Travel Day Stories

Today was a travel day.  I love traveling.  I love watching people in airports.  I love the weird interpersonal situations that happen when way too many people are crammed in way too small seats way too close together.  For whatever reason, today was a day of really happy, positive, kinda weird stories.

The Girl Band

One TSA line over is a girl.  She’s wearing a top hat with a huge fake orange flower and a wide fabric band.  She has on shiny maroon Doc Martins, and I marvel at how small her ankles are in those boots.  No one has small ankles in Doc Martins, but she has tiny feet too, so maybe that’s the reason.  She’s a slender girl who looks like a teenager to my aging eyes, so she’s probably twenty-five.  She has close cropped hair, beautiful posture and everything about her is alive.  She has a guitar case slung over her shoulder and a banjo case at her feet.  I wonder how she’s going to get them both on a plane.  Once, I sat next to a man who bought a seat for his guitar, so maybe she’s doing that.

Then I notice her friends.  There are three girls, not just one, and they all have that same alive, short-hair, good posture look.  She isn’t a musician, they are a band, and just the three of them are traveling.  This means they probably are in their twenties, and not the teenagers I originally thought.  The tallest one in the blue coat is comparing her jacket to her friend’s jacket and asking the hatted one, “It’s blue, right?”

The friend says, “It’s not blue.” The hatted one agrees.

Suddenly, the not-blue jacketed one notices me watching their scene and she shouts across at me, “What color is this?”

I am delighted to be included in this group and I shout back, “Not blue.”

She tilts her head, “Not blue?  Then what color is it?”

“Charcoal.” I call back.

“Charcoal!” The hatted one says, and they are back in their own world.  I try to engage them with the start of a question about the color of my own orange-red jacket, but I am forgotten.  For a moment I wish I’d worn my own not-blue jacket.  Maybe we would have talked longer, and I could have asked my own questions.  Where are you going?  How will you get a banjo and a guitar on the plane?  Did you make that hat?  What’s the name of your band.

Alas, they are on to comparing the color of their pants.  Maroon?

Cash on the Plane

“Only credit cards.  Credit cards only.” The flight attendant repeats row after row.  Obediently the passengers put away their bills and hand over plastic.  The routine is interrupted by the man in the middle seat in front of me.  I can see him through the break between the seats, and his long hair and music mixing app on his computer make it obvious he is no traditional airline commuter.  He challenges the flight attendant.

“What if I pay you double the price, can I pay cash?”

The exhausted, overworked, low-budget airline attendant says, “No.  Credit only.”

The music mixer decides to perform.  He raises his voice, “Will anyone, anyone in this airplane pay for my snack, and I will pay you in cash.”

I roll my eyes at his bravado, and am shocked to hear a female voice say, “I will.”

Some lady two rows in front of me offers to pay.  There is a complicated back and forth with her snack mix, her gin and tonic, his craft beer – his word – and then his gin and tonic, in addition to the craft beer.  Snacks are passed out.  Drinks are handed out, handed back, and then handed out again in different formation.  The guy next to the music mixer asks several times, “I’d like a water when you get a chance.”  The music mixer hands his cash to the woman, and it’s too much money.

He insists, “As a thank you for your purchase.”

The attendant moves on, after giving the guy his water, and the water man starts quizzing the music mixer about his work: “Have you ever heard of Glenn Frey?”  The music mixer starts starts his beer – he doesn’t like it, must not be crafty enough – and says that he has never heard of Glenn Frey.  So, the water guy starts talking the lyrics of Hotel California and I wonder if the cash the music mixer gave the lady is real, or if somehow the music mixer is also a counterfeiter.  I also wonder if the music mixer really doesn’t know Glenn Frey or is just too cool to admit that he loves Hotel California.

Airplane Dad

I’m sitting in the terminal waiting to start a conference call.  Nestled back in molded airport chairs under the escalator I hear it before I see it.  The sound of a plane taking off. No, the sound a person makes when sounding like a plane taking off.  Into my vision bursts a paunchy dad with a child bigger than an infant but smaller than a toddler in his arms.  He’s running down the terminal holding his child in the air making airplane noises and they are both laughing and totally unaware that it is inappropriate for grown men to run in an airplane terminal making airplane noises.  Unbeknownst to them, they also make a third person happy, me, who loves inappropriate parental/child joy.

