Traveling Solo & Dreams Renewed

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What fills the eyes fills the heart – Irish Proverb

Standing on the deck of the QM2 in the wee hours just before dawn, I struggled to hold my body and camera steady in the wind as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty close to completing our transatlantic crossing from Southampton.

I’d slept little the night before and dressed quickly at 3:30 so I might find a place on the deck to document the end of what began as a solo journey with a plan to spend time working on a partially written and carefully outlined book.

Having been only three chapters in for too long, I’d lost my way and hoped the time alone would make it easier to move forward. I was focused and writing not long after the crossing began, but soon got stuck. I’ve been trying to write the story as I originally conceived it or some variation of it for longer than I’d like to admit and little of what I wrote when I first began makes sense to me now.

It’s funny how long we can keep trying to rework an idea that is difficult to connect to because we’ve invested too much time or dreamed of seeing it completed while a project that inspires passion goes wanting. Slogging through something that’s a struggle doesn’t necessarily make for a better writer or it a better book and in my case it seems to have put a strangle hold on my creativity.

That said, I am shelving the fiction book for now and putting my energy into a non-fiction idea that I think has the potential to fill a need and more importantly, is one I am excited to write.

It’s easy to get stuck in a black or white, all or nothing way of thinking, closing doors to new possibilities in work and in the dreams we once had for our lives. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re stuck until you do something you’ve never done before.

My time on the QM2 was a first for me and for a few others at the table where we met each night for a meal. We were a varied group aside from gender as I was the only woman at a table of eight and with an age range from 31 to 92 we had a great deal of variety in both work history and life experience. The conversations we had as we shared parts of our personal stories each night and fun we shared as we crossed the Atlantic inspired me to shift my perspective and make a new plan.

Sailing towards Brooklyn I felt as if I’d been away from land much longer than a week and had a feeling that is difficult to describe as I looked toward the Statue of Liberty and thought about the people had sailed past her on their way to a new life. We had someone at our table who’d made the trip as a boy many years before and I was moved to tears thinking of how he, and all the others who made the journey must have felt.

I booked a cabin on the QM2 on impulse making a reservation as soon as I heard the dates available and with less research than I’d spend on something much more mundane. It was a departure for me as I tend to explore all options when traveling and a leap of faith worth making.

My time aboard the QM2 was an unforgettable trip for me and I loved every minute of it! I made new friends who encouraged me to sing bad karaoke and dance like I haven’t in years and who have now migrated from dinner table # 66 to my Friends section on Facebook.

My advice for those reading this and wondering if such an experience might be for them but who may also be afraid … open your eyes to possibility, you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

Mile Marker 30

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A few months before my daughter turned 16 we went on a trip that taught me a lot about Miranda and what she was capable of on her own. I will add that I learned a few things about myself as well. I was looking for a different kind of experience for us, one that might challenge us in new ways and decided on an Outward Bound family experience in Colorado. Truth told, I can’t remember if she really wanted to go, but off the two of us went anyway to scale mountains and do a bit of river rafting.

Parts of it were challenging at times (rock climbing) even for a mom with military training, but Miranda sailed through it all with a confidence that seemed strong and steady with each new activity.

After backpacking to a remote site where we camped together as part of a larger group, the final exercise in our week together was designed to be a solo overnight camping experience away from the rest of the group and the instructors. As we were packing up to go, one by one the teens were given a choice to camp with their parent or go solo. One instructor went round the circle checking with each teen and all said they wished to overnight with their parent except my daughter who chose to camp solo.

I have to admit I felt a twinge of parental sadness at first and then a surge of pride remembering that this was not just about me as I tried to balance the knowledge that she was growing up and developing a separate identity, along side with my fears about our changing relationship. Intellectually I understood why differentiation was important, but it was still a difficult time and I’m sure my fear made it harder for Miranda.

