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My aunt, the Meandering Matriarch, has been doing major home improvement projects around her place off and on for the last several years. Her projects have included remodeling the kitchen, painting inside and out, and redecorating various rooms. She’s very ambitious. Very.

Just recently, she wrote a hilarious post about her latest project that I encourage you to read…especially if you’ve ever had your driveway full of worker-guy pickup trucks day after day for weeks, found yourself inhaling dry wall dust like air freshener, saved yourself from tripping over a pile of drop cloths only to tumble into stacks of wood and tools, endured paint and varnish fumes that are clearly eating holes in your lungs, and/or spent the better half of a day on the phone trying to track down a contractor.

If any of that sounds familiar, you’ll appreciate the Meandering Matriarch’s situation. Moreover, you’ll get a real kick out of the YouTube video she shares (especially if you are charmed by cockney accents). If you don’t have time to read her post, at least go watch the video. Or watch it here. It perfectly illustrates the reason I’m so hesitant to begin on the long list of remodeling projects Tom and I have been discussing.

Heaven forbid someone might accuse us of being “too ‘asty”!

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After 15 days and 4, 072.7 miles, the Tedster and I finally pulled into our driveway last night, spent but happy for our efforts. We were ready to be home even if home was covered in snow and the car thermometer barely topped 20 degrees F. Tom made sure the cold crap-ola outside was negated by the warmth inside. He had a pot of potato soup steaming on the stove, flowers on the island in the kitchen, the house cleaned, and was standing in the doorway smiling when the garage door went up. Damn, it’s good to be home. Teddy doesn’t even seem to mind the snow covering the grass.

That’s the great thing about Teddy. He never complains about anything…except being left alone (see my post about Midland, TX). No matter where we went or what we did, he was a perfect gentleman, accepting love and attention from everyone we encountered. He never got cranky because a meal wasn’t offered at the normal time, never fussed about being in the car for long stretches of time, never complained about the hotel we stayed in (I repeat, avoid the Guesthouse Suites in El Paso at all cost), never whined because the only place to have a wee was a windswept muddy patch of ground with RVs pulling in and out, never bristled at the comments about his bum leg.

And here I must pause for an aside. Since I’ve never had a handicap (at least a visible handicap–bumfuzzlement is a handicap, isn’t it?), I’ve never fully understood why people with handicaps complain that others see only their wheelchairs, their braces, or their white canes. I mean, I understand the lament on an intellectual level, but haven’t on an emotional one. After traveling with Teddy, I think I now have a little better understanding of how they feel. I was blown away by how many people we encountered who first commented on Teddy’s bum wheel. Forget that he’s as well-behaved as any dog on the planet, that he has an adorable wrinkly face, that he’s wearing a jaunty red neckerchief that makes him look quite dapper, or that he spins his tail in a complete circle when he meets someone new. People first noticed and asked about his leg. I did my best to patiently explain his condition, and Teddy eagerly exchanged howdy-dos with anyone who stopped to chat, but after a while I wanted to scream, “He’s a great little dog! Forget about his leg! HE HAS!” Please understand. I’m talking into the mirror here. This rant is all about me. I’m just letting you know I will be making a concerted effort in the future to look beyond visible handicaps to see people. Thanks to the Ted-meister.

That’s not all I learned on our trip. I learned that Teddy likes Elton John…a lot. He also likes Kenny Chesney and the Eagles, but Elton’s the man. I learned he hates rumble strips and slowing down for the tollbooths on the Austin turnpike…totally unnecessary interruptions to a good nap. I also learned that he’s willing to sit in the car and wait for me to have my own potty stop as long as I park the car where he can watch me go into the building and come back out again. If I want to leave him a Beggin’ Strip to nibble on during my absence, well, that’s just fine, too.

Hey, where'd you go?

He learned a few things about me in the process, as well. For example, he now knows that I have little tolerance (and more than a few bad words) for idiots…um hum, excuse me, drivers…who drive down the left lane of the interstate for miles and miles without passing anyone…often without even GOING THE SPEED LIMIT. Deep breath.

