Tag Archives: travel

The Stuff of Legends

Another of my life’s dreams was accomplished last Memorial Day, but since we were plotting a cross-country move, I didn’t get a chance to journal about the experience.  My apologies up front – there are a LOT of pictures in this post.  I couldn’t help myself.  It might take a while to load.

I requested of my family that we spend our holiday forsaking the picnics to which we’d been invited (all lovely offers) and trekking to New York City to see with my eyes what I’d only imagined for years.

I grew up hearing about Coney Island, complete with the boardwalk, amusement park rides, and the ocean; however, being the daughter of two teachers and living in small town Nebraska didn’t bode well to me ever vacationing in New York City.

Moving to Connecticut made that wish a closer possibility.

The first time we traveled to NYC, I was in awe.  The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, a Broadway show, Times Square, etc.  All of these had been other peoples’ realities, they had been the settings for novels, the backdrops for movies, but never once had I imagined myself being inserted into that world.

The first Christmas that we ventured into NYC to look at Macy’s and the Macy’s Santa Claus, all of the beautifully decorated display windows, ice skaters and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, carriage rides around Central Park…it all felt like I was stepping into someone else’s reality.  What I was seeing with my own eyes had been, to me, in the realm of legend.

Over the years of living in Connecticut, we became tourists at many of the hottest NYC destinations; however, one of the places I’d always wanted to see was Coney Island.  Because it isn’t directly in the area of the traditional NYC tourist spots, we had never ventured over to Brooklyn to experience it.  On this day, we made a special trip.

I was giddy.  Not the skipping around giggling kind of giddy, but the quiet, I-can’t-stop-smiling kind of giddy.  I walked with my family just taking it all in.

We walked down the boardwalk…

on to the long pier…

through some of the shops…

…and then on to the rides.

Coney Island is known for its huge ferris wheel, called the Wonder Wheel.  The following pictures were taken of the ferris wheel, or while on the ride.  The views were amazing.

What made it really intense was that it was packed due to the holiday.  Far from being mainly for tourists, this is a local hot spot for families and singles to inexpensively play in the water.

The way we wrapped up the day was to sample the goods of Coney Island:  the corn dog.  The reputation of the corn dog eating competition, and the claim to fame of the world’s first corn dog, was enough for us to stand in a long, long line to secure one for ourselves.  All but the most dogged vegetarians in my family took a small bite.

It was a hot, hot day, and the beaches, boardwalks and shops were packed. Whereas that might normally be a detraction for me, the noisy, busy crowd only added to the mystique of the place.

Now that we have moved from the northeast, the possibility of returning here is slim; however, having truly absorbed the experience, I don’t feel the need to return.

I guess we’ll have to go explore the Alamo!

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Falling in Love Again

flowers

I grew up in Nebraska, went to school in Arkansas, and moved immediately after college to Texas.  I birthed all of my kids in Texas and created a lovely suburban life in Texas.

Then, in an act that MANY thought was crazy, we moved our family to the northeast to experiment with life a bit.  After several months years of massive culture shock, I found a rhythm.  I fell in love with a city.  With her people.  With a region.  With an honest, raw life.
* We lived on an unusual street populated with people passionate about making their neighborhood better, committed to each other, and endlessly creative with ways to do both.
* We found a crazy-good church filled with open armed, lovely people who spent their energy attempting to draw my kids to deeper things, and attempting to radically transform our city with acts of service and love.
* My husband started a business that was flooded with accolades and honor, with nothing but fulfillment and financial potential.  It was the completion of a long-held dream and was a source of continual expression of his relational and professional gifts.
* We benefitted from the culture and brilliance of a town that was the home of Yale University.  We regularly attended jazz festivals in the town green, participated in arts and idea festivals in various venues around town, went to concerts and plays, got our kids golf lessons at the Yale golf course and found a Yale graduate as a Spanish tutor for our boys.
* And don’t get me started reminiscing about the breathtaking seasons, orchards, and ocean.

WE changed – were transformed by this place.  We were reintroduced to a reality from which we had insulated ourselves.  We were challenged by the tough questions of faith.  We were encouraged to rethink community, social mission, politics, social transformation, hospitality, traditions, among many, many others.  We aggressively worked to break down the “us” versus “them” mentality.  We fought fear, financial lack, and culture.