The instructors dropped us off individually walking us into places to camp where we would not encounter anyone else. We were told not to go beyond certain areas using natural markers such as ” that rock or this tree “ and told that if we were to come upon another camper to turn around and walk quietly away so as not to disturb someone else’s experience. We would be left alone until the instructor came by on foot to get us the next morning and we were encouraged to write while we were in the woods and set up a place to sleep. We were given an opportunity to take easy to eat food with us or fast with only water until the next day so fires and food prep would not be an issue.

I set up a tarp to sleep under and rolled out my sleeping bag. I was thinking about the week we’d had together and writing before it grew too dark to see when I heard some rustling on the perimeter of the space I’d been “ assigned. “ After a bit more movement, I saw Miranda walking out of the woods towards me. They had dropped us off in a way designed to keep us from knowing where the others were and while I knew they were all out there somewhere, I was not sure where anyone actually was.

Miranda walked over quite casually and said something I remember as, “ Hey, I’m going to sleep soon and I wanted to say goodnight. “

I was surprised that she’d found me without not knowing where I’d been left and it touched me she’d stopped by to connect for a minute and say goodnight. Doing so let me know she was fine and that she knew how to find me if she needed me. It might have been a small thing, but afterwards I felt more peaceful about our changing relationship than I had before the trip.

People often say that life in general and parenting in particular should come with directions or a road map of some kind, but the truth is most of us just muddle through doing the best we can. If we’re lucky, we can recognize if we take a wrong run or get lost, and most of us can right ourselves fairly quickly after a well placed word from someone who knows the way forward.

As Miranda turns 30 today I want to say how grateful and impressed I am to have been both a guide, and the guided in the life we’ve shared, and how proud I am of all she’s accomplished. Here’s to new adventures and future road trips!

Happy Birthday, Miranda!

What’s In The Bag?

Heathrow Airport Arrival 2013

Coming home is particularly sweet after an extended time away.

There’s the obvious happiness of seeing my husband John waiting for me, and the ahhh feeling I get when the plane lands safely and I make it through customs and immigration, but this time has been different and I have been trying to figure out why.

I recently returned from a ten-week stay in the US and have been a bit overwhelmed since my arrival a little over a week ago.

I hear you thinking, What do you mean overwhelmed … how long can it take to unpack your bags and settle back into your routine?

Sometimes, it’s not about the stuff in the bags.

As you can see I am pushing a very full luggage cart and it’s not the first time I have arrived from an international flight looking like a smiling beast of burden. This collection of suitcases is fairly light compared some of my past Heathrow and Gatwick arrivals. Due to decreasing weight allowances, but increasing checked baggage costs, I tend to travel lighter on my trips between what I think of as my two homes.

Except this time.

This time the extra bag I checked carried some favorite product brands I can’t get in the UK along with some new clothes and other things I have needed for a while.

Needed might be questionable, but …

I tend to be a big charity store shopper with Salvation Army, Goodwill, and second-hand shops being my ‘go to’ places. This does not mean I don’t buy new, but when I do I tend stick to the sale section. Thrifty shopping can be just as bad as spending too much on new, a lesson my normally bulging closet would illustrate had its contents not been recently whittled down.

Thursday, John and I took seven huge garbage bags filled with clothing to a local charity shop along with several bags of barely worn shoes and two big boxes of books. I think I struggled more deciding which books to give away than I did with clothes and now after looking at my bookshelves and wardrobe more critically, I have decided to go back through and do another purge.

Remember when I said it’s not always about the stuff earlier …

I have been working on multiple parts of the house since I got home, clearing away clutter and organizing what is left. I have even been in the attic going through boxes and throwing out or giving away things while doing a total overhaul of what is allowed to stay. I’ve emptied a wardrobe and a too-full dresser in the guest room and I’ve reorganized other parts of the house as well even giving away loads of my books that were cluttering John’s study, but what I haven’t done is finish tidying up my studio space.

Studio sounds a bit grand for what I do there, but it is my creative get-away space and where I do most of my writing and photography work. It also doubles as my dressing room and has an en suite bathroom attached to it both of which have been an absolute tip (trash site) since I arrived ten days ago. I left it very tidy when I flew to the US in early July, but with the big clear out over the last week things have fallen into a bit of state.

