Saturday, December 1, 2007

Things I wasted my time on this morning...

I am sitting in my pajamas, avoiding getting ready for the day. In my quest to simplify my life, I have managed to schedule myself for working six days a week. I am not sure how that happened. Probably brain lesions.

I have made some coffee (yum) and am wearing the fuzzy socks I got from Wal-Mart last night. I think that I am going to give a pair to everyone in the family rather than sweep. We will all have to scuffle around. It is cold this morning, as we experienced our first rain of the season yesterday. I think that most of the stuff in the backyard got under cover. I can't even remember the last time it rained in here in Southern California.

After reading and returning Important Professional Email, I went to a couple of sites that I look in on from time to time. I admit to a fondness for LOL cats. Don't ask me why. The website is icanhascheezeburger (which I would hot-link, but would have to remember the steps).

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

And this ...

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

I love the awful literacy. There are rules to build a lol cat picture. Anyway ...

I copied this from my daughter. It is fun to play! I love vocabulary tests! combines two great ideas - good vocabulary and feeding the poor! You’re shown a word and asked to define it from a list of choices. For every word you identify correctly, the website donates 20 grains or rice through the United Nations to impoverished people. That may not sound like a lot, but it adds up, especially if more people play. It’s really fun to play, and it keeps track of your score, so you can play against your friends for bragging rights.

Off to work!

If you have time, check out my sister's blog. She just got on a blogroll! Her blog is on the list, or you can check it out at

And I know I owe you a post.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Why do we love technology?

Because it is how you keep transatlantic friendships going ...

Well, I promised you a Rowan post, but this isn't it. This is a bit of a montage ... sort of. Her stravaig to Aberdour is on the way, but I thought I would just get these up because I liked them.

When Rowan and I first began talking to each other, it was via email. She sent me one of her signature e-mails. She writes in a rapid-fire manner, and I was immediately charmed by her writing. It was dense, deft, and funny. Really funny.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Unfortunately, she lives in Scotland and I live in Southern California. So, we have to use the Internetz to communicate. We often email pictures back and forth. Well, she emails more pictures than I do, but that is because my husband is a camera-hog. Sending pictures back and forth is like being pen-pals (Rowan would say pen-friends), but better.

While we were stravaigin aboot London, Rowan began to mourn the fact that her old camera was defunct. We looked for one while we were down near the Tower of London, and when we went to Asda in Dundee, but she did not find one to her liking. After I came home, she found one that is acceptable and sends me pictures now and again.

So, I thought I would put up some of the pictures that Rowan has sent me since our stravaig, as I think you will like them too. If I was better organized, I would find a couple that I really like and seem to have misplaced. Sigh.

And I am not sure that these are in chronological order. But here goes.

Rowan went to the beach and took a picture of this fabulous jellyfish, because she knows that I love them.

This cracks me up, because when I first met her, she had lost her cellphone and was sort of dismissive of the whole notion. She got a new Vario and is clearly enamored with it. This is a great picture.

This is the stained glass from Ninewells Hospital. Hospitals in the US don't generally have great stained glass.

She took pictures while out and about one day and liked this dog. She was a little anxious that the owner take it amiss that she took a picture of the dog. However, it is a great dog, is it not?

Rowan and I both love rhyming slang. She is much better at it. I just like the idea.

From Wikipedia ...
Traditional Cockney rhyming slang works by taking two words that are related through a short phrase and using the first word to stand for a word that rhymes with the second. For instance, the most popular of these rhyming slang phrases used nationwide is probably "telling porkies" meaning "lies" as "pork pies" rhymes with lies. Also "boat" meaning "face" as "boat race" rhymes with face. Similarly "plates" meaning "feet" ("plates of meat"), and bread means "money" (bread and honey).

So she sent me this picture of an optical shop, which is pretty funny.

She also sends me Lena Art, which is excellent and well-worth viewing. It's a virtual refrigerator!

Great detail, isn't it?

This is a pie shop in Dundee, which is just the kind of picture that I like. Great picture, no? Mmmmm ... pies.

A picture in the country ... In Scotland, they don't have wooden fences, remember?

A walk on the wild side.

A day at the beach this summer. I like this picture a lot. Do you remember Broughty Ferry? This is what it looked like this summer. Note the lack of gale-force winds and predatory swans.

This is another beach. I think it was Easthaven. But I don't know where that is.

I think this is where Rowan was playing with her zoom, I think.

