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A Sight for Sore Eyes

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I stumbled out of the car and briskly walked towards the door. I was so relieved we arrived. A series of moments had taken place to get me to that door, and I think maybe the seed was planted by the TV show, The Gilmore Girls. Rory, the main character, always talked about how she wanted to backpack through Europe. As my daughter Katie and I watched the show, Katie often commented on how she would like to go to Europe someday.

I would say, “Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home.” Katie was often reminded about traveling to far away places when her classmates from grade school and high school travelled away on mission trips. “I didn’t even want to bring it up because I knew you and Dad would say no,” she told us. She was right about that.  After Katie went off to college, she hinted about travel abroad programs to Rome and Greece.

“Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home for that long,” I repeated over again and hoped that something would distract her and make her want to stay. Or I said, “How about you do a short trip, like your sister.” Laura traveled abroad for three long weeks when she was in college. But, Mom’s idea of keeping Katie close to home was not an option for the determined young lady. Katie informed us that she went to a travel abroad meeting at school. “I am going to go to Ireland,” she announced. “The director is awesome, and I think I would learn a lot.” A plan to go to Ireland was smart because of the Irish roots Katie inherited from her father.

It was funny how the orientation meeting for parents and students was on St. Patrick’s Day. I wore my shamrock scarf and my husband dressed in bright Irish green colors. Katie told us that we looked like we were going to a party. As we learned more about the trip, the better we felt.

Next thing we knew, Katie was packing her one suitcase and one carry on that would have to last her for a semester in Ireland. It was hard for me to imagine how such a fashionable young lady was going to manage with one suitcase. As she scattered all of her favorite clothes on the bedroom floor and resolved to eliminate the unnecessary items, I still marveled how her dream of traveling abroad wasn’t even going to be stifled by having to abandon about 90 percent of her wardrobe!

When Katie stood in line with her future travel companions to check on her suitcase at the airport, I realized that the hardest part of being a parent is the letting go. But letting go doesn’t mean that we couldn’t go visit! I never thought that I would be one who would travel abroad, but my husband and I set about making plans.

Soon we were on an airplane to Philadelphia and then on a flight to Dublin. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean at night and having had a very busy day, I longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to go. I thought about how beds were underrated. I snoozed a bit until I was woken up by bits of turbulence or fellow passengers who were coughing, snoring or emitting unusual odors.

Thankfully, the sky started to light up and we saw how different the clouds looked beneath us. They seemed more compact and fluffy! As we went through the cloud bank, and the patchwork quilt of greens and browns greeted us, we felt lucky to see a land that was unfamiliar.

We ate a quick breakfast of eggs, sausage and potatoes and wondered why the breakfast menu offered pudding. We didn’t order pudding, but later Katie told us that Irish pudding is pig’s blood mixed with some other stuff like grains and looks like sausage!

We found the Go Bus, got on board and traveled through the sleepy town of Dublin along the Liffey River. After we went through a long tunnel, we were able to enjoy the countryside. I said, “This is the longest I have ever traveled to see someone!”  We snoozed off and on, and in between we spotted cattle or sheep happily grazing amongst the many colors of green that are divided by stone walls.

When we arrived at the bus station in Galway three hours later, we were surprised that we had to pay 20 cents to go through the turnstile to get to the bathroom. It’s the first time I had to pay for such a visit. The words, “I like to live in America, everything free in America,” a song from West Side Story kept running through my head.

My husband called the rental car company and a very nice young lady came to get us to deliver us to our rental car. We carefully paid attention to how she drove on the right side of the car, but on the left side of the road. It was scary how the traffic came at us from what we thought was the wrong direction. The pedals on the floor are the same as in the US, but everything else was backwards. We could not find signs identifying the names of the streets. The driver pointed out that sometimes they are on the sides of buildings or stuck on stone structures!

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By the time we were in our rental car and ready to go, I prayed that we would make it safely to our destination. My husband drove, and I think I was glad it was not me.  It took a while, but we found our hotel which was quite crowded with people trying to check in. When we got to our room, we grabbed a few items from our suitcase to deliver to our daughter, went to reception to ask for directions and headed out.

