Category Archives: Travel

California Dreaming


California recap – continued from my last post.

Saturday morning, I woke up and hit the trail. I had my eye on it all week, as it was right across the street from the hotel. Dave and I walk on the rail trail near us quite often, so I thought it would be cool to check out this Southern California edition. It was quite different from the woodsy Connecticut trail I am used to.

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I guess they never have to worry about snow and ice, or even that much rain, deteriorating the carving or messing up the stone path. It waas cool to walk along and look at all the funky plants.

I walked about a mile but it was so bright and sunny, I was starting to feel over-sunned, so I went back to my room. The freckles on my legs were popping out like crazy. Annoying.

That afternoon, I went up to Encinitas, which was just a couple of miles north of Solana Beach. My aunt Dotty was going to be in town, so we made arrangements to meet up for lunch.

We ate at the Lotus Cafe, which had lots of yummy vegetarian options. We sat and talked for a long time, which was really nice. We had only met once before, and this was our first one-on-one. I’m so glad we were able to talk and get to know each other better. The time flew by, and I think we would have kept talking for hours if we could have!

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Post-lunch selfie!

I had thought I would spend my afternoon at the San Diego Botanic Gardens, but Dotty pointed out that they had been having such a drought lately that the plants might not be looking their best. She mentioned that there was a meditation garden in Encinitas that was free, so I decided to check that out instead.

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It had beautiful ocean views. I stood and watched the surfers for a while.
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Nice shady trees in the garden

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Lots of plants I don’t see back East!

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A bee’s work is never done

I would have liked to have stayed at the gardens for longer, but they closed at 5, so I was kindly asked to leave. Oh well. It’s definitely a place I would visit again if/when I get to go back out there!

I drove back to Solana Beach (seriously, it was like less than 5 miles away), and I walked down to the beach to watch my final Pacific Ocean Sunset. *wipes tear*

I took approximately 500 photos, but I’ll just show you one of the cool ones:

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Would I watch the sunset every night if I lived there?

The next day, it was time to pack my bags and move on. Next stop: Anaheim. I drove up early in the day, because I was told that traffic would be hideous if I waited until afternoon. I got to my hotel just before lunchtime. So I grabbed a bite to eat and then settled into my room. If it hadn’t been 104° F, I may have taken a walk around and looked at the sights, but I wanted nothing more than to be indoors.

A few months back, when I posted on Facebook that I was going to be out in California, quite a few people messaged me asking if I wanted to hang out. Of course, I would have liked to hang out with everyone, but I didn’t have that much free time!

Jakki and I have been FB friends for a long time now. I don’t remember exactly how we met – it may have been on a FB group for people with ectrodactyly. Jakki also has EEC. She was still in high school when we met, and I have watched her go through college, find a man, and settle down. (Wow, that sounds like I am the ultimate FB stalker, doesn’t it?)

Well, anyway – Jakki and her boyfriend live close enough to Anaheim that they came and picked me up and took me out for the night! It was the first time that Jakki met another person with EEC, so it was a bit emotional. It’s always neat to meet someone else with EEC and see just how similar we are. Like long-lost cousins or something.

We went to Laguna Beach, which turns out has a lot of cool art galleries. We kept popping into them, mostly so we could cool down (it was still like 100° there, believe it or not!).

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Hanging with Jakki in the Dr. Seuss exhibit!
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This one spoke to me.
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We were posing in front of a dolphin, but he didn’t quite make the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we explored a bunch of galleries, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was yummy and gave us some more time to talk.

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The Mona Lisa watched me tinkle in the restaurant bathroom!

After dinner, we got gelato and ate it down by the beach, but by then the sun had already gone down. I was happy to see some stars though, as I was thinking it would be nice to see the stars over the ocean, but I never stuck around long enough after a sunset to see them.

So that was fun, getting to meet Jakki and her boyfriend. I hope she can make it to one of the NFED conferences so she can meet the rest of the EEC gang!

The next day, I was working from my hotel room and checking in on the booth setup for the trade show. I was pretty excited to get upgraded to a suite at the Marriott. It was hands down, the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. It felt pretty weird being in it alone though. It would have been fun to have had Dave there with me. It was too much space for just one person! Not to mention, I really didn’t want to leave it to go down to the tradeshow. haha!

I won’t bore you with talk of the trade show. Blah blah blah. Does anyone actually enjoy these things?

Tuesday evening arrived, and it was time to head home. Despite enjoying my time out there, I was missing Dave and my furballs, and the thought of fall back home. So I headed to the John Wayne Airport to wait for my flight.

I had a few hours to kill, so I figured I’d try out Ruby’s Diner, which is supposed to be a SoCal staple.

 

It was barely 7pm when I went in, and they were already closing up shop. I was able to get a sandwich and fries, and of course, a chocolate shake. I figured I would stuff myself before I got on the plane so that I could sleep without getting hungry.

