Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “travel”

Photo 101: Glass

It seems I have been playing with glass a lot recently. My family did quite a bit of international travel this year, and several opportunities presented themselves for some cool glass pictures.

This one, which might be my favorite, was taken in Paris, at Georges Pompidou Modern Art Museum. I took a self-portrait of my reflection in an art installment with multicolored layers of plexiglas.


The next few were taken in the Modern Art Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. The first is of my husband. Notice my daughter’s reflection in the upper left.


This one is a reflected image of our family in the window, with the Port of Stockholm seen outside.


The last is one of my favs: a self-portrait I took in the Swedish Children’s Museet, in a room of mirrors.


Traveling Guck

The first time I was ever to travel to work, I was finalizing my packing the night before when my daughter came to me. She was clutching a stuffed duck.

My daughter has a long history with ducks. When she was about 18 months old, she became obsessed with ducks. Her battle cry: “GUCK! I WANT IT!” Her doting grandmamma (and Mommy) couldn’t resist picking up every duck she saw – ducks are cute, after all.

Her Halloween costume that year was even a duck. She amassed a collection of stuffed, bathtub, and toy ducks second to none. One of these was a diminutive Gund; their answer to a Beanie Baby. He was a mallard, and his name was Guck.

The night before I left, my daughter came to me clutching Guck to her. “I want you to take him with you,” she said. “So you don’t forget about me.” My poor little Stink! How could she think I would ever forget my own daughter?!

I embraced Guck and found a place for him in my backpack. From that day on, he became my traveling Guck. I remembered the gnome in Amelie, and how she photographed him at travel destinations around the globe, for her Papa who had wanted to travel. I decided Guck would commemorate my travels, and my daughter would receive Guck updates.

Guck is now exceedingly well traveled. He has been out of the country numerous times, and has trekked through every airport in the country, almost. He has survived all manner of travel mishaps: a night in the Denver airport on the floor, a stay in the hotel from the Shining while stranded in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and an extremely bizarre flaming Kindle incident while on board an airplane. (https://beadstork.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/kindle-fire-no-really/)

This gallery is dedicated to my brave Guck and his world travels – may he go on many more!

French For Dummies

My mom was a French teacher, so guess what language I got to take in school?  Yep.  French.  I must say, no one even inquired whether I would like to take a different one, as was so often the case.  Mom used a lot of French and English words interchangeably, so a lot of our little family jokes are multilingual.  She minored in Spanish, but apparently this did not rate, except that we always referred to hands as “manos”.

I got pretty much immersed in French.  I knew a lot more words than I thought I did, even as a kid.  My folks referred to each other as “Homme” (Man), and “Femme” (Woman), except to be cute, they shortened their pet names to Um and Fum.  Since French for girl is “Fille”, I got called Fee, and was photographed in front of every US Fee area sign across the United States.  Ha ha.

Mom referred to most body parts by their French names, so when I was a kid, a “bouche” was of course a mouth, and “pieds” were of course feet.  Didn’t everybody know that?

Mom was a Helicopter Parent long before it was cool (was it ever?) and had me doing all sorts of fun projects, like doing French language tapes while washing the dishes, which annoyed the piss out of me.  I used to roll my eyes and rattle the dishes while chanting zombie-like enchanting phrases such as “Bonjour, Sylvie!  Ou est le bibliotheque?”  (Because a library is the first thing we look for when we arrive in France.)

By the time I got to high school, I had taken years of French.  Looking back on it, it was pretty amazing.  I remember in one French lit class, we read Camus and “Le Compte de Monte Cristo” in the original.  In my boarding school, we were given assignments to translate Edie Piaf songs into English for fun.  One day, it was pretty outside, so we had the classroom windows open.  Our teacher required us to speak only French in class.  A wasp flew in the window, landed on the soft part of my thumb, and stung the crap out of me.  I jumped out of my seat and yelled “SHIT!!”  Madame eyed me with irritation, sighed, and said, “Non.  MERDE.”  Je regrette, Madame, je regrette..

