Travel

Just a little more sparkly …

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post about my experience with my mountain top metaphor. I’m a Colorado girl so the physical overcoming of rocks and stones makes a lot of sense when we connect the image to our challenges in life.

For snobby, Colorado me, the metaphor feels a bit, well, overdone. I get it. The smell of the pines, the crunching stones on a dirt trail – idyllic – but I’ve lived the mountain ups and downs for a long time. I haven’t lived the ‘shouting from rooftops’ metaphor or the ‘view from the top of church staircases’ or ‘tripping on cobblestone’ or ‘lessons found when getting lost in London’s alleys’ metaphors.

I’m not a very big risk taker and the hills and valleys in my backyard were spiritually working for a long time. Until they weren’t.

Deep breath – here it is – I’m tired of mountains. I needed a change of scenery.

This year, the bravest thing I’ve done was plan a two week vacation to places I’ve wanted to go since I was a teenager. I knew I needed respite and took baby steps to see if maybe, magically, we could make a dream come true. I made lists and price comparisons, read blogs about places to see and interviewed seasoned traveler friends for their advice.

I asked my boss for two weeks out of the office. He agreed.

Then, I bought plane tickets.

Then, I waited for weeks.

Dare I take another courageous step? Did I believe I could invest in me and the universe wouldn’t retaliate?

With each planning step my palms would sweat. Every time I clicked purchase on a hotel reservation, or a show I wanted to attend, my heart beat loudly in my nervous chest. I wrote about my fears and my doubts and all the reasons why chasing this dream could be halted. I was sure, if I left, someone else would die or need me back at home. An unhealthy pattern, yes. A pattern that my friends in grief group nod along to when I voice – ‘I’m just scared of who is going to go next.’

Time passed. I prayed. I planned. I clicked purchase. I made an itinerary on Google and copies of our passports. We bought luggage, we packed, and eventually we boarded a plane.

Nine hours later, a conversation with a nice lady at Passport control, and we walked out the airport doors and into the English air.

A dream came true and we made it happen. A beautiful thing.

I have lots of stories about our trip and much like Dylan is editing the 700 photos he took on his DSLR, I’m still processing the lessons I learned over there. I’ve waited to share here because one little post seemed inadequate to capture the joy found in exploring museums, churches, magical places with cones of rose-shaped gelato in our hands.

So here goes.

There are a lot of stairs in Paris. Stairs in the subway stations, in the art galleries, in the lines of the tourist destinations. They seemed to be everywhere. Just like the stairs of life. Sometimes, we fall down them. Then we get back up and keep asking, ‘what can I see at the top?’

On a Thursday night, Dylan and I climbed stairs to the 6th floor of a big building hoping to see some modern art. We went to late night hours and found ourselves gazing out at this view instead. A little different the tops of mountains I’m used to.

The things we’ve overcome to stand on this rooftop! I was moved to tears.

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Beautiful tears for the past, for the new memories made we won’t share with my dad as we debrief at home, for the pure joy that comes from believing my own dreams are worth pursuing. Beauty found in the power of listening to the little voice inside my heart that said, ‘you are worth it, go explore. These people you love will be ok.’

The people I love, they were ok. We were too. More than ok.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

– 1 Peter 5:10

From under the lights of the Paris skyline, to the sides of the Thames river my heart soared in places unfamiliar. I kept saying to Dylan, “I feel so ALIVE here.”

Every time we walked in a plaza, sat in a beautiful garden, slurped onion soup at a sidewalk cafe, I would whisper thanks. In Europe, 7,000 miles from home, I couldn’t believe how far we had come in our restoration journey. God brought us there, at the steps of these famous, picturesque places. With my ability to trust and release my paranoid control of the lives of my loved ones, I stood at the foot of Notre Dame, saw the London Eye, visited Queen Elizabeth’s home, and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle up from the top of a building, dazzling in glow of Parisian light.

Travel was balm to big wounds, the scabby heart ones still grazing my grasping fingers each day. I’ve been home two weeks and continue to integrate these new experiences. I’m realizing all over again I can heal and hurt and delight all at once.

