When Is a Walk Not a Walk? When It’s a Near-Death Experience

Posted by Kathy on April 27th, 2014

Note: Long read ahead. The TL;DR version is this – Went for a walk with a friend. Walk turned into a getting-lost hike in unfamiliar wilderness. Thought I would die. Didn’t die.

Now for the long version.

Yesterday I met up for lunch with my good blogging friend Valerie. We met halfway between where we each live, in Whitehouse, NJ. After lunch she suggested we go for a walk. "Sure! Let’s!" She pulled out her iPhone and asked Siri for nearby parks.

We were going to drive to one park, but passed a different place Siri mentioned that was closer and stopped there instead, Round Valley Reservoir, a crystal clear man-made lake surrounded by wooded hiking trails, the largest in New Jersey. We parked and headed to the water.

014We stopped and chatted with a fisherman for a while. We said we wanted to walk "way over there to the other side, where that dam is." He said "Don’t do it, it’ll take you at least an hour to get there." But we were thinking "We’re fit and like to walk and you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about old man! Maybe we’ll even walk around the whole lake!”

We set out for that dam. Big mistake. While there appeared to be a marked path starting at a boat launch, it quickly wasn’t. The terrain instantly became very rugged and we hadn’t worn sneakers or boots because who wears sneakers or boots when you’re only planning on lunch? I was in no-cushion Clarks and Val was practically in dress shoes. The paths were rocky, hilly, and covered in surface tree roots and stumps you had to avoid every tenth step.

There was also zero navigational signage, zero warnings about difficult terrain or the fact that you ought to be an Olympic athlete to hike the trails and you should really have a backpack full of food and water and a first aid kit. Siri failed to mention all of these things, and yes, I’m blaming her.

We saw lots of people canoeing and kayaking out on the water, and lots of walkers with and without dogs. Look, everyone’s doing it! Seemed OK, so we kept walking.

Once we traversed about a mile of the wooded area, we crossed a dam with a beach nearby. It was such a perfect weather day, breezy and sunny, so we sat down and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all for a while.

Here, we should have called it a day and turned back, but we kept walking and walking and it took forever to get to the other dam we were shooting for. It was difficult getting there because what looked close by — never was. When we finally got to the dam(n) wall, we’d already walked 3.5 miles and had no idea how much longer it would be before getting all the way around the lake.

Val turned off the iPhone app that was tracking our distance.  You know, in case the battery went dead and we needed to make an SOS call, because by now we realized how hard it was to get where we already were, how hard it would be to turn around and go back if we had to, and had no idea how much further it was to walk if we wanted to get completely around the lake.

057And we weren’t even sure we’d have access enough to stay close to the water. The reservoir is surrounded by tall metal barbed-wire fencing, so you were constantly forced to take the long way around it. At parts, we were walking on the berm of a main roadway, with me screaming at Val to get as far off the road as possible because you know some jerk is going to be texting and driving and veer off-road and kill us.

I asked her if she had a passcode on her iPhone and what it was so that in case she was hit by a car, I could at least call for help. Val rolled her eyes and dismissed me and instead kept waving happily at motorcyclists and other drivers as if we were on a leisurely stroll. We were not. I was counting the minutes to my death.

We kept walking, all the while glancing over at the wooded area from which we came. I wondered aloud how long it would take to loop completely around the lake and get back over there. "Is the lake even round? What if it’s not round? What if we haven’t walked even half of it yet?”

We joked about having to be rescued from our odyssey. This is when I regaled Val with the story of the 1972 Andes plane crash survivors who ate the flesh of people who were killed in the crash, only so they could survive long enough to maybe, possibly, God-willing, be rescued. I told her that after being stranded two months, some of the survivors were able to cross a mountain range in treacherous conditions to get help and they did it. The human spirit is awe-inspiring. We’ll be OK. Then we had an interesting discussion about what part of the human body would you eat if you had to. Like, really had to. I suggested muscle. She suggested we talk about something else.

We eventually came to a juncture where it looked sort of like the lake curved. We were mulling our options because we weren’t really sure where the road would lead. Further away from point of origin or closer?

059Just then, we ran into a woman jogger. I asked "You must live around here. How much further is it to get to the parking lot?"

She said "Which parking lot?" Uh-oh. We showed her  pictures of where we started from our cameras. She said "Oh. You’re very far away here. You can’t keep walking in the direction you’re going, you’ll never make it. You’re looking at three hours."

OMG.

She tried giving us directions to get back the way we came, but with shortcuts that meant almost nothing to us because we couldn’t remember seeing any of the landmarks she used as reference. Val’s heart sank because her fear was having to turn around and go all the way back along a way that nearly killed us so far. But that’s exactly what we did, shortcuts or not.

And then it started to rain.

And get darker.

And we both wanted to cry.

We walked silently for a bit and the only funny part of our return adventure was when at the exact same moment, we blurted out "Maybe she’ll come back….." We were both going to say "….and pick us up to take us to our cars." I mean, the jogger had to live nearby, and she had to know what we had ahead of us. With no boat, we couldn’t have gotten back to the other side of the lake without another 4 miles or so of walking. In the rain. And in pain.

But she didn’t come for us.

We kept walking. At some point we both imagined the possibility we wouldn’t make it back before dark. We would have only the light of our cameras and Val’s iPhone to see and be seen. I simply could not accept this prospect and put it out of my head.

027We got back over a dam, back along a main road, fearing becoming roadkill, and then back through the rugged wooded area that we’d already cursed once. At points we’d say "Is this correct? Did we really come this way? Check your camera." We often reviewed spots we thought we’d seen before, pictures we took. Luckily we could confirm certain things we’d seen on the way out, odd looking trees, ones with unusual markings that looked interesting for photo-taking sake, but now saved us because they were our breadcrumbs for the way back.

At one point, we walked on a path that led straight down to the water and appeared to end right there. That’s when we looked at each other and got genuinely scared for the first time during our trek.

"How much left on your phone battery?"

"17%"

"Save it."

Mercifully, we heard people through the brush, a young couple sitting face to face on a tree stump, whose romantic moment was rudely interrupted when we asked them where the parking lot was. They were very vague. Pointing and saying "Just go up that way and it’s to the left."

Do you realize that when you’re in thick woods, you can’t just point like that and say "Up there to the left." “Up there” can quickly turn into really lost and “to the left” would be nowhere near the water, the only way we’d been orienting ourselves thus far. We did not want to stray from the water.

019But the couple began walking in that direction themselves and so we followed them, not even knowing if it would lead to our parking lot. It could have been another. But we figured 1) at least stick by the people and 2) if it wasn’t our parking lot, we were fully prepared to hitch a ride with someone back to our lot. We decided who we’d ask.

It would have to be old people, super elderly, preferably women. Super elderly women are not usually ax murderers. We vowed not to end the day being killed by someone we thought was a Good Samaritan. I told her "I’ve watched a lot of I Survived on the Bio channel, and getting into a stranger’s car never ends well. “Like that one poor girl who got in a van with a creeper, was raped, had her arms chopped off and was left for dead.”

“Stop talking,” Val muttered.

We kept walking, now on a path we didn’t recognize, further from the water, getting scared and planning our next steps.

I called my husband to tell him I was on an adventure, and oh yeah, he might have to send search and rescue. I was only 50% sure this new route was going to get us out, but I told him we were fine. Ish.

More walking, more walking, more walking.

But then.

We saw cars.

As we got closer, Val pulled out her key fob and pressed the button. And her car made the most lovely "I’m over here!" honk and I said "Val, if I could actually jump for joy on these legs, I would, but I can’t. I’m in so much pain."

She was too. Our feet took a real beating. Wanna know the worst irony? I had a pair of brand new comfy sneakers IN MY CAR. Awesome.

028When we got to the parking lot, we saw a young man appearing to go for a leisurely walk in the woods. Har.

We asked "Have you been here before?" He said no and we immediately urged him NOT TO GO INTO THE WOODS. He’ll never get out. It was already 4:30 and if he had no navigational tools and was alone, that was a recipe for disaster.

I kept urging him not to go alone, "Don’t do it. I’m serious." He looked as if I was crazy, but I said "Look. We’ve been in there for 4 hours. We’re lucky to be out." He walked back to his car, grabbed some other things, while we readied to leave.

I called my husband to say he didn’t have to send a search party. After I was done and drove fast away from our body-pounding, fear-inducing, risk-taking harrowing trek, I saw that guy walking away from the woods, up near the main road and I prayed he decided to enjoy the lake from a distance. If he went into the woods anyway, despite our warnings, he’s probably still there.

Dead.

Life is Like Movie Props. You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

Posted by Kathy on November 8th, 2012

Many of you know I’m in Savannah, Georgia this week. Havin’ a great time, but I just know I’ve gained 12 pounds or so. Not sure I’ll fit into any of the clothes I brought with me for the flight home. I might have to fly there naked.

Yes, I would feel awkward, but that’s not all together different than I felt flying here, as I was the recipient of a very personal pat down at my local airport after failing to get through a metal detector because I stupidly wore clothing with metal built into it.

You don’t want a pat down at the airport. In front of people. By someone wearing latex gloves. Who’s not afraid to put hands where you generally don’t want hands to be in an airport in front of people.

Anyway, today’s agenda included a visit to two sites featured in the movie Forrest Gump. One of them was the building where they filmed the opening scene (from its rooftop), where the feather floated through the air and landed at Tom Hanks’ sneaker while he sat on a bus stop bench.

The other site I wanted to see was where the bench was located. Both were in or near Chippewa Square.

I knew from earlier research that the bench was built specifically for the movie, constructed of fiberglass, and relocated afterward to the Savannah History Museum.

But what I wanted to see was the exact spot where the bench sat for the filming.

Could I find it on my own? No.

Was there a marker for it? No.

Savannah, get on that, OK?

But, curiously, there was a tour group of people standing around this thing. Taking pictures of it, with a tour guide talking at length about it out of earshot.

