Tag Archives: Daughter

A lesson learned

The past few weeks have been full of family. I spent a week with my mom in Elgin then my mom and nephew visited us for a week (they drove back with me). Clare flew in from Olympia a couple days before my mom and nephew left, then Andrew, who is working in Boston this summer, visited a few days later. This story begins the afternoon after Andrew left.

Clare offered to drive Andrew back to Boston. They left Monday morning and got to Boston by 3:30 in the afternoon. At 3:45 I received a telephone call from Andrew asking me to check his old backpack for his keys. I found them and told him I’d send them right away.

I packed up the keys in a small Amazon box and drove to the post office. I hate going to the post office so I was grumpy about it. Plus Andrew interrupted me from working and I was grumpy about that — I’d hoped to put in lots of hours the first half of the week so I could spend time with Clare when she returned from the Northeast so I was grumpy about that too. Also I was just plain cranky for no real reason.

The post office we go to is about 20 minutes away and traffic was starting to build up. The parking lot was nearly full, so I expected a long line, but there were only a few customers in the building. Three or four workers were behind the counter and I was seen in about a minute by a woman who was sitting down and didn’t return my smile when I approached her. When I explained that I needed the package to be sent “next day postage she asked sullenly, you mean overnight? I said yes. She handed me a cardboard envelope and told me I needed to fill out a form. I took the envelope and form and walked back to the work station but could not find a pen. The woman behind the desk asked me what I was looking for and when I told her I needed a pen she said I could use hers but not to walk off with it. Because I was in a grumpy mood I said that she seemed to be in a bad mood.She said that any time she gave anyone a pen they walked off with it and postal workers had to buy their own. While I filled out the form she helped another customer, but that person had many packages so I went back in line (longer now) in hopes of getting someone else which I did and this person was not at all sullen. She was very nice in fact.

I felt bad for being unkind to the first woman and even thought about apologizing to her, but ended up just going home, feeling bad the whole way home and into the evening.

Fast forward to this afternoon around 1:30 when my phone rang again. This time it was Clare who I’d dropped off at Dulles Airport this morning to go back to Olympia.

“Mom! Guess what I forgot!” she said either cheerfully or nervously — it was hard to tell.

“I don’t know, what did you forget?” I asked.

“My keys!” she said.

“Oh no! Not you too!” I said. (secretly annoyed)

“Can you send them priority like you did for Andrew?” she asked.

I could have argued that Andrew’s situation was different — he was new to Boston and lived in a boarding house whereas Clare lived with a roommate and friend who had a set of keys — but I told her that I would send the keys today.

That’s how I found myself at the post office again on a Monday afternoon. This time, however, I knew better. I picked up a mailing envelope and form and filled the form out as I stood in line. I’d not pre-wrapped the package — but did put it in a bundled up pair of socks so the keys would not rattle around in the envelope. I secretly prayed that the woman that I was rude to (because she was rude to me is not an excuse) had the day off, but no, there she was, sitting in the same spot she sat in a week ago. And as luck would have it, she was the one open when it was my turn.

This time I didn’t try to smile, but was courteous. She started out sullen, but became almost warm by the time I was finished. The fact that I’d already filled out the form was good, the fact that I was not as grumpy as the last time was probably a positive as well. The socks (heavy SmartWool(TM) hiking socks) were too big for the envelope and I explained that I was only using them so the keys would not rattle. She wouldn’t touch the socks but explained that I should take them apart, place the keys in one sock and fold it over and place it in the envelope along with the other sock. They fit, I thanked her and left. This time I didn’t feel bad and was secretly happy Clare left her keys behind.

I think I will save this in my list of life lessons. Just because someone is rude — appearing to be having a bad day — you don’t need to be rude back even though you may want to be.


The Inn at Mallard Cove

Because Dean had a meeting in Seattle earlier this month and I had some vacation time left, we decided to spend some time with Clare who recently moved to Olympia, Washington. We knew it would not make sense to try to stay with Clare and Bennett so I was tasked with finding a place to stay in the area. At first I thought we’d simply stay at a local motel (although not this one).

