Posted in songs to learn and sing

The Passenger

This one is for Renae.

In 2000, Renae and I headed off to Europe for a coach tour (you can read about it here.) It was cramped, close quarters as we rolled through January in the frozen European countryside. Renae’s long legs were best seated in the aisle, and my motion sickness was best suited to the window, so we spent hour upon hour, riding and riding and riding, and riding some more, and then riding some more whenever the driver would get lost. I’m not sure how many times we circled St. Goar before finally landing in their gingerbread village, but it was long enough that I was bouncing my forehead against the window, hoping for the salvation of unconsciousness. There is a picture of me sprawled across the bed of our Inn there. It is an excellent representation of just how I felt by the time we arrived.

Frequently, we would spend six hours on the coach at a time. As you can imagine, those of us who could, would sleep. I would get into my toque, which was about two sizes too large for my head, and pull it down to my chin like the cover on a birdcage, and nod off. And, like everyone else who could sleep, I would lurch into wakefulness with a start every time Midgie-the-Tour-Guide would turn on Iggy Pop’s, The Passenger, at an ear-bleeding volume of 11. This was how Midgie liked to announce we were rolling to a stop. By the end of the tour, I wanted to find Iggy Pop, pick him up by his ankles, swing him like a bat and knock Midgie into the bleachers. I hated them both.

Now? Now, The Passenger numbers on my personal hit parade. I hear it and I remember how much fun Renae and I had together, and separately. I remember how we started a snowball fight in front of our hotel in Germany, then went inside when it was clear our Australian counterparts meant war, and watched from the window in our room as those same counterparts were rounded up by hotel security and reprimanded for the display. I remember how much fun it was to watch Charlie’s Angels in a Parisian theater, and the goofy things we did at the expense of fine art in the Louvre. And, I remember how passionately we both felt about strangling Midgie. Good times.

Nothing wrong with being the passenger.

Posted in Lancient History


Ten years ago, just after I’d met the Lobster, before I met B, and well before Thor was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, in January, Renae and I took a Contiki tour of Europe. If you can drink like an Australian, or if you don’t mind people who do, this is the tour company for you. However, if you are a minister’s daughter/social worker and Marine’s daughter/current employee of a religious organization, whose drinking escapades are so far limited to each other’s company and a small mini-bar in a Shreveport hotel room, you might want to look for something a little less…sodden?

There is very little in my life that I would do over. I believe in looking forward, not back. But, this is one of those things. I would redo this trip in a heartbeat, given the chance. I would know where not to eat!

Renae and I had a fantastic time, no denying, and in celebration of the fun, I am reposting the original review [with edits for detail] I wrote of our trip, then only distributed to my coworkers and my friends at TTP. Now, anyone in the world who googles Contiki can read it. Ah, the internet.


okay, here is the rundown of my trip. Wake up call was at 6:00 every morning, and usually we didn’t get back to our hotels before 11:00 at night.

day one: I lost half my travelers’ cheques in the airport–someone returned them to security, though, and I found them (yay God!). Had a lovely projectile vomiting incident on the plane and had to change clothes before going through customs [terrified small child who was watching me heave and blow the bottoms out of the paper barf bags]. We spent 3 hours getting from the airport to our hotel–all the locals were on their way to work, so the trains were too stuffed for us and our luggage to get on. We also wandered around outside in the freezing rain for a half hour looking for our hotel. Turns out that we were wandering around exactly IN FRONT of our hotel the whole time. It just didn’t have a sign on it. We ate lunch and took a double decker bus tour, on which I promptly fell asleep and snored through all the major attractions of London. I found Trafalgar Square particularly nice for sleeping. We had a nap back at the hotel before meeting up with the tour group for the first time, and then ate Greek food for dinner. Tour group was 51 people. 8 Americans, 4 Mexicans, 3 South Africans, and the rest Australians with serious drinking problems. Left there and took the tube all over London, snapping pictures like idiots, running all over the place. Loved it. Didn’t want to leave. Hair dryer blew up. One hair appliance down. One to go.

