Thursday, December 26, 2013

One breath. One song. Several pictures. One year.

Welcome to 2013: sometime in the middle of January, my car of 10 years dies. Time for a new(er) one. I guess it all has an age.

To sweeten the blow, my best girlfriends from out East come to spend almost a week of nefarious (hardly!) fun with me in Vegas! What a good start to a weird year!

First sign of spring: pipe bursts in the basement, when water thaws out from winter.

Sometime in there … Aa’s computer dies. Easter weekend – we buy a new one. It all comes with an age, yet again!

In April, we see Bon Jovi in concert in Salt Lake City. When you frown upon that, just think about where I originally come from. This is big deal, to me!

We find out that some of our friends from VA would like to come to UT for a week and sightsee. We are instantly hired as guides – one week in early June is booked! Hotels, rental car – the whole deal!

Sometimes in May – Aa. finds out he has to have massive oral surgery. But we put it off till end of June – the sightseeing trip, first, you see.

I find out that my favorite band (still together and still alive – Donna the Buffalo) is coming to Montana in late July. Eh, what’s Montana?! An itty bitty, 6 hour drive away. We’re booking it!

We’re adding to our yard’s landscape. Big time. And I am declaring the yard done! Of course, Aa. doesn’t believe me. But I want to be done, really. Planted some grass seed even, to see what the snow will magically do over the next winter. And next year, outside of my veggie garden, I am planting nada, people! Unless … something else dies. *sigh*

Trying to career switch in the middle of it all, too, just to keep it interesting. I get the new job in July. I get to start it in … middle of October. No stress at all, while in between “careers”. Not at all.

July is Steep Canyon Rangers with Steve Martin at Deer Valley for a night concert and stay.

August is Montana – deep, deep into its heart. Wind, dust and bluegrass music. Soaking in the pioneer and the settler history. Finally, a piece of my new history, revealed in sightseeing Helena, MT, visiting museums, the Capitol and buying some books.  

September is celebrating mom: 60 years of life. 40 years of marriage. And retired this year, too. We all meet, as a family, in Montreal. Best moment of the year, for me (outside of Aa. surviving the surgery and living to tell about it). My ever growing nephews move me to my core, for every second we spend together. Such a short and a full trip, I am grateful beyond belief!

October, two big milestones: I am finally free from the NC house! Three and a half years on the market and in no-man’s-land kind of situation, it sells! I am still in shock! I am still waking up at night in cold sweats, worrying that it’s in flames and I can’t be there to explain what happened.
In the second part of the same month: mom visits the American West for the first time. We tour the area with her. During the government’s (and the national parks’) shutdown and all. Utah, Arizona, Nevada, my head is spinning …

November is, finally, after some years, Michigan family time with Aa’s folks. I finally get to meet branches of family and friends that I have not met before. Again: after three and some years – the circle is finally getting close to complete!

And in December … I have negative three thousand units of energy left. Older, fatter and very much changed (and tired), with less trips on our roaster than I would have liked (always wanting more), here we are, at the end of this one.

My mantra of seeing every year at least one place I have never seen before is still standing. I have seen several places never seen before: the Bluff, UT area, Hoover Dam, as well as Monument Valley, Flagstaff and Sedona, AZ.

I keep reminding myself that there are people being shot, innocently, across the world and across the street. Right now. There are people dying of starvation as I type. Babies. Animals being tortured. Innocent. Homeless families, making a fire in the desert or the wilderness of Seattle, with nothing but each other to keep warm. Young people and old fighting cancer, for no particular reason at all, because cancer never makes any sense!

Babies and mommies dying in childbirth – never to know each other. Loss of homes – everywhere. Some of my own family finding it hard to find something to put on the table for New Years. Some people forced out of their countries by war and persecution, with nothing but a tarp between themselves and the world.

I am blessed. We are fortunate. We are here, together, employed and free, and managed to send a gift, however small, to the ones we love. We can see, pour ourselves a drink, and open a door with our own two hands. Our fridge is full of Christmas leftovers. We are lucky beyond words! God is amazing!

Not sure if I should keep riding the roller coaster right into 2014, or get off a little and breathe. Not sure if I have a choice, really.