A day at the garden center ... very pretty. She knows that I like pictures of flowers.

And a day in Dundee at an outdoor market. I think she called it a German market, like the Christmas ones. Rowan, are German markets specifically for outdoor markets around Christmas or anytime?

All I could think is that you probably would not see this in the US.

She got a nice picture of a wedding, with the groom on a white horse. The colors are great. I liked the fact that I recognized the locale, as well.

Not a common sight in Southern California, but weddings are nice. It made me wish I could see the whole ceremony.

And just because it would make me laugh, this headline.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Just a heads up ...

before I finish Rowan's latest submission ...

Anyway, If you want to see what my husband has been up to, go to

He has the Halloween costume up -- he and my oldest son did a great job, in my opinion ...

Still working on Rowan's summer travels. She sent me some great pictures, and I want to get them up soonly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A very short stravaig


I stravaiged to Ikea and it felt like a transatlantic trip. Does this count? Is it bloggable?

I say yes.

Don’t ask me what happened.

I know what happened. My daughter (who is in college) had a tough paper to do and I was swamped with work, and so we both got the overwhelming urge to do home redecorating. It was bad. One of the worst cases of distract-yourself-from-a-task-you-don’t-want-to-do-
by-taking-on-a-big-project that I have ever had. I don’t really have much of a home office, or rather, my work has outgrown my computer desk tucked away into the corner of the bedroom, so I have taken over the kitchen table. And the kitchen counter. And the hall entryway. And people cannot even sit around the table, balancing paper plates on their knees, because whatever is not covered with a stack of papers has a workbag on it. And I am always saying things like, “”Don’t touch that.” And “don’t move that!!” My new strategy for organizing each of my jobs is to have a workbag for each, so I have all of the stuff I need for the task in one place. It is sort of working. I have a plethora of paper clips and rubber bands and highlighters, but it is a step up from my last attempt, which was to leave everything in piles and run around frantically, looking for the all-important stack of papers that I needed for the day or turning my car into a rolling file cabinet.

I blame the home reorganizing all on my sister. And my daughter. My sister is one of those determined people who believe that most problems have solutions. And she believes in organization. And she asks hard-to-answer questions, like “What do you actually do in your living room?” When we visited her in Denver a couple of weeks ago, she explained what she was doing with her house to make it work for her family. So, last week, I looked up from my pile of work and was struck anew by the remarkably unlivable configuration of my living room. It is a long, sort of narrow rectangle, made more narrow by the placement of my couch. I am forcibly struck with the vision of making the room into two different spaces, both roughly equally square, one for the living room and one for the “office”. Did I mention that I am working at the kitchen table? I no longer cook, because I am overwhelmed (and a bit embarrassed) by the thought of having to clear stuff away.

I am thinking in terms of “spaces”. I learned that word from TV. A room is not a room, it is a space. I should say that I have a history of bad decorating behavior. When I was pregnant with Sam, I watched home redecorating shows and Trading Spaces obsessively. This led to a number of half-completed projects that are still, five years later, not completed. My poor husband came home to find that I had (at seven months pregnant) torn out all of the carpet in the house and deposited it in the front yard. I have to say that it was extremely therapeutic to hear the rrrrriiiiippping sound of the carpet leaving the floor. My bedroom floor is still bare concrete waiting to be painted. The baby just started kindergarten.

However, I digress.

Not only did I need a home office, but I needed a new living room. The present living room consists of a huge ottoman that my youngest loved and a small couch that was for him and the cats. It is ugly. And uncomfortable. On the plus side, it has a removable (with Herculean effort) slip-cover and was pretty cheap. I was not going to buy a nice couch until Sam (the five year old) was past the drawing on the furniture stage and the cats died of old age. I thought that cats’ claws sort of fell out when they got old, like teeth do – but it doesn’t work like that. My daughter has promised to clip the cat’s nails so that I can have a new couch – one that more than two people can sit on. Preferably a sofa bed, because my middle son is too big to sleep on the couch when company stays over.

Oh, and as long as I was there, I thought that I might find a way to make the boys’ room more livable. Loft beds, baby, loft beds. Right now, you can walk in about three feet – just enough to survey the room before backing out. At least that is what I do. The last time we worked in that room, there was one less member of the family. My older son has grown about a foot and has been complaining that he does not fit on his bed. And his clothes don't fit in his wardrobe. And his little desk is too small. And his bookshelf doesn't have enough room.

