Full-to-Bursting Wednesday

19 12 2007

My alarm went off bright and early this morning… although not quite so early for me as for the rest of the non-East-Coast-time folks in the house, I guess! It was one of Mom’s Christmas Wishes that we all go together to Central Catholic’s Advent Mass. Wish granted. We all trucked across town in the La Honda and got a parking spot right outside the door… which, if you know anything about the parking situation at CCHS, especially during events, you will recognize the odd nature of this novelty parking spot. We soon found out that Mass did not in fact start at 9 a.m. (for which we were an additional 20 minutes early) but at 9:30 a.m. So we serpentined our way to the nearest Starbucks and had a lovely little pre-Mass non-fat-no-foam-Chai or breakfast sandwich or poor-man’s-latte or regular-coffee or hot chocolate. Mom set her sights on some darling ceramic-ish mugs, which promptly became additions to her Christmas Wish List – to “remember our fun impromptu family outing.” (Note: I did get two of them for her – one is red on the inside, and one is green – very cute!)

Later in the afternoon, I attended the Annual All-Rehab Christmas Party at St. V’s. It was the best way for me to see a whole bunch of my former coworkers and friends all at one time! AND I won a $10 Macy’s gift card in the raffle. I’m not sure that a previously-employed winner went over very well with the currently-employed group! But at least it gave me an opportunity to see (and hug!) my old friends… and post a Glug Party invitation-flyer for all to see!

From St. V’s I went straight to Aunt Mary Ann’s house – which happens to be right down the street from the hospital, so it worked out nicely… especially since I was running on the late side of things! It’s her birthday, and we had a FABULOUS meal – gorgeous (“gorge” being the operative word-root!) beef and scrumptiously prepared chicken (with a fancy name that I just can’t seem to keep in my mind!) and delicious wine (I’m now very much into Oregon Pinot Noir) and the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen. Or will ever see again – as Miss Evelyn (of Evelyn’s Bakery, naturally) is retiring. We were all quite stuffed, to say the least! The highlight of the evening for me was teaching my cousin’s son Kohl (would he be my 2nd cousin? I never have figured out how that goes!) how to write the letter “K.” Obviously that’s been a bit of a stalling point for his independent-name-writing skills. I guess he just needed his fellow K-cousin to impart some of her brilliance! I hope it sticks!

I was literally falling asleep at the table as the night started to wind down. But Mom and Dad were adamant about us opening one of our Christmas presents (the kids “group gift,” if you will) tonight. It’s a Wii!!! Wii were biiing quite funnii and decided to name it WiiBiiGii’s. And then, of course, we had to stay up and create our own personal Mii-Wii’s. Another verrrrrrry late night for K-Gii.


Travel Trials and Tribulations: Part III

18 12 2007

Portland MUST be fantastic. The reason for this deduction stems from the fact that EVERYONE, every last person in the greater Seattle area wants to go to Portland… TONIGHT. The Horizon Airlines terminal is packed, there are people sitting on any surface available, sleeping in corners, pacing wildly back and forth across the hallway… oh, wait, that last one was me. I serpentined my way from gate to gate, trying to figure out if there was any possibility of getting on an earlier flight. All I got was some serious ‘tude from not one, but THREE separate Horizon Airlines desk people. Let’s just say, today is NOT the day to be flinging that sort of thing my direction, girls.

Oh, HELL no. There is an f-ing mandolin. Anyone who knows me well, is well-acquainted with the reason for my current ire. Someone is sitting in the midst of this already stressful, crazy madhouse of pre-holiday travel… and they have the nerve to start wailing on the one instrument that actually makes me want to rip my ears off my own head. I. HATE. THE. MANDOLIN. I may need to get up and move somewhere out of earshot – especially if I have any hope of not de-stringing the blasted mini-guitar banjo-wannabe in a most hysterical fashion.