And then God asked us to leave it all.  Just when this foreign land became familiar and I became fluent in the language of the region, when the work that we’d invested was beginning to pay off and life wasn’t such a struggle, we were uprooting.

When the initial job offer was received and I quieted myself enough to ask God what His vision was for us, the direction He gave me was, “If this earth is your home, of course you’d stay and reap the benefit of your years of toiling; however, if heaven is your home, then I’m asking you to take what you’ve learned and build up another work of mine in Dallas.”

I fully believe that my investment on this earth is to build God’s kingdom, meaning that my efforts are directed towards eternal things.  To me, it is pretty clear delineation – this earth is not my home.  There were other reasons that formed a case as to why we felt that we should move, but this directive was always in my mind.

So we moved.  We hit the ground running and I felt really hopeful about what might be here for me and my family.

downtown-dallas-from-the-trinity-river_l

But the other day as I was reflecting on our short time here, the Lord stopped me and exposed a part of my heart to me that I had effectively covered. I’d moved – but if I was really honest, I hadn’t allowed room in my heart for ALL that Dallas is.  On the surface, I was helping my kids land well, showing them the joys of living in a large metroplex, exploring our new environment and investing in our church community.  But on the inside, I realized that I was looking over my shoulder quite a bit.  I was resenting the warm temperatures in winter and was envying my northern friends every time that it snowed.  I was allowing myself to be cynical when I shopped for produce, recognizing that it wasn’t as fresh as if I had picked it myself.  I was realizing (and didn’t like the fact) that it is way too easy to be isolated in this spread out city.

I know those are silly and/or petty issues, but my lack of wholehearted investment left room for resentment to creep in.

HOWEVER, I recognize that I’ll miss out on SO MUCH that God has for me and my family if I don’t fall in love again with this city.  I will never really connect if I am looking over my shoulder.  I’ll not be effective in our new mission if I don’t intentionally put myself fully in.  If I’m looking back to what was, I’ll put out a vibe that I’m not really available.  A part of me will be withheld from truly investing, and that missing part will be noticed.  Relationships will stay shallow, and I’ll be a fraction of the person I am intended to be.

All of the above is not to say that Dallas hasn’t warmly welcomed us, or that I haven’t connected with people here.  I really have, and I see the potential for such deeper relationships.  I know that God is in complete control of my growth, and that this new place has as much to add to my journey as the former place did.  In fact, I believe that the parts of my heart that became awakened to His love for His people and His earth will be some of the gifts that I have to give to this new place.  I just recognize that for all of this to happen, to a great extent, it is up to whether or not I fully embrace this city.

This is a lovely city filled with lovely people.  I am eager to see what God has in store for me as I learn to put myself out there even more!

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We’ve Arrived!

After all of the packing, all of the prayer, and all of the miles logged into our van, we have moved into our new home.  The journey was so intricate that one might be discouraged to make it; however, we were sure of our decision and took the complications one step at a time.

The first bump in the road was the house itself.  My husband had driven many miles and hours with a realtor to find us a rental home in Texas.  While he found one on which we put an application (and had the application approved), less than a week before we were to begin our drive to Texas, the home owner pulled out. That left us scrambling to find a place in Texas, while Ken was back in Connecticut.  Our amazing realtor, knowing what kind of home we were looking for, found us another home TWO days before we were to leave.  It is lovely, and has room to fit our big family!

Now that we’ve been here about two months and I’ve had a few quiet moments to reflect, here are a few of my unedited observations of Dallas.

Dallas is HUGE.  I mean, populated, spread out, and intricate.  Thank GOODNESS for GPS on my phone.  It has saved me.

Dallas is BUSY.  The energy with which people travel and move is dizzying.  One of my sons said, appraising of the massive road system (during a non-rush hour time frame), that it looks like there has been a mandatory evacuation of downtown and people are fleeing home.   There seems to be an unspoken sense of urgency that my family is feeling and observing, but in which we are not participating.

