Saturday, November 29, 2008

Off the deep end.....


I write this as I sit at my grandma's house, as I visit her in Ohio over the Thanksgiving holiday. We like to drink wine (even at 3:00 PM). It's the wine that comes in the box....the "rotgut" as my grandma calls it. We drink our rotgut and she tells me stories about her mother and her brother. She also reminisces about Scott and me when we were little kids.

I am looking out the window at a pool with a coating of ice on the top of some mucky water. It's been awhile since anyone has splashed around in that pool. My grandma and grandad taught us to swim when we were very little. I think we were very very fortunate to have learned that skill at such a young age.

My grandma also pulled out a diary that she found of my brother's.

He transcribed three entries to my grandma when he was about three years old, and after that he lost interest.
Here is one of the entries from July 5, 1980:
In case you can't read it, the gist of it is:
Dear Diary,
I went to grandmas house. I played with all my friends in the gym set. And we had lots of tan. We went swimming with the tubes and muscles. We like to swim a lot but its cold in there. Laurie & me went to the deep end with our tubes and muscles and Laurie jumped off at the deep end.

Not much changes. In fact, the entry from June 9 stated that "Today I goed to the doughnut place with Mother and Laurie." That doesn't sound like a bad idea right now......

Monday, November 24, 2008

But I used to put on her lipstick and give her her morphine!!!!!

Due to some "customer complaints" about my blog being too bland lately, I'm trying to juice it up a bit tonight. My friend told me that he "liked it better when I was negative". Yes, Mr. Vanschmataburg, I understand your point. Angry and condescending does indeed make a funny weblog.

So let me not exactly be negative, nor angry, nor condescending, but instead let me share some stories of my career. As a disclaimer, I might add that I love my career and I am in no way angry about what I have chosen to do by trade. But I do think my friend's point is that I sound a little too chipper lately....that said, I'll get to the meat. I think these stories may satiate my friend's appetite for a non-wholesome blog.

Oh- and one more thing....Let me preface by saying, I am often asked what I do as a career and what I will be doing on Semester at Sea. The answer to that is sometimes complicated for people to grasp. Currently I am a counselor and disability coordinator at an art school in the city. Primarily I do referrals, and very short-term personal counseling 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time I do disability services, which means I accommodate students with disabilities. This could be anything from arranging a sign language interpreter for a deaf student to allowing a dyslexic student to have extra time to complete an exam according to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations. On Semester at Sea I will be a "Living Learning Coordinator" which is a residential life position.

In my previous jobs 2 jobs, I have been a Resident Counselor. This job entailed being on-call all hours of the night and responding to student emergencies. I dealt with everything from student conflicts to suicide attempts to drugs to alcohol poisoning to rape to physical altercations. Some evenings I'd have no calls whatsoever. Yet other nights I wouldn't get a wink of sleep. During these nights I worked closely with Graveyard Shift Security to handle each "project". Much of my job was simply being the college's staff representative and ensuring that the student is hospitalized or treated for whatever the emergency may have been and then reporting to my director so that appropriate follow-up could be done.

So here are some vignettes of my career. *Names have been changed. And names of colleges at which I've been employed have been withheld to protect privacy.

Munchhausen Bi Proxy This one occurred at a private institution uptown where I did my internship in the summer of 2001. There was a student named *Kristy. Kristy was a high school student who was enrolled in a pre-college program and had what we in higher ed refer to as, "helicopter parents". Simply put, they hover. Her father was a physician and was very involved in his daughter's life. The family lived in North or South Carolina, but the father must have flown up to New York at least 5 times during the two month program. During the course of her 2 month summer program, Kristy was in the hospital four times. Her father was always inventing illnesses for her. I spent a good chunk of my internship in a hospital waiting room, waiting for a student who had absolutely no ailments, only a father who insisted she needed treatment. After researching MBP, I discovered that it often occurs among children whose parents work in healthcare professions. I remember being on the phone one day with the other intern and reporting back to her "I'll be home soon. I'm just waiting on Kristy to finish her colonoscopy procedure." (No joke). I actually think this father created illnesses for the entire family. The kicker came when Kristy's grandmother died and despite all of her illnesses, she had to fly home for the funeral. She was kicking and screaming and thrusting on the floor in the lobby of the residence hall. As we put her into a cab her parting words were "I'm going to miss her so MUCH. I used to put on her her lipstick and give her her morphiiiiiiiiiiine!"

