28 April 2009

Where The Grass Really is Greener

Two weeks after visiting my family, I went back to the east coast. The trip was supposed to be for my a baby shower, specifically the shower for my newest brother. The shower was rescheduled after I bought my ticket and while I was miffed at the start, it ended up being a good thing. My trip was only from Friday to Monday, but I accomplished quite a lot, starting with remembering there is greener grass.

There is a reason I pay to fly Continental Airlines. But until I do it, I forget what that reason is. I've been supporting discount carriers for so long, I had forgotten what used to make flying so awesome. I chose Continental this time because -- even though the price and the times were the same -- I'm a Continental OnePass Member. I earned a lot of miles going to Rome, and now I just like to watch the numbers go up by the thousands.

I thought all airlines were the same, that (aside from AirTran) they got me from place to place as best they could. But I found quality service on Continental. It first appeared with an orderly boarding process -- no "zones," just Elite members, followed by the back of the plane forward. I was consistently amazed from there. I had a blanket on my seat. The safety speech was delivered on video, which allowed more creativity and gave more energy than the typical flight attendant who has given the speech 747 times. There were two movies. Headphones were for sale, but the ones I had worked fine. I had a free beverage AND A MEAL. That totally blew my mind.

I signed up for a salt-free meal at some point, probably when I went to Rome. It was maintained in my profile and I was treated to a delicious and nutritious meal. I had chicken pesto on wheat, a vegan chocolate chip cookie, a whole wheat roll, and a quinoa salad. I don't eat that well when I have a choice and I was really pleased to have something nutritious. I had an equally delicious and sodium free meal on my return flight. I also used my phone as my boarding pass.

So I thank you, Continental Airlines, for reminding me of high quality customer service. I hope to be able to afford more of your flights in the future.

27 April 2009

My Inspiration

I don't want to you to think my nephew lives alone. He and his parents are at home with my mom, pictured with me above. I get my logic and reasoning tactics from her. She's taught me a lot about how to deal with people and probably fostered what some may call my "blunt" characteristics. Experiences with my mom are why I think before I speak, and why I choose the words I do. I think my mother was the first to show me the impact of words - how they can hurt a person or help a situation. Understanding the power of words is what inspired me to write. So the path I've decided to take - the one that's leading me to write - is the result of a mother's inspiration.

My mom has MS, so she's retired even though she's far from retirement age. She's busied herself with projects ever since. She bought a house, painted & decorated it room by room, adopted a baby girl, got active in a church, and is now watching over my Derek & Sianneh as they figure out how to parent. I'd prefer my mom do a little less - maybe ease up on the arranging and rearranging and take yoga to help her muscles. I'd even be okay with her playing video games to help her coordination and maintain cognition. But between teaching Dayana (she knows a few SAT words already) and traveling and decorating, I don't see "less" in her future.

While I was visiting with my mom, we mostly chatted. Neither of us are big on having a lot activities when it's a designated relax time. I think we only went to Dunkin Donuts for bagels and to the grocery store for dinner ingredients. We watched Clue and talked about plans for the future. She agreed I'm not ready to have children, and I hope she remembers that the next time she calls me feeling "grandparental." My mom and I spent time together, and that's all either of us wanted to do. You could say she's my muse. Now I'm refreshed and ready to write anew.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

22 April 2009

Auntie Danie Realized

And then I met my nephew.

When my dad and I arrived at my mom's house, my brother answered the door with his son, Donnell. He was just a few days shy of being two months old. I haven't met very many brand new babies. It felt good to hold him, even though I didn't know what I was doing. My mom handed me a towel, and I put it over my arm (like a waiter) instead of over my shoulder (like someone about to hold a baby). I was also holding his head when I should have been holding is neck. But we worked that out, and afterward, I was his clear favorite.

Everything is new to a baby. I know because Donnell kept raising his eyebrows in surprise. He raised them at me (I raised mine back), at the noise, and probably the commotion. It was fantastic meeting him. He has big hair, huge cheeks, and a tiny mouth. A quarter could cover it. He frowns when something is wrong, and gives you time to fix it before he starts crying. When he's grumpy, he pouts. It's a cute, perfect pout, maintained with a hidden upper lip and deeply protruding bottom lip. I was amazed by his every action. Donnell has a personality and even though Derek told me so, I didn't believe it. The baby likes to be near people (on them in fact), he likes to hear conversation and stare out of windows. He likes to be walked and he likes his Auntie Danie.

