These Empty Terminals Are Temporary

As I walk through the empty terminal of Austin Bergstrom Airport I have to remind myself of one thing: This is temporary.

You can hear a pin drop in the terminal. Aircraft engines are cold, jet bridges are empty, and wheels are chocked upon vacant tarmacs. Departure boards are red with cancelations, and social distancing is made easy in a terminal where few passengers stroll. The TSA announcement is not about abandoned luggage, it is about health and modern safety measures. Food vendors are covered with plastic, closed until further notice. Agents, crew and passengers wear face masks and some wear gloves.

This is April, 2020, the scene breaks my traveling heart.

Working for an airline during COVID-19 causes me to reflect upon three topics dear to my heart: people, planet and purpose, the tagline of a travel company I love Traverse Journeys .

 

Emtpy Terminal

 

PEOPLE:

In this challenging time, we are reminded how special people are in our lives. Life is fragile. We connect with loved ones and friends via old school phone calls, a foreign concept yet comforting all together. Social Media, emails and Zoom are additional means for communication. People connect virtually, no closer than 6 feet physically. Living alone, this brings a whole other level to independence.

As I approach the terminal walking to work, I cover my mouth with a face mask. It feels raw, the world empty as if unsafe to inhale in a horror film. How can we contain this invisible beast? What are we meant to learn from this surreal experience?

We’ve all watched it happen. Businesses that appeared solid as steel collapsed in a matter of weeks. The unemployment rate sky-rocket, students halting their studies. Graduations, weddings, bar mitzvah’s and date nights taken online.

And how the day-to-day mundane has changed. Toilet paper is the new lottery ticket. Hoarders raid grocery stores, salons closed their doors. Distilleries make hand sanitizer, and restaurants only serve take out.

There is fear and fake news, anxiety and end of world financials swirling about. Employees work remotely, Zoom has been hacked.

A wave of gratitude flows over my soul regarding our customary freedom to travel, and the simple luxury of having a job. Each gesture I share with our treasured passengers in this sleepy terminal is sincerely valued in both directions. Human compassion is necessary and extremely appreciated.

Despite closed borders, cut work hours, and waves of uncertainty, I have experienced humanity in a beautiful way. Videos from around the world surface cheering on incredible medical workers. People are giving to charities, donating uplifting talent via online performances, and shopping for the elderly. Virtual dance parties and meetup groups pop up daily.

You can travel virtually from your couch until we can do so physically with companies such as Traverse Journeys. I explored Dubrovnik virtually, how affordable! I didn’t feel any jet lag!

 

Virtual Vacation

 

PLANET:

 

Nature Heals

 

Daily walks help with mental and physical health during this uncomfortable time. I stopped to notice the flower captured above. Cars do not occupy four lanes outside my home. I enjoy watching squirrels, and take extra time to appreciate nature. Birds can be heard through open windows as I turn off the air. When I pass someone on a nature walk beyond 6 feet, it feels like a gift to simply smile and wave.

I hear birds singing outside the terminal instead of cooling turbines. Passengers are not being dropped off curbside. Clean skies above generally smoggy city skylines appear in the news. Life as we knew it paused; but the health of the planet benefits.

 

PURPOSE:

 

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Perhaps more businesses will be managed from home in the future to decrease commuting pollution and overhead expenses. I hope and believe air travel will bounce back, all in time to where it was, late 2019. Perhaps a shift in the future will be to fly cleaner and more efficiently, along with a renewed gratitude for the luxury air travel really is.

As an airline employee, it is shocking to see 96% drop in air travel in the US. Yet I am proud to see how airlines are adapting. They’re transporting cargo filled with medical equipment and life-saving supplies. Repatriation flights have brought citizens abroad back home. Flexible policies have been offered to passengers unable to travel. We are all in this together.

People are resilient, we will bounce back and explore the ends of the earth again. We will connect face to face with loved ones and give them larger than life hugs. We will enjoy crowds and gatherings, celebrations and concerts. Moments of our future will be precious. COVID-19 will work itself out, and in the meantime gratitude flows as we are forced to pause and reflect upon the precious aspects of life and our hearts.

Keep those travel dreams alive and passports close by. Humans are made to connect, the earth is meant to be explored, and planes are meant to fly…

These empty terminals are just temporary…

A Left Turn Landed Me In The ER With Grippy Fuzzy Socks

Attempting to stand my knee was a noodle. Ski patrol does not like knee noodles.

I made a left turn, that was it. Time paused, I felt funky and fell, but had no pain. Something was off.

I always wanted to experience the downhill sled method until it happened and I couldn’t physically stand. A pizza box secured my knee, I was sent to the ER.

Things became real when triage lifted my leg. Pain shot through the roof. X-Rays concluded I had three fractures in my right tibial plateau. What is a tibial plateau, and how did I not know?! I wasn’t the first in an open Johnny to Google WebMD.

It would be 8 weeks before I could make my next big move of touching my pinky toe back on Earth. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote of the miracle it is to walk on Earth, I had no idea he was talking about me. How silly!

Like an ameba, I flopped 92% passed out in a wheelchair exiting the ER, barely comprehending crutch instructions. Stand? Walk? Were they nuts?! I was 3 sheets to the wind, whiter than tiles I was about to step three points upon. Sweating as if prepping for battle, they took one look and wheeled me back to check in at the lavish resort, lacking just one amenity; a swim up bar. I embraced the bed with railings, and snuggled into the sterile hotel which provided air conditioned pjs, grippy socks, and my own personal bed pan!

Hours prior I was on top of the world, mentally in the game skiing beneath a blue bird sky, but made a left turn, not a right.

