Wednesday, December 31, 2014

five seven five

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suitcase plane travel
Ireland and Tanzania
cousins godmother home

Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Five Seven Five
Write a haiku (or...multiple haiku!) about the past – whether it's a year ago, a decade ago, or from childhood. If you want to, give some background information about your simple scene. And then – write one that paints a picture of the present, or predicts the future.
Some people can whip out a haiku at the drop of a lotus blossom. 
Not me. 
It took me all day and a lot of counting on my fingers to come up with this one. 
I think it sums up 2014 pretty darn well for me. 
See you next year! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


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Selfie snapped immediately after landing I arrived in Dar es Salaam 

Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

A Single Word

What one word sums up the past year? Now: unpack, unfold, and uncover it. What does it represent? What events float to the top when you think about your word? And, okay, if you can't limit yourself to a single word...use a (select) few
This was the easiest prompt so far! With out a doubt my single word was TRAVEL. The sentence "Now: unpack, unfold, and uncover it" resonates - I literally unpacked my suitcase, unfolded my clothes, and uncovered new adventures all over the world. 
2014 was a grand year! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

hashtag community

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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

Shout At The World
If you could make a # (hashtag) take off...what would it be? What conversation do you want to have with the world? Who are the five people you'd want to hear from first...or last? Is your trending topic personal? Political? Lyrical? Or just random?
Oh, hashtags....I have like/dislike (I can't bring myself to declare #LoveHate about something so innocuous) of them, although I can't explain it. #NoIdea. 
Anyway, I've really been drawn to the idea of community this year. I've discovered that community is more than neighborhood or church or workplace or family or PEZ collectors. #NancyDrewFans
We all belong to a big old international bulging-at-the-seams community. And we're all in it together. The idea is simplistic, but swear that if we all could wrap our brains around the idea that we have more in common than our differences the world would be a calmer place. #Can'tWeAllJustGetAlong?
When I was in Tanzania and saw children I started to automatically bend over and stick my arms out in front of me so the kiddos could feel my hair and touch my skin. The laughter would start when I opened my mouth - I think the kids expected me to look different inside. #MaybeTheyWereLaughingAtTheFillings
So here's to the idea that we can be a part of peace making- let's help our local and global communities figure it out. #ItStartsWithYou #ILoveYou #ForReal

Sunday, December 28, 2014

track it!

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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

One Small Step

Set your sights on the next year: what's one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2015? Whether it requires a written plan, a list of supplies or ingredients, or even a flowchart: getting your plan down in words should help spur you into action.
I have two not-so-fun goals for 2015 and both involve tracking. 

I'm had great luck with Weight Watchers over the years. 

As it turns out, eating less and moving more results in weight loss! 

Who knew? 

I was cruising right along at a manageable weight for the last year or so and I let me guard down a bit and gained five pounds this fall. While the weight isn't terribly noticeable, I can tell. And I feel much better with the weight off.

And you can't go around gaining five pounds every three months or so. Actually, you can. And it sucks. 

So, I'm back to tracking my food and activity. It really does work. 

The second goal is to get my finances in order. At one time I had a giant savings account. Then I bought a house and other grown up things. All of the amazing travel in 2014 took a dent in my non-existent savings account. 

I've already made the spreadsheet and filled in my projected income and expenses and am ready to start recording, no matter how painful it might be. 

So here's to losing and saving!  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

the year of the selfie

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Musoma, Tanzania
July 2014

Today's Think Kit blog prompt post: 

Show & Tell

Time to show off your handiwork: what did you make this year? Share something personal, like a song or art. What inspired you? Was the finished work what you initially imagined? Or a work project – what was the process? The end result? Share your vision...and your work!
I always say that my artistic vision outweighs my ability. 
I'm very creative in my mind. 
I try not to be egotistical, but I'm convinced that the idea of "selfies" was created for me. Before the cell phone camera technology I had to take photos of my feet
I've had great fun over the year snapping selfies all over the world.  
My week with the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa in Musoma, Tanzania was restful and quiet. I read and rested and took short walks while Sr. Janet taught a seminar to the young sisters and novices. 
The sisters and I were all fascinated with each other and found a common ground in laughter in photographs. 
Setting up this selfie was a feat in itself and it is my favorite one of the year, although the one I took with a monsieur in Ireland is a close second. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

kitchens and conversations

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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

Goin' Places

What place stood out for you this year? Outdoors or indoors; a huge gathering or a tête-à-tête? Where were you? Who were you with? What feeling did you have when leaving? Were you inspired? Refreshed? Or...confused and glad to be gone? Whether it was exciting...or awkward: give us a hall pass out of our own room for a few minutes.
What? Choose just one one place that stood out this year? Yikkes! 
Actually there is one place that stands out - my godmother's kitchen in Morogoro, Tanzania. We had spent the day running errands and we were chatting as she prepared our dinner. 
Janet shared stories of her life as a young Sister and her Mom's visit to Tanzania and her childhood. I loved hearing about the journey the beautiful Ebony Crucifix she gave me years ago made from Tanzania to Indiana (with a tour of England in between) and seeing her beautiful face on the cover of a Maryknoll pamphlet from the 1960s. 
Spending that afternoon chatting with her was exactly what I'd come to Tanzania for -to be able to stand in her kitchen and have casual conversations and just soak in her life. 
See the corner of the rug on the right side of the photo above? I brought one just like it back with me and it is in front of my kitchen sink. Every time my toes touch that rug I am transported back to that glorious day. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

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Creche - Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Indianapolis
Midnight Mass, Christmas 2014

Today's Think Kit blog prompt: 

What's Your Tradition?