Safety Conscious Beggar

The homeless man mutters at every person who passes in front of him.  It’s snowing and he’s standing underneath the overhang of the building where the pavement is just wet.  He shakes his cup at everyone, and no one give him attention or money.  I hear him when I’ve already passed.

“Be careful.  It’s slick.”

I wish it wasn’t snowing.  I would have given him a dollar, but he’s right, it’s slick, so I don’t stop.

There is a tiny girl

There is a tiny girl.  Her story is not my story, but her parents.  Her parents are my friends and like most children of my friends she got a hat when she entered this world.  A hat with a poof as big as her head.

She got sick in her second fall and after days and weeks and months of horrible tests the worst imaginable diagnosis came back, but that is their story, not mine.
It’s winter now and my hands have longed to help my friends.  We bought them meals, but I wanted to do something personal, so I cast on a hat.  A bigger hat with a tiny pom pom.    A hat with a brim, because it is cold this January and my friends are so cool.  Their daughter needs a hat to keep her warm this winter.  Her parents need a hat that tells them their friend still thinks about them and cares.  I hope it isn’t too big, because the tiny girl may not have time to grow into things, and that is the tragedy.  There is a tiny girl, and soon she will have a new hat knit with love and sorrow and friendship for her, her family, for all they have endured and all they have yet to endure.

The Adventures of Tiny Santa

Why would I ever knit tiny creatures on vacation?  Because it means I can take pictures like these:

Tiny Santa enjoys a bagel.

Tiny Santa is amazed by the giant windmill. 

Tiny Santa wears a fashionable acorn cap while exercising on the climbing wall.

Tiny Santa enjoys a walk by the river.

Tiny Santa finds treasures in nature.

Tiny Santa jumps in the leaves.

Tiny Santa goes exploring at the nature center and takes a rest in an old tree. 

Tiny Santa has a hard time bowling.

Tiny Santa contemplates buying a cheese hat.  

Tiny Santa also struggles at ping pong.

Tiny Santa anxiously awaits his new friend. 

Well, Tiny Santa had a big day, and now he’s ready to go home.  Vacations are fun, but exhausting.  Tiny Santa hopes he can nap on the plane.


Dear Sneaker Squeaker,

Today I got a terrible, but not unexpected phone call.  It was the shelter letting me know that your heart murmur wasn’t just a murmur, but heart failure.  When they took your chest x-ray, nothing was right.  Your heart wasn’t right.  Your lungs were full of fluid.  At 3 months old you had reached the end of your life.

I always thought that something wasn’t right with you.  Your meow was strangled and squeaky, thus your name.  You panted at odd times.  Your eyes never quite opened.  I had hoped it wasn’t a terminal “not right,” but it was.  The news was a blow to my already bruised and battered heart.

When we took you from the shelter you were so tiny and so sick.  I would work on the computer with you in my jacket close to my heart.  I was committed to you even though I wanted to keep my distance.  I didn’t think you’d make it through the first week.  I ran steaming water in the shower and sat with you in the kitten spa to try to make you well, and it worked.  Yesterday you weighed enough and were healthy enough to go in and get adopted, or so thought my untrained eye.

I knew when I saw messages from the shelter that you were sick.  I hoped it was a “we need you to foster him a few more weeks” sick, but it wasn’t.  When I called and they told me the horrible news, I wept.  When they asked if I wanted to come in and say goodbye I paused, and then said “No.”  I had said my goodbyes the day before.  I had kissed your soft fur and told you I loved you.  I couldn’t do any better than that.

I loved your brown and black stripes that had started to grow down your back like a monochromatic skunk.  I love the trusting way you flopped down when you sat on anyone’s lap, certain that they would support you wherever you landed.  I loved how you would play with your sister and the big cat.  I loved your sweet purr, a whisper of your sisters big engine.  Because no relationship is perfect, I need to acknowledge that I didn’t love how you peed all over the house, but that flaw wasn’t enough to keep me from loving you completely.

