View from the top

The assignment for Writing 101:

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

I’ve always been drawn to lights and high places. Sometimes I find a combination of the two.

When Rob and I moved to Colorado, we first lived on the Western Slope. Grand Junction, Colorado was our first real home away from home. We moved there in 1987 with our three-year and and our three-week old. Rob started residency in Family Practice at the local hospital, St. Mary’s, we bought a little starter house, and settled in. Grand Junction was good to us. He had a great training experience and we grew some good friends there. It was a beautiful western community with a perfect high desert climate and scenery to spare. The town had a small feel to it, the local peaches were legendary, and for five years we thought we had found a home forever.

But opportunities beckoned, and eventually lead us across the country, to a new home in Michigan. Midland, Michigan was another wonderful community. As the corporate headquarters of Dow Chemical, Midland had amenities that you wouldn’t typically find in small towns. Our kids had friends all over our neighborhood. I was an event planner for the local Chamber of Commerce, Rob had his first experience with corporate work.

But the winters there were hard, and long, and gray. And while there was a lot about Michigan that charmed us…Mackinac Island, summer cherries and fall apple orchards, Polish pierogi, the beautiful lake shores and the small, colorful towns…ultimately, we missed the Colorado sun, and the mountains, and we began to talk about next…next jobs, next home, next stop.

Once you start having those conversations, it’s only a matter of time.

We looked at a couple of practice options, but it was an easy decision to accept a job in Denver, taking us back to the mountains and the sunshine.

When you drive cross-country, heading toward the Rockies, if you approach from the east on I-70, you reach a point when you can just faintly, ever so faintly, see the outline of the peaks in the distance. That was the moment I always anticipated.

We drove it many times, and in fact, those drives had started in our childhoods, both families drawn to the Colorado mountains, though in different seasons. My parents were summer visitors, heading west on summer vacations, packing the iconic station wagon with four kids, bags, food, books, games, and more books. And music. My dad always had music with him, and by the time we were making those trips, it was cassette tapes, boxes and boxes of tapes.

Rob’s family went to Colorado to find snow, and they found skiing. In the 70s, driving out over spring break to experience winter and the mountains, they created a family tradition, returning year after year to satisfy a love of exploring, and beauty, and escape from routine.

Those trips were the beginnings of our love affair with the West, summer and winter, and the Colorado mountains.

After we got married, when Rob and I talked about where we wanted to live, the mountains of Colorado became our destination of choice. In 1995, that dream came true. We moved to the foothills of the Front Range, Genesee, nestled between Evergreen and Golden. At night we had a view of the lights of Denver to the east, and we had soaring peaks to the west. Perfect!

It was perfect, and from the day we moved to the mountains, I promised myself I wouldn’t take the views for granted, wouldn’t let it get old.

Even good things in your life become insignificant if you can’t see them anymore. 

I used to drive around, running my errands, and even after we’d lived there for years, I’d catch myself just staring at the scenery. I never got tired of it, never looked past it. Living with the views made me grateful, kept me humble, fueled my joy.

Our view to the west

Our view to the west

Red Rocks, a Front Range landmark

Red Rocks, a Front Range landmark

The river bank

Snow frosted

 

I’ve never been a city girl, but there is one city that completely charmed me, makes me want to know it better and better. Paris, the City of Light, is beautiful and timeless.

It’s romantic and iconic.

It seems familiar from all the movies and photos that have made it famous; but it’s unknown too..when you’re walking around, seeing the landmarks with your own eyes,  there’s a quality of déjà vu, and surreality. You can’t understand the aura from photos, or movies. You have to see it for yourself to absorb the little shops, the cafés, the traffic and the people, the Frenchness. I guess that’s true of most places…you have to experience in person. But somehow it’s more true there. There’s magic in Paris, that’s the only way to explain it.

View seat

View seat

The Paris Icon

The Paris Icon

Paris wandering

Paris wandering

Riverside in Paris, 2009

Riverside afternoon

The funny thing about that trip was how meaningful it was to both of us. We’ve done a lot of traveling together, and sometimes a place that speaks to one of us doesn’t  impact the other. But this was different. We were in sync with each other and with the city. And to this day, it is a touchstone for us, an experience that caught us by surprise, filled us with delight.

We thought we were just doing the tourist thing. Turns out, we carved out memories for life. And you never know when life is going to hand you those moments. So it’s important to pay attention.

The good stuff can only be planned so far. I’ve learned to leave room for the joy of the unplanned, the surprise of the unexpected.