I walked him from room to room, and stopped by windows where he showed interest. In return, he didn't pee on me when I took too long to change his diaper. He sat patiently in a chair he usually can't stand while my mom and I exercised. He finished his bottles and did not throw up on me. We're totally kindred.

I could gush forever. It's my blog - so I really could. But I'd rather just look at his picture.

21 April 2009

Switching Families

I am a child from a "broken home." It's a badge I wear proudly, because I know my parents are better off as they are now - apart. Their relationship is strange, but it works. If I call my mom with news, it'll be less than an hour before my dad calls with "what's this I'm hearing about (the aforementioned news)." Sometimes (when any of us feel an intervention is needed) we all talk on the phone at the same time. Conference calls were necessary (for example) when I told my parents I was moving from Fargo to Vegas, and when we told my dad he was about to be a grandfather. My parents bring out the funny in each other. And when it's time to not be funny, it's best that they can go their separate ways. My "broken home" is best (and biggest) in pieces. There are only a few times I'm sad about it - including when it's time to switch families.

It's rare for me to be with my two parents and two brothers at the same time. I can only think of two times it's happened in nine years. Ty knows my mom, my dad brings him to visit during summer vacation. Ty actually sees my mom and Derek more often than I do. But neither my mom nor Derek vacation with us for Ty's birthday trips. So this year, when it was time to bring him back to his mom for the end of spring break, it was time for me to switch families. My dad and I brought Ty back to his home, where we left him with his brother. I thought I was sad to leave him, but later realized that wasn't the case. I was sad to have two brothers who I can only see one at a time. That was the problem. So I came up with a solution. Next year I'll demand Derek come with for Ty's birthday. Told Derek. He's down. Brilliant.

And then my dad and I hit the road toward my mom's house in Maryland. My dad loves driving. He loves his diesel engine that can go more than 500 miles on a tank of gas. He loves his GPS and his radar detector and his sound system. He just likes to ride. I don't think anyone whose ridden in his passenger's seat can say the same though. I wouldn't call my dad a reckless driver, but saying he pushes the envelope is a severe understatement.

I learned more about my dad (and about myself) during that road trip. My dad - it turns out - is deeply affected by what he hears on the news. Murders, rapes, child abductions (the stuff people like me put in the news) all disgust him. He said it weighs on him and that's why he can't watch. Then there's me, who constantly hears about heinous crimes and only stops to wonder if my audience would care. I constantly learn about humanity at its worst, and at this point in my life I do little more than shake my head and wonder why.

My dad says I'm too connected. I don't think such a thing exists. Had I not been connected, we would not have know about the three police officers killed in Pennsylvania that day or about Farah Fawcett being hospitalized. Admittedly, we would have survived just fine without knowing about either. I just don't like playing "catch up." I don't like not knowing. I think it comes from my job. The person who shows up Monday without knowing the big story is a joke. Vacations are an allowable exception but seeking information is a habit that's hard to break. My dad says I have to disconnect. I'm not sure I (a) know how or (b) want to be out of the loop.

So for all our similarities, we're different. It's good to know.

20 April 2009

A Dad & His Daughter | Charlotte ii

I'm a lot like my father in a lot of ways. We're both controlling, loud, and (some may say) intimidating people. We're also both loyal and reliable - so I think it's a fair trade. My dad and I are both Capricorns. We both love all the wrong foods and we both hate admitting we're wrong. I'm very much like my dad in various obvious and subtle ways. But there is one area where we are as different as night and dad, a topic about which we can not communicate: cars.

