Retrospective Gratitude

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Today I am grateful for the scientific advancement of airline travel.  I really am.  Living in Alaska, it would be impossible to visit family (or tropical places :) )without it.

But when it goes wrong, it is so, so hard.  And this holiday season it went so, so wrong.

I dropped off Clark and the kids for their red eye flight on the Friday before Thanksgiving.  They were en route to Nebraska for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I planned to join them after a conference in Minneapolis.

Scheduled departure:  11:53 PM

When the pilot tried to fire up the engines, the big old jet airliner just said no.  Apparently someone had left a light on, and the battery was dead.

And so began the chronic series of delays.


How long does it take to charge a battery, swap a battery, or find a new battery?  Apparently a long time.

Around 3:30 AM the gate agent told passengers to hustle onto the plane, because they needed to leave soon or the crew would be placed on a mandatory rest period.  People complied, and the plane pushed away from the gate around 4 AM.  Unfortunately, the de-icing process took too long.  The pilots taxied to the runway, but then turned around and rolled right back to the gate.  The crew’s minutes had expired.

Now I had been home since about 11 PM, but couldn’t sleep.  This was the first time the kids were flying without me, and the thought of my family hovering 30,000 feet in the air was nerve wracking.  Plus the house was too quiet.  Thank God for the dog.

So I lay in bed and stalked their progress.  Google said they had departed.  The United web site said they were still in “taxi to runway” status.  Clark had quit texting, so my only reliable source had probably fallen asleep.

Or not.

Around 5 AM he finally texted.  They were heading back to the gate, and all passengers were instructed to pick up luggage.  No United agents were available to rebook flights at the airport.

I should have immediately picked them up, but we decided he would deal with luggage while I called United’s customer service line about rebooking.  We still had a shred of hope they could get out of Anchorage on the next flight.  Silly us.

After nearly an hour on hold, Gladys @ United answered the phone.  And that, my friends, is when I entered the Twilight Zone.

Gladys spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince me that my family safely landed in Denver.  Their boarding passes were used and – wouldn’t you know it? – they actually arrived *early*!  As such, she could only assist in rebooking the Denver to Omaha portion of their flight.

I explained that I was in communication with my husband, who was still in Anchorage.  She insisted he was in Denver.

Wait. What if Gladys was right?  Google still said they departed at 3:15.  And doesn’t Google know everything?

What was going on?  I literally started shaking.  The roads in Anchorage were glare ice, and my drive home from the airport was terrifying.  Maybe I had actually crashed my car, died, and this was some alternate universe?

Or what if this was like Lost?  Clark and I loved that old show, where a bunch of people mysteriously survive a plane crash.

The mind works in mysterious ways when it is sleep deprived.

I reached out to Clark while I was on hold:


As you can see, Clark is not prone to drama.  I calmed down, and finally Gladys returned from hold and apologized for her mistake.  She was ready to assist with the rebooking process.

Depart Twilight Zone.  Enter padded cell.

Would my family be interested in criss-crossing the country on multi stop flights for the next 48 hours?  Veto.  Would they like to fly “through” lovely Houston on their way to Omaha?  Veto, and hold my tongue on the geography lesson.

“Why can’t we stick to our original itinerary and route them through Denver?” I asked.

“Well, we don’t really like to send people through Denver.  There can be a lot of snow there,” replied Gladys.

“Isn’t Denver one of your %$#*!@& hubs??????” I thought.  (Note my maturity.  I thought it, but did not actually say it.  I did, however, later confirm it.)

Instead, I slightly-less-than-calmly replied, “Well, we have snow here and that is not the problem.  The problem, in this case, is one of the employees LEFT A DOOR OPEN, which LEFT A LIGHT ON, which DRAINED THE BATTERY!  I’m not too worried about a winter airport like Denver handling a little snow!”

And maybe then she started to hear my frustration.

In the end, I drove to the airport and picked up my weary family, who had stayed awake all night for nothing.

Gladys rebooked them through Denver two days later.

It was frustrating at the time, but it worked out fine after all.  Clark and the kids ended up on a giant new jet airliner with a mere 30 other passengers.  Solo rows for everyone!

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The fact is, even the worst airlines almost always get us there safely.