So, two Sundays ago, my daughter and I mobilized.

I called my sister and we had deep conversations. (This also helps me to not get my work done.) My daughter offered to have a local charity come and get our stuff and to clear out the boys’ room. I have the urge to get rid of everything that is not tied down. Kitchen table! Couch! Beds! Everything must go. I hate everything in my house, with a deep, abiding hatred. Nothing works. It’s ugly. And old. And crap. Every flat surface is cluttered because there is no storage. I think that storage is one of those words that is made up to sell us stuff – like bins and cups and file stacker things. “Storage” is a made up concept to sell us crates much like Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday to sell us chocolate.

Mmmmmm … chocolate.

The first step was to drag just about everything in the house into the back yard. All of the stuff that was going had to be out of the house. Everything that could go into a Hefty bag went into a Hefty bag.

The resultant open space and lack of clutter was so pleasant that I almost stopped right there.

The next weekend, the whole family, armed with lists and diagrams and a tape measure and a calculator and a camera, we packed up the whole family, borrowed grandpa’s truck, removed all of the seats from the van and caravanned to the echoing vastness that is Ikea. Things started out well except for my husband and I snipping at each other in his parents’ driveway. That was nice. I am not sure exactly what we were arguing about, but I did not let that deter me and I gave as good as I got. I think I won.

Anyway, we drove the hour and half to the store, the two oldest in the van, husband in the truck, smallest one and I in the Honda. We rendezvous in the store and march around, discussing, comparing, sketching in furniture, people advocating for their ideas like we were negotiating the borders of a country, except for the middle son, who drifted about, listening to his ipod.

Eight hours, four carts, a skillion dollars, and four rooms worth of furniture later we trailed out to the loading dock. The worst part of the trip? After we had everything paid for, we were told that the sofa was in the store somewhere and they could not get it while there were still people about, so we had to wait for two hours until the bloody store closed. I stood staunchly at the customer pick up counter and said, in a firm, no-nonsense way that we were not all going to wait and that the problem had to be solved. It didn’t work, but I felt better for saying that the whole thing was Absolutely Unacceptable.

And the sofa was the big thing … you know, the thing that you load first?

The highlights of the trip?

Well, I have to say that lunch in the Ikea café was fun. The kids were willing to be adventurous and have a Taste of Sweden. More hilarity than you would expect ensued. Everyone was tired and starving and a meal was seldom enjoyed more. I would say, that as a family, we have the ability to make the most of little things.

The second highlight was in the lighting section – the song "sexyback" started playing and I turned to see my daughter dancing to it. Imagine Arnold Horshack channeling Justin Timberlake and you would get a flavor of the dance. She only does it when the song has that self-referential, almost bombastic, "I am sooo sexy" attitude. It is a masterful dance. The middle son and I begin to dissolve into giggles. I see my husband, inspired by JT and my daughter also begin to get his sexyback. And then it was a sort of dance off. Somethings cannot be adequately described, but must be experienced.

About a decade or so later, when we were finally going through the self-service part of the store, which is the part where you go up and down the aisles, pushing the cart and risking significant injury to yourself by having to extract the items from shelves. It is always amazing to me how Ikea can make anything flat.

Anyway, I could not find some part of the desk or something and was told by the unhelpful young man that I would have to go upstairs and order the item. I asked, rather reasonably, I thought, if he could not save me a slog upstairs, as he was standing right next to the computer. He said that he could not, saying something about the computer system. In a more reasonable tone yet, reining in my temper, I asked if his computer was not hooked up to the same system and could he please look up the item. Grudgingly, he looked up the order. I heard one of my favorite songs/videos “Here it goes again” by Ok go,

Realizing that I was all alone at the desk, I turned around to see my son, daughter, and husband taking advantage of the large empty space to indulge in some synchronized cart maneuvers. Never let it be said that we don't know how to have a good time.

I will let you know how the reorganizing goes ...

So far we have managed to get most of the "office" and living room done. There was a bit of a problem, because I had not really thought through the ramifications of having the fourteen year-old do the measuring of the rooms. I am not sure how he was FOUR FEET off in his measurements, but there you go. Live and learn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some transatlantic thoughts from Rowan

Thought you might enjoy some last thoughts about the UK. I thought that you might like a chance to to share some of her thoughts. Even though she is Scottishly self-deprecating. She has a much nicer view of Americans than we deserve. However, she has a writer's license to describe the characters as she sees fit. I have some of her pictures (some are really lovely) to put up after this entry. Enjoy!

