Random Thoughts and Emails

After my Odyssesy blog last time, one of our classmates sent me this email which I enjoyed very much!

Suz, after reading about your odyssey in Grinnell, I just had to tell you that portion of road is “haunted”.
I was headed to Indiana, and ran into a snow storm, white-out, freezing ice in that same section about 9 o’clock at night.  Pitch dark.  Since no one could see, about 20-25 cars were all in single file going 10 mph.  Sometimes a car right in front of you would just spin off wildly into the ditch.  Then other cars that had already spun off, their drivers would come running up onto the interstate, some would slip and fall on the ice, others madly waving their arms, but you wouldn’t see them until they were beside you, and you couldn’t stop, and were afraid you would hit one of them. 
At Grinnell, the entire line pulled off.  In the safety of the motel, the line was long, and the clerk announces, with two men standing in front of me, I only have two rooms left.  I had been talking to the guy in front of me, saying I was traveling all alone, and scared to death, white knuckles included.  My guy says to the guy in front of him, Joe, can my wife and I share your room, so the last room can go to this lady?  They shared, and I got the last single bed.  I even offered to pay for their room I was so happy!  
Like you say, I got up the next morning, and the interstate was fine, lots and lots of cars in the ditch, but if you hadn’t been there, you would think you had been dreaming.  Trust me, I plan my trips for daylight hours, on that stretch! 
Glad you made it home, safe and sound!
We continue to have lot of snow in Omaha and every now and then, we get a couple more inches.  Not much is melting.  Yesterday, the weatherman said we had broken the record of 71 days of 3″+ inches of snow on the ground.  A lot of us are getting tired of it and would like to see a few sunny days and melting, even though our cars will be a mess.  Right now we can’t wash them anyway, so they are already a mess!
Another thing is potholes. They are sprouting everywhere and some are huge!  I start to feel like I may drop into an abyss at any moment!  I think Nebraska could claim a new Olympic event–the pothole slalom!
Another classmate commented that he thinks there has been snow in every state (I think he meant continental US.  I haven’t heard that Hawaii has had snow.)  He said Oklahoma has received more snow than Vancouver.  (Of course, we know how that is going for Vancouver and the Olympics!  They should have come to Omaha!)  Also, Texas has been hit.  Even Mike H in North Carolina has pictures on Facebook of a snowman he made with his grandson!  And it’s a good sized snowman!
Puxatawney Phil saw his shadow, so more winter to come.  My birthday is on Groundhog’s Day and, growing up, people always asked me if I saw my shadow.  That seemed pretty dumb to me because, first of all, I’m not a furry rodent with big teeth (not that I am aware of, anyway!) And, second of all, if you can see your shadow, it is likely that I can see mine, so why ask?  Anyway, being born on that day has had its trials but also its fun.  Plus, my kids and husband always remember it!  (My husband is an April Fool, so that’s even worse!)
Lots of ups and down lately with my sister-in-law and now my brother in the hospital.  Carole is better, but the day she was dismissed from the hospital, oldest brother, Jim, was admitted.  He is rehab now to try to build up his strength.  Jim has had many knee surgeries and has trouble walking now.  He was falling a lot, so they admitted him and now he’s receiving physical therapy.  Hopefully, it helps.  His diabetes may have contributed to his falls a few times as well, so they are watching that.