I admit, we did have fun.  Mom and I went to Europe together at least two or three times, once on an art museum tour, since we took an Art History class from the same teacher at Alabama, just about a decade apart.  (We were, of course, superlative students.)  We hit the Louvre, and Les Tuileries, and Monet’s home, with the real water lilies.  We used our French every chance we got.  Mom had lived in France for a time when she was in college, as part of an exchange program, so between the two of us, we could whip up a pretty good conversation.

I did discover that native French speakers are not necessarily ecstatic about dabblers in their language.  When trying to buy a t-shirt in Paris, the sales girl hautily informed me to “Speak English.  It will be easier.”  Bitch.

We derived great amusement from travel guide books.  You can learn some truly useful phrases in them!  One that can still make Mom and me howl after all these years:  “Il y’a des moustiques au plafond!  Veuillez les vaporiser.”, which translated literally into English means, “There are some mosquitoes on the ceiling.  Please come vaporize them.”  Awesome.

While I was in medical school, dating the Emotional Terrorist, his sweet sister lived in Montreal with her super jock boyfriend, who was an extreme skier who had grown up there, among other places.  We would go up to see them every winter, to ski Mont Tremblant.  Quebec, of course, has attempted to secede from Canada over the use of the French language, among other things.  The Quebecerais are pretty insistent about the correct use of French, especially outside the tourist area of Montreal.  The Emotional Terrorist, who had no language ability or knowledge (except for the ability to hurt my feelings, in which he was both fluent and multilinguall) wanted to insist on using “French” at all times, despite the fact that he didn’t know any.  (He tried to pull the same bullshit in Chile, with Spanish, years later when he was visiting me there, with equally unimpressive results.)  He crawled over the seat at the drive-through window at McDonalds and attempted to order his Egg McMuffin in French.  Our host clapped his hand over ET’s mouth and hissed, “Don’t DO that!  They will SPIT IN OUR FOOD.”

Years later, when I lived in New Orleans, I was friends with a “mixed” family – a French speaking Cajun woman had married a native Parisian, so their kids spoke fluent French, in two completely distinct dialects.  When the daughter, my “birthday twin”, got married, she married an Irish man, in full tartan and kilt, and his best man was a Scotsman. What an amazing, wildass party!  A bunch of drunk cajuns, Parisians, Scots and Irish?  In New Orleans?  And no, they don’t wear anything under those kilts!  I was lucky to speak French well enough to speak it at the wedding and for some peculiar reason, one of my Mom’s childhood gifts to me were an entire collection of French folk songs, which by happy coincidence turned out to be French drinking songs. Who knew?  Not my mom, that’s for sure.  Somehow I got us started and we all started slurring, “Sur Le Pont D.Avignon”and “J’En Bourrez, Oui Oui Oui, J’En Bourrez, Non Non Non, J’En Bourrez, Si Le Vin Est Bon….”

I used to love to torment my friend Fred with phone calls, after I had moved away from NOLA.  I was pretty good with accents, and I would ring him up and say, “Bonjour, Fre-e-e-d,” in this really sticky sweet accent, and I always had him convinced it was his ex-girlfriend, calling from Paris.  He’d start jabbering away, and I’d hold up the receiver and laugh and laugh, and he’d know I’d got him again.

The ridiculous irony was, of course, that I had always wanted to learn Spanish.  Beautiful as French is, in the US, it’s not all that useful. Some Cajuns (mostly the older ones) do still speak French, but the dialect is so extreme that it hardly sounds like French at all.  You can use it in Quebec, but at your own risk, since they may spit on your McMuffin.  Some regions of Africa are French-speaking, but if you’re stranded there, you may have worse problems than not speaking French.  You can use it on some Caribbean islands, but frankly, they pretty much speak anything involving money.  You can, of course, speak French in France, but again, native speakers of French are somewhat less welcoming of inexpert attempts than, say, their Spanish speaking counterparts.

