AND WHAT IF THAT BUCKET LIST IS ALL WRONG?

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Those who know me know I often speak about having a dream, or “bucket” list items, to live fully and with intention. A hot air balloon ride, a swim with the dolphins, traveling to see tulips bloom in Holland in the spring, seeing the pyramids in Egypt, seeing the Aurora Borealis….the list is so long for many of us. But what if thinking of our “bucket list” isn’t quite the way to do it? What if there is another way to enjoy those breathtaking and precious moments our lives?

I am reading a book right now called “Driving Miss Norma” by Ramie Liddle and Tim Bauerschmidt. This book is about a 90 something year old woman finding out she has cancer after having just lost her husband. Instead of going through palliative treatments designed to extend her life just a little bit, she and her family decided to take an RV trip throughout the United States and to “live” while she was dying, creating memories of new experiences and moments of joy. I thought the book would be about fulfilling those life-long dreams, or “bucket list” items before “Miss Norma” passes away, but I was wrong. Totally and completely wrong.

The book passages say, “Norma could not find the words to create a bucket list, although at first that is what we were hoping for. If, for no other reason, it would have helped with planning. “Oh, I don’t know,” she would say over and over again, and it became clear very early in our preparations that we were not going to get a list out of her. Sometimes I felt frustrated that she would not participate much in the planning. Was it her age? I wondered. Was her brain unable to retrieve language easily? Was she simply not used to dreaming or being asked her opinion about things? But I soon grew to appreciate the opportunities her reticence to make a list gave us. With out one, we could really go with the flow. There was so much to see and do, and more than anything Norma just wanted to enjoy life. A bucket list would be much too limiting. This trip was not about checking off predetermined items. As we had quickly learned from those first delayed plans at the Mackinac Bridge and our experiences at roadside attractions, this trip was about living in the present moment, embracing whatever came our way. There would be no regrets and no need to race against time.”

Such beautiful words. Such wisdom. After contemplating two opposite approaches to living fully (the “bucket list” vs. “going with the flow”), I have decided that either approach works, depending on our own individual personalities. Neither is wrong. Neither is right. I guess it all comes down to HOW one can live one’s life fully and how one can embrace whatever comes our way. For some it comes down to the bucket list, and for others it is living in the present moment, wherever the wind blows us with spontaneity.

Life is good; find a way to embrace whatever comes your way any way you can. No regrets. Carpe diem, friends…

THEY SAY YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN…THE WINDOW TO MY SOUL

Recently, I had the good fortune of going back to the state where I grew up in New England, having been recently “fully vaccinated.” It was the first time that I had been on a plane in well over a year, and it felt great to “freely move about the cabin” again. I needed to feel and smell that New England spring air on my face, visit with beloved family and friends, and eat the wonderful foods that I grew up with. Mostly, though, I longed to visit two friends who had become seriously ill during the pandemic. One has cancer, and one is going back on the lung re-transplant list shortly. I was only able to travel the journey with them through telephone calls and emails this year due to the pandemic but longed to hug them and make a new memory with them as well.

I grew up in the land where lilacs bloom in spring and where I wove crowns of forsythia in my hair while playing outside for hours as a young child.

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It is the land where you can travel among fields of daffodils in the spring that take your breath away and remind me of my mother watching and waiting through the window with me for the very first daffodil to pop up through the spring ground to unfold its leaves and flowers with all its glory and infinite possibilities. It is the land where tulips grow in time for Easter, too, and crocuses pop up through patches of snow. It is the land where pansies laugh at the spring snow while stretching their faces toward the warmth of the sun. It is the land where the rocky shore meets the cool ocean water. It is the land where the colonists came for religious freedom.

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It has been said that you can’t go home again, that time changes things so much that all is far too different since you’ve left to still be home. However, my home state is the place where my parents are buried, where I met my husband, and where I shared my first kiss. It is the place where I was married and where my daughter was born. It is the place that smells like all the bread we broke with our beloved relatives on the holidays, as there is a bakery on many a corner. It is the place of party pizza and spinach pies. It is the place of wieners and saugys. It is the place where I learned to walk and went to school. It is where I picked mulberries with my cousin and climbed trees on the way home from school. It is where I skinned my knees (a lot). It is where I learned to ride a bike and get back up when I fell. It is the place where most of my relatives live still. It is the place where I learned to be me. It is the place of old friendships and good times. It is the place where leaves crunched beneath my feet on a cool October afternoon, and where I jumped into the pile of leaves that my father raked in the yard. It is the place where the cycle of life is so clearly evident; the summer brings the autumn, and the autumn brings the winter’s dormancy. It is where the coldest winter day gives rise to the promise of new life again in the spring season. Time marches on, yet somehow it stands still.

