Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Moments ago (well, by the time I get this posted, it could be hours, and you might be a little slow on the read-me trigger so it could be days), I received an email from Joe Brancatelli with the words "Breaking News" leading the subject line. When Joe talks, I listen. Always. When it comes to astute, timely, wry, invaluable travel information, Joe is my hero .

Joe was advising his subscribers (worth every penny!) that American Airlines had grounded some of its MD-80s today, Wednesday, March 26. Since I neither work nor travel with the news broadcasting in the background (just give me silence or some great tunes), as usual, Joe was my first source for this critical piece of info. But even if I was Our Lady of the Perpetual Need for News, Joe often reports pertinent travel news hours—and sometimes days—before the news actually does. I don't question his sources; Joe knows, and that's all I need to know.

The reason for this MD-80 grounding had to do with the FAA and the inspection of wires. (Yes, better safe than sorry, but that's not my point here.) At the time of Joe's email, 200 flights already had been or would be cancelled today. Just like that, at a first (or second or too often thousandth) sign of possible trouble, a major airline ACTIVATED. Whoa.

This got me to thinking. I believe I'm personally exhibiting signs of faulty wiring, if you will. I've experienced many warning signs lately (yawning, forgetfulness, sparks), and yet, I plow on. Perhaps—and who would have ever guessed I'd say this?—I should take a lead from the airlines and abruptly ground MYSELF from all activity until someone declares me safe enough to fly, baby, fly (write, speak, write, do laundry, clean the toilet, write) again!

Picture this approach working for you. Without warning to those who depend upon you, you quietly—because you don't want to upset anyone (or wake them up) or make them think you can just do this kind of thing—send out a high-priority email with the subject line, "BREAKING NEWS: I've grounded myself." The body of your missive might go something like this.

Take note: I might not be safe. I might yell, scream, roll my eyes, experience a breakdown or spiral downward from the height of your admiration. Because of this, my departure to reach our meeting could be anywhere from five minutes to eight hours late, depending on the climate of my temperament. I need time to get a grip on myself.

Due to rocky moods, when and if I do arrive, I won't be serving coherent thoughts, so bring your own.

Should you entrust me with your fancy widgets anyway, they likely won't pass my evil-eye inspection. But even before that, I will--and you can take this to the bank--ask you to remove your shoes when entering my office, even though I'M GROUNDED and we're NOT going to move one inch toward completion of our project any time soon.

Should you decide to abandon me for another partner during my sudden and temporary (oh, please, oh please!) grounding, you'll likely discover that all you've accomplished is to swap one rocky road for another. But go ahead and try it anyway. I'm sure you'll be back. After all, I'm ME!"

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Flying Featherly High

It's an exciting time to be anywhere near MN, and I'm currently in it! I'm in MN because I'm "hiding" to work on a new book project, which is always exciting. But it's double exciting to be here because the National Eagle Center in Wabasha ("Home of 'Grumpy Old Men' movies"—but sorry to say, you've already missed this year's annual festival ) is only a hop-skip away from me, and this weekend, March 7, 8 and 9, the annual Soar With the Eagles celebration takes place. If you're within gettin'-here distance, GET HERE! You won't be sorry.

Last week, my husband came up to MN (we live in Chicagoland) to take a break with me. We enjoyed a relaxing (well, aside from the POT--feel teeth gnashing together--HOLES) and scenic drive up the river on Highway 61 to Wabasha, where, for the first time, we visited the new National Eagle Center. (Take several 360-degree tours.) It's right on the river, and it's chock full of educational info; LIVE up-close-and-personal eagles, both in and out of the center; souvenirs; and a stunning view.

Wabasha itself is a Worthy stop. Some of my personal favs: the Chocolate Escape (indulge yourself in gourmet chocolates while sitting in front of picture windows facing the river); the Book Cliffs book store (Nancy, the owner, is a wealth of knowledge, not only about books, but the area); and the historic Anderson House ). But I have to say, the National Eagle Center is now WAAAAY up there on my list of pleasurable educational experiences in the entire southeastern MN area.

This weekend, the National Eagle Center will not only enable you to SOAR with the eagles, but staff and volunteer workers will offer you a number of ways to get "nose to beak" with them, including via a narrated PADDLEWHEEL cruise, and/or a guided motor coach tour! (Tickets available online--although at the time of this post, they're currently instructing visitors to phone 877-332-4537 .)

To whet your appetite, here's a personal testimony from our recent visit. We enjoyed browsing the center and taking in the 3 PM Eagle Feeding and Education Presentation. A volunteer brought one of the resident eagles right into the room with us, and we got to watch her (the eagle, that is) chow down on raw rabbit and fish.

If you think that type of show will be the top billing, consider this: you can learn all about eagle POOP, too! Yes, eagle POOP is worthy of its own educational exhibit. Think about it, then consider why your pet's poop is not "display" worthy.

Then again, if you do believe your pet's POOP is display worthy, do not tell me.

The eagle has always represented all we hold dear, and through our combined efforts, it's about to come off the endangered species list. What else might we save if we all worked together?! Even funny man Steven Colbert is talking about this, and, as always, he's worth a thought-provoking, grin-inducing watch. Check out his show clip, and you'll not only get to meet Harriet, one of the eagle residents at the National Eagle Center, but watch her eat a snack. Get yourself to SOAR WEEKEND and you'll get to meet Harriet in person.

INTERESTING TIDBIT: Harriet is The Eagle on Minnesota's Veterans' license plates project.

DISTURBING TIDBIT: the awesome twangy feathery hairdo on the top of her head (watch the Colbert clip) was AIR BRUSHED OUT for the picture on the plates.

The eagle, our American symbol, air-brushed to perfection.

I'm not even gonna allow myself to think about all those implications.