Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

The Restrooms of the American Far West   1 comment

Traveling all the way to California and back from our home in Kentucky was an adventure in many ways.  I expected to find a different world in the realm of climate, landscape and culture.  I did not expect a difference in restrooms.

It’s just different out there.

It doesn’t seem to be a priority to have working toilets, even though if I’ve got my history right, the west has been settled since the mid-1800s, depending on what region you visit.  Perhaps settled is too strong a word.  Maybe pioneers were just passing through.  Maybe they still are, and that’s why restrooms don’t seem to be that much of a priority.

Some would say that is exactly the issue in Nevada.  There is an interstate that passes through, and you have several options if you want to cross the state east to west, but only a few.  We chose the interstate and the northern route because a) we did not want to end up that far south once we got to California anyway and b) we did not prefer to experience Las Vegas.

As soon as we crossed into Nevada, the first time we stopped, we noticed that it was questionable how long you would have to wait to use a bathroom.  The gas station in Elko had a couple of stalls–but only one was functional and there were several women in line for it.  Understandable I suppose, since there are only so many ways to get across the state, that we would all be gathered near the only working toilet.

Somewhere on the stretch between Reno and Winnemucca, we stopped at a little gas station at an exit with nothing else.  There were humorous cards and touristy gifts in the building, which appeared to be either under construction or in the process of being abandoned.  The women’s restroom was at the very back of a long room with boxes and empty shelves in it.

At least there was a women’s restroom.  You have to admire Nevadans.  They get along just fine with pretty basic amenities.

Every gas station stop definitely had a mini-casino of some sort.  This was a dark, cool and comfortably air-conditioned room with about five slot machines, other games, and some video games.  I didn’t go in, but from the door I could feel the blast of cold air and see that the room was clean, cool, and definitely functioning.  I believe the biggest one was at same gas station in Elko which only possessed one working toilet.  Here we can clearly see the priorities.

Our RV park in Reno was nice.  It had trees and a great view.  The only problem for us was that we had a pop-up, and they put us toward the back of the park near the beautiful view of the majestic Truckee river.  The hike back to the main building for restrooms was pretty long at 2 a.m.  And the thing was that while the building contained multiple restroom stalls, the ones in the office portion of the building were not available overnight when the office was closed.  There was one, count it, one bathroom available overnight–for the entire park.  And it included a shower.  What that meant is that if someone else decided to take a long shower right before you needed a toilet, you were just…SOL.  Call me crazy, but I thought the purpose of having restrooms at an RV park would be that you could use them when needed.

Of course I’m not a hardy Nevadan.

When we got to California, the RV park at Sacramento was pretty nice–there was some shade and a short walk to the restrooms.  There was also a really lovely pond just down the way that was covered with white birds who sailed beautifully along every morning.  When I first saw them I was so sleepy I thought they were snow or whipped cream.  But the main door of the women’s didn’t fully shut so the keypad for entry was pointless.  This didn’t really bother me, until I was taking a shower stark naked, as that’s what one usually does, and I heard the sound of a man’s voice carrying on a conversation with his girlfriend over by the sinks.  The two of them were pretty surprised when I came out of my stall after getting dressed and exclaimed, “Surprise!”

The bathroom at Yosemite National Park took the prize for California.  Disclaimer: I love the National Park Service as it paid for my entire life up to the age of 21.  I am not criticizing the Park Service personally in any way.  It’s clear that a cartload of people love Yosemite and want to camp there, and, once you’ve visited, you too will understand why.  What you will also understand is why it’s way too complicated to get the equipment up the winding roads into the mountains in order to update the restrooms.

So anyway, they women’s restroom was relatively old.  One of the toilets was routinely overflowing so not very practical for use, and the other had a tendency to get clogged.  And, there as well, we had men stepping in to use our side, which I didn’t understand until my husband explained that the urinal on the other side was clogged–and that it stayed that way the whole time we were there.  Oh, now I smell, I mean I see!

My conclusion?  Salt Lake City is an oasis–and I mean that literally.