One of my former Religious Ed students was killed in a bad car accident on Valentine’s Day, the day before her 21st birthday.  A semi on the interstate lost control and hit her.  They closed the interstate because of the accident.  Morgan’s funeral is Friday.  She was one of my 7th graders a few years ago and I will always remember her and two of her friends who asked me very interesting, often challenging, questions.  May God rest her soul.   I can’t imagine what her parents are feeling.  I think losing a child would be worse than losing a spouse, parent, sibling or friend (and believe me, I know how it feels to lose a parent, siblings and a best friend.)  When my best friend of 20+ years died in the Mexico City earthquake, her father said that, “When a parent or sibling dies, part of your past dies.  When you lose a spouse, your present dies.  But when a parent loses a child, your future dies.” 
I heard from Mike G about his trip to Haiti.  Here is his email from February 2nd:
Just got back from Haiti yesterday.  The devastation was horrible, every bit as bad as on TV.  1.5 million people homeless, with 150,000+ dead, many of them still unburied.
We set up a clinic in a partially collapsed church, and started doing basic care for the population.  Open infected wounds over a week old, unset fractures that needed to be casted, malnutrition, dehydration, dysentery, etc.
Bless Mike and all the people who went down to help.  It must be a monumental task, so overwhelming! 
Deb Mc will soon be heading to Ghana to help with the cleft lip/palate mission.  She goes as a photojournalist to capture the story.  The doctors and nurses who go to third world countries and perform the simple facial surgeries make an amazing difference in the children’s lives.  The stigma of being different or “cursed” is removed and they can have happier childhoods because the medical professionals shared their expertise.   This will be Deb’s first trip to Africa.  She went to China for trips with the medical group in the past.  She tried to talk me into going sometime, but right now I have trouble getting across Iowa!  Perish the thought of crossing the ocean!
We were sorry to hear that Carol Klingbeil died.  Lynne and Linda with sister, Cheryl, kept vigil at the hospital, sleeping in abscounded recliners,so they could be by her side until the end.  Carol was quite the lady.  I remember how well she treated me in those turbulent teen years.  I spent many hours at Lynne and Linda’s house, singing as Lynne played the piano, or gathered in the kitchen concocting some new flavor of hamburger, or playing pinoccle with the family.  (That was the only place I ever played pinoccle!)  Even as an adult, Carol still snuck into my life now and then.  When we moved to Chicago, she started emailing me.  Quite a feat for a person in her generation!  She did things that kept her young…and she eased my homesickness with her emails.  Once, she and the girls and granddaughters came to Chicago and I met them downtown.  We had quite a day of shopping and sightseeing.  Carol didn’t miss a beat, either.  She was right in there with us.   When she and husband, Mike, were in the bad car accident that killed Mike, I visited her at St. Joseph.  Ever the person concerned about others, she wanted to know how I was instead of telling me how she was!    The last time I saw Carol was when she and Lynne met Linda here in Omaha.  I met the three of them at a Starbucks and we visited.  Afterwards, they went to the Old Market.  I joined them at the French Cafe’ and we had the best time!  Carol was a very classy lady and gifted artist.  I am blessed to have known her.  She will be missed.
I hope you are all doing well.  Please keep our struggling classmates in your thoughts and prayers. Continue to pray for Deb and Arlene who was newly diagnosed with cancer.  Please remember our classmates who are unemployed or struggling financially, that they may soon find work or help.  God bless you all, and KEEP WARM!  Spring will come someday!   


