Monday, April 30, 2007
Let's just say that Sunday, someone really powerful had it out for those folks who work at JFK and the passengers who just happen to be passing thru. The airport and well all roads leading to the airport were insane. Cars everywhere. I counted two car accidents, one major and one minor.
So once I entered the Delta terminal, I knew it might be mayhem, but at least I had arrived in one piece. Now, since I am flying for free, I try to bother as few people as possible and when I hitch a ride on United - I have no problem checking in at the Kiosk. It is always smooth sailing with our United friends. Delta, yeah not so much.
I hyphenate my last name. (News flash, I am such a trend setter, as no one else seems to do that.) So the Delta kiosk always tells me I do not exist. Really, mmmm interesting. So then I have to work with a ticket agent and then they seem to never know how to code me in their system, because again, I am such a trend setter and happen to be married to a pilot and attempting to use our benefits.
So after all of that I went through the security line, which contrary to normal, was well organized and running smoothly. Cool! Score 1 point for the TSA at JFK.
Then I hustle to my gate, I have 20 minutes until the plan is supposed to leave. Naturally the gate is at the very back of the terminal. The little planes seem to be using Gate 23 and 25. Now, this is where the insanity started happening. The brainy folk at Delta JFK are trying to board 2 to 5 small planes at the same gate at the same time. Huh????
They have TV monitors, which are supposed to show you which flights are boarding, but for whatever reason, they were choosing to not use them. So one gate agent is calling out flight numbers and cities and the other is trying to take boarding cards, for multiply flights. People are pushing and shoving and for reasons I cannot understand, people who are not on the flights being called are rushing the gate as well. It was a picture of anarchy really. And me without my camera.
I just decided to hang back and watch. It was really sensory overload for me, the energy, people pushing and yelling. A quiet slow boil - inching us towards a riot. Then they call Columbus, so I head that direction, trying to hang back - since I will be the last allowed on - if at all. My eyes drift to an Asian couple, who are looking ever so dazed and confused. Then the gate agent with the intercom - calls their names. The man pushes towards the agent taking the boarding cards. The guy with the mega phone calls them again and sternly warns that they need to come forward or their seats will be canceled. The Asian man is still talking to the woman who is taking the tickets. This is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Then I step forward and ask it the stand-by passengers are going to get on or not. The gate agent was flustered and confused and frankly in over his head. He threw up his hands, told me no and then walked away.
Meanwhile the Asian couple was complaining about not getting on, as the other gate agent tried to tell them that if they had come forward, they would have. Newsflash: they had come forward. Hello!
I just walked over to the ticket counter and got another stand by seat request for the later flight. It took over 30 minutes, as again, no one knew how to code me is the system and they were all confused as to how to print me the stand by card. Really am I the only one out there using the benefits?
So I grabbed some dinner and tried to settle down for a spell. I had over a 3 hour wait. Shortly, it became clear to me that for my mental health, I needed to relocate to an area away from the gates 23 & 25. The din was almost painful now and the yelling and crowding was getting worse. Every flight was being delayed, was over sold, was being canceled. It was a nightmare. It should also be noted that the weather was almost perfect.
So I moved and settled down and wrote a bit and read some.
Closer to 7:30 pm, I moved back to the war zone. It was still a mess. More flights being delayed. More flights being oversold. (Serious, I do not get this. There are 50 seats. You should only sell 50 tickets.)
Columbus, seemed to not be oversold nor delayed. Cool! I might yet get home in one piece. So the agent calls Pittsburgh and Columbus. Again, why??? One at a time makes the most sense to me. He also says all stand by. Normally this means I have been cleared, ie - given a seat. In any other airport that means they take my request card and give me a boarding pass. Yeah, not at JFK. (now known in my head as JUST FREAKIN' KLUELESS) So I wait and wait and wait. I ask the guy taking the tickets. He says wait. So while waiting, I was joined by a pilot in uniform. He is waiting too! (for another city, but waiting close to the agents nonetheless.)
So as all the people file past me, I ask the gate agent, "Will I be getting on?" He answers that he has no idea. Ok, it is simple, subtract the number of people who have boarded from the number of seats. Easy! So I wait, I am nervous now.
