House Hunting

July 21, 2014 - Leave a Response

herrin

A-hunting we will go, a-hunting we will go Heigh-ho, the derry-o, a-hunting we will go! ~ Thomas Arne “The Beggar’s Opera” 1777

It’s been a long time since I have had to look for a new place to live. Things went at a much slower pace back in the last century, and the methods of searching have changed a great deal.

For instance, when we last moved, if the internet existed back then, it was very rudimentary, and we didn’t have access to it. So to look for a place to live without the assistance of a real estate professional, we would have had to look in the local classified ads, the Greensheet, drive about looking for “For Rent” signs or depend on references from others.

During periods in which the real estate market was slow, one could spend quite a bit of time looking around, and then leisurely make an offer (usually for lower than the listed amount). If the landlord liked you, he or she would rent the place to you with few questions asked.

Now, even though the internet makes things “easier”, it’s a lot more complicated and difficult to find decent places to rent. Because if you live in Houston, TX, when you look online for available rentals, there are LOTS of other people looking at those same places. If you don’t move quickly, you lose out on prime properties. So you jump when you find the perfect place!

But that’s just the beginning. Application forms must be filled out and fees must be paid (by cashier’s check). The landlord will check your credit and quite possibly your criminal record. Likely there will be others who have also applied for your perfect place, and whomever the landlord likes best wins.

It’s not until you hear you’ve been accepted that you can finally breathe a sigh of relief! And then you must quickly send in your deposit to your new landlord (also via cashier’s check).

Shannon and I recently experienced a Houston house hunt, while searching for a new place for her and Kat (plus the giant grand-dog and the small grand-cat) to live. They had a budget and some criteria, mostly that the place be close to downtown, so commuting would be at a minimum. We opted to use a professional realtor, who is an old friend, and honestly, we could not have done it without her.

After looking at a variety of available spaces (freestanding houses, duplexes, condos, apartments) over the course of two days, we were getting a little discouraged, because it just seemed like nothing was quite right. Some would do, but others were totally unacceptable. One that we both like a lot had been snatched up before we even saw it in person.

herrin-bed[1]

However, at the end of the second day, we looked at a loft space, created in an old 1929 warehouse, very close to Kat’s office in an up and coming part of Houston (east side of downtown). It is small, but it has character, with all the charm of an old building, plus the benefit of new appliances and fixtures, brick walls, stained cement floors, tall ceilings and generous windows on two sides (it’s a corner unit that overlooks downtown; a great view!).

herrin12[1]

The building is directly across the street from the BBVA soccer stadium, home of the Dynamo and the Dash. One block north is the new metro rail line which they can jump on and enjoy all the benefits of the downtown night life without driving or worrying about parking. Kat can walk to work if he wants to, and Discovery Green is also within walking distance, for the benefit of my sweet, giant grand-dog.

Bike trails are nearby, and clubs and other interesting spots are popping up as the area becomes less of a warehouse wasteland and more of a community of people who enjoy urban living. I hope Shannon and Kat will fit right in with this community, and I know that I’ll enjoy experiencing it vicariously through them.

 

Note: Pewperson will return in September.

Date Nights All Year Long

July 11, 2014 - Leave a Response

bistro-le-cep[1] There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting around the dinner table and talking until the candles are burned down. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

A few years back, we bought a $100 raffle ticket at a fund raiser. There were several prizes available, none of which we were really hoping to win. Honestly, we just bought the ticket for the cause.

But we won one! Our prize was the “Casual Dining Package” which was a collection of gift cards from various restaurants around Houston, from $20 at James Coney Island to $400 at Truluck’s, and even a dinner for 20 at Armando’s! And there were many, many more, all for $100.

So last Christmas, I had the idea to re-create it for one of Joel’s Christmas gifts. I picked 12 restaurants, thinking that we could have a once a month date night. My selections included old favorites, both casual and upscale, but mostly focused on our usual “go to” spots out on the west side.

brenners

Brenner’s

I bought $100 gift cards at the following restaurants: Russo’s, Los Tios, Brenner’s, Piatto’s, Union Kitchen, Jonathan’s The Rub, Damian’s, Danton’s, Kam’s, Bird and Bear, Lupe Tortilla and Bistro Le Cep. 