He also now knows that if he uses just the right tone of voice I will get out of my hotel bed at four in the morning to take him outside for a wee even when the spot for weeing is surrounded by idling 18-wheelers and that, if he waits me out, I will resort to hand-feeding him to ensure that we don’t get on the road in the morning with an empty stomach. Little shit.

Together, we discovered that the stretch of Interstate 10 between about 60 miles east of El Paso and about 60 miles west of San Antonio runs through some of the prettiest scenery you’ll see anywhere. Albeit, as desolate as you’ll see anywhere, but gorgeous nonetheless. It’s also a great stretch of wide open road for…well, if you must know…for driving fast. My dad, who worries about me a lot, reads my blog, so I can’t tell you exactly how fast Teddy and I were going, but let’s just say that my little six-speed G35 with just over 300 horsepower was very happy. Very, very happy. ‘Nuf said.

Because I have no idea what this little peak is called--and because I can be very juvenile on occasion--I've dubbed this little outcropping "The Texas Titty." See the wide-open highway? It was like this most of the way.

Mostly, we loved our trip because we got to see (or in Teddy’s case, meet) a bunch of people we know and love in Arizona and Texas. I want to thank them all for adjusting their schedules to accommodate our visit. Spending time with them went a long way toward adjusting my pissy attitude. It certainly didn’t hurt that they fixed us great meals, regaled us with hilarious stories, and–in a couple of instances–put us up for several nights. We had a blast with each and every one of them and miss them all like crazy already. Just know, if I ever get to be Queen of the World, I’m going to make it illegal for family members to live more than 100 miles apart from one another.

Is it just me, or does Dad look rather pleased about our departure?

My only regret is that our fifteen-day-long jaunt was an interstate trip–a trip more about the destination than the journey–and not a two-lane county-road-type trip that encouraged lots of stops and dilly-dallying along the way. If we’d stopped at every interesting little town, scenic overlook, and point-of-interest, we’d still be on our way to Arizona. So much to see. So little time. I’m guessing the road will beckon again soon. Teddy and I will be ready.

…literally. Teddy tooted all the way across New Mexico and half of Texas, which not only made for a rather unpleasant journey, but also a lot of–as it turns out–unnecessary stops at rest areas and truck plazas where we’d pile out of the car and I’d lead him around pleading, “Go potty, Teddy!” in as sweet a voice as I could muster. All to no avail. The goofy dog didn’t do anything until we got checked into the hotel…except fart. If he toots in his sleep tonight, he’s sleeping in the car!

Oh, and if anyone ever asks if you want to go to El Paso, Texas, run the other way as fast as you possibly can. That’s all I’m saying.

I’ve sat down to blog several times since confessing my little episode on the treadmill last week, but I couldn’t think of anything to write about that didn’t sound like whining. For crying out loud, I’d already come clean about nearly sanding the bottoms of my feet off after walking barefoot on the treadmill for an hour. Surely I could come up with something to share with you to prove I have at least half a brain in my head. But no, it wasn’t that kind of week, so here goes…

With more than a foot of snow still on the ground, we got hit with another snowstorm on Wednesday. Accounts differ on the amount because the wind was blowing so dang hard the snow never really piled up in a fashion suitable for getting a fixed measurement. In one spot, you might find only a few inches whereas three feet to the left you could easily find…well, three feet. Thursday morning, Tom woke up to find a huge drift blocking all three garage doors, so, for what seems like the hundredth time this winter, out came the snow blower. After clearing the driveway all the way out to the street, Tom took off for work in the truck, preferring its higher clearance and weight (700 lbs of sand in the bed) to his car. Brian got up an hour later and, without incident, backed out of the driveway and headed to work in his four-wheel drive Subaru, both exacting a promise from me that I was canceling my appointments for the day and wasn’t going to need either vehicle.

Here I should probably explain that I drive a car that has to be parked when it rains. It’s a fabulous little car–I love, love, love my little car–but the low-profile performance tires that make it so much fun to drive on a sunny, warm spring afternoon are completely useless when the pavement is even thinking about getting wet. Forget ice and snow. So when the weather gets crappy, I typically drive the truck. As I’ve said, since I insisted I wasn’t going anywhere, Tom took the truck, leaving me the option of driving his car if I changed my mind. At 7 a.m. I had no intention of changing my mind. By 11 a.m, I wasn’t so sure.