At the end of our exploring, tired and footsore, we headed to our hotel in the heart of the city to recover and get ready to leave the next day. But late that night, I think it was a little before midnight, Rob insisted we go back out for a last look at the city, and the lights. I was so tired, I almost didn’t do it.

But how can you say no to Paris?

We walked a few blocks, and this was our reward:

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Paris night-light

It was worth putting on my shoes again.

I’m so glad I said yes. If I’d said no, I would have missed one of the perfect moments of my life, of our lives together. 

Seeing the lights of the Eiffel Tower, sharing a midnight dessert at a quaint little café within sight of that stunning monument, was the perfect end to our trip, the perfect date with my best friend.

Saying yes to life has served me better than saying no.

It has caused me to take some wrong turns, true enough. But even those wrong turns have lead to good things, and make up the mosaic of life. So when I find myself hesitating, I remember the lights, and a midnight walk through Paris. And I know that I’ll choose yes, because there might be a night-light worth seeing, and I’ll miss it if I say no.

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Country roads

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Rob and I are taking a breather. After a couple of months of intense work, we’re in sunny California setting up a new second home. Well, it’s a second home for us. Really it’s a new travel trailer. We said good-bye to the Class C RV the last time we were down, and now we’re adjusting to our new space.

We’ve been roaming the north/central part of California the last couple of years, slowly getting to know this region a bit. Sacramento is the big city hub, but we’re only there briefly, picking up a vehicle from storage and then leaving the hustle and bustle behind. No doubt about it, California has hustle.

But once you drive out of the city, into the countryside, you’re in a completely different world. And that’s the California I love. You leave the multiple-lane freeways and find yourself driving on two-way rural roads that probably look the same as they did 50 years ago. The houses you pass may be newer construction. But often, the barns and homes are old fashioned too. They’ve stood the test of time and weather, and look a little rugged, like some chiseled movie star from an old black and white film. They may be repurposed and give the small towns the quaint flavor of historic meets tourist. Or they may be falling down, remnants of a past century and past usefulness that won’t last many more years.

This is historic gold country (as in the ’49..that’s 1849… gold rush), farming and ranching country, dotted with wide spots in the road, all boasting some hole in the wall restaurant that’s probably a gem in disguise. The winding roads take you round hills and streams and seem to be going nowhere in particular. Nothing out here runs straight.

I’ve decided any road that takes me past rounded green hills, grazing cows and standing horses, vineyards and fruit orchards growing hot in the mid-day sun, old pick-ups and farm stands selling farm to table produce…take any road that runs past these delights, and I’m charmed.

I’m completely fascinated with the scale of it all. The landscape is amazing, the rolling hills spreading far to the horizon and a faint view of snowy mountains, barely visable to my eye. But the buildings that dot the land along side the two-lane roads, they’re scaled to human size. Nothing is big-box shaped, overwhelming, giant structures that make humans seem like ants in comparison. Everything in the country, except the land itself, seems tailored to people. I guess because when a lot of this land was settled, that’s who they were building for.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the convenience of big shopping and all that goes with it. There’s a place for that, I guess. But all in all, I’m still small town at heart. Maybe it’s in my veins, the way my mom and my grandmothers, and surely their mothers before them, all grew and lived in small communities with human-sized stores and buildings.

There were farmers among my ancestors, and maybe that old influence is why I love the sight of cows and the acres of fields we pass. I remember my dad could always identify the crops, and I wondered how he knew what was growing in the fields when he wasn’t a farmer. But he grew up with that heritage, and so he knew.

I am not a farmer, and I can’t always guess the type of crop in the field we’re passing. But I love it, and I identify (a little guiltily, feeling like I’m faking it) with the rural spirit of the region. I love to support the local markets, love to think I’m contributing to a family’s way of life, and an American heritage of growing food and making it, encouraging the little guys with their small farms. It’s a nod to our shared past, a nod to my parents, the road warriors of my youth, and an acknowledgement that for a lot of people, farming and rural living is still an everyday way of life.

So I’m enjoying the new trailer, and getting settled. But to be honest, I’m almost as excited to see the cows again.

Doesn’t seem romantic, really. Until you get out on those open roads. And then I know I’m home, honoring the American spirit, loving the freedom, the space, the independence.

Aaahh…

See you out there!

What do you find that’s charming on the road?

Clean up and clean out

We’re in California for a few days. Came down to take a short break from winter, and just missed a big storm in Ketchikan. Perfect timing!

