Saturday, November 29, 2014

December Bedlam Begins

The days from Thanksgiving through December can be a difficult, trying, stressful time. Or an enjoyable, family-centered, busy in a fun way time. For most people, it turns out to be a combination of both.

My time began on a disappointing, or more accurately a frustrating, note. 

I did not set the alarm Thanksgiving night. The following morning I woke early, and although no alarm jolted me out of a deep sleep (sleeping is one of my greatest skills), the clock read 6:20. I rolled over, then immediately thought about my 7:00 a.m. Zumba class.

I knew I could use some spirited exercise after two days of cooking and eating.

I climbed out of bed, threw on gym clothes, and crept silently out of the house, leaving hub and houseguests sleeping peacefully in the warm, cozy house.

My car thermometer registered 32 degrees.

Approaching the gym I noticed no cars parked along the street. Well, I figured, it was the day after a holiday and everyone was sleeping in or out of town. On the other hand there are always a few hearty souls around. I had a sinking feeling I would not be exercising.

Walking toward the building entrance, it appeared dark and deserted. My intuition proved right. A note taped to the door indicated the gym would open 8:00 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I know, it was my fault. Should have checked the website or Facebook.

Sometimes I am not social media savvy enough for today’s world. Perhaps because I did not grow up using Internet tools, electronic devices are not always the first place accessed for information. Or I make presumptions and assumptions and do not check them out before acting.

I turned around, got back in the car, and drove home, stopping momentarily to stock up on bagels for breakfast. The salesgirl asked if I was out early for a shopping spree, and answered, “No way!” She said her family passed Best Buy on the way home from dinner the night before – Thanksgiving night - and the parking lot was packed. Four policemen directed people – not traffic - rushing to get pre-Black Friday Best Buy bargains.

The outlets in our town opened 6:00 a.m. Black Friday morning.

I strongly disagree with our consumer-oriented world’s push to open as early as possible Black Friday, Thanksgiving night, or Thanksgiving Day.

I feel badly for employees who have to cut short their holiday and work because people cannot wait to participate in what has become an all-American pastime. Shopping may be today’s number one American leisure time activity and sport. Not a sport exactly, more like a form of exercise, consisting of running into stores as the doors open, yelling at kids, sales clerks, and other shoppers reaching for the last item on the shelf, simultaneously lunging for merchandise, walking long distances through malls, and building muscles carrying packages.

I fail to see the fun in such exercise.

Marketers love hype. We view the evening news and watch people running into stores and walking around with baskets full of merchandise. Continuously inundated with TV ads, catalogs and mailers, advertisers hope we will jump in our cars and drive to the nearest big box store, mall or outlet center, credit cards firmly in hand.

Most of us will do some shopping in the coming month – for gifts, for more food than usual as we entertain and enjoy friends and family gathering at home, purchase holiday decorations and possibly winter paraphernalia should the weather turn ugly. 
I am a fan of Small Business Saturday. Actually I am a fan of shopping locally throughout the year.

So I am throwing my hat in the small business ring. Patronize local independent stores.

Shop Main Street, not Chain Street.  

And may your December be happy, healthy, and stress free. Perhaps most important, do not forget to allow plenty of time for fun. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Reunion Reveling in Retirement

Friends move in and out of our lives. Maybe we move away. Sometimes they move away. We fight and fail to reconcile. Lives and interests diverge, and we no longer have much in common. If lucky a few special friends remain in our lives over the years. We may not communicate for weeks or months or years, but eventually reconnect once more. Thanks to social media it is easier nowadays to stay connected.

Four couples initially bonded decades ago when our kids were infants. The babies are now in their thirties. These four couples will experience a major life event in 2015 - six members will retire. The other two already enjoy retirement.

We are an unusual group of married duos statistically speaking - each couple remains together since getting married decades ago. 

We are thinking about a joint retirement celebration, but have yet to work out the details.

The celebration would go something like this:

We will meet in a convenient central location; we live spread over 600 miles. Summer is the ideal time. Long hours of daylight are conducive to driving lengthy distances. Retirement allows for leisurely travel, with ample time for pee stops, refilling coffee mugs, breaks to stretch legs and backs, and any other intermissions necessitated by aging but still moving bodies.

The place chosen for our celebration will provide comfortable accommodations with private bathrooms. Everything will be close and convenient and lighted by night-lights. Otherwise, up in the middle of the night, we might forget where we are. Who knows what accidents might occur...