I took a little walk to calm myself down… no need to be thrown in Airport Jail for strangling the life from three Horizon Airlines employees. As my rage began to melt into zombie-like exhaustion, I was finally able to take in a little bit of my surroundings. Apparently, Seattle is a veritable HOTBED of untapped resource. Everywhere I turn in the Sea-Tac Airport, I’m inundated by young, tall, great-looking guys! A smorgasboard of eye candy! And the best part… they’re all SOLO. No elbow-jewelry, no kids in tow. Just ruggedly handsome, nicely dressed, cute-CUTE boys all over the place. The Seattle airport just became my favorite place to be stuck for a few hours!

Bitch-bitch-bitch-moan-moan-moan. Some people just don’t seem to have as good “thought-bubble” control as I do. Now, I do realize that with my very recent Ranting on a Mandolin (*shudder* – oh, how I despise those things) I may be more than a little hypocritical on this particular subject. But at least I was able to find a silver lining in my extended Seattle experience. As opposed to Mr. No Thought Bubble Buffer over there, who did not utter a single positive comment the entire time we spent in Seattle.

As I’m trying to decide whether packing up all my carry-on stuff and moving away from Mr. Negative, I glance up to see one of my former high school basketball teammates! She’s making her way home from Pamplona, Spain. We had a lovely little catch-up session, which did wonders to both pass the time pleasantly and drown out the griping of you-know-who across the way.

My 9:30 p.m. arrival in Portland was stretched into the wee hours of morning. Cancellations and delays at every stop along the way sure do make for a long day of traveling. And there’s no rest for the weary, as our Christmas in Portland schedule kicks off first thing in the morning with a family field trip to Mass at Central Catholic High School.

Travel Trials and Tribulations: Part II

18 12 2007

Brilliantly smooth drive into Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. Fastest check-in ever – thanks to the eight-bazillion kiosks and counters that Delta now has at ATL. I breeze my way through the magazine shop to pick up a “Travel+Leisure” (for the inspiring tales) and a “Real Simple” (for the inspiring pictures) and then make my way through the lines at the security checkpoint. I’m in boarding Group 8, so I have a bit of a wait while the other 7 groups board the plane. This particular aircraft has a mid-cabin door, so my seat ends up being only 4 rows deep from the entrance point. I have the window seat, naturally. And two (very) tiny little old ladies sit down in the seats next to me to fill out our row. This is a remarkable stroke of luck, I notice, seeing as how most of my previous flying experiences involve me squished up against the window by the Samoan Football League All-Star lineman sitting next to me. Everything is going perfectly according to plan, which should have been my first ENORMOUS red flag.

The stewardess (ahem, flight attendant) has been hustling people into their seats, stating that doing so will “ensure our on-time departure.” Seat backs are all up, and all our tray tables are in their full-upright-and-locked-positions. Then the pilot comes on the over-head – doesn’t even faze me, seeing as how it fits perfectly into every single normal flight preparation I’ve ever been a part of. Except the words we hear are not “Welcome aboard Delta flight *fill in number here* – I’m Captain *fill in name here* joined in the cockpit by you co-pilot *fill in co-pilot’s name here* We’re just loading the last of our cargo, and we should be in the air shortly.” No, no – the words we actually hear are (do this one in Bill Lumbergh’s voice, the boss from “Office Space” if you need a little aural inspiration)… “Good afternoon, folks, this is Captain *fill in name here* from the cockpit… It seems that this aircraft came to us with a system malfunction… The mechanics have done an initial once-over, and they’ve determined the estimated time they’ll need to repair the problem is about 5 hours… So we’re going to need everyone to de-board the plane, and we’re going to see if we can’t secure another aircraft to get you on your way to Seattle as quickly as possible… We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but as you know, it’s safety first.” ……… He actually said “it’s safety first.” I was LIVID. Not about the “safety first” comment, though that was a bit juvenile and irritating, but mostly about the fact that they KNEW there was a malfunction as soon as the plane landed… WHY did you even start putting people on a plane that you KNEW wasn’t going to be able to leave for 5 hours. Hear that? It’s Delta Airlines, plummeting down my Things I Enjoy list.