Perspective from any kind of higher ground is a beautiful thing. The metaphor is just a little more sparkly in Paris.

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October Favorite Things

It’s come to my attention that I’m a little behind schedule. I didn’t have the energy to pull together a favorite things post to schedule for when I was traveling. Then we got home and I spent a week going to bed at 7:30 pm because of jet-lag. Then I … then I … then I … filled my time with other things.

Here we sit on October 21st and I’m just now posting my collection of favorites for this month. Thanks for eagerly anticipating what I’ve got to share. My thoughts and reflections on our trip are stewing and I’ll post soon. Until then, pick up one of these books, bake some pumpkin bread, or use these tools to plan an adventure. It’s a big world out there.

  1. The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom

I just started reading this book for our book club. Set in Denver, just an over an hour away from where I live, this journalist’s account of refugee students attending South High School is grabbing my heart. Humans live through amazingly horrific things. We need to be tender. We need to be kind. We need to be aware. I’m only 100 pages in and keep turning the pages.

2. The Shack

This book was incredibly popular when I was in college. The girls I lived with in our Christian dorm could not stop talking about the story line. I wasn’t ready to pick up the title then – my own faith wavering in big swirls of doubt. Years passed and for some reason, I was ready. I read the book on our long flight and murmured, ‘yes, yes, yes’ to the metaphors portrayed in these pages. God sees us in our suffering and gives us grace where we need it. For those doubting God, fearing faith, or feeling a bit hopeless, this story may be the spiritual hug you need.

3. Dandelion Travel adapter

Getting ready to travel abroad? After scouring the internet and starting at selections at travel stores, a friend generously lent me her travel adapter taking my stress away. This little adapter worked perfectly to charge our devices in both the UK and France. It’s size makes it easy to carry and easy to change between power sources. Note – this does not convert voltage which lead us on an interesting adventure to sketchy electronics stores in London.

4. Pumpkin bread

It’s baking in the oven right now. I like the recipe from Recipes from Minnesota with Love.

I wrote about it last year too. Cut the sugar down to two cups. With the chocolate chips, the bread comes out plenty sweet.

5. French Perfume

I’m not a big souvenir girl. Picking a special something feels overwhelming when I travel and I don’t need another glass, or keychain, or vase. After spending an afternoon at Fragonard and their interesting perfume museum, I did treat myself to a little bottle of French perfume. The little gold bottle, the spritz on the wrist, the memories a scent creates. Worth it. And yet, still odd because while I bought my bottle in France, I now know you and I can get the next set on Amazon. Ahh globalization.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed their lists of good things in your worlds. Keep searching.

Lessons from the Big Apple

I’ve been posting less frequently, and for that I do apologize. However, the energy typically reserved for writing about the process of seeking beauty has been filled with self-care, reminders to practice gentle acceptance, and travel. A little bit of travel.

I’m no expert in grief; yet I’ve heard it said when you experience a loss, people often travel. They want to get away from the place where life was shared with a loved one, where memories and unanticipated triggers lurk around neighborhood corners, seep out from radio speakers in love songs, and smack you overhead as you eat dinner at an old favorite restaurant. I can understand this sentiment and we, too, sought respite from the reminders. Our family has planned some travel this year, and last weekend we ventured to New York City – a place full of wonderful diversity, adventure, and distraction.

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Being from Northern Colorado, it is not a surprise that diversity, true diversity, is lacking in my home community. One subway ride in New York City, and I was exposed to more types of people than I ever am back at home. I found myself thinking as we rode the train from Uptown to Midtown, how much of a beautiful phenomenon it is that I can come together and share a train ride with people so very different than myself. Yet, for fifteen to twenty minutes, we had something in common – our desire to move from here to there – even if the “there” destination was different. I liked knowing, feeling, this human connection that we all have purpose, if only in the need to get from here to there.

