So, I missed filling in a couple of things in my last post and need to back track a bit before I move forward.
Day 5 - Wednesday - of the trip was also notable because this is the day that my ears finally equalized pressure with the outside world. I wasn't feeling any cold symptoms on our flights, but my cold must have been with me because my ears wouldn't "pop" when we landed. They finally did pop on Wednesday. It was hellish, lemme tell you.
I also neglected to mention my first sailboat ride, which we took Wednesday evening. The whole trip was such a comedy of errors that it really deserves its own post. As such, I will devote an entire post to this later. Suffice it to say that anything that could go wrong did go wrong.
Day 6 - Thursday, Bermuda Day - After the race, we went back home. Once the racers were showered and well watered, Prince Charming and SpyBoyfriend finally escaped all of the estrogen to hit the links. They played the Riddle's Bay course with Elise the Spy's husband Peter. By all accounts, they had a great time. So, good for them! Later this day, the girls walked to the Botanical Gardens and saw the peacocks. Fun, fun! It is time to take Bunny to the zoo, I think. I was called a bad mother yet again and then it was suggested that I was neglecting my child. So, I was taking plenty of lumps.
Day 7 - Friday - Prince Charming, Bunny Boop and I had a nice, quiet day indoors. We holed up and watched movies and had a grand ol' time nursing our sunburns. Later that evening, we got back together with the bigger group and went to Happy Hour at the Botanical Garden and then out to supper in St. David's. It was a very nice time.
Day 8 - Saturday - We had to return to our real lives. We flew out around 9:30 am and landed at JFK at around 12:30 pm. We expected to have a 3 hour layover, but because of JetBlue's new Customer Bill of Rights and a nasty storm in Illinois, we actually spent 5 hours in the airport waiting. Then, once we were actually on board there were other issues.
First, the helpful young male flight attendant began his safety protocol review. He was interrupted by the captain in the course of this. As he was getting ready to start back up again, a young woman on the opposite side of the plane and about 2 rows behind us suddenly stood up and walked to the front of the plane. She informed him that she didn't want to fly on an Embraer 190, she wanted to fly on an Airbus. He gave her this look (I saw it over her shoulder) that said, "okay, crazy lady. whatever you say..." and agreed to let her off the plane. She gathered her belongings and departed. This prompted a further delay in getting us pushed back from the gate, maybe 15-20 minutes.
After that, they resumed the flight safety protocol speech. Then, it was determined that there was some sort of malfunction with the rear lavatory and that had to be checked. Then, there was some sort of malfunction with a cabinet in the galley and that had to be put right. All I can say is, Thank God for those in flight direct tvs on the back of every seat! Once all the mechanical detritus had been put away and all those unwilling to fly on an Embraer jet had been escorted from the plane, the Captain came on with a most unwelcome announcement. We had been delayed so long that we were now at the back of the line for taking off. Apparently we had stumbled into JFK's rush hour. We had to wait another 50 minutes on the tarmac before we got to take off. Lovely, let me tell you.
We were supposed to land at O'Hare at 6:00 pm. We actually landed closer to 9:30 pm. Suck an Elf! Fortunately, all of our luggage made the trip and we only had to wait 12 minutes for the limo. We drove home to Wisconsin later that evening and arrived home at 1 am Sunday morning.
All in all, it was a good trip. We enjoyed our time away from work and the real world. It was nice getting to spend some time together as a family and playing on the beach and in the pool. SpySistah was a wonderful hostess and put up with quite a lot from us invaders.
Sunday we did lots of laundry and tried to stow all the stuff from the trip. Some of us (not Phoenix) even caught a nap. Phoenix paid bills and sorted mail and did those sorts of things.
There were a few important firsts to note:
1. Bunny Boop called me "Mama" for the first time and meant it. 2. I changed a diaper at 35,000 feet. 3. I made it to the grocery store on Sunday (after returning) before they were open. Waited 12 minutes for them to open the doors. 4. Rode in a sailboat 5. And a catamaran
That's it. More on the Comedy of Errors that had Prince Charming wondering if we were going on another infamous "Three-Hour Tour" tomorrow!
That has got to have been the most stressful vacation I've ever taken!
Regular readers will recognize that the week leading up to our departure was particularly stressful. The whole enchilada of problems dealing with the missing passport was enough to have me tearing my hair out everyday. The passport issue was eventually dealt with and we were able to leave as scheduled. However, as a take-home lesson, you should know that if you are even considering needing a passport in the next four years, you should begin the process now. Don't wait. My husband finally received his emergency passport from the Regional office in Chicago on Friday night at 6:15 p.m. There were literally hundreds of people who they turned away. People, for example, who had planned to get married in the Caribbean and may or may not have actually done so because of their own passport issues. So, apply extremely early.
I need to say a great big THANK YOU to Christina for keeping the home electrons humming here. She did a great job. Her real thank you will go into the mail in the next few days as I get dug out at home too.
