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Say Cheese

My daughter Tammie and I rushed from the moment our alarm clock went off, until the moment we completed the airport’s check-in and security requirements. After collecting our freshly x-rayed purses and carry-ons, we dropped down onto a nearby bench. A young man, woman and small child who had been churned out of the bureaucratic mill right behind us, stopped to take a selfie. They crowded together as the man held the camera phone out, giving the instruction, “Say, Cheese!”

Glancing around, I noticed this part of the airport looked more like a shopping mall. The lighting was dimmer and small stores lined the halls. Scrutinizing the wares, Tammie asked, “We have plenty of time before boarding. Would you like to shop around a little?”

I said, “Sure! I’ll get a magazine to read while waiting and when we’re on the airplane.”

In the excitement of our busy morning and our perusal of all things touristy, my daughter and I entirely forgot about eating breakfast or dinner. As our boarding time approached, I complained, “We won’t be getting food on the airplane and now I feel hungry. Our airplane doesn’t arrive in North Carolina until six this evening.”

After a stop at Starbucks for tea and coffee, Tammie said, “I saw a deli shop near here. Stay with our carry-ons and I’ll go see what I can buy. Moments later she returned with a 10-ounce cup filled with cubes of cheese. I savored the dairy product’s creamy texture between sips of tea. It was just what I needed, not too heavy, but filling. Continue reading

Off the Farm

Our airplane, dropping from cruising altitude, not only made me woozy, but caused my ears to pop. Each painful altitude adjustment dramatically lowered my ability to hear. Strange, crackly static from above my seat made me aware that an announcement was imminent.

In a smooth, suave voice, a way of speaking that I am positive is practiced in flight training, our pilot silkily purred, “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We will be landing soon, but…”

“POP!” My left ear drum changed so painfully that it felt like someone had jammed a hot needle into it. Cupping a hand over that ear and grimacing, I turned to my travel-companion-daughter and asked quietly, aware that hard-of-hearing people tend to shout, “What did he say?”

Tammie gave me a concerned look and dug around in the seat pocket. Finding a barf bag, she handed it to me and said, “There’s debris on the runway. It has to be cleaned up before we can land.”

I indistinctly heard her words in the background of the noises my ears were making, “Click! Snap, crackle!” What she said sounded like, “There’s pee on the runway and someone is throwing up.” Continue reading

All but a Yak

There weren’t even that many cars on the road, but I was hyperventilating. A quick glance at the map that my daughter had printed for me confirmed I was right where I was supposed to be.

Since I feel that my driving skills are not up to safely navigating traffic in Saint Paul, Minnesota, my daughter Tammie and I had made alternate plans to meet. A friend of hers, who lives in a suburb south of the big metropolis, said I could park my car in her yard while Tammie and I went on vacation.

Three and a half hours after leaving home, I finally pulled into the driveway with a sigh of relief. Tammie arrived several minutes later. She pulled up close so I could transfer the luggage from my car into hers. Then, content to allow my daughter to do the big city driving, I happily dropped into her passenger seat and snapped on my seatbelt. Continue reading

Terminal Woman

I once worked with a nurse who admitted, “Whenever I get a headache, I worry that I have a brain tumor.”

Knowing what it is like to worry about having an undiagnosed illness, I nodded and said, “Maybe that’s because, as a nurse, you know too much.”

The nurse laughed and said, “You’re right. In nursing school whenever we studied a new disease, I imagined that I had the same symptoms. It was horrible! I wasn’t the only one in my class with this problem. There were others who were doing the same thing.”

During my lifetime, I’ve had many occasions where I have worried that a mole was cancer or an uneven heart beat indicated heart disease or a prolonged cough after a cold meant lung cancer. Having anxieties isn’t a joke. I can hardly imagine what a basket case I would have been if I’d actually gone through a nursing program!

People who worry about their health are called hypochondriacs…or is that hyperchondriac? The other day I decided to look up the word. I discovered that a person can have either hypochondria or hypercondria. Both are illnesses of anxiety. The distinction between the two is close. Hypochondria describes a person who thinks they are always ill despite a doctor’s assurances that they are well, while someone suffering with hyperchondria fears having an illness. I think I come in strong under the hyperchondria definition. Continue reading

Taking Flight

A trio of white sea gulls with black-tipped wings wheeled in gliding circles beside the blue trussed bridge we were crossing. I commented to my daughter, “Seagulls are always hungry and looking for food. Those three probably belong to a huge colony. I’ve heard them described as ‘flying rats’, but unlike rats, they help clean up the environment. They aren’t picky about what they eat.”

Tammie said, “Despite their bad reputation, they’re pretty birds.” Taking a few short glances around, she added, “Wish I could look around a little, I’ve always liked the view from this bridge.”

“You’re not missing anything. Just keep your eyes on the road!” I nervously suggested, internally noting all the other cars ahead, behind and alongside us. I asked, “Will you tell me again about the place we will be visiting today?”

Dutifully, my daughter complied. “I found a beautiful website advertising an orchard tour in the La Crescent area. The place uses hoop houses. They grow grapes, apples, berries and make wine. It sounded interesting and I thought you’d be interested, since you have a hoop building greenhouse.”

The highway was built on the side of a bluff. Following a curve around the huge land form, we could look down at the farmland in the valley below. I said, “The view feels like we’re flying a small airplane at low altitude.” Continue reading

Inspired

After setting our breakfast plates next to the sink, I eagerly snatched my notebook from the table and curled up on the loveseat. I said to my daughter Tammie, “All right now, we wanted to do some writing while on this vacation. The time to get down to business has finally come. What shall we write about first?”

Still sitting at the table where only moments earlier we had shared an omelet, Tammie turned to look at me and said, “I have two books filled with writing exercises. What are you interested in, working on conversations, or building suspense?”

Uninspired, a sudden feeling of distaste for doing writing exercises washed over me. Looking at the kitchen counter, I said, “Oh look, I should have washed the breakfast dishes before sitting down to do any writing.”

Jumping to my feet I quickly began the cleaning chores. I thought to myself, “This is typical. I always have a hard time getting myself to actually sit down to write! Once I start, though, I love what I’m doing and don’t want to be interrupted.” Continue reading

Treasure Hunters

A warm, summer breeze ruffled our hair, but the sun burned our skin. Since we were half-way up the side of a bluff, I reasoned that the sun was hotter than usual because we were closer to it than when on flat land. My daughter Tammie and I had reached the middle of the vineyard. I stopped and turned to look at the grand view. I could see bluffs on the other side of the Mississippi, but they were shrouded by a curtain of blue haze. Closer, to the left, front and right of us, I counted three other tall, tree-covered bluffs. The coulee below was connected to a network of other valleys that curved around the base of each bluff.

A short way below us, bunkered into the bluff side and surrounded by these beautiful rows of grapevines, was our vacation cottage. I could see the small lawn, the electric grill, red table and chairs arranged by the back door. Greg, the owner of the property, had told us that the grapevines on the fence near the cottage were table grapes. He suggested, “You’re welcome to pick and eat them.” Next to the fence was a chiminea with dry wood stacked inside, waiting to be used.

I smiled to myself, remembering a conversation that I’d had with someone before coming here. When I told her about this place, she’d exclaimed, “Where does a person find a place like this?” It made me realize that an unusual vacation spot was truly a treasure. My daughter and I had been very fortunate to come upon it while ‘mining’ the internet one night. Continue reading