You see, Thursday I was scheduled to get my braces. Not that I was excited about getting my braces, mind you. At one point, I’d actually told my dentist, who also happens to be my brother-in-law (thank god), that I was as excited about getting my braces as I was about getting my colonoscopy last summer. In my defense, it was his fault for asking, but, needless to say, I hurt his feelings. Truth be told, I’ve been balking at getting braces and being a real pain in the butt about the whole thing for more than 10 years already, so I hated to make another stink by asking his nurse to reschedule me and prolong the whole ordeal for us all, especially when other people were out braving the elements. First mistake.

Second mistake: I opened the garage door behind Tom’s car and checked to be sure the wind hadn’t created another drift in front of the door since he had cleared the one earlier that morning. Nope. No drift. I got in the car and backed out…right into a big-ass drift at the end of the driveway. Buried the car up to the axle. Stuck halfway out into the street. Hell’s bells.

So, with no one else in sight to push or offer any other advise, I began rocking the car back and forth with the transmission. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Shit. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Crap. Drive…vroooom…spin. Reverse…vroom…spin. Sigh. Not an inch. Periodically, I’d glance up and down the street to be sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone else who’d been dumb enough to get out and drive around in the mess. Fortunately–or maybe unfortunately in this situation–our street is really quiet, so it was a pretty safe bet that no one had been up or down the street in some time. For sure, the snowplow hadn’t been. Imagine my shock when–after just having thrown the car in reverse and gunning it–I looked up to see the neighbor kid behind the car pushing with all his might. I never saw him until it could have been too late. I nearly threw up. I think he felt much the same when he realized those were my backup lights shining, not my brake lights. Poor kid. Covered with the snow thrown from my frantically spinning tires and with the wind chill well below zero, he was shaking for more than one reason.

I implored him to save himself (he’s a nice kid–and was very kind to offer his help–but he’s not big enough, even on his best day, to push a fully loaded grocery cart much less my car) and went back to rocking the car while he stood shaking behind the mailbox in bemused silence, watching my efforts. I’m pretty sure he was rolling his eyes, but I tried not to think about that.

Finally, after much rocking (the car), cursing (me), and eye-rolling (the neighbor kid), the car was free and sitting in the middle of the street with me aboard, contemplating my next move. Third mistake. Euphoric from conquering the snow drift, I decided to go ahead and go to the dentist.

Getting braces sucks. I have a new-found respect for those–including my own two kids–who wear or have worn braces, especially the kind with brackets and wires. I’m wearing Invisalign braces that are, for all practical purposes, invisible and that require little more than some tooth-colored wart-like attachments to a few teeth, so I shouldn’t complain. Still, it sucks. I have jaw issues, so holding my mouth wide open for long periods of time is really uncomfortable. Plus, according to my brother-in-law, my mouth is really small. I have trouble believing that–as will those of you who know me–but I can confirm that every instrument they pull out to use on me comes out of a package labeled SMALL. I know. I know. The irony is almost too much to bare. Anyway, the process of putting the little wart-like attachments on my teeth required that the teeth stay really dry, so the hygienist had this contraption they were going to put in my mouth to hold my lips back. It looked like a diaphram with the back punched out. You’ve seem a big-mouth bass, haven’t you? That’s what I would have looked like if they’d ever managed to get it in. My poor brother-in-law fumbled around with the goofy gizmo for several minutes, trying desperately to get it squeezed small enough to put in my mouth. To my tremendous relief and the hygienist horror, the thing snapped. While she ran off in a dither to find another, my brother-in-law chuckled, crammed my mouth full of cotton, and got on with things.

