to be painful, but at least I won’t be trapped in an airport without clothing, toiletries or a means of stepping outside to scream in an attempt to find my zen place.