Tired from sitting in a car for hours, we will rendezvous for an early dinner, then adjourn to the hotel bar for a nightcap. At least one of us will turn in by 9:00 p.m., the rest lasting a lot longer - maybe until 10:00 p.m.

Talk will revolve around the following topics of conversation endlessly discussed among members of our generation:

Aches and pains, crossing over into Medicare territory, and the frustration of dealing with insurance companies,
Kids, grandkids, weddings and funerals,
Where we live, where we used to live, where we want to live, and
Recent trips, imminent travel plans, and where we want to travel.

The second day's activities begin with breakfast, a choice of palette-pleasing dishes along with an assortment of pills downed for a variety of ailments.

We linger over coffee. Conversation concludes with a discussion of a morning walk and appropriate footgear, considering members' bunions, flat feet, broken toe, weak knees, and bad back. Who can go...how far each one of us can or wants to walk...

We stroll outside, but only if relatively flat and the weather perfect - sunny, not too cold, not too hot. Some of us will walk a few yards, others continue for a mile or longer, and the heartiest will complete five or six miles.

We meet again for lunch. Then sightseeing may be on the agenda, whether a local market, craft fair, museum, shopping, or simply wandering around town.

We return and decide on evening plans. We are not a late-night crowd, so clubbing (the music kind, not the caveman hitting each other kind) is out.

Dancing might be fun, but only to the oldies.

Oldie music for oldie minds and bodies, enjoyed with old friends.

An oldies reunion.

A good friend is a connection to life
a tie to the past, a road to the future,
the key to insanity in a totally insane world.
- Lois Wyse 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Thanksgiving Story for Adults

Warning -
This is not an X-rated article. Sorry, folks.

As kids we colored pictures of Pilgrims in black and white outfits and half-naked Indians feasting happily together, and savored dishes lovingly prepared by our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and more recently, restaurants.

The real story of the holiday is quite different from childhood versions.

The myths and realities of Thanksgiving –

The Pilgrims sailed across the sea in 1620, intent on settling in Northern Virginia - present day New York State. Perilous seas prevented the Mayflower from anchoring in the chosen land. Heading North, the ship landed on the tip of Cape Cod in what is today Provincetown, renowned as an art colony and vacation destination for the LGBT crowd.

The Pilgrims moved on and settled in a deserted Indian village they named Plimoth. There were lots of deserted Indian villages at the time. A few years earlier European traders arrived in the area seeking riches. They left behind beads, trinkets and bacteria, and as a result two-thirds of the Wampanoag Indian tribe perished.

Upon docking, the Pilgrims did not set foot on Plymouth (Plimoth) Rock. The legend is a myth. No contemporary accounts mention a rock.

The rock initially appears as the place the Pilgrims disembarked 120 years after their arrival. A 95-year-old man, Thomas Faunae, told the tale in 1741, supposedly recounting what he heard from Mayflower survivors. The story was accepted at face value, and the rock became a treasured national memorial.

Back to the Pilgrim story...

In the fall of 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated their arrival and survival in their new homeland with a three day harvest festival, replicating a yearly English tradition. The Pilgrims and their neighbors, the Indians, were not too friendly, although the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, beans, and squash. But the Pilgrims were wary of their neighbors and looted their homes.

During the harvest celebration the colonists shot off guns and cannon, and the Indians came to see what all the ruckus was about. Whether invited to dine or crashing the party, we do not know for sure. What we do know is that 52 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians feasted on local produce, game and fish.

The celebration did not become an annual event.

A couple of years later a drought made life difficult for the colonists. Governor Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving, prayer and fasting. No feasting in 1623.

Moving ahead to 1637, an incident created a series of events leading to the first of what became annual thanksgiving celebrations.

A Pilgrim was found, in his boat, murdered. The settlers blamed the Indians, and, enraged by the crime, massacred the tribe. It is estimated over 700 Indians died. Survivors, mainly women and children, were sold into slavery in the Caribbean.

Governor William Newell declared a day of thanksgiving in honor of the battle victory, and a day of remembrance every year going forward.

A small number of the Indian tribe - the Pequots, living in what is today Connecticut and Massachusetts, survived and, centuries later, thrive. The tribe owns the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, advertised as the largest resort casino in North America.

Historians know the stereotypical black and white Pilgrim outfits are inaccurate. Black was worn only for church meetings. Buckles did not decorate their clothing - they were not invented yet, and the black shoes and black steeple hats often pictured are not authentic either. As for the Indians, by fall they would be wearing more than loincloths.

