Behind the Scenes of a PSA – Hours of Work for a Few Seconds of Fame

Christian and Chris scoping out the camera angle

I always wondered why it took so long to make a movie and figured it had more to do with the temperament of the stars than the actual process.

Christian’s assignment from his independent film study course was to create a PSA to increase the awareness of parents when it comes to alcohol usage among teens.  The filming started in early October and finished it in a series of one to two hour sessions throughout the month.

Chris and Christian had already put in hours worth of work before they arrived at the house.  They brainstormed the idea, created the story board, and carefully planned each scene.

I was under strict instructions to wear exactly the same thing for each session.  Other than the forgetting to wear my watch once (which caused a re-shoot and a production delay), that part was easy.  The more difficult part was making sure my hair and make up turned out the same each time.

The hair part was especially tough as the closer we got to being finished, the more I needed to get a cut and color.  I told them the next time we do this, I need to have a wardrobe and make up assistant.

It was really amazing to watch the boys map out each scene and figure out how to overcome the minor obstacles associated with filming at our house.  Some of the more challenging ones were lighting and odd reflections, floors that shake the camera when you walk too hard, and a couple of noisy miniature dachshunds.

For about a month, nightstand and floor lamps that could double as a spotlight were scattered throughout the house along with props for the project.  The funniest and my favorite was that pictures of my “fake” son replaced ones of my real kids while we were in production mode.

The grand finale was the scene with the police officer.  I can’t help but wonder what people were thinking when they saw the police car in my driveway for most of the afternoon.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t able to see the boys behind the camera.

Christian and Chris scoping out the camera angle

The teachers and the police officer were awesome, they let the boys run the show but also shared helpful tips and ideas. They made quite the creative team.  It was fun to have multiple cameras and to hear them talk in ‘movie making’ speak.

Police Officer, Boys, and Teachers in front of the Police Car

The officer was particularly helpful in providing insights as to how the scene would unfold and what various reactions might be.  He was an awesome co-star.

Star and Costar - Beth and Police Officer

I can’t say enough about these two young men.  They’re not only talented, they are polite, intelligent, and fun to be around.  I can honestly say I looked forward to every session and I was kind of sad when we were done.

Beth, Christian, and Chris in front of the police car

After we finished filming the final scene, the guys had some fun.  Christian and Chris had a hard time looking tough as they were put under fake arrest and escorted to the back of the squad car.

Christian and Chris trying to look tough - fake arrest

I’m not sure what was going on here, but I think it must have been something about how to fit my 6’4″ son into the car.

the guys problem solving and setting up the scene for the police car

I had to take one last picture for the day, but somehow I don’t think this will be the last picture taken of Christian in front of a media van.

Christian in front of the PHS video van

The video was released on YouTube in November after weeks of editing and tweaking.  I could be biased, but I think it’s brilliant.

Filming at Acme

Sometimes as a parent we drift off at night wondering if we’ve done all we could; we second guess ourselves and we hope that in spite of our mistakes that our kids have had a good childhood and they will grow up to be happy, thoughtful, and compassionate people.

And then one day you come home from the gym and you know you’ve done a lot of things right. My living room was a disaster for the week following Christmas and I kept closing my eyes as I passed from the dining room to the den hoping that the boxes, bags, and tags would magically disappear.

Another diversionary tactic to avoid cleaning the living room or to at least forget about it was to head to the gym to get a head start on my New Year’s resolution. On one such afternoon I returned home and the boxes, bags, and tags were nowhere in sight and neither were my boys.

I entered the man cave to find two smiling young men.

“What happened to the living room?” I asked.

Their grins grew even wider.

“What a wonderful surprise, I didn’t even ask you to pick up the boxes and the living room is spotless!” I exclaimed. “What prompted you to pick things up?” I asked.

“Because we knew you’d like it,” Christian responded while Jeff continued to smile.

“Oh and remember, you said we could make a mess out of the kitchen tomorrow while we work on my graduation project,” he said.