I felt cramped as we drove along because the streets are quite narrow and don’t have shoulders. It always felt like we were going to hit the curb, and I hated that I felt like a driving instructor as I had to remind myself and my husband to stay on the left side of the road. The travel book that I read before we left said that driving in Ireland is stressful; I wished that the author would have elaborated that point a little more because I missed seeing how beautiful the sky and mountains were and the pretty bay that we passed by because I was worried about everything! When we saw the sign we were looking for, we scooted over into the driveway, got honked at, passed by a parking lot, and found the cottage with a big sigh of relief.

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We rehearsed the procedures of putting the car in park. I got out and knocked on the door. We arrived at the time we predicted. When Katie greeted us, I thought to myself, “You are really a sight for sore eyes.” We hugged and I knew that all that it took to get to that door was going to be worth it. Not only to visit with our daughter but to be in such a beautiful place.

The journey to that door helped us discover that our children’s dreams can be and often are contagious!

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

Miserable Outburst

The fourth day of our trip started out as another protein bar and Starbucks coffee morning.  After we repeatedly chewed on bits of the cardboard-like bars and tried to swallow them down with gulps of coffee, we headed to the subway.  Even though we had been on the subway many times, I never recognized any of the faces like I do at home, and I missed that.  I was surprised that I was feeling a bit homesick already!  I pushed the feeling aside and reminded myself to call home later that night.  I had been sending many pictures to the kids via text, but I missed having talking conversations with their Dad.

Susan thought it would be fun to find The World’s Most Famous Subway Grate.  We walked around the midtown area searching for the grate where Marilyn Monroe stood while a subway passed underneath.  The swishing air made the white skirt of Marilyn’s dress fly up which caught a lot of attention back in 1954.  Since it was a Wednesday, many professionals hurriedly walked by us.  When we found the grate, there wasn’t even a sign to confirm our discovery.  That made us unsure if we were in the right place.  After I read about The World’s Most Famous Subway Grate, I think we were in the right place, but now it doesn’t seem very exciting because we didn’t know for sure.  Anyway, if you’re interested, click here for a movie location guide, which would be fun to have on a trip to NYC.

Next we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The Cathedral is currently going through some renovations which will take a couple more years to complete.  A lot of unlit candles greeted us, and Susan and I each lit one.  Here are some of my favorite pictures, even though you can see the scaffolding in the first one.

The protein bar was starting to wear off.  We spotted another Le Pain Quotidien which are all over the place in Manhattan!  This is the scrumptious salad I had:

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Our next stop was the Museum of Modern Art.  The Campbell Soup Cans by Andy Warhol were quite the attraction as was The Starry Night.  Susan asked me to take a picture:

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While we stood in front of the painting, the man behind me started singing Starry, Starry Night, by Don McLean, and it helped me remember some sad things about Vincent Van Gogh.  😦

Thankfully, this piece of artwork had me laughing out loud:

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It’s so fun to be cultural!

After leaving MoMA, we found the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop by Rockefeller Plaza, and I bought a beautiful umbrella with a Tiffany “stained glass” fabric and some Monet coasters.  Plus, I remembered to use the coupon from my New York City Pass booklet.

Not only did we see Rockefeller Plaza, and

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Atlas,

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we found Gilly at the NBC Store.

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Our next adventure was to go to the Top of the Rock(efeller Plaza). We waited about 20 minutes before we could get on the elevator.  I liked seeing Central Park from the Top of the Rock.  I couldn’t believe how many buildings were below us.  It’s incredible how Manhattan stretches out further and further.

When we got back to the Upper West Side, we decided to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  I thought I would try the scallops, and our waitress, Heather, said that was a great choice.  We told Heather that we were going to go see the Statue of Liberty on Friday, and she told us about a lot of fun spots down by the pier.  The scallops and the fresh vegetables were very tasty.  By the time we were finished with dinner, it really was a starry night.

After only being asleep for a couple of hours, my stomach woke me up because it felt a little sour, and that’s when I decided that scallops didn’t like me.  Thankfully Susan slept through the whole miserable outburst.  That miserable outburst made me feel even more homesick.

The next day turned out to be the most relaxing of our trip.  We hoped that I would be feeling good so we could go see The Jersey Boys the next night.