Which leads us to Spanish.  Which is spoken here and in myriads of other places, all the time.  So when I started med school, and  noticed that a LOT of my patients spoke it, it was time to learn Spanish, which is a whole ‘nother blog, for another time.  But if I ever want to order “fries with that” in, say, a ski lodge on Mt Tremblant, I can at least be fairly confident that they won’t expectorate in my food.

Travel. Really.

Since I have been traveling for work almost a year now, I feel I am in a position to offer some insightful travel tips and hints.  With any luck, these will not frighten you away from ever traveling again.

1.  Sweaters with festive metallic threads will light up a metal detector like a Christmas tree.  You will be groped and cavity searched.  Happy holidays.

2.  Atkins bars show up as liquids in the scanner.  They will open your carry on and paw through it.  They may or may not grudgingly admit that Atkins bars are not liquids.  They will not apologize for accusing you unjustly of smuggling liquids, nor will they apologize for pawing through your bras once again.

3.  Sometimes it is quicker to go pick up your rental car first than to go wait for your luggage.

4.  Sometimes it is not and they will whisk your bags away to Unclaimed Luggage when all you did was stop to pee and buy a coffee before heading to the luggage carousel.

5.  Ice scrapers mysteriously disappear from cars, especially when they are laden with ice and you are late.

6.  Do not torment yourself by repeatedly checking the weather before you leave on your trip.  Sometimes it will actually be better and sometimes it will be worse.  The only constant is that it will change a million times over that 10 days.  Get a quick impression.  Will it be crappy?  Will it be hotter than hell?  Will it be cold as f*ck?  Pack accordingly and then never look again.  Unless you really want to.  Or if it looks like the sky is falling.  Get a weather app for your phone and you can torment yourself hourly.

7.  You will always be seated next to a screaming baby.  Some people like to pay to fly their screaming babies first class, so don’t think you will get out of it that way.

8.  Everyone in first class will be swilling alcohol.  Especially the innocent looking little old ladies, who will get hammered and begin to swear like sailors.  A flight attendant friend of mine told me that all that drinking is because in first class the alcohol is “free”.  They will drink no matter what.  Even on a Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM.  Especially on Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM.  Especially if they are going to work that day.  Because it’s always 5:00 somewhere.

9.  No master how slick a traveler you think you are, you will always manage to do something that is wrong, clumsy, and awkward.  Get over yourself.  You’re not that slick.

10 You will always get lost in the Minneapolis St Paul airport.  The architect was drunk.  The people who made the signs were drunkerer.

11. You will hate the Denver airport.  It will hate you back.

12. The Houston airport always smells like tacos.

13.  You will always drop the bag your computer is in.

14. They do not allow you to bring food or drinks into the Delta Sky Club, even though the food and drinks they provide in there are free.  Go figure.  Yeah.  Think about that again.  Than, go figure, because I can’t.  But you can always sneak them in.  I do.

15. While waiting to catch your plane, you will be sitting next to a fat loud business man who is on his cell phone at top volume, thinking he is the Wolf of Wall Street, and looking and sounding like a fool.

16. The computer charge ports will be occupied by bored texting teenagers who have piled their bags into the adjacent seat, which you will have to ask them to move so you can charge your computer.

17. Sometimes your Kindle will spontaneously burst into flames while you are on an airplane.  No.  Really.

18. You may become trapped in an airport bathroom once all your luggage is dragged in after you.  Something will always fall on the floor.  The toilet will flush while you are on it.  The doors open inwards, so good luck getting out of there.

19. You will suddenly need to poop as soon as you get on the plane.

20. The soap in the bathroom dispensers always look thick and fluffy, but it is watered down and it is never enough.

21. The water in the sink will cut off on you 700 times as you try to wash your hands.

22. You will look at the weirdos at the gate and think, “Thank goodness, I won’t have to deal with them because I am in first class.”  They will be sitting next to you in first class.

23. The crossword in your Sky magazine will always be partially worked, in ink.

24. They may or may not detect a weird chemical while doing a random swoop of your carry on. They will not tell you what it is, or if it is dangerous.  They will then remove everything from your carry on, even your undies.  They will glare at you, and wish they could cart you off to Gitmo.