A little more than an hour later, I was back in my car, braces in place, drooling out of the corners of my mouth, on my way home. Now, considering what I went through getting out of my driveway, it’s reasonable to assume that I would take a different tack getting back in. Nope. I wish. But nope. As I neared the house, I noted that the drift across the driveway was much deeper on one side than the other, so I aimed for the other and gunned it. Made it halfway in.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say freeing the car the second time around was a bit more involved. I finally freed it on my own–with the help of a shovel, lots of snow-melt pellets, and a sailor’s dose of blue language–but not before making a desperate call to Tom and lisping and slobbering into the phone, “Pwease, come home and hewp me!”

The following day, Tom, Brian, and I repeated the whole what-car-will-you-need-today conversation. After assuring both of them repeatedly that I intended to cancel my piano lesson and stay home–and confident I wasn’t stupid enough to repeat the previous day’s antics–they left in the truck and Subaru respectively.

They don’t know me very well, do they?

Later that morning when I called my new piano teacher, whom I’m never met face-to-face, and told her I thought I’d better cancel my lesson because of road conditions, she offered me an alternate time for a lesson early this week. Before hanging up, however, she informed me that her other students were making it to her house and into her driveway without problems and encouraged me to give it a try. Not wanting to look like a total wimp, I got in the car and drove over there.

I’m happy to report, I got out of my driveway and into hers without incident. It was the lesson that posed the challenge. Not playing the pieces I’d prepared so much as playing them without drooling on myself or all over the poor woman’s piano. A few bars into the first piece, I realized that it was going to be nearly impossible to think about what I was doing while at the same time concentrating on sucking in the spit that threatened to roll down my chin. At the end of the first piece, I turned toward her, head lowered, and mumbled, “Sowwy,” as I wiped the corners of my mouth and tried not to spit on her. She was very kind and…to my total amazement…smiling. Since most of her students are kids, I’m guessing she’s seen it all before.

It’s nearly a week later, and I’m still slobbering and lisping. Worse, my teeth are loose, so eating has become more of a chore than a pleasure. The one upside is I’m having one hell of a good time playing the piano. You’ll just have to ignore the dish towel I have tied around my neck. Oh, and the spit. I apologize up front for the spit.

I’ll admit that I’m quick to point out the missteps of others, including those of family and friends, so in the interest of fairness, I must reveal I’ve recently been victimized by my own lack of judgment. More specifically, the soles of my feet have been victimized…or brutalized. I share this with you as a warning.

Sunday’s paper contained an article about the growing number of runners who have discovered the joys–and benefits–of running barefoot. Although I typically don’t take the time to read articles about any form of strenuous exercise in which I have no intention of ever participating, I read this one just to satisfy myself that the folks involved were, in fact, the nut jobs I imagined them to be. To my shock, they weren’t. They were runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels–not just 83-year-old ultra-marathoners who ingest nothing but vegetable smoothies and vitamins every day–so I pointed the article out to Tom, a runner, and asked what he thought. He didn’t have much to say, but instead tossed his January issue of Runner’s World my direction with the comment that it also had an article about running barefoot. I didn’t read the Runner’s World article because…well, because I was already way over my quota of exercise articles for the month. Instead, I made the assumption that RW was also promoting barefoot running and went on reading the rest of the Sunday paper.

Which brings me to yesterday. I’ve been wearing the same ol’ pair of nappy walking shoes for my daily walks on the treadmill now for more than two years. Weeeell, truthfully, I suppose it’s a bald-faced lie to call them “daily” walks, but still I have been walking on a fairly regular basis for about an hour most days of the week. If I’m lucky, I get on the treadmill when the Barefoot Contessa’s show starts at 4 p.m. on the Food Network and walk right through Jeopardy at 4:30. I’m so absorbed in what I’m watching, I’m done before I know it. Encumbered with insipid facts, inspired to cook something yummy for dinner, and feeling pretty cocky for having exercised at all.

Right after Christmas, Tom and I went shopping to find replacements for my beat-up old walking shoes. I couldn’t find any I liked, so yesterday as I got ready to walk…you see where this is going, don’t you…I decided to do my walk barefoot, figuring walking barefoot couldn’t be any worse that walking in those broken-down shoes. Besides, I figured if “research” has shown running barefoot is “safe,” barefoot walking should be too, especially indoors where there aren’t any rocks, glass, or well-hidden tree roots. (Gives you butt squench just to think about it, doesn’t it?) Anyway, I figured wrong. It probably didn’t help that I managed to get on the treadmill in time to catch the Contessa’s opening spiel and walked right through final Jeopardy. By the way, how could anyone not know F.Scott Fitzgerald had flappers in his novels? But I digress.

