The upside of ebola: It can turn a slob into a Lysol-brandishing traveler

I am so sick of hearing about ebola, I could bleed out of my eye sockets.

Just kidding, all right? It’s a joke, for crying out loud. We can’t even joke about it?

I think it’s all a bit overblown since the odds of my dying from the flu this season or being hit by a distracted driver who’s texting his besty about his weekend plans to score some ganja are a lot higher than my contracting ebola.

No one’s devoting 35% of every news hour to distracted driving, right? Oh, it doesn’t sell advertising? I see.

I think one of the worst things about ebola (besides the threat of death) is the loss of human interaction. “When you go a week without seeing a human face, that does something to you,” said Dr. Kent Brantly, the American medical missionary who recovered from ebola. “I didn’t have the touch of another human being’s skin till the time I was released from [the hospital].”

The lesson here: Let your dog lick your cheek and appreciate it now because you don’t know when you might catch ebola.

Still, when I ran across a story in this month’s Real Simple magazine titled, “How to Degerm a Hotel Room,” I ripped it out and starting assembling a travel bag of Lysol and disinfecting wipes. I’m traveling this week, and who needs to catch ebola from a hotel drinking glass, right?

I am normally not that traveler (sometimes I even leave the bedspread on the bed and — gasp! — sleep under it). Yeah, and I’m the one who sometimes clips my toenails in a hotel room. So there. Such a rebel.

But you know, exercising an abundance of caution seems in keeping with all the talking heads on the TV news. So I’ll adopt a little bit of clean freak attitude. What of it?

I also saw “Gone Girl” on Friday. I’m thinking about hiding the box cutters around here. You never know.

Packing tips for the fashion conscious

Let’s begin with the concept of Fashion Plates when determining what to pack for next week’s conference of personal historians in St. Louis.

Fashion Plates was an artsy toy from the late 1970s that allowed you to “design” your own fashions with interchangeable plates embossed with outlines of shirts, skirts and pants. The young artist, or designer, would rub the embossed shapes to get the outlines, then color in the clothes with fashionable colored pencils. Voila! A new fashion design!

This is how a 47-year-old who played with Fashion Plates makes her packing list:

packing list

I start with a killer piece — the jeans that fit perfectly, a pair of black boots or a new jacket with a Kelly green print — and I build an outfit around it, drawing an ensemble for each day. A visual representation is a lot more fun than a list, and it helps me remember hosiery or jewelry that knocks the look out of the park (sorry to use a baseball metaphor, St. Louis).

Note: You should look at the weather forecast before drawing your packing list.

Another advantage of drawing your list is packing by day. Who says all your underwear needs to be packed in the same place in your suitcase? When I went to Minnesota recently and slept in a different bed each night, I packed a different bag for each location.

I even figure out what to wear on travel day so I’m not hemming and hawing in my closet when I need to get moving.

Off to design my list!

Autumn transformation

The hickory tree in the back yard was one of the selling points of this house. All the houses on this side of the street butt up against a wetlands area, but only our house had mature trees on the lot. A lot of things have changed in seven years, including the trees that have grown up in the neighborhood, but I love our hickory tree best.

I know from past experience this tree that greets me every morning through my bathroom window while I stand in the tub brushing my teeth turns brilliant yellow before she sheds her leaves, so I’ve been taking pictures of her (almost) every day since Sept. 5, just so I could show you, too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Soon those golden beauties will be lawn carpet, but today they were lovely.

I’m not the only one who loves the hickory tree. The squirrels love it, too. It’s their playground (and dinner hall and hammock and love shack) all summer long. Here’s my favorite shot, with the squirrel nest in the upper left.


on my shoulders
makes me happy.”

~ John Denver

My mortification has been, um, rescheduled

Time to tie up a few loose ends and make a shameless plug for an upcoming appearance.

Regular readers will remember I was scheduled to perform in Mortified: Chicago in August. It’s the live diary reading thingy whatsy, remember? A grassroots storytelling forum for adults to share excerpts of the strange and embarrassing things they did as kids as a way to reveal stories about their lives? Yes, that thingy.

I talked about how excited I was to perform, and then, poof, I never mentioned it again. And Minnesota Transplant practically fell off the face of the earth in August and September. And then I mentioned a Very Bad Thing happened Aug. 2.

I never made it to the theater on that fateful day in August so I didn’t perform. The Very Bad Thing didn’t have anything to do with being mortified.

While my Beloved, my Adored Stepson and I were driving into the city that afternoon, we got one of those terrible phone calls that mark the moments in life of Everything Before and Everything After. My brother-in-law, my husband’s only sibling, had been involved in a serious accident and was in the emergency room at a nearby hospital. We immediately changed course and raced to meet my sister-in-law at the hospital, where we spent many, many hours and days over the following weeks.

I could write a book about the ups-and-downs of this experience but the news two-and-a-half months later is good: My brother-in-law survived and is recuperating. We are thankful and hopeful.

