Saturday, October 30, 2010

Senior Day

Is it ethical for a hotel chain to take your reservation online without letting you know that your hotel will also be hosting 5,000 huskies on the same weekend?

Liv and I set off for Lawrence, KS a few days ago for Senior Day and due to my stubborness about avoiding highways that are orange in the road atlas despite their being more direct, we arrived late to our hotel.  Forebodingly too late.  Something felt immediately amiss in the parking lot as we got out of the car.  Lots of movements in the shadows.  A person walking a dog...ok, pretty normal.  But then another and another and as our eyes adjusted to the dark, we realized the entire parking lot was full of people walking dogs.  And all the same dog!  It was one of those experiences where you actually kind of take a little step back from yourself and ask yourself in a quick 10 second review of whether you're in danger or not, "am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?  I have no frame of reference for what I'm seeing.  do we need to run?" 

No offense but they all looked the same to me.  Owners and dogs.
Oh, yes I just went there.

"Your room is 433 and we apologize for the hair and the noise."   Say what now?  

The Siberian Husky Judges Education Seminar and Breed Study in conjunction with the National Specialty competition was being hosted by our hotel.  A hundred dogs or more IN the hotel, IN the beds!  We apologize for your being unable to breathe due to your allergies and asthma might be a better standard wish for hotel guests. 

I've been to a lot of hotels in my life.  A lot.  I love not camping.  So, I generally enjoy a new hotel sports teams staying in the hotel or prom being held in the ballroom or weddings and other human activities occurring during my stay.  Even the occasional yorkie or pomeranian in its own stroller makes my day during a hotel stay. 

This gathering, however, was a freak show to end all freak shows.  Packs of dogs in the elevators, the corridors, the lobby, out of crates and lying on beds in rooms as seen from parted window shades.  Apparently showdogs have more important work to do than learn to go through doors with their masters or approach strangers only if invited or most audaciously not to jump up on kids holding an interesting Diet Pepsi and minding their own business.  Not even a yank of the leash but a rather bored and half-hearted "Don't do that, Snowy."  Are you f'ing kidding me?  Your dog just jumped on my kid!  On Earth, we don't generally like it when dogs do that.

Around every corner, every elevator bank, every door, every column lurked yet another husky dog if not two, leashed to an aging, fussy woman, possibly in a motorized wheelchair, frocked in a denim prairie dress with an airbrushed head of a husky on its pinafore, barely in control of her disastrous wardrobe choices yet alone her massive dog(s). 

It was a little depressing watching these confused, skittish and high-strung animals bred to pull sleds and work in teams misbehave for their scary pageant mothers who treated them more like naughty toddlers than animals. If you know me even a little you know corporate Holiday Inn is going to here about it could they not?  I'm getting a free weekend somehow or this blog is going to turn into the Michael Moore of blogs bent on bringing down a giant in the hotel industry and the AKC.

Olivia's favorite comeback line sits squarely over her head

Little Liv and Little Jay
Husky dogs aside, we had a great Senior Day at KU and I did try hard not to cry during the little motivational movie they show to prospective students and their parents but again I was unsuccessful and got a little headache from stifling the tears.  That makes three for three.  These movies are genius marketing tools to lure in parents more than the kids.  I swear I don't want to go back in time, but I did really enjoy the rituals and traditions of college life.  How could a person sit stoically as "rock, chalk, rock, chalk" is being chanted in unison by thousands of students?  I'm not a robot, man!

Jefferson's in Lawrence, KS.  I may be eating more fried dill pickles here in the future.
Oh, and the pregnant mom touring KU with her daughter was not weird at all.  It did, however, require college level logic and math just to think about how it was even possible and what she might have been thinking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pie and Music

The last of the forced family fun apple picking apples.   The kids say good riddance
to the apples and apple picking in general but they do love to eat pie.
Autumn in Wisconsin.  Apple pies, homecoming dances, crispy sounding walks, pumpkins on every doorstep, swirling orange and yellow dirt devils in breezes that cut a little deeper through my jacket every day in the slide toward winter.   A gaggle of middle aged women talking Badger and Packer football on a sunny Friday and I'm strangely amongst them.  This last bit could not have been predicted with a thousand crystal balls. 