Looking at it feels overwhelming and I have been finding ways to avoid slogging through what’s left to finish it off.

I decided to take a look at how my need for perfection keeps me from getting more done creatively after reading this post by Nadia Eghbal titled  Why I Wore The Same Outfit Everyday For A Year.  As good writers and bloggers will often do, she got me thinking.

Sure I can clean like I’m still in the Army getting ready for an inspection, or make a time-consuming special something _________ insert what ever suits you here, but be sure it’s something that could use a bit more of this, or a touch of that because that’s what my rarely satisfied self would do with something I make.

I could say I’m only nesting with all this clearing and decluttering, making room for the birth of some semi-new blog or book idea, or even some business daydream that can travel with us when John and I pack up and go and some of that would be true, but I have to wonder if there’s not something bigger underlying my need to restrict and control disorder in my environment to the extent that it distracts me from other parts of my life needing attention.

I’m not going to spend any more time mulling that one over as I do better when I make a decision and move on. With that in mind, I am committing to tossing a few extra things into my partially full give-away bag.

I am willing to begin by dropping in my perfectionist tendencies along with a too tight sweater and a dress that’s really a little young for me. Then there’s that old comparison rag where I tend to judge my work against that of others. Yep, that’s going too.

That will do for me for now, but what about you?

If you’ve got something you want to get rid of, something that’s keeping you stuck or distracting you from your next best thing, feel free to leave it behind in a comment.

Go ahead, I’ll bag it up and dispose of it for you.

Because you know I do like a tidy work space, and I’m already going that way.

The Last Photographs Of My Life … Not Yet

Wales 2013

Multi-Car Accident on A40 in Slebech, Wales ( I took this from inside the ambulance. The blue van in the middle of the road is the one that hit us. She also hit the car to the left, near the sign.)

Four days ago my husband John and I were hit by a woman in a van. It was 2:20 in the afternoon on a Friday in Wales.

The driver was drunk … almost twice the legal limit.

She drove head-on into our lane and only John’s quick reactions saved us from something that could have been very ugly. I don’t know why she made the decision to drink and drive or why she felt it necessary to try to pass a delivery truck on a crowded two-lane road after having had the equivalent of four pints of beer, but she did.

None of the cars were moving slowly although 40 to 45 miles an hour may sound slow to those used to higher speeds on major roads. I imagine the drunk driver was also accelerating when she pulled out from behind the large truck that witnesses said she’d been trying to overtake for a while before reaching us. They said it almost looked as if she had someone else in the car jerking the wheel back several times before she drove into our lane.

I looked up from a book I was reading when I felt John shift suddenly and saw the van coming at us, his quick response moved us to the edge of the road or what they call ‘the verge’ here. She hit the side mirror before striking the back side car near the tire which caused our car to go into a spin. We left the road temporarily while spinning … moving through the grass and mud before going back into the road and coming to rest across both lanes.

Wales 2013

We were traveling in the opposite direction of how the car is facing in this photo.

Wales 2013

The blue van in the middle of the road in the distance is the one that caused the accident. She also hit the car near the sign to left in the photo. You can see the grass we brought with us after spinning through it. The white car was behind us and stopped to help. (That’s our tire jack on the right … it flew out during the spin. We lost a big suspension coil as well)

Knowing there were other cars traveling in both lanes, I expected to feel the impact of more cars even after we stopped moving, but all was still afterwards except for the sound of my own coughing. As the dust from four airbags cleared, I knew I was unharmed, but I had to force myself to look at John because I knew his side of the car had taken the hit.

I was afraid to look for fear of what I might see.

Seeing him unharmed except for a bit of blood on his lip was unbelievable given the wild ride we’d just experienced and before we could say more than, ‘Are you alright,’ we heard a man yelling, ‘ Get out of the car, get out of the car!’ It turns out having four airbags going off at once can give an impression of a car filling with smoke and as we jumped out I didn’t know whether the car was on fire or about to be hit by something larger.

