Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

This posting is self congratulatory.  Also hoping maybe a little helpful to someone out there.

One year ago (and seven days) my husband and I quit smoking cigarettes. We both smoked for decades. Both in our fifties. You can figure out the math.

I was only being a supportive friend to my husband. He said he didn’t want to smoke on this certain day. We were in Mumbai and flying back to Delhi.

I said, “I won’t either.”

And we didn’t smoke that day.

There is some irony here. When we landed in Delhi it was the first day of the country’s “bad air quality” season. Could hardly even see the signs outside the airport. The next day the newspaper reported that breathing this air was akin to smoking forty-five cigarettes. A gas chamber of sorts.

The other thing was that it was a sudden quit. Not planned. So that meant we still had a bunch of cigarette packs. That was bothering me. I don’t like to waste. But we didn’t smoke them and eventually gave them away.

We uploaded a free app on our phones. It’s called Smoke Free. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in process of quitting. Obviously, the smoker needs to make the decision to quit but the app provides constant and positive reinforcement. Shows how much money is saved. How health is improving each day. How many cigarettes NOT smoked. How many life days regained. How much time not spent smoking. That one is insane to think about because they mean actual time you were smoking. Mine is up to 25 days.

It has places to post triggers, cravings, set goals, badges, etc.

For those of you who don’t know. Smoking is powerfully addicting. Terrible.

Crowds of people wouldn’t be milling about the entrances of office buildings, restaurants or bars if it wasn’t.

We have been in many filthy international airport smoking rooms because not smoking during a layover was unthinkable. There is one lounge where you had to lean your face into this machine to light your cigarette. Similar to a car lighter. Looked like you were kissing a big silver machine. That many had previously kissed. Gross.

Of course, the duty free shop at the airport is where we would buy our cartons of cigarettes.

Weather would never be a deterrent.  Puffing away in all sorts of weather and every season.

Would have a cigarette outside airport before picking up bags at the luggage carousel.

Always ensured you didn’t run out of them. Or even ran low.

Nor’easter heading your way? Stock up on milk, bread and cigarettes.

I was pretty good about usually keeping the cigarettes at home when not traveling. If I was out and about during the day I didn’t bring them with me. We also didn’t smoke in the house or in our cars.

Here is the surprising thing. It was easier than I thought it would be.

Way easier. My husband agrees. I stated that we would only do it “cold turkey” and not vape or substitute something else. Because I thought that would make it more difficult.

I am not saying it’s easy. Cravings do occur. I sometimes missed it. But it truly was easier than I thought. You just distract yourself. I personally did a ton of walking. Outside in the polluted air. 🙂

I do believe anyone can quit. It is so liberating. No longer being held hostage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, hello there! I hope you are all well.

My apologies for being a slug and not writing sooner. Had a very busy summer. Not a moment to think! Don’t get me wrong. It was lovely and fun. Filled with family and friends. As well as new experiences. Just super busy.

I thought when I arrived here (in the U.S.) during the Spring that I would have all the time in the world.

Then I blinked and summer was gone. Just like that. Snap.

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The original plan was to head back to Delhi, India at the end of September, hang out with my husband and begin exploring the country again with my newfound friends.

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But we all know about plans. I suppose we need a constant reminder to always view them as fluid. And go with the flow.

We are happily repatriating after seven years of overseas living.

Do I wish I had more time in India? Yes, I do. I swear a person could spend a lifetime in India and not fully see or appreciate that amazing country. So diverse. Language, terrain, people, food, climate and especially the colors!

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Some folks complain about moving. I get it. Each person and circumstance is different.

Fortunately, I am not one of them. I view our past moves as experiences that continually added depth and a ton of beautiful people to our lives.

I counted thirteen moves in our nearly thirty-two years of marriage. No, of course it’s not always Skittles and beer. Each and every move created indelible memories. Some happy and some sad. Leaving beloved family and friends. The excitement of exploring new places. A clean slate. Missing important family occasions. Adding new friends to the list. Losing people along the way.