To be continued…

Nose Kisses

As Lila floated about in the creek after our walk around the park, we could hear the barks of a dog off in the distance. Suddenly, a beautiful yellow lab came running through the woods and came close to the shoreline to look at Lila. Lila swam to the shore to greet him. The yellow lab bent down and they sniffed at each other’s noses. The yellow lab backed up some and dove in right on top of many branches and dried grass. As he sank through the mess, his face showed a look of surprise as his paws paddled a little frantically. Mike and I wondered if the yellow lab thought that mess was dry land. Mike had just removed a large stick that had been blocking the flow of water and formed a dam. Other obstacles were being held up behind it all. It looked as if some kids had been experimenting with bricks on top of Styrofoam to see how far away it would float.

The yellow lab paddled about some and came close to Lila to greet her with another nose kiss. When the yellow lab heard his people calling him, he tried to climb up where the embankment was steep, but he didn’t succeed. He paddled to the other side and ran up the hill with small branches and dried grass clinging to his fur. He was gone as fast as he came. He didn’t limp or look to be hurt at all from his jump in the creek. Little did the yellow lab know that he helped knock the dam apart by jumping on the mess. We watched as the rest of the debris broke free and traveled down the creek. Mike bent to grab the Styrofoam and bricks. He broke up the Styrofoam into little pieces and stuffed it in the garbage can. All the debris floated away and the creek was clean again.  The water washed over Lila and carried away any grass that clung to her fur.

It’s funny how dogs will go out of their way to greet each other with a nose kiss.  I wonder if those two will ever meet again!

If you can look at a dog and not feel vicarious excitement and affection, you must be a cat. ~Author Unknown

Way Off in the Sky

Sometimes my husband and I went on dates to the airport to watch the airplanes land and take off. We parked the car on Post Road, rolled down the windows and listened to the powerful jets as they took off and landed. I really didn’t think that was an unusual sort of date to have with a boyfriend until I told my friends about it later on, and they thought it was funny. Maybe I didn’t think it was rare event since my Dad used to take our entire family to the Crystal airport when I was a kid. We stood by the chain link fence, stuck our noses through the holes and watched the little airplanes take off and land. The steady rhythms around the airport always felt sort of soothing.

Last weekend, while we were visiting our son Matt at his school during Aviation Parents Weekend, we waited for him at the airport while he had a flying lesson. My husband and I sat in our minivan, the cool wind blew through the open window while the steady, soft noise of the little airplanes buzzed around us. A lot of the more experienced kids gave their parents rides so many airplanes dotted the bright blue sky, and we watched as they meandered about. Sitting there watching the planes reminded me of the dates my husband and I used to have, and now we were waiting for our son to come down from out of the sky.

When Matt was finished with his lesson, we saw him walk towards the building with his instructor. I couldn’t help but think about when he was just a little guy standing out in our backyard with his little jean jacket on and his blond, wavy curls blowing in the wind. The airplanes flew right over our house. Matt would point his index finger towards the sky, and he held that hand close to the side of his face right next to his eye. Sometimes he wobbled as he tried to keep his balance while he stared up at the “big birds.” He would always announce when he saw an airplane even though we too could hear it traveling over our house and sometimes rumbling the ground.

As Matt grew, so did his knowledge of airplanes because his Dad was such a big fan too. They both studied schedules and would know when a certain plane was going to Japan or some foreign destination. They would ramble off the makes of the different jets and could tell which airline it was even if it was way off in the sky too far away for me to even tell.

Today Matt made his first solo flight. Ever since he was a little kid, from the time he could say the word “airplane,” he has always wanted to fly, and today he did, all by himself!

It might be funny to go on a date to watch airplanes, but somehow it all worked out!

The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul. ~Walter Raleigh

My Old Valentine

Last year, right before St. Valentine’s Day, I frantically searched through stacks of things I had written.  I was looking for the newspaper print of the poem that I wrote for my husband when he was my boyfriend.  Our local newspaper has a contest every year for Valentine’s poems.  Even though I didn’t win that contest, I saved the entire page of that newspaper, so I thought it would be easy to find since it’s quite large and probably very yellow by now since it’s from the 80s.  I was disappointed because I never found it.  I really wanted to read it, and I wanted to publish it on this blog.

