Entries categorized "Travel"

Guided Meditation for Visiting Your Folks in Florida

Welcome to a guided meditation for visiting your folks in Florida.

First, find a quiet space where you can have a few minutes of privacy: a guest room, your father's recliner (is he raking the gravel again?), your mom's crafting room (perhaps she's watching Matlock), or the davenport if they're at the bank doing bank stuff. 

If Fox News is on volume 47 in the adjacent room, light the Yankee Candle for ambiance or, if you require a little white noise to aid relaxation, plug in the Vicks vaporizer.

You may need to do some rearranging to create your safe space. Old people in FL

If necessary, carefully slide the extra boxed wine onto the floor.

Gently stack the used, neatly-folded wrapping paper from last Christmas onto the other twin bed.

Ignore the ginormous stack of paper (a printed copy of every email they've ever received) sitting next to the fax machine and toss an afghan over the red, MAGA hat on the extra dresser.

That's right. While your parents are out paying for things with exact change or picking up a video on their way home from bridge, take this brief moment to refuel, refresh and regroup before re-entry.

Once you've found a cozy spot to release your burdens and cares, I invite you to lay down and feel the weight of your body being completely supported (even the extra pounds your mother mentioned since your last visit).

You are in a safe space.   

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath: in and then, out.

Repeat slowly. In, and then, out. 

Let's start with a simple visualization exercise to help you relax. Imagine a beautiful staircase. As your foot touches the first step, let a wave of serenity wash away any negative feelings causing you anxiety.

Erase from your mind the cankles/sandals comment. Your cankles ankles are beautiful. 

Forget the "Huh, I never imagined you with red in your hair" statement.

Let all negative energy leave your body. Release and let go.

Purge the memory from earlier today when you found the Christmas present you gave them in their fully-stocked "Regift" closet.

Breathe in, breathe out. Let the calmness envelope you. Celebrate the life you are living.

Do not be distracted by the neighbor who is leaving the three-minute message on the Southwestern Bell answering machine. Your mind is relaxed. Continue to enjoy this moment of serenity. Ignore the repeated beeps indicating the tape is now full. You are relaxing. This is good. You are at peace. 

You will arrive at the second step of the staircase feeling calm and relaxed. You are free of all tension. 

Right now you're so calm you could sit in the back of the Cadillac and not be bothered that your father's right turn signal has been on for two miles.

Continue to breathe deeply.

You are so relaxed you can imagine admiring your parents' matching swimsuits as you walk the beach together discussing which foods your mom needs to take Beano before eating. "Artichokes, beans, of course, brussel sprouts, corn, oatmeal..."

Breathe in the beauty of your goodness. Breathe out your stress.

As you take a third step down, you are completely free of all tension in your instrument. You are flexible. You can bend. You can flow. In this state, you could even hear about Mrs. Kipplekeider, who lived down such and such street thirty-seven years ago, who, you remember, bought six boxes of Girl Scout cookies but then didn't want them because she'd developed Diabetes (the sugar one) just before delivery time. Well she just took a fall and thank God for her daughter who flew in right away from Poughkeepsie and didn't bring that dreadful husband of hers along, but boy, what a good daughter to just drop everything. Kids these days.

You are free. You can breathe. One more time: breathe in, breathe out. Visualize your happiness. 

In your deep state of relaxation, imagine standing underneath a large waterfall. Envision its glorious, cascading water. Hear the rush. Imagine the water running over your body.

Let Pat Sajak and all the vowels pour over you.

Let the Cagney and Lacey reruns run.

Let Leslie Stahl and the ticking clock tick, tick, tick. 

Let the Mapquest, hashtag, AOL, group texting, and  Windows questions just fall off your shoulders like waves, as you submerge yourself deeply in serenity.

Imagine the gentle waves wiping out the kitchen of its saved bread bags, Campbell's Soup labels, rubberbands, and pile of newspapers.

Let the water's gentle waves comfort you as you mourn the twenty minutes of your life it took your mom to pay with a check at Chico's, or the repeated attempts to explain to your dad how to unfriend two (out of his 16) friends on The Facebook who he thinks post too much.

Feel the warmth of the water. Bask in that comfort. 

Now let the water flow down over your back. Close your eyes and visualize each waitress you've had all week reach out and tell you, "It's all good." They have parents, too, they say. Even the young one with the piercings and the one your dad kept referring to as "the "Oriental girl" are there and smile. It's okay.

Breathe deeply. In and then, out. Again, in and then, out. 

