Top Ten Reasons There’s No Place Like Home

Top Ten Reasons There’s No Place Like Home

Ten reasons weary travelers look forward to coming home.My spring and summer gallivanting ended a month ago, and so far, staying put is all I want to do. Here are ten reasons there’s no place like home.

10. The people at here speak my language. Not just English. But midwestern English. As in talk about sweet corn, State Fair, heat, humidity, sleeping weather, and knowing how many miles you’ve driven by the number of gravel roads passed.

9.  When something is misplaced, I know it’s somewhere in the house rather than in another state, another country, or snuggled up next to the dirty underwear in my suitcase.

8.  It’s easier to stay organized at home than on the road because…

7. …everything is in its proper place. Except when #9 occurs, which is far too often.

6.  Iowa in August and September is so beautiful, I can hardly stand the thought of being gone for even a minute of it.

5.  Sunday worship with believers in other parts of the world is a blessing, but Sunday worship with our local church family is a blessing and a comfort.

4.  Cooking in our kitchen means being able to eat everything on the table, including dessert, without asking if it’s dairy-free.

3.  At home, when #7 rather than #9 is in effect, there’s time to think deeply and do what I like to do best–get lost in writing.

2.  Home is where I can Facetime often with two of my grandkids, play with the other one whenever we want, and share the day with our daughter and son-in-law.

1.  For 39 years, whenever I’ve had to travel without the Man of Steel, he’s the one who makes the house feel like home when I return.

What makes you say, “There’s no place like home?” Leave a comment.

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Top Ten Differences Between Latvia, Istanbul, and Idaho

Top Ten Differences Between Latvia, Istanbul, and Idaho

Travels to Latvia, Istanbul and Idaho led to these top 10 comparisons about 3 very different places in the world.Thanks to 2016 summer travels I have set a globe-trotting personal record which quite possibly will stand for the rest of my life. In the past 2 weeks I have sojourned in Latvia for a special needs family camp, in Istanbul during a 24 hour lay over, and in Idaho for our annual Shadow Valley Family Reunion Camp. Below are the top ten differences observed in the three places recently visited.

10.  In Latvia, the coffee is delicious. In Istanbul, the teas are delicious. At Shadow Valley, anything on a cool, mountain morning tastes heavenly.

9.  The Soviet-era accommodations at the Latvian special needs camp were adequate. The small, newly renovated, family hotel in Istanbul where we stayed was a beautiful jewel. Our pop-up camper on the side of an Idaho mountain feels like home.

8.  The streets in the old city of Riga, Latvia are immaculate and populated by tourists. The streets of Istanbul are filled with people and garbage. The mountains of Idaho are reached by winding along gravel roads traveled by very few people.

7.  The Latvian countryside sports the biggest snails I’ve ever seen. Cats swarm the streets of Istanbul. Giant slugs slime any Idaho gravel road that skirts a river or stream.

6.  In Riga and Istanbul, there’s no lack of pigeon poop. Deer poop rules the roost in Idaho.

5.  Latvian vistas are Narnia-like. Ocean vistas are breathtaking in Istanbul. Mountain vistas stretch deep, long, and wide in Idaho.

4.  In Latvia, I answered to “Jolee” because most people there dropped the final “n.” In the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, I was called “La-dee, La-dee” but rarely answered because my suitcases wouldn’t hold the carpets, purses, scarves, and trinkets street hustlers were selling. At Family Camp I answer to whatever I’m called: “Jo,” “Jolene,” “Aunt Jolene” or “Miss Jolene” depending on the age of whoever is speaking.

3.  Most Latvian food was an adventure in unfamiliarity. Kabobs in Istanbul were amazing. Food at the Idaho camp is a parade of yummy family favorites.

2.  In Old Riga, there are churches everywhere. In Istanbul, there are mosques everywhere…though the Armenian Orthodox Church was across the street from our hotel. At Idaho Family Camp, church is a gathering of people rather than a place.

1.  The special needs family camp in Latvia provided the blessing of time to talk to moms. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul offered the blessing of time to walk and drink in a foreign culture. Shadow Valley Family Camp gives the blessing of time to connect with family and to think and dream and write.

Where have travels taken you this summer? Leave a comment.

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Mrs. Pollifax on a Fantastic Friday

Mrs. Pollifax on a Fantastic Friday

As it turns out, the protagonist of my current work in progress matches the qualifications set out years ago.Next week, I’m flying to McLean Bible Church’s Accessibility Summit. That upcoming event combined with mystery novel that’s my current work in progress makes this post from 2011 quite timely five years later. Before you read, you should know that the protagonist of the new series wears sensible shoes and underwear, contains her cellulite, and has absolutely no accent. At least not where I come from.

It Worked for Mrs. Pollifax

I am in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (just outside Washington DC) for the Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church. To be accurate, the Summit begins later today, and I’m hanging out in the hotel business area because a new heater and AC unit is being installed in my room. My theory is that the CIA has hidden cameras in all hotel rooms in these parts, so they decoded my mutterings when the noisy heater woke me repeatedly in the night. Who says our government isn’t responsive?