Chippewa Square concrete post

Every person standing around it took a picture from the top down. It had to be something. Surely, you wouldn’t take a picture of something so boring as a concrete post unless there was some history behind it, right?

When the crowd cleared, I ran over and yelled to Dave “It must be something! It has to be it! It’s an important marker!”

“I think it’s just a post,” replied Dave.

“But everyone took pictures of it! I have to take a picture of it! I’ll find out later what it is,” I insisted.

Did I ever find out what it was? No.

Did I ever find out where the bench did sit for the movie? Yes. I asked a pedicab driver where it was, but was too embarrassed to also ask if there was significance to the post.

You know, because I didn’t want him to tell me I was as dumb as one.

For the record, here’s where the bench sat.

Chippewa Square Forrest Gump bus bench

And for you trivia buffs, they had to reverse traffic around the square for the movie. Normally it runs counter clockwise, but they needed the bus door to open at the sidewalk. This meant forcing traffic clockwise for the duration of filming.

If anyone knows what that concrete post signifies, there’s a reward in it for you if you tell me.

Call me Karth for Short

Posted by Kathy on November 6th, 2012

Hey, peeps! I know. It’s been forever since I’ve written.

One of my excuses is that I’m on vacation this week in beautiful Savannah, Georgia.

I’ve already shared this on Facebook, but it’s too good to not also share here.

This is the sign that our driver held up at the airport when we landed. I really don’t understand how spell-check didn’t pick up the myriad mistakes, or how anyone who has eyeballs in their head wouldn’t catch any of it.

My friend Jeff Lee is worried that perhaps the driver meant to do this and she really was looking for a Karthleen Ffrederck and Karthleen is still back at the airport waiting for her ride. Hee.

Karth for short

They Heard Me Coming a Mile Away

Posted by Kathy on June 23rd, 2012

mufflerDear Heavenly Father,

We thank You today for getting Kathy safely to the muffler repair shop, following what sounded like cannon fire coming out the back of her car as she drove on a busy highway.

We thank You for giving her the ability to train one eye on the road in front and the other in back, just in case the muffler decided to divorce itself from her car right then and there.

We thank You for giving her steadiness under pressure the entire seven miles to the shop, four-ways on, driving only 15mph and annoying the hell out of everyone who followed her.

She made it there without so much as a stink eye.

We thank You for roads not too bumpy, places to pull over to let others pass, and for a suspension that she later learned kept the whole broken pipe assembly from dropping out.

We thank You for allowing Kathy to release her Kung Fu grip from the steering wheel upon arrival at the shop, and for her dear sister who picked her up so she didn’t have to waste money on cab fare getting home.

Speaking of money……

We do not thank You for the $600 bill, but all things considered, at least Kathy’s not shopping for a new car tomorrow.

Amen.

Chicken Disrupts Flights at Kauai Airport

Posted by Kathy on January 10th, 2012

chick in red zone Kauai, Hawaii – A distraught chicken was responsible for the delay of two flights out of a Kauai, Hawaii airport today after blocking passengers from boarding their flights until his travel complaints were addressed. One passenger was injured.

Charles “Chuck” Poulet, of Duluth, Minnesota, was scheduled to meet his long-time girlfriend, Marie Fowler, at Hilo International Airport, but his Air Pacific flight was rerouted to Kauai a short time before scheduled landing due to poor weather conditions.

Airport officials attempted to book Poulet on another flight to Hilo the next day, but Poulet insisted the airport get him on an earlier flight so he could meet Fowler on time for a surprise marriage proposal.

Kauai Airport customer service representatives reported there were no flights scheduled that would get Poulet to Hilo any earlier than the following morning.

Poulet said he’d been planning this trip for months, since Fowler gave him an ultimatum. She told me last year “If you’re serious about our relationship, you betta put a ring on it,” Poulet said.

Poulet and Fowler have been long-distance dating for five and a half  years.

I started planning this thing where she and I would meet in Hilo for a trip of a lifetime. Hawaii. The ultimate, right?” Poulet said. “I wanted to make it something special, you know? And now it’s all clucked up.”

In addition to landing at the wrong airport, Poulet complained that he was not given adequate time or assistance to retrieve his carry-on luggage, bags that contained not only his preening equipment, such as specially-designed combs and gel products, but also the carry-on that contains the tiny opal ring that he plans to present to Fowler.

I have to have that stuff. If I don’t show up with a ring and if my feathers aren’t just so, I can’t face her,” Poulet said. “I’m a mess over this.”

chicken at airport Flight attendants could not be reached for comment. However, airport policy states that all luggage, carry-on and checked, must be unloaded for any re-routed passengers who are booked on later flights.

Poulet reportedly nipped at the heels of nearly all passengers waiting to board their flights to other Hawaiian islands, in protest to what Poulet felt was subpar customer service.

Katherine Johansson, of New York, New York, required first aid for an injury she sustained when Poulet repeatedly pecked at her flip-flopped feet. “The guy’s insane. I mean, everyone suffers some kind of delay at airports. People, chickens. Everyone,” she said. “I’m sympathetic to his situation, but weather’s weather. It happens. But now my feet are bleeding.”

Poulet also allegedly flew around the airport in spurts of 10-12 feet at a time, in an effort to disrupt two Hawaiian Airlines flights attempting to depart in the hours after his flight landed.

We can fly if we need to,” Poulet said. “It’s tough, but it’s possible. If only I could fly to Hilo.”

Poulet confessed, “I didn’t mean to scare other passengers. I just wanted to get on an earlier flight. They said they would pay for a shuttle to get me to another airport, but man, what a hassle.”

Poulet’s behavior caused delays for both flights, 30 minutes and 20 minutes respectively, until airport officials could secure the check-in areas.

Air Pacific officials were eventually able to convince Poulet that he would make it to Hilo within four hours of his original flight arrival time, taking a shuttle van and then a puddle jumper flight to the island. Poulet agreed to the arrangement and accepted vouchers for his flight home to Minnesota on January 18.

No charges were filed.

Public relations director, Andrew Fenton, reported that Poulet was put on a van and given all of his luggage, which Poulet inspected carefully before departing.

The ring is dazzling, isn’t it?” Poulet said. “She’ll be one happy chick.”

*photo credit: Billy Ayers

Would You Do It?

Posted by Kathy on May 9th, 2011

road trip My husband Dave and I are attending the Tribal Blogs Conference in Minnesota next month.

We’ve been waiting for the best deals on airfare for a little while, but it ain’t lookin’ too good.

He just asked in all seriousness if I would be open to the idea of driving instead “to save money and see a little of the country.”

A thousand miles.

I’m pretty sure I signed a rider in my wedding vows that I was not to be stuck in a tin can with him for more than, say, a four hour stretch of time.

He loves to talk.

I love to shut up.

So what say you? Would you drive 1,000 miles anywhere with your spouse? Have you done it? If you have, what was it like? Give it to me straight. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Go!

I’m an Ill-Prepared Total Slob (UPDATED)

Posted by Kathy on December 15th, 2010

So you know those unlucky motorists stranded in snow on a Canadian highway for 24 hours?

Yeah.

Better them than me, because if that were me, I’d be the one pounding on other people’s car windows asking to be let inside because my car ran out of gas, I have no heat and no blanket or anything that qualifies as something smart people do to winterize their vehicles.

I put gas in mine. It makes it go. That’s helpful.

Here’s what I have in my car that’s not:

The front seat: Christmas wrapping paper, a shopping bag, ice scraper and a newspaper from last week that I picked up from my driveway.

front seat 

The back seat: Jumpin’ Jesus. We have a Consumer Reports magazine, an alumni magazine, a shopping bag, a bag of plastic bags, notebooks, empty water bottle, ice scraper, a Congratulations on Your Graduation card I addressed and stamped a year ago but never mailed, a hoodie from a spring coat and a pair of bacon sneakers.

back seat

Nowhere in there is a blanket, first aid kit, water, flashlight, extra clothing and gloves or snacks.

Also nowhere for anyone to sit, actually.

So don’t ask me for a ride or anything. I clearly own and operate a junk yard on wheels. I’m an unprepared Pig Pen.

How ‘bout you?

UPDATE: OK, so y’all got me worried about being impaled by something in the back seat of my car in an accident.

So I got cleanin’.

Do I get a gold star?

clean car

Travelogue: Norfolk, Virginia

Posted by Kathy on October 28th, 2010

Hey, peeps! I’m home from a business conference I attended in Norfolk, Virginia. Oh, sweet blog, how I’ve missed you!

Here are some random observations I collected along the way:

1. A garden shed with a crucifix slapped over the door and a hand-painted sign counts as a church in the south.

2. I almost threw my back out unloading pillows from my bed every night. It is possible to have too much comfort and too much poof.

Marriott  pillows

3. If the conference staff puts out chafing dishes every day full of delicious bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and buttery biscuits, and you get accustomed to it, when they start putting out stuff like this…..

Does not compute 

this is how much of it you will take.

No thanks

4. Apparently, the Tyson plant somewhere in Virginia has a Chicken of the Month award for birds on good behavior. We saw a gaggle of them feeding outside the factory on the front lawn.

If death row chickens knew how to fly at a decent clip, they could, you know, leave.

Tyson escapees

5. The south doesn’t breed tail-gaters or speeders, and everyone politely lets you into a lane when you need to get there. Unlike in the north, where drivers will sooner shoot out your tires than show you the least bit of courtesy. North, take a lesson.

6. After going insane being on the road for eight hours, when your driving companion leaves your neighborhood to return the rental car, and you follow behind, you will  laugh so hard you cry when you see her make the first turn the wrong way and wind up in the suburban abyss for an extra ten minutes it kept her from getting the hell home already.

7. Having a panic attack while riding on a leisure yacht going only 2 knots per hour will get you laughed at by total strangers.

yacht

8. Having a conference badge hanging around your neck and swinging off your boobs will get you unintentionally ogled by total strangers trying to read your name and university, printed in teeny tiny typeface.