Then I got the idea to make it even more special and thought we should stay in a bed and breakfast. It had been a while since we’d done that, not counting the pre-hurricane stay in Cape May last autumn.

Olympia doesn’t have a huge amount of bed and breakfast establishments, but it as a few. I first considered staying at the Swantown Inn which is  5 minute drive from Clare’s house. It had many great reviews on Trip Advisor and is located in a beautiful colorful Victorian mansion. I nearly made reservations there, but I ended up clicking on a link to the Washington Bed and Breakfast Web site and found that there was another B&B a little further away, but right on Puget Sound. According to Google Maps it was only a 20 minute drive from the Inn to Clare’s house and Dean said that was an okay distance to travel. I called the second inn to check if they had room for us and was treated to a delightful conversation with Don, one of the hosts of the Inn at Mallard Cove. As we talked he mentioned that an eagle just flew by. He also brought up the subject of kayaks and said that we could use his kayaks — even in winter. That settled it. I made reservations there because Dean loves to kayak and I love birds.

I spent much of my free between making the reservation and the actual visit to Olympia reading many of the reviews on Trip Advisor. Of the 139 reviews, 134 are 5 star reviews, 4 are 4 star reviews and only one is a negative review by someone that didn’t even stay there — she just complained about their two-day minimum stay in peak season.

Even prepared with the glowing reviews, I was astonished by the beauty of the house (and its location), the hospitality of the hosts, the awesomeness of the breakfasts and the attention do detail in every single thing about the Inn at Mallard Cove.

Don and Linda are simply wonderful hosts. Don is vivaciously friendly and is knowledgeable about almost anything you ask him — especially if it involves the inn or the area. Linda is more reserved, but also very friendly. She, as Don put it several times, is the “brains” behind the operation and it is her attention to detail that makes your stay go smoothly. She is also an amazing cook. Our breakfasts were so delicious and filling that I could have easily waited for dinner before I ate anything more.

On Friday Don took Clare and Dean kayaking on Puget Sound into the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve never kayaked and didn’t want to start kayaking in 30-something degree weather. They had a wonderful time and claim they didn’t even notice the cold.

I have stayed at dozens of bed and breakfasts in the US and in Europe, but I must say that the Inn at Mallard Cove may very well be the best B&B at which I have had the pleasure to stay.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 4 Missoula, MT to Olympia, Washington

Missoula to Olympia

The view out my window when I awoke after a wonderful night’s sleep, with the sound of the Clark Fork River as the backdrop of my dreams, was more than I could have imagined. A lone osprey sat on the topmost branch of the tree directly across the river from our room.

It was difficult to get any work done while the osprey sat there, but I managed a couple hours’ worth.

After packing up and loading up the car, Clare and I had a delicious (and decadently expensive) breakfast in the dining room of the hotel. Clare even got to see the osprey hover.

The drive to Olympia involved misty mountains, Idaho and an unexpectedly barren landscape of Eastern Washington state.

As we neared the Seattle area I expressed disappointment that I’d neglected to bring the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

The Tacoma area was much more built-up than I expected, but Olympia seemed more low-key.

Clare’s house is tiny and, strangely laid out, but a good match for her and her roommate, Bennett. The kitchen is wonderful, with lots of cupboard space and a nice view of the front yard.

We had a late dinner at a bar in Olympia. I must have not been as hungry as I thought because my wild salmon taco was unappetizing. Hopefully next time I am in Olympia I will have something worth eating.

Clare and Bennett had an event to attend, so I reluctantly stayed home. I got to meet one of Bennett’s friends who, when stopping by to pick up some of his stuff, assured me they found a great house in a safe area.

The next morning Clare and Bennett drove me to the airport where I bid Clare a fond adieu. I am pretty sure she is unaware of how much I appreciated the invitation to join her on her trip across the U. S. Someday she will understand, I’m sure.

Photos on page 2

An Unexpected Journey: Part 3 Sheridan, WY to Missoula MT


I awoke early — around 5:30 and did some work before going down to the fake riverside restaurant for breakfast. I’d checked the route and saw that we had an easy day — only 6 hours drive and no planned stops. I did want to stop in Bozeman, having been there 26 years ago for a wedding in nearby Red Lodge.