He loved it! We have both loved it. Just last weekend, we drove in to have a seafood feast at Danton’s. While we ended up having to detour around a local parade, we discovered some parts of town that have been so re-developed, we barely recognized them. Thank goodness we knew how to get around the parade gridlock!

Once we got there, we both had the seafood gumbo, then I had soft shell crab and red beans and rice. Joel opted for the crawfish platter, which he said was the best Gulf Coast seafood he’d had in a long time.

danton's

 

When we got the bill, it was for $105. Of course, he added a tip for the entire amount, but still, our total credit card charge was only $27. Not bad for a most excellent date night!

Alas, my vision of going out once a month has gone by the wayside, and here at midyear, we’ve only got two restaurants left to go. But there are other a number of others where we didn’t spend the entire $100, so we have balances yet to use. Guess we’ll have to go back and finish them off!

Note to self: do this again next year. Pick 12 different places. Maybe this Christmas, I’ll let Joel pick them. Yes. That’s what I’ll do… then it will be my turn the year following. And so on.

Thank you, Santa!

Sentimental Journeys

July 6, 2014 - Leave a Response

dingle

The cars we drive say a lot about us. ~ Alexandra Paul

So we bought a new car this week. It’s another Ford Explorer, our third over the span of 19 years. For the most part, we have had a great track record with Explorers. There’s good old Bert (19 years old), then Donnie Ray (12) and now along comes Dingle, who is a pristine silver, beautiful, sleek and fancy vehicle. Here’s to another great car!

I’m almost afraid of him, because of all the technological advances that new cars have; it’s been 12 years since we bought Donnie Ray, and he seems almost primitive compared to the new Dingle.

donnie ray

While DR’s front seats can be automatically adjusted, the rear ones do not, and to access the “way back” seats, one must manually lift them, and move the middle one aside to make way. The back lift gate needs to be opened and closed manually. With Dingle, you just push a button, and all the rear seats fold and unfold as desired, and of course the lift gate also magically rises and shuts at the touch of a button. Cool!

DR’s dashboard displays can be hard to read in bright light, and now seem so quaint compared to Dingle’s fancy computer generated displays, all of which are voice activated. ACK! I’ve got to do some practicing before I can drive this guy! It’s going to take me awhile to learn how everything works.

bert

Bert? Bert was Shannon’s first car, given to her when he was 7 years old. Previously, in addition to many a Texas road trip, we’d driven him up to Wyoming via S. Dakota, then down into Utah and Arizona for a National Parks tour. Then there were all the “learning to drive” moments that Bert provided, bless his automotive heart!

It makes me laugh to think that he still has a cassette player (and a CD player, which was pretty fancy back in 1996!). He’s also got a cigarette lighter and an ash tray, which you never see anymore. His displays are not digital at all. As a matter of fact, his odometer is the kind in which the mile numbers roll over, except that his stopped working at 138,500, about 8 years ago. Since then, he has gone to NY and back, CO and back, VA and back (several times), along with the everyday driving wherever he has been. I’ll bet he has gone at least 250,000 in his 19 years.

(Note: if you want to turn on Bert’s windshield washers, you must turn on the right turn signal to make them work)

So now we have Dingle! While it may seem kind of exciting to have a new car, it doesn’t hold the charm that it once did for me. There’s a certain nobility that a good old car has, and I still think they are the best. Once you get used to them, they are comfortable, maybe slightly worn and damaged, but who cares? You know how all the buttons work, and can adjust things without even looking.

I don’t know why I am so sentimental about our cars, but I just am. Yes, I know naming them gives them a personality which only exists in my mind. But gosh, what fond memories I have of these fine old cars. And they’re PAID FOR. Yes, I do still love them, dings, quirks and all.

As for Dingle, I’ll worry about every scratch and bump that are inevitable, every spill and stain that are bound to happen. Tucker will not be allowed to drool on the back seat, and there will be no bird doot allowed! Yeah, right.

So if I keep Dingle for 19 years, then I’ll be pushing 80. I can only imagine what cars will look like then. Something tells me I would be happier with a car that is less fancy…

Maybe I’ll just keep Bert around? He should qualify for antique status by then!