The longer I sit here and people watch, the more glaringly apparent it becomes that I’m not in Kansas (yes, I live in Iowa, but please work with me) any more. Even though I read plenty of David Baldacci thrillers, Lisa Scottoline legal mysteries, Mrs. Pollifax CIA romps, and other fiction set on the East Coast to prepare me for this culture shock, it didn’t work. This midwestern gal is jaw-droppingly agog at the accents (this morning’s mix included British, Australian, Jersey, New York, and perhaps German), not to mention the fashion show that began in the Chicago airport yesterday and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

The most noticeable fashion statement thus far is the knee high, calf-hugging boots with three inch heels. Sported mostly by younger women who don’t yet realize “Bunion Builders” is the CIA code name for these boots, they look – well – really expensive, uncomfortable, and positively anti-midwestern.

The second most noticeable statement has been skin tight leggings, sometimes worn with bunion builders, sometimes under baggy, flowing shirts, and sometimes with short shirts and presumably thong underwear since no one had unsightly pantie lines. Apparently, fat jiggles are not considered unsightly in this neck of the woods. This is also anti-midwestern. In that part of the country, there are more fat jiggles per capita, but their owners tend to keep them well hidden.

I’m coping with the culture shock as well as can be expected. So far, I’ve resisted the infrequent urges to buy a pair of bunion builders, squeeze into leggings, or purchase thong underwear. Quite a feat of self-control for this midwestern, former school teacher who holds the door open for strangers, wears flat shoes and khaki pants, and knows better than to hug a Lutheran.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m making a list of anyone who looks like they work for the CIA, starting with the guys installing the heater in my hotel room. Once I get back home, I’ll mail it to the agency with an instructive note about how to make their spies blend in a little better, possibly by hiring midwestern women with sensible shoes, contained cellulite, sensible underwear, and absolutely no accent.

It worked for Mrs. Pollifax.
It could work for me.
Ya, shure, you betcha!

Top Ten Reasons to Love Southwest Airlines Today

Top Ten Reasons to Love Southwest Airlines Today

3035470-inline-i-1-southwest-airlines-unveils-modern-colorful-redesignLast weekend’s trip to the Accessibility Summit conference was wonderful, as always. But this trip included a bonus perk: the flights too and from the conference were wonderful, too. In fact they were so wonderful, I feel compelled to list Southwest’s top ten wonderfulnesses since previous posts on this blog have bemoaned travel travails associated with this airline.

10. No flight delays. Not one. Most of the time we got to the gate early.

9.  The early Sunday morning flight from DC to Chicago Midway had only about 3 dozen passengers. So my flying buddy and I sat in the front row. With extra legroom. The perfect opportunity to pretend we were flying first class. And I was the first person off the plane for the first time in my whole life.

8.  2 bags free. Which for an author carrying books to sell is money in the bank.

7.  Southwest now has free gate-to-gate WiFi. Which, if I had enough tech savvy to figure out how to make it work, would have been a real perk. My flying buddy got it running on her phone, but she didn’t know how it happened, so she couldn’t teach me.

6.  They still serve free snacks. Pretzels and peanuts.

5.  Southwest has Goldilocks layovers. Not to long, not to short, but just right.

4.  Their magazine is about more than travel. A few years ago, it had an article about Harvard Medical School’s Brazelton Institute, dedicated to healthy development of infants and young children. It was a boon to the research for Does My Child Have PTSD?

3.  Some of their employees must moonlight as stand up comedians. More than one of them have jazzed up the safety instructions at the beginning of their flights so people actually pay attention. And maybe even laugh.

2.  Those same employees can also use the perfect combination of humor and steely determination to keep 40 eighth graders–on their way to DC for a class trip–from running amok on a crowded plane.

1.  Southwest flies out of Des Moines, so after a long day of air travel home is only a 45 minute drive away.

What’s your favorite airline? What makes it your favorite? Leave a comment.

Top Ten Reasons to Take a Fall Road Trip

Top Ten Reasons to Take a Fall Road Trip

fall colors

10.  Gas prices are hovering around the $3.00 mark.

9.   The weather’s comfortable during the day and not too cool at night, so you can turn off both the AC and heat while you’re gone.

8.   You’ll be gone on those warm fall days when the Asian soy beetles and box elder bugs swarm the south side of the house. That means you won’t be letting critters in whenever you go in and out.

7.   Pumpkin spice lattes are available at every pit stop.

6.   You can sleep with the windows open when you arrive at your night time digs.

5.   Watching farmers bring in the harvest makes for an captivating drive.

4.   So does viewing the fall colors along the way, especially along the Mississippi River valley.

3.   Good weather makes it possible to stop and walk around a prairie lake that’s too windy, too cold, or too hot most of the year.

2.  You might be present when a two-year-old is enthralled by the first fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillar he’s ever seen.

1.   Driving west on your way home, watching a magnificent sunset can move you to tears.

What do you love about fall road trips? Leave a comment.