Wild turkey – a much slimmer, tougher predecessor to today’s fat, round, chemically-enhanced birds - may or may not have been on the menu. Wild fowl – most likely geese, ducks, and venison were consumed, along with seafood, Indian corn prepared in dishes similar to porridge and pancakes, a variety of vegetables including parsnips, carrots, turnips, spinach, cabbage, onions and beans, and herbs such as thyme, marjoram, sage and parsley.

Foods not available included sugar, pumpkin pie, cranberries, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (a favorite in my family), apples, pears, and quite a few other goodies common on modern dinner tables.

150 years later the Continental Congress suggested an annual day of thanksgiving. New York adopted the custom in 1817, and other states followed. President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a day of Thanksgiving, and President Franklin Roosevelt specified the fourth Thursday of the month.

The traditional turkey dinner was popularized during the late 1800s.

Today millions of Americans celebrate the 3 F’s on the Fourth Thursday in November – Feasting, Football, and Family (not necessarily in that order).

Whether dining on a traditional turkey dinner, a vegetarian or vegan variation, or totally different meal -

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I Learned From My Grandchildren

A few weeks passed since my trip to the grandkids Halloween weekend. Visits sometimes take on the aura of an exhausting hands-on, educational experience requiring rehab time afterward. As I rested and rejuvenated, I thought about the insights gleaned over that weekend.

 A question about the kids nagged at my brain. 

I realized the youngest generation has no identifying tag. Or at least I did not know what the generation has been nicknamed by observers.

My contemporaries comprise the baby boomers. Our parents belonged to the Silent Generation, also known as the Greatest Generation. Behind boomers are Generation X and the Millennials (also labeled Generation Y or the Echo Boomers).

I researched the question, an easy task nowadays with the Internet at our fingertips. I discovered that kids born from 2000 to the present are called Generation Z or the New Silent Generation. I am not sure why. I can attest that my grandchildren, members of the New Silent Generation, are anything but silent (except when sleeping).

During my Halloween visit the 4, 7, and 10-year-old opened my mind and filled my brain with the following tidbits -

Boys when they get older lose their hair and go bald, or turn gray. Or both. Girls, on the other hand, maintain their full mane and the same beautiful color forever - blonde or black or brown...Which made me wonder why I spend so much money at the hairdresser, but this wonderment was not shared with the 7-year-old.

Spending $25 on a new water bottle is a good investment. For my granddaughter. If I buy it. This was one investment I did not make, despite the whining and begging and insistence on needing the item. I know there is an entire cabinet in her house full of water bottles, perhaps not as pretty as the new one, but definitely as useful. Score one for Grandma.

Butterfingers are given out in large quantities on Halloween, but no one in our family likes them. Unwanted Halloween candy is carefully stored away, waiting for next Halloween to be handed out to a group of unsuspecting kids who probably also do not like Butterfingers...if anyone remembers where the stash is hidden months from now. Actually, the uneaten sweets will probably end up in the garbage long before next Halloween.

I finally got Elsa and Anna straight (from the movie Frozen, for those unfamiliar with Disney princesses) and learned most of the words of the song Let It Go (also from the movie). The four-year-old was supposed to be Elsa for Halloween, but at the last moment decided a pirate princess better suited her personality and wardrobe. She wore a black wig and super girl cape along with angel wings and a princess dress. It is, of course, a woman's - and girl's - prerogative to change her mind. The Elsa dress can be worn next year, but probably will not fit. And the kid will want to be someone else, anyway. But the dress will get a lot of wear around the house.

I also wore a costume on Halloween, a mask and two boas draped around my body. I thought I would be a trashy diva (after the name of a chain of shops in New Orleans), but my daughter-in-law insisted I be G-rated. I became Fancy Nancy's Grandma. Fancy Nancy is a series of books about a young girl who loves dressing up very fancy and throwing around French words.

Like au revoir!
 
The Trashy Diva
a.k.a. Fancy Nancy's Grandma
 

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Retiree’s Life

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.
-       George Burns

It is early evening. It feels much later because it has been dark a long time. Nightfall arrives by 5:00 p.m., and even on warm days as darkness descends the bleakness chills.

I am watching TV and working on my computer, multi-tasking. On a small table next to me rests a fresh cup of coffee and my dinner – a piece of chocolate mousse cake.

Decadent. Delicious. Calorie-laden. Loaded with non-nutritious no-no’s.
A picture...just in case some of my diet-conscious,
strong will-powered friends forgot what a great dining experience looks like!
The backstory…

Hub and I went out to lunch today. It is Restaurant Week in a nearby town. The meal cost $11.07 (plus tax). The three-course spread included soup or salad, entrée, and dessert.