I captured this shot moments before the weenie twist. I should have gone big – Warren Miller style, but this was a controlled short radius during a Monday clinic. I’ve been skiing for thirty-three years, mostly unscathed; until this…

Last Run, Feb, 2016. Nosedive, Stowe

They gave me a VIP bracelet, popped me with pills, and allowed my Mom to join for 50 grand a night, but it was all good, they loaned her a pillow!

A therapist entered and presented a live infomercial on nifty sock and shower gadgets. Who knew putting on your sock was so important! My eye caught my Moms, we teetered on the brink of laughter as he passionately spoke about the shower sponge on a stick. I’ve never washed my back, I can’t reach it. Why would I start with a broken leg? Then a focused discussion about the pros and cons of a foot lifting lasso, then my Mom demoed the shower chair. She swung her legs like a champ, until he believed our competence and let us be. That demonstration cost me just $500.00 USD!

Orthopedics reviewed my X-Rays and CAT-scan, and the party was over. The 24 hour care, TV, and lovely acceptance of peeing in bed following warm catered meals. It’s abrupt, with little warning you sign over your retirement, they wheel you to winters chilly curb, and its figure it out, go time. Wait, what?! My life paused and all I could muster was getting crutches beneath my pits, and pray I didn’t pass out going to the loo. Baby steps…I got this!

My Mom had to escort me to the John and assist with some pretty intimate predicaments. I was wearing my Eco-friendly, no strings attached, less mess Diva Cup, but needed help. This friends became very complicated perched upon a wobbly leg like a baby flamingo, as my Mom questioned how to assist. A Moms love is unconditional. Period, no pun intended. We squirmed with uncontrollable mother, daughter laughter, it was too much! You can’t make this crap up.

If only I made a right turn, not a left…

Days later on my 39th birthday, I accomplished something huge – HUGE, people! I went to the bathroom alone, and didn’t pass out! It was a celebratory birthday like none other. Complete success. 40 will be a breeze!

Not long after my ski mountain birthday cake depleted to crumbs did reality sink in. My right leg would be elevated.

Only.

For weeks…

All I could muster was lifting my leg onto a pillow, which took 30 minutes and a team of two to find a bearable position. The weight of a blanket was excruciating, but it was my hip flexors biggest moment. It waited all its life to be acknowledged, and rocked it. I’ve never thought about or thanked my hip flexor for hanging out, being there through left and right turns, but this little guy was in his prime. Like a champ it lifted my fractured leg and Don Joy. Who named that? There was no cute Don, and no joy in that brace. Okay, I won’t go all dark on you, but seriously give this hip flexor some props, it took one for the team!

The cards, the calls, the gifts arrived, I was feeling positive. It was fun, like a mini sabbatical with warm home cooked meals. Then BOOM, the tears, depression, the holy crap life halted for a long time realization. Wait, I’m vulnerable? I’m human? Will I lose my job? Can I afford the medical bills? How long will recovery be? Will I get my range of motion back to enjoy the adventurous life I loved? Will I lose my travel benefits, my health insurance? The kicker (no pun, no actual kicking for quite some time) is my Dad died January, 10th, I broke my leg February, 22nd. It’s been a rough ride…

My Mom had a serious distraction. How could I burden her at this time? How could I not? I live on the second floor, and couldn’t do anything on my own. Let me repeat, I couldn’t do anything on my own except get to the John without passing out. Okay, lets not be dramatic, that much I had.

I cried for my deceased Father, helped plan his funeral which I attended on crutches, hugged my Mom, and spent round the clock painful moments on the couch, but moved forward one hour, one ice pack, one Vicodin at a time. When it hits the fan, it might as well be at once, so I curled up in my childhood cabin beneath blankets my Mom knit, in the warmth of a fireplace my Dad built, and felt gratitude because it could always be worse. If I had not made that left turn, I wouldn’t have spent 120 days with my Mom, or known how painful or priceless putting on your own sock, or washing your back could be…

Fractured Tibial Plateau. 2.23.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Just Don’t Know…

You don’t know what a soul is experiencing as you pass their vacant expression. I was in shock, I had received a tragic call.

I was in a gondola heading to a clinic that rainy Sunday, but my cell rang twice, catching my attention. My gut sank. Via voicemail, did my Mom say dead?! Their dane barked the same instant masking the important word. My hands shook fumbling the phones functions. I struggled to enter a password, was it true? Was my Dad dead? No!

In shock, I dialed our home number, digits of 38 years. My brother answered, his tone said it all. He said there was no rush. My focus was logistics, I needed to get to the ER two hours away, but couldn’t drive in ski boots. I de-booted and walked to my car in a daze. Looking at the beautiful mountain, I pushed play on a queued song reminding me of impermanence.

It was shit conditions. I couldn’t see through fog, tears or winter rain. Sickly similar thirteen months prior when my Dad had his first heart attack. This was me again, alone, driving with horror in my heart, hands at ten and two. Tears streamed down my face, I was stuck behind a slow car. Didn’t they know?

You just don’t…

My brother called, his voice reiterated my fear, our new reality. He asked me to pull over. “No, don’t tell me,” my body screamed. I heard our new truth crossing rumble strips on the side of the road. Our Dad was gone…

You don’t know if the car on the shoulder just received devastating news.

My brother said to take care, and asked if I wanted to see him to say bye. A forever goodbye? I wasn’t ready for that! We were not the Hallmark duo sharing Folgers in morning sunlight, but this was my Dad. I didn’t want to say bye, I woke up to ski.

His heart stopped after running on the treadmill. He had fallen and fractured his skull. Could I stomach seeing him? I didn’t care, I had to.