Black Feet
In 2002 I moved back to NYC permanently, after finishing my last year of grad school I took a position at another university downtown. I about had a heart attack when I saw Kristy's name on my roster. A tooootally different college and there she was. I think I almost quit that day. As it turned out, Kristy ended up dropping out of that college (because she was so "sick") and returning to whichever Carolina she was from. But this story isn't about Kristy. It's about *Jane. Jane was a student who often looked confused and disoriented. One night at 4 AM, Security contacts me in my apartment. "Umm, Laurie? Are you asleep?"
Sidenote: why do they always ask this?

"Could you come down to the lobby of *Nassau Street residence hall?". Down I trudge after awakening from my slumber. In the lobby I find a student whose feet are as black as coal. She is wearing no shoes. I see that it's Jane. Jane is wandering aimlessly in circles and asking Security why they took her money. A better question might have been where were her shoes. She proceeds to tell me she walked downtown from Union Square. (Probably at least a mile away, Union Square is a park where drug deals have been known to occur at wee hours of the night.) It took her awhile to be able to explain to me where she was or where she thought she was. Clearly she's confused, because she also told me she walked here from Williamsburg (a neighborhood in Brooklyn). Another student coming in from a night of drunken debauchery told me he thought he saw her on the Brooklyn Bridge. Wherever she may have arrived from, she was out of sorts. After this confusing conversation, she fell to the floor and began to convulse. EMS were contacted. I asked Security to go up to her room and get some shoes. Her roommates, now stirred come down. As she is being wheeled into the ambulance, the roommate tells me "Umm...Laurie? I found this next to her bed. Do you think this is significant?" In her hand was a syringe. I still remember the EMS guy's name badge. Bartolome. So Bartolome took the syringe and off they went to St Vincent, a very scary place, I might add. St. Vinny's is in the 14th Street area and last time I had to accompany a student there at 4 AM there were homeless people dripping blood and naked women lying in pools of vomit and defecation in the lobby area. But nonetheless a place that treated my students. I later found out that Jane had been using heroine. She had OD'd but not to the point of death. She was dismissed from the residence hall and returned to Westchester where her parents lived. This one was actually pretty sad for me. She came back the next week and I escorted her to her room to get her belongings. She was crying and she told me how much she loved school. Unfortunately she loved drugs more. I never saw her after that.

South Stairwell One day I received a report from Security that stated "Oral sex occurred at 2100 in the South Stairwell of *Applegate Hall." Oh boy. I swear I don't make this stuff up. Attached to that report were photos from the security cameras. I met with the student the next day. When I asked him if he knew why he was in my office, he said no. I suggested we take a walk. We walked to the stairwell and I pointed out the camera. He turned as red as a beet and began to cry. I felt sorry for him. I think he moved out of the residence halls at the end of the semester.

Pink Robe

This one actually occurred when I was a graduate student, working as an Associate Resident Director in a campus-owned sorority house. I lived in an apartment, kind of attached to the side of their house. When a drunken prankster would pull the fire alarm, we'd evacuate. Sororities had strict rules, one of which being that they were not permitted to have men in their rooms after 10 PM. Lo and behold at 4 AM the fire alarm would go off. (In case you're wondering, yes 4 AM is the witching hour on college campuses.) When that alarm went off, we would check the rooms to ensure that everyone had evacuated. More often than not, we'd see boyfriends scrambling out, trying to hide from view. My favorite incident though, was the episode where this girl *Jill's boyfriend came outside in nothing but Jill's pink bathrobe. "Laurie, I'm not in trouble right?" Well, Jill, as soon as I stop laughing I'll be able to give you an answer.
*** No one was harmed in the "fire".

Something's hot!
When I worked at a fashion school in Chelsea I am happy to say that I didn't deal with many fire alarms, but when we did, I loved it because that meant the NYFD brigade would arrive! I loved it so much, because even though it was annoying for 500 students to evacuate a building, the silver lining was the New York Fire Department. Oh how I loved those muscular men! How brave they were in the face of danger! Even if it was just a college student who had burnt some grilled cheese.......


