Wednesday, April 16, 2014


My daughter minored in Photography while attending Grand Canyon University. One of her assignments was a field trip to……wait for it……Tahiti.  And lo and behold, she invited me to tag along. To this day I don’t know if it was because she enjoyed my company or because Mommy would be bringing her wallet – but I didn’t ask and jumped at the opportunity. The real reason I wanted to go was because of the burning question in my mind – does the water flushed clockwise or counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

After a very long 9-hour flight, we were greeted at Moorea, Tahiti with fresh floral leis, a guitar, ukulele, & drum quartet, and extremely humid weather. I guess there’s a reason the terrain is so green  – it’s called rain – and rain can fall at any given moment. It truly is a beautiful island, noted for its high volcanic peaks, banyan trees & palm trees, exotic flowers, down to its white beaches & low coral rings…and black pearls. Nobody leaves Tahiti without purchasing a black pearl – to be specific - a black pearl pendant, a black pearl ring, and black pearl earrings.

We stayed at the Moorea Village close to the soft white beaches with a beautiful view of the clear blue/green water. In the Tahitian style, our room was a stand-alone hut called a garden bungalow, which had a grass-thatched roof, a front porch, and our own hot water heater attached outside. The water heater contained about 5 gallons of water, meaning my daughter and I had to alternate shower days if we wanted hot water. They welcomed us with a Tahitian “tamaaraa” (feast) with food cooked in the traditional “himaa” – a pit filled with heated volcanic stones. I was a little worried at my vegetarian daughter’s reaction to the pig with a rotisserie stick stuck through its butt and out its nose roasting over hot coals. But the Tahitian dancers wearing coconut bras diverted her attention – she even got on stage and swung her hips with them at some point after dinner. I must warn you, however, stay clear of something called breadfruit if it is ever offered to you – our little hut did not have enough water in the toilet to take care of what I went through after eating that.

We toured the island, visiting the Museum of Tahiti, the Gauguin Museum, and passing by the really expensive hotels – thatched huts sitting on stilts out in the water. We cruised the lagoon and went on a picnic on another island. But there are two highlights of the trip we will never forget. My daughter went snorkeling with stingrays (This was a very brave thing for her to do because of her fear of sharks. When we used to go to Lake Powell in the summer, she would always ask, “Are there any sharks in here?”) and we both were able to swim with a dolphin and pet him (her?). We both can cross that off our bucket list.

The air flight back to the states seemed longer than our flight to Tahiti for the simple reason my daughter had a fever and chills all the way home. I was concerned she had picked up a tropical disease called Dengue Fever that I had just read about in a novel I was reading (coincidence – not sure – but I had never heard about it before – and my daughter had all the symptoms of that disease). Luckily she did not have Dengue.

Our travel to Tahiti was exciting and an adventure I will never forget. By the way, the toilet flushes clockwise.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Trains, Planes, Cars, and Vans

It sounded simple enough - attend a two-day conference in Phoenix, be honored by the outgoing president, drink a few beers, enjoy the heat (did I really say that?), and learn something in the process. The caveat was…I was in Minnesota. This means searching Travelocity for the cheapest flight to fly 1,700 miles in the middle of August.

I had two options – fly from the Fargo airport or fly from the Minneapolis airport. Fargo is only 45 miles from Detroit Lakes – Minneapolis is 200 miles away. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

The airlines flying from Fargo are Delta, Alaskan Air, and Allegiant. Delta and Alaskan Air are the big Kahunas in the sky and charge accordingly – like $500 accordingly. Allegiant is the no nonsense airline, with cheap flights, but they only fly to Phoenix on Mondays and Fridays – not the most convenient schedule for a Friday/Saturday Conference. Not only that, but they fly into an airport in East Mesa that is just short of a 2 hour drive to central Phoenix – I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Minneapolis is a destination of Southwest Airlines – my personal favorite. I don’t care what they say about cattle call airlines – I like the adventure of walking on a plane and taking my chances between sitting next to a samurai wrestler or a toddler with a nervous leg tic and high-pitched cry.

I book my $331 flight, and was even able to use some of my points. Next challenge – getting to Minneapolis. Hubby wasn’t going to interrupt his fishing schedule to drive 4 hours to and 4 hours from the Twin Cities in one day.

Therefore, I investigate the train schedule. The good news: Amtrak makes a stop in Detroit Lakes. The bad news: Amtrak makes this stop in Detroit Lakes at 2:00 in the morning. That is, providing it’s not delayed by the oil tankers hauling crude from the fields in North Dakota. Hubby doesn’t mind interrupting his sleep to take me to the train station; after all, he doesn’t usually fish when it’s dark.

I bought my train tickets and carefully planned my transportation to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It’s just a short walk from the train station to the bus stop where I catch the #501 to downtown where I catch the light rail which will take me to the airport – all this for a mere $1.50. I am getting excited just thinking about it.

At 1:00 A.M., I decide to call Amtrak to see if the train from the west is on time. I am informed that it is running 4 hours late. This can’t be! My flight leaves at 10:00 A.M. If I leave Detroit Lakes at 6:00 A.M., I’ll never make my flight.

At 1:30 A.M., I frantically Google van shuttle services to and from the airport. There is one that leaves Brainard at 4:00 A.M., arriving in Minneapolis at 6:00 A.M. – I might have time to eat breakfast before my flight! Now I just have to drive to Brainard, which is 1 ½ hours away.

At 2:00 A.M., I throw my luggage in my little car and head off into the night. I am so afraid of hitting a deer that I motor, white knuckled and with the headlights on high beam, down the highway. Now, deer are cute when you see them grazing off in the woods, but I sure don’t want to see their eyes staring at me in the middle of the blacktop.