To get there, you travel through western Wyoming and Utah for many hours when traveling westward, and through Nevada for many hours traveling east. The scenery on either side is amazing–stark, beautiful, rocky.  I love how elemental the landscape is.  But I can say that by the time you reach the RV park in Salt Lake City, on either the eastward or the westward route, you are pretty happy.   In Salt Lake City, bless them, they have really nice restrooms featuring both hot and cold running water, four stalls, three showers–and soap–and paper towels!  And did I mention clean?

Little did we know on leaving home how much we would miss this attention to detail.  Our road trip was worth it though, because we have now begun the process of becoming as tough as those hardy Nevadans.

 

I’d like to thank Dave Barry for making this blog possible.  As he likes to say, I am not making any of this up.

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Posted September 12, 2018 by swanatbagend in camping, humor, travel journal

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The Photos you Don’t Need   Leave a comment

I have a strange recommendation: print, keep, scrapbook with and otherwise save some of the photos you don’t like and don’t want.

I scrapbook, so these thoughts apply directly to those who also do so, but if you prefer to upload to Shutterfly and make a book, or to just print and drop in a box, consider this.

You probably select photos to work with based on their excellence: composition, color and print quality, were the kids smiling? do they help tell the story? are they of an occasion important enough to save? that stuff.  Most people select photos based on some kind of criteria, and nobody wants to use a photo that looks messy, has red-eye, or doesn’t fit into the overall plan for the page.

That’s understandable.

But if you only use the best photos, you will miss something good.

How do I know? I looked back through an album of mine from eight years ago. In the process, I discovered there was a six month period of our lives for which I only had one page. There were a couple of photos of the snowman the kids made in a spring snowstorm and there were several of my youngest son’s 6th birthday.  All well and good, except I thought to myself, where was the rest of our life?  What on earth happened, or didn’t happen, that I did not bother to record it?

Life had been so full that I had not looked at old pictures for years.  So I took the time to go through every file I could find that might have pictures from that six months.  I came out of that session with about 25 more pictures.

Oh, those red Cars slip ons that he used to wear every day!  I had forgotten all about them.  We went hiking out there?  Yes.  Oh, that was the day we couldn’t find the jackets and had to go back for the stuffed animal we left behind.  My children are eight years older now, and I am here to tell you, they were darn cute back then.  I found myself wondering why on earth I did not print these photographs.

I think it was because they just weren’t good enough.  They weren’t perfect enough.  But these are the images of the moments in which my life happened, the messy, glorious life I really had with my family.

Go ahead and print the goofy pictures of your family setting up the pop-up camper for the first time, including the one with dad’s back side as he’s bent over the trailer hitch.  Go ahead and print the ones where the kids aren’t looking at the camera or are poking each other or are rolling their eyes.  Go ahead and print the ones that don’t fit the theme.

You won’t regret it later.

 

Posted May 24, 2018 by swanatbagend in humor, parenting

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Like Catan   Leave a comment

Homeschooling my kids is like a game of Catan.

It came to me this morning because we were ready to start school fifteen minutes early.  What happened? I asked myself.  Normally I am running late and we never start when we mean to.  What did I do differently this time?

I wasn’t sure and I’m still not able to come up with a specific technique that made this bizarrity occur.

What I do know is that when I play Catan, I never feel that I am getting ahead building settlements and cities fast enough.  I’m always plotting how to block someone else’s road, so I can get the Longest Road card.  I look ahead as far as I can, listing what resources I need to do the next three things on my wish list.

A few turns later, when I calculate other people’s victory points, and mine, we are usually neck and neck and running about 7 or 8.  I keep strategizing.  It really gets moving.  My strategy is working and I am seeing results.

Then, just when I have enough cities to rake in the resources–somebody wins.  And the game is over.

 

Posted February 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor

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Just Faking It   2 comments

So yesterday was a homeschool day for our family.

Yesterday, that meant that I wrote the day’s work for each student up on the wipe-off board.  I read with both kids, which is a highlight and a fun time of day for me.  I often help with questions or math or whatever gets done in the morning.

Yesterday, we had an art teacher come to the house for an intro session with my high school senior so they could get to know each other and make a plan for what the weekly lessons will look like.

While they were talking my 8th grader and I went upstairs to get some work done.

