Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Twas the Day after Christmas

and thankfully no misadventures. We awoke to find snow, not what I wished for driving, but by the time we left to return home the sun was shining. It did not last for the whole trip however. We saw a couple of serious accidents -- just the remains thankfully, and other cars in the ditches. However, all I had to deal with was washing the windshield about a 1000 times due to the wet, messy roads.

Elena was disappointed to get home and find she couldn't get into her house. We were both a bit puzzled about this. Never before had we encountered this problem. She went with me on a couple of errands and then we returned. The front door was open. We learned the house director had been outside in the back shoveling snow.

Christmas 2007 is now a memory. The special adventure was helping my great niece climb on a chair without hurting herself. Last year at this time she was being rushed to Cincinnatti Children's Medical Center, in need of a bone morrow transplant. Now she is walking everywhere, and can more than guard her special pink blanket from being snatched by her cousins.

And I have an adventure in gratitude. A Walmart gift card found its way to me. I do not care to shop at Walmart, but I'll go and try to find something special, for the person who gave this to me did so at a bit of sacrifice.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Twas the 2nd day before Christmas

and all through my life -- misadventures were showing. Yesterday we received some freezing rain and then a bit of snow. That, combined with a bit of weather with above freezing temperatures, turned the residential streets into an interesting driving surface. This morning when I went out to go to church, I found my car was frozen into the slush on the street. It took the old rocking back and forth strategy to get it free. Then I continued on my usual journey and found that half way up the nearby hill was as far as I was going to go. Even in the lowest gear the car refused to move on the slick. I had to back down the hill, avoiding all the cars parked along the side of the street. Mission accomplished. The ABS system on the brakes got a good work out as well during the rest of the drive.

Oh, why did I even try to go to church? Ah, I'm glad for there is a young friend back from his adventures in New York City. Nice to say hello and give him a few words of encouragement. Oh, books I had on order are finally here. Great, for one was to be a Christmas gift.

Back home thankfully, and determined not to go anywhere. My washer broke earlier this fall, and I've been making trips to the laundromat, but it was so cold and blustery that I didn't want to. I was certain the gods of the universe would let the washer work just one more time, but that didn't happen. Now how to get the water out of the washer -- I dipped and dipped with little containers trying to get around the agitator. Finally figured out the reason the water wouldn't dump out is that I hadn't turned the button totally on. No, the washer didn't work -- that is agitate, but at least the clothes got soaked clean -- we'll just assume.

Then I happened to look down in the basement and saw something run across the room. I was surprised because I thought the cat was upstairs. Well, she was. Upon further investigation, I found a squirrel looking up at me from the folder laundry. Now I've opened windows in the basement hoping the fool thing has the sense to find its way out. Open windows in the basement is just what one wants in a snowstorm! I surely don't know how the fool thing got in.

I've decided the squirrel came into my life to remind me about the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. This squirrel is an inconvenience. I remember earlier this fall hearing on the radio an Iraqi father expressing his despair at how he could prevent his children getting cholera. He can't afford medicine, he can't afford propane to boil water. Now that's a problem.

And I'm wondering why the cat isn't at least interested!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Misadventures at the Airport

Well, it's two weeks later and here's more about misadventures at the airport. Yesterday I took Dorota back to the airport to go home. At the United line she was directed into a line for quick service since she was going all the way to Warsaw. Good thing it was the quick line for it didn't move for at least 25 minutes. Meanwhile I was entertaining myself watching the TSA pull bags out of X-ray screening for inspection. What came out?

The first was a bag with a wrapped Christmas gift. How many times have we been told it is OK to pack wrapped gifts? Well, this turned out to simply be a wrapped coffee table type book. The next bag was way more interesting! It was a huge bag and when opened, I could see it was totally full of liquor!! Gift bottles of liquor -- quart and liter size bottles. The third bag that I watched get searched had a cheese gift pack inside. The bag was pulled and inspected apparently to look at the pancake syrup that was part of the gift. Dorota was very concerned that I was being inconvenienced. I told her it was actually great entertainment.

The line continued to move slow because people had to literally re-pack to avoid paying the over 50 pounds surcharge. All of this could be avoided if there was a place outside of the line to weigh suitcases. People could re-pack before ever getting into a check in line. Of course, that solution is probably simply too logical.