Ah yes, the graduation project. Christian had decided to undertake the history of Silent Film through a lot of research and also by making his own movie. It was perfect timing because Jeff was able to stay in Pennsylvania the week between Christmas and New Year’s, which coincided with the timing of operation Silent Film.

I decided I’d be better off going to the gym while the boys carried out their plan to film Christian baking a cake in a style that was sure to resemble Lucy and Ethel far more than it would Martha Stewart. I hoped my errands and workout had taken up enough time that I would return home to a clean kitchen and a completed project. I’m not a neat freak but I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle seeing the mess I overheard them brainstorming.

“Yeah, that’ll be awesome. I’ll open the bag and make the cake mix fly all over the counters and floor,” Christian said.

“And then I can throw cake mix in your face and get it all over your clothes,” Jeff responded.

“Oh, oh! And the cake needs eggs right? Wouldn’t it be funny if I…”

That was my cue to leave; I figured I was better off not knowing what was going to be said next.

I returned to hysterical laughter, cake mix on every surface of the kitchen (including on top of the coffee maker), and Jeff filming Christian who was flat on his back in the middle of the floor covered in raw eggs and cake mix. There was only one alternative, I burst out in laughter and retreated to the neatest room in the house, the living room.

Operation silent film continued the following day. I left the boys to their own devices and headed out for a bike ride, once again feeling we would all be better off if I weren’t there to witness the mess making. I was puzzled when I rode up the driveway and the car was gone.

Thankfully they left me a note, “Filming at Acme.”

After a quick discussion about how to handle the camera work for the final scene, which required footage of Jeff opening the door and greeting Christian, we all concluded that wouldn’t be a good idea to switch who was behind the camera. If I took over not only would the camera angle suddenly drop by six inches, Christian would have to work extra hard when it came to editing out random shots of the ground and clouds.

After a couple of takes, the movie was complete and they restored the kitchen to normal for the second time. 

And now for your viewing pleasure, I present: The Pot Luck – A Silent Film

Outakes/Behind the scenes pics

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Movie Credits:
Actor, Producer, and Film Editor: Christian Browning
Camera Man and Supporting Role Actor: Jeff Browning
Person with the Kitchen, Prop Provider, and Music Finder: Your’s Truly

How to Lose a Guy in Seven Days

Last Saturday morning my cell phone rang, then the house phone rang, the cell phone rang again and then Christian’s phone rang, it was Katie. I wasn’t home at the time but I knew this to be the case because I had two missed calls on my cell phone which meant there had to be one missed call on the land line and there was big news in her world if the fourth call was to Christian.

She will call four times or as many times as it takes until she actually reaches a live person to deliver the news to rather than leave a voicemail. Katie is not a believer in voicemail, she will stand by her position that information is best delivered through direct conversation or a text message and that a ‘missed call’ on your cell phone is enough to say “I called, call me back when you have a chance.” Case in point, we’ve exchanged seventy-nine text messages in the past eight days.

“I talked to Katie. She has a date today,” Christian said.

“What! She has a date and she didn’t tell me?” I replied.

“Mom, did you check your missed calls?” he responded wryly.

I called her immediately to get the scoop. Her date was for lunch with a boy from one of her classes, his name and the fact that they met in class was about all I got out of her. I waited all afternoon and into the evening to hear how the date had gone. I speculated that it had either gone really well or really poorly when I still hadn’t heard from her and it was eleven pm. I have to admit it was about all I could do to respect her privacy and wait for her to call me.

I walked around with my cell phone on Sunday waiting anxiously.

“Hi Mommy,” she said.

“Well, how’d it go?” I asked.

“It was fun…he already asked me out on two more dates…”

“But….” I prodded.

“He didn’t pay for lunch,” she responded.

We talked about it and I suggested that maybe it was because he was a poor college student or that perhaps he was nervous and didn’t know the proper protocol.