That afternoon, he and I did a baking experiment together and rapidly found out why leavening is such a tasty thing.  Baking soda by itself is not appetizing, but the cupcakes that didn’t have it weren’t anything I would want to eat.

The senior helped me make fish tacos for dinner, as I’ve decided these two aren’t leaving the house without a modicum of kitchen experience.

The 8th grader learned how to do goulash the night before.

I think that covers it.

So, that sounds like a pretty good solid homeschool day, right?

I did pat myself on the back for it and wanted to brag about it on Facebook.  However, the rest of the story is that yesterday was probably the single most awesome day in my homeschooling career.  I’m coming up on eighteen years of experience, and I can assure you that most days have looked nothing like this.

I have been intending to teach the kids to cook by having them sous chef with me for literally years.

Usually I don’t do experiments.  I assign pages to read in a science book.

Usually we don’t have an art teacher coming to the house!  That is an exciting new development that just worked out this year.

I do read to them every day.  But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t usually look this wonderful.  It’s not pretty.  It’s just doing the next thing each day.

Ask me about the day the then preschooler threw something at me and knocked over the celery stalk/red food coloring experiment which then got all over people’s papers.  Ask me about how I never used to even get up on time so school started whenever I got my crap together.  Ask me about all the mornings I lit a candle in the den to just lighten the place up in January and February because I was so depressed I did not want to do anything.

Or better yet, ask them.  Yes.

Somehow they survived.  They are people rapidly approaching functional adulthood, in spite of me, not because of me.

 

 

 

Posted February 11, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor, motherhood, parenting

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The Unexpected   Leave a comment

So two blogs back, I listed the top ten favorite places or memories from the recent trip we took to California, while delivering our oldest to grad school.  I knew on this trip we would head into new territory simply because while our family enjoys camping in our pop-up in the west, we have never ventured so far before (mainly because it’s a heckuva drive and requires too much vacation time).  We have camped in Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and the states you must drive through to get to these places from our home.  But we had never continued past western Wyoming.  So when we reached Salt Lake City and went, well, beyond, I knew it would be different.

However, until you’ve been there–to Nevada–to California–you can’t know how different it will be.

Some of these differences are just wonderfully striking.  California seems to be a land of extremes, all different types of biomes and so many amazing giant plants.  Then there’s the unsurpassed Yosemite Valley.  There’s no place else like it on earth.  So all of these things were glorious.

But we had all other sorts of unexpected moments.  Those of you who are well-traveled know that on any trip, alongside the wonderful memories, the beautiful places, and the great pictures, you also experience the Other Stuff.  Stuff that is bizarre–the strange–the unusual–in short, the unexpected.

Here are the highlights.

First, it is disorienting but delightful to be able to travel from one biome into a different one when traveling up and down the Coast range in California.  You are in a golden, grassy field with the wind blowing through, and thistles, and twisted trees, and then you take a winding two-lane road sharply downhill past some vineyards, and just like that, you’re in a primeval forest of giant trees.

Food was definitely less expensive than at home–I could get, say, plums, for one-third of what I’d been paying all summer.

Also, the location of the entrance doors for grocery stores in California seemed to be a secret only locals understood.  It took me a while to figure out how to get in, since the doors I always walked up to were clearly marked “exit”.

We also had various adventures that were mostly created by the challenge of having one group of people driving two vehicles cross-country.  These included our scenic tour of the Salt Lake City airport, when our intention was just to find the last gas station before the Great Salt Flats.  The airport access and apparently the entire airport were under construction and the road followed a meandering route similar to what food experiences moving through your intestines, so it took us a while to find our way back to the interstate.  I’m sure the jet-setting departees from the airport were amused to see a golden yellow Penske truck crawling through the detours, closely followed by a dirty minivan towing an old pop-up trailer.

We also took an accidental detour into a semi-truck weigh station as we approached the agriculture check after entering California.

Then, once we got back out of the line for the weigh station, I discovered that while I was doing a great job driving the moving truck, the one thing I did not actually have with me in the truck was the key for the padlock we had put on the back compartment to secure it.  The key, which yes we needed when they asked us to open the back, was conveniently located in a very safe location: the glove box of the other vehicle.