I started with salad, a generous mix of greens, onions, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. My entrée followed, two crab cakes with rice pilaf and mixed vegetables.

The food was delicious and proportions ample. Often restaurant lunches comprise smaller portions of dinner plates. There was no skimping on our lunch, with more food than we could consume.

Dessert would have to wait. Since it was paid for, I felt obligated to accept it. The waitress prepared my slice of cake for take out.

Fast-forward a few hours. I was still full with no appetite for dinner, but that piece of chocolate mousse cake hanging out in the refrigerator was calling my name.

I could not resist.

I have little willpower.

I blame retirement for my dilemma. This gastronomic catastrophe would not have happened while working, when there was little time for an extended, decadent lunch.

Life changes…

There are few pressing deadlines in my life since crossing over to the flexible lifestyle of the retiree. I participate in work (part time, flex time, my time nowadays!), volunteer and other activities because I want to, listening to my body and heeding the fact that my energy level is finite.

If I miss an exercise class, I attend another scheduled throughout the day. I can be at the gym one morning for a 7:00 a.m. class, and another morning sleep late. 

On the other hand there are no good excuses for not exercising…

I can stay up late and watch a movie or read a book and not feel the ill effects the next day, dragging myself through a workday. I simply sleep a bit longer the following morning.

I can patronize stores, restaurants, museums and theaters during the week, avoiding holiday and weekend crowds.

I can take vacation whenever the travel bug hits, avoiding crowds and traffic and taking advantage of off-season and other special rates. 

Of course there are disadvantages…

Age creeps up, insidious, suddenly screaming “Gotcha!” and as a result we end up at a doctor’s office.

The dark is not a friend of the aging. Once darkness descends – outdoors or indoors, day or night - it is difficult to remain conscious for any length of time. My eyes grow heavy, my body slumps, concentration declines. I attended an art appreciation class last year, scheduled in early afternoon. Each session involved a series of slides with commentary. As hard as I tried, I found my head drooping and eyes closing. I forced myself to pop my head up and stay awake. I gave up and did not sign up for the class this year.

Night driving can be difficult on aging eyes…hearing often deteriorates…and hearing deficiency can lead to brain shrinkageour ability to smell and discern between smells weakenstaste and/or eating problems may occur due to illness or dental problems…medical issues and appointments can dictate our lives…

Enough of the negative.

I am going to concentrate on the positive aspects of life at a mature age.

It is time to live in the moment and enjoy my dinner, coffee and a slice of decadent, delicious, calorie-laden, loaded with non-nutritious no-no’s, chocolate mousse cake.

And not feel guilty.

Life is good…

Age is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
-       Betty Friedan 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Downton Abbey and Our American Aristocracy

 Few will experience the lifestyle of the very rich and beautiful presented on the British TV series Downton Abbey. Real people – the upstairs lucky handful (the 1%) in this patrician world (diligently attended by downstairs servants) populated manor houses on vast estates and spent their time doing…I am not sure what.

Winterthur, an estate at one time encompassing over 2,500 acres, was the American equivalent, carefully crafted by Henry du Pont. He filled the mansion with collections of Americana, including furniture, textiles, china and silver, and works of art.

I entered this world via a display of Downton Abbey costumes at Winterthur, spending the day with my mom, sister, and niece, touring a small part of the family residence, viewing the costumes, and lingering over afternoon tea, savoring a sampling of hors d’oeuvres-type foods and desserts.

After a day immersed in this aristocratic world, then returning to my humble abode, my mind turned to today’s mega-rich moguls.

What will their museums be like? What do they collect? What do their homes look like?

My imagination began fashioning a fanciful preview of museums of today’s super rich scattered around the country and open to the public…

I thought about Rush Limbaugh, an enigma wrapped in a radio show. People line up to tour his Palm Beach, Florida, gated compound and visit two impressive dwellings, Limbaugh’s and the house occupied by his serial wives (one at a time, of course). Their memoirs, Living Next Door to Rush, by Wife I, II, III, IV, and V (I am guessing at the total number) are sold in the compound gift shop. The tell-alls were unavailable previously because of a gag order issued as part of divorce settlements.

Rush’s collections are displayed in his man cave - the movies and memorabilia of John Wayne, Charlton Hesston and Ronald Reagan, his gun collection, sports cars, cigars, and pillboxes. There is a room devoted to the testimonials of those who gained from one of Rush’s most ardent causes – lowering taxes on the wealthy so these moneyed capitalists could provide jobs for the less fortunate.

