Tag Archives: travel

I Love New York

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The City

Two girls who hadn’t seen each other in two decades. Two and half days. Twenty and a half miles on foot. One big city checked off: explored and experienced. That was my trip to New York.

I was really struggling through a rough patch. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my friend Sherry and I had hatched a plan for a girls’ getaway. I flew to Raleigh to meet her and we spent a quiet evening downtown catching up on over twenty years and two lives that had gone in many directions since our days in middle school band! When we boarded the plane bound for New York the next day, she let me have the window seat because, unlike me, it wasn’t her first time to fly into the city. My smile was wide as my eyes darted left and right, waiting for the first glimpses of New York from the tiny windows of the aircraft. When we touched down at La Guardia we looked at each other and smiled even more, completely excited, but also anxious.

Our trip from the airport to the hotel was my first-ever ride in a taxi. It was nothing like the movies, which is probably good since I watch a lot of action movies where taxis are in high-speed chases and in danger of flipping over at any moment. Instead, it was just a pleasant ride through the city. Yes, the traffic was heavy, but it was actually less harrowing than driving through Miami during rush hour. We quickly settled into our hotel room and then changed shoes, checked our map, and headed out.

Rockefeller Plaza

With just one stop for dinner, we walked for 7 1/2 hours! Our goal was to get our bearings, figure out where the main attractions were, and take in as much as we could. Oh, how we did that! On our first walk we swung by Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Plaza, Broadway, Times Square, and so much more. We definitely looked like tourists. We looked up… a lot. We smiled, said excuse me, and apologized for bumping into people… a lot. We stayed on the sidewalks and dutifully obeyed the walk/don’t walk signs. We waited patiently for the little man to tell us when to cross the street and the big orange hand to tell us to stay put! We also made our pilgrimage to a mecca for readers: the New York Public Library. We stared in awe and wonder at the beautiful entrance and walked up the stone steps, past the lions guarding the way. We whispered, of course, as we walked the hallowed halls and peered into rooms where people were studying and writing and reading. We had talked about the Library before ever going on our whirlwind adventure and it did not disappoint. Two authors, two bookworms, two bibliophiles: completely happy!

Times Square

Our first stop on day two was the Empire State Building. As fans of the movie, Elf, we quoted Buddy as we made our way to the entrance and up to the top. The views were spectacular! I was atop the very place where King Kong roared as planes buzzed by, trying to shoot him down! There are moments in life when you realize how small you are, what a tiny piece of a colossal puzzle your life is. Standing at the top of the Empire State Building gives you that sense. As I gazed down at all the skyscrapers surrounding us and the microscopic people below, the itty bitty cabs and cars and buses making their way through the maze of streets, I was struck with that sense of wonder at how many lives are being lived all over the world and how many are intersecting each day, sometimes for the briefest of moments and other times, when we’re lucky, for a lifetime. I was amazed and grateful.

Central Park

We walked and walked again, covering miles of ground. We walked to Central Park and saw the Plaza Hotel, wandered over to Columbus Circle and met a friend for lunch at a diner. We took a tour of the Museum of Modern Art, impressed and also disturbed by artwork. Our feet took us down Fifth Avenue and back to Rockefeller Plaza where we took in the tree again in all its glory. We watched people skate and shop and saw Christmas lights sparkle and cameras flash like twinkling lights from all directions. Another friend met us at a wonderful wine bar and we caught up again on life and its twists and turns, laughing and sharing where our paths had taken the three of us since graduating all those years ago. Our last stop of the night was the Gershwin where we saw Wicked, the show I’d been waiting for years to see. It was fabulous and there was only a slight moment of regret that Brian and I had been unable to see it together when he bought tickets for us back in April in Denver. He was simply too sick to go by the time the date rolled around and I couldn’t bear to go without him. He would have loved it, but I know he was happily looking down on us and very excited that I’d taken what was, for me, a huge step and gone on a little adventure. Afterward we walked back to our hotel, reliving the evening and the day. Splendid. More than that, really, but splendid will have to do.

The Tree

Our final day in New York was our biggest one. We had to fit in as much as possible! We were determined to see every sight we could… our feet had no idea what we had in store for them. During our nearly 10 miles + two subway rides, we took in: half of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, Top of the Rock, Washington Square, Gramercy Park, Grand Central Terminal, more of Times Square and the Theater District, and Broadway Comedy Club. A friend was performing there and the thought of someone pursuing a dream like that in a city like that is pretty inspiring. Washington Square was, I’ll admit, a happy accident… I cannot read a subway map very well! Our feet begged us to hail a cab on the way back to the hotel and we decided we should “just because.” As we drifted off to sleep, thoroughly enjoying the sounds of the city that never sleeps, we talked about how good the trip was for both of us, how scared we had been to do it on our own, and how much we had learned about ourselves and each other. I’ll never forget Sherry thanking me for going along and letting her enjoy the city through my eyes. Wow! For me, going to New York was huge. I didn’t have my safety net: someone to take care of me and all the details, and just let me tag along.