Another two hours later, and I was on the plane! I should have taken a picture of my ridiculous getup – extra-thick neck pillow, light-blocking eye cover, and earplugs. By the grace of all that is holy, the seat next to me was unoccupied, so I was able to relax even more and not worry about bumping elbows with some shmuck next to me.

I wouldn’t say it was a deep, restful sleep, but it passed the time. Before long, it was 4:50 am, and we were taxiing into Newark.

While I was wandering around Newark waiting for my flight to Hartford, I stumbled into the MET store. I saw they had a little Spirograph kit for $25. I held it. I looked at it. I put it back. I went out to the gate, sat down, and ordered one on Amazon instead.

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Because I am 12 at heart.

I had this idea that I could use the spirographs to start a zentangle design. So that’s what I played with this weekend.

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Attempt 1
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Attempt 2

I think there’s some promise there! But the Spirograph is still hard to use. I had one as a kid and I was always getting frustrated because I would lose control of the pen and ruin the design. Maybe now I will have the patience to master it. Maybe.

Well, that wraps up my California experience. I hope I can go back again before too long! It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to go, but it took a work trip to actually get me out there!

Now I am sick – I picked up a cold or something on the plane, I assume. I was going to go to bed early tonight, so I guess I should get on that before “early” turns into “late”.

Au revoir!

 

Good Morning!


I am currently sitting in the Newark airport, trying to keep my eyes open. I had a red-eye flight from Santa Ana, CA that landed here at 4:50 am. My flight to Hartford isn’t until 8:05. I had a hearty breakfast, even though I wasn’t really hungry. I figured it might jump start my body into comprehending that it’s a new day. 

There is a lot to post about my trip to California! I meant to do daily updates, or at least a couple of updates while I was out there, but as you can see, I did not. 

Instead, I spent pretty much every evening on the beach, watching the sun go down and the seagulls and plovers and surfers all doing their thing. Then I would go back to my room and eat dinner. And… I got caught up watching Fuller House. I guess nostalgia really gets ahold of me. I loved Full House when I was a kid so seeing all the same characters return as adults was fun. And honestly, the show was making me laugh a lot. 

Ok, so to sum up my California experience:

I flew into San Diego last Sunday. I quickly picked up my rental car (a Ford Fiesta, which was not nearly as much fun to drive as the name would suggest) and headed up to Solana Beach. The first thing I noticed, aside from all the palm trees, was how wide the highway (sorry – freeway) was. And everyone drives so fast! I never did figure out what the speed limit was, but I was going over 70 and cars were flying past me like I was a turtle. 

Solana Beach was beautiful. I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which I wasn’t all that impressed with at first, but it grew on me as the week went by. I liked that everything was walkable. The office where I was doing my training was only about a mile from the hotel. Each day we would just walk to a restaurant for lunch. There was only one other person in the training class – a woman from New Jersey named Nanci. She was very nice, so we went to lunch together each day and even to dinner one night. 

Each day after the class, I went back to the hotel and did a little work. Then I would head to the beach, watch the sunset and come back. I can never eat very much food in one sitting, so most nights I just had leftovers for dinner. It probably sounds lame, but I also hate eating in restaurants by myself. It’s like eating alone in the school cafeteria. It’s not so bad at an airport, because a lot of people are traveling alone, but in a regular restaurant everyone’s either on a date or dining with friends or family. So it’s weird.  

On Friday, there was no training, so I worked in my hotel room. It was pretty agonizing because I really wanted to go out and explore. But I managed to get caught up on a bunch of stuff and then I let myself go play. 

I decided to check out Torrey Pines State Park. It was a short drive from Solana Beach. Here are some of the pics I took that day. 


It was really neat to see what the natural landscape of the coast looks like. It seems like everywhere else is built up with fancy houses or resorts. To see just how fragile the landscape is was a bit unnerving. These sandstone cliffs aren’t exactly the most stable. 

There’s more to write about the trip, but I will stop here  for now because all this rehydrating is giving me an urgent need to find a bathroom. 

Up next: my lunch date with Dotty and my dinner date with Jakki!

15 Years Ago…


In September 2001, my friend Sarah and I took a trip to Oregon to visit her family, who had just relocated there. It was my first time traveling further west than the Mississippi River, and my first time on a plane since I was 16. Dave and I had only recently started dating, and I cried when he dropped me off for the shuttle to the Newark Airport. I was nervous about flying and being so far from home.

I don’t remember what it was like to go through security, or if there even was security. I just remember meeting Sarah at the gate and commencing the trip. We kept joking about the scene in Meet the Parents where Greg Focker has an altercation with a stewardess over his luggage and keeps saying the word “bomb” over and over. Bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier! Hilarious, right?

As the plane took off, the pilot pointed out how we’d be able to see Manhattan and the Twin Towers as we flew over New York City. The flight seemed like it took forever. We had a layover in Minneapolis which was foreign and weird to my young self. When we finally got to Portland, it was dark and felt like it must have been 2 am, though it was probably more like 7 pm. Sarah’s parents met us at the gate – you could do that then – and drove us another 2+ hours to Newport.