Today we'll keep it short and sweet. Share a photo from your year that highlights giving, thankfulness, traditions or finding peace. What does the photo represent to you?
I panicked when I first read this prompt - How could I choose one photograph that highlighted my whole year? I reread the prompt and the words "traditions" and "peace" resonated with me. 
I'm what some people call a "Cradle Catholic" - Catholic since birth. I really did grow up in the Church. My dear mother has worked at a Director of Religious Education in several parishes and it seemed like my handy father was always replacing roof tiles or building shelves at our home parish. They are both still very active in their parishes. 
I attended Catholic schools randomly - both the parish grade school and the -Girls Catholic High School I attended closed while I was a student - not my fault, I hope. 
Over the years I've come to realize that God isn't just in church, but truly in all of us.  And I was able to take time to witness that this year. In the faces of newly-met cousins in Ireland, in the volunteers at Second Helpings, in the good work of my godmother and the other Maryknoll sisters, in the love I felt at beach weddings, and the joy of the people of Tanzania. 
Merry Christmas to All! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


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Midtown Indianapolis, Indiana, meets Musoma, Tanzania

Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

A Dash Of Thanks

What are you thankful for? Maybe it's from this year – or maybe it's something in your past that resonated with you recently. And – we hold people, places, and things in equal regard: a sense of gratefulness can take many forms.

My HUGE dash of thanks is for all of the amazing travel that I got to do this year. I was healthy enough, I had the financial wherewithal (thanks in part to a grant), and had a job (jobs actually) and generous co-workers that allowed me to be gone for so long. 
Here is a rundown of my travels: 
January/February - 16 days in Ireland.
May - 4 days in St. Pete's Beach, Florida for a cousin's wedding.
July - 28 days in Tanzania
October - 8 days in Colorado for a conference and visiting friends.
October - 3 days in St. Pete's Beach, Florida for a godson's wedding.
November - 6 days in Sanibel, Florida with my brother and his family. 
That's 65 days of travel!
How incredible is that? 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

funny you should say apple....

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Today's Think Kit blog prompt: 

Apple Of Your Eye

You've ranted. You've raved. You've freestyled, soapboxed, and even waved a magic wand or two. Today, let's keep it positive. Who (or what) is doing something good? Share a story of your positive action, whether it's a favorite charity, foundation, or nonprofit – or just an individual whose penchant for do-goodery makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.
It's like this prompt was written for me! 
I am lucky enough to have a job that combines my education, experience, and passion. 
I am the director of programs for Second Helpings, a food rescue, job training, and hunger relief organization in Indianapolis. In the next twelve months we will rescue TWO MILLION pounds of food, prepare and deliver ONE MILLION meals, and educate 50 ADULTS for meaningful careers in the food-service industry. 
How cool is that? 
Here is a talk I gave about Second Helpings a few months ago - I got to tell the story in only twenty slides that changed every twenty seconds, which turns out to be the perfect format for my can't-stand-still, jumping around, fast-talking personality. Click here to see it

Monday, December 22, 2014


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July 4, 2014
Morogoro, Tanzania

Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Chef's Choice

Today, we're keeping it wide open – we want you to write. Write the thought ringing in your head this morning. Write what you can't forget. Write what you want to remember about _____. Write the everyday and the extraordinary. Let Frank O'Hara be your guide.

This morning I was drinking Tanzanian tea out of my Irish mug and thinking of how damn amazing 2014 has been. 

Seriously amazing.

The juxtaposition of the African tea in the Irish mug made me think of celebrating Independence Day in Morogoro. I love being at home for July Fourth - click here for a little piece about my affection of the holiday - but my international celebration was memorable. 

Janet and Sue and I celebrated Independence Day by drinking an African beer while eating pizza in a Maurtius restaurant with Chinese decor while watching the German - French World Cup game. 

It was awesome.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


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Fresh from a swim in the Indian Ocean
- wearing Sr. Jean's bathing suit.

Today's Think Kit blog prompt:
Ooh! Aah!

What surprised you this year? Was it a jump-out-of-your-seat shocking moment? Learning something new that really flipped your wig? A moment in time that left you speechless? A friend or stranger's actions that really blew your mind? Leave us slack-jawed and standing silent...or at least thoughtfully quiet for a few seconds!

This is a tough one. Mostly because I'm not easily flummoxed or left speechless, and the two things that shocked me this year are not my stories to tell.

So I'll tell you about a moment that was the opposite. The moment that I felt a boatload of stress wash away. The moment that I felt at total peace and realized that I didn't have a care in the world. The moment that I felt absolute joy.