Friday, November 21, 2008

Gratitude

Each and every morning I write a list of things for which I am grateful. I share this list with only about 14 other people, a very select few-- people who I know will appreciate and reciprocate the infectious positive energy. Most of them also send me their gratitude lists. Every single day. Sometimes there are 10 things on my list. Sometimes there are 25 things. Sometimes they are very macro things like "I am grateful for a wonderful childhood." Sometimes more micro like "I am grateful for the fingers to type this email message."

Either way, it is a very positive start to the day. As opposed to the complaining I was once accustomed to in my life, when my list would be more like "I hate this crappy weather." "I should have called off work today." "I hate how weak this coffee tastes." (You get the idea...) Don't get me wrong....I am not immune from negativity or bad feelings....I just try to talk myself out of that pessimist energy by appreciating the good.

At first this list was difficult. I was pulling things out of thin air. Now it's so easy that I sometimes have to make myself stop at 25 and save the others for the next day.

An important message I've learned over the years is the very simple phrase "You reap what you sow." I find this to be a common theme in my blogs, my way of thinking- and therefore my behavior. Good thoughts breed more good thoughts. So if I focus on the things I do have I will therefore create more things to be grateful about. Follow me, here?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I couldn't think of a more perfect time to share with you a glimpse of what my gratitude list looks like.

Here goes:
1. I am grateful for the readers of my blog.....it is you for whom I write. I love sharing my experiences, my thoughts, and my life with all of you. Thank you for being part of my world.
2. I am grateful for Round 2 of my travel inoculations the other day. This means that I will be free from strange diseases on my voyage....things like Hepatitis A and Malaria. (Actually Malaria is a pill you take....but nonetheless I'm grateful to be immune.)
3. I am grateful for Vernor's Ginger Ale, which I have never seen east of Ohio.
4. I am grateful for the nostalgia of college and how my campus always smelled like fresh baked bread, since the Wonder bread factory was right there. The air was so warm and buttery, I could barely concentrate.
5. I am grateful for healing.
6. I am grateful that the way that the smooth velor blanket feels against my skin.
7. I am grateful for the dinner I had tonight with Dara, Sophie, and Kevin.
8. I am grateful for the book by Jeannette Walls that I read recently. "Glass Castle" (talk about someone who had very little, but didn't complain.)
9. I am grateful for my sister-in-law since I never had a "real" sister....she is even better.
10. I am grateful for therapy in all forms.
11. I am grateful for gloves, scarves, and hats in cold weather.
12. I am grateful that I got to meet Sanjay Gupta the other night at the CNN event "Fit Nation". He seems so articulate and intelligent!
13. I am grateful that I got to meet Jillian Michaels from the "Biggest Loser". Even though I've never seen that show, I am going to watch it now! She was funny and sweet.
14. I am grateful that the Universe opens its arms to you, if you are willing to surrender to it.
15. I am grateful for surrender.
16. I am grateful for the baked plum hor d'heuvres at the CNN event the other night. Divine!
17. I am grateful for the smell of Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil.
18. I am grateful that my mom, dad, and both 80-something grandma's are coming to see me off in the Bahamas.
19. I am grateful that I will get to meet the rest of the staff a few days early, when we board the ship in Miami.
20. I am grateful for the trips I've selected in the pre-sale and the potential opportunity to be a Trip Leader.
21. I am grateful for the cheers, the tears, and the chills I get when I see such endurance and accomplishment, like the day I watched the NYC marathon in Brooklyn.
22. I am grateful for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO! Did I mention Rachael Ray was at that CNN event, as well!?)
23. In fact, I am just grateful for all olives period.
24. I am grateful for being in the now and appreciating the moment. Like this one.
25. And this one.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poked, prodded and drained....but I've got mussels!

J'ai mange' des moules en lundi avec Dara. Mais, le garcon ne nous laisserait pas emmener les moules à la maison avec nous, parce qu'it' ; risque sanitaire de SA. Nous avons fait tellement de toute façon !

