Category Archives: Journeys…

Notes while traveling — either away from home or through life.

“Back in the Saddle”

 

Oh my. I haven’t written a blog post since Joe died, more than a year and a half ago.

It’s been way too long. Much has taken place since then.  Significantly, a year ago in February, I got really (REALLY) sick, and missed three weeks of work, and then began a slow upward trend healthwise. I escaped into knitting, the first thing I felt I could try, but largely ignored my multi-media artwork (although I did organize all my craft bits by color, which was actually quite an accomplishment).  I started walking the stairs in our library to build up some endurance and graduated to running the bleachers at the high school football field in the summer.  Peter gave me a FitBit; it says I’ve walked across New Zealand (990 lifetime miles, or least that’s the distance I had walked by the end of last year). I started dancing again last fall (yay for Oula!), and have lost about 15 pounds.   I started re-evaluating the stress level I can handle and determined I wasn’t doing so well in that regard, professionally.  Most recently, after four-plus years, I retired from my full-time job as a project manager at Tyler Technologies; tomorrow I start a part-time position here in Teton Valley, giving back to the community, assisting the local school district with PR. In a nutshell, I’ve gone through some life changes since you last saw a blog post from me.

This record is not meant to be a diary of doings, and I appreciate you hanging in through that last long paragraph. Several constants bear mentioning right here, though: Peter and family and traveling  — all of which I love to write about, although one lesson I’ve learned better as I grow older is to respect other’s privacy. (Not everybody wants me to write about them, in other words.)

So — what is my blog going to be about now, if I am going to revitalize it?

Our trips provide never-ending fodder for writing. I must have several hundred ideas of things I think merit exploration.  I jot these down by the dozens in whatever notebook I happen to be carrying on a journey.

In the Piazza di Pietra in Rome  And the photos!  We have some 2,000 pictures *just* from our most recent adventure in Italy and Malta, and about half that many from Singapore and Cambodia last fall (the only reason being it was half as long a trip). But all of them need to be organized and sifted through with some discipline before sharing — a daunting task in and of itself. That will take a while, I know, so will start with just this one, in the Piazza di Pietra, Rome.

I’m also reading, a LOT, again, which has re-widened my world, which I’d somehow let slide into smallness.  In fact, my Tyler teammates all gave me books at my retirement party — a gesture so touching and so personal I’m moved to tears whenever I look at one of the notes that went along with each gift.

But that starts my inner debate — How do I pick THE book to write about?  Would the two book clubs I belong to mind if I write about what we’re reading there (and maybe even relay parts of their respective discussions)? Should I reactivate the old grouping “My Weekly Reader” to talk about books on a regular schedule?

Which prompts another internal discussion: in the past, I’ve often set goals to write a post every day for a month about a single topic, or to do one a month for a year, or whatever.  I’d set limits like a maximum number of words, or using only ONE picture per post. However, Peter has (wisely) shown me that this kind of self-imposed obligation, while helpful in providing structure and creating expectations on the part of readers, can be demoralizing if I don’t meet whatever goal I’ve set.  And that’s not why I want to write….

That said, writing a blog, as I’ve told others, is only worth it IF YOU DO IT. In other words, it’s not enough to just “have a blog.” It needs INPUT. It needs THOUGHT. It needs ATTENTION.  The words don’t just appear magically.

And that’s why I’ve been reluctant to get “back in the saddle,” I guess.  The stats say this blog has had 12,000-plus posts; I know I have many friends who have been loyal readers, and I don’t want to let them down.

Can I even live up to my own expectations?

When every day provides new inspiration from — and concern about —  so much of the world’s happenings — where do I start?

Well, for now, I’m just going to begin.

It might take a while for me to gear up; when I sat down at my laptop today, I didn’t even recall how to access my site to start composing. I’m fuzzy on adding links; it took 10 minutes to refresh my memory on how to insert a photo (and it has no caption or anything fancy like that).  How exactly does the rollover to Facebook work? I’m not exactly sure. Have I already written so much that no one will read this whole entry?

None of that matters.

I certainly have “the need to express life in a creative way.” As I explained to a friend earlier today, that’s the BEST reason I want to resurrect this blog. (It’s also the reason  why, as we speak, I’m also planning out a new artwork.)

Here’s hoping I will find some leftover wordsmithing ability deep in my brain, an insight or two into the universal condition that will strike a chord, an observation about a place or happening to bring a smile or the spark of curiosity to someone.