Odyessy Part Two

And so we left Susan, turning around after heading to Canada.

I went on my merry way, heading in the correct direction down Highway 39 to I-88.  I stopped in Rochelle for a break and decided to buy an adapter so I could listen to the music on my I-pod.  I plugged it into the cigarette lighter.  Didn’t work.  I returned to the store and spoke with the person at the checkout.  She sent me to the Trucker’s Store area where I spoke to a more media-saavy person.  I exchanged the adapter I had and the lady helped me set it up.  Once again, I was on my way (after hanging around the truck stop for about an hour!)

Things were good.  I reached I-88.  Maggie has an I-Pass in her vehicle, so I didn’t need to worry about the tolls.  (Thank you, Maggie!) Crossing western Illinois went well.  I thought of stopping to see Craig Lacy in Port Bryon but decided to continue on into Iowa.  I stopped at the World’s Largest TruckStop just west of Davenport and took a short break.  I felt I needed to walk around awhile to rid myself of the “sleepies.”  The day was cloudy and gray.  The snow on the ground blended in to the horizon, mesmerizing me as I drove.  I blasted my I-pod tunes, singing along when I knew the words.  Gotta stay awake.  I had been driving for about 5 hours by then.

I called Dennis periodically.  He doesn’t like me to drive and talk, so I called whenever I made a stop.  I stopped in the Amanas and gassed up the vehicle.  It started to snow.  I told Dennis it was snowing.  He related that it had snowed in Omaha earlier in the day but passed through.  I figured the same would happen in Iowa.  I left the Amanas with fresh coffee and some Amish bread for home.

As I drove towards Des Moines, the weather got worse.  The wind was picking up. The snow was very heavy and visibility became less.  I measured visibility by mile markers and found it was less than a mile.  Semis and cars kept zooming by, but I discovered I had decreased my speed to 50 mph.  Even that seemed too fast at times.   As I neared Grinnell, I started planning my strategy.  I would stop and give Dennis another call and let him know I was slowing down.  I saw the sign to Grinnell.  Just a couple more miles to go.  Suddenly, a light on the dash lit up!  What was it?  Driving alone in a car I had never driven before is bad enough, but when a dash warning light turns on, it becomes more worrisome.  I couldn’t figure out what it was.  It was near the gas gauge and looked like an upside down omega sign with little arrows in it.  Everything else looked OK.  No strange sounds were heard, although that was hard to judge with the wind whipping around and the semis zooming by.  What was this funny little symbol?  It was kind of like a bowl with a rim.  Who knew?  I finally arrived at the Grinnell exit and drove into the Subway/gas station that was right off the interstate.  I sat a moment and then the light next to the little upside down omega lit up that said “ABS.”  I called Bill Fann and told him of my dilemma.  “There are dash warning lights on.  What are they?”  The ABS light went off and Bill said that was good.  He told me the other light had been a problem for them in the past, but it was benign.  “Not to worry.”  This was the first that Bill knew that Maggie was sick in Illinois and I was driving her Toyota.  We were on the phone awhile as I explained what had transpired.  After hanging up, I called Dennis and told him about the snow and the dashlight as well.  He said he and Joe would meet me in Adair, Iowa, so I wouldn’t have to drive the last leg of the trip after a long, tiring day of driving.  (Isn’t he a great guy?!) He was willing to meet me in Des Moines, but I told him I was only 50 miles away from Des Moines and it would take him 2 hours to get there.  I thought Adair was a better plan.

I decided to go in to Subway and have a sandwich since it was 5:30 pm by then. It was getting dark.  I sat where I could see the interstate.  As I ate my sandwich, two state patrol cars with their lights on headed from town towards the interstate.  I watched as they closed the on-ramps to the interstate!  Oh, no!  Now what?!  The snow continued to fall hard and fast.  The Subway kid told me it was suppose to snow all night, but they were only going to get 1-2.”

I finished my sandwich and went back to Maggie’s car.  I noticed there were a few motels nearby.  I had stayed in the Days Inn before and wasn’t too crazy about returning to that one.  There was a Best Western that might be OK and a Comfort Inn further up the road.  I guess I would see about checking into one of them.  The patrol cars were gone now, so the interstate was open again.  Maybe I could continue on.

Instead of getting out of the car and brushing the snow off, I opted to roll down the passenger window to clear the snow.  Pushing the button, the window descended just fine, but…when I tried to get the window back up, it was stuck!  Great!  How what?  I called Bill again and asked him if there was a trick to getting the window back up.  We discussed our options and he told me it had happened before.  They let it sit in the garage overnight and it went back up the next morning.  OK.  I am in a snowstorm.  There is no garage for me to park it in.  I decided to drive up the road toward Grinnell and see if there was an autobody shop that might be able to look at it.