Homecoming dresses were short this year...too short if you ask me....but nobody asked me.
My family is scattering like the leaves this weekend as Chip and Ally depart for England (him to work, her to play for a few days and fly back alone) and Liv and I traveling to KU for one final campus tour.  The college aps are going in one by one with a click click click of the return key.   I can't believe it's come to this already--how did we get here?

Proud mama at band concert

Even band concerts are coming to an end for us.  Eight years of a study in adolescence set to Sousa.  I can hardly remember a time when we didn't trudge out into the cold, dark night three to six times a year, weather be damned, to mark their progress as musicians and eat a cookie.  And as much as I’ve groaned going to each and every concert, last night I found myself distracted by the very idea that after this year we won't be sitting dutifully in this auditorium anymore. And yet the band will play on without us.  Surrounded by really good friends and my husband, a hundred kids and a hundred parents many of whom I know, suddenly I got a little afraid and a little lonely. 

The madness and running around of parenting feels like it will never ever end, and then it does.  For all my complaining, I wasn't quite prepared for the feelings I had last night.  And the complaining all these years has mostly been about feeling pulled in many directions at once instead of being able to enjoy one thing at a time.

With me it's always the going that's hard, not the being there.  But it's time to stop the whining and find some joy in the going before it's too late.  Starting with the winter band concert.  I'll be there with a full and joyous heart, much like the Grinch on Christmas Day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The pictures tell a different story

There is a vital distinction between adult hospitals and children's hospitals.  Adult hospitals are icky and scary.  I limit my trips to the main hospital for emergency purposes only.  And by that I do not mean actual emergencies where I would likely get in the way.  My emergencies are my ID not working properly last week or my issued office key being on a Schneider-esque key ring that barely fit in my purse let alone my pocket.

Here are some friends at the Wisconsin-Ohio St. game
Traveling around with this giant key ring has been like walking around all day every day with the key to the gas station bathroom.  I'd go so far as to say it was a keyman's keyring in scope and practice, incongruously carrying one sad and lonely key.  And it's hard to feel like you're really making a difference in children's lives with a giant key ring bearing only one key.  A call to plant engineering led me to the hospital key shop....thus entering a realm we call, "The Twilight Zone."

"Key Shop, this is Kevin."   
"Hey good morning!  How are ya?  *silence*  Yeah, so anyway, I'm a new nurse over here in the children's clinics and the office key I was issued is on a giant key ring that I can't seem to remove."
"Well what's the number on the key?"
"Huh? Um....24"
"A 24?  Why do you have a 24 key?"
"Well, it's what they gave me and it opens my office door."
"You shouldn't have a 24 key.  Are you with housekeeping?"
"Um. No."
"We're going to need you to turn that key in and get a new one."

Here are Chip and his friends at the Wisconsin-Ohio St. game
I wish the conversation had gone even that smoothly, but the above is just a condensation for flavor of the very circular discussion that went on longer than I care to remember.  I came to the conclusion, however, that I had in my possession a master key.  So off to the key shop to handle this breach in national security and more practically, bad key ring etiquette.

The key shop is not only in the bowels of the hospital but I'd go so far as to say it's in the rectum.  Traveled to only by an elevator requiring keyed entry that goes to the shallow mantle of the earth's crust.  Luckily, lots of guys in blue shirts with their names sewn on patches on their pockets use the elevator and take great care to escort and protect a princess along her journey from the dragons or pirates or who knows really what lurks below. And I don't think they get to see a whole lot of women during the day in this particular part of the hospital.  I got more than a few second looks of a curious nature, not so common or comfortable for a woman of a certain age.   I do believe if there had been a puddle along the way, one of the nice men would have thrown a drop cloth over it for me to cross.  However, sexual assault also briefly crossed my mind.

Yesterday I went to see Donna Shalala speak at the Union Theater next to the Red Gym.  Donna is also at the game probably sitting with Barry Alvarez.  I'm home blogging.  Am I making good choices?