Acquisitions and Divestments

June 27, 2014 - Leave a Response

garage2

Where does stuff go when it dies, does it go to stuff heaven? ~ George Carlin

Last week I mentioned the cookware I bought for myself in college to start off my adventure in housekeeping. That set of pots and pans was seriously just about all that I owned as I began my post graduate life. The summer after I graduated, I worked at Methodist Hospital (I rode my bike there and back) and lived at home to save money before moving to Dallas and getting a job there. Once in Dallas, thanks to a friend who lived there, I found both a job and an apartment in an old quadruplex on the bus line (I had no car). My parents gave me an old mattress set, and I brought my desk and a chair or two. That was about it. The apartment came with a dining table and chairs, and the kitchen had a “murphy table” which folded down from the wall, revealing the narrow spice rack.

Joel’s mom came to the rescue with all sorts of furniture and dishes that she magically pulled out of her garage: a chest of drawers and mirror, a cedar chest, an upholstered chair that folded out into a single bed, a rocking chair, and two side tables. Anything she offered to me, I gratefully took. Plates, glassware, stainless flatware followed. Then came an old gas heater that looked like a fireplace, as the apartment had no heat (did I mention that the rent was only $125 a month?).

dishes

She was on a mission, and thrived on looking for items that Joel or I might need in our respective apartments. One of her favorite things to do was troll garage sales. I never said no to anything she found and offered to us.

settee

Once I had saved a little money, I bought myself a small black and white TV. Then came a sofa bed and some cheapo, assemble it yourself bookshelves, all paid for over time. Things were starting to look pretty good!

Then Joel and I married, and he and all his STUFF moved in, in addition to all of our wedding gifts. Hmmm. We were starting to have too much STUFF in this one tiny apartment. But we kept thinking that we’d be moving into a bigger space, and would find a place for everything.

After Joel graduated from law school, we moved back to Houston and lived in a series of houses, each larger than the last one (with one exception). My mother in law kept at it, finding a dining table, sideboard, settee, and then she gave us her old piano. When her cousin passed away, we inherited a large four poster bed, a comfy upholstered chair and ottoman, an immense dining table (stretches out from 4 feet square to 4 x 12 feet long) and chairs, along with more dishes and glassware. And STUFF.

chair

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the family pieces that have been handed down to us over the years. They are our history, and they make our house a home, which is unique in this day of matching suites of furniture that are not nearly as well made as they used to be.

But then it came time for both moms to downsize and move out of their houses to smaller places. More STUFF appeared. Later, Joel’s mom moved into the nursing area of the community, and even MORE STUFF has been piled into our garage. Now I understand why Joel’s mom’s garage was full, and I’ve turned into her! This has been a serious tipping point in my life.

Our 3 car garage now has only enough room to fit 1 car. Once Shannon has determined what she does or does not want, then she will help me get rid of it, one way or another. It is way past time to begin divesting instead of continually acquiring. I want my garage back!

Direct Sales

June 21, 2014 - 3 Responses

 

 

cutco

My dad, being a salesman, taught me you can sell anybody anything if you’ve got the ability to believe. ~Marilyn Manson

Over the years, I have sat through many a Cutco presentation by some very earnest young men. All have been guys from our church, so I always say yes when they call me. My thought is that if this young person has the gumption to make a cold call, and has the moxie to make a presentation to me, well then, I’m going to buy something from him. Cutco does offer good products, and I’ve always been pleased with my purchases.

The hard part is listening to the spiel over and over, but one must let them practice to prepare for presentations to others who haven’t heard it yet.

Going back in time, I am remembering a cookware presentation done in one of the “Dating Parlors” at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, back in the spring of my senior year, when I had visions of marrying a special young man (to whom I am now married). The product was called Thermo-Core, and was described as “Thermium Multi-plex Stainless Steel”. Made in USA.

pots2

The salesman enticed me with promises of lifetime guarantees for this superior product. The package included a covered skillet, a Dutch oven, three covered sauce pans plus an insert to make a double boiler, AND another insert that went into the Dutch oven that would warm baby bottles! (of course, this was before the days of microwave ovens, which eventually made the baby bottle insert obsolete). But in case you didn’t need that baby bottle feature, there were little cups you could stick in the holes if you wanted to poach eggs like my mom used to do. He also demonstrated how one could stack sauce pans with that double boiler insert to keep things warm and save energy (pretty forward thinking in 1977!).