So the pilot says to me, "Are you a crew member?" I explain that H is a pilot with X airline and that I am his wife. The pilot loudly says to the gate agent, "Hey, is she getting on? She is one of the family. You need to give her a seat if there is one. We take care of our own." What Family? The mob? But I am at least glad, someone is taking my side. I mean, if left to the gate agent to decide, I might stand a better chance walking home.
The gate agent clearly is uninterested in helping me, but the pilot is tall and dark and looked pretty tough. So the gate agent checks the computer, prints me a boarding pass - my ticket out of the riot zone - and sends me on my way. I get seat number 50. Oh this is my new favorite number.
So I made it home, after midnight on Sunday - but it was in all well worth it, I had a great time. But please, do yourselves a favor and avoid JFK - they are Klueless!
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I could not live here long term. But for the occasional long weekend, I love it. It feeds my mind and my soul. (and my tummy)
I normally try to balance the pursuit of shopping with that of a bit of culture. It is a good balance I think. Not to mention, working in some culinary enjoyment as well.
This trip, I enjoyed shopping on Thursday afternoon and some great Thai and Middle eastern Food. Yumm-o! (Bought a killer dress at Brooklyn Industries & asked that they hold a bag at the SoHo store - for Friday pick up!)
Then Friday, the weather shifted and it was raining cats and dog, when I woke up. But I wanted to run in the park. (Prospect Park, Park Slope) So I went anyway. It was an awesome run. The rain was really warm and the park was lovely.
Then more shopping. The rain let up and we hit Brooklyn Industries & Kate's Paperie In SoHo. Then S and I split up and I was heading to the Strand Bookstore, but as I emerged from the subway the rain had gotten worse and I decided shopping could wait.
So I went to the Metropolitan. I spent the balance of my day there. While I like the Met and have been there before, I tend to find it a bit overwhelming. There is so much Art and so little time. As I get older, I find I just cannot process it all at once. I want to really look and consider. I like to take time to think about it. I also find I have a real sense of what I like and what I do not. That is not to say that I want to only stay in my comfort zone. I want to challenge myself a bit too. So with all that in mind, I used the map and made some key selections. I knew from experience that I could not see it all, so why try, better to have a plan. So that said, I decided to hit the European paintings, then the temporary exhibit, "Venice & Islamic Art", the small exhibition of artists from Barcelona (Spain) and then to challenge myself, I decided to go thru the Modern Gallery. In general, I find modern - modern stuff does not work for me, but hey - it is about mental stretching, no?
I really enjoy the Venice and Barcelona exhibit. I also spent some time looking at my favorites, Rubins, Manet, Monet, Bonnard. I find that they really are works of beautiful things, places.
Then I looked at the Modern Art. Some of it is very nice, abstract can work for me. Avaunt Guard too, but sometimes I just do not get it. (More on that in a future post.)
Then I head out. I need to let my brain rest a bit. I sought out a Starbucks and then dinner.
After dinner I hit the Guggenheim. (more on that in the art post)
Then back to my friend's. It was an hour by train, but Friday had been a good day.
On Saturday we shopped more. On the lower East Side and the East Village. Big fun. Bought another killer dress. (actually 2 but who is counting......)
Then home and dinner with a friends of my friend. A lovely way to cap off a lovely day.
Sunday brought more running in the park and brunch a Applewood. Which was a great restaurant. Loved it.
So, I am heading back home, with a full tummy, a relaxed and feed soul. My tummy is pretty full too.
Nothing like sharing some great times with a great friend in a great city.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
So since I had to wait about 2.5 hours on my friend to arrive in NYC today, I found a comfortable spot near her gate, drug out the iPod and my book. What could be better, music, a good book and 2 hours of time to read.
Well, a bit into my reading, an older couple arrived at the gate in wheel chairs. The looked to be in their 80s. I continued reading as they settled in next to me and began to talk to each other.
It was so sweet. They were so into each other. I just kept reading.
Then the gentleman, taps me on the shoulder and I take out my headphones and direct them towards the the restrooms.