9. Four cups of coffee in the hotel room the morning of the drive home, plus four more during conference events and one more on the way home is sort of too much. It also gives you the crazy eyes, an unforgiving bladder and lead foot.

10. Coastal cities rock it with the seafood. And so do seafood restaurants.

We Serve Crabs

11. That guy who was stuck to my trunk on Philadelphia’s I-95, in the rain and on a shoulderless stretch, can go to hell. You proved that I had every reason to fear driving on that highway and ruined any chance of me ever attempting it again.

12. Southern hospitality is alive and well. When your fat ass knocks over a dozen formerly organized pashmina scarves from a display in a gift shop — not once, but twice — the cashier will apologize to you for the incidents. You will feel like a dumb northerner and pray she doesn’t have a blog of her own.

I’m glad to be back! Missed you guys!

How I Got to Paris on Ten Bucks

Posted by Kathy on May 1st, 2010

Sometimes luck taps me on the shoulder, introduces itself and shakes my hand.

Luck paid me a visit in 2004 and sent me to Paris.

I was sitting at my desk at work, fighting an urge to raid the snack machine downstairs. The urge won and so I grabbed my wallet and headed out the door.

On my way downstairs, I spotted a fraternity student sitting at a table by the elevator, selling raffle tickets for a charity fundraiser.

The sign on the table read “Win a Trip to Paris!”

Curious, I walked over to the table to get more information.

“Tickets are $5 each,” the student said.

Digging through my wallet, I was disappointed to find that I had only a few singles and change I planned to use in the snack machine.

“Will you be around later this week?” I asked.

“Yep, til Friday,” he said.

“Good.” I told him I’d be back later with enough cash in hand for two tickets.

The next day I found the student, paid him $10, filled out a form and received my tickets. A note on the back said the winner would be announced a few weeks after that, and it included a URL with more raffle information. I stuck the tickets in my wallet.

Weeks went by.

And nothing. No phone call to say I had won. Oh, well, better luck next time, I thought.

But then I remembered the tickets in my wallet and thought maybe the winner would be announced on the web site for the contest.

Maybe someone I know won. That’d be nice for them.

And so I pointed my browser to the web site, which revealed an animated image of the French flag.

The caption read “Click here to see who won!”

I clicked on the flag.

The French national anthem began playing over my speakers and the image dissolved gradually to reveal this:

ParisWinner 

I immediately felt a rush of adrenalin and almost started crying. It was me!!! At least I thought it was me. Feeling like a game show contestant who’d just won a car, I thought for a moment maybe I wasn’t really staring at my own name on the screen.

Winning big things makes you take leave of every last one of your senses.

So I did what crazy game show contestants do. I got up and, arms flailing, ran over to a woman who worked outside my office. “Nancy!!!! Go to this web site!!!! Does it say Kathy Frederick on your screen too?!?!?”

I swear to God I did that and you can ask Nancy. Just don’t ask her how stupid she thought I was at that very moment. She’s such a nice lady, she wouldn’t be honest with you anyway.

There we were, looking at my name and listening to La Marseillaise, letting it all sink in.

Wow. A trip to Paris for ten bucks. You just can’t beat that.

I called my husband and didn’t even say hello when he answered. I simply shouted “Pack your bags! We’re going to Paris!”

He let an expletive slip and we hooted and hollered for a good five minutes, not believing my good fortune.

I contacted the student organization who sold me the tickets and they apologized for not notifying me by phone earlier. They confirmed my prize, told me to contact travel services to make arrangements and the rest is history.

It was the trip of a lifetime.

And all because luck pulled up a chair and gave me a fine How d’ya do?

A Junk Drawer PSA

Posted by Kathy on February 25th, 2010

I’m sorry for this humorless post, but I wanted to share a powerful commercial about seat belt usage with you. It’s only 1.5 minutes. 

 

If that doesn’t make you wear your seat belt, perhaps this will. It’s a comment that a volunteer EMT friend of mine left on Facebook after I posted this video there. I don’t know how she handles picking up the pieces of car accidents, but God bless her.
 
Her comment:
 
From the kind of first hand experience that sends you home with blood on your jeans for a nap and a shot of Maker’s Mark:
  • 225 pound men in the back seat unbuckled will launch over the back of the seat and push the rearview mirror through the glass, landing in the lap of the front seat passenger and filling the footwell with blood. Impact under 45 mph.

  • 14 year old girls break like glass.
  • The mother of that same 14 year old, at age 34, lives in a nursing home. She has permanent short term memory loss. About five times a day, she says, with alarm, “Where’s Kelsey?” The nurses tell her, “Kelsey died.” She cries. She forgets. A couple of hours later she asks again. This is pretty much how the rest of her natural life will go. Neither she, nor her daughter, who was launched into the woods through the back window of a pickup truck, had seatbelts on.

I beg all my bloggy friends to wear a seat belt and make everyone you’re in a car with do the same. The most important thing in your family’s life is YOU.

Protect it. Save yourself the agony and that of all the ones who love you.

Texting from 20 Feet Away

Posted by Kathy on January 2nd, 2010

texting Last night I joined my sisters and niece for a nice drive around town to look at Christmas lights on houses that were all decked out. A columnist for our local paper takes submissions for decorated houses and then publishes a “best of” list with directions so people can take a tour.

When we hit the house that was deemed a “Disney wonderland” all of us jumped out of the car in excited anticipation. Except for sister Ann. Turns out Ann was nice and cozy in the car and wasn’t sure the sights would be worth freezing her butt off for.

So what did she do? She told her daughter that “if the back of the house is really nice, text me and I’ll get out.”

Text you and you’ll get out?

Why don’t you ask her to take a picture on her cell phone and then bring that back to show you?

My dear sister, Ann, you lazy, lazy bum.

So let’s hear it. Where and for what have you requested a text or texted someone because it’s too hard to walk a few feet? If anyone says “The shower, I needed a towel” your phone privileges are hereby revoked.

I Conquered Another Fear!

Posted by Kathy on December 22nd, 2009

Some of you might know that one of my biggest fears was to fly on a plane all by myself. I managed to show that fear who’s boss last summer when I attended a blogging conference in Chicago. Let me tell you, I felt like a superstar getting that behind me. Kathy, 1. Fear, 0.

Unfortunately, I’ve got other fears, one of them heights, which was triggered when I walked over a bridge with my husband Dave in the Bahamas circa 1995.

We walked along just fine, until Dave exclaimed “Look! The water is beautiful!” I turned my head to take in the view and promptly lost my mind. I had to run over to the other side of the bridge and take a cab ride back.

There were to be no more walks over bridges for me.

Until today.

For years I avoided joining some of my coworkers who would take walks over the bridge for exercise or to enjoy their lunch hours at a summer music festival held every year on the other side of it. I simply could not fathom walking across that bridge. No how, no way.

But it bugged me that I couldn’t — wouldn’t — do something so simple as to walk across that thing. I mean, it’s just a sidewalk, albeit a sidewalk high in the air.

So I made a decision today to join my coworker Heather for a walk around town and a stroll across The Bridge. I’m pleased to report that I made it without crying in hysterics or having a panic attack.

Were there challenges? Yes. Did I sweat like a pig, even though it was only 20 degrees out? Yes. Oink.

If I looked to the left, there was fear of being so high up. Sure, there’s a railing there, but still. It’s the only thing between me and DYING.

If I looked to the right, I felt the closeness and rush of cars whizzing by and worried that I’d somehow fall over the guardrail, get hit by a car and DIE.

I had two choices: either look straight down at the sidewalk or look way, way off to the distance so that I didn’t have either death threat in my peripheral vision. I alternated between both methods until I reached the other side.

And thanks to my trusty co-pilot Heather, who gave me words of encouragement the whole time and notified me when we were and weren’t over water, it was almost a piece of cake.

If any of you have fears that keep you from enjoying life to its fullest, there’s pretty much only one way around it. You have to stare down that fear and kick its ass to the curb.

I know it sounds easier said than done, but I’m here to tell you that I thought I might die today and I didn’t!

Not dying is awesome, but living with one less fear feels even awesomer.

 

Bridge

Another Airplane Crashing Dream, Now With Hot Dogs

Posted by Kathy on August 29th, 2009

cityscape Living directly under an airport flight path, I periodically have dreams involving airplane crashes. Nightmares, actually.

The last one I had involved a fiery crash and The Three Stooges.

This week I had another one. I was long overdue.

In this episode my husband Dave was piloting a plane with me as the only passenger. Like the last dream, I didn’t sense I was in a plane. It seemed more like I was in a car.

I was lying down resting on a leather bench seat, with a blanket over me. All of a sudden we see two jets nearing us. They flew so close to each other that one clipped the wing of the other, sending them both screaming to the ground.

Dave confidently told me not to worry about our plane and that he would get us home safely.

We tooled around the sky for a while until I noticed we were nowhere near home. We were flying over a big city. A strange city at that.

None of the buildings were made of concrete. Instead, they had rounded edges and were softly colored and flexible. When we flew too close to the buildings, they simply bent out of the way.

The entire cityscape had a GUI-interface quality about it. I realized then that we were in a video game. Awesome.

After we got out of the city, Pilot Dave announced he was leaving the game to return to our house. I told him I’d hoped we’d left the garage door open because we forgot to put the remote opener in the plane when we left.

For the record, a plane does not actually fit in our garage.

I told him I was tired and would be sacking out for the ride home. I also asked if he could swing by Jimmy’s for some hot dogs.

And then I curled up under the blanket, happy in the knowledge that hot dogs were in my future, yet a little confused as to when exactly my husband got his pilot’s license.

I awoke from my dream hungry for dogs and thrilled I survived another plane crash nightmare wherein I didn’t die. Self-preservation is a beautiful thing.

10 Things I Learned on My Chicago BlogHer Trip

Posted by Kathy on July 28th, 2009

1. Flying alone is a piece of cake, even when you’re directionally-challenged. O’Hare airport is blessedly idiot-proof. I wasn’t stressed at all on the actual flights, except for the part when the pilot not-so-briefly forgot what city he was flying to when he announced take-off on the trip home. A full planeload of people screamed him the answer.