My belly churned with diarrhea. I felt sick, but found a gas station with a man waiting in line. I almost told him my situation to go first, but it wasn’t right to play that card, nor the morals Dad instilled in us. Wait, there would be no more lectures, or lessons? Staring at extremely large print; YOU MUST BE A PAYING CUSTOMER TO USE THIS RESTROOM, added to my sweats. I looked around for what I could possibly purchase at such a time. There stood a bottle of wine. Could have been any bottle, there are millions. This label read; Dads Day Off.

You just don’t know…

My Mom had been driven home without her husband for the first time in 47 years. I’m unaware how to comprehend.

I pulled into the ER. My brothers stood beneath a rainy awning, waiting. Waiting to embrace. They were my rock, that was love.

They asked if I was ready, if I wanted support. I felt ill, I needed a toilet and tissues. I didn’t believe it, I had to face it alone. Utilizing every ounce of courage, I followed the nurse through two enormous doors. There lay my Dad, stiff, cold and dead. He had his sneakers on, which made me smile uncomfortably. He died following the Cardiologists’ directive. His bruises broke my heart. Time stopped. I walked up to his chest, cradled my arm over his, sunk my head down and lost it. My Dad was dead. I was touching his dead arm…

He looked peaceful without glasses, mouth ajar like he used to joke. The room looked like the movies. So much plastic, so many shelves. The clock read 11:44 in bright red font. I received the call just three hours prior, minus a minute. When you have one final chance, what do you say more importantly than, “I love you.”

He was really gone. I kissed his cold cheek goodbye, took one final look at his face. It was the last.

I walked out in shock. My brothers held me. What is one supposed to do next? My sister was en-route.

We followed each other home, my brother needed fuel. You don’t know when a man pumping gas just said goodbye to their Father.

Those windy roads took a lifetime. Our caravan pulled up to our childhood log cabin. We walked to the porch, and embraced our Mom.

That empty greeting; “How are you?” makes one want to vomit when grieving. It’s a stupid question to have to answer, but I wouldn’t have known…

So you comfort your Mom, sleep where his presence surrounds, and try to get through the very next hour.

That selfie you took before Star Wars on Christmas Day would be your very last photograph together…

You just don’t know…

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12.25.15 Final Photograph

4.30.16 Funeral

Alto Progreso. A Shanty Town With A Ton Of Heart…

Scenery changed to dirt, our cab weaved obstacles, and uphill we climbed. The bumpy ride jolted not only my body, but the awareness of my surroundings. My jaw fell to the floor of our rickety cab, viewing a landscape that mirrored a Third World.

IMG_3489Wheels halted at the base of a narrow stairway which climbed between shanty structures. We grabbed our packs, and followed our Peruvian leader to the community soup kitchen. A kitchen where 2 Soles a day could provide three warm meals; current equivalent .66 US cents…

IMG_3491We met master of the kitchen; Victoria, mother of 10 standing in open shoes, and a dark sweater. You could literally see her heart. There was running water, so we washed hands before dicing leeks, carrots and pumpkin. Beneath my nostrils dropped a bucket of unidentifiable meat. Flies circled above the bin. Communicating via charades and smiles, I copied Victoria’s demo, and with a dull knife sliced eraser-like mystery meat, cutting through circular tubes. I felt squeamish. My friend said to stop, but our team had agreed effective characteristics included; open mindedness, perseverance, flexibility and patience, so I couldn’t give up, and dug deep. However, when a choice arose; I eagerly offered to paint.

The mission of Global Volunteers is to work alongside community leaders, and locals wherever there is need. This was not Disney, nor a vacation destination. This was a hill of shanty structures, a dismal backdrop of poverty, home to souls I may not have found on a map.

IMG_3496Five of us climbed with brushes, paint cans, trays and a broom. The surroundings took my breath away, not a typical work space, or office view. A foggy haze lay above the valley, it was so much to take in…

Our task was to paint a wall, a safety wall yellow, per government requirement. We brushed dust from the wall, and tore plastic from bags to securely assemble rollers on handles. The valley was alive with roosters, barking dogs, and beeping water trucks filling barrels. The gray across the valley echoed the somberness I felt viewing what locals call a shanty town.

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IMG_3510I felt tired climbing, and don’t love manual labor. However, placed in this situation inhaling dirt in a community that can’t afford paint, it took one second to put work gloves on and dig in. My roller fell and hung itself on a nail. I was in a strange place absorbing a transition from hotel to a view that brought tears.

It was hard work leaning waist height over a cement wall for hours. I struggled filtering marathon emotions running through my mind and sore back. Between stokes, I saw women cooking from pots on dirt floors. Toilets were outhouses, and children played near cliff edges.

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IMG_3532I wondered if painting a wall could really make a difference, but driving away, peering through the window of our cab, I saw the yellow light up the gray. I knew we made it brighter, and perhaps left smiles in the heart of that community…

IMG_3604Children with big brown eyes filled with the worlds questions, stood in uniforms watching us work. Every single one said; “Buenos Dias.” Feral dogs, sicker than I’ve seen, curiously strolled by. One rested in a dirt pile on a paint spill. When he stood, a yellow streak had painted his back like a skunk.

I have never seen tires used as foundations. Homes were blue tarps, and roofs at best, were sheets of metal.

IMG_3648We enjoyed lunch and conversation at the community leaders home. She was so happy preparing potatoes, eggs, pasta, chicken, and lettuce, which our leader advised not to eat. Peru has 5,000 types of potato, I think we tasted twenty. It was challenging eating eggs after watching free range hens savage the dirty terrain. Who knew grass was an amenity…

Following lunch we climbed to the soccer court. The community created this space by hand, a fifteen year project. Our leader stressed the importance of a place where everyone can exercise and socialize. I realized there was none like it on the hillside. Everything was about survival. There were no clothes stores, theaters or churches. The community looks after one another, and takes care of their sick. There were no hospitals. Buckets of sand replaced fire departments, and a police presence did not patrol this town.