It all sounded good to me. But I had no money. Of course, they offered a payout plan, which I can’t believe I agreed to. My thought was that I’d get a job and pay for it later. I can’t remember, but I think the whole shebang cost several hundred dollars.

I didn’t ask my mother for guidance, mostly because it would have involved a long distance call, which involved money which I didn’t have, or a letter, to which I wouldn’t have a reply for maybe a week.

Speaking of my mom, I hate to admit it, but her cookware was pretty flimsy back then, and that was one of the reasons I made the executive decision to buy this “superior” product.

Fast forward 37 years. I am still using all of the pieces I purchased and paid out way back then. Well, except that I don’t much use the baby bottle insert, nor the egg poaching accessories!

pots

Yes, I know there are many new and amazing cookware products out there, and some are in my cupboard next to my Thermo-Core pieces. But I still go to those old saucepans and the skillet first. They are old friends, and way more than good enough for me. And they go in the dishwasher (bonus points!).

So you might think twice when someone calls you or invites you to consider a product. There’s a good chance you will be very pleased with your purchase! Here’s to all those who have ever been in direct sales, pitching cutlery, cookware, skin care products or costume jewelry, etc. You all have earned my admiration.

Tucker is Three

June 12, 2014 - Leave a Response

8weeks 

Halfway up the stairs Isn’t up, Isn’t down… ~A.A. Milne

Three years ago, this wee pup melted our hearts, despite a birth defect (cleft palate) that required some major surgery at that very young age. It was ultimately a good decision. Tucker has matured into a confident and happy dog, who has won the hearts of many with his happy dances and his sunny nature.

Every morning, I let him out the back door, where he invariably heads to the northeast corner of our yard to bark at a neighbor’s dog, who always barks back. His path through the pine trees is well marked. On the morning of his birthday, oh boy! He interrupted two cats, one of which managed to scale the fence, but the other one failed. I’m not sure what happened out there behind the ginger lilies, but Tucker emerged, energized and primed for breakfast. I think that the cat must have squeezed its fat self under the fence somehow.

After breakfast, it’s always time for “walkies”. On that same morning that he surprised the cats, we encountered a man walking a seven week old Golden Retriever. The pup was petrified by all the cars and noise, and had parked himself on his owner’s foot, just frozen there. I totally understood the situation, because all of our country raised dogs felt the same way at first, too.

So I approached him with Tucker, who wagged his tail and distracted the puppy from his fears. It was like magic. That puppy wiggled and waggled, jumped and kissed both Tucker and me, and then, when Tucker and I walked on, I looked back. That fat little fellow was walking along his owner, just as confidently as could be. What a good teacher you are, Tucker!

It began to rain on us as we were heading for home, so we stepped up the pace a bit. But I wasn’t too concerned about getting wet, as I knew that our ace groomer, Susan was scheduled to come give Tucker a bath, trim and manicure later that morning.

Whenever the doorbell rings, Tucker races to see who’s there, and gets so excited whenever people come visit (he thinks they are coming to visit him). But he knows what Susan’s van looks like, and once he saw it, he retreated to the kitchen, where he was cornered without much difficulty. Thirty minutes later, he was fluffed and buffed, with some extra treats to make him feel better after his trauma.

tucker may

After that, it was time for errands, which means a ride in the car to go to places that are dog friendly. First stop, Twin Oaks Cleaners, where he loves to visit his friends who work there. They make a big fuss over him, and honestly, if I go there without him, they are very disappointed. And here I must say that I’ll never opt for home delivery/pickup, because Tucker loves to go to the cleaners so much!

And the drive through bank, as well. I am well aware that I could deposit my checks via an app that would allow me to do it online, but there would be no cookies that come with it, like they come with the deposit slip at Bank of Texas. Tucker LOVES Bank of Texas, and I would suggest to all banks that they stock up on doggie treats to keep those canine customers happy!

On other mornings, our routine may involve working in the garden, with my faithful companion. He never strays, and I love having him keep me company as I pull weeds or transplant things, etc.

june

As you can tell, Tucker’s mornings are always filled with activities. If I am eating lunch at home, it usually means tuna or chicken salad, and Tucker gets to lick the spoon… a big deal to him! And then comes nap time. He probably snoozes a few hours. On a good day, I may snooze, too, albeit just for 30 minutes or so.

photo

Later, it’s time to wander down to the mailbox or patrol the perimeter. 5:30? Time for a cookie! His stomach clock seldom fails. Then when the dad gets home, oh boy, it’s playtime!