Day 1 of the vacation was the day-of-travel. At 6:30 a.m., the limo arrived to take us all to O'hare. The limo was wonderful and it was sublime not to have to worry about traffic and parking and hauling a bajillion bags to the terminal. The folks at JetBlue were wonderful and checked us in with little fuss then sent us to security. Even security was no big deal (but be prepared with your zip-lock baggies). JFK was...an experience. Seriously? That is not an attractive place on the inside. It kind of reminded me of a bomb shelter that had quite done its job. Our layover at JFK was thankfully only 45 minutes long, so we were back in the air in no time. Bunny Boop slept through the first flight (ORD to JFK) and was happy on the second leg from JFK to Bermuda. Arriving in Bermuda was easy. Customs was no problem, but upon arrival we learned that they were having some wet weather on the island. It was rainy and overcast but we were all so happy to be on vacation that it didn't matter.
We headed to SpySistah's house and got reorganized. It was shortly after our arrival that the first (arguably fiftieth) omen of doom rose its ugly turkey-necked head. Somewhere between O'hare and the spare bedroom, I managed to lose three of the diamonds from my wedding band (where there are supposed to be 12 I now have 9). Suck!
From there, the ladies of the house headed off to the grocery store to stock up on essentials for the week. That was...interesting. Foreign grocery stores - I could write for days on just that topic. A load of groceries that would cost me $140 at home cost $435.00, if you can believe it. Egad! But, that's Bermuda for you. I got some funny looks from the locals too. I politely (I thought) took our empty cart back into the store after we unloaded it into the car. In my mind, it was the only thing to do. They have tiny little cars, tiny little parking places, no bag boys, and no cart corrals. What would you do? I took the car back inside and the natives looked at me like I had spit in the stew. Apparently they don't do this there. Instead, they cram the empty baskets anywhere they can and play parking lot bumper car melee. You won't find this in any travel book.
Everyone was exhausted, so we had a take-away supper and hit the sheets. Very curious "take-away" instead of "take-out".
Day 2 of the adventure had us donning swimsuits and heading to the docks. SpySistah had rented a catamaran for an afternoon outing with us and a bevy of her friends. Her friends were all very nice people and we enjoyed talking with them immensely. The weather did not cooperate, however. It was still mostly overcast and a bit cool, so we opted out of getting wet and snuggled up in our beach towels to keep warm. Still, the conversation was good and the liquor was flowing, so no worries!
There was a low-light to this activity, however. I had Bunny Boop with me, of course. Bunny Boop, as it turns out, is rapidly developing a mind of her own and is not necessarily developing an appropriate fear of things yet. I was kind of worried about her on the boat, as you might imagine. I wanted to take her out from under the roofed part of the boat, so I was holding on to her pretty tightly. We didn't stay out long, however, and soon returned to the covered part of the boat. In doing so, I inadvertently bonked her little head on the overhang as we were stepping back down into the boat. I was loudly proclaimed a "Bad Mother" for doing so. I was a bit...well, whatever. I shrugged it off and it was insisted that this was meant as a joke. So, fine. Our day in the boat soon ended and we returned home to a movie and supper and found our beds early.
It should be noted that on Sunday morning, before this boating adventure, I awoke to find myself with an extremely nasty cold. One which has drug on and lingers with me even now.
Day 3 - or Monday - was another adventure. We rose early (life with a baby) and headed out en masse for the bus terminal. SpySistah had returned to work and we were officially on our own. We all bought 2-day passes and then got in line at the dock to take the ferry over to St. George's. Bermuda is a 26-mile long fish-hooked shaped series of islands connected by bridges. We took a 45 minute ferry out to St. George's to do the touristy thing. Side note: I despise these types of vacations. I don't want to feel rushed or harried when I'm on vacation. I don't want to stand in line or rub elbows or jockey for position. I want to relax. However, I did want to make a stop at the perfumery in St. George, so we went. We even got the tour at the perfumery. Then we walked around town a bit waiting for the ferry to return to take us back. We picked up a few t-shirts and hats for family and then took the ferry back to Hamilton. We were starved, so we stopped at the Lemon Tree for lunch. It was okay. Then we made our way back home and took a dip in the pool.
One note: Everywhere you go in Bermuda by foot you will find that it is uphill both ways. Not.Even.Kidding.
It was another early night for us, however, and we needed the rest.
Day 4 - Tuesday - This day broke bright and shiny and we headed back to the Bus Terminal. This time, however, we caught a bus headed for Horseshoe Bay Beach. It was beautiful and we were there before the crowds. We staked out a spot, rented an umbrella, and played in the surf. Bunny Boop had a great time and even managed to catch an hour's nap under the umbrella. Personally, I had a great time. For me, this is what vacation is supposed to be: play. No stress, no timeline. While Bunny was napping under the careful watch of Grandma, Prince Charming and I hit the water and had a great time. As the hour wore on, the swells grew and I got hit by a big one and lost my brand new $120 sunglasses. So, for those keeping track at home, I'm down 3 diamonds and a pair of sunglasses. However, I traded these for a killer sunburn. And, not just any sunburn, but a streaky one. Neutrogena's new Cooling Sunscreen sucks and I mean that quite seriously. You think you have coverage because you can feel the cooling sensation, but it turns out that you don't. Weird shit. We should have used the WaterBabies stuff because Bunny didn't burn at all and has a nice golden glow.