This post has a new grouping that’s called “The Sunday Open.” While I may not write every week, this day of the week has proven to be good creative time for me. Plus, it provides, at least, a catch-all category with a suggested timeline, with no commitment except the goal of posting on a fairly regular basis.

Please comment here or on FB — I’d love to hear your impressions and reactions.

Thanks and see you on the trail of new “Jewelry and Junk” to come!

 

 

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On traveling — 2015.4

All year I’ve been feeling philosophical about the notion of wanderlust. We joke about the desire to travel being in my blood — after all, my parents were travel agents, some of my first memories are of trips with them, and I learned early where every bathroom is in the world (you know, down the hall and to the left — or it might be on the right side, or in a corner, but think about it — it’s true!)

Peter in doorwayAnyway. I love to travel.

Luckily, I found, fell in love with, and married someone who likes to travel as much as I do.

We watch out for each other well. We have regular routines — passport check, carrying a food bag for picnics, that sort of thing.  When in doubt, we grab a coffee and water and reconnoiter.

I’d have to say that we’re still holding hands, and I’m glad of it.

We go through many doors, usually together, but occasionally one or the other must lead. This is one of those photographs that seems to capture our mutual spirit of adventure….

Peter has a lot more vacation time from work that I do; although he doesn’t likpic of Peters flighte going without me, he took a couple of flying-solo trips last year (to ski in the Alps and to check out Stockholm), and in February he headed to Japan.

Through the wonder of technology — United’s flight status on my cell — I even know where his planes happen to be at a particular point in time.

The biggest miracle of modern-day travel is that we can go so far so fast.

Between us, we’ve been lucky to visit 62 other countries (along with several visits to a small handful of locations).  We love the challenge of discovering the layout of a previously unknown place, like Madrid’s “bow-tie.”

We like knowing how to navigate somewhere new.

We love learning about history by walking on what’s left behind after centuries. “When in doubt, walk on cobblestones” is one of the philosophies we share.

We believe one’s world is enlarged in trekking about places like the Acropolis, Machu Piccu, Pompeii, Teohuatican, Tikal, or Easter Island — the perspective on time alone makes the journey worthwhile. (You can see photos on my Facebook page of many of our journeys.)

sunset on the Rio PlataWe’ve shared some fantastic sunsets (this one, in Colonia, Uruquay, looking across the Rio Plata, Buenos Aires off to the south), ferries across famous waterways, meals of fish pizza and Florentine steaks and frites in a paper cone.

We’ve stayed in a variety of spots: next to a metro under construction in St. Petersburg; in an apartment up 112 steps for three weeks in Rome; and with a host-family on Isla Tequila (on Lake Titicaca in Peru). We’ve booked rooms in a wide range of B ‘n Bs over the years — from a Rick Steves’ recommend for “best loo in Britain” to a place in Ireland where condensation ran down the walls overnight. We’ve even lodged a few nights in a five-star hotel or two.

It’s not about notching our belts with passport stamps, though. There’s so much more that we’ve learned from our experiences.  Serendipitously, we’ve encountered the red-balloon peace rally in Sibiu, Romania; a near-empty Vatican Square (the next day, it was filled to the gills with the faithful); colorful parades in Lima and Oslo.  I’ve written about many of those memories in this blog. I’m optimistic this won’t be the last entry about our adventures.red ballons peace event in Sibiu Romania

The most important thing we know about traveling is not to take it for granted. We have no idea what tomorrow might bring, whether we’ll be healthy enough or whether we’ll be able to afford to do what we like to do.

That’s one reason we’re not “waiting until retirement” to have these adventures.

In July, the two of us were in Norway, following several days of amazing sunshine in Oslo and some time recharging our batteries (and resting our feet) on the Sognefiord. feet on the fjord

Then I worked on this post while we were sitting in the airport of Philadelphia, homeward bound (albeit on two different flights — Peter through Chicago, me through Denver).

On the eve of the last day of August, Peter was packed to take another trip on his own, this time to Malta. Malta? Yep. It’s one of those destinations that calls us — charming and historically significant, but not all that well-known — yet — as a tourist-dominated spot.  It was a good trip for him; the solo reconnaisance provided a chance to check things out, and we’d like to return on another occasion to soak up its heat and history.