Tucker gets sleepy pretty early; I think his body clock goes by the sunrise/sunset. Daylight means it’s time to wake up, and sunset means it’s time to go to sleep. I need to get into his rhythm for the summer months, because in Houston, it’s too hot to walk/run a dog after 8 am.

You may be wondering about that quote from A.A. Milne. That’s Tucker for you. His “brothers” Shadow and Bailey quickly learned about stairs and ran up and down with abandon. Tucker? That’s the one area that he hasn’t quite mastered, even after 3 years. He will go up and down with coaxing, but he hesitates as if he isn’t quite sure about it.

photo (2)

I think he’s waiting for us to install an elevator.

Happy birthday, Tucker… What a good dog!

Lost and Found

June 5, 2014 - Leave a Response

IMG_6173

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see. ~ John Newton (1725-1807)

In 1998, my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. One of the gifts my dad gave to my mom was a Bible, a New Revised Standard version, complete with study guides. He wrote a touching inscription to her, and it is clear that she used it, because it is stuffed with random devotionals that she saved, and she had made notes and underlined various scriptures.

I never knew he had given her this Bible until just this month, when a staff member at our church, St. Luke’s UMC, e-mailed me to say that they had found it. Apparently it had been in the Lost and Found since 2001 (there was an Upper Room from 2001 stuck between the pages). Initially, Noralyn couldn’t tell to whom it belonged (since Dad didn’t include their last name in the inscription), so she asked a long time staff member if she could figure it out. Laurie knew right away whose it was, and they contacted me.

When I picked it up, I was drawn to the words he wrote to her. Not only were they tender, but his handwriting was so familiar and strong. At the time he wrote them, we didn’t know that Alzheimer’s was slowly creeping up on him. So I studied the words and tried to see any clues in them. Was there any wobble or hesitancy? Maybe the words were a little crooked, but it’s not easy to write in a straight line when you have no guides to go by.

IMG_1721

I was so excited about returning this Bible to Mom, and when I did, she exclaimed, “Where did you find it!!??” I told her the story, and she said she remembers the exact Sunday she left it behind in the pew. When she went back to get it, it was gone. I suppose she checked the Lost and Found, but somehow her Bible got tucked away and forgotten for 13 years. Mom said she really loved this Bible, because it included some great study guides.

Two years after Dad gave this gift to Mom, we first began to see indications that something was not right with him, and 9 long years later, he passed away as a result of the effects of Alzheimer’s. Just seeing this tangible evidence of the days when he was strong and healthy brought back memories of his presence… happy memories.

It was clear that Mom was thinking these same thoughts. She said she loved re-reading the note Dad had written to her, and said that she felt like she had received a love note and a present from heaven.

Thanks, Dad, for your thoughtfulness from 16 years ago. All these years later, we cherish it even more than we did back then. And we all really miss you…

Lexington

May 22, 2014 - Leave a Response

fri 0

Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you! ~ traditional American folk song

The first time I ever visited Lexington, VA was in the fall of 1973, to visit Joel, who was a freshman at W&L. I fell in love with this historic college town, steeped in history and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling hills and rushing rivers.

lee chapel

Who would have ever guessed that 38 years later, our daughter would move to Lexington for 3 years while her husband went to W&L Law School! Over the preceding years, Joel and I had gone back for his class reunions every 5 years, which were always fun, but having our daughter there meant extra visits, usually twice a year. So we’ve visited Lexington often lately and have fallen in love with it again, and even more so.

One of the things I love about Lexington is its timelessness. The historic downtown district looks virtually identical to the way it looked 38 years ago. Sure, some of the various shops and restaurants have come and gone (although a few are still there from the time of my first visit), but the buildings in which they do business are the same ones that have been there for decades, or even centuries.

pic_activities_lexington

For instance, in the 1970’s, there used to be a place we called “Duck’s”, which was a hamburger joint, where the W&L guys (no women at W&L until the 1980’s) could go grab some lunch, get a late night meal or a beer and charge it to their parents’ account. It became a B&B at some point, and we even stayed in a room that we think used to be Duck’s kitchen. Now that entire building is being refurbished to be an upscale hotel/restaurant. I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Duck would think about that!