We headed back home sometime mid-afternoon with sand in all of our unmentionable places and a movie and bed ended another evening.
Day 5 - Wednesday - Was the near-mutiny day. My husband was looking for a slower pace and a quieter tone so we broke from the group and struck out on our own. We headed up to Fort Hamilton first to check out the ramparts and the guns. Then we headed downtown to City Hall because the US Navy Band was in town to play and help the Bermudians celebrate Bermuda Day. We sat around and waited quite a while, eager to hear the band play. Finally they struck up a song and it was...slow and plodding. We were looking for something exciting and it failed to inspire. We listened to another couple of songs before departing to find some lunch. We found a pub on Front Street and had some lunch. Prince Charming enjoyed his steak sandwich, I had fish -n- chips and Bunny had a grilled cheese sandwich. This meal was devoured. We hadn't really been eating regularly and Bunny was off her feed a bit. Still, after this we stopped off at the grocery store on Front Street and picked up the evening's meal. Prince Charming grilled brats. They were delish!
Day 6 - Thursday - Bermuda Day! This day was billed as the day when nothing would be open. We were informed in advance that Bermuda Day is like July 4th here in the states. Everything is closed. Again, we were up with the birds (and the baby). SpySistah and SpyBoyfriend joined their SpyFriends and went trekking off to the Starting Line. You see, SpySistah and SpyBoyfriend and the whole SpyGang were running the Bermuda Day 1/2 Marathon and making the tourists look like lazy American fuckers. Oh Well! At about 1:30 into the race, I ambled down to the course on King Street with Grandma and Auntie to cheer the SpyRunners. Jim/Mark came through first, but we missed seeing him because of one of the other runners who'd gone a bit loopy and was attracting all of the attention. SpyBoyfriend ran through next and we cheered like loons. A female spygang member ran through after that. And then, finally, SpySistah and Elise the Spy ran through. SpySistah looked totally in control and cool - two things I most decidedly would not be, were I able to drag my ass 12 miles in the first place! So, cheers to SpySistah and Elise the Spy, SpyBoyfriend, and all the rest of the SpyGang for their achievements.
According Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, it is not a matter of if Fred Thompson runs for President, but when.
The basis for his opinion is Thompson's recent hiring of a "campaign manager in waiting:"
Tom Collamore, a former vice president of public affairs at Altria, has been leading the behind-the scenes organization efforts for a Thompson presidential candidacy and will be intimately involved when (not if) the former senator decides to announce a bid.
Collamore joined the Reagan administration in 1981 as special assistant to Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. He was named staff secretary to Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1985 and was part of Bush's transition team when he won the White House in 1988. Collamore was then named assistant secretary of Commerce in 1989. In 1992, Collamore joined Philip Morris Cos., which became Altria in 2003.
The decision to put Collamore atop the Thompson campaign reflects a desire to have a learned Washington hand at the tiller -- even as Thompson is positioning himself as a conservative outsider in this contest. It also shows that Thompson will not seek simply to replicate the political network of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). While Frist is an informal adviser to Thompson, his campaign people have largely been kept out of the loop as Thompson prepares to make a run.
When my older daughter (now fourteen) Sweet One was Betty Boop's age, she committed her first case of mistaken identity.
The husband had taken a new job and had to travel to Atlanta, Georgia for three weeks, the longest he had ever been gone from her or us.
On the day he was to return we cleaned the house, baked a cake, and made "Welcome Home" signs. Instead of a big dinner, I simply ordered a pizza to be delivered.
My Sweet One was so very excited to see Daddy again and ran around the house telling me every few minutes: "My Daddy come home today!"
As the afternoon wore on to early evening, I saw the pizza guy drive up. He was probably nineteen, at most, and was wearing khaki shorts with his officially issued pizza shirt. As I was paying him, but before I could retrieve the pizza from its pouch, Sweet had come running through the kitchen door and latched herself onto one of those somewhat hairy knobby knees as she cried: "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!"
It took a minute or so to pry her loose. She had to only look up to identify her mistake.
When her father finally arrived home, she was far less enthusiastic in her greeting, at least, until she was certain who he was.
As Phoenix should be enjoying some fun and sun, I thought we could take a bit of a vacation along with her.
How about a bit of fiction?
First, she ever-so-slightly cracked one eyelid, then the other.
From behind the slatted blinds bright fingers of sunlight assaulted her bleary eyes. Resisting the urge to retreat with her pillow further beneath the covers, she sighed heavily and began mentally preparing herself for the day ahead.
By the time she clicked through ten or twelve things that absolutely and impertatively had to be done that day her feet had already hit the floor and propelled the rest of her onto her daily ablutions.
A glance at the clock revealed she was already half an hour late and the weight of endless responsibility and commitment came crashing down around her. Drawing a deep breath she closed her eyes tightly and envisioned that far off place in her head. Across the miles the rolling of the waves and the warmth of the sun and sand beckoned her to cast her worries aside, recharge her emptied reserves, and just be for a while.