NO no, just kidding.  After a journey akin to several weeks of a good Prince Valiant storyline I reached the key shop, ironically secured by a keyless numbered entry pad on the door.  Argus Filch looked up from his workbench.

"Hi.  I called earlier to have my key replaced.  Are you Kevin?"
"Okay, well, I'm turning this key in  because it's stuck on this ridiculously large key ring."
"I think Kevin was supposed to make me a new key."
"Hmm....I don't see it."
*pregnant pause*
"Okay...well, I'm going to need to take the key back then because it's my only key."
"Okay, here you go." 
*pregnant pause*
"So, I'm stuck with this giant key ring, huh?"
"Oh, you don't want the key ring?"
SMASH SMASH SMASH.  Three mallet hits and the key ring broke apart.  He wordlessly returned the key to my hand.

"Well thanks, that was easy.  I guess I could have just run over it with my car. Ha ha ha"  
*third and final pregnant pause* 
"Yeah, so is it okay for me to keep this key?  Kevin seemed to have a problem with it having a 24 on it."
"Does it work ok?"
"uhhh, yes."
"Then you should take it because you're going to need it to get in your office."

Alrighty then.  What doors await!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some people like that.

A whirlwind girls' weekend in New York for self-indulgent and debauched purposes turns into an educational and emotional history lesson linking me to my ancestors.  I hate when that happens.

The weather was picture perfect--9/11 perfect upon my morbid reflection-- as our ferry set sail for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.   We naively intended to see it all in half a day.  A most absurd miscalculation.  Darryl the tour guide, fond of leaning way into our faces repeating words emphatically like Henny Youngman and snapping them like rubber bands with his sing-song New Yawk accent, knew better.  He ditched us at the Statue of Liberty with directions back to the subway and a Yankee cap full of funny memories.

A room with a view

Ellis Island restored today

"This building once housed an aquarium.  An a---quari----um....WITH FISH."
"It's a chandelier.  SOME PEOPLE LIKE THAT."
"Woolworth was photographed surrounded by bags of nickels and dimes....FIVES AND DIMES."

Ellis Island was an unprecedented marvel of people moving, processing 12 million people from 1892 to 1954 and turning away only 2% of those people for basically only communicable disease, criminality and of course, being craze-uh.  The origin of the open door policy it seems, but for every 98 people who made it through, two did not.  Grandmothers, fathers and even children returned to their countries of origin while their families remained.  It's very emotional reading and hearing the very personal and heart wrenching stories, looking at little shoes, personal effects and letters, bits of scrawl on preserved walls where those who couldn't stay left their only and final mark in America.

The Great Hall 

As I walked the Great Hall on Ellis Island I could feel relief of reaching land after days or weeks at sea.  I get queasy in my kayak.  I could feel fear of not knowing English and bewildered by benevolent barking government officers.  I could feel excitement and I could feel pain as a loved one was taken out of line for further scrutiny.  A child, a parent, a grandparent separated from their families, potentially forever.  These people were my family and they were your family, too, and they were brave and strong and resilient and in many cases so desperate to escape persecution and poverty at home that they made this unthinkable leap of faith...or maybe for them it was just a leap.  Live free or die.  Freedom from persecution and abject poverty was a dream made reality and its profound effect stayed with them.   Sixty years later, as these Americans recounted their families' journeys so long ago, they were as emotional as if it were yesterday and they still couldn't find the words to describe the feeling of being free for the first time.

Little Miss America
In a political and social climate of suspicion and intolerance for immigration and a paranoia even toward those that would come here and pay taxes and do the jobs we ourselves refuse to do, I know what I know which is that the 12 million people who streamed here from 1892 to 1954, aided and assisted and nursed to health in many cases by our own government, are the real founding fathers of my modern American life.  Thanks to my Uncle Barney and his brothers among others.

Ok, we had some fun, too.

Katz's Deli

The birthday girl celebrates pastrami
When worlds collide....

in a wonderful way....

Fun in Chinatown

Thanks Mayor Bloomberg for the cafe tables in Times Square to sit and have my morning coffee

Walking the Highline with my brothers-in-law, getting all Gehry up in here

Central Park

John Lennon's birthday vigil and tribute band, Central Park

All in a day in NYC