Going back to Lexington always evokes memories of those carefree days prior to graduation, when we were “young, foolish and happy”. I can shut my eyes, inhale the scent of the boxwoods and go back in time. It’s always such a shock to realize how many years have passed since those long ago days.

Back to the present, it’s been great fun to experience today’s Lexington through the eyes of our daughter and son in law. They don’t have the memories that we do, but they are making their own, with the places they go and the things they like to do. They’ve been living in a lovely home across US 64 from Liberty Hall, close enough that Kat can walk over to the law school. Shannon works for ODK, in the old train station, less than a half mile from their house. And we found a favorite cabin where we love to stay, just outside of town.

Kat graduated earlier this month, and while it was a happy occasion, it means that they will soon be leaving Lexington and heading back to Houston where he has a great job lined up. But it also means that we won’t be traveling up to Lexington as often, and will miss having them there, next time we do!

sat 14

Throughout the graduation weekend, I kept looking around to savor my favorite things about Lexington, knowing I wouldn’t be back for years. It was a bittersweet time, and on that last day when we said farewell to “our” cabin, I was terribly sad. Later on, while sitting on Shannon and Kat’s front porch, just enjoying the breeze, watching the birds, deer and rabbits, I couldn’t help but feel poignant about this generational shift.

sunday

The next time I am in Lexington will be for Joel’s 40th reunion in 2017. But Shannon and Kat won’t be there anymore. I know they will be in Houston, and I will see them often, but it will be different not having them there in Lexington in their precious house where we can hang out on the front porch, or meet them at the Red Hen or wander down Main Street together.

All these thoughts competed with each other the entire weekend, and I’ve got to say, I was very emotional as we left them. Joel admitted that he was, as well. Lexington will do that to all who love her.

And we do, times four.

ROANOKE

May 15, 2014 - Leave a Response

roanoke colony

Travel is not the time to break in new shoes. ~Lynne Christen

In 1587, over 100 people sailed to America to establish the first English settlement in America on Roanoke Island, located on what is now the coast of North Carolina. Three years later, they vanished without a trace, and became known as “The Lost Colony”. While there have been many theories about their disappearance, there has been no conclusive evidence as to what happened to the colonists.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and shift the scene to ROANOKE, VA, where most folks who visit Lexington, VA arrive and depart by air. Lately, we’ve had our fair share of travel disasters whether arriving or departing from this particular airport, and I can’t help but think about “The Lost Colony”. I think I’ll rename Woodrum Field “The Lost Airport”.

roanoke airport

May 2012: We were traveling to Roanoke for Joel’s W&L reunion and really looking forward to our visit, because our daughter and son in law were living in Lexington, where Kat was then a first year law student at W&L.

It was an early morning flight, and we were running late to get to the Houston airport, which was our fault. But upon arriving, we discovered that one of the security scanning machines had malfunctioned, so two very long lines of travelers had to merge into one. Long story short, although we RAN to the gate, we just missed our flight, and we had to scramble to find another way to get to Roanoke.

I don’t know what I would do without Joel, who always saves the day in situations like these. He worked to find the best way to get us there, which was to go through Washington DC and get a rental car to drive to Lexington. But, oops, our luggage was already on that plane that we missed to Roanoke. So Shannon made the round trip to Roanoke to fetch our luggage, and we arrived about 6 hours later than we had hoped, just in time for dinner. Whew.

December 2013: This time we were traveling to Roanoke to spend Christmas at the Homestead with Shannon and Kat. It was another early morning flight, and we left in plenty of time to get there; I remember thinking, “This is great; we’re not in a hurry, and it’s going to be so much fun when we arrive!”

But as we neared the airport exit from the Hardy Toll Road, Joel all of a sudden exclaimed, “****!” I was so confused, and then beyond angry when it became clear that we had run out of gas. My first thought was “Who runs out of gas these days when cars warn you that you need to refuel?” But Joel was angry, too, and as it turned out, while I look at the gas gauge to determine when I need to refuel, he only looks at the miles traveled. He said thought he had enough gas. However, I was the last person to fill up his car, and apparently I didn’t put in a full tank’s worth.