I went immediately to another Delta counter to figure out how I could maneuver my way onto another – hopefully direct?! – flight to Portland. I was informed that there was in fact a direct flight to Portland leaving at 6:30 p.m. that had 1 seat available, but I’d have to go to the customer service desk because I was flying on 2 different airlines… blast these multi-leg cross-country flights! As I contemplated the pros and cons of waiting at ATL for another 3 hours versus waiting an undetermined length of time for the ATL-SEA plane, then waiting AGAIN in Seattle for the SEA-PDX leg of my journey, and always wondering whether or not my luggage would ever find its way safely to Portland… they announced a gate change for my ATL-SEA flight and said there was a plane coming from the hanger that would be here in 15 minutes. So, I made the call – I’ll wait the 15 minutes and continue on my regularly-scheduled-(then-rescheduled-then-almost-RE-rescheduled)-flight and skip the customer service counter battle all together. Whew, decision made.

I got a very entertaining glimpse into what we used to look like when Mom would cart the four of us around airports. Our ages ranged from 7-10 years old (Kristen) and 0-3 years old (Mark) over the course of our coast-to-coast summer treks from Princeton, NJ, to Grandma and Papa’s house in Portland, OR. The family I would be flying with from Atlanta to Seattle was made up of a (somewhat harried) Mom with her four kids – later Dad emerged, and I felt much better for that poor woman! – ages approximately 9 (girl), 6 & 4 (boys), and 2 (girl). They were V-E-R-Y excited about the whole idea of airports and airplanes and traveling and the “special snacks” they’d get to have once they were on the plane. “Mommy, LOOK! An airplane is leaving!” Well, yes, kiddo, it IS an airport – my thought-bubble stated. And it was audibly obvious (several times over) just where they were traveling to… “We’re going to GRANDMA’S!” Each one of them shared this information with each of their parents at least once, and reminded each other every 4 or 5 minutes while we all waited for our new plane.

Well, 30 minutes into the new plane’s 15-minute ETA, another airport announcement decrees that the plane is NOW on its way from the hanger… 25 minutes after that, it finally arrived at our new gate, and now we were awaiting the cleaning crew… 35 minutes after that, another announcement informing us that due to TSA regulations, any aircraft that had been sitting idle for some undisclosed length of time, was required to undergo a full-on security sweep prior to returning to active flying duty. Finally, around 4:30 p.m. (funny, that was my original departure time for my flight that had been cancelled, starting the lovely chain of events leading up to this particular moment) we were re-boarding the new plane. The new plane that they had billed as “identical” to our previous vessel, so our seat assignments would all remain unchanged… oh, except some of them would be changing, and they’d let us know as we boarded. I could already picture it, me squished up against the window by the Samoan Football League All-Star lineman sitting next to me. You can’t imagine my relief when the same 2 tiny little old ladies plopped into their seats next to me. I was sound asleep for the entire preparations and take off procedures.

They showed two movies on the 5-1/2 hour flight to Seattle. “Hairspray” first, followed by “No Reservations” with the glorious Catherine Zeta-Jones and darling Aaron Eckhart. So I was throroughly entertained throughout the flight, and still got to take an hour-long nap prior to arriving in Seattle. I only flipped through about half of my Travel+Leisure magazine, but I figure I’ll have plenty of downtime while I wait for my connection to Portland….. Little did I know the extent to which my downtime would stretch the limits of my sanity.

Travel Trials and Tribulations: Part I

18 12 2007

“Portland Day” started off great – got to sleep in a little (read: 7:30 a.m.) and had plenty of time to mosey around the house getting last-minute things into my suitcases and doing a little bit of tidying before leaving my house. Last thing on the agenda: clean out the fridge and take out the garbage.

I decided to make a quick pit-stop at the post office… keeping in mind that on some level I must have realized that “quick” and “post office” shouldn’t technially be used in the same sentence during this time of year. The first post office was a ZOO and there was no Automated Postage Machine – which I adore. So I went to Starbucks instead… where they messed up my order, which made me wait an extra 10 minutes or so. Well, now it’s getting dangerously close to the time I’m supposed to meet Hans so he can take me to the airport. I decided to give it one more try, and I headed toward the US Post Office near downtown Decatur. There was a line only 3-people long at the A.P.M. (I use these machines frequently, so I feel familiar enough to use an abbreviated name!) so I gave a little sigh of relief that I might actually be on time to meet Hans. The the machine needed a little “routine maintenance,” then the lady 2-people in front of me had never used this sort of machine before, THEN they discovered that the bin was jammed and wouldn’t take any more packages. Grrrrrrr. A few deep, cleansing breaths and several rounds of the “I am calm” mantra running through my thought-bubble, and the bin was un-jammed.