We like to think we’ll always return, that a place we love will stay constant — and that we’ll get everywhere we want to go — on an African safari, to hike in New Zealand, listen to an opera in Sydney, see the sunrise over the Taj Mahal — but there are no guarantees. We work at our jobs to be able to afford to go, and we work on ourselves to stay healthy so we can go.

So far so good….

Enjoy your next travels, wherever they may take you!

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Old friends — 2015.3

The late-60’s song Old Friends never fails to bring me near tears. But as I’m closer to the “terribly strange of seventy” than I’d like to think about, the song now vividly reminds of the riches in friendships that last decades.

A couple months ago, a woman I worked with — about 30 years ago, when Peter and I lived in Seattle — “found me,” not via Facebook or in some other techno way, but instead by asking about us at the local Ace Hardware and calling me out of the blue on the phone. It was so fun to reconnect! She was in the Tetons visiting her mom, and we had a good chance for catch up on the decades and miles between us.

Renee sounded exactly as I remember her — and well, of course she did! I love that, even as we age and our physicality changes, whether due to wrinkles, weight or hair color, our voices, expressions and mannerisms stay the same.

A week ago, I spent a fabulous day with another old friend, from even farther back (i.e., my cast year in Up With People, 1973-74). Pam and I have been in closer touch more recently — an absolutely wonderful rekindling of our relationship and much of it online — but that certainly didn’t diminish our quality personal time together on a sunny early-summer Sunday…

Well, just this morning I heard from another UWP castmate. She happens to be coming to Philadelphia — where I’m working remotely this week — for a conference. I haven’t seen Mary since 2011 at an Uppie reunion in Colorado, and I can’t wait to see her again.

It’s a long way from her home in Alaska and mine in Idaho, but what a wonderful coincidence that we happen to be here, on the far side of the country, at the same time. Whoohoo!

While the Simon and Garfunkel song is sometimes heartbreakingly poignant, the reality of old friends is a sweet and special treasure.

UWP pic in Breck -- Mary and PamThis pic is from our cast reunion in Breckenridge four years ago (Pam in yellow, Mary in red)! Looking forward to seeing many of them at UWP’s 50th, in Orlando later this summer. Unfortunately, Rufus Barkley, the fellow I’m standing by (back row) passed away about six weeks after we were together — another vivid reminder that life is precious and we never know what tomorrow will bring.

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I’m working on a book….

Yes, my friends — actually it’s another one (in addition to the in-process novel set on Easter Island and the ongoing Doors project)….you see, I simply don’t have quite enough to keep me busy these days — ha! The book that I’m working on now, however, will likely never see the light of day because it’s not written down and I’m creating it only at night.

I have always been a bit of an insomniac, and the slightest hint of a lupus flare can leave me tossing and turning. And I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps into whatever I’m involved in with both feet and with 121% of my energy — and inevitably, that extra 21% seems to try to make itself felt long after the sun has set. I need something more effective than internally yelling at myself to “Quit working!”

So, I’ve started a new book and it’s helping me tame the sleepless monster.

I call it Jeanne’s Giant Journal of Joy. Silly title, huh?

The sub-title is “The Chronicle of my Complex, (sometimes) Contradictory and (often) Crazy life.” Also silly.

It started out from a serious source. Not too long ago, I read Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, a book about the Allied soldiers (museum curators, mostly) who, as Germany lost its grip on Europe in World War II, sought to keep remaining art treasures from the Nazis — and then these non-military types proceeded to find the plunder that had already been stolen. These art works include many that Peter and I have been lucky enough to see during our travels, including favorites like the Bruges Madonna and the Ghent Altarpiece.  You can read more about this important historical incident here.

So one night when I found myself awake, I was thinking of these artworks and all kinds of other “monuments” that have graced my life. I realized I’ve not just seen so many special things, I have experienced so many special things.

So I started cataloging them.

The first list I decided to come up with: “Monumental Moments of our Trips.” Let me tell you — no lack of ideas for memories to include there. I determined something resembling the top five; then I fell asleep.  The next couple of nights, I noodled with those some more in my head; yep, that list has remained somewhat constant. I’ve written about all of these, one place or another — mostly here in this blog — so won’t mention them here.

The next week, I thought I’d start figuring out what numbers six through ten would be — and I thought of at least 15 more absolutely incredible places and vignettes to include.  Once again, I feel asleep each night, without allowing any “to do” items to crowd out my enjoyment of this simple recall exercise. Assembling them in some sort of mental order, and deciding it was OK that the some really great ones had slipped to “honorable mention” — good for several more nights.