Knowing that each move means you’re a little bit older and so is the generation before you. Everything changes and time does not stand still. At all.

I still do not have any regrets or complaints. Not even sure if this is our last move!

Below was the view from our balcony. Enjoying the calm before the packers got busy.

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This last move was going according to plan. The fellas are punctual and ready to get cracking. I oversee the operation. Like they needed my assistance. 🙂

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At the end of this first day we are at the hotel. My husband is visiting with a friend by the pool and telephones me. He is cheerful and says, “Come join us.”

I replied, “Be down in a jiff.”

Two minutes later, I am heading down the stairs and my mobile rings again. I was thinking, “Why on earth is he calling me again? I’m on my way already.”

I could tell something was wrong by the way he said my name. It was. He just got word that his mother had died in Syria. 😦 I think losing your mom has got to be one of the saddest things. Like it’s your mom. The only one you ever get.

That was a Tuesday and we were leaving India on Saturday in the wee hours. Honestly? This move, in a weird way, provided a huge distraction during a very sad time. Because we were in the midst of decisions and a constant state of busyness we were able to get through each day of this week without despair.

So this particular move will always be associated with the death of my mother-in-law. His mom, a beloved grandmother, mother-in-law and someone who has been a part of my own life history for more than thirty years. Still seems a bit surreal. I thought she was going to live forever.

But like all of our moves it is never about just one thing or feeling. There is now also some excitement. Starting a new chapter in my home state. We haven’t lived here since we left in 1994! So while it’s still familiar it has been awhile since we permanently hung our hats here. A lot has changed but it feels like we have sort of come full circle.

We are enjoying this transition back to the U.S. and enjoying the great (and clean) outdoors. Our air shipment (14 moving boxes-clothes, linens and personal items) arrived last Monday. The sea shipment (furniture and rest of it) will follow in the middle of November. I don’t care too much about “things” but I will be glad to have our photo albums, framed pics, art, personal papers and family history back with us.

I feel so very fortunate. It’s like my being has absorbed all of the people and experiences on this twenty-four year journey through Texas, California, Malaysia and India. So that I can always carry these people and places with me. Ensuring that I will never forget any of them.

So that’s my news. This is where I am. You are officially updated.

I look forward to working on this blog with more frequency. Lots of writing to be done.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

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Many years ago read an article that I found quite interesting. It was about a literary pilgrimage of sorts.

It listed authors and the places they lived or wrote. Most located in upstate New York and some New England.

I wanted to go but never did. Then one day, nearly four years ago, I threw the thought out into the universe. My cousin, Joanne, was interested. A summer road trip was soon in the works.

It was really fun. Exploring places we never would have seen.

We left Brooklyn and our first stop was Washington Irving’s place, Sunnyside. A beautiful place on the Hudson in Westchester, New York.

Headed to Olana. Another gorgeous property. Also situated on the Hudson River. My cousin, Elizabeth, had recommended this stop. The home and studio of painter Frederic Edwin Church now a historic site and managed by the New York State Department of Parks.

Got there too late to take a tour. No amount of scheming on my part could get us in on the current tour. Not sure if they are just really strict about it or if that particular guy was just a schmoe. My charm was totally wasted on him.

But a fantastic site.

http://www.olana.org

Pedal to the metal and we were off again.

We drove to “The Mount” which is the name of Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her book, Ethan Frome, written in 1911, still gives me the shivers.

This was a beautiful home and the surrounding gardens were lovely.

http://www.edithwharton.org

Had a very nice lunch at a cool place in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Food was really good.

Their gallery hosts story telling, spoken word, book launches and more.

http://www.sixdepot.com

Also located in Stockbridge is the Norman Rockwell Museum.

http://www.nrm.org

Crosssed the border and into New York State.

Headed to Austerlitz, in the woods, to visit Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop. I had read her life story in my Dallas book club years ago. She lived quite the colorful life. Edna was a poet and a feminist.

Love this poem of hers.

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!

Interesting that the author of a book I am currently reading now lives in Austerlitz.

http://www.millay.org/visitsteepletop/php

Next stop. Stayed at a neat and simple motel overlooking the lake in Guilderland, New York. This is near Cooperstown.

