Sightseeing in Your Town

I am in the process of planning a trip to Italy with my husband. I’m very excited. I’m sure we’ll be seeing our fair share of cathedrals and museums and art galleries, and we’ll also be experiencing new culinary delights.

I am ever mindful of how lucky I am to be able to do this. Not everyone gets to travel. They may not have the time or the money, or they may have very valid responsibilities that prevent them from doing so.

As I plan to poke my head into every publicly accessible edifice that I possibly can, and wander through every park, it occurs to me that I haven’t done so in the Seattle area. Not by a long shot.

There’s a botanical garden that I drive past at least once a week that I keep meaning to visit but I never quite get around to it. I have no idea what the largest churches in town look like from the inside. There are great works of art hanging in local galleries that I have yet to gaze upon. And heaven knows there’s a whole host of restaurants that I’ve never patronized.

So here we are, spending a fortune to fly halfway around the world to experience the new and exciting, when there’s plenty of that stuff in our own back yard. And a lot of these things are experiences anyone can have if they make the effort. Often museums have free or discount days. Most parks are free or very affordable. You can wander into pretty much every church, (but I wouldn’t advise doing so if a service is already in progress).

I wonder why so many of us think the only sights worth seeing are those that are far away? Is it because we know the local things will always be within our reach, and we assume we’ll get to them someday? Do we place a higher premium on all things foreign? Or are we simply too invested in our Netflix stream to get up off the couch?

If you’re reading this, I challenge you to get up and go experience something near you that you’ve always been meaning to experience. Go on! You’ll be glad you did.

soos-creek-botanical
A garden near me that I have yet to see.

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Geocaching

I do love when my fancy gets tickled. I’ve discovered that there is a whole other, secret world out there, and it’s been right under my very nose all along. Unless you’re in the know, you probably walk past geocaches all the time without realizing it. I certainly have been. But now I’m in with the in crowd, for a change. That’s half the fun: being in on a secret.

Does the idea of a treasure hunt excite you? Do you like exploring, and seeing places you might not have otherwise seen? Then geocaching is for you!

A typical geocache is a waterproof container which contains a logbook to sign in on, and quite often little trinkets or treasures. If you take something, the deal is you leave something of equal or greater value in its place. To do it, all you need is a smart phone.

First, log in to www.geocaching.com and register for the free app. Then, you’ll be able to see if there are any geocaches near you, and the GPS will lead you to them. If you don’t find them right away, check out the hint on the app.

There had been a geocache right across the street from my house all along! It was hidden in a rock wall. And there was another one a block away in the park, down a pretty path I’d never been on before. That one was hidden behind a tree stump. I took a tiny crystal, and left a colorful marble. It turns out there are more than 4000 geocaches in my town alone.

It was weird, the sense of delight and accomplishment that came over me when I found my first two geocaches. And the cool thing is, there are geocaches all around the world, so it’s something you can do while you travel, too. I certainly intend to. It’s a great way to exercise, and see things off the beaten path.

I also plan to create a few geocaches of my own. It will be interesting to see how many people find them. I’m looking forward to that!

Welcome to my new obsession.

 

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Where’s Your Sense of Adventure?

Someday soon, I’m going indoor skydiving! I’ve always wanted to do that. I was given a gift card to do so this year for my birthday. It’s going to be epic! (And it will no doubt spawn a blog post, so stay tuned!)

I’d also like to go ziplining. I’ve actually tried to do so a couple of times, but something always seems to get in the way. There’s a zipline in my future, though. I can feel it.

A friend of mine said, “I could never do that.”

My response was, “Oh, where’s your sense of adventure?”

And that, as per usual, got me thinking. Where is one’s sense of adventure? Where does it reside?

It certainly doesn’t live in your head, because it’s often your head that talks you out of doing things. “You fool! You’re going to get yourself killed!” “It’s too expensive.” “You’re too old.” “People will laugh at you.”

No. It’s definitely not in your head. Your brain can be your own worst enemy in these situations.

Could your sense of adventure reside in your heart? Well, the heart has a love/hate relationship with adventure. It starts to pound in anticipation of it. It certainly pounds during it. It nearly bursts with joy at having lived through it. How you interpret these reactions will greatly determine how much adventure you crave.

Did all that heart pounding and bursting feel exciting and wonderful? Then, yes, more please. Was it nauseating and terrifying? Then, never ever again. Ever. It all boils down to whether or not you are risk averse.

