Tag Archives: vacation

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

Balance and Breath

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This is one of those posts that will have mixed reactions; I know because even my own thoughts on the matter have gone to opposite extremes. When you lose someone you’ve been with for two decades and that equates to more than half of your years on earth, your initial reaction is, “What the heck has happened and why didn’t someone do something to prevent this?” (In reality that was probably peppered with unladylike words, but I try to keep up royal appearances.) Your life is suddenly about loss and all it entails from your own personal grief to the tiny detail of looking at a baseball cap and wondering what to do with it, or the toothbrush that can be thrown away because it won’t be used again. For me there was also the displacement, uprooting and purging 80% of my life by donating and selling and gifting possessions that once made up a shared home. It’s a bizarre part of this thing we call life.

It’s even more strange when you are moving forward and feeling a different kind of normalcy and then something happens that throws you for a loop. I had to go to the bank to take care of some business and that involved telling the woman I was speaking to that my husband had passed away. I think we were within a few years of each other in age, and I heard a quiet, but sharp inhale and she put her hand to her chest and started telling me how sorry she was. Then she didn’t know how to look at me. She couldn’t hold eye contact. The floor was suddenly very interesting. In that moment, I was uncertain what my response was supposed to be. What is the proper reaction? Well, I immediately consulted my handbook, of course. Oh, wait… there isn’t a handbook so I had to come up with my own reaction. I smiled and said thank you and tried to hold her eyes and let her know without words that it was alright. We sat at her desk and she hurried through a few actions on her computer and then just stopped and looked at me, told me that I could leave and she’d just handle the matter. She apologized again. And then once more. I told her how much I appreciated it.

That’s happened more than once, but not to that degree. I don’t mean to be callous, but I really wanted to say, “I’m doing really well and I have a lot to do today so that will be great.” Ouch. That seems harsh when I read it.

As I’ve moved through my days, I have stopped making any mention of being married, unless the situation warrants it. The explanations and the pushing for further information in some instances are difficult and put me on the spot. (Have I mentioned I’m an introvert?… yeah, we really don’t like being put on the spot. I’d rather have an email or text that I can mull over for a day or so.)  It’s not that I don’t think of Brian or miss him. It’s really that when I watched him take his last breath and then I held his box of ashes in my hands, I realized the utter finality of it all, just as he had explained to me from day one. There is no going back and doing anything over. There is not changing the outcome. There is no “I wish” and “if only” and “but we could have.” There is death. And then there is life moving on.

Part of that for me has been figuring out what in the world to do with my days. Well, school starts next week and I’m still a homeschool mom for one more year. The curriculum has been purchased, the schedule for the first semester made (which will in turn be changed numerous times because that’s how we roll). I have a job that also occupies my time and makes me feel oh-so-productive and good, plus I work for a super cool chick! I have a load of writing on my plate to do with a self-proclaimed deadline of May 31, 2013. I have a little blog that is slowly gaining a following and that I hope to turn into a business. I have taken two little vacations to rejuvenate and goof off and catch up with friends, old and new.

And last week I realized that if I want to, I am allowed to do whatever I want. For me that meant going to the yoga studio seven days a week. Until last week I honestly thought I didn’t have that kind of freedom. I mean, who does that? That’s what I asked myself. And then I thought… me. And it’s okay. That’s part of what this time of my life is about now and I can’t make excuses and tell myself that it’s selfish and uncaring and unsympathetic. So, I decided that for now, I’m going to work my little tail off every day with work and school and duties and dreams. And every night of the week I’m going to stretch and breathe and balance. And every weekend I’m going to carve out time to do the same, stretching my body as well as my mind, breathing in all that’s around me right now and balancing my life and limbs as best I know how. And I’m going to do that seven days a week, for now, because I can. Because I want to. And for now, that means I need to.

Balance and Breath = 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