I looked around and was taken back by the words on the court; Paz y Amor; opening tear ducts, watering the cement. A community that seemed to lack necessities, were light years beyond my society filled with iPad’s and entitlement.

Where one might take a corner kick, was a cliffs edge. A rusty fence and goals without netting circled a court created without machinery. Supplies were carried up by hand, rocks were dug out from the hillside. Years of commitment, teamwork, and vision. I was absolutely blown away by Peruvian pride, strength, and resiliency.

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IMG_3659Our second day we painted a different section, balancing our footing carefully on the hillside, fingers placed in holes in the wall for stability. My fuzzy foreman; a small kitten put a paw over her eyes as if to say; OSHA would not approve…She kept me safe as her eyes and head followed my brush strokes; bringing me smiles through the tough stuff.

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IMG_3634Our driver, Joel sang with us during our commute, transporting my mind to a comfortable place, through music. The same driver extended our ride around Miraflores so we could see the ocean. A driver whose dream is to surf, yet lives near the Pacific. A driver who plays guitar, speaks impeccable English, and remembered our names. All this goodness, and he wore the same sweater daily, and his cab was one bump from destruction.

What tore at my heart strings was putting names to faces. Meeting souls who have witnessed extremes and heartache beyond imaginable, yet still laugh. I mean really laugh, and share the worlds kindest smiles. It’s there I got caught up emotionally…the dichotomy I felt everywhere in Peru.

Five weeks later, my heart is still sensitive, tear ducts active. Something transformed internally beyond expanded compassion. It is one thing to view poverty through a passing window, and drive on. It was another to work alongside loving beings. Hearing their stories and hardships made it very personal. Seeing this level of poverty broke my heart, but they did not lack anything of value, at all. Their souls and smiles were full of an inner peace, most of us only dream of. A kind heart goes a long way in their importance column. We really are all the same; we just have different journeys from varied hillsides…my heart will never forget this resilient shanty town in Peru…

Peruvians Are Loves

First 24 hours south of the Equator…Day 1, Peru.

I forgot kids sell goods on the street. I forgot running water, toilets, warm showers, and safe drinking water are amenities. I forgot that some have dirt sidewalks and only torn shoes. I forgot that people with less, sometimes have so much more…

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I realized dirt does not smell, and kindness is universal. I was reminded my tolerance for cleanliness is not the way it stands around the Globe. Exploring off the beaten path, I meandered through a market where tourists might not find themselves. I had instant gag reflex when a woman hacked off a chickens head. Meat and produce lay out in the heat, lacking sanitation I am accustomed.

A mans ingenuity pumped a foot pedal, which turned a wheel to sharpen a blade. Peruvians are cute, bundled in September in warm jackets and hats. Children chased each other with big laughter and uniforms. Men worked on cars, their office space; the dirt between the sidewalk and street. Vehicles pass abruptly, and bars cross vacant shops and window panes.

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I saw dirt poor today, but smiles from locals, and their warmth rate higher than infrastructure, shiny stores and sidewalks.

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I explored via foot, resting on a park bench, admittedly lost. A local woman in a blue jacket came by and starting speaking rapid Spanish. I smiled and said what I could, as in 5 words I remember from High School Spanish. She started laughing at me, and gestured to the sky. She rehearsed an entire skit. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, wondering what she was saying. Through our charades and smiles we both discovered I was lost, and she wanted to help. She said she would have her Amiga translate. I smiled leaving the bench, and followed her to her friends door. Four dogs surrounded us in the street barking. It was 0930, I was embarrassed creating a scene in this quiet neighborhood.They spoke a few words, then the woman in blue whisked me off to her Casa, and went inside for her wallet. Upon her return, I asked if I could take her photo. She played with her hair, motioning she had been asleep. She had me belly laughing as she prepped herself for a picture. She motioned to have it taken next to a wooden structure, that I assume was her product. She walked me to a pay phone, called my hostel, walked me to the correct street, to the correct bus stop and flagged down the correct bus. She not only did all this, but she rode the bus with me, and if that wasn’t enough, walked me to the doorstep of my hostel. She wouldn’t take any Soles in return, it was so much to take in…I was in complete disbelief, and filled with gratitude. She wrote her address and asked for mine. We discovered both our names are Jenny, hers spelled, Jenni. We exploded like teenage girls at a rock concert, laughing, hugging and yelling “Jenni!!!” I checked into my hostel with an overflowing heart. Jenni had walked outside to buy bread, and found me. I must have looked like a lost Llama, but what a heart, Jenni of Calloa, Peru has…I came here to volunteer and help others, but it was I who was helped and cared for first…

Jenni from Peru!
Peruvian Jenni!

For A Cause Greater Than Myself…

Please support me to empower a child while volunteering abroad next month. Your donation would greatly be appreciated. Please see the link below. No amount is too small.

http://www.gofundme.com/mq27ctth

Thank you for your time and consideration…

https://beansdream.com/

My Mom…

She held his hand bedside as he passed. A radio played in the distance. The 23rd Psalm had been recited over his weakened body. My Mom’s Father and her had not always seen eye to eye, but she cared for him, and was there for him until he stopped breathing. She was the only one in the room.

She was also with my Gram when she moved on, in the comfort of her own home. My Mom provided genuine care, changing suppositories, diapers, sheets and repositioning her fragile body. My Gram would moan, it was absolutely heartbreaking. My Mom looked after each detail, down to fuzzy socks and pink pjs my Gram liked, despite her awareness.

I have never seen such selflessness in action, and these are just two isolated events. My Mom had been caring for her parents almost two decades after they retired and moved in. She would clean, shop, cut fresh flowers, drive them to appointments and sacrifice her time. She would have much preferred being outside over surrounded by stale hospital air. She would have dinners, with and for them,
every
single
night.
Transporting food from kitchen to either table. She gave of herself completely and unconditionally for years. This was after being a stay at home Mom to four kids, and helping raise four grandchildren.