As my plane was landing at the airport, it struck me so very clearly. They say you can’t go home again, but I disagree. The places may be different, and the businesses have different names, but I can ALWAYS go home again, for “home” lives in my soul. I can ALWAYS go home again, if only in my heart. “HOME” is where the heart is, after all.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…

FOCUS ON THE BRIDGE

Today, I wanted to share something that I read which inspired me, especially during this difficult time for our country and world during the pandemic.

“Rather than focusing on the obstacle in your path, focus on the bridge over the obstacle.”
-Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gymnastic Gold medalist, who also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in 1984

Life is good; find that bridge somehow somewhere today. Carpe Diem, friends.

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MEAN A LOT (AFTER MY SECOND COVID VACCINE)

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I had my second Covid vaccine Monday morning around 11:00 AM. By 9:00 PM I was feeling “not quite right.” By 11:00 PM, I had the chills, a fever, a headache like none other than I had experienced before in my life, eye pain, body aches, fatigue and nausea. I went to bed, snuggling next to an additional pillow for extra insulation and lots of blankets to keep me warm, even though I live in Florida.

I woke up at some point in the night with what felt like a fever well over 101 degrees and a throat that felt so dry that it felt like knives were sliding down my throat. With the exception of two bouts of type “A” flu several years ago, I had never been this sick. And yet, I wasn’t really sick at all. It was just a reaction for the second Covid shot I had.

I slept most of the day and finally got up around 8 PM to take a shower. As I stood with my head flat against the shower wall, enjoying the soothing and healing water trickle down my back, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. I was sick but not REALLY sick. I kept thinking of all those unfortunate souls that have had Covid and were ACTUALLY sick. I thought about all those unfortunate souls that have had some type of chronic sickness, like cancer or some other dreadful disease. Little more than eighteen hours later, I was well on my way to recovery.

They say it’s the little things that mean a lot. A husband that comes in to check on me repeatedly while I was sleeping to ensure that I was okay, a daughter to give a gentle hug and a smile, dishes loaded up into the dishwasher in a clean kitchen while I slept, calls from dear friends to check on me, and a husband that made sure I had plenty of water available near by all day long is how I will remember this day. I am grateful for what I have time and time again. Life isn’t perfect, but heck it’s good. Damn good.

Carpe diem, friends…….

THOUGHTS ABOUT LUGGAGE WITH SOME LUGGAGE REVIEWS

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It has been said that Yogi Berra, the late New York Yankees professional baseball player, once said, “Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.” I can honestly say I have had more luggage issues than I can even begin to tell you during my lifetime. There was that time in Brussels when the wheels on my luggage splayed to the sides while I was schlepping my luggage across the train station to the track on the complete other side of the building and had to drag it with all my might. By the stagger of my gait, one might have assumed I had a cadaver inside, as the luggage appeared to be THAT heavy. There was that time in Paris when I was much younger when my French boutique hotel had a two-person, antiquated, elevator and a stairway to the second floor. Rather than waiting for the elevator to take the waiting crowd two by two to the second floor, I schlepped my luggage up the stairs by myself only to have the handle rip off in the journey. There was also that time in Ireland when the skies opened up with rain immediately after the plane landed, and my things got soaked inside my luggage. And finally there was the time on my way to Bora Bora that I TEMPORARILY threw my unopened can of pineapple flavored seltzer into the side pocket of my luggage rather than discard it before I got to the airport. It was much later that I realized with a chuckle that I never took that can out of my bag when I smelled the faint yet pleasant scent of an exploded can of pineapple seltzer when picking up my luggage from the luggage carousel. That pineapple scent set the scene for my tropical isle trip, and I think of that beautiful blue water each and every time I drink that particular seltzer.

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I have gone through more luggage than I can describe through the years, too, including that brand featured on television years ago where the gorilla jumps upon it and hurls it about the room without any damage. I’ll just say that they must have a few gorillas working for the airlines in some cities, because I SWEAR that the very same gorilla in those old television commercials has jumped on my luggage time and time again. I have checked in brand new luggage at the airport only to see that it has been stained, gouged, dented, or otherwise defaced in some way when I arrive at the luggage carousel to retrieve it after my trip. The ONLY thing that has NOT happened to my luggage, in fact, is that it has never been the recipient of spray paint to become some artist’s palette on any of my trips. EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING else has happened to my luggage in one way or another through the years.

