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!