Just to clarify, my knees, ankles, legs, and hips all felt fine after my hour-long barefoot walk. They still feel fine today. The parts of my body screaming in agony are the soles of my feet. I might as well have walked on a belt sander for an hour. What a dumbass. Seriously. Consider yourself warned.

We don’t get big snows that often around here, but this snowstorm is one I’m sure most of us will remember for a long time. For those whose Christmas plans and /or travels were grievously disrupted by the weather, the memories probably aren’t going to be all that pleasant, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to stay tucked inside, it’s been quite a show. Tom and I–who fall into the latter category–haven’t had to get out into the cold and onto the snow-packed streets unless we really wanted to, so we’ve enjoyed nearly every frosty, wind-blown moment of it. Tom’s even gotten to use his snow blower, and  I just can’t seem to stop taking pictures. Here are just a few of my pictures:

Christmas snow aftermath

Christmas Snow 2009

All the white has provided quite a backdrop for the “wildlife” around here. For instance, as I was working in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, I looked out and saw what I thought was a coyote chasing a rabbit through the snow in our neighbors backyard. I ran for my camera and shot a dozen or so pictures of him frolicking in the snow. We watched him for nearly 10 minutes and then were sorely disappointed when the neighbors let him into their garage. Either they’re bigger nature lovers than they’ve let on, or they’ve gotten a new dog. Check the animal out in the picture below. Help me out, here. That looks like a coyote, doesn’t it? If you think so, tell Tom. He’s still laughing at me.

Wile E. Coyote, a.k.a. Damn Dog

A closer view for your consideration

It's going to be a long time before we can go out our back door again

Yes, it's as cold as it looks, but at least the wind stopped blowing for a while

Any one want to hazard a guess as to how long it's going to take for these busters to melt?

I suspect that, like me, most moms spend half their time worrying that their children will never grow up and the other half wringing their hands that their babies are, in fact, doing just that. Well, at this point in life, I find myself with two grown-up, responsible adult children along with an equally grown-up, responsible son-in-law. Happily, I can also report that even though they’re perfectly able to take care of themselves, they haven’t grown up…completely. Amazing how many different ways you can use a napkin ring.

At the risk of being pelted by a barrage of “ah, moms,” I’m providing the proof right here. As I told you in my About Me page, they’re pips!

My gorgeous daughter, Carey

My adorable son-in-law, Austin

The one and only...my son, Brian

As for Teddy, he was just hovering nearby in case a piece of steak happened to hit the floor.

Teddy waiting patiently for his serving of steak

In the most recent post on her website, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the current Poet Laureate of Kansas, writes:

In Kansas where I live, particularly in the western part of the state, the land is curved and lined with beautiful stone fence posts, each one holding the wire fencing from one place to another. We have such fence posts in our lives too: moments, events, occasions that stand as strong posts leading our lives along the same route or turning us new directions…Fence post moments are the times we want to remember because they changed or reinforced something vital about who we are, how we live, why we’re alive.

What an incredibly vivid analogy and beautifully worded thought. (Thanks, Jordana, for introducing me to Caryn’s website!)

In the same post, Mirriam-Goldberg challenges her readers to make a list of their own fence posts moments and to write about them. So, always up for a challenge, I sat down at my computer this morning and began contemplating my own fence post moments, unsure where to start.

About that time, Teddy, who was–and still is–snoozing away loudly under my desk, popped the cheese. Stiiiiinky cheese. As I wrinkled up my nose and began looking for something to fan away the blue cloud, I inwardly grinned when I realized that Teddy is as good a fence post moment to write about as any. A fence post I never saw coming.