I have purchased light-weight luggage in order to pack more stuff inside for international trips, but the luggage wheels couldn’t hold up to my hefty packing. It is always a question in my mind time and time again whether it is better to spend a lot of money on luggage that presumably will last a long time or whether it is better to spend as little money on luggage as possible, treating it as more of a consumable, disposable item.

If you are thinking of taking your first trip during the post-vaccine phase of the pandemic this year, you might want to invest in some chic new luggage for your big, long-awaited trip. Rather than dish out some well-earned dollars without any thought, you might wish to consult some luggage reviews below:

https://www.travelandleisure.com/style/travel-bags/best-luggage-brands

https://www.businessinsider.com/best-luggage#rimowa-4

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/luggage/buying-guide/index.htm

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/travel-products/g26898407/best-luggage-brands/

With a little tongue in cheek I am reminded of my version of a variation of an old poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson about love…

“It is better to have loved and lost (my luggage) than to have never loved (my luggage) at all!” It’s my way of reminding myself, albeit tongue in cheek, of how lucky I am to have had so many wonderful experiences while traveling the world with so many more experiences still in front of me in the future, now that the world (as well as myself) has become fully vaccinated.

What is your favorite brand of luggage and do you prefer to spend a little or a lot of money on it?

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

Mark Russell

What IS The Current Story With Traveling In the US After Having The Covid Vaccine?

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According to Our World in Data, as of March 24, 2021, approximately twenty-six percent of the United States population has had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and approximately fourteen point three percent of the United States population is “fully vaccinated”.  Now that more people here have gotten the vaccine recently, those that have been staying inside or socially distancing themselves from others have begun to get “wanderlust” it seems.  According to Google, on-line searches for “vaccine travel” and “2021 travel”, along with searches for “cruises”, “hotels”, and “flights”, have gone up significantly within the last three months according to an article by Matthew Speak from TravelPulse entitled “What Travelers Are Thinking Right Now, According to Google” (March 4, 2021).  It seems, that there is “pent up demand” for travel, at least in the United States.

What IS the real story about travel now that the vaccine is getting underway in greater number for Americans?  Make no mistake, the CDC really doesn’t want Americans to travel domestically or internationally at pre-pandemic numbers just yet and requests that Americans travel “only if they must”.  In fact, the CDC requirement from January 26, 2021 that all air passengers aged two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old (or documentation of Covid recovery) to enter the United States still holds true, even for fully vaccinated travelers, according to my telephone call today tot he CDC help line.  Vaccination hasn’t been proven to guard against TRANSMISSION of the virus, they maintain, so even vaccinated travelers must follow these rules for entry (or re-entry) into the United States.  Travelers also must wear masks and socially distance in public as well.  While asymptomatic people who have received the vaccine no longer need to quarantine after travel abroad in general (unless local state restrictions still require this), it is suggested that they refrain from travel until after 14 days after receiving their last vaccine dose. The CDC further says that once you are fully vaccinated, you CAN gather INDOORS with other fully vaccinated people without a mask, however.  Of course, symptomatic people who have gotten the vaccine need to quarantine, however.

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One last thing to keep in mind while traveling in the United States during the pandemic right now is that all travelers over two years old (except those who have disabilities that preclude mask wearing) utilizing public transportation in the United States must use face masks over the mouth and nose on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares, and inside airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, and seaports since on February 2, 2021.


Life is good; carpe diem, friends….

WHEN WILL CRUISING RESUME?

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Wondering when cruising will resume? This re-posted article below outlines the latest restart dates/updates of several cruise lines as of May 18, 2021. Looking forward to the cruise industry starting up again. Best wishes for smooth sailing to all!

“Great people are not affected by each puff of wind that blows ill. Like great ships, they sail serenely on, in a calm sea or a great tempest.”
-George Washington

Hoping this last year will be only a “puff of wind that blows ill” for all in the travel industry.

https://www.travelpulse.com/gallery/cruise/the-latest-restart-dates-for-every-major-cruise-line.html?image=16

Life is good; carpe diem, friends….start making your plans for that bucket list travel now.

THE WEARING OF THE GREEN? TRY THE DYEING OF THE GREEN IN CHICAGO THIS YEAR, TOO

Chicago River photo courtesy of CNN.com

Chicago residents were told this year that the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration in-town would be cancelled due to the pandemic. However, the city surprised its residents with a little spontaneity. Even though the annual dyeing of the river green was cancelled, too, residents heard on March 13 that the river would be dyed for St. Patrick’s Day in keeping with the annual tradition after all.

Evidently to turn the river green, two boats use flour sifters to dump an orange vegetable powder into the river. It takes about forty pounds of this environmentally safe powder to turn the river green. When the orange powder hits the river, it turns green for some reason. Both boats ride in the river for about forty-five minutes to mix up the powder in the river, and it stay green for a few days.