“Ummm, the lunch was fifteen dollars and he picked up the ticket and said ‘Wanna go halvies?” was her reply.

On Wednesday she called to inform me that she was already thinking of ways to “let him down easy.” Apparently in addition to calling far more often than necessary after a first date, for which he didn’t pick up the tab, he also made the fatal error of leaving more than one voicemail just to say he was having a good day.

By Saturday morning the die had been cast and the only decision left to be made was whether it would end with an awkward conversation before or after the ‘date’ to the basketball game that evening. It turns out that it was too late to cancel the date; he had already purchased the tickets.

I couldn’t wait to hear the details so I called her as early as I thought I could get away with on a Sunday morning. She was at work so I got the recap via text.

“The bball game last night was so awkward, but I think he got the picture. Haha. Whoops…o well.”

Later, after hashing over the events of the evening and the likelihood of the remaining need for that ‘awkward conversation’ we agreed (with much laughter) that the key ingredient to losing a guy in seven days was ownership of a winter coat that is big enough to take up the space of a tightly packed army duffle bag and the placement of said coat squarely on the bench between you and your date.

I’m not sure what she’ll do come summertime.

Happy New Ear!

New Year’s Eve is a little like High School, for some reason it comes with an expectation that it should be the best night of the year, but in the same way that High School rarely turns out to be the best years of your life (thank goodness)  it’s often disappointing and not nearly as exciting as you hoped it would be.  More often than not I’m sound asleep when the New Year rolls in.

This year I gave the assignment of ‘what to do for New Year’s Eve’ to my oldest son Jeff.  I hate that duty as much as my kids hate the task of thinking up the dinner menu so I figured turnabout was fair play.  He diligently sifted through the search results for things to do in Philly on New Year’s Eve to find something suitable for a middle aged mom, a teenage brother, and himself – a twenty something single guy. 

After discarding dozens of ‘over twenty-one’ and ‘not appropriate for mom’ options, he found the perfect outing, Fireworks on the Battleship New Jersey.  There were two options – twilight and midnight. Given the fact that we were driving to an unfamiliar destination, none of us are fond of the cold, and I didn’t want to drive home on I95 after midnight we opted for the early show and a nice homemade dinner to follow.

With reservations made, tickets ready for pick up, and directions in hand we headed down I95 and across the Ben Franklin Bridge into Camden, New Jersey.  Thankfully I had not one, but two navigators because the signage was unclear.  After a few near wrong turns and some confusion about where to park we found the garage, secured a spot, and walked to the battleship.

The ship was visible as we exited onto the street and the mixture of orange and pink that illuminated the cloudy sky made a perfect backdrop for the impressive vessel and its massive guns.  We stopped for a few obligatory snapshots along the way, surprisingly without too much resistance and from the boys.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that it didn’t occur to me to look up any history about the ship until the day after the event. The ship was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1942.  It was launched on December 7, 1942 and made her final voyage home in September 1999.  It’s hard to fathom that we stood on the deck of history waiting to watch fireworks and welcome 2012.

The deck was lined with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  I couldn’t help but tap my foot and move my head to beat of the music and I eyed the group of people line dancing with a bit of jealousy.

“Don’t do it Mom.  Don’t dance.  You’ll embarrass me,” Christian pleaded.

“You mean you don’t want me to do this?” I laughed and cha-cha’d.

“Nooo…don’t do it,” he grinned and looked away.

Before long Jeff and I were twisting our way down low to (shout) a little bit softer now and raising our hands and singing out Shout along with several hundred strangers and much to Christian’s chagrin.  The dancing ended and the fireworks began with an impromptu sing-along to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline…Bah Bah Baaah!

The fireworks were spectacular.

We made our way through the congested traffic and back over the bridge to home.  I surprised the boys with party hats and noisemakers to go along with the pork tenderloin, garlic roasted potatoes and green beans.  Of course the hats were too small for people and too big for the dogs but we had a good laugh and made a lot of noise.

