the hyphens that define my life

Brrrrrrr. February 27, 2014

I wasn’t outside much today but when I was, I froze. Negative wind chill temps suck. Nothing more can be said.
An old lady approached me when I entered the hotel tonight and said, “close the door,” (note: it’s an automatic door) “I’m from Iowa and I can’t stand this God damn cold.” What could I say? “Word.”

One guy told me he becomes a United States citizen next week. His excitement was contagious and made me proud to be an American.

One woman today handcrafted her portfolio cover that included hand stitching. I commented that I appreciated her handiwork. She told me that she grew up quilting with her grandmother and wanted to include that personal piece in her work. (double-heart love!) I then went on a crazy Amish quilting nonsensical rant while she graciously tolerated me.

No cookies at Iowa State. I’m not sure what or who is the Iowa State mascot. Yet, I did meet some awesome and incredibly talented students today at Iowa State which is refreshing and exciting. Iowa State delivered, thank you.


Road Trip February 26, 2014

Lawrence Kansas to Ames Iowa
287 miles
approximately 4 hours

I didn’t think I’d have anything to share tonight but America the Beautiful provides excellent fodder.

Goodbye Kansas. Hello Missouri.

I stopped only once in Missouri at a stray Starbucks to work and catch up on emails and calls. Other than a faded freeway sign announcing the birthplace of Jesse James and crossing a fantastic suspension bridge, the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, over the Missouri River, Missouri was uneventful.

bond bridge

(Photo from Google Images.)

Then BAM!  I crossed into Iowa.  Who knew Iowa was where the action happened?

Four miles into the state is the Iowa Welcome Center in Lamoni AND Amish Country Store.  Growing up in Ohio, my family would go to Amish towns for the country drive, the good food and excellent craftsmanship.  As kids, with our limited luxuries of a color TV and Pong, we were shocked at the thought of Amish children having to do without.   I had to stop. I took exit 4 to Lamoni Iowa and pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Amish Country Store, noticing there were no buggies or horses tied up at the designated hitching posts.  Inside the store, stacks and stacks and a huge variety of handmade baskets were for sale, shelved according to Amish maker.  Handmade quilts, candies, aprons and jam also lined the shelves.  If I had a bigger suitcase and didn’t have another leg of my journey, I would have purchased a few things.  I did find and buy a book (big surprise), The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book by Lovina Eicher.

The Amish Cook began as a column by Lovina’s mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, in 1990.  Lovina Eicher, took over the column in 2003. Cultural insight, daily living, and Amish recipes are detailed in this syndicated column that appears in over 130 newspapers.  How have I not heard of this column?  There are several books, The Amish Cook, The Amish Cook at Home, and The Amish Cook’s Baking Book.

I wanted to buy a loaf of homemade bread and jam and spend my afternoon chowing down, but thought of my waistline and refrained.  I started reading The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book tonight and was pleased with my decision to forego bread and jam when I read Elizaabeth Coblentz’s account of a quilting bee she attended in November 1991 where she was served coffee and a large doughnut.  She commented “Ugh.  Hard on the waistline.”  Elizabeth and I have bonded.

I’m only through 1992, but if you think you cook a lot or think I cook a lot, ooohweee, nobody cooks like the Amish.  I need to bake more bread and pies and meat and do a whole heck of a lot more cleaning before 6 AM to hone my Amish-ness.  Probably not.  Though I am inspired to start a quilt.

Back in the car, proud of my purchase, I drive out of the parking lot and notice the neighboring gas station.


Really Iowa?  That’s the best name for a gas station you could kum up with?  Oy!  I’ve seen this posted on Facebook by others but it is a shock to witness it in person.  I stopped and went in to get a t-shirt but, can you believe it, they don’t sell t-shirts.   A money-maker waiting to happen.

Once I recovered from the Amish Store and the Kum & Go (not to mention the irony of being neighbors), back on the road to Ames.

I still had over a hundred miles to go, but after the past ho-hum Missouri miles, my expectations were low for Iowa.  Then BAM!  Take Exit 52 for the Covered Bridges of Madison County.  Oh I loved this book!  As tempted as I was to venture off the highway, snow and cold kept me on my path.  Just before this same exit, another sign – John Wayne’s birthplace in Winterset Iowa.  Huh, who knew?  Not me.

Des Moines then appeared in giant mass, as if all Iowans live here.  Though I drove through a hundred miles of Iowa farmland to get to Des Moines, it is in the near middle of Des Moines that the National Silo and Smokestack Heritage Area exists.  Why here? I wondered.  I didn’t pull off the highway to check it out.