Rowan writes:

Funny – I have been thinking about the differences between Americans and Brits – the preconceptions built up through bumbling up against arbitrary TV shows and celebrity articles, world events, literature and a few first-hand meetings. I first met American peeps working for the Elderhostel company, when I was making coffee for the retired professionals coming over to Scotland to study a short course in history at the university. I liked them a lot. They were so different from British pensioners, as we call retired people. British professional retired types would not likely acknowledge the waitress – wouldn’t ask her what she was studying, as they would assume that she’d reached her ultimate goal in life. There is nothing wrong with making coffee to earn a living, but the elderly Americans assumed I was studying, using it as a stepping stone to getting somewhere else.

The American peeps were tanned, and launched into the air like redwood saplings – tall rangy old men in sandals – old British guys don’t wear sandals. They wore shorts, the Americans, men and women, wrinkly and proud. They were tanned and healthy and happy in themselves. The old ladies had pompoms sticking out of the backs of their tennis shoes. They wore tennis shoes! Lovely ones I would have coveted myself. I did covet them. British women over a certain age don’t wear tennies, but wear special elderly versions of them which are robbed of the edgy bounce the Converse versions have, and which come in tan and navy wide fitting, designed to go with sleeveless crimplene frocks.

Those old Americans still had zap. They had bounce. Their hair was well-cut, they wore bright lippy, they had pom-pom socks. They wore shorts! They talked loudly of home, over the top of the guide pointing out the lovely scenery as they passed. There were elections at home. They talked, admired, and talked some more, and I learned a lot. I learned about the sun they brought with them in their crinkly smiles; their interest in foreign climes; their lively curiosity about other people – a gentle humorous curiosity which revelled in listening to unusual accents, teasing out differing expectations on life. The interest was touching, because it was based on a premise of kindness, a companionable appreciation of the good in human diversity, but a homely gathering in of like-ness, a sharing of something warm and common and good. They had heart and they had soul, these elderly doctors and lawyers and architects and teachers. They were cool.

The retired peeps – they flew in the face of the trashy tv image of Americans as brash and materialistic. The image of all the women as Krystle Carrington or Alexis Colby – all shoulder pads and lippy and hair stiff with hairspray – image being all. Okay – Krystle had the hair and shoulder-pads, but she was a nice woman. She had worked in a shop before she met Blake Carrington. She knew where it was at. I guess my impressions were sort of overlaid over the years – the Hollywooded image – big jewellery, big hair, big heels. Big demands. Americans are thought here to make big demands, when they are merely being justifiably assertive. Americans are not fobbed off with crap, like we are. We look up meltingly into the eyes of the waiter and tell him that yes, the meal was lovely, when it was inedible. When the lasagne al forno has a frozen core of which the planet Pluto would be proud. There are hairs in the salad and a cigarette butt in the ciabatta; fingernail in the butter and a band-aid in the cream. Yeh, and I’d ordered something totally different, cos I’m a vegetarian but that’s okay. Yes, meat is great, really, and the meal was lovely. Have a £5 tip.

I knew my friend Bob would have no veneer of falseness – she wouldn’t be clicking along in four-inch patent red pumps complaining about the weather. She looked after herself, and took a pride in herself, her clothes, but in the sense of knowing who she was, what she felt comfortable in, what she liked. I knew she was no hairspray slave, cos she said she had wild curly hair; but you know, it is hard to shake off visions sometimes. I knew she was a successful professional in her field. Perhaps she would appear just for the hell of it in a sharp suit, and then I would have to go buy something similar, just to keep up, as I am a mite competitive. Thankfully, she did not!

I learned a lot from Bob. I learned that asking politely gets you want you want, without internal monologues which cause ulcers, and ultimately waste time. Good sightseeing time! Bob was a great time manager. Perhaps that is an American trait. We Brits are the kings and queens of, “where’s the day gone?” We blink in inactivity, thinking our way around how to get things done, how to approach peeps that might be able to help. Americans are more dynamic – energetic, focussed. I would have to say that this is de troowf, based on true empiricist principles and a sample study group of one. Americans talk quickly and get things done quickly and treat their time on this earth with respect. The one I’ve met, anyway – and the retired students in their colourful woollens – men in pink, bigoodness – and cardigans… American men wear cardigans and look good in them. I want pom-pom socks and the nerve to wear shorts when I’m 43, let alone 73, like those dapper and cute old gals. They were fun.