However, I soon realized that even if I expanded this concept to several chapters, monumental moments while traveling was just too limiting.

Thus began the germ of the idea for a “bigger” book.

I now have a whole list of other lists that I return to, or add to.  Something can be included in more (sometimes many more!) categories. Some happened in only once instance, other memories are more inclusive and were built up over time. There are absolutely no rules in this “game.”

big book on the shore croppedTo me, this photo represents it well — everyone knows a book wouldn’t float, but somehow these ideas surface on the beach of my mind…. get the drift?

I started by thinking of one theme per page. Then a theme might evolve into several individual ones. It’s fairly creative, actually. But most importantly, thinking about these wonderful memories turns off the noise in my head; seeking specific kinds of things in the file cabinet of my expereicne is a relaxing way to relive them — and to fall asleep.

For example, take “Historic Hikes and “Unforgettable Urban Walks” — lots and lots of those! Climbing Table Mountain the first time — going up the face trail in snow in early July — is one example of the former. For the latter, among many city-travel explorations, is a special one of the repetitious: when we lived half-way up Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, after dinner and washing dishes in our pint-sized kitchen, we would often head out to make about a four-mile circuit around the crest of the hill. Nothing particular unusual in that one, but we did it in the evenings, together, often going blocks and blocks either chatting nonstop or just enjoying the silence of a city evening.

Another easy-to-recall group is “Family Favorites.” You can read about some of these here.

They range from the ridiculous to the sublime. I’ve got a page about “Satisfactions,” with everything from being a good daughter-in-law and caring about my community to taking up knitting again and (still) liking to read. Another centers on Up With People experiences, from on the road four decades ago and through the years since. Some are embarassingly personal, like “Inside Jokes,” expressions that mean nothing to anyone but to Peter and to me, and “Faux Pas I Surprisingly Survived.”  Topping this one was the time I cut an apple with a Swiss Army knife while driving 80 miles an hour on the Interstate across Wyoming — and I did not slice off a finger!

Of course the book is jammed with people — Peter, family, friends from near and far, children I’m invested in;  “Angels” grace one whole list — loved ones I’ve lost who I like to think are smiling down on me from heaven.

The other evening, when I was thinking about writing this down here, I remembered a song that Irving Berlin wrote and Bing Crosby sang, in White Christmas. If you don’t know this short little ditty, it’s easy to learn, and the lyrics go like this:
               If you’re worried and you can’t sleep,
               just count your blessings instead of sleep….
               and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.

Yep, that pretty much sums up the whole idea behind my Giant Journal of Joy! Next time you can’t sleep, give your internal voice a break and take a walk down memory lane. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you, too…. 🙂

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What a legacy — O/N it 12

Eileen_1940s_Laundry_TWOToday would have been my mother’s 96th birthday. I found three special things to share in her honor.

The first is this photo, which I first saw when my cousin Laura Hall shared it at the “Uphoff Girls Only” reunion several years ago in Colorado.  No specifics on it, no idea where or exactly when it was taken: Laura’s slug just says “Eileen 1940s Laundry.” Isn’t she a cutie,though.  I love her big grin. I think this one’s quite a classic!

Secondly, I found a blog posted on CruiseCritic.com quite a few years ago; I’d saved the page (not even sure how!) but I’m really glad I did since it’s no longer available on-line. I couldn’t find the passenger’s name, but I’ve cut and pasted part of what I saved. It describes Mom’s involvement in the Holland America “Gifts of Love” program (we’re absolutely certain that she’s the Eileen mentioned in the copy).

Day 9: Thursday, At Sea
It’s the second to the last day of my cruise, and I’m running out of time to try out some of the onboard activities… I scan the daily program, looking for something suitable. I decide to check out one of the more curious listings in the program. It’s called “Gifts of Love Yarn Distribution.” I assume this has something to do with knitting, a skill I have never acquired, although I did make a mean macrame pot holder in the Girl Scouts. I’ve seen some cheerful ladies knitting in the Explorer’s Lounge, and wonder if this is some type of knitting club.It turns out, the activity is a charitable endeavor. For the past several years, passengers on the Grand World Voyage have volunteered to knit items for needy children around the world. The beneficiary this year is an orphanage in Istanbul, Turkey, and Holland America donates yarn to anyone willing to knit for the orphans. A group of four ladies sitting in high-backed leather chairs spends the day knitting in the Explorer’s Lounge.They call themselves the “Happy Hookers,” and one of them, Eileen, knitted over 62 blankets on last year’s world cruise, along with 100 hats. She has completed 200 hats thus far on this year’s trip. When I chat with her this afternoon, she is knitting away, her hands flying over bright yellow yarn. Her companions, Trudy, Nelly and Florence, are doing the same. They’re all encouraging assistant cruise director, Vuk, as he busily completes a brightly colored blanket. “He’s a ‘happy hooker,’ too,” says Eileen.

