Friday, August 27, 2010

When the phone rings after 10pm, I answer it.

Emily called me from the tractor pull (that could be the first sentence of a novel, don't you think? And it's Emily R. Not Emily-the-model/poodle.)

and told me the shawl has a first place AND Best of Show ribbon (for the Needlecraft sections). Judging was this morning. I didn't even know there was a Best of Show ribbon. I admit to kind of hoping for the Best Hand Knitted, which carries with it a $10 gift certificate to Knitters Underground, but Best in Show seems a little over the top for someone who couldn't even figure out the right entrance to the fair on Thursday (I did a lot of walking. Let's leave it at that.) I admit to a certain amount of disbelief, which might be a first for me. Emily is no stranger to a fair and I don't think she would have mixed up the ribbons, but I admit to a feeling like, "Now I gotta get over to the fair and see it for myself." I'm not going till Monday though.

So my purpose in entering the shawl in the fair was this--it's pretty. Everywhere I went knitting on this thing this summer, people would come up and want to talk about the shawl. What are you doing? Is that knitting? How are you putting the beads on it? Prettttyyyyy . . . .

And I started to want a souvenier of the shawl. I took some pictures, of course.

But they don't really represent the shawl. You can't see that the shawl is soft, even with the beads in it. You can't see that it is has a sheen to it. And the color--the color is completely wrong. It's a deep juniper green--like pine needles, really. Not nearly-teal blue.

So I thought, well, I'll enter it in the fair, and maybe I'll get a ribbon. And I'll have the ribbon and Grandma will get the shawl (because it was always supposed to be for her, and because, I already have a feathery-soft silk/wool blend shawl with tiny beads, and because I don't usually win anything beyond "most improved" and I thought that maybe this time I might).

It's only $1 to enter an exhibit in the Grange Fair. That sounds like a deal. First prize wins $4, so you make a $3 profit--only I didn't realize that they charge you full entrance fee and parking fee the day you go turn in the entry, and again when you go pick it up. Add in the day Gaye and I actually take the kids to the fair, and it's soon $27 just for ME and the car. The ladies at the exhibit explained to me my options and I went back and got the weekly pass, saving me $2. So now my total output to enter the shawl is $26.

If Emily is right (and again, she is likely to be, I just have this disbelief thing going on), then I get two ribbons and $4 for first class and $20 for Best in Show. How cool is that? Charlotte says I should donate the $4 back to the fair, but she didn't say anything about the Best in Show. If I won that, then I am keeping it to cover a fraction of what I will probably spend on funnel cakes and lemonade.

But you know what? If I really did get a First Place and a Best in Show ribbon? I'm going to totally smile for the rest of the day. I will walk the two miles back to the Handicapped Parking spots with Grandma Gaye ('cause, you know, why put the HP near the food and exhibits? At least the scooter rental is right there next to the HP.) and I will smile.

And I would be totally hooked. It would be September 2 and I would already be planning what to knit for next year's fair.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hindsight is 20-20

So the very next morning (after the last post) I proceeded to miss the twins flight. I have flown about as often as a flight attendant at various points in my life, and I have never missed a flight. But I did. I couldn't get the in-room alarm clock to work (I figured it out Saturday night. Let's just say the cheap piece of plastic isn't user friendly. I'm 42. I know how to work an alarm clock.), and I have never tried to use my cell phone alarm, so I scheduled a wake-up call with the front desk. And they didn't write down (and they don't use automated wake-up calls at the airport Marriot in Baltimore. Go figure.). So Ben actually woke up first--slightly less than an hour before take off. The amazing thing is that we were at check-in 20 minutes before departure. The bummer is that Saturday morning, 20 minutes before departure with unaccompanied minors, is not sufficient time.

The only blessing was that they gave me credit for trying and rescheduled the twins without additional cost. (And at the other end, they refunded Mom and Dad their money for an expensive tour in Sacramento that they would now miss.) Okay, okay, there was one other blessing--Emily's dogsitter was wonderful and cheerfully charged me more than State College's GNP to keep her another day. (Her prices were totally reasonable for Baltimore. They're just way out of my budget and triple what I pay for dogsitting in State College.) Again, I whine about the cost, but she was magnificent and I did get to have Emily with me for the rest of the week.

Everything else about it sucked. I felt like poo on the bottom of a debutante's shoe, that's how low I felt. The kids needed a nonstop or a "direct" (direct means you can stop 200 times if you want as long as the kids don't get off the plane). Direct sucks, but direct is really all you can get on Southwest, and even then--only once a day from Baltimore to Oakland. So that meant another day and night in a town I really can't afford. Suckville. I took a page from my step-mom's playbook and bought bread and peanutbutter at Target. With the money I saved on breakfast and lunch, I felt I could splurge and take the twins to Five Guys for dinner. (I was wrong, even with me only ordering a little baconburger--no fries, etc., it was still too much, but I didn't figure that out till the order was in, so I just took it in the wallet and we did it anyway.)