The instant she opened her eyes she knew exactly what she had to do. Crossing the bedroom she snatched her appointment book from her clutch as she sat down before her laptop. A brief perusal of time past confirmed it had been more than six months since she had taken any time at all for herself. A few quick, but crucial emails and her calendar was suddenly cleared.
Taking a moment to bask in her initiative, the remainder of a plan formulated in her mind. Rifling through one of her drawers she found what she had almost forgotten she had: the skimpiest of skimpy string bikinis. Trying it on and checking herself from all sides in the mirror she dryly commented to herself: "Well, the upside of unremitting stress and an overbooked calendar is a few skipped meals here and there."
Satisfied, she located a beach coverup, her funky and fun bright pink "Hollywood" shades, her Hoochie Mama flip fops, sunscreen, a beach towel or two, and a stack of glamour magazines which had piled up on the entry hall table, then stuffed them all into a large straw tote. She tossed the whole thing onto the couch as she made her way to the kitchen in search of a picnic basket, thermos, and frozen margarita mix.
Much later in the day as she casually sipped her third cocktail and glanced over a Cosmo article on what drives men wild in bed, she checked her new tan and made a mental note to either buy a bigger thermos or a second one before drifting off again.
Sometime later she had the feeling someone was standing over her. With part of her still in dreamland she saw quite clearly a dark-haired man with handsomely chiseled features, broad chest, and well defined abs looking down on her with a smile.
"Miss Jane," she heard him say.
Opening one eye she was greeted by the earnest face of the neighbor's eight-year-old son and his little best buddy.
"Ummm, would you mind moving so Sammy and I can play in the sand box now?"
The lovely and well-organized Ms. Phoenix called me late yesterday afternoon to say Darling Husband was in the process of securing his passport in Chicago, despite no sleep, no shower, and not a thing to eat all day. As of the instant we spoke, he did not have the item in hand, but had been assured he would not leave without it.
Thus, after a difficult week of bureacratic crap, they should be boarding their plane any moment and walking along the beach later today.
This passport drama is a lot like an episode of Alias or 24. Each time we get a little hope, we find out that there is a nuke ticking down with 5 seconds to go.
We found out at 7 am this morning that some people have had luck driving to Chicago and getting a passport without one of those impossible to get appointments. As such, the home team instantly motivated and got things going. I was mid-commute, but I called my mother and sister (henceforth known as the Away Team) and got them motivated and up to speed so that Prince Charming would have someone with him to navigate Chicago downtown. While I was doing this, Prince Charming arranged immediate childcare, packed his bags and the car, and gathered the necessary documents.
In the meantime, I heard back from the Congresswoman's office and was informed that the passport was not in the mail. Soo-prise, soo-prise soo-prise.
I brought the Congresswoman's aid up to speed on this last ditch attempt and she agreed to fax Chicago and let them know he was coming. Of course, she cautioned me that it can take all day and you generally need to be there by 9 am to get served.
He didn't leave here until 8:50 am and has at least 3 hours travel time in front of him before he gets in line. So, we are still in drama mode. We still might not make it. We probably won't. But, we don't want to feel like we didn't do everything possible to get there either.
So, I'm a bit...discombobulated today, waiting for updates and news on the situation.
UPDATE: Insert Hysterical Laughing Here
I just heard back from the Congresswoman's office. You'll never guess what they've been told by the New Orleans regional office. New Orleans finally deigns to read and answer their email and tells the Congresswoman that the application says we are leaving on May 19th, so the passport is going out by FedEx today. I now have a tracking number for a package that contains the passport. Of course, the package still hasn't left New Orleans and won't arrive until after we've already left to go catch the plane, but whatever!
Those assholes in New Orleans are fucking incompetent. You deliver a passport on the day of travel?!?!?!?!?
How the FUCK is that helpful?
We don't have a personal jet parked in our backyard. We actually have to travel to an airport. Our flight leaves at 9:30 am from Chicago. Because it is an international flight, we have to be at the airport by 7:30 am. Which means, were we to not travel down the night before but wait for the FedEx guy to arrive on Saturday morning, the FedEx guy would have to arrive in our driveway by 4:30 am. Anybody think that is going to happen?
Fuck me twice on a pogo stick.
If those assholes can't figure out that somebody might need a passport more than 30 minutes before their flight, they are fucked in the head.
Those sonsabitches dropped the fucking ball and now they are making excuses. "The form said they weren't traveling until 5/19" True enough. We are traveling on 5/19. But, there is no place on the form to indicate what time we are traveling, or from what airport. Bastards! Furthermore, I was assured on Monday that we would have it in our hands by 5/17. They knew on Monday that we were actually beginning our travel on 5/18. And, might I point out, that had I been able to foresee this collosal FUCK UP, I might have had the idea to lie about our date of departure. Of course, that would have had us lying on a Federal Document, a felony probably, and something that could easily be caught seeing as how international manifests are available to the Feds.