I safely arrived in Ames and head to Iowa State tomorrow.  Iowa has a lot to check out from Amish to Covered Bridges to smokestacks and silos to a rumor that I heard that Iowa offers skiing!  Iowa is also in the middle of the polar vortex and tomorrow offers a high of 1 degree.  One.  At 8 AM, the forecast says -8.  The high nor the low include windchill.  Ugh.  Cold weather can’t be good for the waistline either.


Trendsetter February 25, 2014

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 6:54 pm
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Once upon a time, I could have been considered a trendsetter, but mostly I was considered a freak.
Nowadays, I consider myself a freak magnet, but mostly it is I who is the freak.

Admitting is the first step, right?

Today, I woke up in Kansas (at least I remembered how I got here) and worked for a couple of hours before my presence was required at the University of Kansas for an Architecture and Interior Design Career Fair. My plan was good, my plan was in action. Then, I lost track of time; my computer clock is on Pacific Time and I’m in the Central Time Zone. I was dressed and ready to go when I realized the time confusion. I wasn’t late, but I was rushed getting out the door. Read: Agh! Panic! Grab and go, go, go!

I made it to where I needed to be and quickly began setting up my booth, noting that everyone was already at lunch. Dang it! I hate missing lunch but more importantly, I didn’t want to miss the Dean’s speech on the direction of the architecture program as well as networking opportunities to meet and lure people away from other companies, typical recruiting stuff.

I’m directed to the ballroom for lunch and the tables are filled with career fair firm representatives. Believing that I’m late, I beeline to the buffet and start loading up my plate. There are 7 or 8 servers standing around and I make the comment that the buffet looks untouched, they must have just restocked. They look at me like I am a freak and say that I’m the first one to go through the buffet line. So much for being late. In Kansas, apparently, you wait until you’re invited to eat or something, I’m still not sure what happened. One of the servers, noticing my confusion at what all these people are waiting for, encouraged me to “be the trendsetter.” I concurred and replied that I was going to get this party started. The party didn’t take my lead, though they did watch me walk with loaded plate to my seat. Nobody moved. The people at my table only commented that the food looked good, yet didn’t move. The Dean entered the room shortly thereafter and asked “Why isn’t anyone eating? It’s a buffet, please help yourselves.”

Was everyone being polite? Are they just dumb? Am I a freak or just an overachiever? Whatever the reason, it was the most odd, Twilight Zone surreal lunch I’ve every experienced.

The highlight of my lunch was being introduced to a KU Jayhawk cookie, a butter cookie with dried blueberries, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips to honor their Red and Blue colors. Though the introductions to the fellow career fair firm representatives was not productive the Jayhawk students were smart, talented and impressive. Phew. Mission accomplished.


On The Road Again February 24, 2014

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 10:49 pm
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3:00 AM the harp ringtone melodically sings my wake up alarm.
3:20 AM my eyelids are finally forced open and I jump in the shower
3:45 AM my awesome husband gets up to start the car and, judging road conditions by the amount of snowfall, decides he’ll drive me to the airport. Hurray!
4:00 AM Leave for the airport. Brrrr-isk!
5:00 AM STARBUCKS!!! Coffee infusion.
5:45 AM Flight departs for Kansas City Missouri via Denver.

Here’s why I can’t work on a plane. I’m in the aisle seat with a couple in the window and middle seat. The wife is petrified of flying and is twitching and jumpy and flopping in her seat. The husband says “Relax” at least 100 times prior to take-off which did nothing to calm her. Why does this always happen? “Relax” is not a calming word, don’t use it. As soon as the wheels left the ground, the guy passed out and the woman shifted about nervously until she too fell asleep. Peace. All was well for about 10 minutes. Diagonally to the right, across the aisle, a man had a little Chihuahua in a Louis Vuitton carrier stowed under the seat in front of him. This little itty bitty dog proceeded to explosively fart and crap all over his carrier. The owner was responsive and took the dog and carrier to the bathroom to clean up (note: no one used the bathroom afterward). Over the course of the flight, the owner/dog/cleanup occurred three times. We just had to deal with the vile, make you gag stench left in the cabin. Horrible! This is a great reason why, just because you can, you shouldn’t, take your animal on a plane. For everyone’s sake. Poor dog. Poor owner. Poor us. I found a Hall’s Cough Drop in the bottom of my purse and covered my face with my scarf to prevent breathing in the rancid air. Mentholyptus to the rescue!

Denver Airport was my walking workout for the day. Whenever I fly through Denver, the gates between connecting flights is always 30-40 gates away. Then, after you reach your gate, you walk another mile onto the tarmac to board your plane.