Those subway trains are magic – kinda like a time-traveling tube of metal – it is an amazing system that moves thousands of people every day. Each time we climbed the steps up from underground, into the bright sunlight, I had to take a moment to orient myself to our new location. I found myself getting bumped and prodded as our group would move to the side of the street – trying to navigate where to go next. When you are an individual in a constant flood of people, it is easy to shy away, step back, move to the side.

About half way through our trip, though, I had another realization:

“You know what?” I thought to myself, “I have just as much right to take up space as any other human here.”

And this realization changed my whole approach to the rest of our time in the city. Sure, I can be kind, and polite, and patient – but I, too, deserve a spot on that train. New Yorkers have a bad reputation for being pushy, assertive, and bold to a fault. Yet they fill their space with confidence. I can be brave and bold and share my story without hesitation. If you spend your time waiting for others to let you in, you are going to get left out. Jump in, forge ahead, push to the front of the line.

I realized just how out of character the idea of being first is for me. Both my brother and my husband made fun of me as I anxiously pushed to the front of the line at NBC Studios.

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We entered the lottery to see Jimmy Fallon and for months I looked forward to the event. So when I dragged my family to the sign-in location twenty minutes early, and pushed to the front of the doors of the studio with herds of other people, my brother yelled, “Katie, you are going to have to sit without us!” I kept charging ahead, looking back and responding “Come on! We are going to make this happen!” Yes, we all did get to sit together, and no, I wasn’t in the front row. But I carved out my space for myself in a famous location, with laughter in my heart and confidence in my step.

There is beauty in changing up the scenery of your life. Beauty in traveling, in pondering in different spaces, and in coming to the realization that yes, in a city of over eight million people, you matter too.

The Window Seat

B12. That was my boarding assignment. And A51. And B22. And B35.

I flew on four different planes in the last ten days. That is a lot of flying. I’m not sure how people who spend a multitude of time in airports do it; the shuffle, the lines, the noise, the elbowing your way onto a plane, and into a seat.

Luckily, on three out of four of these flights, my husband gave me the window seat. I still have a child-like awe for feeling the surging engines beneath me as we lift into the air, and later the rushing squeaks of breaks and lurching forward in my pleather seat as planes land. The whole process brings me much excitement. It is the taking off and arriving that is the most fun when flying. Last night, we got on our fourth plane of the week and I spent minute upon minute gazing into the sky as the sun crept into the sleepy horizon, only to disappear in a smear of color.

Remember those crayons that had the red, yellow and blue sticks all rolled into one? If you wrote one way with the crayon, you’d get a perfect line of each primary color. If you turned the wax on its side, the colors would meld into one another. That’s what I felt we were doing in that large metal bird. Racing towards the perfect line of colored crayon marked by the setting sun meeting the end of its day, drawn by our creator, as we inched towards home at rates of hundreds of miles an hour.

I spent a lot of time thinking on this flight, about change, about peace, about family and the beautiful tangled webs that we live in for sustenance, comfort and guidance. I thought about what being an adult means, where kindness lies, and how important it is to send myself reminders of self-love. As we descended into Denver, with darkness outside my window and my head pressed against the plexiglass frame, I noticed slowly, how spots of light would appear through the fog. I could look up above the wing of this plane and see stars and look below to see the lights of our cities slowly ignite their way back in to our presence.  I felt like Peter Pan, dancing through the stars, above the little cities, and our tiny cars, screaming on the way to Neverland. Who wants to grow up? Some days I’m not so sure. I’m doing it though, growing up, and you probably are too.

This week, I was thrilled with the pleasure of the window seat. What beauty can be seen through a small little window as the world shrinks and expands with my change of perspective. I had a friend post this quote on Facebook the other day and I thought this wise person’s explanation of change in beauty related to the way in which we change our perceptions of beautiful things.