I had hopes for your forever home, but it turns out I was your forever home.  Your forever was 13 short weeks.  I loved having you here, and I know you loved being here.  Thank you for sharing your life with us.  I hope you and your three siblings are somewhere sharing a sunbeam together.  Know that part of my heart is still with you.

With deepest affection,


P.S.  I do want you to know that when I heard you were dying I adopted your sister.  I hope you don’t mind, but I needed some joy after so much loss.  The sadness was overwhelming.  Her whole name is now Adventure Sneaker-Squeaker Blackie Tiny No-Name as a tribute to you and your brothers and sisters.  It’s a big name for her, but I think she can carry it.  We love you always!


Ack!  Spider!

 The warm water ran down my back, rinsing the shampoo from my hair.  I turned and picked up my bottle of conditioner.  As I lived it from the shelf an enormous wolf spider fell from the bottle and onto the shower wall.  I jumped, then started processing options.  Squish it.  Bad luck.  Rinse it down the drain.  Dear God, it could land on me or crawl up my foot.

Then I looked closer.  The little guy was slipping on the shower wall, his tiny hairy legs trying to get purchase while his mandibles flexed.  He was scared too.  I sighed and in my very vulnerable state looked for something to catch him in.  Shave gel top?  Perfect.  I coerced the spider into the lid and once he was firmly captured I opened the shower curtain and flung top and spider into the sink.

Once I was dry and covered, I took Mr. Spider in his lid to the front door and set him outside in the plant.  Good luck with the snow tomorrow, and stay out of my bathroom!

Rose Colored Glasses

My friends and family who know me best know that I have two really big fears in life: broken glass, and my lack of self awareness.  The glass fear is just a normal fear, but the lack of self awareness fear impacts every aspect of my life.

We all know someone who thinks they are the most important person on every project they are on, while everyone else is cleaning up the messes they leave behind.  We all know people who think that everyone likes them because they are always the center of every social situation, when really they just push themselves to the center and refuse to give up the position even if others roll their eyes behind their back.

I am terrified of being that person.  I am terrified of not seeing the world as it truly is.  I am terrified of thinking I am smart, talented, attractive, funny, good at my job, a good writer, whatever, when everyone around me exchanges knowing glances.  I am not an extrinsically motivated person.  I do not need others to tell me my worth.  I am an intrinsically motivated person who is afraid that her internal compass is completely out of whack.  Every time I hear someone confidently exclaim their talent I cringe a little.  Not because I don’t agree with them, but because I would never be so bold.

Two things have happened recently that have made me doubt my fears: a mirror at work and some new sunglasses.

There is a mirror in the women’s bathroom at work.  It is a large mirror, almost floor to ceiling, and it is wide.  I think the proportions may have something to do with it’s magic.  I, like most people, am not getting more attractive as I age.  My middle is getting thicker.  My face is getting wrinkles and rounder.  My posture is stooping a bit.  I dress to hide my flaws, but I am not the woman I was twenty years ago, or ten, or five.  However, I am always amazed by my image in this magical mirror.  I don’t look skinny, but I don’t look fat.  I don’t look young, but I don’t look old.  I really look like the best version of me in that mirror.  It might be the light, it might be the mirror or…maybe I really look like that?  Is it bad to think that I really look like that?  Is it bad to think that maybe the mean mirror in my bedroom is the flawed one and what other’s see when I walk around is the work bathroom mirror lady?

My new sunglasses have a rose tint.  They are cute sunglasses, and I do love wearing sunglasses.  My contacts stay dirt free, my sensitive eyes don’t squint, and I have a face that works in sunglasses.  (Oh, that last part was so bold.  Someone is saying, I’ve seen you in sunglasses and…well….I hate to tell you…)  That said, these new sunglasses are extra special because they make the world more beautiful.  They have a rose tint, and when I wear these sunglasses the sky is a blue I’ve never seen before.  It’s darker and deeper than the normal sky and the contrast of the clouds is beautiful.  Any orange or red colored flower or leaf pops with a brightness that is dazzling.  The world is bright and different when I wear these sunglasses.  It’s not how the world really looks, but it is pretty and it makes me happy.  Rose colored glasses really do make the world better.