2. Wearing heels for 14 hours straight is a bad idea. I know it. You know it. Everybody knows it. Still did it. I almost blew my knee out the morning of the first day and then limped along for the next 10 hours. My dumbness knows no bounds.

3. If you’re not a psycho fan of Tim Gunn, you will be when he’s standing right in front of you. And you’ll squeal with glee when he reads your conference badge and tells you he loves the name of your blog. It’s official! Tim Gunn hearts The Junk Drawer!

MakeItWork 

4. Swag is highly overrated. Liquid swag is the devil. That cracking you hear is BlogHer women everywhere getting realigned at their chiropractors.

5. Friends shouldn’t let friends have access to a bathroom scale, especially when the stupid friend already knows she’s carrying six pounds of vacation instabloat, and yet still wants proof of it.

JDandKathy

6. Helpful women will dig through their purses for dental floss when you tell them you have a poppy seed stuck in your teeth that you can’t remove with a fingernail. When someone says they have a floss pick, but it’s been used, you will consider borrowing it anyway. I wound up having to dig for it again. BlogHer women who were at the bathroom mirror with me during that exercise, I’m sorry. I’m generally not so disgusting at home.

7. Chicago has the very coolest art! And it’s SCARY BIG!

The Bean American Gothic

8. Stressing over what clothes to wear to BlogHer is a colossal waste of time. Spending gobs of money on it adds insult to injury, especially when a button falls off a brand new $49 shirt mere minutes into wearing it. Which cute top did I wear not once, but twice? The one that cost me $1 at a consignment shop. Yes, one dollar.

9. You should not buy delicious treats for people back home that you soon discover you want for yourself. Sorry, Heather. You can’t have ‘em now. But I did buy you a cheap keychain with your name on it. And you can have a T-Mobile clicky pen. And a $2-off coupon for laundry detergent. I’m such a giver.

half-eaten laceys 

10. SEO experts at the conference tell you that Top 10 Lists are blog gold. So there you have it!

Bonus #11. Head over to JD’s place and admire her awesomeness. She was among a group of bloggers invited to read one of their posts to an audience of over a thousand conference attendees. I’m still amazed that my good friend could get up there and give the performance of a lifetime, all without vomiting on stage as she feared.

Thank you JD for EVERYTHING! Thank you JD’s family for getting me to and from the airport and for being such entertaining company on my trip! Thank you BlogHer for putting on such a good show. See you in NYC for BlogHer ’10!

Being a Dumbass is Expensive

Posted by Kathy on June 23rd, 2009

jet So, OK. I’m going to the BlogHer conference in Chicago where I’ll get some good tips on blogging and blog marketing, meet up with bloggers I only know online and see the sights in a city I’ve never been to before.

I’m also going to see my girl JD of I Do Things puke up her lunch because she got accepted to read one of her very best posts in front of a million strangers. Please pray for her.

I knew the conference was Friday and Saturday, July 24th and 25th. I knew I bought a two-day pass that covers admission for both days. I knew I wanted to book a flight the day before the conference so I can get settled, meet up with JD and be well-rested before the start of the conference.

The day before the conference would be Thursday for those keeping count.

When did I book my flight? For Friday morning, of course. Well after the conference is underway.

How much did this mistake cost me? One hundred smackeroos. Frack it all! I booked my flight and hotel through Expedia and they do allow changes at no cost, but the airline charges its own fee for dumbasses like me.

The good news is that the Expedia rep first quoted me a fee of $100, but came back a few minutes later to say it was really $150. Since she misquoted the fee initially, she offered to give me a $50 credit on the extra hotel night I booked.

I believe that’s what you’d call pity for the dumbass.

Oh, and incidentally, JD won’t be the only one puking. This flight will be my first flight going it alone. I’m petrified. I plan on bringing my blankie and teddy bear and I don’t care what that’ll look like.

To recap, you are praying for JD to get through her reading on Friday, July 24th and you are praying for me to get on the plane on the 23rd. You should also get out the rosary beads on the 27th when I fly home. I leave out of O’Hare Airport, where I will get lost as soon as I step foot in the door.

If you don’t see a post from me soon after, it means I’m probably still at the airport, riding a luggage carousel, sucking my thumb and crying like a baby. I want my Mommy!

One Split Second

Posted by Kathy on June 19th, 2009

time This isn’t a humor piece, but I’ve been bothered by an event that happened this morning and felt better writing about it.

I wanted to share it with you because it reminds me of the fragility of life as I know it and how one fraction of a second made the difference between me having a normal day and my husband getting a dreaded phone call.

Friday began like every other work day.

Cup of coffee, feed the cats, some blog stuff, shower and jump in my car. The most remarkable thing about my ride to work was that I got an early start. I would soon wish I hadn’t.

Somebody else was heading to work, too. Someone who should have had his eyes on the road instead of his head in the clouds.

I know people get distracted while driving and cause accidents.

I know that 40,000 people die on U.S. roads each year in car crashes.

I know lots of unlucky people before me have found themselves in the path of an errant driver and never lived to tell about it.

But it’s always other people.

Today I was almost one of them.

On a green light, I approached an intersection near work. As I pulled through and made a left turn, I saw a pickup truck to my left. Coming on fast. I’m not a sitting duck. I’m moving, thank God. I know I’m moving, but am I moving fast enough?

I hear his tires screeching. Might not be enough time. I see the grill of his truck. It’s close. Very close. Are we gonna hit? I start to think this is my unlucky day. God? You there? Help me out here.

In a moment that lasted an eternity, I could see the face of this distracted man, who is now no longer distracted.

He looks at me, and I at him. Our eyes are wide. Our mouths agape. I clear his front bumper by mere inches. I scream and lay on the horn. I glance back. I see he landed askew in the middle of the intersection. I quickly check to see if he still had a red light. Was it me who screwed up?

No. His light was redder than red. And he didn’t even see it.

I consider if I had entered the intersection one moment later. A single second later and someone would be calling my "in case of emergency" number.

I wanted to pull over, get out and scream at him. I wanted to let him know that someone almost had to peel me off his truck. I wanted to tell him to pay attention next time. Every time, dammit, because all it takes is one moment of inattentiveness to change someone’s life.

But I didn’t. I drove on. Slow and shaky. Nothing happened. No harm, no foul.

Except it could have so easily been different.

If not for ONE. SPLIT. SECOND.

Wherein I Find Out I’m Awesome

Posted by Kathy on May 18th, 2009

Do you hear me?! I AM AWESOME! I recently posted that I was meeting up with some fellow bloggers 200 miles from home, and it would be the first time I ever drove such a distance by myself.

Sure, I was pee-in-my-pants scared getting there, but the way home was an absolute breeze. After a short time, I was whizzing by slow poke drivers, eating a box of chocolates off my lap, steering with my thumb, and cursing at all the amateur drivers who annoyed me because they seemed lost and inept. You know, like I was two days before. My, how I’ve changed.

The weekend with Kim, Bryan and Jenn was a laughfest and what a joy to finally meet them after a year of knowing them only through their blogs and emails. Kim and Bryan were the consummate hosts and Jenn was fun company at the B&B where we both stayed.

As a bonus, Bryan’s hilarious sister Lisa traveled over an hour to visit with us, along with her cutie pie son, who upon meeting me tried to ride my leg while I was sitting on the couch. I considered it a high honor.

Let’s review some random trip details, shall we?

Peeping Tom Deer 1. A deer saw me naked. Freshly showered, I stepped out of the bathroom, turned to a window that faces the woods and saw this. I decided it was OK because he didn’t snicker or call over any of his deer buddies to get a look. In fact, he stared a long time. I think he wanted me.

2. Even though I took my cell phone, I lost reception during the return trip and later learned that a "reboot" would fix it. Until that discovery, I had to find a pay phone to call home. I found one on a desolate road, but some guy was using it and wouldn’t hang up! Why? Why would you talk on a pay phone in the middle of nowhere for ten minutes? I figured he was saying "There’s a lady here who looks desperate to use this phone, so I’m gonna keep talking about nothing, OK?" Jerk.

3. It took me three weeks to lose four pounds before my trip.Putting on the pounds I gained the four back in three days. I won’t be eating again until Thursday. That oughtta do it. 

4. I don’t get out enough. Kim planted some lovely Lamb’s Ears in her front lawn. I’ve never seen them before, and after Jenn told me "Feel ‘em, they’re velvety soft," I stooped down to touch every Lamb’s Ear I encountered from then on. I’m not sure if everyone thought that was endearing or just sad. I’m guessing sad.

5. Kim needs her own cooking show. In the span of a day, she made homemade soup, homemade bread and homemade manicotti and meatballs. My version of homemade means "I made water boil and dumped a box of pasta in it, in my home."

Overpacked6. I overpack. It’s a disease. On checkout day, my fingers slipped and I dropped my suitcase flat and it almost blew a hole in the floor and killed Jenn in the room underneath. When will I learn I only ever need half of what I think I need? 

7. Bryan agreed, at my request, not to take any photos of me. Yes, yes, I need therapy. He decided instead to take pictures of only my feet at various places we visited. Check out his foot photologue for proof I was actually there.missing

8. I hope someone located this lost baby. I found a "Missing" flyer taped to an ice cream shop window, but I can’t figure out why the baby would be wearing a collar and a harness. And only a $50 reward? That’s shameful. 

Close Enough9. All of my pictures of the beautiful Pennsylvania Grand Canyon look like this. Each one features a view-obstructing railing because I refused to step any closer. Railings good. Falling hundreds of feet to my death bad. I thought it best to enjoy the pictures that others took; people who aren’t afraid to live close to the edge. Literally.

So there you have it. The trip I made all by my lonesome awesome self!

Next up? I fly alone for the first time this summer, wherein I’ll cry for two hours, clutching my blankie and teddy bear. Or maybe not. Awesome people don’t need no stinking teddy bears!

