Wow, January! You were really something. During your calendar page time, I made my way home from California, spent an evening with friends in New Paltz and had a quick getaway to Miami Beach. There were numerous runs, some yoga, lots of golf course walks with Jeter and the first ski of the season. It was a month full of living life and spending time with people whose company I enjoy. 2019, I think you’re going to be a good one…
As I spent a little time reflecting on the past month, I couldn’t help but recognize that it didn’t matter where I physically was, wherever I was I felt happy. I guess this internal happiness I’ve been working to cultivate travels well. It really is true, you know, wherever you go, that’s where you are.
It didn’t matter if I was traveling alone or with someone else, if the sun was shining or the wind blowing, or where I physically was – my general state of emotional being was positive. I felt lucky to be wherever I happened to be, even when it wasn’t a place with a scenic view or the warmth of sun on my face. I’m alive. I have family and friends and people with whom I enjoy sharing my time. I have a home and a job. My health is good and my body (mostly) does what I ask it to do. And, there isn’t a single day that I don’t appreciate every single one of those things.
One of the best gifts about growing older is learning new lessons about life and oneself, and how those two things relate. I think the happiness I’m currently experiencing comes in part to my recent realization that beyond my children, the only one I’m obligated to is myself. I’ve known for a long time that I alone am responsible for my own happiness and security, but I’m starting to have a different understanding about what that means. To me, at least.
The commitment I have to being happy, to living my best life, comes with an emotional independence that I hadn’t previously considered. While I most certainly owe honesty to any romantic partner I am with, I’m not obligated to sacrifice my needs to a relationship which may not fill my soul in the manner in which I desire. This is, to me, a rather radical understanding of myself and the state of being linked emotionally with another. I don’t have to stifle my feelings or longings because my ultimate commitment is to me. I only get to do this life thing once and I’m unwilling to experience it as an observer. I want to live it. All of it.
How is the new year treating you? What are you doing to make your life one that is well lived? Are you living your best life?
Filed under aging, Albany, Brunch, California, friends, love, marriage, moms, musings, Observations, Random, relationships, running, travel, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation, winter, x-country skiing, yoga
The title of the post refers to a really great book I just read, not the fact that I spent a quick and indulgent weekend in Miami, by the way. Kate Alice Marshall’s book, I Am Still Alive, published in 2018, was the perfect vacation read – exciting, well written and an absolute page turner. Let me tell you about it!
The story is told in alternating chronology – Before and After. Jess, the protagonist, has survived a devastating car crash which killed her mother and left her scarred with lasting injuries. Her father, who left the family when Jess was a small child, lives in a remote area of Canada and Jess is sent to live with him, an option better than the foster care setting in which she had previously been residing. Or was it?
After an unexpected second flight on a much smaller plane, Jess finds herself in a small cabin living with her father and his intimidating half wild dog in the woods, completely away from civilization. She and her father are essentially strangers to one another and Jess recognizes she can’t possibly live in the woods forever. She and her father negotiate that she will remain with him for a single year, a length of time Jess is able to imagine surviving with her dad. Until her Dad is dead and Jess is left alone.
What happens next is a tale of survival, learned independence, revenge and ultimately, realizing that we are capable of things we may have never before imagined. Curl up on the couch and settle in to read this one. I’ll be scrolling through photos from my warm MLK getaway.
Or would you say more Miami nice? I guess it remains to be seen, but I’m hoping for a positive mix of both. I’m planning a long weekend in Miami Beach and I’m looking for recommendations.
I know I’ve been to Miami twice before, but it’s been a long time since my last visit and this quick trip is a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m staying with a friend who rented a place for a few weeks and really have no idea what the scene is going to be. It’s kind of a larger house and I’ve never taken a vacation quite like this where I have no idea who else will be sharing the house, other than my friend who booked it and then invited folks to come down and stay. An adventure, right?
So, the last time I went to Miami Beach I fell in love with a new moisturizer and had my cartilage pierced. That’s about all I remember, other than the oppressive heat that smacked me in the face when I walked out of the airport that Columbus Day weekend many years ago. I’ve poked around a bit online and am excited to check out some of the events related to Art Deco Week and I know I’ll be taking a run or two. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing.
Have you spent any time in Miami recently? Where should I eat? Are there any activities you would recommend – and, yes, day drinking counts in that category. Tips for getting from the airport in Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach would be particularly welcomed, as would ideas for fun, outdoor activities and cocktails.
Tell me something I shouldn’t miss.