Snoozing--among other things--under my desk

I won’t bore you with the re-telling of how Teddy came into our lives. You can read all about that in a previous post titled “Meet Teddy.” But I will tell you this: our decision to adopt Teddy was totally an instinctual response to the moment. All heart, no head. I couldn’t then–and still can’t today–offer up any plausible rationale for why we brought that wrinkly faced, squared-butted little mutt home. Instead, I can give you numerous reasons why we never should have, including–but not limited to–the extremely expensive fence we’ve had to put up; the vet bills for ear infections, skin rashes, teeth cleaning, grooming, et al; the loss of freedom to come and go without worrying about an animal; the interrupted sleep when someone–who shall remain nameless–whines while chasing bunnies in his sleep; and the definite deterioration of the air quality in my office on a darn-near daily basis.

Still, I’d fight you to the death if you tried to take him away from me. To the death.

Teddy reminds me–and everyone else around here–every single day what’s really important.

Had a bad day? The boss making you crazy? You say he’s making you work this weekend? You have to travel to meet clients where? For how long? The doctor made you wait for more than an hour before seeing you? You have to have your blood drawn again, a mammogram, a colonoscopy, and you have to wear braces? Damn. Well, just lie down here on the floor. I’ll curl up next to you and make sure you understand that nothing is more important–nothing–than a good snuggle and a belly rub.

You want me to come inside so you can go run errands? Have you been outside today? Have you felt how warm the sun is and seen how green the grass is even though it’s already December? Have you ever just parked yourself here in the liriope belly up and watched the clouds? No? Well maybe you should consider it. Trust me. The errands can wait.

Still haven’t fixed the splotchy paint in the living room and kitchen? Floors need to be scrubbed? Yeah, those windows are pretty dirty, but how about if we go for a ride in the truck instead? You drive, and I’ll perch myself on the console and nuzzle your arm as we go. I’d be extra happy if you’d turn on the vent so my ears get blown around a little bit. See, isn’t this much better than housework?

Every time Teddy sits up on his square butt in anticipation of a Beggin’ Strip, I’m so pleased I followed my gut instincts and brought him home. Every day, when Teddy is following me around like a shadow, intent on keeping me company, I’m grateful Tom honored my “knowing” and didn’t argue with me about adopting him. Every evening, when Tom and Brian are trying to teach Teddy how to play Gotcha (the poor little guy still doesn’t get it, but he’s trying), I’m giddy that I ignored the perfectly practical reasons we didn’t need a dog. And every time Teddy positions himself between me and a contractor, the mailman, or a delivery person and woofs, I’m thankful to be so well loved.

Teddy is a very special fence post for me, one–no doubt–that will lead to many more.

Riding in Dad's car isn't nearly as fun as the truck

My mother-in-law, Ruth, sisters-in-law, Janie and Carole, my daughter, Carey, and I departed for Hawaii from Kansas City on time Thursday morning with minimal flap. Oh, there was the requisite jostling of crap in and out of tote bags, digging in purses for IDs, and fumbling for Ziploc bags full of toiletries, but for this group of travelers, that can safely be called minimal flap. The flight itself was smooth and uneventful—that is, if you don’t count the coffee Ruth spilled on Janie—and we were even treated to a view of the Grand Canyon at no extra charge. Janie, Ruth, and Carole had a good view of the canyon from their side of the plane. Carey and I crossed the aisle for a peek. We touched down in LA 15 or 20 minutes early.

Thankfully, our layover in LA went very smoothly. I’ll admit, I jumped the gun on the airport shuttle, taking the shuttle that was headed to the parking lots instead of to the departure gates—Hey! the driver lied and told me he’d take us there—but we got where we needed to go with only minimal fuss, so no foul.

Once our checked luggage was safely on its way to whatever vortex checked luggage disappears into, we found a spot to sit and relax while we waited for Encounter, the restaurant atop the funky spaceship-looking building in the center of the airport complex, to open at 11 a.m. We had plenty to occupy us as we waited. LA is a fun place to people watch. I’m fairly the certain the per capita number of folks in sunglasses is at its highest in LA. Plus, Carey thinks she saw the guy who wrote and starred in Super Size Me, but we couldn’t be certain. I’m sorry to say, no other celebrity sightings occurred.