The guy I sat next to on the flight from Denver to Kansas City was mellow, a reader, excellent. All was well, the plane was quiet as we all waited for the door to close and plane to take-off. The woman behind us decided this was her personal space and made several phone calls to discuss how month end had to be wrapped up before she could do her gig, whether her friend would pick her up or if she needed to rent a car (why wasn’t this determined earlier?) and her final call was the best when she detailed every item she packed in her suitcase. I was annoyed by the volume of her call and disregard for others but Mr. Mild Mannered next to me became unhinged! He was so agitated! He turned in his seat and glared at her and, playing into her call, started reciting what he had packed – while she was still on the phone! She got pissed and they had a brief exchange of words after her call. Mr. Mild-turned-Psycho gave me a lesson on the illegal but available phone jammer (thingamajig) that he has to scramble cell calls. I let him rant, then turned to my book and we all went our separate ways in Kansas City.

Happy to be on terra firma, I realized I had an hour drive to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, southwest of Kansas City Missouri. In case you don’t know, Kansas City Missouri and Kansas City Kansas sit opposite of one another in their own state. What genius thought this was a good idea I’ll never know but I’m sure there’s a story out there.

I’ve only been to Lawrence KS once before, in 2008 but remembered Wheatfield’s an awesome bakery café with wifi where I set up shop and worked this afternoon. I stopped by another find from 2008, Shark’s Surf Shop. The surf shop logo is a guy standing in a wheat field holding a surfboard that has a big shark bite. Surf Kansas! I bought my husband a new t-shirt. Driving to my hotel tonight, I passed Billy Vanilly’s Cupcake Shop. I love a town with a sense of humor.

The town is abuzz with a Kansas Jayhawks basketball game tonight. I thought about getting a ticket to the game but opted to work, blog and sleep instead.

Tomorrow’s blog topic: snow, polar vortex, arctic wind warning and an architecture job fair. Good times ahead.


Meanwhile… February 4, 2014

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 9:25 pm
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Approximately fifty days a year, I travel for work attending university recruiting events across the US and Toronto to recruit Architecture and Interior Design interns and new graduates for our growing company. University recruiting is hands-down my favorite part of my job. The students fresh perspective and energy is contagious and they make me excited representing our company, our vision and goals.

The challenge is that the majority of my travel occurs between February and April on a very tight schedule, causing a huge juggle in my home life to pull it off. After 10 years, my family and I have it down to a science; however, sometimes life just happens and you gotta roll with it.

So here’s today, a day in my life.

I have a hard shell, I’m thick-skinned but right now, with my sister gone, I’m wounded, fragile, and I don’t feel whole. Not in my comfort zone, I’m needy and leaving my family at home, saying goodbye to the kids last night, was really difficult. Coming to Ohio made the transition easier as I have a TON of family in Ohio, many of which I will see this week. My husband, who has been so fantastic these past few weeks, woke up with me at 3:30 this morning to drive me to the airport with big hugs and love in support. 3:30 AM, that’s love.

The flight to Denver provided a much-needed nap. Once in Denver, people watching was good while waiting forever for the plane’s flat tire to be changed. Once on board, we waited and waited as Denver was cold and snowy and the line to de-ice was backlogged. I worked on the plane to the best of my ability, limited by the lack of wifi access on the plane. What the hell United? It’s 2014, on a 2.5 hour flight, with no wifi. RIDICULOUS!

We finally land in Cincinnati. While waiting at baggage claim, I received a call informing me that the University of Cincinnati recruiting event was cancelled. Of course I took the news graciously on the phone, but I did my fair share of stomping and cursing off the call. Dang it! There was no snow on the ground at the time of the call. To cancel school a day in advance really tells you how responsive Ohio is to storm warnings. Ohioans have lived and learned.

Other than an apple and tangerine I brought with me, I was starving at this point. I checked into hotel and searched Yelp for food options that will let me stay on my Whole Life Challenge diet – no wheat/corn/white rice, no dairy, no sugar and I can’t remember what else. Clean eating. I found Myra’s Dionysus, a Middle Eastern Vegetarian gem a half mile from my hotel. I ventured out in the snow and wind (the snow I can handle, wind is miserable) fingers crossed I would find good food. Thank you Yelp! I had Imam Bialdi, a Turkish inspired dish of eggplant and tomato seasoned with allspice and currants on a bed of (allowed) brown rice.
Inches of snow had accumulated while I enjoyed my meal, so I high-tailed my way back to the hotel to hunker down and catch up on work.


Our thirteen year old son was in a ski accident on January 20. We spent hours in the ER to learn nothing was broken, but he can’t put any weight on his right leg and has been on crutches ever since, in his 3rd week. The follow-up with the orthopedist was delayed a week because my sister passed on January 22. The orthopedist ordered an MRI because the small hospital near the ski resort didn’t have an MRI (hello, 2014, wifi and MRI’s should be standard operating procedure). We waited 8 days for insurance to authorize the MRI. We have PPO insurance. Why does it take a week to approve? Nobody can tell me. I called the insurance company and asked, they had no answer for me, until day 8, today. I’m out-of-town hanging out in the snow and my son is having an MRI.