Winter, at least here in north-central California, is minimal. Nights are cool, with temps in the 40s, but so far we haven’t needed more than a light jacket. That makes spending a few days in the RV very doable, even though we’ve been inside more than out.

But our main task is not relaxing, it’s cleaning. We’re trading the RV for a travel trailer, and we’ll turn the RV in to the dealer when we leave at the end of the week. We don’t pick up the replacement until spring. So we have a gap. We have to store everything coming out of the RV until we get back: bicycles, beach towels, coffee mugs, and all the little extras we’ve picked up along the way. All extremely valuable (!) and now has to be sorted and evaluated. Sort of like, in a real move, when you come down to cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer. Lots of little odds and ends of stuff, about most of which I wonder: a) what is this? b) where did it come from? (closely followed by, “who’s been filling up my RV?!”) and c) should I keep it or throw it out?

Yes, it is a slow process.

We bought the RV in the fall of 2008, so we’ve had a few years to squirrel away. We’ve cleaned out a bit, now and then, but we’ve never had to empty it. So now we know. We know just how much we’ve packed in, and how much we’ve used all those little things we thought might come in handy. You know…the things you keep…just in case.

So guess what our new resolution is?! That’s right, we’re not going to fill up our new space. We’re going to be picky. Very, very picky. Only the useful, the really essential things are allowed in. 🙂

Guess how long that will last?

Well, it’s a nice fantasy to entertain. We’ll start out strong. But it’s only a matter of time.

I’ve known for a long time that the best way to stay on top of accumulation is a move. That’s it. It forces you to sort and thin and see what you’ve stashed. And now I know that’s true, even in vacay mode.

So, we’re off to rent a storage unit…a very small one. We’ll be down to essentials, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Right?!

Road trips

Road trips

Cruising

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We are cruising this week, experiencing the Eastern Caribbean from the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. It is an unexpected pleasure, for reasons different than I would have guessed. The stereotypical things I’ve heard are true. There is food everywhere, stays in port are brief…a few hours at each stop…and passengers, at least on this ship, for this trip, are mostly older. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What I didn’t expect was that I would love the gentle rocking motion of the ship (boat, my husband calls it, though that hardly does justice to this vessel). Just enough to be calming and lulling, only occasionally creating a momentary loss of balance, the sensation is similar to being on a train. There’s a sensation of forward thrust, and a back and forth rhythm that is oddly soothing. I thought it might interrupt my sleep, but instead, I find myself sleeping like a baby.

I didn’t expect the views. I’m accustomed to seeing these big ships docked in Ketchikan, during cruise season in Alaska, so I knew the size. But I had never been on board, and didn’t grasp the ability to view from the equivalent of a multi-story building. In port or at sea, you can see a long way. The water looks amazing, and you get a fantastic bird’s eye view of the shading of the waters in the Caribbean ports…so much variation in color that you would think it is unreal, except you know it’s not.

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The staff are friendly, helpful, efficient. This crew is mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, and of the ones we’ve talked with, I hear the standard employment contract is ten months. Ten months at sea, then they go home to family for a couple of months. Last night at dinner one of the staff was talking about his wife and children. He misses them, but after he’s been home a couple of weeks, he’s ready to be at sea again. He has done this for 15 years, and this is his way of life. Addicting, he said, and I can see how that could happen. Variety, scenery, and motion color your work environment. And the passengers change regularly. Good or bad, no one stays too long.

We are surprised at the spaciousness and the amenities. There are lounges large and small, an internet cafe (for a fee) a library (free), a well-equipped gym (free) and a spa/salon (definitely not free). A small theater offers recent movies several times a day, there are on-board shops, a medical clinic, a culinary arts showroom, and a large theater for the live performance shows the entertainment crew hosts each evening. A photo studio offers portrait sessions, you can play basketball or ping pong, swim, sit in a sauna or jacuzzi, walk the deck. There is a casino for gamers. There is opportunity to purchase fine art, attend a variety of lectures on history of the ports of call as well as related areas of interest. You can be social or not. We have chosen not, which means we are not seated with others for dining. We chose the “open” dining option, no set time or partners for dinner each evening, and no requirement for formal dress. The most stringent dress expectation is “smart casual,” which means no shorts at dinner. Smart casual is a good fit for us.