The first thing that Dorota heard was that yes she could go on the 11:40 AM flight, but it probably wasn't going to leave until 3 PM. She had a ticket for the 1:40 PM but was trying for the earlier flight into Chicago so she didn't miss her overseas connection.

I'm anxiously waiting to hear from her to learn what the going home trip was like. All day I've been sending good thoughts to Chicago just in case she had to sit there 24 hours waiting for today's flight to Warsaw.

And I'm so glad I decided to not fly through Chicago next summer. United and O'Hare are on meltdown. I've not seen anything functional there for nearly two years.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Adventures at the Airport -- and Premarital Counseling

Saturday a booming snow storm was tearing through the upper Midwest. I had been planning for weeks to pick up Dorota from Poland and get her to the hotel for the meeting of the Global Volunteers country managers. Getting out of Chicago for the last hour of the flight (a United conenction) from Warsaw is chancy on a good day; in the midst of wide spread snow storm, I didn't think I'd be acting pessimistic to think things would probably go wrong.

I could follow Dorota's flight from Warsaw on LOT and it touched down exactly on time. However, I could also see on United's web site that her connecting flight had already been cancelled. About one hour later she called to say she had in hand a boarding pass for the 8 PM flight. She called back another hour later to say the 8 PM flight had been bumped back to 9:00ish. I told her not to worry; I could follow what was being done about this flight on the Internet.

The time kept bumping back and back. When I saw departure at 10:51 I decided to start getting ready for the trip to the airport. Walked out the door to see a wonderful sight -- my snow service cleaning the driveway. By the time I waited a bit for the driveway shoveling and then drove carefully to the airport it was about 11:30. I walked around and around the baggage area and couldn't find a monitor that would tell me anything about United flights. Walked over to the United lost luggage service and got the news -- the flight was still on the ground in Chicago.

I finished off the last 100 pages of a book. Decided to carry that and the coffee mug back to the car so my hands would be more free to help whenever Dorota got there. After a stop at the car, for entertainment I took the tram to the Blue Terminal and then walked to the light rail station and walked all around the area of the light rail station for both entertainment and exercise.

By now it seemed like finding a restroom would be a good idea, but the trick turned out to be finding one that wasn't presently closed for cleaning. Sat down in front of a CNN monitor while I waited.

An African-born man came along pushing a cart piled with luggage. He sat down with a great sigh. I asked "Long day?" He turned to me and said, "Are you married?" In Minnesota that seems like a too direct question from a stranger. He goes on to tell me he was on his way to Ghana to be married. Within the past 24 hours he had called the woman in question at 2 AM her time in Ghana and a man answered the phone, and wouldn't explain who he was and why he was there. After several repeated phone calls, he finally speaks to the woman who tells him she "has a headache and can't talk." He wanted to know if was a good idea to get married when one can't trust the person before marriage. As I tell my students, one often gets into a counseling situation without ever seeing that the situation is coming!

I offered the opinion that lack of trust didn't seem like a good basis for a marriage. He wanted to know what to tell his brothers and sisters. I told him I didn't know enough about the Ghanian culture to have any answers for that. Being a good public health nurse I offered the opinion that in addition to the trust issues, there might be some health issues of concern in this situation, too, from "unfaithfulness," unfaithfulness being the man's word for what might be happening.

He started to talk about not making the trip. I asked him what would be the worst outcome of not traveling now -- having to pay some money to have the tickets changed? After a bit more talking he decided to go back and home and make the trip when he had "peace of mind."

Now where's the plane? By the this time the two people working in the United luggage office and I were friends. They wanted this plane to come as badly as I did because they couldn't go home until they had serviced this flight. Dorota now holds the record. I came home once on this 8 PM flight with a departure time of 12:11 AM. Dorota's new record is departure on a 8 PM flight at 12:45 AM! She arrived a bit before 2 AM, and thankfully we had a uneventful trip driving-wise to the hotel. I got home at 3:30. It's been a long time since I was out wandering around at 3:30 AM! If it had been summer, the sun would have been starting to come up! Feeling gratitude that while the airlines and the snow storm were a BIG inconvenience, everyone is where they belong safely.