Side note, our son has been home from school for 12 days so far as the orthopedist doesn’t want him further injuring what we don’t know is injured. Not to mention, crutches are no fun and not easy in the ice and snow. Managing his school work, the insurance and teenage awesomeness has been fantastic fun. Now, the moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived, and I’m not there. Sigh. I’m thankful and relieved his injury is finally (FINALLY!!) being addressed.

We’ll find out tomorrow afternoon what is really going on. The orthopedist believes the muscle is torn from the bone (gnarly) but there is really no change in the course of care, physical therapy and time.

Here in Cincinnati I wait to see what happens.


The Twelves February 2, 2014

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 10:44 am
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This past football season I think I watched 4 games, two of which were the AFC and NFC playoff games. Safe to say I’m not a diehard football fan but you should know that we parents just caved to our kids pleading for a television (with cable – they have a long wishlist) in the living room. We haven’t had a television since we moved in June. Now that we joined mainstream American culture in 2014 (we still don’t and won’t have a microwave), we’re watching football. Our timing could not be better, in case you haven’t heard, Washington’s own Seattle Seahawks are in the Superbowl.

Seattle to Spokane, Seahawk pride is strong. The genius Seahawk promotional campaign, the 12th Man, symbolized with the #12, is found everywhere. There are 11 football players on the field, the 12th man is the fan that completes the team.  Banners are hung from office buildings and in store and home windows. Stores give discounts if you are wearing your Seahawks gear.  People end conversations with “Go Hawks!”  I participated Friday by ending every work email with “Go Seahawks!”  Yet, as Washington newbies, we’re just joining the party.

Yesterday while running errands with my daughter, we stopped at Starbucks for a caffeine boost.  We went through the drive-thru and placed our order and waited our turn.  At the window, the Starbucks employee informed us that our drinks were purchased by the couple in the car ahead of us with the message, “Pay it Forward.  From The Twelves.”  She explained that this pay it forward message from the Twelves has been happening all day.  We played along and passed the same message to the car behind us, buying their drinks too.

The Twelves.   Awesome.  Until yesterday I didn’t have a favorite player.  I do now.  Go #12, you are strong, passionate, know the game and play fair.  Win or lose, stand together, stand strong.  I will be cheering for you.



Year of the Horse February 1, 2014

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 11:18 pm
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Chinese New Year, 2014 the Year of the Horse. Ironic.
I’ve fallen off the horse and I’m having a hard time getting back on.

I have only had one blog post all year. The year began and I had nothing to say. How is this possible? 2013 had 175 posts and now, nothing.

Then,three weeks into the new year, my sister passed away.

Numb. Raw. Wrecked. I’m functional then emotions sneak up on me when least expected.
Though my sister has had medical issues nearly all of her life, it is unbelievable to believe she is gone.

My coping mechanism is to find humor in the bleakest moments. This is where I find my voice and share this story.

My sister and I were opposites in many ways. She was blond and blue eyed to my brown hair and brown eyes. Our personalities conflicted too, she was bossy but I like to be in charge. Both strong women, my sister stood 5’2″ on a good day while I hit 5’10” every day. She was a mighty mite who loved to be first, have the final word and last laugh in any discussion or disagreement.

My siblings, adult nephews and I sorted through and packed my sister’s apartment in Seattle where she lived for three years to be near our mom and receive the necessary medical attention after living most of her life in Michigan. I was in charge of packing her kitchen. Though there were many layers of difficult for all of us that week, one thing that saddened me was, while packing her kitchen, was to see her plans for her Christmas baking gone unbaked because she didn’t feel well enough during the holidays. Pounds and pounds of flour and sugar and chocolate chips and other baking stuff to bake a ridiculous amount of cookies. Like my mom. Like me.

I love other people’s kitchens. I love their gear and gadgets as well as trying to understand their logic in their kitchen layout and wondering if I would do the same or what would I do differently. My sister’s kitchen logic was clear. She, being short, operated from the ground up. Hardly anything was in her upper cabinets while everything was found in the bottom cupboards. I hate having to dig things out of the bottom cupboards so my kitchen is top heavy. I am certain my sister had a good laugh watching me crawl around her kitchen floor as I packed her things. True to self, she got the last laugh.

And, sadly, she was first of our siblings and our cousins, to pass.

After reading through this post, I realize this may not seem funny to you but it is funny to me. In these days filled with grief, even the slightest thing that makes me smile strikes me funny.

Getting back on the horse is going to require a lot of awkward moments. This is just the beginning and I’m sliding in the saddle. February is a new month, a new beginning. Be patient with me as I struggle.