It’s too easy to lose that perspective.  Most delays are all about safety:  airline maintenance, crew health, inclement weather.

So while I can’t say I’m thankful for United Airlines (0-2) just yet , I am thankful for Gladys.  She has a thankless job dealing with tired, cranky, delayed customers who are at the height of frustration.

And most of all, I’m grateful to live in a country where plane tickets are affordable, safety standards are rigorous, and – most of all – airline travel is still safe.

Another Husker Win!

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Today I’m grateful for a Husker win that didn’t spike my heart rate too much.

The next time they take the field, we will be there to cheer them on in person!!  I have fond memories of attending games at Memorial Stadium back in the college days, and can’t wait to share the experience with the kids.  Clark’s cousin sold us four tickets at face value, so we all get to sit together without breaking into the kids’ piggy banks.  It will be a tough game, but after two straight wins maybe they can make it three in a row and become bowl eligible!


Pumpkin Pie

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Pumpkin pie is an anomaly to me:  it smells like heaven in the oven, but I never, ever want to eat it.

There’s no confusion for Clark or Sam:  they’re all about the pumpkin pie, all the time.  They love both the smell and the taste, as long as Cool Whip is involved.

Because I’m (occasionally) a good wife and mother, I try my best to replicate Clark’s grandma’s recipe.  It’s a classic mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves that makes our house smell oh-so-good.

What doesn’t smell good are my failed attempts at pie crusts.  Even the best pumpkin spice blend can’t mask the awful odor of a burned crust.  Trust me, I speak from experience.

For the past few years I’ve avoided this complication thanks to the help of a kind woman named Marie Callander.  I met her in the frozen food section of the local grocery store, and she makes a mean crust.  It even comes in a cute little oven-ready tin.  So thoughtful.

Despite Marie’s fame, I decided to try a homemade crust again.  I used a recipe from Pioneer Woman, who is famous for step-by-step instructions with pictures on her blog.  The photos are hugely helpful if terms like “pastry cutter” are not part of your daily vernacular.

I was so thrilled when my crust hit the freezer.  I swear, it looked just like the pictures!!!!!!!


I got a little nervous when I started rolling out the dough.  The darn crust wouldn’t stay in a circle.  Eventually I decided to piece it together in the pie dish and hope for the best.  I also skipped the part where you make pretty fork indentions around the rim of the crust.  Clearly that was not happening.


The crust recipe didn’t mention baking instructions, but our pumpkin pie takes nearly 90 minutes to cook.  I was worried the crust would be crisp and inedible after that much oven time, but crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Clark and Sam dished up their plates the second the pie was cool enough to cut.  They pretended to be Food Network judges as they sampled their first bites, and dramatically moved to a different room to discuss the results.  Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.


They returned with empty plates and big smiles.  They drew out the drama as they revealed their scores in three categories:

Whooping cream:  100%.  Duh.  It’s Cool Whip.
Filling:  93%.  Delicious flavor, but a little “thick” for some reason.  Hmph.
Crust:  95%.  Fabulously flaky, and it made all the difference.

All this scoring stuff was in jest, but I still couldn’t believe it.  They gave me an “A” on the crust!!  The crust!!

“It’s the best pie you’ve ever made,” Clark declared.  With sincerity.

And then I cried.

That stupid pie has me grateful for so much:  a kitchen to cook in, a family to cook for, recipes that are passed down, and family who loves me whether the crust turns out or not.


Our Little Entrepreneurs

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Today I’m grateful for our little entrepreneurs.  Not only do I love hearing about their business ventures, but the vast amount of time it takes to draw up a business plan usually means I get to cook dinner in peace.

“Mom, we’re starting a plow business!” the kids declared tonight.  I was chopping veggies, but of course listened intently as they told me about their plans to shovel neighborhood driveways for half the cost of local plow services, which apparently run at $40 a pop.

It was ironic timing, because today a neighbor down the road sent an email asking if we knew of plow companies that serviced our area.  I told the kids they should leash up the dog and do a little recon on this lady’s driveway.

I chopped in peace, and 30 minutes later they returned with red cheeks and a panting dog.  They had scoped out every driveway up and down the street, and decided they could easily shovel them for $20 each.