And I'm betting some woman in Ghana just lost her meal-ticket to America!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bread Making Adventures

So I was reading the local MSP magazine and I found an article about a new book, Making Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. It took a couple book stores to find it. When I was checking out, the clerk said, "These are selling like hotcakes, or rather artisan bread" I reviewed the directions for several days thinking they couldn't possibly work. After a trip through the grocery store for yeast and unbleached flour, I gave it a try. Indeed it does work! And how nice it was to come home from work this evening, grab the container from the fridge and spend about 3 minutes getting the bread ready to go into the oven. I estimate I can do this at least two mores times before I have to start all over. And goodness, the bread is good!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Adventure in the 21st Century

My older daughter and I went to my younger daughter's home for a Thanksgiving dinner. She had invited a couple of friends as well. During part of the afternoon then we had people around the table born in 4 different countries -- my daughters born in Colombia, one friend born in Hong Kong, another friend born in Laos, and the rest of us born in the United States. Just your regular afternoon in 21st Century Minnesota.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Adventures in Doing the Definitely Wrong Thing

Yesterday was a big class day for me. It starts with about half of the students doing an oral report about their practicum activities. There was a definite lack of preparation of this class. Some students who were assigned to afternoon groups came in the morning. Very few of them were prepared, and over time I've learned that it takes much longer for unprepared students to do this oral presentation than for prepared students to do it. We were to end at 10:30 and it was 11:05 when we got done. Meanwhile in another area, another half of the students were setting up their poster displays. Thank heavens I had arranged for our wonderful office secretary to greet the students and make sure everything was OK.

Anyway at 11:05 I grabbed everything and ran to the poster display. I put a coffee cup upright in my purse. Well a couple of wild hours later I discovered the coffee cup was now sideways and that it had not been empty as I thought. I also discovered even though I had it covered, it could still leak. So I spent several minutes in the afternoon digging wet paper out of my purse -- wet paper such as my check book and calendar. Definitely an adventure in doing the WRONG thing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Adventures in Doing the Right Thing

Yesterday morning I was busy mixing up cookie dough to make treats for the Friday Mano a Mano event. How fortunate to be home a bit later! I heard there would be a chance to recycle computers for free at the Mall of America. After a day of work I got home at 5 PM, and ran into the house and grabbed my old laptop which crashed the hard drive too many times and went to the basement and quickly grabbed one my daughter left when she moved out. Off to the Mall of America. I couldn't believe it! Traffic was descending from all four directions. I counted at least 20 semi-trailer containers. Containers along the driving area where piled high with old computers and some TV sets. It took me about 15 mintues to make my way through the line to the place to leave the computers. Ahead of me was a Grand Caravan, and when the doors opened to that, the whole thing was stuffed with computer equipment. I jumped out of the car and told the two men who came to help me that it was their lucky day -- only two laptops. They were quite pleased about their luck of draw, and helped me to the exit while that Grand Caravan was still unloading and unloading. This afternoon I got an e-mail saying the recyling had closed. It was scheduled to continue until tomorrow evening, but by mid-day today 75!!! semi-trailers had been filled with stuff. Can you believe it!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Adventures at the TV studio

Yesterday I was a guest on the local Channel 9 morning news show. I represented Global Volunteers (GV) and spoke about my experiences in Poland. This all begins with the media director at GV asking if one will do this. Then the date is scheduled. I was requested to send some electronic pictures and also be there by 7:45 AM. That is a difficult request for a non-morning person, particularly when I have to drive to the studio on one of the most congested freeways in the Twin Cities. On Tuesday the host moderator called me and we spoke a bit on the phone.

I got there in plenty of time and was shown to the Green Room. Well, it's not green and didn't even have a drink of water! There was a TV in the room obviously and the first thing I saw was one of my photos at the 8 AM promotion. Hey! my pictures look OK on TV. A bit later the floor director came to the Green Room and got me hooked up with a microphone. Then finally they took me to the studio.

This studio is a very large warehouse type room. The "set" was in the middle of this huge room. I was escorted to a set of bar-type chairs. Soon the host joined me and we were off to the races. I think it was OK. I didn't stumble over my words too much. My daugher, watching at her home, said I looked tired, but probably others wouldn't notice it. Well being tired is what goes with a 60 hour work week.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday Adventure

Many say TGIF. I almost always say, "Yes, it's FRIDAY!" Friday for me is Mano a Mano day. Volunteers show up there to sort surplus medical equipment and supplies for facilities serving people in Bolivia. This activity keeps me going every week. Seldom do we get such a chance to make a difference. See

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Adventures in Global Warming?

