You Go, Grandma

wheres the beefI had two pretty boring grandmas.  As far as I know, anyway; it’s not like I ever made much of an effort to get to know them as anything other than a great fan of the bargain basement and the Lawrence Welk Show (my dad’s mom) and the chain-smokingest, best meatball maker ever to come out of Potter, Nebraska (my mom’s). They both lived through the Depression and watched their husbands march off to war and raised reasonably well-adjusted families (we’ll say, for the sake of keeping this post moving…); my dad has four brothers and four sisters — maybe that was quite enough excitement for my Grandma Mil.


But, try as we might, we never unearthed much in the way of a secret past for either one of them.  Mil wasn’t a riveter or a welder or a test pilot during World War II; Edie didn’t spy on Hitler or seduce Picasso or play professional baseball.  They were housewives in sensible shoes (Edie did sport the occasional spectator pump in her day, but Mil was Keds all the way) who cracked the very occasional joke and day-to-day did the best they could, and who wants to watch a movie about that? Continue reading

Vote for Me


As a flying writer (a writing flyer?), I feel more or less obligated to enter travel writing competitions when I hear about them.  Even when I was suppressing most of my writerly impulses, I journaled like crazy on trips, and my first novels are as much about travel as they are about love, coffee, and wine.  When adventure travel specialists Pure Travel asked entrants into their 2013 Travel Writing Competition to “write and tell us about ‘The worst journey of your life,'” I was kind of surprised that I didn’t have millions of ideas.  I travel for a living and for fun, I should be up to my neck in horror stories, right?  But of course, if you’re paying attention when you travel, even the nightmares (discovering you’ve come down with dysentery while bouncing across Cameroon in a bush taxi, for example, or landing in Taipei in the eye of a typhoon) evolve into retrospective fun; if you’re not going to learn something about yourself — or about when not to take imodium — what’s the point of leaving home?

The story I eventually submitted, about a passenger losing her mind one night and the very senior flight attendant who did not appreciate the disruption, is true.  “Millie” is not her real name, but she sure did whip off her pantyhose and use them as restraints; our flight is one of the reasons crews now have access to handcuffs in the cabin.  I was also tickled to learn — and am delighted to tell you — that “Don’t Mess With Millie” made the short list, and is one of the Top Ten stories competing for the Grand Prize.  You can read it on the Pure Travel Adventure Holidays website, and if you like it, you can vote for it to win by sending an email to with the name of your chosen entry in the subject line.  (For more details, visit their blog.)

It was, to date, the most nightmarish and never-ending flight of my career — some days I’m surprised we’re not still on it.  But it is also one of my better stories.  And as much as I love a chintzy souvenir shop and adding to my Refrigerator Magnets of the World collection, stories are among the easiest mementos to pack, and far and away the most fun to share.

pure travel 2013

Vote for Me! Send an email with Don’t Mess With Millie as the subject to before December 6th!