I say it again: Those Bastards in New Orleans are a fucking waste of oxygen. They dropped the ball and are now making excuses. Fuck YOU, New Orleans Passport Agency. FUCK. YOU.
I find it ironic that today, a day in which the limp-wristed Senate has essentially brokered a deal to grant amnesty to 12-20 million illegal aliens (allowing to be in the United States legally), we can't get a fucking passport for my husband to legally leave the country temporarily.
I no longer expect to go on our family vacation tomorrow.
There is still the possibility of a last-three-seconds Hail Mary Pass into the endzone, but it is time to be pragmatic and realistic. The liklihood of us going to Bermuda Saturday is rapidly closing to nil.
I'm pissed. I'm angry. I'm so close to tears that at any given moment the waterworks could start.
I was proactive. I had a cushion built into my timeline. I've been aggressive in my chasing of facts and alternatives. I've been patient with every single person I've spoken with. I've been calm and never raised my voice. Despite this calm and coolheaded-ness on my part, the New Orleans Passport center has proved to be absolutely and profoundly unable to perform the job that justifies its existence. The whole system, to be honest, is systemically screwed. From the computers that perpetually go down to the automated phone system that works only sporadically, to the dumbasses who can't seem to meet deadlines, FUBAR.
(SNAFU and FUBAR all in the same post. That's gotta be a record of some sort.)
Every single deadline I am given I meet or do better than. I file our tax return in February, not at midnight on April 15.
I am not in charity with the New Orleans Regional Passport Center or the greater Federal government right now.
They have two more chances. If they fail to perform, I will not be held accountable for the stream of invective that spews forth.
10. Switchblade / Child Driving Car / Author / Brother / Military Official
I wouldn't say that they are my absolute favorites, but they rank up there.
Put your guesses in the comments.
Update: Christina thinks this is too hard and has modified the rules. To play along, I have done the same. The following list is of the same 10 movies. However, this time the clues are either names of characters or actors. Have at it!
1. Deborah, Battle, Howard, Witherspoon, Bone
2. Toni, Deborah Ann, C. Thomas, Lou, Roger
3. Jake, Desmond, Karen, Sid, Rodrigo
4. Renee, Gemma, Perpetua, Mark, Daniel
5. Buttercup, Cary, Max, Andre, Inigo
6. Colin, Elizabeth, Crispin, Lydia, Lady Catherine
Last night, while Bunny Boop was playing with the remote control to the television, she briefly landed on some 24-hour news channel. The talking heads were discussing the death of Jerry Falwell. One of them called him a "Conservative Icon."
Now, I mean no disrespect to the man or his family, but I don't think he's an icon.
Ronald Reagan is a conservative icon. Dwight Eisenhower is a conservative icon. Abraham Lincoln is a conservative icon. Falwell? Not so much.
Sure, he managed to organize the religious right, but the guy had some pretty extreme views. He's no Reagan, Eisenhower, or Lincoln.
Icon is not the right word.
(Not to diminish his achievements, but as a secular conservative I take umbrage at giving him iconic status.)
This passport thing is turning out to be a quest for the holy grail sort of thing, only without the Dan Brown clever twists.
At every turn, I am thwarted.
I had to call the National Passport Information Center 30 times yesterday before I got through to make an appointment (through the AUTOMATED system). Guess what? There are no appointments available in Chicago for Friday (the day before we leave and our only option).
At wit's end and with no other options available to me, I broke down and called the office of our Representative in the US House, Tammy Baldwin (D) - WI. I left my name, the nature of the problem, three stinking phone numbers, and guess what? I have heard nothing back. In 30 minutes I'm calling our Senator. What else can I do?
The State Department can't offer me any assurance that the passport will arrive in time. They have instructed me to get an appointment at one of the regional offices for an expedited passport. Chicago is the closest regional center, but they don't have any appointments available. And, they won't see you if you don't have an appointment.
I don't know what else to do except cry.
I've tried following the rules. I've been proactive and timely with both my applications and in requesting/reminding the State Department of the rapidly approaching departure. I've been patient and understanding with the few staff members that I've actually spoken to (I may blog my frustrations, but I know better than to take them out on civil servants). I've tried to make Plan B arrangements, but even that is impossible. I've even called our Congresswoman.
So now, I'm just going to cry.
I've exhausted all of my other options, so crying is all I have left.
I wanted to take a family vacation and that now appears to be scratched. I have no idea if JetBlue will be good to us if we cancel the trip. Maybe if I cry for them? I don't know. My husband says that I'm going with or without him, but it isn't much of a family vacation if 1/3 of your family is missing. He's going to have to force me onto that plane if he's not going.
I totally did not need this drama.
UPDATE: Tammy Baldwin's office is working on this for me. Not the DC office (which is who I called last night at 9 PM), but her Madison office. They've managed to finesse a number of these sticky State Dept. issues, so the DC guy told me all is not yet lost.
But then, this whole thing has been a non-stop cycle of hope quickly followed by the rug being pulled out, then more hope, then more rug action. I've got whiplash. And a sore ass.