My Grandparents moved in when I was in high school. I couldn’t be happier, but it came with a price for my Parents. They became caregivers about the minute they gained an empty nest. I really respect my Dad for building onto our home, and temporarily losing his wife to aging in-laws.

My Mom’s a wonder. Crazy, fun, loving and loud. She speaks without filters, and mixes up words, but would do anything for anyone.

Period.

She is one of the neatest people I know. Stubborn, yet strong, emotional and cries reading children’s books. She blows her nose like a goose, and yawns loudly. She’s as free as they come, and knits marches to her own pigtails. She never wears make-up.

Her unmatched energy makes an impact through subbing, teaching, babysitting and volunteering. She rejuvenates playing with kids, gardening or taking hikes with her husband or Great Dane. She loves Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond. When they are wailing, you better let her be…

She rode a horse in the Macy’s Day Parade, was a Girl Scout, clarinet player, and pesky little sister. She is brave, and adopted my sister as a hungry 2 year old from Bangladesh. She saves everything and can pull props from nooks to accentuate stories.

She only sleeps a few hours a night, and cannot sit still. She speaks with a Long Island accent, adding “er” to words, and belly laughs till she cries. I love her personality, free spirit, and generous heart.

She had the greenest thumb before organic was hip. She’s the healthiest eater and most active person I know. She’s a colon cancer survivor. She fought hard to stay with us in ’96…

She can whip up a dinner for 20 with little notice. Her kitchen door is open to all. Our wooden kitchen table has absorbed years of her stories and laughter. She is always working on a project, with a buried table, that becomes visible at mealtimes.

She taught us to swim, camp, ice skate and play. To appreciate nature, life, sunshine and the rain. She’s been faithfully married to my Dad for over 45 years, her first love. She’s a tough one, you won’t win an argument.

She can knit anything fuzzy, and raise any creature with a pulse. She is as natural as they come, interested in wholesome things, oblivious to others. (She didn’t know what cellulite was – how freeing!!)

My Mom is frugal and thrifty, putting her own needs last in a family of 6. I bet 70% of her life was spent changing layers, packing, prepping, cooking and planning for others. A true giver.

My three siblings and I attended private colleges of our choice, on a single teachers salary. She researched loan and scholarship avenues, recycled clothes and utilized each penny.

She bakes bread, pancakes and waffles from scratch. Happy memories stem from warm pancakes and real syrup. Morning sunshine poured in the windows like her love into our hearts. I just didn’t know the magic ingredient back then…

On Valentines morning we woke to heart candies and cards placed at our table setting. For birthdays, we could choose our favorite meal. She would make homemade pizza and large cakes. She would hand crank homemade ice cream, surrounded by rock salt. I could invite the entire class over to sled, play and eat. It was the best day of the year.

She is so peculiar, she moves in her sleep, and carries multitudes of bags everywhere. When the crap hits the fan, I am headed to my Moms side. She could take over a small army with her ingenuity and life saving skills.

She loves playing in the dirt and taking night hikes. She is either freezing or sweaty. She cross country skis, fishes, canoes, snowshoes and swims.

She can’t always relate to my workplace rants, breakups, independence, Colitis, or lack of energy, but she is there for me, and preps SCD friendly meals for my gut. She lets me sleep if I have cramps. My body falls apart around her, as if my soul knows she will take care of me, at any age. Few things trump the comfort of a Mom, even her Rocky grip shoulder massages, she’s my unique “care” package.

I spent the first five years of my life attached to the hip of this woman, unaware the outside world existed. As I grew, she was still there for me every single night after school, for practices, rehearsals, triumphs and failures. Proms, ski races, field hockey games and crew.

She cooked 98% of our meals from scratch. Her flour drawer could engulf a small child. Her homemade cookies are as famous as her wrath if you leave the house in winter without a hat. You will be called a blasted idiot!

She loves animals, adores little kids, loves to swim and be outdoors. She coached field hockey, taught me to ski, likes traveling, and loves the beach.

She has known heartache, some caused by family, but she stands up for what she believes in, and isn’t afraid to speak.

She shows children how to live in the moment, to appreciate everything from tiny plants and animals, to an awareness of worldly issues.

She believes in God, and weeps in pews for others. She’s sensitive, yet strong as a rock, and always has a lot to say. When quiet, you know something is wrong…

She has a lot of demands and chores asked upon anyone who walks by. I felt like a tiny soldier growing up doing chore after chore, productive as the sun.

I call her in tears when life hits me hard. I often miss her. A homesickness that has not ceased since entering kindergarten feeling I was kicked in the stomach. I was far too attached, but she knew the morals and values she stood for, and for that I became grounded.

She tells great stories, nothing squeaks past Bette, the boss of us all. I love this woman with grey pig tails and a space between her front teeth. I picture her in the kitchen with flour on her apron, hair pulled beneath a red hat, juggling 12 things, keeping everyone in the room involved or entertained. In addition to my Gram, it is with her I have the strongest human connection I have known. She is one really cool Mom, whom I am blessed to call mine.

I have watched this woman spin wool, shear sheep, kill chickens, raise lambs, pluck angora rabbits, feed calves, kittens, fish and guinea pigs. She makes wooden ornaments, chops wood, does pottery, makes syrup, puzzles, stained glass, wool sweaters, personalized blankets and attends to a massive garden. She transports soil with baby seeds in protective plastic from wood stove to greenhouse, to get a kick start on spring.

She stands on our slate kitchen floor for hours kneading yeast, making homemade bread, donuts, cookies and pies. Her kitchen comes alive, it’s her domain.