Kathy Gets Lost Again, Sorta

Posted by Kathy on February 6th, 2009

campus_building Yesterday a colleague asked if I wanted to attend a panel talk he was giving on the campus where we work.

Sure. Where is it?”

It’s in Whitaker Lab.

Is it in the auditorium next to the front door?

No. It’s near the back door on the parking lot side of the building.

OK, I’ll be there.

You may or may not know how directionally-challenged I am. How bad is it? Real bad. I got lost in my own neighborhood once, two tenths of a mile from my house.

Whenever I go anywhere I haven’t been a million times before, I always have reason to worry. Let the games begin.

I drive to the Whitaker building and go through the back door on the parking lot side, as instructed. No auditorium. Just a long corridor. Then classrooms. And no people. Of course, no people.

I can’t find anything that looks like a place a talk would be held. I dart into a computer lab to login and check the university event calendar hoping to get the room number. Nothing. Of course, nothing.

I look at the time. I’m going to be late.

I run up steps and down halls and make my way to the only auditorium I know in that building. It’s dark and deserted and clearly not the place.

DAM. MIT.

Sweating now, I ride elevators, travel more steps and more halls until I’m about to give up. I see doors that lead to a courtyard. If I cross it, I can go into another section of the building. Maybe it’s over there.

As soon as I exit, C-L-I-C-K. I am locked out. Of course I am.

I cross the courtyard and when I get to the opposite set of doors, I can make out a sign that reads “These doors kept locked at all times.”

Of course they are.

FRACK!

So there I am, standing in the freezing cold, sweating icicles straight from my body, having just locked myself out of the building. Stupid building!

The only way to re-enter is to walk through snow and ice around a neighboring building and come back in through the front door, which is two floors up and really far from where I entered.

At this point I’m muttering to myself that I can do this. You’re not an idiot. It’s not that hard! Where did he say to go again? Did I get it right? Where am I???

But then the muttering turns into belittling: You? You of all people want to fly alone this summer? How you gonna do that if you can’t even find a room in a building? You suck!

Ten minutes late, I’m completely broken, resigned to the fact that I’ll always be a lost person. I started to hear sad violin music in the background. I half expected a dog to walk up and pee on my leg. I work my way back to the parking lot. I’m going home a loser.

But then I have a flash of recognition. I once attended a lecture in a building adjacent to Whitaker. Yeah. The Sinclair building has an auditorium. And it’s right by the door.

BINGO!

The coffee and cookies I see outside the room are my first indication that I’m at the right place. I poke my head inside and see my colleague standing down front about to begin the talk.

What I wanted to do was yell down there “Dude! You gave me the wrong building! I hate you!”

But I didn’t. Instead, I mentally patted myself on the back, took a seat and thought I am not a doofus. I was just given bad information. And that, my friends, makes me a little less of a forever lost person.

And that makes me very happy.

Weirdest Trip Memento I’ve Ever Saved

Posted by Kathy on December 20th, 2008

My husband Dave and I had the fortune of traveling to Paris in the summer of 2004, a trip I won on a $5 raffle ticket. Rifling through some boxes today, I came across an envelope stuffed with receipts, ticket stubs and other miscellanea we collected.

In this picture you’ll find the strangest thing I’ve ever saved from a vacation trip. Can you find it?

Paris_Mementos

When you travel, do you save all the little papers and stubs you collect along the way? I think the fact we saved such seemingly insignificant items shows how memorable the trip was to us.

Going to Paris absolutely ruined us for every other trip we’ve taken since. Nothing else compares. If you have the chance to go, GO! It will change your life.

Monday Mishmash

Posted by Kathy on November 3rd, 2008

scribbles What’s on Kathy’s mind today?

To my best good friend, Tracey, who threw her back out lifting an object she could have thrown over her head twenty years ago, I’m sorry for your injury, but you’re old now. Welcome to the club.

To the guy who called me today and left his phone number at lightning speed, I didn’t get it. I had to listen to your message three times because you sounded like you had a mouth full of marbles. If you’re leaving me your number, it’s because you know I don’t have it. Slow the hell down.

To my colleague, Heather. Thank you for making a pot of coffee every day before I come into the office. You don’t even drink coffee. You’re good people.

To my cat, Lucky, who insists on burrowing under a blanket on the couch for whatever reason. I do not know you are there. Learn how to make a warning noise or you shall require a visit to the vet to get unflattened. And I’m not so sure they have a procedure for that.

To my other cat, Stinky, who just walked across my laptop keyboard, you know that screws me up, right?

To daylight savings time, you suck. I feel like changing into my pajamas before I even leave work.

To whoever thought of putting bread in a thin bag and then thought to put it in another bag, that’s just stupid. Trust us. It goes stale as fast in two bags as it does in one. One is less annoying.

To that guy who darted unsafely in and out of my lane this morning, it gave me great pleasure to time my speed such that you never got back into the lane and then missed the exit you wanted so bad. Me, 1. Jerks, 0.

And there you have it. Anything on your mind today? The more random, the better.

Because We Planned on Speeding

Posted by Kathy on September 21st, 2008

precious cargo

Yeah, that’s right. We buckled up our takeout food. Got a problem with that?

First person to correctly guess what comprised our precious cargo gets a Junk Drawer magnet. Hint: There was a protein (x6) and a side (x2).

To those who were following me on Twitter two hours ago, we never got the ice cream.

Oh, Canada!

Posted by Kathy on August 20th, 2008

cntower I’m back home from my whirlwind trip to Toronto, where I met three of my good bloggy friends, Jeff, Jaffer, and JD, a trip that will now be referred to as “The Three J Tour.”

Our goal wasn’t so much to sight-see when we got there. The crappy picture to the left is the best one I took, which proves how little I worked at pointing and clicking. Could I have possibly shot a bigger structure out of alignment?

Didn’t really matter because, for me, this trip was all about meeting my friends.

I’m left with an intense feeling of gratitude for everyone who made it a success and gave me memories to last a lifetime.

And so instead of a lousy photo travelogue, I give you The Three J Tour “Thanks a Whole Lot” Award Ceremony:

Thank you, adventure-seeking sister Ann, for taking off work and driving 1,000 miles to get me there and back. Thank you for dealing with the stress of driving to an unfamiliar place and for not making me feel it was an imposition.

You’re a skilled and steady driver who knew exactly when the GPS lady had her head up her butt. You remained calm under pressure, even when the third street car driver in as many days honked his horn at you. “Have mercy! We’re from Pennsylvania!” For this and more, you get instant membership to the Sister Hall of Fame.

Thank you, easy-going niece Regan, for surviving two 8-hour car trips without complaint. I know in kid time, that’s an eternity. Thank you also for snagging that cab for us after we walked non-stop for six hours the first night. With my newly developed blister, you saved my pinky toe from further damage. You rock.

Thank you Jeff and your three delightful children, Brandon, Austin and Roseanna, for entertaining us while we walked approximately 23 miles exploring the city. Yes, I got a blister. Yes, my legs were lead the next morning. But I forgot all the pain because that night was a jam-packed, Amazing Race-like funfest I’ll never forget.

Additional kudos for not mocking me too much when it was clearly me who messed up the meeting time. You said in your blog last week, and I quote: “But the best part is, Kathy is sure to screw something up big time…” All I can say is you know me too well.

To Jeff’s wife, Charli, I’m sorry I sounded like such a goofus on the phone. I had just seconds earlier met your husband, had a dripping chicken wrap in my hands and a soda can wedged under my armpit. Forgive me?

Thank you Jaffer, for taking a bus 50 miles to meet us in the city. I don’t know anyone else who would do that for me. Hell, I wouldn’t do that for me. Thank you for our Sunday morning coffee klatch, entertaining me with your interesting life stories and being our personal tour guide. But what am I supposed to do now that you treated us to the world’s best gelato and I can’t find it around here?

Our relaxing and delicious lunch was one of the highlights of the trip. I’m so sorry you were the victim of that loose-stool pigeon who had you in his sights. I believe in my heart it was because you were sitting next to me, since wherever I go, trouble follows. Please accept my apologies.

Thank you JD and your husband Dave for letting us glom a day from your vacation to meet with us. I don’t think the hotel staff thought we were too weird for screaming and jumping up and down like fools right there in the lobby when we first met, do you? Thank you for agreeing not to walk 20 miles that day, because I’m quite sure some of my piddies would have fallen off otherwise.

Dinner that night was a blast and I felt warm and cozy, surrounded by friends and family, despite the torrential rain and lightning going on outside. You are exactly the fun and hilarious woman I knew you would be from your blog and our countless emails over this last year. I’m so thankful I had the chance to finally meet you (and your dear, charming husband!)

Thank you nice lady at the border crossing, who let us in the country even though you got suspicious when we said we were only there to meet people instead of truly vacationing. Thank you for not detaining us, even though you rightly questioned why Ann didn’t even know the full names of the people she drove there to meet. We know it sounded a little terrorist-y.

I suppose when you asked what we were bringing into the country, and we answered “Oh, just some whoopie cushions,” (gifts for JD) you realized we were only harmless idiots. Thanks for not probing any further.

Thank you Earth, for putting a small jutting ledge out beyond the railing on the U.S. side of the Niagara Falls, so that I could get close enough to take video. That ledge meant that if I did slip and fall, I would drop only five feet instead of hundreds, straight down to a skull-crushing, body-splattering death.

And one more thanks, while I’m at it, goes to my local newspaper for picking me up for a new feature they call Blogger Tuesdays, where they spotlight posts from “local bloggers of note.”  They published my John Deere gift bag story while I was still in Canada. You hear that? I’m a Blogger of Note! Drinks all around!

I’m off now to bask in the afterglow of my Three J Tour and to figure out how I can meet the rest of you guys. What do you say? Junk Drawer Blog-A-Palooza in 2009?

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane. Maybe.

Posted by Kathy on August 6th, 2008

Maybe my Canadian friends could help me?