I discovered my cell phone charger was at home and all the calls had drained the battery down to zero. My cell phone is Verizon-made and since I'm already in the upgrade-eligible zone, you can guess that they don't even make it anymore. So the Verizon store near the airport had one charger left. In spite of the fact that the saleswoman was standing in front of me holding the charger, us literally three feet apart, she said she couldn't sell it to me because it wasn't in their inventory. And no, she couldn't put it in inventory, only Big Daddy Verizon could do that, and that happens like once a month or something. Whatever. I went to two other stores, they didn't have one, I drove back to the store and started talking in tongues to the store manager (something I don't ordinarily do, but this was soooooo not an ordinary day). He wouldn't take cash for it, but offered to charge the stupid phone for me in the store.

So the twins and I hung out for 20 minutes to get the phone charged. Now, technically, the battery read full when 20 minutes was up, but either I made so many telephone calls when it was charged again that I drained it in a matter of hours, or it wasn't fully charged, so that also factored into going to Five Guys. It was two doors down from the Verizon store. I gave them the phone to charge again while we went to eat. This time the charge lasted 24 hours. My phone battery is usually better than that, so maybe it's good they didn't sell it to me. Maybe it was a sucky charger. Makes sense. Don't buy a charger when you're spending the day in Suckville, where-ever that may be.

Anyway, like any sensible woman, at this point I called my mother. I was scheduled to see her the following night in Columbus. I turned the charger problem over to her. I knew she'd drive to West Virginia to get it if she had to. Indeed, she had one by noon the next day. It was a car charger, not a wall charger, but it also has a USB port in the bulky thing that sticks in the car charging port. So you can charge your ipod while you charge your phone. It worked really well. Taking only slightly longer than the original charger (which was still at home this whole time), it charged my phone fully enough to last the next three days without recharging. The phone was dead by Thursday, but I was back on the road today, anyway, so only one day was lost.

By 11:30 I was back at the hotel. Chris was handling the issue of how to pay for the extra night at the hotel. They wouldn't comp us the night's stay, but they did cover the cost of all the phone calls I had to make at $1,000/min while the phone was dead after I missed the flight. Ben and Milo, turning water into wine, jumped into their swim trunks, found cute little Estonian girls at the swimming pool and cannon balled their way into the life guard's heart (yeah, totally, in Maryland every pool must have a lifeguard).

That night we all went to bed early. I asked for a wake-up call again and set three different additional alarms. So of course, I woke up 15 minutes before the first one went off. I cancelled three and let the fourth go off just for the principle of the thing. We got to the airport two and a half hours early--it was Sunday morning, so it was only us and everyone else who really HAD to fly. We got through security in 5 minutes. Everyone was polite and on time. Ben and Milo had the crew AND the pilots eating out of their hands before they even walked down the ramp towards the plane (the crew and pilots were boarding at the same time as the three unaccompanied minors. The third kid was a year or two older than Ben and Milo, but their new best friend by the time he got off in Los Angeles.)

After I watched the plane take off, I ran to the car, raced to the dog sitters, and drove at my usual leisurely pace (I don't know why I always beat the Google map estimate by at least an hour. Then again, I don't know why everyone else on the road is driving so slowly.) to Columbus, Ohio.

After I got us all unpacked, Judy (mother), Bill (her tenant), and I went to hear the OSU alumni band, which, at the risk of offending all my fellow Penn Staters, was wonderful. They were funny and talented and had alumni baton twirlers (male and female) as well as band alumni going back 60+ years. One of their pieces is a medley that goes through 11 out of 12 of the "Big Ten" fight songs. Helpfully, two members of the band hold up signs to tell us which school's song they're playing at that time. Alumni from that school stand up at that point and everyone applauds for them. Of course I stood up for Penn State. I was the only one, but I still got the applause. (There were other schools for which only one current or former student was present, too, so I didn't feel badly in the least.) Anyway, I expected to be bored by the concert after all the drama of the past few days, but in part due to the relief of having heard that the boys had landed safely in Oakland, and in part due to the unmistakable zeal and talent of the band, I had a great time.

We went home, Bill cooked steaks, Judy made carrot-slaw (I don't know, but it wasn't bad at all)
and then Emily and I crashed.

The next morning my stomach was bothering me, so after visiting a little longer with Judy, I headed off to Indiana to meet up with Charlotte and Granny. I got there around 1:00 pm, made a simple lunch, and then passed out on the couch to nap some more. Charlotte and Granny arrived around 4pm, and the rest of the week is a happy, happy blur of knitting, visiting, canning, napping, and if the phone's battery gradually died over the course of the week, mine was being fully recharged.

