Welcome to MOATET!

MOATET:  Musings of a traveling English teacher.

Apparently, one can spell travelling with two “L”s as they do in the UK.  In any case, welcome to my blog which also links to my new website, http://www.borrowpitadventures.com.

This un-moated, German/Saxon castle is “Burg Kriebstein”.  Burg means castle, and Stein means rock; Krieb is probably the family name. (In German, you pronounce the second verb in a combination, so this is “kreeb” and not “kribe”, “stine” and not “steen”.  Reference Gene Wilder in “Frankenstein” for clarification.)  I’ve never been there, but I thought it was pretty.

Thank you for joining me on my journeys.  I heartily welcome your comments!  Without you, there is no conversation.

P.S. “MOATET” can be pronounced “Moh-tay” for fancy times, but I prefer “Moe-tett”.  It does not escape me that the first syllable is pretty much the big ditch that goes around a castle.

P.P.S.  Please note that pronunciations are of enormous interest to me.  Part of my musings.


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2018 Ramping up!

Short and sweet: we are heading out! Ken’s contract expires 9/7/18, and we are on the road soon after.  More to follow as I organize thoughts and plan how to make this blog a reality.pexels-photo-490411.jpeg

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Day One: To Canada

While watching Mike put together the Mario Kart car from Ken:  “Dad, were you born to do this?”

Spent a lovely 2 hours at the Quashne’s for a Miles/Grammy birthday breakfast of sorts.  Lots of fun, lots of sticky waffle baby hands.  A perfect morning.

At about 10:30, we headed north towards Buffalo and Niagra Falls!  We had every intention of seeing the falls, but things happen.  The most surprising was we saw signs to the Harriet Tubman homestead in Aurora, and her Home for the Aged that she established once she remained in NY.  We couldn’t stay long enough for a tour, but met some nice folks who let me buy a commemorative t-shirt even though they had just closed.

We had about a 1/2 hour wait crossing into Canada, but we were excited to see the falls!  I knew from legend that the Canada side was “better” than the American, so we passed by the sign to the American Falls and on the other side tried to find any sort of sign directing us to the Canadian.  I’m not sure Canada “does” parks like we do.  No sign, nothing.  We looked at the GPS but nothing was obvious.  So we turned back and tucked into a pizza place before almost accidently getting back in line to cross back into the US.

Our nice waiter brought out a tourist map, and showed us how to find the falls which were barely visible in the middle of everything.  He said it would be very hard to get in and out of that part of town because it was a Saturday night and a “zoo”, so we opted to keep going and plan a fall trip.  We kept going up to Caledon, ON, CA where I had booked a small B&B, Forest Creek.

By the time we got there it was dark, of course, and we happened to check in at 10:00 pm which was the exact same time one of the other families was doing the same.  The owner was a bit confused, thinking we were all together, but we were finally ushered into the “Sunshine Room” and collapsed.  Breakfast was pleasant: homemade quiche, honey-sweetened granola on fresh fruit, and fresh-squeezed o.j.

For better or worse, we were also treated to Pippa, a 5-month-old puppy who was a bit out of control, but cute.  The owner proudly showed us his bandaided finger from his most recent nip.  He admitted that he and his wife were cat owners by tradition, and it was clear he had no idea how to keep Pippa from grabbing Ken’s napkin off his lap for fun.  We checked out, and moved on, but it was a nice stay.


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Road Trip, 2017

Day One:  Preparations

Years ago, when my parents started a road trip (and there were many) it was important to get the VW ready and to finish any errands before leaving town.  My mom would have written several lists, all of which were checked off by the day of departure.  Her “must do” items included packing mostly, and I can still remember how itemized those lists were:

Becky:  shorts, tops, socks, shoes, underwear, (no bras yet), headbands, bathing suit,   bathing cap (yup), jacket, etc.  I imagine when we were very young her list included diapers for Les, the old cloth kind.  Ew.