Not far up the road, I found a promising place.  There were three tow trucks out front.  The store looked like a former Standard gas station from the 1960’s with the huge glass windows slanting inward and the wide flat roof.  It was open.  I pulled in between the tow trucks and sloshed through the snow to the front door.  (I was glad I had decided to bring my snowboots along for the trip even though it looked good when we left Omaha.)  It wasn’t an autobody place but the man was very nice.  I asked if he had some plastic I could put across the window so the snow wouldn’t get in.  He went into the back and came out with a large BLACK trash bag.  “Great!”  I thought.  “It’s dark out now, it’s snowing and the window will be covered with a black bag.”  As I looked around his store, I noticed some clear plastic mattress covers.  I wondered why a tow truck service would have mattress covers for sale, but I figured this was a better option for me to use on the open window than a black trash bag.  I asked the guy if I could buy one.  They cost $2.98.  I reached into my billfold.  I had $3.00 left!  Shouldn’t have bought that bread in the Amanas.

The tow truck guy helped me put the plastic in the car window, securing it with the car door (since I couldn’t buy any duct tape.)  The snow kept blowing, but at least it wasn’t getting in the car now.  He tried to pull the window up while I pushed the button and it budged some.  He suggested I try the button now and then and see if it goes up at all.  “Be sure you push it the right way, though,” he warned.

I turned around, left the tow truck guy and headed back up towards the interstate.  I started driving toward the ramp, the plastic whipping around and making so much noise, I could hardly think.  It was cold even though the snow wasn’t blowing in as much. The heater on full blast wasn’t warming the car up much.  The dashlight was still on.  I had had it!  Do I really want to continue on?  I drove into the Comfort Inn parking lot and called Dennis.

Dennis wasn’t at home now.   He and Joe were on their way to meet me in Adair!  I tried his cell, but I couldn’t get through.  I went ahead and checked into the Comfort Inn.

I told the lady at the motel counter a short version of my dilemma and she checked me into a nice room, Room 113!  I looked at the keycard and said, “You’re putting me in Room 113 after all the bad luck I’ve had!”  She laughed and said, “Honey, your luck is going to change.”

I trudged back out in the snow to get my luggage and any valuables Maggie had in the car.  With the window open, I knew it wasn’t safe to leave much out there.  Fortunately, the motel had a cart so I could load up everything without making several trips in the snow.  As I was loading up the cart, three white vans pulled into the parking lot and out stepped about 20 Amish guys, with their beards, black hats and plain clothes.  I couldn’t believe it!  What a sight!  I felt like I was in some weird movie!  It was surreal.  I almost chuckled at the sight.

I spent the night in the motel room.  It was very nice (and warm) with all the amenities.  I called my boss and told her I wouldn’t be in until later in the morning.  She told me her husband’s family lives in Grinnell.  I figured she would know I wasn’t making it up then.  Joe called my cell and I told him I had tried to call Dad.  I let them know I had checked into the Comfort Inn.  Fortunately, they hadn’t gone too far.  They were in Iowa but had just gotten off I-29. They could drive back to Omaha (where it wasn’t snowing)  in no time.

The next day I got up around 5:00 am, had the complimentary breakfast as the Amish guys started to gather in the lobby.  I saw one Amish woman carrying a sewing machine out of her room.  I was so curious about them, but they didn’t speak to anyone.  I left the Comfort Inn and headed towards Des Moines.  As I drove, I realized I had definitely made the right decision.  Between Grinnell and Des Moines, I counted 11 cars in the ditch.  A couple of the cars/vans/SUVs were badly damaged.  None of these vehicles had been then when Maggie and I headed east a few days earlier, so I assumed they were all from the night before.  Most of the eleven vehicles were between Grinnell and Newton, just a few miles’ distance.

As I drove, I was able to push the window button now and then, and eventually it was all the way closed.  At last, I could be comfortable.  The dashlight was no longer on.  All was well with the world.  I arrived home around noon, changed my clothes and went to work.  I felt I had left a strange world and had returned to my routine life at last!

For my birthday, Joe gave me a St Christopher statue and said, “Put this in the car and be safe, Mom!”  I didn’t realize how worried my son was about me that night.

Although I didn’t encounter a cyclops or Circe or the Sirens or a many-headed Scylla and whirlpool, I felt a little like Odysseus, trying to get home, facing obstacles along the way.  It just took me an extra day, not ten years, but it felt plenty long!