And I was wearing a borrowed-from-a-nun-bathing-suit.

I had arrived in Tanzania the night before and between little sleep and the chaos of traveling and lost luggage and spending the morning in the largest and loudest city in Tanzania, I was frazzled. I'd also figured out that what little Swahili I knew was useless, the US dollars I brought were in the wrong denomination, and apparently lizards in the house were a good thing.

I'd had tears behind my eyes all day, wondering what in the heck I'd gotten myself into.

My godmother, Sr. Janet, and I were spending the night at the home of Sr. Jean.  We arrived to her beautiful home - like living in an art gallery - and Jean loaned me an outfit so I could rinse out my clothes and a bathing suit for swimming.

We drove to a beautiful beach right before sunset. 

I'm not much of a swim in natural water kind of person. There is fish and stuff in there.That you can't see.

I loitered on the beach watching Janet and Jean bob along in the water and finally took the plunge, casting my scardy-cat thoughts (what if cut my foot, what if I get a cramp, what if an exotic fish bites me... blah blah) out of the way.

I swam out to meet them and felt more buoyant than I ever had. It took no effort to float and I felt like I could glide in the water. 

Laying on the back, watching the sunset, I felt fabulous. I could feel all of my worries and fear and stress fly out of my body.

The trip was going to be wonderful.

And it was.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


 Today's Think Kit blog prompt:

It's true, we like you a lot – but let's be noncommittal for now. It's okay to be unsure! What are you on the fence about? Dig into the meat of both sides. Is it a big deal? A minor quibble? Are you leaning one way...or is the extended forecast just one big gray area? Yes – we're telling you not to make up your mind!

Okay. I'll admit it.

I'm feeling a little wishy-washy about this whole Think Kit thing.

I love the idea of blogging for a month and sharing posts with other bloggers.

I don't love the idea that it is in December.

December, the most overwhelming month of the year. The month of gift-buying, deadline meeting, party-going, and panic.


That said, I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, December 19, 2014

theme music

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Traditional Irish music session
February 2014

Today's Think Kit prompt:

Insert Theme Music Here
Strike up the band – what was the soundtrack to your year? Was it the music you listened to the most? A certain song that kept reappearing, or worse...that you couldn't get away from? Or maybe it wasn't music at all – maybe a podcast, voice, performance, or significant sound played over-and-over. Whatever you heard: we're all ears!

I listen to tons of music, but I'm always stymied when someone asks me what my favorite band is or to name a favorite song.

I can say that if the song includes pedal steel or an accordion I'm smitten.  

I adore seeing live music and my favorite way to hear music is during songwriter-in-the-round shows. It is where musicians trade songs and stories and I fall in love with the last song played.

Can I just say that my theme song is music? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt: 

+ / -

Have no fear – no numbers needed here. Who (or what) made a difference for you this year? Were they cognizant of their effect? Did it add to your life...or detract? Was it a momentary encounter? A year-long helping hand? Someone who took a chance on you, or vice versa? What would've changed if you'd had to go without, or go it alone? Imagine the alternative scenario.

There is no doubt about what made a difference for me this year: An $8,000 Human Services Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment (administered through the United Way of Central Indiana).

The grant is available to folks who have worked in the nonprofit arena for at least eight years. [Click here for more details here, if you're interested]

I was lucky enough to receive it last year and it enabled me to travel to Ireland and Tanzania this year. I tossed in some of my own money to make it happen, but I wouldn't have dreamed of trying to do it without the grant.

Applying for the grant made me really plan the the trips and make a budget and allowed me to dream big.

Thanks Lilly Endowment! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


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Today's Think Kit blog prompt: 

Let's Get Physical

Time to go through your (actual) desktop, junk drawer, or coat pockets and share an artifact from your past. A half-torn ticket stub, once-washed receipt, coffee-stained map, anything in a frame: it's all fair game. What springs to mind from your artifact? The smells, sights, and sounds? A specific feeling? Hold it in your hand, close your eyes, and go back in time to a moment.

Okay, these artifacts aren't from my pocket or past, but I love looking at them on the corner of my desk. I move them around a lot - right now they're heading south for migration. Not that I know if elephants migrate or anything.

And yes, I know that they're not to scale and that several of them would eat each other in a second, but I don't care. I love seeing them on my desk (the holiday candle isn't typically there), they are a great conversation piece, and a fun reminder of my beautiful time in Tanzania.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Extra! Extra!

Take a moment to dip into the deep well of the past year's 24-hour news cycle. What world event moved you this year? What story, series, or moment fascinated you? Made you scratch your head? Brought you to the edge of tears...or past the edge of your seat? Did an outside perspective change the way you felt, or make you take action? Share the headline(s) that resonated with you.

While the first cases of  Ebola were reported in March, news of the outbreak starting hitting the States in July - the month I was in Tanzania. The area of the outbreak and and where I was are over 3000 miles apart, but in most people's minds Africa is one big blob. And before I traveled there, it was for me too.

The Ebola outcry here really frosted me. We were more worried about what might happen here than about helping eradicating the crisis. 