25. You will eventually be in a situation where you will have to receive a full pat down.  They have an entire hour long speech that they are required to give you first.  You cannot stop them from giving it by telling then not to worry about it and just get it over with.  They will give you the full speech anyway, even if you are late.  Especially if you are late.

26. The luggage is loaded on to the plane by large angry mountain gorillas, because they are cheaper to pay than people.  This is all the explanation you will need to understand the appearance of your luggage when you get it back.  IF you get it back.

27. Your ride to the airport will either be early or late.  Either way, it will be the most inconvenient outcome possible.

28. You will sit in the wrong row of seats on the plane many times.  At least I do.  I like to think of myself as Aisle Impaired.  The most common phrase I hear while traveling is, “Excuse me, ma’am, I think you’re sitting in our seat”.  I don’t understand how in the hell I keep doing that.

29. Just as you begin to happily think that the seat next to you will be vacant, your seatmate will be the last person who gets on the plane.

30. It may or may not be true that if the person next to you is so obese that they require a seatbelt extender, that the whole plane will tip over sideways in flight.

31. Your rental car’s last occupant was always at least 8 feet tall. All seats, belts and mirrors will be adjusted accordingly.

32. Every single rental car has its gas cap in a different damn place.

33. Your next door neighbor in the hotel will be a sex fiend screamer who likes to bang the headboard against the wall, a family with multiple small children with a father who likes to tickle and wrestle with them so that they scream and giggle while he hoots and hollers, or a drunken cowboy who indefatiguably loves to hurl all available furniture against the wall.

34. Virtually all hotels now are strictly nonsmoking, but someone on your hall will be smoking anyway.

35. Woe betide you if you are in your room when they come to clean it.  They will ask you if you want each individual service, in an effort to wear you out and shame you into telling them they can skip vacuuming today.  It is not considered acceptable to say, “Just do your damn job!”, even if you really want to, because next time they will spit in your coffee pot.

36. There will always be some elderly person checking in for a week long stay at the desk if you run down there with a quick request.  They will question the desk person about each item to be initialed, and argue about whether or not they need to sign it. They will have forgotten what kind of car they drive, and they will have to go outside and look.

37. If you leave canned soda in the trunk of your rental car in a cold climate, it will violently explode and leave Cokesicles hanging from the underside of your trunk lid.  If you are lucky, it will be diet.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

38. Walmarts are like weird warps in the space-time continuum.  Once you enter one, you could be anywhere.  You can walk into one in Ohio, and when you walk out you may be in Alabama.  Strange but true.

39. Airplane bathrooms are scary biohazards.  One day they will discover that Ebola got started there.  Never forget to close the seat before flushing, or that weird blue water might get on you.  And then you will have Ebola.

40. You will forget about the drink you bought to drink on the plane until you get off the plane.

41. There will always be some chick on the plane who will glare at you for no apparent reason.

42. If there is one person on the plane with peanut allergies, they will not serve anything containing peanuts.  This is probably prudent on their part, but I am using this paragraph as a platform to segway into the fact that I think that it is totally weird that I knew no one ever who was allergic to peanuts when I was a kid, and now everybody is.  Same deal with gluten.  Will they one day no longer serve wheat on planes either?  Because if so, please remind me to bring my own snacks.

43. There will always be a kid behind you kicking your seat.  Their parents never notice, probably because it keeps the kids occupied.

44. Having children does NOT make you tolerant of other people’s children.  Does not.  Does not.  Actually, it’s usually the crappy parents I’m intolerant of.

45. Someone on the plane is always wearing shorts and flip flops on a flight to North Dakota in winter.  It is amusing to ponder how anyone could really be that stupid.

46. Money does not guarantee taste.  And no, a fuzzy chartreuse sweat suit that says Juicy Couture across the ass worn with a multicolor Louis Vuitton bag with blaring primary colored logos all over it and gold sequined Uggs do not make you look rich and classy.  They just make you look like Walt Disney threw up on you.

47. Someone always has luggage that is so nice that you want to bop them over the head and run away with it.  Do not give in to this impulse.