Then Ruth, the older lady, comes back. Her companion had shared with me that they had been in NYC for a week and were heading back to FLA. They had also been to a wedding in Boston. To which, I am thinking - you go you guys.... rock on! Traveling so much and being older. He had also shared with me that Ruth was 98 years old.
Get out, she did not look 98. Old yes, 98, no way.
So as she settles in we begin to talk. She is very nice and I got a bit of info on the grand kids and great grand kids. (She also tells, me rather conspiraciously that the gentleman is not her husband, but rather a really good friend and a great guy to travel with! To which I am thinking you go girl.....)
But then she hits me with a zinger. After she confides, that she happens to have a few years on me. She suggests that I start to savor and relish every experience I can, because when I am her age, that is what really matters. Those memories are what you savor. Your mental photo album, has real value she says.
Wow! I was thinking about that the other day, but she laid it out with such a seriousness, like she had really given this alot of thought. Like it was a juicy bit, the secret to life, that she had chosen to share with me.
Then as the time crept up and it was time to go meet my friend, I wished them safe travels and she shook my hand and kissed my cheek, telling me that I should live life well.
Wow! I mean it was random, but profound too. I really hope they made it back to the sunshine state alright. They were inspiring.
Here's to living life to the fullest!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Point number two, it has been well and duly established that I am certainly not a Raving Fan of the W. I have quietly stewed of his misuse of the English language, muttered to myself when he speaks on TV. I have shaken my head when certain decisions have been made. I will even admit to yelling and throwing pillows at the TV. On occasion I have even resorted to counting the days until election day.
Now then the meat of the post. I really resent that I have to pack my "liquids & gels" or in German - Flussigkeiten (translation: toothpaste, make up and lotion) into a quart size Ziploc bag. I mean, packing is tough enough, but seriously - I want to take the make up I want to take. I have a number of very nice make up bags - which are designed for the task of taking one's make up and other overnight items along. NOTE: I am not that big into make up, but a girl does have her own routine.....
It is seriously stupid that we all have to go thru this Ziploc bag routine, put the bag on the screening belt separately and the whole smear! I mean, my make up bag could go on the belt. Besides, I firmly believe that this whole gel bomb thing - was a plot by certain fringe groups, to see just how high they could get us all to jump....
Only W and his highly intelligent associates would think that this is making any of us safer from terrorism. I mean, totally not on purpose mind you, but on the return trip from Germany - I had liquids and gels - not in a baggie and not on the belt, which I did not notice until I was unpacking at home. No one noticed! No one! and I went thru security at three airports and a few times more than once.....
The only people benefiting from this farce, in my opinion, is ZIPLOC and the kiosks and restaurants at the airport - in the sterile zones - who can sell you water at totally inflated prices. That is it, as far as I can tell.
Oh, well - if I need something - that won't fit in my baggie - I am sure I can find it in NYC.
Friday, April 20, 2007
But I have to share this one with you. (As a bit of background, I have taken on straighten out the business affairs at our church.)
So Chase Bank sent to us a notice that they needed a w-9. So I set about getting the correct signatures and at some point the return postage paid envelop was lost, misplaced, eaten by monsters, buried under other paper - you pick your poison - but bottom line it is AWOL and I needed an address.
So I called the 800 number for customer service. (Oh, why do I put myself thru this kind of torture?) After entering my account number twice, listening the auto menu, which did not have a choice that truly fit my question - I selected the closed item and then I got to hold. I just love holding......
After holding a bit, a very friendly woman answered - informed me I had dialed the wrong number for customer service ( Funny, it was the number printed on the letter - which had been sent to us...... like I picked this number at random.) She then transferred me, to another number, where I had to re-enter my account number and pick a somewhat related choice, from the menu, for my query. Great!
Then I got C, who I am guessing really loves her job. Not! She was a bit flat on the phone, but I charged ahead with my query. I just wanted an address, so that I could mail back the form. Seemed simple to me......
"You misplaced the postage paid envelop? We send those out for a reason!" she exclaimed.
Yeah, well shit happens everyday! But I remain polite and told her that it seems that it is gone and instead of delaying the return of the form, I would just like to get the address - so that I can return the form. So she puts me on hold. FOREVER.