As much as Saturday sucked? (And it did.) That's how awesome the rest of my off-the-grid week was. I never thought to take photos of my awesome Aunt Charlotte and Gracious Grandmother Helen while I was there. In fact, the only photo I took all week was off a bird-shaped tomato, but I finished the Gothic Leaf Shawl (which I will block, enter at the county fair, and then ship back to Grandma after the fair is over), and Charlotte and I canned a bushel and a half of tomatoes into delicious salsa and tomato soup. Whoo-hoo!

The drive home was long today. I left around 8:30 am and got home around 6:15 pm, which means that even though I hit construction in two places and had to crawl along, I still beat the Google time by an hour. Go, me.

And now, it is time for me to go do what I came home to do--pick up my son from Shakespeare rehearsal. Tomorrow evening Chris will bring the twins home, happy and joyous from a week with their grandparents. We will all five be back home, safe and sound. Life is grand.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Better Not Look Down

Better Not Look Down (As sung by BB King)

I've been around and I've seen some things
People moving faster than the speed of sound
Faster than the speeding bullet
People living like Superman
All day and all night
And I won't say if it's wrong or if it's right
I'm pretty fast myself
But I do have some advice to pass along
Along in the chorus of this song

Better not look down, if you want to keep on flying
Put the hammer down, keep it full speed ahead
Better not look back, or you might just wind up crying
You can keep it moving, if you don't look down

Today we all kept it moving. With the electricity going off last night at around 1:30 am, I was concerned that maybe noone else had noticed yet, so I called Allegheny Power, and while they DID know about the power outage (turns out it was fairly widespread), I learned that they have this service where you can get a wake up call if you electricity goes out in the middle of the night. How cool is that? So I woke up at 7:00 am to my Cell phone singing to me about something. Chris took Emily to the groomer and I ran to Wegman's for cards for Rich and Julie, since this was my last day of regular employment with the Law Office.

I was most of the way there when Max called to let me know the power was back, so that was good.

I got to the law office a few minutes early, so I put stamps on my bills, left money for the stamp fund on Julie's desk, and then wrote cards to Julie and Rich. For me, it's been a great job. You never saw such flexible hours and I rarely had to work with anyone too stressed out. I got the sweet elderly couple who wants to make sure their grandchildren are provided for. It's Julie who had to deal with Wells Fargo's mortgage people.

The day went quickly. Julie had brought in yummy brownies and even though I did have some actual work to do, most of it was done about 90 minutes before I really had to leave. I did a bank run and then the three of us just talked about what I was going to do next and what we'd done together. It was fun. Then it was time to go and we all said, "See you next week!" because in two weeks a group of us are going out to lunch.

After I left though, I started worrying about the second half of the day--getting the kids to Baltimore. And I started thinking about all the driving I need to do over the next few days. And suddenly I wanted Emily to go with me. I was talking to Chris at the time, and when he didn't throw up any immediate resistence, I decided to call Charlotte. She and Granny were okay with me bringing Emily--the farm needs a mouser. So I walked through the week mentally in my mind and immediately saw the biggest problem--1) we hadn't made reservations for the dog at the hotel. This could likely be fixed. 2) The dog couldn't come in the airport. This likely couldn't.

So I called my brother, who lives fairly close to the airport, to see if he could take Emily for the night. No, he's on his way out of town (and later, other more important things came up), but I could call his cat-sitter. So I did. And she was exceptionally helpful. 30 minutes after I started asking questions about Emily, all the problems were solved (I knew Judy wouldn't mind if her grandpoodle came along).

So we finished packing. I don't have an exceptional array of clothing myself. There wasn't much room left in the suitcase after I packed all my knitting, is the thing, and a girl must have priorities. I have enough underwear and yarn and the farm has a washing machine. What can go wrong?

I packed a bag for Emily. Luckily she's up to date on all her shots, even kennel cough, so that was easy enough. Max was a total sweetheart and cleaned out my trunk for me. BLESS THAT BOY. I printed out directions from each leg of the journey to the next. I grabbed two boxes of quart jars, a bag of rings (we'll be canning). Put in the suitcases, the dog's bag, and my bookbag (which passes for a purse). We were ready to go.

We stopped at Gaye's to get goodbye hugs and then the gas station to fill the tank. And then I pointed the car at 322 East and we were on our way.

Three hours later we were threading in and out of traffic in Baltimore until we finally found the dog sitters. They were great. Emily passed her sociability test and got to stay (phew! Not that I had any doubts that she would). We agreed on a pick up time and then Ben and Milo and I flipped to the next page of directions and went in search of the airport hotel. There are some rough spots in Baltimore, and we drove through a few of them, but all was well. Ben and Milo were waving to Baltimore's police force. I told them to put on their seatbelts for crying out loud.

The hotel is really quite nice. We arrived too late to really explore the place, but are enjoying the comfy beds. We have a 4:40 am wakeup call, so I really should try to get some sleep. It was a big day with another big day to follow. Stay tuned.