I called Dean while waiting for my breakfast, then called my mom after eating. When I returned to the room, Clare was awake and we left soon after.

When we got to the car the bees were still there — fewer, but definitely still there. Some seemed to be moving out to other cars. Clare was worried that the bees were the cause of her allergies — they carried pollen into the engine area and when we had the heat or air conditioning on the pollen entered the car. Although I was the first to suggest it, I realized later that was not what was going on. And these guys were not even really bees — more like yellow-jackets.

The drive across Eastern Montana was uneventful. Clare drove first. It is quite flat and almost desert-like, although we did eventually see mountains in the distance. Actually we’d see mountains in the distance and a little while later I’d try to find the mountains again — thinking they must be behind us. It wasn’t until much later when I checked the altitude that I realized we were in the mountains.

We decided to stop for lunch in Bozeman for a couple of reasons. 1) we were hungry 2) I’d been there before. We searched for a nice local diner, but came up empty so turned around and ate at a place near the University with new construction and that “old town” or “Disneyland Main Street” sort of feel — you probably have one in your town. The first place we tried was closed, so we ate at a place that offered vegetarian options.

As we left Bozeman we experienced another violent rainstorm — see the video after the break.

I’d never been west of Bozeman in Montana, so the rest of the journey through Montana was new to me. It is lovely country. We tried listening to “A River Runs Through It” as we drove to Missoula, but it didn’t keep our interest — although now, having been in Missoula — I want to read/listen to/re-watch it.

We rolled into Missoula when there was plenty of daylight left. Clare was trying to arrange a meet-up with friends of a friend. We found the river and thought it beautiful. For lodging, we tried to get a room at a B&B on the river, but no one answered the door, even though the sign said it had a vacancy. I called a couple of hotels in the area and found one with rooms which was a block and a half from where we were parked.

The Doubletree Hotel in Missoula is right on the river. We were offered a room with a view of the river for a substantial amount more than the room without a view, but having seen the river, I chose the room with a view. Clare’d finally talked to the friend of a friend and made plans to meet him later that evening. We admired the river from our balcony, but wanted to get closer, so we went outside and tried to find river access. At first we didn’t think it was possible, but a hotel employee showed us how to get to the river by going around the hotel near the lobby.

As we passed the lobby Clare remarked on the black lab that was tied up to a bench by the lobby door. She said it was there when I was checking in. Now it was howling mournfully.

We spent the last of the daylight on the riverbank. Clare, ever her father’s daughter, took off her shoes and waded into the river before we headed back to our room. On the way back to the room, Clare noticed a man of about 65 – 70 sitting next to the dog and remarked that the dog found its owner. The man looked up and Clare called out, “Is that your dog?”. He replied, “Angel?” Clare called back, “Angel? That’s her name?” He stood up and held out his hand and Clare walked over to him and shook it. He replied that he was pleased to meet her. She asked again if the dog was his and he said that it wasn’t. I realized this was a case of mistaken identity and told him that Clare was not Angel. He didn’t hear me or ignored me. He then said something to Clare about buying her cowboy boots (she was still barefooted) and followed us into the lobby. When we passed the gift store he stopped and said, “Oh it’s closed.” We headed towards our room and he asked where we were going. I said, “she’s not who you think she is,” before we turned again to go. He said again, “Where you goin'”? I shouted, “She is not Angel! She is not who you are looking for.” He finally understood, and mumbled that he had the wrong person.

We returned to our room feeling alternately embarrassed and amused. We figured he’d either hired a prostitute named Angel, met someone online named Angel or had a long-lost granddaughter named Angel whom he’d never met. We figured that the first guess was probably right — that he was waiting for a prostitute named Angel and the mix-up with the dog and Clare’s friendliness and his state of inebriation  made him think Clare was the Angel for whom he was waiting. The only question I had was who thought I was. Angel’s pimp?

About a half hour later Clare and I left the room to get a bite to eat at the bar and as we rounded the corner to the elevator we saw the same man, this time accompanied by two young women, one had pink hair and one had blue hair. We heard him say “I hope there is time for music.”