P.S. I thought you’d get a kick out of the sign in the motel room. Note, “this sign” costs $25.  I opted not to take anything!

hotel sign

ADDENDUM: Maggie and Bill stopped by the house Wednesday and picked up her vehicle.  She had stayed in Rockford two extra days before feeling better.  She took a bus to O’Hare airport and hopped on a plane to Omaha. Bill drove in from Lincoln and met her at Eppley.

The Odyessy of Susan

This is an old post from my Xanga blog (which is now defunct.) I thought it was worth a repeat.

“Oh Goddess of Inspiration, help me sing of wily Odysseus, that master of schemes!”  Or, I should say “help me sing of clueless Susan, the master of confusion.”


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicagoland with Maggie. We did this one other time and had an absolute blast. We were like two teen-aged girls, gabbing and laughing the entire seven hour drive, stopping to shop at the Amanas and taking our sweet time, enjoying the moment. So, I was looking forward to another fun trip with Maggie as well as seeing the kids and our baby girl (now 10 months old.)

We planned to leave Friday morning. I reserved a rental car in Rockford this time as my son was not going to be able to meet us in Rochelle like last time. Maggie was headed for Rockford again, but my destination was straight east, so she would turn north and head up highway 39.  With no way to continue on I-88, I opted to go up to Rockford with Maggie, then rent a car, driving down to the Wheaton area.  Hertz Rent-a-Car closed at 6:00 pm, so we couldn’t dilly dally.

We hustled across Iowa and western Illinois.  We had great weather, cold but sunny and clear. I must digress. (Homer often digresses while telling of Odysseus, having started his tale in the middle of the adventures when Odysseus was held by the nymph Calypso, having fought the Trojan War and being gone from his home, Ithaca, for 10 years.)

My birthday was February 2nd and it was my year to renew my driver’s license. I received the paperwork to do so in October, but suddenly, I realized that it still needed to be done. After all I only had 3 months prior to complete the task! And the only reason I IMG_3306“remembered” was that Dennis just received his renewal info in the mail since his birthday is in April.  Since I would be gone January 30-February 1st, I realized I better hustle over to the DMV and renew my license.

Now, if you have renewed lately, you know you don’t get an actual license for awhile. They take your expiring license away and, after doing the eye check and checking the documentation of your current address, they take your picture and give you a paper copy, a photocopy, of your new driver’s license. Basically, it’s a piece of paper with a grainy picture of you on your license. No laminated card or anything like that. The real license will arrive in the mail after 20 days.

So…when I went to Hertz to rent the car, the man behind the counter asked me to produce my credit card and driver’s license. When I gave him the temporary license (piece of paper) he was incredulous.

“What’s this?”

I explained that I had just renewed my license and it was a temporary license. Meanwhile, the four people behind me in line rolled their eyes at each other as if to say, “Yeah, right.” The man asked why I didn’t have a laminated license and I explained that Nebraska used to produce nice, laminated licenses the day you renewed, but now, because of identity theft, they give us a temporary license so they can check with the Social Security office and make sure we are who we say they are.  (Of course, it makes me wonder how safe the real licenses are in the mail when so many people get their mail stolen!  But that is another subject all together.) He asked me if I had any other forms of i.d. with my picture on it. I searched my billfold, pulling out my AAAcard, Blockbuster card, grocery store cards,  none with a photo on it. Finally, he decided since I was from Nebraska or admitted I was from Nebraska, I must be OK, and he accepted the temporary license. By then, it was dark outside.

The car was a Nissan Altima, very nice, but had a key-less system.  Nothing like getting into an unfamiliar car in the dark and have to figure out all the controls. I finally figured out how to start it, then I drove off with no lights on because I’m used to a vehicle with automatic headlights.


I drove a few blocks heading to the toll-road, when I thought, “It sure is dark!”  Duh! Turn on the headlights!