Now, having worked in the finance services industry - I know all about document retention out- sourcing and that there are departments everywhere and anywhere, who handle this sort of thing, but truly - I find it hard to believe that I am the only one who has misplaced a self addressed postage paid envelope. In fact, I can name 5 former clients who I had, off the top of my head, who routinely misplaced envelops and documents that I had mailed them.
So eventually C comes back on the line and states that she could not help me. She had no idea where I should send the form. She suggested I walk into a local branch and see if they could help me. (Ok, I am getting a little steamed now!) So I asked for clarification.....
"So you are saying that you have no idea where I should send this form. That seems strange. I mean you all sent the form to me."
"Well that is why we include an envelop. You should keep track of the envelop, then you would have the address." she replies.
Come again??? There is now steam coming out of my ears.
But I am forever polite.
"Yes, well I appreciate that and I will endeavor to do better in the future. However, I have this form and I would like to return it to the bank. Perhaps I could speak to your supervisor and see if she has the address."
C informs me that she had spoken to her supervisor and her supervisor suggested "I walking myself into our local branch and see if they could help me."
Oh, I am so not happy. But because this is the new me and I am working for a church, I simply thank C for her time and let her hang up. Little does she know, but at the beginning of the call, I was selected to take a survey.
So I offered some fair criticism as to her job performance - using the 5 point scale. Then to my surprise they wanted me to explain to the the voicemail my problem and why I was not satisfied. Which I did. Being very sweet and polite. (Which nearly killed me......)
I then filed the form away, figuring if Chase truly needed the form at this point, they would mail me another request - with the ever popular and seemingly mythical return address.
So to my delight and surprise, tonight some called from Chase, in reference to my feedback - with an address. WOW! There really is somewhere to return the form to and someone actually listens to the feedback.
I hope C learns something here, but I do not plan to hold my breath.
The form is in the mail as we speak!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I have to do this. I read this article a month or so ago in Marie Claire (one of my favorite magazines) and thought about posting about it, but then did not.I have to say that with the Supreme Court decision yesterday, I have to speak out now. I am pro-choice. I am pro-woman. I strongly believe that it is my body and it is my choice. As a mother of a daughter, I want my daughter to grow up in a country that respects her mind and her body. It is hers to control - in every way.
My message to Washington is - STAY THE HELL OUT of MY WOMB, MY BODY! What I do with it is my business. Legislating morality is wrong! Limiting my access to birth control is wrong. Limiting my children's access to sex education is wrong! The Bush administration is steering us in the wrong direction.
I must also say that I feel for women who have made this decision. Like Gretchen, it is a choice that will forever be with them. While I have never had to make this choice, I know in my heart that women know what is best for them and their lives, families. No politician and no judge should ever be given that much power, to control women and their bodies. It is just wrong.
I urge you to read Gretchen's story and then contact your elected officials. More info is available at www.naral.org
One woman's story
After reading Gretchen Voss's story in Marie Claire, NARAL Pro-Choice America's president Nancy Keenan asked the woman--who shared her own experience with abortion--to write a message to pro-choice activists. At a time when so much is at stake--we're waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its decision on the Federal Abortion Ban--Gretchen's story puts it all in perspective.
Any day now, the Supreme Court will determine whether women, in consultation with their families and doctors, should make personal reproductive-health decisions - or whether politicians should make our medical and moral decisions for us.
I care a lot about what the Supreme Court has to say about President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban. The same day I decided to terminate my pregnancy, lawmakers gathered in Washington, DC to discuss the ban, which could outlaw abortion as early as 12 weeks and has no exception for a woman's health.
Read Gretchen's full story after the jump.
That's why NARAL Pro-Choice America asked me to share my story with you. It's not a story I ever thought I'd share with thousands of strangers, because frankly, it's nobody's business. But now, of course, it is.
When I was 18 weeks pregnant at my doctor's office in Lexington, Massachusetts, I remember eagerly anticipating the ultrasound that would tell my husband and me whether our baby was a boy or a girl. We were so excited, oohing and aahing like the giddy, expectant parents that we were.
The technician, however, was quiet, and I started to panic. We learned that the ultrasound indicated that the fetus had an open neural-tube defect, meaning that the spinal column had not closed properly. We had to go to Boston immediately, where a new, high-tech machine could tell us more.