For a brief moment, everyone froze. Clare said the young women looked at her. I don’t know who looked at whom because I immediately looked at the ground. Once out of earshot we broke out in laughter. It looked like he found his Angel. And Angel’s friend. Now I knew who he thought I was.

After thinking about it, it was really sad that these two young women — probably even younger than Clare — had to make money by entertaining this man. If indeed that was the situation. We may have been wrong in our conclusions — but probably not.

Clare went out with the friend of a friend later that night and had a great time. She saw a band called Baby & Bukowski and said the show was the best live performance she’d ever seen. Their music is good — click the link and check them out yourself.

Photos and video on page 2.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 2 Sioux Falls, SD to Sheridan, WY

Sioux Falls to Sheridan

Our Holiday Inn Express was nothing to write home about — in fact, I don’t even remember what it looked like. It was good just to have a place to sleep after the long drive and an hour or so of working.

We knew we had a long trip ahead of us with a couple of stops on the way. Mount Rushmore was a must — Clare needed to prove to her friends that it really existed. My cousin suggested I stop by Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. Both intrigued me, but it was the Corn Palace I preferred.

When we got to the car, parked in the sun in front of the hotel, Clare noticed a number of bees flying around the hood. She remarked on it, but we thought nothing of it as we headed westward.

I mentioned to Clare that I wanted to stop at the Corn Palace, having seen it in the  documentary King Corn, and when she saw it in a tourist pamphlet she agreed it might be fun. Mitchell, the town that hosts “THE WORLD’S ONLY CORN PALACE!” is a small town, just off Interstate 90. It didn’t take us too long to find it once we exited the highway. We agreed that we were not going in, we just wanted to take a few photos, so we parked a few blocks away and walked to the Corn Palace. (which is made out of corn in case you wondered).

After the Corn Palace we decided to give Wall Drug a miss, despite the tempting signage. Sorry Beth…

As we neared Mount Rushmore, the scenery changed from fields of corn to something that looked like it could be the filming location for a movie about another planet. We had entered the Badlands.

Our next stop was to be Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was not a place I had on my bucket list, but since it was on the way and Clare was determined to prove to Nick and Bennett that it actually exists, we took the 2 hour detour to visit the four presidents.

Mount Rushmore is near a tiny town (whose name I cannot figure out) that looks nearly as kitschy as Wisconsin Dells. We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at a bar that employed people from everywhere except the US.  Our waiter was from Turkey — something he told us upfront. For some reason — maybe he was tired of being asked where he was from.

When we returned to the car Clare noticed the bees again. This time there were many more than back at the hotel. We looked closely and they seemed to be entering and exiting the car through the grill. One landed on a dead bug and carried away a set of wings. We opened the hood and the bees came and went. We thought it was amusing.

Mount Rushmore was sort of interesting. Lots of motorcyclists were there. Lots of people were taking photos. But in the end, it is only a large rock with the faces of four presidents.

When we returned to the car, the bees were still there.

After the two hour detour, we got back on Interstate 90 and drove to Wyoming where we’d already booked a hotel room.

I posted on Facebook that I’d hoped to see the Devil’s Tower (the rock formation that was prominently featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but when Clare and I stopped at a rest area/tourist information place we were told that we could not see it from Interstate 90 and it might be a 50 mile drive. Oh well, I thought, maybe someday…

After entering Wyoming I asked Clare if she would take over driving — we were about an hour away from Sheridan. She said okay and I pulled into a parking area. As we switched seats I happened to look out over the field to the right of the highway and saw the Devil’s Tower in the distance. It was pretty far away, but unmistakable. I think I also saw a Western Tanager fly past.

If you have ever been out West, you know that the sky seems bigger there. Growing up in Illinois, I remember being able to look out across the cornfields and see rain miles away — it always looked like a gray sheet of paper coming out of the cloud. Further west, were we were, the rain in the distance looks different — more like wisps of mist hanging from the clouds to the earth. We wondered what they were and asked our Turkish waiter, but he didn’t seem to understand the question and said something about all the rain they got there. Later on our trip drove through one and found out the mist was a rainstorm.