Jesus-Points for Kristen! There was a man behind me in line, whom I had seen walking around inside the building for several minutes before he finally joined the queue at the A.P.M. I try to mind my own business when in a crowded, potentially high-stress situations, but the mind (and the eye) wanders when boredom sets in and impending impatient tantrums loom. I noticed that he was not holding a box or an oversized envelope or a cardboard tube or anything resembling any reason as to why he would be waiting for the A.P.M., save for one small stamp-less bill-payment-sized envelope. So I asked him if he was just waiting to buy one stamp? He was. I happen to have an entire book of stamps in my wallet, and I dug it out to hand one to him. I am now the kindest, most benevolent representative of The Spirit of Christmas in all of Georgia.

After I finally got to mail Lily’s Christmas book (entitled “The First Christmas” – very appropriate since it’s Lily’s First Christmas!) I headed toward Hans and Jocelyn’s house. We have such a great airport-parking-shuttle system in place. Hans would drop me off at the airport, and then they’ll park my car in the hourly spots on Christmas afternoon as they head down for Broder Family Christmas. I park for free at their house and pay for a few hours of airport parking instead of a week’s worth. Brilliant!

Of course, I have to actually GET to their house first. The longest train in the history of the world is crawling past downtown Decatur… blocking the only access road (that I know of) between downtown and East Lake. The minutes are ticking by, and once again I’m internally (and externally this time!) chanting the “I am calm” mantra. *side note: the reason for this mantra stems from a gift of a Christmas past – my sister gave me a pair of socks that state simply “I am calm.” They’re great.* Finally, after 10 minutes of waiting for the train to pass, and another 4 waiting for the light to change – it’s one of Atlanta’s many horribly-timed intersections – I can make my way to meet Hans.

The air-travel portion of my journey will follow…


17 12 2007

I’m just over 12 hours away from getting dropped off at the airport, which means that MY CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT TO BEGIN!

I did a masterful job packing, if I do say so myself.

Here are the ever-important packing stastistics… conviently packaged in a countdown of sorts…

6 – number of Christmas presents still needing to be purchased

5 – number of pairs of shoes making the trip to Portland with me (black Dansko clogs, brownish Dansko clogs, silver sandals, brown stacked-heel peep-toe pumps, and black strappy sandals)

4 – number of electronic device cables I “must” carry with me (laptop power cord, iPod charger, phone charger, camera-to-computer syncing cord)

3 – number of already-purchased Christmas presents I will be bringing home with me

2 – number of bags that I will be checking (this does not include the additional bag with which I employed the ever-so-sneaky pack-a-bag-inside-a-bag trick) – also the number of flights I’ll have to endure tomorrow

1 – number of sleeps until I get back to Portland

0 – number of gift ideas I have for those 6 Christmas presents still needing to be purchased

1,000,000 – number of times in the next week that I will smile, laugh, hug someone I love, or be ecstatically happy!

To my West Coast friends… I’ll see you SOON! And to my favorite East Coasters… I’ll miss you, have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and I look forward to a fabulously fun New Year with all of you!