 

UPDATE: It’s a Junk Drawer miracle! My sister, Ann of the Shampoo Bag, was able to take a couple days off work so she could join me on a DRIVE to Toronto! No trains, no planes!

And by “join me,” I mean she can do all the driving and I won’t have to help much because she has a GPS and even if it doesn’t work, we’ll have maps. I have lots of trouble with those, too, but thankfully, her daughter is coming with us, so I’m putting her on map duty. If she was old enough to drive, we’d let her do that too.

Thanks everyone for your advice and offers of help! We’re crazy excited for this trip! I’ll catch up with comments later tonight.

Dear Praying Mantis, Count Your Blessings

Posted by Kathy on July 6th, 2008

praying_mantis Is it bad that I wanted to kill this thing because I was delayed loading my 4th of July foodfest gut in the car because my husband refused to leave until it leapt away, for fear that if it remained, the wind would blow it off and it would die a grisly death on the roadway?

Is it bad that my husband believes that it’s illegal to kill a praying mantis? (It’s not.)

Further, is it bad that I went to the 4th of July foodfest with the top button of my pants already unbuttoned, and that by the end of the day I appeared to be seven months pregnant and that all I wanted to do was dump myself in the car and speed to the emergency room because I was pretty sure I just ate my weight in picnic food and needed a good old fashioned stomach pump?

These are the things I’d like to know.

  Humor bloggers like their bugs crunchy.

Update on Wordless Wednesday Post

Posted by Kathy on June 16th, 2008

On May 21 I posted this picture I took at a defunct gas station in my area, showing a ridiculously low price for gasoline. Someone in my area wrote to the local newspaper and asked why it’s still there and if any information could be found about the station’s owner.

Since many of you asked about the sign, I thought I’d fill you in.

Click here for the story.

It seems the owner is a fugitive from the law, trying to avoid “10 counts of issuing bad checks, two counts of theft by deception, and related charges.”

I guess taking down the old sign is last on his list of priorities. It’s estimated the station closed down in the spring of 2002. So that’s the last time we saw $1.29/gallon gas. And it can be safely said we’ll never see it again.

gas station

Wordless Wednesday

Posted by Kathy on May 21st, 2008

Gas Station March 2008

My 57-Minute Silent Scream

Posted by Kathy on December 19th, 2007

scream Yesterday I had to take my car to the dealer and pay $400 to have a mechanic turn off a bright yellow malfunction light in my dashboard. That’s what I think when I take my car to the shop. "A light came on in the dashboard. I don’t know what it means. But make it go away."

I know the technicians root around in my car’s innards and do something. Whatever they do makes the light go off and that’s what I pay the money for. If you’re a mechanic, don’t waste your energy trying to explain it to my pea brain.

When I found out it would take the whole day to fix, I asked if they could give me a loaner to drive to work. They didn’t have loaners, but they offered a shuttle service to anywhere within 15 miles.

I wrote my name on the sign-up sheet and soon after, the shuttle driver collected me and three other carless people, and we all piled into a van. Excellent! I’ll be at work in no time at all. Or so I thought.

We exchanged pleasantries and got settled in, only to smell trouble immediately as our driver fumbled with his papers, mumbled to himself, and stumbled into gear. It was apparent we’d gotten the Don Knotts of shuttle drivers and this would be no ordinary trip. I fastened my seatbelt. HARD and SURE.

I shall refer to him now as Worse Than Me. Regular readers know that I’m the most directionally-challenged person to get behind the wheel of a car. Our driver wishes he were only as challenged as I am.

Worse Than Me had no plan, couldn’t read street names, and didn’t appreciate helpful instructions from his passengers. They only seemed to anger him ("I know where I’m going!") To add insult to injury, he TALKED ALL THE TIME. Sometimes to us. Sometimes to himself.

Worse Than Me chatted up the poor soul who got into the front seat with him. It went something like this:

So we’ll take you first since you’re close I know the back roads and you’ll have to tell me if you need a ride home and oh boy it’s been busy the last few days I had six people to deliver to work yesterday and all of them wanted to get there right away because everybody wants to get dropped off first you know and sometimes I have only one person in the morning but today is an average day with the four of you sometimes I have a lot of people to pick up at night the shop closes at 5 o’clock but sometimes I’m still out driving at 6 o’clock the mechanics leave at 5 o’clock but customers can pickup their cars until 8 o’clock so which building do I have to drop you off at?

Wow.

He did not take a breath.  He wasn’t expecting responses. More importantly, he wasn’t exactly watching the road.  And then his cell phone rang. Oh, dear God. Please don’t answer that.  Luckily, it rang only once and he never got to pick it up.  Eyes on the road, buddy. Eyes on the road.

Worse Than Me keeps talking to Poor Soul #1 all the way to the first drop-off point. I have remained silent thus far and intend to stay that way, even if I’m the last person to be dropped off. I’m kind of into him concentrating on his driving and the not-getting-in-an-accident part of this expedition.

When we get to Poor Soul #1′s workplace, he exits the van and now the driver has to figure out how to get Poor Soul #2 to her destination, a house in the middle of nowhere.

We continue through towns I’ve heard of, then through towns I haven’t. Traffic gets thinner and thinner and I don’t know where I am. Neither does Worse Than Me. Poor Soul #2 tries her best to direct him to her house and a very long discussion ensues about where he’ll find the Burger King he needs to turn at.

Apparently the driver thinks he knows where to turn, but Poor Soul #2 has to correct him at almost every intersection. He argues with her about which way to go, despite her objections about the path he’s taking. She indicates there is a much faster route, but he repeatedly states "I don’t want to mess up." All I’m thinking is — Then let her help you! I’m very uncomfortable at this point because two people who have just met each other are arguing already. This does not bode well.

Poor Soul #2 abandons her effort to guide our driver and let’s him do whatever he wants. He mumbles something about "I know all the back roads from when I was a kid," and Poor Soul #2 announces "You know, I’m really not feeling well and I can’t comprehend what you’re saying to me." I laugh very loud at that in my head.

We eventually make our way to Poor Soul #2′s house in the boondocks and she quickly slips out of the van, to presumably go inside and scream her head off. I consider briefly getting out with her, pretending I live there, too. I could have always called a cab from there. Darn! Why did I think of that just now?

I allow her to exit the van, and against my better judgement, I get into the empty front seat. I’m now inches from the driver, but I’m still silent and I don’t plan on making eye contact. My only fear now is that he’s dropping off Poor Soul #3 next, and I’ll be left alone with him in my quiet misery.

My fear washes away as Worse Than Me announces he taking me to work next. Poor Soul #3, a woman in the back seat, sighs "Oh my God. We were closer to where I work when we were back at the first place. By the time I get to work, my car will be done!"

Worse Than Me says nothing and proceeds to drive further east towards my workplace and much further from Poor Soul #3′s destination. I silently pity her, as I realize that she’s going to be alone with him for another hour, at least.

I’m blessed that our driver knows how to get to South Mountain, which is about two miles from where I work. This means I can continue my vow of silence and not have to give him directions from Timbuktu. I have absolutely no idea where I am at this point. I ask myself repeatedly whether I should have just stayed back at the dealer and waited for my car right there in the shop, instead of here in Wayward Van.

Traveling past more places the driver recalls from his childhood ("I remember that park from when I was a kid." "I remember that’s where I used to hunt as a kid." "I remember that little house from when I was a kid."), we finally approach South Mountain and I realize it’s time to speak soon. I have to tell him which street to turn on at the base of the mountain.

On approach I finally utter three words: "Turn right here."  Worse Than Me jabbers away about how he remembers dropping off some passengers at one of the big buildings on campus and asks me when they put up that sculpture near the front of it. I reply without opening my mouth, "I-hmm-no" (translation: "I don’t know.")

I give up a couple more words: "Turn here." We have two more blocks on the journey, and I insist I won’t speak any more than is absolutely necessary, so I just wave him on with my hands. We approach my stop and I allow a final word to escape: "Here."  I have successfully been driven to my destination, not engaged the driver once, and said less than ten words in 57 minutes. I don’t know any monks who could do that.

As I reach for the door handle and Poor Soul #3 prepares to make her transition to the front seat, I look at her with all the sympathy I can muster. I silently mouth the words "Good luck" as I step onto the curb. She looks at me with a pained expression, her eyes the size of saucers.

All I could do was wish her well for the next hour I’m sure it’ll take her to get 20 miles west of here. I half expected her to put her hands up on the inside of the window as they drove away, in a Edvard Munch-esque silent scream and a face that said "Save me." But I never looked back. I didn’t have the courage. I failed as a human.

Godspeed, Poor Soul #3. Godspeed.

Dear Poopy Head Truck Driver

Posted by Kathy on December 1st, 2007

Dear Poopy Head Truck Driver:

I know you didn’t mean it when you had an accident on the bridge I cross to get to work. But I just have to tell you what you were responsible for this morning.

1. You made me 45 minutes late for work.

2. You made about 2,500 other people 45 minutes late for work. That means the world lost 1,875 man hours of work, about a year’s worth of a typical job.

3. You forced me to look death in the eye and try crazy stunts to shoot off the last exit before the bridge in an effort to get away from the traffic jam.

4. You made it so that 1,000 other drivers tried the same thing and caused us to get in a second traffic jam on side roads.

5. You made my office have to make a pot of Disney Mickey Mouse coffee that’s been in the refrigerator for about a year, since I had the supply of new coffee in my car.

6. You caused all the people who could finally get moving again to gun the accelerator and violate every driving rule known to man, trying to make up lost time.

7. You made me hate the innocent cyclist who I saw whiz by me at one point, getting to his destination on time.

8. You made a thousand people, who just finished their morning coffee, wish for a Port-o-Potty on the side of the road.

I hope you totaled your truck, don’t have insurance and have to take a bus to work for a month. I hope you were cited and fined for your incompetence. I hope everyone flipped you off when they made it past your stupid accident. You should be lucky they didn’t kill you. I know I wanted to.