It’s a slippery slope this false attractive version of the world.  Pretty soon I’ll be waltzing into meetings in too-small hot pants and my sunglasses and proclaiming that I am the smartest person in the room.  If I appreciate the work mirror me and the brilliant orange flowers offset by the deep blue sky, where does it stop?  Or, am I building self awareness appreciating the beauty of the sunglass mirror world, but not accepting it as truth?

Wait a second.  I’ve never looked at myself in the work mirror with my sunglasses on!  Gasp!  What a vision I will be.  I need to go plan my outfit appropriately.  I need something red or orange….and something sky blue.  Maybe hot pants?

Yarn on fence

Mrs. Knit Purl’s Obituary

I was given a remarkable gift.  A gift on many levels and remarkable on many levels.  At a local auction, there were five bins of yarn available:  three filled with wool, bamboo, boucle, and mohair and two with acrylic.  My parents texted and wanted to know if they should bid; I said yes to the wool and no to the acrylic.  A few hours later they texted again.  All three bins were mine.

At first it was like winning the lottery and my birthday all mixed up together.  My parents had spent $70 on these bins, gave them to me, and the value of the yarn was well over $1000.  There were skeins and skeins of remarkable, expensive, luxurious yarn.  It was not all yarn I would have picked out for myself, but it was all beautiful.  As I poured through the bins there were patterns with the yarn, and there were start of projects, and projects half done.  Suddenly, this wasn’t just a bunch of awesome yarn, but another knitter’s stash, and she was no longer around to finish that sweater, that blanket, or whatever that swatch was going to become.  The deeper we dug the more real she became.  She loved yarn and knitting, and this is what my heart has invented of her story.

Mrs. Knit Purl never skimped when she bought yarn.  She wasn’t one of those optimistic knitters who thought, “Oh well maybe I can make do with just 5 skeins of this gorgeous boucle.”  She bought 6, even if it was $40 a skein because she knew that if a pattern said she needed to have 1000 yards, 1200 was safe and 1000 was cutting it just too close, especially given her growing waistline.  She held onto projects for years waiting for the right time to turn yarn into a garment.  She prided herself on knowing what she was going to do with every skein in her stash, but a smart knitter knew that it was easy to use less yarn than you have but hard to use more.

Knit wasn’t afraid of having multiple projects going at once, in fact she loved the variety of a purple itchy wool sweater on one set of needles, a boring brown swatch for her grandson’s Christmas sweater started on a second, and a fluffy soft Alpaca cardigan in vivid jewel tones halfway completed on a third.  She wasn’t the knitter she used to be, anything smaller than a size 5 needle made her fingers ache, so the variety of projects gave a routine to her knitting days.  As she was drinking her morning coffee and smoking her first cigarette, the smaller needles and wool helped loosen her hands.  Late in the evening, while she was watching the evening news, and smoking her last cigarette, the alpaca on the giant size 15 needles was easy for her eyes to see and her hands to work.

Her projects also gave a routine to her years.  She told people she loved them through her knitting.  Every April she started a sweater for her grandson, and she had it finished and wrapped every December.  She knew that he didn’t love her sweaters  – who needs a new sweater from his grandma every year – but she still loved the tradition of him wearing her sweater every Christmas Day.  She’d made his first one when he was just a tiny baby, and this year would be her twenty-second sweater for him.  He was in college now, and maybe he wouldn’t mind wearing a brown cardigan on cold winter days.  Now that he was paying his own heating bills he might appreciate something to throw on in the house instead of turning up the heat.  She saw boys his age walking down the street in sweaters.  Maybe this year would be the year she would finally make something he would cherish.  The one he’d still be pulling on years from now when his own baby woke in the middle of the night.

She loved color and dreamed of making a knee length sweater for herself: a statement piece that would show everyone that she was not just a knitter, but an artist.  One winter day she found a yarn that reminded her of the sunsets she during her Alaskan vacation.  She was stroking the yarn and counting the balls when the lady at the yarn shop asked if she could help.  Knit told her about the dream, and the yarn shop lady found her a pattern she loved; it looked like a housecoat, but in the sunset yarn it would be a housecoat she could wear with pride.  She’d waltz into her knitting group and her friends would gasp in admiration at her masterpiece.  Oh, but there wasn’t enough yarn in the stacks.  The shop lady smiled, went to the back and came out with four full bags of sunset yarn, each containing twelve balls.  Knit never considered not buying the yarn and the pattern.  Each time she finished a project she would pull out those bags of yarn, and each time she started something else.  She loved the idea of the coat, but she never felt ready to actually cast on the dream.