That’s what makes me believe that your sense of adventure resides in your very soul. Either you have it or you don’t. Either you’ll do these things or you won’t.

There’s no right answer. Only you can decide what’s right for you. But meanwhile, I’ll be over there, indoor skydiving. Woo hoo!

Indoor skydiving

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Architectural Salvage Yards

“Hey, where was that place that you got all the cool used doors and grates and glass blocks for the house you used to own here in Jacksonville?” He asked.

“Burkhalters,” I replied, and a tsunami of nostalgia washed over me.

I absolutely love salvage yards. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of them. If it’s true that “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” then why not make use of older construction elements?

All over the country, beautiful old houses and buildings get torn down, and you better believe that those parts of the construction that can be resold will be. So why not get some gorgeous old handmade French doors instead of the uninspiring new ones that are on the market these days? Put a little copper-colored rustoleum on a wrought iron heating grate and you have a gorgeous design element for your home. Think of it as the ultimate form of recycling. The possibilities are endless.

That’s why I love salvage. The possibilities. But you have to leave your expectations at home. You can’t go in with preconceived notions. You can think, “I’m looking for a door,” for example, but if you’ve got it in your head that you want an 8 panel door with an arc of stained glass windows across the top, brass handles and a peep hole, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Salvage yards are an entirely different spiritual shopping journey. They are not just one more errand on the old to-do list. They’re an adventure. Close cousins to junk yards, they’re often in sketchy neighborhoods. You don’t walk in to a nice, clean, orderly space, grab everything that’s on your list and walk out. You have vague ideas. And then you wander around, sometimes seeing rats scurrying about from the corner of your eye. You dig through piles of stuff with sharp, rusty edges. You wait until something speaks to your soul. You imagine how something would look once you slap a coat of paint on it. You expect to get dirty. You also expect to have to go back more than once. Patience, Grasshopper.

Right now I’m at the beginning stage of the relationship with my new (to me) house. Things I’m doing now, like adding insulation, require new product. But once those elements are dealt with, I can’t wait to get down and even dirtier to make my house unique!

Salvage

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Changing My Trajectory

As many of you know, I’ve been house hunting lately. I’m dreading the whole packing and moving thing, but it’s nice to think that my next move might just be my last. But who knows what the future holds?

That’s the exciting part. By moving, I’ll be changing my trajectory in life. I’ll be shopping at different stores, visiting different doctors and vets, going to different libraries and post offices. That means I’ll be meeting people I would not have met otherwise.

I’ll make some new friends, no doubt. Maybe one of them will consider me her best friend, which is a luxury I haven’t experienced since high school. Maybe I’ll finally meet another man who sees my value.

Either way, I will be taking a different route in life, and that’s always an adventure. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and broaden my horizons and learn new things. I will create memories.

The future I’m creating today will become part of my history. It will shape me. I look forward to seeing what color my butterfly wings will be once I burst forth from my current chrysalis!

butterfly

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My Magical European Summer

Recently, I came across a diary that I wrote when I was 19, and I read it for the first time since I wrote it. That summer was the high point of my life. (So far, at least. Who knows what the future holds.)

I was traveling through Europe, and I was falling in love. Those were heady, intense, joyful days full of exploration and adventure. Love, with a backdrop of Holland and Belgium and France and Germany and Luxembourg and Switzerland… it just doesn’t get any better than that. It really doesn’t.

Reading about the events as they unfolded, with the benefit of hindsight, has been quite a unique experience. It’s kind of left me in a weird head space, if I’m honest. That summer shaped the rest of my life.

I don’t know if I’m the exception or the rule, but when I fall in love, I am all in. T was the one for me. I was convinced of it then, and I’m convinced of it now. That summer was full of laughter and endless conversations and making sweet, sweet love in strange places. I recount those things in my diary in intimate detail. I would have done anything for him. I would have sacrificed anything to make it work.

Unfortunately, he was of a more practical mindset. I truly believe that he loved me, but love was not his priority. I’ll never understand or relate to that, because in the end, love is all that matters, in my opinion. So the summer came and it went and he moved on — fairly quickly, I’m told, but I didn’t know that at the time. I kind of wish I had, because it might have made things easier for me.

I, on the other hand, went for, oh, decades, feeling like I wasn’t living the life I was supposed to be living. My life was one big detour down a really messed up side street in which I tried to settle for a happiness which always eluded me. I even trapped myself in a 16 year loveless, sexless, extremely safe relationship. What a waste.