The Oregon coast did not disappoint. We spent the trip exploring the beaches and various scenic overlooks along Route 101. We hung out with Sarah’s family and met other Christadelphians in their area. I played Nintendo with her little brothers. We visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory. It felt a lot like Vermont, if Vermont had been plopped next to the ocean.

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Celebrating Sarah’s birthday!

Jet lag hit me hard out there. I was always one for staying up half the night and sleeping in late the next morning, and every night we were staying up so late, it was getting to be early morning at home. My internal clock had no idea what was going on. The day before our flight home, I woke up to one of Sarah’s brothers shaking me and saying my name. I rolled over groggily and somewhat confused. He quickly told me how planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon, and another one had crashed in a field in PA.

I didn’t really comprehend what he was telling me – I thought maybe he was just pulling my leg to get me to wake up. When I headed into the living room, I saw Sarah’s whole family was gathered there, eyes fixed to the TV. On the screen, black smoke billowed from the towers. It was surreal. It looked like something from a movie, but from the emotions in the reporters voices, it was clearly real and happening live.

The shock of something like this happening in our country was immense. Our plans for that day fell to the wayside. Our flight home the next day was cancelled. The jolly mood we’d been enjoying came to a screeching halt. Personally, I was absolutely terrified.

If you are a Christadelphian, or ever were one, you will get what I am about to say. There was excitement in the air among the group. Christadelphians are constantly on the watch for “signs of the times” pointing to the return of Christ. Usually, to read these signs you needed to be a dedicated student of bible prophecy and have a keen understanding of foreign politics (neither of which I was interested in doing). Well, this particular sign was written in smoke and flames, so even the lowliest among us would see it.

That night, we went to a bible study group at the home of a Christadelphian family nearby. I sat silently as the others chatted excitedly about the possibility of these attacks meaning that the end was near. Maybe this would be the beginning of World War III? Christ’s return was just around the corner! Christadelphians love to fantasize about the Kingdom. “It will be just like being at Bible school!” they always say.

Well, I certainly hoped it wasn’t true that Christ was about to make his dramatic entrance down through the clouds. I had already been questioning my faith and thinking about leaving the Christadelphians, although it would take me several years before I would finally cut the cord. I was still very much afraid of the wrath of the Lord Jesus Himself if he returned.

Since our return flight was cancelled, along with every other flight in the nation, we weren’t sure how we were going to get back to the east coast. No one knew when flights would resume, or if we we’d be able to get on one right away once they did. We looked into renting a car, thinking we could make it a cross-country adventure. But we were too young to drive a rental car across state lines.

I emailed my family and Dave, and my friends back home. I wished I could transport myself through the phone lines somehow. Not knowing what was going to happen was stressful. My mom told me that my Uncle Bill was stuck in Alaska, and my Uncle Brian was stuck in Boston. He had actually been scheduled to fly out the next day on the same flight as the one that hit the north tower.

We were able to get a flight home on the 16th. We left Sarah’s parents house at 12:30 am. We had to arrive at the airport really early because security was expected to be extremely tight. We got there at 2am and got in line. I can’t remember how long it took to get through security – I wrote surprisingly little about it all in my journal. I do remember that once we got through, we bought bagels and they wouldn’t even give us plastic knives to spread the cream cheese. We had to use spoons. And of course there was no joking about bombs this time. Everyone was on edge, but at the same time, it felt like we were all in this together. People actually looked at each other and made small talk.

The flight was direct to Newark. One thing I did write in my journal was that they let us watch movies for free, so we saw Dr. Doolittle and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and I was glad that there was something to keep my mind occupied. As the plane descended into Newark, the scene in lower Manhattan was visible. Smoke was still rising from the rubble.

Sarah and I parted ways and I took a shuttle back up to Connecticut. It was a somber scene as we drove across the George Washington Bridge and looked towards where the towers had been. There was a haze of smoke and dust where just a week before, I had seen the two towers standing. Again, the feeling was surreal.

I was so glad to be home again. I held so tightly to Dave in the days thereafter. We watched so much news coverage and cried so much in those days. I had nightmares about it being the end of the world. I felt sick with grief and worry, even though no one I knew had been directly impacted. The following weekend I drove up to Vermont so I could see my family and hug them all tightly. Everyone was so emotionally raw at that time. It really made you think about what was important, and what wasn’t.

Of course I am grateful that nobody close to me was directly impacted by the events that day. Inconvenienced, maybe. Frightened, definitely. My still heart aches for all the families who lost loved ones that day. In reflecting on the past 15 years, it saddens me to think that we really haven’t come very far, in terms of feeling safe, or unified as a nation. In fact, it seems that we are more divided than ever, and that animosity towards “the others” is growing stronger every day.

Next week, I fly out west again. This time for a business trip. I think I will make more of an effort to keep my head up and look people in the eye. It is so easy to pretend to be occupied on the phone, or so busy with responding to emails that you can’t possibly make small talk. But it helps to remember that we are all just fragile human beings. You never know what difference one small, kind gesture can make.