Knit’s collection has been donated down to two bins of yarn. Every Thursday, when I work from home, I place the yarn in my backyard to let the sunshine and chlorophyll in the grass work their magic on the cigarette smell.  As I set them out I appreciate her plans, and make my own.  The sunset yarn will be shared with a knitting friend who loves color the way Knit did.  The jewel toned yarns are beloved by my mother and will make a blanket, or a shawl, or a cardigan.  There is an afghan kit I will make for myself and five different beaded scarves that will become lovely Christmas presents.  With every packing and unpacking I appreciate her artistry and promise to make something, different than she planned, but equally lovely with her beloved yarn.  I’m sorry she never got to make her sweater, but I won’t make it for her.  That was her dream, and I’m sad she never got to realize it.  My gift to her is to love her yarn and to make my own dreams.  I hope that someday my yarn will go to someone like me who appreciates it and laments the fact that I had cats the way I wish Knit hadn’t smoked.

Thanks Knit.  I love your yarn, and I’ve loved having you as an imaginary knitting friend over the past few weeks.  May you rest in peace.

My Happy Place

The log house sits at the end of a long gravel driveway.  After four hours of driving I welcome the colorful flags of Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, and Mardi Gras fluttering hello as we drive past.  I park between the garage and the bunkhouse and open the car door to breathe in the humid fresh air.

The simple house blocks our view of the lake, as my daughter and I unpack the car, but the mosquitoes and horse flies nibbling our DEET free ankles remind us where we are.  We rush in to hello kisses and hugs and then down the stairs to the walkout basement where our bunk bed waits in the middle of the family room.  We open our suitcases and strip down to nothing and then shimmy into our stiff clean swimsuits.  No matter what time we show up the first thing we must do is jump in the lake.  Traditionally it is evening.  The setting sun makes long back lit tree shadows stretch up the hill.  Minnows dart around our feet and bald eagles soar overhead.  Laughing we look for the three loons that inhabit the lake every year.  Loons mate for life, so why are there three?  Two wives and one husband?  One wife and two husbands or something even more exotic?  Three husbands?

Every year, and it has been five now, the passage of time is clarified.  My two year old daughter with her sand filled diaper has grown to a long lean girl on the edge of bravery.  Each year she stretches farther and risks more because at the lake parent worries are leeches and ticks between toes and not the unspecific fears of city life.  Wonders await: berries are plump waiting to be picked; frogs are hiding in the twilight waiting to be grabbed; sunfish after sunfish fly out of the lake on shimmering lines waiting to be fried up for dinner by grandpa.

Some traditions are made, Easter brunches, Passover senders, Christmas Eve and Day all have their arbitrary flow.  Other traditions just happen when the “if we are going to the lake this year” becomes a foregone conclusion of when.  When will we pick berries?  When will we picnic on the pontoon boat?  When are the turtle races?  When are we going to light the bonfire and have s’mores?  The magic is new every year as the kids grow and the families change and the tradition morphs to a new fun.  Every year we stay a little longer and every year we wish we had just one more day.

The Nutcracker Redeployment

“Well troops, today is the day where we must migrate from our dignified post across the staircase and return to our plastic storage container home.”

Several of the older more claustrophobic nutcrackers faint at the news.

A new-this-year nutcracker pipes up, “What do you mean?  Do we have to go back to our boxes?”

“No, no.” The lead nutcracker chuckles, “Your new home is this industrial grey box, but take comfort that once a year we will return to the glory of the shelf and again be organized in formation from tallest to shortest.”

Nutcrackers in a bin
As the leader of you troops, and the tallest, I’ll be residing in the green bin with the wrapping paper.

(Part of me really believes these guys are alive.  I anthropomorphize everything.  No wonder I hate those elves on shelves, huh?)

Have courage brave soldiers!  Until we meet again in December!