I did fall in love a second time, with another California guy who also didn’t have the staying power or the confidence in our love to make a go of it. That’s a shame, because it could have been an incredible life. (I should probably run screaming whenever California guys cross my path.)

Meanwhile, T got married, and then divorced. But by that time I had fallen in love for a third time, with Chuck, who was amazing. For the first time since I was 19, I felt like life was “right”. I finally felt like I was over T. Chuck was passionate and intense and devoted and hilarious. And best of all, he loved me back in equal measure. He was all in. He was a gift. And then 4 years later, he went and died on me. Well, shit. That wasn’t the plan.

So now, on a whole lot of levels and for a whole lot of reasons, I’m even more convinced that I’m living a life that I’m not supposed to be living. Grief will do that to you. It changes you. But I’m sort of getting used to loving people who aren’t there to reciprocate.

After I read the final page of that old diary, I did something stupid. I went snooping on Facebook, only to find that T is once again in a relationship. He seems quite content. They travel to exotic places. They cuddle on the couch. They have family dinners. He managed to land on his feet, but then I always knew he would. He’s a land on your feet type of guy. I even saw a video clip in which he talks, and sure enough, my heart started pounding the second I heard his voice.

T once told me I wasn’t the kind you marry. Apparently not. Because the ones I wanted to marry didn’t want to marry me, and the ones who wanted to marry me, I didn’t want to marry. Things shouldn’t have turned out that way.

But I’m finally in a place where I think T got it wrong. I’m exactly who someone should marry, because when I love someone, that feeling never ever dies. (It’s the liking that comes and goes, and takes work to maintain.)

I have come to know that that never-ending kind of love is a rare, precious, priceless gift that should never be discounted, never be passed over. Because you may not ever see it again. Cherish it, nurture it, if you are lucky enough to have it.

It’s a strange feeling, having so much love to give and nowhere to put it. If I could go back and talk to that 19 year old, would I tell her to do anything differently? No, not really. The feelings she had were authentic and pure and undeniable. I might tell her to savor it even more. Devour that love, because you’re going to be on short rations the rest of your life, honey. When you’re young, you think there will be always be more opportunities, and that the possibilities are endless, that good luck will come to visit you over and over again, but that’s bullshit.

Before my comment section fills up with platitudes such as, “Before someone can love you, you must first love yourself,” or “You’ll find love when you stop looking for it,” or “There’s someone out there for you,” let me be practical for a minute and say that the older I get, the longer my odds become. It is equally possible that I’ll be living the rest of my life completely and utterly alone. I need to come to grips with that possibility. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still hold out a certain amount of hope, but it would be much healthier to live the life I have and try to make the most of it rather than hold out for some fantasy. I’m working on it.

That diary, after that glorious summer, is full of so much pain and confusion and struggle that the re-reading often reduced me to tears. “Why is my love not enough?” “What did I do wrong?” “Why is this happening? I don’t understand.” I wish I could go back and hug that girl. But I couldn’t really offer her that much comfort. I’m still asking myself those same damned questions 33 years later.

Here’s a secret that no one tells you: Life just isn’t like a Hollywood movie. Hollywood is in California, too.

Suddenly I feel the need to go home and hug my dog.

Eiffel Tower

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Fascinating

It always surprises me when other people aren’t equally engrossed by the things that I find interesting. I have no idea why that is. You’d think I’d have learned by now.

But how can you not enjoy a really good book or a well done PBS documentary? How can you not loose entire afternoons when engaged in some form of creativity? Is it really possible to not be intrigued when you meet a new and extremely unique individual?

What stuns me is that there are people out there who are not the least bit curious. They actually get annoyed when they have to learn something new. If they step out of their comfort zone in any way, the stress is obvious on their faces. Heaven forbid they have to eat anything other than meat and potatoes. There’s no sense of adventure, no desire to explore or travel. I don’t get it. I can’t even get through a day without finding something fascinating.

But I try to comfort myself with the fact that some people probably feel befuddled by me as well. They can’t imagine how I am not into sports. They wonder how I function without a television. It seems insane to them that I’m not caught up in the latest fashion or trends, and don’t even own make up, let alone use it.

This would be a very boring world indeed if all of us were exactly alike. Three cheers for diversity!

“Fascinating.”