Browsed the nice shops of Cooperstown and strolled down historic Main Street.

Did not make it to the Fenimore Museum. It is built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. Must have been a time issue if we didn’t make it.

http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org

Anyway, Cooperstown was our last stop. We sure did drive through some beautiful areas of New York and Massachusetts. Stopped at wonderful road side fruit and vegetable stands. Even ended up visiting with a dairy farmer when we drove by his farm.

It was a great road trip that might never have happened. Until I sent it into the universe.

What do you want to send into the universe? Where do you really want to go?

 

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This past January my friend Di and I had plans for a lunch.

Winter in New England can be very cold. So everyone has to bundle up.

Kind of weird because it seems like the entire Northeast female population is wearing the same fluffy black coat. The ones that can make a person sort of look like a sausage about to burst out of its waxy looking casing.

Both of us have gained weight. Both of us are little women. Like five feet tall.

We hop into my car, try to get situated so we can belt ourselves in and be on our merry way.

Well, there we were. Twisting, turning and almost grunting trying to get comfortable. Picture, if you will, worm larvae. The puffy jackets don’t help.

We came to this stunning conclusion.

Having extra pounds is just downright uncomfortable.

That is really what it comes down to, isn’t it?

I am uncomfortable.

Not body shaming myself or anyone else. I don’t think we should all look like anorexic models. I don’t want to go on crazy diets. Just want to be at the normal, healthy weight I’m supposed to be.

I’m not comfortable in my clothes because they no longer fit properly. I have clothes I cannot wear. I’m not comfortable passing a mirror (clad or not), catching a glimpse and gasping out loud, “Good God!” I’m not comfortable looking at photographs that show the obvious gain.

A lot of people who are overweight are uncomfortable.

In bathing suits. Shopping for clothes. Always leaning toward the stretchy pants. Self conscious.

I recently saw a posting on a page for a reunion at my high school.

A woman said she ran into another gal (did not name her) and asked if she was going to attend the reunion.

The reply was, “No, not looking like this.”

The woman had gained a lot of weight since high school. So she was going to miss this fabulous opportunity to meet with old friends.

Because she was uncomfortable with herself.

I felt really bad when I read that. I think she absolutely should have gone to the reunion. No one cares about her weight gain.

But I understood how she felt.

I weigh more than I ever have in my life. Except for pregnancies.

Never really bounced up and down with weight but in later years I always picked up a few extra pounds on summer home visits. Usually I dropped those within the first two weeks of my return. Getting busy and back to a routine. Shed the suckers without blinking an eye.

This past summer was no different. There was the usual flurry of activity that happens. Graduation party, birthday parties and nights out at restaurants. Eating all of my favorite foods. The veal parms and the fried clams. Steamers dripping with butter and Casserta’s Pizza. Four road trips with food on the fly.

So I picked up the usual few pounds.

When we returned back home, after seeing the kid off to university, I figured I would drop the additional weight.

It didn’t happen this time.

I returned to a different house and country with no set or usual routine. I had an empty nest. Husband working all day. I didn’t know anyone.

Days and weeks passed. I didn’t lose a pound.

Then on November 6th I quit smoking.

Went home for the Christmas holidays. I don’t know a soul who actually loses weight during that time. I was no exception.

So, what to do?

I figure if I can quit smoking I can do anything.

Have to give a shout out to my brother. He inspired me in a few different ways over the holidays.

So when I arrived back home from the airport on February 7th I hopped on the scale. Hopped right off and documented that number which was at an all time high. It’s probably not even the real number. I call it the air travel weight. Lots of bread and junk.

But I documented it just the same.

I used the Fitbit app on my phone. Like I used an app for smoking cessation.

It’s me that is going to do the hard work but I like to see graphs, progress and encouraging messages.

It comes down to this. It’s all about what I eat. And how much.

I do walk at least an hour a day. But that is because I want to be outside and doing something.