Ok, so just in case you don't speak French.....Dara and I went to a French restaurant the other day and we had mussels. They were delicious, but we couldn't finish them because they were so plentiful. The waiter told us that we are not allowed to take shellfish to go, because it's a health hazard. So we did a sneaky thing and pulled them from the shells and put them into the to-go container anyhow. (We had two containers....one for my left-overs and one for hers, but we consolidated so the mussels could go.) BTW, If anyone from that French place on Bleecker Street is reading, I know NOTHING!

Seriously, that buttery garlicky sauce that you dip your crusty french bread into is divine. And I love mussels (on my plate and on my men!)

On a Semester at Sea note, I had some of my inoculations yesterday at a doctor's office in Soho. MMR, influenza, Hep A & B (which I have to go for again next week- Dose 2), Tetanus, and Typhoid. And then I've got to get scripts for malaria and a patch for seasickness. Fortunately I don't really have to get yellow fever nor Japanese encephalitis. I had a total of five pokes, not including the pokes for drawing blood.

They drew four vials of blood, performed an EKG, a urine test, took my blood pressure, took my vitals, and weighed me for my physical exam. Needless to say, I was feeling a little woozy after leaving the doctor's office and my arms are *still* hurting today. *Although I am grateful for that ache, because that means I am going to be immune from disease on my trip. I would say the worst part of the physical exam was being weighed!

So I went back to my office and fortunately I didn't have any more appointments for the day. When I left to catch the train around 6, I was hoping no one would run into my arm. There is always a large crowd heading towards the PATH train and the subway between about 5:00 and 6:30....the lower Manhattan rat race. I am thinking all the way I hope no one bumps into my sore arms!

Lo and behold, the woman in front of me stops short causing me to stop and people to bump into me. Cursing under my breath, I looked over to the lady who stopped short.

Uh oh.

Her eyes were rolled back into her head and she was wobbling. I forgot about my own arms and reached out to catch her. She didn't faint, but she was close. We stepped away, out of the line of traffic and she took some deep breaths. She thanked me for taking the time to make sure she was okay and told me I was her angel. She had been having some medical complications lately, she told me. She also told me that she herself saw a man lying on the ground one day on Madison Avenue and he was having a heart attack so she stopped to assist, but she was the only one.

A true lesson of "what goes around comes around" for her. Because that's just what we humans do. We help one another. Or do we?........

Do you remember the story of Kitty Genovese? The woman brutally murdered in Queens in 1964, whitnessed by many of her neighbors (38 of them to be exact). When the attacker first caught up with her, she screamed, "Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!" and the neighbors did nothing. The murder prompted a psychological study about the lethargic and callous attitudes of onlookers. Reasons for this negligence include that onlookers see that others—actually or presumably- will know how to help better (not recognizing that nobody actually does help), and that onlookers feel insecure helping with others watching. In general, bystanders (or those walking through the rat race) are less likely to react when more people are present.

But I think that 44 years later things are a little different. I wonder if the passing of time and tragic events that have occurred in our world would change the results of this study? It reassures me that there is love in the big bad apple, after all. At least I think so.

And I'm grateful for my sore arms, vaccinations, angels, helpful strangers, muscles, and mussels.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jump, you say? How high?

This one's about loooooove.

The fickle nature of love.

I loved once (maybe even twice). And it was wonderful. The kind of love that one dreams about. Chills up your arms. Ticklish feeling in your stomach. Goofy grin on your face. Singing along to every song on the radio and feeling as though each lyric has been written for you personally. Skipping down the hallways.

I love to love strong and confident men who know what they want in life. Men who have goals and achieve important things. Men who walk with their heads up and best foot forward. I love having long conversations over breakfast, drinking black coffee and sharing interesting tidbits we've read in the morning paper. But I also like to be taking care of these men. Like being on my hands and knees, finding their lost keys under the table, on the floor of the darkened bar, scoping around with a flashlight, while they are outside laughing, flirting with other women, and smoking a cigarette, not a care in the world.....

See.....this was the problem. I was taking care of them and they didn't want to be cared for. "Jump, Laurie", they would say. "Jump you say? Sure! How high?" And I would be right there jumping. I lost my breath. But, EVEN with all the jumping, I still had one foot on the ground, so I was able to keep my balance (kind of). I was barely standing, while trying to maintain a relationship with men who didn't even know how to jump, let alone be swept away by me. And then came the point when the proverbial straw broke the proverbial camel's proverbial back. And just like that it was over. And I couldn't jump any more.