FURTHER UPDATE: Okay, not so much an update as a personal revelation/decision. Screw this crap. Our next family vacation is San Antonio: the weather is good, the food is great, and most importantly - no passport required!
I'm not sure if you are aware, but the Academy of Country Music Awards were held last night in Las Vegas and televised live on CBS. I'm not interested in giving you a blow-by-blow, but I would like to point out one thing.
When Reba McEntire (the host) gave a shout out to the fighting men and women of the US Armed Forces that protect our liberty on a daily basis, thanking them for all that they do, it was not met by the audience and the who's who of Country Music Glitterati by the polite Hollywood clap. No. The US Armed Forces got a Standing Ovation.
That, my friends, is what real patriotism looks like.
As you no doubt read, I had a bit of trouble at the Post Office yesterday pursuant to their recent rate change and how it seemingly caught the local post office here by surprise. Specifically, they didn't get the new rates downloaded into their system and were unable to ship my boxes. They were unable, it should be pointed out, to figure out a way to do it manually without the use of their computer.
I was pissed. They let me stand in line. They didn't post a sign. They were unapologetic.
Of course, I was also (and still am) pretty frustrated with the Passport Debacle and the folks at the State Department, so that didn't help. Today, I returned to the same post office that had rebuffed my boxes yesterday, thinking that they'd be able to ship the boxes.
I should have known. I really should have foreseen this given the tall pile of government bullshit I've been shoveling through: they still haven't downloaded the new rates.
Excuse me for a moment:
WHAT THE F***?!?
Just had to get that out.
They didn't offer to ship my boxes at the old rate. They didn't offer an apology. They didn't even seem remorseful. The bastards just pronounced it in the same way that Sesame Street announces that today has been brought to you by the letters "J" and "V" and the number "6".
Bastards. Of course, this all lead me to discover the real reason that USPS keeps having to raise their rates: It is a failing business model.
They raise rates because their costs increase. Their costs increase because they are losing business. They are losing business, at least in part, because they are unable to service their customers when the rates change.
And their customer service? Never heard of it. I might have to turn one customer away once in a while. But if I turned the same customer away two days in a row? I'd lose my job. At the very least they could put a note on the post office entrances so that people would be warned and not bother carrying their boxes through the rain for a second day to learn that the stupid m-fers still couldn't figure out how their software worked. And, if I were the postmaster in this zip code, I'd find a way - a manual way - to make sure my customers' needs were met.
Have I mentioned that we applied for this passport over 11 weeks ago? I just thought it needed to be mentioned in case my bitching seemed disproportionate to the circumstances. When we applied it was taking 8 weeks to get passports. So, allotting 10 weeks seemed safe. But oh no!
Just not so.
So, now I am trying to get an appointment in Chicago for an emergency passport in case the one in New Orleans doesn't make it in time. But, and maybe now you'll start buying into my arguments about some national conspiracy, the automated phone system by which one would make an appointment to see somebody about a passport in an emergency situation (such as this one) - is down. That's right. NOT EVEN THE FUCKING PHONES ARE WORKING NOW!
Ridiculous, n'est-ce pas?
Is it possible that the State Department is really run by the French? Totally goddamn ineffective. Bastards.
And, prepare yourself, I have another blistering post to put up about les incompetents at the United States Post Office.
Yes, my blood pressure is a bit high. Why do you ask?
I'm not aware of too many things I know what I know if you know what I mean
Philosophy, is the talk on a cereal box Religion, is a smile on a dog
I'm not aware of too many things i know what I know if you know what I mean
Chuck me in the shallow water Before I get too deep
What I am is what I am are you what you are or what What I am is what I am are you what you are or what
I caught myself thinking this morning as I steered the Jeep toward work about how I got to be who I am and where I'm at. That song seemed appropriate in so many ways.
So, in the vein of trying to get back to writing and doing some reflective self-inspection, this post is dedicated to What I am.
I am, first and foremost, a product of my parents. From my mother, I learned strength and courage. She was a single mom and a stepmother and a mother and single again in complicated layers, but she was strong through it all. Mostly. Nobody is perfect. I learned from her that a woman doesn't need a man to get by in this world. I learned from her that a candy bar is an acceptable lunch. I learned from her that it is not always possible to climb up a pole, but it is often easy to slide down a pole. I learned from her that nothing can stop my force of will.
From my stepmother I learned that there is nothing that I can not attempt. I won't always succeed, but there is nothing to keep me from trying. She also taught me that sometimes you have to throw the instructions out and figure it out for yourself. She taught me to make gravy and deglaze a pan and make bread. She taught me to solve my own problems.
From my father, I learned to change my own oil and my own tires - because a woman can't always count on a man. At his insistence, I learned to cook a good heart-warming, belly-filling, man-satisfying meal (lessons given by my stepmother) because he didn't want my man to starve. I learned to drive a standard transmission (and a tractor, a mule, a combine, etc) because of my father. I learned to love agriculture because of my father. I learned to love history and politics because of his lectures. He urged me to think for myself, evaluate arguments and weigh evidence. He taught me to shoot. He taught me how to clean my gun. He taught me that my life was worth defending. He taught me to not think in the victim mindset. He taught me to speak my mind, to have an opinion, to be informed. He taught me that education is more than books and not to accept everything any teacher said. He taught me that I am a force to be reckoned with.