She can’t dance to the beat, but dances to her own just beautifully. I have never met another human so carefree and unaware of societal pressures. She absolutely doesn’t care, nor may not be aware. Her radar is on family, food, kids and love.

She has rarely, if ever sat still across from me without doing something. Perhaps I left some of my energy in her womb when I exited 7 weeks early. I can’t hold a candle to her, nor sew a button, thread a needle and often burn eggs, but I appreciate our opposites. I am happy exploring the World without commitment, while she remains on the exact piece of property she dreamed of as a child, and by choice has not budged an inch.

She can tell when you aren’t feeling well just by looking at you. She would squeeze my forehead between her hands, compressing until headaches subsided. We never took Tylenol or medication, and like her Father, she never complains of pain.

I was that little girl screaming bloody murder with separation anxiety heading into kindergarten. My Brother would leave class and console me. That I will never forget. I thought I was dying. Literally. I was too attached to my Mom and wholesome for my own good. I went to college and was absolutely shell shocked. Blindsided. I had been living with naive blinders on for 18 years. I look back with appreciation for this, but at the time it was hard. Very hard. Life hurts. My Mom had protected me from it. I grew up without a television and didn’t get my license until 18. I have seen peers lose their Moms far too early, I cannot imagine. She can drive me insane, and bruise my ego, but this woman is part of me unlike anyone.

So on this Mother’s Day, 2015, I am not buying you a potato peeler, but I send love, appreciation and sincere gratitude for you, Mom. You are such a unique, special friend with a huge heart. Thank you for everything!!

I love you.

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One Stent Opened Two Hearts

Ice cubes scraped sides of Styrofoam cups. Plastic gloves and open Johnnies. IV’s, hospital food, alarms and moving beds. Toilets slept beneath cabinets, alert button on remotes. Blood pressure sleeves inflated over a forearm black and blue…

Cords beneath sheets, plastic clips upon fingertips. Thermometers. Machines on wheels and grippy fuzzy sock bottoms. Ice cream sat melting on a tray, for my Dad a heart patient…

I slumbered in polyester near my Mom in the waiting room. An uneasy nights sleep beneath a borrowed blanket. I thought about the fear this blanket has comforted, while curious of the couples story in adjacent chairs. I internalize feelings of others, seeing beyond external shells into hearts, often losing personal strength and energy. When life happens, it remains my challenge being a snowflake at the mercy of the wind. Empathy has its curse.

Fluorescent lights and instant coffee. A pierced groin from a stent, awesome science. Time flew, crackles eased in stethoscopes. The United Nations visited in obvious hierarchy. They called his EKG a tombstone.

At the time of the attack, my Dads heart was 95% blocked. Mine had been emotionally blocked, until this…

I am incredibly grateful for a second chance to make it right between us. My Dad and I have been a bit like oil and water over the years, unaware how this avoidance dance began. I had lost sight of mending fences. Mindfulness practice teaches me of impermanence, but compassion had not yet been implemented, a Sunday before Christmas. What an asshole I was, unappreciative lost time. Tears form at the thought.

Refilling his cup with ice, the realization of the situation about weakened me to the tile. My Mom signed A-Z insurance forms, he moved into my priceless column…she sat quietly knitting after saving him. He saved her following colon cancer.

Fuck my genes, I shall live it up.

Seeing parents vulnerable tears at my heart strings. Love hurts. If I were a bird, I would have flown from the nest, unattached, without feeling a thing.

Reaching into my pocket that December Sunday, I was unaware a text would change my life. Words placed in particular order can bring your system horror. My Dad was in an ambulance. My stomach dropped, time froze. Leaving work I shook, but aggressively drove hoping with all I had it was not too late. Texting siblings through tear drops, I pulled into the lot 22.5 below an empty tank, in time to meet the surgeon.

He is alive!!

The stent took.

Overwhelmed by divine timing, dead batteries in the defibrillator, an inoperable helicopter. A wild turkey flew in front of my car, we did not collide. Emotionally exhausted followed by a foggy mind, but what a gift; this tangible Christmas miracle.

9 days after his heart attack, my Dad said over the phone, as I sat in ski gear in a cold car; “I don’t know what went wrong or what happened to have us alienated so much, but I would go through a heart attack to have you back.”

Does it get any better?! A hole in my heart mended, one only my Dad could fill.

I am at peace.

Love heals hearts.

He was astonished to be alive and thanked me for being there. I will always treasure our heart to heart at 0400, just him and I. Raw, truthful and real. I heard his words that night, and felt his love, filling me with a lifetime of gratitude. A nurse woke him to take his weight at 0600. I woke to his bum protruding from an open Johnny, stepping onto a scale. Awkward, but humor was appreciated.

My Dad is an icon in my childhood community, he has touched the lives of thousands. I had lost sight of all his super cool traits, through a negative focus. This experience threw out misconceptions, and wrong perceptions. Sitting in that hospital chair in the Cardiovascular Critical Care Unit, I did not wish to be anywhere else in the world.

I carried such hurt surrounding our disconnect, an elephant in my heart. Until December 21, 2014, I rarely valued how solid and fun he was, and just how strong he made me. Hearts clog, but they can also reopen and love even more radiantly. That single stent opened an artery and tore down the wall between us. It made me realize what may seem an impossible dynamic to change, takes just fear to realize how much you would give anything to be by their side.

What an awakening.

Then just like that he changed out of a Johnny into jeans, and I drove him home. I placed medication in plastic tackle box spaces, checked dosages and Googled side effects. His 43% ejection fraction and AFib could potentially limit things he loves, but he is still here.

Medications and lifting restrictions bring aftermath emotions, but each week he works like a hamster hooked to monitors in a basement gym. Cardiac rehab rebuilds muscle and confidence. The program is a gem.