My point is that even if I never left the house or lifted a finger I should be able to lose weight. By being aware of every morsel that I eat.

It can be frustrating. Sometimes it seems there is no rhyme or reason to a gain, loss or plateau during the process.

But today when I stepped on the scale it was a solid ten pound (and a few ounces) loss. Finally the scales have tipped in my favor. I have fifteen more to lose.

Some of you reading this might also be feeling a bit uncomfortable.

You can find comfort.

And you can start today.

Hop on the scale. Write down that number. Get a Fitbit. Set a goal. Challenge a friend. Track your progress. Reward yourself. Document everything that goes into your mouth.

You will absolutely get results.

That’s all there is to it.

You can do this.

Be comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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We have all heard that there is no road map for grief. So it can be a difficult and tricky course for many to navigate.

Each of us is like a snowflake. Unique. Just like our grief is unique and how we deal with our loss.

I remember one of my aunts, after losing her husband, telling me that she just kept herself busy, busy and busy. In hindsight she thinks maybe she kept herself too busy.

Another aunt was told to travel after the loss of her spouse. And she did. Accepted every invitation.

Just two examples among many.

Everyone takes a different course to find their way through grief and find their way back again. To discover their new normal.

Life is never the same when we lose a loved one. That is a fact.

The same aunt who was “too busy” wrote those exact words to me in a letter after my uncle Stiophan died.

“Life will never be the same.”

And it wasn’t. But that didn’t mean that life couldn’t be good for her again.

A friend, Donna B., had shared a website this morning on Facebook and I thought it was interesting. Shows another way of dealing with grief.

The owner of the website lost her mother, who was in her fifties, to early onset Alzheimer’s. Her aunt stepped in as surrogate mom but she, too, would soon fall victim to the same disease and be gone within a year.

Here is her website.

https://griefbiscuit.com/

I thought I would share it with you. Who knows? Maybe it will help someone through the upcoming holidays. Or the next six months. The year.

There are also some tips and tools on the site designed to help those who are grieving. I particularly liked, “Be the Sherpa.”

Wishing peace and comfort to all of those who are suffering this holiday season. Now and in the new year.

 

 

 

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Visited Pennsylvania Dutch Country this past summer. This is where a population of Amish people live in the United States. Only place with more Amish is Ohio. There are more than 40, 000 Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Canada is also home to Amish communities.

It was just so beautiful and peaceful. Rolling green hills and gorgeous farms.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish people. And not just because maybe one of my daughters might have said I dressed like one.

But because I find it quite interesting that they live in a community that shuns a lot of the modern world. Have their own language and customs. Live and dress simply. It’s all about faith, family and farm. They help each other. They are pacifists.

Yes, some do business with folks outside their community. And probably do quite well based on the hefty price tags I’ve seen attached to homemade quilts and hand carved furniture.

For the most part, though, they stick to their own. Travel around in horse drawn buggies. Members of the Old Order avoid modern technology.

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My cousin and I had a lovely visit. Bought some fresh yarn (lol) and visited a farm for fresh peaches and zucchini bread. Checked out the animals. We even did some Lancaster County wine tasting although that had nothing to do with the Amish.

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The first time I visited was about twenty five years ago. I remember telling my mother about the trip. I was enthralled with the simplicity of their lives. My mom said, “Well, not being allowed to attend school after the eighth grade really doesn’t sound like a great thing.”

But my argument then (and still) is this: In this context it actually is a good thing. For them. I’m not talking about you and me.

Why would they need to be educated beyond the eighth grade?

The children are groomed in the ways of Amish. They do learn English in school. And maybe a smattering of geography or history. They need to learn the skills necessary to live in their community. Not ours. They won’t ever be a part of our community.

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They will need to learn about agriculture. Or how to measure planks of wood for building homes and furniture. Quilting. Gardening. Preserves. Biblical text and verses.

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They have no desire or need to learn more.

I think I’ll always find it fascinating that these communities still exist in North America. Not because they are the “other” but because maybe, just maybe, their lifestyle is sort of refreshing.

Simply stuck in time.

 

 

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