I spent a lot of time being miserable. Because infatuation trumps good judgment. And one day it just kinda clicks. You stop jumping for everyone else and start doing so just because you want to. Might as well! Van Halen understands! Ask him!

Crap, I just re-read what I've written thus far and realized this one's personal and I'm giving away my secrets. Let me find a way to shift gears here....

.....I am IMing with one of my buddies, Mike J....and he is asking when I'm going to publish my book. Well Mike, I don't know the answer to that question, but I'm working on it, one blog at a time. Somehow Mike and I are in a conversation about my diplomatic nature and how understanding I am and I agreed that yes, I am Christlike. Mike is asking me if Jesus liked mimosas as much as I do? I think he preferred wine, as there was an orange famine that hit circa the New Testament. But I'm sure they were was plenty of wine instead, since he knew how to manifest it out of water. Probably no bubbly and OJ for JC, but plenty of wine. Because after all, Jesus never turned water into mimosas. Although, I'm sure that would have made for interesting brunches. Great. I've gone from love to blasphemy all in one blog. Can I add any more taboo topics? Politics anyone? And I even went to mass tonight, believe it or not! Communion and the whole nine yards! I should be behaving better than this! Don't worry Mom, if you're reading....I'll say a few extra hail mary's for my blasphemous talk about Jesus drinking mimosas and then let it go. I should stop while I'm ahead.... Let me shift gears once again....

Did I tell you how much I love brunch? Because that's like a blog in and of itself. Or maybe I could write about.....oh, say Semester at Sea? The whole reason I created this blog in the first place! So maybe next time.....but for now I need to stop jumping....instead I should probably be down on my knees.....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What's Your Price for Flight?

Dear Chinese Consulate of New York City:
Please do not lose my passport and visa application before I come to pick it up next week. I am pleased that I was in and out in 15 minutes, but a little iffy about your application process. So please just file mine away in the V's and I'll see you next Wednesday! I really am looking forward to visiting your country in the upcoming months.
Sincerely,
Laurie

On Thursday morning I schlepped myself and my passport and my Visa application over to 42nd Street and 12th Avenue (a Loooooong walk in the rain!) to finally obtain my Chinese tourist visa for Semester at Sea. I went to get the Indian one last month, which was basically a piece of cake, speaking of which- the Indian visa place was close to the Buttercup Bakery, which made the process even sweeter. If you remember the blog about the "golden delicious" cupcake......that was the place.....so upon retrieving my Indian visa, I also retrieved some cupcakes. Each one just melts in your mouth. The buttery sweet frosting, the flaky soft melt-in-your mouth cake....mmmm.... heavenly blisss....ummm... Where was I? Oh, right. Chinese visa.
So this was my conversation with the Consulate employee....aka Chinese Visa Nazi:
Chinese Visa Nazi: You not list a hotel.
Me: That's because I'm coming by ship.
Chinese Visa Nazi: You go on cwuise?
Me: Not exactly a cwuise, it's a study abroad program, an educational thing.
Chinese Visa Nazi: You need STUDY visa, not tourist!
Me: No, no no....Semester at Sea comes to your country all the time, and this is how I was instructed to fill out the application, according to their guidelines. I'm not really a study-abroad thing for *me*, because I'm working as a staff member.
Chinese Visa Nazi: You need a WOK visa?
Me: A what?
Chinese Visa Nazi: WOK visa!!
(She is getting frustrated and yelling this. The people in line behind me are glaring at me.)
Me: Oooohhhhh.....work visa? No, no no...that's not it either. I'm working for an American University.
Chinese Visa Nazi: You go on cwuise?
Me: Yes.
Chinese Visa Nazi: Okay, we give you passport back and visa next Wednesday.

Phewwww.....

Aside from arranging travel plans to China, I've been arranging my holiday visit to Ohio. I was going to stay in Hoboken over Thanksgiving or maybe go upstate with Dara or to Connecticut with Holly and Jay, but instead I'm going to see my own family. I rented a car and will drive there and then fly back to LaGuardia. Since I waited until last minute, the prices have gone up for flights, but my mom booked it for me. (Go mom! Thank you so much!)