One heart was 95% clogged. A single stent opened two, by forgiving and moving forward unconditional father daughter love…

South Korea Took Kimchi Bravery

I could feel every eye on me as I boarded the public bus. Wishing for less attention, I discretely grabbed a hanging strap, and stood near a window. The red in my cheeks dissipated after coins clunked in the tray, guessing incorrect fare. The driver pulled from the curb. I was the only tourist on the bus, but through the reflection on that sunny afternoon in Seoul, our bodies swayed as one. Ear buds dangled from ear canals, locals barely spoke. Faces covered by umbrella shadows blocked out sunshine. Bandanas, fabric or masks covered mouths. Pedestrians did not stay to consistent sides, so I slalomed bodies, and dodged mopeds delivering take out upon sidewalks.

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There are few things that ripple my skin like an eel out of water, but visiting South Korea, alone, without linguistic knowledge exceeded my comfort zone.

I could not read anything.

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I was stared at everywhere I went.

Countryside passed beyond my window seat from Cheonan to Seoul, arriving without a hotel, map or itinerary. Traveling freely is often exhilarating allowing my heart to lead, witnessing locals in routine, capturing non tourist scenes into memory.

This was different.

I found myself alone, on a bridge in Seoul as the sun was setting over the Han, without a destiny. Just a passport, backpack and 360 degree view of a city beneath a purple hue. I turned in circles taking in different vantage points, as the bridge I stood upon shook from traffic.

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My soles explored for hours until ankles swelled, blending into tree trunks. A blister formed beneath my foot, armpits sore from friction. I was thirsty, fatigued and my belly hurt, but I kept exploring, in search of a room. About defeated, I made out five precious letters creating the word hotel. Climbing a dark stairwell, the stained carpet told me to run. Too exhausted to care, I traded 70,000 South Korean Wons for a key. It was an establishment my friend referred to as a “love hotel.” Oh, sweet, Jesus! The clerk gave me condoms at check in. A mirror dangled from the air conditioner, an armless clock hung from the wall. I collapsed in my clothes, exhausted beneath a chandelier and sparkly ceiling. I was grateful to be safe, behind a secure door allowing rest.

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To avoid repeating this fine experience, the next morning I entered the shiny Riviera. Language barriers in my favor, I was directed to their business center. I viewed a map and typed rapidly before they realized I was not a guest, and booked two nights at the G Guest House, in Itaewon.

I mastered the rail system, utilizing maps below-ground. Gas masks in glass cases in stations stopped me in my tracks.

I collapsed on my bunk, in Itaewon. My body had traveled hours into the future, and was acting opposite of natural light.

In search of The Gak Won Sa Temple, a driver signaled for me to exit in a desolate town. I followed three women beneath hats and umbrellas up a quiet street, passing red peppers drying in the sun. Reaching the peak of a tall staircase, my gaze fell upon a massive Buddha statue. He was stunning and green. Strolling a circle around him, sunlight shown through his fingertips in an okay gesture, directed at my heart. A reminder to stay in the moment, releasing anxiety about locating a bus back.

Gorgeous buildings with intricate rooftops sat peacefully within a country setting. Entering the Temple, I lowered upon a brown cushion in awe of such a beautiful space, closed my eyes and listened to a monk.

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I scooped unknown lunch fare onto my plate. A challenge traveling adhering to The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but there I sat in a lunchroom in South Korea, eating Kimchi, with borrowed metal chop sticks.

No one joined my table.

A choir rehearsed through open windows as I washed my dishes, then rested upon a rock in view of the Buddha. A dragonfly rested on my body, peering beneath movie star glasses. These fragile creatures remind me of my late grandfather. I always smile.

I did push-ups on a rooftop, as laundry turned with a man from Indy, and accepted his challenge to run sprint intervals along the river.

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We passed locals, bags in hand, lined upon sidewalks to purchase vegetables. It felt awesome pushing my body fast as I could between cement piers, igniting my competitive spark on foreign soil.

Waiting for a DMZ tour, a native spoke of the suicide rate due to pressure placed upon students. A bus picked us up, a Korean militant boarded, making me uneasy as he looked us in the eyes, individually, then sternly at our passports.

We were admitted into The Demilitarized Zone, the soil separating North and South Korea.

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Lush green rice fields, wire fences and men in watchtowers were beyond our window panes. We were informed of a propaganda village across the border, and of wealthy farmers who tend the fields on this tense land.

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Arriving at The Third Infiltration Tunnel, we left our passports in shared lockers. I placed a hard hat upon my curious cranium, and entered single file into the Third Infiltration Tunnel. Downhill we trekked into a space just wide enough for two lanes of visitors, single file. Moisture dripped from dark rocks, backs hunched to avoid hitting pipes. I started sweating, then inhaling faster. There was no exit. Was this the start of claustrophobia? Stationary cameras peered at me. I told myself to think of a happy place, for this friends, was not Disney…

The end of the tunnel stood a cement barricade. When it was my turn, I peeked through a tiny window as far as a civilian could view. Humans created this against humans. It looked like a horror film.

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We toured the eerily clean Dorasan rail station. It sits waiting, anticipating future change, glistening with hope that perhaps one day, South Koreans can take a train to Paris.

Flags tied to fences swayed in the wind, with inscriptions to loved ones across an uncrossable border.

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Back in the city, a tiny girl in uniform beneath an umbrella said hello to me. She was so brave and could already speak two languages. It warmed my heart after days of little communication, lacking means beyond pointing or smiling. It took the entire visit to properly pronounce hello and thank you, in Korean.