P.S. Poopy Head isn’t what I was calling you that whole time, but this is a G-rated blog, so that’ll have to do.

My Punishment for Flying First-Class

Posted by Kathy on October 31st, 2007

One of life’s greatest indulgences is flying first-class. I had the opportunity to do so in 2002 when my husband Dave and his brother Dan got the idea in their heads that we should leave a freezing cold November in Pennsylvania and take a trip to Las Vegas and splurge by flying there in style.

Here’s how we were punished for wanting to live a little.

If you have never flown first-class, you absolutely must try it once before you die. The entire experience is a ridiculous display of lavishness that only a $1,000 ticket can buy. From the time you set foot on the plane, people are waiting on you. The ratio of flight attendants to passengers is about 1:3. Back in coach, it’s 1:3,000,000. There is a reason the tickets cost so much. You’ve bought yourself a servant.

Seated comfortably in cushy, wide leather seats, you can really kick back, breathe easy, and relax. Since first-classers are seated before anyone else, you have the pleasure of watching all the coach- and business-class people salivate over your seats while they walk back to Sardine Land. You know what they’re thinking as they pass you. "I hate you and if the plane crashes, you’ll die first."

But we soldier on and ignore the stares, grunts and eye rolls from the less fortunate passengers, and prepare to be waited on by one of the five attendants dedicated to us. The first thing they do is take your coats and hang them up in a closet so that you are completely unencumbered by your travel paraphernalia. Next, they put your bags in the overhead compartments for you so that you are not inconvenienced by common folk duties. Up next, real pillows and real blankets. You can put your seat back just about all the way without disturbing the person behind you.

Were we not flying at ten thousand feet and had a remote control for the TVs in the seats ahead of us, we would have thought we were laying on our couches at home in our living rooms. And even there, you don’t get someone asking you every ten minutes if you’re comfortable enough and whether you need anything. They ask you all the time if you’re cozy and how they can make your trip more enjoyable.

Once we’re in the air awhile, we are served the first course of our meals. Yeah, first course. There are more to come. We’re given a selection of cheese and fruit, served on a restaurant-quality plate with real silverware. There is no plastic in first-class.

After we finish our fresh fruit and cheese, we are served our second course of chicken cordon bleu with rice pilaf and warm bread. Again, served on real dinnerware with real knives and forks. The suckers in the back are handed sandwiches with meat-of-questionable-origin in plastic wrap, and if they’re lucky, a pack of crackers. We finish up dinner with an assortment of cheesecake, mousse and more fresh fruit. So this is how the other half lives…..

It’s impossible to be too full on a plane unless you’ve brought your own meals, but here we are, fat and happy in first-class. All this eating has made us a little tired. Propping up our pillows and pulling our blankies up to our chins, we lie back in our virtual beds and take cat naps. You can’t do that in coach unless you take coma-inducing drugs that make you forget exactly where you are — seated millimeters next to smelly, irritated people who, if given the chance, would kick you out in the aisle if it meant they could have five more inches of space.

After a thoroughly enjoyable flight that felt much shorter than it was, we deplane and begin our adventures in The City That Never Sleeps. For the first few days, we win and lose some money here and there. We vary our time between soaking up some sun, hitting the casinos and the pool and strolling up and down the strip taking it all in.

We’re having a great time until …..

Dan hails us a cab from one resort to get us back to our home base and we all pile in. The cab driver is chit-chatting with us about where we’re from and where we’re staying and whether we’re enjoying ourselves. Then he drops the bomb.

He mentions how there are hundreds of travelers scrambling to get flights back home because they just got the news that National Airlines, our airline, has just filed for bankruptcy and they’ve canceled all of their flights.

All together now….. Say WHAT?!?!?!

We go from zero to depressed in two seconds flat. This news means that we’re going to have to make other flight arrangements to get us back home and now we’re not even sure we can leave when we planned. Once back at our hotel, Dan makes a flurry of phone calls and secures us a flight on We’re Not Flying First Class Anymore Airlines. Because we had to take what we could get, we can’t fly back in luxury. We had been given keys to the Emerald City and now they want them back.

After Dave picked me up off the floor, I came to and got all the details. First, there’s the no first-class thing ("Stop telling me that!!!"). Then there’s the problem of seating. We can’t get seats together. Lastly, we have to cut the trip short and leave that night on the red-eye. It is called the red-eye for a reason. If you have been up since 5AM and have to leave town at 11PM, then take a six hour flight, you will have red, bleary, Marty Feldman eyes that will scare small children when it’s all over.

After I recover from this news, I try to make the best of our last day in Vegas by sinking a few bucks into a slot machine. Maybe if I pray hard enough, a first-class ticket will fall out. Later in the day, we sulk as we pack our things and prepare for what would become the worst flight ever.

Just a few days ago, we were secretly laughing at the people who filed past us on their way to coach. Now we were those people, cursing under our breath at the people who were going to get nice soft pillows and blankets, and delicious food served on real dinnerware. All we could think as we walked past them was "If the plane crashes, you’ll die first."

As we approach Sardine Land, we get into position for our separate seating arrangement. Dan got a spot next to a window in one row, while Dave sat in the row behind him in a middle seat. I wind up in the same row, but on the other side of the plane.

I am not a good flier. It is almost a requirement that I be allowed to dig my nails into Dave’s thigh during take-off, the part of the flight that makes me the most anxious. I doubt now that I’ll be able to dig my nails into the thigh of Random Traveler next to me, and now I don’t want to because I find out soon enough that my seatmate is a crazy person.

He is wearing a sleeveless camouflage T-shirt, camouflage pants, combat boots and has no reading material or other things to keep himself occupied for six hours. He begins talking to me immediately about where he’s from and how his girlfriend just dumped him. Sure, take away my first-class status and sit me next to Psychotic Nothing-to-Lose Guy.

Dan and Dave have their own little traumas over on the other side of the plane. Dan has the misfortune of getting seated next to a very large man whose body is spilling over the edges of his seat. I later learn that Dan was just about to reach into his pocket and pull out a wad of hundreds to make an offer to ANY OTHER PASSENGER to give up their seat so he doesn’t have to take the seat with half another person in it. But the lights go dim and he won’t be able to get anyone’s attention.

So he sits down in the little room he has left and curses National Airlines for hitting the skids. One of the only ways that Dan can get enough room is if he holds and bends his left arm over his head and scoots over so that he’s plastered to the wall. Dave is seated directly behind Very Large Man. I cannot count the ways that this will make for a bad flight.

In the air for a few hours now, I reflect on the fact that we’ve all been awake for over twenty hours now and are beginning to get Marty Feldman eyes. At some point, I glance out the window past Nothing-to-Lose Guy and see the sun coming up on the horizon. I’m in such a no-sleep stupor that I forget where I am for a minute. Am I dead?

I glance over at Dan and Dave and notice the interesting contortions they’ve been forced into because of Very Large Man. Dan is still stuck with his arm over his head. I can’t tell if he’s sleeping, but if he is, when he wakes up he will probably not realize that the arm is his own and will come out swinging.

Very Large Man has, of course, reclined his chair and appears to be resting comfortably. With the reclined chair four inches from his head, Dave decided to make the most of things by planting his forehead into the back of the seat and sleeping on his face.

When I see these twisted configurations and consider that neither of them are good travelers to begin with, I laugh inappropriately loudly, which unfortunately wakes up Nothing-to-Lose Guy. I look at him and explain that we flew to Vegas first-class and I’m supposed to be up there with all the lucky people and instead I’m sitting here! He shrugs his shoulders and goes back to thinking of all the ways he can get revenge on the girl who dumped him.

Another hour in flight, I’m counting down the minutes until I can get on the ground, get in a car and get in my bed. All told, by the time we fell asleep at home, we’d been up for 27 hours. We looked like we felt and it took two days before we got our normal eyes back.

The lesson of the story is that if you do manage to fly first-class, check out the financial situation of your airline and make sure they’re solvent. We were reimbursed the cost of the return ticket, but it hardly mattered. I’m left wishing I’d never flown first-class.

Because having it ripped out from under you is worse than not having had it at all.

Time for my plane-crashing nightmare

Posted by Kathy on October 6th, 2007

About three times a year, I have a nightmare about a plane crashing. This is because my house is located directly under the flight path of an airport three miles west of me. Since they say most crashes occur during takoff and landing, my odds of being involved in a crash are greater than if I were a passenger on a plane itself.

In the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve gotten used to the noise, but I never stop wondering if some day an injured plane won’t make it to the airport and instead will crash into my neighborhood. The only good thing about these nightmares is that when the planes crash, they never hit my house. They hit other people’s houses all around me, though. My subconscious keeping me safe, I guess.

Last night’s nightmare went like this:

I was a passenger on a 747 getting ready for takeoff. Not at the airport, but instead on a highway near me. We begin to accelerate down the highway, passing cars on either side of us. I’m not sure how it is our plane fits on the highway, but it’s a dream, so anything is possible.

We approach a hill in the road that will be used to get us up in the air. Nevermind engine thrust and the laws of physics; in my dream it’s the tiny 4 foot incline that’ll give us lift and get us airborne. As we get to the hill, the pilot announces "Uh-oh, there’s an aircraft with trouble ahead." As it passes over us, I glance out the back window (I’m inexplicably in a car at this point) and see the troubled plane trying to make it back to the airport.

Our pilot slams on the brakes and we come to a stop on the berm of the road. We all turn around and see that the other plane’s back left wheel is on fire. The plane comes to a complete stop, in midair, and then flips over. The plane is shaped like a shoebox, and tapers at the rear. Its squarish figure makes it impossible to keep its momentum and it drops like a rock in a ball of flames.

Seeing this, I buckle my seatbelt (?), put on my watch (??) and begin snacking on a box of white cheddar cheese crackers (???). We continue watching this event unfold and are relieved to see the Three Stooges jump out of a fire engine that arrived earlier because they were alerted about the impending disaster (????).