We passed the hours between dinner and midnight with a round of guitar hero and a game of monopoly.  The three of us declared it one of the best New Year’s Eve’s ever, counted down with the people in Times Square, raised our glasses, and welcomed in 2012 with the toast Jeff coined when he was two.

Happy New Ear!

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I’ll Love You Forever, I’ll Like You For Always

It seemed like waiting to pick out a Christmas tree until Katie arrived in Pennsylvania, the week of Christmas, was a brilliant idea.  We’d pick out the perfect tree sometime between the 18th and the 23rd of December, set it up on Christmas Eve eve and decorate the tree when Jeff flew in on the 24th.  We’d enjoy all of the Christmas with less of the mess.

On the day she arrived we ran out of daylight, time, and motivation but being the eternal optimist (that is when I’m not worrying) I knew we still had plenty of time and there would be no issue getting a tree that would be ‘just right.’  I have to admit I started getting a little nervous when the place we usually buy our trees from closed down their operation a week before Christmas.  However since there were two other places nearby I stood steadfast in my confidence right up until I woke up in a cold sweat at 4:00 a.m. the morning of the 23rd, I was suddenly certain that all of the Christmas trees were gone. I tossed and turned while I anxiously racked my brain for plan B, C, or Z.

Thankfully I had to take Christian to school on Friday morning which gave me the perfect excuse to take a detour on the way home and scope out the remaining trees.  After all if I had gotten up and driven by the Christmas tree place with no other reason to leave the house, it would have sounded nuts.  I breathed a big sigh of relief when I saw there were more than a few trees left, a bit scraggly, maybe not as ‘perfect’ as I had hoped, but then again it’s all a matter of perspective.

Frantic to get to the tree place before the final rush of procrastinators, I decided it was not a morning for sleeping in and I rousted my reluctant daughter out of bed and by 9:30 a.m. we were at the lot scoping out the remaining trees.  We picked the best one, deemed it ‘perfect’ and watched in awe as the guy from the nursery spun a clever four strand web of twine over the tree and through the car to secure it tightly to the roof.

Unlike last year, the trunk slid easily into the tree stand and there was no need for a last minute trip to Sears to buy a new one.  After a bit of good natured squabbling about which direction to move the tree we stood back to admire it.

“It’s lopsided,” Christian declared.

“Don’t worry, it’ll fluff out overnight and be just fine,” I replied.

Christmas Eve arrived I surveyed the tree and it had fluffed out overnight, but much to my chagrin no matter how many times I spun it around, Christian’s declaration remained true.  The shape of the tree was far from perfect and although the worst side of the tree was positioned into the corner I couldn’t deny that it leaned to the left.

After a trip to the airport, a stop at the grocery store, dinner preparations, gift wrapping, and a very strange church service the tree was no straighter than when I had looked at it earlier in the day. I was a little disappointed in it, my kids however, declared it to be just right.

“All you have to do is look at it from this angle and you can’t even tell it’s crooked,” said Jeff.

“And once we get the lights and ornaments on it’ll be even better,” Christian added.

I smiled as I watched my kids transform from three young adults into giggling children while they decorated the tree.  After some lighthearted debate they agreed to hang all of the stars and glass balls they could rescue, the traditional wooden figures and angels, a keepsake from the Caribbean, and even the homemade felt snowman who has only ever had one eye.  I had to admit the tree ended up being ‘perfect.’

Christmas morning arrived and we settled in to exchange gifts and a lot of laughter.  I passed out the presents and we decided the opening order.

“You know you have to go last Mommy.  If you hadn’t jumped the gun and opened your other present early there would be more under the tree for you, so now you have to wait,” Katie teased me.

(The story of the full length mirror and the early Fed Ex delivery is one I will never live down.)