My dad, on the other hand, had a scratchy list which was no doubt written on the back of an envelope.  He always used a black felt pen (“Flair”) and I still have one those lists in my keepsake box.  His jobs were to print the bulletin, mow the lawn, have the oil and belts checked, replace one of the tires, call any number of people, buy a new map, etc.  Needless to say, mom had everything ready on time and we kids were practically bouncing in our seats.  My packing list included books, of course. But our hoped-for early Saturday departures were always considerably delayed by dad’s last minute errands.  At some point over the years, I realized any Jorn vacation would fail to launch before late afternoon, but from then on we were set and on the way to Ohio for a first stop with relatives.

For my road trip, the day also started late but Ken and I were both working and I had to clean up after my final day at Cooking Camp.  For the past 3 weeks, I have been teaching at the local college’s Kids on Campus program and I was the chef for 5 classes.  This information has my family confused since I am not traditionally a cook, but I exceeded even my own expectations with homemade/scratch pasta noodles, tomato sauce, lemon cake, candies, blueberry pie, and even croissants.  Still checking for powdered sugar in my hair.

We left Denton at approximately 5:30 pm and after “coffee-ing up” went straight toward Route 313 in Delaware and then I-95.  After Wilmington and Philly, we turned northwest toward Allentown and spent the night at The Globe Inn in East Greenville, PA.  Our innkeeper, Mike, was welcoming and considerate although we did not see him this trip. (Ken and I had spent the night here a few weeks back.)  Mike left the keys in the mailbox and we creeped up to the 3rd floor on creaky, narrow stairs to the Hemingway Suite.  Each room/suite at The Globe is thematic.  I noticed old books in picture boxes on the wall, and the map motiff wall paper.  Ken noticed the flopped over rifle case which was hung in readiness for the ghost of Ernest and his safari crew.  Unfortunately, the case was slung over a lone nail on the wall and hung limply in a half moon: a bit uninspriring, but other than that, I was ready to tumble into bed and dream of our upcoming adventures.  Tomorrow we see Miles and family to celebrate his 6th birthday!


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On Checkout Line manners


Happy 4th!

First, can I tell you how much mental math takes place when you hit a “going out of business” sale?  We went to Gander Mountain yesterday and spent an hour or more looking at discounted goods.  Seriously, how much ammo does one need?  Fishing gear?  We did find some great buys on outdoor gadgets, performance-fabric items, and even camo mugs, but our pockets were quite a bit lighter on the way out.

The problem with big sales, as I see it, is that you are never quite sure if you are getting a real bargain, or just a “bait and switch” bargain.  And, exactly how much is 20% more off of the 40% sale price off of the outlet price which is already discounted from the retail?  Bottom line, don’t go in if you are not prepared.  And don’t wait in line for the bottom line if you have forgotten your checkout line strategies and manners.

Who knows the best way to choose the fastest line?  Often, it is not the shortest if one is merely counting bodies.  And, if doing a body count, keep in mind that small kids and teens don’t count.  They are placeholders without cash.  A better strategy is to do an item count.  Better yet, is to assess the difficulty of scanning each of those items.  Will the checker have to go around the counter and/or cart to use that scanny thing?  Can he scan like items by scanning once and then hitting some magical “X 20” button on the register? Or, might the ice cream have to be double-bagged or the greeting cards and snuff go in bags of their own?  All questions for consideration.

But the best way, by far, to assess the best line choice is to carefully observe the checker herself.  So, so much about the way you move through a line is impacted by the quick or sluggish movement of the hands, arms, and overall body movements of the person behind the counter.  She can make or break/brake your shopping experience, sale or no sale.  In our family, Ken has learned to defer to me when choosing a line.  I have chided him time and time again for taking the “short” route only to find the line is short because it is about to close, or those ahead have seen the flashing blue “help me!” light over the register and he has not.  Although I do make an occasional error, I do have the better track record and so I am sharing my secrets with you.  By the way, we keep score and so should you.

Hands:  If she is just using one to pick up, scan, and then bag your items, avoid at all cost.   It’s like when you weed a garden: if you have to bend down and break your back to pull offending plants, you might as well use both hands to grab more at a time.  We do this naturally with salad tongs or diaper-changing, so why not here?

Arms:  Like hands, these need to go at full speed with no rest for the weary.  Picture yourself doing laundry or cooking with only one arm going.  This is not to insult friends or family who might only have one, but they have made accommodations for their different abilities and so must the checker.