I hated to be skeptical, but I’d seen them spend entire Saturday afternoons struggling to shovel our deck.  They’d done their research, but perhaps they were short on experience?  Or stamina?

“Maybe you should practice on our driveway right now,” I suggested.  “Do you think you could shovel it all before Dad gets home from work?”

They were so confident, they rushed right out to get started!


As I finished cooking dinner, I couldn’t help but reflect upon their previous business ventures.

A few years ago it was SMAG’S CROCHET COMPANY.  Sam learned to crochet in school, and quickly taught Maggie.  They had a great flier but no inventory, or even samples.  At least they anticipated complaints.


Next was the cookie baking business.  This was all talk and I don’t recall a flier.

Next was Pooper Scoopers, which specialized in pet waste removal.  That flier was hilarious, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I do recall asking why they wanted to create a business that capitalized on their least favorite chore?

This fall they tried to launch a dog walking service, but we put the kibosh on that endeavor.  Their first obligation is to their own dog, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to fully exercise that pup!

Which brings us to the snow removal service.  I’m not sure what they hope or plan to do with all this potential income, but I do admire their innovation.

We only received a few inches of snow, but they shoveled their little hearts out.  After 45 minutes they were halfway done:


To their credit, our driveway also has two parking pads that were finished.  They made much more progress than this photo implies!

They wanted to keep working, but Clark told them that labor laws mandated a dinner break.

Sam lamented that not one of their businesses have yet made a profit.  (Or cent.)  We said give it time.  One of these ideas is sure to take off!

Now to get out there and finish shoveling that driveway…

Bonus Day

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We hardly e-v-e-r get snow days in Alaska.  Today was an exception.  The pattern of ice instead of snow in recent years really wreaks havoc on the roads, and today was one of those mornings.

The kids were sooooooo excited!  They love school, but clearly they love snow days more.  The neighborhood was alive with impromptu snowball fights and Capture the Flag matches all day long.

Another bonus:  Tess is exhausted!!

As for me… I’m heading to bed with some serious mental clarity.  A grant that is due tomorrow is polished and perfect.  My laundry is caught up, floors are mopped, and counters shining.  The residue from our craft weekend is vacuumed.

It’s been a bonus day for all… and I am grateful!



Huskers Win!

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Saturdays have been rough this year.  Our team keeps almost* winning this season.

* = losing in the last minute of the game.  

Tonight, one finally went our way.  I couldn’t breathe until the very end, but we walked away with a W against an undefeated team.  How is that possible in this nightmare 2015 season?

Okay, maybe there was a little help from the refs at the end.  Pushed out, forced out… it’s all semantics, right?

I wish it had been without controversy, but I am so happy we finally have a win.  Sam ran the numbers, and if we win the rest of our games this year we might get to go bowling after all.

We will be in Nebraska for the Iowa game.  Anyone have tickets?]

Go Big Red!



Craft Night

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Today I’m grateful that we own a sewing machine, even though it’s the most frustrating piece of equipment in our home.  Last night I was reminded why we only sew once a year.

We decided to make hotpads for the upcoming holiday season.  What a great teacher gift, tied together with a wooden spoon and nice card.  How hard could it be to sew four straight seams?  After a lot of complicated math, we headed to the fabric store and picked out some designs.

The cutting phase was easy, so I felt optimistic that we’d finally found a simple sewing project.  But, as always, once the actual *sewing* started, things unraveled quickly.  Pun intended.

Most of my evening was spent reading the sewing machine manual, putting bobbin casings back together, removing broken needles, and trying to stuff 7 layers of fabric under a presser foot.  Oh, and it takes a lot longer to thread the needle these days.  I swear, they are making the eye smaller and smaller.

Luckily, when you sew with friends you can laugh about it and move on.  Stealing their machine helps too.

Right now we are averaging about an hour per hot pad, but I’m confident after a good night’s sleep we will become more efficient.

Sew on!


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Happy Endings

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Today I’m grateful that Maggie is alive.  She was not kidnapped, trampled by a moose, eaten by a bear, or lost and frostbitten in the woods.  Possibly more miraculously, her father and I did not kill her.

I should probably back up and explain.