We also had the door of the pop-up camper take a ninety degree flop to the right.  This is normal protocol and would have been ideal if we were setting up camp at the time.

Instead we were hurtling downhill from Donner Pass.  But thanks to the two-way radios, the people in the moving truck were able to alert the driver of the pop-up rig before any supplies came out to decorate the shoulder.

I did not expect to spend an evening helping my son pick baby ticks off himself in Kansas.

I did not expect to have ants invade the cooler at the RV park in Sacramento West.

Or to have a man invade the bathroom at the RV park in Sacramento West.

But he wasn’t the only man I found in women’s bathrooms.  There were routinely men in the women’s bathrooms in Hodgdon Meadow campground in Yosemite.

Perhaps this was because the men’s urinal was non-functional and full the entire time we were camping there.  This may have been caused by the sheer difficulty of bringing in plumbing supplies to a location so remote.  That was another unexpected–the sheer remoteness of the places we visited in the mountains.  I had no idea looking at a map that the roads would be so winding, the elevation changes so extreme.  There was nothing remotely resembling cell reception at either park we stayed in.  In fact, even after we drove out of the redwood valley park on our way back toward San Jose and were cruising the top edges of the ridges, where you’d think there wouldn’t be any large obstacles blocking signals from cell towers, there still was no reception.

But that was actually part of the charm of the state park we enjoyed.  Portola Redwoods State Park has not yet been discovered by the masses.  They don’t give change at the gift shop, and they don’t accept outgoing mail.  It is quiet and un-busy there.  One of the most rewarding events during our stay there was that Portola has been discovered by the masses–masses of vivid yellow banana slugs.  We got to meet them and play with them on our second day after a light rain brought them out trolling the campground for treats.  So I’d have to say another unexpected thing about California was the sheer number of luscious banana slugs.

Also, we learned that a yellow jacket is strong enough to take off with a bacon bit in her mandibles.  I did not know that.

She landed on someone’s salad plate after dinner, found an abandoned bacon bit, checked it out, grasped it firmly and then to the surprise of all managed to lift off!  Sure the flight trajectory was a bit sloppy, and she buzzed my forehead as she took off, but she left with that bacon, and came back later for more.

Our campsite in Yosemite was totally unexpected.  The ranger at the check in said he wasn’t sure how we’d park our pop-up in site thirty-three but we thought he was joking–until we got to the site.  We look at it.  Silence.  Then my husband says, “I’m sorry.  I had no idea this site was like this.”  It really wasn’t his fault that it was approximately forty feet from the road to the picnic table and bear box, and downhill steeply enough all the way that, no, you really couldn’t level an RV of any kind on the provided pad.  We had to camp parallel to the road crammed in behind a large dumpster.  The compensations were that we ended up cooking outside at the table near the bear box, since that’s where all the food was anyway, it was actually quite pleasant, and we were reminded that we could survive without using the super galley kitchen inside the pop-up.

I guess I should have expected something groovy and relaxed, since we were on the beach in California, but I was not quite ready to see a naked old man dive into the freezing surf at Point Reyes.

However, as I say, this is California.

One of the last unexpected things actually happened at home.  Our pop-up has an awning we use sometimes and like most such awnings, it stores rolled up, attached to the length of the pop-up by adhesive.  When you’re driving at highway speed and it’s an unusually windy day, you will see the awning bag flop up and down when looking in the rear view mirror.  It did that all the way across Kansas (because why would it be windy in Kansas?) and I remember thinking “of course this awning is designed to handle the stress of being blown like that.”

We were unloading the supplies the day after we got back.  After taking a short break, I went back out for the remainders, to discover the entire awning lying peacefully on the doorstep of the camper.  After thousands and thousands of miles on the road during which it could have given way to bludgeon the vehicle behind us, instead it waited until we were at home to drop to the ground.

Now that’s unexpected.

 

 

 

Posted October 24, 2017 by swanatbagend in humor, travel journal

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Still Learning   Leave a comment

There are always surprises in marriage.  As I wrote a few weeks ago in this blog (https://swanatbagend.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/why-hes-so-flexible/), I learned something new about my husband during the process of negotiating plans for a weekend with extended family.

But that’s not the only thing I have learned about him recently.