I am letting the pictures speak for what I cannot describe anymore – a full year, of beauty and of love.

Happy New Year, everyone! Make it better. Make it fuller. Or make it equally as certain, as the last one, if you can. Whatever you do – just enjoy the ride and I hope you all find at least one thing to make you wonder …  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Gift that Kept on Giving

It’s been a while since I have posted an airline blog. Remember, back in the day, I used to be really annoyed (and that is an understatement) by all the tribulations one had to encounter to survive a successful trip by a flying object in this world. And most times, flying is not so much a choice as it is a necessity for me.

But lately, I have grown kind of immune to all the “stuff” (for need to keep it a clean blog) one has to put up in the airline business. Oversold flights still boggle my mind. So does the fact that nowadays every airplane seems to make their own rules about what devices should be turned off and which should be off in a particular lag of any flight. So does the fact that on some planes coke is free, while on others it’s $5, when on others yet it’s non-existent. Not that I drink coke.

And I could go on forever.

But this blog is about my latest experience through the check-in (TSA) line. Lately, my husband and I try very hard to not check luggage at all, especially when we fly on weekend trips. $50 to check a suitcase (two ways) is insane. After $1000 or so for the tickets! So, during Thanksgiving, when we went back to Michigan, to visit his family, we took two carry-ons.  

His aunt gave us our Christmas present, all wrapped up prettily in a pink bag. So sweet! The directions were very strict though: we were not to open the gift, nor peek, till Christmas Day. We were to pack it in our carry-on, and put it under our tree when we get home, and wait to open it on Christmas.

You all know me well, and I do peek, however. Usually,  just on principle. But this time, I was afraid to go onboard a plane without knowing what’s in my bag. What if the TSA will have a quiz or something and I fail?! Jail versus upsetting the aunt, temporarily?! I love his sweet and well meaning aunt, but … I love my freedom more. Yeah, I sort of peeked.

I felt the package and I knew there was something like a set of mugs or a vase, with a plate inside the pink bag. I didn’t open it though – just felt the items inside the bag through the tissue papers.

So, we’re in the airport, in the TSA scanning line, and one of our bags gets called for thorough checking. I won’t go into the whole detail of how they picked my husband’s bag versus mine first, by mistake. The trouble was with mine! Mine had “the gift”. They finally picked the right one and they searched it item by item. Creeps me out, of course, but it’s the price you pay for your freedom, I guess.

Then, they find the pink bag. The little TSA man says nonchalantly: “Ma’am, I am looking for explosive powder. Or, maybe cocaine. That’s what the scanner picked up! ” Seriously! Smart scanner. NOT! – I think.

Explosives or cocaine?! Little ol’ me?! I am mum! He asks: “Ma’am, this is a gift, isn’t it?! Do you know what’s in it?” – now, WHAT do you think the right answer is here, when the man is trying to find bombs and drugs in your junk?! Anything you say can be and will be held against you – don’t you think?! So, I sort of said: “I think there are mugs maybe with something in them? But no, I didn’t open them”.

He is opening it right in front of me, and adds: “DO you want to know what’s in it?! Some people have no clue!” – well, if you’re gonna send me to jail, please do tell me what’s in it! Sure!

He finally found the compromising substance and it was … hot chocolate mix! The little sweet aunt has given us Christmas mugs with packs of hot chocolate mix in them. So much for no peeking!

He kept a straight face through the whole check, took every single item in my bag apart, and tested the powder (the actual powder, not just swipes from the bag!) for either explosive or cocaine, and of course … it came back with “hot chocolate” – no, I made that part up. It came back “legit”, whatever that means.

I was in luck because: 1.The man was nice and very patient. And  2.He was used to people traveling with unopened Christmas presents on them, carrying all sorts of illegal stuff, that they knew nothing about the insides of. He shared: “Some people try to board these planes with whole sets of steak knives. That’s fun – when I have to tell them: you check your bag, or the knives stay here!”

I tried to offer him to keep my hot chocolate, too, but alas … you can board a plane with that, so I got to still keep my carry-on and my “mystery powder”. I wonder what happens to hot chocolate mix when you mix it in with coke?! And I asked myself if he ever wondered about that?! Hmm …