It turned out to be two single, clumsy, directionally-challenged, but adventurous girls taking an unforgettable whirlwind trip to NYC… and succeeding in having an amazing time. By the time we left, we still looked up… a lot. We still smiled… a lot. But we pushed our way through when we needed to and learned that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to walk before the man says you can and keep going when the big orange hand says not to. And you don’t have to wait on the sidewalk. You step out of where it’s comfortable and just go with the flow.

Stepping Out  = Joy

Out of Focus Bliss

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This is me, one year ago today. October 14, 2011 in St. Augustine, Florida. I love this picture. Absolutely, positively, love it. Yeah, it’s out of focus and fuzzy, but that’s okay. I remember walking on the sand that cold morning, wearing my favorite pink Hurley hoodie, waiting for the sun to peek over the water and rise high into the sky! My bare feet squished down into the scrumptious wet sand and the air was crisp and inviting. My love affair with the water has been going on for years and I don’t foresee it coming to an end anytime soon. I’m hopelessly head-over-heels in love with the sea.

This picture captures a lot of the essence of me one year ago. Life was not perfectly in focus, a lot was wrong, and a lot was right. I was physically beginning to be in a healthier place while emotionally working through difficulties. The sun seemed to be rising on my life, though the air had a chill to it on some days. My smile was completely genuine, a reflection of what I felt inside that day, and on many days.

We cannot go back in time and relive our past, nor should we want to. But I would like to have more days where I’m blissfully happy, even if totally out of focus! I don’t think those days happen by chance all the time. Circumstances don’t allow for that. So I believe we can make some of them happen, indeed we must make them happen. Oh, it’s hard! Trust me on that one, fellow joy-seeker. Sometimes it takes digging deep, pushing our feet down into that wet sand to anchor ourselves. We can be happy. We can smile. We can laugh and dance and sing. We  can even do a celebratory cartwheel on the beach! We can be joyful. On purpose.

A Little Out of Focus, Yet Blissfully Happy = Joy

Fact or Figment?

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On July 20th I was at Denver International Airport, minding my own business and sipping on a coffee while waiting on my group to be called to board a plane for San Francisco. I drained the last bit of coffee and walked to the nearby trashcan to throw it away and stand in the line that had formed, not in a hurry, but excited about my destination. I love watching people, so I was looking around, observing my fellow travelers, when I saw him. He was leaning against the rail of the walkway, looking down at his phone, wearing khaki shorts and a yellow shirt I had never seen before. He was unmistakable. Immediately my heart started pounding in my chest – the kind of pounding you are positive others can hear. I turned back around quickly and tried to process what had just happened. We didn’t make eye contact, so I assumed he hadn’t seen me. I turned back around and he was no longer there. Instead there was someone entirely different, easily 10 years older with a full head of gray hair and wearing nothing similar. I boarded my flight, filled with emotion.

I’ve shared my Brian sighting with a few people and most have not been surprised; they have just wondered if I thought it meant anything specific, if Brian was trying to send me a message. Of course, I have no idea. Was it even real, or was it just my imagination running wild? It felt incredibly real. I’ve seen people on occasion who resemble Brian and I’ve done a double-take, but I’ve not had the heart-pounding reaction that filled me with emotion. His outfit was not even familiar, and how could it have been? I gave away all his remaining clothes in the weeks following his death. I can’t explain the phone, because I had just cancelled his account and traded that in. Wait, this is Brian I’m talking about… it was the iPhone 5! All kidding aside, I admit it could have been just a figment of my imagination, but I don’t discount the supernatural. If I could explain everything in the universe I’d be sorely disappointed, probably jaded, and also a flippin’ genius!

No, I have no idea why I saw Brian or if it was meant as a sign or if he was trying to send me a message and I’ll never know for certain. But what I took away from it, after talking it over and analyzing it from different angles, is this: He had a new place to go and things to do and he’s comfortable with me doing the same thing. There was no feeling of “haunting,” nothing that seemed as though he was unhappy or angry or had unfinished business. It was Brian, casually moving through the day, on his way to somewhere new.

This status is still in my phone… the last status Brian had on his contact info. I like to think he is on that jet plane, headed off into the wild blue where adventure awaits.

A few weeks after I saw him, I wrote him a letter. I let him know that I’m doing okay, but that I miss him. I told him that his boys are doing just fine and that he was right not to worry about them. I shared that I wish he was still here to enjoy all the things he loved in life. I promised that I’d keep trying to reach my goals, be brave and attempt new things, and have no regrets. I thanked him for the four months we spent together in a strange combination of holding on and letting go.