Now imagine walking out of the water and gently being wrapped in a warm, soft towel. Swaddled in serenity, all negativity and tension have been washed away.

You are now refreshed. You are renewed. You are ready to return up the staircase. 

Upon reaching the bottom step, feel the infusion of positive energy. You'll now have the patience to endure one of those conversations where you retrace each generation of a family (and their cousins) who maybe lived in that house on the corner of Huron Avenue and Third Street or was it Fourth? Wait, didn't the sisters marry brothers?

As you walk up the next step, continue breathing deeply.

Untap your refreshed reserves of joy from within as you look forward to 5:00 dinner at the strip mall's "House of Lamb" (located conveniently nearby to get home for Hannity).

As you land on the final step, slowly open your eyes. Reacquaint yourself with the wallpaper. Give yourself a moment. Gradually rotate your hands and feet and move to a sitting position.

Feel your energy renewed.

Enjoy the moment.

Allow it to unfold, knowing that in twenty years' time you'll still be asking, "Is this a chip reader or do I swipe?"



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Have Cowboys. Will Travel

I woke up this morning and realized my three sons are on three different continents. 

I shuffled out of bed, let the dogs out, and sat on the lawn. It was eerily quiet. Signs of the boys were everywhere: an arrow stuck in the lawn which had missed its target by a long shot. Olive, our little Sheltie, was chewing on a faded soccer ball. And one, lone, white sock, partially covered in mulch, peeked out from under the boxwood, because..., well, just because. 

And then I cried. I mean, I really cried. I cried tears of relief because each had made it safely to his destination. I cried messy, happy tears because each of my boys was doing his own thing, taking the world by storm. And then I cried out of fear because this has been one helluva violent summer. And my babies are out there. 

IMG_2841The oldest, 16, is in Beijing through SYA on a language immersion program. My 13 year-old is doing a student exchange with our sister city in Esslingen, Germany through our chapter of the People to People organization. And my youngest, 12, is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (feels like a separate continent) on the shores of Lake Superior at Michigan Tech's amazing hockey camp. 

Plans for our summer of 2016 began last October with applications, interviews, grant forms, webinars, essay questions, and a lot of check writing for program deposits. 

Then Malaysian Flight 17 was shot down and suicide bombers attacked a train station in Turkey.

In November, Paris suffered a massive attack and chaos ensued.

Over the holidays people asked, "Are you sure you want to let your kids travel with all that's going on in the world?"

We continued with our planning. My son applied for his visa, the scholarship form was finalized, and we went to the bank to set up teen checking accounts and debit cards.

HugonjulianIn January, the mass shooting in San Bernardino made it abundantly clear that no safe havens were left in today's world.

In spring, the bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station shook me to the core. 

With tears streaming down my face, I made plane reservations for the boys anyway. 

We picked out adapters, journals, good walking shoes and continued to check things off our lists.

We didn't avoid the news. Together we watched the coverage of Orlando. 

We said "I love you" a lot. In fact, the act of saying "I love you" began to feel like our five seconds of safe haven. We said it before bed, getting out of the car for school, getting dropped at soccer practice, before meals, and basically all the time. When we weren't together, we texted it. "I love you" became our daily armor to protect us from whatever unimaginable tragedy was going to strike next. 

The police shootings in Dallas and the Bastille Day attack in Nice followed. It was clear the world had gone utterly mad. 

We discussed these events. We mourned the dead. And we kept saying  "I love you."

On Friday we packed the suitcases, hockey gear, and  went shopping for travel snacks. 

When we deposited checks from grandma and grandpa at the boys' bank, an employee said, "I would never let my child go to Europe or Germany or any of those places."  Um, honey, oh...forget it.

IMG_3008I got defensive, "What should we do? Stay home for the rest of our lives? My child could get hit by a car tomorrow right outside our front door." We live in a cul-de-sac and that would never happen, but she didn't know that.

"Well," she said, "I don't think you should go lookin' for trouble." 

"I promise you, bank-teller-lady, no one here is lookin' for trouble. Let me guess, you spend your time on your Cheeto-stained couch watching reality TV repeats: shows of other people doing stuff that they already did."

Ok, I didn't actually say that out loud. I just said it in my head, but it was still quite satisfying.

The insinuation that I was careless with my children's lives stung. And it stung hard.

Do we have to stop wandering? Do we just put our heads down and try to get by? Do we have to give up our dreams? I bet that woman has never tried ceviche, rolled the dice in Vegas, or stood in a city center with a map and a thirst for knowledge. 

That woman didn't realize she's the one who is really in danger. 

As soon as we stop learning, we begin to die.