A Whirlwind Tour of MA, NH & ME


Last Sunday, I woke up with the sun. Dave helped me load up the little Mazda and I zoom-zoomed off to Nick’s house. After some strategic rearranging of my car so we could fit all his stuff in it, we were off again.

An hour later we were at the Claire Family’s house in New Hampshire! It only took me a year to finally get up there to meet Mr. Ronan. This is the family who found my blog while they were pregnant with Ronan. I’ve written about them a couple of times: here, and here and here.

It was great to spend a few hours together at their lovely home. Denny (Ronan’s big brother) was a hoot and so full of energy! He was so excited to show Nick and I all his toys and his room, and was determined not to be left out of the lunchtime conversation.

Ronan was a sweetheart. When we first got there, and I first held him, he was crying because Denny had woken him from his nap. But after he had some lunch he perked up and was happy and laughing, and chasing Denny around the house on his hands and knees. Lindsay and Dennis are really going to have their hands full once he starts walking!

Visiting the Claire Fam!

After we said goodbye to the Claires, Nick and I were off to Acadia. It was another 4 hour drive north. We grumbled about this for a bit, but the time went by pretty fast and gave us lots of time to catch up on each other’s lives. At Mom’s request, we stopped at When Pigs Fly, which is a bakery in Kittery. We managed not to eat all the bread before we got to the campground.

Some of the things we did in Acadia were:

Scoped out the view on Cadillac Mountain. It was a little chilly up there! Also, crowded, but we managed to get this picture which makes us look like we are mostly alone.

The gang on top of Cadillac Mountain!

Chilled at the campsite. Actually, we really didn’t do much of that – we were too busy going out and exploring.

Chillin!

Scoped out the Bass Harbor Head Light. We were looking for some Japanese gardens, but failed to find them. We found this light house instead.

Bass Harbor Head Light

We spent some time climbing on the rocks and looking at stuff in the tidal pools there.

The McKelvie kids take over the rocks

We drove into Bar Harbor to find out if we could go on a whale watch or a puffin tour. When we saw the prices we were less inclined, so we decided to just walk across the sandbar to Bar Island.

The sandbar… or is it a parking lot?

We, along with several dozen other people, walked up to the summit. It was a beautiful view!

Looking back at Bar Harbor from Bar Island

Later, we made our way to Thunder Hole. Despite being there at the appropriate time, we did not hear it thundering. Instead, we watched lots of people climbing the rocks and we wondered how there had not been more fatalities at this location.

Thunderless Hole

On our final day in Maine, we rented paddleboards and found a secluded lake on which to take them out. The lake was amazing. The water was surprisingly warm and very clear. As soon as we got out of the car, we could hear loons calling on the water. We saw a mama loon with two young loons. We saw adult loons diving and coming up really far from where they’d dived. We even saw a bald eagle! Kris and I went out on the paddleboards and were able to find the tree where the eagle was perched. He (or she?) was grooming, and as we watched, a huge, white tail feather fell out of the tree and helicoptered down. It landed on a bush right on the edge of the water, so I was able to paddle over and get it. That’s my kind of souvenir!

Returning from a paddle adventure.

Of course there were lots of other moments that I did not get pictures of – our evening of lying on the rocks looking up at the stars, counting satellites and talking and laughing about all sorts of things, eating lunch at an unfriendly restaurant in Bar Harbor, Kris and I riding bikes the wrong way on the park trail and almost getting our eyes gouged out by a seagull.

As always, I love getting to spend time with my siblings. It’s always funny to see each other and notice how similar we actually are, despite living miles and miles apart, and to recount old stories and create new memories. Sigh. A week is not nearly long enough.

Bonus picture:


The rest of the family eating lobster while Kris and I were back at the campsite eating vegan sausage and peppers and potato salad.

Summertime and the Livin’s Easy


When I was a kid, I had a hard time understanding why I got to have summers off from school but my dad had to keep on going to work every day. I couldn’t get it in my head that grown-ups didn’t get the summer off. It didn’t seem fair.

To this day, it upsets me that I can’t have the whole summer off. There’s so much I want to do! It doesn’t help that I work for a German company, and our German counterparts take off entire months at a time. I don’t know how much vacation time they actually get, but it seems to be way more generous than our US system. Unfair. Maybe I should move to Germany.

Anyway, that’s not what I came here to write about! I wanted to bang out a quick update, as I am soon to be off for one of my two weeks of vacation this summer. We are going to be camping in Maine and I intend to fully unplug. I’m bringing primitive writing tools – pens and paper – in the hopes that I will be inspired to write something deep and inspiring. Or perhaps churn out some interesting zentangle-inspired art. I haven’t drawn a thing in months!

Last weekend we celebrated the 4th of July at my youngest brother’s home in the Boston area. The weather was unbelievably perfect. We spent most of the time lounging by the pool, and of course eating tons of food. On Monday, we got to check out the school where my brother works (he had the right idea being a teacher – he gets summers off!). Then we went up to Newburyport, which was a cute little town on the coast. It was only a two-day visit, but it was like a mini-vacation for us.