“You can know someone who, at first, may be very beautiful. Many days or months or years go by and they are still very beautiful. And you decide “this person is very beautiful!” And you hold them close, want to keep them.
Then, one day, they seem not so beautiful. Maybe even kind of ugly. And for many days or months or even years they are still quite ugly. And you decide “Oh, this person is actually quite ugly!” And so you push away, maybe want them to go or to figure out how to get away. We do this with everything – decide if it is ugly or beautiful – if we will stay or go. But if we practice living from our hearts, if we work very hard, we might realize that the appearance of beauty or ugliness lives in us. That things that were once ugly can become beautiful and things that were once beautiful can become ugly and it all depends on the awareness of our own hearts. Perhaps you have experienced this a little? Perhaps you have loved someone you thought would be eternally beautiful and are a little surprised when their beauty suddenly disappears and they are now repulsive, only to find a few weeks later you find them beautiful again? When we realize that beauty and ugliness are merely reflections of our own state of awareness we can start to work very hard to penetrate through this. Not work hard to find everything beautiful, but to no longer need things to be beautiful in order to love them – for love to exist in us regardless of the external.” Sadee Whip

From the road, a car is just a car, turns into traffic, a gas guzzler, annoying. The road marks our Earth, and lights are said to pollute our senses. From a window seat, though, oh how very different.

Biscotti – none – I made pumpkin bread instead

Essie Nail Polish – Gel Manicure – did you know Essie is doing gels now! What a luxury this little self extravagance was for me.

Waiting at the Airport

Every time I go to the airport, I think about Hugh Grant’s wonderful voice in the movie clip posted above. I love his simple call to the act of remembering the love abounds. This is important on an every day basis; even more so when you are traveling to a funeral. Airports, they fascinate me. All the coming and going, the mysterious people who are sharing a piece of your journey, if just for a moment. The same could be said of passing someone on the street, or driving your every day commute next to the person who goes the same route. I think, though, that airports are different.  You are stuck in a building with thousands of people you don’t know, waiting for a metal bird to take you off to something else.

I arrived at the airport three hours early – Dylan had to drop me off so he could go to work – so I had plenty of time to people watch. As an avid observer of human behavior and people’s quirks and conversations, this extra time was enjoyable and fun, rather than stressful or annoying.  I traveled to Texas carrying only my trusty, old high school backpack. I brought two novels, a change of clothes and a toothbrush, and as I waited to board the plane I was hoping no one would look at me. Sure, I could watch them and laugh at their oddities, but please, please don’t talk to me. I walked the concourses in search of Starbucks (really DIA – where is it!?) and settled for a generic latte and a breakfast sandwich. I found a seat across from my gate and buried my nose in my book, sneaking glances at all the characters as they walked by.

What caught my attention most, however, was not the people walking briskly in front of me on the moving walkway. Instead, as I read, I noticed a quiet, soothing melody coming from the row of plastic molded seats behind me. I turned, and noticed a young man playing the ukelele while he waited for his flight to Cancun. Lucky guy, I thought, Really though, it was lucky me as this guy used his talents to bring joy to my day. I’m not usually one for talking to strangers, but I turned around after twenty minutes of beautiful music and asked if I could take his picture. I introduced myself, explained my project, and asked permission to include him here this week. At first he was cautious, nervous that I would approach him. After I explained my purpose, he said, “Oh cool, I thought you were going to tell me to stop because I was annoying you.” No, you did not annoy me. You gave me a gift. Thank you, Jorge, for bringing such beauty to the start of a difficult trip.

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Here are some other observations I had while at the airport.

– A chubby two year old on a leash kept running away from her parents. I understood the need for the leash.

– There was a French Bulldog that was someone’s service dog. I love bulldogs!

– Grown men boarding the plane for Cancun were wearing Sailor Hats.

– I overhead a woman trying to evangelize to the man working the kiosk selling sunglasses. His response, in a European accent, was “Lady, look at my nose. Can’t you tell I’m Jewish”. She said, well God Bless and he responded, at least you said “God Bless, and not Jesus Bless. Look at my nose!”

I’ve been known to use the hashtag #thingsoverheardattheairport. Next time you are traveling, add something to it!

We people, we are all just doing something aren’t we? Trying to live our lives the best we can. Hugging, crying, coming, going, loving, grieving. Playing our music. And that is beautiful.

No nail polish or biscotti this week. Sorry not sorry.