48. Who was the settler who arrived in North Dakota in the dead of winter, surveyed the 8 feet of snow surrounding them, stuck their nose out in the -19° weather and said, “This place is AWESOME.  I think I’ll stay”?

49. Your phone battery always runs down much faster than you think it will.

50. Accept the fact that something bizzaro is probably going to happen to you.  Today.  Revel in it.  If nothing else, it will make an awesome blog post.

Kindle FIRE!!! No! REALLY!

Sad Bedraggled Guck

Sad Bedraggled Guck

Guck had his first bath today, which should explain the unlikely proximity of a wet stuffed duck and a blog post titled Kindle FIRE. Or not. Guck’s bath was the culmination of the day’s whack-ness. Guck and I had a really strange day.

I pride myself on being able to take life in stride. After all, I am a gynecologist, which by default will bring weirdness into one’s life, and I currently travel for a living, and I am a wife and a Mommy. Between all these things is the constant potential for Truly Bizzaro Occurences. Life is always like that. Truth really is stranger than fiction. You just can’t make this shit up.

Today was a business travel day. I was flying from Alabama to Ohio to cover Christmas vacation for an OB/Gyn who is studying for her oral board exams. She has my complete sympathy. I did that once. It was ugly.

Everything was Packed, with only the rigid sameness that complete OCDness can produce. I bring the same things every time. I pack them in exactly the same places. That way I can grab anything without thinking about it, and all my frequently used items are convenient. I have a System.

I have a constant travel companion. You may have noticed him at the top of this post. His name is Guck. He is a gift from my daughter, who has given him to me to travel the world. Everywhere I go, I take pictures of Guck, and I email them to her. Guck, at this point, is extremely well traveled. Guck headlines quite a few Facebook posts also. He has quite a following.

I had to get up at the crack of doom this morning and drive myself to the airport. Usually I have a shuttle pick me up, since my business reimburses me for it, but Christmas madness has ensued, and the only time they could pick me up was 4 AM, which even allowing for my paranoid insistence on arriving hours before a flight, seemed a little extreme for a 7:30 AM flight.

I park in the same row of the airport parking lot every time. That way I always know where my car is, without having to think about it. My husband parks in the same row when he travels. We are crazy. But in a very practical way.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, checked my bag, passed through TSA with minimal cavity searching and headed to my gate.

I should have known that things were going way too smoothly.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… and anal retentive obstetricians.

I had my backpack, packed the same way as always. It contains, among other things, my computer, my birth control (as an OB/Gyn, I can assure you that I am well aware that being separated from one’s birth control is a Bad Idea), charging cords, and a kit for doing beadwork with a stash of beads, so I can indulge my terrifying bead habit on the go. My MP3 player and my noise-canceling earbuds (yessssss) are stashed in a top pocket. Sometimes there is a passport. My jewelry is there, so the nice TSA people can’t “lose” it. Guck lives there, always, in the top of the computer pocket. That is just where Guck lives.

In the front pocket, there lives a receipt bag, and boarding passes, an adorable little wristlet containing my ID, cash and credit cards, and printouts of all my travel info. There also lives a Kindle Fire. The key word here is FIRE.

We boarded the plane. I started taking off my coat, and shifting stuff around so I could sit in my seat. My rollie bag was stowed. Same as it ever was.

Exept this time there was a POP.

Then there was a high-pitched squeaking sound, like a balloon whose neck has come untied.

Then gray smoke began to BOIL out of a pocket in my backpack.

My first thought was, it was some kind of party trick, and it didn’t sink in at first that the party trick was in my backpack.

The smoke was pouring out. When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to light smoke bombs and put them in our mailbox. The effect was the same, coming out of my backpack. Except smoke bombs smell a lot better.

I could hear exclamations all around me. “There’s a fire!” “What IS it?” “There’s SMOKE!”

Let’s just say that a backpack full of hissing reeking smoke is not a hit on an airplane in our post 9/11 world.