I don’t think Americans second-guess themselves so much. Perhaps the sun warms their backs and shines upon their hearts. Again, I sense it now as a Christian warmth in my buddy, an assuredness in being watched-over. Meeting her has been a blessing. The peace in Bob and the sense of fun and joy in life, was patently visible in her. Bob is smart and funny, and has an amused signature eyebrow-raise which lets you know she’s aware that one is blethering, or in the throes of a characteristic defensive-twitchy British bluster-fest, defending some quirky element of our national psyche. We are quick to take a mild offence about the littlest things, but we don’t parade it. Well, so we are a napkin-needy nation? So be it. (Internal flounce.) However, we are quick to chortle over it, and Bob and I had many good belly-laughs about this aspect of British-ness, and other aspects our national identities. I was struck, on the American website we met on,, how tolerant of each other’s foibles everyone was; what a happy and diverse vibe that created. Sometimes someone would make a bald statement which would offend the sensibilities of peeps here left right and centre, regarding the music/musician in question, but the other posters would kindly nudge them into a more realistic point of view. Perhaps it is a tolerance born of weight of numbers, perhaps it is more that that. Americans spring and Brits shuffle. Yanks are natty mules and we are slippers. The Big Slipper. I am coming to visit the US, will buy my glorious tennies and help avoid the big slippery slope.

It was innnteresting to read on the Thursday Dundee thread that Brits eat differently. Hadn't realised that! Do Americans turn the fork to the concave side and shovel the food on to it in a more practical and realistic fashion? I have always wondered why forks have to be turned over in the UK so that you have to balance food on the convex side. When we are by ourselves and not in company, I'd bet a multipack of Cadbury's Crunchies (9 bars per pack) that 99% of Brits would use the fork scoopy side up. It is a sort of public etiquette thing, mashing it on to the curved side and sticking it in ones mooth before it all slides off onto one's shirt, or if in a restaurant, the tablecloth. I think polite British fork-culture is responsible for a great many duodenal ulcers - stress related, for the most part. Dropping food is a no no, so it has to be precariously balanced then popped in at the speed of light to avoid droppage and consequent mortification.

Can't decide whether the distance-driving thing makes Americans more patient than us Brits, or more impatient. You want to get somewhere, so you get up and go. But you are prepared for the journey to take half a lifetime. We take a more defeatist outlook from the outset, and try to diminish the appeal of the destination, to avoid making the journey in the first-place, a sort of misplaced anti-travel stoicism. Actually emerging onto a motorway and going on a long journey (long being an issue in itself) is thus viewed by the driver as a small act of heroism. I think we are just a leetle unadventurous, cos when we do actually get up and go, we generally appreciate new horizons and are galvanised with a shot of Transatlantic oomph. However, it has been known to go the other way, with some of our visitors. As Caesar said, reflecting on a visit to Northern Britain, "I came, I struggled up off my behind, I just about saw, but it was raining, so I put off conquering till another day." Actually, we Picts were too skeery for dem Romans. They built walls to keep us from stravaigin aboot England on their braw new Roman roads.

Dynamism, peepel: dynamism. Is it true that there is actually more caffeine in tea? Hae ma doots. We are ploddy, as a nation, but we get there, sort of, and enjoy a good grumble along the way.

As Bob said, it is great to travel with a friend and learn about their world, whilst seeing places and people new to both. I would likely never have seen London had Bob not come to visit – that is a thought that is making me sit up, but it is potentially highly likely. My prejudices about London being full of sleazy gentlemen in Victorian dress leering from carriages after sunset, and thoroughfares and stations full of footpads (love that word) and loud ladies in shabby silk décolleté gowns selling roses, were all quickly shattered. The other prejudices, about sullen hordes of commuters thumping visitors with their briefcases and not apologizing, cos they were stressed out and hadn’t seen a tree for a year, were also quashed. London was bright and busy, but quirky and polite. And, like the little boy in the rhyme, I stood in my shoes and I wondered.

I am looking forward to visiting the US and people-watching. I have a real appreciation of the way the Americans interacted on GC and Monkbot. Perhaps fellow Monkbot and Stravaiger Eire Claire and I could be seen as displaced Americans. J Perhaps our forebears were thrown off the Mayflower at the last minute for being drunk or having too much luggage. Methinks, however, that my Puritan ancestor had bladder issues, and had resisted the onboard porthole porta-potty in favour of nipping ashore to use the harbour restroom. She emerged lighter of ballast just in time to see the ship rounding the headland without her.