The evening started off in a typical manner:  I was tackling the dishes, Maggie was avoiding homework, and Sam was begging to watch college football.  It was already dark when chaos ensued:  one of the neighbor kids stopped by, and when Sam opened the door the dog bolted outside.  “Playtime!” Tess hoped.  Sam was more focused on football and chased her back into the house.

At this point Maggie was in the bathroom.  I think.  I’m sure she heard me talking to Sam about the need to take the dog outside for some exercise.  Eventually he paused his beloved Baylor game and stomped down the steps.

That’s when we realized Maggie was missing.  So was the dog.

At first I assumed they were down the road sledding with the neighbor kids.  But nope, they hadn’t seen Maggie or Tess.

Sam noticed Maggie’s snow boots and coat were still in the entryway, right where she had set them after school.

Well that was weird.

I quickly searched the entire house, from the bedrooms to the garage.  She was definitely not inside.  But why would she be outside without her snow gear?

Sam and I yelled up and down the street, but there was no answer.  I called a few neighbors, but they had not seen her.

At this point my mind started racing:  maybe tess ran out the front door again and maggie chased after her without shoes or a coat and now she is frostbitten and lost searching for our dog in the woods, wait there is now a cul de sac where there used to be woods and who are these new neighbors anyway they drive so damn fast it’s surprising they didn’t run over that porcupine clark saw on the road the other night and omg wildlife are the bears still awake and we’ve been seeing so many moose and it is so dark and she is so little and her coat with reflective tape is just lying on the floor inside…

I am frantically screaming, “MAAAAAAAAAAGGIEEE!!!  TESSSSSS!!!” but not sure which direction to run.

After about 20 minutes I called Clark, who was driving home from work.  “Maybe we should call the police?” he asked.  He could hear the genuine fear in my voice, and he was worried too.  We decided he’d keep an eye out on his drive up the hill, and if she wasn’t home by then we would call.

And then, as if in slow motion, Maggie nonchalantly trotted around a corner.  She was wearing soaking wet tennis shoes and a thin sweatshirt.  The dog was on leash, prancing happily at her side.  They were on their way home, completely oblivious of the anxiety they had caused.

Relief:  that moment when every ounce of worry instantaneously transforms into anger

I marched her home.  She heard me call her dad and the neighbors on the way, so by the time we crossed the threshold she had a pretty good gauge on the severity of the situation.  There was no yelling, but there was plenty of crying.  Clark pulled into the driveway just as I finished with her.  Safety, communication, common sense, good choices… she got it all back to back.

How ironic that a mere five days ago I wrote a post about the “simple times” of Halloween and how “being a few blocks from us felt like all the freedom in the world” to the kids.  As if that was sweet?

I’d like to make a disclaimer:  being a few blocks away is simply too much freedom if the child is alone, in the dark, on icy roads, in freezing temperatures without winter clothing, roaming areas that are frequently shared with wild animals, or nine years old.  Double that if the parent doesn’t even know she is gone!  Triple that if all of the above!

How lucky we are when life gives us the opportunity to learn big lessons without serious consequences.  We got a happy ending tonight, and I’m so, so grateful.

Fully Staffed

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Today I’m grateful that our library is once again fully staffed.  One of our assistants finished his degree last spring, and took a position as the Teen Librarian at Loussac.  Of course I was thrilled for him, but supervising our enormous space solo and covering the bell schedules for both schools has made for some long days.

Our newest team member started today, and she seems great!

And speaking of the library… I am having fun with the newest display.  It’s not quite finished (next up:  the lyrics!) but it’s already inspiring some interesting dance moves.  Let’s hope it inspires kids to read as well!



Books and Bed

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Today’s gratitude:  my books and my bed.

These days my alarm is frequently set for 5 AM, which means I head to bed at the same time as the kids.  It’s funny how they battle bed time, and I can’t wait for it!

There’s nothing like those first few moments after crawling into bed:  a big exhale of relief that the day’s chores are complete, a long stretch, and a smile.  Ahhhhhh.  Then I roll on my side and grab my book.

It’s a slice of heaven.

Right now I’m reading A Path Appears.  Rarely is non-fiction so captivating for me:  good luck reading this book without sharing the anecdotes with your family, friends, and every random person on the street.  It’s the perfect time of year to read a book about generosity and the importance of giving back to our global community.

A Path Appears Book Cover

Good book.

Good night!