Unfortunately the room remains empty.

Warren Buffett’s homestead offers a contrasting, understated experience. The fourth richest man in the world (according to Fortune magazine) lived in the same house in Omaha, Nebraska, for decades. The home is billed as a peek into life during the post-war 1950s. The furniture is similar to that found in millions of homes across suburban America in the mid-20th century. The dining room table, informally set for a family dinner, displays a typical steak and potatoes meal. The house, purchased in 1958 for $31,000 ($255,327 in 2014 dollars), expanded over the years to 6,000 square feet, larger than most people’s homes, but a cottage compared to residences of America’s rich and famous elite. Buffett eventually purchased a multi-million dollar home in California, but a modest dwelling compared to the mansions of his mega-wealthy cronies.

One of the New York City apartments inhabited by the celebrity-driven businessman Donald Trump opened to the public by appointment only. The penthouse, encased in floor to ceiling windows towering over Manhattan, attest to the man’s flamboyant public persona. Gold-plated furniture reminiscent of Louis XV rococo style fills the public rooms. The bed in the master bedroom is draped in a heavy silk canopy with mirrors and a TV on the canopy dome. His boudoir displays numerous toupees worn over the years. A theater room continually plays his Apprentice TV series and excerpts from news conferences and other public appearances.

The David and Charles Koch (brothers, not a gay couple) bus tour around Wichita (a.k.a. Kochville), Kansas, and home of Koch Industries – the second largest private company in the country – views sights where the family left their mark. The bus passes Koch office and industry buildings, and stops briefly so tourists can get off the bus and walk around Koch Community Plaza, plastered with pictures of politicians supported and those the brothers spent billions opposing, as well as declarations by teachers, union representatives, college graduates, and immigrants on the difficulty of earning a living in America following the Koch brothers success in lowering wages and minimizing worker benefits. Plaques honor the oligarchy of wealth championed by the brothers.

Arkansas boasts two major tourist destinations – the Walton Family Museum, homage to the wealth acquired on the backs of low-paid retail workers, and the William and Hillary Clinton Library and Museum, a bastion of moderate/liberal Democratic ideas in the midst of conservative Republicanism.

Chicago celebrated the opening of the Obamamax, a state-of-the-art theater featuring highlights of the President’s life and political career. Old Tea Party contemporaries of the President boycotted the event…Football Hall of Fame memorabilia in Canton, Ohio was relocated to the new Museum of Historical Sports…Every year the Gates Gala attracts the rich, famous, and wannabee rich and famous to their annual high tech online virtual event…

Suddenly the dryer buzzer rouses me from my reverie. Real life interrupts and, working as my own maid, the downstairs life of laundry, cooking and cleaning beckons.

FYI
Here is an interesting chart with the names of the wealthiest American in each state. Many, I must admit, I never heard of.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who Do You Trust?

 For political news.

Your answer depends on your partisan leanings.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, Political Polarization and Media Habits, queried people about where they obtain their information and which outlets they trust – or do not trust.

But before discussing survey findings, I cannot resist a few comments on Election Day 2014.

First of all, Good riddance!

Negative campaigning overwhelmed any significant messages. Honestly (a strange term to many politicians), I tuned out.

In my current state of residence, New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker, appointed to finish the term of the former senator who died in office, then won a special election for a one year term, sought a full term of his own. Polls indicated he was way ahead of his opponent. It was not much of a contest.

My local Republican Congressman faced a Democratic opponent trailing badly in the polls, as every Democratic challenger has done over the past eleven elections. Again, not much of a contest.

No excitement here.

Our Governor took a hiatus from governing the state to campaign for governors and would-be governors around the country. Nothing like getting the name Christie out there before the 2016 Presidential election heats up.

Major news outlets covered Senate and Gubernatorial races around the country ad nauseum. Months of political naysaying and innuendo, lies and misused statistics, finger pointing and no substance are finally over, until the next time—which comes sooner and sooner each election cycle.

The mention of news outlets brings me back to the Pew survey. The newsgathering behavior of what the survey termed consistent liberals and consistent conservatives – those on either end of the political scale – are summarized below:

* The main source of news for conservatives is FOX News, taking 47% of the votes.

* Liberals utilize a broader range of news sources, citing CNN, NPR, New York Times, and MSNBC as top news suppliers, but none received more than 15% of the votes.

* Top political news choices of middle of the roaders is CNN, local news, FOX News, Yahoo News and Google News.