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Enjoying a jaunt around Newburyport.

Speaking of vacations, Dave and I are finally going to go on a big trip together! We’ve started planning a trip to Costa Rica. We’re reading guidebooks and maps and we’ve been scouring the internet. We don’t have a date set yet, but Dave wants to go before the end of the year. I realize that’s like 5 months away, but the way things go at my job, you just have to blink and the time goes by like nothing.

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The trip will be worth it if we see a baby sloth doing pull-ups.

In other news, my minimalism journey kind of hit a wall in the last few months, because I’ve been spending less time inside the house. The piles of crap in the back room are still there. I did take one evening to go through more of my clothes and get rid of some of the things I never wear. I even attempted to fold my shirts in the Konmari way.

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Folding the shirts this way is supposed to let you see them all in one glance, so you can easily find what you need. It beats my former technique of shoving them in and struggling to shut the drawer.

The Konmari method comes from this book called The life-changing magic of tidying up. You’ve probably heard of it, because everyone makes fun of it. It’s the one where you’re supposed to hold each one of your possessions and ask yourself if it brings you joy. I didn’t even finish reading the book, but since I had already been going through my stuff and clearing things out, I went ahead with the clothes. My parameters were pretty simple: do I actually like this shirt and actively wear it? Then I kept it. If not, out it went.

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In other news, my garden is looking fabulous these days.

In conclusion, I am very much enjoying the summer so far and I hope you are too. I’m especially looking forward to being unplugged next week, and returning with renewed energy to work on this blog!

Thank you for reading this far. 🙂

 

 

 

Whale, Whale, Whale…


Dave wanted to do something special for my birthday and he gave me the choice of going up to Boston for the day and doing a whale watch or going down to NYC and spending the day at the Met. I admit I was tempted to do the day at the Met, but it would have been a shame to waste such a gorgeous day inside.

In order to make the 10am boat, we had to leave home at 7:15. Believe it or not, I was up and out of bed before 5am. Dave thought this was hilarious and kept pointing out how I *can* get up early when sufficiently motivated. Maybe I need to get a job as a whale watcher…

Did I metion how perfect the day was? Not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was probably not more than 80. The water was incredibly still – there was barely any wind.

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Blurrily getting our snack on.

As soon as we got on the boat, we got snacks to fill our bellies so we wouldn’t get seasick. When we’d finished snacking, we went out onto the deck to enjoy the day. Holy smokes, it was windy! I was wearing  a hat to keep the sun off my face and if I didn’t keep my head at the right angle, it was about to blow off. In fact, it did end up blowing off but luckily my tangled mess of hair held onto it so it didn’t blow away.

We stayed out on the deck for the whole ride out, being battered by the wind the whole time, but I didn’t care. I wanted to smell that saltwater and enjoy every minute of it. It took about an hour to get out to the marine sanctuary where the whales hang out. Not being terribly familiar with the sea, I expected that we must be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, but when I googled it later, it turned out that we’d only gone about as far east as the Cape.

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Not quite as far out as I’d imagined.

The boat slowed down as we got to the general area where they expected the whales to be. Everyone looked around with anticipation while the tour guide explained what we should look for, which was basically spouts in the horizon, or, if we were lucky, whales leaping out of the water and splashing around.

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Blowhole in action.

The first whale we came across was actually lying on it’s back, floating belly up in the water and it’s pectoral fins were up and flapping around. It was hard to tell that’s what it was, so we took her word for it. The boat turned and we couldn’t see it anymore from where we stood, but before long there were whales everywhere!

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Companions

There were two swimming side by side next to the boat on our side. We could hear them breathing. Then they dove gracefully underwater, barely even rippling the surface. Whales were rising up out of the water with their mouths open. They were blowing bubbles in the water, slapping the water with their tails and leaving slap marks, which kind of look like a big footprint. The tour guide explained that the behaviors were all part of how they would trap and stun the plankton they were going to eat.

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A whale of a tail.

We mostly saw humpback whales, but there were a few minke whales, which I couldn’t see from where I was. We also saw a seal that was further away in the distance. Of course there were lots of seagulls too, hanging around to collect whatever the whales may have left behind.

The tour guide was flabbergasted by how many whales we were seeing. She kept shouting with glee when she’d spot another one, and excitedly talk about some feature or other. We stayed in pretty much the same area for a whole hour, and the whales were just doing their thing all around. A couple even breached on the other side of the boat. Sadly, we didn’t see the actual jumps, but when everyone on that side of the boat yelled, we’d turn and see the splash at the end.

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Whale face – and some dude.

After the hour of magical whale-time, we had to turn back. Most everyone retreated inside, away from the wind. After a little while, I went back outside. It’s not every day I get to glide through the water with the wind in my face, so I figured I’d enjoy it while I could.

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A beautiful day for some sailing

Once we were back on dry land, we went to Quincy Market and grabbed some lunch, which we ate on a bench near a charmingly talented busker.