Also, if you have been out West recently, you know that the speed limit is 75 mph on the Interstate. When I drove, I probably drove a little more than 75. Clare drove even faster. However, there are few cars on the road out there. When darkness fell we had two scary incidents. A violent thunderstorm took place for a few minutes and a doe strolled out in front of us (not at the same time, thank goodness). Clare is an excellent driver and navigated the tumultuous rain very well. When the deer walked directly in front of our car Clare slowed down and swerved around her.

Our hotel in Sheridan was also a convention center. It had a strange bit of water over which a bridge separated the lounge area from the restaurant area.


We checked out the bar and then went to bed. We were halfway through with our journey.

An Unexpected Journey: Part 1 Maryland to Sioux Falls, SD

When we last left our intrepid traveler she was embarking on a journey from one coast to another. Wednesday morning she called from Illinois to tell me that her traveling companion had to go home on family business. She was heartbroken for an number of reasons. I asked if she wanted me to fly out and help her drive. I told her to think about it and let me know later that day.

When we spoke again she said she’d like me to help her drive to Olympia, so I booked a flight to Chicago for the next morning.

She picked me up and we drove to my Mom’s house where she’d stayed the past two nights. Mom was confused and didn’t understand that I wasn’t sticking around. She thought I was there to drive Clare back to our house (Washington State/Washington DC — people do occasionally get confused about that, I suppose). So Mom was sad when we drove off. Clare was also sad. I guess I was the only not sad person because I’d always wanted to drive cross-country and I got a few more intense days with my daughter.

Clare planned the trip and our first stop was to be Sioux Falls, South Dakota about 8 hours from Elgin and to get there we had to drive through Wisconsin and Minnesota.


Clare was feeling poorly — she thought allergies. I thought common cold — so I drove first. We headed north thorough Wisconsin — we passed Baraboo and the Dells, places I remember fondly from my childhood.

About an hour after the Dells area we entered Minnesota, a virgin state for both of us. Southern Minnesota is pretty much the same as Wisconsin, except maybe more hilly and with fewer (actually zero) signs for cheese. We did, however, begin seeing signs for Wall Drug.

We also saw thousands of wind turbines. For miles and miles it looked like an alien invasion — giant white creatures twirling their appendages at us. As darkness fell all we could see were thousands of blinking lights. It was spectacular. I tried to get a photo or two, but everything is blurry.

South Dakota (another virgin state for us) didn’t seem much different from Wisconsin or Minnesota. the Wall Drug billboards and signs became more frequent and were joined by Rushmore  and the Corn Palace signs. Many of the Rushmore signs were on what seemed to be abandoned semi (articulated lorry) trailers.

By this time, Clare was driving and I was trying to work a little — but that didn’t last long. It was dark by the time we rolled into Sioux Falls and as we navigated to the hotel at which we hoped to sleep we saw fireworks in the distance. Not your average fireworks either. Some pretty amazing pyrotechnics. Earlier in the day I suggested that we maybe should book a hotel in Sioux Falls in case there was a convention there and all the hotels were full. Clare thought I was being silly and I sort of thought that too. Turns out that the first two hotels we tried were booked because of a convention. A fireworks convention. Luckily there was another nearby hotel that had a room for us.

I’d worried the night before the trip — about the flight and about the drive, but it all worked out fine in the end.

Perfect illustration for my feelings about the turbines

Gone for good

The miracle zinnia has died.

Andrew has returned to Oberlin.

Clare has left for her Big Adventure in the Northwest.

Clare leaving

The zinnia had an incredibly long life — for a zinnia — so its demise doesn’t really bother me. Andrew’s permanent address continues to be the same as mine, and he can still legitimately call our house home. Clare, on the other hand, has moved out for good. She’ll probably continue to call Bethesda “home” for a while — I still sometimes say “I’m going home” when talking about visiting Elgin — but after a while this will be a place she once lived and where her mom and dad live.

I am truly grateful I had this summer with her (Andrew too, of course — but he’s not gone for good yet). I think we both were able to have some closure.

And no, I didn’t cry.