Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

It's the eve of a new year and all of the media recaps made me think back on all of the changes this past year have wrought.

I have moved, become engaged, been bucked off my horse, found a horse I can ride, adjusted to having no job(perhaps a little too well), and made new friends. I drove an RV through Yellowstone Park(and camped in it for a week), put my feet in The Great Salt Lake, flew in a Cessna, kissed a dolphin, and flew in a private jet.

All in all, a great year.

Of course on the cusp of 2011, I am looking forward, too. There is a wedding, a honeymoon, and hopefully, lots and lots of riding and writing. The coming year will be when I commit myself to allowing the dream I have fought since graduating from college. I will try not to let my fear of failure overwhelm my desire to create something special.

I hope to reconnect with old friends I have neglected while being swept into my new life. And I hope to help my sister with her noble dream of making a true difference in the lives of those who need help and support.

These are small, personal wishes. And I will try not to plan so much or too far ahead.

It is perhaps an old and tired device, this listing of reminisences and resolutions, but it is what it is. On the last day of the year, there is little time for anything else.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back on Track?

I know, I know. I've been away. I'm such a bad blogger and an undisciplined wannabe writer. I have many excuses, the holidays, the flu, and a trip to Bermuda that lasted longer than expected. At least I wasn't deported.

It's been a wonderful holiday and I am looking forward to the New Year. Of course my resolutions include a major diet, more exercise, and a more rigid writing schedule. I have sent some poems out; I'm waiting excitedly for additions to my rejection file. Hey, it's like the lottery, if you don't buy the ticket/take the chance, then it'll never happen. Yes, I am feeling a bit discouraged, but that has more to do with my insecurities than anything else.

And really, I shouldn't complain. I escaped the blizzard that crippled the Northeast. In fact, it was a blessing, because...

I'll get to that.

I spent Christmas with Mr. W.'s family in Bermuda, where his parents are members of a residence club. It was a bit of irony that the club is called Tucker's Point, since the night before we left, Mr. W. told me my Christmas gift was Tucker, the horse I have been free-leasing.

I'll keep saying it- I'm so lucky*.

*This will be repeated ad nauseum.

Bermuda is different than I expected. It is beautiful and the people are welcoming and friendly. The first thing I noticed (besides the British motor laws) was the water. I am used to seeing the Atlantic ocean from the Jersey Shore. Bermuda's surrounding seas don't have any relation to the sickly greenish-brown of the North Atlantic. The waters surrounding this oddly configured set of small islands is the most brilliant aquamarine, more vivid than the Maui's coasts (though Hawaii is more stuniing overall). Bermuda has a quiet, elegant beauty.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Gale force winds, rain and cool temperatures drove us toward indoor pursuits. Add to that Mr.W's nephew, who came down with a severe stomach bug (which, I think he played to the hilt after the worst had passed, but...). Still, we were able to swim once, play on the pink beach (it really is pink!), and hit golf balls on the driving range (yeah, I suck at it, but no humans were harmed or windows broken). The aquarium in Flatts village is fantastic. It is also a small zoo and I bonded with the Indonesian bearcat or binturong. Too cute. He meandered down his branches and put his paw against the mesh of the enclosure. I was good. I did not reach out to touch it, but it was tempting.

I also got to relax. I read Cutting for Stone and Dracula (I've never actually read the original. It was interesting). And Mr. W.'s sister introduced me to Every Word, a game on the Kindle. Addictive. It should come with a warning.

So the long lazy days were not all about eating and drinking, though there was plenty of that. We went to the hotel bar so many times, we memorized the menu. In the hotel restaurant, there were murals salvaged from the Pan Am building in Manhattan (it's now the Met Life building). Mr.W.'s grandfather was a VP of Pan Am; the murals were a part of his mother's childhood. These huge canvases show various ports of the world: London, New York, Maui, Constantinople, Hong Kong, and Beirut. Hamilton harbor was added when the restaurant was built. It was wonderful to hear her talk about them; I guess we all cling to those small representations of what has gone before. (I keep fabric, Hummels, Christmas decorations, and kilts as my memories, but who's comparing).