The flight attendant hustled over, shoving boarding passengers aside. “It looks like a dry ice packet!” Regretfully I informed her that I was not in possession of any dry ice. I wished I had dry ice. Dry ice does not catch on fire, I can tell you with virtual certainty.

She snatched up the bag and hauled ass with it off the plane. I followed her, squirming against the tide of boarding passengers. What the hell was going on in my backpack??

I met her on the jetbridge and we started ripping open pockets. Everything out on the jetbridge. Computer. Birth control. Guck, who was now gray and smelled as if he had been barhopping all night. Tampons. I told her at least the tampons were not on fire. That would be tragic.

Unzip the front pocket. KINDLE.

The damn thing was on fire. The fact that this was indeed a Kindle Fire was not at all lost on me. Not at all.

The screen was full of gray smoke. Weirdly, it wasn’t cracked and the smoke was just kind of roiling around inside of it.

The captain emerged at this time, to inspect the madness that was his jetbridge. “It’s the Kindle!” he cried triumphantly.

Well, thank God. Seriously. I was dealing with intelligent people who actually understood that this was not a bomb.

The captain was really very nice. He told me that since I lived there, they would take the no longer smoldering but still warm Kindle to the Lost Baggage Area, and I could pick it up when I came back home.

That’s great, I told him. Except I REALLY don’t want it back.

This guy was a quick thinker. I am pleased with that ability in a pilot who is going to fly me around in an airplane. He told me I needed it to show it to the Kindle people so they would give me a new one. At this point, I admired his cool thinking, but I wasn’t really sure I WANTED another one. Ever. But I thought that was really understanding and neat.

They let me back on the plane. THEY LET ME BACK ON THE PLANE! Holy crap, it was so cool that they let me back on the plane. I was fully expecting to be escorted off, at gunpoint, and carted off to Gitmo. That was unbelievably good.

The flight attendant told me as an aside that if the thing had caught on fire when we were in the air, they would have diverted the plane.

I slunk back to my seat with my reeking backpack. I do not embarrass easily but this seemed as good a time as any. The lady behind me said, “Hey, I’m really sorry if I embarassed you by yanking my kids off the plane.” I thought this was also nice. I assured her that I would have done exactly the same thing with mine.

I was sitting next to her kid. When I sat back down, he looked up at me from his video game and said, “DUDE, that was so TOTALLY AWESOME!!” I looked at him. A smile began to twitch at the corners of his mouth. He said, “Hey, was that a Kindle FIRE?????” I smiled at him. Yes, I told him. Yes, it was.

Super Travel Girl

The next 2 days will be insane. Today I will be flying home to Alabama from North Dakota via Denver, Charlotte, and Huntsville. But will I see my family?  Heck no!  My hubby and my daughter are in Philadelphia for work/ fun and won’t be back until Monday. I, on the other hand, am arriving at home at 11 PM tonight and will have to wildly pack for my next trip, which starts tomorrow, and for which I depart at 2:45 PM. I have to pack for TWO destinations – I am going to Milwaukee first for my fabulous jewelry conference, which I attend every year. I will be there for a week. Then I am leaving DIRECTLY for North Dakota to work, without pausing to go back home first. So I have to pack work clothes, and I have to pack funky clothes and jewelry supplies for my show. How will I fit all this in the suitcases I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting!  I am strongly considering checking 2 bags, which will be unwieldy and expensive, but the locums company I work for does reimburse travel expenses. Then I’ll have a carry-on and a backpack too. Yikes!  And I have to do it all in 11 hours!  Fortunately I did think to launder all the clothes from this trip at the hotel. So I can pack all the work clothes straight out of the suitcase. And I don’t even want to think what will happen if I miss even one connection. I will be totally screwed!  My first flight out of here is already delayed an hour, but I think I will make the connection. So, phew!  I’m just a little stressed right now. Craziness!  Wish me luck!

Super Travel Girl

Read more…

Sliding Downhill

Read more…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

Costa Rican dancers 2

Costa Rican dancers 2

Costa Rican Dancers 1

Costa Rican Dancers 1


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