So, I have seen the UK capitals from all sorts of angles: under arches in antique bookshops; gazing up at the battlements of the Tower of London; listening to echoing footfalls in amazing museums; travelling on tube trains; exploring old bookshops and tacky souvenir shops; singing along to Mamma Mia at the Prince of Wales Theatre. It was a blast. Edinburgh was a blast, too: hefty fortresses; stunning stained-glass; breathtaking art; fragrant festive markets, outdoor skating and Ferris wheels. It is on my doorstep, this jewel of a city, but there was no fun going back unless, as Bob says, you can go with a friend and see it through their eyes as well as your own, and appreciate it all anew.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

Jiggity Jig.

Just warning you that this is a booooring entry. Just some plane pictures and stuff ...

It has been a long week and a half. It is hard to believe that I have been away for almost two weeks. I miss my family and am eager to see them. When I am making a big trip, I begin thinking about it the day before and am halfway there on the first day of travel. Last night, I did a quick mental pack and did a little organizing. I am a little anxious about getting on the road -- I have visions of long customs lines and other unanticipated delays. Part of me will be very, very glad to be on the plane.

When I get up, it is very cold and there is frost on the ground for the first time. I hope that it is not too slick driving to the airport. My plane leaves at ten and I want to be there an hour and a half early, just to stave off any problems. I get washed and packed in record time. I have my two bags, one of which has my posters in it, rolled up in a cardboard tube. My ultra-dangerous lip balm is in a plastic sandwich bag.

After breakfast, Rowan's stepdad comes to take us to the airport, which again, is very kind of him. Her mom and stepdad have been marvelous to allow us to stravaig aboot, by watching the kids as needed. It has been a wonderful visit, all the way around. We crunch out to the car and load up. I give Lena a hug good bye and leave enriched with her artwork.

This trip is a little different from the trip in -- Rowan and I are not meeting each other in 3D for the first time; we are no longer a little ill-at-ease with each other. We are quiet, and we chat of this and that. I think that we are both tired and I am a little preoccupied with travel thoughts ... do I have my passport, what time is it at home, will I have a good seatmate, am I going to get hung up in customs? That kind of stuff. This time we take the freeway, not the back roads to Edinburgh, and make good time. I wonder if I will be brave enough to drive the next time I come here.

I look at the car clock and start to get a little nervous -- it is much later than I had hoped. Instead of having an hour buffer, it looks like I am going to have substantially less. I begin to hyperventilate a little. I am not sure how we have lost so much time. When we drive into the airport, I stifle the urge to yell, "stop the car!" and merely say, in a tense sort of way, that I will get out. Although they do not have to do so, Rowan and her stepdad say that they will park and meet me in the terminal. I grab my cases and trundle off to the ticket counter. It takes a while to get to the ticket counter -- the signs are a little confusing, and I am nervous because I am much later than I would like to be. The line is looooong, and some of the people in front of me are leaving on a later flight, and I am just about to have a panic attack.

I looked at the clock in disbelief -- it is an hour earlier than I had thought -- an hour earlier than the car clock in Rowan's stepdad's car. I realize that his clock is an hour late. I am not late, but am just right -- just as I am handing over my passport and reeling from the blood rushing to my head, Rowan and comes to say good-bye.

I am not a fan of long good-byes, so I thank her stepdad, most sincerely, for his help. He went above and beyond in the hospitality department. Rowan and I hug goodbye, and I tell her that I will let her know when I get home. It is quick, because I am close to the front of the line, and I shoo her away -- my mind is already occupied with the trip home. We will see each other again, for sure. They depart, and I watch them disappear into the crowd.

I am trying to impress the sound of Scottish voices in my mind -- and I remember what it was like to arrive in the airport for the first time. I don't feel much like a visitor. I have been enriched by the experience. It has been a great trip.

I get through the ticket counter -- there was some hang up, one I can't remember right now, but I had to wait for a bit at the counter. Oh, I remember, it was to do with the electronic boarding pass -- I had printed it out before I left the US, and there was some confusion about it, as the ticket people had apparently never seen such a thing. I am getting irritated. And worried. And when I get worried, I get irritated.