And I got tired of people asking me if I had Ebola.

My stock response: I have a better chance of marrying Rush Limbaugh than getting Ebola.

Monday, December 15, 2014


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Lucky Numbers

Time to get mathematical – and yes, you may use a calculator. Was there a significant number in your year? A birthday? A first? A personal record? A date now carved in the annals of time? A number that represents a streak, whether winning or losing, good or bad? A bellwether or a lagging indicator or just...three.

I'm not sure if it can be considered my lucky number, but 26 is always on my mind. Twenty-six is the number of daily Weight Watchers points that I am allowed. Forty-nine is the number of weekly points (the ones that you can spend however you like, not just on chips and beer as I am wont to do). Five is my goal for activity points - points earned above my typical day-to-day activity.

I'm a big (not as big as I used to be - get it?) believer in Weight Watchers. It really does work. I've lost 25 pounds and basically kept it off. Except for the five that I gained since September.

So here's to being back to keeping 26 at the top of mind (and off my waist).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I've been Gilmored

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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Look Outward, Look Inward

By telescope or microscope, or no scope at all – what did you discover? A new aspect of yourself? A favorite artist, musician, or variety of cheese? Did you discover something about a loved one? A familiar or new-to-you place? Be broad, be narrow, or be surprising.

Sure I found long-lost relatives in Ireland and spent a month in Tanzania with my godmother, but the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about what I discovered this year: Gilmore Girls.

Between not watching television as a child - one hour a week, always Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family - working a lot of nights, not having cable, and never having a great television, I never considered myself a TV watcher.

Until Netflix streaming came along. I enjoy binge watching shows on my iPhone. I don't care much about how big the picture is, I enjoy listening to programs just as much. And I can carry the phone from room to room and listen where ever I like.

I discovered Gilmore Girls last month when I saw people posting about it on facebook. I can't believe how much I'm enjoying it. The dialogue is fabulous and the stories are just the right amount of silliness.

And I promise that I did discover lots of swell things about myself and the world during my travels....

Saturday, December 13, 2014


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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Put Down Your Blog...
And pick up a pen! Or pencil. Heck – we'd settle for a crayon.
You don't have to stay in-between ruled lines, but we do want you to write something by hand. Sure, a letter comes to mind. But so does a recipe you discovered this year. A poem. A series of tweets that is a poem. A contract with yourself – or someone else. Whatever you get on paper – write it, then photograph & blog it. Cursive or manuscript, we promise not to grade on penmanship.

Being behind in publishing the blog posts I've started worked out well in this case. I wrote this note to a friend who was having surgery on the day of the prompt, photographed it, and didn't get it posted.

This photo is much better than the one I took because my friend is holding it! On the front of the card was a photograph from the 1950s and featured a car from that era with the hood up and women in uniforms tinkering with it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

how do you say "mulligan" in swahili?

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Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:


We've put another quarter in the slot – free play! Hit the reset button on a moment this year: what would you do over? Whether or not you analyze your actions – how would you act differently? Would the outcomes shift, or stay the same? From a single sentence to a whole day (and everything in-between), feel free to explain your choice, from how you felt immediately after the moment passed, to any thoughts that ran through your mind beforehand. Take a mulligan!

This is an easy one - I would have done a better job of learning Swahili. I spent a few months casually learning some words and phrases. I read a book and downloaded a few apps and recorded myself saying some key phrases and thought I was good to go.

First of all, I was cocky. I didn't practice listening to Swahili phrases. I could say some stuff, but had no idea what people were trying to say to me.

Secondly, I didn't learn anything practical. Sure, I knew how to say "dress," but I had no idea how to bargain and I didn't have a good grasp of numbers, which is critical since there are no prices on anything.

I also didn't learn phrases like, "Oh no! The bus is pulling away from the market with my godmother on it and all is have with me are some coins and a roll of toilet paper!" My mistake.

Finally, all of the things I was confident is saying were the EXACT SAME THINGS that most Tanzanians could say in English. Once we got past hello and how are you, it was downhill.

If I could do it all again, I'd invest more time and effort into learning Swahili.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

mtoto wa ubatizo

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Sister Janet, her student Saidi and his mother

Today's Think Kit blog post prompt:

Hi, I'm ______

Nametags and punchbowls aren't necessary (but we're okay with that!) – who did you meet this year? Was it awkward? Enlightening? Was your first impression correct? Was it accidental & meant to be, pre-arranged, or somewhere in-between? Whether you found a soulmate, held a new baby, or finally trusted someone to style your hair just so, write about a new person (or people) in your life.

The person that I met this year is someone that I've known my whole life.

I got to spend almost a month with my godmother, Sr. Janet, in Tanzania.

I'm sure Janet was at my 1961 baptism, but my first memories of her are from delightful airmail letters - those blue envelopes still make me smile - and her visits to Indianapolis with exotic gifts. I wore the elephant hair bracelet until it fell apart and it still has a place of honor in my jewelry box.

She joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1962 and started her first assignment in Tanzania in 1966. She has served a few stints in the States over the years and did a fantastic job of keeping in touch.