Having my camera in my lap at the time of impact proved useful and I snapped a few photos before a mad adrenalin rush and uncontrollable shaking had me sitting in an ambulance being evaluated. I took a few more photos from a sitting position inside the boxy vehicle which is larger than most American ones.

Wales 2013

My window to the world from inside a Welsh ambulance (enlarge to see the Welsh writing on the wall.)

Wales 2013

After hitting us and the delivery truck she was trying to pass, she hit the wall to the right and scraped the road. Somewhere during her out of control ride, she also hit the white car on the left side of the road too.

My title would suggest these were the last photographs I was referring to, but at then end of our day after being released from the hospital and having arrived by taxi at our B&B for the night, I was going over my photos when I came to those I’d shot less than an hour before the crash occurred.

I told John as I flipped through them that had things not gone as they had, someone else might be looking at the last photographs of my life … my final view.

These are some of those images.

Wales 2013

Wales 2013

I don't usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud's reflection in the hood.

I don’t usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud’s reflection in the hood.

My Last Photo ... Not Yet

My Last Photo … Not Yet

The photo above of the rider-less horse … is the very last one I took before the crash occurred. The rider had dismounted just before I took this shot.

Big big thanks for all of the kind thoughts from our Facebook friends. You heard first about our encounter with the drunk driver and your supportive comments were very much appreciated.

When Friends Win The Lottery!

On my recent trip to Dublin to spend a few days with my dear friend David Morris, I had the fun experience of seeing David and a new friend to me now, Michael Bang win a substantial amount of money through EuroMillions.

Here’s what it looked like to the photographer (me) watching as they realized they’d won and then began the process of collecting their winnings.

EuroMillions - A winning Ticket

I was with them on Friday when they bought the ticket and agreed to split the results 50/50 if they won. I was also with David when he checked the results a few days later online and decided they had not won, but saved the tickets anyway to give to Michael.

Michael then went in the store in the photo above to scan the tickets and thought the scanner was broken when it kept saying he was holding a winning ticket. He did this three times before confirming with the cashier that they had indeed won.

Then they were off on a hunt to see how they could collect.

This woman was not very helpful as she did not seem to know the answers to their questions on how to collect.

So they had to work it out themselves eventually learning that it would have to be picked up by check as it was too big for a cash payout and they could not get it until Monday, the day they were both scheduled to fly back to Atlanta.

EuroMillions Lottery Check - Photo by Michael Bang

Michael changed his flight and stayed an extra day to pickup their winning check. They agreed to keep the amount to themselves so he fuzzed it out before posting it on Facebook where I lifted the image that you see here.

Having been sworn to secrecy, I won’t reveal the amount either except to say that it was a sizable number and great fun for me to share the excitement.

Spending time with David is always sweet and I have more Dublin stories and photos to share over the next few days.

42 Hours To Share What I Love About Cornwall Life

We’ve got a visitor arriving by train in a few minutes. It’s Donna Freedman, who until now has been known only to me through her blogging here and her column at MSN Money.

Lest you think she’s a total stranger aside from being blogging buddies, Donna used to work as a journalist at the Anchorage Daily News with my brother-in-law, Leon. She has an interesting history and writes about how to live well on less.

She’ll be pleased to know that the flowers in her room are from the garden and the blackberries I’ll be using in a cobbler tomorrow, are frozen from the fifteen pounds of berries I picked last summer after reading about how she freezes them for winter use.

With only 42 hours, we’ll be moving pretty quickly. I have no idea what she’d like to see as she has left that up to us. We still have a few normal commitments during those 42 hours, such as a funeral service for our neighbor, but I figure we can leave her in downtown Bodmin for an hour to explore some of my favorite charity shops or she might want to stay home and write.

She’s posting about her frugal travel experience some of which includes staying in hostels in London. Having stayed a few hostels myself, I think she’ll find our guest room a nice alternative.