Then we headed to the aquarium, which wasn’t the brightest idea considering it was a busy summer day. The place was, not surprisingly, packed with droves of children and their exhausted parents. Fortunately we managed to find spaces to squeeze in so we could gaze into the tanks and look at all the cool fish and aquatic life.

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Feeling a little frazzled.

I like the Boston Aquarium. It’s not big and spread out like other places, but instead it has this huge central tank that’s 4 stories tall. You walk around it on a spiral ramp so you’re gradually rising from sand-dwelling creatures up through colorful coral-dwelling creatures and then up to the surface, where turtles and sharks roam. Of course the rays and the turtles and the sharks will swim down to the lower waters too. We even saw one of the eels, which don’t usually come out during daylight.

When we had seen all there was to see at the Aquarium, we got some ice cream and went to sit on the dock for a while. We watched the boats coming in and going out, and observed the various passers-by. Dave was getting pretty tired by then, as he hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. We made one last trip to Quincy Market to get some dessert items to take home with us, and then we left.

All in all, it was a great day trip and a nice way to celebrate my birthday. It also had the happy memories of being there just a few months ago and getting to see Norma and Joe and Elizabeth.

Where will we go next?

Hello from Atlanta!


Ok, so it doesn’t really count to say that I’m in Atlanta because I am only at the airport for an hour or so. But I got to my gate and nothing much seems to be happening so I figured I would bust out a quick blog post.

Here is the final version of the drawing I worked on last night.

The colors are even brighter in real life!

I don’t have much else to say. So far I do not have a headache. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t get one today! Dave said the pollen count is really high at home today so I will probably commence sneezing as soon as I walk out of the airport in Hartford.

———

I ended up running into a coworker at the gate, so I sat and talked with her until it was time to board. Now we are about to take off.

Up, up and away we go!

Hello from Houston!


Here I am in another hotel, in another city, on another work trip.

That reminds me of an Ani Difranco song…

in a coffee shop in a city
which is every coffee shop
in every city
on a day which is every day

The night before I left, I must have been subconsciously worrying that I wouldn’t wake up in time for my flight the next morning. I went to bed around 10:30, and fell asleep really quickly and soundly. I woke up and saw that there was light coming in from the hall, and I thought that it must be morning already. But Dave wasn’t in bed with me. So I checked the clock and it was 11:30pm! I kind of laughed at myself and rolled over to go back to sleep. Then I woke up again at 12:30. Then 1:30. And so on, until my 4:30 alarm. I mean, come on! Even Dave was like “Why are you awake right now?” when he came in to bed at 1:30. It was ridiculous.

So then, on the plane the next day I was trying to listen to an audiobook but I kept dozing off. My head would flop to the side or roll forward. At one point I even hit my head on the wall of the airplane because I sort of flopped over. Which I guess was better than flopping onto the passenger next to me.

It’s interesting being in Houston and seeing all the trees that are nice and lush and green, and lots of flowers blooming. It’s humid and warm, although it’s been overcast and rainy. Not that it really matters, as I’ve barely left the hotel.

Did you know Asian flight attendants dress like this? I guess their suits aren’t that odd, but the little hair bows and scarves add some flair you don’t usually see.

Last night I did get to leave the hotel and go out to dinner with Susan Hamm, a fellow NFED family member and all-around cool person. When I was planning my trip to Houston I realized that there were quite a lot of NFED people in this town. I knew Susan wasn’t far from my hotel (Houston is huge), so I contacted her to see if she could meet up for dinner, and she said yes!

She took me to a place called Pappasitos, which is Tex Mex food. When the manager found out I was from Connecticut, he gave us free dessert! It was great to spend time with Susan, who I have only ever talked to a few times at family conferences and during NFED liaison calls, but I’d had a feeling she was a kindred spirit. And I was right.

We talked about a lot of things, but one of the things that we talked about was the idea that you can always find someone who’s got it worse than you do. Or maybe it’s better phrased as, “everyone’s got something.”

She talked about how when her son Zach was born she was worried about his condition (he has EEC too), but when she saw what some of the other babies in the hospital were facing, she realized that it could have been worse. I told her about the time when I had my bone graft surgery and the girl in the hospital bed next to me had been born with half a face, and had gone through WAY more surgeries than I had. Of course I did not appreciate her struggle at the time. (I was 11). I was actually kind of pissed that she had it worse than me because I was used to playing the “special kid” card. It’s true- I played that card for all it was worth.

Last night’s Zentangle

Today I was thinking about it more, and that the “worse” isn’t always a direct comparison. It doesn’t  mean that you can always find someone else with the same thing you have, but worse. It may just be that from your perspective that they have it worse than you do in some way. For example,  I’ve had friends who have come from emotionally or physically abusive family situations, and to me that always sounded worse than the cards I had been dealt. I’ve never felt unsafe or unloved in my home, and it’s really sad to me that there are people out there who can’t say that about their own families. But who knows, maybe those same people look at me and feel glad that they haven’t had to endure all the surgeries I’ve been through. Maybe they prefer their messed up home life when it comes down to it?