Body: Now we’re talking total checkout motion, using the core to swing right then left from item to scan to bag.  Sometimes, you will see an excellent checker use their body in a rhythmic fashion, semi-lunging in each direction in time to the conveyor belt speeds.  A prime checker is likely to burn 20 calories per minute when using full body movement compared to one with lazy, un-timed hands.

Smile, voice, and tone:  Finally, if the checker has met all of the requirements for “best”, as outlined above, you can make your ultimate decision based on the quality of conversation he is having with the customers in front.  Now, this can go two ways.  If the checker is smiling and chatting while looking mostly at the products, you are good to go.  If he scans quickly, stops, smiles, chats, scans quickly, stops, smiles, chats… beware.  This is a prime checker in the making, and likely the most popular at the lunch table, but choose with caution.

Now, on to manners.

At Gander Mountain, where I was helping Ken spend a lot of money, only one line was open on a holiday-going-out-of-business day.  Absurd!  The line was backing up through the merchandise tables and racks and the end was about a quarter mile from the bagging area.  Thus, applying my “choice for best checker” strategy was pointless.  Instead, I opted for “choice for best position in line”, meaning square behind the customer ahead so it was clear …. very clear… where the line was ending.  (By the way, this free for all method in some stores leads to nothing but trouble.  I totally appreciate Marshalls, for example, who has you streamlined (or cattle-lined) in a tightly controlled row of “grab and go” items.  Impulse purchasing is the way retailers make their best money, you know that.  So to have us lined up perfectly in clear-cut lanes is appreciated by all, although you are at the mercy of the “Next!!!” lady.)

But in Gander Mountain, with only one line and a crowd of vultures, I was forced to stake out my place.  All of a sudden, I turned from my last looks at cheap sunglasses to see a woman, man, and two red-white-and-blue-clad youngsters take up the space to my right with eyes forward as if they were the next in line!!!  They even had a shopping cart, with one item, partially wedged between me and the man in front as if to casually nudge me out of the way when I wasn’t looking!!!!  I raged inside.

“Excuse me”, I said to the mom.  “I am in line here.  This is my place.  The end of the line is back there. Beware those of us who stake out our place in line with fervor.  Take your American kids and move it.”

“I know”, she snapped back. “I’m aware of that.”

I wasn’t sure.  I edged my cart into the back of the knees of the man in front.  I leaned over the child-ride part and bent my head in exhaustion to indicate I could not see nor hear her and I was therefore unable to do anything but slide forward.  She did not move an inch.  She did not take her place in the back of the line or remove her goofy kids from my sight.  But I had drawn the line in patriotic colors and she knew it.  That was enough for me.

Until, of course, Ken chimed, “Hon?  Why don’t we let them go first?!  She only has one thing and we have so much!”  Sigh and damnation.

It was true … all of it…. it was the nicer thing to do, to let her move up a space and take her sweet kids and handsome husband off to the fireworks asap.  I had to admit it was exactly what I always do in the same situation even without my generous husband to remind me of good manners.  In shame, I nodded to her and she rewarded me with a wonderful smile, many thanks, a good old-fashioned chuckle at how frustrating it is to have only one checker on such a busy day, etc.  And I knew that God above would reward me in time for my consideration and kindness.  That is, until, I took my place in front of the using-one-hand-only, using-one-arm-only, body-not-swaying, chit-chat-and stopping check out girl from hell.

Ken, on the other hand, will be heading toward the Pearly Gates since he smiled back at her, took off all of the hangers, folded items, bagged them, asked her how her day was going, and then ultimately thanked her for working on a holiday so the rest of us could play.

Checkout line manners:  Score 1 for Ken.

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On parenting your parent: running shoes

120082Mom (Pat) is on a cruise to Alaska.  She flew to Washington yesterday and boarded her vessel in the afternoon.  Now mind you, Mom is 80.  She is smart, sprightly, and sophisticated, and to complete the alliteration: sometimes somewhat silly. Silly is a good thing.  Like many of us, Mom has worked very hard in life and gives a good portion of it back in dollars, time, and care.  But she is also a traveler, and reserves some folding money for fun and adventure, as she should. She and her buddy are up north for 2 weeks.  I expect not to hear from her.

But why silly??  Consider walking shoes.