Dallas is DIFFERENT.  The city that I left seven years ago feels foreign.  I attribute that to several factors:
– I/we have changed so much.
– We’re living in a different area of town.
– The city has grown and changed quite a bit.
– Very few of our former friends have reached out and talked to us/invited us over.  (I don’t say that resentfully or with hurt feelings…just stating a fact.)
We’re making great new friendships with the community with whom my husband is working, but it isn’t like stepping back into a familiar set of old clothing.  One other element to this feeling could be that, when we lived here before, my world was very small.  I didn’t travel very far outside of my neighborhood, and certainly didn’t travel downtown.  This time around, I am living in every inch of the city, venturing to places that I would have never dreamed of journeying before.  (Thank you New Haven for making me brave!)

Dallas is BARREN.  This is probably the only point that really is a criticism, the only point that has been soul-crushing (at the risk of sounding too dramatic.) After having lived in New England, complete with more trees than can be counted, an ocean as a landmark in town, bicycle lanes wildly used but taken for granted, orchards and pick-your-own places less than 1/2 hour away, and hiking as an ever-present option, Dallas is lacking.  The problem is that we moved at the beginning of Fall, when New England comes alive, when all activities are centered around the outdoors – acquiring pumpkins, picking apples, going through hay mazes, driving around to look at the stunning backdrop of changing leaves and enjoying the crisp temperatures – to be dropped in a region where the climate doesn’t sustain orchards, there are very few outdoor activities (it is still to stinkin’ hot!), a sweater is the last thing you’d think of, and the leaves on the trees don’t change colors – they just burn up and drop off.  It is surprising to me how much I breathed in the activities of that region, and how I find that don’t breath quite as deeply down here.

There have also been a few lovely surprises.

The new community that we are developing is welcoming and warm.  We have jumped into a new church meeting in downtown Dallas that has welcomed us with open arms, and I feel the potential of a few great friends here.

Our kids have found friends pretty quickly within that new community.  They’re not linked as heart-friends yet, but at least they have found kids their ages with whom they can spend time and be accepted.

Our home is great, and our landlord is amazing.  He has permissioned us to really live in the home and make changes if we wish, and greeted us with a welcome basket and a $50 gift card to a local restaurant.

The area in which we live is diverse and convenient.

We have enjoyed visiting some of the places that were familiar when we lived here before.  We’ve visited parks, our former homes, and favorite restaurants, watching the kids’ faces as they stretch back in their memories for anything that they recognize.

No change is easy, and yet, we are thriving pretty well.  I am challenged to completely embrace my new city and see what God has for us in this new environment.  I’ll keep you posted along the way!

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Cherry Blossoms

In 1912, a gift of 3020 Cherry Blossom Trees were given to the United States from the Japanese to be planted in Washington, D.C.  In 1935, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival was created to celebrate the friendship between the two nations and to draw attention to the trees’ beauty as they blossom.

As a kid, I always thought that being in DC during the festival would be one of the most romantic, beautiful places to be.  However, growing up in Nebraska made the possibility of attending a near impossibility.  Every year, though, throughout college, early marriage, and raising kids, I’d watch the news reports and pictures of the festival.  When we moved to the northeast, it became within range of thought that some day I could attend in person.  Each Spring, however, it was never the right timing for our family, or we didn’t have the funds to be able to travel to DC.

This year, I saw that dream realized.  My dear husband called me from work to tell me that he had heard that the trees were in bloom (a full 3 weeks ahead of schedule due to the extremely mild winter) and that I should take off with the kids the next morning to travel down to see them.

So, at 6am the next day, I loaded our van with my 3 younger kids to take a 6 hour drive to Washington, D.C.  Along with our luggage were my hopes, expectations, and dreams.

We arrived in DC around 2pm and stayed walking among the trees until 5pm.  It was a relatively short period of time, but an emotionally long time in coming.

What I didn’t realize until we were on our journey was that this was the 100th anniversary of the planting of the trees.  Once we arrived, we noticed scores of Japanese media filming the events, people, and scenery.

My observations:

* The effect of 1,000s of simultaneously flowering trees is staggering.
* The backdrop of our nation’s monuments is picturesque.
* The sheer number of people who swarm to the Potomac basin to walk among the trees is absolutely overwhelming.  I’m guessing that we chose the busiest time of day to visit. It certainly wasn’t the peaceful, romantic vision of my youth.  It is quite a commercial, port-a-potty-laden, energy-driven event.