My dad loves cars. He loves muscle cars, old cars, and classic cars. He prefers big cars, used to only drive American cars, and is taking a second look at foreign cars. My dad is a car guy. He can name the model and year just by looking at the body. He's so good at it, I used to think the car's year was written somewhere on the body. I wondered about cars as I got older, mostly how much money I'd save by changing my own oil, but never enough to actually get under the hood and get dirty. Honestly, my first instinct when looking under a hood is to hose it down. It's always dusty under there and it only seems logical for things to work better when they're dust free. I am the anti-dad. On the second day of my family visit, we went to a car show at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

We parked under a pecan tree, where my dad found a pecan. It's been years since I've had a pecan from right under the tree. I was excited when my dad started opening it. Too bad it was stale and soggy. Serves us right for picking up pecans from the side of a racetrack parking lot.

"Danie we're in the pit lane! We're on the tar. Do you know where you are?"
"I know daddy. I just don't care."

My dad and brother were really excited. My brother is too young to know any better I guess. The cars were lined up on the actual racetrack, and we got to walk on the tar. My dad took a lot of pictures and looked like an hones to goodness kid in a candy store. I spent my time watching the people. There was more than one kid being pulled in a red wagon and I realized why about halfway around the track. Ty was tired and wanted to be carried around the track. That may have been a point when the implications of his ninth birthday hit. Maybe not.

Eventually we walked all the way around the track. My dad took the time to show me engines and how simple they used to be - when you could look inside and see what was what and fix it. He eventually gave up, and just focused on his pictures. I found my in teasing Ty. I told him he needed a stroller, because he was being a baby about walking. That's how big sisters teach lessons.

Ty fell asleep as soon as we got in the car. We later went to the movies. Ty and I saw Race to Witch Mountain while my dad went to Fast & Furious. He's seen the other three, so he felt obligated to see the latest installment. Neither of us were disappointed.

16 April 2009

Spring Break '09 | Charlotte i

Once upon a time, our heroine took some time to visit her family. It was an action packed adventure that left young Danie pensive. She began pondering age, altered roles, a non-career driven future, the need to be "connected," and information-induced-insensitivity. Unfortunately - while the thoughts came frequently - the writing about them did not. Danie had developed a block. She knew what she wanted to convey, just not how to convey it. These stories were emotion over event, feeling over fact, thought provoking over just tale telling. The stories themselves were the pita bread in the "family visit" gyro. Our heroine knew this, and was intimidated into silence. Until one day she sat down and started typing...

2 April 2009
Charlotte, North Carolina

I was asleep before we took off from San Francisco, and woke up just as we landed in Charlotte. I'm not from Charlotte. My dad is not from Charlotte. We do not have family in Charlotte. But my youngest little brother lives near Charlotte with his mother. My dad (who loves birthdays as much as I do) likes to take him on birthday expeditions. Last year we went to Universal Studios in Florida, but they had been there several times and my dad thought it was time to try something new. This year, it was Charlotte.

They got there before me and spent a few days seeing some sights and attractions. Ty'yier got a player's card at Dave & Busters, walked the Line at Discovery Place, and learned to swim at Splash Planet. Ty was very proud of his swimming, and that proved to be a spot of contention between us. I do not know how to swim. I plan to learn (this year in fact) but do not yet know. My brother could not believe I a) didn't know how to swim and b) didn't bring a bathing suit to learn. He was especially disappointed when he realized how old I am.

"Dad. How can she be 27 years old and not know how to swim?"

It was beyond his comprehension.

We spent the day driving through looking at houses, driving through downtown Charlotte and walking the Concord Mills Mall. I introduced my dad to Jason's Deli, and we went back to Splash Planet where Ty went swimming and I watched from the treadmill.

I realized this is the time I've been awaiting since I knew Ty was going to be born. It's right now - when he's old enough to understand distance, have likes, dislikes, and a conversation to tell me the difference. This means it's time for me to step up as a sister.

I was a junior in college when Ty was born. I didn't live with my dad, and neither did Ty. Our first meeting was at the Airport before I left to study abroad. I knew I'd be getting a job away from home and would miss his childhood. My dad pushed Derek & I to get close to Ty, but we didn't know how. He didn't live near us. We didn't know his family. We didn't know where to begin. For the first few years, we could only call to check on him by talking to his mother. Then Ty could talk, but didn't really have anything to say. Derek & I felt guilty. We talked about what we should have been doing, but never did it. I realized this year that's all over now. Ty and I are both old enough to reach our full sibling potential. I'm pleased.