Do you know how long we have known each other?  We have been married almost 3/5ths of my life.  We have known each other for thirty-one years, which is more like 31/49ths of my life (reduce that if you can).  Thirty-one years is a long time as far as human life spans go, and you would think that after that amount of time nothing your spouse could do would really surprise you.

You would think

Board games have never been a big thing in our family.  One reason was some of our children couldn’t handle playing them when they were smaller,  so we basically stayed away from competitive games for family time and were more into hiking, camping, playing outside, and horsing around in the den and knocking end tables over.

The other reason is that as far as I could tell my husband did not like board games.  He was willing to play Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit if pressed at larger family gatherings, but he never, but never asked the kids and me to play a game with him.

So, logical conclusion: he must not like games.

But this is what happened.  I gave our youngest son a game called Survive for his birthday last year.  I knew he liked it because good friends of ours had introduced the kids to it and I’d heard a lot about it when he got back home.

We were at the beach on vacation at the time, so during our afternoon siesta we all sat back sipping Pineapple Fanta and tried a round of Survive.

The daddy man loved it.

He wanted to play again the next day.

Requests to play the game continued fairly regularly over the next few months, and then his comments made something go “click” in my  head.  He was wondering out loud how the game would turn out, (aside from the fact that each game is inherently different because you set up the game board variably each time using three types of tiles that represent rock, sand and jungle) if we all shifted our strategies a bit, stopped playing so nice, if he put his high value tokens in another area of the island, and so on.

Aha.

This year, things got even more interesting around our house, because my son received another game–Settlers of Catan.

We have now laid the myth to rest.

Between Catan, Doctor Who Risk, and Survive (oh, and chess!), there is strategy and game playing going on at our house.

And I thought I knew all there was to know about that man.

 

Posted September 18, 2016 by swanatbagend in humor

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I Have a Part-time Job!   Leave a comment

Time is money, and after I manage the household I spend a good deal of my time homeschooling the kids, shopping for their needs, researching any treatments or supplements they may need, and taking care of my own health.

But hey, I want to add this part-time job to my resume!

It’s definitely a trending thing so it should be worth quite a lot in the market.  I can use the word “artisan” for just about every aspect of this work.  That adds a lot of value right there, as hand-made, artisan items are the latest thing.

I wonder what other people are getting paid for the kind of work I’m doing?

It looks like a pretty involved one too–it’s about 20 hours per week.

 

 

Seven hours for dinners.

I do three of the lunches at our house but I rely heavily on leftovers, so let’s call that one hour total.

I do four full home-made breakfasts so that’s probably another four hours total.  I’ll throw in one more half hour for straightening up counters and putting food away, and don’t forget, I’m not counting clean up, i.e. scraping, stacking dishes, loading the dishwasher, washing the big stuff, unloading the dishwasher (which thankfully I don’t usually do–that’s what the KP roster staff is for).

Then, let’s see, an hour or two for menu planning and preparing the shopping list. Three hours for my big shopping trip I take every two weeks.  Another hour for the smaller trips when I stop by the store to get bananas, lettuce, milk and cheese.  Oops, I forgot about Aldi’s and the foods I buy online, not to mention the butcher shop in town and the man I buy the eggs from….so maybe another hour per week?

Hmm, really, the three off days when I don’t make a full breakfast, I’m probably doing dinner or lunch prep.  So I’m going to call that one more hour.

I might be making fresh kefir.  Or starting the broth for the soup.  Or salting and toasting nuts.  Yep, these things are definitely artisan for sure!  I don’t do it all myself, like bread, or tortillas, or noodles, and I don’t weave my own place mats–but I do find that homemade beef or chicken broth really is worth the time.  I’ll tell you what’s a real motivator.  When you read the labels of what’s in the store-bought versions?  After I do that I don’t mind taking the time to cook chicken bones in water all day with some vegetables and vinegar to get the minerals into the broth.

So here I’m up to 20 hours a week.  Busy weeks with special events it’s probably more, so I think I can fairly say it’s about twenty-one hours a week.

 

 

And that, my friends, definitely qualifies as a part-time job.

It’s a very good thing that I like to cook!

 

Posted March 19, 2016 by swanatbagend in humor