* Stay tuned for The Adventures According to Kristen: Oregon Edition… sort of like how the new pseudo-season of “The Hills” is coming to us from Paris!… I do admit that I’m just a little bit embarrassed by the fact that this is the first comparison that came to mind. *

Packing for Portland

16 12 2007

Yes, it’s that time again… the minutes between now and take-off are rapidly ticking away, and Kristen’s suitcases continue on in their perpetual state of emptiness… that’s quite the existential statement, now isn’t it?! The countdown has been on for WEEKS now, as most of you are probably more than aware. And of course, less than 42 hours from my departure, I am in the midst of yet another huge packing dilemma. SHOES. This is not a new problem, nor will it be the last time I face this seemingly constant foe. For this particular packing-adventure, however, this Shoe Challenge appears nearly insurmountable. You see, I received an intriguing packing hint from Mom that goes a little something like this… “You should definitely bring your largest suitcase, with hardly anything in it… your brothers have gone Christmas shopping with little-to-no regard for the concept of transportation.”


So as it stands right now, I am trying to pack everything I will need/want for a week’s trip to Portland in a suitcase whose interior dimensions are 13×21 inches. This suitcase is strategically placed inside the larger suitcase, rendering it USELESS for the “to” and fabulously helpful for the “fro” of my Christmas journey. Now, there will be about 2-inches of extra space around 2 sides of the smaller suitca- (oh let’s just call it what it is, a glorified “tote”) into which I will be stuffing socks and other small, stuff-able items in efforts to maximize the constraints in which I’ve been placed. I thought about going with a theme sort of dress code, ie: brown-shoe compatible vs black shoe-compatible. But as I looked at the several outfits coming together on my bed, I don’t think I’m following the rules. Grrrrrrr.

I’m realizing (again) that I should have started this process a little bit earlier.

Except I was on the phone with some Delta Airlines tele-employee in India for the majority of my Saturday (aka Kristen’s Packing Day) trying to squirm my way into the best possible flights, since apparently I was the only person scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Seattle on December 18. So instead of fulfilling my dream of a personally chauffeured chartered airplane trip across the country, Delta pulled the plug on my flight. Several hours of talking to India later, I’m still facing headlong into a 4-1/2 hour layover in Seattle. Seriously. I could drive from Seattle to Portland and BACK to Seattle and still make my connecting flight with a layover like that. Fingers crossed for stand-by availability. Although then there’s always that scary chance that my bag(s) will be transitting elsewhere. Here’s how I figure it: the powers-that-be in Seattle-Airport-Land would MUCH rather be shuttling my bags all over the country, than have to deal with ME sitting in their airport for 5 hours.

Shoe count as of 10:00 p.m. EST is a paltry… 4. That’s for 7 days, people. I think I’m doing great so far! Granted, not a single one of those pairs has actual accounted-for space in any bag, so the count is subject to change.

Heat Wave!

10 12 2007

*Just so you know, the mental image in my brain after typing that blog title is the scene from “Sister Act” – pre-convent, I think – where Whoopie and her Vegas back-up singers are doing their little medley… “it’s like a HEAT WAVE”… complete with arm motions and slinky glitter dresses. I know you know what I’m talking about.*

But in all seriousness, I really am right in the middle of a December Heat Wave. Yesterday I met a couple of friends at Altantic Station – a sort of larger-scale Bridgeport Village type of place – and I wore a skirt and a t-shirt with sandals… and I was WARM at times. I think the high temperature may have touched on 75 degrees, and there’s only more of the same in the next few days. My friend’s sister is getting married on Saturday… can you imagine expecting a crisp December day, and getting “early summer” instead??? (actually I think it’s supposed to return to some semblance of winter – at least as close to it as Atlanta gets – by Thursday or so)

I have to admit, though, that while the novelty of a 75-degree day in December may be entertaining, and it’s nice to air out the house again, I’d much prefer for winter to feel winter-y. It was a very odd feeling to be out around the Christmas tree (or as Portland refers to such things, the “Holiday” tree) and seeing all the decorations and lights, and everyone is wearing shorts or capris or skirts with tank tops or t-shirts. A very Southern California kind of day!

Today after work we have a philanthropic mission. The Rehab department “adopted” a 6 year old boy to help grant his Christmas wishes. And I must say, we have totally rocked this kid’s Christmas! So a few of us are getting together to put everything together and wrap all the gifts. I need to remember to stick a few Christmas CDs in my purse today, to help foster the festive mood… even if we are sitting out on the porch drinking sweet tea instead of cozied up by a fire with our hot toddies.