The spaceship building at LAX is under renovation, so we had to skirt scaffolding and union protesters as we walked around the perimeter hunting for the entrance to Encounter. The scaffolding was up when I went through LA in March, and it doesn’t look like they’ve made any progress to speak of since. Anyway, after much marching about and asking for directions from kind (and bemused) strangers, our little parade of five, toting sundry Hawaiian rolling bags, backpacks, and purses, finally found the entrance and made our way to the elevators.

The Entourage

The Entourage

An Elevator Encounter

An elevator Encounter

The elevators going up to Encounter are an experience all on their own. The small, capsule-like enclosures with wild-colored amoeba shapes climbing up the walls have psychedelic piped-in music that starts as soon as the doors close and that stops as soon as the doors open. Groovy, man. The doors open onto a bar area and a mostly unobstructed 360° view of LAX…and the LA smog. Cough. Cough.

The manager of the restaurant greeted us like we were long-lost relatives and, with a grand flourish, showed us to a great table with a view, indicating a spot along a nearby wall where we could deposit our plunder. We had a lot of time to kill before our flight to Honolulu, so the meal was a leisurely affair. We took the edge off our hunger with a plate of edemame before enjoying our salads and sandwiches. And, of course, we took pictures. Pictures of the food, pictures of the view, pictures of us, pictures of us with Duane (our waiter), pictures of the funky bathroom, and pictures of the elevator. Our time at Encounter was well documented.

Janie, Ruth, Carole, Mary, Carey, and Duane at Encounter

Janie, Ruth, Carole, Mary, Carey, and Duane at Encounter

Then it was back to the terminal and through security. More fumbling.

Our flight to Honolulu was delayed while mechanics worked to replace the pilot’s oxygen canister. Apparently, testing showed it was threatening to malfunction. I suppose if anyone on the plane needs an oxygen mask in an emergency, it would be the pilot, so we waited…and waited…and waited. Just over an hour after our scheduled departure time, we pushed back from the gate and were on our way.

We were on a 767, a plane with two seats on the outside of the aisles and three seats between them. When I booked the flight, I struggled with our seat selection because I knew that Janie, Carole, and Carey would enjoy having a window seat and that Ruth would want a seat where she COULDN’T see the water. I settled on the outside aisle seats in three consecutive rows, seated two, two, and one. On that flight, I was the one. My seatmate, Mike, was a very nice man whom I would guess to be in his mid- to late-50s, a nice man who was easily 6’5” and close to 300 pounds. He sat in the aisle seat and, after lifting the armrest, part of mine. I’m not complaining, really. Mike was as pleasant and as considerate as he could have possibly been under the circumstances, but I was still smashed against the window. And then, as is so often the case when I find myself of long distance flights, I was sitting behind a total tool who threw his seat back into my lap. Whop!

The tool was the same numb nuts who got on the plane with a “carry-on” that was just barely smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle and who spent more than 20 minutes trying to cram the aforementioned monstrosity into an overhead bin where it clearly was NEVER going to fit. Finally, in frustration, he began asking other passengers if he could move their bags to bins further back in the plane so he could get his stowed. He then had the gall to act indignant when they told him, “No!” I repeat. He was a numb nuts, a total jerk who sat down RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! Within 20 minutes his Mohawk—yes, he had a Mohawk, not a faux-hawk, but a Mohawk and he was easily my age—was lying in my lap sound asleep.

Meanwhile, a few rows back, Janie and Carole were having their own adventures. Early in the flight, Carole tried to get her headphones plugged in. As she fumbled around trying to insert the plug into any hole she could find within arm’s reach, she unknowingly pushed the call button. Both she and Janie were surprised when a cheerful flight attendant appeared asking what they needed. After assessing the situation and their blank faces, he smiled knowingly, gallantly plugged in Carole’s headset, and headed off to assist other hapless passengers. Sometime later, he re-appeared—this time, not so cheerily—and reached over their heads to turn off the call light that once again had mysteriously come on. Then, without saying a word, he reached over Janie and punched Carole’s call button (probably to disable it) and left. Carole was mortified, Janie was amused, and the flight attendant was…well, I’m guessing he’s seen it all before.