day two: We got on the bus and headed for Dover, then crossed the channel into Calais. I spent the entire ferry ride on the floor of the bathroom with my head IN the toilet. Miserable. Back on the bus for some more motion sickness, and then by late evening we were in Amsterdam. Renae and I split up from the group, who had mostly gone on a candlelight cruise of whatever river runs through Amsterdam, and we wandered all over the city for 3 hours. We avoided the drug houses and did our best to stay out of the red light district. Somehow we ended up in the WORST part of the city, but found our way out and went to a cafe where a geriatric group was assembled playing dice. Went back to the hotel and tried to sleep through the drunken Australians screaming in the hallway. Curling iron burned up…literally. Spent the rest of the trip washing hair and letting it air dry. In other words, I had 2 bad hair weeks, but still managed to survive!

day three: Went back into Amsterdam in the daylight. Visited the Anne Frank house, which was very moving for me personally, and bought wooden shoes and postcards. Got back on the bus and started off again. The bus driver got lost in Germany so we were nearly 2 hours late in getting to St. Goar, our next stop. It was a hideously charming little German town nestled between 4 mountains right on the Rhine River. I kept thinking about my old Gnome books and wondered if Trolls lived under the bridge. I didn’t see any. Tried to sleep through the drunken Australians who were banging on my door in the middle of the night because they couldn’t remember which rooms were theirs.

day four: Was forced to watch a demonstration of how beer steins were made. Escaped narrowly with sanity in tact. Was forced to look at many cuckoo clocks and hummel dolls. Managed not to cry. Boarded bus once more and headed for Munich, driving through the German Alps and seeing more castles than should be allowed. I now yawn at castles. Made a stop outside of Munich to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. Spent an hour walking around there. Life changing experience really and I don’t want to negate it by writing about it here [in a joking manner.] Off to the hotel at Munich–bathroom had heated floor tiles! MMMMMM! Warm feet! Happy feet! There were 5 inches of snow on the ground by the time we got to the hotel. Off to the Haufbrauhaus where the Australians drank upwards 2 liters of beer each (some had 5). Back to hotel where I tried to sleep through drunken Australians screaming out the names of their various roommates, while trying to find their hotel rooms. [And banging on our door, yelling, “Jon/Mary/Pete! I know you’re in there! Lemme in!” as they shook the door knob and kicked at the facings, from about 2am onward, until they started passing out in heaps in the hallways.]

day five: Hated the Australians. Went into downtown Munich, saw the Haufkirche and the Glockenspiel. Big church with lots of freaky art and dead people in the first, and a big clock at the second. Had lovely coffee and Bavarian creme donut in a cafe. Got back on the bus. Hated the [loud, rude, foul smelling] Australians some more. Drove through Austrian Alps and tour manager forced us to listen to the entire soundrack of the Sound of Music as we drove [the entire time we were in Austria]. Hated him. Amused self by thinking of ways to kill him. Arrived at Innsbruck late afternoon and toured the city–well, the tourist part anyway. Bought souvenirs and ate pizza, then got back on the bus. Went to hotel, ate dinner, went directly to bed with a hacking cough and a high fever. Did not even hear the Australians, though Renae tells me they were louder than ever and tried to get into our room again.

day six: Hated the world. Hacking cough, fever, runny nose, and German food wreaking havoc on my system. Boarded the bus and drove through more alps to deboard at the ferry in Venice. Ferried into Venice without puking. Yay me! Strolled through the city of Venice for 5 hours, including a gondola ride which was fabby. Found many great costume, wig, and mask shops. Drooled. Window shopped Versace, Gucci, Prada, et al. Drooled more. Ate authentic Venetian food. Tried not to vomit. Strolled more. Had severe chills interspersed with cold sweats and dizzy spells. Chatted up by an Italian man who gave me roses. Nice. They like that hacking cough there. Just means the girl is too tired to fight. Toured St. Mark’s Basilica. Watched the lunar eclipse. Fell madly in love with Venice, wanted to stay there. Sent postcards and got yelled at by the post lady for being too slow. Went back to the hotel and tried to sleep through the Australians, who had discovered Chianti.