My head is spinning. There is so much to be done in the two months before I leave. Travel immunizations, Hepatitis vaccines, malaria prescriptions, get new camera with points I've earned on my credit card, possibly a new laptop if I'm not broke from the doctors visits and malaria meds, organize my files at work and get everything in order for my "substitute" during the four months I'm gone, straighten out my tax forms and mail forwarding situation while I'm gone, tie up some loose ends with my volunteer position with Alpha Gam, try to work a few liquor promos (in case you didn't know, I work champagne, wine, and liquor tastings as my side-gig.....it's decent money and the most fun job in the world....only I haven't done one since like July, so I need to get on the ball with it during the holidays to earn some extra cash)......what else? Just a million things at work, etc.

All good things. I love being busy, because it means I am preparing myself for something wonderful. I would do these tasks a thousand times over to go on this voyage, that's how excited I am for Semester at Sea.

I've noticed during these busy times I've not been dating much at all. But I am starting to get bored and maybe want to throw in a few dates too. Is this realistic? You guys know anyone? Tall, smart, and single? If you do, send 'em to The Rime of the Modern Mariner, Inc. and I'll show 'em a good time. Must love blogs. Must love fluffy gray cat named Isaac. Must want children. Potential suitor should be willing to part ways for four months starting in January or be compact enough that I can fold him up in my suitcase. On second thought, better not....I am thinking I might be finding Mr. Right on my voyage. ***Can you tell by the title of my blog and the reference to "finding Mr. Right" that I've been listening to Night Ranger? I looooove that song. I heard it in the grocery store this morning and couldn't help singing along.

Sister Christian, oh the time has come
And you know that you're the only one to say, OK
Where you goin', what you looking for
You know those boys don't want to play no more with you
It's true......(and this is where the giant crescendo starts......ba ba ba ba ba ba...)
You're MOTORING!
What's your price for flight
In finding Mister Right
You'll be all right tonight

Uh oh! People were staring. But come ON! You can't BLAST that at a grocery store during the mundane task of shopping, which I already HATE to do, and not expect me to start jamming!

Speaking of "motoring", that's precisely what I've gotta do right now. I have a four month voyage to plan already!!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Rest of the Story

It's been two years now since my Grandad died. It was in fact, the second Wednesday of November, so it's almost two years to the very day. I hadn't really been thinking much about it. But last night on my way home, as I was traversing the park I heard someone's car radio. They were listening to Paul Harvey. Paul Harvey had a radio show called "The Rest of the Story" (and I believe he STILL does, even though he is 90 years old). He had such a wonderful, gentle, soothing speaking voice and I loved the heartwarming stories that he shared with his listeners. Oh my gosh, the nostalgia I felt! I hadn't heard Paul Harvey for a long time!

My grandad used to listen to Paul Harvey every single day. His segments were usually about someone well-known, but the stories he shared weren't well known stories. Harvey's radio show would often start with "You know the news, and in a minute you'll hear the rest of the story..." Grandad had an old radio next to the kitchen table with a rabbit ear antennae. My Grandad kept a folded papertowel at his spot at the kitchen table. The papertowel always had a trace of brown mustard because Grandad would put the knife he used on the papertowel so that it wouldn't dirty my Grandma's tablecloth. We never were allowed to put garbage in the trashcan, because it smelled. Instead we put it in this thing my grandad had called the "trash masher". Like Grandfather like Granddaughter...I have a quirk about trash piling up and I am constantly taking out the garbage even when it's not full. Grandad sat in a worn green leather chair which was ripped and held together with duct tape. Grandad knew how to fix anything and he owned a machine shop for many many years. He was an expert welder. He also had a loom and made beautiful rugs. I have one of his rugs next to my bed now.

My grandad had a poodle named Mitzi. Mitzi used to lay at my grandad's feet at night. One night he felt Mitzi's warm body lying on his foot as he sat in his chair and watched television. But out of the corner of his eye he saw Mitzi walking clear on the other side of the room. He still felt her warm body on his foot. He looked down and realized Mitzi had thrown up on his foot! We all had a good laugh about that!

Grandad had a shirt that he wore in his machine shop. When my brother was little he called it "Grandad's doity shoit" because it always was full of grease from my grandad's long hours of manual labor in the shop. (It took Scott awhile to pronounce his "R"s).