Thanks to Janie’s forethought and Darrell and Janie’s generosity, we were greeted at Honolulu International Airport with orchid leis. Much picture taking ensued. Daisy, the lei lady—I kid you not, her name was really Daisy; how’s that for irony—was absolutely wonderful. Thanks to her kind and patient guidance, our plane change in Honolulu went off without a hitch. As an added bonus, the intoxicating smell of the leis totally masked the full day of travel stink we’d accumulated since our departure from Kansas City nearly 21 hours earlier.

aDaisy Greets Ruth at the Airport
Daisy greets Ruth at the airport
Of course we're smiling. We just got lei'd!

Aloha! Hawaii

After a pleasant and very short flight, we were at the car rental place in Kona by 9:00 p.m. While Ruth guarded the luggage and Carole squirreled around with the GPS that her husband, Paul, had so thoughtfully pre-programmed with many of our destinations, the rest of us stood in line to get our car. Well, actually, it’s a minivan, but let’s not split hairs.

After loading the minivan with our luggage, we took off for a Safeway to get a few breakfast supplies before heading to the condo. We wanted to be sure that we wouldn’t have to get out this morning if we didn’t want to. We didn’t want to. It was pitch dark when we got here last night, so we couldn’t see the view off our lanai, but we could hear it. This morning, the view took our breath away. We’ve been sitting out here pretty much non-stop ever since. As Carey so insightfully and eloquently pointed out at one point during our reverie, “This does not suck.”

I’ll post a running narrative of our Hawaiian adventures here on this blog (including more details about the condo), and I’ll post information about specific places we visit on P.S. Wish You Were Here. We hope you’ll tag along!

Aloha!

The view off our lanai looking north

The view off our lanai looking north

The view looking north

The view looking south

The shore 25 feet off our lanai

The shore 25 feet off our lanai

I almost feel bad writing about meeting A.J. Jacobs last night, since those of you in Kansas City won’t have the opportunity to meet him until he comes through town on his next book tour, but you can read his books. Let me rephrase that, you must read his books. And if you don’t live in Kansas City, check out his website to see when he’ll be in your area.

A.J. Jacobs writes laugh-out-loud, insightful stories about all facets of Everyman from his (A.J.’s) unique perspective and without fear of skewering the sacred cows in his path. He doesn’t even spare himself (particularly doesn’t spare himself) in his quest to learn something new or expose the foibles in our collective thinking. He’s one of my favorite writers, and now he is one of my favorite writers to hear in person.

His presentation last night at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library was as funny and engaging as his writing; and his demeanor, during the book signing afterwards, was far more gracious that one would ever expect from a man who was in Denver the previous day and had to be in Washington D.C. the following day. If the rigors of a book tour are grueling, you’d never know it from talking to A.J. He seemed genuinely glad to be in Kansas City and to meet and spend time visiting with his fans.

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment

On this particular tour, A.J. is promoting his newest book The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment in which he subjects himself to and then writes about nine different social experiments that force him to step outside–sometimes waaay outside–his (or most anyone else’s) comfort zone. For example, for one month, he vows to tell the truth. No white lies. No half truths. No sugar-coating. Yeah. It’s painful. And hilarious. He also poses nude for his art and spends a month doing everything his wife tells him to do…but that’s all you’re getting out me. READ the book!

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Be the Smartest Person in the World

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

The first book A.J. wrote was titled The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. For one year, he read–not skimmed, not merely looked at the pictures–but read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z, and then he wrote about the experience, including how he felt about his overwhelming (albeit self-imposed) task, what he learned from his reading, and how he applied–or attempted to apply–what he’d learned. It’s a hoot! Plus you get the added benefit of learning any number of sometimes helpful–often useless–factoids from the revered collection without having to lug one of the huge tomes around yourself.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

And finally, not content with being the smartest person in the world, A.J. then undertook the task of becoming as holy as humanly possible. The result, his second book: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Image walking the streets of Manhattan in a wool robe and sandals…with a full beard…carrying a staff. It gets worse. He also has to stone an adulterer.

READ the books!