day seven: Spent the day on the bus driving to Rome. Saw the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen. Enjoyed it through a still fevered haze. Arrived in Rome late evening and took a brisk walking tour of the city that I thought might finally end my life. Wheezed, coughed, shivered, and sweated, but saw the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and several monuments. Ate some really gross ravioli and went to bed. Hated the Australians. Got up in the middle of the night, walked down the hall [in my tatty pajamas, glasses, crazy snow cap hair, and big old breathe-right-strip…sexy!] and begged the Australians to be quiet so I could sleep. Got laughed at by Australians, went back to bed defeated and cried a little. Finally fell asleep.

day eight: Got up and growled, snarled, and was generally nasty to Australians. Left hotel on foot at 9AM, walked all day long with a stop for lunch until 9PM. Only 2 of my toes bled, though. Saw ALL of Rome. Outstanding city and I want to go back. Toured the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Got ripped off at lunch and paid WAY more than we should have. Finally made it back to the hotel. Managed to ignore the Australians and get 3 hours of sleep. Cursed Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, and all their countrymen. Repented and remembered to pray for them instead of being mad at them…forgot again by the time I woke up.

day nine: Got up and boarded the bus, driving all day until we arrived at Florence around 3PM. Made fun of the Australian that was so drunk he fell down in the bus toilet. Really enjoyed his pain. Toured Florence, including seeing the Academia and the David (hoo! everyone should see that). Had art overload, but loved it. Went to a leather working demonstration, had lunch in a fabby cafe, and otherwise loved Florence. Want to go back there and stay a week. Hacking cough settled into a rumbling cough, and fever broke. Went out to dinner with the group and ate very well, then went to a disco where I was chatted up by a man [there’s a whole story here about me being a “beautiful dangerous angel”, and Renae having dazzled our dinner waiter so much that he followed her to the club. I’m too old to retell it without sheepishly acknowledging that this was a tourist disco, and I’m sure these local boys used the same lines every night because it was like fishing in a barrel. Renae and I disappointed them sorely.] Renae and I rounded up as many of the falling down drunk Australians as we could, put them in cabs and helped them back to their hotel rooms. [Unwittingly, we set our drunk-girl-loving tour guide onto a very sodden 18 year old, stating our worry for her. He promised he would take care of her. Oh, he took care of her all right. I’m sure her mother would not thank us.]

day ten: Drove to Lucerne, Switzerland. Tied an Australian’s shoelaces together while he slept on the bus. Laughed wickedly when he got up and tried to walk. Waited for him to go back to sleep and talked someone else into doing the same thing. Laughed even harder when he got up and tried to walk again. Repented for that just now. Bought swiss army knives for friends. Wanted to go back to Italy. Purposefully tripped an Australian, who had been particularly nasty the night before just to watch him fall. Repented. Went back to hotel, ate dinner, had a bubble bath and made fun of the Swiss…that’s a long story in and of itself.

day eleven: Drove to Paris. Arrived in time to go up the Eiffel Tower. Had a picture made with one of the telescopes, refused to tell anyone why [will still deny, deny, deny.] Tripped the same Australian on purpose again. Didn’t repent that time. Drove through the city at night. Fell in love with Paris. Wanted to live there. Felt bad about tripping the Australian, repented. Went back to the hotel and fell asleep before I even got under the covers.

day twelve: Spent the entire day in Paris. Saw all the sights. Ate lunch with the locals in a very posh restaurant. Found out that I really *CAN* speak French fluently well enough to get around. Chatted with a local. Did the Louvre. Had massive artattack and had to be dragged from the museum under duress. Went to see Charlie’s Angels at a cinema on the Champs d’Elysees. Loved Paris. Loved it. Loved it. Had learned to ignore the Australians and got another good night’s sleep.

day thirteen: Drove back to London. Immediately ditched the tour group without so much as a goodbye to more than 5 of them. Went to hotel in a giddy stupor shouting (well, croaking with glee), “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” Had Indian food for dinner, listened to BBC radio, fell asleep.

day fourteen: Got up at 4AM and went to airport to go home. Seriously considered kissing ground on landing. Decided against it. Kissed mother instead.