The survey gets interesting when asked which media sources people trust – or distrust.

* Liberals trust 28 of the 36 news sources named in the survey. Conservatives, on the other hand, distrust 24 of the 36 news outlets.

* NPR, PBS and BBC are liberals’ most trusted news sources.

* Conservatives’ most trusted sources are FOX News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

* Sources trusted by everyone except the most conservative are The Economist, BBC, ABC News, USA Today, and Google News.

* The only news source trusted by everyone across the political spectrum is The Wall Street Journal.

* The list of news sources distrusted by liberals reads like a conservative manifesto:

81% distrust FOX News, 75% distrust Rush Limbaugh, 59% distrust Glenn Beck and 54% distrust Sean Hannity - the most trusted news sources cited by consistent conservatives.

* The most distrusted news source mentioned by 75% of conservatives is MSNBC.

This jumble of statistics reveals no political epiphany. They only reinforce the view that liberals and conservatives, although sharing one world and one country, are in fact from different planets. Mars and Venus are already taken, so I will take a leap and suggest the two groups inhabit Mercury and Neptune (your choice which group occupies which planet), with moderates sprinkled in between.

Meanwhile most of the electorate, exhausted from the electioneering, are thrilled the election is over. However we will enjoy only a too-brief time-out before being barraged once again by a slew of Presidential contenders attempting to influence our minds and secure our votes.

People’s opinions will be influenced by the media they consider the most trustworthy.

Which means nothing much will change.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe it should be mandatory before voting for everyone to read the political coverage in The Wall Street Journal (the only news source accepted as trustworthy by everyone)…

FYI:
The Pew survey contains lots more interesting data. Click here to read more. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flying High

Not on drugs. In the sky.

On Spirit Air.

Not exactly luxury flying, or affluent flying, or middle class flying.

It is budget flying on the cheap.

Not that I particularly like or enjoy cheap travel. I desire middle class or affluent travel at a budget price. If the opportunity arises I gratefully accept luxury travel at a bargain price as well.

Call me a spoiled senior American citizen desiring comfort for old bones.

The particular Spirit plane I am currently flying (as a passenger, not piloting, just want to clarify) is painted with the company's new color and design. Bright yellow definitely catches the eye. The name of the airline is printed in thick bold black letters on the side of the plane, with a few yellow strokes in the middle of the letters emphasizing - I am guessing here - the quick, fast, bold spirit of the company. Or perhaps more accurately, the image the company wishes to project and advertisers work hard getting consumers to believe.

Meanwhile I patiently await the steward's arrival with a load of drinks and food - all at a price, of course. Nothing free on Spirit. All I want is a cup of ice. I purchased a drink at the terminal and patiently wait to enjoy it.

The plane left an hour late. We were told computer problems caused the delay; paperwork not available until the glitch was fixed. Passengers sat in their seats, every one occupied, huddled en masse. There is not a lot of space in Spirit aircraft. Three seats across, a narrow aisle and three more seats tightly wedged together, the middle seats occupied by the unlucky seat lottery loser. All seats (except a few in exit rows and first couple of rows, available for an additional fee) provide barely enough space for legs and feet. I am 5'2" and fit - barely.

Bare is the company's motto - as in -

Bare fares. For one low price (sometimes, higher prices offered holiday and peak flying times), a passenger receives a seat of Spirit's choice and one free carry on. I take my back pack. Baggage extra. Seat with extra leg room - additional fee.

Barely able to fit in the seats.

Bearable, barely, time spent wedged in seats, including time loading the plane, waiting for take off, taxiing and take off, actually flying, landing and taxiing to a gate, when - finally - passengers unbelt and slowly unwind into a scrunched standing position, then finally exit the plane and stand straight.

Am I rambling on too much about my Spirit woes? Bare with my flight plight a little longer.

The positives of flying Spirit?

It flies from the closest airport to our house.

It flies to the closest airport to our Florida family.

It is usually the cheapest, assuming no luggage. Packing for a vacation, it is worth comparing with other airlines. It is sometimes the same price or just a little more to fly another airline from another airport when carry on luggage and/or checked baggage is involved. And the bonus is a slightly better seat with more legroom. And free drinks (non-alcoholic, of course).

This past weekend hub and I rode the local city bus. In the past I have said flying Spirit is the equivalent of riding the city bus. I am not sure anymore. Our bus seats were more comfortable with more leg room than Spirit offers.

Enough complaining about the bare bones of my flying experience.

I barely got started, but it is time to move on.

Fly on Spirit Air!