After many gifts, smiles, thank you’s and hugs it was time to open my present.  I had no idea what to expect and I felt they had already been way too generous with the gift of the mirror.  My fingers trembled as I worked my way through the tape and wrapping paper.  I opened the box, reached for the flat orange envelope and slid a spiral bound gift with a shutterfly logo onto my lap.  I turned it over and my kids grinned as my eyes filled with tears.

On the cover was a picture of the four of us and a quote from Love You Forever (Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw) a book I read to each of them no fewer than a thousand times, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”  Tears continued to stream down my face as I flipped from one personalized month to the next, each page contained a collage of digital memories.

Jeff and Christian nodded and smiled while Katie exclaimed, “We hit it out of the ball park boys!”

They did indeed.

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Fed Ex Delivers

The one thing I’ve been missing since I moved into my house is a full length mirror.  For the past year the task of determining whether or not an outfit worked or not has been a bit complicated.

The first step is to rotate in front of the  waist high mirror on my vanity and make sure my top matches my skirt or slacks, make the decision between tucked or un-tucked, and whether or not I should wear a belt. Next it’s down to the dining room to look in the mirror over the buffet to ensure that everything above the waist matches, is properly buttoned, and there are no tags poking out. The final check point is the mirrored curio cabinet in the living room where  if I stand ‘just so’ I can see my feet well enough to decide between heels or flats, boots or shoes, and come summertime whether I should wear flip flops or strappy sandals.

For the past year Christian has been asking me to buy a full length mirror but there was always something else we needed more, and my routine while not perfect seemed sufficient. Although I would have to admit that it probably didn’t work as well for someone who is six foot five as it did for someone who is five foot four (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

I was finally ready to buy one, however since the holidays were just around the corner I had the brilliant idea to put it on my Christmas list and hope for a good after holiday sale if I didn’t find a tall skinny box under the tree.

Yesterday I was surprised to see the Fed Ex truck stop in front of the house. I was even more surprised to see that he was carrying a tall skinny box with the picture of a full length mirror on it.  I knew in an instant that my mom had sent me an additional surprise for Christmas as she was the only one I had mentioned it to.

After a quick and relatively painless assembly I called her to say thank you.

“Did you send me a mirror?” I asked with a giggle.

“No, I didn’t,” she replied.

“Uh oh.”

We pondered the possibilities and came to the conclusion that the originator of the package had to be Katie and that Fed Ex had delivered the package a day too early.  I spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out how I was going to break the news to Katie or if there was some way that I could dis-assemble, repackage, and pretend it hadn’t happened.

The phone rang and I didn’t have to look at the caller I.D. to know it was Katie. I had no doubt it was my daughter and that most likely I had already been betrayed by the wonders of modern technology and on-line tracking.

Simultaneous waves of guilt and relief swept through me as I handed the phone to Christian, guilt because I should have fessed up and relief because I had a few more minutes to contemplate a suitable remedy to the situation.  My relief was short lived.

“Mommy!  Don’t you know that when you receive a package around the holidays that is not addressed to you that you shouldn’t open it, let alone assemble it?” she exclaimed.

“Honey, I am so sorry I had no idea it was from you.  I thought for sure my mom had sent it,” I replied.

“Argh, Fed Ex was supposed to deliver it on Monday while you were at work and I was there.  Not Saturday when you are at home and I’m still in Chicago.  Who’d have thought that they’d be so darn efficient, deliver it early and foil Christmas?” she said, followed by a heavy sigh.

“Well…on the other hand, now you don’t have to assemble it and you can use it the whole time you’re here,” I countered.

“Good point Mompa.”

By the time we were done talking we were laughing so hard we were both crying.  Especially when we imagined the poor customer service person’s face if they got a complaint that the delivery was not on time because it was early.

What Color is Your Soul?

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head?  Or maybe an idea that you just can’t shake?  For no logical reason, you feel the need to hear a song or see an idea through.  What seems strange to others makes perfect sense to you.

A couple of weeks ago I made a collage, it was a task in week three of Walking in This World (Julia Cameron).  Outside of helping my kids with projects, I hadn’t made a collage since college. 