After Mr. W.'s sister and her family left to spend Christmas day at their home, we were left to wander Hamilton and the Dockyard, where we got to play with dolphins. I kissed one and have the photo to prove it! The gale force winds that day were quite an experience- I've never been blown down a hill. In Hamilton, Mr.W. sneakily bought me an enamel box with "I love you more and more each day" scrolled across the top.*(see above)

The only glitch in this idyll was the blizzard. We were scheduled to return the day after Christmas. Of course, our flight was cancelled. "That's ok," we thought, since Christmas day was one of the warmest and prettiest days we'd experiened and Boxing day was almost as nice. We ate lunch, went to the spa for a massage, went to dinner, and hoped for good news the next day.

Monday was blustery and rainy. And our flight was cancelled yet again. We went to the airport to talk to a real, live person, who informed us that our first opportunity to leave would be Wednesday. Oy.

On the amazingly bright side, we were on a lovely island with rain, not snow, and we were able to sleep in divinely comfortable beds, not plastic airport chairs. The packing, unpacking, packing and moving rooms was a bit of a pain. Another delicious meal later, Mr.W. and I retired and exchanged bets on whether or not we would leave before Wednesday.

Lets just say, I lost the bet. We left at 6pm Tuesday evening. On a private jet. Uh huh. I have to pinch myself. Amazing way to end the week, Merry Christmas and all that. And yes, it is an incredible way to travel. The plane was so beautiful. I was fascinated by all of the nooks and hidden compartments. It was like an RV, but infinitely nicer. Ok, it's not remotely like an RV, more like one of those bus-sized luxury motor coaches. In this instance, it is like what they show on TV. i felt like Tony DiNozzo on NCIS if you happened to see the episode when they go to Guantanamo Bay? No. Well, google it. It was just like that!!!! *****

I am back on land now. The critters were so happy to see us. While they were enthusiastically leaping and barking to welcome us home, I noticed the house was a bit cold(61 degrees, not that bad, but chilly). Went into the basement to say hello to the cats and heard the fan in the furnace trying and failing to run. We called the heating people, who came right out to remedy the problem, but it did take until 12:30AM (and the poor technician had another call after ours). Mr. W., who the whole trip denied having a cough, or not feeling well (can you say stubborn ass?) finally gave in to his malaise.

I guess there is always a balance to be maintained. I am back to mucking stalls, snowblowing the five foot drifts in the driveway, unpacking, reorganizing, nursing the patient, and catching up on all I missed while away. *******

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I don't feel well today. I'm laying low and trying to relax. The pellet stove is now working- after clearing the auger with my fingers and almost getting my arm stuck-but it is churning away, filling the room with that lovely warmth that a fire provides.

I turned on the television, surfed the channels, and found "House Hunters International." I haven't watched that in a while, but in a lucky turn, the story was about an American looking for a place in Prague, Czech Republic. It's been three years since I was lucky enough to spend a month there.

It's cold outside, I'm tired and don't feel well, my feet are up facing a warm fire, and I'm headed back in time to that incredible adventure. I never got to show my mother the pictures; as she was the one who made the trip happen, it's one of my biggest regrets.

My mother and aunt drove me to the airport; we tried one of my aunt's interesting, smaller-road routes. I was nervous. Did I pack enough? Did I pack the right things? I checked my brand-new passport for the twentieth time. I was almost forty and this was my first passport, my first time out of the country(besides Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, but really, do they count for an International Relations student?), and my first trip entirely solo. I had flown alone many times, but there was always a friendly, familiar face waiting for me upon landing.

Our airport-bound route meandered past Walden Pond. Through the car window I took in the signs, the parked cars, and tried to imagine the wooded beauty that inspired Thoreau. It wasn't what I expected; the passage of time and urban development altered the landscape. My destination was a city that had withstood the ravages of war and the Iron Curtain; I hoped it was better preserved than the small preserve holding the memory of a naturalist's inspiration.

We arrived at the airport, and in a quick, awkward blur, I checked my bags, gathered my passport and organized my carry on. Again. I hugged my mom, my aunt slipped me some extra cash with the admonition to spend it on myself, and off through security I sped.

After a long, crowded, sleepless flight, I switched planes in London, then boarded the Czech Air jet that would take me to the place I had dreamed of for so long. Exhausted, I dozed in my seat until the cabin staff delivered beverages and a snack. I eyed my open-face meat sandwich, nestled beside my coffee, then glanced at my neighbor, who was thoroughly enjoying his beer. It was 10:30 in the morning, though it felt like 10:30 at night to me. Still, beer with breakfast? Welcome to the Czech Repubic.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend, Part Two

There's a Gremlin in the T.V., really.