Road Tripping

I just got back from a trip to Vancouver. I’ll be writing quite a bit about that, I’m sure. But right now I’m writing about road trips in general.

I absolutely love to travel. It’s my reason for being. Seeing things I’ve never seen and doing things I’ve never done just seems to feed my spirit in a way that nothing else can. Just having an adventure to look forward to brightens my mood.

I love to read up on my destination and make plans and compile packing lists. I love to pore over maps and dive headlong into guidebooks. I’d hate to go to someplace unprepared, only to find out upon returning home that there was something amazing there that I had missed. The buildup to a vacation is almost as interesting as the trip itself.

And then you have the actual trip. The driving there. The worrying that your luggage will be lost, or you’ll leave something behind, or you’ll take a wrong turn, or maybe that you won’t understand the rules of the road in another country. It’s the anxiety of reservations misplaced, tickets lost, identification overly scrutinized. It’s agonizing to worry about being late or missing a connection. I hate to think of all my plans falling to ruin. I hate the travel part of travel.

I probably miss out on a lot of the beauty that is in the in-between places due to all that anxiety. It has been forever thus with me. There’s just too much to contemplate about the destination to focus on the journey. I really need to work on that.

Ah, but when I get there? Pure bliss. Let the adventure begin!

[Image credit: pinterest.com]
[Image credit: pinterest.com]

Schooled by a Sacred Lion

I’m in a state of transition and that’s putting it mildly. New job, new (to me) car, new city where I have never been and know not a soul. An epic drive across the country, seeing places I’ve never seen. Hurtling toward the unknown. What an adventure. What a trip!

Most of the time I’m excited. Friends have told me I’m brave, and that they admire me for doing this. But I have to admit that sometimes I’m scared shitless. All this change all at once can crash over me like a tsunami, and I panic. I doubt. I basically freak out. What the hell am I doing?

The other day I said to a friend, “Please remind me I’m not crazy. I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff without knowing what’s at the bottom.”

His response to me was, “Well, seems to me like you already know what’s at the bottom. This is more like ascending a cliff than jumping off. So put on those rock slippers, woman, and get to climbing!”

And just like that, my view of the situation was reframed. At least until the next tsunami. This is a wise friend, indeed. His name means “Sacred Lion”. His mother named him well.

 

lion

[Image credit: ireminisces.com]

Positive Impacts

I lived with someone for 16 years before I broke it off. Much of that time I was unhappy, but for the most part I don’t think of it as a total loss. Life was lived. Trips were taken. We laughed, we cried. Time passed.

Among other things, he’s a DJ, and the other night I was listening to his radio show and he mentioned he had recently been on a cruise. Part of me was jealous as hell, because I’m in a financial position right now where a cruise is so out of reach it may as well be a trip to mars. And it was kind of disconcerting, knowing he was on some wonderful adventure while I was at the bottom of a deep dark well of depression and mourning.

But at the same time, it made me break out in a huge smile, because whether he realizes it or acknowledges it or not, his being on that cruise has me written all over it. Before he met me, he’d rarely ventured out of Jacksonville. He’d been to Miami once. And just over the border into Georgia for a wedding, and once on a road trip to New Orleans, but that was it.

You can’t be in a relationship with me and not travel. It’s my reason for being. So with me, he traveled. We went to Puerto Rico, causing his mother to panic that he’d wind up in some Puerto Rican Gulag or something, but surprise! I brought him home safe and with an expanded outlook on the world. We went to Canada. We drove across the country on Route 66. We went to Croatia, Slovenia, Venice, and Hungary. We went to Turkey and Greece and Holland. We, too, went on a cruise, to the Bahamas.

So, you see, I gave him the world. And it changed him for the better. Travel does that. It makes you realize that your way isn’t the only way, or even, necessarily, the best way.

When I broke up with him, I despaired that he’d ever travel again, because even while with me, when he traveled without me, he didn’t really travel. He’d fly up to New Jersey to visit his sister for a week and spend the entire time doing nothing but sitting in her living room, even though New York City was just beyond the horizon. I never understood that. It would drive me insane.

So I really assumed that he would sink right back into the dark ages without my influence. Because of that, hearing him say on the radio that he’d recently been on a cruise was sort of like winning the lottery. I had a positive impact on someone, and when all is said and done in life, that is the best legacy you can possibly leave behind.

Best wishes, John, and happy travels.

Travel