07 April 2009

In Flight Frustrations

Dear Traveler:

The reason you think it only takes three hours to get from Charlotte to San Francisco is because you ignore time zones. Please do not openly contradict the pilot when he says it's going to take five hours. I doubt this is his first rodeo.

- The woman glaring at your silly face

The more I travel, the more frustrated I become with other travelers. I'm not holding anything against anyone who has not been given the opportunity to fly. Sometimes that's just the lot we're given. Still, there is a reason people are advised to check with airlines before arriving at the airport. Things change. And it's best to get the information from the airline, rather than a friend, or friend of a friend who flew when s|he was a kid. If you haven't flown since early September 2001, be prepared for s little more scrutiny. There were more changes in August 2006 and don't get me started on the summer of 2008. Airline passengers are now paying for options that used to be free, being screened for threats that haven't always been there, and being forced to get creative. The last thing needed in the midst of all that is a reminder to Passenger A that there is a difference between two carry on items and *three carry on items.

I'm sure flight attendants are clenching their jaws between repetitions of "the overhead bins are closed when they're full. Please don't open them looking for more space." If it were me - well, I'd have a very short career as a flight attendant.

I could go on. There are a lot of examples from this flight alone. There are people putting coats & small bags overhead, despite being told the flight is full and the space is needed. There are people putting their seats back before take off. There was also the guy hovering between my seat and his, as if I weren't going to show and as if the flight weren't oversold anyway. But after 20 minutes on the tarmac, they say we're ten minutes from taking off. And I have to turn off my phone.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

I Miss My Family

I'm checked in, at the gate, and starting to switch mental gears. My family vacation is finished and I'll go from "visiting kid" to "head of household" in the next few hours. I'm ready for that - Jesse and I have goals and I want to make sure I'm doing my part to meet them - but I don't want to forget what I've learned in the last week.

I've learned (or maybe. accepted) I have my parents' best and worst traits. I've learned I'd prefer to be a stay at home mom, instead of working after having a baby. That's neither here nor there though, since having a baby is not yet listed as a priority. I realized it's very important for me to be healthy now (setting health-conscious groundwork and forging healthy habits) because health takes a back seat as you get older. I learned I want to go home more often, even if I have nothing new to report. I want to make it easier for my family to stay close.

It had been a long time since I went home. I let a lot of excuses get in the way. Going forward, I promise to make the time and spend the money. My family is charming and we have a lot fun together. Why shouldn't I want more? You just wait until I get back to San Francisco, I'll tell you all about it.

~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry

01 April 2009

A Va... A Vaca... Going On A Trip

It occurs to me I don't know how to take a vacation. I'm at the airport waiting to board my flight (so I can sleep) and all I can think about is my "to do" list. I should be thinking about how excited I am to see my whole immediate family in the same week. I could be wondering if they're going to show a movies during an overnight flight. I'm would even allow myself to think about everything I packed and wonder what I forgot (aside from slipper socks). Instead, the last thing I did before typing away on the Pinkberry was look at the traffic ticket I corrected today and make a note to mail it from North Carolina. Yes. I brought it with me.

Despite booking this trip months ago, I raced through my checklist until it was just after time to go. I apparently don't know how to take advantage of free time - even when I planned to have it.

My last real (as in all about me and not visiting family) vacation was the cruise in July 2007. It was fabulous and I promise to cruise again just as soon as this recession is over. Since then, I've seen my mother once, when she and Jesse surprised me in LA. I've also seen my dad and youngest brother once - last April for Ty's birthday. I haven't seen my oldest younger brother in at least two years and it's been about that long since we were all together. Usually my visits are over a long weekend and don't have a "vacation" feel. There are usually a lot of dates to remember and plans to make. That isn't the case this time though. And I don't know what to do with myself. There's nothing for me to consider. I have my first real family vacation waiting on the other side of a long nap. And I guess I'm ready.

I'm worried about Jesse being lonely and that means I'm responding to every email and text he's sent so far. I'm in an airport and that means I'm cold. It's past my bedtime and that means I'm irritable.
~ Danie D.
Courtesy of my Verizon PinkBerry