Other cities that turn their waters green for St. Patrick’s Day are Tampa, San Antonio, Indianapolis, and Jamestown (New York). Savannah, Georgia TRIED to dye their river one year, but it didn’t work out well, so they dye the water in some of the public fountains in Forsyth Park.

photo courtesy of Savguides.com

If you are planning on going to any of these places, make sure you check to see if the dying of the green is cancelled due to the pandemic first.

Find a reason to celebrate today, even if you are not Irish. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may the “luck of the Irish” be with us all this year.

Life is short; carpe diem, friends…….

“A LITTLE SLICE OF NORMAL”

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One of my best friends and I have a little saying that helps us to deal with life’s ups and downs from time to time. The saying is that one needs a “little slice of normal” when the chips are down, much like one “needs” a slice of cake from time to time. When one of is is having difficulty with something, such as someone we love in the hospital, an accident, or some other sad and unforeseen event, we go to lunch and have “a little slice of normal.” That “little slice of normal” means something different to each of us, but for my dear friend a “little slice of normal” is a manicure, pedicure or a trip to the beach, no matter what season. For me a “little slice of normal” might be some ice cream and a movie, a cup of herbal tea, or a hike in the woods. That “little slice of normal” represents something that give us peace and is something we often do normally. That “little slice of normal” gives us a sense of perspective that life will go on somehow, as the routine of the “little slice of normal” somehow gives us comfort that some things stay the same. A “little slice of normal” is something that speaks to our soul somehow. It is not an indulgence, but it is rather something ordinary that we frequently do. For some people it might be a run on the beach, and for others it might be a few laps of swimming. For others it might be breaking bread with your family, and for others it might be curling up with a good book in a comfy chair.

Today I am thinking about this same best friend from my youth, who just finished her chemotherapy for breast cancer recently and then had her last radiation treatment yesterday. I can’t celebrate with her in person because of the quarantine associated with flying to where she is, but I just spoke with her on the phone this afternoon. As I suspected, she is out having lunch with her daughter, along with a “little slice of normal” today.

Life somehow goes on……despite the little AND big bumps along the way.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends………….

“BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED”

It’s no secret to those that know me that I never wanted to move to Florida. In fact, it was the LAST place I wanted to live, as I once told my parents in the arrogance of my youth that I would “NEVER” move to Florida. Florida simply is too hot for my liking, as I grew up in the cold New England weather and love the snow. I love the way the freshly fallen snow insulates the world somehow so that ever break of a branch or every crunch of our footsteps in the snow echos and gives me pause. It is as though one lives in a snow globe when the snow is falling ever so gently upon the ground.

The pandemic has created many changes in our day to day lives to be certain. However, not ALL of the changes are bad. During the pandemic I learned to embrace Florida for all its beauty, despite the hot weather. It was this year that I made an effort to get outside to begin to learn the Florida native trees and native flowers. It was during this year that I took day trips to areas that were right before me in years past, but I never knew about them. It was during this year that I developed a love for the Florida springs and all the beauty they provide. It was this year that I tried to shake things up by going the beach to watch a sunrise, when I normally prefer the sunset. Instead of planting my favorite flowers from my New England gardening days, I planted flowers that work here in Florida, like orchids on my trees.

I have never been much of an orchid lover, although they always remind me of happy times during my youth when we wore orchid corsages on Easter morning. I seem to remember some meaning associated with either the color ribbon or the color of the orchid one wore back in the day. It seems as though it was some sort of signal about whether or not your beloved Mother were still alive, such a quaint and touching tribute and custom. Maybe I am remembering a Mother’s Day custom instead.

And speaking of changes, yesterday while going for my daily bike ride (okay, it has been daily ONLY for a few weeks now to be entirely honest), I looked around and noticed the subtle changes that have happened since even the day before. One lawn was freshly mowed, one palm tree shed a frond on the grass, one house was being painted, the breeze was a little warmer, and so on. Then I began to notice that there ARE subtle changes in the seasons even here in Florida is one is quiet enough to notice.

Just last month when walking along the same path that I biked today, some of the trees had fewer leaves, and today many of the trees have buds. There is pollen everywhere, and the angle of the sun is just a little higher in the sky somehow.

It has been said that it is important to “bloom where one is planted”, and that’s exactly how I feel today when riding my bike. I am finally “blooming” in Florida, and it sure feels good. Maybe the hot weather is just a LITTLE bit of what Florida is all about.

Life is good; bloom wherever YOU are planted and enjoy all the subtle changes from day to day. Carpe diem, friends……