In Boston, the doctor spoke using words no pregnant woman wants to hear - clinical terms like hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The spine, she said, had not closed properly, and because of the location of the opening, it was as bad as it could get.
What the doctors knew was awful: the baby would be paralyzed and incontinent, its brain smushed against the base of the skull and the cranium full of fluid. What they didn't know was devastating: would the baby live at all, and if so, with what sort of mental and developmental defects? Countless surgeries would be required if the baby did live, and none of them could repair the damage.
It sounds naive now, but I never considered pregnancy a gamble. Sitting in the doctor's windowless office, I tried to read between the lines of complicated medical jargon, searching for answers that weren't there. But I already knew what I had to do. Even if our baby had a remote chance of surviving, it was not a life we would choose for our child.
I asked over and over, "Are we doing the right thing?" Our family - even my Catholic father and Republican father-in-law, neither of whom was ever pro-choice - assured us that we were. Politics suddenly became personal - their daughter's heartbreak, their son's pain, their grandchild's suffering - and that changed everything.
If President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban had been in force on that day, my husband and I wouldn't have had this option.
It's not always easy to see how the Federal Abortion Ban will affect our lives, so I am asking you to share my story with your family, friends, and co-workers. Please let them see the human side of this story. You can also read my full story here.
As soon as the Supreme Court makes its decision, NARAL Pro-Choice America will be in touch and provide you with ways to take action in your community. In the meantime, if you have a personal story of your own to share, please submit it here. And please learn more about President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban by clicking here.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The view of Oedheim from our Aunt and Uncles' patio
As view of the park that we visited in Ulm. It was long the Rhine. This was on Good Friday and the weather was so wonderful. We had the best time.
An old house in Bad Wimphen.
The tower in Bad Wimphen. It was built in 1208. That is seriously old. You can climb it, but we did not.
Uncle Hermann's favorite old house in Bad Wimphen
It was an awesome trip. I think I am done blogging about it..... but who knows!
Until I had the nightmare to end all nightmares before I left. I dreamed of someone shoving pass L and pushing her onto the tracks. I dreamed of my suitcase getting stuck in the doors and then being riped from from the half opened doors as we sped down the tracks. I also dreamed of the stroller getting stuck and a whole host of other horrible things!
So I decided it might be better to try my hand at the Autobahn instead! I mean I have trekked transatlantic with the car seat, right? Who cares that people drive like demons! I mean speed is fun right? With your own car you have freedom and can go about your own business.
So, I did just that. I became a speed demon, pilot and co-pilot all rolled into one. I am a multi-talented woman! Now before you all have dreams of me winning the next Indy 500, you need to know that I rented a Renault Modus.
It is a small car and no one could accuse it of being overly peppy, but I have to say that on the way back to Muenster from Heilbronn, driving thru Hessen and Nord Rhine Westphalia, I was moving at a smooth 150 Km (100 miles per hour) and I was just keeping up with traffic. There were some serious BMWs & Mercedes doing alot-- ALOT-- faster than that. For the most part we moved along at 100 km to 120 km and took it slow and easy.
Sometimes I got lost and sometimes I managed just fine on my own. I have to say that the roads and directions are presented a bit differently that in the States. (Although, it is a bit like the Garden State Parkway in NJ.) In Ohio, we all go east, west, north or south. But in Germany, you travel in the direction of a stated city. Which is great, as long as you know where that city is, exactly! The autobahn is fairly easy, but the smaller highways are a bit more tricky. I got turned around a few times, but all in all I am so glad I rented the car!
I must also mention, that driving in European cities is a entirely different matter. I was almost killed in Kassel. In Muenster bikes rule and they are ruthless in their ownership of the roads. Also, much of the city driving rules, seem to follow what P affectionately has dubbed "local custom." I also am struggling with the concept of right before left (whose right and who has the egg?" in the 30 zone and the fried egg sign - so I am inclined to say - "Give me speed any day!"
Monday, April 16, 2007
Alright, I have never understood the attraction to joining the mile high club. Seriously, is having sex at 35,000 feet really any different than doing it at or slightly above sea level. It must be the thrill of getting caught or some perverse thrill of causing a line to the bathroom, when several dozen people are also on the plane needing the bathroom, right after the beverage service.