Janet visited me at Purdue, came to Philadelphia when I worked there, has seen my house, has been to my St. Valentine's Day party, and has toured Second Helpings. I feel like she's been around for all of my major life events.

I visited the Maryknoll Sisters Motherhouse and had been to her family home in Indianapolis several times and was lucky enough to meet her parents.

But I'd never spent more than a day with her.

We basically went from zero to spending 28 days in a row with each other.

And it was fabulous!

There was no better way get to know someone than to immerse yourself in their life. In another country where you don't speak the language (no matter how many phrases you thought you learned).

I loved every second with Janet. It was wonderful to see her in action and witness how beloved she is in her adopted country. I always knew that Janet was smart and independent and kind- it was amazing to see it in person. She teaches at a university, she works with a group of women in the village working towards empowerment, and has a group of men in a prison that she prays and shares with. And I got to see it all in action!

Seeing strangers reactions when she spoke perfect Swahili was priceless. I soon recognized being introduced as her "mtoto wa ubatizo," child of baptism.

I also learned that we're a bit alike. Our interests are varied and we're fascinated by people, we think that popcorn and beer is a perfectly acceptable dinner, and we're both a little scattered - let's just say that we both spend time tracking down our cell phones.

My favorite times with Janet were doing the everyday things - trips to the post office and market, car trips, and meals at her home.

I miss being with her. I wish it was easier to hop on a plane and spend a few days in Morogoro. I'm ready for an evening of watching the BBC and Castle snacking on chips and catching up on our lives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


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 Today's Think Kit prompt:

Weird. Wild. Wacky.

Time to get weird. We want to hear your strangest story from the last year (or more). Will it make us raise an eyebrow or three? That's what we want. Whether it's a tale of colliding coincidences, a strange Saturday you just can't shake, or if it makes you squirm just to remember: get weird.

It always bugs me when people say that something "restored their faith in humanity."

My faith in humanity is firmly in place, thank you.

Although I do enjoy an occasional fabulous reminder.

This story starts with a trip to Florida for the wedding of one of my godchildren. Dad was generous and sprung for the airline tickets and hotel.

We flew out early on a Sunday morning, which was perfect for me. I worked at the Red Key on Saturday night, got home at 3:00 am, showered, zipped up the suitcase, and left for the airport. Sweetie and I rode together and parked in the long-term parking.

I sent sister Beth a text letting her know we had arrived. She said that she and Dad were still at the Farm. I was getting a little worried, but figured they had it under control.

S. and I took the shuttle to the airport, checked our bags, and had breakfast at Cafe Patachou. Beth and I had been texting back and forth but I assumed that they were in route. I asked Beth how far away they were and she replied that they hadn't left yet. I started to panic. It was now 5:30 am and our flight was at 6:40 and they were 45 minutes away.

Side note - I think the airline tickets should reflect what time they want you at the gate. I've found that boarding typically starts at least 30 minutes from the flight time.

Anyway, back the Farm, Beth insisted that Dad hustle it along, that they had to leave. Right now.

They parked in short-term parking and made it to the gate - they were the last ones on the plane, but who cares!

The flight had assigned seats. Dad was by the window, I was in the middle, and a poor man that weighed at least 350 pounds was in the aisle seat. Beth and S. were behind us.

As you can imagine the man in the aisle took up all of his seat and then some. Dad isn't a big man, but he's one of those guys that sits with his knees wide apart and elbows out. I tossed my messenger bag under the seat in front of me and only opened it to get headphones for S. I had to sit with my arms crossed and my hands gripped to the sides of my thighs to keep myself squeezed together. .

I tried to fall asleep - I'd been up almost 24 hours at that point but kept getting jabbed by elbows and knocked by knees on either side. I even suggested to Dad at one point that I thought it was in good form to let the person sitting in the middle to have use of at least one of the armrests. He didn't take the hint.

I'd just dozed off for about the tenth time when Dad started throwing his elbow in earnest, rooting around in his pocket for something. I had to squeeze myself closer to aisle guy while Dad dug around in his jacket. He finally found what he was looking for.

A hard-boiled egg. Already peeled and salt and peppered.

And smelling like a hard-boiled egg that had been in his pocket for a couple of hours.

He finished the egg and handed me the paper towel that he'd stored it in. And started the digging though his pockets dance again.

A banana.

He kindly handed me the peel when he finished. By now people are looking around to see where the smells are coming from and I'm sitting there red faced and red handed with a banana peel in my hand.

Finally the flight is over and aisle man attempted to get up (did I mention that his wife didn't sit next to him, but was in the row in front?) and planted his cane firmly on my foot. I yelped and he crashed back down. I wound up pushing on his bum to help him to his feet. After he was safely out, I looked over to see Dad struggling with his shoes. He'd taken his penny loafers off and was having a hard time getting them back on.

Since we were the last people on the plane I suggested that he just carry the shoes and we'd deal with it in the airport. We deplaned, found the proper baggage carrousel, and I planted Dad in a chair so he could put on his Birkenstock sandals. The fact that he brought two right shoes is the story for another time.