“Beck… what do you think of my shoes?”  I look down and observe her serviceable, gray, Danish, Eccos and wonder how to best answer this question.  Eccos are considered top drawer in circles other than mine since a new pair costs about a buck forty and up.  But the company is solid, at least on paper, and I am impressed with their culture, at least on paper.  Here is a link to their “social responsibility” tab.  Also, you can check out their shoes.  http://us.shop.ecco.com/heritage.html?subject=heritage-social-responsibility

Anyway, Mom has determined her old Ecco shoes are just not up for the rigors of boat life in Alaska.  Meaning, she is well aware of the miles she will be walking (usually over 10,000 steps a day!) but she wants to be fashionable as well as comfortable.  They look just fine to me.

“Mom … why don’t you just pop those in the washer or sink and freshen them up a bit!  That way, you know you have a reliable pair.”

“Well, I dunno.  They just look old.”

Even after two, brief lines of conversation, I know we are heading out and she finds a trendy running store up Falls Road in the city.  We say “up” when heading north.  Perhaps you do too.  She is determined to buy the perfect new walking shoes, but realizes Ecco models are not easy to come by in person.  She has researched an alternative brand, Asics, and is on a mission.  Not sure what happened exactly, but the really nice folks at Falls Road Running Store- http://www.baltimorerunning.com -took one look at her small frame and old shoes, heard that she needed arch support, and took her down the “modernist” aisle of totally amazing and colorful kicks.  Price points were not discussed.

“Beck … what do you think of these?”  Her once gray-clad feet are now sporting a pink, orange, blue, and some version of green Brooks.  Personally, I think they rock.  But if you know my mom (or yours) she was horrified.  The gracious yet confused team member brought out pair after pair that were in her size, close to her size, wide, narrow, arched, somewhat arched, but to a pair, brilliantly colorful.

“Beck… what do you think I should do?”  This is just a bad question all around, inviting multiple potential responses.  I am secretly chuckling because I darn well know she wants to find a conservative, octogenarian shoe and avoid looks, but I challenge her.  “Mom, I think these are all really fashionable and tell the world how modern and fun you are!  Are they comfortable?”   A silly question on my part.  Of course they are comfortable, but that’s not the point.

I finally give in and agree with her, no surprise there, and tell the poor young man we must move on.  Nothing here will do. Later, I console Mom by reminding her that the athletic shoe industry has simply not gone far enough to satisfy the “older woman” who needs comfort, support, but perhaps just a hint of color.  She agrees.  Actually, this might be true.

A few days ago, I get this exuberant message on my phone.  “Beck… I found my shoes!  I drove up to Towson and found a great pair at Nordstrom.  I’ll show them to you when I get back.”  Asics perhaps? And so somewhere on a ship in Alaska this evening or tomorrow, my mom will be running around with a good friend, cell phone, drink in hand, bright eyes, and respectable shoes.

I’m just not sure how I feel about all this.

Comments? 🙂

Here are her two new pair!  The left is a bit racy I think.  The right? Classic.

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Borrow Pit: what my husband calls the ditch along the road


Along the cog railway to Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

“BorrowPitAdventures” is a name I chose many years ago while planning a year-long hiatus with my husband, Ken.  I intended, like others, to record our foray into the unknown. So far, we haven’t left the area, but the plan is still out there.  We had hoped to leave our jobs, say good-bye to our youngest after she crossed the high school graduation stage, and pack up our 1967 Airstream for places out west.  Still planning.

Ken was born and raised in Montana, and after our 3 daughters grew up, we vowed to get him back out there for some much deserved peace, open spaces, and mountain joy.  I figured, correctly, that in the meantime we would have many unintentional borrow pit adventures, casting about for guidance while parenting, working, and navigating the busy life, and roads, on the East Coast.  But as of today, June 15, 2017, I am starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of our tunnel of responsibility, and predict we will be off and running within a few more years.  Or, so I hope.

For now, I will blog a bit on what it means to be over 50 (well, over 56), in love with a curmudeonly but amazing man, and mother and grandmother to a growing family.  Perhaps you will find a word or two that causes a smile, or even a guffaw.  I hope you enjoy reading, and am confident that if you do, you will recognize your own wild self in a borrow pit adventure of your own!  Here’s to joy.


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