I think sometimes people get so caught up in their own issues. It’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself if you don’t stop to notice what others are facing. If you just step out and look around, you’ll see that everyone is dealing with some kind of issue. It might not be as obvious as facial scars or birth defects, but, it is painful to them nonetheless.

I’m not saying it’s as simple as noticing that other people struggle too. Obviously it takes more effort, but I think noticing and becoming aware is the first step. I have to remind myself of that sometimes too.

Ok. Off to Zentangle before bed. I have an early flight tomorrow!

Peace / Love / Compassion

Going to give these gel pens a workout.

 

 

 

 

New York, New York – Hornblower Cruise


Our final major tourist activity for the trip was to take the Hornblower Sightseeing Cruise  around lower Manhattan. We took the Big Bus to Pier 15, but when we arrived, the line for the boat was crazy long.

Luckily we had spotted a restaurant – Industry Kitchen – on our way in, so we decided to get lunch there and wait for the 1:30 cruise.  Dave got a Caesar salad and I got a pizza. Dave doesn’t usually like pizza, but he tried some of mine and ended up eating half of it! Which was fine, since it was way too big for me to eat all by myself anyway. The restaurant was nice, and because it was so sunny, they had all the doors open, so even though we were sitting inside, it still felt very light and airy.

OH- and how could I forget this? They had a unisex bathroom. It was the first time I’ve actually witnessed one with my own eyes and bladder. It was three or four stalls, with solid walls in between and full-length doors. The sink area was shared. I really wanted to take pictures and mention the experience on Facebook but I restrained myself.

When we finished lunch we got in line for the boat. One thing I’ve noticed they do at a lot of these places is ask you to pose for a picture before you go into the attraction. When you come out, they’ve printed out your picture and want to sell it to you for $35. I noticed the guy behind us was alone (he was a photographer) and he declined to have his picture taken. I guess I should remember that next time, as we aren’t going to buy photos.

I mean, why buy photos when we can take our own?

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It’s us or the skyline… we nearly succeeded at fitting both in this frame. I’ll spare you the other selfies we took.

When we first got on the boat, I was annoyed because there was very limited seating and it was only around the windows. People had already claimed their spots and were viciously defending their territory. I had really looked forward to sitting down, as my feet were sore from walking so much and not wearing proper shoes. (What, they were cute boots!)

We  didn’t want to go up to the deck because we were afraid it would be really cold. We’d been freezing standing in line. I even had my mittens on! But after a while of jostling around in the boat, watching 90% of the occupants focusing more on their phones or their snacks than the actual view, we decided to get up to the deck and just deal with the cold.

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The view was much better outside!

It turned out to be windy but not as chilly as I’d feared. We got a good look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as we chugged by.

Then the boat turned back around and we headed back to land.

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There’s Manhattan!
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Closer….
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Closer…

 

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Dang, we could have taken a helicopter tour.
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Ferries are born here.
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The Brooklyn Bridge

The ferry ride, or whatever it was we were on, was about an hour long, although I think that included boarding and de-boarding (?) time because it went quickly.

We hopped back on the bus and back to Times Square. After a quick visit to Starbucks, we got on the bus again to do the uptown loop. This went around Central Park, along the upper West Side, to Grant’s Tomb, Harlem and Spanish Harlem and then back along the park, along what was once known as Millionaire’s Row – where the Astors and Vanderbilts had their mansions during the gilded age. Along the route we saw the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (where James Gandolfini’s funeral was), The Dakota – the apartment where John and Yoko lived, John was shot and where Yoko still lives, and lots of other buildings where some famous person lived or still lives. Our tour guide kept joking about how much it cost to live along the park, but it was kinda bringing me down. Like, “Enjoy looking, but you will never be able to afford this life.”

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Grant’s Tomb through the bus window.

We did enjoy the uptown bus loop. We sat on the top of the bus but it had a little shelter thing over the front, and heaters by our feet, so we kept warm enough. The people in the back, who were out in the breeze were freezing. They kept trying to get up and come to the front and the guide kept yelling at them to sit down because there were no seats open.

We got off the bus at the south end of Central Park since it was closer to our hotel than going back to Times Square. I have a soft spot for Central Park, as it’s the most well known works of the father of landscape architecture; Frederick Law Olmsted. Oh, and Calvert Vaux, but FLO is my homeboy. Ugh, why am I not doing landscape architecture?

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Looking in to Central Park from W 59th St

Next time we go back to NYC, the plan is to do museums and Central Park. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

New York, New York – 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center Plaza


On Saturday morning, we made the trek down to the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan.  Please have a look at the slideshow. My thoughts on the visit are below.

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Going into this, I expected it to be an emotional experience. What else could it be? This was the site of the most horrific event I have witnessed in my lifetime, and the beginning of a decade-plus of war, violence and ever-growing cultural tension.