At 3:30 A.M., I find the pick up point and wait for the van.

At 4:00 A.M., I’m on the van heading for the Minneapolis/St Paul airport.

At 6:30 A.M., I’m grazing on a breakfast burrito at one of the airport bars – I deserve it.

My flight arrives in Phoenix at noon – just in time for lunch.

The conference was uneventful, I wasn’t honored at all, I drank a few beers, and it rained – so it wasn’t so hot as it was muggy.

Read this story in reverse and you’ll experience my journey back to Detroit Lakes a day later. I’ve made up my mind not to go to the conference in Phoenix, in August, from Minnesota, next year. A no brainer!

Saturday, April 5, 2014


March 7, 2013

I’ve had many epiphanies in my lifetime – not because I’ve experienced a revelation that has caused my soul to be forever changed, but more like ah-ha moments that have come about because I’m mostly a naive dork.

Take for example when I was in sixth grade. My end of class duty for the day was to wipe off the chalkboards. I was having a difficult time erasing the chalk marks using the spongy little black board eraser. I told my teacher I couldn’t get all the marks off, so she told me to use a little elbow grease. I didn’t know what that was, so I asked her where I could find some. She told me to go look in the supply closet. Dutifully, I trudged into the closet to find a jar of elbow grease. My ah-ha moment came years later when I finally discovered what elbow grease meant. Then I realized what a jerk my teacher was for humiliating me.

As with most middle-school children, I loved to listen to music. I had my little blue turntable and played the same Neil Sedaka 45’s over and over again. I also had my favorite radio station that I listened to. Back in those days there were maybe 4 stations – pop, country western, elevator music, and gospel. My epiphany for these years was when I realized the singers and bands were not performing live down at the radio station for broadcast through our radios.

Then came the teenage years. I wised up a bit, but not much. I thought everyone was as naïve as I was – especially my mother. I don’t know how she knew what was going on in my life – but she did. Like the time she asked if I had had a little too much to drink the night before. Maybe it was because she heard my boyfriend carry my passed-out body down the hallway and dump me on the bed at 1:00 in the morning. Or maybe it was because I was throwing up the rest of the day, locked in the bathroom.

The last epiphany was more recent. I was out with a friend and she was telling me about the trip to Ireland she and her husband had taken several years ago. Jealousy swelled up in my gut, and I felt the whiny I-wish-I-could-go-to-Ireland-too blues. The ah-ha hit me like a truck. Why couldn’t I go to Ireland? Even though my husband won’t fly, and his idea of traveling is getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible, there is no reason why I can’t go to Ireland without him – so I did. And now I am on a quest to find traveling companions so I can cross off states and countries from my bucket list.

Have my epiphanies changed my soul? Possibly. Since I became a teacher, I am very cognizant of what I say to my students so they won’t be humiliated by any attempt at self-satisfying humor. I’ve saved some of my 45’s so I can sell them on EBay for big bucks. When I became a mother, I wasn’t naïve about my teenagers’ desires to drink. Like when my son came home at noon one day, chugged a whole quart of orange juice, and locked himself in the bathroom. Wait…I think I just had an epiphany…my son and I are more alike than I thought. And as an adult, I know I can “feel free to move around the country” as I please when I “wanna get away.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Fire Within Us

The family is gathered around the campfire. The stars are twinkling high above the trees and the moon has a faint yellow shadow surrounding it. The desert evening air is crisp, enough so that she keeps scooting her folding chair closer to the campfire. The night is silent except the sound of crackling flames. Miriam stares into the roaring fire. Ryan sure knows how to build a fire. He’s the perpetual Boy Scout; prepared, honest, and loyal. Jennifer and Janie are poking sticks into the flames, and pulling them out as soon as they catch on fire. Then they rub the end into the dirt to put the fire out.

“Get back, you’re going to fall into the campfire.”

Ryan stacks more logs onto the fire and the flames roar to life again, shooting yellow and gold spires into the air. Sparks fly as the breeze created by the flames twirls them around the fire.

Miriam is mesmerized by the flashing light of the flames. She remembers when Ryan and she first met in college. Their life together was like the blinking fire, hot and passionate. As they made love, they created more sparks that stirred their inner being with a desire for more, and the never-ending sparks kept the fire burning. They believed there was no limit to their forging love. Their plans for the future reached the stars, just like tonight’s fire.

The flames subside to a steady glow. Miriam once again thinks about when Jennifer and Janie were born. It was an exciting time to think that their fire of love created such beautiful twins. But Miriam was tired most of the time, and Ryan worked two jobs to support the family. Their lovemaking was steady, but it didn’t have the spark, the glow, the heat it once did. Pretty soon it became more infrequent as the girls started their activities of dance, soccer, softball, sleepovers, Halloween - there was always something going on.

“Can we make ‘smores?”

“Of course, the fire is down enough for some nice, hot coals. Go get the graham crackers and marshmallows.”

“I want chocolate too.”

“Okay, there’s a Hershey’s bar in the cooler.”

By the time the girls come back with their cooking supplies, the hot coals have taken on a different life. The embers glow, first red, then orange, then yellow. Always moving, but they don’t have enough intensity to burst into flames again. The fire is just a memory. Jennifer and Janie run the wire through the marshmallow and hold it close to the reddest part between the embers. The white fluff smokes, then the girls turn their wires so the entire orb is a toasty brown.

Miriam once again is staring at the dying fire. “What has happened to our marriage?” she ponders. Their fire has been extinguished and there is nothing left but a memory of hot cinders. Pretty soon there will be just ashes.

Her premonition comes true. The girls have eaten their ‘smores, the fire has stopped glowing, and Ryan dumps a bucket of water in the fire pit to completely extinguish the heat. Miriam shuffles off to her tent and sleeps alone.