And (this blog is all about me after all) … my performance in Mortified: Chicago has been rescheduled. Yay! There are no life-or-death stakes in Mortified: Live (for the audience anyway). It’s all fun and goofiness. And I could use a little fun and goofiness.

The date’s set, and I’m performing Saturday, Dec. 6 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Tickets sell out fast, I’m told, so if you want to see this amazing aberration, order now. (Here’s the link to buy tickets if you can wedge it in your busy schedule.)

Not sure if this show is for you? Click on this link and scroll down to the video. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll become a part of you. It’s worth 112 seconds of your life. Enjoy!

Sunrise on a new blog image

Time for a new header photo here at Minnesota Transplant.


full lake shot

For no better than reason than that I ran across this beautiful shot of my sister’s lake view in my father’s collection of photos. Yesterday, I shared a stunning night shot of the Eiffel Tower that he captured. He might not think of himself as very artistic, but he knows when to grab a camera (he has a sense for aethestics in his woodworking, too — maybe he does consider himself an artist).

Many things say “Minnesota” to me: Fried walleye, wild rice, a fresh snowfall, for example. But also, “lake.” Minnesota is the land of 10,000 of them. This photo captures the peace of lake living that my sister enjoys every day.

“For more people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.”

Richard H. Baker

You can go home again


There’s a line in a canvas print of life advice I have hanging in my office that sums up a recent visit back home:

“Drink wine, eat great food and spend quality time with good friends.”

I went to Minnesota — by myself, without my Beloved — to take care of a project and wrap up a few loose ends. My Beloved was occupied with other pressing matters, and he’s not just not as enthusiastic about Minnesota as I am (there’s no accounting for taste — he was born in Illinois, go figure). I had a great time.

One of things I had to do was hear about my parents’ 50th anniversary trip to Europe and look at their photos (I could have heard about the trip on the phone, but there’s nothing like looking at travel photos with the travelers). Here’s one of the shots my father captured in Paris:


Eiffel Tower, September 2014

Dad has always been the good photographer in the family. This shot should be a poster. Mom and Dad prepared a delicious dish of grilled salmon for me. And they shared a bottle of wine they carried back from Germany (it was delicious).

“Travel often.”

I also got to catch up with my nephews, including Drew, who celebrates his 15th birthday this week. Ah, 15. Such a tricky year. But because he’s old enough to babysit his younger brothers and still tethered to the house by his lack of a driver’s license, his parents and I had the opportunity to partake in an interesting wine tasting where I learned why acidity in a wine is a good thing.

“Spend time with family.”

My best-friend-since-seventh-grade and I went shopping together and enjoyed a lingering glass of red wine while we caught up until midnight. And then my friend Barb, who can solve almost every problem with a good meal, made a Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup for me. Just because she thought I’d like it. And I did. It was delicious. With a glass of white wine.

“Spend time with people you admire.”

Coincidentally, I was in town for the annual happy hour for former Creative Memories Employees. Maybe not every workplace carries an air of nostalgia for its former employees, but Creative Memories does. Part of what made it such a great place to work (at least when I was there) was the people. What fun catching up with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years (and some of us were drinking wine, too).

“Reminisce about the good old days but look with optimism to the future.”

Just as I was leaving the happy hour get-together, I ran into my ex. He worked at Creative Memories, too (and in the end, I think he stuck it out more years than I did, so he could probably lay more claim to the former workplace than I do; we didn’t specify ownership of that piece of our lives in our divorce decree). I walked up to him and brushed his arm to tell him, “Hey, I’m on my way out the door so you can mingle freely,” and the two people he was chatting with took a step back. I think they might have expected a brawl.

No punches were thrown.

But I found it amusing.

“Be nice to everyone. Be happy.”

Please Mr. Postman (and thank you)

Monica Lee:

I sat down to write a dozen letter today, plus a few to send later this month for Halloween. To be fair, I didn’t actually write them by hand; I wrote (and sent) them by computer. But they were individual messages, typed into cards chosen specifically for the recipient. And they’ll have real postage stamps.

I love letters, and I probably always will. I’m a paper kind of girl. I suppose by now I’m a paper-loving old lady, but in any case, a personal note can’t be beat.

It reminds me of this post I penned, so to speak, a couple of years back (when postage for a letter was only 44 cents).

Originally posted on Minnesota Transplant:

Who doesn’t love mail?

Sure, you can find a lot of crap in your mailbox — bills, advertisements, newsletters from your Congressman — but the idea that a handwritten letter might be in there draws you to check the box the first minute the postman, er, letter carrier, steps away from the porch. Or curb. Or vast bank of bland letterboxes.

Email might preoccupy us the same way we used to obsess about snail mail, but the yearning to discover “you’ve got mail” is more intense for a delivery that comes only once a day.

As my postmistress was weighing letters for me this morning, I told her how much I appreciate her. The post office here is as little as the village, and thank goodness, it’s not in danger of closing like thousands of other little post offices across the country as the U.S. Postal Service overhauls its operation…

View original 304 more words