A little personal history – I actually visited the Twin Towers in March of 2001, with my good friend Jonathan. The towers were massive concrete-faced structures. Humongous and imposing. We took the elevator up to the observation deck and looked out over the world. It was nighttime and the city was all lit up. The view went on for miles in every direction. At the time I took my role as a Vermont chickie very seriously so I was unimpressed with the urban jungle and sprawl. But deep down I had to admit it was cool. Of course the memories of that visit were since tinged with gloom and sadness. Just months later I would see smoke rising up from the stark empty space where the towers had been as I traveled from New Jersey to Connecticut just days after 9/11.

Walking towards the site on this bright Saturday, my mind is on the memories of people running desperately down streets billowing with smoke and ash and papers – so many papers. As we approach, we see the gleaming glass structure of One World Trade Center piercing the blue sky.

Rounding a corner just before entering the plaza, we’re accosted by a guy selling glossy photo books commemorating that day. He eagerly flips through the pages, pointing out full-color scenes of the towers churning out thick black clouds of smoke. “Do you know how many buildings fell after 9/11?” he asks us. “I don’t know,” I admit feebly, “Five?” I’m caught off guard by this interaction, and just want to get past him already. “Seven,” he says, pointing to another page with a graphic showing which buildings were damaged and which fell. “In the museum they charge you $20 for this book, but I only ask $10.”

He also tried to sell us another book with even more photos. Dude. I have seen enough photos of that day. The images are permanently seared into my mind. I do not want to see photos.

Finally, we break free of him and make our way into the plaza. The first thing we notice on the way in is a wing-like white structure soaring over us. I later learn this is the new transportation station – called the Oculus.

We then come upon the first pool – the north pool. I try to envision how huge those towers were, and somehow it seems incongruent with these gaping holes in the ground. It’s like my brain can’t process that these footprints could have held those massive buildings.

At this point I’m doing ok with the emotions. It’s like they haven’t caught up to me yet. We look at the names engraved along the edge of the fountains. I later read that the names were grouped by people who were associated in some way. In some cases it was the flight they were on, or a group of co-workers. You can read more about that here.

As we made our way around the north pool we notice the inscription: Rahma Salie and her unborn child. Wow. I later learned that there were 10 more inscriptions like this one. After we left, I looked up Rahma Salie, since it was her name we happened upon. She and her husband were traveling together on Flight 11. They were Muslim. They were on their way to a wedding in California on September 11.  She was 7 months pregnant with their first child.

Now we turn away from the pool and look up at the tower. One World Trade Center. The Freedom Tower (apparently they don’t call it that anymore though). It is tall and sleek. In the gleaming sunlight, the glass reflects all kinds of colors.

When we turn back to the plaza we see the Survivor Tree. As we get closer we can see that people have put mementos on the tree. There’s a tour group standing in front of it while a tour guide with an abrasive voice describes her 9/11 experience.

Walking towards the south pool, I notice there are Easter bunnies and flowers stuck into two of the names. Something about this sight knocks loose the last of my emotional wall, and the tears start pouring from my eyes. The reality of all the names is overwhelming. And remembering all the people who are still alive and aching today for the loss of their family members, friends, co-workers….

We step away from the pool and walk under the trees. Dave and I sit and watch people while I cry for a bit. The tour group is still mesmerized by the Survivor Tree. Clusters of teenage girls huddle together, underdressed in summery clothes. The majority of the occupants of the plaza at this time are tourists. Many of them seem too cheerful and light and I want to scream at them to stop smiling and sober up. But I don’t. I realize you can’t expect people to be acting like they’re at a funeral when they visit a memorial. You can’t force people to be sad.

Once I’ve pulled myself together again, we walk around the other side of the south pool. I want to take a picture of the pool with the tower behind it, but as I approach, a young couple jumps in front of me. They look at the pool for approximately two seconds, and then the guy goes back to looking at his phone. I expect them to move along, so I wait patiently. The girl then begins primping herself in preparation for a selfie. Seriously. My eyes were rolling so hard I’m lucky they didn’t roll right out. Finally, satisfied with her photo shoot, she moves on.

As that’s going on, the couple on the other side of us gives each other a sheepish grin before quickly turning around and tossing coins over their shoulders into the fountain. What the hell? I’ve got nothing against coin-tossing in other fountains, but this is like throwing coins into a grave. I don’t know what possesses people sometimes.

Finally everyone with offensive behavior clears out from my shot and I’m able to get the picture of the pool and tower behind. It’s an odd mix of macabre and shiny new hopefulness. A least I think so.

We leave the plaza now and on the way out we notice the FDNY house that is RIGHT THERE. Like literally in ground zero. These guys were on the scene first because the scene was happening right around them. See their website.

All in all, we probably spent an hour walking around the plaza. There is a 9/11 museum on the site (it’s the short, mirrored building in some of the north pool pictures in the slide show). We did not go into the museum. I don’t know if I’d ever be ready to go in.

One World Trade Center also has an Observatory. It probably would have been a great day to go up there, actually, as it was clear and sunny. But I really just wanted to see the plaza, and that was enough.

So that was that.

Our next stop was the Hornblower Harbor Cruise…. stay tuned.