All this to say, we were stuck by the side of the road in the freezing pre-dawn darkness. AAA finally rescued us after an hour and a half, but we missed our flight, and had to scramble again to get to Roanoke. Mind you, this was December 23, and it was really hard to find two seats on any flights, but thanks to Joel, we arrived safely, albeit about 7 hours later than we had planned.

May 2014: Once again, we took that same early morning flight to Roanoke to attend Kat’s graduation from W&L Law School. This time we left in plenty of time and had plenty of gas; we got there safely, checked our bags and we actually left on time!

Arriving at Dulles in Washington DC, we had a short layover to make our connecting flight. We hightailed it to the regional terminal, and boarded with no problem. But then the electrical system on the small jet failed. So we sat for a very long time on the tarmac, getting warmer and warmer, due to having no ventilation. There was some concern as to whether or not we would have to switch to another plane, but they finally figured out what was wrong, and off we went.

When we landed in Roanoke, there was some confusion on the part of the ground crew, so we had to sit on the tarmac there awhile, as well, but at least the air conditioning was working. We only arrived about 3 hours later than planned. No big deal, considering. We were very thankful that we had had no major problems.

It was on the return trip that we got unlucky. Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 6:30 pm on Sunday, so we arrived a little before 5 pm to eat a quick supper before boarding. What we didn’t know was that a major storm was raging in Chicago, so our take off was delayed until it was safe for us to travel there and land. They kept pushing the time back, and it soon became clear that we were going to miss our connecting flight to Houston. We thought that if we could just get to Chicago, we could find another way to make it to Houston. But then they totally cancelled the flight, and we were stuck. Unbelievable!

What were our options? Either go get a hotel room in Roanoke and try again the next day (not arriving back in Houston until mid-afternoon), or rent a car immediately and drive 3 hours to Washington DC, where we would be able to get out at the crack of dawn on a direct flight. Joel really had to get to the office on Monday, so we retrieved our bags, rented a car and off we went into the darkness!

I drove while he made arrangements on the phone with the United Airlines people. He was on hold for a very long time, and we were forced to listen to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on the speakerphone for at least an hour. Apparently, there were a lot of other people who needed help re-booking flights after Chicago O’Hare was shut down! I don’t think I will ever enjoy that song again.

We finally made it to Reagan National about 12:30 am, turned in the rental car and found a virtually empty terminal. Since our flight was due to board at 5:15, it made no sense to rent a hotel room for only five hours (less, if you figure in the travel time to and from the hotel). So we just settled into a row of chairs to “spend the night” at the airport. In all the years that I’ve traveled, this was a first for me.

reagan-national-airport-code

See those chairs to the left by the windows? That’s where we were. It was impossible to sleep. There was music blaring over the speakers, and every thirty minutes, a voice would loudly announce the LOCAL TIME! It became clear that these annoyances were purposeful, to discourage people from sleeping in the terminal.

It was also freezing cold. Despite having earplugs and being bundled up, I gave up trying to sleep at 3 am and instead just read my book.

About an hour later, I went to the ladies’ room to attempt to make myself presentable, but really, I was so tired, I was beyond caring. So I just washed my face, brushed my teeth and repaired my hairdo as best I could. I had on yesterday’s clothes and my fuzzy house shoes, and I just didn’t care anymore. All I could hope was that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.

(There have been times I’ve seen someone at the airport whose appearance was disheveled or slovenly, and I would think, “Geez, what a slob!” Now I have greater empathy for them, for perhaps they, too, had had to spend the night at the airport.)

Reagan National comes to life about 4:30 in the morning. We checked our bags and went through security easily. Breakfast was at 4:45 am, and then we boarded our plane. Off we went for a trouble-free flight, until a call went out asking if there were a medical professional on board. Now what?

Upon landing, we were told to remain seated while the EMTs boarded to remove the stricken person, which everyone did (except the man next to me, who got yelled at by the flight attendant). Finally, FINALLY, we were released. It was about 7:45 am.

Happily, our bags arrived, and the car started easily and had no flat tires, so the only thing left to face was the Houston rush hour traffic. I was never so happy to be home in my life! After two naps plus a 10 hour sleep on Monday night, I became a functioning human again.

I have to say “all’s well that ends well” here. In each of these three situations, we arrived safely, albeit late. If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to us, well then, we are truly blessed. We’ll probably regale our grandkids with the story about the time their grandparents had to spend the night at the airport, and I know we’ll laugh about it together. I only wish I had taken a “selfie” to illustrate our predicament!