He wanted to make it to this very day, but it just wasn’t in the cards. He cried over the realization that he wouldn’t see September 26th, 2012. Today would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. Marriages are messy. They are a mixture of good times and bad, heartbreaks and heartfelt love, twists and turns you never saw coming that bring smiles and tears. For better or worse, we made it 19 years and 8 months. That ain’t bad! The odds were most certainly not in our favor, getting married right out of high school and having two kids right off the bat. But we managed to hang on, sometimes by a thread and other times as though there was nothing easier. I have not seen Brain since and perhaps I never will. Fact or figment? I’ve chosen fact. I’m grateful for the day I saw him, the intense emotion of it and what I was able to take away from the brief moment.

A Sighting = Joy

The Golden Gate

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The Golden Gate Bridge is much smaller than I envisioned. No, I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it for the first time. It’s still an impressive structure; I had just built it up in my mind to be colossal. I also found it to be more beautiful. Yes, concrete and steel can be quite beautiful.

My first full day in San Francisco, I went to Land’s End for a morning hike. Chai latte in hand and light jacket protecting me from the sea breezes, I started along the trail, talking with a good friend and enjoying the sights and sounds of a new place. We rounded corners and came upon views of the ocean, the fog still settled after rolling in the night before. We heard the fog horn at regular intervals, warning of the bridge that lay ahead for boats passing nearby. At one point my friend smiled and said, “Do you see it?” I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and I think I had a quizzical look on my face. He kind of laughed and then I saw it: the Golden Gate Bridge had appeared over the fog! I snapped pictures of it as we continued along the trail. As the morning wore on, the fog unveiled more and more of the bridge, its rusty red color in contrast to the pale blue sky. It’s one of those sights you can’t get enough of. There is just something wonderful about that bridge.

Bridges, in general, are pretty cool. They connect us to places we otherwise might not venture. I may not have gone to Key West if it weren’t for the bridges connecting all the keys from Miami to that crazy, wonderful town. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay is a favorite of mine too, and I recall another foggy day when I crossed the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. I love being outdoors and crossing natural and manmade bridges, even the rickety ones that leave you holding your breath with each step. Those are actually some of the most fun. We probably don’t give a lot of thought to bridges, at least I didn’t until the day I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then I was kind of grateful that someone decided a bridge needed to be there. I could probably get very deep here and talk about how bridges connect people and places, unifying us. No, I’m thinking a lot simpler than that.  That day a bridge surprised me as it came into view through the fog, adding a great snapshot to my memory bank. It took me on a quick trip to Sausalito where I had the best sammich I’ve ever tasted. Something small and silly, but something really special too. Yes, the Golden Gate Bridge brought me joy… joy in seeing the awesome structure itself, joy in seeing tourists get excited about a 1.7-mile chunk of steel,  joy in driving over a piece of history, and joy in a simple thing like a sandwich.

Bridges = Joy

Hiatus

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Okay, so I really haven’t been at this long enough to be deserving of a hiatus. But, for lack of a better word, that’s what I’m taking. A couple weeks before Jordan was admitted to the hospital, I booked a vacation. Little did I know what would unfold not long after I planned my trip! I had no idea I would need to get away once again, to leave behind the stress and anxiety, and take in some rest and relaxation. I nearly cancelled my trip a couple times, first realizing that I might be in the hospital when the time for my departure came, then wondering how feasible it was to travel so soon after Jordan’s surgery. What if he needed me during his recovery? Well, a kid does need his mom sometimes, but at 17 he can handle quite a bit on his own. And after being with me for 13 days straight in the hospital, he probably needed the break from me as much as I needed the break from Colorado!

I spent almost five days in San Francisco and had a wonderful time exploring the city and just having a good time with a great friend. I walked until I couldn’t walk any more (my legs are still wondering what I put them through and why), ate some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, and laughed until my sides and cheeks ached. It was completely relaxing. A perfect getaway! And, yes, I probably left a little of my heart in San Francisco. How can you not?

Now I am tucked away in a top secret, undisclosed location, doing some serious and not-so-serious thinking, reflecting, and lots of writing. I have been writing in my journal a lot and working on some blog posts that are partially done because so many of my thoughts are still a little muddled. I’m probably still on a Ghirardelli chocolate high! You should see my journal… oh my goodness, the twists and turns each paragraph takes!

A hiatus is a pause, an interruption, and also that annoying gap between seasons of your favorite show! Pause and interruption: that almost sounds like what my life has been for the last six months. Now that it’s time to tune in to regularly scheduled programming, I have to figure out what that will be, what shape this new season will take. That’s a little scary, but also exhilarating. This break has given me some perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. A hiatus is good for the soul. I highly recommend it.

Hiatus = Joy