My friend Ann (mother of the groom, daughter of this guy) picked us up at the curb. I was sitting in the way-back (third row) of the beautiful van she'd rented listening to the chatter and felt myself relaxing. It was a beautiful morning and all was well.

I saw the toll bridge ahead and I reached into my bag for my wallet. I had plenty of cash. I'd stopped at the bank machine the day before and it had been an exceptionally good tip night at the Red Key.

My wallet was not in my bag. MY WALLET WAS NOT IN MY BAG!!!

I tried not to freak out too much in my way-back seat. Maybe I'd dropped it in the van while climbing into the seat. No such luck.

We arrived at the cute independent hotel and while the rest of the group headed to the beach I dumped my bag in front of the office. Lip balm, Kindle, camera, phone, the bag of plugins and cords, tissues, coins, lint, everything but my wallet landed on the steps.

The last time I remembered having it was going through security in Indianapolis. I called the lost and found in Indy and they connected me with TSA - no one had seen it. I called the Tampa airport and they hadn't found it either, but told me to keep calling.

The only way to report it to the airline was via an online form which I was attempting to do on my phone. I submitted the report and got a nice auto-reply that they would contact me if anyone turned it in, but they were not looking for it.

How the heck was I going to fly home two days later with no ID? How was I going to eat and shop with no money or credit card? And most importantly, how the heck was I going to have a drink on the beach with no cash?

I calmed down a little bit remembering that I had a passport at home that could be FedEx'd to me - after I got someone to break into my house, of course. I checked the TSA website and learned that they can make exceptions for folks that have lost their ID. It is helpful if you have someone traveling with the same last name (yay Dad!) or have a web presence that includes your photo (yay for the uncommon name of Nora Spitznogle!). And I realized that I could access the scan of my passport that I'd sent to my godmother.

I joined the group at the beach lamenting that I didn't have any money to buy a beer, but it turned out to be too early to drink anyway (not in my mind, but Florida law doesn't allow sales before noon). We took a walk around the neighborhood and Dad slipped me some cash to tide me over.

The four of us wound up at the delightful Tequila Mockingbird, the guys at the bar watching football, Beth and I soaking in the sunshine and a cocktail outdoors. I was flipping through facebook on my phone and saw that I had a friend request from a woman named Danielle. We didn't have any mutual facebook friends but she looked like a real person and I somehow thought that she was the niece of one of my Philadelphia friends so I accepted her request.

Lynn and Karen, two delightful women that were also there for the wedding, joined us and we had fun laughing with our new friends in the sun.

I popped inside to check on Dad and S. and visit the washroom. I met Beth on the way back and she said that she had exciting news to tell me when we got back to the table. I walked outside to Lynn and Karen laughing and telling me how exciting it was that my wallet had been found!

While I was inside, Danielle had called Beth to tell her that she had found my wallet!

Danielle found me on facebook (another yay for the uncommon name of Nora Spitznogle) saw that I was in St. Pete's Beach -- Beth had tagged me in a photo -- and messaged me to say that she had my wallet. But none of the messages showed up on my phone so she contacted Beth!

How amazing is that? We made arraignments to meet in a Publix parking lot the next day.

Her story about finding the wallet was even more wild. She was on the next flight after ours. Her seatmate found the wallet (the same color of grey as the carpeting) and after determining that it didn't belong to any of them stuck it in the seat pocket. Danielle peeked in the wallet, looked at my name, and saw all of the cash. She gave it to the flight attendant, who put it in her pocket.

Danielle Googled me using the in-flight WiFi and saw where I was - her home town. She asked the flight attendant what would happen with the wallet and she explained that she would take it to her home base and it would get mailed from there. Danielle told her that she was heading back the next day and could deliver my wallet in person and the flight attendant gave it back to her!

How wild is that? She was able to get my wallet back to me much quicker than if it would have gone back to Pittsburgh (or wherever).

Danielle was as sweet in person as she was on the phone - I can't express how grateful I am to her!

I picked up a little token gift and I intended to give her some cash also, but she wouldn't take it.

I hope that I can do something just as amazing for someone soon.

And in case you're wondering, I ditched the grey wallet for a bright red one.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

home sweet home

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Chez Pez

Today's Think Kit prompt: 

Just Can't Wait

The calendar still says 2014, but let's push forward. What are you looking forward to in 2015? Is there an event, special occasion, or reunion that you're counting down the days until? Planning a trip? A life change? A move? Or maybe it's the simple pleasures – the release of a movie, something or someone hitting a stage near you.
2014 has been an amazing year, but I'm looking forward to staying closer to home in 2015. 
I love picking a theme for each year. 
2012 was It's Not About You Sunshine. I've always known that the world doesn't revolve around me, but I used to think that every interaction I had was about me. I would take it personally if someone didn't use their turn signal or if a cashier looked frustrated. I knew that people didn't wake up each day plotting about how they could piss me off, but I needed to wrap my head around it. 

2013 was Graceful Conclusions. I worked on not getting too worked up about things before they actually happened. I tended to worry about every possible negative outcome of any possible situation. Often things have a graceful conclusion - no reason to be a jerk or get in people's business.