About a week ago, I was busy looking for something else when I came across the small poem that had been cut out and taped up for all eternity.  I’m sure my mother-in-law was the one who thought to save it and tape it up as a keepsake.  That little slip of paper was sitting on top of the filing cabinet.  I asked my husband about it, and he said he pulled it out of the desk drawer because he found some old pictures with it.  I thought it was funny how that little piece of paper showed up right before St. Valentine’s Day.

It’s kind of a corny little poem that I want to share, but it still holds true, and that’s the best part.

Even though you surprise me with fresh fish instead of roses,
I am still thrilled that you are the one with whom I rub noses.
And when you search for coupons when you take me out to munch,
It makes me think you’re thrifty, and I’m glad I’m with you at lunch.
There are times I tire of seeing your blue and red sweater,
But I know I could not find any other man I’d love better.
I am so happy I met you and wish I did earlier,
Because doing so would have made my existence pearlier.

I’m so lucky I found my old Valentine!

Nowadays I usually get roses instead of fish, but this year I got a bouquet of pineapple hearts and chocolate covered strawberries.  Yum!

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Thankfully, Scary Turned into Everything’s Fine

I found out some new things by having this happen. I learned that 80 percent of women get called back after a mammogram. This was my first time getting called back. I didn’t know that 80 percent of women get called back until after, when I told my friend who recently went through a call back.  My friend was the one who heard about the 80 percent at her clinic when she got an “everything’s fine” after her call back. I wish I would have known about that statistic before they called me back. When they call you, they don’t say, “Hello, we scare 80 percent of the women who get mammograms every year, so don’t worry.” Instead the very-concerned sounding voice on the other end said, “We need you to come back right away. We need to do an ultrasound.” Oh, my hands got numb and my boob that needed the ultrasound hurt. Sweat started to pucker off the back of my neck.

“Okay,” I used my most confident voice. I acted like I could handle it. I made the appointment for the next morning and wondered how I would sleep that night. As I hung up the phone, my mind raced. What if it’s bad news? Would I be able to handle it? How did this happen? Haven’t I been taking good care of myself? I reminded myself that people can’t help getting sick, even the ones who take care of themselves.

I was at work at the time of my call back, and I texted my husband to call me when he got a chance. It took a while to hear back from him, and as I tried to calm my fears, I did a little research on the Internet. I learned that 80 percent of lumps are not cancerous. That almost made me feel a little better about my call back. I also read that 80 percent of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. As far as I know, no one in my family ever had breast cancer, so learning that family history doesn’t matter really didn’t make me feel better.

As I went through the day, I mentally tried to be nice to the people around me. I noticed that sometimes my voice was at a higher pitch than normal, and it was annoying to me and made others take notice. I could tell by the funny tilt of the head of the person I was talking to that they noticed my voice had gone squeaky. I remembered how just earlier that morning I thought about people who have bad things happen to them. I wondered if they should automatically have the right to be mean to other people? I decided they do not.

My husband called me, and I knew that he would stay by me no matter what. He told me it would all be okay, and I knew I could count on him. When I finally got home from work, I acted as cheerful as I could, and I tried not to think about the call back even though that was impossible. I didn’t want to tell my kids because I didn’t want them to worry. I went into the garden and noticed that the flower that I had been waiting to blossom finally did. Since I am one who looks for some sort of sign, I took that blossom as being a good sign that all would be fine.  I surprised myself that night by giving up and realizing that I had no control over the situation. I would just have to go in, have the ultrasound and see what would have to happen after that, if anything. Letting go helped me have a pretty restful sleep that night, and I was sort of ready to meet the day the next morning.

My husband went with me, and we were the first to arrive. Many more women came shuffling in.  Practically every person’s name that got called before me was named Mary. Every time a Mary was called, I jumped out of my chair a bit. Finally, they called me.  The woman who brought me to the changing room asked me how I was, and I wanted to tell her that I was scared. Instead I told her I was okay, and asked, “How are you?” I put on the lovely green robe with the huge snaps in front. I locked my precious belongings in the locker, and picked up a magazine with an article about a woman who had just gone through surviving breast cancer. Gee whiz, I thought and hoped that wasn’t a bad sign.  A technician arrived to take me away from the daunting magazine and lead me to a dark room.

“Why did I need to come in?” I asked her.

“There’s been a change,” she said.