Walking up Namsans hill at dusk, I based my route via sight of the North Seoul Tower. City lights glistened from afar. Reversing my route at dark was not seamless. Seoul is massive. I got spun around, but eventually located a PC room to get my bearings. I interrupted the attendant from gaming to change the language on my screen. With help of an online map, I got back safely. Moments like these grow thicker Octopi skin, and bring alive precious stories.

Korean food intrigued my taste buds. Street food was incredible, pigeons danced around the square. They really are a worldly bird.

I love travel stories I find myself a participant in, when things are not easy. There is so much to learn. All the books in the world could not capture the awareness I gain by exploring new cultures.

Despite moments of trepidation and exhaustion, I found a real warmth in South Korea. I heard my friends laugh again, in person, and met his beautiful wife and son. A guesthouse owner laughed as he sawed off a lock to free my passport, as my bunk mate slept. An entrepreneur welcomed me into her beautiful space, hosted a rooftop movie night, and translated conversations into English. The owners of a store invited me in for Lotus tea and conversation. My friends rented a karaoke room to be silly in and cooked a traditional Korean dinner over heat on our table, with side dishes to try, and Soju to sip. I walked upon Gingko berries and visited the Korean Ginseng Center. I meandered down alleys, peered in shop windows, and restaurants of every ethnicity. One man tried to sell me an entire hanging chicken.

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En route, I had a world class nap in Hong Kong International, drooling like a baby, alongside a suit. I fell in love with this city the instant I peeked beneath my window shade. Her skyline and topography was beautiful. Ominous mountainous peaks poked through lingering clouds.

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Asia, a dichotomy between the ancient world and new. History and technology embraced these cities, yet stood apart like smoke between glass walls in a coffee shop.

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What took the Korean cake, or the dried squid on my first Asian adventure, was spending time with these very special people…

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My Love To Wander…Occasionally A Curse, Always A Blessing

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An inquiry from a new friend made me think about my current lifestyle, designed around adventure. The urge to explore is the restless baggage I carry, churning like a propeller within my soul. Internal turbulence is sometimes a curse, because I desire contentment in the present; my present. When life feels stagnant, as if in a ground stop, I feel like a duct taped box soaked in Caribbean rum, circling an empty carousel.

My personal mission statement could read; “Explore the earth, play often, and share your smile around the world.” With three flexible gigs, and a few buffer hours for the occasional hiccup, I create vacations often. Working in the airline industry, I can book any standby flight I wish. Simply thinking of the possibilities builds anticipatory excitement in my heart, expanding like an air hose, waiting to lift into an International sky.

In transit, I view terminal monitors and book desired segments on my cell, as I walk to the next gate taking in a slice of local flavor. I touch down in new cities for fun, the sky is the limit on various carriers, an open seat hopefully a jet-way away. I see license plates and interpret letters as city codes. I research flight routes, carriers and connecting cities.  I enjoy road-trips and train rides. I check the work PC for dots of opportunity on open seat maps. I price International taxes and check flight loads, often. I slumber in terminals, my Burton sleeper hoodie provides naps, when a seat shy. I love naps and I love maps.  I study topography, flight distance, world clocks and currency converters.  I respect weather, and notice seasonal comparisons across the globe. I experience life, over fretting about retirement. Soaring at 37, I feel at peace with my decision to not have children, or follow a “normal” journey. I lay societal and selfish guilt upon the tarmac, and accept my unique flight path.

Traveling, I coordinate seeing friends or family within the same vicinity, connecting visits like adhesive on a bag tag. I feel blessed life affords such opportunity to stay connected, tangibly, face to face, with those in my life. I scoop precious moments into jars, and save them for tricky days.

I appreciate languages and study cultural tips.  I read Link TV, online, for unbiased worldly news, watch travel documentaries and dream, a lot. I utilize directional skills over a GPS, and prepare for adventure, not corporate presentations. I extend travel boundaries beyond my comfort zone. I sample seasonal fare, and drink local bevvies.  I have rested my head in hostels, and showered in the rain.  My adventure spark acts like a tow bar tugging me toward exploration. My Grams words echo in my heart, to take advantage of every opportunity.

Traveling is priceless.

My substantial 401(k) is my sister, but she has yet to sign. I don’t worry about my future, or the what ifs. I strive to live mindfully, appreciating each day. I have seen people lose their life’s work, or earnings overnight from failed stocks, or broken relationships. Tomorrow is completely uncertain. So is 2 p.m. today, so I follow my dreams. I treasure experiences, which is my investment.

My apartment fits my skis and oars, and is not a mortgage hovering overhead, extending landing gear on fun, or brakes on flexibility. Nothing with a root or pulse relies on me. My passport, journal, camera, and bathing suit are always ready. I do not care what others think anymore. Everyday is varied, allowing room for treasures and surprise.

This is my life.

When traveling solo, I hold conversations with locals I just wouldn’t, if shopping with tourists. I learn as I explore, and smile, leaving the unlimited gift I can give. I look into diversified cultures, and souls for a clearer understanding of our differences. It blows my mind how different, yet similar we all truly are.

I love writing, even if just a blog myself and my mom reads. My soul ignites like jet-fuel when I blog, emitting a creative spark until wee hours of the morning. It’s magnificent. It’s the journey, the process, the random sentences that come to mind, halting me in a grocery line, to type, two fingers at a time, on my portable mobile. Creative ideas don’t have to wait for the quill pen to cooperate. My fingers plunk with adrenaline, as my soul seeps out upon this medium, in moments of expression.

I have endured a few turbulent flights in this life, but can proudly say I am happy with my choices, and my journey. Life should be about being true to our souls, while treating others respectfully. I hope to inspire others to follow dreams, without ballast holding you down, without worry what others think, for this is your life, your time, your passion, your one road trip, no matter the direction.

You got this!

We each get a life story of unknown length.  It is the life in our pages, and the memories attached to our ticket stubs that matter most…

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