One of the curiosities of the cruise industry is the connection between this type of travel and jewelry. When we moved to Ketchikan, I was surprised by the number of jewelry stores there. Most of them are closed during the off-cruise season in Alaska, which is October through April. Jewelry is the most prominent item being sold on board, or at the ship-sponsored shops at each port. Still haven’t understood that connection. But the jewels are beautiful.

The food ranges from a huge buffet line, available most hours of the day, to a large dining room that offers a next step up in sit-down service, food choices, and ambience, to smaller and evermore select dining options, based on prior reservation and additional fees for dining. The fees are a flat per-person charge rather than per item. The service and selection seem appropriately upgraded for the ones we’ve sampled, and the upgrade fees seem fair and proportional. My biggest curiosities with regard to food are 1) how does the staff manage all the logistics of storage and prep for the demand and 2) how can people eat so much?! I am eating little more than my normal amount each day…ok, I’ve had to sample a variety of desserts…but who needs a midnight buffet? There are different themed restaurants: one with classic American fare, an Italian dinner-only option; an Asian-inspired option with the delicate flavors and robust chiles of multiple Asian cuisines. And there is the very upscale grill that offers a fine steakhouse menu. If by chance you need additional refreshment during the day, you can have afternoon tea at 3:00; room service for select items round the clock; and there are various stations for coffees and non-carbonated beverages. There are bars on every level to accommodate passengers’ thirst. Alcohol and sodas are extra; this is not an all-inclusive experience.

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Would I do it again? Yes. You get a brief snapshot of what each port has to offer, a sampler, so to speak. This would be an ideal way to travel with family. The variety of activities allows for a range of interests and energy levels. You could enjoy time together as well as apart. And above the base price for the cruise, you can spend more as you add shore excursions or onboard upgrades. But the basic package is generous and relaxing. Best of all, you can be as casual as you choose. There are two formal dining nights out of the seven nights of this cruise, but even on those nights, there are options for passengers who choose to pass on formal attire, which we’ve done. When you book your cruise, you’re given the choice for open seating (no set dining time) and the expectations for formal or casual attire. No surprises on that front.

For our initial cruise experience, we chose to travel with Holland America Line. The other major cruise lines offer different levels of luxury and attract various age ranges. Obviously, the average age on a Disney cruise is likely to be different than on some of the other lines. And you can also experience themed cruises, singles cruises, round the world cruises. I suppose, like many things in life, once you scratch the surface, you find a whole world that you never knew existed.

We’ve had a good time, and a quiet time, mostly enjoying the slower pace and forced disconnection from our norm. We chose not to connect to internet while cruising, and have only had our phones on to check messages. I think about life in an earlier era, wonder about what it would be like to travel by ship in times past. My guess is that the more recent past offered similar levels, perhaps even more, luxury. The distant past? Well, I probably would not have been a fan of travel in sailing ship times. I like running water, toilets that flush, and all the extra amenities that 2012 affords, thank you very much!

So yes, I would recommend cruising. We’ll likely find opportunity to experience it again at some point, when we need a little time out of the race of life, the slow and steady motion of a ship’s engines, and the simple routine of onboard life.

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Road Trip!

For the first two weeks of our trip, we’re driving. We flew to Atlanta and rented a car, and now we get to drive. Believe me, coming from an island with a small road system, that’s a joy (and another example of how something you do every day and complain about becomes a treat when it’s no longer your norm…I posted about driving here).

Growing up I did a lot of road trips. My mom and dad were the king and queen of long cross-country drives, and like many kids of my generation, I put in a lot of hours in a station wagon filled to the brim with parents, children, all the stuff needed for summer car trips, food, and our assorted souvenirs. Then, it was just the way we traveled. I was along for the ride, often with my face buried in a book, I’m sorry to say. It was great for the reader in me, not so good for the views and scenery I missed.

However, I grew up and grew wiser, and now, I hardly ever read when we drive. I don’t want to miss anything, or if I do, it’s because Rob is driving and I’ve been lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, my second favorite way to nap (first favorite being curled up in front of a fire).

We drove up through Georgia, cut across North Carolina, and into Tennessee. We’re spending a few days between family visits nestled into a lodge in the Smoky Mountains. This is part vacation, part retreat for us.

This is not the most scenic time of year to visit this region of the country, and yet it is beautiful too.