It is November 1 and here in St. Paul we still have not had the first frost. The summer flowers are doing just fine. When my kids were younger we had the infamous Halloween snow storm that left 18 inches of wet snow that turned into ruts that lasted for the rest of the winter. At this time I don't know whether to relax and enjoy the warmer weather or become really worried!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Adventures in Freedom

Four trips to Europe have ignited my interest in what it means to be part of the European Union. Poland entered in 2004 just 4 days before I arrived in May. When I returned in May, 2006, I could already see signs of change. Much road construction was underway all with signs indicating the EU was one source of the funding for the road improvements. I discovered I could buy a chocolate bar at the airport for 2 zlotys, but someone from the EU would have to pay 3. And to make sure I was entitled to the price of 2 zlotys I had to show my passport. But more importantly I learned that nearly every child in one of my classes had a primary relative -- brother, sister, mother, father, aunt or uncle -- living and working in England or Ireland.

Now since the recent election in Poland comes news that the Polish government will now probably become a signatory onto the EU statement of Fundamental Rights. Take a look at this web site:

It is very interesting reading. Take a look and see if we have all these fundamental rights in this country.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Running Away from School

As adults, don't we all want to run away for a bit? That's what I did this afternoon. We are midway through the semester, and it been busy and at times difficult. Then we had the weather -- 19 days of rain so far in October. After doing two meetings and seeing the sunshine I decided to run away for the afternoon. At Fort Snelling State Park I walked the Pike Island Trail. This takes one to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. The Minnesota is coming from the right and the Mississippi from the left flowing then towards the 35E bridge in the distance now as the Mississippi River. Running away is a great adventure.

Adventures in Misunderstanding

Yesterday my students were assigned to discuss the book, Middle of Everywhere, by Mary Pipher. This book provides concepts for working effectively with immigrants and refugees. I looked around the room and realized that 11 of the 23 students in the room were themselves immigrants or refugees -- mostly refugees. I thought, "this is going to be good." Wise comments yes, but also funny things. We laughed over the following story. One student recounted that his mother, newly arrived in the country, accompanied him on errands. At the ATM, he took out some money. His mother observed that and began to berate him: "Son, if you could just go to a machine and get money, why did you wait so long to bring me for a visit?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Surprise Adventures

Today is my birthday and I have to teach! Much to my amazement a colleague arrived in the classroom with balloons, cake and soda -- or as many people in Minnesota call it, pop. Can't remember when I've been surprised like this before. We'll eating cake all day for many of us are going to dinner together to honor a colleague who left our faculty. The restaurant graciously said, "Bring the cake."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Adventures in the night

I fell asleep on the couch. Suddenly at 2:30 AM someone was banging on the front door. I noticed the time and thought for some reason my younger daughter had come home from work here rather than her apartment. I asked, "Who's there?" A man answered, "A neighbor." I immediately knew no neighbor would be banging like that on the door at 2:30 AM in the morning, and further more wouldn't be trying to open the door. I said, "Go away" very firmly! The person continued to attempt to open the door, so I said again, "Go away or I'll call the police." The attempt continued so I grabbed the cell phone and called 911. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with me until the police arrived. During part of this I heard someone also attempting to open the back door.

When the police arrived, they showed me someone had apparently tried to run through the plantings along the side of the house, and tipped over all the flower pots and tripped over the downspouts. They told me they would be doing drive arounds and "Go back to sleep." That is easier done than said after that experience.

I did fall asleep again eventually and awoke to find it daylight. I looked at the clock and found it was 9 AM. I was puzzled about why the cell phone alarm didn't go off at 7:30. I found the cell phone was in permanent 911 mode. In other words after I hung up, the only number that could be called again or the only action was 911 until I made a positive action to change the menu. This is really a good feature, but was unexpected. Good thing it's Sunday, and the whole event wasn't further compounded by being late for work!

Update: Talked to the neighbors and they heard men talking between our houses. They were just about to call the police when the squad cars arrived.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adventures Here

October 13 goes down as a glorious day in the Twin Cities. After a month of nearly steady rain, today dawned with moderate temperatures and glorious sun along with the height of fall color. Adventure here: Driving along Pierce Butler Road about 7:30 AM, I drove by a person who looked as if he or she had just escaped from a science fiction movie. The person was wearing a silver helmet which shone in the sun. The rest of the outfit looked like the movie idea of what one wears in outer space. Have no idea what sighting was about. Guess this just proves that if you look, you can have an adventure even on a quiet road at 7:30 AM!