The car reeked of perfume like someone had spilled a bottle in the car. Driving down the toll-road, in the dark, I started getting a headache. So, I rolled down the windows in 15 degree weather and turned up the heat. I was cruising along just fine, making the tolls without problem, turned to get off at Higway 59 and I was in the wrong lane! I ran the toll!  Now I was concerned I would have to pay a $25 fine for a 30-cent toll.  I reached for my cell phone to let Carlota know I was on my way.  My phone was dead. Great. Fortunately, I had emailed her that I would likely arrive around 7:00 pm. (But I also told her I would call!)

I arrived at their house and she just putting the baby down. Of course, now the baby was ready to play! I felt bad for disrupting their routine, but Carlota reassured me it was fine.

Dave was in Virginia for work and was suppose to arrive around 7:00, but then the mediation took 5 hours instead of 1 hours, so he missed his flight. He was now to arrive around 9:00. He called and said flights were being cancelled because of the ice storm down South, so he was trying to get out. He finally arrived around 11:00 pm. We were all pretty tired by then.

My visit with the kids was fantastic. The baby was great. The kids and I had time to visit while she napped. They helped me celebrate my birthday a little early by taking me out to dinner. I got to visit with Carlota’s family. All was well.

I decided to return to Rockford Sunday night and spend the night there so Maggie and I could take off early Monday morning.  I said my goodbyes and thanked the kids for a great weekend, got on the toll-road, making sure I didn’t miss any tolls this time, and headed to Rockford.

Digression:  I was glad to find out I wasn’t going to be fined for the missed toll because Dave and Carlota got online and helped me pay the toll online.  Apparently, you have a week or so to pay missed tolls online.  I noticed it was 50 cents instead of 30 cents, but I was willing to pay the extra to avoid a fine.  Do you think I made a wise financial decision?

I arrived at the motel.  Maggie had a suite, so I would just stay with her.  We rehashed our weekends and hit the sack.  The next morning, I got up but Maggie was still asleep.  I showered, watched TV, gathered my stuff, but Maggie was still asleep.  I left and went to McDonald’s to grab some breakfast and bring a latte back for Maggie, but she was still asleep.  I thought the smell of coffee would wake her. “Maggie, it’s past 9:00.”  Maggie flew out of bed and went into the bathroom.  Apparently, she had gotten sick during the night unbeknownst to me.  She had been throwing up all night.  After awhile, she said, “I can’t drive.”  I told her I could drive.  She said, “No, you don’t understand.  I can’t leave the room!  I am too sick.”  She told me to take her car back to Nebraska and she would catch a flight home in a day or so when she felt better.

I took the rental car back and asked if they would give me a ride back to motel so I could get Maggie’s car.  They were very nice about it and it worked out well.  I dreaded the thought of driving all the way back by myself, but I had to work Tuesday, so I had no choice.  Being unfamiliar with the Rockford area, but knowing the motel was close to I-90, I headed out.  The weather was good and traffic wasn’t too bad.  I was cruising along for awhile and I didn’t recognize any sights, but I passed it off as being unfamiliar.  Traveling along, I thought I should be seeing SOMETHING I recognized, but alas, no.  Then I started seeing signs for “Madison.”  Hmm.  I didn’t know there was a Madison, Illinois in this area.  Then I saw a sign for Milwaukee!  Oh, no!  I was in Wisconsin!  I missed my exit to go south!  I turned around, called Dennis on my now-charged cell phone and told him I had taken a little side trip, but at least I didn’t get to Canada.

The map shows my route. I took the pink route to and from Dave and Carlota’s (Rockford to Carol Stream.) The yellow route was the way I was supposed to go to get back to I-88 and head home. The blue route is the way I took! Had to turn around in Wisconsin and come back. The problem is, as you leave Rockford, the sign points towards Chicago. I thought, “I don’t want to go to Chicago” so I ignored that sign. So, if you are ever in Rockford and want to head southwest, take the route that says “To Chicago!” IMG_3312

(Commercial break.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of the saga. It gets better!)