The ladies, who rarely get off the ship, believe all the work is worthwhile. “Last year, the ship invited the children onboard. They serenaded us, and then we fed them ice cream in the Lido Restaurant. You should have seen the gratitude on their little faces,” Trudy says, with a smile. I promise that if I have time, I’ll return for some knitting lessons. “You know where to find us,” says Eileen.
….

mom_n_knitting_stuff

Lastly, I just refound this photo of Mom (middle right center — she’s the only one in a black blouse) and the group of “Happy Hookers” from one of the cruises.

I don’t know specifically where this handcrafted bounty went, but I *do* know that she wrote us a postcard one year to say that what her group had created was all going to the children in an orphanage in Dubrovnik — and I loved knowing that when we were in Croatia in May. Just imagine, someone I saw or met there, in 2013, could have been a youngster who, years before, had been warmed by a blanket or hat that my very own mother had made….

This morning (while I was trying to find the link to the CruiseCritic piece), I saw a note online that said Holland America stopped the “Gifts of Love” program in 2010 because the gift-giving became too much paperwork for the company. Sad.

From doing laundry on the porch right on through to hand-making blankets and hats on the cruise-line, what marked my mother’s life was “Service with a Smile.”  Now that’s a legacy to aspire to!

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Desert delights — O/N it 10

I had such a great visit with my sisters in Arizona in September! And it was a gorgeous time to travel there.

I have always loved the Southwest, and it had been a long time since I’d enjoyed the particular light and colors of the desert environment.

On an afternoon when we’re having snow and wind (admittedly with a few bursts of bright sunshine) here — well, it’s nice to again see some of these things, then growing in Tubac,  from garden roses to potted plants, plenty of sidewalk cactus and even a palm tree.

I also especially appreciate the play of shadows on building walls.

So lovely!

IMG_1931 IMG_1939 IMG_1947 IMG_1948 IMG_1959 IMG_1847 IMG_1848 IMG_1884 IMG_1885 IMG_1887 IMG_1889 IMG_1890 IMG_1893

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Yet another book list O/N it 4

map of the most famous books set in each state croppedBlaire Kribs, a bookstore customer friend who’s moved from Teton Valley, posted this on FB this week, and although I already shared it there, I think it’s worth a few more comments. After all, talking about books has always been a joy and one of my best ways to connect to others….!

The map and the accompanying list show “the most famous book set in each state,” (or at least in one person’s opinion) published by Business Insider.

What I find most interesting is the depth of literature written across the country’s history pulled together in this one list. It includes short books, epic tomes, stuff for kids, stuff for young adults, nonfiction, classics, fairly new titles, scary ones, tame ones — well, you get the idea. They run the gamut of tastes, subjects, length and genre.

Choose two randomly and you might be surprised at what turns up. Consider these pairings…..Twilight and Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Into Thin Air and My Antonia; Little House in the Big Woods and The Laramie Project; The Shining and The Jungle. Wow.

Some would certainly argue with the book selection state by state — even several of my local well-read friends were surprised to see Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as the book chosen for Idaho. (She’s much better known for Gilead, which won the Pulitzer — but it wasn’t set here.)

But to me using a list like this is just a starting point, a little like standing in front of the racks at a bookstore or library and hunting up something new. The first one (or what was recommended) might not be your choice, but spend just a little more time and you’ll find just the right thing.

Haven’t read them all of course, but this collection *does* include some of my all-time favorites. Reading over this list inspires me to REREAD several — and to search out those I’m unfamiliar with. Not today, though; it’s too beautiful a day to spend buried in a book, and I have many other things to accomplish today. But winter’s coming, and there’s not much better than a good book by the woodstove. it’s always terrific to have something new to look forward to, isn’t it?

Happy reading!

PS. Here’s the list only, for those who don’t want to use the link.

list only of the most famous books set in each state cropped

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