Why the Three Stooges? Well, there’s a great scene in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World where Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Joe DeRita appear as firemen responding to the end-of-movie mayhem. I haven’t seen the movie in months, but dreams have a weird way of pulling out memories from the deep recesses of the mind and sticking them in random places.

As the Stooges put out the fire, we return to our starting point because we’re going to make another attempt at takeoff. But I don’t wanna try and take off after what I’ve just seen! I scream "Shouldn’t we wait another day before trying this again?" but the pilot doesn’t hear me because he’s way up front. I realize that we have to go through this despite my objections, so I put on my life vest and get into the crash position. Nobody else on the plane is doing this and I feel silly for being alone in my panic. I start to sob quietly and then I wake up.

I always wake up at the moment I think I’m doomed. Dear Brain — thank you for working in that crazy way you do. I appreciate whatever connections you make to shake me up out of my nightmarish sleep to save me the agony. I just wish you could make me forget these dreams, now and the next time. Because I’m going to have another one in about four months, right on schedule.

Well now THAT was a first

Posted by Kathy on September 28th, 2007

I had a commute today to beat all commutes. It started out so normal. But as soon as I turned onto Rt. 512, things got a little interesting.

Route 512 is a four-laned, divided road (highway in reality, given the speeds people drive). I turned onto it and was greeted by a fairly open road. I traveled along for about a quarter mile before coming upon another car — DRIVING THE WRONG WAY.

This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a wrong-way driver, so I didn’t know what to do except to slow down. The first thing I thought was "Who could be drunk at this hour?"

The driver was mercifully driving slowly and weaving around only a little. I decided it’d be best to come to a full stop and put my four-ways on to alert all the drivers behind me. All of us stopped, but the assumed-to-be-drunk driver kept going…. or coming, as it were.

On approach, I could get a better look inside the car. I was wrong about the driver being drunk. The driver was not drunk at all. The driver was an old woman who could barely see over the steering wheel. I shuddered when I saw this. And I shuddered some more when it was obvious she had no intentions of stopping or correcting her mistake.

I just kept sitting there, watching things unfold in my rear-view mirror. There she went, staying in her wrong lane while all the other correct-way drivers got into single file to give her all the room she needed.

After observing her make it all the way to the next light, I had to assume that at some point she’d find her way. Or that someone else would be able to stop her. I mean, what exactly is the protocol for this? Do you call 911? Do you jump out of your car and flail your arms in front of her? Do you dare?

All I can do is thank God she wasn’t driving full speed. Otherwise, this might have been a whole different kind of post.

Lady, I hope you made it where you were going safely. And I hope you stop driving. Forever.

Round and round we go….

Posted by Kathy on September 20th, 2007

I admit it. I am directionally-challenged and it’s embarrassing. When someone starts giving me directions somewhere, I can only remember the first one or two instructions. After that, I need a picture. Better yet, a chauffeur. MapQuest doesn’t cut it because then I have to take my eyes off the road. And trust me, nobody wants that.

You might figure I’d have the most trouble finding my way around over long distances. You’d be right, and wrong. It’s possible for me to have trouble no matter how far I’m driving. Here’s how I got lost two tenths of a mile from my house.

It was October last year, the day my township was queuing floats on the street behind my house for a Halloween parade taking place nearby.

I drove up to an intersection just two blocks from home. A cop explained that I wasn’t allowed to get through until the parade got underway.

"How long will it be?"

"About 20 minutes."

"But I have ice cream in my car." Surely, melting ice cream qualifies as an emergency and aren’t cops supposed to assist with emergencies?

"You can drive down one block and loop back to Maria Lane."

Simple enough, I think. And then I remember. I’m a dunce. I begin to worry immediately that I’ll get lost in my own neighborhood and I might find myself still driving around by dinner time, and all I’ll have to show for it is melted ice cream and a massive headache. ‘Course, I could eat the ice cream, but then I might do it so fast that I get an ice cream headache. Either way, I’m going to have a headache.

I continue down to the next block and enter what I like to call Suburban Planners Toying with Me. I imagined them all sitting around a big table, then asking a 4-year-old with a box of crayons to draw some figure eights and squiggly lines. "Looks good. Now dump the houses here." There are more roundabouts and cul de sacs than through-streets. I drive through all of them. Twice. "Hi. Me again." Wave real nice. "Just ignore me."

As God is my witness, you cannot traverse this ridiculous maze of suburban streets to save your life, and thank God I have food in the car because I might actually have to save it.

I have a cell phone, but Dave’s at work, so it won’t do me any good. But there might be a series of answering machine messages that go like this:

"Dave. I’m lost. Come get me when you get home. I’m a block away."

Beep.

"Dave. I’m scared. Little kids are pointing and laughing at me because they know I’m lost."

Beep.

"Dave. People think I’m casing their houses. I keep driving past them over and over."

Beep.

"Dave. Tell the cats I said good-bye. I’m never getting home. I ate all the food."

After fifteen $%*@# minutes of driving around in Dante’s seventh circle of development hell, I finally found the cross street I needed to get me home. When I got there, I screamed a colorful expletive I only bring out for special occasions such as this, and gunned it. Look out! There’s a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough with my name on it.

How was your commute today?

Posted by Kathy on September 17th, 2007

Let’s face it. "The road less traveled" doesn’t exist anymore. Unless you’re lucky enough to be retired, you have to get out on jammed roads during rush hour, compete for space, avoid the idiots and get to and from work without getting frazzled.

Here are ten ways to minimize the hassle, maximize your calm and have a safer commute. They may seem like no-brainers, but if more people would employ these techniques, driving might just be fun again. Or at least a little more tolerable.

  1. Leave earlier. This is a hard one for many of us. Getting out on the road just 10 minutes earlier than normal gives you time to pay more attention to the road and traffic patterns. One day last week I left 10 minutes later than normal and it took me 10 minutes longer to get to work.
  2. When merging onto a highway, try to get directly behind a big truck. Based purely on observational evidence, I find that most drivers will move to the passing lane if they see a large truck trying to merge. They’re less inclined to do so for a mere car. Use this to your advantage and get right behind the biggest one you can find and follow it as you both merge smoothly. You can always pass it later.
  3. Try to get ahead of SUVs and trucks to maximize your field of vision. I drive a small car and find it impossible to see ahead of and around bigger vehicles. Do what you can to safely position yourself behind cars the same size as yours. Then you’ll be ready to react if you see trouble up ahead.
  4. Let tailgaters pass you. The only solution to tailgating drivers is to get out of their way as quickly and safely as possible. Let them pass you so you can maintain your calm.
  5. Look both ways before pulling out when the light turns green. This takes just a second and can save your life. We’ve all seen other drivers running red lights. Wait a moment to allow for that possibility. I’ve twice avoided an accident by waiting a beat before advancing through the green.
  6. Turn your headlights on in any kind of weather. Many of today’s cars automatically turn on your lights when you start your car. If yours doesn’t, consider turning them on manually, even in fair weather. This isn’t so much for you to see better; it’s so that other drivers can see you, particularly if you drive a dark-colored vehicle.
  7. Signal early and make your turn only when you can. Let other drivers know when you’re about to turn. If you’re ahead of a tailgater, don’t try to make your turn. Skip it and wait until you can turn with at least three car lengths of open space behind you. I once damaged a tire because I tried to make my turn with a tailgater just feet behind me. I tried to get as close to the curb as possible to allow him to get around me, and in the process, scraped it hard enough to ruin a perfectly good tire.
  8. Practice safe cell-phoning. Simply put, drivers cannot possibly concentrate on the road if they’re talking on the phone. If you must make a call, pull over at a safe spot, make the call and then resume driving. It takes just a few minutes out of your drive, but will minimize the chances you’ll cause an accident due to driver inattention.
  9. Wear a seat belt. If you don’t care about your personal safety, that’s one thing. But at least think of your family. You are your family’s most important asset. Protect it for their sake.
  10. Say a little prayer for road ragers. Pray for them? Are you nuts? Well, sort of. But I’m also a big believer in karma. If you send a little kindness out into the world, it might come back to you when you least expect it. Besides, people so angry behind the wheel clearly need some help and it makes me feel better when I react positively to a stressful situation. And it’s all about feeling better on the road!

If you had a bad commute today, here’s wishing you a better one tomorrow!

The Trinity Root

Posted by Kathy on August 15th, 2007

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I remembered a picture I took of a beautiful sculpture by artist Steve Tobin on a trip to NYC last year. The plaque nearby reads:

This sculpture is cast from the roots of the sycamore tree that was stricken by flying debris on September 11, 2001 in the churchyard behind St. Paul’s Chapel at Broadway and Fulton Street. Tobin created the bronze sculpture from 300 individual castings of the tree’s roots to commemorate the events of September 11. The sculpture was dedicated here on this site on September 11, 2005. The original sycamore roots, painstakingly preserved by Tobin with the help of tree experts, now rest permanently in the St. Paul’s Chapel churchyard.


Watch and listen as Steve Tobin tells why he took on the project. (Requires Windows Media Player)

Interesting bio factoid: Steve lives in our own backyard. He’s from Coopersburg!

Do you eat it with the head still on?

Posted by Kathy on August 12th, 2007

My brother-in-law is currently on a decidedly un-fun business trip in China. Between the inadequate rest, long flights, long waits in airports and interesting food choices when he dines with his hosts (pigeon, anyone?), he’s ready to come home. The emails he’s been sending to my sister tell tales of travel hell, which reminded me of one of my favorite trip movies, Trains, Planes and Automobiles. Here’s a memorable scene from that great Steve Martin and John Candy flick.

Dying to get back to Paris

Posted by Kathy on July 29th, 2007

My husband Dave and I traveled to Paris in the summer of 2004, after I won a raffle of all things. People actually enter and win those things, I can now attest. We keep saying we’ll get back soon — when we lose all the weight we gained since then! That’s important, because we walked nearly everywhere. You really have to be in good physical shape for a trip like that.

Until we get back, we always have our pictures.