2014 was Trust the Process. This was an amazing year of travel for me and I knew that I would have to trust the process whether I understood it or now. 

I'm declaring 2015 as the Home Sweet Home year. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my cute house. Who knows, maybe I'll even paint a wall or something....after 18 years at Chez Pez it might be time....

Monday, December 08, 2014

trust the process

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Today's Think Kit blog prompt: 

Rants & Raves

Get on your soapbox. What issue, idea, or stance were you vocal about this year? Or did you let it internally build up? Was there an event, person, or time that triggered your strong reaction? Or was it a slow-burn? Why do you feel so strongly – is it personal? Emotional? Strictly reasonable?
Show us some passion – make your argument from the mountaintop!

Well dang it. If I would have known that this was coming I would have used yesterday's magic wand for world peace and saved turn signals for today....

I like to think that I'm not a ranter and raver but I think I'm just kidding myself. My most entertaining rants are internal (I'm hilarious in my own mind) and typically during my once-a-week waitressing shift.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Saturday night job and have met wonderful folks while doing it. My Red Key job has led to great things including wonderful friendships, working at Second Helpings and several writing gigs. And the cash is nice too.

I also know that I'm an impatient person and try to do a good job of tamping that down, but that seems to fall apart on Saturday nights. Part of what I love about working at the Key is that I'm the hostess, server, cook (yep, cook!), cashier and dishwasher. Depending on how busy it is I might make the drinks also. I really like doing all of that, but it does get nuts.

My rant for customers everywhere is pretty simple: TRUST THE PROCESS. 

You don't need to tell us what order to do things in - I think it is pretty universal that drinks come first, then food, more drinks and more food if you want it, then the check.

You don't need to tell us what is in most drinks, unless it is a crazy shot that you learned about in a college bar last week.

You don't need to tell us to put the cottage cheese on the side. I swear it has never once occurred to me to plop it on your tenderloin, and I bet it is the same way for other waitresses also.

If a server tells you they are out of something, they are. We want to get you that potato salad as much as you want it. We're not hiding food from you. Swear.

When your group of six orders cocktails and glasses of water, just because we bring the cocktails first, it doesn't mean that we forgot the water, we just ran out of hands and we'll be right back with it.

That said, we do forget things. Feel free to remind us and know that we didn't forget to bring you hot sauce because we want to ruin your evening. We simply just forgot. 

Don't tell us to put everything "on the side, to make it easier on you." We're happy to put everything on side - we want you to be happy, but in no way is it easier.

Keep in mind the server is your advocate in the kitchen. They're the only thing between you and a knife-welding line cook. If they tell you the kitchen can't do something, know that they have tried their best to make it happen.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

magic wand

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Today's Think Kit blog prompt:


Wave your magic wand – whoosh – what would you transform, create, or make disappear in 2015? Don't be afraid to change the world, or merely alter the mundane. Just be prepared to defend your decision with reason, or irrational emotion!
Oh...this wand will self-destruct after a single use, so choose wisely!

When I read the words "magic wand" in this prompt I immediately thought of turn signals. In my internal road-rage rants I call the stick to activate the indicator lights the "magic wand," often thinking: Just push on the magic want and a light will starting blinking to indicate to the rest of the drivers that you intend to turn or change lanes. It is simple, really. 

I just don't understand why everyone doesn't use the magic wand built into the vehicle. I will readily admit that I have a bias against people that don't use their turn signals, I just assume that they are selfish jerks outside the comfort of their car also.

If I had two magic wands I'd work on world peace next, although I'm convinced the world would be slightly happier if everyone used their turn signal.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

me and my suitcase

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 My suitcase, Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Today's Think Kit prompt:

Third Place

Work, home, and _____. Where was your third place this year? Did you like it, love it, ...or was it out of obligation? What feeling, sense, or vibe did you get from your third place? If someone can't imagine the scene, give the lay of the land in words. Is there natural light? Is there a certain smell? Bring us inside.

When I read this prompt I knew exactly what I was going to write about. This suitcase was without a doubt my Third Place. 

I was lucky enough be be traveling 66 days of this year. That's almost 20% by my fuzzy math skills. And I've been hanging out with the suitcase even more than that. Today's writing prompt also prompted some housekeeping. I took the suitcase to its storage spot in the basement for the first time since January. When I wasn't traveling it pretty much stayed on the dining room floor, getting shoved under the table if company was coming.  

The photo was taken after I was reunited with the luggage three days after I arrived in Tanzania. I thought I was a smart traveler by packing an extra pair of undies, pjs, and my toothbrush in my messenger bag that I carried on the plane. 

After two full days of travel I took a little bird bath in the lavatory of the airplane and changed into my extra undies and made the rash decision to throw the panties I was wearing in the trash. Blame sleep deprivation, but as I started to tuck the ones I'd worn for 36 hours back into my bag next to my camera, it just seemed weird. 

Boy did I come to regret that decision. It ultimately resulted in me wearing borrowed (from a kind and generous nun) clothes commando. 