I thought it was just a myth, a nice story to tell people, while drinking on vacation. But no, I know someone who did on a recent trip and H has said that it happens and he should know, he is an airline pilot.
But seriously, the physics of the matter baffle me. I mean, I could hardly get into the bathroom, on both the Airbus 340 and the 767 - we took on our flights to and from Germany, with L to help her and changing E - please that was huge exercise in contortionism. So the idea of two full size people, getting down and dirty in one of these tiny closet boggles the mind. I mean, there is no sink ledge to speak of. The toilet is way too low and the baby changing station, which folds out of the wall barely holds a baby, let alone providing a convenient seat for an adult. Furthermore, the one time I squooze the three of us into the bathroom on the return trip, E demonstrated that the weight of a two year old can open the door, so forget leaning against that and getting it on.
And speaking of dirty, by the end of the 9 hour trip, the bathroom is a bit gross..... so I guess if you can figure out the physics of the matter - you need to do it early in the flight.......
Friday, April 13, 2007
I did not really have the time to post while I was overseas, so I will spend the next few days sharing with you a bit about my travels!
H met up with me while we were in Muenster. P allowed us to run off for a day with his car, so we decided to check the surrounding area. Muenster is in the north western part of Germany, very near the boarder with the Netherlands. We spent a very lovely morning and afternoon in Steinfurt and then decided an afternoon drive was in order - so that the little people could sleep. So H was driving and it was a lovely day - very clear and sunny. As we were driving along the Bundesstrass - I causally remarked that there were a lot of cars with Netherlands license plates. MMM, interesting! Then as we continued to drive - almost all the cars had NL tags. Then I look up and - there it was - the large sign welcoming us to the Netherlands.
Intellectually I knew we were close - but I like most Americans look at maps with an American point of view. Sure Indiana is close to Ohio on the map - but from Columbus it is 2 plus hour car trip. Maps are based on a scale, but seriously everything in Europe is very close together. I went from the southern part of the country back to Muenster in 4 hours. It takes longer to get from Cleveland to Cincinnati!
So we did the smart thing and turned around at the first chance and headed back to Germany. But I did snap these photos!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
I thanked him then, but I wanted to put this up on my blog too! He went out of his way to help me and it meant alot. I could have managed - I mean - I had planned it out like a military exercise - but he did a truly nice thing and nice things deserve acknowledgment.
So to my unknown helper - your thoughtfulness was so appreciated.
So now that I have made it back I will offer some sage advice on how to travel transatlantic with two little people! (almost alone.....)
1. Pack light! Seriously. Unless you are going to hinterlands - you can buy everything you need at your destination. I try to take as little as possible.
2. I cannot say enough good things about Ziploc bags. I pack alot of things in baggies. You can see thru them and get what you need - all without having alot of stuff floating around your bag.
3. Bring things to do. Like books, coloring stuff, nothing with really small pieces - but some old and well loved stuff & some new and intriguing stuff.
4. Make a list and check it 1000 times before you leave.
5. Have a folder that has all you important documents and travel info. This keeps it neat and organized.
6. Understand that sometimes kids make noise. Any adult in the area that does not get that - either has no kids and/or has forgotten.
7. Candy-- lots of it and in small doses. Also think pretzels, nuts, raisins & gum. If their mouths are full they cannot - in theory scream, wine, or talk so loud/much!
8. Take a day for yourself before you leave. Your nerves will thank you.
9. Wear comfortable clothes. Also think about what you dress the kids in. Make sure it is easy on and easy off.
10. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Also, be firm with the TSA and other airport staff. Nice but firm. Refuse to be hurried or bullied. You need a bit more time than the average traveler. (There is a TSA employee in Philly who got told off by me - in the nicest possible way :) )
11. Know that eventually you will get where you are going.
12. Being a mom is a job that is totally portable. Why no enjoy all the joys of motherhood - from somewhere exotic!
13. Drink lots of water and then a glass of wine once you have arrived. You did it and all is well with the world.....
Ok, so where are you going????