Finally I get through the ticket line with my two bags and poster tube. When I say two bags, I mean one carry-on and my purse. Please remember that I just left the ticket counter with these items, clearly observed by all of the counter personnel. There is a little pub-ish place where I get a coffee (I remember when Rowan and I peeked in on the way to London) and a mini-Boots, which I quickly look into, again remembering walking through with Rowan. I finish my coffee quickly and I get to the security screening line and am informed that you are only allowed to have one bag. I goggled at the person. I just left the ticket counter and all of my luggage is checked. I stomp over to some chairs and begin throwing away unnecessary items -- not that there are many (good-bye tuna and sweetcorn sandwich that Rowan made for me) -- and manage to cram everything into one bag. Thankfully, I travel light, but it was not an easy task. I have to cram, and I do mean cram stuff into my larger bag. I can't zip it. Things are stacked on the top of my open bag, but I only have one bag, so technically it is all good. The same amount of stuff in one bag is less dangerous than the same amount of stuff in two bags, apparently. My poster tube is laying across the top of my bag and there is just enough room to get my fingers at the top of the handle to carry it. Not the most comfortable arrangement, but workable. I have no idea why they did not tell me that I could only take one bag at the ticket counter ... grrrrr. I might have hated the people at the baggage counter for a moment or two.

We don't have to take our shoes off, for a mercy, but we have to practically strip when getting our bags x-rayed.

I get into the second waiting room and once again curse the lack of wheels on my bag. I get a slice of quiche, as I am starving. I nostalgically over-pay and I settle in to read for a bit before getting on the plane. I check the boarding information like one hundred times, waiting to find that I have messed up the time. Finally, I get on the plane and find, to my delight, that I have a whole seat to myself. No seatmate! Bliss. I rearrange my stuff and settle in to read. Here are some shots outside the plane as we take off over Edinburgh.

This is the city as we leave. I think it is lovely. I heart Edinburgh.

Straightening out over the Firth of Forth.

And over the countryside.

Pretty, no?

I feel like I am wrapping things up, taking pictures of the countryside as I leave, impressing the images on my mind.

These are the colors that I remember from the window of the train.

And we turn to head out over the Atlantic. I am officially a trans-Atlantic traveler. Hard to imagine that, really.

I always like being above the clouds. It is a nice trip so far -- the extra space is a bonus. About now, I have pulled out my magazines that I did not read on the way out. I have a copy of People Magazine that I brought from home -- the Sexiest Man or something issue. I look at the cover and then do a double-take. There is a familiar, but unexpected face on the magazine cover. I burst out laughing, because my husband has taken a picture of himself and glued it on the cover. It is hilarious and I miss him quite desperately. I am soooo glad that I did not throw the magazine away in the Great Edinburgh Airport Divesture.

The flight attendant comes by later, and sees the magazine and makes a comment about the cover, saying something about George Clooney, I think it was. Laughing, I show her my husband's handiwork. She is so impressed that she takes it back to the back of the plane to show to the rest of the crew. It is a big hit and she tells me that I have a keeper. I know -- after 17 and a half years, my husband still makes me laugh as much as ever. He is smart and funny and kind and does not grudge his wife trans-Atlantic flights. There is no way that I would be as accommodating, I have to say. I will have to make it up to him ...

The flight seems much faster this time, and very quickly, we are over the ocean. I look up from my book and I catch the first glimpse of land -- I know it for Greenland this time. I remember the flight attendant on the trip in saying that if it is green, it is Iceland and if it is white, it is Greenland. It seems a long time ago.

It looks white to me.

I wonder where we are ... When does Greenland become Canada? Or Newfoundland or Nova Scotia or wherever it is that we are. Should I be more embarrassed at my lack of knowledge?

I am irresistibly reminded of the Penguin Encounter at Sea World. I love that place.

I wonder what those lines are -- roads?

Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?! The plane does not seem to be threatening to shoot us down, though.

It is still there, and I am a little nervous. Don't they have laws about planes being too close to each other? That plane is practically looking up our nose.

I ask the flight attendant what she thinks that the straight lines are, and we think it must be a road, but it looks all snowy. The flight attendants are much nicer on the way back than they were on the way out. We talk about her recent trip to Edinburgh, her first with her husband.

Well, I looked out the window as we went south to Atlanta, but nothing much more interesting or picture worthy. I waved hello to all of the Southern Monkbots as I flew over. When they said that we were over Mississippi, I waved. Hi, Shelley!