Friday after the feast, we gathered again, once the young men began to stir, that is. Coffee, bacon, French toast, and real maple syrup for me and Mr. W. My son ate a bacon and cranberry sauce sandwich. The bacon was smoked and cured with black pepper. It had a bit of a kick. And the cranberry sauce was the kind that retains an impression of the can it came in. On Sourdough toast. Yeah.

The others arrived around 11:30 AM, mostly because my sister wanted control of the T.V. from noon to four. It was time for the Backyard Brawl. I am not a fan of football; I don't get it. My sister, however, is an avid fan, especially of her Alma Mater, the University of Pittsburgh. Wait. Avid fan? No she's a rabid fan, known to hang up on innocent, well-meaning callers if they have the unfortunate timing of calling during active play. She has also, with her "enthusiasm" caused enough havoc, that the family dog will skulk from the room and hide at the hint of anything resembling football on the television. She swears she isn't as bad now; she can actually watch in one room, rather than stalking from set to set, all of which are showing the game, commenting loudly on the game. "OH COME ON!"

Outside, the trees sparkled with the frozen remnants of rain, a light breeze sent glimmering drops groundward. It was a perfect day to spend inside surrounded by family. My sister sat in the center of the couch with Mr. W. and I flanking. She vibrated with excitement for the game. It began as she told me her prediction- "Pitt is going to lose, but you never know." And a bunch of other technical football stuff. I did listen to what she explained. Really. I did. The boys and my brother-in-law congregated around the breakfast bar behind us, talking and discussing my son's imminent move (and all the crap he had to do before he actually left).

As soon as the game got underway, the channel changed. I had the only remote, so she accused me of tampering. The channel switched back to the game. I handed her the remote, to prove my innocence. The channel flipped again. I grabbed it back and hit the "last" button on the remote. Back to football. Then "Keeping up Appearances"(an older, British sitcom), even I had to choose football over that. Football, BBC, football, BBC, infomercial, football. At this point, though she had actually seen all of the important stuff, my sister was getting a bit annoyed.

"Am I being punked?" She turned to me. "Has the cable ever done this before?"

"No. Could it be the ice?" I asked my son if he'd ever had this happen, he replied in the negative. The channel flicked again.

"Oh, COME ON!!!" My sister put her head in her hands, composing herself. Football resumed. Another ten minutes passed until the next flicker.

"Why don't we try it on the non-HD channel?" She suggested, putting on her see-how-calm-and-pleasant-I-can-be-when-really-I-am-borderline-homicidal smile. We changed to that. Football. She relaxed. Flicker to "Saved by the Bell."

"Put it back to HD. BBC is better than that." Back to HD programming we went. Football until the commercial. BBC. Infomercial. Football. "Thank God for replays," she muttered. "Maybe, I should go back to the hotel and wrestle the lobby T.V. away from the kids..."

It didn't help that the other team scored a touchdown within the first few minutes; sure, Pitt rallied and scored, but it did not bode well for the rest of the game. By half-time, my sister was frustrated with the game and my anxiety was growing about my son getting to the dump in time, discarding the mountain of garbage with my truck, and returning in a timely manner so Mr. W and I could drive home, and whether or not there would be bloodshed before the end of the weekend. Several times, she suggested shopping at the only, tiny department store within an hour's drive. Desperate times call for desperate measures. At this point, I am sure she could have used some blood-pressure medicine, or a stiff drink, or maybe a strong sedative.

I'm exaggerating. Maybe. Not. It was Pitt football, after all. Honestly, she has made progress; she was willing to watch the game in company on only a single television.

It was during half-time, when I strolled into the kitchen to make up a huge plate of leftovers, that I discovered the existence of a second remote. My brother-in-law had been behind the impromtu channel surfing.

Of course, I said nothing and the game continued for the third quarter, when my sister finally was told. No one was hurt in the aftermath. My sister is still happily married, ok, my sister is still married, not widowed, my son got rid of the trash, Mr. W. headed back home only two hours later than planned with my nephew in tow. This is what makes my holiday's special.