Well, maybe not.

 

Jury Duty

April 24, 2014 - Leave a Response

 

Jury-Duty

We operate under a jury system in this country, and as much as we complain about it, we have to admit that we know of no better system, except possibly flipping a coin. ~ Dave Barry

Is there anybody out there who actually likes serving on a jury panel? When you see the summons in the mail, do you look forward to going downtown and hope you will be selected?

I know no one like this. Certainly I’m not. They call it “duty” for a reason, and, of course, when duty calls, we must respond, however reluctantly.

This particular summons was for a Wednesday in February. Looking back, I can’t see a particular reason why I postponed it until April, but my calendar was pretty busy, and I guess I just didn’t want to take a chance that I would be selected for a drawn out case.

There the summons sat on my desk, filling me with dread (silly, I know). Part of it was the fact that the jury assembly room had moved to a new location, and I wasn’t exactly sure of where to park, etc. Yes, there was a map, but whenever I’m faced with driving myself to a new place, I always have a twinge of anxiety.

The other part of my dread was the above mentioned unknown of which courtroom I’d be assigned to. I intentionally left my calendar open for the next week, just in case! I like having a schedule, and I don’t like surprises.

Then there’s the getting up at the crack of dawn to take care of Tucker, dress up and drive with the masses to town in rush hour traffic. I honestly don’t mind traffic if I’m not in a hurry, so I got up extra early and gave myself an hour to get there, figure out where to park and find the new assembly room.

So far, so good. I was impressed with the new space, a VAST improvement over the old, cramped room. This one has tunnel access to all the courthouses, precluding group walks across busy streets in all kinds of weather.

Part of me hoped that my number wouldn’t be called at all, and I’d just get to go home. That happened once, and I donated my fee back. No such luck this time, however. My number was called for the first group out of the chute, a pool of 65 people. So I consoled myself that since we were starting earlier, we’d get finished earlier (with the hope that I wouldn’t get picked for the panel).

Off we went to get ourselves organized. From a pool of 65 people, they were going to select a jury of 12 with 1 alternate. I was assigned to be juror #43. That was a good sign; the higher your number is, the less likely it is that you’ll be selected.

In the courtroom on the 18th floor, I discovered that this was a felony murder case, and the judge spoke to us for over an HOUR about what we could expect, making sure we all understood the legal terms that the lawyers would be using. Actually, she was quite good, and I learned a great deal. It helped that she was self-deprecating and even made us laugh more than once.

Then it was time for the lawyers to speak, beginning with the prosecutor and finishing up with the defense attorney. Again, both were thorough, and I felt comfortable with the task that the selected jurors would be faced with.

But I still didn’t want to get picked. The judge said the case would likely take 4 days to try, beginning on Monday. I told myself I could probably manage, except for the fact that we have houseguests all next week. In a way, that would probably be a plus, because they could let Tucker in and out.

But, despite that, I STILL didn’t want to get picked. My fellow juror panel member #42 and I talked during a break, and we were both of the same opinion. Finally, the attorneys made their decisions, and they began calling out the numbers for the selected jurors.

#1, #3, #6… Yes, it seemed true that the folks with the lower numbers were more likely to be picked. But then they jumped to #25, #33, #39, #41… Yikes! There were still a few more positions to fill!

#42 and I looked at each other expectantly, and the next number called was #47. WHEW!!! I grabbed his arm, and we both exhaled.

By the time I exited the courthouse and walked to the parking garage, it was about 2:00. I hadn’t even thought about lunch, but all of a sudden, I was ravenous. But I went on home to rescue Tucker and eat my usual lunch there.

And then I stretched out on the sofa and dozed for a good long while. Since I had cleared this day (and the rest of the week!), I had nothing pressing to do for once. What a happy outcome!

One of these days, I know my luck will run out, and I’ll get picked. But for now, I’m celebrating my liberty and freedom (unlike the poor defendant whose fate will be determined next week without any input from me).

Whatever fee I receive for my service, I plan to do something nice with it, likely for some of my favorite people whom I deal with on a weekly basis. And that, my friends, will be another happy outcome to which I happily look forward!

 

(Note: pewperson is currently experiencing technical difficulties and will be getting a new computer. Likely her next post will be in three weeks, May 16)

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.