Posted in Uncategorized


Leslieann, Renae, Wedding-Me, Sarah, Jamie, and Karen.

I’m feeling nostalgic tonight, and enjoying memories of the women who walked me down the aisle.  You’ve already met them, but just in case you missed anyone, these are Leslieann, Renae, Jamie, and Karen.  When Sarah-Mac is old enough for me to feel comfortable posting about her on the internet, we’ll add her to the mix.  Until then, she can be adorably anonymous-ish.

I am a fortunate woman.

Posted in Uncategorized

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Renae

It is impossible not to like Renae.  Unless you are one of those people who hates other people out of sheer jealousy, it is 100% impossible not to like Renae.  Every thing about her works, even her hair.  I met Renae at a birthday party, and I liked her instantly.  She was smart, and funny, generous with her welcome–just as I’ve come to know she always is.

She is implacable, unique, and manages to be many things to many different people.

If you want to come out to someone over a tuna sandwich at lunchtime, Renae is your girl.  If you want to plan a spontaneous trip to Ireland, call Renae.  If you’re going to go camping, and a tornado is going to come through and try to tear apart your tent, and you need someone to save you from blowing away, Renae.  If you need to show up on a doorstep, sobbing, broken heart in your hands, Renae will let you in, feed you cereal, and listen while you snot your way through the unfairness of love.  Well, maybe she won’t let you in, but I know where she lives, and more importantly, I knew where she lived when I was the one doing the snotting.  And that right there is why I will always love Renae.  That, and because she actually picked my nose once.  You know someone loves you when they will pick your nose.

I do try to keep myself out of introductions.  Since I’m telling you what I like about people, it requires a certain amount of involvement, but I do try to keep it about the person you’re meeting.  With Renae, I have to tell you a little more about myself so you’ll understand why I think she is so special.

Until I met Renae, I didn’t like girls much.  I didn’t trust them.  I didn’t know many I respected. I thought they were all backstabbing brats, and more than one of them proved my point for me.  I preferred the company of men, and didn’t mind telling you so.  I had a couple of girls who had been friends since my youth, but I hadn’t made any real female friends after the age of fourteen.  Oh, I had friends who were girls, but it was more a case of me being their friend.  I rarely let anyone else be my friend.  That is, I refused to be vulnerable to another woman.

But Renae isn’t just any other woman, and I fell head over heels in friend-love with her from the get-go.  Renae was my first real adult friendship, and she was the girlfriend who made it possible for me to see the wonder of having female friends.  She allowed me to be vulnerable.  My friendship with Renae made every other friendship that came after hers possible.  I owe Amy, and Arwen, and Irene, and Nicole, and Charlcye, and all the rest of you to Renae.

Renae makes plans and she sticks to them.  She actually does what she says she is going to do.  If she tells you that her life plan entails X happening, then two years passing and Y happening, and two more years passing before Z happens, then you can set your watch to Z and not worry about missing an appointment.  She is self-disciplined and self-assured, and completely and utterly oblivious to how amazing she is.  You know that song She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful?  That’s Renae.

While she is absolute to her values and morals, she is enough of a cipher to filter what she finds most interesting in her peer group though her beliefs and wear them like the latest fashion.  She is open to change.  She is open to learn.  She is open to life.

At her wedding, I toasted her saying that I was glad she never had to spend another Valentine’s Day with me as her date.  I meant that sincerely.  But you know what?  Valentine’s Day dates with Renae were always good.  I hope all of you know someone like her.

Meet Renae.