This is my Grandad in his doity shoit:


I was not there, but I remember what my mom told me the night before my Grandad died. My mom had been sitting with him in the hospital and he asked her to turn on "Dancing with the Stars". He had fallen asleep and my mom told him "Dad, you're asleep. I'm going home, but I'll leave your show on. I'll see you in the morning."

I flew to Ohio for the funeral on a Friday. A week later I flew to Maui to visit my brother and sister-in-law and celebrate their marriage, a bittersweet visit. I spent our days at the beach crying on the phone with my Grandma. I could barely swallow the fish tacos that Sarah and I had bought. We had a wonderful time, but what a sad undertone.

I am so choked up I can barely breathe. Pull it together, Toots. Pull it together. I have happy memories about Grandad and one could say I have a cheerful demeanor. But today I weep.

And that my friends is "the rest of the story"......

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Any Port in the Storm

We've had our first staff "meeting" for Semester at Sea via conference call. It was nice to put a voice with the names and the emails and the bios I've been reading. I am excited, eager, and energized after learning more and more about our specific duties and how life on-board will feel. I can taste the spray of the salty air when I close my eyes and think about my journey. The day of departure is coming up right before my very eyes, in about 70 days or so.

My Grandma K would say my departure is coming up "in three shakes of a lamb's tail". She is Scotch-Irish, you see and she is full of sayings, words of wisdom, proverbs, and other little nuggets of genious. (Not to be confused with my other Grandma-Grandma V, the one who took us to feed the ducks, the one to whom I referred two blogs ago, who is quite a genious herself. And she also appears in one of the Vietnam photos from one blog ago, the photo of my dad in Kentucky after his Basic Training).

Fortunately for me, BOTH of these sharp, intelligent grandmas are coming to the Bahamas to see me off, as well as my parents.

My Grandma K taught me lots of important things, like never to be "meek and mealy-mouthed". That means no matter what anyone says or does, I speak up and stand for what I believe. So I did just that today: I voted. I've got to say, even though I have been conflicted and was unsure that I'd even make it to the polls, I scooted my arse over to Chelsea this morning and cast my vote. I was undecided, yet still concerned with the future of our United States (would you call someone like me bi-political?), and I am satisfied with the decision I did make. I imagine that someone's got to be able to fix the state of our country, SOMEHOW. "Any port in the storm", as Grandma K would say.

Afterwards, I visited two former colleagues and also dear friends, Gissell and Clare since I was right next door to my old office. I am going there every day that I need an esteem boost! They made me feel so wonderful and told me how slim I look these days. (Must be all the walking I've done on both sides of the Hudson. I've been averaging 7 miles per day.) I've got to say, they are looking pretty darn hot too....I'm surrounded by beautiful and smart people in every walk of life.

These past few days have really been quintessential days in New York City. Today was voting. Sunday was the marathon, which I watched from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn with my dear friends Maura and Dara. We drank mimosas as laughed blissful champagne-orange-juice-induced laughs, and we screamed for runners until we had no voices. We high-fived strangers, as if they were our best friends! We yelled out the names displayed on the sprinter's shirts and clapped and cheered. It was such a monumental day in New York City and I am so proud of the speed, endurance, strength and grace of each runner on a beautiful November morning. I get the chills and tears well up in my eyes, as I watch these dedicated gazelles fly by.


Then last night, I cut through Bryant Park which was all set up for.....ice skating! It was almost 60 degrees, but skaters were whirling around the ice, practicing their triple toe-loops with Dean Martin singing his heart out on the loudspeakers in the background. It was surreal to see such a winter sport on such a warm autumn day. Bryant Park is one of my favorite urban oasises (oases?) because of the gorgeous green lawn and shaded trees with tables underneath, perfect for reading. Imagine all of this with a backdrop of tall buildings and a glance at the glowing lights of Times Square if you are sitting in the right spot. Now imagine the leaves changing in this park to crisp oranges and yellows and reds, on a perfect autumn day and the green lawn now covered by an ice-skating rink. Imagine happy smiling folks twirling around the rink in t-shirts and without jackets. My phone could not capture the magic accurately.


New York, New York what are you going to do without me for four months?

Well don't you fret because I'll be back in three shakes of a lamb's tail.....