From my sister I learned patience. I learned comraderie and trust and teamwork from my relationship with my sister. If I am a powerful force on my own, the two of us are the perfect storm of effectiveness. I learned from my sister than not all things are what they at first appear.
From my baby sister, I learned that being an only child is a terrible burden and the ugly side of peer pressure.
I have learned the limitless depth of love from my daughter. I have learned to again see the magic of life, the mystery, the wonder of possibility from her. I have seen the smile that saves me everyday on her face.
From my husband I have learned calm. There is no other word to describe the way he makes me feel. Our love is like concrete walls that keep out a hurricane. He is my safe harbor. I am found happiness with him.
I have learned other things from other people. In high school, I learned from my friends that not all mothers are created equal. I learned that teenage boys often need guidance in romantic arenas.
Anyway, the whole reason for this post was because a friend of mine recently said that I never fail at anything I try. This is an incredibly flattering compliment, but it is a lie. I'm just not that good. I fail all of the time. (It took me 6 weeks to develop a petit four recipe that satisfied me.) The difference between me and most people (and the air of success which I believe she was speaking about) comes from my determination. I don't stop trying. I keep working at something until I get the result that I desire. I'm innovative. I don't always take the marked path, sometimes I strike out on my own and carve a new path. It may not be shorter, but it works for me. I am a results-based, goal-oriented, highly-driven, self-starter.
I don't let a little thing like never having done something before stop me from trying. That's all there is to it.
I'm not amazing. I do fail. You just don't always see it because I don't call it failure. I call it another way not to make a light bulb.
So, I had to call the NPIC three times yesterday before I managed to call at a time that coincided with their system being "up."
At this time, I gave the lady on the other end of the line the tracking number.
"And who is the passport for?" she asked me.
"My husband, Prince Charming."
"Is he there, ma'am?"
"No, I'm sorry. He works third shift. He's at home, asleep."
"Well, I'm not supposed to talk to you about his passport."
"He's not going to be able to call during your working hours. Can you just confirm for me what I do know?"
"We can try that."
She wanted to be helpful, I know she did. And, she was able to help me in a limited sort of way.
For example, I now know that if the passport does not arrive in the mail by 5/17, Prince Charming will need to drive to Chicago and get an emergency passport issued.
He's not exactly excited about that prospect, let me tell you.
I'm going to keep my hopes up until Thursday. And, I'm going to try again to ship boxes at the post office today. Maybe they will have downloaded the software for that sudden, surprising rate change by this afternoon.
Somebody in the Federal Government must be very angry with me.
Not only am I getting the classic red-tape run-around on Prince Charming's passport, but I was also just rebuffed at the post office.
I had three boxes to mail today. I went inside. I waited quietly and patiently for my turn with the clerk. Despite having known I was there and waiting, obviously to mail these boxes, he waited until I arrived at the front of the line to inform me that he couldn't help me.
Why, you ask?
It seems that the new rates didn't get downloaded into their computers, so he had "no way of figuring out" what my boxes would cost. So, I ask you, if I had gotten up to the counter and had three standard envelopes to mail, would he have honored the "old" rate because I was unaware of the change? No. He would not have. So, you see, now I'll have to give up part of tomorrow's lunch hour as well. "You can take them to Madison or Sun Prairie." Gee, is the USPS going to refund me the money for the gas? Somehow I think not.
Of course, I find it alarming that the local post office is so incapable of manual figuring. Are you telling me that there is no non-computer connected scale that will simply weigh packages? Are you also telling me that there is no place where the new rates are printed so that one could figure out a 3-lb box, sent first class, costs $X?
Either this is bullshit or the staff at the post office is incompetent.
I am now going to spend the rest of my day trying to reach someone at the National Passport Information Center. Lucky me...
Update: Good News and Bad News. Good News: I spoke to a real live human being at the NPIC. Bad News: Their "systems are down" and they can't help me. I should call again later.
We leave, as I have said before, for a nice family vacation in Bermuda on Friday. Okay, we head to Chicagoland on Friday and fly out very early Saturday morning. However, I am finding it very hard to stay out of the vacation mindset. I think my brain is already on the beach, if you know what I mean.
Back in February, we applied for two new passports: one for Bunny and one for Prince Charming.
Bunny's passport arrived over a week ago now. Prince Charming's is still MIA. We leave for Bermuda on Friday. I'm beginning to wonder if he will be able to go with us. And honestly, if that damn passport doesn't arrive, I am going to be mad as hell. Really pissed off.
And somebody at the State Department is going to hear about it. They may even get a bill for non-refundable airfare...
I intend to begin Potty Training Boot Camp the minute we return from our family vacation. Despite this, my father expressed his distress (albeit muted, he's learning control) that Bunny Boop isn't already potty trained.