It is quieter than summer, when tourists are everywhere. The mountains are softer, rounder, and more thickly covered than the Rockies where we lived for so many years. The winding roads are well maintained, with frequent pull outs for photo taking opportunities and vista viewing. There are picnic spots and trailheads inviting us to get out of the car and explore. The weather warms up enough by afternoon to make this enjoyable. Old homesteads and relics of the past tell the story of the native Americans and early pioneers who made a home in these mountains. The place names are lyrical: Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley; Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap. My favorite thing is spotting something intriguing as we drive, feeling the compulsion to pull over, check it out. Sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes not. It’s the surprise factor that adds the most fun.

We divide our days between drives, and time spent almost exclusively snug inside our retreat. We have a condo at a lodge, and with a fireplace, internet access, a king-size bed, and simple food, we don’t have to go out, unless we choose to. The person checking us in was eager to share information about tourist attractions in the area. I had a hard time containing myself, listening politely as I thought, “You don’t know who you’re dealing with here!” We are not tourists looking for the latest attractions. No, we like natural or historic settings best, and those are the ones we’ll stop for, or go looking for. Otherwise, we’re perfectly content to just be.

These are our gifts to ourselves…driving, toward a destination, or wandering aimlessly, allowing for the serendipitious…and time…no schedule to meet, no projects to mind, no commitments to fulfill.

Can’t think of a better way to vacation!

Southern charm

We’ve escaped! We’re on the road for a month, away from work, cold, rain, snow, and routine. We’re spending the next few weeks in the South, seeing family, looking for sun and fun, relaxing, getting in some vacation and down time.

This month we’ll be in Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Florida. We’re spending our vacation time driving, hiking, planning, writing, trading, eating, sleeping, and playing. We’re also going to experience our first-ever cruise, which we’ve been inspired to do after watching cruise ships come in and out of Ketchikan for the past three years. But we don’t need to do Alaska. We’ve opted for the Caribbean, which will be a lot warmer and, I hope, a lot drier.

This time will also allow us to reconnect with parents and extended family, and that will be good. I have some personal trysts to keep, a good-bye to say to my grandmother, who passed away in November. This trip will bring that reality home to me. A visit to the cemetery is in order, and my mom wants to take care of some legal chores during this visit. But in the midst of the serious and the sad, there will be smiles, joy, favorite foods, good memories to explore, and to create.

We’re also doing an eating tour, sampling our Southern favorites: barbecue, farm-raised catfish, Cuban food in Florida, my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s specialities. And along the way, we’re sampling whatever we find that stirs a memory or triggers a craving. Here’s the one we experienced today:

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All I needed to see was the sign on the highway…exit now! And we did. Boiled peanuts are a Southern delicacy, a traditional favorite of childhood. These were really good: warm, just the right amount of salt, soft, but not too soft. Because the peanuts are sold in the shell, and the shells are moist from boiling, your fingers get a little shriveled as you shell the nuts and eat. But that’s just the price you pay for these warm little nuggets of goodness. Like the famous chips, no one can eat just one. “One more, one more,” they call to me, and I eat and eat, reminding myself that it’s not every day I find a boiled peanut vendor along the roadside. I’m practically obligated to eat the whole bag. Rob got a few, I’m happy to report. I was a polite pig.

Well, maybe you have to try them to understand. But if you ever have the opportunity, take it.

And now, let the vacation begin!

Ah, Sedona!

Snoopy Rock

This is beautiful red rock country, mountainous, with elevations ranging 4,800 and above. This is also a mecca for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The communities of this area…Sedona, Oak Creek, and Jerome, are all a bit different, as you would expect, and each capitalizes on the sun, Native American art, pioneer spirit, the magnificent scenery, and shopping, shopping, shopping!

Sunday afternoon we went to a state park just out of town called “Slide Rock,” and joined others who were out for a cool and natural version of a water park. Slide Rock has natural rock formations in a shallow creek that allow you to slide through the water, just like you would at a water park. Only this slide has surroundings of beautiful red rock cliffs and rock formations all around it. It’s a popular kid destination, and a lot of families were there for the day with coolers, water floats, and assorted members of multi-generations gathered to enjoy a sunny Arizona afternoon.

Stephanie, Matt & Riley at Slide Rock

Sedona has a plethora of spiritual and psychic centers, and there are “vortex” points where there is a concentration of energy. You can seek counsel or guidance if that’s your interest, and with the variety of places offering these services in town, you shouldn’t have to stand in line too long.

There are “Pink Jeep” tours that take you on different sight-seeing rounds, looking at the rock formations that have inspired names like “Snoopy Rock” or “Coffee-Pot” or “Castle Rock.” You can rent bikes if you don’t have your own, go on horseback rides, or do it the old-fashioned way and hike the canyons.