I read the assignment, gathered my magazines, scissors, and some tape. I scrounged up a piece of left over poster board from one of Christian’s last year high school projects and settled in to complete my ‘homework.’

An hour later I felt like a twelve-year-old, amazed and delighted with what I had produced.  I looked at what I created and decided I wanted to frame it.  It made no logical sense. I’m a fifty year old woman and I just spent an hour taping pictures from magazines onto a piece of bent up poster board.  I wanted to frame it, not only did I want to frame it; I wanted to hang it on my bedroom wall.

I couldn’t get the thought out of my head  so I talked my sixteen year old son into going to Michaels with me.

Of course the idea was spur of the moment and I hadn’t thought about taking the time to measure the poster board so we could easily pick out the right size frame.  He patiently toted frames to the poster  board aisle and poster board back to the frames aisle  while I tried to remember the measurements.  After several trips back and forth we declared victory.

Christian turned to me and said, “Mom, the poster board you used is sort of bent and crumpled.  I think if you’re going to frame it, it deserves more.”

“I think you’re right, but what color?” I responded.

“What color is your soul?” he asked and pointed at the rainbow of colors on the rack.

(as is not uncommon, he floors me with his questions)

“Well…purple is my favorite color, but they don’t have it.  I like pink, but it doesn’t seem quite right.  Oh, wait…I like this one…see how the pink gradually turns into orange…it’s like the sun.”

He looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, we both know it…  ‘that’ is the color of your soul. Buy it.”

Inspiration comes in strange ways and often when we least expect it.

Authors note:  The piece of poster board turned out to be a good deal larger than the one on which I had created my collage.  Its somewhat ironic that a key point of the chapter focused on ‘living large,’ growing into the you that is meant to be.

Brought to You by the Letter W

Waiting, Wambling, Wisdom teeth, and Woozy were the words of the day.  Today was the big day. I had made an appointment at 10:30 a.m. with the oral surgeon for to have my sixteen year old son’s wisdom teeth removed.  Yes all four of them at one time.  We both decided we didn’t want to go through the procedure twice.

We arrived at the surgeon’s office at 10:20 so I would have plenty of time to fill out the required paperwork and practice writing my name, address, and phone number a minimum of three times per form.  I completed the paperwork and returned it to the receptionist promptly at 10:30.  Fifteen minutes later, they called him back for X-rays.  I was impressed; we didn’t have to wait long at all to get the ball rolling.

I smiled to myself thinking, “Yep twenty minute procedure, we’ll be home by 1:00 at the latest. I’ll be able to get my run in after all.” 

Thirty minutes later, they called him back to take a second scan.  Another hour passed and the amusement of watching the guy across the room alternate between dropping his crossword puzzle and his pencil repeatedly while his wife snickered or the woman who meticulously arranged and rearranged the magazines on the rack in between naps had long since worn off. 

“Is that your stomach?” my son asked.

“Yeah, I guess I should have eaten more,” I replied.

“It’s wambling,” he informed me.

“Wambling?”

“Yes, wambling, it’s another word to describe the rumbling sound your stomach is making, and yes, you should have eaten more,” he replied with great wisdom.

After two hours we finally made it to the consult room and after another twenty minutes we met the good doctor and things were underway. During the twenty-minute procedure, I sped to Taco Bell, wolfed down a fresco taco and burrito, and raced back into the dental office through a torrential downpour.

At last they called me back to the recovery room. 

“He’s going to be a little out of it, the kids can be anywhere from weepy to wacky when they come out of the anesthesia. But it’s all normal,” the nurse explained.

I nodded and tried to keep up while she raced through the post op instructions like pre-recorded airline safety instructions being played in fast forward. Thank goodness it was all written down for me.

“I’m woozy, am I ok? Are you here mom?” he slurred.

“I’m right here… can you open your eyes?” I replied softly.