I’m not complaining in the least.  It was an amazing fulfillment of a lifetime of hoping and dreaming.  I just would plan to visit a little differently if I ever get the chance again.  A pre-dawn walk or a visit right at dusk would probably be the perfect time to soak in the peaceful element of the natural display.  As it was, we got quite a few lovely pictures.

Besides the trees, we got to surprise my eldest at her university on the way home.  She didn’t know that we were in DC, nor that we would be traveling right through Philadelphia on our way home.  We scheduled a Skype visit with her at a determined time, knowing that she would have to return to her dorm to do so, and were standing outside her dorm when she came back from class.  It was such a delight to surprise her, take her to lunch, and spoil her with yogurt and pastries.

There are so many memories created from living in the northeast, and this right at the top of the list!!

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The Deer of Cozumel

As I write this post, my fingers aren’t cooperating.  They are very cold from just having walked along my path on the Yale golf course.  My heart is awakened from having had a really close encounter with a small deer.

There were 6 out in total today, but with the group of deer, I was really distracted by my camera and the effort to capture their movements.

I spotted this single deer at the end of my walk when my camera battery was flashing low, so after I snapped a few shots, I put it away and just watched.  This little guy just stood and studied me as I was studying it.  It’s curiosity, tenderness, calmness really spoke to me.

In August, we were taken on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico and KeyWest, Florida.  I wrote a few articles about that trip, this post, and this article, and this post, but one story that I haven’t related yet happened on the island of Cozumel.

The cruise was originally supposed to go to Bermuda, but because of hurricane Irene, it was rerouted to Cozumel.  To the group with whom I was traveling, that wasn’t a big deal.  We were traveling together, having a great amount of fun being with each other, and the journey was the vacation, way more than a destination being the vacation.

Not so with the majority of the other passengers on board.  There was much grumbling and complaining when they were notified of the destination change.

So imagine how frustrated everyone was when we arrived for our one day stay in Cozumel, and it was downpouring.

Again, to our little crew, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Because everyone with whom I was traveling were adventure travel guides, they were up for a less than ideal situation.  They were used to rolling with the flow and creating fun from unpleasant circumstances.

After finding a tour van company, our leader struck a deal with a van driver to take us to obscure places on the island – not the typical touristy destinations.  He heartily agreed, and we all jumped in his van to experience Cozumel the way that locals see it.


After visiting a few colorful places on the island, we ended up on a road that looked like it was in the middle of nowhere.  Suddenly, our tour guide became very animated and pointed to an animal crossing over the road a ways down.   To my untrained eyes, it looked like a deer.  But the way that the guide was going on, I strained to see some rare, exotic Mexican animal that we would typically only see in zoos.

As we got up closer to the animal, it clearly was a deer.  I expected to see signs of embarrassment on the face of the tour guide as he also realized it was just a deer.  I expected a conversation such as, “Sorry ladies and gentlemen.  What I thought was a rare, once extinct zoomaphorous, is actually only a deer.  Sorry for the false alarm.”

Instead, he continued on with childlike amazement.  We joined him in his excitement, for the pure fact that he was so elated.  Through his animated joy, he explained that he hadn’t seen a deer in over 15 years, and that everyone thought that there wasn’t a deer population remaining on the island.  We celebrated with him, and chatted about this experience with him for a few minutes.

Even after the conversation in our van drifted to other topics between our group, the van driver continued to shake his head, and mumble about not being able to wait to tell his wife and kids.  It was a touching moment to see him so delighted and amazed by a surprise of nature.

I have thought of him endless time over the past few months as I routinely have close encounters with deer.  I recognize that, for him, part of the wonder he experienced was because of the surprise factor.

I think that is why I keep returning to his face when I see deer – because, while I have come to expect to see deer on the Yale Golf course, I still am surprised that I am priviledged enough to have such great encounters with creation.  Every week, I have the same expectation and thrill when I get to walk amongst the beauty of of that land.

The awesomeness of interacting with nature is humbling – grounding.

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