Name: Renae
Age Range: 30s—barely.
Preferred Job Title: Program Director
Industry: Non-Profit, Social Services

Describe your family: My mom and my dad are both from small, farming communities in the Texas panhandle and they are just all-around good people, and very proud of me and my sisters. I have two younger sisters. We don’t get to see each other as much as we would like but we talk every week. Both are married to great guys and so I feel like I have two brothers now, as well. My middle sister has a one-year-old daughter, and both of my sisters are currently pregnant. Yay! I love being an aunt…I can give a lot of love but I don’t have to worry about how to pay for their education. Much to my parents’ delight, I am married to a great man. He’s funny, hard working and at any given moment has at least three new projects or hobbies. I’ve learned about wine, rock climbing, flying, gardening, cooking, and playing guitar, to name a few things just by being around him. His favorite interest, though, never changes. He loves me and wants to make me happy. He succeeds. We have two incredible children together, a high-spirited daughter who’s two and my little man, a beautiful son who’s five months old. I could write about them forever. Let’s just say I’m smitten and think they are pretty terrific. I really hit the jackpot with my in-laws, too. I adore my mother-in-law, and I’ve grown to think of his family as simply my own. I have great friends who I consider family. I also have Zoe, a dachshund I’ve had for nearly 10 years. She’s seen me through turning 30 as a single woman, getting married, two pregnancies, two babies and now tolerates being covered in Disney stickers by a two-year old. She would be very angry if I didn’t include her in this [ed. note:  she’s not kidding.]

What does the first hour of your day look like? Prior to the baby, I would wake up and head to the Y for a run first thing in the morning. Now, while he’s still waking during the night and I’m feeding him at odd times, that’s much more sporadic. He’s usually my alarm clock. He wakes me up and I feed him, dress him, shower and get myself ready while my husband is getting our breakfast and getting all the “stuff” our kiddos need ready. We get our two-year old dressed and fed and all four of us are out the door by 7am.

The last hour? Making sure our two-year-old is in bed asleep, feeding the baby, watching something we’ve recorded on tv and just basking in the glow of surviving another day with two young children.

What makes you feel successful? I enjoy my work and I’ve found that since having children, my time away from them is very valuable-I want it to count for something. I feel successful when I’ve done something that will further the mission of my agency and when I’ve personally helped someone make life better. I feel successful each day when I prepare the bottles of breastmilk for my baby for the following day—any working, breastfeeding mom who pumps knows that sense of accomplishment! It is a big deal. Overall, my idea of success has changed since I’ve had children. They are my successes. Oh, yeah, I do feel pretty successful when I finish a run, whether it’s a half-marathon, 10k or even 5k. Being included in this project with these other great women feels pretty good, too!

What brings you joy? A note from my husband in my lunch box. Picking up my children in the afternoons. Seeing friends. Doing something for people I love that I know they will enjoy. Saturday mornings, in bed with hubby and both kids, just playing and talking. Watching my kids, anytime, anywhere.

What women do you admire? Oh, so many. I admire women like Corrie ten Boom, Jane Adams, the six women who founded Le Leche League, Clara Barton-women who righted wrongs and made a difference on a large scale. I also really admire the women I surround myself with…my mom, my mother-in-law, my husband’s aunt, my sisters, my friends. Some of them have overcome amazing obstacles and rather than become bitter, they are deeply feeling, caring, strong, funny, loving souls. They may not be on People Magazine’s list of remarkable women (does that really exist?) but they make a difference in the lives of the people they touch and I admire them.

What do you like best about your closest friend? I have a number of people who wear that label at different times, in different situations and what I like most is knowing I can always count on them and knowing they can make me laugh. What’s the saying? A friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body. I’ve got lots of good friends, even though I haven’t needed to move any bodies…yet.

What do you like best about yourself? I don’t give up. I work hard and I care about making things better. I have a good sense of humor and I try to treat others well. I think I have the ability to make other people feel good about themselves.

What advice would you give boys about girls? Having one of each, I spent some time thinking about this question. Treat them well and show them respect, knowing that’s a two-way street. It’s amazing how our thinking changes when we see everything through the eyes of “this could be my daughter or this could be my son”.

How do you overcome adversity? With equal parts of humor, determination and faith. It also helps to have good people to surround you, when needed.

How do you want to be remembered? Fondly! A good woman, daughter, wife, friend, and above all, a good mother.