I understand his concerns, I do. I also know, however, that she hasn't really been ready before now. I've tried. I've had the tools since she was a year old. She's now 16 months old and I believe she is now ready to understand. I'm sorry if this is later than my father would expect, but I might remind him that I wasn't potty trained until I was 2. And, I would further point out that seeing as how I'm the one who will do the training, it is largely up to me.
Or Hillary Clinton.
Me. The Mom.
For two days when we return from vacation, we will visit the potty chair every 20 minutes and sit for at least 2 minutes. We will be wearing big girl panties so as to learn the ramifications of not answering the call. I don't know how else to do it. I've certainly never done this before. Any hints you might have would be greatly appreciated.
I just don't want to hear any more of this "Oh MY GAWD! She's NOT POTTY TRAINED YET?" crap.
An American couple who are strict vegans managed to kill their 6-week-old baby. They never took him to see a doctor because they believe hospitals are filled with germs.
They fed the baby soy milk and apple juice. The soy milk was clearly labeled that it was not a replacement for baby formula. The couple's defense attorney beleives that the death was unintentional because the apple juice "worked as a diuretic and blocked the absorbtion of nutrients from the soy milk."
Anyway, they've been found guilty in a court of law for the murder of their son. You know what did it for me?
The 6-week-old baby only weighed 3.5 pounds when he died. Three and a half pounds! If a six-week-old baby only weighs 3.5 pounds, you are neglecting him.
Some people shouldn't be parents.
Now, I'm no vegan and I'm not dissing it as a "lifestyle choice." But, I am saying that growing children need nutrients that aren't all available at the salad bar and I think these people were incredibly irresponsible for not doing more to save their child. I'm sure that there are safe ways to raise a child within the vegan lifestyle and I suspect that some medical professional would have been happy to help them with this. Frankly, I'm astonished. Bunny Boop was drinking all-formula only at 6 weeks. That apple juice was a really stupid choice, vegan or not.
So my hearing is going, I think. Another clear sign that I am getting older.
Over the weekend, I was doing dishes or cleaning house or something. The television was on in the background making noise. I was only half-listening to it when something caught my ear. A commercial for a local eatery (chain) was advertising a "Date Rape Platter."
Perhaps you can understand why this caught my ear. Can you imagine?
Hungry after a rough night on non-consensual sex? Drop in for our excellent Date Rape Platter, featuring three buttermilk pancakes, two eggs anyway, and a delicious fruit cup!
I was horrified! Completely shocked. Has rape become so accepted that it is a selling point/category? Surely not. I had to be sure, so I listened to the rest of the ad, hoping that they would repeat the name of the menu item.
Thank goodness! It is only my hearing that is going and not the complete decline of civilization. I mistook the Daybreak Platter for the Date Rape Platter. I am happy to be wrong. And now I can laugh about it. Before though? I was Outraged.
I've been super busy. To borrow one of my Grandmother's phrases, I'm "busier than a cranberry merchant." Don't ask. I don't know what that is supposed to mean. I've never seen a cranberry bog in Southwestern Kansas, so I think it must be something she imported.
Anyhoo, I've been very productive lately. Work has been keeping me hopping from 7 am until 4 pm everyday. And I do mean "hopping." I scurry, I skamper, I even dodge, weave, hurdle, and otherwise perform complex gymnastics. It is my post-work activities, however, of which I am most proud.
Yesterday I found time to:
-shop for wedding shower gift -get my haircut -pick up the baby -feed baby -make homemade beef & noodles (with homemade hand-rolled and cut noodles) -make creme brulee -bake a cake
All of that was done by 8:30 p.m. And then, I did the dishes. I astounded myself. I was sure that I would run out of steam long before I got all of that done. Who knew I had it in me?
I wonder how much I'll get done tonight. Oh wait! That will be next-to-nothing. Tonite I have a date with Mark Harmon.
I'm having the week (month?) from hell. I've had a headache for two days. Work has been insane. This is the first moment I've had in too long to remember. So, you should not expect fiction tomorrow, or to hear from me much at all.
Yes. That must be it. There is no other possible explanation.
My hands-free device for my cell phone has never been right. It makes calls of its own volition. It indiscriminately ends calls that I initiated. Hell, it even hangs up on calls it made all on its own.
This was how the war started.
Yesterday we had a pretty serious escalation. My ipod won't sync all of my video. I have somewhere around 500 songs and ~30 video files. All of the songs show up, but only 3 of the videos are available. Even after multiple resyncs. Even after restoring the factory settings, updating software, and then resyncing. I was up until 10 pm last night trying to get the rest of the video to sync.
This morning I woke to the wholly unwelcome realization that my robotic vacuum (which is set to run every Monday night) decided to eat the USB cable that syncs my ipod. So now, even if I could figure out what was the problem with my ipod, I have to wait until the replacement cable arrives.
It is so stressful and worrisome. I am, of course, perplexed with the ipod difficulties. I am even more concerned that my technology is about to take over, a la Maximum Overdrive.
I mean, what's next? Will my ovens decide to cook supper without my knowledge? Will my mixer beat me (tee hee)?