After I laid down, she glopped some warm gel on the spot, and I heard myself silently pray “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and then she took the ultrasound. It lasted about five minutes.

“I am going to show these to the radiologist, and then we will let you know if you need to come back or not.”

When she left the room, I got up, cleaned the gel off of me, and washed my hands.

The door opened, and another young woman, the radiologist, walked in with the technician.

“I’d like to see this live,” said the radiologist. “There’s asymmetrical blah, blah,” she started to sound muffled, like how the adults sound on the Peanuts Gang cartoon shows. I had no idea what she was talking about.

The gel went to the same spot, and I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw the very serious and concerned face of the technician. She didn’t know it, but her look scared me. Then, thankfully, the radiologist told me that they couldn’t find anything, and sometimes tissue gets folded over on the mammogram.

“We’ll keep an eye on it. You just need to come back in a year for another mammogram.”

“How scary,” I said with great relief.

Later that afternoon, I told Katie that I had to go in for an ultrasound.

“Was it okay? Are you okay?” she asked in a concerned voice.

“Yes, everything’s fine.”

“Mom, you should always start off by saying everything’s fine,” she said in a shrill voice.

Ok, I will. Every time everything is fine, I will.

How Could I Forget?


Tired Girl!

Lila’s eyes were glued to the green tennis ball that was being held by her best and favorite friend, Mike, my husband.  One big throw of the ball sent her bounding across the field.  As she trotted back to us, the closer she got, the more it looked as if she had a smile on her face.  Lila had lodged that ball carefully between her teeth and headed straight towards her Dad.

Sometimes it takes a lot of coaxing to get Lila to drop the ball.  There are times when we think we can fool her by having her run after another ball.  When she runs to get it, she still holds a ball in her mouth.  When she gets to the ball she is chasing, she pounces around as though she wishes she had thumbs so that she could grab onto it.  It’s as if she is doing a dance with a ball.  She tosses it from one front paw to the other.  At times she will look at us with the ball in her mouth and quickly shake her head back and forth as if to say, “You can’t have it!”

As I walked along the path, I watched the game being played between dog and her best pal.  When Lila ran off into the woods, we heard the crunching of branches and the swishing of long grass as she made her very own path.  She came back without the ball.

“Where’s the ball?” Mike asked.  She looked up at him.  Her brown eyes sparkled, and she still had the doggie smile even though the ball was missing.  She looked at Mike as if she was asking him the same question.

“Where’s the ball?” Mike asked again.   She hopped about in a half turn, ran back into the woods like she knew where the ball was, and came back with an empty mouth once again.

“How can we play in the creek without a ball?”  Mike asked.  We walked along again, all together this time.  Lila stayed by us even though we did not have a ball to keep her glued to us.

Suddenly she ran off into the woods again.  She dashed out from behind a tree with a white lacrosse ball stuck in her teeth.

“Those are too heavy.  It’ll sink to the bottom,” said Mike, even though Lila looked proud as could be that she found a ball.

One more turn and we were at the creek.  During that short time, somehow the ball got lost.  The still waters of the creek are already growing a thin layer of scum and I worried what her beautiful black fur would look like when she came back out to see us.

“Don’t worry, I’ll hose her off when we get back home,” Mike said, as if he could read my mind.

When Mike and I got to the bridge, Lila ran down the hill of dirt into the cool water that flowed and splashed over the large boulders.  The water flowed faster here, and made Lila’s fur look clean.  Mike wandered back by the trees and found a stick.  He tossed it in the creek, and she retrieved it just until she got out of the water and onto the bank, where she dropped it.  She climbed up the large boulders and was able to hold herself steady.  Not one leg shook or wobbled while she climbed on the wet rocks.  Mike climbed down the hill, got the stick, came back to the bridge, and threw it in again.  Lila retrieved it and left it on the bank of the creek.  She ran up the hill across the bridge and jumped in on the other side.  They played this game over and over again while I watched.

The sun snuck through the branches of the trees, and the water splashed about with the stick going in and paws going after it.  A little breeze felt cool on my face.

“Oh, no,” I yelled breaking my trance.

“What?” they both looked up at me from the bank of the creek.

“I forgot to bring her to the vet this morning.”  How could I forget?  All the fun of the trip to the park brought me back to my responsibilities.  Shucks.  We’ll go next week.