I’ve been wearing glasses since 5th grade. I probably should have gotten them even sooner, but my mother assessed my eyes and determined they were fine. Fortunately, an ophthalmologist differed with her opinion and set me up with some glasses so I could read the chalkboard without needing to sit in the first row of desks in my classroom.
Do I just buy the same pair over and over?
I get a new pair of glasses every couple of years and often have more than one pair in rotation. My prescription has recently changed and, while I was tempted to simply have my lenses replaced, I picked out a new pair of frames. My insurance kicked in generously and Buenau’s gave me a great deal, as they have been doing for more than 20 years. I ordered them right before I left for Florida, planning to pick them up upon our return.
On our last day in Disney we visited the Animal Kingdom. After about 6 hours there, we headed to the condo for some pool time before going out for the evening at Epcot. I had been wearing my rx sunglasses for most of the day and couldn’t seem to find my glasses. I looked in all of the pockets of my backpack and in the car and concluded that I must have lost them sometime after that dinosaur ride. I called Disney’s Lost and Found office.
Thanks, Disney World!
Imagine for a minute how many items get lost in the parks of Disney World. Don’t forget to consider the water parks, too. A lot, right? Articles of clothing, cameras, phones, eyeglasses, keys… When I filed a report about my glasses, I was optimistic about their return since I had a pretty clear idea of when I had them last. That being said, when I phoned back two days later and they had actually been recovered, I was pretty happily surprised. When I received them in the mail two days after returning from Florida, I was absolutely thrilled. Seeing is believing – it really is a Magic Kingdom!
Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed. Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport. He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it. Good boy, good trip, good memories.
The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo. If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World. There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4. I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course, I always check reviews and feedback before committing. This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.
During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise. I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around. We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in. I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went. We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol. The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar. I think Disney knows their market.
Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive. Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age. But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides. We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission. The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway), were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day. I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper. The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender. It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.
One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers. Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace. I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else? Very.
Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend. Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros. I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter. Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage. Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage. There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.
Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition. I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves, sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force. Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating. Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected. That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent. Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.
As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything. She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.
We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now. There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long. For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach. There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family. She’s truly the mother of my heart.
Yesterday was a long day. I mean like really long. Quinn and I did a 12-hour marathon tour of Disney beginning with the Magic Kingdom, hopping over to Epcot and then finishing our night back at the Magic Kingdom. We had fun even though the unrelenting sun began to make me feel like I was literally being baked by about 4:00.
I think I’ve done the Disney thing about 5 or 6 times. The composition of each of those visits has been different – with a friend and her family, with one child, my husband and his mother, with two children and my husband, etc. I don’t think two trips have been the same.
It’s impossible to walk around the park without encountering memories from past visits. There was the time Liam melted down on It’s a Small World because the stimulation overwhelmed his senses and his Dad had to hold him down. A favorite family* story to retell is about Griffin’s freak out on Splash Mountain when I had to hold him with all of my might to prevent him from climbing out of the log flume in terror. When the ride came to a stop, the first thing he said in a normal tone was “Can we do that again?” I don’t think so.
Yesterday confirmed for me that Quinn really doesn’t like rides – and I’m okay with that. We stuck to the tame stuff, not venturing anywhere near Space Mountain or that runaway railroad. We rode the carousel together and in my mind’s eye, I saw one of the few photos of myself from a previous trip. The nearby Dumbo ride immediately conjured an image of Liam and his Dad aloft. Good memories.
Mid-afternoon we caught the monorail to Epcot and that’s where he really shined. We went directly to the World Showcase and Quinn traveled around collecting stamps for his passport. Liam had displayed the same enthusiasm during one of our times there and I could picture him, passport in hand. I could almost taste the margaritas in Mexico, remembered from a previous trip, along with England’s fish and chips. I finally indulged myself in Germany, or Deutschland as Quinn likes to say, with an incredibly refreshing wheat beer flavored with grapefruit. I won’t forget that taste soon.
Around 7:30, as the skies began to darken with an impending shower, we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We were traveling against the tide as people made a dash for their cars before the skies opened up. I remembered being caught in a downpour years ago and smiled knowing I had packed plastic bags to protect my camera, a lesson learned that long ago day. We got a little wet, but the last hours of our day were the most comfortable temperature-wise. The lines were short and we quickly hit three more attractions before the fireworks commenced. Naturally, one was the Haunted Mansion. Quinn loved it.
*I say “family” because that’s what we’ll always be. Divorce changes it, but certainly doesn’t end it.