His eyes fluttered open, “I’m seeing double… thatsh ok…that way I have two pretty Mompas…” He replied and immediately drifted off. (My kids call me Mompa or Mama Pajama, don’t ask me why because I have no idea where it came from, I just answer to it.)

The nurse was in and out checking on him; between visits we had an incoherent and mostly amusing conversation.  I had to laugh, because even in his ‘altered’ state, he remained ‘Mr. Logical.’

“I know I can eat applesauce and yogurt, but what can I drink?” He asked.

“It says here, you should start with clear carbonated beverages such as ginger ale, sprite, or seven up,” I responded.

“Can I have Root Beer?”  He asked

“It says you should have clear liquids.” 

“Ginger ale isn’t clear, it’s beige,” He countered.

“I think they mean clear as in, you can see through it.” I replied.

“That’s the meaning of translucent, but if they say Ginger Ale is ok, I guess I can drink it.”

We wambled through the parking lot and headed to the pharmacy.  As it turns out wamble also means: to move in a weaving, wobbling, or rolling manner. Between the anesthesia and more than a foot difference in height I’m certain we did anything but walk in a straight line to the car.

The wait at the pharmacy could be a story all of its own, so I’ll save it for another day – or not.

It was a day of waiting, wambling, and wooziness. The procedure was a success and there are no more wisdom teeth, no complications, and the patient is ‘westing’ comfortably.

Today… brought to you by the letter W.

 

Right Turn Ahead…Recalculating…

After checking the itinerary no less than 700 times before heading to the airport, my youngest son and I were finally airborne and on our way to Minnesota for a long-awaited vacation at the lake. 

The day had gone without a single hitch, we missed rush hour traffic and there were no accidents on I95, the shuttle bus was ready and waiting at long-term parking, we flew through security, the flight was on time, and my suitcase only weighed 48.5 lbs.

We landed safely in Minneapolis and made the trek from the far end of the airport to the tram, up three flights of escalators, and walked to the furthest corner on rental car row. 

Thanks to the unparalleled efficiency behind the desk, there were only 2 customers and 45 minutes between me and a wrestling match with the side view mirror of the Ford Fusion.  The bags were in the trunk, the mirrors were properly adjusted, on our way at last, we headed to the open road.

Only the road wasn’t so open. 

I hadn’t taken into account that we’d be leaving the city during rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon when the residents of Minneapolis pack up their cars and head to ‘the lake.’  I felt like I was back on the East coast in bumper to bumper traffic headed to ‘the shore.’

Although we had two smart phones and an iPad all equipped with navigation systems we opted to add a sense of adventure to our trip and use the directions provided by my dad along with the map the rental car attendant gave us.

We were already off to a much later start than I had hoped.  The plan was to be on the road by three p.m. and sitting down to a feast with the rest of the family by seven; however it became clear that in spite of my navigator’s best efforts, there was no shortcut to escape the heavy traffic and KFC was going to have to do for dinner.

My 15-year-old mimicked the voice of a GPS as he guided me from one turn to the next. His instructions far exceeded the limited navigation capabilities of the TomTom, as he notified me that people were flashing their lights because I needed to turn my headlights on.  Who knew they still made cars where you have to turn the headlights on yourself?

We had thirty miles to go; darkness, rain, and road signs that seemed to conflict with the directions confused both the navigator and the driver. We stopped to gather our bearings.

“Recalculating…Mom, back up so we can see what that sign said.”

“I’m not backing up on the highway,” I replied.

“You totally have time, there’s no one coming,” he insisted.

With a sideways glance I said, “I don’t recall that as an instruction from my GPS.”

“You totally could have made it,” he exclaimed once more.

We made a pact to ignore the road signs, stick to the directions, and not back up on the highway no matter how confused we got. White knuckled, I drove along the winding unlit roads to the sound of rain pounding on the roof, the hypnotic rhythm of the wiper blades against the windshield, and the deep smooth voice of my son who finally said…

 “Right turn ahead…you have reached your destination.”