I was very excited to get off in Atlanta, as my cell phone finally worked properly. I had about two hours in Georgia, long enough to get some lunch and to stretch my legs. I collected my one over-stuffed bag and poster tube and went through Customs. You have to collect your bags and re-check them in as you enter the country. I re-organized my one heavy bag into the two original smaller bags and got a cart and trundled over to the baggage area. It took a long, and I do mean a long time to get my suitcases. I think that mine were the last to be put out. Visions of lost luggage began to dance through my head. I was really glad that I had my computer with me.

I rechecked the bags and went through security again. It is at this point that my poster tube was confiscated, as being oversized. Please remember that it was checked in at Edinburgh with no difficulty at all. I was re-routed through to the "oversized carryon" counter where it was taken away. I was assured that it would be at my final destination. I asked if that was for sure, and I was reassured that it was. I was not convinced, but three people swore to me that the poster tube would get there with no difficulty and would be waiting happily for me at my destination.

I went on through and got lunch while I waited. A young woman commented admiringly on the jacket that Rowan had given me, a lovely teal one with Celtic petroglyphs on it. She had been studying at the University of Edinburgh and found them familiar. She said that I was wearing all of her favorite symbols. She was traveling back to California, as well. I left messages for folks that I was alive and well and on the way home. Rowan emailed me, and it came through on my phone, and once again, I marveled at technology.

It was interesting to be in the US again and to hear Southern accents. There was a Scotswoman talking on a pay phone as I walked to the gate, and I got a little pang, realizing that I was not going to hear that accent for a while.

It was about a half an hour before we boarded that I was stuck with the realization that there was no address on my poster tube. I went to the counter and said that I thought that there was no way that my stuff was going to make it to my destination. I was asked to show my claim ticket, and admitted that I had not been given one. Apparently, I was supposed to get one, but the crack TSA staff took away my stuff and did not give me one, despite the fact that there were three of them clustered around me, telling me that my posters would get to California. How did they know? What was I thinking, to TRUST THE TSA?? I deserved to lose my stuff for that alone. Anyway, it took a number of phone calls to everywhere from lost and found to the Delta baggage counter to verify that my stuff was lost. I was very sad ...

I learned a valuable lesson though, about getting claim tickets and following your own instincts, even when you are confronted with the scary TSA people who have the power of life and travel and getting home over you.

I was on the phone, trying to hunt my stuff down, even as we were on the tarmac ready for departure. I was one of those obnoxious people who had a cell phone glued to her ear as if what she had to say was soooo important that she couldn't hang up. Needless to to say, my stuff was not waiting for me at home and every one that I spoke to agreed that the TSA had botched it. I ended up getting a claim reimbursed, but That Was Not The Point.

Ah well.

I got off the plane at home and was greeted by my husband and the boys. My husband looked very handsome and some part of me eased when I saw him. Being with him feels like home -- he snuck up on me, just to get the reaction. I was reminded that it had been a long time since we had seen each other. It was a lovely kiss hello. My youngest did the traditional "run across the airport" to greet me, and I got all choked up. Let's just say that he has good dramatic instincts, but it was heartfelt. My oldest boy gave me a hug and mumbled hello. It was so good to see them -- it felt like a million years that I had been gone and I was all full of new experiences.

So, I went off to the UK to see a friend that I met over the Internets, which, in general, is not a good idea. In this case, however, it was a very good one. We had a wonderful time, exploring London and Edinburgh and Dundee. It was an adventure for sure. Somehow, across a continent and an ocean, we have become fast friends. My husband says that we deserve each other -- which is a high compliment. We are both refugees from the academic feminist world and have small children. Rowan knows more about literature than I will ever know and has a wide sentimental streak combined with journalist's observing, wry, eye. We are both marching into the world of the middle-aged woman, sans elastic-waisted pants. I refuse. Rowan has a wonderful twisty sense of humor. She hates pizza and avocados (which I do not understand) and is enamored with a great turn of phrase. In a lot of ways, we are more similar than we are different. We "get" each other, which is a great basis for friendship. I like that she is smart and funny and has a bit of a kick to her gallop.

I would say that one of the best ways to see a new place is with a friend who lives there, and I got to do that. She also shared her world with me, seeing it fresh through my eyes. It is her turn next, so stay tuned. I wonder what Rowan will make of California?

We are planning our next stravaig, now that Rowan sees that the world is not too scary and strange. I think that she needs to come out this way soon. Dublin would be fun. London, of course, is a must-do. I have my eye on Spain, as well. I have barely scratched the surface of Scotland.

The world is a wide-open place, waiting to be explored.