Yesterday we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce to pick up some info on bike trails, and a gully-washer rain, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before, came down while we were inside. So we waited it out, watching as huge drops of rain and hail beat down, and literally created a white-out so that the magnificent views were obliterated. Let me tell you, Ketchikan rain has nothing on a true Arizona monsoon storm! Fortunately we weren’t prisoners too long. These storms are short and sweet, and keep the temps in a manageable range of low 90s…not bad for August in the high desert.

Tomorrow we’re going on a bike ride. We’ve hauled bikes all over this country, and I’m sorry to say don’t use them as much as we should. But in such a setting as this, it seems essential to get out and see nature in a more personal way.

Ah, vacation…the time of slow pace, discovery, adventure…the sweet life!

A little in-between

Made it through the week. Work is caught up (for the moment). Chores are done. Packing is finished. And tomorrow I begin ten days off, ten days of family time, ten days of sun and warmth. It’s good to have the breaks to look forward to, to escape the routine and the day-to-day. This next week is not about a luxury resort or exotic vacation. Those are great, but not essential. What’s essential is what is coming. Time to be with people I love (some of them anyway) and time to be still; time to experience; time to step outside myself and my norm.

Tonight is a little in-between space. I have all the satisfaction of completing my lists to leave town and all the anticipation of the week to come. Rob says some of the best time in life is the in-between. I think when he’s said that he is referring to the bigger gaps, the gaps that come between geographical moves or changes of jobs…the BIG spaces in life. But tonight, this small in-between is refreshing too. I anticipate seeing him tomorrow at the Phoenix airport, after a three week absence, and the special joy that comes when we’re together again. I think about seeing Stephanie and Matt, and of course little Riley…that little! I think about the small gifts I’m taking down, and the fun of sharing. I look forward to whatever we decide to do next week, Rob and I, as we luxuriate in a few days of no schedule and no pressure. I’m excited to hear about his week with Alex, and what they did together.

The sweetness of life is captured in moments, and we’re fortunate if we recognize those moments as they occur. Sometime I’ve realized, looking back at a time past, that I was really happy; that I was in a good place. Tonight I’m thinking that it can work facing future too. I know that I will be in a good place in the next few days, that I’ll say again, “this is the good stuff.” I like to know it’s coming, and to appreciate those moments in advance.

So, off to bed, got an early start to my day tomorrow. I’m in the in-between tonight, but soon I’ll be in the moment.
photo from here

Monday, but Friday’s coming!

Yes, it’s Monday. Not a bad one at that, although it’s another cool and rainy day here in SE Alaska. I’m hoping August brings some consistent summer days, because July hasn’t come through with sun or warmth.

But don’t get me started on the weather!

As my grandmother would say, I’m wishing my life away this week, mentally hurrying the days on toward Friday. And though Friday is the beginning of the weekend, it’s not the weekend I’m waiting for. This Friday I’ll head to Phoenix to reconnect with Rob, who’s been out and about visiting family in California, and is spending this week with our son in Ft Campbell, Kentucky. Next week we’ll be in Sedona, AZ, soaking up some sun, doing a little hiking and eating, and enjoying vacation mode together.

And a bonus: we get to see little Riley, have a “Riley sighting” on our way to Sedona, and another short visit on our return trip. isn’t it lucky for us that she lives in the very state we’re visiting?! Stephanie gives me updates on her “firsts:” today she tried a French fry, and watched a few minutes of “The Lion King.” She is saying a word or two, and has a favorite stuffed animal now. She brings a book to be read, and likes toys that make animal sounds. I saw her at her first birthday in April. Now, three months later, I think she’s rapidly becoming a little girl and leaving her real baby days behind.

This is the joy of summer, anticipating luxurious days of leisure and relaxing, and time to connect, and reconnect; to move slowly, to drink it all in.

Whether you’re looking forward to a long awaited destination vacation or are planning a laid-back week with kids or grand-kids, I hope you’ll tune out work and worry and invest in the moment. Invest in the people, and the joy of days without pressure, without rush; with the fun of serendipity.

I’m looking forward to long talks and good dinners with Rob; lazy mornings and quiet nights; hiking in amazing red-rock canyons; to dividing my time between my reading list on my Kindle, and the little books on Riley’s shelf. We’re going to the park, going out for a Riley picnic, and looking for a little girl “happy” that will light up the face of a 15-month-old.

I’ll be the one with the big smile. I’m connecting on Friday. It’s going to be a good week!