I arrived in Tanzania, but my suitcase didn't. The whole process of entering the country at the Dar es Salaam airport is a little chaotic. You land and hand your passport and $100 in US dollars to someone collecting passports and money by the handful. You then wait for your name to be called and to be handed back your passport and Tanzania visitor's visa. 

For some reason mine was the last one to be processed (I blame the name Spitznogle) so I was in a bit of a panic at that point. By the time I got my visa and got the official stamp all of the other folks from my flight were gone. I went through the doors to find two empty conveyer  belts and no luggage. And no area marked "lost luggage," or anyone that looked like they worked there.

I finally found someone to help and handed him the information from checking my luggage in Indianapolis. He magically figured out that they were still in Zurich and wouldn't arrive until the next night. 

In the meantime my godmother, Sr. Janet, was worried that she missed me somehow so she went looking around the airport to make sure that I wasn't somewhere else. 

When I finally burst through the doors of the arrivals door I was ready to cry. When I didn't see her I was a little freaked out. It was a happy moment when we saw each other. Not having any luggage didn't seem like such a big deal anymore. 

The first night we stayed at Tanzania Episcopal Conference center, the first of the underground of religious communities that we stayed at. I was happy for the nightgown and toothbrush and happily fell asleep under the mosquito net while my rinsed out undies dried by the window. 

The second day we visited with and stayed at Sr. Jean's house. She loaned me an outfit made of traditional African cloth so I could wash my clothes in the shower and I hung them to dry in her beautiful yard. Her house is full of fabulous art and I felt like staying in a gallery. She she also loaned me a bathing suit so I could swim with them in the Indian Ocean. What an amazing experience that was - floating along with Jean and Janet.

I should have brought my clothes in from the line when we got home that evening, but I left them on the line. The overnight moisture seemed to have made them damper than when I hung them up. 

Jean was nice enough to loan me the pants and top again for travel. Unfortunately my panties and tank top were still too damp to wear. It felt a little weird to be walking through Dar es Salaam - the largest city in Tanzania - with no underwear. 

The bag was delivered to us in Bagamoyo (70 km from the airport) on my third day in the country. After touring Bagamoyo, a major port in the slave trade, the idea of luggage seemed a little frivolous, but dang it, I was thrilled to see it! 

Friday, December 05, 2014


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Today's Think Kit prompt: 


What did you say goodbye to this year? Was it a bad habit? A '94 hatchback? Or something less tangible? How did you feel the day after? The week after?
Or! What did you say hello to this year? Did it enrich your life...or detract? A new favorite possession? A tattoo? Did you decide that your life was missing something, or did you just fall into new-ness?
Share your aloha!
Back in the day I managed a coffeehouse a few blocks from my house.  We hosted about 100 singer-songwriter shows a year and most of the musicians stayed at my house. I was one of the stops on the underground railroad of touring musicians. 
It was the fall of 2002  and I had just adopted a feral kitten. The little dude was a scardy cat and the only time he left the basement was to dart up the stairs to eat. 
One evening I was getting ready for three NYC based musicians to stay at my house after their show at the coffeehouse. I was in the basement to get the air mattresses and sheets and extra towels and didn't see James anywhere. I check his food bowl and it didn't look like he'd eaten. I thought he'd escaped when the kitchen door was open. 
I hobbled outside - did I mention that I'd broken my foot the week before? - and heard meowing. I thought I saw James in the neighbors yard, separated by a chain-link fence. By the time I limped down my driveway, across the sidewalk, and up the neighbors driveway the meowing was gone. Back down the Gorden's driveway, sidewalk, and my driveway while calling James' name. Nothing. 
I traipsed through my long yard and heard meowing again. I drug my booted leg back to the depths of the yard and picked up a shivering ball of black fur. I took the kitten inside and deposited him by the food bowl and left for work.  
I stayed at a friend's house that night - mine was bursting at the seams. Felix, Jagoda, and Amy came to the coffeehouse the next morning and told me how sweet my kitten was, that he had played and snuggled with them all night. 
My James? Playful and snuggling? The kitten that had hidden in the basement for days? I was starting to feel like the cat was avoiding me. 
When I got home a cute kitten greeting me at the door, purring and following me around the house. Yay! 
I walked to the basement to do laundry and James followed me down the steps. We both spotted another black kitten sitting on the dryer. Two black kitties! 
Apparently James had been in the basement the whole time and I had scooped up another kitten. I asked around the neighborhood and second kitty didn't belong to anyone. I named him Felix Jagoda Speace after the musicians that stayed at the house. 
A neighbor wound up adopting James, I got Felix "fixed," inoculated, and chipped. He was an indoor/outdoor cat and we had a wonderful relationship. I loved having a pet in the house. It was nice to come home to something that was happy to see you and I could blame any bumps in the night on Felix. 
This year Felix went out for his usual morning stroll about the backyard and didn't return. He had wandered off for a day or two before so I didn't get especially worried when he didn't run up the driveway to meet me that evening. By the next morning I was panicked and spent a hour before work looking for him and giving flyers to the neighbors with my number and Felix's picture. 
As a week passed it became clear that Felix wasn't coming back and had probably wandered off to die. 
I miss him dearly.